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Samuel went home walking upon air. He had found a place for himself and a place for Sophie. And he had got the reforming of Bertie Lockman under way! Truly, the church was a great institution--the solution of all the puzzles and problems of life. And fortunate was Samuel to be so close to the inner life of things!
Then suddenly, on a street corner, he stopped short. A sign had caught his eye-"John Callahan, Wines and Liquors--Bernheimer Beer." "Do you know what that place is?" he said to Sophie. "That's where my friend Finnegan works."
"Who's Finnegan?" asked the child.
"He's the barkeeper who gave me something to eat when I first came to town. He's a good man, even if he is a barkeeper."
Samuel had often found himself thinking of Finnegan; for it had been altogether against his idea of things that a man so obviously well meaning should be selling liquor. And now suddenly a brilliant idea flashed across his mind. Why should he continue selling liquor? And instantly Samuel saw a new duty before him. He must help Finnegan.
And forgetting that it was time for his dinner, he bade good-by to Sophie and went into the saloon.
"Well, young feller!" exclaimed the Irishman, his face lighting up with pleasure; and then, seeing the boy's new collar and tie, "Gee, you're moving up in the world!"
"I've got a job," said Samuel proudly. "I'm the assistant sexton at St. Matthew's Church."
"You don't say! Gone up with the sky pilots, hey!"
Samuel did not notice this irreverent remark. He looked around the place and saw that they were alone. Then he said, very earnestly, "Mr. Finnegan, may I have a few minutes' talk with you?"
"Sure," said Finnegan perplexed. "What is it?"
"It's something I've been thinking about very often," said Samuel. "You were so kind to me, and I saw that you were a good-hearted man. And so it has always seemed to me too bad that you should be selling drink."
The other stared at him. "Gee!" he said, "are you going to take me up in your airship?"
"Mr. Finnegan," said the boy, "I wish you wouldn't make fun of me. For I'm talking to you out of the bottom of my heart."
And Samuel gazed with so much yearning in his eyes that the man was touched, in spite of the absurdity of it. "Go on," he said. "I'll listen."
"It's just this," said Samuel. "It's wrong to sell liquor! Think what drink does to men? I saw a man drunk the other night and it led to what was almost murder. Drink makes men cruel and selfish. It takes away their self-control. It makes them unfit for their work. It leads to vice and wickedness. It enslaves them and degrades them. Don't you know that is true, Mr. Finnegan?"
"Yes," admitted Finnegan, "I reckon it is. I never touch the stuff myself."
"And still you sell it to others?"
"Well, my boy, I don't do it because I hate them."
"But then, why DO you do it?"
"I do it," said Finnegan, "because I have to live. It's my trade--it's all I know."
"It seems such a terrible trade!" exclaimed the boy.
"Maybe," said the other. "But take notice, it ain't a princely one. I'm on the job all day and a good part of the night, and standing up all the time. And I don't get no holidays either--and I only get twelve a week. And I've a wife and a new baby. So what's a man to do?"
Now, strange as it may seem, this unfolded a new view to Samuel. He had always supposed that bartenders and saloonkeepers were such from innate depravity. Could it really be that they were driven to the trade?
The bare idea was enough to set his zeal in a blaze. "Listen," he said. "Suppose I were to find you some kind of honest work, so that you could earn a living. Would you promise to reform?"
"Do you mean would I quit Callahan's? Why, sure I would."
"Ah!" exclaimed the boy in delight.
"But it'd have to be a steady job," put in the other. "I can take no chances with the baby."
"That's all right," said Samuel. "I'll get you what you want."
"Gee, young feller!" exclaimed Finnegan. "Do you carry 'em round in your pockets?"
"No," said Samuel, "but Dr. Vince asked me to help him; and I'm going to tell him about you."
And so, forthwith, he made his way to the doctor's house, and was ushered into the presence of the unhappy clergyman. He stated his case; and the other threw up his hands in despair.
"Really," he exclaimed, "this is too much, Samuel! I can't find employment for everyone in Lockmanville."
"But, doctor!" protested Samuel, "I don't think you understand. This man wants to lead a decent life, and he can't because there's no way for him to earn a living."
"I understand all that Samuel."
