Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Keziah Coffin by Joseph C. Lincoln

Part 7 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

watched with him and one night, the night before he died, he spoke
Keziah's name. He spoke of New Bedford and of Trumet and of her,
over and over again. I was sure who he was then, but I called in
Ebenezer Capen, who used to know Coffin in New Bedford. And he
recognized him. Nat, as sure as you and I are here this minute,
Ansel Coffin, Aunt Keziah's husband, is buried in the Trumet



Mr. Abner Stone, of Stone & Barker, marine outfitters and ship
chandlers, with a place of business on Commercial Street in Boston,
and a bank account which commanded respect throughout the city, was
feeling rather irritable and out of sorts. Poor relations are
always a nuisance. They are forever expecting something, either
money--in Mr. Stone's case this particular expectation was usually
fruitless--or employment or influence or something. Mr. Stone was
rich, he had become so by his own ability and unaided effort. He
was sure of that--often mentioned it, with more or less modesty, in
the speeches which he delivered to his Sunday-school class and at
the dinners of various societies to which he belonged. He was a
self-made man and was conscious that he had done a good job.

Therefore, being self-made, he saw no particular reason why he
should aid in the making of others. If people were poor they ought
to get over it. Poverty was a disease and he was no doctor. He
had been poor once himself, and no one had helped him. "I helped
myself," he was wont to say, with pride. Some of his rivals in
business, repeating this remark, smiled and added that he had been
"helping himself" ever since.

Mr. Stone had "washed his hands" of his cousin, Keziah Coffin, or
thought he had. After her brother Solomon died she had written to
him, asking him to find her a position of some kind in Boston. "I
don't want money, I don't want charity," wrote Keziah. "What I
want is work. Can you get it for me, Abner? I write to you
because father used to tell of what you said to him about gratitude
and how you would never rest until you had done something in return
for what he did for you."

Captain Ben Hall's kindness was the one thing Mr. Stone forgot when
he said no one had ever helped him. He disliked to be reminded of
it. It was a long while ago and the captain was dead. However,
being reminded, he had called upon a friend in the tailoring line
and had obtained for Keziah the place of sewing woman. She decided
to become housekeeper at the Trumet parsonage and so notified him.
Then he washed his hands of her.

But now he was compelled to soil them again. Keziah had appeared
at his office, without warning, and demanded that he find her a
position. "Demanded" was the proper word. Certainly she had not
begged. She seemed to feel that her demand was right and proper,
and his acceding to it the least he could do.

"What a fine place you've got here, Abner!" she said, inspecting
the office and the store. "I declare it's finer than the one you
had when you first went into business, afore you failed. I wish
father could have lived to see it. He'd have realized that his
judgment was good, even though his investment wasn't."

Captain Hall had invested largely in that first business, the one
which failed. Mr. Stone changed the subject. Later in the day he
again sought his friend, the tailor, and Keziah was installed in
the loft of the latter's Washington Street shop, beside the other
women and girls who sewed and sewed from seven in the morning until
six at night. Mr. Stone had left her there and come away, feeling
that an unpleasant matter was disposed of. He had made some
inquiries as to where she intended staying, even added a half-
hearted invitation to dinner that evening at his home. But she

"No, thank you, Abner," she said, "I'm goin' to find a boardin'
place and I'd just as soon nobody knew where I was stayin', for the
present. And there's one thing I want to ask you: don't tell a
soul I am here. Not a soul. If anyone should come askin' for me,
don't give 'em any satisfaction. I'll tell you why some day,
perhaps. I can't now."

This was what troubled Mr. Stone as he sat in his office. Why
should this woman wish to have her whereabouts kept a secret?
There was a reason for this, of course. Was it a respectable
reason, or the other kind? If the latter, his own name might be
associated with the scandal. He wished, for the fiftieth time,
that there were no poor relations.

A boy came into the office. "There is some one here to see you,
Mr. Stone," he said.

"Who is it?"

"I don't know, sir. Looks like a seafaring man, a sea captain, I
should say--but he won't give his name. Says it's important and
nobody but you'll do."

"Humph! All right. Tell him to wait. I'll be out in a minute."

Sea captains and ship owners were Stone & Barker's best customers.
The senior partner emerged from the office with a smile on his

"Ah!" he said, extending his hand. "Glad to see you, Captain--er--"

"Hammond," replied the visitor. "Same to you, Mr. Stone."

