When he came out on the pine knoll at the close of the service many persons went up to him; but before he had time to speak to a soul Sexton Blackie stepped up and asked him to come along into the vestry.
The pastor was seated in the vestry, his back turned toward the door, talking with Senator Carl Carlson, when Jan and the sexton entered. He seemed to be distressed about something, for there were tears in his voice.
“These were two souls entrusted to my keeping whom I have allowed to go to ruin,” he said.
The senator tried to console him, saying: “You can’t be responsible, Pastor, for the evil that goes on in the large cities.”
But the clergyman would not be consoled. He covered his beautiful young face with his hands, and wept.
“No,” he sobbed, “I suppose I can’t. But what have I done to guard the young girl who was thrown on the world, unprotected? And what have I done to comfort her old father who had only her to live for?”
“The pastor is practically a newcomer in the parish,” said the senator, “so that if there is any question of responsibility it falls more heavily upon the rest of us, who were acquainted with the circumstances. But who could think it was to end so disastrously? Young folk have to make their own way in life. We’ve all been thrust out in much the same way, yet most of us have fared rather well.”
“O God of mercy!” prayed the pastor, “grant me the wisdom to speak to the unhappy father. Would I might stay his fleeing wits—!”
Sexton Blackie, standing there with Jan, now cleared his throat. The pastor rose at once, went up to Jan, and took him by the hand.
“My dear Jan!” he said feelingly. The pastor was tall and fair and handsome. When he came up to you, with his kindly blue eyes beaming benevolence, and spoke to you in his deep sympathetic voice, it was not easy to resist him. In this instance, however, the only thing to do was to set him right at the start, which Jan did of course.
“Jan is no more, my good Pastor,” he said. “Now we are Emperor Johannes of Portugallia, and he who does not wish to address us by our proper title, him we have nothing to say to.”
With that, Jan gave the pastor a stiff’ imperial nod of dismissal, and put on his cap. They looked rather foolish, did the three men who stood in the vestry, when Jan pushed open the door and walked out.
THE EMPEROR’S SONG
In the wooded heights above Loby there was still a short stretch of an old country road where in bygone days all teams had to pass, but which was now condemned because it led up and down the worst hills and rocky slopes instead of having the sense to go round them. The part that remained was so steep that no one in driving made use of it any more though foot-farers climbed it occasionally, as it was a good short cut.