Mrs. Soulsby brought her trunk round to the parsonage bright and early on Friday morning, and took up her lodgement in the best bedroom, and her headquarters in the house at large, with a cheerful and business-like manner. She desired nothing so much, she said, as that people should not put themselves out on her account, or allow her to get in their way. She appeared to mean this, too, and to have very good ideas about securing its realization.
During both Friday and the following day, indeed, Theron saw her only at the family meals. There she displayed a hearty relish for all that was set before her which quite won Mrs. Ware’s heart, and though she talked rather more than Theron found himself expecting from a woman, he could not deny that her conversation was both seemly and entertaining. She had evidently been a great traveller, and referred to things she had seen in Savannah or Montreal or Los Angeles in as matter-of-fact fashion as he could have spoken of a visit to Tecumseh. Theron asked her many questions about these and other far-off cities, and her answers were all so pat and showed so keen and clear an eye that he began in spite of himself to think of her with a certain admiration.
She in turn plied him with inquiries about the principal pew-holders and members of his congregation—their means, their disposition, and the measure of their devotion. She put these queries with such intelligence, and seemed to assimilate his replies with such an alert understanding, that the young minister was spurred to put dashes of character in his descriptions, and set forth the idiosyncrasies and distinguishing earmarks of his flock with what he felt afterward might have been too free a tongue. But at the time her fine air of appreciation led him captive. He gossiped about his parishioners as if he enjoyed it. He made a specially happy thumb-nail sketch for her of one of his trustees, Erastus Winch, the loud-mouthed, ostentatiously jovial, and really cold-hearted cheese-buyer. She was particularly interested in hearing about this man. The personality of Winch seemed to have impressed her, and she brought the talk back to him more than once, and prompted Theron to the very threshold of indiscretion in his confidences on the subject.
Save at meal-times, Sister Soulsby spent the two days out around among the Methodists of Octavius. She had little or nothing to say about what she thus saw and heard, but used it as the basis for still further inquiries. She told more than once, however, of how she had been pressed here or there to stay to dinner or supper, and how she had excused herself. “I’ve knocked about too much,” she would explain to the Wares, “not to fight shy of random country cooking. When I find such a born cook as you are—well I know when I’m well off.” Alice flushed with pleased pride at this, and Theron himself felt that their visitor showed great good sense. By Saturday noon, the two women were calling each other by their first names. Theron learned with a certain interest that Sister Soulsby’s Christian name was Candace.