CHAPTER SIX: The Rival Churches of St. Asaph and St. Osoph
The church of St. Asaph, more properly call St. Asaph’s in the Fields, stands among the elm trees of Plutoria Avenue opposite the university, its tall spire pointing to the blue sky. Its rector is fond of saying that it seems to him to point, as it were, a warning against the sins of a commercial age. More particularly does he say this in his Lenten services at noonday, when the businessmen sit in front of him in rows, their bald heads uncovered and their faces stamped with contrition as they think of mergers that they should have made, and real estate that they failed to buy for lack of faith.
The ground on which St. Asaph’s stands is worth seven dollars and a half a foot. The mortgagees, as they kneel in prayer in their long frock-coats, feel that they have built upon a rock. It is a beautifully appointed church. There are windows with priceless stained glass that were imported from Normandy, the rector himself swearing out the invoices to save the congregation the grievous burden of the customs duty. There is a pipe organ in the transept that cost ten thousand dollars to install. The debenture-holders, as they join in the morning anthem, love to hear the dulcet notes of the great organ and to reflect that it is as good as new. Just behind the church is St. Asaph’s Sunday School, with a ten-thousand dollar mortgage of its own. And below that again on the side street, is the building of the Young Men’s Guild with a bowling-alley and a swimming-bath deep enough to drown two young men at a time, and a billiard-room with seven tables. It is the rector’s boast that with a Guild House such as that there is no need for any young man of the congregation to frequent a saloon. Nor is there.
And on Sunday mornings, when the great organ plays, and the mortgagees and the bond-holders and the debenture-holders and the Sunday school teachers and the billiard-markers all lift up their voices together, there is emitted from St. Asaph’s a volume of praise that is practically as fine and effective as paid professional work.
St. Asaph’s is episcopal. As a consequence it has in it and about it all those things which go to make up the episcopal church–brass tablets let into its walls, blackbirds singing in its elm trees, parishioners who dine at eight o’clock, and a rector who wears a little crucifix and dances the tango.
On the other hand, there stands upon the same street, not a hundred yards away, the rival church of St. Osoph–presbyterian down to its very foundations in bed-rock, thirty feet below the level of the avenue. It has a short, squat tower–and a low roof, and its narrow windows are glazed with frosted glass. It has dark spruce trees instead of elms, crows instead of blackbirds, and a gloomy minister with a shovel hat who lectures on philosophy on week-days at the university. He loves to think that his congregation are made of the lowly and the meek in spirit, and to reflect that, lowly and meek as they are, there are men among them that could buy out half the congregation of St. Asaph’s.
St. Osoph’s is only presbyterian in a special sense. It is, in fact, too presbyterian to be any longer connected with any other body whatsoever. It seceded some forty years ago from the original body to which it belonged, and later on, with three other churches, it seceded from the group of seceding congregations. Still later it fell into a difference with the three other churches on the question of eternal punishment, the word “eternal” not appearing to the elders of St. Osoph’s to designate a sufficiently long period. The dispute ended in a secession which left the church of St. Osoph practically isolated in a world of sin whose approaching fate it neither denied nor deplored.
In one respect the rival churches of Plutoria Avenue had had a similar history. Each of them had moved up by successive stages from the lower and poorer parts of the city. Forty years ago St. Asaph’s had been nothing more than a little frame church with a tin spire, away in the west of the slums, and St. Osoph’s a square, diminutive building away in the east. But the site of St. Asaph’s had been bought by a brewing company, and the trustees, shrewd men of business, themselves rising into wealth, had rebuilt it right in the track of the advancing tide of a real estate boom. The elders of St. Osoph, quiet men, but illumined by an inner light, had followed suit and moved their church right against the side of an expanding distillery. Thus both the churches, as decade followed decade, made their way up the slope of the City till St. Asaph’s was presently gloriously expropriated by the street railway company, and planted its spire in triumph on Plutoria Avenue itself. But St. Osoph’s followed. With each change of site it moved nearer and nearer to St. Asaph’s. Its elders were shrewd men. With each move of their church they took careful thought in the rebuilding. In the manufacturing district it was built with sixteen windows on each side and was converted at a huge profit into a bicycle factory. On the residential street it was made long and deep and was sold to a moving-picture company without the alteration of so much as a pew. As a last step a syndicate, formed among the members of the congregation themselves, bought ground on Plutoria Avenue, and sublet it to themselves as a site for the church, at a nominal interest of five per cent per annum, payable nominally every three months and secured by a nominal mortgage.
