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Title:      Elmer Gantry (1927)
Author:     Sinclair Lewis
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300851.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          May 2003
Date most recently updated: May 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Elmer Gantry (1927)
Author:     Sinclair Lewis





To H. L. MENCKEN with profound admiration




No character in this book is the portrait of any actual person.

S. L.




CHAPTER I


1


Elmer Gantry was drunk.  He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and
pugnaciously drunk.  He leaned against the bar of the Old Home
Sample Room, the most gilded and urbane saloon in Cato, Missouri,
and requested the bartender to join him in "The Good Old Summer
Time," the waltz of the day.

Blowing on a glass, polishing it and glancing at Elmer through its
flashing rotundity, the bartender remarked that he wasn't much of a
hand at this here singing business.  But he smiled.  No bartender
could have done other than smile on Elmer, so inspired and full of
gallantry and hell-raising was he, and so dominating was his beefy
grin.

"All right, old socks," agreed Elmer.  "Me and my room-mate'll show
you some singing as is singing!  Meet roommate.  Jim Lefferts.
Bes' roommate in world.  Wouldn't live with him if wasn't!  Bes'
quarterback in Milwest.  Meet roommate."

The bartender again met Mr. Lefferts, with protestations of
distinguished pleasure.

Elmer and Jim Lefferts retired to a table to nourish the long,
rich, chocolate strains suitable to drunken melody.  Actually, they
sang very well.  Jim had a resolute tenor, and as to Elmer Gantry,
even more than his bulk, his thick black hair, his venturesome
black eyes, you remembered that arousing barytone.  He was born to
be a senator.  He never said anything important, and he always said
it sonorously.  He could make "Good morning" seem profound as Kant,
welcoming as a brass band, and uplifting as a cathedral organ.  It
was a 'cello, his voice, and in the enchantment of it you did not
hear his slang, his boasting, his smut, and the dreadful violence
which (at this period) he performed on singulars and plurals.

Luxuriously as a wayfarer drinking cool beer they caressed the
phrases in linked sweetness long drawn out:


 Strolling through the shaaaaady lanes, with your baby-mine,
 You hold her hand and she holds yours, and that's a very good sign
 That she's your tootsey-wootsey in the good old summer time.


Elmer wept a little, and blubbered, "Lez go out and start a scrap.
You're lil squirt, Jim.  You get somebody to pick on you, and I'll
come along and knock his block off.  I'll show 'em!"  His voice
flared up.  He was furious at the wrong about to be suffered.  He
arched his paws with longing to grasp the non-existent scoundrel.
"By God, I'll knock the tar out of um!  Nobody can touch MY
roommate!  Know who I am?  Elmer Gantry!  Thash me!  I'll show um!"

The bartender was shuffling toward them, amiably ready for
homicide.

"Shut up, Hell-cat.  What you need is 'nother drink.  I'll get
'nother drink," soothed Jim, and Elmer slid into tears, weeping
over the ancient tragic sorrows of one whom he remembered as Jim
Lefferts.

Instantly, by some tricky sort of magic, there were two glasses in
front of him.  He tasted one, and murmured foolishly, "'Scuse me."
It was the chase, the water.  But they couldn't fool him!  The
whisky would certainly be in that other lil sawed-off glass.  And
it was.  He was right, as always.  With a smirk of self-admiration
he sucked in the raw Bourbon.  It tickled his throat and made him
feel powerful, and at peace with every one save that fellow--he
could not recall who, but it was some one whom he would shortly
chastise, and after that float into an Elysium of benevolence.

The barroom was deliriously calming.  The sour invigorating stench
of beer made him feel healthy.  The bar was one long shimmer of
beauty--glowing mahogany, exquisite marble rail, dazzling glasses,
curiously shaped bottles of unknown liqueurs, piled with a
craftiness which made him very happy.  The light was dim,
completely soothing, coming through fantastic windows such as are
found only in churches, saloons, jewelry shops, and other retreats
from reality.  On the brown plaster walls were sleek naked girls.

He turned from them.  He was empty now of desire for women.

"That damn' Juanita.  Jus' wants to get all she can out of you.
That's all," he grumbled.

But there was an interesting affair beside him.  A piece of
newspaper sprang up, apparently by itself, and slid along the
floor.  That was a very funny incident, and he laughed greatly.

He was conscious of a voice which he had been hearing for
centuries, echoing from a distant point of light and flashing
through ever-widening corridors of a dream.

"We'll get kicked out of here, Hell-cat.  Come on!"

He floated up.  It was exquisite.  His legs moved by themselves,
without effort.  They did a comic thing once--they got twisted and
the right leg leaped in front of the left when, so far as he could
make out, it should have been behind.  He laughed, and rested
against some one's arm, an arm with no body attached to it, which
had come out of the Ewigkeit to assist him.

Then unknown invisible blocks, miles of them, his head clearing,
and he made grave announcement to a Jim Lefferts who suddenly
seemed to be with him:

"I gotta lick that fellow."

"All right, all RIGHT.  You might as well go find a nice little
fight and get it out of your system!"

Elmer was astonished; he was grieved.  His mouth hung open and he
drooled with sorrow.  But still, he was to be allowed one charming
fight, and he revived as he staggered industriously in search of
it.

Oh, he exulted, it was a great party.  For the first time in weeks
he was relieved from the boredom of Terwillinger College.


2


Elmer Gantry, best known to classmates as Hell-cat, had, this
autumn of 1902, been football captain and led the best team
Terwillinger College had known in ten years.  They had won the
championship of the East-middle Kansas Conference, which consisted
of ten denominational colleges, all of them with buildings and
presidents and chapel services and yells and colors and a standard
of scholarship equal to the best high-schools.  But since the last
night of the football season, with the glorious bonfire in which
the young gentlemen had burned up nine tar barrels, the sign of the
Jew tailor, and the president's tabby-cat, Elmer had been tortured
by boredom.

He regarded basket-ball and gymnasium antics as light-minded for a
football gladiator.  When he had come to college, he had supposed
he would pick up learnings of cash-value to a lawyer or doctor or
insurance man--he had not known which he would become, and in his
senior year, aged twenty-two this November, he still was doubtful.
But this belief he found fallacious.  What good would it be in the
courtroom, or at the operating table, to understand trigonometry,
or to know (as last spring, up to the examination on European
History, he remembered having known) the date of Charlemagne?  How
much cash would it bring in to quote all that stuff--what the
dickens was it now?--all that rot about "The world is too much
around us, early and soon" from that old fool Wordsworth?

Punk, that's what it was.  Better be out in business.  But still,
if his mother claimed she was doing so well with her millinery
business and wanted him to be a college graduate, he'd stick by it.
Lot easier than pitching hay or carrying two-by-fours anyway.

Despite his invaluable voice, Elmer had not gone out for debating
because of the irritating library-grinding, nor had he taken to
prayer and moral eloquence in the Y.M.C.A., for with all the force
of his simple and valiant nature he detested piety and admired
drunkenness and profanity.

Once or twice in the class in Public Speaking, when he had repeated
the splendors of other great thinkers, Dan'l Webster and Henry Ward
Beecher and Chauncey M. Depew, he had known the intoxication of
holding an audience with his voice as with his closed hand, holding
it, shaking it, lifting it.  The debating set urged him to join
them, but they were rabbit-faced and spectacled young men, and he
viewed as obscene the notion of digging statistics about
immigration and the products of San Domingo out of dusty spotted
books in the dusty spotted library.

He kept from flunking only because Jim Lefferts drove him to his
books.

Jim was less bored by college.  He had a relish for the flavor of
scholarship.  He liked to know things about people dead these
thousand years, and he liked doing canned miracles in chemistry.
Elmer was astounded that so capable a drinker, a man so deft at
"handing a girl a swell spiel and getting her going" should find
entertainment in Roman chariots and the unenterprising amours of
sweet-peas.  But himself--no.  Not on your life.  He'd get out and
finish law school and never open another book--kid the juries along
and hire some old coot to do the briefs.

To keep him from absolutely breaking under the burden of hearing
the professors squeak, he did have the joy of loafing with Jim,
illegally smoking the while; he did have researches into the
lovability of co-eds and the baker's daughter; he did revere
becoming drunk and world-striding.  But he could not afford liquor
very often and the co-eds were mostly ugly and earnest.

It was lamentable to see this broad young man, who would have been
so happy in the prize-ring, the fish-market, or the stock exchange,
poking through the cobwebbed corridors of Terwillinger.


3


Terwillinger College, founded and preserved by the more zealous
Baptists, is on the outskirts of Gritzmacher Springs, Kansas.
(The springs have dried up and the Gritzmachers have gone to Los
Angeles, to sell bungalows and delicatessen.)  It huddles on the
prairie, which is storm-racked in winter, frying and dusty in
summer, lovely only in the grass-rustling spring or drowsy autumn.

You would not be likely to mistake Terwillinger College for an Old
Folks' Home, because on the campus is a large rock painted with
class numerals.

Most of the faculty are ex-ministers.

There is a men's dormitory, but Elmer Gantry and Jim Lefferts lived
together in the town, in a mansion once the pride of the
Gritzmachers themselves: a square brick bulk with a white cupola.
Their room was unchanged from the days of the original August
Gritzmacher; a room heavy with a vast bed of carved black walnut,
thick and perpetually dusty brocade curtains, and black walnut
chairs hung with scarves that dangled gilt balls.  The windows were
hard to open.  There was about the place the anxious propriety and
all the dead hopes of a second-hand furniture shop.

In this museum, Jim had a surprising and vigorous youthfulness.
There was a hint of future flabbiness in Elmer's bulk, but there
would never be anything flabby about Jim Lefferts.  He was slim,
six inches shorter than Elmer, but hard as ivory and as sleek.
Though he came from a prairie village, Jim had fastidiousness, a
natural elegance.  All the items of his wardrobe, the "ordinary
suit," distinctly glossy at the elbows, and the dark-brown "best
suit," were ready-made, with faltering buttons, and seams that
betrayed rough ends of thread, but on him they were graceful.  You
felt that he would belong to any set in the world which he
sufficiently admired.  There was a romantic flare to his upturned
overcoat collar; the darned bottoms of his trousers did not suggest
poverty but a careless and amused ease; and his thoroughly
commonplace ties hinted of clubs and regiments.

His thin face was resolute.  You saw only its youthful freshness
first, then behind the brightness a taut determination, and his
brown eyes were amiably scornful.

Jim Lefferts was Elmer's only friend; the only authentic friend he
had ever had.

Though Elmer was the athletic idol of the college, though his
occult passion, his heavy good looks, caused the college girls to
breathe quickly, though his manly laughter was as fetching as his
resonant speech, Elmer was never really liked.  He was supposed to
be the most popular man in college; every one believed that every
one else adored him; and none of them wanted to be with him.  They
were all a bit afraid, a bit uncomfortable, and more than a bit
resentful.

It was not merely that he was a shouter, a pounder on backs, an
overwhelming force, so that there was never any refuge of intimacy
with him.  It was because he was always demanding.  Except with his
widow mother, whom he vaguely worshiped, and with Jim Lefferts,
Elmer assumed that he was the center of the universe and that the
rest of the system was valuable only as it afforded him help and
pleasure.

He wanted everything.

His first year, as the only Freshman who was playing on the college
football team, as a large and smiling man who was expected to
become a favorite, he was elected president.  In that office, he
was not much beloved.  At class-meetings he cut speakers short,
gave the floor only to pretty girls and lads who toadied to him,
and roared in the midst of the weightiest debates, "Aw, come on,
cut out this chewing the rag and let's get down to business!"  He
collected the class-fund by demanding subscriptions as arbitrarily
as a Catholic priest assessing his parishoners for a new church.

"He'll never hold any office again, not if I can help it!" muttered
one Eddie Fislinger, who, though he was a meager and rusty-haired
youth with protruding teeth and an uneasy titter, had attained
power in the class by always being present at everything, and by
the piety and impressive intimacy of his prayers in the Y.M.C.A.

There was a custom that the manager of the Athletic Association
should not be a member of any team.  Elmer forced himself into the
managership in Junior year by threatening not to play football if
he were not elected.  He appointed Jim Lefferts chairman of the
ticket committee, and between them, by only the very slightest
doctoring of the books, they turned forty dollars to the best of
all possible uses.

At the beginning of Senior year, Elmer announced that he desired to
be president again.  To elect any one as class-president twice was
taboo.  The ardent Eddie Fislinger, now president of the Y.M.C.A.
and ready to bring his rare talents to the Baptist ministry,
asserted after an enjoyable private prayer-meeting in his room that
he was going to face Elmer and forbid him to run.

"Gwan!  You don't dare!" observed a Judas who three minutes before
had been wrestling with God under Eddie's coaching.

"I don't, eh?  Watch me!  Why, everybody hates him, the darn' hog!"
squeaked Eddie.

By scurrying behind trees he managed to come face to face with
Elmer on the campus.  He halted, and spoke of football,
quantitative chemistry, and the Arkansas spinster who taught
German.

Elmer grunted.

Desperately, his voice shrill with desire to change the world,
Eddie stammered:

"Say--say, Hell-cat, you hadn't ought to run for president again.
Nobody's ever president twice!"

"Somebody's going to be."

"Ah, gee, Elmer, don't run for it.  Ah, come on.  Course all the
fellows are crazy about you but--Nobody's ever been president
twice.  They'll vote against you."

"Let me catch 'em at it!"

"How can you stop it?  Honest, Elm--Hell-cat--I'm just speaking for
your own good.  The voting's secret.  You can't tell--"

"Huh!  The nominations ain't secret!  Now you go roll your hoop,
Fissy, and let all the yellow coyotes know that anybody that
nominates anybody except Uncle Hell-cat will catch it right where
the chicken caught the ax.  See?  And if they tell me they didn't
know about this, you'll get merry Hail Columbia for not telling
'em.  Get me?  If there's anything but an unanimous vote, you won't
do any praying the rest of this year!"

Eddie remembered how Elmer and Jim had shown a Freshman his place
in society by removing all his clothes and leaving him five miles
in the country.

Elmer was elected president of the senior class--unanimously.

He did not know that he was unpopular.  He reasoned that men who
seemed chilly to him were envious and afraid, and that gave him a
feeling of greatness.

Thus it happened that he had no friend save Jim Lefferts.

Only Jim had enough will to bully him into obedient admiration.
Elmer swallowed ideas whole; he was a maelstrom of prejudices; but
Jim accurately examined every notion that came to him.  Jim was
selfish enough, but it was with the selfishness of a man who thinks
and who is coldly unafraid of any destination to which his thoughts
may lead him.  The little man treated Elmer like a large damp dog,
and Elmer licked his shoes and followed.

He also knew that Jim, as quarter, was far more the soul of the
team than himself as tackle and captain.

A huge young man, Elmer Gantry; six foot one, thick, broad, big
handed; a large face, handsome as a Great Dane is handsome, and a
swirl of black hair, worn rather long.  His eyes were friendly, his
smile was friendly--oh, he was always friendly enough; he was
merely astonished when he found that you did not understand his
importance and did not want to hand over anything he might desire.
He was a barytone solo turned into portly flesh; he was a gladiator
laughing at the comic distortion of his wounded opponent.

He could not understand men who shrank from blood, who liked poetry
or roses, who did not casually endeavor to seduce every possibly
seducible girl.  In sonorous arguments with Jim he asserted that
"these fellows that study all the time are just letting on like
they're so doggone high and mighty, to show off to those doggone
profs that haven't got anything but lemonade in their veins."


4


Chief adornment of their room was the escritoire of the first
Gritzmacher, which held their library.  Elmer owned two volumes of
Conan Doyle, one of E. P. Roe, and a priceless copy of "Only a
Boy."  Jim had invested in an encyclopedia which explained any
known subject in ten lines, in a "Pickwick Papers," and from some
unknown source he had obtained a complete Swinburne, into which he
was never known to have looked.

But his pride was in the possession of Ingersoll's "Some Mistakes
of Moses," and Paine's "The Age of Reason."  For Jim Lefferts was
the college freethinker, the only man in Terwillinger who doubted
that Lot's wife had been changed into salt for once looking back at
the town where, among the young married set, she had had so good a
time; who doubted that Methuselah lived to nine hundred and sixty-
nine.

They whispered of Jim all through the pious dens of Terwillinger.
Elmer himself was frightened, for after giving minutes and minutes
to theological profundities Elmer had concluded that "there must be
something to all this religious guff if all these wise old birds
believe it, and some time a fellow had ought to settle down and cut
out the hell-raising."  Probably Jim would have been kicked out of
college by the ministerial professors if he had not had so reverent
a way of asking questions when they wrestled with his infidelity
that they let go of him in nervous confusion.

Even the President, the Rev. Dr. Willoughby Quarles, formerly
pastor of the Rock of Ages Baptist Church of Moline, Ill., than
whom no man had written more about the necessity of baptism by
immersion, in fact in every way a thoroughly than-whom figure--even
when Dr. Quarles tackled Jim and demanded, "Are you getting the
best out of our instruction, young man?  Do you believe with us not
only in the plenary inspiration of the Bible but also in its verbal
inspiration, and that it is the only divine rule of faith and
practise?" then Jim looked docile and said mildly:

"Oh, yes, Doctor.  There's just one or two little things that have
been worrying me, Doctor.  I've taken them to the Lord in prayer,
but he doesn't seem to help me much.  I'm sure you can.  Now why
did Joshua need to have the sun stand still?  Of course it
happened--it SAYS so right in Scripture.  But why did he need to,
when the Lord always helped those Jews, anyway, and when Joshua
could knock down big walls just by having his people yell and blow
trumpets?  And if devils cause a lot of the diseases, and they had
to cast 'em out, why is it that good Baptist doctors today don't go
on diagnosing devil-possession instead of T. B. and things like
that?  DO people have devils?"

"Young man, I will give you an infallible rule.  Never question the
ways of the Lord!"

"But why don't the doctors talk about having devils now?"

"I have no time for vain arguments that lead nowhere!  If you would
think a little less of your wonderful powers of reasoning, if you'd
go humbly to God in prayer and give him a chance, you'd understand
the true spiritual significances of all these things."

"But how about where Cain got his wife--"

Most respectfully Jim said it, but Dr. Quarles (he had a chin-
whisker and a boiled shirt) turned from him and snapped, "I have no
further time to give you, young man!  I've told you what to do.
Good morning!"

That evening Mrs. Quarles breathed, "Oh, Willoughby, did you 'tend
to that awful senior--that Lefferts--that's trying to spread doubt?
Did you fire him?"

"No," blossomed President Quarles.  "Certainly not.  There was no
need.  I showed him how to look for spiritual guidance and--Did
that freshman come and mow the lawn?  The idea of him wanting
fifteen cents an hour!"

Jim was hair-hung and breeze-shaken over the abyss of hell, and
apparently enjoying it very much indeed, while his wickedness
fascinated Elmer Gantry and terrified him.


5


That November day of 1902, November of their Senior year, was
greasy of sky, and slush blotted the wooden sidewalks of
Gritzmacher Springs.  There was nothing to do in town, and their
room was dizzying with the stench of the stove, first lighted now
since spring.

Jim was studying German, tilted back in an elegant position of
ease, with his legs cocked up on the desk tablet of the escritoire.
Elmer lay across the bed, ascertaining whether the blood would run
to his head if he lowered it over the side.  It did, always.

"Oh, God, let's get out and do something!" he groaned.

"Nothing to do, Useless," said Jim.

"Let's go over to Cato and see the girls and get drunk."

As Kansas was dry, by state prohibition, the nearest haven was at
Cato, Missouri, seventeen miles away.

Jim scratched his head with a corner of his book and approved:

"Well, that's a worthy idea.  Got any money?"

"On the twenty-eighth?  Where the hell would I get any money before
the first?"

"Hell-cat, you've got one of the deepest intellects I know.  You'll
be a knock-out at the law.  Aside from neither of us having any
money, and me with a Dutch quiz tomorrow, it's a great project."

"Oh, well--" sighed ponderous Elmer, feebly as a sick kitten, and
lay revolving the tremendous inquiry.

It was Jim who saved them from the lard-like weariness into which
they were slipping.  He had gone back to his book, but he placed
it, precisely and evenly, on the desk, and rose.

"I would like to see Nellie," he sighed.  "Oh, man, I could give
her a good time!  Little Devil!  Damn these co-eds here.  The few
that'll let you love 'em up, they hang around trying to catch you
on the campus and make you propose to 'em."

"Oh, gee!  And I got to see Juanita," groaned Elmer.  "Hey, cut out
talking about 'em will you!  I've got a palpitating heart right
now, just thinking about Juanny!"

"Hell-cat!  I've got it.  Go and borrow ten off this new instructor
in chemistry and physics.  I've got a dollar sixty-four left, and
that'll make it."

"But I don't know him."

"Sure, you poor fish.  That's why I suggested him!  Do the check-
failed-to-come.  I'll get another hour of this Dutch while you're
stealing the ten from him--"

"Now," lugubriously, "you oughtn't to talk like that!"

"If you're as good a thief as I think you are, we'll catch the
five-sixteen to Cato."

They were on the five-sixteen for Cato.

The train consisted of a day coach, a combined smoker and baggage
car, and a rusty old engine and tender.  The train swayed so on the
rough tracks as it bumped through the dropping light that Elmer and
Jim were thrown against each other and gripped the arm of their
seat.  The car staggered like a freighter in a gale.  And tall raw
farmers, perpetually shuffling forward for a drink at the water-
cooler, stumbled against them or seized Jim's shoulder to steady
themselves.

To every surface of the old smoking-car, to streaked windows and
rusty ironwork and mud-smeared cocoanut matting, clung a sickening
bitterness of cheap tobacco fumes, and whenever they touched the
red plush of the seat, dust whisked up and the prints of their
hands remained on the plush.  The car was jammed.  Passengers came
to sit on the arm of their seat to shout at friends across the
aisle.

But Elmer and Jim were unconscious of filth and smell and crowding.
They sat silent, nervously intent, panting a little, their lips
open, their eyes veiled, as they thought of Juanita and Nellie.

The two girls, Juanita Klauzel and Nellie Benton, were by no means
professional daughters of joy.  Juanita was cashier of the Cato
Lunch--Quick Eats; Nellie was assistant to a dressmaker.  They were
good girls but excitable, and they found a little extra money
useful for red slippers and nut-center chocolates.

"Juanita--what a lil darling--she understands a fellow's troubles,"
said Elmer, as they balanced down the slushy steps at the grimy
stone station of Cato.

When Elmer, as a Freshman just arrived from the pool-halls and
frame high school of Paris, Kansas, had begun to learn the decorum
of amour, he had been a boisterous lout who looked shamefaced in
the presence of gay ladies, who blundered against tables, who
shouted and desired to let the world know how valiantly vicious he
was being.  He was still rather noisy and proud of wickedness when
he was in a state of liquor, but in three and a quarter years of
college he had learned how to approach girls.  He was confident, he
was easy, he was almost quiet; he could look them in the eye with
fondness and amusement.

Juanita and Nellie lived with Nellie's widow aunt--she was a moral
lady, but she knew how to keep out of the way--in three rooms over
a corner grocery.  They had just returned from work when Elmer and
Jim stamped up the rickety outside wooden steps.  Juanita was
lounging on a divan which even a noble Oriental red and yellow
cover (displaying a bearded Wazir, three dancing ladies in chiffon
trousers, a narghile, and a mosque slightly larger than the
narghile) could never cause to look like anything except a
disguised bed.  She was curled up, pinching her ankle with one
tired and nervous hand, and reading a stimulating chapter of Laura
Jean Libbey.  Her shirt-waist was open at the throat, and down her
slim stocking was a grievous run.  She was so un-Juanita-like--an
ash-blonde, pale and lovely, with an ill-restrained passion in her
blue eyes.

Nellie, a buxom jolly child, dark as a Jewess, was wearing a frowsy
dressing-gown.  She was making coffee and narrating her grievances
against her employer, the pious dressmaker, while Juanita paid no
attention whatever.  The young men crept into the room without
knocking.  "You devils--sneaking in like this, and us not dressed!"
yelped Nellie.

Jim sidled up to her, dragged her plump hand away from the handle
of the granite-ware coffee-pot, and giggled, "But aren't you glad
to see us?"

"I don't know whether I AM or not!  Now you quit!  You behave, will
you?"

Rarely did Elmer seem more deft than Jim Lefferts.  But now he was
feeling his command over women--certain sorts of women.  Silent,
yearning at Juanita, commanding her with hot eyes, he sank on the
temporarily Oriental couch, touched her pale hand with his broad
finger-tips, and murmured, "Why you poor kid, you look so tired!"

"I am and--You hadn't ought to come here this afternoon.  Nell's
aunt threw a conniption fit the last time you were here."

"Hurray for aunty!  But YOU'RE glad to see me?"

She would not answer.

"Aren't you?"

Bold eyes on hers that turned uneasily away, looked back, and
sought the safety of the blank wall.

"Aren't you?"

She would not answer.

"Juanita!  And I've longed for you something fierce, ever since I
saw you!"  His fingers touched her throat, but softly.  "Aren't you
a LITTLE glad?"

As she turned her head, for a second she looked at him with
embarrassed confession.  She sharply whispered, "No--don't!" as he
caught her hand, but she moved nearer to him, leaned against his
shoulder.

"You're so big and strong," she sighed.

"But, golly, you don't know how I need you!  The president, old
Quarles--quarrels is right, by golly, ha, ha, ha!--'member I was
telling you about him?--he's laying for me because he thinks it was
me and Jim that let the bats loose in chapel.  And I get so sick of
that gosh-awful Weekly Bible Study--all about these holy old
gazebos.  And then I think about you, and gosh, if you were just
sitting on the other side of the stove from me in my room there,
with your cute lil red slippers cocked up on the nickel rail--gee,
how happy I'd be!  You don't think I'm just a bonehead, do you?"

Jim and Nellie were at the stage now of nudging each other and
bawling, "Hey, quit, will yuh!" as they stood over the coffee.

"Say, you girls change your shirts and come on out and we'll blow
you to dinner, and maybe we'll dance a little," proclaimed Jim.

"We can't," said Nellie.  "Aunty's sore as a pup because we was up
late at a dance night before last.  We got to stay home, and you
boys got to beat it before she comes in."

"Aw, come ON!"

"No, we CAN'T!"

"Yuh, fat chance you girls staying home and knitting!  You got some
fellows coming in and you want to get rid of us, that's what's the
trouble."

"It is not, Mr. James Lefferts, and it wouldn't be any of your
business if it was!"

While Jim and Nellie squabbled, Elmer slipped his hand about
Juanita's shoulder, slowly pressed her against him.  He believed
with terrible conviction that she was beautiful, that she was
glorious, that she was life.  There was heaven in the softness of
her curving shoulder, and her pale flesh was living silk.

"Come on in the other room," he pleaded.

"Oh--no--not now."

He gripped her arm.

"Well--don't come in for a minute," she fluttered.  Aloud, to the
others, "I'm going to do my hair.  Looks just TER-ble!"

She slipped into the room beyond.  A certain mature self-reliance
dropped from Elmer's face, and he was like a round-faced big baby,
somewhat frightened.  With efforts to appear careless, he fumbled
about the room and dusted a pink and gilt vase with his large
crumpled handkerchief.  He was near the inner door.

He peeped at Jim and Nellie.  They were holding hands, while the
coffee-pot was cheerfully boiling over.  Elmer's heart thumped.  He
slipped through the door and closed it, whimpering, as in terror:

"Oh--Juanita--"


6


They were gone, Elmer and Jim, before the return of Nellie's aunt.
As they were not entertaining the girls, they dined on pork chops,
coffee, and apple pie at the Maginnis Lunch.

It has already been narrated that afterward, in the Old Home Sample
Room, Elmer became philosophical and misogynistic as he reflected
that Juanita was unworthy of his generous attention; it has been
admitted that he became drunk and pugnacious.

As he wavered through the sidewalk slush, on Jim's arm, as his head
cleared, his rage increased against the bully who was about to be
encouraged to insult his goo' frien' and roommate.  His shoulders
straightened, his fists clenched, and he began to look for the
scoundrel among the evening crowd of mechanics and coal-miners.

They came to the chief corner of the town.  A little way down the
street, beside the red brick wall of the Congress Hotel, some one
was talking from the elevation of a box, surrounded by a jeering
gang.

"What they picking on that fella that's talking for?  They better
let him alone!" rejoiced Elmer, throwing off Jim's restraining
hand, dashing down the side street and into the crowd.  He was in
that most blissful condition to which a powerful young man can
attain--unrighteous violence in a righteous cause.  He pushed
through the audience, jabbed his elbow into the belly of a small
weak man, and guffawed at the cluck of distress.  Then he came to a
halt, unhappy and doubting.

The heckled speaker was his chief detestation, Eddie Fislinger,
president of the Terwillinger College Y.M.C.A., that rusty-haired
gopher who had obscenely opposed his election as president.

With two other seniors who were also in training for the Baptist
ministry, Eddie had come over to Cato to save a few souls.  At
least, if they saved no souls (and they never had saved any, in
seventeen street meetings) they would have handy training for their
future jobs.

Eddie was a rasping and insistent speaker who got results by
hanging to a subject and worrying it, but he had no great boldness,
and now he was obviously afraid of his chief heckler, a large,
blond, pompadoured young baker, who bulked in front of Eddie's
rostrum and asked questions.  While Elmer stood listening, the
baker demanded:

"What makes you think you know all about religion?"

"I don't pretend to know all about religion, my friend, but I do
know what a powerful influence it is for clean and noble living,
and if you'll only be fair now, my friend, and give me a chance to
tell these other gentlemen what my experience of answers to prayer
has been--"

"Yuh, swell lot of experience you've had, by your looks!"

"See here, there are others who may want to hear--"

Though Elmer detested Eddie's sappiness, though he might have liked
to share drinks with the lively young baker-heckler, there was no
really good unctuous violence to be had except by turning champion
of religion.  The packed crowd excited him, and the pressure of
rough bodies, the smell of wet overcoats, the rumble of mob voices.
It was like a football line-up.

"Here, you!" he roared at the baker.  "Let the fellow speak!  Give
him a chance.  Whyn't you pick on somebody your own size, you big
stiff!"

At his elbow, Jim Lefferts begged, "Let's get out of this, Hell-
cat.  Good Lord!  You ain't going to help a gospel-peddler!"

Elmer pushed him away and thrust his chest out toward the baker,
who was cackling, "Heh!  I suppose you're a Christer, too!"

"I would be, if I was worthy!"  Elmer fully believed it, for that
delightful moment.  "These boys are classmates of mine, and they're
going to have a chance to speak!"

Eddie Fislinger bleated to his mates, "Oh, fellows, Elm Gantry!
Saved!"

Even this alarming interpretation of his motives could not keep
Elmer now from the holy zeal of fighting.  He thrust aside the one
aged man who stood between him and the baker--bashing in the aged
one's derby and making him telescope like a turtle's neck--and
stood with his fist working like a connecting-rod by his side.

"If you're looking for trouble--" the baker suggested, clumsily
wobbling his huge bleached fists.

"Not me," observed Elmer and struck, once, very judiciously, just
at the point of the jaw.

The baker shook like a skyscraper in an earthquake and caved to the
earth.

One of the baker's pals roared, "Come on, we'll kill them guys
and--"

Elmer caught him on the left ear.  It was a very cold ear, and the
pal staggered, extremely sick.  Elmer looked pleased.  But he did
not feel pleased.  He was almost sober, and he realized that half a
dozen rejoicing young workmen were about to rush him.  Though he
had an excellent opinion of himself, he had seen too much football,
as played by denominational colleges with the Christian 
accompaniments of kneeing and gouging, to imagine that he could
beat half a dozen workmen at once.

It is doubtful whether he would ever have been led to further
association with the Lord and Eddie Fislinger had not Providence
intervened in its characteristically mysterious way.  The foremost
of the attackers was just reaching for Elmer when the mob shouted,
"Look out!  The cops!"

The police force of Cato, all three of them, were wedging into the
crowd.  They were lanky, mustached men with cold eyes.

"What's all this row about?" demanded the chief.

He was looking at Elmer, who was three inches taller than any one
else in the assembly.

"Some of these fellows tried to stop a peaceable religious
assembly--why, they tried to rough-house the Reverend here--and I
was protecting him," Elmer said.

"That's right, Chief.  Reg'lar outrage," complained Jim.

"That's true, Chief," whistled Eddie Fislinger from his box.

"Well, you fellows cut it out now.  What the hell!  Ought to be
ashamed yourselves, bullyragging a Reverend!  Go ahead, Reverend!"

The baker had come to, and had been lifted to his feet.  His
expression indicated that he had been wronged and that he wanted to
do something about it, if he could only find out what had happened.
His eyes were wild, his hair was a muddy chaos, and his flat floury
cheek was cut.  He was too dizzy to realize that the chief of
police was before him, and his fumbling mind stuck to the belief
that he was destroying all religion.

"Yah, so you're one of them wishy-washy preachers, too!" he
screamed at Elmer--just as one of the lanky policemen reached out
an arm of incredible length and nipped him.

The attention of the crowd warmed Elmer, and he expanded in it,
rubbed his mental hands in its blaze.

"Maybe I ain't a preacher!  Maybe I'm not even a good Christian!"
he cried.  "Maybe I've done a whole lot of things I hadn't ought to
of done.  But let me tell you, I respect religion--"

"Oh, amen, praise the Lord, brother," from Eddie Fislinger.

"--and I don't propose to let anybody interfere with it.  What else
have we got except religion to give us hope--"

"Praise the Lord, oh, bless his name!"

"--of EVER leading decent lives, tell me that, will you, just tell
me that!"

Elmer was addressing the chief of police, who admitted:

"Yuh, I guess that's right.  Well now, we'll let the meeting go on,
and if any more of you fellows interrupt--"  This completed the
chief's present ideas on religion and mob-violence.  He looked
sternly at everybody within reach, and stalked through the crowd,
to return to the police station and resume his game of seven-up.

Eddie was soaring into enchanted eloquence:

"Oh, my brethren, now you see the power of the spirit of Christ to
stir up all that is noblest and best in us!  You have heard the
testimony of our brother here, Brother Gantry, to the one and only
way to righteousness!  When you get home I want each and every one
of you to dig out the Old Book and turn to the Song of Solomon,
where it tells about the love of the Savior for the Church--turn to
the Song of Solomon, the fourth chapter and the tenth verse, where
it says--where Christ is talking about the church, and he says--
Song of Solomon, the fourth chapter, and the tenth verse--'How fair
is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than
wine!'

"Oh, the unspeakable joy of finding the joys of salvation!  You
have heard our brother's testimony.  We know of him as a man of
power, as a brother to all them that are oppressed, and now that he
has had his eyes opened and his ears unstopped, and he sees the
need of confession and of humble surrender before the throne--Oh,
this is a historic moment in the life of Hell-c--of Elmer Gantry!
Oh, Brother, be not afraid!  Come!  Step up here beside me, and
give testimony--"

"God!  We better get outa here quick!" panted Jim.

"Gee, yes!" Elmer groaned and they edged back through the crowd,
while Eddie Fislinger's piping pursued them like icy and
penetrating rain:

"Don't be afraid to acknowledge the leading of Jesus!  Are you boys
going to show yourselves too cowardly to risk the sneers of the
ungodly?"

They were safely out of the crowd, walking with severe countenances
and great rapidity back to the Old Home Sample Room.

"That was a dirty trick of Eddie's!" said Jim.  "God, it certainly
was!  Trying to convert me!  Right before those muckers!  If I ever
hear another yip out of Eddie, I'll knock his block off!  Nerve of
him, trying to lead ME up to any mourners' bench!  Fat chance!
I'll fix him!  Come on, show a little speed!" asserted the brother
to all them that were oppressed.

By the time for their late evening train, the sound conversation of
the bartender and the sound qualities of his Bourbon had caused
Elmer and Jim to forget Eddie Fislinger and the horrors of
undressing religion in public.  They were the more shocked, then,
swaying in their seat in the smoker, to see Eddie standing by them,
Bible in hand, backed by his two beaming partners in evangelism.

Eddie bared his teeth, smiled all over his watery eyes, and
caroled:

"Oh, fellows, you don't know how wonderful you were tonight!  But,
oh, boys, now you've taken the first step, why do you put it off--
why do you hesitate--why do you keep the Savior suffering as he
waits for you, longs for you?  He needs you boys, with your
splendid powers and intellects that we admire so--"

"This air," observed Jim Lefferts, "is getting too thick for me.  I
seem to smell a peculiar and a fishlike smell."  He slipped out of
the seat and marched toward the forward car.

Elmer sought to follow him, but Eddie had flopped into Jim's place
and was blithely squeaking on, while the other two hung over them
with tender Y.M.C.A. smiles very discomforting to Elmer's queasy
stomach as the train bumped on.

For all his brave words, Elmer had none of Jim's resolute contempt
for the church.  He was afraid of it.  It connoted his boyhood . . .
His mother, drained by early widowhood and drudgery, finding her
only emotion in hymns and the Bible, and weeping when he failed to
study his Sunday School lesson.  The church, full thirty dizzy feet
up to its curiously carven rafters, and the preachers, so
overwhelming in their wallowing voices, so terrifying in their
pictures of little boys who stole watermelons or indulged in
biological experiments behind barns.  The awe-oppressed moment of
his second conversion, at the age of eleven, when, weeping with
embarrassment and the prospect of losing so much fun, surrounded by
solemn and whiskered adult faces, he had signed a pledge binding
him to give up, forever, the joys of profanity, alcohol, cards,
dancing, and the theater.

These clouds hung behind and over him, for all his boldness.

Eddie Fislinger, the human being, he despised.  He considered him a
grasshopper, and with satisfaction considered stepping on him.  But
Eddie Fislinger, the gospeler, fortified with just such a pebble-
leather Bible (bookmarks of fringed silk and celluloid smirking
from the pages) as his Sunday School teachers had wielded when they
assured him that God was always creeping about to catch small boys
in their secret thoughts--this armored Eddie was an official, and
Elmer listened to him uneasily, never quite certain that he might
not yet find himself a dreadful person leading a pure a boresome
life in a clean frock coat.

"--and remember," Eddie was wailing, "how terribly dangerous it is
to put off the hour of salvation!  'Watch therefore for you know
not what hour your Lord doth come,' it says.  Suppose this train
were wrecked!  Tonight!"

The train ungraciously took that second to lurch on a curve.

"You see?  Where would you spend Eternity, Hell-cat?  Do you think
that any sportin' round is fun enough to burn in hell for?"

"Oh, cut it out.  I know all that stuff.  There's a lot of
arguments--You wait'll I get Jim to tell you what Bob Ingersoll
said about hell!"

"Yes!  Sure!  And you remember that on his deathbed Ingersoll
called his son to him and repented and begged his son to hurry and
be saved and burn all his wicked writings!"

"Well--Thunder--I don't feel like talking religion tonight.  Cut it
out."

But Eddie did feel like talking religion, very much so.  He waved
his Bible enthusiastically and found ever so many uncomfortable
texts.  Elmer listened as little as possible but he was too feeble
to make threats.

It was a golden relief when the train bumped to a stop at
Gritzmacher Springs.  The station was a greasy wooden box, the
platform was thick with slush, under the kerosene lights.  But Jim
was awaiting him, a refuge from confusing theological questions,
and with a furious "G'night!" to Eddie he staggered off.

"Why didn't you make him shut his trap?" demanded Jim.

"I did!  Whadja take a sneak for?  I told him to shut up and he
shut up and I snoozed all the way back and--Ow!  My head!  Don't
walk so fast!"



CHAPTER II


1


For years the state of sin in which dwelt Elmer Gantry and Jim
Lefferts had produced fascinated despair in the Christian hearts of
Terwillinger College.  No revival but had flung its sulphur-soaked
arrows at them--usually in their absence.  No prayer at the
Y.M.C.A. meetings but had worried over their staggering folly.

Elmer had been known to wince when President the Rev. Dr.
Willoughby Quarles was especially gifted with messages at morning
chapel, but Jim had held him firm in the faith of unfaith.

Now, Eddie Fislinger, like a prairie seraph, sped from room to room
of the elect with the astounding news that Elmer had publicly
professed religion, and that he had endured thirty-nine minutes of
private adjuration on the train.  Instantly started a holy plotting
against the miserable sacrificial lamb, and all over Gritzmacher
Springs, in the studies of ministerial professors, in the rooms of
students, in the small prayer-meeting room behind the chapel
auditorium, joyous souls conspired with the Lord against Elmer's
serene and zealous sinning.  Everywhere, through the snowstorm, you
could hear murmurs of "There is more rejoicing over one sinner who
repenteth--"

Even collegians not particularly esteemed for their piety,
suspected of playing cards and secret smoking, were stirred to
ecstasy--or it may have been snickering.  The football center, in
unregenerate days a companion of Elmer and Jim but now engaged to
marry a large and sanctified Swedish co-ed from Chanute, rose
voluntarily in Y.M.C.A. and promised God to help him win Elmer's
favor.

The spirit waxed most fervent in the abode of Eddie Fislinger, who
was now recognized as a future prophet, likely, some day, to have
under his inspiration one of the larger Baptist churches in Wichita
or even Kansas City.

He organized an all-day and all-night prayer-meeting on Elmer's
behalf, and it was attended by the more ardent, even at the risk of
receiving cuts and uncivil remarks from instructors.  On the bare
floor of Eddie's room, over Knute Halvorsted's paint-shop, from
three to sixteen young men knelt at a time, and no 1800 revival saw
more successful wrestling with the harassed Satan.  In fact one
man, suspected of Holy Roller sympathies, managed to have the
jerks, and while they felt that this was carrying things farther
than the Lord and the Baptist association would care to see it,
added excitement to praying at three o'clock in the morning,
particularly as they were all of them extraordinarily drunk on
coffee and eloquence.

By morning they felt sure that they had persuaded God to attend to
Elmer, and though it is true that Elmer himself had slept quite
soundly all night, unaware of the prayer-meeting or of divine
influences, it was but an example of the patience of the heavenly
powers.  And immediately after those powers began to move.

To Elmer's misery and Jim's stilled fury, their sacred room was
invaded by hordes of men with uncombed locks on their foreheads,
ecstasy in their eyes, and Bibles under their arms.  Elmer was safe
nowhere.  No sooner had he disposed of one disciple, by the use of
spirited and blasphemous arguments patiently taught to him by Jim,
than another would pop out from behind a tree and fall on him.

At his boarding-house--Mother Metzger's, over on Beech Street--a
Y.M.C.A. dervish crowed as he passed the bread to Elmer, "Jever
study a kernel of wheat?  Swonnerful!  Think a wonnerful intricate
thing like that created ITSELF?  Somebody must have created it.
Who?  God!  Anybody that don't recognize God in Nature--and
acknowledge him in repentance--is DUMM.  That's what he is!"

Instructors who had watched Elmer's entrance to classrooms with
nervous fury now smirked on him and with tenderness heard the
statement that he wasn't quite prepared to recite.  The president
himself stopped Elmer on the street and called him My Boy, and
shook his hand with an affection which, Elmer anxiously assured
himself, he certainly had done nothing to merit.

He kept assuring Jim that he was in no danger, but Jim was alarmed,
and Elmer himself more alarmed with each hour, each new greeting
of: "We need you with us, old boy--the world needs you!"

Jim did well to dread.  Elmer had always been in danger of giving
up his favorite diversions--not exactly giving them up, perhaps,
but of sweating in agony after enjoying them.  But for Jim and his
remarks about co-eds who prayed in public and drew their hair back
rebukingly from egg-like foreheads, one of these sirens of morality
might have snared the easy-going pangynistic Elmer by proximity.

A dreadful young woman from Mexico, Missouri, used to coax Jim to
"tell his funny ideas about religion," and go off in neighs of
pious laughter, while she choked, "Oh, you're just too cute!  You
don't mean a word you say.  You simply want to show off!"  She had
a deceptive sidelong look which actually promised nothing whatever
this side of the altar, and she might, but for Jim's struggles,
have led Elmer into an engagement.

The church and Sunday School at Elmer's village, Paris, Kansas, a
settlement of nine hundred evangelical Germans and Vermonters, had
nurtured in him a fear of religious machinery which he could never
lose, which restrained him from such reasonable acts as butchering
Eddie Fislinger.  That small pasty-white Baptist church had been
the center of all his emotions, aside from hell-raising, hunger,
sleepiness, and love.  And even these emotions were represented in
the House of the Lord, in the way of tacks in pew-cushions,
Missionary suppers with chicken pie and angel's-food cake,
soporific sermons, and the proximity of flexible little girls
in thin muslin.  But the arts and the sentiments and the
sentimentalities--they were for Elmer perpetually associated only
with the church.

Except for circus bands, Fourth of July parades, and the singing of
"Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" and "Jingle Bells" in school, all
the music which the boy Elmer had ever heard was in church.

The church provided his only oratory, except for campaign speeches
by politicians ardent about Jefferson and the price of binding-
twine; it provided all his painting and sculpture, except for the
portraits of Lincoln, Longfellow, and Emerson in the school-
building, and the two china statuettes of pink ladies with gilt
flower-baskets which stood on his mother's bureau.  From the church
came all his profounder philosophy, except the teachers'
admonitions that little boys who let gartersnakes loose in school
were certain to be licked now and hanged later, and his mother's
stream of opinions on hanging up his overcoat, wiping his feet,
eating fried potatoes with his fingers, and taking the name of the
Lord in vain.

If he had sources of literary inspiration outside the church--in
McGuffey's Reader he encountered the boy who stood on the burning
deck, and he had a very pretty knowledge of the Nick Carter Series
and the exploits of Cole Younger and the James Boys--yet here too
the church had guided him.  In Bible stories, in the words of the
great hymns, in the anecdotes which the various preachers quoted,
he had his only knowledge of literature--

The story of Little Lame Tom who shamed the wicked rich man that
owned the handsome team of grays and the pot hat and led him to
Jesus.  The ship's captain who in the storm took counsel with the
orphaned but righteous child of missionaries in Zomballa.  The
Faithful Dog who saved his master during a terrific conflagration
(only sometimes it was a snowstorm, or an attack by Indians) and
roused him to give up horse-racing, rum, and playing the harmonica.

How familiar they were, how thrilling, how explanatory to Elmer of
the purposes of life, how preparatory for his future usefulness and
charm.

The church, the Sunday School, the evangelistic orgy, choir-
practise, raising the mortgage, the delights of funerals, the
snickers in back pews or in the other room at weddings--they were
as natural, as inescapable a mold of manners to Elmer as Catholic
processionals to a street gamin in Naples.

The Baptist Church of Paris, Kansas!  A thousand blurred but
indestructible pictures.

Hymns!  Elmer's voice was made for hymns.  He rolled them out like
a negro.  The organ-thunder of "Nicæa":


     Holy, holy, holy! all the saints adore thee,
     Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.


The splendid rumble of the Doxology.  "Throw Out the Lifeline,"
with its picture of a wreck pounded in the darkness by surf which
the prairie child imagined as a hundred feet high.  "Onward,
Christian Soldiers," to which you could without rebuke stamp your
feet.

Sunday School picnics!  Lemonade and four-legged races and the ride
on the hay-rack singing "Seeing Nelly Home."

Sunday School text cards!  True, they were chiefly a medium of
gambling, but as Elmer usually won the game (he was the first boy
in Paris to own a genuine pair of loaded dice) he had plenty of
them in his gallery, and they gave him a taste for gaudy robes, for
marble columns and the purple-broidered palaces of kings, which was
later to be of value in quickly habituating himself to the more
decorative homes of vice.  The three kings bearing caskets of ruby
and sardonyx.  King Zedekiah in gold and scarlet, kneeling on a
carpet of sapphire-blue, while his men-at-arms came fleeing and
blood-stained, red blood on glancing steel, with tidings of the
bannered host of Nebuchadnezzar, great king of Babylon.  And all
his life Elmer remembered, in moments of ardor, during oratorios in
huge churches, during sunset at sea, a black-bearded David standing
against raw red cliffs--a figure heroic and summoning to ambition,
to power, to domination.

Sunday School Christmas Eve!  The exhilaration of staying up, and
publicly, till nine-thirty.  The tree, incredibly tall, also
incredibly inflammable, flashing with silver cords, with silver
stars, with cotton-batting snow.  The two round stoves red-hot.
Lights and lights and lights.  Pails of candy, and for every child
in the school a present--usually a book, very pleasant, with
colored pictures of lambs and volcanoes.  The Santa Claus--he
couldn't possibly be Lorenzo Nickerson, the house-painter, so
bearded was he, and red-cheeked, and so witty in his comment on
each child as it marched up for its present.  The enchantment,
sheer magic, of the Ladies' Quartette singing of shepherds who
watched their flocks by nights . . . brown secret hilltops under
one vast star.

And the devastating morning when the preacher himself, the Rev.
Wilson Hinckley Skaggs, caught Elmer matching for Sunday School
contribution pennies on the front steps, and led him up the aisle
for all to giggle at, with a sharp and not very clean ministerial
thumb-nail gouging his ear-lobe.

And the other passing preachers; Brother Organdy, who got you to
saw his wood free; Brother Blunt, who sneaked behind barns to catch
you on Halloween; Brother Ingle, who was zealous but young and
actually human, and who made whistles from willow branches for you.

And the morning when Elmer concealed an alarm clock behind the
organ and it went off, magnificently, just as the superintendent
(Dr. Prouty, the dentist) was whimpering, "Now let us all be
par-TIC-ularly quiet as Sister Holbrick leads us in prayer."

And always the three chairs that stood behind the pulpit, the
intimidating stiff chairs of yellow plush and carved oak borders,
which, he was uneasily sure, were waiting for the Father, the Son
and the Holy Ghost.

He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School,
except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and
reason.


2


Even had Elmer not known the church by habit, he would have been
led to it by his mother.  Aside from his friendship for Jim
Lefferts, Elmer's only authentic affection was for his mother, and
she was owned by the church.

She was a small woman, energetic, nagging but kindly, once given to
passionate caresses and now to passionate prayer, and she had
unusual courage.  Early left a widow by Logan Gantry, dealer in
feed, flour, lumber, and agricultural implements, a large and
agreeable man given to debts and whisky, she had supported herself
and Elmer by sewing, trimming hats, baking bread, and selling milk.
She had her own millinery and dressmaking shop now, narrow and dim
but proudly set right on Main Street, and she was able to give
Elmer the three hundred dollars a year which, with his summer
earnings in harvest field and lumber-yard, was enough to support
him--in Terwillinger, in 1902.

She had always wanted Elmer to be a preacher.  She was jolly
enough, and no fool about pennies in making change, but for a
preacher standing up on a platform in a long-tailed coat she had
gaping awe.

Elmer had since the age of sixteen been a member in good standing
of the Baptist Church--he had been most satisfactorily immersed in
the Kayooska River.  Large though Elmer was, the evangelist had
been a powerful man and had not only ducked him but, in sacred
enthusiasm, held him under, so that he came up sputtering, in a
state of grace and muddiness.  He had also been saved several
times, and once, when he had pneumonia, he had been esteemed by the
pastor and all visiting ladies as rapidly growing in grace.

But he had resisted his mother's desire that he become a preacher.
He would have to give up his entertaining vices, and with wide-eyed
and panting happiness he was discovering more of them every year.
Equally he felt lumbering and shamed whenever he tried to stand up
before his tittering gang in Paris and appear pious.

It was hard even in college days to withstand his mother.  Though
she came only to his shoulder, such was her bustling vigor, her
swift shrewdness of tongue, such the gallantry of her long care for
him, that he was afraid of her as he was afraid of Jim Leffert's
scorn.  He never dared honestly to confess his infidelity, but he
grumbled, "Oh, gee, Ma, I don't know.  Trouble is, fellow don't
make much money preaching.  Gee, there's no hurry.  Don't have to
decide yet."

And she knew now that he was likely to become a lawyer.  Well, that
wasn't so bad, she felt; some day he might go to Congress and
reform the whole nation into a pleasing likeness of Kansas.  But if
he could only have become part of the mysteries that hovered about
the communion table--

She had talked him over with Eddie Fislinger.  Eddie came from a
town twelve miles from Paris.  Though it might be years before he
was finally ordained as a minister, Eddie had by his home
congregation been given a License to Preach as early as his
Sophomore year in Terwillinger, and for a month, one summer (while
Elmer was out in the harvest fields or the swimming hole or robbing
orchards), Eddie had earnestly supplied the Baptist pulpit in
Paris.

Mrs. Gantry consulted him, and Eddie instructed her with the
divinity of nineteen.

Oh, yes, Brother Elmer was a fine young man--so strong--they all
admired him--a little too much tempted by the vain gauds of This
World, but that was because he was young.  Oh, yes, some day Elmer
would settle down and be a fine Christian husband and father and
business man.  But as to the ministry--no.  Mrs. Gantry must not
too greatly meddle with these mysteries.  It was up to God.  A
fellow had to have a Call before he felt his vocation for the
ministry; a real overwhelming mysterious knock-down Call, such as
Eddie himself had ecstatically experienced, one evening in a
cabbage patch.  No, not think of that.  Their task now was to get
Elmer into a real state of grace and that, Eddie assured her,
looked to him like a good deal of a job.

Undoubtedly, Eddie explained, when Elmer had been baptized, at
sixteen, he had felt conviction, he had felt the invitation, and
the burden of his sins had been lifted.  But he had not, Eddie
doubted, entirely experienced salvation.  He was not really in a
state of grace.  He might almost be called unconverted.

Eddie diagnosed the case completely, with all the proper
pathological terms.  Whatever difficulties he may have had with
philosophy, Latin, and calculus, there had never been a time since
the age of twelve when Eddie Fislinger had had difficulty in
understanding what the Lord God Almighty wanted, and why, all
through history, he had acted thus or thus.

"I should be the last to condemn athaletics," said Eddie.  "We must
have strong bodies to endure the burden and the sweat of carrying
the Gospel to the world.  But at the same time, it seems to me that
football tends to detract from religion.  I'm a little afraid that
just at PRESENT Elmer is not in a state of grace.  But, oh, Sister,
don't let us worry and travail!  Let us trust the Lord.  I'll go to
Elmer myself, and see what I can do."

That must have been the time--it certainly was during that vacation
between their Sophomore and Junior years--when Eddie walked out to
the farm where Elmer was working, and looked at Elmer, bulky and
hayseedy in a sleeveless undershirt, and spoke reasonably of the
weather, and walked back again. . . .

Whenever Elmer was at home, though he tried affectionately to live
out his mother's plan of life for him, though without very much
grumbling he went to bed at nine-thirty, whitewashed the hen-house,
and accompanied her to church, yet Mrs. Gantry suspected that
sometimes he drank beer and doubted about Jonah, and uneasily Elmer
heard her sobbing as she knelt by her high-swelling, white-
counterpaned, old-fashioned bed.


3


With alarmed evangelistic zeal, Jim Lefferts struggled to keep
Elmer true to the faith, after his exposure to religion in
defending Eddie at Cato.

He was, on the whole, rather more zealous and fatiguing than Eddie.

Nights, when Elmer longed to go to sleep, Jim argued; mornings,
when Elmer should have been preparing his history, Jim read aloud
from Ingersoll and Thomas Paine.

"How you going to explain a thing like this--how you going to
explain it?" begged Jim.  "It says here in Deuteronomy that God
chased these Yids around in the desert for forty years and their
shoes didn't even wear out.  That's what it SAYS, right in the
Bible.  You believe a thing like that?  And do you believe that
Samson lost all his strength just because his gal cut off his hair?
Do you, eh?  Think hair had anything to do with his strength?"

Jim raced up and down the stuffy room, kicking at chairs, his
normally bland eyes feverish, his forefinger shaken in wrath, while
Elmer sat humped on the edge of the bed, his forehead in his hands,
rather enjoying having his soul fought for.

To prove that he was still a sound and freethinking stalwart, Elmer
went out with Jim one evening and at considerable effort, they
carried off a small outhouse and placed it on the steps of the
Administration Building.

Elmer almost forgot to worry after the affair of Eddie and Dr.
Lefferts.

Jim's father was a medical practitioner in an adjoining village.
He was a plump, bearded, bookish, merry man, very proud of his
atheism.  It was he who had trained Jim in the faith and in his
choice of liquor; he had sent Jim to this denominational college
partly because it was cheap and partly because it tickled his humor
to watch his son stir up the fretful complacency of the saints.  He
dropped in and found Elmer and Jim agitatedly awaiting the arrival
of Eddie.

"Eddie said," wailed Elmer, "he said he was coming up to see me,
and he'll haul out some more of these proofs that I'm going
straight to hell.  Gosh, Doctor, I don't know what's got into me.
You better examine me.  I must have anemics or something.  Why, one
time, if Eddie Fislinger had smiled at me, damn him, think of HIM
daring to smile at me!--if he'd said he was coming to my room, I'd
of told him, 'Like hell you will!' and I'd of kicked him in the
shins."

Dr. Lefferts purred in his beard.  His eyes were bright.

"I'll give your friend Fislinger a run for his money.  And for the
inconsequential sake of the non-existent Heaven, Jim, try not to
look surprised when you find your respectable father being pious."

When Eddie arrived, he was introduced to a silkily cordial Dr.
Lefferts, who shook his hand with that lengthiness and painfulness
common to politicians, salesmen, and the godly.  The doctor
rejoiced:

"Brother Fislinger, my boy here and Elmer tell me that you've been
trying to help them see the true Bible religion."

"I've been seeking to."

"It warms my soul to hear you say that, Brother Fislinger!  You
can't know what a grief it is to an old man tottering to the grave,
to one whose only solace now is prayer and Bible-reading"--Dr.
Lefferts had sat up till four a.m., three nights ago, playing poker
and discussing biology with his cronies, the probate judge and the
English stock-breeder--"what a grief it is to him that his only
son, James Blaine Lefferts, is not a believer.  But perhaps you can
do more than I can, Brother Fislinger.  They think I'm a fanatical
old fogy.  Now let me see--You're a real Bible believer?"

"Oh, yes!"  Eddie looked triumphantly at Jim, who was leaning
against the table, his hands in his pockets, as expressionless as
wood.  Elmer was curiously hunched up in the Morris chair, his
hands over his mouth.  The doctor said approvingly:

"That's splendid.  You believe every word of it, I hope, from cover
to cover?"

"Oh, yes.  What _I_ always say is, 'It's better to have the whole
Bible than a Bible full of holes.'"

"Why, that's a real thought, Brother Fislinger.  I must remember
that, to tell any of these alleged higher critics, if I ever meet
any!  'Bible whole--not Bible full of holes."  Oh, that's a fine
thought, and cleverly expressed.  You made it up?"

"Well, not exactly."

"I see, I see.  Well, that's splendid.  Now of course you believe
in the premillennial coming--I mean the real, authentic, genuwine,
immediate, bodily, premillennial coming of Jesus Christ?"

"Oh, yes, sure."

"And the virgin birth?"

"Oh, you bet."

"That's splendid!  Of course there are doctors who question whether
the virgin birth is quite in accordance with their experience of
obstetrics, but I tell those fellows, 'Look here!  How do I know
it's true?  Because it says so in the Bible, and if it weren't
true, do you suppose it would say so in the Bible?'  That certainly
shuts them up!  They have precious little to say after that!"

By this time a really beautiful, bounteous fellowship was flowing
between Eddie and the doctor, and they were looking with pity on
the embarrassed faces of the two heretics left out in the cold.
Dr. Lefferts tickled his beard and crooned:

"And of course, Brother Fislinger, you believe in infant
damnation."

Eddie explained, "No; that's not a Baptist doctrine."

"You--you--"  The good doctor choked, tugged at his collar, panted
and wailed:

"It's not a Baptist doctrine?  You don't believe in infant
damnation?"

"W-why, no--"

"Then God help the Baptist church and the Baptist doctrine!  God
help us all, in these unregenerate days, that we should be
contaminated by such infidelity!"  Eddie sweat, while the doctor
patted his plump hands and agonized:  "Look you here, my brother!
It's very simple.  Are we not saved by being washed in the blood of
the Lamb, and by that alone, by his blessed sacrifice alone?"

"W-why, yes, but--"

"Then either we ARE washed white, and saved, or else we are not
washed, and we are not saved!  That's the simple truth, and all
weakenings and explanations and hemming and hawing about this clear
and beautiful truth are simply of the devil, brother!  And at what
moment does a human being, in all his inevitable sinfulness, become
subject to baptism and salvation?  At two months?  At nine years?
At sixteen?  At forty-seven?  At ninety-nine?  No!  The moment he
is born!  And so if he be not baptized, then he must burn in hell
forever.  What does it say in the Good Book?  'For there is none
other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.'
It may seem a little hard of God to fry beautiful little babies,
but then think of the beautiful women whom he loves to roast there
for the edification of the saints!  Oh, brother, brother, now I
understand why Jimmy here, and poor Elmer, are lost to the faith!
It's because professed Christians like you give them this
emasculated religion!  Why, it's fellows like you who break down
the dike of true belief, and open a channel for higher criticism
and sabellianism and nymphomania and agnosticism and heresy and
Catholicism and Seventh-day Adventism and all those horrible German
inventions!  Once you begin to doubt, the wicked work is done!  Oh,
Jim, Elmer, I told you to listen to our friend here, but now that I
find him practically a free-thinker--"

The doctor staggered to a chair.  Eddie stood gaping.

It was the first time in his life that any one had accused him of
feebleness in the faith, of under-strictness.  He was smirkingly
accustomed to being denounced as over-strict.  He had almost as
much satisfaction out of denouncing liquor as other collegians had
out of drinking it.  He had, partly from his teachers and partly
right out of his own brain, any number of good answers to
classmates who protested that he was old-fashioned in belaboring
domino-playing, open communion, listening to waltz music, wearing a
gown in the pulpit, taking a walk on Sunday, reading novels, trans-
substantiation, and these new devices of the devil called moving-
pictures.  He could frighten almost any Laodicean.  But to be
called shaky himself, to be called heretic and slacker--for that
inconceivable attack he had no retort.

He looked at the agonized doctor, he looked at Jim and Elmer, who
were obviously distressed at his fall from spiritual leadership,
and he fled to secret prayer.

He took his grief presently to President Quarles, who explained
everything perfectly.

"But this doctor quoted Scripture to prove his point!" bleated
Eddie.

"Don't forget, Brother Fislinger, that 'the devil can quote
Scripture to his purpose.'"

Eddie thought that was a very nice thought and very nicely
expressed, and though he was not altogether sure that it was from
the Bible, he put it away for future use in sermons.  But before he
was sufficiently restored to go after Elmer again, Christmas
vacation had arrived.



When Eddie had gone, Elmer laughed far more heartily than Jim or
his father.  It is true that he hadn't quite understood what it was
all about.  Why, sure; Eddie had said it right; infant damnation
WASN'T a Baptist doctrine; it belonged to some of the Presbyterians,
and everybody knew the Presbyterians had a lot of funny beliefs.
But the doctor certainly had done something to squelch Eddie, and
Elmer felt safer than for many days.

He continued to feel safe up till Christmas vacation.  Then--

Some one, presumably Eddie, had informed Elmer's mother of his new
and promising Christian status.  He himself had been careful to
keep such compromising rumors out of his weekly letters home.
Through all the vacation he was conscious that his mother was
hovering closer to him than usual, that she was waiting to snatch
at his soul if he showed weakening.  Their home pastor, the
Reverend Mr. Aker--known in Paris as Reverend Aker--shook hands
with him at the church door with approval as incriminating as the
affection of his instructors at Terwillinger.

Unsupported by Jim, aware that at any moment Eddie might pop in
from his neighboring town and be accepted as an ally by Mrs.
Gantry, Elmer spent a vacation in which there was but little peace.
To keep his morale up, he gave particularly earnest attention to
bottle-pool and to the daughter of a nearby farmer.  But he was in
dread lest these be the last sad ashen days of his naturalness.

It seemed menacing that Eddie should be on the same train back to
college.  Eddie was with another exponent of piety, and he said
nothing to Elmer about the delights of hell, but he and his
companion secretly giggled with a confidence more than dismaying.

Jim Lefferts did not find in Elmer's face the conscious probity and
steadfastness which he had expected.



CHAPTER III


1


Early in January was the Annual College Y.M.C.A. Week of Prayer.
It was a countrywide event, but in Terwillinger College it was of
especial power that year because they were privileged to have with
them for three days none other than Judson Roberts, State Secretary
of the Y.M.C.A., and a man great personally as well as officially.

He was young, Mr. Roberts, only thirty-four, but already known
throughout the land.  He had always been known.  He had been a
member of a star University of Chicago football team, he had played
varsity baseball, he had been captain of the debating team, and at
the same time he had commanded the Y.M.C.A.  He had been known as
the Praying Fullback.  He still kept up his exercise--he was said
to have boxed privily with Jim Jefferies--and he had mightily
increased his praying.  A very friendly leader he was, and helpful;
hundreds of college men throughout Kansas called him "Old Jud."

Between prayer-meetings at Terwillinger, Judson Roberts sat in the
Bible History seminar-room, at a long table, under a bilious map of
the Holy Land, and had private conferences with the men students.
A surprising number of them came edging in, trembling, with averted
eyes, to ask advice about a secret practice, and Old Jud seemed
amazingly able to guess their trouble before they got going.

"Well, now, old boy, I'll tell you.  Terrible thing, all right, but
I've met quite a few cases, and you just want to buck up and take
it to the Lord in prayer.  Remember that he is able to help unto
the uttermost.  Now the first thing you want to do is to get rid
of--I'm afraid that you have some pretty nasty pictures and maybe a
juicy book hidden away, now haven't you, old boy?"

How could Old Jud have guessed?  What a corker!

"That's right.  I've got a swell plan, old boy.  Make a study of
missions, and think how clean and pure and manly you'd want to be
if you were going to carry the joys of Christianity to a lot of
poor gazebos that are under the evil spell of Buddhism and a lot of
these heathen religions.  Wouldn't you want to be able to look 'em
in the eye, and shame 'em?  Next thing to do is to get a lot of
exercise.  Get out and run like hell!  And then cold baths.  Darn'
cold.  There now!"  Rising, with ever so manly a handshake:  "Now,
skip along and remember"--with a tremendous and fetching and virile
laugh--"just run like hell!"

Jim and Elmer heard Old Jud in chapel.  He was tremendous.  He told
them a jolly joke about a man who kissed a girl, yet he rose to
feathered heights when he described the beatitude of real
ungrudging prayer, in which a man was big enough to be as a child.
He made them tearful over the gentleness with which he described
the Christchild, wandering lost by his parents, yet the next moment
he had them stretching with admiration as he arched his big
shoulder-muscles and observed that he would knock the block off any
sneering, sneaking, lying, beer-bloated bully who should dare to
come up to HIM in a meeting and try to throw a monkey-wrench into
the machinery by dragging out a lot of contemptible, quibbling,
atheistic, smart-aleck doubts!  (He really did, the young men
glowed, use the terms "knock the block off," and "throw a monkey-
wrench."  Oh, he was a lulu, a real red-blooded regular fellow!)

Jim was coming down with the grippe.  He was unable to pump up even
one good sneer.  He sat folded up, his chin near his knees, and
Elmer was allowed to swell with hero-worship.  Golly!  He'd thought
he had some muscle, but that guy Judson Roberts--zowie, he could
put Elmer on the mat seven falls out of five!  What a football
player he must have been!  Wee!

This Homeric worship he tried to explain to Jim, back in their
room, but Jim sneezed and went to bed.  The rude bard was left
without audience and he was practically glad when Eddie Fislinger
scratched at the door and edged in.

"Don't want to bother you fellows, but noticed you were at Old
Jud's meeting this afternoon and, say, you gotta come out and hear
him again tomorrow evening.  Big evening of the week.  Say, honest,
Hell-cat, don't you think Jud's a real humdinger?"

"Yes, I gotta admit, he's a dandy fellow."

"Say, he certainly is, isn't he!  He certainly is a dandy fellow,
isn't he!  Isn't he a peach!"

"Yes, he certainly is a peach--for a religious crank!"

"Aw now, Hell-cat, don't go calling him names!  You'll admit he
looks like some football shark."

"Yes, I guess he does, at that.  I'd liked to of played with him."

"Wouldn't you like to meet him?'"

"Well--"

At this moment of danger, Jim raised his dizzy head to protest,
"He's a holy strikebreaker!  One of these thick-necks that was born
husky and tries to make you think he made himself husky by prayer
and fasting.  I'd hate to take a chance on any poor little orphan
nip of Bourbon wandering into Old Jud's presence!  Yeh!  Chest-
pounder!  'Why can't you hundred-pound shrimps be a big manly
Christian like me!'"

Together they protested against this defilement of the hero, and
Eddie admitted that he had ventured to praise Elmer to Old Jud;
that Old Jud had seemed enthralled; that Old Jud was more than
likely--so friendly a Great Man was HE--to run in on Elmer this
afternoon.

Before Elmer could decide whether to be pleased or indignant,
before the enfeebled Jim could get up strength to decide for him,
the door was hit a mighty and heroic wallop, and in strode Judson
Roberts, big as a grizzly, jolly as a spaniel pup, radiant as ten
suns.

He set upon Elmer immediately.  He had six other doubting Thomases
or suspected smokers to dispose of before six o'clock.

He was a fair young giant with curly hair and a grin and with a
voice like the Bulls of Bashan whenever the strategy called for
manliness.  But with erring sisters, unless they were too erring,
he could be as lulling as woodland violets shaken in the perfumed
breeze.

"Hello, Hell-cat!" he boomed.  "Shake hands!"

Elmer had a playful custom of squeezing people's hands till they
cracked.  For the first time in his life his own paw felt limp and
burning.  He rubbed it and looked simple.

"Been hearing a lot about you, Hell-cat, and you, Jim.  Laid out,
Jim?  Want me to trot out and get a doc?"  Old Jud was sitting
easily on the edge of Jim's bed, and in the light of that grin,
even Jim Lefferts could not be very sour as he tried to sneer, "No,
thanks."

Roberts turned to Elmer again, and gloated:

"Well, old son, I've been hearing a lot about you.  Gee whillikins,
that must have been a great game you played against Thorvilsen
College!  They tell me when you hit that line, it gave like a
sponge, and when you tackled that big long Swede, he went down like
he'd been hit by lightning."

"Well, it was--it was a good game."

"Course I read about it at the time--"

"Did you, honest?"

"--and course I wanted to hear more about it, and meet you, Hell-
cat, so I been asking the boys about you, and say, they certainly
do give you a great hand!  Wish I could've had you with me on my
team at U of Chi--we needed a tackle like you."

Elmer basked.

"Yes, sir, the boys all been telling me what a dandy fine fellow
you are, and what a corking athlete, and what an A-1 gentleman.
They all say there's just one trouble with you, Elmer lad."

"Eh?"

"They say you're a coward."

"Heh?  WHO says I'm a coward?"

Judson Roberts swaggered across from the bed, stood with his hand
on Elmer's shoulder.  "They all say it, Hell-cat!  You see it takes
a sure-enough dyed-in-the-wool brave man to be big enough to give
Jesus a shot at him, and admit he's licked when he tries to fight
God!  It takes a man with guts to kneel down and admit his
worthlessness when all the world is jeering at him!  And you
haven't got that kind of courage, Elmer.  Oh, you think you're such
a big cuss--"

Old Jud swung him around; Old Jud's hand was crushing his shoulder.
"You think you're too husky, too good, to associate with the poor
little sniveling gospel-mongers, don't you!  You could knock out
any of 'em, couldn't you!  Well, I'm one of 'em.  Want to knock me
out?"

With one swift jerk Roberts had his coat off, stood with a striped
silk shirt revealing his hogshead torso.

"You bet, Hell-cat!  I'm willing to fight you for the glory of God!
God needs you!  Can you think of anything finer for a big husky
like you than to spend his life bringing poor, weak, sick, scared
folks to happiness?  Can't you see how the poor little skinny guys
and all the kiddies would follow you and praise you and admire you,
you old son of a gun?  Am I a sneaking Christian?  Can you lick me?
Want to fight it out?"

"No, gee, Mr. Roberts--"

"Judson, you big hunk of cheese, Old Jud!"

"No, gee, Judson, I guess you got me trimmed!  I pack a pretty good
wallop, but I'm not going to take any chance on you!"

"All right, old son.  Still think that all religious folks are
crabs?"

"No."

"And weaklings and pikers?"

"No."

"And liars?"

"Oh, no."

"All right, old boy.  Going to allow me to be a friend of yours, if
I don't butt in on your business?"

"Oh, gee, sure."

"Then there's just one favor I want to ask.  Will you come to our
big meeting tomorrow night?  You don't have to do a thing.  If you
think we're four-flushers--all right; that's your privilege.  Only
will you come and not decide we're all wrong beforehand, but really
use that big fine incisive brain of yours and study us as we are?
Will you come?"

"Oh, yes, sure, you bet."

"Fine, old boy.  Mighty proud to have you let me come butting in
here in this informal way.  Remember: if you honestly feel I'm
using any undue influence on the boys, you come right after me and
say so, and I'll be mighty proud of your trusting me to stand the
gaff.  So long, old Elm!  So long, Jim.  God bless you!"

"So long, Jud."

He was gone, a whirlwind that whisked the inconspicuous herb Eddie
Fislinger out after it.  And THEN Jim Lefferts spoke.

For a time after Judson Roberts' curtain, Elmer stood glowing,
tasting praise.  He was conscious of Jim's eyes on his back, and he
turned toward the bed, defiantly.

They stared, in a tug of war.  Elmer gave in with a furious:

"Well, then, why didn't you say something while he was here?"

"To him?  Talk to a curly wolf when he smells meat?  Besides, he's
intelligent, that fellow."

"Well, say, I'm glad to hear you say that, because--well, you see--
I'll explain how I feel."

"Oh, no, you won't, sweetheart!  You haven't got to the miracle-
pulling stage yet.  Sure he's intelligent.  I never heard a better
exhibition of bunco-steering in my life.  Sure!  He's just crazy to
have you come up and kick him in the ear and tell him you've
decided you can't give your imprimatur--"

"My WHAT?"

"--to his show, and he's to quit and go back to hod-carrying.
Sure.  He read all about your great game with Thorvilsen.  Sent off
to New York to get the Review of Reviews and read more about it.
Eddie Fislinger never told him a word.  He read about your tackling
in the London Times.  You bet.  Didn't he say so?  And he's a saved
soul--he couldn't lie.  And he just couldn't stand it if he didn't
become a friend of yours.  He can't know more than a couple of
thousand collidge boys to spring that stuff on! . . .  You bet I
believe in the old bearded Jew God!  Nobody but him could have made
all the idiots there are in the world!"

"Gee, Jim, honest, you don't understand Jud."

"No.  I don't.  When he could be a decent prize-fighter, and not
have to go around with angleworms like Eddie Fislinger day after
day!"

And thus till midnight, for all Jim's fevers.

But Elmer was at Judson Roberts' meeting next evening, unprotected
by Jim, who remained at home in so vile a temper that Elmer had
sent in a doctor and sneaked away from the room for the afternoon.


2


It was undoubtedly Eddie who wrote or telegraphed to Mrs. Gantry
that she would do well to be present at the meeting.  Paris was
only forty miles from Gritzmacher Springs.

Elmer crept into his room at six, still wistfully hoping to have
Jim's sanction, still ready to insist that if he went to the
meeting he would be in no danger of conversion.  He had walked
miles through the slush, worrying.  He was ready now to give up the
meeting, to give up Judson's friendship, if Jim should insist.

As he wavered in, Mrs. Gantry stood by Jim's lightning-shot bed.

"Why, Ma!  What you doing here?  What's gone wrong?" Elmer panted.

It was impossible to think of her taking a journey for anything
less than a funeral.

Cozily, "Can't I run up and see my two boys if I want to, Elmy?  I
declare, I believe you'd of killed Jim, with all this nasty tobacco
air, if I hadn't come in and aired the place out.  I THOUGHT, Elmer
Gantry, you weren't supposed to smoke in Terwillinger!  By the
rules of the college!  I thought, young man, that you lived up to
'em!  But never mind."

Uneasily--for Jim had never before seen him demoted to childhood,
as he always was in his mother's presence--Elmer grumbled, "But
honest, Ma, what did you come up for?"

"Well, I read about what a nice week of prayer you were going to
have, and I thought I'd just like to hear a real big bug preach.
I've got a vacation coming, too!  Now don't you worry one mite
about me.  I guess I can take care of myself after all these years!
The first traveling I ever done with you, young man--the time I
went to Cousin Adeline's wedding--I just tucked you under one arm--
and how you squalled, the whole way!--mercy, you liked to hear the
sound of your own voice then just like you do now!--and I tucked my
old valise under the other, and off I went!  Don't you worry one
mite about me.  I'm only going to stay over the night--got a sale
on remnants starting--going back on Number Seven tomorrow.  I left
my valise at that boarding-house right across from the depot.  But
there's one thing you might do if 'tain't too much trouble, Elmy.
You know I've only been up here at the college once before.  I'd
feel kind of funny, country bumpkin like me, going alone to that
big meeting, with all those smart professors and everybody there,
and I'd be glad if you could come along."

"Of course he'll go, Mrs. Gantry," said Jim.

But before Elmer was carried away, Jim had the chance to whisper,
"God, do be careful!  Remember I won't be there to protect you!
Don't let 'em pick on you!  Don't do one single doggone thing they
want you to do, and then maybe you'll be safe!"

As he went out, Elmer looked back at Jim.  He was shakily sitting
up in bed, his eyes imploring.


3


The climactic meeting of the Annual Prayer Week, to be addressed by
President Quarles, four ministers, and a rich trustee who was in
the pearl-button business, with Judson Roberts as star soloist, was
not held at the Y.M.C.A. but at the largest auditorium in town, the
Baptist Church, with hundreds of town-people joining the
collegians.

The church was a welter of brownstone, with Moorish arches and an
immense star-shaped window not yet filled with stained glass.

Elmer hoped to be late enough to creep in inconspicuously, but as
his mother and he straggled up to the Romanesque portico, students
were still outside, chattering.  He was certain they were
whispering, "There he is--Hell-cat Gantry.  Say, is it really true
he's under conviction of sin?  I thought he cussed out the church
more'n anybody in college."

Meek though Elmer had been under instruction by Jim and threats by
Eddie and yearning by his mother, he was not normally given to
humility, and he looked at his critics defiantly.  "I'll show 'em!
If they think I'm going to sneak in--"

He swaggered down almost to the front pews, to the joy of his
mother, who had been afraid that as usual he would hide in the
rear, handy to the door if the preacher should become personal.

There was a great deal of decoration in the church, which had been
endowed by a zealous alumnus after making his strike in Alaskan
boarding-houses during the gold-rush.  There were Egyptian pillars
with gilded capitals, on the ceiling were gilt stars and clouds
more woolen than woolly, and the walls were painted cheerily in
three strata--green, watery blue, and khaki.  It was an echoing and
gaping church, and presently it was packed, the aisles full.
Professors with string mustaches and dog-eared Bibles, men students
in sweaters or flannel shirts, earnest young women students in
homemade muslin with modest ribbons, over-smiling old maids of the
town, venerable saints from the back-country with beards which
partly hid the fact that they wore collars without ties, old women
with billowing shoulders, irritated young married couples with
broods of babies who crawled, slid, bellowed, and stared with
embarrassing wonder at bachelors.

Five minutes later Elmer would not have had a seat down front.  Now
he could not escape.  He was packed in between his mother and a
wheezing fat man, and in the aisle beside his pew stood evangelical
tailors and ardent school-teachers.

The congregation swung into "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder" and
Elmer gave up his frenzied but impractical plans for escape.  His
mother nestled happily beside him, her hand proudly touching his
sleeve, and he was stirred by the march and battle of the hymn:


When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks eternal, bright and far.--


They stood for the singing of "Shall We Gather at the River?"
Elmer inarticulately began to feel his community with these humble,
aspiring people--his own prairie tribe: this gaunt carpenter, a
good fellow, full of friendly greetings; this farm-wife, so
courageous, channeled by pioneer labor; this classmate, an
admirable basket-ball player, yet now chanting beatifically, his
head back, his eyes closed, his voice ringing.  Elmer's own people.
Could he be a traitor to them, could he resist the current of their
united belief and longing?


     Yes, we'll gather at the river,
     The beautiful, the beautiful river,
     Gather with the saints at the river
     That flows by the throne of God.


Could he endure it to be away from them, in the chill void of Jim
Lefferts' rationalizing, on that day when they should be rejoicing
in the warm morning sunshine by the river rolling to the
imperishable Throne?

And his voice--he had merely muttered the words of the first hymn--
boomed out ungrudgingly:


     Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
     Soon our happy hearts will quiver
     With the melody of peace.


His mother stroked his sleeve.  He remembered that she had
maintained he was the best singer she had ever heard; that Jim
Lefferts had admitted, "You certainly can make that hymn dope sound
as if it meant something."  He noted that people near by looked
about with pleasure when they heard his Big Ben dominate the
cracked jangling.

The preliminaries merely warmed up the audience for Judson Roberts.
Old Jud was in form.  He laughed, he shouted, he knelt and wept
with real tears, he loved everybody, he raced down into the
audience and patted shoulders, and for the moment everybody felt
that he was closer to them than their closest friends.

"Rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race," was his text.

Roberts was really a competent athlete, and he really had skill in
evoking pictures.  He described the Chicago-Michigan game, and
Elmer was lost in him, with him lived the moments of the scrimmage,
the long run with the ball, the bleachers rising to him.

Roberts voice softened.  He was pleading.  He was not talking, he
said, to weak men who needed coddling into the Kingdom, but to
strong men, to rejoicing men, to men brave in armor.  There was
another sort of race more exhilarating than any game, and it led
not merely to a score on a big board but to the making of a new
world--it led not to newspaper paragraphs but to glory eternal.
Dangerous--calling for strong men!  Ecstatic--brimming with
thrills!  The team captained by Christ!  No timid Jesus did he
preach, but the adventurer who had joyed to associate with common
men, with reckless fishermen, with captains and rulers, who had
dared to face the soldiers in the garden, who had dared the
myrmidons of Rome and death itself!  Come!  Who was gallant?  Who
had nerve?  Who longed to live abundantly?  Let them come!

They must confess their sins, they must repent, they must know
their own weakness save as they were reborn in Christ.  But they
must confess not in heaven-pilfering weakness, but in training for
the battle under the wind-torn banners of the Mighty Captain.  Who
would come?  Who would come?  Who was for vision and the great
adventure?

He was among them, Judson Roberts, with his arms held out, his
voice a bugle.  Young men sobbed and knelt; a woman shrieked;
people were elbowing the standers in the aisles and pushing forward
to kneel in agonized happiness, and suddenly they were setting
relentlessly on a bewildered Elmer Gantry, who had been betrayed
into forgetting himself, into longing to be one with Judson
Roberts.

His mother was wringing his hand, begging, "Oh, won't you come?
Won't you make your old mother happy?  Let yourself know the joy of
surrender to Jesus!"  She was weeping, old eyes puckered, and in
her weeping was his every recollection of winter dawns when she had
let him stay in bed and brought porridge to him across the icy
floor; winter evenings when he had awakened to find her still
stitching; and that confusing intimidating hour, in the abyss of
his first memories, when he had seen her shaken beside a coffin
that contained a cold monster in the shape of his father.

The basket-ball player was patting his other arm, begging, "Dear
old Hell-cat, you've never let yourself be happy!  You've been
lonely!  Let yourself be happy with us!  You know I'm no
mollycoddle.  Won't you know the happiness of salvation with us?"

A thread-thin old man, very dignified, a man with secret eyes that
had known battles, and mountain-valleys, was holding out his hands
to Elmer, imploring with a humility utterly disconcerting, "Oh,
come, come with us--don't stand there making Jesus beg and beg--
don't leave the Christ that died for us standing out in the cold,
begging!"

And, somehow, flashing through the crowd, Judson Roberts was with
Elmer, honoring him beyond all the multitude, appealing for his
friendship--Judson Roberts the gorgeous, beseeching:

"Are you going to hurt me, Elmer?  Are you going to let me go away
miserable and beaten, old man?  Are you going to betray me like
Judas, when I've offered you my Jesus as the most precious gift I
can bring you?  Are you going to slap me and defile me and hurt me?
Come!  Think of the joy of being rid of all those nasty little sins
that you've felt so ashamed of!  Won't you come kneel with me,
won't you?"

His mother shrieked, "Won't you, Elmer?  With him and me?  Won't
you make us happy?  Won't you be big enough to not be afraid?  See
how we're all longing for you, praying for you!"

"Yes!" from around him, from strangers; and "Help ME to follow you,
Brother--I'll go if you will!"  Voices woven, thick, dove-white and
terrifying black of mourning and lightning-colored, flung around
him, binding him--His mother's pleading, Judson Roberts' tribute--

An instant he saw Jim Lefferts, and heard him insist:  "Why, sure,
course they believe it.  They hypnotize themselves.  But don't let
'em hypnotize you!"

He saw Jim's eyes, that for him alone veiled their bright harshness
and became lonely, asking for comradeship.  He struggled; with all
the blubbering confusion of a small boy set on by his elders,
frightened and overwhelmed, he longed to be honest, to be true to
Jim--to be true to himself and his own good honest sins and
whatsoever penalties they might carry.  Then the visions were
driven away by voices that closed over him like surf above an
exhausted swimmer.  Volitionless, marveling at the sight of himself
as a pinioned giant, he was being urged forward, forced forward,
his mother on one arm and Judson on the other, a rhapsodic mob
following.

Bewildered.  Miserable. . . .  False to Jim.

But as he came to the row kneeling in front of the first pew, he
had a thought that made everything all right.  Yes!  He could have
both!  He could keep Judson and his mother, yet retain Jim's
respect.  He had only to bring Jim also to Jesus, then all of them
would be together in beatitude!

Freed from misery by that revelation, he knelt, and suddenly his
voice was noisy in confession, while the shouts of the audience,
the ejaculations of Judson and his mother, exalted him to hot self-
approval and made it seem splendidly right to yield to the mystic
fervor.

He had but little to do with what he said.  The willing was not his
but the mob's; the phrases were not his but those of the emotional
preachers and hysterical worshipers whom he had heard since
babyhood:

"O God, oh, I have sinned!  My sins are heavy on me!  I am unworthy
of compassion!  O Jesus, intercede for me!  Oh, let thy blood that
was shed for me be my salvation!  O God, I do truly repent of my
great sinning and I do long for the everlasting peace of thy
bosom!"

"Oh, praise God," from the multitude, and "Praise his holy name!
Thank God, thank God, thank God!  Oh, hallelujah, Brother, thank
the dear loving God!"

He was certain that he would never again want to guzzle, to follow
loose women, to blaspheme; he knew the rapture of salvation--yes,
and of being the center of interest in the crowd.

Others about him were beating their foreheads, others were
shrieking, "Lord, be merciful," and one woman--he remembered her as
a strange, repressed, mad-eyed special student who was not known to
have any friends--was stretched out, oblivious of the crowd,
jerking, her limbs twitching, her hands clenched, panting
rhythmically.

But it was Elmer, tallest of the converts, tall as Judson Roberts,
whom all the students and most of the townpeople found important,
who found himself important.

His mother was crying, "Oh, this is the happiest hour of my life,
dear!  This makes up for everything!"

To be able to give her such delight!

Judson was clawing Elmer's hand, whooping, "Liked to had you on the
team at Chicago, but I'm a lot gladder to have you with me on
Christ's team!  If you knew how proud I am!"

To be thus linked forever with Judson!

Elmer's embarrassment was gliding into a robust self-satisfaction.

Then the others were crowding on him, shaking his hand,
congratulating him: the football center, the Latin professor, the
town grocer.  President Quarles, his chin whisker vibrant and his
shaven upper lip wiggling from side to side, was insisting, "Come,
Brother Elmer, stand up on the platform and say a few words to us--
you must--we all need it--we're thrilled by your splendid example!"

Elmer was not quite sure how he got through the converts, up the
steps to the platform.  He suspected afterward that Judson Roberts
had done a good deal of trained pushing.

He looked down, something of his panic returning.  But they were
sobbing with affection for him.  The Elmer Gantry who had for years
pretended that he relished defying the whole college had for those
same years desired popularity.  He had it now--popularity, almost
love, almost reverence, and he felt overpoweringly his rôle as
leading man.

He was stirred to more flamboyant confession:

"Oh, for the first time I know the peace of God!  Nothing I have
ever done has been right, because it didn't lead to the way and the
truth!  Here I thought I was a good church-member, but all the time
I hadn't seen the real light.  I'd never been willing to kneel down
and confess myself a miserable sinner.  But I'm kneeling now, and,
oh, the blessedness of humility!"

He wasn't, to be quite accurate, kneeling at all; he was standing
up, very tall and broad, waving his hands; and though what he was
experiencing may have been the blessedness of humility, it sounded
like his announcements of an ability to lick anybody in any given
saloon.  But he was greeted with flaming hallelujahs, and he
shouted on till he was rapturous and very sweaty:

"Come!  Come to him now!  Oh, it's funny that I who've been so
great a sinner could dare to give you his invitation, but he's
almighty and shall prevail, and he giveth his sweet tidings through
the mouths of babes and sucklings and the most unworthy, and lo,
the strong shall be confounded and the weak exalted in his sight!"

It was all, the Mithraic phrasing, as familiar as "Good morning" or
"How are you?" to the audience, yet he must have put new violence
into it, for instead of smiling at the recency of his ardor they
looked at him gravely, and suddenly a miracle was beheld.

Ten minutes after his own experience, Elmer made his first
conversion.

A pimply youth, long known as a pool-room tout, leaped up, his
greasy face working, shrieked, "O God, forgive me!" butted in
frenzy through the crowd, ran to the mourner's bench, lay with his
mouth frothing in convulsion.

Then the hallelujahs rose till they drowned Elmer's accelerated
pleading, then Judson Roberts stood with his arm about Elmer's
shoulder, then Elmer's mother knelt with a light of paradise on her
face, and they closed the meeting in a maniac pealing of


     Draw me nearer, blessed Lord,
     To thy precious bleeding side.


Elmer felt himself victorious over life and king of righteousness.

But it had been only the devoted, the people who had come early and
taken front seats, of whom he had been conscious in his transports.
The students who had remained at the back of the church now
loitered outside the door in murmurous knots, and as Elmer and his
mother passed them, they stared, they even chuckled, and he was
suddenly cold. . . .

It was hard to give heed to his mother's wails of joy all the way
to her boarding-house.

"Now don't you dare think of getting up early to see me off on the
train," she insisted.  "All I have to do is just to carry my little
valise across the street.  You'll need your sleep, after all this
stirrin' up you've had tonight--I was so proud--I've never known
anybody to really wrestle with the Lord like you did.  Oh, Elmy,
you'll stay true?  You've made your old mother so happy!  All my
life I've sorrowed, I've waited, I've prayed and now I shan't ever
sorrow again!  Oh, you will stay true?"

He threw the last of his emotional reserve into a ringing, "You bet
I will, Ma!" and kissed her good-night.

He had no emotion left with which to face walking alone, in a cold
and realistic night, down a street not of shining columns but of
cottages dumpy amid the bleak snow and unfriendly under the bitter
stars.

His plan of saving Jim Lefferts, his vision of Jim with reverent
and beatific eyes, turned into a vision of Jim with extremely irate
eyes and a lot to say.  With that vanishment his own glory
vanished.

"Was I," he wondered, "just a plain damn' fool?

"Jim warned me they'd nab me if I lost my head.

"Now I suppose I can't ever even smoke again without going to
hell."

But he wanted a smoke.  Right now!

He had a smoke.

It comforted him but little as he fretted on:

"There WASN'T any fake about it!  I really did repent all these
darn' fool sins.  Even smoking--I'm going to cut it out.  I did
feel the--the peace of God.

"But can I keep up this speed?  Christ!  I can't DO it!  Never take
a drink or anything--

"I wonder if the Holy Ghost really was there and getting after me?
I did feel different!  I did!  Or was it just because Judson and Ma
and all those Christers were there whooping it up--

"Jud Roberts kidded me into it.  With all his Big Brother stuff.
Prob'ly pulls it everywhere he goes.  Jim'll claim I--Oh, damn Jim,
too!  I got some rights!  None of his business if I come out and do
the fair square thing!  And they DID look up to me when I gave them
the invitation!  It went off fine and dandy!  And that kid coming
right up and getting saved.  Mighty few fellows ever've pulled off
a conversion as soon after their own conversion as I did!  Moody or
none of 'em.  I'll bet it busts the records!  Yes, sir, maybe
they're right.  Maybe the Lord has got some great use for me, even
if I ain't always been all I might of been . . . someways . . . but
I was never mean or tough or anything like that . . . just had a
good time.

"Jim--what right's he got telling me where I head in?  Trouble with
him is, he thinks he knows it all.  I guess these wise old coots
that've written all these books about the Bible, I guess they know
more'n one smart-aleck Kansas agnostic!

"Yes, sir!  The whole crowd!  Turned to me like I was an All-
American preacher!

"Wouldn't be so bad to be a preacher if you had a big church and--
Lot easier than digging out law-cases and having to put it over a
jury and another lawyer maybe smarter'n you are.

"The crowd have to swallow what you tell 'em in a pulpit, and no
back-talk or cross-examination allowed!"

For a second he snickered, but:

"Not nice to talk that way.  Even if a fellow don't do what's right
himself, no excuse for his sneering at fellows that do, like
preachers. . . .  There's where Jim makes his mistake.

"Not worthy to be a preacher.  But if Jim Lefferts thinks for one
single solitary second that I'm afraid to be a preacher because HE
pulls a lot of gaff--I guess _I_ know how I felt when I stood up
and had all them folks hollering and rejoicing--I guess _I_ know
whether I experienced salvation or not!  And I don't require any
James Blaine Lefferts to tell me, neither!"

Thus for an hour of dizzy tramping; now colder with doubt than with
the prairie wind, now winning back some of the exaltation of his
spiritual adventure, but always knowing that he had to confess to
an inexorable Jim.


4


It was after one.  Surely Jim would be asleep, and by next day
there might be a miracle.  Morning always promises miracles.

He eased the door open, holding it with a restraining hand.  There
was a light on the washstand beside Jim's bed, but it was a small
kerosene lamp turned low.  He tiptoed in, his tremendous feet
squeaking.

Jim suddenly sat up, turned up the wick.  He was red-nosed, red-
eyed, and coughing.  He stared, and unmoving, by the table, Elmer
stared back.

Jim spoke abruptly:

"You son of a sea-cook!  You've gone and done it!  You've been
SAVED!  You've let them hornswoggle you into being a Baptist witch-
doctor!  I'm through!  You can go--to heaven!"

"Aw, say now, Jim, lissen!"

"I've listened enough.  I've got nothing more to say.  And now you
listen to me!" said Jim, and he spoke with tongues for three
minutes straight.

Most of the night they struggled for the freedom of Elmer's soul,
with Jim not quite losing yet never winning.  As Jim's face had
hovered at the gospel meeting between him and the evangelist,
blotting out the vision of the cross, so now the faces of his
mother and Judson hung sorrowful and misty before him, a veil
across Jim's pleading.

Elmer slept four hours and went out, staggering with weariness, to
bring cinnamon buns, a wienie sandwich, and a tin pail of coffee
for Jim's breakfast.  They were laboring windily into new
arguments, Jim a little more stubborn, Elmer ever more irritable,
when no less a dignitary than President the Rev. Dr. Willoughby
Quarles, chin whisker, glacial shirt, bulbous waistcoat and all,
plunged under the fat soft wing of the landlady.

The president shook hands a number of times with everybody, he
eyebrowed the landlady out of the room, and boomed in his throaty
pulpit voice, with belly-rumblings and long-drawn R's and L's, a
voice very deep and owlish, most holy and fitting to the temple
which he created merely by his presence, rebuking to flippancy and
chuckles and the puerile cynicisms of the Jim Leffertses--a noise
somewhere between the evening bells and the morning jackass:

"Oh, Brother Elmer, that was a brave thing you did!  I have never
seen a braver!  For a great strong man of your gladiatorial powers
to not be afraid to humble himself!  And your example will do a
great deal of good, a grrrrrreat deal of good!  And we must catch
and hold it.  You are to speak at the Y.M.C.A. tonight--special
meeting to reenforce the results of our wonderful Prayer Week."

"Oh, gee, President, I can't!" Elmer groaned.

"Oh, yes, Brother, you must.  You MUST!  It's already announced.
If you'll go out within the next hour, you'll be gratified to see
posters announcing it all over town!"

"But I can't make a speech!"

"The Lord will give the words if you give the good will!  I myself
shall call for you at a quarter to seven.  God bless you!"

He was gone.

Elmer was completely frightened, completely unwilling, and swollen
with delight that after long dark hours when Jim, an undergraduate,
had used him dirtily and thrown clods at his intellect, the
President of Terwillinger College should have welcomed him to that
starched bosom as a fellow-apostle.

While Elmer was making up his mind to do what he had made up his
mind to do, Jim crawled into bed and addressed the Lord in a low
poisonous tone.

Elmer went out to see the posters.  His name was in lovely large
letters.

For an hour, late that afternoon, after various classes in which
every one looked at him respectfully, Elmer tried to prepare his
address for the Y.M.C.A. and affiliated lady worshipers.  Jim was
sleeping, with a snore like the snarl of a leopard.

In his class in Public Speaking, a course designed to create
congressmen, bishops, and sales-managers, Elmer had had to produce
discourses on Taxation, the Purpose of God in History, Our Friend
the Dog, and the Glory of the American Constitution.  But his
monthly orations had not been too arduous; no one had grieved if he
stole all his ideas and most of his phrasing from the encyclopedia.
The most important part of preparation had been the lubrication of
his polished-mahogany voice with throat-lozenges after rather
steady and totally forbidden smoking.  He had learned nothing
except the placing of his voice.  It had never seemed momentous to
impress the nineteen students of oratory and the instructor, an
unordained licensed preacher who had formerly been a tax-assessor
in Oklahoma.  He had, in Public Speaking, never been a failure nor
ever for one second interesting.

Now, sweating very much, he perceived that he was expected to
think, to articulate the curious desires whereby Elmer Gantry was
slightly different from any other human being, and to rivet
together opinions which would not be floated on any tide of
hallelujahs.

He tried to remember the sermons he had heard.  But the preachers
had been so easily convinced of their authority as prelates, so
freighted with ponderous messages, while himself, he was not at the
moment certain whether he was a missionary who had to pass his
surprising new light on to the multitude, or just a sinner who--

Just a sinner!  For keeps!  Nothing else!  Damned if he'd welsh on
old Jim!  No, SIR!  Or welsh on Juanita, who'd stood for him and
merely kidded him, no matter how soused and rough and mouthy he
might be! . . .  Her hug.  The way she'd get rid of that buttinsky
aunt of Nell's; just wink at him and give Aunty some song and dance
or other and send her out for chow--

God!  If Juanita were only here!  She'd give him the real dope.
She'd advise him whether he ought to tell Prexy and the Y.M. to go
to hell or grab this chance to show Eddie Fislinger and all those
Y.M. highbrows that he wasn't such a bonehead--

No!  Here Prexy had said he was the whole cheese: gotten up a big
meeting for him.  Prexy Quarles and Juanita!  Aber nit!  Never get
them two together!  And Prexy had called on him--

Suppose it got into the newspapers!  How he'd saved a tough kid,
just as good as Judson Roberts could do.  Juanita--find skirts like
her any place, but where could they find a guy that could start in
and save souls right off the bat?

Chuck all these fool thoughts, now that Jim was asleep, and figure
out this spiel.  What was that about sweating in the vineyard?
Something like that, anyway.  In the Bible. . . .  However much
they might rub it in--and no gink'd ever had a worse time, with
that sneaking Eddie poking him on one side and Jim lambasting him
on the other--whatever happened, he had to show those yahoos he
could do just as good--

Hell!  This wasn't buying the baby any shoes; this wasn't getting
his spiel done.  But--

What was the doggone thing to be ABOUT?

Let's see now.  Gee, there was a bully thought!  Tell 'em about how
a strong husky guy, the huskier he was the more he could afford to
admit that the power of the Holy Ghost had just laid him out cold--

No.  Hell!  That was what Old Jud had said.  Must have something
new--kinda new, anyway.

He shouldn't say "hell."  Cut it out.  Stay converted, no matter
how hard it was.  HE wasn't afraid of--Him and Old Jud, they were
husky enough to--

No, sir!  It wasn't Old Jud; it was his mother.  What'd she think
if she ever saw him with Juanita?  Juanita!  That sloppy brat!  No
modesty!

Had to get down to brass tacks.  Now!

Elmer grasped the edge of his work-table.  The top cracked.  His
strength pleased him.  He pulled up his dingy red sweater, smoothed
his huge biceps, and again tackled his apostolic labors:

Let's see now:  The fellow at the Y. would expect him to say--

He had it!  Nobody ever amounted to a darn except as the--what was
it?--as the inscrutable designs of Providence intended him to be.

Elmer was very busy making vast and unformed scrawls in a ten-cent-
note-book hitherto devoted to German.  He darted up, looking
scholarly, and gathered his library about him: his Bible, given to
him by his mother; his New Testament, given by a Sunday School
teacher; his text-books in Weekly Bible and Church History; and
one-fourteenth of a fourteen-volume set of Great Orations of the
World which, in a rare and alcoholic moment of bibliomania, he had
purchased in Cato for seventeen cents.  He piled them and repiled
them and tapped them with his fountain-pen.

His original stimulus had run out entirely.

Well, he'd get help from the Bible.  It was all inspired, every
word, no matter what scoffers like Jim said.  He'd take the first
text he turned to and talk on that.

He opened on:  "Now THEREFORE, Tatnai, governor beyond the river,
Shethar-boznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which ARE
beyond the river, be ye far from thence," an injunction spirited
but not at present helpful.

He returned to pulling his luxuriant hair and scratching.

Golly.  Must be something.

The only way of putting it all over life was to understand these
Forces that the scientists, with their laboratories and everything,
couldn't savvy, but to a real Christian they were just as easy as
rolling off a log--

No.  He hadn't taken any lab courses except Chemistry I, so he
couldn't show where all these physicists and biologists were boobs.

Elmer forlornly began to cross out the lovely scrawls he had made
in his note-book.

He was irritably conscious that Jim was awake, and scoffing:

"Having quite a time being holy and informative, Hell-cat?  Why
don't you pinch your first sermon from the heathen?  You won't be
the first up-and-coming young messiah to do it!"

Jim shied a thin book at him, and sank again into infidel sleep.
Elmer picked up the book.  It was a selection from the writings of
Robert G. Ingersoll.

Elmer was indignant.

Take his speech from Ingersoll, that rotten old atheist that said--
well, anyway, he criticized the Bible and everything!  Fellow that
couldn't believe the Bible, least he could do was not to disturb
the faith of others.  Darn' rotten thing to do!  Fat nerve of Jim
to suggest his pinching anything from Ingersoll!  He'd throw the
book in the fire!

But--Anything was better than going on straining his brains.  He
forgot his woes by drugging himself with heedless reading.  He
drowsed through page on page of Ingersoll's rhetoric and jesting.
Suddenly he sat up, looked suspiciously over at the silenced Jim,
looked suspiciously at Heaven.  He grunted, hesitated, and began
rapidly to copy into the German notebook, from Ingersoll:


Love is the only bow on life's dark cloud.  It is the Morning and
the Evening Star.  It shines upon the cradle of the babe, and sheds
its radiance upon the quiet tomb.  It is the mother of Art,
inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher.  It is the air and light
of every heart, builder of every home, kindler of every fire on
every hearth.  It was the first to dream of immortality.  It fills
the world with melody, for Music is the voice of Love.  Love is the
magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to joy, and
makes right royal kings and queens of common clay.  It is the
perfume of the wondrous flower--the heart--and without that sacred
passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it,
earth is heaven and we are gods.


Only for a moment, while he was copying, did he look doubtful;
then:

"Rats!  Chances are nobody there tonight has ever read Ingersoll.
Agin him.  Besides I'll kind of change it around."


5


When President Quarles called for him, Elmer's exhortation was
outlined, and he had changed to his Sunday-best blue serge double-
breasted suit and sleeked his hair.

As they departed, Jim called Elmer back from the hall to whisper,
"Say, Hell-cat, you won't forget to give credit to Ingersoll, and
to me for tipping you off, will you?"

"You go to hell!" said Elmer.


6


There was a sizable and extremely curious gathering at the Y.M.C.A.
All day the campus had debated, "Did Hell-cat really sure-enough
get saved?  Is he going to cut out his hell-raising?"

Every man he knew was present, their gaping mouths dripping
question-marks, grinning or doubtful.  Their leers confused him,
and he was angry at being introduced by Eddie Fislinger, president
of the Y.M.C.A.

He started coldly, stammering.  But Ingersoll had provided the
beginning of his discourse, and he warmed to the splendor of his
own voice.  He saw the audience in the curving Y.M.C.A. auditorium
as a radiant cloud, and he began to boom confidently, he began to
add to his outline impressive ideas which were altogether his own--
except, perhaps, as he had heard them thirty or forty times in
sermons.

It sounded very well, considering.  Certainly it compared well with
the average mystical rhapsody of the pulpit.

For all his slang, his cursing, his mauled plurals and singulars,
Elmer had been compelled in college to read certain books, to hear
certain lectures, all filled with flushed, florid polysyllables,
with juicy sentiments about God, sunsets, the moral improvement
inherent in a daily view of mountain scenery, angels, fishing for
souls, fishing for fish, ideals, patriotism, democracy, purity, the
error of Providence in creating the female leg, courage, humility,
justice, the agricultural methods of Palestine circ. 4 A.D., the
beauty of domesticity, and preachers' salaries.  These blossoming
words, these organ-like phrases, these profound notions had been
rammed home till they stuck in his brain, ready for use.

But even to the schoolboy-wearied faculty who had done the ramming,
who ought to have seen the sources, it was still astonishing that
after four years of grunting, Elmer Gantry should come out with
these flourishes, which they took perfectly seriously, for they
themselves had been nurtured in minute Baptist and Campbellite
colleges.

Not one of them considered that there could be anything comic in
the spectacle of a large young man, divinely fitted for coal-
heaving, standing up and wallowing in thick slippery words about
Love and the Soul.  They sat--young instructors not long from the
farm, professors pale from years of napping in unaired pastoral
studies--and looked at Elmer respectfully as he throbbed:

"It's awful' hard for a fellow that's more used to bucking the line
than to talking publicly to express how he means, but sometimes I
guess maybe you think about a lot of things even if you don't
always express how you mean, and I want to--what I want to talk
about is how if a fellow looks down deep into things and is really
square with God, and lets God fill his heart with higher
aspirations, he sees that--he sees that Love is the one thing that
can really sure-enough lighten all of life's dark clouds.

"Yes, sir, just Love!  It's the morning and evening star.  It's--
even in the quiet tomb, I mean those that are around the quiet
tomb, you find it even there.  What is it that inspires all great
men, all poets and patriots and philosophers?  It's Love, isn't it?
What gave the world its first evidences of immortality?  Love!  It
fills the world with melody, for what is music?  What is music?
Why!  MUSIC IS THE VOICE OF LOVE!"

The great President Quarles leaned back and put on his spectacles,
which gave a slight appearance of learning to his chin-whiskered
countenance, otherwise that of a small-town banker in 1850.  He was
the center of a row of a dozen initiates on the platform of the
Y.M.C.A. auditorium, a shallow platform under a plaster half-dome.
The wall behind them was thick with diagrams, rather like
anatomical charts, showing the winning of souls in Egypt, the
amount spent on whisky versus the amount spent on hymn-books, and
the illustrated progress of a pilgrim from Unclean Speech through
Cigarette smoking and Beer Saloons to a lively situation in which
he beat his wife, who seemed to dislike it.  Above was a large and
enlightening motto:  "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil
with good."

The whole place had that damp-straw odor characteristic of places
of worship, but President Quarles did not, seemingly, suffer in it.
All his life he had lived in tabernacles and in rooms devoted to
thin church periodicals and thick volumes of sermons.  He had a
slight constant snuffle, but his organism was apparently adapted
now to existing without air.  He beamed and rubbed his hands, and
looked with devout joy on Elmer's broad back as Elmer snapped into
it, ever surer of himself; as he bellowed at the audience--beating
them, breaking through their interference, making a touchdown:

"What is it makes us different from the animals?  The passion of
Love!  Without it, we are--in fact we are nothing; with it, earth
is heaven, and we are, I mean to some extent, like God himself!
Now that's what I wanted to explain about Love, and here's how it
applies.  Prob'ly there's a whole lot of you like myself--oh, I
been doing it, I'm not going to spare myself--I been going along
thinking I was too good, too big, too smart, for the divine love of
the Savior!  Say!  Any of you ever stop and think how much you're
handing yourself when you figure you can get along without divine
intercession?  Say!  I suppose prob'ly you're bigger than Moses,
bigger than St. Paul, bigger than Pastewer, that great scientist--"

President Quarles was exulting, "It was a genuine conversion!  But
more than that!  Here's a true discovery--my discovery!  Elmer is a
born preacher, once he lets himself go, and I can make him do it!
O Lord, how mysterious are thy ways!  Thou hast chosen to train our
young brother not so much in prayer as in the mighty struggles of
the Olympic field!  I--thou, Lord, hast produced a born preacher.
Some day he'll be one of our leading prophets!"

The audience clapped when Elmer hammered out his conclusion:  "--
and you Freshmen will save a lot of time that I wasted if you see
right now that until you know God you know--just nothing!"

They clapped, they made their faces to shine upon him.  Eddie
Fislinger won him by sighing, "Old fellow, you got me beat at my
own game like you have at your game!"  There was much hand-shaking.
None of it was more ardent than that of his recent enemy, the Latin
professor, who breathed:

"Where did you get all those fine ideas and metaphors about the
Divine Love, Gantry?"

"Oh," modestly, "I can't hardly call them mine, Professor.  I guess
I just got them by praying."


7


Judson Roberts, ex-football-star, state secretary of the Y.M.C.A.,
was on the train to Concordia, Kansas.  In the vestibule he had
three puffs of an illegal cigarette and crushed it out.

"No, really, it wasn't so bad for him, that Elmer what's-his-name,
to get converted.  Suppose there ISN'T anything to it.  Won't hurt
him to cut out some of his bad habits for a while, anyway.  And how
do we know?  Maybe the Holy Ghost does come down.  No more
improbable than electricity.  I do wish I could get over this
doubting!  I forget it when I've got 'em going in an evangelistic
meeting, but when I watch a big butcher like him, with that damn'
silly smirk on his jowls--I believe I'll go into the real estate
business.  I don't think I'm hurting these young fellows any, but I
do wish I could be honest.  Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, I wish I had a
good job selling real estate!"


8


Elmer walked home firmly.  "Just what right has Mr. James B.
Lefferts got to tell me I mustn't use my ability to get a crowd
going?  And I certainly had 'em going!  Never knew I could spiel
like that.  Easy as feetball!  And Prexy saying I was a born
preacher!  Huh!"

Firmly and resentfully he came into their room, and slammed down
his hat.

It awoke Jim.  "How'd it go over?  Hand 'em out the gospel guff?"

"I did!" Elmer trumpeted.  "It went over, as you put it, corking.
Got any objections?"

He lighted the largest lamp and turned it up full, his back to Jim.

No answer.  When he looked about, Jim seemed asleep.

At seven next morning he said forgivingly, rather patronizingly,
"I'll be gone till ten--bring you back some breakfast?"

Jim answered, "No, thanks," and those were his only words that
morning.

When Elmer came in at ten-thirty, Jim was gone, his possessions
gone.  (It was no great moving: three suitcases of clothes, an
armful of books.)  There was a note on the table:


I shall live at the College Inn the rest of this year.  You can
probably get Eddie Fislinger to live with you.  You would enjoy it.
It has been stimulating to watch you try to be an honest roughneck,
but I think it would be almost too stimulating to watch you become
a spiritual leader.

J. B. L.


All of Elmer's raging did not make the room seem less lonely.



CHAPTER IV


1


President Quarles urged him.

Elmer would, perhaps, affect the whole world if he became a
minister.  What glory for Old Terwillinger and all the shrines of
Gritzmacher Springs!

Eddie Fislinger urged him.

"Jiminy!  You'd go way beyond me!  I can see you president of the
Baptist convention!"  Elmer still did not like Eddie, but he was
making much now of ignoring Jim Lefferts (they met on the street
and bowed ferociously), and he had to have some one to play valet
to his virtues.

The ex-minister dean of the college urged him.

Where could Elmer find a profession with a better social position
than the ministry--thousands listening to him--invited to banquets
and everything.  So much easier than--Well, not exactly easier; all
ministers worked arduously--great sacrifices--constant demands on
their sympathy--heroic struggle against vice--but same time,
elegant and superior work, surrounded by books, high thoughts, and
the finest ladies in the city or country as the case might be.  And
cheaper professional training than law.  With scholarships and
outside preaching, Elmer could get through the three years of
Mizpah Theological Seminary on almost nothing a year.  What other
plans HAD he for a career?  Nothing definite?  Why, looked like
divine intervention; certainly did; let's call it settled.  Perhaps
he could get Elmer a scholarship the very first year--

His mother urged him.

She wrote, daily, that she was longing, praying, sobbing--

Elmer urged himself.

He had no prospects except the chance of reading law in the dingy
office of a cousin in Toluca, Kansas.  The only things he had
against the ministry, now that he was delivered from Jim, were the
low salaries and the fact that if ministers were caught drinking or
flirting, it was often very hard on them.  The salaries weren't so
bad--he'd go to the top, of course, and maybe make eight or ten
thousand.  But the diversions--He thought about it so much that he
made a hasty trip to Cato, and came back temporarily cured forever
of any desire for wickedness.

The greatest urge was his memory of holding his audience, playing
on them.  To move people--Golly!  He wanted to be addressing
somebody on something right now, and being applauded!

By this time he was so rehearsed in his rôle of candidate for
righteousness that it didn't bother him (so long as no snickering
Jim was present) to use the most embarrassing theological and moral
terms in the presence of Eddie or the president; and without one
grin he rolled out dramatic speeches about "the duty of every man
to lead every other man to Christ," and "the historic position of
the Baptists as the one true Scriptural Church, practising
immersion, as taught by Christ himself."

He was persuaded.  He saw himself as a white-browed and star-eyed
young evangel, wearing a new frock coat, standing up in a pulpit
and causing hundreds of beautiful women to weep with conviction and
rush down to clasp his hand.

But there was one barrier, extremely serious.  They all informed
him that select though he was as sacred material, before he decided
he must have a mystic experience known as a Call.  God himself must
appear and call him to service, and conscious though Elmer was now
of his own powers and the excellence of the church, he saw no more
of God about the place than in his worst days of unregeneracy.

He asked the president and the dean if they had had a Call.  Oh,
yes, certainly; but they were vague about practical tips as to how
to invite a Call and recognize it when it came.  He was reluctant
to ask Eddie--Eddie would be only too profuse with tips, and want
to kneel down and pray with him, and generally be rather damp and
excitable and messy.

The Call did not come, not for weeks, with Easter past and no
decision as to what he was going to do next year.


2


Spring on the prairie, high spring.  Lilacs masked the speckled
brick and stucco of the college buildings, spiræa made a flashing
wall, and from the Kansas fields came soft airs and the whistle of
meadow larks.

Students loafed at their windows, calling down to friends; they
played catch on the campus; they went bareheaded and wrote a great
deal of poetry; and the Terwillinger baseball team defeated
Fogelquist College.

Still Elmer did not receive his divine Call.

By day, playing catch, kicking up his heels, belaboring his
acquaintances, singing "The happiest days that ever were, we knew
at old Terwillinger" on a fence fondly believed to resemble the
Yale fence, or tramping by himself through the minute forest of
cottonwood and willow by Tunker Creek, he expanded with the
expanding year and knew happiness.

The nights were unadulterated hell.

He felt guilty that he had no Call, and he went to the president
about it in mid-May.

Dr. Quarles was thoughtful, and announced;

"Brother Elmer, the last thing I'd ever want to do, in fairness to
the spirit of the ministry, would be to create an illusion of a
Call when there was none present.  That would be like the pagan
hallucinations worked on the poor suffering followers of Roman
Catholicism.  Whatever else he may be, a Baptist preacher must be
free from illusions; he must found his work on good hard scientific
FACTS--the proven facts of the Bible, and substitutionary
atonement, which even pragmatically we know to be true, because it
works.  No, no!  But at the same time I feel sure the voice of God
is calling you, if you can but hear it, and I want to help you lift
the veil of worldliness which still, no doubt, deafens your inner
ear.  Will you come to my house tomorrow evening?  We'll take the
matter to the Lord in prayer."

It was all rather dreadful.

That kindly spring evening, with a breeze fresh in the branches of
the sycamores, President Quarles had shut the windows and drawn the
blinds in his living-room, an apartment filled with crayon
portraits of Baptist worthies, red-plush chairs, and leaded-glass
unit bookcases containing the lay writings of the more poetic
clergy.  The president had gathered as assistants in prayer the
more aged and fundamentalist ex-pastors on the faculty and the more
milky and elocutionary of the Y.M.C.A. leaders, headed by Eddie
Fislinger.

When Elmer entered, they were on their knees, their arms on the
seats of reversed chairs, their heads bowed, all praying aloud and
together.  They looked up at him like old women surveying the
bride.  He wanted to bolt.  Then the president nabbed him, and had
him down on his knees, suffering and embarrassed and wondering what
the devil to pray about.

They took turns at telling God what he ought to do in the case of
"our so ardently and earnestly seeking brother."

"Now will you lift your voice in prayer, Brother Elmer?  Just let
yourself go.  Remember we're all with you, all loving and helping
you," grated the president.

They crowded near him.  The president put his stiff old arm about
Elmer's shoulder.  It felt like a dry bone, and the president
smelled of kerosene.  Eddie crowded up on the other side and
nuzzled against him.  The others crept in, patting him.  It was
horribly hot in that room, and they were so close--he felt as if he
were tied down in a hospital ward.  He looked up and saw the long
shaven face, the thin tight lips, of a minister . . . whom he was
now to emulate.

He prickled with horror, but he tried to pray.  He wailed, "O
blessed Lord, help me to--help me to--"

He had an enormous idea.  He sprang up.  He cried, "Say, I think
the spirit is beginning to work and maybe if I just went out and
took a short walk and kinda prayed by myself, while you stayed here
and prayed for me, it might help."

"I don't think that would be the way," began the president, but the
most aged faculty-member suggested, "Maybe it's the Lord's
guidance.  We hadn't ought to interfere with the Lord's guidance,
Brother Quarles."

"That's so, that's so," the president announced.  "You have your
walk, Brother Elmer, and pray hard, and we'll stay here and besiege
the throne of grace for you."

Elmer blundered out into the fresh clean air.

Whatever happened, he was never going back!  How he hated their
soft, crawly, wet hands!

He had notions of catching the last train to Cato and getting
solacingly drunk.  No.  He'd lose his degree, just a month off now,
and be cramped later in appearing as a real, high-class, college-
educated lawyer.

Lose it, then!  Anything but go back to their crawling creepy
hands, their aged breathing by his ear--

He'd get hold of somebody and say he felt sick and send him back to
tell Prexy and sneak off to bed.  Cinch!  He just wouldn't get his
Call, just pass it up, by Jiminy, and not have to go into the
ministry.

But to lose the chance to stand before thousands and stir them by
telling about divine love and the evening and morning star--If he
could just stand it till he got through theological seminary and
was on the job--Then, if any Eddie Fislinger tried to come into his
study and breathe down his neck--throw him out, by golly!

He was conscious that he was leaning against a tree, tearing down
twigs, and that facing him under a street-lamp was Jim Lefferts.

"You look sick, Hell-cat," said Jim.

Elmer strove for dignity, then broke, with a moaning, "Oh, I am!
What did I ever get into this religious fix for?"

"What they doing to you?  Never mind; don't tell me.  You need a
drink."

"By God, I do!"

"I've got a quart of first-rate corn whisky from a moonshiner I've
dug up out here in the country, and my room's right in this block.
Come along."

Through his first drink, Elmer was quiet, bewildered, vaguely
leaning on the Jim who would guide him away from this horror.

But he was out of practice in drinking, and the whisky took hold
with speed.  By the middle of the second glass he was boasting of
his ecclesiastical eloquence, he was permitting Jim to know that
never in Terwillinger College had there appeared so promising an
orator, that right now they were there praying for him, waiting for
him, the president and the whole outfit!

"But," with a slight return of apology, "I suppose prob'ly you
think maybe I hadn't ought to go back to 'em."

Jim was standing by the open window, saying slowly, "No.  I think
now--You'd better go back.  I've got some peppermints.  They'll fix
your breath, more or less.  Good-by, Hell-cat."

He had won even over old Jim!

He was master of the world, and only a very little bit drunk.

He stepped out high and happy.  Everything was extremely beautiful.
How high the trees were!  What a wonderful drugstore window, with
all those glossy new magazine covers!  That distant piano--magic.
What exquisite young women the co-eds!  What lovable and sturdy men
the students!  He was at peace with everything.  What a really good
fellow he was!  He'd lost all his meannesses.  How kind he'd been
to that poor lonely sinner, Jim Lefferts.  Others might despair of
Jim's soul--he never would.

Poor old Jim.  His room had looked terrible--that narrow little
room with a cot, all in disorder, a pair of shoes and a corncob
pipe lying on a pile of books.  Poor Jim.  He'd forgive him.  Go
around and clean up the room for him.

(Not that Elmer had ever cleaned up their former room.)

Gee, what a lovely spring night!  How corking those old boys were,
Prexy and everybody, to give up an evening and pray for him!

Why was it he felt so fine?  Of course!  The Call had come!  God
had come to him, though just spiritually, not corporeally, so far
as he remembered.  It had come!  He could go ahead and rule the
world!

He dashed into the president's house; he shouted from the door,
erect, while they knelt and looked up at him mousily, "It's come!
I feel it in everything!  God just opened my eyes and made me feel
what a wonderful ole world it is, and it was just like I could hear
his voice saying, 'Don't you want to love everybody and help them
to be happy?  Do you want to just go along being selfish, or have
you got a longing to--to help everybody?'"

He stopped.  They had listened silently, with interested grunts of
"Amen, Brother."

"Honest, it was awful' impressive.  Somehow, something has made me
feel so much better than when I went away from here.  I'm sure it
was a real Call.  Don't you think so, President?"

"Oh, I'm sure of it!" the president ejaculated, getting up hastily
and rubbing his knees.

"I feel that all is right with our brother; that he has now, this
sacred moment, heard the voice of God, and is entering upon the
highest calling in the sight of God," the president observed to the
dean.  "Don't you feel so?"

"God be praised," said the dean, and looked at his watch.


3


On their way home, they two alone, the oldest faculty-member said
to the dean, "Yes, it was a fine gratifying moment.  And--herumph!--
slightly surprising.  I'd hardly thought that young Gantry would
go on being content with the mild blisses of salvation.  Herumph!
Curious smell of peppermint he had about him."

"I suppose he stopped at the drug-store during his walk and had a
soft drink of some kind.  Don't know, Brother," said the dean,
"that I approve of these soft drinks.  Innocent in themselves, but
they might lead to carelessness in beverages.  A man who drinks
ginger ale--how are you going to impress on him the terrible danger
of drinking ALE?"

"Yes, yes," said the oldest faculty-member (he was sixty-eight, to
the dean's boyish sixty).  "Say, Brother, how do you feel about
young Gantry?  About his entering the ministry?  I know you did
well in the pulpit before you came here, as I more or less did
myself, but if you were a boy of twenty-one or -two, do you think
you'd become a preacher now, way things are?"

"Why, Brother!" grieved the dean.  "Certainly I would!  What a
question!  What would become of all our work at Terwillinger, all
our ideals in opposition to the heathenish large universities, if
the ministry weren't the highest ideal--"

"I know.  I know.  I just wonder sometimes--All the new vocations
that are coming up.  Medicine.  Advertising.  World just going it!
I tell you, Dean, in another forty years, by 1943, men will be up
in the air in flying machines, going maybe a hundred miles an
hour!"

"My dear fellow, if the Lord had meant men to fly, he'd have given
us wings."

"But there are prophecies in the Book--"

"Those refer purely to spiritual and symbolic flying.  No, no!
Never does to oppose the clear purpose of the Bible, and I could
dig you out a hundred texts that show unquestionably that the Lord
intends us to stay right here on earth till that day when we shall
be upraised in the body with him."

"Herumph!  Maybe.  Well, here's my corner.  Good night, Brother."

The dean came into his house.  It was a small house.

"How'd it go?" asked his wife.

"Splendid.  Young Gantry seemed to feel an unmistakable divine
call.  Something struck him that just uplifted him.  He's got a lot
of power.  Only--"

The dean irritably sat down in a cane-seated rocker, jerked off his
shoes, grunted, drew on his slippers.

"Only, hang it, I simply can't get myself to like him!  Emma, tell
me:  If I were his age now, do you think I'd go into the ministry,
as things are today?"

"Why, Henry!  What in the world ever makes you say a thing like
that?  Of course you would!  Why, if that weren't the case--What
would our whole lives mean, all we've given up and everything?"

"Oh, I know.  I just get to thinking.  Sometimes I wonder if we've
given up so much.  Don't hurt even a preacher to face himself!
After all, those two years when I was in the carpet business,
before I went to the seminary, I didn't do very well.  Maybe I
wouldn't have made any more than I do now.  But if I could--Suppose
I could've been a great chemist?  Wouldn't that (mind you, I'm just
speculating, as a student of psychology)--wouldn't that conceivably
be better than year after year of students with the same confounded
problems over and over again--and always so pleased and surprised
and important about them!--or year after year again of standing in
the pulpit and knowing your congregation don't remember what you've
said seven minutes after you've said it?"

"Why, Henry, I don't know what's gotten into you!  I think you
better do a little praying yourself instead of picking on this poor
young Gantry!  Neither you nor I could ever have been happy except
in a Baptist church or a real cover-to-cover Baptist college."

The dean's wife finished darning the towels and went up to say
good-night to her parents.

They had lived with her since her father's retirement, at seventy-
five, from his country pastorate.  He had been a missionary in
Missouri before the Civil War.

Her lips had been moving, her eyebrows working, as she darned the
towels; her eyebrows were still creased as she came into their room
and shrieked at her father's deafness:

"Time to go to bed, Papa.  And you, Mama."

They were nodding on either side of a radiator unheated for months.

"All right, Emmy," piped the ancient.

"Say Papa--Tell me:  I've been thinking:  If you were just a young
man today, would you go into the ministry?"

"Course I would!  What an idea!  Most glorious vocation young man
could have.  Idea!  G'night, Emmy!"

But as his ancient wife sighingly removed her corsets, she
complained, "Don't know as you would or not--if _I_ was married to
you--which ain't any too certain, a second time--and if I had
anything to say about it."

"Which IS certain!  Don't be foolish.  Course I would."

"I don't know.  Fifty years _I_ had of it, and I never did get so I
wa'n't just mad clear through when the ladies of the church came
poking around, criticizing me for every little tidy I put on the
chairs, and talking something terrible if I had a bonnet or a shawl
that was the least mite tasty.  ''Twa'n't suitable for a minister's
wife.'  Drat 'em!  And I always did like a bonnet with some nice
bright colors.  Oh, I've done a right smart of thinking about it.
You always were a powerful preacher, but's I've told you--"

"You have!"

"--I never could make out how, if when you were in the pulpit you
really knew so much about all these high and mighty and mysterious
things, how it was when you got home you never knew enough, and you
never could learn enough, to find the hammer or make a nice piece
of corn-bread or add up a column of figures twice alike or find
Oberammergau on the map of Austria!"

"Germany, woman!  I'm sleepy!"

"And all these years of having to pretend to be so good when we
were just common folks all the time!  Ain't you glad you can just
be simple folks now?"

"Maybe it is restful.  But that's not saying I wouldn't do it over
again."  The old man ruminated a long while.  "I think I would.
Anyway, no use discouraging these young people from entering the
ministry.  Somebody got to preach the gospel truth, ain't they?"

"I suppose so.  Oh, dear.  Fifty years since I married a preacher!
And if I could still only be sure about the virgin birth!  Now
don't you go explaining!  Laws, the number of times you've
explained!  I know it's true--it's in the Bible.  If I could only
BELIEVE it!  But--

"I would of liked to had you try your hand at politics.  If I could
of been, just once, to a senator's house, to a banquet or
something, just once, in a nice bright red dress with gold
slippers, I'd of been willing to go back to alpaca and scrubbing
floors, and listening to you rehearsing your sermons, out in the
stable, to that old mare we had for so many years--oh, laws, how
long is it she's been dead now?  Must be--yes, it's twenty-seven
years--

"Why is that it's only in religion that the things you got to
believe are agin all experience?  Now drat it, don't you go and
quote that 'I believe because it IS impossible' thing at me again!
Believe because it's impossible!  Huh!  Just like a minister!

"Oh, dear, I hope I don't live long enough to lose my faith.  Seems
like the older I get, the less I'm excited over all these preachers
that talk about hell only they never saw it.

"Twenty-seven years!  And we had that old hoss so long before that.
My how she could kick--Busted that buggy--"

They were both asleep.



CHAPTER V


1


In the cottonwood grove by the muddy river, three miles west of
Paris, Kansas, the godly were gathered with lunch-baskets, linen
dusters, and moist unhappy babies for the all-day celebration.
Brothers Elmer Gantry and Edward Fislinger had been licensed to
preach before, but now they were to be ordained as full-fledged
preachers, as Baptist ministers.

They had come home from distant Mizpah Theological Seminary for
ordination by their own council of churches, the Kayooska River
Baptist Association.  Both of them had another year to go out of
the three-year seminary course, but by the more devout and rural
brethren it is considered well to ordain the clerics early, so that
even before they attain infallible wisdom they may fill backwoods
pulpits and during week-ends do good works with divine authority.

His vacation after college Elmer had spent on a farm; during
vacation after his first year in seminary he had been supervisor in
a boys' camp; now, after ordination, he was to supply at the
smaller churches in his corner of Kansas.

During his second year of seminary, just finished, he had been more
voluminously bored than ever at Terwillinger.  Constantly he had
thought of quitting, but after his journeys to the city of Monarch,
where he was in closer relation to fancy ladies and to bartenders
than one would have desired in a holy clerk, he got a second wind
in his resolve to lead a pure life, and so managed to keep on
toward perfection, as symbolized by the degree of Bachelor of
Divinity.

But if he had been bored, he had acquired professional training.

He was able now to face any audience and to discourse authoritatively
on any subject whatever, for any given time to the second, without
trembling and without any errors of speech beyond an infrequent
"ain't" or "he don't."  He had an elegant vocabulary. He knew
eighteen synonyms for sin, half of them very long and impressive,
and the others very short and explosive and minatory--minatory
being one of his own best words, constantly useful in terrifying
the as yet imaginary horde of sinners gathered before him.

He was no longer embarrassed by using the most intimate language
about God; without grinning he could ask a seven-year-old-boy,
"Don't you want to give up your vices?" and without flinching, he
could look a tobacco salesman in the eye and demand, "Have you ever
knelt before the throne of grace?"

Whatever worldly expressions he might use in sub rosa conversations
with the less sanctified theological students, such as Harry Zenz,
who was the most confirmed atheist in the school, in public he
never so much as said "doggone" and he had on tap, for immediate
and skilled use, a number of such phrases as "Brother, I am willing
to help you find religion," "My whole life is a testimonial to my
faith," "To the inner eye there is no trouble in comprehending the
threefold nature of divinity," "We don't want any long-faced
Christians in this church--the fellow that's been washed in the
blood of the Lamb is just so happy he goes 'round singing and
hollering hallelujah all day long," and "Come on now, all get
together, and let's make this the biggest collection this church
has ever seen."  He could explain foreordination thoroughly, and he
used the words "baptizo" and "Athanasian."

He would, perhaps, be less orchestral, less Palladian, when he had
been in practise for a year or two after graduation and discovered
that the hearts of men are vile, their habits low, and that they
are unwilling to hand the control of all those habits over to the
parson.  But he would recover again, and he was a promise of what
he might be in twenty years, as a ten-thousand-dollar seer.

He had grown broader, his glossy hair, longer than at Terwillinger,
was brushed back from his heavy white brow, his nails were oftener
clean, and his speech was Jovian.  It was more sonorous, more
measured and pontifical; he could, and did, reveal his interested
knowledge of your secret moral diabetes merely by saying, "How are
we today, Brother?"

And though he had almost flunked in Greek, his thesis on "Sixteen
Ways of Paying a Church Debt" had won the ten-dollar prize in
Practical Theology.


2


He walked among the Kayooska Valley communicants, beside his
mother.  She was a small-town business woman; she was not unduly
wrinkled or shabby; indeed she wore a good little black hat and a
new brown silk frock with a long gold chain; but she was
inconspicuous beside his bulk and sober magnificence.

He wore for the ceremony a new double-breasted suit of black
broadcloth, and new black shoes.  So did Eddie Fislinger, along
with a funereal tie and a black wide felt hat, like a Texas
congressman's.  But Elmer was more daring.  Had he not understood
that he must show dignity, he would have indulged himself in the
gaudiness for which he had a talent.  He had compromised by buying
a beautiful light gray felt hat in Chicago, on his way home, and he
had ventured on a red-bordered gray silk handkerchief, which gave a
pleasing touch of color to his sober chest.

But he had left off, for the day, the large opal ring surrounded by
almost gold serpents for which he had lusted and to which he had
yielded when in liquor, in the city of Monarch.

He walked as an army with banners, he spoke like a trombone, he
gestured widely with his large blanched thick hand; and his mother,
on his arm, looked up in ecstasy.  He wafted her among the crowd,
affable as a candidate for probate judgeship, and she was covered
with the fringes of his glory.

For the ordination, perhaps two hundred Baptist laymen and laywomen
and at least two hundred babies had come in from neighboring
congregations by buckboard, democrat wagon, and buggy.  (It was
1905; there was as yet no Ford nearer than Fort Scott.)  They were
honest, kindly, solid folk; farmers and blacksmiths and cobblers;
men with tanned deep-lined faces, wearing creased "best suits"; the
women, deep bosomed or work-shriveled, in clean gingham.  There was
one village banker, very chatty and democratic, in a new crash
suit.  They milled like cattle, in dust up to their shoe laces, and
dust veiled them, in the still heat, under the dusty branches of
the cottonwoods from which floated shreds to catch and glisten on
the rough fabric of their clothes.

Six preachers had combined to assist the Paris parson in his
ceremony, and one of them was no less than the Rev. Dr. Ingle, come
all the way from St. Joe, where he was said to have a Sunday School
of six hundred.  As a young man--very thin and eloquent in a frock
coat--Dr. Ingle had for six months preached in Paris, and Mrs.
Gantry remembered him as her favorite minister.  He had been so
kind to her when she was ill; had come in to read "Ben Hur" aloud,
and tell stories to a chunky little Elmer given to hiding behind
furniture and heaving vegetables at visitors.

"Well, well, Brother, so this is the little tad I used to know as a
shaver!  Well, you always were a good little mannie, and they tell
me that now you're a consecrated young man--that you're destined to
do a great work for the Lord," Dr. Ingle greeted Elmer.

"Thank you, Doctor.  Pray for me.  It's an honor to have you come
from your great church," said Elmer.

"Not a bit of trouble.  On my way to Colorado--I've taken a cabin
way up in the mountains there--glorious view--sunsets--painted by
the Lord himself.  My congregation have been so good as to give me
two months' vacation.  Wish you could pop up there for a while,
Brother Elmer."

"I wish I could, Doctor, but I have to try in my humble way to keep
the fires burning around here."

Mrs. Gantry was panting.  To have her little boy discoursing with
Dr. Ingle as though they were equals!  To hear him talking like a
preacher--just as NATURAL!  And some day--Elmer with a famous
church; with a cottage in Colorado for the summer; married to a
dear pious little woman, with half a dozen children; and herself
invited to join them for the summer; all of them kneeling in family
prayers, led by Elmer . . . though it was true Elmer declined to
hold family prayers just now; said he'd had too much of it in
seminary all year . . . too bad, but she'd keep on coaxing . . .
and if he just WOULD stop smoking, as she had begged and besought
him to do . . . well, perhaps if he didn't have a few naughtinesses
left, he wouldn't hardly be her little boy any more. . . .  How
she'd had to scold once upon a time to get him to wash his hands
and put on the nice red woolen wristlets she'd knitted for him!

No less satisfying to her was the way in which Elmer impressed all
their neighbors.  Charley Watley, the house-painter, commander of
the Ezra P. Nickerson Post of the G.A.R. of Paris, who had always
pulled his white mustache and grunted when she had tried to explain
Elmer's hidden powers of holiness, took her aside to admit:  "You
were right, Sister; he makes a find upstanding young man of God."

They encountered that town problem, Hank McVittle, the druggist.
Elmer and he had been mates; together they had stolen sugar-corn,
drunk hard cider, and indulged in haymow venery.  Hank was a small
red man, with a lascivious and knowing eye.  It was certain that he
had come today only to laugh at Elmer.

They met face on, and Hank observed, "Morning, Mrs. Gantry.  Well,
Elmy, going to be a preacher, eh?"

"I am, Hank."

"Like it?"  Hank was grinning and scratching his cheek with a
freckled hand; other unsanctified Parisians were listening.

Elmer boomed, "I do, Hank.  I love it!  I love the ways of the
Lord, and I don't ever propose to put my foot into any others!
Because I've tasted the fruit of evil, Hank--you know that.  And
there's nothing to it.  What fun we had, Hank, was nothing to the
peace and joy I feel now.  I'm kind of sorry for you, my boy."  He
loomed over Hank, dropped his paw heavily on his shoulder.  "Why
don't you try to get right with God?  Or maybe you're smarter than
he is!"

"Never claimed to be anything of the sort!" snapped Hank, and in
that testiness Elmer triumphed, his mother exulted.

She was sorry to see how few were congratulating Eddie Fislinger,
who was also milling, but motherless, inconspicuous, meek to the
presiding clergy.

Old Jewkins, humble, gentle old farmer, inched up to murmur, "Like
to shake your hand, Brother Elmer.  Mighty fine to see you chosen
thus and put aside for the work of the Lord.  Jiggity!  T'think I
remember you as knee-high to a grasshopper!  I suppose you study a
lot of awful learned books now."

"They make us work good and hard, Brother Jewkins.  They give us
pretty deep stuff: hermeneutics, chrestomathy, pericopes, exegesis,
homiletics, liturgies, isagogics, Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic,
hymnology, apologetics--oh, a good deal."

"Well!  I should SAY so!" worshiped old Jewkins, while Mrs. Gantry
marveled to find Elmer even more profound than she had thought, and
Elmer reflected proudly that he really did know what all but a
couple of the words meant.

"My!" sighed his mother.  "You're getting so educated, I declare t'
goodness pretty soon I won't hardly dare to talk to you!"

"Oh, no.  There'll never come a time when you and I won't be the
best of pals, or when I won't need the inspiration of your
prayers!" said Elmer Gantry melodiously, with refined but manly
laughter.


3


They were assembling on benches, wagon-seats and boxes for the
ceremony of ordination.

The pulpit was a wooden table with a huge Bible and a pitcher of
lemonade.  Behind it were seven rocking chairs for the clergy, and
just in front, two hard wooden chairs for the candidates.

The present local pastor, Brother Dinger, was a meager man, slow of
speech and given to long prayers.  He rapped on the table.  "We
will, uh, we will now begin."

. . . Elmer, looking handsome on a kitchen chair in front of the
rows of flushed hot faces.  He stopped fretting that his shiny new
black shoes were dust-gray.  His heart pounded.  He was in for it!
No escape!  He was going to be a pastor!  Last chance for Jim
Lefferts, and Lord knew where Jim was.  He couldn't--His shoulder
muscles were rigid.  Then they relaxed wearily, as though he had
struggled to satiety, while Brother Dinger went on:

"Well, we'll start with the usual, uh, examination of our young
brothers, and the brethren have, uh, they've been good enough, uh,
to let me, uh, in whose charge one, uh, one of these fine young
brothers has always lived and made his home--to let me, uh, let me
ask the questions.  Now, Brother Gantry, do you believe fully and
whole-heartedly in baptism by immersion?"

Elmer was thinking, "What a rotten pulpit voice the poor duck has,"
but aloud he was rumbling:

"I believe, Brother, and I've been taught, that possibly a man
MIGHT be saved if he'd just been baptized by sprinkling or pouring,
but only if he were ignorant of the truth.  Of course immersion is
the only Scriptural way--if we're really going to be like Christ,
we must be buried with him in baptism."

"That's fine, Brother Gantry.  Praise God!  Now, Brother Fislinger,
do you believe in the final perseverance of the saints?"

Eddie's eager but cracked voice explaining--on--on--somniferous as
the locusts in the blazing fields across the Kayooska River.  As
there is no hierarchy in the Baptist Church, but only a free
association of like-minded local churches, so are there no
canonical forms of procedure, but only customs.  The ceremony of
ordination is not a definite rite; it may vary as the local
associations will, and ordination is conferred not by any bishop
but by the general approval of the churches in an association.

The questions were followed by the "charge to the candidates," a
tremendous discourse by the great Dr. Ingle, in which he commended
study, light meals, and helping the sick by going and reading texts
to them.  Every one joined then in a tremendous basket-lunch on
long plank tables by the cool river . . . banana layer cake,
doughnuts, fried chicken, chocolate layer cake, scalloped potatoes,
hermit cookies, cocoa-nut layer cake, pickled tomato preserves, on
plates which skidded about the table, with coffee poured into
saucerless cups from a vast tin pot, inevitably scalding at least
one child, who howled.  There were hearty shouts of "Pass the lemon
pie, Sister Skiff," and "That was a fine discourse of Brother
Ingle's," and "Oh, dear, I dropped my spoon and an ant got on it--
well, I'll just wipe it on my apron--that was fine, the way Brother
Gantry explained how the Baptist Church has existed ever since Bible
days." . . .  Boys bathing, shrieking, splashing one another. . . .
Boys getting into the poison ivy. . . .  Boys becoming so infected
with the poison ivy that they would turn spotty and begin to swell
within seven hours. . . .  Dr. Ingle enthusiastically telling the
other clergy of his trip to the Holy Land. . . .  Elmer lying about
his fondness for the faculty of his theological seminary.

Reassembled after lunch, Brother Tusker, minister of the largest
congregation in the association, gave the "charge to the churches."
This was always the juiciest and most scandalous and delightful
part of the ordination ceremony.  In it the clergy had a chance to
get back at the parishioners who, as large contributors, as
guaranteed saints, had all year been nagging them.

Here were these fine young men going into the ministry, said
Brother Tusker.  Well, it was up to them to help.  Brother Gantry
and Brother Fislinger were leaping with the joy of sacrifice and
learning.  Then let the churches give 'em a chance, and not make'
em spend all the time hot-footing it around, as some older
preachers had to do, raising their own salaries!  Let folks quit
criticizing; let 'em appreciate godly lives and the quickening word
once in a while, instead of ham-ham-hammering their preachers all
day long!

And certain of the parties who criticized the preachers' wives for
idleness--funny the way some of THEM seemed to have so much time to
gad around and notice things and spread scandal!  T'wa'n't only the
menfolks that the Savior was thinking of when he talked about them
that were without sin being the only folks that were qualified to
heave any rocks!

The other preachers leaned back in their chairs and tried to look
casual, and hoped that Brother Tusker was going to bear down even a
lee-tle heavier on that matter of raising salaries.

In his sermon and the concluding ordination prayer Brother
Knoblaugh (of Barkinsville) summed up, for the benefit of Elmer
Gantry, Eddie Fislinger, and God, the history of the Baptists, the
importance of missions, and the peril of not reading the Bible
before breakfast daily.

Through this long prayer, the visiting pastors stood with their
hands on the heads of Elmer and Eddie.

There was a grotesque hitch at first.  Most of the ministers were
little men who could no more than reach up to Elmer's head.  They
stood strained and awkward and unecclesiastical, these shabby good
men, before the restless audience.  There was a giggle.  Elmer had
a dramatic flash.  He knelt abruptly, and Eddie, peering and
awkward, followed him.

In the powdery gray dust Elmer knelt, ignoring it.  On his head
were the worn hands of three veteran preachers, and suddenly he was
humble, for a moment he was veritably being ordained to the
priestly service of God.

He had been only impatient till this instant.  In the chapels at
Mizpah and Terwillinger he had heard too many famous visiting
pulpiteers to be impressed by the rustic eloquence of the Kayooska
Association.  But he felt now their diffident tenderness, their
unlettered fervor--these poverty-twisted parsons who believed,
patient in their bare and baking tabernacles, that they were saving
the world, and who wistfully welcomed the youths that they
themselves had been.

For the first time in weeks Elmer prayed not as an exhibition but
sincerely, passionately, savoring righteousness:

"Dear God--I'll get down to it--not show off but just think of
thee--do good--God help me!"

Coolness fluttered the heavy dust-caked leaves, and as the sighing
crowd creaked up from their benches, Elmer Gantry stood confident
. . . ordained minister of the gospel.



CHAPTER VI


1


The state of Winnemac lies between Pittsburgh and Chicago, and in
Winnemac, perhaps a hundred miles south of the city of Zenith, is
Babylon, a town which suggests New England more than the Middle
West.  Large elms shade it, there are white pillars beyond lilac
bushes, and round about the town is a serenity unknown on the gusty
prairies.

Here is Mizpah Theological Seminary, of the Northern Baptists.
(There is a Northern and Southern convention of this distinguished
denomination, because before the Civil War the Northern Baptists
proved by the Bible, unanswerably, that slavery was wrong; and the
Southern Baptists proved by the Bible, irrefutably, that slavery
was the will of God.)

The three buildings of the seminary are attractive; brick with
white cupolas, green blinds at the small-paned wide windows.  But
within they are bare, with hand-rubbings along the plaster walls,
with portraits of missionaries and ragged volumes of sermons.

The large structure is the dormitory, Elizabeth J. Schmutz Hall--
known to the less reverent as Smut Hall.

Here lived Elmer Gantry, now ordained but completing the last year
of work for his Bachelor of Divinity degree, a commodity of value
in bargaining with the larger churches.

There were only sixteen left now of his original class of thirty-
five.  The others had dropped out, for rural preaching, life
insurance, or a melancholy return to plowing.  There was no one
with whom he wanted to live, and he dwelt sulkily in a single room,
with a cot, a Bible, a portrait of his mother, and with a copy of
"What a Young Man Ought to Know," concealed inside his one starched
pulpit shirt.

He disliked most of his class.  They were too rustic or too pious,
too inquisitive about his monthly trips to the city of Monarch or
simply too dull.  Elmer liked the company of what he regarded as
intellectual people.  He never understood what they were saying,
but to hear them saying it made him feel superior.

The group which he most frequented gathered in the room of Frank
Shallard and Don Pickens, the large corner room on the second floor
of Smut Hall.

It was not an esthetic room.  Though Frank Shallard might have come
to admire pictures, great music, civilized furniture, he had been
trained to regard them as worldly, and to content himself with art
which "presented a message," to regard "Les Miserables" as superior
because the bishop was a kind man, and "The Scarlet Letter" as a
poor book because the heroine was sinful and the author didn't
mind.

The walls were of old plaster, cracked and turned deathly gray,
marked with the blood of mosquitoes and bed-bugs slain in
portentous battles long ago by theologians now gone forth to bestow
their thus uplifted visions on a materialistic world.  The bed was
a skeleton of rusty iron bars, sagging in the center, with a
comforter which was not too clean.  Trunks were in the corners, and
the wardrobe was a row of hooks behind a calico curtain.  The grass
matting was slowly dividing into separate strands, and under the
study table it had been scuffed through to the cheap pine flooring.

The only pictures were Frank's steel engraving of Roger Williams,
his framed and pansy-painted copy of "Pippa Passes," and Don
Pickens' favorite, a country church by winter moonlight, with
tinsel snow, which sparkled delightfully.  The only untheological
books were Frank's poets: Wordsworth, Longfellow, Tennyson,
Browning, in standard volumes, fine-printed and dismal, and one
really dangerous papist document, his "Imitation of Christ," about
which there was argument at least once a week.

In his room squatting on straight chairs, the trunks, and the bed,
on a November evening in 1905, were five young men besides Elmer
and Eddie Fislinger.  Eddie did not really belong to the group, but
he persisted in following Elmer, feeling that not even yet was
everything quite right with the brother.

"A preacher has got to be just as husky and pack just as good a
wallop as a prize-fighter.  He ought to be able to throw out any
roughneck that tries to interrupt his meetings, and still more,
strength makes such a hit with the women in his congregation--of
course I don't mean it any wrong way," said Wallace Umstead.

Wallace was a student-instructor, head of the minute seminary
gymnasium and "director of physical culture"; a young man who had a
military mustache and who did brisk things on horizontal bars.  He
was a state university B.A. and graduate of a physical-training
school.  He was going into Y.M.C.A. work when he should have a
divinity degree, and he was fond of saying, "Oh, I'm still one of
the boys, you know, even if I am a prof."

"That's right," agreed Elmer Gantry.  "Say, I had--I was holding a
meeting at Grauten, Kansas, last summer, and there was a big boob
that kept interrupting, so I just jumped down from the platform and
went up to him, and he says, 'Say, Parson,' he says, 'Can you tell
us what the Almighty wants us to do about prohibition, considering
he told Paul to take some wine for his stomach's sake?'  'I don't
know as I can,' I says, 'but you want to remember he also commanded
us to cast out devils!' and I yanked that yahoo out of his seat and
threw him out on his ear, and say, the whole crowd--well, there
weren't so awfully many there, but they certainly did give him the
ha-ha!  You bet.  And to be husky makes a hit with the whole
congregation, men's well as women.  But there's more'n one high-
toned preacher that got his pulpit because the deacons felt he
could lick 'em.  Of course praying and all that is all O.K., but
you got to be practical!  We're here to do good, but first you have
to cinch a job that you can do good in!"

"You're commercial!" protested Eddie Fislinger, and Frank Shallard:
"Good heavens, Gantry, is that all your religion means to you?"

"Besides," said Horace Carp, "you have the wrong angle.  It isn't
mere brute force that appeals to women--to congregations.  It's a
beautiful voice.  I don't envy you your bulk, Elmer--besides,
you're going to get fat--"

"I am like hell!"

"--but what I could do with that voice of yours!  I'd have 'em all
weeping!  I'd read 'em poetry from the pulpit!"

Horace Carp was the one High Churchman in the Seminary.  He was a
young man who resembled a water spaniel, who concealed Saints'
images, incense, and a long piece of scarlet brocade in his room,
and who wore a purple velvet smoking-jacket.  He was always raging
because his father, a wholesale plumber and pious, had threatened
to kick him out if he went to an Episcopal seminary instead of a
Baptist fortress.

"Yes, you prob'ly would read 'em poetry!" said Elmer.  "That's the
trouble with you high-falutin' guys.  You think you can get people
by a lot of poetry and junk.  What gets 'em and holds 'em and
brings 'em to their pews every Sunday is the straight gospel--and
it don't hurt one bit to scare 'em into being righteous with the
good old-fashioned Hell!"

"You bet--providing you encourage 'em to keep their bodies in swell
shape, too," condescended Wallace Umstead.  "Well, I don't want to
talk as a prof--after all I'm glad I can still remain just one of
the Boys--but you aren't going to develop any very big horse-power
in your praying tomorrow morning if you don't get your sleep.  And
me to my little downy!  G'night!"

At the closing of the door, Harry Zenz, the seminary iconoclast,
yawned, "Wallace is probably the finest slice of tripe in my wide
clerical experience.  Thank God, he's gone!  Now we can be natural
and talk dirty!"

"And yet," complained Frank Shallard, "you encourage him to stay
and talk about his pet methods of exercise!  Don't you ever tell
the truth, Harry?"

"Never carelessly.  Why, you idiot, I want Wallace to run and let
the dean know what an earnest worker in the vineyard I am.  Frank,
you're a poor innocent.  I suspect you actually believe some of the
dope they teach us here.  And yet you're a man of some reading.
You're the only person in Mizpah except myself who could appreciate
a paragraph of Huxley.  Lord, how I pity you when you get into the
ministry!  Of course, Fislinger here is a grocery clerk, Elmer is a
ward politician, Horace is a dancing master--"

He was drowned beneath a surf of protests, not too jocose and
friendly.

Harry Zenz was older than the others--thirty-two at least.  He was
plump, almost completely bald, and fond of sitting still; and he
could look profoundly stupid.  He was a man of ill-assorted but
astonishing knowledge; and in the church ten miles from Mizpah
which he had regularly supplied for two years he was considered a
man of humorless learning and bloodless piety.  He was a complete
and cheerful atheist, but he admitted it only to Elmer Gantry and
Horace Carp.  Elmer regarded him as a sort of Jim Lefferts, but he
was as different from Jim as pork fat from a crystal.  He hid his
giggling atheism--Jim flourished his; he despised women--Jim had a
disillusioned pity for the Juanita Klauzels of the world; he had an
intellect--Jim had only cynical guesses.

Zenz interrupted their protests:

"So you're a bunch of Erasmuses!  You ought to know.  And there's
no hypocrisy in what we teach and preach!  We're a specially
selected group of Parsifals--beautiful to the eye and stirring to
the ear and overflowing with knowledge of what God said to the Holy
Ghost in camera at 9:16 last Wednesday morning.  We're all just
rarin' to go out and preach the precious Baptist doctrine of 'Get
ducked or duck.'  We're wonders.  We admit it.  And people actually
sit and listen to us, and don't choke!  I suppose they're
overwhelmed by our nerve!  And we have to have nerve, or we'd never
dare to stand in a pulpit again.  We'd quit, and pray God to
forgive us for having stood up there and pretended that we
represent God, and that we can explain what we ourselves say are
the unexplainable mysteries!  But I still claim that there are
preachers who haven't our holiness.  Why is it that the clergy are
so given to sex crimes?"

"That's not true!" from Eddie Fislinger.

"Don't talk that way!" Don Pickens begged.  Don was Frank's
roommate: a slight youth, so gentle, so affectionate, that even
that raging lion of righteousness, Dean Trosper, was moved to spare
him.

Harry Zenz patted his arm.  "Oh, you, Don--you'll always be a monk.
But if you don't believe it, Fislinger, look at the statistics of
the five thousand odd crimes committed by clergymen--that is those
who got caught--since the eighties, and note the percentage of sex
offenses--rape, incest, bigamy, enticing young girls--oh, a lovely
record!"

Elmer was yawning, "Oh, God, I do get so sick of you fellows
yammering and arguing and discussing.  All perfectly simple--maybe
we preachers aren't perfect: don't pretend to be; but we do a lot
of good."

"That's right," said Eddie.  "But maybe it is true that--The snares
of sex are so dreadful that even ministers of the gospel get
trapped.  And the perfectly simple solution is continence--just
take it out in prayer and good hard exercise."

"Oh, sure, Eddie, you bet; what a help you're going to be to the
young men in your church," purred Harry Zenz.

Frank Shallard was meditating unhappily.  "Just why are we going to
be preachers, anyway?  Why are you, Harry, if you think we're all
such liars?"

"Oh, not liars, Frank--just practical, as Elmer put it.  Me, it's
easy.  I'm not ambitious.  I don't want money enough to hustle for
it.  I like to sit and read.  I like intellectual acrobatics and no
work.  And you can have all that in the ministry--unless you're one
of these chumps that get up big institutional outfits and work
themselves to death for publicity."

"You certainly have a fine high view of the ministry!" growled
Elmer.

"Well, all right, what's your fine high purpose in becoming a Man
of God, Brother Gantry?"

"Well, I--Rats, it's perfectly clear.  Preacher can do a lot of
good--give help and--And explain religion."

"I wish you'd explain it to me!  Especially I want to know to what
extent are Christian symbols descended from indecent barbaric
symbols?"

"Oh, you make me tired!"

Horace Carp fluttered, "Of course none of you consecrated
windjammers ever think of the one raison d'être of the church,
which is to add beauty to the barren lives of the common people!"

"Yeh!  It certainly must make the common people feel awfully common
to hear Brother Gantry spiel about the errors of supralapsarianism!"

"I never preach about any such a doggone thing!" Elmer protested.
"I just give 'em a good helpful sermon, with some jokes sprinkled
in to make it interesting and some stuff about the theater or
something that'll startle 'em a little and wake 'em up, and help
'em to lead better and fuller daily lives."

"Oh, do you, dearie!" said Zenz.  "My error.  I thought you
probably gave 'em a lot of helpful hints about the innascibilitas
attribute and the res sacramenti.  Well, Frank, why did you become
a theologue?"

"I can't tell you when you put it sneeringly.  I believe there are
mystic experiences which you can follow only if you are truly set
apart."

"Well, I know why I came here," said Don Pickens.  "My dad sent
me!"

"So did mine!" complained Horace Carp.  "But what I can't
understand is:  Why are any of us in an ole Baptist school?
Horrible denomination--all these moldy barns of churches, and
people coughing illiterate hymns, and long-winded preachers always
springing a bright new idea like 'All the world needs to solve its
problems is to get back to the gospel of Jesus Christ.'  The only
church is the Episcopal!  Music!  Vestments!  Stately prayers!
Lovely architecture!  Dignity!  Authority!  Believe me, as soon as
I can make the break, I'm going to switch over to the Episcopalians.
And then I'll have a social position, and be able to marry a nice
rich girl."

"No, you're wrong," said Zenz.  "The Baptist Church is the only
denomination worth while, except possibly the Methodist."

"I'm glad to hear you say that," marveled Eddie.

"Because the Baptists and the Methodists have all the numbskulls--
except those that belong to the Catholic Church and the henhouse
sects--and so even you, Horace, can get away with being a prophet.
There are some intelligent people in the Episcopal and Congregational
Churches, and a few of the Campbellite flocks, and they check up on
you.  Of course all Presbyterians are half-wits, too, but they have
a standard doctrine, and they can trap you into a heresy trial.
But in the Baptist and Methodist Churches, man!  There's the berth
for philosophers like me and hoot-owls like you, Eddie!  All you
have to do with Baptists and Methodists, as Father Carp suggests--"

"If you agree with me about anything, I withdraw it," said Horace.

"All you have to do," said Zenz, "is to get some sound and
perfectly meaningless doctrine and keep repeating it.  You won't
bore the laymen--in fact the only thing they resent is something
that IS new, so they have to work their brains.  Oh, no, Father
Carp--the Episcopal pulpit for actors that aren't good enough to
get on the stage, but the good old Baptist fold for realists!"

"You make me tired, Harry!" complained Eddie.  "You just want to
show off, that's all.  You're a lot better Baptist and a lot better
Christian than you let on to be, and I can prove it.  Folks
wouldn't go on listening to your sermons unless they carried
conviction.  No sir!  You can fool folks once or twice with a lot
of swell-sounding words but in the long run it's sincerity they
look for.  And one thing that makes me know you're on the right
side is that you don't practise open communion.  Golly, I feel that
everything we Baptists stand for is threatened by those darn' so-
called liberals that are beginning to practise open communion."

"Rats!" grumbled Harry.  "Of all the fool Baptist egotisms, close
communion is the worst!  Nobody but people WE consider saved to be
allowed to take communion with us!  Nobody can meet God unless we
introduce 'em!  Self-appointed guardians of the blood and body of
Jesus Christ!  Whew!"

"Absolutely," from Horace Carp.  "And there is absolutely no
Scriptural basis for close communion."

"There certainly is!" shrieked Eddie.  "Frank, where's your Bible?"

"Gee, I left it in O.T.E.  Where's yours, Don?"

"Well, I'll be switched!  I had the darn' thing here just this
evening," lamented Don Pickens, after a search.

"Oh, I remember.  I was killing a cockroach with it.  It's on top
of your wardrobe," said Elmer.

"Gee, honest, you hadn't ought to kill cockroaches with a Bible!"
mourned Eddie Fislinger.  "Now here's the Bible, good and straight,
for close communion, Harry.  It says in First Corinthians, 11:27
and 29:  'Whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the
Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the
Lord.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and
drinketh damnation to himself.'  And how can there be a worthy
Christian unless he's been baptized by immersion?"

"I do wonder sometimes," mused Frank Shallard, "if we aren't rather
impious, we Baptists, to set ourselves up as the keepers of the
gates of God, deciding just who is righteous, who is worthy to
commune."

"But there's nothing else we can do," explained Eddie.  "The
Baptist Church, being the only pure Scriptural church, is the one
real church of God, and we're not setting ourselves up--we're just
following God's ordinances."

Horace Carp had also been reveling in the popular Mizpah sport of
looking up Biblical texts to prove a preconceived opinion.  "I
don't find anything here about Baptists," he said.

"Nor about your doggoned ole Episcopalians, either--darn' snobs!
and the preachers wearing nightshirts!" from Eddie.

"You bet your life you find something--it talks about bishops, and
that means Episcopal bishops--the papes and the Methodists are
uncanonical bishops," rejoiced Horace.  "I'll bet you two dollars
and sixty-seven cents I wind up as an Episcopal bishop, and,
believe me, I'll be high-church as hell--all the candles I can get
on the altar."

Harry Zenz was speculating, "I suppose it's unscientific to believe
that because I happen to be a Baptist practitioner myself and see
what word-splitting, text-twisting, applause-hungry, job-hunting,
medieval-minded second-raters even the biggest Baptist leaders are,
therefore the Baptist Church is the worst of the lot.  I don't
suppose it's really any worse than the Presbyterian or the
Congregational or Disciples or Lutheran or any other.  But--Say,
you, Fislinger, ever occur to you how dangerous it is, this Bible-
worship?  You and I might have to quit preaching and go to work.
You tell the muttonheads that the Bible contains absolutely
everything necessary for salvation, don't you?"

"Of course."

"Then what's the use of having any preachers?  Any church?  Let
people stay home and read the Bible!"

"Well--well--it says--"

The door was dashed open, and Brother Karkis entered.

Brother Karkis was no youthful student.  He was forty-three, heavy-
handed and big-footed, and his voice was the voice of a Great Dane.
Born to the farm, he had been ordained a Baptist preacher, for
twenty years now, and up and down through the Dakotas, Nebraska,
Arkansas, he had bellowed in up-creek tabernacles.

His only formal education had been in country schools; and of all
books save the Bible, revivalistic hymnals, a concordance handy for
finding sermon-texts, and a manual of poultry-keeping, he was
soundly ignorant.  He had never met a woman of the world, never
drunk a glass of wine, never heard a bar of great music, and his
neck was not free from the dust of cornfields.

But it would have been a waste of pity to sigh over Brother Karkis
as a plucky poor student.  He had no longing for further knowledge;
he was certain that he already had it all.  He despised the faculty
as book-adulterated wobblers in the faith--he could "out-pray and
out-holler and out-save the whole lot of 'em."  He desired a Mizpah
degree only because it would get him a better paid job--or, as he
put it, with the 1850 vocabulary which he found adequate for 1905,
because it would "lead him into a wider field of usefulness."

"Say, don't you fellers ever do anything but sit around and argue
and discuss and bellyache?" he shouted.  "My lands, I can hear your
racket way down the hall!  Be a lot better for you young fellers if
you'd forget your smart-aleck arguin' and spend the evening on your
knees in prayer!  Oh, you're a fine lot of smart educated swells,
but you'll find where that rubbish gets you when you go out and
have to wrestle with old Satan for unregenerate souls!  What are
you gasbags arguing about, anyway?"

"Harry says," wailed Eddie Fislinger, "that there's nothing in the
Bible that says Christians have to have a church or preachers."

"Huh!  And him that thinks he's so educated.  Where's a Bible?"

It was now in the hands of Elmer, who had been reading his favorite
book, "The Song of Solomon."

"Well, Brother Gantry, glad see there's one galoot here that's got
sense enough to stick by the Old Book and get himself right with
God, 'stead of shooting off his face like some Pedo-Baptist.  Now
look here, Brother Zenz:  It says here in Hebrews, 'Forsake not the
assembling of yourselves together.'  There, I guess that'll hold
you!"

"My dear brother in the Lord," said Harry, "the only thing
suggested there is an assembly like the Plymouth Brotherhood, with
no regular paid preachers.  As I was explaining to Brother
Fislinger:  Personally, I'm so ardent an admirer of the Bible that
I'm thinking of starting a sect where we all just sing a hymn
together, then sit and read our Bibles all day long, and not have
any preachers getting between us and the all-sufficient Word of
God.  I expect you to join, Brother Karkis, unless you're one of
these dirty higher critics that want to break down the Bible."

"Oh, you make me tired," said Eddie.

"You make me tired--always twisting the plain commands of
Scripture," said Brother Karkis, shutting the door--weightily, and
from the outside.

"You all make me tired.  My God, how you fellows can argue!" said
Elmer, chewing his Pittsburgh stogie.

The room was thick now with tobacco fumes.  Though in Mizpah
Seminary smoking was frowned on, practically forbidden by custom,
all of the consecrated company save Eddie Fislinger were at it.

He rasped, "This air is something terrible!  Why you fellows touch
that vile weed--Worms and men are the only animals who indulge in
tobacco!  I'm going to get out of here."

There was strangely little complaint.

Rid of Eddie, the others turned to their invariable topic: what
they called "sex."

Frank Shallard and Don Pickens were virgins, timid and fascinated,
respectful and urgent; Horace Carp had had one fumbling little
greensick experience; and all three listened with nervous eagerness
to the experiences of Elmer and Harry Zenz.  Tonight Elmer's mind
reeked with it, and he who had been almost silent during the
ecclesiastical wrangling was voluble now.  The youngsters panted as
he chronicled his meetings with a willing choir-singer, this summer
past.

"Tell me--tell me," fretted Don.  "Do girls, oh--nice girls--do
they really ever--uh--go with a preacher?  And aren't you ashamed
to face them afterwards, in church?"

"Huh!" observed Zenz, and "Ashamed?  They worship you!" declared
Elmer.  "They stand by you the way no wife ever would--as long as
they do fall for you.  Why, this girl--Oh, well, she sang something
elegant."

He finished vaguely, reminiscently.  Suddenly he was bored at
treading the mysteries of sex with these mooncalves.  He lunged up.

"Going?" said Frank.

Elmer posed at the door, smirking, his hands on his hips, "Oh, no.
Not a-tall."  He looked at his watch.  (It was a watch which
reminded you of Elmer himself: large, thick, shiny, with a near-
gold case.)  "I merely have a date with a girl, that's all!"

He was lying, but he had been roused by his own stories, and he
would have given a year of life if his boast were true.  He
returned to his solitary room in a fever.  "God, if Juanita were
only here, or Agatha, or even that little chambermaid at Solomon
Junction--what the dickens was her name now?" he longed.

He sat motionless on the edge of his bed.  He clenched his fists.
He groaned and gripped his knees.  He sprang up, to race about the
room, to return and sit dolorously entranced.

"Oh, God, I can't STAND it!" he moaned.

He was inconceivably lonely.

He had no friends.  He had never had a friend since Jim Lefferts.
Harry Zenz despised his brains, Frank Shallard despised his
manners, and the rest of them he himself despised.  He was bored by
the droning seminary professors all day, the school-boyish arguing
all evening; and in the rash of prayer-meetings and chapel-meetings
and special praise-meetings he was bored by hearing the same
enthusiasts gambol in the same Scriptural rejoicings.

"Oh, yes, I want to go on and preach.  Couldn't go back to just
business or the farm.  Miss the hymns, the being boss.  But--I
can't do it!  God, I am so lonely!  If Juanita was just here!"



CHAPTER VII


1


The Reverend Jacob Trosper, D. D., Ph. D., LL. D., dean and chief
executive of Mizpah Theological Seminary, and Professor of
Practical Theology and Homiletics, was a hard-faced active man with
a large active voice.  His cheeks were gouged with two deep
channels.  His eyebrows were heavy.  His hair, now gray and
bristly, must once have been rusty, like Eddie Fislinger's.  He
would have made an excellent top-sergeant.  He looked through the
students and let them understand that he knew their sins and
idlenesses before they confessed them.

Elmer was afraid of Dean Trosper.  When he was summoned to the
dean's office, the morning after the spiritual conference in Frank
Shallard's room, he was uneasy.

He found Frank with the dean.

"God!  Frank's been tattling about my doings with women!"

"Brother Gantry," said the dean.

"Yes, sir!"

"I have an appointment which should give you experience and a
little extra money.  It's a country church down at Schoenheim,
eleven miles from here, on the spur line of the Ontario, Omaha and
Pittsburgh.  You will hold regular Sunday morning services and
Sunday School; if you are able to work up afternoon or evening
services and prayer meeting, so much the better.  The pay will be
ten dollars a Sunday.  If there's to be anything extra for extra
work--that's up to you and your flock.  I'd suggest that you go
down there on a hand-car.  I'm sure you can get the section-gang
boss here to lend you one, as it's for the Lord's work, and the
boss' brother does a lot of gardening here.  I'm going to send
Brother Shallard with you to conduct the Sunday School and get some
experience.  He has a particularly earnest spirit--which it
wouldn't entirely hurt you to emulate, Brother Gantry--but he's
somewhat shy in contact with sin-hardened common people.

"Now, boys, this is just a small church, but never forget that it's
priceless souls that I'm entrusting to your keeping; and who knows
but that you may kindle there such a fire as may some day illumine
all the world . . . providing, Brother Gantry, you eliminate the
worldly things I suspect you of indulging in!"

Elmer was delighted.  It was his first real appointment.  In
Kansas, this summer, he had merely filled other people's pulpits
for two or three weeks at a time.

He'd show 'em!  Some of these fellows that thought he was just a
mouth-artist!  Show 'em how he could build up a church membership,
build up the collections, get 'em all going with his eloquence--
and, of course, carry the message of salvation into darkened
hearts.

It would be mighty handy to have the extra ten a week--and maybe
more if he could kid the Schoenheim deacons properly.

His first church . . . his own . . . and Frank had to take his
orders!


2


In the virginal days of 1905 section gangs went out to work on the
railway line not by gasoline power but on a hand-car, a platform
with two horizontal bars worked up and down like pump-handles.

On a hand-car Elmer and Frank Shallard set out for their first
charge.  They did not look particularly clerical as they sawed at
the handles; it was a chilly November Sunday morning, and they wore
shabby greatcoats.  Elmer had a moth-eaten plush cap over his ears,
Frank exhibited absurd ear-muffs under a more absurd derby, and
both had borrowed red flannel mittens from the section gang.

The morning was icily brilliant.  Apple orchards glistened in the
frost, and among the rattling weed-stalks by the worm-fences quail
were whistling.

Elmer felt his lungs free of library dust as he pumped.  He
broadened his shoulders, rejoiced in sweating, felt that his
ministry among real men and living life was begun.  He pitied the
pale Frank a little, and pumped the harder . . . and made Frank
pump the harder . . . up and down, up and down, up and down.  It
was agony to the small of his back and shoulders, now growing soft,
to labor on the up-grade, where the shining rails toiled round the
curves through gravel cuts.  But downhill, swooping toward frosty
meadows and the sound of cowbells in the morning sun, he whooped
with exhilaration, and struck up a boisterous:


     There is power, power, wonder-working power
     In the blood
     Of the Lamb--


The Schoenheim church was a dingy brown box with a toy steeple, in
a settlement consisting of the church, the station, a blacksmith
shop, two stores, and half a dozen houses.  But at least thirty
buggies were gathered along the rutty street or in the carriage-
sheds behind the church; at least seventy people had come to
inspect their new pastor; and they stood in gaping circles, staring
between frosty damp mufflers and visored fur caps.

"I'm scared to death!" murmured Frank, as they strode up the one
street from the station, but Elmer felt healthy, proud, expansive.
His own church, small but somehow--somehow different from these
ordinary country meeting-houses--quite a nice-shaped steeple--not
one of those shacks with no steeple at all!  And his people,
waiting for him, their attention flowing into him and swelling him--

He threw open his overcoat, held it back with his hand imperially
poised on his left hip, and let them see not only the black
broadcloth suit bought this last summer for his ordination but
something choice he had added since--elegant white piping at the
opening of his vest.

A red-faced moustached man swaggered up to greet them, "Brother
Gantry?  And Brother Shallard?  I'm Barney Bains, one of the
deacons.  Pleased to meet you.  The Lord give power to your
message.  Some time since we had any preachin' here, and I guess
we're all pretty hungry for spiritual food and the straight gospel.
Bein' from Mizpah, I guess there's no danger you boys believe in
this open communion!"

Frank had begun to worry, "Well, what I feel is--" when Elmer
interrupted him with a very painful bunt in the side, and chanted
with holy joy:

"Pleased meet you, Brother Bains.  Oh, Brother Shallard and I are
absolutely sound both on immersion and close communion.  We trust
you will pray for us, Brother, that the Holy Ghost may be present
in this work today, and that all the brethren may rejoice in a
great awakening and a bountiful harvest!"

Deacon Bains and all who heard him muttered, saint to saint, "He's
pretty young yet, but he's got the right idee.  I'm sure we're
going to have real rousing preaching.  Don't think much of Brother
Shallard, though.  Kind of a nice-looking young fella, but dumm in
the head.  Stands there like a bump on a log.  Well, he's good
enough to teach the kids in Sunday School."

Brother Gantry was shaking hands all round.  His sanctifying
ordination, or it might have been his summer of bouncing from
pulpit to pulpit, had so elevated him that he could greet them as
impressively and fraternally as a sewing-machine agent.  He shook
hands with a good grip, he looked at all the more aged sisters as
though he were moved to give them a holy kiss, he said the right
things about the weather, and by luck or inspiration it was to the
most acidly devout man in Boone County that he quoted a homicidal
text from Malachi.

As he paraded down the aisle, leading his flock, he panted:

"Got 'em already!  I can do something to wake these hicks up, where
gas-bags like Frank or Carp would just chew the rag.  How could I
of felt so down in the mouth and so--uh--so carnal last week?
Lemme at that pulpit!"

They faced him in hard straight pews, rugged heads seen against the
brown wall and the pine double doors grained to mimic oak; they
gratifyingly crowded the building, and at the back stood shuffling
young men with unshaven chins and pale blue neckties.

He felt power over them while he trolled out the chorus of "The
Church in the Wildwood."

His text was from Proverbs:  "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love
covereth all sins."

He seized the sides of the pulpit with his powerful hands, glared
at the congregation, decided to look benevolent after all, and
exploded:

"In the hustle and bustle of daily life I wonder how many of us
stop to think that in all that is highest and best we are ruled not
by even our most up-and-coming efforts but by Love?  What is Love--
the divine Love of which the--the great singer teaches us in
Proverbs?  It is the rainbow that comes after the dark cloud.  It
is the morning star and it is also the evening star, those being,
as you all so well know, the brightest stars we know.  It shines
upon the cradle of the little one and when life has, alas,
departed, to come no more, you find it still around the quiet tomb.
What is it inspires all great men--be they preachers or patriots or
great business men?  What is it, my brethren, but Love?  Ah, it
fills the world with melody, with such sacred melodies as we have
just indulged in together, for what is music?  What, my friends, is
music?  Ah, what indeed is music but the voice of Love!"

He explained that hatred was low.

However, for the benefit of the more leathery and zealous deacons
down front, he permitted them to hate all Catholics, all persons
who failed to believe in hell and immersion, and all rich mortgage-
holders, wantoning in the betraying smiles of scarlet women, each
of whom wore silk and in her bejeweled hand held a ruby glass of
perfidious wine.

He closed by lowering his voice to a maternal whisper and relating
a totally imaginary but most improving experience with a sinful old
gentleman who on his bed of pain had admitted, to Elmer's urging,
that he ought to repent immediately, but who put it off too long,
died amid his virtuous and grief-stricken daughters, and presumably
went straight to the devil.

When Elmer had galloped down to the door to shake hands with such
as did not remain for Sabbath School, sixteen several auditors said
in effect, "Brother, that was a most helpful sermon and elegantly
expressed," and he wrung their hands with a boyish gratitude
beautiful to see.

Deacon Bains patted his shoulder.  "I've never heard so young a
preacher hand out such fine doctrine, Brother.  Meet my daughter
Lulu."

And she was there, the girl for whom he had been looking ever since
he had come to Mizpah.

Lulu Bains was a gray-and-white kitten with a pink ribbon.  She had
sat at the back of the church, behind the stove, and he had not
seen her.  He looked down at her thirstily.  His excitement at
having played his sermon to such applause was nothing beside his
excitement over the fact that he would have her near him in his
future clerical labors.  Life was a promising and glowing thing as
he held her hand and tried not to sound too insistently 
affectionate.  "Such a pleasure to meet you, Sister Lulu."

Lulu was nineteen or twenty.  She had a diminutive class of twelve-
year-old boys in the Sunday School.  Elmer had intended to sneak
out during Sunday School, leaving Frank Shallard responsible, and
find a place where he could safely smoke a Pittsburgh stogie, but
in view of this new spiritual revelation he hung about, beaming
with holy approbation of the good work and being manly and
fraternal with the little boys in Lulu's class.

"If you want to grow up and be big fellows, regular sure-enough
huskies, you just listen to what Miss Bains has to tell you about
how Solomon built that wonderful big ole temple," he crooned at
them; and if they twisted and giggled in shyness, at least Lulu
smiled at him . . . gray-and-white kitten with sweet kitten eyes
. . . small soft kitten, who purred, "Oh, now, Brother Gantry, I'm
just so scared I don't hardly dare teach" . . . big eyes that took
him into their depths, till he heard her lisping as the voice of
angels, larks, and whole orchestras of flutes.

He could not let her go at the end of Sunday School.  He must hold
her--

"Oh, Sister Lulu, come see the hand-car Frank and I--Brother
Shallard and I--came down on.  The FUN-niest!  Just laugh your head
off!"

As the section gang passed through Schoenheim at least ten times a
week, hand-cars could have been no astounding novelty to Lulu, but
she trotted beside him, and stared prettily, and caroled, "Oh, hon-
est!  Did you come down on THAT?  Well, I never!"

She shook hands cheerfully with both of them.  He thought jealously
that she was as cordial to Frank as to himself.

"He better watch out and not go fooling round MY girl!" Elmer
reflected, as they pumped back toward Babylon.

He did not congratulate Frank on having overcome his dread of
stolid country audiences (Frank had always lived in cities) or on
having made Solomon's temple not merely a depressing object
composed of a substance called "cubits" but an actual shrine in
which dwelt an active and terrifying god.


3


For two Sundays now Elmer had striven to impress Lulu not only as
an efficient young prophet but as a desirable man.  There were
always too many people about.  Only once did he have her alone.
They walked half a mile then to call on a sick old woman.  On their
way Lulu had fluttered at him (gray-and-white kitten in a close
bonnet of soft fuzzy gray, which he wanted to stroke).

"I suppose you're just bored to death by my sermons," he fished.

"Oh, nnnno!  I think they're just wonderful!"

"Do you, honest?"

"Honest, I do!"

He looked down at her childish face till he had caught her eyes,
then, jocularly:

"My, but this wind is making the little cheeks and the cute lips
awful' red!  Or I guess maybe some fella must of been kissing 'em
before church!"

"Oh, no--"

She looked distressed, almost frightened.

"Whoa up!" he counseled himself.  "You've got the wrong track.
Golly, I don't believe she's as much of a fusser as I thought she
was.  Really is kinda innocent.  Poor kid, shame to get her all
excited.  Oh, thunder, won't hurt her a bit to have a little
educated love-making!"

He hastily removed any possible blots on his clerical reputation:

"Oh, I was joking.  I just meant--be a shame if as lovely a girl as
you weren't engaged.  I suppose you are engaged, of course?"

"No.  I liked a boy here awfully, but he went to Cleveland to work,
and I guess he's kind of forgotten me."

"Oh, that is really too bad!"

Nothing could be stronger, more dependable, more comforting, than
the pressure of his fingers on her arm.  She looked grateful; and
when she came to the sick-room and heard Brother Gantry pray, long,
fervently, and with the choicest words about death not really
mattering nor really hurting (the old woman had cancer) then Lulu
also looked worshipful.

On their way back he made his final probe:

"But even if you aren't engaged, Sister Lulu, I'll bet there's a
lot of the young fellows here that're crazy about you."

"No, honest there aren't.  Oh, I go round some with a second cousin
of mine--Floyd Naylor--but, my! he's so slow, he's no fun."

The Rev. Mr. Gantry planned to provide fun.


4


Elmer and Frank had gone down on Saturday afternoon to decorate the
church for the Thanksgiving service.  To save the trip to Babylon
and back, they were to spend Saturday night in the broad farmhouse
of Deacon Bains, and Lulu Bains and her spinster cousin, Miss
Baldwin, were assisting in the decoration--in other words doing it.
They were stringing pine boughs across the back of the hall, and
arranging a harvest feast of pumpkins, yellow corn, and velvety
sumach in front of the pulpit.

"I want your advice, Lulu--Sister Lulu.  Don't you think in my
sermon tomorrow it might be helpful to explain--"

(They stood side by side.  How sweet were her little shoulders, her
soft pussy-cat cheeks!  He had to kiss them!  He had to!  He swayed
toward her.  Damn Frank and that Baldwin female!  Why didn't they
get out?)

"--to explain that all these riches of the harvest, priceless
though they are in themselves and necessary for grub--for the
festal board, yet they are but symbols and indications of the--Do
sit down, Lulu; you look a little tired.--of the deeper spiritual
blessings which he also showers on us and not just at harvest time,
and this is a very important point--"

(Her hand dropped against his knee; lay, so white, on the drab pew.
Her breasts were young and undrained under her plaid blouse.  He
had to touch her hand.  His fingers crept toward it, touched it by
accident, surely by accident, while she looked devotion and he
intoned sublimity.)

"--a very important point indeed; all the year round we receive
those greater inner blessings, and it is for them more than for any
material, uh, material gains that we should lift our voices in
Thanksgiving.  Don't you think it might be valuable to all of us if
I brought that out?"

"Oh, yes!  Indeed I do!  I think that's a lovely thought!"

(His arms tingled.  He HAD to slip them about her.)

Frank and Miss Baldwin had sat down, and they were in an
intolerably long discussion as to what ought to be done about that
terrible little Cutler boy who said that he didn't believe that the
ravens brought any bread and meat to Elijah, not if he knew
anything about these ole crows!  Frank explained that he did not
wish to rebuke honest doubt; but when this boy went and made a
regular business of cutting up and asking foolish questions--

"Lulu!" Elmer urged.  "Skip back in the other room with me a
second.  There's something about the church work I want to ask you,
and I don't want them to hear."

There were two rooms in the Schoenheim church: the auditorium and a
large closet for the storage of hymn-books, mops, brooms, folding
chairs, communion cups.  It was lighted by a dusty window.

"Sister Bains and I are going to look over the Sunday School
lesson-charts," Elmer called largely and brightly.

The fact that she did not deny it bound them together in secrecy.
He sat on an upturned bucket; she perched on a step-ladder.  It was
pleasant to be small in her presence and look up to her.

What the "something about church work" which he was going to ask
her was, he had no notion, but Elmer was a very ready talker in the
presence of young women.  He launched out:

"I need your advice.  I've never met anybody that combined common
sense and spiritual values like what you do."

"Oh, my, you're just flattering me, Brother Gantry!"

"No, I'm not.  Honest, I ain't!  You don't appreciate yourself.
That's because you've always lived in this little burg, but if you
were in Chicago or some place like that, believe me, they'd
appreciate your, uh, that wonderful sense of spiritual values and
everything."

"Oh--Chicago!  My!  I'd be scared to death!"

"Well, I'll have to take you there some day and show you the town!
Guess folks would talk about their bad old preacher THEN!"

They both laughed heartily.

"But seriously, Lulu, what I want to know is--uh--Oh!  What I
wanted to ask you:  Do you think I ought to come down here and hold
Wednesday prayer-meetings?"

"Why, I think that'd be awfully nice."

"But you see, I'd have to come down on that ole hand-car."

"That's so."

"And you can't know how hard I got to study every evening at the
Seminary."

"Oh, yes, I can imagine!"

They both sighed in sympathy, and he laid his hand on hers, and
they sighed again, and he removed his hand almost prudishly.

"But of course I wouldn't want to spare myself in any way.  It's a
pastor's privilege to spend himself for his congregation."

"Yes, that's so."

"But on the other hand, with the roads the way they are here,
especially in winter and all, and most of the congregation living
way out on farms and all--hard for 'em to get in, eh?"

"That's so.  The roads do get bad.  Yes, I think you're right,
Brother Gantry."

"Oh! Lulu!  And here I've been calling you by your first name!
You're going to make me feel I been acting terrible if you rebuke
me that way and don't call me Elmer!"

"But then you're the preacher, and I'm just nobody."

"Oh, yes, you are!"

"Oh, no, I'm not!"

They laughed very much.

"Listen, Lulu, honey.  Remember I'm really still a kid--just
twenty-five this month--only 'bout five or six years older'n you
are.  Now try calling me Elmer, and see how it sounds."

"Oh, my!  I wouldn't dare!"

"Well, try it!"

"Oh, I couldn't!  Imagine!"

"'Fraid cat!"

"I am not so."

"Yes, you are!"

"No, I'm not!"

"I dare you!"

"Well--Elmer then!  So there now!"

They laughed intimately, and in the stress of their merriment he
picked up her hand squeezed it, rubbed it against his arm.  He did
not release it, but it was only with the friendliest and least
emphatic pressure that he held it while he crooned:

"You aren't really scared of poor old Elmer?"

"Yes, I am, a tiny bit!"

"But why?"

"Oh, you're big and strong and dignified, like you were lots older,
and you have such a boom-boom voice--my, I love to listen to it,
but it scares me--I feel like you'd turn on me and say, 'You bad
little girl,' and then I'd have to 'fess.  My!  And then you're so
terribly educated--you know such long words, and you can explain
all these things about the Bible that I never can understand.  And
of course you are a real ordained Baptist clergyman."

"Um, uh--But does that keep me from being a man, too?"

"Yes, it does!  Sort of!"

Then there was no playfulness, but a grim urgency in his voice:

"Then you couldn't imagine me kissing you? . . .  Look at me! . . .
Look at me, I tell you! . . .  There! . . .  No, don't look away
now.  Why, you're blushing!  You dear, poor, darling kid!  You CAN
imagine me kissing--"

"Well, I oughtn't to!"

"'Shamed?"

"Yes, I am!"

"Listen, dear.  You think of me as so awfully grown-up, and of
course I have to impress all these folks when I'm in the pulpit,
but you can see through it and--I'm really just a big bashful kid,
and I need your help so.  Do you know, dear, you remind me of my
mother--"


5


Frank Shallard turned on Elmer in their bedroom, while they were
washing for supper--their first moment alone since Lulu and Miss
Baldwin had driven them to the Bains farm to spend the night before
the Thanksgiving service.

"Look here, Gantry--Elmer.  I don't think it looked well, the way
you took Miss Bains in the back room at the church and kept her
there--must have been half an hour--and when I came in you two
jumped and looked guilty."

"Uh-huh, so our little friend Franky is a real rubber-necking old
woman!"

It was a spacious dusky cavern under the eaves, the room where they
were to stay the night.  The pitcher on the black walnut washstand
was stippled in gold, riotous with nameless buds.  Elmer stood
glaring, his big forearms bare and dripping, shaking his fingers
over the carpet before he reached for the towel.

"I am not a 'rubber-neck,' and you know it, Gantry.  But you're the
preacher here, and it's our duty, for the effect on others, to
avoid even the appearance of evil."

"Evil to him that evil thinks.  Maybe you've heard that, too!"

"Oh, yes, Elmer, I think perhaps I have!"

"Suspicious, dirty-minded Puritan, that's what you are, seeing evil
where there ain't any meant."

"People don't hate Puritans because they suspect unjustly, but
because they suspect only too darned justly.  Look here now, Elmer.
I don't want to be disagreeable--"

"Well, you are!"

"--but Miss Bains--she looks sort of cuddlesome and flirtatious,
but I'm dead certain she's straight as can be, and I'm not going to
stand back and watch you try to, uh, to make love to her."

"Well, smarty, suppose I wanted to marry her?"

"Do you?"

"You know so blame' much, you ought to know without asking!"

"Do you?"

"I haven't said I didn't."

"Your rhetoric is too complicated for me.  I'll take it that you do
mean to.  That's fine!  I'll announce your intentions to Deacon
Bains."

"You will like hell!  Now you look here, Shallard!  I'm not going
to have you poking your long nose into my business, and that's all
there is to it, see?"

