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Title: Laicus; Or, the Experiences of a Layman in a Country Parish.
Author: Abbott, Lyman
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LAICUS;

OR, THE EXPERIENCES OF A LAYMAN IN A COUNTRY PARISH.

BY LYMAN ABBOTT.

NEW YORK:

1872.



CONTENTS.



I. HOW I HAPPENED TO GO TO WHEATHEDGE

II. MORE DIPLOMACY

III. WE JOIN THE CHURCH

IV. THE REAL PRESENCE

V. OUR CHURCH FINANCES

VI. AM I A DRONE

VII. THE FIELD IS THE WORLD

VIII. MR. GEAR

IX. I GET MY FIRST BIBLE SCHOLAR

X. THE DEACON'S SECOND SERVICE

XI. OUR PASTOR RESIGNS

XII. THE COMMITTEE ON SUPPLY HOLD AN INFORMAL MEETING

XIII. MAURICE MAPLESON DECLINES TO SUBMIT TO A COMPETITIVE
EXAMINATION

XIV. THE SUPPLY COMMITTEE HOLD THEIR FIRST FORMAL MEETING

XV. OUR CHRISTMAS AT WHEATHEDGE

XVI. MR. GEAR AGAIN

XVII. WANTED--A PASTOR

XVIII. OUR PRAYER-MEETING

XIX. WE ARE JILTED

XX. WE PROPOSE

XXI. MINISTERIAL SALARIES

XXII. ECCLESIASTICAL FINANCIERING

XXIII. OUR DONATION PARTY--BY JANE LAICUS

XXIV. MAURICE MAPLESON

XXV. OUR CHURCH-GARDEN

XXVI. OUR TEMPERANCE PRAYER-MEETING

XXVII. FATHER HYATT'S STORY

XXVIII. OUR VILLAGE LIBRARY

XXIX. MAURICE MAPLESON TRIES AN EXPERIMENT

XXX. MR. HARDCAP'S FAMILY PRAYERS

XXXI. IN DARKNESS

XXXII. GOD SAID "LET THERE BE LIGHT"

XXXIII. A RETROSPECT



PREFACE.



This book was not made; it has grown.

When three years ago I left the pulpit to engage in literary work
and took my seat among the laity in the pews, I found that many
ecclesiastical and religious subjects presented a different aspect
from that which they had presented when I saw them from the pulpit.
I commenced in the CHRISTIAN UNION, in a series of "Letters from a
Layman," to discuss from my new point of view some questions which
are generally discussed from the clerical point of view alone. The
letters were kindly received by the public. To some of the
characters introduced I became personally attached. And the series
of letters, commenced with the expectation that they might last
through six or eight weeks, extended over a period of more than a
year and a half--might perhaps have extended to the present it other
duties had not usurped my time and thoughts.

This was the beginning.

But after a time thoughts and characters which presented themselves
in isolated forms, and so were photographed for the columns of the
newspaper, began to gather in groups. The single threads that had
been spun for the weekly issue, wove themselves together in my
imagination into the pattern of a simple story, true as to every
substantial fact, yet fictitious in all its dress and form. And so
out of Letters of Layman grew, I myself hardly know how, this simple
story of a layman's life in a country parish.

I cannot dismiss this book from my table without adding that I am
conscious that the deepest problem it discusses is but barely
touched upon. This has obtruded itself upon the pattern in the
weaving. It was intended for a single thread; but it has given color
and character to all the rest. How shall Christian faith meet the
current rationalism of the day? Not by argument; this is the thought
I hope may be taught, or at least suggested, by the story of Mr.
Gear's experience,--and it is a true not a fictitious story, except
as all here is fictitious, i.e. in the external dress in which it is
clothed. The very essence of rationalism is that it assumes that the
reason is the highest faculty in man and the lord of all the rest.
Grant this, as too often our controversial theology does grant it,
and the battle is yielded before it is begun. Whether that
rationalism leads to orthodox or heterodox conclusions, whether it
issues in a Westminster Assembly's Confession of faith or a
Positivist Primer is a matter of secondary importance. Religion is
not a conclusion of the reason. The reason is not the lord of the
spiritual domain. There is a world which it never sees and with
which it is wholly incompetent to deal. And Christian faith wins its
victories only when by its own--heart life it gives some glimpse of
this hidden world and sends the rationalist, Columbus-like, on an
unknown sea to search for this unknown continent.

I am not sure whether this preface had not better have remained
unwritten; whether the parable had not better be left without an
interpretation. But it is written and it shall stand. And so this
simple story goes from my hands, I trust to do some little good, by
hinting to clerical readers how some problems concerning Christian
work appear to a layman's mind, and by quickening lay readers to
share more generously in their pastors' labors and to understand
more sympathetically their pastor's trials.

LYMAN ABBOTT.

The Knoll, Cornwall on the Hudson, N. Y.



LAICUS.

CHAPTER I.

How I happened to go to Wheathedge.



ABOUT sixty miles north of New York city,--not as the crow flies, for
of the course of that bird I have no knowledge or information
sufficient to form a belief, but as the Mary Powell ploughs her way
up the tortuous channel of the Hudson river,--lies the little village
of Wheathedge. A more beautiful site even this most beautiful of
rivers does not possess. As I sit now in my library, I raise my eyes
from my writing and look east to see the morning sun just rising in
the gap and pouring a long golden flood of light upon the awaking
village below and about me, and gilding the spires of the not far
distant city of Newtown, and making even its smoke ethereal, as
though throngs of angels hung over the city unrecognized by its too
busy inhabitants. Before me the majestic river broadens out into a
bay where now the ice-boats play back and forth, and day after day
is repeated the merry dance of many skaters--about the only kind of
dance I thoroughly believe in. If I stand on the porch upon which
one of my library windows opens, and look to the east, I see the
mountain clad with its primeval forest, crowding down to the water's
edge. It looks as though one might naturally expect to come upon a
camp of Indian wigwams there. Two years ago a wild-cat was shot in
those same woods and stuffed by the hunters, and it still stands in
the ante-room of the public school, the first, and last, and only
contribution to an incipient museum of natural history which the
sole scientific enthusiast of Wheathedge has founded--in imagination.
Last year Harry stumbled on a whole nest of rattlesnakes, to his and
their infinite alarm--and to ours too when afterwards he told us the
story of his adventure. If I turn and look to the other side of the
river, I see a broad and laughing valley,--grim in the beautiful
death of winter now however,--through which the Newtown railroad,
like the Star of Empire, westward takes its way. For the village of
Wheathedge, scattered along the mountain side, looks down from its
elevated situation on a wide expanse of country. Like Jerusalem of
old,--only, if I can judge anything from the accounts of Palestinian
travelers, a good deal more so,--it is beautiful for situation, and
deserves to be the joy of the whole earth.

A village I have called it. It certainly is neither town nor city.
There is a little centre where there is a livery stable, and a
country store with the Post Office attached, and a blacksmith shop,
and two churches, a Methodist and a Presbyterian, with the promise
of a Baptist church in a lecture-room as yet unfinished. This is the
old centre; there is another down under the hill where there is a
dock, and a railroad station, and a great hotel with a big bar and
generally a knot of loungers who evidently do not believe in the
water-cure. And between the two there is a constant battle as to
which shall be the town. For the rest, there is a road wandering
in an aimless way along the hill-side, like a child at play who is
going nowhere, and all along this road are scattered every variety
of dwelling, big and little, sombre and gay, humble and pretentious,
which the mind of man ever conceived of,--and some of which I
devoutly trust the mind of man will never again conceive. There are
solid substantial Dutch farm-houses, built of unhewn stone, that
look as though they were outgrowths of the mountain, which nothing
short of an earthquake could disturb; and there are fragile little
boxes that look as though they would be swept away, to be seen no
more forever, by the first winter's blast that comes tearing up the
gap as though the bag of Eolus had just been opened at West Point
and the imprisoned winds were off with a whoop for a lark. There are
houses in sombre grays with trimmings of the same; and there are
houses in every variety of color, including one that is of a light
pea-green, with pink trimmings and blue blinds. There are old and
venerable houses, that look as though they might have come over with
Peter Stuyvesant and been living at Wheathedge ever since; and there
are spruce little sprigs of houses that look as though they had just
come up from New York to spend a holiday, and did not rightly know
what to do with themselves in the country. There are staid and
respectable mansions that never move from the even tenor of their
ways; and there are houses that change their fashions every season,
putting on a new coat of paint every spring; and there is one that
dresses itself out in summer with so many flags and streamers that
one might imagine Fourth of July lived there.

All nations and all eras appear also to be gathered here. There are
Swiss cottages with overhanging chambers, and Italian villas with
flat roofs, and Gothic structures with incipient spires that look as
though they had stopped in their childhood and never got their
growth, and Grecian temples with rows of wooden imitations of marble
pillars of Doric architecture, and one house in which all nations
and eras combine--a Grecian porch, a Gothic roof, an Italian L, and a
half finished tower of the Elizabethan era, capped with a Moorish
dome, the whole approached through the stiffest of all stiff avenues
of evergreens, trimmed in the latest French fashion. That is Mr.
Wheaton's residence, the millionaire of Wheathedge. I wish I could
say he was as Catholic as his dwelling house.

I never fancied the country. Its numerous attractions were no
attractions to me. I cannot harness a horse. I am afraid of a cow. I
have no fondness for chickens--unless they are tender and
well-cooked. Like the man in parable, I cannot dig. I abhor a hoe. I
am fond of flowers but not of dirt, and had rather buy them than
cultivate them. Of all ambition to get the earliest crop of green
peas and half ripe strawberries I am innocent. I like to walk in my
neighbor's garden better than to work in my own. I do not drink
milk, and I do drink coffee; and I had rather run my risk with the
average of city milk than with the average of country coffee. Fresh
air is very desirable; but the air on the bleak hills of the Hudson
in March is at times a trifle too fresh. The pure snow as it lies on
field, and fence, and tree, is beautiful, I confess. But when one
goes out to walk, it is convenient to have the sidewalks shoveled.

At least that is what I used to think five years ago. And if my wife
had endeavored to argue me out of my convictions, she would only
have strengthened them. But my wife:--

Stop a minute. I may as well say here that this book is written in
confidence. It is personal. It deals with the interior history of a
very respectable church and some most respectable families. It
contains a great deal that is not proper to be communicated to the
public. The reader will please bear this in mind. Whatever I say,
particularly what I am going to say now, is confidential. Don't
mention it.

My wife is a diplomate. If ever I am president of the United
States--which may Heaven forbid,--she shall be secretary of State. She
never argues; but she always carries her point.

She always lets me have my own way without hinting an objection. But
it always ends in her having her own. She would have made no
objection to letting Mason and Slidell go--not the least in the
world. But she would have somehow induced England to entreat us to
take them back--I am sure of it. She would not have dismissed
Catacazy--not she. But if she did not like Catacazy, Gortschakoff
should have recalled him, and never known why he did it.

"John," said my wife, "where shall we spend the summer?"

It was six years ago this spring. We were sitting in the library in
our city house, Harry was a baby; and baby was not. I laid down the
Evening Post, and looked up with an incipient groan.

"The usual way I suppose," said I. "You'll go home with the baby,
and I--I shall camp out in New York."

"Home" is Jennie's home in Michigan, where she had spent two of the
three summers of our married life, while I existed in single misery
in my empty house in 38th street. Oh, the desolateness of those
summer experiences. Oh, the unutterable loneliness of a house
without the smile of the dear wife, and the laugh and prattle of the
baby boy. I even missed his cry at night.

"It's a long, long journey," said Jennie, "and a long, long way off;
and I did resolve last summer I never would put a thousand miles
again between me and my true home, John. For that is not my home--you
are my home."

And a soft hand stole gently up and toyed with my hair.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, saith the preacher. To which I
add, especially husbands. No man is proof against the flatteries of
love. At least I am not, and I am glad of it.

"You can't stay here, Jennie," said I.

"I am afraid not," said she. "It is Harry's second summer, and I
would not dare."

"The sea shore?" said I, interrogatively.

"Not one of those great fashionable hotels, John. It would be worse
for Harry than the city. And then think of the cost."

"True," said I reflectively. "I wish we could find a quiet place,
not too far from the city so that I could come in and out during
term time, and stay out altogether during the summer vacation."

"There must be some such, many such," said Jennie.

"But to look for them," said I, "would be, to use an entirely new
simile, like looking for a needle in a haystack. There must be some
honest lawyers at the New York bar, and some impartial judges on the
New York bench, but I should not like to be set to find them."

I had been beaten in an important case that afternoon and was out
with my profession.

"Suppose you let me try," said Jennie--"that is to find the quiet
summer retreat, not the honest lawyer."

"By all means, my dear," said I. "And I have great confidence that
if you are patient and assiduous, you will find a place in time for
Harry to settle down in comfortably when he gets ready to be
married."

Jennie laughed a quiet little laugh at my incredulity, and sat
straightway down to write half a dozen letters of inquiry to as many
different friends in the environs of New York. I resumed the Evening
Post. As to anything coming of her plans I no more dreamt of it than
your grandfather, reader, dreamt of the Atlantic cable.

But though I had been married three years I did not know Jennie then
as well as I know her now. I have since learned that she has a habit
of accomplishing what she undertakes. But this again is strictly
confidential.

That June saw us snugly ensconced at Mr. Lines'. Glen-Ridge is the
euphonious title he has given to his pretty but unpretending place.
Jennie had written among others to Sophie Wheaton, n‚e Sophie
Nichols, an old school-fellow, and Sophie had sent down an
invitation to her to come and spend a week and look for herself, and
she had done so; save that two days had sufficed instead of a week.
Glen-Ridge had taken her fancy, Mr. Lines had met her housewifely
idea of a good house-keeper, and she had selected the rooms and
agreed on terms, and left nothing for me to do except to ratify the
bargain by a letter, which I did the day after her return. And so in
the early summer of 1866 the diplomate had carried her first point,
and committed me to two months' probation in the country; and two
very delightful months they were.



CHAPTER II.

More Diplomacy.



I now verily believe that Jennie from the first had made up her mind
that we were to settle in Wheathedge. Though I never liked the
country, she did. And I now think that summer at Wheathedge was her
first step toward a settlement there. But she never hinted it to me.

Not she. On the contrary, she often went down to the city with me,
and shortened the car ride by half. We kept the city house open. She
exercised a watchful supervision over the cook. The sheets were not
damp, the coffee was not muddy, the library table was not covered
with dust. I blessed her a hundred times a week for the love that
found us both this Wheathedge home, and made the city home so
comfortable and cosy. Yet I came to my house in the city less and
less. The car ride grew shorter every week. When the courts closed
and the long vacation, arrived I bade the cook an indefinite
good-bye. My clients had to conform to the new office hours, 10 to
3, with Saturdays struck off the office calendar, and, in the dog
days, Mondays too. Yet I was within call, and business ran smoothly.
The country looked brighter than it used to do. I learned to enjoy
the glorious sunrise that New Yorkers never see. I discovered that
there were other indications of a moonlight night than the fact that
the street lamps were not lighted. Harry grew fat and rosy, and his
little chuckle developed into a lusty laugh. Jennie's headaches were
blown away by the fresh air that came down from the north. I found
the fragrance of the new mown hay from the Glen-Rridge meadow more
agreeable than the fragrant odors which the westerly winds waft over
to Murray Hill from the bone boiling establishments of the Hudson
river. Every evening Jennie met me at the train with Tom--Mr. Lines'
best horse, whom I liked so well that I hired him for the season;
and we took long drives and renewed the scenes of five years before,
when Jennie was Jennie Malcolm, and I was just graduating from
Harvard law-school. And still the diplomate never hinted at the idea
of making a home at Wheathedge.

But one day as we drove by Mr. Sinclair's she remarked casually,
"What a pretty place!"

It was a pretty place. A little cottage, French gray with darker
trimmings of the same; the tastiest little porch with a something or
other--I know the vine by sight but not to this day by name--creeping
over it, and converting it into a bower; another porch fragrant with
climbing roses and musical with the twittering of young swallows who
had made their nests in little chambers curiously constructed under
the eaves and hidden among the sheltering leaves; a green sward
sweeping down to the road, with a few grand old forest trees
scattered carelessly about as though nature had been the landscape
gardner; and prettiest of all, a little boy and girl playing horse
upon the gravel walk, and filling the air with shouts of merry
laughter--all this combined to make as pretty a picture as one would
wish to see. The western sun poured a flood of light upon it through
crimson clouds, and a soft glory from the dying day made this little
Eden of earth more radiant by a baptism from heaven.

I wonder now if Jennie had been waiting for a favorable opportunity
and then had spoken. I do not know; and she will never tell me. At
all events the beauty so struck me, like a landscape fresh from the
hand of some great artist--as it was indeed, fresh from the hand of
the Great Artist--that I involuntarily reined in Tom to look at it.
"It's for sale, too," said I, "I wonder what such a place costs."

The artful diplomate did not answer. The books and newspapers talk
about women's curiosity. It's nothing to a man's curiosity when it
is aroused. Oh, I know the story of Bluebeard very well. But if Mrs.
Bluebeard had been a strong minded woman, and had killed her seven
husbands, I wonder if the eighth would not have taken a peep. He
would not have waited for the key but would have broken in the door
long before. If men are not curious why do the authorities always
appoint them on the detective police force?

"Mr. Lines," said I that evening at the tea table, "you know that
pretty little cottage on the hill just opposite the church. I see
there is a sign up 'for sale.' What is the price of it, do you
know?"

"No," said Mr. Lines. "But you can easily find out. It belongs to
Charlie Sinclair; he lives there and can tell you."

Three days after that, as I was driving up from the station, it
struck my fancy I should like to see the inside of that pretty
house. "Jennie," said I, "let's go in and look at the inside of that
pretty cottage." But I had no more idea of purchasing it than I have
now of purchasing the moon.

"It would hardly be the thing for me to call," said the diplomate.
"Mrs. Sinclair has never called on me."

"I don't want you to make any call," said I. "The house is for sale.
I am a New Yorker. I am looking about Wheathedge for a place. I see
this place is for sale. I should like to look at it. And of course
my wife must look at it too."

"Oh! that indeed," said my wife, "that's another matter. I have no
particular objection to that."

"Besides," said I, "I really should like to know the price of such a
place in Wheathedge."

"Very good," said Jennie.

So we drove up to the gate, fastened the horse, and inquired of Mrs.
Sinclair, who came in person to the door, if we could see the house.
Certainly. She would be very happy to show it to us. And a very
pretty house it was--and is still. There was a cozy little parlor
with a bay window looking out on the river, there was an equally
cozy little dining-room, and there was an L for a sitting-room--which
I instantly converted in my imagination into a library--which looked
with one window on the river and with another on the mountains.
There was a very convenient kitchen built out in a wing from one end
of the dining-room, and three chambers over the three downstairs
rooms, from the larger one of which, over the sitting-room, we could
take in at a glance the Presbyterian church, the blacksmith's shop,
and the country store, with the wandering and aimless road, and a
score or two of neighbor's homes which lay along it; for the cottage
was on the hillside, and elevated considerably above the main
roadway. It was charmingly furnished too, and was full of the
fragrance of flowers within, as it was embowered in them without.

Besides looking at the house we asked the usual house-hunting
questions. Mr. Sinclair was in the city. He wanted to sell because
he was going to Europe in the spring to educate his children. He
would sell his place for $10,000 or rent it for $800. For the
summer? No! for the year. He did not care to rent it for the summer,
nor to give possession before fall. Would he rent the furniture?
Yes, if one wanted it. But that would be extra. How much land was
there? About two acres. Any fruit? Pears, peaches, and the smaller
fruits--strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Whereupon Jennie
and I bowed ourselves out and went away.

And nothing more was said about it till the next February. The
diplomate still kept her own counsel.

Then I opened the subject. It was the evening of the first day of
February. I had been in to pay my rent. "Jennie," said I, "the
landlord raises our rent to $2,500.

"What are you going to do?" said she quietly; "pay it?"

"Pay it!" said I. "No. It's high at $2,000.--We shall have to move."

"Where to?" said Jennie.

I shrugged my shoulders. I had not the least idea.

"What are you going to do next summer?" said she.

"Glen-Ridge?" said I interrogatively.

"I am afraid I shall have to be in my own home next summer," said
Jennie. "The mother cannot leave her nest to find a home among
strangers when God sends her a little bird to be watched and tended.
And I hope, John, God is going to send another little bird to our
nest this summer."

"You shall have your own home, Jennie dear," said I. "I will tell
the landlord to-morrow that we will keep it. But it is an
imposition."

"I am so sorry to give up our summer at Wheathedge," said she. "We
did enjoy ourselves so much, John, and Harry grew and thrived so."

"It can't be helped, Jennie," said I.

"No"--said she slowly, and as if thinking to herself; "no--unless we
took the Sinclair cottage for the summer."

"I hadn't thought of that," said I.

"What was the rent?" asked the diplomate. She knew as well as I did.

"Eight hundred dollars a year," said I.

"That is a clear saving of $1,700 a year," said Jennie.

"That's a fact," said I.

"If we did not like it we could come back to the city in the fall,
and get a house here; if we did we could stay later and come in to
board for three or four months. I shouldn't mind if we did not come
at all."

"No country in the winter for me, thank you," said I; "with the wind
drawing through the open cracks in your country built house half
freezing you, and when you try to keep warm your air-tight stove
half suffocating you; with the roads outside blocked up with great
drifts, and the trains delayed just on the days when I have a
critical case in court."

"Very well," said Jennie. She is too much of a diplomate to argue.
"When the snow comes we can easily move back again, as easily as
find a new house now. To tell the truth, John, I have no heart for
house-hunting now."

"Well," said I. "I will see Sinclair to-morrow. And if his house is
in the market, Jennie, we we will move there as soon as the spring
fairly opens."

It was in the market. He was anxious to be rid of it. I hired it for
the year, together with the furniture, at $800,--and he agreed that
if I bought it in the Fall the half year rent should go on the
purchase money. I did not pay him any rent. I did not move into the
city when the snow came. The diplomate had her own way as she always
does. We live in the country; and I--I am very glad of it. I can
harness Katie on a pinch. I am not afraid of the cow. I am not
skilful with the hoe, but I am as proud of my flower garden as any
of my neighbors. And as to the relative advantages of city and
country, I am quite of the opinion of Harry.

"Harry," said his grandfather the other day, "don't you want to go
back to the city and live?"

"No!" said Harry, with the utmost expression of scorn on his face.

"Why not, Harry?"

"It smells so."



CHAPTER III.

We join the Church.



"I have bought the house, Jennie," said I.

"Thank you," said Jennie. She said it softly, but her eyes said it
more plainly than her voice. I had hesitated a little before I
finally closed the purchase. But Jennie's look and her soft "Thank
you" made me sure I had been right.

Since the baby has come we have converted the chamber over the
library into an upstairs sitting-room. I found her there before the
open fire, on my return from New York. The baby was sleeping in her
arms; and she was gently rocking him, pressed close to her bosom.

"I wish you would have a nurse for the baby, Jennie," said I. "I
don't like to see you tied to her so."

"You wouldn't take baby from me would you, John?" said she
appealingly, nestling the precious bundle closer to her heart than
before, as if in apprehension. No I wouldn't. I was obliged to
confess that, to myself if not to her.

"John," said Jennie, "Mrs Goodsole has been here this afternoon. She
wants to know if we won't take our letters to this church the next
communion. It is the first of September."

"Well?" said I, for Jennie had stopped.

"She says that if we are going to make Wheathedge our home she hopes
we can find a pleasant home in the church here. I told her I could
not tell, we had only hired the house for the summer and might leave
in the fall. But if you have bought it, John, and I am, oh! so glad
you have and thank you so much"--one hand left the baby gently, and
was laid on my arm with the softest possible pressure by way of
emphasizing the thanks again,--"perhaps we ought to consider it."

"I have no notion of joining this church," said I. "It's in debt,
and always behind hand. I am told they owe a hundred dollars to
their minister now."

"That's too bad," said Jennie.

"And we can't do much if we do join it. I have no time for church
affairs, and you--you have all you can do to attend to your infant
class at home, Jennie."

"That's true," said Jennie.

"Besides it is a Presbyterian church and we are Congregationalists."

Jennie made no reply.

"And I can't bear the idea of leaving the Broadway Tabernacle
church. I was brought up in it. I have been in its Sunday-School
ever since I can recollect. It was dear to me in its old homely
attire as a Congregationalist meeting-house. It is dear to me in its
new aristocratic attire as a Congregationalist cathedral. And Harry
was baptized there. And there are all our dearest and best friends.
It would be like pulling a tooth to uproot from it."

"It is dear to me too, John," said Jennie softly, "for your sake, if
not for my own."

"And all our friends are there, Jennie," continued I. "Except the
Lines and Deacon Goodsole we hardly know anybody here."

"Though I suppose time will cure that," said Jennie.

"I do not know that I care to cure it," said I.

Jennie made no response.

Was it not at Bunker Hill that the soldiers were directed to reserve
their fire till the attacking party had exhausted theirs? That is
the way Jennie conducts an argument--when she argues at all, which is
very seldom. She accepted every consideration I had offered against
uniting with the Wheathedge church, and yet I knew her opinion was
not changed; and somehow my own began to waver. I wonder how that
method of arguing would work in the court-room. I mean to try it
some time.

I had exhausted my fire and Jennie was still silent. Silence they
say means consent. But I knew that it did not in her case. It
depends so much upon the kind of silence.

"What do you say Jennie?" said I.

"Well, John," said she slowly and thoughtfully, "perhaps there are
two sides to the question. I don't like to leave the Broadway
Tabernacle. But it seems to me that we have left it. We cannot
attend its prayer-meetings, or go to its Sabbath-school, or worship
with its members on the Sabbath, or even mingle much with its
members in social life. We have left it, and we ought to have
thought of that before we left--not after. Perhaps I am to blame,
John, that I did not think of it more. I did not think of what you
were giving up for me when you took this beautiful home for my
sake."

I had not taken it for her sake--that is, not wholly for her sake.
And as to the giving up! Why, bless you, that little sitting-room,
with the wife and baby it contained, was worth a thousand
Tabernacles to me; and I managed to tell Jennie so, and emphasize
the declaration with a--well no matter. But she did not need the
information, she knew it very well before, I am sure.

"The real question seems to me, John, to be whether we mean to be
church members at all?" said Jennie.

"Church members at all!" I echoed.

"Yes," said she. "We are not members of the Broadway Tabernacle any
more--except in name. What is a foot or an arm fifty miles away from
the body? Can they keep loving watch and care over us; or we over
them? It is not a question between one church-home and another,
John; it is a question between this church-home and none at all."

"But, Jennie," said I, "the finances here are in a fearful state.
They are always coming down on the church for contributions, and
holding fairs in summer, and tableaux and what not, in winter, and
generally waiting for something to turn up. If I had the naming of
this church I would call it St. Micawber's church."

Jennie laughed. "Well, John," said she, "I think you are ready
enough with your money." (I am not so sure of that. I am inclined to
think that is Jennie's way of making me so.) "And I have nothing to
say about the finances."

"Besides, Jennie," said I--for I really had no faith in the financial
argument--"this is a Presbyterian church and we are
Congregationalists."

"It is a church of Christ, John," said Jennie soberly, "and we, I
hope, are Christians more than Congregationalists."

That was the last that was said. But the next morning I carried down
with me, to New York, a letter addressed to the clerk of the
Broadway Tabernacle, asking for letters of dismission and
recommendation to the Calvary Presbyterian church at Wheathedge. And
so commenced our parish life.



CHAPTER IV.

The Real Presence.



"JENNIE," said I, "I don't believe in Mr. Work's sermon this
morning, do you?"

"I don't think I do, John; but to be candid I did not hear a great
deal of it."

It was Sunday evening. Harry was asleep in his room. The baby, sung
to her sweet slumbers pressed against her mother's heart, had been
lain down at last in her little cradle. Jennie, her evening work
finished, had come down into the library and was sitting on the
lounge beside me.

"I was not so fortunate," said I. "Blessed are those who having ears
hear not--sometimes. I listened, and took the other side. My church
was converted into a court-room, I into an advocate. If I believed
Mr. Work's doctrine was sound Protestantism I should turn Roman
Catholic. Its teaching is the warmer, cheerier, more helpful of the
two."

Then I took up the open book that lay on my library table and read
from Father Hyacinthe's discourses the following paragraph--from an
address delivered on the first communion of a converted Protestant
to the Roman Catholic Church:

"Where (in Protestantism) is that real Presence which flows from the
sacrament as from a hidden spring, like a river of peace, upon the
true Catholic, all the day long, gladdening and fertilizing all his
life? This Immanuel--God with us--awaited you in our Church, and in
that sacrament which so powerfully attracted you, even when you but
half believed it. In your own worship, as in the ancient synagogue,
you found naught but types and shadows; they spoke to you of
reality, but did not contain it; they awakened your thirst, but did
not quench it; weak and empty rudiments which have no longer the
right to rest, since the veil of the temple has been rent asunder
and eternal realities been revealed."

"Yes, Jennie," said I. "If I thought Father Hyacinthe were right, I
should turn Roman Catholic. And Mr. Work this morning confirmed him.
He took away the substance. He left us only a type, a shadow."

The sermon was on the words--"Do this in remembrance of me." It was a
doctrinal sermon. I am not sure that it might not have been a useful
one--in the sixteenth century. It was a sermon against Romanism and
Lutheranism and High Church episcopacy. The minister told us what
were the various doctrines of the communion. He analyzed them and
dismissed them one after another. He showed very conclusively, to us
Protestants, that the Romanists are wrong, to us Presbyterians that
the Episcopalians are wrong, to us who are open Communionists that
the close Communionists are wrong. As there does not happen to be
either Romanist, Episcopalian, or close Communionist in our
congregation, I cannot say how efficacious his arguments would have
been if addressed to any one who was in previous doubt as to his
conclusions. Then he proceeded to expound what he termed the
rational and Scriptural doctrine of communion. It is, he told us,
simply a memorial service. It simply commemorates the past. "As,"
said he, "every year, the nation gathers to strew flowers upon the
graves of its patriot soldiers, so this day the Christian Church
gathers to strew with flowers of love and praise the grave of the
Captain of our salvation. As in the one act all differences are
forgotten, and the nation is one in the sacred presence of death, so
in the other, creeds and doctrines vanish, and the Church of Christ
appears at the foot of Calvary as one in Christ Jesus."

Mr. Wheaton asked me, as we came out of church, if the sermon was
not a magnificent one. I evaded the question. I was obliged to
confess to myself that it was unsatisfactory. If I were obliged to
choose between the Protestantism of Mr. Work and the Romanism of
Father Hyacinthe, I am afraid I should choose the latter.

"But," said Jennie, "Mr. Work's sermon was not true Protestant
doctrine, John. There is a Real Presence in the communion. Only it
is in the heart, not in the head, in us, not in the symbols that we
eat. Did you not feel the Real Presence when Father Hyatt in the
afternoon broke and blessed the bread? Did you not see the living
Christ in his radiant face and hear the living Christ in his
touching words, and his more touching silence?"

Yes! I did. Father Hyatt had disproved the morning's sermon, though
he said never a word about it.

Father Hyatt is an old, old man. He has long since retired from
active service, having worn out his best days here at Wheathedge, in
years now long gone by. A little money left him by a parishioner,
and a few annual gifts from old friends among his former people, are
his means of support. His hair is white as snow. His hands are thin,
his body bent, his voice weak, his eyesight dim, his ears but half
fulfil their office; his mind even shows signs of the weakness and
wanderings of old age; but his heart is young, and I verily believe
he looks forward to the hour of his release with hopes as high and
expectations as ardent as those with which, in college, he
anticipated the hour of his graduation. This was the man, patriarch
of the Church, who has lived to see the children he baptized grow
up, go forth into the world, many die and be buried; who has
baptized the second and even the third generation, and has seen
Wheathedge grow from a cross-road to a flourishing village; who this
afternoon, perhaps for the last time--I could not help thinking so as
I sat in church--interpreted to us the love of Christ as it is
uttered to our hearts in this most sacred and hallowed of all
services. Very simply, very gently, quite unconsciously, he refuted
the cheerless doctrine of the morning sermon, and pointed us to the
Protestant doctrine of the Real Presence. Do you ask me what he
said? Nothing. It was by his silence that he spoke.

A few tender, loving, reverential words as he broke the bread. Three
minutes of silver speech, the rest of his part of the service a
golden silence. But those few words were radiant with the presence
and the love of a risen, a living Saviour. It was not of the Christ
that died, but of the Christ that now lives, and intercedes, and
guides, and preserves, and saves, he spoke, with voice feeble with
old age, but strong with love. And as he spoke, it seemed to me, I
think it seemed to all of us, that the Christ he loved so much and
served so faithfully was close at hand, near and ready to bless us
all, not with a sacred memory only, but with a Real Presence, the
more real because unseen.

"Yes, Jennie," said I after we had sat for a few minutes in silence
recalling that sacred hour, "Yes, Jennie, there was a Real Presence
in Father Hyatt's breaking and blessing of the bread. But what do
you say of the disquisition of Mr. Work on transubstantiation which
followed it?"

"I didn't hear it, John. Was it really about transubstantiation?
Perhaps I ought to have listened--but I could not, I did not want to.
A higher, holier voice was speaking to me. I was absorbed in that. I
was thinking how of old time Christ appeared in the breaking of
bread to the disciples whose eyes were holden. And to-night, John,
as I have been rocking baby to sleep I have been reading Tennyson's
Holy Grail, and thinking how often, in our modern life, Calabad and
Percivale kneel at the same shrine, and how often what is but a
memorial service to the one affords a beatific vision of a living
and life-giving Lord to the other."

And Jennie repeated in a low soft voice a verse from that strange
poem, whose meaning, I sometimes think, is but half understood even
by its admirers:

    "And at the sacring of the Mass, I saw
    The holy elements alone: but he
    'Saw ye no more? I, Galahad, saw the Grail,
    The Holy Grail, descend upon the shrine:
    I saw the fiery face as of a child
    That smote itself into the bread, and went,
    And hither am I come; and never yet
    Hath what thy sister taught me first to see
    This holy thing, failed from my side?'"

"Ah! yes, John, Father Hyacinthe is mistaken, and Mr. Work is
mistaken too. There is more in our communion than can be explained.
The reason is a great deal, a great deal, but it is not everything.
And there are experiences which it can neither understand nor
interpret. Baby is not only up-stairs, John; he is in my heart of
hearts. And you are never away from home, husband mine, though often
in the city, but are always with me. And my Saviour he is not far
away, he is not in the heaven that we must bring him down, nor in
the past that we must summon him from centuries long gone by. He is
in our hearts, John. Do I believe in the Real Presence? Do I not
know that there is a Real Presence? And neither priest nor pastor
can take it from me."

"I wish you could have administered the communion this afternoon,
Jennie," said I, "instead of Mr. Work."

"I wish some good friend of Mr. Work would advise him not to talk at
the communion," said Jennie.

"Write him a note," said I.

Jennie shook her head. "No," said she. "It would only do harm. But I
wish ministers knew and felt that at the communion table there is a
Real Presence that makes many words unfitting. When we are on the
mount of Transfiguration, we do not care much for Peter, James or
John. And so, dear, I recommend you to do as I do--if the minister
must give us a doctrinal disquisition, or a learned argument, or an
elaborate arabesque of fancy work, or an impassioned appeal, let him
go his way and do not heed him. I want silence that I may commune
with the Real Presence. If the minister does not give it me, I take
it."

Jennie is right, I am sure. What we laymen want at the communion
service, from our pastors, is chiefly silence. Only a few and simple
words; the fewer and simpler the better. Oh! you who are privileged
to distribute to us the emblems of Christ's love, believe me that
the communion never reaches its highest end, save when you interpret
it to us, not merely as a flower-strewn grave of a dead past, but as
a Mount of Transfiguration whereon we talk with a living, an
ascended Saviour. Believe me too, we want at that table no other
message than that which a voice from on high whispers in our hearts:
"This is my beloved Son, hear ye him!"



CHAPTER V.

Our Church Finances.



I FOUND one evening last week, in coming home, a business-like-
looking letter lying on my library table. I rarely receive letters
at Wheathedge; nearly all my correspondence comes to my New York
office. I tore it open in some surprise and read the note as
follows:

WHEATHEDGE, Oct. 9th.

"Dear Sir,--A meeting of the male members of the congregation of the
Calvary Presbyterian Church will be held on Thursday evening, at 8
P. M., at the house of Mr. Wheaton. You are respectfully invited to
be present.

"Yours, Respectfully,

"JAMES WHEATON, "Ch'n. B'd. Trustees."

"Well," said I to myself, "I wonder what this means. It can't be a
male sewing society, I suppose. It can hardly be a prayer-meeting at
Jim Wheaton's house. Male members! eh? I thought the female members
carried on this church." In my perplexity, I handed the note to my
wife. She read it with care. "Well," said she, "I am glad the people
are waking up at last." "What does it mean?" said I. "It means
money," said she. "Or rather it means the want of money. Mrs. Work
told me last week she believed her husband would have to resign. All
last quarter's salary is overdue, and something beside. It seems
that Mr. Wheaton has begun to act, at last. I don't see what they
want to make such men church officers for."

My wife has not very clear ideas about the legal relations which
exist between the Church and the Society. Mr. Wheaton is an officer,
not of the church but of the society; but I did not think it worth
while to correct the mistake.

"I do want to think kindly of every body," said Jennie; "but it
makes me indignant to see a minister defrauded of his dues."

"Defrauded is a pretty strong word, Jennie," said I.

