The three stood listening to a fresh access Of wind that caught against the house a moment,
Gulped snow, and then blew free again-the Coles
Dressed, but dishevelled from some hours of sleep,
Meserve belittled in the great skin coat he wore.
Meserve was first to speak. He pointed backward
Over his shoulder with his pipe-stem, saying, -
" You can just see it glancing off the roof Making a great scroll upward toward the sky,
Long enough for recording all our names on.-
I think I'll just call up my wife and tell her
I'm here-so far-and starting on again. I'll call her softly so that if she's wise And gone to sleep, she needn't wake to answer."
Three times he barely stirred the bell, then listened.
" Why, Lett, still up? Lett, I'm at Cole's. I'm late.
I called you up to say Good-night from here Before I went to say Good-morning there.- I thought I would.- I know, but, Lett-I know-
I could, but what's the sense? The rest won't be
So bad.- Give me an hour for it.- Ho, ho,
Three hours to here! But that was all up hill;
The rest is down.- Why no, no, not a wallow :
They kept their heads and took their time to it
Like darlings, both of them. They're in the barn.-
My dear, I'm coming just the same. I didn't Call you to ask you to invite me home.-"
He lingered for some word she wouldn't say, Said it at last himself, " Good-night," and then, Getting no answer, closed the telephone. The three stood in the lamplight round the table
With lowered eyes a moment till he said, " I'll just see how the horses are."
"Yes, do," Both the Coles said together. Mrs. Cole Added: " You can judge better after seeing.- I want you here with me, Fred. Leave him here,
Brother Meserve. You know to find your way Out through the shed."
" I guess I know my way, I guess I know where I can find my name Carved in the shed to tell me who I am If it don't tell me where I am. I used To play-"
" You tend your horses and come back. Fred Cole, you're going to let him!"
"Well, aren't you? How can you help yourself ? "
" I called him Brother. Why did I call him that?"
" It's right enough. That's all you ever heard him called round here.
He seems to have lost off his Christian name."
" Christian enough I should call that myself. He took no notice, did he? Well, at least I didn't use it out of love of him, The dear knows. I detest the thought of him
With his ten children under ten years old. I hate his wretched little Racker Sect, All's ever I heard of it, which isn't much. But that's not saying-Look, Fred Cole, it's twelve,
Isn't it, now? He's been here half an hour. He says he left the village store at nine. Three hours to do four miles-a mile an hour
Or not much better. Why, it doesn't seem As if a man could move that slow and move. Try to think what he did with all that time. And three miles more to go!"
" Don't let him go. Stick to him, Helen. Make him answer you. That sort of man talks straight on all his life From the last thing he said himself, stone deaf
To anything anyone else may say. I should have thought, though, you could make him hear you."
" What is he doing out a night like this ? Why can't he stay at home ? "
" He had to preach."
" It's no night to be out."
" He may be small, He may be good, but one thing's sure, he's tough."
" And strong of stale tobacco."
" He'll pull through."
" You only say so. Not another house
Or shelter to put into from this place
To theirs. I'm going to call his wife again."
" Wait and he may. Let's see what he will do.
Let's see if he will think of her again. But then I doubt he's thinking of himself He doesn't look on it as anything."
" He shan't go-there! "
" It is a night, my dear."
" One thing: he didn't drag God into it."
" He don't consider it a case for God."
" You think so, do you ? You don't know the kind.
He's getting up a miracle this minute. Privately-to himself, right now, he's thinking
He'll make a case of it if he succeeds, But keep still if he fails."
" Keep still all over. He'll be dead-dead and buried."
" Such a trouble! Not but I've every reason not to care
What happens to him if it only takes Some of the sanctimonious conceit Out of one of those pious scalawags."
" Nonsense to that! You want to see him safe."
" You like the runt."
" Don't you a little?"
I don't like what he's doing, which is what You like, and like him for."
" Oh, yes you do. You like your fun as well as anyone; Only you women have to put these airs on To impress men. You've got us so ashamed Of being men we can't look at a good fight Between two boys and not feel bound to stop it.
Let the man freeze an ear or two, I say.- He's here* I leave him all to you. Go in And save his life.- All right, come in, Meserve.
Sit down, sit down. How did you find the horses ?"
" Fine, fine."
" And ready for some more ? My wife here Says it won't do. You've got to give it up."
" Won't you to please me ? Please! If I say please ?
Mr. Meserve, I'll leave it to your wife. What did your wife say on the telephone ? "
Meserve seemed to heed nothing but the lamp Or something not far from it on the table. By straightening out and lifting a forefinger, He pointed with his hand from where it lay Like a white crumpled spider on his knee: "That leaf there in your open book! It moved
Just then, I thought. It stood erect like that, There on the table, ever since I came, Trying to turn itself backward or forward, I've had my eye on it to make out which; If forward, then it's with a friend's impatience-
You see I know-to get you on to things It wants to see how you will take, if backward
It's from regret for something you have passed And failed to see the good of. Never mind, Things must expect to come in front of us A many times-I don't say just how many- That varies with the things-before we see them.