"Yes, it would be if you were a layman and I had no official
connection with this outfit.  I don't believe too much in going
around being moral for other people.  But you're the preacher here--
you're an ordained minister--and I'm responsible with you for the
welfare of this church, and I'm damned if I'm going to watch you
seducing the first girl you get your big sweaty hands on--Oh, don't
go doubling up your fists.  Of course you could lick me.  But you
won't.  Especially here in the deacon's house.  Ruin you in the
ministry. . . .  Great God, and you're the kind we affably let into
the Baptist ministry!  I was saying: I don't propose to see you
trying to seduce--"

"Now, by God, if you think I'm going to stand--Let me tell you
right now, you've got the filthiest mind I ever heard of, Shallard!
Why you should think I intend for one single second to be anything
but friendly and open and aboveboard with Lulu--with Miss Bains--
Why, you fool, I was in there listening about how she was in love
with a fellow and he's gone off to Chicago and chucked her, and
that was all, and why you should think--"

"Oh, don't be so fat-headed, Gantry!  You can't get away with
sitting in my room at the Sem boasting, you and Zenz boasting about
how many affairs you've had--"

"Well, it's the last time I'll sit in your damned room!"

"Splendid!"

"Think what you want to.  And go to the devil!  And be sure and run
tattling to Pop Trosper and the rest of the faculty!"

"Well, that's a good come-back, Gantry.  I may do just that.  But
this evening I'll just watch Lulu--watch Miss Bains for you.  Poor
sweet kid that she is!  Nice eyes!"

"Uh-huh, young Shallard, so you've been smelling around, too!"

"My God, Gantry, what a perfect specimen you are!"


6


Deacon and Mrs. Bains--an angry-faced, generous, grasping, horsy,
black-mustached man he was, and she a dumpling--managed to treat
Frank and Elmer simultaneously as professors of the sacred
mysteries and as two hungry boys who were starved at Mizpah and who
were going to catch up tonight.  Fried chicken, creamed chipped
beef, homemade sausages, pickles and mince pie in which Elmer
suspected, and gratefully suspected, the presence of unrighteous
brandy, were only part of the stout trencher-work required of the
young prophets.  Mr. Bains roared every three minutes at the
swollen and suffering Frank, "Nonsense, nonsense, Brother, you
haven't begun to eat yet!  What's the matter with you?  Pass up
your plate for another helpin'."

Miss Baldwin, the spinster, two other deacons and their wives and a
young man from a near-by farm, one Floyd Naylor, were present, and
the clergy were also expected to be instructive.  The theories were
that they cared to talk of nothing save theology and the church
and, second, that such talk was somehow beneficial in the tricky
business of enjoying your sleep and buggy-riding and vittles, and
still getting into heaven.

"Say, Brother Gantry," said Mr. Bains, "what Baptist paper do you
like best for home reading?  I tried the Watchman Examiner for a
while, but don't seem to me it lambastes the Campbellites like it
ought to, or gives the Catholics what-for, like a real earnest
Christian sheet ought to.  I've started taking the Word and Way.
Now there's a mighty sound paper that don't mince matters none, and
written real elegant--just suits me.  It tells you straight out
from the shoulder that if you don't believe in the virgin birth and
the resurrection, atonement, and immersion, then it don't make no
difference about your so-called good works and charity and all
that, because you're doomed and bound to go straight to hell, and
not no make-believe hell, either, but a real gosh-awful turble bed
of sure-enough coals!  Yes, sir!"

"Oh, look here now, Brother Bains!" Frank Shallard protested.  "You
don't mean to say you think that the Lord Jesus isn't going to save
one single solitary person who isn't an orthodox Baptist?"

"Well, I don't perfess to know all these things myself, like I was
a high-toned preacher.  But way I see it:  Oh, yes, maybe if a
fellow ain't ever had a chance to see the light--say he was brought
up a Methodist or a Mormon, and never HEARD a real dyed-in-the-wool
Baptist explain the complete truth, then maybe God might forgive
him 'cause he was ignorant.  But one thing I do know, absolute:
All these 'advanced thinkers' and 'higher critics' are going to the
hottest pit of hell!  What do you think about it, Brother Gantry?"

"Personally, I'm much inclined to agree with you," Elmer gloated.
"But, anyway, we can safely leave it to the mercy of God to take
care of wobblers and cowards and gas-bags like these alleged
advanced thinkers.  When they treacherously weaken our efforts at
soul-saving out here in the field, and go in for a lot of cussing
and discussing and fussing around with a lot of fool speculation
that don't do anybody any practical good in the great work of
bringing poor sufferin' souls to peace, why then I'm too busy to
waste MY time on 'em, that's all, and I wouldn't care one bit if
they heard me and knew it!  Fact, that's the only trouble with
Brother Shallard here--I know he has the grace of God in his heart,
but he will waste time worrying over a lot of doctrines when
everything's set down in Baptist tradition, and that's all you need
to know.  I want you to think about that, Frank--"

Elmer had recovered.  He enjoyed defying lightning, provided it was
lightning no more dynamic than Frank was likely to furnish.  He
looked at Frank squarely. . . .  It was perhaps half an hour since
their talk in the bedroom.

Frank opened his mouth twice, and closed it.  Then it was too late.
Deacon Bains was already overwhelming him with regeneration and
mince pie.


7


Lulu was at the other end of the table from Elmer.  He was rather
relieved.  He despised Frank's weakness, but he was never, as with
Eddie Fislinger, sure what Frank would do or say, and he determined
to be cautious.  Once or twice he glanced at Lulu intimately, but
he kept all his conversation (which, for Lulu's admiration, he
tried to make learned yet virile) for Mr. Bains and the other
deacons.

"There!" he reflected.  "Now Shallard, the damned fool, ought to
see that I'm not trying to grab off the kid. . . .  If he makes any
breaks about 'what are my intentions' to her, I'll just be
astonished, and get Mr. Frank Shallard in bad, curse him and his
dirty sneaking suspicions!"

But:  "God, I've GOT to have her!" said all the tumultuous smoky
beings in the lowest layer of his mind, and he answered them only
with an apprehensive, "Watch out!  Be careful!  Dean Trosper would
bust you!  Old Bains would grab his shotgun. . . .  Be careful! . . .
WAIT!"

Not till an hour after supper, when the others were bending over
the corn-popper, did he have the chance to whisper to her:

"Don't trust Shallard!  Pretends to be a friend of mine--couldn't
trust him with a plugged nickel!  Got to tell you about him.  Got
to!  Listen!  Slip down after the others go up t' bed.  I'll be
down here.  Must!"

"Oh, I can't!  Cousin Adeline Baldwin is sleeping with me."

"Well!  Pretend to get ready to go to bed--start and do your hair
or something--and then come down to see if the fire is all right.
Will you?"

"Maybe."

"You must!  Please!  Dear!"

"Maybe.  But I can't stay but just a second."

Most virtuously, most ministerially:  "Oh, of course."

They all sat, after supper, in the sitting-room.  The Bainses
prided themselves on having advanced so far socially that they did
not spend their evenings in the kitchen-dining room--always.  The
sitting-room had the homeliness of a New England farm-house, with
hectically striped rag carpet, an amazing patent rocker with
Corinthian knobs and brass dragon's feet, crayon enlargements, a
table piled with Farm and Fireside and Modern Priscilla, and the
enormous volume of pictures of the Chicago World's Fair.  There was
no fireplace, but the stove was a cheery monster of nickel and
mica, with a jolly brass crown more golden than gold, and around
the glaring belly a chain of glass sapphires, glass emeralds, and
hot glass rubies.

Beside the stove's gorgeous cheerfulness, Elmer turned on his
spiritual faucet and worked at being charming.

"Now don't you folks dare say one word about church affairs this
evening!  I'm not going to be a preacher--I'm just going to be a
youngster and kick up my heels in the pasture, after that lovely
supper, and I declare to goodness if I didn't know she was a strict
Mother in Zion, I'd make Mother Bains dance with me--bet she could
shake a pretty pair of heels as any of these art dancers in the
theater!"

And encircling that squashy and billowing waist, he thrice whirled
her round, while she blushed, and giggled, "Why, the very idee!"
The others applauded with unsparing plow-hardened hands, cracking
the shy ears of Frank Shallard.

Always Frank had been known as an uncommonly amiable youth, but
tonight he was sour as alum.

It was Elmer who told them stories of the pioneer Kansas he knew so
well, from reading.  It was Elmer who started them popping corn in
the parlor-stove after their first uneasiness at being human in the
presence of Men of God.  During this festivity, when even the most
decorous deacon chuckled and admonished Mr. Bains, "Hey, who you
shovin' there, Barney?" Elmer was able to evade publicity and make
his rendezvous with Lulu.

More jolly than ever, then, and slightly shiny from buttered pop-
corn, he herded them to the parlor-organ, on which Lulu operated
with innocent glee and not much knowledge.  Out of duty to the
cloth, they had to begin with singing "Blessed Assurance," but
presently he had them basking in "Seeing Nelly Home," and "Old
Black Joe."

All the while he was quivering with the promise of soft adventure
to come.

It only added to his rapture that the young neighboring farmer,
Floyd Naylor--kin of the Bains family, a tall young man but
awkward--was also mooning at Lulu, longing but shy.

They wound up with "Beulah Land," played by Lulu, and his voice was
very soothing, very touching and tender:


     O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
     (You little darling!)
     As on thy highest mount I stand,
     (I wonder if I kinda looked pathetic, would she baby me?)
     I look away across the sea,
     (Oh, I'll be good--won't go too far.)
     Where mansions are prepared for me,
     (Her wrists while she plays--like to kiss 'em!)
     And view the shining glory shore,
     (Going to, by thunder!  Tonight!)
     My heav'n, my home for evermore.
     (Wonder if she'll come down-stairs in a wrapper?)


"I just wish I knew," said the wife of one of the deacons, a
sentimental and lively lady, "what you were thinking of while we
sang, Brother Gantry?"

"Why--I was thinking how happy we'll all be when we are purified
and at rest in Beulah Land."

"My, I knew it was something religious--you sang so sorta happy and
inspired.  Well!  We must be going.  It's been SUCH a lovely
evening, Sister Bains.  We just don't know how to thank you and
Brother Bains, yes, and Brother Gantry, too, for such a fine time.
Oh, and Brother Shallard, of course.  Come, Charley."

Charley, as well as the other deacons, had vanished into the
kitchen after Brother Bains.  There was a hollow noise, as of a jug
mouth, while the ladies and the clergy talked loudly and looked
tolerant.  The men appeared at the door wiping their mouths with
the hairy backs of their paws.


8


After the tremendous leave-taking, to a yawning host Elmer
suggested, "If it won't bother you and Sister Bains, I'm going to
stay down here by the fire a few minutes and complete my notes for
my sermon tomorrow.  And then I won't keep Brother Shallard awake."

"Fine, fine--eaaaaah--'scuse me--so sleepy.  The house is yours, my
boy--Brother.  G'night."

"Good night!  Good night, Brother Bains.  Good night, Sister Bains.
Good night, Sister Lulu. . . .  Night, Frank."

The room was far more boisterous when he was left alone in it.  It
reeled and clamored.  He paced, nervously smiting the palm of his
left hand, stopping in fever to listen. . . .  Time crawling
forever. . . .  She would not come.

Creep-mouse rustle on the stairs, reluctant tip-toe in the hall.

His whole torso swelled with longing.  He threw back his arms,
fists down by his side, chin up, like the statue of Nathan Hale.
But when she edged in he was enacting the kindly burly pastor, an
elbow on the corner of the parlor-organ, two fingers playing with
his massy watch-chain, his expression benevolent and amused.

She was not in a dressing-gown; she wore her blue frock unaltered.
But she had let down her hair and its pale silkiness shone round
her throat.  She looked at him beseechingly.

Instantly he changed his pose and dashed at her with a little
boyish cry:

"Oh, Lu!  I can't tell you how Frank hurt me!"

"What?  What?"

Very naturally, as with unquestioning intimacy, he put his arm
about her shoulder, and his finger-tips rejoiced in her hair.

"It's terrible!  Frank ought to know me, but what do you think he
said?  Oh, he didn't dare come right out and say it--not to ME--but
he hinted around and insinuated and suggested that you and I were
misbehaving there in the church when we were talking.  And you
remember what we were talking about--about my moth-er!  And how
beautiful and lovely she used to be and how much you're like her!
Don't you think that's rotten of him?"

"Oh, I do!  I think it's just dreadful.  I never did like him!"

In her sympathy she had neglected to slip out from under his arm.

"Come sit down beside me on the couch, dear."

"Oh, I mustn't."  Moving with him toward the couch.  "I've got to
go right back up-stairs.  Cousin Adeline, she's suspicious."

"We'll both go up, right away.  But this thing upset me so!
Wouldn't think a big clumsy like me could be such a sensitive
chump, would you!"

He drew her close.  She snuggled beside him, unstruggling, sighing:

"Oh, I do understand, Elmer, and I think it's dandy, I mean it's
lovely when a man can be so big and strong and still have fine
feelings.  But, honest, I MUST go."

"Must go, DEAR."

"No."

"Yes.  Won't let you, 'less you say it."

"Must go, dear!"

She had sprung up, but he held her hand, kissed her fingertips,
looked up at her with plaintive affection.

"Poor boy!  Did I make it all well?"

She had snatched away her hand, she had swiftly kissed his temple
and fled.  He tramped the floor quite daft, now soaringly
triumphant, now blackly longing.


9


During their hand-car return to Babylon and the Seminary, Elmer and
Frank had little to say.

"Don't be such a grouch.  Honest, I'm not trying to get funny with
little Lulu," Elmer grumbled, panting as he pumped the hand-car,
grotesque in cap and muffler.

"All right.  Forget it," said Frank.

Elmer endured it till Wednesday.  For two days he had been hag-
ridden by plans to capture Lulu.  They became so plain to him that
he seemed to be living them, as he slumped on the edge of his cot,
his fists clenched, his eyes absent. . . .  In his dream he
squandered a whole two dollars and a half for a "livery rig" for
the evening, and drove to Schoenheim.  He hitched it at that big
oak, a quarter of a mile from the Bains farmhouse.  In the
moonlight he could see the rounded and cratered lump on the oak
trunk where a limb had been cut off.  He crept to the farmyard, hid
by the corncrib, cold but excited.  She came to the door with a
dish-pan of water--stood sidewise in the light, her gingham work-
dress molded to the curve from shoulder to breast.  He whistled to
her; she started; came toward him with doubtful feet, cried with
gladness when she saw who it was.

She could not stay with him till the work was done, but she
insisted that he wait in the stable.  There was the warmth of the
cows, their sweet odor, and a scent of hay.  He sat on a manger-
edge in the darkness, enraptured yet so ardent that he trembled as
with fear.  The barn door edged open with a flash of moonlight; she
came toward him, reluctant, fascinated.  He did not stir.  She
moved, entranced, straight into his arms; they sat together on a
pile of hay, taut with passion, unspeaking, and his hand smoothed
her ankle.  And again, in his fancies, it was at the church that
she yielded; for some reason not quite planned, he was there
without Frank, on a week-day evening, and she sat beside him on a
pew.  He could hear himself arguing that she was to trust him, that
their love partook of the divine, even while he was fondling her.

But--Suppose it were Deacon Bains who came to his whistle, and
found him sneaking in the barnyard?  Suppose she declined to be
romantic in cow-barns?  And just what excuse had he for spending an
evening with her at the church?

But--Over and over, sitting on his cot, lying half-asleep with the
covers clutched desperately, he lived his imaginings till he could
not endure it.

Not till Wednesday morning did it occur to the Reverend Elmer
Gantry that he need not sneak and prowl, not necessarily, no matter
what his custom had been, and that there was nothing to prevent his
openly calling on her.

Nor did he spend any two dollars and a half for a carriage.
Despite his florid magnificence, he was really a very poor young
man.  He walked to Schoenheim (not in vision now, but in reality),
starting at five in the afternoon, carrying a ham sandwich for his
supper; walked the railroad track, the cold ties echoing under his
heavy tread.

He arrived at eight.  He was certain that, coming so very late, her
parents would not stay up to annoy him for more than an hour.  They
were likely to ask him to remain for the night, and there would be
no snooping Cousin Adeline Baldwin about.

Mr. Bains opened to his knock.

"Well, well, well, Brother Gantry!  What brings you down to this
part of the world this time of night?  Come in!  Come in!"

"I sort of thought I needed a good long walk--been studying too
hard--and I took a chance on your letting me stop in and warm
myself."

"Well, sir, by golly, Brother, I'd of been mad's a wet hen if you
HADN'T stopped!  This is your house and there's always an extra
plate to slap on the table.  Yes, sir!  Had your supper?  Sandwich?
Enough?  Foolishness!  We'll have the womenfolks fix you up
something in two shakes.  The woman and Lulu, they're still out in
the kitchen.  LU-lu!"

"Oh, I mustn't stop--so terribly far back to town, and so late--
shouldn't have walked so far."

"You don't step your foot out of this house tonight, Brother!  You
stay right here!"

When Lulu saw him, her tranced eyes said, "And did you come all
this way for me?"

She was more softly desirable than he had fancied.

Warmed and swollen with fried eggs and admiration, he sat with them
in the parlor narrating more or less possible incidents of his
campaigns for righteousness in Kansas, till Mr. Bains began to
yawn.

"By golly, ten minutes after nine!  Don't know how it got to be so
late.  Ma, guess it's about time to turn in."

Elmer lunged gallantly:

"Well, you can go to bed, but we young folks are going to sit up
and tell each other our middle names!  I'm no preacher on week
days--I'm just a student, by Jiminy!"

"Well--If you call this a week day.  Looks like a week night to me,
Brother!"

Everybody laughed.

She was in his arms, on the couch, before her father had yawned and
coughed up the stairs; she was in his arms, limp, unreasoning, at
midnight; after a long stillness in the chilling room, she sat up
hastily at two, and fingered her rumpled hair.

"Oh, I'm frightened!" she whimpered.

He tried to pat her comfortingly, but there was not much heat in
him now.

"But it doesn't matter.  When shall we be married?" she fluttered.

And then there was no heart in him at all, but only a lump of
terror.

Once or twice in his visions he had considered that there might be
danger of having to many her.  He had determined that marriage now
would cramp his advancement in the church and that, anyway, he
didn't want to marry this brainless little fluffy chick, who would
be of no help in impressing rich parishioners.  But that caution he
had utterly forgotten in emotion, and her question was authentically
a surprise, abominably a shock.  Thus in whirling thought, even
while he mumbled:

"Well--well--Don't think we can decide yet.  Ought to wait till I
have time to look around after I graduate, and get settled in some
good pastorate."

"Yes, perhaps we ought," she said meekly to her man, the best and
most learned and strongest and much the most interesting person she
had ever known.

"So you mustn't mention it to anybody, Lu.  Not ever to your folks.
They might not understand, like you do, how hard it is for a
preacher to get his first real church."

"Yes, dear.  Oh, kiss me!"

And he had to kiss her any number of times, in that ghastly cold
room, before he could escape to his chamber.

He sat on his bed with an expression of sickness, complaining,
"Hell, I oughtn't to have gone so far!  I thought she'd resist
more.  Aaah!  It wasn't worth all this risk.  Aaaaah!  She's dumm
as a cow.  Poor little thing!"  His charity made him feel
beneficent again.  "Sorry for her.  But, good God, she is wishy-
washy.  Her fault, really, but--Aaah!  I was a fool!  Well, fellow
has to stand right up and face his faults honestly.  I do.  I don't
excuse myself.  I'm not afraid to admit my faults and repent."

So he was able to go to bed admiring his own virtue and almost
forgiving her.



CHAPTER VIII


1


The ardor of Lulu, the pride of having his own church at
Schoenheim, the pleasure of watching Frank Shallard puff in agony
over the hand-car, all these did not make up to Elmer for his
boredom in seminary classes from Monday to Friday--that boredom
which all preachers save a few sporting country parsons, a few
managers of factory-like institutional churches, must endure
throughout their lives.

Often he thought of resigning and going into business.  Since
buttery words and an important manner would be as valuable in
business as in the church, the class to which he gave the most
reverent attention was that of Mr. Ben T. Bohnsock, "Professor of
Oratory and Literature, and Instructor in Voice Culture."  Under
him, Elmer had been learning an ever more golden (yet steel-strong)
pulpit manner, learning not to split infinitives in public,
learning that references to Dickens, Victor Hugo, James Whitcomb
Riley, Josh Billings, and Michelangelo give to a sermon a very
toney Chicago air.

Elmer's eloquence increased like an August pumpkin.  He went into
the woods to practise.  Once a small boy came up behind him,
standing on a stump in a clearing, and upon being greeted with "I
denounce the abominations of your lascivious and voluptuous, uh,
abominations," he fled yelping, and never again was the same care-
free youth.

In moments when he was certain that he really could continue with
the easy but dull life of the ministry, Elmer gave heed to Dean
Trosper's lectures in Practical Theology and in Homiletics.  Dr.
Trosper told the aspiring holy clerks what to say when they called
on the sick, how to avoid being compromised by choir-singers, how
to remember edifying or laugh-trapping anecdotes by cataloguing
them, how to prepare sermons when they had nothing to say, in what
books they could find the best predigested sermon-outlines, and,
most useful of all, how to raise money.

Eddie Fislinger's note-book on the Practical Theology lectures
(which Elmer viewed as Elmer's note-book also, before examinations)
was crammed with such practical theology as:


   Pastoral visiting:
      No partiality.
      Don't neglect hired girls, be cordial.
      Guard conversation, pleasing manner and laugh and maybe one
       funny story but no scandal or crit. of others.
   Stay only 15-30 minutes.
   Ask if like to pray with, not insist.
   Rem gt opportunities during sickness, sorrow, marriage.
   Ask jokingly why husband not oftener to church.


The course in Hymnology Elmer found tolerable; the courses in New
Testament Interpretation, Church History, Theology, Missions, and
Comparative Religions he stolidly endured and warmly cursed.  Who
the dickens cared whether Adoniram Judson became a Baptist by
reading his Greek New Testament?  Why all this fuss about a lot of
prophecies in Revelation--he wasn't going to preach that highbrow
stuff!  And expecting them to make something out of this filioque
argument in theology!  Foolish!

The teachers of New Testament and Church History were ministers
whom admiring but bored metropolitan congregations had kicked up-
stairs.  To both of them polite deacons had said, "We consider you
essentially scholarly, Brother, rather than pastoral.  Very
scholarly.  We're pulling wires to get you the high honor that's
your due--election to a chair in one of the Baptist seminaries.
While they may pay a little less, you'll have much more of the
honor you so richly deserve, and lots easier work, as you might
say."

The grateful savants had accepted, and they were spending the rest
of their lives reading fifteenth-hand opinions, taking pleasant
naps, and drooling out to yawning students the anemic and wordy
bookishness which they called learning.

But the worst of Elmer's annoyances were the courses given by Dr.
Bruno Zechlin, Professor of Greek, Hebrew, and Old Testament
Exegesis.

Bruno Zechlin was a Ph. D. of Bonn, an S.T.D. of Edinburgh.  He was
one of the dozen authentic scholars in all the theological
institutions of America, and incidentally he was a thorough
failure.  He lectured haltingly, he wrote obscurely, he could not
talk to God as though he knew him personally, and he could not be
friendly with numbskulls.

Mizpah Seminary belonged to the right-wing of the Baptists;
it represented what was twenty years later to be known as 
"fundamentalism"; and in Mizpah Dr. Zechlin had been suspected of
heresy.

He also had a heathenish tawny German beard, and he had been born
not in Kansas or Ohio but in a city ridiculously named Frankfort.

Elmer despised him, because of the beard, because he was
enthusiastic about Hebrew syntax, because he had no useful tips for
ambitious young professional prophets, and because he had seemed
singularly to enjoy flunking Elmer in Greek, which Elmer was making
up with a flinching courage piteous to behold.

But Frank Shallard loved Dr. Zechlin, him alone among the members
of the faculty.


2


Frank Shallard's father was a Baptist minister, sweet-tempered,
bookish, mildy liberal, not unsuccessful; his mother was of a Main
Line family, slightly run to seed.  He was born in Harrisburg and
reared in Pittsburgh, always under the shadow of the spires--in his
case, a kindly shadow and serene, though his father did labor long
at family prayers and instruct his young to avoid all worldly
pollution, which included dancing, the theater, and the libidinous
works of Balzac.

There was talk of sending Frank to Brown University or Pennsylvania,
but when he was fifteen his father had a call to a large church in
Cleveland, and it was the faculty of Oberlin College, in Ohio, who
interpreted and enriched for Frank the Christian testimony to be
found in Plautus, Homer, calculus, basket-ball, and the history of
the French Revolution.

There was a good deal of the natural poet in him and, as is not
too rarely the case with poets, something of the reasoning and
scientific mind.  But both imagination and reason had been
submerged in a religion in which doubt was not only sinful but,
much worse, in bad taste.  The flair which might have turned to
roses and singing, or to banners and bravado, or to pity of
hopeless toilers, had been absorbed in the terrible majesty of the
Jew Jehovah, the brooding mercy of Our Lord, the tales of his
birth--jeweled kings and the shepherds' campfire, the looming star
and the babe in the manger; myths bright as enamel buds--and he was
bemused by the mysteries of Revelation, an Alice in Wonderland
wearing a dragon mask.

Not only had he been swathed in theology, but all his experience
had been in books instead of the speech of toiling men.  He had
been a solitary in college, generous but fastidious, jarred by his
classmates' belching and sudden laughter.

His reasoning had been introverted, turned from an examination of
men as mammals and devoted to a sorrow that sinful and aching souls
should not more readily seek the security of a mystic process known
as Conviction, Repentance, and Salvation, which, he was assured by
the noblest and most literate men he had ever known, was guaranteed
to cure all woe.  His own experience did not absolutely confirm
this.  Even after he had been quite ecstatically saved, he found
himself falling into deep, still furies at the familiarities of
hobbledehoys, still peeping at the arching bodies of girls.  But
that, he assured himself, was merely because he hadn't "gone on to
perfection."

There were doubts.  The Old Testament God's habit of desiring the
reeking slaughter of every one who did not flatter him seemed
rather anti-social, and he wondered whether all the wantoning in
the Song of Solomon did really refer to the loyalty between Christ
and the Church.  It seemed unlike the sessions of Oberlin Chapel
and the Miller Avenue Baptist Church of Cleveland, Ohio.  Could
Solomon just possibly refer to relations between beings more
mundane and frisky?

Such qualities of reason as he had, Frank devoted not to examining
and banishing the doubt itself.  He had it as an axiom that doubt
was wicked, and he was able to enjoy considerable ingenuity in
exorcising it.  He had a good deal of self-esteem and pleasure
among the purple-broidered ambiguities of religion.

That he should become a minister had always been assumed.  He had
no such definite and ecstatic Call as came to Elmer Gantry, but he
had always known that he would go on nibbling at theories about the
eucharist, and pointing men the way to uncharted plateaus called
Righteousness, Idealism, Honesty, Sacrifice, Beauty, Salvation.

Curly flaxen hair, clear skin, fine nose, setter eyes, straight
back, Frank was a pleasant-looking young man at twenty-three, in
his senior year at Mizpah Seminary.

He was a favorite of Dean Trosper, of the Professor of New
Testament Interpretation; his marks were high, his manner was
respectful and his attendance was perfect.  But his master among
the faculty was the stammering and stumbling Bruno Zechlin, that
bearded advocate of Hebrew syntax, that suspected victim of German
beer and German rationalism, and Frank was the only student of his
generation whom Dr. Zechlin chose as confidant.

During Frank's first year in Mizpah, Zechlin and he were merely
polite to each other; they watched each other and respected each
other and remained aloof.  Frank was diffident before Dr. Zechlin's
learning, and in the end it was Zechlin who offered friendship.  He
was a lonely man.  He was a bachelor and he despised all of his
colleagues whom he did not fear.  Particularly did he dislike being
called "Brother Zechlin" by active long-legged braying preachers
from the bush.

At the beginning of Frank's second year in Mizpah he worried once
in Old Testament Exegesis class, "Professor Zechlin, I wish you'd
explain an apparent Biblical inconsistency to me.  It says in John--
some place in the first chapter I think it is--that 'No man hath
seen God at any time,' and then in Timothy it states definitely,
about God, 'Whom no man hath seen nor can see,' and yet in Exodus
xxiv, Moses and more than seventy others did see him, with pavement
under his feet, and Isaiah and Amos say they saw him, and God
especially arranged for Moses to see part of him.  And there too--
God told Moses that nobody could stand seeing his face and live,
but Jacob actually wrestled with God and saw him face to face and
did live.  Honestly, Professor, I'm not trying to raise doubts, but
there does seem to be an inconsistency there, and I wish I could
find the proper explanation."

Dr. Zechlin looked at him with a curious fuzzy brightness.  "What
do you mean by a proper explanation, Shallard?"

"So we can explain these things to young people that might be
bothered by them."

"Well, it's rather complicated.  If you'll come to my rooms after
supper tonight, I'll try to make it clear."

But when Frank shyly came calling (and Dr. Zechlin exaggerated when
he spoke of his "rooms," for he had only a book-littered study with
an alcove bedroom, in the house of an osteopath), he did not at all
try to make it clear.  He hinted about to discover Frank's opinion
of smoking, and gave him a cigar; he encased himself in a musty
arm-chair and queried:

"Do you ever feel a little doubt about the literal interpretation
of our Old Testament, Shallard?"

He sounded kind, very understanding.

"I don't know.  Yes, I guess I do.  I don't like to call them
doubts--"

"Why not call 'em doubts?  Doubting is a very healthy sign,
especially in the young.  Don't you see that otherwise you'd simply
be swallowing instruction whole, and no fallible human instructor
can always be right, do you think?"

That began it--began a talk, always cautious, increasingly frank,
which lasted till midnight.  Dr. Zechlin lent him (with the
adjuration not to let any one else see them) Renan's "Jesus," and
Coe's "The Religion of a Mature Mind."

Frank came again to his room, and they walked, strolled together
through sweet apple orchards, unconscious even of Indian summer
pastures in their concentration on the destiny of man and the
grasping gods.

Not for three months did Zechlin admit that he was an agnostic, and
not for another month that atheist would perhaps be a sounder name
for him than agnostic.

Before ever he had taken his theological doctorate, Zechlin had
felt that it was as impossible to take literally the myths of
Christianity as to take literally the myths of Buddhism.  But for
many years he had rationalized his heresies.  These myths, he
comforted himself, are symbols embodying the glory of God and the
leadership of Christ's genius.  He had worked out a satisfactory
parable:  The literalist, said he, asserts that a flag is something
holy, something to die for, not symbolically but in itself.  The
infidel, at the other end of the scale, maintains that the flag is
a strip of wool or silk or cotton with rather unesthetic marks
printed on it, and of considerably less use, therefore of less
holiness and less romance, than a shirt or a blanket.  But to the
unprejudiced thinker, like himself, it was a symbol, sacred only by
suggestion but not the less sacred.

After nearly two decades he knew that he had been fooling himself;
that he did not actually admire Jesus as the sole leader; that the
teachings of Jesus were contradictory and borrowed from earlier
rabbis; and that if the teachings of Christianity were adequate
flags, symbols, philosophies for most of the bellowing preachers
whom he met and detested, then perforce they must for him be the
flags, the symbols, of the enemy.

Yet he went on as a Baptist preacher, as a teacher of ministerial
cubs.

He tried to explain it to Frank Shallard without seeming too
shameful.

First, he suggested, it was hard for any man, it was especially
hard for a teacher of sixty-five, to go back on the philosophy he
had taught all his life.  It made that life seem too pitifully
futile.

And he did love to tread theological labyrinths.

And, he admitted, as they plodded back through a winter twilight,
he was afraid to come out with the truth lest he plain lose his
job.

Man of learning he was, but too sorry a preacher to be accepted by
a liberal religious society, too lumbering a writer for journalism;
and outside the world of religious parasitism (his own phrase) he
had no way of earning his living.  If he were kicked out of Mizpah,
he would starve.

"So!" he said grimly.  "I would hate to see you go through all
this, Frank."

"But--but--but--What am I to do, Dr. Zechlin?  Do you think I ought
to get out of the church?  Now?  While there's time?"

"You have lived the church.  You would probably be lonely without
it.  Maybe you should stay in it . . . to destroy it!"

"But you wouldn't want it destroyed?  Even if some details of dogma
aren't true--or even all of 'em--think what a consolation religion
and the church are to weak humanity!"

"Are they?  I wonder!  Don't cheerful agnostics, who know they're
going to die dead, worry much less than good Baptists, who worry
lest their sons and cousins and sweethearts fail to get into the
Baptist heaven--or what is even worse, who wonder if they may not
have guessed wrong--if God may not be a Catholic, maybe, or a
Mormon or a Seventh-day Adventist instead of a Baptist, and then
they'll go to hell themselves!  Consolation?  No!  But--Stay in the
church.  Till YOU want to get out."

Frank stayed.


3


By Senior year he had read many of Dr. Zechlin's bootlegged books:
Davenport's "Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals," which
asserted that the shoutings and foamings and twitchings at revival
meetings were no more sanctified than any other barbaric religious
frenzies, Dods and Sunderland on the origin of the Bible, which
indicated that the Bible was no more holy and infallible than
Homer; Nathaniel Schmidt's revolutionary life of Jesus, "The
Prophet of Nazareth," and White's "History of the Warfare of
Science with Theology," which painted religion as the enemy, not
the promoter, of human progress.  He was indeed--in a Baptist
seminary!--a specimen of the "young man ruined by godless
education" whom the Baptist periodicals loved to paint.

But he stayed.

He clung to the church.  It was his land, his patriotism.
Nebulously and quite unpractically and altogether miserably he
planned to give his life to a project called "liberalizing the
church from within."

It was a relief after his sophistries to have so lively an emotion
as his sweet, clear, resounding hatred for Brother Elmer Gantry.


4


Frank had always disliked Elmer's thickness, his glossiness, his
smut, and his inability to understand the most elementary
abstraction.  But Frank was ordinarily no great hater, and when
they went off together to guard the flock at Schoenheim, he almost
liked Elmer in his vigorous excitement--beautiful earthy excitement
of an athlete.

Frank considered Lulu Bains a bisque doll, and he would have
cherished her like any ten-year-old in his Sunday School class.  He
saw Elmer's whole body stiffen as he looked at Lulu.  And there was
nothing he could do.

He was afraid that if he spoke to Mr. Bains, or even to Lulu, in
the explosion Elmer might have to marry her, and suddenly the Frank
who had always accepted "the holy institution of matrimony" felt
that for a colt like Lulu any wild kicking up of the heels would be
better than being harnessed to Elmer's muddy plow.

Frank's minister father and his mother went to California for
Christmas time, and he spent the holiday with Dr. Zechlin.  They
two celebrated Christmas Eve, and a very radiant, well-contented,
extremely German Weinachtsabend that was.  Zechlin had procured a
goose, bullied the osteopath's wife into cooking it, with sausages
for stuffing and cranberry pancake to flank it.  He brewed a punch
not at all Baptist; it frothed, and smelled divinely, and to Frank
it brought visions.

They sat in old chairs on either side of the round stove, gently
waving their punch glasses, and sang:


     Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
     Alles schläft, einsam wacht
     Nur das traute hochheilige Paar,
     Holder Knabe im lokkigen Haar
     Schlaf in himm'lischer Ruh,
     Schlaf in himm'lischer Ruh.


"Ah, yes," the old man meditated, "that is the Christ I still dream
of--the Child with shining hair, the dear German Christ Child--the
beautiful fairy tale--and your Dean Trospers make Jesus into a
monster that hates youth and laughter--Wein, Weib und Gesang.  Der
arme!  How unlucky he was, that Christ, not to have the good
Trosper with him at the wedding feast to explain that he must not
turn the water into wine.  Chk!  Chk!  I wonder if I am too old to
start a leetle farm with a big vineyard and seven books?"


5


Elmer Gantry was always very witty about Dr. Bruno Zechlin.
Sometimes he called him "Old Fuzzy."  Sometimes he said, "That old
coot OUGHT to teach Hebrew--he looks like a page of Yid himself."
Elmer could toss off things like that.  The applause of Eddie
Fislinger, who was heard to say in hallways and lavatories that
Zechlin lacked spirituality, encouraged Elmer to create his
masterpiece.

Before Exegesis class, he printed on the blackboard in a disguised
hand:


"I am Fuzzy Zechlin, the gazabo that knows more than God.  If Jake
Trosper got onto what I really think about inspiration of the
Scriptures, he'd fire me out on my dirty Dutch neck."


The assembling students guffawed, even ponderous Brother Karkis,
the up-creek Calvin.

Dr. Zechlin trotted into the classroom, smiling.  He read the
blackboard inscription.  He looked incredulous, then frightened,
and peered at his class like an old dog stoned by hoodlums.  He
turned and walked out, to the laughter of Brother Gantry and
Brother Karkis.

It is not recorded how the incident came to Dean Trosper.

He summoned Elmer.  "I suspect it was you who wrote that on the
blackboard."

Elmer considered lying, then blurted, "Yes, I did, Dean.  I tell
you, it's a shame--I don't pretend to have reached a state of
Christian perfection, but I'm trying hard, and I think it's a shame
when a man on the faculty is trying to take away our faith by hints
and sneers, that's how I feel."

Dean Trosper spoke snappishly:  "I don't think you need worry about
anybody suggesting new possibilities of sin to YOU, Brother Gantry.
But there is some justification to what you say.  Now go and sin no
more.  I still believe that some day you may grow up and turn your
vitality into a means of grace for many, possibly including
yourself.  Thaddeldo."

Dr. Bruno Zechlin was abruptly retired at Easter.  He went to live
with his niece.  She was poor and liked bridge, and did not want
him.  He made a little money by translating from the German.  He
died within two years.

Elmer Gantry never knew who sent him thirty dimes, wrapped in a
tract about holiness, nor why.  But he found the sentiments in the
tract useful in a sermon, and the thirty dimes he spent for lively
photographs of burlesque ladies.



CHAPTER IX


1


The relations of Brother Gantry and Brother Shallard were not
ardent, toward Chrismastide, even in the intimacy of pumping a
hand-car.

Frank complained while they were laboring along the track after
church at Schoenheim:

"Look here, Gantry, something's got to be done.  I'm not satisfied
about you and Lulu.  I've caught you looking at each other.  And I
suspect you've been talking to the dean about Dr. Zechlin.  I'm
afraid I've got to go to the dean myself.  You're not fit to have a
pastorate."

Elmer stopped pumping, glared, rubbed his mittened hands on his
thighs, and spoke steadily:

"I've been waiting for this!  I'm impulsive--sure; I make bad
mistakes--every red-blooded man does.  But what about you?  I don't
know how far you've gone with your hellish doubts, but I've been
listening to the hedging way you answer questions in Sunday School,
and I know you're beginning to wabble.  Pretty soon you'll be an
out-and-out liberal.  God!  Plotting to weaken the Christian
religion, to steal away from weak groping souls their only hope of
salvation!  The worst murderer that ever lived isn't a criminal
like you!"

"That isn't true!  I'd die before I'd weaken the faith of any one
who needed it!"

"Then you simply haven't got brains enough to see what you're
doing, and there's no place for you in any Christian pulpit!  It's
me that ought to go to Pop Trosper complaining!  Just today, when
that girl came to you worrying about her pa's giving up family-
prayers, you let on like it didn't matter much.  You may have
started that poor young lady on the doubt-paved road that leads to
everlasting Hell!"

And all the way to Mizpah Frank worried and explained.

And at Mizpah Elmer graciously permitted him to resign his place at
Schoenheim, and advised him to repent and seek the direction of the
Holy Spirit before he should ever attempt another pastorate.

Elmer sat in his rooms flaming with his evangelistic triumph.  He
was so sincere about it that not for minutes did he reflect that
Frank would no longer be an obstacle to his relations with Lulu
Bains.


2


A score of times before March, in her own house, in an abandoned
log barn, at the church, Elmer contrived to have meetings with
Lulu.  But he wearied of her trusting babble.  Even her admiration,
since she always gushed the same things in the same way, began to
irritate him.  Her love-making was equally unimaginative.  She
always kissed and expected to be kissed in the same way.  Even
before March he had had enough, but she was so completely devoted
to him that he wondered if he might not have to give up the
Schoenheim church to get rid of her.  He felt injured.

Nobody could ever say he was unkind to girls or despised 'em, the
way Jim Lefferts used to.  He'd taught Lulu an awful lot; got her
over her hick ideas; showed her how a person could be religious and
still have a good time, if you just looked at it right and saw that
while you ought to teach the highest ideals, nobody could be
expected to always and exactly live up to 'em every day.
Especially when you were young.  And hadn't he given her a bracelet
that cost five good bucks?

But she was such a darned fool.  Never could understand that after
a certain point a man wanted to quit love-making and plan his next
Sunday's sermon or bone up on his confounded Greek.  Practically,
he felt resentfully, she'd deceived him.  Here he'd thought that
she was a nice, safe, unemotional little thing, whom it might be
pleasant to tease but who'd let him alone when he had more serious
matters to attend to, and then she'd turned out passionate.  She
wanted to go on being kissed and kissed and kissed when he was sick
of it.  Her lips were always creeping around, touching his hand or
his cheek when he wanted to talk.

She sent him whining little notes at Mizpah.  Suppose somebody
found one of 'em!  Golly!  She wrote to him that she was just
living till their next meeting--trying to bother him and distract
his attention when he had a man's work to do.  She mooned up at him
with her foolish soft mushy eyes all through his sermons--
absolutely spoiled his style.  She was wearing him out, and he'd
have to get rid of her.

Hated to do it.  Always HAD been nice to girls--to everybody.  But
it was for her sake just as much as his--

He'd have to be mean to her and make her sore.


3


They were alone in the Schoenheim church after morning meeting.
She had whispered to him at the door, "I've got something I have to
tell you."

He was frightened; he grumbled, "Well, we oughtn't to be seen
together so much but--Slip back when the other folks are gone."

He was sitting in the front pew in the deserted church, reading
hymns for want of better, when she crept behind him and kissed his
ear.  He jumped.

"Good Lord, don't go startling people like that!" he snarled.
"Well, what's all this you have to tell me?"

She was faltering, near to tears.  "I thought you'd like it!  I
just wanted to creep close and say I loved you!"

"Well, good heavens, you needn't of acted as though you were
pregnant or something!"

"Elmer!"  Too hurt in her gay affection, too shocked in her rustic
sense of propriety, for resentment.

"Well, that's just about how you acted!  Making me wait here when
I've got to be back in town--important meeting--and me having to
pump that hand-car all alone!  I do wish you wouldn't act like a
ten-year-old kid ALL the time!"

"Elmer!"

"Oh, Elmer, Elmer, Elmer!  That's all very well.  I like to play
around and be foolish jus' as well's anybody, but all this--all
this--All the TIME!"

She fled round to the front of the pew and knelt by him, her
childish hand on his knee, prattling in an imitation of baby-talk
which infuriated him:

"Oh, issums such cwoss old bear!  Issums bad old bear!  So cwoss
with Lulukins!"

"Lulukins!  Great John God!"

"Why, Elmer Gantry!"  It was the Sunday School teacher who was
shocked now.  She sat up on her knees.

"Lulukins!  Of all the damned fool baby-talk I ever heard that
takes the cake!  That's got 'em all beat!  For God's sake try to
talk like a human being!  And don't go squatting there.  Suppose
somebody came in.  Are you deliberately going to work to ruin
me? . . .  LULUKINS!"

She stood up, fists tight.  "What have I done?  I didn't mean to
hurt you!  Oh, I didn't, dearest!  Please forgive me!  I just came
in to s'prise you!"

"Huh!  You S'PRISED me all right!"

"Dear!  Please!  I'm so sorry.  Why, you called me Lulukins
yourself!"

"I never did!"

She was silent.

"Besides, if I did, I was kidding."

Patiently, trying to puzzle it out, she sat beside him and pleaded,
"I don't know what I've done.  I just don't know.  Won't you
please--oh, PLEASE explain, and give me a chance to make up for
it!"

"Oh, hell!"  He sprang up, hat in hand, groping for his overcoat.
"If you can't understand, I can't waste my time explaining!"  And
was gone, relieved but not altogether proud.

But by Tuesday he admired himself for his resolution.

Tuesday evening came her apology; not a very good note, blurry,
doubtful of spelling, and, as she had no notion what she was
apologizing about, not very lucid.

He did not answer it.

During his sermon the next Sunday she looked up at him waiting to
smile, but he took care not to catch her eye.

While he was voluminously explaining the crime of Nadab and Abihu
in putting strange fire in their censors, he was thinking with
self-admiration, "Poor little thing.  I'm sorry for her.  I really
am."

He saw that she was loitering at the door, behind her parents,
after the service, but he left half his congregation unhandshaken
and unshriven, muttered to Deacon Bains, "Sorry gotta hurry 'way,"
and fled toward the railroad tracks.

"If you're going to act this way and deliberately PERSECUTE me," he
raged, "I'll just have to have a good talk with you, my fine young
lady!"

He waited, this new Tuesday, for another note of apology.  There
was none, but on Thursday, when he was most innocently having a
vanilla milk-shake at Bombery's Drug Store, near the seminary, when
he felt ever so good and benign and manly, with his Missions theme
all finished and two fine five-cent cigars in his pocket, he saw
her standing outside peering in at him.

He was alarmed.  She looked not quite sane.

"Suppose she's told her father!" he groaned.

He hated her.

He swaggered out gallantly, and he did most magniloquently the
proper delight at encountering her here in town.

"Well, well, well, Lulu, this IS a pleasant surprise!  And where's
Papa?"

"He and Ma are up in the doctor's office--about Ma's earache.  I
said I'd meet them at the Boston Bazaar.  Elmer!"  Her voice was
like stretched quivering wire.  "I've GOT to talk to you!  You've
got to--Walk down the street with me."

He saw that she had tried to rouge her cheeks.  It was not
customary in rural Midwest in 1906.  She had done it badly.

The spring was early.  These first days of March were soft with
buds, and Elmer sighed that if she weren't such a tyrannical
nagger, he might have felt romantic about her as they walked toward
the court-house lawn and the statue of General Sherman.

He had expanded her education in boldness as well as vocabulary;
and with only a little hesitation, a little of peering up at him, a
little trying to hook her fingers over his arm till he shook it
free, she blurted:

"We've got to do something.  Because I think I'm going to have a
baby."

"Oh, good God Almighty!  Hell!" said the Reverend Elmer Gantry.
"And I suppose you've gone squealing to your old man and the old
woman!"

"No, I haven't."  She was quiet, and dignified--dignified as a
bedraggled gray kitten could be.

"Well, that's good, anyway.  Well, I suppose I'll have to do
something about it.  Damn!"

He thought rapidly.  From the ladies of joy whom he knew in the
city of Monarch he could obtain information--But--

"You look here now!" he snarled.  "It isn't possible!"  He faced
her, on the brick walk through the court-house lawn, under the
castiron wings of the rusty Justice.  "What are you trying to pull?
God knows I most certainly intend to stand by you in every way.
But I don't intend to be bamboozled, not by anybody!  What makes
you think you're pregnant?"

"Please, dear!  Don't use that word!"

"Huh!  Say, that's pretty good, that is!  Come across now.  What
makes you think so?"

She could not look at him; she looked only at the ground; and his
virtuous indignation swooped down on her as she stammered her
reasons.  Now no one had taught Lulu Bains much physiology; and it
was evident that she was making up what she considered sound
symptoms.  She could only mumble again and again, while tears
mucked her clumsy rouge, while her bent fingers trembled at her
chin, "Oh, it's--I feel so bad--oh, please, dear, don't make me go
on explaining."

He had enough of it.  He gripped her shoulder, not tenderly.

"Lulu, you're lying!  You have a dirty, lying, deceitful heart!  I
wondered what it was about you that bothered me and kept me from
marrying you.  Now I know!  Thank God I've found out in time!
You're lying!"

"Oh, dear, I'm not.  Oh, please!"

"Look here.  I'm going to take you to a doctor's.  Right now.
We'll get the truth."

"Oh, no, no, no!  Please, no!  I can't."

"Why can't you?"

"Oh, please!"

"Uh-huh!  And that's all you've got to say for yourself!  Come
here!  Look up at me!"

They must have hurt, his meaty fingers digging into her shoulder,
but then, he felt righteous, he felt like the Old Testament
prophets whom his sect admired.  And he had found something about
which he really could quarrel with her.

She did not look at him, for all his pinching.  She merely wept,
hopelessly.

"Then you were lying?"

"Oh, I was!  Oh, dearest, how can you hurt me like you do?"  He
released his grip, and looked polite.  "Oh, I don't mean hurting my
shoulder.  That doesn't matter.  I mean hurting ME!  So cold to me!
And I thought maybe if we were married--I'd do everything to make
you happy.  I'd go wherever you did.  I wouldn't mind if we had the
tiniest little small house--"

"And you--YOU--expect a minister of the gospel to share ANY house
with a liar!  Oh, you viper that--Oh, hell, I won't talk like a
preacher.  I don't suppose I have done altogether right, maybe.
Though I noticed you were glad enough to sneak out and meet me
places!  But when a woman, a Christian, deliberately lies and tries
to deceive a man in his deepest feelings--That's too much no matter
what I did!  Don't you ever dare to speak to me again!  And if you
tell your father about this, and force me into marriage, I'll--
I'll--I'll kill myself!"

"Oh, I won't!  Honest, I won't!"

"I'll repent my own fault in bitter tears and as for you, young
woman--Go and sin no more."

He swung round, walked away from her, deaf to her whimperings.  She
desperately trotted after his giant stride for a while, then leaned
against the trunk of a sycamore, while a passing grocery clerk
snickered.

She did not appear at church the next Sunday.  Elmer was so pleased
that he thought of having another rendezvous with her.


4


Deacon Bains and his good wife had noticed how pale and absent-
minded was their normally bouncing daughter.

"Guess she's in love with that new preacher.  Well, let's keep our
hands off.  Be a nice match for her.  Never knew a young preacher
that was so filled with the power.  Talks like a house afire, by
golly," said the deacon, as they yawned and stretched in the vast
billowy old bed.

Then Floyd Naylor came fretting to the deacon.

Floyd was a kinsman of the family; a gangling man of twenty-five,
immensely strong, rather stupid, a poor farmer, very loyal.  For
years he had buzzed about Lulu.  It would be over-romantic to say
that he had eaten his faithful heart out in lone reverence.  But he
had always considered Lulu the most beautiful, sparkling, and
profound girl in the universe.  Lulu considered him a stick, and
Deacon Bains held in aversion his opinions on alfalfa.  He was a
familiar of the household; rather like a neighbor's dog.

Floyd found Deacon Bains in the barnyard mending a whiffletree, and
grunted, "Say, Cousin Barney, I'm kind of worried about Lulu."

"Oh, guess she's in love with this new preacher.  Can't tell; they
might get hitched."

"Yeh, but is Brother Gantry in love with her?  Somehow I don't like
that fella."

"Rats, you don't appreciate preachers.  You never was in a real
state of grace.  Never did get reborn of the spirit proper."

"Like hell I didn't!  Got just as reborn as you did!  Preachers are
all right, most of 'em.  But this fella Gantry--Say, here 'long
about two months ago I seen him and Lulu walking down the brick
schoolhouse road, and they was hugging and kissing like all get-
out, and he was calling her Sweetheart."

"Heh?  Sure it was them?"

"Dead certain.  I was, uh--Well, fact is, another fella and me--"

"Who was she?"

"Now that don't make no difference.  Anyway, we was sitting right
under the big maple this side of the schoolhouse, in the shade, but
it was bright moonlight and Lulu and this preacher come by, near's
I am to you, prett' near.  Well, thinks I, guess they're going to
get engaged.  Then I hung around the church, once-twice after
meeting, and one time I kinda peeked in the window and I seen 'em
right there in the front pew, hugging like they sure ought to get
married whether or no.  I didn't say anything--wanted to wait and
see if he'd marry her.  Now it ain't any of my business, Barney,
but you know I always liked Lulu, and strikes me we ought to know
if this Bible-walloper is going to play straight with her."

"Guess maybe that's right.  I'll have a talk with her."

Bains had never been very observant of his daughter, but Floyd
Naylor was not a liar, and it was with sharpened eyes that the
deacon stumped into the house and found her standing by the churn,
her arms hanging limp.

"Say, uh, say, uh, Lu, how's things going with you and Brother
Gantry?"

"Why, what do you mean?"

"You two engaged?  Going to be engaged?  He going to marry you?"

"Of course not."

"Been making love to you, ain't he?"

"Oh, never!"

"Never hugged you or kissed you?"

"Never!"

"How far'd he go?"

"Oh, he didn't!"

"Why you been looking so kind of peeked lately?"

"Oh, I just don't feel very well.  Oh, I feel fine.  It's just the
spring coming on, I guess--"  She dropped to the floor and, with
her head against the churn, her thin fingers beating an hysterical
tattoo on the floor, she choked with weeping.

"There, there, Lu!  Your dad'll do something about it."

Floyd was waiting in the farmyard.

There were, in those parts and those days, not infrequent
ceremonies known as "shotgun weddings."


5


The Reverend Elmer Gantry was reading an illustrated pink
periodical devoted to prize-fighters and chorus girls in his room
at Elizabeth J. Schmutz Hall late of an afternoon when two large
men walked in without knocking.

"Why, good evening, Brother Bains--Brother Naylor!  This is a
pleasant surprise.  I was, uh--Did you ever see this horrible rag?
About actoresses.  An invention of the devil himself.  I was
thinking of denouncing it next Sunday.  I hope you never read it--
won't you sit down, gentlemen?--take this chair--I hope you never
read it, Brother Floyd, because the footsteps of--"

"Gantry," exploded Deacon Bains, "I want you to take your footsteps
right now and turn 'em toward my house!  You've been fooling with
my daughter, and either you're going to marry her, or Floyd and me
are going to take it out of your hide, and way I feel just now,
don't much care which it is."

"You mean to say that Lulu has been pretending--"

"Naw, Lulu ain't said nothing.  God, I wonder if I ought to LET the
girl marry a fellow like you?  But I got to protect her good name,
and guess Floyd and me can see to it you give her a square deal
after the marriage.  Now I've sent out word to invite all the
neighbors to the house tonight for a little sociable to tell 'em
Lulu and you are engaged, and you're going to put on your Sunday-
go-to-meeting suit and come with us, right now."

"You can't bully me into anything--"

"Take that side of him, Floyd, but I get the first lick.  You get
what's left."

They ranged up beside him.  They were shorter, less broad, but
their faces were like tanned hard leather, their eyes were hard--

"You're a big cuss, Brother Gantry, but guess you don't get enough
exercise no more.  Pretty soft," considered Deacon Bains.

His fist was dropping down, down to his knee; his shoulder sloped
down; his fist was coming up--and Floyd had suddenly pinioned
Elmer's arms.

"I'll do it!  All right!  All right!" Elmer shrieked.

He'd find a way to break the engagement.  Already he was recovering
his poise.

"Now you fellows listen to me!  I'm in love with Lulu, and I
intended to ask her the moment I finish here--less than three
months now--and get my first church.  And then you two butt in and
try to spoil this romance!"

"Hum, yes, I guess so," Bains droned, inexpressible contempt in his
dragging voice.  "You save all them pretty words for Lulu.  You're
going to be married the middle of May--that'll give time enough
after the engagement so's the neighbors won't think there's
anything wrong.  Now into them clothes.  Buggy waiting outside.
We'll treat you right.  If you use Lulu like you ought to, and
honey her up and make her feel happy again, maybe Floyd and me
won't kill you the night of your wedding.  We'll see.  And we'll
always treat you fine in public--won't even laugh when we hear you
preaching.  Now git, hear me?"

While he dressed, Elmer was able to keep his face turned from them,
able to compose himself, so that he could suddenly whirl on them
with his handsomest, his most manly and winning smile.

"Brother Bains, I want to thank Cousin Floyd and you.  You're dead
wrong about thinking I wouldn't have done right by Lulu.  But I
rejoice, sir, REJOICE, that she is blessed by having such loyal
relatives!"  That puzzled rather than captured them, but he fetched
them complete with a jovial, "And such husky ones!  I'm pretty
strong myself--keep up my exercise lot more'n you think--but I
guess I wouldn't be one-two-three with you folks!  Good thing for
ole Elmer you never let loose that darn' mule-kick of yours,
Brother Bains!  And you're right.  No sense putting off the
wedding.  May fifteenth will be fine.  Now I want to ask one thing:
Let me have ten minutes alone with Lu before you make the
announcement.  I want to console her--make her happy.  Oh, you can
tell if I keep faith--the eagle eye of a father will know."

"Well, my father's eagle eye ain't been working none too good
lately, but I guess it'll be all right for you to see her."

"Now, will you shake hands?  Please!"

He was so big, so radiant, so confident.  They looked sheepish,
grinned like farmers flattered by a politician, and shook hands.

There was a multitude at the Bainses', also fried chicken and
watermelon pickles.

The deacon brought Lulu to Elmer in the spare room and left her.

Elmer was at ease on the sofa; she stood before him, trembling,
red-eyed.

"Come, you poor child," he condescended.

She approached, sobbing, "Honestly, dear, I didn't tell Pa
anything--I didn't ask him to do it--oh, I don't want to if you
don't."

"There, there, child.  It's all right.  I'm sure you'll make a fine
wife.  Sit down."  And he permitted her to kiss his hand, so that
she became very happy and wept tremendously, and went out to her
father rejoicing.

He considered, meanwhile, "That ought to hold you, damn you!  Now
I'll figure out some way of getting out of this mess."

At the announcement of Lulu's engagement to a Man of God, the crowd
gave hoarse and holy cheers.

Elmer made quite a long speech into which he brought all that Holy
Writ had to say about the relations of the sexes--that is, all that
he remembered and that could be quoted in mixed company.

"Go on, Brother!  Kiss her!" they clamored.

He did, heartily; so heartily that he felt curious stirrings.

He spent the night there, and was so full of holy affection that
when the family was asleep, he crept into Lulu's bedroom.  She
stirred on the pillow and whispered, "Oh, my darling!  And you
forgave me!  Oh I do love you so!" as he kissed her fragrant hair.


6


It was usual for the students of Mizpah to let Dean Trosper know if
they should become engaged.  The dean recommended them for
ministerial appointments, and the status of marriage made a
difference.  Bachelors were more likely to become assistants in
large city churches; married men, particularly those whose wives
had lively piety and a knowledge of cooking, were usually sent to
small churches of their own.

The dean summoned Elmer to his gloomy house on the edge of the
campus--it was a house which smelled of cabbage and wet ashes--and
demanded:

"Gantry, just what is this business about you and some girl at
Schoenheim?"

"Why, Dean," in hurt rectitude, "I'm engaged to a fine young lady
there--daughter of one of my deacons."

"Well, that's good.  It's better to marry than to burn--or at least
so it is stated in the Scriptures.  Now I don't want any monkey-
business about this.  A preacher must walk circumspectly.  You must
shun the very appearance of evil.  I hope you'll love and cherish
her, and seems to me it would be well not only to be engaged to her
but even to marry her.  Thaddeldo."

"Now what the devil did he mean by that?" protested Parsifal as he
went home.


7


He had to work quickly.  He had less than two months before the
threatened marriage.

If he could entangle Lulu with some one?  What about Floyd Naylor?
The fool loved her.

He spent as much time in Schoenheim as possible, not only with Lulu
but with Floyd.  He played all his warm incandescence on Floyd, and
turned that trusting drudge from enemy into admiring friend.  One
day when Floyd and he were walking together to the hand-car Elmer
purred:

"Say, Floydy, some ways it's kind of a shame Lu's going to marry me
and not you.  You're so steady and hard-working and patient.  I fly
off the handle too easy."

"Oh, gosh, no, I ain't smart enough for her, Elmer.  She ought to
marry a fella with a lot of book-learning like you, and that
dresses swell, so she can be in society and everything."

"But I guess you liked her pretty well yourself, eh?  You ought to!
Sweetest girl in the whole world.  You kind of liked her?"

"Yuh, I guess I did.  I--Oh, well rats, I ain't good enough for
her, God bless her!"

Elmer spoke of Floyd as a future cousin and professed his fondness
for him, his admiration of the young man's qualities and remarkable
singing (Floyd Naylor sang about as Floyd Naylor would have sung.)
Elmer spoke of him as a future cousin, and wanted to see a deal of
him.

He praised Lulu and Floyd to each other, and left them together as
often as he could contrive, slipping back to watch them through the
window.  But to his indignation they merely sat and talked.

Then he had a week in Schoenheim, the whole week before Easter.
The Baptists of Schoenheim, with their abhorrence of popery, did
not make much of Easter as Easter; they called it "The Festival of
Christ's Resurrection," but they did like daily meetings during
what the heretical world knew as Holy Week.  Elmer stayed with the
Bainses and labored mightily both against sin and against getting
married.  Indeed he was so stirred and so eloquent that he led two
sixteen-year-old girls out of their sins, and converted the
neighborhood object-lesson, a patriarch who drank hard cider and
had not been converted for two years.

Elmer knew by now that though Floyd Naylor was not exactly a
virgin, his achievements and his resolution were considerably less
than his desires, and he set to work to improve that resolution.
He took Floyd off to the pasture and, after benignly admitting that
perhaps a preacher oughtn't to talk of such things, he narrated his
amorous conquests till Floyd's eyes were hungrily bulging.  Then,
with giggling apologies, Elmer showed his collection of what he
called Art Photographs.

Floyd almost ate them, Elmer lent them to him.  That was on a
Thursday.

At the same time Elmer deprived Lulu all week of the caresses which
she craved, till she was desperate.

On Friday Elmer held morning meeting instead of evening meeting,
and arranged that Lulu and Floyd and he should have picnic supper
in the sycamore grove near the Bains house.  He suggested it in a
jocund idyllic way, and Lulu brightened.  On their way to the grove
with their baskets she sighed to him, as they walked behind Floyd,
"Oh, why have you been so cold to me?  Have I offended you again,
dear?"

He let her have it, brutally:  "Oh, don't be such a damned whiner!
Can't you act as if you had SOME brains, just for once?"

When they spread the picnic supper, she was barely keeping hold of
her sobs.

They finished supper in the dusk.  They sat quietly, Floyd looking
at her, wondering at her distress, peeping nervously at her pretty
ankles.

"Say, I've got to go in and make some notes for my sermon tomorrow.
No, you two wait for me here.  Nicer out in the fresh air.  Be back
in about half an hour," said Elmer.

He made much of noisily swaggering away through the brush; he crept
back softly, stood behind a sycamore near them.  He was proud of
himself.  It was working.  Already Lulu was sobbing openly, while
Floyd comforted her with "What is it, pretty?  What is it, dear?
Tell me."

Floyd had moved nearer to her (Elmer could just see them) and she
rested her head on his cousinly shoulder.

Presently Floyd was kissing her tears away, and she seemed to be
snuggling close to him.  Elmer heard her muffled, "Oh, you oughtn't
to kiss me!"

"Elmer said I should think of you as a sister, and I could kiss
you--Oh, my God, Lulu, I do love you so terrible!"

"Oh, we oughtn't--"  Then silence.

Elmer fled into the barnyard, found Deacon Bains, and demanded
harshly, "Come here!  I want you to see what Floyd and Lulu are
doing!  Put that lantern down.  I've got one of these electric
dinguses here."

He had.  He had bought it for this purpose.  He also had a revolver
in his pocket.

When Elmer and the bewildered Mr. Bains burst upon them, saw them
in the circle from the electric flashlight, Lulu and Floyd were
deep in a devastating kiss.

"There!" bellowed the outraged Elmer.  "Now you see why I hesitated
to be engaged to that woman!  I've suspected it all along!  Oh,
abomination--abomination, and she that committeth it shall be cut
off!"

Floyd sprang up, a fighting hound.  Elmer could doubtless have
handled him, but it was Deacon Bains who with one maniac blow
knocked Floyd down.  The deacon turned to Elmer then, with the
first tears he had known since boyhood:  "Forgive me and mine,
Brother!  We have sinned against you.  This woman shall suffer for
it, always.  She'll never enter my house again.  She'll by God
marry Floyd.  And he's the shiftlessest damn' fool farmer in ten
counties!"

"I'm going.  I can't stand this.  I'll send you another preacher.
I'll never see any of you again!" said Elmer.

"I don't blame you.  Try to forgive us, Brother."  The deacon was
sobbing now, dusty painful sobbing, bewildered sobs of anger.

The last thing Elmer saw in the light of his electric torch was
Lulu huddled, with shrunk shoulders, her face insane with fear.



CHAPTER X


1


As he tramped back to Babylon that evening, Elmer did not enjoy his
deliverance so much as he had expected.  But he worked manfully at
recalling Lulu's repetitious chatter, her humorless ignorance, her
pawing, her unambitious rusticity, and all that he had escaped.

. . . To have her around--gumming his life--never could jolly the
congregation and help him--and suppose he were in a big town with a
swell church--Gee!  Maybe he wasn't glad to be out of it!  Besides!
Really better for her.  She and Floyd much better suited . . .

He knew that Dean Trosper's one sin was reading till late, and he
came bursting into the dean's house at the scandalous hour of
eleven.  In the last mile he had heroically put by his exhilaration;
he had thrown himself into the state of a betrayed and desolate
young man so successfully that he had made himself believe it.

"Oh, how wise you were about women, Dean!" he lamented.  "A
terrible thing has happened!  Her father and I have just found my
girl in the arms of another man--a regular roué down there.  I can
never go back, not even for Easter service.  And her father agrees
with me. . . .  You can ask him!"

"Well, I am most awfully sorry to hear this, Brother Gantry.  I
didn't know you could feel so deeply.  Shall we kneel in prayer,
and ask the Lord to comfort you?  I'll send Brother Shallard down
there for the Easter service--he knows the field."

On his knees, Elmer told the Lord that he had been dealt with as no
man before or since.  The dean approved his agonies very much.

"There, there, my boy.  The Lord will lighten your burden in his
own good time.  Perhaps this will be a blessing in disguise--you're
lucky to get rid of such a woman, and this will give you that
humility, that deeper thirsting after righteousness, which I've
always felt you lacked, despite your splendid pulpit voice.  Now
I've got something to take your mind off your sorrows.  There's
quite a nice little chapel on the edge of Monarch where they're
lacking an incumbent.  I'd intended to send Brother Hudkins--you
know him; he's that old retired preacher that lives out by the
brick-yard--comes into classes now and then--I'd intended to send
him down for the Easter service.  But I'll send you instead, and in
fact, if you see the committee, I imagine you can fix it to have
this as a regular charge, at least till graduation.  They pay
fifteen a Sunday and your fare.  And being there in a city like
Monarch, you can go to the ministerial association and so on--stay
over till Monday noon every week--and make fine contacts, and maybe
you'll be in line for assistant in one of the big churches next
summer.  There's a morning train to Monarch--10:21, isn't it?  You
take that train tomorrow morning, and go look up a lawyer named
Eversley.  He's got an office--where's his letter?--his office is
in the Royal Trust Company Building.  He's a deacon.  I'll wire him
to be there tomorrow afternoon, or anyway leave word, and you can
make your own arrangements.  The Flowerdale Baptist Church, that's
the name, and it's a real nice little modern plant, with lovely
folks.  Now you go to your room and pray, and I'm sure you'll feel
better."


2


It was an hilarious Elmer Gantry who took the 10:21 train to
Monarch, a city of perhaps three hundred thousand.  He sat in the
day-coach planning his Easter discourse.  Jiminy!  His first sermon
in a real city!  Might lead to anything.  Better give 'em something
red-hot and startling.  Let's see:  He'd get away from this Christ
is Risen stuff--mention it of course, just bring it in, but have
some other theme.  Let's see:  Faith.  Hope.  Repentance--no,
better go slow on that repentance idea; this Deacon Eversley, the
lawyer, might be pretty well-to-do and get sore if you suggested he
had anything to repent of.  Let's see:  Courage.  Chastity.  Love--
that was it--love!

And he was making notes rapidly, right out of his own head, on the
back of an envelope:


     Love:
      a rainbow
      AM & PM star
      from cradle to tomb
      inspires art etc. music voice of love
      slam atheists etc. who not appreciate love


"Guess you must be a newspaperman, Brother," a voice assailed him.

Elmer looked at his seatmate, a little man with a whisky nose and
asterisks of laughter-wrinkles round his eyes, a rather sportingly
dressed little man with the red tie which in 1906 was still thought
rather the thing for socialists and drinkers.

He could have a good time with such a little man, Elmer considered.
A drummer.  Would it be more fun to be natural with him, or to ask
him if he was saved, and watch him squirm?  Hell, he'd have enough
holy business in Monarch.  So he turned on his best good-fellow
smile, and answered:

"Well, not exactly.  Pretty warm for so early, eh?"

"Yuh, it certainly is.  Been in Babylon long?"

"No, not very long."

"Fine town.  Lots of business."

"You betcha.  And some nice little dames there, too."

The little man snickered.  "There are, eh?  Well, say, you better
give me some addresses.  I make that town once a month and, by
golly, I ain't picked me out a skirt yet.  But it's a good town.
Lots of money there."

"Yes-sir, that's a fact.  Good hustling town.  Quick turnover there
all right.  Lots of money in Babylon."

"Though they do tell me," said the little man, "there's one of
these preacher-factories there."

"Is that a fact!"

"Yump.  Say, Brother, this'll make you laugh.  Juh know what I
thought when I seen you first--wearing that black suit and writing
things down?  I thought maybe you was a preacher yourself!"

"Well--"

God, he couldn't stand it!  Having to be so righteous every Sunday
at Schoenheim--Deacon Bains everlastingly asking these fool
questions about predestination or some doggone thing.  Cer'nly had
a vacation coming!  And a sport like this fellow, he'd look down on
you if you said you were a preacher.

The train was noisy.  If any neighboring cock crowed three times,
Elmer did not hear it as he rumbled:

"Well, for the love of Mike!  Though--"  In his most austere
manner:  "This black suit happens to be mourning for one very dear
to me."

"Oh, say, Brother, now you gotta excuse me!  I'm always shooting my
mouth off!"

"Oh, that's all right."

"Well, let's shake, and I'll know you don't hold it against me."

"You bet."

From the little man came an odor of whisky which stirred Elmer
powerfully.  So long since he'd had a drink!  Nothing for two
months except a few nips of hard cider which Lulu had dutifully
stolen for him from her father's cask.

"Well, what is your line, Brother?" said the little man.

"I'm in the shoe game."

"Well, that's a fine game.  Yes-sir, people do have to have shoes,
no matter if they're hard up or not.  My name's Ad Locust--Jesus,
think of it, the folks named me Adney--can you beat that--ain't
that one hell of a name for a fellow that likes to get out with the
boys and have a good time!  But you can just call me Ad.  I'm
traveling for the Pequot Farm Implement Company.  Great organization!
Great bunch!  Yes-sir, they're great folks to work for, and hit it
up, say! the sales-manager can drink more good liquor than any
fellow that's working for him, and, believe me, there's some of us
that ain't so slow ourselves!  Yes-sir, this fool idea that a lot
of those fly-by-night firms are hollering about now, in the long
run you don't get no more by drinking with the dealers--All damn'
foolishness.  They say this fellow Ford that makes these automobiles
talks that way.  Well, you mark my words:  By 1910 he'll be out of
business, that's what'll happen to him; you mark my words!  Yes-sir,
they're a great concern, the Pequot bunch.  Matter of fact, we're
holding a sales-conference in Monarch next week."

"Is that a fact!"

"Yes-sir, by golly, that's what we're doing.  You know--read papers
about how to get money out of a machinery dealer when he ain't got
any money.  Heh!  Hell of a lot of attention most of us boys'll pay
to that junk!  We're going to have a good time and get in a little
good earnest drinking, and you bet the sales-manager will be right
there with us!  Say, Brother--I didn't quite catch the name--"

"Elmer Gantry is my name.  Mightly glad to meet you."

"Mighty glad to know you, Elmer.  Say, Elmer, I've got some of the
best Bourbon you or anybody else ever laid your face to right here
in my hip pocket.  I suppose you being in a highbrow business like
the shoe business, you'd just about faint if I was to offer you a
little something to cure that cough!"

"I guess I would, all right; yes-sir, I'd just about faint."

"Well, you're a pretty big fellow, and you ought to try to control
yourself."

"I'll do my best, Ad, if you'll hold my hand."

"You betcha I will."  Ad brought out from his permanently sagging
pocket a pint of Green River, and they drank together, reverently.

"Say, jever hear the toast about the sailor?" inquired Elmer.  He
felt very happy, at home with the loved ones after long and
desolate wanderings.

"Dunno's I ever did.  Shoot!"


     "Here's to the lass in every port,
      And here's to the port-wine in every lass,
      But those tall thoughts don't matter, sport,
      For God's sake, waiter, fill my glass!"


The little man wriggled.  "Well, sir, I never did hear that one!
Say, that's a knock-out!  By golly, that certainly is a knockout!
Say, Elm, whacha doing in Monarch?  Wancha meet some of the boys.
The Pequot conference don't really start till Monday, but some of
us boys thought we'd kind of get together today and hold a little
service of prayer and fasting before the rest of the galoots
assemble.  Like you to meet 'em.  Best bunch of sports YOU ever
saw, lemme tell you that!  I'd like for you to meet 'em.  And I'd
like 'em to hear that toast.  'Here's to the port-wine in every
lass.'  That's pretty cute, all right!  Whacha doing in Monarch?
Can't you come around to the Ishawonga Hotel and meet some of the
boys when we get in?"

Mr. Ad Locust was not drunk; not exactly drunk; but he had
earnestly applied himself to the Bourbon and he was in a state of
superb philanthropy.  Elmer had taken enough to feel reasonable.
He was hungry, too, not only for alcohol but for unsanctimonious
companionship.

"I'll tell you, Ad," he said.  "Nothing I'd like better, but I've
got to meet a guy--important dealer--this afternoon, and he's dead
against all drinking.  Fact--I certainly do appreciate your booze,
but don't know's I ought to have taken a single drop."

"Oh, hell, Elm, I've got some throat pastilles that are absolutely
guaranteed to knock out the smell--absolutely.  One lil drink
wouldn't do us any harm.  Certainly would like to have the boys
hear that toast of yours!"

"Well, I'll sneak in for a second, and maybe I can foregather with
you for a while late Sunday evening or Monday morning, but--"

"Aw, you ain't going to let me down, Elm?"

"Well, I'll telephone this guy, and fix it so's I don't have to see
him till long 'bout three o'clock."

"That's great!"


3


From the Ishawonga Hotel, at noon, Elmer telephoned to the office
of Mr. Eversley, the brightest light of the Flowerdale Baptist
Church.  There was no answer.

"Everybody in his office out to dinner.  Well, I've done all I can
till this afternoon," Elmer reflected virtuously, and joined the
Pequot crusaders in the Ishawonga bar. . . .  Eleven men in a booth
for eight.  Every one talking at once.  Every one shouting, "Say,
waiter, you ask that damn' bartender if he's MAKING the booze!"

Within seventeen minutes Elmer was calling all of the eleven by
their first names--frequently by the wrong first names--and he
contributed to their literary lore by thrice reciting his toast and
by telling the best stories he knew.  They liked him.  In his joy
of release from piety and the threat of life with Lulu he flowered
into vigor.  Six several times the Pequot salesmen said one to
another, "Now there's a fellow we ought to have with us in the
firm," and the others nodded.

He was inspired to give a burlesque sermon.

"I've got a great joke on Ad!" he thundered.  "Know what he thought
I was first?  A preacher!"

"Say, that's a good one!" they cackled.

"Well, at that, he ain't so far off.  When I was a kid, I did think
some about being a preacher.  Well, say now, listen, and see if I
wouldn't 've made a swell preacher!"

While they gaped and giggled and admired, he rose solemnly, looked
at them solemnly, and boomed:

"Brethren and Sistern, in the hustle and bustle of daily life you
guys certainly do forget the higher and finer things.  In what, in
all the higher and finer things, in what and by what are we ruled
excepting by Love?  What is Love?"

"You stick around tonight and I'll show you!" shrieked Ad Locust.

"Shut up now, Ad!  Honest--listen.  See if I couldn't 've been a
preacher--a knock-out--bet I could handle a big crowd well's any of
'em.  Listen. . . .  What is Love?  What is the divine Love?  It is
the rainbow, repainting with its spangled colors those dreary
wastes where of late the terrible tempest has wreaked its utmost
fury--the rainbow with its tender promise of surcease from the
toils and travails and terrors of the awful storm!  What is Love--
the divine Love, I mean, not the carnal but the divine Love, as
exemplified in the church?  What is--"

"Say!" protested the most profane of the eleven, "I don't think you
ought to make fun of the church.  I never go to church myself, but
maybe I'd be a better fella if I did, and I certainly do respect
folks that go to church, and I send my kids to Sunday School.  You
God damn betcha!"

"Hell, I ain't making fun of the church!" protested Elmer.

"Hell, he ain't making fun of the church.  Just kidding the
preachers," asserted Ad Locust.  "Preachers are just ordinary guys
like the rest of us."

"Sure; preachers can cuss and make love just like anybody else.  I
know!  What they get away with, pretending to be different," said
Elmer lugubriously, "would make you gentlemen tired if you knew."

"Well, I don't think you had ought to make fun of the church."

"Hell, he ain't making fun of the church."

"Sure, I ain't making fun of the church.  But lemme finish my
sermon."

"Sure, let him finish his sermon."

"Where was I? . . .  What is Love?  It is the evening and the
morning star--those vast luminaries that as they ride the purple
abysms of the vasty firmament vouchsafe in their golden splendor,
the promise of higher and better things that--that--Well, say, you
wise guys, would I make a great preacher or wouldn't I?"

The applause was such that the bartender came and looked at them
funereally; and Elmer had to drink with each of them.

But he was out of practise.  And he had had no lunch.

He turned veal-white; sweat stood on his forehead and in a double
line of drops along his upper lip, while his eyes were suddenly
vacant.

Ad Locust squealed, "Say, look out!  Elm's passing out!"

They got him up to Ad's room, one man supporting him on either side
and one pushing behind, just before he dropped insensible, and all
that afternoon, when he should have met the Flowerdale Baptist
committee, he snored on Ad's bed, dressed save for his shoes and
coat.  He came to at six, with Ad bending over him, solicitous.

"God I feel awful!" Elmer groaned.

"Here.  What you need's a drink."

"Oh, Lord, I mustn't take any more," said Elmer, taking it.  His
hand trembled so that Ad had to hold the glass to his mouth.  He
was conscious that he must call up Deacon Eversley at once.  Two
drinks later he felt better, and his hand was steady.  The Pequot
bunch began to come in, with a view to dinner.  He postponed his
telephone call to Eversley till after dinner; he kept postponing
it; and he found himself, at ten on Easter morning, with a
perfectly strange young woman in a perfectly strange flat, and
heard Ad Locust, in the next room, singing "How Dry I Am."

Elmer did a good deal of repenting and groaning before his first
drink of the morning, after which he comforted himself, "Golly, I
never will get to that church now.  Well, I'll tell the committee I
was taken sick.  Hey, Ad!  How'd we ever get here?  Can we get any
breakfast in this dump?"

He had two bottles of beer, spoke graciously to the young lady in
the kimono and red slippers, and felt himself altogether a fine
fellow.  With Ad and such of the eleven as were still alive, and a
scattering of shrieking young ladies, he drove out to a dance-hall
on the lake, Easter Sunday afternoon, and they returned to Monarch
for lobster and jocundity.

"But this ends it.  Tomorrow morning I'll get busy and see Eversley
and fix things up," Elmer vowed.


4


In that era long-distance telephoning was an uncommon event, but
Eversley, deacon and lawyer, was a bustler.  When the new preacher
had not appeared by six on Saturday afternoon, Eversley telephoned
to Babylon, waited while Dean Trosper was fetched to the Babylon
central, and spoke with considerable irritation about the absence
of the ecclesiastical hired hand.

"I'll send you Brother Hudkins--a very fine preacher, living here
now, retired.  He'll take the midnight train," said Dean Trosper.

To the Mr. Hudkins the dean said, "And look around and see if you
can find anything of Brother Gantry.  I'm worried about him.  The
poor boy was simply in agony over a most unfortunate private matter
. . . apparently."

Now Mr. Hudkins had for several years conducted a mission on South
Clark Street in Chicago, and he knew a good many unholy things.  He
had seen Elmer Gantry in classes at Mizpah.  When he had finished
Easter morning services in Monarch, he not only went to the police
and to the hospitals but began a round of the hotels, restaurants,
and bars.  Thus it came to pass that while Elmer was merrily
washing lobster down with California claret, stopping now and then
to kiss the blonde beside him and (by request) to repeat his toast,
that evening, he was being observed from the café door by the
Reverend Mr. Hudkins in the enjoyable rô1e of avenging angel.


5


When Elmer telephoned Eversley, Monday morning, to explain his
sickness, the deacon snapped, "All right.  Got somebody else."

"But, well, say, Dean Trosper thought you and the committee might
like to talk over a semi-permanent arrangement--"

"Nope, nope, nope."

Returned to Babylon, Elmer went at once to the office of the dean.

One look at his expression was enough.

The dean concluded two minutes of the most fluent descriptions
with:

"--the faculty committee met this morning, and you are fired from
Mizpah.  Of course you remain an ordained Baptist minister.  I
could get your home association to cancel your credentials, but it
would grieve them to know what sort of a lying monster they
sponsored.  Also, I don't want Mizpah mixed up in such a scandal.
But if I ever hear of you in any Baptist pulpit, I'll expose you.
Now I don't suppose you're bright enough to become a saloon-keeper,
but you ought to make a pretty good bartender.  I'll leave your
punishment to your midnight thoughts."

Elmer whined, "You hadn't ought--you ought not to talk to me like
that!  Doesn't it say in the Bible you ought to forgive seventy
times seven--"

"This is eighty times seven.  Get out!"

So the Reverend Mr. Gantry surprisingly ceased to be, for practical
purposes, a Reverend at all.

He thought of fleeing to his mother, but he was ashamed; of fleeing
to Lulu, but he did not dare.

He heard that Eddie Fislinger had been yanked to Schoenheim to
marry Lulu and Floyd Naylor . . . a lonely grim affair by
lamplight.

"They might have AST me, anyway," grumbled Elmer, as he packed.

He went back to Monarch and the friendliness of Ad Locust.  He
confessed that he had been a minister, and was forgiven.  By Friday
that week Elmer had become a traveling salesman for the Pequot Farm
Implement Company.



CHAPTER XI


1


Elmer gantry was twenty-eight and for two years he had been a
traveling salesman for the Pequot Company.

Harrows and rakes and corn-planters; red plows and gilt-striped
green wagons; catalogues and order-lists; offices glassed off from
dim warehouses; shirt-sleeved dealers on high stools at high desks;
the bar at the corner; stifling small hotels and lunch-rooms;
waiting for trains half the night in foul boxes of junction
stations, where the brown slatted benches were an agony to his
back; trains, trains, trains; trains and time-tables and joyous
return to his headquarters in Denver; a drunk, a theater, and
service in a big church.

He wore a checked suit, a brown derby, striped socks, the huge ring
of gold serpents and an opal which he had bought long ago, flower-
decked ties, and what he called "fancy vests"--garments of yellow
with red spots, of green with white stripes, of silk or daring
chamois.

He had had a series of little loves, but none of them important
enough to continue.

He was not unsuccessful.  He was a good talker, a magnificent hand-
shaker, his word could often be depended on, and he remembered most
of the price-lists and all of the new smutty stories.  In the
office at Denver he was popular with "the boys."  He had one
infallible "stunt"--a burlesque sermon.  It was known that he had
studied to be a preacher, but had courageously decided that it was
no occupation for a "real two-fisted guy," and that he had "told
the profs where they got off."  A promising and commendable fellow;
conceivably sales-manager some day.

Whatever his dissipations, Elmer continued enough exercise to keep
his belly down and his shoulders up.  He had been shocked by Deacon
Bains' taunt that he was growing soft, and every morning in his
hotel room he unhumorously did calisthenics for fifteen minutes;
evenings he bowled or boxed in Y.M.C.A. gymnasiums, or, in towns
large enough, solemnly swam up and down tanks like a white
porpoise.  He felt lusty, and as strong as in Terwillinger days.

Yet Elmer was not altogether happy.

He appreciated being free of faculty rules, free of the guilt which
in seminary days had followed his sprees at Monarch, free of the
incomprehensible debates of Harry Zenz and Frank Shallard, yet he
missed leading the old hymns, and the sound of his own voice, the
sense of his own power, as he held an audience by his sermon.
Always on Sunday evenings (except when he had an engagement with a
waitress or a chambermaid) he went to the evangelical church
nearest his hotel.  He enjoyed criticizing the sermon professionally.

"Golly, I could put it all over that poor boob!  The straight
gospel is all right, but if he'd only stuck in a couple literary
allusions, and lambasted the saloon-keepers more, he'd 've had 'em
all het up."

He sang so powerfully that despite a certain tobacco and whisky
odor the parsons always shook hands with extra warmth, and said
they were glad to see you with us this evening, Brother.

When he encountered really successful churches, his devotion to the
business became a definite longing to return to preaching: he ached
to step up, push the minister out of his pulpit, and take charge,
instead of sitting back there unnoticed and unadmired, as though he
were an ordinary layman.

"These chumps would be astonished if they knew what I am!" he
reflected.

After such an experience it was vexatious on Monday morning to talk
with a droning implement-dealer about discounts on manure-
spreaders; it was sickening to wait for train-time in a cuspidor-
filled hotel lobby when he might have been in a church office
superior with books, giving orders to pretty secretaries and being
expansive and helpful to consulting sinners.  He was only partly
solaced by being able to walk openly into a saloon and shout,
"Straight rye, Bill."

On Sunday evening in a Western Kansas town he ambled to a shabby
little church and read on the placard outside:


            This Morning: The Meaning of Redemption
            This Evening: Is Dancing of the Devil?
                    FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
                          Pastor:
            The Rev. Edward Fislinger, B.A., B.D.


"Oh, Gawd!" protested Elmer.  "Eddie Fislinger!  About the kind of
burg he would land in!  A lot he knows about the meaning of
redemption or any other dogma, that human wood-chuck!  Or about
dancing!  If he'd ever been with me in Denver and shaken a hoof at
Billy Portifero's place, he'd have something to hand out.
Fislinger--must be the same guy.  I'll sit down front and put his
show on the fritz!"

Eddie Fislinger's church was an octagonal affair, with the pulpit
in one angle, an arrangement which produced a fascinating, rather
dizzy effect, reminiscent of the doctrine of predestination.  The
interior was of bright yellow, hung with many placards:  "Get Right
With God," and "Where Will You Spend Eternity?" and "The Wisdom of
This World is Foolishness with God."  The Sunday School Register
behind the pulpit communicated the tidings that the attendance
today had been forty-one, as against only thirty-nine last week,
and the collection eighty-nine cents, as against only seventy-
seven.

The usher, a brick-layer in a clean collar, was impressed by
Elmer's checked suit and starched red-speckled shirt and took him
to the front row.

Eddie flushed most satisfactorily when he saw Elmer from the
pulpit, started to bow, checked it, looked in the general direction
of Heaven, and tried to smile condescendingly.  He was nervous at
the beginning of his sermon, but apparently he determined that his
attack on sin--which hitherto had been an academic routine with no
relation to any of his appallingly virtuous flock--might be made
real.  With his squirrel-toothed and touching earnestness he looked
down at Elmer and as good as told him to go to hell and be done
with it.  But he thought better of it, and concluded that God might
be able to give even Elmer Gantry another chance if Elmer stopped
drinking, smoking, blaspheming, and wearing checked suits.  (If he
did not refer to Elmer by name, he certainly did by poisonous
glances.)

Elmer was angry, then impressively innocent, then bored.  He
examined the church and counted the audience--twenty-seven
excluding Eddie and his wife.  (There was no question but that the
young woman looking adoringly up from the front pew was Eddie's
consort.  She had the pitifully starved and home-tailored look of a
preacher's wife.)  By the end of the sermon, Elmer was being sorry
for Eddie.  He sang the closing hymn, "He's the Lily of the
Valley," with a fine unctuous grace, coming down powerfully on the
jubilant "Hallelujah," and waited to shake hands with Eddie
forgivingly.

"Well, well, well," they both said; and "What are you doing in
these parts?" and Eddie:  "Wait till everybody's gone--must have a
good old-fashioned chin with you, old fellow!"

As he walked with the Fislingers to the parsonage, a block away,
and sat with them in the living-room, Elmer wanted to be a preacher
again, take the job away from Eddie and do it expertly; yet he was
repulsed by the depressing stinginess of Eddie's life.  His own
hotel bedrooms were drab enough, but they were free of nosey
parishioners, and they were as luxurious as this parlor with its
rain-blotched ceiling, bare pine floor, sloping chairs, and
perpetual odor of diapers.  There were already, in two years of
Eddie's marriage, two babies, looking as though they were next-door
to having been conceived without sin; and there was a perfectly
blank-faced sister-in-law who cared for the children during
services.

Elmer wanted to smoke, and for all his training in the eternal
mysteries he could not decide whether it would be more interesting
to annoy Eddie by smoking or to win him by refraining.

He smoked, and wished he hadn't.

Eddie noticed it, and his reedy wife noticed it, and the sister-in-
law gaped at it, and they labored at pretending they hadn't.

Elmer felt large and sophisticated and prosperous in their
presence, like a city broker visiting a farmer cousin and wondering
which of his tales of gilded towers would be simple enough for
belief.

Eddie gave him the news of Mizpah.  Frank Shallard had a small
church in a town called Catawba, the other end of the state of
Winnemac from the seminary.  There had been some difficulty over
his ordination, for he had been shaky about even so clear and
proven a fact as the virgin birth.  But his father and Dean Trosper
had vouched for him, and Frank had been ordained.  Harry Zenz had a
large church in a West Virginia mining town.  Wallace Umstead, the
physical instructor, was "doing fine" in the Y.M.C.A.  Professor
Bruno Zechlin was dead, poor fellow.

"Whatever became of Horace Carp?" asked Elmer.

"Well, that's the strangest thing of all.  Horace's gone into the
Episcopal Church, like he always said he would."

"Well, well, zatta fact!"

"Yes-sir, his father died just after he graduated, and he up and
turned Episcopalian and took a year in General, and now they say
he's doing pretty good, and he's high-church as all get-out."

"Well, you seem to have a good thing of it here, Eddie.  Nice
church."

"Well, it isn't so big, but they're awful' fine people.  And
everything's going fine.  I haven't increased the membership so
much, but what I'm trying to do is strengthen the present
membership in the faith, and then when I feel each of them is a
center of inspiration, I'll be ready to start an evangelistic
campaign, and you'll see that ole church boom--yes-sir--just double
overnight. . . .  If they only weren't so slow about paying my
salary and the mortgage. . . .  Fine solid people, really saved,
but they are just the least little bit tight with the money."

"If you could see the way my cook-stove's broken and the sink needs
painting," said Mrs. Fislinger--her chief utterance of the evening.

Elmer felt choked and imprisoned.  He escaped.  At the door Eddie
held both his hands and begged, "Oh, Elm, I'll never give up till
I've brought you back!  I'm going to pray.  I've seen you under
conviction.  I know what you can do!"

Fresh air, a defiant drink of rye, loud laughter, taking a train--
Elmer enjoyed it after this stuffiness.  Already Eddie had lost
such devout fires as he had once shown in the Y.M.C.A:  Already he
was old, settled down, without conceivable adventure, waiting for
death.

Yet Eddie had said--

Startled, he recalled that he was still a Baptist minister!  For
all of Trosper's opposition, he could preach.  He felt with
superstitious discomfort, Eddie's incantation, "I'll never give up
till I've brought you back."

And--just to take Eddie's church and show what he could do with it!
By God HE'D bring those hicks to time and make 'em pay up!

He flitted across the state to see his mother.

His disgrace at Mizpah had, she said, nearly killed her.  With
tremulous hope she now heard him promise that maybe when he'd seen
the world and settled down, he might go back into the ministry.

In a religious mood (which fortunately did not prevent his securing
some telling credit-information by oiling a bookkeeper with several
drinks) he came to Sautersville, Nebraska, an ugly, enterprising,
industrial town of 20,000.  And in that religious mood he noted the
placards of a woman evangelist, one Sharon Falconer, a prophetess
of whom he had heard.

The clerk in the hotel, the farmers about the implement warehouse,
said that Miss Falconer was holding union meetings in a tent, with
the support of most of the Protestant churches in town; they
asserted that she was beautiful and eloquent, that she took a
number of assistants with her, that she was "the biggest thing that
ever hit this burg," that she was comparable to Moody, to Gipsy
Smith, to Sam Jones, to J. Wilbur Chapman, to this new baseball
evangelist, Billy Sunday.

"That's nonsense.  No woman can preach the gospel," declared Elmer,
as an expert.

But he went, that evening, to Miss Falconer's meeting.

The tent was enormous; it would seat three thousand people, and
another thousand could be packed in standing-room.  It was nearly
filled when Elmer arrived and elbowed his majestic way forward.  At
the front of the tent was an extraordinary structure, altogether
different from the platform-pulpit-American-flag arrangement of the
stock evangelist.  It was a pyramidal structure, of white wood with
gilded legs, affording three platforms; one for the choir, one
higher up for a row of seated local clergy; and at the top a small
platform with a pulpit shaped like a shell and painted like a
rainbow.  Swarming over it all were lilies, roses and vines.

"Great snakes!  Regular circus lay-out!  Just what you'd expect
from a fool woman evangelist!" decided Elmer.

The top platform was still unoccupied; presumably it was to set off
the charms of Miss Sharon Falconer.

The mixed choir, with their gowns and mortar-boards, chanted "Shall
We Gather at the River?"  A young man, slight, too good-looking,
too arched of lip, wearing a priest's waistcoat and collar turned
round, read from Acts at a stand on the second platform.  He was an
Oxonian, and it was almost the first time that Elmer had heard an
Englishman read.

"Huh!  Willy-boy, that's what he is!  This outfit won't get very
far.  Too much skirts.  No punch.  No good old-fashioned gospel to
draw the customers," scoffed Elmer.

A pause.  Every one waited, a little uneasy.  Their eyes went to
the top platform.  Elmer gasped.  Coming from some refuge behind
the platform, coming slowly, her beautiful arms outstretched to
them, appeared a saint.  She was young, Sharon Falconer, surely not
thirty, stately, slender and tall; and in her long slim face, her
black eyes, her splendor of black hair, was rapture or boiling
passion.  The sleeves of her straight white robe, with its ruby
girdle, were slashed, and fell away from her arms as she drew every
one to her.

"God!" prayed Elmer Gantry, and that instant his planless life took
on plan and resolute purpose.  He was going to have Sharon
Falconer.

Her voice was warm, a little husky, desperately alive.

"Oh, my dear people, my dear people, I am not going to preach
tonight--we are all so weary of nagging sermons about being nice
and good!  I am not going to tell that you're sinners, for which of
us is not a sinner?  I am not going to explain the Scriptures.  We
are all bored by tired old men explaining the Bible through their
noses!  No!  We are going to find the golden Scriptures written in
our own hearts, we are going to sing together, laugh together,
rejoice together like a gathering of April brooks, rejoice that in
us is living the veritable spirit of the Everlasting and Redeeming
Christ Jesus!"

Elmer never knew what the words were, or the sense--if indeed any
one knew.  It was all caressing music to him, and at the end, when
she ran down curving flower-wreathed stairs to the lowest platform
and held out her arms, pleading with them to find peace in
salvation, he was aroused to go forward with the converts, to kneel
in the writhing row under the blessing of her extended hands.

But he was lost in no mystical ecstasy.  He was the critic, moved
by the play but aware that he must get his copy in to the
newspaper.

"This is the outfit I've been looking for!  Here's where I could go
over great!  I could beat that English preacher both ways from the
ace.  And Sharon--Oh, the darling!"

She was coming along the line of converts and near-converts, laying
her shining hands on their heads.  His shoulders quivered with
consciousness of her nearness.  When she reached him and invited
him, in that thrilling voice, "Brother, won't you find happiness in
Jesus?" he did not bow lower, like the others, he did not sob, but
looked straight up at her jauntily, seeking to hold her eyes, while
he crowed, "It's happiness just to have had your wondrous message,
Sister Falconer!"

She glanced at him sharply, she turned blank, and instantly passed
on.

He felt slapped.  "I'll show her yet!"

He stood aside as the crowd wavered out.  He got into talk with the
crisp young Englishman who had read the Scripture lesson--Cecil
Aylston, Sharon's first assistant.

"Mighty pleased to be here tonight, Brother," bumbled Elmer.  "I
happen to be a Baptist preacher myself.  Bountiful meeting!  And
you read the lesson most inspiringly."

Cecil Aylston rapidly took in Elmer's checked suit, his fancy vest,
and "Oh.  Really?  Splendid.  So good of you, I'm sure.  If you
will excuse me?"  Nor did it increase Elmer's affection to have
Aylston leave him for one of the humblest of the adherents, an old
woman in a broken and flapping straw hat.

Elmer disposed of Cecil Aylston:  "To hell with him!  There's a
fellow we'll get rid of!  A man like me, he gives me the icy mitt,
and then he goes to the other extreme and slops all over some old
dame that's probably saved already, that you, by golly, couldn't
unsave with a carload of gin!  That'll do you, my young friend!
And you don't like my check suit, either.  Well, I certainly do buy
my clothes just to please you, all right!"

He waited, hoping for a chance at Sharon Falconer.  And others were
waiting.  She waved her hand at all of them, waved her flaunting
smile, rubbed her eyes, and begged, "Will you forgive me?  I'm
blind-tired.  I must rest."  She vanished into the mysteries behind
the gaudy gold-and-white pyramid.

Even in her staggering weariness, her voice was not drab; it was
filled with that twilight passion which had captured Elmer more
than her beauty. . . .  "Never did see a lady just like her," he
reflected, as he plowed back to his hotel.  "Face kinda thin.
Usually I like 'em plumper.  And yet--golly!  I could fall for her
as I never have for anybody in my life. . . .  So this darn'
Englishman didn't like my clothes!  Looked as if he thought they
were too sporty.  Well, he can stick 'em in his ear!  Anybody got
any objection to my clothes?"

The slumbering universe did not answer, and he was almost content.
And at eight next morning--Sautersville had an excellent clothing
shop, conducted by Messrs. Erbsen and Goldfarb--and at eight Elmer
was there, purchasing a chaste double-breasted brown suit and three
rich but sober ties.  By hounding Mr. Goldfarb he had the
alterations done by half-past nine, and at ten he was grandly
snooping about the revival tent. . . .  He should have gone on to
the next town this morning.

Sharon did not appear till eleven, to lecture the personal workers,
but meanwhile Elmer had thrust himself into acquaintanceship with
Art Nichols, a gaunt Yankee, once a barber, who played the cornet
and the French horn in the three-piece orchestra which Sharon
carried with her.

"Yes, pretty good game, this is," droned Nichols.  "Better'n
barberin' and better'n one-night stands--oh, I'm a real trouper,
too; play characters in tent shows--I was out three seasons with
Tom shows.  This is easier.  No street parades, and I guess prob'ly
we do a lot of good, saving souls and so on.  Only these religious
folks do seem to scrap amongst themselves more'n the professionals."

"Where do you go from here?"

"We close in five days, then we grab the collection and pull out of
here and make a jump to Lincoln, Nebraska; open there in three
days.  Regular troupers' jump, too--don't even get a Pullman--leave
here on the day coach at eleven P.M.  and get into Lincoln at one."

"Sunday night you leave, eh?  That's funny.  I'll be on that train.
Going to Lincoln myself."

"Well, you can come hear us there.  I always do 'Jerusalem the
Golden' on the cornet, first meeting.  Knocks 'em cold.  They say
it's all this gab that gets 'em going and drags in the sinners, but
don't you believe it--it's the music.  Say, I can get more damn'
sinners weeping on a E-flat cornet than nine gospel-artists all
shooting off their faces at once!"

"I'll bet you can, Art.  Say, Art--Of course I'm a preacher myself,
just in business temporarily, making arrangements for a new
appointment."  Art looked like one who was about to not lend money.
"But I don't believe all this bull about never having a good time;
and of course Paul said to 'take a little wine for your stomach's
sake' and this town is dry, but I'm going to a wet one between now
and Saturday, and if I were to have a pint of rye in my jeans--
heh?"

"Well, I'm awful' fond of my stomach--like to do something for its
sake!"

"What kind of a fellow is this Englishman?  Seems to be Miss
Falconer's right-hand man."

"Oh, he's a pretty bright fellow, but he don't seem to get along
with us boys."

"She like him?  Wha' does he call himself?"

"Cecil Aylston, his name is.  Oh, Sharon liked him first-rate for a
while, but wouldn't wonder if she was tired of his highbrow stuff
now, and the way he never gets chummy."

"Well, I got to go speak to Miss Falconer a second.  Glad met you,
Art.  See you on the train Sunday evening."

They had been talking at one of the dozen entrances of the gospel
tent.  Elmer had been watching Sharon Falconer as she came briskly
into the tent.  She was no high priestess now in Grecian robe, but
a business-woman, in straw hat, gray suit, white shirt-waist, linen
cuffs and collar.  Only her blue bow and the jeweled cross on her
watch-fob distinguished her from the women in offices.  But Elmer,
collecting every detail of her as a miner scoops up nuggets, knew
now that she was not flat-breasted, as in the loose robe she might
have been.

She spoke to the "personal workers," the young women who
volunteered to hold cottage prayer-meetings and to go from house to
house stirring up spiritual prospects:

"My dear friends, I'm very glad you're all praying, but there comes
a time when you've got to add a little shoe-leather.  While you're
longing for the Kingdom--the devil does his longing nights, and
daytimes he hustles around SEEING people, TALKING to 'em!  Are you
ashamed to go right in and ask folks to come to Christ--to come to
our meetings, anyway?  I'm not at all pleased.  Not at all, my dear
young friends.  My charts show that in the Southeast district only
one house in three has been visited.  This won't do!  You've got to
get over the idea that the service of the Lord is a nice game, like
putting Easter lilies on the altar.  Here there's only five days
left, and you haven't yet waked up and got busy.  And let's not
have any silly nonsense about hesitating to hit people for money-
pledges, and hitting 'em hard!  We can't pay rent for this lot, and
pay for lights and transportation and the wages of all this big
crew I carry, on hot air!  Now you--you pretty girl there with the
red hair--my! I wish I had such hair!--what have you done, sure-
enough DONE, this past week?"

In ten minutes she had them all crying, all aching to dash out and
bring in souls and dollars.

She was leaving the tent when Elmer pounced on her, swaggering, his
hand out.

"Sister Falconer, I want to congratulate you on your wonderful
meetings.  I'm a Baptist preacher--the Reverend Gantry."

"Yes?" sharply.  "Where is your church?"

"Why, uh, just at present I haven't exactly got a church."

She inspected his ruddiness, his glossiness, the odor of tobacco;
her brilliant eyes had played all over him, and she demanded:

"What's the trouble this time?  Booze or women?"

"Why, that's absolutely untrue!  I'm surprised you should speak
like that, Sister Falconer!  I'm in perfectly good standing!  It's
just--I'm taking a little time off to engage in business, in order
to understand the working of the lay mind, before going on with my
ministry."

"Um.  That's splendid.  Well, you have my blessing, Brother!  Now
if you will excuse me?  I must go and meet the committee."

She tossed him an unsmiling smile and raced away.  He felt soggy,
lumbering, unspeakably stupid, but he swore, "Damn you, I'll catch
you when you aren't all wrapped up in business and your own darn-
fool self-importance, and then I'll make you wake up, my girl!"


2


He had to do nine days' work, to visit nine towns, in five days,
but he was back in Sautersville on Sunday evening and he was on the
eleven-o'clock train for Lincoln--in the new brown suit.

His fancy for Sharon Falconer had grown into a trembling passion,
the first authentic passion of his life.

It was too late in the evening for a great farewell, but at least a
hundred of the brethren and sisters were at the station, singing
"God Be With You Till We Meet Again" and shaking hands with Sharon
Falconer.  Elmer saw his cornet-wielding Yankee friend, Art
Nichols, with the rest of the evangelistic crew--the aide, Cecil
Aylston, the fat and sentimental tenor soloist, the girl pianist,
the violinist, the children's evangelist, the director of personal
work.  (That important assistant, the press agent, was in Lincoln
making ready for the coming of the Lord.)  They looked like a
sleepy theatrical troupe as they sat on their suit-cases waiting
for the train to come in, and like troupers, they were dismayingly
different from their stage rôles.  The anemically pretty pianist,
who for public uses dressed in seraphic silver robes, was now
merely a small-town girl in wrinkled blue serge; the director of
personal work, who had been nun-like in linen, was bold in black-
trimmed red, and more attentive to the amorous looks of the German
violinist than to the farewell hymns.  The Reverend Cecil Aylston
gave orders to the hotel baggageman regarding their trunks more
like a quartermaster sergeant than like an Oxonian mystic.

Sharon herself was imperial in white, and the magnet for all of
them.  A fat Presbyterian pastor, with whiskers, buzzed about her,
holding her arm with more than pious zeal.  She smiled on him (to
Elmer's rage), she smiled equally on the long thin Disciples-of-
Christ preacher, she shook hands fervently, and she was tender to
each shout of "Praise God, Sister!"  But her eyes were weary, and
Elmer saw that when she turned from her worshipers, her mouth
drooped.  Young she seemed then, tired and defenseless.

"Poor kid!" thought Elmer.

The train flared and shrieked its way in, and the troupe bustled
with suit-cases.  "Good-by--God bless you--God speed the work!"
shouted every one . . . every one save the Congregational minister,
who stood sulkily at the edge of the crowd explaining to a
parishioner, "And so she goes away with enough cash for herself,
after six weeks' work, to have run our whole church for two years!"

Elmer ranged up beside his musical friend, Art Nichols, and as they
humped up the steps of a day-coach he muttered, "Art!  Art!  Got
your stomach-medicine here!"

"Great!"

"Say.  Look.  Fix it so you sit with Sharon.  Then pretty soon go
out for a smoke--"

"She don't like smoking."

"You don't need to tell her what for!  Go out so I can sit down and
talk to her for a while.  Important business.  Here: stick this in
your pocket.  And I'll dig up s'more for you at Lincoln.  Now
hustle and get in with her."

"Well, I'll try."

So, in the dark malodorous car, hot with late spring, filled with
women whose corsets creaked to their doleful breathing, with
farmers who snored in shirt-sleeves, Elmer stood behind the seat in
which a blur marked the shoulders of Art Nichols and a radiance
showed the white presence of Sharon Falconer.  To Elmer she seemed
to kindle the universe.  She was so precious, every inch of her; he
had not known that a human being could be precious like this and
magical.  To be near her was ecstasy enough . . . almost enough.

She was silent.  He heard only Art Nichols' twanging, "What do you
think about us using some of these nigger songs--hand 'em a jolt?"
and her drowsy, "Oh, let's not talk about it tonight."  Presently,
from Art, "Guess I'll skip out on the platform and get a breath of
air," and the sacred haunt beside her was free to the exalted
Elmer.

He slipped in, very nervous.

She was slumped low in the seat, but she sat up, peered at him in
the dimness, and said, with a grave courtesy which shut him out
more than any rudeness, "I'm so sorry, but this place is taken."

"Yes, I know, Sister Falconer.  But the car's crowded, and I'll
just sit down and rest myself while Brother Nichols is away--that
is, if you'll let me.  Don't know if you remember me.  I'm--I met
you at the tent in Sautersville.  Reverend Gantry."

"Oh," indifferently.  Then quickly:  "Oh, yes, you're the
Presbyterian preacher who was fired for drinking."

"That's absolutely--!"  He saw that she was watching him, and he
realized that she was not being her saintly self nor her efficient
self but a quite new, private, mocking self.  Delightedly he went
on, "--absolutely incorrect.  I'm the Christian Scientist that was
fired for kissing the choir-leader on Saturday."

"Oh, that was careless of you!"

"So you're really human?"

"Me?  Good Heavens, yes!  Too human."

"And you get tired of it?"

"Of what?"

"Of being the great Miss Falconer, of not being able to go into a
drug-store to buy a tooth-brush without having the clerk holler,
'Praise God, we have some dandy two-bit brushes, hallelujah!'"

Sharon giggled.

"Tired," and his voice was lulling now, "of never daring to be
tired, which same is what you are tonight, and of never having
anybody to lean on!"

"I suppose, my dear reverend Brother, that this is a generous offer
to let me lean on you!"

"No.  I wouldn't have the nerve!  I'm scared to death of you.  You
haven't only got your beauty--no! please let me tell you how a
fellow preacher looks at you--and your wonderful platform-presence,
but I kind of guess you've got brains."

"No, I haven't.  Not a brain.  All emotion.  That's the trouble
with me."  She sounded awake now, and friendly.

"But think of all the souls you've brought to repentance.  That
makes up for everything, doesn't it?"

"Oh, yes, I suppose it--Oh, of course it does.  It's the only thing
that counts.  Only--Tell me:  What really did happen to you?  Why
did you get out of the church?"

Gravely, "I was a senior in Mizpah Theological Seminary, but I had
a church of my own.  I fell for a girl.  I won't say she lured me
on.  After all, a man ought to face the consequences of his own
foolishness.  But she certainly did--Oh, it amused her to see a
young preacher go mad over her.  And she was so lovely!  Quite a
lot like you, only not so beautiful, not near, and she let on like
she was mad about church work--that's what fooled me.  Well!  Make
a long story short:  We were engaged to be married, and I thought
of nothing but her and our life together, doing the work of the
Lord, when one evening I walked in and there she was in the arms of
another fellow!  It broke me up so that I--Oh, I tried, but I
simply couldn't go on preaching, so I quit for a while.  And I've
done well in business.  But now I'm ready to go back to the one job
I've ever cared about.  That's why I wanted to talk to you there at
the tent.  I needed your woman's sympathy as well as your
experience--and you turned me down!"

"Oh, I am so, so sorry!"  Her hand caressed his arm.

Cecil Aylston came up and looked at them with a lack of sanctity.

When they reached Lincoln, he was holding her hand and saying, "You
poor, dear, tired child!" and, "Will you have breakfast with me?
Where are you staying in Lincoln?"

"Now see here, Brother Gantry--"

"Elmer!"

"Oh, don't be ridiculous!  Just because I'm so fagged out that it's
nice to play at being a human being, don't try to take advantage--"

"Sharon Falconer, will you quit being a chump?  I admire your
genius, your wonderful work for God, but it's because you're too
big to just be a professional gospel-shouter every minute that I
most admire you.  You know mighty good and well that you like to be
simple and even slangy for a while.  And you're too sleepy just now
to know whether you like me or not.  That's why I want us to meet
at breakfast, when the sleepiness is out of the wonderful eyes--"

"Um.  It all sounds pretty honest except that last stuff--you've
certainly used that before.  Do you know, I like you!  You're so
completely brazen, so completely unscrupulous, and so beatifically
ignorant!  I've been with sanctimonious folks too much lately.  And
it's interesting to see that you honestly think you can captivate
me.  You funny thing!  I'm staying at the Antlers Hotel in Lincoln--
no use, by the way, your trying to get a room near my suite,
because I have practically the whole floor engaged--and I'll meet
you at breakfast there at nine-thirty."


3


Though he did not sleep well, he was up early and at his toilet; he
shaved, he touched up his bluff handsomeness with lilac water and
talcum, he did his nails, sitting in athletic underwear, awaiting
his new suit, sent down for pressing.  The new purpose in a life
recently so dispirited gave vitality to his bold eyes and spring to
his thick muscles as he strode through the gold-and-marble lobby of
the Antlers Hotel and awaited Sharon at the restaurant door.  She
came down fresh in white crash bordered with blue.  As they met
they laughed, admitting comradeship in folly.  He took her arm
gaily, led her through a flutter of waitresses excited over the
coming of the celebrated lady of God, and ordered competently.

"I've got a great idea," said he.  "I've got to beat it this
afternoon, but I'll be back in Lincoln on Friday, and how'd it be
if you billed me to address your meeting as a saved business man,
and I talked for half an hour or so on Friday evening about the
good, hard, practical, dollars-and-cents value of Christ in
Commerce?"

"Are you a good talker?"

"I'm the crack salesman of the Pequot Farm Implement Company,
Sharon, and if you don't believe it--"

"Oh, I do.  (She shouldn't have.)  I'm sure you tell the truth
often.  Of course we won't need to mention the fact that you're a
preacher, unless somebody insists on asking.  How would this be as
a topic--'Getting the Goods with a Gideon Bible?'"

"Say, that would be elegant!  How I was in some hick town, horrible
weather, slush and rain and everything--dark skies, seemed like sun
never would shine again--feet all soaked from tramping the streets--
no sales, plumb discouraged--sat in my room, forgotten to buy one
of the worldly magazines I'd been accustomed to read--idly picked
up a Gideon Bible and read the parable of the talents--found that
same day YOU were in town--went and got converted--saw now it
wasn't just for money but for the Kingdom of Christ, to heighten my
influence as a Christian business man, that I had to increase
sales.  That bucked up my self-confidence so that I increased sales
to beat the band!  And how I owe everything to your inspired
powers, so it's a privilege to be able to testify.  And about how
it isn't the weak skinny failure that's the fellow to get saved,
but takes a really strong man to not be ashamed to surrender all
for Jesus."

"Why, I think that's fine, Brother Elmer, I really do.  And dwell a
lot on being in your hotel room there--you took off your shoes and
threw yourself down on the bed, feeling completely beaten, but you
were so restless you got up and poked around the room and picked up
the Gideon Bible.  I'll feature it big.  And you'll make it strong,
Elmer?  You won't let me down?  Because I really will headline it
in my announcements.  I've persuaded you to come clear from Omaha--
no, that's not far--clear from Denver for it.  And if you do throw
yourself into it and tear loose, it'll add greatly to the glory of
God, and the success of the meeting in winning souls.  You will?"

"Dear, I'll slam into 'em so hard you'll want me in every town you
go to.  You bet."

"Um, that's as may be, Elmer.  Here comes Cecil Aylston--you know
my assistant?  He looks so cross.  He is a dear, but he's so
terribly highbrow and refined and everything and he's always trying
to nag me into being refined.  But you'll love him."

"I will not!  Anyway, I'll struggle against it!"

They laughed.

The Rev. Cecil Aylston, of the flaxen hair and the superior British
complexion, glided to their table, looked at Elmer with a blankness
more infuriating than a scowl, and sat down, observing:

"I don't want to intrude, Miss Falconer, but you know the committee
of clergy are awaiting you in the parlor."

"Oh, dear," sighed Sharon.  "Are they as terrible as usual here?
Can't you go up and get the kneeling and praying done while I
finish my scrambled eggs?  Have you told them they've got to double
the amount of the pledges before this week is over or the souls in
Lincoln can go right on being damned?"  Cecil was indicating Elmer
with an alarmed jerk of his head.  "Oh, don't worry about Elmer.
He's one of us--going to speak for us Friday--used to be a terribly
famous preacher, but he's found a wider field in business--Reverend
Aylston, Reverend Gantry.  Now run along, Cecil, and keep 'em pious
and busy.  Any nice-looking young preachers in the committee or are
they all old stiffs?"

Aylston answered with a tight-lipped glare, and flowed away.

"Dear Cecil, he is so useful to me--he's actually made me take to
reading poetry and everything.  If he just wouldn't be polite at
breakfast-time!  I wouldn't mind facing the wild beasts of Ephesus,
but I can't stand starch with my eggs.  Now I must go up and join
him."

"You'll have lunch with me?"

"I will not!  My dear young man, this endeth my being silly for
this week.  From this moment on I'll be one of the anointed, and if
you want me to like you--God help you if you come around looking
pussy-catty while I'm manhandling these stiff-necked brethren in
Christ!  I'll see you Friday--I'll have dinner with you, here,
before the meeting.  And I can depend on you?  Good!"


4


Cecil Aylston was a good deal of a mystic, a good deal of a
ritualist, a bit of a rogue, something of a scholar, frequently a
drunkard, more frequently an ascetic, always a gentleman, and
always an adventurer.  He was thirty-two now.  At Winchester and
New College, he had been known for sprinting, snobbishness, and
Greek versification.  He had taken orders, served as a curate in a
peculiarly muddy and ancient and unlighted church in the East End,
and become fanatically Anglo-Catholic.  While he was considering
taking the three vows and entering a Church of England monastery,
his vicar kicked him out, and no one was ever quite certain whether
it was because of his "Romish tendencies" or the navvy's daughter
whom he had got with child.

He was ordered down to a bleak, square, stone church in Cornwall,
but he resigned and joined the Plymouth Brethren, among whom, in
resounding galvanized-iron chapels in the Black Country, he had
renown for denunciation of all the pleasant sins.  He came to
Liverpool for a series of meetings; he wandered by the Huskinson
docks, saw a liner ready for sea, bought a steerage ticket, took
the passport which he had ready for a promised flight to Rio with
the wife of an evangelical merchant in coals and, without a word to
the brethren or the ardent lady of the coals, sailed sulkily off to
America.

In New York he sold neckties in a department store, he preached in
a mission, he tutored the daughter of a great wholesale fish-
dealer, and wrote nimble and thoroughly irritating book-reviews.
He left town two hours ahead of the fish-dealer's eldest son, and
turned up in Waco, Texas, teaching in a business college, in
Winona, Minnesota, preaching in a Nazarene Chapel, in Carmel,
California, writing poetry and real-estate brochures, and in Miles
City, Montana, as the summer supply in a Congregational pulpit.  He
was so quiet, so studious, here that the widow of a rancher picked
him up and married him.  She died.  He lost the entire fortune in
two days at Tia Juana.  He became extra pious after that and was
converted from time to time by Billy Sunday, Gipsy Smith,
Biederwolf, and several other embarrassed evangelists who did not
expect a convert so early in the campaign and had made no plans to
utilize him.

It was in Ishpeming, Michigan, where he was conducting a shooting-
gallery while he sought by mail a mastership in Groton School, that
he heard and was more than usually converted by Sharon Falconer.
He fell in love with her, and with contemptuous steady resolution
he told her so.

At the moment she was without a permanent man first assistant.  She
had just discharged a really useful loud-voiced United Brethren
D.D. for hinting to delighted sons of Belial that his relations to
her were at least brotherly.  She took on the Reverend Cecil
Aylston.

He loved her, terrifyingly.  He was so devoted to her that he
dropped his drinking, his smoking, and a tendency to forgery which
had recently been creeping on him.  And he did wonders for her.

She had been too emotional.  He taught her to store it up and fling
it all out in one overpowering catastrophic evening.  She had been
careless of grammar, and given to vulgar barnyard illustrations.
He taught her to endure sitting still and reading--reading
Swinburne and Jowett, Pater and Jonathan Edwards, Newman and Sir
Thomas Browne.  He taught her to use her voice, to use her eyes,
and in more private relations, to use her soul.

She had been puzzled by him, annoyed by him, led meekly by him, and
now she was weary of his supercilious devotion.  He was more
devoted to her than to life, and for her he refused a really
desirable widow who could have got him back into the Episcopal fold
and acquired for him the dim rich sort of church for which he
longed after these months of sawdust and sweaty converts.


5


When Elmer descended from the train in Lincoln Friday afternoon, he
stopped before a red-and-black poster announcing that Elmer Gantry
was a power in the machinery world, that he was an eloquent and
entertaining speaker, and that his address "Increasing Sales with
God and the Gideons" would be a "revelation of the new world of
better business."

"Jiminy!" said the power in the machinery world.  "I'd rather see a
sermon of mine advertised like that than sell steen million plows!"

He had a vision of Sharon Falconer in her suite in late afternoon,
lonely and clinging in the faded golden light, clinging to him.
But when he reached her room by telephone she was curt.  "No, no,
sorry, can't see you 'safternoon--see you at dinner, quarter to
six."

He was so chastened that he was restrained and uncommenting when
she came swooping into the dining-room, a knot-browed, efficient,
raging Sharon, and when he found that she had brought Cecil
Aylston.

"Good evening, Sister--Brother Aylston," he boomed sedately.

"Evening.  Ready to speak?"

"Absolutely."

She lighted a little.  "That's good.  Everything else's gone wrong,
and these preachers here think I can travel an evangelistic crew on
air.  Give 'em fits about tight-wad Christian business men will
you, Elmer?  How they hate to loosen up!  Cecil!  Kindly don't look
as if I'd bitten somebody.  I haven't . . . not yet."

Aylston ignored her, and the two men watched each other like a
panther and a buffalo (but a buffalo with a clean shave and ever so
much scented hair-tonic).

"Brother Aylston," said Elmer, "I noticed in the account of last
evening's meeting that you spoke of Mary and the anointing with
spikenard, and you quoted these 'Idylls of the King,' by Tennyson.
Or that's what the newspaper said."

"That's right."

"But do you think that's good stuff for evangelism?  All right for
a regular church, especially with a high-class rich congregation,
but in a soul-saving campaign--"

"My dear Mr. Gantry, Miss Falconer and I have decided that even in
the most aggressive campaign there is no need of vulgarizing our
followers."

"Well, that isn't what I'd give 'em!"

"And what, pray, would you give them?"

"The good old-fashioned hell, that's what!"  Elmer peeped at Sharon
and felt that she was smiling with encouragement.  "Yes-sir, like
the hymn says, the hell of our fathers is good enough for me."

"Quite so!  I'm afraid it isn't good enough for me, and I don't
know that Jesus fancied it particularly!"

"Well, you can be dead sure of one thing:  When he stayed with Mary
and Martha and Lazarus, he didn't loaf around drinking tea with
'em!"

"Why not, my dear man!  Don't you know that tea was first imported
by caravan train from Ceylon to Syria in 627 B.C.?"

"No-o, didn't know just when--"

"Why, of course.  You've merely forgotten it--you must have read in
your university days of the great epicurean expedition of
Phthaltazar--when he took the eleven hundred camels?  Psaltazar?
You remember!"

"Oh, yes, I remember his expedition, but I didn't know he brought
in tea."

"Why, naturally!  Rather!  Uh, Miss Falconer, the impetuous Mr.
Shoop wants to sing 'Just As I Am' for his solo tonight.  Is there
any way of preventing it?  Adelbert is a good saved soul, but just
as he is, he is too fat.  Won't you speak to him?"

"Oh, I don't know.  Let him sing it.  He's brought in lots of souls
on that," yawned Sharon.

"Mangy little souls."

"Oh, stop being so supercilious!  When you get to heaven, Cecil,
you'll complain of the way the seraphims--oh, do shut up; I KNOW
it's seraphim, my tongue just slipped--you'll complain of the kind
of corsets they wear."

"I'm not at all sure but that you really do picture that sort of
heaven, with corseted angels and yourself with a golden mansion on
the celestial Park Lane!"

"Cecil Aylston, don't you quarrel with me tonight!  I feel--vulgar.
That's your favorite word!  I do wish I could save some of the
members of my own crew! . . .  Elmer, do you think God went to
Oxford?"

"Sure!"

"And you did, of course!"

"I did not, by golly!  I went to a hick college in Kansas!  And I
was born in a hick town in Kansas!"

"Me too, practically!  Oh, I did come from a frightfully old
Virginia family, and I was born in what they called a mansion, but
still, we were so poor that our pride was ridiculous.  Tell me: did
you split wood and pull mustard when you were a boy?"

"Did I?  Say!  You bet I did!"

They sat with their elbows on the table, swapping boasts of
provincial poverty, proclaiming kinship, while Cecil looked frosty.


6


Elmer's speech at the evangelistic meeting was a cloudburst.

It had structure as well as barytone melody, choice words,
fascinating anecdotes, select sentiment, chaste point of view, and
resolute piety.

Elmer was later to explain to admirers of his public utterances
that nothing was more important than structure.  What, he put it to
them, would they think of an architect who was fancy about paint
and clapboards but didn't plan the house?  And tonight's euphuisms
were full of structure.

In part one he admitted that despite his commercial success he had
fallen into sin before the hour when, restless in his hotel room,
he had idly fingered o'er a Gideon Bible and been struck by the
parable of the talents.

In part two he revealed by stimulating examples from his own
experience the cash value of Christianity.  He pointed out that
merchants often preferred a dependable man to a known crook.

Hitherto he had, perhaps, been a shade too realistic.  He felt that
Sharon would never take him on in place of Cecil Aylston unless she
perceived the poetry with which his soul was gushing.  So in part
three he explained that what made Christianity no mere dream and
ideal, but a practical human solvent, was Love.  He spoke very
nicely of Love.  He said that Love was the Morning Star, the
Evening Star, the Radiance upon the Quiet Tomb, the Inspirer
equally of Patriots and Bank Presidents, and as for Music, what was
it but the very voice of Love?

He had elevated his audience (thirteen hundred they were, and
respectful) to a height of idealism from which he made them swoop
now like eagles to a pool of tears:

"For, oh, my brothers and sisters, important though it is to be
prudent in this world's affairs, it is the world to come that is
alone important, and this reminds me, in closing, of a very sad
incident which I recently witnessed.  In business affairs I had
often had to deal with a very prominent man named Jim Leff--
Leffingwell.  I can give his name now because he has passed to his
eternal reward.  Old Jim was the best of good fellows, but he had
fatal defects.  He drank liquor, he smoked tobacco, he gambled, and
I'm sorry to say that he did not always keep his tongue clean--he
took the name of God in vain.  But Jim was very fond of his family,
particularly of his little daughter.  Well, she took sick.  Oh,
what a sad time that was to that household!  How the stricken
mother tiptoed into and out of the sick-room; how the worried
doctors came and went, speeding to aid her!  As for the father,
poor old Jim, he was bowed with anguish as he leaned over that
pathetic little bed, and his hair turned gray in a single night.
There came the great crisis, and before the very eyes of the
weeping father that little form was stilled, and that sweet, pure
young soul passed to its Maker.

"He came to me sobbing, and I put my arms round him as I would
round a little child.  'Oh, God,' he sobbed, 'that I should have
spent my life in wicked vices, and that the little one should have
passed away knowing her dad was a sinner!'  Thinking to comfort
him, I said, 'Old man, it was God's will that she be taken.  You
have done all that mortal man could do.  The best of medical
attention.  The best of care.'

"I shall never forget how scornfully he turned upon me.  'And you
call yourself a Christian!' he cried.  'Yes, she had medical
attention, but one thing was lacking--the one thing that would have
saved her--I could not pray!'

"And that strong man knelt in anguish and for all my training in--
in trying to explain the ways of God to my fellow business men,
there was nothing to say.  IT WAS TOO LATE!

"Oh, my brothers, my fellow business men, are YOU going to put off
repentance till it's too late?  That's YOUR affair, you say.  Is
it?  Is it?  Have you a right to inflict upon all that you hold
nearest and dearest the sore burden of your sins?  Do you love your
sins better than that dear little son, that bonnie daughter, that
loving brother, that fine old father?  Do you want to punish them?
Do you?  Don't you love some one more than you do your sins?  If
you do, stand up.  Isn't there some one here who wants to stand up
and help a fellow business man carry this gospel of great joy to
the world?  Won't you come?  Won't you HELP me?  Oh, come!  Come
down and let me shake your hand!"

And they came, dozens of them, weeping, while he wept at his own
goodness.

They stood afterward in the secluded space behind the white-and-
gold platforms, Sharon and Elmer, and she cried, "Oh, it was
beautiful!  Honestly, I almost cried myself!  Elmer, it was just
fine!"

"Didn't I get 'em?  Didn't I get 'em?  Didn't I?  Say, Sharon, I'm
so glad it went over, because it was your show and I wanted to give
you all I could!"

He moved toward her, his arms out, and for once he was not
producing the false ardor of amorous diplomacy.  He was the small
boy seeking the praise of his mother.  But she moved away from him,
begging, not sardonically:

"No!  Please!"

"But you do like me?"

"Yes.  I do."

"How much?"

"Not very much.  I can't like any one very much.  But I do like
you.  Some day I might fall in love with you.  A tiny bit.  If you
don't rush me too much.  But only physically.  No one," proudly,
"can touch my soul!"

"Do you think that's decent?  Isn't that sin?"

She flamed at him.  "I can't sin!  I am above sin!  I am really and
truly sanctified!  Whatever I may choose to do, though it might be
sin in one unsanctified, with me God will turn it to his glory.  I
can kiss you like this--"  Quickly she touched his cheek, "yes, or
passionately, terribly passionately, and it would only symbolize my
complete union with Jesus!  I have told you a mystery.  You can
never understand.  But you can serve me.  Would you like to?"

"Yes, I would. . . .  And I've never served anybody yet!  Can I?
Oh, kick out this tea-drinking mollycoddle, Cecil, and let me work
with you.  Don't you need arms like these about you, just now and
then, defending you?"

"Perhaps.  But I'm not to be hurried.  I am I!  It is I who
choose!"

"Yes.  I guess prob'ly it is, Sharon.  I think you've plumb
hypnotized me or something."

"No, but perhaps I shall if I ever care to. . . .  I can do
anything I want to!  God chose me to do his work.  I am the
reincarnation of Joan of Arc, of Catherine of Sienna!  I have
visions!  God talks to me!  I told you once that I hadn't the
brains to rival the men evangelists.  Lies!  False modesty!  They
are God's message, but I am God's right hand!"

She chanted it with her head back, her eyes closed, and even while
he quaked, "My God, she's crazy!" he did not care.  He would give
up all to follow her.  Mumblingly he told her so, but she sent him
away, and he crept off in a humility he had never known.



CHAPTER XII


1


Two more series of meetings Sharon Falconer held that summer, and
at each of them the power in the machinery world appeared and
chronicled his conversion by the Gideon Bible and the eloquence of
Sister Falconer.

Sometimes he seemed very near her; the next time she would regard
him with bleak china eyes.  Once she turned on him with:  "You
smoke, don't you?"

"Why, yes."

"I smelled it.  I hate it.  Will you stop it?  Entirely?  And
drinking?"

"Yes.  I will."

And he did.  It was an agony of restlessness and craving, but he
never touched alcohol or tobacco again, and he really regretted
that in evenings thus made vacuous he could not keep from an
interest in waitresses.

It was late in August, in a small Colorado city, after the second
of his appearances as a saved financial Titan, that he implored
Sharon as they entered the hotel together, "Oh, let me come up to
your room.  Please!  I never have a chance to just sit and talk to
you."

"Very well.  Come in half an hour.  Don't 'phone.  Just come right
up to Suite B."

It was a half-hour of palpitating, of almost timorous, expectancy.

In every city where she held meetings Sharon was invited to stay at
the home of one of the elect, but she always refused.  She had a
long standard explanation that "she could devote herself more fully
to the prayer life if she had her own place, and day by day filled
it more richly with the aura of spirituality."  Elmer wondered
whether it wasn't the aura of Cecil Aylston for which she had her
suite, but he tried to keep his aching imagination away from that.

The half-hour was over.

He swayed up-stairs to Suite B and knocked.  A distant "Come in."

She was in the bedroom beyond.  He inched into the stale hotel
parlor--wall-paper with two-foot roses, a table with an atrocious
knobby gilt vase, two stiff chairs and a grudging settee ranged
round the wall.  The lilies which her disciples had sent her were
decaying in boxes, in a wash-bowl, in a heap in the corner.  Round
a china cuspidor lay faint rose petals.

He sat awkwardly on the edge of one of the chairs.  He dared not
venture beyond the dusty brocade curtains which separated the two
rooms, but his fancy ventured fast enough.

She threw open the curtains and stood there, a flame blasting the
faded apartment.  She had discarded her white robe for a dressing-
gown of scarlet with sleeves of cloth of gold--gold and scarlet;
riotous black hair; long, pale, white face.  She slipped over to
the settee, and summoned him, "Come!"

He diffidently dropped his arm about her, and her head was on his
shoulder.  His arm drew tighter.  But, "Oh, don't make love to me,"
she sighed, not moving.  "You'll know it all right when I want you
to!  Just be nice and comforting tonight."

"But I can't always--"

"I know.  Perhaps you won't always have to.  Perhaps!  Oh, I need--
What I need tonight is some salve for my vanity.  Have I ever said
that I was a reincarnated Joan of Arc?  I really do half believe
that sometimes.  Of course it's just insanity.  Actually I'm a very
ignorant young woman with a lot of misdirected energy and some tiny
idealism.  I preach elegant sermons for six weeks, but if I stayed
in a town six weeks and one day, I'd have to start the music box
over again.  I can talk my sermons beautifully . . . but Cecil
wrote most of 'em for me, and the rest I cheerfully stole."

"Do you like Cecil?"

"Oh, is a nice, jealous, big, fat man!"  She who that evening had
been a disturbing organ note was lisping baby-talk now.

"Damn it, Sharon, don't try to be a baby when I'm serious!"

"Damn it, Elmer, don't say 'damn it'!  Oh, I hate the little vices--
smoking, swearing, scandal, drinking just enough to be silly.  I
love the big ones--murder, lust, cruelty, ambition!"

"And Cecil?  Is he one of the big vices that you love?"

"Oh, he's a dear boy.  So sweet, the way he takes himself
seriously."

"Yes, he must make love like an ice-cream cone."

"You might be surprised!  There, there!  The poor man is just
longing to have me say something about Cecil!  I'll be obliging.
He's done a lot for me.  He really knows something; he isn't a
splendid cast-iron statue of ignorance like you or me."

"Now you look here, Sharon!  After all, I AM a college graduate and
practically a B.D. too."

"That's what I said.  Cecil really knows how to read.  And he
taught me to quit acting like a hired girl, bless him.  But--Oh,
I've learned everything he can teach me, and if I get any more of
the highbrow in me I'll lose touch with the common people--bless
their dear, sweet, honest souls!"

"Chuck him.  Take me on.  Oh, it isn't the money.  You must know
that, dear.  In ten years, at thirty-eight, I can be sales-manager
of the Pequot--prob'ly ten thousand a year--and maybe some day the
president, at thirty thou.  I'm not looking for a job.  But--Oh,
I'm crazy about you!  Except for my mother, you're the only person
I've ever adored.  I love you!  Hear me?  Damn it--yes, damn it, I
said--I worship you!  Oh, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon!  It wasn't really
bunk when I told 'em all tonight how you'd converted me, because
you DID convert me.  Will you let me serve you?  And will you maybe
marry me?"

"No.  I don't think I'll ever marry--exactly.  Perhaps I'll chuck
Cecil--poor sweet lad!--and take you on.  I'll see.  Anyhow--Let me
think."

She shook off his encircling arm and sat brooding, chin on hand.
He sat at her feet--spiritually as well as physically.

She beatified him with:

"In September I'll have only four weeks of meetings, at Vincennes.
I'm going to take off all October, before my winter work (you won't
know me then--I'm DANDY, speaking indoors, in big halls!), and I'm
going down to our home, the old Falconer family place, in Virginia.
Pappy and Mam are dead now, and I own it.  Old plantation.  Would
you like to come down there with me, just us two, for a fortnight
in October?"

"Would I?  My God!"

"Could you get away?"

"If it cost me my job!"

"Then--I'll wire you when to come after I get there:  Hanning Hall,
Broughton, Virginia.  Now I think I'd better go to bed, dear.
Sweet dreams."

"Can't I tuck you into bed?"

"No, dear.  I might forget to be Sister Falconer!  Good night!"

Her kiss was like a swallow's flight, and he went out obediently,
marveling that Elmer Gantry could for once love so much that he did
not insist on loving.


2


In New York he had bought a suit of Irish homespun and a heather
cap.  He looked bulky but pleasantly pastoral as he gaped
romantically from the Pullman window at the fields of Virginia.
"Ole Virginny--ole Virginny" he hummed happily.  Worm fences, negro
cabins, gallant horses in rocky pastures, a longing to see the
gentry who rode such horses, and ever the blue hills.  It was an
older world than his baking Kansas, older than Mizpah Seminary, and
he felt a desire to be part of this traditional age to which Sharon
belonged.  Then, as the miles which still separated him from the
town of Broughton crept back of him, he forgot the warm-tinted land
in anticipation of her.

He was recalling that she was the aristocrat, the more formidable
here in the company of F. F. V. friends.  He was more than usually
timid . . . and more than usually proud of his conquest.

For a moment, at the station, he thought that she had not come to
meet him.  Then he saw a girl standing by an old country buggy.

She was young, veritably a girl, in middy blouse deep cut at the
throat, pleated white skirt, white shoes.  Her red tam-o'-shanter
was rakish, her smile was a country grin as she waved to him.  And
the girl was Sister Falconer.

"God, you're adorable!" he murmured to her, as he plumped down his
suit-case, and she was fragrant and soft in his arms as he kissed
her.

"No more," she whispered.  "You're supposed to be my cousin, and
even very nice cousins don't kiss quite so intelligently!"

As the carriage jerked across the hills, as the harness creaked and
the white horse grunted, he held her hand lightly in butterfly
ecstasy.

He cried out at the sight of Hanning Hall as they drove through the
dark pines, among shabby grass plots, to the bare sloping lawn.  It
was out of a story-book: a brick house, not very large, with tall
white pillars, white cupola, and dormer windows with tiny panes;
and across the lawn paraded a peacock in the sun.  Out of a story-
book, too, was the pair of old negroes who bowed to them from the
porch and hastened down the steps--the butler with green tail-coat
and white mustache almost encircling his mouth, and the mammy in
green calico, with an enormous grin and a histrionic curtsy.

"They've always cared for me since I was a tiny baby," Sharon
whispered.  "I do love them--I do love this dear old place.
That's--"  She hesitated, then defiantly:  "That's why I brought
you here!"

The butler took his bag up and unpacked, while Elmer wandered about
the old bedroom, impressed, softly happy.  The wall was a series of
pale landscapes: manor houses beyond avenues of elms.  The bed was
a four-poster; the fireplace of white-enameled posts and mantel;
and on the broad oak boards of the floor, polished by generations
of forgotten feet, were hooked rugs of the days of crinoline.

"Golly, I'm so happy!  I've come home!" sighed Elmer.

When the butler was gone, Elmer drifted to the window, and "Golly!"
he said again.  He had not realized that in the buggy they had
climbed so high.  Beyond rolling pasture and woods was the
Shenandoah glowing with afternoon.

"Shen-an-doah!" he crooned.

Suddenly he was kneeling at the window, and for the first time
since he had forsaken Jim Lefferts and football and joyous
ribaldry, his soul was free of all the wickedness which had daubed
it--oratorical ambitions, emotional orgasm, dead sayings of dull
seers, dogmas, and piety.  The golden winding river drew him, the
sky uplifted him, and with outflung arms he prayed for deliverance
from prayer.

"I've found her.  Sharon.  Oh, I'm not going on with this
evangelistic bunk.  Trapping idiots into holy monkey-shines!  No,
by God, I'll be honest!  I'll tuck her under my arms and go out and
fight.  Business.  Put it over.  Build something big.  And laugh,
not snivel and shake hands with church-members!  I'll do it!"

Then and there ended his rebellion.

The vision of the beautiful river was hidden from him by a fog of
compromises. . . .  How could he keep away from evangelistic
melodrama if he was to have Sharon?  And to have Sharon was the one
purpose of life.  She loved her meetings, she would never leave
them, and she would rule him.  And--he was exalted by his own
oratory.

"BESIDES!  There is a lot to all this religious stuff.  We do do
good.  Maybe we jolly 'em into emotions too much, but don't that
wake folks up from their ruts?  Course it does!"

So he put on a white turtle-necked sweater and with a firm
complacent tread he went down to join Sharon.

She was waiting in the hall, so light and young in her middy blouse
and red tam.

"Let's not talk seriously.  I'm not Sister Falconer--I'm Sharon
today.  Gee, to think I've ever spoken to five thousand people!
Come on!  I'll race you up the hill!"

The wide lower hall, traditionally hung with steel engravings and a
Chickamauga sword, led from the front door, under the balcony of
the staircase, to the garden at the back, still bold with purple
asters and golden zinnias.

Through the hall she fled, through the garden, past the stone
sundial, and over the long rough grass to the orchard on the sunny
hill: no ceremonious Juno now but a nymph; and he followed, heavy,
graceless, but pounding on inescapable, thinking less of her
fleeting slenderness than of the fact that since he had stopped
smoking his wind cer'nly was a lot better--cer'nly was.

"You CAN run!" she said, as she stopped, panting, by a walled
garden with espalier pears.

"You bet I can!  And I'm a grand footballer, a bearcat at tackling
my young friend!"

He picked her up, while she kicked and grudgingly admired, "You're
terribly strong!"

But the day of halcyon October sun was too serene even for his
coltishness and sedately they tramped up the hill, swinging their
joined hands; sedately they talked (ever so hard he tried to live
up to the Falconer Family, an Old Mansion, and Darky Mammies) of
the world-menacing perils of Higher Criticism and the genius of
E. O. Excell as a composer of sacred but snappy melodies.


3


While he dressed, that is, while he put on the brown suit and a
superior new tie, Elmer worried.  This sure intimacy was too
perfect.  Sharon had spoken vaguely of brothers, of high-nosed
aunts and cousins, of a cloud of Falconer witnesses, and the house
was large enough to secrete along its corridors a horde of
relatives.  Would he, at dinner, have to meet hostile relics who
would stare at him and make him talk and put him down as a piece of
Terwillinger provinciality?  He could see the implications in their
level faded eyes; he could see Sharon swayed by their scorn and
delivered from such uncertain fascination as his lustiness and
boldness had cast over her.

"Damn!" he said.  "I'm just as good as they are!"

He came reluctantly down-stairs to the shabby, endearing drawing-
room, with its whatnot of curios--a Chinese slipper, a stag carved
of black walnut, a shell from Madagascar--with its jar of dried
cattails, its escritoire and gate-legged table, and a friendly old
couch before the white fireplace.  The room, the whole spreading
house was full of whispers and creakings and dead suspicious
eyes. . . .  There had been no whispers and no memories in the
cottage at Paris, Kansas. . . .  Elmer stood wistful, a little
beaten boy, his runaway hour with the daughter of the manor house
ended, too worshiping to resent losing the one thing he wanted.

Then she was at the door, extremely unevangelistic, pleasantly
worldly in an evening frock of black satin and gold lace.  He had
not known people who wore evening frocks.  She held out her hand
gaily to him, but it was not gaily that he went to her--meekly,
rather, resolved that he would not disgrace her before the
suspicious family.

They came hand in hand into the dining-room and he saw that the
table was set for two only.

He almost giggled, "Thought maybe there'd be a lot of folks," but
he was saved, and he did not bustle about her chair.

He said grace, at length.

Candles and mahogany, silver and old lace, roses and Wedgwood,
canvasback and the butler in bottle-green.  He sank into a stilled
happiness as she told riotous stories of evangelism--of her tenor
soloist, the plump Adelbert Shoop, who loved crème de cocoa; of the
Swedish farmer's wife, who got her husband prayed out of the
drinking, cursing, and snuff habits, then tried to get him prayed
out of playing checkers, whereupon he went out and got marvelously
pickled on raw alcohol.

"I've never seen you so quiet before," she said.  "You really can
be nice.  Happy?"

"Terribly!"

The roof of the front porch had been turned into an outdoor
terrace, and here, wrapped up against the cool evening, they had
their coffee and peppermints in long deck chairs.  They were above
the tree-tops; and as their eyes widened in the darkness they could
see the river by starlight.  The hoot of a wandering owl; then the
kind air, the whispering air, crept round them.

"Oh, my God, it is so sweet--so sweet!" he sighed, as he fumbled
for her hand and felt it slip confidently into his.  Suddenly he
was ruthless, tearing it all down:

"Too darn' sweet for me, I guess.  Sharon, I'm a bum.  I'm not so
bad as a preacher, or I wouldn't be if I had the chance, but ME--
I'm no good.  I have cut out the booze and tobacco--for you--I
really have!  But I used to drink like a fish, and till I met you I
never thought any woman except my mother was any good.  I'm just a
second-rate traveling man.  I came from Paris, Kansas, and I'm not
even up to that hick burg, because they are hard-working and decent
there, and I'm not even that.  And you--you're not only a
prophetess, which you sure are, the real big thing, but you're a
Falconer.  Family!  Old Servants!  This old house!  Oh, it's no
use!  You're too big for me.  Just because I do love you.
Terribly.  Because I can't lie to you!"

He had put away her slim hand, but it came creeping back over his,
her fingers tracing the valleys between his knuckles while she
murmured:

"You will be big!  I'll make you!  And perhaps I'm a prophetess, a
little bit, but I'm also a good liar.  You see I'm not a Falconer.
There ain't any!  My name is Katie Jonas.  I was born in Utica.  My
dad worked on a brickyard.  I picked out the name Sharon Falconer
while I was a stenographer.  I never saw this house till two years
ago; I never saw these old family servants till then--they worked
for the folks that owned the place--and even they weren't
Falconers--they had the aristocratic name of Sprugg!  Incidentally,
this place isn't a quarter paid for.  And yet I'm not a liar!  I'm
not!  I AM Sharon Falconer now!  I've made her--by prayer and by
having a right to be her!  And you're going to stop being poor
Elmer Gantry of Paris, Kansas.  You're going to be the Reverend Dr.
Gantry, the great captain of souls!  Oh, I'm glad you don't come
from anywhere in particular!  Cecil Aylston--oh, I guess he does
love me, but I always feel he's laughing at me.  Hang him, he
notices the infinitives I split and not the souls I save!  But you--
Oh, you will serve me--won't you?"

"Forever!"

And there was little said then.  Even the agreement that she was to
get rid of Cecil, to make Elmer her permanent assistant, was
reached in a few casual assents.  He was certain that the steely
film of her dominance was withdrawn.

Yet when they went in, she said gaily that they must be early abed;
up early tomorrow; and that she would take ten pounds off him at
tennis.

When he whispered, "Where is your room, sweet?" she laughed with a
chilling impersonality, "You'll never know, poor lamb!"

Elmer the bold, Elmer the enterprising, went clumping off to his
room, and solemnly he undressed, wistfully he stood by the
window, his soul riding out on the darkness to incomprehensible
destinations.  He humped into bed and dropped toward sleep, too
weary with fighting her resistance to lie thinking of possible
tomorrows.

He heard a tiny scratching noise.  It seemed to him that it was the
doorknob turning.  He sat up, throbbing.  The sound was frightened
away, but began again, a faint grating, and the bottom of the door
swished slowly on the carpet.  The fan of pale light from the hall
widened and, craning, he could see her, but only as a ghost, a
white film.

He held out his arms, desperately, and presently she stumbled
against them.

"No!  Please!"  Hers was the voice of a sleep-walker.  "I just came
in to say good-night and tuck you into bed.  Such a bothered
unhappy child!  Into bed.  I'll kiss you good-night and run."

His head burrowed into the pillow.  Her hand touched his cheek
lightly, yet through her fingers, he believed, flowed a current
which lulled him into slumber, a slumber momentary but deep with
contentment.

With effort he said, "You too--you need comforting, maybe you need
bossing, when I get over being scared of you."

"No.  I must take my loneliness alone.  I'm different, whether it's
cursed or blessed.  But--lonely--yes--lonely."

He was sharply awake as her fingers slipped up his cheek, across
his temple, into his swart hair.

"Your hair is so thick," she said drowsily.

"Your heart beats so.  Dear Sharon--"

Suddenly, clutching his arm, she cried, "Come!  It is the call!"

He was bewildered as he followed her, white in her nightgown
trimmed at the throat with white fur, out of his room, down the
hall, up a steep little stairway to her own apartments; the more
bewildered to go from that genteel corridor, with its forget-me-not
wallpaper and stiff engravings of Virginia worthies, into a furnace
of scarlet.

Her bedroom was as insane as an Oriental cozy corner of 1895--a
couch high on carven ivory posts, covered with a mandarin coat;
unlighted brass lamps in the likeness of mosques and pagodas; gilt
papier-mâché armor on the walls; a wide dressing-table with a score
of cosmetics in odd Parisian bottles; tall candlesticks, the
twisted and flowered candles lighted; and over everything a hint of
incense.

She opened a closet, tossed a robe to him, cried, "For the service
of the altar!" and vanished into a dressing-room beyond.
Diffidently, feeling rather like a fool, he put on the robe.  It
was of purple velvet embroidered with black symbols unknown to him,
the collar heavy with gold thread.  He was not quite sure what he
was to do, and he waited obediently.

She stood in the doorway, posing, while he gaped.  She was so tall
and her hands, at her sides, the backs up and the fingers arched,
moved like lilies on the bosom of a stream.  She was fantastic in a
robe of deep crimson adorned with golden stars and crescents,
swastikas and tau crosses; her feet were in silver sandals, and
round her hair was a tiara of silver moons set with steel points
that flickered in the candlelight.  A mist of incense floated about
her, seemed to rise from her, and as she slowly raised her arms he
felt in schoolboyish awe that she was veritably a priestess.

Her voice was under the spell of the sleep-walker once more as she
sighed "Come!  It is the chapel."

She marched to a door part-hidden by the couch, and led him into a
room--

Now he was no longer part amorous, part inquisitive, but all
uneasy.

What hanky-panky of construction had been performed he never knew;
perhaps it was merely that the floor above this small room had been
removed so that it stretched up two stories; but in any case there
it was--a shrine bright as bedlam at the bottom but seeming to rise
through darkness to the sky.  The walls were hung with black
velvet; there were no chairs; and the whole room focused on a wide
altar.  It was an altar of grotesque humor or of madness, draped
with Chinese fabrics, crimson, apricot, emerald, gold.  There were
two stages of pink marble.  Above the altar hung an immense
crucifix with the Christ bleeding at nail-wounds and pierced side;
and on the upper stage were plaster busts of the Virgin, St.
Theresa, St. Catherine, a garish Sacred Heart, a dolorous
simulacrum of the dying St. Stephen.  But crowded on the lower
stage was a crazy rout of what Elmer called "heathen idols": ape-
headed gods, crocodile-headed gods, a god with three heads and a
god with six arms, a jade-and-ivory Buddha, an alabaster naked
Venus, and in the center of them all a beautiful, hideous,
intimidating and alluring statuette of a silver goddess with a
triple crown and a face as thin and long and passionate as that of
Sharon Falconer.  Before the altar was a long velvet cushion, very
thick and soft.  Here Sharon suddenly knelt, waving him to his
knees, as she cried:

"It is the hour!  Blessed Virgin, Mother Hera, Mother Frigga,
Mother Ishtar, Mother Isis, dread Mother Astarte of the weaving
arms, it is thy priestess, it is she who after the blind centuries
and the groping years shall make it known to the world that ye are
one, and that in me are ye all revealed, and that in this
revelation shall come peace and wisdom universal, the secret of the
spheres and the pit of understanding.  Ye who have leaned over me
and on my lips pressed your immortal fingers, take this my brother
to your bosoms, open his eyes, release his pinioned spirit, make
him as the gods, that with me he may carry the revelation for which
a thousand thousand grievous years the world has panted.

"O rosy cross and mystic tower of ivory--

"Hear my prayer.

"O sublime April crescent--

"Hear my prayer.

"O sword of undaunted steel most excellent--

"Hear thou my prayer.

"O serpent with unfathomable eyes--

"Hear my prayer.

"Ye veiled ones and ye bright ones--from caves forgotten, the peaks
of the future, the clanging today--join in me, lift up, receive
him, dread, nameless ones; yea, lift us then, mystery on mystery,
sphere above sphere, dominion on dominion, to the very throne!"

She picked up a Bible which lay by her on the long velvet cushion
at the foot of the altar, she crammed it into his hands, and cried,
"Read--read--quickly!"

It was open at the Song of Solomon, and bewildered he chanted:

"How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter!  The
joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a
cunning workman.  Thy two breasts are like two young roes.  Thy
neck is as a tower of ivory.  The hair of thine head like purple;
the king is held in the galleries.  How fair and how pleasant art
thou, O love, for delights!"

She interrupted him, her voice high and a little shrill:  "O
mystical rose, O lily most admirable, O wondrous union; O St. Anna,
Mother Immaculate, Demeter, Mother Beneficent, Lakshmi, Mother Most
Shining; behold, I am his and he is yours and ye are mine!"

As he read on, his voice rose like a triumphant priest's:

"I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the
boughs thereof--"

That verse he never finished, for she swayed sideways as she knelt
before the altar, and sank into his arms, her lips parted.


4


They sat on the hilltop, looking down on noon in the valley,
sleepily talking till he roused with:  "Why won't you marry me?"

"No.  Not for years, anyway.  I'm too old--thirty-two to your--what
is it, twenty-eight or -nine?  And I must be free for the service
of Our Lord. . . .  You do know I mean that?  I am really
consecrated, no matter what I may seem to do!"

"Sweet, of course I do!  Oh, yes."

"But not marry.  It's good at times to be just human, but mostly I
have to live like a saint. . . .  Besides, I do think men converts
come in better if they know I'm not married."

"Damn it, listen!  Do you love me a little?"

"Yes.  A little!  Oh, I'm as fond of you as I can be of any one
except Katie Jonas.  Dear child!"

She dropped her head on his shoulder, casually now, in the bee-
thrumming orchard aisle, and his arm tightened.

That evening they sang gospel hymns together, to the edification of
the Old Family Servants, who began to call him Doctor.



CHAPTER XIII


1


Not till December did Sharon Falconer take Elmer on as assistant.

When she discharged Cecil Aylston, he said, in a small cold voice,
"This is the last time, my dear prophet and peddler, that I shall
ever try to be decent."  But it is known that for several months he
tried to conduct a rescue mission in Buffalo, and if he was
examined for insanity, it was because he was seen to sit for hours
staring.  He was killed in a gambling den in Juarez, and when she
heard of it Sharon was very sorry--she spoke of going to fetch his
body, but she was too busy with holy work.

Elmer joined her at the beginning of the meetings in Cedar Rapids,
Iowa.  He opened the meetings for her, made announcements, offered
prayer, preached when she was too weary, and led the singing when
Adelbert Shoop, the musical director, was indisposed.  He developed
a dozen sound sermons out of encyclopedias of exegesis, handbooks
for evangelists, and manuals of sermon outlines.  He had a powerful
discourse, used in the For Men Only service, on the strength and
joy of complete chastity; he told how Jim Leffingwell saw the folly
of pleasure at the death-bed of his daughter; and he had an
uplifting address, suitable to all occasions, on Love as the
Morning and the Evening Star.

He helped Sharon where Cecil had held her back--or so she said.
While she kept her vocabulary of poetic terms, Elmer managed her in
just the soap-box denunciation of sin which had made Cecil shudder.
Also he spoke of Cecil as "Osric," which she found very funny
indeed, and as "Percy," and "Algernon."  He urged her to tackle the
biggest towns, the most polite or rowdy audiences, and to advertise
herself not in the wet-kitten high-church phrases approved by Cecil
but in a manner befitting a circus, an Elks' convention, or a new
messiah.

Under Elmer's urging she ventured for the first time into the
larger cities.  She descended on Minneapolis and, with the support
only of such sects as the Full Gospel Assembly, the Nazarenes, the
Church of God, and the Wesleyan Methodists, she risked her savings
in hiring an armory and inserting two-column six-inch advertisements
of herself.

Minneapolis was quite as enlivened as smaller places by Sharon's
voice and eyes, by her Grecian robes, by her gold-and-white
pyramidal altar, and the profits were gratifying.  Thereafter she
sandwiched Indianapolis, Rochester, Atlanta, Seattle, the two
Portlands, Pittsburgh, in between smaller cities.

For two years life was a whirlwind to Elmer Gantry.

It was so frantic that he could never remember which town was
which.  Everything was a blur of hot sermons, writhing converts,
appeals for contributions, trains, denunciation of lazy personal
workers, denunciations of Adelbert Shoop for getting drunk, firing
of Adelbert Shoop, taking back of Adelbert Shoop when no other
tenor so unctuously pious was to be found.

Of one duty he was never weary: of standing around and being
impressive and very male for the benefit of lady seekers.  How
tenderly he would take their hands and moan, "Won't you hear the
dear Savior's voice calling, Sister?" and all of them, spinsters
with pathetic dried girlishness, misunderstood wives, held fast to
his hand and were added to the carefully kept total of saved souls.
Sharon saw to it that he dressed the part--double-breasted dark
blue with a dashing tie in winter, and in summer white suits with
white shoes.

But however loudly the skirts rustled about him, so great was
Sharon's intimidating charm that he was true to her.

If he was a dervish figure those two years, she was a shooting
star; inspired in her preaching, passionate with him, then a
naughty child who laughed and refused to be serious even at the
sermon hour; gallantly generous, then a tight-fisted virago
squabbling over ten cents for stamps.  Always, in every high-
colored mood, she was his religion and his reason for being.


2


When she attacked the larger towns and asked for the support of the
richer churches, Sharon had to create several new methods in the
trade of evangelism.  The churches were suspicious of women
evangelists--women might do very well in visiting the sick,
knitting for the heathen, and giving strawberry festivals, but they
couldn't shout loud enough to scare the devil out of sinners.
Indeed all evangelists, men and women, were under attack.  Sound
churchmen here and there were asking whether there was any peculiar
spiritual value in frightening people into groveling maniacs.  They
were publishing statistics which asserted that not ten per cent of
the converts at emotional revival meetings remained church-members.
They were even so commercial as to inquire why a pastor with a
salary of two thousand dollars a year--when he got it--should
agonize over helping an evangelist to make ten thousand, forty
thousand.

All these doubters had to be answered.  Elmer persuaded Sharon to
discharge her former advance-agent--he had been a minister and
contributor to the religious press, till the unfortunate affair of
the oil stock--and hire a real press-agent, trained in newspaper
work, circus advertising, and real-estate promoting.  It was Elmer
and the press-agent who worked up the new technique of risky but
impressive defiance.

Where the former advance-man had begged the ministers and wealthy
laymen of a town to which Sharon wanted to be invited to appreciate
her spirituality, and had sat nervously about hotels, the new
salesman of salvation was brusque:

"I can't waste my time and the Lord's time waiting for you people
to make up your minds.  Sister Falconer is especially interested
in this city because she has been informed that there is a
subterranean quickening here such as would simply jam your
churches, with a grand new outpouring of the spirit, provided some
real expert like her came to set the fuse alight.  But there are so
many other towns begging for her services that if you can't make up
your minds immediately, we'll have to accept their appeals and pass
you up.  Sorry.  Can only wait till midnight.  Tonight.  Reserved
my Pullman already."

There were ever so many ecclesiastical bodies who answered that
they didn't see why he waited even till midnight, but if they were
thus intimidated into signing the contract (an excellent contract,
drawn up by a devout Christian Scientist lawyer named Finkelstein)
they were the more prepared to give spiritual and financial support
to Sharon's labors when she did arrive.

The new press-agent was finally so impressed by the beauties of
evangelism, as contrasted with his former circuses and real estate,
that he was himself converted, and sometimes when he was in town
with the troupe, he sang in the choir and spoke to Y.M.C.A. classes
in journalism.  But even Elmer's arguments could never get him to
give up a sturdy, plodding devotion to poker.


3


The contract signed, the advance-man remembered his former
newspaper labors, and for a few days became touchingly friendly
with all the reporters in town.  There were late parties at his
hotel; there was much sending of bell-boys for more bottles of
Wilson and White Horse and Green River.  The press-agent admitted
that he really did think that Miss Falconer was the greatest woman
since Sarah Bernhardt, and he let the boys have stories, guaranteed
held exclusive, of her beauty, the glories of her family, her
miraculous power of fetching sinners or rain by prayer, and the
rather vaguely dated time when, as a young girl, she had been
recognized by Dwight Moody as his successor.

South of the Mason and Dixon line her grandfather was merely Mr.
Falconer, a bellicose and pious man, but far enough north he was
General Falconer of Ole Virginny--preferably spelled that way--who
had been the adviser and solace of General Robert E. Lee.  The
press-agent also wrote the posters for the Ministerial Alliance,
giving Satan a generous warning as to what was to happen to him.

So when Sharon and the troupe arrived, the newspapers were eager,
the walls and shop-windows were scarlet with placards, and the town
was breathless.  Sometimes a thousand people gathered at the
station for her arrival.

There were always a few infidels, particularly among the reporters,
who had doubted her talents, but when they saw her in the train
vestibule, in a long white coat, when she had stood there a second
with her eyes closed, lost in prayer for this new community, when
slowly she held out her white nervous hands in greeting--then the
advance-agent's work was two-thirds done here and he could go on to
whiten new fields for the harvest.

But there was still plenty of discussion before Sharon was rid of
the forces of selfishness and able to get down to the job of
spreading light.

Local committees were always stubborn, local committees were always
jealous, local committees were always lazy, and local committees
were always told these facts, with vigor.  The heat of the
arguments was money.

Sharon was one of the first evangelists to depend for all her
profit not on a share of the contributions nor on a weekly
offering, but on one night devoted entirely to a voluntary "thank
offering," for her and her crew alone.  It sounded unselfish and it
brought in more; every devotee saved up for that occasion; and it
proved easier to get one fifty-dollar donation than a dozen of a
dollar each.  But to work up this lone offering to suitably
thankful proportions, a great deal of loving and efficient
preparation was needed--reminders given by the chief pastors,
bankers, and other holy persons of the town, the distribution of
envelopes over which devotees were supposed to brood for the whole
six weeks of the meetings, and innumerable newspaper paragraphs
about the self-sacrifice and heavy expenses of the evangelists.

It was over these innocent necessary precautions that the local
committees always showed their meanness.  They liked giving over
only one contribution to the evangelist, but they wanted nothing
said about it till they themselves had been taken care of--till the
rent of the hall or the cost of building a tabernacle, the heat,
the lights, the advertising, and other expenses had been paid.

Sharon would meet the committee--a score of clergymen, a score of
their most respectable deacons, a few angular Sunday School
superintendents, a few disapproving wives--in a church parlor, and
for the occasion she always wore the gray suit and an air of
metropolitan firmness, and swung a pair of pince-nez with lenses
made of window-glass.  While in familiar words the local chairman
was explaining to her that their expenses were heavy, she would
smile as though she knew something they could not guess, then let
fly at them breathlessly:

"I'm afraid there is some error here!  I wonder if you are quite in
the mood to forget all material things and really throw yourselves
into the self-abnegating glory of a hot campaign for souls?  I know
all you have to say--as a matter of fact, you've forgotten to
mention your expenses for watchmen, extra hymn books, and hiring
camp-chairs!

"But you haven't the experience to appreciate MY expenses!  I have
to maintain almost as great a staff--not only workers and musicians
but all my other representatives, whom you never see--as though I
had a factory.  Besides them, I have my charities.  There is, for
example, the Old Ladies' Home, which I keep up entirely--oh, I
shan't say anything about it, but if you could see those poor aged
women turning to me with such anxious faces--!"

(Where that Old Ladies' Home was, Elmer never learned.)

"We come here without any guarantee, we depend wholly upon the
free-will offering of the last day; and I'm afraid you're going to
stress the local expenses so that people will not feel like giving
on the last day even enough to pay the salaries of my assistants.
I'm taking--if it were not that I abominate the pitiful and
character-destroying vice of gambling, I'd say that I'm taking such
a terrible gamble that it frightens me!  But there it is, and--"

While she was talking, Sharon was sizing up this new assortment of
clergy: the cranks, the testy male old maids, the advertising and
pushing demagogues, the commonplace pulpit-job-holders, the
straddling young liberals; the real mystics, the kindly fathers of
their flocks, the lovers of righteousness.  She had picked out as
her advocate the most sympathetic, and she launched her peroration
straight at him:

"Do you want to ruin me, so that never again shall I be able to
carry the message, to carry salvation, to the desperate souls who
are everywhere waiting for me, crying for my help?  Is that your
purpose--you, the elect, the people chosen to help me in the
service of the dear Lord Jesus himself?  Is that your purpose?
Is it?  Is it?"

She began sobbing, which was Elmer's cue to jump up and have a
wonderful idea.

He knew, did Elmer, that the dear brethren and sisters had no such
purpose.  They just wanted to be practical.  Well, why wouldn't it
be a good notion for the committee to go to the well-to-do church
members and explain the unparalleled situation; tell them that this
was the Lord's work, and that aside from the unquestioned spiritual
benefits, the revival would do so much good that crime would cease,
and taxes thus be lessened; that workmen would turn from agitation
to higher things, and work more loyally at the same wages.  If they
got enough pledges from the rich for current expenses, those
expenses would not have to be stressed at the meetings, and people
could properly be coaxed to save up for the final "thank offering";
not have to be nagged to give more than small coins at the nightly
collections.

There were other annoyances to discuss with the local committee.
Why, Elmer would demand, hadn't they provided enough dressing-rooms
in the tabernacle?  Sister Falconer needed privacy.  Sometimes just
before the meeting she and he had to have important conferences.
Why hadn't they provided more volunteer ushers?  He must have them
at once, to train them, for it was the ushers, when properly
coached, who would ease struggling souls up to the altar for the
skilled finishing touches by the experts.

Had they planned to invite big delegations from the local
institutions--from Smith Brothers' Catsup Factory, from the car-
shops, from the packing house?  Oh, yes, they must plan to stir up
these institutions; an evening would be dedicated to each of them,
the representatives would be seated together, and they'd have such
a happy time singing their favorite hymns.

By this time, a little dazed, the local committee were granting
everything; and they looked almost convinced when Sharon wound up
with a glad ringing:

"All of you must look forward, and joyfully, to a sacrifice of time
and money in these meetings.  We have come here at a great
sacrifice, and we are here only to help you."


4


The afternoon and evening sermons--those were the high points of
the meetings, when Sharon cried in a loud voice, her arms out to
them, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not," and
"All our righteousness is as filthy rags," and "We have sinned and
come short of the glory of God," and "Oh, for the man to arise in
me, that the man I am may cease to be," and "Get right with God,"
and "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power
of God unto salvation."

But before even these guaranteed appeals could reach wicked hearts,
the audience had to be prepared for emotion, and to accomplish this
there was as much labor behind Sharon's eloquence as there is of
wardrobes and scene-shifters and box offices behind the frenzy of
Lady Macbeth.  Of this preparation Elmer had a great part.

He took charge, as soon as she had trained him, of the men personal
workers, leaving the girls to the Director of Personal Work, a
young woman who liked dancing and glass jewelry but who was
admirable at listening to the confessions of spinsters.  His
workers were bank-tellers, bookkeepers in wholesale groceries, shoe
clerks, teachers of manual training.  They canvassed shops,
wholesale warehouses, and factories, and held noon meetings in
offices, where they explained that the most proficient use of
shorthand did not save one from the probability of hell.  For Elmer
explained that prospects were more likely to be converted if they
came to the meetings with a fair amount of fear.

When they were permitted, the workers were to go from desk to desk,
talking to each victim about the secret sins he was comfortably
certain to have.  And both men and women workers were to visit the
humbler homes and offer to kneel and pray with the floury and
embarrassed wife, the pipe-wreathed and shoeless husband.

All the statistics of the personal work--so many souls invited to
come to the altar, so many addresses to workmen over their lunch-
pails, so many cottage prayers, with the length of each--were
rather imaginatively entered by Elmer and the Director of Personal
Work on the balance-sheet which Sharon used as a report after the
meetings and as a talking-point for the sale of future meetings.

Elmer met daily with Adelbert Shoop, that yearning and innocent
tenor who was in charge of music, to select hymns.  There were
times when the audiences had to be lulled into confidence by
"Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling," times when they were made
to feel brotherly and rustic with "It's the Old-time Religion"--


     It was good for Paul and Silas
     And it's good enough for me--


and times when they had to be stirred by "At the Cross" or "Onward,
Christian Soldiers."  Adelbert had ideas about what he called
"worship by melody," but Elmer saw that the real purpose of singing
was to lead the audience to a state of mind where they would do as
they were told.

He learned to pick out letters on the typewriter with two fingers,
and he answered Sharon's mail--all of it that she let him see.  He
kept books for her, in a ragged sufficient manner, on check-book
stubs.  He wrote the nightly story of her sermons, which the
newspapers cut down and tucked in among stories of remarkable
conversions.  He talked to local church-pillars so rich and moral
that their own pastors were afraid of them.  And he invented an aid
to salvation which to this day is used in the more evangelistic
meetings, though it is credited to Adelbert Shoop.

Adelbert was up to most of the current diversions.  He urged the
men and the women to sing against each other.  At the tense moment
when Sharon was calling for converts, Adelbert would skip down the
aisle, fat but nimble, pink with coy smiles, tapping people on the
shoulder, singing the chorus of a song right among them, and often
returning with three or four prisoners of the sword of the Lord,
flapping his plump arms and caroling "They're coming--they're
coming," which somehow started a stampede to the altar.

Adelbert was, in his girlish enthusiasm, almost as good as Sharon
or Elmer at announcing, "Tonight, you are all of you to be
evangelists.  Every one of you now!  Shake hands with the person to
your right and ask 'em if they're saved."

He gloated over their embarrassment.

He really was a man of parts.  Nevertheless, it was Elmer, not
Adelbert, who invented the "Hallelujah Yell."

Remembering his college cheers, remembering how greatly it had
encouraged him in kneeing the opposing tackle or jabbing the rival
center's knee, Elmer observed to himself, "Why shouldn't we have
yells in this game, too?"

He himself wrote the first one known in history.


     Hallelujah, praise God, hal, hal, hal!
     Hallelujah, praise God, hal, hal, hal!
     All together, I feel better,
     Hal, hal, hal,
     For salvation of the nation--
     Aaaaaaaaaaa--MEN!


That was a thing to hear, when Elmer led them; when he danced
before them, swinging his big arms and bellowing, "Now again!  Two
yards to gain!  Two yards for the Savior!  Come on, boys and girls,
it's our team!  Going to let 'em down?  Not on your life!  Come on
then, you chipmunks, and lemme hear you knock the ole roof off!
Hal, hal, hal!"

Many a hesitating boy, a little sickened by the intense brooding
femininity of Sharon's appeal, was thus brought up to the platform
to shake hands with Elmer and learn the benefits of religion.


5


The gospel crew could never consider their converts as human
beings, like waiters or manicurists or brakemen, but they had in
them such a professional interest as surgeons take in patients,
critics in an author, fishermen in trout.

They were obsessed by the gaffer in Terre Haute who got converted
every single night during the meetings.  He may have been insane
and he may have been a plain drunk, but every evening he came in
looking adenoidal and thoroughly backslidden; every evening he
slowly woke to his higher needs during the sermon; and when the
call for converts came, he leaped up, shouted "Hallelujah, I've
found it!" and galloped forward, elbowing real and valuable
prospects out of the aisle.  The crew waited for him as campers for
a mosquito.

In Scranton, they had unusually exasperating patients.  Scranton
had been saved by a number of other evangelists before their
arrival, and had become almost anesthetic.  Ten nights they sweated
over the audience without a single sinner coming forward, and Elmer
had to go out and hire half a dozen convincing converts.

He found them in a mission near the river, and explained that by
giving a good example to the slothful, they would be doing the work
of God, and that if the example was good enough, he would give them
five dollars apiece.  The missioner himself came in during the
conference and offered to get converted for ten, but he was so well
known that Elmer had to give him the ten to stay away.

His gang of converts was very impressive, but thereafter no member
of the evangelistic troupe was safe.  The professional Christians
besieged the tent night and day.  They wanted to be saved again.
When they were refused, they offered to produce new converts at
five dollars apiece--three dollars apiece--fifty cents and a square
meal.  By this time enough authentic and free enthusiasts were
appearing, and though they were fervent, they did not relish being
saved in company with hoboes who smelled.  When the half dozen
cappers were thrown out, bodily, by Elmer and Art Nichols, they
took to coming to the meetings and catcalling, so that for the rest
of the series they had to be paid a dollar a night each to stay
away.

No, Elmer could not consider the converts human.  Sometimes when he
was out in the audience, playing the bullying hero that Judson
Roberts had once played with him, he looked up at the platform,
where a row of men under conviction knelt with their arms on chairs
and their broad butts toward the crowd, and he wanted to snicker
and wield a small plank.  But five minutes after he would be up
there, kneeling with a sewing-machine agent with the day-after
shakes, his arm round the client's shoulder, pleading in the tones
of a mother cow, "Can't you surrender to Christ, Brother?  Don't
you want to give up all the dreadful habits that are ruining you--
keeping you back from success?  Listen!  God'll help you make good!
And when you're lonely, old man, remember he's there, waiting to
talk to you!"


6


They generally, before the end of the meetings, worked up
gratifying feeling.  Often young women knelt panting, their eyes
blank, their lips wide with ecstasy.  Sometimes, when Sharon was
particularly fired, they actually had the phenomena of the great
revivals of 1800.  People twitched and jumped with the holy jerks,
old people under pentecostal inspiration spoke in unknown tongues--
completely unknown; women stretched out senseless, their tongues
dripping; and once occurred what connoisseurs regard as the highest
example of religious inspiration.  Four men and two women crawled
about a pillar, barking like dogs, "barking the devil out of the
tree."

Sharon relished these miracles.  They showed her talent; they were
sound manifestations of Divine Power.  But sometimes they got the
meetings a bad name, and cynics prostrated her by talking of "Holy
Rollers."  Because of this maliciousness and because of the
excitement which she found in meetings so favored by the Holy
Ghost, Elmer had particularly to comfort her after them.


7


All the members of the evangelistic crew planned effects to throw a
brighter limelight on Sharon.  There was feverish discussions of
her costumes.  Adelbert had planned the girdled white robe in which
she appeared as priestess, and he wanted her to wear it always.
"You are so queeeeenly," he whimpered.  But Elmer insisted on
changes, on keeping the robe for crucial meetings, and Sharon went
out for embroidered golden velvet frocks, and, at meetings for
business women, smart white flannel suits.

They assisted her also in the preparation of new sermons.

Her "message" was delivered under a hypnotism of emotion, without
connection with her actual life.  Now Portia, now Ophelia, now
Francesca, she drew men to her, did with them as she would.  Or
again she saw herself as veritably the scourge of God.  But however
richly she could pour out passion, however flamingly she used the
most exotic words and the most complex sentiments when some one had
taught them to her, it was impossible for her to originate any
sentiment more profound than "I'm unhappy."

She read nothing, after Cecil Aylston's going, but the Bible and
the advertisements of rival evangelists in the bulletin of the
Moody Bible Institute.

Lacking Cecil, it was a desperate and cooperative affair to furnish
Sharon with fresh sermons as she grew tired of acting the old ones.
Adelbert Shoop provided the poetry.  He was fond of poetry.  He
read Ella Wheeler Wilcox, James Whitcomb Riley, and Thomas Moore.
He was also a student of philosophy: he could understand Ralph
Waldo Trine perfectly, and he furnished for Sharon's sermons both
the couplets about Home and Little Ones, and the philosophical
points about will-power, Thoughts are Things, and Love is Beauty,
Beauty is Love, Love is All.

The Lady Director of Personal Work had unexpected talent in making
up anecdotes about the death-beds of drunkards and agnostics; Lily
Anderson, the pretty though anemic pianist, had once been a school
teacher and had read a couple of books about scientists, so she was
able to furnish data with which Sharon absolutely confuted the
rising fad of evolution; and Art Nichols, the cornetist, provided
rude but moral Maine humor, stories about horse-trading, cabbages,
and hard cider, very handy for cajoling skeptical business men.
But Elmer, being trained theologically, had to weave all the
elements--dogma, poetry to the effect that God's palette held the
sunsets or ever the world began, confessions of the dismally
damned, and stories of Maine barn-dances--into one ringing whole.

And meanwhile, besides the Reverend Sister Falconer and the
Reverend Mr. Gantry, thus cooperative, there were Sharon and Elmer
and a crew of quite human people with grievances, traveling
together, living together, not always in a state of happy
innocence.



CHAPTER XIV


1


Sedate as a long married couple, intimate and secure, were Elmer
and Sharon on most days, and always he was devoted.  It was Sharon
who was incalculable.  Sometimes she was a priestess and a looming
disaster, sometimes she was intimidating in grasping passion,
sometimes she was thin and writhing and anguished with chagrined
doubt of herself, sometimes she was pale and nun-like and still,
sometimes she was a chilly business woman, and sometimes she was a
little girl.  In the last, quite authentic rôle, Elmer loved her
fondly--except when she assumed it just as she was due to go out
and hypnotize three thousand people.

He would beg her, "Oh, come on now, Shara, please be good!  Please
stop pouting, and go out and lambaste 'em."

She would stamp her foot, while her face changed to a round
childishness.  "No!  Don't want to evangel.  Want to be bad.  Bad!
Want to throw things.  Want to go out and spank a bald man on the
head.  Tired of souls.  Want to tell 'em all to go to hell!"

"Oh, gee, please, Shara!  Gosh all fishhooks!  They're waiting for
you!  Adelbert has sung that verse twice now."

"I don't care!  Sing it again!  Sing songs, losh songs!  Going to
be bad!  Going out and and drop mice down Adelbert's fat neck--fat
neck--fat hooooooly neck!"

But suddenly:  "I wish I could.  I wish they'd let me BE bad.  Oh,
I get so tired--all of them reaching for me, sucking my blood,
wanting me to give them the courage they're too flabby to get for
themselves!"

And a minute later she was standing before the audience, rejoicing,
"Oh, my beloved, the dear Lord has a message for you tonight!"

And in two hours, as they rode in a taxi to the hotel, she was
sobbing on his breast:  "Hold me close!  I'm so lonely and afraid
and cold."


2


Among his various relations to her, Elmer was Sharon's employee.
And he resented the fact that she was making five times more than
he of that money for which he had a reverent admiration.

When they had first made plans, she had suggested:

"Dear, if it all works out properly, in three or four years I want
you to share the offerings with me.  But first I must save a lot.
I've got some vague plans to build a big center for our work, maybe
with a magazine and a training-school for evangelists.  When that's
paid for, you and I can make an agreement.  But just now--How much
have you been making as a traveling man?"

"Oh, about three hundred a month--about thirty-five hundred a
year."  He was really fond of her; he was lying to the extent of
only five hundred.

"Then I'll start you in at thirty-eight hundred, and in four or
five years I hope it'll be ten thousand, and maybe twice as much."

And she never, month after month, discussed salary again.  It
irritated him.  He knew that she was making more than twenty
thousand a year, and that before long she would probably make fifty
thousand.  But he loved her so completely that he scarce thought of
it oftener than three or four times a month.


3


Sharon continued to house her troupe in hotels, for independence.
But an unfortunate misunderstanding came up.  Elmer had stayed late
in her room, engaged in a business conference, so late that he
accidentally fell asleep across the foot of her bed.  So tired were
they both that neither of them awoke till nine in the morning, when
they were aroused by Adelbert Shoop knocking and innocently
skipping in.

Sharon raised her head, to see Adelbert giggling.

"How DARE you come into my room without knocking, you sausage!" she
raged.  "Have you no sense of modesty or decency?  Beat it!
Potato!"

When Adelbert had gone simpering out, cheeping, "HONEST, I won't
say ANYTHING," then Elmer fretted, "Golly, do you think he'll
blackmail us?"

"Oh, no, Adelbert adores me.  Us girls must stick together.  But it
does bother me.  Suppose it'd been some other guest of the hotel!
People misunderstand and criticize so.  Tell you what let's do.
Hereafter, in each town, let's hire a big house, furnished, for the
whole crew.  Still be independent, but nobody around to talk about
us.  And prob'ly we can get a dandy house quite cheap from some
church-member.  That would be lovely!  When we get sick of working
so hard all the time, we could have a party just for ourselves, and
have a dance.  I love to dance.  Oh, of course I roast dancing in
my sermons, but I mean--when it's with people like us, that
understand, it's not like with worldly people, where it would lead
to evil.  A party!  Though Art Nichols WOULD get drunk.  Oh, let
him!  He works so hard.  Now you skip.  Wait!  Aren't you going to
kiss me good morning?"

They made sure of Adelbert's loyalty by flattering him, and the
press-agent had orders to find a spacious furnished house in the
city to which they were going next.


4


The renting of furnished houses for the Falconer Evangelistic Party
was a ripe cause for new quarrels with local committees,
particularly after the party had left town.

There were protests by the infuriated owners that the sacred
workers must have been, as one deacon-undertaker put it, "simply
raising the very devil."  He asserted that the furniture had been
burned with cigarette stubs, that whisky had been spilled on rugs,
that chairs had been broken.  He claimed damages from the local
committee; the local committee sent the claims on to Sharon; there
was a deal of fervent correspondence; and the claims were never
paid.

Though usually it did not come out till the series of meetings was
finished, so that there was no interference with saving the world,
these arguments about the private affairs of the evangelistic crew
started most regrettable rumors.  The ungodly emitted loud
scoffings.  Sweet repressed old maids wondered and wondered what
might really have happened, and speculated together in delightful
horror as to whether--uh--there could have been anything--uh--worse
than drinking going on.

But always a majority of the faithful argued logically that Sister
Falconer and Brother Gantry were righteous, therefore they could
not do anything unrighteous, therefore the rumors were inspired by
the devil and spread by saloon-keepers and infidels, and in face of
this persecution of the godly, the adherents were the more lyric in
support of the Falconer Party.

Elmer learned from the discussions of damages a pleasant way of
reducing expenses.  At the end of their stay, they simply did not
pay the rent for their house.  They informed the local committee,
after they had gone, that the committee had promised to provide
living quarters, and that was all there was to it. . . .  There was
a lot of correspondence.


5


One of Sharon's chief troubles was getting her crew to bed.  Like
most actors, they were high-strung after the show.  Some of them
were too nervous to sleep till they had read the Saturday Evening
Post; others never could eat till after the meetings, and till one
o'clock they fried eggs and scrambled eggs and burnt toast and
quarreled over the dish-washing.  Despite their enlightened public
stand against the Demon Rum, some of the performers had to brace up
their nerves with an occasional quart of whisky, and there was
dancing and assorted glee.

Though sometimes she exploded all over them, usually Sharon was
amiably blind, and she had too many conferences with Elmer to give
much heed to the parties.

Lily Anderson, the pale pianist, protested.  They ought all, she
said, to go to bed early so they could be up early.  They ought,
she said, to go oftener to the cottage prayer meetings.  The others
insisted that this was too much to expect of people exhausted by
their daily three hours of work, but she reminded them that they
were doing the work of the Lord, and they ought to be willing to
wear themselves out in such service.  They were, said they; but not
tonight.

After days when Art Nichols, the cornetist, and Adolph Klebs, the
violinist, had such heads at ten in the morning that they had to
take pick-me-ups, would come days when all of them, even Art and
Adolph, were hysterically religious; when quite privately they
prayed and repented, and raised their voices in ululating quavers
of divine rapture, till Sharon said furiously that she didn't
know whether she preferred to be waked up by hell-raising or
hallelujahs.  Yet once she bought a traveling phonograph for them,
and many records, half hectic dances and half hymns.


6


Though her presence nearly took away his need of other stimulants,
of tobacco and alcohol and most of his cursing, it was a year
before Elmer was altogether secure from the thought of them.  But
gradually he saw himself certain of future power and applause as a
clergyman.  His ambition became more important than the titillation
of alcohol, and he felt very virtuous and pleased.

Those were big days, rejoicing days, sunny days.  He had
everything: his girl, his work, his fame, his power over people.
When they held meetings in Topeka, his mother came from Paris to
hear them, and as she watched her son addressing two thousand
people, all the heavy graveyard doubts which had rotted her after
his exit from Mizpah Seminary vanished.

He felt now that he belonged.  The gospel crew had accepted him as
their assistant foreman, as bolder and stronger and trickier than
any save Sharon, and they followed him like family dogs.  He
imagined a day when he would marry Sharon, supersede her as leader--
letting her preach now and then as a feature--and become one of
the great evangelists of the land.  He belonged.  When he
encountered fellow evangelists, no matter how celebrated, he was
pleased, but not awed.

Didn't Sharon and he meet no less an evangelist than Dr. Howard
Bancock Binch, the great Baptist defender of the literal
interpretation of the Bible, president of the True Gospel Training
School for Religious Workers, editor of The Keeper of the Vineyard,
and author of "Fools Errors of So-Called Science"?  Didn't Dr.
Binch treat Elmer like a son?

Dr. Binch happened to be in Joliet, on his way to receive his sixth
D. D. degree (from Abner College) during Sharon's meetings there.
He lunched with Sharon and Elmer.

"Which hymns do you find the most effective when you make your
appeal for converts, Dr. Binch?" asked Elmer.

"Well, I'll tell you, Brother Gantry," said the authority.  "I
think 'Just as I Am' and 'Jesus, I Am Coming Home' hit real folksy
hearts like nothing else."

"Oh, I'm afraid I don't agree with you," protested Sharon.  "It
seems to me--of course you have far more experience and talent than
I, Dr. Binch--"

"Not at all, my dear sister," said Dr. Binch, with a leer which
sickened Elmer with jealousy.  "You are young, but all of us
recognize your genius."

"Thank you very much.  But I mean:  They're not lively enough.  I
feel we ought to use hymns with a swing to 'em, hymns that make you
dance right up to the mourners' bench."

Dr. Binch stopped gulping his fried pork chops and held up a
flabby, white, holy hand.  "Oh, Sister Falconer, I hate to have you
use the word 'dance' regarding an evangelistic meeting!  What is
the dance?  It is the gateway to hell!  How many innocent girls
have found in the dance-hall the allurement which leads to every
nameless vice!"

Two minutes of information about dancing--given in the same words
that Sharon herself often used--and Dr. Binch wound up with a
hearty:  "So I beg of you not to speak of 'dancing to the mourners'
bench!'"

"I know, Dr. Binch, I know, but I mean in its sacred sense, as of
David dancing before the Lord."

"But I feel there was a different meaning to that.  If you only
knew the original Hebrew--the word should not be translated
'danced' but 'was moved by the spirit.'"

"Really?  I didn't know that.  I'll use that."

They all looked learned.

"What methods, Dr. Binch," asked Elmer, "do you find the most
successful in forcing people to come to the altar when they resist
the Holy Ghost?"

"I always begin by asking those interested in being prayed for to
hold up their hands."

"Oh, I believe in having them stand up if they want prayer.  Once
you get a fellow to his feet, it's so much easier to coax him out
into the aisle and down to the front.  If he just holds up his
hand, he may pull it down before you can spot him.  We've trained
our ushers to jump right in the minute anybody gets up, and say
'Now Brother, won't you come down front and shake hands with Sister
Falconer and make your stand for Jesus?'"

"No," said Dr. Binch, "my experience is that there are many timid
people who have to be led gradually.  To ask them to stand up is
too big a step.  But actually, we're probably both right.  My motto
as a soul-saver, if I may venture to apply such a lofty title to
myself, is that one should use every method that, in the
vernacular, will sell the goods."

"I guess that's right," said Elmer.  "Say, tell me, Dr. Binch, what
do you do with converts after they come to the altar?"

"I always try to have a separate room for 'em.  That gives you a
real chance to deepen and richen their new experience.  They can't
escape, if you close the door.  And there's no crowd to stare and
embarrass them."

"I can't see that," said Sharon.  "I believe that if the people who
come forward are making a stand for Christ, they ought to be
willing to face the crowd.  And it makes such an impression on the
whole bunch of the unsaved to see a lot of seekers at the mourners'
bench.  You must admit, Brother Binch--Dr. Binch, I should say--
that lots of people who just come to a revival for a good time are
moved to conviction epidemically, by seeing others shaken."

"No, I can't agree that that's so important as making a deeper
impression on each convert, so that each goes out as an agent for
you, as it were.  But every one to his own methods.  I mean so long
as the Lord is with us and behind us."

"Say, Dr. Binch," said Elmer, "how do you count your converts?
Some of the preachers in this last town accused us of lying about
the number.  On what basis do you count them?"

"Why, I count every one (and we use a recording machine) that comes
down to the front and shakes hands with me.  What if some of them
ARE merely old church members warmed over?  Isn't it worth just as
much to give new spiritual life to those who've had it and lost
it?"

"Of course it is.  That's what we think.  And then we got
criticized there in that fool town!  We tried--that is, Sister
Falconer here tried--a stunt that was new for us.  We opened up on
some of the worst dives and blind tigers by name.  We even gave
street numbers.  The attack created a howling sensation; people
just jammed in, hoping we'd attack other places.  I believe that's
a good policy.  We're going to try it here next week.  It puts the
fear of God into the wicked, and slams over the revival."

"There's danger in that sort of thing, though," said Dr. Binch.  "I
don't advise it.  Trouble is, in such an attack you're liable to
offend some of the leading church members--the very folks that
contribute the most cash to a revival.  They're often the owners of
buildings that get used by unscrupulous persons for immoral
purposes, and while they of course regret such unfortunate use of
their property, if you attack such places by name, you're likely to
lose their support.  Why, you might lose thousands of dollars!  It
seems to me wiser and more Christian to just attack vice in
general."

"How much orchestra do you use, Dr. Binch?" asked Sharon.

"All I can get hold of.  I'm carrying a pianist, a violinist, a
drummer, and a cornetist, besides my soloist."

"But don't you find some people objecting to fiddling?"

