When they had passed together out of the room, she turned. “Soulsby,” she said with half-playful asperity, “I’m disappointed in you. For a man who’s knocked about as much as you have, I must say you’ve picked up an astonishingly small outfit of gumption. That poor creature in there is no more drunk than I am. He’s been drinking—yes, drinking like a fish; but it wasn’t able to make him drunk. He’s past being drunk; he’s grief-crazy. It’s a case of ‘woman.’ Some girl has made a fool of him, and decoyed him up in a balloon, and let him drop. He’s been hurt bad, too.”
“We have all been hurt in our day and generation,” responded Brother Soulsby, genially. “Don’t you worry; he’ll sleep that off too. It takes longer than drink, and it doesn’t begin to be so pleasant, but it can be slept off. Take my word for it, he’ll be a different man by noon.”
When noon came, however, Brother Soulsby was on his way to summon one of the village doctors. Toward nightfall, he went out again to telegraph for Alice.
Spring fell early upon the pleasant southern slopes of the Susquehanna country. The snow went off as by magic. The trees budded and leaved before their time. The birds came and set up their chorus in the elms, while winter seemed still a thing of yesterday.
Alice, clad gravely in black, stood again upon a kitchen-stoop, and looked across an intervening space of back-yards and fences to where the tall boughs, fresh in their new verdure, were silhouetted against the pure blue sky. The prospect recalled to her irresistibly another sunlit morning, a year ago, when she had stood in the doorway of her own kitchen, and surveyed a scene not unlike this; it might have been with the same carolling robins, the same trees, the same azure segment of the tranquil, speckless dome. Then she was looking out upon surroundings novel and strange to her, among which she must make herself at home as best she could. But at least the ground was secure under her feet; at least she had a home, and a word from her lips could summon her husband out, to stand beside her with his arm about her, and share her buoyant, hopeful joy in the promises of spring.
To think that that was only one little year ago—the mere revolution of four brief seasons! And now—!
Sister Soulsby, wiping her hands on her apron, came briskly out upon the stoop. Some cheerful commonplace was on her tongue, but a glance at Alice’s wistful face kept it back. She passed an arm around her waist instead, and stood in silence, looking at the elms.
“It brings back memories to me—all this,” said Alice, nodding her head, and not seeking to dissemble the tears which sprang to her eyes.
“The men will be down in a minute, dear,” the other reminded her. “They’d nearly finished packing before I put the biscuits in the oven. We mustn’t wear long faces before folks, you know.”