It will not be easy to make the average person understand the rest of this story unless he understands the full meaning of the event that took place in Red Hill on the evening of the day that Red Hill was convicted of a sin and felt the coming in of the spiritual tide over its dry commonplaces of business, amusement and man-made religion.
Red Hill had always prided itself on its high moral and educational standard. It compared itself with towns in Missouri and Oklahoma, to the disparagement of those towns. George Clark was fond of calling attention in the Red Hill Sun to the fact that the bank deposits in Red Hill were double those in the average Missouri town of the same size.
"We don't spend our money for booze," he said in an editorial boosting Red Hill. "We believe in being decent and civilised and if anybody in Red Hill wants the saloon and cannot get along without it we advise him to move to Kansas City and fill up on beer and whiskey until he has enough. But we don't spend our money for booze."
And it is was true Red Hill did not spend its money for booze, neither did it spend it for anything else in comparison with the amount it put into the bank and had to spend. The country around Red Hill was rich and prosperous. Farms were worth anywhere from one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars an acre. The bank deposits in Red Hill were over six hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, and most of this money lay in the two banks drawing interest on long time. Red Hill had prided itself on its churches, schools and public improvements. Yet it did not pay any of its preachers over nine hundred dollars a year and rent of a parsonage, and there was not a library or a rest room or a drinking fountain or place for boys to spend time in the evening except Jake Seymour's movie which was of very questionable value educationally or ethically. As a matter of fact Red Hill was a pharisaic, hypocritical little town and was crudely unconscious of the fact. This does not mean that there were no good people in Red Hill. It only means that a town can exist in Kansas minus a saloon and a house of vice and a gambling den, and at the same time be minus also any positive righteousness that pervades the community. The absence of evil does not always argue the presence of good. A house to rent may be very clean inside and out and the smell of fresh paint may go as far as the sidewalk, but if the house does not have a living tenant it brings no profit to its owner and no joy to a possible hearth or home inside.
It is necessary to say these plain and uncomplimentary things about Red Hill in order that we may understand the need of regenerating and living forces for the self-satisfied, self-centred population. Add to all that has been said, that no one for years, including the churches, had made any attempt to touch the farming interests around the town, and the rural conditions were, as Howard discovered later on, simply astonishing, not for any depraved conditions morally, but for a condition of absolute apathy so far as religious enthusiasm is concerned. There was a number of educated farmers in the country, men and women who had graduated from the State University and from Manhattan and Washburn, but they were seldom seen in church, and had no special interest in Red Hill except as a place for shipping out grain and stock. As one of these college-bred farmers said to Howard when Howard began to go out and make his social survey of the country:
"Why should I go to listen to a man preach who can get only eight hundred dollars a year and who offends every instinct I possess with his century old theology and his insufferable prayers. Why should I spend my time going to a slow, uninteresting religious service that has no vital connection with real life when I can come in contact with the best minds of the world through my books and magazines and why should I endure the crude efforts of a church choir when I can hear my Victrola or my Edison?"
This may seem like an astounding statement, but it was actually said in all seriousness to Howard by one of the educated farmers only two miles from Red Hill, a man who had his automobile, his own electric lights in house and barn, the Outlook, Independent, and Survey on his library table and the latest machinery in his fields.
Howard looked at him as a new specimen.
"Would you go to church if there was a twenty-five hundred dollar man in the pulpit instead of an eight hundred dollar one?"
The college farmer looked at Howard as if he were a new specimen.
"I might. But Red Hill can never get such a preacher. It can never get above eight hundred or nine hundred dollars."
"How about going to church to worship God instead of being mentally pleased with intellectual sermons and entertained with professional music? How does that strike you?" Howard said with blunt cheerfulness.
The college agriculturist got red in the face as the point was obvious and for a moment he looked angry. Then he laughed.
"I see the point all right. You don't have to twist it around as well as jab it in. But I don't mind saying frankly, I'm not a good enough Christian to stand for that. I need the accessories of worship to make it agreeable to me. My wife is the same."
"In other words, you are an educated man making money out of God's earth and you don't have enough real religion to worship God in a church unless the service is intellectually and musically entertaining to you. And you are perfectly willing to spend two hundred dollars on a new piece of farm machinery to help you raise more crops to make more dollars, but you are not willing to give twenty dollars a year to help improve the cultivating of the religious field around Red Hill. I wonder if that is education."
