John Wesley, Jr. - The Story of an Experiment
by Dan B. Brummitt
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


The Story of an Experiment











After years of waiting for time and place and person, the Rev. Walter Drury, an average Methodist preacher, was ready to begin his Experiment.

The process of getting adjusted to its conditions was ended. He believed that, if he had health and nothing happened to his mind, he might count on at least eight years more at First Church, Delafield—a ten-year pastorate is nothing wonderful in to-day's Methodism. The right preacher makes his own time limit.

He would not think himself too good for Delafield, but neither did he rate himself too low. He just felt that he was reasonably secure against promotion, and that he need not be afraid of "demotion." There are such men. They are a boon to bishops.

The unforeseen was to be reckoned with, of course, the possible shattering of all his plans by some unimagined misfortune. But the man who waits until he is secure against the unknown never discovers anything, not even himself.

Walter Drury had at last found his man, or, rather, his boy, here in Delafield. It was necessary to the Experiment that its subject should be a decent young fellow, not particularly keen on formal religion, but well set-up in body and mind; clean, straight, and able to use the brains he had when need arose.

John Wesley, Jr., was such a boy.

Would the result be worth what he was putting into the venture? That would depend on one's standards. The church doesn't doubt that the more than twice ten years' experiment of Helms in the south end of Boston has been worth the price. And Helms has for company a few pioneers in other fields who will tell you they have drawn good pay, in the outcomes of their patience.

Still, Walter Drury was a new sort of specialist. The thing he had in mind to do had been almost tried a thousand times; a thousand times it had been begun. But so far as he knew no one preacher had thought to focus every possible influence on a single life through a full cycle of change. He meant his work to be intensive: not in degree only, but in duration.

At the end of ten years! If, then, he had not shown, in results beyond question, the direction of the church's next great advance, at least he would have had the measureless joy of the effort. No seeming failure could rob him of his reward.

Now, do not image this preacher as a dreaming scattergood; he would do as much as any man should, that is to say, his utmost, in his pulpit and his parish. The Experiment should be no robbing of collective Peter to pay individual Paul.

But every man has his avocation, his recreation, you know—golf, roses, coins, first editions, travel. Walter Drury, being a confirmed bachelor, missed both the joys and the demands of home life. No recluse, but, rather, a companionable man, he cared little for what most people call amusement, but he cared tremendously for the human scene in which he lived and worked. He would be happy in the Experiment for its sheer human fascinations. That it held a deeper interest, that if it succeeded it would reveal an untapped reservoir of resources available for the church and the kingdom of God, did but make him the more eager to be at it in hard earnest.

The church to whose work he had joyfully given himself from his youth had grown to be a mighty and a highly complex machine. Some thought it was more machinery than life, more organization than organism. But Walter Drury knew better. It was a wonderful machine, wheels within wheels, but there was within the wheels the living spirit of the prophet's vision.

Partly because the church was so vast and its work of such infinite variety, very few of its members knew what it did, or how, or why. It was all over the land, and in the ends of the earth, for people joined it; and they lived their lives in the cheerful and congenial circle of its fellowship. But the planetary sweep of its program and its enterprises was to most of them not even as a tale that is told. They were content to be busy with their own affairs, and had small curiosity to know what meanings and mysteries might be discovered out in places they had never explored, even though just 'round the corner from the week-by-week activities of the familiar home congregation.

Walter Drury, at the end of one reasonably successful pastorate, had stood bewildered and baffled as he looked back over his five years of effort against this persistent and amiable passivity. It was not a deliberate sin, or he might have denounced it; nor a temporary numbness, or he might have waited for it to disappear. All the more it dismayed him.

At the beginning of his ministry he had set this goal before him, that every soul under his care might see as he saw, and see with him more clearly year by year, the church's great work; its true and total business. He had not failed, as the Annual Conference reckons failure. But he knew he had been less than successful. The people of his successive appointments were receptive people as church folk go. Then who was to blame, that sermons and books and Advocates and pictures and high officials and frequent great assemblies, always accomplishing something, always left behind them the untouched, unmoved majority of the people called Methodists?

It was all this and more of the same sort, which at last took shape in Drury's thought and fixed the manner and matter of the Experiment. This boy he had found, with a name that might be either prophecy or mockery, he would study like a book. He would brood over his life. Mind you, he would take no advantage, use no influence unfairly. He would neither dictate nor drive. He would not trespass even so far as to the outer edges of the boy's free personality. For the most part he would stay in the background. But he would watch the boy, as for lesser outcomes Darwin watched the creatures of wood and field. Without revealing all his purpose he would set before this boy good and evil; the lesser good and the greater. He would use for high and holy ends the method which the tempter never tires of using for confusion. He would show this boy the kingdoms of the children of God, and the glories of them, and would promise them to him, not for a moment's shame but for a life's devotion.

As to the particular form in which the result of the Experiment might appear he cared little. He had a certain curiosity on the subject naturally, but he knew well enough that the Experiment would be useless if he laid interfering hands on its inner processes. That would be like trimming a whitethorn tree in a formal garden, to make it resemble a pyramid. He was not making a thorn pyramid in an Italian garden; he wanted an oak, to grow by the common road of all men's life. And oaks must grow oak-fashion, or not at all.

* * * * *

Four years of the ten had passed. That part of the history of John Wesley, Jr., which is told in the following pages, is the story of the other six years.



"If anybody expects me to stay away from Institute this year, he has got a surprise coming, that's all."

The meeting was just breaking up, after a speech whose closing words had been a shade less tactful than the occasion called for. But the last two sentences of that speech made all the difference in the world to John Wesley, Jr.

The Epworth League of First Church, Delafield, was giving one of its fairly frequent socials. The program had gone at top speed for more than an hour. All that noise could do, re-enforced by that peculiar emanation by youth termed "pep," had been drawn upon to glorify a certain forthcoming event with whose name everybody seemed to be familiar, for all called it simply "the Institute."

Pennants, posters, and photographs supplied a sort of pictorial noise, the better to advertise this evidently remarkable event, which, one might gather, was a yearly affair held during the summer vacation at the seat of Cartwright College.

The yells and songs, the cheers and games and reminiscences, re-enforced the noisy decorations. At the last, in one of those intense moments of quiet which young people can produce as by magic, came a neat little speech whose purpose was highly praiseworthy. But, to John Wesley, Jr., it ended on the wrong note. Another listener took mental exception to it, though his anxiety proved to be groundless.

It was a recruiting speech, directed at anybody and everybody who had not yet decided to attend the Institute.

The speaker was, if anything, a trifle more cautious than canny when he came to his "in conclusion," and his zeal touched the words with anti-climax.

"Of course," he said, "since ten, or at most twelve, is our quota, we are not quite free to encourage the attendance of everybody, particularly of our younger members. They have hardly reached the age where the Institute could be a benefit to them, and their natural inclination to make the week a period of good times and mere pleasure would seriously interfere with the interests of others more mature and serious minded."

Now, the pastor of the church, the Rev. Walter Drury, would have put that differently, he said to himself. If it produced any bad effects it would need to be corrected, certainly.

Just then, amid the inevitable applause, and the dismissal of the brief formal assembly for the social half-hour, something snapped inside of John Wesley, Jr., and it was the feeling of it which prompted him to say, "If anybody expects me to stay away from Institute this year, he has got a surprise coming, that's all."

You see, John Wesley, Jr., had just been graduated from high school, and his family expected him to go to college in the fall, though he faced that expectation without much enthusiasm. He felt his new freedom. He addressed his rebellious remark to the League president, Marcia Dayne, a sensible girl whom he had known as long as he had known anybody in the church.

"Last year everybody said I was too young. They all talked the way he did just now. But they can't say I am too young now," and with that easy skill which is one of the secrets of youth, he managed to contemplate himself, serenely conscious that he was personable and "right."

The girl turned to him with a gesture of surprise.

"But I thought your father had agreed to let you take that trip to Chicago you have been saving up for. Will he let you go to the Institute too?"

"Chicago can wait," said John Wesley, Jr., grandly. "Dad did say I could go to Chicago to see my cousins, or I could go anywhere else that I wanted. Well, I am going to the Institute. It's my money, and, besides, I am tired of being told I am too young. A fellow's got to grow up some time."

"That's all right," said Marcia, "but what's your special interest in the Institute? Do you truly want to go? How do you know what an Institute is like?"

Her voice carried further than Marcia thought, and a man who seemed a little too mature to be one of the young people, turned toward her. He was smiling, and any time these four years the town would have told you there wasn't a friendlier smile inside the city limits. He was in business dress, and suggested anything but the parson in his bearing, but through and through he looked the good minister that he was.

Marcia moved toward him with an unspoken appeal. She wanted help. He was waiting for that signal, for he depended a good deal on Marcia. And he was still worried about that unlucky speech.

"Well, Marcia, are you telling J.W. what the Institute really is?" he asked.

"No, Mr. Drury, I'm not. I'm too much surprised at finding that he's about decided to go. You're just in time to tell him for me. I want him to get it right, and straight."

"Well," the pastor responded, "I'm glad of that. If he's really going, he'll find out that definitions are not descriptions. Now, our Saint Sheridan used to say that an Institute was a combination of college, circus, and camp meeting. I would venture a different putting of it. An Institute is a bit of young democracy in action. Its people play together, for play's sake and for finding their honest human level. They study together, to become decently intelligent about some of the real business of the kingdom of God, and how the church proposes to transact that business. They wait for new vision together, the Institute being a good time and a good place for seeing life clear and seeing it whole."

"Yes," said Marcia, "that's exactly it, only I never could have found quite the right words. Do you think J.W. will find it too poky and preachy?"

"Tell him to try it and see, as you did last year," said Pastor Drury.

"I'll risk that," said John Wesley, Jr., in his newly resolute mood.

He knew when to stop, this preacher. Particularly concerned as he was about John Wesley, Jr., he saw that this was one of the many times when that young man would need to work things out for himself. Marcia would give what help might be called for at the moment. The boy was turning toward the Institute; so far so good.

To-night was nearly four years from the beginning of his interest in this young fellow with the Methodist name. He was a special friend of the family, though no more so than of every family in the town which gave him the slightest encouragement. To a degree which no one suspected he shared this family's secret hopes for its son and heir; and he cherished hopes which even the Farwells could not suspect. Unless he was much mistaken he had found the subject for his Experiment.

That mention of the Farwells needs to be explained. Of course "John Wesley, Jr.," was only part of the boy's name. In full he was John Wesley Farwell, Jr., son of John Wesley Farwell, Sr., of the J.W. Farwell Hardware Co. As a little fellow he had no chance to escape "Junior," since he was named for his father. There were many Jacks and Johns and Johnnies about. His mother, good Methodist that she was, secretly enjoyed calling him "John Wesley, Jr.," and before long the neighbors and the neighborhood children followed her example.

A little later he might have been teased out of it, but at the impossible age when boys discover that queer names and red hair and cross-eyes make convenient excuses for mutual torture, it happened that he had attained to the leadership of his gang. For some reason he took pride in his two Methodist names, and made short work of those who ventured to take liberties with them. In all other respects he played without reserve boyhood's immemorial game of give and take; but as to his name or any part thereof he would tolerate no foolishness and no back talk. When he reached the high school period, however, most of his intimates rarely called him by his full name, having, like all high school people, no time for long names, though possessed of infinite leisure for long dreams. Straightway they shortened his name to "J.W.," which to this day is all that his friends find necessary.

Very well, then; this is J.W. at eighteen; a young fellow worth knowing. Take a look at him; impulsive, generous, not what you would call handsome, but possessed of a genial eye and a ready tongue, a stubby nose and a few scattered freckles. A fair student, he is yet far from bookishness, and he makes friends easily.

Of late he has been paying furtive but detailed attention to his hair and his neckties and the hang of his clothes, though still in small danger of being mistaken for a tailor's model.

With such a name you will understand that he's a Methodist by first intention; born so. He is a pretty sturdy young Christian, showing it in a boy's modest but direct fashion, which even his teammates of the high-school football squad found it no trouble to tolerate, because they knew him for a human, healthy boy, and not a morbid, self-inspecting religious prig. Pastor Drury, you may be sure, had taken note of all that, for he and J.W. had been fast friends since the day he had received the boy into the church.

The morning after the Institute social J.W. announced at breakfast his sudden change of plan.

"If you don't mind, Dad, I've about decided to go to the Institute instead of Chicago. There is a bunch of us going, and Mr. Drury will be there. Uncle Henry's folks might not want to be bothered with me now, and anyway I don't know them very well. But I can go to the Institute with the church crowd; and there will be tennis and swimming and plenty of other fun besides the big program." Which was quite a speech for J. W.

John Wesley, Sr., didn't know much about the Institute, but he had an endless regard for his pastor, and the mother was characteristically willing to postpone her boy's introduction to the unknown and, in her thought, therefore, the menacing city.

So, after the brief but unhurried devotions at the breakfast table, which had come to serve in place of the old-time family prayers, parental approval was forthcoming. And thus it befell that J.W. selected for himself a future whose every experience was to be affected by so slight a matter as his impulsive choice of a week's holiday. That choice expressed to him the new freedom of his years, for he had not even been conscious of the quiet influence which had made it easier than he knew to decide as he had done.

* * * * *

It was a mixed and lively company that found itself crowded around the registrar's table at the Institute one Monday evening in July, with J. W. and his own particular chum, Martin Luther Shenk, better known as "Marty," right in the middle of it.

J.W. wondered where so many Epworthians could have come from. Did they really hanker after the Institute, or had they come for reasons as trivial as his own? He put the question to Martin Luther Shenk.

"Marty, do you reckon these are all here for real Epworth League work, or does the Institute want anybody and everybody?"

Marty had been scouting a little, and he answered: "No, to both questions, I should say. Some have come just to be coming, and others seem to be here for business. But I saw Joe Carbrook just now, and if he is an Epworth Leaguer I am the Prince of Puget Sound. You know how he stands at home. Wonder what he came for."

Just then Joe Carbrook himself came up. He was from Delafield too, member of the same League chapter as the two chums, but he had rarely condescended to league affairs. Having had two rather variegated years at college, he felt he must show his sophistication by holding himself above some of those simple old observances.

"S'pose you are here for solemn and serious work, you two," he remarked mockingly, as he saw the boys. "I just met Marcia Dayne, and she told me you were registering. Well, I'm here too—drove up in my car—but you don't catch me tying myself down to all that study stuff. I'm looking for fun, not work."

"Nothing new for you in that, Joe," said Marty. "But I should think you might try the study stuff, if only for a change, after you have spent good money on gas and tires. And you have to pay for your meals, you know."

"Well, I studied hard enough last month in college cramming for the final exams, so I could get within gunshot of enough sophomore credits, and I'm through; with study for a while. If I find a few live ones in this crowd, I guess we can enjoy ourselves without interfering with any of you grinds, if you must study," and Joe Carbrook went off in search of his live ones.

J.W. and Marty were in no hurry to register. The crowd milling around in the office was interesting, and J.W. was still wondering how many of them, himself included, would get enough Institute long before the week was over. Besides, it was yet an hour before supper.

"Think of it, Marty. All these people come from Epworth Leagues just like ours, from Springfield, and Wolf Prairie and Madison and all over this part of the State. What for, I'd like to know? Will you look at those pennants? Wish we had brought one or two of ours; we could add to the display, anyway."

"I have two in my suitcase," said Marty. "We'll have them out this evening at the introduction meeting. And maybe you'll find out 'what for' by that time."

The introduction meeting in the chapel after supper was for the most part informal. Yells and songs and the waving of pennants punctuated the proceedings, as is quite the proper thing in an Epworth League gathering. Some people, who see only what is on the surface, cannot wholly understand the exuberance of an Epworth League crowd. But it has roots in something very real.

The dean of the Institute managed, amid the roystering and the intervals of attention, to set things up for the week. A few regulations would need to be laid down; and these would be fixed, not by the faculty or by the dean, but by the Student Council. Would each district group please get together at once, and select some one to represent the group on this council?

This request being obeyed amid considerable confusion, with Marcia Dayne appointed from the Fort Adams District, and the council excused to draft the basic laws for the week, the faculty was introduced, one by one.

