“Ah! I am sure you will be suggestive” said Mrs. Taylor. “I am right anxious that it shall be a credit in an architectural way, you know.”
Mr. Glynn, who had followed with more measured tread, now mingled his hearty bass voice in the conversation. His mental attitude was friendly, but inquisitorial; as seemed to him to befit one charged with the cure of souls. He proceeded to ask questions, beginning with inquiries conventional and domestic, but verging presently on points of faith. Babcock, to whom they were directly addressed, stood the ordeal well, revealing himself as flattered, contrite, and zealous to avail himself of the blessings of the church. He admitted that lately he had been lax in his spiritual duties.
“We come every Sunday now,” he said buoyantly, with a glance at Selma as though to indicate that she deserved the credit of his reformation.
“The holy sacrament of marriage has led many souls from darkness into light, from the flesh-pots of Egypt to the table of the Lord” Mr. Glynn answered. “And you, my daughter,” he added, meaningly, “guard well your advantage.”
It was agreeable to Selma that the clergymen seemed to appreciate her superiority to her embarrassed husband, especially as she thought she knew that in England women were not expected to have opinions of their own. She wished to say something to impress him more distinctly with her cleverness, for though she was secretly contemptuous of his ceremonials, there was something impressive in his mandatory zeal. She came near asking whether he held to the belief that it was wrong for a man to marry his deceased wife’s sister, which was the only proposition in relation to the married state which occurred to her at the moment as likely to show her independence, but she contented herself instead with saying, with so much of Mrs. Taylor’s spontaneity as she could reproduce without practice, “We expect to be very happy in your church.”
Selma, however, supplemented her words with her tense spiritual look. She felt happier than she had for weeks, inasmuch as life seemed to be opening before her. For a few moments she listened to Mr. Glynn unfold his hopes in regard to the new church, trying to make him feel that she was no common woman. She considered it a tribute to her when he took Lewis aside later and asked him to become a junior warden.
At this time the necessity for special knowledge as to artistic or educational matters was recognized grudgingly in Benham. Any reputable citizen was considered capable to pass judgment on statues and pictures, design a house or public building, and prescribe courses of study for school-children. Since then the free-born Benhamite, little by little, through wise legislation or public opinion, born of bitter experience, has been robbed of these prerogatives until, not long ago, the un-American and undemocratic proposition to take away the laying out of the new city park from the easy going but ignorant mercies of the so-called city forester, who had been first a plumber and later an alderman, prevailed. An enlightened civic spirit triumphed and special knowledge was invoked.