"Fine weather for this time of year."

"Fine enough, Mr. Stone."

"Well, Captain Hammond, what can we do for you? Going to sail

"Not right away. Just made port, less'n a week ago. Home looks
good to me, for a spell, anyhow."

"So? Yes, I have no doubt. Let me see--where is your home,
captain? I should remember, of course, but--"

"Don't know why you should. This is my first trip in your
latitude, I guess. My home's at Trumet."

"Trumet?" Mr. Stone's tone changed.

"Yes. Trumet, down on the Cape. Ever been there? We think it's
about as good a place as there is."

"Hu-u-m! Trumet? Well, Captain Hammond, you wished to see me, I

"Yes. Fact is, Mr. Stone, I want to ask you where I can find Mrs.
Keziah Coffin. She's a relation of yours, I b'lieve, and she's
come to Boston lately. Only yesterday or the day afore. Can you
tell me where she is?"

"Why do you wish to see her?"

"Oh, for reasons, personal ones. She's a friend of mine."

"I see. No, captain, I can't tell you where she is. Good

Captain Nat was greatly disappointed.

"Hold on there, just a minute," he begged. "This is important, you
understand, Mr. Stone. I'm mighty anxious to find Kezi--Mrs.
Coffin. We thought, some of her friends and I, that most likely
you'd know where she was. Can't you give us any help at all?
Hasn't she been here?"

"Good morning, Captain Hammond. You must excuse me, I'm busy."

He went into the office and closed the door. Captain Nat rubbed
his forehead desperately. He had been almost sure that Abner Stone
would put him on Keziah's track. Grace had thought so, too. She
remembered what the housekeeper had told concerning her Boston
cousin and how the latter had found employment for her when she
contemplated leaving Trumet, after her brother's death. Grace
believed that Keziah would go to him at once.

Nat walked to the door and stood there, trying to think what to do
next. A smart young person, wearing a conspicuous suit of clothes,
aided and abetted by a vivid waistcoat and a pair of youthful but
promising side whiskers, came briskly along the sidewalk and
stopped in front of him.

"Well, sir?" observed this person, with cheerful condescension.
"Anything I can do for you?"

Captain Nat turned his gaze upon the side whiskers and the

"Hey?" he queried.

"I say, is there anything I can do for you?"

The captain shook his head. "No-o," he drawled dryly, "I'm afraid
not, son. I admit that don't seem scarcely possible, but I am
afraid it's so."

"Looking for something in our line, was you?"

"Well, I don't know. What might be on your line--clothes?"

The bewhiskered one drew himself up. "I am connected with Stone &
Barker," he said sharply. "And, seeing you standing in our
doorway, I thought possibly--"

"Yes, yes. Beg your pardon, I'm sure. No, I don't want to buy
anything. I come to see Mr. Stone on a personal matter."

"He's busy, I suppose."

"So he says."

The young man smiled with serene satisfaction. "I'm not
surprised," he observed complacently. "We ARE a busy house,

"Hammond's my name. Are you Mr. Barker?"

"No-o, my name is Prince."

"So? Silent partner in the firm, hey?"

"No-o, not exactly. Mr. Prince was slightly embarrassed. "No, I
am a--a salesman--at present. Was the matter you wished to see Mr.
Stone about a very private one?"


"Well, I asked because Mr. Stone is a busy man and we like to save
him all the--the--"

"Trouble you can, hey? That's nice of you, you must save him a
lot, Mr--er--King, was it?"

"No, Prince."

"Sure and sartin', Prince, of course. I knew 'twas connected with
the royal family. Well, Mr. Prince, I'm afraid even you can't help
me nor him out this time. I'm lookin' up a friend of mine, a widow
lady from down the Cape. She's a relation of Mr. Stone's, and
she's come to Boston durin' the last day or so. I thought likely
he might know where she was, that's all. That would be a little
out of your latitude, hey?"

"I don't know. Her name wasn't Coffin, was it?"

Captain Nat started. "It certainly was," he answered eagerly.
"How'd you know that?"

Mr. Prince's complacence was superb. "Oh," he answered with
condescension, "Mr. Stone trusts me with a good many of his
personal affairs."

"I should think likely he would. But about Mrs. Coffin? You was
goin' to say?"

"She is with James Hallett & Co., the tailors, on Washington
Street. Mr. Stone found a place for her there, I believe. I--er--
er--superintended the carrying of her valise and-- What?"

