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Title: Inside of the Cup, the — Volume 02
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Inside of the Cup, the — Volume 02" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE INSIDE OF THE CUP

By Winston Churchill



Volume 2.
V.    THE RECTOR HAS MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
VI.    "WATCHMAN, WHAT OF THE NIGHT"
VII.   THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD
VIII.   THE LINE of LEAST RESISTANCE.



CHAPTER V

THE RECTOR HAS MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT


I

Sunday after Sunday Hodder looked upon the same picture, the winter light
filtering through emblazoned windows, falling athwart stone pillars, and
staining with rich colours the marble of the centre aisle. The organ
rolled out hymns and anthems, the voices of the white robed choir echoed
among the arches. And Hodder's eye, sweeping over the decorous
congregation, grew to recognize certain landmarks: Eldon Parr, rigid at
one end of his empty pew; little Everett Constable, comfortably, but
always pompously settled at one end of his, his white-haired and
distinguished-looking wife at the other. The space between them had once
been filled by their children. There was Mr. Ferguson, who occasionally
stroked his black whiskers with a prodigious solemnity; Mrs. Ferguson,
resplendent and always a little warm, and their daughter Nan, dainty and
appealing, her eyes uplifted and questioning.

The Plimptons, with their rubicund and aggressively healthy offspring,
were always in evidence. And there was Mrs. Larrabbee. What between
wealth and youth, independence and initiative, a widowhood now emerged
from a mourning unexceptionable, an elegance so unobtrusive as to border
on mystery, she never failed to agitate any atmosphere she entered, even
that of prayer. From time to time, Hodder himself was uncomfortably
aware of her presence, and he read in her upturned face an interest
which, by a little stretch of the imagination, might have been deemed
personal . . . .

Another was Gordon Atterbury, still known as "young Gordon," though his
father was dead, and he was in the vestry. He was unmarried and
forty-five, and Mrs. Larrabbee had said he reminded her of a shrivelling
seed set aside from a once fruitful crop. He wore, invariably, checked
trousers and a black cutaway coat, eyeglasses that fell off when he
squinted, and were saved from destruction by a gold chain. No wedding or
funeral was complete without him. And one morning, as he joined Mr. Parr
and the other gentlemen who responded to the appeal, "Let your light so
shine before men," a strange, ironical question entered the rector's
mind--was Gordon Atterbury the logical product of those doctrines which
he, Hodder, preached with such feeling and conviction?

None, at least, was so fervent a defender of the faith, so punctilious
in all observances, so constant at the altar rail; none so versed in
rubrics, ritual, and canon law; none had such a knowledge of the Church
fathers. Mr. Atterbury delighted to discuss them with the rector at the
dinner parties where they met; none was more zealous for foreign
missions. He was the treasurer of St. John's.

It should undoubtedly have been a consolation to any rector to possess
Mr. Atterbury's unqualified approval, to listen to his somewhat delphic
compliments,--heralded by a clearing of the throat. He represented
the faith as delivered to the saints, and he spoke for those in the
congregation to whom it was precious. Why was it that, to Hodder,
he should gradually have assumed something of the aspect of a Cerberus?
Why was it that he incited a perverse desire to utter heresies?

Hodder invariably turned from his contemplation of Gordon Atterbury to
the double blaring pew, which went from aisle to aisle. In his heart, he
would have preferred the approval of Eleanor Goodrich and her husband,
and of Asa Waring. Instinct spoke to him here; he seemed to read in
their faces that he failed to strike in them responsive chords. He was
drawn to them: the conviction grew upon him that he did not reach them,
and it troubled him, as he thought, disproportionately.

He could not expect to reach all. But they were the type to which he
most wished to appeal; of all of his flock, this family seemed best to
preserve the vitality and ideals of the city and nation. Asa Waring was
a splendid, uncompromising survival; his piercing eyes sometimes met
Hodder's across the church, and they held for him a question and a
riddle. Eleanor Goodrich bore on her features the stamp of true nobility
of character, and her husband, Hodder knew, was a man among men. In
addition to a respected lineage, he possessed an unusual blending of
aggressiveness and personal charm that men found irresistible.

The rector's office in the parish house was a businesslike room on the
first floor, fitted up with a desk, a table, straight-backed chairs, and
a revolving bookcase. And to it, one windy morning in March, came
Eleanor Goodrich. Hodder rose to greet her with an eagerness which,
from his kindly yet penetrating glance, she did not suspect.

"Am I interrupting you, Mr. Hodder?" she asked, a little breathlessly.

"Not at all," he said, drawing up a chair. "Won't you sit down?"

She obeyed. There was an awkward pause during which the colour slowly
rose to her face.

"I wanted to ask you one or two things," she began, not very steadily.
"As perhaps you may know, I was brought up in this church, baptized and
confirmed in it. I've come to fear that, when I was confirmed, I wasn't
old enough to know what I was doing."

She took a deep breath, amazed at her boldness, for this wasn't in the
least how she had meant to begin. And she gazed at the rector anxiously.
To her surprise, he did not appear to be inordinately shocked.

"Do you know any better now?" he asked.

"Perhaps not," she admitted. "But the things of which I was sure at that
time I am not sure of now. My faith is--is not as complete."

"Faith may be likened to an egg, Mrs. Goodrich," he said. "It must be
kept whole. If the shell is chipped, it is spoiled."

Eleanor plucked up her courage. Eggs, she declared, had been used as
illustrations by conservatives before now.

Hodder relieved her by smiling in ready appreciation.

"Columbus had reference to this world," he said. "I was thinking of a
more perfect cue."

"Oh!" she cried, "I dare say there is a more perfect one. I should hate
to think there wasn't--but I can't imagine it. There's nothing in the
Bible in the way of description of it to make me really wish to go there.
The New Jerusalem is too insipid, too material. I'm sure I'm shocking
you, but I must be honest, and say what I feel."

"If some others were as honest," said the rector, "the problems of
clergymen would be much easier. And it is precisely because people will
not tell us what they feel that we are left in the dark and cannot help
them. Of course, the language of St. John about the future is
figurative."

"Figurative,--yes," she consented, "but not figurative in a way that
helps me, a modern American woman. The figures, to be of any use, ought
to appeal to my imagination--oughtn't they? But they don't. I can't see
any utility in such a heaven--it seems powerless to enter as a factor
into my life."

"It is probable that we are not meant to know anything about the future."

"Then I wish it hadn't been made so explicit. Its very definiteness is
somehow--stultifying. And, Mr. Hodder, if we were not meant to know its
details, it seems to me that if the hereafter is to have any real value
and influence over our lives here, we should know something of its
conditions, because it must be in some sense a continuation of this.
I'm not sure that I make myself clear."

"Admirably clear. But we have our Lord's example of how to live here."

"If we could be sure," said Eleanor, "just what that example meant."

Hodder was silent a moment.

"You mean that you cannot accept what the Church teaches about his life?"
he asked.

"No, I can't," she faltered. "You have helped me to say it. I want to
have the Church's side better explained,--that's why I'm here." She
glanced up at him, hesitatingly, with a puzzled wonder, such a positive,
dynamic representative of that teaching did he appear. "And my husband
can't,--so many people I know can't, Mr. Hodder. Only, some of them
don't mention the fact. They accept it. And you say things with such a
certainty--" she paused.

"I know," he replied, "I know. I have felt it since I have come here
more than ever before." He did not add that he had felt it particularly
about her, about her husband: nor did he give voice to his instinctive
conviction that he respected and admired these two more than a hundred
others whose professed orthodoxy was without a flaw. "What is it in
particular," he asked, troubled, "that you cannot accept? I will do my
best to help you."

"Well--" she hesitated again.

"Please continue to be frank," he begged.

"I can't believe in the doctrine of the virgin birth," she responded in a
low voice; "it seems to me so--so material. And I feel I am stating a
difficulty that many have, Mr. Hodder. Why should it have been thought
necessary for God to have departed from what is really a sacred and
sublime fact in nature, to resort to a material proof in order to
convince a doubting humanity that Jesus was his Son? Oughtn't the proof
of Christ's essential God-ship to lie in his life, to be discerned by the
spiritual; and wasn't he continually rebuking those who demanded material
proof? The very acceptance of a material proof, it seems to me, is a
denial of faith, since faith ceases to have any worth whatever the moment
the demand for such proof is gratified. Knowledge puts faith out of
the question, for faith to me means a trusting on spiritual grounds.
And surely the acceptance of scriptural statements like that of the
miraculous birth without investigation is not faith--it is mere
credulity. If Jesus had been born in a miraculous way, the disciples
must have known it. Joseph must have known it when he heard the answer
'I must be about my father's business,' and their doubts are
unexplained."

"I see you have been investigating," said the rector.

"Yes," replied Eleanor, with an unconscious shade of defiance, "people
want to know, Mr. Dodder,--they want to know the truth. And if you
consider the preponderance of the evidence of the Gospels themselves--my
brother-in-law says--you will find that the miraculous birth has very
little to stand on. Take out the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke,
and the rest of the four Gospels practically contradict it. The
genealogies differ, and they both trace through Joseph."

"I think people suffer in these days from giving too much weight to
the critics of Christianity," said the rector, "from not pondering more
deeply on its underlying truths. Do not think that I am accusing you
of superficiality, Mrs. Goodrich; I am sure you wish to go to the bottom,
or else you would be satisfied with what you have already read and
heard."

"I do," she murmured.

"And the more one reflects on the life of our Lord, the more one is
convinced that the doctrine of the virgin birth is a vital essential;
without it Christianity falls to pieces. Let us go at the matter the
other way round. If we attribute to our Lord a natural birth, we come at
once to the dilemma of having to admit that he was merely an individual
human person,--in an unsurpassed relationship with God, it is true, but
still a human person. That doctrine makes Christ historical, some one
to go back to, instead of the ever-present, preexistent Son of God and
mankind. I will go as far as to assert that if the virgin birth had
never been mentioned in the Gospels, it would nevertheless inevitably
have become a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. Such a truth
is too vast, too far-reaching to have been neglected, and it has a much
higher significance than the mere record of a fact. In spite of the
contradictions of science, it explains as nothing else can the mystery
of the divinity as well as the humanity of the Saviour."

Eleanor was unconvinced. She felt, as she listened, the pressure of his
sincerity and force, and had to strive to prevent her thoughts from
becoming confused.

"No, Mr. Hodder, I simply can't see any reason for resorting to a
physical miracle in order to explain a spiritual mystery. I can see why
the ancients demanded a sign of divinity as it were. But for us it has
ceased even to be that. It can't be proved. You ask me, in the face of
overwhelming evidence against it, to teach my children that the
Incarnation depends on it, but when they grow up and go to college and
find it discredited they run the risk of losing everything else with it.
And for my part, I fail utterly to see why, if with God all things are
possible, it isn't quite as believable, as we gather from St. Mark's
Gospel, that he incarnated himself in one naturally born. If you reach
the conclusion that Jesus was not a mere individual human person, you
reach it through the contemplation of his life and death."

"Then it isn't the physical miracle you object to, especially?" he asked.

"It's the uselessness of it, for this age," she exclaimed. "I think
clergymen don't understand the harm it is doing in concentrating the
attention on such a vulnerable and non-essential point. Those of us who
are striving to reorganize our beliefs and make them tenable, do not
bother our heads about miracles. They may be true, or may not, or some
of them may be. We are beginning to see that the virgin birth does not
add anything to Christ. We are beginning to see that perfection and
individuality are not incompatible,--one is divine, and the other human.
And isn't it by his very individuality that we are able to recognize
Jesus to-day?"

"You have evidently thought and read a great deal," Dodder said,
genuinely surprised. "Why didn't you come to me earlier?"

Eleanor bit her lip. He smiled a little.

