Then she heard low voices. As she crouched at the edge of the grove, two figures passed slowly across the clearing, along the bush-bordered path and into the shrubbery beyond. John Ellery was walking with Grace Van Horne. He was holding her hand in his and they were talking very earnestly.
Keziah did not follow. What would have been the use? This was not the time to speak. She knew now and she knew, also, that the responsibility was hers. She must go home at once, go home to be alone and to think. She tiptoed back through the grove and across the fields.
Yet, if she had waited, she might have seen something else which would have been, at least, interesting. She had scarcely reached the outer edge of the grove when another figure passed stealthily along that narrow path by the bluff edge. A female figure treading very carefully, rising to peer over the bushes at the minister and Grace. The figure of Miss Annabel Daniels, the “belle” of Trumet. And Annabel’s face was not pleasant to look upon.
IN WHICH CAPTAIN EBEN RECEIVES A CALLER
At the edge of the bluff, just where the pines and the bayberry bushes were thickest, where the narrow, crooked little footpath dipped over the rise and down to the pasture land and the salt meadow, John Ellery and Grace had halted in their walk. It was full tide and the miniature breakers plashed amid the seaweed on the beach. The mist was drifting in over the bay and the gulls were calling sleepily from their perch along the breakwater. A night hawk swooped and circled above the tall “feather grass” by the margin of the creek. The minister’s face was pale, but set and determined, and he was speaking rapidly.
“I can’t help it,” he said. “I can’t help it. I have made up my mind and nothing can change it, nothing but you. It rests with you. If you say yes, then nothing else matters. Will you say it?”
He was holding both her hands now, and though she tried to withdraw them, he would not let her.
“Will you?” he pleaded.
“I can’t,” she answered brokenly. “I can’t. Think of your church and of your people. What would they say if—”
“I don’t care what they say.”
“Oh! yes, you do. Not now, perhaps, but later you will. You don’t know Trumet as I know it. No, it’s impossible.”
“I tell you there is only one impossible thing. That is that I give you up. I won’t do it. I can’t do it! Grace, this is life and death for me. My church—”
He paused in spite of himself. His church, his first church! He had accepted the call with pride and a determination to do his best, the very best that was in him, for the society and for the people whom he was to lead. Some of those people he had learned to love; many of them, he felt sure, loved him. His success, his popularity, the growth of the organization and the praise which had come to him because of it, all these had meant, and still meant, very much to him. No wonder he paused, but the pause was momentary.