The young minister spoke between clinched teeth. “All those in favor will say aye.”
Brothers Pierce and Winch put up a simultaneous and confident “Aye.”
“No, you don’t!” interposed the lawyer, with deliberate, sneering emphasis. “I decidedly protest against Winch’s voting. He’s directly interested, and he mustn’t vote. Your chairman knows that perfectly well.”
“Yes, I think Brother Winch ought not to vote,” decided Theron, with great calmness. He saw now what was coming, and underneath his surface composure there were sharp flutterings.
“Very well, then,” said Gorringe. “I vote no, and it’s a tie. It rests with the chairman now to cast the deciding vote, and say whether this interesting arrangement shall go through or not.”
“Me?” said Theron, eying the lawyer with a cool self-control which had come all at once to him. “Me? Oh, I vote Aye.”
“Well, I did what you told me to do,” Theron Ware remarked to Sister Soulsby, when at last they found themselves alone in the sitting-room after the midday meal.
It had taken not a little strategic skirmishing to secure the room to themselves for the hospitable Alice, much touched by the thought of her new friend’s departure that very evening had gladly proposed to let all the work stand over until night, and devote herself entirely to Sister Soulsby. When, finally, Brother Soulsby conceived and deftly executed the coup of interesting her in the budding of roses, and then leading her off into the garden to see with her own eyes how it was done, Theron had a sense of being left alone with a conspirator. The notion impelled him to plunge at once into the heart of their mystery.
“I did what you told me to do,” he repeated, looking up from his low easy-chair to where she sat by the desk; “and I dare say you won’t be surprised when I add that I have no respect for myself for doing it.”
“And yet you would go and do it right over again, eh?” the woman said, in bright, pert tones, nodding her head, and smiling at him with roguish, comprehending eyes. “Yes, that’s the way we’re built. We spend our lives doing that sort of thing.”
“I don’t know that you would precisely grasp my meaning,” said the young minister, with a polite effort in his words to mask the untoward side of the suggestion. “It is a matter of conscience with me; and I am pained and shocked at myself.”
Sister Soulsby drummed for an absent moment with her thin, nervous fingers on the desk-top. “I guess maybe you’d better go and lie down again,” she said gently. “You’re a sick man, still, and it’s no good your worrying your head just now with things of this sort. You’ll see them differently when you’re quite yourself again.”
“No, no,” pleaded Theron. “Do let us have our talk out! I’m all right. My mind is clear as a bell. Truly, I’ve really counted on this talk with you.”