The Thousand Dollar Note
by Francis Clement Kelley
THE three men who sat together around the little library table of the
Rectory felt the unpleasant tension of a half-minute of dead silence.
The big burly one, with his feet planted straight on the carpet,
passed his tongue over his lips and nervously folded and opened the
paper in his hands. The tall young chap with creased trousers kept
crossing and re-crossing his legs. Neither of them looked at the young
priest, who ten minutes before had welcomed them with a merry laugh
and had placed them in the most comfortable chairs of his little
bookish den, as cordially as if they were the best friends he had in
the world. Now the young priest looked old and the half-minute had
done it. He was just an enthusiastic boy when the contractor and
architect arrived; but he was a care-filled man now, as he sat and
nervously passed a handkerchief over his forehead, to find it wet,
though the room was none too warm. He seemed to be surmounting an
actual physical barrier when he spoke to the big man.
"I do not quite see, Mr. McMurray" (it had been "John" ten minutes
before), "I do not quite see,"
he repeated anxiously, "how I can owe
you so much. You know our contract was plain, and the bid that I
accepted from you was six thousand eight hundred dollars."
"Yes, sur; yes, sur; it was, sur," answered McMurray with shifting
embarrassment, "but you know these other things were extras, sur."
"But I did not order any extras, Mr. McMurray," urged the priest.
"Yes, sur; yes, sur, you did, sur. I told you the foundations was
sandy, sur, and that we had to go down deeper than the specifications
called fur. It cost in labor, sur,"—McMurray did not seem to be
enjoying his explanation—"fur diggin' and layin' the stone. Then you
know, sur, it takes more material to do it, sur. You said, yes—to go
"But you did not tell me it would cost more," urged the priest.
"No, sur; no, sur; I didn't, sur; but a child would know that. Now
look here at the plans."
"Just a minute, Mr. McMurray," broke in the architect, suavely. "Let
me explain. You see, Father, I was your representative both as
architect and superintendent of the building. I know that McMurray's
bill of extras is right. I passed on them and everything he did was
necessary. There are extras, you know, on every building."
"But," said the priest, "I told you I had only eight thousand dollars,
and that the furnishings would take all over the amount called for by
the contract. You can not expect to get blood out of a stone. Here now
you say I must pay a thousand dollars more; but where can I get the
"Well, Father," said the architect, "I don't think you will have to
worry much about that. You priests always manage somehow, and you got
off cheap enough. That church is worth ten thousand dollars, if it's
worth a cent; and McMurray did you a clean, nice job. Now one thousand
dollars won't hurt you; the Bishop will be reasonable and you will get
the money in a year or so."
"It looks as if I had to get it, somehow. I don't see how I can do
anything else," answered the priest. "This thing has sort of stunned
me. Give me one month and let me do my best. I wish I had never
started that building at all."
"Yes, sur; yes, sur," said McMurray quickly. "You can have a month,
sur. I am not a hard man, sur; but I've got to pay off me workers, you
know. But take the month, sur, take it—take it."
McMurray looked longingly at the door.
All three had arisen; but the priest's step had lost its spring as he
escorted his visitors out.
Both of them were silent for the distance of a block away from the
Rectory, and then McMurray said:
"Yes, sur; yes, sur; I feel like ——."
"I do too," broke in the architect. "I know what you were going to
say. He took it pretty hard."
Not another word was spoken by either of them until the hotel was
reached, and they had drowned the recollection of the young face, with
the look of age upon it, in four drinks at the bar.
When the priest, with a slight look of relief, closed the door upon
his visitors and bolted it after them, he had perhaps seen a little
humor in the situation; but the bolting of the door was the only sign
of it. His face was still grave when he stood, silent and stunned,
staring at the bill on the table.
"The good Lord help me," he prayed. "One thousand dollars and the
Bishop coming in two weeks! What can I say to him? What can I do?"
He pulled out a well thumbed letter from his pocket and read it to
himself, though he knew every word by heart.
"Dear Father Ryan,—I am pleased at your success, especially
that you built the church, as I told you to, without debt.
The congregation is too poor for any such burden. I will be
there for the dedication on the 26th.
