As he stood there, groups of people emerged from the fog and darkness and passed in at the door. Some of them he had seen during his fortnight in Trumet. Others were strangers to him. A lantern danced and wabbled up the “Turn-off” from the direction of the bay shore and the packet wharf. It drew near, and he saw that it was carried by an old man with long white hair and chin beard, who walked with a slight limp. Beside him was a thin woman wearing a black poke bonnet and a shawl. In the rear of the pair came another woman, a young woman, judging by the way she was dressed and her lithe, vigorous step. The trio halted on the platform of the building. The old man blew out the lantern. Then he threw the door open and a stream of yellow light poured over the group.
The young woman was Grace Van Horne. The minister recognized her at once. Undoubtedly, the old man with the limp was her guardian, Captain Eben Hammond, who, by common report, had spoken of him, Ellery, as a “hired priest.”
The door closed. A few moments thereafter the sound of a squeaky melodeon came from within the building. It wailed and quavered and groaned. Then, with a suddenness that was startling, came the first verse of a hymn, sung with tremendous enthusiasm:
“Oh, who shall answer
when the Lord shall call
His ransomed sinners home?”
The hallelujah chorus was still ringing when the watcher across the street stepped out from the shadow of the hornbeam. Without a pause he strode over to the platform. Another moment and the door had shut behind him.
The minister of the Trumet Regular church had entered the Come-Outer chapel to attend a Come-Outer prayer meeting!
IN WHICH THE PARSON CRUISES IN STRANGE WATERS
The Come-Outer chapel was as bare inside, almost, as it was without. Bare wooden walls, a beamed ceiling, a raised platform at one end with a table and chairs and the melodeon upon it, rows of wooden settees for the congregation—that was all. As the minister entered, the worshipers were standing up to sing. Three or four sputtering oil lamps but dimly illumined the place and made recognition uncertain.
The second verse of the hymn was just beginning as Ellery came in. Most of the forty or more grown people in the chapel were too busy wrestling with the tune to turn and look at him. A child here and there in the back row twisted a curious neck but twisted back again as parental fingers tugged at its ear. The minister tiptoed to a dark corner and took his stand in front of a vacant settee.
The man whom Ellery had decided must be Captain Eben Hammond was standing on the low platform beside the table. A quaint figure, patriarchal with its flowing white hair and beard, puritanical with its set, smooth-shaven lips and tufted brows. Captain Eben held an open hymn book back in one hand and beat time with the other. He wore brass-bowed spectacles well down toward the tip of his nose. Swinging a heavy, stubby finger and singing in a high, quavering voice of no particular register, he led off the third verse: