The Steeple

Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman

From Needlecraft Vol. VII No. 7 (March, 1916)

It was blisteringly hot in Snow Hill. The beetling elevation from which the little village had its name sheltered it from any cooling breeze which might blow from the east and the sea, and when the afternoon sun blazed from the west, the heat-waves were echoed back from the broad bosom of Snow Hill. Two men who sat on the bench in front of Dyce's grocery-store were discussing it.

“Yes,” said one, Sam Dyce, the storekeeper, “that durned hill, that they say holds the snow longer than any mountain in these parts in the spring, makes this whole place hotter than tophet, summers.”

Sam was in his shirt-sleeves, and his suspenders, which his daughter Daisy had embroidered with rosebuds, were in evidence. He had removed his collar, and his long, stringy throat showed. Sam was Yankee from way back. He was Yankee from head to toe, and that meant a goodly length of Yankee, for he was over six feet tall. He kept his country store in the fear of the Lord and the determination of profit.

He was constant in attendance at the church in Snow Center, three miles away. He was a deacon, and superintendent of the Sunday-school. He was well-to-do. He had remodeled the old Dyce homestead. It had bay windows, a double colonial piazza, and a front yard designed by a landscape-gardener. His wife kept two maids, and every spring she and her daughter went on an excursion.

The daughter, Daisy, had been away to school, and her father had bought an electric victoria for her. She was a pretty girl, very sweet-tempered, and not in the least above her father and his store. Some Saturday nights when there was a rush of customers, she came over and helped at the drygoods-counter. It was there the other man had first seen her. He had been motoring; his car had broken down and he had stepped into the store in search of a supper of bread and cheese. Sam had sent him to his remodeled mansion, where he had feasted, and finally, as the car was still balky, remained overnight, quarters being provided for his chauffeur. The car was installed in the barn at the risk of losing insurance.

Sam was hospitable, although a Yankee, and this stranger was not a customer, and of no earthly financial use to him. Sam had not once thought of his pretty daughter, but her mother had, and Daisy had worn her pink-and-white dress at breakfast next morning.

The stranger came again. He was an odd, incidental sort of man, not very young, seemingly rather aimless, or uncertain concerning his aims. Daisy had fallen in love with him, but nobody knew whether he had fallen in love with Daisy or not. Sam, prodded by his wife, had found out what little there was to know about him.

His name was Weston, Lee Weston. He was a bachelor and his reputation was exceedingly good. He was much sought by society people, but hung aloof in the lazy, courteous fashion which he had inherited from a southern grandmother who had been a Lee. He lived alone with servants and an old housekeeper, and his house was said to be a museum of art.

That Sam Dyce regarded as distinctly not in his favor. Sam scorned art in spite of his rosebud suspenders. He did not in reality care for them, but Daisy had worked them, they were her first embroidery, and Sam did care for his Daisy. He liked the other man well enough. He would have preferred Daisy to marry a man of Snow Hill or Snow Center, but Lee Weston, regarded as a possible son-in-law, did not overawe Sam Dyce. A prince of the blood could not have done that. He scarcely saw Weston's immaculate summer attire and the determined crease of his trousers, and was perfectly unconscious of his own shirt-sleeves.

All that troubled him was the fact that Weston had come and come, and put up his touring-car in his barn, and as yet his intentions regarding Daisy were doubtful. Now another man wanted her, and Daisy was urged by her mother that a bird in the hand — Sam's wife was so set of mind that affairs at home were becoming strenuous, and poor Daisy was unhappy.

Now Sam was very uncertain whether Weston would be well received by his wife, since the other man had come to board for the summer next door, at Mrs. Eliza Angel's, and was courting Daisy assiduously and had acquired favor in the eyes of her mother. He was much younger than Weston, and very handsome, and the covert air of high breeding which Sam's wife's acute feminine eye had discerned in Weston was not evident in the newcomer.

“He don't put on airs,” she said of Weston, “but he's got them, and I don't like to feel that my own daughter is marrying a man that knows he's above her pa and ma, even if you want her to.”

“Weston don't act a mite stuck up,” Sam had retorted.

“He's up so high he don't need to act,” said the woman. “The other one is just as good, and well brought up, but he's on the same rung of the ladder as we are.”

“Well, they'll have to settle it,” said Sam.

In the lower depths of his mind he was revolving the matter as he and Weston sat on the bench. The silent car stood glittering painfully in the road, brilliant with scorching dust. The chauffeur was in the store, sound asleep in a chair. Daisy and her mother had gone to Snow Center visiting, in the little electric victoria, and Sam was entertaining.

“Arabella always leaves the key under the front-door mat, and you can go to the house and wash and make yourself to home, if you want to,” he had said. “The hired girls ain't there. One has her afternoons off — blamed foolishness, paid seventeen dollars a month — and the other has gone berrying.”

But Weston had seated himself on the bench, under the shadow of the store, where it was somewhat cooler than in the road, and Sam had remained beside him. He had not risen when the car had stopped. Sam and his forebears received sitting if they chose, otherwise not; but always it was a matter of their own choice.

Possibly that attitude of Sam's attracted Weston, as well as the innocent charm of his daughter. He looked approvingly at Daisy's father, long and sinewy and yellow and shrewd, and redolent of his staples in trade. He had said to himself long before that the girl and her father were of the true blue blood that recognizes no necessity of asserting it.

The mother was of less degree in Weston's eyes. In fact, she was unconsciously, even to him, the slight barrier which delayed his decision, leisurely in any case. She had been very kind to Weston, and he liked her, but the fact that she placed him on a higher rung of the ladder was so evident that it annoyed him, while he did not fairly know it. Weston's reasons for delay were very subtle, and he was not fond of unraveling the subtle, and the summer had been a very hot one, not conducive to strenuous mental processes. He had just remarked inanely but inevitably upon the heat, and Sam had rejoined with his statement concerning the hill. Weston eyed it lazily. It reared itself precipitously before them — rather a magnificent hill, almost a mountain, a great rise of land covered with green almost to the summit, where a bare expanse of rock shone out like a great jewel.

“I cannot understand,” remarked Weston, indolently, “why, in the name of common sense, since it was obviously impossible to move the hill, the people, the original settlers, could not have founded the village somewhere else.”

“That's as plain as the nose on your face,” said Sam. “The Snows owned the land, and when the Snows owned anything they wanted to sell, they sold it. If they hadn't owned anything but that ledge of stone on the top of the hill, they would have sold that. The Snows were the greatest family to make a trade in these parts. Some of it I've seen myself, and some I used to hear about from my father and grandfather. The Snows were as smart as whips comin' down through the generations, until they wound up in Seth.”

Weston nodded. He had not paid much attention. He was thinking regretfully that since Daisy and her mother were away, he supposed before long he might as well go himself. Straws were turning him at this point of his life, and not much wonder, since the point was unprecedented with him. Weston had never thought seriously of any woman until he had seen that young country girl, with her innocence, and ignorance which was not stupidity, simply the lack of knowledge of the unexperienced. Her beauty also attracted him, although not in as large a sense as her character, which seemed to him of such absolute clarity that it revealed her own future self after the passing of years as a being even more desirable than now.

While Daisy was pretty, even beautiful, her beauty was of a small, clear, almost severe type, which could easily be passed unnoticed. Regular, clean-cut features, a straight gaze from dark-blue eyes, little color, and thick neutral hair brushed back smoothly from full brows, and a habit of silence, did not tend to make her conspicuous. Daisy was called scarcely pretty at all in her native village of Snow Hill. She was admired, however, because she was Sam Dyce's daughter, had been away to school, had her clothes made by the most expensive dressmaker in Snow Center, and lived in the handsomest and largest house in the village.

When Guy Bird had come to board at Mrs. Eliza Angel's for the evident purpose of courting Daisy, there had been much covert jealousy and nearly every young man had gone to Snow Center, had his trousers creased and fitted himself out with shirts and neckties like the newcomer's. However, Daisy herself seemed to care little for the young man next door, but her mother did, and that was considered more than an equivalent.

“Arabella Dyce never yet got her mind set on doing anything but she brought it to pass,” it was said, “and that girl will marry that man her ma has picked out for her, whether she wants him or not.”

Sam Dyce, who knew his daughter, was not so sure. He was sorry that his women-folk were away now, for he saw the shadow of a flitting in the young man's eyes. Sam began to wonder if he could not manage to hold him, but he was no diplomat. While he was considering, Weston himself furnished the key to the situation.

“Whose house is that on the Langham road, with a steeple and long windows like a church?” he inquired. “I notice it every time I come, and have always meant to ask about it, then have forgotten. It looks like a church, but it can't be, for there was a man smoking out in front, and there were white shades at the windows, and there was a woman sewing beside one of them.”

“That,” replied Sam, “is Seth Snow's house. Ever hear about Seth?”

“No,” stated the other, with only a faint show of interest. It was very warm even in the lee of the store. The odor of the stock in trade was somewhat irritating. There stood his car and a swift rush over the country would be more agreeable, and he might return some day if so disposed. The image of poor Daisy seemed to waver indistinctly, as if through waves of heat. But Sam Dyce continued, and his nasal drawl soon awakened attention.

“Mebbe,” said Sam, “if you haven't heard of Seth Snow, you'd like to. Seth, he's the last of the family. He got married when he was young, and his wife died. She was a queer sort, anyway, and sometimes I've wondered if her queerness wasn't sort of catching, for Seth, he never seemed any queerer than other folks when he was a young man, except, of course, he was mighty sharp on the dollars and cents and making a good bargain, like all the Snows. Seth, he'd had a college education but he settled down to farming and made considerable, had enough income to live on anyway. He'd heired that from his father, and he wouldn't spend a mite of it.

“But when his Aunt Lois Snow, that had never got married, died and left him all she had, then he began to let up on farming, and he got religion, too, in the big revival they had down at Snow Center, and he wasn't very well, and old Doctor Riggs, who always looked on the dark side, and had his patients just ready to die, told him he hadn't got six months to live, and Seth, he looked around and thought it was high time he begun to hustle and get in some good works. So he thought he had a call to preach. Of course, he hadn't been to a regular minister's school, but he calculated he might set up as a sort of outside minister, and he made his house over into a meetinghouse.

“He drove a mighty sharp bargain with the carpenters and the men that sold him the timber, but he had them long winders put in, and the ceiling of the first story taken down, and posts driven in to hold up the roof, and that steeple built. Then he begun to look round for pews and a pulpit. Although Seth was real earnest about it, nobody ever questioned that, he couldn't quite get over what was bred in his bone. He couldn't make up his mind to go and have brand-new pews and a new pulpit made for that meetinghouse. It seemed to him he might dicker for them someway. But of course, pews and pulpits ain't to be bought offhand at a bargain like women's dresses and hats, and Seth was sort of discouraged for a while, I reckon.

“He lived along in the rooms he'd kept for himself and his housekeeper back of the meeting-house proper, and kept a lookout for nice second-hand pews and pulpits for pretty near a year. Then, all of a sudden, luck came his way. The First Presbyterian Church at South Atway had a lot of money left it, and the women got up a fair to help out, and they had the whole church fixed up fine. They had new carpets, and pews, and electric lights, and memorial winders and a new pulpit.

“Well, Seth, he just hitched up and drove over to South Atway, and next thing we knew wagons begun to come loaded up with pews, and the pulpit setting on top. Seth bought the carpets and the bracket-lamps, too.

“Well, my wife and the other women got interested, and they said it was a shame that a man should try so hard to have the gospel in Snow Hill, and save folks from going in all weathers way down to Snow Center, and not have anybody help, let alone showing a mite of interest. So they got together and made the men help, and we got the carpet down and the pews set up and the pulpit in place. That was quite a job, for it was a real old-fashioned pulpit, with stairs up one side, and we were mortal afraid it wouldn't be fastened strong and might topple over and poor Seth be killed while he was preaching. But we got it up in good shape finally, and the bracket-lamps and everything, and the Sunday was set for the first meeting.

“Seth had a notice printed and pasted up on the meetinghouse-door. We made a good deal more fuss about that meeting here than we had ever done about any meeting in Snow Center. Of course, that church of Seth Snow's wouldn't be a real regular church, admitted to conferences and such things, I supposed; but after all, I couldn't see if a good Christian man had a call to preach, and was willing to furnish his own meetinghouse and pews, even if he did get them at a bargain, and it would save folks from going a good way in bad weather, why it wasn't all right, but I calculated I'd wait and hear how Seth preached.

“Well, I did. It was a beautiful Sunday in May. It was the great apple year, and I never saw before nor since so many blooms as there were. The orchards and dooryards were all pink-and-white, and the air was so sweet it seemed like singing. Everybody in Snow Hill went to meeting to Seth Snow's church, and most all the women had new bonnets and a lot had new dresses. My wife had a new one trimmed with jet beads, and she had pink roses in her bonnet, and she looked handsome, if I do say it.

“Daisy was nothing but a little tot then, but she had a white dress all trimmed with scallops, and a blue sash and a hat with a wreath and a blue-ribbon bow, and she danced along ahead of us like a white butterfly. She's got such a pretty, quiet way with her now that you wouldn't believe she was such a little flyaway when she was a baby. But she's got the flyaway in her now, under all her ladylike ways. Daisy never was a milk-and-water girl, and she never will be.”

“I can't imagine her as ever being nervous or unduly excited over anything,” remarked Lee Weston, with alertness.

“I can,” said Dyce. “Still waters run deep.” Weston looked thoughtful. A most unmatchmaking father had effected more than a matchmaking mother. Weston had visions of the girl in question being troubled in her sweet soul, and his own echoed back that imaginary trouble. Dyce continued: “The road was full of folks going to meeting that day,” said he. “Oh, I forgot to say that the Presbyterians in South Atway had thrown in their church-bell, because it had a little crack, and they were going to buy a chime anyway. So Seth's bell was ringing for fair.

“‘Just think,’ says Arabella, as we walked behind that dancing little girl. ‘What would all the Snows that have gone before say if they could hear that bell ringing and could know their house was a meetinghouse?’

“‘I know just what they would have said,’ I told her. ‘First they would have asked if Seth had got the pews and things at a bargain, then they would have said — for the Snows were all mighty good people — that they were proud and sort of overcome to think that their house that they'd been born and married and lived and died in had been turned into a meetinghouse.’

“That was true enough, but I must say when I listened to Seth preaching I was sort of staggered as to what all the bygone Snows would have said. They had been a pretty peaceable set, not willing to let their toes be trod on, especially when money-matters were concerned, but always as saving of other folks' feelings as if they had been their own, and to this day I can't quite account for Seth's sermon, for he had always seemed to be a Snow down to the backbone.

“Sometimes I have thought maybe he had a sense of real Christian duty toward his neighbors, and thought he ought to say what he did. It was all true enough, though it did put an end to his preaching, and he has never seemed quite the same since. Some folks think he was so disappointed that it loosened a screw in his head. Anyhow, nobody ever heard such a sermon as Seth Snow preached that Sunday.

“There we sat, women folks dressed up and men folks shaved and looking as fine as we could, all pleased with the new meetinghouse and smiling, and Seth, after the singing, (he had bought a parlor-organ with the other things, and Abby Barstow played it and the congregation sang,) prayed. We all bent our heads when he begun, but before he had prayed five minutes most of us were staring at him, for he was praying for us. And he prayed as if we needed it awful bad and he thought so, and was sure that the Almighty did. Of course he sort of threw himself in, and said ‘us’ now and then, but sometimes he didn't and prayed right at us.

“We had always known, of course, that we had our faults, and might have wanted to think it over a while before we were willing to go into the arena as the early Christian martyrs did and be eaten alive by lions and tigers, with such a mean man as Nero looking on, but we hadn't fairly sensed it that we needed such powerful praying for us at the Throne of Grace. By the time Seth got to ‘Amen’ — it was a pretty long prayer — we begun to think we wouldn't have stood much chance of escaping hell-fire at all if it hadn't been for such strong praying, and, as it was, he didn't leave us any too sure.

“But the prayer was nothing to the sermon. The text was about the mote in thy brother's eye, and the beam in thy own eye, you know the one I mean. Well, Seth contrived to twist that text around in a fashion I'd never have dreamed of and I don't believe many ministers would. I must say, though I had the same mind as everybody else about his sermon — that it wouldn't do to let him keep on preaching any more like it — I did think he was pretty cute.

“He reasoned it out that after you'd got the beam out of your own eye, then it was time to get at the mote in your neighbor's, and I reckon Seth, he calculated that he'd been working pretty hard at his own particular beam and got his eyes reasonably clear and the time had come to look after the other chap's mote. And he did. He made a mighty good-sized mote out of it; sort of got it mixed up with the beam, I reckon.

“He just lit into everybody in Snow Hill. And he made it real plain. He called names right out, and the worst of it was he did hit the nail on the head every single time. When he got ready to clean out my mote I was mad enough, but he had me all right.

“He said: ‘There's Brother Sam Dyce sitting there in his Sunday clothes, looking clean and shaved and in his right mind and as if he had a clean conscience. But his conscience is not clean to the sight of his fellow men, although it may be to his own because of the mote which obscures his vision. He cannot see; probably, that it is not right to sell bunches of asparagus with large tender stalks on the outside, while the inside ones are tough and pindling. He cannot see that it is not right, when he is selling a dozen eggs, to pick out as many as he dares of the little ones.’

“He went on that way, and he was right, I was mad, but I had to admit he'd got me. Then he begun on Arabella.

“‘There's his wife,’ says he, meaning Arabella. ‘She's a good woman. I don't doubt that, but she would be a better one if instead of giving her old bonnet to Sister Elmira Slate who hadn't any fit to come to the House of the Lord in, she had worn the old one herself, and given Sister Elmira the new one. Sister Slate is younger than Sister Dyce, and better looking, and a poor widow, and that fine new bonnet might catch somebody's eyes and she might have a chance to get married again, and she would make a good wife. If I were a marrying man myself, and had not consecrated the rest of my life to the service of the Lord in this His Tabernacle, I would not ask for a worthier helpmeet than Sister Slate, and while the fine new bonnet would make no difference to me, we are not all alike, and sometimes it is the fine new bonnet that serves as a spark to kindle the fire of holy matrimonial affection. Sister Dyce is a good woman, but if she had given that new bonnet to Sister Slate, and that new dress all shiny with beads to Sister Atkins, whose dress don't look hardly suitable for this occasion, and worn one of the many others which must be hanging in her closet at home, she would come nearer the shining mark of the Saints of the Lord.’

“Arabella got red in the face, and she prodded me in the side with her elbow so hard she hurt. ‘Sam,’ says Arabella, ‘I'm going home.’

“‘You set still,’ says I. I don't often go against my wife's wishes, but when I do, I mean it, and Arabella, she sat still, though she looked as if she would bust.

“Seth, he didn't have anything to say against poor little Daisy, or wouldn't have except she went to sleep. She never heard what he said, and as a matter of fact Arabella and I came in for the worst of that. Seth told us that we were running the risk of the unpardonable sin by letting that poor little baby go to sleep in meeting, and Arabella got madder, but Daisy, she just slept, with her cheeks like roses, and her little yellow curls all over her eyes, and her little legs curled up on the pew-cushion. Arabella, she put out her hand to wake up the little thing, but I shook my head at her real fierce.

“Well, Seth preached at us all he could think of, and I guess he didn't leave much out. I had always known I had charged a pretty big interest on a mortgage I held on Moses White's house, and it wasn't any news to me to hear it from the pulpit. I had to grin and bear it, if I did see Moses sitting up and looking real proud and injured over across the aisle. But the next minute he got his turn, for Seth, he just lit into him about wasting his money on tobacco and rum, and loafing when he ought to be working, and said that though Brother Dyce was charging exorbitant interest on his mortgage, the money wasn't being spent in such bad ways, for Brother Dyce was working hard at his appointed task, and didn't drink, nor smoke, nor chew. Then he wound up by giving both of us a hit, by saying that neither man's fault excused the other's, that my sharpness in money-matters didn't excuse Moses, and Moses' bad habits didn't excuse me.

“Then if he didn't have a fling at Elmira Slate, and say that if she had not been quite so extravagant in years gone by, and had learned as every woman should, to make over and cut out clothes for herself she wouldn't need anything given her, and then he said that Sister Atkins had always worn her best clothes too common in all kinds of weather, or she would have looked more suitably attired on that holy day.

“I can tell you, Seth Snow did his duty by us all, and every mother's son and daughter of us got his and her share that day. He was certainly just in his preaching, whatever else he was, except maybe to Seth Snow. He just seemed to take it for granted that we all knew that if he had ever had any sins they were clean gone, and his place was now to tell us of ours.

“Well, we sat there and listened. Some made a move to go out after they had been trounced, but when they got it through their heads that if they waited they'd see the boot fitted on the other leg, they kept their sitting. When the sermon was done there was more singing, and Seth, he made another prayer. That time it was short. He told the Lord Almighty how he had told us what our shortcomings were, and he hoped He would forgive us if we turned round and did better. I don't mean to be making light of sacred things, but that was really the heft of that prayer. Then Seth, he just said ‘Amen,’ and sat down on the pulpit-sofa, and we went out.

“Seth didn't venture to pronounce a benediction. For all he was so satisfied with himself, I guess he thought that would be going too far. He just said ‘Amen,’ and sat down, and we went out. There wasn't any hard feelings between us, as we went home along that road. There couldn't be. We'd all been hit too much alike. Some of us was even sort of tickled and laughing, and others were mad, but all with Seth. That was the last sermon he ever preached in Snow Hill.

“The next Sunday he rang his old cracked bell for all he was worth, but everybody in Snow Hill who could go to meeting at all, went to Snow Center. They had had all they wanted of Seth's preaching, and they would have footed it miles in any kind of weather, winter cold or summer heat, rather than sit and listen to another sermon like that. Arabella said she felt as if she had lived through a little of the Day of Judgment, and she didn't want any more sooner than she could help it.

“Well, there was poor Seth Snow with his house turned into a church, and all the pews and the pulpit, to say nothing of the carpet, and the bell, and the parlor organ and the steeple on his hands. It went pretty hard with him. I don't doubt he thought he had a good call to preach, and it worried him because he couldn't find anybody to listen to him, and it worried him because he was a Snow, and had spent so much money for nothing. At first he used to try to corner folks in their houses or on the road, and work in a little preaching, but they wouldn't stand it, and finally he gave up beat.

“Then he tried to get rid of his church-fixings. He was real lucky about his pews and carpet and parlor organ. He sold the organ at a good figure to a man in Snow Center who wanted it for his new second wife who was young enough to be his daughter. Then the church in Elmville caught fire, and all the inside that wasn't burned was spoiled by smoke and water, and he sold his pews and carpet and made a good profit, but the pulpit and steeple stuck on his hands. Finally he seemed to feel so wrought up over it I took the pulpit into my store to try to sell it, though I must say folks don't come asking to look at pulpits as a rule, and it was a good deal in my way. But I declare that pulpit was sold within a year, and it was all owing to Seth's sharpness. He hadn't been born a Snow for nothing.

“One day he got into a dispute with a stranger in these parts, and Seth, he said he didn't ever bet, it being against his principles, but if he did bet, he'd be willing to lay a good deal that there wasn't a thing in that store of mine in use in the country that couldn't be bought. And that stranger comes walking into my store, and asks for a pulpit, and there it was. It seems he'd told Seth that he'd buy the thing that was in his mind, if I had it, and it turned out to be a pulpit. I always thought Seth had contrived to turn his thoughts that way somehow.

“Seth was pretty cute, even after he'd been so disappointed about his preaching, that folks surmised he wasn't quite right in his head. I've never seen anything wrong myself except for one thing. Seth, he will ring that old cracked bell every single Sunday, and get himself up all ready to preach, though it seems as if he must know nobody will come, and it has been years, for Daisy is most twenty, and he's kept it up ever since that Sunday, and he's an old man now.”

“He didn't have a chance to sell the steeple?” asked Weston.

“Why, yes, he did, and that was another queer thing. He had a good chance to sell that steeple when the one on the Baptist Church in Snow Center was struck by lightning, but he wouldn't sell. He told me about it. ‘Sam,’ says he, ‘I had a chance to sell my church-steeple, but that's one thing I won't part with if it did cost me a pretty penny, and folks think it's thrown away. It ain't thrown away,’ says Seth. ‘That's one thing that ain't. If I can't preach that steeple can point up and show what I meant to do. I meant to point up,’ says Seth, ‘and I still think I had a call to point up, Sam.’

“There was something sort of sad about it. He wouldn't sell the steeple, and as for the bell, nobody wanted that.”

“He is an old man?”

“Yes, Seth's pretty old. He is a good deal older than I am. He looks full as old as he is, too. His hair has been as white as snow a good many years, and he walks bent over. He tries to farm a little but he don't make out much. But that don't make any odds, for he's got plenty out at interest to live on. But I've always been sorry for Seth. He's a disappointed man. Once he says to me: ‘Do you know I only preached that one sermon, Sam?’

“‘Maybe that did more good than a dozen,’ I told him. Sometimes I've wondered if it didn't. I know I used to do a little different, and I know Arabella gave Elmira Slate a brand-new bonnet, and I know Sister Atkins tried to make over a dress.

“‘And I've never even preached a funeral sermon, nor married a couple,’ says Seth.

“‘Why, you couldn't do that last anyway,’ I told him, ‘for you know you ain't an ordained minister, Seth.’

“But he didn't seem to sense that. ‘It's a pretty hard thing, a pretty hard thing, for a man to be disappointed in everything he wants to do for other folks,’ says he, and he goes away, shaking his head. That wasn't long ago.”

Weston's eyes had been on the road for the last few seconds. Something was approaching at a swift glide. The young man changed color. Sam Dyce observed him, and a queer little smile twisted his mouth.

The electric car glided up to the house opposite, a large woman got out, and entered, then the car wheeled and approached the store. Becomingly framed in the car's dark hood showed a girl's charming, delicate head and face. She flushed ever so slightly, and smiled at the two men. Weston approached her eagerly; and at the same time appeared, as if he had risen from the ground, his coming had been so unobserved, an old man, bent, white-bearded, with a face at once shrewd, benevolent, and pathetic. He spoke once to Weston.

“Well,” said he. “I hope now you have come to marry her, and are not intending any further delay.”

The girl and the man started.

“Now, Seth,” said Sam Dyce.

“You need not talk,” said the old man. “It is time something was done. Your daughter is as good a girl, and as pretty a girl, as ever lived, Sam Dyce, and she is not going to be hurt. This man has been coming, and coming, and she likes him. As for the other man, her mother is so set on —” The old man made a contemptuous gesture. Then he spoke with a wonderful, almost uncanny authority. “Stand up beside that girl in the buggy,” he ordered Weston, and Weston obeyed. “Now, do you want to marry that woman, and love her and take care of her, and stand between her and all the troubles of life?” he said. Weston, white to the lips, bowed. “Daisy,” said Seth Snow, “do you like that man enough to put up with his faults, and be happy?” Daisy tremblingly bowed. “Then,” said Seth, “I pronounce you man and wife.”

Seth walked away.

Sam Dyce spoke first.

“See here,” he said, “that wasn't legal.”

“We can have it made legal,” said Weston.

All at once his uncertainty had vanished. He realized within himself an enormous, sheltering, sanctifying love for that young girl.

“Well, I never!” said Sam. “What will that other fellow do?”

“He went away this morning, father,” said Daisy. “There was another girl, really. He used to go with her. Annie Munson told me, and said she felt dreadfully. I think he will go back to her.”

“Never mind him,” said Weston.

He looked at the girl and she looked at him.

Above the tree-tops showed in a clear, sharp triangle Seth Snow's church-steeple. Presently there pealed out in a dissonant jangle his cracked bell. But since all discords may become harmonious under some circumstances, that old Sabbath bell rang out for the two lovers a chime of prophecy of endless happiness.