Martha Banning Thomas
A dramatic tale of the Fundy shore and Fundy folk, and life by the honest sea
GRAMMY RAFFERTY, dressed in blue denim and with a black hat perched on her white hair, came, with a crockery pitcher in her hand, through the front gate. Grammy was tall and quick-moving.
A cool wind from the Bay of Fundy wandered up across the fields, and the late light of afternoon lay on the long sweet meadows. The noisy water seemed to ripple through the very leaves of the trees, though Grammy heard none of it. That voice, in varying accents, had beaten on her ears for so long that it had become as monotonous as breathing.
“Goodnight, Mis’ Rafferty,” greeted aman coming toward her; this being the customary greeting after six o’clock in Cableville. “Real kinda nice this evenin’.” Yes, ’tis,” nodded the old woman. “’Tis so, Mat.
Won’t ye come in and take off?” Grammy was probably an eighth of a mile from home by now, but the wings of her hospitality spread over any place she stood in her shoes. “Pa is settin’ home, and he'll be real glad to see ye.”
Mat hesitated politely. “I’m aimin’ to git up the Bay shore a piece,” he explained. “Fred Rafferty wants me to look over another boat he’s heard tell of.”
“My land, ain’t Fred got enough ship timber y it?” “No, ma’am, he ain’t. Seems like ye can’t satisfy him none. Seems like he jest naturally wants every boat he sees.”
Grammy chuckled. “He does, Mat, that’s a fact.” “This here boat,” added Mat with an air of mystery, “I don’t mind tellin’ ye since you’re one of the family, ix ye jest won’t mention it a while yit, is fer the minister,
Garry Summers. Fred aims to give him the boat fer a weddin’ present if your granddaughter, Scena, up and decides to marry him.”
“Wedding present; Scena marry him!” Grammy was startled. “I ain’t heard a word. No idea things had gone as far as that. Kinda thought Andy McGrath was the favorite. But Scena acts as airy as a gull’s feather since she come home from the States.”
“Well—I do recollect Fred told me not to say a word— the boat’s jest somethin’ between him and the minister. Maybe I oughtn’t to have spoke.” He looked sombrely at the toes of his rubber boots.
“Don’t you worrit none, Mat. I won’t say a word. Garry Summers is an awful good boy and smart at his religion. It’ll help him a lot, that boat, gittin’ round to his parishes on the shore.”
“Say, Mis’ Rafferty, he don’t act like no minister ever I see.”
“He ain’t real pious behavin’,” admitted Grammy, “but I took to him first off. His eyes h clear as spring water.”
"Yis,” admitted Mat a trifle uncertainly, and went his way.
The eye of the lighthouse opened and winked from the long finger of land on the other shore. A rackety old flivver hustled up over the hill. A woman sat at the wheel; a big tanned
woman who looked strong as a horse.
“Good night, Lyd!” Grammy called out.
The woman waved as she went by.
"Likely Lyd’s goin’ to deliver a package the other end of the route,” murmured the old lady.
Lyd Brawn was the rural mail-driver from Cableville to a town twenty miles away. She had a family of five children, but her husband was dead. Sometime« after supper she was obliged to carry a bundle to an isolated house. Lyd was a busy and ambitious woman.
Two more people came in sight. One walked heavily. The other’s gestures were full of a jerky livel ineas.
“Good night, Mis’ Rafferty,” sang out the youth. He had yellowish hair the color of soaked straw. lí is eyes, though
.smuil, sparkled with peculiar brilliance; that blue which flickers at the root of all flame.
“How be ye, Andy?” Grammy'» voice carolled up to a happy chirp. “Fine evenin’,” she greeted Luke McGrath, his father.
“Yis,” agreed the man, and waited stolidly beside his son.
“Seems to me ye’re cruisin’ kinda far from port, ain’t ye?” She turned again to the boy.
"Oh, I dunno," he laughed. "Can’t be moored day and night t’ Rafferty’s kitchen.”
“Since when have ye come to them notions?” she teased. “Last time I seen ye, ye was talkin’ loud and handsome about how a sailor needed an anchor t’ wind’ard. And when I asked if the anchor’s name was Scena, ye like t’ pitch a scallop shell at me.”
"Oh, well,” the boy grinned, “Scena Rafferty’s the trimmest little sloop that ever
Grammy cackled appreciatively. “Seems t’ me I heard pa say that about fifty years ago.”
Luke McGrath stood apart, a dark man whose eyes smoldered under heavy lids.
Grammy’» tone of banter changed. “Meetin’ in the church tomorrer, Andy. You plannin’ t’ go?”
“Now don’t you go messin’ up your religion and your” she paused, settling her grand old hat more firmly on her head "anchor t’wind’ard.”
Andy laughed, but the blue in his eyes had turned hard.
"I ain’t a-goin’. I ain’t a-goin’ now or never. I don’t need that sculpin’s sermons to steer by.”
"Now, now, lad,” Grammy protested. “Ye’re too clever for that kind of talk. He’s as smart a young feller as ever I set*. Good night to both of ye.” She walked on to get her pitcher of milk at her son’s, Fred Rafferty’s, house.