"Nothin', nothin'. Hum! Hallett & Co., tailors? What number
Washin'ton Street did you say?"

Mr. Prince gave the number.

"Thank you a lot," said Captain Nat, with fervor. "Good-by, Mr.
Prince. Hope the next time I come you'll be in the firm. Good
day, sir."

"Good day. Nothing else I can do? And you won't wait for Mr.
Stone? Very good. Is there any message for him that you would
like to leave?"

"Hey?" Nat had started to go, but now he paused and turned. There
was a grim twinkle in his eye. "Message?" he repeated. "Why, ye-
es, I don't know but there is. You just give Mr. Stone Cap'n
Hammond's compliments and tell him I'm lookin' forward to
interviewin' him some time. Just tell him that, will you?"

"I'll tell him. Glad to have met you, Captain Hammond."

The captain nodded solemnly. "Say, Mr. King," he said, "you ain't
half so glad as I am."

Mr. Prince strutted into the store.

"Who was that chap you were talking with?" asked a fellow-clerk.

"Oh, a hayseed who wanted to see the old man. Poor relation, I
guess. I headed him off. Stone is always telling us that time is
money, so I saved both of 'em for him. He ought to thank me.
Wouldn't be surprised if I got the raise I've been asking for."

Mr. Prince did not get the raise, nor the thanks. But he was

In the workshop of Hallett & Co., Keziah sat sewing busily. The
window near her was closed, stuck fast, and through the dingy panes
she could see only roofs and chimneys. The other women and girls
near her chatted and laughed, but she was silent. She did not feel
like talking, certainly not like laughing. The garment she was at
work on was a coat, a wedding coat, so the foreman had told her,
with a smile; therefore she must be very particular.

She wondered idly whose coat it might be and who its future wearer
was to marry. This reminded her of the minister and Grace. They
would be happy now, her talk with Nat had assured her of that, and
they, too, would be married one of these days. But she would not
attend the wedding. She wondered what John had said when he read
her note. He and Grace would be sorry for her, of course; but
there was nothing they could do to help. No one could help her, no
one. Perhaps by this time the man she had run away from had
reached Trumet and her secret was known. How Didama and the rest
would spread the tale! How Captain Elkanah and Annabel would sneer
and exult! They hated her because she was the minister's friend.
And Nat, poor fellow, what would he do? Well, at least he would
understand now.

The narrow stairway leading up to the workshop ended in a little
boxed-in room where the finished garments were hung to await the
final pressing. From behind the closed door of this room came the
sound of voices, apparently in heated argument. One of these
voices was that of Larry, the errand boy. Larry was speaking
shrilly and with emphasis. The other voice was lower in key and
the words were inaudible.

"No, sir, you can't," declared Larry. "You can't, I tell you. The
boss don't let nobody in there and-- Hold on! Hold on!"

The other voice made a short but evidently earnest answer. Larry
again expostulated. The workers looked up from their sewing. The
door opened and Larry appeared, flushed and excited.

"Where's Mr. Upham?" he demanded. "Mr. Upham!"

Upham was the foreman of the workroom. At the moment he was
downstairs in conversation with the head of the house. A half
dozen gave this information.

"What's the matter? Who is it?" asked several.

"I don't know who 'tis. It's a man and he's crazy, I think. I
told him he couldn't come in here, but he just keeps comin'. He
wants to see somebody named Coffin and there ain't no Coffins

Keziah bent lower over the wedding coat. Her hand shook and she
dropped the needle.

"I told him we didn't keep coffins," declared Larry. "This ain't
no undertaker's. Where's Mr. Upham?"

Keziah's nearest neighbor leaned toward her.

"I guess it's somebody to see you," she said. "Your name is
Coffin, ain't it?"

"No, no. That is, it can't be anybody to see me. I don't want to
see anybody. Tell him so, whoever it is. I can't see anybody.

He stood in the doorway, beckoning to her.

"Keziah," he said, "come here. I want you. I'll tell you why in a
minute. Come!"

She hesitated. In a measure she was relieved, for she had feared
the man at the door might be her husband. But she was greatly
agitated and troubled. Everyone in the place was looking at her.

"Nat," she said, trying to speak firmly, "I can't see you now. I'm
very busy. Please go away."


"I can't come. Go away. Please!"