Each teacher was given the opportunity to describe his or her course, so that out of the eight or nine courses offered every delegate might select two besides the two which were required of all students, and so qualify for an Institute diploma.

J.W. found himself enjoying all this hugely. It appealed to his growing sense of freedom from schoolboy restraint. If he did go to any of the classes, it appeared that he could pick the ones he liked. Up to now he had entertained no thought of any serious work, but the faculty talks about these courses made him think there might be worse ways of spending the week than qualifying for an Institute diploma. The whole thing seemed to be so easy and so friendly. Of course he could see that the study would not be much, even if he signed up for it, being just for a week, but it might not be bad fun.

Morning Watch was an experience to J.W. He was surprised to find himself staying awake in a before-breakfast religious meeting, and was even more surprised to be enjoying it. Something about this big crowd of young people stirred all his pulses, and the religion they heard about and talked about seemed to J.W. something very real and desirable. He thought of himself as a Christian, but he wondered if his Christian life might not become more confident and productive. In this atmosphere one almost felt that anything was possible.

Meal times turned out to be times of orderly disorder. J.W. and his friends were at a table with other groups from the Fort Adams District, and he quickly mastered the raucous roar which served the District for a yell. Before the end of the second day his alert good nature made him cheer leader, and thereafter he rarely had time to eat all that was set before him, though possessed of a boy's healthy appetite. It was simply that the other possibilities of the hour seemed more alluring than mere food.

From the first day of the class work J.W. found himself keen for all that was going on. There was variety enough so that he felt no weariness, and the range of new interests opened up each day kept him at constant and pleasurable attention. Without knowing just how, he was catching the Institute spirit.

He walked away from the dining hall one noon with his pastor-friend, and he talked. He had to talk to somebody, and Walter Drury contrived to know of his need.

"Why, Mr. Drury," he said, eagerly, "I'm just finding out how little I know about the church and real Christian work. I thought I was something of an average Methodist boy, but if the people at home are no better than I am, I can see how being a preacher to such a bunch is a man's job."

"Correct, J.W." said the minister. "I find that out many a time, to my humbling. But honestly, now, are you learning things you never knew before?"

"Ye-es, I am," J.W. answered, "and then, again, I'm not. It seems to me as if I had always known a lot of what we are getting in these classes, though there is plenty of new stuff too. But until now I didn't get much out of what I knew. I've always liked to hear you, but you're different. As for most of the things I've heard, I just thought of it as religious talk, church stuff, you know. It didn't seem to matter, but here it is beginning to matter in all sorts of ways, and I can see that it matters to me."

"How, for instance?"

Well, take the class in home missions; Americanization, they call it. Maybe you noticed that the first thing the teacher did was to divide the class right down the middle, and tell those on the left hand—yes, I'm one of the goats—that for the rest of the week they were to consider themselves aliens. The others were to play native-born Americans. And so the study started, but believe me, we aliens have already begun to make it interesting for those natives. Some of 'em want to come over on our side already, but they can't. A few of us have found some immigration dope in the college library, and it is pretty strong. We'll show up those Pilgrim Fathers before the week is out. They think they have done everything an alien could ask when they let him into the country, and then they work him twelve hours a day, seven days a week, or else let him hunt the country over for any sort of a job. They rob him by making him pay higher prices than other people for all he has to buy. They force him to live in places not fit for rats, and on top of everything else they call him names, so that their kids stick up their noses at his children in the school grounds. After all that they expect he'll become a good citizen just by hearing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at the movies and watching the flag go by when there's a parade.

"Say, Mr. Drury, it makes me sick, and, if I feel that way just to be pretending I'm a 'Wop' for a week, how do you suppose the real aliens feel? Excuse me for talking like this, but honestly, something like that is going on in all these classes; I wish we could take up such things in the League at home." And he forced an embarrassed little laugh.

Pastor Drury laughed too, and said of course they could, as he linked arms with J.W., and they passed on down the road. The preacher talked but little, contriving merely to drop a question now and then; and J.W. talked on, half-ashamed to be so "gabby," as he put it, and yet moved by an impulse as pleasant as it was novel.

"And foreign missions, Mr. Drury. You won't be offended, I hope, but somehow as far back as I can remember I have always connected foreign missions with collections and 'Greenland's Icy Mountains' and little naked Hottentots, and something—I don't know just what—about the River Ganges. But here—why, that China class just makes me want to see China for myself and find out how much of the advantages of American life over Chinese has come on account of religion."

"Well, why not, J.W.? Maybe you will go to China some day, and have a hand in it all," suggested the pastor, to try him out.

The boy shook his head.

"No, I don't think so. I am certainly getting a new line on foreign missions, but I don't think there's missionary stuff in me. I'll have to go at the proposition some other way."

Then Pastor Drury set him going on another subject.

"What do you think of the young folks who are here?" he asked.

"Well, at first I thought they were all away ahead of our bunch at home, and some of them are; but you soon find out that the majority is pretty much of the same sort as ours. I think I've spotted a few slackers, but mighty few. Most of the crowd seems to be all right, and I've already made some real friends. But do you know which one of them all is the most interesting fellow I've met?"

The pastor thought he did, but he merely asked, "Who?"

"Why, that Greek boy, Phil Khamis. He is from Salonika, you know. He knows the old country like a book, and he's going back some day, maybe to be some kind of missionary to his people, in the very places where the apostle Paul preached. Honest, I never knew until he told me that his Salonika is the town of those Christians to whom Paul wrote two of his letters; those to the Thessalonians—'Thessalonika,' you know. Well, you ought to hear Phil talk. He came over here seven years ago, and learned the English language from the preacher at Westvale."

"Yes, I have heard about him," said Mr. Drury. "They say he lived in the parsonage and paid the preacher for his English lessons by giving him a new understanding of the Greek New Testament. Not many of us have found out yet how to get such pay for being decent to our friends from the other side."

"Well, he is a thoroughbred, anyway; and do you notice how he is right up in front when there is anything doing? The only way you can tell he isn't American born is that he is so anxious to help out on all the unpleasant work. When I look at Phil it makes me boil to think of fellows like him being called 'Wop.'"

By this time the two had swung back into the campus, and J.W. found himself drafted to hold down second base in the Faculty-Student ball game. But that is a story for others to tell.

On the steps of the library Marcia Dayne and some other girls were holding an informal reception. Joe Carbrook, with one or two of his friends, was finding it agreeable to assume a superior air concerning the Institute. The impression the boys gave was that their coming to the Institute at all had been a great concession, but that they were under no illusions about the place.

"All this is all right," Joe was saying, "for those who need it, but what's the good of it all to us? For instance, what do you get out of it, Marcia?"

"What do you think I want to get out of it? If you cared for the young people's work at home, I should think you could see how 'all this,' as you call it, would help you to do better work and more of it at Delafield."

"As you ought to know pretty well, Marcia," Joe replied, "back home they think I don't care much for the young people's work. It is a little too prim and ready-to-wear for me, if you'll excuse me for saying so. No fun in it at all, though I'll admit some of the classes here have more life in them than I looked for."

One of the other girls, who knew him well enough to speak with large frankness, came to the defense of them all, saying: "Well, Joe, I don't see that you get very far with what you call fun. It's mostly at the expense of other people, including your father, who pays the bills. Besides, since you came home from college this spring, you seem to have run out of nearly all the bright ideas you started with. I wonder if it ever strikes you that being a sport, as you call it, is mostly being a nuisance to everybody? Some of us long ago got over thinking you clever and original. You must be getting over it yourself, by now, surely."

"Many thanks, dear lady, for them kind words," Joe responded, as he bowed low in mock acknowledgment; "you make yourself quite plain, Miss Alma Wetherell." He flung back the insult jauntily, as he and his companions moved on, but at least one of the group suspected that the words had struck home.

You who know the General Secretary could easily forgive J.W. his delight in the class of which the program said the subject was "Methods." This is the only hour in an Institute which the Epworth League takes for its own work. Rightly enough, it is a crowded hour, with the whole Institute present, and usually it is an hour of unflagging interest.

J.W. and Marty were enjoying their first Institute too much to be late at any classes. They were merely a little earlier at this class; to miss any of it would be a distinct loss.

