Part 5 out of 5
"I said to myself, this man knows something I don't know. He's
got the seeds of ete'nal life su'ely. I made up my mind then and
the' I'd follow you and back you and do all I could fo' you. I've
lived fo' you. Eve' since. Lived fo' you. And now when all my
little plans are 'ipe, you--! Oh!"
She made a quaint little gesture with pink fists upraised, and
then stood with her hand held up, staring at the plans and
drawings that were littered over the inlaid table. "I've planned
and planned. I said, I will build him a temple. I will be his
temple se'vant.... Just a me' se'vant...."
She could not go on.
"But it is just these temples that have confused mankind," he
"Not my temple," she said presently, now openly weeping over
the gay rejected drawings. "You could have explained...."
"Oh!" she said petulantly, and thrust them away from her so
that they went sliding one after the other on to the floor. For
some long-drawn moments there was no sound in the room but the
slowly accelerated slide and flop of one sheet of cartridge paper
"We could have been so happy," she wailed, "se'ving oua God."
And then this disconcerting lady did a still more disconcerting
thing. She staggered a step towards Scrape, seized the lapels of
his coat, bowed her head upon his shoulder, put her black hair
against his cheek, and began sobbing and weeping.
"My dear lady! " he expostulated, trying weakly to disengage
"Let me k'y," she insisted, gripping more resolutely, and
following his backward pace. "You must let me k'y. You must let
His resistance ceased. One hand supported her, the other patted
her shining hair. "My dear child!" he said. "My dear child! I had
no idea. That you would take it like this...."
That was but the opening of an enormous interview. Presently he
had contrived in a helpful and sympathetic manner to seat the
unhappy lady on a sofa, and when after some cramped discourse she
stood up before him, wiping her eyes with a wet wonder of lace,
to deliver herself the better, a newborn appreciation of the
tactics of the situation made him walk to the other side of the
table under colour of picking up a drawing.
In the retrospect he tried to disentangle the threads of a
discussion that went to and fro and contradicted itself and began
again far back among things that had seemed forgotten and
disposed of. Lady Sunderbund's mind was extravagantly untrained,
a wild-grown mental thicket. At times she reproached him as if he
were a heartless God; at times she talked as if he were a
recalcitrant servant. Her mingling of utter devotion and the
completest disregard for his thoughts and wishes dazzled and
distressed his mind. It was clear that for half a year her clear,
bold, absurd will had been crystallized upon the idea of giving
him exactly what she wanted him to want. The crystal sphere of
those ambitions lay now shattered between them.
She was trying to reconstruct it before his eyes.
She was, she declared, prepared to alter her plans in any way
that would meet his wishes. She had not understood. "If it is a
Toy," she cried, "show me how to make it not a Toy! Make it
He said it was the bare idea of a temple that made it
impossible. And there was this drawing here; what did it mean? He
held it out to her. It represented a figure, distressingly like
himself, robed as a priest in vestments.
She snatched the offending drawing from him and tore it to
"If you don't want a Temple, have a meeting-house. You wanted a
"Just any old meeting-house," he said. "Not that special one. A
place without choirs and clergy."
"If you won't have music," she responded, "don't have music. If
God doesn't want music it can go. I can't think God does not
app'ove of music, but--that is for you to settle. If you don't
like the' being o'naments, we'll make it all plain. Some g'ate
g'ey Dome--all g'ey and black. If it isn't to be beautiful, it
can be ugly. Yes, ugly. It can be as ugly "--she sobbed--" as
the City Temple. We will get some otha a'chitect--some City
a'chitect. Some man who has built B'anch Banks or 'ailway
stations. That's if you think it pleases God.... B'eak young
Venable's hea't.... Only why should you not let me make a place
fo' you' message? Why shouldn't it be me? You must have a place.
You've got 'to p'each somewhe'."
"As a man, not as a priest."
"Then p'each as a man. You must still wea' something."
"Just ordinary clothes."
"O'dina'y clothes a' clothes in the fashion," she said. "You
would have to go to you' taila for a new p'eaching coat with
b'aid put on dif'ently, or two buttons instead of th'ee...."
"One needn't be fashionable."
"Ev'ybody is fash'nable. How can you help it? Some people wea'
old fashions; that's all.... A cassock's an old fashion. There's
nothing so plain as a cassock."
"Except that it's a clerical fashion. I want to be just as I am
"If you think that--that owoble suit is o'dina'y clothes!"
she said, and stared at him and gave way to tears of real
"A cassock," she cried with passion. "Just a pe'fectly plain
cassock. Fo' deecency!... Oh, if you won't--not even that!"
As he walked now after his unsuccessful quest of Dr.
Brighton-Pomfrey towards the Serpentine he acted that stormy
interview with Lady Sunderbund over again. At the end, as a
condition indeed of his departure, he had left things open. He
had assented to certain promises. He was to make her understand
better what it was he needed. He was not to let anything that
had happened affect that "spi'tual f'enship." She was to abandon
all her plans, she was to begin again "at the ve'y beginning."
But he knew that indeed there should be no more beginning again
with her. He knew that quite beyond these questions of the
organization of a purified religion, it was time their
association ended. She had wept upon him; she had clasped both
his hands at parting and prayed to be forgiven. She was drawing
him closer to her by their very dissension. She had infected him
with the softness of remorse; from being a bright and spirited
person, she had converted herself into a warm and touching
person. Her fine, bright black hair against his cheek and the
clasp of her hand on his shoulder was now inextricably in the
business. The perplexing, the astonishing thing in his situation
was that there was still a reluctance to make a conclusive
He was not the first of men who have tried to find in vain how
and when a relationship becomes an entanglement. He ought to
break off now, and the riddle was just why he should feel this
compunction in breaking off now. He had disappointed her, and he
ought not to have disappointed her; that was the essential
feeling. He had never realized before as he realized now this
peculiar quality of his own mind and the gulf into which it was
leading him. It came as an illuminating discovery.
He was a social animal. He had an instinctive disposition to
act according to the expectations of the people about him,
whether they were reasonable or congenial expectations or whether
they were not. That, he saw for the first time, had been the
ruling motive of his life; it was the clue to him. Man is not a
reasonable creature; he is a socially responsive creature trying
to be reasonable in spite of that fact. From the days in the
rectory nursery when Scrope had tried to be a good boy on the
whole and just a little naughty sometimes until they stopped
smiling, through all his life of school, university, curacy,
vicarage and episcopacy up to this present moment, he perceived
now that he had acted upon no authentic and independent impulse.
His impulse had always been to fall in with people and satisfy
them. And all the painful conflicts of those last few years had
been due to a growing realization of jarring criticisms, of
antagonized forces that required from him incompatible things.
From which he had now taken refuge--or at any rate sought
refuge--in God. It was paradoxical, but manifestly in God he
not only sank his individuality but discovered it.
It was wonderful how much he had thought and still thought of
the feelings and desires of Lady Sunderbund, and how little he
thought of God. Her he had been assiduously propitiating,
managing, accepting, for three months now. Why? Partly because
she demanded it, and there was a quality in her demand that had
touched some hidden spring--of vanity perhaps it was--in him,
that made him respond. But partly also it was because after the
evacuation of the palace at Princhester he had felt more and
more, felt but never dared to look squarely in the face, the
catastrophic change in the worldly circumstances of his family.
Only this chapel adventure seemed likely to restore those fallen
and bedraggled fortunes. He had not anticipated a tithe of the
dire quality of that change. They were not simply uncomfortable
in the Notting Hill home. They were miserable. He fancied they
looked to him with something between reproach and urgency. Why
had he brought them here? What next did he propose to do? He
wished at times they would say it out instead of merely looking
it. Phoebe's failing appetite chilled his heart.
That concern for his family, he believed, had been his chief
motive in clinging to Lady Sunderbund's projects long after he
had realized how little they would forward the true service of
God. No doubt there had been moments of flattery, moments of
something, something rather in the nature of an excited
affection; some touch of the magnificent in her, some touch of
the infantile,--both appealed magnetically to his imagination;
but the real effective cause was his habitual solicitude for his
wife and children and his consequent desire to prosper
materially. As his first dream of being something between
Mohammed and Peter the Hermit in a new proclamation of God to the
world lost colour and life in his mind, he realized more and more
clearly that there was no way of living in a state of material
prosperity and at the same time in a state of active service to
God. The Church of the One True God (by favour of Lady
Sunderbund) was a gaily-coloured lure.
And yet he wanted to go on with it. All his imagination and
intelligence was busy now with the possibility of in some way
subjugating Lady Sunderbund, and modifying her and qualifying her
to an endurable proposition. Why?
There could be but one answer, he thought. Brought to the test
of action, he did not really believe in God! He did not believe
in God as he believed in his family. He did not believe in the
reality of either his first or his second vision; they had been
dreams, autogenous revelations, exaltations of his own
imaginations. These beliefs were upon different grades of
reality. Put to the test, his faith in God gave way; a sword of
plaster against a reality of steel.
