The Rev. Theron Ware uncrossed his feet and moved out on to the stoop beside his wife. “What’s that you say?” he interjected. “Don’t they take milk on Sundays?”
“Nope!” answered the boy.
The young couple looked each other in the face for a puzzled moment, then broke into a laugh.
“Well, we’ll try it, anyway,” said the preacher. “You can go on bringing it Sundays till—till—”
“Till you cave in an’ tell me to stop,” put in the boy. “All right!” and he was off on the instant, the dipper jangling loud incredulity in his pail as he went.
The Wares exchanged another glance as he disappeared round the corner of the house, and another mutual laugh seemed imminent. Then the wife’s face clouded over, and she thrust her under-lip a trifle forward out of its place in the straight and gently firm profile.
“It’s just what Wendell Phillips said,” she declared. “’The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.’”
The young minister stroked his chin thoughtfully, and let his gaze wander over the backyard in silence. The garden parts had not been spaded up, but lay, a useless stretch of muddy earth, broken only by last year’s cabbage-stumps and the general litter of dead roots and vegetation. The door of the tenantless chicken-coop hung wide open. Before it was a great heap of ashes and cinders, soaked into grimy hardness by the recent spring rains, and nearer still an ancient chopping-block, round which were scattered old weather-beaten hardwood knots which had defied the axe, parts of broken barrels and packing-boxes, and a nameless debris of tin cans, clam-shells, and general rubbish. It was pleasanter to lift the eyes, and look across the neighbors’ fences to the green, waving tops of the elms on the street beyond. How lofty and beautiful they were in the morning sunlight, and with what matchless charm came the song of the robins, freshly installed in their haunts among the new pale-green leaves! Above them, in the fresh, scented air, glowed the great blue dome, radiant with light and the purification of spring.
Theron lifted his thin, long-fingered hand, and passed it in a slow arch of movement to comprehend this glorious upper picture.
“What matter anyone’s ideas of hell,” he said, in soft, grave tones, “when we have that to look at, and listen to, and fill our lungs with? It seems to me that we never feel quite so sure of God’s goodness at other times as we do in these wonderful new mornings of spring.”
The wife followed his gesture, and her eyes rested for a brief moment, with pleased interest, upon the trees and the sky. Then they reverted, with a harsher scrutiny, to the immediate foreground.