“How—HOW’ll I swear?” begged Kyan. “What do you say when you swear? I’ll say it, Keziah! I’ll say anything! I’ll—”
“All right. Then mind you remember. Now clear out quick. I want to think. I must think. Go! Get out of my sight!”
Kyan went, glad to escape, but frightened to the soul of him. Keziah watched him until he turned from the main road into the lighthouse lane. Then, certain that he really was going straight home, she re-entered the parsonage and sat down in the nearest chair. For ten minutes she sat there, striving to grasp the situation. Then she rose and, putting on her bonnet and shawl, locked the dining-room door, and went out through the kitchen. On the step she looked cautiously back to see if any of the neighbors were at their windows. But this was Sunday, the one day when Trumet people sat in their front parlors. The coast was clear. She hurried through the back yard, and down the path leading across the fields. She was going to the pine grove by the shore, going to find out for herself if Kyan’s astonishing story was true.
For if it was true, if the Rev. John Ellery was meeting clandestinely the adopted daughter of Eben Hammond, it meant—what might it not mean, in Trumet? If he had fallen in love with a Come-Outer, with Grace Van Horne of all people, if he should dare think of marrying her, it would mean the utter wreck of his career as a Regular clergyman. His own society would turn him out instantly. All sorts of things would be said, lies and scandal would be invented and believed. His character would be riddled by the Trumet gossips and the papers would publish the result broadcast.
And Grace! If she loved a Regular minister, what would happen to her? Captain Eben would turn her from his door, that was certain. Although he idolized the girl, Keziah knew that he would never countenance such a marriage. And if Nat stood by Grace, as he would be almost sure to do, the breach between father and son would widen beyond healing. If it were merely a matter of personal selection, Mrs. Coffin would rather have seen her parson marry Grace than anyone else on earth. As it was, such a match must not be. It meant ruin for both. She must prevent the affair going further. She must break off the intimacy. She must save those two young people from making a mistake which would—She wrung her hands as she thought of it. Of her own sorrow and trouble she characteristically thought nothing now. Sacrifice of self was a part of Keziah’s nature.
The pines were a deep-green blotch against the cloudy sky and the gloomy waters of the bay. She skirted the outlying clumps of bayberry and beach plum bushes and entered the grove. The pine needles made a soft carpet which deadened her footfalls, and the shadows beneath the boughs were thick and black. She tiptoed on until she reached the clearing by the brink of the bluff. No one was in sight. She drew a breath of relief. Kyan might be mistaken, after all.