Part 2 out of 5
most insidiously destructive figure in these three toilsome
disputes. The Pringle man's soul had apparently missed the normal
distribution of fig-leaves; he was an illiterate, open-eyed,
hard-voiced, freckled, rational-minded creature, with large
expository hands, who had come by a side way into the church
because he was an indefatigable worker, and he insisted upon
telling the bishop with an irrepressible candour and completeness
just exactly what was the matter with his intimate life. The
bishop very earnestly did not want these details, and did his
utmost to avoid the controversial questions that the honest man
pressed respectfully but obstinately upon him.
"Even St. Paul, my lord, admitted that it is better to marry
than burn," said the Pringle misdemeanant, "and here was I, my
lord, married and still burning!" and, "I think you would find,
my lord, considering all Charlotte's peculiarities, that the
situation was really much more trying than the absolute celibacy
St. Paul had in view."...
The bishop listened to these arguments as little as possible,
and did not answer them at all. But afterwards the offender came
and wept and said he was ruined and heartbroken and unfairly
treated because he wasn't a gentleman, and that was distressing.
It was so exactly true--and so inevitable. He had been
deprived, rather on account of his voice and apologetics than of
his offence, and public opinion was solidly with the sentence. He
made a gallant effort to found what he called a Labour Church in
Pringle, and after some financial misunderstandings departed with
his unambiguous menage to join the advanced movement on the
The Morrice Deans enquiry however demanded an amount of
erudition that greatly fatigued the bishop. He had a very fair
general knowledge of vestments, but he had never really cared for
anything but the poetry of ornaments, and he had to work
strenuously to master the legal side of the question. Whippham,
his chaplain, was worse than useless as a helper. The bishop
wanted to end the matter as quickly, quietly, and favourably to
Morrice Deans as possible; he thought Morrice Deans a thoroughly
good man in his parish, and he believed that the substitution of
a low churchman would mean a very complete collapse of church
influence in Mogham Banks, where people were now thoroughly
accustomed to a highly ornate service. But Morrice Deans was
intractable and his pursuers indefatigable, and on several
occasions the bishop sat far into the night devising compromises
and equivocations that should make the Kensitites think that
Morrice Deans wasn't wearing vestments when he was, and that
should make Morrice Deans think he was wearing vestments when he
wasn't. And it was Whippham who first suggested green tea as a
substitute for coffee, which gave the bishop indigestion, as his
stimulant for these nocturnal bouts.
Now green tea is the most lucid of poisons.
And while all this extra activity about Morrice Deans, these
vigils and crammings and writings down, were using all and more
energy than the bishop could well spare, he was also doing his
quiet utmost to keep "The Light under the Altar" ease from coming
to a head.
This man he hated.
And he dreaded him as well as hated him. Chasters, the author
of "The Light under the Altar," was a man who not only reasoned
closely but indelicately. There was a demonstrating, jeering, air
about his preaching and writing, and everything he said and did
was saturated by the spirit of challenge. He did not so much
imitate as exaggerate the style of Matthew Arnold. And whatever
was done publicly against him would have to be done very publicly
because his book had got him a London reputation.
From the bishop's point of view Chasters was one of nature's
ignoblemen. He seemed to have subscribed to the Thirty-Nine
Articles and passed all the tests and taken all the pledges that
stand on the way to ordination, chiefly for the pleasure of
attacking them more successfully from the rear; he had been given
the living of Wombash by a cousin, and filled it very largely
because it was not only more piquant but more remunerative and
respectable to be a rationalist lecturer in a surplice. And in a
hard kind of ultra-Protestant way his social and parochial work
was not badly done. But his sermons were terrible. "He takes a
text," said one informant, "and he goes on firstly, secondly,
thirdly, fourthly, like somebody tearing the petals from a
flower. 'Finally,' he says, and throws the bare stalk into the
The bishop avoided "The Light under the Altar" for nearly a
year. It was only when a second book was announced with the
winning title of "The Core of Truth in Christianity" that he
perceived he must take action. He sat up late one night with a
marked copy, a very indignantly marked copy, of the former work
that an elderly colonel, a Wombash parishioner, an orthodox
Layman of the most virulent type, had sent him. He perceived that
he had to deal with a dialectician of exceptional ability, who
had concentrated a quite considerable weight of scholarship upon
the task of explaining away every scrap of spiritual significance
in the Eucharist. From Chasters the bishop was driven by
reference to the works of Legge and Frazer, and for the first
time he began to measure the dimensions and power of the modern
criticism of church doctrine and observance. Green tea should
have lit his way to refutation; instead it lit up the whole
inquiry with a light of melancholy confirmation. Neither by night
nor by day could the bishop find a proper method of opening a
counter attack upon Chasters, who was indisputably an
intellectually abler man and a very ruthless beast indeed to
assail, and meanwhile the demand that action should be taken
The literature of church history and the controversies arising
out of doctrinal development became the employment of the
bishop's leisure and a commanding preoccupation. He would have
liked to discuss with some one else the network of perplexities
in which he was entangling himself, and more particularly with
Canon Bliss, but his own positions were becoming so insecure that
he feared to betray them by argument. He had grown up with a kind
of intellectual modesty. Some things he had never yet talked
about; it made his mind blench to think of talking about them.
And his great aching gaps of wakefulness began now, thanks to the
green tea, to be interspersed with theological dreams and visions
of an extravagant vividness. He would see Frazer's sacrificial
kings butchered picturesquely and terribly amidst strange and
grotesque rituals; he would survey long and elaborate processions
and ceremonials in which the most remarkable symbols were borne
high in the sight of all men; he would cower before a gigantic
and threatening Heaven. These green-tea dreams and visions were
not so much phases of sleep as an intensification and vivid
furnishing forth of insomnia. It added greatly to his disturbance
that--exceeding the instructions of Brighton-Pomfrey--he had
now experimented ignorantly and planlessly with one or two
narcotics and sleeping mixtures that friends and acquaintances
had mentioned in his hearing. For the first time in his life he
became secretive from his wife. He knew he ought not to take
these things, he knew they were physically and morally evil, but
a tormenting craving drove him to them. Subtly and insensibly his
character was being undermined by the growing nervous trouble.
He astonished himself by the cunning and the hypocritical
dignity he could display in procuring these drugs. He arranged to
have a tea-making set in his bedroom, and secretly substituted
green tea, for which he developed a powerful craving, in the
place of the delicate China tea Lady Ella procured him.
These doctrinal and physical anxieties and distresses were at
their worst in the spring and early summer of 1914. That was a
time of great mental and moral disturbance. There was premonition
in the air of those days. It was like the uneasiness sensitive
people experience before a thunderstorm. The moral atmosphere was
sullen and close. The whole world seemed irritable and
mischievous. The suffragettes became extraordinarily malignant;
the democratic movement went rotten with sabotage and with a cant
of being "rebels"; the reactionary Tories and a crew of noisy old
peeresses set themselves to create incurable confusion again in
the healing wounds of Ireland, and feuds and frantic folly broke
out at every point of the social and political edifice. And then
a bomb burst at Sarajevo that silenced all this tumult. The
unstable polity of Europe heeled over like a ship that founders.
Through the swiftest, tensest week in history Europe capsized
The first effect of the war upon the mind of the bishop, as
upon most imaginative minds, was to steady and exalt it.
Trivialities and exasperations seemed swept out of existence. Men
lifted up their eyes from disputes that had seemed incurable and
wrangling that promised to be interminable, and discovered a
plain and tragic issue that involved every one in a common call
for devotion. For a great number of men and women who had been
born and bred in security, the August and September of 1914 were
the supremely heroic period of their lives. Myriads of souls were
born again to ideas of service and sacrifice in those tremendous
Black and evil thing as the war was, it was at any rate a great
thing; it did this much for countless minds that for the first
time they realized the epic quality of history and their own
relationship to the destinies of the race. The flimsy roof under
which we had been living our lives of comedy fell and shattered
the floor under our feet; we saw the stars above and the abyss
below. We perceived that life was insecure and adventurous, part
of one vast adventure in space and time....
Presently the smoke and dust of battle hid the great distances
again, but they could not altogether destroy the memories of this
For the first two months the bishop's attention was so detached
from his immediate surroundings and employments, so absorbed by
great events, that his history if it were told in detail would
differ scarcely at all from the histories of most comparatively
unemployed minds during those first dramatic days, the days when
the Germans made their great rush upon Paris and it seemed that
France was down, France and the whole fabric of liberal
civilization. He emerged from these stunning apprehensions after
the Battle of the Marne, to find himself busy upon a score of
dispersed and disconnected war jobs, and trying to get all the
new appearances and forces and urgencies of the war into
relations with himself. One thing became very vivid indeed, that
he wasn't being used in any real and effective way in the war.
There was a mighty going to and fro upon Red Cross work and
various war committees, a vast preparation for wounded men and
for the succour of dislocated families; a preparation, that
proved to be needless, for catastrophic unemployment. The war
problem and the puzzle of German psychology ousted for a time all
other intellectual interests; like every one else the bishop swam
deep in Nietzsche, Bernhardi, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and
the like; he preached several sermons upon German materialism and
the astonishing decay of the German character. He also read every
newspaper he could lay his hands on--like any secular man. He
signed an address to the Russian Orthodox church, beginning
"Brethren," and he revised his impressions of the Filioque
controversy. The idea of a reunion of the two great state
churches of Russia and England had always attracted him. But
hitherto it had been a thing quite out of scale, visionary,
utopian. Now in this strange time of altered perspectives it
seemed the most practicable of suggestions. The mayor and
corporation and a detachment of the special reserve in uniform
came to a great intercession service, and in the palace there
were two conferences of local influential people, people of the
most various types, people who had never met tolerantly before,
expressing now opinions of unprecedented breadth and liberality.
