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Allen, you remember--Herman Allen."

Following directions, Stacey came at length to a two-story frame house
situated on the edge of the bank, with its back to the river. It stood
alone, with vacant lots all about. A pleasant-faced woman answered the
ring.

He explained briefly. "How do you do? I'm a teacher, and I'd like to get
board here a few days while passing my examinations. Mr. Herman Allen
sent me."

The woman's quick eye and ear were satisfied. "All right. Walk in, sir.
I'm pretty full, but I expect I can accommodate you--if you don't mind
Mr. Allen for a roommate."

"Oh, not at all," he said, while taking off his coat.

"Come right in this way. Supper will be ready soon."

He went into a comfortable sitting room, where a huge open fire of soft
coal was blazing magnificently. The walls were papered in florid
patterns, and several enlarged portraits were on the walls. The fire was
the really great adornment; all else was cheap, and some of it was
tawdry.

Stacey spread his thin hands to the blaze, while the landlady sat down a
moment, out of politeness, to chat, scanning him keenly. She was a
handsome woman, strong, well rounded, about forty years of age, with
quick gray eyes and a clean, firm-lipped mouth.

"Did you just get in?"

"Yes. I've been on the road all day," he said, on an impulse of
communication. "Indeed, I'm just out of college."

"Is that so?" exclaimed Mrs. Mills, stopping her rocking in an access of
interest. "What college?"

"Jackson University. I've been sick, and only came West----"

There came a look into her face that transformed and transfigured her.
"_My_ boy was in Ann Arbor. He was killed on the train on his way home
one day." She stopped, for fear of breaking into a quaver, and smiled
brightly. "That's why I always like college boys. They all stop here
with me." She rose hastily. "Well, you'll excuse me, won't you, and I'll
go an' 'tend to supper."

There was a great deal that was feminine in Stacey, and he felt at once
the pathos of the woman's life. He looked a refined, studious, rather
delicate young man, as he sat low in his chair and observed the light
and heat of the fire. His large head looked to be full of learning, and
his dark eyes were deep with religious fervor.

Several young women entered, and the room was filled with clatter of
tongues. Herman came in a few moments later, his face in a girlish glow
of color. Everybody rushed at him with loud outcry. He was evidently a
great favorite. He threw his arms about Mrs. Mills, giving her a hearty
hug. The girls pretended to be shocked when he reached out for them, but
they were not afraid of him. They hung on his arms and besieged him with
questions till he cried out, in jolly perplexity:

"Girls, girls! This will never do."

Mrs. Mills brushed out his damp yellow curls with her hands. "You're all
wet."

"Girls, if you'll let me sit down, I'll take one on each knee," he said,
pleadingly, and they released him.

Stacey grew red with sympathetic embarrassment, and shrank away into a
corner.

"Go get supper ready," commanded Herman. And it was only after they left
that he said to Stacey: "Oh, you found your way all right. I didn't see
you--those confounded girls bother me so." He took a seat by the fire
and surveyed his wet shoes. "I took a run up to Mott's house--only a
half block out o' the way. He said they'd be tickled to have you at
Cyene. By the way, you're a theolog, aren't you?" Wallace nodded, and
Herman went on: "So I told Mott. He said you might work up a society out
there at Cyene."

"Is there a church there?"

"Used to be, but--say, I tell you what you do: you go out with me
to-morrow, and I'll give you the whole history."

The ringing of the bell took them out into the cheerful dining room in
a good-natured scramble. Mrs. Mills put Stacey at one end of the table,
near a young woman who looked like a teacher, and he had full sweep of
the table, which was surrounded by bright and sunny faces. The station
hand was there, and a couple of grocery clerks, and a brakeman sat at
Stacey's right hand. The table was very merry. They called each other by
their Christian names, and there was very obvious courtship on the part
of several young couples.

Stacey escaped from the table as soon as possible, and returned to his
seat beside the fire. He was young enough to enjoy the chatter of the
girls, but his timidity made him glad they paid so little attention to
him. The rain had changed to sleet outside, and hammered at the window
viciously, but the blazing fire and the romping young people set it at
defiance. The landlady came to the door of the dining room, dish and
cloth in hand, to share in each outburst of laughter, and not
infrequently the hired girl peered over her shoulder with a broad smile
on her face. A little later, having finished their work, they both came
in and took active part in the light-hearted fun.

Herman and one of the girls were having a great struggle over some
trifle he had snatched from her hand, and the rest stood about laughing
to see her desperate attempts to recover it. This was a familiar form of
courtship in Kesota, and an evening filled with such romping was
considered a "cracking good time." After the girl, red and disheveled,
had given up, Herman sat down at the organ, and they all sang Moody and
Sankey hymns, negro melodies, and college songs till nine o'clock. Then
Mrs. Mills called, "Come, now, boys and girls," and they all said good
night, like obedient children.

Herman and Wallace went up to their bedroom together.

"Say, Stacey, have you got a policy?" Wallace shook his head. "And don't
want any, I suppose. Well, I just asked you as a matter of form. You
see," he went on, winking at Wallace comically, "nominally I'm an
insurance agent, but practically I'm a 'lamb'--but I get a mouthful o'
fur myself occasionally. What I'm working for is to get on that Wheat
Exchange. That's where you get life! I'd rather be an established broker
in that howling mob than go to Congress."

Suddenly a thought struck him. He rose on his elbow in bed and looked at
Wallace just as he rose from a silent prayer. Catching his eye, Herman
said:

"Say! why didn't you shout? I forgot all about it--I mean your
profession."

Wallace crept into bed beside his communicative bedfellow in silence. He
didn't know how to deal with such spirits.

"Say!" called Herman suddenly, as they were about to go to sleep, "you
ain't got no picnic, old man."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"Wait till you see Cyene Church. Oh, it's a daisy snarl."

"I wish you'd tell me about it."

"Oh, it's quiet now. The calmness of death," said Herman. "Well, you
see, it came this way. The church is made up of Baptists and Methodists,
and the Methodists wanted an organ, because, you understand, father was
the head center, and Mattie is the only girl among the Methodists who
can play. The old man has got a head like a mule. He can't be switched
off, once he makes up his mind. Deacon Marsden he don't believe in
anything above tuning forks, and he's tighter'n the bark on a bulldog.
He stood out like a sore thumb, and dad wouldn't give an inch.

"You see, they held meetings every other Sunday. So dad worked up the
organ business and got one, and then locked it up when the Baptists held
their services. Well, it went from bad to worse. They didn't speak as
they passed by--that is, the old folks; we young folks didn't care a
continental whether school kept or not. Well, upshot is, the church died
out. The wind blew the horse sheds down, and there they lie--and the
church is standing there empty as an--old boot--and----" He grew too
sleepy to finish.

Suddenly a comical idea roused him again. "Say, Stacey--by Jinks!--are
you a Baptist?"

"Yes."

"Oh, Peter! ain't that lovely?" He chuckled shamelessly, and went off to
sleep without another word.


II.

Herman was still sleeping when Stacey rose and dressed and went down to
breakfast. Mrs. Mills defended Herman against the charge of laziness:
"He's probably been out late all the week."

Stacey found Mott in the county courthouse, and a perfunctory
examination soon put him in possession of a certificate. There was no
question of his attainments.

Herman met him at dinner-time.

"Well, elder, I'm going down to get a rig to go out home in. It's
colder'n a blue whetstone, so put on all the clothes you've got. Gimme
your check, and I'll get your traps. Have you seen Mott?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, everything's all fixed."

He turned up about three o'clock, seated on the spring seat of a lumber
wagon beside a woman, who drove the powerful team. Whether she was young
or old could not be told through her wraps. She wore a cap and a thick,
faded cloak.

Mrs. Mills hurried to the door. "Why, Mattie Allen! What you doin' out
such a day as this? Come in here instanter!"

"Can't stop," called a clear, boyish voice. "Too late."

"Well, land o' stars!--you'll freeze."

When Wallace reached the wagon side, Herman said, "My sister, Stacey."

The girl slipped her strong brown hand out of her huge glove and gave
him a friendly grip. "Get right in," she said. "Herman, you're going to
stand up behind."

Herman appealed to Mrs. Mills for sympathy. "This is what comes of
having plebeian connections."

"Oh, dry up," laughed the girl, "or I'll make you drive."

Stacey scrambled in awkwardly beside her. She was not at all
embarrassed, apparently.

"Tuck yourself in tight. It's mighty cold on the prairie."

"Why didn't you come down with the baroosh?" grumbled Herman.

"Well, the corn was contracted for, and father wasn't able to come--he
had another attack of neuralgia last night after he got the corn
loaded--so I had to come."

"Sha'n't I drive for you?" asked Wallace.

"No, thank you. You'll have all you can do to keep from freezing." She
looked at his thin coat and worn gloves with keen eyes. He could see
only her pink cheeks, strong nose, and dark, smiling eyes.

It was one of those terrible Illinois days when the temperature drops
suddenly to zero, and the churned mud of the highways hardens into a
sort of scoriac rock, which cripples the horses and sends the heavy
wagons booming and thundering along like mad things.



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