It had been a day of triumph for Joe; but in all his life he never slept worse than he did that night.
ANCIENT OF DAYS
He woke to the chiming of bells, and, as his eyes slowly opened, the sorrowful people of a dream, who seemed to be bending over him, weeping, swam back into the darkness of the night whence they had come, and returned to the imperceptible, leaving their shadows in his heart. Slowly he rose, stumbled into the outer room, and released the fluttering shade; but the sunshine, springing like a golden lover through the open window, only dazzled him, and found no answering gladness to greet it, nor joy in the royal day it heralded.
And yet, to the newly cleaned boys on their way to midsummer morning Sunday-school, the breath of that cool August day was as sweet as stolen apples. No doubt the stir of far, green thickets and the twinkle of silver-slippered creeks shimmered in the longing vision of their minds’ eyes; even so, they were merry. But Joseph Louden, sighing as he descended his narrow stairs, with the bitterness still upon his lips of the frightful coffee he had made, heard the echo of their laughter with wonder.
It would be an hour at least before time to start to church, when Ariel expected him; he stared absently up the street, then down, and, after that, began slowly to walk in the latter direction, with no very active consciousness, or care, of where he went. He had fallen into a profound reverie, so deep that when he had crossed the bridge and turned into a dusty road which ran along the river-bank, he stopped mechanically beside the trunk of a fallen sycamore, and, lifting his head, for the first time since he had set out, looked about him with a melancholy perplexity, a little surprised to find himself there.
For this was the spot where he had first seen the new Ariel, and on that fallen sycamore they had sat together. “Remember, across main street bridge at noon!” And Joe’s cheeks burned, as he recalled why he had not understood the clear voice that had haunted him. But that shame had fallen from him; she had changed all that, as she had changed so many things. He sank down in the long grass, with his back against the log, and stared out over the fields of tall corn, shaking in a steady wind all the way to the horizon.
“Changed so many things?” he said, half aloud. “Everything!” Ah, yes, she had changed the whole world for Joseph Louden—at his first sight of her! And now it seemed to him that he was to lose her, but not in the way he had thought.
Almost from the very first, he had the feeling that nothing so beautiful as that she should stay in Canaan could happen to him. He was sure that she was but for the little while, that her coming was like the flying petals of which he had told her.