IN WHICH KEZIAH UNEARTHS A PROWLER
The fog was cruel to the gossips of Trumet that day. Mrs. Didama Rogers, who lived all alone, except for the society of three cats, a canary, and a white poodle named “Bunch,” in the little house next to Captain Elkanah’s establishment, never entirely recovered from the chagrin and disappointment caused by that provoking mist. When one habitually hurries through the morning’s household duties in order to sit by the front window and note each passer-by, with various fascinating surmises as to his or her errand and the reasons for it, it is discouraging to be able to see only one’s own front fence and a scant ten feet of sidewalk. And then to learn afterwards of a dozen most exciting events, each distinctly out of the ordinary, which might have been used as excuses for two dozen calls and as many sensations! As Captain Zeb Mayo, the irreverent ex-whaler, put it, “That fog shook Didama’s faith in the judgment of Providence. ’Tain’t the ‘all wise,’ but the ‘all seein’’ kind she talks about in meetin’ now.”
The fog prevented Mrs. Rogers’s noting the entrance of Mr. Pepper at the Coffin front gate. Also his exit, under sisterly arrest. It shut from her view the majestic approach of Captain Elkanah Daniels and Grace’s flight, her face dimpled with smiles and breaking into laughter at frequent intervals. For a young lady, supposed to be a devout Come-Outer, to hurry along the main road, a handkerchief at her mouth and her eyes sparkling with fun, was a circumstance calculated to furnish material for enjoyable scandal. And Didama missed it.
Other happenings she missed, also. Not knowing of Captain Daniels’s call upon Keziah, she was deprived of the pleasure of wonder at the length of his stay. She did not see him, in company with Mrs. Coffin, go down the road in the opposite direction from that taken by Grace. Nor their return and parting at the gate, two hours later. She did not see—but there! she saw nothing, absolutely nothing—except the scraggy spruce tree in her tiny front yard and the lonely ten feet of walk bordering it. No one traversed that section of walk except old Mrs. Tinker, who was collecting subscriptions for new hymn books for the Come-Outer chapel. And Didama was particularly anxious not to see her.
The dismal day dragged on. The silver-leaf trees dripped, the hedges were shining with moisture. Through the stillness the distant surf along the “ocean side” of the Cape growled and moaned and the fog bell at the lighthouse clanged miserably. Along the walk opposite Didama’s—the more popular side of the road—shadowy figures passed at long intervals, children going to and from school, people on errands to the store, and the like. It was three o’clock in the afternoon before a visitor came again to the Coffin front gate, entered the yard and rapped at the side door.