Howard said it all with astonishing bluntness and left the young farmer staring at him, with clenched fists and angry eyes. And yet before the young preacher was out in the road, the college-bred farmer was asking himself when he had been preached to in that fashion and being clear headed enough to make a just estimate, he acknowledged as he slowly went into the house that the new minister might be right and something in his own definition of religion might be wrong.
All this occurred sometime after that Sunday night when the Spirit of God breathed on Red Hill, but it is mentioned here to show the conditions that existed,--conditions that nothing short of an upheaval in men's life-long definitions could change or improve.
As that service went on, an atmosphere of otherworldliness began to envelop the audience. It was not due to anything in the service itself, certainly not to the sermon. The Rev. George Harris, who was the preacher of the evening, had not had any long or varied experience as a sermoniser. His sermon tonight smelled of the Seminary, and the careful work of the professor of Homiletics, who had a rule for sermons which was like a recipe for pie or brown bread. Departure from the recipe was fatal to the success of the pie or bread. The Reverend Harris stirred in the ingredients with a careful hand, measuring out the proper quantity for the different parts and then with anxious eye he watched it to see it didn't burn or fall. He was more concerned over the sermon than over the audience, which is generally fatal to the audience. But the sermon is saved. Like a successful surgical operation where the patient dies. But he was blandly unconscious of the fact, and did his best, not being used to such a crowd, and feeling somewhat embarrassed by his nearness to it, for the pulpit in his own building was carefully removed a respectful distance from the first pew of human beings and sometimes there was no one in the first pew.
Somehow that night the sermon seemed to be mercifully detached from its surroundings. Something bigger than any sermon had seized Red Hill. It was under the spell of a Divine breath that blew out of God's scented gardens, and the people sat in perfect silence, not listening to the sermon but to another voice that spoke to them out of the silences of God, a voice they had not heard nor heeded through all the years.
And the first outward sign of that presence came right after Howard's prayer. By some merciful arrangement of the parts of the service Howard prayed immediately at the close of the sermon. If you have ever gone from a room in some vulgar rich man's house where every corner is crowded with bric-a-brac and every foot of floor space has some piece of furniture and every inch of wall some picture, into a room where the eye is gladdened and the mind refreshed by open spaces and the outline of two or three worth looking at objects instead of a clutter, you will understand the effect of Howard's quiet prayer after the sermon. Almost as if with a sigh of relief the people sat in a different attitude of quietness, and it was unbroken when the prayer ended.
Then the silence was startled by a cry. It was a woman's voice--low--clear and repentant, confessing the sin of evil judging of others and calling for divine forgiveness. It was followed at once by others, men and women. It was noticeable they did not rise, but sat with bowed heads, many of them speaking with muffled tones as if their hands were over their faces, or their tongues halted with sobs--and yet there was no superficial hysteria, no evidence of emotion that had been provoked by any man-made effort, it came--that real note of repentance--at first hand, without the mediation of a priest, as if the people had come face to face with God Himself and needed no other avenue of approach to Him, as indeed they had--and the four ministers sat there on the little platform, profoundly stirred over a new and unknown experience.
Howard was more prepared for it than the others because his deep and sensitive spirit was always keyed up to God's approach, but even he was smitten into awe and wonder at what was going on there under the prairie stars. He could not help feeling his heart beat high with expectation while at the same time he could not help wondering what the outcome of it all would be, what human direction the event would demand, whether the usual evangelistic appeal ought to be made.
He looked at Brother Noyes. There was a look of bewilderment on the elder man's face, as if he were at sea in the very matter that Howard was revolving. Brother Gray sat with his head bowed, his lips moving. Harris was looking first at the audience, then at Howard, as if in doubt over the whole affair, but deeply moved by it, as if wondering how such an unusual service should be closed, having never had any experience in closing a religious service other than by singing a hymn and pronouncing the Benediction.
And at that point Agnes Burton began to sing. With the first note, Howard's heart leaped up. He had been thinking of her through the day,--her action in the morning service almost compelled it--and now she suddenly came into his mind again.