And yet he did believe in God. He was as persuaded that there
was a God as he was that there was another side to the moon. His
intellectual conviction was complete. Only, beside the living,
breathing--occasionally coughing--reality of Phoebe, God was
something as unsubstantial as the Binomial Theorem....
Very like the Binomial Theorem as one thought over that
By this time he had reached the banks of the Serpentine and was
approaching the grey stone bridge that crosses just where Hyde
Park ends and Kensington Gardens begins. Following upon his
doubts of his religious faith had come another still more
extraordinary question: "Although there is a God, does he indeed
matter more in our ordinary lives than that same demonstrable
Binomial Theorem? Isn't one's duty to Phoebe plain and clear?"
Old Likeman's argument came back to him with novel and enhanced
powers. Wasn't he after all selfishly putting his own salvation
in front of his plain duty to those about him? What did it matter
if he told lies, taught a false faith, perjured and damned
himself, if after all those others were thereby saved and
"But that is just where the whole of this state of mind is
false and wrong," he told himself. "God is something more than a
priggish devotion, an intellectual formula. He has a hold and a
claim--he should have a hold and a claim--exceeding all the
claims of Phoebe, Miriam, Daphne, Clementina--all of them....
But he hasn't'!...
It was to that he had got after he had left Lady Sunderbund,
and to that he now returned. It was the thinness and unreality of
his thought of God that had driven him post-haste to
Brighton-Pomfrey in search for that drug that had touched his
soul to belief.
Was God so insignificant in comparison with his family that
after all with a good conscience he might preach him every Sunday
in Lady Sunderbund's church, wearing Lady Sunderbund's vestments?
Before him he saw an empty seat. The question was so immense
and conclusive, it was so clearly a choice for all the rest of
his life between God and the dear things of this world, that he
felt he could not decide it upon his legs. He sat down, threw an
arm along the back of the seat and drummed with his fingers.
If the answer was "yes" then it was decidedly a pity that he
had not stayed in the church. It was ridiculous to strain at the
cathedral gnat and then swallow Lady Sunderbund's decorative
For the first time, Scrope definitely regretted his apostasy.
A trivial matter, as it may seem to the reader, intensified
that regret. Three weeks ago Borrowdale, the bishop of Howeaster,
had died, and Scrope would have been the next in rotation to
succeed him on the bench of bishops. He had always looked forward
to the House of Lords, intending to take rather a new line, to
speak more, and to speak more plainly and fully upon social
questions than had hitherto been the practice of his brethren.
Well, that had gone....
Regrets were plain now. The question before his mind was
growing clear; whether he was to persist in this self-imposed
martyrdom of himself and his family or whether he was to go back
upon his outbreak of visionary fanaticism and close with this
last opportunity that Lady Sunderbund offered of saving at least
the substance of the comfort and social status of his wife and
daughters. In which case it was clear to him he would have to go
to great lengths and exercise very considerable subtlety--and
magnetism--in the management of Lady Sunderbund....
He found himself composing a peculiar speech to her, very frank
and revealing, and one that he felt would dominate her
thoughts.... She attracted him oddly.... At least this afternoon
she had attracted him....
And repelled him....
A wholesome gust of moral impatience stirred him. He smacked
the back of the seat hard, as though he smacked himself.
No. He did not like it....
A torn sunset of purple and crimson streamed raggedly up above
and through the half stripped trecs of Kensington Gardens, and he
found himself wishing that Heaven would give us fewer sublimities
in sky and mountain and more in our hearts. Against the
background of darkling trees and stormily flaming sky a girl was
approaching him. There was little to be seen of her but her
outline. Something in her movement caught his eye and carried his
memory back to a sundown at Hunstanton. Then as she came nearer
he saw that it was Eleanor.
It was odd to see her here. He had thought she was at Newnham.
But anyhow it was very pleasant to see her. And there was
something in Eleanor that promised an answer to his necessity.
The girl had a kind of instinctive wisdom. She would understand
the quality of his situation better perhaps than any one. He
would put the essentials of that situation as fully and plainly
as he could to her. Perhaps she, with that clear young idealism
of hers, would give him just the lift and the light of which he
stood in need. She would comprehend both sides of it, the points
about Phoebe as well as the points about God.
When first he saw her she seemed to be hurrying, but now she
had fallen to a loitering pace. She looked once or twice behind
her and then ahead, almost as though she expected some one and
was not sure whether this person would approach from east or
west. She did not observe her father until she was close upon
Then she was so astonished that for a moment she stood
motionless, regarding him. She made an odd movement, almost as if
she would have walked on, that she checked in its inception. Then
she came up to him and stood before him. "It's Dad," she said.
"I didn't know you were in London, Norah," he began.
"I came up suddenly."
"Have you been home?"
"No. I wasn't going home. At least--not until afterwards."
Then she looked away from him, east and then west, and then met
his eye again.
"Won't you sit down, Norah?"
"I don't know whether I can."
She consulted the view again and seemed to come to a decision.
"At least, I will for a minute."
She sat down. For a moment neither of them spoke....
"What are you doing here, little Norah?"
She gathered her wits. Then she spoke rather volubly. "I know
it looks bad, Daddy. I came up to meet a boy I know, who is going
to France to-morrow. I had to make excuses--up there. I hardly
remember what excuses I made."
"A boy you know?"
"Do we know him? "
For a time Scrope forgot the Church of the One True God
altogether. "Who is this boy?" he asked.
With a perceptible effort Eleanor assumed a tone of commonsense
conventionality. "He's a boy I met first when we were skating
last year. His sister has the study next to mine."
Father looked at daughter, and she met his eyes. "Well? "
"It's all happened so quickly, Daddy," she said, answering all
that was implicit in that "Well?" She went on, "I would have told
you about him if he had seemed to matter. But it was just a
friendship. It didn't seem to matter in any serious way. Of
course we'd been good friends--and talked about all sorts of
things. And then suddenly you see,"--her tone was offhand and
matter-of-fact--" he has to go to France."
She stared at her father with the expression of a hostess who
talks about the weather. And then the tears gathered and ran down
She turned her face to the Serpentine and clenched her fist.
But she was now fairly weeping. "I didn't know he cared. I
didn't know I cared."
His next question took a little time in coming.
"And it's love, little Norah?" he asked.
She was comfortably crying now, the defensive altogether
abandoned. "It's love, Daddy.... Oh! love!.... He's going
tomorrow." For a minute or so neither spoke. Scrope's mind was
entirely made up in the matter. He approved altogether of his
daughter. But the traditions of parentage, his habit of
restrained decision, made him act a judicial part. "I'd like just
to see this boy," he said, and added: "If it isn't rather
"Dear Daddy!" she said. "Dear Daddy!" and touched his hand.
"He'll be coming here...."
"If you could tell me a few things about him," said Scrope. "Is
he an undergraduate?"
"You see," began Eleanor and paused to marshal her facts. "He
graduated this year. Then he's been in training at Cambridge.
Properly he'd have a fellowship. He took the Natural Science
tripos, zoology chiefly. He's good at philosophy, but of course
our Cambridge philosophy is so silly--McTaggart blowing
bubbles.... His father's a doctor, Sir Hedley Riverton."
As she spoke her eyes had been roving up the path and down.
"He's coming," she interrupted. She hesitated. "Would you mind if
I went and spoke to him first, Daddy?"
"Of course go to him. Go and warn him I'm here," said Scrope.
Eleanor got up, and was immediately greeted with joyful
gestures by an approaching figure in khaki. The two young people
quickened their paces as they drew nearer one another. There was
a rapid greeting; they stood close together and spoke eagerly.
Scrope could tell by their movements when he became the subject
of their talk. He saw the young man start and look over Eleanor's
shoulder, and he assumed an attitude of philosophical
contemplation of the water, so as to give the young man the
liberty of his profile.
He did not look up until they were quite close to him, and when
he did he saw a pleasant, slightly freckled fair face a little
agitated, and very honest blue eyes. "I hope you don't think,
Sir, that it's bad form of me to ask Eleanor to come up and see
me as I've done. I telegraphed to her on an impulse, and it's
been very kind of her to come up to me."
"Sit down," said Scrope, "sit down. You're Mr. Riverton?"
"Yes, Sir," said the young man. He had the frequent "Sir" of
the subaltern. Scrope was in the centre of the seat, and the
young officer sat down on one side of him while Eleanor took up a
watching position on her father's other hand. "You see, Sir,
we've hardly known each other--I mean we've been associated
over a philosophical society and all that sort of thing, but in a
more familiar way, I mean...."
He hung for a moment, just a little short of breath. Scrope
helped him with a grave but sympathetic movement of the head.
"It's a little difficult to explain," the young man apologized.
"We hadn't understood, I think, either of us very much. We'd
just been friendly--and liked each other. And so it went on
even when I was training. And then when I found I had to go out
--I'm going out a little earlier than I expected--I thought
suddenly I wouldn't ever go to Cambridge again at all perhaps--
and there was something in one of her letters.... I thought of it
a lot, Sir, I thought it all over, and I thought it wasn't right
for me to do anything and I didn't do anything until this
morning. And then I sort of had to telegraph. I know it was
frightful cheek and bad form and all that, Sir. It is. It would
be worse if she wasn't different--I mean, Sir, if she was just
an ordinary girl.... But I had a sort of feeling--just wanting
to see her. I don't suppose you've ever felt anything, Sir, as I
felt I wanted to see her--and just hear her speak to me...."
He glanced across Scrope at Eleanor. It was as if he justified
himself to them both.
Scrope glanced furtively at his daughter who was leaning
forward with tender eyes on her lover, and his heart went out to
her. But his manner remained judicial.
"All this is very sudden," he said.
"Or you would have heard all about it, Sir," said young
Riverton. "It's just the hurry that has made this seem furtive.
All that there is between us, Sir, is just the two telegrams
we've sent, hers and mine. I hope you won't mind our having a
little time together. We won't do anything very committal. It's
as much friendship as anything. I go by the evening train
"Mm," said Serope with his eye on Eleanor.
"In these uncertain times," he began.
"Why shouldn't I take a risk too, Daddy?" said Eleanor sharply.
"I know there's that side of it," said the young man. "I
oughtn't to have telegraphed," he said.
"Can't I take a risk?" exclaimed Eleanor. "I'm not a doll. I
don't want to live in wadding until all the world is safe for
Scrope looked at the glowing face of the young man.
"Is this taking care of her?" he asked.
"If you hadn't telegraphed--!" she cried with a threat in her
voice, and left it at that.
"Perhaps I feel about her--rather as if she was as strong as
I am--in those ways. Perhaps I shouldn't. I could hardly endure
myself, Sir--cut off from her. And a sort of blank. Nothing
"You want to work out your own salvation," said Scrope to his
"No one else can," she answered. "I'm--I'm grown up."
"Even if it hurts?"
"To live is to be hurt somehow," she said. "This--This--" She
flashed her love. She intimated by a gesture that it is better to
be stabbed with a clean knife than to be suffocated or poisoned
or to decay....
Scrope turned his eyes to the young man again. He liked him. He
liked the modelling of his mouth and chin and the line of his
brows. He liked him altogether. He pronounced his verdict slowly.
"I suppose, after all," he said, "that this is better than the
tender solicitude of a safe and prosperous middleaged man.
Eleanor, my dear, I've been thinking to-day that a father who
stands between his children and hardship, by doing wrong, may
really be doing them a wrong. You are a dear girl to me.
I won't stand between you two. Find your own salvation." He got
up. "I go west," he said, "presently. You, I think, go east."
"I can assure you, Sir," the young man began.
Scrope held his hand out. "Take your life in your own way," he
He turned to Eleanor. "Talk as you will," he said.
She clasped his hand with emotion. Then she turned to the
waiting young man, who saluted.
"You'll come back to supper?" Scrope said, without thinking out
the implications of that invitation.
She assented as carelessly. The fact that she and her lover
were to go, with their meeting legalized and blessed, excluded
all other considerations. The two young people turned to each
Scrope stood for a moment or so and then sat down again.
For a time he could think only of Eleanor.... He watched the
two young people as they went eastward. As they walked their
shoulders and elbows bumped amicably together.
Presently he sought to resume the interrupted thread of his
thoughts. He knew that he had been dealing with some very
tremendous and urgent problem when Eleanor had appeared. Then he
remembered that Eleanor at the time of her approach had seemed to
be a solution rather than an interruption. Well, she had her own
life. She was making her own life. Instead of solving his
problems she was solving her own. God bless those dear grave
children! They were nearer the elemental things than he was. That
eastward path led to Victoria--and thence to a very probable
death. The lad was in the infantry and going straight into the
Love, death, God; this war was bringing the whole world back to
elemental things, to heroic things. The years of comedy and
comfort were at an end in Europe; the age of steel and want was
here. And he had been thinking--What had he been thinking?
He mused, and the scheme of his perplexities reshaped itself in
his mind. But at that time he did not realize that a powerful new
light was falling upon it now, cast by the tragic illumination of
these young lovers whose love began with a parting. He did not
see how reality had come to all things through that one intense
reality. He reverted to the question as he had put it to himself,
before first he recoguized Eleanor. Did he believe in God? Should
he go on with this Sunderbund adventure in which he no longer
believed? Should he play for safety and comfort, trusting to
God's toleration? Or go back to his family and warn them of the
years of struggle and poverty his renunciation cast upon them?
Somehow Lady Sunderbund's chapel was very remote and flimsy
now, and the hardships of poverty seemed less black than the
hardship of a youthful death.
Did he believe in God? Again he put that fundamental question
He sat very still in the sunset peace, with his eyes upon the
steel mirror of the waters. The question seemed to fill the whole
scene, to wait, even as the water and sky and the windless trees
And then by imperceptible degrees there grew in Scrope's mind
the persuasion that he was in the presence of the living God.
This time there was no vision of angels nor stars, no snapping of
bow-strings, no throbbing of the heart nor change of scene, no
magic and melodramatic drawing back of the curtain from the
mysteries; the water and the bridge, the ragged black trees, and
a distant boat that broke the silvery calm with an arrow of black
ripples, all these things were still before him. But God was
there too. God was everywhere about him. This persuasion was over
him and about him; a dome of protection, a power in his nerves, a
peace in his heart. It was an exalting beauty; it was a perfected
conviction.... This indeed was the coming of God, the real coming
of God. For the first time Scrope was absolutely sure that for
the rest of his life he would possess God. Everything that had so
perplexed him seemed to be clear now, and his troubles lay at the
foot of this last complete realization like a litter of dust and
leaves in the foreground of a sunlit, snowy mountain range.
It was a little incredible that he could ever have doubted.
It was a phase of extreme intellectual clairvoyance. A
multitude of things that hitherto had been higgledy-piggledy,
contradictory and incongruous in his mind became lucid, serene,
full and assured. He seemed to see all things plainly as one sees
things plainly through perfectly clear still water in the shadows
of a summer noon. His doubts about God, his periods of complete
forgetfulness and disregard of God, this conflict of his
instincts and the habits and affections of his daily life with
the service of God, ceased to be perplexing incompatibilities and
were manifest as necessary, understandable aspects of the
business of living.
It was no longer a riddle that little immediate things should
seem of more importance than great and final things. For man is a
creature thrusting his way up from the beast to divinity, from
the blindness of individuality to the knowledge of a common end.
We stand deep in the engagements of our individual lives looking
up to God, and only realizing in our moments of exaltation that
through God we can escape from and rule and alter the whole
world-wide scheme of individual lives. Only in phases of
illumination do we realize the creative powers that lie ready to
man's hand. Personal affections, immediate obligations,
ambitions, self-seeking, these are among the natural and
essential things of our individual lives, as intimate almost as
our primordial lusts and needs; God, the true God, is a later
revelation, a newer, less natural thing in us; a knowledge still
remote, uncertain, and confused with superstition; an
apprehension as yet entangled with barbaric traditions of fear
and with ceremonial surgeries, blood sacrifices, and the maddest
barbarities of thought. We are only beginning to realize that God
is here; so far as our minds go he is still not here continually;
we perceive him and then again we are blind to him. God is the
last thing added to the completeness of human life. To most His
presence is imperceptible throughout their lives; they know as
little of him as a savage knows of the electric waves that beat
through us for ever from the sun. All this appeared now so clear
and necessary to Scrope that he was astonished he had ever found
the quality of contradiction in these manifest facts.
In this unprecedented lucidity that had now come to him, Scrope
saw as a clear and simple necessity that there can be no such
thing as a continuous living presence of God in our lives. That
is an unreasonable desire. There is no permanent exaltation of
belief. It is contrary to the nature of life. One cannot keep
actively believing in and realizing God round all the twenty-four
hours any more than one can keep awake through the whole cycle of
night and day, day after day. If it were possible so to apprehend
God without cessation, life would dissolve in religious ecstasy.
But nothing human has ever had the power to hold the curtain of
sense continually aside and retain the light of God always. We
must get along by remembering our moments of assurance. Even
Jesus himself, leader of all those who have hailed the coming
kingdom of God, had cried upon the cross, "My God, my God, why
hast thou forsaken me?" The business of life on earth, life
itself, is a thing curtained off, as it were, from such immediate
convictions. That is in the constitution of life. Our ordinary
state of belief, even when we are free from doubt, is necessarily
far removed from the intuitive certainty of sight and hearing. It
is a persuasion, it falls far short of perception....
"We don't know directly," Scrope said to himself with a
checking gesture of the hand, "we don't see. We can't. We hold on
to the remembered glimpse, we go over our reasons."...
And it was clear too just because God is thus manifest like the
momentary drawing of a curtain, sometimes to this man for a time
and sometimes to that, but never continuously to any, and because
the perception of him depends upon the ability and quality of the
perceiver, because to the intellectual man God is necessarily a
formula, to the active man a will and a commandment, and to the
emotional man love, there can be no creed defining him for all
men, and no ritual and special forms of service to justify a
priesthood. "God is God," he whispered to himself, and the phrase
seemed to him the discovery of a sufficient creed. God is his own
definition; there is no other definition of God. Scrope had
troubled himself with endless arguments whether God was a person,
whether he was concerned with personal troubles, whether he
loved, whether he was finite. It were as reasonable to argue
whether God was a frog or a rock or a tree. He had imagined God
as a figure of youth and courage, had perceived him as an
effulgence of leadership, a captain like the sun. The vision of
his drug-quickened mind had but symbolized what was otherwise
inexpressible. Of that he was now sure. He had not seen the
invisible but only its sign and visible likeness. He knew now
that all such presentations were true and that all such
presentations were false. Just as much and just as little was God
the darkness and the brightness of the ripples under the bows of
the distant boat, the black beauty of the leaves and twigs of
those trees now acid-clear against the flushed and deepening sky.
These riddles of the profundities were beyond the compass of
common living. They were beyond the needs of common living. He
was but a little earth parasite, sitting idle in the darkling
day, trying to understand his infinitesimal functions on a minor
planet. Within the compass of terrestrial living God showed
himself in its own terms. The life of man on earth was a struggle
for unity of spirit and for unity with his kind, and the aspect
of God that alone mattered to man was a unifying kingship without
and within. So long as men were men, so would they see God. Only
when they reached the crest could they begin to look beyond. So
we knew God, so God was to us; since we struggled, he led our
struggle, since we were finite and mortal he defined an aim, his
personality was the answer to our personality; but God, except in
so far as he was to us, remained inaccessible, inexplicable,
wonderful, shining through beauty, shining beyond research,
greater than time or space, above good and evil and pain and
Serope's mind was saturated as it had never been before by his
sense of the immediate presence of God. He floated in that
realization. He was not so much thinking now as conversing
starkly with the divine interlocutor, who penetrated all things
and saw into and illuminated every recess of his mind. He spread
out his ideas to the test of this presence; he brought out his
hazards and interpretations that this light might judge them.
There came back to his mind the substance of his two former
visions; they assumed now a reciprocal quality, they explained
one another and the riddle before him. The first had shown him
the personal human aspect of God, he had seen God as the unifying
captain calling for his personal service, the second had set the
stage for that service in the spectacle of mankind's adventure.
He had been shown a great multitude of human spirits reaching up
at countless points towards the conception of the racial unity
under a divine leadership, he had seen mankind on the verge of
awakening to the kingdom of God. "That solves no mystery," he
whispered, gripping the seat and frowning at the water;
"mysteries remain mysteries; but that is the reality of religion.
And now, now, what is my place? What have I to do? That is the
question I have been asking always; the question that this moment
now will answer; what have I to do?...
God was coming into the life of all mankind in the likeness of
a captain and a king; all the governments of men, all the leagues
of men, their debts and claims and possessions, must give way to
the world republic under God the king. For five troubled years he
had been staring religion in the face, and now he saw that it
must mean this--or be no more than fetishism, Obi, Orphic
mysteries or ceremonies of Demeter, a legacy of mental dirtiness,
a residue of self-mutilation and superstitious sacrifices from
the cunning, fear-haunted, ape-dog phase of human development.
it did mean this. And every one who apprehended as much was
called by that very apprehension to the service of God's kingdom.
To live and serve God's kingdom on earth, to help to bring it
about, to propagate the idea of it, to establish the method of
it, to incorporate all that one made and all that one did into
its growing reality, was the only possible life that could be
lived, once that God was known.
He sat with his hands gripping his knees, as if he were holding
on to his idea. "And now for my part," he whispered, brows knit,
"now for my part."
Ever since he had given his confirmation addresses he had been
clear that his task, or at least a considerable portion of his
task, was to tell of this faith in God and of this conception of
service in his kingdom as the form and rule of human life and
human society. But up to now he had been floundering hopelessly
in his search for a method and means of telling. That, he saw,
still needed to be thought out. For example, one cannot run
through the world crying, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." Men's
minds were still so filled with old theological ideas that for
the most part they would understand by that only a fantasy of
some great coming of angels and fiery chariots and judgments, and
hardly a soul but would doubt one's sanity and turn scornfully
away. But one must proclaim God not to confuse but to convince
men's minds. It was that and the habit of his priestly calling
that had disposed him towards a pulpit. There he could reason and
explain. The decorative genius of Lady Sunderbund had turned that
intention into a vast iridescent absurdity.
This sense he had of thinking openly in the sight of God,
enabled him to see the adventure of Lady Sunderbund without
illusion and without shame. He saw himself at once honest and
disingenuous, divided between two aims. He had no doubt now of
the path he had to pursue. A stronger man of permanently clear
aims might possibly turn Lady Sunderbund into a useful
opportunity, oblige her to provide the rostrum he needed; but for
himself, he knew he had neither the needed strength nor
clearness; she would smother him in decoration, overcome him by
her picturesque persistence. It might be ridiculous to run away
from her, but it was necessary. And he was equally clear now that
for him there must be no idea of any pulpit, of any sustained
mission. He was a man of intellectual moods; only at times, he
realized, had he the inspiration of truth; upon such uncertain
snatches and glimpses he must live; to make his life a ministry
would be to face phases when he would simply be "carrying on,"
with his mind blank and his faith asleep.
His thought spread out from this perennial decision to more
general things again. Had God any need of organized priests at
all? Wasn't that just what had been the matter with religion for
the last three thousand years?
His vision and his sense of access to God had given a new
courage to his mind; in these moods of enlightenment he could see
the world as a comprehensible ball, he could see history as an
understandable drama. He had always been on the verge of
realizing before, he realized now, the two entirely different and
antagonistic strands that interweave in the twisted rope of
contemporary religion; the old strand of the priest, the
fetishistic element of the blood sacrifice and the obscene rite,
the element of ritual and tradition, of the cult, the caste, the
consecrated tribe; and interwoven with this so closely as to be
scarcely separable in any existing religion was the new strand,
the religion of the prophets, the unidolatrous universal worship
of the one true God. Priest religion is the antithesis to prophet
religion. He saw that the founders of all the great existing
religions of the world had been like himself--only that he was
a weak and commonplace man with no creative force, and they had
been great men of enormous initiative--men reaching out, and
never with a complete definition, from the old kind of religion
to the new. The Hebrew prophets, Jesus, whom the priests killed
when Pilate would have spared him, Mohammed, Buddha, had this
much in common that they had sought to lead men from temple
worship, idol worship, from rites and ceremonies and the rule of
priests, from anniversaryism and sacramentalism, into a direct
and simple relation to the simplicity of God. Religious progress
had always been liberation and simplification. But none of these
efforts had got altogether clear. The organizing temper in men,
the disposition to dogmatic theorizing, the distrust of the
discretion of the young by the wisdom of age, the fear of
indiscipline which is so just in warfare and so foolish in
education, the tremendous power of the propitiatory tradition,
had always caught and crippled every new gospel before it had run
a score of years. Jesus for example gave man neither a theology
nor a church organization; His sacrament was an innocent feast of
memorial; but the fearful, limited, imitative men he left to
carry on his work speedily restored all these three abominations
of the antiquated religion, theology, priest, and sacrifice.
Jesus indeed, caught into identification with the ancient victim
of the harvest sacrifice and turned from a plain teacher into a
horrible blood bath and a mock cannibal meal, was surely the
supreme feat of the ironies of chance....
"It is curious how I drift back to Jesus," said Scrope. "I have
never seen how much truth and good there was in his teaching
until I broke away from Christianity and began to see him plain.
If I go on as I am going, I shall end a Nazarene...."
He thought on. He had a feeling of temerity, but then it seemed
as if God within him bade him be of good courage.
Already in a glow of inspiration he had said practically as
much as he was now thinking in his confirmation address, but now
he realized completely what it was he had then said. There could
be no priests, no specialized ministers of the one true God,
because every man to the utmost measure of his capacity was bound
to be God's priest and minister. Many things one may leave to
specialists: surgery, detailed administration, chemistry, for
example; but it is for every man to think his own philosophy and
think out his own religion. One man may tell another, but no man
may take charge of another. A man may avail himself of
electrician or gardener or what not, but he must stand directly
before God; he may suffer neither priest nor king. These other
things are incidental, but God, the kingdom of God, is what he is
"Good," he said, checking his reasoning. "So I must bear
witness to God--but neither as priest nor pastor. I must write
and talk about him as I can. No reason why I should not live by
such writing and talking if it does not hamper my message to do
so. But there must be no high place, no ordered congregation. I
begin to see my way....
The evening was growing dark and chill about him now, the sky
was barred with deep bluish purple bands drawn across a chilly
brightness that had already forgotten the sun, the trees were
black and dim, but his understanding of his place and duty was
growing very definite.
"And this duty to bear witness to God's kingdom and serve it is
so plain that I must not deflect my witness even by a little,
though to do so means comfort and security for my wife and
children. God comes first...."
"They must not come between God and me...."
"But there is more in it than that."
He had come round at last through the long clearing-up of his
mind, to his fundamental problem again. He sat darkly reluctant.
"I must not play priest or providence to them," he admitted at
last. "I must not even stand between God and them."
He saw now what he had been doing; it had been the flaw in his
faith that he would not trust his family to God. And he saw too
that this distrust has been the flaw in the faith of all
religious systems hitherto....
In this strange voyage of the spirit which was now drawing to
its end, in which Scrope had travelled from the confused,
unanalyzed formulas and assumptions and implications of his
rectory upbringing to his present stark and simple realization of
God, he had at times made some remarkable self-identifications.
He was naturally much given to analogy; every train of thought in
his mind set up induced parallel currents. He had likened himself
to the Anglican church, to the whole Christian body, as, for
example, in his imagined second conversation with the angel of
God. But now he found himself associating himself with a still
more far-reaching section of mankind. This excess of solicitude
was traceable perhaps in nearly every one in all the past of
mankind who had ever had the vision of God. An excessive
solicitude to shield those others from one's own trials and
hardships, to preserve the exact quality of the revelation, for
example, had been the fruitful cause of crippling errors,
spiritual tyrannies, dogmatisms, dissensions, and futilities.
"Suffer little children to come unto me"; the text came into his
head with an effect of contribution. The parent in us all flares
out at the thought of the younger and weaker minds; we hide
difficulties, seek to spare them from the fires that temper the
spirit, the sharp edge of the truth that shapes the soul.
Christian is always trying to have a carriage sent back from the
Celestial City for his family. Why, we ask, should they flounder
dangerously in the morasses that we escaped, or wander in the
forest in which we lost ourselves? Catch these souls young,
therefore, save them before they know they exist, kidnap them to
heaven; vaccinate them with a catechism they may never
understand, lull them into comfort and routine. Instinct plays us
false here as it plays the savage mother false when she snatches
her fevered child from the doctor's hands. The last act of faith
is to trust those we love to God....
Hitherto he had seen the great nets of theological
overstatement and dogma that kept mankind from God as if they
were the work of purely evil things in man, of pride, of
self-assertion, of a desire to possess and dominate the minds and
souls of others. It was only now that he saw how large a share in
the obstruction of God's Kingdom had been played by the love of
the elder and the parent, by the carefulness, the fussy care, of
good men and women. He had wandered in wildernesses of unbelief,
in dangerous places of doubt and questioning, but he had left his
wife and children safe and secure in the self-satisfaction of
orthodoxy. To none of them except to Eleanor had he ever talked
with any freedom of his new apprehensions of religious reality.
And that had been at Eleanor's initiative. There was, he saw now,
something of insolence and something of treachery in this
concealment. His ruling disposition throughout the crisis had
been to force comfort and worldly well-being upon all those
dependants even at the price of his own spiritual integrity. In
no way had he consulted them upon the bargain.... While we have
pottered, each for the little good of his own family, each for
the lessons and clothes and leisure of his own children,
assenting to this injustice, conforming to that dishonest custom,
being myopically benevolent and fundamentally treacherous, our
accumulated folly has achieved this catastrophe. It is not so
much human wickedness as human weakness that has permitted the
youth of the world to go through this hell of blood and mud and
fire. The way to the kingdom of God is the only way to the true
safety, the true wellbeing of the children of men....
It wasn't fair to them. But now he saw how unfair it was to
them in a light that has only shone plainly upon European life
since the great interlude of the armed peace came to an end in
August, 1914. Until that time it had been the fashion to ignore
death and evade poverty and necessity for the young. We can
shield our young no longer, death has broken through our
precautions and tender evasions--and his eyes went eastward
into the twilight that had swallowed up his daughter and her
The tumbled darkling sky, monstrous masses of frowning blue,
with icy gaps of cold light, was like the great confusions of the
war. All our youth has had to go into that terrible and
destructive chaos--because of the kings and churches and
nationalities sturdier-souled men would have set aside.
Everything was sharp and clear in his mind now. Eleanor after
all had brought him his solution.
He sat quite still for a little while, and then stood up and
turned northward towards Notting Hill.
The keepers were closing Kensington Gardens, and he would have
to skirt the Park to Victoria Gate and go home by the Bayswater
As he walked he rearranged in his mind this long-overdue
apology for his faith that he was presently to make to his
family. There was no one to interrupt him and nothing to
embarrass him, and so he was able to set out everything very
clearly and convincingly. There was perhaps a disposition to
digress into rather voluminous subordinate explanations, on such
themes, for instance, as sacramentalism, whereon he found himself
summarizing Frazer's Golden Bough, which the Chasters'
controversy had first obliged him to read, and upon the
irrelevance of the question of immortality to the process of
salvation. But the reality of his eclaircissement was very
different from anything he prepared in these anticipations.
Tea had been finished and put away, and the family was disposed
about the dining-room engaged in various evening occupations;
Phoebe sat at the table working at some mathematical problem,
Clementina was reading with her chin on her fist and a frown on
her brow; Lady Ella, Miriam and Daphne were busy making soft
washing cloths for the wounded; Lady Ella had brought home the
demand for them from the Red Cross centre in Burlington House.
The family was all downstairs in the dining-room because the
evening was chilly, and there were no fires upstairs yet in the
drawing-room. He came into the room and exchanged greetings with
Lady Ella. Then he stood for a time surveying his children.
Phoebe, he noted, was a little flushed; she put passion into her
work; on the whole she was more like Eleanor than any other of
them. Miriam knitted with a steady skill. Clementina's face too
expressed a tussle. He took up one of the rough-knit
washing-cloths upon the side-table, and asked how many could be
made in an hour. Then he asked some idle obvious question about
the fire upstairs. Clementina made an involuntary movement; he
was disturbing her. He hovered for a moment longer. He wanted to
catch his wife's eye and speak to her first. She looked up, but
before he could convey his wish for a private conference with
her, she smiled at him and then bent over her work again.
He went into the back study and lit his gas fire. Hitherto he
had always made a considerable explosion when he did so, but this
time by taking thought and lighting his match before he turned on
the gas he did it with only a gentle thud. Then he lit his
reading-lamp and pulled down the blind--pausing for a time to
look at the lit dressmaker's opposite. Then he sat down
thoughtfully before the fire. Presently Ella would come in and he
would talk to her. He waited a long time, thinking only weakly
and inconsecutively, and then he became restless. Should he call
But he wanted their talk to begin in a natural-seeming way. He
did not want the portentousness of "wanting to speak" to her and
calling her out to him. He got up at last and went back into the
other room. Clementina had gone upstairs, and the book she had
been reading was lying closed on the sideboard. He saw it was one
of Chasters' books, he took it up, it was "The Core of Truth in
Christianity," and he felt an irrational shock at the idea of
Clementina reading it. In spite of his own immense changes of
opinion he had still to revise his conception of the polemical
Chasters as an evil influence in religion. He fidgeted past his
wife to the mantel in search of an imaginary mislaid pencil.
Clementina came down with some bandage linen she was cutting out.
He hung over his wife in a way that he felt must convey his
desire for a conversation. Then he picked up Chasters' book
again. "Does any one want this?" he asked.
"Not if I may have it again," consented Clementina.
He took it back with him and began to read again those familiar
controversial pages. He read for the best part of an hour with
his knees drying until they smoked over the gas. What curious
stuff it was! How it wrangled! Was Chasters a religious man? Why
did he write these books? Had he really a passion for truth or
only a Swift-like hatred of weakly-thinking people? None of this
stuff in his books was really wrong, provided it was religious-
spirited. Much of it had been indeed destructively illuminating
to its reader. It let daylight through all sorts of walls.
Indeed, the more one read the more vividly true its acid-bit
lines became.... And yet, and yet, there was something hateful in
the man's tone. Scrope held the book and thought. He had seen
Chasters once or twice. Chasters had the sort of face, the sort
of voice, the sort of bearing that made one think of his possibly
saying upon occasion, rudely and rejoicing, "More fool you!"
Nevertheless Scrope perceived now with an effort of discovery
that it was from Chasters that he had taken all the leading ideas
of the new faith that was in him. Here was the stuff of it. He
had forgotten how much of it was here. During those months of
worried study while the threat of a Chasters prosecution hung
over him his mind had assimilated almost unknowingly every
assimilable element of the Chasters doctrine; he had either
assimilated and transmuted it by the alchemy of his own
temperament, or he had reacted obviously and filled in Chasters'
gaps and pauses. Chasters could beat a road to the Holy of
Holies, and shy at entering it. But in spite of all the man's
roughness, in spite of a curious flavour of baseness and malice
about him, the spirit of truth had spoken through him. God has a
use for harsh ministers. In one man God lights the heart, in
another the reason becomes a consuming fire. God takes his own
where he finds it. He does not limit himself to nice people. In
these matters of evidence and argument, in his contempt for
amiable, demoralizing compromise, Chasters served God as Scrope
could never hope to serve him. Scrope's new faith had perhaps
been altogether impossible if the Chasters controversy had not
ploughed his mind.