Now, what the General Secretary talked about was no more than the everyday work of the League—how it meant the young people of the church and their work for and with young people for the sake of the future. But he had a way with him. He said the League was a great scheme of self, with the "ish" left off. In the League one practiced self-help, and enjoyed the twin luxuries of self-direction and self-expression, and came sooner or later to that strange new knowledge which is self-discovery. He explained how Epworthians as such could live on twenty-four hours a day, the plan being an ingenious and yet simple financial arrangement for keeping the League work moving, both where you are and where you aren't, even around the world. He had innumerable stories of the devotional meeting idea, the Win-My-Chum idea, the stewardship idea, the Institute idea, the life service idea, the recreation idea, the study-class idea, and every other League idea so far invented.

But all this is merely a hint of what the General Secretary meant to the Institute, and particularly to the delegates from Delafield. Even Joe Carbrook had been impressed. He heard the General Secretary the morning after that little exchange of compliments on the library steps, and for an hour thereafter let himself enjoy the rare luxury of thinking. The results were somewhat disconcerting.

"It's funny," said Marty, as the four of them, the other three being Joe, Marcia, and J.W., sat under a tree in the afternoon, "but I believe that man could make even trigonometry interesting. I thought I'd heard all that could be said about the devotional meeting; but did you get that scheme for leaders he sprung this morning? Watch me when we get back home, that's all."

"You needn't suppose you are the only one who got it," said Marcia. "Everybody was trying to watch the General Secretary and to take notes at the same time, and I don't believe you are any quicker at that than the rest of us. Of course all of us will use as many of his ideas as we can remember, when we get home again."

Joe Carbrook, with a new seriousness which sat awkwardly on him, confessed that he could not understand just what was happening. It was evident that he was ill at ease; Marcia had noticed it every time she had seen him since that encounter with Alma Wetherell.

"I guess you folks know I am not easily caught; but I'm ready to admit that man has hold of something. Yes, and I'm half convinced that this Institute has hold of something. I wish I knew what it is. If I could really believe that all I hear and see at this place is part of being young and part of being a Christian, I might be thinking before long about getting into the game myself. The trouble is you three and the other Leaguers I've watched at home are just you three and the others, and that's all. I know, and you know, what you can do. You'll take all these ideas of League work and use them, maybe; but what I can't see is how you will pick up the Big Idea of this place and get back home without losing it."

"We can't," said Marcia, "not without all sorts of help, visible and invisible. You, for instance; if you would really get into the game, as you say, nobody could guess how much it would mean to our League. And it might mean more to you."

"Marcia's right about that," said J.W. "The Big Idea of this place, that you speak of, is a lot too big for us to take home alone. Maybe you'll think I'm preaching, but I don't care, if I say that for God to handle alone, it is not big enough. He makes the stars, and gives us his Son, without any help from us. Nobody else can do that. But he won't make our League at home a success without us; and all of us together can't do it without Him. I'm not saying I know how to do it, even then, but that's the way it looks to me. Why, Joe," he said with sudden intensity as he faced Joe Carbrook, "if you ever get hold of the Big Idea, and the Big Idea gets hold of you, something is sure to happen, something bigger than any of us can figure out now. I know you have it in you."

All four showed a surprised self-consciousness over J.W.'s unexpected venture into these rather deeper conversational waters than usual, and there was more surprise when Joe Carbrook began to talk about himself.

He laughed to hide a touch of embarrassment, but with little mirth; and then he said, "Well, J.W., that's not all foolishness, though I don't see why you should pick on me. Why not Marty? Of course, I came here for fun, and I have had some, though not just the sort I expected. And I've had several jolts too. I might as well admit that if I could just only see how you hitch all of this League and church business to real life, I would be for it with all I've got. The trouble is, while I've never been especially proud of my own record, neither have I seen much excuse yet for what you 'active members' have been busy with. I have been playing my way, and you have been playing yours; but it all seems mostly play to me. All the same, I guess I am getting tired of my kind." If Joe could ever have spoken wistfully, you might have suspected him of it just then.

Clearly, thought Marcia Dayne, in the silence that followed, something big was already happening. But how to help it on she could not tell; so, with a desperate effort to do the right thing, she contrived to turn the subject It seemed to her it had become too difficult to go further just now without peril to Joe's strange new interest, as well as to a very new and tremulous little hope that had begun to sing in her own heart.

The shift of the talk was a true Institute change, and would have been most disconcerting to anyone unfamiliar with the ways of young Christians; but Marcia was sure that what had been said would not be forgotten, and she knew there would be another time.

It was this that made her say, "I wish you boys would suggest what sort of stunt our district should give on stunt night; you know the time is getting short."

"That's a fact," exclaimed Marty, sitting up. "Stunt night is to-morrow, and our delegation has to fix up the stunt for the Fort Adams District. Let's get to work on something. We've been mooning long enough."

For though Marty never thought as quickly as Marcia, he too felt some instinct of fear lest by an unfortunate word they should break the spell of Joe Carbrook's interest in the "Big Idea," and promptly the four were deep in a study of stunts.

To the uninitiated, stunt night at the Institute is without rime or reason, but not to those in charge who are looking ahead to Sunday. They know that the converging and cumulative psychic forces which the Institute invariably produces must be tempered, along about midway of the week, by some sharp contrast in the communal life. Otherwise, the group, like over-trained athletes, will grow emotionally stale before the week is done, and at the end of that is let-down and flatness. Hence "stunt night."

In the early Institute years it was easy, as in some places it still is, for stunt night to be no more than clowning, witless and cheap; but there is a distinct tendency to exercise the imagination in producing more self-respecting efforts.

Cartwright, happily, is one of the forward-looking Institutes, and stunt night, crowded with most excellent fooling, produced two or three creditable and thought-provoking performances. One of them deserves remembering for its own sake. Besides, it is a part of this story.

The home missions class furnished the inspiration for it, and called it "Scum o' the Earth," an impromptu immigration pageant. A boy who had memorized Schauffler's poem stood off stage and recited it, while group after group of "immigrants" in the motley of the steerage passed slowly through the improvised Ellis Island sifting process. It was all make-believe, of course, all but one tense moment. Then Phil Khamis stepped on the platform, incarnating in his own proper person the poet's apostrophised Greek boy:

"Stay, are we doing you wrong, Young fellow from Socrates' land? You, like a Hermes so lissome and strong, Fresh from the master Praxiteles' hand? So you're of Spartan birth? Descended, perhaps, from one of the band— Deathless in story and song— Who combed their long hair at Thermopylae's pass? Ah, I forget the straits, alas! More tragic than theirs, more compassion-worth, That have doomed you to march in our 'immigrant class' Where you're nothing but 'scum o' the earth!'"

The audience was caught unaware. It had been vastly interested in the spectacle, as a spectacle, the more because the unusual Americanization class which produced it had attracted general attention. But, Phil Khamis, everybody's friend, standing there, an immigrant of the immigrants, smiling his wistful friendly smile, was a picture as dramatic as it was unexpected. First there were ejaculations of astonishment and surprise. Then came the moment of understanding, and a shining-eyed stillness fell on all. Then, what a shout! J.W. led off, the unashamed tears falling from his brimming eyes.

On Saturday morning J.W. was sitting beside Phil Khamis at Morning Watch. The leader had asked for answers to the question "Why did I come to the Institute?" getting several responses of the conventional sort. Suddenly Phil nudged J.W. and whispered, "Shall I tell why I came?" and J.W. with the memory of stunt night's thrill not yet dulled, said promptly, "Sure, go ahead."

When Phil got up an attentive silence fell upon them all. The Greek boy had made many friends, as much by his engaging frankness and anxiety to learn as by his perpetual eagerness to have a hand in every bit of hard work that turned up. Since the stunt night incident he was everybody's favorite.

"Friends," he said, in his rather careful, precise way, "I am here for a different reason than any. When I was in America but a little time a Methodist preacher made himself my friend. I could not speak English, only a few words. He took me to his home. He taught me to talk the American way. He find me other friends, though I could do nothing at all for them to pay them back. Now I am Christian—real, not only baptized. The young people of the church take me in to whatever they do. They call me 'Phil' and never care that I am a foreigner, so when I heard about this Institute I say to myself, 'It is something strange to me, but I hear that many people like those in my church will be there.' I cannot quite believe that, but it sounded good, and I wanted to come and see. And now I know that many people are young people like those I first knew. They treat me just the same. It makes me love America much more; and if I could tell my people in the old country that all this good has come to me from the church, they could not believe it. Still, it is true. Everything I have to-day has come to me by goodness of Christian people."

There were some half-embarrassed "Amens," and more than one hitherto unsuspected cold required considerable attention. All the way to breakfast Phil held embarrassed court, while his hand was shaken and his shoulder was thumped and he was told, solo and chorus, by all who could get near him, that "He's all right!"—"Who's all right?" "Phil Khamis!"

But J.W. was walking slowly toward the dining hall, alone. As he had listened to Phil, at first he thought, "Good old scout, he's putting it over," but by the time the Greek's simple words were ended, J.W. was looking himself straight in the eye. "Young fellow," he was saying, "you have come mighty near feeling glad that you have had so many more advantages than this stranger, and yet can't you see that what he says about himself is almost as true about you? All you have to-day—this Institute, your religion, your church, your friends, the kind of a home you have and are so proud of—everything has come to you by what Phil calls the goodness of Christian people."

And then it was breakfast time, with an imperative call on J.W. from the Fort Adams table for "that new yell we fixed up last night," and the minutes in which he had talked with himself were for the time forgotten. But the memory of them came back in the days after the Institute was itself a memory.

* * * * *

The Saturday night camp fire at this Institute, contrary to the usual custom, was not co-ed. The boys went down to the lake shore and sat around a big fire on the sand. The girls had their fire on the slope of a hill at the other edge of the campus.

Nor does this Institute care for too much praise of itself. Its traditional spirit is to work more for outcomes than for the devices which produce complacency. It stages only a few opportunities of telling "Why I like this Institute."

So, at the camp fires a man talked to the boys and a woman to the girls, not about the Institute, but about life. These speakers knew the strange effect an Institute week has on impressionable and romantic youth; they knew that by this time scores of the students were either saying to themselves, "I've got to do something big before this thing's over," or were vainly trying to put the conviction away.

The woman who talked to the girls happened to be a preacher's wife. This gave her a certain advantage when she told the listening girls that the greatest of all occupations for them was not some special vocation, but what Ida Tarbell has called "the business of being a woman." It was good preparation for the next day's program, with its specific and glamorous appeal, for it put first the great claim, so that special vocations could be seen in clear air and could be fairly measured.

Pastor Drury, who talked to the boys, was talking to them all, as J.W. very well knew, but every word seemed for him; as, indeed, it was, in a sense that he did not suspect. He was not surprised that his pastor should present the Christian life as effectively livable by bricklayers and business men as surely as by missionaries. He had heard that before. But to J.W. the old message had a new setting, a new force. And never before had he been so ready to receive it.

The songs had sung themselves out, as the fire changed from roaring flame and flying sparks to a great bed of living coals. From the world's beginning a glowing hearth has been perfect focus for straight thought and plain speech. The boys found it so this night.

The minister began so simply that it seemed almost as if his voice were only the musings of many, just become audible. "I know," said he, "that to-morrow some of you will find yourselves, and will eagerly offer your lives for religious callings. We shall all be proud of you and glad to see it. But most of you cannot do that. You are already sure that you must be content to live 'ordinary Christian lives,' It is possible that to-morrow you may feel a little out of the picture. And those who are hearing a special call might regard you, quite unconsciously, of course, as not exactly on their level."

"Now, suppose we get this thing straight to-night. There is no great nor small, no high nor low, in real service. The differences are only in the forms of work you do. The quality may be just as fine in one place as in another. The boy who goes into the ministry, or who becomes a medical missionary, will have peculiar chances for usefulness. So also will the boy who goes into business or farming or teaching, or any other so-called secular occupation. Just because he is not called to religious work as a daily business he dare not think that he has no call. God's calling is not for the few, but for the many. And just now the man who puts his whole soul into being an out-and-out Christian in his daily business and in his personal life as a responsible citizen must have the genuine missionary spirit. He must live like a prophet, that is, a messenger from God. He must know the Christian meaning of all that happens in the world. And he must stand for the whole Christian program. Otherwise, not all the ministers and missionaries in the world can save our civilization. It is your chance of a great career. You who will make up the rank and file of the Christian army in the next twenty-five years—do you know what you are? You are the hope of the world!"

As the group broke up in the dim light of the dying embers, J.W. stumbled into Joe Carbrook, and the two headed for the tents together. They had been on a much more friendly footing since Thursday.

"Say, J.W.," said Joe, abruptly, "what's the matter with me? I came to this place without knowing just why; thought I'd just have a good time, I suppose; but here I am being bumped up against something new and big every little while, until I wonder if it's the same world that I was living in before I came. Do you suppose anybody else feels that way? Is it the place? Or the people? Or what?"

"I don't just know," said J.W., trying to keep from showing his surprise. "I feel a good deal that way myself. I think it's maybe that this is the first time we've ever been forced to look squarely at some of the things that seem so natural here. At home it's easy to dodge. You know that, only you've dodged one way and I've done it another."

"But do you feel different, the way I do, J.W.? Do you feel like saying to yourself: 'Looka here, Joe Carbrook, quit being a fool. See what you could do if you settled down to getting ready for something real. Like being a doctor, now.' Do you feel that way? You don't know it, but I've always thought I could be a doctor, if I could see anything in it. And then the other side of me speaks up and says: 'Joe Carbrook, don't kid yourself. You know you haven't got the nerve to try, even if you had the grit to stick it through.' Is it that way with you, J.W.? You've paid more attention to religion and all that than I ever did. And what you said on Thursday about the 'Big Idea' has kept me guessing ever since."

"No, Joe, my trouble's not like yours. I know I can't be a doctor, nor a preacher, nor a missionary. I've got nothing of that in me. But what we heard to-night at the camp fire came straight at me. As I tried to say the other day, if you get the 'Big Idea' of the Institute, Christian service looks like a great life. But me—I've no hope to be anything particular; just one of the crowd. And I never quite saw until to-night how that might be a great life too."

As they were parting, J.W. ventured a bold suggestion. "Say, Joe, if you think you could be a doctor, why not a missionary doctor?"

Joe's answer was a swift turning on his heel, and he strode away with never a word.

"Probably made him mad," thought J.W. "I wonder why I said it. Joe's the last boy in the world to have any such notion. But—well, something's already begun to happen to him, that's sure—and to me too."

On Sunday the little world of the Institute assumed a new and no less attractive aspect. Everybody was dressed for Sunday, as at home. Classes were over; and games also; the dining room became for the first time a place of comparative quiet, with now and then the singing of a great old hymn, just to voice the Institute consciousness.

The Morning Watch talk had been a little more direct, a little more tense. And before the Bishop's sermon came the love feast. Now, the Methodists of the older generation made much of their love feasts, but in these days, except at the Annual Conference, an occasional Institute is almost the only place where it flourishes with something of the ancient fervor.

Many changes have come to Methodism since the great days of the love feast; changes of custom and thought and speech. But your ardent young Methodist of any period, Chaplain McCabe, Peter Cartwright, Jesse Lee, Captain Webb, would have understood and gloried in this Institute love feast. It spoke their speech.

Our group from Delafield will never forget it.

Nearly all of them spoke; Marcia Dayne first because she was usually expected to lead in everything of the sort, then Marty, then J.W., and, last of all and most astounding, Joe Carbrook.

Marty looked the soldier, and he put his confession into military terms. He spoke about his Captain and waiting for orders, and a new understanding of obedience.

Before J.W. got his chance to speak, the leader read a night letter from an Institute far away, conveying the greetings of six hundred young people to their fellow Epworthians.

J.W. could not bring himself to speak in terms of personal experience. He was still under the spell of last night's camp fire, and his brief encounter with Joe Carbrook, but without quite knowing what could possibly come of all that. And the telegram gave him an excuse to speak in another vein. You must remember that up to now he had been wholly local in his League interests. He had gone to no conventions, he was not a reader of The Epworth Herald, and to him the Central Office was as though it had not been.

"I wonder if anybody else feels as I do," he said, "about this League of ours? Until this last week I never thought much about it. But we've just heard that telegram from an Institute bigger than this, a thousand miles off. And there's fifty-five or sixty Institutes going on this year, besides the winter Institutes, the conventions, and all the other gatherings. We seem to belong to a movement that enrolls almost a million young people, with all sorts of chances to learn how it can do all sorts of Christian work by actually doing it. This isn't the only thing I've found out here, but it makes me want to see the whole League become as good as it is big. I don't want to be dazzled by the size of it, because I know how many other members are just as little use as I've been. Only when I get home I hope I'm going to be a different sort of an Epworthian, and I can't help wishing that we all felt that way about being more good in the League. We can make it a hundred times more useful to the church and to our Master."

Many others spoke like that, some of them because they could find nothing more intimate to say, some here and there those who, like J.W., could not quite trust themselves yet to talk of their deeper personal experiences.

And then Joe Carbrook arose. He spoke easily, as Joe always did, but it was a new Joe Carbrook, and only the Delafield delegation understood how amazing was the change.

"This Institute has made me all sorts of trouble," he said. "I had nothing else to do, and without caring anything about it, except to get some new fun out of it, I came along, intending to stir up some of you if I could, and I knew I could. But I've seen what a fool I was. Every day I've seen that a little more distinctly. And last night, just as I was leaving one of the boys after the camp fire he said something about what I might do with my life. I don't know how seriously he meant it. Maybe he doesn't, either. I went off without answering him. There wasn't any answer, except that I knew I wasn't fit even to think about it. And then, thank God, I met a man who understood what was wrong with me. He's our pastor. I haven't been anything but trouble to him at home, but that made no difference to him. And he introduced me, down yonder by the lake, to a Friend I had never known before, some one infinitely understanding, infinitely forgiving. He showed me that before I could find what I ought to be I'd have to come to terms with that Friend. And I have. Whatever happens to me, whatever I may find to do, I want now and here for the first time in my life to confess Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord!"

The Bishop preached a great sermon, but it is doubtful whether the Delafield delegation rightly appreciated it. They were too much occupied with the incredible fact that Joe Carbrook had been converted, and had openly confessed it.

More was to come. The afternoon meeting, long established in the Institute world as the "Life Work Service," was in the hands of a few leaders who knew both its power and peril. An invitation would be given for all to declare their purpose who felt called to special Christian work. The difficulty was to encourage the most timid of those who, despite their timidity, felt sure of the inner voice, and yet prevent a stampede among those who, without any depth of desire, were in love with emotion, and would enjoy being conspicuous, if only for the brief moment of the service.

For once a woman made the address—a wise woman, let it be said, who made skillful and sure distinctions between the Christian life as a life and the work of the Christian Church as one way of living that life.

It would have been a successful afternoon in any case, but three incidents helped the speaker. When she asked those to declare themselves who had decided for definite Christian work, young people in all parts of the room arose, and one after another they spoke, for the most part simply and modestly, of their hope and purpose. And Joe Carbrook was among them!

He said very little, the nub of it being that he had always thought of being a doctor, but not until a chance remark made by John Wesley, Jr., last night had the idea appeared to him important. Just to make one more among the thousands of doctors in America was one thing, he said. It was quite another to think of being the only physician among a great, helpless population. But to be a missionary doctor a man had to be first a missionary. And how could he be a missionary if he were not a Christian? Well, as he had confessed at the love feast, that was settled last night, and as soon as it had been attended to be knew there was nothing else in the way. So he must work now toward being a medical missionary.

Joe's declaration stirred the whole assembly. And while the influence of it was still on them, J.W. saw Martin Luther Shenk, his classmate and doubly his chum since a memorable day of the preceding October, get up and quietly announce his purpose of becoming a minister. "And I hope," said Marty, "that I may find my lifework in some of the new home mission fields we have been learning about this week."

At that point the leader felt more than a little anxious. These two decisions, with all their restraint, had in them something infectious, and she feared lest some young people, not holding themselves perfectly in hand, might be moved to sentimental and unreflecting declaration.

If there had been any such danger, Marcia Dayne dispelled it. She was all aglow with a new joy of her own, whose secret none knew but herself, though one other had almost dared to hope he could guess.

"May I speak?" she asked. "I have no decision to make for myself. Last year I took the 'Whatever, whenever, wherever' pledge, and I intend to keep it, though I am not yet sure what it will mean. But I know a boy here who will not talk unless somebody asks him, and there's a reason why I think he should be asked. Please, mayn't we hear from John Wesley Farwell, Jr., about his kind of a call?"

J.W., taken unawares at the mention of his name, was still at a loss when the leader seconded Marcia's invitation; and the knowledge that he was expected to say something unusual did not make for self-control. But he understood Marcia's purpose, and tried to pull himself together.

"Miss Dayne is president of our home Chapter, and she had a lot to do with my coming to the Institute," he began. "She has heard me talk since I found out a little about the Institute, and I told her this morning something of what Joe Carbrook and I had discussed last night after the camp fire."

Well, to get to the point, I think she wants me to say, and I'm saying it to myself most of all, that for nearly all of us young people, Christian lifework must mean making an honest living, doing all we can to make our religion count at home, and then backing up with all we've got, by prayer and money and brains, all these others like Joe Carbrook and Marty Shenk, who are going into the hardest places to put up the biggest fight that's in them. We've just got to do it, or be quitters. As Phil Khamis said at Morning Watch yesterday, 'Everything we have has come to us by the goodness of Christian people.' We aren't willing to be the last links of that chain.

We don't want any special recognition, but I hope the Bishop and the General Secretary and the Dean and all the rest of the League leaders will know they can count on us just as we know they can count on these friends of ours who have just become life service volunteers.

Nobody knows what might have happened if some one had not spoken like that, but as the group of new volunteers stood about the platform at the close of the meeting, the other young people, instead of wandering off and feeling themselves of no significance, came crowding about them, to say to them, boy-and-girl fashion, something of what J.W.'s little speech had suggested. Out of some four hundred Epworthians enrolled in the Institute, about forty had made definite decisions; but certainly not less than two hundred more had also faced the future, and in some sort had made a new contract with themselves and with God.

The Institute ended there, except for a simple vesper service after the evening meal, and on Monday morning the whole company was homeward bound.

The Delafield delegation had separated. The larger group went home by train, but Joe Carbrook's insistence was not to be withstood, so J.W. and Marty, Marcia Dayne and Pastor Drury were Joe's passengers for the fifty-odd miles between Institute and home.

They sang, they cheered, they yelled the Institute yells. They lived over the crowded days of the week that had so swiftly passed. But most of all they deeply resolved that so far as they could help to do it while they were at home the League Chapter of Delafield should be made over into something of more use to the church to which it belonged.

It was Marty who put their purpose into the fewest words. "We, and the others who have been to the Institute, don't think we know every little League thing," said he, "and we don't think we are the whole League either. But every time anybody in our Chapter starts anything good, he's going to have more and better help than he ever had before."

Which thing came to pass, as may one day be recorded. The Rev. Walter Drury kept his own counsel, but he knew that more had happened than the putting of new life into the League. The Experiment had progressed safely through some most difficult stages.



Those words of Phil Khamis at Morning Watch kept popping into J.W.'s head in the days following the Institute—"Everything I have to-day has come to me by the goodness of Christian people."

"I know that must be true," he would say to himself, "but it's worth tracing back."

The preacher was coming over to supper one night, as he loved to do; and J.W. made up his mind to bring Phil's idea into the table talk. He was on even better terms with the preacher than he used to be.

J.W.'s mother hadn't said much about the Institute, though she had listened eagerly to all his talk of the crowded week, and she was vaguely ill at ease. She had hoped for something, she did not know just what, from the Institute, and she was not yet sure whether she ought to feel disappointed.

But she provided a fine supper, to which the menfolk paid the most practical and sincere of all compliments. And since nobody had anything else on for the evening, there was plenty of time for talk.

The mother had a moment aside with the minister, and there was a touch of anxiety in her question: "Do you think the Institute helped my boy?"

And the pastor had just time to whisper back, "It helped him much, but he gave even more help than he got You have reason to be proud of him. I am. He's growing."

It was not very definite, but it brought no small comfort to the mother's heart.

"This Institute idea seems to be everywhere," said J.W., Sr., to the pastor, "but how did it get started? I used to be in the Epworth League, but we had nothing like it then."

"That's not so very much of a story," said the pastor. "We have the Institute idea because we had to have it. And so the League gave it form and substance."

"Well," J.W., Jr., chimed in, "I think it's about time more people knew about it. I've wanted to ask you to explain it ever since we came back from the Institute."

The pastor nodded. "I know; but remember even you were not really interested until you had been at an Institute. Do you think our Institute just happened, J.W.?"

"I know it didn't," J.W. replied. "Somebody did a lot of planning and scheming."

"Yes," returned the pastor, "but did you notice that a large part of its work touched subjects familiar to you, the local League activities, for instance—the devotional meeting, and Mission Study, and stewardship, and the scope of the business meeting which not so long ago elected you to membership?"

"Yes, you're right, though I don't see anything remarkable in that. It was a League Institute, wasn't it?"

"Certainly. But still, if there had not been any local Chapter, there could have been no Institute, don't you see? What I mean is that the Institute came because your Chapter needed it, and you needed it; not because the Institute needed you. It's merely a matter of tracing things back."

J.W., Jr., thought of Phil's words. "Sure enough," he responded, "tracing things back makes a lot of difference. I've been going over what Phil Khamis said at the Morning Watch—you remember? How everything he has to-day has come to him by the goodness of Christian people. At first I thought that was no more than a description of his particular case, because I knew how true it was. But when you begin to trace things back, as you say, what's true about Phil is true about all of us—anyway, about me."

"How is that, son?" Mrs. Farwell asked gently.

"Well, I mean," J.W. smilingly answered her, though flushing a little too, "the Institute, that seemed to me something new and different, is really tied up to what you folks and the whole church have been doing for me as far back as I can remember."

And so they talked, parents and pastor and J.W., quite naturally and freely, of the long chain of interest which had linked his life to the church's life, back through all the years to his babyhood.

J.W. had been in the League only a year or two, but it seemed to him that he had been in the church always. And the memories of his boyhood which had the church for center, were intimately interwoven with all his other experiences.

As his father said, "I guess, pastor, if you tried to take out of J.W.'s young life all that the church has meant to him, it would puzzle a professor to explain whatever might be left."

J.W. had been born in the country, on a farm whose every tree and fence corner he still loved. His first recollections of the church as part of his life had to do with the Sunday morning drive to the little meetinghouse, which stood where the road to town skirted a low hill. It had horse-sheds on one side, stretching back to the rear of the church lot, and some sizeable elms and maples were grouped about its front and sides. It was a one-room structure, unless you counted the space curtained off for the primary class, as J.W. always did. For back of this curtain's protecting folds he had begun his career as a Sunday school pupil and had made his first friends. At that time even district school was yet a year ahead of him, with its wider democratic joys and griefs, and its larger freedom from parental oversight.

When J.W. was six, going on seven, the family moved to Delafield, though retaining ownership of the farm, and for years J.W. spent nearly every Saturday on the old place, in free and blissful association with the Shenk children, whose father was the tenant. It was here that he and Martin Luther Shenk, already introduced as "Marty," being of the same age, had sworn eternal friendship, a vow which as yet showed no sign whatever of the ravages of time. There were three other children, Ben and Alice and Jeannette. Now, Jeannette was only two years younger than J.W. and Marty, but through most of the years when J.W. was going every week to the farm, she was "only a girl," and far behind the two chums by all the exacting standards which to boys are more than law. But there came a time——

J.W., Sr., reveling in reminiscences before so patient a listener as the preacher, though it was an old story, rehearsed how he had served for years as superintendent of the country Sunday school, and how Mrs. Farwell was teacher of the Girls' Bible Class. Their home had always been Methodist headquarters, he said, as old-time Methodists usually say, and with truth.

When they moved to town the change brought no loss of church interest; the Farwells merely transferred it entire to Delafield First Church ("First" being more a title than a numeral, since there was no second).

But First Church had not a few progressive saints. They wanted the best that could be had, so J.W., Sr., Sunday school enthusiast that he was, found himself in a new place of opportunity. The Board of Sunday Schools at Chicago had been asked to help Delafield get itself in line with the best ideas and methods, and J.W., Sr., found the beginnings, at least, of Sunday school science in active operation. At first, like a true country man, he was a little inclined to counsels of caution, but in his country Sunday school work he had acquired such strong opinions about old fogies that he dreaded being thought one himself.

"And that's how it happened," he said with a laugh, "that I was soon reckoned among the progressives. In that first year I helped 'em win their fight for separate departments, and before long we had the makings of a real graded Sunday school. Don't you remember, mother, how proud you were when young J.W. there was graduated from the Primary into the Junior Department?"

All this was before Pastor Drury's time, of course, but he had gone through the same experiences in other pastorates, and needed not to have anything explained.

"How long have we had a teacher-training class in our Sunday school?" he asked.

That called out the story of the struggles to set up what many openly called a useless and foolish enterprise. The Sunday school was chronically short of teachers, and yet J.W., Sr., and the other reformers insisted on taking out of the regular classes the best teachers in the school, and a score of the most promising young people. This group went off by itself into a remote part of the church. It furnished no substitute teachers. It wasn't heard of at all. And loud were the complaints about its crippling the school.

"But, pastor, you should have seen the difference when the first dozen real teachers came out of that class; we were able to reorganize the whole school. Our John Wesley got a teacher he'll never forget. And, of course, we kept the training class going; it's never stopped since. The Board of Sunday Schools has given us the courses and helped us keep the class up to grade in its work, and you know what sort of teachers we have now."

The pastor did, and was properly thankful. In some of his other pastorates it had been otherwise, to his sorrow.

"Speaking of the Board of Sunday Schools," the elder Farwell resumed, for this was a hobby he missed no chance to ride, "it made all the difference with us in our work for a better Sunday school—gave us expert backing, you know. And I notice by its latest annual report—yes, I always get a copy, though J.W. thinks it dry reading—that it is helping Sunday schools by the thousand, not in this country only, but wherever in the world our church is at work. Of course you know how it starts Sunday schools, and how often they grow into churches. Well, it didn't quite do that here, but this church is a sight better and bigger because we began to take the Board's advice when we did. It was a good thing for our boy, and many another boy and girl, that the Board woke us up."

"It hasn't all been easy work, though," the minister suggested. "I remember that when I came I found there was a good deal of discontent over the Graded Lessons."

"Sure there was," said J.W., Sr. "We had all been brought up on the Uniform Lessons, and most of us thought they were just right. Besides, we rather enjoyed thinking of ourselves as keeping step with the whole Sunday school world—all over the wide earth everybody studying the same scripture on the same Sunday. And that was a big idea to get into the minds of Christians of every name everywhere."

"Yes, but, Dad," put in J.W., "what was the good of it if the lessons didn't fit everybody? Did people think that the kids in the primary and their mothers in ma's class ought to study the same lesson? or did they think they could fit the same lesson to everybody by the different notes they put into the Quarterlies?"

"Well, son," his father replied, "I reckon we thought both ways. And I'm not so sure yet that it can't be done. But if one thing more than another reconciled me to the Graded Lessons, it was that they made being a Sunday school teacher a good deal bigger job than it had ever been. It was harder work, because every lesson had to be studied by the teacher, and in a different way from what was thought good enough in the old days. And I'm for anything, Graded Lessons or whatever, that'll make people take Sunday school teaching more seriously."

Then Mrs. Farwell ventured to take up the story. It was about that time, in the very beginning of the Drury pastorate, that J.W. joined the church on probation; much to her surprise and humbling.

"I hadn't even thought of it," she said, "though I should have been the first one. He had been getting ready in the Junior League, as I very well knew, but one day, as you may remember"—Brother Drury did, for that day was the real beginning of this story—"you made an invitation at the end of a real simple sermon, and if J.W., Jr., didn't get right up from my side and walk straight to the front!"

After that there had been a probationers' class, with J.W. and perhaps twenty others meeting the pastor every week for straight religious teaching, so that at Easter, when they came up for membership, what with their Sunday school and Junior League training, and what with the pastor's more personal instruction, they were able to pass a pretty fair examination on the great Christian truths, and on the general scheme of the church's work.

"For a time mother was a trifle disappointed that J.W. hadn't waited for the big revival we had the next year," said J.W., Sr., "but I think she was glad afterward."

"Yes, I was," the mother said. "You see, I had been brought up to believe in revivals, and I do yet, but we had no such chance to get the right Christian start when we were little children, as J.W. has had, if you'll let his mother say so, and that made a revival a good deal more important to us when our church did get ready for one. But the other way is all right too. I'm mother enough to be glad J.W. hasn't known some of the experiences the boys of my time went through, and the girls as well. He's no worse a Christian for having been right in the church ever since I put him in short dresses, are you, son? And I will say that his father was always with me in holding to the promises we made when he was baptized. We've not done what we might, but we've never forgotten that those promises were made to be kept."

J.W. felt none of his old shrinking from such talk, especially since the Institute, and yet he had the healthy boy's reluctance to discuss himself in company. But this was interesting him, outside himself.

He turned to the pastor. "That's what I meant when I told you what Phil said. I'm all for the church, and church people and church ways; why shouldn't I be? I've never known anything else. I remember well the one thing I didn't like when it first came along; and that was the new sort of Christmas celebration Dad and the others planned when I was ten or eleven. You know what Christmas means to such kids, and I guess we were all selfish together, because we didn't use our heads. Well, the Sunday school proposed that instead of us all getting something we should all give something. It looked pretty cheap to us little fellows at first, and our teacher had all he could do to hold us in line. But let me tell you, every boy was for it when the time came. We found that we could have as much fun giving things away as we could grabbing things, and, anyway, nobody really cared for those mosquito net stockings filled with nuts and candy and one orange. It was only the idea of getting something for nothing. That first 'giving Christmas,' I remember, our class dressed up as delivery boys, and we came on the platform with enough groceries for a small truck load, that we had bought with our own money. The orphanage got 'em next day. And one class was dusty millers, carrying sacks of flour, and another put on a stunt of searching for Captain Kidd's treasure, and they found a keg of shining coins (new pennies, they were)—more than a thousand of 'em. Everything went to the orphanage, or the hospital; and then when the Board of Sunday Schools began to get us interested in other Sunday schools and in missions—I remember a scheme they call a 'Partnership Plan' that was great; I don't know what happened to it—I got right into the game every time."

"How do you happen to know so much about the Board of Sunday Schools, J.W.?" asked Mr. Drury.

"Oh, that's easy. You know how it is in our Sunday school: they don't make one or two of us young fellows serve as librarians and secretaries and such and miss all the class work: they have more help, and we all get into class for the lesson. Well, two years ago Dad told me you had nominated me for something at the annual Sunday school meeting. It was only a sort of assistant secretary's job, but very soon I began to catch on, and I've seen a lot of the letters and leaflets that come from the Board in Chicago. Well, let me tell you that Board of Sunday Schools is a whale of a machine. Why, it's the whole church at work to make better Sunday schools, and more of 'em. They have Sunday school workers in all sorts of wild places, and Sunday school missionaries in foreign lands. Yes, and last year I happened to meet one of their secretaries, at your house, you may remember. But you'd never think he was just a secretary, he was so keen and wide awake. He knew the Boy Scouts from A to Z, and that got me, 'cause I'm not so old that I've forgotten my scouting. And he knew baseball, and boys' books, and all that. Don't you think, Brother Drury, if more of the fellows knew what the real Sunday school work is they would take to it like colts to a bran mash?"

"They couldn't help it," said the pastor. "And you may have noticed that your father and the other people of our Sunday School Board are trying to get them to find out some of the things you have found out. For instance, you know what the two organized classes of high-school freshmen are doing, and the other organized classes. Seems to me their members are finding out that Sunday school is something big and fine."

"That they are," Mrs. Farwell agreed, "and you mustn't forget my wonderful class of young married women, and the men's class of nearly a hundred. I think our Sunday school has really begun to change the ideas of a lot of people. Just think how little trouble we have now with what Graded Lessons we have, and how happy all our teachers are because they have the helps they need for just the sort of pupils that are in their classes."

"That's so," said J.W., Sr. "I don't suppose even old Brother Barnacle, 'sot' as he is, would vote to go back to the times when the superintendent reviewed the lesson the same way the teachers taught it, from a printed list of questions. Seems as if I can hear Henry J. Locke yet—his farm joins ours down by the creek—when he conducted the reviewing at Deep Creek. He would hold his quarterly at arm's length to favor his eyes, and then look up from it to the school and shoot the question at everybody, 'And what did Peter do then, HEY?' He sure did come out strong on Peter; but I'll say this for him, that he never skipped a question from start to finish."

All three laughed a little over Henry J. Locke, and then the pastor said he mustn't stay much longer. But he did want to back up J.W.'s belief that what Phil Khamis had said was true of everybody—we are all debtors.

"Look at this young J.W. here, will you," he said to the father and mother, for once letting himself go, "with a name he's proud of, and a home life that many a Fifth Avenue and Lake Shore Drive family would be glad to pay a million for, if such goods were on sale in the stores. I'm going to tell him something he already knows. Young man," and there was a gleam in the pastor's eye that was not all to the credit of the work he was praising, "you owe a big debt to the Sunday school. I'm not jealous for the church, or for any other part of it, but by your own admission the Sunday school has had a lot to do with your education. Very well; remember it is a part of what Phil said, and what you are because of the Sunday school you have become by the goodness of Christian people. I don't think you'll forget it, seeing that you have two of that sort of people in your own home all the time."

And then, with a fine naturalness the little group knelt by the chairs, and two of the four, he who was pastor of the whole flock and he who with simple dignity was priest in his own household, gave thanks to God for the manifold goodness of Christian people, of which they were all partakers every day.

As he went home, Walter Drury thought of the long days that stretched out ahead before he could see the outcomes of the great Experiment, but this night had seen a good night's work done in the laboratory, and he was content.

One tale of the past had been much in J.W.'s thought that night, but nothing on earth could have induced him to talk about it, especially since the happenings at the Institute. Only one other person knew all of its inwardness, though the preacher guessed most of the secret pretty shrewdly, and everybody was familiar with its outcome.

It was the story of Marty Shenk's conversion.

These two had been David and Jonathan from their little boy days, no less friends because they were so unlike; Marty, a quiet, brooding, knowledge-hungry youngster, and J.W. matter-of-fact, taking things as they came and asking few questions, but always the leader in games and mischief; each the other's champion against all comers.

Marty's father, tenant-farmer on the Farwell farm, was steady enough and dependable, but never one to get ahead much. Before the Farwells moved to town he had rarely stayed on the same farm more than a year or two, but, as he said, "J.W. Farwell was different, and anybody who wanted to be decent could get along with him." So, for many Saturdays and vacations of boyhood years J.W. and Marty had roamed the countryside, and were letter-perfect in their boy-knowledge of the old farm.

Marty came in to high school from the farm, and often he stayed with J.W. over the weekend. His school work was uneven—ahead in mathematics, and the sciences, and something below the average in other studies. That, however, has no place in this story.

Of course he and J.W. were thick as thieves. Except when class work made temporary separations necessary, they lived the high-school life together. That meant also, for these two, the social life of the church, which occasionally paid special attention to the students.

So you might find them at Epworth League socials, Sunday school class doings, in the Sunday school orchestra—violin and b-flat cornet respectively—and, most significant of all in its effect on all the later years, they went through Win-My-Chum week together. The hand of the pastor was in that, too.

Marty was not a Christian. J.W. had been a church member for years, and early in his course he had faced and accepted all that being a Christian seemed to mean to a high-school boy.

There had been hard places to get over; some of the boys and girls were merciless in their unconscious tests of his religion. Some were openly scornful, and others sought by indirect and furtive means to break his influence in the school. For he had no small gift of leadership, and he cared a good deal that it should count for the decencies of high-school life. By senior year the sort of trouble that a Christian boy encounters in school was almost all ended, but it had been more through his dogged resistance to opposition than because of any special zest in Christian service.

And then came the announcement of Win-My-Chum week, with J.W. confronted by two stubborn facts. He had only one real chum, and that chum was not a Christian. Pastor Drury had let fall a remark, a month before the Week, to the effect that any Christian who had a chum could dodge Win-My-Chum week, but he couldn't dodge his chum. When the week was past, the chum would still be on hand.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse