HOW EDOM WAS FAVOURED OF GOD AND MAMMON
In the years gone, the village of
Edom had matured, even as little boys wax to manhood.
Time was when all but two trains daily sped by it so
fast that from their windows its name over the station
door was naught but a blur. Now all was changed.
Many trains stopped, and people of the city mien descended
from or entered smart traps, yellow depot-wagons or
immaculate victorias, drawn by short-tailed, sophisticated
steeds managed by liveried persons whose scraped faces
were at once impassive and alert.
In its outlying parts, moreover, stately
villas now stood in the midst of grounds hedged, levelled,
sprayed, shaven, trimmed and garnished grounds
cherished sacredly with a reverence like unto that
once accorded the Front Room in this same village.
Edom, indeed, had outgrown its villagehood as a country
boy in the city will often outgrow his home ways.
That is, it was still a village in its inmost heart;
but outwardly, at its edges, the distinctions and
graces of urban worldliness had come upon it.
All this from the happy circumstance
that Edom lay in a dale of beauty not too far from
the blessed centre of things requisite. First,
one by one, then by families, then by groups of families,
then by cliques, the invaders had come to promote
Edom’s importance; one being brought by the
gracious falling of its little hills; one by its narrow
valleys where the quick little waters come down; one
by the clearness of its air; and one by the cheapness
with which simple old farms might be bought and converted
into the most city-like of country homes.
The old stock of Edom had early learned
not to part with any massive claw-footed sideboard
with glass knobs, or any mahogany four-poster, or
tall clock, or high-boy, except after feigning a distressed
reluctance. It had learned also to hide its consternation
at the prices which this behaviour would eventually
induce the newcomers to pay for such junk. Indeed,
it learned very soon to be a shrewd valuer of old mahogany,
pewter, and china; even to suspect that the buyers
might perceive beauties in it that justified the prices
Old Edom, too, has its own opinion
of the relative joys of master and servant, the latter
being always debonair, their employers stiff, formal
and concerned. It conceives that the employers,
indeed, have but one pleasure: to stand beholding
with anxious solemnity quite as if it were
the performance of a religious rite the
serious-visaged men who daily barber the lawns and
hedges. It is suspected by old Edomites that the
menials, finding themselves watched at this delicate
task, strive to copy in face and demeanour the solemnity
of the observing employer clipping the
box hedge one more fraction of an inch with the wariest
caution maintaining outwardly, in short,
a most reverent seriousness which in their secret
hearts they do not feel.
Let this be so or not. The point
is that Edom had gone beyond its three churches of
Calvin, Wesley and Luther to say nothing
of one poor little frame structure with a cross at
the peak, where a handful of benighted Romanists had
long been known to perform their idolatrous rites.
Now, indeed, as became a smartened village, there
was a perfect little Episcopal church of redstone,
stained glass and painted shingles, with a macadam
driveway leading under its dainty porte-cochère,
and at the base of whose stern little tower an eager
ivy already aspired; a toy-like, yet suggestively
imposing edifice, quite in the manner of smart suburban
churches a manner that for want of accurate
knowledge one might call confectioner’s gothic.
It was here, in his old home, that
the Reverend Allan Delcher Linford found his first
pastorate. Here from the very beginning he rendered
apparent those gifts that were to make him a power
among men. It was with a lofty but trembling
hope that the young novice began his first service
that June morning, before a congregation known to be
hypercritical, composed as it was of seasoned city
communicants, hardened listeners and watchers, who
would appraise his vestments, voice, manner, appearance,
and sermon, in the light of a ripe experience.
Yet his success was instant.
He knew it long before the service ended felt
it infallibly all at once in the midst of his sermon
on Faith. From the reading of his text, “For
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believed therein might not perish,
but have everlasting life,” the worldly people
before him were held as by invisible wires running
from him to each of them. He felt them sway in
obedience to his tones; they warmed with him and cooled
with him; aspired with him, questioned, agreed, and
glowed with him. They were his one
with him. Their eyes saw a young man in the splendour
of his early prime, of a faultless, but truly masculine
beauty, delicate yet manfully rugged, square-chinned,
straight-mouthed, with tawny hair and hazel eyes full
of glittering golden points when his eloquence mounted;
clear-skinned, brilliant, warm-voiced, yet always simple,
direct, earnest; a storehouse of power, yet ornate;
a source of refreshment both physical and spiritual
to all within the field of his magnetism.
