The Lost Phoebe by Th. Dreiser

The Lost Phoebe by Th. Dreiser

Henry and Phoebe loved each other. They were middle – aged people and lived together for many years. They were farmers. Their whole world was a field of harvest, fruit trees and a large yard with pets and birds. Everything else was far away, which meant it was not very important. The moon and the stars look beautiful, but they are so far away that they do not affect the life of an ordinary person. Henry and Phoebe lived happily. The spouses often quarreled, like any couple. The wife threatened to leave Henry, but he understood it was not serious. He was never afraid that Phoebe would leave. But he was afraid of death. Once Phoebe fell ill, and then died. She was buried in the spring. Henry was left alone. The neighbors invited him to live with them, but Henry did not want to go far from the place where his wife rested.

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The Lost Phoebe by Th. Dreiser

Old Henry Belfsneider and his wife Phoebe loved one another the way people do who have lived together a long, long time. They were simple farm people. Their world was their fruit trees, cornfield and backyard with its pigs and chickens. The rest of the world was far away like stars in the sky.

The Lost Phoebe by Th. Dreiser

Sometimes Henry worried about death. During his worries he would raise his old voice and say, “Phoebe, where is my corn-pipe? You’re always taking things that belong to me.”

“Now, you hush, Henry,” his wife would say. “If you keep talking like that I will go away. And then what would you do? There is nobody to look after you. Your corn-pipe is on the table where you put it.”

Old Henry knew his wife would never leave him. The only leaving he feared was death. He often wondered how he could live without Phoebe.

When she wanted him to get a pall of water Henry liked to say, “Do this, do that. Always asking me to do something. Women are never satisfied.”

Phoebe would smile. She could see the inner happiness shining in his eyes. Henry talked sharply, but he never forgot to get water and wood for the fire.

In this way they lived happily in their simple world.

One day in the early spring Phoebe became sick and died. Old Henry watched them put her body in the earth.

Neighbors asked Henry to come and live with them, but he would not leave. He wanted to be near the place where his Phoebe lay in the earth. He tried to work around the farm, but it was difficult to return to an empty house at night.

At night he read the newspaper, but most of the time he just sat looking at the floor wondering where Phoebe was and how soon he would die.

For five months he lived like this. Then, there was a change. It happened one night after he had gone to bed. There was a bright moon in the sky. Its silver light fell on the old chairs and table in the bedroom. The moonlight on the chair and the half-open door made a shadow. The shadow looked like Phoebe. She was sitting by the table the way she had done so many times before.

“Phoebe,” he called in a weak voice. “Have you come back?”…

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