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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Inside Of The Cup - Volume 7 - Chapter 25. "Rise, Crowned With Light!"
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The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 7 - Chapter 25. 'Rise, Crowned With Light!' Post by :shaulb Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :May 2012 Read :529

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The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 7 - Chapter 25. "Rise, Crowned With Light!"

VOLUME VII CHAPTER XXV. "RISE, CROWNED WITH LIGHT!"

I

The Church of St. John's, after a peaceful existence of so many years, had suddenly become the stage on which rapid and bewildering dramas were played: the storm-centre of chaotic forces, hitherto unperceived, drawn from the atmosphere around her. For there had been more publicity, more advertising. "The Rector of St. John's will not talk"--such had been one headline: neither would the vestry talk. And yet, despite all this secrecy, the whole story of the suspension of Hodder's salary was in print, and an editorial (which was sent to him) from a popular and sensational journal, on "tainted money," in which Hodder was held up to the public as a martyr because he refused any longer to accept for the Church ill-gotten gains from Consolidated Tractions and the like.

This had opened again the floodgates of the mails, and it seemed as though every person who had a real or fancied grievance against Eldon Parr had written him. Nor did others of his congregation escape. The press of visitors at the parish house suddenly increased once more, men and women came to pour into his ears an appalling aeries of confessions; wrongs which, like Garvin's, had engendered bitter hatreds; woes, temptations, bewilderments. Hodder strove to keep his feet, sought wisdom to deal patiently with all, though at times he was tried to the uttermost. And he held steadfastly before his mind the great thing, that they did come. It was what he had longed for, prayed for, despaired of. He was no longer crying in the empty wilderness, but at last in touch-in natural touch with life: with life in all its sorrow, its crudity and horror. He had contrived, by the grace of God, to make the connection for his church.

That church might have been likened to a ship sailing out of the snug harbour in which she had lain so long to range herself gallantly beside those whom she had formerly beheld, with complacent cowardice, fighting her fight: young men and women, enlisted under other banners than her own, doing their part in the battle of the twentieth century for humanity. Her rector was her captain. It was he who had cut her cables, quelled, for a time at least, her mutineers; and sought to hearten those of her little crew who wavered, who shrank back appalled as they realized something of the immensity of the conflict in which her destiny was to be wrought out.

To carry on the figure, Philip Goodrich might have been deemed her first officer. He, at least, was not appalled, but grimly conscious of the greatness of the task to which they had set their hands. The sudden transformation of conservative St. John's was no more amazing than that of the son of a family which had never been without influence in the community. But that influence had always been conservative. And Phil Goodrich had hitherto taken but a listless interest in the church of his fathers. Fortune had smiled upon him, trusts had come to him unsought. He had inherited the family talent for the law, the freedom to practise when and where he chose. His love of active sport had led him into many vacations, when he tramped through marsh and thicket after game, and at five and forty there was not an ounce of superfluous flesh on his hard body. In spite of his plain speaking, an overwhelming popularity at college had followed him to his native place, and no organization, sporting or serious, was formed in the city that the question was not asked, "What does Goodrich think about it?"

His whole-souled enlistment in the cause of what was regarded as radical religion became, therefore, the subject of amazed comment in the many clubs he now neglected. The "squabble" in St. John's, as it was generally referred to, had been aired in the press, but such was the magic in a name made without conscious effort that Phil Goodrich's participation in the struggle had a palpably disarming effect: and there were not a few men who commonly spent their Sunday mornings behind plate-glass windows, surrounded by newspapers, as well as some in the athletic club (whose contests Mr. Goodrich sometimes refereed) who went to St. John's out of curiosity and who waited, afterwards, for an interview with Phil or the rector. The remark of one of these was typical of others. He had never taken much stock in religion, but if Goodrich went in for it he thought he'd go and look it over.

Scarcely a day passed that Phil did not drop in at the parish house.... And he set himself, with all the vigour of an unsquandered manhood, to help Hodder to solve the multitude of new problems by which they were beset.

A free church was a magnificent ideal, but how was it to be carried on without an Eldon Parr, a Ferguson, a Constable, a Mrs. Larrabbee, or a Gore who would make up the deficit at the end of the year? Could weekly contributions, on the envelope system, be relied upon, provided the people continued to come and fill the pews of absent and outraged parishioners? The music was the most expensive in the city, although Mr. Taylor, the organist, had come to the rector and offered to cut his salary in half, and to leave that in abeyance until the finances could be adjusted. And his example had been followed by some of the high-paid men in the choir. Others had offered to sing without pay. And there were the expenses of the parish house, an alarming sum now Eldon Parr had withdrawn: the salaries of the assistants. Hodder, who had saved a certain sum in past years, would take nothing for the present.... Asa Waring and Phil Goodrich borrowed on their own responsibility...

II

Something of the overwhelming nature of the forces Hodder had summoned was visibly apparent on that first Sunday after what many had called his apostasy. Instead of the orderly, sprucely-dressed groups of people which were wont to linger in greetings before the doors of St. John's, a motley crowd thronged the pavement and streamed into the church, pressing up the aisles and invading the sacred precincts where decorous parishioners had for so many years knelt in comfort and seclusion. The familiar figure of Gordon Atterbury was nowhere to be seen, and the Atterbury pew was occupied by shop-girls in gaudy hats. Eldon Parr's pew was filled, Everett Constable's, Wallis Plimpton's; and the ushers who had hastily been mustered were awestricken and powerless. Such a resistless invasion by the hordes of the unknown might well have struck with terror some of those who hitherto had had the courage to standup loyally in the rector's support. It had a distinct flavour of revolution: contained, for some, a grim suggestion of a time when that vague, irresponsible, and restless monster, the mob, would rise in its might and brutally and inexorably take possession of all property.

Alison had met Eleanor Goodrich in Burton Street, and as the two made their way into the crowded vestibule they encountered Martha Preston, whose husband was Alison's cousin, in the act of flight.

"You're not going in!" she exclaimed.

"Of course we are."

Mrs. Preston stared at Alison in amazement.

"I didn't know you were still here," she said, irrelevantly. "I'm pretty liberal, my dear, as you know,--but this is more than I can stand. Look at them!" She drew up her skirts as a woman brushed against her. "I believe in the poor coming to church, and all that, but this is mere vulgar curiosity, the result of all that odious advertising in the newspapers. My pew is filled with them. If I had stayed, I should have fainted. I don't know what to think of Mr. Hodder."

"Mr. Hodder is not to blame for the newspapers," replied Alison, warmly. She glanced around her at the people pushing past, her eyes shining, her colour high, and there was the ring of passion in her voice which had do Martha Preston a peculiarly disquieting effect. "I think it's splendid that they are here at all! I don't care what brought them."

Mrs. Preston stared again. She was a pretty, intelligent woman, at whose dinner table one was sure to hear the discussion of some "modern problem": she believed herself to be a socialist. Her eyes sought Eleanor Goodrich's, who stood by, alight with excitement.

"But surely you, Eleanor-you're not going in! You'll never be able to stand it, even if you find a seat. The few people we know who've come are leaving. I just saw the Allan Pendletons."

"Have you seen Phil?" Eleanor asked.

"Oh, yes, he's in there, and even he's helpless. And as I came out poor Mr. Bradley was jammed up against the wall. He seemed perfectly stunned...."

At this moment they were thrust apart. Eleanor quivered as she was carried through the swinging doors into the church.

"I think you're right," she whispered to Alison, "it is splendid. There's something about it that takes hold of me, that carries one away. It makes me wonder how it can be guided--what will come of it?"

They caught sight of Phil pushing his way towards them, and his face bore the set look of belligerency which Eleanor knew so well, but he returned her smile. Alison's heart warmed towards him.

"What do you think of this?" he demanded. "Most of our respectable friends who dared to come have left in a towering rage--to institute lawsuits, probably. At tiny rate, strangers are not being made to wait until ten minutes after the service begins. That's one barbarous custom abolished."

"Strangers seem to have taken matters in their own hands for once" Eleanor smiled. "We've made up our minds to stay, Phil, even if we have to stand."

"That's the right spirit," declared her husband, glancing at Alison, who had remained silent, with approval and by no means a concealed surprise. "I think I know of a place where I can squeeze you in, near Professor Bridges and Sally, on the side aisle."

"Are George and Sally here?" Eleanor exclaimed.

"Hodder," said Phil, "is converting the heathen. You couldn't have kept George away. And it was George who made Sally stay!"

Presently they found themselves established between a rawboned young workingman who smelled strongly of soap, whose hair was plastered tightly against his forehead, and a young woman who leaned against the wall. The black in which she was dressed enhanced the whiteness and weariness of her face, and she sat gazing ahead of her, apparently unconscious of those who surrounded her, her hands tightly folded in her lap. In their immediate vicinity, indeed, might have been found all the variety of type seen in the ordinary street car. And in truth there were some who seemed scarcely to realize they were not in a public vehicle. An elaborately dressed female in front of them, whose expansive hat brushed her neighbours, made audible comments to a stout man with a red neck which was set in a crease above his low collar.

"They tell me Eldon Parr's pew has a gold plate on it. I wish I knew which it was. It ain't this one, anyway, I'll bet."

"Say, they march in in this kind of a church, don't they?" some one said behind them.

Eleanor, with her lips tightly pressed, opened her prayer book. Alison's lips were slightly parted as she gazed about her, across the aisle. Her experience of the Sunday before, deep and tense as it had been, seemed as nothing compared to this; the presence of all these people stimulated her inexpressibly, fired her; and she felt the blood pulsing through her body as she contrasted this gathering with the dignified, scattered congregation she had known. She scarcely recognized the church itself ... She speculated on the homes from which these had come, and the motives which had brought them.

For a second the perfume of the woman in front, mingling with other less definable odours, almost sickened her, evoking suggestions of tawdry, trivial, vulgar lives, fed on sensation and excitement; but the feeling was almost immediately swept away by a renewed sense of the bigness of the thing which she beheld,--of which, indeed, she was a part. And her thoughts turned more definitely to the man who had brought it all about. Could he control it, subdue it? Here was Opportunity suddenly upon him, like a huge, curving, ponderous wave. Could he ride it? or would it crush him remorselessly?

Sensitive, alert, quickened as she was, she began to be aware of other values: of the intense spiritual hunger in the eyes of the woman in black, the yearning of barren, hopeless existences. And here and there Alison's look fell upon more prosperous individuals whose expressions proclaimed incredulity, a certain cynical amusement at the spectacle: others seemed uneasy, as having got more than they had bargained for, deliberating whether to flee... and then, just as her suspense was becoming almost unbearable, the service began....

How it had been accomplished, the thing she later felt, was beyond the range of intellectual analysis. Nor could she have told how much later, since the passage of time had gone unnoticed. Curiosities, doubts, passions, longings, antagonisms--all these seemed--as the most natural thing in the world--to have been fused into one common but ineffable emotion. Such, at least, was the impression to which Alison startlingly awoke. All the while she had been conscious of Hodder, from the moment she had heard his voice in the chancel; but somehow this consciousness of him had melted, imperceptibly, into that of the great congregation, once divided against itself, which had now achieved unity of soul.

The mystery as to how this had been effected was the more elusive when she considered the absence of all methods which might have been deemed revivalistic. Few of those around her evinced a familiarity with the historic service. And then occurred to her his explanation of personality as the medium by which all truth is revealed, by which the current of religion, the motive power in all history, is transmitted. Surely this was the explanation, if it might be called one! That tingling sense of a pervading spirit which was his,--and yet not his. He was the incandescent medium, and yet, paradoxically, gained in identity and individuality and was inseparable from the thing itself.

She could not see him. A pillar hid the chancel from her view.

The service, to which she had objected as archaic, became subordinate, spiritualized, dominated by the personality. Hodder had departed from the usual custom by giving out the page of the psalter: and the verses, the throbbing responses which arose from every corner of the church, assumed a new significance, the vision of the ancient seer revived. One verse he read resounded with prophecy.

"Thou shalt deliver me from the strivings of the people: and thou shalt make me the head of the heathen."

And the reply:

"A people whom I have not known shall serve me."

The working-man next to Alison had no prayer-book. She thrust her own into his hand, and they read from it together....

When they came to the second hymn the woman in front of her had wonderfully shed her vulgarity. Her voice--a really good one--poured itself out:


"See a long race thy spacious courts adorn,
See future sons, and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies."


Once Alison would have been critical of the words She was beyond that, now. What did it matter, if the essential Thing were present?

The sermon was a surprise. And those who had come for excitement, for the sensation of hearing a denunciation of a class they envied and therefore hated, and nevertheless strove to imitate, were themselves rebuked. Were not their standards the same? And if the standard were false, it followed inevitably that the life was false also.

Hodder fairly startled these out of their preconceived notions of Christianity. Let them shake out of their minds everything they had thought it to mean, churchgoing, acceptance of creed and dogma, contributive charity, withdrawal from the world, rites and ceremonies: it was none of these.

The motive in the world to-day was the acquisition of property; the motive of Christianity was absolutely and uncompromisingly opposed to this. Shock their practical sense as it might, Christianity looked forward with steadfast faith to a time when the incentive to amass property would be done away with, since it was a source of evil and a curse to mankind. If they would be Christians, let them face that. Let them enter into life, into the struggles going on around them to-day against greed, corruption, slavery, poverty, vice and crime. Let them protest, let them fight, even as Jesus Christ had fought and protested. For as sure as they sat there the day would come when they would be called to account, would be asked the question--what had they done to make the United States of America a better place to live in?

There were in the Apostolic writings and tradition misinterpretations of life which had done much harm. Early Christianity had kept its eyes fixed on another world, and had ignored this: had overlooked the fact that every man and woman was put here to do a particular work. In the first epistle of Peter the advice was given, "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." But Christ had preached democracy, responsibility, had foreseen a millennium, the fulfilment of his Kingdom, when all men, inspired by the Spirit, would make and keep in spirit the ordinances of God.

Before they could do God's work and man's work they must first be awakened, filled with desire. Desire was power. And he prayed that some of them, on this day, would receive that desire, that power which nothing could resist. The desire which would lead each and every one to the gates of the Inner World which was limitless and eternal, filled with dazzling light....

Let them have faith then. Not credulity in a vague God they could not imagine, but faith in the Spirit of the Universe, humanity, in Jesus Christ who had been the complete human revelation of that Spirit, who had suffered and died that man might not live in ignorance of it. To doubt humanity,--such was the Great Refusal, the sin against the Holy Ghost, the repudiation of the only true God!

After a pause, he spoke simply of his hope for St. John's. If he remained here his ambition was that it would be the free temple of humanity, of Jesus Christ, supported not by a few, but by all,--each in accordance with his means. Of those who could afford nothing, nothing would be required. Perhaps this did not sound practical, nor would it be so if the transforming inspiration failed. He could only trust and try, hold up to them the vision of the Church as a community of willing workers for the Kingdom...

III

After the service was over the people lingered in the church, standing in the pews and aisles, as though loath to leave. The woman with the perfume and the elaborate hat was heard to utter a succinct remark.

"Say, Charlie, I guess he's all right. I never had it put like that."

The thick-necked man's reply was inaudible.

Eleanor Goodrich was silent and a little pale as she pressed close to Alison. Her imagination had been stretched, as it were, and she was still held in awe by the vastness of what she had heard and seen. Vaster even than ever,--so it appeared now,--demanding greater sacrifices than she had dreamed of. She looked back upon the old as at receding shores.

Alison, with absorbed fascination, watched the people; encountered, here and there, recognitions from men and women with whom she had once danced and dined in what now seemed a previous existence. Why had they come? and how had they received the message? She ran into a little man, a dealer in artists' supplies who once had sold her paints and brushes, who stared and bowed uncertainly. She surprised him by taking his hand.

"Did you like it?" she asked, impulsively.

"It's what I've been thinking for years, Miss Parr," he responded, "thinking and feeling. But I never knew it was Christianity. And I never thought--" he stopped and looked at her, alarmed.

"Oh," she said, "I believe in it, too--or try to."

She left him, mentally gasping.... Without, on the sidewalk, Eleanor Goodrich was engaged in conversation with a stockily built man, inclined to stoutness; he had a brown face and a clipped, bristly mustache. Alison paused involuntarily, and saw him start and hesitate as his clear, direct gaze met her own.

Bedloe Hubbell was one of those who had once sought to marry her. She recalled him as an amiable and aimless boy; and after she had gone East she had received with incredulity and then with amusement the news of his venture into altruistic politics. It was his efficiency she had doubted, not his sincerity. Later tidings, contemptuous and eventually irritable utterances of her own father, together with accounts in the New York newspapers of his campaign, had convinced her in spite of herself that Bedloe Hubbell had actually shaken the seats of power. And somehow, as she now took him in, he looked it.

His transformation was one of the signs, one of the mysteries of the times. The ridicule and abuse of the press, the opposition and enmity of his childhood friends, had developed the man of force she now beheld, and who came forward to greet her.

"Alison!" he exclaimed. He had changed in one sense, and not in another. Her colour deepened as the sound of his voice brought back the lapsed memories of the old intimacy. For she had been kind to him, kinder than to any other; and the news of his marriage--to a woman from the Pacific coast--had actually induced in her certain longings and regrets. When the cards had reached her, New York and the excitement of the life into which she had been weakly, if somewhat unwittingly, drawn had already begun to pall.

"I'm so glad to see you," she told him. "I've heard--so many things. And I'm very much in sympathy with what you're doing."

They crossed the street, and walked away from the church together. She had surprised him, and made him uncomfortable.

"You've been away so long," he managed to say, "perhaps you do not realize--"

"Oh, yes, I do," she interrupted. "I am on the other side, on your side. I thought of writing you, when you nearly won last autumn."

"You see it, too?" he exclaimed.

"Yes, I've changed, too. Not so much as you," she added, shyly. "I always had a certain sympathy, you know, with the Robin Hoods."

He laughed at her designation, both pleased and taken aback by her praise... But he wondered if she knew the extent of his criticism of her father.

"That rector is a wonderful man," he broke out, irrelevantly. "I can't get over' him--I can't quite grasp the fact that he exists, that he has dared to do what he has done."

This brought her colour back, but she faced him bravely. "You think he is wonderful, then?"

"Don't you?" he demanded.

She assented. "But I am curious to know why you do. Somehow, I never thought of--you--"

"As religious," he supplied. "And you? If I remember rightly--"

"Yes," she interrupted, "I revolted, too. But Mr. Hodder puts it so--it makes one wonder."

"He has not only made me wonder," declared Bedloe Hubbell, emphatically, "I never knew what religion was until I heard this man last Sunday."

"Last Sunday!"

"Until then, I hadn't been inside of a church for fifteen years,--except to get married. My wife takes the children, occasionally, to a Presbyterian church near us."

"And why, did you go then?" she asked.

"I am a little ashamed of my motive," he confessed. "There were rumours--I don't pretend to know how they got about--" he hesitated, once more aware of delicate ground. "Wallis Plimpton said something to a man who told me. I believe I went out of sheer curiosity to hear what Hodder would have to say. And then, I had been reading, wondering whether there were anything in Christianity, after all."

"Yes?" she said, careless now as to what cause he might attribute her eagerness. "And he gave you something?"

It was then she grasped the truth that this sudden renewed intimacy was the result of the impression Hodder had left upon the minds of both.

"He gave me everything," Bedloe Hubbell replied. "I am willing to acknowledge it freely. In his explanation of the parable of the Prodigal Son, he gave me the clew to our modern times. What was for me an inextricable puzzle has become clear as day. He has made me understand, at last, the force which stirred me, which goaded me until I was fairly compelled to embark in the movement which the majority of our citizens still continue to regard as quixotic. I did not identify that force with religion, then, and when I looked back on the first crazy campaign we embarked upon, with the whole city laughing at me and at the obscure and impractical personnel we had, there were moments when it seemed incomprehensible folly. I had nothing to gain, and everything to lose by such a venture. I was lazy and easy-going, as you know. I belonged to the privileged class, I had sufficient money to live in comparative luxury all my days, I had no grudge against these men whom I had known all my life."

"But it must have had some beginning," said Alison.

"I was urged to run for the city council, by these very men." Bedloe Hubbell smiled at the recollection. "They accuse me now of having indulged once in the same practice, for which I am condemning them. Our company did accept rebates, and we sought favours from the city government. I have confessed it freely on the platform. Even during my first few months in the council what may be called the old political practices seemed natural to me. But gradually the iniquity of it all began to dawn on me, and then I couldn't rest until I had done something towards stopping it.

"At length I began to see," he continued, "that education of the masses was to be our only preserver, that we should have to sink or swim by that. I began to see, dimly, that this was true for other movements going on to-day. Now comes Hodder with what I sincerely believe is the key. He compels men like me to recognize that our movements are not merely moral, but religious. Religion, as yet unidentified, is the force behind these portentous stirrings of politics in our country, from sea to sea. He aims, not to bring the Church into politics, but to make her the feeder of these movements. Men join them to-day from all motives, but the religious is the only one to which they may safely be trusted. He has rescued the jewel from the dust-heap of tradition, and holds it up, shining, before our eyes."

Alison looked at her companion.

"That," she said, "is a very beautiful phrase."

Bedloe Hubbell smiled queerly.

"I don't know why I'm telling you all this. I can't usually talk about it. But the sight of that congregation this morning, mixed as it was, and the way he managed to weld it together."

"Ah, you noticed that!" she exclaimed sharply.

"Noticed it!"

"I know. It was a question of feeling it."

There was a silence.

"Will he succeed?" she asked presently.

"Ah," said Bedloe Hubbell, "how is it possible to predict it? The forces against him are tremendous, and it is usually the pioneer who suffers. I agree absolutely with his definition of faith, I have it. And the work he has done already can never be undone. The time is ripe, and it is something that he has men like Phil Goodrich behind him, and Mr. Waring. I'm going to enlist, and from now on I intend to get every man and woman upon whom I have any influence whatever to go to that church...." A little later Alison, marvelling, left him.

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