For a time Scrope dwelt upon this remarkable realization. Then
as he turned over the pages his eyes rested on a passage of
uncivil and ungenerous sarcasm. Against old Likeman of all
What did a girl like Clementina make of all this? How had she
got the book? From Eleanor? The stuff had not hurt Eleanor.
Eleanor had been able to take the good that Chasters taught, and
reject the evil of his spirit....
He thought of Eleanor, gallantly working out her own salvation.
The world was moving fast to a phase of great freedom--for the
young and the bold.... He liked that boy....
His thoughts came back with a start to his wife. The evening
was slipping by and he had momentous things to say to her. He
went and just opened the door.
"Ella!" he said.
"Did you want me?"
She put a liberal interpretation upon that "presently," so that
after what seemed to him a long interval he had to call again,
"Just a minute," she answered.
Lady Ella was still, so to speak, a little in the other room
when she came to him.
"Shut that door, please," he said, and felt the request had
just that flavour of portentousness he wished to avoid.
"What is it? " she asked.
"I wanted to talk to you--about some things. I've done
something rather serious to-day. I've made an important
Her face became anxious. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"You see," he said, leaning upon the mantelshelf and looking
down at the gas flames, "I've never thought that we should all
have to live in this crowded house for long."
"All!" she interrupted in a voice that made him look up
sharply. "You're not going away, Ted?"
"Oh, no. But I hoped we should all be going away in a little
time. It isn't so."
"I never quite understood why you hoped that."
"It was plain enough."
"I thought I should have found something to do that would have
enabled us to live in better style. I'd had a plan."
"It's fallen through."
"But what plan was it?"
"I thought I should be able to set up a sort of broad church
chapel. I had a promise."
Her voice was rich with indignation. "And she has betrayed
"No," he said, "I have betrayed her."
Lady Ella's face showed them still at cross purposes. He looked
down again and frowned. "I can't do that chapel business," he
said. "I've had to let her down. I've got to let you all down.
There's no help for it. It isn't the way. I can't have anything
to do with Lady Sunderbund and her chapel."
"But," Lady Ella was still perplexed.
"It's too great a sacrifice."
"No, of myself. I can't get into her pulpit and do as she wants
and keep my conscience. It's been a horrible riddle for me. It
means plunging into all this poverty for good. But I can't work
with her, Ella. She's impossible."
"You mean--you're going to break with Lady Sunderbund?"
"Then, Teddy!"--she was a woman groping for flight amidst
intolerable perplexities--"why did you ever leave the church?"
"Because I have ceased to believe--"
"But had it nothing to do with Lady Sunderbund?"
He stared at her in astonishment.
"If it means breaking with that woman," she said.
"You mean," he said, beginning for the first time to comprehend
her, "that you don't mind the poverty?"
"Poverty!" she cried. "I cared for nothing but the disgrace."
"Oh, never mind, Ted! If it isn't true, if I've been
Instead of a woman stunned by a life sentence of poverty, he
saw his wife rejoicing as if she had heard good news.
Their minds were held for a minute by the sound of some one
knocking at the house door; one of the girls opened the door,
there was a brief hubbub in the passage and then they heard a cry
of "Eleanor!" through the folding doors.
"There's Eleanor," he said, realizing he had told his wife
nothing of the encounter in Hyde Park.
They heard Eleanor's clear voice: "Where's Mummy? Or Daddy?"
and then: "Can't stay now, dears. Where's Mummy or Daddy?"
"I ought to have told you," said Scrope quickly. "I met Eleanor
in the Park. By accident. She's come up unexpectedly. To meet a
boy going to the front. Quite a nice boy. Son of Riverton the
doctor. The parting had made them understand one another. It's
all right, Ella. It's a little irregular, but I'd stake my life
on the boy. She's very lucky."
Eleanor appeared through the folding doors. She came to
business at once.
"I promised you I'd come back to supper here, Daddy," she said.
"But I don't want to have supper here. I want to stay out late."
She saw her mother look perplexed. "Hasn't Daddy told you?"
"But where is young Riverton?"
Eleanor became aware of a broad chink in the folding doors that
was making the dining-room an auditorium for their dialogue. She
shut them deftly.
"I have told Mummy," Scrope explained. "Bring him in to supper.
We ought to see him."
Eleanor hesitated. She indicated her sisters beyond the folding
doors. "They'll all be watching us, Mummy," she said. "We'd be
uncomfortable. And besides
"But you can't go out and dine with him alone!"
"Oh, Mummy! It's our only chance."
"Customs are changing," said Scrope.
"But can they?" asked Lady Ella.
"I don't see why not."
The mother was still doubtful, but she was in no mood to cross
her husband that night. "It's an exceptional occasion," said
Scrope, and Eleanor knew her point was won. She became radiant.
"I can be late?"
Scrope handed her his latch-key without a word.
"You dear kind things," she said, and went to the door. Then
turned and came back and kissed her father. Then she kissed her
mother. "It is so kind of you," she said, and was gone. They
listened to her passage through a storm of questions in the
"Three months ago that would have shocked me," said Lady Ella.
"You haven't seen the boy," said Scrope.
"But the appearances!"
"Aren't we rather breaking with appearances?" he said.
"And he goes to-morrow--perhaps to get killed," he added. "A
lad like a schoolboy. A young thing. Because of the political
foolery that we priests and teachers have suffered in the place
of the Kingdom of God, because we have allowed the religion of
Europe to become a lie; because no man spoke the word of God. You
see--when I see that--see those two, those children of one-and-
twenty, wrenched by tragedy, beginning with a parting.... It's
like a knife slashing at all our appearances and discretions....
Think of our lovemaking...."
The front door banged.
He had some idea of resuming their talk. But his was a
scattered mind now.
"It's a quarter to eight," he said as if in explanation.
"I must see to the supper," said Lady Ella.
There was an air of tension at supper as though the whole
family felt that momentous words impended. But Phoebe had emerged
victorious from her mathematical struggle, and she seemed to eat
with better appetite than she had shown for some time. It was a
cold meat supper; Lady Ella had found it impossible to keep up
the regular practice of a cooked dinner in the evening, and now
it was only on Thursdays that the Scropes, to preserve their
social tradition, dressed and dined; the rest of the week they
supped. Lady Ella never talked very much at supper; this evening
was no exception. Clementina talked of London University and
Bedford College; she had been making enquiries; Daphne described
some of the mistresses at her new school. The feeling that
something was expected had got upon Scrope's nerves. He talked a
little in a flat and obvious way, and lapsed into thoughtful
silences. While supper was being cleared away he went back into
Thence he returned to the dining-room hearthrug as his family
resumed their various occupations.
He tried to speak in a casual conversational tone.
"I want to tell you all," he said, "of something that has
He waited. Phoebe had begun to figure at a fresh sheet of
computations. Miriam bent her head closer over her work, as
though she winced at what was coming. Daphne and Clementina
looked at one another. Their eyes said "Eleanor!" But he was too
full of his own intention to read that glance. Only his wife
regarded him attentively.
"It concerns you all," he said.
He looked at Phoebe. He saw Lady Ella's hand go out and touch
the girl's hand gently to make her desist. Phoebe obeyed, with a
"I want to tell you that to-day I refused an income that would
certainly have exceeded fifteen hundred pounds a year."
Clementina looked up now. This was not what she expected. Her
expression conveyed protesting enquiry.
"I want you all to understand why I did that and why we are in
the position we are in, and what lies before us. I want you to
know what has been going on in my mind."
He looked down at the hearthrug, and tried to throw off a
memory of his Princhester classes for young women, that oppressed
him. His manner he forced to a more familiar note. He stuck his
hands into his trouser pockets.
"You know, my dears, I had to give up the church. I just simply
didn't believe any more in orthodox Church teaching. And I feel
I've never explained that properly to you. Not at all clearly. I
want to explain that now. It's a queer thing, I know, for me to
say to you, but I want you to understand that I am a religious
man. I believe that God matters more than wealth or comfort or
position or the respect of men, that he also matters more than
your comfort and prosperity. God knows I have cared for your
comfort and prosperity. I don't want you to think that in all
these changes we have been through lately, I haven't been aware
of all the discomfort into which you have come--the relative
discomfort. Compared with Princhester this is dark and crowded
and poverty-stricken. I have never felt crowded before, but in
this house I know you are horribly crowded. It is a house that
seems almost contrived for small discomforts. This narrow passage
outside; the incessant going up and down stairs. And there are
other things. There is the blankness of our London Sundays. What
is the good of pretending? They are desolating. There's the
impossibility too of getting good servants to come into our
dug-out kitchen. I'm not blind to all these sordid consequences.