So agreed those who listened to that
first sermon on Faith, in which that virtue was said
be like the diamond, made only the brighter by friction.
Motionless his listeners sat while he likened Faith
to the giant engine that has rolled the car of Religion
out from the maze of antiquity into the light of the
present day, where it now waits to be freighted with
the precious fruits of living genius, then to speed
on to that hoped-for golden era when truth shall come
forth as a new and blazing star to light the splendid
pageantry of earth, bound together in one law of universal
brotherhood, independent, yet acknowledging the sovereignty
Rapt were they when, with rare verbal
felicity and unstudied eloquence, the young man pictured
himself standing upon a lofty sunlit mountain, while
a storm raged in the valley below, calling passionately
to those far down in the ebullition to come up to
him and mingle in the blue serene of Faith. Faith
was, indeed, a tear dropped on the world’s cold
cheek of Doubt to make it burn forever.
Even those long since blase
to pulpit oratory thrilled at the simple beauty of
his peroration, which ran: “Faith!
Oh, of all the flowers that swing their golden censers
in the parterre of the human heart, none so rich,
so rare, as this one flower of Faith. Other flowers
there may be that yield as rich perfume, but they
must be crushed in order that their fragrance become
perceptible. But this flower ”
In spite of this triumph, it had taken
him still another year to prevail over one of his
hearers. True, she had met him after that first
triumphant ordination sermon with her black lashes
but half-veiling the admiration that shone warm in
the gray of her eyes; and his low assurance, “Nance,
you please me! Really you do!” as
his yellow eyes lingered down her rounded slenderness
from summer bonnet to hem of summer gown, rippled
her face with a colour she had to laugh away.
Yet she had been obstinate and wondering.
There had to be a year in which she knew that one
she dreamed of would come back; another in which she
believed he might; another in which she hoped he would and
yet another in which she realised that dreams and
hopes alike were vain vain, though there
were times in which she seemed to feel again the tingling
life of that last hand-clasp; times when he called
to her; times when she had the absurd consciousness
that his mind pressed upon hers. There had been
so many years and so much wonder and no
one came. It had been foolish indeed. And
then came a year of wondering at the other. The
old wonder concerning this one, excited by a certain
fashion of rendering his head in unison with his shoulders as
might the statue of Perfect Beauty turn upon its pedestal with
its baser residue of suspicion, had been happily allayed
by a closer acquaintance with Allan. One must
learn, it seemed, to distrust those lightning-strokes
of prejudice that flash but once at the first contact
between human clouds.
Yet in the last year there had come
another wonder that excited a suspicion whose troubling-power
was absurdly out of all true proportion.
It was in the matter of seeing things that
is, funny things.
Doubtless she had told him a few things
more or less funny that had seemed to move him to
doubt or perplexity, or to mere seriousness; but,
indeed, they had seemed less funny to her after that.
For example, she had told Aunt Bell the anecdote of
the British lady of title who says to her curate,
concerning a worthy relative by marriage lately passed
away, toward whom she has felt kindly despite his
inferior station: “Of course I couldn’t
know him here but we shall meet in heaven.”
Aunt Bell had been edified by this, remarking earnestly
that such differences would indeed be wiped out in
heaven. Yet when Nancy went to Allan in a certain
bubbling condition over the anecdote itself and Aunt
Bell’s comment thereon, he made her repeat it
slowly, after the first hurried telling, and had laughed
but awkwardly with her, rather as if it were expected
of him with an eye vacant of all but wonder like
a traveller not sure he had done right to take the
left-hand turn at the last cross-roads.
