from Success Magazine
The Pishylogical Momentum
by Ellis Parker Butler
Whatever we might think of his sermons, we all, in this placid suburban village of Westcote, agreed that the Reverend Roger Williams Mayberry was "one of the dearest old men in the world." No one objected to his sermons much. They were, like Roger Mayberry himself, sweet and gentle, placid and white-haired and pinky-cheeked, cheerfully optimistic in a blessedly lovable way, soft-voiced and beneficent. To say there was nothing much in Mr. Mayberry's sermons would be unfair, for there was in them all of his seventy years of love of good, good-doing and gentle living, but they were far from modern. They were "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," and "I lift up mine eyes to the hills" and "Blessed is the name of the Lord," the heart-lifting glow of a placidly beautiful sunset following a calm and happy day. If one wished excitement and shouting and pulpit banging one had to go elsewhere. Mr. Mayberry, as one or two lovingly complained, "never said anything," by which was meant that he preached nothing startling. I believe he did use the same sermons over and over again. When a man finds that which is good it is well to hold fast to it.
Perhaps the next best-loved person in Westcote was Mrs. Mayberry. Her placid sixty-five years had brought her the same white hair and delicate color that made dear Mr. Mayberry so beautiful in our eyes. It was a pleasant sermon indeed to see these two dear people hearing the end of their earthly days together so gently, after having done their duty to God and the world, with five sons and three daughters, and eighteen grandchildren living and, as the world runs, doing well.
From the window in the rear of my house near which I sit and write I could see, quite frequently, Mr. Mayberry and his wife in their garden. It was a small garden, only some few square yards in area, but it was much of Mr. Mayberry's life in those days. It was in the corner of his yard backed by a hedge of climbing roses that flowered voluptuously in June.
There was a grass path down the middle with a modest birdbath on a pedestal -- given by his friends -- and with iris and tulips and dahlias and asters in their seasons, all from bulbs and plants given by loving friends. There were other flowers. There were marigolds and zinnias and coreopsis, mignonette and foxglove and sweet alyssum, and many others, grown by the own hands of Mr. Mayberry and his wife aided by the sun and rain sent by God, and well-rotted horse manure sent by Mrs. Pangle. It was in his sixtieth year that Mr. Mayberry became really
interested in his garden. Thereafter he knew that to grow old gently in a garden was one of the blessings God gives to man -- and woman.
My own writings had been inclined toward the rowdyish, I am afraid, but looking from my window into Mr. Mayberry's garden and seeing the dear old man day after day gently pottering among his flowers, garbed in a broad straw hat and a brown-faded alpaca long coat or duster watering this and that with a long-snouted watering pot turned me, I am sure, to a gentler style. Sometimes, when I had gazed long from my window and ideas did not come properly flocking I would slip down and lean on the dividing fence and talk with Mr. Mayberry and his wife while she picked a few flowers for my wife and he leaned on his hoe.
At such times we talked of many things. I think but one thing worried Mr. Mayberry. Rose bugs and blights did not worry him; he fought them gently and accepted their coming as a gardener's share of the interesting trials of life. He did worry a little, I am sure, over his second son's first male child now twenty-five years of age and a minister himself. Perhaps his thoughts turned more often toward this grandson because the young man was Mr. Mayberry's only namesake. It is certain that he did not quite approve of the course the young man was taking in his ministerial career.
"It does not seem the best way," Mr. Mayberry said to me once, "but I am an old fogy, ready to be laid on the shelf. I do not care for these preachers who wrangle for politics and civics and this, that and the other, and ape oratorical senators and stump speakers."
How could he care for them? I did not try to tell him that they, too, have their great value. He admitted that.
"It is all for the best, I dare say," he said. "Other times, other towns, other needs. I am only glad that I have not been called upon to beat brazen cymbals and blow loud trumpets. I like the quieter paths best."
It was into our quiet village, to bolster the finances of the Sunday School, I believe, that Emma Horton Baines came one day. Mrs. Baines is, as you know, the author of "Many Mortals" and that still more successful book "Other Digressions of Ann." She was to talk on "Modern Literary Impulses" and tickets were fifty cents, children twenty-five, and for days we found at our doorstep, when we answered the bell, wistful-faced children saying, "Please, don't you want to buy a ticket for Mrs. Baines?" She was a tremendous success, and I had to sit on the radiator. Luckily it was warm weather and the radiator was cool. I understand the affair netted over ninety dollars. The lecture itself was a success. We learned that the modern literary impulses were just what we had imagined they were, which was nice to know.
It had been decided that Mrs. Baines, being such a celebrity, should dine with Mrs. Pangle on the evening of the lecture. Mrs. Pangle kindly sent Joe, her chauffeur, with the second best limousine, to New York for Mrs. Baines. The first best limousine was in the shops, being painted, or Mrs. Pangle would have sent that. Mrs. Pangle is a widow, and is herself seventy, and wears her wealth and Westcote position very well for a woman of her upbringing. She has gathered culture. She does, I admit, still spell "always," in her scrawly penmanship, "aulwys" and -- consequently -- uses it every third word in her little notes and she has other evidences that her culture has not gnawed very deep but we all like her. She is a delicate little old lady and certainly gives twice as much to our church as is given by any other person in it. She admires Mr. Mayberry with an intensity that is almost pathetic. I often see her weeping when he reaches the tender portions of his sermons.
Her parlor must have impressed Mrs. Baines greatly. It is regal, and over the mantel is a genuine oil copy, three feet by six, of that admirable painting "Psyche at Nature's Mirror." Mrs. Mayberry calls it "Pishy at Nature's Looking Glass" and I imagine her pronunciation is a hangover from her youth. It was when she weepingly told me, when the affair that was inaugurated by the words of Mrs. Baines was at its worst, that she meant no harm and had just really thought she was acting at the "pishylogical moment" that I thought of calling this narrative -- if I ever wrote it -- "The Pishylogical Momentum." Mrs. Pangle certainly gave Mr. Mayberry's fame considerable "pishylogical momentum" in a most unexpected manner. It is amazing to think that dear old Mr. Mayberry was unsuspectingly pottering in his own garden at the very moment when Mrs. Pangle was questioning Mrs. Baines so eagerly.
Dear Mrs. Pangle, drawing the coffee from the solid silver urn, assured Mrs. Baines that whatever the other ministers in Westcote might be our minister was wonderful.
"And I cannot imagine," Mrs. Pangle said, gently complaining, "why his sermons are not printed and published and made much of like the sermons of these other men. I'm sure I don't know what the world is thinking of. I read sermons; I read almost nothing else. Dear Mr. Mayberry's sermons are better than any of them."
She mentioned Henry Ward Beecher and Phillips Brooks. Dear Mr. Mayberry's sermons were, she assured Mrs. Baines, much superior. She mentioned the six or eight men whose sermons were published weekly in all the newspapers.
"And they do not compare with our dear Mr. Mayberry's discourses," she told Mrs. Baines. "I cannot understand why dear Mr. Mayberry is neglected while such fusses are made over these other men."
"Poor press agenting," said Mrs. Baines.
"Poor --?" questioned Mrs. Pangle.
"Poor press agenting, I suppose," said Mrs. Baines, dipping into the olive dish. "One must use a press agent these days. I do. Everybody does. I suppose these ministers you mention are press agented well. When everyone is press agenting one must be press agented or be forgotten."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Pangle. "Is that the way! I thought only Barnum & Bailey, and soap, and --"
"Oh, no indeed! Everybody. Statesmen and authors and all. It is quite proper. One can't expect to be noticed if one doesn't have one's good points presented to the press for one. The press is so busy, Mrs. Pangle. Wars and robberies and divorces! A press agent, you see, has the ear of the editor and can get us recognized. Take my advice and get a good press agent for your minister, if you wish his merits known to the world. We all do it."
As Mrs. Pangle sat behind her urn the great thought came to her. Her thin, blue-veined hands trembled.
