John Ellery picked his way homeward through the puddles and the pouring rain.
He found Keziah in the sitting room, seated by the table, evidently writing a letter. She looked tired and grave—for her.
“Well!” she exclaimed as he entered. “I guess you’re soppin’ now, sartin sure. There’s a light in your room. Take off your wet things and throw ’em down to me, and I’ll dry ’em in the kitchen. Better leave your boots here now and stand that umbrella in the sink. The kettle’s on the stove; you’d better have somethin’ hot—ginger tea or somethin’. I told you not to go out such a night as this. Where in the world have you been?”
The minister said he would tell her all about it in the morning. Just now he thought he had better go up and take off his wet clothes. He declined the ginger tea, and, after removing his boots, went upstairs to his room.
Keziah dipped her pen in the ink and went on with her letter.
“I inclose ten dollars,” she wrote. “It is all I can send you now. More than I ought to afford. Goodness knows why I send anything. You don’t deserve it. But while I live and you do I can’t—”
The minister called from the landing.
“Here is my coat,” he said. “The cuffs and lower part of the sleeves are pretty wet. By the way, the packet came in to-night. They didn’t expect her so soon on account of the fog. There was a passenger aboard whom I think must be that Nathaniel Hammond you told me of.”
Keziah’s pen stopped. The wet coat struck the hall floor with a soft thump. The tick of the clock sounded loud in the room. A sheet of wind-driven rain lashed the windows.
“Did you hear?” called the minister. “I said that Nathaniel Hammond, Captain Eben’s son, came on the packet. I didn’t meet him, but I’m sure it was he. Er—Mrs. Coffin, are you there? Do you hear me?”
The housekeeper laid the pen down beside the unfinished letter.
“Yes,” she said, “I hear you. Good night.”
For minutes she sat there, leaning back in her chair and staring at the wall. Then she rose, went into the hall, picked up the coat, and took it out into the kitchen, where she hung it on the clotheshorse by the cook stove. After a while she returned to the table and took up the pen. Her face in the lamplight looked more tired and grave than ever.
It was a long time before John Ellery fell asleep. He had much to think of—of the morrow, of the talk his rash visit to the chapel would cause, of the explanation he must make to Captain Elkanah and the rest. But the picture that was before his closed eyes as he lay there was neither of Captain Elkanah nor the parish committee; it was that of a girl, with dark hair and a slim, graceful figure, standing in a lighted doorway and peering out into the rain.
IN WHICH OLD FRIENDS MEET