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The Reign of Law; A Tale Of The Kentucky Hemp Fields - Complete

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Read the entire book below.

DEDICATION

TO THE MEMORY OF A FATHER AND MOTHER WHOSE SELF-SACRIFICE, HIGH
SYMPATHY, AND DEVOTION THE WRITING OF THIS STORY HAS CAUSED TO LIVE
AFRESH IN THE EVER-GROWING, NEVER-AGING, GRATITUDE OF THEIR SON

HEMP

THE REIGN OF LAW

A TALE OF THE KENTUCKY HEMP FIELDS

HEMP

The Anglo-Saxon farmers had scarce conquered foothold, stronghold,
freehold in the Western wilderness before they became sowers of
hemp--with remembrance of Virginia, with remembrance of dear
ancestral Britain. Away back in the days when they lived with wife,
child, flock in frontier wooden fortresses and hardly ventured
forth for water, salt, game, tillage--in the very summer of that
wild daylight ride of Tomlinson and Bell, by comparison with
which, my children, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, was as tame
as the pitching of a rocking-horse in a boy's nursery--on that
history-making twelfth of August, of the year 1782, when these two
backwoods riflemen, during that same Revolution the Kentuckians
then fighting a branch of that same British army, rushed out of
Bryan's Station for the rousing of the settlements and the saving
of the West--hemp was growing tall and thick near the walls of the
fort.

Hemp in Kentucky in 1782--early landmark in the history of the
soil, of the people. Cultivated first for the needs of cabin and
clearing solely; for twine and rope, towel and table, sheet and
shirt. By and by not for cabin and clearing only; not for tow-
homespun, fur-clad Kentucky alone. To the north had begun the
building of ships, American ships for American commerce, for
American arms, for a nation which Nature had herself created and
had distinguished as a sea-faring race. To the south had begun the
raising of cotton. As the great period of shipbuilding went on--
greatest during the twenty years or more ending in 1860; as the
great period of cotton-raising and cotton-baling went on--never so
great before as that in that same year--the two parts of the nation
looked equally to the one border plateau lying between them, to
several counties of Kentucky, for most of the nation's hemp. It was
in those days of the North that the CONSTITUTION was rigged with
Russian hemp on one side, with American hemp on the other, for a
patriotic test of the superiority of home-grown, home-prepared
fibre; and thanks to the latter, before those days ended with the
outbreak of the Civil War, the country had become second to Great
Britain alone in her ocean craft, and but little behind that
mistress of the seas. So that in response to this double demand for
hemp on the American ship and hemp on the southern plantation, at
the close of that period of national history on land and sea, from
those few counties of Kentucky, in the year 1859, were taken well-
nigh forty thousand tons of the well-cleaned bast.

What history it wrought in those years, directly for the republic,
indirectly for the world! What ineffaceable marks it left on
Kentucky itself, land, land-owners! To make way for it, a forest
the like of which no human eye will ever see again was felled; and
with the forest went its pastures, its waters. The roads of
Kentucky, those long limestone turnpikes connecting the towns and
villages with the farms--they were early made necessary by the
hauling of the hemp. For the sake of it slaves were perpetually
being trained, hired, bartered; lands perpetually rented and sold;
fortunes made or lost. The advancing price of farms, the westward
movement of poor families and consequent dispersion of the
Kentuckians over cheaper territory, whither they carried the same
passion for the cultivation of the same plant,--thus making
Missouri the second hemp-producing state in the Union,--the
regulation of the hours in the Kentucky cabin, in the house, at the
rope-walk, in the factory,--what phase of life went unaffected by
the pursuit and fascination of it. Thought, care, hope of the
farmer oftentimes throughout the entire year! Upon it depending, it
may be, the college of his son, the accomplishments of his
daughter, the luxuries of his wife, the house he would build, the
stock he could own. His own pleasures also: his deer hunting in the
South, his fox hunting at home, his fishing on the great lakes, his
excursions on the old floating palaces of the Mississippi down to
New Orleans--all these depending in large measure upon his hemp,
that thickest gold-dust of his golden acres.

With the Civil War began the long decline, lasting still. The
record stands that throughout the one hundred and twenty-five odd
years elapsing from the entrance of the Anglo-Saxon farmers into
the wilderness down to the present time, a few counties of Kentucky
have furnished army and navy, the entire country, with all but a
small part of the native hemp consumed. Little comparatively is
cultivated in Kentucky now. The traveller may still see it here and
there, crowning those ever-renewing, self-renewing inexhaustible
fields. But the time cannot be far distant when the industry there
will have become extinct. Its place in the nation's markets will be
still further taken by metals, by other fibres, by finer varieties
of the same fibre, by the same variety cultivated in soils less
valuable. The history of it in Kentucky will be ended, and, being
ended, lost.

Some morning when the roar of March winds is no more heard in the
tossing woods, but along still brown boughs a faint, veil-like
greenness runs; when every spring, welling out of the soaked earth,
trickles through banks of sod unbarred by ice; before a bee is
abroad under the calling sky; before the red of apple-buds becomes
a sign in the low orchards, or the high song of the thrush is
pouring forth far away at wet pale-green sunsets, the sower, the
earliest sower of the hemp, goes forth into the fields.

Warm they must be, soft and warm, those fields, its chosen
birthplace. Up-turned by the plough, crossed and recrossed by the
harrow, clodless, levelled, deep, fine, fertile--some extinct
river-bottom, some valley threaded by streams, some table-land of
mild rays, moist airs, alluvial or limestone soils--such is the
favorite cradle of the hemp in Nature. Back and forth with measured
tread, with measured distance, broadcast the sower sows, scattering
with plenteous hand those small oval-shaped fruits, gray-green,
black-striped, heavily packed with living marrow.

Lightly covered over by drag or harrow, under the rolled earth now
they lie, those mighty, those inert seeds. Down into the darkness
about them the sun rays penetrate day by day, stroking them with
the brushes of light, prodding them with spears of flame. Drops of
nightly dews, drops from the coursing clouds, trickle down to them,
moistening the dryness, closing up the little hollows of the
ground, drawing the particles of maternal earth more closely.
Suddenly--as an insect that has been feigning death cautiously
unrolls itself and starts into action--in each seed the great
miracle of life begins. Each awakens as from a sleep, as from
pretended death. It starts, it moves, it bursts its ashen woody
shell, it takes two opposite courses, the white, fibril-tapered
root hurrying away from the sun; the tiny stem, bearing its lance-
like leaves, ascending graceful, brave like a palm.

Some morning, not many days later, the farmer, walking out into his
barn lot and casting a look in the direction of his field, sees--or
does he not see?--the surface of it less dark. What is that
uncertain flush low on the ground, that irresistible rush of
multitudinous green? A fortnight, and the field is brown no longer.
Overflowing it, burying it out of sight, is the shallow tidal sea
of the hemp, ever rippling. Green are the woods now with their
varied greenness. Green are the pastures. Green here and there are
the fields: with the bluish green of young oats and wheat; with the
gray green of young barley and rye: with orderly dots of dull dark
green in vast array--the hills of Indian maize. But as the eye
sweeps the whole landscape undulating far and near, from the hues
of tree, pasture, and corn of every kind, it turns to the color of
the hemp. With that in view, all other shades in nature seem dead
and count for nothing. Far reflected, conspicuous, brilliant,
strange; masses of living emerald, saturated with blazing sunlight.

Darker, always darker turns the hemp as it rushes upward: scarce
darker as to the stemless stalks which are hidden now; but darker
in the tops. Yet here two shades of greenness: the male plants
paler, smaller, maturing earlier, dying first; the females darker,
taller, living longer, more luxuriant of foliage and flowering
heads.

A hundred days from the sowing, and those flowering heads have come
forth with their mass of leaves and bloom and earliest fruits,
elastic, swaying six, ten, twelve feet from the ground and ripe for
cutting. A hundred days reckoning from the last of March or the
last of April, so that it is July, it is August. And now, borne far
through the steaming air floats an odor, balsamic, startling: the
odor of those plumes and stalks and blossoms from which is exuding
freely the narcotic resin of the great nettle. The nostril expands
quickly, the lungs swell out deeply to draw it in: fragrance once
known in childhood, ever in the memory afterward and able to bring
back to the wanderer homesick thoughts of midsummer days in the
shadowy, many-toned woods, over into which is blown the smell of
the hemp-fields.

Who apparently could number the acres of these in the days gone by?
A land of hemp, ready for the cutting! The oats heavy-headed,
rustling, have turned to gold and been stacked in the stubble or
stored in the lofts of white, bursting barns. The heavy-headed,
rustling wheat has turned to gold and been stacked in the stubble
or sent through the whirling thresher. The barley and the rye are
garnered and gone, the landscape has many bare and open spaces. But
separating these everywhere, rise the fields of Indian corn now in
blade and tassel; and--more valuable than all else that has been
sown and harvested or remains to be--everywhere the impenetrable
thickets of the hemp.

Impenetrable! For close together stand the stalks, making common
cause for soil and light, each but one of many, the fibre being
better when so grown--as is also the fibre of men. Impenetrable
and therefore weedless; for no plant life can flourish there, nor
animal nor bird. Scarce a beetle runs bewilderingly through those
forbidding colossal solitudes. The field-sparrow will flutter away
from pollen-bearing to pollen-receiving top, trying to beguile you
from its nest hidden near the edge. The crow and the blackbird will
seem to love it, having a keen eye for the cutworm, its only enemy.
The quail does love it, not for itself, but for its protection,
leading her brood into its labyrinths out of the dusty road when
danger draws near. Best of all winged creatures it is loved by the
iris-eyed, burnish-breasted, murmuring doves, already beginning to
gather in the deadened tree-tops with crops eager for the seed.
Well remembered also by the long-flight passenger pigeon, coming
into the land for the mast. Best of all wild things whose safety
lies not in the wing but in the foot, it is loved by the hare for
its young, for refuge. Those lithe, velvety, summer-thin bodies!
Observe carefully the tops of the still hemp: are they slightly
shaken? Among the bases of those stalks a cotton-tail is threading
its way inward beyond reach of its pursuer. Are they shaken
violently, parted clean and wide to right and left? It is the path
of the dog following the hot scent--ever baffled.

A hundred days to lift out of those tiny seed these powerful
stalks, hollow, hairy, covered with their tough fibre,--that
strength of cables when the big ships are tugged at by the joined
fury of wind and ocean. And now some morning at the corner of the
field stand the black men with hooks and whetstones. The hook, a
keen, straight blade, bent at right angles to the handle two feet
from the hand. Let these men be the strongest; no weakling can
handle the hemp from seed to seed again. A heart, the doors and
walls of which are in perfect order, through which flows freely the
full stream of a healthy man's red blood; lungs deep, clear, easily
filled, easily emptied; a body that can bend and twist and be
straightened again in ceaseless rhythmical movement; limbs
tireless; the very spirit of primeval man conquering primeval
nature--all these go into the cutting of the hemp. The leader
strides to the edge, and throwing forward his left arm, along which
the muscles play, he grasps as much as it will embrace, bends the
stalks over, and with his right hand draws the blade through them
an inch or more from the ground. When he has gathered his armful,
he turns and flings it down behind him, so that it lies spread out,
covering when fallen the same space it filled while standing. And
so he crosses the broad acres, and so each of the big black
followers, stepping one by one to a place behind him, until the
long, wavering, whitish green swaths of the prostrate hemp lie
shimmering across the fields. Strongest now is the smell of it,
impregnating the clothing of the men, spreading far throughout the
air.

So it lies a week or more drying, dying, till the sap is out of the
stalks, till leaves and blossoms and earliest ripened or un-ripened
fruits wither and drop off, giving back to the soil the nourishment
they have drawn from it; the whole top being thus otherwise wasted--
that part of the hemp which every year the dreamy millions of the
Orient still consume in quantities beyond human computation, and
for the love of which the very history of this plant is lost in the
antiquity of India and Persia, its home--land of narcotics and
desires and dreams.

Then the rakers with enormous wooden rakes; they draw the stalks
into bundles, tying each with the hemp itself. Following the
binders, move the wagon-beds or slides, gathering the bundles and
carrying them to where, huge, flat, and round, the stacks begin to
rise. At last these are well built; the gates of the field are
closed or the bars put up; wagons and laborers are gone; the brown
fields stand deserted.

One day something is gone from earth and sky: Autumn has come,
season of scales and balances, when the Earth, brought to judgment
for its fruits, says, "I have done what I could--now let me rest!"

Fall!--and everywhere the sights and sounds of falling. In the
woods, through the cool silvery air, the leaves, so indispensable
once, so useless now. Bright day after bright day, dripping night
after dripping night, the never-ending filtering or gusty fall of
leaves. The fall of walnuts, dropping from bare boughs with muffled
boom into the deep grass. The fall of the hickory-nut, rattling
noisily down through the scaly limbs and scattering its hulls among
the stones of the brook below.

The fall of buckeyes, rolling like balls of mahogany into the
little dust paths made by sheep in the hot months when they had
sought those roofs of leaves. The fall of acorns, leaping out of
their matted, green cups as they strike the rooty earth. The fall
of red haw, persimmon, and pawpaw, and the odorous wild plum in its
valley thickets. The fall of all seeds whatsoever of the forest,
now made ripe in their high places and sent back to the ground,
there to be folded in against the time when they shall arise again
as the living generations; the homing, downward flight of the seeds
in the many-colored woods all over the quiet land.

