Catherine’s curiosity was a worry. As if he knew why he hadn’t come home to his dinner! If she’d just finish putting the plates on the table and leave him. Of course, there had been callers. One man, the man he especially wished to see, had driven ten miles to see him. It was most unfortunate, but it couldn’t be helped; he had felt that morning that he couldn’t stay indoors—the business of the parish had somehow got upon his nerves, but not because he had been working hard. He had done but little work since she left the parish. Now was that story going to begin again? If it did, he should go out of his mind; and he looked round the room, thinking how a lonely evening breeds thoughts of discontent.
Most of the furniture in the room was Father Peter’s. Father Peter had left his curate his furniture, but the pretty mahogany bookcase and the engravings upon the walls were Father Oliver’s own taste; he had bought them at an auction, and there were times when these purchases pleased him. But now he was thinking that Father Peter must have known to whom the parish would go at his death, for he could not have meant all his furniture to be taken out of the house—’there would be no room for it in Bridget Clery’s cottage;’ and Father Oliver sat thinking of the evenings he used to spend with Father Peter. How often during those evenings Father Peter must have said to himself, ’One day, Gogarty, you will be sitting in my chair and sleeping in my bed.’ And Father Oliver pondered on his affection for the dead man. There were no differences of opinion, only one—the neglected garden at the back of the house; and, smiling sadly, Father Oliver remembered how he used to reprove the parish priest.
’I’m afraid I’m too big and too fat and too fond of my pipe and my glass of whisky to care much about carnations. But if you get the parish when I’m gone, I’m sure you’ll grow some beauties, and you’ll put a bunch on my grave sometimes, Gogarty.’ The very ring of the dead man’s voice seemed to sound through the lonely room, and, sitting in Father Peter’s chair, with the light of Father Peter’s lamp shining on his face and hand, Father Oliver’s thoughts flowed on. It seemed to him that he had not understood and appreciated Father Peter’s kindliness, and he recalled his perfect good nature. ‘Death reveals many things to us,’ he said; and he lifted his head to listen, for the silence in the house and about the house reminded him of the silence of the dead, and he began to consider what his own span of life might be. He might live as long as Father Peter (Father Peter was fifty-five when he died); if so, twenty-one years of existence by the lake’s side awaited him, and these years seemed to him empty like a desert—yes, and as sterile. ’Twenty-one years wondering what became of her, and every evening like this evening—the same loneliness.’