"It is a true word," said she. "The people promise the minister
$1200 a year, and then pay him grudgingly $900, and don't finally
make up the other $300 till he threatens to resign; if that is not
defrauding, I don't know what is. If Mr. Wheaton can't make the
Board of Trustees keep their promises any better than that, he had
better resign. I wish he would."

Mr. Wheaton is not a member of the church; and, to tell the truth,
his reputation for success is greater than his reputation for
integrity. But he is president of the Koniwasset branch railroad,
and a leading director of the Koniwasset coal mines, and a large
operator in stocks, and lives in one of the finest houses in
Wheathedge, and keeps the handsomest carriage, and hires the most
expensive pew, and it was considered quite a card, I believe, to get
him to take the presidency of the Board of Trustees.

"Of course you'll go, John," said Jennie.

"I don't know about that, Jennie," said I. "I don't want to get
mixed up with our church finances in their present condition."

"I don't know how they are ever to get in a better condition, John,"
said she, "unless some men like you do get mixed up with them."

Jennie, as usual, knew me better than I knew myself. I went. I was
delayed just as I was starting away, and so, contrary to my
custom--for I rather pride myself on being a very punctual man--I was
a little late. The male members of the Calvary Presbyterian
Congregation were already assembled in Mr. James Wheaton's library
when I arrived. I was a little surprised to see how few male members
we had. To look round the congregation on Sunday morning, one would
certainly suppose there were more. It even seems to me there were at
least twice as many at the sewing society when it met at James
Wheaton's last winter.

I entered just as Mr. Wheaton was explaining the object of the
meeting. "Gentlemen," said he, suavely, "the Calvary Presbyterian
Church, like most of its neighbors, has rather hard work to get
along, financially. Its income is not at all equal to its
expenditures. The consequence is we generally stand on the debtor
side of the ledger. As probably you know, there is a mortgage on the
church of four thousand dollars. The semi-annual interest is due on
the first of next month. There is, I think, no money in the treasury
to meet it."

Here he looked at the treasurer as if for confirmation, and that
gentleman, a bald-headed, weak-face man, smiled a mournful smile,
and shook his head feebly.

"The Board of Trustees," continued the President, "have directed me
to call this meeting and lay the matter before you."

There was a slight pause--a sort of expectant silence. "It isn't a
large sum," gently insinuated the President, "if divided among us
all. But, in some way, gentlemen, it must be raised. It won't do for
us to be insolvent, you know. A church can't take the benefit of the
bankrupt act, I believe, Mr. Laicus."

Being thus appealed to, I responded with a question. Was this
mortgage interest all that the church owed? No! the President
thought not. He believed there was a small floating debt beside.
"And to whom," said I, "Mr. Treasurer, is this floating debt due?"
The Treasurer looked to the President for an answer, and the
President accepted his pantomimic hint.

"Most of it," said he, "I believe, to the minister. But I understand
that he is in no special hurry for his money. In fact," continued
he, blandly, "a debt that is due to the minister need never be a
very serious burden to a church. Nominally it is due to him, but
really it is distributed around among the members of the church.
Part is due to the grocer, part to the tailor, part to the butcher,
part to the dressmaker, and part is borrowed from personal friends.
I lent the parson twenty-five dollars myself last week. But mortgage
interest is another matter. That, you know, must be provided for."

"And pray," said I, for I happened to know the parson did need the
money, "how much is the pastor's salary? And how much of it is
overdue?"

"Well," said the President, "I suppose his salary is about--two
thousand dollars. Yes," continued he, thoughtfully, somewhat
affectionately playing with his gold watch-chain, "it must net him
fully that amount."

I was wondering what this "about" meant, and whether the minister
did not have a fixed salary, when Deacon Goodsole broke in abruptly
with, "It's twelve hundred dollars a year!"

"Yes," responded the President, "it is nominally fixed by the Board
at twelve hundred dollars. But then, gentlemen, the perquisites are
something. In the course of a year they net up to a pretty large
amount. Last winter, the ladies clubbed together and made the parson
a present of carpets for his parlors; the year before we gave him a
donation party; almost every year, Deacon Goodsole sends him a
barrel of flour from his store; in one way or another he gets a good
many similar little presents. I always send him a free pass over the
road. And then there are the wedding fees which must amount to a
handsome item in the course of the year. It can't be less than two
thousand or twenty-five hundred dollars all told. A very snug little
income, gentlemen."

"Double what I get," murmured Mr. Hardcap. A very exemplary
gentleman is Mr. Hardcap, the carpenter, but more known for the
virtue of economy than for any other. He lives in three rooms over
his carpenter shop down in Willow lane. If our pastor lived there he
would be dismissed very soon.

I wondered, as the President was speaking, whether he included the
profit he made in selling Koniwasset coal to the Newtown railroad
among his perquisitis, and as part of his salary. But I did not ask.

"Week before last," said Deacon Goodsole, "the parson was called to
attend a wedding at Compton Mills. He drove down Monday, through
that furious storm, was gone nearly all day, paid six dollars for
his horse and buggy, and received five dollars wedding fee. I wonder
how long it would take at that rate to bring his salary up to
twenty-five hundred dollars."

There was a general laugh at the parson's mercantile venture, but no
other response.

"Well, gentlemen," said the President, a little gruffly, I fancied,
"let us get back to business. How shall we raise this mortgage
interest? I will be one of ten to pay it off."

"Excuse me," said I, gently, "but before we begin to pay our debts,
we must find out how much they are. Can the Treasurer tell us how
much we owe Mr. Work?"

The Treasurer looked inquiringly at the President, but getting no
response, found his voice, and replied, "Three hundred dollars."

"The whole of last quarter?" said I.

The Treasurer nodded.

"I think there is a little due on last year," said Deacon Goodsole.

"A hundred and seventy-five dollars," said the Treasurer.

"The fact is, gentlemen," said the President, resuming his blandest
manner, "you know the Methodists have just got into their new stone
church. The trustees thought it necessary not to be behind their
neighbors, and so we have completely upholstered our church anew, at
a cost of five hundred dollars." ("And made the parson pay the
bill," said Deacon Goodsole, soto voce.) "We should have frescoed
it, too, if we had had the money." ("Why didn't you take his wedding
fees?" said the Deacon, soto voce.)

"Well, for my part," said I, "I am willing to do my share toward
paying off this debt. But I will not pay a cent unless the whole is
paid. The minister must be provided for."

"I say so, too," murmured Mr. Hardcap. I was surprised at this
sudden and unexpected reinforcement. The Deacon told me afterwards,
that Mr. Hardcap had been repairing the parson's roof and had not
got his pay.

"Perhaps," continued I, "we can fund this floating debt, make the
mortgage four thousand five hundred, raise the difference among
ourselves, and so clear it all up. Who holds the mortgage?"

This question produced a sensation like that of opening the seventh
seal in heaven. There was silence for the space of--well, something
less than half an hour. The Treasurer looked at the President. The
President looked at the Treasurer. The male members of the
congregation looked at each other. The Deacon looked at me with a
very significant laugh lurking in the corners of his mouth. At
length the President spoke.

"Well, gentlemen," said he, "I suppose most of you know I hold this
mortgage. I have not called you together because I want to press the
church for the money. But a debt, gentlemen, is a debt, and the
church, above all institutions, ought to remember the divine
injunction of our blessed Master (the President is not very familiar
with Scripture, and may be excused the blunder): 'Owe no man
anything.' ("Except the minister," said Deacon Goodsole, soto voce.)
The proposition of our friend here, however, looks like business to
me. I think the matter can be arranged in that way."

Arranged it was. The President got his additional security, and the
parson got his salary, which was the main thing Jennie cared for.
And to be perfectly frank with the reader, I should not have gone
near Jim Wheaton's that night if it had not been that I knew it
would please Jennie. I wait with some curiosity to see what will
become of a church whose expenditures are regularly a quarter more
than its income. Meanwhile, I wonder whether the personal presents
which friends make for affection's sake to their pastor ought to be
included by the Board of Trustees in their estimate of his salary?
and also whether it is quite the thing to expect that the pastor
will advance, out of his own pocket, whatever money is necessary to
keep his church from falling behind its neighbors in showy
attractions?



CHAPTER VI.

Am I a Drone?



DEACON Goodsole wants me to take a class in the Sabbath-school. So
does Mr. Work. So I think does Jennie, though she does not say much.
She only says that if I did she thinks I could do a great deal of
good. I wonder if I could. I have stoutly resisted them so far. But
I confess last Sunday's sermon has shaken me a little.

I was kept in the city Saturday night by a legal appointment, and
went the next day to hear my old friend Thomas Lane preach. His text
was "Why stand ye here all the day idle?"

He depicted very graphically the condition of the poor in New York.
He is a man of warm sympathies, of a large and generous heart. He
mingles a great deal with the poor of his own congregation. To his
credit and that of his wife be it said, there are a good many poor
in his congregation. But he does not confine his sympathies to his
own people. He told us of that immense class who live in New York
without a church-home, of the heathen that are growing up among us.

"You need not go to Africa," said he, "to find them. They come to
your door every morning for cold victuals. God will hold you
responsible for their souls. Are you in the Sabbath-school? Are you
in the Mission-school? Are you in the neighborhood prayer-meeting?
Are you a visitor? Are you distributing tracts? Are you doing
anything to seek and to save that which is lost?" Then he went on to
say what should be done; and to maintain the right and duty of
laymen to preach, to teach, to visit, to do all things which belong
to "fishers of men." "There are a great many church members," said
he, "who seem to suppose that their whole duty consists in paying
pew rent and listening to preaching. That is not Christianity. If
you are doing nothing you are drones. There is no room in the hive
for you. The Church has too many idle Christians already. We don't
want you."

He did not argue. He simply asserted. But he evidently felt the
truth of all that he said. I believe I should have decided at once
to go into the Sabbath-school as soon as I came home, but for a
little incident.

After church I walked home with Mr. Lane to dine with him. Mr. Sower
joined and walked along with us. He is at the head of a large
manufacturing establishment. He is one of Mr. Lane's warmest
friends. Mr. Lane believes him to be a devoted Christian. "Well,
parson," said he, "I suppose after to-night's sermon there is
nothing left for me to do but to take a letter from the Church--if
you don't excommunicate me before I get it."

"What's the matter now?" said the parson.

"I am neither visiting," said Mr. Sower, "nor distributing tracts,
nor attending a tenement-house prayer-meeting, nor preaching, nor
working in a mission, nor doing anything in the Church, but going to
its service and paying my pew rent, and sometimes a little something
over to make up a deficiency. The fact is every day in the week I
have my breakfast an hour before you do, and am off to the factory.
I never get home till six o'clock, sometimes not then. My day's work
uses up my day's energies. I can't go out to a tenement-house
prayer-meeting, or to tract distribution in the evening. I can
hardly keep awake in our own church prayer-meeting. If it were not
for Sunday's rest my work would kill me in a year. I sometimes think
that perhaps I am devoting too much of my time to money-making. But
what shall I do? There are four hundred workmen in the factory. Most
of them have families. All of those families are really dependent on
me for their daily bread. It takes all my life's energies to keep
them employed. Shall I leave that work to take hold of tenement-
house visitation and tract distribution?"

Mr. Lane replied promptly that Mr. Sower was to do no such thing.
"Your factory," said he, "is your field. That is the work God has
given you to do. It is your parish. Do not leave it for another--only
do not forget that you have to give an account of your parochial
charge. You are to study, not how to get the most money out of your
four hundred workmen, but how to do them the most good. That is
Christian duty for you. But your case is very peculiar. There is not
one man in a thousand situated as you are."

Then I began to think that perhaps my law office was my field. It
gives me enough to do I am sure. We are not all drones who are not
working for the Church. There is a work for Christ outside. And I do
not want to take a Sabbath-school class. I want Sunday mornings to
myself. Every other morning I have to be an early riser. I do enjoy
being lazy Sunday morning.

But then there is that class of young men from the mill. Deacon
Goodsole says they don't know anything. He has no one who can manage
them. And Mr. Work thinks it's a dreadful sin, I do not doubt, that
I do not take it at once. I do not care much for that. But Jennie
says I am just the one to manage these boys if I feel like
undertaking it. And I would like to prove her good opinion of me
true.

I was just in that perplexity when night before last a meeting on
behalf of the City Mission Society was held here. Mr. Mingins, the
Superintendent of city missions, was one of the speakers.

He made an earnest and at times a really eloquent speech. He would
have made a splendid jury lawyer. He depicted in the most lively
colors the wretched condition of the outcast population of New York.
With all the eloquence of a warm heart, made more attractive by his
broad Scotch, he pled with us to take an active part in their
amelioration. "Pure religion and undefiled, before God and the
Father, is this," cried he, "to visit the fatherless and widows in
their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

I resolved to take up that class of Mission boys straightways. But
as I came out I met Hattie Bridgeman. She is an old friend of
Jennie's and has had a hard, hard life. Her husband is an invalid.
Her children are thrown on her for support. As I met her at the door
she pressed my hand without speaking. I could see by the trembling
lip and the tearful eye, that her heart was full. "I wish I had not
come to-night," she said, as we walked along together. "Such stories
make my heart bleed. It seems as though I ought to go right out to
visit the sick, comfort the afflicted, care for the neglected. But
what can I do? My children are dependent on me. These six weeks at
Wheathedge are my only vacation. The rest of the time I am teaching
music from Monday morning till Saturday night. Sunday, when I ought
to rest, is my most exhausting day. For then I sing in church. If I
were to leave my scholars my children would starve. How can I do
anything for my Savior?"

It was very plain that she was to serve her Savior in the music
lesson as indeed she does. For she goes into every house as a
missionary. She carries the spirit of Christ in her heart. His joy
is radiant in her face. She preaches the Gospel in houses where
neighborhood prayer-meetings cannot be held, in households which
tract-distributors never enter. The street that needs Gospel
visitation most is Fifth avenue. That is in her district. And,
nobly, though unconsciously, she fulfils her mission. More than one
person I have heard say, "If to be a Christian is to be like Mrs.
Bridgeman, I wish I were one." Our pastor preaches no such effective
sermons as does she by her gentleness, her geniality, her patience,
her long suffering with joyfulness. And when the Sabbath comes, her
voice, though it leads the service of song in a fashionable city
church, expresses the ardor of her Christian heart, and is fraught
with quite as true devotion as the prayers of her pastor.

Something like this Jennie told her as we walked along from church;
and she left us comforted. And I was a little comforted too. It is
very clear, is it not, that we are not all drones who are not at
work in the church. There are other fields than the Sabbath-school.

Do I carry Christ into my law office, and into the court-room, as
Mrs. Bridgeman does into the parlor and the chair? That is the first
point to be settled. The other comes up afterward. But it does
persist in coming up. It is not settled yet. Will it hurt my Sunday
to take that class for an hour? I doubt it.

I must talk it over with Jennie and see what she really thinks about
it.



CHAPTER VII.

The Field is the World.



LAST evening before I had found an opportunity to talk it over with
Jennie, Dr. Argure and Deacon Goodsole called. I suspect the
deacon's conscience had been quickened even more than mine
respecting my duty to that mission class by Mr. Minging's address.
For I have noticed that our consciences are apt to be quickened by
sermons and addresses more respecting our neighbors' duties even
than respecting our own.

Dr. Argure had come down the day before from Newtown to attend the
city mission meeting. He is a very learned man. At least I suppose
he is, for everybody says so. He is at all events a very sonorous
man. He has a large vocabulary of large words, and there are a great
many people who cannot distinguish between great words and great
thoughts. I do not mean to impugn his intellectual capital when I
say that he does a very large credit business. In sailing on lake
Superior you can sometimes see the rocky bottom 30 or 40 feet below
the surface--the water is so clear. You never can see the bottom of
Dr. Argure's sermons. Perhaps it is because they are so deep; I
sometimes think it is because they are so muddy. Still he really is
an able man, and knows the books, and knows how to turn his
knowledge to a good account. Last summer he preached a sermon at
Wheathedge, on female education. He told us about female education
among the Greeks, and the Romans, and the Hebrews, and the Persians,
and the Egyptians--though not much about it in America of to-day. But
it was a learned discourse--at least I suppose so. Three weeks after,
I met the President of the Board of Trustees of the Polltown Female
Seminary, I mentioned incidentally that I was spending the summer at
Wheathedge.

"You have got a strong man up there somewhere," said he, "that Dr.
Argure, of Newtown. He delivered an address before our seminary last
week on female education; full of learning sir, full of learning. We
put him right on our Board of Trustees. Next year I think we shall
make him President."

A month or so after I found in the weekly Watch Tower an
editorial,--indeed I think there were three in successive numbers--on
female education. They had a familiar sound, and happening to meet
the editor, I spoke of them.

"Yes," said he "they are by Dr. Argure. A very learned man that sir.
Does an immense amount of work too. He is one of our editorial
contributors as perhaps you see, and an able man, very learned sir.
Those are very original and able articles sir."

This fall I took up the Adriatic Magazine, and there what should my
eye fall on but an article on female education. I did not read it;
but the papers assured their readers that it was a learned and
exhaustive discussion on the whole subject by that scholarly and
erudite writer, Dr. Argure. And having heard this asserted so often,
I began to think that it certainly must be true. And then in January
I received a pamphlet on female education by Dr. Argure. It was
addressed to the Board of Education, and demanded a higher course of
training for woman, and was a learned and exhaustive discussion of
the whole subject from the days of Moses down.

"An able man that Dr. Argure," said Mr. Wheaton to me the other day
referring to that same pamphlet.

"Yes, I think he is," I could not help saying. "I think he can stir
more puddings with one pudding stick than any other man I know."

Still he stirs them pretty well. And if he can do it I do not know
that there is any objection.

But if I do not believe in Dr. Argure quite as fully as some less
sceptical members of his congregation do, Deacon Goodsole believes
in him most implicitly. Deacon Goodsole is a believer--not I mean in
anything in particular, but generally. He likes to believe; he
enjoys it; he does it, not on evidence, but on general principles.
The deacons of the stories are all crabbed, gnarled, and
cross-grained. They are the terrors of the little boys, and the
thorn in the flesh to the minister. But Deacon Goodsole is the most
cheery, bright, and genial of men. He is like a streak of sunshine.
He sensibly radiates the prayer-meeting, which would be rather cold
except for him. The little boys always greet him with a "How do you
do Deacon," and always get a smile, and a nod, and sometimes a stick
of candy or a little book in return. His over-coat pockets are
always full of some little books or tracts, and always of the bright
and cheery description. Always full, I said; but that is a mistake;
when he gets home at night they are generally empty. For he goes out
literally as a sower went out to sow, I do not believe there is a
child within five miles of Wheathedge that has not had one of the
Deacon's little books.

I suspected that the Deacon had come partly to talk with me about
that Bible class, and I resolved to give him an opportunity. So I
opened the way at once.

Laicus.:

--Well Deacon, how are church affairs coining on; pretty smoothly;
salary paid up at last?

Deacon Goodsole.:

--Yes, Mr. Laicus; and we're obliged to you for it too. I don't think
the parson would have got his money but for you.

Laicus.:

--Not at all, Deacon. Thank my wife, not me. She was righteously
indignant at the church for leaving its minister unpaid so long. If
I were the parson I would clear out that Board of Trustees and put
in a new one, made up wholly of women.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--That's not a bad idea. I believe the women would make a deal better
Board than the present one.

Dr. Argure: [(with great solemnity).]

--Mr. Laicus, have you considered the Scriptural teachings concerning
the true relations and sphere of women in the church of Christ. The
apostle says very distinctly that he does not suffer a woman to
teach or to usurp authority over the man, and it is very clear that
to permit the female members of the church to occupy such offices as
those you have indicated would be to suffer her to usurp that
authority which the Scripture reposes alone in the head--that is in
man.

Laicus: [(naively).]

--Does the Scripture really say that women must not teach?

Dr. Argure.:

--Most certainly it does, sir. The apostle is very explicit on that
point, very explicit. And I hold, sir, that for women to preach, or
to speak in public, or in the prayer-meeting of the church, is a
direct violation of the plain precepts of the inspired word.

Laicus.:

--I wonder you have any women teach in your Sabbath School? Or have
you turned them all out?

Mrs. Laicus,: [(who evidently wishes to change the conversation).]

--How do affairs go on in the work of your church.

Dr. Argure,: [(who is not unwilling that it should be changed).]

--But slowly, madam. There is not that readiness and zeal in the work
of the church, which I would wish to see. There are many fruitless
branches on the tree, Mrs. Laicus, many members of my church who do
nothing really to promote its interests. They are not to be found in
the Sabbath School; they cannot be induced to participate actively
in tract distribution; and they are even not to be depended on in
the devotional week-day meetings of the church.

Deacon Goodsole,: [(who always goes straight to the point).]

--Mr. Laicus here needs a little touching up on that point, Doctor;
and I am glad you are here to do it. How as to that Bible class, Mr.
Laicus, that I spoke to you about week before last? There are four
or five young men from the barrow factory in the Sabbath School now.
But they have no teacher. I am sure if you could see your way clear
to take that class you would very soon have as many more. There are
some thirty of them that rarely or never come to church. And as for
me, I can't get at them. They are mostly unbelievers. Mr. Gear
himself, the superintendent, is a regular out and out infidel. And I
never could do anything with unbelievers.

Laicus.:

--Deacon, I wish I could. But I am very busy all through the week,
and I really don't see how I can take this work up on Sunday. Beside
it would require some week-day work in addition.

Dr. Argure.:

--No man can be too busy to serve the Lord, Mr. Laicus; certainly no
professed disciple of the Lord. The work of the church, Mr. Laicus,
is before every other work in its transcendant importance.

Laicus.:

--I don't know about that. Seems to me, I have seen somewhere that if
a man does not provide for his own family he is worse than an
infidel.

Dr. Argure,: [(putting this response away from him majestically).]

--It is unfortunately too common an excuse even with professors of
religion that they are too busy to serve in the work of the Lord.
There is for example the instance of Dr. Curall. He was elected at
my suggestion last summer as an elder in our church. But he declined
the office, which the apostle declares to be honorable, and of such
a character that if it be well used they who employ it purchase to
themselves a good degree. Alas! that it should be so frequently so--
ourselves first and Christ afterwards.

Laicus.:

--Is that quite fair Dr? Must Dr. Curall be put down as refusing to
follow the Master because he refuses to leave the duties of his
profession which he is doing well, to take on those of a church
office which he might do but poorly? May not he who goes about
healing the sick be following Christ as truly as he who preaches the
Gospel to the poor? Is the one to be accused of serving the world
any more because of his fees than the other because of his salary?
Can an elder do any more to carry the Gospel of Christ to the sick
bed and the house of mourning than a Christian physician, if he is
faithful as a Christian?

Dr. Argure shook his head but made no response.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--That may do very well in the case of a doctor, Mr. Laicus. But I
don't see how it applies in your case, or in that of farmer Faragon,
or in that of Typsel the printer or in that of Sole the boot-maker,
or in that of half a score of people I could name, who are doing
nothing in the church except pay their pew rent.

Laicus.:

--Suppose you pass my case for the moment, and take the others. Take
farmer Faragon for example. He has a farm of three hundred acres. It
keeps him busy all the week. He works hard, out of doors, all day.
When evening comes he gets his newspaper, sits down by the fire and
pretends to read. But I have noticed that he rarely reads ten
minutes before he drops asleep. When he comes to church the same
phenomenon occurs. He cannot resist the soporific tendencies of the
furnaces. By the time Mr. Work gets fairly into secondly, Farmer
Faragon is sound asleep. So he does not even listen to the
preaching. Is he then a drone? Suppose you make a calculation how
many mouths he feeds indirectly by the products of his farm. I
cannot even guess. But I know nothing ever goes from it that is not
good. The child is happy that drinks his milk, the butcher fortunate
who buys his beef, the housewife well off who has his apples and
potatoes in her cellar. He never sends a doubtful article to market;
never a short weight or a poor measure. I think that almost every
one who deals with him recognizes in him a Christian man. He does
not work in Sunday School, it is true, but he has brought more than
one farm hand into it. Christ fed five thousand by the sea of
Galilee with five loaves and two small fishes. Was that Christian?
Farmer Faragon, feeds, in his small way, by his industry, a few
scores of hungry mortals. Is he a drone?

Or take Mr. Typsel the printer. He publishes the Newtown Chronicle.
He sends a weekly message to 10,000 readers, at least twenty times
as many as Dr. Argure's congregation. I do not know how good a
Christian he is; I do not know much about the Newtown Chronicle. But
I know that the press is exerting an incalculable influence over the
people, for good or for ill and the man who devotes his energies to
it, and really uses it to educate and elevate the community, is
doing as much in his sphere for Christ as the minister in his. He
has no right to neglect the greater work God has given him to do for
the lesser work of teaching a Sabbath School class.

Jennie.:

--That is if he cannot well do both.

Laicus.:

--Yes--of course. If he can do both, that is very well.

Dr. Argure.:

--That's a very dangerous doctrine Mr. Laicus.

Laicus,: [(warmly).]

--If it is true it is not dangerous. The truth is never dangerous.

Dr. Argure.:

--The truth is not to be spoken at all times.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--That's a very unnecessary doctrine, Dr., to teach to a lawyer.

Dr. Argure,: [(indifferent alike to the sally and to the laugh
which follows it).]

--Consider, Mr. Laicus, what would be the effect on the church of
preaching that doctrine. It is our duty to build up the church. It
is the church which is the pillar and ground of the truth. It is the
church which is Christ's great instrumentality for the conversion of
the world. When the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of
our Lord and of his Christ, then the church will have universal
dominion. Here in Wheathedge, for example, Mr. Work is laboring to
build up and strengthen the church of Christ. And you tell his
people and the people of hundreds of similar parishes all over the
land, that it is no matter whether they do any work in the church or
not. Consider the effect of it.

Laicus.:

--It seems to me, Dr., that you entertain a low, though a very
common, conception of your office. The ministers are not mere
builders of churches. They are set to build men. The church which
will have universal dominion is not this or that particular
organization, but the whole body of those who love the truth as it
is in Christ Jesus. Churches, creeds, covenants, synods, assemblies,
associations, will all fade; the soul alone is immortal. If you are
really building for eternity you cannot merely build churches.

Dr. Argure.:

--Consider then, Mr. Laicus, the effect of your doctrine on the
hearts and souls of men. Consider how many idle and indifferent
professors of religion there are, who are doing nothing in the
church, and nothing for the church. And you tell them that it is
just as well they should not; that they are just as worthy of honor
as if they were active in the Lords vineyard?

Laicus.:

--It is just as well if they are really serving Christ. It does not
make any difference whether they are doing it in the church or out
of the church. Christ himself served chiefly out of the church, and
had it arrayed against him. So did Paul; so did Luther.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--Do you mean that it makes no difference, Mr. Laicus, whether a man
is a member of the church or not?

Laicus.:

--Not at all. That is quite another matter. I am speaking of church
work, not of church membership; and I insist that church work and
Christian work are not necessarily synonymous. I insist that
whatever tends to make mankind better, nobler, wiser, permanently
happier, if it is work carried on in the spirit of Christ is work
for Christ, whether it is done in the church or out of the church. I
insist that every layman is bound to do ten-fold more for Christ out
of the church than in its appointed ways and under its supervision.
I have read, Dr., with a great deal of interest your learned and
exhaustive treatise on the higher education of women, (I am afraid I
told a little lie there; but had not the Dr. just told me that the
truth was not to be told at all times), but I declare to you, that
so far as the elevation of woman is concerned, I would rather have
invented the sewing machine than have been the author of all the
sermons, addresses, magazine articles, editorials and pamphlets on
the woman question that have been composed since Paul wrote his
second Epistle to the Christians.

Dr. Argure,: [(shaking his head).]

--It is a dangerous doctrine, Mr. Laicus, a dangerous doctrine. You
do not consider its effect on the minds of the common people.

Laicus,: [(thoroughly aroused and thoroughly in earnest).]

--Do you consider the influence of the opposite teaching, both on the
church and on the individual? We are building churches, you tell us.
The "outsiders," as we call them, very soon understand that. They
see that we are on the look-out for men who can build us up, not for
men whom we can build up. If a wealthy man comes into the
neighborhood, we angle for him. If a devout, active, praying
Christian moves into the neighborhood, we angle for him. If a
drunken loafer drops down upon us, does anybody ever angle for him?
If a poor, forlorn widow, who has to work from Monday morning till
Saturday night, comes to dwell under the shadow of our church, do we
angle for her? Yes! I am glad to believe we do. But the shrewdness,
the energy, the tact, is displayed in the other kind of fishing.
Don't you suppose "the world" understand this? Don't you suppose our
Mr. Wheaton understands what we want him in the board of trustees
for? Such men interpret our invitation--and they are not very
wrong--as, come with us and do us good; not, come with us and we will
do you good.

Consider, too, its effect on the individual. I attended a morning
prayer meeting last winter in the city. A young man told his
experience. He started in the morning, he said, to go to the store.
But it seemed as though the Lord bid him retrace his steps. A voice
within seemed to say to him, "Your duty is at the prayer meeting."
The battle between Christ and the world was long and bitter. Christ
at length prevailed. He had come to the prayer meeting. He wanted to
tell the brethren what Christ had done for his soul. The experience
may have been genuine. It may have been his duty to leave the store
for the church that particular morning. But what is the effect of a
training which teaches a young man to consider all the time he gives
to the store as time appropriated to the world? It is that he can
serve both God and mammon; that he actually does. It draws a sharp
line between the sacred and secular. And most of his life is
necessarily the secular.

I forgot to mention that Mrs. Goodsole had come over with her
husband. She and Jennie sat side by side. But she had not opened her
mouth since the salutations of the evening had been interchanged.
She is the meekest and mildest of women. She is also the most timed.
In public she rarely speaks. But it is currently reported that she
avenges herself for her silence by the curtain lectures, she
delivers to her good husband at home. Of that, however, I cannot be
sure. I speak only of rumor. Now she took advantage of a pause to
say:

Mrs. Goodsole.:

--I like Mr. Laicus's doctrine. It's very comforting to a woman like
me who am so busy at home that I can hardly get out to church on
Sundays.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--I don't believe it's true. Yes I do too. But I don't believe it's
applicable. That is--well what I mean to say--I can't express myself
exactly, but my idea is this, that the people that won't work in the
church are the very ones that do nothing out of it. The busy ones
are busy everywhere. There is Mr. Line, for example. He has a large
farm. He keeps a summer hotel, two houses always full; and they are
capitally kept houses. That, of itself, is enough to keep any man
busy. The whole burden of both hotel and farm rests on his
shoulders. And yet he is elder and member of the board of trustees,
and on hand, in every kind of exigency, in the church. He is one of
the public school commissioners, is active in getting new roads laid
out, and public improvements introduced, is the real founder of our
new academy, and, in short, has a hand in every good work that is
ever undertaken in Wheathedge. And there is Dr. Curall, whose case
Mr. Laicus has advocated so eloquently and who is too busy to be an
elder; and I verily believe I could count all his patients on the
fingers of my two hands.

Mrs. Goodsole,: [(inclined to agree with everybody, and so to live
at peace and amity with all mankind).]

--There is something in that. There is Mrs. Wheaton who has only one
child, a grown up boy, and who keeps three or four servants to take
care of herself and her husband and her solitary son, and she is
always too busy to do anything in the church.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--On the other hand there is not a busier person in the church than
Miss Moore. She supports herself and her widowed mother by teaching.
She is in school from nine till three, and gives private lessons
three evenings in the week, and yet she finds time to visit all the
sick in the neighborhood. And when last year we held a fair to raise
money for an organ for the Sabbath school, she was the most active
and indefatigable worker among them all. Mrs. Bisket was the only
one who compared with her. And Mrs. Bisket keeps a summer
boarding-house, and it was the height of the season, and she only
had one girl part of the time.

Dr. Argure rose to go, Deacon Goodsole followed his example. There
were a few minutes of miscellaneous conversation as the gentlemen
put on their coats. As we followed them to the library door Deacon
Goodsole turned to me:--

"But you have not given me your answer yet, Mr. Laicus," said he.

Before I could give it, Jennie had drawn her arm through mine, and
looking up into my face for assent had answered for me. "He will
think of it, Mr. Goodsole," said she. "He never decides any question
of importance without sleeping on it."

I have been thinking of it. I am sure that I am right in my belief
that there are many ways of working for Christ beside working for
the church. I am sure the first thing is for us to work for Christ
in our daily, secular affairs. I am sure that all are not drones who
are not buzzing in the ecclesiastical hive. But I am not so sure
that I have not time to take that Bible-class. I am not so sure that
the busy ones in the church are not also the busy ones out of the
church. I remember that when Mr. James Harper was hard at work
establishing the business of Harper & Brothers, which has grown to
such immense proportions since, at the very time he was working
night as well as day to expedite publications, he was a trustee and
class-leader in John Street Methodist Church, and rarely missed the
sessions of the board or the meetings of the class. I remember that
Mr. Hatch, the famous banker, was almost the founder of the Jersey
City Tabernacle Church, and his now President of the Howard Mission.
Yet I suppose there is not a busier man in Wall street. I remember
that Wm. E. Dodge, jr., and Morris K. Jessup, than whom there are
few men more industrious, commercially, are yet both active in City
Missions and in the Young Men's Christian Association; the former is
an elder in an up-town church, and very active in Sabbath School
work. I remember Ralph Wells, bishop of all the Presbyterian Sabbath
Schools for miles around New York, who was, until lately, active in
daily business in the city. Yes I am sure that hard work in the week
is not always a good reason for refusing to work in the church on
the Sabbath.

"Jennie, I am going to try that Bible class, as an experiment, for
the winter."

"I am glad of it, John."



CHAPTER VIII.

Mr. Gear.



"JENNIE," said I, "Harry and I are going out for our walk."

It was Sunday afternoon. I had enjoyed my usual Sunday afternoon
nap, and now I was going out for my usual Sunday afternoon walk.
Only this afternoon I had a purpose beside that of an hour's
exercise in the fresh air.

"I wish I could go with you John," said Jennie, "but it's Fanny's
afternoon out, and I can't leave the baby. Where are you going?"

"Up to the mill village, to see Mr. Gear," said I. "I am going to
ask him to join the Bible class."

"Why John he's an infidel I thought."

"So they say," I replied. "But it can't do an infidel any harm to
study the Bible. I may not succeed; I probably shan't; but I
certainly shan't if I don't try."

"I wish I could do something to help you John. And I think I can. I
can pray for you. Perhaps that will help you?"

Help me. With the assurance of those prayers I walked along the road
with a new confidence of hope. Before I had dreaded my errand, now I
was in haste for the interview. I believe in the intercession of the
saints; and Jennie is a--but I forget. The public are rarely
interested in a man's opinion about his own wife.

The mill village, as we call it, is a little collection of cottages
with one or two houses of a somewhat more pretentious character,
which gather round the wheel-barrow factory down the river, a good
mile's walk from the church. It was a bright afternoon in October.
The woods were in the glory of their radiant death, the air was
crisp and keen. Harry who now ran before, now loitered behind, and
now walked sedately by my side, was full of spirits, and there was
everything to make the soul feel hope and courage. And yet I had my
misgivings. When I had told Deacon Goodsole that I was going to call
on Mr. Gear he exclaimed at my proposition.

"Why he's a regular out and outer. He does not believe in
anything--Church, Bible, Sunday, Christ, God or even his own
immortality."

"What do you know of him?" I asked.

"He was born in New England," replied the Deacon, "brought up in an
orthodox family, taught to say the Westminster Assembly's Catechism
(he can say it better than I can today), and listened twice every
Sunday till he was eighteen to good sound orthodox preaching. Then
he left home and the church together; and he has never been to
either, to remain, since."

"Does he ever go to church?" I asked.

The Deacon shrugged his shoulders. "I asked him that question myself
the other day," said he. "You never go to church, Mr. Gear, I
believe?" said I.

"Oh! yes I do," he replied. "I go home every Christmas to spend a
week. And at home I always go to church for the sake of the old
folks. At Wheathedge I always stay away for my own sake."

"And what do you know of his theology?" said I.

"Theology," said the Deacon; "he hasn't any. His creed is the
shortest and simplest one I know of. I tried to have a religious
conversation with him once but I had to give it up. I could make
nothing out of him. He said he believed in the existence of a God.
But he scouted the idea that we could know anything about Him. He
was rather inclined to think there was a future life; but nobody
knew anything about it. All that we could know was that if we are
virtuous in this life we shall be happy in the next--if there is a
next."

"He does not believe that the gates are wide open there," said I.

"No," said the Deacon; "nor ajar either."

"And what does he say of Christ and Christianity," said I.

"Of Jesus Christ," said the Deacon, "that--well--probably such a man
lived, and was a very pure and holy man, and a very remarkable
teacher, certainly for his age a very remarkable teacher. But he
ridicules the idea of the miracles; says he does not believe them
any more than he believes in the mythical legends of Greek and Roman
literature. And as to Christianity he believes its a very good
sort of thing, better for America than any other religion; but he
rather thinks Buddhism is very likely better for India."

"But I wish you would go and see him," continued the Deacon.
"Perhaps you can make something out of him. I can't. I have tried
again and again, and I always get the worst of it. He is well read,
I assure you, and keen as--as," the Deacon failed in his search for a
simile and closed his sentence with--"a great deal keener than I am.
He's a real good fellow, but he doesn't believe in anything. There
is no use in quoting Scripture, because he thinks it's nothing but a
collection of old legends. I once tried to argue the question of
inspiration with him. 'Deacon,' said he to me, 'suppose a father
should start off one fine morning to carry his son up to the top of
Huricane Hill and put him to death there, and should pretend he had
a revelation from God to do it, what would you do to him?' 'Put him
in the insane asylum,' said I. 'Exactly,' said he. 'My boys came
home from your Sabbath School the other Sunday full of the sacrifice
of Isaac, and Will, who takes after his father, asked me if I didn't
think it was cruel for God to tell a father to kill his own son.
What could I say? I don't often interfere, because it troubles my
wife so. But I couldn't stand that, and I told him very frankly that
I didn't believe the story, and if it was true I thought Abraham was
crazy.' He had me there, you know," continued the Deacon, good-
naturedly, "but then I never was good for anything in discussion. I
wish you would go to see him, may be you would bring him to terms."

And so I was going now, not without misgivings, and with no great
faith in any capacity on my part to "bring him to terms," as the
Deacon phrased it, but buoyed up a good deal, notwithstanding, by
the remembrance of those promised prayers.

And yet though Mr. Gear is an infidel he is not a bad man. Even Dr.
Argure, and he is fearfully sound on the doctrine of total
depravity, admits that there are some good traits about him,
"natural virtues" he is careful to explain, not "saving graces."

Of his thorough, incorruptible honesty, no man ever intimated a
doubt. In every business transaction he is the soul of honor. His
word is a great deal better than Jim Wheaton's bond.

In every good work he is a leader. When the new school-house was to
be built, Mr. Gear was put, by an almost unanimous consent, upon the
Board, and made its treasurer. When, last Fall, rumors were rife of
the mismanagement of the Poor-house, Mr. Gear was the one to demand
an investigation, and, being put upon the Committee, to push through
against a good deal of opposition, till he secured the reform that
was needed. In his shop there is not a man whose personal history he
does not know, not one who does not count him a personal friend.
That there has not been a strike for ten years is due to the
workmen's personal faith in him. When Robert Dale was caught in the
shafting and killed last winter, it was Mr. Gear who paid the
widow's rent out of his own pocket, got the eldest son a place on a
farm, and carried around personally a subscription to provide for
the family, after starting it handsomely himself. He is appointed to
arbitrate in half the incipient quarrels of the neighborhood, and
settles more controversies, I am confident, than his neighbor,
Squire Hodgson, though the latter is a Justice of the Peace. There
is always difficulty in collecting our pew rents. Half the church
members are from one week to one quarter behind-hand. Mr. Gear has a
pew for his family, and his pew-rent is always paid before it
becomes due. The Deacon tells me confidentially, that Mr. Work does
not think it prudent to preach against intemperance because Jim
Wheaton always has wine on his table New Year's day. Mr. Gear is the
head of the Good Templars, and has done more to circulate the pledge
among the workmen of the town than all the rest of us put together.
He is naturally an intensely passionate man, and I am told rips out
an oath now and then. But that he is vigorously laboring with
himself to control his temper is very evident, and it is equally
evident, so at least the Deacon says, that he is gaining a victory
in this life-campaign.

"It is very clear," said I to myself, as I walked along, "that there
are some good points in Mr. Gear's character. He must have a side
where Christian truth could get in, if one could only find it; where
indeed it does get in, though he thinks, and every one else thinks,
it does not. Be it my task to find the place."



CHAPTER IX.

I get my first Bible Scholar.



A pretty little cottage-white, with green blinds; the neatest of
neat fences; a little platform in front of the sidewalk with three
steps leading up to it,--a convenient method of access to our high
country carriages; two posts before the gate neatly turned, a
trellis over the front door with a climbing rose which has mounted
half way to the top and stopped to rest for the season; another
trellis fan-shaped behind which a path disappears that leads round
to the kitchen door; the tastiest of little bird houses, now
tenantless and desolate,--this is the picture that meets my eye and
assures me that Mr. Gear is a man both of taste and thrift, as
indeed he is.

Mrs. Gear who comes to the door in answer to my knock and who is a
cheerful little body with yet a tinge of sadness in her countenance,
as one who knows some secret sorrow which her blithe heart cannot
wholly sing away, is very glad to see me. She calls me by my name
and introduces herself with a grace that is as much more graceful
as it is more natural than the polished and stately manners which
Mrs. Wheaton has brought with her from fashionable society to
Wheathedge. Mr. Gear is out, he has gone down to the shop,--will I
walk in,--he will be back directly. I am very happy to walk in, and
Mrs. Gear introducing me to a cozy little sitting-room with a
library table in the centre, and a book-case on one side, well
filled too, takes Harry by the hand, and leads him out to introduce
him to the great Newfoundland dog whom we saw basking in the
sunshine on the steps of the side door, as we came up the road.

I am accustomed to judge of men by their companions, and books are
companions. So whenever I am in a parlor alone I always examine the
book-case, or the centre table--if there is one. In Mrs. Wheaton's
parlor I find no book-case, but a large centre table on which there
are several annuals with a great deal of gilt binding and very
little reading, and a volume or two of plates, sometimes handsome,
more often showy. In the library, which opens out of the parlor, I
find sets of the classic authors in library bindings, but when I
take one down it betrays the fact that no other hand has touched it
to open it before. And I know that Jim Wheaton buys books to furnish
his house, just as he buys wall paper and carpets. At Mr. Hardcap's
I find a big family Bible, and half a dozen of those made up volumes
fat with thick paper and large type, and showy with poor pictures,
which constitute the common literature of two thirds of our country
homes. And I know that poor Mr. Hardcap is the unfortunate victim of
book agents. At Deacon Goodsole's I always see some school books
lying in admirable confusion on the sitting-room table. And I know
that Deacon Goodsole has children, and that they bring their books
home at night to do some real studying, and that they do it in the
family sitting-room and get help now and then from father and from
mother. And so while I am waiting for Mr. Gear I take a furtive
glance at his well filled shelves. I am rather surprized to find in
his little library so large a religious element, though nearly all
of it heterodox. There is a complete edition of Theodore Parker's
works, Channing's works, a volume or two of Robertson, one of
Furness, the English translation of Strauss' Life of Christ, Renan's
Jesus, and half a dozen more similar books, intermingled with
volumes of history, biography, science, travels, and the New
American Cyclopedia. The Radical and the Atlantic Monthly are on the
table. The only orthodox book is Beecher's Sermons,--and I believe
Dr. Argure says they are not orthodox; the only approach to fiction
is one of Oliver Wendell Holmes' books, I do not now remember which
one. "Well," said I to myself, "whatever this man is, he is not
irreligious."

I had just arrived at this conclusion when Mr. Gear entered. A tall,
thin, nervous man, with a high forehead, piercing black eyes, and a
restless uneasiness that forbids him from ever being for a moment
still. Now he runs his hand through his hair pushing it still
further back from his dome of a head, now he drums the table with
his uneasy fingers, now he crosses and uncrosses his long legs, and
once, as our conversation grows animated, he rises from his seat in
the vehemence of his earnestness, and leans against the mantel
piece. A clear-eyed, frank faced, fine looking man, who would compel
your heed if you met him anywhere, unknown, by chance, on the public
street. "An infidel you may be," I say to myself, "but not a bad
man; on the contrary a man with much that is true and noble, or I am
no physiognomist or phrenologist either." And I rather pride myself
on being both.

We lawyers learn to study the faces of our witnesses, to form quick
judgments, and to act upon them. If I did not mistake my man the
directest method was the best, and I employed it.

"Mr. Gear," said I, "I have come to ask you to join my Bible class."

"Me!" said Mr. Gear unmistakeably surprised. "I don't believe in the
Bible."

"So I have heard," I said quietly. "And that's the reason I came to
you first. In fact I do not want you to join my Bible class. I have
not got any Bible class as yet, I want you to join me in getting one
up."

Mr. Gear smiled incredulously. "You had better get Deacon Goodsole,"
said he,--"or," and the smile changed from a goodnatured to a
sarcastic one, "or Mr. Hardcap."

"I have no doubt they would either of them join me," said I. "But
they believe substantially as I have been taught to believe about
the Bible. They have learned to look at it through creeds, and
catechisms, and orthodox preaching. I want to get a fresh look at
it. I want to come to it as I would come to any other book, and to
find out what it means, not what it seems to mean to a man who has
been bred to believe that it is only the flesh and blood of which
the dry bones are the Westminster Assembly's Catechism."

"Mr. Laicus," said Mr. Gear, "I thank you for the honor you do me.
But I don't believe in the Bible. I don't believe it's the word of
God any more than Homer or Tacitus. I don't believe those old
Hebrews knew any more than we do--nor half so much. It says the world
was made in six days. I think it more likely it was six millions of
years in making."

"So do I," said I.

"It says God rested on the Sabbath day. I believe He always works,
day and night, summer and winter, in every blazing fire, in every
gathering storm, in every rushing river, in every growing flower, in
every falling leaf."

He rose as he spoke and stood, now leaning against the mantel piece,
now standing erect, his dark eyes flashing, his great forehead
seeming to expand with great thoughts, his soul all enkindled with
his own eloquence: for eloquent he really was, and all unconscious
of it.

"Your Bible," said he "shuts God up in a Temple, and in an ark in
that, and hides him behind curtains where the High priest can find
him but once a year. My God is every where. There is no church that
can hold him. The heavens are his home; the earth is his footstool.
All this bright and beautiful world is his temple. He is in every
mountain, in every cloud, in every winter wind and every summer
breeze."

He looked so handsome in his earnest eloquence that I had no heart
to interrupt him. And yet I waited and watched for any opening he
might give me, and thought of Jennie, and her prayers at home, and
declared to myself by God's help I would not let this man go till I
had caught him and brought him to know the love that now he knew
not.

"Your Bible, Mr. Laicus," said he, "sets apart one day for the Lord
and gives all the rest to the world, the flesh, and the devil. I
believe all days are divine, all days are the Lord's, all hours are
sacred hours and all ground is holy ground."

I wanted to tell him that my Bible did no such thing. But I had
fully considered what I would do before I had sought this interview.
I had resolved that nothing should tempt me into a contradiction or
an argument. I had studied Jennie's method, and I reserved my fire.

"Your Bible tells me," said he, "that God wrote his laws with his
finger on two tables of stone; that he tried to preserve them from
destruction by bidding them be kept in a sacred ark; and that
despite his care they were broken in pieces before Moses got down
from the mountain top. I believe he writes them impartially in
nature and in our hearts, that science interprets them, and that no
Moses astonished out of his presence of mind can harm them or break
the tablets on which they are engraven."

So true, yet oh so false. Oh God! help me to teach him what my Bible
really is and what its glorious teachings are.

"I don't believe the Bible is the Word of God. I can't believe it. I
don't believe the laws of Moses are any more inspired than the laws
of Solon, or the books of Samuel and Kings than the history of
Tacitus, or the Psalms of David than the Paradise Lost of Milton,
or--you'll think me bold indeed to say so Mr. Laicus," (he was cooler
now and spoke more slowly), "the words of Jesus, than the precepts
of Confucius or the dialogues of Plato."

In that sentence he gave to me my clue. I seized it instantly, and
never lost it from that moment. Never case in court so thrilled me
with excitement as I too arose and leaned against the mantel-piece.
And never was I, in tone and manner, calmer.

"As much so?" I asked carelessly.

"Yes....." said he, hesitatingly, "yes..... as much so I suppose."

"The ten commandments have been before the world for over three
thousand years," said I. "The number that have learned them and
accepted them as a guide, and found in them a practical help is to
be counted by millions. There is hardly a child in Wheathedge that
does not know something of them, and has not been made better for
them; and hardly a man who knows Solon even by name. We can hardly
doubt that the one is as well worth studying as the other, Mr.
Gear."

"No," said Mr. Gear. "I don't deny that they are worth studying. But
I do deny that they are inspired."

"The Psalms of David have supplied the Christian church with its
best psalmody for nearly three thousand years," continued I. "They
constitute the reservoir from which Luther, and Watts, and Wesley,
and Doddridge, and a host of other singers have drawn their
inspiration, and in which myriads untold have found the expression
of their highest and holiest experiences, myriads who never heard of
Homer. They are surely as well worth studying as his noble epics."

"I don't deny, they are worth studying," said Mr. Gear. "I only
assert that they ought to be studied as any other books of noble
thoughts, intermingled with grossest errors, should be studied."

"The words of Jesus," I continued more slowly than before "have
changed the life and character of more than half the world, that
half which alone possesses modern civilization, that half with which
you and I, Mr. Gear, are most concerned. There was wonderful power
in the doctrines of Buddha. But Buddhism has relapsed everywhere
into the grossest of idolatries. There is a wonderful wealth of
moral truth in the ethics of Confucius. But the ethics of Confucius
have not saved the Chinese nation from stagnation and death. There
is wonderful life-awaking power in the writings of Plato. But they
are hid from the common people in a dead language, and when a Prof.
Jowett gives them glorious resurrection in our vernacular, they are
still hid from the common people by their subtlety. Every
philosopher ought to study Plato. Every scholar may profitably study
Buddha and Confucius. But every intelligent American ought to study
the life and words of Jesus of Nazareth."

"I do," said Mr. Gear. "I do not disesteem Jesus of Nazareth. I
honor him as first among men. I revere his noble life, his sublime
death, and his incomparable teachings. I have read his life in the
Gospels; I have read it as Strauss gives it; and as Renan gives it;
and now I am devoting my Sunday afternoons to reading it as
Pressense gives it. You see I am an impartial student. I read all
sides."

"You think Christ's life and teaching worth your study then?" I said
inquiringly.

"Worth my study? Of course I do," said he. "I am an infidel, Mr.
Laicus; at least people commonly call me so, and think it very
dreadful. But I do not mean to be ignorant of the Bible or of
Christianity as Jesus Christ gave it to us. It needs winnowing. We
have grown wiser and know better about many things since then. But
it is well worth the studying and will be for many years to come."

"All I ask of you," said I, "is to let me to study it with you."

He made no answer; but looked me steadily in the eye as if to try
and fathom some occult design.

"No," said I, "that is not all. As I came by Joe Poole's I saw half
a dozen of the men from your shop lounging about the door. They
could spend the afternoon to better purpose, Mr. Gear, in studying
the life and words of Jesus."

"I know they could," he said. "No man can say that any word or
influence of mine helped carry them to Joe Poole's bar."

"Will you lend your word and influence with mine to summon them
away?" said I.

He made no answer.

"I saw a dozen others engaged at a game of ball upon the green as I
passed by."

"A harmless sport, Mr. Laicus, and as well done on Sunday as on any
other holiday."

"Perhaps," said I. "But an hour and a half from their Sunday in
studying the life and words of Jesus would do them no harm, and
detract nothing from their holiday. They do not study so hard
throughout the week that the brain labor would be injurious."

Mr. Gear smiled.

"There is not a man in your shop, Mr. Gear, that would not be made a
better workman, husband, father, citizen, for studying that life and
those teachings one hour a week."

"It is true," said he.

"You organized a Shakspeare club last winter to keep them from Joe
Poole's," said I. "Was it a good thing?"

"Worked capitally," said Mr. Gear.

"Won't you join me in organizing a Bible club for Sunday afternoons
this winter for the same purpose?"

"There is so little in common between us," said he; and he looked me
through and through with his sharp black eyes. What a lawyer he
would have made; what a cross examination he could conduct.

"You believe in the literal inspiration of the New Testament
Scripture. I believe it is a book half legend half history. You
believe in the miracles. I believe they are mythical addition of a
later date. You believe that Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy
Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. I believe his birth was as
natural as his death was cruel and untimely. You believe that--he
was divine. I believe he was a man of like passions as we ourselves
are,--a Son of God only as every noble spirit is a spark struck off
from the heavenly Original. You believe that he bears our sins upon
a tree. I believe that every soul must bear its own burdens. What is
there in common between us? What good could it do to you or to me to
take Sunday afternoon for a weekly tournament, with the young men
from the shop for arbitrators?"

"None," said I calmly.

"What would you have then?" said he.

"When you organized that Shakspeare club last winter," said I, "did
you occupy your time in discussions of the text? Did you compare
manuscripts? Did you investigate the canonicity of Shakspeare's
various plays? Did you ransack the past to know the value of the
latest theory that there never was a Will. Shakspeare save as a nom
de plume for Lord Bacon? Did you inquire into the origin of his
several plots, and study to know how much of his work was really his
own and how much was borrowed from foreign sources. Or did you leave
that all to the critics, and take the Shakspeare of today, and
gather what instruction you might therefrom?"

Mr. Gear nodded his head slowly, and thoughtfully, as if he
partially perceived the meaning of my answer. But he made no other
response.

"There is much in common between us, Mr. Gear," I continued
earnestly, "though much, very much that is not. We can find plenty
of subject for fruitless debate no doubt. Can we find none for
agreement and mutual helpfulness? Jesus of Nazareth you honor as
first among men. You revere His noble life, His sublime death, His
incomparable teachings. So do I. That noble life we can read
together, Mr. Gear, and together we may emulate His example without
a fruitless debate whether it be divine or no. Those incomparable
teachings we can study together, that together we may catch the
spirit that dictated them, without a theological controversy as to
their authority. And even that sublime death I should hope we might
contemplate together, without contention, though in the suffering
Christ you see only a martyr, and I behold my Saviour and my God."

He made no answer, still stood silent. But he no longer looked at me
with his sharp eyes. They had retired beneath his shaggy eyebrows as
though he would search his own soul through and through, and read
its verdict. He told me afterwards the story of his battle; I
guessed it even then.

"We may not agree on the Gospel of John, Mr. Gear," said I, "but we
shall not quarrel about the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the
Mount."

"Mr. Laicus," said Mr. Gear at length, very slowly. "I thank you for
coming to me, I thank you for speaking plainly and frankly as you
have; I thank you for the respect which you have shown to my
convictions. They are honest, and were not arrived at without a
struggle and some self sacrifice. You are the first Christian," he
added bitterly "that ever paid them the regard of a respectful
hearing. I will join you in that Bible Class for this winter, and I
will prove to you, infidel that I am, that I as well as a Christian,
can respect convictions widely different from my own. If we quarrel
it shall not be my fault."

"I believe you, Mr. Gear," said I. "God helping me it shall not be
mine, and there's my hand upon it."

He grasped it warmly.

"When shall we begin?" said I.

"Next Sunday."

"Where?" said I.

"As you please?" said he.

"Here, or in my house, or at the church parlors, or wherever we can
gather the young men," said I.

"The mill school-house is better than either," said he. "The boys
will come there. They are used to it."

"The mill school-house be it," said I. "Next Sunday afternoon at 3
o'clock. I will bring the Bibles; you will bring the boys."

"As many as I can," said he.

"Jennie," said I that evening. "Mr. Gear and I are going to take the
Bible Class together."

Tears stood in her eyes as she looked up at me with that smile I
love so much. But she only said. "I knew you would succeed John."



CHAPTER X.

The Deacon's Second Service.



IT has been made the subject of some comment lately that Deacon
Goodsole habitually absents himself from our Sabbath evening
service. The pastor called the other day to confer with me on the
subject; for he has somehow come to regard me as a convenient
adviser, perhaps because I hold no office and take no very active
part in the management of the Church, and so am quite free from what
may be called its politics. He said he thought it quite unfortunate;
not that the Deacon needed the second service himself, but that, by
absenting himself from the house of God, he set a very bad example
to the young people of the flock. "We cannot expect," said he,
somewhat mournfully, "that the young people will come to Church,
when the elders themselves stay away." At the same time he said he
felt some delicacy about talking with the Deacon himself on the
subject. "Of course," said he, "if he does not derive profit from my
discourses I do not want to dragoon him into hearing them."

I readily promised to seek an occasion to talk with the Deacon, the
more so because I really feel for our pastor. When I first came to
Wheathedge he was full of enthusiasm. He has various plans for
adding attractiveness and interest to our Sabbath-evening service,
which has always flagged. He tried a course of sermons to young men.
He announced sermons on special topics. Occasionally a political
discourse would draw a pretty full house, but generally it was quite
evident that the second sermon was almost as much of a burden to the
congregation as it was to the minister. Latterly he seems to have
given up these attempts, and to follow the example of his brethren
hereabout. He exchanges pretty often. Quite frequently we get an
agent. Occasionally I fancy, the more from the pastor's manner than
from my recollection, that he is preaching an old sermon. At other
times we get a sort of expository lecture, the substance of which I
find in my copy of Lange when I get home. Under this treatment the
congregation, never very large, has dwindled away to quite
diminutive proportions; and our poor pastor is quite discouraged.
Until about six weeks ago Deacon Goodsole was always in his pew. I
think his falling off was the last straw.

Last Sabbath evening, on my way to church, I stopped, according to
promise, to see the Deacon. As I went up the steps I heard the sound
of music, and waited a moment lest I should disturb the family's
evening devotions. But as the music continued, and presently the
tune changed, I concluded to knock. Nettie, the Deacon's youngest
daughter, who by the way is a great favorite with me, answered the
knock almost instantly. The open hymn-book was in her hand, and
before I could get time to ask for the Deacon, she had, in her
charmingly impulsive way, dragged me in, snatched my hat from my
hand, deposited it on the table, and pushed me into the parlor. In
fact, before I well knew what I was about, I found myself in the big
arm-chair with Nettie in my lap, taking part in the Deacon's second
service.

His family were all about him, including the stable boy, whose hair
looked as sleek as the Deacon's horse. For the Deacon has some queer
notions about the duties of employers to their servants, and, though
the very kindest of men, is generally thought by the neighbors to be
"a queer stick." The Deacon's wife, who has a very sweet soprano
voice, which, however, she never could be persuaded to use in our
choir, was presiding at the piano. The children all had their hymn
and tune-books, and they were "singing round"--each member of the
family selecting a hymn in turn. As they were limited to two verses
each--except where two clubbed together to secure an entire hymn--the
exercise was not prolonged, and certainly did not become tedious.
After the singing, the Deacon asked the children if they were ready
with their verses. They all raised their hands. The Deacon then
repeated a short piece of poetry, his wife followed, and then all
the children one after another, even down to Bob--a little
three-year-old, who just managed to lisp out, with a charming
mixture of pride and bashfulness,

    Jesus, tender Seperd,
    Has' thou died faw me,
    Make me vewy fwankful
    In my heart to thee.

Then the Deacon took down the family bible and opened it to the
story of Joseph. He asked the children how far he had got. They
answered him very sagely, and their responses to a few questions
which he put to them showed that they understood what had gone
before. Then he read part of one chapter, that which describes the
beginning of the famine, and, asking Joe to bring him the full
volume of Stanley's Jewish Church, he read the admirable description
of an Egyptian famine which it contains. By this time Bob was fast
asleep in his mother's arms. But all the rest of us kneeled down and
repeated the Lord's prayer with the Deacon--another of his queer
notions. The neighbors think he is inclined to be an Episcopalian,
because he wants it introduced into the church service, but he says
he does not really think that the Lord was an Episcopalian, and if
he was it would not be any good reason for not using his prayer.
Then the children kissed good-night, all round, and went to bed.
Mrs. Goodsole took Bob off to his crib, and the Deacon and I were
left alone. It was long past time for church service to begin, so I
abandoned all idea of going to church, and opened to the Deacon at
once the object of my errand. I told him very frankly that we not
only missed him from the church, but that the pastor felt that his
example was an unfortunate one, and that the church generally were
afraid he was growing luke-warm in the Master's service, and I
gently reminded him of the apostle's direction not to forget the
assembling of ourselves together.

"Well," said he--though in trying to give his answer in his own
language, I am obliged to condense the conversation of half-an-hour
into a single paragraph--"Well, I will tell you how it is. You know I
used to be pretty regular in attendance on church, and in fact a
pretty busy man on Sundays. We had breakfast early. Right after
breakfast I sat down to look over my Sunday-school lesson for the
last time. At nine o'clock I went to Sunday-school, where I had a
Bible-class. At half-past ten came church. After service I had
barely time to get a lunch, and then had to hurry away to our
Mission. We almost always had some sort of a teachers' meeting after
the regular session, so that it was generally tea-time before I got
home. After tea I was off to church again. I almost always woke up
Monday morning tired, and a little cross. My children are pretty
good ones, I think, but they had a queer distaste for Sunday, which
I put down to total depravity. And, strangest of all, my wife, who
only went to church Sunday morning, and would not even sing in the
choir, seemed to be as tired Monday morning as I was, only as it was
washing-day she could not sleep as late. About two months ago I was
laid up with a boil, and could not go to church. Of course I did not
have my Sunday-school lesson to learn, and I was surprised to
notice, for the first time, how hard my wife had to work to get the
children off to Sunday-school. They stayed at church--as they always
do--and for an hour after dinner they got along very well, reading
their library books, but then began the labors of the day. First I
heard Joe out in the yard frolicking with the dog, and rousing all
the neighborhood with his racket. Of course I called him in. Next I
heard my wife calling Lucy and Nettie to come down out of the swing.
The next thing Bob was playing horse with the chairs in the parlor.
So it went all the afternoon. The children had nothing to do. They
could not read Sunday-school books all day. I am heterodox enough to
wonder how they can read them at all--and of course they got into all
sorts of mischief. And when at last poor Bobby came to me in utter
despair, and lisped out, "Papa, what did God make Sunday for?" I
broke down. I gathered the children about me, and proposed to them
this evening service. I told them that if they would learn a hymn
every Sunday I would stay at home in the evening with them. They
caught at the idea enthusiastically. There is no law about it. They
need not learn if they do not want to. But even Bobby has caught the
enthusiasm, and gets a book and goes to his mamma every Sunday
afternoon to teach him a verse. I have given up my class in the
Mission, and made one of my Sunday-school Bible-class take it. I lie
down and take a little nap after dinner. Then I learn my own hymn,
and make my preparation for our evening service. About an hour
before tea the children gather about me in the arbor and I read to
them. I have just got Dr. Newton's "Bible Wonders," and am reading
it chapter by chapter. My wife takes that opportunity to rest. The
consequence is that we both really get refreshed, instead of jaded
out by our Sunday, and I think the children really look forward with
anticipations of delight to its coming. "My Bible," continued the
Deacon good naturedly, "says something about resting on Sunday. I
wish our pastor would tell us what that means sometime."

I told the Deacon I thought he ought to tell his brethren, at some
prayer-meeting, the reason why he stayed away from church; that it
was due both to himself and to them. He agreed to do so. As for
myself I am somewhat puzzled. I do not want our pastor left to
preach to empty pews. But I am greatly enamored of the Deacon's
second service.



CHAPTER XI.

Our Pastor Resigns.



ALL Wheathedge is in a fever of excitement. "Blessings brighten as
they take their flight." We have just learned that we have enjoyed
for these several years the ministry of one of the most energetic,
faithful, assiduous, eloquent, and devoted "sons of thunder," in the
State. We never appreciated our dominie aright till now. But now no
one can praise him too highly. The cause of this his sudden rise in
public estimation is a very simple one. He has been called to a New
York City parish. And he has accepted the call.

This is a curious world, and the most curious part of it is the
Church. While he stayed we grumbled at him. Now he leaves we grumble
because he is going.

I first heard of this matter a couple of weeks ago. No. Some rumors
of what was threatened were in the air last summer. One Sabbath, in
our congregation, were three gentlemen, in one of whom I recognised
my friend, Mr. Eccles, of the--street Presbyterian Church of New
York City. He was there again the second Sabbath. It was rumored
then that he was on a tour of inspection. But I paid little
attention to the rumor. In October, our pastor takes his vacation. I
thought it a little strange that he should spend half of it in New
York, and seek rest from preaching in his own pulpit by repeating
his sermons in a metropolitan church. But I knew the state of his
purse. I therefore gave very little heed to the gossip which my wife
repeated to me, and which she had picked up in the open market. For
Sunday is market day, and the church is the market for village
gossip in Wheathedge. And Jennie, who is constitutionally averse to
change, was afraid we were going to lose our pastor, and said as
much. But I laughed at her fears.

However, the result proved that the gossips were, for once, right.
About two weeks ago, Mr. and Mrs. Work came into my house in a high
state of subdued excitement. Mr. Work handed me a letter. It was a
call to the--street Presbyterian Church in New York--salary $4000 a
year. It was accompanied by a glowing portraiture of the present and
prospective usefulness which this field opened. The church was
situated in a part of the city where there were few or no churches.
The ward had a population of over fifty thousand, a large majority
of whom attended no church. More than half were Protestants. There
was a grand field for Sabbath-school labor. The church was
thoroughly united. Its financial condition was satisfactory, and its
prospects encouraging. And the hearts of the people had been led to
unite as one man upon Mr. Work.

"I cannot but think," said Mr. Work, "that it is Providential. The
position is entirely unsought. Yet I do not really feel equal to a
place of such importance. I am sensible how much wider is the sphere
of usefulness. But am I able to fill it? That is the question."

"Well, for my part," said Mrs. Work, "I confess that I am mercenary.
There is a great deal of difference between $1,200 and $4,000 a
year. It will put us at our ease at once. And just think what
advantages for the children."

They wanted my advice. At least they said so. It is my private
opinion that they wanted me to advise them to go. I told them I
would think about it and tell them the result the next week. They
agreed meanwhile to wait.

There were two considerations which operated on their minds, one
usefulness, the other salary. I undertook to measure those two
considerations.

The very next day gave me an opportunity to investigate the former.
I met my friend Mr. Eccles at Delmonico's. We talked over the
affairs of his church at the table.

"You are trying to get our minister away from us," said I.

"Yes," said he. "And I think we shall get him. He is a sound
man--just the man to build us up."

"And how are you prospering?" said I.

"Capitally," said he. And then he proceeded, in answer to a
cross-examination, to interpret his reply. The Church had almost a
monopoly of the ward. Its debt was but $10,000, which was in a
mortgage on the property. There was also a small floating debt which
would be easily provided for. It paid its former pastor $4,000, just
what it offered Mr. Work. Its pew rents were about $3,500. The
deficiency was considerable, and had to be made up every year by
subscription. "But our minister," said M. Eccles, confidentially,
"was a dull preacher. I liked him--my wife liked him. All the church
folks liked him. But he did not draw. And it is not enough in New
York city, Mr. Laicus, for a minister to be a good man, or even a
good preacher. He must draw. That's it; he must draw. I expect the
first year, that we shall have a deficit to make up, but if next
spring we don't let all our pews, why I am mistaken in my man,
that's all. Besides they say he is a capital man to get money out of
people, and we must pay off our debt or we will never succeed, and
that's a fact."

I got some figures from Mr. Eccles, and put them down. They give the
following result:

Income.
200 pews at present average-$30 a pew
$6,000

Expenses.
Salary
$4,000
Interest
700
Music
1,200
Sexton, fuel, light, &c.
1,200
Total
$7,100

When I showed the footing to Mr. Eccles he shrugged his shoulders.
"We shall have to raise our pew rents," said he. "They are
unconscionably low, and we must pay off our debt. Then we are all
right. And if we get the right man, one that can draw, he will put
our heads above water."

With that we separated.

Not, however, till I got some further information from him. He
remarked casually that he had a notion of moving out of town, and
asked me about prices at Wheathedge. "It costs a fortune to live
here," said he. "My wife has an allowance of $300 a month for
household and personal expenses. My clothing and extras cost me
another $500. And the "sundries" are awful. You can't go out of your
house for less than a dollar. I have no doubt my incidentals are
another $500. It is awful--awful."

I advised him to move up to Wheathedge, the more cordially because I
have a lot I would like to sell him for about a thousand dollars. I
really believe he is thinking seriously of it.

The next day I went into the office of my friend Mr. Rental, the
broker. I told him I was looking for a house for a friend, and asked
the prices. He showed me a list-rents $2,000, $2,500, $3,000. They
were too high. Would property in Brooklyn or Jersey City do? No. It
must be in New York. It must be in the -- ward. It must be a good,
comfortable, plain house, without any show or pretension.

"There are none such to let in the city," said Mr. Rental. "Land
costs too much. The few plain houses are all occupied by their
owners." The very best he could do was one house, half a mile from
the church, for $1,800. He had one other for $1,500, but it was
opposite an immense stable, and had neither cellar nor furnace, and
croton only on the first floor. I thanked him and said I would look
in again if either of them suited.

Last week, according to appointment, our pastor and his wife came in
for a second consultation.

"There are," said I, "two considerations which might lead you to
accept this call-increased usefulness and increased salary. I do not
deny the importance of a New York city parish, nor fail to recognize
the good work the city ministers are doing. But you must not fail to
recognize the difficulties of the situation. New York is
sensation-mad. The competition in churches is as great as in
business. There are perhaps half a dozen men of genius who fill
their churches with ease, or whose churches are filled because they
are the resort of "good society." The rest of the ministers are
compelled to devote three-quarters of their energies to keeping a
congregation together, the other quarter to doing them good. They
accomplish the first, sometimes by patient, persistent, assiduous,
unwearying pastoral labor, sometimes by achieving a public
reputation, sometimes by the doubtful expedient of sensational
advertisements of paradoxical topics. But in whatever way they do it
the hardest part of their work, a part, country parsons know next to
nothing of, is to get and keep a congregation. What you are wanted
for at the--street Presbyterian Church is to 'build it up.' The one
quality for which you are commended is the capacity to 'draw.'
Doubtless there are devout praying men and women who will measure
your work by its spiritual results, by the conversion of sinners and
the growth in grace of Christians. But what the financial managers
want is one who will fill up their empty pews, enable them to add
fifty per cent. to the rentals, and in some way pay off their debt.
That will be their measure of your usefulness."

It was quite evident that my good pastor and his wife thought me
uncharitable. Was I?

"As to salary," said I, "you country clergymen are greatly mistaken
in supposing that city salaries are prizes to be coveted. Six
thousand dollars is only a moderately fair support for a New York
clergyman, and there are comparatively few who get it. You must pay
at least $1,800 rent. You must dress as well as the average of your
best families. You must neither be ashamed for yourselves nor for
your children in the best society. You must keep open house. You
must set a good table. You must be "given to hospitality." You must
take a lead in organizing the missionary and charitable movements of
your Church, which you cannot do without some money. You must be
ready to co-operate in great public, church, and philanthropic
movements. You must take a vacation of six weeks every summer, which
of itself, at the lowest estimate, will cost you $150 or $200 a
year. I have made some inquiries of three or four economical friends
in New York. Here is the result of my inquiries. You may reduce the
figures a little. But it will require quite as much economy to live
in New York on $4,000 a year as in Wheathedge on $1,200."

With that I showed them the following memorandum:

Rent
$1,800
Household expenses (a low estimate)
1,800
Dress for Mrs. Work and the two children
600
Dress and personal expenses of Mr. Work
500
Summer vacation
150
Incidentals
500

$5,350

Mr. and Mrs. Work thanked me for my advice, and took my memorandum
home with them. But it was quite evident that Mrs. Work was not
satisfied that $4,000 was not a great advance on $1,200. And I was
not at all surprised when Mr. Work read his resignation from the
pulpit last Sabbath. Next Sabbath he preaches his farewell sermon.

I hope I may prove a false prophet. But I think Mrs. Work will find
her arithmetical powers taxed in New York as they never were in
Wheathedge, and I shall be more pleased than I can tell if in five
years Mr. Work does not retire from his post a disappointed man, or
find that he has purchased success at the price of his health, if
not his life.

Meanwhile we are beginning already to look about for his successor.



CHAPTER XII.

The Committee on Supply hold an informal Meeting.



MR. Work has preached his last sermon. A committee has been
appointed to supply the pulpit, and secure a candidate for the
pastorate. I believe this sort of business is generally left to the
session; but on Deacon Goodsole's motion a special committee was
appointed partly out of respect to the congregational element which
is considerable in this church, and partly, I suspect, as a
compliment to Mr. Wheaton. It consists of Mr. Wheaton and Mr. Gear,
on behalf of the society, and Deacon Goodsole, Mr. Hardcap and
myself on behalf of the church. I forgot to mention that since our
Bible-class was commenced, Mr. Gear has begun to attend church,
though not very regularly. Mr. Goodsole nominated Mr. Gear on the
committee, and of course he was elected. I was rather sorry for I
would have preferred that he did not know about the internal
workings of this church. I do not think it will enhance his respect
for religious institutions. Still I could make no objection. I did
make objections to taking a place on the committee myself, but
Jennie persuaded me to relinquish them. She has often heard me
arguing that politics is a duty, that citizens are bound to take and
administer public office for the benefit of the State. By a neat
little turn she set all these arguments against me, and as I could
not answer them I was obliged to yield. Our wives' memories are
sometimes dreadfully inconvenient.

Our committee held a sort of informal meeting last night, at the
Post-Office, where we all met by chance, the usual way. In the
Post-Office is the news exchange of Wheathedge, where we are very
apt to meet about the time of the arrival of the evening mail.
Deacon Goodsole had been delegated to get a supply for the next two
Sabbaths till we could discuss the merits of candidates. He reported
that he had engaged the Rev. Mr. Elder, of Wheatensville. "He has
the merest pittance of a salary," said the Deacon, "and I knew the
twenty dollars would be acceptable to him. Besides which he is not
only an excellent man but a sound preacher."

"Why wouldn't he be the man for us?" said I.

Mr. Wheaton exclaimed against me, "Too old," said he.

"Besides he's got five children," said Mr. Hardcap.

"What's that got to do with it?" said I. "So has Deacon Goodsole;
but he's none the worse for that."

"We can't afford to support a man with a large family," said Mr.
Hardcap. "We must get a young man. We can't possibly afford to pay
over $1,200 a year, and we ought not to pay over $1,000."

"Oh!" said I; "do we grade the ministers' salaries by the number of
the minister's children?"

"Well we have to consider that, of course," said Mr. Hardcap.

"Solomon wasn't so wise as he is generally thought to be," said Mr.
Gear sarcastically, "or he never would have written that sentence
about blessed is he whose quiver is full of them!"

"Well," said Mr. Hardcap, "all I've got to say is, if you get a man
here with five children you can pay his salary, that's all."

"When you take a job Mr. Hardcap," said I, "do you expect to be paid
according to the value of the work or according to the size of your
family?"

"Oh! that's a very different thing," said Mr. Hardcap, "very
different."

"Any way," said Mr. Wheaton, "Mr. Elder is entirely out of the
question--entirely so. Mr. Laicus can hardly have proposed him
seriously."

"Why out of the question, gentlemen?" said I. "He is a good
preacher. Our congregation know him. He is a faithful, devoted
pastor. We shall do Wheatensville no injustice, for it cannot give
him a support. As to age, he is certainly not infirm. I do not
believe he is a year over forty-five."

"No! no!" said Mr. Wheaton, decidedly. "It is utterly out of the
question. We must have a young man, one who is fresh, up with the
spirit of the age; one who can draw in the young men. The Methodists
are getting them all."

"And the young girls too," said Mr. Gear dryly.

I wish Mr. Gear were not on this committee. The Deacon meant well.
But he made a blunder.

"Very well, then, gentlemen," said I; "if we want a fresh man let us
go right to the theological seminary and get the best man we can
find there."

"The seminary!" said Mr. Wheaton. He received this suggestion even
more disdainfully than the previous one. "We must have a man of
experience, Mr. Laicus. A theological student would never do."

"Experience without age!" said I; "that's a hard problem to solve.
For the life of me I do not see how we are going to do it."

"Well you must consider, Mr. Laicus," said Mr. Wheaton, adding force
to his words by a gentle and impressive gesture with his forefinger,
"that this is a very important and a very peculiar field-a very
peculiar field indeed, Mr. Laicus. And it requires a man of very
peculiar qualifications. It is really a city field," he continued.
"To all intents and purposes Wheathedge is a suburb of New York
City. In the summer our congregation is very largely composed of
city people. They are used to good preaching. They won't come to
hear a commonplace preacher. And at the same time we have a very
peculiar native population. And then, apart from our own people,
there is the Mill village which really belongs to our parish, and
which our pastor ought to cultivate. All these various elements
combine to make up a diverse and conflicting population. And it will
require a man of great energy, and great prudence, and no little
knowledge of human nature, and practical skill in managing men, to
get along here at all. I know more about Wheathedge than you do, Mr.
Laicus, and I assure you that it is a very peculiar field."

I believe that in the estimation of supply committees all fields are
very peculiar fields. But I did not say anything.

"And we need a very peculiar man?" said Mr. Gear inquiringly.

"Yes," said Mr. Wheaton, decidedly; "a man of peculiar abilities and
qualifications."

"Well then," said Mr. Gear, "I hope you are prepared to pay a
peculiar salary. I don't know much about church matters gentlemen. I
don't know what you put me on the committee for. But in my shop if I
want a peculiar man I have to pay a peculiar salary."

There was a little laugh at this sally, but Mr. Gear evidently meant
no joke, and as evidently Mr. Wheaton did not take any.

"Well," said I, "so far as salary goes I am prepared to vote for an
increase to $1,500 and a parsonage. I don't live on less than twice
that."

Mr. Hardcap struck his hands down resolutely into his pockets and
groaned audibly.

"I am afraid we can't get it, Mr. Laicus," said Mr. Wheaton. "I
believe a minister ought to have it, but I don't see where its
coming from. We musn't burden the parish."

"And I believe," I retorted, "that the laborer is worthy of his
hire; and we must not burden the pastor."

"For my part," said Mr. Hardcap, "I won't give my consent to a
dollar over $1,200 a year. I ain't goin' to encourage ministerial
luxury nohow."

"Well, for my part," said Mr. Wheaton, "I don't care so much about
that. But we must have a first rate man. He has to preach here in
the summer time to city congregations. They are critical sir,
critical. And we have got to have just as good a man as the Broadway
Tabernacle. But as to paying a city salary, that you know is absurd,
Mr. Laicus. We can't be expected to do that."

"Bricks without straw," murmured Mr. Gear.

Just then the Post-Office window opened, and we made a rush for our
mail. But before we separated we agreed to hold a formal meeting at
my house a week from the following Thursday evening for a further
canvass of the whole matter.

Meanwhile I am perplexed by the double problem that our informal
meeting has suggested. I have been sitting for half an hour
pondering it. The children have long since gone to bed. I have
finished my evening paper, and written my evening letters. The fire
has burned low, and been replenished. Jennie sits by my side engaged
in that modern imitation of Penelope's task, the darning of
stockings. And for half an hour, only the ticking of the clock and
the sighing of the wind outside have disturbed the silence of the
room.

"Jennie," said I, at length, "when I told you to-night of our talk
at the Post-Office you said you hoped we would get a young man.
Why?"

"Why?" said Jennie.

"Yes," said I. "I can understand why Mr. Hardcap wants a young man.
It is for the same reason that he employs half taught apprentices in
his shop. They are cheap. Of course our good friend Maurice
Mapleson, with neither wife nor children, can more easily lay up
money on $1,000 a year than Mr. Elder, with his five children can on
$1,500 or $2,000. But I don't think you and I, Jennie, want to
economize on our minister."

"I am sure we don't John," said Jennie.

"And I can understand why Mr. Wheaton wants a young minister. Young
ministers do draw better, at least at first. There is a certain
freshness and attractiveness in youth. Curiosity is set agog in
watching the young minister, and still more in watching his young
bride. A ministerial honey-moon is a godsend to a parish. Whether we
ought to hire our pastors to set curiosity agog and serve the parish
as a nine-day's wonder may be a question. But I suspect that we very
often do. But, Jennie, I hope you and I don't want a minister to
serve us as food for gossip."

"I am sure not, John,' said Jennie earnestly.

"Why is it then, Jennie," said I, "that you and I want youth in our
minister? Young lawyers and young doctors are not in requisition.
Age generally brings confidence even when it does not endow with
wisdom. I believe that Judge Ball's principal qualification for his
office was his bald head and grey beard. When you discovered a
couple of grey hairs on my head a little while ago, I was delighted.
I should like to multiply them. Every grey hair is worth a dollar.
Dr. Curall has hard work to get on in his profession because he is
so young and looks still younger than he is. If there was such a
thing as grey dye it would pay him to employ it. Lawyers and doctors
must be old-ministers must be young. Why, Jennie?"

"Perhaps," said Jennie, "we want in our ministers enthusiasm more
than wisdom."

"Enthusiasm," said I. "That might do for the Methodists. But it does
not apply to the Congregationalists, and the Episcopalians, and the
staid and sober Presbyterians."

"I don't know about that," said Jennie. "What we want of our
preachers is not so much instruction as inspiration. We want some
body not to think for us but to set us to thinking. Our souls get
sluggish, and they want to be stirred up. I do not want some one to
prove the authority of the ten commandments, John, but some one to
make me more earnest to obey them. I do not care much about Dr.
Argure's learned expositions of the doctrine of atonement. But I do
want some one who shall make me realize more and more that Jesus
died for me."

"And what has that to do with youth, Jennie?" said I.

"I don't know," said Jennie, thoughtfully; "unless it is that the
truth seems somehow new and fresh to the young minister. Besides it
is not youth, John, altogether. It is freshness, and warmth, and
enthusiasm, and spiritual life. Mr. Beecher is not young nor is
Spurgeon, nor Dr. Hall, nor Dr. Tyng, nor John B. Gough. But they
are all popular. Father Hyatt isn't young, John, but I had rather
hear him than Dr. Argure any day."

I rather think Jennie is right. It is not youth we want at
Wheathedge, but spiritual life and earnestness. At least it is to be
thought of.

But as to salary-how we are to get a first class man at a third
class salary puzzles me. I shall have to refer that to Mr. Wheaton.
He is the financier of our church I believe.



CHAPTER XIII.

Maurice Mapleson declines to submit to a competitive examination.



"I have a letter from Maurice Mapleson," said I to Jennie.

"What does he say? Will he come?" said she eagerly.

"No!" said I. "He won't come."

"I am sorry," said she. "It's too bad of him."

"You won't think so, my dear," said I, "when you hear his letter.
You'll be more sorry; but you'll think better of him than you did
before."

We were at the tea-table. It is the rule of our meal hour to have
the conversation one in which the children can engage-in which at
all events they can take an interest. So the topic was suffered to
drop till they were in bed, and we were alone in the library.

Maurice Mapleson was a young minister that I thought a good deal of.
So when two Sundays before, Mr. Wheaton suggested him to me as a
successor to our retiring pastor, I welcomed the suggestion.

"You know that young Mapleson, don't you Mr. Laicus," said he, "who
preached for us two Sundays last summer. I think he stopped at your
house."

I assented.

"I wish you would write him, quite informally you know, to come down
and preach for us a Sunday or two. The folks at our house were quite
taken with him, and I think the people were generally. I shouldn't
wonder if he were the 'coming man,' Mr. Laicus."

So that evening I stayed at home from church and wrote to him. I
remembered what Mr. Wheaton had said about this being a peculiar
parish, and our people a peculiar people, and I waxed eloquent as I
wrote. I reminded Mr. Mapleson of our glorious scenery. I told him
we were but a suburb of New York and he would have a city
congregation, and I did not tell him that he would have to pay very
nearly city prices for everything, and would not have anything that
would approximate a city salary. I told him of the Mill village and
the opportunities of Christian labor it opened before him. I
assured him that he would find the people remembering him kindly,
and ready to welcome him warmly. In short I considered myself
retained as advocate In re the Calvary Presbyterian Church, and I
rather laid myself out to produce an impression.

And I rather flatter myself that I did produce an impression. But I
did not get a verdict. Here is his answer as I read it to Jennie
that evening. KONIWASSET CORNERS, Tuesday. JOHN LAICUS, ESQ.,

Dear Sir,--I thank you very warmly for your kind letter of the 6th
instant. Kind it certainly is, and though I must decline the
invitation it presents so cordially to me, I am none the less
grateful for it, notwithstanding the fact that it has been a strong
and not easily resisted temptation to violate my settled convictions
of duty.

If I were writing formally to the committee it would be enough to
decline your invitation without entering into any explanation. But
the remembrance of the pleasant week I spent at your house last
summer, and the tone of your letter, makes me feel as though I were
writing to a personal friend. This is my excuse (if one is needed)
for giving you more fully than I otherwise should, my reasons for
declining. Those reasons are not in any way connected with the
parish at Wheathedge. I am not insensible to the attractions which
the place possesses as a residence, nor to that which the parish
possesses as a field of labor. But I resolved when I first entered
the ministry that I would never preach as a candidate. I never have,
and I never will. I began my work in a mission school in New York
City, while I was yet in the Seminary. When I left the Seminary, Mr.
Marcus who is one of the trustees of the mission asked me to come up
to this church. It is a sort of mission among the miners, being half
supported by Mr. Marcus who is one of the directors of the
Koniwasset Coal Co. I came for six months. The congregation asked me
to remain, and I remained. And here I purpose to remain till God
shall call me to another field. Another field I will not seek,
though I should live and die here. I pretend to believe that Christ
is my Bishop; and I shall not move without orders from him.

So long as I am pastor here I cannot preach with honor as a
candidate in other parishes. I know other ministers do it-and I do
not judge them. But I cannot. Suppose my people were to take
advantage of my absence for a week to try a candidate. I wonder what
I should say to that. And I cannot see that settled ministers have
any more right to try other parishes with reference to a change of
place, than parishes with settled ministers have to try other
ministers with reference to a change of pastors. In a word I do not
believe in free-love as applied to churches.

But apart from that I cannot preach as a candidate. The minister is
ordained to preach to convert impenitent sinners and to build up and
strengthen Christians. Do you suppose I should do either if I came
to Wheathedge on your invitation to preach as a candidate? Not at
all. The people would come to criticise, and I should go to be
criticised. They would be judges and would expect to put me through
my ministerial faces to try me. Come, the congregation says in
effect to me in such an invitation, let us see how you can preach,
exhibit your proficiency in the doctrines, try your skill in
arousing sinners, see what you can do in interesting the saints,
read us a hymn or two, as a test of your elocution, and display to
us your "gifts in prayer;" and then when the service is over, spend
a week and take tea with two or three of our principal families and
show us what your social qualifications are, and give our children
an opportunity to quiz you. That it is in effect Mr. Laicus, though
it may seem somewhat presumptuous in me to say it. And to such a
quizzing I am not at all inclined to submit. I never preached but
one trial sermon-that was when I was licensed and I never mean to
preach another.

Imagine Paul preaching as a candidate to the people of Athens or
Corinth, and submitting his claims as an apostle to the popular
verdict!

Or imagine, Mr. Laicus, a client coming to you and saying I have an
important case to be tried sir, and I think of placing it in your
hands. Will you oblige me by making a neat little speech for me. I
want to see what kind of a speech you can make.

Since I wrote that last sentence I have read this letter over, and
have been on the point, two or three times, of tearing it up and
sending in its place a simple declination. But I feel as though I
were writing to a friend, and it shall go. I am sorry it must be so.
I should like to go to Wheathedge. That it is a beautiful place, and
has pleasant people, and is a far more important field of labor than
this I recognize fully; and then, what possibly influences me quite
as much, Helen, whom your wife knows very well, is waiting patiently
for me, and I am waiting impatiently for her, and I never can marry
on the little pittance I receive here. But she is of one mind with
me in this matter, I know, for we have often talked it over
together, and she holds me nobly to my resolution. She, I am sure,
would not have me write other than I do.

My kind regards to Mrs. Laicus and my sincere thanks to yourself. A
kiss to Harry too, if you please, if he is not too old to take one.
The baby I have never seen. Yours sincerely, MAURICE MAPLESON.

"Well," said Jennie after I had finished reading the letter, "I
believe he is right; but I am sorry John; sorrier than I was
before."

"Sorry that he won't come, Jennie?"

"Sorry that he is right," said Jennie. "That is, if he is right."

"Do you doubt it, Jennie?" said I.

"Well I don't know, John. I go with him. I like him better for his
letter. I cannot gainsay it. And yet it seems to me that it puts the
ministers in a rather hard position."

"Yes?" said I interrogatively.

"Yes," said Jennie. "You know perfectly well John that our church
here wouldn't call a man that isn't settled somewhere. The very fact
that he was out of a parish,, would be almost conclusive against
him. And they won't call a man without trying him. Must Maurice
Mapleson live and die in that little out of the way corner? And if
he is ever going to get out of it, how is it to come about? How does
a minister have any chance for a change if he takes such a ground as
that? It's high and noble John, and I honor him for it; but I am
afraid it isn't practicable."

"Little woman," said I, "whatever is truly high and noble is
practicable, and you would be the first to tell me so another time.
Don't let our wanting Maurice Mapleson here blind us to that."

Jennie smiled her assent. "Well John," said she, "what you are going
to do about it?"

"Do?" said I. "Nothing. There is nothing to be done, except to read
Mr. Mapleson's letter to the committee, to-morrow night at our first
meeting. And I am curious to see what they'll say to it."



CHAPTER XIV.

The Supply Committee hold their first formal Meeting.



PLACE: James Wheaton's library.--Hour: seven and a half o'clock in
the evening.--Present: James Wheaton, Thomas Gear, James Goodsole,
Solomon Hardcap, and John Laicus.--John Laicus in the chair.

Laicus.:

--Gentlemen the first business in order is to appoint a secretary.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--Oh, you can keep the minutes. We don't want much of a record.

Laicus.:

--Very good, if that is agreed to. My minutes will be very simple.

James Wheaton.:

--That's all right. What do you hear from Mr. Mapleson? Anything?

Laicus.:

--Yes I have his letter in my pocket.

James Wheaton.:

--When will he come?

Laicus.:

--He declines to come.

James Wheaton,: [(astonished).]

--Declines to come. Why a church mouse would starve on the pittance
they pay him at Koniwasset Corners. What's his reason?

Laicus.:

--His letter is a rather singular and striking one, gentlemen.
Perhaps I had better read it.

Which he thereupon proceeds to do, slowly and distinctly, till he
reaches the closing paragraphs, which he omits as being of a purely
personal character.

James Wheaton.:

--That fellow's got stuff in him and no mistake. By Jove I believe if
I was running this church I would take him on trust.

Solomon Hardcap.:

--I think it a very presumptuous letter. The idea. What does he
expect? Does he think we're goin' to take a preacher without ever
havin' heard him preach?

Deacon Goodsole.:

--We have heard him preach, Mr. Hardcap. He preached here two Sundays
last summer. Don't you recollect?

Solomon Hardcap.:

--Yes. I remember. But I didn't take no notice of his sermons; he
wan't preachin' as a candidate.

Mr. Gear.:

--Gentlemen I am not very much acquainted with church affairs and I
don't think I understand this business very well. What do you mean
by preaching as a candidate? I thought a candidate was a man who
applied for an office. Am I to understand that whenever a pulpit is
vacant the church expects different ministers to apply for it, and
puts them on trial, and picks out the one it likes the best?

Mr. Hardcap.:

--That's it exactly.

Mr. Gear.:

--You don't really mean to say that any decent ministers apply for
the place on those terms.

Deacon Goodsole,: [(warmly).]

--Indeed they do Mr. Gear. There is never any lack of candidates for
a favorable parish. I have got half a dozen letters in my pocket
now. One man writes and sends me copies of two or three letters of
recommendation. Another gives me a glowing account of the revival
that has followed his labors in other fields. Then there's a letter
from a daughter that really moved me a good deal. She pleads hard
for her father who is poor and is getting old, and needs the salary
sadly-poor man.

Mr. Gear.:

--Well, all I have got to say, is that when any of those candidates
come to preach I hope you'll notify me, and I'll stay away.

Mr. Hardcap.:

--I have no patience with these new fangled notions of these young
up-start preachers. I reckon the ways our fathers got their
preachers are good enough for us.

Mr. Gear.:

--And what do you say as to that point he makes about Paul's
preaching as a candidate, Mr. Hardcap?

Mr. Hardcap.:

--Oh! that's different, altogether-very different. The apostle was
inspired, Mr. Gear.

I notice that this is a very popular style of argument with Mr.
Hardcap. Whenever he is posed in argument his never failing
rejoinder is "Oh! that's different, altogether different." And I
think I have observed that the Hardcap logic is not confined to Mr.
Hardcap, but is in high regard in other quarters, where I should
least look for it.

Mr. Gear.:

--Well I don't think much of apostolic authority myself. But I
supposed the rest of you thought you were bound by any precedents
Paul had set.

Mr. Hardcap.:

--It's mighty high seems to me for a young man to be making of
himself out as good as the apostle Paul.

Mr. Wheaton.:

--I like that young Mapleson, and I like his letter. I wish we could
get him. Is there any chance of persuading him to come, Mr. Laicus?
not as a candidate you know, but just to preach, in good faith like
any other man.

Mr. Gear shrugs his shoulders.

Laicus,: [(decidedly).]

--No! and I should not want to be the one to try.

Mr. Wheaton.:

--Well then who stands next on our list?

Mr. Gear.:

--Excuse me gentlemen, but if he can't come to us why shouldn't we go
to him. Why not try him as we would try any other man.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--How do you mean Mr. Gear?

Mr. Gear.:

--If I want a workman at my factory I don't invite one to come from
my neighbor and try his hand for a day while I stand over and watch
him. We try our apprentices that way, but never a good workman. I go
to his shop, inquire as to his character, and examine the work that
he has done. If he has done good work in another man's shop he will
do it well in mine. At least that's the way we reason in our
factory.

Mr. Hardcap.:

--That's a very different case Mr. Gear, altogether different.

Mr. Gear.:

--Suppose this Mr. Whats-his-name comes, what more will you know
about him than you know now?

Deacon Goodsole.:

--We shall hear him preach and can judge for ourselves.

Mr. Gear.:

--One good sermon does not make a good preacher.

Mr. Wheaton.:

--No! But you don't need to drive a horse more than five miles to
know what are his paces.

Mr. Gear.:

--I don't know much about church management but I like the tone of
that man's letter, and I should like to know more about him. I
believe if we were to appoint a committee to go out to Koniwasset
Corners, hear him preach, look in on his Sabbath-school, find out
what kind of a pastor he is, and in a word see what sort of work
he's doing where he is now, we would get his measure a great deal
better than we should get it by having him come here, and give us
one of his crack sermons-even if he would do it, I honor him because
he won't.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--I am afraid it wouldn't do Mr. Gear-not with our people. I wouldn't
mind it myself.

Mr. Wheaton,: [(blandly).]

--You see Mr. Gear you don't understand church matters altogether. It
would not be ecclesiastical-not at all.

Mr. Gear,: [(sarcastically and sotto voce).]

--I hope I may never learn.

Laicus,: [(desiring to prevent controversy).]

--Gentlemen, I for one agree with Mr. Gear. But we are evidently in
the minority; so there is nothing more to be said about it. We both
believe in government by the majority, and shall submit. What next,
Deacon? Are there any of your letters you want to read to us?

Deacon Goodsole.:

--Oh no! It isn't worth while to read any of them. Though I am sorry
for that poor old man and his pleading daughter.

Mr. Wheaton.:

--The Deacon's list are all too anxious.

Deacon Goodsole.:

--I suppose there is nothing to do but to pursue the usual course. I
move that Mr. Laicus and Mr. Wheaton be appointed to open a
correspondence with candidates.

Laicus,: [(decidedly).]

You must excuse me gentlemen. I don't believe in candidating, and I
can't be accessory to it. I will substitute Deacon Goodsole's name
for my own. And as so amended will put the motion.

As so amended the motion was put, and carried, and the committee on
supply adjourned to meet at the call of Deacon Goodsole and Mr.
Wheaton. But as we walked along toward my home, M. Gear remarked to
me that he wished I would let him know when we got a parson so that
he could come to church again; for said he, "I have no inclination
to serve as a parson tester." And I confess I am quite of mind with
him.



CHAPTER XV.

Our Christmas at Wheathedge.



IS there any reason why Episcopalians, Lutherans and Roman Catholics
should have a monopoly of Christmas? Is its glorious old patron
Saint partial? Has the Christ-child no gifts for us as well as for
other folk? Have the December heavens no brightness-the angel host
no song for "blue Presbyterians?" May we not come to the sacred
manger too? Are our Church festivals so many that we need dread to
add another? Is our religion so inclined to gayety and money-making
that we need curb its joyous tendencies? The very air of Christmas
is marvellous. The heavens are never so blue, the sun never shines
with a profuser generosity. The very earth clothes itself in the
spotless white of the heavenly robe, as if to prepare for the coming
of its Lord.

Alas for him who does not believe in Christmas! May the ghost of
Scrooge haunt him into a better mind.

This was what I mentally ejaculated to myself last Saturday
afternoon after Mr. Hardcap's protest against our Christmas
celebration.

The Sabbath morning previous, Miss Moore came to me mysteriously
after church. "I want to walk home with you, Mr. Laicus," said she.
I have a wife and children, and I felt safe. "I shall be delighted
with the honor," I replied. But Miss Moore's honors are never empty
ones. I knew that she wanted something; I wondered what. I had not
long to wonder; for we had not crossed the road before she opened
the subject.

"We are going to trim the Church for Christmas," said she, "and we
want you to superintend getting the evergreens."

"What?" said I, aghast.

Confidentially, please not mention it, I have been in the habit for
a good many years of taking my wife and my prayer-book to the
Episcopal Church on Christmas-day. Dickens converted me to its
observance ten years or more ago. But none are so sound as those who
are tinged with heresy. And am I not a "blue Presbyterian?" It would
not do to lend my countenance too readily to indecorous invasions of
the sanctuary with festivals borrowed from the Roman Catholics.
Besides, what would the elders say? I asked Miss Moore as much.

"Deacon Goodsole will lend us his pung," was the reply.

"And the trustees?" said I.

But Miss Moore never leaves a point unguarded.

"Young Wheaton is home from school," said she, "and he will go with
you to the woods. He will call to-morrow, right after breakfast."

For a difficult piece of generalship give me a woman. Not fitted for
politics! Why, they are born to it. Here was Miss Moore bent on
trimming the church. And lawyer Laicus was to go in Deacon
Goodsole's sleigh with the son of the President of the Board of
Trustees to get the "trimmings." He who dares to complain after that
enlists two dignitaries and one very respectable layman against him
at the outset.

"Very well," said I, "I will go."

"Go!" said Miss Moore, "of course you'll go. Nobody doubted that.
But I want to tell you where to go and what to get."

The next morning I was just finishing my second cup of coffee when I
heard the jingle of bells, and, looking up, saw Jim Wheaton and the
Deacon's sleek horse at my door. So, bidding Harry, who was to go
too, "be quick," an exhortation that needed no repeating, we were
very soon in the pung, armed I with a hatchet, Harry with a pruning
knife.

That ride was one to be remembered. The air was crisp and clear.
Just snow enough had fallen in the night to cover every black and
noisome thing, as though all nature's sins were washed away by her
Sabbath repentance, and she had commenced her life afresh. There was
luxury in every inhalation of the pure air. The horse, more
impatient than we, could scarcely wait for leave to go, and needed
no word thereafter to quicken his flying feet. Down the hill, with
merry ringing bells, ever and anon showered with flying snow from
the horse's hoof; through the village street with a nod of
recognition to Deacon Goodsole, who stood at his door to wave us a
cheery recognition; round the corner with a whirl that threatens to
deposit us in the soft snow and leave the horse with an empty
sleigh; across the bridge, which spans the creek; up, with unabated
speed, the little hill on the other side; across the railroad track,
with real commiseration for the travelers who are trotting up and
down the platform waiting for the train, and must exchange the
joyous freedom of this day for the treadmill of the city, this air
for that smoke and gas, this clean pure mantle of snow for that
fresh accumulation of sooty sloshy filth; pass the school-house,
where the gathering scholars stand, snowballs in hand, to see us run
merily by, one urchin, more mischievous than the rest, sending a
ball whizzing after us; up, up, up the mountain road, for half a
mile, past farm-houses whose curling smoke tell of great blazing
fires within; past ricks of hay all robed in white, and one ghost of
a last summer's scare-crow watching still, though the corn is long
since in-gathered and the crows have long since flown to warmer
climes; turning off, at last, from the highway into Squire Wheaton's
wood road, where, since the last fall of snow, nothing has been
before us, save a solitary rabbit whose track our dog Jip follows
excitedly, till he is quite out of sight or even call.

Here we are at last. And here the evergeens are about us in a
profusion which would make the eyes water of my honest friend the
Dutch grocer who supplied me with my family trees so many years in
New York. Our smoking nag is over his impatience now, and, being
well blanketed, understands what is wanted of him quite as well as
if he were tied, and stands as still as if he were Squire Slowgoes'
fat and lazy "family horse." With pants tied snugly over our
topboots to keep out the intruding snow, we plunge into the woods.
The ringing blows of our hatchets on the cedar-trees bring down a
mimic shower on our heads and backs. Young Wheaton understands his
business, and shows me how the fairest evergreens are hid beneath
the snow, and what rare forms of crystalline beauty conceal
themselves altogether beneath this white counterpane. So, sometimes
cutting from above and sometimes grubbing from below, we work an
hour or more, till our pung is filled to its brim. Long before we
have finished Jip has returned from his useless search, and the
neighing horse indicates his impatience to be off again.

When we got back to the Church we found it warm with a blazing fire
in the great stove, and bright with a bevy of laughing girls, who
emptied our sleigh of its contents almost before we were aware what
had happened, and were impatiently demanding more. Miss Moore had
proposed just to trim the pulpit-oh! but she is a shrewd manager-and
we had brought evergreens enough to make two or three. But the plans
had grown faster by far than we could work. One young lady had
remarked how beautiful the chandelier would look with an evergreen
wreath; a second had pointed out that there ought to be large
festoons draping the windows; a third, the soprano, had declared
that the choir had as good a right to trimming as the pulpit; a
fourth, a graduate of Mount Holyoke, had proposed some mottoes, and
had agreed to cut the letters, and Mr. Leacock, the store keeper,
had been foraged on for pasteboard, and an extemporized table
contrived on which to cut and trim them. So off we were driven
again, with barely time to thaw out our half-frozen toes; and, in
short, my half morning's job lengthened out to a long days hard but
joyous work, before the pile of evergreens in the hall was large
enough to supply the energies of the Christmas workers.

Of course, we must trim the Sunday school-room as well as the
Church, for the children must have their Christmas; and trimmed it
was, so luxuriantly that it seemed as though the woods had laid
siege to and taken possession of the sanctuary, and that nature was
preparing to join on this glad day her voice with that of man in
singing praise to Him who brings life to a winter-wrapped earth, and
whose fittest symbol, therefore, is the tree whose greenness not
even the frosts of the coldest winter have power to diminish.

Of course Christmas itself passed without recognition. I went, as is
my wont, with my wife and my prayer-book, to the Episcopal Church.
Our Christmas waited till Sunday. A glorious day it was. The sun
never shone more brightly. The crisp keenness was gone from the air.
The balmy breath of spring was in it. The Church never was so full
before and never has been since. The story of its decorations had
been spread far and wide, and all Wheathedge flocked to see what the
Presbyterians would make of Christmas. The pulpit, the walls, the
gallery, the chandelier were festooned with wreaths of living green.
A cross-O tempora! O mores!-of cedar and immortelles, stood on the
communion table. Over the pulpit were those sublime words of the
sublimest of all books, "He shall save His people from their sins."
Opposite it, emblazoned on the gallery, was heaven and earth's
fitting response to this sublime revelation, "Glory be to God on
high." Miss Moore was better than her word. She managed both choir
and minister. Both were in the spirit of the occasion. The parson
never preached a better sermon than his Christmas meditation. The
choir never sung a more joyous song of praise than their Christmas
anthem. And before the influence of that morning's service I think
the last objection to observing Christmas faded out.

For there had been some objections. I heard of two.

One came from Mr. Wheaton. Monday afternoon, going by the Church, he
saw the door open, went in, found it full of busy workers; ceiling,
aisles, pulpit, and gallery, strewed with evergreens, and the
clatter of merry voices keeping pace with the busy fingers. It was
his first intimation of what was going on.

"Heyday!" said he. "What is all this? Who authorized it, I should
like to know?"

The chatter of merry voices ceased. The young ladies were in awe.
Miss Moore was not there to answer for them. No one dared act as
spoksman. Young Jim Wheaton was on a step-ladder rather dangerously
resting on the backs of two pews. He was tacking the letter G to the
gallery. He noticed the silence and discerned the cause.

"Father," said he, "I wish you would hold this ladder for me a
minute. It is rather ticklish."

"Ah, Jim, is that you?" said the old man. Pride in Jim is the
father's weak point. The ladder was held. Then his advice was asked
about the placing of the mottoes; and it was given, and that was the
last of Mr. Wheaton's objection.

The other objection came from Mr. Hardcap, the carpenter. I met him
at the door of the church Saturday afternoon, just as the last
rubbish had been swept out and we were closing the door.

"Looks beautiful, doesn't it Mr. Hardcap?" said I.

"They'd better have spent their time on their knees than with these
fixins," growled Mr. Hardcap; "'twould ha' done the Church more
good, a deal sight."

"Did you spend your time on your knees?" I could not refrain from
asking.

But Mr. Hardcap did not answer.



CHAPTER XVI.

Mr. Gear Again.



OUR Bible class at the Mill has prospered greatly. Mr. Gear was
better than his word. The first Sabbath he brought in over a dozen
of his young men; the half dozen who were already in the Sabbath
School joined us of course. Others have followed. Some of the
children of the Mill village gathered curiously about the
school-house door from Sunday to Sunday. It occurred to me that we
might do something with them. I proposed it to Mr. Gear. He
assented. So we invited them in, got a few discarded singing books
from the Wheathedge Sabbath-school, and used music as an invitation
to more. Mrs. Gear has come in to teach them. There are not over a
dozen or twenty all told as yet. If the skating or the sliding is
good they are reduced to five or six. Still the number is gradually
increasing, and there are enough to constitute the germ of a
possible Mission-school. I wish we had a Pastor. He might make
something out of it.

Mr. Gear adheres to his pledge, and I to mine. We have no
theological discussions in the class. Occasionally, indeed pretty
frequently, we get on themes on which we are not agreed. But we
never debate. Mr. Gear has made several attempts at a theological
discussion out of the class, but I have avoided them. I hope he does
not think I am afraid of discussion.

I am not. But I am convinced that no mere intellectual opinion is a
sin. If Mr. Gear is in darkness it is because he neglects some known
if not some recognized duty. My work is not to convince him of the
error of his opinions. I probably never could do that. And his
opinions are not of much consequence. My work is to find out what
known duty he is neglecting, and press it home upon his conscience.
And so far I have not discovered what it is. He is one of the most
conscientious men I ever knew. Yet something is wanting in Mr. Gear.
I believe he half thinks so himself. He is mentally restless and
uneasy. He seems to doubt his own doubts, and to want discussion
that he may strengthen himself in his own unbelief. But still I make
no progress. Since that first night I have got no farther into his
heart.

"John," said Jennie, "I wish you would call and see Mr. Gear. He has
not been in church for six or eight weeks."

"It is no use," said I, "I have asked him once or twice, and he
always says that he is not coming till we get a Pastor. He says he
does not care to hear candidates; he does not consider himself a
good judge of the article. 'Hardcap,' says he is a ministerial
expert, but I am not."

"How is he getting on?" said Jennie.

"To tell the truth, Jennie, I don't know," I replied. "I don't see
that he gets on at all. He seems to be just where he was."

Jennie drew a long sigh.

"Patience, Jennie, patience," said I, "time works wonders."

"No, John," said Jennie, "time never works. It eats, and undermines,
and rots, and rusts, and destroys. But it never works. It only gives
us an opportunity to work."

Perhaps Jennie is right. Perhaps we expect time to work for us, when
time is only given us that we may work.

"Besides," said Jennie, "there is that volume of Theodore Parker's
sermons which you borrowed of him the other day, you have never
returned it."

No! And I had never read it. Our theme in Bible class had touched on
prayer. After the class Mr. Gear had tried to get me into a
theological discussion about prayer. I had been silent as to my own
views, but had asked him for his. And he had handed me this volume
in reply. It contained a sermon by Theodore Parker on the subject
which Mr. Gear said expressed his own views exactly. Jennie's remark
brought this volume to mind, I took it down from the shelf, opened
to the sermon, and read it aloud to Jennie.

We both agreed that it was a good sermon, or rather, to speak more
accurately, a sermon in which there was good. It is true that in it
Mr. Parker inveighed against the orthodox philosophy of prayer; he
denied that God could really be influenced or his plans changed. But
on the duty of prayer he vehemently insisted. Mere philanthropy and
humanity, he said, are not religion. There must also be piety. The
soul must live in the divine presence; must inhale the Spirit of
God; must utter its contrition, its weaknesses, its wants, and its
thanks-givings to its Heavenly Father.

That evening's reading suggested a thought to me. The next evening I
started for Mr. Gear's to try if it were time, and to try the
practicability of the plan it had developed in my mind. Mr. Gear
welcomed me cordially. Mrs. Gear went off almost immediately on
pretence of putting the children to bed, and left us two alone
together. I opened the conversation by handing her husband the
volume of sermons and thanking him for it.

"What do you think of the sermon?" said he.

"I liked a great deal of it very much indeed," said I. "I believe
you told me that you liked it."

"Very much," said he. "I think its one of Theodore Parker's ablest
sermons."

"And you believe in it?" said I interrogatively.

"With all my heart," said he. "Who can believe that the Great
Infinite First Cause can be influenced, and his plans changed by the
teasing of every one of his insignificant little creatures?"

"But the rest of the sermon," said I. "Do you believe that?"

Last Sunday Professor Strait preached for us. He preached against
what he called humanitarianism. He said it was living without God;
that there was very little difference between ignoring God and
denying his existence, and that the humanitarians practically
ignored him; that they believe only in men.

"It is not true," said Mr. Gear, somewhat bitterly. "You can see for
yourself that it is not true. Theodore Parker believes in prayer as
much as Professor Strait. I don't believe but that he prayed as
much."

"And you agree with him?" said I, with a little affectation of
surprise.

"Agree with him, Mr. Laicus!" said he, "of course I do. There can be
no true religion without prayer, without piety, without gratitude to
God, without faith in Him. Your Church has not the monopoly of faith
in God, by any means, that it assumes to have."

"And you really believe in prayer?" said I.

"Believe in prayer? Why, of course I do. Do you take me for a
heathen?" replied he, with some irritation.

"And every night," said I, "you kneel down and commend yourself to
our Heavenly Father's protection? and every morning you thank him
for His watchfulness, and beseech divine strength from Him to meet
the temptations of the day; and every day you gather your family
about His throne, that you may teach your children to love and
reverence the Father you delight to worship?"

There was a long pause. Mr. Gear was evidently taken by surprise. He
made no answer; I pressed my advantage.

"How is it, my friend?" said I.

"Well, n--no!" said he, "I can't honestly say that I do."

"You believe in prayer, and yet never pray," said I, "is that it?"

"It is so much a matter of mere habit, Mr. Laicus," said he,
excusingly; "and I never was trained to pray."

"All your lifelong," said I, taking no heed of the excuse, "you have
been receiving the goodness of God, and you never have had the
courtesy to say so much as 'thank you.' All your lifelong you have
been trespassing against Him, and never have begged his pardon,
never asked his forgiveness. Is it so?"

There was a moment's pause. Then he turned on me almost fiercely.

"How can I thank him Mr. Laicus," said he "when you say that I do
not love him, and cannot love him."

"Did I ever say that you do not love God?" said I gently.

"Well then," said Mr. Gear, "I say it. There is no use in beating
about the bush. I say it. I honor him, and revere him, and try to
obey him, but I do not particularly love him. I do not know much
about him. I do not feel toward him as I want my children to feel
toward me. What would you have me do Mr. Laicus? Would you have me
play the hypocrite? God has got flatterers enough. I do not care to
swell their number."

"I would have you honest with him as you are with me," I replied. "I
would have you kneel down, and tell him what you have told me; tell
him that you do not know him, and ask him that you may; tell him
that you do not love him and ask him that you may."

"You orthodox people," said he, "say that no man can come to God
with an unregenerate heart; and mine is an unregenerate heart. At
least I suppose so. I have been told so often enough. You tell us
that no man can come that has not been convicted and converted. I
have never suffered conviction or experienced conversion. I cannot
cry out to God, "God be merciful to me a sinner." For I don't
believe I am a sinner. I don't pretend to be perfect. I get out of
temper now and then. I am hard on my children sometimes, was on
Willie to-night, poorly fellow. I even rip out an oath occasionally.
I am sorry for that habit and mean to get the better of it yet. But
I can't make a great pretence of sorrow that I do not experience."

"You have lived," said I, "for over thirty years the constant
recipient of God's mercies and loving kindnesses, and never paid him
the poor courtesy of a thank you. You have trespassed on his
patience and his love in ways innumerable through all these thirty
years, and never said so much as I beg pardon. And now you can look
back upon it all and feel no sorrow. I am sorry if it is so, Mr.
Gear. But if it is, it need not keep you from your God. You can be
at least as frank with him as you have been with me. You can tell
him of your indifference if you can not tell him of your penitence
or your love."

There was a pause.

"You believe in prayer," I continued. "You are indignant that I
suspected you of disbelief; and yet you never pray. Are you not
living without God; is it not true of you that 'God is not in all
your thoughts?'"

He was silent.

"Will you turn over a new leaf in your lifebook?" said I. "Will you
commence this night a life of prayer?"

He shook his head very slightly, almost imperceptibly. "I will make
no promises," said he. But still he spoke more to himself than to
me.

"Mr. Gear," said I, "is it not evident that it is no use for you and
me to discuss theology? It is not a difference of doctrine that
separates us. Here is a fundamental duty; you acknowledge it, you
assert its importance, but you have never performed it; and now that
your attention is called to it you will not even promise to fulfil
it in the future."

"Mr. Laicus," said he, "I will think of it. Perhaps you are right. I
have always meant to do my duty, if my duty was made clear. Perhaps
I have failed, failed possibly in a point of prime importance. I do
not know. I am in a maze. I believe there is a knowledge of God that
I do not possess, a love of God that I do not experience. I believe
in it because I believe in you M. Laicus, and yet more because I
believe in my wife. But may be it will come in time. Time works
wonders."

My very words to Jennie. And Jennie's answer was mine to him.

"Time never works Mr. Gear. It eats, and undermines, and rots, and
rusts, and destroys. But it never works. It only gives us an
opportunity to work."

And so I came away.



CHAPTER XVII.

Wanted--A Pastor.



WE are in a sorry condition here at Wheathedge. The prospects are,
that it will be worse before it is better. For weeks now (it seems
like a year or two) we have been without the Gospel. I do not mean
that literally the preaching of the Gospel has been dispensed with.
On the contrary, I have heard more sermons on the text, "I am
determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him
crucified," than I ever heard before in my life. We are hearing
candidates, and every candidate seems to feel it necessary to
declare himself, to propound a sort of religious platform. The
sermons seem to me to have about as much relation, as a general
thing, to the spiritual condition of the hearers as Gov. Hoffman's
last message to the real interests of the people of the State. In
fact, if the truth were told, it is not a sermon we want, but a
platform. We invite the candidate to preach, not that we may profit
by the Gospel, but that he may show us his face. It has become a
psychological curiosity to see how many different sermons can be
evolved from that one text. I wonder sometimes if St. Paul would
know himself in his modern attire.

I am very glad that Maurice Mapleson did not accept my invitation to
come to Wheathedge, to preach as a candidate. For listening to a
candidate and listening to the Gospel are two very different things.
The candidate preaches to show us how he can do it. We listen to
hear how he can do it. From the moment he enters the pulpit all eyes
are fixed upon him. His congregation is all attention. Let him not
flatter himself. It is as critics, not as sinners, that we listen.
We turn round to see how he walks up the aisle. Is his wife so
unfortunate as to accompany him? We analyze her bonnet, her dress,
her features, her figure. If not, he monopolizes all attention. In
five minutes we can, any of us-there are a few rare exceptions-tell
you the cut of his coat, the character of his cravat, the shape of
his collar, the way he wears his hair. If he has any peculiar pulpit
habit, woe betide him; he is odd. If he has not, woe betide him; he
is commonplace and conventional. He rises to invoke the blessing of
God. If he goes to the throne of God he goes alone. We go no farther
than the pulpit. We tell one another afterwards that he is eloquent
in prayer, or that his prayers are very common. If his style is
solemn, we condemn him as stilted. If it is conversational, we
condemn him as too colloquial and familiar. He reads a hymn. We
compare his elocution with that of our own favorites, or with some
imaginary ideal, if we have no favorites. He preaches. We can, any
of us, tell you how he does it. But what he says, there are not half
a dozen who can tell. Does he tell us of our sins? We do not look at
our own hearts, but at his picture, to see if it is painted well.
Does he hold before us the cross? We do not bow before it. We ask,
is it well carved and draped? The Judgment is only a dramatic poem;
the Crucifixion only a tableau.

So, though we have preaching, we have no Gospel at Wheathedge.

Perhaps the lack of the parish is quite as painfully felt in other
departments as in the pulpit. The Church is without a head. It
flounders about like a headless chicken; excuse the homely simile,
which has nothing but truth to commend it. When Mrs. Beale died last
week, we had to send to Wheatensville to get a minister to attend
the funeral. When Sallie D. was married she sent there, too, for a
minister. He was out of town, and the ceremony came near being
delayed a week for want of him. The prayer-meeting lags. Little
coldnesses between church members break out into open quarrels.
There is no one to weld the dissevered members. Poor old Mother
Lang, who has not left her bed for five years, laments bitterly her
loss, and asks me every time I call to see her, "When will you get a
pastor?" The Young People's Association begins to droop. Even the
Sunday-school shows signs of friction, though Deacon Goodsole
succeeds in keeping it in tolerably good running order by his
imperturbable good humor. One advantage we have gained by this
interregnum-only one. Even Mr. Hardcap is convinced that pastoral
labors are not so unimportant as he had imagined.

For myself, I am in despair. I made no very serious objection to
being put on the supply committee. I fancied the task a
comparatively easy one. I had understood that there was no lack of
ministers wanting places. There is none. We have applications three
or four deep, of all sorts and kinds, from parishless clergymen. But
such a jury as the Wheathedge congregation affords, I never saw and
hope never to see again. I only wish there was some law to treat
them as other juries are treated: shut them up in the jury-room till
they agree on a verdict.

The first minister was too old; he would not suit the young folks.
The second, just out of the seminary, was too young; the old folks
said he had not experience. The third had experience. He had been in
a parish three years. He was still young, with the elastic hopes and
strong enthusiasm of youth. But he was a bachelor. The people pretty
universally declared that the minister should have a wife and a
house. The women all said there must be somebody to organize the
sewing circles, and to lead the female prayer-meetings. The fourth
was married, but he had three or four children. We could not support
him. The fifth was a most learned man, who told us the original
Greek or Hebrew of his texts, and, morning or evening, never came
nearer to America than Rome under Augustus C‘sar. He was dull. The
sixth afforded us a most brilliant pyrotechnic display. He
spluttered, and fizzed, and banged, as though Fourth of July himself
had taken orders and gone to preaching. The young people were
carried away. But the old folks all said he was sensational.

Then, besides those we have heard, there are several we have talked
about. There is the Rev. Mr. C-- who has the reputation of being a
most excellent pastor. He is indefatigable in visiting the sick, in
comforting the afflicted, in dealing with the recreant and the
unconverted. But Mr. Wheaton says emphatically he will never do for
our people. "He is no preacher, Mr. Laicus," says he; "and our
people demand first-rate preaching. We must have a man that can
draw."

We talked over Mr. K--. He is a rare preacher, by all accounts. I
understand that his health has suffered somewhat by excessive study,
and he would like another parish, a quieter one, where he can have
more time to his study, and can use his old sermons. He preached
once or twice in exchange with our old pastor before he left. But
Solomon Hardcap would not hear of him, and even Deacon Goodsole
shook his head at his suggestion, "He is not social," said the
Deacon. "He does not know half the people in Highkrik, where he has
been settled for over five years. He often passes his best friend
without noticing him, on the street." "Never would do," says Mr.
Hardcap. "He only visits his people once a year. I want to know my
minister. We want a man who will run in and out as though he cared
for us. Preaching is all very well, but we don't want a minister who
is all talk."

I am in despair. And despite the breach of ecclesiastical etiquette,
I have resolved to resort to advertising. I have not submitted my
advertisement to the other members of the committee, but I am sure
that it is in accord with the general feelings of the Church.

"Jennie, what do you think of my sending this advertisement to the
Christian Union?"

WANTED.-A pastor. He must be irreproachable in his dress, without
being an exquisite; married, but without children, young, but with
great experience; learned, but not dull; eloquent in prayer, without
being colloquial or stilted; reverential, but not conventional;
neither old nor commonplace; a brilliant preacher, but not
sensational; know every one, but have no favorites; settle all
disputes, engage in none; be familiar with the children, but always
dignified; be a careful writer, a good extempore speaker, and an
assiduous and diligent pastor. Such a person, to whom salary is less
an object than a "field of usefulness," may hear of an advantageous
opening by addressing Wheathedge, care of "The Christian Union," 27,
Park Place.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Our Prayer-Meeting.



ONE thing we have gained by losing our pastor-the promise of better
prayer-meetings.

Not that he was recreant in his duty. He performed it only too well.
We learned to depend on him. He suffered us to do so. It was only by
a delicate irony that the prayer-meeting could be termed one of the
"social meetings" of the Church. A solemn stillness pervaded the
room. No one ever spoke after he entered the awful presence, unless
he rose, formally addressed "the chair," and delivered himself of a
set address. Occasionally one bolder than the rest spoke in a
sepulchral whisper to his neighbor-that was all. In other social
meetings the ladies, according to my observation, bear their full
burden of conversation. In our prayer-meetings no woman ever
ventured to open her mouth. In fact, I hardly know why they were
called prayer-meetings. We rarely had any greater number of prayers
than in our usual Sabbath service. Yes, I think we usually had one
more.

The minister entered solemnly at the appointed hour, walked straight
to his desk, without a word, a bow, a smile of recognition; read a
long hymn, offered a very respectable imitation of the "long
prayer," gave out a second hymn, and called on an elder to pray, who
always imitated the imitation, and included in his broad sympathies
all that his pastor had just prayed for-the Church, the
Sabbath-school, the unconverted, backsliders, those in affliction,
the President and all those in authority, the (Presbyterian) bishops
and other clergy, not forgetting the heathen and the Jews. Then
followed a passage of Scripture for a text from the pastor, with a
short sermon thereafter. Nor was it always short. I fancied he felt
the necessity of occupying the time. It was not unfrequently long
enough for a very respectable discourse, if length gives the
discourse its respectability. Then we had another prayer from
another layman, and then the invariable announcement, "the meeting
is now open," and the invariable result, a long, dead pause. In
fact, the meeting would not open. Like an oyster, it remained
pertinaciously shut. Occasionally some good elder would rise to
break the painful silence, by repeating some thought from the
previous Sunday's sermon, or by telling some incident or some idea
which he had seen in a previous number of "The Christian Union." But
as we had all been to church, and as most of us take "The Christian
Union," this did not add much to the interest of the meeting.
Generally another prayer and hymn, sometimes two, sufficed to fill
the hour. The pastor kept his eye on the clock. When the hand
pointed to nine he rose for the benediction. And never did a crowd
of imprisoned schoolboys show more glad exultation at their release
than was generally indicated by these brethren and sisters when the
words of benediction dismissed them from their period of irksome
restraint. Every man, and every woman, too, found a tongue. We broke
up into little knots. A busy hum of many voices replaced the dead
silence. The "social meeting" commenced when the "prayer-meeting"
ended. This, I think, is a fair portraiture of our prayer-meetings
at Wheathedge as they were during our late pastor's presence with
us.

The fault was not his-at least it was only proximately his. He felt
the burden, groaned under it, tried hard, poor man! to remedy the
evil. He often came to consult me about it. He tried various plans.
He gave a course of weekly lectures. The prayer-meeting was less a
meeting of prayer than before. No man was willing to follow his
elaborate lecture with a fragmentary talk. He announced from the
pulpit, the preceding Sabbath, the topic for the next meeting. Worse
and worse! A few members conscientiously studied up the passage in
"Barnes's Notes" and the "Comprehensive Commentary," and brought us
the result of their investigations in discourse powerfully prosy,
and recondite with second hand learning. The Minister at last gave
up the matter in despair. I think the condition of our
prayer-meetings was one consideration which greatly influenced him
in deciding to leave.

I thought that there was nothing left in them to be lost, that no
change could be other than for the better; but after he went what
little meeting we had fell away. The few who had been attracted by
his personal presence ceased to come. In vain we endeavored to
revive our flagging spirits by continually reminding one another
that the promise was to two or three gathered together. That was our
standard text. Every leader referred to it in his prayers, and
generally in his opening remarks. We had need of it. For the last
two weeks there were not members enough present to serve as
pall-bearers for the dead prayer-meeting.

This brought about a crisis. Two weeks ago, Deacon Goodsole came to
me to talk over the spiritual condition of our church. I agreed with
him that the prayer-meeting was a fatal symptom if not a fatal
disease. We agreed to do what we could to remedy it. We asked the
session to put it into our hands. They were only too glad to do so.
We spoke quietly to two other of the brethren to co-operate with us.
We divided the parish among ourselves, and undertook to visit all
the praying and waking members-not a very onerous task. We talked
with one by one, concerning the spiritual condition of the church,
asked them to come next week to the prayer-meeting, and to bring
with them warm hearts. "Come," we said, "from your closets. Come in
the spirit of prayer." Fifteen minutes before the hour of meeting we
four met in the Bible-class room. One agreed to act that night as
leader. It was Deacon Goodsole. He told the rest of us his subject.
Then we all knelt together and asked God's blessing on our
prayer-meeting. From that brief and simple conference we went
together to the conference-room. Each one agreed to carry some
offering with him-a word, a prayer, a hymn. Each one agreed also to
bring in speech but a single thought, and in prayer but a single
petition. The leader himself should occupy but five minutes. Our
hearts were aglow. We never had such a prayer-meeting in Wheathedge.
Deacon Goodsole did not have to announce that the prayer-meeting was
open. It opened itself. We had hard work to close it. The meeting
last week was preceded in the same manner by fifteen minutes of
prayer. It was characterized by the same warmth and freshness. We
are astonished to find how short our hour is when we come to the
meeting from our knees, when we bring to it, in our hearts, the
spirit of God. We have no long speeches. So far we have had few
exhortations and much true experience. Shall we fall back again into
the old ruts? Perhaps. It is something that we are not in them now.
Meanwhile, from this brief experience I cull five proverbs for my
own reflection.

The minister cannot make a good meeting.

Warm hearts are better than great thoughts.

Solemn faces do not make sacred hours.

Little leading makes much following.

Brevity is the soul of the prayer-meeting.



CHAPTER XIX.

We are Jilted.



WHEATHEDGE is in a fever of excitement-not very agreeable
excitement. Disappointment and anger are curiously commingled.
Little knots of men and women gathered after church on Sunday in
excited discussion. A by-stander might overhear in these conferences
such phrases dropped as "Shameful." "It's too bad." "If he is that
sort of man it's very fortunate we did not get him." "I have no
faith in ministers," and the like. Do you ask what is the matter? We
have been jilted.

I will not give names, at least not the true ones. For I have no
inclination to involve myself in a newspaper controversy, and none
to injure the prospects of a young man who possesses qualities which
fit him for abundant usefulness if vanity and thoughtlessness do not
make shipwreck of him.

For six months now we have been without a pastor. We are hard to
suit. Mr. Wheaton was right. Wheathedge is a peculiar place, and
requires a very peculiar man. But about six weeks ago there came
along a very peculiar man. He seemed to be just adapted to the
place. He was fresh from the seminary. He had a wife but no
children. He was full of enthusiasm. As a preacher he was free from
conventionalism, bright, sparkling, brilliant; more brilliant than
warm. In private life he was social, genial, unministerial. Old Aunt
Sue did indeed complain that when he called there he did not offer
to pray with her. And good old Father Haines said he wished that
there was less poetry and more Christ in his sermons. But neither
old Aunt Sue nor old Father Haines contribute much to the support of
the Church, and their criticisms did nothing to abate the general
enthusiasm. Jim Wheaton said he was just the man, and promised to
double his subscription, if necessary, to get him. Deacon Goodsole
was scarcely less enthusiastic. I do not think there was a
dissenting voice among the ladies; and the young folks were
absolutely unanimous.

"If we can only get Mr. Uncannon," said Jim Wheaton to me one
morning, as we rode to the city in the cars together, "in three
weeks we will drain the Methodist church dry of its young folks."

Personally, I have no taste for foraging in other men's fields. But
I knew that Jim Wheaton would not appreciate my sentiments, and so I
kept silence.

Mr. Uncannon preached for us two Sabbaths. He spent the intervening
week in Wheathedge. He visited with Deacon Goodsole most of the
leading families. He stopped at Mr. Wheaton's. If the people had
been charmed with him in pulpit they were delighted with him in the
parlor. The second Sabbath I do not think there would have been a
dissenting voice to the call.

There was only one difficulty. It was considered very doubtful if we
could get him. That doubt I undertook to solve.

Monday he returned to the city. I went down in the same train, and
took occasion to fall into conversation with him. I told him frankly
the state of feeling. I represented that it was very desirable that
the matter should go no further unless there was a prospect that he
would consider favorably a call if it were given him. He replied
with equal frankness. He said that he was delighted with the place
and with the people. He wanted to come. There was only one obstacle.
He understood that we paid our former pastor only $1,200 a year. He
could not undertake to live on that.

"In fact," said he, "they want me very much at North Bizzy, in
Connecticut. They pay there $1,500 a year. It is a manufacturing
town. I do not think either the society or the work would be as
congenial as in Wheathedge. I like the quiet of your rural parish. I
appreciate the advantages it would afford me for study. But $300 is
a good deal of money. I do not want to be mercenary, Mr. Laicus, but
I do not want to be pinched."

I assured him that no such difficulty should stand in his way. When
I returned, I found he had expressed the same sentiments to Deacon
Goodsole and Mr. Wheaton. We were all agreed that we would do as
well as North Bizzy. So we gave him a call at $1,500. Possibly we
presumed too much; but we generally considered it as good as
settled.

The Sabbath after the call he came to Wheathedge. This time he
brought his young wife with him. The ladies were more charmed than
ever. All Wheathedge turned out to see and hear our new minister. He
remained over to our weekly prayer-meeting. It was astonishing what
a spirit of devotion was awakened in our church. I have never seen
the prayer-meeting so fully attended. He seemed fully to reciprocate
our enthusiasm. He and his wife were tireless in the praises of the
beauties of Wheathedge. "It is just the place," said Mrs. Uncannon,
"in which I should choose to spend my days." Of course this saying
was repeated all over the parish, and this evidence of her
appreciative taste increased very measurably her own and her
husband's popularity.

He went away Thursday morning without giving a final and definite
answer. Deacon Goodsole indeed asked him point blank for one. He
replied that though his mind was about made up, still he felt that
so solemn a connection ought not to be made without a prayerful
consideration. This was all very proper. We waited, with patience,
till this decorous delay should be over. But we already considered
him our pastor.

It was the next week that Deacon Goodsole came into my house one
evening, in a state of great excitement. He had an open letter in
his hand. "Look there," said he. "The Church at North Bizzy is
trying to get our minister away from us."

The letter was from Mr. Uncannon. It was to the effect that the
Church at North Bizzy were taking measures to secure a parsonage. He
preferred to come to Wheathedge, but he did not know what he should
do for a house. There had been, he believed, some talk of building a
parsonage at Wheathedge. He felt very desirous to take his bride to
her "home"--not to depend on boarding-houses or landlords. If this
could be provided he thought it would settle the question; for both
he and his wife infinitely preferred the clear air and sunny skies,
and grand old mountains, and glorious river basking in the golden
sunlight, &c., &c., to the dust and soot and noise of man's busy but
dirty industry.

"Very well," said I. "I do not care to bid against the Church at
North Bizzy. But I have always wanted a parsonage at Wheathedge. I
will be one of five to pay the rent for this year, and one of ten to
build one next year."

Deacon Goodsole started a subscription paper on the spot. In a few
days we had secured a house for the year, and money enough to make
our building operation certain. The Deacon wrote Mr. Uncannon
accordingly. We expected his answer forthwith, and his arrival soon
after. Wheathedge was at last satisfied.

Imagine, then, if you can, the chagrin and disappointment which was
caused when, last Sunday morning, a letter was read from Mr.
Uncannon to Mr. James Wheaton, Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
declining the call. Mr. Uncannon had given it his most prayerful
consideration. He was deeply moved by the warm welcome which had
been accorded to him. He had hoped that the Lord would make it plain
that it was to be his privilege to cast in his lot with us. But the
Lord had ordered it otherwise. The Providential indications seemed
to him clear that it was his duty to labor in another field.

But he united his prayers with ours that the Great Bishop would soon
send us a pastor who should feed us with the bread of life.

Deacon Goodsole says that the Providential indications are a salary
of $1,800 and a parsonage; and Mr. Wheaton says if any other young
man succeeds in playing us off against a rival parish he is
mistaken; that's all. Even gentle Jennie is indignant. "Of all
flirtation, ministerial flirtation seems to me to be the worse," she
says; and truth to tell, she never had much patience with any other.

I do not want to judge Mr. Uncannon too harshly. In fact I am not in
a very judicial frame of mind. But, whatever his intent, his
ministerial coquetry has injured the cause of Christ in Wheathedge
more than a year of preaching can benefit it in North Bizzy.
Meanwhile, the parsonage, which we hired, lies vacant on our hands,
and waits for an occupant.



CHAPTER XX.

We propose.



WE are in the valley of humiliation. Since the church has been
rejected, it has an opportunity to understand how a candidate feels
when he is rejected. I am inclined on consideration to recall the
last paragraph of the last chapter. I am inclined to think Mr.
Uncannon may prove a "means of grace" to us yet. He has certainly
been a thorn in the side.

On further consideration, I do retract it. I here emphatically
record that first thoughts are not always best thoughts, and that it
is my sober second judgment that Mr. Uncannon has done us more good
than he has the parish at North Bizzy. We gave him to them
grudgingly. But it has been a case in which the proverb applies: It
is more blessed to give than to receive. For Mr. Uncannon's
flirtation has probably given us Maurice Mapleson for a pastor.

Two weeks ago I was coming up from New York on the train. Deacon
Goodsole was in the seat in front of me. My satchel was my only
traveling companion. And I, according to custom, was enjoying a
train nap, when I was aroused by a hand on my shoulder coupled with
a hearty "Hallo! you could not be sounder asleep if you were in
church and Dr. Argure was in the pulpit."

It was Mr. Wheaton.

"Good afternoon," said I. "Sit down." And my satchel exchanged its
seat for a place in my lap in order to make room for Mr. Wheaton on
the seat beside me.

"Look here, gentlemen," said Mr. Wheaton, taking the proffered seat,
"we've been fooling about this minister business long enough."

"Been fooled you mean," said Deacon Goodsole.

"I tell you," said Mr. Wheaton, slapping his knee by way of
emphasis, "that young Maurice Mapleson is the man for us. The more I
think of it the more I am sure of it."

"He is a right earnest man," said the Deacon. "I think he was the
first spark we have seen in the ashes of our prayer meeting for many
a day."

"Can't you get him to come down, Mr. Laicus?" asked Mr. Wheaton.

I shook my head resolutely.

"Not as a candidate you know, but on some dodge or other. Invite him
to spend a week with you, and book on to him for the pulpit when
Sunday comes."

"He isn't the man for dodges," said the Deacon, doubtfully.

I shook my head as decidedly to the second proposition as to the
first.

"Well then," said Mr. Wheaton, "if he won't come here we will have
to go there. It isn't far."

The Deacon doubted whether the church would agree to deviate from
the old paths.

"They wouldn't have done it," said Mr. Wheaton. "But they'll agree
to anything now I think."

"Mr. Gear recommended that plan when we first met," said I. "He will
approve of it. But how as to Mr. Hardcap?"

"Oh! no matter about Hardcap," said Mr. Wheaton, "he's no account."

"Excuse me," said I, "he is one of our committee and is of account."

So after some consultation it was finally agreed that we should get
off at the Mill Village Station to see Mr. Gear, and then walk up to
Wheathedge. Deacon Goodsole also proposed to put Mr. Hardcap on the
special committee to go to Koniwasset Corners, and Mr. Wheaton said
he would furnish a free pass over the road to all who would go. No
man is impervious to compliments if they are delicately
administered. At all events Mr. Gear was sensibly pleased by having
us call on him in a body. And Mr. Hardcap, when he found that the
new plan involved a free ride on the railroad and a Sunday excursion
for himself, withdrew all objections.

My wife says, "For shame, John," and wants me to strike that last
sentence out. But it is true, and I do not know why it should not
stand. It is in confidence you know.

The next Saturday Mr. Wheaton, Mr. Hardcap and Deacon Goodsole
started for Koniwasset Corners. They reached it, or rather they
reached Koniwasset, the nearest point, Saturday evening, and Sunday
morning rode over, a drive of five miles. It was a beautiful day;
the congregation turned out well; the little church was full, and
Maurice, unconscious of the presence of a committee, and preaching,
not to fish for a place, but to fish for men, was free,
unconstrained and, as Providence willed it, or as good fortune would
have it (the reader may have his choice of expressions, according as
he is Christian or heathen), was in a good mood. Deacon Goodsole was
delighted. Jim Wheaton was scarcely less so, and even Mr. Hardcap
was pleased to say that it was "a real plain Gospel sermon." Deacon
Goodsole found an old friend in one of the congregation and went
home with him to dinner, while Mr. Wheaton and Mr. Hardcap went back
to the hotel. Deacon Goodsole joined them in the evening and brought
a good report of the Sunday-school, where he had watched the
unconscious parson (who superintends his own school), and had even,
to avoid suspicion, taken the place of an absent teacher for the
afternoon.

Mr. Wheaton had to return the next day, but the Deacon found no
great difficulty in persuading Mr. Hardcap to stay over, and Tuesday
evening they went to the weekly prayer-meeting. Meanwhile they
inquired quietly in the neighborhood about the preacher at the
Corners, giving however no one a hint of their object, except the
parson at Koniwasset who commended Maurice very highly for his piety
and his efficiency. As to his preaching, he said he should not call
him eloquent, "but" he added, "there is one thing; Maurice Mapleson
never speaks without having something to say; and he is very much in
earnest."

Both the Deacon and Mr. Hardcap were very much pleased with the
spirit of the prayer-meeting--the Deacon said Mr. Mapleson could
make more of a fire with less fuel than any man he knew--and when the
committee made their report, which they did at the close of our
Wednesday evening meeting, it was unanimous in favor of giving
Maurice a call.

To call a man without hearing him was not the orthodox way, and the
objections which Mr. Hardcap had originally proposed in the
committee meeting were renewed by others. In reply it was said, very
truly, that the church really knew more about Mr. Mapleson than they
could possibly learn from a trial sermon, or even from half a dozen
of them, that a careful investigation by a committee into his actual
working power was a far better test than any pulpit exhibition,
however brillant. I added that Mapleson's letter was positive, and
his convictions settled, and that I felt reasonably certain he would
not preach as a candidate. On the whole this increased the desire to
get him; and finally a second committee was appointed to go and hear
him. A couple of ladies were put, informally, on this committee, and
the church paid the expenses of the four. I say informally. Deacon
Goodsole nominated Miss Moore and Mrs. Biskit, and quoted the case
of Phoebe from the sixteenth chapter of Romans to prove that it was
apostolic. But the ladies shook their heads, as did some of the
elders of the church and Mr. Hardcap entered a vigorous protest. The
Deacon was a born and bred Congregationalist, and is radical, I am
afraid, in church matters. A compromise was finally effected by
appointing two of the elders, who agreed to take their wives.

They came back as well pleased as the first committee had been, and
the result was, to make a long story short, that last week a
unanimous call was sent to Maurice, and as I write this letter I
have before me a private note from him, saying that he has received
it, and that, if agreeable to us, he will come down and spend a week
with me. He says he wants to see our prayer-meeting, our
Sabbath-school teachers' meeting, and our Sabbath-school. He adds
that he will preach for us on Sunday if we desire, but that he does
not want it known that he will be here at the prayer-meeting, as he
wants to take a back seat and see how it goes.

In short he gives me to understand that it is the church which is on
trial, not the minister, and that whether he comes or not depends on
what kind of a church he finds it to be. This reversal of the
ordinary course of things is a little queer; but I guess it is all
right. At all events it will not do the church at Wheathedge any
harm. Meanwhile until we get a final answer from Maurice Mapleson
our pulpit is no longer in the market. For after our experience of
ministerial coquetry I do not think there will be any inclination on
our part for a flirtation.



CHAPTER XXI.

Ministerial Salaries.



"MR. Wheaton," said I, "we made a queer blunder the other night; we
did not settle on any salary when we made out our call to Mr.
Mapleson."

"No blunder," said Mr. Wheaton, "I left it out on purpose. I thought
may be we could get him for less than fifteen hundred dollars. What
do you think? Wouldn't he come on twelve hundred, and the
parsonage?" And Mr. Wheaton smiled on me with an air of
self-satisfaction which seemed to say, 'Jim Wheaton is the man to
manage church business.'

I confess I was indignant at the idea of driving a sharp bargain
with a minister, but I rather suspect Jim Wheaton never makes any
other than a sharp bargain.

"Not with my advice," said I. "I told him the church ought to pay
fifteen hundred a year and a parsonage, and I presumed it would. But
I recommend him not to come till he knows."

We were in the Post Office, waiting for the distribution of the
evening mail. Mr. Hardcap was one of our group. So was Deacon
Goodsole. It was indeed a sort of extemporized and unintentional
meeting of our supply committee, only Mr. Gear being absent.

"The church won't give mor'n 1,200 with my advice," said Mr. Hardcap
decidedly. "And that's mor'n I make. I would just like to contract
my time for the year at four dollars a day. And I have to get up at
six and work till sunset, ten hours, hard work. I don't see why the
parson should have half as much again for five or six hours' work. I
have heard our old pastor say myself that he never allowed himself
to study mor'n six hours a day."

"But the pastoral work, Mr. Hardcap?" said I. "You make no account
of that."

"The calls, do you mean?" said he. "Well, I should like to be paid
four dollars a day for just dressin' up in my best and visitin',
that's all."

"Not only the calls," said I, "though you would find calling
anything but recreation, if it was your business. But there are the
prayer-meetings, and the Sabbath-school, and the whole management
and direction of the church."

"Prayer-meetin' and Sabbath-school!" replied Mr. Hardcap; "don't we
all work in them? And we don't ask any salary for it. I guess it
ain't no harder for the parson to go to prayer-meetin' than for
me."

I shrugged my shoulders. The deacon interposed.

"I agree with you, Mr. Laicus," said he. "We have got to pay a good
salary. I wish we could make it two thousand a year instead of
fifteen hundred."

Mr. Hardcap opened his eyes and pursed his mouth firmly together, as
though he would say 'Do my ears deceive me?'

"But," continued the deacon, "there is something in what Mr. Hardcap
says. There are half-a-dozen farmers in our Wheathedge congregation
who don't handle fifteen hundred dollars in money from one year's
end to the other. Mr. Hardcap isn't the only man to whom it seems a
big sum to pay. Mr. Lapstone the shoemaker, Mrs. Croily the
seamstress, Joe Hodgkins the blacksmith, and half-a-dozen others I
could name, have to live on less. And you must remember their
incomes, Mr. Laicus, as well as yours, and mine, and Mr. Wheaton's
here."

"Well, gentlemen," said Mr. Wheaton, "we've got to pay a good
salary, but I think we ought to keep expenses down all we can."

"I don't believe in makin' preachin' a money makin' business
no-how," said Mr. Hardcap. "Parsons hain't got no business to be a
layin' up of earthly riches, and fifteen hundred dollars is a good
deal of money to spend on bread and butter, now I tell you."

"Mr. Hardcap," said I, "what do your tools cost you?"

"My tools?" said he. "Yes," said I, "your tools. What do they cost
you?"

"Well," said he, "they range all the way from ten cents up to five
dollars, accordin' to the article and its quality."

"Did you ever consider," said I, "what a minister's tools cost?"

"Minister's tools!" said he, "I didn't know he had any, except his
pen."

"My dear sir," said I, "his tools alone cost him between one and two
hundred dollars a year."

Mr. Hardcap expressed his incredulity by a long whistle; and even
Deacon Goodsole expressed a quiet doubt. But my father was a
minister and I know something about it.

"Look here," said I. "He must have at least two religious weeklies,
one of his own denomination, and one of a more general character,"
and I took out a pencil and paper and noted down my list as I made
it, "that's six dollars. He ought to have at least two of the
popular magazines, that's eight dollars. He ought to have a good
scientific magazine of some kind, four dollars more; and his
theological quarterly is indispensable, four dollars more; and at
least one of the daily newspapers, he ought really to read on both
sides, but we will allow only one, that's ten dollars, and here is
the footing of his periodical literature: Two religious weeklies $6
Popular Magazines 8 Scientific Magazine 4 Theological Quarterly 4
Daily Paper 10 $32"

"That's what it will cost him," said I, "simply to keep up with the
times."

The other gentlemen looked at my figures a moment in silence. Deacon
Goodsole was the first to speak. "That is a pretty liberal
estimate," said he. "A great many ministers get along on less than
that."

"Oh yes," said I, "and grow dry and dull in consequence. Little food
makes lean men."

Mr. Hardcap shook his head resolutely, "I don't believe in preachin'
to the times," said he. "It's scripter interpretation and the
doctrines we want."

"Very well," said I, "the tools for that work cost more yet. Yours
cost you from ten cents to five dollars, his from five dollars to a
hundred. A single volume of Lange, or Alford, or the Speaker's
Commentary cost five dollars; a good Bible Dictionary, from twenty
to thirty; a good Encyclopedia, from fifty to a hundred. And
theological treaties have a small market and therefore a high
price-very high for their value. And his tools grow old too, and
have to be replaced oftener than yours do, Mr. Hardcap."

"I don't see that, Mr. Laicus," said he. "A book, if you keep it
careful, will last a great many years. I am reading out of a Bible
that belonged to my grandfather. And I expect 'll belong to my
grandson yet."

"My dear Mr. Hardcap," said I, "the leaves and covers and printed
works do not make the book. Ideas make the book. You can use your
tools over and over again. If your plane gets dull out comes the
hones and the dulled edge is quickly sharpened again. But ideas are
gone when they are used."

"I don't see it," said Mr. Hardcap. And I do not suppose he does. I
wonder if he knows what an idea is.

"It is so," continued I, "with all student-tools. There are a few
which the minister uses over and over again; his dictionaries,
commentaries, and cyclopedia, if he has one. There are a few
treaties that are worth reading and re-reading; but they are
exceptional. Generally the student gets the gist of a book in one
reading, as a squirrel the kernel of a nut at one crack. What
remains on his shelves thereafter is only a shell. A book that has
been dulled can rarely be sharpened and put to use again. There is
no ministerial hone. The parson must replenish his bench every year.
At least he ought to."

"I haven't no great opinion of larned ministers no-how," said Mr.
Hardcap. "It isn't larnin' we want, Mr. Laicus. It is the Gospel,
the pure, unadulterated Gospel."

Mr. Hardcap was incorrigible. I might as well try to explain to a
North American Indian the cost and the value of a modern cotton mill
as the cost and the value of student tools to Mr. Hardcap.

But I believe I produced some impression on the others. Deacon
Goodsole still pondered my figures. "I never thought of the cost of
minister's tool before," said he. "It's quite an item."

"Well," said Mr. Hardcap, "for my part I don't see why the parson
can't live on a thousand dollars a year as well as I can."

I had failed to produce conviction on the subject of tools. I
resolved to try another tack. "What do you pay for help?" said I.

"Help?" said he interrogatively.

"Yes," said I. "What do you pay your cook and chambermaid?"

"Hoh!" said he contemptuously. "I don't keep no help. My Bible tells
me that God made the wife to be a help-meet for man, and my wife is
all the help I want. I wouldn't have a servant round my house at no
price."

"Do you suppose our pastor and his wife can get along the same way?"
I asked.

"Don't see why not," said he sententiously.

"What!" said Mr. Wheaton. "Would you have your pastor's wife do her
own work, Mr. Hardcap? I hope we haven't got so poor as that. She
must be a lady, Mr. Hardcap; a lady, sir."

"Well," said Mr. Hardcap, "and can't a lady do her own work? High
and mighty notions these that a woman must eat the bread of idleness
to be a lady."

"Oh! it's all very well, Mr. Hardcap," said Mr. Wheaton; "but our
pastor's wife has a position to maintain. She owes a duty to the
parish, sir. She can't be maid of all work at home. I should be
ashamed of the church to suffer it."

"There certainly is a difference, Mr. Hardcap," said the Deacon.
"Mrs. Hardcap may do her own washing. And if anybody finds her over
the washtub Monday morning no one thinks the worse of her for it.
But it really wouldn't do for our pastor's wife."

Mr. Hardcap shook his head resolutely. "I don't see it," said he. "I
don't believe a minister's wife is too good to work."

"She isn't," said the Deacon. "But if she washes Monday, and irons
Tuesday, and sweeps Wednesday, and bakes Thursday, and sews Friday
and Saturday, what time has she left to make calls or receive them?"

Mr. Hardcap only shrugged his shoulders.

"How many calls does your wife make in a year?" I asked.

"Oh! we don't make no calls," said Mr. Hardcap. "We've got other
work to do."

"And yet you expect your minister and his wife to call on you?" said
I interrogatively.

"I s'pose so," said he.

"I remember hearing you say that you thought it rather hard of Mrs.
Work, just before they left, that she hadn't been inside of your
house for six months. How many calls do you suppose Mrs. Mapleson
would have to make in a year in order to call on every family once
in six months?"

"Don't know," said Mr. Hardcap, shortly.

"Well," said the Deacon, "we've got over a hundred families in our
parish. It would take nearly one call every day."

"Beside extra calls on the sick," I continued. "You will either have
to give Mrs. Mapleson a servant or relinquish your expectation of
receiving any calls from her; that is very evident."

Mr. Hardcap made no reply.

"There are one or two other items that ought to be considered in
deciding what the pastor's salary should be," said a gentle but
tremulous voice at my side. I turned about to see the speaker. It
was old Father Hyatt, who had joined our group, unperceived.

"I suppose Mr. Hardcap's best broadcloth coat and Mrs. Hardcap's
black silk gown last them a good many years. Isn't it so, Mr.
Hardcap?"

Mr. Hardcap confessed that it was.

"The minister has to wear broadcloth, Mr. Hardcap, all the week. He
must be always in society dress. So must his wife. With the utmost
economy their bill for clothes mounts up to a frightful sum. I know,
for I have tried it."

"There is something in that," said Mr. Hardcap.

Old Father Hyatt is a great favorite with Mr. Hardcap, as indeed he
is with all of us. And no one ever accused Father Hyatt of
extravagance.

"I know a city clergyman," continued the old man, "who always
preaches in a silk gown, though he is a Congregationalist. 'It saves
my coat', said he to me once in explanation. 'I can wear a seedy
coat in the pulpit and no one is the wiser.' 'But,' said I, 'how
about the silk gown?' 'Oh!' said he, 'the ladies furnish the gown.'"

We laughed at the parson's shrewdness. Even Mr. Hardcap smiled.

"And there are some other items, too, gentlemen," added Father
Hyatt, "which I hope you will consider. The churches don't
ordinarily know about them. At least they do not consider them. The
company item alone is an enormous one. Not once in six months now do
I have a friend to pass the night with me. But when I was settled
here my spare room always had a guest, and half the time my stable
an extra horse. Every benevolent agent, every traveling minister,
every canvasser makes straight for the minister's house. He has to
keep an inn for the benefit of the parish, and gets no pay for it."

"Cut them off," said Mr. Hardcap. But he said it good naturedly.

"'Given to hospitality,' says the Apostle," replied Father Hyatt.

"Well," said Deacon Goodsole, with a sigh, "we ought to pay the
fifteen hundred a year. It's none too much. But I don't see where
it's coming from."

"Oh! never you fear," said Mr. Wheaton. "Mr. Mapleson is worth
fifteen hundred, and we'll have to pay it. We'll get it somehow.
Write him it's fifteen hundred, Mr. Laicus. You'll be safe enough."

With which our informal conference came to an end. But I have not
written. I wonder if Jim Wheaton runs the Koniwasset Coal Company,
and the Newtown railroad, and the Wheathedge bank on the "somehow"
principle. I wish had asked him. I am glad I have no stock in them.



CHAPTER XXII.

Ecclesiastical Financiering.



BUT though I have no stock in the Koniwasset Coal Company or the
Newtown railroad or the Wheathedge Bank, I have some in the Calvary
Presbyterian Church, and I decidedly object on consideration to
carry on that institution on the "somehow" principle. So I intimated
as much to Mr. Wheaton the other day, after thinking the whole
matter over, and taking counsel with Jennie about it.

"Oh! go ahead," said Mr. Wheaton. "Tell him we'll pay him $1,500 and
a parsonage. The church will back you, Mr. Laicus."

"And if the church don't," said I, "will you pay the deficit?"

Mr. Wheaton shook his head, very decidedly. I was equally decided
that without a responsible backer I would not "go ahead." So on my
demand a meeting of the Board of Trustees was called. The Supply
Committee met with them. James Wheaton, Esq., Chairman of the Board
of Trustees, was in the chair.

On behalf of the Supply Committee I stated the object for which the
Board was convened. The church had hitherto paid $1,200 salary. It
was quite inadequate. No one doubted that. It was unreasonable to
expect that Maurice Mapleson would come for less than we had offered
Mr. Uncannon-$1,500 a year and a parsonage. But in the call, by a
strange omission, the church had neglected to mention any salary.
The Committee wished to write Mr. Mapleson on the subject. Would the
Board sustain us in pledging the church to $1,500 and the parsonage?

Upon this there was an informal expression of opinion all round the
Board. Mr. Wheaton led the way. He had no doubt on the subject. We
must have a minister, a good minister, a live, wide-awake, practical
man. Such men were in demand. If one could not be got for $1,200, we
must pay $1,500. That was the way in which he managed railroads; and
business was business, whether in church or railroad. Not pretending
to be a saint, he naturally took a worldly view of the matter; but
he at least tried to conduct worldly matters on equitable
principles. It was certainly true that the laborer was worthy of his
hire.

So, in substance, said James Wheaton, Esq., Chairman Board of
Trustees, etc., etc.; and so, in substance, said they all. Even Mr.
Hardcap acquiesced, though with a mild protest against modern
extravagance.

"Well, gentlemen," said Mr. Wheaton, "this is just what I expected;
yes, let me say, just what I was sure of. In fact, I told Mr. Laicus
he might depend on having $1,500 a year; but he was not satisfied
with my assurance-he wanted yours. I hope he is satisfied."

"Excuse me," said I, "if I seem unreasonable, but I am not
satisfied; and I should certainly have been so with Mr. Wheaton's
assurance. I never doubted that he was good for $1,500 a year. But,
in dealing with a church board, to be frank, I want to know where
the money is coming from. Pray, Mr. Treasurer, what was our income
last year?"

The Treasurer murmured something about not having his accounts.

"In round numbers," said I.

"Between fourteen and fifteen hundred dollars."

"And our expenses?"

"Not far from eighteen hundred dollars."

"And, pray, how," continued I, "was the deficit made up?"

A part, it appears, was made up by a special subscription, and a
part is still due as floating debt, and part went in to increase the
mortgage. Perhaps I would remember the meeting in the fall at Mr.
Wheaton's house.

I did remember it very well. But I was anxious that the other
gentlemen should not forget it.

"And now, gentlemen," said I, "you propose to add three hundred
dollars to that annual deficit. Where is the money to come from?"

There was a momentary silence. The question was evidently a new one.
Apparently not a member of the Board had considered it. At length
one gentleman suggested that we must raise the pew rents. This
brought an indignant protest from Deacon Goodsole, who is a strong
advocate of the free-pew system.

"Never," said he, "with my consent. Any pew-rent is bad enough.
Trafficking in the Gospel is abominable at best. It shuts out the
poor. Worse than that, it shuts out the godless, the irreligious,
the profane--the very men we want to catch. The pew-rents are too
high now. We must not raise them."

The Treasurer also added a mild protest. The pew-holders would not
stand it.

"What do you say, Mr. Wheaton?" said I.

"Say?" said he: "why, I say you cannot carry on a church on the same
principles on which you carry on a railroad or a bank. It is a
different affair altogether. You must trust the Lord for something.
I think that we can safely trust Him to the amount of three hundred
dollars at least. Where's your faith?"

"Making false promises and trusting the Lord to fulfil them isn't
faith," said Deacon Goodsole.

"I say, Jim," said Mr. Jowett, "you trust Him for your interest
money--that will set us all right."

There was a little laugh at this suggestion. Mr. Wheaton holds a
mortgage on the church. He did not take kindly to this practical
application of the doctrine of faith.

"Oh! well," said he, "we can raise it somehow. Never fear. A good
minister will fill up our empty pews. Then in the summer we must
manage to bleed the boarders a little more freely. It won't hurt
them. What with a concert, or fair, or a subscription, or a little
extra effort our plate collections, we can manage it, I have no
doubt."

"For my part," said I, "I agree with one the gentlemen, who told us
early in this discussion that we must carry on church affairs on
business principles. I don't see any business principles in agreeing
to pay money which we have not got and don't know where to get."

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Jowett, "Mr. Laicus is right. The shamefully
loose ways in which our Protestant churches carry on their finances
is a disgrace to the Christian religion."

Mr. Jowett is a broker. He assured me after the meeting that it was
almost impossible to get a loan on church property because churches
were so notoriously slack in paying their interest.

Mr. Hardcap murmured an assent. "I don't b'lieve, gentlemen, in
agreein' to pay what we hain't got. If we'd got the $1,500, I'd say
give it to him. I don't grudge him the money. But I don't want this
church to make no promises that it aint' a goin' to keep."

"Mr. Hardcap has had some experience with promise-breaking
churches," said Deacon Goodsole.

It seems that Mr. Hardcap did the carpenter work in some repairs on
the Methodist church here last summer. When he got through he
carried in his bill to the President of the Board of Trustees. The
President referred him to the Treasurer. The Treasurer reported no
funds and referred him to the Chairman of the Building Committee.
The Chairman of the Building Committee explained that it was his
business to supervise the building, not to raise the funds, and sent
him back to the President. It was not till Mr. Hardcap, whose stock
of patience is small, threatened the church with a mechanic's lien
that the remedy was forthcoming.

"Well, gentlemen," said I, "I will not be a party to getting a
minister here on-excuse the term,--false pretences; on the assurance
that we can pay him $1,500 a year when it is a hard matter to pay
him $1,200. There are ten of us here. I will put my name down now
for $30, if the rest will do the same. If the Lord sends the $300,
or if the ladies raise it by a fair, or if Mr. Wheaton gets up a
concert, or the summer boarders come to our rescue, we shall have
nothing to pay. If none of these things happen, the minister will
not have it all to lose."

The matter was eventually settled in that way. We raised a
contingent fund of $250 then and there, which we have since made up
to $400. So that now we can offer $1,500 a year with a clear
conscience.

As a lawyer I have had some experience dealing with corporations.
And I record my deliberate conviction here that of all corporations
church corporations are financially the worst; the most loose and
dilatory and unconsciously dishonest. I record it as my deliberate
conviction, having had some opportunities for knowing, that in the
Calvinistic church, of the others I don't pretend to know anything,
on the average not one half the ministry get their meagre salaries
promptly. This injustice is the greatest and most scandalous feature
in the treatment to which the churches subject their ministers. That
ministers are subjected to hardships is a matter of no consequence.
So are other people. It is the injustice, the absolute and
indefensible injustice, the promising to pay their meagre salaries
and then not paying even those-the obtaining of their services under
false pretences-that I complain of. If I were a minister I never
would accept a call without knowing thoroughly the income and the
expenditure of the church.

As I write there lies before me a letter from my late pastor. He
wants to borrow $300 for a few weeks. His Board of Trustees are thus
much behind-hand in the first quarter's payment. He has not the
means to pay his rent. The duty of the Board in such a case is very
evident. The very least they can do is to share in providing
temporarily for the exigency. The very most which a mean Board could
do would be to ask the minister to unite with them in paying up the
deficiency. In fact, he who is least able to do it has to carry it
all. Nobody else will trust the church. He has to trust it for
hundreds of dollars. And then when his grocer and his landlord and
his tailor go unpaid, men shrug their shoulders and say, pityingly,
"Oh! he's a minister, he is not trained to business habits." And the
world looks on in wonder and in silent contempt to see the Christian
Church carrying on its business in a manner the flagrant dishonesty
of which would close the doors of any bank, deprive any insurance
company of its charter, and drive any broker in Wall street from the
Brokers' Board.

Jennie says this last is pretty sharp writing; and she shakes her
head over it. But it is time, and I decline to cancel it.



CHAPTER XXIII.

Our Donation Party--by Jane Laicus.



MY husband wants me to write an account of the donation we gave our
new minister. He wants it to put in his book.

"Why, John," said I, "I can't write anything for a book. I never
wrote anything for print in my life. You mustn't think I am clever
because you are."

"My dear Jennie," said he, "there is no magic in print. Write just
such an account as you wrote your mother. If you had that letter you
could not do better than give me that to put in."

"I can't possibly write, John. I would indeed if I could."

"Then," said John, "it can't go in at all. For I was not here. I
cannot describe it."

He was so earnest about it I finally had to yield. He says I always
have my own way. I didn't this time I am sure. There is only one
thing that reconciles me to it. I do not believe the publishers will
print it. I told John I wouldn't trust my writing to his judgment. I
wouldn't you know, of course because he would be sure to say it was
good. So we agreed to leave it to the publishers. If they don't like
this chapter they are going to leave it out. John is going to leave
them to read the proof, and we shan't either of us know till the
book is published whether "our donation party" gets in or not. I
confess to a little hope it will get in.

Let me see how it happened. Oh! this was the way: Maurice was at our
house the Sunday he supplied our pulpit. He told my husband that he
thought he should accept our call. But he said he didn't think the
parsonage would do him any good. He wanted to go to housekeeping,
but he had not the money to furnish it with, and he would not run in
debt.

That set me thinking. I talked the matter over with Miss Moore and
found she was quite of my mind; and the week after, we got Maurice's
letter accepting the call, we proposed to the ladies at the sewing
society to undertake to furnish the parsonage. The idea took at
once. In fact the having a parsonage is a new thing at Wheathedge,
and we feel a little pride in having it respectable, you know; at
least so as not to be a disgrace to the church. Mrs. Goodsole
thought it doubtful about raising the money, and Mrs. Hardcap said
that "her husband wasn't in favor of the parsonage nohow, and she
didn't believe would think much of fixin' of it up;" but Miss Moore
replied to Mrs. Goodsole that she could try at any rate, and to Mrs.
Hardcap that she would be responsible that Mr. Hardcap would do his
share; a remark which to some of us seemed a bold one, but which
pleased Mrs. Hardcap for all that.

Mr. Hardcap, I believe, means well, though to some of us his ideas
do seem very contracted, sometimes. But my husband says that narrow
men are needed as well as broad ones, and that if there were no Mr.
Hardcap to count the cost of every venture before it was undertaken,
the church would have been bankrupt long before this time.

We appointed committees that evening; one to raise the money-of
course Miss Moore was at the head of that--one to furnish the
kitchen, one to furnish the parlor and bed-room, (as I knew the
bride, I was put on that committee,) and one to provide a supper.
Some of the ladies wanted to have a grand reception. They said it
would be a good thing to surprise the new pastor with a
house-warming. Mrs. Hardcap proposed that the sewing society meet
there that afternoon. But Miss Moore objected strongly. She said it
would cost nearly as much to provide a supper for the whole
congregation as to furnish a good bed-room set. I think, though, it
was really little Miss Flidgett who put a quietus on that plan.

"Why," said she in an injured tone, "I want to be there and see how
they like it."

Nobody dared advocate the plan after that speech. I really think
that they all felt very much the same way, however.

The next day some of us met at the parsonage to take a survey. Last
year the house was without a tenant, and it had come to be in rather
a dilapidated condition. The fence gate was off the hinges. The
garden was over-grown with weeds. The sink in the kitchen was badly
rotted. One of the parlor blinds was off. There was a bad leak over
the back porch, and the plastering looked just ready to fall, and
the whole looked dingy,--it needed outside painting sadly.

"We needn't let these things go so," said Miss Moore. "The landlord
must put the house to rights."

So off we posted to the landlord, who is a queer, crusty old
bachelor, who has, I verily believe, a kind heart, and does a good
deal of good in his own fashion; but his fashion is never like any
one else's. Not a thing could Miss Moore get out of him. He had
rented the house as it stood, he said. If the trustees didn't like
it they needn't have taken it. They paid little enough rent to
repair it themselves. He had nothing more to do except to get his
rent regularly, and that she might depend he would do.

Miss Moore returned somewhat disappointed, but nothing daunted. "So
much the better," said she. "It will give Mr. Hardcap a chance to do
something."

"How about the painting?" said Mrs. Wheaton. "It ought to be
painted."

Miss Moore shook her head. "So it ought," she said, "and so I told
Mr. Quirk; but he won't do anything,--and we can't afford to paint
it; we shouldn't have money left for furnishing."

So we took the measure of the floors for the carpets, settled on
what furniture we would get, and adjourned.

Next week I went down to New York and called on the young lady to
whom Maurice is engaged. Her home is in New York, or rather it was
there; for to my thinking a wife's home is always with her husband;
and I never like to hear a wife talking of "going home" as though
home could be anywhere else than where her husband and her children
are. Maurice and Helen were to be married two weeks from the
following Friday, for Maurice proposed to postpone their wedding
trip till his next summer's vacation; and Helen, like the dear,
sensible girl she is, very readily agreed to that plan. In fact I
believe she proposed it. She had some shopping to do before the
wedding, and I had some to do on my own account, and we went
together. I invented a plan of refurnishing my parlor. I am afraid I
told some fibs, or at least came dreadfully near it. I told Helen I
wanted her to help me select the carpet; and though she had no time
to spare, she was very good-natured, and did spare the time. We
ladies had agreed-not without some dissent-to get a Brussels for the
parlor, as the cheapest in the end, and I made Helen select her own
pattern, without any suspicion of what she was doing, and
incidentally got her taste on other carpets, too, so that really she
selected them herself without knowing it. Deacon Goodsole
recommended me to go for furniture to Mr. Kabbinett, a German friend
of his, and Mrs. Goodsole and I found there a very nice parlor set,
in green rep, made of imitation rosewood, which he said would wear
about as well as the genuine article, and which we both agreed
looked nearly as well. We would rather have bought the real
rosewood, but that we could not afford. Mr. Kabbinett made us a
liberal discount because we were buying for a parsonage. We got an
extension table and chairs for the dining-room, (but we had to omit
a side-board for the present), and a very pretty oak set for the
chamber. We did not buy anything but a carpet for the library, for
Mr. Laicus said no one could furnish a student's library for him. He
must furnish it for himself.

When we got back to Wheathedge, Tuesday afternoon, we found the
parsonage undergoing transformations so great that you would hardly
know it. Miss Moore had got Mr. Hardcap, sure enough, to repair it.
She had agreed to pay for the material, and he was to furnish the
labor. The fence was straightened, and the gate re-hung, and the
blinds mended up, and Mr. Hardcap was on the roof patching it where
it leaked or threatened to. Deacon Goodsole had a bevy of boys from
the Sabbath-school at work in the garden under his direction. If
there is anything the Deacon takes a pride in, next to his horse, it
is his garden, and he said that the parson should have a chance for
the best garden in town. Great piles of weeds stood in the walk. Two
boys were spading up; another was planting; a fourth was wheeling
away the weeds; and still another was bringing manure from the
Deacon's stable. Miss Moore was setting out some rose-bushes before
the door; and the Deacon himself, with his coat off, was trimming
and tying up a rather dilapidated looking grape-vine over a still
more dilapidated grape arbor.

The next morning, about eleven o'clock, little Miss Flidgett came
running into our house, without ever knocking, in the greatest
possible excitement.

"Mrs. Laicus," said she, "the painters have come."

"The painters!" said I. "What painters?"

"Why didn't you order them?" said she.

"They are painting the parsonage. I supposed of course you ordered
them."

It was very evident that she did not suppose anything of the kind,
but was dying of curiosity to know who did. I confess I had some
curiosity to know myself. So I put on my bonnet and shawl, and ran
over with her to find out about it. Sure enough the painters were
there, three or four of them, with their ladders up against the side
of the house, and the parsonage already beginning to change color
under their hands. Some of the ladies were in the kitchen
supervising the repairs of the sink, and the putting up of some
shelves in the pantry, but they knew nothing about the painters. I
asked one of the hands, at work on the front door, who sent him.

"The boss, ma'am," he replied, very promptly.

"And who is the boss?" said I.

"Mr. Glazier, ma'am."

Mr. Glazier is the painter himself, the head-man. So I was no better
off than before. I was afraid Mrs. Wheaton had ordered them, and I
knew our funds were getting low, for we had overrun our estimate for
carpets; and I have the greatest horror of running in debt. So I
resolved to go right over to Mrs. Wheaton's and get at the bottom of
the mystery. But Mrs. Wheaton knew nothing of the matter. We were
both sure Miss Moore would not have ordered them, and I was
returning as wise as I started, when, as I passed the parsonage, I
saw Mr. Glazier and Mr. Quirk in the yard, talking together. So I
turned in to ask Mr. Glazier about it. As I passed up the walk Mr.
Quirk called out to me.

"You ladies are in possession, I see," said he. "You mean to make
the parson comfortable and contented if you can."

"Yes, Sir," said I, "though we are not responsible for the greatest
improvement, the painting. I think Mr. Glazier must be responsible
for that himself. I can't find any one that ordered it done."

I thought that would bring the information, and it did.

"Oh! that's Mr. Quirk's orders," said he.

"Yours?" said I turning to the crusty old landlord who wouldn't do
anything.

He nodded. I think he enjoyed my perplexity. I spoke on the impulse
of the moment. If I had given it a second thought I should not have
done it; and yet I am not sorry I did.

"Mr. Quirk," said I, "my husband was right and I was wrong. We
ladies thought very hard of you that you would not do anything
toward repairing the parsonage. For one I want to apologize."

"Judge not, that ye be not judged," said the old man; and he turned
on his heel and went away. He is the queerest man I ever saw.

I wish you could have seen that parsonage last Friday, the day that
Mr. Mapleson and his wife were to arrive. The walks were trim. The
plot before the piazza had been new sodded. The grapevine was
already putting out new buds as if it felt the effect of the
Deacon's tender care. There was not a weed to be seen. The beds,
with their rich, black loam turned up to the sun, had a beauty of
their own, which only one who loves to dig among flowers as much as
I do can appreciate. Mr. Glazier had made the dingy old house look
like a new one. After all there is nothing I like better for a
cottage than pure white with green blinds. Inside we had a lovely
carpet on the parlor, and the new set of imitation rosewood. A
beautiful bouquet from Mrs. Wheaton's garden stood in the bay
window, which looks out upon the river. My girl, lent for the
occasion, was in the kitchen; and in the dining-room there was
supper spread just for two, with cake, preserves, and pies enough in
the closet (every body in the parish had sent in supper for that
evening) to keep the parson supplied for a month at least. I was the
last to leave the house, and I did not leave it till I heard the
whistle of the train. Then I ran over to Miss Moore's little
cottage, which is right across the way. Her parlor window was full
of ladies peering out, first and foremost of whom was little Miss
Flidgett, who thus gratified her wish to see how they would take it.
The Deacon, who was fixing something about the stable, was almost
caught. But he heard the carriage-wheels just in time to run into
the shed, and I could see him there holding the door open a crack
and peering out to see what passed. Even dignified Mrs. Wheaton
could not resist the temptation to be passing along, accidentally of
course, just as the parson drove up. Mr. Wheaton had called for them
at the depot. It was arranged (with them, that is) that he was to
take them right to our house, and they were to stay there till they
could decide whether to board or keep house. He proposed to them,
however, according to pre-arrangement, to stop a minute at the
parsonage on the way. "Mrs. Mapleson," he said, "can see what it is
and how she likes the house, and the location; and besides I have an
errand to do at the store."

We saw him get out and hand them out. Just then Mrs. Wheaton passed
by, and he introduced her to them. Mrs. Wheaton took a seat in the
now vacant carriage to go with her husband to the store; and Mr. and
Mrs. Mapleson went up the walk. We saw them go in and shut the door.
In a moment they came out again. Maurice looked up and down the
street in perplexity; then he stepped back a few paces and looked up
at the house. His wife stood meanwhile on the door-step. Suddenly
she beckoned to him, and pointed out something on the side of the
door just over the bell-handle. They had discovered the little
silver plate on which was engraved "Rev. Maurice Mapleson." At that
moment the expressman drove up with their trunks. Maurice settled
with him, looked up and down the street as if looking for Mr.
Wheaton, who did not make his appearance as you may believe; and
then parson, wife, and trunks all went into the house together, and
we dispersed.

As to the Deacon, he had to climb out of a back window into an ally
that runs behind the house in order to get out of his position
without being discovered.

And that is the way we gave our donation party in Wheathedge.



CHAPTER XXIV.

Maurice Mapleson.



IT is not six weeks since Maurice Mapleson preached his first sermon
here, at Wheathedge, and already events prove the wisdom of our
selection. I have been studying somewhat and pondering more the
secret of his success, and I have sat down this evening to try and
clear up my own shadowy thoughts by reducing them to form. I often
take my pen for such a purpose. Is it not Bacon who says the pen
makes an accurate thinker?

Maurice Mapleson certainly is not what I should call a great
preacher. He is not learned. He is not brilliant. He seldom tells us
much about ancient Greece or Rome. He preached a sermon on Woman's
function in the church, a few Sundays ago. I could not help
contrasting it with Dr. Argure's sermon on the same subject. Maurice
could not have made a learned editorial or magazine article out of
his sermon. He did not even discuss the true interpretation of
Paul's exhortations and prohibitions. He talked very simply and
plainly of what the women could do here at Wheathedge.

He thanked them with unmistakeable sincerity for what they had
already done, and made it an incentive to them to do more-more for
Christ, not for himself.

Jennie says that is the secret of Maurice's success. He is
appreciative. He never scolds. He commends his people for what they
have done and so incites them to do more. She thinks that praise is
a better spur than blame. She always manages her servants on that
principle. Perhaps that is the reason why they are not the greatest
plague of life to her.

But if Maurice's sermons are not great, neither are they long. He
lays it down as a cardinal rule in moral hygiene that a congregation
should not go away from the church hungry. Harry no longer begs to
stay at home Sunday mornings, and even Mr. Hardcap rarely gets
asleep.

If I compare Mr. Mapleson with Mr. Uncannon, I should say
unhesitatingly that the latter was the more brilliant preacher of
the two. No one ever comes out of church saying "What a powerful
discourse! What a brilliant figure! What a pretty illustration! How
eloquent!" But I find that we very often spend our dinner hour in
discussing not the sermon, but its subject.

There are however two or three peculiarities which I observe about
Maurice Mapleson's preaching. Dr. Argure tells me that he never
writes a sermon without a reference to its future use. I once asked
him whether he ever preached extemporaneously. "No," said he. "I
have meant to. But I have so many fine sermons waiting to be
preached that I could never bring myself to abandon them for a mere
talk."

I do not think Maurice has any fine sermons waiting to be preached.
Indeed I know he has not. For one evening when he excused himself
from accepting an invitation to tea, because he was behind-hand in
his work and had his sermon to prepare, I replied, "You must have a
good stock on hand. Give us an old one."

"I haven't a sermon to my name," he replied.

"What do you mean?" said I.

"I mean," said he, "that a sermon is not an essay; that every sermon
I ever preached was prepared to meet some special want in my parish,
and that when it was preached, there was an end of it. I could no
more preach an old sermon than I could fire a charge of gun powder a
second time."

"But experiences repeat themselves," said my wife. "What your people
at Koniwasset Corners knew of doubt, of trouble, of sorrow, of
imperfect Christian experience, we know too. As in water face
answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."

"That is true," said Maurice thoughtfully. "But there are no two
faces exactly alike. And my sermon is meaningless to me, if not to
my people, unless I can see the want and bring out the truth to meet
it."

"But the truth is always the same," said Jennie, "and the wants of
the human heart are not widely different."

"That is both true and false," said he. "The truth is always the
same; but not always the same to me. I fell into conversation with
Mr. Gear last night on the subject of the atonement. He thinks it
represents God as revengeful and unforgiving. Can I answer him with
an old sermon? God's love is immutable. But I hope I understand it
better and feel it more than I did three years ago. I cannot bring
an old experience to meet a new want. No! a sermon is like a flower,
it is of worth only when it is fresh."

His sermons at all events are always fresh. They are his personal
counsel to personal friends. I dimly recognize this element of power
in them. But this is not all. There is something more, something
that I missed in Dr. Argure's learned essays, and in Mr. Uncannon's
pulpit pyrotechnics. But it is something very difficult to define.

Did you ever consider the difference between a real flower and a wax
imitation? The latter may be quite as beautiful. It may deceive you
at first. And yet when you discover the deception you are
disappointed. "The lack of fragrance," Jennie suggests. No! the
flower may be odorless. It is the lack of life. I do not know what
there is in that mystic life that should make such a difference. But
I am sure that the charm of the flower is in its life.

The most beautiful statue that Powers ever chiseled does not compare
for grace and beauty with the Divine model. The same mystic element
of life is wanting.

There is life in Maurice Mapleson's sermons. What do I mean by life?
Earnestness? No! Mr. Work was earnest. But this mysterious life was
wanting. I can feel it better than I can define it. It is not in the
sermon. It is in the man. I get new information from Dr. Argure. I
do not get much new information from Maurice Mapleson. I used to get
new ideas occasionally from Mr. Work. I rarely get a new idea from
Maurice Mapleson. But I get new life, and that is what I most want.

This element of life enters into all his work. It is in the man
rather than in his productions.

Our prayer-meetings have improved wonderfully since he came. "How do
you prepare for the prayer-meeting?" I asked him the other day.

"By an hour of sleep and an hour of prayer," he replied. "I always
try to go into the meeting fresh."

And he succeeds. His coming into the meeting is like the coming of
Spring. He brings an atmosphere with him. It is indescribable, but
its effect is marvelous. Jennie says she never understood before as
she does now what was meant by the declaration in Acts concerning
the Apostles, that though they were unlearned men, the people took
knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.

And it is this life which makes him so admirable as a pastor. "Is he
social?" a friend asked me the other day. Yes. He is social. But
that is not all. Mr. Work was social. But he was always a minister.
He went about the streets in a metaphysical white choker and black
gown. He was everywhere professional. When he opened the subject of
personal religion he did it with an introduction as formal and
stately as that with which he habitually began his sermons. He
formally inducted you into the witness box and commenced a
professional inquisition on the state of your soul. I confess I have
no fancy for that sort of Presbyterian confessional. I like the
Papal confessional better. It does not invade your house and attack
you with its questionings when you are in no mood for them. I told
Mr. Work so once, whereat he was greatly shocked and somewhat
indignant.

Mr. Uncannon too was very social. But he was never a minister.
Outside the pulpit he never introduced the subject of religion. I
think it is perfectly safe to say that no one would have taken
knowledge of him that he had been with Jesus. As to pastoral calls
he expressly disavowed any intention of making any. "I have no
time," said he, "for gadding about and spiritual gossiping. It's as
much as I can do to get up my two sermons a week."

But Maurice is social in a different way. I asked him once what
system he pursued as to pastoral calls.

"A very simple system," said he, "mix much with my people and be
much with Christ. If I do both, Mr. Laicus, I shall not fail to
bring them together. I don't trouble myself about ways and means."

The week after Mr. Mapleson came to Wheathedge, some ecclesiastical
body met at Albany. I had a case before the Court of Appeals, and
Maurice and I happened to take the same train. As we waited in the
station he addressed himself to a surly looking baggage-master with
this question, "What time will the train get to Albany?"

"Can't tell," said the surly baggage-master. "Nothing is certain to
railroad men."

"Except one thing," said Mr. Mapleson.

"What's that?" said the surly baggage-master.

"Death," said Mr. Mapleson.

"That's a fact," said the surly baggage-master. "Specially certain
to railroad men."

"And there is one other thing certain," added Maurice.

"What's that?" asked the baggage-master, no longer surly.

"That we ought to be ready for it."

The baggage-master nodded thoughtfully. "So we ought," said he; and
he added as he turned away, "I hope you're readier than I be."

I note this little incident here because it revealed so much of
Maurice Mapleson's character to me. I think it did more to disclose
to me the secret of his success than any sermon he has ever
preached. Mr. Work when he went away read us the statistics of his
ministerial industry. He told us how many sermons he had preached,
how many prayer meetings he had attended, how many sick he had
visited, and how many religious conversations he had held with the
impenitent. I should as soon think of Maurice Mapleson's keeping a
record of the number of times he kissed his wife or taught his
children-if he had any.

While I have been writing in a vain endeavor to put my vague and
shadowy ideas of Maurice Mapleson's magnetic power into words,
Jennie has come in and has seated herself beside me.

"Jennie, I cannot get into clear and tangible form my shadowy ideas.
What is the secret of ministerial success? What is the common
characteristic which gives pulpit power to such widely dissimilar
characters as Chalmers, Whitefields, the Westleys, Spurgeon and
Robertson in England, and Edwards, Nettleton, Finney, the Beechers,
father and son, Murray, John Hall, Dr. Tyng, and a score of others I
could mention in this country?"

"Hand me your New Testament, John."

It was lying on the table beside me. She took it from my hand and
opened it.

"I don't know as to all the names you have mentioned, John, but I
think the secret of true pulpit power, the secret of Paul's wondrous
power, the secret of Maurice Mapleson's power--the same in kind
though smaller in measure--is this. And she read from Galatians, the
second chapter and twentieth verse:

"'I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I
live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself
for me.'"



CHAPTER XXV.

Our Church-Garden.



ONE needs no other evidence that Maurice Mapleson is working a
wonderful transformation in this parish than is afforded by the
change which has been made in the external appearance of the church.
It is true that Miss Moore always was a worker. But I do not believe
that even Miss Moore could have carried out her plan of a church
garden under Mr. Work. And Mr. Work was a good minister too.

When I first came to Wheathedge the Calvary Presbyterian church was
externally, to the passer-by, distinguished chiefly for the severe
simplicity of its architecture, and the plainness, not to say the
homeliness, of its surroundings. It is a long, narrow, wooden
structure, as destitute of ornament as Squire Line's old fashioned
barn. Its only approximation to architectural display is a square
tower surmounted by four tooth-picks pointing heavenward, and
encasing the bell. A singular, a mysterious bell that was and is. It
expresses all the emotions of the neighborhood. It passes through
all the moods and inflections of a hundred hearts. To-day it rings
out with soft and sacred tones its call to worship. To-morrow from
its watch-tower it sees the crackling flame in some neighboring barn
or tenement, and utters, with loud and hurried and anxious voice,
its alarm. Anon, heavy with grief, it seems to enter, as a
sympathising friend, into the very heart experiences of bereaved and
weeping mourners. And when the rolling year brings round
Independence day, all the fluctuations of feeling which mature and
soften others are forgotten, and it trembles with the excitement of
the occasion, and laughs, and shouts, and capers merrily in its
homely belfry, as though it were a boy again.

Pardon the digression. But I love the dear old bell. And its voice
is musical to me, albeit I sometimes fancy, like many another
singer's it is growing weak and thin with age.

The surroundings of the church were no better than the external
aspect. The fence was broken down. The cows made common pasture in
the field-there is an acre of ground with the church, I believe-till
the grass was eaten so close to the ground that even they disdained
it. A few trees eked out a miserable existence. Most of them,
girdled by cattle, were dead. A few still maintained their "struggle
for life," but looked as though they pined for the freedom of the
woods again. Within, the church justified the promise of its
external condition. The board of trustees are poor. Every man had
been permitted to upholster his own pew. Some, without owners, were
also without upholstering. In the rest, the only merit was variety.
The church looked as though it had clothed itself in a Joseph's coat
of many colors; or rather, its robe presented the appearance of poor
Joe Sweaten's pantaloons, which are so darned and pieced and mended
that no man can guess what the original material was, or whether any
of it is left. There was but one redeeming feature-the bouquet upon
the pulpit. Every Sunday, Sophie Jowett brought that bouquet. As her
father had a large conservatory, the bouquet was rarely missing even
in winter. As she has admirable taste it was always beautiful even
when the flowers were not rare. She had done her work very quietly,
had asked no permission, had consulted with no one. One Sabbath the
bouquet appeared upon the pulpit. After that it was never missing,
except one Sunday when Miss Sophie was sick, and for three weeks in
the Fall, when she was away from home.

Such was the condition of the church at Wheathedge when I bought my
house.

Last spring Miss Sophie was married. There were more tears and less
radiance than usual at that wedding. Mr. Line said that he never
could supply the place in the Sunday-school. Mr. Work came up from
New York to marry them. His voice was tenderer than usual when he
pronounced the marriage ceremony. The first Sabbath after that
wedding the pulpit was without flowers. Was there any who did not
miss them, and in missing them did not miss her? It took the last
ornament from our church, which thenceforth looked desolated enough.

When Maurice Mapleson came the bouquet came back. But it was made
mostly of wild flowers. I think his wife began it. Perhaps it was
this which suggested to Miss Moore's fertile brain the idea of a
church-garden.

At all events one Wednesday after prayer-meeting Miss Moore and Mrs.
Biskit came to me. "We want a dollar from you," said Miss Moore.

"What for?" said I. Not that I thought of questioning Miss Moore's
demand,--no one ever does that; but because I naturally liked to know
what my money was going to do.

