Little Miss Wilson would never go dancing down the sidewalk in Red Hill any more. She would never again come shyly but in perfect confidence out to meet the minister as he went down town to the post office, and putting her moist little hand into his gravely and affectionately confide her life problems to him.
For the Angel of Death had claimed her that night when Howard was sent for. That is, by the Angel of Death we mean the criminal carelessness and mercenary negligence of a community of so-called Christian people, who thought more of their own ease and money and pleasure than of spending the time and means to guard the health of its own children. The Angel of Death is a pleasant little fiction good to use at funerals. In reality, the Devil of Disease did the business of rubbing out a precious life, and it was a human Devil walking around Red Hill complacently under the name of one of its respectable citizens known as the Mayor, who was, under the By-Laws of the town Council, also the Superintendent of Public Health. The Mayor was an easy going, well-to-do business man, a member of Brother Noyes' church, and a frequent visitor in his pastor's home. He was one of the prominent figures at little Miss Wilson's funeral, which the Methodist Sunday School attended in a body. It would have been a life-long shock to the Mayor if, at that service, Brother Noyes had turned to him and said:
"Mr. Mayor, under the regulations of this town you were the guardian of the public health of its citizens. We had granted you full authority to spend the money appropriated for that purpose for milk inspection and for proper sanitary precautions. You failed to exercise your authority because you did not wish to offend certain men who sold milk and certain others who did not wish to have their open wells closed up. It has been sufficiently proved by investigation that the illness caused a number of our citizens has been traced directly to impure milk and water. I charge you with the death of this child here to-day. It is true you did not enter this home and deliberately and maliciously poison this child. But you did allow to come into this home the poison which after a long illness finally caused her death. In all human probability you could have prevented this death if you had stopped the impure milk and water from coming into the Wilson home. You are real human cause of this innocent child's death. And in some way you will have to account for it to God who is your Judge. And may He have mercy on your soul!"
Of course good Brother Noyes never said anything of the kind. Ministers do not say such things at funerals. I wonder if the lies told by ministers at funerals will be written by the Recording Angel in a special volume labelled, "Facts about the Dear Departed; Covered up, Falsified, and Ignored for the Comfort of the Family. By an Easy-going, Softhearted, Feeble-minded Clergy."
Brother Noyes took the path of least resistance. He knew, as well as Howard, who sat through the service, tortured by the entire course of it, that little Miss Wilson's death was due to the Mayor's carelessness and cowardice. And yet he alluded more than once to the "providence of God," to which the stricken father and mother must submissively bow their broken hearts, and while not being able to understand the mystery of God's ways in taking this little one out of their home so early, they must remember she was now happy in heaven. Transplanted out of the earthly garden into the beautiful Paradise of God, where the angels would care for her, for this beautiful little blossom which God probably needed or He would not have taken it. And as Howard sat there listening to it all, it sounded like blasphemy or worse to lay the blame of man's wicked carelessness on a loving God, who wanted the little child to grow up in the earthly garden, and certainly did not plan to have it transplanted for his own personal pleasure into his own Paradise.
The service made a profound impression on Howard, not because of anything Brother Noyes said, but because of what he did not say. As he sat there thinking of all the formalism and pretense and hypocrisy of a superficial religion which called itself Christianity it seemed to him that Red Hill was full of it, and that no place on earth was better fitted for a real Gospel than right there. And what hope was there for it under present conditions? Four feeble and incompetent churches. No common bond of interest between the town and the country, because there was no common bond among the people of the town itself. A narrow, self-centred, sordid, uninterested town. With good people in it, a minimum of crime and poverty, but also a minimum of positive and affirmative enthusiasm for anything worth while.