"Keziah, I'm waitin'. And I'm goin' to wait if I stay here all
night. Come!"

She obeyed then. She could not have a scene there, before all
those strangers. She stepped past him into the little room. He
followed and closed the door.

"Nat," she said, turning to him, "why did you come? How could you
be so cruel? I--"

He interrupted her, but not with words. The next moment his arms
were about her and she was pressed tight against the breast of his
blue jacket.

"Keziah," he whispered, "I've come to take you home. Home for
good. No, stay where you are and I'll tell you all about it.
Praise be to God! we're off the rocks at last. All that's left is
to tow you into port, and, by the everlastin', that's what I'm here

When Upham came up the stairs after his long interview with "the
boss," he found the door at the top closed. When he rattled the
latch that door was opened by a stranger.

"Are you Mr. Hallett?" asked Captain Nat briskly.

"No, I'm not. Mr. Hallett is in his office on the first floor.
But what--"

"On the main deck, hey? Well, all right; we won't trouble him.
You'll do just as well; I judge you're one of the mates of this
craft. You tell Mr. Hallett that this lady here has decided not to
cruise with him any longer. No fault to find, you understand, but
she's got a better berth. She's goin' to ship along with me.
Ain't that so, Keziah?"

Keziah, pale, trembling, scarcely realizing the situation even yet,
did not speak. But Captain Nat Hammond seemed to find his answer
in her silence. A few minutes later, her arm in his, they
descended the gloomy, dusty stairs, and emerged into the sunshine

That afternoon Mr. Abner Stone again "washed his hands" of his poor
relation--this time, as he indignantly declared, "for good and



Time has wrought many changes in Trumet. The packet long since
ceased to ply between the village and Boston, the stage has been
superseded by the locomotive, the old "square-riggers," commanded
by Cape Cod men, no longer sail the seas. Along the main road the
houses have changed hands. Didama Rogers peers no more from her
parlor window; that parlor is now profaned by the frivolous and
irreverent summer boarder. But the old residents love to talk of
the days that are gone and if you happen to catch Mr. Isaac
Higgins, now postmaster and a dignified member of the board of
selectmen, in a reminiscent mood he will very likely tell you of
the meeting of the parish committee called by its chairman, Elkanah
Daniels, to oust the Rev. John Ellery from the pulpit of the
Regular church.

"I'll never forget," says Mr. Higgins, "that parish committee
meetin' if I live a thousand year. I, and two or three other young
shavers, was hid in the little room off the vestry--the room where
they kept the dishes they used for church suppers--and we heard the
whole business. Of course nobody knew that Nat was goin' to marry
Keziah then, but they did know that he wa'n't goin' to marry Grace
Van Horne, and had given her up to the minister of his own accord.
So Daniels's guns was spiked and he didn't stand no chance at all.
However, you'd never have guessed it to look at him. He marched
into that meetin' and up to the platform as stiff and dignified as
if he'd swallered a peck of starch. He called the meetin' to
order--'twas a full one, for all hands and the cook was there--and
then got up to speak.

"He opened fire right off. He raked John Ellery fore and aft. The
parson, he said, had disgraced the society and his sacred
profession and should be hove overboard immediate. 'Twas an open
secret, he said. Everybody knew how he, minister of a Reg'lar
church, had been carryin' on with a Come-Outer girl, meetin' her
unbeknownst to anyone, and so on. As he got warmed up on this
subject he got more bitter and, though he didn't come out open and
say slanderous things, his hints was as nigh that as a pig's snout
is to his squeal. Even through the crack of the dish-closet door I
could see the bristles risin' on the back of Cap'n Zeb Mayo's neck.

"At last Cap'n Zeb couldn't stand it no longer.

"'Belay there!' he sings out, jumpin' to his feet. 'I want to ask
you one question, Elkanah Daniels: Are you tryin' to say somethin'
against Grace Van Horne's character?'