"Do you -- do you know of a press agent that -- that could do it?" she asked, all eagerness.
"Well, mine can't," said Mrs. Baines. "Mine is too busy to take any more accounts. Let me think. Yes! the very person! I do not imagine you have ever heard of Ann Geddick? Ann is fine. Ann is certainly a live press agent."
"I'd like it to be a woman," said Mrs. Pangle, nervously. "I think I could get along better with a woman."
"You'd get along with Ann," said Mrs. Baines. "Ann is tactful and yet full of big ideas. She put over Jam Bunder Gump -- the East Indian singer, you know -- when the world was sick to death of East Indian everythings. Awful voice, and cheap tinsel get up, and a cold public, and in ten yards Ann had America crazy over him. He sang eight hundred and forty-nine nights in succession and I'm told he cleared $206,000. If you get Ann to do ten yards of your minister --"
Yards?" questioned Mrs. Pangle. "Yes; Ann does business by the yard. Some do it by the month, on a salary, and some by the foot -- so much for every foot of matter about you that they get into the newspapers -- but Ann says it is positively useless to do a campaign for less than three feet. That's one yard. So she contracts by the yard. You tell her how many yards of publicity you want in the newspapers and she gets it in. I say that ten yards of your minister would do. For a start, anyway. Then, if you want to push him more you can contract for more."
"Dear me!" exclaimed little Mrs. Pangle. "And to think I never knew of this before!"
"Some don't," smiled Mrs. Baines. "The thing for you to do is to send Ann to your minister and let her quote her terms and show her samples. Ann will make good. Ann is strong with the Sunday Gazette, and the Gazette has -- well, millions of circulation. Ann can get anything into the Gazette, and once in the Gazette every paper in America takes it up. Let me send Ann to your minister --"
"Oh, no!" cried Mrs. Pangle aghast. "That would not do at all. Dear Mr. Mayberry would never understand. I -- that is, couldn't I see Miss Geddick myself?"
"Yes, indeed!" said Mrs. Baines. "I'll send her to you."
Two days later Ann Geddick called on Mrs. Pangle, and she was all Mrs. Baines had said. In the parlance of the press agenting profession Ann Geddick was a "live wire" and a "go getter." She herself told Mrs. Pangle so. "I see!" she said, when Mrs. Pangle had, in her gentle, tremulous way, explained about Mr. Mayberry and the injustice of a world that did not appreciate him. "I understand. He's the real thing and nobody takes notice. That's old stuff; the usual. These modest violets have to have somebody do the whooping for them. Can I boom him? Easiest thing you know!"
"I wouldn't want him to know anything about it," said Mrs. Pangle.
"What?" exclaimed Ann Geddick.
"I mean," said Mrs. Pangle, "I wouldn't want him to know I was -- ah! -- financing his popularity. I wouldn't like him to know he was being -- do you call it being press agented? Dear Mr. Mayberry is so diffident, so retiring."
"Oh! that's all right." said Ann. "We'll keep all that dark. This is our little secret. Doing good by stealth, so to speak. He will wake up some morning and find he is famous, and never know why or how. Now, about terms. I suggest a ten yard, single column, guarantee with payment at my full price per yard and an additional payment at one half my usual yard price for all matter over ten yards, American and Canadian publication exclusively. Now here is my card of rates. I never cut prices."
Mrs. Pangle took the card and studied it.
"When --?" she asked and did not know just how to formulate the query. "When do you begin to make him famous?"
"Lemme see!" said Ann, nibbling her pencil point thoughtfully. "This is Thursday. One week from next Sunday he will be famous -- as famous as three or four feet can make him. We'll begin to get the rewrites in the out-of-town Sunday papers the next week. I'll have a Gazette man on the job this coming Sunday."
"And -- and do I have to do anything else?" asked little Mrs. Pangle. She was so nervous with excitement that she was jumpy.
"You just pay when I turn in the clippings," said Ann. "You haven't a photograph of the reverend? Well, no matter; we'll attend to that. Let's see; what train can I get back to town?"
Ann Geddick was, as far as she went, an entirely good press agent, but she was not what would be called a well-rounded one, except physically. Ann was not an "all-the-papers" sort of press agent; she was a Gazette press agent. She might not be able to get ten inches into every paper in New York at any time, but she could count on getting a page or half page into the Sunday Gazette any Sunday. The editor of the Sunday Gazette was Ann's best friend. She went to him now.
"Jimmy," she said, "I've got a tough one. I have to smear a tame, aged, suburban village minister all over the map. I want you to give me a half page for him."
"You know me, Ann," said Jimmy agreeably. "What sort of write-up are you going to give him?"
"That's just it!" Ann said. "It's not my line, Jimmy. I know that if I brought you in enough good stuff you would use it, but I can't write up this thing, and you know it. Listen, Jimmy; can't you send some nice young snooper out there to snoop up something that would be spiffy?"
"Can do!" said Jimmy cheerfully. "I'll send Billy Betz. Billy is wonderful, Ann. Billy could single out one blade of grass in a ten-acre lot of grass and make New York go crazy over it. Westcote, you say? Reverend Roger Williams Mayberry? He gets a full page, Sunday after next. Go away, please; I'm busy."
Sunday, in Westcote, is the most quiet of days, and Mr. Mayberry's church is the calmest and quietest of places. The choir sings quietly; the congregation sits quietly; Mr. Mayberry preaches quietly. On the Sunday morning when Billy Betz went to church in Westcote everything was especially quiet. It was June 26th and a hot day. One third of the usual congregation had already left Westcote for seaside and mountain. One more Sunday and Mr. Mayberry would go to the mountains too: his grandson was to "supply" for the hot months. A week later Mr. Mayberry would have been preaching a "farewell" sermon; this day he preached because it was usual to preach on Sunday mornings.
Mr. Mayberry, being elderly, did not believe in very short sermons, and Billy Betz, seated far back in the church, listened with growing consternation to the gentle words and the gentle voice.
"Go out there and pick off something sizzling hot, something you can jazz up and explode like a carload of TNT," Jimmy had said to him. "I don't know what his line is, but bring back something Mazie May can illustrate with a zizzy pen-and-ink. I want a full page."
In the comparatively cool and dark interior of the church, with the odor of roses drifting in at the windows, Mr. Mayberry preached on the text, "For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven," and he preached lovingly and about little children. It was all, to use a harsh word, platitude, but it was lovable platitude.
"Rats!" said Billy Betz to himself, as he pushed his pencil back into his pocket. "This is as zippy as a wet cookie. I wonder where I get off!"
Mr. Mayberry preached on.
"For these little ones," he said, "are the blossoms on the stem of life, and what fair blossoms! When I see a gathering of these little children, such as the dear little ones in our Sabbath School, I think of the flowers in my garden. I love to see them dressed like flowers, in flower colors, like bluebells and violets and sweet roses. They are beautiful and we can not have too much of beauty. Yes, and their fair mothers, too! I like to think of the children as the delicate flowers in my garden, dressed even as they, and of the mothers as the greater flowers -- the iris, the tulip, the dahlia and the magnificent peony."
Billy Betz grasped his pencil and wrote. He was a good "special" and always eager to do his best.
The headlines of the splurge page in the Sunday Gazette the next Sunday were zippy: "Wants Women to Dress Like Petunias. Westcote's Sky Pilot For Dress Reform. Parson Throws Bomb Into Ranks of Old Fogies." Mazie May's zizzy pen-and-ink pictures were the zizziest she had ever done. A tulip costume, it was evident, demanded the exposure of much hose, and to wear the iris one needed much plump arm and shoulder. Mazie May, before becoming a Gazette staff artist had been a fashion designer and she knew how to combine utility with zizz.
And Billy Betz was nobody's fool. I use no actual names but he carried Mazie May's drawings, before publication, to Mrs. Vandermillion, to Judge Sophocles Wiggs, to Mayor Lowlands, to Reverend Perseus Overdonk and to Lolita Dewberry. To others, too, and what each said about the Reverend Roger Williams Mayberry's proposed Floral Costumes for Fair Ladies was there on the printed page. Some loved them and some hated them. Each told why, and some said what they thought of a minister who would propose such toggery. One thing, however, seemed to bring unanimity of opinion. Mazie May, to fittingly top off (at the bottom!) the Floral Costumes for Fair Ladies, had invented, out of her own inner consciousness, a neat semi-Grecian semi-new form of sandal, and the consensus of opinion seemed to be "but the new Mayberry sandal is certainly the most sensible form of summer footwear ever invented." During the next week the papers of the United States printed six and one-half yards of "Sky Pilot for Dress Reform," with illustrations.
The Sunday newspapers reach Westcote in the dead hours between Saturday and Sunday and are delivered to our homes about breakfast hour. Some of us take two, but most of us take the Gazette, and there were innumerable exclamations of "Oh!" and "Well, what do you think of this?" and "My dear, will you just look at this for one moment!" as the Sky Pilot page came into our eager hands. I took my paper over to Mr. Mayberry; I knew he did not take a Sunday paper. Before I let him see it I tried to prepare him.
"There is something in this paper I thought you had better see," I said to Mr. Mayberry. "I am sure it is nothing to be worried about. Some reporter, eager for a sensational article --"
"My grandson? My namesake?" he gasped, turning pale. "He has said something outrageous? He has gone too far at last?"
The poor man's hands trembled. He reached for the paper. "Be calm, Mr. Mayberry," I said. "It is not your grandson. It is yourself. It is a sensational report of the sermon you preached last Sunday."
When Mr. Mayberry saw the headlines and Mazie May's sensational illustrations he seemed dazed. Then a flush of holy anger swept over his face, following which he collapsed upon the sofa, while tears ran down his dear old face.
"Ruined!" he sobbed. "Destroyed! After all these so blessed years, to be defamed and maligned and held up to ruthless ridicule and scorn! Some enemy has done this. Some hideous, hidden enemy has destroyed me. Ah! my poor, poor wife!"
"Now, see here," I said; "This isn't as bad as all that. Some mad reporter has given you a crazy write-up, and I dare say there will be some talk, but what does it amount to? We who know you know you would never preach nonsense like this."
It was vain to talk to him and to try to show him that the matter was not as awful as he imagined. The thing had struck like a knife. He was feeling the deepest pangs of shame and degradation. He was angry, too; remarkably angry for a man so sweet and gentle. It was surprising how angry the gentle little man could be. He was alternately in tears and in the heat of anger. He walked the floor.
"My wife!" he said again suddenly.
"My wife must not know this. It will kill her!"
I thought he might be right. The blow would be a terrific one, at least. Mr. Mayberry put his hand to his head and groaned.
"Perhaps I had better break it to her," I said, "Where is she?"
"Upstairs, dressing for church," Mr. Mayberry said. "No, do nothing, I beg you. My poor wife! My clear, trusting people! And poor Mrs. Pangle!"
"Mrs. Pangle?" I queried. Air. Mayberry colored ever so little.
"Peccavi!" he exclaimed humbly. "I should not have thought of her first, but I am but human; she means so much to the church, and she will feel this scandal so deeply! She is so gentle, so timid."
I understood what he meant, then. To this refined little congregation the hideous publicity would be more than shocking; it would be unbearable. And Mrs. Pangle typified the congregation. She would feel the disgrace most of all. Mr. Mayberry threw himself on the sofa again.
"Ruin! Ruin!" he exclaimed. Suddenly he was on his feet again. "This is more than I can stand," he said. "I don't know what to do. I cannot think clearly. I --"
I had never seen a man in a more distracted state.
"Now, listen to me," I said firmly. "I know just how you feel, and just how your wife will feel if she hears of this brazen lie in this newspaper. I know the agony it will cause you and her. But, dear Mr. Mayberry, I also know how brief are the memories of men and women in matters such as this. You go on your vacation next week, do you not? Go now! Look at yourself in that mirror. You look like a wreck. Allow me to go to your wife and tell her you must go at once on this vacation of yours. Let me tell her to get on her hat. I can have a taxicab here in ten minutes. I can go with you to New York and reserve a place for you on the train.
You will be gone before the congregation of your church assembles this morning. My wife can tell them that you were forced to leave at once. You are an elderly man; it will be understood."
I could see that Mr. Mayberry grasped at the idea eagerly. I felt I had proposed the only possible escape. I feared for the dear man's life if he attempted to face his congregation this hot summer day under the circumstances. I ran up the stairs and told Mrs. Mayberry to prepare for the journey. I telephoned for a taxicab. In half an hour I was on my way to New York with Mr. Mayberry and his wife.
As we pushed our way toward the train entrance at the station in New York I heard a hearty cry and Mr. Mayberry's grandson, and namesake, came bearing down upon us. He had just arrived by train and we had but three minutes together. I told young Mayberry, quite hastily, that his grandfather had not felt quite right and had hurried away.
"Go, and be at rest concerning the church," said young Mr. Mayberry. "I've just about time to get to Westcote and take your place. Goodby. Pleasant summer!"
On his way out to Westcote I told the young man of the unfortunate happening. I was able to borrow a newspaper and showed him the article. I am sorry to say the young man chuckled.
"Grandfather must have hated it," he said.
"He did," I assured him, "and I fear it will end his whole happiness. Even if he can bear to return, the reverberations of this vulgar publicity will annoy and distress him all the remaining days of his life."
"Yes, grandfather is funny that way," said the young man.
I left the young man at the church door, for my wife was waiting for me there with a message. Mrs. Pangle was in bed, suffering from severe nervous shock, and must see me instantly.
"Something about the article in the newspaper," my wife said, and I hurried away to see Mrs. Pangle. As I went I saw young Roger Willams Mayberry standing straight and tall on the church doorstep, surrounded by at least six young reporter-looking men and women, all with notebooks and pencils. I heard him say, in a clear, defiant voice:
"Indeed I am Roger Williams Mayberry, and I am going to preach in this church this morning. Depend on that! And, as for anything that has been enunciated from the pulpit of this church regarding women's clothes, I stand by every word that was said! Absolutely!"
As I turned the corner I looked back and saw four photographers aiming their cameras at the young man, while he held his head high and gazed into the middle distance.
I found Mrs. Pangle in her bed, where she looked like a little plucked sparrow that has been jabbed through with a rapier. Her face was one map of distress and stricken conscience. If Mr. Mayberry, the elder, had been jumpy and confounded I can only say that poor Mrs. Pangle was utterly crushed. She confessed to me, as a woman confesses the most hideous of sins, and blamed herself with having wrecked Mr. Mayberry's life, Mrs. Mayberry's life, her own life, the life of the church, the earth and the universe in general. She only hoped she might live to be taken out somewhere and shot at sunrise. She pleaded that she had meant all for the best, and that she had not known what she was doing. She seemed to think that the best thing she could do now was to take about a quart of cold poison and pass on to eternal punishment, but she thought I -- who sometimes had things in print -- might do something about it. She seemed to think that at best I might do something that would so alleviate matters that she might feel obligated to take but a half-quart of cold poison and spend but a half-eternity in purgatory. It was evident that she had little more faith in me than that.
She might well have had less. I know little of the means required to stop a publicity campaign in mid-career. As we talked the telephone bell jingled and I answered. It was Miss Ann Geddick, the press agent, and her voice was overloaded with joy and triumph.
"Sick?" she said when I told her that Mrs. Pangle could not reach the telephone. "That's a shame, but say! Didn't we get the article! Didn't the Gazette give us a whooper? You tell Mrs. Pangle that when we get today's sermon in the papers --"
I shouted into the telephone. I ordered Ann Geddick to stop the whole thing. She paid no attention whatever. She crowed and jubilated until she was satisfied and then hung up.
