Mrs. Prince’s good spirits were of short duration. Her conversation soon shifted to the loss of her son and she wept, using the corner of the quilt to wipe away her tears. “Eddie” had been her idol and, as she said, it was hard to believe what folks kept tellin’ her, that it was God’s will, and therefore all for the best.
“That’s so easy to say,” she sobbed. “Maybe it is best for the Lord, but how about me? I needed him more than they did up there, or I think I did. O Mr. Ellery, I don’t mean to be irreverent, but why was it all for the best?”
Questions like this are hard to answer. The young minister tried, but the answers were unsatisfactory, even to him.
“And there’s Nat Hammond,” continued Mrs. Prince. “A fine man—no better anywhere, even though his father was a Come-Outer—just goin’ to be married and all, now they say he’s drowned—why? Why was that necessary?”
Ellery could not reply. The old lady did not wait for him to do so. The mention of Captain Nat’s name reminded her of other things.
“Poor Gracie!” she said. “It’s turrible hard on her. I went down to see her two or three times afore I was took with this backache. She’s an awful nice girl. And pretty as a pink, too. Don’t you think so? Hey? don’t you?”
“Yes. I’ve been kind of expectin’ she might get up to see me. Hannah Poundberry told the Berrys that she said she was comin’. I don’t care about her bein’ a Come-Outer. I ain’t proud, Mr. Ellery. And there’s Come-Outers and come-Outers. Proud! Lord ‘a’ mercy! what has an old woman, next door to the poorhouse, got to be proud over? Yes, she told Hannah she was comin’, and the Berry folks thought it might be to-day. So I’ve been watchin’ for her. What! you ain’t agoin’, Mr. Ellery?”
“I think I must, Mrs. Prince.”
“Oh, don’t! Do stay a spell longer. Gracie might come and I’d like for you to meet her. She needs sympathy and comfort an awful lot, and there’s no tellin’, you might convert her to bein’ a Reg’lar. Oh, yes, you might. You’ve got the most persuadin’ way, everybody says so. And you don’t know her very well, do you? Land sakes alive! talk about angels! I snum if she ain’t comin’ up the road this blessed minute.”
John Ellery had risen. Now he seized his hat and moved hastily toward the door. Mrs. Prince called to him to remain, but he would not. However, her good-bys delayed him for a minute, and before he reached the yard gate Grace was opening it. They were face to face for the first time since they had parted in the grove, so many months before.
She was thinner and paler, he saw that. And dressed very quietly in black. She looked at him, as he stood before her in the path, and her cheeks flushed and her eyes fell. He stepped aside and raised his hat.
She bowed gravely and murmured a “Good afternoon.” Then she passed on up the path toward the door. He watched her for an instant and then stepped quickly after her. The black gown and the tired look in her eyes touched him to the heart. He could not let her go without a word.