But all the same, God has to be served first. I had to come to
this. I felt I could not serve God any longer as a bishop in the
established church, because I did not believe that the
established church was serving God. I struggled against that
conviction--and I struggled against it largely for your sakes.
But I had to obey my conviction.... I haven't talked to you about
these things as much as I should have done, but partly at least
that is due to the fact that my own mind has been changing and
reconsidering, going forward and going back, and in that fluid
state it didn't seem fair to tell you things that I might
presently find mistaken. But now I begin to feel that I have
really thought out things, and that they are definite enough to
He paused and resumed. "A number of things have helped to
change the opinions in which I grew up and in which you have
grown up. There were worries at Princhester; I didn't let you
know much about them, but there were. There was something harsh
and cruel in that atmosphere. I saw for the first time--it's a
lesson I'm still only learning--how harsh and greedy rich
people and employing people are to poor people and working
people, and how ineffective our church was to make things better.
That struck me. There were religious disputes in the diocese too,
and they shook me. I thought my faith was built on a rock, and I
found it was built on sand. It was slipping and sliding long
before the war. But the war brought it down. Before the war such
a lot of things in England and Europe seemed like a comedy or a
farce, a bad joke that one tolerated. One tried half consciously,
half avoiding the knowledge of what one was doing, to keep one's
own little circle and life civilized. The war shook all those
ideas of isolation, all that sort of evasion, down. The world is
the rightful kingdom of God; we had left its affairs to kings and
emperors and suchlike impostors, to priests and profit-seekers
and greedy men. We were genteel condoners. The war has ended
that. It thrusts into all our lives. It brings death so close--
A fortnight ago twenty-seven people were killed and injured
within a mile of this by Zeppelin bombs.... Every one loses some
one.... Because through all that time men like myself were going
through our priestly mummeries, abasing ourselves to kings and
politicians, when we ought to have been crying out: 'No! No!
There is no righteousness in the world, there is no right
government, except it be the kingdom of God.'"
He paused and looked at them. They were all listening to him
now. But he was still haunted by a dread of preaching in his own
family. He dropped to the conversational note again.
"You see what I had in mind. I saw I must come out of this, and
preach the kingdom of God. That was my idea. I don't want to
force it upon you, but I want you to understand why I acted as I
did. But let me come to the particular thing that has happened
to-day. I did not think when I made my final decision to leave
the church that it meant such poverty as this we are living in--
permanently. That is what I want to make clear to you. I thought
there would be a temporary dip into dinginess, but that was all.
There was a plan; at the time it seemed a right and reasonable
plan; for setting up a chapel in London, a very plain and simple
undenominational chapel, for the simple preaching of the world
kingdom of God. There was some one who seemed prepared to meet
all the immediate demands for such a chapel."
"Was it Lady Sunderbund?" asked Clementina.
Scrope was pulled up abruptly. "Yes," he said. "It seemed at
first a quite hopeful project."
"We'd have hated that," said Clementina, with a glance as if
for assent, at her mother. "We should all have hated that."
"Anyhow it has fallen through."
"We don't mind that," said Clementina, and Daphne echoed her
"I don't see that there is any necessity to import this note of
--hostility to Lady Sunderbund into this matter." He addressed
himself rather more definitely to Lady Ella. "She's a woman of a
very extraordinary character, highly emotional, energetic,
generous to an extraordinary extent...."
Daphne made a little noise like a comment.
A faint acerbity in her father's voice responded.
"Anyhow you make a mistake if you think that the personality of
Lady Sunderbund has very much to do with this thing now. Her
quality may have brought out certain aspects of the situation
rather more sharply than they might have been brought out under
other circumstances, but if this chapel enterprise had been
suggested by quite a different sort of person, by a man, or by a
committee, in the end I think I should have come to the same
conclusion. Leave Lady Sunderbund out. Any chapel was impossible.
It is just this specialization that has been the trouble with
religion. It is just this tendency to make it the business of a
special sort of man, in a special sort of building, on a special
day--Every man, every building, every day belongs equally to God.
That is my conviction. I think that the only possible existing
sort of religions meeting is something after the fashion of the
Quaker meeting. In that there is no professional religious man at
all; not a trace of the sacrifices to the ancient gods.... And no
room for a professional religions man...." He felt his argument
did a little escape him. He snatched, "That is what I want to
make clear to you. God is not a speciality; he is a universal
He stopped. Both Daphne and Clementina seemed disposed to say
something and did not say anything.
Miriam was the first to speak. "Daddy," she said, "I know I'm
stupid. But are we still Christians?"
"I want you to think for yourselves."
"But I mean," said Miriam, "are we--something like Quakers--
a sort of very broad Christians?"
"You are what you choose to be. If you want to keep in the
church, then you must keep in the church. If you feel that the
Christian doctrine is alive, then it is alive so far as you are
"But the creeds?" asked Clementina.
He shook his head. "So far as Christianity is defined by its
creeds, I am not a Christian. If we are going to call any sort of
religious feeling that has a respect for Jesus, Christianity,
then no doubt I am a Christian. But so was Mohammed at that rate.
Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in God, I believe in
the immediate presence of God in every human life, I believe that
our lives have to serve the Kingdom of God...."
"That practically is what Mr. Chasters calls 'The Core of Truth
"You have been reading him?"
"Eleanor lent me the book. But Mr. Chasters keeps his living."
"I am not Chasters," said Scrope stiffly, and then relenting:
"What he does may be right for him. But I could not do as he
Lady Ella had said no word for some time.
"I would be ashamed," she said quietly, "if you had not done as
you have done. I don't mind--The girls don't mind--all this....
Not when we understand--as we do now.
That was the limit of her eloquence.
"Not now that we understand, Daddy," said Clementina, and a
faint flavour of Lady Sunderbund seemed to pass and vanish.
There was a queer little pause. He stood rather distressed and
perplexed, because the talk had not gone quite as he had intended
it to go. It had deteriorated towards personal issues. Phoebe
broke the awkwardness by jumping up and coming to her father.
"Dear Daddy," she said, and kissed him.
"We didn't understand properly," said Clementina, in the tone
of one who explains away much--that had never been spoken....
"Daddy," said Miriam with an inspiration, "may I play something
to you presently?"
"But the fire!" interjected Lady Ella, disposing of that idea.
"I want you to know, all of you, the faith I have," he said.
Daphne had remained seated at the table.
"Are we never to go to church again?" she asked, as if at a
Scrope went back into his little study. He felt shy and awkward
with his daughters now. He felt it would be difficult to get back
to usualness with them. To-night it would be impossible.
To-morrow he must come down to breakfast as though their talk had
never occurred.... In his rehearsal of this deliverance during
his walk home he had spoken much more plainly of his sense of the
coming of God to rule the world and end the long age of the
warring nations and competing traders, and he had intended to
speak with equal plainness of the passionate subordination of the
individual life to this great common purpose of God and man, an
aspect he had scarcely mentioned at all. But in that little room,
in the presence of those dear familiar people, those great
horizons of life had vanished. The room with its folding doors
had fixed the scale. The wallpaper had smothered the Kingdom of
God; he had been, he felt, domestic; it had been an after-supper
talk. He had been put out, too, by the mention of Lady Sunderbund
and the case of Chasters....
In his study he consoled himself for this diminution of his
intention. It had taken him five years, he reflected, to get to
his present real sense of God's presence and to his personal
subordination to God's purpose. It had been a little absurd, he
perceived, to expect these girls to leap at once to a complete
understanding of the halting hints, the allusive indications of
the thoughts that now possessed his soul. He tried like some
maiden speaker to recall exactly what it was he had said and what
it was he had forgotten to say.... This was merely a beginning,
merely a beginning.
After the girls had gone to bed, Lady Ella came to him and she
was glowing and tender; she was in love again as she had not been
since the shadow had first fallen between them. "I was so glad
you spoke to them," she said. "They had been puzzled. But they
are dear loyal girls."
He tried to tell her rather more plainly what he felt about the
whole question of religion in their lives, but eloquence had
departed from him.
"You see, Ella, life cannot get out of tragedy--and sordid
tragedy--until we bring about the Kingdom of God. It's no
unreality that has made me come out of the church."
"No, dear. No," she said soothingly and reassuringly. "With all
these mere boys going to the most dreadful deaths in the
trenches, with death, hardship and separation running amok in the
"One has to do something," she agreed.
"I know, dear," he said, "that all this year of doubt and
change has been a dreadful year for you."
"It was stupid of me," she said, "but I have been so unhappy.
It's over now--but I was wretched. And there was nothing I could
say.... I prayed.... It isn't the poverty I feared ever, but the
disgrace. Now--I'm happy. I'm happy again.
"But how far do you come with me?"
"I'm with you."
"But," he said, "you are still a churchwoman?"
