She turned at the sound of his step behind her.
“Er—Miss Van Horne,” he stammered, “I merely wanted to tell you how deeply I—we all feel for you in your trouble. I—I—I am so sorry.”
“Thank you,” she said simply, and after a moment’s hesitation.
“I mean it sincerely. I—I did not know Captain Hammond very well, but I respected and liked him the first time we met. I shall hope that—that—it is not so serious as they fear.”
“Thank you,” she said again. “We are all hoping.”
“Yes. I—I—” It was dreadfully hard to get words together. “I have heard so much of the captain from—”
“From Aunt Keziah? Yes, she was Nat’s warmest friend.”
“I know. Er—Mrs. Coffin tells me you are going away. I hope you may hear good news and soon. I shall think of you—of him—I want you to understand that I shall.”
The door opened and Emeline Berry appeared on the threshold.
“Come right in, Grace,” she called. “Mrs. Prince wants you to. She’s ahollerin’ for you to hurry up.”
“Good-by,” said the minister.
“Good-by. Thank you again. It was very kind of you to say this.”
“No, no. I mean it.”
“I know; that was why it was so kind. Good-by.”
She held out her hand and he took it. He knew that his was trembling, but so, too, was hers. The hands fell apart. Grace entered the house and John Ellery went out at the gate.
That night Keziah, in the sitting room, trying to read, but finding it hard to keep her mind on the book, heard her parson pacing back and forth over the straw-matted floor of his chamber. She looked at the clock; it was nearly twelve. She shut the book and sighed. Her well-meant words of consolation had been a mistake, after all. She should not have spoken Grace Van Horne’s name.
IN WHICH THE MINISTER BOARDS THE SAN JOSE
“Hey, Mr. Ellery!”
It was Captain Zeb Mayo who was calling. The captain sat in his antique chaise, drawn by the antique white horse, and was hailing the parsonage through a speaking trumpet formed by holding both his big hands before his mouth. The reins he had tucked between the edge of the dashboard and the whip socket. If he had thrown them on the ground he would still have been perfectly safe, with that horse.
“Mr. Ellery, ahoy!” roared Captain Zeb through his hands.
The window of Zoeth Peters’s house, next door to the Regular church, was thrown up and Mrs. Peters’s head, bound with a blue-and-white handkerchief in lieu of a sweeping cap, was thrust forth into the crisp March air.
“What is it, Cap’n Mayo?” screamed Mrs. Peters. “Hey?”
“Hey?” repeated Captain Zeb, peering round the chaise curtain. “Who’s that?”
“It’s me. Is somebody dead?”
“Who’s me? Oh! No, Hettie, nobody’s dead, though I’m likely to bust a blood vessel if I keep on yellin’ much longer. Is the parson to home?”