"I think I can answer that for you," he went on; "you believe we are
prejudiced,--I've no doubt many of us are. You think we are bound to
stand up for certain dogmas, or go down, and that our minds are
consequently closed. I am not blaming you," he added quickly, as she
gave a sign of protest, "but I assure you that most of us, so far as my
observation has gone, are honestly trying to proclaim the truth as we see
it."

"Insincerity is the last thing I should have accused you of, Mr. Hodder,"
she said flushing. "As I told you, you seem so sure."

"I don't pretend to infallibility, except so far as I maintain that the
Church is the guardian of certain truths which human experience has
verified. Let me ask you if you have thought out the difference your
conception of the Incarnation;--the lack of a patently divine commission,
as it were,--makes in the doctrine of grace?"

"Yes, I have," she answered, "a little. It gives me more hope. I cannot
think I am totally depraved. I do not believe that God wishes me to
think so. And while I am still aware of the distance between Christ's
perfection and my own imperfection, I feel that the possibility is
greater of lessening that distance. It gives me more self-respect, more
self-reliance. George Bridges says that the logical conclusion of that
old doctrine is what philosophers call determinism--Calvinistic
predestination. I can't believe in that. The kind of grace God gives me
is the grace to help myself by drawing force from the element of him in
my soul. He gives me the satisfaction of developing."

"Of one thing I am assured, Mrs. Goodrich," Hodder replied, "that the
logical result of independent thinking is anarchy. Under this modern
tendency toward individual creeds, the Church has split and split again
until, if it keeps on, we shall have no Church at all to carry on the
work of our Lord on earth. History proves that to take anything away from
the faith is to atrophy, to destroy it. The answer to your arguments is
to be seen on every side, atheism, hypocrisy, vice, misery, insane and
cruel grasping after wealth. There is only one remedy I can see," he
added, inflexibly, yet with a touch of sadness, "believe."

"What if we can't believe?" she asked.

"You can." He spoke with unshaken conviction.

"You can if you make the effort, and I am sure you will. My experience
is that in the early stages of spiritual development we are impervious to
certain truths. Will you permit me to recommend to you certain books
dealing with these questions in a modern way?"

"I will read them gladly," she said, and rose.

"And then, perhaps, we may have another talk," he added, looking down at
her. "Give my regards to your husband."

Yet, as he stood in the window looking after her retreating figure, there
gradually grew upon him a vague and uncomfortable feeling that he had not
been satisfactory, and this was curiously coupled with the realization
that the visit had added a considerable increment to his already
pronounced liking for Eleanor Goodrich. She was, paradoxically, his
kind of a person--such was the form the puzzle took. And so ably had
she presented her difficulties that, at one point of the discussion,
it had ironically occurred to him to refer her to Gordon Atterbury.
Mr. Atterbury's faith was like an egg, and he took precious care not
to have it broken or chipped.

Hodder found himself smiling. It was perhaps inevitable that he began at
once to contrast Mrs. Goodrich with other feminine parishioners who had
sought him out, and who had surrendered unconditionally. They had
evinced an equally disturbing tendency,--a willingness to be overborne.
For had he not, indeed, overborne them? He could not help suspecting
these other ladies of a craving for the luxury of the confessional. One
thing was certain,--he had much less respect for them than for Eleanor
Goodrich . . . .

That afternoon he sent her the list of books. But the weeks passed,
and she did not come back. Once, when he met her at a dinner of Mrs.
Preston's, both avoided the subject of her visit, both were conscious
of a constraint. She did not know how often, unseen by her, his eyes had
sought her out from the chancel. For she continued to come to church as
frequently as before, and often brought her husband.



II

One bright and boisterous afternoon in March, Hodder alighted from an
electric car amid a swirl of dust and stood gazing for a moment at the
stone gate-houses of that 'rus in urbe', Waverley Place, and at the gold
block-letters written thereon, "No Thoroughfare." Against those gates
and their contiguous grill the rude onward rush of the city had beaten in
vain, and, baffled, had swept around their serene enclosure, westward.

Within, a silvery sunlight lit up the grass of the island running down
the middle, and in the beds the softening earth had already been broken
by the crocus sheaves. The bare branches of the trees swayed in the
gusts. As Hodder penetrated this hallowed precinct he recognized, on
either hand, the residences of several of his parishioners, each in its
ample allotted space: Mrs. Larrabbee's; the Laureston Greys'; Thurston
Gore's, of which Mr. Wallis Plimpton was now the master,--Mr. Plimpton,
before whose pertinacity the walls of Jericho had fallen; and finally the
queer, twisted Richardson mansion of the Everett Constables, whither he
was bound, with its recessed doorway and tiny windows peeping out from
under mediaeval penthouses.

He was ushered into a library where the shades were already drawn, where
a-white-clothed tea-table was set before the fire, the red rays dancing
on the silver tea-kettle. On the centre-table he was always sure to
find, neatly set in a rack, the books about which the world was talking,
or rather would soon begin to talk; and beside them were ranged
magazines; French, English, and American, Punch, the Spectator, the
Nation, the 'Revue des deux Mondes'. Like the able general she was,
Mrs. Constable kept her communications open, and her acquaintance was by
no means confined to the city of her nativity. And if a celebrity were
passing through, it were pretty safe, if in doubt, to address him in her
care.

Hodder liked and admired her, but somehow she gave him the impression of
having attained her ascendancy at a price, an ascendancy which had
apparently been gained by impressing upon her environment a new note
--literary, aesthetic, cosmopolitan. She held herself, and those she
carried with her, abreast of the times, and he was at a loss to see how
so congenial an effort could have left despite her sweetness--the little
mark of hardness he discerned, of worldliness. For she was as well born
as any woman in the city, and her husband was a Constable. He had
inherited, so the rector had been informed, one of those modest fortunes
that were deemed affluence in the eighties. His keeping abreast of the
times was the enigma, and Hodder had often wondered how financial genius
had contrived to house itself in the well-dressed, gently pompous little
man whose lack of force seemed at times so painfully evident. And yet he
was rated one of the rich men of the city, and his name Hodder had read
on many boards with Mr. Parr's!

A person more versed in the modern world of affairs than the late rector
of Bremerton would not have been so long in arriving at the answer to
this riddle. Hodder was astute, he saw into people more than they
suspected, but he was not sophisticated.

He stood picturing, now, the woman in answer to whose summons he had
come. With her finely chiselled features, her abundant white hair, her
slim figure and erect carriage she reminded him always of a Vigee Lebrun
portrait. He turned at the sound of her voice behind him.

"How good of you to come, Mr. Hodder, when you were so busy," she said,
taking his hand as she seated herself behind the tea-kettle. "I wanted
the chance to talk to you, and it seemed the best way. What is that you
have, Soter's book?"

"I pinked it up on the table," he explained.

"Then you haven't read it? You ought to. As a clergyman, it would
interest you. Religion treated from the economic side, you know, the
effect of lack of nutrition on character. Very unorthodox, of course."

"I find that I have very little time to read," he said. "I sometimes
take a book along in the cars."

"Your profession is not so leisurely as it once was, I often think it
such a pity. But you, too, are paying the penalty of complexity." She
smiled at him sympathetically. "How is Mr. Parr? I haven't seen him for
several weeks."

"He seemed well when I saw him last," replied Hodder.

"He's a wonderful man; the amount of work he accomplishes without
apparent effort is stupendous." Mrs. Constable cast what seemed a
tentative glance at the powerful head, and handed him his tea.
"I wanted to talk to you about Gertrude," she said.

He looked unenlightened.

"About my daughter, Mrs. Warren. She lives in New York, you know
--on Long Island."

Then he had remembered something he had heard.

"Yes," he said.

"She met you, at the Fergusons', just for a moment, when she was out here
last autumn. What really nice and simple people the Fergusons are, with
all their money!"

"Very nice indeed," he agreed, puzzled.

"I have been sorry for them in the past," she went on evenly. "They had
rather a hard time--perhaps you may have heard. Nobody appreciated them.
They were entombed, so to speak, in a hideous big house over on the South
Side, which fortunately burned down, and then they bought in Park Street,
and took a pew in St. John's. I suppose the idea of that huge department
store was rather difficult to get used to. But I made up my mind it was
nonsense to draw the line at department stores, especially since Mr.
Ferguson's was such a useful and remarkable one, so I went across and
called. Mrs. Ferguson was so grateful, it was almost pathetic. And
she's a very good friend--she came here everyday when Genevieve had
appendicitis."

"She's a good woman," the rector said.

"And Nan,--I adore Nan, everybody adores Nan. She reminds me of one of
those exquisite, blue-eyed dolls her father imports. Now if I were a
bachelor, Mr. Hodder--!" Mrs. Constable left the rest to his
imagination.

He smiled.

"I'm afraid Miss Ferguson has her own ideas." Running through Hodder's
mind, a troubled current, were certain memories connected with Mrs.
Warren. Was she the divorced daughter, or was she not?

"But I was going to speak to you about Gertrude. She's had such a
hard time, poor dear, my heart has bled for her." There was a barely
perceptible tremor in Mrs. Constable's voice. "All that publicity, and
the inevitable suffering connected with it! And no one can know the
misery she went through, she is so sensitive. But now, at last, she has
a chance for happiness--the real thing has come."

"The real thing!" he echoed.

"Yes. She's going to marry a splendid man, Eldridge Sumner. I know the
family well. They have always stood for public spirit, and this Mr.
Summer, although he is little over thirty, was chairman of that Vice
Commission which made such a stir in New York a year ago. He's a lawyer,
with a fine future, and they're madly in love. And Gertrude realizes
now, after her experience, the true values in life. She was only a child
when she married Victor Warren."

"But Mr. Warren," Hodder managed to say, "is still living."

"I sometimes wonder, Mr. Hodder," she went on hurriedly, "whether we can
realize how different the world is today from what it was twenty years
ago, until something of this kind is actually brought home to us.
I shall never forget how distressed, how overwhelmed Mr. Constable and I
were when Gertrude got her divorce. I know that they are regarding such
things differently in the East, but out here!--We never dreamed that such
a thing could happen to us, and we regarded it as a disgrace. But
gradually--" she hesitated, and looked at the motionless clergyman
--"gradually I began to see Gertrude's point of view, to understand that
she had made a mistake, that she had been too young to comprehend what
she was doing. Victor Warren had been ruined by money, he wasn't
faithful to her, but an extraordinary thing has happened in his case.
He's married again, and Gertrude tells me he's absurdly happy, and has
two children."

As he listened, Hodder's dominating feeling was amazement that such a
course as her daughter had taken should be condoned by this middle-aged
lady, a prominent member of his congregation and the wife of a vestryman,
who had been nurtured and steeped in Christianity. And not only that:
Mrs. Constable was plainly defending a further step, which in his opinion
involved a breach of the Seventh Commandment! To have invaded these
precincts, the muddy, turbulent river of individualism had risen higher
than he would have thought possible . . . .

"Wait!" she implored, checking his speech,--she had been watching him
with what was plainly anxiety, "don't say anything yet. I have a letter
here which she wrote me--at the time. I kept it. Let me read a part of
it to you, that you may understand more fully the tragedy of it."

Mrs. Constable thrust her hand into her lap and drew forth a thickly
covered sheet.

"It was written just after she left him--it is an answer to my protest,"
she explained, and began to read:

"I know I promised to love Victor, mother, but how can one promise to
do a thing over which one has no control? I loved him after he stopped
loving me. He wasn't a bit suited to me--I see that now--he was
attracted by the outside of me, and I never knew what he was like until I
married him. His character seemed to change completely; he grew morose
and quick-tempered and secretive, and nothing I did pleased him. We led
a cat-and-dog life. I never let you know--and yet I see now we might
have got along in any other relationship. We were very friendly when we
parted, and I'm not a bit jealous because he cares for another woman who
I can see is much better suited to him.