"Oh, yes, but I jolly 'em out of it by saying I don't believe in
letting the devil monopolize all these art things," said Dr. Binch.
"Besides, I find that a good tune, sort of a nice, artistic, slow,
sad one, puts folks into a mood where they'll come across both with
their hearts and their contributions.  By the way, speaking of
that, what luck have you folks had recently in raising money?  And
what method do you use?"

"It's been pretty good with us--and I need a lot, because I'm
supporting an orphanage," said Sharon.  "We're sticking to the idea
of the free-will offering the last day.  We can get more money than
any town would be willing to guarantee beforehand.  If the appeal
for the free-will offering is made strong enough, we usually have
pretty fair results."

"Yes, I use the same method.  But I don't like the term 'freewill
offering,' or 'thank offering.'  It's been used so much by merely
second-rate evangelists, who, and I grieve to say there are such
people, put their own gain before the service of the Kingdom, that
it's got a commercial sound.  In making my own appeal for
contributions, I use 'love offering.'"

"That's worth thinking over, Dr. Binch," sighed Sharon, "but, oh,
how tragic it is that we, with our message of salvation--if the sad
old world would but listen, we could solve all sorrows and
difficulties--yet with this message ready, we have to be practical
and raise money for our expenses and charities.  Oh, the world
doesn't appreciate evangelists.  Think what we can do for a
resident minister!  These preachers who talk about conducting their
own revivals make me sick!  They don't know the right technique.
Conducting revivals is a profession.  One must know all the tricks.
With all modesty, I figure that I know just what will bring in the
converts."

"I'm sure you do, Sister Falconer," from Binch.  "Say, do you and
Brother Gantry like union revivals?"

"You bet your life we do," said Brother Gantry.  "We won't conduct
a revival unless we can have the united support of all the
evangelical preachers in town."

"I think you are mistaken, Brother Gantry," said Dr. Binch.  "I
find that I have the most successful meetings with only a few
churches, but all of them genuinely O. K.  With all the preachers
joined together, you have to deal with a lot of these two-by-four
hick preachers with churches about the size of woodsheds and
getting maybe eleven hundred a year, and yet they think they have
the right to make suggestions!  No, sir!  I want to do business
with the big down-town preachers that are used to doing things in a
high-grade way and that don't kick if you take a decent-sized
offering out of town!"

"Yuh, there's something to be said for that," said Elmer.  "That's
what the Happy Sing Evangelist--you know, Bill Buttle--said to us
one time."

"But I hope you don't LIKE Brother Buttle!" protested Dr. Binch.

"Oh, no!  Anyway _I_ didn't like him," said Sharon, which was a
wifely slap at Elmer.

Dr. Binch snorted, "He's a scoundrel!  There's rumors about his
wife's leaving him.  Why is it that in such a high calling as ours
there are so many rascals?  Take Dr. Mortonby!  Calling himself a
cover-to-cover literalist, and then his relations to the young
woman who sings for him--I would shock you, Sister Falconer, if I
told you what I suspect."

"Oh, I know.  I haven't met him, but I hear dreadful things,"
wailed Sharon.  "And Wesley Zigler!  They say he drinks!  And an
evangelist!  Why, if any person connected with me were so much as
to take one drink, out he goes!"

"That's right, that's right.  Isn't it dreadful!" mourned Dr.
Binch.  "And take this charlatan Edgar Edgars--this obscene ex-
gambler with his disgusting slang!  Uh!  The hypocrite!"

Joyously they pointed out that this rival artist in evangelism was
an ignoramus, that a passer of bogus checks, the other doubtful
about the doctrine of the premillennial coming; joyously they
concluded that the only intelligent and moral evangelists in
America were Dr. Binch, Sister Falconer, and Brother Gantry, and
the lunch broke up in an orgy of thanksgiving.

"There's the worst swell-head and four-flusher in America, that
Binch, and he's shaky on Jonah, and I've heard he chews tobacco--
and then pretending to be so swell and citified.  Be careful of
him," said Sharon to Elmer afterward, and "Oh, my dear, my dear!"



CHAPTER XV


1


It was not her eloquence but her healing of the sick which raised
Sharon to such eminence that she promised to become the most
renowned evangelist in America.  People were tired of eloquence;
and the whole evangelist business was limited, since even the most
ardent were not likely to be saved more than three or four times.
But they could be healed constantly, and of the same disease.

Healing was later to become the chief feature of many evangelists,
but in 1910 it was advertised chiefly by Christian Scientists and
the New Thoughters.  Sharon came to it by accident.  She had
regularly offered prayers for the sick, but only absent-mindedly.
When Elmer and she had been together for a year, during her
meetings in Schenectady a man led up his deaf wife and begged
Sharon to heal her.  It amused Sharon to send out for some oil (it
happened to be shotgun oil, but she properly consecrated it) to
anoint the woman's ears, and to pray lustily for healing.

The woman screamed, "Glory to God, I've got my hearing back!"

There was a sensation in the tabernacle, and everybody itched with
desire to be relieved of whatever ailed him.  Elmer led the healed
deaf woman aside and asked her name for the newspapers.  It is true
that she could not hear him, but he wrote out his questions, she
wrote the answers, and he got an excellent story for the papers and
an idea for their holy work.

Why, he put it to Sharon, shouldn't she make healing a regular
feature?

"I don't know that I have any gift for it," considered Sharon.

"Sure you have!  Aren't you psychic?  You bet.  Go to it.  We might
pull off some healing services.  I bet the collections would bust
all records, and we'll have a distinct understanding with the local
committees that we get all over a certain amount, besides the
collection the last day."

"Well, we might try one.  Of course, the Lord may have blessed me
with special gifts that way, and to him be all the credit, oh,
let's stop in here and have an ice cream soda, I LOVE banana
splits, I hope nobody sees me, I feel like dancing tonight, anyway
we'll talk over the possibility of healing, I'm going to take a hot
bath the minute we get home with losh bath salts--losh and losh and
losh."

The success was immense.

She alienated many evangelical pastors by divine healing, but she
won all the readers of books about will-power, and her daily
miracles were reported in the newspapers.  And, or so it was
reported, some of the patients remained cured.

She murmured to Elmer, "You know, maybe there really is something
to this healing, and I get an enormous thrill out of it--telling
the lame to chuck their crutches.  That man last night, that
cripple--he did feel lots better."

They decorated the altar now with crutches and walking-sticks, all
given by grateful patients--except such as Elmer had been compelled
to buy to make the exhibit inspiring from the start.

Money gamboled in.  One grateful patient gave Sharon five thousand
dollars.  And Elmer and Sharon had their only quarrel, except for
occasional spats of temperament.  With the increase in profits, he
demanded a rise of salary, and she insisted that her charities took
all she had.

"Yuh, I've heard a lot about 'em," said he: "the Old Ladies' Home
and the Orphanage and the hoosegow for retired preachers.  I
suppose you carry 'em along with you on the road!"

"Do you mean to insinuate, my good friend, that I--"

They talked in a thoroughly spirited and domestic manner, and
afterward she raised his salary to five thousand and kissed him.

With the money so easily come by, Sharon burst out in hectic plans.
She was going to buy a ten-thousand-acre farm for a Christian
Socialist colony and a university, and she went so far as to get a
three months' option on two hundred acres.  She was going to have a
great national paper, with crime news, scandal, and athletics
omitted, and a daily Bible lesson on the front page.  She was going
to organize a new crusade--an army of ten million which would march
through heathen countries and convert the entire world to
Christianity in this generation.

She did, at last, actually carry out one plan, and create a
headquarters for her summer meetings.

At Clontar, a resort on the New Jersey coast, she bought the pier
on which Benno Hackenschmidt used to give grand opera.  Though the
investment was so large that even for the initial payment it took
almost every penny she had saved, she calculated that she would
make money because she would be the absolute owner and not have to
share contributions with local churches.  And, remaining in one
spot, she would build up more prestige than by moving from place to
place and having to advertise her virtues anew in every town.

In a gay frenzy she planned that if she was successful, she would
keep the Clontar pier for summer and build an all-winter tabernacle
in New York or Chicago.  She saw herself another Mary Baker Eddy,
an Annie Besant, a Katherine Tingley. . . .  Elmer Gantry was
shocked when she hinted that, who knows? the next Messiah might be
a woman, and that woman might now be on earth, just realizing her
divinity.

The pier was an immense structure, built of cheap knotty pine,
painted a hectic red with gold stripes.  It was pleasant, however,
on hot evenings.  Round it ran a promenade out over the water,
where once lovers had strolled between acts of the opera, and
giving on the promenade were many barnlike doors.

Sharon christened it "The Waters of Jordan Tabernacle," added more
and redder paint, more golden gold, and erected an enormous
revolving cross, lighted at night with yellow and ruby electric
bulbs.

The whole gospel crew went to Clontar early in June to make ready
for the great opening on the evening of the first of July.

They had to enlist volunteer ushers and personal workers, and
Sharon and Adelbert Shoop had notions about a huge robed choir,
with three or four paid soloists.

Elmer had less zeal than usual in helping her, because an
unfortunate thing had gone and happened to Elmer.  He saw that he
really ought to be more friendly with Lily Anderson, the pianist.
While he remained true to Sharon, he had cumulatively been feeling
that it was sheer carelessness to let the pretty and anemic and
virginal Lily be wasted.  He had been driven to notice her through
indignation at Art Nichols, the cornetist, for having the same
idea.

Elmer was fascinated by her unawakenedness.  While he continued to
be devoted to Sharon, over her shoulder he was always looking at
Lily's pale sweetness, and his lips were moist.


2


They sat on the beach by moonlight, Sharon and Elmer, the night
before the opening service.

All of Clontar, with its mile of comfortable summer villas and
gingerbread hotels, was excited over the tabernacle, and the
Chamber of Commerce had announced, "We commend to the whole Jersey
coast this high-class spiritual feature, the latest addition to the
manifold attractions and points of interest at the snappiest of all
summer colonies."

A choir of two hundred had been coaxed in, and some of them had
been persuaded to buy their own robes and mortar boards.

Near the sand dune against which Sharon and Elmer lolled was the
tabernacle, over which the electric cross turned solemnly, throwing
its glare now on the rushing surf, now across the bleak sand.

"And it's mine!" Sharon trembled.  "I've made it!  Four thousand
seats, and I guess it's the only Christian tabernacle built out
over the water!  Elmer, it almost scares me!  So much responsibility!
Thousands of poor troubled souls turning to me for help, and if I
fail them, if I'm weak or tired or greedy, I'll be murdering their
very souls.  I almost wish I were back safe in Virginia!"

Her enchanted voice wove itself with the menace of the breakers,
feeble against the crash of broken waters, passionate in the lull,
while the great cross turned its unceasing light.

"And I'm ambitious.  Elmer.  I know it.  I want the world.  But I
realize what an awful danger that is.  But I never had anybody to
train me.  I'm just nobody.  I haven't any family, any education.
I've had to do everything for myself, except what Cecil and you and
another man or two have done, and maybe you-all came too late.
When I was a kid, there was no one to tell me what a sense of honor
was.  But--Oh.  I've done things!  Little Katie Jonas of Railroad
Avenue--little Katie with her red flannel skirt and torn stockings,
fighting the whole Killarney Street gang and giving Pup Monahan one
in the nose, by Jiminy!  And not five cents a year, even for candy.
And now it's mine, that tabernacle there--look at it!--that cross,
that choir you hear practising!  Why, I'm the Sharon Falconer you
read about!  And tomorrow I become--oh, people reaching for me--me
healing 'em--No!  It frightens me!  It can't last.  MAKE IT LAST
FOR ME, ELMER!  Don't let them take it away from me!"

She was sobbing, her head on his lap, while he comforted her
clumsily.  He was slightly bored.  She was heavy, and though he did
like her, he wished she wouldn't go on telling that Katie-Jonas-
Utica story.

She rose to her knees, her arms out to him, her voice hysteric
against the background of the surf:

"I can't do it!  But you--I'm a woman.  I'm weak.  I wonder if I
oughtn't to stop thinking I'm such a marvel, if I oughtn't to let
you run things and just stand back and help you?  Ought I?"

He was overwhelmed by her good sense, but he cleared his throat and
spoke judiciously:

"Well, now I'll tell you.  Personally I'd never've brought it up,
but since you speak of it yourself--I don't admit for a minute that
I've got any more executive ability or oratory than you have--
probably not half as much.  And after all, you did start the show;
I came in late.  But same time, while a woman can put things over
just as good as a man, or better, for a WHILE, she's a woman, and
she isn't built to carry on things like a man would, see how I
mean?"

"Would it be better for the Kingdom if I forgot my ambition and
followed you?"

"Well, I don't say it'd be better.  You've certainly done fine,
honey.  I haven't got any criticisms.  But same time, I do think we
ought to think it over."

She had remained still, a kneeling silver statue.  Now she dropped
her head against his knees, crying:

"I can't give it up!  I can't!  Must I?"

He was conscious that people were strolling near.  He growled,
"Say, for goodness' sake, Shara, don't HOLLER and carry on like
that!  Somebody might HEAR!"

She sprang up.  "Oh, you fool!  You fool!"

She fled from him, along the sands, through the rays of the
revolving cross, into the shadow.  He angrily rubbed his back
against the sand dune and grumbled:

"Damn these women!  All alike, even Shary; always getting
temperamental on you about nothing at all!  Still, I did kind of go
off half cocked, considering she was just beginning to get the idea
of letting me boss the show.  Oh, hell, I'll jolly her out of it!"

He took off his shoes, shook the sand out of them, and rubbed the
sole of one stocking foot slowly, agreeably, for he was conceiving
a thought.

If Sharon was going to pull stuff like that on him, he ought to
teach her a lesson.

Choir practise was over.  Why not go back to the house and see what
Lily Anderson was doing?

THERE was a nice kid, and she admired him--she'd never dare bawl
him out.


3


He tiptoed to Lily's virgin door and tapped lightly.

"Yes?"

He dared not speak--Sharon's door, in the bulky old house they had
taken in Clontar, was almost opposite.  He tapped again, and when
Lily came to the door, in a kimono, he whispered, "Shhh!  Everybody
asleep.  May I come in just a second?  Something important to ask
you."

Lily was wondering, but obviously she felt a pallid excitement as
he followed her into her room, with its violet-broidered doilies.

"Lily, I've been worrying.  Do you think Adelbert ought to have the
choir start with 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God' tomorrow, or
something a little snappier--get the crowd and then shoot in
something impressive."

"Honest, Mr. Gantry, I don't believe they could change the program
now."

"Oh, well, it doesn't matter.  Sit down and tell me how the choir
practise went tonight.  Bet it went swell, with you pounding the
box!"

"Oh, now," as she perched lightly on the edge of the bed, "You're
just teasing me, Mr. Gantry!"

He sat beside her, chuckling bravely, "And I can't even get you to
call me Elmer!"

"Oh, I wouldn't dare, Mr. Gantry!  Miss Falconer would call me
down."

"You just let me know if ANYBODY ever dares try to call YOU down,
Lily!  Why--I don't know whether Sharon appreciates it or not, but
the way you spiel the music gives as much power to our meetings as
her sermons or anything else."

"Oh, no, you're just flattering me, Mr Gantry!  Oh, say, I have a
trade-last for you."

"Well, I--oh, let's see--oh, I remember, that Episcopalopian
preacher--the big handsome one--he said you ought to be on the
stage, you had so much talent."

"Oh, go on, you're kidding me, Mr. Gantry!"

"No, honest he did.  Now, what's mine?  Though I'd rather have YOU
say something nice about me!"

"Oh, now you're fishing!"

"Sure I am--with such a lovely fish as you!"

"Oh, it's terrible the way you talk."  Laughter--silvery peals--
several peals.  "But I mean, this grant opera soloist that's down
for our opening says you look so strong that she's scared of you."

"Oh, she is, is she!  Are you? . . .  Huh? . . .  Are you? . . .
Tell me!"  Somehow her hand was inside his, and he squeezed it,
while she looked away and blushed and at last breathed, "Yes, kind
of."

He almost embraced her, but--oh, it was a mistake to rush things,
and he went on in his professional tone:

"But to go back to Sharon and our labors: it's all right to be
modest, but you ought to realize how enormously your playing adds
to the spirituality of the meetings."

"I'm so glad you think so, but, honest, to compare me to Miss
Falconer for bringing souls to Christ--why she's just the most
wonderful person in the world."

"That's right.  You bet she is."

"Only I wish she felt like you do.  I don't really think she cares
so much for my playing."

"Well, she ought to!  I'm not criticizing, you understand; she
certainly is one of the greatest evangelists living; but just
between you and I, she has one fault--she doesn't appreciate any of
us--she thinks it's her that does the whole darn thing!  As I say,
I admire her, but, by golly, it does make me sore sometimes to
never have her appreciate your music--I mean the way it ought to be
appreciated--see how I mean?"

"Oh, that is so nice of you, but I don't deserve--"

"But I'VE always appreciated it, don't you think, Lily?"

"Oh, yes, indeed you have, and it's been such an encouragement--"

"Oh, well, say, I'm just tickled to death to have you say that,
Lily."  A firmer pressure on her frail hand.  "Do you LIKE to have
me like your music?"

"Oh, yes."

"But do you like to have me like YOU?"

"Oh, yes.  Of course, we're all working together--oh, like sister
and brother--"

"Lily!  Don't you think we might ever be, uh, don't you think we
could be just a little closer than sister and brother?"

"Oh, you're just being mean!  How could you ever like poor little
me when you belong to Sharon?"

"What do you mean?  Me belong to Sharon?  Say!  I admire her
tremendously, but I'm absolutely free, you can bet your life on
that, and just because I've always been kinda shy of you--you have
such a kinda flower-like beauty, you might say, that no man, no,
not the coarsest, would ever dare to ruffle it--and because I've
stood back, sorta feeling like I was protecting you, maybe you
think I haven't appreciated all your qualities!"

She swallowed.

"Oh, Lily, all I ask for is the chance now and then, whenever
you're down in the mouth--and all of us must feel like that, unless
we think we're the whole cheese and absolutely OWN the gospel
game!--whenever you feel that way, lemme have the privilege of
telling you how greatly ONE fellow appreciates the loveliness that
you scatter along the road!"

"Do you really feel that way?  Maybe I can play the piano, but
personally I'm nothing . . . nothing."

"It isn't true, it isn't TRUE, dearest!  Lily!  It's so like your
modesty to not appreciate what sunshine you bring into the hearts
of all of us, dear, and how we cherish--"

The door shot open.  In the doorway stood Sharon Falconer in a
black-and-gold dressing-gown.

"Both of you," said Sharon, "are discharged.  Fired.  Now!  Don't
ever let me see your faces again.  You can stay tonight, but see to
it that you're out of the house before breakfast."

"Oh, Miss Falconer--" Lily wailed, thrusting away Elmer's hand.
But Sharon was gone, with a bang of the door.  They rushed into the
hall, they heard the key in her lock, and she ignored their
rapping.

Lily glared at Elmer.  He heard her key also, and he stood alone in
the hall.


4


Not till one in the morning, sitting in flabby dejection, did he
have his story shaped and water-tight.

It was an heroic spectacle, that of the Reverend Elmer Gantry
climbing from the second-story balcony through Sharon's window,
tiptoeing across the room, plumping on his knees by her bed, and
giving her a large plashy kiss.

"I am not asleep," she observed, in tones level as a steel rail,
while she drew the comforter about her neck.  "In fact I'm awake
for the first time in two years, my young friend.  You can get out
of here.  I won't tell you all I've been thinking, but among other
things you're an ungrateful dog that bit the hand that took you out
of the slimy gutter, you're a liar, an ignoramus, a four-flusher,
and a rotten preacher."

"By God, I'll show--"

But she giggled, and his plan of action came back to him.

He sat firmly on the edge of the bed, and calmly he remarked:

"Sharon, you're a good deal of a damn fool.  You think I'm going to
deny flirting with Lily.  I won't take the trouble to deny it!  If
you don't appreciate yourself, if you don't see that a man that's
ever associated with you simply couldn't be interested in any other
woman, then there's nothing I can say.  Why, my God, Shara, you
know what you are!  I could no more be untrue to you than I could
to my religion!  As a matter of fact--Want to know what I was
saying to Lily, to Miss Anderson?"

"I do not!"

"Well, you're going to!  As I came up the hall, her door was open,
and she asked me to come in--she had something to ask me.  Well,
seems the poor young woman was wondering if her music was really up
to your greatness--that's what she herself called it--especially
now that the Jordan Tabernacle will give you so much more power.
She spoke of you as the greatest spiritual force in the world, and
she was wondering whether she was worthy--"

"Um.  She did, eh?  Well, she isn't!  And she can stay fired.  And
you, my fine young liar, if you ever so much as look at another
wench again, I'll fire you for keeps. . . .  Oh, Elmer, how could
you, beloved?  When I've given you everything!  Oh, lie, lie, go on
lying!  Tell me a good strong lie that I'll believe!  And then kiss
me!"


5


Banners, banners, banners lifting along the rafters, banners on the
walls of the tabernacle, banners moving to the air that was sifted
in from the restless sea.  Night of the opening of Waters of Jordan
Tabernacle, night of the opening of Sharon's crusade to conquer the
world.

The town of Clontar and all the resorts near by felt here was
something they did not quite understand, something marvelous and by
all means to be witnessed; and from up and down the Jersey coast,
by motor, by trolley, the religious had come.  By the time the
meeting began all of the four thousand seats were filled, five
hundred people were standing, and outside waited a throng hoping
for miraculous entrance.

The interior of the pier was barnlike; the thin wooden walls were
shamelessly patched against the ravages of winter storms, but they
were hectic with the flags of many nations, with immense posters,
blood-red on white, proclaiming that in the mysterious blood of the
Messiah was redemption from all sorrow, that in his love was refuge
and safety.  Sharon's pretentious white-and-gold pyramidal altar
had been discarded.  She was using the stage, draped with black
velvet, against which hung a huge crystal cross, and the seats for
the choir of two hundred, behind a golden pulpit, were draped with
white.

A white wooden cross stood by the pulpit.

It was a hot night, but through the doors along the pier the cool
breeze filtered in, and the sound of waters, the sound of wings, as
the gulls were startled from their roosts.  Every one felt an
exaltation in the place, a coming of marvels.

Before the meeting the gospel crew, back-stage, were excited as a
theatrical company on a first night.  They rushed with great
rapidity nowhere in particular, and tripped over each other, and
muttered, "Say--gee--gee--"  To the last, Adelbert Shoop was giving
needless instructions to the new pianist, who had been summoned by
telegraph from Philadelphia, vice Lily Anderson.  She professed
immense piety, but Elmer noted that she was a pretty fluffy thing
with a warm eye.

The choir was arriving along with the first of the audience.  They
filtered down the aisle, chattering, feeling important.  Naturally,
as the end of the pier gave on open water, there was no stage
entrance at the back.  There was only one door, through which
members of opera casts had been wont to go out to the small rear
platform for fresh air between acts.  The platform was not
connected with the promenade.

It was to this door that Sharon led Elmer.  Their dressing-rooms
were next to each other.  She knocked--he had been sitting with a
Bible and an evening paper in his lap, reading one of them.  He
opened, to find her flaming with exultation, a joyous girl with a
dressing gown over her chemise.  Seemingly she had forgotten her
anger of the night.

She cried, "Come!  See the stars!"  Defying the astonishment of the
choir, who were filing into the chorus dressing-room to assume
their white robes, she led him to the door, out on the railed
platform.

The black waves glittered with lights.  There was spaciousness and
a windy peace upon the waters.

"Look!  It's so big!  Not like the cities where we've been shut
up!" she exulted.  "Stars, and the waves that come clear from
Europe!  Europe!  Castles on a green shore!  I've never been.  And
I'm going!  And there'll be great crowds at the ship to meet me,
asking for my power!  Look!"  A shooting star had left a scrawl of
flame in the sky.  "Elmer!  It's an omen for the glory that begins
tonight!  Oh, dearest, my dearest, don't ever hurt me again!"

His kiss promised it, his heart almost promised it.

She was all human while they stood fronting the sea, but half an
hour later, when she came out in a robe of white satin and silver
lace, with a crimson cross on her breast, she was prophetess only,
and her white forehead was high, her eyes were strange with
dreaming.

Already the choir were chanting.  They were starting with the
Doxology, and it gave Elmer a feeling of doubt.  Surely the
Doxology was the end of things, not the beginning?  But he looked
impassive, the brooding priest, in frock coat and white bow tie,
portly and funereal, as he moved magnificently through the choir
and held up his arms to command silence for his prayer.

He told them of Sister Falconer and her message, of their plans and
desires at Clontar, and asked for a minute of silent prayer for the
power of the Holy Ghost to descend upon the tabernacle.  He stood
back--his chair was up-stage, beside the choir--as Sharon floated
forward, not human, a goddess, tears thick in lovely eyes as she
perceived the throng that had come to her.

"My dear ones, it is not I who bring you anything, but you who in
your faith bring me strength!" she said shakily.  Then her voice
was strong again; she rose on the wave of drama.

"Just now, looking across the sea to the end of the world, I saw an
omen for all of us--a fiery line written by the hand of God--a
glorious shooting star.  Thus he apprized us of his coming, and
bade us be ready.  Oh, are you ready, are you ready, will you be
ready when the great day comes--"

The congregation was stirred by her lyric earnestness.

But outside there were less devout souls.  Two workmen had finished
polishing the varnished wooden pillars as the audience began to
come.  They slipped outside, on the promenade along the pier, and
sat on the rail, enjoying the coolness, slightly diverted by
hearing a sermon.

"Not a bad spieler, that woman.  Puts it all over this guy Reverend
Golding up-town," said one of the workmen, lighting a cigarette,
keeping it concealed in his palm as he smoked.

The other tiptoed across the promenade to peer through the door,
and returned mumbling.  "Yuh, and a swell looker.  Same time
though, tell you how I feel about it: woman's all right in her
place, but takes a real he-male to figure out this religion
business."

"She's pretty good though, at that," yawned the first workman,
snapping away his cigarette.  "Say, let's beat it.  How 'bout lil
glass beer?  We can go along this platform and get out at the
front, I guess."

"All right.  You buying?"

The workmen moved away, dark figures between the sea and the doors
that gave on the bright auditorium.

The discarded cigarette nestled against the oily rags which the
workmen had dropped on the promenade, beside the flimsy walls of
the tabernacle.  A rag glowed round the edges, wormlike, then lit
in circling flame.

Sharon was chanting:  "What could be more beautiful than a
tabernacle like this, set on the bosom of the rolling deep?  Oh,
think what the mighty tides have meant in Holy Writ!  The face of
the waters on which moved the spirit of Almighty God, when the
earth was but a whirling and chaotic darkness!  Jesus baptized in
the sweet waters of Jordan!  Jesus walking the waves--so could we
today if we had but his faith!  O dear God, strengthen thou our
unbelief, give us faith like unto thine own!"

Elmer sitting back listening, was moved as in his first adoration
for her.  He had become so tired of her poetizing that he almost
admitted to himself that he was tired.  But tonight he felt her
strangeness again, and in it he was humble.  He saw her straight
back, shimmering in white satin, he saw her superb arms as she
stretched them out to these thousands, and in hot secret pride he
gloated that this beauty, beheld and worshiped of so many, belonged
to him alone.

Then he noted something else.

A third of the way back, coming through one of the doors opening on
the promenade, was a curl of smoke.  He startled; he almost rose;
he feared to rouse a panic; and sat with his brain a welter of
terrified jelly till he heard the scream "Fire--fire!" and saw the
whole audience and the choir leaping up, screaming--screaming--
screaming--while the flimsy door-jamb was alight and the flame rose
fan-like toward the rafters.

Only Sharon was in his mind--Sharon standing like an ivory column
against the terror.  He rushed toward her.  He could hear her
wailing, "Don't be afraid!  Go out slowly!"  She turned toward the
choir, as with wild white robes they charged down from their bank
of seats.  She clamored, "Don't be afraid!  We're in the temple of
the Lord!  He won't harm you!  I believe!  Have faith!  I'll lead
you safely through the flames!"

But they ignored her, streamed past her, thrusting her aside.

He seized her arm.  "Come here, Shara!  The door at the back!
We'll jump over and swim ashore!"

She seemed not to hear him.  She thrust his hand away and went on
demanding, her voice furious with mad sincerity, "Who will trust
the Lord God of Hosts?  Now we'll try our faith!  Who will follow
me?"

Since two-thirds of the auditorium was to the shoreward side of the
fire, and since the wide doors to the promenade were many, most of
the audience were getting safely out, save for a child crushed, a
woman fainting and trampled.  But toward the stage the flames,
driven by the sea-wind, were beating up through the rafters.  Most
of the choir and the audience down front had escaped, but all who
were now at the back were cut off.

He grasped Sharon's arm again.  In a voice abject with fear he
shouted, "For God's sake, beat it!  We can't wait!"

She had an insane strength; she thrust him away so sharply that he
fell against a chair, bruising his knee.  Furious with pain,
senseless with fear, he raged, "You can go to hell!" and galloped
off, pushing aside the last of the hysterical choir.  He looked
back and saw her, quite alone, holding up the white wooden cross
which had stood by the pulpit, marching steadily forward, a tall
figure pale against the screen of flames.

All of the choir who had not got away remembered or guessed the
small door at the back; so did Adelbert and Art Nichols; and all of
them were jamming toward it.

That door opened inward--only it did not open, with the score of
victims thrust against it.  In howling panic, Elmer sprang among
them, knocked them aside, struck down a girl who stood in his way,
yanked open the door, and got through it . . . the last, the only
one, to get through it.

He never remembered leaping, but he found himself in the surf,
desperately swimming toward shore, horribly cold, horribly bound by
heavy clothes.  He humped out of his coat.

In the inside pocket was Lily Anderson's address, as she had given
it to him before going that morning.

The sea, by night, though it was glaring now with flames from
above, seemed infinite in its black sightlessness.  The waves
thrust him among the piles; their mossy slime was like the feel of
serpents to his frantic hands, and the barnacles cut his palms.
But he struggled out from beneath the pier, struggled toward shore,
and as he swam and panted, more and more was the sea blood-red
about him.  In blood he swam, blood that was icy-cold and
tumultuous and roaring in his ears.

His knees struck sand, and he crawled ashore, among a shrieking,
torn, sea-soaked crowd.  Many had leaped from the rail of the
promenade and were still fighting the surf, wailing, beaten.  Their
wet and corpselike heads were seen clearly in the glare; the pier
was only a skeleton, a cage round a boiling of flame, with dots of
figures still dropping from the promenade.

Elmer ran out a little into the surf and dragged in a woman who had
already safely touched bottom.

He had rescued at least thirty people who had already rescued
themselves before the reporters got to him and he had to stop and
explain the cause of the fire, the cost of the tabernacle, the
amount of insurance, the size of the audience, the number of souls
revived by Miss Falconer during all her campaigns, and the fact
that he had been saving both Miss Falconer and Adelbert Shoop when
they had been crushed by a falling rafter.

A hundred and eleven people died that night, including all of the
gospel-crew save Elmer.

It was Elmer himself who at dawn found Sharon's body lying on a
floor-beam.  There were rags of white satin clinging to it, and in
her charred hand was still the charred cross.



CHAPTER XVI


1


Though to the commonplace and unspeculative eye Mrs Evans Riddle
was but a female blacksmith, yet Mrs. Riddle and her followers
knew, in a bland smirking way, that she was instituting an era in
which sickness, poverty, and folly would be ended forever.

She was the proprietor of the Victory Thought-power Headquarters,
New York, and not even in Los Angeles was there a more important
center of predigested philosophy and pansy-painted ethics.  She
maintained a magazine filled with such starry thoughts as "All the
world's a road whereon we are but fellow wayfarers."  She held
morning and vesper services on Sunday at Euterpean Hall, on Eighty-
seventh Street, and between moments of Silent Thought she boxed
with the inexplicable.  She taught, or farmed out, classes in
Concentration, Prosperity, Love, Metaphysics, Oriental Mysticism,
and the Fourth Dimension.

She instructed small Select Circles how to keep one's husband, how
to understand Sanskrit philosophy without understanding either
Sanskrit or philosophy, and how to become slim without giving up
pastry.  She healed all the diseases in the medical dictionary, and
some which were not; and in personal consultations, at ten dollars
the half hour, she explained to unappetizing elderly ladies how
they might rouse passion in a football hero.

She had a staff, including a real Hindu swami--anyway, he was a
real Hindu--but she was looking for a first assistant.


2


The Reverend Elmer Gantry had failed as an independent evangelist.

He had been quite as noisy and threatening as the average
evangelist; to reasonably large gatherings he had stated that the
Judgment Day was rather more than likely to occur before six A.M.,
and he had told all the chronic anecdotes of the dying drunkard.
But there was something wrong.  He could not make it go.

Sharon was with him, beckoning him, intolerably summoning him,
intolerably rebuking him.  Sometimes he worshiped her as the shadow
of a dead god; as always he was humanly lonely for her and her
tantrums and her electric wrath and her abounding laughter.  In
pulpits he felt like an impostor, and in hotel bedrooms he ached
for her voice.

Worst of all, he was expected everywhere to tell of her "brave
death in the cause of the Lord."  He was very sick about it.

Mrs. Evans Riddle invited him to join her.

Elmer had no objection to the malted milk of New Thought.  But
after Sharon, Mrs. Riddle was too much.  She shaved regularly, she
smelled of cigar smoke, yet she had a nickering fancy for warm
masculine attentions.

Elmer had to earn a living, and he had taken too much of the drug
of oratory to be able to go back to the road as a traveling
salesman.  He shrugged when he had interviewed Mrs. Riddle; he told
her that she would be an inspiration to a young man like himself;
he held her hand; he went out and washed his hand; and determined
that since he was to dwell in the large brownstone house which was
both her Thought-power Headquarters and her home, he would keep his
door locked.

The preparation for his labors was not too fatiguing.  He read
through six copies of Mrs. Riddle's magazine and, just as he had
learned the trade-terms of evangelism, so he learned the
technologies of New Thought; the Cosmic Law of Vibration; I Affirm
the Living Thought.  He labored through a chapter of "The Essence
of Oriental Mysticism, Occultism, and Esotericism" and accomplished
seven pages of the "Bhagavad-Gita"; and thus was prepared to teach
disciples how to win love and prosperity.

In actual practise he had much less of treading the Himalayan
heights than of pleasing Mrs. Evans Riddle.  Once she discovered
that he had small fancy for sitting up after midnight with her, she
was rather sharp about his bringing in new chelas--as, out of
"Kim," she called paying customers.

Occasionally he took Sunday morning service for Mrs. Riddle at
Euterpean Hall, when she was weary of curing rheumatism or when she
was suffering from rheumatism; and always he had to be at Euterpean
to give spiritual assistance.  She liked to have her hairy arm
stroked just before she went out to preach and that was not too
hard a task--usually he could recover while she was out on the
platform.  She turned over to him the Personal Consultations with
spinsters, and he found it comic to watch their sharp noses
quivering, their dry mouths wabbling.

But his greatest interest was given to the Prosperity Classes.  To
one who had never made more than five thousand a year himself, it
was inspiring to explain before dozens of pop-eyed and admiring
morons how they could make ten thousand--fifty thousand--a million
a year, and all this by the Wonder Power of Suggestion, by
Aggressive Personality, by the Divine Rhythm, in fact by merely
releasing the Inner Self-shine.

It was fun, it was an orgy of imagination, for him who had never
faced any Titan of Success of larger dimensions than the chairman
of a local evangelistic committee to instruct a thirty-a-week
bookkeeper how to stalk into Morgan's office, fix him with the
penetrating eye of the Initiate, and borrow a hundred thousand on
the spot.

But always he longed for Sharon, with a sensation of emptiness real
as the faintness of hunger and long tramping.  He saw his days with
her as adventures, foot-loose, scented with fresh air.  He hated
himself for having ever glanced over his shoulder, and he
determined to be a celibate all his life.

In some ways he preferred New Thought to standard Protestantism.
It was safer to play with.  He had never been sure but that there
might be something to the doctrines he had preached as an
evangelist.  Perhaps God really had dictated every word of the
Bible.  Perhaps there really was a hell of burning sulphur.
Perhaps the Holy Ghost really was hovering around watching him and
reporting.  But he knew with serenity that all of his New Thoughts,
his theosophical utterances, were pure and uncontaminated bunk.  No
one could deny his theories because none of his theories meant
anything.  It did not matter what he said, so long as he kept them
listening; and he enjoyed the buoyancy of power as he bespelled his
classes with long, involved, fruity sentences rhapsodic as perfume
advertisements.

How agreeable on bright winter afternoons in the gilt and velvet
elegance of the lecture hall, to look at smart women, and moan,
"And, oh, my beloved, can you not see, do you not perceive, have
not your earth-bound eyes ingathered, the supremacy of the raja's
quality which each of us, by that inner contemplation which is the
all however cloaked by the seeming, can consummate and build
loftily to higher aspiring spheres?"

Almost any Hindu word was useful.  It seems that the Hindus have
Hidden Powers which enable them to do whatever they want to, except
possibly to get rid of the Mohammedans, the plague, and the cobra.
"Soul-breathing" was also a good thing to talk about whenever he
had nothing to say; and you could always keep an audience of satin-
bosomed ladies through the last quarter-hour of lecturing by coming
down hard on "Concentration."

But with all these agreeable features, he hated Mrs. Riddle, and he
suspected that she was, as he put it, "holding out the coin on
him."  He was to have a percentage of the profits, besides his thin
salary of twenty-five hundred a year.  There never were any profits
and when he hinted that he would like to see her books--entirely
out of admiration for the beauties of accountancy--she put him off.

So he took reasonable measures of reprisal.  He moved from her
house; he began to take for himself the patients who came for
Personal Consultations, and to meet them in the parlor of his new
boarding-house in Harlem.  And when she was not present at his
Euterpean Hall meetings, he brought back to Victory Thought-power
Headquarters only so much of the collection as, after prayer and
meditation and figuring on an envelope, seemed suitable.

That did it.

Mrs. Evans Riddle had a regrettable suspiciousness.  She caused a
marked twenty-dollar bill to be placed in the collection at
vespers, a year after Elmer had gone to work for the higher powers,
and when he brought her the collection-money minus the twenty
dollars, she observed loudly, with her grinning swami looking
heathenish and sultry across the room:

"Gantry, you're a thief!  You're fired!  You have a contract, but
you can sue and be damned.  Jackson!"  A large negro houseman
appeared.  "Throw this crook out, will you?"


3


He felt dazed and homeless and poor, but he started out with
Prosperity Classes of his own.

He did very well at Prosperity, except that he couldn't make a
living out of it.

He spent from a month to four months in each city.  He hired the
ballroom of the second-best hotel for lectures three evenings a
week, and advertised himself in the newspapers as though he were a
cigarette or a brand of soap:


       $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
       $                                                 $
       $      THE WORLD OWES YOU A MILLION DOLLARS!      $
       $            WHY DON'T YOU COLLECT IT?            $
       $                                                 $
       $  What brought millions to Rockefeller, Morgan,  $
       $ Carnegie?  WILL POWER!  It's within you.  Learn $
       $  to develop it.  YOU CAN!  The world-mastering  $
       $   secrets of the Rosicrucians and Hindu Sages   $
       $   revealed in twelve lessons by the renowned    $
       $                   Psychologist                  $
       $                                                 $
       $          ELMER GANTRY, PH.D., D.D., PS.D.       $
       $                                                 $
       $  Write or phone for FREE personal consultation  $
       $                                                 $
       $                 THE BOWERS HOTEL                $
       $                 MAIN & SYCAMORE                 $
       $                                                 $
       $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


His students were school-teachers who wanted to own tearooms,
clerks who wanted to be newspapermen, newspapermen who wanted to be
real estate dealers, real estate dealers who wanted to be bishops,
and widows who wanted to earn money without loss of elegance.  He
lectured to them in the most beautiful language, all out of Mrs.
Riddle's magazine.

He had a number of phrases--all stolen--and he made his disciples
repeat them in chorus, in the manner of all religions.  Among the
more powerful incantations were:


I can be whatever I will to be; I turn my opened eyes on my Self
and possess whatever I desire.

I am God's child, God created all good things including wealth, and
I will to inherit it.

I am resolute--I am utterly resolute--I fear no man, whether in
offices or elsewhere.

Power is in me, encompassing you to my demands.

Hold fast, O Subconscious, the thought of Prosperity.

In the divine book of achievements my name is written in Gold.  I
am thus of the world's nobility and now, this moment, I take
possession of my kingdom.

I am part of Universal Mind and thus I summon to me my rightful
Universal Power.

Daily my Subconscious shall tell me to not be content and go on
working for somebody else.


They were all of them ready for a million a year except their
teacher, who was ready for bankruptcy.

He got pupils enough, but the overhead was huge and his pupils were
poor.  He had to hire the ballroom, pay for advertising; he had to
appear gaudy, with a suite in the hotel, fresh linen, and newly
pressed morning coat.  He sat in twenty-dollar-a-day red plush
suites wondering where he would get breakfast.  He was so dismayed
that he began to study himself.

He determined, with the resoluteness of terror, to be loyal to any
loves or associates he might have hereafter, to say in his prayers
and sermons practically nothing except what he believed.  He
yearned to go back to Mizpah Seminary, to get Dean Trosper's
forgiveness, take a degree, and return to the Baptist pulpit in
however barren a village.  But first he must earn enough money to
pay for a year in the seminary.

He had been in correspondence with the manager of the O'Hearn House
in Zenith--a city of four hundred thousand in the state of
Winnemac, a hundred miles from Mizpah.  This was in 1913, before
the Hotel Thornleigh was built and Gil O'Hearn, with his new yellow
brick tavern, was trying to take the fashionable business of Zenith
away from the famous but decayed Grand Hotel.  Intellectual
ballroom lectures add to the smartness of a hotel almost as much as
a great cocktail-mixer, and Mr. O'Hearn had been moved by the
prospectus of the learned and magnetic Dr Elmer Gantry.

Elmer could take the O'Hearn offer on a guarantee and be sure of a
living, but he needed money for a week or two before the fees
should come in.

From whom could he borrow?

Didn't he remember reading in a Mizpah alumni bulletin that Frank
Shallard, who had served with him in the rustic church at
Schoenheim, now had a church near Zenith?

He dug out the bulletin and discovered that Frank was in Eureka, an
industrial town of forty thousand.  Elmer had enough money to take
him to Eureka.  All the way there he warmed up the affection with
which a borrower recalls an old acquaintance who is generous and a
bit soft.



CHAPTER XVII


1


Frank Shallard had graduated from Mizpah Theological Seminary and
taken his first pulpit.  And now that he was a minister,
theoretically different from all ordinary people, he was wondering
whether there was any value to the ministry whatever.

Of what value were doggerel hymns raggedly sung?  What value in
sermons, when the congregation seemed not at all different from
people who never heard sermons?  Were all ministers and all
churches, Frank wondered, merely superstitious survivals, merely
fire-insurance?  Suppose there were such things as inspiring
sermons.  Suppose there could be such a curious office as minister,
as Professional Good Man; such a thing as learning Goodness just as
one learned plumbing or dentistry.  Even so, what training had he
or his classmates, or his professors--whose D. D. degrees did not
protect them from indigestion and bad tempers--in this trade of
Professional Goodness?

He was supposed to cure an affliction called vice.  But he had
never encountered vice; he didn't know just what were the
interesting things that people did when they were being vicious.
How long would a drunkard listen to the counsel of one who had
never been inside a saloon?

He was supposed to bring peace to mankind.  But what did he know of
the forces which cause wars, personal or class or national; what of
drugs, passion, criminal desire; of capitalism, banking, labor,
wages, taxes; international struggles for trade, munition trusts,
ambitious soldiers?

He was supposed to comfort the sick.  But what did he know of
sickness?  How could he tell when he ought to pray and when he
ought to recommend salts?

He was supposed to explain to troubled mankind the purposes of God
Almighty, to chat with him, and even advise him about his duties as
regards rainfall and the church debt.  But which God Almighty?
Professor Bruno Zechlin had introduced Frank to a hundred gods
besides the Jewish Jehovah, or Yahveh, who had been but a poor and
rather surly relation of such serene aristocrats as Zeus.

He was supposed to have undergone a mystic change whereby it was
possible to live without normal appetites.  He was supposed to
behold girls' ankles without interest and, for light amusement, to
be satisfied by reading church papers and shaking hands with
deacons.  But he found himself most uncomfortably interested in the
flicker of ankles, he longed for the theater, and no repentance
could keep him from reading novels, though his professors had
exposed them as time-wasting and frivolous.

What had he learned?

Enough Hebrew and Greek to be able to crawl through the Bible by
using lexicons--so that, like all his classmates once they were out
of the seminary, he always read it in English.  A good many of the
more condemnatory texts of the Bible--rather less than the average
Holy Roller carpenter-evangelist.  The theory that India and Africa
have woes because they are not Christianized, but that Christianized
Bangor and Des Moines have woes because the devil, a being obviously
more potent than omnipotent God, sneaks around counteracting the
work of Baptist preachers.

He had learned, in theory, the ways of raising money through church
fairs; he had learned what he was to say on pastoral visits.  He
had learned that Roger Williams, Adoniram Judson, Luther, Calvin,
Jonathan Edwards, and George Washington were the greatest men in
history; that Lincoln was given to fervent prayer at all crises;
and that Ingersoll had called his non-existent son to his death-bed
and bidden him become an orthodox Christian.  He had learned that
the Pope at Rome was plotting to come to America and get hold of
the government, and was prevented only by the denunciations of the
Baptist clergy with a little help from the Methodists and
Presbyterians; that most crime was caused either by alcohol or by
people leaving the Baptist fold for Unitarianism; and that
clergymen ought not to wear red ties.

He had learned how to assemble Jewist texts, Greek philosophy, and
Middle-Western evangelistic anecdotes into a sermon.  And he had
learned that poverty is blessed, but that bankers make the best
deacons.

Otherwise, as he wretchedly examined his equipment, facing his
career, Frank did not seem to have learned anything whatever.

From Elmer Gantry's relations to Lulu Bains, from Harry Zenz's
almost frank hint that he was an atheist, Frank perceived that a
preacher can be a scoundrel or a hypocrite and still be accepted by
his congregation.  From the manners of Dean Trosper, who served his
God with vinegar, he perceived that a man may be free of all the
skilled sins, may follow every rule of the church, and still bring
only fear to his flock.  Listening to the celebrated divines who
visited the seminary and showed off to the infant prophets, he
perceived that a man could make scholarly and violent sounds and
yet not say anything which remained in the mind for six minutes.

He concluded, in fact, that if there was any value in churches and
a ministry, of which he was not very certain, in any case there
could be no value in himself as a minister.

Yet he had been ordained, he had taken a pulpit.

It was doubtful whether he could have endured the necessary lying
had it not been for Dean Trosper's bullying and his father's
confusing pleas.  Frank's father was easygoing enough, but he had
been a Baptist clergyman for so many years that the church was
sacred to him.  To have had his son deny it would have broken him.
He would have been shocked to be told that he was advising Frank
to lie, but he explained that the answers to the ordination
examination were after all poetic symbols, sanctified by
generations of loving usage; that they need not be taken literally.

So Frank Shallard, pupil of Bruno Zechlin, said nervously to an
examining cleric that, yes, he did believe that baptism by
immersion was appointed by God himself, as the only valid way of
beginning a righteous life; that, yes, unrepentant sinners would go
to a literal Hell; that, yes, these unrepentant sinners included
all persons who did not go to evangelical churches if they had the
chance; and that, yes, the Maker of a universe with stars a hundred
thousand light-years apart was interested, furious, and very
personal about it if a small boy played baseball on Sunday
afternoon.

Half an hour after the ordination and the somewhat comforting
welcome by veterans of the ministry, he hated himself, and ached to
flee, but again the traditional "not wanting to hurt his father"
kept him from being honest.  So he stayed in the church . . . and
went on hurting his father for years instead of for a day.


2


It was a lonely and troubled young man, the Frank Shallard who for
his first pastorate came to the Baptist Church at Catawba, a town
of eighteen hundred, in the same state with Zenith and the Mizpah
Seminary.  The town liked him, and did not take him seriously.
They said his sermons were "real poetic"; they admired him for
being able to sit with old Mrs. Randall, who had been an invalid
for thirty years, a bore for sixty, and never ill a day in her
life.  They admired him for trying to start a boys' club, though
they did not go so far in their support as to contribute anything.
They all called him "Reverend," and told him that he was amazingly
sound in doctrine for one so unfortunately well educated; and he
stayed on, in a vacuum.

Frank felt well about his fifth sermon in Catawba; felt that he was
done with hesitations.  He had decided to ignore controversial
theology, ignore all dogma, and concentrate on the leadership of
Jesus.  That was his topic, there in the chapel with its walls of
glaring robin's-egg blue--the eager-eyed, curly-headed boy, his
rather shrill voice the wail of a violin as he gave his picture of
Jesus, the kindly friend, the unfailing refuge, the gallant leader.

He was certain that he had done well; he was thinking of it on
Monday morning as he walked from his boarding-house to the post
office.

He saw one Lem Staples, a jovial horse-doctor who was known as the
Village Atheist, sitting on a decayed carriage seat in front of the
Fashion Livery Barn.  Doc Staples was a subscriber to the Truth
Seeker, a periodical said to be infidel, and he quoted Robert
Ingersoll, Ed Howe, Colonel Watterson, Elbert Hubbard, and other
writers who were rumored to believe that a Catholic was as good as
a Methodist or Baptist.  The Doc lived alone, "baching it" in a
little yellow cottage, and Frank had heard that he sat up till all
hours, eleven and even later, playing cribbage in Mart Blum's
saloon.

Frank disliked him, and did not know him.  He was prepared to
welcome honest inquiry, but a fellow who was an avowed athetist,
why, Frank raged, he was a fool!  Who made the flowers, the
butterflies, the sunsets, the laughter of little children?  Those
things didn't just HAPPEN!  Besides: why couldn't the man keep his
doubts to himself, and not try to take from other people the
religion which was their one comfort and strength in illness,
sorrow, want?  A matter not of Morality but of reverence for other
people's belief, in fact of Good Taste--

This morning, as Frank scampered down Vermont Street, Lem Staples
called to him, "Fine day, Reverend.  Say!  In a hurry?"

"I'm--No, not especially."

"Come sit down.  Couple o' questions I'm worried about."

Frank sat, his neck prickling with embarrassment.

"Say, Reverend, old Ma Gherkins was telling me about your sermon
yesterday.  You figger that no matter what kind of a creed a
fellow's got, the one thing we can all bank on, absolute, is the
teaching of Jesus?"

"Why, yes, that's it roughly, Doctor."

"And you feel that any sensible fellow will follow his teaching?"

"Why, yes, certainly."

"And you feel that the churches, no matter what faults they may
have, do hand out this truth of Jesus better than if we didn't have
no churches at all?"

"Certainly.  Otherwise, I shouldn't be in the church!"

"Then can you tell me why it is that nine-tenths of the really
sure-enough on-the-job membership of the churches is made up of two
classes: the plumb ignorant, that're scared of hell and that
swallow any fool doctrine, and, second, the awful' respectable
folks that play the church so's to seem more respectable?  Why is
that?  Why is it the high-class skilled workmen and the smart
professional men usually snicker at the church and don't go near it
once a month?  Why is it?"

"It isn't true, perhaps that's why!"  Frank felt triumphant.  He
looked across at the pile of rusty horseshoes and plowshares among
the mullen weeds beside the blacksmith's shop; he reflected that he
would clean up this town, be a power for good.  Less snappishly he
explained, "Naturally, I haven't any statistics about it, but the
fact is that almost every intelligent and influential man in the
country belongs to some church or other."

"Yeh--belongs.  But does he go?"

Frank plodded off, annoyed.  He tried to restore himself by
insisting that Doc Staples was a lout, very amusing in the way he
mingled rustic grammar with half-digested words from his adult
reading.  But he was jarred.  Here was the Common Man whom the
church was supposed to convince.

Frank remembered from his father's pastorates how many theoretical
church-members seemed blithely able month on month to stay away
from the sermonizing; he remembered the merchants who impressively
passed the contribution plate yet afterward, in conversation with
his father, seemed to have but vague notions of what the sermon had
been.

He studied his own congregation.  There they were: the stiff-
collared village respectables, and the simple, kindly, rustic mass,
who understood him only when he promised Heaven as a reward for a
life of monogamy and honest chicken-raising, or threatened them
with Hell for drinking hard cider.

Catawba had--its only urban feature--a furniture factory with
unusually competent workmen, few of whom attended church.  Now
Frank Shallard had all his life been insulated from what he gently
despised as "the working class."  Maids at his father's house and
the elderly, devout, and incompetent negroes who attended the
furnace; plumbers or electricians coming to the parsonage for
repairs; railway men to whom he tried to talk on journeys; only
these had he known, and always with unconscious superiority.

Now he timidly sought to get acquainted with the cabinetmakers as
they sat at lunch in the factory grounds.  They accepted him good-
naturedly, but he felt that they chuckled behind his back when he
crept away.

For the first time he was ashamed of being a preacher, of being a
Christian.  He longed to prove he was nevertheless a "real man,"
and didn't know how to prove it.  He found that all the cabinet-
makers save the Catholics laughed at the church and thanked the God
in whom they did not believe that they did not have to listen to
sermons on Sunday mornings, when there were beautiful back porches
to sit on, beautiful sporting news to read, beautiful beer to
drink.  Even the Catholics seemed rather doubtful about the power
of a purchased mass to help their deceased relatives out of
Purgatory.  Several of them admitted that they merely "did their
Easter duty"--went to confession and mass but once a year.

It occurred to him that he had never known how large a race of
intelligent and independent workmen there were in between the
masters and the human truck-horses.  He had never known how
casually these manual aristocrats despised the church; how they
jeered at their leaders, officers of the A.F. of L., who played
safe by adhering to a voluble Christianity.  He could not get away
from his discoveries.  They made him self-conscious as he went
about the village streets trying to look like a junior prophet and
feeling like a masquerader.

He might have left the ministry but for the Reverend Andrew
Pengilly, pastor of the Catawba Methodist Church.


3


If you had cut Andrew Pengilly to the core, you would have found
him white clear through.  He was a type of clergyman favored in
pious fiction, yet he actually did exist.

To every congregation he had served these forty years, he had been
a shepherd.  They had loved him, listened to him, and underpaid
him.  In 1906, when Frank came to Catawba, Mr. Pengilly was a frail
stooped veteran with silver hair, thin silver mustache, and a slow
smile which embraced the world.

Andrew Pengilly had gone into the Civil War as a drummer boy, slept
blanketless and barefoot and wounded in the frost of Tennessee
mountains, and come out still a child, to "clerk in a store" and
teach Sunday School.  He had been converted at ten, but at twenty-
five he was overpowered by the preaching of Osage Joe, the Indian
evangelist, became a Methodist preacher, and never afterward
doubted the peace of God.  He was married at thirty to a
passionate, singing girl with kind lips.  He loved her so
romantically--just to tuck the crazy-quilt about her was poetry,
and her cowhide shoes were to him fairy slippers--he loved her so
ungrudgingly that when she died, in childbirth, within a year after
their marriage, he had nothing left for any other woman.  He lived
alone, with the undiminished vision of her.  Not the most
scandalmongering Mother in Zion had ever hinted that Mr. Pengilly
looked damply upon the widows in his fold.

Little book-learning had Andrew Pengilly in his youth, and to this
day he knew nothing of Biblical criticism, of the origin of
religions, of the sociology which was beginning to absorb church-
leaders, but his Bible he knew, and believed, word by word, and
somehow he had drifted into the reading of ecstatic books of
mysticism.  He was a mystic, complete; the world of plows and
pavements and hatred was less to him than the world of angels,
whose silver robes seemed to flash in the air about him as he
meditated alone in his cottage.  He was as ignorant of Modern
Sunday School Methods as of single tax or Lithuanian finances, yet
few Protestants had read more in the Early Fathers.

On Frank Shallard's first day in Catawba, when he was unpacking his
books in his room at the residence of Deacon Halter, the druggist,
the Reverend Mr. Pengilly was announced.  Frank went down to the
parlor (gilded cat-tails and a basket of stereopticon views) and
his loneliness was warmed by Mr. Pengilly's enveloping smile, his
drawling voice:

"Welcome, Brother!  I'm Pengilly, of the Methodist Church.  I
never was much of a hand at seeing any difference between the
denominations, and I hope we'll be able to work together for the
glory of God.  I do hope so!  And I hope you'll go fishing with me.
I know," enthusiastically, "a pond where there's some elegant
pickerel!"

Many evenings they spent in Mr. Pengilly's cottage, which was less
littered and odorous than that of the village atheist, Doc Lem
Staples, only because the stalwart ladies of Mr. Pengilly's
congregation vied in sweeping for him, dusting for him, disarranging
his books and hen-tracked sermon-notes, and bullying him in the
matters of rubbers and winter flannels.  They would not let him
prepare his own meals--they made him endure the several boarding-
houses in turn--but sometimes of an evening he would cook scrambled
eggs for Frank.  He had pride in his cooking.  He had never tried
anything but scrambled eggs.

His living-room was overpowering with portraits and carbon prints.
Though every local official board pled with him about it, he
insisted on including madonnas, cinquecento resurrections, St.
Francis of Assisi, and even a Sacred Heart, with such Methodist
worthies as Leonidas Hamline and the cloaked romantic Francis
Asbury.  In the bay window was a pyramid of wire shelves filled
with geraniums.  Mr. Pengilly was an earnest gardener, except
during such weeks as he fell into dreams and forgot to weed and
water, and through the winter he watched for the geranium leaves to
wither enough so that he could pick them off and be able to feel
busy.

All over the room were the aged dog and ancient cat, who detested
each other, never ceased growling at each other, and at night slept
curled together.

In an antiquated and badly listed rocking-chair, padded with calico
cushions, Frank listened to Mr. Pengilly's ramblings.  For a time
they talked only of externals; gossip of their parishes; laughter
at the man who went from church to church fretting the respectable
by shouting "Hallelujah"; local chatter not without a wholesome and
comforting malice.  Frank was at first afraid to bare his youthful
hesitancies to so serene an old saint, but at last he admitted his
doubts.

How, he demanded, could you reconcile a Loving God with one who
would strike down an Uzza for the laudable act of trying to save
the Ark of the Covenant from falling, who would kill forty-two
children (and somewhat ludicrously) for shouting at Elisha as any
small boy in Catawba today would shout?  Was it reasonable?  And,
if it wasn't, if any part of the Bible was mythical, where to stop?
How would we know if anything in the Bible was "inspired"?

Mr. Pengilly was not shocked, nor was he very agitated.  His thin
fingers together, far down in his worn plush chair, he mused:

"Yes, I'm told the higher critics ask these things.  I believe it
bothers people.  But I wonder if perhaps God hasn't put these
stumbling blocks in the Bible as a test of our faith, of our
willingness to accept with all our hearts and souls a thing that
may seem ridiculous to our minds?  You see, our minds don't go far.
Think--how much does even an astronomer know about folks on Mars,
if there are any folks there?  Isn't it with our hearts, our faith,
that we have to accept Jesus Christ, and not with our historical
charts?  Don't we FEEL his influence on our lives?  Isn't it the
biggest men that feel it the most?  Maybe God wants to keep out of
the ministry all the folks that are so stuck on their poor minds
that they can't be humble and just accept the great overpowering
truth of Christ's mercy.  Do you--When do you feel nearest to God?
When you're reading some awful' smart book criticizing the Bible or
when you kneel in prayer and your spirit just flows forth and you
KNOW that you're in communion with him?"

"Oh, of course--"

"Don't you think maybe he will explain all these puzzling things in
his own good time?  And meanwhile wouldn't you rather be a help to
poor sick worried folks than write a cute little book finding a
fault?"

"Oh, well--"

"And has there ever been anything like the Old Book for bringing
lost souls home to happiness?  Hasn't it WORKED?"

In Andrew Pengilly's solacing presence these seemed authentic
arguments, actual revelations; Bruno Zechlin was far off and gray;
and Frank was content.

Equally did Mr. Pengilly console him about the intelligent workmen
who would have none of the church.  The old man simply laughed.

"Good Heavens, boy!  What do you expect, as a preacher?  A whole
world that's saved, and nothing for you to do?  Reckon you don't
get much salary, but how do you expect to earn that much?  These
folks don't go to any Christian church?  Huh!  When the Master
started out, wa'nt anybody going to a Christian church!  Go out and
get 'em!"

Which seemed disastrously reasonable to the shamed Frank; and he
went out to get 'em, and didn't do so, and continued in his
ministry.

He had heard in theological seminary of the "practise of the
presence of God" as a papist mystery.  Now he encountered it.  Mr.
Pengilly taught him to kneel, his mind free of all worries, all
prides, all hunger, his lips repeating "Be thou visibly present
with me"--not as a charm but that his lips might not be soiled with
more earthly phrases--and, when he had become strained and weary
and exalted, to feel a Something glowing and almost terrifying
about him, and to experience thus, he was certain, the actual,
loving, proven nearness of the Divinity.

He began to call his mentor Father Pengilly, and the old man eluded
him only a little . . . presently did not chide him at all.

For all his innocence and his mysticism, Father Pengilly was not a
fool nor weak.  He spoke up harshly to a loud-mouthed grocer, new
come to town, who considered the patriarch a subject for what he
called "kidding," and who shouted, "Well, I'm getting tired of
waiting for you preachers to pray for rain.  Guess you don't
believe the stuff much yourselves!"  He spoke up to old Miss Udell,
the purity specialist of the town, when she came to snuffle that
Amy Dove was carrying on with the boys in the twilight.  "I know
how you like a scandal, Sister," said he.  "Maybe taint Christian
to deny you one.  But I happen to know all about Amy.  Now if you'd
go out and help poor old crippled Sister Eckstein do her washing,
maybe you'd keep busy enough so's you could get along without your
daily scandal."

He had humor, as well, Father Pengilly.  He could smile over the
cranks in the congregation.  And he liked the village atheist, Doc
Lem Staples.  He had him at the house, and it healed Frank's spirit
to hear with what beatific calm Father Pengilly listened to the
Doc's jibes about the penny-pinchers and the sinners in the church.

"Lem," said Father Pengilly, "you'll be surprised at this, but I
must tell you that there's two-three sinners in your fold, too.
Why, I've heard of even horse-thieves that didn't belong to
churches.  That must prove something, I guess.  Yes, sir, I admire
to hear you tell about the kind-hearted atheists, after reading
about the cannibals, who are remarkably little plagued with us
Methodists and Baptists."

Not in his garden only but in the woods, along the river, Father
Pengilly found God in Nature.  He was insane about fishing--though
indifferent to the catching of any actual fish.  Frank floated with
him in a mossy scow, in a placid backwater under the willows.  He
heard the gurgle of water among the roots and watched the circles
from a leaping bass.  The old man (his ruddy face and silver
mustache shaded by a shocking hayfield straw hat) hummed "There's a
wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea."  When Father
Pengilly mocked him, "And you have to go to books to find God,
young man!" then Frank was content to follow him, to be his fellow
preacher, to depend more on Pengilly's long experience than on
irritating questions, to take any explanation of the validity of
the Bible, of the mission of the church, the leadership of Christ,
which might satisfy this soldier of the cross.

Frank became more powerful as a preacher.  He went from Catawba,
via pastorates in two or three larger towns, to Eureka, a camp of
forty thousand brisk industrialists, and here he was picked up and
married by the amiable Bess.


4


Bess Needham, later to be Bess Shallard, was remarkably like
a robin.  She had the same cheerfulness, the same round
ruddiness, and the same conviction that early rising, chirping, 
philoprogenitiveness, and strict attention to food were the aims of
existence.  She had met Frank at a church "social," she had pitied
what she regarded as his underfed pallor, she had directed her
father, an amiable and competent dentist, to invite Frank home, for
"a real feed" and bright music on the phonograph.  She listened
fondly to his talk--she had no notion what it was about, but she
liked the sound of it.

He was stirred by her sleek neck, her comfortable bosom, by the
dimpled fingers which stroked his hair before he knew that he
longed for it.  He was warmed by her assertion that he "put it all
over" the Rev. Dr. Seager, the older Baptist parson in Eureka.  So
she was able to marry him without a struggle, and they had three
children in the shortest possible time.

She was an admirable wife and mother.  She filled the hot water
bottle for his bed, she cooked corn beef and cabbage perfectly, she
was polite to the most exasperating parishioners, she saved money,
and when he sat with fellow clerics companionably worrying about
the sacraments, she listened to him, and him alone, with beaming
motherliness.

He realized that with a wife and three children he could not
consider leaving the church; and the moment he realized it he began
to feel trapped and to worry about his conscience all the more.


5


There was, in Eureka, with its steel mills, its briskness, its
conflict between hard-fisted manufacturers and hard-headed
socialists, nothing of the contemplation of Catawba, where thoughts
seemed far-off stars to gaze on through the mist.  Here was a
violent rush of ideas, and from this rose the "Preachers' Liberal
Club," toward which Frank was drawn before he had been in Eureka a
fortnight.

The ring-leader of these liberals was Hermann Kassebaum, the
modernist rabbi--young, handsome, black of eye and blacker of hair,
full of laughter, regarded by the elect of the town as a shallow
charlatan and a dangerous fellow, and actually the most scholarly
man Frank had ever encountered, except for Bruno Zechlin.  With him
consorted a placidly atheistic Unitarian minister, a Presbyterian
who was orthodox on Sunday and revolutionary on Monday, a wavering
Congregationalist, and an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian, who was
enthusiastic about the beauties of the ritual and the Mithraic
origin of the same.

And Frank's fretting wearily started all over again.  He re-read
Harnack's "What Is Christianity?" Sunderland's "Origin and Nature
of the Bible," James's "Varieties of Religious Experience,"
Fraser's "Golden Bough."

He was in the pleasing situation where whatever he did was wrong.
He could not content himself with the discussions of the Liberal
Club.  "If you fellows believe that way, why don't you get out of
the church?" he kept demanding.  Yet he could not leave them; could
not, therefore, greatly succeed among the Baptist brethren.  His
good wife, Bess, when he diffidently hinted of his doubts,
protested, "You can't reach people just through their minds.
Besides, they wouldn't understand you if you DID come right out and
tell 'em the truth--as you see it.  They aren't ready for it."

His worst doubt was the doubt of himself.  And in this quite
undignified wavering he remained, envying equally Rabbi Kassebaum's
public scoffing at all religion and the thundering certainties of
the cover-to-cover evangelicals.  He who each Sunday morning neatly
pointed his congregation the way to Heaven was himself tossed in a
Purgatory of self-despising doubt, where his every domestic virtue
was cowardice, his every mystic aspiration a superstitious mockery,
and his every desire to be honest a cruelty which he must spare
Bess and his well-loved brood.

He was in this mood when the Reverend Elmer Gantry suddenly came,
booming and confident, big and handsome and glossy, into his study,
and explained that if Frank could let him have a hundred dollars,
Elmer, and presumably the Lord, would be grateful and return the
money within two weeks.

The sight of Elmer as a fellow pastor was too much for Frank.  To
get rid of him, he hastily gave Elmer the hundred he had saved up
toward payment of the last two obstetrical bills, and sat afterward
at his desk, his head between his lax hands, praying, "O Lord,
guide me!"

He leapt up.  "No!  Elmer said the Lord had been guiding HIM!  I'll
take a chance on guiding myself!  I will--"  Again, weakly, "But
how can I hurt Bess, hurt my dad, hurt Father Pengilly?  Oh, I'll
go on!"



CHAPTER XVIII


1


The Reverend Elmer Gantry was writing letters--he had no friends,
and the letters were all to inquirers about his Prosperity Classes--
at a small oak-desk in the lobby of the O'-Hearn House in Zenith.

His Zenith classes here had gone not badly, not brilliantly.  He
had made enough to consider paying the hundred dollars back to
Frank Shallard, though certainly not enough to do so.  He was tired
of this slippery job; he was almost willing to return to farm
implements.  But he looked anything but discouraged, in his morning
coat, his wing collar, his dotted blue bow tie.

Writing at the other half of the lobby desk was a little man with
an enormous hooked nose, receding chin, and a Byzantine bald head.
He was in a brown business suit, with a lively green tie, and he
wore horn-rimmed spectacles.

"Vice-president of a bank, but started as a school-teacher," Elmer
decided.  He was conscious that the man was watching him.  A
possible student?  No.  Too old.

Elmer leaned back, folded his hands, looked as pontifical as
possible, cleared his throat with a learned sound, and beamed.

The little man kept glancing up, rat-like, but did not speak.

"Beautiful morning," said Elmer.

"Yes.  Lovely.  On mornings like this all Nature exemplifies the
divine joy!"

"My God!  No business for me here!  He's a preacher or an
osteopath," Elmer lamented within.

"Is this--this is Dr. Gantry, I believe."

"Why, yes.  I'm, uh, sorry, I--"

"I'm Bishop Toomis, of the Zenith area of the Methodist Church.  I
had the great pleasure of hearing one of your exordiums the other
evening, Dr. Gantry."

Elmer was hysterically thrilled.

Bishop Wesley R. Toomis!  For years he had heard of the bishop as
one of the giants, one of the pulpit orators, one of the profound
thinkers, exalted speakers, and inspired executives of the
Methodist Church, North.  He had addressed ten thousand at Ocean
Grove; he had spoken in Yale chapel; he had been a success in
London.  Elmer rose and, with a handshake which must have been most
painful to the bishop, he glowed:

"Well, well, well, sir, this certainly is a mighty great pleasure,
sir.  It sure is!  So you came and listened to me!  Well, wish I'd
known that.  I'd of asked you to come sit on the platform."

Bishop Toomis had risen also; he waved Elmer back into his chair,
himself perched like a keen little hawk, and trilled:

"No, no, not at all, not at all.  I came only as an humble
listener.  I dare say I have, by the chance and circumstance of
age, had more experience of Christian life and doctrine than you,
and I can't pretend I exactly in every way agreed with you, you
might say, but at the same time, that was a very impressive thought
about the need of riches to carry on the work of the busy workaday
world, as we have it at present, and the value of concentration in
the silence as well as in those happy moments of more articulate
prayer.  Yes, yes.  I firmly believe that we ought to add to our
Methodist practise some of the Great Truths about the, alas, too
often occulted and obstructed Inner Divine Powers possessed in
unconsciousness by each of us, as New Thought has revealed them to
us, and that we ought most certainly not to confine the Church to
already perceived dogmas but encourage it to grow.  It stands to
reason that really devout prayer and concentration should most
materially effect both bodily health and financial welfare.  Yes,
yes.  I was interested in what you had to say about it and--The
fact is that I am going to address the Chamber of Commerce luncheon
this noon, along much these same lines, and if you happen to be
free, I should be very glad if--"

They went, Elmer and Bishop Toomis, and Elmer added to the bishop's
observations a few thoughts, and the most caressing compliments
about bishops in general, Bishop Wesley R. Toomis in particular,
pulpit oratory, and the beauties of prosperity.  Everybody had a
radiant time, except possibly the members of the Chamber of
Commerce, and after the luncheon Elmer and the bishop walked off
together.

"My, my, I feel flattered that you should know so much about me!
I am, after all, a very humble servant of the Methodist Church--of
the Lord, that is--and I should not have imagined that any slight
local reputation I might have would have penetrated into the New
Thought world," breathed the bishop.

"Oh, I'm not a New Thoughter.  I'm, uh, temporarily conducting
these courses--as a sort of psychological experiment, you might
say.  Fact is, I'm an ordained Baptist preacher, and of course in
seminary your sermons were always held up to us as models."

"I'm afraid you flatter me, Doctor."

"Not at all.  In fact they attracted me so that--despite my great
reverence for the Baptist Church, I felt, after reading your
sermons, that there was more breadth and vigor in the Methodist
Church, and I've sometimes considered asking some Methodist leader,
like yourself, about my joining your ministry."

"Is that a fact?  Is that a fact?  We could use you.  Uh--I wonder
if you couldn't come out to the house tomorrow night for supper--
just take pot-luck with us?"

"I should be most honored, Bishop."

Alone in his room, Elmer exulted, "That's the stunt!  I'm sick of
playing this lone game.  Get in with a real big machine like the
Methodists--maybe have to start low down, but climb fast--be a
bishop myself in ten years--with all their spondulix and big
churches and big membership and everything to back me up.  Me for
it.  O Lord, thou hast guided me. . . .  No, honest, I mean it. . . .
No more hell-raising.  Real religion from now on.  Hurray!  Oh,
Bish, you watch me hand you the ole flattery!"


2


The Episcopal Palace.  Beyond the somber length of the drawing-room
an alcove with groined arches and fan-tracery---remains of the
Carthusian chapel.  A dolorous crucifixion by a pupil of El Greco,
the sky menacing and wind-driven behind the gaunt figure of the
dying god.  Mullioned windows that still sparkled with the bearings
of hard-riding bishops long since ignoble dust.  The refectory
table, a stony expanse of ancient oak, set round with grudging
monkish chairs.  And the library--on either side the lofty
fireplace, austerely shining rows of calf-bound wisdom now dead as
were the bishops.

The picture must be held in mind, because it is so beautifully
opposite to the residence of the Reverend Dr. Wesley R. Toomis,
bishop of the Methodist area of Zenith.

Bishop Toomis' abode was out in the section of Zenith called Devon
Woods, near the junction of the Chaloosa and Appleseed rivers, that
development (quite new in 1913, when Elmer Gantry first saw it)
much favored by the next-to-the-best surgeons, lawyers, real estate
dealers, and hardware wholesalers.  It was a chubby modern house,
mostly in tapestry brick with varicolored imitation tiles, a good
deal of imitation half-timbering in the gables, and a screened
porch with rocking-chairs, much favored on summer evenings by the
episcopal but democratic person of Dr. Toomis.

The living-room had built-in book-shelves with leaded glass, built-
in seats with thin brown cushions, and a huge electrolier with
shades of wrinkled glass in ruby, emerald, and watery blue.  There
were a great many chairs--club chairs, Morris chairs, straight
wooden chairs with burnt-work backs--and a great many tables, so
that progress through the room was apologetic.  But the features of
the room were the fireplace, the books, and the foreign curios.

The fireplace was an ingenious thing.  Basically it was composed of
rough-hewn blocks of a green stone.  Set in between the larger
boulders were pebbles, pink and brown and earth-colored, which the
good bishop had picked up all over the world.  This pebble, the
bishop would chirp, guiding you about the room, was from the shore
of the Jordan, this was a fragment from the Great Wall of China,
and this he had stolen from a garden in Florence.  They were by no
means all the attractions of the fireplace.  The mantel was of
cedar of Lebanon, genuine, bound with brass strips from a ship
wrecked in the Black Sea in 1902--the bishop himself had bought the
brass in Russia in 1904.  The andirons were made from plowshares as
used by the bishop himself when but an untutored farm lad, all
unaware of coming glory, in the cornfields of Illinois.  The poker
was, he assured you, a real whaling harpoon, picked up, surprisingly
cheap, at Nantucket.  Its rude shaft was decorated with a pink bow.
This was not the doing of the bishop but of his lady.  Himself, he
said, he preferred the frank, crude, heroic strength of the bare
woods, but Mrs. Toomis felt it needed a touch, a brightening--

Set in the rugged chimney of the fireplace was a plaque of smooth
marble on which was carved in artistic and curly and gilded
letters:  "The Virtue of the Home is Peace, the Glory of the Home
is Reverence."

The books were, as the bishop said, "worth browsing over."  There
were, naturally, the Methodist Discipline and the Methodist Hymnal,
both handsomely bound Roycrofty in limp blue calfskin with leather
ties; there was an impressive collection of Bibles, including a
very ancient one, dated 1740, and one extra-illustrated with all
the Hoffmann pictures and one hundred and sixty other Biblical
scenes; and there were the necessary works of theological
scholarship befitting a bishop--Moody's Sermons, Farrar's "Life of
Christ," "Flowers and Beasties of the Holy Land," and "In His
Steps," by Charles Sheldon.  The more workaday ministerial books
were kept in the study.

But the bishop was a man of the world and his books fairly
represented his tastes.  He had a complete Dickens, a complete
Walter Scott, Tennyson in the red-line edition bound in polished
tree calf with polished gilt edges, many of the better works of
Macaulay and Ruskin and, for lighter moments, novels by Mrs.
Humphry Ward, Winston Churchill, and Elizabeth of the German
Garden.  It was in travel and nature-study that he really
triumphed.  These were represented by not less than fifty volumes
with such titles as "How to Study the Birds," "Through Madagascar
with Camp and Camera," "My Summer in the Rockies," "My Mission in
Darkest Africa," "Pansies for Thoughts," and "London from a Bus."
Nor had the bishop neglected history and economics: he possessed
the Rev. Dr. Hockett's "Complete History of the World: Illustrated,"
in eleven handsome volumes, a second-hand copy of Hartley's
"Economics," and "The Solution of Capitalism vs. Labor--Brotherly
Love."

Yet not the fireplace, not the library, so much as the souvenirs of
foreign travel gave to the bishop's residence a flair beyond that
of most houses in Devon Woods.  The bishop and his lady were fond
of travel.  They had made a six months' inspection of missions in
Japan, Korea, China, India, Borneo, Java, and the Philippines,
which gave the bishop an authoritative knowledge of all Oriental
governments, religions, psychology, commerce, and hotels.  But
besides that, six several summers they had gone to Europe, and
usually on the more refined and exclusive tours.  Once they had
spent three solid weeks seeing nothing but London--with side-trips
to Oxford, Canterbury, and Stratford--once they had taken a four-
day walking trip in the Tyrol, and once on a channel steamer they
had met a man who, a steward said, was a Lord.

The living-room reeked with these adventures.  There weren't
exactly so many curios--the bishop said he didn't believe in
getting a lot of foreign furniture and stuff when we made the best
in the world right here at home--but as to pictures--The Toomises
were devotees of photography, and they had brought back the whole
world in shadow.

Here was the Temple of Heaven at Peking, with the bishop standing
in front of it.  Here was the Great Pyramid, with Mrs. Toomis in
front of it.  Here was the cathedral at Milan, with both of them in
front of it--this had been snapped for them by an Italian guide, an
obliging gentleman who had assured the bishop that he believed in
prohibition.


3


Into this room Elmer Gantry came with overpowering politeness.  He
bent, almost as though he were going to kiss it, over the hand of
Mrs. Toomis, who was a large lady with eyeglasses and modest
sprightliness, and he murmured, "If you could only know what a
privilege this is!"

She blushed, and looked at the bishop as if to say, "This, my
beloved, is a good egg."

He shook hands reverently with the bishop and boomed, "How good it
is of you to take in a homeless wanderer!"

"Nonsense, nonsense, Brother.  It is a pleasure to make you at
home!  Before supper is served, perhaps you'd like to glance at one
or two books and pictures and things that Mother and I have picked
up in the many wanderings to which we have been driven in carrying
on the Work. . . .  Now this may interest you.  This is a
photograph of the House of Parliament, or Westminster, as it is
also called, in London, England, corresponding to our Capitol in
Washington."

"Well, well, is that a fact!"

"And here's another photo that might have some slight interest.
This is a scene very rarely photographed--in fact it was so
interesting that I sent it to the National Geographic Magazine, and
while they were unable to use it, because of an overload of
material, one of the editors wrote to me--I have the letter some
place--and he agreed with me that it was a very unusual and
interesting picture.  It is taken right in front of the Sacra Cur,
the famous church in Paris, up on the hill of Moant-marter, and if
you examine it closely you will see by the curious light that it
was taken JUST BEFORE SUNRISE!  And yet you see how bully it came
out!  The lady to the right, there, is Mrs. Toomis.  Yes, sir, a
real breath right out of Paris!"

"Well, say, that certainly is interesting!  Paris, eh!"

"But, oh, Dr. Gantry, a sadly wicked city!  I do not speak of the
vices of the French themselves--that is for them to settle with
their own consciences, though I certainly do advocate the most
active and widespread extension of our American Protestant missions
there, as in all other European countries which suffer under the
blight and darkness of Catholicism.  But what saddens me is the
thought--and I know whereof I speak, I myself have seen that
regrettable spectacle--what would sadden you, Dr. Gantry, is the
sight of fine young Americans going over there and not profiting by
the sermons in stones, the history to be read in those historical
structures, but letting themselves be drawn into a life of heedless
and hectic gaiety if not indeed of actual immorality.  Oh, it gives
one to think, Dr. Gantry."

"Yes, it certainly must.  By the way, Bishop, it isn't Dr. Gantry--
it's Mr. Gantry--just plain Reverend."

"But I thought your circulars--"

"Oh, that was a mistake on the part of the man who wrote them for
me.  I've talked to him good!"

"Well, well, I admire you for speaking about it!  It is none too
easy for us poor weak mortals to deny honors and titles whether
they are rightly or wrongly conferred upon us.  Well, I'm sure that
it is but a question of time when you WILL wear the honor of a
Doctor of Divinity degree, if I may without immodesty so refer to a
handle which I myself happen to possess--yes, indeed, a man who
combines strength with eloquence, charm of presence, and a fine
high-grade vocabulary as you do, it is but a question of time when--"

"Wesley, dear, supper is served."

"Oh, very well, my dear.  The ladies, Dr. Gantry--Mr. Gantry--as
you may already have observed, they seem to have the strange notion
that a household must be run on routine lines, and they don't
hesitate, bless 'em, to interrupt even an abstract discussion to
bid us come to the festal board when they feel that it's time, and
I for one make haste to obey and--After supper there's a couple of
other photographs that might interest you, and I do want you to take
a peep at my books.  I know a poor bishop has no right to yield to
the lust for material possessions, but I plead guilty to one vice--
my inordinate love for owning fine items of literature. . . .  Yes,
dear, we're coming at once.  Toojoor la fam, Mr. Gantry!--always
the ladies!  Are you, by the way, married?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Well, well, you must take care of that.  I tell you in the
ministry there is always a vast, though often of course unfair,
amount of criticism of the unmarried preacher, which seriously
cramps him.  Yes, my dear, we are coming."

There were rolls hidden in the cornucopia-folded napkins, and
supper began with a fruit cocktail of orange, apple, and canned
pineapple.

"Well," said Elmer, with a courtly bow to Mrs. Toomis, "I see I'm
in high society--beginning with a cocktail!  I tell you I just have
to have my cocktail before the eats!"

It went over immensely.  The bishop repeated it, choking.


4


Elmer managed, during supper, to let them know that not only was he
a theological seminary man, not only had he mastered psychology,
Oriental occultism, and the methods of making millions, but also he
had been general manager for the famous Miss Sharon Falconer.

Whether Bishop Toomis was considering, "I want this man--he's a
comer--he'd be useful to me," is not known.  But certainly he
listened with zeal to Elmer, and cooed at him, and after supper,
with not more than an hour of showing him the library and the
mementos of far-off roamings, he took him off to the study, away
from Mrs. Toomis, who had been interrupting, every quarter of an
hour, with her own recollections of roast beef at Simpson's, prices
of rooms on Bloomsbury Square, meals on the French wagon
restaurant, the speed of French taxicabs, and the view of the
Eiffel Tower at sunset.

The study was less ornate than the living-room.  There was a
business-like desk, a phonograph for dictation, a card catalogue of
possible contributors to funds, a steel filing-cabinet, and the
bishop's own typewriter.  The books were strictly practical:
Cruden's Concordance, Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, an atlas of
Palestine, and the three published volumes of the Bishop's own
sermons.  By glancing at these for not more than ten minutes, he
could have an address ready for any occasion.

The bishop sank into his golden oak revolving desk-chair, pointed
at his typewriter, and sighed, "From this horrid room you get a
hint of how pressed I am by practical affairs.  What I should like
to do is to sit down quietly there at my beloved machine and
produce some work of pure beauty that would last forever, where
even the most urgent temporal affairs tend, perhaps, to pass away.
Of course I have editorials in the Advocate, and my sermons have
been published."

He looked sharply at Elmer.

"Yes, of COURSE, Bishop, I've read them!"

"That's very kind of you.  But what I've longed for all these years
is sinfully worldly literary work.  I've always fancied, perhaps
vainly, that I have a talent--I've longed to do a book, in fact a
novel--I have rather an interesting plot.  You see, this farm boy,
brought up in circumstances of want, with very little opportunity
for education, he struggles hard for what book-learning he attains,
but there in the green fields, in God's own pure meadows,
surrounded by the leafy trees and the stars overhead at night,
breathing the sweet open air of the pastures, he grows up a strong,
pure, reverent young man, and of course when he goes up to the
city--I had thought of having him enter the ministry, but I don't
want to make it autobiographical, so I shall have him enter a
commercial line, but one of the more constructive branches of the
great realm of business, say like banking.  Well, he meets the
daughter of his boss--she is a lovely young woman, but tempted by
the manifold temptations and gaieties of the city, and I want to
show how his influence guides her away from the broad paths that
lead to destruction, and what a splendid effect he has not only on
her but on others in the mart of affairs.  Yes, I long to do that,
but--Sitting here, just us two, one almost feels as though it would
be pleasant to smoke--DO YOU SMOKE?"

"No, thanks be to God, Bishop.  I can honestly say that for years I
have never known the taste of nicotine or alcohol."

"God be praised!"

"When I was younger, being kind of, you might say, a vigorous
fellow, I was led now and then into temptation, but the influence
of Sister Falconer--oh, there was a sanctified soul, like a nun--
only strictly Protestant, of course--they so uplifted me that now I
am free of all such desires."

"I am glad to hear it, Brother, so glad to hear it. . . .  Now,
Gantry, the other day you said something about having thought of
coming into the Methodist fold.  How seriously have you thought
about it?"

"Very."

"I wish you would.  I mean--Of course neither you nor I is
necessary to the progress of that great Methodist Church, which day
by day is the more destined to instruct and guide our beloved
nation.  But I mean--When I meet a fine young man like you, I like
to think of what spiritual satisfaction he would have in this
institution.  Now the work you're doing at present is inspiring to
many fine young men, but it is single-handed--it has no PERMANENCE.
When you go, much of the good you have done dies, because there is
no institution like the living church to carry it on.  You ought to
be in one of the large denominations, and of these I feel, for all
my admiration of the Baptists, that the Methodist Church is in some
ways the great exemplar.  It is so broad-spirited and democratic,
yet very powerful.  It is the real church of the people."

"Yes, I rather believe you're right, Bishop.  Since I talked with
you I've been thinking--Uh, if the Methodist Church should want to
accept me, what would I have to do?  Would there be much red tape?"

"It would be a very simple matter.  As you're already ordained,
I could have the District Conference, which meets next month at
Sparta, recommend you to the Annual Conference for membership.
I am sure when the Annual Conference meets in spring of next year,
a little less than a year from now, with your credits from
Terwillinger and Mizpah I could get you accepted by the Conference
and your orders recognized.  Till then I can have you accepted as a
preacher on trial.  And I have a church right now, at Banjo
Crossing, that is in need of just such leadership as you could
furnish.  Banjo has only nine hundred people, but you understand
that it would be necessary for you to begin at the bottom.  The
brethren would very properly be jealous if I gave you a first-class
appointment right at the first.  But I am sure I could advance you
rapidly.  Yes, we must have you in the church.  Great is the work
for consecrated hands--and I'll bet a cookie I live to see you a
bishop yourself!"


5


He couldn't, Elmer complained, back in the refuge of his hotel,
sink to a crossroads of nine hundred people, with a salary of
perhaps eleven hundred dollars; not after the big tent and Sharon's
throngs, not after suites and morning coats and being Dr. Gantry to
brokers' wives in ballrooms.

But also he couldn't go on.  He would never get to the top in the
New Thought business.  He admitted that he hadn't quite the
creative mind.  He could never rise to such originality as, say,
Mrs. Riddle's humorous oracle:  "Don't be scared of upsetting folks
'coz most of 'em are topsy-turvy anyway, and you'll only be putting
'em back on their feet"

Fortunately, except in a few fashionable churches, it wasn't
necessary to say anything original to succeed among the Baptists or
Methodists.

He would be happy in a regular pastorate.  He was a professional.
As an actor enjoyed grease-paint and call-boards and stacks of
scenery, so Elmer had the affection of familiarity for the details
of his profession--hymn books, communion service, training the
choir, watching the Ladies' Aid grow, the drama of coming from the
mysteries back-stage, so unknown and fascinating to the audience,
to the limelight of the waiting congregation.

And his mother--He had not seen her for two years, but he retained
the longing to solace her, and he knew that she was only bewildered
over his New Thought harlequinade.

But--nine hundred population!

He held out for a fortnight; demanded a bigger church from Bishop
Toomis; brought in all his little clippings about eloquence in
company with Sharon.

Then the Zenith lectures closed, and he had ahead only the most
speculative opportunities.

Bishop Toomis grieved, "I am disappointed, Brother, that you should
think more of the size of the flock than of the great, grrrrrrrreat
opportunities for good ahead of you!"

Elmer looked his most flushing, gallant, boyish self.  "Oh, no,
Bishop, you don't get me, honest!  I just wanted to be able to use
my training where it might be of the most value.  But I'm eager to
be guided by you!"

Two months later Elmer was on the train to Banjo Crossing, as
pastor of the Methodist Church in that amiable village under the
sycamores.



CHAPTER XIX


1


A Thursday in June 1913.

The train wandered through orchard-land and cornfields--two seedy
day-coaches and a baggage car.  Hurry and efficiency had not yet
been discovered on this branch line, and it took five hours to
travel the hundred and twenty miles from Zenith to Banjo Crossing.

The Reverend Elmer Gantry was in a state of grace.  Having resolved
henceforth to be pure and humble and humanitarian, he was
benevolent to all his traveling companions, he was mothering the
world, whether the world liked it or not.

But he did not insist on any outward distinction as a parson, a
Professional Good Man.  He wore a quietly modest gray sack suit, a
modestly rich maroon tie.  Not just as a minister, but as a
citizen, he told himself, it was his duty to make life breezier and
brighter for his fellow wayfarers.

The aged conductor knew most of his passengers by their first
names, and they hailed him as "Uncle Ben," but he resented
strangers on their home train.  When Elmer shouted, "Lovely day,
Brother!" Uncle Ben looked at him as if to say "Well, 'tain't my
fault!"  But Elmer continued his philadelphian violences till the
old man sent in the brakeman to collect the tickets the rest of the
way.

At a traveling salesman who tried to borrow a match, Elmer roared,
"I don't smoke, Brother, and I don't believe George Washington did
either!"  His benignancies were received with so little gratitude
that he almost wearied of good works, but when he carried an old
woman's suit-case off the train, she fluttered at him with the
admiration he deserved, and he was moved to pat children upon the
head--to their terror--and to explain crop-rotation to an ancient
who had been farming for forty-seven years.

Anyway, he satisfied the day's lust for humanitarianism, and he
turned back the seat in front of his, stretched out his legs,
looked sleepy so that no one would crowd in beside him, and
rejoiced in having taken up a life of holiness and authority.

He glanced out at the patchy country with satisfaction.  Rustic,
yes, but simple, and the simple honest hearts of his congregation
would yearn toward him as the bookkeepers could not be depended
upon to do in Prosperity Classes.  He pictured his hearty reception
at Banjo Crossing.  He knew that his district superintendent (a
district superintendent is a lieutenant-bishop in the Methodist
Church--formerly called a presiding elder) had written the hour of
his coming to Mr. Nathaniel Benham of Banjo Crossing, and he knew
that Mr. Benham, the leading trustee of the local church, was the
chief general merchant in the Banjo Valley.  Yes, he would shake
hands with all of his flock, even the humblest, at the station; he
would look into their clear and trusting eyes, and rejoice to be
their shepherd, leading them on and upward, for at least a year.

Banjo Crossing seemed very small as the train staggered into it.
There were back porches with wash-tubs and broken-down chairs;
there were wooden sidewalks.

As Elmer pontifically descended at the red frame station, as he
looked for the reception and the holy glee, there wasn't any
reception, and the only glee visible was on the puffy face of the
station agent as he observed a City Fellow trying to show off.
"Hee, hee, there AIN'T no 'bus!" giggled the agent.  "Guess yuh'll
have to carry your own valises over to the hotel!"

"Where," demanded Elmer, "is Mr. Benham, Mr. Nathaniel Benham?"

"Old Nat?  Ain't seen him today.  Guess yuh'll find him at the
store, 'bout as usual, seeing if he can't do some farmer out of two
cents on a batch of eggs.  Traveling man?"

"I am the new Methodist preacher!"

"Oh, well, say!  That a fact!  Pleased to meet yuh!  Wouldn't of
thought you were a preacher.  You look too well fed!  You're going
to room at Mrs. Pete Clark's--the Widow Clark's.  Leave your
valises here, and I'll have my boy fetch 'em over.  Well, good
luck, Brother.  Hope you won't have much trouble with your church.
The last fellow did, but then he was kind of pernickety--wa'n't
just plain folks."

"Oh, I'm just plain folks, and mighty happy, after the great
cities, to be among them!" was Elmer's amiable greeting, but what
he observed as he walked away was "I am like hell!"

Altogether depressed now, he expected to find the establishment of
Brother Benham a littered and squalid cross-roads store, but he
came to a two-story brick structure with plate-glass windows and,
in the alley, the half-dozen trucks with which Mr. Benham supplied
the farmers for twenty miles up and down the Banjo Valley.
Respectful, Elmer walked through broad aisles, past counters trim
as a small department-store, and found Mr. Benham dictating
letters.

If in a small way Nathaniel Benham had commercial genius, it did
not show in his aspect.  He wore a beard like a bath sponge, and in
his voice was a righteous twang.

"Yes?" he quacked.

"I'm Reverend Gantry, the new pastor."

Benham rose, not too nimbly, and shook hands dryly.  "Oh, yes.  The
presiding elder said you were coming today.  Glad you've come,
Brother, and I hope the blessing of the Lord will attend your
labors.  You're to board at the Widow Clark's--anybody'll show you
where it is."

Apparently he had nothing else to say.

A little bitterly, Elmer demanded, "I'd like to look over the
church.  Have you a key?"

"Now let's see.  Brother Jones might have one--he's got the paint
and carpenter shop right up here on Front Street.  No, guess he
hasn't, either.  We got a young fella, just a boy you might say,
who's doing the janitor work now, and guess he'd have a key, but
this bein' vacation he's off fishin' more'n likely.  Tell you: you
might try Brother Fritscher, the shoemaker--he might have a key.
You married?"

"No.  I've, uh, I've been engaged in evangelistic work, so I've
been denied the joys and solaces of domestic life."

