CHAPTER SEVEN: The Ministrations of the Rev. Uttermust Dumfarthing
“Well, then, gentlemen, I think we have all agreed upon our man?”
Mr. Dick Overend looked around the table as he spoke at the managing trustees of St. Osoph’s church. They were assembled in an upper committee room of the Mausoleum Club. Their official place of meeting was in a board room off the vestry of the church. But they had felt a draught in it, some four years ago, which had wafted them over to the club as their place of assembly. In the club there were no draughts.
Mr. Dick Overend sat at the head of the table, his brother George beside him, and Dr. Boomer at the foot. Beside them were Mr. Boulder, Mr. Skinyer (of Skinyer and Beatem) and the rest of the trustees.
“You are agreed, then, on the Reverend Uttermust Dumfarthing?”
“Quite agreed,” murmured several trustees together.
“A most remarkable man,” said Dr. Boomer. “I heard him preach in his present church. He gave utterance to thoughts that I have myself been thinking for years. I never listened to anything so sound or so scholarly.”
“I heard him the night he preached in New York,” said Mr. Boulder. “He preached a sermon to the poor. He told them they were no good. I never heard, outside of a Scotch pulpit, such splendid invective.”
“Is he Scotch?” said one of the trustees.
“Of Scotch parentage,” said the university president. “I believe he is one of the Dumfarthings of Dunfermline, Dumfries.”
Everybody said “Oh,” and there was a pause.
“Is he married?” asked one of the trustees. “I understand,” answered Dr. Boomer, “that he is a widower with one child, a little girl.”
“Does he make any conditions?”
“None whatever,” said the chairman, consulting a letter before him, “except that he is to have absolute control, and in regard to salary. These two points settled, he says, he places himself entirely in our hands.”
“And the salary?” asked someone.
“Ten thousand dollars,” said the chairman, “payable quarterly in advance.”
A chorus of approval went round the table. “Good,” “Excellent,” “A first-class man,” muttered the trustees, “just what we want.”
“I am sure, gentlemen,” said Mr. Dick Overend, voicing the sentiments of everybody, “we do _not_ want a cheap man. Several of the candidates whose names have been under consideration here have been in many respects–in point of religious qualification, let us say–most desirable men. The name of Dr. McSkwirt, for example, has been mentioned with great favour by several of the trustees. But he’s a cheap man. I feel we don’t want him.”
“What is Mr. Dumfarthing getting where he is?” asked Mr. Boulder.
“Nine thousand nine hundred,” said the chairman.
“And Dr. McSkwirt?”
“Fourteen hundred dollars.”
“Well, that settles it!” exclaimed everybody with a burst of enlightenment.
And so it was settled.
In fact, nothing could have been plainer.
“I suppose,” said Mr. George Overend as they were about to rise, “that we are quite justified in taking it for granted that Dr. McTeague will never be able to resume work?”
“Oh, absolutely for granted,” said Dr. Boomer. “Poor McTeague! I hear from Slyder that he was making desperate efforts this morning to sit up in bed. His nurse with difficulty prevented him.”
“Is his power of speech gone?” asked Mr. Boulder.
“Practically so; in any case, Dr. Slyder insists on his not using it. In fact, poor McTeague’s mind is a wreck. His nurse was telling me that this morning he was reaching out his hand for the newspaper, and seemed to want to read one of the editorials. It was quite pathetic,” concluded Dr. Boomer, shaking his head.
So the whole matter was settled, and next day all the town knew that St. Osoph’s Church had extended a call to the Rev. Uttermust Dumfarthing, and that he had accepted it.
* * * * *
Within a few weeks of this date the Reverend Uttermust Dumfarthing moved into the manse of St. Osoph’s and assumed his charge. And forthwith he became the sole topic of conversation on Plutoria Avenue. “Have you seen the new minister of St. Osoph’s?” everybody asked. “Have you been to hear Dr. Dumfarthing?” “Were you at St. Osoph’s Church on Sunday morning? Ah, you really should go! most striking sermon I ever listened to.”
The effect of him was absolute and instantaneous; there was no doubt of it.
“My dear,” said Mrs. Buncomhearst to one of her friends, in describing how she had met him, “I never saw a more striking man. Such power in his face! Mr. Boulder introduced him to me on the avenue, and he hardly seemed to see me at all, simply scowled! I was never so favourably impressed with any man.”
On his very first Sunday he preached to his congregation on eternal punishment, leaning forward in his black gown and shaking his fist at them. Dr. McTeague had never shaken his fist in thirty years, and as for the Rev. Fareforth Furlong, he was incapable of it.
But the Rev. Uttermust Dumfarthing told his congregation that he was convinced that at least seventy per cent of them were destined for eternal punishment; and he didn’t call it by that name, but labelled it simply and forcibly “hell.” The word had not been heard in any church in the better part of the City for a generation. The congregation was so swelled next Sunday that the minister raised the percentage to eighty-five, and everybody went away delighted. Young and old flocked to St. Osoph’s. Before a month had passed the congregation at the evening service at St. Asaph’s Church was so slender that the offertory, as Mr. Furlong senior himself calculated, was scarcely sufficient to pay the overhead charge of collecting it.
The presence of so many young men sitting in serried files close to the front was the only feature of his congregation that extorted from the Rev. Mr. Dumfarthing something like approval.
“It is a joy to me to see,” he remarked to several of his trustees, “that there are in the City so many godly young men, whatever the elders may be.”
But there may have been a secondary cause at work, for among the godly young men of Plutoria Avenue the topic of conversation had not been, “Have you heard the new presbyterian minister?” but, “Have you seen his daughter? You haven’t? Well, say!”
For it turned out that the “child” of Dr. Uttermust Dumfarthing, so-called by the trustees, was the kind of child that wears a little round hat, straight from Paris, with an upright feather in it, and a silk dress in four sections, and shoes with high heels that would have broken the heart of John Calvin. Moreover, she had the distinction of being the only person on Plutoria Avenue who was not one whit afraid of the Reverend Uttermust Dumfarthing. She even amused herself, in violation of all rules, by attending evening service at St. Asaph’s, where she sat listening to the Reverend Edward, and feeling that she had never heard anything so sensible in her life.
“I’m simply dying to meet your brother,” she said to Mrs. Tom Overend, otherwise Philippa; “he’s such a complete contrast with father.” She knew no higher form of praise: “Father’s sermons are always so frightfully full of religion.”
And Philippa promised that meet him she should.
But whatever may have been the effect of the presence of Catherine Dumfarthing, there is no doubt the greater part of the changed situation was due to Dr. Dumfarthing himself.
Everything he did was calculated to please. He preached sermons to the rich and told them they were mere cobwebs, and they liked it; he preached a special sermon to the poor and warned them to be mighty careful; he gave a series of weekly talks to workingmen, and knocked them sideways; and in the Sunday School he gave the children so fierce a talk on charity and the need of giving freely and quickly, that such a stream of pennies and nickels poured into Catherine Dumfarthing’s Sunday School Fund as hadn’t been seen in the church in fifty years.
Nor was Mr. Dumfarthing different in his private walk of life. He was heard to speak openly of the Overend brothers as “men of wrath,” and they were so pleased that they repeated it to half the town. It was the best business advertisement they had had for years.
Dr. Boomer was captivated with the man. “True scholarship,” he murmured, as Dr. Dumfarthing poured undiluted Greek and Hebrew from the pulpit, scorning to translate a word of it. Under Dr. Boomer’s charge the minister was taken over the length and breadth of Plutoria University, and reviled it from the foundations up.
“Our library,” said the president, “two hundred thousand volumes!”
“Aye,” said the minister, “a powerful heap of rubbish, I’ll be bound!”
“The photograph of our last year’s graduating class,” said the president.
“A poor lot, to judge by the faces of them,” said the minister.
“This, Dr. Dumfarthing, is our new radiographic laboratory; Mr. Spiff, our demonstrator, is preparing slides which, I believe, actually show the movements of the atom itself, do they not, Mr. Spiff?”
“Ah,” said the minister, piercing Mr. Spiff from beneath his dark brows, “it will not avail you, young man.”
Dr. Boomer was delighted. “Poor McTeague,” he said–“and by the way, Boyster, I hear that McTeague is trying to walk again; a great error, it shouldn’t be allowed!–poor McTeague knew nothing of science.”
The students themselves shared in the enthusiasm, especially after Dr. Dumfarthing had given them a Sunday afternoon talk in which he showed that their studies were absolutely futile. As soon as they knew this they went to work with a vigour that put new life into the college.
* * * * *
Meantime the handsome face of the Reverend Edward Fareforth Furlong began to wear a sad and weary look that had never been seen on it before. He watched the congregation drifting from St. Asaph’s to St. Osoph’s and was powerless to prevent it. His sadness reached its climax one bright afternoon in the late summer, when he noticed that even his episcopal blackbirds were leaving his elms and moving westward to the spruce trees of the manse.
He stood looking at them with melancholy on his face. “Why, Edward,” cried his sister, Philippa, as her motor stopped beside him, “how doleful you look! Get into the car and come out into the country for a ride. Let the parish teas look after themselves for today.”
Tom, Philippa’s husband, was driving his own car–he was rich enough to be able to–and seated with Philippa in the car was an unknown person, as prettily dressed as Philippa herself. To the rector she was presently introduced as Miss Catherine Something–he didn’t hear the rest of it. Nor did he need to. It was quite plain that her surname, whatever it was, was a very temporary and transitory affair.
So they sped rapidly out of the City and away out into the country, mile after mile, through cool, crisp air, and among woods with the touch of autumn bright already upon them, and with blue sky and great still clouds white overhead. And the afternoon was so beautiful and so bright that as they went along there was no talk about religion at all! nor was there any mention of Mothers’ Auxiliaries, or Girls’ Friendly Societies, nor any discussion of the poor. It was too glorious a day. But they spoke instead of the new dances, and whether they had come to stay, and of such sensible topics as that. Then presently, as they went on still further, Philippa leaned forwards and talked to Tom over his shoulder and reminded him that this was the very road to Castel Casteggio, and asked him if he remembered coming up it with her to join the Newberry’s ever so long ago. Whatever it was that Tom answered it is not recorded, but it is certain that it took so long in the saying that the Reverend Edward talked in tete-a-tete with Catherine for fifteen measured miles, and was unaware that it was more than five minutes. Among other things he said, and she agreed–or she said and he agreed–that for the new dances it was necessary to have always one and the same partner, and to keep that partner all the time. And somehow simple sentiments of that sort, when said direct into a pair of listening blue eyes behind a purple motor veil, acquire an infinite significance.
Then, not much after that, say three or four minutes, they were all of a sudden back in town again, running along Plutoria Avenue, and to the rector’s surprise the motor was stopping outside the manse, and Catherine was saying, “Oh, thank you ever so much, Philippa; it was just heavenly!” which showed that the afternoon had had its religious features after all. “What!” said the rector’s sister, as they moved off again, “didn’t you know? That’s Catherine Dumfarthing!”
* * * * *
When the Rev. Fareforth Furlong arrived home at the rectory he spent an hour or so in the deepest of deep thought in an armchair in his study. Nor was it any ordinary parish problem that he was revolving in his mind. He was trying to think out some means by which his sister Juliana might be induced to commit the sin of calling on the daughter of a presbyterian minister.
The thing had to be represented as in some fashion or other an act of self-denial, a form of mortification of the flesh. Otherwise he knew Juliana would never do it. But to call on Miss Catherine Dumfarthing seemed to him such an altogether delightful and unspeakably blissful process that he hardly knew how to approach the topic. So when Juliana presently came home the rector could find no better way of introducing the subject than by putting it on the ground of Philippa’s marriage to Miss Dumfarthing’s father’s trustee’s nephew.
“Juliana,” he said, “don’t you think that perhaps, on account of Philippa and Tom, you ought–or at least it might be best for you to call on Miss Dumfarthing?”
Juliana turned to her brother as he laid aside her bonnet and her black gloves.
“I’ve just been there this afternoon,” she said.
There was something as near to a blush on her face as her brother had ever seen.
“But she was not there!” he said.
“No,” answered Juliana, “but Mr. Dumfarthing was. I stayed and talked some time with him, waiting for her.”
The rector gave a sort of whistle, or rather that blowing out of air which is the episcopal symbol for it.
“Didn’t you find him pretty solemn?” he said.
“Solemn!” answered his sister. “Surely, Edward, a man in such a calling as his ought to be solemn.”
“I don’t mean that exactly,” said the rector; “I mean–er–hard, bitter, so to speak.”
“Edward!” exclaimed Juliana, “how can you speak so. Mr. Dumfarthing hard! Mr. Dumfarthing bitter! Why, Edward, the man is gentleness and kindness itself. I don’t think I ever met anyone so full of sympathy, of compassion with suffering.”
Juliana’s face had flushed It was quite plain that she saw things in the Reverend Uttermust Dumfarthing–as some one woman does in every man–that no one else could see.
The Reverend Edward was abashed. “I wasn’t thinking of his character,” he said. “I was thinking rather of his doctrines. Wait till you have heard him preach.”
Juliana flushed more deeply still. “I heard him last Sunday evening,” she said.
The rector was silent, and his sister, as if impelled to speak, went on,
“And I don’t see, Edward, how anyone could think him a hard or bigoted man in his creed. He walked home with me to the gate just now, and he was speaking of all the sin in the world, and of how few, how very few people, can be saved, and how many will have to be burned as worthless; and he spoke so beautifully. He regrets it, Edward, regrets it deeply. It is a real grief to him.”
On which Juliana, half in anger, withdrew, and her brother the rector sat back in his chair with smiles rippling all over his saintly face. For he had been wondering whether it would be possible, even remotely possible, to get his sister to invite the Dumfarthings to high tea at the rectory some day at six o’clock (evening dinner was out of the question), and now he knew within himself that the thing was as good as done.
* * * * *
While such things as these were happening and about to happen, there were many others of the congregation of St. Asaph’s beside the rector to whom the growing situation gave cause for serious perplexities. Indeed, all who were interested in the church, the trustees and the mortgagees and the underlying debenture-holders, were feeling anxious. For some of them underlay the Sunday School, whose scholars’ offerings had declined forty per cent, and others underlay the new organ, not yet paid for, while others were lying deeper still beneath the ground site of the church with seven dollars and a half a square foot resting on them.
“I don’t like it,” said Mr. Lucullus Fyshe to Mr. Newberry (they were both prominent members of the congregation). “I don’t like the look of things. I took up a block of Furlong’s bonds on his Guild building from what seemed at the time the best of motives. The interest appeared absolutely certain. Now it’s a month overdue on the last quarter. I feel alarmed.”
“Neither do I like it,” said Mr. Newberry, shaking his head; “and I’m sorry for Fareforth Furlong. An excellent fellow, Fyshe, excellent. I keep wondering Sunday after Sunday, if there isn’t something I can do to help him out. One might do something further, perhaps, in the way of new buildings or alterations. I have, in fact, offered–by myself, I mean, and without other aid–to dynamite out the front of his church, underpin it, and put him in a Norman gateway; either that, or blast out the back of it where the choir sit, just as he likes. I was thinking about it last Sunday as they were singing the anthem, and realizing what a lot one might do there with a few sticks of dynamite.”
“I doubt it,” said Mr. Fyshe. “In fact, Newberry, to speak very frankly, I begin to ask myself, Is Furlong the man for the post?”
“Oh, surely,” said Mr. Newberry in protest.
