“There! there! Tut! tut! tut! hum! Now I see. But, Gracie, you ain’t goin’ to ruin his life. No, nor Elkanah ain’t goin’ to do it, either. He can’t, no matter how hard he tries. I’ve lived to see the day when there’s a bigger man in the Reg’lar church than Elkanah Daniels, and I thank the good Lord for it.”
“I never should have come here. I know it. But he needed me. Aunt Keziah, he was sick and dying almost, and I couldn’t leave him. I came, and now he will be ruined and disgraced.”
“He won’t, I tell you; he won’t. Listen to me. I ain’t talkin’ for my health. Listen!”
She argued and pleaded and coaxed, and, at last, when she began to think she had prevailed, Grace brought forward another objection. She had given her word to her uncle. How could she break that promise made to a dying man? She would feel like a traitor.
“Traitor to who?” demanded the housekeeper, losing patience. “Not to poor Nat, for he’s gone. And don’t you suppose that he and Eben understand things better now, where they are? Do you suppose that Nat wouldn’t want you to be happy? I know he would, for I knew him.”
It was still unsettled when the long talk was over, but Grace agreed not to leave the minister at present. She would stay where she was until he was himself again, at least. Keziah was satisfied with the preliminary skirmish. She felt confident of winning the victory, and in the prospect of happiness for others, she was almost happy herself. Yet each time the mail was brought to the shanty she dreaded to look at it, and the sight of a stranger made her shake with fear. Ansel Coffin had threatened to come to Trumet. If he came, she had made up her mind what to do.
The parish committee was to meet. Captain Elkanah had announced his intention of moving that John Ellery be expelled from the Regular church. There was to be no compromise, no asking for a resignation; he must be discharged, thrown out in disgrace. The county papers were full of the squabble, but they merely reported the news and did not take sides. The fight was too even for that.
Captain Zeb chuckled. “It’s all right, Keziah,” he said. “We know what’s what and who’s who. The Rev. Mr. Ellery can preach here for the next hundred year, if he lives that long and wants to, and he can marry whoever he darn pleases, besides. Elkanah’s licked and he knows it. He ain’t got enough backers to man a lobster dory. Let him holler; noise don’t scare grown folks.”
One afternoon a few days before the date set for the meeting Elkanah and two or three of his henchmen were on the piazza of the Daniels home, discussing the situation. They were blue and downcast. Annabel was in the sitting room, shedding tears of humiliation and jealous rage on the haircloth sofa.
“Well,” observed her father, “there’s one thing we can do. If the vote in committee goes against us, I shall insist on the calling of a congregational meeting. Hum—ha! Yes, I shall insist on that.”