"'I can't honestly regret leaving him, and I'm not conscious of having
done anything wrong. I don't want to shock you, and I know how terribly
you and father must feel, but I can see now, somehow, that I had to go
through this experience, terrible as it was, to find myself. If it were
thirty years ago, before people began to be liberal in such matters,
I shudder to think what might have become of me. I should now be one of
those terrible women between fifty and sixty who have tried one frivolity
and excess after another--but I'm not coming to that! And my friends
have really been awfully kind, and supported me--even Victor's family.
Don't, don't think that I'm not respectable! I know how you look at such
things.'" Mrs. Constable closed the letter abruptly.

"I did look at such things in that way," she added, "but I've changed.
That letter helped to change me, and the fact that it was Gertrude who
had been through this. If you only knew Gertrude, Mr. Hodder, you
couldn't possibly think of her as anything but sweet and pure."

Although the extent of Hodder's acquaintance with Mrs. Warren had been
but five minutes, the letter had surprisingly retouched to something like
brilliancy her faded portrait, the glow in her cheeks, the iris blue in
her eyes. He recalled the little shock he had experienced when told that
she was divorced, for her appeal had lain in her very freshness, her
frank and confiding manner. She was one of those women who seem to say,
"Here I am, you can't but like me:" And he had responded--he remembered
that--he had liked her. And now her letter, despite his resistance, had
made its appeal, so genuinely human was it, so honest, although it
expressed a philosophy he abhorred.

Mrs. Constable was watching him mutely, striving to read in his grave
eyes the effect of her pleadings.

"You are telling me this, Mrs. Constable--why?" he asked.

"Because I wished you to know the exact situation before I asked you, as
a great favour to me, to Mr. Constable, to--to marry her in St. John's.
Of course," she went on, controlling her rising agitation, and
anticipating a sign of protest, "we shouldn't expect to have any people,
---and Gertrude wasn't married in St. John's before; that wedding was at
Passumset our seashore place. Oh, Mr. Hodder, before you answer, think
of our feelings, Mr. Constable's and mine! If you could see Mr.
Constable, you would know how he suffers--this thing has upset him more
than the divorce. His family have such pride. I am so worried about
him, and he doesn't eat anything and looks so haggard. I told him I
would see you and explain and that seemed to comfort him a little.
She is, after all, our child, and we don't want to feel, so far as our
church is concerned, that she is an Ishmaelite; we don't want to have the
spectacle of her having to go around, outside, to find a clergyman--that
would be too dreadful! I know how strict, how unflinching you are, and I
admire you for it. But this is a special case."

She paused, breathing deeply, and Hodder gazed at her with pity. What he
felt was more than pity; he was experiencing, indeed, but with a deeper
emotion, something of that same confusion of values into which Eleanor
Goodrich's visit had thrown him. At the same time it had not escaped his
logical mind that Mrs. Constable had made her final plea on the score of
respectability.

"It gives me great pain to have to refuse you," he said gently.

"Oh, don't," she said sharply, "don't say that! I can't have made the
case clear. You are too big, too comprehending, Mr. Hodder, to have a
hard-and-fast rule. There must be times--extenuating circumstances--and
I believe the canons make it optional for a clergyman to marry the
innocent person."

"Yes, it is optional, but I do, not believe it should be. The question
is left to the clergyman's' conscience. According to my view, Mrs.
Constable, the Church, as the agent of God, effects an indissoluble bond.
And much as I should like to do anything in my power for you and Mr.
Constable, you have asked the impossible,--believing as I do, there can
be no special case, no extenuating circumstance. And it is my duty to
tell you it is because people to-day are losing their beliefs that we
have this lenient attitude toward the sacred things. If they still held
the conviction that marriage is of God, they would labour to make it a
success, instead of flying apart at the first sign of what they choose to
call incompatibility."

"But surely," she said, "we ought not to be punished for our mistakes!
I cannot believe that Christ himself intended that his religion should be
so inelastic, so hard and fast, so cruel as you imply. Surely there is
enough unhappiness without making more. You speak of incompatibility
--but is it in all cases such an insignificant matter? We are beginning
to realize in these days something of the effects of character on
character,--deteriorating effects, in many instances. With certain
persons we are lifted up, inspired to face the battle of life and
overcome its difficulties. I have known fine men and women whose lives
have been stultified or ruined because they were badly mated. And I
cannot see that the character of my own daughter has deteriorated because
she has got a divorce from a man with whom she was profoundly out of
sympathy--of harmony. On the contrary, she seems more of a person than
she was; she has clearer, saner views of life; she has made her mistake
and profited by it. Her views changed--Victor Warren's did not. She
began to realize that some other woman might have an influence over his
life--she had none, simply because he did not love her. And love is not
a thing we can compel."

"You are making it very hard for me, Mrs. Constable," he said.
"You are now advocating an individualism with which the Church can have
no sympathy. Christianity teaches us that life is probationary, and if
we seek to avoid the trials sent us, instead of overcoming them, we find
ourselves farther than ever from any solution. We have to stand by our
mistakes. If marriage is to be a mere trial of compatibility, why go
through a ceremony than which there is none more binding in human and
divine institutions? One either believes in it, or one does not. And,
if belief be lacking, the state provides for the legalization of
marriages."

"Oh!" she exclaimed.

"If persons wish to be married in church in these days merely because it
is respectable, if such be their only reason, they are committing a great
wrong. They are taking an oath before God with reservations, knowing
that public opinion will release them if the marriage does not fulfil
their expectations."

For a moment she gazed at him with parted lips, and pressing her
handkerchief to her eyes began silently to cry. The sudden spectacle,
in this condition, of a self-controlled woman of the world was infinitely
distressing to Hodder, whose sympathies were even more sensitive than
(in her attempt to play upon them) she had suspected. . . She was
aware that he had got to his feet, and was standing beside her, speaking
with an oddly penetrating tenderness.

"I did not mean to be harsh," he said, "and it is not that I do not
understand how you feel. You have made my duty peculiarly difficult."

She raised up to him a face from which the mask had fallen, from which
the illusory look of youth had fled. He turned away. . . And
presently she began to speak again; in disconnected sentences.

"I so want her to be happy--I cannot think, I will not think that she has
wrecked her life--it would be too unjust, too cruel. You cannot know
what it is to be a woman!"

Before this cry he was silent.

"I don't ask anything of God except that she shall have a chance, and it
seems to me that he is making the world better--less harsh for women."

He did not reply. And presently she looked up at him again, steadfastly
now, searchingly. The barriers of the conventions were down, she had
cast her pride to the winds. He seemed to read in her a certain relief.

"I am going to tell you something, Mr. Hodder, which you may think
strange, but I have a reason for saying it. You are still a young man,
and I feel instinctively that you have an unusual career before you. You
interested me the first time you stepped into the pulpit of St. John's
--and it will do me good to talk to you, this once, frankly. You have
reiterated to-day, in no uncertain terms, doctrines which I once
believed, which I was brought up to think infallible. But I have
lived since then, and life itself has made me doubt them.

"I recognize in you a humanity, a sympathy and breadth which you are
yourself probably not aware of, all of which is greater than the rule
which you so confidently apply to fit all cases. It seems to me that
Christ did not intend us to have such rules. He went beyond them, into
the spirit.

"Under the conditions of society--of civilization to-day, most marriages
are merely a matter of chance. Even judgment cannot foresee the
development of character brought about by circumstances, by environment.
And in many marriages I have known about intimately both the man and the
woman have missed the most precious thing that life can give something I
cannot but think--God intends us to have. You see,"--she smiled at him
sadly--"I am still a little of an idealist.

"I missed--the thing I am talking about, and it has been the great sorrow
of my life--not only on my account, but on my husband's. And so far as I
am concerned, I am telling you the truth when I say I should have been
content to have lived in a log cabin if--if the gift had been mine. Not
all the money in the world, nor the intellect, nor the philanthropy--the
so-called interests of life, will satisfy me for its denial. I am a
disappointed woman, I sometimes think a bitter woman. I can't believe
that life is meant to be so. Those energies have gone into ambition
which should have been absorbed by--by something more worth while.

"And I can see so plainly now that my husband would have been far, far
happier with another kind of woman. I drew him away from the only work
he ever enjoyed--his painting. I do not say he ever could have been a
great artist, but he had a little of the divine spark, in his enthusiasm
at least--in his assiduity. I shall never forget our first trip abroad,
after we were married--he was like a boy in the galleries, in the
studios. I could not understand it then. I had no real sympathy with
art, but I tried to make sacrifices, what I thought were Christian
sacrifices. The motive power was lacking, and no matter how hard I
tried, I was only half-hearted, and he realized it instinctively--no
amount of feigning could deceive him. Something deep in me, which was a
part of my nature, was antagonistic, stultifying to the essentials of his
own being. Of course neither of us saw that then, but the results were
not long in developing. To him, art was a sacred thing, and it was
impossible for me to regard it with equal seriousness. He drew into
himself,--closed up, as it were,--no longer discussed it. I was hurt.
And when we came home he kept on in business--he still had his father's
affairs to look after--but he had a little workroom at the top of the
house where he used to go in the afternoon . . . .

"It was a question which one of us should be warped,--which personality
should be annihilated, so to speak, and I was the stronger. And as I
look back, Mr. Hodder, what occurred seems to me absolutely inevitable,
given the ingredients, as inevitable as a chemical process. We were both
striving against each other, and I won--at a tremendous cost. The
conflict, one might say, was subconscious, instinctive rather than
deliberate. My attitude forced him back into business, although we had
enough to live on very comfortably, and then the scale of life began to
increase, luxuries formerly unthought of seemed to become necessities.
And while it was still afar off I saw a great wave rolling toward us, the
wave of that new prosperity which threatened to submerge us, and I seized
the buoy fate had placed in our hands,--or rather, by suggestion, I
induced my husband to seize it--his name.

"I recognized the genius, the future of Eldon Parr at a time when he was
not yet independent and supreme, when association with a Constable meant
much to him. Mr. Parr made us, as the saying goes. Needless to say;
money has not brought happiness, but a host of hard, false ambitions
which culminated in Gertrude's marriage with Victor Warren. I set my
heart on the match, helped it in every, way, and until now nothing but
sorrow has come of it. But my point--is this,--I see so clearly, now
that it is too late, that two excellent persons may demoralize each other
if they are ill-mated. It may be possible that I had the germs of false
ambition in me when I was a girl, yet I was conscious only of the ideal
which is in most women's hearts . . . .

"You must not think that I have laid my soul bare in the hope of changing
your mind in regard to Gertrude. I recognize clearly, now, that that is
impossible. Oh, I know you do not so misjudge me," she added, reading
his quick protest in his face.

"Indeed, I cannot analyze my reasons for telling you something of which I
have never spoken to any one else."

Mrs. Constable regarded him fixedly. "You are the strongest reason.
You have somehow drawn it out of me . . . . And I suppose I wish some
one to profit by it. You can, Mr. Hodder,--I feel sure of that. You may
insist now that my argument against your present conviction of the
indissolubility of marriage is mere individualism, but I want you to
think of what I have told you, not to answer me now. I know your
argument by heart, that Christian character develops by submission,
by suffering, that it is the woman's place to submit, to efface herself.
But the root of the matter goes deeper than that. I am far from
deploring sacrifice, yet common-sense tells us that our sacrifice should
be guided by judgment, that foolish sacrifices are worse than useless.
And there are times when the very limitations of our individuality
--necessary limitation's for us--prevent our sacrifices from counting.

"I was wrong, I grant you, grievously wrong in the course I took, even
though it were not consciously deliberate. But if my husband had been an
artist I should always have remained separated from his real life by a
limitation I had no power to remove. The more I tried, the more apparent
my lack of insight became to him, the more irritated he grew. I studied
his sketches, I studied masterpieces, but it was all hopeless. The thing
wasn't in me, and he knew it wasn't. Every remark made him quiver.