And why talk about establishing Christianity over in Europe when in the heart of America there was so little of it? And why go to New York or Boston and try to influence life with the pen when it was a living voice that the world needed more than the printed page after all? And how could he resign from the ministry into which he went knowing all about its hardships and self-denials? Somehow as that funeral service went on, and he abstracted himself more and more from its concrete and external expression of un-Christianity, his heart and mind flamed up into white heat until when Brother Noyes gently turned to him and asked him to offer a prayer, his whole passionate feeling burst out in a perfect torrent of longing for a vision of God right then and there that would convict and inspire and redeem the people until they would love God and keep His commandments, and learn from the loss of this child of His the mighty meaning of the great, great word, Life.
People who heard that prayer will never forget it. Something about it smote their apathetic consciences as with an angel's wing. One man said afterward, "I don't know what it was, but there was something in what he said that made me afraid of myself." And another said, "I wanted to go home and straighten out my affairs, and ask my wife to forgive me for a cross word I said to her that morning."
Out at the cemetery Howard listened again to the false statement made in all sincerity by good Brother Noyes, "We commit the body here where the spirit shall await the final resurrection." And yet he had already told the family not to mourn because the child was in heaven. The whole thing struck Howard as pagan, and he silently shook hands with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, and walked home. It seemed to him he would choke to death if he rode back in the carriage with the mayor and the other pall-bearers. They wondered at his abrupt refusal to be ushered again into the accustomed minister's place, and talked about it on the way back to town, interspersing that subject of conversation with funny stories and the not uncommon commonplaces of distant mourners on the return from the grave.
This was Wednesday. The letter to the editor of the Companion had been sent the day following little Miss Wilson's death. No one in Red Hill knew the contents of that letter except Howard, Agnes, and Rose. It must be said that when the postmaster at Red Hill cancelled the stamp on that letter, he held it up to the light and wished for an X-ray eye-ball. Postmasters are like other people, and the one at Red Hill was no exception.
But when Howard walked up into his pulpit the following Sunday, people felt as if something out of the ordinary was coming. A life-long habit of watching everybody and dissecting everybody's private affairs had given Red Hill a gift of morbid telepathy, so abnormally keen that it seemed able to detect to a degree any unusual mental excitement, or the symptoms that lead up to a "situation" or a "dramatic climax." The thing came very near being uncanny. It was generally so exact in its diagnosis of what would happen at a public gathering.
The service went on as usual up to the sermon. But the people were not going to be deprived of the expected "event" of the day, for before he began preaching, he stepped out by the side of the little pulpit and eyeing the people seriously he spoke, restraining his own feeling, until the calmness of his voice seemed to deny the real importance of what he was saying.
"I wish to make a statement here to-day which seems necessary to make on account of other statements which have been made, and in order to let the people know what they ought to know.
"There has been submitted to me an offer to leave the ministry and Red Hill, and take up newspaper work. It is not necessary for me to go into details. But all I want to say here this morning is that I have refused this offer to leave the ministry, and will remain here, for a time at least, if this church wishes me to stay."
At that point a thing happened that broke all records in the history of the church.
Some one,--the Expressman told the Agent next day it was Deacon Allen--started a feeble hand clap. It was taken up and spread over the church until it grew so loud it waked up old Judge Randolph, the one inveterate, chronic sleeper of the congregation whom no minister, not even Howard, had ever robbed of a nap after the service had been going twenty minutes. He stared around him in surprise, and turned with a bewildered look at his wife. She whispered to him in a loud tone, for the judge was a little, just a little deaf, "Mr. Chase is going to stay."
As soon as the judge caught the meaning of it he joined in the applause, his face beaming with honest delight. For in spite of the fact that he had not heard a sermon clear though for more than twenty years, he never missed going to church and without knowing it himself his habit of napping there had become a source of real satisfaction, and besides, he did like Howard, as he met him between Sundays, and had to acknowledge he was different from all the other ministers in Red Hill.