In the fields, too, the sights and sounds of falling, the fall of
the standing fatness. The silent fall of the tobacco, to be hung
head downward in fragrant sheds and barns. The felling whack of the
corn-knife and the rustling of the blades, as the workman gathers
within his arm the top-heavy stalks and presses them into the
bulging shock. The fall of pumpkins into the slow-drawn wagons, the
shaded side of them still white with the morning rime. In the
orchards, the fall of apples shaken thunderously down, and the
piling of these in sprawling heaps near the cider mills. In the
vineyards the fall of sugaring grapes into the baskets and the
bearing of them to the winepress in the cool sunshine, where there
is the late droning of bees about the sweet pomace.

But of all that the earth has yielded with or without the farmer's
help, of all that he can call his own within the limits of his
land, nothing pleases him better than those still, brown fields
where the shapely stacks stand amid the deadened trees. Two months
have passed, the workmen are at it again. The stacks are torn down,
the bundles scattered, the hemp spread out as once before. There to
lie till it shall be dew-retted or rotted; there to suffer freeze
and thaw, chill rains, locking frosts and loosening snows--all the
action of the elements--until the gums holding together the
filaments of the fibre rot out and dissolve, until the bast be
separated from the woody portion of the stalk, and the stalk itself
be decayed and easily broken.

Some day you walk across the spread hemp, your foot goes through at
each step, you stoop and taking several stalks, snap them readily
in your fingers. The ends stick out clean apart; and lo! hanging
between them, there it is at last--a festoon of wet, coarse, dark
gray riband, wealth of the hemp, sail of the wild Scythian
centuries before Horace ever sang of him, sail of the Roman, dress
of the Saxon and Celt, dress of the Kentucky pioneer.

The rakers reappear at intervals of dry weather, and draw the hemp
into armfuls and set it up in shocks of convenient size, wide
flared at the bottom, well pressed in and bound at the top, so that
the slanting sides may catch the drying sun and the sturdy base
resist the strong winds. And now the fields are as the dark brown
camps of armies--each shock a soldier's tent. Yet not dark always;
at times snow-covered; and then the white tents gleam for miles in
the winter sunshine--the snow-white tents of the camping hemp.

Throughout the winter and on into early spring, as days may be warm
or the hemp dry, the breaking continues. At each nightfall, cleaned
and baled, it is hauled on wagon-beds or slides to the barns or the
hemphouses, where it is weighed for the work and wages of the day.

Last of all, the brakes having been taken from the field, some
night--dear sport for the lads!--takes place the burning of the
"hempherds," thus returning their elements to the soil. To kindle a
handful of tow and fling it as a firebrand into one of those masses
of tinder; to see the flames spread and the sparks rush like swarms
of red bees skyward through the smoke into the awful abysses of the
night; to run from gray heap to gray heap, igniting the long line
of signal fires, until the whole earth seems a conflagration and
the heavens are as rosy as at morn; to look far away and descry on
the horizon an array of answering lights; not in one direction
only, but leagues away, to see the fainter ever fainter glow of
burning hempherds--this, too, is one of the experiences, one of the
memories.

And now along the turnpikes the great loaded creaking wagons pass
slowly to the towns, bearing the hemp to the factories, thence to
be scattered over land and sea. Some day, when the winds of March
are dying down, the sower enters the field and begins where he
began twelve months before.

A round year of the earth's changes enters into the creation of the
hemp. The planet has described its vast orbit ere it be grown and
finished. All seasons are its servitors; all contradictions and
extremes of nature meet in its making. The vernal patience of the
warming soil; the long, fierce arrows of the summer heat, the long,
silvery arrows of the summer rain; autumn's dead skies and sobbing
winds; winter's sternest, all-tightening frosts. Of none but strong
virtues is it the sum. Sickness or infirmity it knows not. It will
have a mother young and vigorous, or none; an old or weak or
exhausted soil cannot produce it. It will endure no roof of shade,
basking only in the eye of the fatherly sun, and demanding the
whole sky for the walls of its nursery.

Ah! type, too, of our life, which also is earth-sown, earth-rooted;
which must struggle upward, be cut down, rotted and broken, ere the
separation take place between our dross and our worth--poor
perishable shard and immortal fibre. Oh, the mystery, the mystery
of that growth from the casting of the soul as a seed into the dark
earth, until the time when, led through all natural changes and
cleansed of weakness, it is borne from the fields of its nativity
for the long service.




I


The century just past had not begun the race of its many-footed
years when a neighborhood of Kentucky pioneers, settled throughout
the green valleys of the silvery Elkhorn, built a church in the
wilderness, and constituted themselves a worshipping association.
For some time peace of one sort prevailed among them, if no peace
of any other sort was procurable around. But by and by there arose
sectarian quarrels with other backwoods folk who also wished to
worship God in Kentucky, and hot personal disputes among the
members--as is the eternal law. So that the church grew as grow
infusorians and certain worms,--by fissure, by periodical
splittings and breakings to pieces, each spontaneous division
becoming a new organism. The first church, however, for all that it
split off and cast off, seemed to lose nothing of its vitality or
fighting qualities spiritual and physical (the strenuous life in
those days!); and there came a time when it took offence at one
particular man in its membership on account of the liberality of
his religious opinions. This settler, an old Indian fighter whose
vast estate lay about halfway between the church and the nearest
village, had built himself a good brick house in the Virginian
style; and it was his pleasure and his custom to ask travelling
preachers to rest under his roof as they rode hither and thither
throughout the wilderness--Zion's weather-beaten, solitary scouts.

While giving entertainment to man and beast, if a Sunday came
round, he would further invite his guest, no matter what kind of
faith the vessel held, if it only held any faith, to ride with him
through the woods and preach to his brethren. This was the front of
his offending. For since he seemed brother to men of every creed,
they charged that he was no longer of THEIR faith (the only true
one). They considered his case, and notified him that it was their
duty under God to expel him.

After the sermon one Sunday morning of summer the scene took place.
They had asked what he had to say, and silence had followed. Not
far from the church doors the bright Elkhorn (now nearly dry) swept
past in its stately shimmering flood. The rush of the water over
the stopped mill-wheel, that earliest woodland music of
civilization, sounded loud amid the suspense and the stillness.

He rose slowly from his seat on the bench in front of the pulpit--
for he was a deacon--and turned squarely at them; speechless just
then, for he was choking with rage.

"My brethren," he said at length slowly, for he would not speak
until he had himself under control, "I think we all remember what
it is to be persecuted for religion's sake. Long before we came
together in Spottsylvania County, Virginia, and organized ourselves
into a church and travelled as a church over the mountains into
this wilderness, worshipping by the way, we knew what it was to be
persecuted. Some of us were sent to jail for preaching the Gospel
and kept there; we preached to the people through the bars of our
dungeons. Mobs were collected outside to drown our voices; we
preached the louder and some jeered, but some felt sorry and began
to serve God. They burned matches and pods of red pepper to choke
us; they hired strolls to beat drums that we might not be heard for
the din. Some of us knew what it was to have live snakes thrown
into our assemblages while at worship; or nests of live hornets. Or
to have a crowd rush into the church with farming tools and whips
and clubs. Or to see a gun levelled at one of us in the pulpit, and
to be dispersed with firearms. Harder than any of these things to
stand, we have known what it is to be slandered. But no single man
of us, thank God, ever stopped for these things or for anything.

Thirty years and more this lasted, until we and all such as we
found a friend in Patrick Henry. Now, we hear that by statute all
religious believers in Virginia have been made equal as respects
the rights and favors of the law.

"But you know it was partly to escape intolerable tyranny that we
left our mother country and travelled a path paved with suffering
and lined with death into this wilderness. For in this virgin land
we thought we should be free to worship God according to our
consciences."

"Since we arrived you know what our life has been,--how we have
fought and toiled and suffered all things together. You recall how
lately it was that when we met in the woods for worship,--having no
church and no seats,--we men listened and sang and prayed with our
rifles on our shoulders."

He paused, for the memories hurt him cruelly.

"And now you notify me that you intend to expel me from this church
as a man no longer fit to worship my Maker in your company. Do you
bring any charge against my life, my conduct? None. Nothing but
that, as a believer in the living God--whom honestly I try to serve
according to my erring light--I can no longer have a seat among
you--not believing as you believe. But this is the same tyranny
that you found unendurable in Spottsylvania. You have begun it in
Kentucky. You have been at it already how long? Well, my brethren,
I'll soon end your tyranny over me. You need not TURN me out. And I
need not change my religious opinions. I will GO out. But--"

He wheeled round to the rough pulpit on which lay the copy of the
Bible that they had brought with them from Virginia, their Ark of
the Covenant on the way, seized it, and faced them again. He strode
toward the congregation as far as the benches would allow--not
seeing clearly, for he was sightless with his tears.

"But," he roared, and as he spoke he struck the Bible repeatedly
with his clenched fist, "by the Almighty, I will build a church of
my own to Him! To Him! do you hear? not to your opinions of Him nor
mine nor any man's! I will cut off a parcel of my farm and make a
perpetual deed of it in the courts, to be held in trust forever.
And while the earth stands, it shall stand, free to all Christian
believers. I will build a school-house and a meeting-house, where
any child may be free to learn and any man or woman free to
worship."

He put the Bible back with shaking arms and turned on them again.

"As for you, my brethren," he said, his face purple and distorted
with passion, "you may be saved in your crooked, narrow way, if the
mercy of God is able to do it. But you are close to the jaws of
Hell this day!"

He went over into a corner for his hat, took his wife by the hand
and held it tightly, gathered the flock of his children before him,
and drove them out of the church. He mounted his horse, lifted his
wife to her seat behind him, saw his children loaded on two other
horses, and, leading the way across the creek, disappeared in the
wilderness.




II


Some sixty-five years later, one hot day of midsummer in 1865--one
Saturday afternoon--a lad was cutting weeds in a woodland pasture;
a big, raw-boned, demure boy of near eighteen.

He had on heavy shoes, the toes green with grass stain; the leather
so seasoned by morning dews as to be like wood for hardness. These
were to keep his feet protected from briers or from the bees
scattered upon the wild white clover or from the terrible hidden
thorns of the honey-locust. No socks. A pair of scant homespun
trousers, long outgrown. A coarse clean shirt. His big shock-head
thatched with yellow straw, a dilapidated sun-and-rain shed.

The lanky young giant cut and cut and cut: great purple-bodied
poke, strung with crimson-juiced seed; great burdock, its green
burrs a plague; great milkweed, its creamy sap gushing at every
gash; great thistles, thousand-nettled; great ironweed, plumed with
royal purple; now and then a straggling bramble prone with velvety
berries--the outpost of a patch behind him; now and then--more
carefully, lest he notch his blade--low sprouts of wild cane,
survivals of the impenetrable brakes of pioneer days. All these and
more, the rank, mighty measure of the soil's fertility--low down.

Measure of its fertility aloft, the tops of the trees, from which
the call of the red-headed woodpecker sounded as faint as the
memory of a sound and the bark of the squirrels was elfin-thin. A
hot crowded land, crammed with undergrowth and overgrowth wherever
a woodland stood; and around every woodland dense cornfields; or,
denser still, the leagues of swaying hemp. The smell of this now
lay heavy on the air, seeming to be dragged hither and thither like
a slow scum on the breeze, like a moss on a sluggish pond. A deep
robust land; and among its growths he--this lad, in his way a
self-unconscious human weed, the seed of his kind borne in from far
some generations back, but springing out of the soil naturally now,
sap of its sap, strength of its strength.

He paused by and by and passed his forefinger across his forehead,
brushing the sweat away from above his quiet eyes. He moistened the
tip of his thumb and slid it along the blade of his hemp hook--he
was using that for lack of a scythe. Turning, he walked back to the
edge of the brier thicket, sat down in the shade of a black walnut,
threw off his tattered head-gear, and, reaching for his bucket of
water covered with poke leaves, lifted it to his lips and drank
deeply, gratefully. Then he drew a whetstone from his pocket, spat
on it, and fell to sharpening his blade.

The heat of his work, the stifling air, the many-toned woods, the
sense of the vast summering land--these things were not in his
thoughts. Some days before, despatched from homestead to homestead,
rumors had reached him away off here at work on his father's farm,
of a great university to be opened the following autumn at
Lexington. The like of it with its many colleges Kentucky, the
South, the Mississippi valley had never seen. It had been the talk
among the farming people in their harvest fields, at the cross-
roads, on their porches--the one deep sensation among them since
the war.

For solemn, heart-stirring as such tidings would have been at any
other time, more so at this. Here, on the tableland of this unique
border state, Kentucky--between the halves of the nation lately at
strife--scene of their advancing and retreating armies--pit of a
frenzied commonwealth--here was to arise this calm university,
pledge of the new times, plea for the peace and amity of learning,
fresh chance for study of the revelation of the Lord of Hosts and
God of battles. The animosities were over, the humanities re-begun.

