SUNDAY WHEN THE CHURCH BELLS RING 207
come out, whether in scorn and strife or in peace with the pastor, for they had no idea what had brought the old man down and what it really meant. But there was already a change of feeling experienced by many of them, and one said to another : —
" It may be that the Aim-Uncle is not so bad as they say; you can see how carefully he held the little one by the hand"; and another one said : " That is what I have always said ; and he would not go to the pastor's house if he were so thoroughly bad, for he would be afraid ; people exaggerate a great many things." And the baker said : —
" Didn't I tell you that the first of all? Do you suppose a little child that has all it wants to eat and drink, and everything else good besides, would run away from it all and go home to a grandfather if he was wicked and wild, and she was afraid of him ? "
And a very friendly feeling for the Aim-Uncle arose and increased ; the women also drew near. They had heard from Peter the goatherd and the grandmother so many things that represented the Aim-Uncle as quite different from the popular opinion, and now all at once it seemed as if they were waiting to welcome an old friend who had long been absent.
Meanwhile the Aim-Uncle had gone to the study door and knocked. The pastor opened it and met the visitor, not with surprise, as he might have done, but as if he were expecting him. His unusual appearance in the church could not have escaped him. He grasped the old man's hand and shook it heartily, and the Aim-