The Damnation of Theron Ware, by Harold Frederic
Part 4 out of 8
and Bulwer-Lytton, and ever so many others.
Of course there was nothing to be done about it.
These things happened, and one could only put the best
possible face on them, and live one's appointed life
as patiently and contentedly as might be. And Alice
undoubtedly merited all the praise which had been so
generously bestowed upon her. She was good and honest
and kindly, and there could be no doubt whatever
as to her utter devotion to him. These were tangible,
solid qualities, which must always secure respect for her.
It was true that she no longer seemed to be very popular
among people. He questioned whether men, for instance,
like Father Forbes and Dr. Ledsmar would care much
about her. Visions of the wifeless and academic calm
in which these men spent their lives--an existence
consecrated to literature and knowledge and familiarity
with all the loftiest and noblest thoughts of the past--
rose and enveloped him in a cloud of depression. No such
lot would be his! He must labor along among ignorant
and spiteful narrow-minded people to the end of his days,
pocketing their insults and fawning upon the harsh hands of
jealous nonentities who happened to be his official masters,
just to keep a roof over his head--or rather Alice's.
He must sacrifice everything to this, his ambitions,
his passionate desires to do real good in the world on
a large scale, his mental freedom, yes, even his chance
of having truly elevating, intellectual friendships.
For it was plain enough that the men whose friendship
would be of genuine and stimulating profit to him would
not like her. Now that he thought of it, she seemed
latterly to make no friends at all.
Suddenly, as he watched in a blank sort of way Brother
Soulsby take out a penknife, and lop an offending twig
from a rose-bush against the fence, something occurred
to him. There was a curious exception to that rule
of Alice's isolation. She had made at least one friend.
Levi Gorringe seemed to like her extremely.
As if his mind had been a camera, Theron snapped a
shutter down upon this odd, unbidden idea, and turned
away from the window.
The sounds of an active, almost strenuous conversation
in female voices came from the kitchen. Theron opened
the door noiselessly, and put in his head, conscious of
something furtive in his intention.
"You must dreen every drop of water off the spinach,
mind, before you put it over, or else--"
It was Sister Soulsby's sharp and penetrating tones
which came to him. Theron closed the door again,
and surrendered himself once more to the circling whirl
of his thoughts.
A love-feast at nine in the morning opened the public
services of a Sunday still memorable in the annals
of Octavius Methodism.
This ceremony, which four times a year preceded the sessions
of the Quarterly Conference, was not necessarily an event
of importance. It was an occasion upon which the brethren
and sisters who clung to the old-fashioned, primitive
ways of the itinerant circuit-riders, let themselves go
with emphasized independence, putting up more vehement
prayers than usual, and adding a special fervor of noise
to their "Amens!" and other interjections--and that was all.
It was Theron's first love-feast in Octavius, and as the
big class-room in the church basement began to fill up,
and he noted how the men with ultra radical views and the
women clad in the most ostentatious drabs and grays were
crowding into the front seats, he felt his spirits sinking.
He had literally to force himself from sentence to sentence,
when the time came for him to rise and open the proceedings
with an exhortation. He had eagerly offered this function
to the Presiding Elder, the Rev. Aziel P. Larrabee,
who sat in severe silence on the little platform behind him,
but had been informed that the dignitary would lead off
in giving testimony later on. So Theron, feeling all
the while the hostile eyes of the Elder burning holes
in his back, dragged himself somehow through the task.
He had never known any such difficulty of speech before.
The relief was almost overwhelming when he came to the
customary part where all are adjured to be as brief
as possible in witnessing for the Lord, because the time
belongs to all the people, and the Discipline forbids
the feast to last more than ninety minutes. He delivered
this injunction to brevity with marked earnestness,
and then sat down abruptly.
There was some rather boisterous singing, during which
the stewards, beginning with the platform, passed plates
of bread cut in small cubes, and water in big plated
pitchers and tumblers, about among the congregation,
threading their way between the long wooden benches
ordinarily occupied at this hour by the children of
the Sunday-school, and helping each brother and sister
in turn. They held by the old custom, here in Octavius,
and all along the seats the sexes alternated, as they
do at a polite dinner-table.
Theron impassively watched the familiar scene. The early
nervousness had passed away. He felt now that he was not
in the least afraid of these people, even with the Presiding
Elder thrown in. Folks who sang with such unintelligence,
and who threw themselves with such undignified fervor
into this childish business of the bread and water,
could not be formidable antagonists for a man of intellect.
He had never realized before what a spectacle the
Methodist love-feast probably presented to outsiders.
What must they think of it!
He had noticed that the Soulsbys sat together, in the centre
and toward the front. Next to Brother Soulsby sat Alice.
He thought she looked pale and preoccupied, and set it
down in passing to her innate distaste for the somber
garments she was wearing, and for the company she perforce
found herself in. Another head was in the way, and for a
time Theron did not observe who sat beside Alice on the
other side. When at last he saw that it was Levi Gorringe,
his instinct was to wonder what the lawyer must be saying
to himself about these noisy and shallow enthusiasts.
A recurring emotion of loyalty to the simple people
among whom, after all, he had lived his whole life,
prompted him to feel that it wasn't wholly nice of Gorringe
to come and enjoy this revelation of their foolish side,
as if it were a circus. There was some vague memory in his
mind which associated Gorringe with other love-feasts,
and with a cynical attitude toward them. Oh, yes! he
had told how he went to one just for the sake of sitting
beside the girl he admired--and was pursuing.
The stewards had completed their round, and the loud,
discordant singing came to an end. There ensued a
little pause, during which Theron turned to the Presiding
Elder with a gesture of invitation to take charge of the
further proceedings. The Elder responded with another gesture,
calling his attention to something going on in front.
Brother and Sister Soulsby, to the considerable surprise
of everybody, had risen to their feet, and were standing
in their places, quite motionless, and with an air of
professional self-assurance dimly discernible under a large
show of humility. They stood thus until complete silence
had been secured. Then the woman, lifting her head,
began to sing. The words were "Rock of Ages," but no one
present had heard the tune to which she wedded them.
Her voice was full and very sweet, and had in it
tender cadences which all her hearers found touching.
She knew how to sing, and she put forth the words
so that each was distinctly intelligible. There came
a part where Brother Soulsby, lifting his head in turn,
took up a tuneful second to her air. Although the
two did not, as one could hear by listening closely,
sing the same words at the same time, they produced none
the less most moving and delightful harmonies of sound.
The experience was so novel and charming that listeners
ran ahead in their minds to fix the number of verses there
were in the hymn, and to hope that none would be left out.
Toward the end, when some of the intolerably self-conceited
local singers, fancying they had caught the tune,
started to join in, they were stopped by an indignant
"sh-h!" which rose from all parts of the class-room;
and the Soulsbys, with a patient and pensive kindliness
written on their uplifted faces, gave that verse over again.
What followed seemed obviously restrained and modified by the
effect of this unlooked-for and tranquillizing overture.
The Presiding Elder was known to enjoy visits to old-fashioned
congregations like that of Octavius, where he could
indulge to the full his inner passion for high-pitched
passionate invocations and violent spiritual demeanor,
but this time he spoke temperately, almost soothingly.
The most tempestuous of the local witnesses for the Lord
gave in their testimony in relatively pacific tones,
under the influence of the spell which good music had
laid upon the gathering. There was the deepest interest
as to what the two visitors would do in this way.
Brother Soulsby spoke first, very briefly and in well rounded
and well-chosen, if conventional, phrases. His wife,
following him, delivered in a melodious monotone some
equally hackneyed remarks. The assemblage, listening in
rapt attention, felt the suggestion of reserved power in
every sentence she uttered, and burst forth, as she dropped
into her seat, in a loud chorus of approving ejaculations.
The Soulsbys had captured Octavius with their first outer
Everything seemed to move forward now with a new zest
and spontaneity. Theron had picked out for the occasion
the best of those sermons which he had prepared in Tyre,
at the time when he was justifying his ambition to be
accounted a pulpit orator. It was orthodox enough,
but had been planned as the framework for picturesque
and emotional rhetoric rather than doctrinal edification.
He had never dreamed of trying it on Octavius before,
and only on the yesterday had quavered at his own daring
in choosing it now. Nothing but the desire to show Sister
Soulsby what was in him had held him to the selection.
Something of this same desire no doubt swayed and steadied
him now in the pulpit. The labored slowness of his beginning
seemed to him to be due to nervous timidity, until suddenly,
looking down into those big eyes of Sister Soulsby's,
which were bent gravely upon him from where she sat beside
Alice in the minister's pew, he remembered that it was
instead the studied deliberation which art had taught him.
He went on, feeling more and more that the skill and
histrionic power of his best days were returning to him,
were as marked as ever--nay, had never triumphed before
as they were triumphing now. The congregation watched
and listened with open, steadfast eyes and parted lips.
For the first time in all that weary quarter, their
faces shone. The sustaining sparkle of their gaze lifted
him to a peroration unrivalled in his own recollection of himself.
He sat down, and bent his head forward upon the open Bible,
breathing hard, but suffused with a glow of satisfaction.
His ears caught the music of that sighing rustle through
the audience which bespeaks a profound impression.
He could scarcely keep the fingers of his hands,
covering his bowed face in a devotional posture as they were,
from drumming a jubilant tattoo. His pulses did this
in every vein, throbbing with excited exultation.
The insistent whim seized him, as he still bent thus
before his people, to whisper to his own heart, "At last!--
The announcement that in the evening a series of revival
meetings was to be inaugurated, had been made at the
love-feast, and it was repeated now from the pulpit,
with the added statement that for the once the class-meetings
usually following this morning service would be suspended.
Then Theron came down the steps, conscious after a fashion
that the Presiding Elder had laid a propitiatory hand on his
shoulder and spoken amiably about the sermon, and that several
groups of more or less important parishioners were waiting
in the aisle and the vestibule to shake hands and tell him
how much they had enjoyed the sermon. His mind perversely
kept hold of the thought that all this came too late.
He politely smiled his way along out, and, overtaking the
Soulsbys and his wife near the parsonage gate, went in with them.
At the cold, picked-up noonday meal which was the Sunday
rule of the house, Theron rather expected that his guests
would talk about the sermon, or at any rate about the events
of the morning. A Sabbath chill seemed to have settled
upon both their tongues. They ate almost in silence,
and their sparse remarks touched upon topics far removed
from church affairs. Alice too, seemed strangely
disinclined to conversation. The husband knew her face
and its varying moods so well that he could see she
was laboring under some very powerful and deep emotion.
No doubt it was the sermon, the oratorical swing of which
still tingled in his own blood, that had so affected her.
If she had said so, it would have pleased him, but she
After dinner, Brother Soulsby disappeared in his bedroom,
with the remark that he guessed he would lie down awhile.
Sister Soulsby put on her bonnet, and, explaining that she
always prepared herself for an evening's work by a long
solitary walk, quitted the house. Alice, after she had put
the dinner things away, went upstairs, and stayed there.
Left to himself, Theron spent the afternoon in the
easy-chair, and, in the intervals of confused introspection,
read "Recollections of my Youth" through again from cover
He went through the remarkable experiences attending
the opening of the revival, when evening came, as one in
a dream. Long before the hour for the service arrived,
the sexton came in to tell him that the church was already
nearly full, and that it was going to be impossible
to present any distinction in the matter of pews.
When the party from the parsonage went over--after another
cold and mostly silent meal--it was to find the interior
of the church densely packed, and people being turned
away from the doors.
Theron was supposed to preside over what followed, and he
did sit on the central chair in the pulpit, between the
Presiding Elder and Brother Soulsby, and on the several
needful occasions did rise and perfunctorily make the formal
remarks required of him. The Elder preached a short,
but vigorously phrased sermon. The Soulsbys sang three or
four times--on each occasion with familiar hymnal words set
to novel, concerted music--and then separately exhorted
the assemblage. The husband's part seemed well done.
If his speech lacked some of the fire of the divine girdings
which older Methodists recalled, it still led straight,
and with kindling fervency, up to a season of power.
The wife took up the word as he sat down. She had risen
from one of the side-seats; and, speaking as she walked,
she moved forward till she stood within the altar-rail,
immediately under the pulpit, and from this place,
facing the listening throng, she delivered her harangue.
Those who watched her words most intently got the least
sense of meaning from them. The phrases were all familiar
enough--"Jesus a very present help," "Sprinkled by the Blood,"
"Comforted by the Word," "Sanctified by the Spirit,"
"Born into the Kingdom," and a hundred others--but it
was as in the case of her singing: the words were old;
the music was new.
What Sister Soulsby said did not matter. The way she
said it--the splendid, searching sweep of her great eyes;
the vibrating roll of her voice, now full of tears, now scornful,
now boldly, jubilantly triumphant; the sympathetic swaying
of her willowy figure under the stress of her eloquence--
was all wonderful. When she had finished, and stood,
flushed and panting, beneath the shadow of the pulpit,
she held up a hand deprecatingly as the resounding "Amens!"
and "Bless the Lords!" began to well up about her.
"You have heard us sing," she said, smiling to apologize
for her shortness of breath. "Now we want to hear you sing!"
Her husband had risen as she spoke, and on the instant,
with a far greater volume of voice than they had hitherto
disclosed, the two began "From Greenland's Icy Mountains,"
in the old, familiar tune. It did not need Sister Soulsby's
urgent and dramatic gesture to lift people to their feet.
The whole assemblage sprang up, and, under the guidance
of these two powerful leading voices, thundered the hymn
out as Octavius had never heard it before.
While its echoes were still alive, the woman began
speaking again. "Don't sit down!" she cried.
"You would stand up if the President of the United
States was going by, even if he was only going fishing.
How much more should you stand up in honor of living
souls passing forward to find their Saviour!"
The psychological moment was upon them. Groans and
cries arose, and a palpable ferment stirred the throng.
The exhortation to sinners to declare themselves, to come
to the altar, was not only on the revivalist's lips:
it seemed to quiver in the very air, to be borne on every
inarticulate exclamation in the clamor of the brethren.
A young woman, with a dazed and startled look in her eyes,
rose in the body of the church tremblingly hesitated for
a moment, and then, with bowed head and blushing cheeks,
pressed her way out from the end of a crowded pew and down
the aisle to the rail. A triumphant outburst of welcoming
ejaculations swelled to the roof as she knelt there,
and under its impetus others followed her example.
With interspersed snatches of song and shouted encouragements
the excitement reached its height only when twoscore people,
mostly young, were tightly clustered upon their knees
about the rail, and in the space opening upon the aisle.
Above the confusion of penitential sobs and moans, and the
hysterical murmurings of members whose conviction of entire
sanctity kept them in their seats, could be heard the voices
of the Presiding Elder, the Soulsbys, and the elderly
deacons of the church, who moved about among the kneeling
mourners, bending over them and patting their shoulders,
and calling out to them: "Fasten your thoughts on Jesus!"
"Oh, the Precious Blood!" "Blessed be His Name!"
"Seek Him, and you shall find Him!" "Cling to Jesus,
and Him Crucified!"
The Rev. Theron Ware did not, with the others, descend from
the pulpit. Seated where he could not see Sister Soulsby,
he had failed utterly to be moved by the wave of enthusiasm
she had evoked. What he heard her say disappointed him.
He had expected from her more originality, more spice of
her own idiomatic, individual sort. He viewed with a cold
sense of aloofness the evidences of her success when they
began to come forward and abase themselves at the altar.
The instant resolve that, come what might, he would not go
down there among them, sprang up ready-made in his mind.
He saw his two companions pass him and descend the pulpit
stairs, and their action only hardened his resolution.
If an excuse were needed, he was presiding, and the place
to preside in was the pulpit. But he waived in his mind
the whole question of an excuse.
After a little, he put his hand over his face, leaning the
elbow forward on the reading-desk. The scene below would have
thrilled him to the marrow six months--yes, three months ago.
He put a finger across his eyes now, to half shut it out.
The spectacle of these silly young "mourners"--kneeling
they knew not why, trembling at they could not tell what,
pledging themselves frantically to dogmas and mysteries
they knew nothing of, under the influence of a hubbub
of outcries as meaningless in their way, and inspiring
in much the same way, as the racket of a fife and
drum corps--the spectacle saddened and humiliated
him now. He was conscious of a dawning sense of shame
at being even tacitly responsible for such a thing.
His fancy conjured up the idea of Dr. Ledsmar coming
in and beholding this maudlin and unseemly scene,
and he felt his face grow hot at the bare thought.
Looking through his fingers, Theron all at once saw
something which caught at his breath with a sharp clutch.
Alice had risen from the minister's pew--the most conspicuous
one in the church--and was moving down the aisle toward
the rail, her uplifted face chalk-like in its whiteness,
and her eyes wide-open, looking straight ahead.
The young pastor could scarcely credit his sight.
He thrust aside his hand, and bent forward, only to see
his wife sink upon her knees among the rest, and to hear
this notable accession to the "mourners" hailed by a
tumult of approving shouts. Then, remembering himself,
he drew back and put up his hand, shutting out the strange
scene altogether. To see nothing at all was a relief,
and under cover he closed his eyes, and bit his teeth together.
A fresh outburst of thanksgivings, spreading noisily
through the congregation, prompted him to peer through
his fingers again. Levi Gorringe was making his way
down the aisle--was at the moment quite in front.
Theron found himself watching this man with the stern
composure of a fatalist. The clamant brethren down below
were stirred to new excitement by the thought that the
sceptical lawyer, so long with them, yet not of them,
had been humbled and won by the outpourings of the Spirit.
Theron's perceptions were keener. He knew that Gorringe
was coming forward to kneel beside Alice; The knowledge
left him curiously undisturbed. He saw the lawyer advance,
gently insinuate himself past the form of some kneeling
mourner who was in his way, and drop on his knees close
beside the bowed figure of Alice. The two touched
shoulders as they bent forward beneath Sister Soulsby's
outstretched hands, held over them as in a blessing.
Theron looked fixedly at them, and professed to himself
that he was barely interested.
A little afterward, he was standing up in his place,
and reading aloud a list of names which one of the stewards
had given him. They were the names of those who had
asked that evening to be taken into the church as members
on probation. The sounds of the recent excitement
were all hushed now, save as two or three enthusiasts
in a corner raised their voices in abrupt greeting of
each name in its turn, but Theron felt somehow that this
noise had been transferred to the inside of his head.
A continuous buzzing went on there, so that the sound
of his voice was far-off and unfamiliar in his ears.
He read through the list--comprising some fifteen items--
and pronounced the names with great distinctness.
It was necessary to take pains with this, because the
only name his blurred eyes seemed to see anywhere on the
foolscap sheet was that of Levi Gorringe. When he had
finished and was taking his seat, some one began speaking
to him from the body of the church. He saw that this
was the steward, who was explaining to him that the most
important name of the lot--that of Brother Gorringe--
had not been read out.
Theron smiled and shook his head. Then, when the Presiding
Elder touched him on the arm, and assured him that he had
not mentioned the name in question, he replied quite simply,
and with another smile, "I thought it was the only name
I did read out."
Then he sat down abruptly, and let his head fall to one side.
There were hurried movements inside the pulpit, and people
in the audience had begun to stand up wonderingly,
when the Presiding Elder, with uplifted hands, confronted them.
"We will omit the Doxology, and depart quietly after
the benediction," he said. "Brother Ware seems to have
been overcome by the heat."
When Theron woke next morning, Alice seemed to have dressed
and left the room--a thing which had never happened before.
This fact connected itself at once in his brain with the
recollection of her having made an exhibition of herself
the previous evening--going forward before all eyes to join
the unconverted and penitent sinners, as if she were
some tramp or shady female, instead of an educated lady,
a professing member from her girlhood, and a minister's wife.
It crossed his mind that probably she had risen and got
away noiselessly, for very shame at looking him in the face,
after such absurd behavior.
Then he remembered more, and grasped the situation.
He had fainted in church, and had been brought home and helped
to bed. Dim memories of unaccustomed faces in the bedroom,
of nauseous drugs and hushed voices, came to him out of the
night-time. Now that he thought of it, he was a sick man.
Having settled this, he went off to sleep again,
a feverish and broken sleep, and remained in this state
most of the time for the following twenty-four hours.
In the brief though numerous intervals of waking, he found
certain things clear in his mind. One was that he was
annoyed with Alice, but would dissemble his feelings.
Another was that it was much pleasanter to be ill than to be
forced to attend and take part in those revival meetings.
These two ideas came and went in a lazy, drowsy fashion,
mixing themselves up with other vagrant fancies, yet always
remaining on top.
In the evening the singing from the church next door
filled his room. The Soulsbys' part of it was worth
keeping awake for. He turned over and deliberately
dozed when the congregation sang.
Alice came up a number of times during the day to ask
how he felt, and to bring him broth or toast-water. On
several occasions, when he heard her step, the perverse
inclination mastered him to shut his eyes, and pretend
to be asleep, so that she might tip-toe out again.
She had a depressed and thoughtful air, and spoke to him
like one whose mind was on something else. Neither of
them alluded to what had happened the previous evening.
Toward the close of the long day, she came to ask him
whether he would prefer her to remain in the house,
instead of attending the meeting.
"Go, by all means," he said almost curtly.
The Presiding Elder and the Sunday-school superintendent
called early Tuesday morning at the parsonage to make
brotherly inquiries, and Theron was feeling so much better
that he himself suggested their coming upstairs to see him.
The Elder was in good spirits; he smiled approvingly,
and even put in a jocose word or two while the superintendent
sketched for the invalid in a cheerful way the leading
incidents of the previous evening.
There had been an enormous crowd, even greater than that of
Sunday night, and everybody had been looking forward to another
notable and exciting season of grace. These expectations
were especially heightened when Sister Soulsby ascended
the pulpit stairs and took charge of the proceedings.
She deferred to Paul's views about women preachers
on Sundays, she said; but on weekdays she had just as much
right to snatch brands from the burning as Paul, or Peter,
or any other man. She went on like that, in a breezy,
off-hand fashion which tickled the audience immensely,
and led to the liveliest anticipations of what would
happen when she began upon the evening's harvest of souls.
But it was something else that happened. At a signal from
Sister Soulsby the steward got up, and, in an unconcerned sort
of way, went through the throng to the rear of the church,
locked the doors, and put the keys in their pockets.
The sister dryly explained now to the surprised congregation
that there was a season for all things, and that on the
present occasion they would suspend the glorious work
of redeeming fallen human nature, and take up instead
the equally noble task of raising some fifteen hundred
dollars which the church needed in its business. The doors
would only be opened again when this had been accomplished.
The brethren were much taken aback by this trick, and they
permitted themselves to exchange a good many scowling and
indignant glances, the while their professional visitors
sang another of their delightfully novel sacred duets.
Its charm of harmony for once fell upon unsympathetic ears.
But then Sister Soulsby began another monologue, defending
this way of collecting money, chaffing the assemblage
with bright-eyed impudence on their having been trapped,
and scoring, one after another, neat and jocose little
personal points on local characteristics, at which everybody
but the individual touched grinned broadly. She was
so droll and cheeky, and withal effective in her talk,
that she quite won the crowd over. She told a story
about a woodchuck which fairly brought down the house.
"A man," she began, with a quizzical twinkle in her eye,
"told me once about hunting a woodchuck with a pack
of dogs, and they chased it so hard that it finally
escaped only by climbing a butternut-tree. 'But,
my friend,' I said to him, 'woodchucks can't climb trees--
butternut-trees or any other kind--and you know it!'
All he said in reply to me was: 'This woodchuck had to
climb a tree!' And that's the way with this congregation.
You think you can't raise $1,500, but you've GOT to."
So it went on. She set them all laughing; and then,
with a twist of the eyes and a change of voice, lo,
and behold, she had them nearly crying in the same breath.
Under the pressure of these jumbled emotions, brethren began
to rise up in their pews and say what they would give.
The wonderful woman had something smart and apt to say about
each fresh contribution, and used it to screw up the general
interest a notch further toward benevolent hysteria.
With songs and jokes and impromptu exhortations and
prayers she kept the thing whirling, until a sort of duel
of generosity began between two of the most unlikely men--
Erastus Winch and Levi Gorringe. Everybody had been surprised
when Winch gave his first $50; but when he rose again,
half an hour afterward, and said that, owing to the high
public position of some of the new members on probation,
he foresaw a great future for the church, and so felt
moved to give another $25, there was general amazement.
Moved by a common instinct, all eyes were turned upon
Levi Gorringe, and he, without the slightest hesitation,
stood up and said he would give $100. There was something
in his tone which must have annoyed Brother Winch, for he shot
up like a dart, and called out, "Put me down for fifty more;
"and that brought Gorringe to his feet with an added $50,
and then the two went on raising each other till the
assemblage was agape with admiring stupefaction.
This gladiatorial combat might have been going on till now,
the Sunday-school superintendent concluded, if Winch
hadn't subsided. The amount of the contributions hadn't
been figured up yet, for Sister Soulsby kept the list;
but there had been a tremendous lot of money raised.
Of that there could be no doubt.
The Presiding Elder now told Theron that the Quarterly
Conference had been adjourned yesterday till today.
He and Brother Davis were even now on their way to attend
the session in the church next door. The Elder added,
with an obvious kindly significance, that though Theron was
too ill to attend it, he guessed his absence would do him
no harm. Then the two men left the room, and Theron went
to sleep again.
Another almost blank period ensued, this time lasting
for forty-eight hours. The young minister was enfolded
in the coils of a fever of some sort, which Brother Soulsby,
who had dabbled considerably in medicine, admitted that
he was puzzled about. Sometimes he thought that it
was typhoid, and then again there were symptoms which
looked suspiciously like brain fever. The Methodists
of Octavius counted no physician among their numbers,
and when, on the second day, Alice grew scared, and decided,
with Brother Soulsby's assent, to call in professional
advice, the only doctor's name she could recall was that
of Ledsmar. She was conscious of an instinctive dislike
for the vague image of him her fancy had conjured up,
but the reflection that he was Theron's friend, and so
probably would be more moderate in his charges, decided her.
Brother Soulsby showed a most comforting tact and swiftness
of apprehension when Alice, in mentioning Dr. Ledsmar's
name, disclosed by her manner a fear that his being
sent for would create talk among the church people.
He volunteered at once to act as messenger himself, and,
with no better guide than her dim hints at direction,
found the doctor and brought him back to the parsonage.
Dr. Ledsmar expressly disclaimed to Soulsby all pretence
of professional skill, and made him understand that he
went along solely because he liked Mr. Ware, and was
interested in him, and in any case would probably be of
as much use as the wisest of strange physicians--a view
which the little revivalist received with comprehending
nods of tacit acquiescence. Ledsmar came, and was taken
up to the sick-room. He sat on the bedside and talked
with Theron awhile, and then went downstairs again.
To Alice's anxious inquiries, he replied that it seemed
to him merely a case of over-work and over-worry, about
which there was not the slightest occasion for alarm.
"But he says the strangest things," the wife put in.
"He has been quite delirious at times."
"That means only that his brain is taking a rest as well
as his body," remarked Ledsmar. "That is Nature's way
of securing an equilibrium of repose--of recuperation.
He will come out of it with his mind all the fresher
"I don't believe he knows shucks!" was Alice's comment
when she closed the street door upon Dr. Ledsmar.
"Anybody could have come in and looked at a sick man
and said, 'Leave him alone.' You expect something more
from a doctor. It's his business to say what to do.
And I suppose he'll charge two dollars for just telling me
that my husband was resting!"
"No," said Brother Soulsby, "he said he never practised,
and that he would come only as a friend."
"Well, it isn't my idea of a friend--not to prescribe
a single thing," protested Alice.
Yet it seemed that no prescription was needed, after all.
The next morning Theron woke to find himself feeling
quite restored in spirits and nerves. He sat up in bed,
and after an instant of weakly giddiness, recognized that
he was all right again. Greatly pleased, he got up,
and proceeded to dress himself. There were little recurring
hints of faintness and vertigo, while he was shaving,
but he had the sense to refer these to the fact that he
was very, very hungry. He went downstairs, and smiled
with the pleased pride of a child at the surprise which his
appearance at the door created. Alice and the Soulsbys
were at breakfast. He joined them, and ate voraciously,
declaring that it was worth a month's illness to have things
taste so good once more.
"You still look white as a sheet," said Alice, warningly.
"If I were you, I'd be careful in my diet for a spell yet."
For answer, Theron let Sister Soulsby help him again
to ham and eggs. He talked exclusively to Sister Soulsby,
or rather invited her by his manner to talk to him,
and listened and watched her with indolent content.
There was a sort of happy and purified languor in his physical
and mental being, which needed and appreciated just this--
to sit next a bright and attractive woman at a good breakfast,
and be ministered to by her sprightly conversation,
by the flash of her informing and inspiring eyes,
and the nameless sense of support and repose which her
near proximity exhaled. He felt himself figuratively
leaning against Sister Soulsby's buoyant personality,
Brother Soulsby, like the intelligent creature he was,
ate his breakfast in peace; but Alice would interpose
remarks from time to time. Theron was conscious of a
certain annoyance at this, and knew that he was showing
it by an exaggerated display of interest in everything
Sister Soulsby said, and persisted in it. There trembled
in the background of his thoughts ever and again the
recollection of a grievance against his wife--an offence
which she had committed--but he put it aside as something
to be grappled and dealt with when he felt again like
taking up the serious and disagreeable things of life.
For the moment, he desired only to be amused by Sister Soulsby.
Her casual mention of the fact that she and her husband
were taking their departure that very day, appealed to him
as an added reason for devoting his entire attention to her.
"You mustn't forget that famous talking-to you threatened me with--
that 'regular hoeing-over,' you know," he reminded her,
when he found himself alone with her after breakfast.
He smiled as he spoke, in frank enjoyment of the prospect.
Sister Soulsby nodded, and aided with a roll of her eyes
the effect of mock-menace in her uplifted forefinger.
"Oh, never fear," she cried. "You'll catch it hot and strong.
But that'll keep till afternoon. Tell me, do you feel
strong enough to go in next door and attend the trustees'
meeting this forenoon? It's rather important that you
should be there, if you can spur yourself up to it.
By the way, you haven't asked what happened at the Quarterly
Theron sighed, and made a little grimace of repugnance.
"If you knew how little I cared!" he said. "I did hope
you'd forget all about mentioning that--and everything
else connected with--the next door. You talk so much more
interestingly about other things."
"Here's gratitude for you!" exclaimed Sister Soulsby,
with a gay simulation of despair. "Why, man alive,
do you know what I've done for you? I got around on
the Presiding Elder's blind side, I captured old Pierce,
I wound Winch right around my little finger, I worked
two or three of the class-leaders--all on your account.
The result was you went through as if you'd had your ears
pinned back, and been greased all over. You've got an
extra hundred dollars added to your salary; do you hear?
On the sixth question of the order of business the Elder ruled
that the recommendation of the last conference's estimating
committee could be revised (between ourselves he was wrong,
but that doesn't matter) , and so you're in clover.
And very friendly things were said about you, too."
"It was very kind of you," said Theron. "I am really
extremely grateful to you." He shook her by the hand
to make up for what he realized to be a lack of fervor
in his tones.
"Well, then," Sister Soulsby replied, "you pull
yourself together, and take your place as chairman
of the trustees' meeting, and see to it that,
whatever comes up, you side with old Pierce and Winch."
"Oh, THEY'RE my friends now, are they?" asked Theron,
with a faint play of irony about his lips.
"Yes, that's your ticket this election," she answered briskly,
"and mind you vote it straight. Don't bother about
reasons now. Just take it from me, as the song says,
'that things have changed since Willie died.' That's all.
And then come back here, and this afternoon we'll have
a good old-fashioned jaw."
The Rev. Mr. Ware, walking with ostentatious feebleness,
and forcing a conventional smile upon his wan face,
duly made his unexpected appearance at the trustees'
meeting in one of the smaller classrooms. He received their
congratulations gravely, and shook hands with all three.
It required an effort to do this impartially, because,
upon sight of Levi Gorringe, there rose up suddenly
within him an emotion of fierce dislike and enmity.
In some enigmatic way his thoughts had kept themselves
away from Gorringe ever since Sunday evening. Now they
concentrated with furious energy and swiftness upon him.
Theron seemed able in a flash of time to coordinate
many recollections of Gorringe--the early liking Alice
had professed for him, the mystery of those purchased
plants in her garden, the story of the girl he had
lost in church, his offer to lend him money, the way
in which he had sat beside Alice at the love-feast
and followed her to the altar-rail in the evening.
These raced abreast through the young minister's brain,
yet with each its own image, and its relation to the others
He found the nerve, all the same, to take this third trustee
by the hand, and to thank him for his congratulations,
and even to say, with a surface smile of welcome,
"It is BROTHER Gorringe, now, I remember."
The work before the meeting was chiefly of a routine kind.
In most places this would have been transacted by the stewards;
but in Octavius these minor officials had degenerated
into mere ceremonial abstractions, who humbly ratified,
or by arrangement anticipated, the will of the powerful,
mortgage-owning trustees. Theron sat languidly at
the head of the table while these common-place matters
passed in their course, noting the intonations of
Gorringe's voice as he read from his secretary's book,
and finding his ear displeased by them. No issue arose
upon any of these trivial affairs, and the minister,
feeling faint and weary in the heat, wondered why Sister
Soulsby had insisted on his coming.
All at once he sat up straight, with an instinctive warning
in his mind that here was the thing. Gorringe had taken up
the subject of the "debt-raising" evening, and read out its
essentials as they had been embodied in a report of the stewards.
The gross sum obtained, in cash and promises, was $1,860.
The stewards had collected of this a trifle less than half,
but hoped to get it all in during the ensuing quarter.
There were, also, the bill of Mr. and Mrs. Soulsby for
$150, and the increases of $100 in the pastor's salary
and $25 in the apportioned contribution of the charge
toward the Presiding Elder's maintenance, the two latter
items of which the Quarterly Conference had sanctioned.
"I want to hear the names of the subscribers and their
amounts read out," put in Brother Pierce.
When this was done, it became apparent that much more than
half of the entire amount had been offered by two men.
Levi Gorringe's $450 and Erastus Winch's $425 left only
$985 to be divided up among some seventy or eighty other
members of the congregation.
Brother Pierce speedily stopped the reading of these
subordinate names. "They're of no concern whatever,"
he said, despite the fact that his own might have been
reached in time. "Those first names are what I was
getting at. Have those two first amounts, the big ones,
"One has--the other not," replied Gorringe.
"PRE-cisely," remarked the senior trustee. "And I'm goin'
to move that it needn't be paid, either. When Brother Winch,
here, began hollerin' out those extra twenty-fives and fifties,
that evening, it was under a complete misapprehension.
He'd be'n on the Cheese Board that same Monday afternoon,
and he'd done what he thought was a mighty big stroke
of business, and he felt liberal according. I know
just what that feelin' is myself. If I'd be'n makin'
a mint o' money, instead o' losin' all the while, as I do,
I'd 'a' done just the same. But the next day, lo, and behold,
Brother Winch found that it was all a mistake--he hadn't
made a single penny."
"Fact is, I lost by the whole transaction," put in
Erastus Winch, defiantly.
"Just so," Brother Pierce went on. "He lost money.
You have his own word for it. Well, then, I say it would
be a burning shame for us to consent to touch one penny
of what he offered to give, in the fullness of his heart,
while he was laborin' under that delusion. And I move he
be not asked for it. We've got quite as much as we need,
without it. I put my motion."
"That is, YOU don't put it," suggested Winch, correctingly.
"You move it, and Brother Ware, whom we're all so glad
to see able to come and preside--he'll put it."
There was a moment's silence. "You've heard the motion,"
said Theron, tentatively, and then paused for possible remarks.
He was not going to meddle in this thing himself, and Gorringe
was the only other who might have an opinion to offer.
The necessities of the situation forced him to glance at
the lawyer inquiringly. He did so, and turned his eyes
away again like a shot. Gorringe was looking him squarely
in the face, and the look was freighted with satirical contempt.
The young minister spoke between clinched teeth.
"All those in favor will say aye."
Brothers Pierce and Winch put up a simultaneous
and confident "Aye."
"No, you don't!" interposed the lawyer, with deliberate,
sneering emphasis. "I decidedly protest against Winch's
voting. He's directly interested, and he mustn't vote.
Your chairman knows that perfectly well."
"Yes, I think Brother Winch ought not to vote," decided Theron,
with great calmness. He saw now what was coming,
and underneath his surface composure there were sharp flutterings.
"Very well, then," said Gorringe. "I vote no, and it's a tie.
It rests with the chairman now to cast the deciding vote,
and say whether this interesting arrangement shall go
through or not."
"Me?" said Theron, eying the lawyer with a cool self-control
which had come all at once to him. "Me? Oh, I vote Aye."
"Well, I did what you told me to do," Theron Ware remarked
to Sister Soulsby, when at last they found themselves
alone in the sitting-room after the midday meal.
It had taken not a little strategic skirmishing to
secure the room to themselves for the hospitable Alice,
much touched by the thought of her new friend's departure
that very evening had gladly proposed to let all the work
stand over until night, and devote herself entirely
to Sister Soulsby. When, finally, Brother Soulsby
conceived and deftly executed the coup of interesting
her in the budding of roses, and then leading her off
into the garden to see with her own eyes how it was done,
Theron had a sense of being left alone with a conspirator.
The notion impelled him to plunge at once into the heart
of their mystery.
"I did what you told me to do," he repeated, looking up
from his low easy-chair to where she sat by the desk;
"and I dare say you won't be surprised when I add that I
have no respect for myself for doing it."
"And yet you would go and do it right over again, eh?"
the woman said, in bright, pert tones, nodding her head,
and smiling at him with roguish, comprehending eyes.
"Yes, that's the way we're built. We spend our lives doing
that sort of thing."
"I don't know that you would precisely grasp my meaning,"
said the young minister, with a polite effort in his
words to mask the untoward side of the suggestion.
"It is a matter of conscience with me; and I am pained
and shocked at myself."
Sister Soulsby drummed for an absent moment with her thin,
nervous fingers on the desk-top. "I guess maybe you'd
better go and lie down again," she said gently.
"You're a sick man, still, and it's no good your worrying
your head just now with things of this sort. You'll see
them differently when you're quite yourself again."
"No, no," pleaded Theron. "Do let us have our talk out!
I'm all right. My mind is clear as a bell. Truly, I've
really counted on this talk with you."
"But there's something else to talk about, isn't there,
besides--besides your conscience?" she asked.
Her eyes bent upon him a kindly pressure as she spoke,
which took all possible harshness from her meaning.
Theron answered the glance rather than her words.
"I know that you are my friend," he said simply.
Sister Soulsby straightened herself, and looked down upon
him with a new intentness. "Well, then," she began,
"let's thrash this thing out right now, and be done with it.
You say it's hurt your conscience to do just one little
hundredth part of what there was to be done here.
Ask yourself what you mean by that. Mind, I'm not quarrelling,
and I'm not thinking about anything except just your own
state of mind. You think you soiled your hands by doing
what you did. That is to say, you wanted ALL the dirty
work done by other people. That's it, isn't it?"
"The Rev. Mr. Ware sat up, in turn, and looked doubtingly
into his companion's face.
"Oh, we were going to be frank, you know," she added,
with a pleasant play of mingled mirth and honest liking
in her eyes.
"No," he said, picking his words, "my point would
rather be that--that there ought not to have been any
of what you yourself call this--this 'dirty work.'
THAT is my feeling."
"Now we're getting at it," said Sister Soulsby, briskly.
"My dear friend, you might just as well say that potatoes
are unclean and unfit to eat because manure is put
into the ground they grow in. Just look at the case.
Your church here was running behind every year.
Your people had got into a habit of putting in nickels
instead of dimes, and letting you sweat for the difference.
That's a habit, like tobacco, or biting your fingernails,
or anything else. Either you were all to come to smash here,
or the people had to be shaken up, stood on their heads,
broken of their habit. It's my business--mine and Soulsby's--
to do that sort of thing. We came here and we did it--
did it up brown, too. We not only raised all the money
the church needs, and to spare, but I took a personal shine
to you, and went out of my way to fix up things for you.
It isn't only the extra hundred dollars, but the whole
tone of the congregation is changed toward you now.
You'll see that they'll be asking to have you back here,
next spring. And you're solid with your Presiding Elder,
too. Well, now, tell me straight--is that worth while,
"I've told you that I am very grateful," answered the
minister, "and I say it again, and I shall never be tired
of repeating it. But--but it was the means I had in mind."
"Quite so," rejoined the sister, patiently. "If you saw
the way a hotel dinner was cooked, you wouldn't be able
to stomach it. Did you ever see a play? In a theatre,
I mean. I supposed not. But you'll understand when I say
that the performance looks one way from where the audience sit,
and quite a different way when you are behind the scenes.
THERE you see that the trees and houses are cloth,
and the moon is tissue paper, and the flying fairy is a
middle-aged woman strung up on a rope. That doesn't prove
that the play, out in front, isn't beautiful and affecting,
and all that. It only shows that everything in this
world is produced by machinery--by organization.
The trouble is that you've been let in on the stage,
behind the scenes, so to speak, and you're so green--
if you'll pardon me--that you want to sit down and cry
because the trees ARE cloth, and the moon IS a lantern.
And I say, don't be such a goose!"
"I see what you mean," Theron said, with an answering smile.
He added, more gravely, "All the same, the Winch business
seems to me--"
"Now the Winch business is my own affair," Sister Soulsby
broke in abruptly. I take all the responsibility for that.
You need know nothing about it. You simply voted as you
did on the merits of the case as he presented them--
"But--" Theron began, and then paused. Something had occurred
to him, and he knitted his brows to follow its course
of expansion in his mind. Suddenly he raised his head.
"Then you arranged with Winch to make those bogus offers--
just to lead others on?" he demanded.
Sister Soulsby's large eyes beamed down upon him in reply,
at first in open merriment, then more soberly, till their
regard was almost pensive.
"Let us talk of something else," she said. "All that is
past and gone. It has nothing to do with you, anyway.
I've got some advice to give you about keeping up this
grip you've got on your people."
The young minister had risen to his feet while she spoke.
He put his hands in his pockets, and with rounded shoulders
began slowly pacing the room. After a turn or two he came
to the desk, and leaned against it.
"I doubt if it's worth while going into that," he said,
in the solemn tone of one who feels that an irrevocable thing
is being uttered. She waited to hear more, apparently.
"I think I shall go away--give up the ministry," he added.
Sister Soulsby's eyes revealed no such shock of consternation
as he, unconsciously, had looked for. They remained quite calm;
and when she spoke, they deepened, to fit her speech,
with what he read to be a gaze of affectionate melancholy--
one might say pity. She shook her head slowly.
"No--don't let any one else hear you say that," she replied.
"My poor young friend, it's no good to even think it.
The real wisdom is to school yourself to move along smoothly,
and not fret, and get the best of what's going. I've known
others who felt as you do--of course there are times
when every young man of brains and high notions feels
that way--but there's no help for it. Those who tried
to get out only broke themselves. Those who stayed in,
and made the best of it--well, one of them will be a bishop
in another ten years."
Theron had started walking again. "But the moral degradation
of it!" he snapped out at her over his shoulder.
"I'd rather earn the meanest living, at an honest trade,
and be free from it."
"That may all be," responded Sister Soulsby. "But it isn't
a question of what you'd rather do. It's what you can do.
How could you earn a living? What trade or business do you
suppose you could take up now, and get a living out of?
Not one, my man, not one."
Theron stopped and stared at her. This view of his
capabilities came upon him with the force and effect
of a blow.
"I don't discover, myself," he began stumblingly,
"that I'm so conspicuously inferior to the men I see
about me who do make livings, and very good ones, too."
"Of course you're not," she replied with easy promptness;
"you're greatly the other way, or I shouldn't be taking this
trouble with you. But you're what you are because you're
where you are. The moment you try on being somewhere else,
you're done for. In all this world nobody else comes to
such unmerciful and universal grief as the unfrocked priest."
The phrase sent Theron's fancy roving. "I know a
Catholic priest," he said irrelevantly, "who doesn't
believe an atom in--in things."
"Very likely," said Sister Soulsby. "Most of us do.
But you don't hear him talking about going and earning
his living, I'll bet! Or if he does, he takes powerful
good care not to go, all the same. They've got horse-sense,
those priests. They're artists, too. They know how to
allow for the machinery behind the scenes."
"But it's all so different," urged the young minister;
"the same things are not expected of them. Now I sat
the other night and watched those people you got up
around the altar-rail, groaning and shouting and crying,
and the others jumping up and down with excitement,
and Sister Lovejoy--did you see her?--coming out of her pew
and regularly waltzing in the aisle, with her eyes shut,
like a whirling dervish--I positively believe it was
all that made me ill. I couldn't stand it. I can't
stand it now. I won't go back to it! Nothing shall
"Oh-h, yes, you will," she rejoined soothingly.
"There's nothing else to do. Just put a good face on it,
and make up your mind to get through by treading on as few
corns as possible, and keeping your own toes well in,
and you'll be surprised how easy it'll all come to be.
You were speaking of the revival business. Now that exemplifies
just what I was saying--it's a part of our machinery.
Now a church is like everything else,--it's got to have a boss,
a head, an authority of some sort, that people will listen
to and mind. The Catholics are different, as you say.
Their church is chuck-full of authority--all the way
from the Pope down to the priest--and accordingly they
do as they're told. But the Protestants--your Methodists
most of all--they say 'No, we won't have any authority,
we won't obey any boss.' Very well, what happens?
We who are responsible for running the thing, and raising
the money and so on--we have to put on a spurt every once
in a while, and work up a general state of excitement;
and while it's going, don't you see that THAT is the authority,
the motive power, whatever you like to call it, by which
things are done? Other denominations don't need it.
We do, and that's why we've got it."
"But the mean dishonesty of it all!" Theron broke forth.
He moved about again, his bowed face drawn as with
bodily suffering. "The low-born tricks, the hypocrisies!
I feel as if I could never so much as look at these people
here again without disgust."
"Oh, now that's where you make your mistake,"
Sister Soulsby put in placidly. "These people
of yours are not a whit worse than other people.
They've got their good streaks and their bad streaks,
just like the rest of us. Take them by and large,
they're quite on a par with other folks the whole country through."
"I don't believe there's another congregation in the
Conference where--where this sort of thing would have
been needed, or, I might say, tolerated," insisted Theron.
"Perhaps you're right," the other assented; "but that only
shows that your people here are different from the others--
not that they're worse. You don't seem to realize:
Octavius, so far as the Methodists are concerned,
is twenty or thirty years behind the times. Now that has
its advantages and its disadvantages. The church here is
tough and coarse, and full of grit, like a grindstone;
and it does ministers from other more niminy-piminy places
all sorts of good to come here once in a while and rub
themselves up against it. It scours the rust and mildew off
from their piety, and they go back singing and shouting.
But of course it's had a different effect with you.
You're razor-steel instead of scythe-steel, and the
grinding's been too rough and violent for you. But you
see what I mean. These people here really take their
primitive Methodism seriously. To them the profession
of entire sanctification is truly a genuine thing. Well,
don't you see, when people just know that they're saved,
it doesn't seem to them to matter so much what they do.
They feel that ordinary rules may well be bent and twisted
in the interest of people so supernaturally good as they are.
That's pure human nature. It's always been like that."
Theron paused in his walk to look absently at her.
"That thought," he said, in a vague, slow way, "seems to
be springing up in my path, whichever way I turn.
It oppresses me, and yet it fascinates me--this idea
that the dead men have known more than we know, done more
than we do; that there is nothing new anywhere; that--"
"Never mind the dead men," interposed Sister Soulsby.
"Just you come and sit down here. I hate to have you
straddling about the room when I'm trying to talk to you."
Theron obeyed, and as he sank into the low seat, Sister Soulsby
drew up her chair, and put her hand on his shoulder.
Her gaze rested upon his with impressive steadiness.
"And now I want to talk seriously to you, as a friend,"
she began. "You mustn't breathe to any living soul the shadow
of a hint of this nonsense about leaving the ministry.
I could see how you were feeling--I saw the book you were
reading the first time I entered this room--and that made me
like you; only I expected to find you mixing up more worldly
gumption with your Renan. Well, perhaps I like you all the
better for not having it--for being so delightfully fresh.
At any rate, that made me sail in and straighten your affairs
for you. And now, for God's sake, keep them straight.
Just put all notions of anything else out of your head.
Watch your chief men and women, and be friends with them.
Keep your eye open for what they think you ought to do,
and do it. Have your own ideas as much as you like,
read what you like, say 'Damn' under your breath as much
as you like, but don't let go of your job. I've knocked
about too much, and I've seen too many promising young
fellows cut their own throats for pure moonshine,
not to have a right to say that."
Theron could not be insensible to the friendly hand on
his shoulder, or to the strenuous sincerity of the voice
which thus adjured him.
"Well," he said vaguely, smiling up into her earnest eyes,
"if we agree that it IS moonshine."
"See here!" she exclaimed, with renewed animation,
patting his shoulder in a brisk, automatic way, to point
the beginnings of her confidences: "I'll tell you something.
It's about myself. I've got a religion of my own,
and it's got just one plank in it, and that is that the time
to separate the sheep from the goats is on Judgment Day,
and that it can't be done a minute before."
The young minister took in the thought, and turned it
about in his mind, and smiled upon it.
"And that brings me to what I'm going to tell you,"
Sister Soulsby continued. She leaned back in her chair,
and crossed her knees so that one well-shaped and
artistically shod foot poised itself close to Theron's hand.
Her eyes dwelt upon his face with an engaging candor.
"I began life," she said, "as a girl by running
away from a stupid home with a man that I knew was
married already. After that, I supported myself for a
good many years--generally, at first, on the stage.
I've been a front-ranker in Amazon ballets, and I've
been leading lady in comic opera companies out West.
I've told fortunes in one room of a mining-camp hotel
where the biggest game of faro in the Territory went
on in another. I've been a professional clairvoyant,
and I've been a professional medium, and I've been within
one vote of being indicted by a grand jury, and the money
that bought that vote was put up by the smartest and most
famous train-gambler between Omaha and 'Frisco, a gentleman
who died in his boots and took three sheriff's deputies
along with him to Kingdom-Come. Now, that's MY record."
Theron looked earnestly at her, and said nothing.
"And now take Soulsby," she went on. "Of course I take
it for granted there's a good deal that he has never felt
called upon to mention. He hasn't what you may call
a talkative temperament. But there is also a good deal
that I do know. He's been an actor, too, and to this
day I'd back him against Edwin Booth himself to recite
'Clarence's Dream.' And he's been a medium, and then he
was a travelling phrenologist, and for a long time he
was advance agent for a British Blondes show, and when I
first saw him he was lecturing on female diseases--
and he had HIS little turn with a grand jury too. In fact,
he was what you may call a regular bad old rooster."
Again Theron suffered the pause to lapse without comment--
save for an amorphous sort of conversation which he felt
to be going on between his eyes and those of Sister Soulsby.
"Well, then," she resumed, "so much for us apart.
Now about us together. We liked each other from the start.
We compared notes, and we found that we had both soured
on living by fakes, and that we were tired of the road,
and wanted to settle down and be respectable in our old age.
We had a little money--enough to see us through a year or two.
Soulsby had always hungered and longed to own a garden
and raise flowers, and had never been able to stay long
enough in one place to see so much as a bean-pod ripen.
So we took a little place in a quiet country village
down on the Southern Tier, and he planted everything
three deep all over the place, and I bought a roomful
of cheap good books, and we started in. We took to it
like ducks to water for a while, and I don't say that we
couldn't have stood it out, just doing nothing, to this
very day; but as luck would have it, during the first
winter there was a revival at the local Methodist church,
and we went every evening--at first just to kill time,
and then because we found we liked the noise and excitement
and general racket of the thing. After it was all
over each of us found that the other had been mighty
near going up to the rail and joining the mourners.
And another thing had occurred to each of us, too--that is,
what tremendous improvements there were possible in the
way that amateur revivalist worked up his business.
This stuck in our crops, and we figured on it all through
the winter.--Well, to make a long story short, we finally went
into the thing ourselves."
"Tell me one thing," interposed Theron. "I'm anxious
to understand it all as we go along. Were you and he
at any time sincerely converted?--that is, I mean,
genuinely convicted of sin and conscious of--you know
what I mean!"
"Oh, bless you, yes," responded Sister Soulsby.
"Not only once--dozens of times--I may say every time.
We couldn't do good work if we weren't. But that's a matter
of temperament--of emotions."
"Precisely. That was what I was getting at," explained Theron.
"Well, then, hear what I was getting at," she went on.
"You were talking very loudly here about frauds and
hypocrisies and so on, a few minutes ago. Now I say
that Soulsby and I do good, and that we're good fellows.
Now take him, for example. There isn't a better citizen
in all Chemung County than he is, or a kindlier neighbor,
or a better or more charitable man. I've known him to stay
up a whole winter's night in a poor Irishman's stinking
and freezing stable, trying to save his cart-horse for him,
that had been seized with some sort of fit. The man's
whole livelihood, and his family's, was in that horse;
and when it died, Soulsby bought him another, and never
told even ME about it. Now that I call real piety,
if you like."
"So do I," put in Theron, cordially.
"And this question of fraud," pursued his companion,--
"look at it in this light. You heard us sing. Well, now,
I was a singer, of course, but Soulsby hardly knew one
note from another. I taught him to sing, and he went
at it patiently and diligently, like a little man.
And I invented that scheme of finding tunes which the crowd
didn't know, and so couldn't break in on and smother.
I simply took Chopin--he is full of sixths, you know--
and I got all sorts of melodies out of his waltzes and
mazurkas and nocturnes and so on, and I trained Soulsby
just to sing those sixths so as to make the harmony,
and there you are. He couldn't sing by himself any more than
a crow, but he's got those sixths of his down to a hair.
Now that's machinery, management, organization. We take
these tunes, written by a devil-may-care Pole who was living
with George Sand openly at the time, and pass 'em off
on the brethren for hymns. It's a fraud, yes; but it's
a good fraud. So they are all good frauds. I say frankly
that I'm glad that the change and the chance came to help
Soulsby and me to be good frauds."
"And the point is that I'm to be a good fraud, too,"
commented the young minister.
She had risen, and he got to his feet as well.
He instinctively sought for her hand, and pressed it warmly,
and held it in both his, with an exuberance of gratitude
and liking in his manner.
Sister Soulsby danced her eyes at him with a saucy little
shake of the head. "I'm afraid you'll never make a really
GOOD fraud," she said. "You haven't got it in you.
Your intentions are all right, but your execution is
hopelessly clumsy. I came up to your bedroom there twice
while you were sick, just to say 'howdy,' and you kept
your eyes shut, and all the while a blind horse could
have told that you were wide awake."
"I must have thought it was my wife," said Theron.
When the lingering dusk finally settled down upon this
long summer evening, the train bearing the Soulsbys
homeward was already some score of miles on its way,
and the Methodists of Octavius had nearly finished their
After the stirring events of the revival, it was only
to be expected that this routine, home-made affair
should suffer from a reaction. The attendance was larger
than usual, perhaps, but the proceedings were spiritless
and tame. Neither the pastor nor his wife was present
at the beginning, and the class-leader upon whom control
devolved made but feeble headway against the spell of
inertia which the hot night-air laid upon the gathering.
Long pauses intervened between the perfunctory
praise-offerings and supplications, and the hymns weariedly
raised from time to time fell again in languor by the wayside.
Alice came in just as people were beginning to hope
that some one would start the Doxology, and bring matters
to a close. Her appearance apparently suggested this
to the class-leader, for in a few moments the meeting
had been dismissed, and some of the members, on their
way out, were shaking hands with their minister's wife,
and expressing the polite hope that he was better.
The worried look in her face, and the obvious stains
of recent tears upon her cheeks imparted an added point
and fervor to these inquiries, but she replied to all in
tones of studied tranquillity that, although not feeling
well enough to attend prayer-meeting, Brother Ware was
steadily recovering strength, and confidently expected
to be in complete health by Sunday. They left her,
and could hardly wait to get into the vestibule to ask
one another in whispers what on earth she could have been
Meanwhile Brother Ware improved his convalescent state
by pacing slowly up and down under the elms on the side
of the street opposite the Catholic church. There were
no houses here for a block and more; the sidewalk was
broken in many places, so that passers-by avoided it;
the overhanging boughs shrouded it all in obscurity;
it was preeminently a place to be alone in.
Theron had driven to the depot with his guests an hour before,
and after a period of pleasant waiting on the platform,
had said good-bye to them as the train moved away.
Then he turned to Alice, who had also accompanied them
in the carriage, and was conscious of a certain annoyance
at her having come. That long familiar talk of the
afternoon had given him the feeling that he was entitled
to bid farewell to Sister Soulsby--to both the Soulsbys--
"I am afraid folks will think it strange--neither of us
attending the prayer-meeting," he said, with a suggestion
of reproof in his tone, as they left the station-yard.
"If we get back in time, I'll run in for a minute,"
answered Alice, with docility.
"No--no," he broke in. "I'm not equal to walking so fast.
You run on ahead, and explain matters, and I will come
"The hack we came in is still there in the yard,"
the wife suggested. "We could drive home in that.
I don't believe it would cost more than a quarter--
and if you're feeling badly--"
"But I am NOT feeling badly," Theron replied,
with frank impatience. "Only I feel--I feel
that being alone with my thoughts would be good for me."
"Oh, certainly--by all means!" Alice had said, and turned
sharply on her heel.
Being alone with these thoughts, Theron strolled aimlessly about,
and did not think at all. The shadows gathered, and fireflies
began to disclose their tiny gleams among the shrubbery
in the gardens. A lamp-lighter came along, and passed him,
leaving in his wake a straggling double line of lights,
glowing radiantly against the black-green of the trees.
This recalled to Theron that he had heard that the town
council lit the street lamps by the almanac, and economized
gas when moonshine was due. The idea struck him as droll,
and he dwelt upon it in various aspects, smiling at some
of its comic possibilities. Looking up in the middle
of one of these whimsical conceits, the sportive impulse
died suddenly within him. He realized that it was dark,
and that the massive black bulk reared against the sky
on the other side of the road was the Catholic church.
The other fact, that he had been there walking to and
fro for some time, was borne in upon him more slowly.
He turned, and resumed the pacing up and down with a
still more leisurely step, musing upon the curious way
in which people's minds all unconsciously follow about
where instincts and intuitions lead.
No doubt it was what Sister Soulsby had said about
Catholics which had insensibly guided his purposeless
stroll in this direction. What a woman that was!
Somehow the purport of her talk--striking, and even
astonishing as he had found it--did not stand out so clearly
in his memory as did the image of the woman herself.
She must have been extremely pretty once. For that
matter she still was a most attractive-looking woman.
It had been a genuine pleasure to have her in the house--
to see her intelligent responsive face at the table--
to have it in one's power to make drafts at will upon
the fund of sympathy and appreciation, of facile mirth
and ready tenderness in those big eyes of hers. He liked
that phrase she had used about herself--"a good fellow."
It seemed to fit her to a "t." And Soulsby was a good
fellow too. All at once it occurred to him to wonder whether
they were married or not.
But really that was no affair of his, he reflected.
A citizen of the intellectual world should be above
soiling his thoughts with mean curiosities of that sort,
and he drove the impertinent query down again under the
surface of his mind. He refused to tolerate, as well,
sundry vagrant imaginings which rose to cluster about and
literalize the romance of her youth which Sister Soulsby
had so frankly outlined. He would think upon nothing
but her as he knew her,--the kindly, quick-witted, capable
and charming woman who had made such a brilliant break
in the monotony of life at that dull parsonage of his.
The only genuine happiness in life must consist in having
bright, smart, attractive women like that always about.
The lights were visible now in the upper rooms of Father Forbes'
pastorate across the way. Theron paused for a second to
consider whether he wanted to go over and call on the priest.
He decided that mentally he was too fagged and flat for such
an undertaking. He needed another sort of companionship--
some restful, soothing human contact, which should exact
nothing from him in return, but just take charge of him,
with soft, wise words and pleasant plays of fancy,
and jokes and--and--something of the general effect created
by Sister Soulsby's eyes. The thought expanded itself,
and he saw that he had never realized before--nay,
never dreamt before--what a mighty part the comradeship
of talented, sweet-natured and beautiful women must
play in the development of genius, the achievement
of lofty aims, out in the great world of great men.
To know such women--ah, that would never fall to his hapless lot.
The priest's lamps blinked at him through the trees.
He remembered that priests were supposed to be even further
removed from the possibilities of such contact than he
was himself. His memory reverted to that horribly ugly old
woman whom Father Forbes had spoken of as his housekeeper.
Life under the same roof with such a hag must be even
worse than--worse than--
The young minister did not finish the comparison, even in the
privacy of his inner soul. He stood instead staring over
at the pastorate, in a kind of stupor of arrested thought.
The figure of a woman passed in view at the nearest window--
a tall figure with pale summer clothes of some sort,
and a broad summer hat--a flitting effect of diaphanous
shadow between him and the light which streamed from
Theron felt a little shiver run over him, as if the delicate
coolness of the changing night-air had got into his blood.
The window was open, and his strained hearing thought
it caught the sound of faint laughter. He continued
to gaze at the place where the vision had appeared,
the while a novel and strange perception unfolded itself
upon his mind.
He had come there in the hope of encountering Celia Madden.
Now that he looked this fact in the face, there was nothing
remarkable about it. In truth, it was simplicity itself.
He was still a sick man, weak in body and dejected in spirits.
The thought of how unhappy and unstrung he was came to him
now with an insistent pathos that brought tears to his eyes.
He was only obeying the universal law of nature--the law
which prompts the pallid spindling sprout of the potato
in the cellar to strive feebly toward the light.
From where he stood in the darkness he stretched
out his hands in the direction of that open window.
The gesture was his confession to the overhanging boughs,
to the soft night-breeze, to the stars above--and it
bore back to him something of the confessional's vague
and wistful solace. He seemed already to have drawn
down into his soul a taste of the refreshment it craved.
He sighed deeply, and the hot moisture smarted again upon
his eyelids, but this time not all in grief. With his
tender compassion for himself there mingled now a flutter
of buoyant prescience, of exquisite expectancy.
Fate walked abroad this summer night. The street door
of the pastorate opened, and in the flood of illumination
which spread suddenly forth over the steps and sidewalk,
Theron saw again the tall form, with the indefinitely
light-hued flowing garments and the wide straw hat.
He heard a tuneful woman's voice call out "Good-night, Maggie,"
and caught no response save the abrupt closing of the door,
which turned everything black again with a bang.
He listened acutely for another instant, and then with long,
noiseless strides made his way down his deserted side
of the street. He moderated his pace as he turned
to cross the road at the corner, and then, still masked
by the trees, halted altogether, in a momentary tumult
of apprehension. No--yes--it was all right. The girl
sauntered out from the total darkness into the dim starlight
of the open corner.
"Why, bless me, is that you, Miss Madden?"
Celia seemed to discern readily enough, through the
accents of surprise, the identity of the tall, slim man
who addressed her from the shadows.
"Good-evening, Mr. Ware," she said, with prompt affability.
"I'm so glad to find you out again. We heard you were ill."
"I have been very ill," responded Theron, as they
shook hands and walked on together. He added, with a
quaver in his voice, "I am still far from strong.
I really ought not to be out at all. But--but the
longing for--for--well, I COULDN'T stay in any longer.
Even if it kills me, I shall be glad I came out tonight."
"Oh, we won't talk of killing," said Celia. "I don't
believe in illnesses myself"
"But you believe in collapses of the nerves," put in Theron,
with gentle sadness, "in moral and spiritual and mental
breakdowns. I remember how I was touched by the way you
told me YOU suffered from them. I had to take what you said
then for granted. I had had no experience of it myself.
But now I know what it is." He drew a long, pathetic sigh.
"Oh, DON'T I know what it is!" he repeated gloomily.
"Come, my friend, cheer up," Celia purred at him,
in soothing tones. He felt that there was a deliciously
feminine and sisterly intuition in her speech,
and in the helpful, nurse-like way in which she drew
his arm through hers. He leaned upon this support,
and was glad of it in every fibre of his being.
"Do you remember? You promised--that last time I saw you--
to play for me," he reminded her. They were passing
the little covered postern door at the side and rear of
the church as he spoke, and he made a half halt to point
"Oh, there's no one to blow the organ," she said,
divining his suggestion. "And I haven't the key--
and, besides, the organ is too heavy and severe
for an invalid. It would overwhelm you tonight."
"Not as you would know how to play it for me,"
urged Theron, pensively. "I feel as if good music to-night
would make me well again. I am really very ill and weak--
The girl seemed moved by the despairing note in his voice.
She invited him by a sympathetic gesture to lean even more
directly on her arm.
"Come home with me, and I'll play Chopin to you," she said,
in compassionate friendliness. "He is the real medicine
for bruised and wounded nerves. You shall have as much
of him as you like."
The idea thus unexpectedly thrown forth spread itself
like some vast and inexpressibly alluring vista before
Theron's imagination. The spice of adventure in it
fascinated his mind as well, but for a shrinking moment
the flesh was weak.
"I'm afraid your people would--would think it strange,"
he faltered--and began also to recall that he had some
people of his own who would be even more amazed.
"Nonsense," said Celia, in fine, bold confidence, and with
a reassuring pressure on his arm. "I allow none of my
people to question what I do. They never dream of such
a preposterous thing. Besides, you will see none of them.
Mrs. Madden is at the seaside, and my father and brother
have their own part of the house. I shan't listen for
a minute to your not coming. Come, I'm your doctor.
I'm to make you well again."
There was further conversation, and Theron more or less
knew that he was bearing a part in it, but his whole
mind seemed concentrated, in a sort of delicious terror,
upon the wonderful experience to which every footstep
brought him nearer. His magnetized fancy pictured a great
spacious parlor, such as a mansion like the Maddens'
would of course contain, and there would be a grand piano,
and lace curtains, and paintings in gold frames,
and a chandelier, and velvet easy-chairs, and he would sit
in one of these, surrounded by all the luxury of the rich,
while Celia played to him. There would be servants about,
he presumed, and very likely they would recognize him,
and of course they would talk about it to Tom, Dick and
Harry afterward. But he said to himself defiantly that he
He withdrew his arm from hers as they came upon the
well-lighted main street. He passed no one who seemed
to know him. Presently they came to the Madden place,
and Celia, without waiting for the gravelled walk,
struck obliquely across the lawn. Theron, who had been
lagging behind with a certain circumspection, stepped
briskly to her side now. Their progress over the soft,
close-cropped turf in the dark together, with the scent
of lilies and perfumed shrubs heavy on the night air,
and the majestic bulk of the big silent house rising
among the trees before them, gave him a thrilling sense
of the glory of individual freedom.
"I feel a new man already," he declared, as they swung
along on the grass. He breathed a long sigh of content,
and drew nearer, so that their shoulders touched now
and again as they walked. In a minute more they were
standing on the doorstep, and Theron heard the significant
jingle of a bunch of keys which his companion was groping
for in her elusive pocket. He was conscious of trembling
a little at the sound.
It seemed that, unlike other people, the Maddens did
not have their parlor on the ground-floor, opening off
the front hall. Theron stood in the complete darkness
of this hall, till Celia had lit one of several candles
which were in their hand-sticks on a sort of sideboard
next the hat-rack. She beckoned him with a gesture
of her head, and he followed her up a broad staircase,
magnificent in its structural appointments of inlaid woods,
and carpeted with what to his feet felt like down.
The tiny light which his guide bore before her half revealed,
as they passed in their ascent, tall lengths of tapestry,
and the dull glint of armor and brazen discs in shadowed
niches on the nearer wall. Over the stair-rail lay an open
space of such stately dimensions, bounded by terminal lines
of decoration so distant in the faint candle-flicker,
that the young country minister could think of no word
but "palatial" to fit it all.
At the head of the flight, Celia led the way along a wide
corridor to where it ended. Here, stretched from side to side,
and suspended from broad hoops of a copper-like metal,
was a thick curtain, of a uniform color which Theron at
first thought was green, and then decided must be blue.
She pushed its heavy folds aside, and unlocked another door.
He passed under the curtain behind her, and closed
The room into which he had made his way was not at all
after the fashion of any parlor he had ever seen. In the
obscure light it was difficult to tell what it resembled.
He made out what he took to be a painter's easel,
standing forth independently in the centre of things.
There were rows of books on rude, low shelves.
Against one of the two windows was a big, flat writing-table--
or was it a drawing-table?--littered with papers.
Under the other window was a carpenter's bench, with a large
mound of something at one end covered with a white cloth.
On a table behind the easel rose a tall mechanical contrivance,
the chief feature of which was a thick upright spiral screw.
The floor was of bare wood stained brown. The walls of this
queer room had photographs and pictures, taken apparently
from illustrated papers, pinned up at random for their
Celia had lighted three or four other candles on the mantel.
She caught the dumfounded expression with which her
guest was surveying his surroundings, and gave a merry
"This is my workshop," she explained. "I keep this
for the things I do badly--things I fool with. If I want
to paint, or model in clay, or bind books, or write,
or draw, or turn on the lathe, or do some carpentering,
here's where I do it. All the things that make a mess
which has to be cleaned up--they are kept out here--
because this is as far as the servants are allowed
She unlocked still another door as she spoke--a door
which was also concealed behind a curtain.
"Now," she said, holding up the candle so that its reddish
flare rounded with warmth the creamy fulness of her chin
and throat, and glowed upon her hair in a flame of orange
light--"now I will show you what is my very own."
Theron Ware looked about him with frankly undisguised astonishment.
The room in which he found himself was so dark at first
that it yielded little to the eye, and that little seemed
altogether beyond his comprehension. His gaze helplessly
followed Celia and her candle about as she busied herself
in the work of illumination. When she had finished,
and pinched out the taper, there were seven lights in
the apartment--lights beaming softly through half-opaque
alternating rectangles of blue and yellow glass. They must
be set in some sort of lanterns around against the wall,
he thought, but the shape of these he could hardly make out.
Gradually his sight adapted itself to this subdued light,
and he began to see other things. These queer lamps
were placed, apparently, so as to shed a special radiance
upon some statues which stood in the corners of the chamber,
and upon some pictures which were embedded in the walls.
Theron noted that the statues, the marble of which lost
its aggressive whiteness under the tinted lights,
were mostly of naked men and women; the pictures, four or
five in number, were all variations of a single theme--
the Virgin Mary and the Child.
A less untutored vision than his would have caught
more swiftly the scheme of color and line in which
these works of art bore their share. The walls of
the room were in part of flat upright wooden columns,
terminating high above in simple capitals, and they were
all painted in pale amber and straw and primrose hues,
irregularly wavering here and there toward suggestions
of white. Between these pilasters were broader panels of
stamped leather, in gently varying shades of peacock blue.
These contrasted colors vaguely interwove and mingled
in what he could see of the shadowed ceiling far above.
They were repeated in the draperies and huge cushions
and pillows of the low, wide divan which ran about
three sides of the room. Even the floor, where it
revealed itself among the scattered rugs, was laid in a
mosaic pattern of matched woods, which, like the rugs,
gave back these same shifting blues and uncertain yellows.
The fourth side of the apartment was broken in outline
at one end by the door through which they had entered,
and at the other by a broad, square opening,
hung with looped-back curtains of a thin silken stuff.
Between the two apertures rose against the wall what
Theron took at first glance to be an altar. There were
pyramidal rows of tall candles here on either side,
each masked with a little silken hood; below, in the centre,
a shelf-like projection supported what seemed a massive,
carved casket, and in the beautiful intricacies of this,
and the receding canopy of delicate ornamentation
which depended above it, the dominant color was white,
deepening away in its shadows, by tenderly minute gradations,
to the tints which ruled the rest of the room.
Celia lighted some of the high, thick tapers in these candelabra,
and opened the top of the casket. Theron saw with
surprise that she had uncovered the keyboard of a piano.
He viewed with much greater amazement her next proceeding--
which was to put a cigarette between her lips, and,
bending over one of the candles with it for an instant,
turn to him with a filmy, opalescent veil of smoke above her head.
"Make yourself comfortable anywhere," she said, with a
gesture which comprehended all the divans and pillows
in the place. "Will you smoke?"
"I have never tried since I was a little boy," said Theron,
"but I think I could. If you don't mind, I should like
Lounging at his ease on the oriental couch, Theron
experimented cautiously upon the unaccustomed tobacco,
and looked at Celia with what he felt to be the confident
quiet of a man of the world. She had thrown aside
her hat, and in doing so had half released some of the
heavy strands of hair coiled at the back of her head.
His glance instinctively rested upon this wonderful hair
of hers. There was no mistaking the sudden fascination
its disorder had for his eye.
She stood before him with the cigarette poised daintily
between thumb and finger of a shapely hand, and smiled
comprehendingly down on her guest.
"I suffered the horrors of the damned with this hair
of mine when I was a child," she said. "I daresay
all children have a taste for persecuting red-heads;
but it's a specialty with Irish children. They get hold
somehow of an ancient national superstition, or legend,
that red hair was brought into Ireland by the Danes.
It's been a term of reproach with us since Brian Boru's time
to call a child a Dane. I used to be pursued and baited
with it every day of my life, until the one dream of my
ambition was to get old enough to be a Sister of Charity,
so that I might hide my hair under one of their big
beastly white linen caps. I've got rather away from that
ideal since, I'm afraid," she added, with a droll downward
curl of her lip.
"Your hair is very beautiful," said Theron, in the calm
tone of a connoisseur.
"I like it myself," Celia admitted, and blew a little
smoke-ring toward him. "I've made this whole room
to match it. The colors, I mean," she explained,
in deference to his uplifted brows. "Between us, we make
up what Whistler would call a symphony. That reminds me--
I was going to play for you. Let me finish the cigarette first."
Theron felt grateful for her reticence about the fact
that he had laid his own aside. "I have never seen
a room at all like this," he remarked. You are right;
it does fit you perfectly."
She nodded her sense of his appreciation. "It is what
I like," she said. "It expresses ME. I will not have
anything about me--or anybody either--that I don't like.
I suppose if an old Greek could see it, it would make
him sick, but it represents what I mean by being a Greek.
It is as near as an Irishman can get to it."
"I remember your puzzling me by saying that you were
Celia laughed, and tossed the cigarette-end away.
"I'd puzzle you more, I'm afraid, if I tried to explain
to you what I really meant by it. I divide people
up into two classes, you know--Greeks and Jews.
Once you get hold of that principle, all other divisions
and classifications, such as by race or language
or nationality, seem pure foolishness. It is the only
true division there is. It is just as true among negroes
or wild Indians who never heard of Greece or Jerusalem,
as it is among white folks. That is the beauty of it.
It works everywhere, always."
"Try it on me," urged Theron, with a twinkling eye.
"Which am I?"
"Both," said the girl, with a merry nod of the head.
"But now I'll play. I told you you were to hear Chopin.
I prescribe him for you. He is the Greekiest of the Greeks.
THERE was a nation where all the people were artists,
where everybody was an intellectual aristocrat, where the
Philistine was as unknown, as extinct, as the dodo.
Chopin might have written his music for them."
"I am interested in Shopang," put in Theron, suddenly recalling
Sister Soulsby's confidences as to the source of her tunes.
"He lived with--what's his name--George something.
We were speaking about him only this afternoon."
Celia looked down into her visitor's face at first
inquiringly, then with a latent grin about her lips.
"Yes--George something," she said, in a tone which mystified him.
The Rev. Mr. Ware was sitting up, a minute afterward,
in a ferment of awakened consciousness that he had
never heard the piano played before. After a little,
he noiselessly rearranged the cushions, and settled himself
again in a recumbent posture. It was beyond his strength
to follow that first impulse, and keep his mind abreast
with what his ears took in. He sighed and lay back,
and surrendered his senses to the mere unthinking charm
of it all.
It was the Fourth Prelude that was singing in the air
about him--a simple, plaintive strain wandering at will
over a surface of steady rhythmic movement underneath,
always creeping upward through mysteries of sweetness,
always sinking again in cadences of semi-tones. With
only a moment's pause, there came the Seventh Waltz--
a rich, bold confusion which yet was not confused.
Theron's ears dwelt with eager delight upon the chasing
medley of swift, tinkling sounds, but it left his
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