He came out with the others at last—the candles and the folded hands over the crucifix left behind—and walked as one in a dream. Even by the time that he had gained the outer doorway, and stood blinking at the bright light and filling his lungs with honest air once more, it had begun to seem incredible to him that he had seen and done all this.
While Mr. Ware stood thus on the doorstep, through a minute of formless musing, the priest and the girl came out, and, somewhat to his confusion, made him one of their party. He felt himself flushing under the idea that they would think he had waited for them—was thrusting himself upon them. The notion prompted him to bow frigidly in response to Father Forbes’ pleasant “I am glad to meet you, sir,” and his outstretched hand.
“I dropped in by the—the merest accident,” Theron said. “I met them bringing the poor man home, and—and quite without thinking, I obeyed the impulse to follow them in, and didn’t realize—”
He stopped short, annoyed by the reflection that this was his second apology. The girl smiled placidly at him, the while she put up her parasol.
“It did me good to see you there,” she said, quite as if she had known him all her life. “And so it did the rest of us.”
Father Forbes permitted himself a soft little chuckle, approving rather than mirthful, and patted her on the shoulder with the air of being fifty years her senior instead of fifteen. To the minister’s relief, he changed the subject as the three started together toward the road.
“Then, again, no doctor was sent for!” he exclaimed, as if resuming a familiar subject with the girl. Then he turned to Theron. “I dare-say you have no such trouble; but with our poorer people it is very vexing. They will not call in a physician, but hurry off first for the clergyman. I don’t know that it is altogether to avoid doctor’s bills, but it amounts to that in effect. Of course in this case it made no difference; but I have had to make it a rule not to go out at night unless they bring me a physician’s card with his assurance that it is a genuine affair. Why, only last winter, I was routed up after midnight, and brought off in the mud and pelting rain up one of the new streets on the hillside there, simply because a factory girl who was laced too tight had fainted at a dance. I slipped and fell into a puddle in the darkness, ruined a new overcoat, and got drenched to the skin; and when I arrived the girl had recovered and was dancing away again, thirteen to the dozen. It was then that I made the rule. I hope, Mr. Ware, that Octavius is producing a pleasant impression upon you so far?”
“I scarcely know yet,” answered Theron. The genial talk of the priest, with its whimsical anecdote, had in truth passed over his head. His mind still had room for nothing but that novel death-bed scene, with the winged captain of the angelic host, the Baptist, the glorified Fisherman and the Preacher, all being summoned down in the pomp of liturgical Latin to help MacEvoy to die. “If you don’t mind my saying so,” he added hesitatingly, “what I have just seen in there did make a very powerful impression upon me.”