HOWARD CHASE, RED HILL, by Charles Sheldon

Chapter X.

     The distance from the post office to the Congregational parsonage was only five blocks, but enough happened in that distance to make future history of tremendous importance for two lives in this story, for Howard Chase and Agnes Burton, daughter of his senior deacon and high school teacher in Red Hill.

     As they came to the first corner where there was a street lamp, Miss Burton could not help seeing the Youth's Companion envelope which Howard was holding rather awkwardly in front of him as he strode along. For while under normal conditions, Howard was the perfection of graceful bodily movement, under the stress of his emotions caused by Miss Burton's presence and the contents of the long envelope, he was swinging along at a rather rapid gait, and if the school teacher had not been an unusually good walker herself, she might have had some trouble to keep up with him.

     They had walked as far as the corner of a second block with the exchange of only commonplaces, when she said:

     "I thought I recognised an article of yours in the Youth's Companion last week, Mr. Chase. You do write for it, don't you?"

     "Yes. What was the name of it?"

     "`A New Religion.'"

     "Yes. That was one of mine. Do you read the Companion regularly?"

     "I've taken it, or Father has for me, ever since I was a child. I think it's a great paper."

     "What would you think," he said suddenly, as if a sudden resolve had seized him right there, "of the influence a writer in such a paper might exercise, compared with, say, a minister's position?"

     The question was so abrupt and so strange that she did not answer instantly. They were passing another corner, and she glanced up at him. He was not looking at her, but had the abstracted gaze she was becoming used to.

     "Why, it would be an important position and a great place for influence. But is any place equal to that of the ministry?"

     "Yes. That is--Yes, I don't see why it isn't. The printed page reaches more people. It speaks oftener.

     And I don't see why it isn't the greater pulpit."

     "Perhaps it is," she said, a feeling of uneasiness beginning to creep over her. "But I supposed you chose the ministry because you were convinced it was the greatest career a man could choose."

     "I did, Miss Burton. But I don't know but I may change my mind." He went on speaking, half in his abstracted introspective manner, and half as if he felt her interest in the matter. "Do you know what is in that envelope?"

     He held out the Companion letter in front of him, and stared at it as if he needed the assurance of its sight to persuade himself he had received it.

     "No, of course. I----" She shrank away from him a little, as a cold fear crept over her in anticipation of what was coming.

     "Well, I may as well confess to you, first of all--I--that letter contains an invitation to me from the Editor to come on the staff of the Companion as the Social Life Editor at a salary of twenty-five hundred dollars a year, and I've about made up my mind to accept."

     "You--have--made up your mind--to----"

     She stammered, and if Howard had been able to see her face he would have noted the fear and surprise on it. The confession smote her cruelly. The thought that he was planning to leave Red Hill, the added thought that financial motives were tempting him, the thought that he was going to give up his career in the ministry, affected her so profoundly that after her first exclamations, she walked on in silence, trying vainly to still the quick throbbing of her pulses, terrified at the prospect his sudden statement had opened up to her future.

     "Yes," he went on, still speaking more to himself than to her. "I believe I'll accept it. I've done my work here."

     "Done your work here!" She suddenly found her voice. "Oh, Mr. Chase! You have only just begun! You have only----"

     She did not dare go on, her voice shook so--he must notice her agitation.

     "Pardon me," he said gently, as if coming back out of his abstraction. "I don't know just why I have told you this. It came to me as a great surprise only a few minutes ago. Somehow I seemed impelled to say what I did. There are reasons why I am making this decision. Sometime I may be able to tell you more fully."

     For a moment he looked at her with a look she longed to interpret, but they had reached the parsonage, and Rose was out on the little porch, where she had evidently come, looking up the street as if to see her brother.

     "O Howard, Mrs. Wilson sent word down to ask if you wouldn't go and see Lida. She seems worse, and is calling for you."

     Little Miss Wilson has been neglected of late, but her illness had been one of the sorrowful results of the carelessness of the town authorities, for all during Howard's struggle and long after he was convalescent little Miss Wilson had continued to lie in the grip of the fever or its after effects. All through the fall, and now into the winter, she had lain like a wee, small white blossom, a lesion of the heart sapping the childish frame, until it seemed impossible the frail form could ever go dancing down the street again.

     And all through that time, after Howard was out and at his energetic task again, it had been his almost daily habit to stop in and see Miss Wilson on his way down town. They had grown to be great friends. And Mrs. Wilson, in a moment of remorse, during one of those visits, had made full and tearful confession of her part in the gossip about Inez, and Howard had, of course, cheerfully and fully forgiven her, and his coming in was now welcomed as that of an angel guest.

