“It may be some distressed soul,” said Theron, gently, “seeking relief from the curse of sleeplessness.”
The wife laughed, almost contemptuously. “Distressed fiddlesticks!” was her only other comment.
The music went on for a long time—rising now to strident heights, now sinking off to the merest tinkling murmur, and broken ever and again by intervals of utter hush. It did not prevent Alice from at once falling sound asleep; but Theron lay awake, it seemed to him, for hours, listening tranquilly, and letting his mind wander at will through the pleasant antechambers of Sleep, where are more unreal fantasies than Dreamland itself affords.
For some weeks the Rev. Theron Ware saw nothing of either the priest or the doctor, or the interesting Miss Madden.
There were, indeed, more urgent matters to think about. June had come; and every succeeding day brought closer to hand the ordeal of his first Quarterly Conference in Octavius. The waters grew distinctly rougher as his pastoral bark neared this difficult passage.
He would have approached the great event with an easier mind if he could have made out just how he stood with his congregation. Unfortunately nothing in his previous experiences helped him in the least to measure or guess at the feelings of these curious Octavians. Their Methodism seemed to be sound enough, and to stick quite to the letter of the Discipline, so long as it was expressed in formulae. It was its spirit which he felt to be complicated by all sorts of conditions wholly novel to him.
The existence of a line of street-cars in the town, for example, would not impress the casual thinker as likely to prove a rock in the path of peaceful religion. Theron, in his simplicity, had even thought, when he first saw these bobtailed cars bumping along the rails in the middle of the main street, that they must be a great convenience to people living in the outskirts, who wished to get in to church of a Sunday morning. He was imprudent enough to mention this in conversation with one of his new parishioners. Then he learned, to his considerable chagrin, that when this line was built, some years before, a bitter war of words had been fought upon the question of its being worked on the Sabbath day. The then occupant of the Methodist pulpit had so distinguished himself above the rest by the solemnity and fervor of his protests against this insolent desecration of God’s day that the Methodists of Octavius still felt themselves peculiarly bound to hold this horse-car line, its management, and everything connected with it, in unbending aversion. At least once a year they were accustomed to expect a sermon denouncing it and all its impious Sunday patrons. Theron made a mental resolve that this year they should be disappointed.