“The truth is always relative, Mr. Ware,” replied the priest, turning away, and closing the door of the parlor behind him with a decisive sound.
Left alone, Theron started to make his way downstairs. He found his legs wavering under him and making zigzag movements of their own in a bewildering fashion. He referred this at first, in an outburst of fresh despair, to the effects of his great grief. Then, as he held tight to the banister and governed his descent step by step, it occurred to him that it must be the wine he had had for breakfast. Upon examination, he was not so unhappy, after all.
At the second peal of the door-bell, Brother Soulsby sat up in bed. It was still pitch-dark, and the memory of the first ringing fluttered musically in his awakening consciousness as a part of some dream he had been having.
“Who the deuce can that be?” he mused aloud, in querulous resentment at the interruption.
“Put your head out of the window, and ask,” suggested his wife, drowsily.
The bell-pull scraped violently in its socket, and a third outburst of shrill reverberations clamored through the silent house.
“Whatever you do, I’d do it before he yanked the whole thing to pieces,” added the wife, with more decision.
Brother Soulsby was wide awake now. He sprang to the floor, and, groping about in the obscurity, began drawing on some of his clothes. He rapped on the window during the process, to show that the house was astir, and a minute afterward made his way out of the room and down the stairs, the boards creaking under his stockinged feet as he went.
Nearly a quarter of an hour passed before he returned. Sister Soulsby, lying in sleepy quiescence, heard vague sounds of voices at the front door, and did not feel interested enough to lift her head and listen. A noise of footsteps on the sidewalk followed, first receding from the door, then turning toward it, this second time marking the presence of more than one person. There seemed in this the implication of a guest, and she shook off the dozing impulses which enveloped her faculties, and waited to hear more. There came up, after further muttering of male voices, the undeniable chink of coins striking against one another. Then more footsteps, the resonant slam of a carriage door out in the street, the grinding of wheels turning on the frosty road, and the racket of a vehicle and horses going off at a smart pace into the night. Somebody had come, then. She yawned at the thought, but remained well awake, tracing idly in her mind, as various slight sounds rose from the lower floor, the different things Soulsby was probably doing. Their spare room was down there, directly underneath, but curiously enough no one seemed to enter it. The faint murmur of conversation which from time to time reached her came from the parlor instead. At last she heard her husband’s soft tread coming up the staircase, and still there had been no hint of employing the guest-chamber. What could he be about? she wondered.