Gradually this steady-headed, unimaginative old woman became possessed by a legion of morbid fancies, which played like wild fire over the terrible main fact of the case—the fact that underlay everything—that she had sinned, that she had gone over from good to evil, and given up her soul for a handful of gold. Many a time in the night, voices which her straining fancy threw out, after the manner of ventriloquism, from her own brain, seemed actually to vibrate through the house, footsteps pattered, and garments rustled. Often the phantom noises would swell to a very pandemonium surging upon her ears; but she sat there rigid and resolute in the midst of it, her pale old face sharpening out into the darkness. She sat there, and never stirred until morning broke.
When it was fairly light, she got up, took off her bonnet and shawl, and found her way into the kitchen. She washed her face and hands at the sink, and went deliberately to work getting herself some breakfast. She had a little of her yesterday’s lunch left; she kindled a fire, and made a cup of tea. She found some in a caddy in the pantry. She set out her meal on the table and drew a chair before it. She had wound up the kitchen clock, and she listened to its tick while she ate. She took time, and finished her slight repast to the last crumb. Then she washed the dishes, and swept and tidied the kitchen.
When that was done it was still too early for her to go to the lawyer’s office. She sat down at an open kitchen window and folded her hands. Outside was a broad, green yard, inclosed on two sides by the Maxwell house and barn. A drive-way led to the barn, and on the farther side a row of apple-trees stood. There was a fresh wind blowing, and the apple blossoms were floating about. The drive was quite white with them in places, and they were half impaled upon the sharp green blades of grass.
Over through the trees Mrs. Field could see the white top of a market wagon in a neighboring yard, and the pink dress of a woman who stood beside it trading. She watched them with a dull wonder. What had she now to do with market wagons and daily meals and housewifely matters? That fair-haired woman in the pink dress seemed to her like a woman of another planet.
This narrow-lived old country woman could not consciously moralize. She was no philosopher, but she felt, without putting it into thoughts, as if she had descended far below the surface of all things, and found out that good and evil were the root and the life of them, and the outside leaves and froth and flowers were fathoms away, and no longer to be considered.
At ten o’clock she put on her bonnet and shawl, and set out for the lawyer’s office. She locked the front door, put the key under a blind, and proceeded down the front walk into the street.
The spring was earlier here than in Green River. She started at a dancing net-work of leaf shadows on the sidewalk. They were the first she had seen that season. There was a dewy arch of trees overhead, and they were quite fully leaved out. Mr. Tuxbury was in his office when she got there. He rose promptly and greeted her, and pushed forward the leather easy-chair with his old courtly flourish.