"And by the way. You may get ready for that change I spoke
of. I am as good as my word, and will not delay about
promoting you. The parish of Lansville is vacant. In a month
you may consider yourself its pastor. In the meantime, I
around to select one of the young men to take
your place and begin the work of building a house. God bless
"Sincerely yours in Christ,
Thomas, Bishop of Tolma.
"All these years," whispered the young priest, "all these years, I
have waited for that place. I meant to have a home and mother with me,
and at least enough to live on after my ten years of sacrifice; but
one thousand dollars spoils it all. How can I raise it? I can not do
it before the 26th and the Bishop will ask for my report. How can I
tell him after that letter?"
He dropped the letter over the contractor's bill and sat down, with
discouragement written on every line of his face. He was trying to
think out the hardest problem of his life.
The town wherein Father Ryan had built his church had been for years
on the down-grade, so far as religion was concerned. There were in it
forty indifferent, because neglected, Catholic families. They had just
enough religion left in them to desire a little more, and they had a
certain pride left, too, in their Faith.
Father Ryan builded on that pride. It was a long and arduous work he
had faced. But after ten years he succeeded in erecting the little
church. His warnings to the architect had gone without heed; and he
found himself plunged into what was for him an enormous debt, just at
the time when promotion was assured.
All night long his problem was before him, and in the morning it was
prompt to rise up and confront him.
After breakfast the door-bell rang. He answered it himself, to find
two visitors on the steps. One was a very venerable looking old
priest, who had a kindly way about him and who laid his grip very
tenderly on the floor before he shook hands with Father Ryan. His
companion looked vastly different as he flung a little satchel into
the corner, and with a voice as big and hearty as his body informed
his host that both had come to stay over Sunday.
"Barry and I have been off for two weeks and we got tired of it," said
Father Fanning, the big man. "First vacation in ten years for both of
us, but there is nothing to it. Barry got worrying over his school,
and I got worrying over Barry, so there you are."
"But why didn't both of you go home?" asked Father Ryan.
"Home! confound it, that's the trouble. I would give anything to go on
the other ten miles and get off the train at my little burg, and so
would Barry, for that matter; but we were both warned to stay away
until Wednesday—reception and all that sort of thing. So now we are
going to stay here."
"That's all right," said Father Ryan. "I am glad to have you, but this
is Saturday and to-morrow is Sunday, and—"
"Now, now, go easy, young man, go easy. I simply won't preach. It is
no use asking me. I am on a vacation, I tell you. So is Barry. He
won't talk, so I have to defend him. You wouldn't want a man to work
on his vacation, would you?"
"Well, if you won't, you won't," replied Father Ryan, "but you will
say the late Mass, anyhow? You'll have to do something for your
"All right, I will, then. Barry can say his Mass in private, and you
say the first, yourself. Then you can preach as short and as well as
you can, which is not saying much for you."
"Well, seeing that it is Seminary Collection Sunday," interrupted
Father Ryan, "I won't lack for a subject."
Father Ryan had a great weakness for the Seminary, which was entitled
to an annual collection in the entire Diocese. He had studied there
for six years and, since his ordination, not one of his old professors
had been changed. Then he knew his obligations to the Seminary; he was
one of those who took obligations seriously. So Father Fanning was
obliged, after hearing the sermon next day, to change his mind
regarding his friend's ability to preach well. Father Ryan's discourse
was an appeal, simple and heartfelt, for his Alma Mater.
He closed it very effectively: "I owe the Seminary, my dear friends,"
he said, "about all that I have of priestly equipment. Nothing that I
may ever say or do can repay even a mite of the obligation that is
upon me. As for you, and the other Catholics of this Diocese, you owe
the Seminary for nine-tenths of the priests who have been successfully
carrying on God's work in your midst. The collection to-day is for
that Seminary. In other words, it is for the purpose of helping to
train priests who shall take our places when we are gone. On the
Seminary depends the future of the Church amongst you: therefore, the
future of religion in your families. Looking at this thing in a
selfish way, for the present alone, there is perhaps no need of giving
your little offering to this collection; but if you are thinking of
your children and your children's children, and the future of
religion, not only in this community but all over our State, and even
in the Nation, you will be generous—even lavish, in your gifts. This
is a poor little parish. We have struggled hard, God knows, to build
our church, and we need every dollar we can scrape together; but I
would rather be in need myself than refuse this appeal. I am entitled
by the laws of the Diocese to take out of the collection the average
amount of the Sunday collection. I would be ungrateful if I took a
cent, so I don't intend to. Every dollar, every penny that you put
into this collection shall be sent
to the Bishop for the Seminary; to
help him educate worthy priests for our Diocese."