"Well, that was a sort of sticker, in a way, and I cal'late Daniels
realized it. He 'hum-ha'd' and barked a little and then give in
that he couldn't swear the Van Horne person's character wa'n't all
right, but--"

"'Couldn't swear!' snorts Zeb. 'You better not try to, not when
the minister or Nat's around. Aw, belay! you want us to fire John
Ellery out of this society--the best minister it ever had or ever
will have--because he had the sense to get sweet on a good clean
girl and the spunk to ask her to marry him. And you're down on her
because she's been brought up in a Come-Outer family--at least,
that's the reason you give out, though some of us have suspicions
'tain't the real one. Why! she risked what she thought was
smallpox to keep him from dyin' that night she picked him up,
ravin' distracted, in the middle of the lighthouse lane, and if he
hadn't married her after that I, for one, would have been willin'
to vote to give him his walkin' papers, Come-Outer she may have
been, but, by time, she's got religion that's good enough for me
and I'll be proud to see her the wife of my minister. Don't let's
have no more chin music. We know what you want and what you called
this meetin' for; now let's vote on it.'

"Three or four sung out 'Question' and 'Vote.' But Elkanah held up
his hand.

"'Gentlemen,' says he, 'before I ask for the vote I want to say
just one word. I've worshiped in this meetin' house ever sence I
was a child. I was christened in it; my father worshiped here
afore me; I've presided over the meetin's of this body for years.
But I tell you now that if you vote to keep that rascally hypocrite
in your pulpit I shall resign from the committee and from the
society. It'll be like cuttin' off my right hand, but I shall do
it. Are you ready for the vote? Those in favor of retaining the
present minister of this parish will rise. Those opposed will
remain seated.'

"Every man on the floor stood up. Daniels himself was the only one
that stayed settin' down.

"'It is a vote,' says he, white as a sheet, and his voice
trembling. 'Gentlemen, I bid you good day.'

"He took up his hat and cane, give one look around the vestry, as
if he was sayin' good-by to it, and marched down the aisle as
straight and starchy as he'd come into it. Only, when he reached
the door, he put up one hand as if he was steadyin' himself. There
was precious few in that vestry that liked Elkanah Daniels, but I'm
bettin' high there wa'n't a one who didn't feel sorry for him then.

"'Twas quiet as could be for a minute or so after he'd gone. Then
Cap'n Zeb draws a big breath and flings up his hand.

"'Shipmates,' says he, 'this is the Almighty's house and we've got
to do it quiet, but I propose three whisperin' cheers for the Rev.
John Ellery and the lady that's goin' to be his wife.'

"So they give 'em--hearty, too, if they was whispered--and that's
all there is to that meetin' worth tellin' about."

Captain Daniels and his daughter moved to Boston that summer. They
never came back to Trumet to live. Annabel remained single until
after her father's death; then she married a man very much younger
and poorer than she was. It was remarked by acquaintances of the
couple that the difference in age became less and less apparent as
their married life continued.

"Humph!" observed Captain Zeb, summing up the situation, "he
started about ten year astern, but he'll beat her on the run into
the cemetery, now you mark my words. Annabel's temper's cal'lated
to keep any average chap drivin' on that course, bows under.
There's a three-reef breeze blowin' off her tongue, day and night."

On a Sunday morning, a few weeks after the committee meeting, the
Regular church was crowded. John Ellery was to preach his first
sermon since the San Jose came ashore. Every member of the
congregation was present. Even Mrs. Prince, feeble but garrulous,
was there. Gaius Winslow, having delivered his brood of children
at the church door, made a special trip in his carryall to fetch
the old lady. Captain Zebedee and Mrs. Mayo beamed from their pew.
Dr Parker and his wife smiled at them across the aisle. Didama
Rogers's new bonnet was a work of art and her neck threatened to
twist itself off as she turned to see each one who came in.

Lavinia Pepper sailed to the front. She was dressed in a new black
alpaca which rustled so very much like silk that nearsighted people
might have been deceived by it. With her was a man, apparently
suffering from strangulation because of the height and tightness of
his collar. "It's Caleb Pratt, from Sandwich," whispered Didama.
"Thankful Payne's relation, you know. Have you heard what folks
are sayin'? I guess it's true, because-- Look at Kyan! you'd
think he was goin' to his own funeral."

Abishai's expression was not cheerful, certainly. He followed Mr.
Pratt and his sister to the Pepper pew and subsided sadly in the
corner next the wall. Occasionally he was observed to wipe his
forehead and once--it was during the prayer--he groaned audibly.
Lavinia's dig in the ribs prevented his repeating the sound, but,
judging by his looks, he continued to groan in spirit.

