Then he sat down abruptly, and let his head fall to one side. There were hurried movements inside the pulpit, and people in the audience had begun to stand up wonderingly, when the Presiding Elder, with uplifted hands, confronted them.
“We will omit the Doxology, and depart quietly after the benediction,” he said. “Brother Ware seems to have been overcome by the heat.”
When Theron woke next morning, Alice seemed to have dressed and left the room—a thing which had never happened before.
This fact connected itself at once in his brain with the recollection of her having made an exhibition of herself the previous evening—going forward before all eyes to join the unconverted and penitent sinners, as if she were some tramp or shady female, instead of an educated lady, a professing member from her girlhood, and a minister’s wife. It crossed his mind that probably she had risen and got away noiselessly, for very shame at looking him in the face, after such absurd behavior.
Then he remembered more, and grasped the situation. He had fainted in church, and had been brought home and helped to bed. Dim memories of unaccustomed faces in the bedroom, of nauseous drugs and hushed voices, came to him out of the night-time. Now that he thought of it, he was a sick man. Having settled this, he went off to sleep again, a feverish and broken sleep, and remained in this state most of the time for the following twenty-four hours. In the brief though numerous intervals of waking, he found certain things clear in his mind. One was that he was annoyed with Alice, but would dissemble his feelings. Another was that it was much pleasanter to be ill than to be forced to attend and take part in those revival meetings. These two ideas came and went in a lazy, drowsy fashion, mixing themselves up with other vagrant fancies, yet always remaining on top.
In the evening the singing from the church next door filled his room. The Soulsbys’ part of it was worth keeping awake for. He turned over and deliberately dozed when the congregation sang.
Alice came up a number of times during the day to ask how he felt, and to bring him broth or toast-water. On several occasions, when he heard her step, the perverse inclination mastered him to shut his eyes, and pretend to be asleep, so that she might tip-toe out again. She had a depressed and thoughtful air, and spoke to him like one whose mind was on something else. Neither of them alluded to what had happened the previous evening. Toward the close of the long day, she came to ask him whether he would prefer her to remain in the house, instead of attending the meeting.
“Go, by all means,” he said almost curtly.
The Presiding Elder and the Sunday-school superintendent called early Tuesday morning at the parsonage to make brotherly inquiries, and Theron was feeling so much better that he himself suggested their coming upstairs to see him. The Elder was in good spirits; he smiled approvingly, and even put in a jocose word or two while the superintendent sketched for the invalid in a cheerful way the leading incidents of the previous evening.