“Tell you what,” said Hiram, bolting a goodly rouleau of ham and eggs, “I’ve got an idee. You and me might shilly-shally here on this road all day, and what surety shall we hev’ that they hevn’t gone by the other road. Old gal said there was two?”
“Yes, but the folks here say that the other is a wild mountain-road, and not much used.”
“Well, you see they comes down by the boat a piece, or they may cut across the river at Greenbush. They have queer ways. Now, mebbe they have come over that mountain-road in the night, while you and me was a-watchin’ this like ferrits. In that case she’s safe and sound at Shaker Village, not knowin’ anything of your coming; and Elder Nebson and that other is laughin’ in their sleeves at us.”
“Now, this is my advice, but I’ll do just as you say. ’Tain’t no good to lay around and watch that ere house to day. Ef we hedn’t been in such a white heat, we might just hev’ hid round in the neighborhood there till she came along. But it’s too late, for that now. Let’s you and me lay low till Sunday. She’ll be sure to go to meetin’ on Sunday ef she’s there, and you can quietly slip in and see if she is. And to shut their eyes up, so that they won’t suspect nothin’, we’ll leave a message on one of your pasteboards that you’re very sorry not to hev’ seen her, drefful sorry, but that you can’t wait no longer, and you are off. They’ll think you’re off for York: you’ve got York on your cards, hevn’t you?”
“You just come and stay to my house: we’ll make you comfortable, and there’s only one day longer to wait. This is Friday, be’ent it? You’d best not be seen around to the hotel, lest any of their spies be about. They do a powerful sight o’ drivin’ round the country this time o’ year. And then, you see, ef on Sunday she isn’t there, you can go over to Watervliet, or we’ll search them houses—whichever you choose.”
There seemed no help for it but to take Hiram’s advice. We drove homeward through the Shaker village, and drew up at the house again. This time the door was opened by a bent, sharp little Creole, as I took her to be: the beaming portress of the day before had been relieved at her post.
“Nay, Bessie Stewart was not at home: she would go and inquire for me when she was expected.”
“No,” I said carelessly, not wishing to repeat the scene of yesterday and to present myself, a humiliated failure, before the two elders again—“no: give her this card when she does come, and tell her I could stay no longer.”
I had not written any message on the card, for the message, indeed, was not for Bessie, but for the others. She would interpret it that I was in the neighborhood, anxious and waiting: she would understand.
“Home, then, Hiram,” as I took my seat beside him. “We’ll wait till Sunday.”