Howard had planned to say a few more words, but the episode of the applause seemed to make it unnecessary. He paused, as the excitement quieted down, felt an unusual glow of joy over the spontaneous act of the people, and then gave out his text and began to preach. Even Judge Randolph, jolted out of his customary nap, stayed awake during that sermon, and at its close when Howard came down into the aisle, the judge was the first to greet him as everybody crowded up to shake Howard's hand, and men as well as women had tears on their faces and did not seem to be ashamed of them.
"After all," Howard's own eyes filled as the people crowded up, "they do like me. And I like to be liked. They are sheep without a shepherd. I cannot leave them."
"It was worth ten dollars to be there," the Expressman told the Agent, who had not been able to leave the station because No. 10 was late.
"I suppose that's what you put in," the Agent said.
The Expressman was cautious about committing himself.
"I'm a-goin' to increase my subscription to Mr. Chase's salary. We can't afford to lose him."
"What have you been giving?" the Agent asked with more or less incredulity.
"That's one thing people are not supposed to know," the Expressman replied. "I been guessin' for twenty-five years how much Deacon Allen subscribes, an' I bet I can come pretty clost to it, but I don't know exact."
"You wouldn't have to guess much," the Agent said, as he rose to sell a ticket to Topeka.
When he came back to the window the Expressman said:
"I felt disappointed over one thing yesterday. I was lookin' for an announcement."
"I thought Mr. Chase made one."
"He did, but I thought he'd add a N. B. or a P. S. or something."
"His weddin'. People are gettin' anxious to know when and where it's going to be."
"You won't expect him to advertise that from the pulpit, do you?"
"I bet you would, if you was goin' to get married. You'd be willin' an' glad to stick up a notice in the waitin' room."
"He will do the right thing, Mr. Chase will," the Agent said, as he opened the key for Lawton.
"I've heard the date has been fixed for May 1st. But I hain't heard whether it's at the church, or at Deacon Burton's. They could have it outdoors in May, so everybody could go."
"They won't let you in without a dress suit," said the Agent.
"I'm a-goin' in my wagon," said the Expressman. "So's to get their trunks on time."
"They won't go away, I don't believe," said the Agent. "Unless to Topeka."
"Yes. They ought to go there and call on Governor Capper an' climb up to the top o' the State House dome," said the Expressman, whose dream of a wedding trip did not soar much above three hundred feet high. "I've offered to haul their trunks down to the deepo. An' there won't be no old shoes nor ribbins on 'em either, if I haul 'em."
After the Sunday evening service of that memorable day Howard and Agnes and Rose reviewed the event, and again Howard repeated his reasons for his decision and his plans for the future.
"I answered that letter, as you know, my dears, because I simply could not go out of the ministry. I've figured out we can economise. And Agnes is willing to live the simple life. I can write more. Yesterday I got a check for fifty dollars from the Saturday Evening Post for a funny story. Think of that, people! Fifty dollars just for one little story of fifteen hundred words. And I believe I can make things go here for awhile. I don't need to sleep eight hours. I can do with six, and----"
"Isn't he wonderful, sister?" Rose whispered to Agnes. And Agnes Burton simply nodded. She could not trust herself to speak. Howard was striding across the little room, his eye flashing, his arms tense but not nervous, his whole body keeping time with his mind, the physical glory of his being illustrating in a subtle manner his inner and spiritual self, and Agnes Burton was fascinated yet humbled at the sight of him, as he gently moved, not a rough expressing of coarse fibre, but a sense of power which faced great odds and dared them to overpower him. And over and above all, she rejoiced in his decision to remain in the ministry, and she was ready without reserve or shrinking to share with him fully in all that the decision might mean to them both.
During a part of that evening Rose discreetly disappeared at intervals, and in one of them Agnes said to Howard demurely:
"Do you think a man and--and--his wife, ought to share everything--troubles, secrets, plans er--everything with each other?"
"Certainly I do!" replied Howard positively. "It is the only basis of happy married life. There is no other."
"Would you say that if one of them had something that had been accumulating for several years, a--a--certain thing that was hard to handle that really belonged to the Home they were both building that a thing like that ought to be shared?"
"It most certainly ought. Neither party ought to refuse to accept from the other anything that might be offered. A perfect sharing of everything, no secrets, no inequalities of any kind ought to give one an advantage over the other."
"Very well, then, my lord," said the school teacher, her cheeks glowing and her eye sparkling, "I have something I want to share with you. It is something which has been accumulating through the years and belongs to the Home we are planning to build together. Neither of us ought to refuse from the other anything that might be offered. We are perfectly agreed on that basis for a happy married life. There is no other."
And with the words she suddenly put into Howard's hands a little bank-book, with her name on the outside.
He took it, a look on his face so bewildered that she wanted to laugh, only she was a trifle afraid, as she watched him. Mechanically he opened the little book at a place where a slip of paper had his name written on it, a check, making payable to Howard Chase the sum of one thousand two hundred and seventy-five dollars and sixty-two cents and endorsed by the school teacher's signature.
"It is my dowry," she said, as he turned a questioning gaze upon her. "It is one-half of my savings of several years, and it is just as much yours as mine. I will not come to you unless you take it. You have asked me to give you myself, and I have given. And this simply goes with me. You cannot have one without the other. You said we ought to share everything. And we will, won't we?"
Rose had just opened the kitchen door but she gently stepped back and closed it, and waited a reasonable time.
When she re-entered she said:
"Have you been quarrelling?"
"Yes, and made up," said Howard promptly. But he was still agitated unusually.
"I thought you had made up all right," said Rose, smiling. "What was the row about?"
Agnes told her, smiles and tears succeeding, finishing with a contagious laugh as she described Howard's expression when the bank-book fell into his hands.
"At least, madam, give me credit," he said sternly, "for not knowing you had all this wealth when I proposed to you? If I had known it, it would have made me hesitate. I have always been afraid of these rich girls. You cannot deny I thought you were as poor as most Kansas school teachers."
"I am the richest woman in the world," she said, eyeing Howard with the look of the hero worshipper.
"Is it time for me to retire again?" asked Rose unblushingly. "I haven't a thing to do in the kitchen, but I can go out and rattle the stove lids or pump up some water."
"Don't go, sister, stay and help me to settle this question. Do you think I ought to take this money?"
"Of course I do," said Rose promptly. "Take all you can get. You can give your wife a dollar or two once in a while if she really needs it."
"I'll take it then, on that condition," he said gently. And in perfect confidence and implicit love the man and the woman there pledged anew their betrothal.
Red Hill will never forget the occasion of the wedding when Howard Chase and Agnes Burton were married on the first day of May that year. Howard had always had a horror of display at weddings and funerals. Agnes shared his feeling. If they had consulted their own wishes they would have been married quietly at Deacon Burton's home, and walked over to the parsonage afterwards.
But they both realised that the public had some claim on them and finally agreed to have the service in the church and, if the weather was kind, to have a reception out on the lawn. When the announcement was finally made, it was so general that the phrase "the friends of Mr. Chase and Miss Burton are invited" covered all necessary conditions.
"There wa'n't nothin' said about dress suits," the Expressman told the Agent. "You can wear your everyday clothes and be welcome."
"How about presents?" asked the Agent.
"Not a word. No flowers either, nor poems. But I think you ought to give Mr. Chase that one about `The Bachelor.' His wife would frame it."
"I've got something to give them," the Agent said with a grin, and an unusually pleased look.
"Tell me," said the Expressman, pleadingly.
"I will, if you won't tell any one."
And the Agent leaned out of the window and whispered something to the Expressman who nearly lost his balance when he heard it.
"You don't say!" he exclaimed as he gazed at the Agent with an added look of respect.
"Yes, I do. And I don't want you to say it to any one."
"I won't even tell it to the horse," the Expressman solemnly promised.
"Nor the wagon," the Agent added.
"Nor the wagon," the Expressman echoed.
The night of the wedding was a perfect Kansas May night. Brother Noyes performed the ceremony in the church which was packed with all of Red Hill that could get in, and the rest stood out on the lawn, "like the crowd at Senator Woodbine's funeral," as the Expressman said, "only different." The church chorus sang appropriate music. And the church furnished the refreshments out on the lawn to everybody. If there was a boy in Red Hill who did not get three dishes of ice cream that night he has not been discovered. The farmers came in for fifteen miles around, and came up and shook Howard's hand as he stood proud and handsome by the side of the school teacher. "The finest looking couple in the state!" the Washburn College graduate farmer told a neighbour, the college farmer who had told Howard on the occasion of his visit that he and his wife required the refinements of worship in order to make them go to church. This man seemed unusually thoughtful during the evening, and twice took occasion to tell Howard he was glad he had decided to remain in Red Hill.
When the evening was finally over and the last guest gone, Howard and his wife and Rose went over to the parsonage. Rose had kept open house there, presiding over the presents and showing them to the crowd that all during the evening made a procession through the rooms.
"Look out there!" said usually quiet Rose, but tonight she radiated electric excitement in four directions.
She led the way to the kitchen, and waved her hand around.
"There! Mrs. Chase! Talk about the high cost of living! There's groceries to burn, for a month!"
"I hope some one remembered to send us a can opener," said Howard, as he looked at the display of canned goods which covered the kitchen table several feet high. While groceries and vegetables of every description were piled on the floor through which Rose had made lanes leading to closets and doors.
"We can begin here by the stove and eat our way over to the sink, and then start over there by the cupboard and by the middle of next week we can get to the cellar door," said Rose, as she led the way back into the sitting-room to direct the bride and groom's attention to presents brought in that evening which they had not yet seen.
Among them was a long envelope containing an interesting communication from the trustees of the church.
To Rev. Howard Chase,
In view of your faithful and efficient services since you came to us a year ago, and as a slight token of our appreciation of your sacrifice in remaining with us, the Trustees and the church ask you to receive the enclosed, and also wish to inform you that a meeting of the church held last night it was voted to increase your salary this year to twelve hundred dollars.
Wishing you and Mrs. Chase great blessing, we are,
H. S. ALLEN,
Chairman Board of Trustees.
R. F. BURTON,
A check for one hundred dollars was attached to the letter. But the surprising thing about it all to Howard and Agnes was that the church could hold a meeting, vote such an increase, and no whisper of it reach them until now. And as a matter of fact, the event surprised Red Hill as much as any one. For once in its history it managed to bring about a genuine surprise for itself.
Howard and Agnes examined other presents, a really bewildering display, and as they finally went into the study where Rose had put certain articles, Howard found a letter in the middle of his desk, with the familiar Santa Fe mark on the envelope.
The typewritten address disclosed the identity of the author.
"Ah! My friend, the Agent! I recognise his typewriting!" said Howard. "Come here, Mrs. Chase, I have an inspiration this is for you as well as me."
And he was right. The Agent enclosed his poem on "The Bachelor," to which was pinned a check for ten dollars bearing the Ladies' Home Journal printing. The Agent's note said:
DEAR Mr. AND Mrs. CHASE:--
The enclosed verses will be published sometime in the Ladies' Home Journal. They got past Mr. Bok while he was asleep at the switch, and he made out the check before he was wide-awake. Please accept the same with my Best Wishes. May you have a pleasant and profitable journey over the Matrimonial Road, and meet with no wild circus trains on the trip. May your signals burn clear and your orders give you the right of way over the Sunday excursions. If you should ever travel on a real railroad let me recommend the Santa Fe. It is the only road running into Red Hill and on that account the only road running out again. It's rule is `Safety First,' and I hope you will never take it to go out of town without buying a round trip to come back.
Howard, with his arm about Mrs. Chase, the two handsome heads close together, read out loud the Agent's literary effusion which had managed to break into the Ladies' Home Journal at an expense to the unguarded moments of Mr. Bok of ten dollars.
"He belonged to the Bachelor class,|
and every day he was heard to say,
`It's a weary world!
"He's no more in the Bachelor class,
Because he has found,
By looking around
In this weary world,
A lass. A lass."
As he finished reading, Howard looked around at the lass and you can guess what he did.
"Thank God! I have found a lass! May He make me worthy of her!" was his prayer that happy moment.
And, O yes, we had nearly forgotten the Expressman's gift. All through the evening, in between the unnumbered refreshments he managed to get acquainted with, the Expressman had been seen at times hovering dimly on the outskirts of the lawn, where Howard thought he could catch an outline of the horse and wagon out in the road. When he took his turn to extend congratulations to Howard and Agnes he said: "Mr. and Mrs. Chase, if you are going to go off on a trip, I'll haul your trunks down to the station for nothin' and glad to do it. And I'll sit on 'em all night to keep the boys from doin' anything to 'em until you get away."
Howard thanked him heartily and told him not to tell any one, as it was not known, but he would make him the custodian of a secret. The plan was to go to Topeka in a day or two, but Mrs. Chase and himself did not wish to let it generally be known.
The Expressman was so gratified over this act of confidence that he kept the secret absolutely for more than an hour. Then he managed to circle around the yard in between the refreshments until he found Howard again.
"Mr. Chase," he managed to whisper hoarsely, partly caused by his frequent helpings to the refreshments and partly due to the mental strain he was under, "would you mind if I told the Agent about that trip? I'll just bust if I can't tell some one. And he and I work the trip business together. He might like to know a little ahead so's to make out your tickets, you know."
"You have my permission, all right," said Howard gravely. "Tell him to be sure to make out the tickets via Pauline."
And that evening, after coming out of the study with the Agent's poem, Howard stumbled over a suit case which stuck out behind the edge of the casing. It was from the Expressman and it represented considerable savings. Rose silently eyed it with some disapproval, as it was not made of the highest priced leather. But Howard said:
"We'll have to go on that trip now, anyway, or it will be the disappointment of his life. And I'll be proud to carry his suit case all the way."
And so it came to pass he did. And Agnes and he had the satisfaction of getting out of Red Hill so quietly that there was hardly any one down at the station but the Agent and the Expressman, who sat on the trunks until the train came in, and showed the greatest pleasure at the sight of the suit case which Howard insisted on holding prominently in front of him as he bade the Expressman good-bye.
They spent a blissful week in Topeka, called on Governor Capper, who asked them to come again, climbed up to the top of the state house dome so they could tell the Expressman about the view, went out to Washburn College and admired the view of Burnett's Mound so much from the campus that they finally walked out there and were rewarded with the sight of a wonderful sunset, spent a part of the one hundred-dollar check on Kansas Avenue, and returned to Red Hill on No. 5 where the Expressman greeted them with a receptive smile and insisted on taking their trunks up to the parsonage free of charge.
And then Howard and his wife settled down to the regular church and parish life.
It was the happiest, most divinely human period of all their lives, and they were profoundly and unquestionably glorified together. But all that did not obscure or hide or minimise certain facts which Howard's one year's experience had already sharply impressed upon him.
The four churches fought for their existence in a pitiful way. Try as hard as he could, Howard could not conceal the fact that as the weeks and months went on, his task really grew no easier, and in spite of all the spiritual vision the people had received, the town had no community spirit. One day in July when the heat of the Kansas summer was over the prairie, Brother Noyes came past the parsonage yard, where Howard was sitting out under one of the box elders, trying to shape up a sermon.
The Methodists had not rebuilt. The days had gone by, and they had worshipped part of the time in the other churches and part of the time in the movie show place, which Jake Seymour had let them have for a small rental. But to Howard's surprise the contemplated new church did not materialise, and according to his own uninquisitive habits, he had not ventured to quiz Brother Noyes about it.
