“No, no! Jumpin’ Moses, man! I don’t find fault with you for that. I understand, I guess.”
“Well, if you don’t mind the fact that I am what I am, I’d like to shake hands with you.”
Nat reached down a big brown hand.
“Same here,” he said. “Always glad to shake with a chap as well recommended as you are. Yes, indeed, I mean it. You see, you’ve got a friend that’s a friend of mine, and when she guarantees a man to be A. B., I’ll ship him without any more questions.”
“Well, then, good-by. I hope we shall meet again and often. And I certainly thank you for—”
“That’s all right. Maybe you’ll fish me out of the drink some day; you never can tell. So long! Git dap, Gen’ral Scott!”
He drove off up the beach, but before he turned the corner of the nearest dune he called back over his shoulder:
“Say, Mr. Ellery, if you think of it you might give my regards to—to—er—the lady that’s keepin’ house for you.”
Breakfast had waited nearly an hour when the minister reached home. Keziah, also, was waiting and evidently much relieved at his safe arrival.
“Sakes alive!” she exclaimed, as she met him at the back door. “Where in the world have you been, Mr. Ellery? Soakin’ wet again, too!”
Ellery replied that he had been for a walk out to the bar. He sat down on the step to remove the borrowed boots. A small rivulet of salt water poured from each as he pulled them off.
“For a walk! A swim, you mean. How could you get in up to your waist if you just walked? Did you fall down?”
“No, not exactly. But I waited too long and the tide headed me off.”
“Mercy on us! you mustn’t take chances on that tide. If you’d told me you was goin’, I’d have warned you to hurry back.”
“Oh, I’ve been warned often enough. It was my own fault, as usual. I’m not sure that I don’t need a guardian.”
“Humph! well, I ain’t sure either. Was the channels very deep?”
“Deep enough. The fact is, that I might have got into serious trouble if I hadn’t been picked up.”
He told briefly the story of his morning’s adventure. The housekeeper listened with growing excitement.
“Heavens to Betsy!” she interrupted. “Was the channel you planned to swim the one at the end of the flat by the longest weir leader?”
“My soul! there’s been two men drowned in that very place at half tide. And they were good swimmers. After this I shan’t dare let you out of my sight.”
“So? Was it as risky as that? Why, Captain Hammond didn’t tell me so. I must owe him more even than I thought.”
“Yes, I guess you do. He wouldn’t tell you, though; that ain’t his way. Deary me! for what we’ve received let us be thankful. And that reminds me that biscuits ought to be et when they’re first made, not after they’ve been dried up on the back of the stove forever and ever amen. Go on and change those wet things of yours and then we’ll eat. Tryin’ to swim the main channel on the flood! My soul and body!”