Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Inside Of The Cup - Volume 6 - Chapter 22. "Which Say To The Seers, See Not"
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 6 - Chapter 22. 'Which Say To The Seers, See Not' Post by :solidarity Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :May 2012 Read :1050

Click below to download : The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 6 - Chapter 22. "Which Say To The Seers, See Not" (Format : PDF)

The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 6 - Chapter 22. "Which Say To The Seers, See Not"

VOLUME VI CHAPTER XXII. "WHICH SAY TO THE SEERS, SEE NOT"

I

As Alison arose from her knees and made her way out of the pew, it was the expression on Charlotte Plimpton's face which brought her back once more to a sense of her surroundings; struck her, indeed, like a physical blow. The expression was a scandalized one. Mrs. Plimpton had moved towards her, as if to speak, but Alison hurried past, her exaltation suddenly shattered, replaced by a rising tide of resentment, of angry amazement against a materialism so solid as to remain unshaken by the words which had so uplifted her. Eddies were forming in the aisle as the people streamed slowly out of the church, and snatches of their conversation, in undertones, reached her ears.

"I should never have believed it!"

"Mr. Hodder, of all men..."

"The bishop!"

Outside the swinging doors, in the vestibule, the voices were raised a little, and she found her path blocked.

"It's incredible!" she heard Gordon Atterbury saying to little Everett Constable, who was listening gloomily.

"Sheer Unitarianism, socialism, heresy."

His attention was forcibly arrested by Alison, in whose cheeks bright spots of colour burned. He stepped aside, involuntarily, apologetically, as though he had instinctively read in her attitude an unaccountable disdain. Everett Constable bowed uncertainly, for Alison scarcely noticed them.

"Ahem!" said Gordon, nervously, abandoning his former companion and joining her, "I was just saying, it's incredible--"

She turned on him.

"It is incredible," she cried, "that persons who call themselves Christians cannot recognize their religion when they hear it preached."

He gave back before her, visibly, in an astonishment which would have been ludicrous but for her anger. He had never understood her--such had been for him her greatest fascination;--and now she was less comprehensible than ever. The time had been when he would cheerfully have given over his hope of salvation to have been able to stir her. He had never seen her stirred, and the sight of her even now in this condition was uncomfortably agitating. Of all things, an heretical sermon would appear to have accomplished this miracle!

"Christianity!" he stammered.

"Yes, Christianity." Her voice tingled. "I don't pretend to know much about it, but Mr. Hodder has at least made it plain that it is something more than dead dogmas, ceremonies, and superstitions."

He would have said something, but her one thought was to escape, to be alone. These friends of her childhood were at that moment so distasteful as to have become hateful. Some one laid a hand upon her arm.

"Can't we take you home, Alison? I don't see your motor."

It was Mrs. Constable.

"No, thanks--I'm going to walk," Alison answered, yet something in Mrs. Constable's face, in Mrs. Constable's voice, made her pause. Something new, something oddly sympathetic. Their eyes met, and Alison saw that the other woman's were tired, almost haggard--yet understanding.

"Mr. Hodder was right--a thousand times right, my dear," she said.

Alison could only stare at her, and the crimson in the bright spots of her cheeks spread over her face. Why had Mrs. Constable supposed that she would care to hear the sermon praised? But a second glance put her in possession of the extraordinary fact that Mrs. Constable herself was profoundly moved.

"I knew he would change," she went on, "I have seen for some time that he was too big a man not to change. But I had no conception that he would have such power, and such courage, as he has shown this morning. It is not only that he dared to tell us what we were--smaller men might have done that, and it is comparatively easy to denounce. But he has the vision to construct, he is a seer himself--he has really made me see what Christianity is. And as long as I live I shall never forget those closing sentences."

"And now?" asked Alison. "And now what will happen?"

Mrs. Constable changed colour. Her tact, on which she prided herself, had deserted her in a moment of unlooked-for emotion.

"Oh, I know that my father and the others will try to put him out--but can they?" Alison asked.

It was Mrs. Constable's turn to stare. The head she suddenly and impulsively put forth trembled on Alison's wrist.

"I don't know, Alison--I'm afraid they can. It is too terrible to think about.... And they can't--they won't believe that many changes are coming, that this is but one of many signs... Do come and see me."

Alison left her, marvelling at the passage between them, and that, of all persons in the congregation of St. John's, the lightning should have struck Mrs. Constable...

Turning to the right on Burton Street, she soon found herself walking rapidly westward through deserted streets lined by factories and warehouses, and silent in the Sabbath calm.... She thought of Hodder, she would have liked to go to him in that hour....

In Park Street, luncheon was half over, and Nelson Langmaid was at the table with her father. The lawyer glanced at her curiously as she entered the room, and his usual word of banter, she thought, was rather lame. The two went on, for some time, discussing a railroad suit in Texas. And Alison, as she hurried through her meal, leaving the dishes almost untouched, scarcely heard them. Once, in her reverie, her thoughts reverted to another Sunday when Hodder had sat, an honoured guest, in the chair which Mr. Langmaid now occupied....

It was not until they got up from the table that her father turned to her.

"Did you have a good sermon?" he asked.

It was the underlying note of challenge to which she responded.

"The only good sermon I have ever heard."

Their eyes met. Langmaid looked down at the tip of his cigar.

"Mr. Hodder," said Eldon Parr, "is to be congratulated."

II

Hodder, when the service was over, had sought the familiar recess in the robing-room, the words which he himself had spoken still ringing in his ears. And then he recalled the desperate prayer with which he had entered the pulpit, that it might be given him in that hour what to say: the vivid memories of the passions and miseries in Dalton Street, the sudden, hot response of indignation at the complacency confronting him. His voice had trembled with anger.... He remembered, as he had paused in his denunciation of these who had eyes and saw not, meeting the upturned look of Alison Parr, and his anger had turned to pity for their blindness--which once had been his own; and he had gone on and on, striving to interpret for them his new revelation of the message of the Saviour, to impress upon them the dreadful yet sublime meaning of life eternal. And it was in that moment the vision of the meaning of the evolution of his race, of the Prodigal turning to responsibility--of which he once had had a glimpse--had risen before his eyes in its completeness--the guiding hand of God in history! The Spirit in these complacent souls, as yet unstirred....

So complete, now, was his forgetfulness of self, of his future, of the irrevocable consequences of the step he had taken, that it was only gradually he became aware that some one was standing near him, and with a start he recognized McCrae.

"There are some waiting to speak to ye," his assistant said.

"Oh!" Hodder exclaimed. He began, mechanically, to divest himself of his surplice. McCrae stood by.

"I'd like to say a word, first--if ye don't mind--" he began.

The rector looked at him quickly.

"I'd like just to thank ye for that sermon--I can say no more now," said McCrae; he turned away, and left the room abruptly.

This characteristic tribute from the inarticulate, loyal Scotchman left him tingling.... He made his way to the door and saw the people in the choir room, standing silently, in groups, looking toward him. Some one spoke to him, and he recognized Eleanor Goodrich.

"We couldn't help coming, Mr. Hodder--just to tell you how much we admire you. It was wonderful, what you said."

He grew hot with gratitude, with thankfulness that there were some who understood--and that this woman was among them, and her husband... Phil Goodrich took him by the hand.

"I can understand that kind of religion," he said. "And, if necessary, I can fight for it. I have come to enlist."

"And I can understand it, too," added the sunburned Evelyn. "I hope you will let me help."

That was all they said, but Hodder understood. Eleanor Goodrich's eyes were dimmed as she smiled an her sister and her husband--a smile that bespoke the purest quality of pride. And it was then, as they made way for others, that the full value of their allegiance was borne in upon him, and he grasped the fact that the intangible barrier which had separated him from them had at last been broken down: His look followed the square shoulders and aggressive, close-cropped head of Phil Goodrich, the firm, athletic figure of Evelyn, who had represented to him an entire class of modern young women, vigorous, athletic, with a scorn of cant in which he secretly sympathized, hitherto frankly untouched by spiritual interests of any sort. She had, indeed, once bluntly told him that church meant nothing to her....

In that little company gathered in the choir room were certain members of his congregation whom, had he taken thought, he would least have expected to see. There were Mr. and Mrs. Bradley, an elderly couple who had attended St. John's for thirty years; and others of the same unpretentious element of his parish who were finding in modern life an increasingly difficult and bewildering problem. There was little Miss Tallant, an assiduous guild worker whom he had thought the most orthodox of persons; Miss Ramsay, who taught the children of the Italian mothers; Mr. Carton, the organist, a professed free-thinker, with whom Hodder had had many a futile argument; and Martha Preston, who told him that he had made her think about religion seriously for the first time in her life.

