“When did they stop?” I demanded.
“About two thousand years ago, my son,” he replied gravely.
“Then,” said I, “no matter how much I believed in God, he wouldn’t save me if I jumped into the big kettle for his sake?”
For this I was properly rebuked and silenced.
My boyhood was filled with obsessing desires. If God, for example, had cast down, out of his abundant store, manna and quail in the desert, why couldn’t he fling me a little pocket money? A paltry quarter of a dollar, let us say, which to me represented wealth. To avoid the reproach of the Pharisees, I went into the closet of my bed-chamber to pray, requesting that the quarter should be dropped on the north side of Lyme Street, between Stamford and Tryon; in short, as conveniently near home as possible. Then I issued forth, not feeling overconfident, but hoping. Tom Peters, leaning over the ornamental cast-iron fence which separated his front yard from the street, presently spied me scanning the sidewalk.
“What are you looking for, Hugh?” he demanded with interest.
“Oh, something I dropped,” I answered uneasily.
Naturally, I refused to tell. It was a broiling, midsummer day; Julia and Russell, who had been warned to stay in the shade, but who were engaged in the experiment of throwing the yellow cat from the top of the lattice fence to see if she would alight on her feet, were presently attracted, and joined in the search. The mystery which I threw around it added to its interest, and I was not inconsiderably annoyed. Suppose one of them were to find the quarter which God had intended for me? Would that be justice?
“It’s nothing,” I said, and pretended to abandon the quest—to be renewed later. But this ruse failed; they continued obstinately to search; and after a few minutes Tom, with a shout, picked out of a hot crevice between the bricks—a nickel!
“It’s mine!” I cried fiercely.
“Did you lose it?” demanded Julia, the canny one, as Tom was about to give it up.
My lying was generally reserved for my elders.
“N-no,” I said hesitatingly, “but it’s mine all the same. It was—sent to me.”
“Sent to you!” they exclaimed, in a chorus of protest and derision. And how, indeed, was I to make good my claim? The Peterses, when assembled, were a clan, led by Julia and in matters of controversy, moved as one. How was I to tell them that in answer to my prayers for twenty-five cents, God had deemed five all that was good for me?