When Ellery came down to breakfast the rain was over, the wind had gone down, and the morning sunshine was pouring in at the dining-room windows. Outside the lilacs were in bud, the bluebirds were singing, and there was a sniff of real spring in the air. The storm was at an end and yet the young minister was conscious of a troublesome feeling that, for him, it was just beginning.
However, he had determined while dressing to make a clean breast of it to his housekeeper—a nominally clean breast, that is. There were some things he would not tell her, some that he would not speak of to anyone, the picture in the doorway for instance. True, it was only a picture and of no moment, but it was pleasant to remember. One of the very few pleasant things connected with the previous evening.
So, as they sat opposite each other at the table, he began his confession. The muffins scorched in the oven and the coffeepot boiled over as he told his story, for Keziah was too much interested to think of trifles. Interested and astounded, for, since Come-Outers had been Come-Outers and the split in the society took place, no Regular minister had crossed the threshold of a seceder’s dwelling, much less attended their services and walked home with a member of their congregation. She knew what this amazing procedure was likely to mean, if her parson did not.
“Well!” she exclaimed when the recital was finished. “Well!”
“I—I’m afraid I was too hasty,” observed Mr. Ellery thoughtfully. “Perhaps it would have been wiser not to have done it.”
“Perhaps ’twould. Yes, I wouldn’t wonder a mite.”
“It will be talked about some, I suppose. Don’t you think so?”
“I’m afraid some of my own people may think it queer.”
“Queer! Say, Mr. Ellery, you remind me of a half-breed Portugee feller—half Portugee and a half Indian—that went to sea with my father, back in the old days. He hardly ever spoke a word, mainly grunted and made signs. One day he and another fo’mast hand went aloft in a calm to do somethin’ to the tops’l. The half-breed—they called him Billy Peter and he always called himself that—was out on the end of the yard, with his foot on the rope underneath, I forget the name of it, when the tarred twine he had for a shoe string caught. Tryin’ to get it loose it broke sudden, his shoe pulled off, he lost his balance and fell. He grabbed at the yard, saved himself for a second, fell again, grabbed the next yard, then a rope and so on down, grabbin’ and pullin’ all the way. First his shoe hit the deck, then his sheath knife, then a piece of rope, and finally himself, landin’ right on top of the Irish cook who was goin’ aft from the galley with father’s dinner.
“There was the greatest racket you ever heard, pans fallin’, dishes smashin’, men yellin’, and the cook swearin’. Father run on deck, thinkin’ the ship was dismasted. He found the cook and Billy Peter sittin’ in the middle of the mess, lookin’ at each other. Neither was hurt a mite. The mates and the crew, part of ’em, was standin’ starin’ at the pair.