Immediately after our dinner -- we dine at noon on Sundays -- I went to see young Roger Williams Mayberry. I found him waving an insistent middle-aged gentleman from the door, while the middle-aged gentleman would not be waved.
"No!" young Mr. Mayberry declared. "No, I tell you! I am a minister of the gospel; I do no business on the Sabbath. No use talking, my good man! No!"
"But, listen!" his visitor urged. "I came here first, didn't I? Say! Do this for me, anyway -- promise you'll see me first in the morning. That's fair, ain't it? That ain't doing business on Sunday, is it?"
Young Mr. Mayberry considered this gravely.
"I agree to see you before I see any of your competitors," he said and, when the man had gone, he said to me: "That's a shoemaker. He wants to get my permission to make a Mayberry Summer Sandal, and to call it that. I could not talk with him, but he said something about paying me fifty cents per pair for the use of my name, with a cash advance of $20,000. He seems in haste; he desires to profit by my publicity while it is fresh."
"Your publicity?" I gasped.
"My dear man!" he smiled. "My publicity, of course. Grandfather does not want it and it will be the making of a young dominie like myself. Today, in the pulpit, I shook the Sunday Gazette in the faces of the congregation and reiterated everything grandfather said -- or did not say. Common sense in shoes and common sense in garments! Why not? I gave them something to write up tomorrow, I tell you! Why, my dear friend, I have answered three syndicates on the telephone since noon declining their offers for the syndication of my sermons as preached for the next year. I declined to do business on the Sabbath day and, anyway, I think they are worth more than the thousand dollars per week the top man offered. I do wish, though, that I had had a good photograph -- these snapshot things never do a man justice -- or do him too much justice."
"They photographed you for the press?" I asked.
"Of course! That was the way I had to do it."
He was right. The next day the lurid accounts of his sermon spoke of Roger Williams Mayberry as a young man and gave his portrait as such. I hope I may say I did my share by telephoning Ann Geddick and persuading her that Mrs. Pangle desired the young Mr. Mayberry made famous and not the elder Mr. Mayberry.
Memory is an amazing thing; I can understand why the truly great among us hire our press agents by the year rather than by the yard. In less than three weeks you had only to say "You remember the clothes sermon old Mr. Mayberry preached?" to have every person in his congregation say, gently but firmly, "No, you are mistaken. It was the young Mr. Mayberry preached that sermon. I was present and know!"
Before the end of the summer we were all -- for we are, I fear, old-style folk -- glad to know that the elder Mr. Mayberry was to return soon. Young Mr. Mayberry's sermons were invigorating, I admit, and there was a certain pride in feeling that we were hearing the very sermon for which young Mr. Mayberry would receive two thousand dollars from a newspaper syndicate, but we do not like to be crowded and we rather resented having the church jammed each Sunday by elegant ladies who came in limousines and who wore, one and all, the Mayberry Summer Sandal.
I need not say that, when dear old Mr. Mayberry did return, he forgave poor Mrs. Pangle for the awful but well-intentioned error she had made. The scene was quite affecting and would have been more so had Ann Geddick not been present. She had come out to collect her bill for the little job.
"And never," said Mrs. Pangle firmly, "do I want to set eyes on you, or any other press agent, again. I allowed my eagerness to be of service to dear Mr. Mayberry to hurry me into error, but I am sure now, from all I know of it, that press agents should be used by and for the vulgar only."
"My own thought, Mrs. Pangle," said Mr. Mayberry. "Those who are cultured can never approve of the press agent. It is a rudely artificial method of stimulating an obnoxiously intrusive public interest. What is your opinion?"
This last was addressed to me and I said I agreed with it heartily. I might have said more but Ann Geddick was to take the 3:48 train back to the city and I wished to see her before she left town. I wished to see whether she had time to do about ten yards of press agenting for me, I have a new novel about to be published and am eager to have it succeed.