And there were others, types equally diverse. Young men of the choir, and others whom he had never seen, who informed him shyly that they would come again, and bring their friends....

And all the while, in the background, Hodder had been aware of a familiar face--Horace Bentley's. Beside him, when at length he drew near, was his friend Asa Waring--a strangely contrasted type. The uncompromising eyes of a born leader of men flashed from beneath the heavy white eyebrows, the button of the Legion of Honour gleaming in his well-kept coat seemed emblematic of the fire which in his youth had driven him forth to fight for the honour of his country--a fire still undimmed. It was he who spoke first.

"This is a day I never expected to see, Mr. Hodder," he said, "for it has brought back to this church the man to whom it owes its existence. Mr. Bentley did more, by his labour and generosity, his true Christianity, his charity and his wisdom, for St. John's than any other individual. It is you who have brought him back, and I wish personally to express my gratitude."

Mr. Bentley, in mild reproof, laid his hand upon the t, shoulder of his old friend.

"Ah, Asa," he protested, "you shouldn't say such things."

"Had it not been for Mr. Bentley," Hodder explained, "I should not be here to-day."

Asa Waring pierced the rector with his eye, appreciating the genuine feeling with which these words were spoken. And yet his look contained a question.

"Mr. Bentley," Hodder added, "has been my teacher this summer."

The old gentleman's hand trembled a little on the goldheaded stick.

"It is a matter of more pride to me than I can express, sir, that you are the rector of this church with which my most cherished memories are associated," he said. "But I cannot take any part of the credit you give me for the splendid vision which you have raised up before us to-day, for your inspired interpretation of history, of the meaning of our own times. You have moved me, you have given me more hope and courage than I have had for many a long year--and I thank you, Mr. Hodder. I am sure that God will prosper and guide you in what you have so nobly undertaken."

Mr. Bentley turned away, walking towards the end of the room.... Asa Waring broke the silence.

"I didn't know that you knew him, that you had seen what he is doing--what he has done in this city. I cannot trust myself, Mr. Hodder, to speak of Horace Bentley's life... I feel too strongly on the subject. I have watched, year by year, this detestable spirit of greed, this lust for money and power creeping over our country, corrupting our people and institutions, and finally tainting the Church itself. You have raised your voice against it, and I respect and honour and thank you for it, the more because you have done it without resorting to sensation, and apparently with no thought of yourself. And, incidentally, you have explained the Christian religion to me as I have never had it explained in my life.

"I need not tell you you have made enemies--powerful ones. I can see that you are a man, and that you are prepared for them. They will leave no stone unturned, will neglect no means to put you out and disgrace you. They will be about your ears to-morrow--this afternoon, perhaps. I need not remind you that the outcome is doubtful. But I came here to assure you of my friendship and support in all you hope to accomplish in making the Church what it should be. In any event, what you have done to-day will be productive of everlasting good."

In a corner still lingered the group which Mr. Bentley had joined. And Hodder, as he made his way towards it, recognized the faces of some of those who composed it. Sally Grower was there, and the young women who lived in Mr. Bentley's house, and others whose acquaintance he had made during the summer. Mrs. Garvin had brought little Dicky, incredibly changed from the wan little figure he had first beheld in the stifling back room in Dalton Street; not yet robust, but freckled and tanned by the country sun and wind. The child, whom he had seen constantly in the interval, ran forward joyfully, and Hodder bent down to take his hand....

These were his friends, emblematic of the new relationship in which he stood to mankind. And he owed them to Horace Bentley! He wondered, as he greeted them, whether they knew what their allegiance meant to him in this hour. But it sufficed that they claimed him as their own.

Behind them all stood Kate Marcy. And it struck him for the first time, as he gazed at her earnestly, how her appearance had changed. She gave him a frightened, bewildered look, as though she were unable to identify him now with the man she had known in the Dalton Street flat, in the restaurant. She was still struggling, groping, wondering, striving to accustom herself to the higher light of another world.

"I wanted to come," she faltered. "Sally Grower brought me..."

Hodder went back with them to Dalton Street. His new ministry had begun. And on this, the first day of it, it was fitting that he should sit at the table of Horace Bentley, even as on that other Sunday, two years agone, he had gone to the home of the first layman of the diocese, Eldon Parr.

III

The peace of God passes understanding because sorrow and joy are mingled therein, sorrow and joy and striving. And thus the joy of emancipation may be accompanied by a heavy heart. The next morning, when Hodder entered his study, he sighed as his eye fell upon the unusual pile of letters on his desk, for their writers had once been his friends. The inevitable breach had come at last.

