Dr. Morris was very tired, for his labors that day had been unusually severe, and it was with a feeling of comfort and relief that he had turned his steps homeward just as the night was closing in, finding a bright fire waiting for him in the library, where his supper was soon brought by the housekeeper, Mrs. Hull, the other servants having gone to an adjoining town to attend the wedding party of a former associate. It was very pleasant in that cozy library of oak and green, with the bright fire on the hearth, the heavy curtains shutting out all traces of the storm, and the smoking supper set so temptingly before him. And Morris felt the comfort of his home, thanking the God who had given him all this, and chiding his wayward heart that it had ever dared to repine. He was not repining to-night; he had not repined for many a day, though he never sat down at home after his day’s labor in slippers and dressing-gown, with a new book beside him on the table, that there was not a sense of something wanting, a glancing at the empty chair across the hearth, a thought perhaps of Katy, who could squeeze the whole of her slight form into that chair. But he was not thinking of her now, as with his hands crossed upon his head he sat looking into the fire and watching the bits of glowing anthracite dropping into the pan. He was thinking of the sickbed which he had visited last, and how a faith in Jesus can make the humblest room like the gate of heaven; thinking how the woman’s eyes had sparkled when she told him of the other world, where she would never know pain, or hunger, or cold again, and how quickly their luster was dimmed when she spoke of her absent husband, the soldier to whom the news of her death with the child he had never seen would be a crushing blow.
“They who have neither wife nor child are the happier perhaps,” he said, and then the thought of Katy and her great sorrow when baby died, wondering if to spare herself that pain she would rather baby had never been. “No—oh, no,” he answered to his own inquiry. “She would not lose the memory which comes from that little grave for all the world contains. It is better once to love and lose than not to love at all. In heaven we shall see and know why these things were permitted, and marvel at the poor human nature which rebelled against them.”
Just at this point of his soliloquy the door opened, so softly that he did not hear it turn upon its hinges, nor hear the light footstep on the carpet as Katy came in. But when she coughed he started up in wonder at the apparition standing so still before him.
“Morris, oh, Morris,” Katy cried, throwing back her veil and revealing a face which Morris could not believe was hers for the lines of suffering and distress stamped so legibly upon it.
But it was Katy, as the voice implied, and, seizing her cold hands, Morris asked: “Katy, why are you here to-night, and why are you alone? Has anything happened? Tell me! your looks frighten me!”