Can you remember your youth well enough to be able to recall the
time when the great things happened for which you seemed to be
waiting? The boy who is to be a soldier--one day he hears a distant
bugle: at once HE knows. A second glimpses a bellying sail:
straightway the ocean path beckons to him. A third discovers a
college, and toward its kindly lamps of learning turns young eyes
that have been kindled and will stay kindled to the end.

For some years this particular lad, this obscure item in Nature's
plan which always passes understanding, had been growing more
unhappy in his place in creation. By temperament he was of a type
the most joyous and self-reliant--those sure signs of health; and
discontent now was due to the fact that he had outgrown his place.
Parentage--a farm and its tasks--a country neighborhood and its
narrowness--what more are these sometimes than a starting-point
for a young life; as a flowerpot might serve to sprout an oak, and
as the oak would inevitably reach the hour when it would either die
or burst out, root and branch, into the whole heavens and the
earth; as the shell and yolk of an egg are the starting-point for
the wing and eye of the eagle. One thing only he had not outgrown,
in one thing only he was not unhappy: his religious nature. This
had always been in him as breath was in him, as blood was in him:
it was his life. Dissatisfied now with his position in the world,
it was this alone that kept him contented in himself. Often the
religious are the weary; and perhaps nowhere else does a perpetual
vision of Heaven so disclose itself to the weary as above lonely
toiling fields. The lad had long been lifting his inner eye to this
vision.

When, therefore, the tidings of the university with its Bible
College reached him, whose outward mould was hardship, whose inner
bliss was piety, at once they fitted his ear as the right sound, as
the gladness of long awaited intelligence. It was bugle to the
soldier, sail to the sailor, lamp of learning to the innate student
At once he knew that he was going to the university--sometime,
somehow--and from that moment felt no more discontent, void,
restlessness, nor longing.

It was of this university, then, that he was happily day-dreaming
as he whetted his hemp hook in the depths of the woods that
Saturday afternoon. Sitting low amid heat and weeds and thorns, he
was already as one who had climbed above the earth's eternal snow-
line and sees only white peaks and pinnacles--the last sublimities.

He felt impatient for to-morrow. One of the professors of the
university, of the faculty of the Bible College, had been
travelling over the state during the summer, pleading its cause
before the people. He had come into that neighborhood to preach and
to plead. The lad would be there to hear.

The church in which the professor was to plead for learning and
religion was the one first set up in the Kentucky wilderness as a
house of religious liberty; and the lad was a great-grandchild of
the founder of that church, here emerging mysteriously from the
deeps of life four generations down the line.




III


The church which David's grim old Indian-fighting great-grandfather
had dedicated to freedom of belief in the wilderness, cutting off a
parcel of his lands as he had hotly sworn and building on it a
schoolhouse also, stood some miles distant across the country. The
vast estate of the pioneer had been cut to pieces for his many
sons. With the next generation the law of partible inheritance had
further subdivided each of these; so that in David's time a single
small farm was all that had fallen to his father; and his father
had never increased it. The church was situated on what had been
the opposite boundary of the original grant. But he with most of
the other boys in the neighborhood had received his simple
education in that school; and he had always gone to worship under
that broad-minded roof, whatsoever the doctrines and dogmas haply
preached.

These doctrines and dogmas of a truth were varied and conflicting
enough; for the different flocks and herds of Protestant believers
with their parti-colored guides had for over fifty years found the
place a very convenient strip of spiritual pasture: one
congregation now grazing there jealously and exclusively;
afterwards another.

On this quiet bright Sunday morning in the summer of 1865, the
building (a better than the original one, which had long before
been destroyed by accidental burning) was overcrowded with farming
folk, husbands and wives, of all denominations in the neighborhood,
eager to hear the new plea, the new pleader. David's father and
mother, intense sectarians and dully pious souls, sat among them.
He himself, on a rearmost bench, was wedged fast between two other
lads of about his own age--they dumb with dread lest they should be
sent away to this university. The minister soon turned the course
of his sermon to the one topic that was uppermost and bottommost in
the minds of all.

He bade them understand now, if they had never realized it before,
that from the entrance of educated men and women into the western
wilderness, those real founders and builders of the great
commonwealth, the dream of the Kentuckians had been the
establishment of a broad, free institution of learning for their
sons. He gave the history of the efforts and the failures to found
such an institution, from the year 1780 to the beginning of the
Civil War; next he showed how, during those few awful years, the
slow precious accumulations of that preceding time had been
scattered; books lost, apparatus ruined, the furniture of lecture
rooms destroyed, one college building burned, another seized and
held as a hospital by the federal government; and he concluded with
painting for them a vision of the real university which was now to
arise at last, oldest, best passion of the people, measure of the
height and breadth of the better times: knowing no North, no South,
no latitude, creed, bias, or political end. In speaking of its
magnificent new endowments, he dwelt upon the share contributed by
the liberal-minded farmers of the state, to some of whom he was
speaking: showing how, forgetful of the disappointments and
failures of their fathers, they had poured out money by the
thousands and tens of thousands, as soon as the idea was presented
to them again--the rearing of a great institution by the people and
for the people in their own land for the training of their sons,
that they might not be sent away to New England or to Europe.

His closing words were solemn indeed; they related to the college
of the Bible, where his own labors were to be performed. For this,
he declared, he pleaded not in the name of the new State, the new
nation, but in the name of the Father. The work of this college was
to be the preparation of young men for the Christian ministry, that
they might go into all the world and preach the Gospel. One truth
he bade them bear in mind: that this training was to be given
without sectarian theology; that his brethren themselves
represented a revolution among believers, having cast aside the
dogmas of modern teachers, and taken, as the one infallible guide
of their faith and practice, the Bible simply; so making it their
sole work to bring all modern believers together into one church,
and that one church the church of the apostles.

For this university, for this college of the Bible especially, he
asked, then, the gift and consecration of their sons.

Toward dusk that day David's father and mother were sitting side by
side on the steps of their front porch. Some neighbors who had
spent the afternoon with them were just gone. The two were talking
over in low, confidential tones certain subjects discussed less
frankly with their guests. These related to the sermon of the
morning, to the university, to what boys in the neighborhood would
probably be entered as students. Their neighbors had asked whether
David would go. The father and mother had exchanged quick glances
and made no reply. Something in the father's mind now lay like
worm-wood on the lips.

He sat leaning his head on his hand, his eyes on the ground,
brooding, embittered.

"If I had only had a son to have been proud of!" he muttered. "It's
of no use; he wouldn't go. It isn't in him to take an education."

"No," said the mother, comforting him resignedly, after a pause in
which she seemed to be surveying the boy's whole life; "it's of no
use; there never was much in David."

"Then he shall work!" cried the father, striking his knee with
clenched fist. "I'll see that he is kept at work."

Just then the lad came round from behind the house, walking
rapidly. Since dinner he had been off somewhere, alone, having it
out with himself, perhaps shrinking, most of all, from this first
exposure to his parents. Such an ordeal is it for us to reveal what
we really are to those who have known us longest and have never
discovered us.

He walked quickly around and stood before them, pallid and shaking
from head to foot.

"Father!"--

There was filial dutifulness in the voice, but what they had never
heard from those lips--authority.

"I am going to the university, to the Bible College. It will be
hard for you to spare me, I know, and I don't expect to go at once.
But I shall begin my preparations, and as soon as it is possible I
am going. I have felt that you and mother ought to know my decision
at once."

As he stood before them in the dusk and saw on their countenances
an incredible change of expression, he naturally mistook it, and
spoke again with more authority.

"Don't say anything to me now, father! And don't oppose me when the
time comes; it would be useless. Try to learn while I am getting
ready to give your consent and to obtain mother's. That is all I
have to say."

He turned quickly away and passed out of the yard gate toward the
barn, for the evening feeding.

The father and mother followed his figure with their eyes,
forgetting each other, as long as it remained in sight. If the
flesh of their son had parted and dissolved away into nothingness,
disclosing a hidden light within him like the evening star, shining
close to their faces, they could scarce have been struck more
speechless. But after a few moments they had adjusted themselves to
this lofty annunciation. The mother, unmindful of what she had just
said, began to recall little incidents of the lad's life to show
that this was what he was always meant to be. She loosened from her
throat the breast-pin containing the hair of the three heads
braided together, and drew her husband's attention to it with a
smile. He, too, disregarding his disparagement of the few minutes
previous, now began to admit with warmth how good a mind David had
always had. He prophesied that at college he would outstrip the
other boys from that neighborhood. This, in its way, was also fresh
happiness to him; for, smarting under his poverty among rich
neighbors, and fallen from the social rank to which he was actually
entitled, he now welcomed the secondary joy which originates in the
revenge men take upon each other through the superiority of their
children.

One thing both agreed in: that this explained their son. He had
certainly always needed an explanation. But no wonder; he was to be
a minister. And who had a right to understand a minister? He was
entitled to be peculiar.

When David came in to supper that night and took his seat, shame-
faced, frowning and blinking at the candle-light, his father began
to talk to him as he had never believed possible; and his mother,
placing his coffee before him, let her hand rest on his shoulder.

He, long ahungered for their affection and finding it now when
least expected, filled to the brim, choked at every morsel, got
away as soon as he could into the sacred joy of the night Ah, those
thrilling hours when the young disciple, having for the first time
confessed openly his love of the Divine, feels that the Divine
returns his love and accepts his service!




IV


Autumn came, the university opened wide its harmonious doors,
welcoming Youth and Peace.

All that day a lad, alone at his field work away off on the edge of
the bluegrass lands, toiled as one listening to a sublime sound in
the distance--the tramping, tramping, tramping of the students as
they assembled from the farms of the state and from other states.
Some boys out of his own neighborhood had started that morning, old
schoolfellows. He had gone to say good-by; had sat on the bed and
watched them pack their fine new trunks--cramming these with fond
maternal gifts and the thoughtless affluence of necessary and
unnecessary things; had heard all the wonderful talk about classes
and professors and societies; had wrung their hands at last with
eyes turned away, that none might see the look in them--the
immortal hunger.

How empty now the whole land without those two or three boys! Not
far away across the fields, soft-white in the clear sunshine, stood
the home of one of them--the green shutters of a single upper room
tightly closed. His heart-strings were twisted tight and wrung
sore this day; and more than once he stopped short in his work (the
cutting of briers along a fence), arrested by the temptation to
throw down his hook and go. The sacred arguments were on his side.
Without choice or search of his they clamored and battered at his
inner ear--those commands of the Gospels, the long reverberations
of that absolute Voice, bidding irresolute workaday disciples leave
the plough in the furrow, leave whatsoever task was impending or
duty uppermost to the living or the dead, and follow,--"Follow Me!"

Arguments, verily, had he in plenty; but raiment--no; nor scrip.
And knew he ever so little of the world, sure he felt of this: that
for young Elijahs at the university there were no ravens; nor wild
honey for St. John; nor Galilean basketfuls left over by hungry
fisherfolk, fishers of men.

So back to his briers. And back to the autumn soil, days of hard
drudging, days of hard thinking. The chief problem for the nigh
future being, how soonest to provide the raiment, fill the scrip;
and so with time enough to find out what, on its first appearance,
is so terrible a discovery to the young, straining against
restraint: that just the lack of a coarse garment or two--of a
little money for a little plain food--of a few candles and a few
coverlets for light and warmth with a book or two thrown in--that
a need so poor, paltry as this, may keep mind and heart back for
years. Ah, happy ye! with whom this last not too long--or for
always!

Yet happy ye, whether the waiting be for short time or long time,
if only it bring on meanwhile, as it brought on with him, the
struggle! One sure reward ye have, then, as he had, though there
may be none other--just the struggle: the marshalling to the front
of rightful forces--will, effort, endurance, devotion; the putting
resolutely back of forces wrongful; the hardening of all that is
soft within, the softening of all that is hard: until out of the
hardening and the softening results the better tempering of the
soul's metal, and higher development of those two qualities which
are best in man and best in his ideal of his Maker--strength and
kindness, power and mercy. With an added reward also, if the
struggle lead you to perceive (what he did not perceive), as the
light of your darkness, the sweet of bitter, that real struggling
is itself real living, and that no ennobling thing of this earth is
ever to be had by man on any other terms: so teaching him, none too
soon, that any divine end is to be reached but through divine
means, that a great work requires a great preparation.

Of the lad's desperate experience henceforth in mere outward
matters the recital may be suppressed: the struggle of the earth's
poor has grown too common to make fresh reading. He toiled
direfully, economized direfully, to get to his college, but in this
showed only the heroism too ordinary among American boys to be
marvelled at more. One fact may be set down, as limning some true
figure of him on the landscape of those years in that peculiar
country.

The war had just closed. The farmers, recollecting the fortunes
made in hemp before, had hurried to the fields. All the more as the
long interruption of agriculture in the South had resulted in
scarcity of cotton; so that the earnest cry came to Kentucky for
hemp at once to take many of its places. But meantime the slaves
had been set free: where before ordered, they must now be hired. A
difficult agreement to effect at all times, because will and word
and bond were of no account. Most difficult when the breaking of
hemp was to be bargained for; since the laborer is kept all day in
the winter fields, away from the fireside, and must toil solitary
at his brake, cut off from the talk and laughter which lighten work
among that race. So that wages rose steadily, and the cost of hemp
with them.

