After the stirring events of the revival, it was only to be expected that this routine, home-made affair should suffer from a reaction. The attendance was larger than usual, perhaps, but the proceedings were spiritless and tame. Neither the pastor nor his wife was present at the beginning, and the class-leader upon whom control devolved made but feeble headway against the spell of inertia which the hot night-air laid upon the gathering. Long pauses intervened between the perfunctory praise-offerings and supplications, and the hymns weariedly raised from time to time fell again in languor by the wayside.
Alice came in just as people were beginning to hope that some one would start the Doxology, and bring matters to a close. Her appearance apparently suggested this to the class-leader, for in a few moments the meeting had been dismissed, and some of the members, on their way out, were shaking hands with their minister’s wife, and expressing the polite hope that he was better. The worried look in her face, and the obvious stains of recent tears upon her cheeks imparted an added point and fervor to these inquiries, but she replied to all in tones of studied tranquillity that, although not feeling well enough to attend prayer-meeting, Brother Ware was steadily recovering strength, and confidently expected to be in complete health by Sunday. They left her, and could hardly wait to get into the vestibule to ask one another in whispers what on earth she could have been crying about.
Meanwhile Brother Ware improved his convalescent state by pacing slowly up and down under the elms on the side of the street opposite the Catholic church. There were no houses here for a block and more; the sidewalk was broken in many places, so that passers-by avoided it; the overhanging boughs shrouded it all in obscurity; it was preeminently a place to be alone in.
Theron had driven to the depot with his guests an hour before, and after a period of pleasant waiting on the platform, had said good-bye to them as the train moved away. Then he turned to Alice, who had also accompanied them in the carriage, and was conscious of a certain annoyance at her having come. That long familiar talk of the afternoon had given him the feeling that he was entitled to bid farewell to Sister Soulsby—to both the Soulsbys—by himself.
“I am afraid folks will think it strange—neither of us attending the prayer-meeting,” he said, with a suggestion of reproof in his tone, as they left the station-yard.
“If we get back in time, I’ll run in for a minute,” answered Alice, with docility.
“No—no,” he broke in. “I’m not equal to walking so fast. You run on ahead, and explain matters, and I will come along slowly.”
“The hack we came in is still there in the yard,” the wife suggested. “We could drive home in that. I don’t believe it would cost more than a quarter—and if you’re feeling badly—”