Theron walked until dusk began to close in upon the autumn day. It grew colder, as he turned his face homeward. He wondered if it would freeze again over-night, and then remembered the shrivelled flowers in his wife’s garden. For a moment they shaped themselves in a picture before his mind’s eye; he saw their blackened foliage, their sicklied, drooping stalks, and wilted blooms, and as he looked, they restored themselves to the vigor and grace and richness of color of summer-time, as vividly as if they had been painted on a canvas. Or no, the picture he stared at was not on canvas, but on the glossy, varnished panel of a luxurious sleeping-car. He shook his head angrily and blinked his eyes again and again, to prevent their seeing, seated together in the open window above this panel, the two people he knew were there, gloved and habited for the night’s journey, waiting for the train to start.
“Very much to my surprise,” he found himself saying to Alice, watching her nervously as she laid the supper-table, “I find I must go to Albany tonight. That is, it isn’t absolutely necessary, for that matter, but I think it may easily turn out to be greatly to my advantage to go. Something has arisen—I can’t speak about it as yet—but the sooner I see the Bishop about it the better. Things like that occur in a man’s life, where boldly striking out a line of action, and following it up without an instant’s delay, may make all the difference in the world to him. Tomorrow it might be too late; and, besides, I can be home the sooner again.”
Alice’s face showed surprise, but no trace of suspicion. She spoke with studied amiability during the meal, and deferred with such unexpected tact to his implied desire not to be questioned as to the mysterious motives of the journey, that his mood instinctively softened and warmed toward her, as they finished supper.
He smiled a little. “I do hope I shan’t have to go on tomorrow to New York; but these Bishops of ours are such gad-abouts one never knows where to catch them. As like as not Sanderson may be down in New York, on Book-Concern business or something; and if he is, I shall have to chase him up. But, after all, perhaps the trip will do me good—the change of air and scene, you know.”
“I’m sure I hope so,” said Alice, honestly enough. “If you do go on to New York, I suppose you’ll go by the river-boat. Everybody talks so much of that beautiful sail down the Hudson.”
“That’s an idea!” exclaimed Theron, welcoming it with enthusiasm. “It hadn’t occurred to me. If I do have to go, and it is as lovely as they make out, the next time I promise I won’t go without you, my girl. I have been rather out of sorts lately,” he continued. “When I come back, I daresay I shall be feeling better, more like my old self. Then I’m going to try, Alice, to be nicer to you than I have been of late. I’m afraid there was only too much truth in what you said this morning.”