“Personally a charming fellow,” went on Mr. Fyshe; “but is he, all said and done, quite the man to conduct a church? In the _first_ place, he is _not_ a businessman.”
“No,” said Mr. Newberry reluctantly, “that I admit.”
“Very good. And, _secondly_, even in the matter of his religion itself, one always feels as if he were too little fixed, too unstable. He simply moves with the times. That, at least, is what people are beginning to say of him, that he is perpetually moving with the times. It doesn’t do, Newberry, it doesn’t do.” Whereupon Mr. Newberry went away troubled and wrote to Fareforth Furlong a confidential letter with a signed cheque in it for the amount of Mr. Fyshe’s interest, and with such further offerings of dynamite, of underpinning and blasting as his conscience prompted.
When the rector received and read the note and saw the figures of the cheque, there arose such a thankfulness in his spirit as he hadn’t felt for months, and he may well have murmured, for the repose of Mr. Newberry’s soul, a prayer not found in the rubric of King James.
All the more cause had he to feel light at heart, for as it chanced, it was on that same evening that the Dumfarthings, father and daughter, were to take tea at the rectory. Indeed, a few minutes before six o’clock they might have been seen making their way from the manse to the rectory.
On their way along the avenue the minister took occasion to reprove his daughter for the worldliness of her hat (it was a little trifle from New York that she had bought out of the Sunday School money–a temporary loan); and a little further on he spoke to her severely about the parasol she carried; and further yet about the strange fashion, specially condemned by the Old Testament, in which she wore her hair. So Catherine knew in her heart from this that she must be looking her very prettiest, and went into the rectory radiant.
The tea was, of course, an awkward meal at the best. There was an initial difficulty about grace, not easily surmounted. And when the Rev. Mr. Dumfarthing sternly refused tea as a pernicious drink weakening to the system, the Anglican rector was too ignorant of the presbyterian system to know enough to give him Scotch whiskey.
But there were bright spots in the meal as well. The rector was even able to ask Catherine, sideways as a personal question, if she played tennis; and she was able to whisper behind her hand, “Not allowed,” and to make a face in the direction of her father, who was absorbed for the moment in a theological question with Juliana. Indeed, before the conversation became general again the rector had contrived to make a rapid arrangement with Catherine whereby she was to come with him to the Newberry’s tennis court the day following and learn the game, with or without permission.
So the tea was perhaps a success in its way. And it is noteworthy that Juliana spent the days that followed it in reading Calvin’s “Institutes” (specially loaned to her) and “Dumfarthing on the Certainty of Damnation” (a gift), and in praying for her brother–a task practically without hope. During which same time the rector in white flannels, and Catherine in a white duck skirt and blouse, were flying about on the green grass of the Newberrys’ court, and calling, “love,” “love all,” to one another so gaily and so brazenly that even Mr. Newberry felt that there must be something in it.
But all these things came merely as interludes in the moving currents of greater events; for as the summer faded into autumn and autumn into winter the anxieties of the trustees of St. Asaph’s began to call for action of some sort.
* * * * *
“Edward,” said the rector’s father on the occasion of their next quarterly discussion, “I cannot conceal from you that the position of things is very serious. Your statements show a falling off in every direction. Your interest is everywhere in arrears; your current account overdrawn to the limit. At this rate, you know, the end is inevitable. Your debenture and bondholders will decide to foreclose; and if they do, you know, there is no power that can stop them. Even with your limited knowledge of business you are probably aware that there is no higher power that can influence or control the holder of a first mortgage.”
“I fear so,” said the Rev. Edward very sadly.
“Do you not think perhaps that some of the shortcoming lies with yourself?” continued Mr. Furlong. “Is it not possible that as a preacher you fail somewhat, do not, as it were, deal sufficiently with fundamental things as others do? You leave untouched the truly vital issues, such things as the creation, death, and, if I may refer to it, the life beyond the grave.”
As a result of which the Reverend Edward preached a series of special sermons on the creation for which he made a special and arduous preparation in the library of Plutoria University. He said that it had taken a million, possibly a hundred million years of quite difficult work to accomplish, and that though when we looked at it all was darkness still we could not be far astray if we accepted and held fast to the teachings of Sir Charles Lyell. The book of Genesis, he said was not to be taken as meaning a day when it said a day, but rather something other than a mere day; and the word “light” meant not exactly light but possibly some sort of phosphorescence, and that the use of the word “darkness” was to be understood not as meaning darkness, but to be taken as simply indicating obscurity. And when he had quite finished, the congregation declared the whole sermon to be mere milk and water. It insulted their intelligence, they said. After which, a week later, the Rev. Dr. Dumfarthing took up the same subject, and with the aid of seven plain texts pulverized the rector into fragments.
One notable result of the controversy was that Juliana Furlong refused henceforth to attend her brother’s church and sat, even at morning service, under the minister of St. Osoph’s.
“The sermon was, I fear, a mistake,” said Mr. Furlong senior; “perhaps you had better not dwell too much on such topics. We must look for aid in another direction. In fact, Edward, I may mention to you in confidence that certain of your trustees are already devising ways and means that may help us out of our dilemma.”
Indeed, although the Reverend Edward did not know it, a certain idea, or plan, was already germinating in the minds of the most influential supporters of St. Asaph’s.