All this sort of thing was fresh and exciting at first, and
then it began to fall into a routine and became habitual, and as
it became habitual he found that old sense of detachment and
futility was creeping back again. One day he realized that indeed
the whole flood and tumult of the war would be going on almost
exactly as it was going on now if there had been neither
cathedral nor bishop in Princhester. It came to him that if
archbishops were rolled into patriarchs and patriarchs into
archbishops, it would matter scarcely more in the world process
that was afoot than if two men shook hands while their house was
afire. At times all of us have inappropriate thoughts. The
unfortunate thought that struck the bishop as a bullet might
strike a man in an exposed trench, as he was hurrying through the
cloisters to a special service and address upon that doubly
glorious day in our English history, the day of St. Crispin, was
of Diogenes rolling his tub.
It was a poisonous thought.
It arose perhaps out of an article in a weekly paper at which
he had glanced after lunch, an article written by one of those
sceptical spirits who find all too abundant expression in our
periodical literature. The writer boldly charged the "Christian
churches" with absolute ineffectiveness. This war, he declared,
was above all other wars a war of ideas, of material organization
against rational freedom, of violence against law; it was a war
more copiously discussed than any war had ever been before, the
air was thick with apologetics. And what was the voice of the
church amidst these elemental issues? Bishops and divines who
were patriots one heard discordantly enough, but where were the
bishops and divines who spoke for the Prince of Peace? Where was
the blessing of the church, where was the veto of the church?
When it came to that one discovered only a broad preoccupied back
busied in supplementing the Army Medical Corps with Red Cross
activities, good work in its way--except that the canonicals
seemed superfluous. Who indeed looked to the church for any voice
at all? And so to Diogenes.
The bishop's mind went hunting for an answer to that
indictment. And came back and came back to the image of Diogenes.
It was with that image dangling like a barbed arrow from his
mind that the bishop went into the pulpit to preach upon St.
Crispin's day, and looked down upon a thin and scattered
congregation in which the elderly, the childless, and the
That night insomnia resumed its sway.
Of course the church ought to be controlling this great storm,
the greatest storm of war that had ever stirred mankind. It ought
to be standing fearlessly between the combatants like a figure in
a wall painting, with the cross of Christ uplifted and the
restored memory of Christendom softening the eyes of the armed
nations. "Put down those weapons and listen to me," so the church
should speak in irresistible tones, in a voice of silver
Instead it kept a long way from the fighting, tucked up its
vestments, and was rolling its local tubs quite briskly.
And then came the aggravation of all these distresses by an
abrupt abandonment of smoking and alcohol. Alcoholic relaxation,
a necessary mitigation of the unreality of peacetime politics,
becomes a grave danger in war, and it was with an understandable
desire to forward the interests of his realm that the King
decided to set his statesmen an example--which unhappily was
not very widely followed--by abstaining from alcohol during the
continuance of the struggle. It did however swing over the Bishop
of Princhester to an immediate and complete abandonment of both
drink and tobacco. At that time he was finding comfort for his
nerves in Manila cheroots, and a particularly big and heavy type
of Egyptian cigarette with a considerable amount of opium, and
his disorganized system seized upon this sudden change as a
grievance, and set all his jangling being crying aloud for one
cigarette--just one cigarette.
The cheroots, it seemed, he could better spare, but a cigarette
became his symbol for his lost steadiness and ease.
It brought him low.
The reader has already been told the lamentable incident of the
stolen cigarette and the small boy, and how the bishop, tormented
by that shameful memory, cried aloud in the night.
The bishop rolled his tub, and is there any tub-rolling in the
world more busy and exacting than a bishop's? He rolled in it
spite of ill-health and insomnia, and all the while he was
tormented by the enormous background of the world war, by his
ineffective realization of vast national needs, by his passionate
desire, for himself and his church, not to be ineffective.
The distressful alternation between nights of lucid doubt and
days of dull acquiescence was resumed with an intensification of
its contrasts. The brief phase of hope that followed the turn of
the fighting upon the Maine, the hope that after all the war
would end swiftly, dramatically, and justly, and everything be as
it had been before--but pleasanter, gave place to a phase that
bordered upon despair. The fall of Antwerp and the doubts and
uncertainties of the Flanders situation weighed terribly upon the
bishop. He was haunted for a time by nightmares of Zeppelins
presently raining fire upon London. These visions became
Apocalyptic. The Zeppelins came to England with the new year, and
with the close of the year came the struggle for Ypres that was
so near to being a collapse of the allied defensive. The events
of the early spring, the bloody failure of British generalship at
Neuve Chapelle, the naval disaster in the Dardanelles, the
sinking of the Falaba, the Russian defeat in the Masurian Lakes,
all deepened the bishop's impression of the immensity of the
nation's difficulties and of his own unhelpfulness. He was
ashamed that the church should hold back its curates from
enlistment while the French priests were wearing their uniforms
in the trenches; the expedition of the Bishop of London to hold
open-air services at the front seemed merely to accentuate the
tub-rolling. It was rolling the tub just where it was most in the
What was wrong? What was wanting?
The Westminster Gazette, The Spectator, and several other of
the most trusted organs of public opinion were intermittently
discussing the same question. Their discussions implied at once
the extreme need that was felt for religion by all sorts of
representative people, and the universal conviction that the
church was in some way muddling and masking her revelation. "What
is wrong with the Churches?" was, for example, the general
heading of The Westminster Gazette's correspondence.
One day the bishop skimmed a brief incisive utterance by Sir
Harry Johnston that pierced to the marrow of his own shrinking
convictions. Sir Harry is one of those people who seem to write
as well as speak in a quick tenor. "Instead of propounding
plainly and without the acereted mythology of Asia Minor, Greece
and Rome, the pure Gospel of Christ.... they present it
overloaded with unbelievable myths (such as, among a thousand
others, that Massacre of the Innocents which never took
place).... bore their listeners by a Tibetan repetition of creeds
that have ceased to be credible.... Mutually contradictory
propositions.... Prayers and litanies composed in Byzantine and
mediaeval times.... the want of actuality, the curious silliness
which has, ever since the destruction of Jerusalem, hung about
the exposition of Christianity.... But if the Bishops continue
to fuss about the trappings of religion.... the maintenance of
codes compiled by people who lived sixteen hundred or two
thousand five hundred years ago.... the increasingly educated and
practical-minded working classes will not come to church, weekday
The bishop held the paper in his hand, and with a mind that he
felt to be terribly open, asked himself how true that sharp
indictment might be, and, granting its general truth, what was
the duty of the church, that is to say of the bishops, for as
Cyprian says, ecelesia est in episcopo. We say the creeds; how
far may we unsay them?
So far be had taken no open action against Chasters. Suppose
now be were to side with Chasters and let the whole diocese, the
church of Princhester, drift as far as it chose under his
inaction towards an extreme modernism, risking a conflict with,
and if necessary fighting, the archbishop.... It was but for a
moment that his mind swung to this possibility and then recoiled.
The Laymen, that band of bigots, would fight. He could not
contemplate litigation and wrangling about the teaching of the
church. Besides, what were the "trappings of religion" and what
the essentials? What after all was "the pure gospel of Christ" of
which this writer wrote so glibly? He put the paper down and took
a New Testament from his desk and opened it haphazard. He felt a
curious wish that he could read it for the first time. It was
over-familiar. Everything latterly in his theology and beliefs
had become over-familiar. It had all become mechanical and dead
and unmeaning to his tired mind....
Whippham came with a reminder of more tub-rolling, and the
bishop's speculations were broken off.
CHAPTER THE FOURTH - THE SYMPATHY OF LADY SUNDERBUND
THAT night when he cried aloud at the memory of his furtive
cigarette, the bishop was staying with a rich man named Garstein
Fellows. These Garstein Fellows people were steel people with a
financial side to them; young Garstein Fellows had his fingers in
various chemical businesses, and the real life of the firm was in
various minor partners called Hartstein and Blumenhart and so
forth, who had acquired a considerable amount of ungentlemanly
science and energy in Germany and German Switzerland. But the
Fellows element was good old Princhester stuff. There had been a
Fellows firm in Princhester in 1819. They were not people the
bishop liked and it was not a house the bishop liked staying at,
but it had become part of his policy to visit and keep in touch
with as many of the local plutocracy as he could, to give and
take with them, in order to make the presence of the church a
reality to them. It had been not least among the negligences and
evasions of the sainted but indolent Hood that he had invariably
refused overnight hospitality whenever it was possible for him to
get back to his home. The morning was his working time. His books
and hymns had profited at the cost of missing many a generous
after-dinner subscription, and at the expense of social unity.