There was a stir at the door. All heads swung in that direction--
all but Mr. Pepper's, that is. The minister and Grace were coming
up the aisle and behind them came Captain Nat Hammond and Keziah
Coffin. Nat was smiling and self-possessed. Never before in his
life had he entered the Regular meeting house as a worshiper, but
he seemed to be bearing the ordeal bravely. It was Grace's first
visit to the church, also, and she was plainly embarrassed. To be
stared at by eighty-odd pairs of eyes, and to catch whispered
comments from the starers' tongues, is likely to embarrass one.

Yet the comments were all friendly.

"I declare!" whispered Mrs. Prince, "I never see her look so pretty
afore. I knew she was the best lookin' girl in this town, but I
never realized she was SUCH a beauty. Well, there's one thing
sartin'--we've got the handsomest parson and parson's wife in THIS
county, by about ten mile and four rows of apple trees. And
there's the other bride that's goin' to be. I never see Keziah
look so well, neither."

Keziah did look well. Her parson had emerged triumphant from his
battle with disease and adverse fate and was more than ever the
idol of his congregation. He was to marry the girl of his choice--
and hers. The housekeeper's ears were still ringing with the
thanks of John and Grace. Both seemed to feel that to her, Keziah
Coffin, more than anyone else, they owed their great joy. Some of
the things they said she would never forget. And her own life,
too, was freed forever of its burden, the secret which had hung
over her for so many years. Only a very few knew that secret, and
they would not disclose it. Toward the memory of the man buried in
the stranger's lot at the cemetery she felt almost kindly now.
While he lived she had feared and dreaded him, now she was
beginning to forgive. For he had paid his debt with his life, and
with her, beside her, was the other, the one whom she had loved,
had given up, had mourned for, and who was now to be hers always.
No wonder Keziah looked well. She was happy, and happiness is a
wondrous beautifier.

The minister went up the stairs to the pulpit. He was still white
and thin, but his eyes were bright and his voice clear. He gave
out the opening hymn and the service began.

They said it was the finest sermon ever preached in that church,
and perhaps it was. When it was over, before the benediction was
pronounced, Ellery stepped out from behind the pulpit to the edge
of the platform. He looked over the friendly faces upturned to his
and, for an instant, it seemed that he could not trust himself to

"My friends," he said, "I cannot let you go without a personal
word. I owe you so much, all of you, that nothing I can say will
convey to you my feeling of gratitude and love for this
congregation and this church. You have stood by me all through.
You trusted me and believed in me. I came to Trumet a stranger. I
have found here the truest friends a man could hope to find--yes,
and more than friends. If I live, and while I live, I shall hope
to prove by the best effort that is in me my realization of the
great debt I owe you and my desire to repay it, even though the
payment must, of necessity, be so inadequate. God bless you all--
and thank you."

"Wa'n't it lovely!" gushed Didama. "And when he said that about
true friends he was lookin' straight at Gracie all the time."

"Didn't seem to me so," declared Gaius Winslow. "I thought he was
lookin' at Cap'n Hammond."

"Well, now, that's queer," put in Mrs. Parker, the doctor's wife.
"I would have sworn he was looking at Keziah Coffin."

Captain Zebedee grinned. "I cal'late you're all right," he
observed. "I wouldn't wonder if he was lookin' at all of 'em."

There was much hand shaking and congratulation and the church
emptied slowly. Among the last to leave were the Peppers and Mr.
Pratt. Lavinia took the minister aside.

"Mr. Ellery," she simpered, "I've--that is, Caleb and me--will
prob'ly want you to-- That is, we want you to be the one--"

"Yes, Miss Pepper?"

"Oh, my sakes! you see-- 'Bishy dear, come here a minute, won't

Kyan approached, the picture of desolation.

"What do you want?" he asked gruffly.

"Heavens to Betsy! Don't look so sour. A body'd think you was
goin' to be hung, to look at you. 'Bishy, you tell Mr. Ellery all
about it, there's a dear. He'll tell you, Mr. Ellery; and remember
we count on you. Neither me nor Caleb wont have nobody else."

She seized Mr. Pratt by the arm and led him hastily away. Kyan
looked after them.

"Hung?" he muttered. "I wish, by godfreys mighty, I had the
hangin' of SOME folks! I'd put a tighter collar on 'em than
they've got now, I bet you!"

The minister's lips twitched. He knew what was coming. Hints of a
surprising nature had been circulating about Trumet.

"What's the matter, Mr. Pepper?" he asked.

"Matter? Matter enough! You know what she's goin' to do? She's
goin' to marry THAT!"

The last word was emphasized by a furious gesticulation toward the
back of the gentleman from Sandwich.

"Who? Mr. Pratt? Is your sister to marry him? Indeed! I
congratulate them both--and you."

"Me? What in tunket--I ask your pardon, Mr. Ellery, for talkin' so
in the meetin' house--but what are you congratulatin' me for?"

"Why, because your sister is to have a good husband; at least
people speak highly of him."


"And because--well, Mr. Pepper, you have been quite confidential
with me; we have shared secrets, you know; and I thought possibly
the new arrangement might make it a bit more pleasant for you."

"Pleasant? How?"

"I suppose Mr. Pratt will take his bride home to Sandwich, and you,
being here alone, will be more free."

"Free?" Kyan repeated the word wrathfully. "Free! I'll be about
as free as a settin' hen under a barrel, I will. Is a feller free
when he's got two pickin' at him instead of one? I thought I was
goin' to have a little peace and comfort; I thought that same as
you, Mr. Ellery. I've had my suspicions as to her and him for some
time. That day when I cal'lated I'd locked her up and come back to
find she'd gone buggy ridin', I thought 'twas queer. When she went
to conference and left me alone I smelt a rat. When she took to
letter writin' the smell got stronger; until the last few weeks
I've been sartin of the game she was up to. And I never
complained, no sir! Some brothers would have ripped up the eternal
foundations afore they'd have let their sister break up their home
and desert 'em for a stiff-necked, bald-headed old shoe peddler

"Hush! hush! Mr. Pepper. You forget--"

"No, I don't forget, nuther. Mr. Ellery, you don't know it all.
When Laviny come to me and told me what she was goin' to do, was I
obstinate? Did I stand on my rights as head of the family and tell
her she couldn't do it? No, sir-ee, I didn't! I was resigned. I
says to her, 'Laviny,' I says, 'I won't say that I shan't be
turrible lonesome without you. I won't say that I ain't sort of
shocked and grieved at our partin' after all these years. But
what's my personal feelin's when I compare 'em with your happiness?
Nothin', nothin' at all!' I says. 'Bless you, Laviny,' says I.
'When you goin' to go away?' And what do you s'pose she says to
me? Why, that she wa'n't goin' away at all. That--that Pratt
thing has sold out his shoe store up to Sandwich and is comin' here
to live. Comin' to live at our HOUSE, mind you, with her and with
ME! ''Twill be so nice for you, 'Bishy dear,' she says, 'to have a
man in the house to keep you comp'ny and look out for you when I
ain't round.' Godfreys mighty!"

This portion of Kyan's disclosure was surprising, if the
announcement of his sister's engagement was not.

"Mr. Pratt is coming to Trumet?" the minister repeated. "What for?
What is he going to do here?"

"Keep shoe store, I s'pose likely. Laviny says there's a good
openin' for one in this town. I told her the best openin' I could
think of for him was the well and I hoped to the nation he'd fall
into it. Then she went for me like a dogfish after a herrin' and I
never had a taste of vittles till I'd took it all back and said I
was glad he was goin' to live with us. Free! Don't talk to me
about freedom! Godfreys mighty!"

Ellery smothered his desire to laugh and expressed sympathy.
Abishai listened in sullen silence.

"Well," he said, turning to go, "I ain't goin' to stand it, if I
can help it. I've been doin' some thinkin' on my own account and
there's two ways of gettin' even. That Caleb critter is marryin'
into our family 'cause he knows I'm well off. I'll cheat him, by
godfreys! I'll will every cent of my fifteen hundred dollars to
the poor or the heathen or somethin'. I will, sure's taxes."

The minister was obliged to laugh, then.

"I wouldn't do that," he said. "From what I hear, Mr. Pratt is
worth several times fifteen hundred."

"I know it; but he's so dum mean that 'twould break his heart to
see even ten cents gettin' away from him. However, that ain't my
only plan. He and Laviny ain't got any mortgage on the marryin'
business. Other folks can do it as well as them. What do you
think of Hannah Poundberry?"

"What do I think of her? What do you mean?"

