Lost Man’s Lane, by Anna Katharine Green

xxvii

The Text Witnesseth

I have a grim will when I choose to exert it. After Mr. Gryce left the hotel, I took a cup of tea with the landlady and then made a round of the stores. I bought dimity, sewing silk, and what not, as I said I would, but this did not occupy me long (to the regret probably of the country merchants, who expected to make a fool of me and found it a by no means easy task), and was quite ready for William when he finally drove up.

The ride home was a more or less silent one. I had conceived such a horror of the man beside me, that talking for talk’s sake was impossible, while he was in a mood which it would be charity to call non-communicative. It may be that my own reticence was at the bottom of this, but I rather think not. The remark he made in passing Deacon Spear’s house showed that something more than spite was working in his slow but vindictive brain.

“There’s a man of your own sort,” he cried. “You won’t find him doing anything out of the way; oh, no. Pity your visit wasn’t paid there. You’d have got a better impression of the lane.”

To this I made no reply.

At Mr. Trohm’s he spoke again:

“I suppose that you and Trohm had the devil of a say about Lucetta and the rest of us. I don’t know why, but the whole neighborhood seems to feel they’ve a right to use our name as they choose. But it isn’t going to be so, long. We have played poor and pinched and starved all I’m going to. I’m going to have a new horse, and Lucetta shall have a dress, and that mighty quick too. I’m tired of all this shabbiness, and mean to have a change.”

I wanted to say, “No change yet; change under the present circumstances would be the worst thing possible for you all,” but I felt that this would be treason to Mr. Gryce, and refrained, saying simply, as he looked sideways at me for a word:

“Lucetta needs a new dress. That no one can deny. But you had better let me get it for her, or perhaps that is what you mean.”

The grunt which was my only answer might be interpreted in any way. I took it, however, for assent.

As soon as I was relieved of his presence and found myself again with the girls, I altered my whole manner and cried out in querulous tones:

“Mrs. Carter and I have had a difference.” (This was true. We did have a difference over our cup of tea. I did not think it necessary to say this difference was a forced one. Some things we are perfectly justified in keeping to ourselves.) “She remembers a certain verse in the New Testament one way and I in another. We had not time to settle it by a consultation with the sacred word, but I cannot rest till it is settled, so will you bring your Bible to me, my dear, that I may look that verse up?”

We were in the upper hall, where I had taken a seat on the old-fashioned sofa there. Lucetta, who was standing before me, started immediately to do my bidding, without stopping to think, poor child, that it was very strange I did not go to my own room and consult my own Bible as any good Presbyterian would be expected to do. As she was turning toward the large front room I stopped her with the quiet injunction:

“Get me one with good print, Lucetta. My eyes won’t bear much straining.”

At which she turned and to my great relief hurried down the corridor toward William’s room, from which she presently returned, bringing the very volume I was anxious to consult.

Meanwhile I had laid aside my hat. I felt flurried and unhappy, and showed it. Lucetta’s pitiful face had a strange sweetness in it this morning, and I felt sure as I took the sacred book from her hand that her thoughts were all with the lover she had sent from her side and not at all with me or with what at the moment occupied me. Yet my thoughts at this moment involved, without doubt, the very deepest interests of her life, if not that very lover she was brooding over in her darkened and resigned mind. As I realized this I heaved an involuntary sigh, which seemed to startle her, for she turned and gave me a quick look as she was slipping away to join her sister, who was busy at the other end of the hall.

The Bible I held was an old one, of medium size and most excellent print. I had no difficulty in finding the text and settling the question which had been my ostensible reason for wanting the book, but it took me longer to discover the indentation which I had made in one of its pages; but when I did, you may imagine my awe and the turmoil into which my mind was cast, when I found that it marked those great verses in Corinthians which are so universally read at funerals:

“Behold I shew you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ——”

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Last updated Friday, February 28, 2014 at 11:57