After Mass, Father Fanning shook hands with the preacher.
"I feel ashamed of myself, Ryan," he said, "that I never looked at
things in such a light before. That was a great appeal you made. My
collection is probably postponed until next Sunday, when I get home to
take it up; and I tell you I am going to use every bit of that sermon
that I can remember."
Father Ryan had had little time to think over his troubles since his
two friends arrived; but, somehow, they seemed to worry him now that
the sermon was off his mind. The one thousand dollar debt was weighing
upon him even when he went to the door of the church to meet some of
A stranger brushed past him—a big, bluff, hearty looking man, all
bone and muscle, roughly dressed and covered with mud. There was a
two-horse rig from the livery, at the curb. The stranger started for
it; but turned back on seeing the priest.
"I am a stranger here, Father," he said. "I have just come down from
the mountains, where I have been prospecting. I have to drive over to
Caanan to get the fast train. I find that you have no trains here on
Sunday. I hadn't been to Mass for three months, for we have no place
to go out there where I was; so it was a great consolation for me to
drop in and hear a good sermon. And I tell you it
was a good
sermon. That was a great appeal you made."
Father Ryan could only murmur, "Thank you. You are not staying very
long with us?"
"No, I can't stay, Father. I have to get to New York and report on
what I found. I have about fourteen miles of mud before me now, and
have driven twenty miles this morning. I don't belong around here at
all. I live in New York; but I may be here a good deal later, and you
are the nearest priest to me. Take this and put it in the collection."
The rough man shoved a note into Father Ryan's hand. By this time they
both had reached the livery rig. A quick "Good-bye" from the visitor,
and a "God bless you" from Father Ryan, ended the conversation.
The priest thrust the note into his pocket and returned to the house.
When he entered the dining-room, Father Fanning was taking breakfast
at the table. Father Barry was occupying himself with a book, which he
found difficulty in reading, on account of the enthusiastic comments
of his friend on Father Ryan's sermon.
"We were talking about you, Ryan," he said. "And there is no need of
telling you what we had to say about you; but there is one thing I
would like to ask. What's wrong with you since we came?"
"Why, nothing," said Father Ryan. "Haven't I treated you better than
"That is all right, that is all right," interrupted his big neighbor,
"but there is something wrong. You were worried at first. Then you
dropped it, but you started to worry again just as soon as you came
out of the sanctuary. You were at it when we came in and you are at it
now. Come, Ryan, let us know what it is. If it is money, well—"
Father Barry looked up quickly from his book and said: "Surely, it is
not the new church, is it?"
The young pastor sat down in a chair at the table and looked at his
friends, before he spoke. "Well, I never could keep a secret," he
said. "Therefore, I suppose I never will be a trusted counselor of
anybody, and must always be seeking a counselor for myself."
"I always hate a man who can keep a secret," said Father Fanning. "I
always believe that the fellow who can keep a secret is the fellow you
have to watch. You never know what he is thinking about, so nobody
ever is sure of him. Don't be ashamed now of not being able to keep a
secret, and don't worry yourself by keeping this one. Out with it."
"Well, it is about the church," said Father Ryan.
And he told his story.
"Well, of all the strange characters I ever met," said Father Fanning,
"you certainly are the worst, Ryan. Here you are in a box about that
dollars and yet this morning you gave away your own share of
the collection, besides booming the Seminary. Why man, the Seminary
ought not ask anything from you, in your present condition. But there
is no use trying to pound sense into you. What are you going to do
about this? It is too much money for Barry and myself to take care of.
Bless your heart, I don't think he has fifty dollars to his name and I
wouldn't like to tell you the state of my finances. We have to think
out some way. Maybe Barry can see the Bishop."
"Well, we'll have to stop thinking about it," said Father Ryan. "I
might just as well settle down where I am. I certainly will not get
very much of a promotion now. By the way, did you notice the big man,
covered with mud, in the church?"