Again, the bishop who ordained him
had, in a relaxed and social moment after the ceremony,
related that little classic of Bishop Meade, who,
during the fight over a certain disestablishment measure,
was asked by a lobbyist how he would vote. The
dignified prelate had replied that he would vote for
the bill, for he held that every man should have the
right to choose his own way to heaven. None the
less, he would continue to be certain that a gentleman
would always take the Episcopal way. To Nancy
Allan retold this, adding,
“You know, I’m going to use it in a sermon
“Yes it’s very funny,”
she answered, a little uncertainly.
“Do you think so?”
“Of course I’ve
heard the bishop tell it myself and I know
he thinks it funny.”
“Well then I’ll
use it as a funny story. Of course, it is
funny I only thought” what
it was he only thought Nancy never knew.
Small bits of things to wonder at,
these were, and the wonder brought no illumination.
She only knew there were times when they two seemed
of different worlds, bereft of power to communicate;
and at these times his superbly assured wooing left
her slightly dazed.
But there were other times, and different and
slowly she became used to the idea of him persuaded
both by his own court and by the spirited encomiums
that he evoked from Aunt Bell.
Aunt Bell was at that time only half
persuaded by Allan to re-enter the church of her blameless
infancy. She was still minded to seek a little
longer outside the fold that rapport with the
Universal Mind which she had never ceased to crave.
In this process she had lately discarded Esoteric
Buddhism for Subliminal Monitions induced by Psychic
Breathing and correct breakfast-food. For all
that, she felt competent to declare that Allan was
the only possible husband for her niece, and her niece
came to suspect that this might be so.
When at last she had wondered herself
into a state of inward readiness a state
still governed by her outward habit of resistance,
this last was beaten down by a letter from Mrs. Tednick,
who had been a school friend as Clara Tremaine, and
was now married, apparently with results not too desirable.
“Never, my dear,” ran
the letter to Nancy, “permit yourself to think
of marrying a man who has not a sense of humour.
Do I seem flippant? Don’t think it.
I am conveying to you the inestimable benefits of a
trained observation. Humour saves a man from
being impossible in any number of ways from
boring you to beating you. (You may live to realise
that the tragedy of the first is not less poignant
than that of the second.) Whisper, dear! All
men are equally vain at least in their ways
with a woman but humour assuredly preserves
many unto death from betraying it egregiously.
Beware of him if he lack it. He has power to crucify
you daily, and yet be in honest ignorance of your
tortures. Don’t think I am cynical and
indeed, my own husband is one of the best and dearest
of souls in the world, the biggest heart but
be sure you marry no man without humour. Don’t
think a man has it merely because he tells funny stories;
the humour I mean is a kind of sense of the fitness
of things that keeps a man from forgetting himself.
And if he hasn’t humour, don’t think he
can make you happy, even if his vanity doesn’t
show. He can’t after the expiration
of that brief period in which the vanity of each is
a holy joy to the other. Remember now!”
Curiously enough this well-intended
homily had the effect of arousing in Nancy an instant
sense of loyalty to Allan. She suffered little
flashes of resentment at the thought that Clara Tremaine
should seem to depreciate one toward whom she felt
herself turning with a sudden defensive tenderness.
And this, though it was clear to the level eye of
reason that Clara must have been generalising on observations
made far from Edom. But her loyal spirit was
not less eager to resent an affront because it might
seem to have been aimless.
And thereafter, though never ceasing
to wonder, Nancy was won. Her consent, at length,
went to him in her own volume of Browning, a pink
rose shut in upon “A Woman’s Last Word” its
petals bruised against the verses:
“What so false as truth is,
False to thee?
Where the serpent’s tooth is,
Shun the tree.
“Where the apple reddens,
Lest we lose our Edens,
Eve and I.
“Be a god and hold me
With a charm!
Be a man and fold me
With thine arm!”
That was a moment of sweetness, of
utter rest, of joyous peace fighting no
A little while and he was before her,
proud as a conquerer may be glad as a lover
“I always knew it, Nance you had
to give in.”
Then as she drooped in his arms, a
mere fragrant, pulsing, glad submission
“You have always pleased
me, Nancy. I know I shall never regret my choice.”
And Nancy, scarce hearing, wondered happily on his