“But there’s more than that,” continued Simon Basset. “I’ll get a condition before I do it. I call on my fellow-townsman here—I won’t say my fellow-Christian, ’cause he wouldn’t think that much of a compliment—to do the same thing. If he’ll do it, I will; if he won’t, I won’t.” Simon Basset looked down at Doctor Prescott with malicious triumph. Everybody stared at the two men.
“Why don’t ye speak up, doctor—hey?” asked Simon Basset, finally.
“Because I do not consider such an outrageous proposition worthy of consideration, Mr. Basset,” returned the doctor, with a calm aside elevation of his clear profile, and not the slightest quickening of his even voice.
“Then ye don’t believe there’s a man livin’ capable of givin’ away his all for the Lord an’ His poor any more’n I do, an’ I calculate you jedge so from the workin’s of your own heart an’ knowin’ what you’d do in like case, jest like me,” said Simon Basset.
Doctor Prescott made a quick motion, and the color flashed over his thin face. “I made no such assertion,” he said, hotly, for his temper at last was up over his icy bonds of will.
“Looks so,” said Simon Basset.
“You have no right to make such a statement, sir,” returned the doctor, and his lips seemed to cut the air like scissors.
“What is it, then?” returned the other. “Are you afraid the young fellow will come into property, an’ then you’ll have to give up too much to the Lord?”
The veins on Doctor Prescott’s forehead swelled visibly as he looked at Simon Basset’s hateful, bantering face.
“There’s another thing I’m willin’ to promise,” continued Simon Basset. “If that young feller comes into money, an’ gives it away, I’ll do more than give away a quarter of my property—I’ll believe anything after that. I’ll get religion. But—I won’t agree to do that unless you back me up, doctor. That ought to induce you—the prospect of savin’ a brand from the burnin’; an’ if I ain’t a brand, I dun’no’ who is.”
“I tell you, sir, I’ll have nothing to do with it!” shouted Doctor Prescott. The minister at his side looked pale and scared as a woman.
“Then,” said Simon Basset, “it’s settled. You an’ me won’t agree to no sech damn foolishness, because we both on us know that there’s no sech Christian charity an’ love as that in the world; an’ if there should turn out to be, we’re afraid we’d have to do likewise. I thought I was safe enough proposin’ sech a plan, doctor.”
There was a great shout of laughter, in spite of the respect for Doctor Prescott. In the midst of it the doctor sprang to his feet, looking as none of them had ever seen him look before. “Get a paper and pen and ink,” he cried, turning to Lawyer Means; “draw up the document that this man proposes, and I will sign it!”