“Hush, uncle! Hush! Please hush!”
“Well, you ain’t; so why should I hush? In this—this dream I had, seems ’sif you—seems as if a man come to me and said that you was—It was a dream, wa’n’t it?”
He tried to rise. Nat and the doctor started forward. Grace shrank back.
“Of course it was, cap’n,” said the doctor briskly. “Now you mustn’t fret yourself in this way. Just lie still and—”
“Belay, I tell you. Yes, I guess ’twas a dream. It had to be, but ’twas so sort of real that I—How long have I been this way?”
“Oh, a little while! Now just—”
“Hush! Don’t pull your hand away, Gracie. Nat, give me yours. That’s it. Now I put them two hands together. See, doctor? See, Keziah?”
“He’s wandering. We must stop this,” muttered Parker. Mrs. Coffin, who began to comprehend what was coming, looked fearfully at Nat and the girl.
“No, I ain’t wanderin’, neither,” declared the old Come-Outer fretfully. “I’m sane as ever I was and if you try to stop me I’ll—Gracie, your Uncle Eben’s v’yage is ’most over. He’s almost to his moorin’s and they’re waitin’ for him on the pier. I—I won’t be long now. Just a little while, Lord! Give me just a little while to get my house in order. Gracie, I don’t want to go till I know you’ll be looked out for. I’ve spoke to Nat about this, but I ain’t said much to you. Seems if I hadn’t, anyhow; I ain’t real sartin; my head’s all full of bells ringin’ and—and things.”
“Don’t, uncle, don’t!” pleaded Grace. “Don’t worry about me. Think of yourself, please.”
“S-sh-sh! Don’t put me off. Just listen. I want you to marry my boy, after I’m gone. I want you to say you will—say it now, so’s I can hear it. Will you, Gracie?”
Grace would have withdrawn her hand, but he would not let her. He clung to it and to that of his son with all his failing strength.
“Will you, Gracie?” he begged. “It’s the last thing I’m goin’ to ask of you. I’ve tried to be sort of good to you, in my way, and—”
“Don’t, don’t!” she sobbed. “Let me think a minute, uncle, dear. Oh, do let me think!”
“I ain’t got time, Gracie. You’ll have to say it now, or else—All right, then, think; but think quick.”
Grace was thinking. “If she really cares for him, she won’t let him ruin his life.” That was what Captain Elkanah had said. And here was a way to save him from ruin.
“Won’t you say it for me, Gracie?” pleaded Captain Eben. She hesitated no longer.
“Yes, uncle,” she answered through tears, “if Nat wants me he can have me.”
Keziah clasped her hands. Captain Eben’s face lit up with a great joy.
“Thank the Almighty!” he exclaimed. “Lord, I do thank you. Nat, boy, you’re consider’ble older than she is and you’ll have to plan for her. You be a good husband to her all her days, won’t ye? Why, what are you waitin’ for? Why don’t you answer me?”