Puslapio vaizdai

We advocate Jesus as if He were a patent medicine to cure us all. He never used that figure of speech. He did not say He was our medicine; He said He was our food, bread, water, and wine. He was the manna. I like the word "father" for God better than Saviour. He is our life. He is the vine, we are the branches. It is all simple, beautiful, natural. It is not at all hot and horrible and orthodox.

He came to seek and save the lost, not to prove to them they are lost. And He did not bother with those who were not aware of being lost. He would not argue with the Pharisees. But the distressed and sick and ignorant sought Him. He did not force Himself upon anybody.

That is my notion of how a church ought to act-just a company of glad folk, not glad because they have accepted some crazy fad, but because they know how to live, because they have found in the limpid truths of Jesus how to be strong and patient and cheerful, how to carry on business successfully, how to manage politics intelligently, how to be content themselves and a source of contentment to others.

As a preacher in such a church one would preach sermons not to rescue the perishing, not to confound heretics, not to defend the faith (God save the mark! for surely the faith needs no defense, but is our defense), not to build up a large and flourishing membership, with forty committees and meetings and clubs, each one of which exists only as a terminus ad quem, and all that; but he could preach for the joy of it, preach sermons as a poet writes verse, or a sculptor models a statue, or a canary whistles.

the pinchbeck stuff it usually is. The preacher would be a merchant of joy, a retailer of helpful ideas. He would not bombard a lost and sinful world with them. He would assume that people want to hear them for the same reason he wants to utter them, because they help. And the people would appreciate the goods he had to offer.

Why should any institution with so splendid a vision be exclusive and respectable and apologetic and militant?

You have often read fanciful tales, such as "If Christ Came to Chicago," the object of every one of which is to show you how terribly God disapproves of you. But suppose, when you go to your room to-night, you should find God sitting there? I have a notion of what would happen. After you had gone through the genuflections and credos and confessions you have been trained to think would be necessary in such a conjunction, and had finally sat down to talk things over, you would soon discover a most amazing fact. And that is, that He does not want you to do anything at all for Him. What He wants is to help


As for your creed and your opinion of Him, whatever it may be, it is doubtless about as accurate as a tenyear-old boy's idea of the Einstein theory.

What is the matter with the church? It simply is not happy enough. It is full of imposing ceremonies, thundering moralities, rigid decencies, and clatter of rules, full of platitudes and polemics, venerable traditions, and infinite cogwheels of organization, everything except the spirit of the Galilean peasant who came from the Father to His garden of the world to plant in it

Then preaching would be art, not the seed of love almighty.

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed]

OR a long time it was only a

Flegend to me a legend to

which as a child I used to listen, with my eyes on the portrait of Cousin Pamela when she was eighteen, with lappets of delicate lace falling over the burnished brown of her bandeaux. That charming, soft-eyed, friendly young face looked so startlingly unlike what one would think Cousin Pamela must have been as a young lady that, gazing up at it as I listened, I was always struck anew by the significance of the often-told story of her wonderful India shawl. Grandmother used to Grandmother used to ramble on about it.

"It cost, my dear, one thousand seven hundred dollars, and it cost that in 1830, when money meant more than now. So you can imagine how valuable it must be now. We all happen to know exactly how much it did cost because of the quarrel between

Pamela and her sister about it. They were twins, you know, just twenty-one years old when their uncle Cooke Clark died; but their lives had been very different. Pamela was to inherit a great deal of money from the grandmother she had been named for, and Melinda had nothing. She was married, too, to a poor man, and had two children. They married young in those days. So when it was known that Uncle Cooke had left his little fortune of thirty-four-hundred dollars to both his nieces equally, everybody thought that Pamela would let her poorer sister have the whole sum. Pamela thought she ought to do it, too, and I suppose she would if it had n't been for the India shawl. seems she had been very much put out because somebody she knew in Albany (she had been brought up mostly with her rich grandmother in Albany) had


what everybody said was the finest India shawl in America. I guess from what they say she had had that shawl rubbed into her till it got on her nerves. Anyhow, just before she was to sign over to her sister Melinda her share in Uncle Cooke's little fortune, she heard that a ship from India had come into New York Harbor with an India shawl that was the talk of the town. It was said that the captain had stolen it from an India princess who was in love with him. But be that as it may, Pamela took the packetboat straight down the river to see it. Sure enough, there was a wonderful shawl that would make the one in Albany look like linsey-woolsey. It cost just one thousand seven hundred dollars. Was n't that queer? Almost as if it meant something. Pamela tried to wheedle her grandmother into buying it for her, but Greatgrandmother Van Reuter was n't the kind to be wheedled into any such extravagance even by Pamela, who was her favorite.

"Well, there was Pamela in a tight place. She'd been foolish enough to make her brags in Albany about bringing back a shawl that would make Mrs. Van Tromp hang her head, and she could n't bear to go back without it. And there was exactly the money she needed, in the bank, her very own.

"She went back to Albany with the shawl all right. They say she wore it as she stepped off the boat, and that Mrs. Van Tromp turned pale and went home and packed hers away in a trunk and never wore it again."

