Alice read his hesitation aright. “Sister Soulsby went to the hotel,” she hastily put in; “and Loren Pierce was after her to come and stay at his house, and I ventured to tell her that I thought we could make her more comfortable here.” She accompanied this by so daring a grimace and nod that her husband woke up to the fact that a point in Conference politics was involved.
He squeezed a doubtful smile upon his features. “We shall both do our best,” he said. It was not easy, but he forced increasing amiability into his glance and tone. “Is Brother Soulsby here, too?” he asked.
The debt-raiser shook her head—again the prompt, decisive movement, so like a busy man of affairs. “No,” she answered. “He’s doing supply down on the Hudson this week, but he’ll be here in time for the Sunday morning love-feast. I always like to come on ahead, and see how the land lies. Well, good-night! Your head will be all right in the morning.”
Precisely what she meant by this assurance, Theron did not attempt to guess. He received her adieu, noted the masterful manner in which she kissed his wife, and watched her pass out into the hall, with the feeling uppermost that this was a person who decidedly knew her way about. Much as he was prepared to dislike her, and much as he detested the vulgar methods her profession typified, he could not deny that she seemed a very capable sort of woman.
This mental concession did not prevent his fixing upon Alice, when she returned to the room, a glance of obvious disapproval.
“Theron,” she broke forth, to anticipate his reproach, “I did it for the best. The Pierces would have got her if I hadn’t cut in. I thought it would help to have her on our side. And, besides, I like her. She’s the first sister I’ve seen since we’ve been in this hole that’s had a kind word for me—or—or sympathized with me! And—and—if you’re going to be offended—I shall cry!”
There were real tears on her lashes, ready to make good the threat. “Oh, I guess I wouldn’t,” said Theron, with an approach to his old, half-playful manner. “If you like her, that’s the chief thing.”
Alice shook her tear-drops away. “No,” she replied, with a wistful smile; “the chief thing is to have her like you. She’s as smart as a steel trap—that woman is—and if she took the notion, I believe she could help get us a better place.”
The ensuing week went by with a buzz and whirl, circling about Theron Ware’s dizzy consciousness like some huge, impalpable teetotum sent spinning under Sister Soulsby’s resolute hands. Whenever his vagrant memory recurred to it, in after months, he began by marvelling, and ended with a shudder of repulsion.
It was a week crowded with events, which seemed to him to shoot past so swiftly that in effect they came all of a heap. He never essayed the task, in retrospect, of arranging them in their order of sequence. They had, however, a definite and interdependent chronology which it is worth the while to trace.