As the two churches moved, their congregations, or at least all that was best of them–such members as were sharing in the rising fortunes of the City–moved also, and now for some six or seven years the two churches and the two congregations had confronted one another among the elm trees of the Avenue opposite to the university.
But at this point the fortunes of the churches had diverged. St. Asaph’s was a brilliant success; St. Osoph’s was a failure. Even its own trustees couldn’t deny it. At a time when St. Asaph’s was not only paying its interest but showing a handsome surplus on everything it undertook, the church of St. Osoph was moving steadily backwards.
There was no doubt, of course, as to the cause. Everybody knew it. It was simply a question of men, and, as everybody said, one had only to compare the two men conducting the churches to see why one succeeded and the other failed.
The Reverend Edward Fareforth Furlong of St. Asaph’s was a man who threw his whole energy into his parish work. The subtleties of theological controversy he left to minds less active than his own. His creed was one of works rather than of words, and whatever he was doing he did it with his whole heart. Whether he was lunching at the Mausoleum Club with one of his church wardens, or playing the flute–which he played as only the episcopal clergy can play it–accompanied on the harp by one of the fairest of the ladies of his choir, or whether he was dancing the new episcopal tango with the younger daughters of the elder parishioners, he threw himself into it with all his might. He could drink tea more gracefully and play tennis better than any clergyman on this side of the Atlantic. He could stand beside the white stone font of St. Asaph’s in his long white surplice holding a white-robed infant, worth half a million dollars, looking as beautifully innocent as the child itself, and drawing from every matron of the congregation with unmarried daughters the despairing cry, “What a pity that he has no children of his own!”
Equally sound was his theology. No man was known to preach shorter sermons or to explain away the book of Genesis more agreeably than the rector of St. Asaph’s; and if he found it necessary to refer to the Deity he did so under the name of Jehovah or Jah, or even Yaweh in a manner calculated not to hurt the sensitiveness of any of the parishioners. People who would shudder at brutal talk of the older fashion about the wrath of God listened with well-bred interest to a sermon on the personal characteristics of Jah. In the same way Mr. Furlong always referred to the devil, not as Satan but as Su or Swa, which took all the sting out of him. Beelzebub he spoke of as Behel-Zawbab, which rendered him perfectly harmless. The Garden of Eden he spoke of as the Paradeisos, which explained it entirely; the flood as the Diluvium, which cleared it up completely; and Jonah he named, after the correct fashion Jon Nah, which put the whole situation (his being swallowed by Baloo or the Great Lizard) on a perfectly satisfactory footing. Hell itself was spoken of as She-ol, and it appeared that it was not a place of burning, but rather of what one might describe as moral torment. This settled She-ol once and for all: nobody minds moral torment. In short, there was nothing in the theological system of Mr. Furlong that need have occasioned in any of his congregation a moment’s discomfort.
There could be no greater contrast with Mr. Fareforth Furlong than the minister of St. Osoph’s, the Rev. Dr. McTeague, who was also honorary professor of philosophy at the university. The one was young, the other was old; the one could dance the other could not; the one moved about at church picnics and lawn teas among a bevy of disciples in pink and blue sashes; the other moped around under the trees of the university campus with blinking eyes that saw nothing and an abstracted mind that had spent fifty years in trying to reconcile Hegel with St. Paul, and was still busy with it. Mr. Furlong went forward with the times; Dr. McTeague slid quietly backwards with the centuries.
Dr. McTeague was a failure, and all his congregation knew it. “He is not up to date,” they said. That was his crowning sin. “He don’t go forward any,” said the business members of the congregation. “That old man believes just exactly the same sort of stuff now that he did forty years ago. What’s more, he preaches it. You can’t run a church that way, can you?”
His trustees had done their best to meet the difficulty. They had offered Dr. McTeague a two-years’ vacation to go and see the Holy Land. He refused; he said he could picture it. They reduced his salary by fifty per cent; he never noticed it. They offered him an assistant; but he shook his head, saying that he didn’t know where he could find a man to do just the work that he was doing. Meantime he mooned about among the trees concocting a mixture of St. Paul with Hegel, three parts to one, for his Sunday sermon, and one part to three for his Monday lecture.