"Never mind what I mean. Just you keep that in your head, Mr.
Ellery. You remember that I asked you, as man to man, 'What do you
think of Hannah Poundberry?'--Yes, yes, Laviny, I'm a-comin'. They
want me to ask you to marry 'em," he added. "I s'pose you'll have
to. But say, Mr. Ellery, when you do, just tell Pratt that your
usual price for the job is ten dollars. That'll spile his
honeymoon for him, or I miss my guess."

He turned away and moved sulkily toward his beckoning sister and
her escort; but wheeled once more to add, in a mysterious whisper,
"Don't you forget now, Mr. Ellery. Remember that question I put to
you: 'What do you think of'--Yes, yes, La-viny, I hear you!--of
you know who?'"

That evening, at the parsonage, Keziah was clearing the table and
Captain Nat was helping her. A happy party of four had enjoyed the
meal, John and Mrs. Coffin acting as hosts and Grace and the
captain being the invited guests. Now the younger couple had gone
over to the church, the bell of which was ringing for evening

"Hurry up, Keziah," urged Nat. "If you and me don't get decks
cleared pretty soon we'll be late for meetin', and I'd hate to do
that, considerin' I'm such a brand-new disciple, as you might say.
What do we do next, shorten sail? Like this, hey?"

He pulled the cloth from the table, sending the crumbs flying in
all directions, and proceeded to fold it, after a fashion.

"There!" he exclaimed with satisfaction; "there she is, canvas
furled and under bare poles. Now we can clear out, can't we?
What's the matter?"

Keziah took the cloth from his hands and refolded it.

"Nat Hammond," she said, laughing, "you may be a good sailor, but
you're an awful poor housekeeper. Look at the mess you've made of
that floor."

Nat looked at the scattered crumbs and shook his head.

"By the everlastin'!" he observed, "I did make dirty weather on
that tack, didn't I? Cal'late I ain't much of a housekeeper, same
as you say. Maybe that's why I was so dreadful anxious to get a
good one to cruise along with me. Well, I've got her. I'm

He walked to the back door of the kitchen, threw it open, and stood
looking out.

"Keziah," he said, "come here a minute."

She came from the dining room and stood at his side. He put an arm
about her.

"Look off there," he said, pointing with his free hand. See that?"

The sun was just setting and all the west was gorgeous with crimson
and purple and yellow. The bay was spangled with fire, the high
sand bluffs along the shore looked like broken golden ingots. The
fields and swamps and salt meadows, rich in their spring glory of
bud and new leaf, were tinged with the ruddy glow. The Trumet
roofs were bathed in it, the old packet, asleep at her moorings by
the breakwater, was silhouetted against the radiance. The church
bell had ceased to ring and there was not a sound, except the low
music of the distant surf.

"Look at it, Keziah," urged Captain Nat.

"I'm lookin', Nat," she answered. "It's beautiful."

"Ain't it? I love it, you know that, and I never thought I should
be anxious for the time to come when I must leave it. But I am. I
want to go."

They were to be married in another month. It would be a double
wedding, for Grace and the minister were to be married at the same
time. Then Nat and his wife were to go to New York, where a new
ship, just out of the builders' hands, was to be ready for him.
She was a fine one, this successor to the Sea Mist. She had been
building for more than a year and when Captain Hammond returned,
safe and sound, and with their money in his possession, the owners
decided at once that he should command the addition to their fleet.
She was to sail for Liverpool and Keziah was to be a passenger.

"I can't hardly wait to get to sea," went on Nat. "Think of it!
No more lonesome meals in the cabin, thinkin' about you and about
home. No, sir! you and home'll be right aboard with me. Think of
the fun we'll have in the foreign ports. London, and you and me
goin' sightseein' through it! And Havre and Gibraltar and
Marseilles and Genoa and--and--by and by, Calcutta and Hong Kong
and Singapore. I've seen 'em all, of course, but you haven't. I
tell you, Keziah, that time when I first saw a real hope of gettin'
you, that time after I'd learned from John that that big trouble of
yours was out of the way forever, on my way up to Boston in the
cars I made myself a promise--I swore that if you did say yes to me
I'd do my best to make the rest of your life as smooth and pleasant
as the past so far had been rough. I ain't rich enough to give you
what you deserve, nowhere near; but I'll work hard and do my best,
my girl--you see."

Keziah was looking out over the bay, her eyes brighter than the
sunset. Now she turned to look up into his face.

"Rich!" she repeated, with a little catch in her voice. "Rich!
there never was a woman in this world so rich as I am this minute.
Or so happy, either."

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest