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Title: Dominie Dean: A Novel
Author: Butler, Ellis Parker
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dominie Dean: A Novel" ***

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DOMINIE DEAN

A Novel

By Ellis Parker Butler


1917

Fleming And Revell Company



My Dear Mr. Dare:

That day when you came to my home and suggested that I write the book to
which I now gratefully prefix this brief dedication, I little imagined
how real David Dean would become to me. I have just written the
last page of his story and I feel less that he is a creature of my
imagination than that he is someone I have known and loved all my life.

It was because there are many such men as David Dean, big of heart
and great in spirit, that you suggested the writing and helped me with
incident and inspiration. Your hope was that the story might aid those
who regret that such men as David Dean can be neglected and cast aside
after lives spent in faithful service, and who are working to prevent
such tragedies; my desire was to tell as truthfully as possible the
story of one such man.

While I have had a free hand in developing the character of David Dean,
I most gratefully acknowledge that the suggestion of the idea, and the
inspiration, were yours, and I hope I have not misused them.

Most sincerely,

Ellis Parker Butler

Flushing, N. Y.



I. ‘THUSIA

[Illustration: ‘Thusia  018]

DAVID DEAN caught his first glimpse of ‘Thusia Fragg from the deck of
the “Mary K” steamboat at the moment when--a fledgling minister--he
ended his long voyage down the Ohio and up the Mississippi and was ready
to step on Riverbank soil for the first time.

From mid-river, as the steamer approached, the town had seemed but a
fringe of buildings at the foot of densely foliaged hills with here
and there a house showing through the green and with one or two church
spires rising above the trees. Then the warehouse shut off the view
while the “Mary K” made an unsensational landing, bumping against the
projecting piles, bells jingling in her interior, paddle wheels noisily
reversing and revolving again and the mate swearing at the top of
his voice. As the bow of the steamer pushed beyond the warehouse, the
sordidly ugly riverfront of the town came into view again--mud, sand,
weather-beaten frame buildings--while on the sandy levee at the side
of the warehouse lounged the twenty or thirty male citizens in shirt
sleeves who had come down to see the arrival of the steamer. From the
saloon deck they watched the steamer push her nose beyond the blank red
wall of the warehouse. Against the rail stood all the boat’s passengers
and at David’s side the friend he had made on the voyage up the river,
a rough, tobacco-chewing itinerant preacher, uncouth enough but wise in
his day and generation.

“Well, this is your Riverbank,” he said. “Here ye are. Now, hold on!
Don’t be in a hurry. There’s your reception committee, I’ll warrant
ye,--them three with their coats on. Don’t get excited. Let ‘em wait
and worry a minute for fear you’ve not come. Keep an even mind under
all circumstances, as your motter says--that’s the idee. Let ‘em wait.
They’ll think all the better of ye, brother. Keep an even mind, hey?
You’ll need one with that mastiff-jowled old elder yonder. He’s going to
be your trouble-man.”

David put down the carpetbag he had taken up. Of the three men warranted
to be his reception committee he recognized but one, Lawyer Hoskins, the
man who while East had heard David preach and had extended to him the
church’s call. Now Hoskins recognized David and raised his hand in
greeting. It was at this moment that ‘Thusia Fragg issued from the side
door of the warehouse, two girl companions with her, and faced toward
the steamboat. In the general gray of the day she was like a splash of
sunshine and her companions were hardly less vivid. ‘Thusia Fragg was
arrayed in a dress that echoed the boldest style set forth by “Godey’s
Ladies’ Book” for that year of grace, 1860---a summer silk of gray and
gold stripes, flounced and frilled and raffled and fringed--and on her
head perched a hat that was sauciness incarnate. She was overdressed by
any rule you chose. She was overdressed for Riverbank and overdressed
for her father’s income and for her own position, but she was a
beautiful picture as she stood leaning on her parasol, letting her eyes
range over the passengers grouped at the steamer’s saloon deck rail.

As she stood there David raised his hand in answer to Lawyer Hoskins’
greeting and ‘Thusia Fragg, smiling, raised a black-mitted hand and
waved at him in frank flirtation. Undoubtedly she had thought David had
meant his salutation for her. David turned from the rail, grasped his
companion’s hand in hearty farewell, and, with his carpetbag in hand,
descended to the lower deck, and ‘Thusia, preening like a peacock,
hurried with her girl companions to the foot of the gangplank to meet
her new conquest.

This was not the first time ‘Thusia had flirted with the male passengers
of the packets. Few boats arrived without one or more young dandies
aboard, glad to vary the monotony of a long trip and ready to take part
in a brief flirtation with any ‘Thusia and to stretch their legs ashore
while the sweating negroes loaded and unloaded the cargo. When the stop
was long enough there was usually time for a brisk walk to the main
street and for hurried ice cream treats. The warning whistle of the
steamer gave ample time for these temporary beaux to reach the boat. The
‘Thusias who could be found all up and down the river knew just the safe
distance to carry their cavaliers in order to bring them back to the
departing steamer in the nick of time, sometimes running the last
hundred yards at a dog trot, the girls stopping short with little cries
of laughter and shrill farewells, but reaching the boat landing in time
to wave parasols or handkerchiefs.

Most of these gayly garbed girls were innocent enough, although these
steamer flirtations were evidence that they were not sufficiently
controlled by home influences. Such actually bad girls as the town had,
did however, indulge in these touch-and-go-flirtations often enough
to cause the sober-minded to look askance at all the young persons who
flirted thus. While the more innocent, like ‘Thusia, made use of these
opportunities only for their momentary flare of adventure, and while
the young men were seldom seen again, even on the return trip, the town
quite naturally classed all these girls as “gay”--whatever that meant.

As David stepped on the gangplank to leave the steamer he saw the three
girls, ‘Thusia a little in advance, standing at the foot of the plank.
‘Thusia herself, saucy in her defiance of the eyes she knew were upon
her, smiled up at him, her eyes beaming a greeting, her feet ready to
fall into step with his, and her lips ready to begin a rapid chattering
to carry the incident over the first awkward moment in case her “catch”
 proved mutely bashful. She put out her hand, either in greeting or to
take David’s arm, but David, his head held high, let his clear gray eyes
rest on her for an instant only and then glanced beyond her and passed
by. The girl colored with rage or shame and drew back her hand as if
she had unwittingly touched something hot with unprepared fingers. Her
companions giggled.

The incident was over in less time than is needed to tell of it. Henry
Fragg, ‘Thusia’s widowed father and agent for the steamers, seeing the
committee awaiting David, came from his office and walked toward them.
David strode up the plank dock to where Mr. Hoskins was holding out a
welcoming hand and was greeted and introduced to Sam Wiggett, Ned Long
and Mr. Fragg.

The greeting of Mr. Hoskins had a flourishing orational flavor; Sam
Wiggett--a heavy-set man--went so far as to exceed his usual gruff grunt
of recognition; and Ned Long, as usual, copied as closely as possible
Sam Wiggett’s words and manner. Mr. Fragg’s welcome was hearty and, of
the four, the only natural man-to-man greeting.

“New dominie, hey? Well, you’ll like this town when you get to know it,”
 he assured David. “Plenty of real folks here; good town and good people.
All right, Mack!” he broke off to shout to the mate of the “Mary K”;
“yes, all those casks go aboard. Well, I’m glad to have met you, Mr.
Dean--”

‘Thusia was still standing where David had passed her, her back toward
the town. Usually saucy enough, she was ashamed to turn and face those
clean gray eyes again. Her father saw her. “‘Thusia!” he called.

She turned and came.

“‘Thusia, this is our new dominie,” Fragg said, placing his hand on her
arm. “This is my daughter, Mr. Dean. Aren’t the women having some sort
of welcome hurrah up at the manse? Why don’t you go up there and take a
hand in it, ‘Thusia? Well, Mr. Dean, I’ll see you many times, I hope.”

‘Thusia, all her sauciness gone, stood abashed, and David tried vainly
to find a word to ease the embarrassing situation. Mr. Wiggett relieved
it by ignoring ‘Thusia utterly.

“Fragg will send your baggage up,” he growled. “We’ll walk. The women
will be impatient; they’ve heard the boat whistle. You come with me,
Dean, I want to talk to you.”

He turned his back on ‘Thusia and led David away.

“The less you have to do with that girl the better,” were his first
words. “That’s for your own good. Hey, Long?”

“My opinion, my opinion exactly!” echoed Mr. Long. “The less the better.
Yes, yes!”

“She’s got in with a crowd of fast young fools,” agreed Mr. Hoskins.
“Crazy after the men. Fragg ought to take her into the woodshed and use
a good stiff shingle on her about once every so often. He lets her run
too wild. No sense in it!”

What ‘Thusia needed was a mother to see that her vivacity found a more
conventional outlet. There was nothing really wrong with ‘Thusia. She
was young and fun-loving and possessed of more spirit than most of the
young women of the town. She was amazingly efficient. Had she been
a slower girl the housework of her father’s home would have kept her
close, but she had the knack of speed. She sped through her housework
like a well-oiled machine and, once through with it, she fled from the
gloomy, motherless place to find what lively companionship she could.
It would have been better for her reputation had she been a sloven,
dawdling over her work and then moping away the short leisure at home.

Every small town has girls like ‘Thusia Fragg. You may see them arm in
arm at the railway station as the trains pause for a few minutes, ready
to chaffer with any “nice-looking” young fellow in a car window. You see
them strolling past the local hotel, two or three in a group, ready to
fall into step with any young drummer who is willing to leave his chair
for a stroll. Some are bad girls, some are on the verge of the precipice
of evil, and some, like ‘Thusia, are merely lovers of excitement and not
yet aware of the real dangers with which they play.

‘Thusia, running the streets, was in danger of becoming too daring. She
knew the town talked about her and she laughed at its gossip. In such a
contest the rebel usually loses; in conspiring against smugness she ends
by falling into the ranks of immorality. In Riverbank before the Civil
War the danger to reputation was even greater than it is now; morality
was marked by stricter conventions.

‘Thusia, despite her new dress and hat, did not linger downtown after
her meeting with David. She took the teasing of her two girl friends,
who made a great joke of her attempt to flirt with the new dominie,
good-naturedly, but she left them as soon as she could and walked home.
Her face burned with shame as she thought of the surprised glance David
had given her at the foot of the gangplank and, as she entered her
motherless home, she jerked her hat from her head and angrily threw
it the length of the hall. She stood a moment, opening and closing her
fists, like an angry animal, and then, characteristically, she giggled.
She retrieved her hat, put it on her head and studied herself in the
hall mirror. She tried several smiles and satisfied herself that they
were charming and then, unhooking her dress as she went, she mounted the
stairs. When she was in her room she threw herself on her bed and wept.
Her emotions were in a chaos; and out of this came gradually the feeling
that all she cared for now was to have those cool gray eyes of David’s
look upon her approvingly. Everything she had done in her life seemed to
have been deliberately planned to make them disapprove of her. Weighing
her handicap calmly but urged by wounded pride, or desire, or love--she
did not know which--she set about her pitiful attempt to fascinate David
Dean.

The first Sunday that David preached in Riverbank ‘Thusia bedecked
herself glowingly and sat in a pew where he could not fail to see her.
Since the death of his wife Mr. Fragg had taken to churchgoing, sitting
in a pew near the door so that he might slip out in case he heard the
whistle of an arriving steamboat, but ‘Thusia chose a pew close under
the pulpit. After the service there was the usual informal hand-shaking
reception for the new dominie and ‘Thusia waited until the aisles were
well cleared. Mr. Wiggett, Mr. Hoskins and one or two other elders and
trustees acted as a self-appointed committee to introduce David and, as
if intentionally, they built a barrier of their bodies to keep ‘Thusia
from him. She waited, leaning against the end of a pew, but the half
circle of black coats did not open. As the congregation thinned and
David moved toward the door his protectors moved with him. The sexton
began closing the windows. The black coats herded David into the
vestibule and out upon the broad top step and still ‘Thusia leaned
against the pew, but her eyes followed David.

“Come, come! We’ll have to be moving along, dominie,” growled Mr.
Wiggett impatiently, as David stopped to receive the congratulations of
one of the tireless-tongued old ladies. “Dinner at one, you know.”

“Yes, coming!” said David cheerfully, and he gave the old lady a last
shake of the hand. “Now!” he said, and turned.

‘Thusia, pushing between Mr. Wiggett and Mr. Hoskins, came with her hand
extended and her face glowing.

“I waited until they were all gone,” she said eagerly. “I wanted to tell
you how splendid your sermon was. It was wonderful, Mr. Dean. I’m coming
every Sunday--”

David took her hand. He was glowing with the kindly greetings and
praises that had been showered upon him, and his happiness showed in his
eyes. He would have beamed on anyone at that moment, and he beamed on
‘Thusia. He said something pleasantly conventional and ‘Thusia chattered
on, still holding his hand, although in his general elation he was
hardly aware of this and not at all aware that the girl was clinging to
his hand so firmly that he could not have drawn it away had he tried.
She knew they made a striking picture as they stood on the top step and
she stood as dose to him as she could, so that she had to look up and
David had to look down. The departing congregation, looking back for
a last satisfactory glimpse of their fine new dominie, carried away a
picture of David holding ‘Thusia’s hand and looking down into her face.

“Come, come! Dinner’s waiting!” Mr. Wiggett growled impatiently.

“Well, good-by, Mr. Dean,” ‘Thusia exclaimed. “My dinner is waiting,
too, and you must not keep me forever, you know. I suppose we’ll see a
great deal of each other, anyway. Now--will you please let me have my
hand?”

She laughed and David dropped her hand. He blushed. ‘Thusia ran down
the steps and David turned to see Mary Wiggett standing in the vestibule
door in an attitude best described as insultedly aloof.

Mr. Wiggett’s face was red.

“_Her_ dinner waiting!” he cried. “She’s got to go home and get it
before it waits. She’s a forward, street-gadding hussy!”

“Father!” exclaimed his daughter.

“Well, she shan’t come it over the dominie,” he growled. “I’ll speak to
Fragg about it.”

David walked ahead with Mary Wiggett. He was no fool. He knew well
enough the troubles a young, unmarried minister has in store if he
happens to be presentable, and he knew he was not ill-favored. It is
not always--except in books--that the leading pillar of the church has a
daughter whose last chance of matrimony is the dominie. Mary Wiggett
had by no means reached her last chance. She was hardly eighteen--only
a year older than ‘Thusia Fragg--and forty young men of Riverbank
would have been glad to have married her. She was a little heavier than
‘Thusia, both in mind and body, and a little taller, almost matronly in
her development, but she was a splendid girl for all that, and more than
good-looking in a satisfying blond way. David was so far from being her
last chance, that she had not yet thought of David as a possible mate at
all, but it was a fact that David was to take dinner with the Wiggetts
and another fact that ‘Thusia was not considered a proper person, and
Mary had resented having to stand back against the church door while
David held ‘Thusia’s hand. If Mary had one fault it was a certain
feeling that a daughter of Samuel Wiggett, who was the richest man in
the church, was the equal of any girl on earth. To be made to stand back
for ‘Thusia Fragg was altogether unbearable.

Neither had Mr. Wiggett, at that time, any thought of David as a husband
for Mary. He hoped Mary would not marry for ten years more and that
when she did she would marry someone “with money.” The only interest the
stubborn, rough-grained old money-lover had in David was the interest of
an upright pillar of the church who, sharing the duty of choosing a new
dominie, had delegated his share to Mr. Hoskins and was still fearful
lest Mr. Hoskins had made a mistake. He was bound it should not be
a mistake if he could help it. Having in his youth had a dozen love
affairs and having married a stolid, cow-like woman for safety’s sake,
he believed the natural fate of a young man was to behave foolishly and
he considered a young minister more than normally unable to take care
of himself. If David incurred censure Mr. Wiggett would be blamed for
letting Mr. Hoskins bring David to Riverbank.



II. MARY WIGGETT

[Illustration: Mary  030]


NEITHER Mr. Wiggett nor Mary understood David then. I doubt if Riverbank
ever quite understood him. When he was ten--a thin-faced, large-eyed
child, sitting on the edge of an uncushioned pew in a small, bleak
church, his hands clasped on his knees and his body tense as he hung on
the words of the old dominie in the pulpit above him--he had received
the Call. From that moment his destiny had been fixed. There had been no
splendid Sign--no blaze of glory-light illuminating the dusky interior
of the church, no sun ray turning his golden curls into a halo. His
clasped hands had tightened a little; he had leaned a little further
forward; a long breath, ending in a deep sigh, had raised his thin chest
and David Dean had given himself to his Lord and Master to do His
work while his life should last. Never was a life more absolutely
consecrated.

That the lad Davy should hear the Call was not strange. Religion had
been an all-important part of his parents’ lives. The rupture that
wrenched American Presbyterianism into antagonistic parts in the year of
David’s birth had been of more vital importance than bread and meat to
David’s father.

He never forgave the seceders. To David’s mother the rupture had been a
sorrow, as if she had lost a child. In this atmosphere--his father was
an elder--David grew and his faith was fed to him from his birth; it was
part of him, but until the Call came he had not thought of being worthy
to preach. After the Call came he thought of nothing but making himself
worthy.

The eleven following years had been years of preparation. During the
first of these years he spent much time with the old dominie and when
he left school he came under the care of the presbytery of which the
dominie was a member. It was David’s father’s pride that he was able
to pay David’s way through the college and seminary courses. It was his
share in giving Davy to the Lord.

At twenty-one David was a tall youth, slender, thoughtful and delicate.
His hair was almost golden, fine and soft, with a curly forelock. He had
never had a religious doubt. He preached his trial sermon, received his
license and almost immediately his call to Riverbank. This was David,
clean and sure, honest and unafraid, broad-browed and dear-eyed, his
favorite motto: “Keep an even mind under all circumstances.” It was to
protect this young David, clear as crystal and strong as steel, that
the members of the First Presbyterian Church of Riverbank, during those
first weeks, tacitly conspired, and it was against ‘Thusia Fragg, the
fluttering, eager and love-incited little butterfly, with a few of
the golden scales already brushed from her wings, that they sought to
protect him.

To her own enormous surprise Mary Wiggett almost immediately fell in
love with David. She was not an emotional girl, and she had long since
decided that when the time came she would marry someone from Derlingport
or St. Louis. She had not thought of falling in love as a necessary
preliminary to marriage. In a vague way she had decided that a husband
from Derlingport or St. Louis would be more desirable because he would
take her to a place where there was more “society” and where certain of
the richer trimmings of life were accepted as reasonable and not frowned
on as extravagances. She had a rather definite idea that her husband
would be someone in the pork or lumber industries, as they were then
the best income producers. She meant to refuse all comers for about five
years, and then begin to consider any who might apply, taking proper
stock of them and proceeding in a sensible, orderly manner. A month
after David came to Riverbank she would have given every man in the pork
and lumber industries for one of David’s gentle smiles. She thrilled
with pleasure when he happened to touch her hand. She was thoroughly in
love.

‘Thusia, for her part, pursued David unremittingly. She stopped running
the streets, and tried to force her way into the activities of the
church until she was so cruelly snubbed and cold-shouldered that she
wept for anger and gave up the attempt. Then she lay in wait for David.
She sailed down upon him whenever he went upon the streets, seemingly
coming upon him unexpectedly, and falling into step with him. She
ambuscaded him on the main street when he went to the post office for
his mail. She was quite open in her forced attentions, and, of course,
she was talked about. ‘Thusia did not care. She had no way of courting
him but by being bold. She fluttered her wings before his eyes whenever
she could. She was a butterfly teasing to be caught.

And David? In spite of Wiggett’s warnings and his own he grew fond
of her. You will have to imagine Riverbank as it was then to fully
understand David and ‘Thusia: the mean little business street with its
ugly buildings and dust, or mud, ankle deep; the commercial life out
of all proportion to the social life, so that few men thought of aught
beside business; the fair, shady streets of homes with maples already
overarching the streets and the houses of white or brick-red, all with
ample lawns around them. You can see David leave the little white manse
beside the brick church and walk the shady streets, making a pastoral
call or going to the post office. Those pastoral calls! Serious matters
for a young dominie in those days! The dominie was expected to come
like a plumber, with his kit of tools, ready to set to work on a leaky
conscience or a frost-bit soul and his visits were for little else but
soul mending. We saved up our little leaks for him just as we saved up
our little ills for the doctor, and we gave him his fill. We felt we
were remiss if we did not have on hand some real or imaginary reason to
make the dominie kneel beside a chair and pray with us. We expected our
dominie to be a little sad when he visited us, a little gloomy about
things in general; probably to give our otherwise cheerful homes a
churchly gloom.

It was when David came from the main street, where the men could talk
nothing but business, or from a pastoral call, and found himself young
and not at all gloomy at heart under the arching trees, that ‘Thusia
would waylay him. She laughed and chattered inconsequently and flirted
with all her little might and joked about herself and everyone else and
even about David--and who else dared joke about the dominie!--until he
smiled in spite of himself. His flock seemed to fall naturally into two
classes--those who felt they had a sort of proprietary interest in him
and those who were a little afraid of him. ‘Thusia was not like either.
She was a gleam of unadulterated youth. David began to look forward to
their chance meetings with uneasy but pleasant anticipation. She was
like a bit of merry music brightening but not interrupting his work. He
hardly knew how eagerly he looked forward to his meetings with ‘Thusia
until after half his congregation was talking about them.

The autumn saw a great outbreak of moneymaking affairs in the church.
There was a mortgage, of course, and church fairs and festivals and
dinners followed one after another under David’s eager guidance and it
was impossible to keep ‘Thusia from these. She fluttered about David.
One or two of the young women of the church finally ventured to make
use of ‘Thusia, setting her to work as a waitress at one of the dinners
where they were short-handed, but Mary Wiggett soon let them know they
had made a mistake. With a woman’s intuition she felt in ‘Thusia a
dangerous rival. Even before ‘Thusia or David suspected the truth she
saw how great an attraction ‘Thusia had for the young dominie. Her own
efforts to attract David were necessarily slower and more conventional.
There was no question that Mary would make an excellent wife for a
minister and Mary did not doubt her ability to win David if given time,
but she feared some sudden flare-up of love that might blind David to
the dignity of his position and throw him into ‘Thusia’s arms, even if
it threw him out of Riverbank. David, she imagined, would be fearless in
any loyalty.

Had there been no ‘Thusia Fragg Mary Wiggett would have been well
satisfied with David’s progress toward love. He liked Mary immensely
and let her see it. He made her his lieutenant in all the money-raising
affairs and she rightly believed his affection for her was growing, but
she needed time. ‘Thusia, on the other hand, would win in a flash or not
at all. Mary spoke to her father; her mother she felt could give her no
aid. Her mother was a dull woman.

The stern-faced Wiggett listened to her grimly.

He was not surprised to hear she loved David; he was surprised that Mary
should come to him for aid. The actual word “love” was not mentioned; we
avoid it in Riverbank except when speaking of others.

“Father, I like David well enough to marry him, if he asked me,” was
what she said.

Further than this she told him nothing but the truth--that the
respectable members of the church were shocked by the attention David
was paying ‘Thusia and that they were talking about it. It was a shame,
she said, that he should lose everyone’s respect in that way when the
only trouble was that he did not understand.

“You men can’t see it, of course, father,” she said. “You don’t
understand what it means, as we do. And we can’t speak to Mr. Dean. I
can’t speak to him.”

“I’ll tell that young man a thing or two!” growled Mr. Wiggett angrily.

“No, not you, father,” Mary begged, and when he looked at her with
surprise she blushed. “Huh!” he said, “why not?”

“I--listen, father! I couldn’t bear it if he thought I had sent you. I
should die of shame. If you went to him, he might guess.”

“Well, you want to marry him, don’t you!”

“If he wants me. But--yes, I do like him, father.”

“Well, you won’t be a starved parson’s wife, anyway. You’ll have money.”
 It was equivalent to another man’s hearty good wishes. “Benedict will
talk to him,” he said, and went out to find Benedict.

David had found in old Doctor Benedict a companion and friend. An
old-style family physician, the town’s medical man-of-all-work, with a
heart as big as the world and a brain stored with book-lore and native
philosophy, the doctor and David made a strange pair of friends and
loved each other the better for their differences. Once every so often
the doctor had his “periodical,” when he drank until he was stupid.
Once already David, knowing of this weakness and seeing the “period”
 approaching, had kept old Benedict talking philosophy until midnight
and, when he grew restless for brandy, had walked the streets with him
until the older man tottered for weariness and had to be fairly lifted
into his bed. When, the next day, Benedict began the postponed spree
David had dragged him to the manse, and had kept him there that
night, locked in the dominie’s own bedroom. Benedict took all this
good-naturedly.

He looked on his “periodicals” as something quite apart from himself. He
did not like them, and he did not dislike them. They came, and when they
came he was helpless. They took charge of him and he could not prevent
them, and he refused to mourn over them or let them spoil his good
nature. The greater part of the year he was himself, but when the
“periodical” came he was like a helpless baby tossed by a pair of
all-powerful arms. He could not defend himself; he did not wish to be
carried away, but it was useless to contend. If David wanted to wrestle
with the thing he was welcome. In the meantime David and Benedict
recognized each in the other an intellectual equal and they became fast
friends. Old Sam Wiggett, holding the mortgages on Benedict’s house and
on his horse, and on all that was his, did not hesitate to order him to
talk to David.

“Davy,” said the doctor quizzically as he sat in an easy-chair in
David’s study, “they tell me you are paying too much attention to ‘Thusy
Fragg.”

David turned.

“Arethusia Fragg?” he said. “You’re mistaken, Benedict. I’m paying her
no attention.”

“It’s the scandal of the church,” drawled Benedict. “Great commotion.
Everybody whispering about it. You walk abroad with her, Davy; you laugh
with her at oyster suppers.” He became serious. “It’s being held against
you. A dominie has to walk carefully, Davy. Small minds are staggered by
small faults--by others’ small faults.”

“I meet her occasionally,” said David. “I have seen no wrong in that.”

“That’s not for me to say,” said Benedict. “Others do. She’s a giddy
youngster; a flyaway; a gay young flibbertygibbet. I don’t judge her.
I’m telling you what is said, Davy.”

David sat with his long legs crossed, his chin resting in his hand
and his eyes on the spatter-work motto--“Keep an even mind under all
circumstances”--above his desk. He thought of ‘Thusia Fragg and her
attraction and of his duty to himself and to his church, considering
everything calmly. He had felt a growing antagonism without
understanding it. As he thought he forgot Benedict. His hand slid
upward, and his fingers entangled themselves in his curly hair. He sat
so for many minutes.

“Thank you, Benedict,” he said at length. “I understand. I am through
with ‘Thusia!”

“Mind you,” drawled Benedict, “I say nothing against the girl. I helped
her into the world, Davy. I’ve helped a lot of them into the world. It
is not for me to help them through it. When I put them in their mothers’
arms my work is done.”

“I know what you mean,” said David. “If her mother had lived ‘Thusia
might have been different. But does that concern me, Benedict?”

“It does not,” grinned the old doctor. “How long have you been calling
her ‘Thusia, Davy?”

“My first duty is to my church,” said David. “A minister should be above
reproach in the eyes of his people.”

“That hits the nail on the head, fair and square,” said Benedict.
“You’re right every time, Davy. How long have you been calling her
‘Thusia?”

“I am not right every time, Benedict,” said David, arising and walking
slowly up and down the floor, his hands clasped behind him, “but I am
right in this. You are wrong when you allow yourself, even for a day, to
fall into a state in which you cannot be of use to your sick when they
call for you, and I would be wrong if I let anything turn my people from
me, for they need me continually. My ministry is more important than I
am. If my right hand offended my people I would cut it off. I have been
careless, I have been thoughtless. I have not paused to consider how my
harmless chance meetings with Miss Fragg might affect my work. Benedict,
a young minister’s work is hard enough--with his youthfulness as a
handicap--without--”

“Without ‘Thusy,” said Benedict.

“Without the added difficulties that come to an unmarried man,” David
substituted. “The sooner I marry the better for me and for my work and
for my people.”

“And the sooner I’ll be chased out of this easy-chair for good and all
by your wife,” said Benedict, rising, “so, if that’s the way you feel
about it--and I dare say you are right--I’ll try a sample of absence
and go around and see how Mrs. Merkle’s rheumatism is amusing her. Well,
Davy, invite me to the wedding!”

This was late November and the ice was running heavy in the river
although the channel was not yet frozen over, and for some days there
had been skating on the shore ice where the inward sweep of the shore
left a half moon of quiet water above the levee. When Benedict left him
David dropped into his chair. Ten minutes later his mind was made up and
he drew on his outer coat, put on his hat and gloves and went ont. He
walked briskly up the hill to the Wiggett home, and went in. Mary was
not there; she had gone to the river with her skates. David followed
her.

No doubt you know how the shore ice behaves, freezing at night and
softening again if the day is warm; cracking if the river rises or
falls; leaving, sometimes, a strip of honeycombed ice or a strip of bare
water along the shore until colder weather congeals it. This day was
warm and the sun had power. Here and there, to reach the firmer ice
across the mushy shore ice, planks had been thrown. David stood on
the railroad track that ran along the river edge and looked for Mary
Wiggett. There were a hundred or more skaters, widely scattered, and
David saw Mary Wiggett and ‘Thusia almost simultaneously. ‘Thusia saw
David.

She was skating arm in arm with some young fellow, and as she saw David
she pulled away from her companion. “Catch me!” she cried and darted
away with her companion darting after her. She was the most graceful
skater Riverbank boasted, and perhaps her first idea was merely to show
David how well she could skate. Suddenly, however, as if she had just
seen David, she waved her muff at him and skated toward him. The young
fellow turned in pursuit, but almost instantly shouted a warning and dug
the edges of his skates into the ice. ‘Thusia skated on. Straight toward
the thin, decayed ice she sped, one hand still waving her muff aloft in
signal to David. He started down the bank almost before she reached
the bad ice, for he saw what was going to happen. He heard the ice give
under her skates, saw her throw up her hands, heard her scream, and he
plunged through the mud and into the water. Before anyone could reach
them he had drawn her to the shore and ‘Thusia was clinging to him, her
arms dose around him. She was laughing hysterically, but her teeth were
already beginning to chatter. Her skates raised her nearer David’s face
than ordinarily, and as the skaters gathered she put up her mouth and
kissed him. Then she fell limp in his arms.

She had not fainted and David knew it was all mere pretense. He knew she
had been in no danger, for his legs were wet only to the knees, and
if ‘Thusia was drenched from head to foot it was because she had
deliberately thrown herself into the water. He felt it was all a trick
and he shook her violently as he tried to push her away.

“Stop it!” he cried. “Stop this nonsense!” but even as a dozen men
crowded around them he lifted her in his arms and carried her up the
railway embankment. Below them Mary Wiggett stood, safely back from the
dangerous edge of the ice.

“Get a rig as quickly as you can,” David commanded. “She’s not hurt, but
she’ll take cold in these wet clothes. Mary Wiggett,” he called, seeing
her in the group on the ice, “I want you to come with us.”

He carried ‘Thusia to the street and rested her on a handcar that stood
beside the railway and wrapped her in his greatcoat. The crowd, of
course, followed. David sent a boy to tell Mr. Fragg to hurry home. And
all this while, and while they were waiting for the rig that soon came,
‘Thusia continued her pretended faint, and David knew she was shamming.
He lifted her into the buggy. It was then she opened her eyes with a
faint “Where am I?”

“You know well enough,” David answered and turned to Mary Wiggett.
“Come! Get in!” he ordered. “She has been pretending a faint.” David,
who tried to keep an even mind under all circumstances, never quite
understood the reasoning that led him to drag Mary Wiggett into the
affair in this way. He felt vaguely that she was protection; it had
seemed the thing he must do. He was angry with ‘Thusia, so angry that he
felt like beating her and he was afraid of himself because even while he
hated her for the trick she had played the clasp of her arms had filled
him with joy. He was afraid of ‘Thusia.

Without hesitation or demur Mary clambered into the buggy, and David
helped ‘Thusia in and drove the heavy vehicle through the muddy streets
to ‘Thusia’s door. He lifted her out and carried her into the house and
helped her up the stairs to her room, and there he left her with Mary.
From the sitting room below he could hear Mary moving about. He heard
her come down and put the sadirons on the stove to heat and heard her
mixing some hot drink. When Mr. Fragg reached the house ‘Thusia was
tucked between blankets with hot irons at her feet, and Mary came down
as David ended his explanation of the affair.

“I think she’ll be all right now,” Mary said. “She has stopped shivering
and is nice and warm. We’ll stop for Dr. Benedict, Mr. Fragg, just to
make sure.”

On the way home David asked Mary to marry him. She did not pretend
unwillingness. She was surprised to be asked just then, but she was
happy and she tucked her arm under his affectionately and David clasped
her hand. He was happy, quite happy. They stopped to send Dr. Benedict
to the Fraggs and then David drove Mary home. She held his hand a moment
or two as she stood beside the buggy at her gate.

“You’ll come up this evening, David, won’t you?” she asked. “Wait,
David, I’ll have our man drive you home and take this rig back wherever
it came from,” she added with a pleasing air of new proprietorship; “you
must go straight home and change into something dry. And be sure to come
up this evening.”

“I will,” said David, and she turned away. She turned back again
immediately.

“David,” she said hesitatingly; “about ‘Thusia--I feel so sorry for her.
She has no mother and I think lately she has been trying to be good. I
feel as if--”

“Yes,” said David, “I feel that too.”

“Well, then, it will be all right!” said Mary happily. “And remember,
change your clothes as soon as you get home, David Dean!”

When David opened the door of the manse he stood for a minute letting
his happiness have its own way with him. He imagined the little house as
it would be with Mary in it as the mistress and, in addition to the glow
of heart natural to an accepted lover, he felt he had chosen wisely. His
wife would be a help and a refuge; she would be peace and sympathy at
the end of every weary day.

Then he climbed the stairs to change his wet garments as Mary had wisely
ordered.



III. THE COPPERHEAD

[Illustration: Copperhead   046]


WHEN Sumter was fired upon David Dean had been in Riverbank not quite
a year, but he had passed through the first difficult test of the young
minister, and Mary Wiggett’s smile seemed to have driven from the minds
of his people the opposition they had felt when it seemed he was,
or might become, too fond of ‘Thusia Fragg. Poor little ‘Thusia! The
bright, flirting, reckless butterfly of a girl, captured soul, mind and
body by her first glimpse of David’s cool gray eyes, knew--as soon
as Mary Wiggett announced that David had proposed and had been
accepted--that David was not for her. Mary Wiggett, inheriting much of
hard-headed old Samuel Wiggett’s common sense, was not apt to let David
escape and David had no desire to escape from the quite satisfactory
position of future husband of Mary Wiggett. As the months of the
engagement lengthened he liked Mary more and more.

The announcement of the dominie’s engagement settled many things. It
settled the uneasiness that is bound to exist while a young, unmarried
minister is still free to make a choice, and it settled the fear
that David might make a fool of himself over ‘Thusia Fragg. While his
congregation did not realize what an attraction ‘Thusia had had for
David, they had feared her general effect on him. With David engaged to
the leading elder’s daughter, and that daughter such a fine, efficient
blond young woman as Mary was, there was peace and David was happy. He
had no trouble in stifling the feeling for ‘Thusia that he felt had come
dangerously near being love.

Until Riverbank was thrown into a rage by the news from Fort Sumter
David, with due regard for his motto, “Keep an even mind under all
circumstances,” had prepared to settle down into a state of gentle
usefulness and to become the affectionate husband of the town’s richest
man’s daughter. The wedding was to be when Mary decided she was quite
ready. She was in no great haste, and in the flame of patriotism
that swept all Iowa with the first call for troops and the subsequent
excitement as the town and county responded and the streets were filled
with volunteers Mary postponed setting a day. David and Mary were both
busy during those early war days. Almost too soon for belief lists of
dead and wounded came back to Riverbank, followed by the pale cripples
and convalescents. Loyal entertainments and “sanitary fairs” kept every
young woman busy, and there is no doubt that David did more to aid the
cause by staying at home than by going to the front. He was willing
enough to go, but all Iowa was afire and there were more volunteers than
could be accepted. No one expected the war to last over ninety days.
More said sixty days.

Little ‘Thusia Fragg, forgiven by Mary and become her protégée, was
taken into the councils of the women of David’s church in all the loyal
charitable efforts. She was still the butterfly ‘Thusia; she still
danced and appeared in gay raiment and giggled and chattered; but she
was a forgiven ‘Thusia and did her best to be “good.” Like all the young
women of the town she was intensely loyal to the North, but her loyalty
was more like the fiery spirit of the Southern women than the calmer
Northern loyalty of her friends.

As the lists of dead grew and the war, at the end of ninety days,
seemed hardly begun, loyalty and hatred and bitterness became almost
synonymous. Riverbank, on the Mississippi, held not a few families of
Southern sympathizers, and the position of any who ventured to doubt
the right of the North to coerce the South became most unpleasant. Wise
“Copperheads” kept low and said nothing, but they were generally
known from their antebellum utterances, and they were looked upon with
distrust and hatred. The title “Copperhead” was the worst one man
could give another in those days. As the war lengthened one or two hot
outspoken Democrats were ridden out of the town on rails and the rest,
for the most part, found their sympathies change naturally into tacit
agreement with those of their neighbors. It was early in the second year
of the war that old Merlin Hinch came to Riverbank County. It was a
time when public feeling against Copperheads was reaching the point of
exasperation.

Merlin Hinch, with his few earthly goods and his wife and daughter,
crossed the Mississippi on the ferry in a weather-beaten prairie
schooner a few weeks before plowing time. He came from the East but he
volunteered nothing about his past. He was a misshapen, pain-racked man,
hard-handed and close-mouthed. He rested one day in Riverbank, got from
some real estate man information about the farms in the back townships
of the county, and drove on. There were plenty of farms to be
had--rented on shares or bought with a mortgage--and he passed on his
way, a silent, forbidding old man.

In the days that followed he sometimes drove into town to make such
purchases as necessity required. Sometimes his wife--a faded, work-worn
woman--came with him, and sometimes his daughter, but more often he came
alone.

Old Hinch--“Copperhead Hinch,” he came to be called--was not beautiful.
He seldom wore a hat, coming to town with his iron-gray hair matted
on his head and his iron-gray beard tangled and tobacco-stained. Some
long-past accident had left him with a scar above the left eyebrow,
lowering it, and his eyebrows were like long, down-curving gray
bristles, so that his left eye looked out through a bristly covert,
giving him a leering scowl. The same accident had wrenched his left
shoulder so that his left arm seemed to drag behind him and he walked
bent forward with an ugly sidewise gait. At times he rested his left
hand on his hip. He looked like a hard character, but, as David came
to know, he was neither hard nor soft but a man like other men. Sun and
rain and hard weather seemed to have turned his flesh to leather.

In those days the post office was in the Wiggett Building, some sixty
feet off the main street, and it was there those who liked to talk of
the war met, for on a bulletin board just outside the door the lists of
dead and wounded were posted as they arrived, and there head-lined pages
of the newspapers were pasted. To the post office old Hinch came on
each trip to town, stopping there last before driving back to Griggs
Township. Old Hinch issued from the post office one afternoon just as
the postmaster was pasting the news of a Union victory on the board, and
some jubilant reader, dancing and waving his cap, grasped old Hinch and
shouted the news in his ear. The old man uttered an oath and with his
elbow knocked his tormentor aside. He shouldered his way roughly through
the crowd and clambered into his wagon.

“Yeh! you Copperhead!” the old man’s tormentor shouted after him.

The crowd turned and saw the old man and jeered at him. Hinch muttered
and mumbled as he arranged the scrap of old blanket on his wagon seat.
He gathered up his reins and, without looking back, drove down the
street, around the corner into the main street and out of the town.
After that old Hinch was “that Copperhead from Griggs Township.” Silent
and surly always, he was left more completely alone than ever. When he
came to town the storekeepers paid him scant courtesy; the manner in
which they received him indicated that they did not want his trade, and
would be better satisfied if he stayed away. The children on the street
sometimes shouted at him.

Old Sam Wiggett, Mary’s father, was by that time known as the most
bitter hater of the South in Riverbank. Later there were some who said
he assumed the greater part of his virulent fanaticism to cover his
speculations in the Union paper currency and his tax sale purchases of
the property of dead or impoverished Union soldiers, but this was not
so. Heavy-bodied and heavy-jowled, he was also heavy-minded. That which
he was against he hated with all the bitterness his soul could command,
and he was sincere in his desire that every captured Confederate be
hanged. He considered Lincoln a soft-hearted namby-pamby and would
have had every Confederate home burned to the ground and the women
and children driven into Mexico. In business he had the same harsh but
honest single-mindedness. Money was something to get and any honest way
of getting it was right. There were but two or three men in Riverbank
County who would bid in the property of the unfortunate soldiers at tax
sale, but Sam Wiggett had no scruples. The South, and not he, killed and
ruined the soldiers, and the county, not he, forced the property to
tax sale. He bought with depreciated currency that he had bought at a
discount. That was business.

It was not unnatural that Mary Wiggett should have absorbed some share
of this ultraloyalism from her father. The women of Riverbank were not,
as a rule, bitterly angry. They were staunch and true to their cause;
they worked eagerly with their hands, scraping lint, making “housewives”
 and doing what they could for their soldiers; they were cheered by
victories and depressed by defeats, and they wept over their slain
and wounded, but their attitude was one of pity and love for their
own rather than of hard hatred against the South. With Mary Wiggett
patriotism was more militant. Could she have arranged it the lint she
scraped would never have been used to dress the wounds of a captured
Confederate soldier boy. ‘Thusia, even more intense, hated the South as
a personal enemy.

David felt this without, at first, taking much notice of it. He was
happy in his engagement and he liked Mary better each day. There was a
wholesome, full-blooded womanliness in all she did and a frankness in
her affection that satisfied him. The first shock to his evenly balanced
mind came one day when he was walking through the main street with her.

The young dominie was swinging down the street at her side, his head
high and his clear gray eyes looking straight ahead, when something
whizzed past his face. They were near the corner of a street. Along the
edge of the walk a half dozen farm wagons stood and in the nearest sat
Mrs. Hinch, her sunbonnet thrown back and her Paisley shawl--her finest
possession--over her shoulders. Old Hinch was clambering into the wagon
and had his best foot on the hub of a wheel. The missile that whizzed
past David’s face was an egg. It struck old Hinch on the temple and
broke, scattering the yolk upon the waist of Mrs. Hinch’s calico dress
and upon her shawl and her face. Some boy had grasped an egg from a box
before a grocer’s window and had thrown it. The lad darted around the
corner and old Hinch turned, grasping his whip and scowling through his
bristly eyebrows. The corner loafers laughed.

What David did was not much. He drew his handkerchief from his pocket
and gave it to the faded woman in the wagon, that she might remove the
stain of egg. She wiped her face and began removing the egg from her
garments and David and Mary moved on.

“Why did you do that!” Mary asked. “Don’t you know them! They’re
Copperheads.”

“She was badly spattered. She seemed at a loss what to do.”

“Didn’t you _know_ they were Copperheads!”

“I did not know. That would have made no difference. She was
distressed.”

“Well, please, David, do not help any more distressed Copperheads when I
am with you,” Mary said. “Everyone in front of the store saw you. Oh! I
wouldn’t raise my little finger to help a Copperhead if she was dying! I
hate them! They ought to be egged out of town, all of them.”

Some two weeks later old Hinch drove up to the little manse and knocked
on David’s door. He had the handkerchief, washed, ironed and folded in a
bit of white paper, and a dozen fresh-laid eggs in a small basket.

“Ma sent me ‘round with these,” old Hinch said. “Sort of a ‘thank you.’
She ‘minded me particular not to throw the eggs at you.”

There was almost a twinkle in his eyes as he repeated his wife’s little
joke. He would not enter the manse but sidled himself back to his wagon
and drove away.

It was from ‘Thusia Fragg that David had the next word of old Hinch.
Even in those days David had acquired a great taste for a certain
sugared bun made by Keller, the baker. Long years after the buns were
still made by Riverbank bakers and known as “Keller buns” and the last
sight many had of David was as an old man with a paper bag in his hand,
trudging up the hill to his home for a little feast on “Keller buns.” He
used to stop and offer his favorite pastry to little children. Sometimes
the paper bag was quite empty by the time he reached home.

It was no great disgrace, in those days, to carry parcels, for many of
the Riverbankers had come from St. Louis or Cincinnati, where the best
housewives went to market with basket on arm, but David would have
thought nothing of his paper parcel of buns in any event. The buns were
at the baker’s and he liked them and wanted some at home, so he went to
the baker’s and bought them and carried them home. He was coming out of
Keller’s doorway when ‘Thusia, as gayly dressed as ever, hurrying by,
saw him and stopped. She was frightened and agitated and she grasped
David’s arm.

“Oh, Mr. Dean!” she cried. “Can’t you do something! They’re beating an
old man! There!” she almost wept, pointing down the street toward the
post office. David stood a moment, tense and breathing deeply.

“Who is it!” he asked.

“That Copperhead farmer,” said ‘Thusia.

David forgot the motto over his desk in his study. He saw the small mob
massed in front of the post office and men running toward it from across
the street, and he too ran. He saw the crowd sway back and forth and
a fist raised in the air, and then he was on the edge of the group,
pushing his way into it.

“Stop this! Stop this!” he cried.

His voice had the ring of authority and those who turned knew him to be
the dominie. They had done old Hinch no great harm. A few blows had been
struck, but the old man had received them with his arm thrown over his
head. He was tough and a few blows could not harm him. He carried a
stout hickory club, and as the crowd hesitated old Hinch sidled his way
to the edge of the walk and scrambled into his wagon.

Someone laughed. Old Hinch did not drive away.

“My letter,” he growled, and David stooped and picked up the letter that
lay on the walk and handed it to him. Then Hinch struck his horses a
blow with the club and the wagon bumped over the loose stones and away.
The letter had been trampled upon by dusty feet and David’s coat had
received a smear of dust from the wagon wheel. He brushed his hands
together, and someone began knocking the dust from the skirt of his
coat. It eased the tension. Someone explained.

“We told the Copperhead to take off his hat to the flag,” they told
David, “and he damned the war. Somebody hit him.”

“He is an old man,” said David. “You can show your patriotism better
than by striking an old man.”

It was not a diplomatic thing to say and it was still less diplomatic
for David to preach, the next Sunday, on the prodigal son. Many shook
their heads over the sermon, saying David went too far in asking them
to prepare their hearts for the day when the war would be ended and
it would be necessary to take the South back into the brotherhood of
States, and to look upon the Confederates as returning prodigals. Old
Wiggett was furiously angry. Forty years were to elapse before some of
David’s hearers were ready to forgive the South, and many went to
their graves unforgiving. The feeling after the sermon was that David
sympathized entirely too strongly with the South. Those who heard his
following sermons knew David was still staunchly loyal, but through the
byways of the town the word passed that Dominie Dean was “about as bad
as any Copperhead in the county.”



IV. ROSE HINCH

[Illustration: Rose   058]

IT was during that week that Benedict, the medical man-of-all-work of
the county, David’s closest friend, carried David out to Griggs Township
to see old Hinch. Doctor Benedict had his faults, medical and otherwise.
Calomel in tooth-destroying quantities was one and his periodical sprees
were all the rest. His list of professional calls and undemanded bills
qualified him for a saintship, for his heart was right and it hurt him
to take money from a poor man even when it was willingly proffered.

“Davy,” he said, putting his beaver hat on David’s desk and sinking into
David’s easy-chair with a yawn (people would not let him have a good
night’s rest once a week), “one of my patients gave you a dozen eggs.
Remember her?”

“Yes. The Copperhead’s wife. She’s not sick, I hope.”

“Malaria, backache, pain in the joints, headache, touch of sciatica. No,
she’s well. She don’t complain. It’s her husband, David. He’s in a bad
way.”

“What ails him!” David asked.

“He’s blaspheming his God and Maker, Davy,” said Benedict. “He’s
blaspheming himself into his grave. He has hardened his heart and he
curses the God that made him. Davy, he’s dying of a breaking heart. He
is breaking his heart against the pillars of Heaven.”

David turned in his chair.

“And you came for me? You were right, Benedict. You want me to go to
him!”

“I want to take you to him,” said Benedict. “Get on your duds, Davy; the
horse is outside.” It is a long drive to Griggs Township and Benedict
had ample time to tell all he knew of Hinch. For five days the man had
refused to eat. He sat in his chair and cursed his God for bringing the
war upon the country; sat in his chair with a letter crumpled in his
hand, with his eyes glassy hard and his face in a hideous scowl.

“I heard from the wife of what you did the other day when those loafers
would have beaten the old man. He hates all mankind, Davy, but if there
is one of the kind can soften his heart you are the one. Hates?” The
doctor shook his head. “No, he thinks he hates man and God. It is
grief, Davy. He’s killing himself with grief.” David was silent. He knew
Benedict would continue.

“The day you mixed up in his affair he got a letter at the post office.
It’s the letter he keeps crushed in his hand.”

“I remember. I picked it up and gave it to him.”

“He read it before he came out of the post office, I dare say,” said the
doctor. He flicked his whip over the haunches of his horse. “You don’t
know why he came West? He was burned out where he came from. He spent
his life and his wife’s life, too, building up a farm and Fate made it a
battlefield. Raiders took his stock first, then one army, and after that
the other, made his farm a camp and between them they made it a desert,
burning his buildings. He had a boy of fourteen, and they were trying to
keep alive in the cellar hole where the house had been. A chance bullet
killed the lad. I think the boy was running to the well for a pail of
water. It has made, the old man bitter, Davy. It has made him hate the
war.”

“It might well make him hate the war,” said David.

“There was another son,” said Benedict. “I take it he was a fine lad,
from what the mother tells me. He was nineteen. The letter that came the
other day said the lad had been killed in battle. Yes, the old man hates
the war. He does not love the war, Davy.”

“He may well hate it,” said David.

They found old Hinch as Benedict had left him, bent down in his chair
with his eyes set in a hard glare. He was very weak--much weaker than
when Dr. Benedict had left him--but his lips still moved in ceaseless
blasphemy. The wife let David and the doctor in. No doubt she felt the
loss of her son as deeply as old Hinch himself felt it, but Fate had
taken vigor out of her soul before this blow fell. Her nervous hands
clasped and unclasped, and she looked at Benedict with the pitiful
pleading of a dumb animal. When the two men went up to Hinch she seated
herself at the far side of the room, still clasping and unclasping her
hands. The tragedy that had occurred seemed lost in the tragedy that
impended.

David fell on his knees beside the old man’s chair and, with his hand
on old Hinch’s arm and his forehead on the chair arm, prayed. He prayed
aloud and as he prayed he tightened his grasp on the old man’s arm. It
was more than a prayer; it was a stream of comfort flowing straight
from his heart. He prayed long. The wife ceased her nervous clasping and
unclasping of her hands and knelt beside her own chair. Benedict stole
to the far corner of the room and dropped noiselessly into a seat. An
hour passed and still David prayed.

The room was poverty-stricken in the extreme. There was no carpet on the
floor and no drapery at the windows. The table was of pine, and a squat
lamp of glass stood on it, the lamp chimney broken and patched with
scorched paper. The afternoon waned and old Hinch ceased his muttering,
but David prayed on. He was fighting for the man’s soul and life. Dusk
fell, and with a sudden great sob old Hinch buried his face between his
knees. Then David clasped his hand.

The wife silently lighted the lamp and went to the kitchen, and, as if
the light had been a signal, the door opened and Rose Hinch came in. She
stood a moment in the doorway, her sunbonnet pushed back, taking in the
scene, and then she came and stood beside her father and put her hand on
his head. Then David looked up and saw her.

She had been all day in the field, doing the work her father had left
undone, and her shoes were covered with loam and her hands burned to a
brown-red. Her garments were rough and patched, but her face, protected
by the sunbonnet, was untouched by tan. It was a face like that of a
madonna, sweet and calm. Her hair, parted in the middle, had been drawn
back smoothly, but now it fell rather loosely over her forehead, and was
brown, as were her eyes. She let her hand rest a moment on her father’s
head, and then passed on into the kitchen.

Benedict left immediately after the supper, but David remained for the
night. Old Hinch drank a bowl of broth and permitted himself to be led
to bed. He was very weak but he blasphemed no more; his mood was one of
saner sorrow. The wife sat with him, and David, seeing that Rose--after
a day of man’s work in the field--must care for the scanty stock,
insisted on aiding her. When Benedict arrived the next morning old Hinch
was much better physically and quite himself mentally, and David drove
back to town with the doctor.

Three times in the next two weeks David drove out to Griggs Township
with Benedict. Things had returned to their miserable normal state when
he made his last visit, but when David arrived Samuel Wiggett was there.
No doubt the farm was to be put up at tax sale and Wiggett had come out
to see whether it was worth bidding in. It would have pleased him to be
able to put old Hinch, a Copperhead, off the place.

Wiggett, like many sober and respectable men, had little respect for men
like Benedict, and he was never any too well pleased to see David in the
doctor’s company. To see David and Benedict together at the home of the
Copperhead was bad indeed, and to see the evident friendship existing
between David and the Copperhead and the Copperhead’s wife and daughter
was worse. Wiggett climbed into his buggy after a gruff greeting and
drove away.

For several days after David’s meeting with Wiggett at the farm the
young dominie did not see Mary Wiggett. War times were busy times for
the ministers as well as for the men at the front, and David’s pastoral
duties seemed to crowd upon him. Three of the “boys,” sent home to die,
lay in their beds and longed for David’s visits. He tried to grasp a few
minutes to see Mary, but it was often long past midnight when he fell
exhausted on his bed.

Gossip, once started in a small town, does not travel--it leaps, growing
with each leap. It builds itself up like conglomerate, that mass of
pebbles of every sort, shells and mud. In no two heads did the stories
that were told about David during those days agree. The tales were a
conglomerate of unpleasant lies in which disloyalty, infatuation for
the Copperhead’s daughter, hypocrisy, unhallowed love and much else were
illogically combined. Of all this David suspected nothing. What Mary
Wiggett heard can only be guessed, but it set her burning with jealousy
of Rose Hinch and weeping with hurt pride.

It was not a week after his last visit to the Hinches that Sam Wiggett’s
man-of-all-work stopped at the manse, leaving a small parcel and a note
for David. The parcel held the cheap little ring David had given Mary as
a token of their engagement and the letter broke their engagement.

David was horrified. Again and again he read the letter, seeking to find
in it some clew to Mary’s act, but in vain. He hastened to her home,
but she would not see him. He wrote, and she replied. It was a calmly
sensible letter, but it left him more bewildered than ever. She begged
him not to be persistent, and said her mind was made up and she could
never marry him. She said he could see that if he forced his attentions
or even insisted on making a quarrel of what was not one it would be
harder for both, since she was a member of his church and, if he became
annoying, one of them must leave.

Before giving up all hope David persuaded Dr. Benedict to see Mary. The
good doctor returned somewhat dazed.

“She sat on me, Davy; she sat on me hard,” he said. “My general
impression is that she meant to convey the idea that what Samuel
Wiggett’s daughter chooses to do is none of a drunken doctor’s infernal
business.”

“But would she give you no reason?” asked David.

“Now as to that,” said Benedict, “she implied quite plainly that if you
don’t know the reason it is none of your business either. She knows the
reason and that’s enough for the three of us.” David wrote again, and
finally Mary consented to see him and set the day and hour; but, as if
Fate meant to make everything as bad as possible for David, Benedict
came that very afternoon to carry him out to Griggs Township to minister
to Mrs. Hinch, who had broken down and was near her end. It was not
strange that she should ask for David, but the town found in the two or
three visits he made the dying woman additional cause for umbrage,
and Mary, receiving David’s message telling why he could not keep his
appointment, refused to make another.

Through all this David went his way, head high and with an even mind.
He felt the change in his people toward him and he felt the changed
attitude of the town in general, but until the news reached him through
little ‘Thusia Fragg he did not know there was talk in some of the
barrooms of riding him out of town on a rail.

He was sitting in his study trying to work on his sermon for the next
Sunday morning, but thinking as much of Mary as of his sermon, when
‘Thusia came to the door of the manse. Mary Ann, the old housekeeper,
admitted her, leaving her sitting in the shaded parlor while she went to
call David. He came immediately, raising one of the window shades that
he might better see the face of his visitor, and when he saw it was
‘Thusia he held out his hand. It was the first time ‘Thusia had been
inside the manse.

“Well, ‘Thusia!” he queried.

She was greatly agitated. As she talked she began to cry, wringing her
hands as she poured out what she had heard. David was in danger; in
danger of disgrace and perhaps of bodily harm or even worse. From her
father she had heard of the threats; Mr. Fragg had heard the word passed
among the loafers who hung out among the saloons on the street facing
the river. David was to be ridden out of town on a rail; perhaps tarred
and feathered before the ride.

David listened quietly. When ‘Thusia had ended, he sat looking out of
the window, thinking.

He knew the men of the town were irritated. For a time all the news from
the Union armies had been news of reverses. The war had lasted long and
bad news increased the irritation. Riots and lawlessness always occur
in the face of adverse reports; news of a defeat embitters the
non-combatants and brings their hatred to the surface. At such a time
the innocent, if suspected, suffered along with the known enemy.

“And they think I am a Copperhead!” said David at length.

“Because you are friendly with Mr. Hinch,” ‘Thusia repeated. “They don’t
know you as I do. It is because you are kind to the Hinches when no one
else is. And they say--” she said, her voice falling and her fingers
twisting the fringe of her jacket--“they say you are in love with--with
the daughter.”

“It is all because they do not understand,” said David, rising. “I can
tell them. When I explain they will understand.”

He had, as yet, no definite plan. A letter to the editor of the daily
newspaper occurred to him; he might also make a plain statement in the
pulpit before his next Sunday sermon, setting himself right with his
congregation. In the meanwhile he must show himself on the street; by
word of mouth he could explain what the townspeople did not know. He
blamed himself for not having explained before. He stood at the window,
looking out, and saw Dr. Benedict drive up. The doctor came toward the
house.

David met him at the door.

“Davy,” the doctor said, clasping his hand, “she is dead,” and David
knew; he meant Mrs. Hinch.

“And Hinch?”

“He’s taking it hard, Davy. He is in town. He is in that mood of sullen
hate again. He will need you--you are the only man that can soften him,
Davy. It is hard--we left the girl alone with her dead mother. Some
woman is needed there.” ‘Thusia had come to the parlor door.

“Will I do! Can I go!” she asked.

“Yes, and bless you for it!” the doctor exclaimed. “Get in my buggy.
You’ll come, David!”

“Of course! But Hinch--he came to town! Why?”

“He had to get the coffin, Davy.”

David hurried into his coat.

“We must find him at once and get him out of town,” he said. “They’re
threatening to tar and feather him if he shows his face in town again.
We may stop them if we are in time; please God we may stop them!”

They found old Hinch’s wagon tied opposite the post office. They knew it
by the coarse pine coffin that lay in the wagon bed. A crowd--a dozen or
more men--stood before the bulletin board watching the postmaster post
a new bulletin and, as David leaped from the buggy, the men cheered, for
the tide had turned and the news was news of victory. As they cheered,
old Hinch came out of the post office. He had in his right hand the
hickory club he always carried and in the left a letter, doubled over
and crushed in his gnarled fingers. He leaned his weight on the club.
All the strength seemed gone out of his bent body. Someone saw him and
shouted “Here’s the Copperhead!” and before David could reach his side
the crowd had gathered around old Hinch.

The old man stood in the doorway, under the flag that hung limply from
its pole. His fingers twitched as they grasped the letter in his hand.
He glared through his long eyebrows like an angry animal.

“Kill the Copperhead!” someone shouted and an arm shot out to grasp the
old man.

“Stop!” David cried. He struggled to fight his way to Hinch, but the
old man, maddened out of all reason, raised his club above his head.
It caught in the edge of the flag above his head and he uttered a
curse--not at the flag, not at his tormentors, but at war and all war
had done to him. The knotted end of the club caught the margin of the
flag and tore the weather-rotten fabric.

Those in front had stepped back before the menace of the raised club,
but one man stood his ground. He held a pistol in his hand and as the
flag parted he leveled the weapon at the old man’s head and calmly and
in cold blood pulled the trigger.

“That’s how we treat a Copperhead!” he cried, and the old man, a bullet
hole in his forehead, fell forward at his feet.

You will not find a word regarding the murder in the _Riverbank Eagle_
of that period. They hustled the murderer out of town until it was safe
for him to return; indeed, he was never in any danger. The matter was
hushed up; but few knew old Hinch. It was an “incident of the war.” But
David, breaking through the crowd one moment too late, dropped to his
knees beside the old man’s dead body and raised his head while Benedict
made the hurried examination. Some members of the crowd stole away, but
other men came running, from all directions and, standing beside the
dead man, David told them why old Hinch had damned the war and why he
hated it--not because he was a Copperhead but because one son and
then another had been taken from life by it--one son killed by a stray
Confederate bullet and the other shot while serving in the Union army.
He made no plea for himself; it was enough that he told them that old
Hinch was not a Copperhead but a grief-maddened father. As he ended
Benedict handed him the letter that had slipped from the old man’s
hand as he fell. It bore the army frank and was from the colonel of a
Kentucky regiment. There was only a few lines, but they told that old
Hinch’s oldest son, the last of his three boys, had fallen bravely in
battle. It was with this new grief in his mind that the old man had
stepped out to confront his tormentors.

David read the letter, his clear voice carrying beyond the edges of the
crowd, and when he finished he said, “We will pray for one who died in
anger,” and on the step of the post office and face to face with those
who but a few minutes before would have driven him from the town in
disgrace, he prayed the prayer that made him the best-loved man in
Riverbank.

Some of our old men still talk of that prayer and liken it to the
address Lincoln made at Gettysburg. It was never written down and we can
never know David’s words, but those who heard knew they were listening
to a real man speaking to a real God, and they never doubted David
again.

As David raised his head at the close he saw Mary Wiggett and her father
in their carriage at the far edge of the crowd, that filled the street.
Mary half arose and turned her face toward David, but old Wiggett drove
on, and, while hands now willing raised the body of old Hinch, David
crossed the street to where ‘Thusia Fragg was waiting for him.

When old Sam Wiggett drove away from in front of the post office, little
imagining David had just counteracted all the baseless gossip that had
threatened him, Mary placed her hand on his arm and urged him to turn
back, but cold common sense urged him to drive on. He did not want to be
known as having seen any of the tragedy, for he did not relish having to
enter a witness chair. Had he turned back as Mary wished David’s whole
life might have been different, and certainly his end would have been.

Once safely home Mary did not hesitate to write to David. Whatever else
she may have been, and however old Sam’s wealth had affected her mode
of thought, Mary was sincere, and she now wrote David she was sorry and
asked him to come to her. It was too late. With ‘Thusia David walked
up the hill. At the gate of the manse they paused. They had spoken of
nothing but the tragedy.

“Rose Hinch will be all alone now,” ‘Thusia said.

“Yes,” David said.

‘Thusia looked down.

“Do you--will she get work,” she asked, “or is she going to marry
someone.”

“I know she is not going to marry,” David said promptly. “She knows no
one--no young men.”

“Except you,” ‘Thusia suggested, looking up. As she met David’s dear
eyes her face reddened as it had on that first day at the wharf. The
hand that lay on the gate trembled visibly; she withdrew it and hid it
at her side.

“I like Rose, but I am not a candidate for her hand, if that is what you
mean,” said David.

‘Thusia suddenly felt infinitely silly and childish.

“I mean--I don’t mean--” she stammered. “I must not keep you standing
here. Good-by.”

“Good-by,” David said, and turned away.

He took a dozen steps up the path toward the manse. He stopped short and
turned.

“‘Thusia!” he called.

“Yes?” she replied, and turned back.

David walked to the gate and leaned upon it.

“What is it,” ‘Thusia asked.

“You asked about Rose Hinch. I think we should try to do something for
her--”

‘Thusia’s eyes were on David’s hands. Now David’s hands and not
‘Thusia’s were trembling. She watched them as if fascinated. She looked
up and the light in his eyes thrilled her.

“‘Thusia, I know now!” David said. “I love you and I have always loved
you and I shall love you forever.”

Her heart stood still.

“David! but we had better wait. We had better think it over,” she
managed to say. “You had better--you’re the dominie--I--”

“Don’t you care for met” he asked.

She put her hand on his and David clasped it. Kisses ‘and embraces
usually help carry off a moment that can hardly be anything but awkward,
but kisses and embraces are distinctly impossible across a dominie’s
manse gate in full day, with the Mannings on their porch across the
street. ‘Thusia laughed a mischievous little laugh.

“What!” David asked.

“I’ll be the funniest wife for a dominie!” she said. “Oh, David, do you
think I’ll do!”

And so, as the fairy tales say, they were married. Fairy tales properly
end so, with a brief “and lived happily ever after,” and so may most
tales of real life end, but, however the minister’s life may run,
a minister’s wife is apt to find the married years sufficiently
interesting. She marries not only a husband but an official position,
and the latter is quite apt to lead to plentiful situations.

Mary Wiggett, calling David back too late, did not fall into a decline
or die for love. Not until she lost David finally did she realize how
deeply she had loved him, but she did not sulk or repine. She even
served as a bridesmaid for ‘Thusia, and with ‘Thusia planned the wedding
gown. She almost took the place of a mother, and advised and worked to
make ‘Thusia’s trousseau beautiful. She seemed to wish David’s bride to
be all she herself would have been had she been David’s bride. ‘Thusia
was too happy to think or care why Mary showed such interest, and David,
who could not avoid hearing of it, was pleased and grateful.

The crowning act of Mary’s kindness was asking ‘Thusia to call Rose
Hinch from her poverty to help with the plainer sewing. The three
girls spent many days together at the Fraggs’ and, although David was
mentioned as seldom as ever a bridegroom was mentioned, all three felt
they were laboring for him in making his bride fine. Mary, with her
calm efficiency, seemed years older than ‘Thusia, and thus the three
worked--and were to work together for many years--for love of David.



V. CHURCH TROUBLES

[Illustration:  075]


THE leaves of the maples before the small white manse were red with
their October hue, and the sun rays were slanting low across the little
front yard at a late afternoon angle, when David, his hat in his hand
and his long black coat thrown open, paused a few moments at his gate to
greet Rose Hinch, who was approaching from up the hill.

David had changed little. He was still straight and slender, his yellow
hair still curled over his broad forehead, and his gray eyes were
still clear and bright. His motto, “Keep an even mind under all
circumstances,” still hung above his desk in his study. For nearly six
years, happy years, ‘Thusia had been David’s wife.

The old rivalry between ‘Thusia and Mary seemed forgotten. For one year
old Wiggett, refusing Mary’s pleadings, had sat under a Congregational
preacher, but the Congregational Church--being already supplied with
leaders--offered him small opportunity to exert his stubborn and
somewhat surly desire for dictatorship, and he returned to sit under and
glare at David, and resumed his position of most powerful elder.

During the first year of ‘Thusia’s married life

Mary was often at the manse. ‘Thusia’s love was still in the frantically
eager stage; she would have liked to have lived with one arm around
David’s neck, and she was unwittingly in constant danger of showing
herself all a dominie’s wife should not be. Her taste for bright clothes
and her carelessness of conventionality threatened a harsh awakening for
David. During that dangerous first year Mary made herself almost one of
the household.

‘Thusia, strange to say, did not resent it. Mary kept, then and always,
her love for David, as a good woman can. But little older than ‘Thusia,
she was far wiser and immeasurably less volatile and, having lost David
as a lover, she transmuted her love into service.

Probably she never thought her feelings into a conscious formula. At the
most she realized that she was still very fond of David and that she was
happier when helping him than at any other time.

‘Thusia’s gay companions of the days before David’s coming were
quite impossible now that ‘Thusia was a dominie’s bride, and ‘Thusia
recognized this and was grateful for Mary’s companionship during the
months following the honeymoon. A young bride craves a friend of her
own age, and Mary was doubly welcome. Her advice was always sound,
and ‘Thusia was quick to take it. Mary’s friendship also made the
congregation’s acceptance of ‘Thusia far easier, for anyone so promptly
taken up by the daughter of the church’s richest member and most
prominent elder had her way well prepared in advance. Mary, fearing
perhaps that ‘Thusia might be annoyed by what might seem unwarranted
interest in her affairs, was wise enough to have herself elected head of
the women’s organization that had the care and betterment of the manse
and its furnishings. To make the house fit for a bride she suggested and
carried through changes and purchases. She opened her own purse freely,
and what ‘Thusia did not suggest she herself suggested.

“Mary is lovely!” ‘Thusia told David.

A year or two after Mary had thus made herself almost indispensable to
‘Thusia she married.

“Oh, I knew it long ago!” ‘Thusia said in answer to David’s expression
of surprise at the announcement of the impending wedding. She had known
it a month, which was just one day less than Mary herself had known it.
Mary’s husband, one of the Derlings of Derlingport, was due to inherit
wealth some day, but in the meanwhile old Sash-and-Door Derling was glad
to shift the nattily dressed, inconsequential young loafer on to Mr.
Wiggett’s shoulders. Wiggett found him some sort of position in the
Riverbank bank and young Derling gradually developed into a cheerful,
pattering little business man, accumulating girth and losing hair.
‘Thusia rather cruelly but exactly expressed him when she told Rose
Hinch he was something soft and blond with a gold toothpick. If Mary was
ever dissatisfied with him she gave no sign.

Those who had wondered what kind of a minister’s wife flighty, flirty,
little ‘Thusia Fragg would make soon decided she made a good one. She
can hardly be better described than by saying she sang at her work.
David’s meager stipend did not permit the employment of a maid, and
‘Thusia had little enough leisure between meals for anything but
cheerful singing at her tasks. She cooked, swept, baked and washed.
There were ministers’ wives in Riverbank who were almost as important in
church work as their husbands, and this was supposed to be part of their
duties. They were expected to lead in all social money-getting affairs,
and, in general, to be not merely wives but assistant ministers. If
‘Thusia had attempted this there might have been, even with Mary’s
backing, trouble, for every woman in the church remembered that only
a short while before ‘Thusia had been an irresponsible, dancing,
street-gadding, young harum-scarum of a girl. Her interference would
have been resented. With good sense, or good luck, she left this quasi
assistant ministry to Mary, who gladly assumed it, and ‘Thusia gave all
her time to the pleasanter task of being David’s happy little wife and
housekeeper.

David, at the manse gate, was waiting for Rose Hinch. Rose, when she saw
David, came on with a brisker step. Rose had become David’s protégée,
the first and closest of many that--during his long life--gathered about
him, leaning on him for help and sympathy. In return Rose Hinch was
always eager to help David in any way she could. She was Riverbank’s
first precursor of the trained nurse. David and old Benedict had worried
about her future, until David suggested that the old doctor give her
what training he could and put her in charge of such of his cases as
needed especial care. Rose took up the work eagerly. She lived in a
tiny room above a store on the main street. To many in Riverbank she
represented all that a trained nurse and a lay Sister of Charity might.

“Well, Rose,” David said, “you seem happy. Is this fine October air
getting into your blood too?”

“I suppose that helps,” said Rose, “but the Long boy is so far past the
crisis that I’m not needed any longer. I’m so glad he’s getting well; he
is such a dear, patient little fellow. That’s why I’m happy, David. And
you seem fairly well content with the world, I should judge.”

“I am, Rose!” he answered. “Have you time to see ‘Thusia for a minute or
two. I know she wants to see you.”

He held the gate open and Rose entered. David put his hat on one of the
gateposts and stood with his arms on the top of the gate, “bathing in
beauty,” as he told ‘Thusia later. The sun, where it touched the maple
leaves, turned them to flame. Through a gap in the trees he could catch
a glimpse of the Mississippi and the varicolored foliage on the Illinois
shore, the reds softened to purple by the October haze. For a few
minutes he let himself forget his sick and his soul-sore people and his
duties, and stood in happy thoughtlessness, breathing October.

Rose came out.

“It’s all settled. I’m coming,” she said, “and, oh, David! I am so
glad!”

“We are all glad,” said David.

Thus it happened that no wife ever approached motherhood more happily
than motherless little ‘Thusia. With David and kind old Doctor Benedict
and gentle, efficient Rose Hinch at hand, and Mary as delighted as if
the child was to be her own, and all of them loving her, ‘Thusia did
not give a moment to fear. The baby, when it came, was a boy, and Doctor
Benedict said it was the finest in the world, and immediately nominated
himself the baby’s uncle. He bought the finest solid silver, gold-lined
cup to be had in Riverbank and had it engraved, “Davy, Junior, from
Uncle Benedict,” with the date. This was more than he did for Mary
Derling’s baby, which came a month later. He gave a silver spoon there,
one of about forty that lucky infant received from near and far.

‘Thusia was up and about, singing as before, in due time. Rose Hinch
remained for the better part of a. month and departed absolutely
refusing any compensation. The winter was as happy as any David ever
knew. Davy Junior was a strong and fairly well-behaved baby; ‘Thusia was
in a state of ecstatic bliss, and in the town all the former opposition
to David had been long since forgotten. With the calmness of an older
man but with a young man’s energy he went up and down the streets of
the town on his comforting errands. He was fitting into his niche in the
world with no rough edges, all of them having been worn smooth, and it
seemed that it was his lot to remain for the rest of his life dominie
of the Presbyterian Church of Riverbank, each year better loved and more
helpful.

April and May passed blissfully, but by the end of June an unexpected
storm had gathered, and David did not know whether he could remain in
Riverbank another month.

Late in May an epidemic of diphtheria appeared in Riverbank, several
cases being in David’s Sunday school and the school was closed. Mary, in
a panic, fled to Derlingport with her child. She remained nearly a month
with her husband’s parents, but by that, time Derlingport was as overrun
by the disease as Riverbank had been and conditions were reported better
at home; so she came back, bringing the child. She returned to find the
church in the throes of one of those violent quarrels that come with
all the violence and suddenness of a tropical storm. Her short absence
threatened to result in David’s expulsion from the church.

On the last Saturday of June old Sam Wiggett sat at the black mahogany
desk in his office studying the columns of a New York commercial
journal--it was the year when the lumber situation induced him to
let who wished think him a fool and to make his first big purchase of
Wisconsin timberlands--when his daughter, Mary Derling, entered. She
came sweeping into the office dressed in all the fuss and furbelow of
the fashionable young matron of that day, and with her was her cousin,
Ellen Hardcome. Sam Wiggett turned.

“Huh! what are you down here for!” he asked. He was never pleased when
interrupted at his office. “Where’s the baby!”

“I left him with nurse in the carriage,” said Mary. “Can’t you say
good-day to Ellen, father!”

“How are you!” said Mr. Wiggett briefly. Mrs. Hardcome acknowledged the
greeting and waited for Mary to proceed.

“Well, father,” said Mary, “this thing simply cannot go on any longer.
Something will have to be done. This quarrel is absolutely breaking up
the church.”

“Huh!” growled Mr. Wiggett. “What’s happening now!”

“David is going to preach to-morrow,” said Mary dropping into a vacant
chair and motioning Ellen to be seated. “After all the trouble we took
to get Dr. Hotchkiss to come from Derling-port, and after the ladies
offering to pay for a vacation for David out of the fund--”

“What!” shouted Wiggett, striking the desk a mighty blow with his fist.
“Didn’t I tell you you women have no right to use that fund for any such
nonsense! That’s money raised to pay on the mortgage. You’ve no right to
spend it for vacations for your star-gazing, whipper-snapper preacher.
No! Nor for anything else!”

“But, father!” Mary insisted.

“I don’t care anything about your ‘but, father.’ That’s mortgage money.
You women ought to have turned it over to the bank long ago. You have no
right to keep it. Pay for a vacation! You act like a lot of babies!”

“Father--”

“Pay for a vacation! Much he needs a vacation! Strong as an ox and
healthy as a bull; doesn’t have anything to do the whole year ‘round but
potter around town and preach a couple of sermons. It’s you women get
these notions into your preachers’ heads. You turn them into a lot of
babies.”

“Father, _will_ you let me say one word before you quite tear me to
pieces! A great many people in our church _like_ David Dean. It is all
right to bark ‘Woof! woof! Throw him out neck and crop!’ but you know as
well as I do that would split the church.”

“Well, let it split! If we can’t have peace--”

“Exactly, father!” Mary said quietly. “If we cannot have peace in the
church it will be better for David Dean to go elsewhere, but before that
happens--for I think many of our people would leave our church if David
goes--shouldn’t we do all we can to bring peace? Ellen agrees with me.”

“In a measure I do; yes,” said Ellen Hard-come.

“Ellen and Mr. Hardcome,” Mary continued, “are willing to promise to do
nothing immediately if David will go away for a month or two. If we can
send him away for a couple of months until some of the bitterest feeling
dies everything may be all right. We women will be glad enough to make
up and pay back anything we have to borrow from the fund. I think,
father, if you spoke to David he might go.”

“Better get rid of him now,” Wiggett growled. Ellen Hardcome smiled.
This was what she wanted. Mary looked at the heavy-faced old dictator.
She knew her father well enough to feel the hopelessness of her mission.
Old Wiggett had never forgiven David for marrying ‘Thusia instead of
Mary, and because he would a thousand times have preferred David to
Derling as a son-in-law he hated David the more.

“It isn’t only that David would go, father,” Mary said. “If he is sent
away we will lose the Hodges and the Martins and the Ollendorfs and old
Peter Grimby. I don’t mind those old maid Curlews going, or people like
the Hansoms or the Browns, but you know what the Hodges and old Peter
Grimby do for the church every year. We thought that if you could get
David to take a vacation, explaining to him that it would be a good
thing to let everything quiet down--”

Old Sam Wiggett chuckled.

“Who thought! Ellen never thought of that,” he said.

“I thought of it,” said Mary.

“And he won’t go!” chuckled Wiggett. “I give him credit--he’s a fighter.
You women have stirred up the fight in him. I told you to shut up and
keep out of this, didn’t I! Why--that Dean has more sense than all of
you. You must have thought he was a fool, asking him to go on a vacation
while Ellen and all stayed here to stir things up against him. He has
brains and that wife of his has spunk--do you know what she told me when
I met her on the street this morning!”

Mary did not ask him.

“Told me I wasn’t fit to clean her husband’s shoes!” said Wiggett.

“I hope--” said Mary.

“Well, you needn’t, because I didn’t,” said her father. “I didn’t say
anything. Turned my back on her and walked away.”

“And I suppose you haven’t heard the latest thing she has said!” said
Ellen Hardcome bitterly. “She says I have no voice, and that I would not
be in the choir if my husband did not have charge of the music.”

“Said that, did she!” chuckled Wiggett.

“She said my upper register was squeaky, if you please!”

‘Thusia had indeed said this. She had said it years before and to a
certain Miss Carrol who was then her friend. What Miss Carrol had said
about the same voice, she being in the choir with Mrs. Hardcome, does
not matter. Miss Carrol had not thought it necessary to tell that to
Ellen. With the taking of sides in the present church quarrel all those
who were against David racked their brains to recall things ‘Thusia had
said that could be used to set anyone against the dominie. There were
plenty of such harmless, little confidences to recall. ‘Thusia, during
her first married years--and for long after--was still ‘Thusia; she
tingled with life and she loved companionship and liked to talk and
listen. Every woman expresses her harmless opinions to her friends,
but it is easy for the friend, when she becomes an enemy and wishes for
recruits, to use this contraband ammunition. It is a woman’s privilege,
it seems. The women who, like Rose Hinch, and certain women you know,
are accepted by men on an equality of friendship, make the least use of
it, for even among children there is no term of opprobrium worse than
“tattletale.” It was but natural for yellow-visaged Miss Connerton, for
instance, who had once said to ‘Thusia, “Don’t you get tired of Mrs.
Hallmeyer’s eternal purple dresses,” and who had accepted ‘Thusia’s
“Yes” as a confidential expression of opinion as between one woman and
another, to run to Mrs. Hall-meyer, when everyone was against ‘Thusia,
and say: “And I suppose you know what she said about you, Mrs.
Hallmeyer? That she simply got tired to death of seeing your eternal
purple dresses!”

David was fighting for his life, for his life was his work in Riverbank.
He was not making the fight alone. Seven or more years of faithful
service had won him staunch friends who were glad to fight for him,
but the miserable feature of a church quarrel is that--win or lose--the
minister must suffer. The two months of the quarrel were the unhappiest
of his life, and David made the fight, not because he hoped to remain in
Riverbank after it was ended, but because he felt it his duty to stand
by what he believed was right, until he should be plainly and actually
told to go. The majority of his people, he felt, were with him, but that
would make little difference in the final outcome. Although he tried in
every way to lessen the bitterness of the quarrel, so that his triumph,
if he won, might be the less offensive, he knew his triumph could mean
but one thing. A body, nearly half the church, would prepare to leave,
and his supporters, having won, would suggest that it would be better
for David--who could not keep body and soul together on what the remnant
of a church could afford to pay him--and better for the church, that he
should resign and carry his triumph elsewhere.

Win or lose David was likely to lose, but until the final moment he did
not mean to back down. Had he felt himself in the wrong he would have
acknowledged it at once; had he been in the right, and no one but
himself concerned, he would have preached a farewell sermon and would
have departed. He remained and made the fight because he was loyal to
‘Thusia!

It was, indeed, ‘Thusia against whom the fight was being made, and it
was Ellen Hardcome to whom the whole miserable affair was due. It was
all brought about by a pair of black prunella gaiters.



VI. THE BLACK PRUNELLA GAITERS


SETH HARDCOME, while not an elder, was one of the most prominent men in
the church, and if anything could be said against him it was that he
was almost too upright. Men are intended, no doubt, to be more or less
miserable sinners, but Seth Hardcome was, to outward view, absolutely
irreproachable. He was in the shoe business on the main street. It is a
nice, clean business and does not call for much sweat of the brow (a boy
can be hired to open the cases) or necessitate rough clothes, and Seth
Hardcome was always clean, neat and suave. He was a gentleman, polite
and courteous. He sold the best shoe he could give for the money.
Among other boots, shoes and slippers he sold gaiters--then quite the
fashion--with prunella uppers and elastic gores at the sides. Most of
the ladies wore them.

‘Thusia needed new gaiters. David’s stipend was so small in those
days--it was never large--that, with the new baby, he had hard figuring
to avoid running into debt and ‘Thusia did her share in the matter of
economy. She had worn her old gaiters until they were hardly fit to
wear. The elastic had rotted and hung in warped folds; the gaiters had
been soled and resoled and the soles were again in holes; finally one of
the gaiters broke through at the side of the foot. ‘Thusia could not go
out of the house in such footwear and she asked David to stop at
Hardcome’s for a new pair. She wrote the size on a slip of paper.

“The black prunella gaiters, David; the same that I always get. Mr.
Hardcome will know,” she said.

David bought the gaiters. He handed Mr. Hardcome the slip of paper, and
Mr. Hardcome himself went to the shelves and selected the gaiters. He
wrapped them with his own hands. This was a Monday, and not until the
next Sunday did ‘Thusia have occasion to wear the gaiters. It was a day
following a rain, and the streets were awash with yellow mud. ‘Thusia
came home limping, her poor little toes crimped in the ends of the
gaiters.

“My poor, poor feet!” she cried. “David, I nearly died; I’m sure you
never preached so long in your life. Oh, I’ll be glad to get these off!”

She pulled off one of the offending gaiters and looked at the sole. The
size stamped on the sole was a size smaller than ‘Thusia wore. The
next day David returned the gaiters to Mr. Hardcome. Mr. Hardcome’s
professional smile fled as David explained. He shook his head
sorrowfully as he opened the parcel and looked at the shoes. There
was yellow clay on the heels and a spattering of yellow clay on the
prunella.

“Too bad!” said Mr. Hardcome, still shaking his head. “She’s worn them.”

“Yes; to church, yesterday,” David said. “I’m sorry,” said Mr. Hardcome,
and he really was sorry, “I can’t take them back. My one invariable
rule; boots or shoes I sometimes exchange, but gaiters never! After they
have been worn I cannot exchange gaiters.”

“But in this case,” said David, “when they were the wrong size? You
remember my wife herself wrote the size on a slip. It doesn’t seem, when
it was not her error--”

“That, of course,” said Mr. Hardcome with a sad smile, “we cannot know.
I am not likely to have made a mistake. Mrs. Dean should have tried the
shoes before she wore them.”

David did not argue. He had the average man’s reluctance to exchange
goods, particularly when soiled, and he bought and paid for another
pair, and nothing more might have come of it had ‘Thusia not happened to
know that old Mrs. Brown wore gaiters a size smaller than herself.

‘Thusia did not give the gaiters to Mrs. Brown without first having
tried to get Mr. Hardcome to take them back. She went herself. David’s
money must not be wasted if she could prevent it, and it is a fact that
when she left Mr. Hardcome’s store she left in something of a huff. She
cared nothing whatever for Mr. Hardcome’s rules, but she was angry to
think he should suggest that she had written the wrong size on the slip
of paper. Mr. Hardcome was cold and polite; he bowed her out of the
store as politely as he would have bowed out Mrs. Derling or any other
lady customer, but he was firm. It was natural enough that ‘Thusia
should tell the story to old Mrs. Brown when she gave her the gaiters.

From Mrs. Brown the story of the black prunella gaiters circulated from
one lady to another, changing form like a putty ball batted from hand
to hand, until it reached Mrs. Hardcome. One, or it may have been
two, Sundays later David, coming down from his pulpit, found Mr.
Hardcome--white-faced and nervous--waiting for him. Suspecting nothing
David held out his hand. Mr. Hardcome ignored it.

“If you have one minute, Mr. Dean,” he said in the hard voice of a man
who has been put up to something by his wife, “I would like to have a
word with you.”

“Why, certainly,” said David.

“It has come to my ears,” said Mr. Hardcome, “that your wife is
circulating a report that I am untruthful.”

David almost gasped with astonishment. He could not imagine ‘Thusia
doing any such thing.

“I do not hold you in any way responsible for what your wife may say
or do, Mr. Dean,” said Mr. Hardcome in the same hard voice. “I do not
believe for one moment that you have sanctioned any such slanderous
remarks. I have the utmost respect and affection for you, but I
tell you, Mr. Dean”--his voice shook with the anger he tried to
control--“that woman--your wife--must apologize! I will not have such
reports circulated about me! That is all. I merely expect you to do your
duty. If your wife will apologize I will do my duty as a Christian and
say no more about it.”

David, standing in amazement, chanced to look past Mr. Hardcome, and he
saw many of his congregation watching him. He had not the slightest idea
of what Mr. Hardcome was speaking, but he felt, with the quick intuition
of a sensitive man, that these others knew and were keen to catch his
attitude as he answered. He put his hand on Mr. Hardcome’s arm.

“This must be some mistake, Hardcome,” he said. “I have not a doubt it
can all be satisfactorily explained. My people are waiting for me now.
Can you come to the house to-night? After the sermon! That’s good!”

He let his hand slide down Mr. Hardcome’s sleeve and stepped forward,
extending his hand for the shaking of hands that always awaited him
after the service. Before he reached the door his brow was troubled.
Not a few seemed to yield their hands reluctantly; some had manifestly
hurried away to avoid him. ‘Thusia, always the center of a smiling
group, stood almost alone in the end of her pew. He saw Mrs. Hardcome
sweep past ‘Thusia without so much as a glance of recognition.

On the way home he spoke to ‘Thusia. She knew at once that the trouble
must be something about the black prunella gaiters.

“But, David,” she said, looking full into his eyes, “he is quite wrong
if he says I said anything about untruthfulness. I have never said
anything like that. I have never said anything about him or the gaiters
except to old Mrs. Brown. I did tell her I was quite sure I had written
the correct size on the slip of paper I gave you. But I never, never
said Mr. Hardcome was untruthful!”

“Then it will be very easily settled,” said David. “We will tell him
that when he comes to-night.”

Mr. Hardcome did not go to David’s alone. When David opened the door it
was quite a delegation he faced. Mrs. Hardcome was with her husband, and
old Sam Wiggett, Ned Long and James Cruser filed into the little parlor
behind them. David met them cheerfully. He placed chairs and stood with
his back to the door, his hands clasped behind him. ‘Thusia sat at one
side of the room. David smiled.

“I have spoken to my wife,” he said, “and--”

“If you will pardon me for one minute, Mr. Dean,” said Mrs. Hardcome,
interrupting him. “I do not wish to have any false impressions. I do not
want my husband blamed, if there is any blame. I want it understood that
I insisted that he ask for this apology. I am not the woman to have my
husband called a--called untruthful without doing something about it. It
is not for me to say that plenty of us thought you made a mistake when
you chose a wife, that is neither here nor there. A man marries as he
pleases. We don’t ask anything unreasonable. If Mrs. Dean will
apologize--”

Little ‘Thusia, her hands clasped tightly in her lap, looked up at David
with wistful eagerness. David, stern enough now, shook his head.

“I have spoken to my wife,” he said, “and I have her assurance that
she has never said anything whatever in the least reflecting on Mr.
Hardcome’s veracity. Neither she nor I can say more.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Hardcome in a shocked tone, glancing at her husband
as if to say: “So she is lying about this too!” Mr. Hardcome arose and
took up his hat.

“We came in a most forgiving spirit, Brother Dean, feeling sure, from
what you told me, that an apology would be given without quibble. We
wished to avoid all anger and quarreling. If we begin a dispute as to
what Mrs. Dean said or did not say we cannot tell what unpleasantness
may result. I am taking this stand not to protect myself, but to protect
others in our church who may be similarly attacked. We wish Mrs. Dean to
apologize.”

“Mrs. Dean cannot apologize for what she has not done.”

There was no mistaking David’s tone. If he was angry he hid his anger;
he was stating an unchangeable fact.

When he and ‘Thusia were alone again she cried in his arms; she told him
it would have been better if he had let her apologize--that she did not
care, she would rather apologize a thousand times than make trouble
for him--but David was firm. Old Sam Wiggett, on the way home, told the
Hardcomes they had been fools; that they had been offered all they had
a right to ask. It was not, however, his quarrel. Mrs. Hardcome was the
offended party, and Mrs. Hardcome would hear of nothing less than an
apology.

In a week or less the church was plunged into all the mean pettiness of
a church quarrel. The black prunella gaiters and the slip of paper with
the shoe size were, while not forgotten, almost lost in the slimy mass
of tattle and chatter. James Cruser in a day changed from a partisan of
the Hardcomes to a bitter enemy, because Mrs. MacDorty told Mrs. Cruser
that Mrs. Hardcome had said Mr. Cruser was trying to befriend both sides
and was double-faced. Ned Long, looming as the leader of the Hardcome
faction, told of a peculiar mortgage old James P. Wardop had--he
said--extorted from Widow Wilmot, and Mr. Wardop became the staunchest
supporter of David, although he had always said David was the worst
preacher a man ever sat under. It was--“and she’s a nice one to stick up
for the Deans when everybody knows”--and--“but what else can you expect
from a man like him, who was mean enough to”--and so on.

‘Thusia wept a great many tears when she was not with David. The quarrel
was like a wasp-like a nest of wasps. From whatever quarter a stinging
bit of maliciousness set out, and whoever it stung in its circling
course, it invariably ended at ‘Thusia’s door. In a short time the
affair had become a bitter factional quarrel. There were those who
supported Mr. Hardcome and those who supported Mr. Wardop, but the
fight became a battle to drive ‘Thusia out of Riverbank and the result
threatened to be the same, whichever side finally considered itself
beaten. Many would leave the church.

During those weeks David’s face became thin and drawn. Even the actions
of his closest friend, Dr. Benedict, hurt him, for Benedict refused
to remain neutral and became a raging partisan for David. The old
bachelor--while he never admitted it--adored ‘Thusia and since he
had been dubbed “Uncle” he considered her his daughter (a mixing of
relationships) and nothing ‘Thusia could do was wrong. He hurt David’s
cause by his violence. Even ‘Thusia’s own father, Mr. Fragg, was less
partisan. David tried to act as peacemaker, but soon the quarrel seemed
to have gone beyond any adjustment.

Mary Wiggett went home from her father’s office deeply hurt because her
father was uncompromisingly against David. Ellen Hardcome was delighted.
With old Sam Wiggett on her side she was sure of victory, and when she
left Mary she set about planning a final blow against David. She found
her husband in his shoe store and told him of the manner in which
old Wiggett had refused to help Mary. Together Ellen and her husband
discussed the best method of administering the _coup de grâce_.
Hardcome, being neither an elder nor a trustee, doubted the advisability
of forcing the matter immediately upon the attention of either body, for
he was not yet sure enough of them. The decision finally reached was to
ask for an unofficial meeting at which the opposition to David could
be crystallized--a meeting made up of enough prominent members of the
church to practically overawe any undecided elders and trustees. With
Sam Wiggett at the head of such a meeting no one could doubt the result.
David would have to go.

Hardcome’s first step was to see Sam Wiggett, for he desired, above all
else, to have Wiggett call the meeting. The stubborn old man refused.

“I’m with you,” he said. “That wife of Dean’s made all this trouble, but
I never sold her a shoe. You started this; call your own meeting.”

“You’ll attend!” asked Hardcome.

“Yes.”

“And may we make you chairman!”

“Yes.”

“There may be some there who will try to talk down any motion or
resolution we may want to pass--”

“You leave them to me!” said Wiggett.

Of the proposed meeting Mary knew nothing. She planned to run down to
see David and ‘Thusia after supper, although she had but faint hope of
inducing David to leave Riverbank for a “vacation” now that her father
had refused his aid. Wiggett, who still remained the head of his
household, although Mary and her husband were nominally in control,
ate his supper in grim silence and nothing was said about David or the
church affairs. Nor did Mary run down to the manse after supper as she
had planned. When the meal was half finished her nurse called her away
from the supper table to see her child, who was suddenly feverish and
“stopped up.” Mary did not return, and Derling, when he had ended his
meal, found her holding the little one in her arms.

“George,” she said, “I’m worried about baby. I’m afraid he’s sick. Touch
his cheek; see how hot he is. Go for Dr. Benedict. I’m frightened.”

“Benedict!” said Derling. “What do you want that fellow for! I won’t
have him in the house. I’ll get Martin. I won’t have Benedict, always
hanging about that dear dominie of yours!”

“He’s jealous!” thought Mary with a sudden inward gasp of surprise. She
bent forward and brushed the baby’s hair from the hot forehead. That
Derling could be jealous of David Dean had never occurred to Mary. Her
marriage had been so completely an alliance of fortune rather than of
love, and Derling had seemed so indifferent and lacking in affection,
that she had never even considered that jealousy might have a part in
his nature. Derling, she knew, conducted plenty of flirtations on his
own side; some were rather notorious affairs; but Mary was conscious of
never having overstepped the lines set for a good wife. She did not deny
to herself that she felt still a great affection for David, and she felt
that for David to leave Riverbank would be the greatest sorrow of her
life, but she had never imagined that Derling might think he had cause
for jealousy.

Derling was, however, like many men who are willing to flirt with
other women, an extremely jealous man. He was jealous of the time and
attention Mary gave the dominie. Derling had, therefore, thrown himself
into the ranks of the Hardcome adherents, and he had been one of those
who ran afoul of old Dr. Benedict’s keen tongue. Some of the advice
Benedict had given him would have done him good had he acted on it, but
it cut deep. The old doctor knew human nature and how to make it squirm.

“Benedict is so much better with children, George,” said Mary, looking
up. “He seems to work miracles, sometimes.”

“If he came in this house, I would throw him out,” said Derling. “I
won’t have him. That’s flat!”

“Well, get Martin then, but I _don’t_ have the faith in him I have in
Benedict,” Mary said.

Martin came. He said it was nothing, that the child had a croupy cold
and he left a powder for the fever and advised Mary what to do in case
the child got worse during the night. When he came the next day he
said the boy was much better. That evening Derling, sent downtown for
medicine, heard at the druggist’s that ‘Thusia’s child had diphtheria
and that there was a fresh outbreak of the disease in town. He drove
his horse home at a gallop and found Martin there, and Mary, white and
panic-stricken, wringing her hands. When the young doctor admitted that
the child had diphtheria Derling, in a rage, almost threw him out of
the house. A slight fever was one thing, the dread disease was quite
another, and he left Mary weeping, and lashed his horse in search of Dr.
Benedict.

The old doctor was not at home; Derling found him at David’s and
found him in a tearing rage. Mrs. Hardcome, hoping to force David’s
resignation, had just called to warn David that if he wished to protect
himself he must attend the meeting the next evening. Benedict was still
spluttering with anger and tramping up and down David’s little study,
when Derling found him.

“You!” he shouted. “Go to your house! I’d let you all rot first, the
whole lot of you. Go get your Martin, you called him quick enough.
I wouldn’t go if you got on your knees to me. You and your dog-faced
father-in-law and your Hardcomes, trying to drive this poor girl out of
town! If this was my house I’d throw you out. I will anyway! Get out!”

Poor Derling--harmless enough creature--did all but get on his knees.
He went away haggard, and looking twenty years older, to find some other
physician. He got Wagenheim, a poor substitute. In fact there was no
substitute for Benedict. It may have been that luck favored him, but the
old doctor seemed able to wrest children from the clutches of the awful
disease far oftener than other physicians. Derling felt that the angry
old doctor had condemned his son to death. With the witlessness of
a distracted man he tried to find Rose Hinch at her room on the main
street, thinking Rose might plead for him with Benedict. He might have
known Rose would be with ‘Thusia in such an hour of trial. He went home,
dreading to face Mary, and found Wagenheim doing what he could, which
was little enough. Mary was not there.

When Wagenheim came Mary had guessed that Derling had not got Benedict,
and she guessed why. She ran, half dressed and hatless as she was, all
the way to the manse. In her agony she still thought clearly; Benedict
would be there, and if he was not there David would be, and in
David--calm and faithful to all his people even when they turned against
him--she placed her hope. In the dark she could not find the bell and
she was fumbling at the door when it opened and ‘Thusia stood before
her, silhouetted against the light. With the impulse of one suffering
mother in the presence of another, Mary grasped ‘Thusia’s arms.

“‘Thusia!” she cried. “My boy is dying and Benedict won’t come. Can’t
you make him come? He knows, and he won’t come!”

‘Thusia drew back in horror.

“He knows? And he won’t go?” she exclaimed. “But Mary, he must
go! Why--why--but he must go, Mary! I don’t understand!
Benedict--won’t--go?”

She turned and flew to the study where Benedict had usurped David’s
easy-chair. She stood before him, one mother pleading for another. No
one but the three--Benedict and ‘Thusia and Mary--will ever know what
she said, but when she had said it old Benedict drew himself out of the
chair and went with Mary.

A week later little Davy, ‘Thusia’s child, died. Mary was more
fortunate; her boy recovered and although it was long before he was
strong again Mary treasured him all the more. Rose Hinch, her work at
David’s ended, went to her and for many weeks was like another mother to
the sick child.

But it was the night following old Benedict’s denunciation of Derling
and all the Hardcome clique that David Dean found a new supporter. The
meeting that was to end his stay in Riverbank was to be held in Ned
Long’s office and David went early, not to be accused of cowardice. He
left ‘Thusia and Rose with the boy, drove old Benedict away, and went
alone. He walked slowly, his head bowed and his hands clasped behind
him, for he had no hope left. It was so he came to the foot of Ned
Long’s office stairs and face to face with old Sam Wiggett standing in
the dark of the entry. He stopped short, for the bulky old man did not
move aside.

“Huh!” growled the old lumberman. “So it’s you, is it? What are you
doing here?”

“There’s a meeting--” David began.

“Meeting? No, by the eternal! there’s not going to be any meeting, now
nor ever! I’ll throw them out neck and crop; I’ll boot them out, but
there’ll be no meeting. Go home!” In the dark the heavy-jowled old
man scowled at the slender young dominie. Suddenly he put his hand on
David’s shoulder. “Dean--Dean--” he said; “you and that little wife of
yours--” That was all he could say. Mary’s boy, at home, was making the
awful struggle for life.

And there was no meeting. A month later Mr. and Mrs. Hardcome went to
the Episcopalians, and a half year later to the Congregationalists,
where they remained. There was a lull in the church quarrel during the
days when little Davy was sickest, and while David and ‘Thusia were in
the first cruel days of grief. There were but few bitter enough to wish
to take up the fight again against the sorrowing ‘Thusia. The quarrel
was buried with little Davy, for when David entered the pulpit again,
and the congregation waited to learn how their leaders would lead them,
the powerful man of the church decided for them. When David came down
from the pulpit old Sam Wiggett, stolid, heavy-faced and thick-necked,
waited for him at the head of the aisle and placed his arm around
David’s shoulders, and Mary Derling crossed the aisle and stood beside
‘Thusia Dean.

David had won.



VII. MACK


DAVID had won. Except for the defection of the Hardcomes--who left
behind them a feeling that they were trouble-makers and were not greatly
regretted--the church continued its even tenor. It must always be a
question, however, whether David would not have done better by losing.
Riverbank grew in population, as shown by the census, but the growth was
not one to prosper the Presbyterian Church at Riverbank. The sawmills
brought nearly all the newcomers--immigrants from Germany almost
entirely--and these had their own churches. The increase in population
offered little material with which to build up David’s congregation.

At that time but few farmers, grown wealthy, moved into town. The town
hardly realized, until the lumber business died, how contracted was
the circle of its industries. The few men of wealth were all
firmly affiliated with one church or another--as were also all the
well-to-do--and, with no available new blood, it was inevitable that the
numbers in the existing churches should remain almost stationary.

Liberality was not a trait of the wealthy of Riverbank at that day. Like
old Sam Wiggett, those with money had had their hard grubbing at first
and knew almost too well the value of a dollar. The ministers of the
various churches in Riverbank were paid but paltry sums and their
salaries were often in arrears.

Had David lost his fight and been driven from Riverbank he might, and
probably would, have gone far. He preached well and was still young.
It is hardly possible that he would have felt for a new church the
affection he felt for the church at Riverbank, and he might have gone
from church to church until he was in some excellent metropolitan
pulpit. For Riverbank he felt, coming here so young, something of the
affection of a man for his birthplace.

In the years following the church quarrel David began to feel the pinch
of an inadequate remuneration. After little Roger was born ‘Thusia was,
for a year, more or less of an invalid, and a maid was a necessity. The
additional drains on David’s income, slight as they were, meant real
hardship when he had with difficulty kept out of debt before. Two
years later little Alice was born, and ‘Thusia was kept to her bed, an
invalid, longer than before. They were sad days for David. For a month
‘Thusia hung between life and death, and Mary Derling and Rose Hinch,
with old Dr. Benedict, spared neither time nor affection.

Rose Hinch put aside all remunerative calls and nursed ‘Thusia night
and day. Dr. Benedict was equally faithful, and the women of David’s
congregation deluged the manse with jellies, flowers, bowls of “floating
island” and other dainties, but when ‘Thusia was up and about again
David faced a debt of nearly three hundred dollars. As soon as ‘Thusia
was able to stand the strain the church gave David a donation party.
Pickles and preserves predominated, but a purse made a part of the
donation and left David only some hundred and seventy or eighty dollars
in debt.

This is no great sum nor did any of his creditors press him unduly for
payment. His bills were small and scattered. He tried to pay them, but
in spite of ‘Thusia’s greatest efforts each salary period saw an
unpaid balance seldom smaller, and sometimes slightly greater, than
the original debt. This debt worried David and ‘Thusia far more than it
worried his creditors--who worried not at all--but before long it seemed
to become, as such things do, a part of life. David’s bills, paid at one
end and increased at the other, were never over three months in arrears.
In Riverbank at that day this was considered unusually prompt pay.
Accounts were usually rendered once a year. But the debt was always
there.

The year her boy was three Mary Derling divorced her husband. For some
time one of Derling’s flirtations had been more serious than Mary had
imagined. When she heard the truth she talked the matter over calmly
with her father and her husband. All three were of one mind. Derling’s
father had consistently refused to give the son money and Sam Wiggett
had again and again put his hand in his pocket to make good sums lost
by Derling in ill-considered business ventures. The truth was that
Derling’s flirtations were costing too much, and he spent more than he
could afford. Wiggett, to be rid of this constant drain, gave Derling a
good lump sum and Mary kept the child. The divorce was granted quietly,
no one knowing anything about it until it was all over. There was
no scandal whatever. Derling went back to Derlingport and was soon
forgotten, and Mary resumed her maiden name. More than ever, now, she
took part in David’s work, and her purse was always at his service for
his works of charity. David, Rose Hinch and Mary were a triumvirate
working together for the good.

At thirty-seven Dominie Dean was as fully a man as he ever would be. He
was fated to cling always to his boyish optimism; never to age into a
heavily authoritative head of a flock, with a smooth paunch over which
to pass a plump hand as if blessing a satisfactory digestive apparatus.
To the last day of his life he remained youthfully slender, and his
clear gray eyes and curly hair, even when the latter turned gray,
suggested something boyish.

It is inevitable that fifteen years of ministry shall either make or mar
the man inside the minister. David Dean had ripened without drying into
a hack of church routine. At thirty he had, without being aware of the
fact, entered a new period of his ministry, and at thirty-seven, like
a pilot who knows his ship, he was no longer prone to excitement over
small difficulties. If he was no longer a flash of fire, he was a
steadier flame.

In fifteen years David had come to love Riverbank, even to having
a half-quizzical and smilingly philosophical love for the Wiggetts,
Grims-bys and others who had once been thorns in his flesh. Their simple
closefistedness, generosity based on ambition and transparent, harmless,
hypocrisy were, after all, human traits, and while not exactly pleasant
neither more nor less than part of the world in which David had his work
to do. Wherever one went, or whatever work one undertook, there were
Wiggetts and Hardcomes and Grimsbys. They were part of life. They
were irritants, but it rested with David whether he should feel their
irritation as a scratch or a tickle. Until he was thirty he had often
smarted; now he smiled.

In the self-centered little town there were good people and bad and, as
is the case everywhere, fewer actively vicious than we are pleased to
assume. David cherished a philosophy of pity for these. If old Wiggett
had so much good in him, and ‘Thusia, who was now as faithful a wife
and mother as Riverbank could boast, had once been on the verge of being
cold-shouldered into a life of triviality, if not of shame, no doubt all
these others, if they had been properly guided in the beginning, might
have been as normal as old Mrs. Grelling, or the absolutely colorless
Mr. Prell. With all this willingness to make allowances for the sinner,
David had a hard, uncompromising, Presbyterian hatred for the sin. In
one of his sermons he put it thus: “To sin is human; the sin is of
the devil.” It was in this spirit David began his long fight against
Mac-dougal Graham’s personal devil.

When David Dean came to Riverbank Mack Graham had been a bright-eyed,
saucy, curly-haired little fellow of five or six; a “why!” sort of
boy--“Why do you wear a white necktie? Why do you have to stand in the
pulpit! Why did Mr. Wiggett get up and go out! Why’s that horse standing
on three legs!” Certain ladies of the church made a great pet of Mack
and helped spoil him, for he was as handsome as he was saucy. An only
son, born late in his parents’ lives, they prepared the way for his
disgrace. It may be well enough, as Emerson advises, to “cast the
bantling on the rocks,” but leaving an only son to his own devices on
the theory that he is the finest boy in creation and can do no wrong
does not work out as well. At nineteen Mack was wild, unruly and
drinking himself to ruin.

David’s first knowledge of the state into which Mack had fallen came
from ‘Thusia. There had been one of those periodical church squabbles
in which the elder members had locked horns with the younger and more
progressive over some unimportant question that had rapidly grown
vital, and David had, for a while, been busy impoverishing the little
conflagration so that it might burn out the more quickly. The church was
subject to these little affairs. In the fifteen years of his ministry
David had seen the church change slowly as a natural result of children
reaching maturity, and the passing of the aged. Some, who liked David’s
sermons left other churches and joined the congregation, and there were
a few accretions of newcomers, but from the first the older members had
resented any interference with their management on the part of new and
younger members. A change in the choir, an effort to have the dingy
interior of the church redecorated, any one of a thousand petty matters
would, if suggested by the newer members, throw the older men into a
line of battle.

It was, in a way, a quarrelsome church. It was, indeed, not only in
Riverbank but throughout the country, a quarrelsome time. The first
rills of broader doctrine were beginning to permeate the hot rock of
petrified religion and where they met there was sure to be steam and
boiling water and discomfort for the minister, whether he held with one
side or the other, or tried to be neutral. The Riverbank church, because
of the conservatism of the older members, was particularly prone to
petty quarrels, and this was one of David’s greatest distresses. At
heart he was with those who favored the broader view, but he was able to
appreciate the fond jealousy of the older men and women for old thoughts
and ways.

It was after one of these quarrels, when he had found himself unduly
busied healing wounds, that ‘Thusia came running across from the
Mannings’, opposite the manse, and tapped on David’s study door.

“Yes! Come in!” he said.

“David! It’s Mack--Mack Graham--he is drunk!”

“Mack drunk!” David cried, for he could not believe he had heard aright.
“Not our Mack!”

David, his lanky form slid down in his great chair so that he was
sitting on the small of his back, had been thinking over his sermon for
the next Sunday. No one could sit in David’s great chair without sliding
down and down and down into comfort or into extreme discomfort. It had
taken David a long time to become part of the chair, so that he could
feel the comfort of utter relaxation of body it demanded. In time the
chair grew to be a part of the David we all knew. Those of us who knew
him best can never forget him as he was when he sat in that old chair,
his feet on the floor, his knees almost as high as his chin, his hands
loosely folded over his waist, so that his thin, expressive thumbs could
tap together in, emphasis as he talked, and his head forward so that
his chin rested on the bosom of his shirt. Slumped down like this in
the great chair, he talked to us of things we talked of nowhere else. We
could talk religion with David when he was in his chair quite as if it
were an interesting subject. Many of us can remember his smile as he
listened to our feeble objections to his logic, or how he ran his hand
through his curls and tossed one knee on top of the other when it was
time to bring the full battery of his mind against us. It was while
slumped into his great chair that David had most of his famous word
battles with old Doc Benedict, and there, his fine brow creased, he
listened when Rose Hinch told of someone in need or in trouble. When we
happened in and David was out and we waited for him in his study that
chair was the _emptiest_ chair man ever saw in the world. The hollows
of the threadbare old green rep always seemed to hunger for David as no
other chair ever hungered for any other man. No other man or woman ever
fitted the chair. I always felt like an overturned turtle in it, with my
neck vainly trying to get my head above the engulfing hollow. Only David
and little children felt comfortable in the chair, for in it little
children--David’s own or others--could curl up as comfortably as a
kitten in a rug.

It was out of this chair David scrambled, full of fight, when ‘Thusia
brought him the news that Mack was drunk.

What ‘Thusia had to tell David was clear enough and sad enough. From
his great chair, when David raised his eyes, he could see the Mannings’
house across the way, white with green blinds, cool in the afternoon
shadows. Sometimes Amy Manning and sometimes her mother and sometimes
both sat on the porch, busied with the trifles of needlework women love.
It was always a pleasant picture, the house framed between the trunks
of two great maples, the lawn crisply cut and mottled with sunshine and
shadow, and at one side of the house a spot of geranium glowing red in
the sun with, at the other side, a mass of shrubbery against which a
foliage border of red and green fell, in the afternoons, just within the
shadow and had all the quality of rich Italian brocade.

Sometimes ‘Thusia would run across to visit a few minutes with Amy
Manning, and sometimes Amy--her needlework gathered in her apron--would
come running across to sit awhile with ‘Thusia. The two were very fond.
‘Thusia had reached the age when she was always humorously complaining
about having to let out the seams of her last year’s dresses, and
Amy was hardly more than a girl, but propinquity or some contrast or
similarity of disposition had made them the best of friends. Perhaps
‘Thusia had never lost all her girlish qualities, and certainly Amy
had been something of a woman even as a child. For all the years that
divided them they were more nearly of an age than many who reckoned from
the same birth year. Such friendships are far from rare and are often
the best and most lasting.

David had seen Amy grow; had seen her fall bumping--a little ball of
white--down the Manning porch steps and had heard (and still heard)
the low-voiced and long lasting farewells she and Mack exchanged at
the Mannings’ gate, young love making the most of itself, and making
a twenty-four hour tragedy out of a parting. The girl had been tall at
fourteen and even then had certain womanly gestures and manners. She had
always been a sweet girl, frank, gentle, even-tem-pered, with clear eyes
showing she had a good brain back of their blue. She was always, as
the saying is in Riverbank, “interested in church.” Her religion was
something real and vital. She accepted her faith in full and lived it,
not bothering with the artificial agonies of soul that some youngsters
find necessary. From a girl of this kind she had grown into a young
woman, calm, clean, sterling. She had a healthy love of pleasure in any
of the unforbidden forms, and, before Mack Graham slipped a ring on her
finger, she liked to have half a dozen young whipper-snappers showing
attention, quite like any other girl. She even liked, after that, to see
that two or three of the whipper-snappers were jealous of Mack.

Mack was never jealous and could not be. He was one of the laughing,
conquering hero kind. Amy was his from the moment he decided she was the
finest girl in the world; he never considered any rival worth a worry.
In olden days he would have been a carefree, swashbuckling D’Artagnan
sort of fellow, and this, in nose-to-grindstone Riverbank, made him a
great favorite and it led him to consort with a set of young fellows of
the gayer sort with whom he learned to crook his elbow over a bar and
continue to crook it until the alcohol had tainted his blood and set up
its imperative cry for more. When David took up the fight for Mack this
alcohol yearning had become well intrenched, and the conquering hero
trait in the young fellow’s character made the fight doubly hard, for
Mack--more than any man I have ever known--believed in himself and that
he could “stop off short” whenever he really wished.

The thing that, more than all else, kept Mack from rapid ruin was his
engagement. Love has a certain power, and there are some men it will
reform or hold from evil, but it could not hold Mack. The yearning for
alcohol had found its place in his system before Amy had found her place
in his heart. The very night of his engagement was celebrated in Dan
Reilly’s; Amy’s kiss was hardly dry on his lips before he moistened them
with whisky, and it probably never occurred to him that he was doing
wrong. Before he had received all the congratulations that were pushed
over the bar, however, he was sickeningly intoxicated. Amy’s father,
returning home from a late session with a trial balance, ran across Mack
and two of his companions swaying perilously on the curb of Main Street,
each maudlinly insisting that he was sober and should see the other two
safely home. It was ridiculous and laughable, but Mr. Manning did not
laugh; he knew Amy was more than fond of Mack. He told Amy about Mack
before she had a good opportunity to tell him of her engagement. This
was the next morning.

Mack, of course, came to see Amy that evening. In spite of a full day
spent in trying to remove the traces of the night’s spree he showed
evidences that he had taken one or two drinks to steady his nerves
before seeing Amy. He was a little too hilarious when he met her at the
door, not offensive, but too talkative. It was a cruel position for the
girl. She loved Mack and loved him tremendously, but she had more than
common sense. She knew she had but one life to live, and she had set her
ideals of happiness long before. A drunken husband was not one of them.

She talked to Mack. She did not have, to help her, an older woman’s
experience of the world, and she had against her the love that urged
her to throw herself in Mack’s arms and weep away the seriousness of the
affair. She had against her, too--for it was against her with a man like
Mack--her overflowing religious eagerness which would have led another
girl to press the church and prayer upon him as a cure. No doubt it was
a strange conglomeration of love, religion and common sense she gave
him, but the steel frame of it all was that she could not marry a man
who drank. She left no doubt of that.

“Why, that’s all right, Amy, that’s all right!” Mack said. “I’ll quit
the stuff. I can quit whenever I want to. Last night I just happened to
meet the boys and I was feeling happy--say, no fellow ever had a bigger
right to feel happy!--and maybe I took one or two too many. No more for
little Mack!”

They left it that way and went into the dining room, where Mr. and Mrs.
Manning were, to announce the engagement formally. It was two months
before Mack toppled again. This was the first ‘Thusia and David knew of
it. ‘Thusia and Amy had been sitting on the Mannings’ porch when
Mack came up. Anyone would have known he was intoxicated, he was so
intoxicated he swayed. He talked, but his lips refused to fully form the
words he tried to use. He had come up, he said, to convince the little
rascal--meaning Amy--that it was all nonsense not to be married right
away. When he tried to say “nonsense” he said, “nom-nom-nomsemse, all
nomsemse.”

“Mack and I want to have a talk, ‘Thusia,” Amy said, and ‘Thusia
gathered up her sewing and fled to David.

When ‘Thusia had told David all she knew, David walked to the window,
his thin hands clasped behind his back, and looked across toward the
Mannings’. Amy had taken Mack into the house to hide his shame from
chance passers-by. For several minutes David stood at the window while
‘Thusia waited. He turned at last.

“It is my fault,” he said. “I should have thought of him.”

That was like David Dean. His shoulders were always overloaded with
others’ burdens, and it was like David to blame himself for having
overlooked one burden more.



VIII. THE GREATER GOOD


MACK was not the only weak creature David was trying to help.
Helpfulness was his life. I do not want you to think of David as eager
for overwork, or as eager for greater burdens. He was always loaded down
with others’ fights against poverty, passion and sin because something
within him always said: “This is one case in which you can be of actual
help.” Before he was aware he would be enlisted in these individual
battles, with all the close personal details that made them living
sorrows.

Inside the broad fight the church was making to strengthen character and
maintain morality these individual battles were fought. How could David
stand aloof from the battle of old Mrs. Miggs against poverty, with her
penchant for spending the alms she received for flummery dress; or
from the battle of old Wickham Reid against his insane inclination to
suicide; or from the battles of all the backsliders of one kind and
another; or from the battle of the Rathgebers against starvation; the
battle of young Ross Baldwin against the trains of thought that were
urging him to unbelief; or all the battles against alcohol! These were
lame dogs David was helping over stiles. There were battles David won in
an hour; there were other battles that lengthened into sieges, where sin
and sinners “dug in” and struggled for years.

In some of these ‘Thusia could help David, and she did help, most
willingly, but ‘Thusia had her own battles. Like most ministers’ wives
she had a constant battle to make David’s inadequate salary meet the
household expenses. When, after one of the usual church quarrels, those
in favor of putting the choir in surplices won, ‘Thusia was sorry she
was not in the choir; her worn Sunday gown would not then be a weekly
humiliation. Her hats, poor things! were problems as difficult to
finance as a war. The grocer’s bill was a monthly catastrophe; “the
wood is low again, David,” was an announcement ‘Thusia felt was almost
unkind. She spent five times as long turning a dress that was no
pleasure after it was turned than she should have had to spend getting
a new one. The lack of a few dollars to “do with” is the greatest waster
of a faithful home-keeper’s time.

The hope of a call to a church that will pay enough to supply those few
dollars is one many ministers’ wives cherish.

David picked up his hat and waited on his own porch until he saw Mack
come from the Mannings’ door; then he crossed the street.

“‘Lo, dominie!” Mack said unsteadily. “Little girl’s been giving me Hail
Columbia. She’s all right, dominie; fine little girl. I’m ashamed of
myself. Told you so, didn’t I, little girl?”

David put his hand on Mack’s shoulder.

“She _is_ a fine girl, Mack,” he said. “There’s no finer girl in America
than Amy. Suppose we take a walk, Mack, a good long walk out into
the country and tell each other just how fine Amy is.” Mack smiled
knowingly. He put a hand on David’s shoulder, so that the two men stood
like some living statue of “United we stand.”

“Couldn’t tell all about how fine a little girl she is in _one_ walk,”
 he said.

“Come!” said David.

He put his arm through Mack’s, and thus he led him away. The assistance
was necessary, for Mack was drunker than he had seemed. David led him to
the country roads by the shortest route, that passing the cemetery, and
when they were beyond the town he walked Mack hard. He let Mack do the
talking and kept him talking of Amy, for of what would a lover, drunk
or sober, rather talk than of his sweetheart! It was dark and long past
David’s supper hour when they reached the town again, and David drew
Mack into the manse for a “bite.” After they had eaten he led him into
the study.

Mack was well past the unpleasant stage of his intoxication now, and
with ‘Thusia sewing in her little, low rocker and Mack in a comfortable
chair and David slumped down in his own great chair, they talked of Amy
and of a hundred things David knew how to make interesting. It was ten
when ‘Thusia bade them good-night and went out of the study.

“The Mannings are still up,” said David, and Mack turned and looked out
of the window.

“God, but I am a beast!” said Mack.

“You are worse than that, Mack, because you are a man,” said David.

“Yes, I’m worse than a beast,” said Mack. He meant it. David, deep in
his chair, his eyes on Mack’s face, tapped his thumbs slowly together.

“Mack,” he asked, “just how much of a hold has this drink got on you!”

“Oh, I can stop any time I--”

“Yes, so can Doc Benedict,” said David. “He stops whenever he has had
his periodical and his nerves stop their howling for the alcohol. I
don’t mean that, Mack. Just how insistent is the wish for the stuff,
when you haven’t had it for a while, if it makes you forget Amy as you
did to-day!”

“Well, it is pretty insistent,” Mack admitted. “I don’t mean to get
the way I was this afternoon, dominie. Something starts me and I keep
going.”

David’s thumbs tapped more and more slowly.

“You still have the eyes of a man, Mack,” he said, “and you are still
able to look me in the eyes like a man, Mack,” he said. “We ought to be
able to beat this thing. Now go over and say good-night to Amy. She’ll
sleep better for seeing you as you are now.”

The next day David learned more, and so did ‘Thusia. What David learned
was that the two months that had elapsed between Mack’s engagement spree
and his next was the longest period the young fellow had been sober for
some time, and that Mack had already been docketed in the minds of those
who knew him best as a hard and reckless drinker. It meant the fight
would be harder and longer than David had hoped. What ‘Thusia learned
was that Amy had had a long talk with Mack after he had left David.

“She did not tell him, David, but she told me, that she could not marry
him if he let this happen. She can’t marry a drunkard; no one would want
her to; but if she throws him over he will be gone, David. She’ll give
him his chance, and she will help us--or let us help her--but when she
is sure he is beyond help she will send him away. And when she sends him
away--”

“If she sends him away one great influence will be lost,” said David.
“She must not send him away.”

“If he comes to her drunk again,” said ‘Thusia, as one who has saved the
worst tidings until last, “she will have no more to do with him.”

In less than a week Mack fell again, and Amy, her heart well-nigh
broken, gave him back his ring, and ended the engagement. Then, indeed,
began the hardest fight David ever made for a man against that man’s
self. There were nights when David walked the streets with Mack until
the youth fell asleep as he walked, and days when Mack lay half stupid
in David’s great chair while the dominie scribbled his sermon notes at
the desk beneath the spatter-work motto: “Keep an even mind under all
circumstances.” Often David and old Doc Benedict sat in the same study
and discussed Mack. David from the stand of one who wanted to save the
young fellow, and Benedict as one who knew the alcohol because it had
conquered him.

“Now, in my case,” the doctor would say, quite as if he were discussing
another person; and, “but on the other hand I had this gnawing pain in
my stomach, while--” and so on.

There were weeks when David felt he was making great progress and other
weeks when he felt he was not holding his own, and some frightful weeks
when Mack threw everything aside and plunged into unbridled dissipation.
The periods after these sprees were deceptive. During them Mack seemed
to want no liquor and vaunted his strength of will. He boasted he would
never touch another drop.

There were also periods of overwhelming defeat, and periods when Mack
was never drunk but never sober. Little by little, however, David felt
he was making progress. It was slow and there were no “Cures” to work
a sudden change, as there are now, but under the tottering structure of
Mack’s will David was slowly building a foundation of serious thought.
Mack was changing. His dangerous and illusive bravado was bit by bit
yielding to a desire to do what David wished.

It was slow work. Rather by instinct than by logic David saw that to
save Mack he must make Mack like him better than he liked anyone in
Riverbank. Our David had none of that burly magnetism that draws men in
a moment; those of us who liked him best were those who had known him
longest, and he was not the man a youth like Mack would instinctively
choose as a dearest friend and most frequent companion. In David’s mind
the idea probably formed itself thus: “I must make Mack come to me as
often as possible,” and, “Mack won’t come unless he likes me.” He set
about making Mack like him, and making him like ‘Thusia and little Roger
and baby Alice, and making him like the manse and all that was in it.
With Amy turning her face from Mack, and Mack’s mother varying between
shrewish scolding and maudlin tears, and Mack’s father wielding no
weapon but a threat of disinheritance, it became necessary that Mack
should have someone he wished to please, someone he liked and respected
and wished to please more than he wished to please his insistent nerves.
Each touch of eagerness added to Mack’s face as he came up the manse
walk David counted a gain.

And ‘Thusia, beside what she did for Mack in making Mack love the manse
and all those in it, worked with Amy and kept alive the flame of her
love.

They were dear people, our Dominie Davy and his wife. In time little
Roger became as eager to see Mack as Mack was to see David, and Mack
became “Ungel Mack” to the child. The boy would climb the gate and cry,
“Here cometh Ungel Mack!” with all the eagerness of joyful childhood.
Sometimes when Mack was drunk, but not too drunk, David would lead Roger
into the study, and the boy would say, “Poor Ungel Mack, you thick?” It
all helped.

Together Mack and David made the fight. Amy, according to her light,
did her part, too. She never fled from David’s little porch when she
happened to be there and saw Mack coming up the street. She always gave
Mack her hand in frank and friendly manner. She did not let the other
young fellows pay her attentions. It was as if Mack had never courted
her; as if they were bound by a friendship that had never ripened into
anything warmer but that might some day. Mack was fine about it; eager
as he was to have Amy he held himself in check. Eventually it was a
great thing for them both; it was as if they were living the difficult
“getting acquainted” year that follows the honeymoon before the
honeymoon itself. They got to know each other better, perhaps, than any
Riverbank lovers had ever known one another.

It was one Sunday afternoon during this stage of Mack’s fight, while
Mack and ‘Thusia and Amy were on the porch and David taking his
between-sermon nap in his great chair, that the great opportunity
came to David’s door. It came in the form of a man of sixty years,
silk-hatted and frock-coated. He walked slowly up the street from the
direction of the town, and when he reached David’s gate he paused and
read the number painted on the riser of the porch step, opened the gate
and entered. He removed his hat and extended his hand to ‘Thusia.

“You are Mrs. Dean, I know,” he said, smiling. “My name is Benton, and I
don’t think you know me. Mr. Dean is in?”

There were many men of many kinds came to David’s door from one end of
a year to the other, but never had a man come whose face so quickened
‘Thusia’s heart. It was a strongly modeled face and gave an impression
of power. The nose was too large and the lips were too large, so were
the brows, so were all the features. It was a face that was too large
for itself, it left no room for the eyes, which had to peer out as best
they could from between the brows that crowded them from above, and the
cheekbones that crowded them from below, but they were kind, keen, sane
eyes; they were even twinkling eyes. The man was rather too stout and
his skin was coarse-pored, almost as if pitted. ‘Thusia had never seen
a homelier man, and yet she liked him from the moment he spoke. It was
partly his voice, full, soft and, in some way, satisfying. She felt he
was a big man and a good man and an honest man.

“Yes, Mr. Dean is in,” she said. “I think he is napping. If you will
just rest a minute until I see--”

David, as was his habit when his visitors were unknown to him, came
to the door. ‘Thusia slipped into the kitchen. The day was hot and
Mr. Benton was hot, and there were lemons and ice in the refrigerator,
perhaps a pitcher of lemonade all ready to serve with thin cakes.

“Mr. Benton, my wife said, I think!” asked David. “Shall we sit out here
or go inside!”

“Might go inside,” said the visitor, and David led the way into the
study. Mr. Benton placed his hat on the floor beside the chair David
placed for him, unbuttoned his coat and breathed deeply.

“Quite a hill you are perched on here,” he said. “Fat man’s misery on a
day like this. I suppose you saw me in church this morning!”

“Yes. I tried to reach you after the service, but you slipped out.”

“I ran away,” admitted Mr. Benton. “I wanted to think that sermon over
and cool down after it. It was a good sermon.”

David waited.

“I’m a lawyer,” said Mr. Benton, “and I’m cracked up as quite an orator
in one way and another, and I know that some of the things that sound
best hot from the lips don’t amount to so much an hour later. That was
a good sermon, then and now! It was a remarkable sermon. I want you
to come to Chicago and preach that same sermon to us in the Boulevard
Church next Sunday, Mr. Dean.”

David, in his great chair, tapped his thumbs together and looked at Mr.
Benton. He was trying to keep an even mind under circumstances that made
his pulse beat almost wildly.

“You know now, as well as you ever will, why I’m here, I think,” said
Mr. Benton. “We are looking for the right man for our church, and I came
here to hear you. I think you are the man we want. I can almost say
that if you preach as well for us next Sunday as you did to-day we will
hardly dare let you come back for your household goods. Matter of fact,
the man I select is the man we want.”

“I know the church,” said David slowly. “It is a splendid church.”

“It _is_ a good church,” said Mr. Benton. “It is a strong church and
a large church. It is a church that needs a young man and a church in
which you will have opportunity for the greater good a man such as you
always desires. I jotted down a few figures and so on--”

Holding the paper in his hand Mr. Benton read the figures; figures of
membership, average attendance morning and evening, stipend, growth,
details even to the number of rooms in the manse and what the rooms
were.

“The church pays the salary of the secretary,” he added.

David’s thumbs were pressed close together. His mind passed in rapid
review the patched breeches little Roger wore during the week, the
pitiful hat ‘Thusia tried to make respectable, her oft-remodeled gowns.
It was comfort to the verge of luxury Mr. Benton was offering, as
compared with Riverbank. It was more than this: it was a broader field,
a greater chance.

Slumped down in his great chair, his eyes closed, David thought. It
would mean freedom from the petty quarrels that vexed the church at
Riverbank; it would mean freedom from cares of money. Out of the liberal
stipend Mr. Benton had mentioned they might even put aside a goodly bit.
It would mean he could start anew with a clean slate and be rid of the
stupid interference of all the Hardcome and Grimsby tribe. ‘Thusia would
be with him, and Rose Hinch--who had become, in a way, a lay sister of
good works, helping him with his charities--could be induced to follow
him. Then he thought of old Mrs. Miggs, and of Wickham Reid, of the
Rathgebers and Ross Baldwin, and all those whose fight he was fighting
in Riverbank. And Mack! What would become of Mack!

Through the window he heard the voices of Mack and Amy.

“It is quite unexpected,” David said, opening his eyes. “I’ll have
to--you have no objection to my speaking to my wife?”

The tinkling of ice in a pitcher sounded at the door.

“By all means, speak to her,” said Mr. Benton, and as ‘Thusia tapped
David arose and opened the door. ‘Thusia entered.

“‘Thusia,” David said, “Brother Benton is from the Boulevard Church
in Chicago. He wants me to preach there next Sabbath and, if the
congregation is satisfied, I may be offered the pulpit.” The color
slowly mounted from ‘Thusia’s throat to her brow. She stood holding the
small tin tray, and the glasses trembled against the pitcher. It did not
need the figures Mr. Benton reread to tell ‘Thusia all the opportunity
meant. Mr. Benton ceased, and still ‘Thusia stood holding the tray. Her
eyes left Mr. Benton’s uncouth face and found David’s eyes.

“It--it’s wonderful, David,” she said steadily, “but of course there’s
Mack--and Amy!”

So Mr. Benton and the great opportunity went back to Chicago, after a
sip or two of ‘Thusia’s lemonade, and David dropped back into his great
chair and his old life of helpfulness, and ‘Thusia went out on the porch
and smiled at Amy, and they all had lemonade.

From the day Mr. Benton entered David’s door Mack never touched the
liquor again. It was a year before Amy felt sure enough to let him slip
the ring on her finger again, but it was as if David’s sacrifice had
worked the final cure. Perhaps it did. Perhaps Mack, hearing, as all of
us did, of the great chance David had put aside, guessed what none of us
guessed--that it was for him David remained in Riverbank. Perhaps that
was why, when our church wanted to throw David aside in his old age like
a worn-out shoe, Mack Graham fought so hard and successfully to secure
for David the honorary title and the pittance.



IX. LUCILLE HARDCOME


IN spite of all his efforts David could not shake off his pitiful little
burden of debt. After little Alice ‘Thusia bore him two more children;
they died before the month, and the last left ‘Thusia an invalid, and
even Doctor Benedict lacked the skill to aid her. A maid--hired girl,
we called them in Riverbank--became a necessity. The church did what it
thought it could, gave David a few more dollars yearly, and sympathized
with him.

To David the misfortune of ‘Thusia’s invalidism came so gradually
that he felt the weight of it bit by bit and not as a single great
catastrophe. She was “not herself” and then “not quite well” and then,
before he was fully aware, he was happy when she had a “good” day.

‘Thusia did not complain. With her whole heart she wished she was well
and strong, but she did not allow her troubles to sour her mind or
heart. Mary Derling and Rose Hinch came oftener to see her. ‘Thusia,
unable to do her own housework, had more time to use her hands. Once,
when some petty bill worried David, she asked if she could not take
in sewing, but David would not hear of it. There are some things a
dominie’s wife cannot be allowed to do to help her husband. About this
time ‘Thusia did much sewing for the poor, who probably worried less
over their finances than David worried over his, and who, as likely as
not, criticized the stitches ‘Thusia took with such loving good will.

David was then a fine figure of a man in the forties. Always slender, he
reached his greatest weight then; a little later worry and work wore
him down again. If his kindly cheerfulness was at all forced we never
guessed it. He was the same big-hearted, friendly Davy he had always
been, better because more mature. As a preacher he was then at his best.
It was at this time Lucille Hardcome’s life first brought her in touch
with David.

Lucille was a widow. Seth Hardcome and his wife, Ellen, had long since
left our church in a huff, going to another congregation and staying
there. Lucille was, in some sort, Seth’s cousin-in-law, however that may
be. She came to Riverbank jingling golden bracelets and rustling silken
garments, and for a while attended services with Seth and his wife, but
something did not suit her and she came to us. We counted her a great
acquisition, for she had taken the old Ware house on the hill--one of
the few big “mansions” the town boasted.

In a few weeks after her arrival Lucille Hardcome was well known in
Riverbank. She had money. Her husband--and Riverbank never knew anything
else about him---had been an old man when she married him. He had died
within the year. No doubt, having had that length of time in which to
become acquainted with Lucille’s vagaries, he was willing enough to
go his way. Within a month after she had installed herself in the Ware
house Lucille had her “hired man”--they were not called “coachmen”
 until Lucille came to Riverbank--and a fine team of blacks. Her low-hung
carriage was for many years thereafter a common sight in Riverbank. As
Lucille furnished it her house seemed to us palatial in its elegance.
It overpowered those who saw its interior; she certainly managed to get
everything into the rooms that they would hold--even to a grand piano
and a huge gilded harp on which she played with a great show of plump
arms. All this mass of furnishings and bric-à-brac was without taste,
but to Riverbank it was impressive. She had, I remember, a huge cuckoo
clock she had bought in Switzerland, but which, being of unvarnished
wood, did not suit her taste, so she had it gilded, and hung it against
a plaque of maroon velvet. She painted a little, on china, on velvet and
on canvas, and her rooms soon held a hundred examples of her work, all
bad. Unless you were nearsighted, however, you could tell her roses from
her landscapes even from across the room, for she painted large. It was
the day of china plaques, and Lucille had the largest china plaque in
Riverbank. It was three feet across. It was much coveted.

On her body she crowded clothes as she crowded her house with
furnishings. She was permanently overdressed. She was of impressive size
and she made herself larger with ruffles and frills. Her hair was always
overdone--she must have spent hours on it--and if a single hair managed
to exist unwaved, uncurled or untwisted it was not Lucille’s fault. Yet
somehow she managed to make all this flummery and curliness impressive;
in her heart she hoped the adjective “queenly” was applied to her,
and it was! That was before the days of women’s clubs, but Lucille had
picked up quite a mass of impressive misinformation on books, painting
and like subjects. In Riverbank she was able to make this tell.

With all this she was politely overbearing. She let people know she
wanted to have her way--and then took it! From the first she pushed her
way into prominence in church matters, choosing the Sunday school as
the door. The Sunday school fell entirely under her sway in a very short
time, partly because Mrs. Prell, the wife of the superintendent, had
social ambitions, and urged Mr. Prell to second Lucille’s wishes, and
partly through Lucille’s mere desire to lead. She began as leader of the
simple Sunday school music, standing just under the pulpit and beating
out the time of

     “Little children, little children,
     Who love their Redeemer--”

with an arm that jingled with bracelets as her horses’ bridles jingled
with silver-plated chains.

Her knowledge of music was slight--she could just about pick out a tune
on her harp by note--but she called in Professor Schwerl and made him
pound further knowledge into her head. The hot-tempered old German did
it. He swore at her, got red in the face, perspired. It was like pouring
water on a duck’s back, but some drops clung between the feathers, and
Lucille knew how to make a drop do duty as a pailful. She took charge of
the church music, reorganized the choir, and made the church think the
new music was much better, than the old.

And so it was. She added Professor Schwerl and his violin to the organ.
Theoretically this was to increase the volume of sweet sounds; in effect
it made old Schwerl the hidden director of the choir, with Lucille as
the jingling, rustling figurehead. So, step by step, Lucille became a
real power in the church. The trustees and elders had little faith in
her wisdom; they had immense respect for her ability to have her own
way, whether it was right or wrong.

Lucille, having won her place in the church, set about creating a
“salon.” Her first idea was to make her parlor the gathering place of
all the wit and wisdom of Riverbank, as Madame de Staël made her salon
the gathering place of the wit and wisdom of Paris. Perhaps nothing
gives a better insight into the character of Lucille than this:
her attempt to create a salon--of which she should be the star--in
Riverbank. She soon found that the wit and wisdom of our small Iowa town
was not willing to sit in a parlor and talk about Michael Angelo. The
women were abashed before the culture they imagined Lucille to have.
The men simply did not come. Not to be defeated, Lucille organized a
“literary society.” By including only a few of her church acquaintances
she gave the suggestion that the organization was “exclusive.” By
setting as the first topic the poems of Matthew Arnold--then hardly
heard of in Riverbank--she suggested that the society was to be erudite.
The combination did all she had hoped. Admission to Lucille’s literary
society became Riverbank’s most prized social plum.

Few in Riverbank had any real affection for Lucille, but affection was
not what she sought. She wanted prominence and power, and even the
men who had scorned her salon idea soon found she had become, in some
mysterious way, an “influence.” The State senator, when he came to
Riverbank, always “put up” at Lucille’s mansion instead of at a hotel as
formerly. When the men of the town wished signatures to a petition,
or money subscriptions to any promotion scheme--such as the new street
railway--the first thought was: “Get Lucille Hardcome to take it up;
she’ll put it through.” In such affairs she did not bother with the
lesser names; some fifteen or twenty of the “big” men she would write on
her list and for a few days her blacks and her low-hung carriage would
be seen standing in front of prominent doors, and Lucille would have
secured all, or nearly all, the signatures she sought.

At first Lucille paid little attention to David. She treated him much as
she treated the colorless Mr. Prell, _our_ Sunday school superintendent:
as if he were a useful but unimportant church attachment, but otherwise
not amounting to much. It was not until the affair of the church
organist showed her that David was a worthy antagonist that Lucille
thought of David as other than a sort of elevated hired man.

Far back in the days when David came to Riverbank, Miss Hurley (Miss
Jane Hurley, not Miss Mary) had volunteered to play the organ when Mrs.
Dougal gave it up because of the coming of the twins. That must have
been before the war; and the organ was a queer little box of a thing
that could be carried about with little trouble. It was hardly better
than a pitch pipe. It served to set the congregation on (or off) the
key, and was immediately lost in the rough bass and shrill treble of
the congregational vocal efforts. Later, when the Hardcomes came to
Riverbank and Ellen Hardcome’s really excellent soprano suggested a
quartet choir, the “new” organ had been bought. It was thought to be a
splendid instrument. In appearance it was a sublimated parlor organ,
a black walnut affair that had Gothic aspirations and arose in
unaccountable spires and points. We Presbyterians were properly proud of
it. With our choir of four, our new organ and Miss Hurley learning a
new voluntary or offertory every month or so, we felt we had reached the
acme in music. We used to gather around Miss Hurley after one of her
new “pieces” and congratulate her, quite as we gathered around David and
congratulated him when he gave us a sermon we liked especially well.

The Episcopalians gave us our first shock when they built their little
church--spireless, indeed, so that their bell had to be set on a
scaffold in the back yard--but with a pipe organ actually built into the
church. We figured that seven, at least, of our congregation went over
to the Episcopalians on account of the pipe organ. The Methodists
were but a year or two later. I do not remember whether the
Congregationalists were a year before or a year after the Methodists,
but the net result was that we Presbyterians and the United Brethren
were the last to lag along, and the United Brethren had neither our size
nor wealth. Not that our wealth was much to brag of.

After her typhoid Ellen Hardcome’s voice broke--the disease “settled in
her throat,” as we said then--and she stepped out of the choir to
make way for little Mollie Mitchell, who sang like a bird and had a
disposition like one of Satan’s imps. Hardly had Lucille Hardcome taken
charge of our church music than she began her campaign for a pipe organ.
By that time the “new” organ was the “old” organ and actually worse
than the old “old” organ had ever been. It was in the habit of emitting
occasional uncalled-for groans and squeaks and at times all its efforts
were accompanied by a growl like the drone of a bagpipe. The blind piano
tuner had long since refused to have anything more to do with it, and
Merkle, the local gun and lock smith, tinkered it nearly every week. It
was comical to see old Schwerl roll his eyes in agony as he played his
violin beside it.

As Merkle said, repairing musical instruments was not his business, and
he had to “study her up from the ground.” He did his best, but probably
the logic of his repair work was based on a wrong premise. We never
knew, when Merkle entered the church on a Saturday to correct the
trouble that evolved during Friday night’s choir practice, what the old
black walnut monstrosity would do on Sunday.

All through this period, as through her struggles with the old “old”
 organ, Miss Hurley labored patiently. “I couldn’t do so and so,” old
Merkle used to tell her, “so you want to look out and not do so and so.”
 Perhaps it meant she must pump with one foot, or not touch some three or
four of the “stops.” She did her best and, but for the rankling thought
that the other churches were listening to glorious pipe organ strains, I
dare say we would have been satisfied well enough. I always loved to
see the gentle little lady seat herself on the narrow bench, arrange her
skirts, place her music on the rack and then look up to catch the back
of Dominie Dean’s curly-haired head in her little mirror.

When Lucille Hardcome announced that she just couldn’t stand the squeaky
old organ any longer and that the church must have a pipe organ if she
had to work night and day for it, we knew the church would have a pipe
organ, for Lucille--as a rule--got whatever she set her heart on.

Lucille’s announcement threw little Miss Jane into a flutter of
excitement. It was as if someone gave a gray wren a thimbleful of
champagne. Miss Jane was all chirps of joy and tremblings of the hand.
She hardly knew whether to be jauntily joyous or crushed with fear. Her
eyes were unwontedly bright, and her cheeks, which had not glowed for
years, burned red. The very Friday night that Lucille condemned the
old organ and proclaimed a new one Miss Jane, walking beside David Dean
(although she felt more like skipping for joy), asked David a daring
question.

“Won’t it be wonderful to have a real organ--a pipe organ!” she
exclaimed. “It means so much in the musical service, Mr. Dean. I try to
make the old organ praise the Lord but--of course I don’t mean anything
I shouldn’t--but sometimes I think there is no praise left in the old
thing! I can do so much more if we have a pipe organ!”

“I imagine you sometimes think the Old Harry is in the old walnut case,
Miss Jane,” said David.

“Oh, I would never think that!” cried Miss Jane, and then she laughed
a shamed little laugh. “That is just what sister Mary said last Sunday
when the bass growled so!”

She walked a few yards in silence, nerving herself to ask the question.

“Mr. Dean,” she said, “do you think it would be all right--do you think
it would be proper--if I asked Mademoiselle Moran to give me a few
lessons?”

She almost held her breath waiting for David’s answer. It seemed to her,
after the question had left her mouth, that it had been a bold, almost
brazen, thing to ask David. It seemed almost shameful to ask the dominie
such a question, for, you understand, Mademoiselle Moran was a Catholic,
and not only a Catholic but the niece of Father Moran, the priest, and
his housekeeper, and the organist of St. Bridget’s. The lessons would
mean that Miss Jane must go to St. Bridget’s; they would be given on the
great organ there, with the image of the Virgin, and of St. Bridget,
and the gaunt crucifix, and the pictures portraying the Stations of the
Cross, and the confessionals, and all else, close at hand. To ask the
dominie if one might voluntarily venture into the midst of all that!

“Have you spoken to her yet?” asked David, surprisingly unshocked.

“No! Oh, no! I would not until I had asked you, of course!” gasped Miss
Jane. “Why, I haven’t had time! I only knew we were going to have a pipe
organ this evening!”

“Perhaps you had better let me arrange it,” said David. “I think perhaps
Doctor Benedict can manage it, although Mademoiselle is giving up
her pupils, Benedict says. Father Moran is worried about her health;
Benedict says Mademoiselle is trying to do too much. She is giving
up all but her two or three most promising pupils. But in a case like
this--Shall I speak to Benedict?”

“Oh, will you? Will you?” cried little Miss Jane ecstatically. “Oh, if
you will!”

David smiled in the darkness. But a day or two before, when Doc Benedict
had dropped into the manse to sit awhile in David’s study under the
motto “Keep an even mind under all circumstances,” David had scolded him
whimsically for unfaithfulness.

“I don’t see you once in a blue moon any more, Benedict,” he had said.
“I grow stale for someone to wrangle with. You’re a false and fickle
friend. Who is your latest passion? Father Moran?”

“Don’t you say anything against Father Moran!” Benedict threatened.
“It’s a pity you’re not both Presbyterians, or both Catholics, Davy.
You’d love each other. You’d have some beautiful fights. I can’t hold
my own against him; he’s too much for me. He’s a fine old man, Davy,” he
added, and then, smiling, “and he knows good sherry and good cigars.”

“What do you talk about, over your good sherry and good cigars?” asked
David.

“Last night,” said Benedict, “it was music. He had me there, Davy. No
man has a right to know as much about as many things as Father Moran
knows. Of course, if I had a niece like Mademoiselle I might know about
Beethoven and Chopin and all those fellows. He scolded me about our
church music. I went for him, of course, on that; bragged about our
choir. ‘Ah, yes I’ he smiled through that thick, brown beard of his;
‘and I ‘ave heard of your organ!’ He gave me an imitation of it through
his nose. Then he called Mademoiselle and took me into the church and
made her play a thing or two--an ‘Elevation’ and an ‘Ave Maria.’ He had
me, all right, Davy. It was holy music, Davy!”

So David, remembering, spoke to Benedict about Miss Jane’s desire, and
Benedict spoke to Father Moran. The old doctor knew just how to handle
the good-natured priest, whose eyes were deep in crow’s-feet from
countless quizzical smiles.

“Why, Father, you yourself were howling and complaining about our church
music the other night! Scolding me, you were. And now I give you a
chance to better the thing you scolded me about, and you hesitate! Oh,
tut! about Mademoiselle’s health! Let her give up another of her fancy,
arts-and-graces pupils. I prescribe Miss Hurley for Mademoiselle’s
health. And don’t you dare go against her physician’s orders!”

Father Moran chuckled in his black beard and his eyes twinkled. He loved
to have anyone pretend to bulldoze him; he was a beloved autocrat among
his own people.

“You’re afraid!” declared Benedict. “You’re afraid that when we get our
new organ and Miss Hurley learns to play it your Mademoiselle will be
overshadowed. We’ll show you!”

“Afraid!” chuckled Father Moran. “You heard Mademoiselle play, and
you say I am afraid! _Bon!_ Ex-cellent! Come, we will interview
Mademoiselle!”

So it was arranged. Mademoiselle would take no remuneration. She patted
little Miss Hurley on the thin shoulder and smiled, but she would not
hear of payment.

“N’, no!” she declared. “I teach you because I like you, because I like
all praise music shall be good music. N’, no! We will not think about
money; we will think about great, grand music. You will be my leetle St.
Cecilia; yes?” Not until she had consulted David, and had been assured
that accepting such a favor from the niece of the priest was not at
all wrong, would Miss Hurley agree. Then the lessons began, Miss Hurley
always “my leetle St. Cecilia” to Mademoiselle. They were a strongly
contrasted pair: Mademoiselle Moran stout, black-haired, with powerful
arms and fingers; Miss Hurley a mere wisp of humanity, hair already
gray, and with scarce strength to handle the stops and keys.

When first she entered the huge St. Bridget’s Miss Hurley cringed, as if
she entered a forbidden place. The great stained windows permitted but
little light to enter; here and there some woman knelt low on the floor,
crossing herself. Mademoiselle walked to the organ loft with a brisk,
businesslike tread and Miss Hurley followed her timidly. From somewhere
Father Moran appeared, smiling, and patted Miss Hurley’s shoulder. No
man had patted Miss Hurley’s shoulder for many years, but she was far
from resenting it. It was like a good wish. Then Mademoiselle reached up
and drew the soft green curtains across the front of the organ loft and
lo! they were alone. The lesson began.

It needed but that one first lesson to tell Mademoiselle that her
“leetle St. Cecilia” would never play “great, grand music” on a
large pipe organ. It was as if you were to undertake to teach a child
trigonometry and discovered he did not know the multiplication table
beyond seven times five. Miss Hurley hardly knew the rudiments of music;
harmony, thoroughbass and all the deeper things, that Mademoiselle had
learned so long ago that they were part of her nature now, were absolute
Greek to Miss Hurley. But, worse than all this, Miss Hurley had not the
physique of an organist. She was physically inadequate.

Such news invariably leaks out. Long before Lucille Hardcome had managed
to coax the pipe organ out of Sam Wiggett’s purse it was known that
Miss Hurley was “taking lessons” from Mademoiselle and that she was
not strong enough to play a pipe organ properly. For her part, had Miss
Hurley been any other person, Mademoiselle would have thrown up her
hands and turned her back on the impossible task, but she liked Miss
Jane sincerely. I think she loved the little old maid. It must be
remembered that St. Bridget’s was Irish and in those days many of the
Irish in Riverbank were fresh from the peat bogs and potato fields, and
Mademoiselle, before coming to care for her uncle’s house, had lived in
the midst of France’s best. It is no wonder she craved even such crambs
of culture as Miss Hurley had gathered or that she loved the little
woman. In return she gave Miss Jane all she could.

There were intricacies of stops and keys, foot pedaling and fingering,
that must be explained and practiced, but Mademoiselle early told Miss
Hurley:

“St. Cecilia, you are not, remembair, the grand organist; you are
the sweet organist. For me”--she made the organ boom with a tumult of
sound--“for me, yes! I am beeg and strong. But, for you”--she played
some deliciously dainty bit--“because you are gentle and sweet!”

And all the while Miss Jane and Mademoiselle were having their little
love affair and their struggles with stops and pedals and keys, behind
the green curtain of St. Bridget’s organ loft, Lucille Hardcome was
bringing all her diplomacy to bear against old Sam Wiggett’s pocket. For
her own part she made a direct assault: “Mr. Wiggett, you’re going to
give us a pipe organ!” She kept this up day in and day out: “Have you
decided to give us that pipe organ?” and, “I haven’t seen the pipe organ
you are going to give us. Where is it?” Old Wiggett, who liked Lucille,
chuckled. Perhaps he knew from the first that he would give the
organ. Lucille set his daughter, Mary Derling, to coaxing, and primed
unsuspecting old ladies to speak to Mr. Wiggett as if the organ was a
certainty. She had Mort Walsh, the architect, prepare a plan for taking
out a portion of the rear wall of the church without disturbing the
regular services. She took a group of ladies to Derlingport to hear the
pipe organ in the Presbyterian Church there. They returned enthusiastic
advocates of an organ for our church, and Lucille, knowing Sam Wiggett,
and sure the old fellow would love to have his name attached forever to
some one big thing in the church, set the ladies to raising money for a
pipe organ. This was a hopeless task and Lucille knew it. It was done to
frighten Mr. Wiggett and make him hurry with his gift, lest he lose the
opportunity.

One result of the trip to Derlingport can be stated in the words of
Mrs. Peter Minch, uttered as she came down the steps of the Derlingport
church:

“Well, Lucille, if we have an organ like that we will have to have more
of an organist than Jane Hurley!”

“Of course!” Lucille had said. “Jane Hurley and a pipe organ would be
ridiculous!”

So this was added to David’s worries. The choir of four and Lucille--as
musical dictator of the church--spoke to David almost immediately about
the retirement of Miss Hurley. It would be better to say perhaps, that
they spoke to him about the manner in which money could be raised to
pay a satisfactory organist. They did not consider Miss Hurley as a
possibility at all. She had done well enough with the old organ, and it
had been pleasant for her, and well for the church, that she had been
permitted to play the squeaky old instrument without pay, but she simply
would not do when it came to the new organ. David listened, his head
resting in his hand and one long finger touching his temple. He saw at
once that a quarrel was in the air.

“You did not know,” he asked, “that Miss Hurley has been taking lessons
from Mademoiselle Moran for a month or more!”

“Oh, that!” said Lucille. “That’s nonsense! If she wants to play
‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ for the Sunday school, I don’t object; but
church music! We have heard the organist at Derlingport!”

“I think,” said David, “that for a while at least, if we get a pipe
organ, Miss Hurley should be our organist. She is looking forward to it.
She is taking lessons with that in view!”

Lucille said nothing, but in her eyes David saw the resolve to be rid of
Miss Hurley.

“Miss Jane understands, I think,” David said, “that she is to continue
as our organist. At no advance in salary,” he smiled.

Lucille closed her mouth firmly. As clearly as if she had spoken, David
read in her face: “Well, if that’s who is to play the pipe organ, I
shan’t try to get one!” He did not wait for her to speak.

“I feel,” he said, “that if Miss Hurley is to be thrown out after
so many years of patient and faithful struggling with the miserable
instruments she has had to do with, it would be better to let the whole
idea of having a pipe organ drop. At any rate, the chance of getting one
seems small.”

“Oh, we’re going to have one!” exclaimed Lucille, caught in the trap he
had prepared for her spirit of opposition. “I get what I go after, Mr.
Dean.”



X. LUCILLE DISCOVERS DAVID


IT was no new thing for David to feel the opposition of his choir;
indeed, is not the attitude of minister and choir in many churches
usually that of armed neutrality? How many ministers would drop dead
if all the bitterness that is put into some anthems could kill! To the
minister the choir is often a body of unruly artistic temperaments
bent on mere secular display of its musical talents; to the choir the
minister is a crass utilitarian, ignorant in all that relates to good
music, and stubbornly insisting that the musical program for each
day shall be twisted to illustrate some point in his sermon. To some
ministers it has seemed that eternal vigilance alone prevented the choir
from singing the latest “Gem from Comic Opera”; some choirs have felt
that unless they battled strenuously they would be tied down to “Old
Hundred” and “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” by a minister who did not
know one note from another. How many ministers have, early in November,
begun to dread the inevitable quarrel over the choice of Christmas
music!

Lucille Hardcome was a large woman and much given to violent colors,
but, to do her justice, she managed them with a _chic_ that put them
above any question of mere good taste. She clashed a green and purple
together, and evolved something that was “style” and that had to be
recognized as “style.” In a day when women were wearing gray and
black striped silks, as they were then, Lucille would concoct with
her dressmaker something in orange and black, throw in a bow or two of
cerulean blue, and appear well dressed. She could wear a dozen jangling
bracelets on her plump arm and leave the impression that she was not
overornamented, but ultrafashionable. You would have said, to see her
among the less violently garbed women of the church, that she was one
who would win only by bold thrusts. On the contrary, she could be a wily
diplomatist.

Just as old Sam Wiggett received from unexpected quarters questions
regarding the pipe organ, so David began to hear questions regarding the
organist. Some asked him eagerly if it were true an organist was to be
brought from Chicago; some asked if it were true that Miss Hurley had
refused to play the big new organ. Presently he heard the name of the
young man who was to be brought from Chicago to supplant Miss Hurley;
then that the young man was to have a position in Sam Wiggett’s office
if he couldn’t get into Schultz’ music store.

It was soon after the arrangements for the purchase of the pipe organ
had been made (Sam Wiggett giving in at last) that Miss Jane herself
came to David. She had been ill two days, confined to her bed, although
she did not tell David so. Partly, no doubt, her little breakdown had
come because of the overhard work she was doing with Mademoiselle,
but mainly it had been the shock of the word that she was to be pushed
aside. Her disappointment had been overwhelming, for little Miss Jane
had coveted with all her heart the joy of playing the great, new organ.
The news that another was to be organist came like the blow of a brutal
fist between her eyes, and she went down. For two days she fought
against what she felt must be her great selfishness and then, still weak
but ready to do what she felt was her duty, she went to David. ‘Thusia,
herself weak, led her to David’s study door and left her there. David
let her enter and closed the door after her. He placed a chair for her.
The light fell on her face, and as he saw the marks her struggle had
left there he threw up his head and drew a deep breath. All the fight
there was in him surged up, and he cast his eyes at the spatter-work
motto above his desk before he dared speak. His gray eyes glowed cold
fire.

“Not on your own account, but on mine,” he said, “you will go on just
as you have been going, Miss Jane Hurley! You are making some progress
under Mademoiselle Moran!”

“Why--yes--yes--” Miss Jane stammered, twisting her handkerchief,
“but--”

“Then you are all the organist the church wants or needs or shall have,
unless it wants and needs and has a new dominie! I dare say we can
manage to praise the Lord with your fingers and soul quite as well as
with Samuel Wiggett’s money and Lucille Hardcome’s ambition.”

“But I can’t!” said Miss Jane. “I can’t, when they all want a new
organist; they’ll hate me. You don’t know, Mr. Dean, what it would be to
sit there and feel their hate against my back. You’ll think I’m foolish,
but if I could face them it would be different; but to sit there and try
to play when everyone in the church doesn’t want me, and to feel every
eye behind me hostile! I can’t, Mr. Dean!”

David opened the study door.

“‘Thusia!” he called, and his wife answered. “Who do you want as your
organist!” he called. “Why, Miss Jane, of course!” ‘Thusia replied.
“There’s one who will not look hatred at your back,” said David. “And
I’m two. And I can take little Roger to church, and that will be three.
And I dare say we can find others. ‘Thusia should know. Who does Mrs.
Merriwether want, Thusia!” he called.

“She wants Miss Jane,” said ‘Thusia promptly. They joined ‘Thusia where
she lay on her couch. “Are you worried about what Lucille has been
suggesting, Miss Hurley! Dear me! you mustn’t let anything like that
worry you! Why, someone always wants something else. If David and I
worried about what everyone wants we would do nothing but worry!”

“But Mr. Wiggett is giving the organ, and Lucille really got it for the
church--” Miss Hurley faltered.

“I know,” said ‘Thusia, “but David wants you to be the organist. That is
both sides and the middle of the matter for me. David always knows what
is best!”

“So, you see,” said David smiling, “we’ve had our little tempest in a
teapot for nothing. ‘Thusia, have you a teapot with something other than
tempests in it? A cup might refresh Miss Jane.”

Her talk with ‘Thusia did more than anything David could have said,
perhaps, to convince Miss Jane that she need not bury her fond desire,
for ‘Thusia could talk as one woman talks to another. As she talked Miss
Jane saw things as they were, the great majority of the congregation
wishing to retain Miss Jane, with but a few of the richer and
display-loving wanting anything else. ‘Thusia was able to convey this
without saying it. She made it felt, as a woman can when she chooses. A
name here, a name there, an incidental mention of Lucille’s unfortunate
attempt to put her coachman in livery, and Miss Jane saw the church
as it was--a few moneyed “pushers” and the body of silent, sincere
worshipers. More than all else ‘Thusia herself seemed to embody the
spirit of the congregation. It suddenly occurred to Miss Jane that,
after all, the quiet people who were her friends were the real church.
And this was true. She left quite at peace with the idea that she was to
play the new organ when it was installed.

And then David began his fight for Miss Jane, which became a fight
against Lucille Hardcome. Lucille fought her battle well, but the odds
were against her. As against the few who wanted a hired organist at
any price there were an equal few who still questioned the propriety of
having a new organ at all. Against her were still others who would have
been with her had she and her warmest supporters not so often tried
to “run” everything connected with the church, but the overwhelming
sentiment was that as Miss Jane was “taking lessons” from the best
organist in Riverbank, and as Miss Jane had always been organist, and as
hiring one would be an added expense, Miss Jane ought to stay, at least
until it was quite evident that she would not do at all. Even Professor
Schwerl told David, albeit secretly, that he was for Miss Jane, his
theory being that it was better to hear a canary bird pipe prettily than
to listen to any half-baked virtuoso Lucille was likely to secure.

Thus it came to the night before the day when Professor Hedden, coming
from a great city, was to introduce the congregation to its new organ.
That afternoon Mademoiselle had given Miss Jane a final lesson--final
with the promise of more later--and had kissed her cheek. Father Moran
had patted her shoulder, too, wishing her, in his quaint English, good
success, offering her a glass of sherry, which of course she declined,
making him laugh joyously as he always did at “these Peelgrims Fathers,”
 as he good-naturedly called those he considered puritanical. Miss Jane,
coming straight from St. Bridget’s, had entered the church and had
tried the great, new, splendid organ. She was a little afraid of it; she
trembled when she pulled out the first stops and heard the first notes
answer her fingers on the keys. Then she grew bolder; she tried a simple
hymn and forgot herself, and by the time twilight came she was not
afraid at all. She left the church uplifted and happy of heart. She told
Miss Mary, when she reached home, that she believed she would do quite
well.

The evening trial left her in trembling fear again. It was well enough
to assure herself that no one in America could play as Professor Hedden
played; that he was our one great master; but she feared what would
be thought of her playing after the congregation had had such music as
Professor Hedden’s as a first taste.

A dozen or more fortunate hearers made up the little audience at the
impromptu trial. They were Sam Wiggett and Mary Derling (who had had
a little dinner for Professor Hedden), the four members of the choir,
Lucille Hardcome, Miss Hurley, David and ‘Thusia, two friends Lucille
had invited and Schwerl.

The new organ was a magnificent instrument. Behind the pulpit and the
choir stall the great pipes arose in a convex semicircle as typical of
aspiring praise as any Gothic cathedral, and when, Saturday evening,
Professor Hedden seated himself on the player’s bench and, after resting
his hands for a moment on the keyboard, plunged into some tremendous
“voluntary” of his own composition, the mountains and the ocean and all
the wild winds of Heaven seemed to join in one great burst of gigantic
harmony. It seemed then to David Dean that the organ pipes should
have been painted in glorious gold and all the triumphant hues of a
magnificent sunrise instead of the fiat terra cotta and moss green that
had been chosen as harmonizing with the church interior.

Presently the wild tumult of sound softened to the sighing of a breeze
through the pine trees, to the rippling of a brook, to the croon of a
mother over a babe. David held his breath as the crooning died, softer
and softer, until he saw the mother place the sleeping child in its
crib, and when the last faint note died into silence there were tears in
his eyes. This was music! It was such music as Riverbank had never heard
before!

“This is another of my own,” said Professor Hedden and the organ began
to laugh like nymphs at play in a green, sunny field--tricksy laughter
that made the heart glad--and that changed into a happy hands-all-around
romp, interrupted by the thin note of a shepherd’s flute. Out from the
trees bordering the field David could see the shepherd come, swaying
the upper part of his body in time to his thin note, and behind him came
dancing nymphs and dryads and fauns. He touched ‘Thusia’s hand, and she
nodded and smiled without taking her eyes from the organ. Then the
dash of cymbals and the blare of trumpets and the martial tread of the
warriors shook the green field--thousands of armed men--and all the
while, faint but insistent, the piping of the shepherd and the laughter
of the dancing nymphs. And then came priests bearing an altar, chanting.
The cymbals and the flute and the trumpets ceased and the dancers were
still. David could see the altar carried to the center of the green
field. There was a moment of pause and then arose, faint at first but
growing stronger each instant, the hymn of praise, of praise triumphant
and all-overpowering. Mightier and mightier it grew until the whole
universe seemed to join in the glorification of deity. David half arose
from his seat, his hands grasping the back of the pew in front of him.
Praise! this was praise indeed; praise worthy of the God worshiped in
this church; worthy of any God!

As the music ceased David’s eye fell on Miss Hurley at the far end of
his pew. The thin little woman in her cheap garments was wiping her eyes
with her handkerchief. Her hands trembled with emotion. Suddenly she
dropped her forehead to the back of the pew before her and with one
silk-gloved hand on either side of her cheek, remained so.

Professor Hedden, half turning on his seat, said:

“While this next is hardly what I would call a complete composition, it
may give you an idea of the capabilities of the organ.”

When he ceased playing he said:

“It is merely an exercise in technique, but I think it shows fairly well
what can be done with a good organ.”

It may have been merely an exercise, but it had made the organ perform
as no one in that church, aside from Professor Hedden himself, had
ever heard an organ perform. The full majesty and beauty of the great
instrument, unguessed by those who had gathered to hear this first test,
stood revealed. David Dean’s heart was full. It seemed to him as if the
organ, capable of speaking in such a manner, must be a mighty force to
aid him in his ministerial work; as if the organ were a living thing.
Such music must grasp souls and raise them far toward Heaven.

Professor Hedden arose and approached the steps leading down from the
organ. In the pew in front of David old Sam Wiggett, donor of the organ,
sat in his greatcoat, his iron gray hair mussed as always. David could
imagine the firm-set mouth, the heavy jowls, the bushy eyebrows, the
scowl that seldom left the old man’s face. Lucille Hardcome whispered to
him and he nodded.

“Now let’s hear Miss Hurley play something,” said Lucille in her
sweetest voice.

“Oh!” exclaimed Miss Hurley, cowering into her corner. “Not now, please!
Not after that!”

Lucille laughed. Old Sam Wiggett sat as before, his head half hidden by
his coat collar, but David knew the grim look that was on the old man’s
face. Wiggett’s word would settle the organist matter when that grim old
man chose to speak. David turned toward Miss Hurley, and she shook
her head. He did his best to smother her refusal by advancing to the
professor with congratulatory hand extended. In a moment the dozen
fortunate listeners were crowded around Professor Hedden, and Miss
Hurley, in her pew end, was forgotten.

As ‘Thusia, David and Miss Jane were leaving the church Lucille,
jingling with jewelry, swooped down upon them.

“Oh, Miss Hurley!” she called. “Just one minute, please!”

Miss Jane stopped and turned.

“Professor Hedden thinks,” Lucille cooed, “or, really, I’m not sure
which of us thought of it, but we quite agree, that you must play at
least once to-morrow morning! To christen _your_ organ with you taking
no part would be quite too shameful. So”--she hesitated and her smile
was wicked--“so we want you to play the congregation out after the
professor is through. You know they will never leave while he is
playing.”

The taunt was cruel and plain enough--that the congregation _would_
leave if Miss Jane played--and Miss Jane reddened. Professor Hedden,
with Sam Wiggett, came up to them.

“Of course you must play!” he said through his beard, in his gruff,
kindly voice.

“But, I--I--” stammered Miss Jane.

“Good-night! Good-night, all!” said Lucille. “It’s all arranged, Miss
Hurley,” and she bore the professor away.

“I shall not dare!” Miss Jane said to David. “After such music as the
professor will give! Even the biggest thing I know--”

“But you’ll not play the biggest thing you know,” said David.

The church was crowded the next morning. Even before the Sunday school
was dismissed the seats began to fill. Sam Wiggett was on hand early,
grim but proud of his great gift; his daughter came later with Lucille
and Professor Hedden. When David came to take his seat behind his pulpit
the church was filled as it had never been filled before, and many were
standing. The two ladies of the choir had new hats. Professor Hedden
took his place on the organist’s bench and little Miss Jane cowered
behind the rail curtain of terra-cotta wool. From the body of the church
nothing could be seen but the top of the quaint little rooster wing on
her hat. The praise service began.

I cannot remember now what Professor Hedden played, but it was wonderful
music, as we all knew it would be. There were moments when the whole
church edifice seemed to tremble, and others when we held our breath
lest we fail to hear the delicate whispering of the organ. From my
seat in the diagonal pews at the side of the church I could see old Sam
Wiggett’s face, grim and set, and Lucille Hardcome’s triumphant glances
and David’s thin, clean-cut features, his whole spirit uplifted by the
music, and I could see Miss Jane’s rooster wing sinking lower and lower
behind the terra-cotta curtain.

David’s sermon was short, almost a rhapsody in praise of the music of
praise, and then an anthem, and Professor Hedden’s final offering. As
the magnificent music rolled through the church, poor little Miss Jane’s
rooster wing disappeared entirely behind the curtain. The music ended
in a mighty crash, into which Professor Hedden seemed to throw all the
power of the organ. David arose. He stood a moment looking out upon the
congregation.

“Following the benediction,” his dear voice announced, “our organist,
Miss Hurley, will play while the congregation is being dismissed.”

Lucille looked from side to side, smiling and raising her eyebrows.
David, however, did not give the benediction at once. He stood, looking
out over the congregation, and behind him and the terra-cotta curtain
two hats turned toward the place where we had seen Miss Jane’s rooster
wing sink out of sight. Professor Hedden bent down and raised Miss Jane
and led her to the player’s bench. She was very white. No one in the
congregation moved. Then David spoke again.

His words were simple enough. He began by speaking of the man who had
given the organ, and called him rugged but big-souled, and Sam Wiggett
frowned. David continued, saying the organ would always be a memorial of
that man’s generosity and more than that. As David raised his head
there came from the organ, as if from far off--faint, most faint, like a
child’s voice singing--the strains of the old, old hymn:

     “Rock of ages, cleft for me,
     Let me hide myself in thee!”

David continued as the music sang faintly. He said there was one, in
whose name the donor had presented the organ, whose vacant place all
would regret, since she, too, would have been eager to join in the music
of praise, but he believed, he knew, that she was joining in the voice
of the noble instrument from her new home on high. Then he said the
benediction and the organ’s voice grew strong, repeating the same noble
hymn.

The congregation arose. One by one the voices took up the hymn until
every voice joined in singing old Sam Wiggett’s favorite hymn; the hymn
he loved because his wife had loved it:

     “Rock of ages, cleft for me,
     Let me hide myself in thee!”

I cannot describe the change that came over the old man’s face; it was
as if he had been sitting with his hat on and suddenly uncovered. It
was as if he had been grimly appraising a piece of property and suddenly
realized that he was in God’s house and felt the organ lifting his soul
toward Heaven. He glanced to the left as if seeking the wife who had for
so many years stood at his side to sing that same hymn. He raised his
face to David and then suddenly dropped back into his seat. Miss Jane
reached forward and manipulated I know not what stops and the organ
opened its great lungs, crying triumphantly:

     “Rock of ages, cleft for me,
     Let me hide myself in thee!”

Lucille waited for Professor Hedden and there were plenty who waited
with her, but old Sam Wiggett stood, gruffly slighting the words of
thanks that were proffered him, until Miss Jane came down from the
organ. He went to her and took her hand.

“Thank you, Jane!” he said. “That’s what we want--music, not fireworks!”

He walked with David and ‘Thusia and Miss Jane to the church door.
Mademoiselle was there and she pounced upon Miss Jane.

“Ah, you see!” she cried. “I am disguised! I buy me a new hat so no one
will know me, and I come to hear your grand organ. He was magnificent,
your professor! But you, Meester Wiggett,” she asked in her quaint
accent, “what you think now of our leetle St. Cecilia! She can play
vairy nice!”

Miss Jane blushed with pleasure.

“Uh!” said Sam Wiggett, which--freely translated--meant that as long as
he lived no one but Miss Jane should play the Wiggett pipe organ if he
could prevent it. Lucille looked at David with a new respect.



XI. STEVE TERRILL


LUCILLE HARDCOME’S defeat, unimportant as it was to the world at large,
made her furiously angry for a few days. She would have left the church
to go to the Episcopalians if it had not been that the Episcopalian
Church in Riverbank was direly poverty-stricken. Lucille sulked for a
few days and let the report go out that she was ill, and then appeared
with her hair, which had been golden, a glorious shade of red. She said
it was Titian. It was immensely becoming to her. Had any other woman in
the congregation dared to change the color of her hair thus flauntingly
there would have been little less than a scandal. That her first hair
vagary created little adverse comment shows how completely Lucille had
impressed us with the idea that she was extra-privileged. Later she
changed the color of her hair as the whim seized her, varying from red
to gold.

In addition to the change in the color of her hair Lucille came out of
her brief retirement with an entirely changed opinion of David Dean. She
seemed suddenly aware that, far from being a mere church accessory, he
was someone worth while. She began to court his good opinion openly.
Having burned her fingers she admired the fire.

Lucille was a woman of elementary mentality and much of her domineering
success was due to that very fact. She often went after what she wanted
with a directness that was crude but effective. Lucille set about
getting David under her thumb.

Poor David! Lucille saw that his dearest tasks of helpfulness were
always shared by the trio--‘Thusia, now grown pale; Rose Hinch, the
ever-cheerful; and Mary Derling. These three understood David. They
echoed his gentle tact and loving-kindness, and it was to be a fourth in
this group that Lucille decided was the thing she desired.

For the work done by the trio, under David’s gentle direction, Lucille
was eminently unfitted. The three women were handmaidens of charity;
Lucille was a major general of earthly ambitions. In spite of this she
thrust herself upon David.

The power of single-minded insistence is enormous. We see this
exemplified over and over again in politics; the most unsuitable men, by
plain force of will, thrust themselves into office. They are not
wanted; everyone knows they are out of place, but they have their way.
Lucille--resplendent hair, flaring gowns and all--forced David to accept
her as one of his intimate helpers by the simple expedient of insisting
that he should. It is only fair to say that she opened her purse, but
this was in itself an evidence of her unfitness for the work she had to
do. Most of David’s “cases” needed personal service of a kind Lucille
was incapable of rendering. She gave them dollars instead. Time and
again she upset David’s plans by opening her hand and showering silver
where it was not good to bestow it. She tried to take full command of
Rose Hinch and Mary Derling. They went calmly on their accustomed ways.

In one matter in which David was interested Lucille did give valuable
assistance. Although Riverbank was notoriously a “wet” town the State
had voted a prohibitory law against liquor selling. In Riverbank the law
was all but a dead letter. The saloons remained open, the proprietors
coming up once a month to pay a “fine,” which was in fact a local
license. Probably our saloons were no worse than those in other river
towns, but many of us believed it a scandal that they should continue
doing business contrary to law. Our Davy was never much of a believer in
the minister in politics, although he had said his say from the pulpit
with enough youthful fervor back in Civil War days, but he feared and
hated the saloon and all liquor, remembering his long fight for Mack
Graham and plenty of other youths. He was mourning, too, his best of
friends, old Doc Benedict, who never overcame his craving for whisky,
and who died after being thrown from his carriage one night when he had
taken too much. No doubt Sam Wiggett had some influence over David’s
actions, too. The old man was all for having the saloons closed as long
as the law said they should be closed, and, to some extent, he dragged
Davy into the fight.

It was understood that if our county attorney wished the saloons closed
he could close them. A fight was made to elect a “dry” county attorney,
and, as it happened, the fight carried all the county and town offices.
Every Democrat was thrown out.

No one can say how greatly David Dean’s part in the campaign affected
the result. I think it had a greater effect than was generally believed.
For one thing his sermons aroused us as nothing else could have aroused
us, and for another he had the assistance of Lucille Hardcome.

As women are apt to do, Lucille made her fight a personal matter.
She organized the women, organized children’s parades, planned
house-to-house appeals and persuaded even the merchants who favored
open saloons to place her placards in their windows. It is probable that
Lucille’s work did more to cause the landslide than all the handbills
and speeches of the politicians and she did it all to impress David.
David’s personal stand also had a great effect, for he was known as a
conservative, meddling little with political affairs. It is hardly too
much to say that between them Lucille Hardcome and David carried the
election. The margin was small enough as it was. The _Riverbank Eagle_,
after the election, declared that without David’s help the prohibition
forces would have lost out. Among the other defeated candidates was
Marty Ware, who had been city treasurer for several terms.

The new city officials, most of them greatly surprised to find
themselves elected, were to take office January first, and it was one
day about the middle of December that Steve Turrill came to the front
door of the little manse and asked for David. ‘Thusia, who came to
the door, knew Turrill. She had known him years before, when she was a
thoughtless, pleasure-mad young girl. Even then Steve had been a gambler
and fond of a fast horse. In those days Steve would often disappear for
months at a time, for the steamboats were gambling palaces. He never
returned until his pockets were full of money and his mouth full of
tales of Memphis, Cairo, St. Louis and even New Orleans. He was known in
all the gambling places up and down the Mississippi.

At the beginning of the Civil War Steve Turrill had enlisted, returning,
after about five months service, with a bullet in his leg just below
the left hip. The bullet was never found. After that Steve walked with
a cane and on damp days one could see him in a chair in front of the
Riverbank Hotel, his forehead creased with pain and his left hand
ceaselessly rubbing his left hip. When his hip was worst he could not
sit still at the gaming table. To the gambler’s pallor was added the
pallor of pain.

As a boy I remember him sitting under the iron canopy of the hotel.
We all knew he was a gambler, and he was the only gambler we knew.
Sometimes he would have a trotter, and we would see him flash down
the street behind the red-nostriled animal; sometimes even the diamond
horseshoe in his tie and the rings on his fingers would be gone.

Everyone seemed to speak to Steve Turrill. Even as a boy I knew,
vaguely, that he had a room in the Riverbank Hotel where people went to
gamble. It was understood that not everyone could gamble there. I think
there was a feeling that Steve Turrill was “straight,” and that as
he had been wounded in the war, and was the last professional gambler
Riverbank would have, he should not be bothered. I believe he was always
a sick man and that, from the day he returned from the war, Death stood
constantly at his side.

He looked as if Death’s hand had touched him. His thin, sharp features
were ashen gray at times and his hands were mere bones covered with
transparent skin. He never smiled. He never touched liquor. He smoked a
long, thin cigar that he had made especially for his own use; I suppose
Doc Benedict had told him how much he could smoke and remain alive.

When ‘Thusia saw him at the door (it was one of her “well” days) she was
not startled; for many odd fish come to a dominie’s door from one end of
the year to the next. He leaned on his cane and took off his gray felt
hat.

“‘Day, ‘Thusia,” he said, quite as if they had not been strangers for
years; “I wonder if Mr. Dean is in?”

“He’s in,” said ‘Thusia, “but this is the afternoon he works on his
sermon. He tries not to see anyone.”

“This is more important than a sermon,” said Turrill. “Would you mind
telling him that?” David would see him. He came to the door himself
and led the gambler into the little study where the spatter-work motto,
“Keep an even mind under all circumstances,” hung above the desk.
He gave Turrill his hand and placed a chair for him, and the gambler
dropped into the chair with a sigh of pain.

“I think you know who I am,” said Turrill, rubbing his hip. “I’m
Turrill. I do a little in the gambling way.”

“Yes, so I understand,” said David, and waited. “It’s not about myself
I’ve come,” said Turrill. “I wouldn’t bother about myself; I’m dead any
day. I’ve been dead twenty-five years, as far as my gambling chance of
life goes. Do you know Marty Ware?”

“Yes,” said David. “Is it about him?”

“He’s going to kill himself,” said Turrill without emotion.

David waited.

“The fool!” said Turrill. “He came to me and told me. Why, I can’t sleep
anyway, with this hip of mine! How can I sleep, then, when I’ve got such
a thing as that on my mind! So I came to you; that’s what you’re for,
isn’t it!”

“It is one of the things,” said David.

“He got that book of Ingersoll’s,” Turrill complained. “The fool! I’ve
read that book! Do you think, with this pain in my hip, I would be
dragging along here day after day, if there was anything in that idea
that a man has a right to blow himself out when he feels like it! But
that’s what Mart Ware has worked into his head. Suicide! He’s going to
do it!”

“Yes! Well!” asked David.

Turrill, rubbing his hip, looked at David. He had hardly expected
anything like this calm query. He had pictured our dominie rushing for
coat and hat, rolling his eyes, perhaps, and muttering prayers. Instead,
David leaned back in his deep chair and placed the tips of his fingers
together and waited.

“I won his money,” said Turrill.

“Yes, I supposed so, or you wouldn’t be here, would you!” said David.

“The devil of it--” Turrill stopped. “The--”

“I dare say it is the devil of it,” said David. “Go on.”

“Well, then, the devil of it is, I’m strapped!” said Turrill. “If I
wasn’t--” He waved his hand to show how simple it would be. “He came
yesterday, telling me the story. I’m a sick man; I close my place at one
every morning; I can’t stand any more than that; but last night I let
them stay until daylight, and, curse it! I had no luck! I took the limit
off and tried to win what Marty needs, and they cleaned me out and took
my I. O. U.’s. So I came to you. It was all I could think of.”

He paused a moment while he rubbed his hip. “It wasn’t his own money
Marty lost,” he said then. “He’s taken two thousand dollars of the
city money, and I won it.” He stretched out his leg and fumbled in
his trousers pocket and brought out a roll of money. “There!” he said;
“there is five hundred dollars. I went around today and raised that
among the men who come to my room. I can’t raise another cent. That’s
all _I_ can do; what can you do?”

Now David arose and walked the narrow space before Turrill.

“I suppose his bondsmen will make good! He has bondsmen, hasn’t he? I
don’t know much about such things.”

“They’ll have to make good what he is short,” said Turrill. “Seth
Hardcome will have to make it all good. Tony Porter is on the bond,
but he hasn’t a cent. If he had a cent he wouldn’t have gone on the
bond--that’s the kind he is. Hardcome is the man that’ll have to make
good. But he’ll see Mart Ware in the penitentiary first.”

“Why!”

Turrill made a gesture with his hand.

“How do I know! Mart says so; Mart went to him. He told Hardcome the
whole thing and asked him to see him through--said he would work his
hands to the bone to pay it back. Hardcome won’t do anything and Porter
can’t and Marty will kill himself before he goes to the pen. Hardcome is
one of your deacons, or whatever you call them, isn’t he!”

“No. He is not in my church at all,” said David. “But he is a just man;
I am sure he is a just man.”

“He is a hard man,” said Turrill. “The most he would do for me was to
say he would keep his mouth shut until the new treasurer goes in. He
says he’ll send Marty to the pen; he’ll kill Marty instead.”

Turrill arose. There was no emotion shown on his inscrutable gambler’s
face. David stood fingering the money Turrill had handed him, and
Turrill moved to the door. From the back he looked like an old, old man.

“You can see what you can do, if you want to,” Turrill said. “I can’t do
anything.”

“Wait!” David said. “You’ll let me thank you for coming to me? You’ll
let me call on you for help if I need it?”

“Anything!” said Turrill, and with that he went.

‘Thusia was in the kitchen and David went there.

“It’s Marty Ware,” he said. “He’s in trouble, ‘Thusia. I’ll have to go
downtown and let my sermon go. We’ll give them another from the bottom
of the barrel this time. Do you suppose you can, presently, take Alice
and drop in on Marty’s mother for a little visit? Are you able?”

“In half an hour?”

“Yes, or in an hour. Marty is in dire trouble, ‘Thusia, and I don’t know
whether he can be pulled out of it. I’m going to do what I can. I’ve
been thinking of his mother; she is so--what’s the word!--aloof!
isolated! so by herself. If the trouble comes she will need someone,
some woman, or she will break. I’d send Rose Hinch, but I think you
would be better--you and Alice.”

“Yes, I understand,” ‘Thusia said. “‘Something not too bright and good
for human nature’s daily food.’ Is Marty’s trouble serious!”

David placed his hand on his wife’s shoulder. “I can’t tell you how
serious, ‘Thusia,” he said. “I don’t want you to know. You’ll not let
his mother guess we know anything about it!”

“Let me think!” said ‘Thusia. “Didn’t she give a lemon cake for our last
church dinner! I’m sure she did! It will be about that I happen to run
in. You’ll be back in time for supper, David! Hot rolls, you know!”

“Oh, if it is hot rolls you can depend on me!” David smiled.

Mrs. Ware was a peculiar woman. She was an old woman and alone in the
world except for Marty, her only son, who had come late in her life. She
was a proud woman. During her husband’s life she had rather lorded it
(or ladied it) over our mixed “good society” in Riverbank. Ware had
been a commission man, now and then plunging on his own hook, as we say,
buying heavily and selling when prices went up. He always had abundant
money, and Mrs. Ware spent it for him. They built the big house
overlooking the river--a palace for Riverbank of those days--and Mrs.
Ware held her head very high, with four horses in the stable and a
coachman and gardener and two maids and a grand piano and four oil
paintings “done by hand” in Europe! And then, when Ware died, there
was hardly enough money in the bank to pay for his funeral, no life
insurance, and everything mortgaged. Marty was about fourteen then, a
bright boy.

For a year or so Mrs. Ware tried to keep the big house, and then it
had to go. Instead of the social queen, spending the largest income in
Riverbank, she was almost the poorest of women. She moved out of the
big house into a little three-room white box of a place on a back street
that was then a mere track through the weeds. Her white hands had to
do all the housework that was done; she had no maid at all, and hardly
enough for herself and Marty to eat. No doubt it was a crushing blow,
but she could not bare herself in her poverty to those who had known her
in her flaunting prosperity. She shut her door, and became a proud, hard
recluse.

Somehow she managed to get Marty through the high school, and then he
went to work. He found some minor position in one of our banks and might
have held it and have worked up into a better position, for he proved
to be a natural accountant, but the “fast set” caught him, and, after
it was learned that he spent his nights with the cards, the bank let
him go. Until he was twenty-one he skipped from one temporary job to
another. Sometimes he was in the freight office, then with a mill, then
behind a counter for a few weeks. He had wonderful adaptability and
seemed able to step into a position and take up the work of another
man in an instant. He seemed destined to become a permanent “temporary
assistant,” but he was making more friends all the while and he had
hardly passed his majority when he was elected city treasurer. He seemed
to have found his proper niche at last.

The salary attached to the treasurership was not large but it was
enough, or would have been if Marty had not gambled. One good black
winter suit and one good black summer suit will last many years in
Riverbank, and Marty always seemed properly dressed in black. He was
slender and what we called “natty.” His hair was as black as night.
During his second term he began to show the effects of his nights. His
face became paler than it should have been, and some mornings he was so
tremulous he took a glass of whisky to steady his hands. With all this
he was immensely popular, and when the chances of the campaign in which
he was finally beaten were discussed Mart Ware was the one man no one
believed could be beaten. He lost by twenty votes.

As David walked down the hill toward Main Street and Seth Hardcome’s
shoe store he thought of these things. Mart Ware was one man, if there
were any, who had been thrown out of office through David’s part in the
campaign. To that extent he was specifically responsible; in the broader
sense that he was his “brother’s keeper” it was his duty to do all he
could to save any man or woman in such trouble as Marty was in.

A year or two earlier Seth Hardcome, his tough old body beginning to
feel the draughts and changes of temperature of his long, narrow store,
had had Belden, the contractor, partition off an office across the rear,
and here David found the old man. He was standing at his tall desk,
making out half-yearly bills against the coming of the first of January,
and he pushed his spectacles up into his hair and turned to David with
the air of a busy man interrupted.

“Well, dominie!”

David put his hand on the back of one of the chairs near the little
stove that heated the office.

“Can you sit down for a minute or two!” he asked. “Have you time to talk
facts and figures; to give me a business man’s good advice!”

“Why, yes,” said Hardcome; “I guess you ain’t going to try to sell me
any stocks and bonds, eh! I guess you’re one man I don’t have to be
afraid of that with. Facts and figures, eh! Fire away!”

David seated himself and put one knee over the other. The warmth of the
stove was grateful after the chill air outside, and he rubbed his palms
back and forth against each other.

“Do you know--or, if you don’t know exactly, can you guess fairly dose
to it--what the campaign we had last month cost our crowd!” David asked.

“County or city!” asked Hardcome. “I guess there wasn’t much spent
outside the city.”

“I was thinking of the city,” said David.

“Well, we _raised_ pretty close to four thousand dollars,” said
Hardcome, “and we _spent_ more than that. We _spent_ more than four
thousand dollars. Halls, fireworks, speakers, printing--costs a lot of
money! I guess the other fellows spent three times that, so we can’t
complain. I hear the liquor makers poured a lot of money into Riverbank,
and I guess it’s so. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if they spent ten or
twelve thousand.”

“To our four thousand,” said David. “Looking at it that way you couldn’t
call our money wasted, could you!”

“Wasted! What you talking about! To clean out these saloons! Four
thousand dollars wasted, when we’ve as good as got the saloons closed
by spending it! You don’t take count of money that way when it’s for a
thing like that, do you!”

“Money is money,” said David sagely. “A half of four thousand dollars
would be a wonderful help to our church. And yours is not too rich, is
it! Four thousand dollars would buy the poor how many pairs of shoes!
Eight hundred! A thousand!”

“Depends on the kind of shoes,” said Hardcome with a grim smile. “And a
lot of good it would do to give them shoes into one hand, when they go
right off and spend all they’ve got, in the saloons, with the other.
Ain’t they better off with the saloons closed and the money in their
pockets to buy their own shoes!”

“Yes, I’ll admit that,” said David. “Is that why we made the fight to
close the saloons! So they could buy their own shoes! There are not
so many poor in this town, Hardcome. You don’t see many suffering for
shoes. I thought our campaign had something to do with saving a few
souls--a few bodies that were going down into the gutter.”

“So it did!” said Hardcome promptly. “I didn’t start saying how many
shoes the campaign money would buy, did I! I seem to remember you said
it first.”

He smiled again, the pleased smile of a man who has got a dominie in a
corner in argument. David smiled too.

“I believe I did first mention the campaign in terms of shoes,” he
admitted. “I stand corrected. It should be mentioned in terms of
souls--human souls, not shoe soles. And, looking at it that way, was it
worth the price! Was it worth four thousand dollars!”

“My stars!” exclaimed Hardcome, and stared at David in genuine surprise.

“I mean just that,” insisted David; “was it worth four thousand dollars!
How many souls will the campaign actually save! One! Ten! A thousand!
Not a thousand. We can’t say, offhand, that every man who stepped into a
saloon lost his soul, can we! He might be saved later, and in some other
way, at less cost. How many in Riverbank have died in the gutter in the
last year? How many have killed themselves because of drink?”

“But--” Hardcome began. David raised his hand.

“Because,” he said, “next year we may have this all to do over again.
Next year we may need another four thousand dollars, and the next year,
and the next year. How many men in Riverbank actually die in the gutter
each year!”

Now, there are not many. Riverbank men do not often die in the gutter,
and but few of them kill themselves on account of drink. They live on
for years, a handful of sodden, stupid, blear-eyed creatures.

“One!” asked David. “Is the average one a year? I don’t believe it,
but let us say it is one. Is it worth four thousand dollars to save
one drunkard from death! To save one drunkard’s soul! There is a plain
business proposition: Is it worth that much cash! That’s what I’m
getting at.”

“To save a man!” exclaimed Hardcome, his hard face as near showing
horror as it had for many long years. “To save a man and his eternal
soul! What do you mean! We don’t set prices on souls, that way, do we!
My stars! I never heard of such a thing! And from a dominie! You can’t
count a soul in cash dollars. What if it is but one soul we drag back
from hell-fire! What’s four thousand, or five thousand, or ten thousand
dollars when it comes to a soul!”

“I don’t mean your soul, or mine,” said David. “I mean a drunkard’s
soul, or some soul like that. Is it worth while to spend four thousand
dollars to save one soul!”

“Of course it is!” snapped Hardcome. “Couldn’t we,” urged David, “save
more souls, at a lower cost per soul, if we sent the money to foreign
missions!”

“I don’t know whether we could or we couldn’t,” cried Hardcome. “That’s
got nothing to do with it. We got to take care of the souls right at
home first. I don’t care if it costs ten thousand dollars a soul, it’s
our duty to do it!” David arose and turned and faced the shoe merchant.
His face was white. His eyes were like gray steel. He had no smile now.

“Then, if you think souls are worth so much,” he asked tensely, “why
are you sending Marty Ware to eternal death for a miserable two thousand
dollars! Two thousand! For a miserable fifteen hundred, for here are
five hundred a benighted gambler dug up to save the boy!” Hardcome was
on his feet too. He had turned as white as David, or whiter.

“Are drunkards’ souls the only souls you prize, Seth Hardcome!” asked
David. “Don’t you know that boy will kill himself if he is exposed and
ruined! A fool! Of course he is a fool! You knew he was a gambler--you
must have known it--and you let him run his course when you might have
brought him up short, threatening to get off his bond. You talk about
ten-thousanddollar souls, and you will not turn over your hand to save
Marty Ware’s soul when it will not cost you a cent!”

“It’ll cost me two thousand dollars,” said Hardcome. “That’s what it’ll
cost me!”

“And you call yourself a business man!” laughed David. “A business man!
Look!”

He picked up the roll of bank notes he had thrown on the shoe merchant’s
desk.

“This is what a gambler gave to save Marty,” he exclaimed. “Five hundred
dollars! And you talk about it costing you two thousand to save Marty
from suicide! Why, man, your two thousand is _gone!_ You are his
bondsman, the only responsible one, and you’ll have to pay whether he is
dead and in eternal fire, or alive and to be saved! Your two thousand
is gone, spent, vanished already and it will not cost you a cent more
to save Marty Ware’s soul. Here, take this five hundred dollars; you can
_save_ five hundred dollars by saving Marty Ware’s eternal soul!”

Hardcome was dazed. He put out his hand and took the money and looked at
it unseeingly, turning it over and over in his fingers. Then he looked
up at David, and in David’s eyes was a twinkle. The dominie put his hand
on the shoe man’s arm, and laughed.

“Did I do that well?” he asked.

Hardcome did not smile. He turned his head and peered through the glass
of the door into the store room, doubtless to see where his clerk was
and whether he had heard, and then he looked back at David.

“Sit down,” he said, still unsmilingly.

David seated himself. Hardcome stood, half leaning against the desk,
turning the roll of bills in his hand.

“You don’t know why I went on that boy’s bond,” he said. “His mother
slammed a door in my wife’s face, or what amounted to that, or worse.
His mother was queen of Riverbank when you came, and for a long while
after, so I needn’t tell you how high and mighty she was before Ware
died. You know, I guess. They came here in ‘Fifty-three, and my wife and
I came in ‘Fifty-one, and I started this shoe business that year. That
was on Water Street, in a frame shack where the Riverbank Hotel stands
now. I didn’t move the store up here until ‘Fifty-nine. My wife and I
lived at the old Morton House until the bugs drove us out---bugs and
roaches, and we couldn’t stand them--and there were no houses to be had,
so for a while we lived back of the store in the shack, getting along
the best we could, waiting for houses to be built.

“The Wares had some money when they came, and Tarvole, who was building
the house we hoped to rent, sold it to Ware and they moved in. You know
how things are in a new town. Anyway, my wife took her calling cards and
called on Mrs. Ware. She didn’t find the lady at home, and that evening
a boy brought my wife’s card back to her. He said Mrs. Ware told him to
say she wasn’t at home, and wouldn’t be, to a cobbler.

“My wife laughed at it, but it made me mad enough. I said I would
get even with the Wares, and I meant it. I kept it in mind for years,
waiting a chance, but you don’t always have a chance. There are some
men and women you can’t seem to hurt, and the Wares were two of them. He
seemed to make plenty of money and keep out of things where I could have
done him a bad turn. I got to be a director in the Riverbank National,
but he never needed to borrow, so I couldn’t hurt him there. His wife
was always at the top of things, too. I couldn’t hit her.

“Well, Ware died and everything went. The widow was as poor as a church
mouse; I don’t know how she got along. She was so poor she couldn’t be
hurt; she was like the dust you walk on--it’s dust, and that’s an end of
it: it can’t be anything less. She shut herself up, and was nothing.
My wife was dead, anyway, and I couldn’t hurt the widow by flaunting my
wife and the position she had in the widow’s face.

“Then this boy grew up--this Marty. I got him the place in the bank.”

“You did!” David exclaimed.

“It was the only way I could hit at the widow,” said Hardcome. “I
thought maybe it would annoy her, to know I was the one that was helping
her boy. Maybe it did. I never knew. When the cashier said it wasn’t
safe to keep him any longer I told Marty to tell his mother not to
worry; that I would try to fix it so he could stay. I did manage to get
them to keep him a few months longer; then they outvoted me.

“Then I got him the place in the freight office, but he couldn’t hold
it. A couple of times, when he lost his jobs, I took him in the store
here. I knew that would annoy the old dame, and I guess it did. Then
some of the Democrats picked him up and ran him for this job he has now.
It made me mad that I couldn’t say I had been back of that, but when it
came to getting a couple of bondsmen I saw another chance to bother the
old lady. I went on his bond.”

Hardcome unrolled the money in his hand and smoothed it out.

“You knew my wife, dominie;” he continued slowly. “Some people did not
like her, but I did. I never had any complaint to make about her; she
was a good wife. So it sort of seemed to me--when Turrill came to me and
told me what Marty had done--and I remembered how that woman had slammed
her door in my wife’s face, so to say--that this was my chance--my
chance to get even once for all.”

He stopped, folded the bills, and slipped them into his pocket.

“You see,” he said, “you didn’t know the whole story. It would have been
something of a windup to send the boy to the penitentiary. I guess that
would have taken the old lady off her high horse. But I don’t know. I
don’t want to kill the boy’s soul, or anybody’s soul. I guess I’ll make
good what he is short, and take him into the store here again.”

David was ont of his chair and his hand clasped Hardcome’s hand. The old
man laughed then, a little sheepishly.

“Sort of tickles me!” he said. “Wouldn’t the old dame be hopping mad if
she knew the cobbler was going to save the Riverbank queen’s boy, and
his life, and his soul, and the whole caboodle!”

“It would be coals of fire on her head,” smiled David.

“‘Twould so!” said Seth Hardcome; “and I reckon the hair is getting
pretty thin on the top of her head now, too!”

Then he laughed. And David laughed.

He was still smiling when he stepped out into the street and was told by
the first man he met that old Sam Wiggett had just dropped dead in his
office.



XII. MONEY MATTERS


LOOKING back, in later years, the death of old Sam Wiggett seemed to
David Dean to mark the close of one epoch and the beginning of another,
and the day he heard of the engagement of his daughter Alice marked a
third.

It was Monday and well past noon and the heat was intense. Although he
was late for dinner--noon dinners being the rule in Riverbank--David
paused now and then as he climbed the Third Street hill, resting a
few moments in the shade and fanning himself with the palm-leaf fan he
carried. Where the walk was not shaded by overarching maple trees the
heat beat up from the plank sidewalks in appreciable gusts. All spring
he had been feeling unaccountably weary, and these hot days seemed to
take the sap out of him. He had had a hard morning.

His Sunday had held a disappointment. In one way or another Lucille
Hardcome had induced John Gorst, whose fame as a pulpit orator was
country-wide, to spend the day at Riverbank and preach morning and
evening--in the morning at David’s church and in the evening at the
union meeting in the court square--and David had looked forward to the
day as one that would give _him_ the uplift of communion with one of the
great minds of his church. He had dined at Lucille’s with John Gorst
and had had the afternoon with him, and it had been all a sad
disappointment. Instead of finding Gorst a big mind he had found him
somewhat shallow and theatrical. Instead of a day of intellectual growth
David had suffered a day of shattered ideals. While he disliked to admit
it he had to confess that the great John Gorst was tiresome.

He did admit, however, that the two sermons John Gorst preached were
masterpieces of pulpit oratory. What he said was not so much, nor did he
leave in David’s mind so much as a mustard seed of original thought, but
the great preacher had held his congregations breathless. He had
made them weep and gasp, and he had thrilled them. Hearing him David
understood why John Gorst had leaped from a third-rate church in a
country village to one of the best churches in a large town, and then to
a famous and wealthy church in a metropolis.

David’s first duty this Monday morning had been to see John Gorst off on
the morning train. Lucille Hardcome and four or five others had been at
the station, and John Gorst had glowed under their words of adulation.
Well-fed, well-groomed, he had nodded to them from the car window as
the train pulled out, and David had turned away to tramp through the
hot streets to the East End where, Rose Hinch had sent word, old Mrs.
Grelling was close to death. John Gorst, in his parlor car, was on his
way to complete his two months’ vacation at the camp of a millionaire
parishioner in the Wisconsin woods.

Old Mrs. Grelling, senile and maundering, had been weeping weakly,
oppressed by a hallucination that she had lost her grasp on Heaven. Her
little room was insufferably hot and close, and Rose Hinch sat by the
bed fanning the emaciated old woman, turning her pillow now and then,
trying to make her comfortable. Her patient had no bodily pain; in an
hour, or a day, or a week, she would fall asleep forever and without
discomfort, but now she was in dire distress of mind. Grown childish she
could not remember that she was at peace with God, and she mourned and
would not let Rose Hinch comfort her.

In twelve words David brought peace to the old woman in the bed. It was
not logic she wanted, nor oratory such as John Gorst could have given,
but the few words of comfort from the man of God in whom she had faith.
David knelt by the bed and prayed, and read “The Lord is My Shepherd,”
 and her doubts no longer troubled her. If David Dean, the dominie she
had trusted these many years, assured her she was safe, she could
put aside worry and die peacefully. David saw a Book of Psalms on her
bedside table, less bulky than the large-typed Bible, and he put it in
her hands.

“Hold fast to this,” he said, “it is the sign of your salvation. You
will not be afraid again. I must go now, but I will come back again.”

He left her clasping the book in both her hands. She died before he saw
her again, but Rose Hinch told him she held the book until she died,
and that she had no return of the childish fear. She slept into eternity
peacefully content.

From Mrs. Grelling’s bedside David walked to Herwig’s to give his
daily order for groceries. The old grocer entered the small order and
hesitated.

“Dominie--” he said.

David knew what was coming, or imagined he did, and felt sick at heart.

“Yes?” he queried.

“I guess you know as well as I do how I hate to say anything about
money,” said Herwig, “and you know I wouldn’t if I wasn’t so hard put to
it I don’t know which way to turn. I don’t want you to worry about it.
If it ain’t convenient just you forget I ever said anything. Fact is
I’m so pressed for money I’m worried to death. The wholesalers I get my
goods of--”

“My bill is much larger than it should be,” said David. “I have let it
run longer than I have any right to. Just at this moment--”

“I wouldn’t even speak of it if I wasn’t so put to it to satisfy those I
owe,” said Herwig apologetically. “I thought maybe you might be able to
help me out somehow, but I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”

He was evidently sincere.

“My wholesalers are threatening to close me out,” he said, “and I’ve
just got to try every way I can to raise some cash. If it wasn’t for
that I wouldn’t dun a good customer, let alone you, Mr. Dean.”

“I know it, Brother Herwig,” David said. “You have been most lenient. I
am ashamed. I will see what I can do.”

The old grocer followed him to the door, still protesting his regret,
and David turned up the street to do the thing he disliked most of
anything in the world--ask his trustees for a further advance on his
salary.

Already he was overdrawn by several hundred dollars, and he was as
deeply ashamed of this as he was of his debts to the merchants of
Riverbank. It had always been his pride to be “even with the world”;
he felt that no man had a right to live beyond his means--“spending
to-morrow to pay for to-day,” he called it--and he had worried much over
his accumulating debts. That very morning, before he had left his manse,
he had made out a new schedule of his indebtedness, and had been shocked
to see how it had grown since his trustees had made the last advance he
had asked. With the advance the trustees had allowed him, the total
was something over a thousand dollars. He still owed something on last
winter’s coal; he owed a goodly drug bill; his grocery bill was unpaid
since the first of the year; he owed the butcher; the milkman had a bill
against him; there were a dozen small accounts for shoes, drygoods, one
thing and another.

In Riverbank, at that time, business was nearly all credit business.
Bills were rendered twice a year, or even once a year, and, when
rendered, often remained unpaid for another six months or so. As
accounts went David’s accounts were satisfactory to the merchants;
he was counted a “good” customer. His indebtedness had grown slowly,
beginning with his wife’s illness, and he had run in debt beyond his
means almost without being aware of it. A semiyearly settling period had
come around, and he had found himself without sufficient funds to pay
in full, as he usually did. He paid what he could, and let the balance
remain, hoping to pay in full at the next settling period. Instead
of this he found himself still further behind, and each half year had
increased his load of unpaid bills.

David worried. He questioned his right to think the church did not pay
him enough, for he received as much as any other minister in Riverbank,
and more than most, and his remuneration came promptly on the day it was
due, and was never in arrears, as was the case with at least one other.
As a matter of fact, his trustees had several times advanced him money,
and had advanced him three hundred dollars on the current quarter year.

The dominie felt no resentment against the church or the trustees.
More remunerative pulpits had been offered him, and he had refused them
because he believed his work lay in Riverbank. Despite all this he could
not accuse himself of extravagance. He had raised two children, and they
were an expense, but he did not for a moment question his right to have
children. He would have liked a half dozen; certainly two--in a town
where larger families were the rule--could not be called extravagant.
Neither were they extravagant children. Roger had been given as much
college training as he seemed able to bear, and had been economical
enough; Alice had wished for college but had been compelled to be
satisfied with graduation from the Riverbank High School, and was at
home taking the place of the maid David felt he could no longer afford.

In the final analysis, David’s inability to make his salary meet his
needs resolved itself into a matter of his wife’s illness. ‘Thusia,
once the liveliest of girls, was now practically bedridden, although
she could be brought downstairs now and then to rest on a divan in the
sitting room. She was a permanent invalid now, but a cheerful one. In
many ways she was more helpful to David than in their earlier married
years; her advice was good, and, with Rose Hinch and Mary Derling, she
made the council of three that upheld David’s hands in his works of
charity and helpfulness. But an invalid is, however helpful her brain
may be, an expense, and one not contemplated by trustees when they set a
minister’s salary. Certainly ‘Thusia’s illness was not the fault of the
church, but it was the cause of David’s debts. He could not and did
not blame the church for his financial condition, nor could he blame
‘Thusia. Alice was doing her full share in the house, taking the maid’s
place, but Roger--alas, Roger! Roger, the well-beloved son, was a
disappointment. He now had a “job,” but after David’s high hopes for
the lad the place Roger occupied was almost humiliating. David felt that
Roger probably hardly earned the four dollars a week he was paid by
his grandfather, old Mr. Fragg. He no longer called on his father
good-naturedly for funds, but he still lived at home, and probably would
as long as the home existed.

So this was our dominie as he walked through the hot Main Street on his
way to see Banker Burton, now his most influential trustee. Our David
was but slightly round-shouldered; his eyes still clear and gray; hair
still curled gold; mouth refined and quick to smile; brow broad, and but
little creased. His entire air was one of quick and kindly intelligence;
a little weary after twenty-nine years of ministry, a little worn by
care, but our Davy still.

I remember him telling me how the passing of the old and staunch friends
and (occasional) enemies affected him--men like old Sam Wiggett--and
how he felt less like a child of the patriarchs, and more like something
bargained and contracted for. This was said without bitterness; he was
trying to let me know what an important part in his younger years those
old elders and trustees had played. They never quite stopped thinking
of David as the boy minister, and to David they remained something stern
and authoritative, like the ancient Biblical patriarchs.

They had seemed the God-appointed rulers of the church; somehow the
newer trustees and elders, the reason for the choosing of each of whom
was known to David, seemed to lack something of the old awesome divine
right. They seemed more ordinarily human.

“They let Lucille Hardcome walk on them,” I told David, but of course
David would not admit that.

“Lucille is very kind to ‘Thusia,” he said.

Mary Derling, having put up with Derling’s infidelities long enough,
divorced him. Her son Ben was now a young man. Mary herself was well
along in the forties, and her abiding love for David Dean glowed in good
works year after year, and in the affection of Mary, ‘Thusia and Rose
Hinch David felt himself blessed above most men. Rose was the best nurse
in Riverbank, and those who could secure her services felt that the
efficiency of their physician was doubled. She asked an honest wage from
those who could afford it, but she gave much of her time to David’s
sick poor, and many hours to investigating poverty and distress. In
this latter work Mary Derling aided, and it was at ‘Thusia’s bedside
the consultations were held; for ‘Thusia was no longer able to leave her
bed, except on days when she sat in an easy-chair, or could be carried
to a downstair couch. In a long, thin book ‘Thusia kept a record of
needs and deeds. David called it his “laundry list.” In this were
entered the souls and bodies that needed “doing over”--souls to be
scrubbed and bodies to be starched and creases to be ironed out of both.

‘Thusia was a secretary of charities always to be found at home. Charity
work soon grows wearisome, but ‘Thusia could make the least interesting
cases attractive as she told of them. Each page of her “laundry list”
 was a romance. ‘Thusia not only interested herself but she kept interest
alive in others.

And Lucille! Lucille tried honestly enough to be useful in the way Rose
and Mary were useful. As the years passed she kept up all her numberless
activities, glowing as a social queen, pushing forward as a political
factor, driving the church trustees, ordering the music and cowing the
choir--she was in everything and leading everything, and yet she was
discontented. More and more, each year, she came to believe that David
Dean was the man of all men whose good opinion she desired, and it
annoyed her to think that he valued the quiet services of Mary Derling
and Rose Hinch more than anything Lucille had done or, perhaps, could
do. She was like a child in her desire for words of commendation from
David.

As David Dean mounted the three steps that led up to the bank where B.
C. Burton spent his time as president, Lucille was awaiting him in his
study in the little white manse on the hill.



XIII. A SURPRISE


B. C. BURTON, the president of the Riverside National Bank, was a
widower, and led an existence that can be described as calmly and
good-naturedly detached. He was a younger son of a father long since
dead, who had established the Burton, Corley & Co. bank, which had
prospered, and finally taken a national banking charter. Corley had
furnished the capital for the original bank, and the Burton family had
run the business. B. C.--he was usually called by his initials--had
married Corley’s only daughter, and had thus acquired the Corley money.
After his wife’s death his wealth was estimated as a hundred thousand
dollars; the truth was that old Corley had invested badly, and left his
daughter no more than twenty-five thousand. At the time of his marriage
B. C. owned nothing but his share of the bank stock, worth about twenty
thousand.

In spite of his reputation as a banker, B. C. was a poor business man
where his own affairs were concerned. During his wife’s life his own
bank stock increased in value to about twenty-five thousand dollars, but
he managed to lose all of the twenty-five thousand his wife had brought
him, and when she died he had nothing but his house and his bank stock.
In the four or five years since his wife’s death he had continued his
misfortunes, and had pledged fifteen thousand dollars’ worth of his bank
stock to old Peter Grimsby, one of the bank’s directors. Thus, while
Riverbank counted B. C. Burton a wealthy man, the bank president was
worth a scant ten thousand dollars, plus a house worth five or six
thousand. The bank stock brought him six per cent, and his salary was
two thousand; he had an income of about twenty-six hundred dollars which
the town imagined to be ten or fifteen thousand.

Being a childless widower he could live well enough on his income in
Riverbank, but, had it not been for his placidity of temper, he would
have been a discontented and disappointed man. Even so his first half
hour after awaking in the morning was a bad half hour. He opened his
eyes feeling depressed and weary, with his life an empty hull. For half
an hour he felt miserable and hopeless; but he had a sound body, and a
cup of coffee and solid breakfast set him up for the day; he became a
good-natured machine for the transaction of routine banking business.

Some twist of humor or bit of carelessness had marked the choice of the
names of the two Burton boys. The elder had been named Andrew D., which
in itself was nothing odd; neither was there anything odd that the
younger should have been given the name of the father’s partner,
Benjamin Corley; but the town was quick to adopt the initials--A. D.
and B. C.--and to see the humor in them, and the two men were ever after
known by them. When they were boys they were nicknamed Anna (for Anno
Domini) and Beef (for Before Christ), and the names were not ill-chosen.
The elder boy was as nervous as a girl, and Ben was as stolid as an ox.
They never got along well together and, soon after B. C. entered the
bank, A. D.--who had been cashier--left it and went into retail trade.

A. D. was the type of man that seems smeared all over with whatever he
undertakes. Had he been a baker he would have been covered with flour
and dough from head to foot--dough would have been in his hair. Had
B. C. been a baker he would have emerged from his day’s work without
a fleck of flour upon him. A. D. blundered into things, and became
saturated with them; B. C.’s affairs were like the skin of a ripe
tangerine--they clothed him but were hardly an integral part of him.
Life’s rind fitted him loosely.

When David Dean entered the bank, B. C. was closeted with a borrower,
and the dominie was obliged to wait a few minutes. He stood at the
window, his hands clasped behind him, gazing into the street, and trying
to arrange the words in which he would ask the banker-trustee for the
advance he desired. The door to the banker’s private office opened, the
customer came out, and the door closed again. A minute later the cashier
told David he might enter.

B. C. was sitting at his desk, coatless but immaculate. He turned and
smiled.

“Good morning, Mr. Dean,” he said. “Another good com day. You and I
don’t get much pleasure out of this hot weather, I am afraid, but it is
money in the farmers’ pockets.”

He did nothing to make David’s way easy. His very smiling good nature
made it more difficult. David plunged headlong into his business.

“Mr. Burton, could you--do you think the trustees would--grant me a
further advance on my salary!”

The banker showed no surprise, no resentment. “I dislike to ask it,”
 David continued. “I feel that the trustees have already done all that
they should. It is my place to keep within my income--that I know--but I
seem to have fallen behind in the last few years. I have had to run into
debt to some extent. There is one debt that should be paid; it should be
paid immediately; otherwise--”

“Don’t stand,” said B. C., touching a vacant chair with his finger. “Of
course you know I am only one of the trustees, Mr. Dean. I should not
pretend to give you an answer without consulting the others, but I
suppose I was made a trustee because I know something of business. They
seem to have left the finances of the church rather completely in my
hands; I think I have brought order out of chaos. Here is the balance
sheet, brought down to the first of the month.” David took the paper and
stared at it, but the figures meant nothing to him. He felt already that
Burton meant to refuse his request “Let me see it,” B. C. said, and his
very method of handing the statement to David and then taking it again
for examination was characteristic. “Why, we are in better shape than
I thought! This is very good indeed! We are really quite ahead of
ourselves; you see here we have paid five hundred dollars on the
mortgage a full six months before the time the payment was due. And here
is payment made for roofing the church, and paid promptly. Usually we
keep our bills waiting. Then here is the advance made you. This is a
very good statement, Mr. Dean. And now let me see; cash on hand! Well,
that item is low; very low! Twenty-eight dollars and forty cents. You
understand that, do you! That is the cash we have available for all
purposes.”

He had not refused David; he had shown him that his request could not be
granted.

“Of course, then,” said David, “the trustees have nothing to advance,
even were they so inclined. I thank you quite as much.”

“Now, don’t hurry,” said B. C. “You don’t come in here often, and when
you do I ought to be able to spare you a few minutes. Sit down. At our
last meeting the trustees were speaking of your salary. We think you
should receive more than you are getting; if the church could afford it
we would arrange it at once, but you know how closely we have to figure
to make ends meet.”

“I have not complained,” said David.

“Indeed not! But we think of these things; we don’t forget you, you see.
I dare say we know almost as much about your affairs as you know.
I believe I can tell you the name of the creditor you spoke of. It’s old
Herwig, isn’t it!”

“Yes.”

“I thought so,” said B. C. “Of course I knew you traded there, and it
is a good thing to patronize our own church members, but it is a pity
we haven’t a live grocer in the church. I had to leave Herwig; my
housekeeper couldn’t get what she wanted there. Now, just let me tell
you something, and put your mind at rest: if you paid Herwig whatever
you owe him you might as well take the money down to the river and throw
it in! Herwig is busted right now, and he knows it. If he collected
every cent due him he would be just as insolvent. He is dead of dry rot;
it is all over but the funeral. The only reason his creditors haven’t
closed him up is that it is not worth their while; I don’t suppose
they’ll get a cent on the dollar. So don’t worry about him--he’s
hopeless.”

“But what I owe him--”

“Wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket!” said B. C. “Don’t worry about it.
Don’t think about it. And now, about a possible increase in your salary;
I think we may be able to manage that before long. Lucille Hardcome
seems to be taking a great interest in your outside church work.”

“She seems eager to give all the help she can.”

“That’s good! She is a wealthy woman, Mr. Dean; wealthier than you
imagine, I believe. Do what you reasonably can to keep up her interest.
She has done very little for the church yet in a money way. She can
easily afford to do as much as Mary Derling is doing. Of course we
understand she has had great expense in all these things she is doing;
that house done over and all; she has probably used more than her
income, but she can’t get much more into the house without building an
addition. She is thoroughly Riverbank now, and we have let her take a
prominent part in the church and the Sunday school; she owes it to us to
give liberally. I think she could give a thousand dollars a year, if she
chose, and not feel it. The hundred she gives now is nothing; suppose we
say five hundred dollars. If we can get her to give five hundred we can
safely add two hundred and fifty of it to your salary. And you deserve
it, and ought to have it. If we can add that two hundred and fifty
dollars to your salary during my trusteeship I shall be delighted. We
all feel that way--all the trustees.”

“That is more than I ever dared hope,” said David. “It is kind of you to
think of it.”

“I wish we could make it a thousand,” said B. C. sincerely. “Well, I
don’t want to keep you all day in this hot office. Just humor Lucille
Hardcome a little; she’s high-handed but I think she means all right.”

David went out. The sun was hotter than ever, but for a block or two he
did not notice it. Two hundred and fifty dollars increase! It would mean
that in a few years he could be even with the world again! Then, as he
toiled up the hot hill, his immediate needs returned to his mind, and
he thought of Herwig. Whether the old grocer must inevitably fail in
business or not the debt David owed him was an honestly contracted debt,
and the old man had a right to expect payment; all David’s creditors had
a right to expect payment. His horror of debt returned in full force.
There was not a place where he could look for a dollar; he felt bound
and constrained, guilty, shamed.

Before the manse Lucille Hardcome’s low-hung carriage stood. He entered
the house.

“David!” called ‘Thusia from the sitting room, and he hung his hat on
the rack and went in to her.

“Lucille is waiting in the study,” said ‘Thusia. “She has been waiting
an hour; Alice is with her.”

“‘Thusia, what has happened!” he cried, for his wife’s face showed she
had received a blow.

“Oh, David! David!” she exclaimed. “It is Alice! She is engaged!”

“Not Alice! Not our Alice!” cried David. “But--”

‘Thusia burst into tears. She reached for his hand, and clung to it.

“Oh, David! To Lanny Welsh--do you know anything about him!” she wept.
“I don’t know anything about him at all, except he was a bartender, and
Roger knows him.”

“Our Alice! Lanny Welsh!” said David, “But nothing of the sort can be
allowed, ‘Thusia. It cannot be!”

“Oh, I hoped you would say that!” said ‘Thusia. “But don’t wait now. Go
to Lucille at once!”

So David bent and kissed his wife, and walked across the hall to his
study.



XIV. LUCILLE HELPS


THE shock of his wife’s news regarding Alice had the effect of a slap
with a cold towel, and momentarily surprised David Dean out of the weary
depression into which the heat of the day, his inability to secure an
advance on his salary and the delay in his midday meal had dragged him.
A blow of a whip could not have aroused him more. Like many men who live
an active mental life, he was accustomed to digging spurs into his
jaded brain when and where necessity arose, forcing himself to
attack unexpected problems with a vigor that, a moment before, seemed
impossible. Neither he nor ‘Thusia had had the slightest intimation that
Alice was in love, or in any way in danger of engaging herself to Lanny
Welsh. The event, as David saw it, would be most unfortunate. He had
heard Roger mention the young fellow’s name now and then, and perhaps
Alice had discussed Lanny’s ball playing with Roger in the presence of
her parents; David could not remember. He entered his study briskly. The
matters in hand were simple enough; he would get through with Lucille
Hardcome as quickly as possible, remembering Burton’s suggestion that
some attention should be paid her. This would release Alice for the
moment, and she could get the dinner on the table, for the dominie was
thoroughly hungry. After dinner he would have a talk with Alice, and he
had no doubt she would explain her engagement, and that he would find it
less serious than ‘Thusia imagined.

When David entered the study Alice, who had been curled up in his
easy-chair, unwound herself and prepared for flight. She was in a happy
mood, and kissed Lucille and then her father.

“No doubt you know that Dominie Dean is about starved, Alice,” her
father said. “I’ll be ready for dinner when dinner is ready for me. If
Mrs. Hardcome and I are not through when you are ready for me perhaps
she will take a bite with us.”

“I shan’t be long,” said Lucille. “I waited because--”

Alice slipped from the room and closed the door and Lucille, as if
Alice’s going had rendered unnecessary the giving of a reason, left her
sentence unfinished. She was sitting in the dominie’s desk chair with
one braceleted arm resting on the desk, her hand on a sheet of sermon
paper that lay there. She picked it up now.

“I couldn’t help seeing this, Mr. Dean,” she said. “‘Thusia was asleep
when I came, and Alice brought me in here and left me when she went
about her dinner-getting. I saw it without intending to.”

David colored. The paper contained a schedule of his debts, scribbled
down that morning. He held out his hand.

“It was not meant to be seen,” he said. “I should have put it in the
drawer.”

Lucille ignored the hand.

“It was because I saw it I waited,” she said. “This is what has been
worrying you.”

“Worrying me?”

“Of course I have noticed it,” she said. “You have been so different
the last month or two; I knew you had something on your mind, and I knew
dear ‘Thusia was no worse. You must not worry. You are too important;
we all depend on you too much to have you worrying about such things.
Please wait! I know how stingy the church is with you--yes, stingy is
the word!--and Mr. Burton with no thought but to pay the church debt,
whether you starve or not. These financier-trustees--”

“But the church is not stingy, Mrs. Hardcome--indeed it is not. I have
been careless--”

“Nonsense! On your salary? With a sick wife and two children and all the
expenses of a house? Well, you shall not worry about it any longer. I’ll
take care of this, Mr. Dean.”

She folded the paper and put it in her purse. “But I can’t let you do
this,” said David. “I--do you mean you intend to pay for me? I can’t
permit that, of course. I know how kind you are to suggest it, but I
certainly cannot allow any such thing.”

Lucille laughed.

“Please listen, Mr. Dean! Do you think I haven’t seen Mr. Burton looking
at me with his thousand-dollar eyes! I know what he expects of me; I’ve
heard hints, you may be sure. And no doubt he is right; I ought to give
more to the church than I do. And I mean to give more; I meant to give a
thousand dollars--subscribe that much annually--and I have been waiting
for the trustees to come to me. So you see, don’t you, I am doing no
more than I intended? Only I choose to give it direct to you.”

David dropped into his easy-chair and leaned his head against his
slender hand, as was his unconscious habit when he thought. To get his
debts paid would mean everything to him, and, as Lucille explained it,
she would be merely giving what she had intended to give. But had he a
right to take the sum when she had meant to give it to the church! If
she gave it to the church the trustees, as Burton had said, would set
aside a part for him as an increase of his salary, but Burton was clear
enough in suggesting that two hundred and fifty dollars a year more
was what they thought Dean should receive out of whatever Lucille might
give. If he took the entire thousand would he not be breaking a tacit
agreement made with the banker! One thing was certain, he would not
accept charity from Lucille or from anyone; it would be disgraceful.
And if the thousand dollars went through the proper channel the most
he could expect was a quarter of the sum. If he took it all he would be
robbing the church. He raised his head.

“No,” he said firmly, “I can’t take it. I can’t permit it.”

“Then I give not a cent more to the church than I am giving now!” said
Lucille. “You see I have made up my mind. This year I want you to have
the thousand, Mr. Dean: Next year, and other years, the trustees can do
as they please.”

There could be no doubt that Lucille meant it. She was headstrong and
accustomed to overriding opposition: to having her own way. The horns of
the dominie’s dilemma were two: he must sacrifice his proper pride and
take her money--which he could not bring himself to do--or he must lose
the church the additional income he had been urged by Burton to try to
secure. His duty to his manhood demanded that he refuse Lucille’s offer;
his duty to his church demanded that he secure her increased monetary
support if possible.

“You are kind, and I know your suggestion is kindly meant, Mrs.
Hardcome,” he said. “I admit that my debts do worry me--they worry me
more than I dare say--but, if your generosity is such as I believe it to
be, my case is not hopeless.” He smiled. “May I speak as frankly as you
have spoken? Then, I do _not_ find my salary quite enough for my needs,
but--except for one creditor--no one is pressing me. I, and not they, am
doing the worrying. Well, my trustees have promised me an ample increase
as soon as the church income warrants it. To be quite frank, if you
should give--as you have suggested--a thousand dollars annually, or
even half that sum, my stipend will be increased two hundred and fifty
dollars. No, wait one moment! With such economies as I can initiate that
would permit me to be quite out of debt in a very few years.”

“If I were in your place,” said Lucille frankly, “I would prefer to get
out of debt to-day.”

“But I repeat,” said David, “I cannot take the money.”

“Very well,” said Lucille haughtily, and she opened her purse and placed
the schedule of debts on the dominie’s desk. She arose and David also.
“I’ll tell you plainly, Mr. Dean, that I think you are foolish.”

“Not foolish but, perhaps, reluctant to accept personal charity,” said
Dean.

Lucille was not stupid, but she looked into his eyes some time before
she spoke.

“Oh, it is that way, is it!” she said cheerfully, “Yes, I understand!
But that is quite beside the point I had in mind. I did not want you to
feel that at all! Of course you would feel that! It is quite right.
But we can arrange all that very easily, Mr. Dean; we can make it a
loan--there is no reason why you should not accept a loan as well as any
other man. I’ll lend you the money--temporarily--and when your increase
of salary comes you can pay it back. With interest, if you wish.”

“If I could make the payments quarterly, on my salary days--” hesitated
David.

“Certainly!” cooed Lucille, delighted to have won her point. “It can be
that way.”

“I should like the transaction to be regular; a note with interest.
Seven per cent is usual, I believe.”

“Certainly. You see,” she beamed, “how easy it is for reasonable people
to arrange things when they understand what they are trying to get at!
And now I must go; you are starved. I will come again this afternoon;
I will bring you the money and the note. You see we are quite
businesslike, Mr. Dean. Well, I have to be; I manage my own affairs.
I’ll just run in a moment to see ‘Thusia before I go. And--I almost
forgot it--congratulations!”

“Congratulations?”

“Alice! She told me! I am so glad!”

David did not know, on the spur of the moment, what to say. Before he
could formulate words Lucille, jingling her bracelets and rustling her
silks, had swept voluminously from the room.



XV. LANNY


ON those days when ‘Thusia was able to be downstairs Alice set a small
dinner table in the sitting room so that she might enjoy the company of
her husband and children. When David entered the sitting room Lucille
had departed, and Roger was there, waiting for his belated dinner.
Luckily his labors were not of sufficient importance to require prompt
hours--his dinner hour sometimes lasted the best half of the afternoon.
As David entered the room Alice ran to him, and threw her arms around
him; he could do no less than embrace her, for anything else would have
been like a slap in the face. He kissed her, but his face was grave.

“Father! Mother told you?” Alice said, still holding him. “Aren’t you
surprised! Why,” she pouted, “you don’t look a bit happy! But I know
why--you don’t know Lanny. They don’t know him, do they, pop?”

Her brother, who had already taken his place at the small table,
fidgeted. He was hungry.

“He’s all right!” he said. “Lanny’s fine.” Somehow the young Roger’s
approval did not carry far with David.

“I think,” he said, “we are all hungry. We will have our food, and
discuss Alice’s affairs later. I know I am too hungry to want to talk.”

“And you aren’t even going to congratulate me!” pouted Alice playfully.

The dominie cut short further talk by saying grace, following it by the
operation of serving food from the dishes that were grouped around his
plate, and then:

“How is your grandfather, Roger?”

“Fine as a fiddle, father. And, I say! we are going to play Derlingport
this Saturday. We’ve arranged a series of three games, unless one or the
other of us wins the first two. We play the first here, and the second
in Derlingport. Honestly, I am glad to play a nine I’m a bit afraid
of; this licking the spots off the grangers is getting monotonous.
Derlingport has a pitcher that knows his business--Watts. But I’ll
chance Lanny against him any day.”

“I should think so!” said Alice.

“Oh, you!” said Roger. “Because he has curly hair? A lot you know about
pitchers.”

“Well, I’m going to learn,” said Alice.

David broke the thread of the conversation. “‘Thusia,” he said, “I have
arranged to clear up the bills we owe.”

“David!” his wife exclaimed, her pale cheeks coloring with pleasure.
“Did the trustees grant the advance on your salary?”

“No, hardly that,” he answered. “I saw Burton, but there is no money
available. He was very kind. The trustees are going to give me an
increase of salary--two hundred and fifty dollars more. It will be a
great help. You see, with the increase, I can pay off the loan I am
contracting in two or three years.”

‘Thusia looked frightened.

“A loan? Are you borrowing money, David?”

“Lucille Hardcome offered it; she practically forced me to accept it,
‘Thusia. It was all I could do to keep her from forcing it on me as a
gift. That I would not hear of, of course.”

“How much are you borrowing?” asked ‘Thusia, with an intake of breath.

“It will be about a thousand dollars; a thousand, I think.”

“She could hand you ten thousand and not feel it, from what I hear,”
 said Roger.

“‘Thusia, you don’t approve?” asked David. “Oh, I wish it could have
been anyone but Lucille!” said ‘Thusia. “It seems so--But I know so
little of money matters. You would do what was best, of course, David.
It will be a great blessing to feel we are not making the tradesmen wait
for what is honestly theirs.”

“I should have consulted you,” David said, entirely without irony, for
he did consult her on most matters of importance. “It is not too late to
decline even now. I have not signed the note. She is to bring the money
this afternoon. But, if I refuse--”

He related his conversation with Lucille, as well as he could recall it.

“I hardly see how you could refuse,” ‘Thusia admitted. “If she was
angered she would do something to show her displeasure. Deep as she is
in the church affairs I hardly feel that she is with us heart and soul
yet. She always seems like an outsider taking an interest because--I
shouldn’t say it--she likes the prominence. That is why I wish you could
have had the money from another. I’m sure Mary would have lent it.”

“And of all the women I know,” said David, “Mary is the last I should
wish to borrow from. Had I my choice I would choose an entire outsider;
the more completely it is a business transaction the more pleased I am.”

No more was said then. Roger hurried away, not because his job called
him, but because, as catcher of his nine, it was his duty to keep in
practice; and some members of the nine might be on the levee willing to
pitch to him. Alice still waited.

“Will you let me speak with your mother awhile, daughter!” David said.
“Then we will call you.”

“Shall I take the dishes out first!” asked Alice.

“Yes.”

‘Thusia raised herself a little on her pillows when Alice had quitted
the room, and David drew a chair to the side of her couch. For a few
moments they were silent.

“How did it happen!” David asked finally.

“David, you must not think unkindly of her; Alice is such a child--such
a dear girl! She has no worldliness; how should she have with you and me
for her parents! I think I am to blame if she has chosen wrongly. I am
afraid I have neglected her, David.”

“What an idea, ‘Thusia! That is preposterous. Of course, I do not think
unkindly of her; but I do think she has chosen foolishly, as girls
sometimes will.”

“Yes, but I mean what I say, David. I am tied here, of course, but I
have given her so much freedom. I have trusted to her instinct to choose
suitable companions, when I should have remembered how careless and
foolish I was when I was her age.”

“What nonsense, dear!” said David. “If anyone is to blame it is myself.
How could you do any more than you have done, kept close here as you
are? How serious is it, ‘Thusia?”

“I have hardly had time to decide; I am afraid it is very serious. She
was all ecstasy and happiness until she saw I was not as happy as she
was. I am afraid I let her see it too plainly. We must not let her think
we are angry with her, David; she is very much in love with him. Oh, she
praised him as a girl will praise a lover--her first lover!”

“I suppose she met him through Roger,” said David thoughtfully.

“No,” ‘Thusia said. “I imagine Alice rather scorns Roger’s ball-playing
friends. I think Lanny Welsh called something after her one evening when
she was passing the _Eagle_ office--passing the alley there. He thought
she was some other girl, I suppose. She was furious; she thought it was
the rudest thing she had ever known, but the next time she passed he
stopped her and apologized. She thinks it was noble of him. After that
he tipped his hat whenever she passed, and she nodded to him. Then
Roger introduced them. Lanny Welsh asked him to, I suppose. Now they are
engaged.”

David rested his head on his hand, and was silent. ‘Thusia watched his
face.

“It is unfortunate; most unfortunate,” he said wearily.

“David, do you know anything about him!” ‘Thusia asked.

“Only hearsay,” he answered.

“Has he been a bartender!”

“I have heard that. You know what his father is--little better than a
blackmailer.”

“David, what can we do?” asked ‘Thusia.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “No doubt she would give him up if we asked
it.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” said ‘Thusia. “She is a good girl, but you
do not realize how she loves the boy--or thinks she loves him. She might
think we were unjust to him.”

What she implied David knew. Alice was, above all else, loyal. The
very intimation that Lanny Welsh lacked friends might strengthen her
partisanship, for she was like her father in having always a kindly
feeling for the under dog. The most uncompromised earthly happiness is
not the portion of those who feel for the under dog, for some dog is
always under. If a person is to take any interest in the world’s dog
fights, and seek enjoyment therefrom, he must be thoroughly callous,
and not care a snap of his fingers what happens to the under dog. This
hard-hearted placidity must yield those who possess it a fund of
unvexed joy; most of us find our joy alloyed by our pity for Fortune’s
unfavorites. A fair amount of carelessness regarding the under dog
is necessary for the most complete worldly success; and our dominie,
seeking to know himself, felt that if he had desired to prosper greatly
in a worldly way he should have been born without his keen desire to see
the under dog on top for a while, or at least without his inclination to
prevent all dog fights.

On the whole he did not think, however, that the callous-hearted got the
best out of life. The tough tympanum of a bass drum yields one sound,
and the tom-tom may be a fine instrument for war or joy dances, but a
delicately attuned violin quivers with more varied vibrations, and
even the minor chords must satisfy some of its fibers. In the museum
of eternity the tom-tom may have a place as a curiosity--as the musical
instrument of a crude people--but even a child can imagine its one note;
the fingers of the virtuoso tingle to touch the glass-enclosed violin,
and the imagination pleasures in the thought of the notes of joy and
sorrow it has given forth in its day.

Youth--as Alice--when born and brought up with a pity for the despised
is apt to carry the good quality over the line so far that it becomes
unreasonable. There is such a thing as innate devilishness that deserves
chastisement; some of the things other men scorn deserve our scorn also;
some men and women, too. But a girl in love, as Alice was, or thought
she was, is not a very reasonable being. With her love as a certainty,
she scorns the past and sees perfection in the future. Young lovers are
all egotists to the extent of thinking: “If I chose him he must be good
at heart and, no doubt, his past weakness was because he had not known
me.” In herself she sees his needed opportunity, and her loyalty to her
ideal of herself and to him resents the interference of those who would
interpose obstacles. Alice, being by nature loyal, and by nature and
training inclined to pity, might easily be driven to a blind and gently
berserk, but none the less everlasting, battle for Lanny Welsh by the
very opposition that sought to win her away from him.

David was the less inclined to do anything instantly because his sense
of justice was so strong. He knew too little about Lanny Welsh to
condemn the young man in his own mind without further facts. Had he had
the giving he would not have presented Alice to anyone like Lanny, for
he would have chosen some youth he knew better--and that meant Mary
Derling’s boy Ben--but, having his innate desire to do justice to all
men, and as Alice had already chosen Lanny, David felt he should learn
more about Lanny before he made an absolute decision to oppose his
daughter’s choice. He knew enough of men and life to believe the tags
the world put on young fellows were not always the proper tags. If the
match was to be opposed the method of opposition to be adopted would
depend on his knowledge of Lanny’s character and circumstances, and as
yet he knew little--too little to base an active opposition upon.

“What have you said to her, ‘Thusia!” he asked.

“I told her I was surprised, and that I must speak to you before I could
be sure what to say.”

This was close enough to the fact. The saying had taken an hour or more
and had been flavored by affectionate weepings and embraces, but in what
she told David ‘Thusia did not miss the fact far.

“I’m glad of that,” he said. “I’ll ask Alice to come in.”

She came, rosy-cheeked and tremulously happy, and the interview left her
happy and less tremulous. Of her father’s affection she was sure, and of
his justice she never had a doubt. She was not surprised that he should
wish to know more of Lanny before he ventured to feel enthusiastic about
the engagement, and she was so sure Lanny was the best of men that she
had no fear of the final result of her father’s gentle investigations.
From an interview so kindly, and permeated with affection, she went back
to the kitchen happily.

“I imagine you’ll have very little trouble in finding out all about
him,” ‘Thusia said, and then, her bravery shattering itself a little
against her motherly ambition: “David, I’m sure it is a mistake! I’m
sure she should not marry him!”

“I am afraid Alice has been too hasty,” said David.

They both meant the same thing: nothing more unfortunate could have
happened. ‘Thusia gave words to one of the reasons when she added: “Mary
will be so disappointed!”

Not a word had ever been said on the subject, but the tacit hope had
long been existent in the hearts of Mary and the two Deans that Alice
and Ben Derling might become lifemates. Until Alice had dropped the
bombshell of her engagement into the placidly intrenched hope everything
had seemed trending that way. There was no question that Ben admired
Alice, and Alice had seemed fond enough of Ben.

Although David had never allowed the filmy intuition to become an actual
thought, the gossamer suggestion had floated across his mind more than
once that it would be a good thing if Alice and Ben married. He thought,
boldly enough, that it would be a suitable match in some ways--marrying
in the same faith; marrying one who would be a good husband; marrying
one whose social position in Riverbank would increase rather than lower
David’s own capacity for good in the community. Of the marriage as a
financial matter beneficial to himself and ‘Thusia he refused to think,
but that gossamer ghost of thought would come floating by at times: an
alliance with the Derling wealth would make old age less to be dreaded;
somewhere there would be food and winter warmth and a nook by the
fireside, where he and ‘Thusia might end their days without dire
penury in case, as is so often the case with ministers, he outlived
his usefulness. He felt the thought, gossamer light as it was, to be
unworthy, but it came unbidden, and there was comfort in it. And no
man is a worse man for not wishing to end his life in an almshouse.
Certainly no man is a better man for wishing to end his days on the
Riverbank Poor Farm. The youth, Roger, unluckily, seemed little likely
to be able to support himself; if Alice married into poverty, or worse,
the state of the family in days to come threatened to be sad indeed.

But David went back to his study in hopefulness, for all that. Lanny
Welsh might be better than he feared, and if Lucille Hardcome subscribed
even half what she had suggested David might be able to keep even with
the world or even save a little. He had hardly entered his study before
Lanny Welsh and Alice came tapping on his door.



XVI. AN INTERVIEW


IN a small town men find themselves tagged far sooner and far more
permanently than in the large cities. Let a young fellow attend church
for a few weeks, behave decently for a year, and get a job as soon
as one offers, and he is tagged as a “good” young man; thereafter it
requires quite a little rascality to convince people he is otherwise.
The small town is like a pack of cards; the rank of the components being
once established, it is vain for them to attempt other values. Let
young Bud Smith start out as a Jack-of-all-trades, and he is expected
to remain one; and when he attempts steady work of one kind, his efforts
are talked about as something phenomenal. If Bill Jones, the contractor,
gives Bud a job it is considered a bit of eccentricity on Jones’ part;
what reason can a man have for taking on a Jack-of-all-trades as a
steady carpenter! It might be just as well to be a little careful
in making contracts with Jones; it looks as if he was a little too
easy-going! Thus Jones gets his tag, and Bud Smith does not lose his.
They cling.

Something of this sort had happened to Lanny Welsh. His father, old P.
K. Welsh, was an oldtime character in Riverbank. For years he had been
a familiar figure, trudging about town with his stooped shoulders, his
long and greasy black coat and his long and pointed beard. His head
was a little too large for his body, and his eyes, seen through his
spectacles, were apparently too large for his face. They were blue. His
hair often hung down upon his collar. Once a year or so he had it cut,
and when he had it cut he had it cut short enough to last awhile. The
change was as noticeable as if a large building had been tom down from
one of the prominent Main Street comers.

In the side pockets of old P. K. Welsh’s coat were always bundles of
folded newspapers--his pockets bulged with them. He was a newspaper man.
Day after day and year after year, old P. K. Welsh trudged up and down
the two business streets of Riverbank, from eight in the morning until
four or five in the afternoon, and so he had trudged for years. Thursday
was an exception, for on Thursday he “published,” running off the one or
two hundred copies of the _Declarator_ that constituted his edition. The
paper was a weekly, five cents a copy, one dollar a year, and the total
income from subscriptions was probably never more than one hundred
dollars. This did not pay for his paper and ink, and he tried to make up
the difference in advertising income; but as an advertising medium
the _Declarator_ was not worth the paper on which it was printed, and
everyone knew it. He spent his life nagging the merchants into throwing
him crumbs of petty patronage. His credit was nil, he never had any
cash, he gave all his advertising in exchange for trade. When he sallied
forth in the morning he carried a list of the groceries his wife needed;
getting them for her meant nagging some grocer until he agreed to send
up the groceries in exchange for a few inches of unwanted advertising
space in the _Declarator_. Old P. K. grew wise in wiles. He knew the
hour when Beemer’s drivers came back to the store with their orders for
the day, when Beemer and all his clerks would be madly measuring and
tying and filling baskets. That was when old P. K. would appear. To get
rid of him the grocer would often scribble down his order, and figure
the bill as sufficiently repaid by the time saved through getting rid of
old P. K. so easily.

The _Declarator_ itself was an example of a good idea gone wrong through
stress of necessity. The sheet was small, four pages, often filled with
plate matter, and the original matter was set in the most amateurish
manner. The old type from which it was set was worn until some of the
letters were mere smudges of black. From time to time old P. K., being
in funds, would buy a few pounds of cast-off type from the _Eagle_, and
this mixed with his worn supply, gave the paper a bizarre, hit-and-miss
appearance. Old P. K. did not bother about reading proof. The paper came
out with all the errors, with letters of one font mixed with letters
of another font, and with some paragraphs set in large type and some
in small. It was the column headed “Briefs,” however, that tagged the
_Declarator_.

It was known that old P. K. had come from somewhere in Kansas, and it
was understood that he had known John Brown, the famous John Brown,
whose soul goes marching on in the ballad. Welsh came to Riverbank in
the years following the war, and started his little paper in opposition
to the _Eagle_, which was then scarcely larger. Riverbank was once more
Democratic. The _Declarator_ was violently Republican and violently
pro-negro. Across the first page, just under the title, P. K. ran the
motto “All men--white or black--are equal.” He knew his Bible by heart
and scattered Biblical quotations through his pages, each chosen because
of its sting. There were but a dozen or twenty negroes in the town, and
the negro question did not worry anyone, and P. K. Welsh’s loyalty was
an asset. Although the Republicans were in a helpless minority they were
glad to have an organ, and the _Declarator_ did fairly well.

Time passed and the _Eagle_ blossomed from a weekly into a daily.
It contracted for telegraph news of the outside world. A group of
Republicans started the _Daily Star_, staunchly but sanely Republican,
and the _Declarator_ slumped into the position of an unneeded, unwanted
sheet. A few of the old-time, grit-incrusted Republicans, who believed
every Democrat was destined for hell fire, still took the _Declarator_;
the other subscribers dropped it. Old P. K. grew bitter; his
subscription book became his list of friends and enemies. Those whose
names once appeared on the list, or had ever appeared on it, and who
canceled their subscriptions, became the recipients of his hatred. Welsh
brooded over them and waited. Sooner or later he spat venom at them in
the column headed “Briefs.”

To anyone not acquainted with Welsh the _Declarator_ appeared to be a
blackmail sheet. It was not. Old P. K. was firm in the belief that he
was doing God’s work and that the _Declarator_ was meant to be God’s
instrument. He quoted Scripture in his columns to declare that those who
were not with him were against him, and that those who were against
him were against God. One by one he took up propaganda that he believed
righteous, and took them up with all the violence of a fanatic. He was
the first man in Riverbank to cry aloud for prohibition, but he was also
the first to shriek anti-Catholicism. He held up good, old Father
Moran as an Antichrist, and pleaded that he be driven from town. He was
continually advocating violence in words that to-day would have landed
him in prison. With his abusive “Briefs” and his inflammatory editorials
he became, in a small way, a nuisance to the town; with his nagging for
advertisements he became a nuisance to the merchants. His wife was
a simple-minded, easy-going creature, wrinkled and with a brown wig
inclosed in a hair net. The wig looked less like a head covering than
some sort of brown-hair pudding. On the whole, ridiculous as the
wig was, it was better than nothing, for Mrs. Welsh was as bald as a
billiard ball.

These were the parents of Lanny Welsh; they might well have served as
an excuse for worthlessness in the boy, but this may be said for
Riverbank--it does not damn the child because of the parents. Lanny
Welsh won his own tag; at any rate it was given him through what the
town knew of the boy, and not through what it knew of old P. K. and
Lanny’s mother.

You may imagine Lanny Welsh with bright, blue eyes and curly, brown
hair, slender, lithe and a little taller than the average. He had a
smile that would charm the heart out of a misanthrope. When he smiled
his eyes brightened, the corners of his lips seemed to become alight
with good nature, and a dimple flickered in his left cheek. As a boy
he was needlessly cruel, but perhaps no more than the average boy, and
charmingly sweet in his ways and words when he was not cruel. His mother
let him tread on her in everything; old P. K. seemed hardly to know the
boy was alive except when he arose in Biblical wrath over some escapade,
and beat the boy outrageously with a leathern strap. Lanny howled when
he was being beaten, and forgot the admonitions that accompanied them as
soon as he was safe outside the woodshed.

He smiled his way through school, graduated, and went into his father’s
printing office as a matter of course. He worked there six or eight
months, and left because he could not earn anything either for himself
or for his father. The old man hardly missed him until, some months
later, he learned that Lanny was working in a billiard room. He took the
boy to the woodshed and Lanny knocked him down, not unkindly but firmly,
and the old man cursed him in good, round, Old Testament phrases, and
disowned him then and there. It did not worry Lanny in the least. He
simply declined to take any stock in the curse or the casting off, and
probably old P. K. himself soon forgot it. Lanny continued to live at
home.

He worked in Dan Reilly’s saloon. All told he worked for Dan Reilly
three weeks. Two weeks he swept out the place, polished brasses and
glasses and did odd jobs. One week he stood behind the bar. One week was
enough of it. The week was in August, and Dan Reilly’s saloon was on the
sunny side of the street; there was no hotter place in Riverbank on a
sunny August afternoon, and Lanny simply threw up the job on account of
the discomfort. The one week, however, was enough; he was tagged. He was
“old crank Welsh’s son, the bartender fellow.”

Lanny loafed awhile, and then the _Eagle_ planned and put to press the
first town directory of Riverbank, and during the preparation of the
book Lanny found a place in the _Eagle_ rooms setting type. There he
remained. The typesetters were an easy-going lot; the side door of the
composing room opened on an alley, and Dan Reilly’s saloon was just
across the alley. The little printer’s devil was kept busy on hot days
running back and forth with a tin beer pail. The _Eagle_ was a morning
paper, and between the blowing of the shrill six o’clock whistle and the
time when the reporters turned in their late copy the printers were
in the habit of sitting in the alley near the street, eating a
snack, sipping beer and teasing the girls who passed. It was nothing
particularly bad, but it was sufficiently different from what the bank
clerks and counter-jumpers did to impress some Riverbankers with the
idea that the printers were a bad lot. Thus Lanny grew up.

The town had a baseball craze just then, and the _Eagle_ boys formed a
nine. Van Dusen, the owner of the _Eagle_, gave them suits--red, with
Eagle Nine in white letters on the shirts--and Lanny, tall, slim and
quick-witted, was the pitcher. And he could pitch! It was not long
before he was gathered into the Riverbank Grays when critical games were
to be played, and he was the first man in Riverbank to receive money for
playing ball; the Grays gave him five dollars for each game he pitched
for them. It was when he began pitching for the Grays that Lanny became
well acquainted with Roger Dean, who was generally known among the ball
players as “Old Pop Dean,” a compliment to his ball-playing ability,
since “Old Pop” Anson was then king of the game, and the baseball hero.

Young Roger had been meant for the church, and David and ‘Thusia had
dreamed of seeing him fill a pulpit, but he seemed destined to be
an idler. The money David had saved with infinite pains to provide a
college education was thrown away. The boy departed for college
with blessings enough to carry him through, but he was a born
idler--good-natured and lovable, but an idler--and long before his
course was completed it was known that he had come home and, before
long, it was known he was not going back. The more kindly people said
he preferred a business career to the ministry; others said he was too
lazy. He was not a bad boy and had never been; as a young man he had no
bad habits or desires; he had no ambition.

Had David been a farmer Roger would have been a model son; on a farm he
would have milked the cows for his father, cut the grain for his father,
done a man’s work for his father. Had David been a merchant Roger would
have sold goods behind the counter for his father, as well as any other
man could have sold them, and would have stood in the sun at the door
in his shirt sleeves when idle, making friends that would have meant
custom. But in a minister’s work there are no cows to milk for father,
and no goods to sell for father; a minister’s son must be bitten by
ambition or his place in the world is hard to find. He cannot learn his
father’s trade by working at it; and Roger was the sort of youth who
does only what is easily at hand to do. When he had been home a few
weeks he was most often to be found on the back lot playing ball with
smaller and far younger boys, and he was always the first taken when
sides were being chosen. He was big, and a natural ball player, as Lanny
was. His place was behind the bat, catching, but he was equally good
when at the bat. The “curve” and “down shoot” and “up shoot” were just
coming into the game, but they held no mysteries for Roger. He hit them
all.

Henry Fragg, ‘Thusia’s father, now an old man, had given up the agency
for the packet company he had long held, and now had a small coal office
on the levee. He took Roger in with him, giving him the utmost the
business could afford, a meager four dollars weekly--more than Roger
was worth in the business, which was dead in the summer--and Roger
transferred his ball playing to the levee, where bigger youths played
a more spirited game. Before the end of that season Roger was wearing a
baseball suit, one of the dozen presented by Jacob Cohen, the clothier,
in consideration of permission to have the shirts bear the words Jacob
Cohen Riverbank Grays, and Roger was a member of the nine, and its
catcher. Thereafter, he gave more time than usual to baseball. In the
rather puritanical community a minister’s son playing ball was at first
something of a shock, but Roger did not play on Sunday and the Grays
would not play without Roger when the game promised to be close, so the
result was less Sunday ball. Roger received the credit and baseball came
to be less frowned on. David himself attended one or two of the Saturday
games, but some of his church members felt he should not, and, as he
cared nothing for the game, he went no more. Alice went occasionally
when the game was important enough to draw large crowds and other nice
girls were sure to be present.

It is remarkable how easily mortals accept genial incapacity as normal.
In a year Roger was accepted as a satisfactorily conducted young man,
permanently dropped into his proper place, and even David and ‘Thusia
no longer fretted about him. He was always present at meals; he was no
different one day than another; he was cheerful and happy and contented.
Henry Fragg said he did his work well, which was true enough, but there
was very little work; once a day or so Roger came in from the sandy ball
ground, weighed a load of coal, jotted down the figures and went back to
his “tippy-up” game. There was always the hope that the business would
grow, and that Roger would eventually succeed his grandfather in the
coal business and prosper. Neither was there any reason why he should
not.

But Lanny and Alice are still tapping on David Dean’s door.

“Father, this is Lanny,” Alice said, and fled. The dominie looked up to
see a tall, slender, curly-haired youth with eyes as dear and bright
as stars. There was no bashfulness in him, and no overconfident
forwardness. David liked him, and he was sorry to like him so well. He
had a halfformed hope that Lanny would show himself at first glance to
be impossible. He was not that so far as his exterior was concerned.

“I don’t think we have ever met, Mr. Dean,” he said, extending his hand,
“but of course I feel as if I knew you--everyone does. Alice told you
I want to marry her. Well, I do. I suppose I should have spoken to you
before I spoke to her--that’s the right way, isn’t it?--but I didn’t
think of that until afterward. I asked her sooner than I meant. I made
up my mind I’d wait a year--in another year I’ll have saved enough to
begin housekeeping right--but it came out of itself, almost. I liked her
so much I just couldn’t help it; I guess that’s the answer.”

“Yes, Alice told me you had asked her,” said David. “She also told me
she had accepted.”

“Yes,” said Lanny, taking the chair David indicated. “I can’t tell you,
Mr. Dean, how much I think of her--how much--well, I never thought for
a minute she would have me. Or, I did and I didn’t. I thought she would,
but I didn’t believe it would be true. Of course she liked me, but a
dominie’s daughter, and she’s such a nice girl--”

“You felt she was not in your class, is that it?” said David.

“That’s it,” said Lanny with relief. “You know I tended bar once.”

“So I have heard,” said David.

“That was a mistake,” said Lanny, “and I’m glad I got sick of it when I
did. It’s no business for a man in a town like this, or any town, if he
wants to be anybody. If you can’t be a preacher or a lawyer or a doctor
you’ve got to be in business. I’m going to get into business as soon
as I can. I think there’s room in this town for a good job office--job
printing. A live man ought to make good money. That’s what I have in
mind--an up-to-date job office--as soon as I can raise the money. I’m
doing pretty well now,” he added, and he mentioned his wage. “I can
support a wife on that.”

David nodded. He had had no idea compositors were so well paid. He was
constantly being surprised to learn how many men in the trades were
receiving more than he himself was paid.

“Yes,” said Lanny, returning to what seemed uppermost in his mind, “you
hit it when you said Alice was not in my class.”

“But I did not say that,” said David. “I only formulated your own
thought for you.”

“Yes, that’s it,” said Lanny. “I suppose, being a minister, you don’t
take as much stock in classes as some folks do. You care more whether
a man is good or bad. But I figure a man has got to take some stock in
such things in this world. I can feel I’m not in Alice’s class--yet. My
folks are not like you and Mrs. Dean. I don’t know, but I guess if I was
marrying a girl out of my family I’d want to feel I was marrying her out
of the family, not marrying myself into it. That’s what worried me, Mr.
Dean, when I thought of having to talk to you about Alice. I’m making
good wages, and I’m good for a job any time, and since I’ve been a compo
I’ve been clean enough to be a dominie’s son-in-law, but I know I’m not
in your class. If I was I wouldn’t be wanting to get into it. I’d be in.
But I guess you know a man can’t be blamed for the kind of parents he
has. But, just the same, he is.”

“Have you spoken to your parents!” David asked.

“To mother. Father don’t care whether I’m alive or not. Mother--well,
I’ll tell you: I’ve been giving her part of my wages. She wasn’t any
more pleased than she had to be.”

“Alice says you don’t think of being married for a year,” said David.

“Well, I thought that was best,” said Lanny. “We talked it over and--I
guess you know we’ve seen some thin picking at our house, Mr. Dean. It
makes everything go wrong. I don’t like it, and I made up my mind long
ago that if ever I married it wouldn’t be until I had at least enough in
the bank to carry me over the between-jobs times. I’ve got three hundred
in the bank now, but I don’t want to chance it on that. Alice and I both
think it is safer to wait a year. I don’t know what I can save, but it
will be every cent I can.”

David appreciated the exclusion of his own home from the example of
those that had thin picking, although it was evident enough that the
loverly confidences had included Alice’s experience with lack of ready
money. David arose and gave Lanny his hand again.

“I think the year of waiting is a wise idea, Mr. Welsh,” he said.
“Either of you may have a change of mind.”

“If I thought that,” said Lanny with a smile, “I’d want to get married
right away,” and he moved to the door. “It’s mighty kind of you to talk
to me without throwing me out of the door,” he added. “I know how much
nerve I have, picking Alice for a wife.”

David was aware of a sudden flood of affection for the boy. He put his
hand on Lanny’s shoulder.

“Welsh,” he said, “I can say what I must say without offending you, I
see.”

Lanny drew his breath sharply, and looked into David’s eyes. The hand
tightened a little on his shoulder. It stilled the fear that the dominie
was about to tell him he could not have Alice, and his eyes smiled, for
if Alice was not refused him outright no task would be too difficult to
undertake, whatever it might be her father was about to propound.

“We don’t know you yet,” said David. “You understand that, of course--it
is all so unexpected. I’ll say frankly, my boy, that I like you; and
that Alice likes you and has chosen you means much. You have not asked
me for her out and out, but that is what you meant, of course. Will you
let me reserve my word temporarily?”

“Well, that’s right,” said Lanny. “You ought to look me up and find out
something about me before you give me anything as precious as Alice. If
she was mine I wouldn’t give her to anyone, no matter how good he was.
I’ll tell you, Mr. Dean, I don’t pretend to be good enough for her; I
don’t expect you to find that I am; but I hope you don’t find that I’m
too bad for her.”

“And might it not be as well,” said David, “that the engagement be not
widely heralded at present!”

Lanny’s face fell.

“I’ve told mother,” he said. “There is no telling who she has told by
now.”

“I cannot object to your having told your mother,” said David. “But let
us tell no others for the present. Unless you wish to tell your father,”
 he added. Then: “Good-by, Mr. Welsh. You understand you will be welcome
here any time.”

David hastened the departure because he saw Lucille Hardcome’s low-hung
carriage at his gate, and Lucille descending from it in state. Outside
the door Lanny met Alice and to her query he said:

“He was fine, Alice! He’s a fine man. All he wants is time to look me up
a little.”

“The idea!” exclaimed Alice. “And when I have looked you up already,”
 but it was said joyfully and she tempered it with a kiss, quite clearly
seen by Lucille Hardcome through the colorless glass of the upper panel
of the front door.



XVII. LUCILLE TO THE RESCUE


LUCILLE HARDCOME, having observed the kiss, instantly pulled the bell,
and Lanny and Alice started apart guiltily, and Alice opened the door.
Seeing Lucille was a relief, for the visitor might have been anyone, and
Lucille further relieved her by pinching her cheek and shaking a playful
finger at her, accompanied by a jingling of many bracelets.

“So this is he!” she teased. “Am I to meet him, Alice, or are you too
jealous to let him know other women!”

Lanny stepped forward. He shook hands warmly, making Lucille’s bracelets
jingle like miniature cymbals, and Lucille exchanged a few words, half
grave and half gay, taking his measure meanwhile--or thinking she was
taking it, for she was a poor judge of individual character, however
well she understood it in the gross. She liked the impressive. Henry
Ward Beecher’s hair meant more to her than Henry Ward Beecher’s mind;
she could never have understood a blithe statesman or one not in a
frock coat. In time, not being an utter fool, she was apt to see through
hollow impressiveness or to see real worth under unimpressive exteriors,
but this came slowly. Her first impressions were usually wrong, as when
she had misjudged Dominie Dean. In Lanny, standing in the illy lighted
little hall, she saw nothing of the inner Lanny. She thought, “A
male trifle; hardly worth serious consideration; a girl’s first love
material,” and felt she had him properly scheduled.

“Your father is in the study?” she asked, and tapped on the study door
lightly, not to injure the knuckles of her kid gloves. If David had not
heard the light tap--which he did, knowing Lucille was in the hall--he
would have heard her bracelets. He opened the door.

We are apt to give men and women too much credit for pursuing a definite
course. The hard heads that, at the beginning of a career, lay clean-cut
plans of ambition are in an infinitesimal minority. With most ambition
is not much more than a feeling of uneasiness, an oyster’s mild
irritation at the grain of sand that intrudes into the shell. Just as
some forms of indigestion cause an inward uneasiness that urges the
sufferer to eat and eat, regardless of what is eaten, and only seeking
relief from what seems a pang of hunger--but is actually a pathologic
condition--so the victim of ambition feeds on whatever comes to hand.
Lucille was such a victim.

When David opened the door of his study Lucille sailed in like a
full-rigged ship, and seated herself at his desk. She opened her purse,
and disgorged the roll of bank notes, which opened itself like something
alive. She pushed the money to the edge of the desk.

“You’ll find that right,” she said, and dipped into her purse again.
“This is the note, if you insist. I’ve left the time blank--shall I make
it a year?”

She picked up David’s pen.

“I think six months--”

“It is to be just as you wish it,” she said, and inserted the time, and
slid the note toward David, handing him the pen. He was standing, and he
bent over the desk and signed his name. Lucille blotted it briskly, and
put the note back in her purse. The money still remained where she had
pushed it. She put it into David’s hand.

“There!” she exclaimed. “Now, no more worry!”

“I can’t tell you how I appreciate this, Mrs. Hardcome,” said David.

“Please!” she begged, raising a hand. She snapped her purse and dropped
it into her lap. “Alice told me of her engagement, the dear girl!” she
said. “I met the happy man in the hallway just now.”

“Alice told you?” said David, surprised. “Oh! this morning, of course.
She said nothing just now? We think it best not to make the engagement
public yet; they will not be married for a year, at least--they agree to
that--and I thought she might have told you.”

Lucille put out her hand; there was nothing for David to do but take it.

“I’m so glad!” she cried effusively. “Glad the engagement is not to be
announced, I mean; glad the wedding is not to be for a year. I wonder if
you feel as I do, that so many marriages are too hastily made? Alice is
such a dear girl, Mr. Dean; no man could be too good for her.”

The implication was plain; Lanny was not good enough for Alice.

“It isn’t as if dear ‘Thusia could be up and about,” said Lucille, still
holding David’s hand. “We know ‘Thusia would do all a mother should do,
but she is so handicapped. Young girls are so impulsive; they need just
a bit of guiding here and a word there. We should let them think they
are making a free choice, but should help them in making it. Mr. Dean,
frankly, don’t you think Alice is making a mistake!”

She dropped the dominie’s hand, and settled herself in his desk chair
again. It was impossible to shake off the confidential air she had
imparted to the interview. David was not sure that Alice was not making
a mistake. He hesitated, seeking some word that would deny that ‘Thusia
had not done all she should have done for Alice. What he wanted to
tell Lucille Hardcome was that he and ‘Thusia were quite able to
manage Alice’s affairs, but it was necessary to tell Lucille more than
politely, and he felt at heart that Lucille was perhaps right--someone
should have guided Alice’s choice a little.

“I know you think so,” Lucille said without waiting for his reply. “I
know just how you feel. I feel the same--quite as if Alice was my own
daughter; we all feel as if Alice was that; the daughter of the church.
Not but what this young man may be thoroughly praiseworthy, Mr. Dean,
but is he the son-in-law our dominie should have! Oh, no! No!”

In anything he said in Lanny’s favor, David must be on the defensive.
He did not know enough of the young man yet to speak with unbounded
enthusiasm or calm certainty.

“My short interview with him was quite satisfactory,” he said. “In the
essentials he seems to meet any reasonable requirements. His manner is
manly.”

Lucille interrupted him.

“Oh, all that, of course! Alice is not a baby, she would not choose
anyone utterly impossible, I dare say.” Then, leaning toward David, she
said: “Mr. Dean, you know and I know that Alice ought not marry this
Lanny, or whatever his name is. This Welsh--do you know what his father
is? He’s an awful creature. You know Alice can’t be permitted to marry
into such a family. Now, please,” she urged, “just leave it all to me.
Men can’t manage such things, and poor dear ‘Thusia--”

“But, my dear Mrs. Hardcome,” David began. “Oh, my dear Mrs. Nonsense!”
 she cried, rising and mocking him. “I think it is about time someone
took you in hand, David Dean; I think it is just about time! ‘Thusia is
a dear soul, and Mary and Rose are dear souls too, but the whole lot
of you haven’t enough worldly gumption to say boo to a goose. You’d sit
here and let Alice marry a bartender (well, then, an ex-bartender!) and
you wouldn’t see it would be the ruin of the whole lot of us, and of
him, too, or if you did see it you wouldn’t raise a hand.”

She spoke rapidly but without excitement; teasingly.

“Mr. Dean,” she continued in a more serious tone, “I am worldly and I
know the world. Alice must not marry this young fellow; she must not!
And she is not going to!”

“But, Mrs. Hardcome,” cried David, thoroughly frightened. “I cannot let
you interfere in what is so completely a family matter.”

“David Dean, will you please stop Mrs. Hard-coming me? My name is
Lucille quite as much as Mrs. Derling’s is Mary, and you are not going
to frighten me away by calling me Mrs. Hardcome. Now,” she said, “will
you leave Alice to me?”

“I will not!” said David; “I must beg you not to interfere in any way. I
understand Alice; ‘Thusia understands her. We are not, perhaps,” he said
with a smile, “as lacking in worldly wisdom as you imagine.”

Lucille shook her head and laughed. “Incorrigible!” she exclaimed.
“You’ll never understand how much you need someone like me. A business
manager? Shall I call it that? Then it is all settled--I am to see that
Alice does not make this mistake.”

“No!” cried David, but she was at the door. “It is all settled!” she
triumphed.

“Mrs. Hardcome!”

“All settled!” she laughed, and went out and closed the door.

David put his hand on the knob and hesitated. After all was said,
Lucille was right, no doubt. The marriage would be more than annoying;
he himself was too prone to consider character as canceling worldly
objections. There was one thing about Lucille Hardcome--she usually had
her way. She was a “manager.”

Lucille had gone from David to ‘Thusia. David waited until she had left
the house. He found ‘Thusia more complacent than he had expected to find
her. Lucille’s visits sometimes annoyed her.

“I feel so relieved, David,” she said. “Lucille has been here and spoken
about Alice. There was so little I could do, tied down as I am, and Ruth
could hardly help, and of course Mary would hesitate, feeling as she
does about Alice and Ben. Lucille is just the person we needed.”

“‘Thusia! And I thought, of all the women in Riverbank, she was the one
we would want to have keep hands off!”

“But you see,” said ‘Thusia cheerfully, “she is going to keep her hands
off, in a way. She is going to be my hands.”

David had his own idea of Lucille’s being anyone’s hands but her own,
but he said nothing then. He had the money in his pocket with which to
pay his debts, and he was eager to settle with Herwig. He kissed ‘Thusia
and went out.



XVIII. MR. FRAGG WORRIES


AS David entered Herwig’s store P. K. Welsh was leaving it. He was the
same greasy, unkempt figure as usual, his pockets stuffed full of copies
of the _Declarator_ and exchanges, his bent shoulders carrying his head
low, and his bushy brows drawn into a frown. He pushed by the dominie
as if not seeing him. David turned, but the old man was already in
the street, crossing it, and David went into the store. He had had a
momentary impulse to stop P. K., and speak of the engagement, but he
decided that telling his father was Lanny’s affair. He went back to
where Herwig sat at his desk.

The grocer was working on his books, with a pile of bills and statements
before him.

“That man Welsh is a town nuisance,” he said. “Can’t drive him away with
a club; been pestering me an hour.”

He did not say how he had finally driven Welsh away. P. K. had wanted a
dollar’s worth of sugar, and had set his mind on getting it from Herwig
in exchange for advertising. Herwig had told him he couldn’t afford
to give a dollar’s worth of sugar for advertising or anything else. He
couldn’t afford to give a cent’s worth. He showed P. K. the bills he
owed, and the bills owed to him. It happened that David’s statement was
the top of the pile.

“He ought to pay you,” P. K. had snarled. “Man getting a salary like
his; big church, rich congregation. What right has he to owe money!”

“Well, he owes me,” said Herwig. “Everybody owes me. Credit is the curse
of this town. I can’t get money in, and I can’t pay my bills, and if I
don’t I’m going to be shut up.”

“One dollar’s worth of sugar won’t--”

“Oh, go away! I tell you no, and I mean no! Get out!”

P. K. had gone. Going he had seen the dominie plainly enough, and bitter
hatred had been in his glance. Lanny had not told him of the engagement,
but his wife had; and that alone was enough to anger the embittered, old
man. On the street his anger grew. Why had the dominie not stopped him
and said something about the engagement? Too stuck-up! Stuck-up, and
with an unpaid grocer’s bill! He went mumbling down the street, coaxing
his ill humor.

“I’m glad to say I’ve been able to raise some money,” David said, “and
we will just settle that bill without further delay. And right glad I am
to be able to do so, Mr. Herwig. The amount is?”

“It will be a help, a great help,” said Herwig gratefully. “Thank you!
When a man is pressed on all sides--”

He was distraught with worry, it was easy to see.

“That Welsh pesters the life out of me. I can’t afford to advertise in
his vile sheet; it’s blackmail; money wasted--thrown away. He ought to
be run out of town--tarred and feathered. Brought up a good-for-nothing,
bartending son--”

“Let me see--yes, this is the right change,” said David hastily. “You
might send me--or I think I’ll let Mrs. Dean give her order to the boy
to-morrow, as usual.”

He hurried from the store. He did not know why hearing Herwig talk
about Lanny annoyed him so. When he was on the street he felt ashamed of
having fled without saying a word in defense of Lanny. He turned to go
back and did not go. Instead he went the rounds of his creditors, paying
bills.

It was after banking hours, but the door of the bank stood open and he
went in. He found the banker in his office, for Burton never hurried
home, and David went straight to the matter in hand. Lucille’s loan had
been enough to cover the advance made by the trustees, and David felt
he should repay the church the advance. It had been included in the
schedule of his debts Lucille had seen. He placed the bank notes on the
banker’s desk, and explained what they were for. B. G. took them and
counted them.

“You know there is no necessity for this, dominie,” he said. “It was
understood the money should be deducted from your next salary payment.”

“But, having it, I prefer to pay it now,” said David. “I was able to
raise what I needed. A--friend came to my assistance.”

Burton stacked the banknotes, and pushed them back on his desk. It was
on the tip of his tongue to say he hoped David had said something to
Lucille about an increased subscription, but he thought better of it.
That Lucille had loaned David the money he was morally certain, for the
bank notes were Riverbank National notes, crisply new and with Burton’s
signature hardly dry. He had handed them through the window to Lucille
himself, remarking to her that she would like some brand-new money,
perhaps. He remembered the amount of the check she had presented; no
doubt it was the amount of the loan she had made David.

When the dominie left Burton sat in thought. Lucille had not made David
a present of the money, he decided, for he could not imagine David
accepting any such gift, and it was fairly sure that David would not
accept the money as a loan unless he felt sure of repaying it. That
meant that he must be sure of an increase in salary, and that in
turn meant that Lucille must have promised an increased subscription,
doubtless asking that her intention be kept secret for the present. All
this was not difficult to imagine, but B. C. was pleased that he was
able to follow the clew so well. He decided that it would be safest to
let David handle the matter, with an occasional hint to David to keep
him working for the subscription. He derided this placidly and with the
pleasant feeling that the dominie’s refund, added to the cash already on
hand, made the church’s bank balance more respectable. He liked a good
bank balance; the bank paid the church four per cent on its balances
and he was always pleased when the item “bank interest” in his report
amounted to a decent figure. He walked home feeling well satisfied. As
he passed the old Fragg homestead he nodded to David’s father-in-law who
was coming through the gateway. The old man crossed the street.

“My housekeeper is sick,” he said, as a man who feels the necessity of
telling his banker why he is neglecting his business during business
hours. “She’s pretty bad this time, I’m afraid. I’ve got Rose Hinch, and
the doctor has been here. No hope, I’m afraid.”

“Mary Ann is an old woman,” said the banker philosophically.

“Yes, yes!” agreed Fragg nervously. What he did not say was that if
Mary Ann died he would have to find another housekeeper, and that--in
Riverbank--would be a hard task. Mary Ann had been with him while his
wife was alive, had been with him when ‘Thusia was born. She knew his
ways, and a new housekeeper would not. “Yes, we must all die!” he said.
“I got your notice that my note comes due next week. I suppose it will
be all right to renew it again?”

“Quite. Not much coal business in midsummer, I imagine,” said the
banker.

“Very little. Well--”

He looked at the house and then down the street, and hurried away. The
banker continued his easy, homeward way.

The note worried Fragg more than it worried the banker, because Fragg
knew more about his affairs. He had mortgaged the homestead to go into
the coal business, because the coal business eats up capital, but this
did not worry either the banker or Fragg. What worried Fragg was his
last winter’s business. Ever since he had gone into the coal business
the bank had loaned him, each year, more or less money to stock up his
coal yard against the winter trade. Last winter he had lost money; bad
accounts had eaten into his reserve, had devoured it and more; he had
been obliged to use a good part of the money the bank loaned him in
paying for coal already sold and consumed. He owed the bank; he owed the
mines; he owed the holder of the mortgage. He wondered how he could
get enough coal to supply his trade during the coming winter. When he
reached his office on the levee, he saw the little card “Back in five
minutes” stuck in the door, just as he had left it when called to Mary
Ann’s bedside. Roger was practicing ball; he waved his hand to his
grandfather and went on playing, and the old man entered the office,
to pore over his books again, seeking some way out of his difficulties.
Through the window he glanced at Roger; he was very fond of the boy.



XIX. “BRIEFS”


WHEN the _Declarator_ for that week appeared, David found a copy in his
box at the post office, for Welsh made it a practice to let his victims
see how they were handled. He had given nearly all the space in
the “Briefs” column to David. The dominie did not open the paper
immediately. He had a couple of letters to read, and one or two
denominational papers to glance through, and he was well up the hill
before he tore the wrapper from the _Declarator_, and looked into it. As
he read he stopped short, and stood until he had read every word in the
column. Then he tore the sheet to bits, and threw it into the gutter.
His first thought was that ‘Thusia must not see the paper, or hear how
Welsh had attacked him in it. The attack was less harmful than venomous.
It was a tirade against “The Spiritual Dead Beat”--for so he chose
to dub David--mentioning no name, but pointing clearly enough at the
dominie. Choice bits:

“Who is this hypocrite who preaches right living, and owes his butcher,
his grocer, his baker, his shoe man, and can’t or won’t pay?”

“I can’t skin my grocer; he knows I’m a dead beat. I’m a fool; I ought
to have set up as a parson.”

There was an entire column of it. David’s thought, after ‘Thusia, was
thankfulness that he owed not a tradesman in Riverbank.

And this was to be Alice’s father-in-law!

Lanny came to the house that evening; he asked to see David in the
study.

“Of course you saw the _Declarator_, Mr. Dean,” he said when they were
alone. “I don’t know what to do about it. I saw father, and if he hadn’t
been my father I would have knocked him down with my fist. It’s a dirty
piece of business. I know what’s the matter with him: he’s sore because
I’m going to marry somebody decent, when no decent person will have
anything to do with him. Mother told him I’m engaged to Alice. I talked
to him straight; you can believe that! I would have taken it out of
his hide if I hadn’t thought how it would look. You wouldn’t want a
son-in-law that was in jail for beating up his own father. What can I do
about it, Mr. Dean?”

David said nothing could be done about it; he said he was glad Lanny
had not attacked his father with physical violence, and he urged him to
avoid words with his father.

“He has had a hard life; you and I do not know how hard. It has
embittered him; he is not rightly responsible.”

“But why should he attack you, of all men?” Lanny cried. “Or if he don’t
like you what kind of a father is it that tries to spoil things for
me--that’s what he’s trying to do. It’s meanness.”

“He has had a hard life,” David repeated. “You don’t think I ought to do
anything? You can’t suggest anything for me to do?”

“Avoid quarreling with him,” said David. There was no other advice to
give; it was unfortunate that Alice should have chosen to love a man
with such a father; there was nothing Lanny or any other person could
do. Welsh was a town nuisance.

The next week the _Declarator_ retracted, in the manner in which it
always retracted when a retraction was necessary. The item in the
“Briefs” was headed “An Apology!!!” and ran: “We apologize. The
Spiritual Dead Beat has paid his debts. We wonder who lent him the
money?” The banker-trustee, Burton, meeting David, spoke to him of this.

“I see our respected fellow townsman, Welsh, is touching you up,
dominie,” he said. “It is a pity we can’t run the fellow out of town.
Worthless cur! He gave me his attention last year; I put an ad in his
paper and he shut up. What do you suppose ever started him against you?”

“He is an embittered man; his hand is against the whole world.”

“That’s probably so,” agreed the banker. “A sort of Donnybrook Fair; if
you see a head, hit it. Well, I don’t know what we can do about it. He
keeps inside the law.” He hesitated. “Dominie,” he said, “you’ll not
feel offended if I say something? I guess you know I’m only thinking
of the good of the church and of your own good. You don’t suppose Welsh
knows who lent you the money he’s talking about, do you? I’ll tell
you--I imagine you make no secret of it--I know who lent it! I couldn’t
help knowing--”

“It was entirely a business transaction; I stipulated that,” said David.

“Certainly. We know that; anyone would know it that knew you, dominie.
Well, I’ve no scruples about borrowing and lending; it is my business,
I’m a banker. I’ll make a guess that Lucille Hardcome came to you with
the loan idea, and that you didn’t go to her; and I’ll make another
guess that before you were willing to borrow the money from her you
heard her say she was going to increase her subscription, maybe five
hundred dollars, and maybe a thousand. Am I right? I thought so! Because
it wouldn’t be like you to borrow unless you saw where you could pay it
back, and I told you that if Lucille raised her subscription you’d get
your share. It’s all right! The only thing--you won’t mind if I say it?”

“I can imagine what it is,” said David.

“Yes. If this man Welsh knows what he is talking about--if he isn’t
just guessing--he can be very nasty about it. I can’t imagine why he is
picking on you, but if he wants to keep it up, and knows you borrowed
money from Lucille Hardcome, he can make it--well, he’ll make it sound
as if there was something wrong about it. He’ll twist some false meaning
into it--invalid wife and gay widow and money passing. I hate to say
this, but people are always looking for a chance to jump on a
minister--some people are, that is. I don’t know how we can get at
Welsh--he’s so low he’s threat-proof. I was going to suggest that you
let me put in an application for a loan at our bank, say for the amount
you borrowed from Lucille Hardcome. Borrow the money from us and pay
her, and then let us get after Welsh.”

David thought a moment.

“It might offend her,” he said. “She was extremely insistent. I might
almost say she predicated her possible increase of subscription on my
accepting the loan. I felt so or I would have refused her.”

“Let me handle her,” urged Burton. “I’ll say nothing until the bank
agrees to the loan, anyway. You’ll let me make the application for you!”

David agreed. It was, if the bank was willing, the wisest course, or so
it seemed at the moment.

David went about his duties as usual, and it was not for several days
that he heard from Burton. The bank’s discount committee had declined
the loan.

Lucille, in the meantime, had not been idle. She set herself the task
of saving Alice from Lanny Welsh, and she went about it in a manner that
would have done credit to an experienced diplomat. One of the men she
had tried hardest to induce to become a frequenter of the “salon” she
had attempted to create was Van Dusen, the owner of the _Eagle_, and in
a certain satirically smiling way he admired Lucille. He had once had
literary ambitions and, like most small town editors, he had his share
of political hopefulness, especially with reference to a post office;
and he recognized in Lucille a power such as Riverbank had not
previously possessed. She knew congressmen and senators, and dined them
when they came to town; and they seemed to think her worth knowing.
A word from her might, at the right moment, throw an office from one
applicant to another. Van Dusen cultivated her friendship. He was a good
talker and a great reader, and Lucille enjoyed him. He was a busy and
a sadly overworked man, hard to draw from his home after his day’s work
was done, but he did accept Lucille’s invitations. His presence at her
house meant much; the town considered him one of its illustrious men.

Lucille jingled into his office one morning, rustled into a chair and
leaned her arms on his desk.

“Are you going to do something for me, like a good man?” she began.

Van Dusen leaned back in his chair and smiled.

“To the half of my kingdom,” he said.

“That’s less than I expected, but I suppose I’ll have to make it do,”
 she returned playfully. “Isn’t there, Mr. Van Dusen, some newspaper or
printing office in Derlingport that pays more than you pay! Some place
where a deserving young man could better himself?”

“Some of them pay more than the _Eagle,_” he admitted.

“And you could get a young man a place there?”

“I might. The _Gazette_ might do it for me; Bender is an old friend of
mine.”

“Then I want you to do it,” said Lucille. “You won’t ask why, will you?
Just do it for me?”

“What position does your protégé want?” Van Dusen asked, drawing a
scratch pad toward him, and poising a pencil.

“Compositor--isn’t that it--when a man sets type? It’s Lanny Welsh; I
want him to have a better job than he has--in Derlingport.” She saw Van
Dusen frown. “I think I’ll tell you all about it,” she said; “I know I
can trust you.”

“With your innermost secrets, on my honor as a bearded old editor,”
 smiled Van Dusen.

“Then it is this,” said Lucille and she told about Lanny and Alice.

Van Dusen demurred a little. He said Lanny was good enough for any girl,
dominie’s daughter or king’s daughter, no matter whose daughter.

“And have you seen the _Declarator?_” Lucille demanded. “Is the
editor of the _Declarator_ good enough to be a dominie’s daughter’s
father-in-law?”

Van Dusen admitted that this was another matter, and good-naturedly let
Lucille have her way. When she had departed, he wrote to Bender of the
_Gazette_. A few days later Lanny came to the manse, half elated and
half displeased.

“Old Van is all right!” he told David. “I can’t blame him for bouncing
me when there’s no work for me to do, and there’s not one man in a
thousand that would take the trouble to look up another job for me,
and hand it to me with my blue envelope. I’m going up to work on the
_Gazette_, at Derlingport, Mr. Dean. It just rips me all up to go that
far from Alice, even for a little while, but I’ve got to do it. If we’re
going to be married in a year I need every day’s work I can put in, and
when you think that the _Gazette_ job will pay more than my _Eagle_ job,
I guess you’ll admit I’ve simply got to grab it.”

“When are you going?” asked David. “To-morrow,” said Lanny. “These jobs
don’t wait; you’ve got to take them while they’re empty. Between you and
me, Mr. Dean, I think I wouldn’t have had a chance in the world if it
hadn’t been for Mr. Van Dusen. He’s that sort, though.”

To David, knowing nothing of Lucille’s having a hand in this, it seemed
almost providential, this removal of Lanny to another town.

“I’ve got another idea, too,” Lanny said. “I think maybe I can get
father to come to Derlingport. He’s dead sore on Riverbank, I know, and
mother will be anxious to be where I am. I may be able to make father
think there is a better field for the _Declarator_ there than here. I
don’t know. After I’ve been there awhile I’ll try it. I wish he would
leave this town, and let people forget about him.”

David heartily wished the same thing, and he was soon to wish it still
more heartily. At the moment he liked Lanny better than he had ever
liked the boy.

“I expect you’ll excuse me, now,” Lanny said. “I expect you know I’m
wanting to spend all the time with Alice I can, going in the morning and
all that. And, oh, yes! I’m going to look around up there for a job for
Old Pop--for Roger. I’m pretty sure to get on the Derlingport nine, and
I want Old Pop to be behind the bat when I’m pitching. I think it would
be a good thing for him to get up there, if I can land a job for him.
There’s no future in that coal office, Mr. Dean, to my mind. They are a
live lot of men back of the Derlingport nine, and if I want Old Pop to
catch for me, and won’t listen to anything else, some of them will
hustle up a job for him. Maybe there is a coal man connected with the
nine someway. I don’t know, but in a big place like Derlingport there’s
always room for anybody as clean and straight as Roger.”

David was touched. He saw, in imagination, a new Roger winning his
own way, spurred on by the brisker business life of the bigger town,
bettered by the temporary breaking of home ties, inoculated with Lanny’s
enthusiasm.

Roger spoke of the chance Lanny might get him, and spoke of it
voluntarily and enthusiastically. It would be a great thing for him, he
said. Grandfather Fragg was all right, of course, but there was nothing
in the way of a future in his coal business. He said he hated to take
money from him when he knew the business was running behind every day.

“Is it as bad as that, Roger!” David asked. “Every bit, father,” Roger
replied. “I don’t see how he’s going to pull through the winter and keep
the business going.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do!”

“Do! It isn’t a case of do, it’s a case of money. He didn’t have enough
capital to start with, and he hasn’t any left. Brown & Son have got
all the business. I could get some of it away from them but grandfather
can’t supply the coal. He can’t buy it; he hasn’t the money to do a
big business on, and a small coal business is a losing proposition. The
profit is too small; you’ve got to do big business or you might as well
quit.”

The talk left David with a new source of worry. ‘Thusia’s father was
showing his infirmities more plainly each day; if he lost his coal
business--and David knew the loss of the Fragg home was to be included
in that loss--the old man would have but one place to turn to: David’s
home. It would mean another mouth to feed, perhaps another invalid to
care for and support.



XX. LANNY IS AWAY


TWO weeks in succession, after going to Derlingport, Lanny spent Sunday
in River-bank, and Alice enjoyed the visits immensely. Their brief
separation gave zest to the mere being together again. The third Sunday
Lanny did not come down, but wrote a long letter. The Derlingport nine
had jumped at the chance of securing him as a pitcher; they were to give
him ten dollars a game. He was mighty sorry, he wrote, that the nine’s
schedule included Sunday games, but every ten dollars he could pick up
in that way made their wedding day come just so much nearer. He guessed,
he said, that it would be all right for him to play the Sunday games in
Derlingport, and in other towns than Riverbank; if Derlingport played
any Sunday games in Riverbank they could get another pitcher for the
games. He mentioned Roger; he had talked to the bosses of the nine, and
they were willing to find a job for Old Pop, and would do so if Roger
would sign up for the season, or what remained of it, but Lanny wrote
that he supposed the Sunday game business would shut Roger out of that.

Alice volunteered to let David and ‘Thusia read the letter--it was the
first out-and-out love letter she had ever received--but they declined,
feeling that to do so would be to take an unfair advantage of
Alice’s dutifulness, and she read them such portions as were not
pure love-making. The letter came Saturday. Alice was not greatly
disappointed that Lanny was not coming down, for he had suggested that
he might not come. She went to church Sunday morning, and Ben Derling
walked home with her. The Presbyterian Sabbath school was held in the
afternoon, and about the time Lanny was warming up for the first inning
of the Derlingport-Marburg ball game Alice was leading her class in
singing the closing song. Below the pulpit Lucille Hardcome beat time
with her jingling bracelets, and she smiled to see Ben Derling close
his hymn book, and edge past his class of boys with a glance in Alice’s
direction. He hurried out as soon as the benediction was said, and
Lucille rightly guessed that he meant to wait for Alice in the lobby,
but Lucille captured Alice before she could escape.

“If you are not needed at home, Alice,” she said, “you must come with
me. I have the most interesting photographs! Dozens of them, pictures of
Europe. My carriage will be here directly.”

The photographs were not new. Lucille had made a flight through Europe
as soon as her husband was dead. It was her first use of the money she
inherited, and she had bought the photographs then--it was before the
days of picture postcards.

For six months after her return she had inflicted the photographs on
all her friends and acquaintances, and had then tired of them. They had
reposed peacefully in a box ever since, and might have remained there
forever, had she not invited Ben Derling to her house.

Lucille played a harp--a great gilded affair, and she asked Ben, who was
a fair violinist, to try a duet, suggesting that they might make part
of a program when she gave a concert for the church fund. Ben went
willingly enough, and played as well as he could, and enjoyed the
evening immensely. He found Lucille but an indifferent harpist, but
willing to let him make suggestions. She asked him what he thought of
a series of musical evenings, and he took to the idea enthusiastically.
This was Wednesday.

Lucille’s real reason for asking Ben to her house had been to study him
a little more closely than she had had opportunity to do before. She
mentioned Alice, and Ben was enthusiastic enough to satisfy Lucille that
he liked Alice well. If Alice would be willing to try out a few things
with him, piano-violin duets, it would be a pleasing part of the musical
evenings, he said. Lucille thought so, too. They talked music; and
Lucille happened to mention that she had first heard the harp in Paris,
and Ben said he had not taken time to hear any music when he was in
Europe. It was the first Lucille had heard of Ben’s European tour, and
she left him in her parlor while she hunted up the photographs.

She was not quite sure where they were. As she rummaged for them she
thought Ben over, and almost decided he would not do as a substitute for
Lanny Wesh. There was something gayly sparkling about Lanny, and Ben was
anything but gay or sparkling. He was short and chunky, serious-minded
and sedate. Some ancestor had given him a little greasy knob of a nose,
but this was his most unpleasant feature. It is easiest, perhaps, to
describe him as a thoroughly bathed young man, smelling of perfumed
soap, and with yellowish hair, ever smooth and glistening from recent
applications of a well-soaked hair-brush. He had no bad habits unless,
in one so young, incessant application to business is a bad habit. He
had taken his place in his grandfather’s office the week the old man
died. Already, from bending over a desk, he was a little rounded in
the shoulders. His violin and his Sunday school class were his only
relaxations. He was a good boy, and a good son; but Lucille was afraid
he was not likely to appeal to the romantic taste of a girl like Alice.
When she discovered the photographs she was inclined to leave them where
they were, and tell Ben she could not find them, and let the musical
evenings be forgotten. The picture that happened to be on top was one
that pictured some city or cathedral of which Van Dusen had spoken when
last in her home, and more for Van Dusen than for Ben she gathered
the pictures in her arms, and carried them downstairs. Ben seized them
eagerly.

His trip abroad had been the one great upflaring of his life. He had
gone with a “party,” and had raced from place to place, but he had
a memory that was infallible. His eyes brightened as he saw the
photographs. He talked. He talked well. He made the pictures live.
He was in his element: he would have made an admirable stereopticon
lecturer had business not claimed him. He remembered dates, historical
associations, little incidents that had occurred and that had the
foreign tang. Before he had gone one quarter through the pile of
pictures, Lucille gathered them up.

“No more to-night!” she laughed. “We young folks must have our beauty
sleep,” and she sent him away. “He must show the pictures to Alice,” she
said to herself. “She will be made to visit Europe when she hears him
tell of it. He is quite another Ben.”

When, Sunday afternoon, Lucille found that Ben, as she had guessed, was
waiting in the lobby she hailed him at once, saying:

“How fortunate! I am taking Alice to look at my European pictures. You
‘ll come, won’t you?” Ben was eager. There was room in the carriage for
him, crowding a little, which was not unpleasant when it was Alice who
was crowded against him. Lucille left them with the photographs while
she went to induce the maid to make a pitcher of lemonade. When she
returned Ben was talking. He and Alice were seated on a couch by the
window, and Alice was holding a photograph in her hands, studying it.
Ben sat turned toward her; he leaned to point out some feature of the
picture, and Alice asked a question. Lucille placed the pitcher of
lemonade on a stand, and went out; they were doing very well without
her. She felt she had made an excellent beginning; Lanny banished,
and Alice at least interested in what Ben was interested in. When she
interrupted them it was to suggest the musical evenings.

“It will be delightful!” Alice exclaimed. She had, for the moment, quite
forgotten Lanny. The moment had, in fact, stretched to something like
two hours. Ben walked home with her.



XXI. A FAILURE


GUST and September passed, and, in passing, seemed as placid and
uneventful as any two months that ever slipped quietly away. To Alice no
day and no week held any especial significance; if she had been asked to
tell the most important event of the two months, she would probably
have said that it was the completion of the set of twelve embroidered
doilies, and the centerpiece to match, the first work she had undertaken
for her new home--the home to be--since her engagement to Lanny had
come about. David Dean could have thought of nothing of particular
importance. Old Mrs. Grelling had died, but she had been at death’s door
so long her final passing through was hardly an event, and nothing else
had occurred. Lanny would have said everything was running smoothly;
his pitching arm kept in good condition, his work was steady at the
_Gazette_ office, and Alice’s letters to some extent took the place of
the visits to Riverbank which the Sunday ball games made impossible. Old
P. K. Welsh seemed to have forgotten his anger against the dominie, and
used the “Briefs” to lambaste other Riverbankers. Herwig was still in
business and Mary Ann, Mr. Fragg’s housekeeper, clung to life. Rose
Hinch was still nursing the old housekeeper and getting Fragg’s meals.
‘Thusia was no better and no worse. The two months were uneventful. They
were months of which we are accustomed to say: “Everything is going the
same as usual.”

We deceive ourselves. The quiet days build the great catastrophies. The
greatest builder and demolisher is Time, and he works toward his ends
on quiet days as well as on noisy days; works more rapidly and more
insidiously, perhaps. If Time does nothing else to us on quiet days, he
makes us a day older each day. To-day I am the indestructible granite;
to-morrow a speck of dust touches me and is too small to see; the next
day it is a smudge of green; the next it is a lichen; it is a patch of
moss that can be brushed away with the hand; it is a cushion of wood
violets and oxalis; it is a mat in which a seedling tree takes root; the
roots pry and the moisture rots and the granite rock falls apart, and I
am dead.

The two months that passed so quietly and happily for Alice Dean were
equally happy months for Ben Derling. He was never the youth to make
of courtship a hurrah and a race; he hardly considered he was courting
Alice--he was seeing her oftener than he had seen her, and enjoying it.
Alice was but filling in the days and evenings as pleasantly as possible
during Lanny’s absence. If Ben had been the eager instigator of their
meetings Alice would have drawn back, but Ben instigated nothing;
Lucille Hardcome stood between them, and was the reason they met. Alice
went to Lucille’s because Lucille wished her musical evenings to be a
success; Ben was there because he was a part of the proposed programs.
The two young people were musicians, not susceptible male and female,
and they met as musicians, interested in a common desire to assist
Lucille. By the end of the two months Alice had greater respect and
liking for Ben than she had ever imagined possible. She had thought him
a dull boy; she found him solid, sincere and more than comfortable. By
the end of the two months Ben, not aware that Alice was pledged, had
decided that she was the girl he wished--but no hurry!--to have as a
wife. Lucille was pleased but impatient. Mary Derling, seeing how things
were going, was pleased but not impatient.

Alice was unaware of any change in her feeling for Lanny. She wrote him
letters that were as loving as love letters should be, and Lanny wrote
with equal regularity. He wrote daily. Toward the end of September Alice
was not quite as eager in her reading of his letters, mainly because
their mere arrival was satisfactory evidence that Lanny still loved her.
She wrote a little less frequently; there was not enough news to make
letters necessary, except as expressions of affection. Without knowing
it, she was reluctant to express her affection as unrestrainedly as at
first. She let one of Lanny’s letters remain unopened a full day.
Once she passed old P. K. Welsh on the street: he did not notice her,
probably did not know she was Alice Dean, but Alice felt an irritation;
it was too bad Lanny had such a father. Without anything having
happened, the end of the two months found this difference in Alice:
whereas, at the beginning of August she was in love with Lanny, and
eager for the wedding, at the end of September she was in love with him,
and not eager for the wedding. Probably if Lanny had made a few trips to
Riverbank just then it would have made all the difference possible. He
was magnetic; he was not a magnetic correspondent.

The unimportant two months had for David Dean several vastly important
littlenesses. Lucille, preliminary to her “evenings,” asked David to run
in and hear how well her amateurs were progressing, and she asked
Mary Derling, too. She had in mind a trial of the effect of a family
grouping, as if the presence of Mary and David would be an unwitting
approval of growing intimacy of Ben and Alice. David, always music
hungry, enjoyed the evenings of practice; Mary did not care much for
music, and cared a little less for Lucille. She made excuses. After one
evening she declined and went to the manse instead; she enjoyed being
with ‘Thusia. At the far end of Lucille’s rather spacious parlor David
and Lucille sat, while Ben and Alice tried their music. Lucille talked
of everything that might interest David. She adopted the fiction
that she and the dominie were in close confidence, and attuned her
conversation to the fiction. She was continually saying, “But you and
I know--” and, “You and I, however--” David as consistently declined to
share the appearance of close confidence, but how could he be too harsh
when the twin thoughts of what Lucille was doing for Alice and what he
owed Lucille in cash (and hoped to get from her in subscription) were
always present! The two eventless months also brought the note sixty
days nearer due. They did not bring the subscription Lucille had hinted.
Now and then a flush of worry ran through David--how would he be able to
reduce the amount of the note when the six months were up? Certainly
not out of any savings; his expenses seemed to be running a little in
advance of his salary, as usual.

For ‘Thusia’s father the two months brought closer and clearer the
certainty that he could not keep the coal business intact much longer.
After the January settlements, or after the April settlements, at
latest, the bank would see that his affairs were hopeless. Concerning
his business, all he hoped now was that he could keep things going until
Mary Ann died. He had an idea, hazy and which he dared not think into
concreteness, that--once out of business--he might make a living doing
something. At the same time he knew he could do nothing of the sort; he
had not the health. He was merely trying to avoid admitting to himself
that he was about to become a charge on David Dean.

The crash--and it was a very gentle crash, and well deadened by the bank
which did not want unprofitable reverberations--came in April. As the
fact reached the newspapers and the public, it appeared that Mr. Fragg
was selling out on account of his failing health, and that before
embarking in another business he would rest and recuperate. His books
showed that when everything was turned into cash he would still be
indebted to the bank, and the coal mines or factors, something over four
thousand dollars. The house was gone, of course. Mary Ann had died in
December, and Mr. Fragg had not tried to replace her; for several months
he had been boarding. It was evident to him and to David that the old
man could not board much longer; there was no money to pay the board
bills. There was one room vacant at the manse, the room that had been
“fixed up” for a maid, under the roof, used now as a storage place since
Alice did the work of the dismissed maid. Here old Mr. Fragg took the
few belongings the room would accommodate.

For many years after this the old man was often seen in Riverbank. Bad
days he was unable to go out; on bright days he walked slowly downtown.
He had his friends, merchants who were glad, or at least willing, to
have him sit in their offices, and with them he spent the days. Now and
then ‘Thusia gave him a little money--a dollar or two, all that could be
afforded--and so his life ran to a close. He would have been quite happy
if he could have paid his own way. Love and kindness enveloped him in
David’s home; he was the dearly loved grandfather. He would have been
quite happy, without paying his way, if he had not known how hard it was
for even David to live on his salary. He worried about that constantly.



XXII. A TRAGEDY


I KNEW David Dean so well and for so many years that I may see a tragedy
in what may, after all, be merely an ordinary human life. As I think
of him, from the time I first knew him, on through our many years of
friendship, I cannot recall that he ever had a greater ambition than
to serve his church and his town faithfully. He had a man’s desire for
happiness, and for the blessings of wife and children, and that they
might live without penury; but he was always too full of the wish to be
of service to waste thought on himself. Love and care and such little
luxuries as the shut-in invalid must have he lavished on ‘Thusia,
but the lavishment of the luxuries was in the spirit, and not in the
quantity. It was lavishness to spend even a few cents for daintier fruit
than usual, when David’s income and expenses were considered. ‘Thusia
did not suffer for luxuries, to tell the truth; for Mary and the church
ladies sometimes almost overwhelmed her with them, but the occasional
special attention from David was, as all wives will appreciate, most
necessary.

The Riverbank Presbyterians considered themselves exceedingly fortunate
in having David Dean. The rapid succession of Methodist pastors,
with the inevitable ups and downs of character and ability, and the
explosions of enthusiasm or of anger at each change, made David’s long
tenure seem a double blessing. His sermons satisfied; his good works
were recognized by the entire community; his faith was firm and warming.
He was well loved. When Lucille Hardcome finally recognized his worth,
there did not remain a member of the congregation who wished a change.
It may be put more positively: the entire congregation would have
dreaded a change had the thought of one been possible.

A few of the members, Burton among them, may have recognized that
David--to put it brutally--was a bargain. He could not be replaced for
the money he cost. The other members were content in the thought that
their dominie was paid a little more than any minister in Riverbank,
nor was it their affair that the other ministers were grossly underpaid.
Certainly there was always competition enough for the Methodist
pastorate and hundreds of young men would have been glad to succeed
David.

When the six months--the term of the note David had given Lucille
Hardcome--elapsed he was unable to make any reduction in its amount.
Casting up his accounts he found he was not quite able to meet his
bills; a new load of debt was accumulating. He went to her with the
interest money, feeling all the distress of a debtor, and she laughed
at him. From somewhere in her gilded escritoire she hunted out the note,
took the new one he proffered, and made the whole affair seem trivial.
He mentioned the subscription she had half, or wholly, promised and she
reassured him. Some houses she owned somewhere were not rented at the
moment; she did not like to promise what she could not perform or
could only perform with difficulty. It would be all right; Mr. Burton
understood; she had explained it to him. She made it seem a matter of
business, with the unrented houses and her talk of taxes, and David was
no business man; it was not for him to press matters too strongly
if Lucille and Burton had come to an understanding. She turned the
conversation to Alice and Ben.

“Lanny Welsh hasn’t been down at all, has he?” she asked.

“Yes, once or twice,” David said.

“Alice says he is buying a shop in Derlingport.”

“Has bought it. It is one reason he cannot come down.”

Lucille looked full into David’s eyes.

“Tell me!” she smiled. “Don’t I deserve to know the whole? Has she said
anything!”

“Yes,” said David, “she has said something. She doesn’t know what to do.
She came to me for advice; I told her to trust her own heart.” Lucille
laughed gleefully.

“These girls!” she exclaimed. “Well, you told her exactly the right
thing! Mr. Dean, she is in love with Ben! She is in love with both of
them, of course, or she is in love with Love, as a young girl should
be, and she doesn’t know behind which mask, Ben’s or Lanny’s, Love is
hiding. She will never marry Lanny!”

“You are so sure?”

“You wouldn’t know the Ben I have made,” said Lucille. “Ben does not
know. Six months ago he had no more of the lover in him than a machine
has; if any youth was left, it was drying up while he clawed over his
business affairs. I think,” she laughed, “if I ever needed a profession
I would take up lover-making. What do you think Ben has done?”

David did not hazard a guess.

“Bought a shotgun,” Lucille laughed. “Ben Derling going in for sport!
I’d have him learning to dance, if dancing was proper. I believe I am
really clever, Mr. Dean! I saw just what Ben lacked, and I had George
Tunnison come here--he plays a flute as horribly as anyone can--and I
made him talk ducks and quail, until Ben’s muscles twitched. If Alice
had been a man she would be a duck hunter.”

David smiled now.

“She would,” he admitted.

“So Ben is spending half his spare time banging at a paper target with
George, and he brings the targets to show to Alice. He has bought a
shanty boat with George. It’s romance! Danger! Manliness!”

She laughed again. David smiled, looking full at her with his gray eyes,
amusement sparkling in them. He had a little forelock curl that always
lay on his forehead. Lucille thought what a boy he was, and then--what a
lover he would be; quite another sort from Ben Derling. She drew a deep
breath, frightened by the daring thought that flashed across her mind.

At no time, I am sure, was Lucille Hardcome in love with David. The
pursuit she began--or it would be better to call it a lively siege--was
no more than a wanton trial of her powers. She was a born schemer, an
insatiable intrigante, lacking, in Riverbank--since she was now social
queen and church dictator--opportunity for the exercise of her ability.
It is doubtful whether she ever knew what she wanted with David Dean.
There are cooks and chambermaids who glory in their “mashes,” and tell
them over with gusto; they collect “mashes” as numismatists collect
coins, and display the finer specimens with great pride. It may be that
Lucille thought it would be a fine thing to make the finest man she knew
fall in love with her. The proof of her power would be all the greater
because he was a minister and married, and seemingly proof against her
and all other women.

‘Thusia was an invalid, and it may have flashed across Lucille’s brain
that ‘Thusia might not live forever; it is more likely that she did not
think of a time when David might be free to marry again. She doubtless
thought it would be interesting, and in harmony with her character as
social queen, to make a conquest of David, and have him dangling. There
is no way of telling what she thought or what she wanted beyond what we
know: she came to courting him so openly that it made talk. Lucille had
sufficient conceit to think that no man could withstand her if she gave
her heart to a conquest. She did not hurry matters. She had all the rest
of her life, and all the rest of David’s, in which to play the game.
For a year or two she was satisfied to think that David admired her
secretly; that he was struggling with himself, and trying to conceal
what he felt, as a man in his position should. Instead, he was unaware
that Lucille was trying to do anything unusual. She had her ways and her
manners; she was flamboyant and fleshily impressive. That she should coo
like a dove-like cow might well be but another of her manifestations.
David really had no idea what she was getting at, or that she was
getting at anything except--by seeming to be on close terms with the
dominie--strengthening her dominance in the church. She had enveloped
the elders and the trustees, and now she seemed to wish to envelop the
dominie, after which she would grin like the cat that swallowed the
canary. David, having a backbone, stiffened it, and it was then Lucille
discovered she had teased herself into a state where a conquest of David
seemed a necessity to her life’s happiness.

Long before she reached this point, she had the satisfaction of knowing
that Alice had broken with Lanny, and was engaged to Ben Derling. The
break with Lanny came less than a year after Lanny went to Derlingport,
and was not sharp and angry but slow and gentle--like the separation of
a piece of water-soaked cardboard into parts. Distance and time worked
for Lucille; propinquity worked for Ben Derling. Thirty miles and eleven
months were too great for Lanny’s personal charm to extend without
losing vigor, and Lucille groomed Ben, mentally and otherwise, and
brought out his best. There was no doubt that Ben would make the best
husband for Alice; he was a born husband. No matter what man any girl
picked it was safe to say Ben would make a better husband than the man
chosen; it would only remain for the girl to be able to get Ben, and to
feel that--the world being what it is, and perfection often the dullest
thing in it--she wanted a best husband. Alice, aided by Lucille, decided
that she did want Ben.

It would be untruthful to deny that David and ‘Thusia were pleased. They
liked Ben and loved his mother; Lanny’s unfortunate father no longer
lurked a family menace. With these and other considerations came,
unasked but warming, the thought that the future would not hold poverty
for all concerned. It was well that Alice need not add her poverty
to David’s and ‘Thusia’s, for Roger--well beloved as he was--seemed
destined to be helpless in money affairs. The George Tunnison who had
been used to tempt Ben Derling to so much sportiness as lay in
duck hunting kept a small gun and sporting goods shop--a novelty in
Riverbank--and Roger had found a berth there. His ball playing made him
a local hero, and he did draw trade, and George gave him five dollars a
week. This was to be more when the business could afford it, which would
be never.

No time had been set for Alice’s wedding. Ben was never in a hurry, and
there seemed no reason why the wedding should be hastened. If Ben was
slow in other things he was equally slow in changing his mind and,
having once asked Alice to marry him, he would marry her, even if she
made him wait ten years. Except for their worry over money matters--for
Lucille meant to withhold her increased subscription as long as
the withholding made the trustees, and especially Burton, fawn a
little--David and ‘Thusia were quite happy. The engagement had brought
Mary Derling closer than ever, and Rose Hinch was always dearer when
young love was in the air. She had missed love in her youth, since David
was not for her, but her joy in the young love of others was as great as
if it had been her own.

The day was early in the spring, and the hour was late in the afternoon.
David, just in from some call, had thrown his coat on the hall rack,
and entered the study. He was tired, and dropped into his big easy-chair
half inclined to steal a wink or two before supper. In the sitting room
‘Thusia and Mary Derling, Alice and Rose Hinch, were sewing and talking.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” he heard Alice say; “I’m not going to spoil
my beautiful blue eyes sewing in this light.”

He heard a match scrape, and a strip of yellow light appeared on his
worn carpet. Against it Alice’s profile, oddly distorted, showed in
silhouette. Mary’s voice, asking if Alice saw her scissors, and Alice’s
reply, came faintly. He closed his eyes.

The jangling of the doorbell awakened him. “Never mind, I’ll use
Rose’s,” he heard Mary say, so brief had been his drowsing, and Alice
went to the door.

“Yes, Mrs. Derling is here,” he heard Alice say in reply to a question
he could not catch. “Will you come in!”

Evidently not. Alice went into the sitting room. “Someone to see you,
Aunt Mary,” she said, for so she called Mary. “He won’t come in.”, Mary
went to the door. David heard her querying “Yes!” and the mumbling voice
of the man at the door and Mary’s rapid questions and the answers she
received. He reached the door in time to put an arm around her as she
crumpled down. She had grown stout in the latter years and her weight
was too much for him. He lowered her to the lowest hall step and called:
“Rose!” Rose Hinch came, trailing a length of some white material. She
cast it aside, and dropped to her knees beside Mary.

“What is it!” she asked, looking up at David. “I think she fainted,” he
said. “Ben is dead--is drowned.”

“Ah!” cried Rose in horror and sympathy and put her hand on Mary’s
heart.

“And Roger,” said David. “Roger, too!”



XXIII. SCANDAL


THE bodies were recovered, had been recovered before George Tunnison
started on the long trip back to Riverbank. It seemed that Ben could
not swim, and when the skiff turned over he grasped Roger, and they both
went down. The river was covered with floating ice. Tunnison, according
to his own account, did what he could, but if the two came up it must
have been to find the floating ice between them and the air. They were
beyond resuscitation when they were found. Of Mary the doctor’s verdict
was fatty degeneration of the heart; any shock would have killed her.

In the sad days and weeks that followed Rose Hinch was the comforter,
offering no words but making her presence a balm. She neither asked nor
suggested that she come, but came and made her home in the manse. It
is difficult to express how she helped David and ‘Thusia and doubly
bereaved Alice and querulous old Mr. Fragg over the hard weeks. She was
Life Proceeding As It Must. It might almost be said that she was the
normal life of the family, continuing from where sorrow had wrenched
David and ‘Thusia and Alice and the grandfather from it, and, by mute
example, urging them to live again. Her presence was comfort. Her manner
was a sweet suggestion that life must still be lived. She made the
grandfather’s bed in Roger’s room, for a room vacated by death is an
invitation to sorrow; she began the sewing where it had been dropped,
and ‘Thusia and Alice, because Rose sewed, took their needles. Work
was what they needed. They missed Mary every hour, and David missed her
most, for she had been his ablest assistant in his town charities, but
the greater work thrown on him by her going was the best thing to keep
his mind off the loss that caused it, and Rose Hinch intentionally
refrained from giving her usual aid in order that the work might fill
his time the more. Lucille Hardcome alone--no one could have made
Lucille understand--doubled her assistance. The annoyance her
ill-considered help caused him was also good for David; it too helped
him to forget other things.

Grandfather Fragg died within the year. Rose had long since left the
manse, unwilling to be an expense after she was no longer needed, and
had taken up her nursing again, for she was always in demand. As each
six months ended David carried a new note to Lucille, and had a new
battle with her, for she wanted no note; she urged him to consider the
loan a gift. This he would not listen to. He had cut his expenses to the
lowest possible figure, and was able to pay Lucille a little each time
now--fifty dollars, or twenty-five, or whatever sum it was possible to
save. He managed to keep out of debt. Alice, who had rightly asked new
frocks and this and that when Ben was alive, seemed to want nothing
whatever. She did not mope but she seemed to consider her life now
ordered, not completed, but to be as it now was. She was dearer to David
and ‘Thusia than ever, and they did not urge her to desert them. In time
she would, they hoped, forget and be young again, but she waited
too long, and they let her, and she was never to leave them. Her
indifference to things outside the manse and the church permitted David
to save a few dollars he might otherwise have spent on her. So few were
they that what he was able to pay Lucille represented it.

For some time after the tragedy that had come so suddenly David had no
heart to take up the question he had discussed with the banker. Burton,
of course, said nothing when not approached, regarding the increase in
David’s stipend. He did mention to David, however, the desired increase
in Lucille’s subscription, and with the death of Mary Derling this
increase became more desirable than ever. Old Sam Wiggett and, after his
death, Mary, had been the most liberal supporters of the church. It
was found, when Mary’s will was read, that she had left the church ten
thousand dollars as an endowment. Of this only the interest could be
used, and her contributions, with what Ben gave, had amounted to far
more--to several hundred dollars more.

More than ever Lucille loomed large as the most important member of
the church. With the wiping out of the last of the Wiggett strain in
Riverbank, the Wiggett money went to Derlings in other places, and
Lucille became, by promotion, seemingly the wealthiest Presbyterian.
Burton wrinkled his brow over the church finances, but, luckily, no
repairs were needed, and there was a little money in the bank, and
Mary’s endowment legacy made his statements look well on paper. I think
you can understand how the trustees and the church went ahead placidly,
month following month, unworried, because feeling sure Lucille would
presently do well by the church. She was like a rich uncle always about
to die and leave a fortune, but never dying. It was understood that when
her investments were satisfactorily arranged she would act. At first
this reason may have been real, but Lucille knew the value of being
sought. Like the rich, undying uncle she commanded more respect as a
prospective giver than she would have received having given.

It was extremely distasteful to David to have to ask Lucille to give; it
seemed like asking her to pay herself what he owed her, and when he had
done his duty by asking her several times, he agreed with Burton that
the banker could handle the matter best. A year, more or less, after
Mary Derling’s death the banker was able to announce that Lucille had
agreed to give two hundred dollars a year more than she had been giving,
and that as soon as she was able she would give more.

She spoke of the two hundred dollars as a trifle. It brought the church
income to about where it had been before Mary Derling’s death.

Without actually formulating the idea, Lucille had suggested to herself
that she would celebrate her conquest of David Dean by increasing her
yearly gift to the church to the utmost she could afford. Her blind
self-admiration led her to think she was making progress. David was
always the kindest of men, gentle and showing the pleasure he felt in
having companionship in good works, and Lucille probably mistook this
for a narrower, personal admiration. It was inevitable that he should be
intimate with her, she directed so many of the church activities. If he
were to speak of the choir, the Sunday school, church dinners, any of a
dozen things, he must speak to Lucille. They were often together. They
walked up the hill from church together, Banker Burton often with them;
Lucille, in her low-hung carriage, frequently carried David to visit his
sick, and he considered it thoughtful kindness.

Many in Riverbank still remember David Dean, as he sat back against
the maroon cushions of the Hardcome carriage, Lucille erect and never
silent. He seemed weary during those years--for Lucille courted him
slowly--but he never faltered in his work. If anything he was doubly
useful to the town, and doubly helpful and inspiring to his church
people. Sorrow had mellowed him without breaking him. He had been with
Lucille on a visit to a boy, one of the Sunday school lads who had
broken a leg, and Lucille had taken a bag of oranges. The house was on
the other side of the town, and Lucille drove through the main street,
stopping at the post office to let David get his mail. He met some
friend in the office, and came out with a smile on his lips, his mail
in his hand. Lucille dropped him at the manse. He walked to the little
porch and sat there, tearing open the few unimportant letters, and
glancing at the contents. There was one paper, and he tore off the
wrapper. It was the _Declarator_. He tore it twice across, and then
curiosity, or a desire to know what he might have to battle against,
made him open the sheet and look at the “Briefs.” The column began:

“It is entirely proper for a minister of the gospel to ride hither and
yon with whomsoever he chooses, male or female, wife or widow, when his
debts are paid. We should love our neighbors.”

“A minister of the gospel is, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion. _Honi
soit!_ Shame upon you for thinking evil of the spotless.”

David read to the bottom of the column. It was stupid venom, the slime
of a pen grown almost childish, lacking even the sparkle of wit, but it
was aimed so directly at him that he burned with resentment. The last
line was the vilest: “Who paid the parson’s debts?” suggesting the truth
that Lucille had paid them, as the rest of the column suggested that
she and David were more intimate than they should be. He sat holding the
paper until ‘Thusia called him. Before he went to her he walked to
the kitchen, and burned the paper in the kitchen stove, and washed his
hands.



XXIV. RESULTS


THE following day was Sunday. Lucille, who had received and read the
_Declarator_, was present at both morning and evening services, as
usual, and took her full part in the Sunday school in the afternoon.
Welsh’s column had annoyed her, undoubtedly, but in another way than
it had annoyed David. To David it had seemed the cruel and unfounded
spitefulness of a wicked-minded old man; to Lucille it was as if Welsh
had guessed close to the truth, but had carried his imagination too far.
It had made her furiously angry, as such a thing would, but she felt
that it would do her little harm. Welsh was known to be so vile that she
had but to hold her head high, and the town and her friends would think
none the less of her for the attack. Those who did believe it, if there
were any, would by their belief be offering her a sort of incense she
coveted.

Several spoke to David about the column, and all with genuine
indignation. The story of Welsh’s attack had spread, of course, but none
of us who knew David Dean thought one iota of truth was in it; the thing
was preposterous. It came down to this: David Dean was not the kind of
man of which such things were possible. We did not believe it then, and
we never believed it. The town did not believe it; even his few enemies
knew him better than to believe such a thing; Welsh himself did not
believe it. But Lucille Hardcome did, conceit-blinded creature that she
was! Some day during the week, Wednesday it may have been, she drove her
low-hung carriage to the manse. The driver’s seat was a flat affair on
X-shaped iron rods, so arranged that it could be turned back out of the
way when Lucille wished to drive and dispense with her coachman, and she
was driving now. David came to the door, and went in to get his hat.
He wished to visit the same broken-legged boy, and the carriage was
a grateful assistance. He spread the thin lap robe over his legs, and
Lucille touched the horses with the whip.

“Jimmy’s first?” she asked, and David assented.

“You have oranges again, I see,” he said. “How he enjoys them!”

“Doesn’t he?” Lucille replied, and then: “I’m glad you do not mean
to let that _Declarator_ article make any difference. I was afraid it
might. You are so sensitive, David.”

It was the first time she had called him David. Mary had called him
that, and Rose did; he was David to many of us; but the name did not
sound right coming from Lucille’s mouth. She was so lordly, so queenly,
usually so rather grandly aloof, calling even dear Thusia “Mrs. Dean,”
 and Rose “Miss Hinch.”

“Sensitive! I have never thought that of myself,” he answered.

“Oh, but you are!” she said. “I know you so well, you see. I almost
feared that article would frighten you away; make you afraid of me. As
if you and I need be afraid of each other!”

“I’m sure we need not be,” David answered, and she glanced at his face.
She did not quite like the tone.

“I thought you might not come with me today,” she said. “If you had
suggested that, I meant to rebel, naturally. Now, if ever, that would
be a mistake. That would be the very thing to make people talk. Your
friendship means too much to me to let it be interrupted by what people
say.”

“It need not be interrupted,” said David.

“It means so much more to me than you imagine,” Lucille said. “Often I
think you don’t realize how empty my life was when I began to know you.
You are so modest, so self-effacing, you do not know your worth. If you
knew the full story of my childhood and girlhood, so empty and loveless,
and even my short year of married life, so lacking in love, you would
know what your friendship has meant. Just to know a man like you meant
so much. It gave life a new meaning.”

Unfortunately you cannot see Lucille Hardcome as David saw her when he
turned his face toward her, perplexed by her words, not able to believe
what her tone implied, until he saw her face. She had grown heavier in
the years she had been in Riverbank, and flabbier--or flabby--for she
was not that when she came to the town. She wore one of the flamboyant
hats she affected, and she was beautifully overdressed. The red of her
cheeks was too deep to be natural. She was artificial and the
artificiality extended to her mind and her heart, and could not but be
apparent to one so sincere as David Dean. Her very words were
artificial, as she spoke. The same words coming from another woman would
have been the sincere cry of a heart thankful for the friendship David
had given; coming from Lucille they sounded false; they sounded, as they
were, the love-making of a shallow woman.

David was frightened; he was as frightened as a boy who suddenly finds
himself enfolded in the arms of a lovesick cook, half smothered, and
only anxious to kick himself out of the sudden embrace. He saw, as if a
dozen curtains of gauze had suddenly been withdrawn, the meaning of many
of Lucille’s words and actions he had formerly seen through the veils of
misunderstanding. There was something comical in his dismay. He wanted
to jump from the low-hung carriage and run. He said:

“Yes. I’m quite sure--”

“So it means so much to me that we are not to let anything make a
difference,” Lucille continued. “I think we need each other. In your
work a woman’s sympathy--”

“I think I’ll have to get out,” David said. “I’ll just run in here
and--”

He waved a hand toward a shop at the side of the street. It happened to
be a tobacconist’s, but he did not notice that. He threw the lap
robe from his knees, and put a foot ont of the carriage. Lucille was
surprised. She stopped her horses. She thought David might mean to buy
a package of tobacco for some old man he had in mind. He stepped to the
walk. Once there he felt safer; his wits returned.

“I think I’ll walk, if you don’t mind,” he said. “I need the exercise.
No, really, I’ll walk. Thank you.”

Lucille looked after him.

“Well!” she exclaimed, and then: “I’m through with you, Mr. David Dean!”

She thought she was haughtily indifferent, but at heart she was
furiously angry. She turned her horses, and drove home. To prove how
indifferent she was she told her coachman, in calm tones, to grease the
harness and, entering the house, she told her maid to wash the parlor
windows. She went to her room quite calmly and thought: “What impudence!
He imagined I was making love to him!” and then, as evidence that she
was calm and untroubled, she seated herself at her desk, and wrote a
calm and businesslike note to David Dean. It said that, as she was in
some need of money, she would have to ask that his note be paid as soon
as it fell due. She still believed she was not angry, but how does that
line go? Is it “Earth hath no fury like a woman scorned”?



XXV. LUCILLE LOSES


WHEN it was announced that Lucille Hardcome was to marry B. C. Burton,
Riverbank was interested, but not surprised. The banker went up and down
the hill, from and to his business, quite as usual, but with a
little warmer and more ready smile for those he met. He accepted
congratulations gracefully. After the wedding, which was quite an event,
with a caterer from Chicago, and the big house lighted from top to
bottom and every coach the town liverymen owned making half a dozen
trips apiece, there was a wedding journey to Cuba. When the bridal
couple returned to Riverbank Lucille drove B. C. to and from the bank in
the low-hung carriage, and B. C. changed his abode from his own house to
Lucille’s. Otherwise the marriage seemed to make little difference. For
Dominie Dean it made this difference: the only trustee who had, of late
years, shown any independence lost even the little he had shown. Having
married Lucille, he became no more than her representative on the board
of trustees.

Never a forceful man, Burton became milder and gentler than ever after
his marriage. He had not married Lucille under false colors (Lucille
had married B. C.; had reached for him and absorbed him), but, without
caring much, she had imagined him a wealthy man. When it developed that
he had almost nothing but his standing as a suave and respected banker,
Lucille, while saying nothing, gently put him in his place, as her
wedded pensioner. She had hoped she would be able to put on him the
burden of her rather complicated affairs, but when she guessed his
inefficiency as a money-manager for himself, she gave up the thought.
Lucille continued to manage her own fortune. She financed the house.
All this made of B. C. a very meek and gentle husband. He did nothing
to annoy Lucille. He was particularly careful to avoid doing anything
to annoy Lucille. He became, more than ever, a highly respectable
nonentity. Having, for many years, successfully prevented the town
from guessing that he was a mere figurehead for the bank, he had little
trouble in preventing it from saying too loudly that he was only not
henpecked because he never raised his crest in matters concerning
Lucille, except at her suggestion.

Lucille did not marry B. C. to salve her self-conceit only; not solely.
She felt the undercurrent of comment that followed Welsh’s ugly attack
in the _Declarator_. She feared that people would say if they said
anything: “David Dean is not that kind of man” and “Lucille Hardcome
probably thought nothing of the sort, but she is that kind of woman.”
 Marrying B. C. Burton was her way of showing Riverbank she had never
cared for David Dean. It also gave her a secure position of prominence
in Riverbank. Her house was now a home, and we think very highly of
homes in Riverbank. None the less Lucille still burned with resentment
against David Dean. The mere sight of him was an accusation; seeing him
afflicted her pride.

The dominie went about his duties as usual Then or later we saw no
change in David Dean, although we must have known how Lucille was using
every effort to turn the trustees and the church against him. He must
have had, too, a sense of undeserved but ineradicable defilement, the
result of P. K. Welsh’s virulence. You know how such things cling to
even the most innocent. If nothing more is said than “It is too bad it
happened,” it has its faintly damning effect on us. We won for David
at last, but Lucille’s fight to drive him away had its effect. At home
David hesitated over every penny spent, cut his expenses to the lowest
possible, in an effort to pay Lucille as much as he might when the note
came due. He had no hope of paying it in full.

Pay it, however, he did. One afternoon Rose Hinch came into his study
and closed the door.

“David,” she said, “you surely know that I know you owe Lucille
something--some money?”

“I suppose you do, Rose,” he said sadly. “Everyone knows!”

“‘Thusia told me long ago,” she said. “I asked her about it again
to-day. I would rather you owed it to me, David.”

She had the money with her, and she held it toward him questioningly. He
took it. That was all; there was no question of a note or of repayment;
no spoken thanks. He was not surprised that Rose had saved so much out
of her earnings, neither did he hesitate to take the money from her, for
he knew she offered it in all the kindness of her heart. He hoped, too,
that by scrimping, as he had been, he could repay her in time.

‘Thusia was neither better nor worse in health than she had been. Bright
and cheerful, she had learned the great secret of patience.

“If I must go,” David told her when there was no doubt that Lucille had
set her heart on driving him from Riverbank, “I will go, of course; but
until I know I am not wanted I will do my work as usual,” and ‘Thusia
was with him in that.

In the long battle, never above the surface, that Lucille carried on,
David never openly fought her. He fought by being David Dean, and
by doing, day by day, as he had done for years. He visited his sick,
preached his sermons, busied himself as always. The weapons Lucille used
were those a woman powerful in a congregation has always at hand if she
chooses to try to oust her pastor, and in addition she used her husband.

Here and there she dropped hints that David was not as satisfactory
as formerly. His sermons were lacking in something. Was it culture or
sincerity! she asked--and she questioned the advisability of long tenure
of a pulpit. By hint and question she tried to arouse dissatisfaction.
It was the custom for ministers to exchange pulpits; she was loud in
praise of whatever minister occupied David’s pulpit for a day.

Slowly she built up the dissatisfaction, until she felt it could be
crystallized into a concrete opposition. She was a year or more doing
this. With all the wile of a political boss she spread the seed of
discontent, trusting it would fall on fertile soil. There were plenty
of toadying women who gave her lip agreement when she uttered her
disparagements, and at length she felt she could strike openly. She used
B. C. for the purpose.

B. C. did not relish the job. Like most of us he admired David, and had
high esteem for him, but Lucille’s husband would have been the last
man to oppose Lucille. It really seemed an easy task. Lucille was an
undisputed ruler in the church; the trustees were nonentities; the
older members--those who had loved the young David in his first years
in Riverbank--were dead or senile. B. C. spoke of the finances when he
broached the matter of getting rid of David, and he had lists and tables
to show that the income of the church had been stagnant. He suggested
that a younger man, someone livelier, was needed--a money-raiser.

The trustees listened in silence. For some minutes after B. C. had
spoken no one answered. Then one man--the last man B. C. would have
feared--suggested mildly that Riverbank itself had not grown. He
ventured to say that Riverbank, to his notion, had fewer people than
five years before, and all the churches were having trouble in keeping
their incomes up to their expenses. He said he rather liked David Dean;
anyway he didn’t think a change need be made right away. They might, he
thought, ask some of the church members and get their opinions. He said
he did not believe they could get a man equal to David for the same
money.

B. C. was taken aback. If he had spoken at once he might have held his
control of the board, but he stopped to think of Lucille and what she
would wish him to say, and the daring trustee spoke again.

“Seems to me,” he said, “the trouble is not with the dominie. Seems to
me we trustees ought to try to get more money from some of the members
who can afford to give more.”

He had not aimed at B. C. and Lucille, but B. C. colored. One shame that
lurked in his heart was that Lucille had never kept her promise to give
more to the church, and that he did not dare ask her to give more now.

“I can assure you,” he said, “I do not feel like giving more--if you
mean me--while Dean remains.”

“Oh! I didn’t mean anyone in particular,” the trustee said. “I wasn’t
thinking of you, B. C.” The fact remained imbedded in the brains of the
trustees that Lucille and B. C. would give no more unless David was sent
away. This leaked, as such things will, and those of us who loved
David were properly incensed. Some of us were tired enough of Lucille’s
high-handed rulership and we said openly what we thought of her carrying
it to the point of making herself dictator of the pulpit, to dismiss
and call at her will. There was a vast amount of whisper and low-toned
wordiness, subsurface complaint and counter-complaint. There was no open
flare-up such as had marked the earlier dissensions in the church, but
Lucille and her closest friends could not but feel the resentment and
her growing unpopularity. A winter rain brought her a fortunate cold,
and she turned the Sunday school singing over to one of the younger
women. She never took it up again. The same excuse served to allow her
to drop out of the management of the church music. Her cold, actually or
from policy, hung on for the greater part of that winter, preventing her
from attending church. With the next election of trustees B. C. refused
reëlection, pleading an increase of work at the bank, and when next
Lucille went to church she sat under the Episcopalian minister. Several
of her friends followed her; few as they were, their going made a
sad hole in the church income and, with the closing of the mills and
Riverbank seemingly about to sink into a sort of deserted village
condition, there followed years in which the trustees were hard put
to it to keep things going. Before the inevitable reduction in David’s
salary came, he was able to pay Rose Hinch, and that, in the later
years, was one of the things he was thankful for.



XXVI. “OUR DAVID”

I GET back to Riverbank but seldom. I have just returned from one of
my infrequent visits there, the first in many years. First I had my
business to attend to; later, at the office of the lawyer and on the
street, I met many of those I had known when I lived in Riverbank. The
faces of most puzzled me, being not quite remembered. My memory had
to struggle to recognize them, as if it saw the faces through a ground
glass on which it had to breathe before they became clear. Many seemed
glad to see me again and that was a great pleasure to me. It was almost
like a game of “hidden faces” but with faces of living men and women
to be guessed. This all happened in the first hour or so after I had
finished my business, and rapidly, and then I turned from one of these
resurrected faces to find a young girl standing waiting to speak to me.

“You don’t remember me,” she said with a smile, because she saw my
puzzled face. “I was a baby when you went away. Dora Graham. You
wouldn’t remember me. Mack Graham is my father. I dared to speak to you
because father has spoken of you so often--of you and Mr. Dean.”

“Oh, I do remember Mack!” I exclaimed. “I must see him if I can before I
go.”

“Please,” she said. “It would mean so much to him.”

She was not too well-dressed. She reminded me of Alice Dean in the days
when Lanny was courting her, making the bravest show she could with
her cheap, neat hat and neat, inexpensive garments. I guessed that Mack
Graham was not one of the town’s new rich men.

“I’ll see him if I have to stay over a day,” I told her. “And our
dominie, Dominie Dean, you can tell me how to get to his house!”

“I’m just from there,” she said. “Are you going to see him? He will be
so pleased; he spoke about you. You know he is very poor? It’s pitiful;
it makes my heart ache every time I go there.”

“But I thought--” I said.

“About his being made pastor emeritus? Yes, they did that for him.
Father made them do that, when they were going to drop him out of the
church as they always used to drop the old men. Father fought for that.
We were so proud of father, mother and I. He was like a rock, like a
mountain of rock, about it. They were afraid of him. But the money was
nothing, almost nothing.”

“How much?” I asked, but she did not know that. She only knew that it
must be very little; the new dominie would not come for what had
been paid David; there had not been much to spare for a discarded and
worn-out old man.

I walked up the hill and over the hill and down the other side, to where
the cheap little cottages stand in a row facing the deserted brickyard
which will, some day, be town lots. I found David on the little porch,
sitting in the sun, and he arose as I entered the gate, and stood
waiting to grasp my hand, although he could not yet see me distinctly
enough to recognize me; his eyes were failing, he told me.

He was very feeble, but as gently cheerful as ever, still striving to
keep an even mind under all circumstances. Alice came out when she heard
us talking; she looked older, in worry, than her father. It was evident
they were very poor.

I went up to see ‘Thusia. I did not mind the narrow stairs nor the
low-ceiled room in which I found her, for a home and happiness may be
anywhere, but I felt a hot, personal shame that anything quite so mean
should be the reward of our David.

It was harder to speak cheerfully with ‘Thusia than with David. I would
not have known her, so little of her was there left, the blue veins
standing out under the skin of her shrunken hands, and her face not
at all that of the ‘Thusia I had known when I was a child. I talked of
myself and of my family and of my little successes, and all the while
I felt that she must see through me, and that she must know I was
chattering to hide the pain I felt at seeing these dear friends so
changed, and so deep in poverty. In this I was mistaken. Her only
thought was gratitude that I had found time to come to them, and
pleasure to know all was well with me.

“You’ll come when you come to Riverbank again,” she said when I had to
leave her, “It has done me so much good to see you. Now go down and give
David the rest of your visit.”

She raised her hand for me to take in farewell.

“God has been very good to us,” she said.

When I went down Alice had brought her sewing to the porch, and had
carried out a chair for me--such a shabby chair--and Rose Hinch was
there. She hurriedly hid a paper parcel behind her skirt when she
arose to greet me, but it toppled over and a raw potato rolled out. I
pretended to be unaware of it. I knew then that our David still had one
friend, and guessed who reminded the older church members that David
and ‘Thusia might some days go hungry, unless they received such alms as
were given to the very poor.

I sat for an hour, talking with David and Rose and Alice, and for an
hour tried to forget that this poverty was David’s reward for a life
spent in serving God and his people, and then Rose and I left, and I
walked over the hill with her. We talked of David, and when I told her I
was going to see Mack Graham she said she would go with me.

The small real estate office, on a second floor, was not as shabby as I
had expected, nor was Mack Graham as shabby.

“Big family, that’s all the matter with me,” he told me cheerfully. “I
want you to come up to dinner if you can and meet my brood. So you’ve
been up to see our David! How is he to-day!”

“Mack,” I said, “can’t something be done! Can’t someone here start
something! I know how a place gets in a rut--how we forget the things we
have with us day by day. If you could go away, as I went, and come back
to see our David as he is now, poor, discarded, neglected--”

“Rose, what do you mean, neglecting our David!” Mack asked, almost
gayly.

Rose smiled sadly.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Mack said, reaching for an envelope on his desk.
“Our church is changed. Most of the old people are gone now. I felt the
way you did about it--it was a pity our David wasn’t a horse instead
of a man; then we could have shot him when we had worn him out and were
through with him. Folks forget things, don’t they! Well--”

He drew a letter from the envelope and passed it to me.

When I had read the letter I was not quite as ashamed of my kind as I
had been a moment before. The letter did not promise much. It seemed
there was not a great deal of money available and the calls were many,
but, after all, there was a Fund and it could spare something for David,
as much, perhaps, as a child could earn picking berries in a season each
year. But it would mean all the difference between penury and dread
of the poorhouse on the one hand and safety on the other to David. I
thought how glad David would be and how grateful. I handed the letter to
Rose Hinch.

She read it in silence and when she looked up there were tears in her
eyes.

“I am so glad--for ‘Thusia,” she said. “She has worried so for fear
David might have to go to the poorhouse--alone! She has been afraid to
die; David would have been so lonely in the poor-house.”

“Well, it is great anyway!” said Mack more noisily than necessary. “So
come up to the house to dinner. You, too, Rose. We’ll give our dominie
the letter. We’ll have him come to dinner, too, and Alice, and we’ll
celebrate--”

Rose smiled, as she used to smile in the days when I first knew her.

“No, Mack,” she said. “We will give him the letter when he has put on
his hat and coat, and is going home. He will want ‘Thusia to be the
first to be glad with him.”

So that was how it was done.





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