“Well, then, hear what I was getting at,” she went on. “You were talking very loudly here about frauds and hypocrisies and so on, a few minutes ago. Now I say that Soulsby and I do good, and that we’re good fellows. Now take him, for example. There isn’t a better citizen in all Chemung County than he is, or a kindlier neighbor, or a better or more charitable man. I’ve known him to stay up a whole winter’s night in a poor Irishman’s stinking and freezing stable, trying to save his cart-horse for him, that had been seized with some sort of fit. The man’s whole livelihood, and his family’s, was in that horse; and when it died, Soulsby bought him another, and never told even me about it. Now that I call real piety, if you like.”
“So do I,” put in Theron, cordially.
“And this question of fraud,” pursued his companion,—“look at it in this light. You heard us sing. Well, now, I was a singer, of course, but Soulsby hardly knew one note from another. I taught him to sing, and he went at it patiently and diligently, like a little man. And I invented that scheme of finding tunes which the crowd didn’t know, and so couldn’t break in on and smother. I simply took Chopin—he is full of sixths, you know—and I got all sorts of melodies out of his waltzes and mazurkas and nocturnes and so on, and I trained Soulsby just to sing those sixths so as to make the harmony, and there you are. He couldn’t sing by himself any more than a crow, but he’s got those sixths of his down to a hair. Now that’s machinery, management, organization. We take these tunes, written by a devil-may-care Pole who was living with George Sand openly at the time, and pass ’em off on the brethren for hymns. It’s a fraud, yes; but it’s a good fraud. So they are all good frauds. I say frankly that I’m glad that the change and the chance came to help Soulsby and me to be good frauds.”
“And the point is that I’m to be a good fraud, too,” commented the young minister.
She had risen, and he got to his feet as well. He instinctively sought for her hand, and pressed it warmly, and held it in both his, with an exuberance of gratitude and liking in his manner.
Sister Soulsby danced her eyes at him with a saucy little shake of the head. “I’m afraid you’ll never make a really good fraud,” she said. “You haven’t got it in you. Your intentions are all right, but your execution is hopelessly clumsy. I came up to your bedroom there twice while you were sick, just to say ‘howdy,’ and you kept your eyes shut, and all the while a blind horse could have told that you were wide awake.”
“I must have thought it was my wife,” said Theron.
When the lingering dusk finally settled down upon this long summer evening, the train bearing the Soulsbys homeward was already some score of miles on its way, and the Methodists of Octavius had nearly finished their weekly prayer-meeting.