"The Church, I think, will grow more liberal, must grow more liberal, if
it wishes to keep in touch with people in an age when they are thinking
out these questions for themselves. The law cannot fit all cases, I am
sure the Gospel can. And sometimes women have an instinct, a kind of
second sight into persons, Mr. Hodder. I cannot explain why I feel that
you have in you elements of growth which will eventually bring you more
into sympathy with the point of view I have set forth, but I do feel it."

Hodder did not attempt to refute her--she had, indeed, made discussion
impossible. She knew his arguments, as she had declared, and he had the
intelligence to realize that a repetition of them, on his part, would be
useless. She brought home to him, as never before, a sense of the
anomalistic position of the Church in these modern days, of its
appallingly lessened weight even with its own members. As a successor of
the Apostles, he had no power over this woman, or very little; he could
neither rebuke her, nor sentence her to penance. She recognized his
authority to marry her daughter, to baptize her daughter's children,
but not to interfere in any way with her spiritual life. It was as a
personality he had moved her--a personality apparently not in harmony
with his doctrine. Women had hinted at this before. And while Mrs.
Constable had not, as she perceived, shaken his conviction, the very
vividness and unexpectedness of a confession from her--had stirred him to
the marrow, had opened doors, perforce, which he, himself had marked
forbidden, and given him a glimpse beyond before he could lower his eyes.
Was there, after all, something in him that responded in spite of
himself?

He sat gazing at her, his head bent, his strong hands on the arms of the
chair.

"We never can foresee how we may change," he answered, a light in his
eyes that was like a smile, yet having no suggestion of levity. And his
voice--despite his disagreement--maintained the quality of his sympathy.
Neither felt the oddity, then, of the absence of a jarring note. "You
may be sure, at least, of my confidence, and of my gratitude for what you
have told me."

His tone belied the formality of his speech. Mrs. Constable returned his
gaze in silence, and before words came again to either, a step sounded on
the threshold and Mr. Constable entered.

Hodder looked at him with a new vision. His face was indeed lined and
worn, and dark circles here under his eyes. But at Mrs. Constable's
"Here's Mr. Hodder, dear," he came forward briskly to welcome the
clergyman.

"How do you do?" he said cordially. "We don't see you very often."

"I have been telling Mr. Hodder that modern rectors of big parishes have
far too many duties," said his wife.

And after a few minutes of desultory conversation, the rector left.



CHAPTER VI

"WATCHMAN, WHAT OF THE NIGHT?"

It was one of those moist nights of spring when the air is pungent with
the odour of the softened earth, and the gentle breaths that stirred
the curtains in Mr. Parr's big dining-room wafted, from the garden,
the perfumes of a revived creation,--delicious, hothouse smells.
At intervals, showers might be heard pattering on the walk outside.
The rector of St. John's was dining with his great parishioner.

Here indeed were a subject for some modern master, a chance to picture
for generations to come an aspect of a mighty age, an age that may some
day be deemed but a grotesque and anomalistic survival of a more ancient
logic; a gargoyle carved out of chaos, that bears on its features a
resemblance to the past and the future.

Our scene might almost be mediaeval with its encircling gloom, through
which the heavy tapestries and shadowy corners of the huge apartment may
be dimly made out. In the center, the soft red glow of the candles, the
gleaming silver, the shining cloth, the Church on one side--and what on
the other? No name given it now, no royal name, but still Power. The
two are still in apposition, not yet in opposition, but the discerning
may perchance read a prophecy in the salient features of the priest.

The Man of Power of the beginning of the twentieth century demands
a subtler analysis, presents an enigma to which the immortal portraits
of forgotten Medicis and Capets give no clew. Imagine, if you can,
a Lorenzo or a Grand Louis in a tightly-buttoned frock coat! There must
be some logical connection between the habit and the age, since crimson
velvet and gold brocade would have made Eldon Parr merely ridiculous.

He is by no means ridiculous, yet take him out of the setting and put him
in the street, and you might pass him a dozen times without noticing him.
Nature, and perhaps unconscious art, have provided him with a protective
exterior; he is the colour of his jungle. After he has crippled you
--if you survive--you will never forget him. You will remember his eye,
which can be unsheathed like a rapier; you will recall his lips as the
expression of a relentless negative. The significance of the slight
bridge on the narrow nose is less easy to define. He is neither tall
nor short; his face is clean-shaven, save for scanty, unobtrusive
reddish tufts high on the cheeks; his hair is thin.

It must be borne in mind, however, that our rector did not see him in his
jungle, and perhaps in the traditional nobility of the lion there is a
certain truth. An interesting biography of some of the powerful of this
earth might be written from the point of view of the confessor or the
physician, who find something to love, something to pity, and nothing to
fear--thus reversing the sentiments of the public.

Yet the friendship between John Hodder and Eldon Parr defied any definite
analysis on the rector's part, and was perhaps the strangest--and most
disquieting element that had as yet come into Hodder's life. The nature
of his intimacy with the banker, if intimacy it might be called, might
have surprised his other parishioners if they could have been hidden
spectators of one of these dinners. There were long silences when the
medium of communication, tenuous at best, seemed to snap, and the two sat
gazing at each other as from mountain peaks across impassable valleys.
With all the will in the world, their souls lost touch, though the sense
in the clergyman of the other's vague yearning for human companionship
was never absent. It was this yearning that attracted Hodder, who found
in it a deep pathos.

After one of these intervals of silence, Eldon Parr looked up from his
claret.

"I congratulate you, Hodder, on the stand you took in regard to
Constable's daughter," he said.

"I didn't suppose it was known," answered the rector, in surprise.

"Constable told me. I have reason to believe that he doesn't sympathize
with his wife in her attitude on this matter. It's pulled him down,
--you've noticed that he looks badly?"

"Yes," said the rector. He did not care to discuss the affair; he had
hoped it would not become known; and he shunned the congratulations of
Gordon Atterbury, which in such case would be inevitable. And in spite
of the conviction that he had done his duty, the memory of his talk with
Mrs. Constable never failed to make him, uncomfortable.

Exasperation crept into Mr. Pares voice.

"I can't think what's got into women in these times--at Mrs. Constable's
age they ought to know better. Nothing restrains them. They have
reached a point where they don't even respect the Church. And when that
happens, it is serious indeed. The Church is the governor on our social
engine, and it is supposed to impose a restraint upon the lawless."

Hodder could not refrain from smiling a little at the banker's
conception.

"Doesn't that reduce the Church somewhere to the level of the police
force?" he asked.

"Not at all," said Eldon Parr, whose feelings seemed to be rising.
"I am sorry for Constable. He feels the shame of this thing keenly,
and he ought to go away for a while to one of these quiet resorts.
I offered him my car. Sometimes I think that women have no morals.
At any rate, this modern notion of giving them their liberty is sheer
folly. Look what they have done with it! Instead of remaining at home,
where they belong, they are going out into the world and turning it
topsy-turvy. And if a man doesn't let them have a free hand, they get
a divorce and marry some idiot who will."

Mr. Parr pushed back his chair and rose abruptly, starting for the door.
The rector followed him, forcibly struck by the unusual bitterness in his
tone.

"If I have spoken strongly, it is because I feel strongly," he said in a
strange, thickened voice. "Hodder, how would you like to live in this
house--alone?"

The rector looked down upon him with keen, comprehending eyes, and saw
Eldon Parr as he only, of all men, had seen him. For he himself did not
understand his own strange power of drawing forth the spirit from its
shell, of compelling the inner, suffering thing to reveal itself.

"This poison," Eldon Parr went on unevenly, "has eaten into my own
family. My daughter, who might have been a comfort and a companion,
since she chose not to marry, was carried away by it, and thought it
incumbent upon her to have a career of her own. And now I have a choice
of thirty rooms, and not a soul to share them with. Sometimes, at night,
I make up my mind to sell this house. But I can't do it--something holds
me back, hope, superstition, or whatever you've a mind to call it.
You've never seen all of the house, have you?" he asked.

The rector slowly shook his head, and the movement might have been one
that he would have used in acquiescence to the odd whim of a child. Mr.
Parr led the way up the wide staircase to the corridor above, traversing
chamber after chamber, turning on the lights.

"These were my wife's rooms," he said, "they are just as she left them.
And these my daughter Alison's, when she chooses to pay me a visit.
I didn't realize that I should have to spend the last years of my life
alone. And I meant, when I gave my wife a house, to have it the best in
the city. I spared nothing on it, as you see, neither care nor money.
I had the best architect I could find, and used the best material.
And what good is it to me? Only a reminder--of what might have been.
But I've got a boy, Hodder,--I don't know whether I've ever spoken of him
to you--Preston. He's gone away, too. But I've always had the hope that
he might come back and get decently married, and live, here. That's why
I stay. I'll show you his picture."

They climbed to the third floor, and while Mr. Parr way searching for
the electric switch, a lightning flash broke over the forests of the
park, prematurely revealing the room. It was a boy's room, hung with
photographs of school and college crews and teams and groups of
intimates, with deep window seats, and draped pennons of Harvard
University over the fireplace. Eldon Parr turned to one of the groups on
the will, the earliest taken at school.

"There he is," he said, pointing out a sunny little face at the bottom,
a boy of twelve, bareheaded, with short, crisping yellow hair, smiling
lips and laughing eyes. "And here he is again," indicating another
group. Thus he traced him through succeeding years until they came to
those of college.

"There he is," said the rector. "I think I can pick him out now."

"Yes; that's Preston," said his father, staring hard at the picture. The
face had developed, the body had grown almost to man's estate, but the
hint of crispness was still in the hair, the mischievous laughter in the
eyes. The rector gazed earnestly at the face, remembering his own
boyhood, his own youth, his mind dwelling, too, on what he had heard
of the original of the portrait. What had happened to the boy, to bring
to naught the fair promise of this earlier presentment?

He was aroused by the voice of Eldon Parr, who had sunk into one of the
leather chairs.

"I can see him now," he was saying, "as he used to come running down that
long flight of stone steps in Ransome Street to meet me when I came home.
Such laughter! And once, in his eagerness, he fell and cut his forehead.
I shall never forget how I felt. And when I picked him up he tried to
laugh still, with the tears rolling down his face. You know the way a
child's breath catches, Hodder? He was always laughing. And how he used
to cling to me, and beg me to take him out, and show such an interest in
everything! He was a bright boy, a remarkable child, I thought, but I
suppose it was my foolishness. He analyzed all he saw, and when he used
to go off in my car, Brennan, the engineer, would always beg to have
him in the cab. And such sympathy! He knew in an instant when I was
worried. I had dreams of what that boy would become, but I was too sure
of it. I went on doing other things--there were so many things, and I
was a slave to them. And before I knew it, he'd gone off to school.
That was the year I moved up here, and my wife died. And after that,
all seemed to go wrong. Perhaps I was too severe; perhaps they didn't
understand him at boarding-school; perhaps I didn't pay enough attention
to him. At any rate, the first thing I knew his whole nature seemed to
have changed. He got into scrape after scrape at Harvard, and later he
came within an ace of marrying a woman.

"He's my weakness to-day. I can say no to everybody in the world but to
him, and when I try to remember him as he used to come down those steps
on Ransome Street . . . .

"He never knew how much I cared--that what I was doing was all for him,
building for him, that he might carry on my work. I had dreams of
developing this city, the great Southwest, and after I had gone Preston
was to bring them to fruition.

