THE GRAPES OF ESHCOL.
THE Rev. Caesar
Snape was ashamed of himself. This was not at all an uncommon
state of mind for him to be in, for, as a matter of fact, he was
oftener in that condition than any other, especially in a morning.
He was a Wesleyan probationer, and lived alone in Mrs. Pendlebury's
small upstairs front room, overlooking the parish church in the High
He was the junior minister of the circuit, and though he had
never heard of Muggridge until the Conference appointed him to it,
he had since discovered that it was a very important place indeed;
in fact, it would have been impossible for the Stationing Committee
to have selected a circuit that would not have assumed this aspect
in the Rev. Caesar's eyes the moment he found himself allocated to
it. It was generally regarded as a country circuit, but the
new minister had soon discovered that it ought to be reckoned as at
least a semi-suburban one, being only eleven miles as the crow flies
from the head of the district.
"Fifty-nine trains pass through Muggridge every day," he used
to say impressively to his friends; and he was surprised and a
little hurt when somebody suggested that he might as well make it
sixty, and some one else asked how many of the trains stopped.
Ministerially, the Rev. Caesar regarded himself as something
of an impostor, whom the Muggridge Wesleyans had not yet found out.
To his amazement they seemed quite resigned to him, and some of them
even affected to enjoy his ministry.
What confiding, even credulous people the Wesleyans were!
Taking everybody to be as high-minded and devoted as themselves,
they had always insisted upon regarding him as a godly,
self-sacrificing, and able young fellow, and had insisted on his
entering the ministry! Ah, they little knew! Every
Methodist believed that no man was fit for the ministry who wanted
to be in it, and he had been literally consumed with ambition for
the sacred office. The "call" only came to those who were in a
high state of grace, and he had desired it whilst he was still a
hardened sinner. (A surreptitious smoker of cigarettes and a
reader of mild fiction.)
A true minister was always oppressed with an awful sense of
the responsibilities of his office, and would gladly lay it down if
he dared, but he was so filled with unholy pride and ambition that
he could not think life worth living apart from it. An
essential qualification for the ministerial office was the
possession of courage to say everything he felt he ought to say, and
he was, and always had been in these respects, a miserable coward.
Somebody would find him out some day, and then what a revelation
there would be!
And now this "Million Scheme" had come and it was just such a
big, grand enterprise as his soul delighted in; and he had been to
the preliminary District Committee in place of his super, who was
ill, and had come back the night before full of enthusiasm, and
eager for the next day to arrive, that he might set to work and
rouse the sympathies of his people.
But now it was morning, and in the dim December daylight his
dreams of the night before looked Utopian and ridiculous, and he
felt a miserable, cowardly feeling rising within him, which tempted
him to wish that the great effort had never been heard of.
The Muggridge circuit was not like any other; his people were
very good—wonderful people, in fact, when he came to think of it—but
not exactly in that way. Ah! he understood now why some of his
ministerial brethren had looked surprised when he had spoken so
enthusiastically of his flock; they knew them better than he did.
Two guineas per member at least! The thing was preposterous!
The super was an invalid, and the initiation of this great
scheme in the circuit would rest almost entirely with himself.
He could not give much himself, and he had never in his life done
any begging of this kind before; the whole thing would be a fiasco,
and the Muggridge circuit, his first circuit, would be disgraced in
the eyes of the whole Connexion.
And then he pulled himself up. Yes, it was just like
him! A minister's work was to make light of difficulties and
show his people how they might overcome them, and here was he
shrinking like a timid schoolgirl at the very first serious task he
had ever been called upon to face. "Caesar Snape, you're a
duffer! a miserable coward, sir!" and he made the little sugar-tongs
in the glass basin dance again as he smote the table with his fist.
"Scoose me, sir, who might you be a-speakin' of?"
It was Mrs. Pendlebury, tall, gaunt, and worn-looking, with
deep lines on her sallow face and her head cocked at an inquisitive
and bellicose angle. She was a class leader and a great person
at the mothers' meeting, and took quite a motherly interest in her
young men, of whom Snape was the fifth.
She had come upstairs to clear away the breakfast things and
had overheard the minister's last words. Caesar started when
thus addressed, and blushed; he always blushed, as if it were not
enough to be a coward without also appearing one.
"Oh, it's nothing, Mrs. Pendlebury. I was only talking
to myself as usual; I'm all right now."
The landlady gave her head a dignified toss, and then asked,
tartly: "You was a-speakin' of my minister, I believe?"
"Well, well! it's all right, Mrs. Pendlebury."
But the landlady stood her ground and raised her head a
little. "I don't allow nobody to say nothin' agin my minister,
sir—it's them Hexams, I suppose?"
"No, no! the Exams were last week; it's nothing, I tell you,
I'm all right," and Snape gave a significant glance at the pots on
the table as a hint that he wanted them cleared away. But his
visitor was not to be shaken off; she had her duty to perform; the
circuit had committed these young men, one after another, to her to
take care of, and she was going to fulfil her commission.
"Then it'ull be that Piggin?"
"No, no, Mrs. Pendlebury, nothing of the kind; a—a—it's this
Million Scheme, if you must know."
A smile as of conscious victory played for a moment round the
deep-lined mouth of the landlady. "Oh, that!" she exclaimed,
taking a step nearer the table. "Yes, we was a-considerin' of
it last night."
Snape lifted his head with a glance of curiosity and
surprise. "Considering it? Where? Who?"
"Me and my members."
The minister could have laughed. The idea! The
members of this class, some thirty or so, were the very poorest in
the Muggridge society, and both they and their leader would have to
be paid for, if they had any place in the scheme. He smiled
indulgently, leaned back in his chair, and clasping his hands over
his knees, asked: "Well, and how did you get on?"
"Well, you see, sir"—and, to Snape's dismay, she sank into a
seat and prepared herself for the long talk which it was evident she
had come to have—"Well, you see, sir, it was a bit awkered at
Snape thought that very likely indeed, but, as there was now
no escape from the good woman's eloquence, he tried to interest
himself in it, or at least to appear to do so.
"It was that there roll as bothered us most, sir; they all
wanted to be on, an' hev all their relations on as well. Old
Sally Pride hez hed three husbands, and she wanted all them to be
on; an' Deb West, her with the red hair and glidey eyes, wants her
sweetheart on, an' him a ratcatcher. An' Letty Blears wants
that child of hers on as nobody knows the father of. Oh, an'
there's five members as is gone to heaven, an' two in the 'House,'
an' three as is so old they never comes, an' all them as hez bad
husbands wants 'em on, an'—an' what shall we do, sir?"
Snape was conscious of a curious struggle within between
amusement and outraged seemliness, but presently he said: " Well,
there's a very easy way of disposing of all those questions, Mrs.
"'Ndeed, sir; what might it be?"
"Ask them to find the guineas; that will stop them. The
Society will pay for all the bona fide members of your class,
but we cannot undertake for all their relations, you know."
"Well? that will stop them, won't it?"
Mrs. Pendlebury rose to her feet and began to heap together
the pots on the tray, then drawing herself to her full height, and
facing the minister with a severe look, she said: "Mr. Snape, my
members is members, an' not bonyfidees; the Society can pay for the
bonyfidees, whatever they are, if it likes, but we shall pay for
ourselves; we don't honour the Lord with other people's
substance in my class, sir." And whisking the tray and its
contents off the table with a resolute and defiant jerk, the irate
lady carried them downstairs.
Left alone, the minister felt more ashamed of himself than
ever. His landlady's brave words had enabled him to measure
the depths of his own miserable cowardice. Any other man would
have resigned right away, but he had not even the nerve to do that.
In fact, it was a dismal aggravation of his condition that the more
unfit he felt himself to be for his great Calling, the more he clung
to it and gloried in it.
This was by no means the first time that Mrs. Pendlebury's
words had stimulated him, but now, smarting under the veiled and,
perhaps, unconscious rebuke, he roused himself to his task. If
such poor people as his landlady were bestirring themselves, it was
high time that he should do something. He dressed himself and
called upon the super. From him he went to see the senior
society steward, Brother Timms. Thence he passed on to the
house of the circuit steward, and then to the residence of the only
great magnate in the circuit, Mr. Burton, of the Grange. When
he had finished his round he had arranged for a preliminary
consultative meeting to be held after the service on the following
As he walked home it occurred to him to call upon Piggin, the
leader of the opposition in the circuit, and the terror of all
ministers and officials. But he had not been encouraged even
by those he had already consulted, and who were supposed to be
loyal, and somehow he hadn't the heart to face the redoubtable
Piggin just then; and so all the rest of the day he was tormenting
himself for giving way to his weakness and allowing himself to be
intimidated by such a man.
After tea he walked out to Swaddleby to preach, and
entertained the trees and hedges en route with an
astonishingly eloquent deliverance on the Million Scheme.
After service he attempted to interest Farmer Whittle in the
subject, but though he stuck valiantly to his text during supper and
returned to it again and again in spite of the farmer's tendency to
divert the conversation to the price of stock and the many
excellencies of a particular breed of pigs, of which he was the sole
local patron, he went away feeling that he had failed once more, and
was plainly out of his sphere.
For the next few days the Rev. Caesar was the prey of all
kinds of haunting fears. Nobody but his eccentric landlady
seemed to have the least interest in the great scheme. Timms
only laughed at him, and went off into a long string of stories,
which the minister had heard again and again, but which were told so
vivaciously and with such artistic variations, that he was compelled
to admit that he enjoyed them, chestnuts of the most ancient kind
though they were. One or two of the local preachers spoke to
him about the effort, but they were for the most part even more
impecunious than he was himself, and could give nothing but advice.
But the minister's most anxious thoughts were expended upon
the Burtons. Mr. Burton was rich, and was expected to become a
county magistrate any day now. Everybody would look to the
Grange to start the movement, and unless the people residing in that
new and very grand-looking house could be got to take a hearty
interest in the matter the thing was hopeless. And yet what
could he do?
Since his election as chairman of the District Council Mr.
Burton had talked of nothing but sewage and settling beds and
effluents and precipitates and patent mixers, and Snape felt that if
he went there again and did not succeed he would be more depressed
And then there was Miss Olive. She was a Newnham girl,
with a broad, masculine forehead, and great, frank, grey eyes that
looked you through. He was afraid of that girl, and was always
haunted during his visits to the Grange with the feeling that she
was secretly quizzing him and reckoning him up. She unnerved
him when he was preaching, especially when he caught one of those
satirical smiles of hers.
She was a painfully natural young lady of most uncompromising
plainness of speech, but so refined and intellectual that if he had
not been a minister, and had been anything like her equal, he might
have been in danger of falling in love with her. But on this
point he was very decided; he examined himself every day of his
life, and always came to the conclusion that it was not to be
thought of. She was a most engaging creature, and her culture
gave a piquancy to her that was most fascinating, but whenever he
left the Grange after a bright hour in her company he thought of
Beauty and the Beast, and asked himself what she would think of him
if she ever knew that he was only a factory operative's son.
He hated pretence and false show, but both she and her father
always insisted upon treating him as a cultivated person and a
gentleman, and he had never had the courage to disabuse their minds
on the subject, which was, of course, another evidence of his
And so the days wore on, and the eventful Wednesday came.
There was a good congregation at the service, and when it was over a
goodly number stayed behind to the after meeting. The
superintendent, though still ill, came in with his mouth muffled up,
and took the chair. Most of the important people of the
Society were present, and one or two representatives from the
country dropped in. Altogether the prospect looked promising.
The super explained that the meeting was unofficial, and was
called for the purpose of forming some sort of idea as to how much
the circuit would contribute to the great fund. He invited
free expression of opinion, and finished with a pathetic little
reminder of the obligations they were all under to the church of
their choice. When he sat down there was a long and awkward
pause, and the Rev. Caesar, sitting next to his colleague, felt his
spirit running rapidly down.
The super hinted that perhaps Mr. Burton would say a few
words, but that great man had a grievance against the fund in the
fact that he had been omitted from the District Committee, and
therefore he excused himself.
The minister named Brother Timms rather hesitantly. The
society steward had a reputation for making funny speeches, and
certainly maintained it that night; but, after all, he contributed
nothing to the subject in hand, and the junior minister had his own
regretful and despondent feelings deepened by observing that Miss
Olive, sitting near her father, looked scornful and a little
impatient and weary.
Then the circuit steward was called upon, and he ventured,
with considerable hesitation, to say that he thought the circuit
might manage to raise, say, £200. The Rev. Caesar gasped; that
was only about 10s. per member! What would the Connexion think
Again the super appealed to the chairman of the District
Council, but he only shook his head, and as Caesar sank back with a
heavy sigh in his seat he heard an ominous scraping of the throat
and a shuffling of feet, and glancing up, observed the obstreperous
Piggin on his feet. Piggin was short and square, with a frame
full of awkward and unexpected angles; he had Dundreary whiskers, a
long, sharp nose, and a prominent, aggressive chin.
"Mr. Chairman," he began, drawing a long sniff and turning
the whites of his eyes towards the ceiling, "some folks seem to
think that this circuit is rich. I suppose if that's so, that
longstanding Quarter board deficit has gone. I'm glad to hear
it, sir. An' I always understood az we were only waitin' for
the Swaddleby new chapel because we couldn't raise the money.
That must be wrong, too. And we don't need money, it appears,
for the Pemberton Mission or the Long Lane Sunday School. I'm
delighted, Mr. Super. It appears that we have money to spend
on building cedar houses in London. Very good, sir, but I
claim to know something about Muggridge Methodism, and it appears to
me, sir, that charity begins at home."
During this weak but biting speech the junior minister had
been going hot and cold and cold and hot again. He felt, for
the moment at any rate, that he hated Piggin, and would like to tell
him so, but just when that worthy finished, a sudden fit of his old
cowardice came upon him, and he sighed heavily. But another
voice broke on his ears, and a familiar one, too. Mrs.
Pendlebury had risen to her feet, and was standing with her eyes
closed as if in class.
"'Scoose me, Mister Super, might a widder woman arsk a
"Certainly, Mrs. Pendlebury, go on."
"I should like to arsk where our Calebs and Joshuas are
to-night," and as Caesar looked up in perplexity he caught sight of
his landlady opening her eyes half-way to look at him.
The super looked puzzled, and turned inquiringly to his
colleague. Caesar shook his head to express his inability to
interpret, and then glanced furtively towards the Grange people,
both of whom looked bored.
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand you, Mrs. Pendlebury,"
said the super, looking hard at the woman, who was white with
She paused a moment, long enough, in fact, to attract every
eye in the place to her, and then she went on, speaking slowly
through white lips: "We've heard about the sons of Anak and the
walled cities, will somebody tell us about the grapes of Eshcol?"
Caesar, being more accustomed than the rest to Mrs.
Pendlebury's curious methods of argument, was the first to catch the
point of this rather obscure reference, and a great flush of emotion
passed over him. The meeting and the great people from the
Grange vanished out of sight, he saw nothing but his landlady's pale
face, and behind her the whole stretch of his own short but happy
and highly favoured life. In a moment he was on his feet.
Miss Olive opened her eyes with quickened interest, Mr.
Burton brushed back the scanty locks of hair he had been so
restlessly rubbing, and leaned forward to listen, and a flush of
triumph passed over Mrs. Pendlebury's face.
"Friends," cried Caesar. "I'll tell you of the
grapes of Eshcol. I was born in a cottage and worked in a
mill, but Methodism has made me a minister of the glorious gospel.
I owe my godly mother to Methodism: the conversion of my
father after twenty years of wifely prayers to Methodism: my
education, my knowledge of God, and my conversion, to Methodism:
my call to preach, and my training at dear old Didsbury, to
Methodism. All I have that is worth anything I owe to
Methodism, and to-day as she rises before the world to do this great
deed I want to be with her, and to be worthy of her, and, God
helping me, I will!"
For several minutes more he spoke, rapidly, almost
incoherently, with moist eyes and quivering lips, and when at last
he dropped back into his seat the super had hid his face in his
handkerchief, and Mrs. Pendlebury was rocking herself and gazing up
at the ceiling with shining, tearful eyes.
There was an awkward silence, and then some whispering; and
presently Mr. Burton rose and, in very low tones, suggested that the
meeting should be adjourned for a few days. When the super had
pronounced the benediction he turned to his still excited colleague
and gripped him with a grip that was an embrace in intensity, and
then dragged him off home with him to supper.
Caesar spent the next day a prey to his old torments, and
even Mrs. Pendlebury, who was radiantly sure now that Muggridge
would do its duty, could not comfort him. He had made an
exhibition of himself; Miss Olive knew now that he was lowly born,
and he pictured to himself again and again her quiet, cold contempt
for a man who had so little fineness of feeling as to make a show of
his emotions in public.
In the afternoon, to his terror, he received an invitation to
high tea at the Grange, and would have given anything to have a
decent excuse for declining. He had cried like a baby, he told
himself, and had not even the consolation of having accomplished
anything. The Burtons were unusually kind to him that night,
but he was sure they were graver and more reserved than common, and
Mr. Burton did not even mention the previous night's meeting.
"And so you are an ex-factory operative, and your mother was
a weaver?" said Miss Olive, as she helped him on with his overcoat
in the lobby as he was leaving.
And, with a desperate effort, Caesar answered: "Yes, Miss
Burton, and I am not ashamed of it."
The lady stood on the doormat, evidently reflecting, and then
she lifted her clear eyes to his and asked:
"And why did you not tell us all this before?"
"Because I'm a coward, Miss Burton; a mean, unworthy coward."
She looked long and steadily into his face as he spoke, and
then, as he put out his hand to say good-night, she took it
absently, and answered, in soft, low tones: "I wish there were many
more such cowards in the world, Mr. Snape."
Next day it was known in Muggridge that the Burtons were
giving £500 to the Million Scheme, and a week later the Rev. Caesar
was received at the Grange in another and closer capacity than that
THE COMMITTEE MAN.
THE last building
you pass as you go out of the top end of Great Barkin is Jonathan
Tradger's workshop. It occupies, in fact, the extreme point of
the diamond-shaped island formed by two great roads that run through
the town and unite at the end of it. The shop is therefore
triangular in shape, having a long side upon each of the roads and a
blunt point at the fork.
The outside walls are farmed by two rival firms of
billstickers from the county town, and there is a great door facing
the Penkerton Road that is never opened nowadays, and another great
door opening on the High Street, that is never shut, at least in the
The first glance through the open door suggests a carpenter's
shop, for the floor is strewn with shavings and there is a joiner's
bench against the opposite wall; but a second look shows that the
shavings are old and dirty, and that the bench is littered with
paint cans and rolls of wall paper, whilst between the bench and the
wall are stuck a gig umbrella and two ordinary ones, half hiding a
plumber's soldering iron and a pair of tinker's shears which hang in
a rough rack against the wall itself.
If you put your head inside you also observe, deep in the
shop, a blacksmith's bellows, two or three disabled perambulators,
an old-fashioned ordinary bicycle and three or four safeties.
The fact is, Jonathan, the proprietor of this shop, is the
village Jack-of-all-trades; for Barkin, now a decayed village, was
once a market town, and as its tradesmen were driven out of it one
by one by lack of business, the remaining inhabitants fell back upon
Tradger, who, as he was too disreputable and intemperate to care
much, gradually slipped into the way of doing any sort of odd job
that might be brought him.
Some sixteen months ago, however, Jonathan was converted, as
the result of the visit of a Joyful News Mission car to the
village, and since then he has been a consistent though
demonstrative and unmanageably unconventional member of the Wesleyan
The Methodists of Barkin are staid and highly decorous, and
some of Jonathan's ways shocked and alarmed them; but he was so
humble, so grateful to them for their kindly recognition of him, so
eager in his desire to comprehend all the peculiarities of Methodist
doctrine and procedure, and so devoted to the welfare of the Church
of his choice, that nobody had the heart to check him, and Mrs.
Wilkins, the supernumerary's widow, who was the ultimate authority
on all matters of Church etiquette, was not without fear that the
good folk would spoil him.
Jonathan was a sandy man, approaching sixty, a little below
the medium height, with fairly regular features disfigured somewhat
by a knobby red nose, due partly to pugilistic encounters and partly
to the influence of drink.
"Wot's this?" he growled, in a voice that was now always
husky, as he entered the shop one morning just before Christmas.
As he spoke he pointed with the only whole finger he possessed on
his right hand to a circular lying on the box of a sewing machine
which he had been repairing the day before.
"It's a circular. You're a committee man now," replied
Walter John, his only son and assistant, who, in virtue of a
brilliant victory obtained over the crafty machinations of a
Government inspector in the matter of a sixth standard examination,
was regarded by his parents as a perfect marvel of learning, and had
consequently the right of opening and answering his father's
"Read it," jerked out Jonathan shortly; and, turning to look
through the open door, as he generally did when he wanted to think,
he leaned heavily on one leg in a listening attitude.
Walter John left the dog-kennel he was painting and, putting
down his brush, picked up the missive and read in a brisk business
style of which he was very proud:
have pleasure in informing you that at the Quarterly Meeting held
yesterday you were appointed a member of 'The Twentieth Century
Fund' committee for this circuit.—Yours sincerely, GEO.
Jonathan drew himself up; a look of grave importance came
upon his face, a soft gratified light beamed from his eyes, whilst
he pursed out his lips and screwed his mouth about, to conceal a
tell-tale smile. Then he turned and had another long stare out
of the door, and presently, giving his mouth a sort of covering wipe
with the back of his hand, he picked up the circular which his son
had laid down and examined it, back and front, over and over again.
In a wavering, meditative manner he scrutinised the document, and
then, as if fearing to be caught in the act, he abruptly dropped it
and resumed his staring through the door.
Walter John was perfectly aware that his father wanted to ask
a question, but as it was always part of his policy to maintain his
intellectual reputation by affecting a lofty indifference, he
commenced to hiss a tune through his teeth, and became deeply
absorbed in the painting of the kennel. Jonathan watched the
operation out of the corner of his eye for a time, and then turning
to the machine, he resumed his work of the night before, asking as
he picked up his tools: "Wot's committys for?"
And Walter John stood back and examined the kennel critically
as he answered: "For talkin'."
Jonathan looked enquiringly at his son for a moment, and then
bending over his work he applied an oilcan to the machine and gave
the treadle an experimental touch with his foot as he asked: "But
wot do they do?"
And the youthful but unconsciously cynical libeller of these
great modern institutions answered with a slight accent of contempt:
"Oh, nothing, only talk."
Jonathan heaved a perplexed and protesting sigh, and was just
about to address a remonstrance to his son, when a shadow fell
across the sewing machine, and a deep voice behind him cried: "Mornin',
The new-comer was a tall, thin man, with broad, angular
shoulders drawn up into his almost invisible neck, for the morning
was cold and nipping. His hands were thrust deep into his
pockets, and his thin snipe nose and red eyes were moist with tears
of cold. He was Jonathan's class leader and chief mentor, and
his name was Solomon Jurby.
Saluting Jonathan and his son as he passed them, Solomon
strode to the far end of the shop, where there was a small stove and
a disabled wooden cradle which, turned on its side, served as a
seat. Squatting down upon this, he took the lid off the stove
and began to stir the fire, grumbling the while at the weather.
But Jonathan had something much more important than mere
meteorological discussion on his mind, and so without further
hesitation he commenced: "Sol, wot's this Cen-cen-tenary Fund?'
Solomon looked blank for a moment. "W-o-t? Oh, t'
Centennery Fund thou means."
"Tchat!" interrupted Walter John, with superior impatience.
"He means that there Twentieth Century Fun'."
"O-h, that! Ah! that's somethin', that is! I
know'd we should hev somethin' wonderful when that Hughes was
Jonathan felt himself growing bigger, but curbing his rising
elation he asked: "Well, wot is it?"
"Wot is it? it's a reg'ler flabbergaster, that's wot it is!
Huz Methodists is goin' to subscribe one million guineas."
Jonathan's face expanded into a broad gratified grin, and he
looked at his mentor with wondering delight. In a moment he
ventured: "How much is a milliond, Solomon?"
"A million! a million's t-e-n h-u-n-d-r-e-d t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d,"
and Solomon sounded like a man who was struggling with the miserable
inadequacy of human language to express the vastness of his ideas.
Jonathan's face was a picture, and, as wonder is one of the
strongest stimulants to eloquence, Solomon plunged off into a
detailed description of the great scheme, adding in his excitement
details which were, to say the least, apocryphal. So
stimulating, in fact, did he find Jonathan's wonderment that, having
exhausted his own resources on the question, he sent Walter John to
his house for the last issue of the Recorder, and when he
returned Jonathan left his work and joined Solomon at the stove,
listening with ejaculations of astonishment and delight as his
learnèd son reeled off at express rate a long account of the great
meeting at Leeds.
As the reading proceeded, he punctuated it with energetic
nods; then he smote his hands together in keenest relish, and when
at last with a rhetorical flourish the self-satisfied reader
finished the President's speech, Jonathan leaned forward, and
smiting Solomon heavily on the back, he cried with emphatic
"Sol, t' Bank of Englan's nowt to huz Methodisses."
Solomon smiled indulgently upon what he regarded as the
pardonable extravagance of his friend, and was just about to make a
reply when Walter John, now warm to his work, plunged off into a
long account of the historic roll, and from that to a list of
circuit subscriptions, in which, as Jonathan remarked, thousands
seemed "as common as coppers."
When at last the great reader finished, out of breath and a
little hoarse, his father was in the seventh heaven of delight and
pride. As Solomon rose to go, however, Jonathan had a sudden
recollection, and checking his friend as he strolled towards the
door, he asked abruptly: "Wot's committy men got to do?"
"Do? Oh, lead off t' subscriptions an' collect.
Jonathan pointed to the circular still lying on the sewing
machine, and Solomon took it up, gave a little nod of surprise, and
then assuming a very knowing look, as if to convey the impression
that he had fully expected some such thing, he lounged to the door.
He had reached the open air and was standing gazing down the road
when Jonathan followed him, and drawing him by the button-hole still
farther away, in order to be out of earshot of Walter John, he said:
"Fancy, Sol! drunken Johnty's name among all them million Methodys!"
All that morning as Jonathan went about his various
occupations, his mind dwelt delightedly on the wonderful scheme in
which so lowly a man as he was to have his part; as he meditated,
the dark shadows of difficulties cast themselves every now and again
across the brightness of his visions, but he put them away, as had
been his habit far too much through all his life, and resolutely
kept before himself the great glory that was coming to the Church to
which he owed so much.
But when he had sent Walter John out with the now restored
sewing machine, he stole to the seat which Solomon had so recently
occupied in order to face fairly the hindrances which he could no
longer hide from himself. To begin with, his wife was not a
member, and had always had decided leanings towards the Church of
Moreover, to the great comfort of the family, she had always
been the purse-bearer of the household, and they were very poor,
having scarcely got out of the financial difficulties into which his
intemperate habits had plunged them. He felt certain that
Rebecca would not see the wisdom or even the possibility of giving
away money, whole guineas at a time, and would be able to tell him
of any number of claims upon their slender resources which, in her
judgment, were both more pressing and more equitable than what he
He fancied he could hear her repeating again one of her
favourite proverbs, "Just before generous, Jonathan," and the very
most that he could expect her to do was to offer to give a guinea
for himself. But a committee man whose family even were not
included in the contributions would be an everlasting disgrace to
the great movement.
And then there was that roll-signing. He had almost
forgotten how to write, and his wife, even if she consented to
subscribe, could not use a pen any better than he could himself, and
their clumsy caligraphy would be a sad disfigurement to the great
record. For somehow Jonathan had got it fixed in his mind that
all who went upon the roll would have to sign their own names.
And then there was Martha Jane, who was in service some
thirty miles away; she was almost as decided in her preference for
the Church as her mother, and would not be able to come so far to
sign, even if they were able to raise the money.
Once more, there was Walter John to be considered; he was a
Wesleyan certainly, for he blew the little chapel organ and attended
the Sunday school.
Altogether, as Jonathan looked at the difficulties fairly and
squarely, they appeared blacker and blacker, and when he was called
to dinner, he left the shop in a very perplexed and anxious frame of
mind. It occurred to him as he walked to the house to broach
the question to his wife, as he generally had to do in his troubles,
but the domestic weather seemed so threatening when he got indoors
that he judged it better to defer the matter until a more propitious
It came that very night, and Jonathan, finding his wife in a
cheerful mood for her, told his tale; skipping characteristically
the monetary difficulty and presenting to his wife's superior
inventiveness the problem of the roll-signing. Rebecca heard
him through, and ignoring altogether the writing question, she
gently, but with remorseless logic, made it clear to him that the
thing was entirely beyond them. Her catalogue of pressing
needs and approaching payments made his heart sink, and he found
himself, to his alarm, getting angry.
"But, woman!" he cried, when she had finished, "we're on the
committee!" But Rebecca only shook her head, and as Jonathan
was naturally passionate, and since his conversion had been haunted
more with the fear of losing his temper than even slipping back into
intemperance, he made a strong effort, choked back his resentment,
and with a sigh of reluctant resignation went off to bed.
When he had gone, Rebecca, who had feared an outburst from
her husband, and had watched with growing gratitude his successful
effort in self-control, sat glowering moodily into the fire.
Once or twice she sighed and her lips moved as if in prayer, and
presently she got up and took a small rosewood box from the
mantelpiece. Opening this, she picked out a Joyful News
pledge card and a Methodist class ticket, upon the former of which
was scrawled in rude, uneven characters her husband's name.
With pensive, musing face she turned them over, and then looking at
them earnestly through moistening eyes, she murmured: "It mus' be
done!—someway! Them two papers is worth a million, aye, a
million apiece to me;" and putting them slowly and carefully back in
the box, she made her way upstairs.
During the next few days Jonathan was greatly exercised in
his mind as to how he should raise the money for his subscription,
for though on the night of his conversation with his wife he had
almost given up the idea, the new day brought new hope; but as
nobody had told him that the money could be paid in small
instalments, he was at his wits' end to solve the problem.
He overhauled the miscellaneous articles which had
accumulated in his workshop in the hope of finding something
saleable, but as he had often done this before to raise money for
drink, there was nothing left that would give him any help.
Then he debated with himself the possibility of selling the
Christmas pig, or rather its carcass, for the animal had already
been slaughtered; but as his wife generally managed that business
herself, he soon abandoned hope in that direction.
Then it occurred to him to try to borrow something from his
absent daughter; but, again, the remembrance of like transactions in
his unregenerate days restrained him.
Finally, in his increasing perplexities, he fell back upon
his old friend Solomon, and as they sat together one dinner hour
over the little stove, he unbosomed himself. Solomon was very
mysterious and taciturn for a while, but seeing his pupil's anxiety
and knowing something of the official secrets of the Barking
Wesleyans, he at last took his pipe out of his mouth and said: "Johnty
boy, be content, whoever is left off that paper thy name will be
there," and then he lapsed again into the most discouraging silence.
"But wot about the family?" asked Jonathan anxiously, and
Solomon shook his head as if to say that they were in a very
different category. And of course this conversation did not
comfort Jonathan as much as it was intended to do, for he somehow
felt that the thing would lose much of its interest to him if his
beloved ones did not take part in it.
One day in Christmas week, however, Jonathan received a
surprise that almost reconciled him to being left out of the great
achievement. As he was dressing to go to class and was
struggling before the little glass trying to arrange his frayed
necktie so that the place where the lining showed would be
concealed, his wife came downstairs dressed to go out.
Jonathan looked at her in astonishment, for she seldom went
out at night. "I'm thinkin' of goin' with thee to-night,
Johnny," she said softly, as she looked hard at the floor. And
Jonathan eyed her over from head to foot as he asked:
And then it flashed into his mind that his wife was going to
class to console him for his disappointment about the great fund,
and he turned hastily away and tried to swallow something.
Well! it was a grand idea after all! She had chosen that one
thing which she knew would be sweetest of all to him. Oh, what
a wife she was! and for the next few minutes as they walked down the
High Street towards the chapel he silently thanked God that they had
ever heard of this glorious fund.
It happened to be fellowship meeting that night at the class,
and so Jonathan missed the luxury of hearing his wife's first
"experience." But when the meeting was over and the leader was
marking the names, he said: "Glad to see Sister Tradger to-night; we
won't press you to have your name down now; perhaps you would like
to try some other class first."
"But I want it down."
Jonathan could have hugged his wife then and there, and as he
went home he told himself that he should always love the Million
Fund, and if ever he had the chance of giving to his beloved Church
But next morning it took all his new joy to sustain him, for
the post brought him a summons to the committee meeting, and with no
chance of being able to contribute he felt that he could not go, and
his absence might be taken for indifference; and he owed so much to
Methodism that he could not bear the thought of that.
In the afternoon Solomon called at the shop, and was so full
of the approaching meeting that the carpenter had not the heart to
tell him that he did not intend to attend; and when he went away
Jonathan was more miserable than ever. As night came on he
grew very restless and dejected; once he told himself to have faith
in God and go to the committee: but that effort was too great to be
sustained, and as the time drew near he seated himself moodily by
the fire at home in fidgety distress lest Solomon should call for
him, as he sometimes did.
Just then there was a sharp knock at the door, and he felt a
chill creep over him as he heard a man's voice. But it was not
Solomon, it was the circuit minister.
"Come, Brother Tradger, aren't you coming to the meeting?"
Jonathan groaned and answered sadly: "I can't, sir; I've
nothing to give."
Jonathan heard a stifled sob behind him, which he knew came
from his wife; but the minister was speaking again.
"Never mind, come along! We must have you on the
roll whoever is omitted."
"But that would be four guineas, an' we haven't one."
"Four fiddlesticks! Nothing of the kind; this isn't a
tax, my friend, it's a free-will offering, and those who have will
give for those who haven't."
"But I'm on the committee, sir."
"Of course you are; I proposed you myself; only some
can give, but we must all share in the joy of it, you know.
You must just give what you are able without injury to yourselves,
and that you can do by instalments."
"By what, sir?" (This from Mrs. Tradger.)
"By instalments—so much a week or month, you know."
Rebecca turned her back to the minister and marched hurriedly
In a moment she came down with a strange glow upon her faded
"Can them go on the roll az is only just joined, sir?"
"Yes, of course! But you can't afford, Mrs. Tradger,
you can't really."
"An' can children az isn't members be on sir?"
"Yes, if they are the children of our people certainly."
And then Rebecca, whom Jonathan was watching intently, put
out her thin worn arm and laid a guinea on the table. "That's
for the Church az turned a bad husban' into a good 'un, an' that,"
putting a crown piece near the guinea, "is a thankful offering from
the poor wife az got that new husban'," and then, fumbling in her
pocket, she brought out a shilling, and placing it near the other
money, she went on, "an' that's sixpence a week for Walter John an'
for the dear lass as sent her father's guinea."
The minister was overcome and tried to expostulate, but Mrs.
Trader insisted on having her way; the instalment plan settled
everything, she said.
And so Jonathan went to the committee.
A MANCHESTER MAN.
YES, he was
incomprehensible; the dearest, the best of fellows, the most
generous and indulgent of husbands, and as true a man as ever
stepped, but peculiar, self-contradictory, and perplexing, and
pretty Mrs. Harwood, with a pucker on her white brow and an
absorbed, far-away look in her eyes, gave a soft protesting sigh and
sank still farther back into the easy chair which already almost
buried her. She was thinking, of course, of her husband, to whom she
had been married now about four years.
She was a Wesleyan minister's daughter, and had been brought up in
the bookish, unworldly atmosphere of the manse, where she had been
her father's companion and favourite. Consequently her tastes were
distinctly literary, and she was better up at any rate in the
lighter literature of the day than most ladies of her age and rank.
Everybody said she was a remarkable judge of human nature, and all
her friends complimented her on her gift of reading character. She
believed them, of course, in a becoming way, but lo! the very first
man she had ever become intimately acquainted with, and the man of
all others she most wanted to read nonplussed her altogether, and
after four years of careful study of him she had to confess that he
was an enigma.
Her father had travelled mostly in country circuits where the good
folk take life easily, and she had grown up to dislike and fear the
commercial spirit, and after all she had married that embodiment of
intensest commercialism, a Manchester man. He was a prompt, cool,
and smart business man, with a reputation of being the keenest buyer
on the market; but before she had time to settle upon this as the
keystone of his character, she found that at home he was easy-going,
jovial, and almost carelessly extravagant in matters of household
One thing had become clear to her in the course of this interesting
study, namely, that her husband had a most intolerant hatred of
everything that savoured of pretence, and of this she was proud;
only he carried it to such strange and uncomfortable lengths, and
was very fond of a curious sort of self-depreciation, and liked to
speak of everything that belonged to himself in disparaging and
apologetic terms—a peculiarity which she had also noticed was common
to Lancashire men.
In the company of ministers and officials he assumed the manner of
an ignorant and indifferent onlooker, and then amongst unimportant
people he would talk like a Methodist puritan. He seemed, in fact,
to think that it was his duty to deceive his fellow-men as much as
possible about all his most important feelings and interests.
He wasn't a wholesale draper, he was in the "rag" trade. His large
warehouses he always spoke of as "th' shop," and if ever they went
into particular company where she was anxious that he should appear
a gentleman, he was sure to drop into the dialect—a thing he never
did, or scarcely ever, at home.
All their business friends regarded him as one of the safest men
financially of their set, but he delighted, in all sorts of company,
in telling romancing stories which seemed to indicate that he was in
a state of chronic financial tightness, whilst he pretended to be
very anxious to keep friendly with the chapel steward, because he
was the bank-manager, and might be awkward about the overdraft.
He affected to know and care nothing about the "Connexion," and yet
he took in all the Conference publications, and went to sleep over
them every Sunday afternoon, and he had a little joke about not
being able to get off unless he had the current number.
Altogether he was a contradiction and an enigma, and it was very
humiliating to her pride and her reputation for character-reading,
to be obliged to confess to herself that she was very little nearer
understanding the man she loved than she was on the day she married
And just now there was special reason that she should know how to
deal with him; for this great "Million Scheme" had been announced,
and it was just the thing to appeal to her imaginative temperament,
and it had done. She was a Methodist of the Methodists, and as a
child of the manse felt great pride in the Church of her fathers.
But she knew something of the Manchester men by this time, and felt
certain that to their cool, level-headed commercial minds the
enterprise would look fantastic and quixotic. What a pity and a
shame it would be, if sordid love of money and lack of imagination
should spoil so grand a thing.
By this time she knew without the least vanity that she was an
important person in the circuit, and had more influence than the
wives of most of the officials; and if only her husband would
support her, she felt that she could make this rich suburban circuit
of theirs do its duty. But there was the difficulty; her husband
never seemed to take her seriously, and though he never crossed her
in any of her little projects, and seemed, indeed, anxious in a lazy
sort of way that she should have her desire, she felt certain that
his view would be the one prevalent amongst men of his class, and
that he would simply give a respectable little sum to please her,
and in her name, and that would be all.
And then there was one other thing that troubled her; an episode had
taken place recently which had greatly humbled her, and provided a
reason why she felt she could not greatly urge her husband on this
particular question. Soon after their marriage her father, now a
supernumerary, had visited them, and had one day confided to her
husband certain difficulties he had with the little investments he
had made to provide for the evening of life. And her husband told
her when the old man had gone to bed, that parsons should never have
anything to do with money, and had then offered to undertake to
re-arrange her father's affairs, and make such changes as would
secure a better return upon the investments. She had eagerly agreed,
and the thing had been done, and everything had been handed over to
George, who had managed somehow to increase the permanent return.
This was now three years ago, but recently she had been to London to
a British Women's Convention or something of the sort, and had
stayed with her brother. He had never been a favourite of hers, but
one night he greatly angered her by insinuating that her husband
making a good thing out of the "Pater's" shares.
She was too indignant to say much in reply, but she went home next
day, and somehow the nasty innuendo had stuck to her, and so after
fighting with it and worrying for some time, she got a friend to
find out what the shares were making. A day or two after he wrote to
her to say that she must be mistaken in the name of the company she
had referred to, for that concern had gone down over two years ago,
and anybody holding the scrip must know that it was worthless paper.
And then it had all come to her; her husband had known what was
coming, and had made the proposal upon which they had acted for the
purpose of keeping trouble from her and her parent, and had paid the
dividend for two years at least, although he had not received a
This revelation made her ill for a day or two, and aroused all kinds
of awkward curiosity on her husband's part; she felt so humbled
about the matter that her manner was unconsciously changed, and her
husband grew very suspicious indeed. She could never tell him, but
the thought that he was doing this secretly for love of her, closed
her lips effectually on the question of the great Million Scheme.
Still it would be an everlasting shame if the rich suburban circuit
to which they belonged did not do its duty; she was just old enough
to remember the Thanksgiving Fund, and the pride she had taken in
giving the first half-guinea she ever had of her own to this fund,
and she gathered from his letters that her father was quite as
enthusiastic about this effort as he had been in the other.
She knew how he would be planning and scheming, and even perhaps
selling his precious books that he might do his duty, and she, his
daughter, married to a comparatively rich man and living in ease and
luxury, would only give a little more than he did. The thought was
unbearable. Oh! if only she knew just how to move this stolid hus――
But just then a long pair of arms were thrown around her, and she
was lifted up like a baby, whilst a strong, keen face was put down
to hers and a loud, but cheery voice exclaimed, "Hello!
Doxey-didlums! Which of those precious mothers has pawned her
"Oh! George, how you did startle me! I didn't hear the tram stop. No! it isn't the mothers, it's nothing," and she kissed the brown
moustache that was put down to her face, and slipped out of his
grasp and upstairs to touch up her ruffled hair and assume as bright
a look as she could.
As she served the tea she talked about the super's nerves, and then
about little Freddy, snug in his bed upstairs, and told in her
vivacious way all the young scamp's day's doings, until George
forgot his temporary suspicions, and presently turned away from the
table and drew up to the fire, with his favourite briar in his mouth
and a comfortable contented look on his face.
"George, what do you really think about this Million Scheme?"
and she leaned back in the rocking chair, and tried to appear
"Pah! High falutin'! Cock-and-bull idea!" and George put his slippered feet on the brass rail of the fender, thrust his little
finger into the bowl of his pipe, and appeared to be half asleep.
"George! how can you! I think it's noble, it's grand; I'm proud of
the Church that could conceive such a scheme, whether it comes to
anything or not," and in her excitement she rose to her feet and
stood leaning her bare, white arm upon the mantelpiece, whilst she
looked earnestly down upon her amused and indolent husband.
Now nothing pleased George better than to get his wife "on her high
horse," as he called it, and so he sat looking at her with twinkling
eyes and most obvious admiration, and presently he said, "My stars,
Kitty! but you would have made a grand parson; I'll have you
nominated for a School-board candidate, blow me if I don't."
"George, don't talk slang and nonsense! I think the scheme is
a glorious one."
He made no reply for a while, and evidently thought none necessary,
but Kitty was impatient and anxious, and at last she said: "Do talk
sensibly, there's a dear; what does Oxley say about it?"
Oxley was the circuit steward, and of course his opinion was
"Never heard him mention it," was the depressing answer.
"And what does Redfern think?" (Redfern was the ex-steward, and a
"Oh, he's sure to go in for it; he's as bad as you."
"Did he say how much the circuit ought to give?"
"Oh, five hundred pounds."
"Five hundred pounds! the miserable old sinner: why, he ought to
give that himself."
Kitty was never so interesting in her husband's eyes as when she was
excited, and now he was delighted to see her pretty indignation, and
so to prolong the entertainment, he asked: "What do you think
the circuit ought to give?"
"Give! well, the super thinks we ought to raise two thousand pounds,
and that is the very least."
And George, with a burst of protesting, amazed laughter, leaned back
in his chair, and cried: "Hay, what a world this would be, if it
were ruled by women and parsons—what would you give, Kitty, if
you had it?"
"Give?" and Kitty slid absently down upon the hassock before the
fire, and began staring into the embers to assist her imagination. "Give? I'd give five hundred pounds, that's what I would give, and
not a penny less."
"Five hundred fiddlesticks! Why, Kitty wench, you'd break a bank!"
It was a sure sign that George was more
interested than he seemed when he dropped into dialect, and so his
wife glanced sharply at him, and was just going to pin him with a
very straight question, when he said:
"What should you give five hundred pounds for?"
"What for? Oh, for a hundred reasons."
"Well, what, for instance?"
Kitty settled herself down upon the hassock, and after a moment's
meditation she began: "Well, I've the noblest old father in the
world, and at this very minute he's cudgelling his worn old brains
to find out what he shall give and where he shall get it—I'd give a
hundred pounds for him."
"And I was educated by Methodism, and in all our circuits we
received from the dear good people kindness upon kindness, that
makes me cry when I think of it—I'd give a hundred pounds for that."
"And there's a curly-headed little rascal upstairs, who came as a
Christmas box two years ago—I'd give a hundred, yes, many a hundred
George burst into an ironical laugh, but even Kitty could see that
it was only to conceal some very different emotion. "Fire away,
Kitty; you're doing grandly."
But Kitty couldn't go on just then; she looked very earnestly into
the fire, and then fell slowly forward and dropped her fair face
against her husband's knee, but she never spoke, and George was not
sure that she could just then. "Go on, madcap; don't half do it now
If her husband could have seen her face he would have hesitated to
press her, but he could not; so presently, after another prompting
from him, she moved a little, and then, beginning to speak very
fast, she stammered: "I'd give all the rest and—and a thousand
times more for the best and most—most tormenting husband that ever
And George got hurriedly up and left the room.
Now, there was a sort of Freemasonry amongst the officials of the
circuit, and they generally arrived at agreements as to what they
should do or give on occasions like the present, either in one of
their smoke-rooms or in the train as they went to town in the
morning. Two or three of them came in that same night and stayed
later than usual, and from what Kitty could gather from her reticent
husband, the figure for the circuit seemed likely to be fixed at
Next night at the committee meeting that sum, to the distress of the
super, was agreed upon, and when he called upon his infallible
comforter, Mrs. Harwood, he had a doleful tale to tell, and was
altogether out of heart about the matter.
And Kitty, though she felt somehow more hopeful after her talk with
her husband, could not say anything to relieve his mind, and so when
he had gone and her heart was pitying him and thinking of her
father's troubles of a similar kind in days gone by, a little idea
struck her, and on the Sunday evening she asked two or three of her
husband's closest friends in to supper, and as soon as she had set
them going at the table she opened out upon them, and her husband
listened with his mischievous eyes dancing with enjoyment as she
tried to make them feel ashamed of themselves. But next day George
told her that the men had greatly enjoyed her preaching and his
cigars, and were prepared to come as often as she liked to invite
them. Oh, the hardness of these Manchester men!
Her last hope was in the great meeting; if only she could get them
there, and her husband too, in the enthusiasm of that grand
gathering surely they would be moved to do something worthy of them. But George, when she suggested that of course he was going,
pooh-poohed the idea; though, as he generally did this and went
after all, she still hoped against hope. The worst of her, George
said, was that she generally "went the whole hog" with a thing
when she once got started, and let things get on her crazy little
brain; but when he was going out in the morning of the day of the
meeting he half promised to meet her at the door of the Central
All the forenoon she was out visiting her lady friends, and trying
to get them to feel as she did and influence their husbands. And
then as soon as lunch was over, as luck would have it, one of her
intolerable but imperious headaches came on and in a few minutes she
realised but too surely that there would be no meeting for her that
This, of course, made her worse, and as she lay on her couch
half-dead with paralysing pain, she sent her servant to the
telephone to tell George and urge him to go to the meeting. This
brought him home earlier than usual, and he seemed quite angry with
her for putting herself out, and declared in quite a snappy way that
the "confounded Million Scheme was not worth it." By this, of
course, she saw how little he really cared for the thing, and she
was so prostrate that she could not even bear the effort of trying
to persuade him to go to the meeting.
It was a long, dreary evening, in spite of the fact that this
matter-of-fact and worldly husband of hers proved a delightful
nurse, and though later on the pain abated somewhat, she felt so
languid and disappointed that she was beginning to think of going to
rest, when the door-bell rang, and in came the super from the great
"Well, how have you got on?" she cried eagerly, lifting her head
from her cushion, still covered though it was with whisky cloths.
"Oh, splendidly! magnificently! I shall not sleep to-night; but you
are ill, Mrs. Harwood."
Kitty waved her hand impatiently to check
his sympathies, and cried: "Tell us all about it."
the minister launched forth into an animated description of the
meeting, and finished by quoting the sums promised by the various
"And we promised £1,500," said Kitty, with a mournful,
"And that's more than we shall ever raise," began George, but the
"No! No! We! We came out grandly: but I forgot, you don't know, do
you? The oddest thing;" and he began to fumble in his pockets and
brought out a bit of paper.
"What? what was it?" and Kitty half rose from her couch in her
"Well! the funniest thing! I feel rather shaky about it, but I was
excited and promised."
"Go on! Do go on!"
"Just as I was going into the hall a fellow, a clerk or something,
stopped me and asked my name. When I told him he gave me this note,
and when I got upon the platform I opened it, and what do you think
was in it?"
"Don't know. Oh, do go on!"
"The note is there; it is on plain paper and type-written, so that
nobody can guess who sent it, and it just says:
"'Please increase the amount promised by your circuit by £1,000. You
will receive a cheque for the amount in a few days.—Yours sincerely,
Kitty snatched the note hastily from the super's hand, and read and
re-read it, but there was nothing more to be learnt. "Whoever can
it be?" she gasped.
"I haven't the least idea," said the super. "I was dazed, and am
yet, about it, for that matter; but I promised, whatever the result
may be. Ah, whom do you think it will be, Mr. Harwood?"
George was sitting looking meditatively into the fire. "Some old
washerwoman or other, with more brass than brains."
But somehow his manner was not quite as natural as he wished it to
be, for his wife lifted her head and looked sharply at him across
the room, and as he turned his eyes away she jumped up and rushed at
him. "George," she cried, pushing him back, so that she could see
his eyes, "look at me."
"Bless me, the woman's dotty!" cried George; but though he lifted
his head, his eyes sought the ornaments on the mantelpiece.
"Now then! Look at me! Let me see your eyes," cried Kitty, and as at
last he turned them to her, she said triumphantly: "It is! it is! Mr
Frost, it is George! Oh, you dear, kind naughty, teasing man,
it's you, and it is like you! I'd love you more than ever—if I could,"
and she kissed him again and again.
An hour later, as the super left, George saw him to the door, and in
his gruffest manner insisted that the thing should never be known.
Next morning the contractor occupants of the 8.41 first smoking to
town decided that the super had lost his head at the meeting on the
previous night, and would find himself "in a hole" before long, and
George quite agreed with them.