"We are going to start a church-garden," said she. "The trustees
have given us the ground, and we want to raise about ten dollars for
a beginning."

I gave her the dollar and thought no more about it; indeed, I should
have accounted the scheme quite chimerical if there had been any one
at the head of it except Miss Moore.

However, the next week, as I was passing the church, I saw Miss
Moore and Mrs. Biskit at work in the churchyard. A little plot had
been spaded up at one side, one or two walks laid out, and they were
busy putting in some flower seed. I thought of offering my services.
But as my agricultural education was neglected in my youth, and as
my knowledge of gardening is very limited, I passed on.

My chance came pretty soon. When Miss Moore has anything to do for
the church every one gets an opportunity to help.

It could not have been more than two or three days later, when, as I
passed, I perceived that she had already increased her stock of
gardeners. Half a dozen young men were working with a will. She had
half of the minister's Bible-class engaged. Two of them had brought
a load of gravel from down under the hill as you go to the Mill
village. They were shoveling this out at the front gate, while some
others were spreading it in a broad walk up to the church-door. A
great pile of sods lay right by the side of the growing gravel-heap.
Deacon Goodsole, in his shirt sleeves, was raking over the ground
preparing it for grass-seed. "Rather late for grass-seed," he had
remonstrated, but the inexorable Miss Moore had replied, "Better
late than never." Four or five of the boys, who had used the church
common as a ball-ground, were enlisted-a capital stroke of policy
that. Among them was Bill Styles, who prides himself on throwing a
stone higher and with surer aim than any other boy in Wheathedge,
and had demonstrated it by stoning all the glass out of the tower
windows. A melancholy-looking cow, transfixed with astonishment, had
stopped in the middle of the road to look with bewilderment upon
their invasion of its ancient territory. I leaned for a moment on
the tottering fence and looked, equally bewildered, on the busy
scene.

But Miss Moore never suffers any one to look on idly where she is
laboring. "Ah! Mr. Laicus," said she, cheerily, "you are just the
man we want. That cow will come in through these gaps in the fence
and undo our work in an hour after we leave it. I wish you would get
hold of somebody and fix it up." With that she was off again, and I
was in for an office.

Deacon Goodsole afterwards told me confidentially that he was caught
in the same way.

Now, though I am no gardener, I am a bit of a carpenter. So, after
taking the dimensions of the fence, mentally, I started off for the
material, which Mr. Hardcap gave, and, with the aid of a volunteer
or two, I succeeded in so far filling the breach that the melancholy
cow gave up her little game, and walked philosophically away.

To make a long story short, the result of Miss Moore's energetic
endeavors was seen the next Sabbath, in part, in an entirely new
aspect of affairs, which has been constantly improving since. The
board of trustees, moved thereto partly by the energies of Miss
Moore, partly by those of their Baptist neighbors who have just got
into a new church, have commenced to build a new fence. A graveled
walk, free from dust in drought and from mud in rainy weather, leads
up to the church-door. A border of sod on either side melts
gradually away into the beginning of a lawn of grass which will be
fuller and better next year than this. On a couple of fan shaped
lattices, in which I take a little pride as my own handiwork, a
honey-suckle on one side of the church-door and a prairie rose on
the other are planted. In imagination I already see them reaching
out their tendrils in courtship over the door. I should not wonder
if next Spring should celebrate their nuptials. Some ivy, planted by
Miss Moore, on the eastern side of the church promises in time to
embosom it in green. A parterre of flowers in the rear, has already
helped to furnish the pulpit every Sunday with a bouquet, and, Miss
Moore declares, will, another summer, give the minister a bouquet on
his study table all the week, and messengers of beauty to add to the
comfort of many a sick-room. And in the Fall Deacon Goodsole and I
with half a dozen young men from the pastor's Bible-class are going
up into the woods for some maples to set out in the place of the
dead sticks which served only as monuments of the departed.

But Miss Moore is in a quandary. She does not know what to do with
her ten dollars. All the work was given. Even Pat Maloney, Roman
Catholic though he is, would not take anything for spading up the
ground for "our church garden."

I am a conservative man. But I do wish Miss Moore could be chairman
of our board of trustees for a year or two.



CHAPTER XXVI.

Our Temperance Prayer-Meeting.



IT is late in the fall. The summer birds have fled southward. The
summer residents have fled to their city homes. The mountains have
blossomed out in all the brilliance of their autumnal colors; but
the transitory glory has gone and they are brown and bare. One
little flurry of snow has given us warning of what is coming. The
furnace has been put in order; the double windows have been put on;
a storm-house has enclosed our porch; a great pile of wood lies up
against the stable, giving my boy promise of plenty of exercise
during the long winter. And still the summer lingers in these bright
and glorious autumnal days. And of them the carpenters and the
painters are making much in their work on the new library-hall.

Do not let the reader deceive himself by erecting in his imagination
an edifice of brick or stone, with all the magnificent architectural
display which belongs to the modern style of American cosmopolitan
architecture. Library-hall is a plain wooden building, one story
high, and containing but three rooms. It is to cost us just $1,000,
when it is finished. Let me record here how it came to be begun.

Temperance is not one of the virtues for which Wheathedge is, or
ought to be, famous. I know not where you will find cooler springs
of more delicious water, than gush from its mountain sides. I know
not where you will find grapes for home wine-that modern recipe for
drunkenness-more abundant or more admirably adapted to the vintner's
purpose. But the springs have few customers, and one man easily
makes all the domestic wine which the inhabitants of Wheathedge
consume. But at the landing there are at least four grog-shops which
give every indication of doing a thriving business, beside Poole's,
half-way to the Mill village; to say nothing of the bar the busiest
room by all odds, at Guzzem's hotel, busiest, alas! on the Sabbath
day.

Maurice Mapleson is not one who considers that his parish and his
congregation are coterminus. "I like the Established Church for one
thing," he says. "The parish is geographical, not ecclesiastical.
All within its bounds are under the parson's care. In our system the
minister is only responsible for his own congregation. It is like
caring for the wounded who are brought into hospital, and leaving
those that are on the field of battle uncared for."

A little incident occurring soon after he came, first opened
Maurice's eyes, I think, to the need of temperance reform in the
community.

He had occasion, one evening after prayer-meeting, to visit a sick
child of his Sabbath-school. The family were poor and his road led
him down near the brickyard toward "Limerick," as this settlement of
huts-half house, half pig-stye-is derisively called. The night was
dark, and returning, abstracted in thought, he almost fell over what
he first took to be a log lying in the street. It was a man, who, on
a cursory examination, proved to be suffering under no less a
disorder than that of hopeless intoxication. It was a dangerous bed.
Maurice made one or two unsuccessful attempts to arouse the fellow,
but in vain. Retracing his steps a few rods to the nearest hut, he
summoned assistance, and with the aid of Pat sober, got Pat drunk
upon his feet. But he was quite too drunk to help himself, and too
large and heavy to be left to the sole charge of Pat sober, who
happened to recognize a friend, whose home he said was a quarter of
a mile down the valley. Maurice, who had preached a few Sundays ago
on the parable of the Good Samaritan, could not bring himself to
imitate the example of the Priest and Levite; so steadying the tipsy
pedestrian on one side, while sober Pat sustained him on the other,
they half led, half dragged the still unconscious sleeper to a
little round hut, which he called home. The wife was sitting up for
her husband and received both him and his custodians with
objurgations loud on the first, and thanks equally loud addressed to
the others. No sooner was the stupid husband safely deposited on the
bed than, begging them to wait a moment, she went to the cupboard
and taking down a big, black bottle, half filled a cracked tea-cup
with whiskey, which she offered to Maurice as an expression of her
gratitude. "I do not know," said Maurice to me, as he told me the
story, "that she will ever forgive me for declining, though I
couched my declension as courteously as possible."

Coming home and pondering this incident, he made up his mind that
something must be done for the temperance cause in Wheathedge; and
further pondering led him to the conclusion that he must begin at
the church.

So one evening last week he came round to talk with me about it.

"The first thing," said he to me, "is to arouse the Church. I
believe in preaching the gospel of temperance to the Jews first, and
afterwards to the Gentiles. I will begin in the Synagogue.
Afterwards I will go to the streets, and lanes, and highways."

"You will meet with some opposition," said I. "A temperance meeting
in the church has never been heard of in Wheathedge. You will be
departing from the landmarks."

"Do you think so?" said Maurice.

"I am sure of it," said I.

"Very good," said he, "if I meet with opposition it will prove I am
right. It will prove that the Church needs stirring up on the
subject. If I am not opposed I shall be inclined to give up the
plan. However I will not wait for opportunity. I will challenge it."

The next Sunday he gave notice that that evening there would be a
Temperance prayer and conference meeting in the church, in lieu of
preaching.

"The town," said he, "is cursed with intemperance. There is one
miscellaneous dry-goods and grocery store, one drug store, one mill,
about half a bookstore, and an ice-cream saloon; and within a radius
of half a mile of this church there are ten grog-shops and two
distilleries, quite too large a proportion even for those who
believe, as I do not, in moderate drinking. I have no remedy to
propose. I have no temperance address to deliver. What I do propose
is that we gather to-night and make it the subject of earnest prayer
to God, and of serious conference among ourselves, that we may know
what our duty is in the case, and knowing, may do it bravely and
well."

As we came out of church the proposed Temperance prayer-meeting was
the theme of general discussion.

Mr. Guzzem was sorry to see that this church was threatened with an
irruption of fanaticism. He thought the minister had better stick to
his business and leave side-issues alone.

Mr. Wheaton thought the true remedy for intemperance was the
cultivation of the grape, and the manufacture of modern wines. He
did not believe in meetings.

Mr. Hardcap was as much a foe to intemperance as any one; but he
thought the true remedy for intemperance was the preaching of the
Gospel. Paul was the model for preachers, and Paul knew nothing but
Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Deacon Goodsole inquired who that
man was that preached before Felix of righteousness, temperance, and
judgment to come. But Mr. Hardcap apparently did not hear the
question, at least he did not answer it.

Elder Law thought it might be very well, but that the minister ought
not to change the service of the Sabbath without consulting the
Session. It was a dangerous precedent.

Deacon Goodsole thought it a move in the right direction, and vowed
he would give the afternoon to drumming up recruits. Miss Moore said
she would go with him.

Mr. Gear, who has not been inside a prayer-meeting since he has been
at Wheathedge, declared when I told him of the meeting, that it was
the first sensible thing he had ever known the church to do; and if
they were really going to work in that fashion he would like to be
counted in. And sure enough he was at the prayer-meeting in the
evening, to the great surprise of everybody, and to the
consternation of Mr. Hardcap, who found in the fact that an infidel
came to the meeting, a confirmation of his opinion that it was a
desecration of the Sabbath and the sanctuary.

Mrs. Laynes, whose eldest boy jumped off the dock last Spring in a
fit of delirium tremens, came to Maurice with tears in her eyes to
thank him for holding a temperance meeting. "I can't do anything but
pray," she said; "but oh, Pastor, that I can and will do."

The meeting was certainly a remarkable success, there was just
opposition enough to make it so. Those that were determined it
should succeed were there ready to speak, to sing, to pray. Those
that did not believe in it were there to see it fail. Those that
were indifferent were there, curious to see whether it would succeed
or fail, and what it would be like. And Deacon Goodsole and Miss
Moore were there with their recruits, a curious and motley addition
to the congregation. The church was full. Every ear was attention;
every heart aroused. And when finally good old Father Hyatt, with
his thin white hair and tremulous voice, and eyes suffused with
tears, told in tones of unaffected pathos, the sad story of Charl.
Pie's death, I do not believe that even Jim Wheaton's eyes were dry.
At all events I noticed that when, at the close of the meeting,
Maurice put the question whether a second meeting should be held the
following month, Jim Wheaton was among those who voted in the
affirmative. There were no dissentients.

When I came home from this meeting, I put on paper as well as I
could Father Hyatt's pathetic story. It is as follows:



CHAPTER XXVII.

Father Hyatt's Story.



IF you had known Charlie P., and had seen his little struggle, and
had felt as I did the anguish caused by his tragic death, you would
not talk of moderate drinking as a remedy for intemperance.

I was away from my parish when I first heard of it. I very well
remember the start with which I read the first line of the note,
"Charlie P-- is dead;" and how after I had finished the account,
written in haste and partaking of the confusion of the hour, the
letter dropped from my hands, and I sat in the gathering darkness of
the summer twilight, rehearsing to myself the story of his life, and
the sad, sad story of his tragic death. Years have passed since, but
the whole is impressed upon my memory in figures that time cannot
fade. If I were an artist, I could paint his portrait, I am sure, as
I see him even now. Such a grand, open-hearted, whole-souled fellow
as he was.

It was about a year before that I first saw him in my church. His
peculiar gait as he walked up the center aisle, first attracted my
attention. He carried a stout cane and walked a little lame. His
wife was with him. Indeed, except at his office, I rarely saw them
apart. She loved him with an almost idolatrous affection; as well
she might, for he was the most lovable man I ever knew; and he loved
her with a tenderness almost womanly. I think he never for a moment
forgot that it was her assiduous nursing which saved his life. His
face attracted me from the first, and I rather think I called on the
new-comers that very week. At all events we soon became fast
friends, and at the very next communion husband and wife united with
my church by letter from --, but no matter where; I had best give
neither names nor dates. They lived in a quite, simple way, going
but little into society, for they were society to each other. They
rarely spent an evening out, if I except the weekly prayer-meeting.
They came together to that. He very soon went into the
Sabbath-school. A Bible-class of young people gathered about him as
if by magic. He had just the genial way, the social qualities, and
the personal magnetism to draw the young to him. I used to look
about sometimes with a kind of envy at the eager attentive faces of
his class.

Judge of my surprise when, one day, a warm friend of Charlie's came
to me, privately, and said, "Charlie P. is drinking."

"Impossible," said I.

"Alas!" said he, "it is too true. I have talked with him time and
again. He promises reform, but keeps no promise. His wife is almost
broken-hearted, but carries her burden alone. You have influence
with him, more than any one else I think. I want you to see him and
talk with him."

I promised, of course. I made the effort, but without success. I
called once or twice at his office. He was always immersed in
business. I called at his house. But I never could see him alone. I
was really and greatly perplexed, when he relieved me of my
perplexity. Perhaps he suspected my design. At all events one
morning he surprised me by a call at my study. He opened the subject
at once himself.

"Pastor," said he, "I have come to talk with you about myself. I am
bringing shame on the Church and disgrace on my family. You know all
about it. Everybody knows all about it. I wonder that the children
do not point at me in the street as I go along. Oh! my poor wife! my
poor wife! what shall I do?"

He was intensely excited. I suspected that he had been drinking to
nerve himself to what he regarded as a disagreeable but unavoidable
duty. I calmed him as well as I could, and he told me his story.

He was formerly a temperate though never a total abstinence man. He
was employed on a railroad in some capacity-express messenger I
think. The cars ran off the track. That in which he was sitting was
thrown down an embankment. He was dreadfully bruised and mangled,
and was taken up for dead. It seemed at first as though he had
hardly a whole bone in his body; but by one of those marvelous
freaks, as we account them, which defeat all physicians'
calculations, he survived. Gradually he rallied. For twelve months
he lived on stimulants. His wife's assiduous nursing through these
twelve months of anxiety prostrated her upon a bed of sickness. From
his couch he arose, as he supposed, to go through life on crutches.
But returning strength had enabled him to substitute a cane. Her
attack of typhoid fever left her an invalid, never to be strong
again. Alas! his twelve months' use of stimulants had kindled a fire
within him which it seemed impossible to quench.

"I cannot do my work," said he, "without a little, and a little is
enough to overset me. I am not a hard drinker, Pastor, indeed I am
not. But half a glass of liquor will sometimes almost craze me."

I told him he must give up the little. For him there was but one
course of safety, that of total abstinence. He was reluctant to come
to it. His father's sideboard was never empty. It was hard to put
aside the notions of hospitality which he had learned in his
childhood, and adopt the principles of a total abstinence, which he
had always been taught to ridicule. However, he resolved bravely,
and went away from my study, as I fondly hoped, a saved man.

I had not then learned, as I have since, the meaning of the
declaration, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

I saw him every few days. He never showed any signs of liquor. I
asked him casually, as I had opportunity, how he was getting along.
He always answered, "Well." I sounded others cautiously. No one
suspected him of any evil habit. I concluded he had conquered it.
Though I did not lose him from my thoughts or prayers, I grew less
anxious. He kept his Bible-class, which grew in numbers and in
interest. Spring came, and I relaxed a little my labors, as that
climate-no matter where it was, to me the climate was bad
enough-required it. Despite the caution, the subtle malaria laid
hold of me. I fought for three weeks a hard battle with disease.
When I arose from my bed the doctor forbade all study and all work
for six weeks at least. No minister can rest in his own parish. My
people understood that, as parishes do not always. One bright spring
day, one of my deacons called, and put a sealed envelope into my
hand to be opened when he had left. It contained a check for my
traveling expenses, and an official note from the officers of the
church bidding me go and spend it. In three days I was on my way to
the White Mountains. It was there my wife's hurried note told me the
story of Charlie's death. And this was it:

The habit had proved too strong for his weak will. He had resumed
drinking. No one knew it but his wife and one confidential friend.
He rarely took much; never so much as to be brutal at home, or unfit
for business at the office; but enough to prove to him that he was
not his own master. The shame of his bondage he felt keenly,
powerless as he felt himself to break the chains. The week after I
left home his wife left also for a visit to her father's. She took
the children, one a young babe three months old, with her. Mr. P.
was to follow her in a fortnight. She never saw him again. One night
he went to his solitary home. Possibly he had been drinking-no one
ever knew-opened his photograph album, covered his own photograph
with a piece of an old envelope, that it might no longer look upon
the picture of his wife on the opposite page, and wrote her, on a
scrap of paper torn from a letter, this line of farewell:

"I have fought the battle as long as I can. It is no use. I will not
suffer my wife and children to share with me a drunkard's shame.
God-bye. God have mercy on you and me."

The next morning, long after the streets had resumed their
accustomed activity, and other houses threw wide open their shutters
to admit the fragrance of flowers, and the song of birds, and the
glad sunshine, and all the joy of life, that house was shut and
still. When the office clerk, missing him, came to seek him, the
door was fast. Neighbors were called in. A window was forced open.
Lying upon the bed, where he had fallen the night before, lay poor
Charlie P. A few drops of blood stained the white coverlet. It oozed
from a bullet wound in the back of his head. The hand in death still
grasped the pistol that fired the fatal shot.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

Our Village Library.



TO that prayer-meeting and Father Hyatt's story of Charlie P.,
Wheathedge owes its library.

"Mr. Laicus," said Mr. Gear as we came out of the meeting together,
"I hope this temperance movement isn't going to end in a
prayer-meeting. The praying is all very well, but I want to see some
work go along with it."

"Very well," said I, "what do you propose?"

"I don't know," said he. "But I think we might do something. I
believe in the old proverb. The gods help those who help
themselves."

That very week Mr. Mapleson called at my house to express the same
idea. "What can we do to shut up Poole's?" said he. "It's dreadful.
Half our young men spend half their evenings there lounging and
drinking away their time." He proposed half a dozen plans and
abandoned them as fast as he proposed them. He suggested that we
organize a Sons of Temperance, and gave it up because neither of us
believed in secret societies; suggested organizing a Band of Hope in
the Sabbath-school, but withdrew the suggestion on my remarking that
the Sabbath-school would not touch the class that made Poole's bar
the busiest place in town; hinted at trying to get John B. Gough,
but doubted whether he could be obtained. I told him I would think
it over. And the next evening I walked up to Poole's to survey the
ground a little. I found, just as you turn the corner from the Main
street to go up the hill, what I had never noticed before-a sign,
not very legible from old age and dirt, "Free Reading-room." Having
some literary predilections, I went in. A bar-room, with three or
four loungers before the counter, occupied the foreground. In the
rear were two round wooden tables. On one were half a dozen copies
of notorious sensation sheets, one or two with infamous
illustrations. A young lad of sixteen was gloating over the pages of
one of them. The other table was ornamented with a backgammon board
and a greasy pack of cards. The atmosphere of the room was composed
of the commingled fumes of bad liquor, bad tobacco, kerosene oil and
coal gas. It did not take me long to gauge the merits of the free
reading-room. But I inwardly thanked the proprietor for the
suggestion it afforded me.

"A free reading-room," said I to myself; "that is what we want at
Wheathedge."

The same thought had fortunately occurred almost simultaneously to
my friend Mr. Korley, though his reason for desiring its
establishment were quite different from mine. His family spends
every summer at Wheathedge. His wife and daughters found themselves
at a loss how to spend their time. They had nothing to do. They
pestered Mr. Korley to bring them up the last novels. But his mind
was too full of stocks; he always forgot the novels. On Saturday he
went over to Newtown, hearing there was a circulating library there.
He found the sign, but no books. "I had some books once," the
proprietor explained, "but the Wheathedge folks carried them all off
and never returned them." Thus it happened that when the week after
my visit to the free reading-room, I met Mr. Korley on board the
train, he remarked to me, "We ought to have a circulating library at
Wheathedge."

"And a reading-room with it," said I.

"Well, yes," said he. "That's a fact. A good reading-room would be a
capital thing."

"Think of the scores of young men," said I, "that are going down to
ruin there. They have no home, no decent shelter even for a winter's
evening, except the grog-shop."

"I don't care so much about the young men," said Mr. Korley, "as I
do about the middle-aged ones: My Jennie pesters me almost to death
every time I go down, to buy her something to read. Of course I
always forget it. Besides, I would like a place where I could see
the papers and periodicals myself. I would give fifty dollars to see
a good library and reading-room in Wheathedge."

"Very good," said I, "I will put you down for that amount." So I
took out my pocket-book and made a memorandum.

"What! are you taking subscriptions?" asked Mr. Korley.

"Have taken one," said I.

That was the beginning. That night I took a blank book and drew up a
subscription paper. It was very simple. It read as follows:

"We, the undersigned, for the purpose of establishing a library and
reading-room in Wheathedge, subscribe the sums set opposite our
names, and agree that when $500 is subscribed the first subscribers
shall call a meeting of the others to form an organization."

I put Mr. Korley's name down for $50, which started it well. Mr.
Jowett could do no less than Mr. Korley, and Mr. Wheaton no less
than Mr. Jowett; and so, the subscription once started, grew very
rapidly, like a boy's snowball, to adequate proportions. The second
Tuesday in July I was enabled to give notice to all the subcribers
to meet at my house. My parlors were well filled. I had taken pains
to get some lady subscribers, and they were there as well as the
gentlemen. I read to the company the law of the State providing for
the organization of a library association. Resolutions were drawn up
and adopted. Stock was fixed at $5, that everybody might be a
stockholder. The annual dues were made $2, imposed alike on
stockholders and on outsiders. A Board of trustees was elected. And
so our little boat was fairly launched.

We began in a very humble way. The school trustees loaned us during
the summer vacation a couple of recitation-rooms which we converted
into a library and conversation-room. The former we furnished in the
first instance with the popular magazines and two or three of the
daily newspapers. We forthwith began also to accumulate something of
a library. Mr. Wheaton presented us with a full assortment of Patent
Office reports, which will be very valuable for reference if any
body should ever want to refer to them. We also have two shelves
full chiefly of old school-books, which a committee on donations
succeeded in raising in the neighborhood.

But apart from these treasures of knowledge our collection is
eminently readable. Maurice Mapleson is on the library committee,
and Maurice Mapleson is fortunately a very sensible man. "The first
thing," he says, "is to get books that people will read. Valuable
books that they won't read may as well stay on the publishers'
shelves as on ours." So as yet we buy only current literature. We
rarely purchase any book in more than two volumes. We have a good
liberal assortment of modern novels-but they are selected with some
care. We sprinkle in a good proportion of popular history and
popular science. The consequence is our library is used. The books
really circulate. Our conversation-room has proved quite as popular
as the library. It is furnished with chess and checkers. What is
more important it is furnished with young ladies. For the Wheathedge
library knows neither male nor female. And the young men find our
checkers more attractive than Tom Poole's cards. They are ready to
exchange the stale tobacco smoke and bad whiskey of his bar-room for
the fair, fresh faces that make our reading-room so attractive. The
boys, too, as a class are very willing to give up the shameless
pictorial literature of his free reading-room for Harper's and the
Illustrated Christian Weekly. In a word the Wheathedge library
became so universally popular that when the opening of the school
threatened to crowd us out of our quarters, there was no difficulty
in raising the money to build a small house, large enough for our
present and prospective needs. The only objection was Mr. Hardcap.
For Mr. Hardcap does not approve of novels.

This objection came out when I first asked him for a subscription,
payable in work on the new building.

"Do you have novels in your library?" said he.

"Of course," said I.

"Then," said he, "don't come to me for any help. I won't do anything
to encourage the reading of novels."

"You do not approve of novels, then, I judge, Mr. Hardcap?" said I.

"Approve of novels!" said he, energetically. "If I had my way, the
pestiferous things should never come near my house. I totally
condemn them. I don't see how any consistent Christian can suffer
them. They're a pack of lies, anyhow."

"Do you not think," said I, "that we ought to discriminate; that
there are different sorts of novels, and that we ought not to
condemn the good with the bad?"

"I don't believe in no kind of fiction, nohow," said Mr. Hardcap,
emphatically. "What we want is facts, Mr. Laicus-hard facts. That's
what I was brought up on when I was a boy, and that's what I mean to
bring my boys up on."

I thought of Mr. Gradgrind, but said nothing.

"Yes," said Mr. Hardcap, half soliloquizing, "there is Charles
Dickens. He was nothing in the world but a novel writer, and they
buried him in Westminster Cathedral, as though he were a saint; and
preached sermons about him, and glorified him in our religious
papers. Sallie is crazy to get a copy of his works, and even wife
wants to read some of them. But they'll have to go out of my house
to do it, I tell ye. Why, they couldn't make more to do if it was
Bunyan or Milton."

"Bunyan?" said I. "Do you mean the author of Pilgrim's Progress?"

"Yes," said he: "that is a book. Why, it's worth a hundred of your
modern novels."

"How is that?" said I. "Pilgrim's Progress, if I mistake not, is
fiction."

"Oh! well," said .Mr. Hardcap, "that's a very different thing. It
isn't a novel. It's a allegory. That's altogether different."

"What is the difference?" said I.

"Oh! well," said he, "that's altogether different. I suppose it is
fictitious; but then it's altogether different. It's a allegory."

"Now I don't approve," continued Mr. Hardcap, without explaining
himself any further, "of our modern Sunday-school libraries. I have
complained a good deal, but it's no use. Tom brings home a story
book every Sunday. I can't very well say he shan't take any books
out of the library, and I don't want to take him out of
Sunday-school. But I don't like these Sunday-school stories. They
are nothing but little novels anyhow. And they're all lies. I don't
believe in telling stories to teach children. If I had my way, there
wouldn't be but one book in the library. That would be the Bible."

"You could hardly leave in all the Bible," said I. "You would have
to cross out the parable of the prodigal son."

"The parable of the prodigal son!" exclaimed Mr. Hardcap, in
astonishment.

"Yes," said I: "that is, if you did not allow any fiction in your
Sunday reading."

"Oh!" said he, "that's very different. That's not fiction; that's a
parable. That's entirely different. Besides," continued he, "I don't
know what right you have to assume that it is a story at all. I have
no doubt that it is true. Christ says distinctly that a man had two
sons, and one came and asked him for his portion. He tells it all
for a fact, and I think it very dishonoring to him to assume that it
is not. I have no doubt that he knew just such a case."

"And the same thing is true of the parable of the lost sheep, and
the lost piece of money, and the sower, and the merchantman, and the
pearl, and the unfaithful steward?" I asked.

"Yes," said he, "I have no doubt of it."

"Well," said I, "that is at least a new view of Scripture teaching."

"I have no doubt it is the correct one," said he. "I don't believe
there is any fiction in the Bible at all."

"Well," said I, "when you get home you read Jotham's story of the
trees, in the Book of Judges; I think it's about the ninth chapter."

"I will," said he; "but if it's in the Bible I have no doubt it is
true, no doubt whatever."

But in spite of Mr. Hardcap, the Wheathedge library flourished; and
next week our new quarters are to be dedicated to the cause of
literature and temperance by a public meeting. And I am assured by
those that know, that Tom Poole's business was never so poor as it
has been since we started our opposition to his free reading-room.

Miss Moore asked Maurice Mapleson last week to suggest a subject for
an illuminated motto to hang on the wall of the reading-room over
the librarian's desk.

"Overcome evil with good," said he.



CHAPTER XXIX.

Maurice Mapleson Tries an Experiment.



FIVE or six weeks ago Maurice came to me in some excitement. "Mr.
Laicus," said he, "is it true that ten of you gentlemen have to
contribute thirty dollars a piece this year to make up my salary?"

"No," said I.

"Why, John," said Jennie.

"We didn't have to do it," I continued. But in point of fact we do
it."

"I don't like that," said he soberly. "If the church can't pay me
fifteen hundred dollars a year I do not want to receive it. I
thought the church was strong and well able to do all it professed
to do."

"My dear Mr. Mapleson," said I, "you attend to the spiritual
interests of the church and leave its finances to us. If we cannot
pay you all we have promised, we will come and beg off. Till then
you just take it for granted that it's all right."

Maurice shook his head.

"Why, my dear friend," said I, "how much do you suppose I pay for
pew rent?"

"I haven't the least idea," said he.

"Fifty dollars," said I. "That provides myself and wife and Harry
with a pew in church twice on the Sabbath if we want it. It pays for
Harry's Sabbath-school instruction and for your service as a pastor
to me and to mine. But we will make no account of that. Fifty
dollars a Sabbath is a dollar a week, fifty cents a service, twenty
cents a head. Harry half price, and the Sabbath-school, and the
prayer-meetings, and the pastoral work thrown in. It is cheaper than
any lecturer would give it to us, and a great deal better quality
too. My pew rent isn't what I pay for the support of the Gospel. It
is what I pay for my own spiritual bread and butter. It won't hurt
me, nor Deacon Goodsole, nor Mr. Wheaton, nor Mr. Gowett, nor any
one else on that list to contribute thirty dollars more for the
cause of Christ and the good of the community."

Maurice shook his head thoughtfully, but said nothing more about it
then, and the matter dropped.

The last week in December we have our annual meeting. It is
generally rather a stupid affair. The nine or ten gentlemen who
constitute the board of trustees meet in the capacity of an
ecclesiastical society. In the capacity of a board of trustees they
report to themselves in the capacity of a society. In the capacity
of a society they accept the report which they have presented in the
capacity of a board of trustees, and pass unanimously a resolution
of thanks to the board, i. e. themselves, for the efficient and
energetic manner in which they have discharged their duties. They
then ballot in a solemn manner for themselves for the ensuing year
and elect the ticket without opposition. And the annual meeting is
over.

But this year our annual meeting was a very different affair. The
Sabbath preceding, the parson preached a sermon on the text: "The
poor have the Gospel preached to them." In this sermon he advocated
a free-pew system. His arguments were not very fresh or new (there
is not much that is new to be said on the subject) till he came to
the close. Then he startled us all by making the following
proposition:

"The chief objection," said he, "to the free-pew system is the
question, 'Where shall the money come from?' From God, I answer. I
believe if we feed his poor, he will feed us. I, for one, am willing
to trust Him, at least for one year."

It slipped out very naturally, and there was a little laugh in the
congregation at the preacher's expense. But he was very much in
earnest.

"I propose to the society to throw open the doors of this church,
and declare all the pews free. Provide envelopes and papers, and
scatter them through the pews. Let each man write thereon what he is
willing to pay for the support of the Gospel, and whether he will
pay it weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-quarterly or annually. Give
these sealed envelopes to me. No one shall know what they contain
but myself and the treasurer. I will pay out of the proceeds all the
current expenses of the church, except the interest. Whatever
remains, I will take as my salary. The interest, the trustees will
provide out of the plate collections and with the aid of the ladies.
This is my proposition. Consider it seriously, earnestly,
prayerfully, and come together next Wednesday night to act
intelligently upon it."

I hardly think the minister's eloquence would have sufficed to carry
this plan, but the treasurer's balance-sheet helped his case
amazingly.

I supposed there would be a small deficit, but thought I knew it
could not be very great. But I had not reckoned on the genius for
incapacity which characterises church boards. To have the unusual
deficit, which was involved by the increase of the parson's salary,
provided for by a special subscription was more than they could
bear. They had regarded it as their duty, made plain by the example
of their predecessors in office for many years, to bring the church
in debt, and nobly had they fulfilled their duty. On the strength of
that extraordinary subscription they had rushed into extraordinary
expenditures with a looseness that was marvellous to behold.

Here is the annual exhibit as it appears in the treasurer's report:

BALANCE SHEET.
Cr.
Pew-rents
$1,250.00
Sunday Collections
325.25
Received by a Ladies' Fair
113.34
Special Subscription
300.00

$1,988.59

Dr.
Minister's Salary
$1,500.00
Organist (a new expenditure advocated by Mr. Wheaton because of the Special
Subscription), Six months' salary
100.00
Church Repairs, (a new fence and new blinds, &c., advocated by Mr. Wheaton
because of the Special Subscription)
134.75
Reed Organ for the Sabbath-School (advocated by Mr. Wheaton because of the
Special Subscription)
150.00
Interest on Mortgage
315.00
Sexton
200.00
Fire, lights and incidentals
225.00
Commission for collecting pew-rents
55.75

$2,680.50

1,988.59
Deficit
$691.91

Of course, the minister's salary was behind; and, of course, the
minister was behind to the grocer, and the baker, and the butcher,
and the dry-goods dealer; and, of course, everybody felt blue. There
was a good deal of informal discussion before the parson's
proposition was taken up. Mr. Hardcap wanted to decrease the
minister's salary. Mr. Wheaton wanted to raise the pew rents. Mr.
Leacock thought Mr. Wheaton could afford to give up his mortgage on
the church. Mr. Line proposed to take up a subscription, pay the
balance off on the spot, and begin the new year afresh. Mr. Gazbag
thought it ought to be left to the ladies to clear off the debt with
a concert or something of that sort. Mr. Cerulian thought (though he
said it very quietly) that if we had a minister who could draw
better, we shouldn't have any difficulty.

The parson kept his own counsel till these various plans had been,
one after another, proposed and abandoned. Then he again proposed
his own.

"I do not want," he said, "any more salary than this church and
congregation can well afford to give. I am willing if it is poor to
share its poverty. I believe if it is prosperous it will be willing
to share with me its prosperity. I have studied this matter a good
deal; I believe the pew rent system to be thoroughly bad. It
excludes the poor. What is more to the purpose it excludes those
whom we most need to reach. The men who most need the Gospel will
not pay for it. The law of supply and demand does not apply. No man
pays a pew rent who does not already at least respect religion, if
he does not personally practise it. The influence within the church
of selling the Gospel in open market is as deadly as its influence
without. It creates a caste system. Practically our pews are
classified. We have a parquette, a dress circle, a family circle,
and an amphitheatre. The rich and poor do not meet together. We are
not one in Christ Jesus. Moreover I believe it to be as bad
financially as it is morally. When an American makes a bargain he
wants to make a good one. What he buys he wants to get as cheap as
his neighbor. If you rent your pews, every renter expects to get his
seat at the lowest rates. But Americans are liberal in giving. If
they contributed to the support of the Gospel, if what they gave the
church was a free gift, I believe they would give with a free hand.
At all events I would like to try the experiment. It can be no worse
than it has been this year. The trustees can have no difficulty in
raising interest money from the plate collections and a special
subscription. There can be no injustice in requiring them to secure
a special fund for any special expenditures. And all the other
expenditures I will provide for myself out of the free gifts of the
congregation. I am willing to run all the risks. It may do good. It
can do the church no harm."

A long discussion followed this proposal.

Mr. Wheaton was at first utterly opposed to the plan. He thought it
was tempting Providence to make no more adequate provision for our
debts. Six of us quietly agreed to assume the mortgage debt, that is
to say to insure him that the plate collections and the ladies
together would pay the interest promptly. That changed his view. He
said that if the minister had a mind to risk his salary on such a
crazy scheme, very well. And at the last he voted for it.

Mr. Hardcap thought it was a first-rate plan. It was noticed
afterward that he moved from a plain seat in the gallery to a
cushioned and carpeted seat in the center aisle. Whether he paid any
more contribution than he had before paid of pew rent, nobody but
the parson knows. But nobody suspects him of doing so.

Mrs. Potiphar thought it was horrid. What was to prevent any common,
low-born fellow, any carpenter's son, right from his shop, coming
and sitting right alongside her Lillian? She couldn't sanction such
communist notions in the church.

Deacon Goodsole warmly favored the minister's idea-was its most
earnest advocate, and was the man who first started the plan for
buying Mr. Wheaton's acquiescence.

Mr. Line hadn't a great deal of faith in it. This was not the way
the church used to raise money when he was a boy. Still, he wanted
to support the minister, and he wanted to have the poor reached, and
he hadn't anything to say against it.

Squire Rawlins said, "Go ahead. The minister takes all the risk,
don't you see? He's a big fool in my opinion. But there's no law
agin a man makin' a fool of himself, ef he wants ter."

Miss Moore organized that very night a double force to carry the
plan into effect. One was a ladies' society to pay the interest; the
other was a band of workers, young men and young women, to go out on
Sunday afternoons and invite the people who now do not go anywhere
to church, to come to ours.