The lad saw in this demand for the lowest work at the highest
prices his golden opportunity--and seized it. When the hemp-
breaking season opened that winter, he made his appearance on the
farm of a rich farmer near by, taking his place with the negroes.

There is little art in breaking hemp. He soon had the knack of
that: his muscles were toughened already. He learned what it was
sometimes to eat his dinner in the fields, warming it, maybe, on
the coals of a stump set on fire near his brake; to bale his hemp
at nightfall and follow the slide or wagon to the barn; there to
wait with the negroes till it was weighed on the steelyards; and at
last, with muscles stiff and sore, throat husky with dust, to
stride away rapidly over the bitter darkening land to other work
awaiting him at home.

Had there been call to do this before the war, it might not have
been done. But now men young and old, who had never known what work
was, were replacing their former slaves. The preexisting order had
indeed rolled away like a scroll; and there was the strange fresh
universal stir of humanity over the land like the stir of nature in
a boundless wood under a new spring firmament He was one of a
multitude of new toilers; but the first in his neighborhood, and
alone in his grim choice of work.

So dragged that winter through. When spring returned, he did
better. With his father's approval, he put in some acres for
himself--sowed it, watched it, prayed for it; in summer cut it;
with hired help stacked it in autumn; broke it himself the winter
following; sold it the next spring; and so found in his pocket the
sorely coveted money.

This was increased that summer from the sale of cord wood, through
driblets saved by his father and mother; and when, autumn once more
advanced with her days of shadow and thoughtfulness--two years
having now passed--he was in possession of his meagre fortune,
wrung out of earth, out of sweat and strength and devotion.

Only a few days remained now before his leaving for the university--
very solemn tender days about the house with his father and
mother.

And now for the lad's own sake, as for the clearer guidance of
those who may care to understand what so incredibly befell him
afterward, an attempt must be made to reveal somewhat of his
spiritual life during those two years. It was this, not hard work,
that writ his history.

As soon as he had made up his mind to study for the ministry, he
had begun to read his Bible absorbingly, sweeping through that
primitive dawn of life among the Hebrews and that second, brilliant
one of the Christian era. He had few other books, none important;
he knew nothing of modern theology or modern science. Thus he was
brought wholly under the influence of that view of Man's place in
Nature which was held by the earliest Biblical writers, has imposed
itself upon countless millions of minds since then, and will
continue to impose itself--how much longer?


As regarded, then, his place in Nature, this boy became a
contemporary of the Psalmist; looked out upon the physical universe
with the eye of Job; placed himself back beside that simple,
audacious, sublime child--Man but awakening from his cradle of
faith in the morning of civilization. The meaning of all which to
him was this: that the most important among the worlds swung in
space was the Earth, on account of a single inhabitant--Man. Its
shape had been moulded, its surface fitted up, as the dwelling-
place of Man. Land, ocean, mountain-range, desert, valley--these
were designed alike for Man. The sun--it was for him; and the moon;
and the stars, hung about the earth as its lights--guides to the
mariner, reminders to the landsman of the Eye that never slumbered.
The clouds--shade and shower--they were mercifully for Man.
Nothing had meaning, possessed value, save as it derived meaning
and value from him. The great laws of Nature--they, too, were
ordered for Man's service, like the ox and the ass; and as he drove
his ox and his ass whither he would, caused them to move forward or
to stop at the word of command, so Man had only to speak properly
(in prayer) and these laws would move faster or less fast, stop
still, turn to the right or the left side of the road that he
desired to travel. Always Man, Man, Man, nothing but Man! To
himself measure of the universe as to himself a little boy is sole
reason for the food and furnishings of his nursery.

This conception of Man's place in Nature has perhaps furnished a
very large part of the history of the world. Even at this close of
the nineteenth century, it is still, in all probability, the most
important fact in the faith and conduct of the race, running with
endless applications throughout the spheres of practical life and
vibrating away to the extremities of the imagination. In the case
of this poor, devout, high-minded Kentucky boy, at work on a farm
in the years 1866 and 1867, saving his earnings and reading his
Bible as the twofold preparation for his entrance into the
Christian ministry, this belief took on one of its purest shapes
and wrought out in him some of its loftiest results.

Let it be remembered that he lived in a temperate, beautiful,
bountiful country; that his work was done mostly in the fields,
with the aspects of land and sky ever before him; that he was much
alone; that his thinking was nearly always of his Bible and his
Bible college. Let it be remembered that he had an eye which was
not merely an opening and closing but a seeing eye--full of health
and of enjoyment of the pageantry of things; and that behind this
eye, looking through it as through its window, stood the dim soul
of the lad, itself in a temple of perpetual worship: these are some
of the conditions which yielded him during these two years the
intense, exalted realities of his inner life.

When of morning he stepped out of the plain farm-house with its
rotting doors and leaking roof and started off joyously to his
day's work, at the sight of the great sun just rising above the low
dew-wet hills, his soul would go soaring away to heaven's gate.
Sometimes he would be abroad late at night, summoning the doctor
for his father or returning from a visit to another neighborhood.
In every farmhouse that he passed on the country road the people
were asleep--over all the shadowy land they were asleep. And
everywhere, guardian in the darkness, watched the moon, pouring its
searching beams upon every roof, around every entrance, on kennel
and fold, sty and barn--with light not enough to awaken but enough
to protect: how he worshipped toward that lamp tended by the
Sleepless! There were summer noons when he would be lying under a
solitary tree in a field--in the edge of its shade, resting; his
face turned toward the sky. This would be one over-bending vault of
serenest blue, save for a distant flight of snow-white clouds,
making him think of some earthward-wandering company of angels. He
would lie motionless, scarce breathing, in that peace of the earth,
that smile of the Father. Or if this same vault remained serene too
long; if the soil of the fields became dusty to his boots and his
young grain began to wither, when at last, in response to his
prayer, the clouds were brought directly over them and emptied

down, as he stepped forth into the cooled, dripping, soaking green,
how his heart blessed the Power that reigned above and did all
things well!

It was always praise, gratitude, thanks-giving, whatever happened.
If he prayed for rain for his crops and none was sent, then he
thought his prayer lacked faith or was unwise, he knew not how; if
too much rain fell, so that his grain rotted, this again was from
some fault of his or for his good; or perhaps it was the evil work
of the prince of the powers of the air--by permission of the
Omnipotent. In the case of one crop all the labor of nearly a year
went for nothing: he explained this as a reminder that he must be
chastened.

Come good, come ill, then, crops or no crops, increase or decrease,
it was all the same to him: he traced the cause of all plenty as of
all disappointment and disaster reaching him through the laws of
nature to some benevolent purpose of the Ruler. And ever before his
eyes also he kept that spotless Figure which once walked among men
on earth--that Saviour of the world whose service he was soon to
enter, whose words of everlasting life he was to preach: his
father's farm became as the vineyard of the parables in the
Gospels, he a laborer in it.

Thus this lad was nearer the first century and yet earlier ages
than the nineteenth. He knew more of prophets and apostles than
modern doctors of divinity. When the long-looked-for day arrived
for him to throw his arms around his father and mother and bid them
good-by, he should have mounted a camel, like a youth of the Holy
Land of old, and taken his solemn, tender way across the country
toward Jerusalem.




V


One crisp, autumn morning, then, of that year 1867, a big, raw-
boned, bashful lad, having passed at the turnstile into the twenty-
acre campus, stood reverently still before the majestical front of
Morrison College. Browned by heat and wind, rain and sun; straight
of spine, fine of nerve, tough of muscle. In one hand he carried an
enormous, faded valise, made of Brussels carpet copiously sprinkled
with small, pink roses; in the other, held like a horizontal
javelin, a family umbrella. A broken rib escaped his fingers.

It was no time and place for observation or emotion. The turnstile
behind him was kept in a whirl by students pushing through and
hurrying toward the college a few hundred yards distant; others,
who had just left it, came tramping toward him and passing out. In
a retired part of the campus, he could see several pacing slowly to
and fro in the grass, holding text-books before their faces. Some
were grouped at the bases of the big Doric columns, at work
together. From behind the college on the right, two or three
appeared running and disappeared through a basement entrance. Out
of the grass somewhere came the sound of a whistle as clear and
happy as of a quail in the wheat; from another direction, the
shouts and wrangling of a playground. Once, barely audible, through
the air surged and died away the last bars of a glorious hymn, sung
by a chorus of fresh male voices. The whole scene was one of
bustle, work, sport, worship.

A few moments the lad remained where he had halted, drinking
through every thirsting pore; but most of all with his eyes
satisfied by the sight of that venerable building which, morning
and night, for over two years had shaped itself to his imagination--
that seat of the university--that entrance into his future.

Three students came strolling along the path toward him on their
way down town. One was slapping his book against his thigh; one was
blowing a ditty through his nose, like music on a comb; one, in the
middle, had his arms thrown over the shoulders of the others, and
was at intervals using them as crutches. As they were about to pass
the lad, who had stepped a few feet to one side of the path, they
wheeled and laughed at him.

"Hello, preachy!" cried one. His face was round, red, and soft,
like the full moon; the disk was now broken up by smiling creases.

"Can you tell me," inquired the lad, coloring and wondering how it
was already known that he was to be a preacher, "Can you tell me
just the way to the Bible College?"

The one of the three on the right turned to the middle man and
repeated the question gravely:--

"Can you tell me just the way to the Bible College?"

The middle man turned and repeated it gravely to the one on the
left:--

"Can you tell me just the way to the Bible College?"

The one on the left seized a passing student:--

"Can you tell us all just the way to the Bible College?"

"Ministers of grace!" he said, "without the angels!" Then turning
to the lad, he continued: "You see this path? Take it! Those steps?
Go straight up those steps. Those doors? Enter! Then, if you don't
see the Bible College, maybe you'll see the janitor--if he is
there. But don't you fear! You may get lost, but you'll never get
away!"

The lad knew he was being guyed, but he didn't mind: what hurt him
was that his Bible College should be treated with such levity.

"Thank you," he said pleasantly but proudly.

"Have you matriculated?" one of the three called after him as he
started forward.

David had never heard that word; but he entertained such a respect
for knowledge that he hated to appear unnecessarily ignorant.

"I don't think--I have," he observed vaguely.

The small eyes of the full moon disappeared altogether this time.

"Well, you've got to matriculate, you know," he said. "You'd better
do that sometime. But don't speak of it to your professors, or to
anybody connected with the college. It must be kept secret."

"Will I be too late for the first recitations?"

The eager question was on the lad's lips but never uttered. The
trio had wheeled carelessly away.

There passed them, coming toward David, a tall, gaunt, rough-
whiskered man, wearing a paper collar without a cravat, and a
shiny, long-tailed, black cloth coat. He held a Bible opened at
Genesis.

"Good morning, brother," he said frankly, speaking in the simple
kindness which comes from being a husband and father. "You are
going to enter the Bible College, I see."

"Yes, sir," replied the lad. "Are you one of the professors?"

The middle-aged man laughed painfully.

"I am one of the students."

David felt that he had inflicted a wound. "How many students are
here?" he asked quickly.

"About a thousand."

The two walked side by side toward the college.

"Have you matriculated?" inquired the lad's companion. There was
that awful word again!

"I don't know HOW to matriculate. How DO you matriculate? What is
matriculating?"

"I'LL go with you. I'LL show you," said the simple fatherly guide.

"Thank you, if you will" breathed the lad, gratefully.

After a brief silence his companion spoke again.

"I'm late in life in entering college. I've got a son half as big
as you and a baby; and my wife's here. But, you see, I've had a
hard time. I've preached for years. But I wasn't satisfied. I
wanted to understand the Bible better. And this is the place to do
that." Now that he had explained himself, he looked relieved.

"Well," said David, fervently, entering at once into a brotherhood
with this kindly soul, "that's what I've come for, too. I want to
understand the Bible better--and if I am ever worthy--I want to
preach it. And you have baptized people already?"

"Hundreds of them. Here we are," said his companion, as they passed
under a low doorway, on one side of the pillared steps.

"Here I am at last," repeated the lad to himself with solemn joy,
"And now God be with me!"

By the end of that week he had the run of things; had met his
professors, one of whom had preached that sermon two summers
before, and now, on being told who the lad was, welcomed him as a
sheaf out of that sowing; had been assigned to his classes; had
gone down town to the little packed and crowded book-store and
bought the needful student's supplies--so making the first draught
on his money; been assigned to a poor room in the austere dormitory
behind the college; made his first failures in recitations,
standing before his professor with no more articulate voice and no
more courage than a sheep; and had awakened to a new sense--the
brotherhood of young souls about him, the men of his college.

A revelation they were! Nearly all poor like himself; nearly all
having worked their way to the university: some from farms, some by
teaching distant country or mountain schools; some by the peddling
of books--out of unknown byways, from the hedges and ditches of
life, they had assembled: Calvary's regulars.

One scene in his new life struck upon the lad's imagination like a
vision out of the New Testament,--his first supper in the bare
dining room of that dormitory: the single long, rough table; the
coarse, frugal food; the shadows of the evening hour; at every
chair a form reverently standing; the saying of the brief grace--
ah, that first supper with the disciples!

Among the things he had to describe in his letter to his father and
mother, this scene came last; and his final words to them were a
blessing that they had made him one of this company of young men.




VI


The lad could not study eternally. The change from a toiling body
and idle mind to an idle body and toiling mind requires time to
make the latter condition unirksome. Happily there was small need
to delve at learning. His brain was like that of a healthy wild
animal freshly captured from nature. And as such an animal learns
to snap at flung bits of food, springing to meet them and sinking
back on his haunches keen-eyed for more; so mentally he caught at
the lessons prepared for him by his professors: every faculty asked
only to be fed--and remained hungry after the feeding.

Of afternoons, therefore, when recitations were over and his
muscles ached for exercise, he donned his old farm hat and went,
stepping in his high, awkward, investigating way around the town--
unaware of himself, unaware of the light-minded who often turned
to smile at that great gawk in grotesque garments, with his face
full of beatitudes and his pockets full of apples. For apples were
beginning to come in from the frosty orchards; and the fruit
dealers along the streets piled them into pyramids of temptation.
It seemed a hardship to him to have to spend priceless money for a
thing like apples, which had always been as cheap and plentiful as
spring water. But those evening suppers in the dormitory with the
disciples! Even when he was filled (which was not often) he was
never comforted; and one day happening upon one of those
pomological pyramids, he paused, yearned, and bought the apex. It
was harder not to buy than to buy. After that he fell into this
fruitful vice almost diurnally; and with mortifying worldly-
mindedness he would sometimes find his thoughts straying apple-
wards while his professors were personally conducting him through
Canaan or leading him dry-shod across the Red Sea. The little
dealer soon learned to anticipate his approach; and as he drew up
would have the requisite number ready and slide them into his
pockets without a word--and without the chance of inspection. A
man's candy famine attacked him also. He usually bought some
intractable, resisting medium: it left him rather tired of
pleasure.

So during those crude days he went strolling solemnly about the
town, eating, exploring, filling with sweetmeats and filled with
wonder. It was the first city he had ever seen, the chief interior
city of the state. From childhood he had longed to visit it. The
thronged streets, the curious stores, the splendid residences, the
flashing equipages--what a new world it was to him! But the first
place he inquired his way to was the factory where he had sold his
hemp. Awhile he watched the men at work, wondering whether they
might not then be handling some that he had broken.

At an early date also he went to look up his dear old neighborhood
schoolfellows who two years before had left him, to enter another
college of the University. By inquiry he found out where they
lived--in a big, handsome boarding-house on a fashionable street.
He thought he had never even dreamed of anything so fine as was
this house--nor had he. As he sat in the rich parlors, waiting to
learn whether his friends were at home, he glanced uneasily at his
shoes to see whether they might not be soiling the carpet; and he
vigorously dusted himself with his breath and hands--thus
depositing on the furniture whatever dust there was to transfer.

Having been invited to come up to his friends' room, he mounted and
found one of them waiting at the head of the stairs in his shirt
sleeves, smoking. His greeting was hearty in its way yet betokened
some surprise, a little uneasiness, condescension. David followed
his host into a magnificent room with enormous windows, now raised
and opening upon a veranda. Below was a garden full of old vines
black with grapes and pear trees bent down with pears and beds
bright with cool autumn flowers. (The lad made a note of how much
money he would save on apples if he could only live in reach of
those pear trees.) There was a big rumpled bed in the room; and
stretched across this bed on his stomach lay a student studying and
waving his heels slowly in the air. A table stood in the middle of
the room: the books and papers had been scraped off to the floor;
four students were seated at it playing cards and smoking. Among
them his other friend, who rose and gave him a hearty grip and
resuming his seat asked what was trumps. A voice he had heard
before called out to him from the table:--

"Hello, preachy! Did you find your way to the Bible College?"

Whereupon the student on the bed rolled heavily over, sat up
dejectedly, and ogled him with red eyes and a sagging jaw.

"Have you matriculated?" he asked.

David did not think of the cards, and he liked the greeting of the
two strangers who guyed him better than the welcome of his old
friends. That hurt: he had never supposed there was anything just
like it in the nature of man. But during the years since he had
seen them, old times were gone, old manners changed. And was it not
in the hemp fields of the father of one of them that he had
meantime worked with the negroes? And is there any other country in
the world where the clean laborer is so theoretically honored and
so practically despised as by the American snob of each sex?

One afternoon he went over to the courthouse and got the county
clerk to show him the entry where his great-grandfather had had the
deed to his church recorded. There it all was!--all written down to
hold good while the world lasted: that perpetual grant of part and
parcel of his land, for the use of a free school and a free church.
The lad went reverently over the plain, rough speech of the mighty
old pioneer, as he spoke out his purpose.

During those early days also he sought out the different churches,
scrutinizing respectfully their exteriors. How many they were, and
how grand nearly all! Beyond anything he had imagined. He reasoned
that if the buildings were so fine, how fine must be the singing
and the sermons! The unconscious assumption, the false logic here,
was creditable to his heart at least--to that green trust of the
young in things as they should be which becomes in time the best
seasoned staff of age. He hunted out especially the Catholic
Church. His great-grandfather had founded his as free for Catholics
as Protestants, but he recalled the fact that no priest had ever
preached there. He felt very curious to see a priest. A synagogue
in the town he could not find. He was sorry. He had a great desire
to lay eyes on a synagogue--temple of that ancient faith which had
flowed on its deep way across the centuries without a ripple of
disturbance from the Christ. He had made up his mind that when he
began to preach he would often preach especially to the Jews: the
time perhaps had come when the Father, their Father, would reveal
his Son to them also. Thus he promptly fixed in mind the sites of
all the churches, because he intended in time to go to them all.

Meantime he attended his own, the size and elegance of which were a
marvel; and in it especially the red velvet pulpit and the vast
chandelier (he had never seen a chandelier before), blazing with
stars (he had never seen illuminating gas). It was under this
chandelier that he himself soon found a seat. All the Bible
students sat there who could get there, that being the choir of
male voices; and before a month passed he had been taken into this
choir: for a storm-like bass rolled out of him as easily as thunder
out of a June cloud. Thus uneventful flowed the tenor of his
student life during those several initiatory weeks: then something
occurred that began to make grave history for him.

The pastor announced at service one morning that he would that day
begin a series of sermons on errors in the faith and practice of
the different Protestant sects; though he would also consider in
time the cases of the Catholics and Jews: it would scarcely be
necessary to speak of the Mohammedans and such others. He was
driven to do this, he declared, and was anxious to do it, as part
of the work of his brethren all over the country; which was the
restoration of Apostolic Christianity to the world. He asked the
especial attention of the Bible students of the University to these
sermons: the first of which he then proceeded to preach.

That night the lad was absent from his place: he was seated in the
church which had been riddled with logic in the morning. Just why
it would be hard to say. Perhaps his motive resembled that which
prompts us to visit a battle-field and count the slain. Only, not a
soul of those people seemed even to have been wounded. They sang,
prayed, preached, demeaned themselves generally as those who
believed that THEY were the express chosen of the Lord, and greatly
enjoyed the notorious fact.

The series of sermons went on: every night the lad was missing from
his place--gone to see for himself and to learn more about those
worldly churches which had departed from the faith once delivered
to the saints, and if saved at all, then by the mercy of God and
much of it.

In the history of any human soul it is impossible to grasp the
first event that starts up a revolution. But perhaps the troubles
of the lad began here. His absences from Sunday night service of
course attracted notice under the chandelier. His bass was missed.
Another student was glad to take his place. His roommate and the
several other dormitory students who had become his acquaintances,
discussed with him the impropriety of these absences: they agreed
that he would better stick to his own church. He gave reasons why
he should follow up the pastor's demonstrations with actual visits
to the others: he contended that the pastor established the fact of
the errors; but that the best way to understand any error was to
study the erring. This was all new to him, however. He had not
supposed that in educating himself to preach the simple Gospel, to
the end that the world might believe in Christ, he must also preach
against those who believed in Christ already. Besides, no one
seemed to be convinced by the pastor but those who agreed with him
in advance: the other churches flourished quite the same.

He cited a sermon he had heard in one, which, to the satisfaction
of all present, had riddled his own church, every word of the proof
being based on Scripture: so there you were!

A little cloud came that instant between David and the students to
whom he expressed these views. Some rejoined hotly at once; some
maintained the cold silence which intends to speak in its own time.
The next thing the lad knew was that a professor requested him to
remain after class one day; and speaking with grave kindness,
advised him to go regularly to his own church thereafter. The lad
entered ardently into the reasons why he had gone to the others.
The professor heard him through and without comment repeated his
grave, kind advice.

Thereafter the lad was regularly in his own seat there--but with a
certain mysterious, beautiful feeling gone. He could not have said
what this feeling was, did not himself know. Only, a slight film
seemed to pass before his eyes when he looked at his professor, so
that he saw him less clearly and as more remote.

One morning there was a sermon on the Catholics. David went
dutifully to his professor. He said he had never been to a Catholic
Church and would like to go. His professor assented cordially,
evincing his pleasure in the lad's frankness. But the next Sunday
morning he was in the Catholic Church again, thus for the first
time missing the communion in his own. Of all the congregations of
Christian believers that the lad had now visited, the Catholic
impressed him as being the most solemn, reverent, and best
mannered. In his own church the place did not seem to become the
house of God till services began; and one morning in particular,
two old farmers in the pew behind him talked in smothered tones of
stock and crops, till it fairly made him homesick. The sermon of
the priest, too, filled him with amazement. It weighed the claims
of various Protestant sects to be reckoned as parts of the one true
historic church of God. In passing, he barely referred to the most
modern of these self-constituted Protestant bodies--David's own
church--and dismissed it with one blast of scorn, which seemed to
strike the lad's face like a hot wind: it left it burning. But to
the Episcopal Church the priest dispensed the most vitriolic
criticism. And that night, carried away by the old impulse, which
had grown now almost into a habit, David went to the Episcopal
Church: went to number the slain. The Bishop of the diocese, as it
happened, was preaching that night--preaching on the union of
Christian believers. He showed how ready the Episcopal Church was
for such a union if the rest would only consent: but no other
church, he averred, must expect the Episcopal Church ever to
surrender one article of its creed, namely: that it alone was
descended not by historical continuity simply, but by Divine
succession from the Apostles themselves. The lad walked slowly back
to the dormitory that night with knit brows and a heavy heart.

A great change was coming over him. His old religious peace had
been unexpectedly disturbed. He found himself in the thick of the
wars of dogmatic theology. At that time and in that part of the
United States these were impassioned and rancorous to a degree
which even now, less than half a century later, can scarce be
understood; so rapidly has developed meantime that modern spirit
which is for us the tolerant transition to a yet broader future.
Had Kentucky been peopled by her same people several generations
earlier, the land would have run red with the blood of religious
persecutions, as never were England and Scotland at their worst. So
that this lad, brought in from his solemn, cloistered fields and
introduced to wrangling, sarcastic, envious creeds, had already
begun to feel doubtful and distressed, not knowing what to believe
nor whom to follow. He had commenced by being so plastic a medium
for faith, that he had tried to believe them all. Now he was in the
intermediate state of trying to ascertain which. From that state
there are two and two only final ones to emerge: "I shall among
them believe this one only;" or, "I shall among them believe--
none." The constant discussion of some dogma and disproof of some
dogma inevitably begets in a certain order of mind the temper to
discuss and distrust ALL dogma.

Not over their theologies alone were the churches wrangling before
the lad's distracted thoughts. If the theologies were rending
religion, politics was rending the theologies. The war just ended
had not brought, as the summer sermon of the Bible College
professor had stated, breadth of mind for narrowness, calm for
passion. Not while men are fighting their wars of conscience do
they hate most, but after they have fought; and Southern and Union
now hated to the bottom and nowhere else as at their prayers. David
found a Presbyterian Church on one street called "Southern" and one
a few blocks away called "Northern": how those brethren dwelt
together. The Methodists were similarly divided. Of Baptists, the
lad ascertained there had been so many kinds and parts of kinds
since the settlement of Kentucky, that apparently any large-sized
family anywhere could reasonably have constituted itself a church,
if the parents and children had only been fortunate enough to
agree.

Where politics did not cleave, other issues did. The Episcopal
Church was cleft into a reform movement (and one unreformable). In
his own denomination internal discord raged over such questions as
diabolic pleasures and Apostolic music. He saw young people haled
before the pulpit as before a tribunal of exact statutes and
expelled for moving their feet in certain ways. If in dancing they
whirled like a top instead of being shot straight back and forth
like a bobbin in a weaver's shuttle, their moral conduct was
aggravated. A church organ was ridiculed as a sort of musical
Behemoth--as a dark chamber of howling, roaring Belial.

These controversies overflowed from the congregation to the Bible
College. The lad in his room at the dormitory one Sunday afternoon
heard a debate on whether a tuning fork is a violation of the word
of God. The debaters turned to him excited and angry:--

"What do you think?" they asked.

"I don't think it is worth talking about," he replied quietly.

They soon became reconciled to each other; they never forgave him.

Meantime as for his Biblical studies, they enlarged enormously his
knowledge of the Bible; but they added enormously to the questions
that may be asked about the Bible--questions he had never thought
of before. And in adding to the questions that may be asked, they
multiplied those that cannot be answered. The lad began to ask
these questions, began to get no answers. The ground of his
interest in the great Book shifted. Out on the farm alone with it
for two years, reading it never with a critical but always with a
worshipping mind, it had been to him simply the summons to a great
and good life, earthly and immortal. As he sat in the lecture
rooms, studying it book by book, paragraph by paragraph, writing
chalk notes about it on the blackboard, hearing the students recite
it as they recited arithmetic or rhetoric, a little homesickness
overcame him for the hours when he had read it at the end of a
furrow in the fields, or by his candle the last thing at night
before he kneeled to say his prayers, or of Sunday afternoons off
by himself in the sacred leafy woods. The mysterious untouched
Christ-feeling was in him so strong, that he shrank from these
critical analyses as he would from dissecting the body of the
crucified Redeemer.

A significant occurrence took place one afternoon some seven months
after he had entered the University.

On that day, recitations over, the lad left the college alone and
with a most thoughtful air crossed the campus and took his course
into the city. Reaching a great central street, he turned to the
left and proceeded until he stood opposite a large brick church.
Passing along the outside of this, he descended a few steps,
traversed an alley, knocked timidly at a door, and by a voice
within was bidden to enter. He did so, and stood in his pastor's
study. He had told his pastor that he would like to have a little
talk with him, and the pastor was there to have the little talk.

During those seven months the lad had been attracting notice more
and more. The Bible students had cast up his reckoning unfavorably:
he was not of their kind--they moved through their studies as one
flock of sheep through a valley, drinking the same water, nipping
the same grass, and finding it what they wanted. His professors had
singled him out as a case needing peculiar guidance. Not in his
decorum as a student: he was the very soul of discipline. Not in
slackness of study: his mind consumed knowledge as a flame tinder.
Not in any irregularities of private life: his morals were as snow
for whiteness. Yet none other caused such concern.

All this the pastor knew; he had himself long had his eye on this
lad. During his sermons, among the rows of heads and brows and eyes
upturned to him, oftenest he felt himself looking at that big
shock-head, at those grave brows, into those eager, troubled eyes.
His persistent demonstrations that he and his brethren alone were
right and all other churches Scripturally wrong--they always seemed
to take the light out of that countenance. There was silence in the
study now as the lad modestly seated himself in a chair which the
pastor had pointed out.

After fidgeting a few moments, he addressed the logician with a
stupefying premise:--

"My great-grandfather," he said, "once built a church simply to
God, not to any man's opinions of Him."

He broke off abruptly.

"So did Voltaire," remarked the pastor dryly, coming to the rescue.
"Voltaire built a church to God: 'Erexit deo Voltaire' Your great-
grandfather and Voltaire must have been kin to each other."

The lad had never heard of Voltaire. The information was rather
prepossessing.

"I think I should admire Voltaire," he observed reflectively.

"So did the Devil," remarked the pastor. Then he added pleasantly,
for he had a Scotch relish for a theological jest:--

"You may meet Voltaire some day."

"I should like to. Is he coming here?" asked the lad.

"Not immediately. He is in hell--or will be after the Resurrection
of the Dead."

The silence in the study grew intense.

"I understand you now," said the lad, speaking composedly all at
once. "You think that perhaps I will go to the Devil also."

"Oh, no!" exclaimed the pastor, hiding his smile and stroking his
beard with syllogistic self-respect. "My dear young brother, did
you want to see me on any--BUSINESS?"

"I did. I was trying to tell you. My great-grandfather--"

"Couldn't you begin with more modern times?"

"The story begins back there," insisted the lad, firmly. "The part
of it, at least, that affects me. My great-grandfather founded a
church free to all Christian believers. It stands in our
neighborhood. I have always gone there. I joined the church there.
All the different denominations in our part of the country have
held services there. Sometimes they have all had services together.
I grew up to think they were all equally good Christians in their
different ways."

"Did you?" inquired the pastor. "You and your grandfather and
Voltaire must ALL be kin to each other."

His visage was not pleasant.

"My trouble since coming to College," said the lad, pressing across
the interruption, "has been to know which IS the right church--"

"Are you a member of THIS church?" inquired the pastor sharply,
calling a halt to this folly.

"I am."

"Then don't you know that it is the only right one?"

"I do not. All the others declare it a wrong one. They stand ready
to prove this by the Scriptures and do prove it to their
satisfaction. They declare that if I become a preacher of what my
church believes, I shall become a false teacher of men and be
responsible to God for the souls I may lead astray. They honestly
believe this."

"Don't you know that when Satan has entered into a man, he can make
him honestly believe anything?"

"And you think it is Satan that keeps the other churches from
seeing this is the only right one?"

"I do! And beware, young man, that Satan does not get into YOU"

"He must be in me already." There was silence again, then the lad
continued.

"All this is becoming a great trouble to me. It interferes with my
studies--takes my interest out of my future. I come to you then.
You are my pastor. Where is the truth--the reason--the proof--the
authority? Where is the guiding LAW in all this? I must find THE
LAW and that quickly."

There was no gainsaying his trouble: it expressed itself in his
eyes, voice, entire demeanor. The pastor was not seeing any of
these things. Here was a plain, ignorant country lad who had
rejected his logic and who apparently had not tact enough at this
moment to appreciate his own effrontery. In the whole sensitiveness
of man there is no spot so touchy as the theological.

"Have you a copy of the New Testament?"

It was the tone in which the school-master of old times said,
"Bring me that switch."

"I have,"

"You can read it?"

"I can."

"You find in it the inspired account of the faith of the original
church--the earliest history of Apostolic Christianity?"

"I do."

"Then, can you not compare the teachings of the Apostles, THEIR
faith and THEIR practice, with the teachings of this church? ITS
faith and ITS practice?"

"I have tried to do that"

"Then there is the truth. And the reason. And the proof. And the
authority. And the LAW. We have no creed but the creed of the
Apostolic churches; no practice but their practice; no teaching but
their teaching in letter and in spirit."

"That is what was told me before I came to college. It was told me
that young men were to be prepared to preach the simple Gospel of
Christ to all the world. There was to be no sectarian theology."

"Well? Has any one taught you sectarian theology?"

"Not consciously, not intentionally. Inevitably--perhaps. That is
my trouble now--ONE of my troubles."

"Well?"

"May I ask you some questions?"

"You may ask me some questions if they are not silly questions. You
don't seem to have any creed, but you DO seem to have a catechism!
Well, on with the catechism! I hope it will be better than those I
have read."

So bidden, the lad began;--

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to declare that infants should not be
baptized?"

"It is!" The reply came like a flash of lightning.

"And those who teach to the contrary violate the word of God?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to affirm that only immersion is
Christian baptism?"

"It is!"

"And those who use any other form violate the word of God?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to celebrate the Lord's Supper once
every seven days?"

"It is!"

"And all who observe a different custom violate the word of God?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to have no such officer in the church
as an Episcopal bishop?"

"It is!"

"The office of Bishop, then, is a violation of Apostolic
Christianity?"

"It is!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to make every congregation, no matter
how small or influenced by passion, an absolute court of trial and
punishment of his members?"

"It is!"

"To give every such body control over the religious standing of its
members, so it may turn them out into the world, banish them from
the church of Christ forever, if it sees fit?"

"It is!"

"And those who frame any other system of church government violate
the--"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to teach that faith precedes
repentance?"

"It is!"

"Those who teach that sorrow for sin is itself the great reason why
we believe in Christ--do they violate--?"

"They do!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to turn people out of the church for
dancing?"

"It is!"

"The use of an organ in worship--is that a violation of Apostolic--?"

"It is!"

"Is it Apostolic Christianity to require that the believer in it
shall likewise believe everything in the old Bible?"

"It is."

"Did Christ and the Apostles themselves teach that everything
contained in what we call the old Bible must be believed?"

"They did!"

The pastor was grasping the arms of his chair, his body bent toward
the lad, his head thrown back, his face livid with sacred rage. He
was a good man, tried and true: God-fearing, God-serving. No fault
lay in him unless it may be imputed for unrighteousness that he was
a stanch, trenchant sectary in his place and generation. As he sat
there in the basement study of his church, his pulpit of authority
and his baptismal pool of regeneration directly over his head, all
round him in the city the solid hundreds of his followers, he
forgot himself as a man and a minister and remembered only that as
a servant of the Most High he was being interrogated and
dishonored. His soul shook and thundered within him to repel these
attacks upon his Lord and Master. As those unexpected random
questions had poured in upon him thick and fast, all emerging, as
it seemed to him, like disembodied evil spirits from the black pit
of Satan and the damned, it was joy to him to deal to each that
same straight,

God-directed spear-thrust of a reply--killing them as they rose.
His soul exulted in that blessed carnage.

But the questions ceased. They had hurried out as though there were
a myriad pressing behind--a few issuing bees of an aroused swarm.
But they ceased. The pastor leaned back in his chair and drew a
quivering breath through his white lips.

"Ask some more!"

On his side, the lad had lost divine passion as the pastor had
gained it. His interest waned while the pastor's waxed. His last
questions were put so falteringly, almost so inaudibly, that the
pastor might well believe his questioner beaten, brought back to
modesty and silence. To a deeper-seeing eye, however, the truth
would have been plain that the lad was not seeing his pastor at
all, but seeing THROUGH him into his own future: into his life, his
great chosen life-work. His young feet had come in their travels
nigh to the limits of his Promised Land: he was looking over into
it.

"Ask some more! The last of them! Out with them ALL! Make an end of
this now and here!"

The lad reached for his hat, which he had laid on the floor, and
stood up. He was as pale as the dead.

"I shall never be able to preach Apostolic Christianity," he said,
and turned to the door.

But reaching it, he wheeled and came back.

"I am in trouble!" he cried, sitting down again. "I don't know what
to believe. I don't know what I do believe. My God!" he cried
again, burying his face in his hands. "I believe I am beginning to
doubt the Bible. Great God, what am I coming to! what is my life
coming to! ME doubt the Bible!". . .

The interview of that day was one of the signs of two storms which
were approaching: one appointed to reach the University, one to
reach the lad.

The storm now gathering in many quarters and destined in a few
years to burst upon the University was like its other storms that
had gone before: only, this last one left it a ruin which will stay
a ruin.

That oldest, best passion of the Kentucky people for the
establishment in their own land of a broad institution of learning
for their own sons, though revived in David's time on a greater
scale than ever before, was not to be realized. The new University,
bearing the name of the commonwealth and opening at the close of
the Civil War as a sign of the new peace of the new nation, having
begun so fairly and risen in a few years to fourth or fifth place
in patronage among all those in the land, was already entering upon
its decline. The reasons of this were the same that had
successively ruined each of its predecessors: the same old
sectarian quarrels, enmities, revenges; the same old political
oppositions and hatreds; the same personal ambitions, jealousies,
strifes.

Away back in 1780, while every man, woman, and child in the western
wilderness ness was in dire struggle for life itself, those far-
seeing people had induced the General Assembly of Virginia to
confiscate and sell in Kentucky the lands of British Tories, to
found a public seminary for Kentucky boys--not a sectarian school.
These same broad-minded pioneers had later persuaded her to give
twenty thousand acres of her land to the same cause and to exempt
officers and students of the institution from military service.
Still later, intent upon this great work, they had induced Virginia
to take from her own beloved William and Mary one-sixth of all
surveyors' fees in the district and contribute them. The early
Kentuckians, for their part, planned and sold out a lottery--to
help along the incorruptible work. For such an institution
Washington and Adams and Aaron Burr and Thomas Marshall and many
another opened their purses. For it thousands and thousands of
dollars were raised among friends scattered throughout the Atlantic
states, these responding to a petition addressed to all religious
sects, to all political parties. A library and philosophical
apparatus were wagoned over the Alleghanies. A committee was sent
to England to choose further equipments. When Kentucky came to have
a legislature of its own, it decreed that each of the counties in
the state should receive six thousand acres of land wherewith to
start a seminary; and that all these county seminaries were to
train students for this long-dreamed-of central institution. That
they might not be sent away--to the North or to Europe. When, at
the end of the Civil War, a fresh attempt (and the last) was made
to found in reality and in perpetuity a home institution to be as
good as the best in the republic, the people rallied as though they
had never known defeat. The idea resounded like a great trumpet
throughout the land. Individual, legislative, congressional aid--
all were poured out lavishly for that one devoted cause.

Sad chapter in the history of the Kentuckians! Perhaps the
saddest among the many sad ones.

For such an institution must in time have taught what all its
court-houses and all its pulpits--laws human and divine--have not
been able to teach: it must have taught the noble commonwealth to
cease murdering. Standing there in the heart of the people's land,
it must have grown to stand in the heart of their affections: and
so standing, to stand for peace. For true learning always stands
for peace. Letters always stand for peace. And it is the scholar of
the world who has ever come into it as Christ came: to teach that
human life is worth saving and must be saved.




VII


The storm approaching David was vaster and came faster.

Several days had passed since his anxious and abruptly terminated
interview with his pastor. During the interval he had addressed no
further inquiries to any man touching his religious doubts. A
serious sign: for when we cease to carry such burdens to those who
wait near by as our recognized counsellors and appointed guides,
the inference is that succor for our peculiar need has there been
sought in vain. This succor, if existent at all, will be found
elsewhere in one of two places: either farther away from home in
greater minds whose teaching has not yet reached us; or still
nearer home in what remains as the last court of inquiry and
decision: in the mind itself. With greater intellects more remote
the lad had not yet been put in touch; he had therefore grown
reflective, and for nearly a week had been spending the best powers
of his unaided thought in self-examination.

He was sitting one morning at his student's table with his Bible
and note-book opened before him, wrestling with his problems still.
The dormitory was very quiet. A few students remained indoors at
work, but most were absent: some gone into the country to preach
trial sermons to trying congregations; some down in the town; some
at the college, practising hymns, or rehearsing for society
exhibitions; some scattered over the campus, preparing Monday
lessons on a spring morning when animal sap stirs intelligently at
its sources and sends up its mingled currents of new energy and new
lassitude.

David had thrown his window wide open, to let in the fine air; his
eyes strayed outward. A few yards away stood a stunted transplanted
locust--one of those uncomplaining asses of the vegetable kingdom
whose mission in life is to carry whatever man imposes. Year after
year this particular tree had remained patiently backed up behind
the dormitory, for the bearing of garments to be dusted or dried.
More than once during the winter, the lad had gazed out of his
snow-crusted panes at this dwarfed donkey of the woods, its feet
buried deep in ashes, its body covered with kitchen wash-rags and
Bible students' frozen underwear. He had reasoned that such soil
and such servitude had killed it.

But as he looked out of his window now, his eyes caught sight of
the early faltering green in which this exile of the forest was
still struggling to clothe itself--its own life vestments. Its
enforced and artificial function as a human clothes-horse had
indeed nearly destroyed it; but wherever a bud survived, there its
true office in nature was asserted, its ancient kind declared, its
growth stubbornly resumed.

The moment for the lad may have been one of those in the
development of the young when they suddenly behold familiar objects
as with eyes more clearly opened; when the neutral becomes the
decisive; when the sermon is found in the stone. As he now took
curious cognizance of the budding wood which he, seeing it only in
winter, had supposed could not bud again, he fell to marvelling how
constant each separate thing in nature is to its own life and how
sole is its obligation to live that life only. All that a locust
had to do in the world was to be a locust; and be a locust it would
though it perished in the attempt. It drew back with no hesitation,
was racked with no doubt, puzzled with no necessity of preference.
It knew absolutely the law of its own being and knew absolutely
nothing else; found under that law its liberty, found under that
liberty its life.

"But I," he reflected, "am that which was never sown and never
grown before. All the ages of time, all the generations of men,
have not fixed any type of life for me. What I am to become I must
myself each instant choose; and having chosen, I can never know
that I have chosen best. Often I do know that what I have selected
I must discard. And yet no one choice can ever be replaced by its
rejected fellow; the better chance lost once, is lost eternally.
Within the limits of a locust, how little may the individual
wander; within the limits of the wide and erring human, what may
not a man become! What now am I becoming? What shall I now choose--
as my second choice?"

A certain homely parallel between the tree and himself began to
shape itself before his thought: how he, too, had been dug up far
away--had, in a sense, voluntarily dug himself up--and been
transplanted in the college campus; how, ever since being placed
there, the different sectarian churches of the town had, without
exception, begun to pin on the branches of his mind the many-shaped
garments of their dogmas, until by this time he appeared to himself
as completely draped as the little locust after a heavy dormitory
washing. There was this terrible difference, however: that the
garments hung on the tree were anon removed; but these doctrines
and dogmas were fastened to his mind to stay--as the very foliage
of his thought--as the living leaves of Divine Truth. He was
forbidden to strip off one of those sacred leaves. He was told to
live and to breathe his religious life through them, and to grow
only where they hung.

The lad declared finally to himself this morning, that realize his
religious life through those dogmas he never could; that it was
useless any longer to try. Little by little they would as certainly
kill him in growth and spirit as the rags had killed the locust in
sap and bud. Whatever they might be to others--and he judged no
man--for him with his peculiar nature they could never be life-
vestments; they would become his spiritual grave-clothes.

The parallel went a little way further: that scant faltering green!
that unconquerable effort of the tree to assert despite all
deadening experiences its old wildwood state! Could he do the like,
could he go back to his? Yearning, sad, immeasurable filled him as
he now recalled the simple faith of what had already seemed to him
his childhood. Through the mist blinding his vision, through the
doubts blinding his brain, still could he see it lying there clear
in the near distance! "No," he cried, "into whatsoever future I may
be driven to enter, closed against me is the peace of my past.
Return thither my eyes ever will, my feet never!"

"But as I was true to myself then, let me be true now. If I cannot
believe what I formerly believed, let me determine quickly what I
CAN believe. The Truth, the Law--I must find these and quickly!"

From all of which, though thus obscurely set forth, it will be
divined that the lad had now reached, indeed for some days had
stood halting, at one of the great partings of the ways: when the
whole of Life's road can be walked in by us no longer; when we must
elect the half we shall henceforth follow, and having taken it,
ever afterward perhaps look yearningly back upon the other as a
lost trail of the mind.

The parting of the ways where he had thus faltered, summing up his
bewilderment, and crying aloud for fresh directions, was one
immemorially old in the history of man: the splitting of Life's
single road into the by-paths of Doubt and Faith. Until within less
than a year, his entire youth had been passed in the possession of
what he esteemed true religion. Brought from the country into the
town, where each of the many churches was proclaiming itself the
sole incarnation of this and all others the embodiment of something
false, he had, after months of distracted wandering among their
contradictory clamors, passed as so many have passed before him
into that state of mind which rejects them all and asks whether
such a thing as true religion anywhere exists.

The parting of Life's road at Doubt and Faith! How many pilgrim
feet throughout the ages, toiling devoutly thus far, have shrunk
back before that unexpected and appalling sign! Disciples of the
living Lord, saints, philosophers, scholars, priests, knights,
statesmen--what a throng! What thoughts there born, prayers there
ended, vows there broken, light there breaking, hearts there torn
in twain! Mighty mountain rock! rising full in the road of
journeying humanity. Around its base the tides of the generations
dividing as part the long racing billows of the sea about some
awful cliff.

The lad closed his note-book, and taking his chair to the window,
folded his arms on the sill and looked out. Soon he noticed what
had escaped him before. Beyond the tree, at the foot of the ash-
heap, a single dandelion had opened. It burned like a steadfast
yellow lamp, low in the edge of the young grass. These two simple
things--the locust leaves, touched by the sun, shaken by the south
wind; the dandelion shining in the grass--awoke in him the whole
vision of the spring now rising anew out of the Earth, all over the
land: great Nature! And the vision of this caused him to think of
something else.

On the Sunday following his talk with the lad, the pastor had
preached the most arousing sermon that the lad had heard: it had
grown out of that interview: it was on modern infidelity--the new
infidelity as contrasted with the old.

In this sermon he had arraigned certain books as largely
responsible. He called them by their titles. He warned his people
against them. Here recommenced the old story: the lad was at once
seized with a desire to read those books, thus exhibiting again the
identical trait that had already caused him so much trouble. But
this trait was perhaps himself--his core; the demand of his nature
to hear both sides, to judge evidence, test things by his own
reason, get at the deepest root of a matter: to see Truth, and to
see Truth whole.

Curiously enough, these books, and some others, had been much heard
of by the lad since coming to college: once; then several times;
then apparently everywhere and all the time. For, intellectually,
they had become atmospheric: they had to be breathed, as a newly
introduced vital element of the air, whether liked or not liked by
the breathers. They were the early works of the great Darwin,
together with some of that related illustrious group of scientific
investigators and thinkers, who, emerging like promontories,
islands, entire new countries, above the level of the world's
knowledge, sent their waves of influence rushing away to every
shore. It was in those years that they were flowing over the United
States, over Kentucky. And as some volcanic upheaval under mid-
ocean will in time rock the tiny boat of a sailor boy in some
little sheltered bay on the other side of the planet, so the
sublime disturbance in the thought of the civilized world in the
second half of the nineteenth century had reached David.

Sitting at his window, looking out blindly for help and helpers
amid his doubts, seeing the young green of the locust, the yellow
of the dandelion, he recalled the names of those anathematized
books, which were described as dealing so strangely with nature and
with man's place in it. The idea dominated him at last to go
immediately and get those books.

A little later he might have been seen quitting the dormitory and
taking his way with a dubious step across the campus into the town.

Saturday forenoons of spring were busy times for the town in those
days. Farmers were in, streets were crowded with their horses and
buggies and rockaways, with live stock, with wagons hauling cord-
wood, oats, hay, and hemp. Once, at a crossing, David waited while
a wagon loaded with soft, creamy, gray hemp creaked past toward a
factory. He sniffed with relish the tar of the mud-packed wheels;
he put out a hand and stroked the heads drawn close in familiar
bales.

Crowded, too, of Saturdays was the book-shop to which the students
usually resorted for their supplies. Besides town customers and
country customers, the pastor of the church often dropped in and
sat near the stove, discoursing, perhaps, to some of his elders, or
to reverent Bible students, or old acquaintances. A small, tight,
hot, metal-smelling stove--why is it so enjoyable by a dogmatist?

As David made his way to the rear of the long bookshelves, which
extended back toward the stove, the pastor rose and held out his
hand with hearty warmth--and a glance of secret solicitude. The
lad looked sheepish with embarrassment; not until accosted had he
himself realized what a stray he had become from his pastor's flock
and fold. And he felt that he ought instantly to tell the pastor
this was the case. But the pastor had reseated himself and
regripped his masterful monologue. The lad was more than
embarrassed; he felt conscious of a new remorseful tenderness for
this grim, righteous man, now that he had emancipated mind and
conscience from his teaching: so true it often is that affection is
possible only where obedience is not demanded. He turned off
sorrowfully to the counter, and a few moments later, getting the
attention of the clerk, asked in a low conscience-stricken tone
for "The Origin of Species" and "The Descent of Man"; conscience-
stricken at the sight of the money in his palm to pay for them.

"What are you going to do with these?" inquired a Bible student who
had joined him at the counter and fingered the books.

"Read them," said the lad, joyously, "and understand them if I
can."

He pinned them against his heart with his elbow and all but ran
back to the dormitory. Having reached there, he altered his purpose
and instead of mounting to his room, went away off to a quiet spot
on the campus and, lying down in the grass under the wide open sky,
opened his wide Darwin.

It was the first time in his life that he had ever encountered
outside of the Bible a mind of the highest order, or listened to
it, as it delivered over to mankind the astounding treasures of its
knowledge and wisdom in accents of appealing, almost plaintive
modesty.

That day the lad changed his teachers.

Of the session more than two months yet remained. Every few days he
might have been seen at the store, examining books, drawing money
reluctantly from his pocket, hurrying away with another volume.
Sometimes he would deliver to the clerk the title of a work written
on a slip of paper: an unheard-of book; to be ordered--perhaps from
the Old World. For one great book inevitably leads to another. They
have their parentage, kinship, generations. They are watch-towers
in sight of each other on the same human highway. They are strands
in a single cable belting the globe. Link by link David's
investigating hands were slipping eagerly along a mighty chain of
truths, forged separately by the giants of his time and now welded
together in the glowing thought of the world.

Not all of these were scientific works. Some were works which
followed in the wake of the new science, with rapid applications of
its methods and results to other subjects, scarce conterminous or
not even germane. For in the light of the great central idea of
Evolution, all departments of human knowledge had to be reviewed,
reconsidered, reconceived, rearranged, rewritten. Every foremost
scholar of the world, kindling his own personal lamp at that
central sunlike radiance, retired straightway into his laboratory
of whatsoever kind and found it truly illuminated for the first
time. His lamp seemed to be of two flames enwrapped as one; a
baleful and a benign. Whenever it shone upon anything that was
true, it made this stand out the more clear, valuable, resplendent.
But wherever it uncovered the false, it darted thereat a swift
tongue of flame, consuming without mercy the ancient rubbish of the
mind. Vast purification of the world by the fire of truth! There
have been such purifications before; but never perhaps in the
history of the race was so much burned out of the intellectual path
of man as during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

There is a sort of land which receives in autumn, year by year, the
deposit of its own dead leaves and weeds and grasses without either
the winds and waters to clear these away or the soil to reabsorb
and reconvert them into the materials of reproduction. Thus year by
year the land tends farther toward sterility by the very
accumulation of what was once its life. But send a forest fire
across those smothering strata of vegetable decay; give once more a
chance for every root below to meet the sun above; for every seed
above to reach the ground below; soon again the barren will be the
fertile, the desert blossom as the rose. It is so with the human
mind. It is ever putting forth a thousand things which are the
expression of its life for a brief season. These myriads of things
mature, ripen, bear their fruit, fall back dead upon the soil of
the mind itself. That mind may be the mind of an individual; it may
be the mind of a century, a race, a civilization. To the
individual, then, to a race, a civilization, a century, arrives the
hour when it must either consume its own dead or surrender its own
life. These hours are the moral, the intellectual revolutions of
history.

The new science must not only clear the stagnant ground for the
growth of new ideas, it must go deeper. Not enough that rubbish
should be burned: old structures of knowledge and faith, dangerous,
tottering, unfit to be inhabited longer, must be shaken to their
foundations. It brought on therefore a period of intellectual
upheaval and of drift, such as was once passed through by the
planet itself. What had long stood locked and immovable began to
move; what had been high sank out of sight; what had been low was
lifted. The mental hearing, listening as an ear placed amid still
mountains, could gather into itself from afar the slip and fall of
avalanches. Whole systems of belief which had chilled the soul for
centuries, dropped off like icebergs into the warming sea and
drifted away, melting into nothingness.

The minds of many men, witnessing this double ruin by flame and
earthquake, are at such times filled with consternation: to them it
seems that nothing will survive, that beyond these cataclysms there
will never again be stability and peace--a new and better age,
safer footing, wider horizons, clearer skies.

It was so now. The literature of the New Science was followed by a
literature of new Doubt and Despair. But both of these were
followed by yet another literature which rejected alike the New
Science and the New Doubt, and stood by all that was included under
the old beliefs. The voices of these three literatures filled the
world: they were the characteristic notes of that half-century,
heard sounding together: the Old Faith, the New Science, the New
Doubt. And they met at a single point; they met at man's place in
Nature, at the idea of God, and in that system of thought and creed
which is Christianity.

It was at this sublime meeting-place of the Great Three that this
untrained and simple lad soon arrived--searching for the truth.
Here he began to listen to them, one after another: reading a
little in science (he was not prepared for that), a little in the
old faith, but most in the new doubt. For this he was ready; toward
this he had been driven.

Its earliest effects were soon exhibited in him as a student. He
performed all required work, slighted no class, shirked no rule,
transgressed no restriction. But he asked no questions of any man
now, no longer roved distractedly among the sects, took no share in
the discussions rife in his own church. There were changes more
significant: he ceased to attend the Bible students' prayer-meeting
at the college or the prayer-meeting of the congregation in the
town; he would not say grace at those evening suppers of the
Disciples; he declined the Lord's Supper; his voice was not heard
in the choir. He was, singularly enough, in regular attendance at
morning and night services of the church; but he entered timidly,
apologetically, sat as near as possible to the door, and slipped
out a little before the people were dismissed: his eyes had been
fixed respectfully on his pastor throughout the sermon, but his
thoughts were in other temples.




VIII


The session reached its close. The students were scattered far
among the villages, farms, cities of many states. Some never to
return, having passed from the life of a school into the school of
life; some, before vacation ended, gone with their laughter and
vigor into the silence of the better Teacher.

Over at the dormitory the annual breaking-up of the little band of
Bible students had, as always, been affecting. Calm, cool, bright
day of June! when the entire poor tenement house was fragrant with
flowers brought from commencement; when a south wind sent ripples
over the campus grass; and outside the campus, across the street,
the yards were glowing with roses. Oh, the roses of those young
days, how sweet, how sweet they were! How much sweeter now after
the long, cruel, evil suffering years which have passed and gone
since they faded!

The students were dispersed, and David sat at his table by his open
window, writing to his father and mother.

After telling them he had stood well in his classes, and giving
some descriptions of the closing days and ceremonies of the
college, for he knew how interested they would be in reading about
these things, he announced that he was not coming home. He enclosed
a part of the funds still on hand, and requested his father to hire
a man in his place to work on the farm during the summer. He said
nothing of his doubts and troubles, but gave as the reason of his
remaining away what indeed the reason was: that he wished to study
during the vacation; it was the best chance he had ever had,
perhaps would ever have; and it was of the utmost importance to him
to settle a great many questions before the next session of the
Bible College opened. His expenses would be small. He had made
arrangements with the wife of the janitor to take charge of his
room and his washing and to give him his meals: his room itself
would not cost him anything, and he did not need any more clothes.

It was hard to stay away from them. Not until separated, had he
realized how dear they were to him. He could not bear even to write
about all that. And he was homesick for the sight of the farm,--the
horses and cows and sheep,--for the sight of Captain. But he must
remain where he was; what he had to do must be done quickly--a
great duty was involved. And they must write to him oftener because
he would need their letters, their love, more than ever now. And so
God keep them in health and bless them. And he was their grateful
son, who too often had been a care to them, who could never forget
the sacrifices they had made to send him to college, and whose only
wish was that he might not cause them any disappointment in the
future.

This letter drew a quick reply from his father. He returned the
money, saying that he had done better on the farm than he had
expected and did not need it, and that he had a man employed, his
former slave. Sorry as they were not to see him that summer, still
they were glad of his desire to study through vacation. His own
life had not been very successful; he had tried hard, but had
failed. For a longtime now he had been accepting the failure as
best he could. But compensation for all this were the new
interests, hopes, ambitions, which centred in the life of his son.
To see him a minister, a religious leader among men--that would be
happiness enough for him. His family had always been a religious
people. One thing he was already looking forward to: he wanted his
son to preach his first sermon in the neighborhood church founded
by the lad's great-grandfather--that would be the proudest hour of
his life and in the lad's mother's. There were times in the past
when perhaps he had been hard on him, not understanding him; this
only made his wish the greater to aid him now in every way, at any
cost. When they were not talking of him at home, they were thinking
of him. And they blessed God that He had given them such a son. Let
him not be troubled about the future; they knew that he would never
disappoint them.

David sat long immovable before that letter.

One other Bible student remained. On the campus, not far from the
dormitory, stood a building of a single story, of several rooms. In
one of these rooms there lived, with his family, that tall, gaunt,
shaggy, middle-aged man, in his shiny black coat and paper collars,
without any cravats, who had been the lad's gentle monitor on the
morning of his entering college. He, too, was to spend the summer
there, having no means of getting away with his wife and children.
Though he sometimes went off himself, to hold meetings where he
could and for what might be paid him; now preaching and baptizing
in the mountains; now back again, laboring in his shirt-sleeves at
the Pentateuch and the elementary structure of the English
language. Such troubles as David's were not for him; nor science
nor doubt. His own age contained him as a green field might hold a
rock. Not that this kind, faithful, helpful soul was a lifeless
stone; but that he was as unresponsive to the movements of his time
as a boulder is to the energies of a field. Alive in his own
sublime way he was, and inextricably rooted in one ever-living book
alone--the Bible.

This middle-aged, childlike man, settled near David as his
neighbor, was forever a reminder to him of the faith he once had
had--the faith of his earliest youth, the faith of his father and
mother. Sometimes when the day's work was done and the sober, still
twilights came on, this reverent soul, sitting with his family
gathered about him near the threshold of his single homeless room,
--his oldest boy standing beside his chair, his wife holding in her
lap the sleeping babe she had just nursed,--would begin to sing.
The son's voice joined the father's; the wife's followed the son's,
in their usual hymn:--

"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word."

Up in his room, a few hundred yards away, the lad that moment might
be trimming his lamp for a little more reading. More than once he
waited, listening in the darkness, to the reliant music of the
stalwart, stern old poem. How devotedly he too had been used to
sing it!

That summer through, then, he kept on at the work of trying to
settle things before college reopened--things which involved a
great duty. Where the new thought of the age attacked dogma,
Revelation, Christianity most, there most he read. He was not the
only reader. He was one of a multitude which no man could know or
number; for many read in secret. Ministers of the Gospel read in
secret in their libraries, and locked the books away when their
church officers called unexpectedly. On Sunday, mounting their
pulpits, they preached impassioned sermons concerning faith--
addressed to the doubts, ravaging their own convictions and
consciences.

Elders and deacons read and kept the matter hid from their pastors.
Physicians and lawyers read and spoke not a word to their wives and
children. In the church, from highest ecclesiastic and layman,
wherever in the professions a religious, scientific, scholarly
mind, there was felt the central intellectual commotion of those
years--the Battle of the Great Three.

And now summer was gone, the students flocking in, the session
beginning. David reentered his classes. Inwardly he drew back from
this step; yet take any other, throw up the whole matter,--that he
could not do. With all his lifelong religious sense he held on to
the former realities, even while his grasp was loosening.

But this could not endure. University life as a Bible student and
candidate for the ministry, every day and many times every day,
required of him duties which he could not longer conscientiously
discharge; they forced from him expressions regarding his faith
which made it only too plain both to himself and to others how much
out of place he now was.

So the crisis came, as come it must.

Autumn had given place to winter, to the first snows, thawing
during the day, freezing at night. The roofs of the town were
partly brown, partly white; icicles hung lengthening from the
eaves. It was the date on which the university closed for the
Christmas holidays--Friday afternoon preceding. All day through the
college corridors, or along the snow-paths leading to the town,
there had been the glad noises of that wild riotous time: whistle
and song and shout and hurrying feet, gripping hands, good wishes,
and good-bys. One by one the sounds had grown fewer, fainter, and
had ceased; the college was left in emptiness and silence, except
in a single lecture room in one corner of the building, from the
windows of which you looked out across the town and toward the
west; there the scene took place.

It was at the door of this room that the lad, having paused a
moment outside to draw a deep, quivering breath, knocked, and being
told to come in, entered, closed the door behind him, and sat down
white and trembling in the nearest chair. About the middle of the
room were seated the professors of the Bible College and his
pastor. They rose, and calling him forward shook hands with him
kindly, sorrowfully, and pointed to a seat before them, resuming
their own.

Before them, then, sat the lad, facing the wintry light; and there
was a long silence. Every one knew beforehand what the result would
be. It was the best part of a year since that first interview in
the pastor's study; there had been other interviews--with the
pastor, with the professors. They had done what they could to check
him, to bring him back. They had long been counsellors; now in duty
they were authorities, sitting to hear him finally to the end, that
they might pronounce sentence: that would be the severance of his
connection with the university and his expulsion from the church.

Old, old scene in the history of Man--the trial of his Doubt by
his Faith: strange day of judgment, when one half of the human
spirit arraigns and condemns the other half. Only five persons sat
in that room--four men and a boy. The room was of four bare walls
and a blackboard, with perhaps a map or two of Palestine, Egypt,
and the Roman Empire in the time of Paul. The era was the winter of
the year 1868, the place was an old town of the Anglo-Saxon
backwoodsmen, on the blue-grass highlands of Kentucky. But in how
many other places has that scene been enacted, before what other
audiences of the accusing and the accused, under what laws of
trial, with what degrees and rigors of judgment! Behind David,
sitting solitary there in the flesh, the imagination beheld a
throng so countless as to have been summoned and controlled by the
deep arraigning eye of Dante alone. Unawares, he stood at the head
of an invisible host, which stretched backward through time till it
could be traced no farther. Witnesses all to that sublime,
indispensable part of man which is his Doubt--Doubt respecting his
origin, his meaning, his Maker, and his destiny. That perpetual
half-night of his planet-mind--that shadowed side of his orbit-
life--forever attracted and held in place by the force of Deity,
but destined never to receive its light. Yet from that chill, bleak
side what things have not reached round and caught the sun! And as
of the earth's plants, some grow best and are sweetest in darkness,
what strange blossoms of faith open and are fragrant in that
eternal umbra! Sacred, sacred Doubt of Man. His agony, his
searching! which has led him always onward from more ignorance to
less ignorance, from less truth to more truth; which is the
inspiration of his mind, the sorrow of his heart; which has spoken
everywhere in his science, philosophy, literature, art--in his
religion itself; which keeps him humble not vain, changing not
immutable, charitable not bigoted; which attempts to solve the
universe and knows that it does not solve it, but ever seeks to
trace law, to clarify reason, and so to find whatever truth it can.

As David sat before his professors and his pastor, it was one of
the moments that sum up civilization.

Across the room, behind them also, what a throng! Over on that side
was Faith, that radiant part of the soul which directly basks in
the light of God, the sun. There, visible to the eye of
imagination, were those of all times, places, and races, who have
sat in judgment on doubters, actual or suspected. In whatsoever
else differing, united in this: that they have always held
themselves to be divinely appointed agents of the Judge of all the
earth: His creatures chosen to punish His creatures. And so behind
those professors, away back in history, were ranged Catholic popes
and Protestant archbishops, and kings and queens, Protestant and
Catholic, and great mediaeval jurists, and mailed knights and palm-
bearing soldiers of the cross, and holy inquisitors drowning poor
old bewildered women, tearing living flesh from flesh as paper,
crushing bones like glass, burning the shrieking human body to
cinders: this in the name of a Christ whose Gospel was mercy, and
by the authority of a God whose law was love. They were all there,
tier after tier, row above row, a vast shadowy colosseum of intent
judicial faces--Defenders of the Faith.

But no inquisitor was in this room now, nor punitive intention, nor
unkind thought. Slowly throughout the emerging life of man this
identical trial has gained steadily in charity and mildness.
Looking backward over his long pathway through bordering mysteries,
man himself has been brought to see, time and again, that what was
his doubt was his ignorance; what was his faith was his error; that
things rejected have become believed, and that things believed have
become rejected; that both his doubt and his faith are the
temporary condition of his knowledge, which is ever growing; and
that rend him faith and doubt ever will, but destroy him, never.

No Smithfield fire, then, no Jesuitical rack, no cup of hemlock, no
thumb-screw, no torture of any kind for David. Still, here was a
duty to be done, an awful responsibility to be discharged in sorrow
and with prayer; and grave good

The Reign of Law; a tale of the Kentucky hemp fields by James Lane Allen - Project Gutenberg
 
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