Part 3 out of 5
slipping right out of all the world he had ever known. To thrust
his foot right over the edge of a cliff would scarcely have
demanded more from the bishop's store of resolution. He stood on
the very verge. The chief secretion of his mind was a shadowy
experiment or so in explanation of why he did not follow.
Insensibly the extreme vividness of his sense of God's nearness
decreased. But he still retained a persuasion of the reality of
an immediate listener waiting, and of the need of satisfying him.
On the third day he found his mind still further changed. He no
longer felt that God was in Pall Mall or St. James's Park,
whither he resorted to walk and muse. He felt now that God was
somewhere about the horizon....
He felt too no longer that he thought straight into the mind of
God. He thought now of what he would presently say to God. He
turned over and rehearsed phrases. With that came a desire to try
them first on some other hearer. And from that to the attentive
head of Lady Sunderbund, prettily bent towards him, was no great
leap. She would understand, if any one could understand, the
great change that had happened in his mind.
He found her address in the telephone book. She could be quite
alone to him if he wouldn't mind "just me." It was, he said,
exactly what he desired.
But when he got to her great airy flat overlooking Hyde Park,
with its Omega Workshop furniture and its arresting decoration,
he was not so sure whether this encounter was so exactly the
thing he had desired as he had supposed.
The world had become opaque and real again as he walked up St.
James's Street and past the Ritz. He had a feeling that he was
taking an afternoon off from God. The adventurous modernity of
the room in which he waited intensified that. One whole white
wall was devoted to a small picture by Wyndham Lewis. It was like
a picture of an earthquake in a city of aniline pink and grey and
keen green cardboard, and he wished it had never existed.
He turned his back upon it and stared out of the window over
the trees and greenery. The balcony was decorated with white and
pink geraniums in pots painted black and gold, and the railings
of the balcony were black and gold with crimson shape like
squares wildly out of drawing.
Lady Sunderbund kept him waiting perhaps five minutes. Then she
came sailing in to him.
She was dressed in a way and moved across the room in a way
that was more reminiscent of Botticelli's Spring than ever--
only with a kind of superadded stiffish polonaise of lace--and
he did not want to be reminded of Botticelli's Spring or wonder
why she had taken to stiff lace polonaises. He did not enquire
whether he had met Lady Sunderbund to better advantage at Mrs.
Garstein Fellows' or whether his memory had overrated her or
whether anything had happened to his standard of taste, but his
feeling now was decidedly one of disappointment, and all the talk
and self-examination he had promised himself seemed to wither and
hide away within him. For a time he talked of her view, and then
admired her room and its arrangement, which he thought really
were quite unbecomingly flippant and undignified for a room. Then
came the black tea-things on their orange tray, and he searched
in his mind for small talk to sustain their interview.
But he had already betrayed his disposition to "go on with our
talk" in his telephone enquiry, and Lady Sunderbund, perceiving
his shyness, began to make openings for him, at first just little
hinting openings, and then larger and larger ones, until at last
one got him.
"I'm so glad," she said, "to see you again. I'm so glad to go
on with oua talk. I've thought about it and thought about it."
She beamed at him happily.
"I've thought ova ev'y wo'd you said," she went on, when she
had finished conveying her pretty bliss to him. "I've been so
helped by thinking the k'eeds are symbols. And all you said. And
I've felt time after time, you couldn't stay whe' you we'. That
what you we' saying to me, would have to be said 'ight out."
That brought him in. He could not very well evade that opening
without incivility. After all he had asked to see her, and it was
a foolish thing to let little decorative accidentals put him off
his friendly purpose. A woman may have flower-pots painted gold
with black checkers and still be deeply understanding. He
determined to tell her what was in his mind. But he found
something barred him from telling that he had had an actual
vision of God. It was as if that had been a private and
confidential meeting. It wasn't, he felt, for him either to boast
a privilege or tell others of things that God had not chosen to
"Since I saw you," he said, "I have thought a great deal--of
the subject of our conversation."
"I have been t'ying to think," she said in a confirmatory tone,
as if she had co-operated.
"My faith in God grows," he said.
She glowed. Her lips fell apart. She flamed attention.
"But it grows less like the faith of the church, less and less.
I was born and trained in Anglicanism, and it is with a sort of
astonishment I find myself passing now out of every sort of
Catholicism--seeing it from the outside...."
"Just as one might see Buddhism," she supplied.
"And yet feeling nearer Ä infinitely nearer to God," he said.
"Yes," she panted; "yes."
"I thought if one went out, one went out just to doubt and
"And you don't?"
"You have gone at one step to a new 'iligion!"
He stared for a moment at the phrase.
"To religion," he said.
"It is so wondyful," she said, with her hands straight down
upon the couch upon which she was sitting, and leaning forward at
him, so as to seem almost as much out of drawing as a modern
"It seems," he reflected; "--as if it were a natural thing."
She came back to earth very slowly. She turned to the
tea-things with hushed and solemn movements as though she
administered a ceremony of peculiar significance. The bishop too
rose slowly out of the profundity of his confession. "No sugar
please," he said, arresting the lump in mid air.
It was only when they were embarked upon cups of tea and had a
little refreshed themselves, that she carried the talk further.
"Does it mean that you must leave the church?" she asked.
"It seemed so at first," he said. "But now I do not know. I do
not know what I ought to do."
She awaited his next thought.
"It is as if one had lived in a room all one's life and thought
it the world--and then suddenly walked out through a door and
discovered the sea and the mountains and stars. So it was with me
and the Anglican Church. It seems so extraordinary now--and it
would have seemed the most natural thing a year ago--to think
that I ever believed that the Anglican Compromise was the final
truth of religion, that nothing more until the end of the world
could ever be known that Cosmo Gordon Lang did not know, that
there could be no conception of God and his quality that Randall
Davidson did not possess."
"I did," he said.
"I did," she responded with round blue eyes of wonder.
"At the utmost the Church of England is a tabernacle on a
"A 'oad that goes whe'?" she rhetorized.
"Exactly," said the bishop, and put down his cup.
"You see, my dear Lady Sunderbund," he resumed, "I am exactly
in the same position of that man at the door."
She quoted aptly and softly: "The wo'ld was all befo' them whe'
He was struck by the aptness of the words.
"I feel I have to come right out into the bare truth. What
exactly then do I become? Do I lose my priestly function because
I discover how great God is? But what am I to do?"
He opened a new layer of his thoughts to her.
"There is a saying," he remarked, "once a priest, always a
priest. I cannot imagine myself as other than what I am."
"But o'thodox no maw," she said.
"Orthodox--self-satisfied, no longer. A priest who seeks, an
"In a Chu'ch of P'og'ess and B'othe'hood," she carried him on.
"At any rate, in a progressive and learning church."
She flashed and glowed assent.
"I have been haunted," he said, "by those words spoken at
Athens. 'Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto
you.' That comes to me with an effect of--guidance is an
old-fashioned word--shall I say suggestion? To stand by the
altar bearing strange names and ancient symbols, speaking plainly
to all mankind of the one true God--!"
He did not get much beyond this point at the time, though he
remained talking with Lady Sunderbund for nearly an hour longer.
The rest was merely a beating out of what had already been said.
But insensibly she renewed her original charm, and as he became
accustomed to her he forgot a certain artificiality in her manner
and the extreme modernity of her costume and furniture. She was a
wonderful listener; nobody else could have helped him to
expression in quite the same way, and when he left her he felt
that now he was capable of stating his case in a coherent and
acceptable form to almost any intelligent hearer. He had a point
of view now that was no longer embarrassed by the immediate
golden presence of God; he was no longer dazzled nor ecstatic;
his problem had diminished to the scale of any other great human
problem, to the scale of political problems and problems of
integrity and moral principle, problems about which there is no
such urgency as there is about a house on fire, for example.
And now the desire for expression was running strong. He wanted
to state his situation; if he did not state he would have to act;
and as he walked back to the club dinner he turned over possible
interlocutors in his thoughts. Lord Rampound sat with him at
dinner, and he came near broaching the subject with him. But Lord
Rampound that evening had that morbid running of bluish legal
anecdotes which is so common an affliction with lawyers, and
theology sinks and dies in that turbid stream.
But as he lay in bed that night he thought of his old friend
and helper Bishop Likeman, and it was borne in upon him that he
should consult him. And this he did next day.
Since the days when the bishop had been only plain Mr. Scrope,
the youngest and most helpful of Likeman's historical band of
curates, their friendship had continued. Likeman had been a
second father to him; in particular his tact and helpfulness had
shone during those days of doubt and anxiety when dear old Queen
Victoria, God's representative on earth, had obstinately refused,
at the eleventh hour, to make him a bishop. She had those
pigheaded fits, and she was touchy about the bishops. She had
liked Scrope on account of the excellence of his German
pronunciation, but she had been irritated by newspaper paragraphs
--nobody could ever find out who wrote them and nobody could
ever find out who showed them to the old lady--anticipating his
elevation. She had gone very red in the face and stiffened in the
Guelphic manner whenever Scrope was mentioned, and so a rich
harvest of spiritual life had remained untilled for some months.
Likeman had brought her round.
It seemed arguable that Scrope owed some explanation to Likeman
before he came to any open breach with the Establishment.
He found Likeman perceptibly older and more shrivelled on
account of the war, but still as sweet and lucid and subtle as
ever. His voice sounded more than ever like a kind old woman's.
He sat buried in his cushions--for "nowadays I must save
every scrap of vitality"--and for a time contented himself with
drawing out his visitor's story.
Of course, one does not talk to Likeman of visions or
intuitions. "I am disturbed, I find myself getting out of touch;"
that was the bishop's tone.
Occasionally Likeman nodded slowly, as a physician might do at
the recital of familiar symptoms. "Yes," he said, "I have been
through most of this.... A little different in the
inessentials.... How clear you are!"
"You leave our stupid old Trinities--as I left them long
ago," said old Likeman, with his lean hand feeling and clawing at
the arm of his chair.
The old man raised his hand and dropped it. "You go away from
it all--straight as a line. I did. You take the wings of the
morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth. And there
He held up a lean finger, and inclined it to tick off each
"Fate--which is God the Father, the Power of the Heart, which
is God the Son, and that Light which comes in upon us from the
inaccessible Godhead, which is God the Holy Spirit."
"But I know of no God the Holy Spirit, and Fate is not God at
all. I saw in my vision one sole God, uncrucified, militant--
conquering and to conquer."
Old Likeman stared. "You saw!"
The Bishop of Princhester had not meant to go so far. But he
stuck to his words. "As if I saw with my eyes. A God of light and
"You have had visions, Scrope?"
"I seemed to see."
"No, you have just been dreaming dreams."
"But why should one not see?"
"See! The things of the spirit. These symbols as realities!
These metaphors as men walking!"
"You talk like an agnostic."
"We are all agnostics. Our creeds are expressions of ourselves
and our attitude and relationship to the unknown. The triune God
is just the form of our need and disposition. I have always
assumed that you took that for granted. Who has ever really seen
or heard or felt God? God is neither of the senses nor of the
mind; he is of the soul. You are realistic, you are
His voice expostulated.
The Bishop of Princhester reflected. The vision of God was far
off among his memories now, and difficult to recall. But he said
at last: "I believe there is a God and that he is as real a
person as you or I. And he is not the theological God we set out
before the world."
"Personification," said Likeman. "In the eighteenth century
they used to draw beautiful female figures as Science and
Mathematics. Young men have loved Science--and Freedom--as
Pygmalion loved Galatea. Have it so if you will. Have a visible
person for your Deity. But let me keep up my--spirituality."
"Your spirituality seems as thin as a mist. Do you really
"Everything!" said Likeman emphatically, sitting up with a
transitory vigour. "Everything we two have ever professed
together. I believe that the creeds of my church do express all
that can possibly be expressed in the relationship of--That "--
he made a comprehensive gesture with a twist of his hand upon its
wrist--"to the human soul. I believe that they express it as
well as the human mind can express it. Where they seem to be
contradictory or absurd, it is merely that the mystery is
paradoxical. I believe that the story of the Fall and of the
Redemption is a complete symbol, that to add to it or to subtract
from it or to alter it is to diminish its truth; if it seems
incredible at this point or that, then simply I admit my own
mental defect. And I believe in our Church, Scrope, as the
embodied truth of religion, the divine instrument in human
affairs. I believe in the security of its tradition, in the
complete and entire soundness of its teaching, in its essential
authority and divinity."
He paused, and put his head a little on one side and smiled
sweetly. "And now can you say I do not believe?"
"But the historical Christ, the man Jesus?"
"A life may be a metaphor. Why not? Yes, I believe it all.
The Bishop of Princhester was staggered by this complete
acceptance. "I see you believe all you profess," he said, and
remained for a moment or so rallying his forces.
"Your vision--if it was a vision--I put it to you, was just
some single aspect of divinity," said Likeman. "We make a mistake
in supposing that Heresy has no truth in it. Most heresies are
only a disproportionate apprehension of some essential truth.
Most heretics are men who have suddenly caught a glimpse through
the veil of some particular verity.... They are dazzled by that
aspect. All the rest has vanished.... They are obsessed. You are
obsessed clearly by this discovery of the militancy of God. God
the Son--as Hero. And you want to go out to the simple worship
of that one aspect. You want to go out to a Dissenter's tent in
the wilderness, instead of staying in the Great Temple of the
Was that true?
For some moments it sounded true.
The Bishop of Princhester sat frowning and looking at that.
Very far away was the vision now of that golden Captain who bade
him come. Then at a thought the bishop smiled.
"The Great Temple of the Ages," he repeated. "But do you
remember the trouble we had when the little old Queen was so
"Oh! I remember, I remember," said Likeman, smiling with
unshaken confidence. "Why not?"
"For sixty years all we bishops in what you call the Great
Temple of the Ages, were appointed and bullied and kept in our
places by that pink irascible bit of dignity. I remember how at
the time I didn't dare betray my boiling indignation even to you
--I scarcely dared admit it to myself...."
"It doesn't matter at all," and old Likeman waved it aside.
"Not at all," he confirmed, waving again.
"I spoke of the whole church of Christ on earth," he went on.
"These things, these Victorias and Edwards and so on, are
temporary accidents--just as the severance of an Anglican from
a Roman communion and a Greek orthodox communion are temporary
accidents. You will remark that wise men in all ages have been
able to surmount the difficulty of these things. Why? Because
they knew that in spite of all these splits and irregularities
and defacements--like the cracks and crannies and lichens on a
cathedral wall--the building held good, that it was shelter and
security. There is no other shelter and security. And so I come
to your problem. Suppose it is true that you have this incidental
vision of the militant aspect of God, and he isn't, as you see
him now that is,--he isn't like the Trinity, he isn't like the
Creed, he doesn't seem to be related to the Church, then comes
the question, are you going out for that? And whither do you go
if you do go out? The Church remains. We alter doctrines not by
changing the words but by shifting the accent. We can
underÄaccentuate below the threshold of consciousness."
"But can we?"
"We do. Where's Hell now? Eighty years ago it warmed the whole
Church. It was--as some atheist or other put it the other day
--the central heating of the soul. But never mind that point
now. Consider the essential question, the question of breaking
with the church. Ask yourself, whither would you go? To become an
oddity! A Dissenter. A Negative. Self emasculated. The spirit
that denies. You would just go out. You would just cease to serve
Religion. That would be all. You wouldn't do anything. The Church
would go on; everything else would go on. Only you would be lost
in the outer wilderness.
Old Likeman leant forward and pointed a bony finger. "Stay in
the Church and modify it. Bring this new light of yours to the
There was a little pause.
"No man," the bishop thought aloud, "putteth new wine into old
Old Likeman began to speak and had a fit of coughing. "Some of
these texts--whuff, whuff--like a conjuror's hat--whuff--
make 'em--fit anything."
A man-servant appeared and handed a silver box of lozenges into
which the old bishop dipped with a trembling hand.
"Tricks of that sort," he said, "won't do, Scrope--among
"And besides," he was inspired; "true religion is old wine--
as old as the soul.
"You are a bishop in the Church of Christ on Earth," he summed
it up. "And you want to become a detached and wandering Ancient
Mariner from your shipwreck of faith with something to explain--
that nobody wants to hear. You are going out I suppose you have
The old man awaited the answer to his abrupt enquiry with a
handful of lozenges.
"No," said the Bishop of Princhester, "practically--I
"My dear boy!" it was as if they were once more rector and
curate. "My dear brother! do you know what the value of an
ex-bishop is in the ordinary labour market?"
"I have never thought of that."
"Evidently. You have a wife and children?"
"And your wife married you--I remember, she married you soon
after you got that living in St. John's Wood. I suppose she took
it for granted that you were fixed in an ecclesiastical career.
That was implicit in the transaction."
"I haven't looked very much at that side of the matter yet,"
said the Bishop of Princhester.
"It shouldn't be a decisive factor," said Bishop Likeman, "not
decisive. But it will weigh. It should weigh...."
The old man opened out fresh aspects of the case. His argument
was for delay, for deliberation. He went on to a wider set of
considerations. A man who has held the position of a bishop for
some years is, he held, no longer a free man in matters of
opinion. He has become an official part of a great edifice which
supports the faith of multitudes of simple and dependant
believers. He has no right to indulge recklessly in intellectual
and moral integrities. He may understand, but how is the flock to
understand? He may get his own soul clear, but what will happen
to them? He will just break away their supports, astonish them,
puzzle them, distress them, deprive them of confidence, convince
them of nothing.
"Intellectual egotism may be as grave a sin," said Bishop
Likeman, "as physical selfishness.
"Assuming even that you are absolutely right," said Bishop
Likeman, "aren't you still rather in the position of a man who
insists upon Swedish exercises and a strengthening dietary on a
"I think you have made out a case for delay," said his hearer.
The Bishop of Princhester conceded three months.
"Including every sort of service. Because, after all, even
supposing it is damnable to repeat prayers and creeds you do not
believe in, and administer sacraments you think superstition,
nobody can be damned but yourself. On the other hand if you
express doubts that are not yet perfectly digested--you
experiment with the souls of others...."
The bishop found much to ponder in his old friend's counsels.
They were discursive and many-fronted, and whenever he seemed to
be penetrating or defeating the particular considerations under
examination the others in the background had a way of appearing
invincible. He had a strong persuasion that Likeman was wrong--
and unanswerable. And the true God now was no more than the
memory of a very vividly realized idea. It was clear to the
bishop that he was no longer a churchman or in the generally
accepted sense of the word a Christian, and that he was bound to
come out of the church. But all sense of urgency had gone. It was
a matter demanding deliberation and very great consideration for
He took no more of Dale's stuff because he felt bodily sound
and slept well. And he was now a little shy of this potent fluid.
He went down to Princhester the next day, for his compromise of
an interval of three months made it seem possible to face his
episcopal routine again. It was only when he was back in his own
palace that the full weight of his domestic responsibilities in
the discussion of the course he had to take, became apparent.
Lady Ella met him with affection and solicitude.
"I was tired and mentally fagged," he said. "A day or so in
London had an effect of change."
She agreed that he looked much better, and remained for a
moment or so scrutinizing him with the faint anxiety of one
resolved to be completely helpful.
He regarded her with a renewed sense of her grace and dignity
and kindliness. She was wearing a grey dress of soft silky
material, touched with blue and covered with what seemed to him
very rich and beautiful lace; her hair flowed back very
graciously from her broad brow, and about her wrist and neck were
delicate lines of gold. She seemed tremendously at home and right
just where she was, in that big hospitable room, cultured but
Anglican, without pretensions or novelties, with a glow of bound
books, with the grand piano that Miriam, his third daughter, was
beginning to play so well, with the tea equipage of shining
silver and fine porcelain.
He sat down contentedly in the low armchair beside her.
It wasn't a setting that one would rashly destroy....
And that evening at dinner this sense of his home as a complex
of finely adjusted things not to be rashly disturbed was still
more in the mind of the bishop. At dinner he had all his
domesticities about him. It was the family time, from eight until
ten, at which latter hour he would usually go back from the
drawing-room to his study. He surveyed the table. Eleanor was at
home for a few days, looking a little thin and bright but very
keen and happy. She had taken a first in the first part of the
Moral Science Tripos, and she was working hard now for part two.
Clementina was to go back to Newnham with her next September. She
aspired to history. Miriam's bent was musical. She and Phoebe and
Daphne and Clementina were under the care of skilful Mademoiselle
Lafarge, most tactful of Protestant French-women, Protestant and
yet not too Protestant, one of those rare French Protestants in
whom a touch of Bergson and the Pasteur Monod
"scarce suspected, animates the whole."
And also they had lessons, so high are our modern standards of
education, from Mr. Blent, a brilliant young mathematician in
orders, who sat now next to Lady Ella. Mr. Whippham, the
chaplain, was at the bishop's right hand, ready for any chance of
making arrangements to clear off the small arrears of duty the
little holiday in London had accumulated. The bishop surveyed all
these bright young people between himself and the calm beauty of
his wife. He spoke first to one and then another upon the things
that interested them. It rejoiced his heart to be able to give
them education and opportunity, it pleased him to see them in
clothes that he knew were none the less expensive because of
their complete simplicity. Miriam and Mr. Blent wrangled
pleasantly about Debussy, and old Dunk waited as though in orders
of some rare and special sort that qualified him for this
All these people, the bishop reflected, counted upon him that
this would go on....
Eleanor was answering some question of her mother's. They were
so oddly alike and so curiously different, and both in their
several ways so fine. Eleanor was dark like his own mother.
Perhaps she did a little lack Lady Ella's fine reserves; she
could express more, she could feel more acutely, she might easily
be very unhappy or very happy....
All these people counted on him. It was indeed acutely true, as
Likeman had said, that any sudden breach with his position would
be a breach of faith--so far as they were concerned.
And just then his eye fell upon the epergne, a very old and
beautiful piece of silver, that graced the dinner-table. It had
been given him, together with an episcopal ring, by his curates
and choristers at the Church of the Holy Innocents, when he
became bishop of Pinner. When they gave it him, had any one of
them dreamt that some day he might be moved to strike an
ungracious blow at the mother church that had reared them all?
It was his custom to join the family in the drawing-room after
dinner. To-night he was a little delayed by Whippham, with some
trivialities about next month's confirmations in Pringle and
Princhester. When he came in he found Miriam playing, and playing
very beautifully one of those later sonatas of Beethoven, he
could never remember whether it was Of. 109 or Of. 111, but he
knew that he liked it very much; it was solemn and sombre with
phases of indescribable sweetness--while Clementina, Daphne
and Mademoiselle Lafarge went on with their war knitting and
Phoebe and Mr. Blent bent their brows over chess. Eleanor was
reading the evening paper. Lady Ella sat on a high chair by the
coffee things, and he stood in the doorway surveying the peaceful
scene for a moment or so, before he went across the room and sat
down on the couch close to her.
"You look tired," she whispered softly.
"That Chasters case?"
"Things developing out of that. I must tell you later." It
would be, he felt, a good way of breaking the matter to her.
"Is the Chasters case coming on again, Daddy?" asked Eleanor.
"It's a pity," she said.
"That he can't be left alone."
"It's Sir Reginald Phipps. The Church would be much more
tolerant if it wasn't for the House of Laymen. But they--they
feel they must do something."
He seized the opportunity of the music ceasing to get away from
the subject. "Miriam dear," he asked, raising his voice; "is that
109 or 111? I can never tell."
"That is always 111, Daddy," said Miriam. "It's the other one
is 109." And then evidently feeling that she had been pert:
"Would you like me to play you 109, Daddy?"
"I should love it, my dear." And he leant back and prepared to
listen in such a thorough way that Eleanor would have no chance
of discussing the Chasters' heresies. But this was interrupted by
the consummation of the coffee, and Mr. Blent, breaking a long
silence with "Mate in three, if I'm not mistaken," leapt to his
feet to be of service. Eleanor, with the rough seriousness of
youth, would not leave the Chasters case alone.
"But need you take action against Mr. Chasters?" she asked at
"It's a very complicated subject, my dear," he said.
"The practical considerations."
"But what are practical considerations in such a case?"
"That's a post-graduate subject, Norah," her father said with a
smile and a sigh.
"But," began Eleanor, gathering fresh forces.
"Daddy is tired," Lady Ella intervened, patting him on the
"Oh, terribly!--of that," he said, and so escaped Eleanor for
But he knew that before very long he would have to tell his
wife of the changes that hung over their lives; it would be
shabby to let the avalanche fall without giving the longest
possible warning; and before they parted that night he took her
hands in his and said: "There is much I have to tell you, dear.
Things change, the whole world changes. The church must not live
in a dream....
"No," she whispered. "I hope you will sleep to-night," and held
up her grave sweet face to be kissed.
But he did not sleep perfectly that night.
He did not sleep indeed very badly, but he lay for some time
thinking, thinking not onward but as if he pressed his mind
against very strong barriers that had closed again. His vision of
God which had filled the heavens, had become now gem-like, a
minute, hard, clear-cut conviction in his mind that he had to
disentangle himself from the enormous complications of symbolism
and statement and organization and misunderstanding in the church
and achieve again a simple and living worship of a simple and
living God. Likeman had puzzled and silenced him, only upon
reflection to convince him that amidst such intricacies of
explanation the spirit cannot live. Creeds may be symbolical, but
symbols must not prevaricate. A church that can symbolize
everything and anything means nothing.
It followed from this that he ought to leave the church. But
there came the other side of this perplexing situation. His
feelings as he lay in his bed were exactly like those one has in
a dream when one wishes to run or leap or shout and one can
achieve no movement, no sound. He could not conceive how he could
possibly leave the church.
His wife became as it were the representative of all that held
him helpless. She and he had never kept secret from one another
any plan of action, any motive, that affected the other. It was
clear to him that any movement towards the disavowal of doctrinal
Christianity and the renunciation of his see must be first
discussed with her. He must tell her before he told the world.
And he could not imagine his telling her except as an
incredibly shattering act.
So he left things from day to day, and went about his episcopal
routines. He preached and delivered addresses in such phrases as
he knew people expected, and wondered profoundly why it was that
it should be impossible for him to discuss theological points
with Lady Ella. And one afternoon he went for a walk with Eleanor
along the banks of the Prin, and found himself, in response to
certain openings of hers, talking to her in almost exactly the
same terms as Likeman had used to him.
Then suddenly the problem of this theological eclaircissement
was complicated in an unexpected fashion.
He had just been taking his Every Second Thursday Talk with
Diocesan Men Helpers. He had been trying to be plain and simple
upon the needless narrowness of enthusiastic laymen. He was still
in the Bishop Andrews cap and purple cassock he affected on these
occasions; the Men Helpers loved purple; and he was disentangling
himself from two or three resolute bores--for our loyal laymen
can be at times quite superlative bores--when Miriam came to
"Mummy says, 'Come to the drawing-room if you can.' There is a
Lady Sunderbund who seems particularly to want to see you."
He hesitated for a moment, and then decided that this was a
conversation he ought to control.
He found Lady Sunderbund looking very tall and radiantly
beautiful in a sheathlike dress of bright crimson trimmed with
snow-white fur and a white fur toque. She held out a long
white-gloved hand to him and cried in a tone of comradeship and
profound understanding: "I've come, Bishop!"
"You've come to see me?" he said without any sincerity in his
"I've come to P'inchesta to stay!" she cried with a bright
triumphant rising note.
She evidently considered Lady Ella a mere conversational
stop-gap, to be dropped now that the real business could be
commenced. She turned her pretty profile to that lady, and
obliged the bishop with a compact summary of all that had
preceded his arrival. "I have been telling Lady Ella," she said,
"I've taken a house, fu'nitua and all! Hea. In P'inchesta! I've
made up my mind to sit unda you--as they say in Clapham. I've
come 'ight down he' fo' good. I've taken a little house--oh! a
sweet little house that will be all over 'oses next month. I'm
living f'om 'oom to 'oom and having the othas done up. It's in
that little quiet st'eet behind you' ga'den wall. And he' I am!"
"Is it the old doctor's house?" asked Lady Ella.
"Was it an old docta?" cried Lady Sunderbund. "How delightful!
And now I shall be a patient!"
She concentrated upon the bishop.
"Oh, I've been thinking all the time of all the things you told
me. Ova and ova. It's all so wondyful and so--so like a G'ate
Daw opening. New light. As if it was all just beginning."
She clasped her hands.
The bishop felt that there were a great number of points to
this situation, and that it was extremely difficult to grasp them
all at once. But one that seemed of supreme importance to his
whirling intelligence was that Lady Ella should not know that he
had gone to relieve his soul by talking to Lady Sunderbund in
London. It had never occurred to him at the time that there was
any shadow of disloyalty to Lady Ella in his going to Lady
Sunderbund, but now he realized that this was a thing that would
annoy Lady Ella extremely. The conversation had in the first
place to be kept away from that. And in the second place it had
to be kept away from the abrupt exploitation of the new
He felt that something of the general tension would be relieved
if they could all three be got to sit down.
"I've been talking for just upon two hours," he said to Lady
Ella. "It's good to see the water boiling for tea."
He put a chair for Lady Sunderbund to the right of Lady Ella,
got her into it by infusing an ecclesiastical insistence into his
manner, and then went and sat upon the music-stool on his wife's
left, so as to establish a screen of tea-things and cakes and so
forth against her more intimate enthusiasm. Meanwhile he began to
see his way clearer and to develop his line.
"Well, Lady Sunderbund," he said, "I can assure you that I
think you will be no small addition to the church life of
Princhester. But I warn you this is a hard-working and exacting
diocese. We shall take your money, all we can get of it, we shall
take your time, we shall work you hard."
"Wo'k me hard!" cried Lady Sunderbund with passion.
"We will, we will," said the bishop in a tone that ignored her
"I am sure Lady Sunderbund will be a great help to us," said
Lady Ella. "We want brightening. There's a dinginess...."
Lady Sunderbund beamed an acknowledgment. "I shall exact a
'eturn," she said. "I don't mind wo'king, but I shall wo'k like
the poo' students in the Middle Ages did, to get my teaching.
I've got my own soul to save as well as help saving othas. Since
oua last talk--"
She found the bishop handing her bread and butter. For a time
the bishop fought a delaying action with the tea-things, while he
sought eagerly and vainly in his mind for some good practical
topic in which he could entangle and suppress Lady Sunderbund's
enthusiasms. From this she broke away by turning suddenly to Lady
"Youa husband's views," she said, "we'e a 'eal 'evelation to
me. It was like not being blind--all at once."
Lady Ella was always pleased to hear her husband praised. Her
colour brightened a little. "They seem very ordinary views," she
"You share them?" cried Lady Sunderbund.
"But of course," said Lady Ella.
"Wondyful!" cried Lady Sunderbund.
"Tell me, Lady Sunderbund," said the bishop, "are you going to
alter the outer appearance of the old doctor's house?" And found
that at last he had discovered the saving topic.
"Ha'dly at all," she said. "I shall just have it pointed white
and do the doa--I'm not su' how I shall do the doa. Whetha I
shall do the doa gold or a vehy, vehy 'itch blue."
For a time she and Lady Ella, to whom these ideas were novel,
discussed the animation of grey and sombre towns by house
painting. In such matter Lady Sunderbund had a Russian mind. "I
can't bea' g'ey," she said. "Not in my su'oundings, not in my
k'eed, nowhe'e." She turned to the bishop. "If I had my way I
would paint you' cathed'al inside and out."
"They used to be painted," said the bishop. "I don't know if
you have seen Ely. There the old painting has been largely
From that to the end there was no real danger, and at last the
bishop found himself alone with his wife again.
"Remarkable person," he said tentatively. "I never met any one
whose faults were more visible. I met her at Wimbush House."
He glanced at his watch.
"What did she mean," asked Lady Ella abruptly, "by talking of
your new views? And about revelations?"
"She probably misunderstood something I said at the Garstein
Fellows'," he said. "She has rather a leaping mind."
He turned to the window, looked at his nails, and appeared to
be suddenly reminded of duties elsewhere....
It was chiefly manifest to him that the difficulties in
explaining the changes of his outlook to Lady Ella had now
A day or so after Lady Sunderbund's arrival in Princhester the
bishop had a letter from Likeman. The old man was manifestly in
doubt about the effect of their recent conversation.
"My dear Scrope," it began. "I find myself thinking continually
about our interview and the difficulties you laid bare so frankly
to me. We touched upon many things in that talk, and I find
myself full of afterthoughts, and not perfectly sure either quite
of what I said or of what I failed to say. I feel that in many
ways I was not perhaps so clear and convincing as the justice of
my case should have made me, and you are one of my own particular
little company, you were one of the best workers in that band of
good workers, your life and your career are very much my concern.
I know you will forgive me if I still mingle something of the
paternal with my fraternal admonitions. I watched you closely. I
have still my old diaries of the St. Matthew's days, and I have
been looking at them to remind me of what you once were. It was
my custom to note my early impressions of all the men who worked
with me, because I have a firm belief in the soundness of first
impressions and the considerable risk one runs of having them
obscured by the accidents and habituations of constant
intercourse. I found that quite early in your days at St.
Matthew's I wrote against your name 'enthusiastic, but a saving
delicacy.' After all our life-long friendship I would not write
anything truer. I would say of you to-day, 'This man might have
been a revivalist, if he were not a gentleman.' There is the
enthusiast, there is the revivalist, in you. It seems to me that
the stresses and questions of this great crisis in the world's
history have brought it nearer to the surface than I had ever
expected it to come.
"I quite understand and I sympathize with your impatience with
the church at the present time; we present a spectacle of pompous
insignificance hard to bear with. We are doing very little, and
we are giving ourselves preposterous airs. There seems to be an
opinion abroad that in some quasi-automatic way the country is
going to collapse after the war into the arms of the church and
the High Tories; a possibility I don't accept for a moment. Why
should it? These forcible-feeble reactionaries are much more
likely to explode a revolution that will disestablish us. And I
quite understand your theological difficulties--quite. The
creeds, if their entire symbolism is for a moment forgotten, if
they are taken as opaque statements of fact, are inconsistent,
incredible. So incredible that no one believes them; not even the
most devout. The utmost they do is to avert their minds--
reverentially. Credo quia impossibile. That is offensive to a
Western mind. I can quite understand the disposition to cry out
at such things, 'This is not the Church of God!'--to run out
"You have some dream, I suspect, of a dramatic dissidence.
"Now, my dear Brother and erstwhile pupil, I ask you not to do
this thing. Wait, I implore you. Give me--and some others, a
little time. I have your promise for three months, but even after
that, I ask you to wait. Let the reform come from within the
church. The church is something more than either its creeds, its
clergy, or its laymen. Look at your cathedral rising out of and
dominating Princhester. It stands not simply for Athanasius; it
stands but incidentally for Athanasius; it stands for all
religion. Within that fabric--let me be as frank here as in our
private conversation--doctrine has altered again and again.
To-day two distinct religions worship there side by side; one
that fades and one that grows brighter. There is the old
quasi-materialistic belief of the barbarians, the belief in such
things, for example, as that Christ the physical Son of God
descended into hell and stayed there, seeing the sights I suppose
like any tourist and being treated with diplomatic civilities for
three terrestrial days; and on the other hand there is the truly
spiritual belief that you and I share, which is absolutely
intolerant of such grotesque ideas. My argument to you is that
the new faith, the clearer vision, gains ground; that the only
thing that can prevent or delay the church from being altogether
possessed by what you call and I admit is, the true God, is that
such men as yourself, as the light breaks upon you, should be
hasty and leave the church. You see my point of view, do you not?
It is not one that has been assumed for our discussion; it is one
I came to long years ago, that I was already feeling my way to in
my St. Matthew's Lenton sermons.
"A word for your private ear. I am working. I cannot tell you
fully because I am not working alone. But there are movements
afoot in which I hope very shortly to be able to ask you to
share. That much at least I may say at this stage. Obscure but
very powerful influences are at work for the liberalizing of the
church, for release from many narrow limitations, for the
establishment of a modus vivendi with the nonconformist and
dissentient bodies in Britain and America, and with the churches
of the East. But of that no more now.
"And in conclusion, my dear Scrope, let me insist again upon
the eternal persistence of the essential Religious Fact:
(Greek Letters Here)
(Rev. i. 18. "Fear not. I am the First and Last thing, the Living
And these promises which, even if we are not to take them as
promises in the exact sense in which, let us say, the payment of
five sovereigns is promised by a five-pound note, are yet
assertions of practically inevitable veracity:
(Greek Letters Here)
(Phil. i. 6. "He who began... will perfect."
Eph. v. 14. "He will illuminate.")
The old man had written his Greek tags in shakily resolute
capitals. It was his custom always to quote the Greek Testament
in his letters, never the English version. It is a practice not
uncommon with the more scholarly of our bishops. It is as if some
eminent scientific man were to insist upon writing H20 instead of
"water," and "sodium chloride" instead of "table salt" in his
private correspondence. Or upon hanging up a stuffed crocodile in
his hall to give the place tone. The Bishop of Princhester
construed these brief dicta without serious exertion, he found
them very congenial texts, but there were insuperable
difficulties in the problem why Likeman should suppose they had
the slightest weight upon his side of their discussion. The more
he thought the less they seemed to be on Likeman's side, until at
last they began to take on a complexion entirely opposed to the
old man's insidious arguments, until indeed they began to bear
the extraordinary interpretation of a special message,
The bishop was still thinking over this communication when he
was interrupted by Lady Ella. She came with a letter in her hand
to ask him whether she might send five-and-twenty pounds to a
poor cousin of his, a teacher in a girls' school, who had been
incapacitated from work by a dislocation of the cartilage of her
knee. If she could go to that unorthodox but successful
practitioner, Mr. Barker, the bone-setter, she was convinced she
could be restored to efficiency. But she had no ready money. The
bishop agreed without hesitation. His only doubt was the
certainty of the cure, but upon that point Lady Ella was
convinced; there had been a great experience in the Walshingham
"It is pleasant to be able to do things like this," said Lady
Ella, standing over him when this matter was settled.
"Yes," the bishop agreed; "it is pleasant to be in a position
to do things like this...."
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH - THE SECOND VISION
A MONTH later found the bishop's original state of perplexity
and insomnia returned and intensified. He had done none of all
the things that had seemed so manifestly needing to be done after
his vision in the Athenaeum. All the relief and benefit of his
experience in London had vanished out of his life. He was afraid
of Dr. Dale's drug; he knew certainly that it would precipitate
matters; and all his instincts in the state of moral enfeeblement
to which he had relapsed, were to temporize.
Although he had said nothing further about his changed beliefs
to Lady Ella, yet he perceived clearly that a shadow had fallen
between them. She had a wife's extreme sensitiveness to fine
shades of expression and bearing, and manifestly she knew that
something was different. Meanwhile Lady Sunderbund had become a
frequent worshipper in the cathedral, she was a figure as
conspicuous in sombre Princhester as a bird of paradise would
have been; common people stood outside her very very rich blue
door on the chance of seeing her; she never missed an opportunity
of hearing the bishop preach or speak, she wrote him several
long and thoughtful letters with which he did not bother Lady
Ella, she communicated persistently, and manifestly intended to
become a very active worker in diocesan affairs.
It was inevitable that she and the bishop should meet and talk
occasionally in the cathedral precincts, and it was inevitable
that he should contrast the flexibility of her rapid and very
responsive mind with a certain defensiveness, a stoniness, in the
intellectual bearing of Lady Ella.
If it had been Lady Sunderbund he had had to explain to,
instead of Lady Ella, he could have explained a dozen times a
And since his mind was rehearsing explanations it was not
unnatural they should overflow into this eagerly receptive
channel, and that the less he told Lady Ella the fuller became
his spiritual confidences to Lady Sunderbund.
She was clever in realizing that they were confidences and
treating them as such, more particularly when it chanced that she
and Lady Ella and the bishop found themselves in the same
She made great friends with Miriam, and initiated her by a
whole collection of pretty costume plates into the mysteries of
the "Ussian Ballet" and the works of Mousso'gski and "Imsky
The bishop liked a certain religiosity in the texture of
Moussorgski's music, but failed to see the "significance "--of
many of the costumes.
It was on a Sunday night--the fourth Sunday after Easter--
that the supreme crisis of the bishop's life began. He had had a
feeling all day of extreme dulness and stupidity; he felt his
ministrations unreal, his ceremonies absurd and undignified. In
the night he became bleakly and painfully awake. His mind
occupied itself at first chiefly with the tortuousness and
weakness of his own character. Every day he perceived that the
difficulty of telling Lady Ella of the change in his faith became
more mountainous. And every day he procrastinated. If he had told
her naturally and simply on the evening of his return from London
--before anything material intervened--everything would have
been different, everything would have been simpler....
He groaned and rolled over in his bed.
There came upon him the acutest remorse and misery. For he saw
that amidst these petty immediacies he had lost touch with God.
The last month became incredible. He had seen God. He had touched
God's hand. God had been given to him, and he had neglected the
gift. He was still lost amidst the darkness and loneliness, the
chaotic ends and mean shifts, of an Erastian world. For a month
now and more, after a vision of God so vivid and real and
reassuring that surely no saint nor prophet had ever had a
better, he had made no more than vague responsive movements; he
had allowed himself to be persuaded into an unreasonable and
cowardly delay, and the fetters of association and usage and
minor interests were as unbroken as they had been before ever the
vision shone. Was it credible that there had ever been such a
vision in a life so entirely dictated by immediacy and instinct
as his? We are all creatures of the dark stream, we swim in needs
and bodily impulses and small vanities; if ever and again a
bubble of spiritual imaginativeness glows out of us, it breaks
and leaves us where we were.
"Louse that I am!" he cried.
He still believed in God, without a shadow of doubt; he
believed in the God that he had seen, the high courage, the
golden intention, the light that had for a moment touched him.
But what had he to do with God, he, the loiterer, the little
He was little, he was funny. His prevarications with his wife,
for example, were comic. There was no other word for him but
He rolled back again and lay staring.
"Who will deliver me from the body of this death?" What right
has a little bishop in a purple stock and doeskin breeches, who
hangs back in his palace from the very call of God, to a phrase
so fine and tragic as "the body of this death?"
He was the most unreal thing in the universe. He was a base
insect giving himself airs. What advantage has a bishop over the
Praying Mantis, that cricket which apes the attitude of piety?
Does he matter more--to God?
"To the God of the Universe, who can tell? To the God of man,--
He sat up in bed struck by his own answer, and full of an
indescribable hunger for God and an indescribable sense of his
complete want of courage to make the one simple appeal that would
satisfy that hunger. He tried to pray. "O God! "he cried,
"forgive me! Take me!" It seemed to him that he was not really
praying but only making believe to pray. It seemed to him that he
was not really existing but only seeming to exist. He seemed to
himself to be one with figures on a china plate, with figures
painted on walls, with the flimsy imagined lives of men in
stories of forgotten times. "O God!" he said, "O God," acting a
gesture, mimicking appeal.
"Anaemic," he said, and was given an idea.
He got out of bed, he took his keys from the night-table at the
bed head and went to his bureau.
He stood with Dale's tonic in his hand. He remained for some
time holding it, and feeling a curious indisposition to go on
with the thing in his mind.
He turned at last with an effort. He carried the little phial
to his bedside, and into the tumbler of his water-bottle he let
the drops fall, drop by drop, until he had counted twenty. Then
holding it to the bulb of his reading lamp he added the water and
stood watching the slow pearly eddies in the mixture mingle into
an opalescent uniformity. He replaced the water-bottle and stood
with the glass in his hand. But he did not drink.
He was afraid.
He knew that he had only to drink and this world of confusion
would grow transparent, would roll back and reveal the great
simplicities behind. And he was afraid.
He was afraid of that greatness. He was afraid of the great
imperatives that he knew would at once take hold of his life. He
wanted to muddle on for just a little longer. He wanted to stay
just where he was, in his familiar prison-house, with the key of
escape in his hand. Before he took the last step into the very
presence of truth, he would--think.
He put down the glass and lay down upon his bed....
He awoke in a mood of great depression out of a dream of
wandering interminably in an endless building of innumerable
pillars, pillars so vast and high that the ceiling was lost in
darkness. By the scale of these pillars he felt himself scarcely
larger than an ant. He was always alone in these wanderings, and
always missing something that passed along distant passages,
something desirable, something in the nature of a procession or
of a ceremony, something of which he was in futile pursuit, of
which he heard faint echoes, something luminous of which he
seemed at times to see the last fading reflection, across vast
halls and wildernesses of shining pavement and through Cyclopaean
archways. At last there was neither sound nor gleam, but the
utmost solitude, and a darkness and silence and the uttermost
profundity of sorrow....
It was bright day. Dunk had just come into the room with his
tea, and the tumbler of Dr. Dale's tonic stood untouched upon the
night-table. The bishop sat up in bed. He had missed his
opportunity. To-day was a busy day, he knew.
"No," he said, as Dunk hesitated whether to remove or leave the
tumbler. "Leave that."
Dunk found room for it upon the tea-tray, and vanished softly
with the bishop's evening clothes.
The bishop remained motionless facing the day. There stood the
draught of decision that he had lacked the decision even to
From his bed he could just read the larger items that figured
upon the engagement tablet which it was Whippham's business to
fill over-night and place upon his table. He had two confirmation
services, first the big one in the cathedral and then a second
one in the evening at Pringle, various committees and an
interview with Chasters. He had not yet finished his addresses
for these confirmation services....
The task seemed mountainous--overwhelming.
With a gesture of desperation he seized the tumblerful of tonic
and drank it off at a gulp.
For some moments nothing seemed to happen.
Then he began to feel stronger and less wretched, and then came
a throbbing and tingling of artery and nerve.
He had a sense of adventure, a pleasant fear in the thing that
he had done. He got out of bed, leaving his cup of tea untasted,
and began to dress. He had the sensation of relief a prisoner may
feel who suddenly tries his cell door and finds it open upon
sunshine, the outside world and freedom.
He went on dressing although he was certain that in a few
minutes the world of delusion about him would dissolve, and that
he would find himself again in the great freedom of the place of
This time the transition came much sooner and much more
rapidly. This time the phases and quality of the experience were
different. He felt once again that luminous confusion between the
world in which a human life is imprisoned and a circumambient and
interpenetrating world, but this phase passed very rapidly; it
did not spread out over nearly half an hour as it had done
before, and almost immediately he seemed to plunge away from
everything in this life altogether into that outer freedom he
sought. And this time there was not even the elemental scenery of
the former vision. He stood on nothing; there was nothing below
and nothing above him. There was no sense of falling, no terror,
but a feeling as though he floated released. There was no light,
but as it were a clear darkness about him. Then it was manifest
to him that he was not alone, but that with him was that same
being that in his former vision had called himself the Angel of
God. He knew this without knowing why he knew this, and either he
spoke and was answered, or he thought and his thought answered
him back. His state of mind on this occasion was altogether
different from the first vision of God; before it had been
spectacular, but now his perception was altogether
(And nevertheless and all the time it seemed that very faintly
he was still in his room.)
It was he who was the first to speak. The great Angel whom he
felt rather than saw seemed to be waiting for him to speak.
"I have come," he said, "because once more I desire to see
"But you have seen God."
"I saw God. God was light, God was truth. And I went back to my
life, and God was hidden. God seemed to call me. He called. I
heard him, I sought him and I touched his hand. When I went back
to my life I was presently lost in perplexity. I could not tell
why God had called me nor what I had to do."
"And why did you not come here before?"
"Doubt and fear. Brother, will you not lay your hand on mine?"
The figure in the darkness became distincter. But nothing
touched the bishop's seeking hands.
"I want to see God and to understand him. I want reassurance. I
want conviction. I want to understand all that God asks me to do.
The world is full of conflict and confusion and the spirit of
war. It is dark and dreadful now with suffering and bloodshed. I
want to serve God who could save it, and I do not know how."
It seemed to the bishop that now he could distinguish dimly but
surely the form and features of the great Angel to whom he
talked. For a little while there was silence, and then the Angel
"It was necessary first," said the Angel, "that you should
apprehend God and desire him. That was the purport of your first
vision. Now, since you require it, I will tell you and show you
certain things about him, things that it seems you need to know,
things that all men need to know. Know then first that the time
is at hand when God will come into the world and rule it, and
when men will know what is required of them. This time is close
at hand. In a little while God will be made manifest throughout
the earth. Men will know him and know that he is King. To you
this truth is to be shown--that you may tell it to others."
"This is no vision?" said the bishop, "no dream that will pass
"Am I not here beside you?"
The bishop was anxious to be very clear. Things that had been
shapelessly present in his mind now took form and found words for
"The God I saw in my vision--He is not yet manifest in the
"He comes. He is in the world, but he is not yet manifested. He
whom you saw in your vision will speedily be manifest in the
world. To you this vision is given of the things that come. The
world is already glowing with God. Mankind is like a smouldering
fire that will presently, in quite a little time, burst out into
"In your former vision I showed you God," said the Angel. "This
time I will show you certain signs of the coming of God. And then
you will understand the place you hold in the world and the task
that is required of you."
And as the Angel spoke he lifted up his hands with the palms
upward, and there appeared above them a little round cloud, that
grew denser until it had the likeness of a silver sphere. It was
a mirror in the form of a ball, but a mirror not shining
uniformly; it was discoloured with greyish patches that had a
familiar shape. It circled slowly upon the Angel's hands. It
seemed no greater than the compass of a human skull, and yet it
was as great as the earth. Indeed it showed the whole earth. It
was the earth. The hands of the Angel vanished out of sight,
dissolved and vanished, and the spinning world hung free. All
about the bishop the velvet darkness broke into glittering points
that shaped out the constellations, and nearest to them, so near
as to seem only a few million miles away in the great emptiness
into which everything had resolved itself, shone the sun, a ball
of red-tongued fires. The Angel was but a voice now; the bishop
and the Angel were somewhere aloof from and yet accessible to the
circling silver sphere.
At the time all that happened seemed to happen quite naturally,
as things happen in a dream. It was only later, when all this was
a matter of memory, that the bishop realized how strange and
incomprehensible his vision had been. The sphere was the earth
with all its continents and seas, its ships and cities, its
country-sides and mountain ranges. It was so small that he could
see it all at once, and so great and full that he could see
everything in it. He could see great countries like little
patches upon it, and at the same time he could see the faces of
the men upon the highways, he could see the feelings in men s
hearts and the thoughts in their minds. But it did not seem in
any way wonderful to the bishop that so he should see those
things, or that it was to him that these things were shown.
"This is the whole world," he said.
"This is the vision of the world," the Angel answered.
"It is very wonderful," said the bishop, and stood for a moment
marvelling at the compass of his vision. For here was India, here
was Samarkand, in the light of the late afternoon; and China and
the swarming cities upon her silvery rivers sinking through
twilight to the night and throwing a spray and tracery of lantern
spots upon the dark; here was Russia under the noontide, and so
great a battle of artillery raging on the Dunajec as no man had
ever seen before; whole lines of trenches dissolved into clouds
of dust and heaps of blood-streaked earth; here close to the
waiting streets of Constantinople were the hills of Gallipoli,
the grave of British Imperialism, streaming to heaven with the
dust and smoke of bursting shells and rifle fire and the smoke
and flame of burning brushwood. In the sea of Marmora a big ship
crowded with Turkish troops was sinking; and, purple under the
clear water, he could see the shape of the British submarine
which had torpedoed her and had submerged and was going away.
Berlin prepared its frugal meals, still far from famine. He saw
the war in Europe as if he saw it on a map, yet every human
detail showed. Over hundreds of miles of trenches east and west
of Germany he could see shells bursting and the men below
dropping, and the stretcher-bearers going back with the wounded.
The roads to every front were crowded with reserves and
munitions. For a moment a little group of men indifferent to all
this struggle, who were landing amidst the Antarctic wilderness,
held his attention; and then his eyes went westward to the dark
rolling Atlantic across which, as the edge of the night was drawn
like a curtain, more and still more ships became visible beating
upon their courses eastward or westward under the overtaking day.
The wonder increased; the wonder of the single and infinitely
multitudinous adventure of mankind.
"So God perhaps sees it," he whispered.
"Look at this man," said the Angel, and the black shadow of a
hand seemed to point.
It was a Chinaman sitting with two others in a little low room
separated by translucent paper windows from a noisy street of
shrill-voiced people. The three had been talking of the ultimatum
that Japan had sent that day to China, claiming a priority in
many matters over European influences they were by no means sure
whether it was a wrong or a benefit that had been done to their
country. From that topic they had passed to the discussion of the
war, and then of wars and national aggressions and the perpetual
thrusting and quarrelling of mankind. The older man had said that
so life would allways be; it was the will of Heaven. The little,
very yellow-faced, emaciated man had agreed with him. But now
this younger man, to whose thoughts the Angel had so particularly
directed the bishop's attention, was speaking. He did not agree
with his companion.
"War is not the will of Heaven," he said; "it is the blindness
"Man changes," he said, "from day to day and from age to age.
The science of the West has taught us that. Man changes and war
changes and all things change. China has been the land of flowery
peace, and she may yet give peace to all the world. She has put
aside that puppet Emperor at Peking, she turns her face to the
new learning of the West as a man lays aside his heavy robes, in
order that her task may be achieved."
The older man spoke, his manner was more than a little
incredulous, and yet not altogether contemptuous. "You believe
that someday there will be no more war in the world, that a time
will come when men will no longer plot and plan against the
welfare of men?"
"Even that last," said the younger man. "Did any of us dream
twenty-five years ago that here in China we should live to see a
republic? The age of the republics draws near, when men in every
country of the world will look straight up to the rule of Right
and the empire of Heaven."
(" And God will be King of the World," said the Angel. "Is not
that faith exactly the faith that is coming to you? ")
The two other Chinamen questioned their companion, but without
"This war," said the Chinaman, "will end in a great harvesting
"But Japan--" the older man began.
The bishop would have liked to hear more of that conversation,
but the dark hand of the Angel motioned him to another part of
the world. "Listen to this," said the Angel.
He pointed the bishop to where the armies of Britain and Turkey
lay in the heat of Mesopotamia. Along the sandy bank of a wide,
slow-flowing river rode two horsemen, an Englishman and a Turk.
They were returning from the Turkish lines, whither the
Englishman had been with a flag of truce. When Englishmen and
Turks are thrown together they soon become friends, and in this
case matters had been facilitated by the Englishman's command of
the Turkish language. He was quite an exceptional Englishman. The
Turk had just been remarking cheerfully that it wouldn't please
the Germans if they were to discover how amiably he and his
charge had got on. "It's a pity we ever ceased to be friends," he
"You Englishmen aren't like our Christians," he went on.
The Engiishmen wanted to know why.
"You haven't priests in robes. You don't chant and worship
crosses and pictures, and quarrel among yourselves."
"We worship the same God as you do," said the Englishman.
"Then why do we fight?"
"That's what we want to know."
"Why do you call yourselves Christians? And take part against
us? All who worship the One God are brothers."
"They ought to be," said the Englishman, and thought. He was
struck by what seemed to him an amazingly novel idea.
"If it weren't for religions all men would serve God together,"
he said. "And then there would be no wars--only now and then
perhaps just a little honest fighting...."
"And see here," said the Angel. "Here close behind this
frightful battle, where the German phalanx of guns pounds its way
through the Russian hosts. Here is a young German talking to two
wounded Russian prisoners, who have stopped to rest by the
roadside. He is a German of East Prussia; he knows and thinks a
little Russian. And they too are saying, all three of them, that
the war is not God's will, but the confusion of mankind.
"Here," he said, and the shadow of his hand hovered over the
burning-ghats of Benares, where a Brahmin of the new persuasion
watched the straight spires of funereal smoke ascend into the
glow of the late afternoon, while he talked to an English
painter, his friend, of the blind intolerance of race and caste
and custom in India.
The Angel pointed to a group of people who had gathered upon a
little beach at the head of a Norwegian fiord. There were three
lads, an old man and two women, and they stood about the body of
a drowned German sailor which had been washed up that day. For a
time they had talked in whispers, but now suddenly the old man
"This is the fourth that has come ashore," he said. "Poor
drowned souls! Because men will not serve God."
"But folks go to church and pray enough," said one of the
"They do not serve God," said the old man. "They just pray to
him as one nods to a beggar. They do not serve God who is their
King. They set up their false kings and emperors, and so all
Europe is covered with dead, and the seas wash up these dead to
us. Why does the world suffer these things? Why did we
Norwegians, who are a free-spirited people, permit the Germans
and the Swedes and the English to set up a king over us? Because
we lack faith. Kings mean secret counsels, and secret counsels
bring war. Sooner or later war will come to us also if we give
the soul of our nation in trust to a king.... But things will not
always be thus with men. God will not suffer them for ever. A day
comes, and it is no distant day, when God himself will rule the
earth, and when men will do, not what the king wishes nor what is
expedient nor what is customary, but what is manifestly
"But men are saying that now in a thousand places," said the
Angel. "Here is something that goes a little beyond that."
His pointing hand went southward until they saw the Africanders
riding down to Windhuk. Two men, Boer farmers both, rode side by
side and talked of the German officer they brought prisoner with
them. He had put sheep-dip in the wells of drinking-water; his
life was fairly forfeit, and he was not to be killed. "We want no
more hate in South Africa," they agreed. "Dutch and English and
German must live here now side by side. Men cannot always be
"And see his thoughts," said the Angel.
The German's mind was one amazement. He had been sure of being
shot, he had meant to make a good end, fierce and scornful, a
relentless fighter to the last; and these men who might have shot
him like a man were going to spare him like a dog. His mind was a
tumbled muddle of old and new ideas. He had been brought up in an
atmosphere of the foulest and fiercest militarism; he had been
trained to relentlessness, ruthlessness and so forth; war was war
and the bitterer the better, frightfulness was your way to
victory over every enemy. But these people had found a better
way. Here were Dutch and English side by side; sixteen years ago
they had been at war together and now they wore the same uniform
and rode together, and laughed at him for a queer fellow because
he was for spitting at them and defying them, and folding his
arms and looking level at the executioners' rifles. There were to
be no executioners' rifles.... If it was so with Dutch and
English, why shouldn't it be so presently with French and
Germans? Why someday shouldn't French, German, Dutch and English,
Russian and Pole, ride together under this new star of mankind,
the Southern Cross, to catch whatever last mischief-maker was
left to poison the wells of goodwill?
His mind resisted and struggled against these ideas. "Austere,"
he whispered. "The ennobling tests of war." A trooner rode up
alongside, and offered him a drink of water
"Just a mouthful," he said apologetically. "We've had to go
"There's another brain busy here with the same idea," the Angel
interrupted. And the bishop found himself looking into the
bedroom of a young German attache in Washington, sleepless in the
"Ach!" cried the young man, and sat up in bed and ran his hands
through his fair hair.
He had been working late upon this detestable business of the
Lusitania; the news of her sinking had come to hand two days
before, and all America was aflame with it. It might mean war.
His task had been to pour out explanations and justifications to
the press; to show that it was an act of necessity, to pretend a
conviction that the great ship was loaded with munitions, to
fight down the hostility and anger that blazed across a
continent. He had worked to his limit. He had taken cup after cup
of coffee, and had come to bed worked out not two hours ago. Now
here he was awake after a nightmare of drowning women and
children, trying to comfort his soul by recalling his own
arguments. Never once since the war began had he doubted the
rightness of the German cause. It seemed only a proof of his
nervous exhaustion that he could doubt it now. Germany was the
best organized, most cultivated, scientific and liberal nation
the earth had ever seen, it was for the good of mankind that she
should be the dominant power in the world; his patriotism had had
the passion of a mission. The English were indolent, the French
decadent, the Russians barbaric, the Americans basely democratic;
the rest of the world was the "White man's Burthen"; the clear
destiny of mankind was subservience to the good Prussian eagle.
Nevertheless--those wet draggled bodies that swirled down in
the eddies of the sinking Titan--Ach! He wished it could have
been otherwise. He nursed his knees and prayed that there need
not be much more of these things before the spirit of the enemy
was broken and the great Peace of Germany came upon the world.
And suddenly he stopped short in his prayer.
Suddenly out of the nothingness and darkness about him came the
conviction that God did not listen to his prayers....
Was there any other way?
It was the most awful doubt he had ever had, for it smote at
the training of all his life. "Could it be possible that after
all our old German God is not the proper style and title of the
true God? Is our old German God perhaps only the last of a long
succession of bloodstained tribal effigies--and not God at
For a long time it seemed that the bishop watched the thoughts
that gathered in the young attache's mind. Until suddenly he
broke into a quotation, into that last cry of the dying Goethe,
for "Light. More Light!"...
"Leave him at that," said the Angel. "I want you to hear these
two young women."
The hand came back to England and pointed to where Southend at
the mouth of the Thames was all agog with the excitement of an
overnight Zeppelin raid. People had got up hours before their
usual time in order to look at the wrecked houses before they
went up to their work in town. Everybody seemed abroad. Two
nurses, not very well trained as nurses go nor very well-educated
women, were snatching a little sea air upon the front after an
eventful night. They were too excited still to sleep. They were
talking of the horror of the moment when they saw the nasty thing
"up there," and felt helpless as it dropped its bombs. They had
both hated it.
"There didn't ought to be such things," said one.
"They don't seem needed," said her companion.
"Men won't always go on like this--making wars and all such
"It's 'ow to stop them?"
"Science is going to stop them."
"Yes, science. My young brother--oh, he's a clever one--he
says such things! He says that it's science that they won't
always go on like this. There's more sense coming into the world
and more--my young brother says so. Says it stands to reason;
it's Evolution. It's science that men are all brothers; you can
prove it. It's science that there oughtn't to be war. Science is
ending war now by making it horrible like this, and making it so
that no one is safe. Showing it up. Only when nobody is safe will
everybody want to set up peace, he says. He says it's proved
there could easily be peace all over the world now if it wasn't
for flags and kings and capitalists and priests. They still
manage to keep safe and out of it. He says the world ought to be
just one state. The World State, he says it ought to be."
("Under God," said the bishop, "under God.")
"He says science ought to be King of the whole world."
"Call it Science if you will," said the bishop. "God is
"Out of the mouths of babes and elementary science students,"
said the Angel. "The very children in the board schools are
turning against this narrowness and nonsense and mischief of
nations and creeds and kings. You see it at a thousand points, at
ten thousand points, look, the world is all flashing and
flickering; it is like a spinthariscope; it is aquiver with the
light that is coming to mankind. It is on the verge of blazing
"Into a light."
"Into the one Kingdom of God. See here! See here! And here!
This brave little French priest in a helmet of steel who is
daring to think for the first time in his life; this
gentle-mannered emir from Morocco looking at the grave-diggers on
the battlefield; this mother who has lost her son....
"You see they all turn in one direction, although none of them
seem to dream yet that they are all turning in the same
direction. They turn, every one, to the rule of righteousness,
which is the rule of God. They turn to that communism of effort
in the world which alone permits men to serve God in state and
city and their economic lives.... They are all coming to the
verge of the same salvation, the salvation of one human
brotherhood under the rule of one Righteousness, one Divine
will.... Is that the salvation your church offers?"
"And now that we have seen how religion grows and spreads in
men's hearts, now that the fields are white with harvest, I want
you to look also and see what the teachers of religion are
doing," said the Angel.
He smiled. His presence became more definite, and the earthly
globe about them and the sun and the stars grew less distinct and
less immediately there. The silence invited the bishop to speak.
"In the light of this vision, I see my church plainly for the
little thing it is," he said.
He wanted to be perfectly clear with the Angel and himself.
"This church of which I am a bishop is just a part of our poor
human struggle, small and pitiful as one thinks of it here in the
light of the advent of God's Kingdom, but very great, very great
indeed, ancient and high and venerable, in comparison with me.
But mostly it is human. It is most human. For my story is the
church's story, and the church's story is mine. Here I could
almost believe myself the church itself. The world saw a light,
the nations that were sitting in darkness saw a great light. Even
as I saw God. And then the church began to forget and lose itself
among secondary things. As I have done.... It tried to express
the truth and lost itself in a maze of theology. It tried to
bring order into the world and sold its faith to Constantine.
These men who had professed the Invisible King of the World,
shirked his service. It is a most terrible disaster that
Christianity has sold itself to emperors and kings. They forged a
saying of the Master's that we should render unto Ceasar the
things that are Ceasar's and unto God the things that are
"Who is this Ceasar to set himself up to share mankind with
God? Nothing that is Ceasar's can be any the less God's. But
Constantine Caesar sat in the midst of the council, his guards
were all about it, and the poor fanatics and trimmers and
schemers disputed nervously with their eyes on him, disputed
about homoousian and homoiousian, and grimaced and pretended to
be very very fierce and exact to hide how much they were
frightened and how little they knew, and because they did not
dare to lay violent hands upon that usurper of the empire of the
"And from that day forth the Christian churches have been
damned and lost. Kept churches. Lackey churches. Roman, Russian,
Anglican; it matters not. My church indeed was twice sold, for it
doubled the sin of Nicaea and gave itself over to Henry and
Elizabeth while it shammed a dispute about the sacraments. No one
cared really about transubstantiation any more than the earlier
betrayers cared about consubstantiality; that dispute did but
serve to mask the betrayal."
He turned to the listening Angel. "What can you show me of my
church that I do not know? Why! we Anglican bishops get our sees
as footmen get a job. For months Victoria, that old German Frau,
delayed me--because of some tittle-tattle.... The things we
are! Snape, who afterwards became Bishop of Burnham, used to
waylay the Prince Consort when he was riding in Hyde Park and
give him, he boasts, 'a good loud cheer,' and then he would run
very fast across the park so as to catch him as he came round,
and do it again.... It is to that sort of thing we bearers of the
light have sunken....
"I have always despised that poor toady," the bishop went on.
"And yet here am I, and God has called me and shown me the light
of his countenance, and for a month I have faltered. That is the
mystery of the human heart, that it can and does sin against the
light. What right have I, who have seen the light--and failed,
what right have I--to despise any other human being? I seem to
have been held back by a sort of paralysis.
"Men are so small, so small still, that they cannot keep hold
of the vision of God. That is why I want to see God again.... But
if it were not for this strange drug that seems for a little
while to lift my mind above the confusion and personal
entanglements of every day, I doubt if even now I could be here.
I am here, passionate to hold this moment and keep the light. As
this inspiration passes, I shall go back, I know, to my home and
my place and my limitations. The littleness of men! The
forgetfulness of men! I want to know what my chief duty is, to
have it plain, in terms so plain that I can never forget.
"See in this world," he said, turning to the globe, "while
Chinese merchants and Turkish troopers, school-board boys and
Norwegian fishermen, half-trained nurses and Boer farmers are
full of the spirit of God, see how the priests of the churches of
Nicaea spend their time."
And now it was the bishop whose dark hands ran over the great
silver globe, and it was the Angel who stood over him and
listened, as a teacher might stand over a child who is learning a
lesson. The bishop's hand rested for a second on a cardinal who
was planning a political intrigue to produce a reaction in
France, then for a moment on a Pomeranian pastor who was going
out to his well-tilled fields with his Sunday sermon, full of
fierce hatred of England, still echoing in his head. Then he
paused at a Mollah preaching the Jehad, in doubt whether he too
wasn't a German pastor, and then at an Anglican clergyman still
lying abed and thinking out a great mission of Repentance and
Hope that should restore the authority of the established church
--by incoherent missioning--without any definite sin indicated
for repentance nor any clear hope for anything in particular
arising out of such activities. The bishop's hand went seeking to
and fro, but nowhere could he find any religious teacher, any
religious body rousing itself to meet the new dawn of faith in
the world. Some few men indeed seemed thoughtful, but within the
limitation of their vows. Everywhere it was church and creed and
nation and king and property and partisanship, and nowhere was it
the True God that the priests and teachers were upholding. It was
always the common unhampered man through whom the light of God
was breaking; it was always the creed and the organization of the
religious professionals that stood in the way to God....
"God is putting the priests aside," he cried, "and reaching out
to common men. The churches do not serve God. They stand between
man and God. They are like great barricades on the way to God."
The bishop's hand brushed over Archbishop Pontifex, who was
just coming down to breakfast in his palace. This pompous old man
was dressed in a purple garment that set off his tall figure very
finely, and he was holding out his episcopal ring for his guests
to kiss, that being the customary morning greeting of Archbishop
Pontifex. The thought of that ring-kissing had made much hard
work at lower levels "worth while" to Archbishop Pontifex. And
seventy miles away from him old Likeman breakfasted in bed on
Benger's food, and searched his Greek Testament for tags to put
to his letters. And here was the familiar palace at Princhester,
and in an armchair in his bed-room sat Bishop Scrope insensible
and motionless, in a trance in which he was dreaming of the
coming of God.
"I see my futility. I see my vanity. But what am I to do?" he
said, turning to the darkness that now wrapped about the Angel
again, fold upon fold. "The implications of yesterday bind me for
the morrow. This is my world. This is what I am and what I am in.
How can I save myself? How can I turn from these habits and
customs and obligations to the service of the one true God? When
I see myself, then I understand how it is with the others. All we
priests and teachers are men caught in nets. I would serve God.
Easily said! But how am I to serve God? How am I to help and
forward His coming, to make myself part of His coming?"
He perceived that he was returning into himself, and that the
vision of the sphere and of the starry spaces was fading into
He struggled against this return. He felt that his demand was
still unanswered. His wife's face had suddenly come very close to
him, and he realized she intervened between him and that
What was she doing here?
The great Angel seemed still to be near at hand, limitless
space was all about him, and yet the bishop perceived that he was
now sitting in the arm-chair in his bedroom in the palace of
Princhester. He was both there and not there. It seemed now as if
he had two distinct yet kindred selves, and that the former
watched the latter. The latter was now awakening to the things
about him; the former marked his gestures and listened with an
entire detachment to the words he was saying. These words he was
saying to Lady Ella: "God is coming to rule the world, I tell
you. We must leave the church."
Close to him sat Lady Ella, watching him with an expression in
which dismay and resolution mingled. Upon the other side of him,
upon a little occasional table, was a tray with breakfast things.
He was no longer the watcher now, but the watched.
Lady Ella bent towards him as he spoke. She seemed to struggle
with and dismiss his astonishing statement.
"Edward," she said, "you have been taking a drug." He looked
round at his night table to see the little phial. It had gone.
Then he saw that Lady Ella held it very firmly in her hand.
"Dunk came to me in great distress. He said you were insensible
and breathing heavily. I came. I realized. I told him to say
nothing to any one, but to fetch me a tray with your breakfast. I
have kept all the other servants away and I have waited here by
you.... Dunk I think is safe.... You have been muttering and
moving your head from side to side...."
The bishop's mind was confused. He felt as though God must be