The film had been going for two or three minutes. The little room was almost filled. The story started out with a scene in a stenographer's office in some big city, and the plot rapidly developed around a gold mine in Arizona, and the disowned son of a member of the firm who was working in his father's office in disguise and was being falsely accused of picking the lock of the safe.
Howard was following the story with a mixture of contempt and reluctant interest, when he saw Miss Burton going down the aisle. She took a seat at the left of Inez and behind her, but from her look in that direction Howard could not fail to note even in the dimly lighted room that Miss Burton had come for some definite purpose and that Inez was the object of it.
Film stories have at least the art of developing situations with great rapidity. It seems to be the first rule of the film to have something happening every second. In a surprisingly short time the disowned son of the big city firm had succeeded in unearthing a big conspiracy with his father's gold mine in Arizona, he had fallen in love with the stenographer, knocked down one of the firm who had insulted her, had been arrested for robbing the safe and was at work in prison on a model for a new airship. Meanwhile, not to be left behind in the matter of action the stenographer had taken service in the home of her employer as a maid and in that capacity was securing valuable evidence against one of the villains in the story--of whom there were a dozen--and getting ready to reveal her identity as the saviour of the young man's honour and the glorious heroine of the piece.
It was so melodramatic, so slushy and silly and awfully outrageous that Howard snorted at it inwardly and more than once felt like getting up and roaring out a loud-voiced protest. Every artistic sense in him rebelled at the crude half-baked scheme of life presented by the people in film-land. It was not any lack of courage or audacity that kept him still when he felt the impulse to shout out his protest, but a sense of the utter uselessness of such a cry. The fault lay farther back. Whoever wrote such stuff--and evidently the name was Legion--was the real cause of the conditions and the false life philosophy and he did not know who he was or how to reach him and wring his neck as he would like to do.
And with it all, as the lurid tale shot, wriggling and howling across the screen, Howard could not shut out the thought of the effect of all this trash on the mind and heart of the girl sitting in front of him. What must be the mental and moral chaos of a human creature who fed on this sort of stuff and lived and breathed this atmosphere with no antidote and no other look at life except that afforded by the artificial puppets dancing at the end of the strings pulled by the commercialised machinery of the made-to-order sins and virtues of the characters doing their stunts for so much per in order to thrill souls like Inez with vague but constant passion to go and do likewise.
And what could he do in the matter to save the girl, if, as Miss Burton said, she was in danger of being lost through her fascination for the life portrayed on the screen? Why not let the girl go to Los Angeles or New York or somewhere and work out her destiny? Such girls were never satisfied unless they finally made the trial. She was a type. What could any one do with a chorus girl type?
And then as he sat there, his mouth grew set, his jaws rigid, his eyes filled with deep black, he clenched the sides of his chair with muscular grip as he said to himself, "She is one of my flock. If she is in danger of going astray I am a poor coward of a shepherd if I excuse myself and let the wolves get her. The power of Jesus to save is not limited. He never recognised any types and never excused any from salvation on account of birth or temperament. No! He owed it to his position as pastor to----"
He had, as his custom was, detached himself completely from his surroundings and was mentally alone. He had lost all physical sense of what was going on around him and the pictures on the screen no longer were visualised by him.
And then with a sudden fling, as it were, all his acute bodily powers were in a moment on the alert, a sense of impelling accident and danger grew swift upon him.
Something wrong had happened up there in the little metal booth where the man was working the film.
There had been a commotion in the little metal booth, then a cry, then a puff of smoke and a fall, people had turned in their seats and looked up at the little opening, confused voices and shouts arose, and Howard, obeying his keen and swift instinct trained in athletic ways had darted up the short flight of steps leading from the front of the show-place to the operator's booth.
He pulled the door open, and a sheet of flame smote him in the face. The operator was lying on the floor, crumpled up against his machine. Howard seized him by his feet, dragged him out on the little landing, lifted him up and carried him down the stairs. Down in the little entrance-way frightened people were crowding one another in a panic to get out. Even in the excitement and behind the body he was carrying, Howard was aware of Inez near the door, just going out, Miss Burton next to her, in fact with an arm about her as if she had sought her out at the first sound of danger and had found a place near her.
Howard shouted to the little crowd to give him room to get his burden outdoors, at the same time calming the excitement by his own quiet tone. Every one came out of the building unharmed, but in five minutes after the film had taken fire the interior of the place was blazing and before the fire department could get to work the room was destroyed, together with the adjoining building.
Howard carried the man across the street and into the little drug store which happened to be just opposite. As he laid him down on the floor, he began to feel faint himself and for the first time realised that his face was burned.
The crowd that always gathers in time of accident began to pour into the store. Many of the people who had followed Howard across the street were trying to get in, and as Howard staggered up from over his unconscious burden the first faces he recognised in the doorway were those of Miss Burton and Inez.
They both cried out at the sight of him and crowded up to him together.
"You are hurt!" they exclaimed together.
"No, I think not. Just a little burn. There ought to be a doctor for this man. Oh, they've sent for him? Now, then, folks, there's nothing you can do here."
He sat down in one of the little wire-backed chairs by the soda water tables and again felt faint. But Inez spoke, and what she said stirred a feeling like anger in him so strong that he got up.
"What a wonderful thing to do, Mr. Chase!"
"What! What's that?" He spoke so sharply that the girl was startled. But she continued to gaze at him with the eye of the hero worshipper. Miss Burton, her face very pale and questioning, had a hand on Inez' arm as if to lead her out of the store.
"It was a great, brave thing to do," said Inez.
A little murmur of applause came from the group that stood around. Just then the doctor came in. Howard waited long enough to find out that the film operator was not seriously hurt, and then he got up, still feeling faint, but what Inez had said and the murmur of admiration that followed provoked him into a burst of anger.
"You people get out and give the doctor a chance. Any man in Red Hill who wouldn't do----"
He looked at Miss Burton, smiled grimly at Inez and then said gently, "Excuse me, folks. Nothing more to do here."
He went out with his swift but noiseless manner, carrying with him the glance Miss Burton gave him, a glance that seemed to convey a perfect knowledge of what his feelings were.
"How did she understand that?" he found himself saying as he walked along to the parsonage after stopping on the street a moment to watch the fire.
But Inez was protesting to Miss Burton as the two went out of the store.
"I don't know what Mr. Chase is mad about. It was a brave thing to do. What a picture it would make! Any man in Red Hill do a thing like that! There isn't one I know has the muscle to carry a singed cat across the street, to say nothing of a heavy man like Jake Seymour. I don't know why he should get angry at what I said!"
"Perhaps he has a little modesty, as brave men are apt to have, and doesn't like to hear himself praised in public," Miss Burton said, slowly, a slight blush on her cheek as she spoke.
"Then," said Inez boldly, "the next time I see Mr. Chase alone, I'll tell him what I think."
"I wouldn't if I were you. He won't like it."
"Any man likes to be told he is a hero."
"Not Mr. Chase."
"How do you know?"
"I'm pretty sure he wouldn't."
They had been talking rapidly as they stood in the street with the crowd there watching the fire. They lingered until the company had put it out and then started for Inez' home, Miss Burton going with the girl, thinking it a favourable opportunity to say to her a few things that had been on her mind since the talk with Chase that Monday morning.
The people of Red Hill lived on their porches in the summer, so Inez did not ask Miss Burton to come into the house, but the two sat down in the porch chairs. The night was warm, but a soft breeze blew from the south and the starlight made objects visible in outline, but not in detail. Going over it many times afterwards, Agnes Burton was thankful for the obscurity of that May night on Inez' porch when the girl so unexpectedly revealed her secret.
She had started to tell Inez why she had gone into the show, when Inez almost took the explanation out of her mouth.
"I know you think I ought not to go to the movies so often, Miss Burton, but I just can't help it. Something seems to just pull me right in. It's the only thing in Red Hill that interests me."
"Did you enjoy the story to-night?" Miss Burton, back in the shadow of the porch, asked the question to get Inez' point of view.
"I thought it was fine. Wasn't it grand to see that business man get his when he insulted the stenographer? I just wanted to get my hands on him. I hope they'll put on the story again when Seymour gets another place. I'm crazy to know how it comes out."
Miss Burton did not say anything, and after a moment Inez said:
"What did you think of it?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"Of course, or I wouldn't ask."
"Inez, the whole thing was absurd. The plot was unreal. The action was silly. The situations all made up. No one ever does such things in actual life. The average business man in the city never thinks of insulting his stenographer. She is just as safe in his office as if she were in her own home. And young men like the hero in the play don't act as he did."
"People do fall in love, though, don't they, Miss Burton? You can't deny that."
"Yes, of course they do. But----"
"And they're not reasonable about it, either. They don't do it according to any rule or the way other people would arrange it for them, do they, Miss Burton?"
"I suppose not." The answer came slowly, and after a pause, back there in the shadow.
"If you were in love yourself, you wouldn't act natural, would you?" Inez persisted. "You wouldn't care how you did act." The girl went on as if leading up to something that lay on her heart. And Agnes Burton listening there in the shadow, no hint in her own mind of the facts about Inez, began to wonder at the new note in the girl's voice. She had known her ever since she was a child and as her high school teacher had come to have a deep interest in her, but had never been fully her confidante.
But she took occasion now to bring the talk back to the film.
"It was the story as a whole that struck me as silly. It was not true to life as a whole, Inez, and the effect of it on your own heart and mind is not healthy. That is the reason I went over tonight, dear. I know the films are doing you harm. You are being unsettled by them. You are in danger of getting wrong ideas of life from them."
"And what ideas of life have I ever got out of this stupid little town, anyway!" Inez suddenly burst out. "What is there here for a girl to do or be except to work and go to church and meet all the stupid people one has met ever since you were born. What is there for me in this place? I'm sick of sticking type and watching Dad tinker over that pile of cogs and levers and wheels. I want excitement and something doing. I feel like being wicked for a change. A thing like what happened tonight just makes life seem worth having. I crave city life. I want adventure--I----"
The girl was going on in a torrent of unaccustomed confidence, and Miss Burton did not interrupt, hoping Inez would free her mind and give her full confidence. But she had stopped suddenly as if fearful of herself or as if doubting how far she could safely go in letting her high school teacher know any more.
Miss Burton moved her chair nearer Inez and put a hand on her hand, which lay on the arm of the chair.
"I believe I understand how you feel, Inez. But what could you do if you went to the city? Your friends are all here. Your father is good to you. The town is small and there isn't much excitement in it, to be sure, but Red Hill is in a beautiful part of God's world and there is nothing to hinder you from going on with your reading and your education. You used to do some writing, as I remember. The Youths' Companion would take some of the things you used to imagine. And doesn't the church mean anything to you? Our chorus is interesting. And Mr. Chase--" --a curious note of quiet hesitation crept into Agnes Burton's voice "Mr. Chase is going to make things interesting in the church."
Inez was very still. The soft night breeze blew across the porch and stirred the leaves of the Madeira vine at the end where Miss Burton had sat. A group of people went by talking about the fire. "Mr. Chase carried Jake Seymour clear across the street. I call that----" a girlish voice exclaimed in a high treble and the words and the noises of the group passed away down the street, leaving silence on the porch.
And then Inez suddenly burst out, clutching Miss Burton's hand so hard that it hurt.
"Miss Burton, I don't care. I've got to tell some one. I can't always live this way all to myself. And I believe you will know how I--I don't care to go away now--I--I the church--it's all--I'm in love with Mr. Chase and I know it's no use. And I'm awfully wretched and unhappy and at the same time I'm happy. I never felt so before--the very sight of him makes me tremble all over as if I couldn't stand, and I--I--I'd marry him tonight if--if he'd ask me and go anywhere or do anything he'd ask me. I don't feel wicked when I see or hear him. He's heavens above me and I know it's no use, but I do love him. He's different. Different from all the stupid men in Red Hill. He's like the people in--in stories. He does the things they do. He can't help it. He's born to do them. And I'm in love with him. Oh, Miss Burton--I know it's no use. Help me to get away somewhere. I'm so wretched. But I'm happy too. What will become of me. What was I born for, anyhow?"
Poor Inez, in a torrent of self revelation, had blown up the flood gates and let the long imprisoned waters out. And the girl's confession swept down over Agnes Burton like a cloud burst. She had gasped as if suddenly immersed in ice water, but when Inez finally ceased she was saying to her calmly enough: "How could such a thing come to you so suddenly?"
"I don't know, Miss Burton, unless I was all ready for it."
"But he hasn't been here two weeks. He----"
"It doesn't seem to make any difference. Seems as if I'd known him all my life. And I know it's useless. I'm not his sort. But--oh, you don't think it's very wicked in me to love him, do you--do you, Miss Burton?"
Inez flung herself out of her chair at Miss Burton's feet and laid her head on her lap. Agnes Burton folded the sobbing girl's head in her arms. After a while she said, as if talking to a child:
"Dear, it's not wicked to love--it's the most beautiful thing in the world--but--but--I don't see--how--you----"
There was silence, only Inez' body shook with her low sobbing. Then she said, talking in muffled voice, as she kneeled there, "I ought to go away. A girl like me doesn't belong in a little country town. I belong in a big city. In my dreams I am always walking the streets of big cities. And--and--I'm afraid if I stay here I'll--I'll get Mr. Chase into trouble."
"No! No!" Agnes Burton started up so suddenly that Inez was thrown back. "You don't mean----"
"Miss Burton, I don't know what I mean. I'm so unhappy, so wretched. I can't bear it to live this life. It's all so unreal to me so stupid--or it was until--he came----"
"You poor child!"
Agnes Burton sank back in her chair and again her hands fell gently and caressingly on Inez' head.
After a while Inez said, more calmly, lifting a lovely but tear-stained face to her teacher, "What do you think I ought to do?"
"I don't know. Let me think."
"What would you do in my place?"
"I don't know. It's not an easy thing to do. Only--let me ask you one question--Mr. Chase, of course, does not know anything about all this."
"I'm afraid he does."
"He knows," said Inez, speaking so slowly and positively that Miss Burton let her hands fall from the girl's head and she drew back in her chair a little. Inez, falling back on her knees, crouching there on the porch floor, spoke in a low, steady voice that made Miss Burton shiver.
"I haven't been able to conceal it. He is not a fool. But his soul is as pure as an angel's. I ought not to be talking about him even to you. But all through the years I have been living here with myself all alone. And to-night it seemed to me I could endure it no longer. My father cares for me, all right, but he thinks more of his invention than of me. And other people don't interest me. Miss Burton, won't you help me to go away? If you don't I'll run away. I want excitement. I can't live here now after----"
Her voice trailed away into the quiet that now brooded over the night. The breeze had died down. Not even a small leaf on the vine quivered. Miss Burton got up slowly. Inez got to her feet.
"I'll have to go home, Inez. I'm sorry. You can't understand."
"Oh, you don't think there's any chance for me, do you?" Inez broke out, gripping Agnes Burton's arm so hard it left a mark.
"No, no--I don't. He Mr. Chase is----"
"He's different. I know. But I'm not sorry I love him. It doesn't make me any worse."
She said it defiantly, and turned slowly and went into the house. And Agnes Burton went home through the soft, silent May night, more disturbed and roused by that experience than by any event in her hitherto quiet, well-poised, happy girlhood.
When Howard came into the parsonage that evening his sister was working at something out in the kitchen. As she heard him enter, she came into the sitting-room.
As she came closer to him she threw up her hands and exclaimed:
"Howard Chase! What's the matter with you? What have you been doing? Where have you been?"
Howard replied with one of his well-known grins:
"I've been to the show. Don't I look as if I had?"
"You surely do. Why, mercy! Your eyebrows are all burned off!"
"No. Are they?" he said soberly.
He walked into his little bedroom which was off the sitting-room, turned on the light, and stared into his looking-glass. Then he turned to Rose, who had followed him into the room.
"Looks pretty bad, doesn't it? But I believe they'll grow out again."
He rubbed his fingers over the burnt places and grinned again, but could not avoid a look of real annoyance.
Rose laughed. But instantly stopped.
"You can't preach like that next Sunday."
"Why not? What have eyebrows to do with preaching?"
"I never saw the use of eyebrows before," said Rose. "But they look quite important when they're gone. You wouldn't go into the pulpit looking like that, would you?"
"I'm going, just the same. It will punish me for my pride over my good looks." He grinned again as he walked out into the sitting room.
"Pride! I never knew a man with so little. You haven't any vanity."
"Plenty of it, sister. If you really only knew how discomforted I feel over my looks right this minute you would spend the rest of the night praying that I might be converted."
"Don't be foolish. Tell me, you silly boy, what happened. All about it." He gave her the story of the evening, dwelling lightly on his own act, but emphasising the incidents of the film and Inez and Miss Burton.
"I don't believe you've told me the best part of it. But I'll get it from Agnes. And your face is burned, too. Why don't you tell me all about it? You'll have blisters there."
She rose and went into her room and brought out some ointment and rubbed it over his face, scolding him meanwhile as he laughed at her.
"I'll apply for a Carnegie medal for you."
"And hang it over my eyebrows. Or, rather, over the place where they were. Good idea. But I tell you, Rose, it was all worth while. I need a little excitement to keep me going. And when Seymour gets up I'm going to see if we can't manage to reform this film business. Pictures like the one tonight are simply a travesty on life. Miss Burton is right when she says they are demoralising to girls like Inez Clark. Do you know, that girl is a city type. The first time I saw her I couldn't help thinking of a picture I saw in a film magazine. Why, she is just the sort that runs away and has romantic thrills over silly stories as if they were real."
"And sometimes," said Rose, with more shrewdness than her brother always gave her credit for, "sometimes such girls have romantic thrills over actual people."
"I suppose they do," he said it gravely and then turned the talk to his plans for the coming Sunday.
"I think Brother Noyes will accept our invitation to take the evening service, or at least share it with us. We vote on it at our meeting tomorrow evening. If Brother Allen doesn't have a change of heart our people will invite the Methodists to come over."
"You really plan to appear next Sunday looking like that?"
"How else can I look? There isn't time to grow a set of new eyebrows in three days."
"You don't look right. You look--you look--awful funny."
"Perhaps I can live it down," he said, with a grin. But he got up, went into his room, and looked at himself in the glass again.
When he came out he was looking so grave that Rose exclaimed:
"You see, Howard! It won't do. Really, it won't. Get Brother Noyes to take your services. Let him preach for you morning and evening."
"No, I can't do that, Rose. Why, I've got a sermon in my system out of to-night's experience that I must get out or I'll blow up. Besides, I don't want to risk brother Noyes' theology on my congregation. I don't know that I can stand for it. And I do need some punishment for my vanity. You don't know me. Sister, I am going to preach Sunday morning, eyebrows or no eyebrows."
She knew him well enough not to protest or argue, but when the morning came and Howard had a daylight view of himself, the effect of it on himself was so startling that he almost regretted his statement made to his sister, and was half-minded to take her advice and go and ask Brother Noyes to take both his services.
But when he ventured about noon to go out on the street to the post office, found that he was the talk of the town.
The Expressman had backed his wagon up against the platform waiting for number ten. The Agent had just pulled the semaphore down for clear and was sitting at his open window near the edge of the platform.
"That was a great stunt Mr. Chase got off last night, eh?" said the Agent as the Expressman looked in the window.
"Well I should say. He was the hull show, and then some. They say he yanked Jake Seymour clean out of his little booth in the Cozy and throwed him clean across the street into Sam Green's drug store."
"And he landed right under the sody fountain, so all they had to do when he opened his mouth and moaned for water was to turn the faucet," said the Agent as he got up to sell a ticket.
When he came back the Expressman was saying, "I hear his mustache and eyebrows was burnt clean off by the explosion and he may lose his eyesight. I hope it 'tain't so. I'd hate to have anything like that happen to Mr. Chase."
"He must a-given you a dollar for takin' his trunk up to the parsonage," said the Agent, grinning. "But that can't be true about the mustache, for Mr. Chase didn't have any."
"Come to think you're right about that," said the Expressman meditatively. "But he had eyebrows. Everybody has them. That is, most everybody," he added, looking with squint eye at the Agent, who was red-headed and had eyebrows of the almost invisible pink variety.
The Agent looked at the Expressman with a stony glare.
"Some people prefer alfalfa whiskers to eyebrows. It's been an awful dry dusty season for some crops," the Agent said with his gaze on the Expressman's upper lip, which was adorned or festooned with an unusually withered and untrimmed mustache.
"Yes, so I have heard," said the Expressman, unmoved. "Say, have you caught the word going around? All the girls are just crazy over Mr. Chase. They all think he's the Apollos Belle something. They all want to get him. From what I hear----"
"This is the most gossipy town in Kansas," said the Agent, as he rose to sell another ticket.
When he came back to his seat by the window, the Expressman said, thoughtfully:
"The men seem to be as bad as the women in Red Hill for gossip."
"Worse," said the Agent, opening his key for Lawton to ask for No. 10.
"Yes, I dunno but you're right. I always said if anybody went wrong in Red Hill some man would tell it first. But I feel kind a-worried about Mr. Chase. I'd hate to see anything happen----"
"He can take care of himself," said the Agent, interrupting.
"Yes, but can he take care of other folks? That's the question. Now, about these crazy girls--I was saying yesterday to Bill Thompson----"
But the Agent did not get what the Expressman said to Bill Thompson, because he had to go out and check a trunk, and after No. 10 came in the Expressman had a little business that took him away.
When Howard opened his mail that No. 10 brought from the west he was delighted to find a letter from his Seminary classmate, Roy Lennox. He came out of his study into the kitchen to read to his sister.
"He and Kate will be here next week. He writes--`Get your best room ready for next Friday. We will arrive on No. 10. Don't forget the three-story apple pies you promised me. Is there any prospect of that assistant pastorate we talked about? Affectionately, Roy and Kate.'"
"We'll have a great time. I've missed the old fellow dreadfully. There's a number of things I want to talk over with him."
Howard went back to his work with a glow of anticipation as he thought over his chum's arrival.
That evening, at the church prayer meeting, the question of inviting the Methodists to use the building part of the time on Sunday was stated by Howard with great frankness and to his pleasant surprise, with almost no discussion, the people voted unanimously to invite the Methodists to join in their services while they were without a house of worship.
Howard went right over the next morning to see Brother Noyes.
Noyes was grateful and expressed himself fittingly. He also agreed with Howard that they invite a general community meeting of all the churches to attend the evening services during the summer.
"Our yard is the largest and best," said Howard. "I'll get busy and put up the platform, get out the dodgers and you do the preaching next Sunday. The rest of us will pray or sing or take up the collection or whatever you say."
"All right." Noyes laughed at Chase's enthusiasm. But he had yet to learn that when Howard once did a thing, even against his own personal wishes and ambition, he threw all regret to the wind.
"How about the collection?" Brother Noyes said.
"We'll divide it up equally," Howard replied promptly.
"Only taking out your part for expenses in lighting, and so forth," said Noyes.