"But, doctor, what's the use of trying to reform men if they're chained in that way?"
There was a pause.
"I'm afraid it's hopeless to explain to you," said the clergyman. "But you'll have to make up your mind to it, Samuel--there are a great many men in the world who want jobs, and it seems to be unfortunately true that there are fewer jobs than men."
"Yes," said the other, "but that's what Professor Stewart taught men. And you said it was wicked of him."
"Um--" said the doctor, taken aback.
"Don't you see?" went on Samuel eagerly. "It puts you right back with Herbert Spencer! If there are more men than there are jobs, then the men have to fight for them. And so you have the struggle for existence, and the survival of the greedy and the selfish. If Finnegan wouldn't be a barkeeper, then he and his family would starve, and somebody else would survive who was willing to be that bad."
The boy waited. "Don't you see that, Dr. Vince? "he persisted.
"Yes, I see that," said the doctor.
"And you told me that the only way to escape from that was to live for others--to serve them and help them. And isn't that what I'm trying to do?"
"Yes, my boy, that is so. But what can we do?"
"Why, doctor, aren't you the head of the church? And the people come to you to be taught. You must point out these things to them, so that there can be a change."
"But WHAT change, Samuel?"
"I don't know, sir. I'm groping around and trying to find out. But I'm sure of one thing--that some people have got too much money. Why, Dr. Vince, there are people right in your church who have more than they could spend in hundreds of years."
"Perhaps so," said the other. "But what harm does that do?"
"Why--that's the reason that so many others have nothing! Only realize it--right at this very moment there are people starving to death--and here in Lockmanville! They want to work, and there is no work for them! I could take you to see them, sir--girls who want a job in Mr. Wygant's cotton mill, and he won't give it to them!"
"But, my boy--that isn't Mr. Wygant's fault! It's because there is too much cloth already."
"I've been thinking about that," said Samuel earnestly. "And it doesn't sound right to me. There are too many people who need good clothes. Look at poor Sophie, for instance!"
"Yes," said the other, "of course. But they haven't money to buy the cloth---"
And Samuel sat forward in his excitement. "Yes, yes!" he cried. "And isn't that just what I said before? They have no money, because the rich people have it all!"
There was no reply; and after a moment Samuel rushed on: "Surely it is selfish of Mr. Wygant to shut poor people out of his mill, just because they have no money. Why couldn't he let them make cloth for themselves?"
"Samuel!" protested the other. "That is absurd!"
"But why, sir?"
"Because, my boy--in a day they could make more than they could wear in a year."
"So much the better, doctor! Then they could give the balance to other people who needed it--and the other people could make things for them. Take Sophie. She not only needs clothing, she needs shoes, and above all, she needs enough to eat. And if it's a question of there not being enough food, look at what's wasted in a place like Master Albert's! And there's land enough at 'Fairview' to raise food for the whole town--I know what I'm talking about there, because I'm a farmer. And it's used to keep a lot of race horses that nobody ever rides."
"Samuel," said the clergyman gravely, "that is true--and that is very wrong. But what can I do?"
And Samuel stared at him. "Doctor!" he exclaimed. "I can't tell you how it hurts me to have you talk to me like that!"
"How do you mean, Samuel?" asked the other in bewilderment.
And the boy clasped his hands together in his agitation. "You told me that we must sacrifice ourselves, and help others! You said that was our sole duty! And I believed you--I was ready to go with you. And here I am--I want to follow you, and you won't lead!"
Those words were like a stab. The doctor winced visibly.
And Samuel winced also--his heart was wrung. "It hurts me more than I can tell you!" he cried. "But think of the people who are suffering-- nobody spares them! And how can you be silent, doctor--how can the shepherd of Christ be silent while some of his flock are living in luxury and others are starving to death?"
There was a long pause. Dr. Vince sat rigid, clutching the arms of his chair.
"Samuel," he said, "you are right. I will preach on this unemployed question next Sunday."
"Ah, thank you, sir--thank you!" exclaimed Samuel, with tears of gratitude in his eyes. And he took his friend's hand and wrung it.
Then, suddenly, a new thought came to him. "And meantime, doctor," said he, "what am I to tell Finnegan?"
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