"For some reason I never was able to tell him all this--as I am telling
you. The words would not come. We had grown apart. And he seemed to
think--God knows why!--he seemed to think I disliked him. I had Langmaid
talk to him, and other men I trusted--tell him what an unparalleled
opportunity he had to be of use in the world. Once I thought I had him
started straight and then a woman came along--off the streets, or little
better. He insisted on marrying her and wrecking his life, and when
I got her out of the way, as any father would have done, he left me. He
has never forgiven me. Most of the time I haven't even the satisfaction
of knowing were he is--London, Paris, or New York. I try not to think
of what he does. I ought to cut him off,--I can't do it--I can't do it,
Hodder--he's my one weakness still. I'm afraid--he'd sink out of sight
entirely, and it's the one hold I have left on him."

Eldon Parr paused, with a groan that betokened not only a poignant
sorrow, but also something of relief--for the tortures of not being able
to unburden himself had plainly become intolerable. He glanced up and
met the compassionate eyes of the rector, who stood leaning against the
mantel.

"With Alison it was different," he said. "I never understood her--even
when she was a child--and I used to look at her and wonder that she could
be my daughter. She was moody, intense, with a yearning for affection
I've since sometimes thought--she could not express. I did not feel the
need of affection in those days, so absorbed was I in building up,
--so absorbed and driven, you might say. I suppose I must accept my
punishment as just. But the child was always distant with me, and I
always remember her in rebellion; a dark little thing with a quivering
lip, hair awry, and eyes that flashed through her tears. She would take
any amount of punishment rather than admit she had been in the wrong.
I recall she had once a fox terrier that never left her, that fought all
the dogs in the neighbourhood and destroyed the rugs and cushions in the
house. I got rid of it one summer when she was at the sea, and I think
she never forgave me. The first question she asked when she came home
was for that dog--Mischief, his name was--for Mischief. I told her what
I had done. It took more courage than I had thought. She went to her
room, locked herself in, and stayed there, and we couldn't get her to
come out for two days; she wouldn't even eat.

"Perhaps she was jealous of Preston, but she never acknowledged it. When
she was little she used once in a while to come shyly and sit on my lap,
and look at me without saying anything. I hadn't the slightest notion
what was in the child's mind, and her reserve increased as she grew
older. She seemed to have developed a sort of philosophy of her own even
before she went away to school, and to have certain strongly defined
tastes. She liked, for instance, to listen to music, and for that very
reason would never learn to play. We couldn't make her, as a child.

"Bad music, she said, offended her. She painted, she was passionately
fond of flowers, and her room was always filled with them. When she came
back from school to live with me, she built a studio upstairs. After
the first winter, she didn't care to go out much. By so pronounced a
character, young men in general were not attracted, but there were a few
who fell under a sort of spell. I can think of no other words strong
enough, and I used to watch them when they came here with a curious
interest. I didn't approve of all of them. Alison would dismiss them
or ignore them or be kind to them as she happened to feel, yet it didn't
seem to make any difference. One I suspect she was in love with
--a fellow without a cent.

"Then there was Bedloe Hubbell. I have reason enough to be thankful
now that she didn't care for him. They've made him president, you know,
of this idiotic Municipal League, as they call it. But in those days he
hadn't developed any nonsense, he was making a good start at the bar,
and was well off. His father was Elias Hubbell, who gave the Botanical
Garden to the city. I wanted her to marry Gordon Atterbury. He hung on
longer than any of them--five or six years; but she wouldn't hear of it.
That was how the real difference developed between us, although the
trouble was deep rooted, for we never really understood each other. I
had set my heart on it, and perhaps I was too dictatorial and insistent.
I don't know. I meant the best for her, God knows . . . . Gordon
never got over it. It dried him up." . . . . Irritation was creeping
back into the banker's voice.

"Then it came into Alison's head that she wanted to 'make something of
her life,'--as she expressed it. She said she was wasting herself, and
began going to lectures with a lot of faddish women, became saturated
with these nonsensical ideas about her sex that are doing so much harm
nowadays. I suppose I was wrong in my treatment from the first. I never
knew how to handle her, but we grew like flint and steel. I'll say this
for her, she kept quiet enough, but she used to sit opposite me at the
table, and I knew all the time what she was thinking of, and then I'd
break out. Of course she'd defend herself, but she had her temper under
better control than I. She wanted to go away for a year or two and study
landscape gardening, and then come back and establish herself in an
office here. I wouldn't listen to it. And one morning, when she was
late to breakfast, I delivered an ultimatum. I gave her a lecture on a
woman's place and a woman's duty, and told her that if she didn't marry
she'd have to stay here and live quietly with me, or I'd disinherit her."

Hodder had become absorbed in this portrait of Alison Parr, drawn by her
father with such unconscious vividness.

"And then?" he asked.

In spite of the tone of bitterness in which he had spoken, Eldon Parr
smiled. It was a reluctant tribute to his daughter.

"I got an ultimatum in return," he said. "Alison should have been a
man." His anger mounted quickly as he recalled the scene. "She said she
had thought it all out: that our relationship had become impossible; that
she had no doubt it was largely her fault, but that was the way she was
made, and she couldn't change. She had, naturally, an affection for me
as her father, but it was very plain we couldn't get along together: she
was convinced that she had a right to individual freedom,--as she spoke
of it,--to develop herself. She knew, if she continued to live with me
on the terms I demanded, that her character would deteriorate. Certain
kinds of sacrifice she was capable of, she thought, but what I asked
would be a useless one. Perhaps I didn't realize it, but it was slavery.
Slavery!" he repeated, "the kind of slavery her mother had lived . . . ."

He took a turn around the room.

"So far as money was concerned, she was indifferent to it. She had
enough from her mother to last until she began to make more. She
wouldn't take any from me in any case. I laughed, yet I have never been
so angry in my life. Nor was it wholly anger, Hodder, but a queer tangle
of feelings I can't describe. There was affection mixed up in it--I
realized afterward--but I longed to take her and shake her and lock her
up until she should come to her senses: I couldn't. I didn't dare. I
was helpless. I told her to go. She didn't say anything more, but there
was a determined look in her eyes when she kissed me as I left for the
office. I spent a miserable day. More than once I made up my mind to go
home, but pride stopped me. I really didn't think she meant what she
said. When I got back to the house in the afternoon she had left for New
York.

"Then I began to look forward to the time when her money would give out.
She went to Paris with another young woman, and studied there, and then
to England. She came back to New York, hired an apartment and a studio,
and has made a success."

The rector seemed to detect an unwilling note of pride at the magic word.

"It isn't the kind of success I think much of, but it's what she started
out to do. She comes out to see me, once in a while, and she designed
that garden."

He halted in front of the clergyman.

"I suppose you think it's strange, my telling you this," he said. "It
has come to the point," he declared vehemently, "where it relieves me to
tell somebody, and you seem to be a man of discretion and common-sense."

Hodder looked down into Mr. Parr's face, and was silent. Perhaps he
recognized, as never before, the futility of the traditional words of
comfort, of rebuke. He beheld a soul in torture, and realized with
sudden sharpness how limited was his knowledge of the conditions of
existence of his own time. Everywhere individualism reared its ugly
head, everywhere it seemed plausible to plead justification; and once
more he encountered that incompatibility of which Mrs. Constable had
spoken! He might blame the son, blame the daughter, yet he could not
condemn them utterly . . . . One thing he saw clearly, that Eldon
Parr had slipped into what was still, for him, a meaningless hell.

The banker's manner suddenly changed, reverted to what it had been. He
arose.

"I've tried to do my duty as I saw it, and it comes to this--that we
who have spent the best years of our lives in striving to develop this
country have no thanks from our children or from any one else."

With his hand on the electric switch, he faced Hodder almost defiantly as
he spoke these words, and suddenly snapped off the light, as though the
matter admitted of no discussion. In semi-darkness they groped down the
upper flight of stairs . . . .



CHAPTER VII

THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD


I

When summer arrived, the birds of brilliant plumage of Mr. Hodder's
flock arose and flew lightly away, thus reversing the seasons. Only the
soberer ones came fluttering into the cool church out of the blinding
heat, and settled here and there throughout the nave. The ample Mr.
Bradley, perspiring in an alpaca coat, took up the meagre collection on
the right of the centre aisle; for Mr. Parr, properly heralded, had gone
abroad on one of those periodical, though lonely tours that sent
anticipatory shivers of delight down the spines of foreign
picture-dealers. The faithful Gordon Atterbury was worshipping at the
sea, and even Mr. Constable and Mr. Plimpton, when recalled to the city
by financial cares, succumbed to the pagan influence of the sun, and were
usually to be found on Sunday mornings on the wide veranda of the country
club, with glasses containing liquid and ice beside them, and surrounded
by heaps of newspapers.

To judge by St. John's, the city was empty. But on occasions, before
he himself somewhat tardily departed,--drawn thither by a morbid though
impelling attraction, Hodder occasionally walked through Dalton Street
of an evening. If not in St. John's, summer was the season in Dalton
Street. It flung open its doors and windows and moved out on the steps
and the pavements, and even on the asphalt; and the music of its cafes
and dance-halls throbbed feverishly through the hot nights. Dalton
Street resorted neither to country club nor church.

Mr. McCrae, Hodder's assistant, seemed to regard these annual phenomena
with a grim philosophy,--a relic, perhaps, of the Calvinistic determinism
of his ancestors. He preached the same indefinite sermons, with the same
imperturbability, to the dwindled congregations in summer and the
enlarged ones in winter. But Hodder was capable of no such resignation
--if resignation it were, for the self-contained assistant continued to be
an enigma; and it was not without compunction that he left, about the
middle of July, on his own vacation. He was tired, and yet he seemed to
have accomplished nothing in this first year of the city parish whereof
he had dreamed. And it was, no doubt, for that very reason that he was
conscious of a depressing exhaustion as his train rolled eastward over
that same high bridge that spanned the hot and muddy waters of the river.
He felt a fugitive. In no months since he had left the theological
seminary, had he seemingly accomplished so little; in no months had he
had so magnificent an opportunity.

After he had reached the peaceful hills at Bremerton--where he had gone
on Mrs. Whitely's invitation--he began to look back upon the spring and
winter as a kind of mad nightmare, a period of ceaseless, distracted,
and dissipated activity, of rushing hither and thither with no results.
He had been aware of invisible barriers, restricting, hemming him in on
all sides. There had been no time for reflection; and now that he had a
breathing space, he was unable to see how he might reorganize his work in
order to make it more efficient.

There were other perplexities, brought about by the glimpses he had had
into the lives and beliefs--or rather unbeliefs--of his new parishioners.
And sometimes, in an unwonted moment of pessimism, he asked himself why
they thought it necessary to keep all that machinery going when it had so
little apparent effect on their lives? He sat wistfully in the chancel
of the little Bremerton church and looked into the familiar faces of
those he had found in it when he came to it, and of those he had brought
into it, wondering why he had been foolish enough to think himself
endowed for the larger work. Here, he had been a factor, a force in the
community, had entered into its life and affections. What was he there?

Nor did it tend to ease his mind that he was treated as one who has
passed on to higher things.

"I was afraid you'd work too hard," said Mrs. Whitely, in her motherly
way. "I warned you against it, Mr. Hodder. You never spared yourself,
but in a big city parish it's different. But you've made such a success,
Nelson tells me, and everybody likes you there. I knew they would, of
course. That is our only comfort in losing you, that you have gone to
the greater work. But we do miss you."



II

The air of Bremerton, and later the air of Bar Harbor had a certain
reviving effect. And John Hodder, although he might be cast down, had
never once entertained the notion of surrender. He was inclined to
attribute the depression through which he had passed, the disappointment
he had undergone as a just punishment for an overabundance of ego,--only
Hodder used the theological term for the same sin. Had he not, after
all, laboured largely for his own glory, and not Gods? Had he ever
forgotten himself? Had the idea ever been far from his thoughts that it
was he, John Hodder, who would build up the parish of St. John's into a
living organization of faith and works? The curious thing was that he
had the power, and save in moments of weariness he felt it in him. He
must try to remember always that this power was from God. But why had
he been unable to apply it?

