’The cruel billows
crash and roar,
And the frail craft is tempest-tossed,
But the bold mariner thinks not of life, but says,
“It is the fust schooner ever I lost."’
And ’twas, too, and the last, poor thing! Well, I just got fur as this when I looked up and there was the minister lookin’ out of the window and his face was just as red, and he kept scowlin’ and bitin’ his lips. I do believe he was all but sheddin’ tears. Sympathy like that I appreciate.”
As a matter of fact, Mr. Ellery had just seen Grace Van Horne pass that window. She had not seen him, but for the moment he was back in that disgusting study, making a frenzied toilet in the dusk and obliged to overhear remarks pointedly personal to himself.
Grace left the parsonage soon after the supposed tramp disclosed his identity. Her farewells were hurried and she firmly refused Mrs. Coffin’s not too-insistent appeal to return to the house “up street” and have supper. She said she was glad to meet Mr. Ellery. The young minister affirmed his delight in meeting her. Then she disappeared in the misty twilight and John Ellery surreptitiously wiped his perspiring forehead with his cuff, having in his late desire for the primal necessities forgotten such a trifling incidental as a handkerchief.
“Well, Mr. Ellery,” observed Keziah, turning to her guest, or employer, or incumbrance—at present she was more inclined to consider him the latter—“well, Mr. Ellery, this has been kind of unexpected for all hands, ain’t it? If I’d known you was comin’ to-day, I’d have done my best to have things ready, but Cap’n Elkanah said not before day after to-morrow and—but there, what’s the use of talkin’ that way? I didn’t know I was goin’ to keep house for you till this very forenoon. Mercy me, what a day this has been!”
The minister smiled rather one-sidedly.
“It’s been something of a day for me,” he admitted. “I am ahead of time and I’ve made a lot of trouble, I’m afraid. But yesterday afternoon I was ready and, to tell the truth, I was eager to come and see my new home and get at my work. So I started on the morning train. Then the stage broke down and I began to think I was stranded at Bayport. But this kind-hearted chap from Wellmouth—I believe that’s where he lived—happened to pull up to watch us wrestling with the smashed wheel, and when he found I was in a hurry to get to Trumet, offered to give me a lift. His name was—was Bird. No, that wasn’t it, but it was something like Bird, or some kind of a bird.”
“Bird?” repeated Keziah thoughtfully. “There’s no Birds that I know of in Wellmouth. Hum! Hey? ’Twa’n’t Sparrow, was it?”
“That was it—Sparrow.”
“Good land! Emulous Sparrow. Run consider’ble to whiskers and tongue, didn’t he?”
“Why, yes; he did wear a beard. As for tongue—well, he was conversational, if that’s what you mean.”
“That’s what I mean. If you rode twelve mile with Emulous, you must have had an earache for the last six. Did he ask a question or two about your personal affairs, here and there between times?”