When he went about the streets he was made to feel his condition by the elaborate avoidance, yet furtive attention, of every respectable person he met; and when he came home to his small rooms and shut the door behind him, he was as one who has been hissed and shamed in public and runs to bury his hot face in his pillow. He petted his mongrel extravagantly (well he might!), and would sit with him in his rooms at night, holding long converse with him, the two alone together. The dog was not his only confidant. There came to be another, a more and more frequent partner to their conversations, at last a familiar spirit. This third came from a brown jug which Joe kept on a shelf in his bedroom, a vessel too frequently replenished. When the day’s work was done he shut himself up, drank alone and drank hard. Sometimes when the jug ran low and the night was late he would go out for a walk with his dog, and would awake in his room the next morning not remembering where he had gone or how he had come home. Once, after such a lapse of memory, he woke amazed to find himself at Beaver Beach, whither, he learned from the red-bearded man, Happy Fear had brought him, having found him wandering dazedly in a field near by. These lapses grew more frequent, until there occurred that which was one of the strange things of his life.
It was a June night, a little more than two years after his return to Canaan, and the Tocsin had that day announced the approaching marriage of Eugene Bantry and his employer’s daughter. Joe ate nothing during the day, and went through his work clumsily, visiting the bedroom shelf at intervals. At ten in the evening he went out to have the jug refilled, but from the moment he left his door and the fresh air struck his face, he had no clear knowledge of what he did or of what went on about him until he woke in his bed the next morning.
And yet, whatever little part of the soul of him remained, that night, still undulled, not numbed, but alive, was in some strange manner lifted out of its pain towards a strange delight. His body was an automaton, his mind in bondage, yet there was a still, small consciousness in him which knew that in his wandering something incredible and unexpected was happening. What this was he did not know, could not see, though his eyes were open, could not have told himself any more than a baby could tell why it laughs, but it seemed something so beautiful and wonderful that the night became a night of perfume, its breezes bearing the music of harps and violins, while nightingales sang from the maples that bordered the streets of Canaan.