Garry Summers was tw’enty-two. He had stormed into Cableville six months before, tear-
ing up and down the steep road with the velocity of a cyclone. Garry’s motor-cycle could be heard for six miles. He had red hair and more than the energy to match it. He had been sent from a theological seminary forty miles away to preach in the little Cableville church. His sermons were good. He said so himself, and grinned disarmingly. People flocked to hear him, and stubbornly disagreed with everything he said. He shocked them a new way each Sabbath. Never had the meeting house been so crammed with solemn Sunday shoes and white cotton gloves.
“It ain’t what he says, exactly,” Bridget Rafferty, Scena’s mother, often remarked in an attempt to analyze her own bewilderment. “It’s all well enough,
as far as I know-. I’m sure he acts proper as a deacon in the pulpit. But they’s somethin’ kinda mysterious about him. He ain’t like us. He ain’t like any minister we ever had before. Guerdon Hope was the best, but he was called to another field. This here young man is like a box of matches all struck off t’ once. His words spit out scratchin’ hot.”
"The young man’s all right,” Fred said.
But Andy McGrath did not care for Garry Summers. He said he had liked Guerdon Hope better; the grim little man who had recently been transferred to another parish.
“Why do you act so funny Saturday nights when the minister comes to our house?” Scena once questioned Andy.
“He ain’t my idea of a minister; ain’t my idea at all.”
“But, Andy, there are plenty of ministers we don’t know about; all kinds. And Mr. Summers says he thinks you’re the smartest young man in the village.”
Here Andy’s face settled down into gloom.
“Humph! That talk don’t fool me none.”
F very Monday morning, while at work on the fish wharves, Andy would express the same wish: “I hope he has an accident on that motor-cycle of his, not a real bad one, jest enough to keep him away from here. Scena smiles at him like he was The Prince of Wales — dang his hide!”
Once or twice Andy had called on Grammy Rafferty and cautiously mentioned his grievance against Garry Summers.
“Ye got t’ git used to havin’ other people in the world, boy. Ye don’t own Scena: ye’re jest fond of her. You ain’t got no real claim on her unless you’re pledged
to marry. Of course she has a good time a-laughin’ and a-jokin’ with the lad.”
“She don’t seem to have a good time a-laughin’ and jokin’ with me.”
“Now see here, boy”—Grammy laid down her goldrimmed spectacles “girls ain’t like men. They have to flip around like trout in a brook. You can’t pull ’em in stiddy; if you do, you’re like to lose ’em.”
Andy’s eyes grew bright with dangerous heat. “The minister ain’t like us folks. He come here a stranger. No one knows about him.”
“I jest made some gingerbread, Andy. It’s in that grey crock in the pantry. You git yourself a piece and set here a bit whilst I quilt.”
The boy obediently ate sober mouthfuls of the old lady’s excellent cake.
‘Tm a-goin’t’ talk t’ ye real honest,” began Grammy, threading a needle, “because ye need it. You ain’t got your ma, and your pa’s kinda soured on the world ’count of his havin’ sech bad luck all along.”
The old lady began her careful quilting.
“I ain’t got what ye call learnin’, but human nature averages about the same here as in furrin’ parts. If ye keep your mind from nibblin’ at mean thoughts, ye come out square. At least with yourself. Your pa got
aimed all wrong years ago. He took t’ broodin’ ’til he couldn’t see a snow squall without suspicionin’ some one brung it on purpose to spoil his fishin’. You keep away from that kind of foolishness, Andy. Your pa don’t enjoy life none. He can’t. He’s et too much of the black bread of envy and unhappiness.”
Andy tried to follow this excellent advice, but he was not quite strong enough to pull up the poisonous weeds that choked his common sense. He wrent regularly to church once more, and listened to the ringing voice of the red-headed preacher. If Scena looked pleased his heart thumped angrily: if she looked sober he thought her too attentive.
When the service was over Scena often had a special word with Garry. They smiled together. They spoke certain phrases in a way which seemed to shut Andy out of the vestibule entirely.
“How are you, Scena?” Garry would smile and stretch out a quick, strong hand.
Then the girl would reply, and in no time they were rattling on, while Andy stood and glowered.
One evening Andy told his father he was going on a long cruise.
“Eh?” McGrath, Sr., peered up at him from his newspaper.
“I’m a-goin’ off—away,” repeated Andy. “I’m sick of this village. All so pious they can’t never git clear of the minister. Never see such prayin’ and sereechin’ as they’s been around here for the last six months.”
Luke looked silently at his son, then he said: “You worrited ’bout Scena—and him?”
“No, I ain’t!” Andy lied fiercely. “I’m jest a-leavin’ because I feel like leavin’.”
“Don’t be a blasted fool,” growled his father.
“I don’t like him,” exploded Andy, forgetting his recent denial. “They’s somethin’ queer about him. Talks different than us. Don’t belong here.”
“That ain’t none of your business. Best leave alone what ye don’t understand.”
“Ye’re a good one to talk,” said the boy angrily.