This was the point in the story at which I looked hardest at the dewyyoung face with the smiling, friendly eyes. Yes, as she stepped off the gang-plank with the shawl about her

shoulders, her triumphant gaze on the defeated Mrs. Van Tromp and her eyes turned away from her needy sister, that must have been the moment when she began to look like the Cousin Pamela I knew. And before that, she had looked like this picture! What a world we live in, to be sure!

The story was not quite finished, but my brown study was apt to last so long that I never heard more than the last of it.

"Melinda and her husband had been counting on that money to start a business of their own (Pamela had virtually said they could have it), and they were so disappointed they just picked up and moved out West, 'way out into Ohio somewhere. They did not write much, naturally, and Pamela felt sort of uncomfortable about writing them, I suppose. Anyhow, they lost track of each other. Pamela never saw her sister again."

Yes, that was the Cousin Pamela I knew, quite alone, with her money and her India shawl and her hard, amused eyes on the horde of us poor relatives with watering mouths and itching fingers, marking off each succeeding one of her interminable birthdays with the silent reflection that even Cousin Pamela could n't last much longer.

$ 2

Aunt Carrie Letchford had a gayer set of tales about this shawl-dear old Aunt Carrie, who could laugh like chiming bells over her patched dresses and shabby bonnets. When she was a lively young lady of twenty-one or so she was sent down to Albany for a time to "be company" for Cousin Pamela. Cousin

You may be sure that Pamela has never lacked

such volunteer unpaid maids and companions. Hardly one of the older Letchfords and Hitchcocks but has served in her youth an apprenticeship of bowing before Cousin Pamela's India shawl. There was even an attempt to commandeer my generation into the same service, but I was thought too plain and unattractive to suit Cousin Pamela's exacting taste, and my brilliant brother was just then beginning at college that friendship with the celebrated Dr. Brooke Hastings which was to mean much to him later, and although he was one of Cousin Pamela's favorites, he would not consider tearing himself away from his Arabic texts. By the time Cousin Pamela was forty and a well-preserved spinster, with those dignified, commanding manners of hers very well formed, she had had twenty years of the India shawl. She had been too grand to marry any of the young fellows who gathered around her in her youth, and, besides, she had always been suspicious of their motives since she had overheard one of her admirers estimating the value of her famous shawl, and reasoning from it that her fortune must be prodigious. "It 's not prodigious at all, my dear," she would always say to her listener,-nobody on earth save herself had any idea of the extent of it,-"and as I did n't care to disappoint the poor young man, I refused him when he offered himself." She always added, if her listeners were feminine and young, "and from that time I have known how much men are worth." She probably had also a fairly clear estimate of how much women are worth, after a good many years of impecunious young cousins visiting her to seek their fortunes. Aunt Carrie, however, must have been

a hard mouthful, and at the end was sent home in disgrace, laughing as she


"You never saw anything like it,” Aunt Carrie would say. "The season in Saratoga was just on, and of course Cousin Pamela wanted to show her best, and we took the India shawl along. It 's simply enormous, you know, and weighs like anything. I'd as soon carry around a featherbed in hot weather. But we did n't dare pack it in a trunk, for fear of losing it. In the train we had to have it in our laps every minute because Cousin Pam was sure there were thieves following her. She thought everybody knew about it and how much it cost, and she 'd snub anybody into the very ground who tried to be friendly and talk to her on the train.

It had

"At the hotel it was worse. to go down to breakfast with us. I felt so foolish lugging that great heavy shawl around, with the perspiration standing out on my forehead, and me in a thin muslin dress! And Cousin Pam would clutch it and glare when the waiter offered to take it and hang it up out of the way.

"Well, I suppose by that time she had got the habit of dancing 'tendance on the thing, but it was something new to me, and it 'most drove me crazy, and in the end Cousin Pam sent me home in disgrace."

Shortly after that Cousin Pam took the shawl to a safe-deposit vault, where she locked it up, and where it remained invisible for the last fifty years of her life. Yet it continued to shade with its costliness the mental chambers of our family life quite as effectively as though Cousin Pamela was still carrying it about on her arm and snatching it from the waiter.

[ocr errors]

There came to be a sporting interest about it, if one may apply so frivolous a term to what disrupted families and parted mothers from daughters. Who would get Cousin Pamela's India shawl in the end?

Her fortune, we divided

and subdivided in our minds over and over, making our calculations according to her cordiality to this or to that one, her disapproval of this or that one's children; but the shawl could go to only one. To whom would it go? I was quite grown up, was even past my first youth, when Cousin Pamela, having wrung everything from life that she wanted, made her final departure at the age of ninety. Many changes had taken place among us during her later years. I had begun

to write down some of the old stories in our family, and once in a while to succeed in selling one, a fact which offered a sop of comfort to the circle of relatives mourning over my failure to secure a husband. My brother, the pride of the family, had taken a fatal fever in Asia Minor, where he had gone with his old friend, the Oriental specialist, Dr. Hastings, to conduct some excavations near the site of Nineveh. His death left his widow, gentle, dove-eyed Eleanor, quite alone. I was alone, too, and so was Aunt Carrie, who was now growing very old; therefore we three women pooled our solitudes and gathered ourselves into a sort of family in grandmother's old house, from one wall of which looks down the charming and friendly face of Cousin Pamela when she was

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »