“Hi!” it called faintly. “Whoever you be, don’t bust that door down. Come round here.”
Ellery walked around the corner of the building. The voice came again.
“Say!” it wailed, “why don’t you answer? Be you comin’? If you’re a peddler, you needn’t.”
“I’m not a peddler,” was the minister’s amused reply.
“Oh, ain’t ye? All right. Come along, then.”
Ellery “came along” as far as the angle where the ell joined the main body of the house. So far as he could see every door and window was closed and there were no signs of life. However, he stepped to the door, a green-painted affair of boards, and ventured another knock.
“Don’t start that poundin’ again!” protested the voice. “Come round to t’other side where I be.”
So around went the Reverend John, smiling broadly. But even on “t’other side” there was no one to be seen. And no door, for that matter.
“Why!” exclaimed the voice, “if ’tain’t Mr. Ellery! How d’ye do? Glad to see you, Mr. Ellery. Fine day, ain’t it? Here I be at this window.”
Sure enough; one of the windows on this side of the house was raised about six inches at the bottom, the shade was up, and peering beneath the sash the minister discerned the expressive features of Abishai Pepper—or as much of those features as the size of the opening permitted to be seen.
“Oh!” exclaimed the visitor, “is that you, Mr. Pepper? Well, I’m glad to see you, at last. You are rather hard to see, even now.”
Kyan was plainly embarrassed. He stammered as he answered.
“Yes,” he agreed, “I—I shouldn’t wonder if I be. How be you? Pretty smart?”
“Yes, thank you. I’m well.”
“Er—er—come to call, did you?”
“Why, yes, that was my intention.”
“Hum! Er—er—Laviny, she’s gone over to Thankful Payne’s. She heard that Thankful’s cousin up to Middleboro had died—passed away, I mean—and she thought she’d run over and find out if Thankful was willed anything. She said she’d be back pretty soon.”
“Very well. Then, as she won’t be gone long, perhaps I’ll come in and wait.”
He was moving away toward the corner when a shout from beneath the window sash brought him to a halt.
“Hi!” called Abishai. “Hi, Mr. Ellery! don’t go to that door. ’Tain’t no use; it’s locked.”
“Locked? Well, you can unlock it, can’t you?”
“No, not very well. That is, I—Mr. Ellery, come back here, won’t ye? I don’t want anybody to hear.”
The house of the nearest neighbor being several hundred yards away, the likelihood of being overheard was improbable; but the minister came back, nevertheless.
“You see, Mr. Ellery,” stammered Kyan, “I—I’d like to have you come in fust rate, but—er—Laviny she’s got the key.”
Ellery was surprised.
“She has!” he exclaimed.
“Um—hm, she’s got it. She took it with her.”