“See here.” Luke McGrath laid down his paper. He clasped big, corded hands around one knee, and the sullen blaze in his eyes made Andy uncomfortable. “I done a dirty trick once, and it’s likely ye’re sneerin’ about that. The whole village knows it, and I can see it in their eyes when they speak to me. I sent a man out in the bay half an hour before a snow squall—with his engine fixed so he’d have trouble. And the funny thing about it is—you hark to this!—I’ve kinda forgot what made me hate him so. But I prayed every livin’ minute that he’d capsize and drown. Now here’s somethin and queer, too. After a while I couldn’t stand it, and I went out in me own boat to save him;
went when no other man could get through the Gap and the raging rip. All the mad leaked out of me then forever. I was caught square in me own craziness, good as murderin’ me own nearest neighbor. That’s what mad will do to ye. You tend to your work, and fergit the minister.”
A MONTH later the village was flung into garrulous excitement over a proposed benefit dance Saturday night, the proceeds to be used in sheathing the interior of the Town Hall.
“A man’s cornin’ from up the valley,” chattered the children. “A man what plays stiddy on a mouth organ, and whangs a zither in his lap, and bangs a drum with his feet!” Everyone who could raise or borrow twentyfive cents was agog to go.
When Saturday evening came Bridget Rafferty was slamming about the house, locking doors, shoving out the cat, and yanking her hat down on her head all at the same time.
“Wonder if Mr. Summers will be cornin’ tonight?” she enquired.
Scena stood before a mirror, fluffing out her light hair. “I think I heard him say he might.”
“He’ll likely take a look in,” agreed Fred Rafferty, completely cowed in a new store suit. “Well, if you women folks is ready to cast off, I say let’s git t’ goin’.”
Grammy, in her best hat bristling with flowers, came trotting down to join her son’s family.
“Pa don’t take any delight in these here kind of junkets, but I like to see young folks hop around on the floor,” she twinkled.
Andy McGrath denied himself the pleasure of escorting Scena to the hall. He told her he would be waiting at the door-perfectly acceptable etiquette in Cableville.
Fred and Bridget walked briskly ahead. Scena and Grammy brought up the rear.
“Ye like the young parson pretty well?” Grammy asked abruptly when they were part way to the village.
Scena laughed and gave an evasive answer.
“He’s a grand lad,” remarked her grandmother. "You could trust him anywheres. I don’t know highfalutin’ languages like French and suchlike words, but I ain’t generally wrong readin’ folks’ faces. Andy’s a smart young feller, too,” she added loyally.
“Yes,” said the girl pleasantly noncommittal.
They walked a mile farther.
“See all the folks!” cried the girl. “And there’s Mr. Summers’ motor-cycle leaning against the store, so he’s come.”
Grammy’s shoelace was flapping around her ankle. They stopped to tie it, and by the time they had started again most of the people, including Scena’s father and mother, had gone into the brightly-lighted hall. The road was dim and empty.
When they had reached Lyd Brawn’s house, near the hall, Scena stopped suddenly.
“What ails ye?” asked Grammy.
The girl came closer. “I t hought I saw a man sneaking in between Lyd’s and the next house,” she whispered.
Grammy treated this lightly. “’Tain’t nuthin’ if ye did.”
“Wait,” cautioned the girl again. She drew her grandmother near the corner of Lyd’s house, where they could watch unobserved.
A small stone skittered out from nowhere and rolled down into the road, followed by another. The women instinctively pressed close to the house.
“’Taint’ nuthin’,” persisted Grammy.
“S-s-s-h !” commanded Scena.
A figure was stealthily walking through the dark alley between the two houses. A man. He wore white trousers.
Scena’s heart seemed to stop beating.
"Quick, Grammy!” And she twitched the old lady behind a screen of dahlia stalks.
The figure halted and looked about. There was now left only a short distance between it and the road. By the shadowy light they could see that the man carried a bulky parcel.
The girl began to tremble violently. She knew only one person who wore white flannel trousers. Could Garry Summers be sneaking about like a thief between two houses? She pressed one hand over her mouth to stop the nervous chattering of her teeth. Grammy gave her a steadying touch on the shoulder. They waited.
The figure took a swift step forward toward the road. The door of the hall burst open and several young people came out, laughing and talking. The man gave a startled gesture, stumbled, and something fell from his bundle; a dark object which crashed on a stone with a tinkling of glass.
The acrid, unmistakable odor of alcohol came to the nostrils of the dumbfounded watchers.
Quickly the man retreated into the shadows again.
“Y'ou go on into the hall,” said Grammy in a matter of fact tone, “and take them young folks on the steps with ye. I’ll tend to this end.”
Scena blindly obeyed.
The old lady peered up and down the street, then she broke off a dahlia stalk and, bending over a certain spot in the road, brushed clinking splinters of glass into a small hollow. Over this she placed a flat stone; then she whisked some dust over it.
While she was busy at this Luke McGrath came upon her. “Howdy,” he mumbled and went on.
Grammy threw the stalk over the fence and proceeded with the utmost tranquility toward the dance.
“Garry Summers’ eyes is clear us spring-water,” she murmured stoutly. “He couldn’t do nuthin’ really wrong, no matter how things look.”
' I 'H E dance was about to open. The one-man orchestra L sat down to his complicated music. The mouth organ began to breathe out a mild version of “Go Home1 and Tell Your Mother,” the zither whined softly, the drum boomed in regular accents.
Everyone brightened up.
Andy McGrath, sprucely uncomfortable in the effete elegance of a Palm Beach suit, advanced toward Scena.
“You dance real kinda pleasant,” he smiled. “Will ye go on with me now?”
They swung out to the middle of the floor.
“That other feller cornin’ tonight?”
“What other feller?"
“You know as well as I do who I mean.”
“I don’t,” answered Scena primly, but her eyes were seeking Garry Summers everywhere.
“I reckon he wouldn’t enjoy this anyhow. Not his kind of a shindig," said Andy contentedly.
The girl was wretchedly upset. Now and then she sent long, wistful looks at Grammy; but that indefatigable old lady was making merry with other old ladies dressed in sleazy black satins and white stockings, their rosy cheeks polished with soap.
Scena had danced twice with Andy before she observed Garry Summers grinning at her from the door. He crossed the hall at once.
“I hope I’ll be able to crash in and get one dance,” he pleaded.
Scena had never seen him in quite such fine clothes before. Added to the immaculate flannels were a blue coat, white silk shirt, and flower in his buttonhole. She admitted, with a little clutch of fright at her heart, that truly this man was not like the rest. Somehow as he stood there gay, faultlessly groomed, full of laughing self-assurance he made of the others a sorry spectacle.
Besides which, no other minister had ever danced in Cableville. The parson was expected to lend the light of his countenance to a worthy occasion but never to take an active part.
So Scena shook her head at him now.
“No; I’m afraid not," she said hurriedly. "Come, Andy, I heard poppa say he wanted to see you.”
The rejected one looked astonished. People were watching him.
Scena pulled Andy over to the place where her father sat. Something very strange had gone wrong with the dance. The girl longed to leave at once; to run home, to lock her door and think by herself, safely removed from the gay, red-headed, incomprehensible theological student.
Garry in the meantime had walked to the farther side
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G r a n m y
Continued from page 5
of the hall and begun a lively conversation with Lyd Brawn, the lusty driver of the mail team. Lyd was an amazon of a woman. Her arms were the color of mahogany, and when she walked she moved with a stalwart swagger. Everyone in the village made fun of her and liked her. Lyd’s five children were also at the dance, hut she paid little heed to . them.
Scena could hear her big laugh as she beamed at Garry. To the girl’s astonishment, Lyd soon swung out on the floor with Garry’s arm about her.
Simultaneously all the other dancers ceased whirling. Here indeed was wonder. They backed to the sides of the hall and left Garry and Lyd Brawn to perform their steps alone.
“By gorry, he’s got an armful there!’’ j exclaimed one.
Grammy blinked several times behind : her spectacles. Scena told Andy she was thirsty. They left the hall together to go to a small store opposite. But when the cold drink was placed before her Scena could not swallow it. She had nothing whatever to say to Andy, who was in the ; seventh heaven of delight at her startling refusal to dance with the minister.
"Don’t ye think it’s fittin’ to dance with him?” he enquired, not without I patronage.
“I don’t know anything about it!”
! snapped Scena.
She was miserable. They went hack hut she would not dance again with Andy. She wished she had not come. She forgot Andy so completely that that young j swain hovered about her in a fog of pained bewilderment.
“Grammy,” she whispered, touching j the old lady’s skirt. “Grammy!”
“Yis?” The grey eyes mirrored a sweet I serenity.
But the girl somehow could not frame her question. She looked away again, saying nothing.
Garry was dancing once more with Lyd Brawn. His bright hair glinted with light from the kerosene lamps. He danced as if he had spent half his life on a ballroom j floor.
A dog strayed in and, squatting down ! on his haunches, looked on with glowing ! interest. The mouth organ, the zither,
! and the drum droned on. The player of j these instruments sweated visibly.
By eleven o’clock the floor was milling ; with energetic couples. Garry had retired ¡ to a corner, where he talked gravely to an j old sea captain.
I Scena steadfastly kept her eyes in the i opposite direction. Andy lingered near I her. less and less happy as the evening advanced.
Then the music stopped with an abruptness which shocked the surprised dancers to silence.
A stranger stood in the doorway. A big, florid man, dressed somewhat in the fashion of the minister—white flannels and blue coat, flower in his buttonhole. Grey hair grew at his temples, and his eyes were clear and keen.
For a hushed moment all sound ceased j in the hall.
I “Is Mrs. Brawn here?” asked the
stranger. His voice carried to every corner of the room.
Scena instinctively glanced at Garry. He had whirled suddenly away from the captain, and she saw that his face had gone grey-white. His hack was toward the room, hut the girl had witnessed the ghastly draining of color trom his cheeks.
Grammy saw, toohut none of the others, apparently. They were too intent on the appearance of the stranger.
Lyd extricated herself from the embrace of her last partner and pounded across the floor, followed by all eyes.
Grammy rose and stood before the minister like a shield. “I don’t know what ails ye, hoy,” she whispered, “hut they’s a hack door a-stern of ye!”
She smiled and stood there while Garry melted from sight.
Lyd Brawn and the stranger also left the hall, by the front door. Luke McGrath was standing outside on the steps. He watched the ill-assorted pair with his strange, smoldering glance.
Then Andy came out and stood beside his father. “What the devil has that swell to do with Lyd?” demanded the hoy.
“How in hades should I know?” snarled his parent.
Neither Lyd Brawn nor Garry returned to the dance that night.
'THE next morning the red-headed minister preached as usual in the Cableville church. He gave his congregation a stirring sermon. He pleaded for the hardihood and beauty of a life lived by facing all things honestly, not hiding behind outworn traditions of the past.
“The past belongs to the past and we do reverence to it, but we are disciples of the present. Live! I charge you all to live to the fullest extent you may, with decency and courage!” The church
vibrated to his ringing voice.
Scena sat between Andy and her father. She could not look up at the pulpit. How dare he stand there like a young prophet and tell them all how to regulate their lives—after what she had seen last night?
Other listeners were remembering how ne danced with Lyd Brawn; how the stranger had come; and how Garry Summers was not seen again. The air was charged with distrust. They shifted their feet and sat closer together in a blind fog of suspicion.
'T'HAT very afternoon Scena quarreled -*• with Andy. The subject, as usual, was Garry Summers. And because she was deeply troubled, she defended the minister with muddle-headed fury.
“He’s ten times smarter than you are, Andy McGrath. You’re plain jealous. You hate him because he can dance better than you!”
Andy stood rigid with rage; the dangerous blue in his eyes more brilliant than she ever had seen it.
“See here, Scena Rafferty,” he said, “it’s come to a place where you’ve got to choose between him and me. Either you treat me fair and give him up or I’ll sign
aboard a vessel for a long cruise. I’m done with all this foolishness.”
Scena stood beside him, slender as a birch, vibrant with suppressed fires.
“No man living can tell me what to do, Andy McGrath. I’m not to be slammed around like a cabin boy aboard a vessel. Go on your cruise. What do I care? You’re nothin’ but a torment!”
Andy strode off. She saw the wind ruffling his hair; how the strong muscles of his shoulders moved under his coat. A bit of white string dangled from his pocket.
Scena walked to the edge of the cliffs. Here there were spruce and balsam trees, and the red top of the bell tower far below. Gulls screamed overhead; water slapped at the rocks. The girl flung herself down on the bank to think. How long she had lain there with her head buried in her arms she could not tell when she heard a step.
“Why, Scena, what’s the matter, dear?” Garry’s voice ! It touched her as though a hand had swept across harp strings.
“Nothing,” mumbled the girl from the crook of her elbow.
“Come now,” he coaxed. He sat beside her. She felt the merest caress on her hair. “Tell me. You know I’m sorry— whatever it is.”
She began to tremble.
“Please go away,” she begged.
“But we have been such good friends, Scena.” Hurt surprise was in his voice. “Somehow, I thought I had the right to— well, to say comforting things to you. I understood—that is, I hoped we might be more than good friends soon. Your father hinted . His words trailed
“Your father,” Garry gently took up the sentence again, “said, when I asked him if I could—well, love you, Scena, and later marry you—that it was all right with him and your mother. I was keeping it all—nearly bursting last night—to tell you today. You’re so lovely, so alive, and sweet.”
“Go away,” cried the girl frantically. “Please—I can’t stand it!”
“But Scena, why do you act so queerly unless you hate me?”
“Why”—the words rushed out before she knew it—“why were you sneaking between Lyd Brawn’s house and the next with a bundle of whisky in your arms last night, like the lowest bum in town?” He did not answer.
“Why?” persisted Scena. She sat up, forgetting her red eyes and disheveled hair. She saw a grim smile pass over his lips. “And why did you disappear so fast from the dance when that strange man came? You’re a cheat, Garry Summers, and a liar! Telling folks how to behave— and being a bootlegger yourself all the time!”
He stared at her blankly; and again she saw a grey palor creep over his skin.
“I did not think it possible for you to believe the worst of me without giving me a chance to explain,” he said slowly.
“But you aren’t explaining! You don’t say a word! You just stare at me.” Scena’s voice broke on the ragged edge of excitement.
“I’m horribly disillusioned,” continued the man. “I thought you had common sense and loyalty. But since you think those things of me, I won’t bother you any longer.” Without another word he went, disappearing almost at once among the trees.
It seemed that he had hardly gone when the crackle of a dry branch caught Scena’s attention. She turned her head and saw two people emerge from the deeper shadows of the wood—Lyd Brawn and the florid stranger who had asked for her at the dance. To the girl’s distorted reasoning this coincidence was curiously disturbing. Garry, Lyd Brawn, the goodlooking man who had come to the hall— they seemed a sinister trio.
She quickly crouched behind a thick screen of blackberry bushes. She had no
wish to be seen with red eyes and tearstained cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” Lyd was saying in her deep man’s voice, “but ’twan’t me own fault. I can’t nowise tell whether it’s good or bad. Never tech it meself. How was the last lot?”
“All right,” said the man.
“Can’t git no more for ye jest yit. Best wait a couple of weeks, and don’t you come here no more!”
“People notice ye too much; in that swell riggin’.”
He laughed. They passed the place where Scena lay hidden. Lyd’s Sunday dress brushed on the leaves and made them quiver.
“I was kinda in a tight place last night,” she was explaining. “Folks come to see me jest the time I was gittin’ the stuff out of the place to the spot where Luke McGrath was to take it down the shore for ye.” Her deep chuckle floated back to the hiding girl; then she and the stranger passed from hearing.
CCENA picked herself up and ran ^ through the woods in an opposite direction. She went like an arrow sure of its mark. Below Grammy’s house she came up through the meadow, and she burst into the kitchen, where the old lady rocked by the window with an open Bible on her lap and gold-rimmed spectacles riding halfway down her nose.
“Set down and take off, child. My, ye look all het up from hurryin’.”
The old lady saw that the girl was unusually disturbed.
“What ails ye?” she asked calmly.
“Grammy, there’s something going on in this town. Something that ain’t right. Lyd’s in it, and Garry, and that strange man that come to the hall last night. Andy’s gone off mad as fury. And Luke McGrath has something to do with it— the queer business, I mean. I don’t like it, Grammy, I don’t like it. And you remember last night—the whisky bottle that dropped out of Garry’s arms and broke!” She buried her face in her hands and cried unrestrainedly.
“There, there, child. Come here, poor little chick.”
The girl dropped on her knees beside the old woman.
“Don’t ye go for gittin’ tied up in knots, whatever it is.” The gnarled old hands stroked her hair, the cheerful voice made comforting clucks. “You’re all right, dearie. Jest keep straight on your own course and everything will turn out shipshape.”
“But Garry—I don’t understand.”
“It does look a little mite unsettlin’, but I reckon he could explain everything if we asked him.”
“I did ask him, and he wouldn’t. That’s just it.”
“So? Well, give him the channel, Scena, and he’ll make port, you see.”
The girl then related what she had heard and seen in the woods.
“I reckon it’s some sly busineas or other,” admitted the old lady, “but long’s you an’ me is goin’ along reg’lar, why not jest let things drift a while? Lyd ain’t got nuthin’ to do with you, or the stranger either. I’d keep on thinkin’ of the minister as a good young feller, if I was you. It saves a terrible lot of wear an’ tear.”
Scena did not confide her deeper distress; that bewildering wonder which had shaken her when Garry said he loved her, and how it tore at her heart because she could not trust him.
Yet in spite of Grammy’s predictions, matters in the village did not mend. Doubts about the young minister continued to trouble his parish. His name was whispered with shakings of the head. His appearance on the street inspired nothing but mumbled greetings and long silences.
He arrived on his explosive motorcycle every Saturday night and preached every Sunday morning. But he came no
more to the Rafferty’s. His congregation steadily dwindled. Scena would not go. Andy stayed away. Bridget went when possible, and Grammy always. Her faith in the boy was still serene.
Once in a casually self-conscious voice, Scena asked her father a question which had been hammering at her brain for weeks.
“Pa, have you and the minister ever talked together?”
Fred glanced at her with innocent good nature.
“What a daft and blitherin’ question! You know we’ve talked together many and many a time.”
She returned to the dish pan, keeping her back toward him.
“Talk about me; him and me?”
“Well, we did have a little chewin’ match on the subject one evenin’ some time ago, if I recollect.” He was teasing her now.
But the girl was terribly in earnest. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded.
“Why, you silly galoot,” he rejoined affectionately. “I wanted to let you whack away at it yourselves. Andy has to have a fair chance, too. Me part was jest to sit quiet. Doesn’t do to put in an oar in these fancy love squalls—though I’ll say to ye, confidential, I’m betting on the parson.”
“Well, you needn’t,” blazed Scena, “because I hate him !”
“Dear, dear!” murmured her father. “Now ain’t that too bad!”
His distress was not so overwhelming as to prevent his usual enjoyment of the news.
Y\7TTHOUT exactly knowing why, the *V village began to assume an air of open antagonism toward its young pastor. No one could mention a single act on his part which had brought about the change, yet everyone was ready to shrug a shoulder or lift an eyebrow. The church congregation had now fallen off to a few faithful souls, mostly old people who were too deaf to hear or too generous to listen to gossip.
Then without warning came the bombshell; a notice tacked on the church door:
EVERYONE IS INVITED TO ATTEND THE TRIAL OF MR. GARRY SUMMERS, TO BE HELD IN THIS CHURCH AT SEVEN O’CLOCK SATURDAY NIGHT, TO ANSWER CERTAIN CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST HIM.
“Shame! Shame!” cried Grammy. “They don’t none of ’em know what they’re frettin’ over. Human nature’s got to torture somethin’, and I s’pose the minister is the handiest.”
“Ain’t right,” roared Fred Rafferty.
1 “I’m a-goin’, and I’ll speak me mind ! proper. Bridget, don’t you try to stop ¡ me.”
Scena was looking particularly white 1 these days. If Andy felt triumphant over ! the unexpected turn of events, he kept his own counsel.
“Be ye goin’ to the trial?” Grammy asked the girl.
“I can’t! Oh, Grammy, I can’t!”
“Ye must.” The old lady was stern, j “Ye know, as well as I do, that fine young feller is all right.” j “But I don’t know, Grammy. He won’t say a word for himself.” j “Ye’ll come along with me,” announced the old lady firmly, “and watch him ride out the storm.”
Saturday evening arrived. Fog rolled i in from the Bay and filled the Gap with a ! smother of white. The big horn wailed I mournfully and seemed to lay upon the ! village a damp and sinister portent.
A steady line of people streamed into the little church. If it had been sparsely ; attended during the past few weeks, it was full to bursting now. W’hen Fred Rafferty and his family arrived there was no room for them except in the front row.
“I can’t go down there,” gasped Scena, but she felt Grammy’s hand pulling her along.
“We’ll jest show these people,” encouraged the old lady.
So Fred, Bridget, Grammy, and Scena sat in the first pew. The kerosene lamps flickered. There was no sound but the light shuffling of restless feet, the uneasy breathing of those who had come to see the young minister discomfited.
Lyd Brawn was not present.
Garry, white of face but in perfect command of himself, opened the meeting with an extremely short prayer, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” He seemed to be looking at everyone, yet his eyes rested nowhere. Scena felt as if she would faint from excitement. She had noticed Andy tar back in the church as she came down the aisle.
“I have been requested to act as moderator of the meeting and judge my own trial,” announced the minister. “It is an unusual procedure, but I will try to be fair-minded and unbiased. You believe that I have committed some act not befitting my position in your church. You wish to find out the facts. That is quite within your rights.” He waited and gave them a strange smile. “Will those who wish to testify, please signify their desire by raising their right hands?”
Three hands so signified. Two men and a woman each rose in succession and tried to express their dissatisfaction with the present encumbent in the Cableville church. Their words were wandering and incoherent. They grew frightened at the sound of their own voices. They presented no facts, only rumors.
Just as a fourth witness rose to speak a cold draught swirled in and made the lamps flicker. Two hundred heads turned to see who had entered the church. A large man, grey-haired and dressed in tweeds, stood hesitating at the rear. Those who were near enough would not soon forget the look of incredulity which flashed into his eyes at sight of the minister. And those who were forward saw how the young man’s pallor changed to a pinched grey.
Yet he commanded himself with spirit.
“Will some one kindly show the gentleman a seat?” he asked in his clear pleasant voice.
A half-suppressed smile twitched at the corners of the stranger’s mouth. He was shown a seat at the extreme front. In fact, Grammy made room for him between herself and Scena.
The trial was then resumed. More speeches were mumbled. The moderator was patient.
Then a rough voice yelled from the rear:
“I say if we don’t like the red-headed preacher, we don’t like him ! And that’s enough for me. We think he runs a liquor business with rum-runners off shore. We think he uses the preachin’ as a smart cover for his doin’s. If he can’t prove himself innocent, he’ll always be the red-headed rum eater, and we can’t think no diff’runt. It ain’t fittin’ in the pulpit!”
The man sat down amid smothered applause. Grammy stiffened. Her lips were a mere thread of a line. Fred Rafferty lifted his powerful shoulders in a great heave of anger.
“Has anyone more to say?” asked Garry.
No one answered.
“Then the time has come for me to defend myself against your accusations.” He gazed at them with a veiled look of contempt, the first sign of feeling he had permitted himself. “I am not in the liquor business. I have never been in any liquor business. I don’t know how you could have fastened this ridiculous thing on me. You mention no specific act, so I can’t answer you specifically. You are merely suspicious.” His eyes blazed: he grew, if anything, a shade whiter. His red hair glowed with an even brighter hue. He leaned out over the pulpit. No
smallest sound came from his audience.
“I came here with the most genuine desire to be of service to you, if I could. I had thought you kindly, generous, unspoiled by worldly ambitions. Instead I find you mean, selfish, eager to destroy a man’s reputation at the merest breath of suspicion. I believed in you. I worked for you. I counted you my friends.” All eyes were fastened on his face. “If you don’t like me, that ends it. Somehow I thought you did.”
Another pause. Far out on the point the fog horn moaned steadily. A chill dampness crept through the windows.
“Is there a single person here who still believes in me?” The minister’s face suddenly melted into a boyish appeal.
“I do—with all me heart!” Grammy bobbed up. She turned, facing the audience, and stood just beneath the pulpit. She was tall and straight. Her grey eyes were not serene; they glittered angrily.
“Ye’re a mess of fools! Every last, livin’ one of ye! I can’t abide ye! Don’t come to see me, for I won’t let ye in! Don’t speak to me lor I won’t hear ye.” Thus she flashed her scorn at them from the exhilarating heights of her wrath. “Ye down as likely a lad as ever come to this village. You’re afraid of him because he talks and acts different from us. Ye’re nuthin’ but a pack of rabbit hounds on the trail of a deer. Ye got to be mean ’cause ye’re born mean. Ye don’t know nuthin’ beyond your own noses, and I hope the Lord lays heavy burdens on your shoulders for this night’s work. Garry Summers can spend the rest of his natural life under me roof if he wants to, and pa says so too. I’d be proud to have him!”
Tears ran down the minister’s face. He turned his head away. Scena choked with a little cry.
Fred Rafferty got on to his feet, and Bridget beside him.
“We’re with ye!” boomed the big man.
Again the church door opened. This time Luke McGrath came in.
He dragged a sou’wester from his head, and his oilskins gleamed with wet. Slowly, amid the hush of the people, he made his way forward. He came up to Fred and said so everyone might hear:
“Set down. I have something to say to all of ye.”
A great silence fell on the congregation.
“I don’t rightly know what ye’re all a-doin’ here, but I suspicion ye’re spearin’ the minister,” began Luke. “I jest want to tell ye that the minister ain’t in the liquor business, but I am. I ben gittin’ it from a rum-runner reg’lar -and hidin’ it long the shore—and sellin’ it. But that ain’t no more’n a lot of ye is doin’ right now in Cableville.”
A slight shiver passed through the people in the pews.
“But I ain’t a-goin’ to have no more guilt a-eatin’ at me than I have now— ’count of the time I done dirt to Fred Rafferty. Ye all know about that. I don’t care about meself, but this here young man”—he turned to look up at Garry—“I like his looks. Mebbe some of ye happened to see him the night of the dance a-comin’ out between two houses with sumthin’ in his arms. Well, I was watchin’ a-purpose. I was expectin’ some one special for that bundle. The minister, he stumbled on a stone and dropped a bottle. It smashed. Reckon he didn’t know afore what he was carryin’, ’twas all wrapped up good. He’d been asked as a favor to take it out and put it under a bush, where I was goin’ to pick it up for a certain party.” The man’s glance wavered and settled with astonishment on the stranger sitting in the front row. His mouth dropped open, then, recovering himself, he said: “But the parson couldn’t say nuthin’ fer himself unless he give away somebody else in the business. Ye can do what ye like about me - don’t much matter.”
A murmur passed over the crowd; a murmur which rose to a curious rumbling
pitch. It rippled back and forth many voices talking at once. A hundred people left their seats and pressed forward, but not before the big man dressed in tweeds had gained the platform with one leap. He thrust out a hand to the young minister.
“Put ’er there, boy!” he said. “Damn me, if I'm not proud of you.”
r"PHERE was a late and hilarious supper at the Rafferty’s that night. Andy came because Scena was suddenly sweet to him and had overcome his reluctance. The grey-haired stranger was there. Grammy beamed in every direction, especially at Garry.
“Mr. Summers, this pie ain’t so bad,” urged Bridget, offering a luscious wedge to the new guest.
Garry laughed. Scena looked radiant.
“Uncle Bob, you certainly pulled off a smashing stage entrance,” said the redheaded parson. “I felt like a convict when you came to the hall the first time, but to have you crash into church and discover my true calling nearly knocked me cold.”
The stranger grew suddenly sober.
“I rather think I’m to blame for the whole miserable business,” he said quietly. “I was a summer tourist who bought bootleg stuff. I have a cottage on the other shore. It all looks pretty shabby and mean to me now. I came the night of the dance to complain about the last lot. Having seen my nephew at the hall, I came again tonight to find out if possible just what was going on in this village. As for the red-headed guy in the pulpit”— the man spoke in grinning affection—“he left home over two years ago, after an awful row we had because, as his guardian, I insisted on his going into my basiness. He didn’t have a nickel to bless himself with. Never thought the crazy youngster would jump into a theological school; last place in the world! And he’s only sent a line once to say he was safe and well. Had no idea whether he was on this side of the Atlantic, even. How does he preach?”
“Somethin’ lovely!” chirped Grammy. “He was born to the trade.”
“I hope nothing official will be done about Luke McGrath,” said Garry anxiously.
“Guess he’ll quit himself now, all right. But who’s the other party workin’ with him here?” asked Fred.
“’Tain’t nobody’s business!” flashed Grammy. “She’ll quit too, I reckon, after this news gits around. She’d lose her job if she was found out.”
Fred roared with laughter.
“She sure would! Well, Lyd’s had a hard row to hoe—all those children to support—and this will be a lesson to her.”
Andy rose to say good night. Scena rushed after him to the front door.
“Good-by, Scena,” he said in wretched farewell. “I’ve been a blasted fool, botherin’ you. He’s all square, that other feller. But I can see ’tain’t none of my kittle o’ fish.” He looked intently down at his hat. “You jest let me know your weddin’ date, and I’ll send ye a sealskin coat from Newfoundland, if it takes a year’s pay.”
“I’m so sorry, Andy.” Scena kissed him tearfully on the cheek and fled back to the kitchen.
Fred was in conference with Garry, hinting about a good dory he’d found up shore.
“Bought it for ye as a weddin’ present some time ago, lad. Jest to encourage your goin’ on the water. A dory’s a darn sight handier than a motor-cycle.”
Scena sent the parson a glowing look. And here the stranger might have been observed rising to his feet and bowing formally before her grandmother.
"Will you dance with me at Garry’s wedding?” he asked.
"Pleased to have ye,” she promptly accepted. “Do ye favor the polka, or the Paul Jones?”