From the outset Scrope had set himself to alter this. A certain
lack of enthusiasm on Lady Ella's part had merely provoked him to
greater effort on his own. His ideal of what was needed with the
people was something rather jolly and familiar, something like a
very good and successful French or Irish priest, something that
came easily and readily into their homes and laid a friendly hand
on their shoulders. The less he liked these rich people naturally
the more familiar his resolution to be successfully intimate made
him. He put down the names and brief characteristics of their
sons and daughters in a little note-book and consulted it before
every visit so as to get his most casual enquiries right. And he
invited himself to the Garstein Fellows house on this occasion by
"A special mission and some business in Wombash may I have a
scrap of supper and a bed?"
Now Mrs. Garstein Fellows was a thoroughly London woman; she
was one of the banking Grunenbaums, the fair tall sort, and she
had a very decided tendency to smartness. She had a little party
in the house, a sort of long week-end party, that made her
hesitate for a minute or so before she framed a reply to the
It was the intention of Mrs. Garstein Fellows to succeed very
conspicuously in the British world, and the British world she
felt was a complicated one; it is really not one world but
several, and if you would surely succeed you must keep your peace
with all the systems and be a source of satisfaction to all of
them. So at least Mrs. Garstein Fellows saw it, and her method
was to classify her acquaintances according to their systems, to
keep them in their proper bundles, and to give every one the
treatment he or she was accustomed to receive. And since all
things British are now changing and passing away, it may not be
uninteresting to record the classification Mrs. Garstein Fellows
adopted. First she set apart as most precious and desirable, and
requiring the most careful treatment, the "court dowdies "--for
so it was that the dignity and quiet good taste that radiated
from Buckingham Palace impressed her restless, shallow mind--
the sort of people who prefer pair horse carriages to
automobiles, have quiet friendships in the highest quarters,
quietly do not know any one else, busy themselves with charities,
dress richly rather than impressively, and have either little
water-colour accomplishments or none at all, and no other
relations with "art." At the skirts of this crowning British
world Mrs. Garstein Fellows tugged industriously and expensively.
She did not keep a carriage and pair and an old family coachman
because that, she felt, would be considered pushing and
presumptuous; she had the sense to stick to her common
unpretending 80 h.p. Daimler; but she wore a special sort of
blackish hat-bonnet for such occasions as brought her near the
centre of honour, which she got from a little good shop known
only to very few outside the inner ring, which hat-bonnet she was
always careful to sit on for a few minutes before wearing. And it
was to this first and highest and best section of her social
scheme that she considered that bishops properly belonged. But
some bishops, and in particular such a comparatively bright
bishop as the Bishop of Princhester, she also thought of as being
just as comfortably accommodated in her second system, the
"serious liberal lot," which was more fatiguing and less boring,
which talked of books and things, visited the Bells, went to all
first-nights when Granville Barker was the producer, and knew and
valued people in the grey and earnest plains between the Cecils
and the Sidney Webbs. And thirdly there were the smart
intellectual lot, again not very well marked off, and on the
whole practicable to bishops, of whom fewer particulars are
needed because theirs is a perennial species, and then finally
there was that fourth world which was paradoxically at once very
brilliant and a little shady, which had its Night Club side, and
seemed to set no limit to its eccentricities. It seemed at times
to be aiming to shock and yet it had its standards, but here it
was that the dancers and actresses and forgiven divorcees came in
--and the bishops as a rule, a rule hitherto always respected,
didn't. This was the ultimate world of Mrs. Garstein Fellows; she
had no use for merely sporting people and the merely correct
smart and the duller county families, sets that led nowhere, and
it was from her fourth system of the Glittering Doubtfuls that
this party which made her hesitate over the bishop's telegram,
She ran over their names as she sat considering her reply.
What was there for a bishop to object to? There was that
admirable American widow, Lady Sunderbund. She was enormously
rich, she was enthusiastic. She was really on probation for
higher levels; it was her decolletage delayed her. If only she
kept off theosophy and the Keltic renascence and her disposition
to profess wild intellectual passions, there would be no harm in
her. Provided she didn't come down to dinner in anything too
fantastically scanty--but a word in season was possible. No!
there was no harm in Lady Sunderbund. Then there were Ridgeway
Kelso and this dark excitable Catholic friend of his, Paidraig
O'Gorman. Mrs. Garstein Fellows saw no harm in them. Then one had
to consider Lord Gatling and Lizzie Barusetter. But nothing
showed, nothing was likely to show even if there was anything.
And besides, wasn't there a Church and Stage Guild?
Except for those people there seemed little reason for alarm.
Mrs. Garstein Fellows did not know that Professor Hoppart, who so
amusingly combined a professorship of political economy with the
writing of music-hall lyrics, was a keen amateur theologian, nor
that Bent, the sentimental novelist, had a similar passion. She
did not know that her own eldest son, a dark, romantic-looking
youngster from Eton, had also come to the theological stage of
development. She did however weigh the possibilities of too
liberal opinions on what are called social questions on the part
of Miss Sharsper, the novelist, and decided that if that lady was
watched nothing so terrible could be said even in an undertone;
and as for the Mariposa, the dancer, she had nothing but Spanish
and bad French, she looked all right, and it wasn't very likely
she would go out of her way to startle an Anglican bishop. Simply
she needn't dance. Besides which even if a man does get a glimpse
of a little something--it isn't as if it was a woman.
But of course if the party mustn't annoy the bishop, the bishop
must do his duty by the party. There must be the usual purple and
the silver buckles.
She wired back:
"A little party but it won't put you out send your man with
In making that promise Mrs. Garstein Fellows reckoned without
the morbid sensibility of the bishop's disorganized nervous
system and the unsuspected theological stirrings beneath the
apparent worldliness of Hoppart and Bent.
The trouble began in the drawing-room after dinner. Out of
deference to the bishop's abstinence the men did not remain to
smoke, but came in to find the Mariposa and Lady Sunderbund
smoking cigarettes, which these ladies continued to do a little
defiantly. They had hoped to finish them before the bishop came
up. The night was chilly, and a cheerful wood fire cracking and
banging on the fireplace emphasized the ordinary heating. Mrs.
Garstein Fellows, who had not expected so prompt an appearance of
the men, had arranged her chairs in a semicircle for a little
womanly gossip, and before she could intervene she found her
party, with the exception of Lord Gatling, who had drifted just a
little too noticeably with Miss Barnsetter into a window, sitting
round with a conscious air, that was perhaps just a trifle too
apparent, of being "good."
And Mr. Bent plunged boldly into general conversation.
"Are you reading anything now, Mrs. Garstein Fellows?" he
asked. "I'm an interested party."
She was standing at the side of the fireplace. She bit her lip
and looked at the cornice and meditated with a girlish
expression. "Yes," she said. "I am reading again. I didn't think
I should but I am."
"For a time," said Hoppart, "I read nothing but the papers. I
bought from a dozen to twenty a day."
"That is wearing off," said the bishop.
"The first thing I began to read again," said Mrs. Garstein
Fellows, "--I'm not saying it for your sake, Bishop--was the
"I went to the Bible," said Bent as if he was surprised.
"I've heard that before," said Ridgeway Kelso, in that slightly
explosive manner of his. "All sorts of people who don't usually
read the Bible--"
"But Mr. Kelso!" protested their hostess with raised eyebrows.
"I was thinking of Bent. But anyhow there's been a great wave
of seriousness, a sudden turning to religion and religious
things. I don't know if it comes your way, Bishop...."
"I've had no rows of penitents yet."
"We may be coming," said Hoppart.
He turned sideways to face the bishop. "I think we should be
coming if--if it wasn't for old entangled difficulties. I don't
know if you will mind my saying it to you, but...."
The bishop returned his frank glance. "I'd like to know above
all things," he said. "If Mrs. Garstein Fellow will permit us.
It's my business to know."
"We all want to know," said Lady Sunderbund, speaking from the
low chair on the other side of the fireplace. There was a
vibration in her voice and a sudden gleam of enthusiasm in her
face. "Why shouldn't people talk se'iously sometimes?"
"Well, take my own case," said Hoppart. "In the last few weeks,
I've been reading not only in the Bible but in the Fathers. I've
read most of Athanasius, most of Eusebius, and--I'll confess it
--Gibbon. I find all my old wonder come back. Why are we pinned
to--to the amount of creed we are pinned to? Why for instance
must you insist on the Trinity?"
"Yes," said the Eton boy explosively, and flushed darkly to
find he had spoken.
"Here is a time when men ask for God," said Hoppart. "And you
give them three!" cried Bent rather cheaply. "I confess I find
the way encumbered by these Alexandrian elaborations," Hoppart
"Need it be?" whispered Lady Sunderbund very softly.
"Well," said the bishop, and leant back in his armchair and
knitted his brow at the fire. "I do not think," he said, "that
men coming to God think very much of the nature of God.
Nevertheless," he spoke slowly and patted the arm of his chair,
"nevertheless the church insists that certain vitally important
truths have to be conveyed, certain mortal errors are best
guarded against, by these symbols."
"You admit they are symbols."
"So the church has always called them."
Hoppart showed by a little movement and grimace that he thought
the bishop quibbled.
"In every sense of the word," the bishop hastened to explain,
"the creeds are symbolical. It is clear they seek to express
ineffable things by at least an extended use of familiar words. I
suppose we are all agreed nowadays that when we speak of the
Father and of the Son we mean something only in a very remote and
exalted way parallel with--with biological fatherhood and
Lady Sunderbund nodded eagerly. "Yes," she said, "oh, yes," and
held up an expectant face for more.
"Our utmost words, our most elaborately phrased creeds, can at
the best be no better than the shadow of something unseen thrown
upon the screen of experience."
