"Kindness," argued little Mrs. Pennycoop, "costs nothing."
"And, speaking generally, my dear, is valued precisely at cost price," retorted Mr. Pennycoop, who, as an auctioneer of twenty years' experience, had enjoyed much opportunity of testing the attitude of the public towards sentiment.
"I don't care what you say, George," persisted his wife; "he may be a disagreeable, cantankerous old brute – I don't say he isn't. All the same, the man is going away, and we may never see him again."
"If I thought there was any fear of our doing so," observed Mr. Pennycoop, "I'd turn my back on the Church of England to-morrow and become a Methodist."
"Don't talk like that, George," his wife admonished him, reprovingly; "the Lord might be listening to you."
"If the Lord had to listen to old Cracklethorpe He'd sympathize with me," was the opinion of Mr. Pennycoop.
"The Lord sends us our trials, and they are meant for our good," explained his wife. "They are meant to teach us patience."
"You are not churchwarden," retorted her husband; "you can get away from him. You hear him when he is in the pulpit, where, to a certain extent, he is bound to keep his temper."
"You forget the rummage sale, George," Mrs. Pennycoop reminded him; "to say nothing of the church decorations."
"The rummage sale," Mr. Pennycoop pointed out to her, "occurs only once a year, and at that time your own temper, I have noticed – "
"I always try to remember I am a Christian," interrupted little Mrs. Pennycoop. "I do not pretend to be a saint, but whatever I say I am always sorry for it afterwards – you know I am, George."
"It's what I am saying," explained her husband. "A vicar who has contrived in three years to make every member of his congregation hate the very sight of a church – well, there's something wrong about it somewhere."
Mrs. Pennycoop, gentlest of little women, laid her plump and still pretty hands upon her husband's shoulders. "Don't think, dear, I haven't sympathized with you. You have borne it nobly. I have marvelled sometimes that you have been able to control yourself as you have done, most times; the things that he has said to you."
Mr. Pennycoop had slid unconsciously into an attitude suggestive of petrified virtue, lately discovered.
"One's own poor self," observed Mr. Pennycoop, in accents of proud humility – "insults that are merely personal one can put up with. Though even there," added the senior churchwarden, with momentary descent towards the plane of human nature, "nobody cares to have it hinted publicly across the vestry table that one has chosen to collect from the left side for the express purpose of artfully passing over one's own family."
"The children have always had their three-penny-bits ready waiting in their hands," explained Mrs. Pennycoop, indignantly.
"It's the sort of thing he says merely for the sake of making a disturbance," continued the senior churchwarden. "It's the things he does I draw the line at."
"The things he has done, you mean, dear," laughed the little woman, with the accent on the "has." "It is all over now, and we are going to be rid of him. I expect, dear, if we only knew, we should find it was his liver. You know, George, I remarked to you the first day that he came how pasty he looked and what a singularly unpleasant mouth he had. People can't help these things, you know, dear. One should look upon them in the light of afflictions and be sorry for them."