“Won’t be no good, cap’n,” sniffed Beriah Salters dolefully. “The biggest part of the congregation’s for Ellery, and you know it. They’re as sot on him as if he was the angel Gabriel. If you’d only told what you knew afore this smallpox business, we’d have been able to give him and his Come-Outer woman what b’longs to ’em. But not now.”
Captain Daniels shifted uneasily in his chair.
“Hum—ha!” he barked, to cover confusion. “Hum—ha! It seemed to me more—er—charitable to give the misguided young man another chance, and I did it. But—What’s that?”
Some one was talking excitedly on the sidewalk beyond the lilac bushes at the border of the Daniels property. Voices answered. Didama Rogers darted out of her yard and past the house in the direction of the sounds. Salters rose and walked down to the gate.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Halloo! Ahoy there! You, Em’lous, what is it?”
Emulous Sparrow, the fish peddler, was seated in his cart, which was surrounded by men and women, neighbors of the Danielses. There was a perfect storm of questionings and ejaculations. Salters opened the gate and joined the group. A moment later he came running back, up the walk toward the piazza.
“Cap’n,” he shouted. “Cap’n Elkanah, here’s news! What do you think? A telegram’s just come from Nat Hammond. He’s safe and sound in New York, and he’ll be here day after to-morrow.”
They could not believe it and rushed out to hear more. Emulous, glowing with importance, affirmed that it was so. He had seen the telegram at the store. It was for Grace Van Horne and they were just going to send a boy over to the shanty with it.
“No details nor nothin’,” he declared. “Just said ’Am all right. Arrived to-day. Will be in Trumet Thursday.’ And ’twas signed ’Nathaniel Hammond.’ There!”
“Well, by thunder!” exclaimed Salters. “If that don’t beat all. I wonder what’s happened to him? Two year gone and give up for dead, and now—What do you cal’late it means?”
Captain Elkanah seized him by the arm and led him out of the group. The old man’s face was alight with savage joy and his voice shook with exultation.
“I’ll tell you one thing it means,” he whispered. “It means the end of Ellery, so far as his marrying her is concerned. She gave her word to Hammond and she’ll keep it. She’s no liar, whatever else she is. He may be minister of the Regular church, though I’ll never set under him, but he’ll never marry her, now.”
IN WHICH A RECEPTION IS CALLED OFF
Far out on the Pacific coast there are two small islands, perhaps a hundred miles distant from one another. The first of these is uninhabited. On the other is a little colony of English-speaking people, half-breed descendants of native women and the survivors of a crew from a British vessel cast away there in the latter part of the eighteenth century.