Such was the situation of the rival churches of St. Asaph and St. Osoph as the autumn slowly faded into winter: during which time the elm trees on Plutoria Avenue shivered and dropped their leaves and the chauffeurs of the motors first turned blue in their faces and then, when the great snows came, were suddenly converted into liveried coachmen with tall bearskins and whiskers like Russian horseguards, changing back again to blue-nosed chauffeurs the very moment of a thaw. During this time also the congregation of the Reverend Fareforth Furlong was diminishing month by month, and that of the Reverend Uttermust Dumfarthing was so numerous that they filled up the aisles at the back of the church. Here the worshippers stood and froze, for the minister had abandoned the use of steam heat in St. Osoph’s on the ground that he could find no warrant for it.
During the same period other momentous things were happening, such as that Juliana Furlong was reading, under the immediate guidance of Dr. Dumfarthing, the History of the Progress of Disruption in the Churches of Scotland in ten volumes; such also as that Catherine Dumfarthing was wearing a green and gold winter suit with Russian furs and a Balkan hat and a Circassian feather, which cut a wide swath of destruction among the young men on Plutoria Avenue every afternoon as she passed. Moreover by the strangest of coincidences she scarcely ever seemed to come along the snow-covered avenue without meeting the Reverend Edward–a fact which elicited new exclamations of surprise from them both every day: and by an equally strange coincidence they generally seemed, although coming in different directions, to be bound for the same place; towards which they wandered together with such slow steps and in such oblivion of the passers-by that even the children on the avenue knew by instinct whither they were wandering.
It was noted also that the broken figure of Dr. McTeague had reappeared upon the street, leaning heavily upon a stick and greeting those he met with such a meek and willing affability, as if in apology for his stroke of paralysis, that all who talked with him agreed that McTeague’s mind was a wreck.
“He stood and spoke to me about the children for at least a quarter of an hour,” related one of his former parishioners, “asking after them by name, and whether they were going to school yet and a lot of questions like that. He never used to speak of such things. Poor old McTeague, I’m afraid he is getting soft in the head.” “I know,” said the person addressed. “His mind is no good. He stopped me the other day to say how sorry he was to hear about my brother’s illness. I could see from the way he spoke that his brain is getting feeble. He’s losing his grip. He was speaking of how kind people had been to him after his accident and there were tears in his eyes. I think he’s getting batty.”
Nor were even these things the most momentous happenings of the period. For as winter slowly changed to early spring it became known that something of great portent was under way. It was rumoured that the trustees of St. Asaph’s Church were putting their heads together. This was striking news. The last time that the head of Mr. Lucullus Fyshe, for example, had been placed side by side with that of Mr. Newberry, there had resulted a merger of four soda-water companies, bringing what was called industrial peace over an area as big as Texas and raising the price of soda by three peaceful cents per bottle. And the last time that Mr. Furlong senior’s head had been laid side by side with those of Mr. Rasselyer-Brown and Mr. Skinyer, they had practically saved the country from the horrors of a coal famine by the simple process of raising the price of nut coal seventy-five cents a ton and thus guaranteeing its abundance.
Naturally, therefore, when it became known that such redoubtable heads as those of the trustees and the underlying mortgagees of St. Asaph’s were being put together, it was fully expected that some important development would follow. It was not accurately known from which of the assembled heads first proceeded the great idea which was presently to solve the difficulties of the church. It may well have come from that of Mr. Lucullus Fyshe. Certainly a head which had brought peace out of civil war in the hardware business by amalgamating ten rival stores and had saved the very lives of five hundred employees by reducing their wages fourteen per cent, was capable of it.
At any rate it was Mr. Fyshe who first gave the idea a definite utterance.
“It’s the only thing, Furlong,” he said, across the lunch table at the Mausoleum Club. “It’s the one solution. The two churches can’t live under the present conditions of competition. We have here practically the same situation as we had with two rum distilleries–the output is too large for the demand. One or both of the two concerns must go under. It’s their turn just now, but these fellows are business men enough to know that it may be ours tomorrow. We’ll offer them a business solution. We’ll propose a merger.”
“I’ve been thinking of it,” said Mr. Furlong senior, “I suppose it’s feasible?”
“Feasible!” exclaimed Mr. Fyshe. “Why look what’s being done every day everywhere, from the Standard Oil Company downwards.”
“You would hardly, I think,” said Mr. Furlong, with a quiet smile, “compare the Standard Oil Company to a church?” “Well, no, I suppose not,” said Mr. Fyshe, and he too smiled–in fact he almost laughed. The notion was too ridiculous. One could hardly compare a mere church to a thing of the magnitude and importance of the Standard Oil Company.
“But on a lesser scale,” continued Mr. Fyshe, “it’s the same sort of thing. As for the difficulties of it, I needn’t remind you of the much greater difficulties we had to grapple with in the rum merger. There, you remember, a number of the women held out as a matter of principle. It was not mere business with them. Church union is different. In fact it is one of the ideas of the day and everyone admits that what is needed is the application of the ordinary business principles of harmonious combination, with a proper–er–restriction of output and general economy of operation.”
“Very good,” said Mr. Furlong, “I’m sure if you’re willing to try, the rest of us are.”
“All right,” said Mr. Fyshe. “I thought of setting Skinyer, of Skinyer and Beatem, to work on the form of the organization. As you know he is not only a deeply religious man but he has already handled the Tin Pot Combination and the United Hardware and the Associated Tanneries. He ought to find this quite simple.”
* * * * *
Within a day or two Mr. Skinyer had already commenced his labours. “I must first,” he said, “get an accurate idea of the existing legal organization of the two churches.”
For which purpose he approached the rector of St. Asaph’s. “I just want to ask you, Mr. Furlong,” said the lawyer, “a question or two as to the exact constitution, the form so to speak, of your church. What is it? Is it a single corporate body?”
“I suppose,” said the rector thoughtfully, “one would define it as an indivisible spiritual unit manifesting itself on earth.” “Quite so,” interrupted Mr. Skinyer, “but I don’t mean what it is in the religious sense: I mean, in the real sense.” “I fail to understand,” said Mr. Furlong.
“Let me put it very clearly,” said the lawyer. “Where does it get its authority?”
“From above.” said the rector reverently.
“Precisely,” said Mr. Skinyer, “no doubt, but I mean its authority in the exact sense of the term.”
“It was enjoined on St. Peter,” began the rector, but Mr. Skinyer interrupted him.
“That I am aware of,” he said, “but what I mean is–where does your church get its power, for example, to hold property, to collect debts, to use distraint against the property of others, to foreclose its mortgages and to cause judgement to be executed against those who fail to pay their debts to it? You will say at once that it has these powers direct from Heaven. No doubt that is true and no religious person would deny it. But we lawyers are compelled to take a narrower, a less elevating point of view. Are these powers conferred on you by the state legislature or by some higher authority?”
“Oh, by a higher authority, I hope,” said the rector very fervently. Whereupon Mr. Skinyer left him without further questioning, the rector’s brain being evidently unfit for the subject of corporation law.
On the other hand he got satisfaction from the Rev. Dr. Dumfarthing at once.
“The church of St. Osoph,” said the minister, “is a perpetual trust, holding property as such under a general law of the state and able as such to be made the object of suit or distraint. I speak with some assurance as I had occasion to enquire into the matter at the time when I was looking for guidance in regard to the call I had received to come here.”
* * * * *
“It’s a quite simple matter,” Mr. Skinyer presently reported to Mr. Fyshe. “One of the churches is a perpetual trust, the other practically a state corporation. Each has full control over its property provided nothing is done by either to infringe the purity of its doctrine.”
“Just what does that mean?” asked Mr. Fyshe.
“It must maintain its doctrine absolutely pure. Otherwise if certain of its trustees remain pure and the rest do not, those who stay pure are entitled to take the whole of the property. This, I believe, happens every day in Scotland where, of course, there is great eagerness to remain pure in doctrine.”
“And what do you define as _pure_ doctrine?” asked Mr. Fyshe.
“If the trustees are in dispute,” said Mr. Skinyer, “the courts decide, but any doctrine is held to be a pure doctrine if _all_ the trustees regard it as a pure doctrine.”
“I see,” said Mr. Fyshe thoughtfully, “it’s the same thing as what we called ‘permissible policy’ on the part of directors in the Tin Pot Combination.”
“Exactly,” assented Mr. Skinyer, “and it means that for the merger we need nothing–I state it very frankly–except general consent.”
* * * * *
The preliminary stages of the making of the merger followed along familiar business lines. The trustees of St. Asaph’s went through the process known as ‘approaching’ the trustees of St. Osoph’s. First of all, for example, Mr. Lucullus Fyshe invited Mr. Asmodeus Boulder of St. Osoph’s to lunch with him at the Mausoleum Club; the cost of the lunch, as is usual in such cases, was charged to the general expense account of the church. Of course nothing whatever was said during the lunch about the churches or their finances or anything concerning them. Such discussion would have been a gross business impropriety. A few days later the two brothers Overend dined with Mr. Furlong senior, the dinner being charged directly to the contingencies account of St. Asaph’s. After which Mr. Skinyer and his partner, Mr. Beatem, went to the spring races together on the Profit and Loss account of St. Osoph’s, and Philippa Overend and Catherine Dumfarthing were taken (by the Unforeseen Disbursements Account) to the grand opera, followed by a midnight supper.
All of these things constituted what was called the promotion of the merger and were almost exactly identical with the successive stages of the making of the Amalgamated Distilleries and the Associated Tin Pot Corporation; which was considered a most hopeful sign.
* * * * *
“Do you think they’ll go into it?” asked Mr. Newberry of Mr. Furlong senior, anxiously. “After all, what inducement have they?”
“Every inducement,” said Mr. Furlong. “All said and done they’ve only one large asset–Dr. Dumfarthing. We’re really offering to buy up Dr. Dumfarthing by pooling our assets with theirs.”
“And what does Dr. Dumfarthing himself say to it?”
“Ah, there I am not so sure,” said Mr. Furlong; “that may be a difficulty. So far there hasn’t been a word from him, and his trustees are absolutely silent about his views. However, we shall soon know all about it. Skinyer is asking us all to come together one evening next week to draw up the articles of agreement.”
“Has he got the financial basis arranged then?”
“I believe so,” said Mr. Furlong. “His idea is to form a new corporation to be known as the United Church Limited or by some similar name. All the present mortgagees will be converted into unified bondholders, the pew rents will be capitalized into preferred stock and the common stock, drawing its dividend from the offertory, will be distributed among all members in standing. Skinyer says that it is really an ideal form of church union, one that he thinks is likely to be widely adopted. It has the advantage of removing all questions of religion, which he says are practically the only remaining obstacle to a union of all the churches. In fact it puts the churches once and for all on a business basis.”
“But what about the question of doctrine, of belief?” asked Mr. Newberry.
“Skinyer says he can settle it,” answered Mr. Furlong.
* * * * *
About a week after the above conversation the united trustees of St. Asaph’s and St. Osoph’s were gathered about a huge egg-shaped table in the board room of the Mausoleum Club. They were seated in intermingled fashion after the precedent of the recent Tin Pot Amalgamation and were smoking huge black cigars specially kept by the club for the promotion of companies and chargeable to expenses of organization at fifty cents a cigar. There was an air of deep peace brooding over the assembly, as among men who have accomplished a difficult and meritorious task.
“Well, then,” said Mr. Skinyer, who was in the chair, with a pile of documents in front of him, “I think that our general basis of financial union may be viewed as settled.”
A murmur of assent went round the meeting. “The terms are set forth in the memorandum before us, which you have already signed. Only one other point–a minor one–remains to be considered. I refer to the doctrines or the religious belief of the new amalgamation.”
“Is it necessary to go into that?” asked Mr. Boulder.
“Not entirely, perhaps,” said Mr. Skinyer. “Still there have been, as you all know, certain points–I won’t say of disagreement–but let us say of friendly argument–between the members of the different churches–such things for example,” here he consulted his papers, “as the theory of the creation, the salvation of the soul, and so forth, have been mentioned in this connection. I have a memorandum of them here, though the points escape me for the moment. These, you may say, are not matters of first importance, especially as compared with the intricate financial questions which we have already settled in a satisfactory manner. Still I think it might be well if I were permitted with your unanimous approval to jot down a memorandum or two to be afterwards embodied in our articles.”
There was a general murmur of approval. “Very good,” said Mr. Skinyer, settling himself back in his chair. “Now, first, in regard to the creation,” here he looked all round the meeting in a way to command attention–“Is it your wish that we should leave that merely to a gentlemen’s agreement or do you want an explicit clause?”
“I think it might be well,” said Mr. Dick Overend, “to leave no doubt about the theory of the creation.”
“Good,” said Mr. Skinyer. “I am going to put it down then something after this fashion: ‘On and after, let us say, August 1st proximo, the process of the creation shall be held, and is hereby held, to be such and such only as is acceptable to a majority of the holders of common and preferred stock voting pro rata.’ Is that agreed?”
“Carried,” cried several at once.
“Carried,” repeated Mr. Skinyer. “Now let us pass on”–here he consulted his notes–“to item two, eternal punishment. I have made a memorandum as follows, ‘Should any doubts arise, on or after August first proximo, as to the existence of eternal punishment they shall be settled absolutely and finally by a pro-rata vote of all the holders of common and preferred stock.’ Is that agreed?”
“One moment!” said Mr. Fyshe, “do you think that quite fair to the bondholders? After all, as the virtual holders of the property, they are the persons most interested. I should like to amend your clause and make it read–I am not phrasing it exactly but merely giving the sense of it–that eternal punishment should be reserved for the mortgagees and bondholders.”
At this there was an outbreak of mingled approval and dissent, several persons speaking at once. In the opinion of some the stockholders of the company, especially the preferred stockholders, had as good a right to eternal punishment as the bondholders. Presently Mr. Skinyer, who had been busily writing notes, held up his hand for silence.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “will you accept this as a compromise? We will keep the original clause but merely add to it the words, ‘but no form of eternal punishment shall be declared valid if displeasing to a three-fifths majority of the holders of bonds.'”
“Carried, carried,” cried everybody.
“To which I think we need only add,” said Mr. Skinyer, “a clause to the effect that all other points of doctrine, belief or religious principle may be freely altered, amended, reversed or entirely abolished at any general annual meeting!”
There was a renewed chorus of “Carried, carried,” and the trustees rose from the table shaking hands with one another, and lighting fresh cigars as they passed out of the club into the night air.
“The only thing that I don’t understand,” said Mr. Newberry to Dr. Boomer as they went out from the club arm in arm (for they might now walk in that fashion with the same propriety as two of the principals in a distillery merger), “the only thing that I don’t understand is why the Reverend Mr. Dumfarthing should be willing to consent to the amalgamation.”
“Do you really not know?” said Dr. Boomer.
“You have heard nothing?”
“Not a word,” said Mr. Newberry.
“Ah,” rejoined the president, “I see that our men have kept it very quiet–naturally so, in view of the circumstances. The truth is that the Reverend Mr. Dumfarthing is leaving us.”
“Leaving St. Osoph’s!” exclaimed Mr. Newberry in utter astonishment.
“To our great regret. He has had a call–a most inviting field of work, he says, a splendid opportunity. They offered him ten thousand one hundred; we were only giving him ten thousand here, though of course that feature of the situation would not weigh at all with a man like Dumfarthing.”