And there remained disturbingly in his memory certain phrases of Mrs.
Constable's, such as "elements of growth."

He would change, she had said; and he had appeared to her as one with
depths. Unsuspected depths--pockets that held the steam, which was
increasing in pressure. At Bremerton, it had not gathered in the
pockets, he had used it all--all had counted; but in the feverish,
ceaseless activity of the city parish he had never once felt that intense
satisfaction of emptying himself, nor, the sweet weariness that follows
it. His seemed the weariness of futility. And introspection was
revealing a crack--after so many years--in that self that he had believed
to be so strongly welded. Such was the strain of the pent-up force. He
recognized the danger-signal. The same phenomenon had driven him into
the Church, where the steam had found an outlet--until now. And yet,
so far as his examination went, he had not lost his beliefs, but the
power of communicating them to others.

Bremerton, and the sight of another carrying on the work in which he had
been happy, weighed upon him, and Bar Harbor offered distraction. Mrs.
Larrabbee had not hesitated to remind him of his promise to visit her.
If the gallery of portraits of the congregation of St. John's were to be
painted, this lady's, at the age of thirty, would not be the least
interesting. It would have been out of place in no ancestral hall, and
many of her friends were surprised, after her husband's death, that she
did not choose one wherein to hang it. She might have. For she was the
quintessence of that feminine product of our country at which Europe has
never ceased to wonder, and to give her history would no more account for
her than the process of manufacture explains the most delicate of scents.
Her poise, her quick detection of sham in others not so fortunate, her
absolute conviction that all things were as they ought to be; her
charity, her interest in its recipients; her smile, which was kindness
itself; her delicate features, her white skin with its natural bloom;
the grace of her movements, and her hair, which had a different color in
changing lights--such an ensemble is not to be depicted save by a skilled
hand.

The late Mr. Larrabbee's name was still printed on millions of bright
labels encircling cubes of tobacco, now manufactured by a Trust.
However, since the kind that entered Mrs. Larrabbee's house, or houses,
was all imported from Egypt or Cuba, what might have been in the nature
of an unpleasant reminder was remote from her sight, and she never drove
into the northern part of the city, where some hundreds of young women
bent all day over the cutting-machines. To enter too definitely into
Mrs. Larrabbee's history, therefore, were merely to be crude, for she is
not a lady to caricature. Her father had been a steamboat captain--once
an honoured calling in the city of her nativity--a devout Presbyterian
who believed in the most rigid simplicity. Few who remembered the
gaucheries of Captain Corington's daughter on her first presentation
to his family's friends could recognize her in the cosmopolitan Mrs.
Larrabbee. Why, with New York and London at her disposal, she elected to
remain in the Middle West, puzzled them, though they found her answer,
"that she belonged there," satisfying Grace Larrabbee's cosmopolitanism
was of that apperception that knows the value of roots, and during her
widowhood she had been thrusting them out. Mrs. Larrabbee followed by
"of" was much more important than just Mrs. Larrabbee. And she was,
moreover, genuinely attached to her roots.

Her girlhood shyness--rudeness, some called it, mistaking the effect for
the cause--had refined into a manner that might be characterized as
'difficile', though Hodder had never found her so. She liked direct men;
to discover no guile on first acquaintance went a long way with her, and
not the least of the new rector's social triumphs had been his simple
conquest.

Enveloped in white flannel, she met his early train at the Ferry; an
unusual compliment to a guest, had he but known it, but he accepted it
as a tribute to the Church.

"I was so afraid you wouldn't come," she said, in a voice that conveyed
indeed more than a perfunctory expression. She glanced at him as he sat
beside her on the cushions of the flying motor boat, his strange eyes
fixed upon the blue mountains of the island whither they were bound, his
unruly hair fanned by the wind.

"Why?" he asked, smiling at the face beneath the flying veil.

"You need the rest. I believe in men taking their work seriously, but
not so seriously as you do."

She was so undisguisedly glad to see him that he could scarcely have been
human if he had not responded. And she gave him, in that fortnight, a
glimpse of a life that was new and distracting: at times made him forget
--and he was willing to forget--the lower forms of which it was the
quintessence,--the factories that hummed, the forges that flung their
fires into the night in order that it might exist; the Dalton Streets
that went without. The effluvia from hot asphalt bore no resemblance to
the salt-laden air that rattled the Venetian blinds of the big bedroom to
which he was assigned. Her villa was set high above the curving shore,
facing a sheltered terrace-garden resplendent in its August glory; to
seaward, islands danced in the haze; and behind the house, in the
sunlight, were massed spruces of a brilliant arsenic green with purple
cones. The fluttering awnings were striped cardinal and white.

Nature and man seemed to have conspired to make this place vividly
unreal, as a toy village comes painted from the shop. There were no
half-tones, no poverty--in sight, at least; no litter. On the streets
and roads, at the casino attached to the swimming-pool and at the golf
club were to be seen bewildering arrays of well-dressed, well-fed women
intent upon pleasure and exercise. Some of them gave him glances that
seemed to say, "You belong to us," and almost succeeded in establishing
the delusion. The whole effect upon Hodder, in the state of mind in
which he found himself, was reacting, stimulating, disquieting. At
luncheons and dinners, he was what is known as a "success"--always that
magic word.

He resisted, and none so quick as women to scent resistance. His very
unbending attitude aroused their inherent craving for rigidity in his
profession; he was neither plastic, unctuous, nor subservient; his very
homeliness, redeemed by the eyes and mouth, compelled their attention.
One of them told Mrs. Larrabbee that that rector of hers would "do
something."

But what, he asked himself, was he resisting? He was by no means a
Puritan; and while he looked upon a reasonable asceticism as having its
place in the faith that he professed, it was no asceticism that prevented
a more complete acquiescence on his part in the mad carnival that
surrounded him.

"I'm afraid you don't wholly approve of Bar Harbor," his hostess
remarked; one morning.

"At first sight, it is somewhat staggering to the provincial mind," he
replied.

She smiled at him, yet with knitted brows.

"You are always putting me off--I never can tell what you think.
And yet I'm sure you have opinions. You think these people frivolous,
of course."

"Most of them are so," he answered, "but that is a very superficial
criticism. The question is, why are they so? The sight of Bar Harbor
leads a stranger to the reflection that the carnival mood has become
permanent with our countrymen, and especially our countrywomen."

"The carnival mood," she repeated thoughtfully, "yes, that expresses it.
We are light, we are always trying to get away from ourselves, and
sometimes I wonder whether there are any selves to get away from. You
ought to atop us," she added, almost accusingly, "to bring us to our
senses."

"That's just it," he agreed, "why don't we? Why can't we?"

"If more clergymen were like you, I think perhaps you might."

His tone, his expression, were revelations.

"I--!" he exclaimed sharply, and controlled himself. But in that moment
Grace Larrabbee had a glimpse of the man who had come to arouse in her an
intense curiosity. For an instant a tongue of the fires of Vulcan had
shot forth, fires that she had suspected.

"Aren't you too ambitious?" she asked gently. And again, although she
did not often blunder, she saw him wince. "I don't mean ambitious for
yourself. But surely you have made a remarkable beginning at St. John's.
Everybody admires and respects you, has confidence in you. You are so
sure of yourself," she hesitated a moment, for she had never ventured to
discuss religion with him, "of your faith. Clergymen ought not to be
apologetic, and your conviction cannot fail, in the long run, to have its
effect."

"Its effect,--on what?" he asked.

Mrs. Larrabbee was suddenly, at sea. And she prided herself on a lack of
that vagueness generally attributed to her sex.

"On--on everything. On what we were talking about,--the carnival feeling,
the levity, on the unbelief of the age. Isn't it because the control has
been taken off?"

He saw an opportunity to slip into smoother waters.

"The engine has lost its governor?"

"Exactly!" cried Mrs. Larrabbee. "What a clever simile!"

"It is Mr. Pares," said Hodder. "Only he was speaking of other symptoms,
Socialism, and its opposite, individualism,--not carnivalism."

"Poor man," said Mrs. Larrabbee, accepting the new ground as safer, yet
with a baffled feeling that Hodder had evaded her once more, "he has had
his share of individualism and carnivalism. His son Preston was here
last month, and was taken out to the yacht every night in an unspeakable
state. And Alison hasn't been what might be called a blessing."

"She must be unusual," said the rector, musingly.

"Oh, Alison is a Person. She has become quite the fashion, and has more
work than she can possibly attend to. Very few women with her good looks
could have done what she has without severe criticism, and something
worse, perhaps. The most extraordinary thing about her is her contempt
for what her father has gained, and for conventionalities. It always
amuses me when I think that she might have been the wife of Gordon
Atterbury. The Goddess of Liberty linked to--what?"

Hodder thought instinctively of the Church. But he remained silent.

"As a rule, men are such fools about the women they wish to marry," she
continued. "She would have led him a dance for a year or two, and then
calmly and inexorably left him. And there was her father, with all his
ability and genius, couldn't see it either, but fondly imagined that
Alison as Gordon Atterbury's wife, would magically become an Atterbury
and a bourgeoise, see that the corners were dusted in the big house, sew
underwear for the poor, and fast in Lent."

"And she is happy--where she is?" he inquired somewhat naively.

"She is self-sufficient," said Mrs. Larrabbee, with unusual feeling,
"and that is just what most women are not, in these days. Oh, why has
life become such a problem? Sometimes I think, with all that I have,
I'm not, so well off as one of those salesgirls in Ferguson's, at home.
I'm always searching for things to do--nothing is thrust on me. There
are the charities--Galt House, and all that, but I never seem to get at
anything, at the people I'd like to help. It's like sending money to
China. There is no direct touch any more. It's like seeing one's
opportunities through an iron grating."

Hodder started at the phrase, so exactly had she expressed his own case.

"Ah," he said, "the iron grating bars the path of the Church, too."

And just what was the iron grating?

They had many moments of intimacy during that fort night, though none in
which the plumb of their conversation descended to such a depth. For he
was, as she had said, always "putting her off." Was it because he
couldn't satisfy her craving? give her the solution for which--he began
to see--she thirsted? Why didn't that religion that she seemed outwardly
to profess and accept without qualification--the religion he taught set
her at rest? show her the path?

Down in his heart he knew that he feared to ask.



That Mrs. Larrabbee was still another revelation, that she was not at
rest, was gradually revealed to him as the days passed. Her spirit, too,
like his own, like 'Mrs Constable's, like Eldon Parr's, like Eleanor
Goodrich's, was divided against itself; and this phenomenon in Mrs.
Larrabbee was perhaps a greater shock to him, since he had always
regarded her as essentially in equilibrium. One of his reasons, indeed,
--in addition to the friendship that had grown up between them,--for
coming to visit her had been to gain the effect of her poise on his own.
Poise in a modern woman, leading a modern life. It was thus she
attracted him. It was not that he ignored her frivolous side; it was
nicely balanced by the other, and that other seemed growing. The social,
she accepted at what appeared to be its own worth. Unlike Mrs. Plimpton,
for instance, she was so innately a lady that she had met with no
resistance in the Eastern watering places, and her sense of values had
remained the truer for it.

He did not admire her the less now he had discovered that the poise was
not so adjusted as he had thought it, but his feeling about her changed,
grew more personal, more complicated. She was showing an alarming
tendency to lean on him at a time when he was examining with some concern
his own supports. She possessed intelligence and fascination, she was a
woman whose attentions would have flattered and disturbed any man with a
spark of virility, and Hodder had constantly before his eyes the
spectacle of others paying her court. Here were danger-signals again!

Mrs. Plaice, a middle-aged English lady staying in the house, never
appeared until noon. Breakfast was set out in the tiled and sheltered
loggia, where they were fanned by the cool airs of a softly breathing
ocean. The world, on these mornings, had a sparkling unreality, the
cold, cobalt sea stretching to sun-lit isles, and beyond, the vividly
painted shore,--the setting of luxury had never been so complete. And
the woman who sat opposite him seemed, like one of her own nectarines,
to be the fruit that crowned it all.

