Elihu Steele was a carpenter, and in his spare time farmed the ten acres on which was set his two-story, eight-room, white clapboard house in Elm Street, Eastham.
He was a big man, well over six feet in his stockings, wide-shouldered, a little stooped, with a big, bull voice. When he wanted chewing tobacco, he and his cousin, Albert Steele, lifted up one side of the red cow barn, pushed a keg of tobacco leaves, rum and molasses under the corner, and let the barn settle back into place. This procedure made nice, strong chewing material.
Elihu went to church every Sunday with his wife, Naomi, who had been a Smith of Old Orchard when he had married her twelve years before. The first Smith, Ebenezer, had come over on the Mayflower. The first Steele, Lieutenant Elihu, first had set foot on Massachusetts soil in 1630. The Steeles and the Smiths believed that kings and queens and aristocrats all were stupid, in-bred parasites suffering of syphilis, dementia praecox and curvature of the spine. They devoutly believed that the Smiths and the Steeles were the leading families, not only of Eastham and Massachusetts, but of the world.
They were members of the First Congregational Church of Eastham, where the Reverend Joshua Hazen in a voice like a trumpet call preached a jealous and fearful God, an earth exactly six thousand and some-odd years and hours old, and a blazing hell for infants and all others not baptized.
Elihu was not a deacon as had been the seven Elihus who preceded him, but he never went fishing in Fast River, or Broad Brook, or the Old Bed, or shooting at Moss's Corners, or Old Haven, on Sunday.
On one such Sunday, having laid the foundation with a bath on Saturday night, he put on a suit of balbriggan underwear. Sitting on the edge of the inlaid walnut double bed with the crazy quilt cover, and grunting a little, he poked the toes of his right foot into the toe of a black sock, which he had turned inside out. He peeled this sock over the foot and up over the balbriggan leg of the drawers, swollen by a shapely and muscular calf.
Both socks on, he stepped into a pair of blue serge trousers, which he pulled up around his slightly bulging abdomen. Letting the suspenders hang for a moment, he opened the second drawer of the inlaid walnut bureau and took from it a white shirt with a stiff bosom. After inserting studs in the neckband, front and back, he pulled on the shirt over his head. Next, he selected a collar, and grunted, and turned red in the gills before he succeeded in snapping it into place over the studs. He stood in front of the mirror over the bureau and put a black tie under the white linen turn-down collar. Then, with the tie still hanging, he sat down again on the edge of the bed and pulled on Congress shoes, which were boots with elastic sides and no laces or buttons.
After that he arose, kicked a few inches first with one leg, and then with the other, to set himself comfortably in drawers and trousers, hitched the suspenders over his shoulders, and buttoned his fly. Stepping to the door he bellowed:
"Yes, Elihu," Naomi replied from the dining room downstairs. "Coming."
She was a short woman with large breasts and hips, tapering arms and legs, small wrists and ankles, and tiny hands and feet. Her cheeks were pink from work in the kitchen, where she had been pounding top round steak full of holes with a hammer and beating up batter for sour milk griddle cakes. Elihu liked to eat a dozen or so big griddle cakes soaked in steak gravy for breakfast on Sundays.
Naomi brushed damp brown curls from a white, damp forehead, wiped her hands on her gingham apron, stood on tiptoe, and took hold of the ends of the tie. Elihu raised his chin and stretched his neck, and breathed noisily while she made a bow and patted it into place. She said:
"There. How's that?"
He put two hands,