These facts had not heretofore been a source of satisfaction to the Rev. Theron Ware. He had even alluded to the subject in terms which gave his wife the impression that he actively deplored the strength and size of the Catholic denomination in this new home of theirs, and was troubled in his mind about Rome generally. But this evening he walked along the extended side of the big structure, which occupied nearly half the block, and then, turning the corner, passed in review its wide-doored, looming front, without any hostile emotions whatever. In the gathering dusk it seemed more massive than ever before, but he found himself only passively considering the odd statement he had heard that all Catholic Church property was deeded absolutely in the name of the Bishop of the diocese.
Only a narrow passage-way separated the church from the pastorate—a fine new brick residence standing flush upon the street. Theron mounted the steps, and looked about for a bell-pull. Search revealed instead a little ivory button set in a ring of metal work. He picked at this for a time with his finger-nail, before he made out the injunction, printed across it, to push. Of course! how stupid of him! This was one of those electric bells he had heard so much of, but which had not as yet made their way to the class of homes he knew. For custodians of a mediaeval superstition and fanaticism, the Catholic clergy seemed very much up to date. This bell made him feel rather more a countryman than ever.
The door was opened by a tall gaunt woman, who stood in black relief against the radiance of the hall-way while Theron, choosing his words with some diffidence, asked if the Rev. Mr. Forbes was in.
“He is” came the hush-voiced answer. “He’s at dinner, though.”
It took the young minister a second or two to bring into association in his mind this evening hour and this midday meal. Then he began to say that he would call again—it was nothing special—but the woman suddenly cut him short by throwing the door wide open.
“It’s Mr. Ware, is it not?” she asked, in a greatly altered tone. “Sure, he’d not have you go away. Come inside—do, sir!—I’ll tell him.”
Theron, with a dumb show of reluctance, crossed the threshold. He noted now that the woman, who had bustled down the hall on her errand, was gray-haired and incredibly ugly, with a dark sour face, glowering black eyes, and a twisted mouth. Then he saw that he was not alone in the hall-way. Three men and two women, all poorly clad and obviously working people, were seated in meek silence on a bench beyond the hat-rack. They glanced up at him for an instant, then resumed their patient study of the linoleum pattern on the floor at their feet.
“And will you kindly step in, sir?” the elderly Gorgon had returned to ask. She led Mr. Ware along the hall-way to a door near the end, and opened it for him to pass before her.