Why not yield to the enchantment? Why rebel, when nobody else
complained? Were it not more simple to accept what life sent in its
orderly course instead of striving for an impossible and shadowy ideal?
Very shadowy indeed! And to what end were his labours in that smoky,
western city, with its heedless Dalton Streets, which went their
inevitable ways? For he had the choice.

To do him justice, he was slow in arriving at a realization that seemed
to him so incredible, so preposterous. He was her rector! And he had
accepted, all unconsciously, the worldly point of view as to Mrs.
Larrabbee,--that she was reserved for a worldly match. A clergyman's
wife! What would become of the clergyman? And yet other clergymen had
married rich women, despite the warning of the needle's eye.

She drove him in her buckboard to Jordan's Pond, set, like a jewel in the
hills, and even to the deep, cliff bordered inlet beyond North East,
which reminded her, she said, of a Norway fiord. And sometimes they
walked together through wooded paths that led them to beetling shores,
and sat listening to the waves crashing far below. Silences and
commonplaces became the rule instead of the eager discussions with which
they had begun,--on such safer topics as the problem of the social work
of modern churches. Her aromatic presence, and in this setting,
continually disturbed him: nature's perfumes, more definable,
--exhalations of the sea and spruce,--mingled with hers, anaesthetics
compelling lethargy. He felt himself drowning, even wished to drown,
--and yet strangely resisted.

"I must go to-morrow," he said.

"To-morrow--why? There is a dinner, you know, and Mrs. Waterman wished
so particularly to meet you."

He did not look at her. The undisguised note of pain found an echo
within him. And this was Mrs. Larrabbee!

"I am sorry, but I must," he told her, and she may not have suspected the
extent to which the firmness was feigned.

"You have promised to make other visits? The Fergusons,--they said they
expected you."

"I'm going west--home," he said, and the word sounded odd.

"At this season! But there is nobody in church, at least only a few,
and Mr. McCrae can take care of those--he always does. He likes it."

Hodder smiled in spite of himself. He might have told her that those
outside the church were troubling him. But he did not, since he had
small confidence in being able to bring them in.

"I have been away too long, I am getting spoiled," he replied, with an
attempt at lightness. He forced his eyes to meet hers, and she read in
them an unalterable resolution.

"It is my opinion you are too conscientious, even for a clergyman," she
said, and now it was her lightness that hurt. She protested no more.
And as she led the way homeward through the narrow forest path, her head
erect, still maintaining this lighter tone, he wondered how deeply she
had read him; how far her intuition had carried her below the surface;
whether she guessed the presence of that stifled thing in him which
was crying feebly for life; whether it was that she had discovered,
or something else? He must give it the chance it craved. He must get
away--he must think. To surrender now would mean destruction. . .

Early the next morning, as he left the pier in the motor boat, he saw a
pink scarf waving high above him from the loggia. And he flung up his
hand in return. Mingled with a faint sense of freedom was intense
sadness.



CHAPTER VIII

THE LINE OF LEAST RESISTANCE

From the vantage point of his rooms in the parish house, Hodder reviewed
the situation. And despite the desires thronging after him in his flight
he had the feeling of once who, in the dark, has been very near to
annihilation. What had shaken him most was the revelation of an old
enemy which, watching its chance, had beset him at the first opportunity;
and at a time when the scheme of life, which he flattered himself to have
solved forever, was threatening once more to resolve itself into
fragments. He had, as if by a miracle, escaped destruction in some
insidious form.

He shrank instinctively from an analysis of the woman in regard to
whom his feelings were, so complicated, and yet by no means lacking in
tenderness. But as time went on, he recognized more and more that she
had come into his life at a moment when he was peculiarly vulnerable.
She had taken him off his guard. That the brilliant Mrs. Larrabbee
should have desired him--or what she believed was him--was food enough
for thought, was an indication of an idealism in her nature that he would
not have suspected. From a worldly point of view, the marriage would
have commended itself to none of her friends. Yet Hodder perceived
clearly that he could not have given her what she desired, since the
marriage would have killed it in him. She offered him the other thing.
Once again he had managed somehow to cling to his dream of what the
relationship between man and woman should be, and he saw more and more
distinctly that he had coveted not only the jewel, but its setting. He
could not see her out of it--she faded. Nor could he see himself in it.

Luxury,--of course,--that was what he had spurned. Luxury in contrast
to Dalton Street, to the whirring factories near the church which
discharged, at nightfall, their quotas of wan women and stunted children.
And yet here he was catering to luxury, providing religion for it!
Religion!

Early in November he heard that Mrs. Larrabbee had suddenly decided to go
abroad without returning home. . . .

That winter Hodder might have been likened to a Niagara for energy; an
unharnessed Niagara--such would have been his own comment. He seemed to
turn no wheels, or only a few at least, and feebly. And while the
spectacle of their rector's zeal was no doubt an edifying one to his
parishioners, they gave him to understand that they would have been
satisfied with less. They admired, but chided him gently; and in
February Mr. Parr offered to take him to Florida. He was tired, and it
was largely because he dreaded the reflection inevitable in a period of
rest, that he refused. . . . And throughout these months, the feeling
recurred, with increased strength, that McCrae was still watching him,
--the notion persisted that his assistant held to a theory of his own,
if he could but be induced to reveal it. Hodder refrained from making
the appeal. Sometimes he was on the point of losing patience with this
enigmatic person.

Congratulations on the fact that his congregation was increasing brought
him little comfort, since a cold analysis of the newcomers who were
renting pews was in itself an indication of the lack of that thing he
so vainly sought. The decorous families who were now allying themselves
with St. John's did so at the expense of other churches either more
radical or less fashionable. What was it he sought? What did he wish?
To fill the church to overflowing with the poor and needy as well as the
rich, and to enter into the lives of all. Yet at a certain point he met
a resistance that was no less firm because it was baffling. The Word, on
his lips at least, seemed to have lost it efficacy. The poor heeded it
not, and he preached to the rich as from behind a glass. They went on
with their carnival. Why this insatiate ambition on his part in an age
of unbelief? Other clergymen, not half so fortunate, were apparently
satisfied; or else--from his conversation with them--either oddly
optimistic or resigned. Why not he?

It was strange, in spite of everything, that hope sprang up within him,
a recurrent geyser.

Gradually, almost imperceptibly, he found himself turning more and
more towards that line of least resistance which other churches were
following, as the one Modern Solution,--institutional work. After all,
in the rescuing of bodies some method might yet be discovered to revive
the souls. And there were the children! Hodder might have been likened
to an explorer, seeking a direct path when there was none--a royal road.
And if this were oblique it offered, at least, a definite outlet for his
energy.

Such was, approximately, the state of his mind early in March when Gordon
Atterbury came back from a conference in New York on institutional work,
and filled with enthusiasm. St. John's was incredibly behind the times,
so he told Hodder, and later the vestry. Now that they had, in Mr.
Hodder, a man of action and ability--ahem! there was no excuse for a
parish as wealthy as St. John's, a parish with their opportunities,
considering the proximity of Dalton Street neighbourhood, not enlarging
and modernizing the parish house, not building a settlement house with
kindergartens, schools, workshops, libraries, a dispensary and day
nurseries. It would undoubtedly be an expense--and Mr. Atterbury looked
at Mr. Parr, who drummed on the vestry table. They would need extra
assistants, deaconesses, trained nurses, and all that. But there were
other churches in the city that were ahead of St. John's--a reproach
--ahem!

Mr. Parr replied that he had told the rector that he stood ready to
contribute to such a scheme when he, the rector; should be ready to
approve it. And he looked at Mr. Hodder.

Mr. Hodder said he had been considering the matter ever since his
arrival. He had only one criticism of institutional work, that in his
observation it did not bring the people whom it reached into the Church
in any great numbers. Perhaps that were too much to ask, in these days.
For his part he would willingly assume the extra burden, and he was far
from denying the positive good such work accomplished through association
and by the raising of standards.

Mr. Ferguson declared his readiness to help. Many of his salesgirls, he
said, lived in this part of the city, and he would be glad to do anything
in his power towards keeping them out of the dance-halls and such places.

A committee was finally appointed consisting of Mr. Parr, Mr. Atterbury,
and the rector, to consult architects and to decide upon a site.

Hodder began a correspondence with experts in other cities,
collected plans, pamphlets, statistics; spent hours with the great
child-specialist, Dr. Jarvis, and with certain clergymen who believed
in institutionalism as the hope of the future.

But McCrae was provokingly non-committal.

"Oh, they may try it," he assented somewhat grudgingly, one day when the
rector had laid out for his inspection the architects' sketch for the
settlement house. "No doubt it will help many poor bodies along."

"Is there anything else?" the rector asked, looking searchingly at his
assistant.

"It may as well be that," replied McCrae.

The suspicion began to dawn on Hodder that the Scotch man's ideals were
as high as his own. Both of them, secretly, regarded the new scheme as a
compromise, a yielding to the inevitable . . . .

Mr. Ferguson's remark that an enlarged parish house and a new settlement
house might help to keep some of the young women employed in his
department store out of the dance-halls interested Hodder, who conceived
the idea of a dance-hall of their own. For the rector, in the course of
his bachelor shopping, often resorted to the emporium of his vestryman,
to stand on the stairway which carried him upward without lifting his
feet, to roam, fascinated, through the mazes of its aisles, where he
invariably got lost, and was rescued by suave floor-walkers or pert young
women in black gowns and white collars and cuffs. But they were not all
pert--there were many characters, many types. And he often wondered
whether they did not get tired standing on their feet all day long,
hesitating to ask them; speculated on their lives--flung as most of them
were on a heedless city, and left to shift for themselves. Why was it
that the Church which cared for Mr. Ferguson's soul was unable to get
in touch with, or make an appeal to, those of his thousand employees?

It might indeed have been said that Francis Ferguson cared for his own
soul, as he cared for the rest of his property, and kept it carefully
insured,--somewhat, perhaps, on the principle of Pascal's wager. That
he had been a benefactor to his city no one would deny who had seen the
facade that covered a whole block in the business district from Tower to
Vine, surmounted by a red standard with the familiar motto, "When in
doubt, go to Ferguson's." At Ferguson's you could buy anything from a
pen-wiper to a piano or a Paris gown; sit in a cool restaurant in summer
or in a palm garden in winter; leave your baby--if you had one--in charge
of the most capable trained nurses; if your taste were literary, mull
over the novels in the Book Department; if you were stout, you might be
reduced in the Hygiene Department, unknown to your husband and intimate
friends. In short, if there were any virtuous human wish in the power of
genius to gratify, Ferguson's was the place. They, even taught you how
to cook. It was a modern Aladdin's palace: and, like everything else
modern, much more wonderful than the original. And the soda might be
likened to the waters of Trevi,--to partake of which is to return.

"When in doubt, go to Ferguson!" Thus Mrs. Larrabbee and other ladies
interested in good works had altered his motto. He was one of the
supporters of Galt House, into which some of his own young saleswomen had
occasionally strayed; and none, save Mr. Parr alone, had been so liberal
in his gifts. Holder invariably found it difficult to reconcile the
unassuming man, whose conversation was so commonplace, with the titanic
genius who had created Ferguson's; nor indeed with the owner of the
imposing marble mansion at Number 5, Park Street.