Most of the letters, as he had anticipated, were painful reading. And the silver paper-cutter with which he opened the first had been a Christmas present from Mrs. Burlingame, who had penned it, a lady of signal devotion to the church, who for many years had made it her task to supply and arrange the flowers on the altar. He had amazed and wounded her--she declared--inexpressibly, and she could no longer remain at St. John's--for the present, at least. A significant addition. He dropped the letter, and sat staring out of the window... presently arousing himself, setting himself resolutely to the task of reading the rest.

In the mood in which he found himself he did not atop to philosophize on the rigid yet sincere attitude of the orthodox. His affection for many of them curiously remained, though it was with some difficulty he strove to reconstruct a state of mind with which he had once agreed. If Christianity were to sweep on, these few unbending but faithful ones must be sacrificed: such was the law... Many, while repudiating his new beliefs--or unbeliefs!--added, to their regrets of the change in him, protestations of a continued friendship, a conviction of his sincerity. Others like Mrs. Atterbury, were frankly outraged and bitter. The contents of one lilac-bordered envelope brought to his eyes a faint smile. Did he know--asked the sender of this--could he know the consternation he had caused in so many persons, including herself? What was she to believe? And wouldn't he lunch with her on Thursday?

Mrs. Ferguson's letter brought another smile--more thoughtful. Her incoherent phrases had sprung from the heart, and the picture rose before him of the stout but frightened, good-natured lady who had never accustomed herself to the enjoyment of wealth and luxury. Mr. Ferguson was in such a state, and he must please not tell her husband that she had written. Yet much in his sermon had struck her as so true. It seemed wrong to her to have so much, and others so little! And he had made her remember many things in her early life she had forgotten. She hoped he would see Mr. Ferguson, and talk to him....

Then there was Mrs. Constable's short note, that troubled and puzzled him. This, too, had in it an undercurrent of fear, and the memory came to him of the harrowing afternoon he had once spent with her, when she would have seemed to have predicted the very thing which had now happened to him. And yet not that thing. He divined instinctively that a maturer thought on the subject of his sermon had brought on an uneasiness as the full consequences of this new teaching had dawned upon her consequences which she had not foreseen when she had foretold the change. And he seemed to read between the lines that the renunciation he demanded was too great. Would he not let her come and talk to him?...

Miss Brewer, a lady of no inconsiderable property, was among those who told him plainly that if he remained they would have to give up their pews. Three or four communications were even more threatening. Mr. Alpheus Gore, Mrs. Plimpton's brother, who at five and forty had managed to triple his share of the Gore inheritance, wrote that it would be his regretful duty to send to the bishop an Information on the subject of Mr. Hodder's sermon.

There were, indeed, a few letters which he laid, thankfully, in a pile by themselves. These were mostly from certain humble members of his parish who had not followed their impulses to go to him after the service, or from strangers who had chanced to drop into the church. Some were autobiographical, such as those of a trained nurse, a stenographer, a hardware clerk who had sat up late Sunday night to summarize what that sermon had meant to him, how a gray and hopeless existence had taken on a new colour. Next Sunday he would bring a friend who lived in the same boarding house.... Hodder read every word of these, and all were in the same strain: at last they could perceive a meaning to religion, an application of it to such plodding lives as theirs....

One or two had not understood, but had been stirred, and were coming to talk to him. Another was filled with a venomous class hatred....

The first intimation he had of the writer of another letter seemed from the senses rather than the intellect. A warm glow suffused him, mounted to his temples as he stared at the words, turned over the sheet, and read at the bottom the not very legible signature. The handwriting, by no means classic, became then and there indelibly photographed on his brain, and summed up for him the characteristics, the warring elements in Alison Parr. "All afternoon," she wrote, "I have been thinking of your sermon. It was to me very wonderful--it lifted me out of myself. And oh, I want so much to believe unreservedly what you expressed so finely, that religion is democracy, or the motive power behind democracy--the service of humanity by the reborn. I understand it intellectually. I am willing to work for such a Cause, but there is something in me so hard that I wonder if it can dissolve. And then I am still unable to identify that Cause with the Church as at present constituted, with the dogmas and ceremonies that still exist. I am too thorough a radical to have your patience. And I am filled with rage--I can think of no milder word--on coming in contact with the living embodiments of that old creed, who hold its dogmas so precious. 'Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.'"

"You see, I have been reading Isaiah, and when I came to that paragraph it seemed so appropriate. These people have always existed. And will they not always continue to exist? I wish I could believe, wholly and unreservedly, that this class, always preponderant in the world, could be changed, diminished--done away with in a brighter future! I can, at least, sympathize with Isaiah's wrath.

"What you said of the longing, the yearning which exists to-day amongst the inarticulate millions moved me most--and of the place of art in religion, to express that yearning. Religion the motive power of art, and art, too, service. 'Consider the lilies of the field.' You have made it, at least, all-comprehensive, have given me a new point of view for which I can never be sufficiently grateful--and at a time when I needed it desperately. That you have dared to do what you have done has been and will be an inspiration, not only to myself, but to many others. This, is a longer letter, I believe, than I have ever written in my life. But I wanted you to know."

He reread it twice, pondering over its phrases. "A new point of view.... at a time when I needed it desperately." It was not until then that he realized the full intensity of his desire for some expression from her since the moment he had caught sight of her in the church. But he had not been prepared for the unreserve, the impulsiveness with which she had actually written. Such was his agitation that he did not heed, at first, a knock on the door, which was repeated. He thrust the letter inside his coat as the janitor of the parish house appeared.

"There is a gentleman to see you, sir, in the office," he said.

Hodder went down the stairs. And he anticipated, from the light yet nervous pacing that he heard on the bare floor, that the visitor was none other than his vestryman, Mr. Gordon Atterbury. The sight of the gentleman's spruce figure confirmed the guess.

"Good morning, Mr. Atterbury," he said as he entered.

Mr. Atterbury stopped in his steps, as if he had heard a shot.

"Ah--good morning, Mr. Hodder. I stopped in on my way to the office."

"Sit down," said the rector.

Mr. Atterbury sat down, but with the air of a man who does so under protest, who had not intended to. He was visibly filled and almost quivering with an excitement which seemed to demand active expression, and which the tall clergyman's physical calm and self-possession seemed to augment. For a moment Mr. Atterbury stared at the rector as he sat behind his desk. Then he cleared his throat.

"I thought of writing to you, Mr. Hodder. My mother, I believe, has done so. But it seemed to me, on second thought, better to come to you direct."

The rector nodded, without venturing to remark on the wisdom of the course.

"It occurred to me," Mr. Atterbury went on, "that possibly some things I wish to discuss might--ahem be dispelled in a conversation. That I might conceivably have misunderstood certain statements in your sermon of yesterday."

"I tried," said the rector, "to be as clear as possible."

"I thought you might not fully have realized the effect of what you said. I ought to tell you, I think, that as soon as I reached home I wrote out, as accurately as I could from memory, the gist of your remarks. And I must say frankly, although I try to put it mildly, that they appear to contradict and controvert the doctrines of the Church."

"Which doctrines?" Hodder asked.

Gordon Atterbury sputtered.

"Which doctrines?" he repeated. "Can it be possible that you misunderstand me? I might refer you to those which you yourself preached as late as last June, in a sermon which was one of the finest and most scholarly efforts I ever heard."

"It was on that day, Mr. Atterbury," replied the rector, with a touch of sadness in his voice, "I made the discovery that fine and scholarly efforts were not Christianity."

"What do you mean?" Mr. Atterbury demanded.

"I mean that they do not succeed in making Christians."

"And by that you imply that the members of your congregation, those who have been brought up and baptized and confirmed in this church, are not Christians?"

"I am sorry to say a great many of them are not," said the rector.

"In other words, you affirm that the sacrament of baptism is of no account."

"I affirm that baptism with water is not sufficient."

"I'm afraid that this is very grave," Mr. Hodder.

"I quite agree with you," replied the rector, looking straight at his vestryman.

"And I understood,--" the other went on, clearing his throat once more, "I think I have it correctly stated in my notes, but I wish to be quite clear, that you denied the doctrine of the virgin birth."

Hodder made a strong effort to control himself.

"What I have said I have said," he answered, "and I have said it in the hope that it might make some impression upon the lives of those to whom I spoke. You were one of them, Mr. Atterbury. And if I repeat and amplify my meaning now, it must be understood that I have no other object except that of putting you in the way of seeing that the religion of Christ is unique in that it is dependent upon no doctrine or dogma, upon no external or material sign or proof or authority whatever. I am utterly indifferent to any action you may contemplate taking concerning me. Read your four Gospels carefully. If we do not arrive, through contemplation of our Lord's sojourn on this earth, of his triumph over death, of his message--which illuminates the meaning of our lives here--at that inner spiritual conversion of which he continually speaks, and which alone will give us charity, we are not Christians."

"But the doctrines of the Church, which we were taught from childhood to believe? The doctrines which you once professed, and of which you have now made such an unlooked-for repudiation!"

"Yes, I have changed," said the rector, gazing seriously at the twitching figure of his vestryman, "I was bound, body and soul, by those very doctrines." He roused himself. "But on what grounds do you declare, Mr. Atterbury," he demanded, somewhat sternly, "that this church is fettered by an ancient and dogmatic conception of Christianity? Where are you to find what are called the doctrines of the Church? What may be heresy in one diocese is not so in another, and I can refer to you volumes written by ministers of this Church, in good standing, whose published opinions are the same as those I expressed in my sermon of yesterday. The very cornerstone of the Church is freedom, but many have yet to discover this, and we have held in our Communion men of such divergent views as Dr. Pusey and Phillips Brooks. Mr. Newman, in his Tract Ninety, which was sincerely written, showed that the Thirty-nine Articles were capable of almost any theological interpretation. From what authoritative source are we to draw our doctrines? In the baptismal service the articles of belief are stated to be in the Apostles' Creed, but nowhere--in this Church is it defined how their ancient language is to be interpreted. That is wisely left to the individual. Shall we interpret the Gospels by the Creeds, which in turn purport to be interpretations of the Gospels? Or shall we draw our conclusions as to what the Creeds may mean to us by pondering on the life of Christ, and striving to do his will? 'The letter killeth, but the Spirit maketh alive.'"

Hodder rose, and stood facing his visitor squarely. He spoke slowly, and the fact that he made no gesture gave all the more force to his words.

"Hereafter, Mr. Atterbury," he added, "so long as I am rector of this church, I am going to do my best to carry out the spirit of Christ's teaching--to make Christians. And there shall be no more compromise, so far as I can help it."

Gordon Atterbury had grown very pale. He, too, got to his feet.

"I--I cannot trust myself to discuss this matter with you any further, Mr. Hodder. I feel too deeply--too strongly on the subject. I do not pretend to account for this astonishing transformation in your opinions. Up to the present I have deemed St. John's fortunate--peculiarly fortunate, in having you for its rector. I am bound to say I think you have not considered, in this change of attitude on your part, those who have made St. John's what it is, who through long and familiar association are bound to it by a thousand ties,--those who, like myself, have what may be called a family interest in this church. My father and mother were married here, I was baptized here. I think I may go so far as to add, Mr. Hodder, that this is our church, the church which a certain group of people have built in which to worship God, as was their right. Nor do I believe we can be reproached with a lack of hospitality or charity. We maintain this parish house, with its clubs; and at no small inconvenience to ourselves we have permitted the church to remain in this district. There is no better church music in this city, and we have a beautiful service in the evening at which, all pews are free. It is not unreasonable that we should have something to say concerning the doctrine to be preached here, that we should insist that that doctrine be in accordance with what we have always believed was the true doctrine as received by this Church."

Up to this point Mr. Atterbury had had a feeling that he had not carried out with much distinction the programme which he had so carefully rehearsed on the way to the parish house. Hodder's poise had amazed and baffled him--he had expected to find the rector on the defensive. But now, burning anew with a sense of injustice, he had a sense at last of putting his case strongly.

The feeling of triumph, however, was short lived. Hodder did not reply at once. So many seconds, indeed, went by that Mr. Atterbury began once more to grow slightly nervous under the strange gaze to which he was subjected. And when the clergyman' spoke there was no anger in his voice, but a quality--a feeling which was disturbing, and difficult to define.

"You are dealing now, Mr. Atterbury," he said, "with the things of Caesar, not of God. This church belongs to God--not to you. But you have consecrated it to him. His truth, as Christ taught it, must not be preached to suit any man's convenience. When you were young you were not taught the truth--neither was I. It was mixed with adulterations which obscured and almost neutralized it. But I intend to face it now, and to preach it, and not the comfortable compromise which gives us the illusion that we are Christians because we subscribe to certain tenets, and permits us to neglect our Christian duties.