He stopped now, and at Howard's invitation took off his coat and sat down.
"I suppose you've wondered, Brother Chase, why we haven't begun to build, after all this time?"
"I have wondered, but I did not count it any of my business," said Howard, who, Agnes said, had less curiosity than any human being that ever lived.
"Well, the plain fact is, Brother, we have had some trouble with the Mission Board. Things have dragged along, and we have been encouraged to hold on, but no funds are forthcoming and we have been put off so long now that we begin to think the Board does not intend to do anything. We are not able to build without help, and"--he lowered his voice "do you know, the business men are beginning to hold back on subscriptions. Men like Deacon Burton and Mr. Wilson are beginning to complain about the number of churches in a small town. Of course," Brother Noyes added, with a sad smile, "I read enough to know what is going on among the churches in America along the line of federation, and all that. And to tell the truth, my dear Brother, I think the Community idea will have to prevail for the preservation of the church itself, I mean all churches, but until some of my older people die, or get converted, I don't know how it will be possible here in Red Hill."
They talked over the situation a long time, and to Howard's great surprise, when Brother Noyes opened his heart to him he found the older man was in perfect sympathy with Howard's plans, which were taking shape along the line of some sort of union effort that would lift the community out of its commonplaces and give the churches some right to exist.
About this time in Howard's and Agnes's experiences came interesting letters from Mr. and Mrs. Lennox concerning Inez. They had kept them informed about Inez from the beginning, but these July letters brought some new developments.
Mrs. Lennox wrote: "Inez is a remarkable girl in many ways. She is child and grown woman at the same time, and is a creature of moods and sometimes of passion. She has absorbed the city life as if she had always lived here. I shudder to think what might have become of her if she had come to New York by herself. She tells us that the only thing that has kept her from doing wrong is her thought of us. That is reward enough for all the care and anxiety we have felt for her.
"We have discovered that she is genuinely fond of little children. That is a great virtue. But we have also discovered, or rather she has discovered for herself, that she has a gift for children's stories. Roy suggested to her lately that if she could put some of these stories into a scenario, the film companies here might do something with them. She has become deeply, even passionately enthusiastic over the suggestion, and is spending nearly all her time over a child's story illustrating the growth of two children living in exactly opposite conditions. She has met at Edison's a young photographer who seems to understand her perfectly, and he says he will help her in any way he can to visualise her story if it is accepted for the picture play. His name is Andrew Morris, and he is, I think, one of the plainest looking men in New York. But Inez never seems to think of it, only being interested in his photography which is of a peculiar kind. The young man himself is all right. And his plainness of feature is offset by a beautiful voice. No, I don't think Inez will fall in love with him, but I can't answer for the other thing.
"Inez has the making of a beautiful, useful, happy woman. We are doing all we can for her. If she should succeed in her story effort, it may determine her whole future. She will stay on with us as long as she is willing to be with us. We have come to love her as if she were indeed our very own."
July slipped into August and August into September and September into fall and the glory of the prairie flooded Red Hill with matchless days and nights. And Howard's church problems grew with each succeeding month. He had all through the summer made careful study of the town and the country surrounding. His survey had given him certain clear and definite conclusions. And standing out above everything else, always was the plain fact that the churches were not doing what they ought to do, and above all that Red Hill had no community conscience or consciousness, and life was commonplace, and dreary and wasteful and narrow and tasteless to most of the seven hundred inhabitants.
He studied the thing from every angle. Had long talks with Agnes and Rose and Deacon Burton. He went out again, more than once, to see the young Washburn College graduate farmer, and after every visit left behind him a more deeply interested and thoughtful man. But as November slipped away and December began, he was no nearer his dream of the Best Thing for Red Hill, which stood there on the Kansas map, bathed in the lingering autumn which paid no attention to the calendar but continued on pushing winter up into spring and calmly refusing to make even the approaching Christmas-tide put on its frost rimmed garb and its steam heated holiday habit.