"Agreed." Howard was pleasantly surprised. "Suppose we outline the dodgers now."
They drafted a copy and Howard, after a few changes, got up to go, saying, "We ought to have a great crowd."
"I'm sure we would if you were going to preach," said Noyes with a laugh.
"We will anyhow. You see. The only trouble will be to get seats enough."
"I believe we can furnish some chairs out of our wreck. And by the way, Brother Chase, I believe some of the lumber from your platform blew into our yard. At any rate, go and help yourself to any lumber there you can use. It will save buying."
"I'll do it," Howard said promptly, as he went out.
All that afternoon he worked with the help of a volunteer committee of men representing both churches, putting up the platform, stringing his wires and getting lumber and seats from the ruin in the M. E. Church yard.
But first he went directly from Brother Noyes over to Clark's with his copy for the dodger.
Inez' father was in the back of the room and she was sitting on her high seat at the case.
He went directly up to the case and began at once to tell Inez how he wanted the dodgers printed. He had, in the excitement of his planning, forgotten all about his own looks. But Inez exclaimed:
"You did get hurt, Mr. Chase, last night!"
"Only in my feelings. Lost some of my good looks, that's all." He laughed and Inez joined feebly. But Howard rather sharply came back to the dodgers.
"It's a hurry job, I know, Miss Clark. But I want them not later than tomorrow morning. Here it is Friday. Can you do them for me?"
"Yes. I guess so." Inez looked over the copy. "I can get the proof for you to-night. Shall I bring it over to you? Or will you correct it here?"
"If you could bring it over----" Howard spoke carelessly. "I shall be very busy this afternoon and evening."
"I'll be at the parsonage by eight or nine," Inez said.
Howard thanked her, took off his hat, bowed gravely, and went out in his abrupt fashion. Just as he turned he almost collided with Mrs. Wilson, who had just come in. The door had been standing open.
He said good morning to her. She returned his greeting and asked Inez for a copy of the paper.
"It's not ready yet, Mrs. Wilson."
"But you go to press this morning, don't you?" said Mrs. Wilson sharply. "I want to see that advertisement I sent in of my lost hand bag."
"We are behind on the paper this week," Inez replied. "The storm spoiled some of our paper. We had to send to Lawton for a supply."
Mrs. Wilson looked at Inez with a look of suspicion and disapproval. Then she went to the door and gazed at Howard's retreating form. Then she turned and looked again at Inez, who had turned to her case and was beginning on the dodger. After a moment she shook her head slowly and went away. Inez did not look at her. But as she went on with her type-setting a red spot burned feverishly on her cheeks.
Howard worked all the afternoon like four men and got up his wires and platform and filled the yard with all the pews he could pull out of the Methodist church wreckage.
After supper he went into his little study and began to work on his Sunday morning sermon.
He had been sitting there only a few minutes when Rose came in.
"I may go out a little while over to the church to rehearse with Agnes."
"Oh, all right. If any one calls before you go, don't disturb me unless it's very important. I've got to shut myself in here all night. Oh, I forget. Miss Clark is coming over with the proof of the Sunday night dodger. I must see that."
Rose stopped in the doorway.
"Coming over with the proof----"
"Yes," replied her brother. He was already in one of his absent-minded moods his sister knew so well.
She looked at him gravely, and went out into the sitting-room, put on her hat, and went out of the house.
Fifteen minutes later she returned. If Howard had not been so deeply buried in his own thought he would have detected two women's voices as Rose came back into the sitting-room.
The little clock on his desk said seven-thirty.
Up the street on her porch, half a block from the parsonage, sat Mrs. Wilson, watching the street. A light on the corner illuminated a part of the parsonage and church.
The woman on the porch leaned forward eagerly and her eye gleamed.
A girl was going up the walk. She turned in at the parsonage gate and went up the steps.
It was Inez. Mrs. Wilson watched her as she went up to the door. She was there at the door only a moment. It opened and she went in. The woman on the porch sat back with a sigh of satisfaction.