"And since you have spoken of charity, let me assure you that there is no such thing as charity without the transforming, personal touch. It isn't the bread or instruction or amusement we give people vicariously, but the effect of our gift--even if that gift be only a cup of cold water--in illuminating and changing their lives. And it will avail any church little to have a dozen settlement houses while her members acquiesce in a State which refuses to relieve her citizens from sickness and poverty. Charity bends down only to lift others up. And with all our works, our expenditure and toil, how many have we lifted up?"

Gordon Atterbury's indignation got the better of him. For he was the last man to behold with patience the shattering of his idols.

"I think you have cast an unwarranted reflection on those who have built and made this church what it is, Mr. Hodder," he exclaimed. "And that you will find there are in it many--a great many earnest Christians who were greatly shocked by the words you spoke yesterday, who will not tolerate any interference with their faith. I feel it my duty to speak frankly, Mr Hodder, disagreeable though it be, in view of our former relations. I must tell you that I am not alone in the opinion that you should resign. It is the least you can do, in justice to us, in justice to yourself. There are other bodies--I cannot call them churches--which doubtless would welcome your liberal, and I must add atrophying, interpretation of Christianity. And I trust that reflection will convince you of the folly of pushing this matter to the extreme. We should greatly deplore the sensational spectacle of St. John's being involved in an ecclesiastical trial, the unpleasant notoriety into which it would bring a church hitherto untouched by that sort of thing. And I ought to tell you that I, among others, am about to send an Information to the bishop."

Gordon Atterbury hesitated a moment, but getting no reply save an inclination of the head, took up his hat.

"Ahem--I think that is all I have to say, Mr. Hodder. Good morning."

Even then Hodder did not answer, but rose and held open the door. As he made his exit under the strange scrutiny of the clergyman's gaze the little vestryman was plainly uncomfortable. He cleared his throat once more, halted, and then precipitately departed.

Hodder went to the window and thoughtfully watched the hurrying figure of Mr. Atterbury until it disappeared, almost skipping, around the corner .... The germ of truth, throughout the centuries, had lost nothing of its dynamic potentialities. If released and proclaimed it was still powerful enough to drive the world to insensate anger and opposition....

As he stood there, lost in reflection, a shining automobile drew up at the curb, and from it descended a firm lady in a tight-fitting suit whom he recognized as Mrs Wallis Plimpton. A moment later she had invaded the office--for no less a word may be employed to express her physical aggressiveness, the glowing health which she radiated.

"Good morning, Mr. Hodder," she said, seating herself in one of the straight-backed chairs. "I have been so troubled since you preached that sermon yesterday, I could scarcely sleep. And I made up my mind I'd come to you the first thing this morning. Mr. Plimpton and I have been discussing it. In fact, people are talking of nothing else. We dined with the Laureston Greys last night, and they, too, were full of it." Charlotte Plimpton looked at him, and the flow of her words suddenly diminished. And she added, a little lamely for her, "Spiritual matters in these days are so difficult, aren't they?"

"Spiritual matters always were difficult, Mrs. Plimpton," he said.

"I suppose so," she assented hurriedly, with what was intended for a smile. "But what I came to ask you is this--what are we to teach our children?"

"Teach them the truth," the rector replied.

"One of the things which troubled me most was your reference to modern criticism," she went on, recovering her facility. "I was brought up to believe that the Bible was true. The governess--Miss Standish, you know, such a fine type of Englishwoman--reads the children Bible stories every Sunday evening. They adore them, and little Wallis can repeat them almost by heart--the pillar of cloud by day, Daniel in the lions' den, and the Wise Men from the East. If they aren't true, some one ought to have told us before now."

A note of injury had crept into her voice.

"How do you feel about these things yourself?" Holder inquired.

"How do I feel? Why, I have never thought about them very much--they were there, in the Bible!"

"You were taught to believe them?"

"Of course," she exclaimed, resenting what seemed a reflection on the Gore orthodoxy.

"Do they in any manner affect your conduct?"

"My conduct?" she repeated. "I don't know what you mean. I was brought up in the church, and Mr. Plimpton has always gone, and we are bringing up the children to go. Is that what you mean?"

"No," Hodder answered, patiently, "that is not what I mean. I ask whether these stories in any way enter into your life, become part of you, and tend to make you a more useful woman?"

"Well--I have never considered them in that way," she replied, a little perplexed.

"Do you believe in them yourself?"

"Why--I don't know,--I've never thought. I don't suppose I do, absolutely--not in those I have mentioned."

"And you think it right to teach things to your children which you do not yourself believe?"

"How am I to decide?" she demanded.

"First by finding out yourself what you do believe," he replied, with a touch of severity.

"Mr. Hodder!" she cried in a scandalized voice, "do you mean to say that I, who have been brought up in this church, do not know what Christianity is."

He looked at her and shook his head.

"You must begin by being honest with yourself," he went on, not heeding her shocked expression. "If you are really in earnest in this matter, I should be glad to help you all I can. But I warn you there is no achievement in the world more difficult than that of becoming a Christian. It means a conversion of your whole being something which you cannot now even imagine. It means a consuming desire which,--I fear,--in consideration of your present mode of life, will be difficult to acquire."

"My present mode of life!" she gasped.

"Precisely," said the rector. He was silent, regarding, her. There was discernible not the slightest crack of crevice in the enamel of this woman's worldly armour.

For the moment her outraged feelings were forgotten. The man had fascinated her. To be told, in this authoritative manner, that she was wicked was a new and delightful experience. It brought back to her the real motive of her visit, which had in reality been inspired not only by the sermon of the day before, but by sheer curiosity.

"What would you have me do?" she demanded.

"Find yourself."

"Do you mean to say that I am not--myself?" she asked, now completely bewildered.

"I mean to say that you are nobody until you achieve conviction."

For Charlotte Plimpton, nee Gore, to be told in her own city, by the rector of her own church that she was nobody was an event hitherto inconceivable! It was perhaps as extraordinary that she did not resent. it. Curiosity still led her on.

"Conviction?" she repeated. "But I have conviction, Mr. Hodder. I believe in the doctrines of the Church."

"Belief!" he exclaimed, and checked himself strongly. "Conviction through feeling. Not until then will you find what you were put in the world for."

"But my husband--my children? I try to do my duty."

"You must get a larger conception of it," Hodder replied.

"I suppose you mean," she declared, "that I am to spend the rest of my life in charity."

"How you would spend the rest of your life would be revealed to you," said the rector.

It was the weariness in his tone that piqued her now, the intimation that he did not believe in her sincerity--had not believed in it from the first. The life-long vanity of a woman used to be treated with consideration, to be taken seriously, was aroused. This extraordinary man had refused to enter into the details which she inquisitively craved.

Charlotte Plimpton rose.

"I shall not bother you any longer at present, Mr. Hodder," she said sweetly. "I know you must have, this morning especially, a great deal to trouble you."

He met her scrutiny calmly.

"It is only the things we permit to trouble us that do so, Mrs. Plimpton," he replied. "My own troubles have arisen largely from a lack of faith on the part of those whom I feel it is my duty to influence."

It was then she delivered her parting shot, which she repeated, with much satisfaction, to her husband that evening. She had reached the door. "Was there a special service at Calvary yesterday?" she asked innocently, turning back.

"Not that I know of."

"I wondered. Mr. Parr was there; I'm told--and he's never been known to desert St. John's except on the rarest occasions. But oh, Mr. Hodder, I must congratulate you on your influence with Alison. When she has been out here before she never used to come to church at all."

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 7 - Chapter 23. The Choice The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 7 - Chapter 23. The Choice

The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 7 - Chapter 23. The Choice
VOLUME VII CHAPTER XXIII. THE CHOICEI Pondering over Alison's note, he suddenly recalled and verified some phrases which had struck him that summer on reading Harnack's celebrated History of Dogma, and around these he framed his reply. "To act as if faith in eternal life and in the living Christ was the simplest thing in the world, or a dogma to which one has to submit, is irreligious... It is Christian to pray that God would give the Spirit to make us strong to overcome the feelings and the doubts of nature... Where this faith, obtained in this way, exists, it
PREVIOUS BOOKS

The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 5 - Chapter 18. The Riddle Of Causation The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 5 - Chapter 18. The Riddle Of Causation

The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 5 - Chapter 18. The Riddle Of Causation
VOLUME V CHAPTER XVIII. THE RIDDLE OF CAUSATIONI In order to portray this crisis in the life of Kate Marcy, the outcome of which is still uncertain, other matters have been ignored. How many persons besides John Hodder have seemed to read--in crucial periods--a meaning into incidents having all the outward appearance of accidents! What is it that leads us to a certain man or woman at a certain time, or to open a certain book? Order and design? or influence? The night when he had stumbled into the cafe in Dalton Street might well have been termed the nadir of
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT