So Annabel watched and waited. Five minutes, then ten. He must have reached the clump of trees before this, yet she could not see him. Evidently, he had gone straight home. She drew a breath of relief.
Then, being in a happier frame of mind, and the afternoon clear and beautiful, she moved the glass along the horizon, watching the distant white specks across the bay on the Wellmouth bluffs—houses and buildings they were—the water, the shore, the fish weirs, the pine groves. She became interested in a sloop, beating into Wellmouth harbor, and watched that. After a time she heard, in the house below, her father shouting her name.
She gave the glass one more comprehensive sweep preparatory to closing it and going downstairs. As she did this a moving speck came into view and vanished.
Slowly she moved the big end of the spyglass back along the arc it had traveled. She found the speck and watched it. It was a man, striding across the meadow land, a half mile beyond the parsonage, and hurrying in the direction of the beach. She saw him climb a high dune, jump a fence, cross another field and finally vanish in the grove of pines on the edge of the bluff by the shore.
The man was John Ellery, the minister. Evidently, he had not gone home, nor had he taken the short cut. Instead he had walked downtown a long way and then turned in to cross the fields and work his way back.
Annabel put down the glass and, heedless of her father’s calls, sat thinking. The minister had deliberately deceived her. More than that, he had gone to considerable trouble to avoid observation. Why had he done it? Had he done the same thing on other Sunday afternoons? Was there any real reason why he insisted on leaving the house regularly at four o’clock?
Annabel did not know. Her eyes snapped and her sharp features looked sharper yet as she descended the steps to the attic. She did not know; but she intended to find out.
IN WHICH KEZIAH’S TROUBLES MULTIPLY
Keziah was getting worried about her parson. Not concerning his popularity with his congregation. She had long since ceased to worry about that. The young minister’s place in his people’s regard was now assured, the attendance was increasing, and the Regular church was now on a firmer footing, financially and socially, than it had been in years. Even Mrs. Rogers and Lavinia Pepper had ceased to criticise, except as pertained to unimportant incidentals, and were now among the loudest of the praise chanters. And as Captain Zeb Mayo said: “When Didama and Laviny stops fault-findin’, the millennium’s so nigh port a feller ought to be overhaulin’ his saint uniform.”
But what worried Mrs. Coffin was John Ellery’s personal appearance and behavior. He had grown perceptibly thinner during the past month, his manner was distrait, and, worst of all in the housekeeper’s eyes, his appetite had fallen off. She tried all sorts of tempting dishes, but the result was discouraging.