     He brought little Miss Wilson funny pictures and bits of interesting fossils he found on the bluff and odd little tricks he had learned, and her trembling hold on life, "Doc" Vaughn told the Agent, was, he believed, actually due to Howard's calls.

     So to-night, with an abrupt farewell to Miss Burton, he turned without going into the house and went up to the Wilsons'.

     Rose invited Miss Burton to come in and look over some music. She hesitated, but finally came in, and Rose was startled by her look as she came into the sitting room.

     "What's the matter?"

     "Oh, nothing."

     But Rose knew it was something, for as the time in Red Hill had sped on, she had guessed the school teacher's heart, and the two had grown to have deep affection for each other, but no open word of confidence about Howard had as yet passed between them.

     They looked over the music a few minutes and then Rose expressed a wish to try it out over in the church with the organ, and as the room had been warmed for some afternoon gathering, they went over, and practised for a little while.

     Miss Burton, however, was evidently so indifferent to the music, and so distracted by something else, that Rose finally stopped in her singing and said:

     "You're not looking at all well. Let's go over to the house, and when Howard comes back we'll have a cup of tea together. Come, dear. And if you're in trouble, let me----"

      They went out in the little yard, and as they crossed over it, Agnes Burton made a resolve. They were hardly in the parsonage before she turned to Rose. As they came in Rose noticed that Howard's study door was ajar, but there was no light in the room. Agnes was clutching Rose by the arm, and saying:

     "I can't keep it to myself any longer. I'm as bad as Inez. But, oh, Rose, did you know your brother is planning to leave Red Hill and the ministry, and I can't bear to think of his going----"

     "I know all about your feelings," said Rose, calmly. "But the other is news to me. What do you mean, by leaving Red Hill and the ministry?"

     "He told me himself on the way from the post office. He has received an offer from the Youth's Companion to come to Boston and go on the editorial staff at twenty-five hundred dollars a year, and he has decided to accept the offer, resign his ministry and go away!"

     Rose Chase was a young woman who had seen so much trouble of a peculiar kind that her mind was steady and her heart not easily disturbed. She heard the news from Agnes without any great excitement and her response to her friend's agitation almost shocked her.

     "If Howard has decided on that, I don't blame him. Twenty-five hundred dollars is more than he would ever get in Red Hill if he stayed here twenty-five hundred years."

     "I didn't suppose," Miss Burton began falteringly, "that financial reasons could tempt your brother. I--that is--I supposed he was committed to the ministry for life--that he----"

     And at that point Rose forgot herself for a moment, as the thought of Howard's self-denial and his financial struggle rushed over her.

     "And why should not a minister have some financial ambitions like other men? Do you know the church has not paid Howard a cent for more than five weeks? He has spent his last dollar to help--we haven't anything saved up. Why shouldn't he begin a career in a position where he can earn a living like other men, instead of breaking his heart over an impossible situation? You know, Agnes, that this church would let my brother go on preaching here indefinitely, until he grew useless in the ministry and never offer to pay him a cent more than he is getting now. Churches all over Kansas do that to their ministers. Can you blame him for not being willing to go on living a life of such humiliation? I hope he will accept the Companion offer and leave Red Hill. It doesn't appreciate him enough even to pay him his pitiful little wages!"

     Rose glowed with righteous wrath as she spoke, and Agnes, her face white, and her eyes staring at the unusual sight of gentle spirited, quiet Rose, towering up in anger for her brother, gasped for breath, and when Rose ceased, she finally cried:

     "Oh, Rose! How cruel! I didn't know! I had no idea he was living under such--Oh, forgive me, dear! To think that I was judging him to be mercenary! To think that he whom I love more than life----"

     And at that point both young women were startled by the sight of a person coming out of the little study, and Howard was there standing in the doorway, one hand on the edge of the door as if to steady himself and his clear gaze fixed on his sister.

     "I thought," he began, as Rose and Agnes shrank back and stared at him with wide open eyes, "that if I stayed in there any longer I might hear too much, or too little. So I came out."

     "We didn't know you were there, did we, Agnes?" Rose managed to gasp.

     Agnes' reply was inaudible.

     "I went up to Wilsons', but the doctor was with Lida, and said it was best for me not to see her tonight," Howard was saying, calmly enough, but as he spoke, his eyes were looking at the school teacher hungrily. "And so I came right back here, and went into the study to do some thinking. I didn't mean to hear anything I ought not, and I don't remember all of it, but I couldn't help hearing some----"

     "Oh, well, you and Agnes can untangle it. I wash my hands of the whole affair," said Rose, shamelessly. And with the words, she gently pushed Agnes over in the general direction of Howard and herself retired to the kitchen, the door to which she closed with a good decisive bang as she disappeared.

     She was in the kitchen a comfortable time, and afterwards told Agnes that although the supper dishes had all been washed and put away, she took down nearly every dish in the cupboard and washed it again, just to have something to do and to make a reasonable amount of noise.

     But when she finally did come into the sitting-room, after knocking discreetly on the kitchen door, Howard opened it, embraced her, and then, with his well-known grin, a chastened and glorified grin, turned and presented her to the young woman standing there, blushing and tearful, but transfigured, with the words:

     "Rose, here is your sister that is to be. There didn't seem to be any other way to untangle the matter. We discussed the situation from every angle, but after what Agnes said to you, and what I have been saying to her, there seemed no other way out but to get married so we could discuss it without being overheard the rest of our lives."

     "Isn't he just awfully splendid?" said Rose, as she folded them both into her arms. And Agnes Burton declared he was. And she did not seem to have any reservation about it.

     "And is she going to be a minister's wife, or an editor's wife?" asked Rose a little later, as she poured out tea and watched the lovers, with a delight she did not attempt to conceal.

     "That's a matter we haven't decided yet," said Howard. "I feel like leaving it to Agnes."

     "And I'm perfectly willing to leave it to Howard," said the school teacher, the roses on her cheeks and the starlight in her eyes.

     "Well!" exclaimed Rose. "If you two keep on like that all your married life, you'll never get anywhere."

     "We don't want to get anywhere, do we, Agnes?" Howard said. "One place is as good as another now."

     "You'll be needing a hired girl, no matter where you are," said Rose gently. "And they're scarce. I wonder if I can apply for the position. Best of references, of course."

     "You're engaged right now," said Agnes.

     "I suppose you'll insist on sitting at the table and being treated like one of the family?" said Howard.

     "Yes. And I'll come and work for you on one condition."

     "Name it. We're in the mood to give you any reasonable concessions."

     "My condition is that you will let me see you make love to each other. I mean now and then."

     "I don't think we can help ourselves, Agnes," Howard said, and the look he gave her was returned with a complete and sacred confidence that opened up the gates of earthly heaven for them, the heaven that the good God wants his children to enjoy.

     When Agnes and Howard reached the deacon's, it was still early, and as they came in, Deacon Burton and his wife were seated at the dining-room table, the deacon reading the Kansas City Star, and Mrs. Burton sewing, in her leisurely, quiet manner. It was a perfect picture of happy married life, and the lovers exchanged glances in one swift moment, each silently revealing to the other what it meant in future vision of their own home.

     Deacon and Mrs. Burton were always glad to see Howard, and to-night they greeted him heartily and asked him to take off his overcoat and spend the evening.

     Howard complied with the request to remove his coat, and sitting down in front of his deacon, he said, gravely:

     "Deacon Burton, did you know there was a movement on foot in our parish, a determined movement, to break up our chorus?"

     "No! Why it can't be! The chorus is perfectly harmonious! Agnes! What----"

     The deacon paused, puzzled by a look on his daughter's face, and Mrs. Burton, who had dropped her sewing at Howard's abrupt statement, gazed keenly from him to Agnes with a dawning knowledge. But the deacon still faced Howard questioningly.

     "You are likely to lose your organist, I think. She has been invited to go to Boston, and she has promised to go if she can get the consent of her parents."

     Mrs. Burton had risen and Deacon Burton was fumbling with his glasses, as Howard went over to Agnes, and the two stepped around in front of him, Agnes blushing and tears gleaming as her father held out both hands to the minister.

     "I don't care what happens to the chorus. A duet like this suits me, all right. Been praying for it ever since you came."

     "So have I!" said Mrs. Burton, boldly.

     "Mother!" Agnes said, as her mother came and put her arms around her, while Howard, after a moment, spoke the same word.

     Deacon Burton was so excited that he tried to mop his forehead with the newspaper and afterwards stuff it into his pocket. And when Howard finally went away, the good deacon, with a faltering voice, put his hand on his shoulder and said:

     "My son, I don't know another man in the world I would rather trust her with than with you. This is a happy day for mother and me."

     But when the family was alone, Agnes Burton came and stood before her father, and there was a gleam in her eye that revealed the trait that had given her such a unique standing with the people of Red Hill, a perfect passion for truth and justice and fair dealing, so strong and aggressive that it seemed more masculine than feminine. She was happy to-night, happier than she had ever been in all her life, in the love of a strong and splendid life, and her heart sang hosanna over it. But she was also indignant, with a glorious anger that transfigured her, for the first time thrilling to think she was speaking for her "man," and the deacon, for the first time in his life, was uneasy, and actually afraid of his daughter.

     "Father!" she said, and her voice and gesture were eloquent with her new experience. "Do you know that our church is going to lose the best minister it ever had or ever will have, because it is so selfish and mercenary that it will not even take the pains to pay him promptly the pitiful salary it promised to give him?"

     "What! Not pay him! Not pay him!"

     "Yes! I have learned to-night that Mr. Chase--Howard--has not had a cent from the church for more than five weeks."

     "Then Deacon Allen is to blame," said her father, the angry colour rising on his brow. "This is his way of showing his feeling towards----"

     "No, no, father! I don't believe Deacon Allen would do that! It's all a part of our miserable, narrow, unjust view of the minister and his service. You know, for years we have always treated all our ministers this way. And it isn't because we are poor and don't have the money. Look at the men in our church. There's Deacon Allen, himself. Worth twenty thousand----"

     "Thirty," said her father shortly.

     "And Judge Vail. He has just bought a new car."

     "Yes, paid nineteen hundred and fifty dollars for it. He told me himself."

     "And there's Mr. Yoder, and Mr. Claridge, and Mr. Allston, and Mr. Myron, and Mr. Colfax, well-to-do farmers. Any one of them could pay a thousand dollars a year to the church and never feel it, and you told me yourself, father, that not one of those men ever pledges over ten a year. Think of it! Ten dollars a year for services like Howard's. And they don't pay that on time, or until our regular annual appeal to make up the deficit. And look at the money the farmers are making over their wheat and butter and eggs and meat! And the church gets a pittance. I tell you, father, I am not going to stand in the way of my husband going out of the ministry into something else, if the church does not think enough of him to pay him, not what he's worth, they couldn't raise enough in Kansas to do that, but to give him a labourer's fair wages, and pay them on time."

     Deacon Burton looked at her with a gleam of admiration. Then he turned to his wife:

     "Isn't she splendid! Mother, I don't think the minister made any mistake. She'll look after his material interests if he is too spiritual to do it himself."

     "Yes, I certainly will, father. But I don't believe you and mother or the church realised the conditions. I say Red Hill will lose the best and most useful man who ever came into it just because it is so mercenary that it will not pay for the best."

     "You said, and he said, to-night something about going away. I didn't take it seriously. Daughter, tell me what you mean."

     Deacon Burton sat up, roused to action.

     "I mean, father, that Howard has a splendid offer to go on The Youth's Companion as one of the editors at a salary of twenty-five hundred dollars a year, and I shall not persuade him to stay here unless conditions are changed."

     "Twenty-five hundred! You don't think our church could ever pay a sum like that, do you?"

     "I do! They are amply able to do it. Of course, I know they won't. And Howard would not expect it. But he has a perfect right to make his choice. And I for one shall not be unhappy if his choice takes him into this new work."

     Deacon Burton sat there eyeing the passionate figure, his grey eyes thoughtful, his mouth stern.

     At last he said, "I don't blame you, daughter. There is something wrong with our Christianity when we pay thousands for material things and hundreds for the spiritual and eternal. There is one thing we can do, and that is, to live up to our contract with Mr. Chase, and I'll see that within twenty-four hours his salary is paid or I resign from the church."

     "Oh, Father!" Agnes was down on the floor by his knees, putting her hands on his face, looking up at him like a child.

     "I am not pleading for justice for him, because he is too feeble to do his own, but because I feel the cruelty of it all, as Rose told me to-night--I almost choked as she hinted--they are supporting some one--"--then proudly--"he is a man. I am proud of him. He is able to make his way. Look at this offer! And he told me himself if it had not come, he would never have asked me to be his wife. But now--now--yes, father, if he should choose, I will go with him--yes, to the end of the earth I will go."

     "Mother and I hope you would," the deacon said, tears coursing over his face. "He is a man! And Red Hill will, I hope, some time find it out."

     "But they will not find it out until it is too late, father. He's proud, in the right way. I don't want him to leave the ministry or Red Hill. But if it is the only way he can make a living or maintain his self respect, you cannot blame him, and the church cannot criticise him for leaving. I feel as if we were not entitled to have a minister unless we can treat him at least something like Christians and not like heathens."

     "I'll see to that salary," Deacon Burton said, as Agnes rose, and went over and sat down by her mother. "And I'll see that Deacon Allen----"

     When Howard reached the parsonage, he sat up with Rose late, going over the great experience of the evening. Rose found that instead of being thrust out of the circle, she was included more affectionately within it, if that were possible. And when she retired she wiped away happy tears, at the thought of her brother's happiness, in spite of the fact that she had lost her own.

     Howard Chase went into his study and sat at his little desk, his eyes on the picture of his Lord, his whole being moved by the great joy that had come to him that night, and finding his soul responding to the spiritual emotions that were a real and healthy part of his nature.

     He was, in one true sense, awed by what had come to him. He had not intended to speak to Miss Burton until he had decided on his future. But his chance knowledge of her own feeling coming to him as he sat there in the darkness of his study, the sure knowledge that he held in his own hand the ability to make her a home, the insistent cry of his own need of her added to all the rest, had precipitated his action, and she had pledged herself to him with sacred, joyful, tearful consecration of all she was, to be his wedded wife, no matter what his decision as to his future. She trusted him fully, and believed in him implicitly. And it was that great fact more than anything else that awed and humbled him now in the midst of his great joy. Before he retired that night, there in the little study, he fell on his knees before his desk and thanked the good God for the priceless boon of a woman's love, of the one in all the world who would stand by his side and walk with him down the path, her hand in his, through the tremendous years.

     Next evening, while Howard was in his study, the bell rang, and going to the door, he faced Deacon Allen.

     There was a queer look on the deacon's face, as if the day had contained some unusual experiences, and as Howard ushered him cheerfully into the study and shut the door, the deacon glanced at him apprehensively, as if looking for something not externally visible on Howard's face.

     He sat down, and after mopping his brow with an unusually big handkerchief he put his hand in his coat pocket and brought out an envelope and laid it down on the study desk.

     "There is your back salary and a month in advance, Brother Chase. I regret, the church regrets, the inconvenience we may have caused you by our delay in making you the payment. We should have been more prompt."

     "Thank you," said Howard, simply. And he added, frankly: "The money will be very acceptable, I assure you, and I appreciate the advance payment."

     Deacon Allen gazed at him seriously.

     "I trust, Brother Chase, that you are not thinking of leaving us, that you are not planning to go away. We need you here."

     "I have not made up my mind, yet, what I shall do," Howard replied gravely, his mind leaping quickly to the thought that Deacon Allen had probably come to his knowledge from Deacon Burton.

     "Of course, we can never pay you what you could get elsewhere," the deacon continued, looking wistfully at Howard. "We know that, quite well, and we wouldn't want to stand in the way of your advancement. But we need you here, and it would be a great loss if you should leave us."

     "You don't mean, Deacon Allen, that you would miss me personally. Just think! You wouldn't have to be worried over my theology any more, and you could go to church without being uncertain about what was going to happen to the order of service!"

     Howard said, not flippantly at all, but with a frank, good nature that Deacon Allen had at last come to understand.

     The old man gazed at him seriously. Then a rare smile crossed his plain face. His lips quivered, and the next instant a tear, a real human tear dropped down on his rough wrinkled hand.

     It was so eloquent of the deacon's real feeling that Howard did not know what to say or how to act. At last, he put out his strong right hand and laid it gently on Deacon Allen's. And the old man understood, and from that hour a friendship was cemented between the old and the new man that I verily believe nothing, not even the use of any number of unauthorised versions of the Bible, will ever destroy.

     Next day all Red Hill knew that the minister was engaged to Miss Burton, or she was engaged to him, or that both of them were engaged.

     And to do Red Hill justice, it was honestly and cheerfully and unanimously in favour of the engagement. As the Expressman said to the Agent:

     "They needn't put off the wedding on our account. I never did believe in these long engagements. It's an awful waste of flowers and candy and electricity an'----"

     "What do you know about it?" interrupted the Agent. "You never was engaged except to get trunks down to the station."

     "You don't have to be everything to know something," replied the Expressman.

     "I hope they'll have the weddin' outdoors so the hull town can get to go."

     "How do you know you'll be invited?"

     "I don't. But I kind-a guess it'll be a general invite. It wouldn't be like Mr. Chase to run a de lux train on this life excursion."

     "No," said the Agent. "You're right. It'll be an accommodation, and take on any old passenger, flag station at every corner of Red Hill and out into the R. F. D."

     "You want to get that poem trimmed up so's it'll walk straight," said the Expressman. "I mean the one about the bachelor and the lass. You couldn't add another verse, could you?"

     "No, I couldn't. The whole story is put into two sections. Couldn't run in another without changin' the time card."

     "O well, it's pretty good the way it is. Put it into a box of candy or wrap it up in a round trip ticket to the Grand Canyon so's it'll have some real value. But there's a thing worryin' me some. Have you heard Mr. Chase is likely to leave Red Hill and go away after he's married?"

     "No. 'Tain't true."

     "Maybe not. But I got it pretty straight. He's goin' onto some magazine or other down east.

     "They've offered him five thousand dollars a year. The church couldn't raise that much in a life time. That is, not all to oncet."

     "I don't believe Mr. Chase'll go just for money."

     "No. But he might go for other reasons. But I hope he won't. We need him here."

     Within the next two days all Red Hill, including the country districts, knew that Howard Chase, the Congregational minister, was likely to leave, and go back east taking his wife with him. For once, Red Hill began to wake up to the value of an individual, as well as to an acre of land or a bushel of wheat or a fat hog. Groups of farmers discussed the story, going over the probability, Howard's future salary had now grown from five thousand to twelve thousand and even fifteen thousand dollars a year. Most people did not blame him for going. The church people discussed the question gravely, but there was no general agreement among them as to any course of action to keep Brother Chase with them. If he had an offer like that, it was out of the question to prevail on him to remain in Red Hill.

     Howard himself faced a real crisis, and was deeply concerned over it. The letter must be answered, and he was not clear in his heart or mind as to the right answer. He talked it over one evening with Agnes. Rose was present, at the request of each of them. Howard had frankly told Agnes about Cousin Alfred and the poor house. Now that she was going to be one of the family, she insisted on bearing or sharing all the family burdens.

     "No one can know this but ourselves," Howard had said. "But it is of no use to conceal the practical facts, or deny that the expense of Cousin Alfred's care will be heavy. The question is whether I can meet it with my salary here, and keep up my own expenses, and keep out of debt. I would almost as soon be in the poor house as in debt. And besides, I have a wife to support now. Or shall have soon,"--it was now March, and they had fixed on the first of May for the wedding--"and I can support her on this offer."

     They were sitting in the little study, and Howard laid his hand on the Youth's Companion envelope, which lay on his desk.

     "I don't see any other way," Rose said. "The church will never offer you any more than you are getting now. You cannot afford, either of you, to refuse this offer. It will never come to you again."

     Howard looked first at his sister and then at Agnes.

     Agnes Burton returned his look with perfect understanding of what he now said.

     "I made the ministry my choice. I deliberately went into it, knowing its hardships and its small financial returns. It will always be this way. I have a hunger to preach. I love people. I seem to feel as if I were breaking a sacred vow to God if I leave the ministry to go into an editor's sanctum. But I don't know just what else I can do under the circumstances. Agnes, I wish--I wish you could decide it for me."

     "Howard! I will go where you go. I will accept your decision as my own. I have no choice but yours!"

     She said it with all her heart, and he knew.

     "But," said practical Rose, "I don't see that there is any choice, really. Howard cannot meet his obligations on the salary here. He can meet them with the Companion offer. And while I know he is born to preach and do parish work, and ought not to go out of the ministry, what else can he do?"

     They talked over the matter from every angle. And when Howard came back from Deacon Burton's after going home with Agnes, he went over it again with Rose, and when he finally kissed her good-night and went into his study he was still hesitating and debating with himself.

     "I might write more," he had said. "I can sit up later, and take time without robbing the church of what I owe it. And in that way perhaps make enough to keep Cousin Alfred."

     Rose had doubted this, but Howard had held to it, not stubbornly but with some emphasis, as a way out.

     He went into his study after Rose had retired, and eyed the Companion envelope as if it were a live thing tormenting him. Suddenly he knelt and spread his hands out over his desk, the envelope under them. Then, when he rose, he seemed to have fully made up his mind.

     He directed an envelope to the Companion editor, and then began a letter.

     He had written two or three sentences, when a gentle rap at the door brought him out into the sitting-room.

     Mr. Wilson was on the porch.

     "We think Lida is dying, Mr. Chase. She spoke your name a little while ago. Could you come up?"

     Without a word, Howard put on his hat and coat, and went out with Mr. Wilson, leaving his unwritten letter lying on his desk.

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