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The Lost Phoebe
by [?]

A third night, as he was actually dreaming, some ten days later, she came to his bedside and put her hand on his head.

“Poor Henry!” she said.”It’s too bad.”

He roused out of his sleep, actually to see her, he thought, moving from his bed-room into the one living-room, her figure a shadowy mass of black. The weak straining of his eyes caused little points of light to flicker about the outlines of her form. He arose greatly astonished, walked the floor in the cool room, convinced that Phoebe was coming back to him. If he only thought sufficiently, if he made it perfectly clear by his feeling that he needed her greatly, she would come back, this kindly wife, and tell him what to do. She would perhaps be with him much of the time, in the night, anyhow; and that would make him less lonely, this state more endurable.

In age and with the feeble it is not such a far cry from the subtleties of illusion to actual hallucination, and in due time this transition was made for Henry. Night after night he waited, expecting her return. Once in his weird mood -he thought he saw a pale light moving about the room, and another time he thought he saw her walking in the orchard after dark. It was virtually unendurable that he woke with the thought that she was not dead. How he had arrived at this conclusion it is hard to say. His mind had gone. In its place was a fixed illusion. He and Phoebe had had a senseless quarrel. He had reproached her for not leaving his pipe where he was accustomed to find it, and she had left. It was an aberrated fulfillment of her old jesting threat that if he did not behave himself she would leave him.

“I guess I could find yuh ag’in,” he had always said. But her cackling threat had always been:

“Yuh’Il not find me if I ever leave yuh. I guess I kin git some place where yuh can’t find me.”

This morning when he arose he did not think to build the fire in the customary way or to grind his coffee and cut his bread, as was his wont, but solely meditate as to where he should search for her and should induce her to come back. Recently the one horse had been dispensed with because he found it cumbersome and beyond his needs. He took down his soft crush hat after he had dressed himself, a new glint of interest and determination in his eye, and taking his black crook cane from behind the door, where he had always placed it, started out briskly to look for her among the nearest neighbors. His old shoes clumped soundly in the dust as he walked, and his gray-black locks, now grown rather long, straggled out in a dramatic fringe or halo from under his hat. His short coat stirred busily as he walked, and his hands and face were peaked and pale.

“Why, hello, Henry! Where’re yuh goin’ this mornin’?” inquired Farmer Dodge, who, hauling a load of wheat to market, encountered him on the public road. He had not seen the aged farmer in months, not since his wife’s death, and he wondered now, seeing him looking so spry.

“Yuh ain’t seen Phoebe, have yuh?” inquired the old man, looking up quizzically.

“Phoebe who?” inquired Farmer Dodge, not for the moment connecting the name with Henry’s dead wife.

“Why, my wife Phoebe, o’ course. Who do yuh s’pose I mean?” He stared up with a pathetic sharpness of glance from under his shaggy, gray eyebrows.