On the final vote the plan was carried without a dissenting voice. I
beg Mrs. Potiphar's pardon. Her voice was heard in very decided
dissent as the meeting broke up. But as the ladies do not vote in
the Calvary Presbyterian Church, her protest did not prevent the
vote from being unanimous.

Maurice Mapleson is sanguine of results, I am not. I am afraid he
will come out bankrupt himself at the end of the year. I wanted to
raise a special subscription quietly to ensure his salary. But he
would not hear of it. He replied to my suggestion, "I said I would
trust the Lord, and I will. If you want to add to your envelope
contribution, very well. But I do not want any more than that will
give me."

But one thing I notice and record here. Our congregation have
increased from ten to twenty per cent. Miss Moore's invitations have
met with far greater success than I anticipated. I never could get
any of the boys from the Mill village to come to church at all
regularly under the old system. When this change was made I gave
notice of it, and now over half my Bible-class are in the
congregation. But I can get no intimation from Maurice how the plan
is prospering financially. All he will say is, "We shall all know at
the close of the year."



CHAPTER XXX.

Mr. Hardcap's Family Prayers.



"JENNIE," said I, the other evening, "I should like to go and make a
call at Mr. Hardcap's."

Our new pastor had preached a sermon on that unapplied passage of
Scripture, Luke xiv: 12-14. It had made a great stir in our little
village. Mr. Wheaton thought it was a grand sermon, but
impracticable. Mrs. Potiphar resented it as personal. Deacon
Goodsole thought it was good sound doctrine. I thought I would give
the sermon a trial; meanwhile I reserved my judgment.

It is not a bad method, by the way, of judging a sermon to try it
and see how it works in actual experiment.

Jennie assented with alacrity to my proposition; her toilet did not
take long, and to Mr. Hardcap's we went.

It was very evident that they did not go into society or expect
callers. In answer to our knock we heard the patter of a child's
feet on the hall floor and Susie opened the door. As good fortune
would have it, the sitting-room door at the other end of the hall
stood invitingly open, and so, without waiting for ceremony, I
pushed right forward to the common room, which a great blazing wood
fire illuminated so thoroughly that the candles were hardly
necessary. Mrs. Hardcap started in dismay to gather up her basket of
stockings, but on my positive assurance that we should leave
forthwith if she stopped her work she sat down to it again. Luckily
the night was cold and there was no fire in the stove of the
cheerless and inhospitable parlor. So they were fain to let us share
with them the cheery blaze of the cozy sitting-room. We did not
start out till after seven, and we had not been in the room more
than ten minutes before the old-fashioned clock in the corner rang
out the departure of the hour and ushered in eight o'clock--whereat
James laid aside his book, and at a signal from his father brought
him the family Bible.

"We always have family prayers at eight o'clock," said Mr. Hardcap,
"before the children go to bed; and I never let anything interfere
with it."

This in the tone of a defiant martyr; as one under the impression
that we were living in the middle ages and that I was an Inquisitor
ready to march the united family to the stake on the satisfactory
evidence that the reading of the Bible was maintained in it.

I begged him to proceed, and he did so, the defiant spirit a little
mollified.

He opened at a mark somewhere in Numbers. It was a chapter devoted
to the names of the tribes and their families. Poor Mr. Hardcap! If
he was defiant at the first threatening of martyrdom, he endured the
infliction of the torture with a resolute bravery worthy of a
covenanter. The extent to which he became entangled in those names,
the new baptism they received at his hands, the singular contortions
of which he proved himself capable in reproducing them, the
extraordinary and entirely novel methods of pronunciation which he
evolved for that occasion, and the heroic bravery with which he
struggled through, awoke my keenest sympathies. Words which he
fought and vanquished in the first paragraph rose in rebellion in a
second to be fought and vanquished yet again. The chapter at length
drew to an end. I saw to my infinite relief that he was at last
emerging from this interminable feast of names. What was my horror
to see him turn the page and enter with fresh zeal upon the conquest
of a second chapter.

Little Charlie (five years old) was sound asleep in his mother's
arms. Her eyes were fixed on vacancy and her mind interiorly
calculating something. I wondered not that James snored audibly on
the sofa. Susie never took her eyes off her father, but sat as one
that watches to see how a task is done. My wife listened for a
little while with averted face, then wandered off, as she afterwards
told me, to a mental calculation of her resources and expenses for
the next month. And still Mr. Hardcap rolled out those census tables
of Judea's ancient history. It was not till he had finished three
chapters that at length he closed the book and invited me to lead in
prayer.

Half an hour later, after Jamie had been roused up from his corner
of the sofa and sent off to bed, and Charlie had been undressed and
put to bed without being more than half aroused, Mrs. Hardcap asked
my advice as to this method of reading the Bible.

"Mr. Hardcap," said she, "read a statement the other day to the
effect that by reading three chapters every day and five on Sunday
he could finish the Bible in a year. And he is going through it in
regular course. But I sometimes doubt whether that is the best way.
I am sure our children do not take the interest in it which they
ought to; and I am afraid those chapters of hard names do not always
profit me."

The martyr in Mr. Hardcap re-asserted itself.

"All Scripture," said he solemnly, "is given by inspiration of God
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for
instruction in righteousness. We cannot afford to pass by any part
of the word of God."

"What do you think about it, Mr. Laicus?" said Mrs. Hardcap.

"Think!" said I; "I should be afraid to say what I think lest your
husband should account me a hopeless and irreclaimable unbeliever."

"Speak out," said Mr. Hardcap; "as one who at the stake should say,
'pile the fuel on the flame, and try my constancy to its utmost.'
"Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

"Well," said I, "if I were to speak out, I should say that this way
of reading the Bible reminds me of the countryman who went to a city
hotel and undertook to eat right down the bill of fare, supposing he
ought not to call for fish till he had eaten every kind of soup. It
is as if one being sick, should go to the apothecary's shop, and
beginning on one side, go right down the store taking in due order
every pill, potion, and powder, till he was cured-or killed."

Mr. Hardcap shook his head resolutely. "Is it not true," said he,
"that all Scripture is profitable?"

"Yes," said I, "but not that it is all equally profitable for all
occasions. All the food on the table is profitable, but not to be
eaten at one meal. All the medicine in the apothecary's shop is
profitable, but not for the same disease."

"There is another thing," said Mrs. Hardcap, "that I cannot help
being doubtful about. James is learning the New Testament through as
a punishment."

"As a punishment!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," said she. "That is, Mr. Hardcap has given him the New
Testament, and for his little offences about the house he allots him
so many verses to learn; sometimes only ten or twelve, sometimes a
whole chapter. I am afraid it will give the poor boy a distaste for
the word of God."

"There is no danger," said Mr. Hardcap, oracularly. "The word of God
is sharper than a two edged sword, and is quick even to the dividing
asunder of the joints and the marrow. It is the book to awaken
conviction of sin, the proper book for the sinner. There is no book
so fitting to bring him to a sense of his sinfulness and awaken in
him a better mind."

"And how," said I, "do you find it practically works? Does he seem
to love his Bible?"

"Says he hates it awfully," said his mother.

"Such," said Mr. Hardcap, "is the dreadful depravity of the human
heart. It is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."

It was quite idle to argue with Mr. Hardcap. We left him
unconvinced, and I doubt not he is still reading his three chapters
a day and five on Sunday. But I pity poor James from the bottom of
my heart; and as my wife and I walked home I could not but help
contrasting in my own mind Mr. Hardcap's way of reading the Bible
and that which Deacon Goodsole pursues in his family.



CHAPTER XXXI.

In Darkness.



LAST Tuesday night Jennie met me at the station. It is unusual for
her to do so. The surprise was a delightful one to me. But as I sat
down beside her in the basket wagon she did not greet me as joyously
as usual. Her mien was so sober that I asked her at once the
question:

"Jennie, what is the matter? You look sick."

"I am sick, John," said she; "sick at heart. Willie Gear is dead."

"Willie Gear dead!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," said Jennie. "He was skating on the pond. I suppose this warm
weather has weakened the ice. It gave way. Three of the boys went in
together. The other two got out. But Willie was carried under the
ice."

Jennie was driving. Instead of turning up the hill from the depot
she kept down the river road. "I thought you would want to go down
there at once," said she. "And so I left baby with Nell and came
down for you."

We rode along in silence. Willie Gear was his father's pride and
pet. He was a noble boy. He inherited his mother's tenderness and
patience, and with them his father's acute and questioning
intellect. He was a curious combination of a natural skeptic and a
natural believer. He had welcomed the first step toward converting
our Bible-class into a mission Sabbath-school, and had done more
than any one else to fill it up with boys from the Mill village. He
was a great favorite with them all and their natural leader in
village sports and games. There was no such skater or swimmer for
his age as Willie Gear, and he was the champion ball-player of the
village. But I remember him best as a Sabbath-school scholar. I can
see even now his earnest upturned face and his large blue eyes,
looking strait into his mother's answering gaze, and drinking in
every word she uttered to that mission-class which he had gathered
and which she every Sabbath taught. He was not very fortunate in his
teacher in our own church Sabbath-school. For he took nothing on
trust and his teacher doubted nothing. I can easily imagine how his
soul filled with indignation at the thought of Abraham's offering up
his only son as a burnt sacrifice, and how with eager questioning he
plied his father, unsatisfied himself with the assurances of one who
had never experienced a like perplexity, and therefore did not know
how to cure it.

And Willie was really gone. Would it soften the father's heart and
teach him the truth of Pascal's proverb that "The heart has reasons
of its own that the reason knows not of;" or would it blot out the
last remnant of faith, and leave Mr. Gear without a God as he had
been without a Bible and without a Saviour?

I was still pondering these problems, wildly thinking, not
aimlessly, yet to no purpose, when we reached the familiar cottage.
Is it indeed true that nature has no sympathy? There seemed to me to
be on all around a hush that spoke of death. There needed no
sorrowful symbol of crape upon the door; and there was none. I
almost think I should have known that death was in the house had no
one told me.

As I was fastening my horse Mr. Hardcap came up. We entered the gate
together.

"This is a hard experience for Mr. Gear," said I to Mr. Hardcap.

"The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,"
replied Mr. Hardcap, severely.

I could feel Jennie tremble on my arm, but I made no response to Mr.
Hardcap.

Mr. Gear opened the door for us himself before we had time to knock.
He was perfectly calm and self-possessed. Jennie said afterward she
should not have guessed, to have seen him elsewhere, that he had
even heard of Willie's death. But I noticed that he uttered no
greeting. He motioned us into the sitting-room without a word.

Here, on a sofa, lay, like a white statue, the form of the dear boy.
By the side of the sofa sat the mother, her eyes red and swollen
with much weeping. But the fierceness of sorrow had passed; and now
she was almost as quiet as the boy whose sleep she seemed to watch;
she was quite as pale.

She rose to meet us as we entered, and offered me her hand. Jennie
put her arm around the poor mother's waist and kissed her tenderly.
But still nothing was said.

Mr. Hardcap was the first to break the silence. "This is a solemn
judgment," said he.

Mr. Gear made no reply.

"I hope, my friend," continued Mr. Hardcap, "that you will heed the
lesson God is a teachin' of you, and see how fearful a thing it is
to have an unbeliev'n heart. God will not suffer us to rest in our
sin of unbelief. If we lay up our treasures on earth where moth and
rust doth corrupt, we must expect they will take to themselves wings
and fly away."

Mr. Hardcap's horrible mutilation of Scripture had always impressed
me in a singular manner. But I think its ludicrous side never so
affected me before. What is it in me that makes me always appreciate
most keenly the ludicrous in seasons of the greatest solemnity and
distress? The absurdity of his misapplication of the sacred text
mingled horribly with a sense of the insupportable anguish I knew he
was causing. And yet I knew not how to interfere.

"I hope he was prepared," said Mr. Hardcap.

"I hope so," said Mr. Gear quietly.

"He was such a noble fellow," said Jennie to the weeping mother. She
said it softly, but Mr. Hardcap's ears caught the expression.

"Nobility, ma'am," said he, "isn't a savin' grace. It's a nateral
virtoo. The question is, did he have the savin' grace of faith and
repentance?"

"I believe," said Mrs. Gear, earnestly, "that Willie was a
Christian, if ever there was one, Mr. Hardcap."

"He hadn't made no profession of religion you know, ma'am," said Mr.
Hardcap. "And the heart is deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked."

Mr. Hardcap is very fond of quoting that text. I wonder if he ever
applies it to himself.

"It seems kind o' strange now that he should be taken away so sudden
like," continued Mr. Hardcap, "without any warnin'. And you know
what the Scripture tells us. 'The wages of sin is death.'"

Mr. Gear could keep silence no longer. "I wish then," said he
hoarsely, "God would pay me my wages, and let me go."

"Oh! Thomas," said his wife appealingly. Then she went up to Mr.
Hardcap, and laid her hand gently on his arm. "Mr. Hardcap," said
she, "it was very good of you to call on us in our sorrow. And I am
sure that you want to comfort us, and do us good. But I don't
believe my husband will get any good just now from what you have to
say. We are stunned by the blow that came so suddenly, and must have
a little time to recover from it. Would you feel offended if I asked
you to go away and call again some other time?"

"The word must be spoken in season and out of season," said Mr.
Hardcap doggedly. Nevertheless he turned to leave. He offered his
hand to Mr. Gear, who was leaning with his head upon his hand
against the mantel-piece, and possibly did not notice the proffered
salutation. At all events he never moved. Mr. Hardcap looked at him
a moment, opened his mouth as if to speak, but apparently
reconsidered his purpose, for he closed it again without speaking,
and so left the room. Mrs. Gear went with him to the door, where I
heard her ask him to pray for her and for her husband, and where I
heard him answer something about a sin unto death that could not be
prayed for. Jennie followed Mrs. Gear softly out; and so Mr. Gear
and I were left alone.

Alone with the dead.

"That's your Christian consolation," said Mr. Gear bitterly.

"Is that just to your wife?" I answered him quietly.

"No! It is not just to my wife," he replied. "I would give all I
possess to have her faith. She is almost heart-broken,--and yet-yet-I
who ought to sustain her would be crazed with grief if I had not her
to lean upon. And she-she leans on I know not what. Oh! if I did but
know."

"She leans on Him who not in vain Experienced every human pain," I
answered softly.

"He was such a noble boy," continued Mr. Gear speaking half to
himself, and half to me. "He was so pure, so truthful, so
chivalrous, so considerate of his mother's happiness and of mine.
And he was beginning to teach me, teach me that I did not know all.
I was afraid of my own philosophy for him. I wanted him to have his
mother's faith, though I never told him so. I never perplexed him
with my own doubtings. I solved what I could of his, I was coming to
believe little by little that there was a clearer, better light than
that I walked in. I was hoping that he might find it and walk in it.
I even dreamed, sometimes, to myself, that he would yet learn how to
show it to me. And now he is gone, and the glimmer of light is gone,
and the last hope for me is gone with him."

"He is gone," I said softly, "to walk in that clearer, better light,
and beckons you to follow."

Mr. Gear made no answer, hardly seemed to note the interruption.

"And this is the bitterness of the blow to me," he continued, still
speaking half to me, half to himself. "I thought I believed in
immortality. I thought I believed in God. These two beliefs at least
were left me. And now nothing is left. My wife says 'he is not dead
but sleepeth.' But I cannot see it. To me he is gone, for ever gone.
If on the other side of that veil which hides him from me, that
mystic something which we call his spirit still lingers, I do not
see it. I had a dream of that better land once and called it faith.
But this cruel blow has wakened me, and the dream has passed in the
very hour when I need it most. And nothing is left me; not even that
poor vision."

"Not even God?" said I softly.

"Not even God," he answered with terrible deliberation. "For a bad
God is worse than no God at all. And how can I believe that God is
good? He looks down on our happy home. He looks on our dear boy, its
life and joy. He knows how our life is wrapped up in him. He sees
how little by little Willie is leading me up into a higher, happier,
holier life. And then He strikes him down, and leaves my wife
heart-broken, and me in darkness, bereft by one blow of my child and
of my faith."

Then he pointed to the dead boy who lay on the lounge before us.
"How can I reconcile this with the love of God?" he cried. "How can
you, Mr. Laicus?"

All bitterness was gone now. He looked me earnestly in the eye, and
asked eagerly, as one who longed for a solution, and yet was in
despair of finding it.

"I cannot," I answered, "and dare not try. If I had only life's book
to read, Mr. Gear, I should not believe in a God of love. I should
turn Persian, and believe in two gods, one of love and good-will,
one of hate and malice."

He looked at me in questioning surprise.

"Love, Mr. Gear, is its own demonstration. I know that God loves
me."

"How?" said he.

"How?" said I. "Do you remember when we first met, Mr. Gear, that
you told me your God was everywhere, in every brook, and mountain,
and flower, and leaf, and storm, and ray of sunshine."

He nodded his head reflectively, as one recalling a half forgotten
conversation.

"My God is in the hearts of those that seek Him," said I. "And in my
heart I carry an assurance of His love that life cannot disturb. I
know His love as the babe knows its mother's love, lying upon her
breast. It knows her love though it neither understands her nature
nor her ways."

He shook his head sadly.

"Mr. Laicus," said he, "I believe you, but I do not comprehend you.
I believe that you have a faith that is worth the having. I would
give all I possess or ever possessed to share it with you in this
hour. I do not know-I sometimes think it is only a pleasant dream.
Would God I could sleep and dream such dreams."

"It is no dream, Mr. Gear, but truth and soberness," said I. "A
dream does not last through eighteen centuries, and raise half a
world from barbarism to civilization. A dream does not carry mothers
through such sorrows as this with outlooking anticipations so clear
as those which give Mrs. Gear her radiant hope. No! Mr. Gear. It is
you who have been dreaming, and life's sorrow has awakened you."

"Mr. Laicus," he cried almost passionately, "I said I believed in
nothing. But it is not true. I have no creed. I do not even believe
in God or immortality any more. I have no God. I am without hope.
But I believe in my wife. I believe in you. I believe that you and
she have something-I know not what-that supports you in temptation
and sustains you in sorrow. Tell me what it is. Tell me how I may
get it. I will cast my pride away. I would believe. Help my
unbelief."

"Mr. Gear," said I, laying my hand upon his arm, "here in the
presence of this dear boy, be the solemn witness of your petition
and your vow, will you kneel with me to ask of God what you have
asked of me, but what He alone can give you, and record before Him
the promise you have made to me, but which He alone can receive at
your hands?"

He made no answer-hesitated a moment-then knelt, with the dear boy's
hand fast clasped in his, while kneeling at his side I echoed the
prayer he had already uttered: "I believe; help Thou mine unbelief."

And as we rose I saw the tears streaming down his softened face, the
first tears he had shed since I had entered his house. I knew that
Willie had taught him more in his death than by his life, and felt
that now, to my own heart though not to his, I could answer the
question he had asked me, "How can you reconcile this with the love
of God?"



CHAPTER XXXII.

God said, "Let there be Light."



FROM Mr. Gear's Jennie and I drove directly to Maurice Mapleson's.
Fortunately we found him at home. Briefly I told him of my visit.

"What can we do," I said at the close, "to save this man from the
despair of utter skepticism?"

"He is in good hands," said Mr. Mapleson, with calm assurance.

"No! Mr. Mapleson," said I, "I can do nothing more with him. So long
as I had only the intellect to deal with, I thought I knew what to
say and when to keep silence. But I dare neither speak nor keep
silence now."

"I did not mean your hands," said Mr. Mapleson.

"What then?" said I.

"He is in God's hands," replied the pastor. "God has taken him out
of your hands into His own. Leave him there."

"Is there then nothing more to be done?" I said.

"Yes," said he, "but chiefly prayer."

Then after a moment's pause he added: "I believe, Mr. Laicus, in the
oft quoted and generally perverted promise: If two of you shall
agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be
done for them of my Father which is in heaven. I believe it was
intended for just such exigencies as this. It is not a general
charter, but a special promise. Now is the time to plead it. Who
beside yourself in our church is Mr. Gear's most intimate
acquaintance and warmest friend?"

I thought a moment before I answered. Then I replied, "To be honest,
Mr. Mapleson, I do not believe there is one in the church who
understands him. But Deacon Goodsole has had more to do with him
than any other, and perhaps understands him better."

"Very well," said Mr. Mapleson. "Will you meet Deacon Goodsole at my
house to-morrow evening, half an hour before the prayer-meeting, to
unite in special prayer for Mr. Gear? I will see the Deacon. I am
sure he will come."

"I am sure he will," I added warmly; "as sure as that I will be
there myself."

With that I bade Mr. Mapleson good-night and hurried away. For tea
had long been waiting, the children's bed hour was near, and Jennie
was growing impatient to be at home.

Wednesday evening Mr. Mapleson, the Deacon and I went into our
church prayer-meeting from half an hour spent in Mr. Mapleson's
study in prayer for Mr. Gear. Mr. Mapleson had seen Mr. Gear that
morning. But the stricken father was very silent; he offered no
communication; and Mr. Mapleson had pressed for none. I confess I
had hoped much from Mr. Mapleson's interview, and I went into the
prayer-meeting burdened and sorrowful.

I think I have already remarked that Mr. Mapleson's conduct of a
prayer-meeting is exceedingly simple. He seldom says much. He sets
us all an example of brevity. A few words of Scripture, a few
earnest words of his own or a simple prayer, usually constitute his
sole contribution to the meeting, which is more truly a meeting for
prayer than any other prayer-meeting I ever attended.

That evening he seemed loath to open the meeting. We were little
late in beginning. When we did begin we were late in getting into
the heart of it. He called on one after another to lead in prayer. I
did not know but that he was going to omit the reading of Scripture
and his own remarks altogether. Our prayer-meeting commences at
half-past seven. The pastor never allows it to overrun an hour. And
it was after eight when he arose to read. He read from the twelth
chapter of Acts, the account of Peter's deliverance from prison. He
read it from beginning to end without a comment, and then he spoke
substantially as follows. His words were very simple. But that
meeting has left an impression upon me that time will never
obliterate. I believe I could repeat his words to my dying day.

"A great deal is said and written," said he, "about the apostolic
faith. But the apostles were men of like passions as we ourselves.
They fought the same doubts. They prayed in the same hesitating,
uncertain, unbelieving way. Peter was in prison. His friends could
do nothing to effect his deliverance-nothing but pray. So they
assembled for that purpose. They had the promise of the Lord, 'If
two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall
ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven.' But
they did not believe it. They took some comfort in praying-as we do.
But they did not expect any answer to their prayers. The thought
that God might really afford deliverance never seems to have
occurred to them. And when Peter, delivered by the angel of the
Lord, came knocking at the gate of the house, and the startled
disciples wondered what this midnight summons might mean, and the
servant returned to report that Peter stood without, they laughed at
her. You are mad, said they. And when he persisted in his knocking,
and she in her assertion, they added with trembling and under-breath
to one another, in mortal fear, "It is his ghost." Anything was more
credible to their minds than that God should have answered their
united prayers.

"The promise of God is to the prayer of faith. But God is constantly
better than his promise. He does not limit Himself by our
expectations. He does exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or
even think. We are not therefore to be driven from our knees by our
want of faith. I hear men talk as though prayer were of no avail
unless we believe beforehand with assurance that we were going to
receive all for which we asked. It is not true. We are not heard for
our much asking, nor for much our believing, but for God's great
mercy's sake.

"When the mission was first started at the Mill village, if I have
understood aright, it was started on the application of the children
themselves. They gathered around the school-house when the
Bible-class assembled. They had no expectation of instruction. When
the first person came to the door to invite them in, probably half
of them scampered away in fright. Did they expect all that has come?
Or would any Christian worker have said, 'They shall not have a
Sabbath-school till they ask it, and believe that it will be
provided for them?' And our Father does not wait for the prayer of
faith. Like the father in the parable he comes while we are yet afar
off. If we have faith enough to look wistfully and yearningly for a
blessing, He has superabundant love to grant it."

And then he read, and we sang that most beautiful hymn:

    "Oh! see how Jesus trusts himself
        Unto our childish love!
    As though by His free ways with us
        Our earnestness to prove.
    His sacred name a common word
        On earth He loves to hear;
    There is no majesty in Him
        Which love may not come near.
    The light of love is round His feet,
        His paths are never dim;
    And He comes nigh to us when we
        Dare not come nigh to Him.
    Let us be simple with Him, then,
        Not backward, stiff, nor cold,
    As though our Bethlehem could be
        What Sinai was of old."

Mr. Mapleson is very fond of music. Singing is a feature of all our
prayer-meetings. I have heard him say that he thought more people
had been sung into the kingdom of heaven than were ever preached
into it. Usually his rich voice carries the bass almost alone. But
during the singing of this hymn he sat silent, leaning his head upon
his hand. This silence was so unusual that it almost oppressed the
meeting. When the hymn closed there was a solemn hush, a strange
expectancy; it seemed as though no one dared to break the sacred
silence.

Our lecture-room occupies half the basement of the church. I sat in
a front seat, close by the little desk-a low platform furnished only
with a light stand on which rests the minister hymn-book and a
small Bible. The room was full, but it had filled up after I came
in.

The prolonged silence grew painful. Then I heard a rustle as of one
rising to his feet. Then a voice; I startled, half turned round,
restrained myself, thank God, and only cast on Jennie, at my side, a
look of wonder and of thanksgiving. The voice was that of Mr. Gear.

"Fellow-townsmen," said he,--he spoke hesitatingly at first as one
unused to the place and the assemblage,--"I have come here to make a
request. You are surprised to see me here. You will be more
surprised to hear my request. I want to ask you to pray for me."

He had recovered from his hesitancy now. But he spoke with an
unnatural rapidity as though he were afraid of breaking down
altogether if he stopped a moment to reflect upon himself and his
position.

"You know me only as an infidel. I am an infidel. At least I was.
Yes! I suppose I still am. My mother died when I was but a babe. My
father brought me up. He was orthodox of the orthodox. But oh! he
was a hard man. And he had a hard creed. I used to think the creed
made the man. Lately I have thought perhaps the man made the creed.
At all events both were hard. And I repudiated both. At fourteen I
abhorred my father's creed. At eighteen I had left my father's roof.
I have never returned except on occasional visits."

He had gained more self-possession now, and spoke more slowly and
distinctly. The room was as still as that room of death in which the
evening before I had prayed with him, kneeling by the corpse of his
little boy.

"What I have been at Wheathedge you know. I cannot come here
to-night on a false pretence. I cannot call myself a desperate
sinner. I have wronged no man. I have lived honestly and uprightly
before you all. I owe no man anything. I have depended on my daily
labor for my daily bread. Out of it I have provided as I had
opportunity for the poor around me. No one ever went hungry from my
door away. My creed has been a short and simple one, 'Do unto others
as you would have others do unto you.' I have tried to live
according to my creed.

"But I begin to think that my creed is not all the truth. Mr. Laicus
first led me to think so. No! my boy first led me to think so. I was
satisfied with my creed for myself. But I was not satisfied with it
for my boy.

"Then I met Mr. Laicus. We commenced to study the Bible together. If
he had attempted to prove my opinions wrong I would have defended
them. But he did not. We studied the undoubted truth. The doubtful
points he left alone. I learned there was more in the Bible, more in
human life and the human heart than I had thought. I grew little by
little sure that I had not all the truth. But I was unwilling to
confess it. I was-yes, I was too proud.

"Yesterday"--his voice trembled and he spoke with difficulty for a
moment, but quickly recovered himself--"yesterday we lost the light
and life out of our house. No! I am wrong. My light was
extinguished, and my life was quenched in death. But my wife's was
not. The dear boy was as dear to her as he was to me. But she lives
and hopes; I am in darkness and almost in despair. My father's hard
creed drove me into infidelity. My wife's, my friend's tenderer and
happier faith calls me back again. But I do not know the way.

"Last night, kneeling by the side of my dear boy, I vowed that I
would cast away my pride and seek that light in which my wife and my
friends are walking. An hour ago the thought occurred to me-where
seek it better than where they are gathered who are walking in this
light? It seemed to me I could not come. But I had made the vow. I
would not go back from it. I have cast away my pride. Oh! friends,
help me to find that light in which you walk.

"Do not misunderstand me. I will not have your prayers on false
pretences. I am, if not still an infidel, at least an unbeliever. I
have no creed. I only believe that there is light somewhere, for
others live in it. And I long to come into that light myself. Help
me to find the way. And yet-I hardly know why I came here to-night.
It was not for counsel. I do not want words now. The kindliest only
pain me. Discussion and debate would arouse all the old devil of
contradiction in me. Leave me alone. No! Do not leave me alone. Give
me your prayers. Give me your Christian sympathies. But for the
rest, for a little while, I want to be alone."

He sat down. There was a moment of perfect stillness. Then the
pastor arose.

"Christ's sympathies are broader and His love is larger than we
think," said he. "We hedge him round with our poor creeds, and shut
Him up in our little churches, and think He works only in our
appointed ways. He breaks over the barriers we put about him, and
carries on His work of love in hearts that we think are beyond all
reach of Him or us. We cannot tell our brother how to find the
light. The light will find him. 'Jesus Christ is the light which
lighteth every man that cometh into the world.' And when the heart
casts its pride away the light enters. For thus saith the High and
Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in
the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and
humble spirit, to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Into His
hands let us commit our brother's spirit."

And he poured forth his soul in a prayer which carried heavenward
many an unbreathed cry for help, and received in the beating of many
hearts a warmer, truer response than any spoken words could have
given to it.

After service I walked along with Maurice Mapleson.

"I was never more astonished in my life," said I, "than when I heard
Mr. Gear's voice in the prayer-meeting to-night."

"I was not astonished," said Mr. Mapleson. "I went to that
prayer-meeting sure that God had in store for us a better answer to
our prayers than we had thought. I do not believe in presentiments;
but I had a strange presentiment that Mr. Gear would come to our
meeting to-night, that God would rebuke our little faith by His
unexpected answer. I even waited for Mr. Gear's coming. I saw him
enter. I took that chapter of Acts-which God seemed to give me at
the moment-partly that I might lead him on to fulfil the purpose
which I fully believed had brought him there. While you were
singing, I was praying. And when the hymn and the prayer were ended
together, I knew God would not let him go away unblest."

"I shall never again doubt," said I, "the truth of God's
promise-'that if two of us shall agree on earth as touching anything
they shall ask, it shall be done for them.'"

"Shall you not?" said he, with a smile. "I wish I could be as sure
for myself."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A Retrospect.



I am sitting in my library. The fire burns cheerily in the grate. A
dear voice is singing sweetly by my side. For baby is restless
to-night and Jennie has brought him down to rock him to sleep here
and keep me company.

The years pass in review before me. Thank God for the dear wife who
three years ago persuaded me that I was a Christian more than a
Congregationalist. The years have not been unfruitful. The work has
been, oh! so little, and the harvest so great!

I believe the whole church is satisfied with the result of our
peculiar method of candidating. I am sure there is no one who would
willingly exchange Mr. Mapleson for Mr. Uncannon. There have been
rumors once or twice that there was danger Maurice Mapleson would
leave. He has twice had invitations to preach in city churches whose
pulpits were vacant. But he has declined. "I hope," he says, "to
live and die here. It is as God wills. But I have no ambition for a
larger field of usefulness. It is all I can do to cultivate this
field."

My prophesy has proved true respecting Mr. Work. He has broken down,
given up preaching, nominally because of a throat trouble; really, I
believe, because of spirit trouble, and has opened a young ladies'
school in one of the suburbs of the city. Mr. Uncannon has left
North Bizzy after a year's pastorate, for one of the great cities of
the West, where he is about equally famous for his fast horses, his
good cigars, and his extraordinary pulpit pyrotechnics.

Maurice Mapleson's experiment has proved a complete success. Our
church at last is out of its financial difficulties. We held our
annual meeting last week. And here is the financial exhibit as it
appeared in the treasurer's report:

Cr.
Monthly Subscriptions
$1,675.00
Sunday Collections
395.85
Ladies' Entertainments (a special fair having been organized by
Miss Moore to secure the interest money.)
251.06

$2,321.91

2,276.90
Balance in Treasury
$45.01

Dr.
Minister's Salary
$1,500.00
Organist, (the office was discontinued, congregational singing
established, and Deacon Goodsole's eldest daughter voluntered to play.)
Nothing
Church Repairs-Sundries
55.50
Interest on Mortgage
315.00
Sexton (Salary reduced by himself as a contribution to the support
of the church.)
175.00
Fire, lights and incidentals
231.40

$2,276.90

The church has never before had a balance in its treasury, and it
was bewildered with astonishment at the result. The money was really
due to Maurice, who was to pay, the reader will recollect, the
incidental expenses out of the monthly subscriptions and take the
remainder as his salary. But Maurice positively refused to take it.
He, however, has long wanted the old pulpit cut down and a low
platform substituted. The money was voted for that purpose, and the
alterations are now going on.

Though the pews are free, the pew system is not wholly abandoned.
Each attendant selects a seat for himself or a pew for his family.
This is regarded his as much as if he paid pew rent for it. But
instead of a fixed rent he pays what he will. No one has paid less
than the old rates and some have nearly doubled them. But the
improvement in finances is not the only nor even the best result of
Maurice Mapleson's experiment. The congregation has increased quite
as much as the income. Not less than a score of families are regular
attendants on our church who never went to church before. With one
or two exceptions every pew is taken. We are beginning to talk
quietly about an enlargement.

I think this change had something to do with the revival last
Spring. Maurice thinks so at all events. And any attempt to go back
to the old system would meet with as much opposition from Deacon
Goodsole as from Jim Wheaton. The only member of the congregation
who regrets the change is Mrs. Potiphar. She turns up her nose
--metaphorically I mean--the natural nose is turned up all the time at
that revival. "It did not reach any of our set," she says. "Why,
bless you, I don't believe it added fifty dollars to the church
income."

One would think to hear her talk that Mrs. Potiphar supported the
church. If she does, her right hand does not know what her left hand
is doing.

The immediate precursor of that revival was the prayer-meeting which
Mr. Gear attended, and in which he asked the prayers of the church.
When in June he stood up before the congregation to profess his
faith in Christ as a Savior from sin, and in the Holy Spirit as a
Divine Comforter in trial and in sorrow, he did not stand alone.
Twenty-eight stood with him. Among them were nine of the boys from
our Mill village Bible-class. Of that brightest of Sabbath days I
cannot trust myself to speak. The tears come to my eyes, and my hand
trembles as I write. I must pass on to other thoughts.

I have already explained how the Bible-class gathered to itself a
second class of which Mrs. Gear took charge. Both classes have grown
steadily, and latterly, rapidly, and are now beyond all that the
most sanguine of us ever anticipated. There is a flourishing
Sabbath-school at the Mill village. Mr. Gear superintends it. Nearly
half of my old scholars are teachers now. But others have come to
take their places. My own class is larger than ever. Once a month
Mr. Mapleson preaches in the school-house, and in the summer his
congregation overflows upon the green sward without. Once or twice
he has been forced into the grove adjoining. It is evident that the
old school-house will not serve us much longer. Mr. Gear is already
revolving plans for the erection of a chapel. It seems to me rather
chimerical. No! On second thoughts nothing seems to me chimerical
any more. And as Mr. Gear and Miss Moore are both engaged in this
enterprize, I am confident it will succeed.

There is not in our church a more active, earnest, devoted Christian
worker than Mr. Gear. He is one of the board of trustees, and about
the only man on it who is not afraid of Jim Wheaton. He rarely
misses a prayer-meeting, and though he does not speak very often he
never speaks unless he has something to say. And that is more than
can be said of some of those who "occupy the time" in our
prayer-meetings. I understand that Mr. Hardcap was not altogether
satisfied with Mr. Gear's "evidences" when he appeared before the
session. But if daily life affords the true "evidences" of Christian
character, there are very few of us that might not be glad to
exchange with Mr. Gear. I doubt whether Dr. Argure would think he
was sound in the faith. And if the "faith" is synonymous with the
Westminster Assembly's Confession of it, I do not believe he is.
Deacon Goodsole has confidentially hinted to me his fear that Mr.
Gear has some doubts concerning the doctrine of election; and that
he is not quite clear even on the doctrine of eternal punishment. It
is not impossible. But I do not believe there is a member of our
church whose faith in a present, prayer-hearing God is stronger. His
first step toward securing a chapel for the Sabbath-school has been
taken already. It was a meeting of the Sabbath-school teachers at
his own house to pray for a chapel. And he builds on that
prayer-meeting a strong assurance that he will get it. I do not
think he is quite sound in the catechism. I wish I were as sound in
the faith.

I have often wished to know how he solved his old doubts. If I could
find his specific for skepticism, I thought to myself, it would be
of inestimable value to others. So with some hesitation, lest I
should awaken the old unbelief, I asked him the question the other
day.

"How did you finally settle your old difficulties concerning
Christian truth?" said I.

"I never have," said he quietly. "They disappeared of themselves, as
the snow disappears from Snow-cap when May comes."

The fire burns low upon the hearth. The risen moon casts her soft
light through the Eastern window and bathes the room with her
radiance. The mountains, mist clad, stand as shadows of their daily
self, more beautiful in their repose than in the full glory of the
busy day. The baby sleeps quietly, nestled close to his mother's
breast, too big I tell her for her arms; but she protests I'm wrong.
And still I sit, silent, and the past defiles before me.

At length Jennie breaks the silence. "What are you pondering so
deeply, John?"

"I was thinking, Jennie, how much I owe the little woman who
persuaded me to this dear home, who convinced me that I was, or at
least ought to be, a Christian more than a Congregationalist, and
who taught me that I could work for Christ without infringing on my
daily duties, and so brought to me all the flood tide of happiness
that makes my life one long song of joy."

THE END.





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