No doubt it was his dual function that was to blame for his failure. And this, perhaps, was the fault of Dr. Boomer, the president of the university. Dr. Boomer, like all university presidents of today, belonged to the presbyterian church; or rather, to state it more correctly, he included presbyterianism within himself. He was of course, a member of the board of management of St. Osoph’s and it was he who had urged, very strongly, the appointment of Dr. McTeague, then senior professor of philosophy, as minister.
“A saintly man,” he said, “the very man for the post. If you should ask me whether he is entirely at home as a professor of philosophy on our staff at the university, I should be compelled to say no. We are forced to admit that as a lecturer he does not meet our views. He appears to find it difficult to keep religion out of his teaching. In fact, his lectures are suffused with a rather dangerous attempt at moral teaching which is apt to contaminate our students. But in the Church I should imagine that would be, if anything, an advantage. Indeed, if you were to come to me and say, ‘Boomer, we wish to appoint Dr. McTeague as our minister,’ I should say, quite frankly, ‘Take him.'”
So Dr. McTeague had been appointed. Then, to the surprise of everybody he refused to give up his lectures in philosophy. He said he felt a call to give them. The salary, he said, was of no consequence. He wrote to Mr. Furlong senior (the father of the episcopal rector and honorary treasurer of the Plutoria University) and stated that he proposed to give his lectures for nothing. The trustees of the college protested; they urged that the case might set a dangerous precedent which other professors might follow. While fully admitting that Dr. McTeague’s lectures were well worth giving for nothing, they begged him to reconsider his offer. But he refused; and from that day on, in spite of all offers that he should retire on double his salary, that he should visit the Holy Land, or Syria, or Armenia, where the dreadful massacres of Christians were taking place, Dr. McTeague clung to his post with a tenacity worthy of the best traditions of Scotland. His only internal perplexity was that he didn’t see how, when the time came for him to die, twenty or thirty years hence, they would ever be able to replace him. Such was the situation of the two churches on a certain beautiful morning in June, when an unforeseen event altered entirely the current of their fortunes.
* * * * *
“No, thank you, Juliana,” said the young rector to his sister across the breakfast table–and there was something as near to bitterness in his look as his saintly, smooth-shaven face was capable of reflecting–“no, thank you, no more porridge. Prunes? no, no, thank you; I don’t think I care for any. And, by the way,” he added, “don’t bother to keep any lunch for me. I have a great deal of business–that is, of work in the parish–to see to, and I must just find time to get a bite of something to eat when and where I can.”
In his own mind he was resolving that the place should be the Mausoleum Club and the time just as soon as the head waiter would serve him.
After which the Reverend Edward Fareforth Furlong bowed his head for a moment in a short, silent blessing–the one prescribed by the episcopal church in America for a breakfast of porridge and prunes.
It was their first breakfast together, and it spoke volumes to the rector. He knew what it implied. It stood for his elder sister Juliana’s views on the need of personal sacrifice as a means of grace. The rector sighed as he rose. He had never missed his younger sister Philippa, now married and departed, so keenly. Philippa had had opinions of her own on bacon and eggs and on lamb chops with watercress as a means of stimulating the soul. But Juliana was different. The rector understood now exactly why it was that his father had exclaimed, on the news of Philippa’s engagement, without a second’s hesitation, “Then, of course, Juliana must live with you! Nonsense, my dear boy, nonsense! It’s my duty to spare her to you. After all, I can always eat at the club; they can give me a bite of something or other, surely. To a man of my age, Edward, food is really of no consequence. No, no; Juliana must move into the rectory at once.”
The rector’s elder sister rose. She looked tall and sallow and forbidding in the plain black dress that contrasted sadly with the charming clerical costumes of white and pink and the broad episcopal hats with flowers in them that Philippa used to wear for morning work in the parish.
“For what time shall I order dinner?” she asked. “You and Philippa used to have it at half-past seven, did you not? Don’t you think that rather too late?”
“A trifle perhaps,” said the rector uneasily. He didn’t care to explain to Juliana that it was impossible to get home any earlier from the kind of _the dansant_ that everybody was giving just now. “But don’t trouble about dinner. I may be working very late. If I need anything to eat I shall get a biscuit and some tea at the Guild Rooms, or–”
He didn’t finish the sentence, but in his mind he added, “or else a really first-class dinner at the Mausoleum Club, or at the Newberrys’ or the Rasselyer-Browns’–anywhere except here.”
“If you are going, then,” said Juliana, “may I have the key of the church.”
A look of pain passed over the rector’s face. He knew perfectly well what Juliana wanted the key for. She meant to go into his church and pray in it.
The rector of St. Asaph’s was, he trusted, as broad-minded a man as an Anglican clergyman ought to be. He had no objection to any reasonable use of his church–for a thanksgiving festival or for musical recitals for example–but when it came to opening up the church and using it to pray in, the thing was going a little too far. What was more, he had an idea from the look on Juliana’s face that she meant to pray for _him_. This, for a clergy man, was hard to bear. Philippa, like the good girl that she was, had prayed only for herself, and then only at the proper times and places, and in a proper praying costume. The rector began to realize what difficulties it might make for a clergyman to have a religious sister as his house-mate.
But he was never a man for unseemly argument. “It is hanging in my study,” he said.
And with that the Rev. Fareforth Furlong passed into the hall took up the simple silk hat, the stick and gloves of the working clergyman and walked out on to the avenue to begin his day’s work in the parish.
The rector’s parish viewed in its earthly aspect, was a singularly beautiful place. For it extended all along Plutoria Avenue, where the street is widest and the elm trees are at their leafiest and the motors at their very drowsiest. It lay up and down the shaded side streets of the residential district, darkened with great chestnuts and hushed in a stillness that was almost religion itself. There was not a house in the parish assessed at less than twenty-five thousand, and in very heart of it the Mausoleum Club, with its smooth white stone and its Grecian architecture, carried one back to the ancient world and made one think of Athens and of Paul preaching on Mars Hill. It was, all considered, a splendid thing to fight sin in such a parish and to keep it out of it. For kept out it was. One might look the length and breadth of the broad avenue and see no sign of sin all along it. There was certainly none in the smooth faces of the chauffeurs trundling their drowsy motors; no sign of it in the expensive children paraded by imported nursemaids in the chequered light of the shaded street; least of all was there any sign of it in the Stock Exchange members of the congregation as they walked along side by side to their lunch at the Mausoleum Club, their silk hats nodding together in earnest colloquy on Shares Preferred and Profits Undivided. So might have walked, so must have walked, the very Fathers of the Church themselves.
Whatever sin there was in the City was shoved sideways into the roaring streets of commerce where the elevated railway ran, and below that again into the slums. Here there must have been any quantity of sin. The rector of St. Asaph’s was certain of it. Many of the richer of his parishioners had been down in parties late at night to look at it, and the ladies of his congregation were joined together into all sorts of guilds and societies and bands of endeavour for stamping it out and driving it under or putting it into jail till it surrendered.
But the slums lay outside the rector’s parish. He had no right to interfere. They were under the charge of a special mission or auxiliary, a remnant of the St. Asaph’s of the past, placed under the care of a divinity student, at four hundred dollars per annum. His charge included all the slums and three police courts and two music halls and the City jail. One Sunday afternoon in every three months the rector and several ladies went down and sang hymns for him in his mission-house. But his work was really very easy. A funeral, for example, at the mission, was a simple affair, meaning nothing more than the preparation of a plain coffin and a glassless hearse and the distribution of a few artificial everlasting flowers to women crying in their aprons; a thing easily done: whereas in St. Asaph’s parish, where all the really important souls were, a funeral was a large event, requiring taste and tact, and a nice shading of delicacy in distinguishing mourners from beneficiaries, and private grief from business representation at the ceremony. A funeral with a plain coffin and a hearse was as nothing beside an interment, with a casket smothered in hot-house syringas, borne in a coach and followed by special reporters from the financial papers.
It appeared to the rector afterwards as almost a shocking coincidence that the first person whom he met upon the avenue should have been the Rev. Dr. McTeague himself. Mr. Furlong gave him the form of amiable “good morning” that the episcopal church always extends to those in error. But he did not hear it. The minister’s head was bent low, his eyes gazed into vacancy, and from the movements of his lips and from the fact that he carried a leather case of notes, he was plainly on his way to his philosophical lecture. But the rector had no time to muse upon the abstracted appearance of his rival. For, as always happened to him, he was no sooner upon the street than his parish work of the day began. In fact, he had hardly taken a dozen steps after passing Dr. McTeague when he was brought up standing by two beautiful parishioners with pink parasols.
“Oh, Mr. Furlong,” exclaimed one of them, “so fortunate to happen to catch you; we were just going into the rectory to consult you. Should the girls–for the lawn tea for the Guild on Friday, you know–wear white dresses with light blue sashes all the same, or do you think we might allow them to wear any coloured sashes that they like? What do you think?”
This was an important problem. In fact, there was a piece of parish work here that it took the Reverend Fareforth half an hour to attend to standing the while in earnest colloquy with the two ladies under the shadow of the elm trees. But a clergyman must never be grudging of his time.
“Goodbye then,” they said at last. “Are you coming to the Browning Club this morning? Oh, so sorry! but we shall see you at the musicale this afternoon, shall we not?”
“Oh, I trust so,” said the rector.
“How dreadfully hard he works,” said the ladies to one another as they moved away.
Thus slowly and with many interruptions the rector made his progress along the avenue. At times he stopped to permit a pink-cheeked infant in a perambulator to beat him with a rattle while he inquired its age of an episcopal nurse, gay with flowing ribbons. He lifted his hat to the bright parasols of his parishioners passing in glistening motors, bowed to episcopalians, nodded amiably to presbyterians, and even acknowledged with his lifted hat the passing of persons of graver forms of error.
Thus he took his way along the avenue and down a side street towards the business district of the City, until just at the edge of it, where the trees were about to stop and the shops were about to begin, he found himself at the door of the Hymnal Supply Corporation, Limited. The premises as seen from the outside combined the idea of an office with an ecclesiastical appearance. The door was as that of a chancel or vestry; there was a large plate-glass window filled with Bibles and Testaments, all spread open and showing every variety of language in their pages. These were marked, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Ojibway, Irish and so forth. On the window in small white lettering were the words, HYMNAL SUPPLY CORPORATION, and below that, HOSANNA PIPE AND STEAM ORGAN INCORPORATED, and Still lower the legend BIBLE SOCIETY OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD LIMITED.
There was no doubt of the sacred character of the place. Here laboured Mr. Furlong senior, the father of the Rev. Edward Fareforth. He was a man of many activities; president and managing director of the companies just mentioned, trustee and secretary of St. Asaph’s, honorary treasurer of the university, etc.; and each of his occupations and offices was marked by something of a supramundane character, something higher than ordinary business. His different official positions naturally overlapped and brought him into contact with himself from a variety of angles. Thus he sold himself hymn books at a price per thousand, made as a business favour to himself, negotiated with himself the purchase of the ten-thousand-dollar organ (making a price on it to himself that he begged himself to regard as confidential), and as treasurer of the college he sent himself an informal note of enquiry asking if he knew of any sound investment for the annual deficit of the college funds, a matter of some sixty thousand dollars a year, which needed very careful handling. Any man–and there are many such–who has been concerned with business dealings of this sort with himself realizes that they are more satisfactory than any other kind.
To what better person, then, could the rector of St. Asaph’s bring the quarterly accounts and statements of his church than to Mr. Furlong senior.
The outer door was opened to the rector by a sanctified boy with such a face as is only found in the choirs of the episcopal church. In an outer office through which the rector passed were two sacred stenographers with hair as golden as the daffodils of Sheba, copying confidential letters on absolutely noiseless typewriters. They were making offers of Bibles in half-car-load lots at two and a half per cent reduction, offering to reduce St. Mark by two cents on condition of immediate export, and to lay down St. John f.o.b. San Francisco for seven cents, while regretting that they could deliver fifteen thousand Rock of Ages in Missouri on no other terms than cash.
The sacred character of their work lent them a preoccupation beautiful to behold.
In the room beyond them was a white-haired confidential clerk, venerable as the Song of Solomon, and by him Mr. Fareforth Furlong was duly shown into the office of his father.
“Good morning, Edward,” said Mr. Furlong senior, as he shook hands. “I was expecting you. And while I think of it, I have just had a letter from Philippa. She and Tom will be home in two or three weeks. She writes from Egypt. She wishes me to tell you, as no doubt you have already anticipated, that she thinks she can hardly continue to be a member of the congregation when they come back. No doubt you felt this yourself?”
“Oh, entirely,” said the rector. “Surely in matters of belief a wife must follow her husband.”
“Exactly; especially as Tom’s uncles occupy the position they do with regard to–” Mr. Furlong jerked his head backwards and pointed with his thumb over his shoulder in a way that his son knew was meant to indicate St. Osoph’s Church.
The Overend brothers, who were Tom’s uncles (his name being Tom Overend) were, as everybody knew, among the principal supporters of St. Osoph’s. Not that they were, by origin, presbyterians. But they were self-made men, which put them once and for all out of sympathy with such a place as St. Asaph’s. “We made ourselves,” the two brothers used to repeat in defiance of the catechism of the Anglican Church. They never wearied of explaining how Mr. Dick, the senior brother, had worked overtime by day to send Mr. George, the junior brother, to school by night, and how Mr. George had then worked overtime by night to send Mr. Dick to school by day. Thus they had come up the business ladder hand over hand, landing later on in life on the platform of success like two corpulent acrobats, panting with the strain of it. “For years,” Mr. George would explain, “we had father and mother to keep as well; then they died, and Dick and me saw daylight.” By which he meant no harm at all, but only stated a fact, and concealed the virtue of it.
And being self-made men they made it a point to do what they could to lessen the importance of such an institution as St. Asaph’s Church. By the same contrariety of nature the two Overend brothers (their business name was Overend Brothers, Limited) were supporters of the dissentient Young Men’s Guild, and the second or rival University Settlement, and of anything or everything that showed a likelihood of making trouble. On this principle they were warm supporters and friends of the Rev. Dr. McTeague. The minister had even gone so far as to present to the brothers a copy of his philosophical work “McTeague’s Exposition of the Kantian Hypothesis.” and the two brothers had read it through in the office, devoting each of them a whole morning to it. Mr. Dick, the senior brother, had said that he had never seen anything like it, and Mr. George, the junior, had declared that a man who could write that was capable of anything.
On the whole it was evident that the relations between the Overend family and the presbyterian religion were too intimate to allow Mrs. Tom Overend, formerly Miss Philippa Furlong, to sit anywhere else of a Sunday than under Dr. McTeague.
“Philippa writes,” continued Mr. Furlong “that under the circumstances she and Tom would like to do something for your church. She would like–yes, I have the letter here–to give you, as a surprise, of course, either a new font or a carved pulpit; or perhaps a cheque; she wishes me on no account to mention it to you directly, but to ascertain indirectly from you, what would be the better surprise.”
“Oh, a cheque, I think,” said the rector; “one can do so much more with it, after all.”
“Precisely,” said his father; he was well aware of many things that can be done with a cheque that cannot possibly be done with a font.
“That’s settled then,” resumed Mr. Furlong; “and now I suppose you want me to run my eye over your quarterly statements, do you not, before we send them in to the trustees? That is what you’ve come for, is it not?”
“Yes,” said the rector, drawing a bundle of blue and white papers from his pocket. “I have everything with me. Our showing is, I believe, excellent, though I fear I fail to present it as clearly as it might be done.”
Mr. Furlong senior spread the papers on the table before him and adjusted his spectacles to a more convenient angle. He smiled indulgently as he looked at the documents before him.
“I am afraid you would never make an accountant, Edward,” he said.
“I fear not,” said the rector.
“Your items,” said his father, “are entered wrongly. Here, for example, in the general statement, you put down Distribution of Coals to the Poor to your credit. In the same way, Bibles and Prizes to the Sunday School you again mark to your credit. Why? Don’t you see, my boy, that these things are debits? When you give out Bibles or distribute fuel to the poor you give out something for which you get no return. It is a debit. On the other hand, such items as Church Offertory, Scholars’ Pennies, etc., are pure profit. Surely the principle is clear.”
“I think I see it better now,” said the Rev. Edward.
“Perfectly plain, isn’t it?” his father went on. “And here again. Paupers’ Burial Fund, a loss; enter it as such. Christmas Gift to Verger and Sexton, an absolute loss–you get nothing in return. Widows’ Mite, Fines inflicted in Sunday School, etc., these are profit; write them down as such. By this method, you see, in ordinary business we can tell exactly where we stand: anything which we give out without return or reward we count as a debit; all that we take from others without giving in return we count as so much to our credit.”
“Ah, yes,” murmured the rector. “I begin to understand.”
“Very good. But after all, Edward, I mustn’t quarrel with the mere form of your accounts; the statement is really a splendid showing. I see that not only is our mortgage and debenture interest all paid to date, but that a number of our enterprises are making a handsome return. I notice, for example, that the Girls’ Friendly Society of the church not only pays for itself, but that you are able to take something out of its funds and transfer it to the Men’s Book Club. Excellent! And I observe that you have been able to take a large portion of the Soup Kitchen Fund and put it into the Rector’s Picnic Account. Very good indeed. In this respect your figures are a model for church accounts anywhere.”
Mr. Furlong continued his scrutiny of the accounts. “Excellent,” he murmured, “and on the whole an annual surplus, I see, of several thousands. But stop a bit,” he continued, checking himself; “what’s this? Are you aware, Edward, that you are losing money on your Foreign Missions Account?”
“I feared as much,” said Edward.
“It’s incontestable. Look at the figures for yourself: missionary’s salary so much, clothes and books to converts so much, voluntary and other offerings of converts so much why, you’re losing on it, Edward!” exclaimed Mr. Furlong, and he shook his head dubiously at the accounts before him.
“I thought,” protested his son, “that in view of the character of the work itself–”
“Quite so,” answered his father, “quite so. I fully admit the force of that. I am only asking you, is it worth it? Mind you, I am not speaking now as a Christian, but as a businessman. Is it worth it?”
“I thought that perhaps, in view of the fact of our large surplus in other directions–”
“Exactly,” said his father, “a heavy surplus. It is precisely on that point that I wished to speak to you this morning. You have at present a large annual surplus, and there is every prospect under Providence–in fact, I think in any case–of it continuing for years to come. If I may speak very frankly I should say that as long as our reverend friend, Dr. McTeague, continues in his charge of St. Osoph’s–and I trust that he may be spared for many years to come–you are likely to enjoy the present prosperity of your church. Very good. The question arises, what disposition are we to make of our accumulating funds?”
“Yes,” said the rector, hesitating.
“I am speaking to you now,” said his father “not as the secretary of your church, but as president of the Hymnal Supply Company which I represent here. Now please understand, Edward, I don’t want in any way to force or control your judgment. I merely wish to show you certain–shall I say certain opportunities that present themselves for the disposal of our funds? The matter can be taken up later, formally, by yourself and the trustees of the church. As a matter of fact, I have already written to myself as secretary in the matter, and I have received what I consider a quite encouraging answer. Let me explain what I propose.”
Mr. Furlong senior rose, and opening the door of the office,
“Everett,” he said to the ancient clerk, “kindly give me a Bible.”
It was given to him.
Mr. Furlong stood with the Bible poised in his hand.
“Now we,” he went on, “I mean the Hymnal Supply Corporation, have an idea for bringing out an entirely new Bible.”
A look of dismay appeared on the saintly face of the rector.
“A new Bible!” he gasped.
“Precisely!” said his father, “a new Bible! This one–and we find it every day in our business–is all wrong.”
“All wrong!” said the rector with horror in his face.
“My dear boy,” exclaimed his father, “pray, pray, do not misunderstand me. Don’t imagine for a moment that I mean wrong in a religious sense. Such a thought could never, I hope, enter my mind. All that I mean is that this Bible is badly made up.”
“Badly made up?” repeated his son, as mystified as ever.
“I see that you do not understand me. What I mean is this. Let me try to make myself quite clear. For the market of today this Bible”–and he poised it again on his hand, as if to test its weight, “is too heavy. The people of today want something lighter, something easier to get hold of. Now if–”
But what Mr. Furlong was about to say was lost forever to the world.
For just at this juncture something occurred calculated to divert not only Mr. Furlong’s sentence, but the fortunes and the surplus of St. Asaph’s itself. At the very moment when Mr. Furlong was speaking a newspaper delivery man in the street outside handed to the sanctified boy the office copy of the noonday paper. And the boy had no sooner looked at its headlines than he said, “How dreadful!” Being sanctified, he had no stronger form of speech than that. But he handed the paper forthwith to one of the stenographers with hair like the daffodils of Sheba, and when she looked at it she exclaimed, “How awful!” And she knocked at once at the door of the ancient clerk and gave the paper to him; and when he looked at it and saw the headline the ancient clerk murmured, “Ah!” in the gentle tone in which very old people greet the news of catastrophe or sudden death.
But in his turn he opened Mr. Furlong’s door and put down the paper, laying his finger on the column for a moment without a word.
Mr. Furlong stopped short in his sentence. “Dear me!” he said as his eyes caught the item of news. “How very dreadful!”
“What is it?” said the rector.
“Dr. McTeague,” answered his father. “He has been stricken with paralysis!”
“How shocking!” said the rector, aghast. “But when? I saw him only this morning.”