"No," said Father Fanning, "I did not notice him. Who was he? What
"He was a stranger," said Father Ryan, "and was very pleasant. He is a
prospector from New York. He has been up in the mountains and away
from church for the last three months. He must have found something up
there, because he is going on to New York to meet his backers; at
least, that is what I judged from his talk. He is driving over to
Caanan to-day to catch the fast train."
"I wonder if he put anything in the collection?" said Father Fanning.
"No, he did not," answered the pastor, "but he gave it to me afterward
and told me to put it in. By the way, here it is."
He pulled the note out of his pocket and laid it flat on the table.
The three men gasped for breath. It was a thousand dollars.
Father Fanning was the first to find words. "Great Scott, Ryan," he
said, "you ought to go out and thank God on your knees before the
altar. Here is the end of your trouble. Why the man must be a
Father Ryan's face was all smiles. "Yes," he said, "it is the end of
my trouble. I never dreamed it would come to an end so easily. Thanks
be to God for it."
The little old priest with the book in front of him seemed to have no
comment to make. He let his two friends ramble on, both overjoyed at
the good fortune that had extricated Father Ryan from his dilemma. But
he was not reading. He was thinking. By and by he spoke.
"What did you say you preached on to-day, Father Ryan?"
"Why," broke in Fanning, "he preached on the Seminary. Didn't I tell
you! And a good sermon—"
"Yes, I preached on the Seminary," said Father Ryan.
"But did I not hear Father Fanning say that you pledged every dollar
that came into the collection to the Seminary."
"Why, surely," said Father Ryan, "but this did not come in through the
"Yes," persisted Father Barry, "but did you not say that the strange
man told you to put it into the collection?"
"Why—yes—yes, he did say something like that."
"Well, then," urged Father Barry, "is it not a question to be debated
as to whether or not you can do anything else with the money?"
"Oh, confound it all, Barry," cried Father Fanning. "You are a
rigorist. You don't understand this case. Now there's no use bringing
your old syllogisms into this business. This man is in a hole. He has
got to get out of it. What difference is it if I put my money in one
pocket or in the other pocket. This all belongs to God anyhow. The
thousand dollar note was given to the Church, and the most necessary
thing now is to pay the debt on that part of it that's here. Why the
Seminary doesn't need it. The old Procurator would drop dead if he got
a thousand dollars from this parish."
"Well, so far as I can see," said Father Barry, "what you say does not
change matters any. Father Ryan promised every dollar—and every cent
for that matter—in that collection to the Seminary.
This money forms
part of the collection. I know perfectly well that most men would
argue as you do, but this is a case of conscience. The money was given
for a specific purpose, and in my judgment, if Father Ryan uses it for
any other purpose than the one for which it was given, he simply will
have to make restitution later on to the Seminary.
"That's an awful way of looking at things," said Father Fanning.
"Confound it, I am glad I don't have to go to you for direction. Why,
its getting worse instead of better, you are. The giver of this money
would be only too glad to have it go to pay off the debt. What does he
know about the Seminary? He was attending the little church out here,
and whatever good he got from his visit came through Father Ryan and
his people. He is under obligation to them first. Can't you see that
it does not make any difference, after all. It is the same thing."
"No, it is not the same thing," said Father Barry. "Perhaps we are too
much tempted to believe that gifts of this kind might be
interchangeable. We are full of zeal for the glory of God at home, and
that means that sometimes we unconsciously are full of zeal for our
own glory. Look it up. I may be wrong, and I do not want to be a
killjoy; but we would not wish our friend here to act first and do a
lot of sorrowful thinking afterward."
It was Wednesday morning when the two visitors left, and the
discussions only ended when the
door closed upon them. There was not
a theological book in Father Ryan's library left unconsulted.
When Father Fanning was at the door, grip in hand, he said: "Well, I
guess we have come to no conclusion, Ryan. You will have to finish it,
yourself, and decide for yourself. But there is one thing I can
testify to, besides the stubbornness of my venerable friend here, and
that is that I have learned more theology out of this three-day
discussion than I learned in three years previously. There is nothing
like a fight to keep a fellow in training."
His friends gone, Father Ryan went straight to his desk and wrote this
letter to his Bishop:
Your Lordship—I am sending herewith enclosed my Seminary
collection. It amounts to $1,063.10. You may be surprised at
the first figure; but there was a thousand dollar note
handed to me for that particular collection. I congratulate
the Seminary on getting it.
"The church is ready for dedication as your Lordship
"Kindly wire me and I will meet you at the train."
Then Father Ryan went to bed. He did not expect to sleep very much
that night; but in spite of his worry, and to his own great surprise,
he had the most peaceful sleep of all the years of his priesthood.
The church was dedicated. The Bishop, severe of face, abrupt in
manner, but if the truth were known, kindly at heart, finished his
work before he asked to see the books of the parish.
Father Ryan was alone with his Lordship when the time for that ordeal
came. He handed the books to the Bishop and laid a financial statement
before him. The Bishop glanced at it, frowned and then read it
through. The frown was still on his face as he looked up at the young
priest before him.
"This looks as if you had been practicing a little deceit upon me,
Father Ryan," he said. "You wrote me that the church was finished
"I thought so, my Lord, when I wrote you the letter. I had the money
on hand to pay the exact amount of the contract. The architect and the
builder came to me later and informed me that there had been extras,
of which I knew nothing, amounting to one thousand dollars. I am one
thousand dollars behind. I assure your Lordship that it was not my
fault, except that perhaps I should have known more about the tactics
of the men I was dealing with. I will have to raise the money some
way; and, of course, I do not expect your Lordship to send me to
Lansville. I am sorry, but I have done the best I could. I will know
more about building next time."
The Bishop had no word to say. Though the frown appeared pretty well
fixed upon his face, it did not seem quite natural. There was a
his eye that only an expert on bishops could perceive.
"But you sent me one thousand dollars more than I could have expected
only this week, for the Seminary," he said. That surely indicates that
you have some people here who might help you out of your dilemma."
"I am sorry, your Lordship," said Father Ryan, "but it does not
indicate that at all. I have no rich people. All of my people have
done the best they could for the new church. I will have to give them
a rest for a year and stay here and face the debt. The man who gave
the thousand dollar bill was a stranger—a miner. I do not know him at
all. He did not even give his name, but said the money was for the
collection. I could not find any authority for keeping it for the
church here, though, to be candid, I wanted to do it. That is all."
The Bishop still kept his eye on him. "Of course you know that your
appointment to Lansville was conditional."
"I understand that, your Lordship," said Father Etan. "You have no
obligation to me at all in that regard."
"Will you kindly step to the door and ask my Chancellor to come in?"
When the Chancellor entered, the Bishop said to him: "Have you the
letter I received from Mr. Wilcox?"
The Chancellor handed the Bishop the letter, who unfolded it and,
taking another glance at the dejected young pastor, read it to him. It
was very much to the point.
"Dear Bishop,—You may or may not know me, but I knew you
when you were pastor of St. Alexis in my native town. The
fact is, you baptized me. I would not even have known where
you were, had it not been for a mistake I made this morning.
I came down from the mountains and went to Mass at Ashford.
When I was going away I gave the young priest a thousand
dollar note. If you recognize my name, you will understand
that it was not too much for me to give, for though I am a
stingy sort of fellow, the Lord has blessed me with
considerable wealth. I remember saying to the young priest
that I wanted him to put it in the collection, which as I
remember now, was for the Seminary. I figured it out that he
would be sending the collection to you.
"Now, I don't like to disappoint you, dear Bishop, but I did
not intend that money to go to the Seminary, but to the
pastor for the little parish. Later on, when developments
start in the mountains, and they will start when I get back
to New York, I may need that young priest to come up and
take care of my men; so I want the money to go to his
church, which, from what my driver told me coming over,
needs it. I may take care of the Seminary later on,
expect to be around your section of the country a great deal
in the future.
Through tear-dimmed eyes Father Ryan saw all the sternness go out of
the Bishop's face.
"Mr. Wilcox," said his Lordship, "is a millionaire many times over. He
is one of the largest mine operators in the world. He likes to do
things of this kind. You may go to Lansville, Father Ryan; but I
think, if I were you, I would stay here. When Wilcox says things are
going to move, they usually do. Think it over and take your choice.
Here is your thousand dollars. I do not find it a good thing, Father,
to praise people; especially those I have to govern, so I am not going
to praise you for what you have done. It was right, and it was your
duty. I appreciate it."