He did not know she could sing. She had not offered to do so any Sunday, but had asked Rose twice. Neither the deacon nor Mrs. Burton had ever mentioned such a gift, he wondered why, afterwards, but she was singing now, the one song that such a service required, and as she went on, Howard was startled out of his usual calm judgment of himself, to find himself saying, "Of all the people here tonight she caught the true note that ought to be sounded! What a help she would be in the ministry--in--some man's life--in----" He did not say "mine." He had not come that far yet, but it seemed to him that somehow the voice fitted in completely with one of his own deeply spiritual experiences, although he did not know music, and it did not generally affect him or move his spirit.
She sang, without accompaniment, a quiet but sustained contralto, the hymn that Howard had once looked for in the church book and was disappointed not to find.
"Breathe on me, Breath of God,|
Until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will,
To do or to endure.
"Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly thine,
Till all this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.
"Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity."
Every head in the audience was bowed. It seemed to Howard as he looked past Agnes Burton out into the yard that many of the people were on their knees. And when the voice ceased, the night silence seemed filled with an unseen Presence that stole out of the sky and gently and lovingly and yet powerfully put out a Benediction with its nail-pierced hand, dismissing the people from the outward service into an inward consecration where a new life was going to mark the new birth of that hitherto narrow and selfish town.
The people rose by twos and threes and went home in silence. There was no noisy hand shaking, no exchanging of neighbourly greetings. They dispersed without a word, as if the spell of the night were on them and they wanted to get home and think it over.
The four ministers sat on the platform, after the people had gone, as if by common consent agreeing to confer together over the event that had marked the day.
Howard asked them to come into the church, and by a united impulse, they kneeled in the little Sunday School room where Howard led in a prayer that seemed to break down all formality and open up the whole avenue of a real Brotherhood. The others followed, and when they rose from their knees the tears on their faces spoke more eloquently than any words of the real emotion of their hearts.
"Brothers," Howard said as they came out of the church upon the platform, "it's been a wonderful evening. No one can tell what will come of it. But I believe if we go along quietly and normally, doing our regular work, we are going to see some remarkable things in Red Hill and the country."
"How about getting an evangelist to come in and start regular revival services?" said Brother Noyes. "Although it isn't the time of year for it."
Howard looked at him curiously.
"Looks to me," he said gently but in his abrupt manner, "as if we had a pretty good evangelist now. The Holy Spirit has started a revival here. Why not let Him continue it? Can we improve on it by getting some man to come in?"
Brother Noyes looked uneasily at his younger Brother, then a rare smile crossed his face.
"The whole thing is so new that I spoke in terms of my old habits. But there must be some man direction of this God-begun movement. What is to guide us in this matter? What is our duty?"
"I don't see that we have got to map out any set plan. Let us go about our regular work tomorrow and in every wise way keep our spirits open. This event is so plainly from God that it cannot fall to the ground. The people are repentant. We have claimed the promises here to-night. We are united in our one purpose to help bring into the community the life of the Master. If this thing is of God, as it clearly seems to be, I am convinced, we shall be led to do our part in the wisest ways."
Howard spoke with a positive note that none of the other men could command, and without jealousy or argument they let him take the lead, feeling instinctively that something in him fitted him for such leadership, even Elder Noyes conceding the point that the young man was wise beyond his years, and bowing to his judgment and counsel.
So they parted for the night, none of them, however, not even Howard, understanding that event, or the ultimate effect it was destined to have on the future of Red Hill.
Monday morning around the breakfast tables of Red Hill the talk was usually the same wornout commonplace--the weather, the show, the crops, the local politics or the local gossip--this Monday it centred about the meetings of the day before at the Congregational Church, and in many a home, the Bible was read and prayer offered and thanks given at the table where such recognition of a Divine Being in man's affairs had not been made within the memory of the household.
At the parsonage breakfast, Roy Lennox and his wife were tremendously interested in Howard's account of the meeting held with the other ministers and expressed the greatest faith in the regenerating processes evidently begun.
Then the talk drifted quite naturally to Inez and her future.
"I'll have to start for New York soon, Howard," Roy had said. "There is a possibility that the Seminary will put me to work in the Riverside Settlement. And Kate is anxious to see how the girl will respond to her invitation to go with us. What do you think she will do?"
"I believe she will go," Rose said eagerly. "You and Miss Burton talk it over and then go and see Inez."
So that afternoon after a long talk with Miss Burton, Mrs. Lennox and she went to see Inez, whose father had excused her from work at the shop on account of her fainting at the close of service.
They found Inez pale but interesting looking and rather fluttered by the call of Mrs. Lennox, with no hint in her own mind as to its meaning. She was totally unprepared for the question Mrs. Lennox finally put to her, after Miss Burton had led up to the reason for the call, telling her of Mrs. Lennox's interest in her welfare and her soon return to New York.
"How would you like to come to New York with Mr. Lennox and me? Somehow, from the first time I saw you, I seemed to feel as if you belonged to a city, and at the same time," Mrs. Lennox went on, with a leaning towards Inez that touched the girl's imagination and stirred her affection, "at the same time, it seemed to me that if you came to a big city you ought to have a big sister to look after you. I wonder if you would be willing to let me `Big Sister' you for a little while in New York?"
Inez sat up on the couch where her visitors had found her, and her eyes glowed. Her fingers closed around a motion picture magazine she had been reading, and she looked first at Miss Burton and then at Mrs. Lennox.
"In my dreams I'm always walking the streets of big cities," she murmured, repeating what she had said once to Agnes Burton. "But I don't know that my father could spare me from the shop. And what could I do? How could I"--afford it--she thought of saying and then stopped, eyeing Mrs. Lennox with a child-like look that betrayed at once her ignorance of the big world and her eagerness to see it.
Mrs. Lennox seemed to anticipate her thought.
"Of course Mr. Lennox and I will want you to come into our home, and be our guest. But you would not want to be idle or just a sight-seer all the time. You would be learning something,--finding out what you could best do, and making the most of yourself," Mrs. Lennox spoke with a charming frankness that Inez liked, but she still hesitated, glancing under her half-closed eyes at Miss Burton.
"You talk with Miss Burton about it," said Mrs. Lennox. "I will let you be alone. I believe it will be better so. But I shall be greatly disappointed if you do not say yes."
She took Inez' hand as she rose to go, and the girl felt drawn to her, she was so much in earnest, and so genuine.
But as soon as she was alone with her teacher she turned swiftly and with an impetuous gesture:
"So this is your scheme to get rid of me. I believe you want Mr. Chase all to yourself!"
Ah! Inez! How swift is Love's understanding of Love! You saw the school teacher's whole attitude that Sunday when she cleared the ministers reputation--you saw what not even gossip-loving Red Hill saw, the teacher's heart.
"Inez!" was all she could say, but Inez caught at her hand.
"Forgive me! I am so unhappy! But I will go away. It is like a story in a book, happening to me! But I don't know Mrs. Lennox. And I don't know what father will say!"
She was excited over the possibility of a dream about to come true, but now that it was in a way to be realised she began to be fearful of the unknown.
Miss Burton talked with her about it all, explaining to her what it would mean to be with people like the Lennoxes. And before she went away, Inez was eager, if her father would consent, to go New York and start new experiences.
"Do you suppose they would be willing to let me study for the stage?" was one question out of many that Inez put to Miss Burton.
"I don't know, Inez. But I know perfectly well they will not get in the way of your doing anything that will help to make a real useful woman of you. Promise me you will not do anything to harm God's wish for you, Inez."
"I promise," the girl said, crying a little, "if I only can find out what He does wish. Some one must know. I don't seem to myself."
She brushed the tears away and smiled at her teacher as she rose.
"And promise me you will send me an invitation to the wedding soon." She said it with an air half serious, half jesting. "And oh, yes, there is one other thing. I want you to tell Mr. Chase something. I feel ashamed to tell. And I may not have any opportunity if I go to New York soon. Promise me you will."
"Why, of course I will, if----"
"It's perfectly proper. Perfectly," said Inez, with an air that made Miss Burton laugh. "Tell him that the lilacs on the pulpit the first Sunday he preached were put there by me."
"You put them there!" Miss Burton turned rosily red.
"Yes. I did it. Was it very wicked! But I think he's been guessing about them ever since! It doesn't seem fair to leave him guessing."
And poor Inez fell back on her couch crumpling the motion picture magazine into shapeless wad as she cried and laughed together, her head buried in a cushion and Miss Burton standing over her, in despair over her impossible moods commingled of childishness and grown-up womanhood.
Mrs. Lennox called that evening at the Burtons to find out what Inez' decision was, and was delighted with Miss Burton's report. She went with her the next day to see Mr. Clark, and after a long and doubtful talk with him secured his consent to his daughter's going.
So Inez, in a fever of eagerness to go and misgiving about leaving, began her simple preparations. There was a pressure of work in the office that she told Mrs. Lennox she must help her father meet, which might mean several weeks, but Roy Lennox was getting greatly interested in the new developments following the Sunday night meeting, and Howard had any number of plans for using him in a county survey, so Mrs. Lennox arranged to give Inez time to prepare for her new life, pleased at the girl's evident sense of responsibility towards her father and counting the time well spent in acquainting herself with Inez and also helping Rose and her brother in the new programme of church and parish life that the revival began to open up to them.
For as the first few days succeeded one another following that Sunday when Red Hill caught its first real vision of a Divine Presence, the normal naturalness of the whole thing gradually crept upon the hearts and minds of the ministers and the people.
By a general agreement all the churches united in one mid-week service going from one church to another. These meetings, which were well attended as time went on, became the centre of very important decisions and ultimately the starting place for Red Hill's Community Life, but there was no unusual or superficial or hysterical excitement, no outward signs of miraculous intervention. Elder Noyes confessed to a feeling of disappointment.
"I supposed we were going to have a great revival after that clear manifestation. If we had brought Evangelist Colman here right off I believe we could have worked up a great revival that would have shaken Red Hill. We made a mistake not to call him."
Howard looked at Elder Noyes earnestly.
"What do you call what we are having now?" Postmaster Long has doubled his church subscription. Judge Roland has joined the church. Rod Cartwright has paid his grocery bill. Angus McCall has settled his feud with Roderick Loder. The farmers are beginning to come to the mid-week meeting. Sister Jane Snowden apologised to Sister Whitehall in front of the post office for giving her short weight on her butter last spring. What more could you ask? If we are not having a revival, what is it?"
Howard's grin was irresistible. Elder Noyes succumbed to it. But he still felt like entering a protest at the lack of great meetings and some religious excitement. Howard called his attention to a number of other clear signs of the presence of the Divine power in the town.
"Have you noticed how interested the people are getting in real religion? Stop anywhere on a corner Saturday and listen to the talk. What are the people talking about? The war? The crops? Politics? The high cost of living? The boom in wheat? Not a bit. They are discussing the need of a better school house, the character of the shows, the need of a library and some place for the boys at night; they are talking about the Bible and going over your sermon or Brother Gray's or mine. Have you noticed what the people are beginning to read? Golf's Book Store sold all their Bibles last week. And I started a subscription list for the Christian Herald a few days ago and got nearly every family in my church to take it. They all take either the Topeka Capital or Journal or Kansas City Star now, but no religious pagers. All these things point to a revival, Brother Noyes. Without knowing it hardly, we have a revival on our hands."
Elder Noyes shook his head a little doubtfully. It was not the kind of a revival he was used to, and yet he could not refuse to acknowledge the fruits of the Spirit.
"And there's another proof that we're in the midst of a revival," Howard continued as he walked along with Brother Noyes, coming out of the post office, and as he talked, he held Brother Noyes by the arm. "The churches are getting brotherly. Why, I feel quite chummy with you, and the first time I met you I didn't know just what to say." Brother Noyes turned his head to look at his young brother and a tear dropped over his cheek. Howard did not appear to notice it, but went on. "And the greatest sign to my mind of the presence of a great power in Red Hill is the gathering sentiment for a closer community life. Did you notice that last week when we had for our subject, "What can each one of us do to help make Red Hill a better town?" what a crowd we had, and what interest they all took and what answers they gave? Why, Brother Noyes, if the people of this town and county once begin to ask that question in earnest we will have the biggest revival on our hands we ever had."
Howard's enthusiasm was contagious. It swept up over Elder Noyes like a freshet. He could not withstand it. And when he parted with him at Deacon Burton's store, he was muttering to himself, "I am beginning to think a lot of him. Just the age my boy would have been if he'd lived. God help me!" Brother Noyes went on to his little home, musing over that tragedy few knew about. To Red Hill he was an elderly, somewhat pompous, not specially interesting man. But a long stretch of self-denying years in the ministry in small churches with meagre salary had put its devastating hand on Brother Noyes, brave old soldier of the cross, carrying his burdens silently and quietly through the dusty years. And Howard was creeping into those dry places of his Heart. It was a way he had, Howard Chase, Red Hill, Kansas. Ah! What miracles love can work between men! It is, and always will be the great miracle worker of the ages.
Coming out of Deacon Burton's store that day Howard met at the door Mrs. Burton and Agnes. They had no errand at the store, but stopped to get the evening paper which was left at the store. The Deacon generally brought it out home with him.
They were going back to the house and Howard walked along, discussing the events of the mid-week meeting of the day before and finally a mention of Inez by Howard led Miss Burton to ask:
"By the way, when are your friends planning to leave for New York?"
"Pretty soon, I think. But I could put my chum to work on the county survey. I don't want him to go."
They had reached Deacon Burton's house and Mrs. Burton asked Howard to come in. He accepted with a slight hesitation that Agnes Burton noted, but Howard's action was so indefinite in its meaning that the school teacher did not dwell on it.
Mrs. Burton sat down for a few minutes with her daughter and the minister, talking over church matters, then without anything more than a few words about getting supper, she went out of the room. Blessed be tact, or any other word you wish to use, of thoughtful mothers.
"Miss Burton," Howard said quickly, "this is almost the first time I have had to thank you personally for your action on that Sunday----"
"You are not going to thank me for that----"
"If I don't, you know without my saying anything that I will never forget what it means to me."
"I am sure----" she began, and paused because he was gazing at her earnestly, "I am sure it was"
Howard sat there silently seeming to be abstracted even in her presence, caught in one of his moods of retirement that were characteristic of him, so far removed from rudeness that Agnes Burton was not offended, only more deeply interested in him, and she waited quietly for him to resume his usual clear wide-awake attitude towards life--and she laughed when he suddenly exclaimed, "Oh! I beg pardon, Miss Burton! But you were saying----"
"I don't remember, it's been so long since I said it."
"I wonder if you know where I was all that time. I was thinking----"
"Not of what I said, I am sure," said the school teacher laughing again.
"Yes, I was," he replied, but in such an impersonal manner that his answer meant nothing.
There was rather an awkward pause, and she finally broke it by saying, "Inez wished me to tell you something for her, and I promised. She seemed to think you ought to know. Do you remember seeing some flowers on your pulpit the first Sunday you preached in Red Hill?"
"Yes. They were so prominent I couldn't help seeing them."
"Inez wanted me to tell you that she put them there."
"They were very nice flowers," Howard said gravely. Something in his voice and manner set Miss Burton off in a laugh so catching that Howard, after a slow grin, followed.
"Poor Inez! But she will begin a new existence with the Lennoxes. I believe there is a good future for her."
"She will see New York at its very best with them," Howard eagerly assented. "If she has any good future, they will help her to find it."
Agnes Burton asked a few questions about Howard's chum which he gladly answered and in answering, unconsciously let in the light on some of his own Seminary life.
As he rose to go, she said, unexpectedly, a slight colour betraying her personal anxiety:
"Mr. Chase, are you well? It seems to me you don't look--you look tired."
"Well to tell the truth I am tired. I don't just know how to account for it. Last few days I have not been at my best. Guess I need more exercise."
She looked at him apprehensively as he walked towards the door. He lacked that characteristic swiftness and leopard-like swaying gait that people were getting used to.
"You are working too hard," she said softly, as if anticipating some trouble. "You do three men's work. You will break down."
"Oh, I think not. I never broke down yet. Thank you for telling me about Inez and those flowers," he said awkwardly. And with an abrupt good-bye he went away.
That evening, after supper, he said to his sister: "Rose, I'm going over to see Jake Seymour. I haven't heard from there for two or three days. I won't be out long."
When he knocked at Seymour's modest house across the Santa Fe tracks the Agent opened the door, and seeing Chase, he stopped outside and closed the door.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Chase, but Jake's got typhoid. Doc Vaughn took his blood test to-day, and found the germs. He's been comin' down with it now for several days. We thought it was his accident, you know. But doc is mad. He says Red Hill folks are too stingy to fix up the water works, and the milk gets no decent test and he says, doc does, that it's enough to make a cow kick over its own pail to see how quick some folks are to die early so's to save the expense of a long obituary on their tomb stones."
"Are there any other cases in town?" Howard asked when the Agent paused.
"I heard Mrs. Wilson's little girl had it, and two or three other kids."
"No! Why, it's murder!"
"That's what doc says. And there's no way to get the grand jury to convict. I thought I better tell you about Jake before you went in."
Howard followed the Agent in and spoke a cheerful word to big Seymour. He was too sick to do much more than murmur a word of thanks for Howard's interest in him, and Howard came away after putting his hand on Seymour's big fist and saying cheerfully:
"The Lord bless you, Brother. You've got a lot to live for yet. Your show isn't half over. Keep up a good heart!"
When he reached home Rose was in the kitchen. He went into his study and sat down at his desk and started to work on his sermon.
Fifteen minutes later, Rose passing by the open door, looking in, was startled to see him, not at his desk, but lying on a couch by the book case.
It was such an unusual habit for him, that she came in and went up to the couch, and found him asleep.
She put her hand on his head gently, but the movement roused him and he opened his eyes.
"Howard! What is the matter!"
"I don't know. I seem to be tired. Too much excitement in Red Hill. Not quiet and soothing like New York."
He grinned, and sat up slowly, looking at Rose as if seeking an answer to a question that trembled on his lip.
"You have never been tired in all your life," she said, with a feeling of terror.
"No. Time to begin. But _I_ am tired." He lay down again. "I'll be all right by Sunday. I've been worrying some. Deacon Allen got after me again to-day. He says he going to call a meeting of the deacons and trustees and have the church take action on several matters, especially my use of an unauthorised version of the Bible. Deacon Allen was born three hundred years too late. He ought to have been a member of the state church in Queen Elizabeth's time. He could have had no end of fun persecuting Pilgrims and helping to fill up the Mayflower and starting America off all right."
His voice trailed off into a whisper, as he fell back into a doze again.
Rose went out and ran across the street to Dr. Vaughn's. He was not there. Up at the Wilson's, his wife thought. Rose ran up there, found him, and got his promise to come right over to the parsonage.
Two days later all Red Hill, including the country, knew that Howard Chase, the new minister, had come down with typhoid, and within the week that followed they knew that in the little room off the sitting room a great fight was going on over the strong athletic body for its final possession by the forces called Death and Life.
And Red Hill felt the event like a personal conviction. The town council met and condemned its own cowardice and selfishness in not taking steps to guard its own health. And as the days passed, and Life retreated before Death in that little room, Red Hill fell on its knees and prayed for the victory for the young man who had come to mean so much to it. Groups of men and women stood out in the street silently watching the doctor when he went up the steps or came out, questioning him. Rose and Mrs. Lennox and Roy, with the trained nurse brought from Topeka, went about the house, silent, lips moving in prayer, faces white and drawn over every movement in the little room.
One night, very late, when it seemed likely that Life would flicker out of that strong tenement and close the earthly door to any other tenant, Roy Lennox came out on the porch for a breath of air, his heart crying out for his chum, his soul beating hard at the gates of God's mercy to spare this beautiful life that seemed so necessary.
As he stepped out, he was startled by a movement on the little porch.
There at one end of it, close by the Madeira vine, kneeled a girlish figure--Inez--her hands clasped--tears on her cheeks, no cry to disturb the one within, but a voiceless anguish of appeal. And at the other end of the porch stood, in the shadow, Deacon Allen, his head bowed, the muscles of his face moving convulsively.
Roy went up to the man. He did not know what to say to the girl.
"Is there any hope?" asked the deacon. "The doctor would not answer me when he came out. I thought perhaps----"
"We have done all we can. We must leave the final answer with his God," said Roy, and with a handclasp of the deacon and a glance at the crouching girl, he went back into the house.