“Oh, a hayseed who wanted to see the old man. Poor relation, I guess. I headed him off. Stone is always telling us that time is money, so I saved both of ’em for him. He ought to thank me. Wouldn’t be surprised if I got the raise I’ve been asking for.”
Mr. Prince did not get the raise, nor the thanks. But he was surprised.
In the workshop of Hallett & Co., Keziah sat sewing busily. The window near her was closed, stuck fast, and through the dingy panes she could see only roofs and chimneys. The other women and girls near her chatted and laughed, but she was silent. She did not feel like talking, certainly not like laughing. The garment she was at work on was a coat, a wedding coat, so the foreman had told her, with a smile; therefore she must be very particular.
She wondered idly whose coat it might be and who its future wearer was to marry. This reminded her of the minister and Grace. They would be happy now, her talk with Nat had assured her of that, and they, too, would be married one of these days. But she would not attend the wedding. She wondered what John had said when he read her note. He and Grace would be sorry for her, of course; but there was nothing they could do to help. No one could help her, no one. Perhaps by this time the man she had run away from had reached Trumet and her secret was known. How Didama and the rest would spread the tale! How Captain Elkanah and Annabel would sneer and exult! They hated her because she was the minister’s friend. And Nat, poor fellow, what would he do? Well, at least he would understand now.
The narrow stairway leading up to the workshop ended in a little boxed-in room where the finished garments were hung to await the final pressing. From behind the closed door of this room came the sound of voices, apparently in heated argument. One of these voices was that of Larry, the errand boy. Larry was speaking shrilly and with emphasis. The other voice was lower in key and the words were inaudible.
“No, sir, you can’t,” declared Larry. “You can’t, I tell you. The boss don’t let nobody in there and—Hold on! Hold on!”
The other voice made a short but evidently earnest answer. Larry again expostulated. The workers looked up from their sewing. The door opened and Larry appeared, flushed and excited.
“Where’s Mr. Upham?” he demanded. “Mr. Upham!”
Upham was the foreman of the workroom. At the moment he was downstairs in conversation with the head of the house. A half dozen gave this information.
“What’s the matter? Who is it?” asked several.
“I don’t know who ’tis. It’s a man and he’s crazy, I think. I told him he couldn’t come in here, but he just keeps comin’. He wants to see somebody named Coffin and there ain’t no Coffins here.”
Keziah bent lower over the wedding coat. Her hand shook and she dropped the needle.
“I told him we didn’t keep coffins,” declared Larry. “This ain’t no undertaker’s. Where’s Mr. Upham?”