The rector occasionally dined there. He had acquired a real affection
for Mrs. Ferguson, who resembled a burgomaster's wife in her evening
gowns and jewels, and whose simple social ambitions had been gratified
beyond her dreams. Her heart had not shrunken in the process, nor had
she forgotten her somewhat heterogeneous acquaintances in the southern
part of the city. And it was true that when Gertrude Constable had
nearly died of appendicitis, it was on this lady's broad bosom that Mrs.
Constable had wept. Mrs. Ferguson had haunted the house, regardless of
criticism, and actually quivering with sympathy. Her more important
dinner parties might have been likened to ill-matched fours-in-hand, and
Holder had sometimes felt more of pity than of amusement as she sat with
an expression of terror on her face, helplessly watching certain unruly
individuals taking their bits in their teeth and galloping madly
downhill. On one occasion, when he sat beside her, a young man, who
shall be nameless, was suddenly heard to remark in the midst of an
accidental lull:

"I never go to church. What's the use? I'm afraid most of us don't
believe in hell any more."

A silence followed: of the sort that chills. And the young man, glancing
down the long board at the clergyman, became as red as the carnation in
his buttonhole, and in his extremity gulped down more champagne.

"Things are in a dreadful state nowadays!" Mrs. Ferguson gasped to
a paralyzed company, and turned an agonized face to Holder. "I'm so
sorry," she said, "I don't know why I asked him to-night, except that
I have to have a young man for Nan, and he's just come to the city,
and I was sorry for him. He's very promising in a business way;
he's in Mr. Plimpton's trust company."

"Please don't let it trouble you." Holder turned and smiled a little,
and added whimsically: "We may as well face the truth."

"Oh, I should expect you to be good about it, but it was unpardonable,"
she cried . . . .

In the intervals when he gained her attention he strove, by talking
lightly of other things, to take her mind off the incident, but somehow
it had left him strangely and--he felt--disproportionately depressed,
--although he had believed himself capable of facing more or less
philosophically that condition which the speaker had so frankly
expressed. Yet the remark, somehow, had had an illuminating effect
like a flashlight, revealing to him the isolation of the Church as never
before. And after dinner, as they were going to the smoking-room, the
offender accosted him shamefacedly.

"I'm awfully sorry, Mr. Holder," he stammered.

That the tall rector's regard was kindly did not relieve his discomfort.
Hodder laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Don't worry about it," he answered, "I have only one regret as to what
you said--that it is true."

The other looked at him curiously.

"It's mighty decent of you to take it this way," he laid. Further speech
failed him.

He was a nice-looking young man, with firm white teeth, and honesty was
written all over his boyish face. And the palpable fact that his regret
was more on the clergyman's account than for the social faux pas drew
Holder the more, since it bespoke a genuineness of character.

He did not see the yearning in the rector's eyes as he turned away. . .
Why was it they could not be standing side by side, fighting the same
fight? The Church had lost him, and thousands like him, and she needed
them; could not, indeed, do without them.

Where, indeed, were the young men? They did not bother their heads about
spiritual matters any more. But were they not, he asked himself, franker
than many of these others, the so-called pillars of the spiritual
structure?

Mr. Plimpton accosted him. "I congratulate you upon the new plans, Mr.
Hodder,--they're great," he said. "Mr. Parr and our host are coming down
handsomely, eh? When we get the new settlement house we'll have a plant
as up-to-date as any church in the country. When do you break ground?"

"Not until autumn, I believe," Hodder replied. "There are a good many
details to decide upon yet."

"Well, I congratulate you."

Mr. Plimpton was forever congratulating.

"Up-to-date"--"plant"! More illuminating words, eloquent of Mr.
Plimpton's ideals. St. John's down at the heels, to be brought up to the
state of efficiency of Mr. Plimpton's trust company! It was by no means
the first time he had heard modern attributes on Mr. Plimpton's lips
applied to a sacred institution, but to-night they had a profoundly
disquieting effect. To-night, a certain clairvoyance had been vouchsafed
him, and he beheld these men, his associates and supporters, with a
detachment never before achieved.

They settled in groups about the room, which was square and high, and
panelled in Italian walnut, with fluted pilasters,--the capitals of which
were elaborately carved. And Hodder found himself on a deep leather sofa
in a corner engaged in a desultory and automatic conversation with
Everett Constable. Mr. Plimpton, with a large cigar between his lips,
was the radiating centre of one of the liveliest groups, and of him
the rector had fallen into a consideration, piecing together bits of
information that hitherto had floated meaninglessly in his mind.
It was Mrs. Larrabbee who had given character to the career of the still
comparatively youthful and unquestionably energetic president of the
Chamber of Commerce by likening it to a great spiral, starting somewhere
in outer regions of twilight, and gradually drawing nearer to the centre,
from which he had never taken his eyes. At the centre were Eldon Parr
and Charlotte Gore. Wallis Plimpton had made himself indispensable to
both.

His campaign for the daughter of Thurston Gore had been comparable to one
of the great sieges of history, for Mr. Plimpton was a laughing-stock
when he sat down before that fortress. At the end of ten years,
Charlotte had capitulated, with a sigh of relief, realizing at last her
destiny. She had become slightly stout, revealing, as time went on, no
wrinkles--a proof that the union was founded on something more enduring
than poetry: Statesmanship--that was the secret! Step by step, slowly
but surely, the memoranda in that matrimonial portfolio were growing
into accomplished facts; all events, such as displacements of power, were
foreseen; and the Plimptons, like Bismarck, had only to indicate, in case
of sudden news, the pigeonhole where the plan of any particular campaign
was filed.

Mrs. Larrabbee's temptation to be witty at the expense of those for whom
she had no liking had led Hodder to discount the sketch. He had not
disliked Mr. Plimpton, who had done him many little kindnesses. He was
good-natured, never ruffled, widely tolerant, hail-fellow-well-met with
everybody, and he had enlivened many a vestry meeting with his stories.
It were hypercritical to accuse him of a lack of originality. And if by
taking thought, he had arrived, from nowhere, at his present position of
ease and eminence, success had not turned to ashes in his mouth. He
fairly exhaled well-being, happiness, and good cheer. Life had gone well
with him, he wished the same to others.

But to-night, from his corner, Hodder seemed to see Mr. Plimpton with new
eyes. Not that he stood revealed a villain, which he was far from being;
it was the air of sophistication, of good-natured if cynical acceptance
of things as they were--and plenty good enough, too!--that jarred upon
the rector in his new mood, and it was made manifest to him as never
before why his appeals from the pulpit had lacked efficacy. Mr. Plimpton
didn't want the world changed! And in this desire he represented the
men in that room, and the majority of the congregation of St. John's.
The rector had felt something of this before, and it seemed to him
astonishing that the revelation had not come to him sooner. Did any one
of them, in his heart, care anything for the ideals and aspirations of
the Church?

As he gazed at them through the gathering smoke they had become
strangers, receded all at once to a great distance. . . . Across
the room he caught the name, Bedloe Hubbell, pronounced with peculiar
bitterness by Mr. Ferguson. At his side Everett Constable was alert,
listening.

"Ten years ago," said a stout Mr. Varnum, the President of the Third
National Bank, "if you'd told me that that man was to become a demagogue
and a reformer, I wouldn't have believed you. Why, his company used to
take rebates from the L. & G., and the Southern--I know it." He
emphasized the statement with a blow on the table that made the liqueur
glasses dance. "And now, with his Municipal League, he's going to clean
up the city, is he? Put in a reform mayor. Show up what he calls the
Consolidated Tractions Company scandal. Pooh!"

"You got out all right, Varnum. You won't be locked up," said Mr.
Plimpton, banteringly.

"So did you," retorted Varnum.

"So did Ferguson, so did Constable."

"So did Eldon Parr," remarked another man, amidst a climax of laughter.

"Langmaid handled that pretty well."

Hodder felt Everett Constable fidget.

"Bedloe's all right, but he's a dreamer," Mr. Plimpton volunteered.

"Then I wish he'd stop dreaming," said Mr. Ferguson, and there was more
laughter, although he had spoken savagely.

"That's what he is, a dreamer," Varnum ejaculated. "Say, he told George
Carter the other day that prostitution wasn't necessary, that in fifty
years we'd have largely done away with it. Think of that, and it's as
old as Sodom and Gomorrah!"

"If Hubbell had his way, he'd make this town look like a Connecticut
hill village--he'd drive all the prosperity out of it. All the railroads
would have to abandon their terminals--there'd be no more traffic, and
you'd have to walk across the bridge to get a drink."

"Well," said Mr. Plimpton, "Tom Beatty's good enough for me, for a
while."

Beatty, Hodder knew, was the "boss," of the city, with headquarters in a
downtown saloon.

"Beatty's been maligned," Mr. Varnum declared. "I don't say he's a
saint, but he's run the town pretty well, on the whole, and kept the vice
where it belongs, out of sight. He's made his pile, but he's entitled to
something we all are. You always know where you stand with Beatty. But
say, if Hubbell and his crowd--"

"Don't worry about Bedloe,--he'll get called in, he'll come home to roost
like the rest of them," said Mr. Plimpton, cheerfully. "The people can't
govern themselves,--only Bedloe doesn't know it. Some day he'll find it
out." . . .

The French window beside him was open, and Hodder slipped out, unnoticed,
into the warm night and stood staring at the darkness. His one desire
had been to get away, out of hearing, and he pressed forward over the
tiled pavement until he stumbled against a stone balustrade that guarded
a drop of five feet or so to the lawn below. At the same time he heard
his name called.

"Is that you, Mr. Hodder?"

He started. The voice had a wistful tremulousness, and might almost
have been the echo of the leaves stirring in the night air. Then he
perceived, in a shaft of light from one of the drawing-room windows near
by, a girl standing beside the balustrade; and as she came towards him,
with tentative steps, the light played conjurer, catching the silvery
gauze of her dress and striking an aura through the film of her hair.

"It's Nan Ferguson," she said.

"Of course," he exclaimed, collecting himself. "How stupid of me not to
have recognized you!"

"I'm so glad you came out," she went on impulsively, yet shyly, "I wanted
to tell you how sorry I was that that thing happened at the table."

"I like that young man," he said.

"Do you?" she exclaimed, with unexpected gratitude. So do I. He really
isn't--so bad as he must seem."

"I'm sure of it," said the rector, laughing.

"I was afraid you'd think him wicked," said Nan. "He works awfully hard,
and he's sending a brother through college. He isn't a bit like--some
others I know. He wants to make something of himself. And I feel
responsible, because I had mother ask him to-night."

He read her secret. No doubt she meant him to do so.

"You know we're going away next week, for the summer--that is, mother and
I," she continued. "Father comes later. And I do hope you'll make us
a visit, Mr. Hodder--we were disappointed you couldn't come last year."
Nan hesitated, and thrusting her hand into her gown drew forth an
envelope and held it out to him. "I intended to give you this to-night,
to use--for anything you thought best."

He took it gravely. She looked up at him.

"It seems so little--such a selfish way of discharging one's obligations,
just to write out a cheque, when there is so much trouble in the world
that demands human kindness as well as material help. I drove up Dalton
Street yesterday, from downtown. You know how hot it was! And I
couldn't help thinking how terrible it is that we who have everything
are so heedless of all that misery. The thought of it took away all
my pleasure.

"I'd do something more, something personal, if I could. Perhaps I shall
be able to, next winter. Why is it so difficult for all of us to know
what to do?"

"We have taken a step forward, at any rate, when we know that it is
difficult," he said.

She gazed up at him fixedly, her attention caught by an indefinable
something in his voice, in his smile, that thrilled and vaguely disturbed
her. She remembered it long afterwards. It suddenly made her shy again;
as if, in faring forth into the darkness, she had come to the threshold
of a mystery, of a revelation withheld; and it brought back the sense of
adventure, of the palpitating fear and daring with which she had come to
meet him.

"It is something to know," she repeated, half comprehending. The
scraping of chairs within alarmed her, and she stood ready to fly.

"But I haven't thanked you for this," he said, holding up the envelope.
"It may be that I shall find some one in Dalton Street--"

"Oh, I hope so," she faltered, breathlessly, hesitating a moment. And
then she was gone, into the house.





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