He raised his rather weary eyes to Hoppart as if he would know
what else needed explanation. He was gratified by Lady
Sunderbund's approval, but he affected not to see or hear it. But
it was Bent who spoke.
He spoke in the most casual way. He made the thing seem the
most incidental of observations.
"What puzzles me," he said, "is why the early Christians
identified the Spermaticos Logos of the Stoics with the second
and not with the third person of the Trinity."
To which the bishop, rising artlessly to the bait, replied,
"Ah! that indeed is the unfortunate aspect of the whole affair."
And then the Irish Catholic came down on him....
How the bishop awakened in the night after this dispute has
been told already in the opening section of this story. To that
night of discomfort we now return after this comprehensive
digression. He awoke from nightmares of eyes and triangles to
bottomless remorse and perplexity. For the first time he fully
measured the vast distances he had travelled from the beliefs and
attitudes of his early training, since his coming to Princhester.
Travelled--or rather slipped and fallen down the long slopes of
That clear inky dimness that comes before dawn found his white
face at the window looking out upon the great terrace and the
After a bout of mental distress and sleeplessness the bishop
would sometimes wake in the morning not so much exhausted as in a
state of thin mental and bodily activity. This was more
particularly so if the night had produced anything in the nature
of a purpose. So it was on this occasion. The day was clear
before him; at least it could be cleared by sending three
telegrams; his man could go back to Princhester and so leave him
perfectly free to go to Brighton-Pomfrey in London and secure
that friendly dispensation to smoke again which seemed the only
alternative to a serious mental breakdown. He would take his bag,
stay the night in London, smoke, sleep well, and return the next
morning. Dunk, his valet-butler, found him already bathed and
ready for a cup of tea and a Bradshaw at half-past seven. He went
on dressing although the good train for London did not start
Mrs. Garstein Fellows was by nature and principle a late riser;
the breakfast-room showed small promise yet of the repast, though
the table was set and bright with silver and fresh flowers, and a
wood fire popped and spurted to greet and encourage the March
sunshine. But standing in the doorway that led to the promise and
daffodils and crocuses of Mrs. Garstein Fellows' garden stood
Lady Sunderbund, almost with an effect of waiting, and she
greeted the bishop very cheerfully, doubted the immediate
appearance of any one else, and led him in the most natural
manner into the new but already very pleasant shrubbery.
In some indefinable special way the bishop had been aware of
Lady Sunderbund's presence since first he had met her, but it was
only now that he could observe her with any particularity. She
was tall like his own Lady Ella but not calm and quiet; she was
electric, her eyes, her smiles, her complexion had as it were an
established brightness that exceeded the common lustre of things.
This morning she was dressed in grey that was nevertheless not
grey but had an effect of colour, and there was a thread of black
along the lines of her body and a gleam of gold. She carried her
head back with less dignity than pride; there was a little frozen
movement in her dark hair as if it flamed up out of her head.
There were silver ornaments in her hair. She spoke with a pretty
little weakness of the r's that had probably been acquired
abroad. And she lost no time in telling him, she was eager to
tell him, that she had been waylaying him. "I did so want to talk
to you some maw," she said. "I was shy last night and they we'
all so noisy and eaga'. I p'ayed that you might come down early.
"It's an oppo'tunity I've longed for," she said.
She did her very pretty best to convey what it was had been
troubling her. 'iligion bad been worrying her for years. Life was
--oh--just ornaments and games and so wea'isome, so wea'isome,
unless it was 'iligious. And she couldn't get it 'iligious.
The bishop nodded his head gravely.
"You unde'stand?" she pressed.
"I understand too well--the attempt to get hold--and keep
"I knew you would!" she cried.
She went on with an impulsive rapidity. O'thodoxy had always
'ipelled her,--always. She had felt herself confronted by the
most insurmountable difficulties, and yet whenever she had gone
away from Christianity--she had gone away from Christianity, to
the Theosophists and the Christian Scientists--she had felt she
was only "st'aying fu'tha." And then suddenly when he was
speaking last night, she had felt he knew. It was so wonderful to
hear the "k'eed was only a symbol."
"Symbol is the proper name for it," said the bishop. "It wasn't
for centuries it was called the Creed."
Yes, and so what it really meant was something quite different
from what it did mean.
The bishop felt that this sentence also was only a symbol, and
nodded encouragingly--but gravely, warily.
And there she was, and the point was there were thousands and
thousands and thousands of educated people like her who were
dying to get through these old-fashioned symbols to the true
faith that lay behind them. That they knew lay behind them. She
didn't know if he had read "The Light under the Altar"?
"He's vicar of Wombash--in my diocese," said the bishop with
"It's wonde'ful stuff," said Lady Sunderbund. "It's spi'tually
cold, but it's intellectually wonde'ful. But we want that with
spi'tuality. We want it so badly. If some one--"
She became daring. She bit her under lip and flashed her spirit
"If you--" she said and paused.
"Could think aloud," said the bishop.
"Yes," she said, nodding rapidly, and became breathless to
It would certainly be an astonishing end to the Chasters
difficulty if the bishop went over to the heretic, the bishop
"My dear lady, I won't disguise," he began; "in fact I don't
see how I could, that for some years I have been growing more and
more discontented with some of our most fundamental formulae. But
it's been very largely a shapeless discontent--hitherto. I
don't think I've said a word to a single soul. No, not a word.
You are the first person to whom I've ever made the admission
that even my feelings are at times unorthodox."
She lit up marvellously at his words. "Go on," she whispered.
But she did not need to tell him to go on. Now that he had once
broached the casket of his reserves he was only too glad of a
listener. He talked as if they were intimate and loving friends,
and so it seemed to both of them they were. It was a wonderful
release from a long and painful solitude.
To certain types it is never quite clear what has happened to
them until they tell it. So that now the bishop, punctuated very
prettily by Lady Sunderbund, began to measure for the first time
the extent of his departure from the old innate convictions of
Otteringham Rectory. He said that it was strange to find doubt
coming so late in life, but perhaps it was only in recent years
that his faith had been put to any really severe tests. It had
been sheltered and unchallenged.
"This fearful wa'," Lady Sunderbund interjected.
But Princhester had been a critical and trying change, and "The
Light under the Altar" case had ploughed him deeply. It was
curious that his doubts always seemed to have a double strand;
there was a moral objection based on the church's practical
futility and an intellectual strand subordinated to this which
traced that futility largely to its unconvincing formulae.
"And yet you know," said the bishop, "I find I can't go with
Chasters. He beats at the church; he treats her as though she
were wrong. I feel like a son, growing up, who finds his mother
isn't quite so clear-spoken nor quite so energetic as she seemed
to be once. She's right, I feel sure. I've never doubted her
"Yes," said Lady Sunderbund, very eagerly, "yes."
"And yet there's this futility.... You know, my dear lady, I
don't know what to do. One feels on the one hand, that here is a
cloud of witnesses, great men, sainted men, subtle men, figures
permanently historical, before whom one can do nothing but bow
down in the utmost humility, here is a great instrument and
organization--what would the world be without the witness of the
church?--and on the other hand here are our masses out of hand
and hostile, our industrial leaders equally hostile; there is a
failure to grip, and that failure to grip is so clearly traceable
to the fact that our ideas are not modern ideas, that when we
come to profess our faith we find nothing in our mouths but
antiquated Alexandrian subtleties and phrases and ideas that may
have been quite alive, quite significant, quite adequate in Asia
Minor or Egypt, among men essentially orientals, fifteen hundred
years ago, but which now--Ä
He expressed just what they came to now by a gesture.
She echoed his gesture.
"Probably I'm not alone among my brethren," he went on, and
then: "But what is one to do?"
With her hands she acted her sense of his difficulty.
"One may be precipitate," he said. "There's a kind of loyalty
and discipline that requires one to keep the ranks until one's
course of action is perfectly clear. One owes so much to so many.
One has to consider how one may affect--oh! people one has never
He was lugging things now into speech that so far had been
scarcely above the threshold of his conscious thought. He went on
to discuss the entire position of the disbelieving cleric. He
discovered a fine point.
"If there was something else, an alternative, another religion,
another Church, to which one could go, the whole case would be
different. But to go from the church to nothingness isn't to go
from falsehood to truth. It's to go from truth, rather badly
expressed, rather conservatively hidden by its protections, truth
in an antiquated costume, to the blackest lie--in the world."
She took that point very brightly.
"One must hold fast to 'iligion," she said, and looked
earnestly at him and gripped fiercely, pink thumbs out, with her
beautiful hands held up.
That was it, exactly. He too was gripping. But while on the
outside the Midianites of denial were prowling for these clinging
souls, within the camp they were assailed by a meticulous
orthodoxy that was only too eager to cast them forth. The bishop
dwelt for a time upon the curious fierceness orthodoxy would
sometimes display. Nowadays atheism can be civil, can be
generous; it is orthodoxy that trails a scurrilous fringe.
"Who was that young man with a strong Irish accent--who
contradicted me so suddenly?" he asked.
"The dark young man?"
"The noisy young man."
"That was Mist' Pat'ick O'Go'man. He is a Kelt and all that.
Spells Pat'ick with eva so many letters. You know. They say he
spends ouas and ouas lea'ning E'se. He wo'ies about it. They all
t'y to lea'n E'se, and it wo'ies them and makes them hate England
moa and moa."
