As Noah Ellis and his passenger turned into the lighthouse lane another vehicle turned out of it.
“Who was that?” queried Kyan. “Looked like one of the livery stable horses to me.”
“’Twa’n’t. ’Twas Thankful Payne’s and that was her carriage, too. It’s gettin’ so dark I couldn’t see who was drivin’ it, but ’twas a man, anyhow.”
Kyan seemed to be pondering. “I wonder,” he said slowly, “I wonder if that cousin of hers from Sandwich is here visitin’. That Caleb Pratt, seems to me his name is.”
“Don’t know. Why?”
“Nothin’, nothin’. I just wondered, that was all. That might explain why she let me—”
“Nothin’. Good night, Noah. I’m much obliged to you for takin’ me over, even if there wa’n’t no reception.”
Trumet spent that evening wondering what had become of Nat Hammond. Captain Zeb Mayo wondered most of all. Yet his wonderment was accompanied by vague suspicions of the truth. And, at eleven o’clock, when the village was in bed, a horse and buggy moved down the Turn-off and stopped before the Hammond gate. A man alighted from the buggy and walked briskly up to the side door. There he knocked and then whistled shrilly.
A window overhead was opened.
“Who is it?” asked a feminine voice.
“Don’t be frightened, Gracie,” replied the man at the door. “It’s me—Nat. I’ve come home again.”
IN WHICH THE MINISTER RECEIVES A LETTER
John Ellery was uneasy. Physically he was very much better, so much better that he was permitted to sit up a while each day. But mentally he was disturbed and excited, exactly the condition which the doctor said he must not be in. Keziah and Grace had gone away and left him, and he could not understand why.
Mrs. Higgins, Ike’s mother, was at the shanty and she did her best to soothe and quiet him. She was a kind soul and capable, in her way, but she could not answer his questions satisfactorily.
“Where are they?” he demanded. “Why did they go? Has anything happened? When are they coming back?”
“I can’t tell you just when, Mr. Ellery,” replied Mrs. Higgins. “Grace had to go home for a—a day or so and Keziah had things to attend to at the parsonage. Don’t you fret yourself about them.”
“I’m not fretting, but it does seem strange. I could understand why one should go, perhaps, but not both. Didn’t Gra—Miss Van Horne tell you why she went?”
“Well, now, Mr. Ellery, don’t let’s worry about Gracie. She’s a good girl with lots of common sense and—”
“I know that. But that doesn’t answer me. Why did she go?”
“Keziah hadn’t been to the parsonage sence that day when you was fust took sick, and I expect likely she felt that she’d ought to—”
“Please, Mrs. Higgins, tell me the truth. I’m not asking about Mrs. Coffin. Didn’t Miss Van Horne tell you her reason for leaving?”