So, as in couples or family groups, afoot or in all sorts of vehicles, the members of Trumet’s Regular society came to the church to hear their new minister, that functionary peeped under the parlor window shade of the parsonage and waited, fidgetting and apprehensive, for the Winslows. They arrived at last, and were not hard to recognize, for ten individuals packed into one carriage are hard to overlook anywhere. As Gaius, with the youngest in his arms, passed in at the church door, John Ellery passed out of the parsonage gate. The last bell clanged its final stroke, the vibrations ceased, the rustle of skirts and the sounds of decorous coughing subsided and were succeeded by the dry rattle of the hymn-book pages, the organ, presented by Captain Elkanah and played by his daughter, uttered its preliminary groan, the service began.
Outside the spring breeze stirred the budding silver-leafs, the distant breakers grumbled, the crows in the pines near Captain Eben Hammond’s tavern cawed ribald answers to the screaming gulls perched along the top of the breakwater. And seated on one of the hard benches of the little Come-Outer chapel, Grace Van Horne heard her “Uncle Eben,” who, as usual, was conducting the meeting, speak of “them who, in purple and fine linen, with organs and trumpets and vain shows, are gathered elsewhere in this community to hear a hired priest make a mock of the gospel.” (A-men!)
But John Ellery, the “hired priest,” knew nothing of this. He did know, however, that he was the center of interest for his own congregation, the people among whom he had been called to labor. Their praise or criticism meant everything to him; therefore he preached for dear life.
And Keziah Coffin, in the third pew from the back, watched him intently, her mind working in sympathetic unison with his. She was not one to be greatly influenced by first impressions, but she had been favorably impressed by this young fellow, and had already begun to feel that sense of guardianship and personal responsibility which, later on, was to make Captain Zebedee Mayo nickname the minister “Keziah’s Parson.”
The sermon was a success.
IN WHICH KEZIAH’S PARSON DECIDES TO RUN IT BLINDFOLD
On Monday afternoon the minister made a few calls. Keziah made out a short list for him to follow, a “sort of chart of the main channel,” she called it, “with the safe ports marked and the shoals and risky places labeled dangerous.”
“You see,” she said, “Trumet ain’t a course you can navigate with your eyes shut. We divide ourselves into about four sets—aristocrats, poor relations, town folks, and scum. The aristocrats are the big bugs like Cap’n Elkanah and the other well-off sea captains, afloat or ashore. They ’most all go to the Regular church and the parish committee is steered by ’em. The poor relations are mainly widows and such, whose husbands died or were lost at sea. Most of them are Regulars. The town folks are those that stay ashore and keep store or run salt works or somethin’. And the scum work around on odd jobs or go fishin’. So, if you really want to be safe, you must call on the aristocrats first, after that on the poor relations, and so on down. You won’t be bothered with scum much; they’re mainly Come-Outers.”