“It has just happened,” said his father, following down the column of the newspaper as he spoke, “this morning, at the university, in his classroom, at a lecture. Dear me, how dreadful! I must go and see the president at once.”
Mr. Furlong was about to reach for his hat and stick when at that moment the aged clerk knocked at the door.
“Dr. Boomer,” he announced in a tone of solemnity suited to the occasion.
Dr. Boomer entered, shook hands in silence and sat down.
“You have heard our sad news, I suppose?” he said. He used the word “our” as between the university president and his honorary treasurer.
“How did it happen?” asked Mr. Furlong.
“Most distressing,” said the president. “Dr. McTeague, it seems, had just entered his ten o’clock class (the hour was about ten-twenty) and was about to open his lecture, when one of his students rose in his seat and asked a question. It is a practice,” continued Dr. Boomer, “which, I need hardly say, we do not encourage; the young man, I believe, was a newcomer in the philosophy class. At any rate, he asked Dr. McTeague, quite suddenly it appears; how he could reconcile his theory of transcendental immaterialism with a scheme of rigid moral determinism. Dr. McTeague stared for a moment, his mouth, so the class assert, painfully open. The student repeated the question, and poor McTeague fell forward over his desk, paralysed.”
“Is he dead?” gasped Mr. Furlong.
“No,” said the president. “But we expect his death at any moment. Dr. Slyder, I may say, is with him now and is doing all he can.”
“In any case, I suppose, he could hardly recover enough to continue his college duties,” said the young rector.
“Out of the question,” said the president. “I should not like to state that of itself mere paralysis need incapacitate a professor. Dr. Thrum, our professor of the theory of music, is, as you know, paralysed in his ears, and Mr. Slant, our professor of optics, is paralysed in his right eye. But this is a case of paralysis of the brain. I fear it is incompatible with professorial work.”
“Then, I suppose,” said Mr. Furlong senior, “we shall have to think of the question of a successor.”
They had both _been_ thinking of it for at least three minutes. “We must,” said the president. “For the moment I feel too stunned by the sad news to act. I have merely telegraphed to two or three leading colleges for a _locum tenens_ and sent out a few advertisements announcing the chair as vacant. But it will be difficult to replace McTeague. He was a man,” added Dr. Boomer, rehearsing in advance, unconsciously, no doubt, his forthcoming oration over Dr. McTeague’s death, “of a singular grasp, a breadth of culture, and he was able, as few men are, to instil what I might call a spirit of religion into his teaching. His lectures, indeed, were suffused with moral instruction, and exercised over his students an influence second only to that of the pulpit itself.”
“Ah yes, the pulpit,” said Mr. Furlong, “there indeed you will miss him.”
“That,” said Dr. Boomer very reverently, “is our real loss, deep, irreparable. I suppose, indeed I am certain, we shall never again see such a man in the pulpit of St. Osoph’s. Which reminds me,” he added more briskly, “I must ask the newspaper people to let it be known that there will be service as usual the day after tomorrow, and that Dr. McTeague’s death will, of course, make no difference–that is to say–I must see the newspaper people at once.”
* * * * *
That afternoon all the newspaper editors in the City were busy getting their obituary notices ready for the demise of Dr. McTeague.
“The death of Dr. McTeague,” wrote the editor of the _Commercial and Financial Undertone_, a paper which had almost openly advocated the minister’s dismissal for five years back, “comes upon us as an irreparable loss. His place will be difficult, nay, impossible, to fill. Whether as a philosopher or a divine he cannot be replaced.”
“We have no hesitation in saying,” so wrote the editor of the _Plutorian Times_, a three-cent morning paper, which was able to take a broad or three-cent point of view of men and things, “that the loss of Dr. McTeague will be just as much felt in Europe as in America. To Germany the news that the hand that penned ‘McTeague’s Shorter Exposition of the Kantian Hypothesis’ has ceased to write will come with the shock of poignant anguish; while to France–”
The editor left the article unfinished at that point. After all, he was a ready writer, and he reflected that there would be time enough before actually going to press to consider from what particular angle the blow of McTeague’s death would strike down the people of France.
So ran in speech and in writing, during two or three days, the requiem of Dr. McTeague.
Altogether there were more kind things said of him in the three days during which he was taken for dead, than in thirty years of his life–which seemed a pity.
And after it all, at the close of the third day, Dr. McTeague feebly opened his eyes.
But when he opened them the world had already passed on, and left him behind.