“Oh no, of course not,” said Mr. Newberry.
“As soon as we heard of the call we offered him ten thousand three hundred–not that that would make any difference to a man of his character. Indeed Dumfarthing was still waiting and looking for guidance when they offered him eleven thousand. We couldn’t meet it. It was beyond us, though we had the consolation of knowing that with such a man as Dumfarthing the money made no difference.”
“And he has accepted the call?”
“Yes. He accepted it today. He sent word to Mr. Dick Overend our chairman, that he would remain in his manse, looking for light, until two-thirty, after which, if we had not communicated with him by that hour, he would cease to look for it.”
“Dear me,” said Mr. Newberry, deep in reflection, “so that when your trustees came to the meeting–”
“Exactly,” said Dr. Boomer–and something like a smile passed across his features for a moment “Dr. Dumfarthing had already sent away his telegram of acceptance.”
“Why, then,” said Mr. Newberry, “at the time of our discussion tonight, you were in the position of having no minister.”
“Not at all. We had already appointed a successor.”
“Certainly. It will be in tomorrow morning’s papers. The fact is that we decided to ask Dr. McTeague to resume his charge.”
“Dr. McTeague!” repeated Mr. Newberry in amazement. “But surely his mind is understood to be–”
“Oh not at all,” interrupted Dr. Boomer. “His mind appears if anything, to be clearer and stronger than ever. Dr. Slyder tells us that paralysis of the brain very frequently has this effect; it soothes the brain–clears it, as it were, so that very often intellectual problems which occasioned the greatest perplexity before present no difficulty whatever afterwards. Dr. McTeague, I believe, finds no trouble now in reconciling St. Paul’s dialectic with Hegel as he used to. He says that so far as he can see they both mean the same thing.”
“Well, well,” said Mr. Newberry, “and will Dr. McTeague also resume his philosophical lectures at the university?”
“We think it wiser not,” said the president. “While we feel that Dr. McTeague’s mind is in admirable condition for clerical work we fear that professorial duties might strain it. In order to get the full value of his remarkable intelligence, we propose to elect him to the governing body of the university. There his brain will be safe from any shock. As a professor there would always be the fear that one of his students might raise a question in his class. This of course is not a difficulty that arises in the pulpit or among the governors of the university.”
“Of course not,” said Mr. Newberry.
* * * * *
Thus was constituted the famous union or merger of the churches of St. Asaph and St. Osoph, viewed by many of those who made it as the beginning of a new era in the history of the modern church.
There is no doubt that it has been in every way an eminent success.
Rivalry, competition, and controversies over points of dogma have become unknown on Plutoria Avenue. The parishioners of the two churches may now attend either of them just as they like. As the trustees are fond of explaining it doesn’t make the slightest difference. The entire receipts of the churches, being now pooled, are divided without reference to individual attendance. At each half year there is issued a printed statement which is addressed to the shareholders of the United Churches Limited and is hardly to be distinguished in style or material from the annual and semi-annual reports of the Tin Pot Amalgamation and the United Hardware and other quasi-religious bodies of the sort. “Your directors,” the last of these documents states, “are happy to inform you that in spite of the prevailing industrial depression the gross receipts of the corporation have shown such an increase as to justify the distribution of a stock dividend of special Offertory Stock Cumulative, which will be offered at par to all holders of common or preferred shares. You will also be gratified to learn that the directors have voted unanimously in favour of a special presentation to the Rev. Uttermust Dumfarthing on the occasion of his approaching marriage. It was earnestly debated whether this gift should take the form, as at first suggested, of a cash presentation, or as afterwards suggested, of a written testimonial in the form of an address. The latter course was finally adopted as being more fitting to the circumstances and the address has accordingly been prepared, setting forth to the Rev. Dr. Dumfarthing, in old English lettering and wording, the opinion which is held of him by his former parishioners.”
The “approaching marriage” referred of course to Dr. Dumfarthing’s betrothal to Juliana Furlong. It was not known that he had ever exactly proposed to her. But it was understood that before giving up his charge he drew her attention, in very severe terms, to the fact that, as his daughter was now leaving him, he must either have someone else to look after his manse or else be compelled to incur the expense of a paid housekeeper. This latter alternative, he said, was not one that he cared to contemplate. He also reminded her that she was now at a time of life when she could hardly expect to pick and choose and that her spiritual condition was one of, at least, great uncertainty. These combined statements are held, under the law of Scotland at any rate, to be equivalent to an offer of marriage.
Catherine Dumfarthing did not join her father in his new manse. She first remained behind him, as the guest of Philippa Overend for a few weeks while she was occupied in packing up her things. After that she stayed for another two or three weeks to unpack them. This had been rendered necessary by a conversation held with the Reverend Edward Fareforth Furlong, in a shaded corner of the Overend’s garden. After which, in due course of time, Catherine and Edward were married, the ceremony being performed by the Reverend Dr. McTeague whose eyes filled with philosophical tears as he gave them his blessing.
So the two churches of St. Asaph and St. Osoph stand side by side united and at peace. Their bells call softly back and forward to one another on Sunday mornings and such is the harmony between them that even the episcopal rooks in the elm trees of St. Asaph’s and the presbyterian crows in the spruce trees of St. Osoph’s are known to exchange perches on alternate Sundays.