“I notice that the rates of interest vary,” he remarked without thinking, and then wished the words unsaid, for the two trustees in view moved uneasily on their seats.
“Oh, that’s nothing,” exclaimed Erastus Winch, with a boisterous display of jollity. “It’s only Brother Gorringe’s pleasant little way of making a contribution to our funds. You will notice that, at the date of all these mortgages, the State rate of interest was seven per cent. Since then it’s b’en lowered to six. Well, when that happened, you see, Brother Gorringe, not being a professin’ member, and so not bound by our rules, he could just as well as not let his interest down a cent. But Brother Pierce an’ me, we talked it over, an’ we made up our minds we were tied hand an’ foot by our contract. You know how strong the Discipline lays it down that we must be bound to the letter of our agreements. That bein’ so, we seen it in the light of duty not to change what we’d set our hands to. That’s how it is, Brother Ware.”
“I understand,” said Theron, with an effort at polite calmness of tone. “And—is there anything else?”
“There’s this,” broke in Brother Pierce: “we’re commanded to be law-abiding people, an’ seven per cent was the law an’ would be now if them ragamuffins in the Legislation—”
“Surely we needn’t go further into that,” interrupted the minister, conscious of a growing stiffness in his moral spine. “Have we any other business before us?”
Brother Pierce’s little eyes snapped, and the wrinkles in his forehead deepened angrily. “Business?” he demanded. “Yes, plenty of it. We’ve got to reduce expenses. We’re nigh onto $300 behind-hand this minute. Besides your house-rent, you get $800 free an’ clear—that is $15.38 every week, an’ only you an’ your wife to keep out of it. Why, when I was your age, young man, and after that too, I was glad to get $4 a week.”
“I don’t think my salary is under discussion, Mr. Pierce—”
“Brother Pierce!” suggested Winch, in a half-shuckling undertone.
“Brother Pierce, then!” echoed Theron, impatiently. “The Quarterly Conference and the Estimating Committee deal with that. The trustees have no more to do with it than the man in the moon.”
“Come, come, Brother Ware,” put in Erastus Winch, “we mustn’t have no hard feelin’s. Brotherly love is what we’re all lookin’ after. Brother Pierce’s meanin’ wasn’t agin your drawin’ your full salary, every cent of it, only—only there are certain little things connected with the parsonage here that we feel you ought to bear. F’r instance, there’s the new sidewalk we had to lay in front of the house here only a month ago. Of course, if the treasury was flush we wouldn’t say a word about it. An’ then there’s the gas bill here. Seein’ as you get your rent for nothin’, it don’t seem much to ask that you should see to lightin’ the place yourself.”
“No, I don’t think that either is a proper charge upon me,” interposed Theron. “I decline to pay them.”