"I don't know," she said. "I don't mind."
He stared at her.
"But I thought always that was what hurt you most, my breach
with the church."
"Things are so different now," she said.
Her heart dissolved within her into tender possessiveness.
There came flooding into her mind the old phrases of an ancient
story: "Whither thou goest I will go... thy people shall be my
people and thy God my God.... The Lord do so to me and more also
if aught but death part thee and me."
Just those words would Lady Ella have said to her husband now,
but she was capable of no such rhetoric.
"Whither thou goest," she whispered almost inaudibly, and she
could get no further. "My dear," she said.
At two o'clock the next morning Scrope was still up. He was
sitting over the snoring gas fire in his study. He did not want
to go to bed. His mind was too excited, he knew, for any hope of
sleep. In the last twelve hours, since he had gone out across the
park to his momentous talk with Lady Sunderbund, it seemed to him
that his life had passed through its cardinal crisis and come to
its crown and decision. The spiritual voyage that had begun five
years ago amidst a stormy succession of theological nightmares
had reached harbour at last. He was established now in the sure
conviction of God's reality, and of his advent to unify the lives
of men and to save mankind. Some unobserved process in his mind
had perfected that conviction, behind the cloudy veil of his
vacillations and moods. Surely that work was finished now, and
the day's experience had drawn the veil and discovered God
established for ever.
He contrasted this simple and overruling knowledge of God as
the supreme fact in a practical world with that vague and
ineffective subject for sentiment who had been the "God" of his
Anglican days. Some theologian once spoke of God as "the friend
behind phenomena"; that Anglican deity had been rather a vague
flummery behind court and society, wealth, "respectability," and
the comfortable life. And even while he had lived in lipservice
to that complaisant compromise, this true God had been here, this
God he now certainly professed, waiting for his allegiance,
waiting to take up the kingship of this distraught and
bloodstained earth. The finding of God is but the stripping of
bandages from the eyes. Seek and ye shall find....
He whispered four words very softly: "The Kingdom of God!"
He was quite sure he had that now, quite sure.
The Kingdom of God!
That now was the form into which all his life must fall. He
recalled his vision of the silver sphere and of ten thousand
diverse minds about the world all making their ways to the same
one conclusion. Here at last was a king and emperor for mankind
for whom one need have neither contempt nor resentment; here was
an aim for which man might forge the steel and wield the scalpel,
write and paint and till and teach. Upon this conception he must
model all his life. Upon this basis he must found friendships and
co-operations. All the great religions, Christianity, Islam, in
the days of their power and honesty, had proclaimed the advent of
this kingdom of God. It had been their common inspiration. A
religion surrenders when it abandons the promise of its
Millennium. He had recovered that ancient and immortal hope. All
men must achieve it, and with their achievement the rule of God
begins. He muttered his faith. It made it more definite to put it
into words and utter it. "It comes. It surely comes. To-morrow I
begin. I will do no work that goes not Godward. Always now it
shall be the truth as near as I can put it. Always now it shall
be the service of the commonweal as well as I can do it. I will
live for the ending of all false kingship and priestcraft, for
the eternal growth of the spirit of man...."
He was, he knew clearly, only one common soldier in a great
army that was finding its way to enlistment round and about the
earth. He was not alone. While the kings of this world fought for
dominion these others gathered and found themselves and one
another, these others of the faith that grows plain, these men
who have resolved to end the bloodstained chronicles of the
Dynasts and the miseries of a world that trades in life, for
ever. They were many men, speaking divers tongues. He was but one
who obeyed the worldwide impulse. He could smile at the artless
vanity that had blinded him to the import of his earlier visions,
that had made him imagine himself a sole discoverer, a new
Prophet, that had brought him so near to founding a new sect.
Every soldier in the new host was a recruiting sergeant according
to his opportunity.... And none was leader. Only God was
"The achievement of the Kingdom of God;" this was his calling.
Henceforth this was his business in life....
For a time he indulged in vague dreams of that kingdom of God
on earth of which he would be one of the makers; it was a dream
of a shadowy splendour of cities, of great scientific
achievements, of a universal beauty, of beautiful people living
in the light of God, of a splendid adventure, thrusting out at
last among the stars. But neither his natural bent nor his mental
training inclined him to mechanical or administrative
explicitness. Much more was his dream a vision of men inwardly
ennobled and united in spirit. He saw history growing reasonable
and life visibly noble as mankind realized the divine aim. All
the outward peace and order, the joy of physical existence finely
conceived, the mounting power and widening aim were but the
expression and verification of the growth of God within. Then we
would bear children for finer ends than the blood and mud of
battlefields. Life would tower up like a great flame. By faith we
reached forward to that. The vision grew more splendid as it grew
more metaphorical. And the price one paid for that; one gave sham
dignities, false honour, a Levitical righteousness, immediate
peace, one bartered kings and churches for God.... He looked at
the mean, poverty-struck room, he marked the dinginess and
tawdriness of its detail and all the sordid evidences of
ungracious bargaining and grudging service in its appointments.
For all his life now he would have to live in such rooms. He who
had been one of the lucky ones.... Well, men were living in
dug-outs and dying gaily in muddy trenches, they had given limbs
and lives, eyes and the joy of movement, prosperity and pride,
for a smaller cause and a feebler assurance than this that he had
Presently his thoughts were brought back to his family by the
sounds of Eleanor's return. He heard her key in the outer door;
he heard her move about in the hall and then slip lightly up to
bed. He did not go out to speak to her, and she did not note the
light under his door.
He would talk to her later when this discovery of her own
emotions no longer dominated her mind. He recalled her departing
figure and how she had walked, touching and looking up to her
young mate, and he a little leaning to her....
"God bless them and save them," he said....
He thought of her sisters. They had said but little to his
clumsy explanations. He thought of the years and experience that
they must needs pass through before they could think the fulness
of his present thoughts, and so he tempered his disappointment.
They were a gallant group, he felt. He had to thank Ella and good
fortune that so they were. There was Clementina with her odd
quick combatant sharpness, a harder being than Eleanor, but
nevertheless a finespirited and even more independent. There was
Miriam, indefatigably kind. Phoebe too had a real passion of the
intellect and Daphne an innate disposition to service. But it was
strange how they had taken his proclamation of a conclusive
breach with the church as though it was a command they must, at
least outwardly, obey. He had expected them to be more deeply
shocked; he had thought he would have to argue against objections
and convert them to his views. Their acquiescence was strange.
They were content he should think all this great issue out and
give his results to them. And his wife, well as he knew her, had
surprised him. He thought of her words: "Whither thou goest--"
He was dissatisfied with this unconditional agreement. Why
could not his wife meet God as he had met God? Why must Miriam
put the fantastic question--as though it was not for her to
decide: "Are we still Christians?" And pursuing this thought, why
couldn't Lady Sunderbund set up in religion for herself without
going about the world seeking for a priest and prophet. Were
women Undines who must get their souls from mortal men? And who
was it tempted men to set themselves up as priests? It was the
wife, the disciple, the lover, who was the last, the most fatal
pitfall on the way to God.
He began to pray, still sitting as he prayed.
"Oh God!" he prayed. "Thou who has shown thyself to me, let me
never forget thee again. Save me from forgetfulness. And show
thyself to those I love; show thyself to all mankind. Use me, O
God, use me; but keep my soul alive. Save me from the presumption
of the trusted servant; save me from the vanity of authority....
"And let thy light shine upon all those who are so dear to
me.... Save them from me. Take their dear loyalty...."
He paused. A flushed, childishly miserable face that stared
indignantly through glittering tears, rose before his eyes. He
forgot that he had been addressing God.
"How can I help you, you silly thing?" he said. "I would give
my own soul to know that God had given his peace to you. I could
not do as you wished. And I have hurt you!... You hurt
yourself.... But all the time you would have hampered me and
tempted me--and wasted yourself. It was impossible.... And yet
you are so fine!"
He was struck by another aspect.
"Ella was happy--partly because Lady Sunderbund was hurt and
"Both of them are still living upon nothings. Living for
nothings. A phantom way of living...."
He stared blankly at the humming blue gas jets amidst the
incandescent asbestos for a space.
"Make them understand," he pleaded, as though he spoke
confidentially of some desirable and reasonable thing to a friend
who sat beside him. "You see it is so hard for them until they
understand. It is easy enough when one understands. Easy--" He
reflected for some moments--" It is as if they could not exist -
- except in relationship to other definite people. I want them
to exist--as now I exist--in relationship to God. Knowing
But now he was talking to himself again.
"So far as one can know God," he said presently.
For a while he remained frowning at the fire. Then he bent
forward, turned out the gas, arose with the air of a man who
relinquishes a difficult task. "One is limited," he said. "All
one's ideas must fall within one's limitations. Faith is a sort
of tour de force. A feat of the imagination. For such things as
we are. Naturally--naturally.... One perceives it clearly only
in rare moments.... That alters nothing...."