The Jewel of Consistency
JOSEPH C. LINCOLN IN AINSLEE'S
Everett Brewer was an artist who had no great love for work. In order to gain the charity of the churchworkers he did not hesitate to practice the greatest deception. The following story shows his dealings with one religious denomination in which he came out victorious despite the protests from these people.
THE clock in the cheery living-room —not “settin’-room,” or “front parlor,” although the Johnson cottage was located in East Harniss— struck seven, and the Reverend Charles Dayton, remembering that seven was the hour of his parish committee meeting, intimated that he must be going. Miss Mary Johnson, upon whom the Reverend Charles was calling, politely begged him not to hurry. To the minister, however, her tone seemed to lack the earnest cordiality which it was wont to have. Miss Johnson and Mr. Dayton had been engaged in an argument. The clergyman seemed troubled and hesitant. Miss Johnson was, to all outward appearing, calm and determined.
“Well,” sighed the minister, sadly, “you may be right. No doubt you are right, from a purely practical point of view. But I like the Brewers ; I confess it. They are devout people. Constant attendants at church, and-”
, “That,” interrupted Miss Johnson, “is the very lèast they could be.”
“And I sympathize with Mr. Brewer's ill-health. And I admire the neatgess with which Mrs. Brewer dresses the children.”
“In clothes contributed by the church people.”
“Yes. Yes, of course ; but they can afford no others. And I understand their house rent is always paid promptly."
“With the church’s money. And it is paid because, if it wasn’t, Captain
Blake would turn the family out of doors at once, and Everett Brewer knows it.”
“The rent is not always paid with the church's money,” declared Mr. Dayton, stoutly. “The sale of Mr. Brewer’s paintings has--”
“Who bought the paintings ? The church people, of course, out of pure charity, and because they like you. Do you suppose anyone—even the natives here, who adore spatter-work mottos and crayon enlargements, would possibly buy Everett Brewer's horrors for any other reasons' ? I bought five horrors, I believe, and you must have as many.”
The clergyman was strongly tempted to ask if Miss Johnson had bought her share of the paintings because she liked him. But, in the midst of this, their first difference of opinion since he had known her, he did not care. He rose and moved toward the door.
“Then you think-” he hesitated.
“I think that the Brewers have been fed and housed and clothed by the church people long enough. I think that they should be made to understand it. t think that Everett Brewer’s ill-health and his wife’s ill-health, and his ridiculous painting, have been pampered long enough. I should refuse him another cent from the church until he went to work—real work, not loitering about with a palette and brush.”
“But, Miss Johnson, don’t you realize that the artistic temperament is such
that it unfits one for ordinary business ? Even if Brewer were well, which we all know is not the case, he-”
“Mr. Dayton, please don’t make me lose patience. I cannot consistently agree to the church’s charity being further extended to those Brewers. And, above all else. 1 try to be consistent.”
The caller sighed. “I, too, try to be consistent,” he said. “But I have always believed that devotion to an ideal —devotion that rises above poverty and pride—is a grand thing, even though the ideal is a mistaken one, as it may be in the Brewer case. And I have always thought that it should be encouraged.”
“Then I am afraid that our ideas of consistency differ,” replied Miss Johnson, with decision. “Sympathy should not interfere with reason.”
“Good-by,” said Mr. Dayton, extending his hand.
“Good-by. I hope your vacation will be a pleasant one. Shall—shall I see you again before you go ?”
“Perhaps so. I—IGood-by.”
He descended the porch steps and walked slowly to the gate. Old Mrs. Pepper, peeping under the windowshade of her home across the road, watched him go.
“He's been in there twenty-two minutes by the clock, she declared. “And it’s the third time this week, too. And he’ll be late for committee-meetin’, sure pop. D’you s’pose he's asked her yit ? I should hate to have anybody else find out about the engagement afore we did, bein’ next-door neighbors, as you might say.”
The young clergyman—for he was young—moved slowly along the sidewalk. The evening’s call had been very disappointing. He had meant to ask Miss Johnson if he might not correspond with her while on his vacation. He had half-meant to be brave and ask something vastly more important. But like a perverse jack-in-the-box, Everett Brewer’s name had bobbed up, and the difference of opinion had followed. And to-morrow he—the minister— was to
leave town for a month, and when he returned the Johnson cottage would be closed, and Marv Johnson and her
mother would have gone to their city home, to return not until the following spring. And all sorts of things might happen in the interval. And there was the Brewer question to be settled that night at the meeting of the parish committee.
The committee was waiting by the vestry door. Mr. Dayton apologized for his tardiness, stating that he had been delayed by a call upon a member of the congregation. The committeemen accepted the apology, and glanced knowingly at each other. Everyone in East Harniss knew where the minister called most frequently, how often he called, and how long he stayed.
It was a proof of Mr. Dayton’s popularity, this fact that he was invited to all meetings of the parish committee, except those dealing with subjects touching upon his own position, the increase of his salary, and the like. His parishioners were devoted to him to an extent which led Captain Blake, the scoffer, to affirm that, “You folks don’t go to meetin’ to worship the Lord A’mighty. You go to worship the minister.”
So, in the absence of the chairman, Darius Eldredge, then on a fishing cruise, Mr. Dayton was asked to preside, and did so. Elnathan Snow, as secretary and treasurer, read the minutes of the previous meeting. Then there was a pause, during which the members fidgeted uneasily. At length Mr. Snow spoke again.
“Mr. Dayton,” he said, “as of course you know, there’s only one question for this meetin’ to decide to-night, and that’s about Ev. Brewer. .'Shall the East Harniss Baptist Church go on supportin’ him and his tribe or not ? That’s the question.
The minister nodded. He was only too well aware of the purpose of the meeting.
“That bein’ the case,” continued Elnathan, “and you havin’ been with us less’n a year, and maybe not knowin’ all the ins and outs of the thing, the committee have thought it best to let me run over the facts for a minute, so’s we’ll all have our bearin’s and start fair.
“The Brewers landed here in East
Harniss about two years ago," went on the secretary and treasurer. "Nobody knew where they come from, and nobody knows yet. But Ev. Brewer was 'an artist’—anyhow, he said he was— and was ‘dreadful poorly in health’— he said that, too. And Etta, his wife, she was ‘poorly.’ And his children was pretty to look at, and mighty cute and polite ; but that ain’t strange, the whole family is the politest, smoothest talkin’, most obligin’ critters that ever 1 come across. After I’d talked with Ev. the first time, I made up my mind he could have my other coat if he wanted it—and he’s come pretty nigh to gettin’ it. at that.
"Well, maybe East Harniss was kind of proud to own a live artist. There’s precious few summer folks comes here. The Johnsons are the only regulars, and they’ve done a heap for the town and the society. So the Brewers was welcome, and when they took that little old, run-down house of Cap’n Sylvanus’, all hands was glad, includin' the cap’n ; he’d had the shack on his hands a good while, havin’ took it on a mortgage, same as he has most of his property.
"Of course we knew Ev. wa’n’t well off, else he’d never taken that house. But just how we learned how mighty poor he was ain’t quite clear to anybody. I guess the women found it out at sewin’-circle, from the way Etta Brewer dressed, or somethin’ the young ones said at Sunday School. The whole family come to church the first Sunday, and they ain’t missed a meetin’, night or day, sence. They’re as devout as the Twelve Apostles — not tneanin’ nothin’ irreverent.
"Anyway, the society folks got to helpin’ ’em, sendin’ ’em grub and clothes, and the like of that. And they was always so ashamed to take it, but so grateful, that it made you feel almost as if they was doin’ you a favor, instead of t’other way. And Ev. kept on paintin’ like fury, and always tellin’ how he was just goin’ to sell one of his pictures, and we all pitied him, and liked him. Yes, there’s no use in talkin’, we like him yet. He just makes you do it.
"So things have gone on steady till for more’n a year this church has furnished rent-monej7 and clothes and everything else to them Brewers. And now we’re gettin’ suspicious. We begin to think it’s a put-up job on us. And we’ve about decided to quit. That’s the yarn, Mr. Dayton, and that’s the way we feel. But we know you feel diff’rent, and we’d like your opinion."
The troubled expression which the minister had worn since his call at the Johnsons’ had deepened. He « hesitated as he replied.
"I scarcely know what to say," he said slowly. "Of course, I realize that Brewer is an impractical man—er— hopelessly impractical. Perhaps I sympathize with him there, being somewhat impractical myself. And I fear his paintings are not strictly high art. I have purchased several of his pictures and-’’
"Christopher !" broke in Beriah Judd. "Who haln’t ? Last one I brought home from the fair—give a dollar and thirty-five cents for it—my wife says ; says she : ‘Beriah,’ she says, ‘what on airth are you goin’ to do with that chromo '? There ain’t a room in the house that hain’t got two of ’em at least hangin’ on the walls—that is, except the children’s bedroom, and if we put it in there, the young ones couldn't sleep o' nights.’ You see, Ev. labelled it, ‘The Dyin’ Martyr,’ and ’twas horrible enough to give a grown-up man the fantods. He does love to paint the mournfullest things ! So we put it out in the barn. And the cow ain’t been herself sence," he added dryly.
"A funeral is a thanksgivin’ lovefeast alongside of Ev. Brewer’s pictures," declared Elnathan.
David Macomber, who had just returned from a trip to the city, and was wearing a pair of new and tight shoes purchased in the metropolis, rubbed his left foot, scowled, and observed tartly :
"His pictures are no good, and he’s no good, either, ’cordin’ to my way of thinkin’. Now it’s time to quit, I say. He owes everybody in town. He owes me, thanks to my soft-headedness and
that slick tongue of his. And I say quit—that’s my vote—quit.”
His fellow committee-men nodded in evident approval.
“I guess we all feel the same way, Mr. Dayton.” assented Mr. Snow “That is, everybody but you. We don’t feel that just because we can’t help likin’ Ev. Brewer is a good reason why we should pay his bills forever.”
“If a position might be offered him bv one of us.” hesitated the minister, “it-”
There was a unanimous grunt of dissent. Beriah Judd said :
“Ev. don’t want any job. He’s been offered three or four, but he was 'too sick’ to take 'em. or else he was ‘just goin’ to sell a picture’ somewheres for a big price or some other excuse. I cal’late the plain truth is that he don’t want to work.”
“We like you, Mr. Dayton ; the whole town likes you—you know that,” put in Macomber. “We know you’re dead set on livin’ up to ideals and sech. You’ve preached about devotion to an ideal more’n once, and they was movin’ sermons, I’ll say that for ’em. But this society’s too blasted—excuse my swearin’—too everlastin’ poor to support devotion forever. We won’t ask you to vote on this matter, ’cause, of course, you couldn’t consistently vote but one way. We understand your position, and I’m sure you’ll understand ours, and there won’t be no ill feelin’. Let's have it over with. Mr. Chairman, I move that this committee notify Ev. Brewer that the East Harniss Baptist Church can’t give him no more help, money, nor no other kind.”,
“Second the motion,” said Mr. Snow.
Mr. Dayton, as in duty bound, put the question.
“All those in favor of the motion as put, will say ‘Aye,’ ” he commanded. “Contrary-minded ‘No.’ The Ayes have it. It is a vote.”
The committee-men were staring in wonder at their chairman. “ Excuse me, Mr Dayton,” stammered Judd, “but am I gittin’ crooked in my hearin’ ? Didn’t you say ‘Aye V
The minister was gazing sadly at the floor. “Yes,” he answered.
“But—but we know how you feel about it. You wa’n’t called on to jibe in with us. We’d swear by you same as ever if-”
Mr. Dayton held up his hand. “Thank you, Beriah,” he said. “But I am determined not to allow my own beliefs—or inclinations—to sway me in the face of the advice of those who —whose opinion 1 respect. 1 I voted ‘Aye,’ and I shall stand by my vote.”
The meeting broke up shortly after this. The Reverend Charles departed, his farewells given absent-mindedly, and his manner sad and downcast. The committee-men stood upon the vestrj steps and watched him go. Elnathan jammed his hands into his trousers pockets.
“Ain’t a feller’s conscience the » most fool thing ?” he observed, with emphasis. ‘Now I know we’ve done just right, and yet I feel as if I’d robbed my grandmarm.”
“I feel the same way,” said Beriah. “I voted ‘Aye’ as loud as the rest of you, but I swan to man I hated to hear Mr. Dayton do it. He’s always been such a sticker for principle that it disapp’nted me, his givin’ in. It didn’t seem consistent, somehow. I do lik# consistency.”
And, oddly enough, Mary Johnson made a similar remark to her mother when she heard of the clergyman’s vote.
As for Mr. Dayton, he spent a troubled night. During the next morning he called at the Johnson cottage, but Mary was out. That afternoon he left town for his long-anticipated vacation. On the hill by the station he paused, and looked across the fields to where the little Brewer home stood at the edge of the pines. There would be sorrow in that home before night, and his vote—however conscientiously cast —had helped to bring it there. At that moment, a big red hand fell upon his shoulder.
“Dayton,” said Captain Sylvanus Blake, with enthusiasm, “I want to beg your pardon. You’ve got more sense than I thought you had. I always caT-
Iated you was one of them dream in’ softies like most ministers. But when I heard that you spoke up like a man, to shut down on that paint-slingin’ loafer in my house, I took it all back. I’ve wanted to fire the critter long ago, but when the fools at the church paid bis bills, I couldn’t. He’ll go now, though, and go a-flyin’. The rent was due a week ago. But I'm glad to learn that you’re a man, and I say, ‘Bully for you ! ’
Captain Blake was the village nabob and “free-thinker,” a man “well found” financially and utterly lost morally. To discover that one’s action is approved by a notorious infidel is not gratifying to an earnest believer like Mr. Dayton. His vacation began dismally enough. The thought that Mary Johnson would discern that he had voted as he did, because of her counsel, was his sole consolation.
The vacation trip of a country clergyman who is dependent upon his salary is of necessity neither extensive nor expensive. Mr. Dayton’s itinerary was a list of relatives, who expected yearly visits from him, and whose expectations were usually realized. His first stopping-place was at the home of a cousin in a small town in western New Hampshire. There he found the two youngest children of the family “coming down” with the measles, and, realizing that measles and visitors were a heavy burden on one little household, the minister immediately departed, in spite of protestations, for the next place on the list, the residence of an uncle in Vermont, lie spent a fortnight there, and then migrated to another cousin’s in a Massachusetts manufacturing town.
Here there were no measles, and he was made welcome. As he sat with this cousin in the library, on an evening shortly after his arrival, the cousin’s wife entered with the afternoon’s mail.
“Here is something for you, Charles,” she said. “It was sent to you at Ed.’s first, and I think the children’s illness must have caused Ed. to forget it, for it was not forwarded to Uncle William’s until two days ago Uncle re-forwarded it here, and you
have it at last. I guess it’s nothing important ; only a newspaper."
Mr. Dayton took the paper and tore off the wrapper.
“Nothing startling, I imagine,” he laughed. “Only a copy of the Harniss Weekly Advocate. Now I shall learn whose barn has been ‘treated with a new coat of whitewash.’ Let me see ; the East Harniss correspondence is always on the second page.”
He turned to the second page, found the East Harniss column, and began to read. Suddenly he uttered an* exclamation.
“What's the matter V’ inquired his cousin, lazily. "Someone's cow' dead ?”
“Why ! Wh\, this is dreadful !" exclaimed the minister, in great agitation. “Just listen to this. This paper is two weeks old, too. Listen ! “A sad occurrence took place in our prosperous little village on the night of the sixteenth," he read aloud, adding : “The
very night after I came away ; just think of it ! ‘Captain Dari its
Eldredge, skipper of the ‘ : fine
power-boat, Rebecca R., having got in late from a successful trip after pollock, was walking over from Harniss Centre at about 11 p.m., when he noticed a curious light in the window of the house on the wood road owned by Captain Sylvanus Blake, one of our wealthy residents. Captain . Eldredge, with his customary shrewdness, recognized that something was wrong, and at once hurried across the field to see about it. I íe found that the kitchen was all on fire inside. Captain Eldredge raised an alarm .... etc., etc.’ ” . •
-There was a half-column more. E-ires in East Harniss were a rarity, and the local correspondent made the most of this one. Mr. Dayton read on in an awestruck tone :
“The residence was completely demolished, not a stick being left standing. Mr. Everett Brewer, the well known artist, and his family who occupied the house, were left absolutely destitute.. Their case was pitiable, indeed. , To see them, seated upon the ruins of a chicken-coop and gazing hopelessly, yet with a bravery wonderful under the circum-
stances, at the charred remains of their home must have struck remorse to the hearts of certain members of our community. That remorse is felt is evidenced by the changed attitude oí these persons. They are the leaders in a charitable effort to aid the stricken ones. Clothes, food, articles of furniture, etc., have already been donated in large numbers. A committee, headed by Mr. Elnathan Snow, is busy adding tu the list. Further particulars will be given in our next communication.'
The minister dropped the Advocate and struck his hands together. “Splendid !” he cried. “How nobly they have come to the rescue. And yet, every one of them voted ‘Aye.’ I did, too, to my shame be it said.”
His cousin seemed remarkably interested. “Who were the people burnt out ? What do you mean by voting ? Tell us about it,” he said.
So Mr. Da57ton told the whole story, beginning with the coming of the Brewers to East Harniss, as it had been told to him, and concluding with the momentous action of himself and the parish committee.
“Wait a minute,” interrupted the cousin. “What did you say the man's name was ?”
“Brewer. Everett Brewer.”
Ts he a rather thin, sharp-faced chap with black hair and the most ingratia ting, saintlike smile on earth ?”
“He has a pleasant smile, but-”
Ts his wife a small woman, who wears glasses, and has a mole on one cheek ?”
“Yes. She is. Why ? You don’t mean you know them !”
And then Mr. Dayton’s cousin laughed, laughed long and heartily, and his wife joined in the merriment.
“Know ’em ?” he repeated. “I should say we did ! Why, the fellow lived in this town for three years. They’re church dead-beats ; it’s their regular game to be subjects of church charity. As fast as one denomination finds them out, they join the next. They were everything from Second Adventists to Universalists while they were here, and just as the last society was disgusted with them and ready to let
them either work or starve, one or the other, the Brewer woman’s aunt died and left them enough money to get out of town with. And so they went from here to East Harniss, hey ? And he’s an artist now, is he ? Well, he was an ‘inventor’ here, although I believe he did paing an occasional daub, for: amusement.”
On the evening following that during which this astounding disclosure was made, a single passenger alighted from the train at East Harniss. The driver of the “depot wagon” recognized this passenger, and was greatly astonished.
“Why, Mr. Dayton !” he exclaimed. “Is this you ? Back again so soon ? Thought you was eal’iatin’ to be away a month, and ’tain’t three weeks yet. Get right aboard the wagon, won’t ye?”
But the minister declined to get aboard. He would walk to the village, he said. He did not explain his unex pected return, but strode off down the road, indignation in his eye and determination in his manner. The Reverend Charles Dayton having been smitten upon the one cheek, did not, in this case, intend to turn the other. He and his parishioners had been victimized by an impostor, and he had hastened home to expose the rascal.
It was too dark for him to see the ruins of the Brewer home, but, as he turned from the “depot road” into the main street, he noticed a light in the window of a small house near the corner. He remembered it as a pleasant little dwelling, belonging, like many others, to Captain Syivanus Blake ; also he remembered that it had'been untenanted for some time. Vaguely wondering who had moved in during his absence, and speculating as to the possibility of the newcomer’s being a religious person and a Baptist, he strode on. Then he noticed that the vestry of the “meeting-house” was lighted, and that there were shadows on the window-shades. Evidently there was a gathering of some sort within. He determined to investigate. Perhaps the Brewers were there ; if so, they were in for a lively session.
But the Brewers were not in the
vestry. Instead, Mr. Dayton faced the members of his own parish committee. They were astonished at their pastor’s return, but they welcomed him with delighted handshakes and exclamations.
“No, ’tain’t a parish meetin’ exactly,” explained Elnathan Snow, in answer to the minister’s question. “Fact
is, you see, Mr. Dayton, we just got together to have some talk about them poor Brewers. I s’pose you knew they was burned out of house and home ?”
Yes, Mr. Dayton did know it, had read the account in the Advocate ; it was that piece of news which had brought him back so unexpectedly.
“Well, the fact is, Mr. Dayton,’’ continued Elnathan, “your cornin’ home ahead of time has upset our plans a little mite. We’ve done consider’ble, and we was plannin’ to do more, and surprsie you when you did come. I calíate we’ve been the most consciencestruck crowd on the cape.”
“You bet we have !” concurred David Macomber, with enthusiasm.
Mr. Snow continued :
“I guessed you must have thought we was dreadful hard-hearted at that committee meetin’, parson,” he said. “Well, I ain’t offerin’ no excuses ; we was hard-hearted when we thought we was businesslike and smart, to shut down on helpin’ a fellow critter in trouble. We realize now, though, that you was right, and we’ve tried to make up for
“The next mornin’ after Ev. was burned out, I met Beriah here at the postoffice, and he looked the way I felt—sick. “Nate,’ says he, ‘I’ve made up my mind that we’re all a gang of chicken-stealers, the meanest crew on earth. To think,’ he says, ‘that after Mr. Dayton’s talkin’ as noble as he done, and us settin' back and makin’ him vote against his principles, that this thing should happen. It’s a lesson sent by Providence,’ says he.
“Seems he, like everybody else, had felt mean inside ever sence the meetin’. His mind says : ‘You done right ;’ his heart says : ‘You didn’t, neither.’ And when, same as the rest of us, he went to that fire and saw them poor, suS’riu’ invalids lose everything they owned, G
and saw how well they bore up under it, he went home and broke down and cried. And, says he to me, ‘Nate,’ he sajrs, ‘I don’t care what you think of me ; I’m goin’ to help Ev. and his folks get on their feet, if it breaks me.’
“Well, I was feelin’ the same way, and so was Dave and all hands. We pitched in an give everything we could rake or scrape. The sewin’-circle give clothes enough to last the Brewers a year or more. And the women baked cake and pie and bread and everything. And we men give groceries, .and salt fish, and corned beef from the stores, and coal and wood, and I don’t know what all. Everybody give somethin’— everybody but the Johnsons, they didn’t."
“Even Blake,” chuckled Mr. Judd. “Tell ’em about Cap’n Sylvanus. Nate.”
“Oh, yes ; that’s the most surprisin’ part. Shows that you can’t never judge a person clear through, even though he looks to be closer’n the bark of a tree and meaner than a smokedherrin’ chowder. Four or five days after the fire I met Cap’n Sylvanus along the road, and says he : ‘I understand you good Samaritans are helpin’ Ev. Brewer again,’ he says. ‘Yes,’ says 1. ‘we are.’ ‘Well,’ says he, ‘I calTate I d ought to do m37 part. They can live in that empty house of mine by the depot road,’ he says. ‘Ev. knows about it We settled it this mornin’.' You could have knocked me down with a duster. To think of old Blake’s doin’ an act of charity ! It beats me, and it does yet.”
“And so,” cut’ in Macomber, “we moved Ev. and his folks into Cap’n Sylvanus’ house, and there the37 be, comf’table and happy—fixed for the 'winter. And to-night Beriah’s had the idea of lettin’ Ev. paint his butchershop. ’Twill be kind of in Ev.’s line, paintin’ wil,, and he can sling in some fancy touches, if he wants to. The money’ll help keep ’em for a good spell. We sent word of the job by one of Ev.’s children just now. Won’t Brewer be happy, hey ? He can support himself for awhile and be paintin’, at that.”
“I hope to the land he don’t put in
any of them dyin’ martyrs of his,” observed Mr. Judd, looking troubled “However, I’ll forgive him if he does. I'm only too glad to do somethin’ to show I ain’t as mean as I thought I was. For fellers that preached consistency, we’re a queer crowd, Mr. Dayton, but I guess it’s better to be generous than consistent. You’ll agree to that, parson, won’t you ?”
The minister rose to his feet.
“No !” he shouted vehemently; “I won’t agree to it. I have discovered something while away that—that shakes my faith in human nature. Listen to this, gentlemen.”
He told of his discovery concerning the Brewers. Told all that his cousin had revealed, and that was much. His hearers listened breathlessly. When the tale was finished, the committee stared at the minister and each other. Judd was the first to recover.
“The—the cheatin’, stealin’, goodfor-nothin’ !” he shouted. “I’ll—I don’t know but we’d better lynch him. And to think of me offerin’ to let him paint his miserable outrages all over my shop. Well, by time ! he’ll find out-”
There was a knock at the door. One of the Brewer boys, the older, stood there, holding a letter.
“Good evening,” he said, with the unfailing family politeness. “Here’s a note father sent to you, Mr. Judd. There’s no answer. Good-night.”
He disappeared hurriedly. Beriah tore open the envelope and read the following aloud :
“Dear Mr. Judd : I thank you for your well-meant offer concerning the decorating of your place of business. But I cannot conscientiously accept, for two reasons. First, my health will not warrant risking the exertion implied. Second—and you will pardon me, Mr. Judd—I do not feel that house-painting is in keeping with my dignity as an artist. Having a home once more, and money of my own, I shall continue the struggle toward the attainment of the ideal in my profession. Again thanking you, I am.
“By thunder!” shouted Macomber,
while Mr. Judd was too overcome by the letter to do more than gurgle and brandish his fists. “There’s one thing we can do to get square, and let’s do it now, this minute. Let’s go up and see Blake, and tell him the whole yarn. Then he’ll turn them dead-beats out of that house of his, bag and baggage.”
“But Brewer says he’s got money,” cried Elnathan. “Where’d he get it ? None of us had any money to give him, and the church ain’t voted any— not yet.”
“Never mind. Come on, everybody ! Let’s see Captain Sylvanus.
The captain met them at the door of his mansion. He did not ask them in. Mr. Dayton, acting as spokesman, disclosed the Brewer perfidy and voiced the mission of the delegation.
“Want me to turn ’em out, hey ?” chuckled Captain Blake. “Well, I can’t, not for six months, anyway. Ev. Brewer came round to see me with a roll of bills in his fist, wanted to hire that house of mine that’s been empty so long, and paid me six months’ rent in advance—ten dollars a month, sixty dollars altogether. I got the insurance on his old house, more’n I ever expected to get for it, and Ev.’s got another house now, and he can live in it till his time’s up. I guess he’ll live easy, too ; judgin’ by what I hear about the donations you folks have given him. And at the
end of six monthsWell, that house
may burn down too ; you can’t tell.”
“But—but, Captain Blake,” faltered the clergyman, “do you mean to say he has hired the house, rented it, and paid for it ?”
“Sartin sure ! Don’t s’pose I’m givin’ my property away to loafers, do you ? I ain’t a charity softy.”
This chronicle ends, as it began, with a call upon Miss Johnson. And again Mr. Dayton was the caller. Having ascertained that the Johnsons were still at East Harniss, although they were to leave before the end of the week, the Reverend Charles bade the disgusted parish committee a hasty good-night and walked briskly down the street. Miss Johnson was surprised but apparently glad to see him. She wished
to know what had caused his sudden return.
The minister told her. He concluded by saying :
“And so that rascally Brewer is better oh than ever before. He has money, too, though goodness knows where he got it. But that’s neither here nor there. I came to beg your pardon and to acknowledge my mistake. You were right and I was wrong.”
“But you voted to discontinue the church’s aid for the Brewers. That was inconsistent.”
“I did, but not because I thought it right. I voted because I thought it might please you ; that’s the real truth. And I was weak enough to allow my conscience to trouble me for days afterward. The committee was weak, too, and acted directly against its professed principles. And we all preached consistency. Consistency ! Humph ! Miss Johnson, you have been the only consistent person in this whole matter. You have practised what you preached.”
The young lady began to laugh.
“Oh, no ! I haven’t.” she protested.
“I haven’t at all. I am the one who gave Mr. Brewer the money.”
“You ? You gave-”
“Yes. When I heard how you had voted, I surmised that it was done to please me, and my conscience troubled me at least as much as yours troubled you. And, after the fire, it troubled me still more ; so I sent the Brewers a cheque for one hundred and fifty dollass. I thought you would be glad to
learn that I had done this and-”
“Did—did you do it because of me ?” The conversation took a new turn just here, and the Brewers were not mentioned for the next hour or more. Only at the last, as they stood together on-the porch, did the minister refer to the “artist.”
“Well, Mary,” he said happily, “we have all been inconsistent, I guess, but I’m glad, very glad of it. And I still maintain that there is one consistent person in town. Captain Sylvanus Blake appears to have been consistent all through ; he is the one.”
“I think there is one other,” replied Miss Johnson. “You forget him of the ‘artistic temperament,’ Everett Brewer.”
Opportunity has been pictured as knocking but once at every man’s door. This is a mistaken idea—she knocks continually, but if the occupant, as it were, has not the ability and bold aggressive decision he is simply deaf to all entreaties of dame fortune and lets opportunity quietly knock.