“Those who deserve most are those who need most, aren’t they, deacon?—that is, if anyone is really ‘deserving,’ as we use the word.”
“Your notions would break up business entirely, if they were carried out,” asserted the deacon.
“Not at all; though I’ve never discovered that business is the first interest of the Almighty.”
“You mean to say that because I work hard and get a little fore-handed I ought to take a lot of shiftless folks and teach them to be lazy and dependent on me?”
“Certainly not, deacon. How you do jump at conclusions! There aren’t a lot of shiftless people in this town; there are very few; and even they might be helped, and shamed into taking care of themselves, if you and I and some more fore-handed people were to follow our Master’s example.”
“I’ve spoken to every unbeliever in this town about his soul’s salvation,” said the deacon; “I’ve always made it a matter of duty. Christ came to preach salvation, and I’m following His example, in my humble way.”
“Didn’t He do anything else?” asked the judge. “You remember what answer He sent to John in prison, when the Baptist seemed to have lost heart and wondered whether Jesus were really He who should come? He said that to the poor the gospel was preached, but He gave half a dozen other proofs, each of them showing special care for men’s bodies.”
“Judge, you’re talking materialism,” said the deacon. “It’s a spirit that’s getting too common everywhere.”
“Oh, no, I’m not; I’m talking the words of Jesus Himself. Aren’t they good enough for you? or are you like children at the table who will take only what suits them, and ignore everything else?”
“Such talks never do any good, judge,” said the deacon, buttoning his overcoat and turning up the collar. “I’ve spent a good deal of my life thinking about sacred subjects and trying to lead my fellow-men in the right way. You’re not going to make me believe at my time of life that I’ve been all wrong, and that Jesus Christ came on earth only to start a charity society.”
“Nor to teach people to live right?”
“He wants them first to know how to die right. I should think, judge, that Sam Kimper had been converting you over again and doing it backwards. That fellow has only got hold of one end of the Scripture—one little jag end of it.”
“Too small an end to be worthy of your attention, I suppose, deacon?”
“This is all wasted time and idle talk, Judge Prency,” said the deacon, leaving the place so quickly that he forgot to ask for his letters.
One bright, breezy October afternoon, Sam Kimper’s daughter Jane got “an hour off” from her duties at the hotel, and proceeded to devote it to her highest ideal of possible enjoyment. There were many other pleasures for which she longed, but, as they were unattainable just then, she made the most of that which was within her reach for the time being. It was to array herself in her best and saunter to and fro in the principal streets, look into shop windows, and exchange winks and rude remarks with young men and women with whom she was acquainted.