"He is orthodox. He--is what I call orthodox to the
A deep-toned gong proclaimed breakfast over a square mile or so
of territory, and Lady Sunderbund turned about mechanically
towards the house. But they continued their discussion.
She started indeed a new topic. "Shall we eva, do 'ou think,
have a new 'iligion--t'ua and betta?"
That was a revolutionary idea to him.
He was still fending it off from him when a gap in the shrubs
brought them within sight of the house and of Mrs. Garstein
Fellows on the portico waving a handkerchief and crying
"I wish we could talk for houas," said Lady Sunderbund.
"I've been glad of this talk," said the bishop. "Very glad."
She lifted her soft abundant skirts and trotted briskly across
the still dewy lawn towards the house door. The bishop followed
gravely and slowly with his hands behind his back and an
unusually peaceful expression upon his face. He was thinking how
rare and precious a thing it is to find intelligent friendship in
women. More particularly when they were dazzlingly charming and
pretty. It was strange, but this was really his first woman
friend. If, as he hoped, she became his friend.
Lady Sunderbund entered the breakfast room in a gusty abundance
like Botticelli's Primavera, and kissed Mrs. Garstein Fellows
good-morning. She exhaled a glowing happiness. "He is wondyful,"
she panted. "He is most wondyful."
"Mr. Hidgeway Kelso?"
"No, the dee' bishop! I love him. Are those the little sausages
I like? May I take th'ee? I've been up houas."
The dee' bishop appeared in the sunlit doorway.
The bishop felt more contentment in the London train than he
had felt for many weeks. He had taken two decisive and relieving
steps. One was that he had stated his case to another human
being, and that a very charming and sympathetic human being, he
was no longer a prey to a current of secret and concealed
thoughts running counter to all the appearances of his outward
life; and the other was that he was now within an hour or so of
Brighton-Pomfrey and a cigarette. He would lunch on the train,
get to London about two, take a taxi at once to the wise old
doctor, catch him over his coffee in a charitable and
understanding mood, and perhaps be smoking a cigarette publicly
and honourably and altogether satisfyingly before three.
So far as Brighton-Pomfrey's door this program was fulfilled
without a hitch. The day was fine and he had his taxi opened, and
noted with a patriotic satisfaction as he rattled through the
streets, the glare of the recruiting posters on every vacant
piece of wall and the increasing number of men in khaki in the
streets. But at the door he had a disappointment. Dr.
Brighton-Pomfrey was away at the front--of all places; he had
gone for some weeks; would the bishop like to see Dr. Dale?
The bishop hesitated. He had never set eyes on this Dr. Dale.
Indeed, he had never heard of Dr. Dale.
Seeing his old friend Brighton-Pomfrey and being gently and
tactfully told to do exactly what he was longing to do was one
thing; facing some strange doctor and going slowly and
elaborately through the whole story of his illness, his vow and
his breakdown, and perhaps having his reaction time tested and
all sorts of stripping and soundings done, was quite another. He
was within an ace of turning away.
If he had turned away his whole subsequent life would have been
different. It was the very slightest thing in the world tipped
the beam. It was the thought that, after all, whatever
inconvenience and unpleasantness there might be in this
interview, there was at the end of it a very reasonable prospect
of a restored and legitimate cigarette.
CHAPTER THE FIFTH - THE FIRST VISION
Dr. DALE exceeded the bishop's worst apprehensions. He was a
lean, lank, dark young man with long black hair and irregular,
rather prolonged features; his chin was right over to the left;
he looked constantly at the bishop's face with a distinctly
sceptical grey eye; he could not have looked harder if he had
been a photographer or a portrait painter. And his voice was
harsh, and the bishop was particularly sensitive to voices.
He began by understanding far too much of the bishop's illness,
and he insisted on various familiarities with the bishop's heart
and tongue and eye and knee that ruffled the bishop's soul.
"Brighton-Pomfrey talked of neurasthenia?" he asked. "That was
his diagnosis," said the bishop. "Neurasthenia," said the young
man as though he despised the word.
The bishop went on buttoning up his coat.
"You don't of course want to break your vows about drinking and
smoking," said the young man with the very faintest suggestion of
derision in his voice.
"Not if it can possibly be avoided," the bishop asserted.
"Without a loss, that is, of practical efficiency," he added.
"For I have much to do."
"I think that it is possible to keep your vow," said the young
man, and the bishop could have sworn at him. "I think we can
manage that all right."
The bishop sat at the table resting his arm upon it and
awaiting the next development of this unsatisfactory interview.
He was on the verge of asking as unpleasantly as possible when
Brighton-Pomfrey would return.
The young man stood upon Brighton-Pomfrey's hearth-rug and was
evidently contemplating dissertations.
"Of course," he said, as though he discussed a problem with
himself, "you must have some sort of comfort. You must get out of
this state, one way or another."
The bishop nodded assent. He had faint hopes of this young
man's ideas of comfort.
Dr. Dale reflected. Then he went off away from the question of
comfort altogether. "You see, the trouble in such a case as this
is peculiarly difficult to trace to its sources because it comes
just upon the border-line of bodily and mental things. You may
take a drug or alter your regimen and it disturbs your thoughts,
you may take an idea and it disturbs your health. It is easy
enough to say, as some do, that all ideas have a physical
substratum; it is almost as easy to say with the Christian
Scientist that all bodily states are amenable to our ideas. The
truth doesn't, I think, follow the border between those opposite
opinions very exactly on either side. I can't, for instance, tell
you to go home and pray against these uncertainties and despairs,
because it is just these uncertainties and despairs that rob you
of the power of efficient prayer."
He did not seem to expect anything from the bishop.
"I don't see that because a case brings one suddenly right up
against the frontier of metaphysics, why a doctor should
necessarily pull up short at that, why one shouldn't go on into
either metaphysics or psychology if such an extension is
necessary for the understanding of the case. At any rate if
you'll permit it in this consultation...."
"Go on," said the bishop, holding on to that promise of
comfort. "The best thing is to thrash out the case in your own
way. And then come to what is practical."
"What is really the matter here--the matter with you that is
--is a disorganization of your tests of reality. It's one of a
group of states hitherto confused. Neurasthenia, that
comprehensive phrase--well, it is one of the neurasthenias.
Here, I confess, I begin to talk of work I am doing, work still
to be published, finished first and then published.... But I go
off from the idea that every living being lives in a state not
differing essentially from a state of hallucination concerning
the things about it. Truth, essential truth, is hidden. Always.
Of course there must be a measure of truth in our working
illusions, a working measure of truth, or the creature would
smash itself up and end itself, but beyond that discretion of the
fire and the pitfall lies a wide margin of error about which we
may be deceived for years. So long as it doesn't matter, it
doesn't matter. I don't know if I make myself clear."
"I follow you," said the bishop a little wearily, "I follow
you. Phenomena and noumena and so on and so on. Kant and so
forth. Pragmatism. Yes."
With a sigh.
"And all that," completed Dr. Dale in a voice that suggested
mockery. "But you see we grow into a way of life, we settle down
among habits and conventions, we say 'This is all right' and
'That is always so.' We get more and more settled into our life
as a whole and more and more confident. Unless something happens
to shake us out of our sphere of illusion. That may be some
violent contradictory fact, some accident, or it may be some
subtle change in one's health and nerves that makes us feel
doubtful. Or a change of habits. Or, as I believe, some subtle
quickening of the critical faculty. Then suddenly comes the
feeling as though we were lost in a strange world, as though we
had never really seen the world before."
The bishop was reluctantly interested. "That does describe
something--of the mental side," he admitted. "I never believe
in concealing my own thoughts from an intelligent patient," said
Dr. Dale, with a quiet offensiveness. "That sort of thing belongs
to the dark ages of the 'pothecary's art. I will tell you exactly
my guesses and suppositions about you. At the base of it all is a
slight and subtle kidney trouble, due I suggest to your going to
Princhester and drinking the local water--"
"But it's excellent water. They boast of it."
"By all the established tests. As a matter of fact many of our
best drinking waters have all sorts of unspecified qualities.
Burton water, for example, is radioactive by Beetham's standards
up to the ninth degree. But that is by the way. My theory about
your case is that this produced a change in your blood, that
quickened your sensibilities and your critical faculties just at
a time when a good many bothers--I don't of course know what
they were, but I can, so to speak, see the marks all over you--
came into your life."
The bishop nodded.
"You were uprooted. You moved from house to house, and failed
to get that curled up safe feeling one has in a real home in any
"If you saw the fireplaces and the general decoration of the
new palace!" admitted the bishop. "I had practically no control."
"That confirms me," said Dr. Dale. "Insomnia followed, and
increased the feeling of physical strangeness by increasing the
bodily disturbance. I suspect an intellectual disturbance."
"There was," said the bishop.
"You were no longer at home anywhere. You were no longer at
home in your diocese, in your palace, in your body, in your
convictions. And then came the war. Quite apart from everything
else the mind of the whole world is suffering profoundly from the
shock of this war--much more than is generally admitted. One
thing you did that you probably did not observe yourself doing,
you drank rather more at your meals, you smoked a lot more. That
was your natural and proper response to the shock."
"Ah!" said the bishop, and brightened up.
"It was remarked by Tolstoy, I think, that few intellectual men
would really tolerate the world as it is if it were not for
smoking and drinking. Even novelists have their moments of
lucidity. Certainly these things soothe the restlessness in men's
minds, deaden their sceptical sensibilities. And just at the time
when you were getting most dislodged--you gave them up."
"And the sooner I go back to them the better," said the bishop
brightly. "I quite see that."
"I wouldn't say that," said Dr. Dale....
"That," said Dr. Dale, "is just where my treatment of this case
differs from the treatment of "--he spoke the name reluctantly
as if he disliked the mere sound of it--"Dr. Brighton-Pomfrey."
"Hitherto, of course," said the bishop, "I've been in his
"He," said Dr. Dale, "would certainly set about trying to
restore your old sphere of illusion, your old familiar sensations
and ideas and confidences. He would in fact turn you back. He
would restore all your habits. He would order you a rest. He
would send you off to some holiday resort, fresh in fact but
familiar in character, the High lands, North Italy, or
Switzerland for example. He would forbid you newspapers and order
you to botanize and prescribe tranquillizing reading; Trollope's
novels, the Life of Gladstone, the works of Mr. A. C. Benson,
memoirs and so on. You'd go somewhere where there was a good
Anglican chaplain, and you'd take some of the services yourself.
And we'd wash out the effects of the Princhester water with
Contrexeville, and afterwards put you on Salutaris or Perrier. I
don't know whether I shouldn't have inclined to some such
treatment before the war began. Only--"
Dr. Dale's face betrayed a sudden sombre passion. "It won't do
now," he said in a voice of quiet intensity. "It won't do now."
He remained darkly silent for so long that at last the bishop
spoke. "Then what," he asked, "do you suggest?
"Suppose we don't try to go back," said Dr. Dale. "Suppose we
go on and go through."
"I know it's doubtful, I know it's dangerous," he went on, "but
I am convinced that now we can no longer keep men's minds and
souls in these feathered nests, these spheres of illusion. Behind
these veils there is either God or the Darkness.... Why should we
not go on?"
The bishop was profoundly perplexed. He heard himself speaking.
"It would be unworthy of my cloth," he was saying.
Dr. Dale completed the sentence: "to go back."
"Let me explain a little more," he said, "what I mean by 'going
on.' I think that this loosening of the ties of association that
bind a man to his everyday life and his everyday self is in nine
cases out of ten a loosening of the ties that bind him to
everyday sanity. One common form of this detachment is the form
you have in those cases of people who are found wandering unaware
of their names, unaware of their places of residence, lost
altogether from themselves. They have not only lost their sense
of identity with themselves, but all the circumstances of their
lives have faded out of their minds like an idle story in a book
that has been read and put aside. I have looked into hundreds of
such cases. I don't think that loss of identity is a necessary
thing; it's just another side of the general weakening of the
grip upon reality, a kind of anaemia of the brain so that
interest fades and fails. There is no reason why you should
forget a story because you do not believe it--if your brain is
strong enough to hold it. But if your brain is tired and weak,
then so soon as you lose faith in your records, your mind is glad
to let them go. When you see these lost identity people that is
always your first impression, a tired brain that has let go."
The bishop felt extremely like letting go.
"But how does this apply to my case?"
"I come to that," said Dr. Dale, holding up a long large hand.
"What if we treat this case of yours in a new way? What if we
give you not narcotics but stimulants and tonics? What if we so
touch the blood that we increase your sense of physical
detachment while at the same time feeding up your senses to a new
and more vivid apprehension of things about you?" He looked at
his patient's hesitation and added: "You'd lose all that craving
feeling, that you fancy at present is just the need of a smoke.
The world might grow a trifle--transparent, but you'd keep
real. Instead of drugging oneself back to the old contentment--"
"You'd drug me on to the new," said the bishop.
"But just one word more!" said Dr. Dale. "Hear why I would do
this! It was easy and successful to rest and drug people back to
their old states of mind when the world wasn't changing, wasn't
spinning round in the wildest tornado of change that it has ever
been in. But now--Where can I send you for a rest? Where can I
send you to get you out of sight and hearing of the Catastrophe?
Of course old Brighton-Pomfrey would go on sending people away
for rest and a nice little soothing change if the Day of Judgment
was coming in the sky and the earth was opening and the sea was
giving up its dead. He'd send 'em to the seaside. Such things as
that wouldn't shake his faith in the Channel crossing. My idea is
that it's not only right for you to go through with this, but
that it's the only thing to do. If you go right on and right
through with these doubts and intimations--"
"You may die like a madman," he said, "but you won't die like a
The bishop sat reflecting. What fascinated and attracted him
was the ending of all the cravings and uneasinesses and
restlessness that had distressed his life for over four years;
what deterred him was the personality of this gaunt young man
with his long grey face, his excited manner, his shock of black
hair. He wanted that tonic--with grave misgivings. "If you
think this tonic is the wiser course," he began. "I'd give it you
if you were my father," said Dr. Dale. "I've got everything for
it," he added.
"You mean you can make it up--without a prescription."
"I can't give you a prescription. The essence of it--It's a
distillate I have been trying. It isn't in the Pharmacopeia."
Again the bishop had a twinge of misgiving.
But in the end he succumbed. He didn't want to take the stuff,
but also he did not want to go without his promised comfort.
Presently Dale had given him a little phial--and was holding
up to the window a small medicine glass into which he was pouring
very carefully twenty drops of the precious fluid. "Take it
only," he said, "when you feel you must."
"It is the most golden of liquids," said the bishop, peering at
"When you want more I will make you more. Later of course, it
will be possible to write a prescription. Now add the water--
"It becomes opalescent. How beautifully the light plays in it!
The bishop dismissed his last discretion and drank.
"Well?" said Dr. Dale.
"I am still here," said the bishop, smiling, and feeling a
joyous tingling throughout his body. "It stirs me."
The bishop stood on the pavement outside Dr. Brighton-Pomfrey's
house. The massive door had closed behind him.
It had been an act of courage, of rashness if you will, to take
this draught. He was acutely introspective, ready for anything,
for the most disagreeable or the most bizarre sensations. He was
asking himself, Were his feet steady? Was his head swimming?
His doubts glowed into assurance.
Suddenly he perceived that he was sure of God.
Not perhaps of the God of Nicaea, but what did these poor
little quibblings and definitions of the theologians matter? He
had been worrying about these definitions and quibblings for four
long restless years. Now they were just failures to express--
what surely every one knew--and no one would ever express
exactly. Because here was God, and the kingdom of God was
manifestly at hand. The visible world hung before him as a mist
might hang before the rising sun. He stood proudly and
masterfully facing a universe that had heretofore bullied him
into doubt and apologetics, a universe that had hitherto been
opaque and was now betrayed translucent.
That was the first effect of the new tonic, complete
reassurance, complete courage. He turned to walk towards Mount
Street and Berkeley Square as a sultan might turn to walk among
But the tonic was only beginning.
Before he had gone a dozen steps he was aware that he seemed
more solid and larger than the people about him. They had all a
curious miniature effect, as though he was looking at them
through the wrong end of an opera glass. The houses on either
side of the street and the traffic shared this quality in an
equal measure. It was as if he was looking at the world through
apertures in a miniature cinematograph peep-show. This surprised
him and a little dashed his first glow of satisfaction.
He passed a man in khaki who, he fancied, looked at him with an
odd expression. He observed the next passers-by narrowly and
suspiciously, a couple of smartish young men, a lady with a
poodle, a grocer's boy with a basket, but none seemed to observe
anything remarkable about him. Then he caught the eye of a taxi-
driver and became doubtful again.
He had a feeling that this tonic was still coming in like a
tide. It seemed to be filling him and distending him, in spite of
the fact that he was already full. After four years of flaccidity
it was pleasant to be distended again, but already he felt more
filled than he had ever been before. At present nothing was
showing, but all his body seemed braced and uplifted. He must be
careful not to become inflated in his bearing.
And yet it was difficult not to betray a little inflation. He
was so filled with assurance that things were right with him and
that God was there with him. After all it was not mere fancy; he
was looking through the peepholes of his eyes at the world of
illusion and appearance. The world that was so intent upon its
immediate business, so regardless of eternal things, that had so
dominated him but a little while ago, was after all a thing more
mortal than himself.
Another man in khaki passed him.
For the first time he saw the war as something measurable, as
something with a beginning and an end, as something less than the
immortal spirit in man. He had been too much oppressed by it. He
perceived all these people in the street were too much oppressed
by it. He wanted to tell them as much, tell them that all was
well with them, bid them be of good cheer. He wanted to bless
them. He found his arm floating up towards gestures of
benediction. Self-control became increasingly difficult.
All the way down Berkeley Square the bishop was in full-bodied
struggle with himself. He was trying to control himself, trying
to keep within bounds. He felt that he was stepping too high,
that his feet were not properly reaching the ground, that he was
walking upon cushions of air.
The feeling of largeness increased, and the feeling of
transparency in things about him. He avoided collision with
passers-by--excessively. And he felt his attention was being
drawn more and more to something that was going on beyond the
veil of visible things. He was in Piccadilly now, but at the same
time Piccadilly was very small and he was walking in the presence
He had a feeling that God was there though he could not see
him. And at the same time he was in this transitory world, with
people going to and fro, men with umbrellas tucked dangerously
under their arms, men in a hurry, policemen, young women rattling
Red Cross collecting boxes, smart people, loafers. They
distracted one from God.
He set out to cross the road just opposite Prince's, and
jumping needlessly to give way to an omnibus had the narrowest
escape from a taxicab.
He paused on the pavement edge to recover himself. The shock of
his near escape had, as people say, pulled him together.
What was he to do? Manifestly this opalescent draught was
overpowering him. He ought never to have taken it. He ought to
have listened to the voice of his misgivings. It was clear that
he was not in a fit state to walk about the streets. He was--
what had been Dr. Dale's term?--losing his sense of reality.
What was he to do? He was alarmed but not dismayed. His thoughts
were as full-bodied as the rest of his being, they came throbbing
and bumping into his mind. What was he to do?
Brighton-Pomfrey ought never to have left his practice in the
hands of this wild-eyed experimenter.
Strange that after a lifetime of discretion and men's respect
one should be standing on the Piccadilly pavement--intoxicated!
It came into his head that he was not so very far from the
Athenaeum, and surely there if anywhere a bishop may recover his
sense of being--ordinary.
And behind everything, behind the tall buildings and the
swarming people there was still the sense of a wide illuminated
space, of a light of wonder and a Presence. But he must not give
way to that again! He had already given way altogether too much.
He repeated to himself in a whisper, "I am in Piccadilly."
If he kept tight hold upon himself he felt he might get to the
Athenaeum before--before anything more happened.
He murmured directions to himself. "Keep along the pavement.
Turn to the right at the Circus. Now down the hill. Easily down
the hill. Don't float! Junior Army and Navy Stores. And the
And presently he had a doubt of his name and began to repeat
"Edward Princhester. Edward Scrope, Lord Bishop of
And all the while voices within him were asserting, "You are in
the kingdom of Heaven. You are in the presence of God. Place and
time are a texture of illusion and dreamland. Even now, you are
The porter of the Athenaeum saw him come in, looking well--
flushed indeed--but queer in expression; his blue eyes were
wide open and unusually vague and blue.
He wandered across towards the dining-room, hesitated, went to
look at the news, seemed in doubt whether he would not go into
the smoking-room, and then went very slowly upstairs, past the
golden angel up to the great drawing-room.
In the drawing-room he found only Sir James Mounce, the man who
knew the novels of Sir Walter Scott by heart and had the minutest
and most unsparing knowledge of every detail in the life of that
supreme giant of English literature. He had even, it was said,
acquired a Scotch burr in the enthusiasm of his hero-worship. It
was usually sufficient only to turn an ear towards him for him to
talk for an hour or so. He was now studying Bradshaw.
The bishop snatched at him desperately. He felt that if he went
away there would be no hold left upon the ordinary things of
"Sir James," he said, "I was wondering the other day when was
the exact date of the earliest public ascription of Waverley to
"Eh!" said Sir James, "but I'd like to talk that over with ye.
Indeed I would. It would be depending very largely on what ye
called 'public.' But--"
He explained something about an engagement in Birmingham that
night, a train to catch. Reluctantly but relentlessly he
abandoned the proffered ear. But he promised that the next time
they met in the club he would go into the matter "exhausteevely."
The door closed upon him. The bishop was alone. He was flooded
with the light of the world that is beyond this world. The things
about him became very small and indistinct.
He would take himself into a quiet corner in the library of
this doll's house, and sit his little body down in one of the
miniature armchairs. Then if he was going to faint or if the
trancelike feeling was to become altogether a trance--well, a
bishop asleep in an armchair in the library of the Athenaeum is
nothing to startle any one.
He thought of that convenient hidden room, the North Library,
in which is the bust of Croker. There often one can be quite
alone.... It was empty, and he went across to the window that
looks out upon Pall Mall and sat down in the little uncomfortable
easy chair by the desk with its back to the Benvenuto Cellini.
And as he sat down, something snapped--like the snapping of a
lute string--in his brain.
With a sigh of deep relief the bishop realized that this world
He was in a golden light.
He perceived it as a place, but it was a place without
buildings or trees or any very definite features. There was a
cloudy suggestion of distant hills, and beneath his feet were
little gem-like flowers, and a feeling of divinity and infinite
friendliness pervaded his being. His impressions grew more
definite. His feet seemed to be bare. He was no longer a bishop
nor clad as a bishop. That had gone with the rest of the world.
He was seated on a slab of starry rock.
This he knew quite clearly was the place of God.
He was unable to disentangle thoughts from words. He seemed to
be speaking in his mind.
"I have been very foolish and confused and perplexed. I have
been like a creature caught among thorns."
"You served the purpose of God among those thorns." It seemed
to him at first that the answer also was among his thoughts.
"I seemed so silly and so little. My wits were clay."
"Clay full of desires."
"Blind desires. That will presently come to the light."
"Shall we come to the light?"
"But here it is, and you see it!"
It became clearer in the mind of the bishop that a figure sat
beside him, a figure of great strength and beauty, with a smiling
face and kindly eyes. A strange thought and a strange courage
came to the bishop.
"Tell me," he whispered, "are you God?"
"I am the Angel of God."
The bishop thought over that for some moments.
"I want," he said, "to know about God.
"I want," he said, with a deepening passion of the soul, "to
know about God. Slowly through four long years I have been
awakening to the need of God. Body and soul I am sick for the
want of God and the knowledge of God. I did not know what was the
matter with me, why my life had become so disordered and confused
that my very appetites and habits are all astray. But I am
perishing for God as a waterless man upon a raft perishes for
drink, and there is nothing but madness if I touch the seas about
me. Not only in my thoughts but in my under thoughts and in my
nerves and bones and arteries I have need of God. You see I grew
up in the delusion that I knew God, I did not know that I was
unprovisioned and unprovided against the tests and strains and
hardships of life. I thought that I was secure and safe. I was
told that we men--who were apes not a quarter of a million
years ago, who still have hair upon our arms and ape's teeth in
our jaws--had come to the full and perfect knowledge of God. It
was all put into a creed. Not a word of it was to be altered, not
a sentence was to be doubted any more. They made me a teacher of
this creed. They seemed to explain it to me. And when I came to
look into it, when my need came and I turned to my creed, it was
old and shrivelled up, it was the patched-up speculations of
vanished Greeks and Egyptians, it was a mummy of ancient
disputes, old and dry, that fell to dust as I unwrapped it. And I
was dressed up in the dress of old dead times and put before an
altar of forgotten sacrifices, and I went through ceremonies as
old as the first seedtime; and suddenly I knew clearly that God
was not there, God was not in my Creed, not in my cathedral, not
in my ceremonies, nowhere in my life. And at the same time I
knew, I knew as I had never known before, that certainly there
He paused. "Tell me," said the friend at his side; "tell me."
"It was as if a child running beside its mother, looked up and
saw that he had never seen her face before, that she was not his
mother, and that the words he had seemed to understand were--
now that he listened--words in an unknown tongue.
"You see, I am but a common sort of man, dear God; I have
neither lived nor thought in any way greatly, I have gone from
one day to the next day without looking very much farther than
the end of the day, I have gone on as life has befallen; if no
great trouble had come into my life, so I should have lived to
the end of my days. But life which began for me easily and safely
has become constantly more difficult and strange. I could have
held my services and given my benedictions, I could have believed
I believed in what I thought I believed.... But now I am lost and
astray--crying out for God...."
"Let us talk a little about your troubles," said the Angel.
"Let us talk about God and this creed that worries you and this
church of yours."
"I feel as though I had been struggling to this talk through
all the years--since my doubts began."
"The story your Creed is trying to tell is much the same story
that all religions try to tell. In your heart there is God,
beyond the stars there is God. Is it the same God?"
"I don't know," said the bishop.
"Does any one know?"
"I thought I knew."
"Your creed is full of Levantine phrases and images, full of
the patched contradictions of the human intelligence utterly
puzzled. It is about those two Gods, the God beyond the stars and
the God in your heart. It says that they are the same God, but
different. It says that they have existed together for all time,
and that one is the Son of the other. It has added a third Person
--but we won't go into that."
The bishop was reminded suddenly of the dispute at Mrs.
Garstein Fellows'. "We won't go into that," he agreed. "No!"
"Other religions have told the story in a different way. The
Cathars and Gnostics did. They said that the God in your heart is
a rebel against the God beyond the stars, that the Christ in your
heart is like Prometheus--or Hiawatha--or any other of the
sacrificial gods, a rebel. He arises out of man. He rebels
against that high God of the stars and crystals and poisons and
monsters and of the dead emptiness of space.... The Manicheans
and the Persians made out our God to be fighting eternally
against that Being of silence and darkness beyond the stars. The
Buddhists made the Lord Buddha the leader of men out of the
futility and confusion of material existence to the great peace
beyond. But it is all one story really, the story of the two
essential Beings, always the same story and the same perplexity
cropping up under different names, the story of one being who
stirs us, calls to us, and leads us, and of another who is above
and outside and in and beneath all things, inaccessible and
incomprehensible. All these religions are trying to tell
something they do not clearly know--of a relationship between
these two, that eludes them, that eludes the human mind, as water
escapes from the hand. It is unity and opposition they have to
declare at the same time; it is agreement and propitiation, it is
infinity and effort."
"And the truth?" said the bishop in an eager whisper. "You can
tell me the truth."
The Angel's answer was a gross familiarity. He thrust his hand
through the bishop's hair and ruffled it affectionately, and
rested for a moment holding the bishop's cranium in his great
"But can this hold it?" he said....
"Not with this little box of brains," said the Angel. "You
could as soon make a meal of the stars and pack them into your
belly. You haven't the things to do it with inside this."
He gave the bishop's head a little shake and relinquished it.
He began to argue as an elder brother might.
"Isn't it enough for you to know something of the God that
comes down to the human scale, who has been born on your planet
and arisen out of Man, who is Man and God, your leader? He's more
than enough to fill your mind and use up every faculty of your
being. He is courage, he is adventure, he is the King, he fights
for you and with you against death...."
"And he is not infinite? He is not the Creator?" asked the
"So far as you are concerned, no," said the Angel.
"So far as I am concerned?"
"What have you to do with creation?"
And at that question it seemed that a great hand swept
carelessly across the blackness of the farther sky, and smeared
it with stars and suns and shining nebulas as a brush might smear
dry paint across a canvas.
The bishop stared in front of him. Then slowly he bowed his
head, and covered his face with his hands.
"And I have been in orders," he murmured; "I have been teaching
people the only orthodox and perfect truth about these things for
seven and twenty years."
And suddenly he was back in his gaiters and his apron and his
shovel hat, a little black figure exceedingly small in a very
It was a very great space indeed because it was all space, and
the roof was the ebony of limitless space from which the stars
swung flaming, held by invisible ties, and the soil beneath his
feet was a dust of atoms and the little beginnings of life. And
long before the bishop bared his face again, he knew that he was
to see his God.
He looked up slowly, fearing to be dazzled.
But he was not dazzled. He knew that he saw only the likeness
and bodying forth of a being inconceivable, of One who is greater
than the earth and stars and yet no greater than a man. He saw a
being for ever young, for ever beginning, for ever triumphant.
The quality and texture of this being was a warm and living light
like the effulgence at sunrise; He was hope and courage like a
sunlit morning in spring. He was adventure for ever, and His
courage and adventure flowed into and submerged and possessed the
being of the man who beheld him. And this presence of God stood
over the bishop, and seemed to speak to him in a wordless speech.
He bade him surrender himself. He bade him come out upon the
Adventure of Life, the great Adventure of the earth that will
make the atoms our bond-slaves and subdue the stars, that will
build up the white fires of ecstasy to submerge pain for ever,
that will overcome death. In Him the spirit of creation had
become incarnate, had joined itself to men, summoning men to Him,
having need of them, having need of them, having need of their
service, even as great kings and generals and leaders need and
use men. For a moment, for an endless age, the bishop bowed
himself in the being and glory of God, felI the glow of the
divine courage and confidence in his marrow, felt himself one
For a timeless interval....
Never had the bishop had so intense a sense of reality. It
seemed that never before had he known anything real. He knew
certainly that God was his King and master, and that his unworthy
service could be acceptable to God. His mind embraced that idea
with an absolute conviction that was also absolute happiness.
The thoughts and sensations of the bishop seemed to have lifted
for a time clean away from the condition of time, and then
through a vast orbit to be returning to that limitation.
He was aware presently that things were changing, that the
light was losing its diviner rays, that in some indescribable
manner the glory and the assurance diminished.
The onset of the new phase was by imperceptible degrees. From a
glowing, serene, and static realization of God, everything
relapsed towards change and activity. He was in time again and
things were happening, it was as if the quicksands of time poured
by him, and it was as if God was passing away from him. He fell
swiftly down from the heaven of self-forgetfulness to a
grotesque, pathetic and earthly self-consciousness.
He became acutely aware of his episcopal livery. And that God
was passing away from him.
It was as if God was passing, and as if the bishop was unable
to rise up and follow him.
Then it was as if God had passed, and as if the bishop was in
headlong pursuit of him and in a great terror lest he should be
left behind. And he was surely being left behind.
He discovered that in some unaccountable way his gaiters were
loose; most of their buttons seemed to have flown off, and his
episcopal sash had slipped down about his feet. He was sorely
impeded. He kept snatching at these things as he ran, in clumsy
attempts to get them off.
At last he had to stop altogether and kneel down and fumble
with the last obstinate button.
"Oh God!" he cried, "God my captain! Wait for me! Be patient
And as he did so God turned back and reached out his hand. It
was indeed as if he stood and smiled. He stood and smiled as a
kind man might do; he dazzled and blinded his worshipper, and yet
it was manifest that he had a hand a man might clasp.
Unspeakable love and joy irradiated the whole being of the
bishop as he seized God's hand and clasped it desperately with
both his own. It was as if his nerves and arteries and all his
substance were inundated with golden light....
It was again as if he merged with God and became God....
CHAPTER THE SIXTH - EXEGETICAL
WITHOUT any sense of transition the bishop found himself
seated in the little North Library of the Athenaeum club and
staring at the bust of John Wilson Croker. He was sitting
motionless and musing deeply. He was questioning with a cool and
steady mind whether he had seen a vision or whether he had had a
dream. If it had been a dream it had been an extraordinarily
vivid and convincing dream. He still seemed to be in the presence
of God, and it perplexed him not at all that he should also be in
the presence of Croker. The feeling of mental rottenness and
insecurity that had weakened his thought through the period of
his illness, had gone. He was secure again within himself.
It did not seem to matter fundamentally whether it was an
experience of things without or of things within him that had
happened to him. It was clear to him that much that he had seen
was at most expressive, that some was altogether symbolical. For
example, there was that sudden absurd realization of his sash and
gaiters, and his perception of them as encumbrances in his
pursuit of God. But the setting and essential of the whole thing
remained in his mind neither expressive nor symbolical, but as
real and immediately perceived, and that was the presence and
kingship of God. God was still with him and about him and over
him and sustaining him. He was back again in his world and his
ordinary life, in his clothing and his body and his club, but God
had been made and remained altogether plain and manifest.
Whether an actual vision had made his conviction, or whether
the conviction of his own subconscious mind had made the dream,
seemed but a small matter beside the conviction that this was
indeed the God he had desired and the God who must rule his life.
"The stuff? The stuff had little to do with it. It just cleared
my head.... I have seen. I have seen really. I know."
For a long time as it seemed the bishop remained wrapped in
clouds of luminous meditation. Dream or vision it did not
matter; the essential thing was that he had made up his mind
about God, he had found God. Moreover, he perceived that his
theological perplexities had gone. God was higher and simpler and
nearer than any theological God, than the God of the Three
Creeds. Those creeds lay about in his mind now like garments
flung aside, no trace nor suspicion of divinity sustained them
any longer. And now--Now he would go out into the world.
The little Library of the Athenaeum has no visible door. He
went to the book-masked entrance in the corner, and felt among
the bookshelves for the hidden latch. Then he paused, held by a
curious thought. What exactly was the intention of that
symbolical struggle with his sash and gaiters, and why had they
impeded his pursuit of God?
To what particularly significant action was he going out?
The Three Creeds were like garments flung aside. But he was
still wearing the uniform of a priest in the service of those
After a long interval he walked into the big reading-room. He
ordered some tea and dry toast and butter, and sat down very
thoughtfully in a corner. He was still sitting and thinking at
It may seem strange to the reader that this bishop who had been
doubting and criticizing the church and his system of beliefs for
four long years had never before faced the possibility of a
severance from his ecclesiastical dignity. But he had grown up in
the church, his life had been so entirely clerical and Anglican,
that the widest separation he had hitherto been able to imagine
from this past had left him still a bishop, heretical perhaps,
innovating in the broadening of beliefs and the liberalizing of
practice, defensive even as Chasters was defensive, but still
with the palace and his dignities, differing in opinion rather
than in any tangible reality from his previous self. For a
bishop, disbelief in the Church is a far profounder scepticism
than mere disbelief in God. God is unseen, and in daily things
unfelt; but the Church is with the predestined bishop always. His
concept of the extremest possible departure from orthodoxy had
been something that Chasters had phrased as "a restatement of
Christ." It was a new idea, an idea that had come with an immense
effect of severance and novelty, that God could be other than the
God of the Creed, could present himself to the imagination as a
figure totally unlike the white, gentle, and compromising
Redeemer of an Anglican's thought. That the bishop should treat
the whole teaching of the church and the church itself as wrong,
was an idea so new that it fell upon him now like a thunderbolt
out of a cloudless sky. But here, clear in his mind now, was a
feeling, amounting to conviction, that it was the purpose and
gesture of the true God that he should come right out of the
church and all his professions.
And in the first glow of his vision he felt this gesture
imperative. He must step right out.... Whither? how? And when?
To begin with it seemed to him that an immediate renunciation
was demanded. But it was a momentous step. He wanted to think.
And to go on thinking. Rather than to act precipitately. Although
the imperative seemed absolute, some delaying and arresting
instinct insisted that he must "think" If he went back to
Princhester, the everyday duties of his position would confront
him at once with an effect of a definite challenge. He decided to
take one of the Reform club bedrooms for two or three days, and
wire to Princhester that he was "unavoidably delayed in town,"
without further explanations. Then perhaps this inhibitory force
would give way.
It did not, however, give way. His mind sat down for two days
in a blank amazement at the course before him, and at the end of
that time this reasonless and formless institution was as strong
as ever. During that time, except for some incidental exchanges
at his clubs, he talked to no one. At first he did not want to
talk to any one. He remained mentally and practically active,
with a still intensely vivid sense that God, the true God, stood
watching him and waiting for him to follow. And to follow meant