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"They need killing--about two dozen of 'em. I'd like
to have the job of indicating which ones; I wouldn't miss the old man,
you bet!" he said, with blasphemous audacity.

Wallace was helpless in the face of such reckless thought, and so sat
looking at the handsome young fellow as he walked about.

"Well, now, Stacey, I guess you'll need to move. I had another session
with the old man, but he won't give in, so I'm off for Chicago. Mother's
brother, George Chapman, who lives about as near the schoolhouse on the
other side, will take you in. I guess we'd better go right down now and
see about it. I've said good-by to the old man--for good this time; we
didn't shake hands either," he said, as they walked down the road
together. He was very stern and hard. Something of the father was hidden
under his laughing exterior.

Stacey regretted deeply the necessity which drove him out of Allen's
house. Mrs. Allen and Mattie had appealed to him very strongly. For
years he had lived far from young women, and there was a magical power
in the intimate home actions of this young girl. Her bare head, with
simple arrangement of hair, someway seemed the most beautiful thing he
had ever seen.

He thought of her as he sat at the table with George and his aged
mother. They lived alone, and their lives were curiously silent. Once in
a while a low-voiced question, and that was all.

George read the _Popular Science_, _Harper's Monthly Magazine_, and the
_Open Court_, and brooded over them with slow intellectual movement. It
was wonderful the amount of information he secreted from these
periodicals. He was better informed than many college graduates.

He had little curiosity about the young stranger. He understood he was
to teach the school, and he did not go further in inquiry.

He tried Wallace once or twice on the latest discoveries of John Fiske
and Edison, and then gave him up and retired to his seat beside the
sitting-room stove.

On the following Monday morning school began, and as Wallace took his
way down the lane the wrecked church came again to his eyes. He walked
past it with slow feet. His was a deeply religious nature, one that
sorrowed easily over sin. Suffering of the poor did not trouble him;
hunger seemed a little thing beside losing one's everlasting soul.
Therefore to come from his studies upon such a monument of human
depravity as this rotting church was to receive a shock and to hear a
call to action.

Approaching the schoolhouse, his thought took a turn toward the scholars
and toward Mattie. He had forgotten to ask her if she intended to be one
of his pupils.

There were several children already gathered at the schoolhouse door as
he came up. It was all very American--the boxlike house of white, the
slender teacher approaching, the roughly clad urchins waiting.

He said, "Good morning, scholars."

They chorused a queer croak in reply--hesitating, inarticulate, shy. He
unlocked the door and entered the cold, bare room--familiar, unlovely,
with a certain power of primitive associations. In such a room he had
studied his primer and his Ray's Arithmetic. In such a room he had made
gradual recession from the smallest front seat to the back wall seat;
and from one side of such a room to the other he had furtively worshiped
a graceful girlish head.

He allowed himself but a moment of such dreaming, and then he assumed
command, and with his ready helpers a fire was soon started. Other
children came in, timorous as rabbits, slipping by with one eye fixed on
him like scared chickens. They pre-empted their seats by putting down
books and slates, and there arose sly wars for possession, which he felt
in curious amusement--it was so like his own life at that age.

He assumed command as nearly in the manner of the old-time teachers as
he could recall, and the work of his teaching was begun. The day passed
quickly, and as he walked homeward again there stood that rotting
church, and in his mind there rose a surging emotion larger than he
could himself comprehend--a desire to rebuild it by uniting the warring
factions, of whose lack of Christianity it was fatal witness.


IV.

Now this mystical thing happened. As this son of a line of preachers
brooded on this unlovely strife among men, he lost the equipoise of the
scholar and student of modern history. He grew narrower and more
intense. The burden of his responsibility as a preacher of Christ grew
daily more insupportable.

Toward the end of the week he announced preaching in the schoolhouse on
Sunday afternoon, and at the hour set he found the room crowded with
people of all ages and sorts.

His heart grew heavy as he looked out over the room on women nursing
querulous children, on the grizzled faces of grim-looking men, who
studied him with keen, unsympathetic eyes. He had hard, unfriendly
material to work with. There were but few of the opposite camp present,
while the Baptist leaders were all there, with more curiosity than
sympathy in their faces.

They exulted to think the next preacher to come among them as an
evangelist should be a Baptist.

After the singing, which would have dribbled away into failure but for
Mattie, Wallace rose, looking very white and weak, and began his prayer.
Some of the boys laughed when his voice stuck in his throat, but he went
on to the end of an earnest supplication, feeling he had not touched
them at all.

While they sang again, he sat looking down at them with dry throat and
staring eyes. They seemed so hard, so unchristianlike. What could he say
to them? He saw Mattie looking at him, and on the front seat sat three
beautiful little girls huddled together with hands clasped; they were
inexpressibly dainty by contrast. As he looked at them the thought came
to him, What is the goodness of a girl--of a child? It is not
partisan--it is not of creeds, of articles--it is goodness of thought,
of deeds. His face lighted up with the inward feeling of this idea, and
he rose resolutely.

"Friends, with the help of Christ I am come among you to do you good. I
shall hold meetings each night here in the schoolhouse until we can
unite and rebuild the church again. Let me say now, friends, that I was
educated a Baptist. My father was a faithful worker in the Baptist
Church, and so was his father before him. I was educated in a Baptist
college, and I came here hoping to build up a Baptist Church." He
paused.

"But I see my mistake. I am here to build up a Church of Christ, of good
deeds and charity and peace, and so I here say I am no longer a Baptist
or Methodist. I am only a preacher, and I will not rest until I rebuild
the church which stands rotting away there." His voice rang with
intellectual determination as he uttered those words.

The people listened. There was no movement now. Even the babies seemed
to feel the need of being silent. When he began again it was to describe
that hideous wreck. He delineated the falling plaster, the litter around
the pulpit, the profanation of the walls. "It is a symbol of your sinful
hearts," he cried.

Much more he said, carried out of himself by his passion. It was as if
the repentant spirit of his denominational fathers were speaking through
him; and yet he was not so impassioned that he did not see, or at least
feel, the eyes of the strong young girl fixed upon him; his resolution
he spoke looking at her, and a swift response seemed to leap from her
eyes.

When it was over, some of the Methodists and one of the Baptists came up
to shake hands with him, awkwardly wordless, and the pressure of their
hands helped him. Many of the Baptist brethren slipped outside to
discuss the matter. Some were indignant, others much more moved.

Allen went by him with an audible grunt of derision, and there was a
dark scowl on his face, but Mattie smiled at him, with tears still in
her eyes. She had been touched by his vibrant voice; she had no sins to
repent of.

The skeptics of the neighborhood were quite generally sympathetic.
"You've struck the right trail now, parson," said Chapman, as they
walked homeward together. "The days of the old-time denominationalism
are about played out."

But the young preacher was not so sure of it--now that his inspiration
was gone. He remembered his debt to his college, to his father, to the
denomination, and it was not easy to set aside the grip of such
memories.

He sat late revolving the whole situation in his mind. When he went to
bed it was still with him, and involved itself with his dreams; but
always the young girl smiled upon him with sympathetic eyes and told him
to go on--or so it seemed to him.

He was silent at breakfast. He went to school with a feeling that a
return to teaching little tow-heads to count and spell was now
impossible. He sat in his scarred and dingy desk, while they took their
places, and his eyes had a passionate intensity of prayer in them which
awed the pupils. He had assumed new grandeur and terror in their eyes.
When they were seated he bowed his head and uttered a short plea for
grace, and then he looked at them again.

On the low front seat, with dangling legs and red round faces, sat the
little ones. Someway he could not call them to his knees and teach them
to spell; he felt as if he ought to call them to him, as Christ did, to
teach them love and reverence. It was impossible that they should not be
touched by this hideous neighborhood of hate and strife.

Behind them sat the older children, some of them with rough, hard, sly
faces. Some grinned rudely and nudged each other. The older girls sat
with bated breath; they perceived something strange in the air. Most of
them had heard his sermon the night before.

At last he broke silence. "Children, there is something I must say to
you this morning. I'm going to have meeting here to-night, and it may be
I shall not be your teacher any more--I mean in school. I wish you'd go
home to-day and tell your people to come to church here to-night. I wish
you'd all come yourselves. I want you to be good. I want you to love God
and be good. I want you to go home and tell your people the teacher
can't teach you here till he has taught the older people to be kind and
generous.



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