“There is some justice in what you say,” admitted the stranger, “if you persist in looking on this thing as a business proposition. But it seems to my confessedly untrained mind that you missed the point. ‘Trust in the Lord,’ saith the prophet. In fact, certain rivals in your own field hold the doctrine you expound, and you consider them wrong. ‘To do evil that good may come’ I seem to recognize as a tenet of the Church of the Jesuits.”
“I protest. I really do protest,” objected the clergyman, scandalized.
“All right,” agreed Ned Trent, with good-natured contempt. “That is not the point. Do you refuse?”
“Can’t you see?” begged the other. “I’m sure you are reasonable enough to take the case on its broader side.”
“You refuse?” insisted Ned Trent.
“It is not always easy to walk straightly before the Lord, and my way is not always clear before me, but——”
“You refuse!” cried Ned Trent, rising impatiently.
The reverend Archibald Crane looked at his catechiser with a trace of alarm.
“I’m sorry; I’m afraid I must,” he apologized.
The stranger advanced until he touched the desk on the other side of which the Reverend Archibald was sitting, where he stood for some moments looking down on his opponent with an almost amused expression of contempt.
“You are an interesting little beast,” he drawled, “and I’ve seen a lot of your kind in my time. Here you preach every Sunday, to whomever will listen to you, certain cut-and-dried doctrines you don’t believe practically in the least. Here for the first time you have had a chance to apply them literally, and you hide behind a lot of words. And while you’re about it you may as well hear what I have to say about your kind. I’ve had a pretty wide experience in the North, and I know what I’m talking about. Your work here among the Indians is rot, and every sensible man knows it. You coop them up in your log-built houses, you force on them clothes to which they are unaccustomed until they die of consumption. Under your little tin-steepled imitation of civilization, for which they are not fitted, they learn to beg, to steal, to lie. I have travelled far, but I have yet to discover what your kind are allowed on earth for. You are narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant, and without a scrap of real humanity to ornament your mock religion. When you find you can’t meddle with other people’s affairs enough at home you get sent where you can get right in the business—and earn salvation for doing it. I don’t know just why I should say this to you, but it sort of does me good to tell it. Once I heard one of your kind tell a sorrowing mother that her little child had gone to hell because it had died before he—the smug hypocrite—had sprinkled its little body with a handful of water. There’s humanity for you! It may interest you to know that I thrashed that man then and there. You