"Where you born?"

"Kansas."

"Folks Christians?"

"They certainly were!  My mother was--she is--a real consecrated
soul."

"Smoke or drink?"

"Certainly not!"

"Do any monkeying with this higher criticism?"

"No, indeed!"

"Ever go hunting?"

"I, uh--Well, yes!"

"That's fine!  Well, glad you're with us, Brother.  Sorry I'm busy.
Say, Mother and I expect you for supper tonight, six-thirty.  Good
luck!"

Benham's smile, his handshake, were cordial enough, but he was
definitely giving dismissal, and Elmer went out in a fury
alternating with despair. . . .  To this, to the condescension of a
rustic store-keeper, after the mounting glory with Sharon!

As he walked toward the house of the widow Clark, to which a loafer
directed him, he hated the shabby village, hated the chicken-coops
in the yards, the frowsy lawns, the old buggies staggering by, the
women with plump aprons and wet red arms--women who made his
delights of amorous adventures seem revolting--and all the plodding
yokels with their dead eyes and sagging jaws and sudden guffawing.

Fallen to this.  And at thirty-two.  A failure!

As he waited on the stoop of the square, white, characterless house
of the Widow Clark, he wanted to dash back to the station and take
the first train--anywhere.  In that moment he decided to return to
farm implements and the bleak lonely freedom of the traveling man.
Then the screen door was opened by a jolly ringleted girl of
fourteen or fifteen, who caroled, "Oh, is it Reverend Gantry!  My,
and I kept you waiting!  I'm terrible sorry!  Ma's just sick she
can't be here to welcome you, but she had to go over to Cousin
Etta's--Cousin Etta busted her leg.  Oh, please do come in.  My, I
didn't guess we'd have a young preacher this time!"

She was charming in her excited innocence.

After a faded provincial fashion, the square hall was stately, with
its Civil War chromos.

Elmer followed the child--Jane Clark, she was--up to his room.  As
she frisked before him, she displayed six inches of ankle above her
clumsy shoes, and Elmer was clutched by that familiar feeling,
swifter than thought, more elaborate than the strategy of a whole
war, which signified that here was a girl he was going to pursue.
But as suddenly--almost wistfully, in his weary desire for peace
and integrity--he begged himself, "No!  Don't!  Not any more!  Let
the kid alone!  Please be decent!  Lord, give me decency and
goodness!"

The struggle was finished in the half-minutes of ascending the
stairs, and he could shake hands casually, say carelessly, "Well,
I'm mighty glad you were here to welcome me, Sister, and I hope I
may bring a blessing on the house."

He felt at home now, warmed, restored.  His chamber was agreeable--
Turkey-red carpet, stove a perfect shrine of polished nickel, and
in the bow-window, a deep arm-chair.  On the four-poster bed was a
crazy-quilt, and pillow-shams embroidered with lambs and rabbits
and the motto, "God Bless Our Slumbers."

"This is going to be all right.  Kinda like home, after these
doggone hotels," he meditated.

He was again ready to conquer Banjo Crossing, to conquer Methodism;
and when his bags and trunk had come, he set out, before unpacking,
to view his kingdom.


2


Banjo Crossing was not extensive, but to find the key to the First
Methodist Church was a Scotland Yard melodrama.

Brother Fritscher, the shoemaker, had lent it to Sister Anderson of
the Ladies' Aid, who had lent it to Mrs. Pryshetski, the
scrubwoman, who had lent it to Pussy Byrnes, president of the
Epworth League, who had lent it to Sister Fritscher, consort of
Brother Fritscher, so that Elmer captured it next door to the
shoemaker's shop from which he had irritably set out.

Each of them, Brother Fritscher and Sister Fritscher, Sister
Pryshetski and Sister Byrnes, Sister Anderson and most of the
people from whom he inquired directions along the way, asked him
the same questions:

"You the new Methodist preacher?" and "Not married, are you?" and
"Just come to town?" and "Hear you come from the City--guess you're
pretty glad to get away, ain't you?"

He hadn't much hope for his church-building--but he expected a
hideous brown hulk with plank buttresses.  He was delighted then,
proud as a worthy citizen elected mayor, when he came to an
agreeable little church covered with gray shingles, crowned with a
modest spire, rimmed with cropped lawn and flower-beds.  Excitedly
he let himself in, greeted by the stale tomb-like odor of all empty
churches.

The interior was pleasant.  It would hold two hundred and ninety,
perhaps.  The pews were of a light yellow, too glaring, but the
walls were of soft cream, and in the chancel, with a white arch
graceful above it, was a seemly white pulpit and a modest curtained
choir-loft.  He explored.  There was a goodish Sunday School room,
a basement with tables and a small kitchen.  It was all cheerful,
alive; it suggested a chance of growth.

As he returned to the auditorium, he noted one good colored
memorial window, and through the clear glass of the others the
friendly maples looked in at him.

He walked round the building.  Suddenly he was overwhelmed and
exalted with the mystic pride of ownership.  It was all his; his
own; and as such it was all beautiful.  What beautiful soft gray
shingles!  What an exquisite spire!  What a glorious maple-tree!
Yes, and what a fine cement walk, what a fine new ash-can, what a
handsome announcement board, soon to be starred with his own name!
His!  To do with as he pleased!  And, oh, he would do fine things,
aspiring things, very important things!  Never again, with this new
reason for going on living, would he care for lower desires--for
pride, for the adventure of women. . . .  HIS!

He entered the church again; he sat proudly in each of the three
chairs on the platform which, as a boy, he had believed to be
reserved for the three persons of the Trinity.  He stood up, leaned
his arms on the pulpit, and to a worshiping throng (many standing)
he boomed, "My brethren!"

He was in an ecstasy such as he had not known since his hours with
Sharon.  He would start again--HAD started again, he vowed.  Never
lie or cheat or boast.  This town, it might be dull, but he would
enliven it, make it his own creation, lift it to his own present
glory.  He could!  Life opened before him, clean, joyous, full of
the superb chances of a Christian knighthood.  Some day he would be
a bishop, yes, but even that was nothing compared with the fact
that he had won a victory over his lower nature.

He knelt, and with his arms wide in supplication he prayed, "Lord,
thou who hast stooped to my great unworthiness and taken even me to
thy Kingdom, who this moment hast shown me the abiding joy of
righteousness, make me whole and keep me pure, and in all things,
Our Father, thy will be done.  Amen."

He stood by the pulpit, tears in his eyes, his meaty hands
clutching the cover of the great leather Bible till it cracked.

The door at the other end of the aisle was opening, and he saw a
vision standing on the threshold in the June sun.

He remembered afterward, from some forgotten literary adventure in
college, a couplet which signified to him the young woman who was
looking at him from the door:


     Pale beyond porch and portal,
     Crowned with calm leaves she stands.


She was younger than himself, yet she suggested a serene maturity,
a gracious pride.  She was slender, but her bosom was full, and
some day she might be portly.  Her face was lovely, her forehead
wide, her brown eyes trusting, and smooth her chestnut hair.  She
had taken off her rose-trimmed straw hat and was swinging it in her
large and graceful hands. . . .  Virginal, stately, kind, most
generous.

She came placidly down the aisle, a hand out, crying, "It's
Reverend Gantry, isn't it?  I'm so proud to be the first to welcome
you here in the church!  I'm Cleo Benham--I lead the choir.
Perhaps you've seen Papa--he's a trustee--he has the store."

"You sure are the first to welcome me, Sister Benham, and it's a
mighty great pleasure to meet you!  Yes, your father was so nice as
to invite me for supper tonight."

They shook hands with ceremony and sat beaming at each other in a
front pew.  He informed her that he was certain there was "going to
be a great spiritual awakening here," and she told him what lovely
people there were in the congregation, in the village, in the
entire surrounding country.  And her panting breast told him that
she, the daughter of the village magnate, had instantly fallen in
love with him.


3


Cleo Benham had spent three years in the Sparta Women's College,
specializing in piano, organ, French, English literature, strictly
expurgated, and study of the Bible.  Returned to Banjo Crossing,
she was a fervent church-worker.  She played the organ and
rehearsed the choir; she was the superintendent of the juvenile
department in the Sunday School; she decorated the church for
Easter, for funerals, for the Halloween Supper.

She was twenty-seven, five years younger than Elmer.

Though she was not very lively in summer-evening front-porch
chatter, though on the few occasions when she sinned against the
Discipline and danced she seemed a little heavy on her feet, though
she had a corseted purity which was dismaying to the earthy young
men of Banjo Crossing, yet she was handsome, she was kind, and her
father was reputed to be worth not a cent less than seventy-five
thousand dollars.  So almost every eligible male in the vicinity
had hinted at proposing to her.

Gently and compassionately she had rejected them one by one.
Marriage must, she felt, be a sacrament; she must be the helpmate
of some one who was "doing a tremendous amount of good in the
world."  This good she identified with medicine or preaching.

Her friends assured her, "My!  With your Bible training and your
music and all, you'd make a perfect pastor's wife.  Just dandy!
You'd be such a help to him."

But no detached preacher or doctor had happened along, and she had
remained insulated, a little puzzled, hungry over the children of
her friends, each year more passionately given to hymnody and
agonized solitary prayer.

Now, with innocent boldness, she was exclaiming to Elmer:  "We were
so afraid the bishop would send us some pastor that was old and
worn-out.  The people here are lovely, but they're kind of slow-
going; they need somebody to wake them up.  I'm so glad he sent
somebody that was young and attractive--Oh, my, I shouldn't have
said that!  I was just thinking of the church, you understand."

Her eyes said that she had not been just thinking of the church.

She looked at her wrist-watch (the first in Banjo Crossing) and
chanted, "Why, my gracious, it's six o'clock!  Would you like to
walk home with me instead of going to Mrs. Clark's--you could wash
up at Papa's."

"You can't lose me!" exulted Elmer, hastily amending, "--as the
slangy youngers say!  Yes, indeed, I should be very pleased to have
the pleasure of walking home with you."

Under the elms, past the rose-bushes, through dust emblazoned by
the declining sun, he walked with his stately abbess.

He knew that she was the sort of wife who would help him to capture
a bishopric.  He persuaded himself that, with all her virtue, she
would eventually be interesting to kiss.  He noted that they "made
a fine couple."  He told himself that she was the first woman he
had ever found who was worthy of him. . . .  Then he remembered
Sharon. . . .  But the pang lasted only a moment, in the secure
village peace, in the gentle flow of Cleo's voice.


4


Once he was out of the sacred briskness of his store, Mr. Nathaniel
Benham forgot discounts and became an affable host.  He said,
"Well, well, Brother," ever so many times, and shook hands
profusely.  Mrs. Benham--she was a large woman, rather handsome;
she wore figured foulard, with an apron over it, as she had been
helping in the kitchen--Mrs. Benham was equally cordial.  "I'll
just bet you're hungry, Brother!" cried she.

He was, after a lunch of ham sandwich and coffee at a station
lunch-room on the way down.

The Benham house was the proudest mansion in town.  It was of
yellow clapboards with white trim; it had a huge screened porch and
a little turret; a staircase window with a border of colored glass;
and there was a real fireplace, though it was never used.  In front
of the house, to Elmer's admiration, was one of the three
automobiles which were all that were to be found in 1913 in Banjo
Crossing.  It was a bright red Buick with brass trimmings.

The Benham supper was as replete with fried chicken and theological
questions as Elmer's first supper with Deacon Bains in Schoenheim.
But here was wealth, for which Elmer had a touching reverence, and
here was Cleo.

Lulu Bains had been a tempting mouthful; Cleo Benham was of the
race of queens.  To possess her, Elmer gloated, would in itself be
an empire, worth any battling. . . .  And yet he did not itch to
get her in a corner and buss her, as he had Lulu; the slope of her
proud shoulders did not make his fingers taut.

After supper, on the screened porch pleasant by dusk, Mr. Benham
demanded, "What charges have you been holding, Brother Gantry?"

Elmer modestly let him know how important he had been in the work
of Sister Falconer; he admitted his scholarly research at Mizpah
Seminary; he made quite enough of his success at Schoenheim; he let
it be known that he had been practically assistant sales-manager of
the Pequot Farm Implement Company.

Mr. Benham grunted with surprised admiration.  Mrs. Benham gurgled,
"My, we're lucky to have a real high-class preacher for once!"  And
Cleo--she leaned toward Elmer, in a deep willow chair, and her
nearness was a charm.

He walked back happily in the June darkness; he felt neighborly
when an unknown muttered, "Evening, Reverend!" and all the way he
saw Cleo, proud as Athena yet pliant as golden-skinned Aphrodite.

He had found his work, his mate, his future.

Virtue, he pointed out, certainly did pay.



CHAPTER XX


1


He had two days to prepare his first sermon and unpack his trunk,
his bags, and the books which he had purchased in Zenith.

His possessions were not very consistent.  He had a beautiful new
morning coat, three excellent lounge suits, patent leather shoes, a
noble derby, a flourishing top hat, but he had only two suits of
underclothes, both ragged.  His socks were of black silk, out at
the toes.  For breast-pocket display, he had silk handkerchiefs;
but for use, only cotton rags torn at the hem.  He owned perfume,
hair-oil, talcum powder; his cuff links were of solid gold; but for
dressing-gown he used his overcoat; his slippers were a frowsy
pulp; and the watch which he carried on a gold and platinum chain
was a one-dollar alarm clock.

He had laid in a fruitful theological library.  He had bought the
fifty volumes of the Expositors' Bible--source of ready-made
sermons--second-hand for $13.75.  He had the sermons of Spurgeon,
Jefferson, Brooks, and J. Wilbur Chapman.  He was willing to be
guided by these masters, and not insist on forcing his own ideas on
the world.  He had a very useful book by Bishop Aberman, "The Very
Appearance of Evil," advising young preachers to avoid sin.  Elmer
felt that this would be unusually useful in his new life.

He had a dictionary--he liked to look at the colored plates
depicting jewels, flags, plants, and aquatic birds; he had a Bible
dictionary, a concordance, a history of the Methodist Church, a
history of Protestant missions, commentaries on the individual
books of the Bible, an outline of theology, and Dr. Argyle's "The
Pastor and His Flock," which told how to increase church
collections, train choirs, take exercise, placate deacons, and make
pasteboard models of Solomon's Temple to lead the little ones to
holiness in the Sunday School.

In fact he had had a sufficient library--"God's artillery in black
and white," as Bishop Toomis wittily dubbed it--to inform himself
of any detail in the practice of the Professional Good Man.  He
would be able to produce sermons which would be highly informative
about the geography of Palestine, yet useful to such of his fold as
might have a sneaking desire to read magazines on the Sabbath.
Thus guided, he could increase the church membership; he could give
advice to errant youth; he could raise missionary funds so that the
heathen in Calcutta and Peking might have the opportunity to become
like the Reverend Elmer Gantry.


2


Though Cleo took him for a drive through the country, most of the
time before Sunday he dedicated to refurbishing a sermon which he
had often and successfully used with Sharon.  The text was from
Romans 1:16:  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it
is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."

When he came up to the church on Sunday morning, tall and ample,
grave and magnificent, his face fixed in a smile of friendliness,
his morning coat bright in the sun, a Bible under his arm, Elmer
was exhilarated by the crowd filtering into the church.  The street
was filled with country buggies and a Ford or two.  As he went
round to the back of the church, passing a knot at the door, they
shouted cordially, "Good morning, Brother!" and "Fine day,
Reverend!"

Cleo was waiting for him with the choir--Miss Kloof, the school-
teacher, Mrs. Diebel, wife of the implement dealer, Ed Perkins,
deliveryman for Mr. Benham, and Ray Faucett, butter-maker at the
creamery.

Cleo held his hand and rejoiced, "What a wonderful crowd there is
this morning!  I'm so glad!"

Together they peeped through the parlor door into the auditorium,
and he almost put his arm about her firm waist. . . .  It would
have seemed natural, very pleasant and right and sweet.

When he marched out to the chancel, the church was full, a dozen
standing.  They all breathed with admiration.  (He learned later
that the last pastor had had trouble with his false teeth and a
fondness for whining.)

He led the singing.

"Come on now!" he laughed.  "You've got to welcome your new
preacher!  The best way is to put a lot of lung-power into it and
sing like the dickens!  You can all make some kind of noise.  Make
a lot!"

Himself he gave example, his deep voice rolling out in hymns of
which he had always been fond:  "I Love to Tell the Story" and "My
Faith Looks up to Thee."

He prayed briefly--he was weary of prayers in which the priest
ramblingly explained to God that God really was God.  This was, he
said, his first day with the new flock.  Let the Lord give him ways
of showing them his love and his desire to serve them.

Before his sermon he looked from brother to brother.  He loved them
all, that moment; they were his regiment, and he the colonel; his
ship's crew, and he the skipper; his patients, and he the loyal
physician.  He began slowly, his great voice swelling to triumphant
certainty as he talked.

Voice, sureness, presence, training, power, he had them all.  Never
had he so well liked his rôle; never had he acted so well; never
had he known such sincerity of histrionic instinct.

He had solid doctrine for the older stalwarts.  With comforting
positiveness he preached that the atonement was the one supreme
fact in the world.  It rendered the most sickly and threadbare the
equals of kings and millionaires; it demanded of the successful
that they make every act a recognition of the atonement.  For the
young people he had plenty of anecdotes, and he was not afraid to
make them laugh.

While he did tell the gloomy incident of the boy who was drowned
while fishing on Sunday, he also gave them the humorous story of
the lad who declared he wouldn't go to school, "because it said in
the Twenty-third Psalm that the Lord made him lie down in green
pastures, and he sure did prefer that to school!"

For all of them, but particularly for Cleo, sitting at the organ,
her hands clasped in her lap, her eyes loyal, he winged into
poetry.

To preach the good news of the gospel, ah!  That was not, as the
wicked pretended, a weak, sniveling, sanctimonious thing!  It was a
job for strong men and resolute women.  For this, the Methodist
missionaries had faced the ferocious lion and the treacherous
fevers of the jungle, the poisonous cold of the Arctic, the
parching desert and the fields of battle.  Were we to be less
heroic than they?  Here, now, in Banjo Crossing, there was no
triumph of business so stirring, no despairing need of a sick
friend so urgent, as the call to tell blinded and perishing sinners
the necessity of repentance.

"Repentance--repentance--repentance--in the name of the Lord God!"

His superb voice trumpeted it, and in Cleo's eyes were inspired
tears.

Beyond controversy, it was the best sermon ever heard in Banjo
Crossing.  And they told him so as he cheerily shook hands with
them at the door.  "Enjoyed your discourse a lot, Reverend!"

And Cleo came to him, her two hands out, and he almost kissed her.


3


Sunday School was held after morning service.  Elmer determined
that he was not going to attend Sunday School every week--"not on
your life; sneak in a nap before dinner"--but this morning he was
affably and expansively there, encouraging the little ones by a
bright short talk in which he advised them to speak the truth, obey
their fathers and mothers, and give heed to the revelations of
their teachers, such as Miss Mittie Lamb, the milliner, and Oscar
Scholtz, manager of the potato warehouse.

Banjo Crossing had not yet touched the modern Sunday School methods
which, in the larger churches, in another ten years, were to divide
the pupils as elaborately as public school and to provide training-
classes for the teachers.  But at least they had separated the
children up to ten years from the older students, and of this
juvenile department Cleo Benham was superintendent.

Elmer watched her going from class to class; he saw how naturally
and affectionately the children talked to her.

"She'd make a great wife and mother--a great wife for a preacher--a
great wife for a bishop," he noted.


4


Evening services at the Banjo Crossing Methodist Church had
normally drawn less than forty people, but there were a hundred
tonight, when, fumblingly, Elmer broke away from old-fashioned
church practise and began what was later to become his famous
Lively Sunday Evenings.

He chose the brighter hymns, "Onward, Christian Soldiers,"
"Wonderful Words of Life," "Brighten the Corner Where You Are," and
the triumphant paean of "When the Roll is Called up Yonder, I'll be
There."  Instead of making them drone through many stanzas, he had
them sing one from each hymn.  Then he startled them by shouting,
"Now I don't want any of you old fellows to be shocked, or say it
isn't proper in church, because I'm going to get the spirit
awakened and maybe get the old devil on the run!  Remember that the
Lord who made the sunshine and the rejoicing hills must have been
behind the fellows that wrote the glad songs, so I want you to all
pipe up good and lively with 'Dixie'!  Yes, SIR!  Then, for the old
fellows, like me, we'll have a stanza of that magnificent old
reassurance of righteousness, 'How Firm a Foundation.'"

They did look shocked, some of them; but the youngsters, the boys
and the girls keeping an aseptic tryst in the back pews, were
delighted.  He made them sing the chorus of 'Dixie' over and over,
till all but one or two rheumatic saints looked cheerful.

His text was from Galatians:  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace."

"Don't you ever listen for one second," he commanded, "to these
wishy-washy fellows that carry water on both shoulders, that love
to straddle the fence, that are scared of the sternness of the good
old-time Methodist doctrine and tell you that details don't mean
anything, that dogmas and the discipline don't mean anything.  They
do!  Justification means something!  Baptism means something!  It
means something that the wicked and worldly stand for this horrible
stinking tobacco and this insane alcohol, which makes a man like a
murderer, but we Methodists keep ourselves pure and unspotted and
undefiled.

"But tonight, on this first day of getting acquainted with you,
Brothers and Sisters, I don't want to go into these details.  I
want to get down to the fundamental thing which details merely
carry out, and that fundamental thing--What is it?  What is it?
What is it but Jesus Christ, and his love for each and every one of
us!

"Love!  Love!  Love!  How beauteous the very word!  Not carnal love
but the divine presence.  What is Love?  Listen!  It is the rainbow
that stands out, in all its glorious many-colored hues, illuminating
and making glad against the dark clouds of life.  It is the morning
and the evening star, that in glad refulgence, there on the awed
horizon, call Nature's hearts to an uplifted rejoicing in God's
marvelous firmament!  Round about the cradle of the babe, sleeping
so quietly while o'er him hangs in almost agonized adoration his
loving mother, shines the miracle of Love, and at the last sad end,
comforting the hearts that bear its immortal permanence, round even
the quiet tomb, shines Love.

"What is great art--and I am not speaking of ordinary pictures but
of those celebrated Old Masters with their great moral lessons--
what is the mother of art, the inspiration of the poet, the
patriot, the philosopher, and the great man of affairs, be he
business man or statesman--yes, what inspires their every effort
save Love?

"Oh, do you not sometimes hear, stealing o'er the plains at dawn,
coming as it were from some far distant secret place, a sound of
melody?  When our dear sister here plays the offertory, do you not
seem sometimes to catch the distant rustle of the wings of
cherubim?  And what is music, lovely, lovely music, what is fair
melody?  Ah, music, 'tis the voice of Love!  Ah, 'tis the magician
that makes right royal kings out of plain folks like us!  'Tis the
perfume of the wondrous flower, 'tis the strength of the athlete,
strong and mighty to endure 'mid the heat and dust of the valorous
conquest.  Ah, Love, Love, Love!  Without it, we are less than
beasts; with it, earth is heaven and we are as the gods!

"Yes, that is what Love--created by Christ Jesus and conveyed
through all the generations by his church, particularly, it seems
to me, by the great, broad, democratic, liberal brotherhood of the
Methodist Church--that is what it means to us.

"I am reminded of an incident in my early youth, while I was in the
university.  There was a young man in my class--I will not give you
his name except to say that we called him Jim--a young man pleasing
to the eye, filled with every possibility for true deep Christian
service, but alas! so beset with the boyish pride of mere
intellect, of mere smart-aleck egotism, that he was unwilling to
humble himself before the source of all intellect and accept Jesus
as his savior.

"I was very fond of Jim--in fact I had been willing to go and room
with him in the hope of bringing him to his senses and getting him
to embrace salvation.  But he was a man who had read books by folks
like Ingersoll and Thomas Paine--fool, swell-headed folks that
thought they knew more than Almighty God!  He would quote their
polluted and devil-inspired ravings instead of listening to the
cool healing stream that gushes blessedly forth from the Holy
Bible.  Well, I argued and argued and argued--I guess that shows I
was pretty young and foolish myself!  But one day I was inspired to
something bigger and better than any arguments.

"I just said to Jim, all of a sudden, 'Jim,' I said, 'do you love
your father?'  (A fine old Christian gentleman his father was, too,
a country doctor, with that heroism, that self-sacrifice, that wide
experience which the country doctor has.)  'Do you love your old
dad?' I asked him.

"Naturally, Jim was awful' fond of his father, and he was kind of
hurt that I should have asked him.

"'Sure, of course I do!' he says.  'Well, Jim,' I says, 'does your
father love you?'  'Why, of course he does,' said Jim.  'Then look
here, Jim,' I said; 'if your earthly father can love you, how much
more must your Father in Heaven, who created all Love, how much
more must he care and yearn for you!'

"Well, sir, that knocked him right over.  He forgot all the smart-
aleck things he'd been reading.  He just looked at me, and I could
see a tear quivering in the lad's eyes as he said, 'I see how you
mean, now, and I want to say, friend, that I'm going to accept
Jesus Christ as my lord and master!'

"Oh, yes, yes, yes, how beautiful it is, the golden glory of God's
Love!  Do you not FEEL it?  I mean that!  I don't mean just a
snuffling, lazy, mechanical acceptance, but a passionate--"


5


He had them!

It had been fun to watch the old fanatics, who had objected to the
singing of Dixie, come under the spell and admit his power.  He had
preached straight at one of them after another; he had conquered
them all.

At the end they shook hands even more warmly than in the morning.

Cleo stood back, hypnotized.  When he came to her she intoned, her
eyes unseeing, "Oh, Reverend Gantry, this is the greatest day our
old church has ever known!"

"Did you like what I said of Love?"

"Oh . . . LOVE . . . yes!"

She spoke as one asleep; she seemed not to know that he was holding
her hand, softly; she walked out of the church beside him,
unspeaking, and of her tranced holiness he felt a little awe.


6


In his attention to business, Elmer had not given especial heed to
the collections.  It had not been carelessness, for he knew his
technique as a Professional Good Man.  But the first day, he felt,
he ought to establish himself as a spiritual leader, and when they
all understood that, he would see to it that they paid suitably for
the spiritual leadership.  Was not the Laborer worthy of his Hire?


7


The reception to welcome Elmer was held the next Tuesday evening in
the basement of the church.  From seven-thirty, when they met, till
a quarter of eight, he was busy with a prodigious amount of hand-
shaking.

They told him he was very eloquent, very spiritual.  He could see
Cleo's pride at their welcome.  She had the chance to whisper, "Do
you realize how much it means?  Mostly they aren't anything like so
welcoming to a new preacher.  Oh, I am so glad!"

Brother Benham called them to order, in the basement, and Sister
Kilween sang "The Holy City" as a solo.  It was pretty bad.
Brother Benham in a short hesitating talk said they had been
delighted by Brother Gantry's sermons.  Brother Gantry in a long
and gushing talk said that he was delighted by Brother Benham, the
other Benhams, the rest of the congregation, Banjo Crossing, Banjo
County, the United States of America, Bishop Toomis, and the
Methodist Episcopal Church (North) in all its departments.

Cleo concluded the celebration with a piano solo, and there was a
great deal more of hand-shaking.  It seemed to be the rule that
whoever came or was pushed within reach of the pastor, no matter
how many times during the evening, should attack his hand each
time.

And they had cake and homemade ice cream.

It was very dull and, to Elmer, very grateful.  He felt accepted,
secure, and ready to begin his work.


8


He had plans for the Wednesday evening prayer-meeting.  He knew
what a prayer-meeting in Banjo Crossing would be like.  They would
drone a couple of hymns and the faithful, half a dozen of them,
always using the same words, would pop up and mumble, "Oh, I thank
the Lord that he has revealed himself to me and has shown me the
error of my ways and oh that those who have not seen his light and
whose hearts are heavy with sin may turn to him this evening while
they still have life and breath"--which they never did.  And the
sullenly unhappy woman in the faded jacket, at the back, would
demand, "I want the prayers of the congregation to save my husband
from the sins of smoking and drinking."

"I may not," Elmer meditated, "be as swell a scholar as old Toomis,
but I can invent a lot of stunts and everything to wake the church
up and attract the crowds, and that's worth a whole lot more than
all this yowling about the prophets and theology!"

He began his "stunts" with that first prayer-meeting.

He suggested, "I know a lot of us want to give testimony, but
sometimes it's hard to think of new ways of saying things, and let
me suggest something new.  Let's give our testimony by picking out
hymns that express just how we feel about the dear Savior and his
help.  Then we can all join together in the gladsome testimony."

It went over.

"That's a fine fellow, that new Methodist preacher," said the
villagers that week.

They were shy enough, and awkward and apparently indifferent, but
in a friendly way they were spying on him, equally ready to praise
him as a neighbor or snicker at him as a fool.

"Yes," they said; "a fine fellow, and smart's a whip, and mighty
eloquent, and a real husky MAN.  Looks you right straight in the
eye.  Only thing that bothers me--He's too good to stay here with
us.  And if he is so good, why'd they ever send him here in the
first place?  What's wrong with him?  Boozer, d'ye think?"

Elmer, who knew his Paris, Kansas, his Gritzmacher Springs, had
guessed that precisely these would be the opinions, and he took
care, as he handshook his way from store to store, house to house,
to explain that for years he had been out in the evangelistic
field, and that by advice of his old and true friend, Bishop
Toomis, he was taking this year in a smaller garden-patch to rest
up for his labors to come.

He was assiduous, but careful, in his pastoral calls on the women.
He praised their gingerbread, Morris chairs, and souvenirs of
Niagara, and their children's school-exercise books.  He became
friendly, as friendly as he could be to any male, with the village
doctor, the village homeopath, the lawyer, the station-agent, and
all the staff at Benham's store.

But he saw that if he was to take the position suitable to him in
the realm of religion, he must study, he must gather several more
ideas and ever so many new words, to be put together for the
enlightenment of the generation.


9


His duties at Banjo Crossing were not violent, and hour after hour,
in his quiet chamber at the residence of the Widow Clark, he gave
himself trustingly to scholarship.

He continued his theological studies; he read all the sermons by
Beecher, Brooks, and Chapman; he read three chapters of the Bible
daily; and he got clear through the letter G in the Bible
dictionary.  Especially he studied the Methodist Discipline, in
preparation for his appearance before the Annual Conference Board
of Examiners as a candidate for full conference membership--full
ministerhood.

The Discipline, which is a combination of Methodist prayer-book and
by-laws, was not always exciting.  Elmer felt a lack of sermon-
material and spiritual quickening in the paragraph:


The concurrent recommendation of two-thirds of all the members of
the several Annual Conferences present and voting, and of two-
thirds of all the members of the Lay Electoral Conferences present
and voting, shall suffice to authorize the next ensuing General
Conference by a two-thirds vote to alter or amend any of the
provisions of this Constitution excepting Article X, 1; and also,
whenever such alteration or amendment shall have been first
recommended by a General Conference by a two-thirds vote, then so
soon as two-thirds of all the members of the several Annual
Conferences present and voting, and two-thirds of all the members
of the Lay Electoral Conference present and voting, shall have
concurred therein, such alteration or amendment shall take effect;
and the result of the vote shall be announced by the General
Superintendents.


He liked better, from the Articles of Religion in the Discipline:


The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption,
propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world,
both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for
sin but that alone.  Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the
which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the
quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a
blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.


He wasn't altogether certain what it meant, but it had such a fine
uplifting roll.  "Blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit."  Fine!

He informed his edified congregation the next Sunday that the
infallibility of the Pope was "a blasphemous fable and a dangerous
deceit," and they almost jumped.

He had much edification from these "Rules for a Preacher's Conduct"
in the Discipline:


Be Serious.  Let your motto be, "Holiness to the Lord."  Avoid all
lightness, jesting, and foolish talking.  Converse sparingly and
conduct yourself prudently with women. . . .  Tell every one under
your care what you think wrong in his conduct and temper, and that
lovingly and plainly, as soon as may be; else it will fester in
your heart.

As a general method of employing our time we advise you, 1.  As
often as possible to rise at four.  2.  From four to five in the
morning and from five to six in the evening to meditate, pray, and
read the Scriptures with notes.

Extirpate out of our Church buying or selling goods which have not
paid the duty laid upon them by government. . . .  Extirpate
bribery--receiving anything, directly or indirectly--for voting at
any election.


Elmer became a model in all these departments except, perhaps,
avoiding lightness and jesting; conducting himself in complete
prudence with women; telling every one under his care what he
thought wrong with them--that would have taken all his spare time;
arising at four; and extirpating sellers of smuggled goods.

For his grades, to be examined by the Annual Conference, he wrote
to Dean Trosper at Mizpah.  He explained to the dean that he had
seen a great new light, that he had worked with Sister Falconer,
but that it had been the early influence of Dean Trosper which,
working somewhat slowly, had led him to his present perfection.

He received the grades, with a letter in which the dean observed:

"I hope you will not overwork your new zeal for righteousness.  It
might be hard on folks.  I seem to recall a tendency in you to
overdo a lot of things.  As a Baptist, let me congratulate the
Methodists on having you.  If you really do mean all you say about
your present state of grace--well, don't let that keep you from
going right on praying.  There may still be virtues for you to
acquire."

"Well, by God!" raged the misjudged saint, and, "Oh, rats, what's
the odds!  Got the credentials, anyway, and he says I can get my B.
D. by passing an examination.  Trouble with old Trosper is he's one
of these smart alecks.  T' hell with him!"


10


Along with his theological and ecclesiastical researches, Elmer
applied himself to more worldly literature.  He borrowed books from
Cleo and from the tiny village library, housed in the public
school; and on his occasional trips to Sparta, the nearest sizable
city, he even bought a volume or two, when he could find good
editions secondhand.

He began with Browning.

He had heard a lot about Browning.  He had heard that he was a
stylish poet and an inspiring thinker.  But personally he did not
find that he cared so much for Browning.  There were so many lines
that he had to read three or four times before they made sense, and
there was so much stuff about Italy and all those Wop countries.

But Browning did give him a number of new words for the notebook of
polysyllables and phrases which he was to keep for years, and which
was to secrete material for some of his most rotund public
utterances.  There has been preserved a page from it:


  incinerate--burn up
  Merovingian--French tribe about A.D. 500
  rem Golgotha was scene crucifixn
  Leigh Hunt--poet--1840--n. g.
  lupin--blue flower
  defeasance--making nix
  chanson (pro. Shan-song)--French kind of song
  Rem:  Man worth while is m. who can smile when ev thing goes dead
    wrong
  Sermon on man that says other planets inhabited--nix. cause Bible
    says o of Xt trying to save THEM.


Tennyson, Elmer found more elevating then Browning.  He liked
"Maud"--she resembled Cleo, only not so friendly; and he delighted
in the homicides and morality of "Idylls of the King."  He tried
Fitzgerald's Omar, which had been recommended by the literary set
at Terwillinger, and he made a discovery which he thought of
communicating through the press.

He had heard it said that Omar was non-religious, but when he read:


     Myself when young did eagerly frequent
     Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
     About it and about: but evermore
     Came out by the same door wherein I went,


he perceived that in this quatrain Omar obviously meant that though
teachers might do a whole lot of arguing, Omar himself stuck to his
belief in Jesus.

In Dickens Elmer had a revelation.

He had not known that any literature published previous to the
Saturday Evening Post could be thrilling.  He did not care so much
for the humor--it seemed to him that Mr. Dickens was vulgar and
almost immoral when he got Pickwick drunk and caused Mantalini to
contemplate suicide--but he loved the sentiment.  When Paul Dombey
died, Elmer could have wept; when Miss Nickleby protected her
virtue against Sir Mulberry Hawk, Elmer would have liked to have
been there, both as a parson and as an athlete, to save her from
the accursed society man, so typical of his class in debauching
youth and innocence.

"Yes, sir, you bet, that's great stuff!" exulted Elmer.  "There's a
writer that goes right down to the depths of human nature.  Great
stuff.  I'll preach on him when I get these hicks educated up to
literary sermons."

But his artistic pursuits could not be all play.  He had to master
philosophy as well; and he plunged into Carlyle and Elbert Hubbard.
He terminated the first plunge, very icy, with haste; but in the
biographies by Mr. Hubbard, at that time dominating America, Elmer
found inspiration.  He learned that Rockefeller had not come to be
head of Standard Oil by chance, but by labor, genius, and early
Baptist training.  He learned that there are sermons in stones,
edification in farmers, beatitude in bankers, and style in
adjectives.

Elmer, who had always lived as publicly as a sparrow, could not
endure keeping his literary treasures to himself.  But for once
Cleo Benham was not an adequate mate.  He felt that she had read
more of such belles-lettres as "The Message to Garcia" than even
himself, so his companion in artistic adventure was Clyde Tippey,
the Reverend Clyde Tippey, pastor of the United Brethren Church of
Banjo Crossing.

Clyde was not, like Elmer, educated.  He had left high school after
his second year, and since then he had had only one year in a
United Brethren seminary.  Elmer didn't think much, he decided, of
all this associating and fellowshiping with a lot of rival
preachers--it was his job, wasn't it, to get their parishioners
away from them?  But it was an ecstasy to have, for once, a cleric
to whom he could talk down.

He called frequently on the Reverend Mr. Tippey in the modest
cottage which (at the age of twenty-six) Clyde occupied with his
fat wife and four children.  Mr. Tippey had pale blue eyes and he
wore a fourteen-and-a-half collar encircling a thirteen neck.

"Clyde," crowed Elmer, "if you're going to reach the greatest
number and not merely satisfy their spiritual needs but give 'em a
rich, full, joyous life, you gotta explain great literature to
'em."

"Yes.  Maybe that's so.  Haven't had time to read much, but I guess
there's lot of fine lessons to be learned out of literature," said
the Reverend Mr. Tippey.

"IS there!  Say, listen to this!  From Longfellow.  The poet.


     Life is real!  Life is earnest!
     And the grave is not its goal,


and this--just get the dandy swing to it:


     Lives of great men all remind us
     We can make our lives sublime,
     And, departing, leave behind us
     Footprints on the sands of time.


I read that way back in school-reader, but I never had anybody to
show me what it meant, like I'm going to do with my congregation.
Just think!  'The grave is NOT its goal!'  Why, say, Longfellow is
just as much of a preacher as you or I are!  Eh?"

"Yes, that's so.  I'll have to read some of his poetry.  Could you
lend me the book?"

"You bet I will, Clyde!  Be a fine thing for you.  A young preacher
like you has got to remember, if you'll allow an older hand to say
so, that our education isn't finished when we start preaching.  We
got to go on enlarging our mental horizons.  See how I mean?  Now
I'm going to start you off reading 'David Copperfield.'  Say,
that's full of fine passages.  There's this scene where--This
David, he had an aunt that everybody thought she was simply an old
crab, but the poor little fellow, his father-in-law--I hope it
won't shock you to hear a preacher say it, but he was an old son of
a gun, that's what he was, and he treated David terribly, simply
terribly, and David ran away, and found his aunt's house, and then
it proved she was fine and dandy to him!  Say, 'll just make the
tears come to your eyes, the place where he finds her house and she
don't recognize him and he tells her who he is, and then she kneels
right down beside him--And shows how none of us are justified in
thinking other folks are mean just because we don't understand 'em.
You bet!  Yes, sir.  'David Copperfield.'  You sure can't go wrong
reading that book!"

"'David Copperfield.'  I've heard the name.  It's mighty nice of
you to come and tell me about it, Brother."

"Oh, that's nothing, nothing at all!  Mighty glad to help you in
any way I can, Clyde."

Elmer's success as a literary and moral evangel to Mr. Clyde Tippey
sent him back to his excavations with new fervor.  He would lead
the world not only to virtue but to beauty.

Considering everything, Longfellow seemed the best news to carry to
this surprised and waiting world, and Elmer managed to get through
many, many pages, solemnly marking the passages which he was
willing to sanction, and which did not mention wine.


     Ah, nothing is too late
     Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
     Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
     Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides
     Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers,
     When each had numbered more than fourscore years.


Elmer did not, perhaps, know very much about Simonides, but with
these instructive lines he was able to decorate a sermon in each of
the pulpits he was henceforth to hold.

He worked his way with equal triumph through James Russell Lowell,
Whittier, and Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  He gave up Kipling because he
found that he really enjoyed reading Kipling, and concluded that he
could not be a good poet.  But he was magnificent in discovering
Robert Burns.

Then he collided with Josiah Royce.


11


Bishop Wesley R. Toomis had suggested to Elmer that he ought to
read philosophy, and he had recommended Royce.  He himself, he
said, hadn't been able to give so much time to Royce as he would
have liked, but he knew that here was a splendid field for any
intellectual adventurer.  So Elmer came back from Sparta with the
two volumes of Royce's "The World and the Individual," and two new
detective stories.

He would skip pleasantly but beneficially through Royce, then pick
up whatever ideas he might find in all these other philosophers he
had heard mentioned: James and Kant and Bergson and who was that
fellow with the funny name--Spinoza?

He opened the first volume of Royce confidently, and drew back in
horror.

He had a nice, long, free afternoon in which to become wise.  He
labored on.  He read each sentence six times.  His mouth drooped
pathetically.  It did not seem fair that a Christian knight who was
willing to give his time to listening to people's ideas should be
treated like this.  He sighed, and read the first paragraph again.
He sighed, and the book dropped into his lap.

He looked about.  On the stand beside him was one of the detective
stores.  He reached for it.  It began as all proper detective
stories should begin--with the tap-room of the Cat and Fiddle Inn,
on a stormy night when gusts of rain beat against the small ancient
casement, but within all was bright and warm; the Turkey-red
curtains shone in the firelight, and the burnished handles of the
beer-pump--

An hour later Elmer had reached the place where the Scotland Yard
Inspector was attacked from the furze-bush by the maniac.  He
excitedly crossed his legs, and Royce fell to the floor and lay
there.

But he kept at it.  In less than three months he had reached page
fifty-one of the first volume of Royce.  Then he bogged down in a
footnote:


The scholastic text-books, namely, as for instance the Disputations
of Suarez, employ our terms much as follows.  Being (ens), taken
quite in the abstract, such writers said, is a word that shall
equally apply BOTH to the WHAT and to the THAT.  Thus if I speak of
the being of a man, I may, according to this usage, mean either the
ideal nature of a man, apart from man's existence, or the existence
of a man.  The term "Being" is so far indifferent to both of the
sharply sundered senses.  In this sense Being may be viewed as of
two sorts.  As the WHAT it means the Essence of things, or the Esse
Essentiæ.  In this sense, by the Being of a man, you mean simply
the definition of what a man as an idea means.  As the THAT, Being
means the Existent Being, or Esse Existentiæ.  The Esse Existentiæ
of a man, or its existent being, would be what it would possess
only if it existed.  And so the scholastic writers in question
always have to point out whether by the term Ens or Being, they in
any particular passage are referring to the WHAT or to the THAT, to
the Esse Essentiæ or to the Existentiæ.


The Reverend Elmer Gantry drew his breath, quietly closed the book,
and shouted, "OH, SHUT UP!"

He never again read any philosophy more abstruse than that of
Wallace D. Wattles or Edward Bok.


12


He did not neglect his not very arduous duties.  He went fishing--
which gained him credit among the males.  He procured a dog, also a
sound, manly thing to do, and though he occasionally kicked the dog
in the country, he was clamorously affectionate with it in town.
He went up to Sparta now and then to buy books, attend the movies,
and sneak into theaters; and though he was tempted by other
diversions even less approved by the Methodist Discipline, he
really did make an effort to keep from falling.

By enthusiasm and brass, he raised most of the church debt, and
made agitation for a new carpet.  He risked condemnation by having
a cornet solo right in church one Sunday evening.  He kept himself
from paying any attention, except for rollickingly kissing her once
or twice, to the fourteen-year-old daughter of his landlady.  He
was, in fact, full of good works and clerical exemplariness.

But the focus of his life now was Cleo Benham.



CHAPTER XXI


1


With women Elmer had always considered himself what he called a
"quick worker," but the properties of the ministry, the delighted
suspicion with which the gossips watched a preacher who went
courting, hindered his progress with Cleo.  He could not, like the
young blades in town, walk with Cleo up the railroad tracks or
through the willow-shaded pasture by Banjo River.  He could hear
ten thousand Methodist elders croaking, "Avoid the vurry APPEARANCE
of evil."

He knew that she was in love with him--had been ever since she had
first seen him, a devout yet manly leader, standing by the pulpit
in the late light of summer afternoon.  He was certain that she
would surrender to him whenever he should demand it.  He was
certain that she had every desirable quality.  And yet--

Oh, somehow, she did not stir him.  Was he afraid of being married
and settled and monogamic?  Was it simply that she needed
awakening?  How could he awaken her when her father was always in
the way?

Whenever he called on her, old Benham insisted on staying in the
parlor.  He was, strictly outside of business hours, an amateur of
religion, fond of talking about it.  Just as Elmer, shielded by the
piano, was ready to press Cleo's hand, Benham would lumber up and
twang, "What do you think, Brother?  Do you believe salvation comes
by faith or works?"

Elmer made it all clear--muttering to himself, "Well, you, you old
devil, with that cut-throat store of yours, you better get into
Heaven on faith, for God knows you'll never do it on works!"

And when Elmer was about to slip out to the kitchen with her to
make lemonade, Benham held him by demanding, "What do you think of
John Wesley's doctrine of perfection?"

"Oh, it's absolutely sound and proven," admitted Elmer, wondering
what the devil Mr. Wesley's doctrine of perfection might be.

It is possible that the presence of the elder Benhams, preventing
too close a communion with Cleo, kept Elmer from understanding what
it meant that he should not greatly have longed to embrace her.  He
translated his lack of urgency into virtue; and went about assuring
himself that he was indeed a reformed and perfected character . . .
and so went home and hung about the kitchen, chattering with little
Jane Clark in pastoral jokiness.

Even when he was alone with Cleo, when she drove him in the proud
Benham motor for calls in the country, even while he was volubly
telling himself how handsome she was, he was never quite natural
with her.


2


He called on an evening of late November, and both her parents were
out, attending Eastern Star.  She looked dreary and red-eyed.  He
crowed benevolently while they stood at the parlor door, "Why,
Sister Cleo, what's the matter?  You look kind of sad."

"Oh, it's nothing--"

"Come on now!  Tell me!  I'll pray for you, or beat somebody up,
whichever you prefer!"

"Oh, I don't think you ought to joke about--Anyway, it's really
nothing."

She was staring at the floor.  He felt buoyant and dominating, so
delightfully stronger than she.  He lifted her chin with his
forefinger, demanding, "Look up at me now!"

In her naked eyes there was such shameful, shameless longing for
him that he was drawn.  He could not but slip his arm around her,
and she dropped her head on his shoulder, weeping, all her pride
gone from her.  He was so exalted by the realization of his own
power that he took it for passion, and suddenly he was kissing her,
conscious of the pale fineness of her skin, her flattering yielding
to him; suddenly he was blurting, "I've loved you, oh, terrible,
ever since the first second I saw you!"

As she sat on his knee, as she drooped against him unresisting, he
was certain that she was very beautiful, altogether desirable.

The Benhams came home--Mrs. Benham to cry happily over the
engagement, and Mr. Benham to indulge in a deal of cordial back-
slapping, and such jests as, "Well, by golly, now I'm going to have
a real live preacher in the family, guess I'll have to be so
doggone honest that the store won't hardly pay!"


3


His mother came on from Kansas for the wedding, in January.  Her
happiness in seeing him in his pulpit, in seeing the beauty and
purity of Cleo--and the prosperity of Cleo's father--was such that
she forgot her long dragging sorrow in his many disloyalties to the
God she had given him, in his having deserted the Baptist sanctuary
for the dubious, the almost agnostic liberalisms of the Methodists.

With his mother present, with Cleo going about roused to a rosy
excitement, with Mrs. Benham mothering everybody and frantically
cooking, with Mr. Benham taking him out to the back-porch and
presenting him with a check for five thousand dollars, Elmer had
the feeling of possessing a family, of being rooted and solid and
secure.

For the wedding there were scores of cocoanut cakes and hundreds of
orange blossoms, roses from a real city florist in Sparta, new
photographs for the family album, a tub of strictly temperance
punch and beautiful but modest lingerie for Cleo.  It was
tremendous.  But Elmer was a little saddened by the fact that there
was no one whom he wanted for best man; no one who had been his
friend since Jim Lefferts.

He asked Ray Faucett, butter-maker at the creamery and choir-singer
in the church, and the village was flattered that out of the
hundreds of intimates Elmer must have in the great world outside,
he should have chosen one of their own boys.

They were married, during a half blizzard, by the district
superintendent.  They took the train for Zenith, to stop overnight
on their way to Chicago.

Not till he was on the train, the shouting and the rice-showers
over, did Elmer gasp to himself, looking at Cleo's rather
unchanging smile, "Oh, good God, I've gone and tied myself up, and
I never can have any fun again!"

But he was very manly, gentlemanly in fact; he concealed his
distaste for her and entertained her with an account of the
beauties of Longfellow.


4


Cleo looked tired, and toward the end of the journey, in the winter
evening, with the gale desolate, she seemed scarce to be listening
to his observations on graded Sunday School lessons, the treatment
of corns, his triumphs at Sister Falconer's meetings, and the
inferiority of the Reverend Clyde Tippey.

"Well, you might pay a LITTLE attention to me, anyway!" he snarled.

"Oh, I'm sorry!  I really was paying attention.  I'm just tired--
all the preparations for the wedding and everything."

She looked at him beseechingly.  "Oh, Elmer, you must take care of
me!  I'm giving myself to you entirely--oh, completely."

"Huh!  So you look at it as a SACRIFICE to marry me, do you!"

"Oh, no, I didn't mean it that way--"

"And I suppose you think I don't intend to take care of you!  Sure!
Prob'ly I stay out late nights and play cards and gamble and drink
and run around after women!  Of course!  I'm not a minister of the
gospel--I'm a saloon-keeper!"

"Oh, dear, dear, dear, oh, my dearest, I didn't mean to hurt you!
I just meant--You're so strong, and big, and I'm--oh, of course I'm
not a tiny little thing, but I haven't got your strength."

He enjoyed feeling injured, but he was warning himself, "Shut up,
you chump!  You'll never educate her to make love if you go bawling
her out."

He magnanimously comforted her:  "Oh, I know.  Of course, you poor
dear.  Fool thing anyway, your mother having this big wedding, and
all the eats and the relatives coming in and everything."

And with all this, she still seemed distressed.

But he patted her hand, and talked about the cottage they were
going to furnish in Banjo Crossing; and as he thought of the
approaching Zenith, of their room at the O'Hearn House (there was
no necessity for a whole suite, as formerly, when he had had to
impress his Prosperity pupils), he became more ardent, whispered to
her that she was beautiful, stroked her arm till she trembled.


5


The bell-boy had scarcely closed the door of their room, with its
double bed, when he had seized her, torn off her overcoat, with its
snow-wet collar, and hurled it on the floor.  He kissed her throat.
When he had loosened his clasp, she retreated, the back of her hand
fearfully at her lips, her voice terrified as she begged, "Oh,
don't!  Not now!  I'm afraid!"

"That's damned nonsense!" he raged, stalking her as she backed
away.

"Oh, no, please!"

"Say, what the devil do you think marriage is?"

"Oh, I've never heard you curse before!"

"My God, I wouldn't, if you didn't act so's it'd try the patience
of a saint on a monument!"  He controlled himself.  "Now, now, now!
I'm sorry!  Guess I'm kind of tired, too.  There, there, little
girl.  Didn't mean to scare you.  Excuse me.  Just showed I was
crazy in love with you, don't you see?"

To his broad and apostolic smirk she responded with a weak smile,
and he seized her again, laid his thick hand on her breast.
Between his long embraces, though his anger at her limpness was
growing, he sought to encourage her by shouting, "Come on now,
Clee, show some spunk!"

She did not forbid him again; she was merely a pale acquiescence--
pale save when she flushed unhappily as he made fun of the old-
fashioned, long-sleeved nightgown which she timidly put on in the
indifferent privacy of the bathroom.

"Gee, you might as well wear a gunny-sack!" he roared, holding out
his arms.  She tried to look confident as she slowly moved toward
him.  She did not succeed.

"Fellow OUGHT to be brutal, for her own sake," he told himself, and
seized her shoulders.

When he awoke beside her and found her crying, he really did have
to speak up to her.

"You look here now!  The fact you're a preacher's wife doesn't keep
you from being human!  You're a fine one to teach brats in Sunday
School!" he said, and many other strong spirited things, while she
wept, her hair disordered round her meek face, which he hated.


6


The discovery that Cleo would never be a lively lover threw him the
more into ambition when they had returned to Banjo Crossing.

Cleo, though she was unceasingly bewildered by his furies, found
something of happiness in furnishing their small house, arranging
his books, adoring his pulpit eloquence, and in receiving, as the
Pastor's Wife, homage even from her old friends.  He was able to
forget her, and all his thought went to his holy climbing.  He was
eager for the Annual Conference, in spring; he had to get on, to a
larger town, a larger church.

He was bored by Banjo Crossing.  The life of a small-town preacher,
prevented from engaging even in the bucolic pleasures, is rather
duller than that of a watchman at a railroad-crossing.

Elmer hadn't actually, enough to do.  Though later, in "institutional
churches" he was to be as hustling as any other business man, now
he had not over twenty hours a week of real activity.  There were
four meetings every Sunday, if he attended Sunday School and Epworth
League as well as church; there was prayer-meeting on Wednesday
evening, choir practise on Friday, the Ladies' Aid and the
Missionary Society every fortnight or so, and perhaps once a
fortnight a wedding, a funeral.  Pastoral calls took not over six
hours a week.  With the aid of his reference books, he could prepare
his two sermons in five hours--and on weeks when he felt lazy, or
the fishing was good, that was three hours more than he actually
took.

In the austerities of the library Elmer was indolent, but he did
like to rush about, meet people, make a show of accomplishment.  It
wasn't possible to accomplish much in Banjo.  The good villagers
were content with Sunday and Wednesday-evening piety.

But he did begin to write advertisements for his weekly services--
the inception of that salesmanship of salvation which was to make
him known and respected in every advertising club and forward-
looking church in the country.  The readers of notices to the
effect that services would be held, as usual, at the Banjo Valley
Pioneer were startled to find among the Presbyterian Church, the
Disciples Church, the United Brethren Church, the Baptist Church,
this advertisement:


                       WAKE UP, MR. DEVIL!

  If old Satan were as lazy as some would-be Christians in this
  burg, we'd all be safe.  But he isn't!  Come out next Sunday,
  10:30 A.M. and hear a red-blooded sermon by Rev. Gantry on

                    WOULD JESUS PLAY POKER?
                          M. E. Church


He improved his typewriting, and that was a fine thing to do.  The
Reverend Elmer Gantry's powerful nature had been cramped by the
slow use of a pen; it needed the gallop of the keys; and from his
typewriter were increasingly to come floods of new moral and social
gospels.

In February he held two weeks' of intensive evangelistic meetings.
He had in a traveling missioner, who wept, and his wife, who sang.
Neither of them, Elmer chuckled privily, could compare with
himself, who had worked with Sharon Falconer.  But they were new to
Banjo Crossing, and he saw to it that it was himself who at the
climax of hysteria charged down into the frightened mob and warned
them that unless they came up and knelt in subjection, they might
be snatched to hell before breakfast.

There were twelve additions to the church, and five renewals of
faith on the part of backsliders, and Elmer was able to have
published in the Western Christian Advocate a note which carried
his credit through all the circles of the saints:


The church at Banjo Crossing has had a remarkable and stirring
revival under Brother T. R. Feesels and Sister Feesels, the
singing evangelist, assisted by the local pastor, Reverend
Gantry, who was himself formerly in evangelistic work as
assistant to the late Sharon Falconer.  A great outpouring of
the spirit and far-reaching results are announced, with many
uniting with the church.


He also, after letting the town know how much it added to his
burdens, revived and every week for two weeks personally supervised
a Junior Epworth League--the juvenile department of that admirable
association of young people whose purpose is, it has itself
announced, to "take the WRECK out of recreation and make it re-
creation."

He had a note from Bishop Toomis hinting that the bishop had most
gratifying reports from the district superintendent about Elmer's
"diligent and genuinely creative efforts" and hinting that at the
coming Annual Conference, Elmer would be shifted to a considerably
larger church.

"Fine!" glowed Elmer.  "Gosh, I'll be glad to get away.  These
rubes here get about as much out of high-class religion, like I
give them, as a fleet of mules!"


7


Ishuah Rogers was dead, and they were holding his funeral at the
Methodist Church.  As farmer, as store-keeper, as post-master, he
had lived all his seventy-nine years in Banjo Crossing.

Old J. F. Whittlesey was shaken by Ishuah's death.  They had been
boys together, young men together, neighbors on the farm, and in
his last years, when Ishuah was nearly blind and living with his
daughter Jenny, J. F. Whittlesey had come into town every day to
spend hours sitting with him on the porch, wrangling over Blaine
and Grover Cleveland.  Whittlesey hadn't another friend left alive.
To drive past Jenny's now and not see old Ishuah made the world
empty.

He was in the front row at the church; he could see his friend's
face in the open coffin.  All of Ishuah's meanness and fussiness
and care was wiped out; there was only the dumb nobility with which
he had faced blizzard and August heat, labor and sorrow; only the
heroic thing Whittlesey had loved in him.

And he would not see Ishuah again, ever.

He listened to Elmer, who, his eyes almost filled at the drama of
the church full of people mourning their old friend, lulled them
with Revelation's triumphant song:


These are they that come out of the great tribulation, and they
washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the
Lamb.  Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they
serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on
the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.  They shall
hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun
strike upon them, nor any heat; for the Lamb that is in the
midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide
them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away
every tear from their eyes.


They sang, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," and Elmer led the
singing, while old Whittlesey tried to pipe up with them.

They filed past the coffin.  When Whittlesey had this last moment's
glimpse of Ishuah's sunken face, his dry eyes were blind, and he
staggered.

Elmer caught him with his great arms, and whispered, "He has gone
to his glory, to his great reward!  Don't let's sorrow for him!"

In Elmer's confident strength old Whittlesey found reassurance.  He
clung to him, muttering, "God bless you, Brother," before he
hobbled out.


8


"You were wonderful at the funeral today!  I've never seen you so
sure of immortality," worshiped Cleo, as they walked home.

"Yuh, but they don't appreciate it--not even when I said about how
this old fellow was a sure-enough hero.  We got to get on to some
burg where I'll have a chance."

"Don't you think God's in Banjo Crossing as much as in a city?"

"Oh, now, Cleo, don't go and get religious on me!  You simply can't
understand how it takes it out of a fellow to do a funeral right
and send 'em all home solaced.  You may find God here, but you
don't find the salaries!"

He was not angry with Cleo now, nor bullying.  In these two months
he had become indifferent to her; indifferent enough to stop hating
her and to admire her conduct of the Sunday School, her tactful
handling of the good sisters of the church when they came snooping
to the parsonage.

"I think I'll take a little walk," he muttered when they reached
home.

He came to the Widow Clark's house, where he had lived as bachelor.

Jane was out in the yard, the March breeze molding her skirt about
her; rosy face darker and eyes more soft as she saw the pastor
hailing her, magnificently raising his hat.

She fluttered toward him.

"You folks ever miss me?  Guess you're glad to get rid of the poor
old preacher that was always cluttering up the house!"

"We miss you awfully!"

He felt his whole body yearning toward her.  Hurriedly he left her
and wished he hadn't left her, and hastened to get himself far from
the danger to his respectability.  He hated Cleo again now, in an
injured, puzzled way.

"I think I'll sneak up to Sparta this week," he fumed, then:  "No!
Conference coming in ten days; can't take any chances till after
that."


9


The Annual Conference, held in Sparta, late in March.  The high
time of the year, when the Methodist preachers of half a dozen
districts met together for prayer and rejoicing, to hear of the
progress of the Kingdom and incidentally to learn whether they were
to have better jobs this coming year.

The bishop presiding--Wesley R. Toomis, himself--with his district
superintendents, grave and bustling.

The preachers, trying to look as though prospective higher salaries
were unworthy their attention.

Between meetings they milled about in the large auditorium of the
Preston Memorial Methodist Church: visiting laymen and nearly three
hundred ministers.

Veteran country parsons, whiskered and spectacled, rusty-coated and
stooped, still serving two country churches, or three or four;
driving their fifty miles a week; content for reading with the
Scriptures and the weekly Advocate.

New-fledged country preachers, their large hands still calloused
from plow-handle and reins, content for learning with two years of
high school, content with the Old Testament for history and
geology.

The preachers of the larger towns; most of them hard to recognize
as clerics, in their neat business suits and modest four-in-hands;
frightfully cordial one to another; perhaps a quarter of them known
as modernists and given to reading popular manuals of biology and
psychology; the other three-quarters still devoted to banging the
pulpit apropos of Genesis.

But moving through these masses, easily noticeable, the inevitable
successes: the district superintendents, the pastors of large city
congregations, the conceivable candidates for college presidencies,
mission-boards, boards of publication, bishoprics.

They were not all of them leonine and actor-like, these staff
officers.  No few were gaunt, or small, wiry, spectacled, and
earnest; but they were all admirable politicians, long in memory of
names, quick to find flattering answers.  They believed that the
Lord rules everything, but that it was only friendly to help him
out; and that the enrollment of political allies helped almost as
much as prayer in becoming known as suitable material for lucrative
pastorates.

Among these leaders were the Savonarolas, gloomy fellows, viewing
the progress of machine civilization with biliousness; capable of
drawing thousands of auditors by their spicy but chaste
denunciations of burglary, dancing, and show-windows filled with
lingerie.

Then the renowned liberals, preachers who filled city tabernacles
or churches in university towns by showing that skipping whatever
seemed unreasonable in the Bible did not interfere with considering
it all divinely inspired, and that there are large moral lessons in
the paintings of Landseer and Rosa Bonheur.

Most notable among the aristocrats were a certain number of large,
suave, deep-voiced, inescapably cordial clerical gentlemen who
would have looked well in Shakespearean productions or as floor-
walkers.  And with them was presently to be found the Reverend
Elmer Gantry.

He was a new-comer, he was merely hoping to have the Conference
recognize his credentials and accept him as a member, and he had
only a tiny church, yet from somewhere crept the rumor that he was
a man to be watched, to be enrolled in one's own political machine;
and he was called "Brother" by a pastor whose sacred rating was
said to be not less than ten thousand a year.  They observed him;
they conversed with him not only on the sacraments but on
automobiles and the use of pledge envelopes; and as they felt the
warmth of his handshake, as they heard the amiable bim-bom of his
voice, saw his manly eyes, untroubled by doubts or scruples, and
noted that he wore his morning clothes as well as any spiritual
magnate among them, they greeted him and sought him out and
recognized him as a future captain of the hosts of the Almighty.

Cleo's graciousness added to his prestige.

For three whole days before bringing her up to the Conference,
Elmer had gone out of his way to soothe her, flatter her, assure
her that whatever misunderstandings they might have had, all was
now a warm snugness of domestic bliss, so that she was eager,
gently deferential to the wives of older pastors as she met them at
receptions at hotels.

Her obvious admiration of Elmer convinced the better clerical
politicians of his domestic safeness.

And they knew that he had been sent for by the bishop--oh, they
knew it!  Nothing that the bishop did in these critical days was
not known.  There were many among the middle-aged ministers who had
become worried over prolonged stays in small towns, and who wanted
to whisper to the bishop how well they would suit larger
opportunities.  (The list of appointments had already been made out
by the bishop and his council, yet surely it could be changed a
little--just the least bit.)  But they could not get near him.
Most of the time the bishop was kept hidden from them at the house
of the president of Winnemac Wesleyan University.

But he sent for Elmer, and even called him by his first name.

"You see, Brother Elmer, I was right!  The Methodist Church just
suits you," said the bishop, his eyes bright under his formidable
brows.  "I am able to give you a larger church already.  It
wouldn't be cricket, as the English say--ah, England! how you will
enjoy going there some time; you will find such a fruitful source
of the broader type of sermons in travel; I know that you and your
lovely bride--I've had the pleasure of having her pointed out to
me--you will both know the joy and romance of travel one of these
days.  But as I was saying: I can give you a rather larger town
this time, though it wouldn't be proper to tell you which one till
I read the list of appointments to the Conference.  And in the near
future, if you continue as you have in your studies and attention
to the needs of our flock and in your excellence of daily living,
which the district superintendent has noted, why, you'll be due for
a MUCH larger field of service.  God bless you!"


10


Elmer was examined by the Conference and readily admitted to
membership.

Among the questions, from the Discipline, which he was able to
answer with a hearty "yes" were these:

Are you going on to perfection?

Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?

Are you earnestly striving after it?

Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?

Have you considered the Rules for a Preacher, especially those
relating to Diligence, to Punctuality, and to Doing the Work to
which you are assigned?

Will you recommend fasting or diligence, both by precept and
example?

                *     *     *     *     *     *     *

It was, the Conference members said, one to another, a pleasure to
examine a candidate who could answer the questions with such
ringing certainty.

                *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Celebrating his renunciation of all fleshy devices and pleasures by
wolfing a steak, fried onions, fried potatoes, corn, three cups of
coffee, and two slices of apple pie with ice cream, Elmer
condescended to Cleo, "I went through a-whooping!  Liked to of seen
any of those poor boobs I was with in the seminary answer up like I
did!"


11


They listened to reports on collections for missions, on the
creation of new schools and churches; they heard ever so many
prayers; they were polite during what were known as "inspirational
addresses" by the bishop and the Rev. Dr. S. Palmer Shootz.  But
they were waiting for the moment when the bishop should read the
list of appointments.

They looked as blank as they could, but their nails creased their
palms as the bishop rose.  They tried to be loyal to their army,
but this lean parson thought of the boy who was going to college,
this worried-faced youngster thought of the operation for his wife,
this aged campaigner whose voice had been failing wondered whether
he would be kept on in his well-padded church.

The bishop's snappy voice popped:

         Sparta District:
    Albee Center, W. A. Vance
    Ardmore, Abraham Mundon--

And Elmer listened with them, suddenly terrified.

What did the bishop mean by a "rather larger town"?  Some horrible
hole with twelve hundred people?

Then he startled and glowed, and his fellow priests nodded to him
in congratulation, as the bishop read out "Rudd Center, Elmer
Gantry."

For there were forty-one hundred people in Rudd Center; it was
noted for good works and a large pop factory; and he was on his way
to greatness, to inspiring the world and becoming a bishop.



CHAPTER XXII


1


A year he spent in Rudd Center, three years in Vulcan, and two
years in Sparta.  As there were 4,100 people in Rudd Center, 47,000
in Vulcan, and 129,000 in Sparta, it may be seen that the Reverend
Elmer Gantry was climbing swiftly in Christian influence and
character.

In Rudd Center he passed his Mizpah final examinations and received
his Bachelor of Divinity degree from the seminary; in Rudd Center
he discovered the art of joining, which was later to enable him to
meet the more enterprising and solid men of affairs--oculists and
editors and manufacturers of bathtubs--and enlist their practical
genius in his crusades for spirituality.

He joined the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Maccabees.  He made
the Memorial Day address to the G. A. R., and he made the speech
welcoming the local representative home from Congress after having
won the poker championship of the Houses.

Vulcan was marked, aside from his labors for perfection, by the
birth of his two children--Nat, in 1916, and Bernice, whom they
called Bunny, in 1917--and by his ceasing to educate his wife in
his ideals of amour.

It all blew up a month after the birth of Bunny.

Elmer had, that evening, been addressing the Rod and Gun Club
dinner.  He had pointed out that our Lord must have been in favor
of Rods and Guns for, he said, "I want you boys to notice that the
Master, when he picked out his first disciples, didn't select a
couple of stoop-shouldered, pigeon-toed mollycoddles but a pair of
first-class fishermen!"

He was excited to intoxication by their laughter.

Since Bunny's birth he had been sleeping in the guest-room, but
now, walking airily, he tiptoed into Cleo's room at eleven, with
that look of self-conscious innocence which passionless wives
instantly catch and dread.

"Well, you sweet thing, it sure went off great!  They all liked my
spiel.  Why, you poor lonely girl, shame you have to sleep all
alone here, poor baby!" he said, stroking her shoulder as she sat
propped against the pillows.  "Guess I'll have to come sleep here
tonight."

She breathed hard, tried to look resolute.  "Please!  Not yet!"

"What do you MEAN?"

"Please!  I'm tired tonight.  Just kiss me good night, and let me
pop off to sleep."

"Meaning my attentions aren't welcome to Your Majesty!"  He paced
the floor.  "Young woman, it's about time for a showdown!  I've
hinted at this before, but I've been as charitable and long-
suffering as I could, but by God, you've gotten away with too much,
and then you try to pretend--'Just kiss me good night!'  Sure!  I'm
to be a monk!  I'm to be one of these milk-and-water husbands
that's perfectly content to hang around the house and not give one
little yip if his wife don't care for his method of hugging!  Well,
believe me, young woman, you got another guess coming, and if you
think that just because I'm a preacher I'm a Willie-boy--You don't
even make the slightest smallest effort to learn some passion, but
just act like you had hard work putting up with me!  Believe me,
there's other women a lot better and prettier--yes, and more
religious!--that haven't thought I was such a damn' pest to have
around!  I'm not going to stand--Never even making the slightest
effort--"

"Oh, Elmer, I have!  Honestly I have!  If you'd only been more
tender and patient with me at the very first, I might have learned--"

"Rats!  All damned nonsense!  Trouble with you is, you always were
afraid to face hard facts!  Well, I'm sick of it, young woman.  You
can go to the devil!  This is the last time, believe me!"

He banged the door; he had satisfaction in hearing her sob that
night; and he kept his vow about staying away from her, for almost
a month.  Presently he was keeping it altogether; it was a settled
thing that they had separate bedrooms.

And all the while he was almost as confused, as wistful, as she
was; and whenever he found a woman parishioner who was willing to
comfort him, or whenever he was called on important but never
explained affairs to Sparta, he had no bold swagger of satisfaction,
but a guilt, an uneasiness of sin, which displayed itself in
increasingly furious condemnation of the same sin from his pulpit.

"O God, if I could only have gone on with Sharon, I might have been
a decent fellow," he mourned, in his sorrow sympathetic with all
the world.  But the day after, in the sanctuary, he would be
salving that sorrow by raging, "And these dance-hall proprietors,
these tempters of lovely innocent girls, whose doors open to the
pit of death and horror, they shall have reward--they shall burn in
uttermost hell--burn literally--BURN!--and for their suffering we
shall have but joy that the Lord's justice has been resolutely
done!"


2


Something like statewide fame began to cling about the Reverend
Elmer Gantry during his two years in Sparta--1918 to 1920.  In the
spring of '18 he was one of the most courageous defenders of the
Midwest against the imminent invasion of the Germans.  He was a
Four-Minute Man.  He said violent things about atrocities, and sold
Liberty Bonds hugely.  He threatened to leave Sparta to its
wickedness while he went out to "take care of our poor boys" as a
chaplain, and he might have done so had the war lasted another
year.

In Sparta, too, he crept from timidly sensational church
advertisements to such blasts as must have shaken the Devil
himself.  Anyway, they brought six hundred delighted sinners to
church every Sunday evening, and after one sermon on the horrors of
booze, a saloon-keeper, slightly intoxicated, remarked "Whoop!" and
put a fifty-dollar bill in the plate.

Not to this day, with all the advance in intellectual advertising,
has there been seen a more arousing effort to sell salvation than
Elmer's prose poem in the Sparta World-Chronicle on a Saturday in
December, 1919:


   WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR MOTHER TO GO BATHING WITHOUT STOCKINGS?

Do you believe in old-fashioned womanhood, that can love and laugh
and still be the symbols of God's own righteousness, bringing a
tear to the eye as one remembers their brooding tenderness?  Would
you like to see your own dear mammy indulging in mixed bathing or
dancing that Hell's own fool monkeyshine, the one-step?

                      REVEREND ELMER GANTRY

will answer these questions and others next Sunday morning.  Gantry
shoots straight from the shoulder.

                 POPLAR AVENUE METHODIST CHURCH

             Follow the crowd to the beautiful times
        At the beautiful church with the beautiful chimes.


3


While he was in Sparta, national prohibition arrived, with its
high-colored opportunities for pulpit-orators, and in Sparta he was
inspired to his greatest political campaign.

The obviously respectable candidate for mayor of Sparta was a
Christian Business Man, a Presbyterian who was a manufacturer of
rubber overshoes.  It is true that he was accused of owning the
buildings in which were several of the worst brothels and blind
tigers in the city, but it had amply been explained that the
unfortunate gentleman had not been able to kick out his tenants,
and that he gave practically all his receipts from the property to
missionary work in China.

His opponent was a man in every way objectionable to Elmer's
principles: a Jew, a radical who criticized the churches for not
paying taxes, a sensational and publicity-seeking lawyer who took
the cases of labor unions and negroes without fee.  When he
consulted them, Elmer's Official Board agreed that the Presbyterian
was the only man to support.  They pointed out that the trouble
with the radical Jew was that he was not only a radical but a Jew.

Yet Elmer was not satisfied.  He had, possibly, less objection to
houses of ill fame than one would have judged from his pulpit
utterances, and he certainly approved the Presbyterian's position
that "we must not try dangerous experiments in government but
adhere courageously to the proven merits and economies of the
present administration."  But talking with members of his
congregation, Elmer found that the Plain People--and the plain, the
very plain, people did make up such a large percentage of his
flock--hated the Presbyterian and had a surprised admiration for
the Jew.

"He's awful' kind to poor folks," said they.

Elmer had what he called a "hunch."

"All the swells are going to support this guy McGarry, but darned
if I don't think the Yid'll win, and anybody that roots for him'll
stand ace-high after the election," he reasoned.

He came out boisterously for the Jew.  The newspapers squealed and
the Presbyterians bellowed and the rabbis softly chuckled.

Not only from his pulpit but in scattered halls Elmer campaigned
and thundered.  He was smeared once with rotten eggs in a hall near
the red-light district, and once an illicit booze-dealer tried to
punch his nose, and that was a very happy time for Elmer.

The booze-dealer, a bulbous angry man, climbed up on the stage of
the hall and swayed toward Elmer, weaving with his fists, rumbling,
"You damn' lying gospel-shark, I'll show you--"

The forgotten star of the Terwillinger team leaped into life.  He
was calm as in a scrimmage.  He strode over, calculatingly regarded
the point of the bootlegger's jaw, and caught him on it, exact.  He
saw the man slumping down, but he did not stand looking; he swung
back to the reading-stand and went on speaking.  The whole audience
rose, clamorous with applause, and Elmer Gantry had for a second
become the most famous man in town.

The newspapers admitted that he was affecting the campaign, and one
of them swung to his support.  He was so strong on virtue and the
purity of womanhood and the evils of liquor that to oppose him was
to admit one's self a debauchee.

At the business meeting of his church there was a stirring squabble
over his activities.  When the leading trustee, a friend of the
Presbyterian candidate, declared that he was going to resign unless
Elmer stopped, an aged janitor shrieked, "And all the rest of us
will resign unless the Reverend keeps it up!"  There was gleeful
and unseemly applause, and Elmer beamed.

The campaign grew so bellicose that reporters came up from the
Zenith newspapers; one of them the renowned Bill Kingdom of the
Zenith Advocate-Times.  Elmer loved reporters.  They quoted him on
everything from the Bible in the schools to the Armenian mandate.
He was careful not to call them "boys" but "gentlemen," not to slap
them too often on the back; he kept excellent cigars for them; and
he always said, "I'm afraid I can't talk to you as a preacher.  I
get too much of that on Sunday.  I'm just speaking as an ordinary
citizen who longs to have a clean city in which to bring up his
kiddies."

Bill Kingdom almost liked him, and the story about "the crusading
parson" which he sent up to the Zenith Advocate-Times--the
Thunderer of the whole state of Winnemac--was run on the third
page, with a photograph of Elmer thrusting out his fist as if to
crush all the sensualists and malefactors in the world.

Sparta papers reprinted the story and spoke of it with reverence.

The Jew won the campaign.

And immediately after this--six months before the Annual Conference
of 1920--Bishop Toomis sent for Elmer.


4


"At first I was afraid," said the bishop, "you were making a great
mistake in soiling yourself in this Sparta campaign.  After all,
it's our mission to preach the pure gospel and the saving blood of
Jesus, and not to monkey with politics.  But you've been so
successful that I can forgive you, and the time has come--At the
next Conference I shall be able to offer you at last a church here
in Zenith, and a very large one, but with problems that call for
heroic energy.  It's the old Wellspring Church, down here on
Stanley Avenue, corner of Dodsworth, in what we call 'Old Town.'
It used to be the most fashionable and useful Methodist church in
town, but the section has run down, and the membership has declined
from something like fourteen hundred to about eight hundred, and
under the present pastor--you know him--old Seriere, fine noble
Christian gentleman, great soul, but a pretty rotten speaker--I
don't guess they have more than a hundred or so at morning service.
Shame, Elmer, wicked shame to see this great institution, meant for
the quickening of such vast multitudes of souls, declining and, by
thunder, not hardly giving a cent for missions!  I wonder if you
could revive it?  Go look it over, and the neighborhood, and let me
know what you think.  Or whether you'd rather stay on in Sparta.
You'll get less salary at Wellspring than you're getting in Sparta--
four thousand, isn't it?--but if you build up the church, guess
the Official Board will properly remunerate your labors."

A church in Zenith!  Elmer would--almost--have taken it with no
salary whatever.  He could see his Doctor of Divinity degree at
hand, his bishopric or college presidency or fabulous pulpit in New
York.

He found the Wellspring M. E. Church a hideous graystone hulk with
gravy-colored windows, and a tall spire ornamented with tin
gargoyles and alternate layers of tiles in distressing red and
green.  The neighborhood had been smart, but the brick mansions,
once leisurely among lawns and gardens, were scabrous and slovenly,
turned into boarding-houses with delicatessen shops in the
basements.

"Gosh, this section never will come back.  Too many of the doggone
hoi polloi.  Bunch of Wops.  Nobody for ten blocks that would put
more'n ten cents in the collection.  Nothing doing!  I'm not going
to run a soup-kitchen and tell a bunch of dirty bums to come to
Jesus.  Not on your life!"

But he saw, a block from the church, a new apartment-house, and
near it an excavation.

"Hm.  Might come back, in apartments, at that.  Mustn't jump too
quick.  Besides, these folks need the gospel just as much as the
swell-headed plutes out on Royal Ridge," reflected the Reverend Mr.
Gantry.

Through his old acquaintance, Gil O'Hearn of the O'Hearn House,
Elmer met a responsible contractor and inquired into the
fruitfulness of the Wellspring vineyard.

"Yes, they're dead certain to build a bunch of apartment-houses,
and pretty good ones, in that neighborhood these next few years.
Be a big residential boom in Old Town.  It's near enough in to be
handy to the business section, and far enough from the Union
Station so's they haven't got any warehouses or wholesalers.  Good
buy, Reverend."

"Oh, I'm not buying--I'm just selling--selling the gospel!" said
the Reverend, and he went to inform Bishop Toomis that after prayer
and meditation he had been led to accept the pastorate of the
Wellspring Church.

So, at thirty-nine, Cæsar came to Rome, and Rome heard about it
immediately.



CHAPTER XXIII


1


He did not stand by the altar now, uplifted in a vow that he would
be good and reverent.  He was like the new general manager of a
factory as he bustled for the first time through the Wellspring
Methodist Church, Zenith, and his first comment was "The plant's
run down--have to buck it up."

He was accompanied on his inspection by his staff: Miss Bundle,
church secretary and personal secretary to himself, a decayed and
plaintive lady distressingly free of seductiveness; Miss Weezeger,
the deaconess, given to fat and good works; and A. F. Cherry,
organist and musical director, engaged only on part time.

He was disappointed that the church could not give him a pastoral
assistant or a director of religious education.  He'd have them,
soon enough--and boss them!  Great!

He found an auditorium which would hold sixteen hundred people but
which was offensively gloomy in its streaky windows, its brown
plaster walls, its cast-iron pillars.  The rear wall of the chancel
was painted a lugubrious blue scattered with stars which had ceased
to twinkle; and the pulpit was of dark oak, crowned with a foolish,
tasseled, faded green velvet cushion.  The whole auditorium was
heavy and forbidding; the stretch of empty brown-grained pews
stared at him dolorously.

"Certainly must have been a swell bunch of cheerful Christians that
made this layout!  I'll have a new church here in five years--one
with some pep to it, and Gothic fixin's and an up-to-date
educational and entertainment plant," reflected the new priest.

The Sunday School rooms were spacious enough, but dingy, scattered
with torn hymn books; the kitchen in the basement, for church
suppers, had a rusty ancient stove and piles of chipped dishes.
Elmer's own study and office was airless, and looked out on the
flivver-crowded yard of a garage.  And Mr. Cherry said the organ
was rather more than wheezy.

"Oh, well," Elmer conferred with himself afterward, "what do I
care!  Anyway, there's plenty of room for the crowds, and believe
me, I'm the boy can drag 'em in! . . .  God, what a frump that
Bundle woman is!  One of these days I'll have a smart girl
secretary--a good-looker.  Well, hurray, ready for the big work!
I'll show this town what high-class preaching is!"

Not for three days did he chance to think that Cleo might also like
to see the church.


2


Though there were nearly four hundred thousand people in Zenith and
only nine hundred in Banjo Crossing, Elmer's reception in the
Zenith church-basement was remarkably like his reception in the
Banjo basement.  There were the same rugged, hard-handed brothers,
the same ample sisters renowned for making doughnuts, the same
brisk little men given to giggling and pious jests.  There were the
same homemade ice cream and homemade oratory.  But there were five
times as many people as at the Banjo reception, and Elmer was ever
a lover of quantity.  And among the transplanted rustics were
several prosperous professional men, several well-gowned women, and
some pretty girls who looked as though they went to dancing school,
Discipline or not.

He felt cheerful and loving toward them--his, as he pointed out to
them, "fellow crusaders marching on resolutely to achievement of
the Kingdom of God on earth."

It was easy to discover which of the members present from the
Official Board of the church were most worth his attentions.  Mr.
Ernest Apfelmus, one of the stewards, was the owner of the Gem of
the Ocean Pie and Cake Corporation.  He looked like a puffy and
bewildered urchin suddenly blown up to vast size; he was very rich,
Miss Bundle whispered; and he did not know how to spend his money
except on his wife's diamonds and the cause of the Lord.  Elmer
paid court to Mr. Apfelmus and his wife, who spoke quite a little
English.

Not so rich but even more important, Elmer guessed, was T. J. Rigg,
the famous criminal lawyer, a trustee of Wellspring Church.

Mr. Rigg was small, deep-wrinkled, with amused and knowing eyes.
He would be, Elmer felt instantly, a good man with whom to drink.
His wife's face was that of a girl, round and smooth and blue-eyed,
though she was fifty and more, and her laughter was lively.

"Those are folks I can shoot straight with," decided Elmer, and he
kept near them.

Rigg hinted, "Say, Reverend, why don't you and your good lady come
up to my house after this, and we can loosen up and have a good
laugh and get over this sewing-circle business."

"I'd certainly like to."  As he spoke Elmer was considering that if
he was really to loosen up, he could not have Cleo about.  "Only,
I'm afraid my wife has a headache, poor girl.  We'll just send her
along home and I'll come with you."

"After you shake hands a few thousand more times!"

"Exactly!"

Elmer was edified to find that Mr. Rigg had a limousine with a
chauffeur--one of the few in which Elmer had yet ridden.  He did
like to have his Christian brethren well heeled.  But the sight of
the limousine made him less chummy with the Riggses, more
respectful and unctuous, and when they had dropped Cleo at the
hotel, Elmer leaned gracefully back on the velvet seat, waved his
large hand poetically, and breathed, "Such a welcome the dear
people gave me!  I am so grateful!  What a real outpouring of the
spirit!"

"Look here," sniffed Rigg, "you don't have to be pious with us!  Ma
and I are a couple of old dragoons.  We like religion; like the
good old hymns--takes us back to the hick town we came from; and we
believe religion is a fine thing to keep people in order--they
think of higher things instead of all these strikes and big wages
and the kind of hell-raising that's throwing the industrial system
all out of kilter.  And I like a fine upstanding preacher that can
give a good show.  So I'm willing to be a trustee.  But we ain't
pious.  And any time you want to let down--and I reckon there must
be times when a big cuss like you must get pretty sick of listening
to the sniveling sisterhood!--you just come to us, and if you want
to smoke or even throw in a little jolt of liquor, as I've been
known to do, why we'll understand.  How about it, Ma?"

"You bet!" said Mrs. Rigg.  "And I'll go down to the kitchen, if
cook isn't there, and fry you a couple of eggs, and if you don't
tell the rest of the brethren, there's always a couple of bottles
of beer on the ice.  Like one?"

"WOULD I!" cheered Elmer.  "You bet I would!  Only--I cut out
drinking and smoking quite a few years ago.  Oh, I had my share
before that!  But I stopped, absolute, and I'd hate to break my
record.  But you go right ahead.  And I want to say that it'll be a
mighty big relief to have some folks in the church that I can talk
to without shocking 'em half to death.  Some of these holier-than-
thou birds--Lord, they won't let a preacher be a human being!"

The Rigg house was large, rather faded, full of books which had
been read--history, biography, travels.  The smaller sitting-room,
with its log fire and large padded chairs, looked comfortable, but
Mrs. Rigg shouted, "Oh, let's go out to the kitchen and shake up a
welsh rabbit!  I love to cook, and I don't dast till after the
servants go to bed."

So his first conference with T. J. Rigg, who became the only
authentic friend Elmer had known since Jim Lefferts, was held at
the shiny white-enamel-topped table in the huge kitchen, with Mrs.
Rigg stalking about, bringing them welsh rabbit, with celery, cold
chicken, whatever she found in the ice box.

"I want your advice, Brother Rigg," said Elmer.  "I want to make my
first sermon here something sen--well, something that'll make 'em
sit up and listen.  I don't have to get the subject in for the
church ads till tomorrow.  Now what do you think of some pacifism?"

"Eh?"

"I know what you think.  Of course during the war I was just as
patriotic as anybody--Four-Minute Man, and in another month I'd of
been in uniform.  But honest, some of the churches are getting a
lot of kick out of hollering pacifism now the war's all safely
over--some of the biggest preachers in the country.  But far's I've
heard, nobody's started it here in Zenith yet, and it might make a
big sensation."

"Yes, that's so, and course it's perfectly all right to adopt
pacifism as long as there's no chance for another war."

"Or do you think--you know the congregation here--do you think a
more dignified and kind of you might say poetic expository sermon
would impress 'em more?  Or what about a good, vigorous, right-out-
from-the-shoulder attack on vice?  You know, booze and immorality--
like short skirts--by golly, girls' skirts getting shorter every
year!"

"Now that's what I'd vote for," said Rigg.  "That's what gets 'em.
Nothing like a good juicy vice sermon to bring in the crowds.  Yes,
sir!  Fearless attack on all this drinking and this awful sex
immorality that's getting so prevalent."  Mr. Rigg meditatively
mixed a highball, keeping it light because next morning in court he
had to defend a lady accused of running a badger game.  "You bet.
Some folks say sermons like that are just sensational, but I always
tell 'em: once the preacher gets the folks into the church that
way--and mighty few appreciate how hard it is to do a good vice
sermon; jolt 'em enough and yet not make it too dirty--once you get
in the folks, then you can give 'em some good, solid, old-time
religion and show 'em salvation and teach 'em to observe the laws
and do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, 'stead of
clock-watching like my doggone clerks do!  Yep, if you ask me, try
the vice. . . .  Oh, say, Ma, do you think the Reverend would be
shocked by that story about the chambermaid and the traveling man
that Mark was telling us?"

Elmer was not shocked.  In fact he had another droll tale himself.

He went home at one.

"I'll have a good time with those folks," he reflected, in the
luxury of a taxicab.  "Only, better be careful with old Rigg.  He's
a shrewd bird, and he's onto me. . . .  Now what do you mean?"
indignantly.  "What do you mean by 'onto me'?  There's nothing to
be onto!  I refused a drink and a cigar, didn't I?  I never cuss
except when I lose my temper, do I?  I'm leading an absolutely
Christian life.  And I'm bringing a whale of a lot more souls into
churches than any of these pussy-footing tin saints that're afraid
to laugh and jolly people.  'Onto me' nothing!"


3


On Saturday morning, on the page of religious advertisements in the
Zenith newspapers, Elmer's first sermon was announced in a two-
column spread as dealing with the promising problem:  "Can
Strangers Find Haunts of Vice in Zenith?"

They could, and with gratifying ease, said Elmer in his sermon.  He
said it before at least four hundred people, as against the hundred
who had normally been attending.

He himself was a stranger in Zenith, and he had gone forth and he
had been "appalled--aghast--bowed in shocked horror" at the amount
of vice, and such interesting and attractive vice.  He had
investigated Braun's Island, a rackety beach and dance floor and
restaurant at South Zenith, and he had found mixed bathing.  He
described the ladies' legs; he described the two amiable young
women who had picked him up.  He told of the waiter who, though he
denied that Braun's restaurant itself sold liquor, had been willing
to let him know where to get it, and where to find an all-night
game of poker--"and, mind you, playing poker for keeps, you
understand," Elmer explained.

On Washington Avenue, North, he had found two movies in which "the
dreadful painted purveyors of putrescent vice"--he meant the movie
actors--had on the screen danced "suggestive steps which would
bring the blush of shame to the cheeks of any decent woman," and in
which the same purveyors had taken drinks which he assumed to be
the deadly cocktails.  On his way to his hotel after these movies
three ladies of the night had accosted him, right under the White
Way of lights.  Street-corner loafers--he had apparently been very
chummy with them--had told him of blind pigs, of dope-peddlers, of
strange lecheries.

"That," he shouted, "is what one stranger was able to find in your
city--now MY city, and well beloved!  But could he find virtue so
easily, could he, could he?  Or just a lot of easygoing churches,
lollygagging along, while the just God threatens this city with the
fire and devouring brimstone that destroyed proud Sodom and
Gomorrah in their abominations!  Listen!  With the help of God
Almighty, let us raise here in this church a standard of virtue
that no stranger can help seeing!  We're lazy.  We're not burning
with a fever of righteousness.  On your knees, you slothful, and
pray God to forgive you and to aid you and me to form a brotherhood
of helpful, joyous, fiercely righteous followers of every
commandment of the Lord Our God!"

The newspapers carried almost all of it. . . .  It had just
happened that there were reporters present--it had just happened
that Elmer had been calling up the Advocate-Times on Saturday--it
had just happened that he remembered he had met Bill Kingdom, the
Advocate reporter, in Sparta--it had just happened that to help out
good old Bill he had let him know there would be something stirring
in the church, come Sunday.

The next Saturday Elmer advertised "Is There a Real Devil Sneaking
Around with Horns and Hoofs?"  On Sunday there were seven hundred
present.  Within two months Elmer was preaching, ever more
confidently and dramatically, to larger crowds than were drawn by
any other church in Zenith except four or five.

But, "Oh, he's just a new sensation--he can't last out--hasn't got
the learning and staying-power.  Besides, Old Town is shot to
pieces," said Elmer's fellow vinters--particularly his annoyed
fellow Methodists.


4


Cleo and he had found a gracious old house in Old Town, to be had
cheap because of the ragged neighborhood.  He had hinted to her
that since he was making such a spiritual sacrifice as to take a
lower salary in coming to Zenith, her father, as a zealous
Christian, ought to help them out; and if she should be unable to
make her father perceive this, Elmer would regretfully have to be
angry with her.

She came back from a visit to Banjo Crossing with two thousand
dollars.

Cleo had an instinct for agreeable furniture.  For the old house,
with its white mahogany paneling, she got reproductions of early
New England chairs and commodes and tables.  There was a white-
framed fireplace and a fine old crystal chandelier in the living-
room.

"Some class!  We can entertain the bon ton here, and, believe me,
I'll soon be having a lot of 'em coming to church! . . .  Sometimes
I do wish, though, I'd gone out for the Episcopal Church.  Lots
more class there, and they don't beef if a minister takes a little
drink," he said to Cleo.

"Oh, Elmer, how CAN you!  When Methodism stands for--"

"Oh, God, I do wish that just once you wouldn't deliberately
misunderstand me!  Here I was just carrying on a philosophical
discussion, and not speaking personal, and you go and--"

His house in order, he gave attention to clothes.  He dressed as
calculatingly as an actor.  For the pulpit, he continued to wear
morning clothes.  For his church study, he chose offensively
inoffensive lounge suits, gray and brown and striped blue, with
linen collars and quiet blue ties.  For addresses before slightly
boisterous lunch-clubs, he went in for manly tweeds and manly soft
collars, along with his manly voice and manly jesting.

He combed his thick hair back from his strong, square face, and
permitted it to hang, mane-like, just a bit over his collar.  But
it was still too black to be altogether prophetic.

The two thousand was gone before they had been in Zenith a month.

"But it's all a good investment," he said.  "When I meet the Big
Bugs, they'll see I may have a dump of a church in a bum section
but I can put up as good a front as if I were preaching on
Chickasaw Road."


5


If in Banjo Crossing Elmer had been bored by inactivity, in Zenith
he was almost exhausted by the demands.

Wellspring Church had been carrying on a score of institutional
affairs, and Elmer doubled them, for nothing brought in more
sympathy, publicity, and contributions.  Rich old hyenas who never
went to church would ooze out a hundred dollars or even five
hundred when you described the shawled mothers coming tearfully to
the milk station.

There were classes in manual training, in domestic science, in
gymnastics, in bird study, for the poor boys and girls of Old Town.
There were troops of Boy Scouts, of Camp Fire Girls.  There were
Ladies' Aid meetings, Women's Missionary Society meetings, regular
church suppers before prayer-meeting, a Bible Training School for
Sunday School teachers, a sewing society, nursing and free food for
the sick and poor, half a dozen clubs of young men and women, half
a dozen circles of matrons, and a Men's Club with monthly dinners,
for which the pastor had to snare prominent speakers without
payment.  The Sunday School was like a small university.  And every
day there were dozens of callers who asked the pastor for comfort,
for advice, for money--young men in temptation, widows wanting
jobs, old widows wanting assurance of immortality, hoboes wanting
hand-outs, and eloquent book-agents.  Where in Banjo the villagers
had been shy to expose their cancerous sorrows, in the city there
were always lonely people who reveled in being a little twisted, a
little curious, a little shameful; who yearned to talk about
themselves and who expected the pastor to be forever interested.

Elmer scarce had time to prepare his sermons, though he really did
yearn now to make them original and eloquent.  He was no longer
satisfied to depend on his barrel.  He wanted to increase his
vocabulary; he was even willing to have new ideas, lifted out of
biology and biography and political editorials.

He was out of the house daily at eight in the morning--usually
after a breakfast in which he desired to know of Cleo why the deuce
she couldn't keep Nat and Bunny quiet while he read the paper--and
he did not return till six, burning with weariness.  He had to
study in the evening. . . .  He was always testy. . . .  His
children were afraid of him, even when he boisterously decided to
enact the Kind Parent for one evening and to ride them pickaback,
whether or no they wanted to be ridden pickaback.  They feared God
properly and kept his commandments, did Nat and Bunny, because
their father so admirably prefigured God.

When Cleo was busy with meetings and clubs at the church, Elmer
blamed her for neglecting the house; when she slackened her church
work, he was able equally to blame her for not helping him
professionally.  And obviously it was because she had so badly
arranged the home routine that he never had time for morning Family
Worship. . . .  But he made up for it by the violence of his Grace
before Meat, during which he glared at the children if they stirred
in their chairs.

And always the telephone was ringing--not only in his office but at
home in the evening.

What should Miss Weezeger, the deaconess, do about this old Miss
Mally, who wanted a new nightgown?  Could the Reverend Gantry give
a short talk on "Advertising and the Church" to the Ad Club next
Tuesday noon?  Could he address the Letitia Music and Literary Club
on "Religion and Poetry" next Thursday at four--just when he had a
meeting with the Official Board.  The church janitor wanted to
start the furnace, but the coal hadn't been delivered.  What advice
would the Reverend Mr. Gantry give to a young man who wanted to go
to college and had no money?  From what book was that quotation
about "Cato learned Greek at eighty Sophocles" which he had used in
last Sunday's sermon?  Would Mr. Gantry be so kind and address the
Lincoln School next Friday morning at nine-fifteen--the dear
children would be so glad of any Message he had to give them, and
the regular speaker couldn't show up.  Would it be all right for
the Girls' Basket Ball team to use the basement tonight?  Could the
Reverend come out, right now, to the house of Ben T. Evers, 2616
Appleby Street--five miles away--because grandmother was very ill
and needed consolation.  What the dickens did the Reverend mean by
saying, last Sunday, that hell-fire might be merely spiritual and
figurative--didn't he know that that was agin Matthew V: 29:  "Thy
whole body should be cast into hell."  Could he get the proof of
the church bulletin back to the printers right away?  Could the
officers of the Southwest Circle of Women meet in Mr. Gantry's
study tomorrow?  Would Reverend Gantry speak at the Old Town
Improvement Association Banquet?  Did the Reverend want to buy a
secondhand motor car in A-1 shape?  Could the Reverend--

"God!" said the Reverend; and, "Huh?  Why, no, of course you
couldn't answer 'em for me, Cleo.  But at least you might try to
keep from humming when I'm simply killing myself trying to take
care of all these blame' fools and sacrificing myself and
everything!"

And the letters.

In response to every sermon he had messages informing him that he
was the bright hope of evangelicism and that he was a cloven-hoofed
fiend; that he was a rousing orator and a human saxophone.  One
sermon on the delights of Heaven, which he pictured as a perpetual
summer afternoon at a lake resort, brought in the same mail four
comments:


i have got an idea for you verry important since hearing yrs of
last Sunday evening why do'nt you hold services every evning to
tell people & etc about heven and danger of hell we must hurry
hurry hurry, the church in a bad way and is up to us who have many
and infaliable proofs of heven and hell to hasten yes we must
rescew the parishing, make everywhere the call of the lord, fill
the churches and empty these damable theatre.

Yrs for his coming,
James C. Wickes,
2113 A, McGrew Street.


The writer is an honest and unwavering Christian and I want to tell
you, Gantry, that the only decent and helpful and enjoyable thing
about your sermon last Sunday A.M. was your finally saying "Let us
pray," only YOU should have said "Let me prey."  By your wibbly-
wabbly emphasis on Heaven and your fear to emphasize the horrors of
Hell, you get people into an easy-going, self-satisfied frame of
mind where they slip easily into sin, and while pretending to be an
earnest and literal believer in every word of the Scriptures, you
are an atheist in sheep's clothing.  I am a minister of the gospel
and know whereof I speak.

Yours,
ALMON JEWINGS STRAFE.


I heard your rotten old-fashioned sermon last Sunday.  You pretend
to be liberal, but you are just a hide-bound conservative.  Nobody
believes in a material heaven or hell any more, and you make
yourself ridiculous by talking about them.  Wake up and study some
modern dope.

A student.


Dear Brother, your lovely sermon last Sunday about Heaven was the
finest I have ever heard.  I am quite an old lady and not awful
well and in my ills and griefs, especially about my grandson who
drinks, your wonderful words give me such a comfort I cannot
describe to you.

Yours admiringly,
MRS. R. R. GOMMERIE.


And he was expected, save with the virulent anonymous letters, to
answer all of them . . . in his stuffy office, facing a shelf of
black-bound books, dictating to the plaintive Miss Bundle, who
never caught an address, who always single-spaced the letters which
should have been double-spaced, and who had a speed which seemed
adequate until you discovered that she attained it by leaving out
most of the verbs and adjectives.


6


Whether or not he was irritable on week days, Sundays were to his
nervous family a hell of keeping out of his way, and for himself
they had the strain of a theatrical first night.

He was up at seven, looking over his sermon notes, preparing his
talk to the Sunday School, and snarling at Cleo, "Good Lord, you
might have breakfast on time today, at least, and why in heaven's
name you can't get that furnace-man here so I won't have to freeze
while I'm doing my studying--"

He was at Sunday School at a quarter to ten, and often he had to
take the huge Men's Bible Class and instruct it in the more occult
meanings of the Bible, out of his knowledge of the original Hebrew
and Greek as denied to the laity.

Morning church services began at eleven.  Now that he often had as
many as a thousand in the audience, as he peeped out at them from
the study he had stage-fright.  Could he hold them?  What the deuce
had he intended to say about communion?  He couldn't remember a
word of it.

It was not easy to keep on urging the unsaved to come forward as
though he really thought they would and as though he cared a hang
whether they did or not.  It was not easy, on communion Sundays,
when they knelt round the altar rail, to keep from laughing at the
sanctimonious eyes and prim mouths of brethren whom he knew to be
crooks in private business.

It was not easy to go on saying with proper conviction that
whosoever looked on a woman to lust after her would go booming down
to hell when there was a pretty and admiring girl in the front row.
And it was hardest of all, when he had done his public job, when he
was tired and wanted to let down, to stand about after the sermon
and be hand-shaken by aged spinster saints who expected him to
listen without grinning while they quavered that he was a silver-
plated angel and that they were just like him.

To have to think up a new, bright, pious quip for each of them!  To
see large sporting males regarding him the while as though he were
an old woman in trousers!

By the time he came home for Sunday lunch he was looking for a
chance to feel injured and unappreciated and pestered and put upon,
and usually he found the chance.

There were still ahead of him, for the rest of the day, the Sunday
evening service, often the Epworth League, sometimes special
meetings at four.  Whenever the children disturbed his Sunday
afternoon nap, Elmer gave an impersonation of the prophets.  Why!
All he asked of Nat and Bunny was that, as a Methodist minister's
children, they should not be seen on the streets or in the parks on
the blessed Sabbath afternoon, and that they should not be heard
about the house.  He told them, often, that they were committing an
unexampled sin by causing him to fall into bad tempers unbecoming a
Man of God.

But through all these labors and this lack of domestic sympathy he
struggled successfully.


7


Elmer was as friendly as ever with Bishop Toomis.

He had conferred early with the bishop and with the canny lawyer-
trustee, T. J. Rigg, as to what fellow-clergymen in Zenith it would
be worth his while to know.

Among the ministers outside the Methodist Church, they recommended
Dr. G. Prosper Edwards, the highly cultured pastor of the Pilgrim
Congregational Church, Dr. John Jennison Drew, the active but
sanctified leader of the Chatham Road Presbyterian Church, that
solid Baptist, the Reverend Hosea Jessup, and Willis Fortune Tate,
who, though he was an Episcopalian and very shaky as regards liquor
and hell, had one of the suavest and most expensive flocks in town.
And if one could endure the Christian Scientists' smirking
conviction that they alone had the truth, there was the celebrated
leader of the First Christian Science Church, Mr. Irving Tillish.

The Methodist ministers of Zenith Elmer met and studied at their
regular Monday morning meetings, in the funeral and wedding chapel
of Central Church.  They looked like a group of prosperous and
active business men.  Only two of them ever wore clerical
waistcoats, and of these only one compromised with the Papacy and
the errors of Canterbury by turning his collar around.  A few
resembled farmers, a few stone-masons, but most of them looked like
retail shops.  The Reverend Mr. Chatterton Weeks indulged in
claret-colored "fancy socks," silk handkerchiefs, and an enormous
emerald ring, and gave a pleasant suggestion of vaudeville.  Nor
were they too sanctimonious.  They slapped one another's backs,
they used first names, they shouted, "I hear you're grabbing off
all the crowds in town, you old cuss!" and for the manlier and more
successful of them it was quite the thing to use now and then a
daring "damn."

It would, to an innocent layman, have been startling to see them
sitting in rows like schoolboys; to hear them listening not to
addresses on credit and the routing of hardware but to short
helpful talks on Faith.  The balance was kept, however, by an
adequate number of papers on trade subjects--the sort of pews most
soothing to the back; the value of sending postcards reading "Where
were you last Sunday, old scout?  We sure did miss you at the Men's
Bible Class"; the comparative values of a giant imitation
thermometer, a giant clock, and a giant automobile speedometer, as
a register of the money coming in during special drives; the
question of gold and silver stars as rewards for Sunday School
attendance; the effectiveness of giving the children savings-banks
in the likeness of a jolly little church to encourage them to save
their pennies for Christian work; and the morality of violin solos.

Nor were the assembled clergy too inhumanly unboastful in their
reports of increased attendance and collections.

Elmer saw that the Zenith district superintendent, one Fred Orr,
could be neglected as a creeping and silent fellow who was all
right at prayer and who seemed to lead an almost irritatingly pure
life, but who had no useful notions about increasing collections.

The Methodist preachers whom he had to take seriously as rivals
were four.

There was Chester Brown, the ritualist, of the new and ultra-Gothic
Asbury Church.  He was almost as bad, they said, as an Episcopalian.
He wore a clerical waistcoat buttoned up to his collar; he had a
robed choir and the processional; he was rumored once to have had
candles on what was practically an altar.  He was, to Elmer,
distressingly literary and dramatic.  It was said that he had
literary gifts; his articles appeared not only in the Advocate but
in the Christian Century and the New Republic--rather whimsical
essays, safely Christian but frank about the church's sloth and
wealth and blindness.  He had been Professor of English Literature
and Church History in Luccock College, and he did such sermons on
books as Elmer, with his exhausting knowledge of Longfellow and
George Eliot, could never touch.

Dr. Otto Hickenlooper of Central Church was an even more
distressing rival.  His was the most active institutional church of
the whole state.  He had not only manual training and gymnastics
but sacred pageants, classes in painting (never from the nude),
classes in French and batik-making and sex hygiene and bookkeeping
and short-story writing.  He had clubs for railroad men, for
stenographers, for bell-boys; and after the church suppers the
young people were encouraged to sit about in booths to which the
newspapers referred flippantly as "courting corners."

Dr. Hickenlooper had come out hard for Social Service.  He was in
sympathy with the American Federation of Labor, the I. W. W., the
Socialists, the Communists, and the Non-partisan League, which was
more than they were with one another.  He held Sunday evening
lectures on the Folly of War, the Minimum Wage, the need of clean
milk; and once a month he had an open forum, to which were invited
the most dangerous radical speakers, who were allowed to say
absolutely anything they liked, provided they did not curse, refer
to adultery, or criticize the leadership of Christ.

Dr. Mahlon Potts, of the First Methodist Church, seemed to Elmer at
first glance less difficult to oust.  He was fat, pompous, full of
heavy rumbles of piety.  He was a stage parson.  "Ah, my dear
Brother!" he boomed; and "How are we this morning, my dear Doctor,
and how is the lovely little wife?"  But Dr. Potts had the largest
congregation of any church of any denomination in Zenith.  He was
so respectable.  He was so safe.  People knew where they were, with
him.  He was adequately flowery of speech--he could do up a
mountain, a sunset, a burning of the martyrs, a reception of the
same by the saints in heaven, as well as any preacher in town.  But
he never doubted nor let any one else doubt that by attending the
Methodist Church regularly, and observing the rules of repentance,
salvation, baptism, communion, and liberal giving, every one would
have a minimum of cancer and tuberculosis and sin, and unquestionably
arrive in heaven.

These three Elmer envied but respected; one man he envied and
loathed.

That was Philip McGarry of the Arbor Methodist Church.

Philip McGarry, Ph. D. of Chicago University in economics and
philosophy--only everybody who liked him, layman or fellow-parson,
seemed to call him "Phil"--was at the age of thirty-five known
through the whole American Methodist Church as an enfant terrible.
The various sectional editions of the Advocate admired him but
clucked like doting and alarmed hens over his frequent improprieties.
He was accused of every heresy.  He never denied them, and the only
dogma he was known to give out positively was the leadership of
Jesus--as to whose divinity he was indefinite.

He was a stocky, smiling man, fond of boxing, and even at a funeral
incapable of breathing, "Ah, Sister!"

He criticized everything.  He criticized even bishops--for being
too fat, for being too ambitious, for gassing about Charity during
a knock-down-and-drag-out strike.  He criticized, but amiably, the
social and institutional and generally philanthropic Dr. Otto
Hickenlooper, with his clubs for the study of Karl Marx and his
Sunday afternoon reception for lonely traveling-men.

"You're a good lad, Otto," said Dr. McGarry--and openly, in the
preachers' Monday meetings:  "You mean well, but you're one of
these darned philanthropists."

"Nice word to use publicly--'darned'!" meditated the Reverend Elmer
Gantry.

"All your stuff at Central, Otto," said Dr. McGarry, "is
paternalistic.  You hand out rations to the dear pee-pul and keep
'em obedient.  You talk about socialism and pacifism, and say a lot
of nice things about 'em, but you always explain that reforms must
come in due time, which means never, and then only through the kind
supervision of Rockefeller and Henry Ford.  And I always suspect
that your activities have behind 'em the sneaking purpose of luring
the poor chumps into religion--even into Methodism!"

The whole ministerial meeting broke into yelps.

"Well, of course, that's the purpose--"

"Well, if you'll kindly tell me why you stay in the Methodist
Church when you think it's so unimportant to--"

"Just what are you, a minister of the gospel, seeking EXCEPT
religion--"

The meeting, on such a morning, was certain to stray from the
consideration of using egg-coal in church furnaces to the question
as to what, when they weren't before their congregations and on
record, they really believed about the whole thing.

That was a very dangerous and silly thing, reflected Elmer Gantry.
No telling where you'd get to, if you went blatting around about a
lot of these fool problems.  Preach the straight Bible gospel and
make folks good, he demanded, and leave all these ticklish
questions of theology and social service to the profs!

Philip McGarry wound up his cheerful attack on Dr. Hickenlooper,
the first morning when Elmer disgustedly encountered him, by
insisting, "You see, Otto, your reforms couldn't mean anything, or
you wouldn't be able to hold onto as many prosperous money-grabbing
parishioners as you do.  No risk of the working-men in your church
turning dangerous as long as you've got that tight-fisted Joe
Hanley as one of your trustees!  Thank Heaven, I haven't got a
respectable person in my whole blooming flock!"

("Yeh, and there's where you gave yourself away, McGarry," Elmer
chuckled inwardly.  "That's the first thing you've said that's
true!")

Philip McGarry's church was in a part of the city incomparably more
run-down than Elmer's Old Town.  It was called "The Arbor"; it had
in pioneer days been the vineyard-sheltered village, along the
Chaloosa River, from which had grown the modern Zenith.  Now it was
all dives, brothels, wretched tenements, cheap-jack shops.  Yet
here McGarry lived, a bachelor, seemingly well content, counseling
pickpockets and scrubwomen, and giving on Friday evenings a series
of lectures packed by eager Jewish girl students, radical workmen,
old cranks, and wistful rich girls coming in limousines down from
the spacious gardens of Royal Ridge.

"I'll have trouble with that McGarry if we both stay in this town.
Him and I will never get along together," thought Elmer.  "Well,
I'll keep away from him; I'll treat him with some of this Christian
charity that he talks so darn' much about and can't understand the
real meaning of!  We'll just dismiss him--and most of these other
birds.  But the big three--how'll I handle them?"

He could not, even if he should have a new church, outdo Chester
Brown in ecclesiastical elegance or literary messages.  He could
never touch Otto Hickenlooper in institutions and social service.
He could never beat Mahlon Potts in appealing to the well-to-do
respectables.

Yet he could beat them all together!

Planning it delightedly, at the ministers' meeting, on his way
home, by the fireplace at night, he saw that each of these stars
was so specialized that he neglected the good publicity-bringing
features of the others.  Elmer would combine them; be almost as
elevating as Chester Brown, almost as solidly safe and moral as
Mahlon Potts.  And all three of them, in fact every preacher in
town except one Presbyterian, were neglecting the--well, some
people called it sensational, but that was just envy; the proper
word, considered Elmer, was POWERFUL, or perhaps FEARLESS, or
STIMULATING--all of them were neglecting a powerful, fearless, or
stimulating, and devil-challenging concentration on vice.  Booze.
Legs.  Society bridge.  You bet!

Not overdo it, of course, but the town would come to know that in
the sermons of the Reverend Elmer Gantry there would always be
something spicy and yet improving.

"Oh, I can put it over the whole bunch!"  Elmer stretched his big
arms in joyous vigor.  "I'll build a new church.  I'll take the
crowds away from all of 'em.  I'll be the one big preacher in
Zenith.  And then--Chicago?  New York?  Bishopric?  Whatever I
want!  Whee!"



CHAPTER XXIV


1


It was during his inquiry about clerical allies and rivals--they
were the same thing--that Elmer learned that two of his classmates
at Mizpah Seminary were stationed in Zenith.

Wallace Umstead, the Mizpah student-instructor in gymnastics, was
now general secretary of the Zenith Y.M.C.A.

"He's a boob.  We can pass him up," Elmer decided.  "Husky but no
finesse and culture.  No.  That's wrong.  Preacher can get a lot of
publicity speaking at the Y., and get the fellows to join his
church."

So he called on Mr. Umstead, and that was a hearty and touching
meeting between classmates, two strong men come face to face, two
fellow manly Christians.

But Elmer was not pleased to learn of the presence of the second
classmate, Frank Shallard.  He angrily recalled:  "Sure--the fellow
that high-hatted me and sneaked around and tried to spy on me when
I was helping him learn the game at Schoenheim."

He was glad to hear that Frank was in disgrace with the sounder and
saner clergy of Zenith.  He had left the Baptist Church; it was
said that he had acted in a low manner as a common soldier in the
Great War; and he had gone as pastor to a Congregational Church in
Zenith--not a God-fearing, wealthy Congregational Church, like that
of Dr. G. Prosper Edwards, but one that was suspected of being as
shaky and cowardly and misleading as any Unitarian fold.

Elmer remembered that he still owed Frank the hundred dollars which
he had borrowed to reach Zenith for the last of his Prosperity
lectures.  He was furious to remember it.  He couldn't pay it, not
now, with a motor car just bought and only half paid for!  But was
it safe to make an enemy of this crank Shallard, who might go
around shooting his mouth off and telling a lot of stories--not
more'n half of 'em true?

He groaned with martyrdom, made out a check for a hundred--it was
one-half of his present bank-balance--and sent it to Frank with a
note explaining that for years he had yearned to return this money,
but he had lost Frank's address.  Also, he would certainly call on
his dear classmate just as soon as he got time.

"And that'll be about sixteen years after the Day of Judgment," he
snorted.


2


Not all the tenderness, all the serene uprightness, all the mystic
visions of Andrew Pengilly, that village saint, had been able to
keep Frank Shallard satisfied with the Baptist ministry after his
association with the questioning rabbi and the Unitarian minister
at Eureka.  These liberals proved admirably the assertion of the
Baptist fundamentalists that to tamper with biology and ethnology
was to lose one's Baptist faith, wherefore State University
education should be confined to algebra, agriculture, and Bible
study.

Early in 1917, when it was a question as to whether he would leave
his Baptist church or to be kicked out, Frank was caught by the
drama of war--caught, in his wavering, by what seemed strength--and
he resigned, for all of Bess' bewildered protests; he sent her and
the children back to her father, and enlisted as a private soldier.

Chaplain?  No!  He wanted, for the first time, to be normal and
uninsulated.

Through the war he was kept as a clerk in camp in America.  He was
industrious, quick, accurate, obedient; he rose to a sergeancy and
learned to smoke; he loyally brought his captain home whenever he
was drunk; and he read half a hundred volumes of science.

And all the time he hated it.

He hated the indignity of being herded with other men, no longer a
person of leisure and dignity and command, whose idiosyncrasies
were important to himself and to other people, but a cog, to be
hammered brusquely the moment it made any rattle of individuality.
He hated the seeming planlessness of the whole establishment.  If
this was a war to end war, he heard nothing of it from any of his
fellow soldiers or his officers.

But he learned to be easy and common with common men.  He learned
not even to hear cursing.  He learned to like large males more
given to tobacco-chewing than to bathing, and innocent of all words
longer than "hell."  He found himself so devoted to the virtues of
these common people that he wanted "to do something for them"--and
in bewildered reflection he could think of no other way of "doing
something for them" than to go on preaching.

But not among the Baptists, with their cast-iron minds.

Nor yet could he quite go over to the Unitarians.  He still revered
Jesus of Nazareth as the one path to justice and kindness, and he
still--finding even as in childhood a magic in the stories of
shepherds keeping watch by night, of the glorified mother beside
the babe in the manger--he still had an unreasoned feeling that
Jesus was of more than human birth, and veritably the Christ.

It seemed to him that the Congregationalists were the freest among
the more or less trinitarian denominations.  Each Congregational
church made its own law.  The Baptists were supposed to, but they
were ruled by a grim general opinion.

After the war he talked to the state superintendent of Congregational
churches of Winnemac.  Frank wanted a free church, and a poor
church, but not poor because it was timid and lifeless.

They would, said the superintendent, be glad to welcome him among
the Congregationalists, and there was available just the flock
Frank wanted: the Dorchester Church, on the edge of Zenith.  The
parishioners were small shopkeepers and factory foremen and skilled
workmen and railwaymen, with a few stray music-teachers and
insurance agents.  They were mostly poor; and they had the
reputation of really wanting the truth from the pulpit.

When Elmer arrived, Frank had been at the Dorchester Church for two
years, and he had been nearly happy.

He found that the grander among his fellow Congregational pastors--
such as G. Prosper Edwards, with his downtown plush-lined
cathedral--could be shocked almost as readily as the Baptists by a
suggestion that we didn't really quite KNOW about the virgin birth.
He found that the worthy butchers and haberdashers of his
congregation did not radiate joy at a defense of Bolshevik Russia.
He found that he was still not at all certain that he was doing any
good, aside from providing the drug of religious hope to timorous
folk frightened of hell-fire and afraid to walk alone.

But to be reasonably free, to have, after army life, the fleecy
comfort of a home with jolly Bess and the children, this was oasis,
and for three years Frank halted in his fumbling for honesty.

Even more than Bess, the friendship of Dr. Philip McGarry, of the
Arbor Methodist Church, kept Frank in the ministry.

McGarry was three or four years younger than Frank, but in his
sturdy cheerfulness he seemed more mature.  Frank had met him at
the Ministerial Alliance's monthly meeting, and they had liked in
each other a certain disdainful honesty.  McGarry was not to be
shocked by what biology did to Genesis, by the suggestion that
certain Christian rites had been stolen from Mithraic cults, by
Freudianism, by any social heresies, yet McGarry loved the church,
as a comradely gathering of people alike hungry for something
richer than daily selfishness, and this love he passed on to Frank.

But Frank still resented it that, as a parson, he was considered
not quite virile; that even clever people felt they must treat him
with a special manner; that he was barred from knowing the real
thoughts and sharing the real desires of normal humanity.

And when he received Elmer's note of greeting he groaned, "Oh,
Lord, I wonder if people ever class me with a fellow like Gantry?"

He suggested to Bess, after a spirited account of Elmer's eminent
qualities for spiritual and amorous leadership, "I feel like
sending his check back to him."

"Let's see it," said Bess, and, placing the check in her stocking,
she observed derisively, "There's a new suit for Michael, and a
lovely dinner for you and me, and a new lip-stick, and money in the
bank.  Cheers!  I adore you, Reverend Shallard, I worship you, I
adhere to you in all Christian fidelity, but let me tell you, my
lad, it wouldn't hurt you one bit if you had some of Elmer's fast
technique in love-making!"



CHAPTER XXV


1


Elmer had, even in Zenith, to meet plenty of solemn and whiskery
persons whose only pleasure aside from not doing agreeable things
was keeping others from doing them.  But the general bleakness of
his sect was changing, and he found in Wellspring Church a Young
Married Set who were nearly as cheerful as though they did not
belong to a church.

This Young Married Set, though it was in good odor, though the
wives taught Sunday School and the husbands elegantly passed
collection plates, swallowed the Discipline with such friendly ease
as a Catholic priest uses toward the latest bleeding Madonna.  They
lived, largely, in the new apartment-houses which were creeping
into Old Town.  They were not rich, but they had Fords and
phonographs and gin.  They danced, and they were willing to dance
even in the presence of the Pastor.

They smelled in Elmer one of them, and though Cleo's presence
stiffened them into uncomfortable propriety, when he dropped in on
them alone they shouted, "Come on, Reverend, I bet you can shake a
hoof as good as anybody!  The wife says she's gotta dance with you!
Gotta get acquainted with these Sins of the World if you're going
to make snappy sermons!"

He agreed, and he did dance, with a pretty appearance of being
shocked.  He was light-footed still, for all his weight, and there
was electricity in his grasp as his hands curled about his
partner's waist.

"Oh, my, Reverend, if you hadn't been a preacher you'd have been
some dancing-man!" the women fluttered, and for all his caution he
could not keep from looking into their fascinated eyes, noting the
flutter of their bosoms, and murmuring, "Better remember I'm human,
honey!  If I did cut loose--Zowie!"

And they admired him for it.

Once, when rather hungrily he sniffed at the odors of alcohol and
tobacco, the host giggled, "Say, I hope you don't smell anything on
my breath, Reverend--be fierce if you thought a good Methodist like
me could ever throw in a shot of liquor!"

"It's not my business to smell anything except on Sundays," said
Elmer amiably, and, "Come on now, Sister Gilson, let's try and fox-
trot again.  My gracious, you talk about me smelling for liquor!
Think of what would happen if Brother Apfelmus knew his dear Pastor
was slipping in a little dance!  Mustn't tell on me, folks!"

"You bet we won't!" they said, and not even the elderly pietists on
whom he called most often became louder adherents of the Reverend
Elmer Gantry, better advertisers of his sermons, than these blades
of the Young Married Set.

He acquired a habit of going to their parties.  He was hungry for
brisk companionship, and it was altogether depressing now to be
with Cleo.  She could never learn, not after ten efforts a day,
that she could not keep him from saying "Damn!" by looking hurt and
murmuring, "Oh, Elmer, how can you?"

He told her, regarding the parties, that he was going out to call
on parishioners.  And he was not altogether lying.  His ambition
was more to him now than any exalted dissipation, and however often
he yearned for the mechanical pianos and the girls in pink kimonos
of whom he so lickerishly preached, he violently kept away from
them.

But the jolly wives of the Young Married Set--Particularly this
Mrs. Gilson, Beryl Gilson, a girl of twenty-five, born for
cuddling.  She had a bleached and whining husband, who was always
quarreling with her in a weakly violent sputtering; and she was
obviously taken by Elmer's confident strength.  He sat by her in
"cozy-corners," and his arm was tense.  But he won glory by keeping
from embracing her.  Also, he wasn't so sure that he could win her.
She was flighty, fond of triumphs, but cautious, a city girl used
to many suitors.  And if she did prove kind--She was a member of
his church, and she was talkative.  She might go around hinting.

After these meditations he would flee to the hospitality of T. J.
Rigg, in whose cheerfully sloven house he could relax safely, from
whom he could get the facts about the private business careers of
his more philanthropic contributors.  But all the time the
attraction of Beryl Gilson, the vision of her dove-smooth
shoulders, was churning him to insanity.


2


He had not noticed them during that Sunday morning sermon in late
autumn, not noticed them among the admirers who came up afterward
to shake hands.  Then he startled and croaked, so that the current
hand-shaker thought he was ill.

Elmer had seen, loitering behind the others, his one-time forced
fiancée, Lulu Bains of Schoenheim, and her lanky, rugged, vengeful
cousin, Floyd Naylor.

They strayed up only when all the others were gone, when the
affable ushers had stopped pouncing on victims and pump-handling
them and patting their arms, as all ushers always do after all
church services.  Elmer wished the ushers were staying, to protect
him, but he was more afraid of scandal than of violence.

He braced himself, feeling the great muscles surge along his back,
then took quick decision and dashed toward Lulu and Floyd,
yammering, "Well, well, well, well, well, well--"

Floyd shambled up, not at all unfriendly, and shook hands
powerfully.  "Lulu and I just heard you were in town--don't go to
church much, I guess, so we didn't know.  We're married!"

While he shook hands with Lulu, much more tenderly, Elmer gave his
benign blessing with "Well, well!  Mighty glad to hear it."

"Yep, been married--gosh, must be fourteen years now--got married
just after we last seen you at Schoenheim."

By divine inspiration Elmer was led to look as though he were
wounded clear to the heart at the revived memory of that
unfortunate last seeing.  He folded his hands in front of his
beautiful morning coat, and looked noble, slightly milky and
melancholy of eye. . . .  But he was not milky.  He was staring
hard enough.  He saw that though Floyd was still as clumsily
uncouth as ever, Lulu--she must be thirty-three or -four now--had
taken on the city.  She wore a simple, almost smart hat, a good
tweed top-coat, and she was really pretty.  Her eyes were
ingratiatingly soft, very inviting; she still smiled with a desire
to be friendly to every one.  Inevitably, she had grown plump, but
she had not yet overdone it, and her white little paw was veritably
that of a kitten.

All this Elmer noted, while he looked injured but forgiving and
while Floyd stammered:

"You see, Reverend, I guess you thought we played you a pretty
dirty trick that night on the picnic at Dad Bains', when you came
back and I was kind of hugging Lulu."

"Yes, Floyd, I was pretty hurt, but--Let's forget and forgive!"

"No, but listen, Reverend!  Golly, 'twas hard for me to come and
explain to you, but now I've got going--Lulu and me, we weren't
making love.  No, sir!  She was just feeling blue, and I was trying
to cheer her up.  Honest!  Then when you got sore and skipped off,
Pa Bains, he was so doggone mad--got out his shotgun and cussed and
raised the old Ned, yes, sir, he simply raised Cain, and he
wouldn't give me no chance to explain.  Said I had to marry Lu.
'Well,' I says, 'if you think THAT'S any hardship--'"

Floyd stopped to chuckle.  Elmer was conscious that Lulu was
studying him, in awe, in admiration, in a palpitating resurgence of
affection.

"'If you think that's any hardship,' I says, 'let me tell you right
now, Uncle,' I says, 'I been crazy to marry Lu ever since she was
so high.  Well, there was a lot of argument.  Dad Bains says first
we had to go in town and explain everything to you.  But you was
gone away, next morning, and what with one thing and another--well,
here we are!  And doing pretty good.  I own a garage out here on
the edge of town, and we got a nice flat, and everything going
fine.  But Lulu and I kind of felt maybe we ought to come around
and explain, when we heard you were here.  And got two fine kids,
both boys!"

"Honestly, we never meant--we didn't!" begged Lulu.

Elmer condescended, "Of course, I understand perfectly, Sister
Lulu!"  He shook hands with Floyd, warmly, and with Lulu more
warmly.  "And I can't tell you how pleased I am that you were both
so gallant and polite as to take the trouble and come and explain
it to me.  That was real courtesy, when I'd been such a silly
idiot!  THAT night--I suffered so over what I thought was your
disloyalty that I didn't think I'd live through the night.  But
come!  Shall we not talk of it again?  All's understood now, and
all's right!"  He shook hands all over again.  "And now that I've
found you, two old friends like you--of course I'm still
practically a stranger in Zenith--I'm not going to let you go!  I'm
going to come out and call on you.  Do you belong to any church
body here in Zenith?"

"Well, no, not exactly," said Floyd.

"Can't I persuade you to come here, sometimes, and perhaps think of
joining later?"

"Well, I'll tell you, Reverend, in the auto business--kind of
against my religion, at that, but you know how it is, in the auto
business we're awful' busy on Sunday."

"Well, perhaps Lulu would like to come now and then."

"Sure.  Women ought to stick by the church, that's what I always
say.  Dunno just how we got out of the habit, here in the city, and
we've always talked about starting going again, but--Oh, we just
kinda never got around to it, I guess."

"I hope, uh, I hope, Brother Floyd, that our miscomprehension,
yours and mine that evening, had nothing to do with your alienation
from the church!  Oh, that would be a pity!  Yes.  Such a pity!
But I could, perhaps, have a--a comprehension of it."  (He saw that
Lulu wasn't missing one of his dulcet and sinuous phrases; so
different from Floyd's rustic blurting.  She WAS pretty.  Just
plump enough.  Cleo would be a fat old woman, he was afraid,
instead of handsome.  He couldn't of married Lulu.  No.  He'd been
right.  Small-town stuff.  But awful nice to pat!)  "Yes, I think I
could understand it if you'd been offended, Floyd.  What a young
chump I was, even if I WAS a preacher, to not--not to see the real
situation.  Really, it's you who must forgive me for my wooden-
headedness, Floyd!"

Sheepishly, Floyd grunted, "Well, I DID think you flew off the
handle kind of easy, and I guess it did make me kind of sore.  But
it don't matter none now."

Very interestedly, Elmer inquired of Floyd, "And I'll bet Lulu was
even angrier at me for my silliness!"

"No, by gosh, she never would let me say a word against you,
Reverend!  Ha, ha, ha!  Look at her!  By golly, if she ain't
blushing!  Well, sir, that's a good one on her all right!"  Elmer
looked, intently.

"Well, I'm glad everything's explained," he said unctuously.  "Now,
Sister Lulu, you must let me come out and explain about our fine
friendly neighborhood church here, and the splendid work we're
doing.  I know that with two dear kiddies--two, was it?--splendid!--
with them and a fine husband to look after, you must be kept
pretty busy, but perhaps you might find time to teach a Sunday
School class or, anyway, you might like to come to our jolly church
suppers on Wednesday now and then.  I'll tell you about our work,
and you can talk it over with Floyd and see what he thinks.  What
would be a good time to call on you, and what's the address, Lulu?
How, uh, how would tomorrow afternoon, about three, do?  I wish I
could come when Floyd's there, but all my evenings are so
dreadfully taken up."

Next afternoon, at five minutes to three, the Reverend Elmer Gantry
entered the cheap and flimsy apartment-house in which lived Floyd
and Mrs. Naylor, impatiently kicked a baby-carriage out of the way,
panted a little as he skipped up-stairs, and stood glowing, looking
at Lulu as she opened the door.

"All alone?" he said--he almost whispered.

Her eyes dropped before his.  "Yes.  The boys are in school."

"Oh, that's too bad!  I'd hoped to see them."  As the door closed,
as they stood in the inner hall, he broke out, "Oh, Lulu, my
darling, I thought I'd lost you forever, and now I've found you
again!  Oh, forgive me for speaking like that!  I shouldn't have!
Forgive me!  But if you knew how I've thought of you, dreamed of
you, waited for you, all these years--No.  I'm not allowed to talk
like that.  It's wicked.  But we're going to be friends, aren't we,
such dear, trusting, tender friends . . . Floyd and you and I?"

"Oh, YES!" she breathed, as she led him into the shabby sitting-
room with its thrice-painted cane rockers, its couch covered with a
knitted shawl, its department-store chromos of fruit and
Versailles.

They stood recalling each other in the living-room.  He muttered
huskily, "Dear, it wouldn't be wrong for you to kiss me?  Just
once?  Would it?  To let me know you really do forgive me?  You
see, now we're like brother and sister."

She kissed him, shyly, fearfully, and she cried, "Oh, my darling,
it's been so long!"  Her arms clung about his neck, invincible,
unrestrained.

When the boys came in from school and rang the clicker bell
downstairs, the romantics were unduly cordial to them.  When the
boys had gone out to play, she cried, wildly, "Oh, I know it's
wrong, but I've always loved you so!"

He inquired interestedly, "Do you feel wickeder because I'm a
minister?"

"No!  I'm proud of it!  Like as if you were different from other
men--like you were somehow closer to God.  I'm PROUD you're a
preacher!  Any woman would be!  It's--you know.  Different!"

He kissed her.  "Oh, you darling!" he said.


3


They had to be careful.  Elmer had singularly little relish for
having the horny-handed Floyd Naylor come in some afternoon and
find him with Lulu.

Like many famous lovers in many ages, they found refuge in the
church.  Lulu was an admirable cook, and while in her new life in
Zenith she had never reached out for such urban opportunities as
lectures or concerts or literary clubs, she had by some obscure
ambitiousness, some notion of a shop of her own, been stirred to
attend a cooking-school and learn salads and pastry and canapés.
Elmer was able to give her a weekly Tuesday evening cooking-class
to teach at Wellspring, and even to get out of the trustees for her
a salary of five dollars a week.

The cooking-class was over at ten.  By that time the rest of the
church was cleared, and Elmer had decided that Tuesday evening
would be a desirable time for reading in his church office.

Cleo had many small activities in the church--clubs, Epworth
League, fancy-work--but none on Tuesday evening.

Before Lulu came stumbling through the quiet church basement, the
dark and musty corridor, before she tapped timidly at his door, he
would be walking up and down, and when he held out his arms she
flew into them unreasoning.

He had a new contentment.

"I'm really not a bad fellow.  I don't go chasing after women--oh,
that fool woman at the hotel didn't count--not now that I've got
Lulu.  Cleo never WAS married to me; she doesn't matter.  I like to
be good.  If I'd just been married to somebody like Sharon!  O God!
Sharon!  Am I untrue to her?  No!  Dear Lulu, sweet kid, I owe
something to her, too.  I wonder if I could get to see her
Saturday--"

A new contentment he had, and explosive success.



CHAPTER XXVI


1


In the autumn of his first year in Zenith Elmer started his famous
Lively Sunday Evenings.  Mornings, he announced, he would give them
solid religious meat to sustain them through the week, but Sunday
evenings he would provide the best cream puffs.  Christianity was a
Glad Religion, and he was going to make it a lot gladder.

There was a safe, conservative, sanguinary hymn or two at his
Lively Sunday Evenings, and a short sermon about sunsets, authors,
or gambling, but most of the time they were just happy boys and
girls together.  He had them sing "Auld Lang Syne," and "Swanee
River," with all the balladry which might have been considered
unecclesiastical if it had not been hallowed by the war:
"Tipperary," and "There's a Long, Long, Trail," and "Pack Up Your
Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile."

He made the women sing in contest against the men; the young people
against the old; and the sinners against the Christians.  That was
lots of fun, because some of the most firmly saved brethren, like
Elmer himself, pretended for a moment to be sinners.  He made them
whistle the chorus and hum it and speak it; he made them sing it
while they waved handkerchiefs, waved one hand, waved both hands.

Other attractive features he provided.  There was a ukulele solo by
the champion uke-player from the University of Winnemac.  There was
a song rendered by a sweet little girl of three, perched up on the
pulpit.  There was a mouth-organ contest, between the celebrated
Harmonica Quartette from the Higginbotham Casket Factory and the
best four harmonicists from the B. & K. C. railroad shops;
surprisingly won (according to the vote of the congregation) by the
enterprising and pleasing young men from the railroad.

When this was over, Elmer stepped forward and said--you would never
in the world have guessed he was joking unless you were near enough
to catch the twinkle in his eyes--he said, "Now perhaps some of you
folks think the pieces the boys have played tonight, like 'Marching
Through Georgia' and 'Mammy,' aren't quite proper for a Methodist
Church, but just let me show you how well our friend and brother,
Billy Hicks here, can make the old mouth-organ behave in a real
highbrow religious hymn."

And Billy played "Ach Du Lieber Augustin."

How they all laughed, even the serious old stewards!  And when he
had them in this humor, the Reverend Mr. Gantry was able to slam
home, good and hard, some pretty straight truths about the horrors
of starting children straight for hell by letting them read the
colored comics on Sunday morning.

Once, to illustrate the evils of betting, he had them bet as to
which of two frogs would jump first.  Once he had the representative
of an illustrious grape-juice company hand around sample glasses of
his beverage, to illustrate the superiority of soft drinks to the
horrors of alcohol.  And once he had up on the platform a sickening
twisted motor-car in which three people had been killed at a
railroad-crossing.  With this as an example, he showed his flock
that motor speeding was but one symptom of the growing madness and
worldliness and materialism of the age, and that this madness could
be cured only by returning to the simple old-time religion as
preached at the Wellspring Methodist Church.

The motor-car got him seven columns of publicity, with pictures of
himself, the car, and the killed motorists.

In fact there were few of his new paths to righteousness which did
not get adequate and respectful attention from the press.

There was, perhaps, no preacher in Zenith, not even the liberal
Unitarian minister or the powerful Catholic bishop, who was not
fond of the young gentlemen of the press.  The newspapers of Zenith
were as likely to attack religion as they were to attack the
department-stores.  But of all the clerics, none was so hearty, so
friendly, so brotherly, to the reporters as the Reverend Elmer
Gantry.  His rival parsons were merely cordial to the sources of
publicity when they called.  Elmer did his own calling.

Six months after his coming to Zenith he began preparing a sermon
on "The Making and Mission of a Great Newspaper."  He informed the
editors of his plan, and had himself taken through the plants and
introduced to the staffs of the Advocate-Times, its sister, the
Evening Advocate, the Press, the Gazette, and the Crier.

Out of his visits he managed to seize and hold the acquaintanceship
of at least a dozen reporters.  And he met the magnificent Colonel
Rutherford Snow, owner of the Advocate, a white-haired, blasphemous,
religious, scoundrelly old gentleman, whose social position in
Zenith was as high as that of a bank-president or a corporation-
counsel.  Elmer and the Colonel recognized in each other an
enterprising boldness, and the Colonel was so devoted to the church
and its work in preserving the free and democratic American
institutions that he regularly gave to the Pilgrim Congregational
Church more than a tenth of what he made out of patent medicine
advertisements--cancer cures, rupture cures, tuberculosis cures, and
the notices of Old Dr. Bly.  The Colonel was cordial to Elmer, and
gave orders that his sermons should be reported at least once a
month, no matter how the rest of the clergy shouted for attention.

But somehow Elmer could not keep the friendship of Bill Kingdom,
that peculiarly hard-boiled veteran reporter of the Advocate-Times.
He did everything he could; he called Bill by his first name, he
gave him a quarter cigar, and he said "damn," but Bill looked
uninterested when Elmer came around with the juiciest of stories
about dance-halls.  In grieved and righteous wrath, Elmer turned
his charm on younger members of the Advocate staff, who were still
new enough to be pleased by the good-fellowship of a preacher who
could say "damn."

Elmer was particularly benevolent with one Miss Coey, sob-sister
reporter for the Evening Gazette and an enthusiastic member of his
church.  She was worth a column a week.  He always breathed at her
after church.

Lulu raged, "It's hard enough to sit right there in the same pew
with your wife, and never be introduced to her, because you say it
isn't safe!  But when I see you holding hands with that Coey woman,
it's a little too much!"

But he explained that he considered Miss Coey a fool, that it made
him sick to touch her, that he was nice to her only because he had
to get publicity; and Lulu saw that it was all proper and truly
noble of him . . . even when in the church bulletins, which he
wrote each week for general distribution, he cheered, "Let's all
congratulate Sister Coey, who so brilliantly represents the Arts
among us, on her splendid piece in the recent Gazette about the
drunken woman who was saved by the Salvation Army.  Your pastor
felt the quick tears springing to his eyes as he read it, which is
a tribute to Sister Coey's powers of expression.  And he is always
glad to fellowship with the Salvation Army, as well as with all
other branches of the true Protestant Evangelical Universal Church.
Wellspring is the home of liberality, so long as it does not weaken
morality or the proven principles of Bible Christianity."


2


As important as publicity to Elmer was the harassing drive of
finance.

He had made one discovery superb in its simple genius--the best way
to get money was to ask for it, hard enough and often enough.  To
call on rich men, to set Sunday School classes in competition
against one another, to see that every one received pledge-
envelopes, these were all useful and he pursued them earnestly.
But none of them was so useful as to tell the congregation every
Sunday what epochal good Wellspring and its pastor were doing, how
much greater good they could do if they had more funds, and to
demand their support now, this minute.

His Official Board was charmed to see the collections increasing
even faster than the audiences.  They insisted that the bishop send
Elmer back to them for another year--indeed for many years--and
they raised Elmer's salary to forty-five hundred dollars.

And in the autumn they let him have two subordinates--the Reverend
Sidney Webster, B. A., B. D., as Assistant Pastor, and Mr. Henry
Wink, B. A., as Director of Religious Education.

Mr. Webster had been secretary to Bishop Toomis, and it was likely
that he would some day be secretary of one of the powerful church
boards--the board of publications, the board of missions, the board
of temperance and morals.  He was a man of twenty-eight; he had
been an excellent basket-ball player in Boston University; he was
tight-mouthed as a New England president, efficient as an adding
machine, and cold as the heart of a bureaucrat.  If he loved God
and humanity-in-general with rigid devotion, he loved no human
individual; if he hated sin, he was too contemptuous of any actual
sinner to hate him--he merely turned his frigid face away and told
him to go to hell.  He had no vices.  He was also competent.  He
could preach, get rid of beggars, be quietly devout in death-bed
prayers, keep down church expenses, and explain about the Trinity.

Henry Wink had a lisp and he told little simpering stories, but he
was admirable in the direction of the Sunday School, vacation Bible
schools, and the Epworth Leagues.

With Mr. Webster and Mr. Wink removing most of the church detail
from him, Elmer became not less but more occupied.  He no longer
merely invited the public, but galloped out and dragged it in.  He
no longer merely scolded sin.  He gratifyingly ended it.


3


When he had been in Zenith for a year and three-quarters, Elmer
formed the Committee on Public Morals, and conducted his raids on
the red-light district.

It seemed to him that he was getting less publicity.  Even his
friend, Colonel Rutherford Snow, owner of the Advocate-Times,
explained that just saying things couldn't go on being news; news
was essentially a report of things done.

"All right, I'll DO things, by golly, now that I've got Webster and
Wink to take care of the glad hand for the brethren!" Elmer vowed.

He received an inspiration to the effect that all of a sudden, for
reasons not defined, "things have gotten so bad in Zenith,
immorality is so rampant in high places and low, threatening the
morals of youth and the sanctity of domesticity, that it is not
enough for the ministry to stand back warning the malefactors, but
a time now to come out of our dignified seclusion and personally
wage open war on the forces of evil."

He said these startling things in the pulpit, he said them in an
interview, and he said them in a letter to the most important
clergymen in town, inviting them to meet with him to form a
Committee on Public Morals and make plans for open war.

The devil must have been shaken.  Anyway, the newspapers said that
the mere threat of the formation of the Committee had caused "a
number of well-known crooks and women of bad reputation to leave
town."  Who these scoundrels were, the papers did not say.

The Committee was to be composed of the Reverends Elmer Gantry and
Otto Hickenlooper, Methodists; G. Prosper Edwards, Congregationalist;
John Jennison Drew, Presbyterian; Edmund St. Vincent Zahn, Lutheran;
James F. Gomer, Disciples; Father Matthew Smeesby, Catholic; Bernard
Amos, Jewish; Hosea Jessup, Baptist; Willis Fortune Tate,
Episcopalian; and Irving Tillish, Christian Science reader; with
Wallace Umstead, the Y.M.C.A. secretary, four moral laymen, and a
lawyer, Mr. T. J. Rigg.

They assembled at lunch in a private dining-room at the palatial
Zenith Athletic Club.  Being clergymen, and having to prove that
they were also red-blooded, as they gathered before lunch in the
lobby of the club they were particularly boisterous in shouting to
passing acquaintances, florists and doctors and wholesale plumbers.
To one George Babbitt, a real estate man, Dr. Drew, the
Presbyterian, clamored, "Hey, Georgie!  Got a flask along?
Lunching with a bunch of preachers, and I reckon they'll want a
drink!"

There was great admiration on the part of Mr. Babbitt, and laughter
among all the clergymen, except the Episcopal Mr. Tate and the
Christian Scientific Mr. Tillish.

The private dining-room at the club was a thin red apartment with
two pictures of young Indian maidens of Lithuanian origin sitting
in native costumes, which gave free play to their legs, under a
rugged pine-tree against a background of extremely high mountains.
In Private Dining-room A, beside them, was a lunch of the Men's
Furnishers Association, addressed by S. Garrison Siegel of New York
on "The Rented Dress Suit Business and How to Run It in a High-
class Way."

The incipient Committee on Public Morals sat about a long narrow
table in bent-wood chairs, in which they were always vainly trying
to tilt back.  Their table did not suggest debauchery and the demon
rum.  There were only chilly and naked-looking goblets of ice
water.

They lunched, gravely, on consommé, celery, roast lamb, which was
rather cold, mashed potatoes, which were arctic, Brussels sprouts,
which were overstewed, ice cream, which was warm; with very large
cups of coffee, and no smoking afterward.

Elmer began, "I don't know who is the oldest among us, but
certainly no one in this room has had a more distinguished or more
valuable term of Christian service than Dr. Edwards, of Pilgrim
Congregational, and I know you'll join me in asking him to say
grace before meat."

The table conversation was less cheerful than the blessing.

They all detested one another.  Every one knew of some case in
which each of the others had stolen, or was said to have tried to
steal, some parishioner, to have corrupted his faith and
appropriated his contributions.  Dr. Hickenlooper and Dr. Drew had
each advertised that he had the largest Sunday School in the city.
All of the Protestants wanted to throw ruinous questions about the
Immaculate Conception at Father Smeesby, and Father Smeesby, a
smiling dark man of forty, had ready, in case they should attack
the Catholic Church, the story of the ant who said to the elephant,
"Move over, who do you think you're pushing?"  All of them, except
Mr. Tillish, wanted to ask Mr. Tillish how he'd ever been fooled by
this charlatan, Mary Baker Eddy, and all of them, except the rabbi,
wanted to ask Rabbi Amos why the Jews were such numbskulls as not
to join the Christian faith.

They were dreadfully cordial.  They kept their voices bland, and
smiled too often, and never listened to one another.  Elmer,
aghast, saw that they would flee before making an organization if
he did not draw them together.  And what was the one thing in which
they were all joyously interested?  Why, vice!  He'd begin the vice
rampage now, instead of waiting till the business meeting after
lunch.

He pounded on the table, and demanded, "Most of you have been in
Zenith longer than myself.  I admit ignorance.  It is true that I
have unearthed many dreadful, DREADFUL cases of secret sin.  But
you gentlemen, who know the town so much better--Am I right?  Are
Conditions as dreadful as I think, or do I exaggerate?"

All of them lighted up and, suddenly looking on Elmer as a really
nice man after all, they began happily to tell of their woeful
discoveries. . . .  The blood-chilling incident of the father who
found in the handbag of his sixteen-year-old daughter improper
pictures.  The suspicion that at a dinner of war veterans at the
Leroy House there had danced a young lady who wore no garments save
slippers and a hat.

"I know all about that dinner--I got the details from a man in my
church--I'll tell you about it if you feel you ought to know," said
Dr. Gomer.

They looked as though they decidedly felt that they ought to know.
He went into details, very, and at the end Dr. Jessup gulped, "Oh,
that Leroy House is absolutely a den of iniquity!  It ought to be
pulled!"

"It certainly ought to!  I don't think I'm cruel," shouted Dr.
Zahn, the Lutheran, "but if I had my way, I'd burn the proprietor
of that joint at the stake!"

All of them had incidents of shocking obscenity all over the place--
all of them except Father Smeesby, who sat back and smiled, the
Episcopal Dr. Tate, who sat back and looked bored, and Mr. Tillish,
the healer, who sat back and looked chilly.  In fact it seemed as
though, despite the efforts of themselves and the thousands of
other inspired and highly trained Christian ministers who had
worked over it ever since its foundation, the city of Zenith was
another Sodom.  But the alarmed apostles did not appear to be so
worried as they said they were.  They listened with almost benign
attention while Dr. Zahn, in his German accent, told of alarming
crushes between the society girls whom he knew so well from dining
once a year with his richest parishioner.

They were all, indeed, absorbed in vice to a degree gratifying to
Elmer.

But at the time for doing something about it, for passing
resolutions and appointing sub-committees and outlining programs,
they drew back.

"Can't we all get together--pool our efforts?" pleaded Elmer.
"Whatever our creedal differences, surely we stand alike in
worshiping the same God and advocating the same code of morals.
I'd like to see this Committee as a permanent organization, and
finally, when the time is ripe--Think how it would jolt the town!
All of us getting ourselves appointed special police or deputy
sheriffs, and personally marching down on these abominations,
arresting the blood-guilty wretches, and putting them where they
can do no harm!  Maybe leading our church members in the crusade!
Think of it!"

They did think of it, and they were alarmed.

Father Smeesby spoke.  "My church, gentlemen, probably has a more
rigid theology than yours, but I don't think we're quite so alarmed
by discovering the fact, which seems to astonish you, that sinners
often sin.  The Catholic Church may be harder to believe, but it's
easier to live with."

"My organization," said Mr. Tillish, "could not think of joining in
a wild witch-hunt, any more than we could in indiscriminate
charity.  For both the poverty-laden and the vicious--"  He made a
little whistling between his beautiful but false teeth, and went on
with frigid benignancy.  "For all such, the truth is clearly stated
in 'Science and Health' and made public in all our meetings--the
truth that both vice and poverty, like sickness, are unreal, are
errors, to be got rid of by understanding that God is All-in-all;
that disease, death, evil, sin deny good, omnipotent God, life.
Well!  If these so-called sufferers do not care to take the truth
when it is freely offered them, is that our fault?  I understand
your sympathy with the unfortunate, but you are not going to put
out ignorance by fire."

"Golly, let me crawl too," chuckled Rabbi Amos.  "If you want to
get a vice-crusading rabbi, get one of these smart-aleck young
liberals from the Cincinnati school--and they'll mostly have too
much sympathy with the sinners to help you either!  Anyway, my
congregation is so horribly respectable that if their rabbi did
anything but sit in his study and look learned, they'd kick him
out."

"And I," said Dr. Willis Fortune Tate, of St. Colomb's Episcopal,
"if you will permit me to say so, can regard such a project as our
acting like policemen and dealing with these malefactors in person
as nothing short of vulgar, as well as useless.  I understand your
high ideals, Dr. Gantry--"

"Mr. Gantry."

"--Mr. Gantry, and I honor you for them, and respect your
energy, but I beg you to consider how the press and the ordinary
laity, with their incurably common and untrained minds, would
misunderstand."

"I'm afraid I must agree with Dr. Tate," said the Congregational
Dr. G. Prosper Edwards, in the manner of the Pilgrim's Monument
agreeing with Westminister Abbey.

And as for the others, they said they really must "take time and
think it over," and they all got away as hastily and cordially as
they could.

Elmer walked with his friend and pillar, Mr. T. J. Rigg, toward the
dentist's office in which even an ordinary minister of God would
shortly take on strangely normal writhings and gurglings.

"They're a fine bunch of scared prophets, a noble lot of apostolic
ice-cream cones!" protested Mr. Rigg.  "Hard luck, Brother Elmer!
I'm sorry.  It really is good stuff, this vice-crusading.  Oh, I
don't suppose it makes the slightest difference in the amount of
vice--and I don't know that it ought to make any.  Got to give
fellows that haven't our advantages some chance to let off steam.
But it does get the church a lot of attention.  I'm mighty proud of
the way we're building up Wellspring Church again.  Kind of a hobby
with me.  But makes me indignant, these spiritual cold-storage eggs
not supporting you!"

But as he looked up he saw that Elmer was grinning.

"I'm not worried, T. J.  Fact, I'm tickled to death.  First place,
I've scared 'em off the subject of vice.  Before they get back to
preaching about it, I'll have the whole subject absolutely patented
for our church.  And now they won't have the nerve to imitate me if
I do do this personal crusading stunt.  Third, I can preach against
'em!  And I will!  You watch me!  Oh, not mention any names--no
come-back--but tell 'em how I pleaded with a gang of preachers to
take practical methods to end immorality, and they were all
scared!"

"Fine!" said the benevolent trustee.  "We'll let 'em know that
Wellspring is the one church that's really following the gospel."

"We sure will!  Now listen, T. J.: if you trustees will stand for
the expense, I want to get a couple of good private detectives or
something, and have 'em dig up a lot of real addresses of places
that ARE vicious--there must be some of 'em--and get some evidence.
Then I'll jump on the police for not having pinched these places.
I'll say they're so wide open that the police MUST know of 'em.
And probably that's true, too.  Man!  A sensation!  Run our
disclosures every Sunday evening for a month!  Make the chief of
police try to answer us in the press!"

"Good stuff!  Well, I know a fellow--he was a government man,
prohibition agent, and got fired for boozing and blackmail.  He's
not exactly a double-crosser, lot straighter than most prohibition
agents, but still I think he could slip us some real addresses.
I'll have him see you."


4


When from his pulpit the Reverend Elmer Gantry announced that the
authorities of Zenith were "deliberately conniving in protected
vice," and that he could give the addresses and ownerships of
sixteen brothels, eleven blind tigers, and two agencies for selling
cocaine and heroin, along with an obscene private burlesque show so
dreadful that he could only hint at the nature of its program, when
he attacked the chief of police and promised to give more detailed
complaints next Sunday, then the town exploded.

There were front-page newspaper stories, yelping replies by the
mayor and chief of police, re-replies from Elmer, interviews with
everybody, and a full-page account of white slavery in Chicago.  In
clubs and offices, in church societies and the back-rooms of "soft-
drink stands," there was a blizzard of talk.  Elmer had to be
protected against hundreds of callers, telephoners, letter writers.
His assistant, Sidney Webster, and Miss Bundle, the secretary,
could not keep the mob from him, and he hid out in T. J. Rigg's
house, accessible to no one, except to newspaper reporters who for
any Christian and brotherly reason might care to see him.

For the second Sunday evening of his jeremiad, the church was full
half an hour before opening-time, standing-room was taken even to
the back of the lobby, hundreds clamored at the closed doors.

He gave the exact addresses of eight dives, told what dreadful
drinkings of corn whisky went on there, and reported the number of
policemen, in uniform, who had been in the more attractive of these
resorts during the past week.

Despite all the police could do to help their friends close up for
a time, it was necessary for them to arrest ten or fifteen of the
hundred-odd criminals whom Elmer named.  But the chief of police
triumphed by announcing that it was impossible to find any of the
others.

"All right," Elmer murmured to the chief, in the gentleness of a
boxed newspaper interview in bold-face type, "if you'll make me a
temporary lieutenant of police and give me a squad, I'll find and
close five dives in one evening--any evening save Sunday."

"I'll do it--and you can make your raids tomorrow," said the chief,
in the official dignity of headlines.

Mr. Rigg was a little alarmed.

"Think you're going too far, Elmer," he said.  "If you really
antagonize any of the big wholesale bootleggers, they'll get us
financially, and if you hit any of the tough ones, they're likely
to bump you off.  Darn' dangerous."

"I know.  I'm just going to pick out some of the smaller fellows
that make their own booze and haven't got any police protection
except slipping five or ten to the cop on the beat.  The newspapers
will make 'em out regular homicidal gangsters, to get a good story,
and we'll have the credit without being foolish and taking risks."


5


At least a thousand people were trying to get near the Central
Police Station on the evening when a dozen armed policemen marched
down the steps of the station-house and stood at attention, looking
up at the door, awaiting their leader.

He came out, the great Reverend Mr. Gantry, and stood posing on the
steps, while the policemen saluted, the crowd cheered or sneered,
and the press cameras went off in a fury of flashlight powder.  He
wore the gilt-encircled cap of a police lieutenant, with a
lugubrious frock coat and black trousers, and under his arm he
carried a Bible.

Two patrol wagons clanged away, and all the women in the crowd,
except certain professional ladies, who were grievously profane,
gasped their admiration of this modern Savonarola.

He had promised the mob at least one real house of prostitution.


6


There were two amiable young females who, tired of working in a
rather nasty bread factory and of being unremuneratively seduced by
the large, pale, puffy bakers on Sunday afternoons, had found it
easier and much jollier to set up a small flat in a street near
Elmer's church.  They were fond of reading the magazines and
dancing to the phonograph and of going to church--usually Elmer's
church.  If their relations to their gentlemen friends were more
comforting than a preacher could expect, after his experience of
the sacred and chilly state of matrimony, they entertained only a
few of these friends, often they darned their socks, and almost
always they praised Elmer's oratory.

One of the girls, this evening, was discoursing with a man who was
later proved in court not to be her husband; the other was in the
kitchen, making a birthday-cake for her niece and humming "Onward,
Christian Soldiers."  She was dazed by a rumbling, a clanging, a
shouting in the street below, then mob-sounds on the stairs.  She
fluttered into the living-room, to see their pretty imitation
mahogany door smashed in with a rifle butt.

Into the room crowded a dozen grinning policemen, followed, to her
modest shame, by her adored family prophet, the Reverend Gantry.
But it was not the cheerful, laughing Mr. Gantry that she knew.  He
held out his arm in a horrible gesture of holiness, and bawled,
"Scarlet woman!  Thy sins be upon thy head!  No longer are you
going to get away with leading poor unfortunate young men into the
sink and cesspool of iniquity!  Sergeant!  Draw your revolver!
These women are known to be up to every trick!"

"All right, sure, loot!" giggled the brick-faced police sergeant.

"Oh, rats!  This girl looks as dangerous as a goldfish, Gantry,"
remarked Bill Kingdom, of the Advocate-Times . . . he who was two
hours later to do an epic of the heroism of the Great Crusader.

"Let's see what the other girl's up to," snickered one of the
policemen.

They all laughed very much as they looked into the bedroom, where a
half-dressed girl and a man shrank by the window, their faces sick
with shame.

It was with her--ignoring Bill Kingdom's mutters of "Oh, drop it!
Pick on somebody your size!"--that Elmer the vice-slayer became
really Biblical.

Only the insistence of Bill Kingdom kept Lieutenant Gantry from
making his men load the erring one into the patrol wagon in her
chemise.

Then Elmer led them to a secret den where, it was securely
reported, men were ruining their bodies and souls by guzzling the
devil's brew of alcohol.


7


Mr. Oscar Hochlauf had been a saloon-keeper in the days before
prohibition, but when prohibition came, he was a saloon-keeper.
A very sound, old-fashioned, drowsy, agreeable resort was Oscar's
Place; none of the grander public houses had more artistic soap
scrawls on the mirror behind the bar; none had spicier pickled
herring.

Tonight there were three men before the bar: Emil Fischer, the
carpenter, who had a mustache like an ear-muff; his son Ben, whom
Emil was training to drink wholesome beer instead of the whisky and
gin which America was forcing on the people; and old Daddy
Sorenson, the Swedish tailor.

They were discussing jazz.

"I came to America for liberty--I think Ben's son will go back to
Germany for liberty," said Emil.  "When I was a young man here,
four of us used to play every Saturday evening--Bach we played, and
Brahms--Gott weiss we played terrible, but we liked it, and we
never made others listen.  Now, wherever you go, this jazz, like a
St. Vitus's.  Jazz iss to music what this Reverend Gantry you read
about is to an old-time Prediger.  I guess maybe he was never born,
that Gantry fellow--he was blowed out of a saxophone."

"Aw, this country's all right, Pa," said Ben.

"Sure, dot's right," said Oscar Hochlauf contentedly, while he
sliced the foam off a glass of beer.  "The Americans, like when I
knew dem first, when dere was Bill Nye and Eugene Field, dey used
to laugh.  Now dey get solemn.  When dey start laughing again, dey
roar dere heads off at fellows like Gantry and most all dese
preachers dat try to tell everybody how dey got to live.  And if
the people laugh--oof!--God help the preachers!"

"Vell, that's how it is.  Say, did I tell you, Oscar," said the
Swedish tailor, "my grandson Villiam, he got a scholarship in the
university!"

"That's fine!" they all agreed, slapping Daddy Sorenson on the back
. . . as a dozen policemen, followed by a large and gloomy
gentleman armed with a Bible, burst in through the front and back
doors, and the gloomy gentleman, pointing at the astounded Oscar,
bellowed, "Arrest that man and hold all these other fellows!"

To Oscar then, and to an audience increasing ten a second:

"I've got you!  You're the kind that teaches young boys to drink--
it's you that start them on the road to every hellish vice, to
gambling and murder, with your hellish beverages, with your draught
of the devil himself!"

Arrested for the first time in his life, bewildered, broken, feebly
leaning on the arms of two policemen, Oscar Hochlauf straightened
at this, and screamed:

"Dot's a damned lie!  Always when you let me, I handle Eitelbaum's
beer, the finest in the state, and since den I make my own beer.
It is good!  It is honest!  'Hellish beverage!'  Dot YOU should
judge of beer--dot a pig should judge poetry!  Your Christ dot made
vine, HE vould like my beer!"

Elmer jumped forward with his great fist doubled.  Only the sudden
grip of the police sergeant kept him from striking down the
blasphemer.  He shrieked, "Take that foul-mouthed bum to the wagon!
I'll see he gets the limit!"

And Bill Kingdom murmured to himself, "Gallant preacher single-
handed faces saloon full of desperate gun-men and rebukes them
for taking the name of the Lord in vain.  Oh, I'll get a swell
story. . . .  Then I think I'll commit suicide."


8


The attendant crowd and the policemen had whispered that, from the
careful way in which he followed instead of leading, it might be
judged that the Reverend Lieutenant Gantry was afraid of the
sinister criminals whom he was attacking.  And it is true that
Elmer had no large fancy for revolver duels.  But he had not lost
his delight in conflict; he was physically no coward; and they were
all edified to see this when the raiders dashed into the resort of
Nick Spoletti.

Nick, who conducted a bar in a basement, had been a prizefighter;
he was cool and quick.  He heard the crusaders coming and shouted
to his customers, "Beat it!  Side door!  I'll hold 'em back!"

He met the first of the policemen at the bottom of the steps, and
dropped him with the crack of a bottle over his head.  The next
tripped over the body, and the others halted, peering, looking
embarrassed, drawing revolvers.  But Elmer smelled battle.  He
forgot holiness.  He dropped his Bible, thrust aside two policemen,
and swung on Nick from the bottom step.  Nick slashed at his head,
but with a boxer's jerk of the neck Elmer slid away from the punch,
and knocked out Nick with a deliberately murderous left.

"Golly, the parson's got an awful wallop!" grunted the sergeant,
and Bill Kingdom sighed, "Not so bad!" and Elmer knew that he had
won . . . that he would be the hero of Zenith . . . that he was now
the Sir Lancelot as well as the William Jennings Bryan of the
Methodist Church.


9


After two more raids he was delivered at his home by patrol wagon,
and left with not entirely sardonic cheers by the policemen.

Cleo rushed to meet him, crying, "Oh, you're safe!  Oh, my dear,
you're hurt!"

His cheek was slightly bleeding.

In a passion of admiration for himself so hot that it extended even
to her, he clasped her, kissed her wetly, and roared, "It's
nothing!  Oh, it went great!  We raided five places--arrested
twenty-seven criminals--took them in every sort of horrible
debauchery--things I never dreamed could exist!"

"You poor dear!"

There was not enough audience, with merely Cleo, and the maid
peering from the back of the hall.

"Let's go and tell the kids.  Maybe they'll be proud of their dad!"
he interrupted her.

"Dear, they're asleep--"

"Oh!  I see!  Sleep is more important to 'em than to know their
father is a man who isn't afraid to back up his gospel with his
very life!"

"Oh, I didn't mean--I meant--Yes, of course, you're right.  It'll
be a wonderful example and inspiration.  But let me put some
stickum plaster on your cheek first."

By the time she had washed the cut, and bound it and fussed over
it, he had forgotten the children and their need of an heroic
exemplar, as she had expected, and he sat on the edge of the bath-
tub telling her that he was an entire Trojan army.  She was so
worshipful that he became almost amorous, until it seemed to him
from her anxious patting of his arm that she was trying to make him
so.  It angered him--that she, so unappealing, should have the
egotism to try to attract a man like himself.  He went off to his
own room, wishing that Lulu were here to rejoice in his splendor,
the beginning of his fame as the up-to-date John Wesley.



CHAPTER XXVII


1


Elmer, in court, got convictions of sixteen out of the twenty-seven
fiends whom he had arrested, with an extra six months for Oscar
Hochlauf for resisting arrest and the use of abusive and profane
language.  The judge praised him; the mayor forgave him; the chief
of police shook his hand and invited him to use a police squad at
any time; and some of the younger reporters did not cover their
mouths with their hands.

Vice was ended in Zenith.  It was thirty days before any of the gay
ladies were really back at work--though the gentlemanly jailers at
the workhouse did let some of them out for an occasional night.

Every Sunday evening now people were turned from the door of
Elmer's church.  If they did not always have a sermon about vice,
at least they enjoyed the saxophone solos, and singing "There'll be
a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight."  And once they were
entertained by a professional juggler who wore (it was Elmer's own
idea) a placard proclaiming that he stood for "God's Word" and who
showed how easy it was to pick up weights symbolically labeled
"Sin" and "Sorrow" and "Ignorance" and "Papistry."

The trustees were discussing the erection of a new and much larger
church, a project for which Elmer himself had begun to prepare a
year before, by reminding the trustees how many new apartment-
houses were replacing the run-down residences in Old Town.

The trustees raised his salary to five thousand, and they increased
the budget for institutional work.  Elmer did not institute so many
clubs for students of chiropractic and the art of motion-picture
acting as did Dr. Otto Hickenlooper of Central Methodist, but there
was scarcely an hour from nine in the morning till ten at night
when some circle was not trying to do good to somebody . . . and
even after ten there were often Elmer and Lulu Bains Naylor,
conferring on cooking classes.

Elmer had seen the danger of his crusading publicity and his Lively
Sunday Evenings--the danger of being considered a clown instead of
a great moral leader.

"I've got to figure out some way so's I keep dignified and yet keep
folks interested," he meditated.  "The thing is sort of to have
other people do the monkey-business, but me, I got to be up-stage
and not smile as much as I've been doing.  And just when the poor
chumps think my Sunday evening is nothing but a vaudeville show,
I'll suddenly soak 'em with a regular old-time hell-fire and
damnation sermon, or be poetic and that stuff."

It worked, reasonably.  Though many of his rival preachers
in Zenith went on calling him "clown" and "charlatan" and 
"sensationalist," no one could fail to appreciate his lofty soul
and his weighty scholarship, once they had seen him stand in
agonized silent prayer, then level his long forefinger and intone:

"You have laughed now.  You have sung.  You have been merry.  But
what came ye forth into the wilderness for to see?  Merely
laughter?  I want you to stop a moment now and think just how long
it is since you have realized that any night death may demand your
souls, and that then, laughter or no laughter, unless you have
found the peace of God, unless you have accepted Christ Jesus as
your savior, you may with no chance of last-minute repentance be
hurled into horrible and shrieking and appalling eternal torture!"

Elmer had become so distinguished that the Rotary Club elected him
to membership with zeal.

The Rotary Club was an assemblage of accountants, tailors,
osteopaths, university-presidents, carpet-manufacturers,
advertising men, millinery-dealers, ice-dealers, piano salesmen,
laundrymen, and like leaders of public thought, who met weekly for
the purposes of lunching together, listening to addresses by
visiting actors and by lobbyists against the recognition of Russia,
beholding vaudeville teams in eccentric dances, and indulging in
passionate rhapsodies about Service and Business Ethics.  They
asserted that their one desire in their several callings was not to
make money but only to serve and benefit a thing called the Public.
They were as earnest about this as was the Reverend Elmer Gantry
about vice.

He was extraordinarily at home among the Rotarians; equally happy
in being a good fellow with such good fellows as these and in
making short speeches to the effect that "Jesus Christ would be a
Rotarian if he lived today--Lincoln would be a Rotarian today--
William McKinley would be a Rotarian today.  All these men preached
the principles of Rotary: one for all and all for one; helpfulness
towards one's community, and respect for God."

It was a rule of this organization, which was merry and full of
greetings in between inspirational addresses, that every one
should, at lunch, be called by his first name.  They shouted at the
Reverend Mr. Gantry as "Elmer" or "Elm," while he called his
haberdasher "Ike" and beamed on his shoe-seller as "Rudy."  A few
years before, this intimacy might have led him into indiscretions,
into speaking vulgarly, or even desiring a drink.  But he had
learned his rôle of dignity now, and though he observed, "Dandy
day, Shorty!" he was quick to follow it up unhesitatingly with an
orotund, "I trust that you have been able to enjoy the beauty of
the vernal foliage in the country this week."  So Shorty and his
pals went up and down informing the citizenry that Reverend Gantry
was a "good scout, a prince of a good fellow, but a mighty deep
thinker, and a real honest-to-God orator."

When Elmer informed T. J. Rigg of the joys of Rotary, the lawyer
scratched his chin and suggested, "Fine.  But look here, Brother
Elmer.  There's one thing you're neglecting: the really big boys
with the long pockets.  Got to know 'em.  Not many of 'em
Methodists--they go out for Episcopalianism or Presbyterianism or
Congregationalism or Christian Science, or stay out of the church
altogether.  But that's no reason why we can't turn their MONEY
Methodist.  You wouldn't find but mighty few of these Rotarians in
the Tonawanda Country Club--into which I bought my way by
blackmailing, you might say, a wheat speculator."

"But--but--why, T. J., those Rotarians--why there's fellows in
there like Ira Runyon, the managing editor of the Advocate, and Win
Grant, the realtor--"

"Yeh, but the owner of the Advocate, and the banker that's letting
Win Grant run on till he bankrupts, and the corporation counsel
that keeps 'em all out of jail, you don't find THOSE malefactors
going to no lunch club and yipping about Service!  You find 'em
sitting at small tables at the old Union Club, and laughing
themselves sick about Service.  And for golf, they go to Tonawanda.
I couldn't get you into the Union Club.  They wouldn't have any
preacher that talks about vice--the kind of preacher that belongs
to the Union talks about the new model Cadillac and how hard it is
to get genuwine Eyetalian vermouth.  But the Tonawanda--They might
let you in.  For respectability.  To prove that they couldn't have
the gin they've got in their lockers in their lockers."

It was done, though it took six months and a deal of secret
politics conducted by T. J. Rigg.

Wellspring Church, including the pastor of Wellspring, bloomed with
pride that Elmer had been so elevated socially as to be allowed to
play golf with bankers.

Only he couldn't play golf.

From April to July, while he never appeared on the links with other
players, Elmer took lessons from the Tonawanda professional, three
mornings a week, driving out in the smart new Buick which he had
bought and almost paid for.

The professional was a traditionally small and gnarled and sandy
Scotchman, from Indiana, and he was so traditionally rude that
Elmer put on meekness.

"Put back your divots!  D'you think this is a church?" snapped the
professional.

"Damn it, I always forget, Scotty," whined Elmer.  "Guess it must
be hard on you to have to train these preachers."

"Preachers is nothing to me, and millionaires is nothing to me, but
gawf grounds is a lot," grunted Scotty.  (He was a zealous
Presbyterian and to be picturesquely rude to Christian customers
was as hard for him as it was to keep up the Scotch accent which he
had learned from a real Liverpool Irishman.)

Elmer was strong, he was placid when he was out-of-doors, and his
eye was quick.  When he first appeared publicly at Tonawanda, in a
foursome with T. J. Rigg and two most respectable doctors, he and
his game were watched and commended.  When he dressed in the
locker-room and did not appear to note the square bottle in use ten
feet away, he was accepted as a man of the world.

William Dollinger Styles, member of the Tonawanda house committee,
president of the fabulous W. D. Styles Wholesale Hardware Company--
the man who had introduced the Bite Edge Ax through all the land
from Louisville to Detroit, and introduced white knickers to the
Tonawanda Club--this baron, this bishop, of business actually
introduced himself to Elmer and made him welcome.

"Glad to see you here, dominie.  Played much golf?"

"No, I've only taken it up recently, but you bet I'm going to be a
real fan from now on."

"That's fine.  Tell you how I feel about it, Reverend.  We fellows
that have to stick to our desks and make decisions that guide the
common people, you religiously and me commercially, it's a good
thing for us, and through us for them, to go out and get next to
Nature, and put ourselves in shape to tackle our complicated
problems (as I said recently in an after-dinner speech at the
Chamber of Commerce banquet) and keep a good sane outlook so's we
won't be swept away by every breeze of fickle and changing public
opinion and so inevitably--"

In fact, said Mr. William Dollinger Styles, he liked golf.

Elmer tenderly agreed with "Yes, that's certainly a fact; certainly
is a fact.  Be a good thing for a whole lot of preachers if they
got out and exercised more instead of always reading."

"Yes, I wish you'd tell my dominie that--not that I go to church
such a whole lot, but I'm church treasurer and take kind of an
interest--Dorchester Congregational--Reverend Shallard."

"Oh!  Frank Shallard!  Why, I knew him in theological seminary!
Fine, straight, intelligent fellow, Frank."

"Well, yes, but I don't like the way he's always carrying on and
almost coming right out and defending a lot of these crooked labor
unions.  That's why I don't hardly ever hear his sermons, but I
can't get the deacons to see it.  And as I say, be better for him
if he got outdoors more.  Well, glad to met you, Reverend.  You
must join one of our foursomes some day--if you can stand a little
cussing, maybe!"

"Well, I'll try to, sir!  Been mighty fine to have met you!"

"H'm!" reflected Elmer.  "So Frank, the belly-aching highbrow, has
got as rich a man as Styles in his fold, and Styles doesn't like
him.  Wonder if Styles could turn Methodist--wonder if he could be
pinched off Frank?  I'll ask Rigg."

But the charm of the place, the day, the implied social position,
was such that Elmer turned from these purely religious breedings to
more esthetic thoughts.

Rigg had driven home.  Elmer sat by himself on the huge porch of
the Tonawanda Club, a long gray countryhouse on a hill sloping to
the Appleseed River, with tawny fields of barley among orchards on
the bank beyond.  The golf-course was scattered with men in Harris
tweeds, girls in short skirts which fluttered about their legs.  A
man in white flannels drove up in a Rolls-Royce roadster--the only
one in Zenith as yet--and Elmer felt ennobled by belonging to the
same club with a Rolls-Royce.  On the lawn before the porch, men
with English-officer mustaches and pretty women in pale frocks were
taking tea at tables under striped garden-umbrellas.

Elmer knew none of them actually, but a few by sight.

"Golly, I'll be right in with all these swells some day!  Must work
it careful, and be snooty, and not try to pick 'em up too quick."

A group of weighty-looking men of fifty, near him, were conversing
on the arts and public policy.  As he listened, Elmer decided,
"Yep, Rigg was right.  Those are fine fellows at the Rotary Club;
fine, high-class, educated gentlemen, and certainly raking in the
money; mighty cute in business but upholding the highest ideals.
But they haven't got the class of these really Big Boys."

Entranced, he gave heed to the magnates--a bond broker, a mine-
owner, a lawyer, a millionaire lumberman:

"Yes, sir, what the country at large doesn't understand is that the
stabilization of sterling has a good effect on our trade with
Britain--"

"I told them that far from refusing to recognize the rights of
labor, I had myself come up from the ranks, to some extent, and I
was doing all in my power to benefit them, but I certainly did
refuse to listen to the caterwauling of a lot of hired agitators
from the so-called unions, and that if they didn't like the way I
did things--"

"Yes, it opened at 73 1/2, but knowing what had happened to Saracen
Common--"

"Yes, sir, you can depend on a Pierce-Arrow, you certainly can--"

Elmer drew a youthful, passionate, shuddering breath at being so
nearly in communion with the powers that governed Zenith and
thought for Zenith, that governed America and thought for it.  He
longed to stay, but he had the task, unworthy of his powers of
social decoration, of preparing a short clever talk on missions
among the Digger Indians.

As he drove home he rejoiced, "Some day, I'll be able to put it over
with the best of 'em socially.  When I get to be a bishop, believe
me I'm not going to hang around jawing about Sunday School methods!
I'll be entertaining the bon ton, senators and everybody. . . .
Cleo would look fine at a big dinner, with the right dress. . . .
If she wasn't so darn' priggish.  Oh, maybe she'll die before
then. . . .  I think I'll marry an Episcopalian. . . .  I wonder
if I could get an Episcopal bishopric if I switched to that
nightshirt crowd?  More class.  No; Methodist bigger church; and
don't guess the Episcopalopians would stand any good red-blooded
sermons on vice and all that."


2


The Gilfeather Chautauqua Corporation, which conducts week-long
Chautauquas in small towns, had not been interested when Elmer had
hinted, three years ago, that he had a Message to the Youth of
America, one worth at least a hundred a week, and that he would be
glad to go right out to the Youth and deliver it.  But when Elmer's
demolition of all vice in Zenith had made him celebrated, and even
gained him a paragraph or two as the Crusading Parson, in New York
and Chicago, the Gilfeather Corporation had a new appreciation.
They came to him, besieged him, offered him two hundred a week and
headlines in the posters, for a three-months tour.

But Elmer did not want to ask the trustees for a three-months
leave.  He had a notion of a summer in Europe a year or two from
now.  That extended study of European culture, first hand, would be
just the finishing polish to enable him to hold any pulpit in the
country.

He did, however, fill in during late August and early September as
substitute for a Gilfeather headliner--the renowned J. Thurston
Wallett, M. D., D. O., D. N., who had delighted thousands with his
witty and instructive lecture, "Diet or Die, Nature or Nix," until
he had unfortunately been taken ill at Powassie, Iowa, from eating
too many green cantaloupes.

Elmer had planned to spend August with his family in Northern
Michigan--planned it most uncomfortably, for while it was
conceivable to endure Cleo in the city, with his work, his clubs,
and Lulu, a month with no relief from her solemn drooping face and
cry-baby voice would be trying even to a Professional Good Man.

He explained to her that duty called, and departed with speed,
stopping only long enough to get several books of inspirational
essays from the public library for aid in preparing his Chautauqua
lecture.

He was delighted with his coming adventure--money, fame in new
quarters, crowds for whom he would not have to think up fresh
personal experiences.  And he might find a woman friend who would
understand him and give to his own solid genius that lighter touch
of the feminine.  He was, he admitted, almost as tired of Lulu as
of Cleo.  He pictured a Chautauqua lady pianist or soprano or
ventriloquist or soloist on the musical saw--he pictured a
surprised, thrilled meeting in the amber light under the canvas
roof--recognition between kindred fine and lonely souls--

And he found it of course.


3


Elmer's metaphysical lecture, entitled "Whoa Up, Youth!" with its
counsel about abstinence, chastity, industry, and honesty, its
heaven-vaulting poetic passage about Love (the only bow on life's
dark cloud, the morning and the evening star), and its anecdote of
his fight to save a college-mate named Jim from drink and atheism,
became one of the classics among Chautauqua masterpieces.

And Elmer better than any one else among the Talent (except perhaps
the gentleman who played national anthems on water glasses, a
Lettish gentleman innocent of English) side-stepped on the question
of the K. K. K.

The new Ku Klux Klan, an organization of the fathers, younger
brothers, and employees of the men who had succeeded and became
Rotarians, had just become a political difficulty.  Many of the
most worthy Methodist and Baptist clergymen supported it and were
supported by it; and personally Elmer admired its principle--to
keep all foreigners, Jews, Catholics, and negroes in their place,
which was no place at all, and let the country be led by native
Protestants, like Elmer Gantry.

But he perceived that in the cities there were prominent people,
nice people, rich people, even among the Methodists and Baptists,
who felt that a man could be a Jew and still an American citizen.
It seemed to him more truly American, also a lot safer, to avoid
the problem.  So everywhere he took a message of reconciliation to
the effect:

"Regarding religious, political, and social organizations, I defend
the right of every man in our free America to organize with his
fellows when and as he pleases, for any purpose he pleases, but I
also defend the right of any other free American citizen to demand
that such an organization shall not dictate his mode of thought or,
so long as it be moral, his mode of conduct."

That pleased both the K. K. K. and the opponents of the K. K. K.,
and everybody admired Elmer's powers of thought.

He came with a boom and a flash to the town of Blackfoot Creek,
Indiana, and there the local committee permitted the Methodist
minister, one Andrew Pengilly, to entertain his renowned brother
priest.


4


Always a little lonely, lost in the ceaseless unfolding of his
mysticism, old Andrew Pengilly had been the lonelier since Frank
Shallard had left him.

When he heard that the Reverend Elmer Gantry was coming, Mr.
Pengilly murmured to the local committee that it would be a
pleasure to put up Mr. Gantry and save him from the scurfy village
hotel.

He had read of Mr. Gantry as an impressive orator, a courageous
fighter against Sin.  Mr. Pengilly sighed.  Himself, somehow, he
had never been able to find so very much Sin about.  His fault.  A
silly old dreamer.  He rejoiced that he, the mousy village curé,
was about to have here, glorifying his cottage, a St. Michael in
dazzling armor.


5


After the evening Chautauqua Elmer sat in Mr. Pengilly's hovel, and
he was graciously condescending.

"You say, Brother Pengilly, that you've heard of our work at
Wellspring?  But do we get so near the hearts of the weak and
unfortunate as you here?  Oh, no; sometimes I think that my first
pastorate, in a town smaller than this, was in many ways more
blessed than our tremendous to-do in the great city.  And what IS
accomplished there is no credit to me.  I have such splendid, such
touchingly loyal assistants--Mr. Webster, the assistant pastor--
such a consecrated worker, and yet right on the job--and Mr. Wink,
and Miss Weezeger, the deaconess, and DEAR Miss Bundle, the
secretary--SUCH a faithful soul, SO industrious.  Oh, yes, I am
singularly blessed!  But, uh, but--Given these people, who really
do the work, we've been able to put over some pretty good things--
with God's leading.  Why, say, we've started the only class in
show-window dressing in any church in the United States--and I
should suppose England and France!  We've already seen the most
wonderful results, not only in raising the salary of several of the
fine young men in our church, but in increasing business throughout
the city and improving the appearance of show-windows, and you know
how much that adds to the beauty of the down-town streets!  And the
crowds do seem to be increasing steadily.  We had over eleven
hundred present on my last Sunday evening in Zenith, and that in
summer!  And during the season we often have nearly eighteen
hundred, in an auditorium that's only supposed to seat sixteen
hundred!  And with all modesty--it's not my doing but the methods
we're working up--I think I may say that every man, woman, and
child goes away happy and yet with a message to sustain 'em through
the week.  You see--oh, of course I give 'em the straight old-time
gospel in my sermon--I'm not the least bit afraid of talking right
up to 'em and reminding them of the awful consequences of sin and
ignorance and spiritual sloth.  Yes, sir!  No blinking the horrors
of the old-time proven Hell, not in any church I'M running!  But
also we make 'em get together, and their pastor is just one of
their own chums, and we sing cheerful, comforting songs, and do
they like it?  Say!  It shows up in the collections!"

"Mr. Gantry," said Andrew Pengilly, "why don't you believe in God?"



CHAPTER XXVIII


1


His friendship with Dr. Philip McGarry of the Arbor Church was all,
Frank Shallard felt, that kept him in the church.  As to his round
little wife Bess and the three respectable children, he had for
them less passion than compassion, and he could, he supposed, make
enough money somehow to care for them.

McGarry was not an extraordinary scholar, not especially eloquent,
not remarkably virtuous, but in him there was kindness along with
robust humor, a yearning for justice steeled by common sense, and
just that quality of authentic good-fellowship which the
Professional Good Fellows of Zenith, whether preachers or shoe-
salesmen, blasphemed against by shouting and guffawing and back-
slapping.  Women trusted in his strength and his honor; children
were bold with him; men disclosed to him their veiled sorrows; and
he was more nimble to help them than to be shocked.

Frank worshiped him.

Himself a bachelor, McGarry had become an intimate of Frank's
house.  He knew where the ice-pick was kept, and where the thermos
bottles for picnics; he was as likely as Frank to wash up after
late suppers; and if he called and the elder Shallards were not in,
he slipped up-stairs and was found there scandalously keeping the
children awake by stories of his hunting in Montana and Arizona and
Saskatchewan.

It was thus when Frank and Bess came home from prayer-meeting one
evening.  Philip McGarry's own prayer-meetings were brief.  A good
many people said they were as artificial a form of religious bait
as Elmer Gantry's Lively Sunday Evenings, but if McGarry did also
have the habit of making people sing "Smile, Smile, Smile" on all
public events except possibly funerals, at least he was not so
insistent about their shouting it.

They drifted down to the parsonage living-room, which Bess had made
gay with chintzes, Frank studious with portentous books of
sociology.  Frank sat deep in a chair smoking a pipe--he could
never quite get over looking like a youngish college professor who
smokes to show what a manly fellow he is.  McGarry wandered about
the room.  He had a way of pointing arguments by shaking objects of
furniture--pokers, vases, books, lamps--which was as dangerous as
it looked.

"Oh, I was rotten at prayer-meeting tonight," Frank grumbled.
"Darn it, I can't seem to go on being interested in the fact that
old Mrs. Besom finds God such a comfort in her trials.  Mrs.
Besom's daughter-in-law doesn't find Mrs. Besom any comfort in HER
trials, let me tell you!  And yet I don't see how I can say to her,
after she's been fluttering around among the angels and advertising
how dead certain she is that Jesus loves her--I haven't quite the
nerve to say, 'Sister, you tight-fisted, poison-tongued, old
hellcat--'"

"Why, Frank!" from Bess, in placid piety.

"'--you go home and forget your popularity in Heaven and ask your
son and his wife to forgive you for trying to make them your kind
of saint, with acidity of the spiritual stomach!'"

"Why, FRANK!"

"Let him rave, Bess," said McGarry.  "If a preacher didn't cuss his
congregation out once in a while, nobody but St. John would ever've
lasted--and I'll bet he wasn't very good at weekly services and
parish visiting!"

"AND," went on Frank, "tomorrow I've got a funeral.  That Henry
Semp.  Weighed two hundred and eighty pounds from the neck down and
three ounces from the neck up.  Perfectly good Christian citizen
who believed that Warren G. Harding was the greatest man since
George Washington.  I'm sure he never beat his wife.  Worthy
communicant.  But when his wife came to hire me, she wept like the
dickens when she talked about Henry's death, but I noticed from
the window that when she went off down the street she looked
particularly cheerful.  Yes, Henry was a bulwark of the nation; not
to be sneered at by highbrows.  And I'm dead certain, from
something she said, that every year they've jipped the Government
out of every cent they could on their income tax.  And tomorrow I'm
supposed to stand up there and tell his friends what a moral
example and intellectual Titan he was, and how the poor little
woman is simply broken by sorrow.  Well, cheer up!  From what I
know of her, she'll be married again within six months, and if I do
a good job of priesting tomorrow, maybe I'll get the fee!  Oh,
Lord, Phil, what a job, what a lying compromising job, this being a
minister!"

It was their hundredth argument over the question.

McGarry waved a pillow, discarded it for Bess' purse, while she
tried not to look alarmed, and shouted, "It is not!  As I heard a
big New York preacher say one day: he knew how imperfect the
ministry is, and how many second-raters get into it, and yet if he
had a thousand lives, he'd want to be a minister of the gospel, to
be a man showing the philosophy of Jesus to mankind, in every one
of 'em.  And the church universal, no matter what its failings, is
still the only institution in which we can work together to hand on
that gospel.  Maybe it's your fault, not the church's, young Frank,
if you're so scared of your people that you lie at funerals!  I
don't, by Jiminy!"

"You do, by Jiminy, my dear Phil!  You don't know it.  No, what you
do is, you hypnotize yourself until you're convinced that every
dear departed was a model of some virtue, and then you rhapsodize
about that."

"Well, probably he was!"

"Of course.  Probably your burglar was a model of courage, and your
gambler a model of kindness to everybody except the people he
robbed, but I don't like being hired to praise burglars and
gamblers and respectable loan-sharks and food-hounds like Henry
Semp, and encourage youngsters to accept their standards, and so
keep on perpetuating this barbarous civilization for which we
preachers are as responsible as the lawyers or the politicians or
the soldiers or even the school-masters.  No, sir!  Oh, I AM going
to get out of the church!  Think of it!  A PREACHER, getting
religion, getting saved, getting honest, getting out!  Then I'd
know the joys of sanctification that you Methodys talk about!"

"Oh, you make me tired!" Bess complained, not very aggressively.
She looked, at forty-one, like a plump and amiable girl of twenty.
"Honestly, Phil, I do wish you could show Frank where he's wrong.
I can't, and I've been trying these fifteen years."

"You have, my lamb!"

"Honestly, Phil, can't you make him see it?" said Bess.  "He's--of
course I do adore him, but of all the cry-babies I ever met--He's
the worst of all my children!  He talks about going into charity
work, about getting a job with a labor bank or a labor paper, about
lecturing, about trying to write.  Can't you make him see that he'd
be just as discontented whatever he did?  I'll bet you the labor
leaders and radical agitators and the Charity Organization Society
people aren't perfect little angels any more than preachers are!"

"Heavens, I don't expect 'em to be!  I don't expect to be content,"
Frank protested.  "And isn't it a good thing to have a few people
who are always yammering?  Never get anywhere without.  What a joke
that a minister, who's supposed to have such divine authority that
he can threaten people with hell, is also supposed to be such an
office-boy that he can be cussed out and fired if he dares to
criticize capitalists or his fellow ministers!  Anyway--Dear Bess,
it's rotten on you.  I'd LIKE to be a contented sort, I'd like
to 'succeed,' to be satisfied with being half-honest.  But I
can't. . . .  You see, Phil, I was brought up to believe the
Christian God wasn't a scared and compromising public servant, but
the creator and advocate of the whole merciless truth, and I reckon
that training spoiled me--I actually took my teachers seriously!"

"Oh, tut, tut, Frank; trouble with you is," Philip McGarry yawned,
"trouble with YOU is, you like arguing more than you do patiently
working out the spiritual problems of some poor, dumb, infinitely
piteous human being that comes to you for help, and that doesn't
care a hoot whether you advocate Zoroastrianism or Seventh-day
Adventism, so long as he feels that you love him and that you can
bring him strength from a power higher than himself.  I know that
if you could lose your intellectual pride, if you could forget that
you have to make a new world, better'n the Creator's, right away
tonight--you and Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells and H. L. Mencken and
Sinclair Lewis (Lord, how that book of Lewis', 'Main Street,' did
bore me, as much of it as I read; it just rambled on forever, and
all he could see was that some of the Gopher Prairie hicks didn't
go to literary teas quite as often as he does!--that was all he
could see among those splendid heroic pioneers)!  Well, as I was
saying, if instead of starting in where your congregation has left
off, because they never had your chance, you could draw them along
with you--"

"I try to!  And let me tell you, young fellow, I've got a few of
'em far enough along so they're having the sense to leave me and my
evangelical church and go off to the Unitarians or stay away from
church altogether--thus, Bess darling, depriving my wife and babes
of a few more pennies!  But seriously, Phil--"

"A man always says 'But seriously' when he feels the previous
arguments haven't been so good yet!"

"Maybe.  But anyway, what I mean to say is:  Of course my
liberalism is all foolishness!  Do you know why my people stand for
it?  They're not enough interested to realize what I'm saying!  If
I had a successor who was a fundamentalist, they'd like him just as
well or better, and they'd go back a-whooping to the sacred hell-
fire that I've coaxed 'em out of.  They don't believe I mean it
when I take a shot at the fear of eternal punishment, and the whole
magic and taboo system of worshiping the Bible and the ministry,
and all the other skull-decorated vestiges of horror there are in
so-called Christianity!  They don't know it!  Partly it's because
they've been trained not to believe anything much they hear in
sermons.  But also it's my fault.  I'm not aggressive.  I ought to
jump around like a lunatic or a popular evangelist, and shout, 'D'
you understand?  When I say that most of your religious opinions
are bunk, why, what I mean is, they're BUNK!'  I've never been
violently enough in earnest to be beaten for the sake of the Lord
our God! . . .  Not yet!"

"Hah, there I've got you, Frank!  Tickles me to see you try to be
the village atheist!  'For the sake of the Lord' you just said.
And how often I've heard you say at parting 'God bless you'--and
you meant it!  Oh, no, you don't believe in Christ!  Not any more
than the Pope at Rome!"

"I suppose that if I said 'God damn you,' that would also prove
that I was a devout Christian!  Oh, Phil, I can't understand how a
man as honest as you, as really fond of helping people--and of
tolerating them!--can stand being classed with a lot of your fellow
preachers and not even kick about it!  Think of your going on
enduring being a fellow Methodist preacher right in the same town
with Elmer Gantry and not standing up in ministers' meeting and
saying, 'Either he gets out or I do!'"

"I know!  You idiot, don't you suppose those of us that are halfway
decent suffer from being classed with Gantry, and that we hate him
more than you do?  But even if Elmer is rather on the swine side,
what of it?  Would you condemn a fine aspiring institution, full of
broad-gauged, earnest fellows, because one of them was a wash-out?"

"One?  Just one?  I'll admit there aren't many, not VERY many, hogs
like Gantry in your church, or any other, but let me give my loving
fraternal opinions of a few others of your splendid Methodist
fellows!  Bishop Toomis is a gas-bag.  Chester Brown, with his
candles and chanting, he's merely an Episcopalian who'd go over to
the Episcopal church if he weren't afraid he'd lose too much salary
in starting again--just as a good share of the Anglo-Catholic
Episcopalians are merely Catholics who'd go over to Rome if they
weren't afraid of losing social caste.  Otto Hickenlooper, with his
institutions--the rich are so moved by his charities that they hand
him money and Otto gets praised for spending that money.  Fine
vicious circle.  And think of some poor young idiot studying art,
wasting his time and twisting his ideas, at Otto's strictly moral
art class, where the teacher is chosen more for his opinions on the
sacraments than for his knowledge of composition."

"But, Frank, I've SAID all--"

"And the sound, the scholarly, the well-balanced Dr. Mahlon Potts!
Oh, he's a perfectly good man, and not a fanatic.  Doesn't believe
that evolution is a fiendish doctrine.  The only trouble with him--
as with most famous preachers--is that he hasn't the slightest
notion what human beings are like.  He's insulated; has been ever
since he became a preacher.  He goes to the death-beds of
prostitutes (but not very often, I'll bet!) but he can't understand
that perfectly decent husbands and wives often can't get along
because of sexual incompatibility.

"Potts lives in a library; he gets his idea of human motives out of
George Eliot and Margaret Deland, and his ideas of economics out of
editorials in the Advocate, and his idea as to what he really is
accomplishing out of the flattery of his Ladies' Aid!  He's a much
worse criminal than Gantry!  I imagine Elmer has some desire to be
a good fellow and share his swag, but Dr. Potts wants to make over
an entire world of living, bleeding, sweating, loving, fighting
human beings into the likeness of Dr. Potts--of Dr. Potts taking
his afternoon nap and snoring under a shelf of books about the
doctrines of the Ante-Nicene Fathers!"

"Golly, you simply love us!  And I suppose you think I admire all
these fellows!  Why, they regard me as a heretic, from the bishop
down," said Philip McGarry.

"And yet you stay with them!"

"Any other church better?"

"Oh, no.  Don't think I give all my love to the Methodists.
I take them only because they're your particular breed.  My own
Congregationalists, the Baptists who taught me that immersion is
more important than social justice, the Presbyterians, the
Campbellites, the whole lot--oh, I love 'em all about equally!"

"And what about yourself?  What about me?"

"You know what I think of myself--a man too feeble to stand up and
risk being called a crank or a vile atheist!  And about you, my
young liberal friend, I was just saving you to the last in my
exhibit of Methodist parsons!  You're the worst of the lot!"

"Oh, now, Frank!" yawned Bess.

She was sleepy.  How preachers did talk!  Did plasterers and
authors and stock-brokers sit up half the night discussing their
souls, fretting as to whether plastering or authorship or stock-
broking was worth while?

She yawned again, kissed Frank, patted Philip's cheek, and made
exit with, "You may be feeble, Frank, but you certainly can talk a
strong, rugged young wife to death!"

Frank, usually to be cowed by her jocose grumbling and Philip's
friendly jabs, was tonight afire and unquenchable.

"Yes, you're the worst of all, Phil!  You DO know something of
human beings.  You're not like old Potts, who's always so
informative about how much sin there is in the world and always so
astonished when he meets an actual sinner.  And you don't think it
matters a hang whether a seeker after decency gets ducked--
otherwise baptized--or not.  And yet when you get up in the pulpit,
from the way you wallow in prayer people believe that you're just
as chummy with the Deity as Potts or Gantry.  Your liberalism never
lasts you more than from my house to the street-car.  You talk
about the golden streets of Heaven and the blessed peace of the
hereafter, and yet you've admitted to me, time and again, that you
haven't the slightest idea whether there is any personal life after
death.  You talk about Redemption, and the Sacrament of the Lord's
Supper, and how God helps this nation to win a war and hits that
other with a flood, and a lot more things that you don't believe
privately at all."

"Oh, I know!  Thunder!  But you yourself--you pray in church."

"Not really.  For over a year now I've never addressed a prayer to
any definite deity.  I say something like 'Let us in meditation,
forgetting the worries of daily life, join our spirits in longing
for the coming of perpetual peace'--something like that."

"Well, it sounds like a pretty punk prayer to me, Frankie!  The
only trouble with you is, you feel you're called on to rewrite the
Lord's Prayer for him!"

Philip laughed gustily, and slapped Frank's shoulder.

"Damn it, don't be so jocular!  I know it's a poor prayer.  It's
terrible.  Nebulous.  Meaningless.  Like a barker at the New
Thought side-show.  I don't mind your disliking it, but I do mind
your trying to be humorous!  Why is it that you lads who defend the
church are so facetious when you really get down to discussing the
roots of religion?"

"I know, Frank.  Effect of too much preaching.  But seriously:
Yes, I do say things in the pulpit that I don't mean literally.
What of it?  People understand these symbols; they've been brought
up with them, they're comfortable with them.  My object in
preaching is to teach the art of living as far as I can; to
encourage my people--and myself--to be kind, to be honest, to be
clean, to be courageous, to love God and their fellow-men; and the
whole experience of the church shows that those lessons can best be
taught through such really noble concepts as salvation and the
presence of the Holy Ghost and Heaven and so on."

"Hm.  Does it?  Has the church ever tried anything else?  And just
what the dickens do you mean by 'being clean' and 'being honest'
and 'teaching the art of living'?  Lord, how we preachers do love
to use phrases that don't mean anything!  But suppose you were
perfectly right.  Nevertheless, by using the same theological slang
as a Gantry or a Toomis or a Potts, you unconsciously make
everybody believe that you think and act like them too."

"Nonsense!  Not that I'm particularly drawn by the charms of any of
these fellow sages.  I'd rather be wrecked on a desert island with
you, you old atheist!--you darned old fool!  But suppose they were
as bad as you think.  I still wouldn't feel it was my duty to foul
my own nest, to make this grand old Methodist Church, with its
saints and heroes like Wesley and Asbury and Quayle and Cartwright
and McDowell and McConnell--why, the tears almost come to my eyes
when I think of men like that!  Look here:  Suppose you were at
war, in a famous regiment.  Suppose a lot of your fellow soldiers,
even the present commander of the regiment himself, were rotters--
cowards.  Would you feel called on to desert?  Or to fight all the
harder to make up for their faults?"

"Phil, next to the humorous ragging I spoke of, and the use of
stale phrases, the worst cancer in religious discussion is the use
of the metaphor!  The Protestant church is not a regiment.  You're
not a soldier.  The soldier has to fight when and as he's told.
You have absolute liberty, outside of a few moral and doctrinal
compulsions."

"Ah-hah, now I've got you, my logical young friend!  If we have
that liberty, why aren't you willing to stay in the church?  Oh,
Frank, Frank, you are such a fool!  I know that you long for
righteousness.  Can't you see that you can get it best by staying
in the church, liberalizing from within, instead of running away
and leaving the people to the ministrations of the Gantrys?"

"I know.  I've been thinking just that all these years.  That's why
I'm still a preacher!  But I'm coming to believe that it's
tommyrot.  I'm coming to think that the hell-howling old mossbacks
corrupt the honest liberals a lot more than the liberals lighten
the backwoods minds of the fundamentalists.  What the dickens is
the church accomplishing, really?  Why have a church at all?  What
has it for humanity that you won't find in worldly sources--
schools, books, conversation?"

"It has this, Frank:  It has the unique personality and teachings
of Jesus Christ, and there is something in Jesus, there is
something in the way he spoke, there is something in the feeling of
a man when he suddenly has that inexpressible experience of KNOWING
the Master and his presence, which makes the church of Jesus
different from any other merely human institution or instrument
whatsoever!  Jesus is not simply greater and wiser than Socrates or
Voltaire; he is entirely DIFFERENT.  Anybody can interpret and
teach Socrates or Voltaire--in schools or books or conversation.
But to interpret the personality and teachings of Jesus requires an
especially called, chosen, trained, consecrated body of men, united
in an especial institution--the church."

"Phil, it sounds so splendid.  But just what WERE the personality
and the teachings of Jesus?  I'll admit it's the heart of the
controversy over the Christian religion:--aside from the fact that,
of course, most people believe in a church because they were BORN
to it.  But the essential query is:  Did Jesus--if the Biblical
accounts of him are even half accurate--have a particularly noble
personality, and were his teachings particularly original and
profound?  You know it's almost impossible to get people to read
the Bible honestly.  They've been so brought up to take the church
interpretation of every word that they read into it whatever
they've been taught to find there.  It's been so with me, up to the
last couple of years.  But now I'm becoming a quarter free, and I'm
appalled to see that I don't find Jesus an especially admirable
character!

"He is picturesque.  He tells splendid stories.  He's a good
fellow, fond of low company--in fact the idea of Jesus, whom the
bishops of his day cursed as a rounder and wine-bibber, being
chosen as the god of the Prohibitionists is one of the funniest
twists in history.  But he's vain, he praises himself outrageously,
he's fond of astonishing people by little magical tricks which
we've been taught to revere as 'miracles.'  He is furious as a
child in a tantrum when people don't recognize him as a great
leader.  He loses his temper.  He blasts the poor barren fig-tree
when it doesn't feed him.  What minds people have!  They hear
preachers proving by the Bible the exact opposites, that the Roman
Catholic Church is divinely ordained and that it is against all
divine ordinances, and it never occurs to them that far from the
Christian religion--or any other religion--being a blessing to
humanity, it's produced such confusion in all thinking, such
secondhand viewing of actualities, that only now are we beginning
to ask what and why we are, and what we can do with life!

"Just what are the teachings of Christ?  Did he come to bring peace
or more war?  He says both.  Did he approve earthly monarchies or
rebel against them?  He says both.  Did he ever--think of it, God
himself, taking on human form to help the earth--did he ever
suggest sanitation, which would have saved millions from plagues?
And you can't say his failure there was because he was too lofty to
consider mere sickness.  On the contrary, he was awfully interested
in it, always healing some one--providing they flattered his vanity
enough!

"What DID he teach?  One place in the Sermon on the Mount he
advises--let me get my Bible--here it is:  'Let your light so shine
before men that they may see your good works and glorify your
Father which is in heaven,' and then five minutes later he's
saying, 'Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen
of them, otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in
heaven.'  That's an absolute contradiction, in the one document
which is the charter of the whole Christian Church.  Oh, I know you
can reconcile them, Phil.  That's the whole aim of the ministerial
training: to teach us to reconcile contradictions by saying that
one of them doesn't mean what it means--and it's always a good
stunt to throw in 'You'd understand it if you'd only read it in the
original Greek'!

"There's just one thing that does stand out clearly and
uncontradicted in Jesus' teaching.  He advocated a system of
economics whereby no one saved money or stored up wheat or did
anything but live like a tramp.  If this teaching of his had been
accepted, the world would have starved in twenty years, after his
death!

"No, wait, Phil, just one second and then I'm through!"

He talked till dawn.

Frank's last protest, as they stood on the steps in the cold
grayness, was:

"My objection to the church isn't that the preachers are cruel,
hypocritical, actually wicked, though some of them are that, too--
think of how many are arrested for selling fake stock, for seducing
fourteen-year-old girls in orphanages under their care, for arson,
for murder.  And it isn't so much that the church is in bondage to
Big Business and doctrines as laid down by millionaires--though a
lot of churches are that, too.  My chief objection is that ninety-
nine percent of sermons and Sunday School teachings are so
agonizingly DULL!"



CHAPTER XXIX


1


However impatient he was with Frank, Philip McGarry's last wish was
to set Elmer Gantry piously baying on Frank's trail.  It was rather
an accident.  Philip sat next to Elmer at a dinner to discuss
missionary funds; he remembered that Frank and Elmer had been
classmates; and with a sincerely affectionate "It's too bad the
poor boy worries so over what are really matters for Faith," he
gave away to Elmer most of Frank's heresies.

Now in the bustle of raising funds to build a vast new church,
Elmer had forgotten his notion of saving the renowned hardware
impresario, Mr. William Dollinger Styles, and his millions from
contamination by Frank's blasphemies.

"We could use old Styles, and you could get some fine publicity by
attacking Shallard's attempt to steal Jesus and even Hell away from
us," said Elmer's confidant, Mr. T. J. Rigg, when he was consulted.

"Say, that's great.  How liberalism leads to theism.  Fine!  Wait
till Mr. Frank Shallard opens his mouth and puts his foot in it
again!" said the Reverend Elmer Gantry.  "Say, I wonder how we
could get a report of his sermons?  The poor fish isn't important
enough so's they very often report his junk in the papers."

"I'll take care of that.  I've got a girl in my office, good fast
worker, that I'll have go and take down all his sermons.  They'll
just think she's practising stenography."

"Well, by golly, that's one good use for sermons.  Ha, ha, ha!"
said Elmer.

"Yes, sir, by golly, found at last.  Ha, ha, ha!" said Mr. T. J.
Rigg.


2


In less than a month Frank maddened the citizens of Zenith by
asserting, in the pulpit, that though he was in favor of
temperance, he was not for Prohibition; that the methods of the
Anti-Saloon League were those of a lumber lobby.

Elmer had his chance.

He advertised that he would speak on "Fake Preachers--and Who They
Are."

In his sermon he said that Frank Shallard (by name) was a liar, a
fool, an ingrate whom he had tried to help in seminary, a thief who
was trying to steal Christ from an ailing world.

Elmer saw to it--T. J. Rigg arranged a foursome--that he played
golf with William Dollinger Styles that week.

"I was awfully sorry, Mr. Styles," he said, "to feel it my duty to
jump on your pastor, Mr. Shallard, last Sunday, but when a fellow
stands up and makes fun of Jesus Christ--well, it's time to forget
mercy!"

"I thought you were kind of hard on him.  I didn't hear his sermon
myself--I'm a church-member, but it does seem like things pile up
so at the office that I have to spend almost every Sunday morning
there.  But from what they've told me, he wasn't so wild."

"Then you don't think Shallard is practically an atheist?"

"Why, no!  Nice decent fellow--"

"Mr. Styles, do you realize that all over town people are wondering
how a man like you can give his support to a man like Shallard?  Do
you realize that not only the ministers but also laymen are saying
that Shallard is secretly both an agnostic and a socialist, though
he's afraid to come out and admit it?  I hear it everywhere.
People are afraid to tell you.  Jiminy, I'm kind of scared of you
myself!  Feel I've got a lot of nerve!"

"Well, I ain't so fierce," said Mr. Styles, very pleased.

"Anyway, I'd hate to have you think I was sneaking around damning
Shallard behind his back.  Why don't you do this?  You and some of
the other Dorchester deacons have Shallard for lunch or dinner, and
have me there, and let me put a few questions to him.  I'll talk to
the fellow straight!  Do you feel you can afford to be known as
tolerating an infidel in your church?  Oughtn't you to make him
come out from under cover and admit what he thinks?  If I'm wrong,
I'll apologize to you and to him, and you can call me all the kinds
of nosey, meddling, cranky, interfering fool you want to!"

"Well--He seems kind of a nice fellow."  Mr. Styles was
uncomfortable.  "But if you're right about him being really an
infidel, don't know's I could stand that."

"How'd it be if you and some of your deacons and Shallard came and
had dinner with me in a private room at the Athletic Club next
Friday evening?"

"Well, all right--"


3


Frank was so simple as to lose his temper when Elmer had bullied
him, roared at him, bulked at him, long enough, with Frank's own
deacons accepting Elmer as an authority.  He was irritated out of
all caution, and he screamed back at Elmer that he did not accept
Jesus Christ as divine; that he was not sure of a future life; that
he wasn't even certain of a personal God.

Mr. William Dollinger Styles snapped, "Then just why, Mr. Shallard,
don't you get out of the ministry before you're kicked out?"

"Because I'm not yet sure--Though I do think our present churches
are as absurd as a belief in witchcraft, yet I believe there could
be a church free of superstition, helpful to the needy, and giving
people that mystic something stronger than reason, that sense of
being uplifted in common worship of an unknowable power for good.
Myself, I'd be lonely with nothing but bleak debating-societies.  I
think--at least I still think--that for many souls there is this
need of worship, even of beautiful ceremonial--"

"'Mystic need of worship!'  'Unknowable power for good!'  Words,
words, words!  Milk and water!  THAT, when you have the glorious
and certain figure of Christ Jesus to worship and follow!" bellowed
Elmer.  "Pardon me, gentlemen, for intruding, but it makes me, not
as a preacher but just as a humble and devout Christian, sick to my
stomach to hear a fellow feel that he knows so blame' much he's
able to throw out of the window the Christ that the whole civilized
world has believed in for countless centuries!  And try to replace
him with a lot of gassy phrases!  Excuse me, Mr. Styles, but after
all, religion is a serious business, and if we're going to call
ourselves Christians at all, we have to bear testimony to the
proven fact of God.  Forgive me."

"It's quite all right, Dr. Gantry.  I know just how you feel," said
Styles.  "And while I'm no authority on religion, I feel the same
way you do, and I guess these other gentlemen do, too. . . .  Now,
Shallard, you're entitled to your own views, but not in our pulpit!
Why don't you just resign before we kick you out?"

"You can't kick me out!  It takes the whole church to do that!"

"The whole church'll damn well do it, you watch 'em!" said Deacon
William Dollinger Styles.


4


"What are we going to do, dear?" Bess said wearily.  "I'll stand by
you, of course, but let's be practical.  Don't you think it would
make less trouble if you did resign?"

"I've done nothing for which to resign!  I've led a thoroughly
decent life.  I haven't lied or been indecent or stolen.  I've
preached imagination, happiness, justice, seeking for the truth.
I'm no sage, Heaven knows, but I've given my people a knowledge
that there are such things as ethnology and biology, that there are
books like 'Ethan Frome' and 'Père Goriot' and Tono-Bungay' and
Renan's 'Jesus,' that there is nothing wicked in looking straight
at life--"

"Dear, I said PRACTICAL!"

"Oh, thunder, I don't know.  I think I can get a job in the Charity
Organization Society here--the general secretary happens to be
pretty liberal."

"I hate to have us leave the church entirely.  I'm sort of at home
there.  Why not see if they'd like to have you in the Unitarian
Church?"

"Too respectable.  Scared.  Same old sanctified phrases I'm trying
to get rid of--and won't ever quite get rid of, I'm afraid."


5


A meeting of the church body had been called to decide on Frank's
worthiness, and the members had been informed by Styles that Frank
was attacking all religion.  Instantly a number of the adherents
who had been quite unalarmed by what they themselves had heard in
the pulpit perceived that Frank was a dangerous fellow and more
than likely to injure omnipotent God.

Before the meeting, one woman, who remained fond of him, fretted to
Frank, "Oh, can't you understand what a dreadful thing you're doing
to question the divinity of Christ and all?  I'm afraid you're
going to hurt religion permanently.  If you could open your eyes
and see--if you could only understand what my religion has meant to
me in times of despair!  I don't know what I would have done during
my typhoid without that consolation!  You're a bright, smart man
when you let yourself be.  If you'd only go and have a good talk
with Dr. G. Prosper Edwards.  He's an older man than you, and he's
a doctor of divinity, and he has such huge crowds at Pilgrim
Church, and I'm sure he could show you where you're wrong and make
everything perfectly clear to you."

Frank's sister, married now to an Akron lawyer, came to stay with
them.  They had been happy, Frank and she, in the tepid but amiable
house of their minister-father; they had played at church, with
dolls and salt-cellars for congregation; books were always about
them, natural to them; and at their father's table they had heard
doctors, preachers, lawyers, politicians, talk of high matters.

The sister bubbled to Bess, "You know, Frank doesn't believe half
he says!  He just likes to show off.  He's a real good Christian at
heart, if he only knew it.  Why, he was such a good Christian boy--
he led the B.Y.P.U.--he COULDN'T have drifted away from Christ into
all this nonsense that nobody takes seriously except a lot of long-
haired dirty cranks!  And he'll break his father's heart!  I'm
going to have a good talk with that young man, and bring him to his
senses!"

On the street Frank met the great Dr. McTiger, pastor of the Royal
Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Dr. McTiger had been born in Scotland, graduated at Edinburgh, and
he secretly--not too secretly--despised all American universities
and seminaries and their alumni.  He was a large, impatient,
brusque man, renowned for the length of his sermons.

"I hear, young man," he shouted at Frank, "that you have read one
whole book on the pre-Christian mysteries and decided that our
doctrines are secondhand and that you are now going to destroy the
church.  You should have more pity!  With the loss of a profound
intellect like yours, my young friend, I should doubt if the church
can stagger on!  It's a pity that after discovering scholarship you
didn't go on and get enough of that same scholarship to perceive
that by the wondrous beneficence of God's mercy the early church
was led to combine many alien factors in the one perfection of the
Christian brotherhood!  I don't know whether it's ignorance of
church history or lack of humor that chiefly distinguishes you, my
young friend!  Go and sin no more!"

From Andrew Pengilly came a scrawled, shaky letter begging Frank to
stand true and not deliver his appointed flock to the devil.  That
hurt.


6


The first church business meeting did not settle the question of
Frank's remaining.  He was questioned about his doctrines, and he
shocked them by being candid, but the men whom he had helped, the
women whom he had consoled in sickness, the fathers who had gone to
him when their daughters "had gotten into trouble," stood by him
for all the threats of Styles.

A second meeting would have to be called before they took a vote.

When Elmer read of this, he galloped to T. J. Rigg.  "Here's our
chance!" he gloated.  "If the first meeting had kicked Frank out,
Styles might have stayed with their church, though I do think he
likes my brand of theology and my Republican politics.  But why
don't you go to him now, T. J., and hint around about how his
church has insulted him?"

"All right, Elmer.  Another soul saved.  Brother Styles has still
got the first dollar he ever earned, but maybe we can get ten cents
of it away from him for the new church.  Only--Him being so much
richer than I, I hope you won't go to him for spiritual advice and
inspiration, instead of me."

"You bet I won't, T. J.!  Nobody has ever accused Elmer Gantry of
being disloyal to his friends!  My only hope is that your guidance
of this church has been of some value to you yourself."

"Well--yes--in a way.  I've had three brother Methodist clients
from Wellspring come to me--two burglary and one forgery.  But it's
more that I just like to make the wheels go round."

Mr. Rigg was saying, an hour later, to Mr. William Dollinger
Styles, "If you came and joined us, I know you'd like it--you've
seen what a fine, upstanding, two-fisted, one-hundred-percent he-
man Dr. Gantry is.  Absolutely sound about business.  And it would
be a swell rebuke to your church for not accepting your advice.
But we hate to invite you to come over to us--in fact Dr. Gantry
absolutely forbade me to see you--for fear you'll think it was just
because you're rich."

For three days Styles shied, then he was led, trembling, up to the
harness.

Afterward, Dr. G. Prosper Edwards of Pilgrim Congregational said to
his spouse, "Why on earth didn't WE think of going right after
Styles and inviting him to join us?  It was so simple we never even
thought of it.  I really do feel quite cross.  Why didn't YOU think
of it?"


7


The second church meeting was postponed.  It looked to Elmer as
though Frank would be able to stay on at Dorchester Congregational
and thus defy Elmer as the spiritual and moral leader of the city.

Elmer acted fearlessly.

In sermon after sermon he spoke of "that bunch of atheists out
there at Dorchester."  Frank's parishioners were alarmed.  They
were forced to explain (only they were never quite sure what they
were explaining) to customers, to neighbors, to fellow lodge-
members.  They felt disgraced, and so it was that a second meeting
was called.

Now Frank had fancied a spectacular resignation.  He heard himself,
standing before a startled audience, proclaiming, "I have decided
that no one in this room, including your pastor, believes in the
Christian religion.  Not one of us would turn the other cheek.  Not
one of us would sell all that he has and give to the poor.  Not one
of us would give his coat to some man who took his overcoat.  Every
one of us lays up all the treasure he can.  We don't practise the
Christian religion.  We don't intend to practise it.  Therefore, we
don't believe in it.  Therefore I resign, and I advise you to quit
lying and disband."

He saw himself, then, tramping down the aisle among his gaping
hearers, and leaving the church forever.

But:  "I'm too tired.  Too miserable.  And why hurt the poor
bewildered souls?  And--I am so tired."

He stood up at the beginning of the second meeting and said gently,
"I had refused to resign.  I still feel I have an honest right to
an honest pulpit.  But I am setting brother against brother.  I am
not a Cause--I am only a friend.  I have loved you and the work,
the sound of friends singing together, the happiness of meeting on
leisurely Sunday mornings.  This I give up.  I resign, and I wish I
could say, 'God be with you and bless you all.'  But the good
Christians have taken God and made him into a menacing bully, and I
cannot even say 'God bless you,' during this last moment, in a life
given altogether to religion, when I shall ever stand in a pulpit."

Elmer Gantry, in his next sermon, said that he was so broad-minded
that he would be willing to receive an Infidel Shallard in his
church, providing he repented.


8


When he found that he liked the Charity Organization Society and
his work in that bleak institution no better than his work in the
church, Frank laughed.

"As Bess said!  A consistent malcontent!  Well, I AM consistent,
anyway.  And the relief not to be a preacher any more!  Not to have
to act sanctimonious!  Not to have men consider you an old woman in
trousers!  To be able to laugh without watching its effect!"

Frank was given charge, at the C. O. S., of a lodging-house, a
woodyard at which hoboes worked for two hours daily to pay for
lodging and breakfast, and an employment bureau.  He knew little
about Scientific Charity, so he was shocked by the icy manner in
which his subordinates--the aged virgin at the inquiry desk, the
boss of the woodyard, the clerk at the lodging-house, the young
lady who asked the applicants about their religion and vices--
treated the shambling unfortunates as criminals who had
deliberately committed the crime of poverty.

They were as efficient and as tender as vermin-exterminators.

In this acid perfection, Frank longed for the mystery that clings
to even the dourest or politest tabernacle.  He fell in the way of
going often to the huge St. Dominic's Catholic Church, of which the
eloquent Father de Pinna was pastor, with Father Matthew Smeesby,
the new sort of American, state-university-bred priest, as
assistant pastor and liaison officer.

St. Dominic's was, for Zenith, an ancient edifice, and the coal-
smoke from the South Zenith factories had aged the gray stone to a
semblance of historic centuries.  The interior, with its dim
irregularity, its lofty roof, the curious shrines, the mysterious
door at the top of a flight of stone steps, unloosed Frank's
imagination.  It touched him to see the people kneeling at any
hour.  He had never known a church to which the plain people came
for prayer.  Despite its dusky magnificence, they seemed to find in
the church their home.  And when he saw the gold and crimson of
solemn high mass blazing at the end of the dark aisle, with the
crush of people visibly believing in the presence of God, he
wondered if he had indeed found the worship he had fumblingly
sought.

He knew that to believe literally in Purgatory and the Immaculate
Conception, the Real Presence and the authority of the hierarchy,
was as impossible for him as to believe in Zeus.

"But," he pondered, "isn't it possible that the whole thing is so
gorgeous a fairy-tale that to criticize it would be like trying to
prove that Jack did not kill the giant?  No sane priest could
expect a man of some education to think that saying masses had any
effect on souls in Purgatory; they'd expect him to take the whole
thing as one takes a symphony.  And, oh, I am lonely for the
fellowship of the church!"

He sought a consultation with Father Matthew Smeesby.  They had
met, as fellow ministers, at many dinners.

The good father sat at a Grand Rapids desk, in a room altogether
business-like save for a carved Bavarian cupboard and a crucifix on
the barren plaster wall.  Smeesby was a man of forty, a crisper
Philip McGarry.

"You were an American university man, weren't you, Father?" Frank
asked.

"Yes.  University of Indiana.  Played half-back."

"Then I think I can talk to you.  It seems to me that so many of
your priests are not merely foreign by birth, Poles and whatnot,
but they look down on American mores and want to mold us to their
ideas and ways.  But you--Tell me:  Would it be conceivable for an--
I won't say an intelligent, but at least a reasonably well-read
man like myself, who finds it quite impossible to believe one word
of your doctrines--"

"Huh!"

"--but who is tremendously impressed by your ritual and the spirit
of worship--could such a man be received into the Roman Catholic
Church, honestly, with the understanding that to him your dogmas
are nothing but symbols?"

"Most certainly not!"

"Don't you know any priests who love the Church but don't literally
believe all the doctrines?"

"I do not!  I know no such persons!  Shallard, you can't understand
the authority and reasonableness of the Church.  You're not ready
to.  You think too much of your puerile powers of reasoning.  You
haven't enough divine humility to comprehend the ages of wisdom
that have gone to building up this fortress, and you stand outside
its walls, one pitifully lonely little figure, blowing the trumpet
of your egotism, and demanding of the sentry, 'Take me to your
commander.  I am graciously inclined to assist him.  Only he must
understand that I think his granite walls are pasteboard, and I
reserve the right to blow them down when I get tired of them.'
Man, if you were a prostitute or a murderer and came to me saying
'Can I be saved?' I'd cry 'Yes!' and give my life to helping you.
But you're obsessed by a worse crime than murder--pride of
intellect!  And yet you haven't such an awfully overpowering
intellect to be proud of, and I'm not sure but that's the worst
crime of all!  Good-day!"

He added, as Frank ragingly opened the door, "Go home and pray for
simplicity."

"Go home and pray that I may be made like you?  Pray to have your
humility and your manners?" said Frank.

It was a fortnight later that for his own satisfaction Frank set
down in the note-book which he had always carried for sermon ideas,
which he still carried for the sermons they would never let him
preach again, a conclusion:

"The Roman Catholic Church is superior to the militant Protestant
Church.  It does not compel you to give up your sense of beauty,
your sense of humor, or your pleasant vices.  It merely requires
you to give up your honesty, your reason, your heart and soul."


9


Frank had been with the Charity Organization Society for three
years, and he had become assistant general secretary at the time of
the Dayton evolution trial.  It was at this time that the brisker
conservative clergymen saw that their influence and oratory and
incomes were threatened by any authentic learning.  A few of them
were so intelligent as to know that not only was biology dangerous
to their positions, but also history--which gave no very sanctified
reputation to the Christian church; astronomy--which found no
convenient Heaven in the skies and snickered politely at the notion
of making the sun stand still in order to win a Jewish border
skirmish; psychology--which doubted the superiority of a Baptist
preacher fresh from the farm to trained laboratory researchers; and
all the other sciences of the modern university.  They saw that a
proper school should teach nothing but bookkeeping, agriculture,
geometry, dead languages made deader by leaving out all the amusing
literature, and the Hebrew Bible as interpreted by men superbly
trained to ignore contradictions, men technically called
"Fundamentalists."

This perception the clergy and their most admired laymen expressed
in quick action.  They formed half a dozen competent and well-
financed organizations to threaten rustic state legislators with
political failure and bribe them with unctuous clerical praise, so
that these back-street and backwoods Solons would forbid the
teaching in all state-supported schools and colleges of anything
which was not approved by the evangelists.

It worked edifyingly.

To oppose them there were organized a few groups of scholars.  One
of these organizations asked Frank to speak for them.  He was
delighted to feel an audience before him again, and he got leave
from the Zenith Charity Organization Society for a lecture tour.

He came excitedly and proudly to his first assignment, in a roaring
modern city in the Southwest.  He loved the town; believed really
that he came to it with a "message."  He tasted the Western air
greedily, admired the buildings flashing up where but yesterday had
been prairie.  He smiled from the hotel 'bus when he saw a poster
which announced that the Reverend Frank Shallard would speak on
"Are the Fundamentalists Witch Hunters?" at Central Labor Hall,
auspices of the League for Free Science.

"Bully!  Fighting again!  I've found that religion I've been
looking for!"

He peered out for other posters. . . .  They were all defaced.

At his hotel was a note, typed, anonymous:  "We don't want you and
your hellish atheism here.  We can think for ourselves without any
imported 'liberals.'  If you enjoy life, you'd better be out of
this decent Christian city before evening.  God help you if you
aren't!  We have enough mercy to give warning, but enough of God's
justice to see you get yours right if you don't listen.  Blasphemers
get what they ask for.  We wonder if you would like the feeling of a
blacksnake across your lying face?  The Committee."

Frank had never known physical conflict more violent than boyhood
wrestling.  His hand shook.  He tried to sound defiant with:  "They
can't scare me!"

His telephone, and a voice:  "This Shallard?  Well this is a
brother preacher speaking.  Name don't matter.  I just want to tip
you off that you'd better not speak tonight.  Some of the boys are
pretty rough."

Then Frank began to know the joy of anger.

The hall of his lecture was half filled when he looked across the
ice-water pitcher on the speaker's table.  At the front were the
provincial intellectuals, most of them very eager, most of them
dreadfully poor: a Jewish girl librarian with hungry eyes, a
crippled tailor, a spectacled doctor sympathetic to radical
disturbances but too good a surgeon to be driven out of town.
There was a waste of empty seats, then, and at the back a group of
solid, prosperous, scowling burghers, with a leonine man who was
either an actor, a congressman, or a popular clergyman.

This respectable group grumbled softly, and hissed a little as
Frank nervously began.

America, he said, in its laughter at the "monkey trial" at Dayton,
did not understand the veritable menace of the Fundamentalists'
crusade.  ("Outrageous!" from the leonine gentleman.)  They were
mild enough now; they spoke in the name of virtue; but give them
rope, and there would be a new Inquisition, a new hunting of
witches.  We might live to see men burned to death for refusing to
attend Protestant churches.

Frank quoted the Fundamentalist who asserted that evolutionists
were literally murderers, because they killed orthodox faith, and
ought therefore to be lynched; William Jennings Bryan, with his
proposal that any American who took a drink outside the country
should be exiled for life.

"That's how these men speak, with so little power--as yet!" Frank
pleaded.  "Use your imaginations!  Think how they would rule this
nation, and compel the more easy-going half-liberal clergy to work
with them, if they had the power!"

There were constant grunts of "That's a lie!" and "They ought to
shut him up!" from the back, and now Frank saw marching into the
hall a dozen tough young men.  They stood ready for action, looking
expectantly toward the line of prosperous Christian Citizens.

"And you have here in your own city," Frank continued, "a minister
of the gospel who enjoys bellowing that any one who disagrees with
him is a Judas."

"That's enough!" cried some one at the back, and the young toughs
galloped down the aisle toward Frank, their eyes hot with cruelty,
teeth like a fighting dog's, hands working--he could feel them at
his neck.  They were met and held a moment by the sympathizers in
front.  Frank saw the crippled tailor knocked down by a man who
stepped on the body as he charged on.

With a curious lassitude more than with any fear, Frank sighed,
"Hang it, I've got to join the fight and get killed!"

He started down from the platform.

The chairman seized his shoulder.  "No!  Don't!  You'll get beaten
to death!  We need you!  Come here--come HERE!  This back door!"

Frank was thrust through a door into a half-lighted alley.

A motor was waiting, and by it two men, one of whom cried, "Right
in here, Brother."

It was a large sedan; it seemed security, life.  But as Frank
started to climb in he noted the man at the wheel, then looked
closer at the others.  The man at the wheel had no lips but only a
bitter dry line across his face--the mouth of an executioner.  Of
the other two, one was like an unreformed bartender, with curly
mustache and a barber's lock; one was gaunt, with insane eyes.

"Who are you fellows?" he demanded.

"Shut your damned trap and get t' hell in there!" shrieked the
bartender, pushing Frank into the back of the car, so that he fell
with his head on the cushion.

The insane man scrambled in, and the car was off.

"We told you to get out of town.  We gave you your chance.  By God,
you'll learn something now, you God damned atheist--and probably a
damn' socialist or I. W. W. too!" the seeming bartender said.  "See
this gun?"  He stuck it into Frank's side, most painfully.  "We may
decide to let you live if you keep your mouth shut and do what we
tell you to--and again we may not.  You're going to have a nice
ride with us!  Just think what fun you're going to have when we get
you in the country--alone--where it's nice and dark and quiet!"

He placidly lifted his hands and gouged Frank's cheek with his
strong fingernails.

"I won't stand it!" screamed Frank.

He rose, struggling.  He felt the gaunt fanatic's fingers--just two
fingers, demon-strong--close on his neck, dig in with pain that
made him sick.  He felt the bartender's fist smashing his jaw.  As
he slumped down, limp against the forward seat, half-fainting, he
heard the bartender chuckle:

"That'll give the blank, blank, blank of a blank some idea of the
fun we'll have watching him squirm bimeby!"

The gaunt one snapped, "The boss said not to cuss."

"Cuss, hell!  I don't pretend to be any tin angel.  I've done a lot
of tough things.  But, by God, when a fellow pretending to be a
minister comes sneaking around trying to make fun of the Christian
religion--the only chance us poor devils have got to become decent
again--then, by God, it's time to show we've got some guts and
appreciation!"

The pseudo-bartender spoke with the smugly joyous tones of any
crusader given a chance to be fiendish for a moral reason, and
placidly raising his leg, he brought his heel down on Frank's
instep.

When the cloud of pain had cleared from his head, Frank sat
rigid. . . .  What would Bess and the kids do if these men killed
him? . . .  Would they beat him much before he died?

The car left the highway, followed a country road and ran along a
lane, through what seemed to Frank to be a cornfield.  It stopped
by a large tree.

"Get out!" snapped the gaunt man.

Mechanically, his legs limp, Frank staggered out.  He looked up at
the moon.  "It's the last time I'll ever see the moon--see the
stars--hear voices.  Never again to walk on a fresh morning!"

"What are you going to do?" he said, hating them too much to be
afraid.

"Well, dearie," said the driver, with a dreadful jocosity, "you're
going to take a little walk with us, back here in the fields a
ways."

"Hell!" said the bartender, "let's hang him.  Here's a swell tree.
Use the tow-rope."

"No," from the gaunt man.  "Just hurt him enough so he'll remember,
and then he can go back and tell his atheist friends it ain't
healthy for 'em in real Christian parts.  Move, you!"

Frank walked in front of them, ghastly silent.  They followed a
path through the cornfield to a hollow.  The crickets were noisily
cheerful; the moon serene.

"This'll do," snarled the gaunt one; then to Frank:  "Now get ready
to feel good."

He set his pocket electric torch on a clod of earth.  In its light
Frank saw him draw from his pocket a coiled black leather whip, a
whip for mules.

"Next time," said the gaunt one, slowly, "next time you come back
here, we'll kill you.  And any other yellow traitor and stinker and
atheist like you.  Tell 'em all that!  This time we won't kill you--
not quite."

"Oh, quit talking and let's get busy!" said the bartender.  "All
right!"

The bartender caught Frank's two arms behind, bending them back,
almost breaking them, and suddenly with a pain appalling and
unbelievable the whip slashed across Frank's cheek, cutting it, and
instantly it came again--again--in a darkness of reeling pain.


10


Consciousness returned waveringly as dawn crawled over the
cornfield and the birds were derisive.  Frank's only clear emotion
was a longing to escape from this agony by death.  His whole face
reeked with pain.  He could not understand why he could scarce see.
When he fumblingly raised his hand, he discovered that his right
eye was a pulp of blind flesh, and along his jaw he could feel the
exposed bone.

He staggered along the path through the cornfield, stumbling over
hummocks, lying there sobbing, muttering, "Bess--oh, come--BESS!"

His strength lasted him just to the highroad, and he sloped to
earth, lay by the road like a drunken beggar.  A motor was coming,
but when the driver saw Frank's feebly uplifted arm he sped on.
Pretending to be hurt was a device of holdup men.

"Oh, God, won't anybody help me?" Frank whimpered, and suddenly he
was laughing, a choking twisted laughter.  "Yes, I said it, Philip--
'God' I said--I suppose it proves I'm a good Christian!"

He rocked and crawled along the road to a cottage.  There was a
light--a farmer at early breakfast.  "At last!"  Frank wept.  When
the farmer answered the knock, holding up a lamp, he looked once at
Frank, then screamed and slammed the door.

An hour later a motorcycle policeman found Frank in the ditch, in
half delirium.

"Another drunk!" said the policeman, most cheerfully, snapping the
support in place on his cycle.  But as he stooped and saw Frank's
half-hidden face, he whispered, "Good God Almighty!"


11


The doctors told him that though the right eye was gone completely,
he might not entirely lose the sight of the other for perhaps a
year.

Bess did not shriek when she saw him; she only stood with her hands
shaky at her breast.

She seemed to hesitate before kissing what had been his mouth.  But
she spoke cheerfully:

"Don't you worry about a single thing.  I'll get a job that'll keep
us going.  I've already seen the general secretary at the C. O. S.
And isn't it nice that the kiddies are old enough now to read aloud
to you."

To be read aloud to, the rest of his life . . .


12


Elmer called and raged, "This is the most outrageous thing I've
ever heard of in my life, Frank!  Believe me, I'm going to give the
fellows that did this to you the most horrible beating they ever
got, right from my pulpit!  Even though it may hinder me in getting
money for my new church--say, we're going to have a bang-up plant
there, right up to date, cost over half a million dollars, seat
over two thousand.  But nobody can shut ME up!  I'm going to
denounce those fiends in a way THEY'LL never forget!"

And that was the last Elmer is known ever to have said on the
subject, privately or publicly.



CHAPTER XXX


1


The Reverend Elmer Gantry was in his oak and Spanish leather study
at the great new Wellspring Church.

The building was of cheerful brick, trimmed with limestone.  It had
Gothic windows, a carillon in the square stone tower, dozens of
Sunday School rooms, a gymnasium, a social room with a stage and a
motion-picture booth, an electric range in the kitchen, and over it
all a revolving electric cross and a debt.

But the debt was being attacked.  Elmer had kept on the professional
church-money-raiser whom he had employed during the campaign for
the building fund.  This financial crusader was named Emmanuel
Navitsky; he was said to be the descendant of a noble Polish
Catholic family converted to Protestantism; and certainly he was a
most enthusiastic Christian--except possibly on Passover Eve. He
had raised money for Presbyterian Churches, Y. M. C. A. buildings,
Congregational Colleges, and dozens of other holy purposes.  He did
miracles with card indices of rich people; and he is said to have
been the first ecclesiastical go-getter to think of inviting Jews
to contribute to Christian temples.

Yes, Emmanuel would take care of the debt, and Elmer could give
himself to purely spiritual matters.

He sat now in his study, dictating to Miss Bundle.  He was happy in
the matter of that dowdy lady, because her brother, a steward in
the church, had recently died, and he could presently get rid of
her without too much discord.

To him was brought the card of Loren Larimer Dodd, M. A., D. D.,
LL. D., president of Abernathy College, an institution of Methodist
learning.

"Hm," Elmer mused.  "I bet he's out raising money.  Nothing doing!
What the devil does he think we are!" and aloud:  "Go out and bring
Dr. Dodd right in, Miss Bundle.  A great man!  A wonderful
educator!  You know--president of Abernathy College!"

Looking her admiration at a boss who had such distinguished
callers, Miss Bundle bundled out.

Dr. Dodd was a florid man with a voice, a Kiwanis pin, and a
handshake.

"Well, well, well, Brother Gantry, I've heard so much of your
magnificent work here that I ventured to drop in and bother you for
a minute.  What a magnificent church you have created!  It must be
a satisfaction, a pride!  It's--magnificent!"

"Thanks, Doctor.  Mighty pleased to meet you.  Uh.  Uh.  Uh.
Visiting Zenith?"

"Well, I'm, as it were, on my rounds."

("Not a cent, you old pirate!")  "Visiting the alumni, I presume."

"In a way.  The fact is I--"

("Not one damn' cent.  My salary gets raised next!")

"--was wondering if you would consent to my taking a little time at
your service Sunday evening to call to the attention of your
magnificent congregation the great work and dire needs of
Abernathy.  We have such a group of earnest young men and women--
and no few of the boys going into the Methodist ministry.  But our
endowment is so low, and what with the cost of the new athletic
field--though I am delighted to be able to say our friends have
made it possible to create a really magnificent field, with a fine
cement stadium--but it has left us up against a heart-breaking
deficit.  Why, the entire chemistry department is housed in two
rooms in what was a cowshed!  And--

"Can't do it, Doctor.  Impossible.  We haven't begun to pay for
this church.  Be as much as my life is worth to go to my people
with a plea for one extra cent.  But possibly in two years from
now--Though frankly," and Elmer laughed brightly, "I don't know why
the people of Wellspring should contribute to a college which
hasn't thought enough of Wellspring's pastor to give him a Doctor
of Divinity degree!"

The two holy clerks looked squarely at each other, with poker
faces.

"Of course, Doctor," said Elmer, "I've been offered the degree a
number of times, but by small, unimportant colleges, and I haven't
cared to accept it.  So you can see that this is in no way a hint
that I would LIKE such a degree.  Heaven forbid!  But I do know it
might please my congregation, make them feel Abernathy was their
own college, in a way."

Dr. Dodd remarked serenely, "Pardon me if I smile!  You see I had a
double mission in coming to you.  The second part was to ask you if
you would honor Abernathy by accepting a D. D.!"

They did not wink at each other.

Elmer gloated to himself, "And I've heard it cost old Mahlon Potts
six hundred bucks for his D. D.!  Oh, yes, Prexy, we'll begin to
raise money for Abernathy in two years--we'll BEGIN!"


2


The chapel of Abernathy College was full.  In front were the gowned
seniors, looking singularly like a row of arm-chairs covered with
dust-cloths.  On the platform, with the president and the senior
members of the faculty, were the celebrities whose achievements
were to be acknowledged by honorary degrees.

Besides the Reverend Elmer Gantry, these distinguished guests were
the Governor of the state--who had started as a divorce lawyer but
had reformed and enabled the public service corporations to steal
all the water-power in the state; Mr. B. D. Swenson, the automobile
manufacturer, who had given most of the money for the Abernathy
football stadium; and the renowned Eva Evaline Murphy, author,
lecturer, painter, musician, and authority on floriculture, who was
receiving a Litt. D. for having written (gratis) the new Abernathy
College Song:


     We'll think of thee where'er we be,
     On plain or mountain, town or sea,
     Oh, let us sing how round us clings,
     Dear Abernathy, thoooooooooughts--of--thee.


President Dodd was facing Elmer, and shouting: "--and now we have
the privilege of conferring the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon
one than whom no man in our honored neighboring state of Winnemac
has done more to inculcate sound religious doctrine, increase the
power of the church, uphold high standards of eloquence and
scholarship, and in his own life give such an example of
earnestness as is an inspiration to all of us!"

They cheered--and Elmer had become the Reverend Dr. Gantry.


3


It was a great relief at the Rotary Club.  They had long felt
uncomfortable in calling so weighty a presence "Elmer," and now,
with a pride of their own in his new dignity, they called him
"Doc."

The church gave him a reception and raised his salary to seventy-
five hundred dollars.


4


The Rev. Dr. Gantry was the first clergyman in the state of
Winnemac, almost the first in the country, to have his services
broadcast by radio.  He suggested it himself.  At that time, the
one broadcasting station in Zenith, that of the Celebes Gum and
Chicle Company, presented only jazz orchestras and retired
sopranos, to advertise the renowned Jolly Jack Gum.  For fifty
dollars a week Wellspring Church was able to use the radio Sunday
mornings from eleven to twelve-thirty.  Thus Elmer increased the
number of his hearers from two thousand to ten thousand--and in
another pair of years it would be a hundred thousand.

Eight thousand radio-owners listening to Elmer Gantry--

A bootlegger in his flat, coat off, exposing his pink silk shirt,
his feet up on the table. . . .  The house of a small-town doctor,
with the neighbors come in to listen--the drug-store man, his fat
wife, the bearded superintendent of schools. . . .  Mrs. Sherman
Reeves of Royal Ridge, wife of one of the richest young men in
Zenith, listening in a black-and-gold dressing-gown, while she
smoked a cigarette. . . .  The captain of a schooner, out on Lake
Michigan, hundreds of miles away, listening in his cabin. . . .
The wife of a farmer in an Indiana valley, listening while her
husband read the Sears-Roebuck catalogue and sniffed. . . .  A
retired railway conductor, very feeble, very religious. . . .  A
Catholic priest, in a hospital, chuckling a little. . . .  A
spinster school-teacher, mad with loneliness, worshiping Dr.
Gantry's virile voice. . . .  Forty people gathered in a country
church too poor to have a pastor. . . .  A stock actor in his
dressing-room, fagged with an all-night rehearsal.

All of them listening to the Rev. Dr. Elmer Gantry as he shouted:

"--and I want to tell you that the fellow who is eaten by ambition
is putting the glories of this world before the glories of Heaven!
Oh, if I could only help you to understand that it is humility,
that it is simple loving kindness, that it is tender loyalty, which
alone make the heart glad!  Now, if you'll let me tell a story:  It
reminds me of two Irishmen named Mike and Pat--"


5


For years Elmer had had a waking nightmare of seeing Jim Lefferts
sitting before him in the audience, scoffing.  It would be a
dramatic encounter and terrible; he wasn't sure but that Jim would
speak up and by some magic kick him out of the pulpit.

But when, that Sunday morning, he saw Jim in the third row, he
considered only, "Oh, Lord, there's Jim Lefferts!  He's pretty
gray.  I suppose I'll have to be nice to him."

Jim came up afterward to shake hands.  He did not look cynical; he
looked tired; and when he spoke, in a flat prairie voice, Elmer
felt urban and urbane and superior.

"Hello, Hell-cat," said Jim.

"Well, well, well!  Old Jim Lefferts!  Well, by golly!  Say, it
certainly is a mighty great pleasure to see you, my boy!  What you
doing in this neck of the woods?"

"Looking up a claim for a client."

"What you doing now, Jim?"

"I'm practising law in Topeka."

"Doing pretty well?"

"Oh, I can't complain.  Oh, nothing extra special.  I was in the
state senate for a term though."

"That's fine!  That's fine!  Say, how long gonna be in town?"

"Oh, 'bout three days."

"Say, want to have you up to the house for dinner; but doggone it,
Cleo--that's my wife--I'm married now--she's gone and got me all
sewed up with a lot of dates--you know how these women are--me, I'd
rather sit home and read.  But sure got to see you again.  Say,
gimme a ring, will you?--at the house (find it in the tel'phone
book) or at my study here in the church."

"Yuh, sure, you bet.  Well, glad to seen you."

"You bet.  Tickled t' death seen you, old Jim!"

Elmer watched Jim plod away, shoulders depressed, a man
discouraged.

"And that," he rejoiced, "is the poor fish that tried to keep me
from going into the ministry!"  He looked about his auditorium,
with the organ pipes a vast golden pyramid, with the Chubbuck
memorial window vivid in ruby and gold and amethyst.  "And become a
lawyer like him, in a dirty stinking little office!  Huh!  And he
actually made fun of me and tried to hold me back when I got a
clear and definite Call of God!  Oh, I'll be good and busy when he
calls up, you can bet on that!"

Jim did not telephone.

On the third day Elmer had a longing to see him, a longing to
regain his friendship.  But he did not know where Jim was staying;
he could not reach him at the principal hotels.

He never saw Jim Lefferts again, and within a week he had forgotten
him, except as it was a relief to have lost his embarrassment
before Jim's sneering--the last bar between him and confident
greatness.


6


It was in the summer of 1924 that Elmer was granted a three-months
leave, and for the first time Cleo and he visited Europe.

He had heard the Rev. Dr. G. Prosper Edwards say, "I divide
American clergymen into just two classes--those who could be
invited to preach in a London church, and those who couldn't."  Dr.
Edwards was of the first honorable caste, and Elmer had seen him
pick up great glory from having sermonized in the City Temple.  The
Zenith papers, even the national religious periodicals, hinted that
when Dr. Edwards was in London, the entire population from king to
navvies had galloped to worship under him, and the conclusion was
that Zenith and New York would be sensible to do likewise.

Elmer thoughtfully saw to it that he should be invited also.  He
had Bishop Toomis write to his Wesleyan colleagues, he had Rigg and
William Dollinger Styles write to their Nonconformist business
acquaintances in London, and a month before he sailed he was bidden
to address the celebrated Brompton Road Chapel, so that he went off
in a glow not only of adventure but of message-bearing.


7


Dr. Elmer Gantry was walking the deck of the Scythia, a bright,
confident, manly figure in a blue suit, a yachting cap, and white
canvas shoes, swinging his arms and beaming pastorally on his
fellow athletic maniacs.

He stopped at the deck chairs of a little old couple--a delicate
blue-veined old lady, and her husband, with thin hands and a thin
white beard.

"Well, you folks seem to be standing the trip pretty good--for old
folks!" he roared.

"Yes, thank you very much," said the old lady.

He patted her knee, and boomed, "If there's anything I can do to
make things nice and comfy for you, mother, you just holler!  Don't
be afraid to call on me.  I haven't advertised the fact--kind of
fun to travel what they call incognito--but fact is, I'm a minister
of the gospel, even if I am a husky guy, and it's my pleasure as
well as my duty to help folks anyway I can.  Say, don't you think
it's just about the loveliest thing about this ocean traveling, the
way folks have the leisure to get together and exchange ideas?
Have you crossed before?"

"Oh, yes, but I don't think I ever shall again," said the old lady.

"That's right--that's right!  Tell you how I feel about it,
mother."  Elmer patted her hand.  "We're Americans, and while it's
a fine thing to go abroad maybe once or twice--there's nothing so
broadening as travel, is there!--still, in America we've got a
standard of decency and efficiency that these poor old European
countries don't know anything about, and in the long run the good
old U. S. A. is the place where you'll find your greatest
happiness--especially for folks like us, that aren't any blooming
millionaires that can grab off a lot of castles and those kind of
things and have a raft of butlers.  You bet!  Well, just holler
when I can be of any service to you.  So long, folks!  Got to do my
three miles!"

When he was gone, the little, delicate old lady said to her
husband:

"Fabian, if that swine ever speaks to me again, I shall jump
overboard!  He's almost the most offensive object I have ever
encountered!  Dear--How many times have we crossed now?"

"Oh, I've lost track.  It was a hundred and ten two years ago."

"Not more?"

"Darling, don't be so snooty."

"But isn't there a law that permits one to kill people who call you
'Mother'?"

"Darling, the Duke calls you that!"

"I know.  He does.  That's what I hate about him!  Sweet, do you
think fresh air is worth the penalty of being called 'Mother'?  The
next time this animal stops, he'll call you 'Father'!"

"Only once, my dear!"


8


Elmer considered, "Well, I've given those poor old birds some
cheerfulness to go on with.  By golly, there's nothing more
important than to give people some happiness and faith to cheer
them along life's dark pathway."

He was passing the veranda café.  At a pale green table was a man
who sat next to Elmer in the dining salon.  With him were three men
unknown, and each had a whisky-and-soda in front of him.

"Well, I see you're keeping your strength up!" Elmer said
forgivingly.

"Sure, you betcha," said his friend of the salon.  "Don't you wanta
sit down and have a jolt with us?"

Elmer sat, and when the steward stood at ruddy British attention,
he gave voice:

"Well, of course, being a preacher, I'm not a big husky athalete
like you boys, so all I can stand is just a ginger ale."  To the
steward:  "Do you keep anything like that, buddy, or have you only
got hooch for big strong men?"

When Elmer explained to the purser that he would be willing to act
as chairman of the concert, with the most perspiratory regret the
purser said that the Rt. Hon. Lionel Smith had, unfortunately,
already been invited to take the chair.


9


Cleo had not been more obnoxiously colorless than usual, but she
had been seasick, and Elmer saw that it had been an error to bring
her along.  He had not talked to her an hour all the way.  There
had been so many interesting and broadening contacts; the man from
China, who gave him enough ideas for a dozen missionary sermons;
the professor from Higgins Presbyterian Institute, who explained
that no really up-to-date scientist accepted evolution; the pretty
journalist lady who needed consolation.

But now, alone with Cleo in the compartment of a train from
Liverpool to London, Elmer made up for what she might have
considered neglect by explaining the difficult aspects of a foreign
country:

"Heh!  English certainly are behind the times!  Think of having
these dingy coops instead of a Pullman car, so you can see your
fellow-passengers and get acquainted.  Just goes to show the way
this country is still riddled with caste.

"Don't think so much of these towns.  Kind of pretty, cottages with
vines and all that, but you don't get any feeling that they're up
and coming and forward-looking, like American burgs.  I tell you
there's one thing--and don't know's I've ever seen anybody bring
this out--I might make a sermon out of it--one of the big
advantages of foreign travel is, it makes you a lot more satisfied
with being an American!

"Here we are, coming into London, I guess.  Cer'nly is smoky, isn't
it.

"Well, by golly, so THIS is what they call a depot in London!
Well, I don't think much of it!  Just look at all those dinky
little trains.  Why, say, an American engineer would be ashamed to
take advantage of child-sized trains like them!  And no marble
anywhere in the depot!"


10


The page who took their bags up to their room in the Savoy was a
brisk and smiling boy with fabulous pink cheeks.

"Say, buddy," said the Rev. Dr. Gantry, "what do you pull down
here?"

"Sorry, sir, I don't think I quite understand, sir."

"Whadda you make?  How much do they pay you?"

"Oh.  Oh, they pay me very decently, sir.  Is there anything else I
can do, sir?  Thank you, sir."

When the page was gone, Elmer complained, "Yuh, fine friendly kid
THAT bell-boy, is, and can't hardly understand the English
language!  Well, I'm glad we're seeing the Old Country, but if
folks aren't going to be any friendlier than HE is, I see where
we'll be mighty darn glad to get back.  Why, say, if he'd of been
an American bell-boy, we'd of jawed along for an hour, and I'd of
learned something.  Well, come on, come on!  Get your hat on, and
let's go out and give the town the once-over."

They walked along the Strand.

"Say," Elmer said portentously, "do you notice that?  The cops got
straps under their chins!  Well, well, that certainly is
different!"

"Yes, isn't it!" said Cleo.

"But I don't think so much of this street.  I always heard it was a
famous one, but these stores--why, say, we got a dozen streets in
Zenith, say nothing of N' York, that got better stores.  No git up
and git to these foreigners.  Certainly does make a fellow glad
he's an American!"

They came, after exploring Swan & Edgar's, to St. James's Palace.

"Now," said Elmer knowingly, "that certainly is an ancient site.
Wonder what it is?  Some kind of a castle, I guess."

To a passing policeman:  "Say, excuse me, Cap'n, but could you tell
me what that brick building is?"

"St. James's Palace, sir.  You're an American?  The Prince of Wales
lives there, sir."

"Is that a fact!  D'you hear that, Cleo?  Well, sir, that's
certainly something to remember!"


11


When he regarded the meager audience at Brompton Road Chapel, Elmer
had an inspiration.

All the way over he had planned to be poetic in his first London
sermon.  He was going to say that it was the strong man, the knight
in armor, who was most willing to humble himself before God; and to
say also that Love was the bow on life's dark cloud, and the
morning and evening star, both.  But in a second of genius he cast
it away, and reflected, "No!  What they want is a good, pioneering,
roughneck American!"

And that he was, splendidly.

"Folks," he said, "it's mighty nice of you to let a plain American
come and bring his message to you.  But I hope you don't expect any
Oxford College man.  All I've got to give you--and may the dear
Lord help my feebleness in giving you even that--is the message
that God reigns among the grim frontiersmen of America, in cabin
and trackless wild, even as he reigns here in your magnificent and
towering city.

"It is true that just at the present moment, through no virtue of
my own, I am the pastor of a church even larger than your beautiful
chapel here.  But, ah, I long for the day when the general
superintendent will send me back to my own beloved frontier, to--
Let me try, in my humble way, to give you a picture of the work I
knew as a youth, that you may see how closely the grace of God
binds your world-compelling city to the humblest vastnesses.

"I was the pastor--as a youngster, ignorant of everything save the
fact that the one urgent duty of the preacher is to carry
everywhere the Good News of the Atonement--of a log chapel in a
frontier settlement called Schoenheim.  I came at nightfall, weary
and anhungered, a poor circuit-rider, to the house of Barney Bains,
a pioneer, living all alone in his log cabin.  I introduced myself.
'I am Brother Gantry, the Wesleyan preacher," I said.  Well, he
stared at me, a wild look in his eyes, beneath his matted hair, and
slowly he spoke:

"'Brother,' he said, 'I ain't seen no strangers for nigh onto a
year, and I'm mighty pleased to see you.'

"'You must have been awfully lonely, friend,' I said.

"'No, sir, not me!' he said.

"'How's that?' I said.

"'Because Jesus has been with me all the time!'"


12


They almost applauded.

They told him afterward that he was immense, and invited him to
address them whenever he returned to London.

"Wait," he reflected, "till I get back to Zenith and tell old Potts
and Hickenlooper THAT!"

As they rode to the hotel on the 'bus, Cleo sighed, "Oh, you were
wonderful!  But I never knew you had such a wild time of it in your
first pastorate."

"Oh, well, it was nothing.  A man that's a real man has to take the
rough with the smooth."

"That's so!"


13


He stood impatiently on a corner of the Rue de la Paix, while Cleo
gaped into the window of a perfumer.  (She was too well trained to
dream of asking him to buy expensive perfume.)  He looked at the
façades in the Place Vendôme.

"Not much class--too kind of plain," he decided.

A little greasy man edged up to him, covertly sliding toward him a
pack of postcards, and whispered, "Lovely cards--only two francs
each."

"Oh," said Elmer intelligently, "you speak English."

"Sure.  All language."

Then Elmer saw the topmost card and he was galvanized.

"Whee!  Golly!  Two francs apiece?"  He seized the pack, gloating--
But Cleo was suddenly upon him, and he handed back the cards,
roaring, "You get out of here or I'll call a cop!  Trying to sell
obscene pictures--and to a minister of the gospel!  Cleo, these
Europeans have dirty minds!"


14


It was on the steamer home that he met and became intimate with J.
E. North, the renowned vice-slayer, executive secretary of the
National Association for the Purification of Art and the Press--
affectionately known through all the evangelical world as "the
Napap."  Mr. North was not a clergyman (though he was a warm
Presbyterian layman), but no clergyman in the country had more
furiously pursued wickedness, more craftily forced congressmen,
through threats in their home districts, to see legislation in the
same reasonable manner as himself.  For several sessions of
Congress he had backed a bill for a federal censorship of all
fiction, plays, and moving pictures, with a penitentiary sentence
for any author mentioning adultery even by implication, ridiculing
prohibition, or making light of any Christian sect or minister.

The bill had always been defeated, but it was gaining more votes in
every session. . . .

Mr. North was a tight-mouthed, thin gentleman.  He liked the
earnestness, uprightness, and vigor of the Reverend Dr. Gantry, and
all day they walked the deck or sat talking--anywhere save in the
smoking-room, where fools were befouling their intellects with
beer.  He gave Elmer an inside view of the great new world of
organized opposition to immorality; he spoke intimately of the
leaders of that world--the executives of the Anti-Saloon League,
the Lord's Day Alliance, the Watch and Ward Society, the Methodist
Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals--modern St.
Johns, armed with card indices.

He invited Elmer to lecture for him.

"We need men like you, Dr. Gantry," said Mr. North, "men with rigid
standards of decency, and yet with a physical power which will
indicate to the poor misguided youth of this awful flask-toting age
that morality is not less but more virile than immorality.  And I
think your parishioners will appreciate your being invited to
address gatherings in places like New York and Chicago now and
then."

"Oh, I'm not looking for appreciation.  It's just that if I can do
anything in my power to strike a blow at the forces of evil," said
Elmer, "I shall be most delighted to help you."

"Do you suppose you could address the Detroit Y. M. C. A. on
October fourth?"

"Well, it's my wife's birthday, and we've always made rather a
holiday of it--we're proud of being an old-fashioned homey family--
but I know that Cleo wouldn't want that to stand in the way of my
doing anything I can to further the Kingdom."


15


So Elmer came, though tardily, to the Great Idea which was to
revolutionize his life and bring him eternal and splendid fame.

That shabby Corsican artillery lieutenant and author, Bonaparte,
first conceiving that he might be the ruler of Europe--Darwin
seeing dimly the scheme of evolution--Paolo realizing that all of
life was nothing but an irradiation of Francesca--Newton pondering
on the falling apple--Paul of Tarsus comprehending that a certain
small Jewish sect might be the new religion of the doubting Greeks
and Romans--Keats beginning to write "The Eve of St. Agnes"--none
of these men, transformed by a Great Idea from mediocrity to
genius, was more remarkable than Elmer Gantry of Paris, Kansas,
when he beheld the purpose for which the heavenly powers had been
training him.

He was walking the deck--but only in the body, for his soul was
soaring among the stars--he was walking the deck alone, late at
night, clenching his fists and wanting to shout as he saw it all
clearly.

He would combine in one association all the moral organizations in
America--perhaps, later, in the entire world.  He would be the
executive of that combination; he would be the super-president of
the United States, and some day the dictator of the world.

Combine them all.  The Anti-Saloon League, the W. C. T. U., and the
other organizations fighting alcohol.  The Napap and the other Vice
Societies doing such magnificent work in censoring unmoral novels
and paintings and motion pictures and plays.  The Anti-Cigarette
League.  The associations lobbying for anti-evolution laws in the
state legislatures.  The associations making so brave a fight
against Sunday baseball, Sunday movies, Sunday golfing, Sunday
motoring, and the other abominations whereby the Sabbath was
desecrated and the preachers' congregations and collections were
lessened.  The fraternities opposing Romanism.  The societies which
gallantly wanted to make it a crime to take the name of the Lord in
vain or to use the nine Saxon physiological monosyllables.  And all
the rest.

Combine the lot.  They were pursuing the same purpose--to make life
conform to the ideals agreed upon by the principal Christian
Protestant denominations.  Divided, they were comparatively feeble;
united, they would represent thirty million Protestant church-
goers; they would have such a treasury and such a membership that
they would no longer have to coax Congress and the state
legislatures into passing moral legislation, but in a quiet way
they would merely state to the representatives of the people what
they wanted, and get it.

And the head of this united organization would be the Warwick of
America, the man behind the throne, the man who would send for
presidents, of whatever party, and give orders . . . and that man,
perhaps the most powerful man since the beginning of history, was
going to be Elmer Gantry.  Not even Napoleon or Alexander had been
able to dictate what a whole nation should wear and eat and say and
think.  That, Elmer Gantry was about to do.

"A BISHOP?  ME?  A Wes Toomis?  Hell, don't be silly!  I'm going to
be the emperor of America--maybe of the world.  I'm glad I've got
this idea so early, when I'm only forty-three.  I'll do it!  I'll
do it!" Elmer exulted.  "Now let's see:  The first step is to kid
this J. S. North along, and do whatever he wants me to--until it
comes time to kick him out--and get a church in New York, so
they'll know I'm A-1. . . .  My God, and Jim Lefferts tried to keep
me from becoming a preacher!"


16


"--and I stood," Elmer was explaining, in the pulpit of Wellspring
Church, "there on the Roo deluh Pay in Paris, filled almost to an
intolerable historical appreciation of those aged and historical
structures, when suddenly up to me comes a man obviously a
Frenchman.

"Now to me, of course, any man who is a countryman of Joan of Arc
and of Marshal Foch is a friend.  So when this man said to me,
'Brother, would you like to have a good time tonight?' I answered--
though truth to tell I did not like his looks entirely--I said,
'Brother, that depends entirely on what you mean by a good time'--
he spoke English.

"'Well,' he said, 'I can take you places where you can meet many
pretty girls and have fine liquor to drink.'

"Well, I had to laugh.  I think I was more sorry for him than
anything else.  I laid my hand on his shoulder and I said,
'Brother, I'm afraid I can't go with you.  I'm already dated up for
a good time this evening.'

"'How's that?' he said.  'And what may you be going to do?'

"'I'm going,' I said, 'back to my hotel to have dinner with my dear
wife, and after that,' I said, 'I'm going to do something that you
may not regard as interesting but which is my idea of a dandy time!
I'm going to read a couple of chapters of the Bible aloud, and say
my prayers, and go to bed!  And now,' I said, 'I'll give you
exactly three seconds to get out of here, and if you're in my sight
after that--well, it'll be over you that I'll be saying the
prayers!'

"I see that my time is nearly up, but before I close I want to say
a word on behalf of the Napap--that great organization, the
National Association for the Purification of Art and the Press.  I
am pleased to say that its executive secretary, my dear friend Dr.
J. E. North, will be with us next month, and I want you all to give
him a rousing greeting--"



CHAPTER XXXI


1


For over a year now it had been murmured through the church-world
that no speaker was more useful to the reform organization than the
Rev. Dr. Elmer Gantry of Zenith.  His own church regretted losing
his presence so often, but they were proud to hear of him as
speaking in New York, in Los Angeles, in Toronto.

It was said that when Mr. J. E. North retired from the Napap
because of the press of his private interests (he was the owner of
the Eppsburg, N. Y., Times-Scimitar), Dr. Gantry would be elected
executive secretary of the Napap in his stead.  It was said that no
one in America was a more relentless foe of so-called liberalism in
theology and of misconduct in private life.

It was said that Dr. Gantry had refused support for election as a
bishop at the 1928 General Conference of the Methodist Church,
North, two years from now.  And it was definitely known that he had
refused the presidency of Swenson University in Nebraska.

But it was also definitely known, alas, that he was likely to be
invited to take the pastorate of the Yorkville Methodist Church in
New York City, which included among its members Dr. Wilkie
Bannister, that resolute cover-to-cover fundamentalist who was also
one of the most celebrated surgeons in the country, Peter F.
Durbar, the oil millionaire, and Jackie Oaks, the musical-comedy
clown.  The bishop of the New York area was willing to give Dr.
Gantry the appointment.  But--Well, there were contradictory
stories; one version said that Dr. Gantry had not decided to take
the Yorkville appointment; the other said that Yorkville, which
meant Dr. Bannister, had not decided to take Dr. Gantry.  Anyway,
the Wellspring flock hoped that their pastor, their spiritual
guardian, their friend and brother, would not leave them.


2


After he had discharged Miss Bundle, the church secretary--and that
was a pleasant moment; she cried so ludicrously--Elmer had to
depend on a series of incapable girls, good Methodists but rotten
stenographers.

It almost made him laugh to think that while everybody supposed he
was having such a splendid time with his new fame, he was actually
running into horrible luck.  This confounded J. E. North, with all
his pretenses of friendship, kept delaying his resignation from the
Napap.  Dr. Wilkie Bannister, the conceited chump--a fellow who
thought he knew more about theology than a preacher!--delayed in
advising the Official Board of the Yorkville Church to call Elmer.
And his secretaries infuriated him.  One of them was shocked when
he said just the least little small "damn"!

Nobody appreciated the troubles of a man destined to be the ruler
of America; no one knew what he was sacrificing in his campaign for
morality.

And how tired he was of the rustic and unimaginative devotion of
Lulu Bains!  If she lisped "Oh, Elmer, you are so strong!" just
once more, he'd have to clout her!


3


In the cue of people who came up after the morning service to shake
hands with the Reverend Dr. Gantry was a young woman whom the
pastor noted with interest.

She was at the end of the cue, and they talked without
eavesdroppers.

If a Marquis of the seventeenth century could have been turned into
a girl of perhaps twenty-five, completely and ardently feminine yet
with the haughty head, the slim hooked nose, the imperious eyes of
M. le Marquis, that would have been the woman who held Elmer's
hand, and said:

"May I tell you, Doctor, that you are the first person in my whole
life who has given me a sense of reality in religion?"

"Sister, I am very grateful," said the Reverend Dr. Gantry, while
Elmer was saying within, "Say, you're a kid I'd like to get
acquainted with!"

"Dr. Gantry, aside from my tribute--which is quite genuine--I have
a perfectly unscrupulous purpose in coming and speaking to you.  My
name is Hettie Dowler--MISS, unfortunately!  I've had two years in
the University of Wisconsin.  I've been secretary of Mr. Labenheim
of the Tallahassee Life Insurance Company for the last year, but
he's been transferred to Detroit.  I'm really quite a good
secretary.  And I'm a Methodist--a member of Central, but I've been
planning to switch to Wellspring.  Now what I'm getting at is:  If
you should happen to need a secretary in the next few months--I'm
filling in as one of the hotel stenographers at the Thornleigh--"

They looked at each other, unswerving, comprehending.  They shook
hands again, more firmly.

"Miss Dowler, you're my secretary right now," said Elmer.  "It'll
take about a week to arrange things."

"Thank you."

"May I drive you home?"

"I'd love to have you."


4


Not even the nights when they worked together, alone in the church,
were more thrilling than their swift mocking kisses between the
calls of solemn parishioners.  To be able to dash across the study
and kiss her soft temple after a lugubrious widow had waddled out,
and to have her whisper, "Darling, you were TOO wonderful with that
awful old hen; oh, you are so dear!"--that was life to him.

He went often of an evening to Hettie Dowler's flat--a pleasant
white-and-blue suite in one of the new apartment hotels, with an
absurd kitchenette and an electric refrigerator.  She curled, in
long leopard-like lines, on the damask couch, while he marched up
and down rehearsing his sermons and stopped for the applause of her
kiss.

Always he slipped down to the pantry at his house and telephoned
good-night to her before retiring, and when she was kept home by
illness he telephoned to her from his study every hour or scrawled
notes to her.  That she liked best.  "Your letters are so dear and
funny and sweet," she told him.  So he wrote in his unformed
script:


Dearest ittle honeykins bunnykins, oo is such a darlings, I adore
you, I haven't got another doggoned thing to say but I say that six
hundred million trillion times.  Elmer.


BUT--and he would never have let himself love her otherwise, for
his ambition to become the chief moral director of the country was
greater even than his delight in her--Hettie Dowler was all this
time a superb secretary.

No dictation was too swift for her; she rarely made errors; she
made of a typed page a beautiful composition; she noted down for
him the telephone numbers of people who called during his absence;
and she had a cool sympathetic way of getting rid of the idiots who
came to bother the Reverend Dr. Gantry with their unimportant woes.
And she had such stimulating suggestions for sermons.  In these
many years, neither Cleo nor Lulu had ever made a sermon-suggestion
worth anything but a groan, but Hettie--why, it was she who
outlined the sermon on "The Folly of Fame" which caused such a
sensation at Terwillinger College when Elmer received his LL. D.,
got photographed laying a wreath on the grave of the late President
Willoughby Quarles, and in general obtained publicity for himself
and his "dear old Alma Mater."

He felt, sometimes, that Hettie was the reincarnation of Sharon.

They were very different physically--Hettie was slimmer, less tall,
her thin eager face hadn't the curious long lines of Sharon's; and
very different were they mentally.  Hettie, however gaily
affectionate, was never moody, never hysterical.  Yet there was the
same rich excitement about life and the same devotion to their man.

And there was the same impressive ability to handle people.

If anything could have increased T. J. Rigg's devotion to Elmer and
the church, it was the way in which Hettie, instinctively
understanding Rigg's importance, flattered him and jested with him
and encouraged him to loaf in the church office though he
interrupted her work and made her stay later at night.

She carried out a harder, more important task--she encouraged
William Dollinger Styles, who was never so friendly as Rigg.  She
told him that he was a Napoleon of Finance.  She almost went too
far in her attentions to Styles; she lunched with him, alone.
Elmer protested, jealously, and she amiably agreed never to see
Styles again outside of the church.


5


That was a hard, a rather miserable job, getting rid of the Lulu
Bains whom Hettie had made superfluous.

On the Tuesday evening after his first meeting with Hettie, when
Lulu came cooing into his study, Elmer looked depressed, did not
rise to welcome her.  He sat at his desk, his chin moodily in his
two hands.

"What is it, dear?" Lulu pleaded.

"Sit down--no, PLEASE, don't kiss me--sit down over there, dearest.
We must have an earnest talk," said the Reverend Dr. Gantry.

She looked so small, so rustic, for all her new frock, as she
quivered in an ugly straight chair.

"Lulu, I've got something dreadful to tell you.  In spite of our
carefulness, Cleo--Mrs. Gantry--is onto us.  It simply breaks my
heart, but we must stop seeing each other privately.  Indeed--"

"Oh, Elmer, Elmer, oh, my lover, PLEASE!"

"You must be calm, dear!  We must be brave and face this thing
honestly.  As I was saying, I'm not sure but that it might be
better, with her horrible suspicions, if you didn't come to church
here any more."

"But what did she say--what did she SAY?  I hate her!  I hate your
wife so!  I won't be hysterical but--I hate her!  What did she
say?"

"Well, last evening she just calmly said to me--You can imagine how
surprised I was; like a bolt out of the blue!  She said--my wife
said, 'Well, tomorrow I suppose you'll be meeting that person that
teaches cooking again, and get home as late as usual!'  Well, I
stalled for time, and I found that she was actually thinking of
putting detectives on us!"

"Oh, my dear, my poor dear!  I won't ever see you again!  You
mustn't be disgraced, with your wonderful fame that I've been so
proud of!"

"Darling Lulu, can't you see it isn't that?  Hell!  I'm a man!  I
can face the whole kit and boodle of 'em, and tell 'em just where
they get off!  But it's you.  Honestly, I'm afraid Floyd will kill
you if he knows."

"Yes, I guess he would. . . .  I don't know's I care much.  It
would be easier than killing myself--"

"Now you look here, young woman!  I'll have none of this idiotic
suicide talk!"  He had sprung up; he was standing over her, an
impressive priestly figure.  "It's absolutely against every
injunction of God, who gave us our lives to use for his service and
glory, to even think of self-slaughter!  Why, I could never have
imagined that you could say such a wicked, wicked, WICKED thing!"

She crawled out after a time, a little figure in a shabby topcoat
over her proud new dress.  She stood waiting for a trolley car,
alone under an arc-light, fingering her new beaded purse, which she
loved because in his generosity He had given it to her.  From time
to time she wiped her eyes and blew her nose, and all the time she
was quite stupidly muttering, "Oh, my dear, my dear, to think I
made trouble for you--oh, my dear, my very dear!"

Her husband was glad to find, the year after, that she had by some
miracle lost the ambitiousness which had annoyed him, and that
night after night she was willing to stay home and play cribbage.
But he was angry and rather talkative over the fact that whenever
he came home he would find her sitting blank-faced and idle, and
that she had become so careless about her hair.  But life is life,
and he became used to her slopping around in a dressing gown all
day, and sometimes smelling of gin.


6


By recommendation of J. E. North, it was Elmer who was chosen by
the Sacred Sabbath League to lead the fight against Sunday motion
pictures in Zenith.  "This will be fine training for you," Mr.
North wrote to Elmer, "in case the directors elect you my successor
in the Napap; training for the day when you will be laying down the
law not merely to a city council but to congressmen and senators."

Elmer knew that the high lords of the Napap were watching him, and
with spirit he led the fight against Sunday movies.  The State of
Winnemac had the usual blue law to the effect that no paid labor
(except, of course, that of ministers of the gospel, and whatever
musicians, lecturers, educators, janitors, or other sacred help the
ministers might choose to hire) might work on the Sabbath, and the
usual blissful custom of ignoring that law.

Elmer called on the sheriff of the county--a worried man, whose
training in criminology had been acquired in a harness-shop--and
shook hands with him handsomely.

"Well, Reverend, it's real nice to have the pleasure of making your
acquaintance," said the sheriff.  "I've read a lot about you in the
papers.  Have a smoke?"

Elmer sat down impressively, leaning over a little, his elbow on
the arm of the chair, his huge fist clenched.

"Thanks, but I never touch tobacco," he said grimly.  "Now look
here, Edelstein, are you the sheriff of this county?"

"Huh!  I guess I am!"

"Oh, you guess so, do you!  Well then, are you going to see that
the state law against Sunday movies is obeyed?"

"Oh, now look here, Reverend!  Nobody wants me to enforce--"

"Nobody?  Nobody?  Only a couple of hundred thousand citizens and
church-members!  Bankers, lawyers, doctors, decent people!  And
only an equal number of wops and hunkies and yids and atheists and
papes want you to let the Sabbath be desecrated!  Now you look
here, Edelstein!  Unless you pinch every last man, movie owners and
operators and ushers and the whole kit and bilin' of 'em that are
responsible for this disgraceful and illegal traffic of Sunday
movies, I'm going to call a giant mass-meeting of all the good
citizens in town, and I'm going to talk a lot less to 'em about the
movie-proprietors than I am about YOU, and it's one fine fat, nice
chance you'll have of being re-elected, if two hundred thousand
electors of this county (and the solid birds that take the trouble
to vote) are out for your hide--"

"Say, who do you think is running this county?  The Methodists and
Baptists and Presbyterians?"

"Certainly!"

"Say, you look here now--"

In fact, upon warrants sworn to by the Reverend Dr. Elmer Gantry,
all persons connected with the profanation of the Sabbath by
showing motion-pictures were arrested for three Sundays in
succession (after which the motion-pictures went on as before), and
Elmer received telegrams of esteem from the Sacred Sabbath League,
J. E. North, Dr. Wilkie Bannister of the Yorkville Methodist Church
of New York City, and a hundred of the more prominent divines all
over the land.


7


Within twenty-four hours Mr. J. E. North let Elmer know that he was
really resigning in a month, and that the choice for his successor
lay between Elmer and only two other holy men; and Dr. Wilkie
Bannister wrote that the Official Board of the Yorkville Methodist
Church, after watching Elmer's career for the last few months, was
ready to persuade the bishop to offer him the pastorate, providing
he should not be too much distracted by outside interests.

It was fortunate that the headquarters of the Napap were in New
York City and not, as was the case with most benevolent lobbying
organizations, in Washington.

Elmer wrote to Dr. Bannister and the other trustees of the
Yorkville Church that while he would titularly be the executive
secretary of the National Association for the Purification of Art
and the Press (and, oh! what a credit it would be to dear old
Yorkville that their pastor should hold such a position!), he would
be able to leave all the actual work of the Napap to his able
assistants, and except for possibly a day a week, give all his
energy and time and prayers to the work of guiding onward and
upward, so far as might lie within his humble power, the flock at
Yorkville.

Elmer wrote to Mr. J. E. North and the trustees of the Napap that
while he would titularly be the pastor of the Yorkville Methodist
(and would it not be a splendid justification of their work that
their executive secretary should be the pastor of one of the most
important churches in New York City?) yet he would be able to leave
all the actual work to his able assistants, and except possibly for
Sabbaths and an occasional wedding or funeral, give all his energy
and time to the work of guiding, so far as might lie within his
humble power, the epochal work of the National Association for the
Purification of Art and the Press.

From both of these pious assemblies he had answers that they were
pleased by his explanation, and that it would be a matter now of
only a few days--

It was Hettie Dowler who composed these letters, but Elmer made
several changes in commas, and helped by kissing her while she was
typing.


8


It was too vexatious that at this climax of his life Elmer's mother
should have invited herself to come and stay with them.

He was happy when he met her at the station.  However pleasant it
might be to impress the great of the world--Bishop Toomis or J. E.
North or Dr. Wilkie Bannister--it had been from his first memory
the object of life to gain the commendation of his mother and of
Paris, Kansas, the foundation of his existence.  To be able to
drive her in a new Willys-Knight sedan, to show her his new church,
his extraordinarily genteel home, Cleo in a new frock, was rapture.

But when she had been with them for only two days, his mother got
him aside and said stoutly, "Will you sit down and try not to run
about the room, my son?  I want to talk to you."

"That's splendid!  But I'm awfully afraid I've got to make it
short, because--"

"Elmer Gantry!  Will you hold your tongue and stop being such a
wonderful success?  Elmer, my dear boy, I'm sure you don't mean to
do wrong, but I don't like the way you're treating Cleo . . . and
such a dear, sweet, bright, devout girl."

"What do you mean?"

"I think you know what I mean!"

"Now you look here, Mother!  All RIGHT, I'll sit down and be quiet,
but--I certainly do not know what you mean!  The way I've always
been a good husband to her, and stood for her total inability to be
nice to the most important members of my congregation--And of all
the chilly propositions you ever met!  When I have folks here for
dinner--even Rigg, the biggest man in the church--she hasn't got
hardly a thing to say.  And when I come home from church, just
absolutely tired out, and she meets me--does she meet me with a
kiss and look jolly?  She does NOT!  She begins crabbing, the
minute I enter the house, about something I've done or I haven't
done, and of course it's natural--"

"Oh, my boy, my little boy, my dear--all that I've got in this
whole world!  You were always so quick with excuses!  When you
stole pies or hung cats or licked the other boys!  Son, Cleo is
suffering.  You never pay any attention to her, even when I'm here
and you try to be nice to her to show off.  Elmer, who is this
secretary of yours that you keep calling up all the while?"

The Reverend Dr. Gantry rose quietly, and sonorously he spoke:

"My dear mater, I owe you everything.  But at a time when one of
the greatest Methodist churches in the world and one of the
greatest reform organizations in the world are begging for my
presence, I don't know that I need to explain even to you, Ma, what
I'm trying to do.  I'm going up to my room--"

"Yes, and that's another thing, having separate rooms--"

"--and pray that you may understand. . . .  Say, listen, Ma!  Some
day you may come to the White House and lunch with me and the
PRESIDENT! . . .  But I mean:  Oh, Ma, for God's sake, quit picking
on me like Cleo does all the while!"

And he did pray; by his bed he knelt, his forehead gratefully cool
against the linen spread, mumbling, "O dear God, I am trying to
serve thee.  Keep Ma from feeling I'm not doing right--"

He sprang up.

"Hell!" he said.  "These women want me to be a house dog!  To hell
with 'em!  No!  Not with mother, but--Oh, damn it, she'll
understand when I'm the pastor of Yorkville!  O God, why can't Cleo
die, so I can marry Hettie!"

Two minutes later he was murmuring to Hettie Dowler, from the
telephone instrument in the pantry, while the cook was grumbling
and picking over the potatoes down in the basement, "Dear, will you
just say something nice to me--anything--anything!"



CHAPTER XXXII


1


Two evenings after Elmer's mother had almost alienated him, he
settled down in his study at home to prepare three or four sermons,
with a hope of being in bed by eleven.  He was furious when the
Lithuanian maid came in and said, "Somebody on the 'phone, Doctor,"
but when he heard Hettie the ragged edges went out of his voice.

"Elmer?  Hettie calling."

"Yes, yes, this is Dr. Gantry."

"Oh, you are so sweet and funny and dignified!  Is the Lettish pot-
walloper listening?"

"Yes!"

"Listen, dear.  Will you do something for me?"

"You bet!"

"I'm so terribly lonely this evening.  Is oo working hard?"

"I've got to get up some sermons."

"Listen!  Bring your little Bible dictionary along and come and
work at my place, and let me smoke a cigarette and look at you.
Wouldn't you like to . . . dear . . . dearest?"

"You bet.  Be right along."

He explained to Cleo and his mother that he had to go and comfort
an old lady in extremis, he accepted their congratulations on his
martyrdom, and hastened out.


2


Elmer was sitting beside Hettie on the damask couch, under the
standard lamp, stroking her hand and explaining how unjust his
mother was, when the door of her suite opened gravely and a thin,
twitching-faced, gimlet-eyed man walked in.

Hettie sprang up, stood with a hand on her frightened breast.

"What d'you want here?" roared Elmer, as he rose also.

"Hush!" Hettie begged him.  "It's my husband!"

"Your--"  Elmer's cry was the bleat of a bitten sheep.  "Your--But
you aren't married!"

"I am, hang it!  Oscar, you get out of here!  How dare you intrude
like this!"

Oscar walked slowly, appreciatively, into the zone of light.

"Well, I've caught you two with the goods!" he chuckled.

"What do you mean!" Hettie raged.  "This is my boss, and he's come
here to talk over some work."

"Yeh, I bet he has. . . .  This afternoon I bribed my way in here,
and I've got all his letters to you."

"Oh, you haven't!"  Hettie dashed to her desk, stood in despair
looking at an empty drawer.

Elmer bulked over Oscar.  "I've had enough of this!  You gimme
those letters and you get out of here or I'll throw you out!"

Oscar negligently produced an automatic.  "Shut up," he said,
almost affectionately.  "Now, Gantry, this ought to cost you about
fifty thousand dollars, but I don't suppose you can raise that
much.  But if I sue for alienation of Het's affections, that's the
amount I'll sue for.  But if you want to settle out of court, in a
nice gentlemanly manner without acting rough, I'll let you off for
ten thousand--and there won't be the publicity--oh, maybe that
publicity wouldn't cook your reverend goose!"

"If you think you can blackmail me--"

"Think?  Hell!  I know I can!  I'll call on you in your church at
noon tomorrow."

"I won't be there."

"You better be!  If you're ready to compromise for ten thousand,
all right; no feelings hurt.  If not, I'll have my lawyer (and he's
Mannie Silverhorn, the slickest shyster in town) file suit for
alienation tomorrow afternoon--and make sure that the evening
papers get out extras on it.  By-by, Hettie.  'By, Elmer darling.
Whoa, Elmer!  Naughty, naughty!  You touch me and I'll plug you!
So long."

Elmer gaped after the departing Oscar.  He turned quickly and saw
that Hettie was grinning.

She hastily pulled down her mouth.

"My God, I believe you're in on this!" he cried.

"What of it, you big lummox!  We've got the goods on you.  Your
letters will sound lovely in court!  But don't ever think for one
moment that workers as good as Oscar and I were wasting our time on
a tin-horn preacher without ten bucks in the bank!  We were after
William Dollinger Styles.  But he isn't a boob, like you; he turned
me down when I went to lunch with him and tried to date him up.
So, as we'd paid for this plant, we thought we might as well get
our expenses and a little piece of change out of you, you short-
weight, and by God we will!  Now get out of here!  I'm sick of
hearing your blatting!  No, I don't think you better hit me.
Oscar'll be waiting outside the door.  Sorry I won't be able to be
at the church tomorrow--don't worry about my things or my salary--I
got 'em this afternoon!"


3


At midnight, his mouth hanging open, Elmer was ringing at the house
of T. J. Rigg.  He rang and rang, desperately.  No answer.  He
stood outside then and bawled "T. J.!  T. J.!"

An upper window was opened, and an irritated voice, thick with
sleepiness, protested, "Whadda yuh WANT!"

"Come down quick!  It's me--Elmer Gantry.  I need you, bad!"

"All right.  Be right down."

A grotesque little figure in an old-fashioned nightshirt, puffing
at a cigar, Rigg admitted him and led him to the library.

"T. J., they've got me!"

"Yuh?  The bootleggers?"

"No.  Hettie.  You know my secretary?"

"Oh.  Yuh.  I see.  Been pretty friendly with her?"

Elmer told everything.

"All right," said Rigg.  "I'll be there at twelve to meet Oscar
with you.  We'll stall for time, and I'll do something.  Don't
worry, Elmer.  And look here.  Elmer, don't you think that even a
preacher ought to TRY to go straight?"

"I've learned my lesson, T. J.!  I swear this is the last time I'll
ever step out, even look at a girl.  God, you've been a good friend
to me, old man!"

"Well, I like anything I'm connected with to go straight.  Pure
egotism.  You better have a drink.  You need it!"

"No!  I'm going to hold onto THAT vow, anyway!  I guess it's all
I've got.  Oh, my God!  And just this evening I thought I was such
a big important guy, that nobody could touch."

"You might make a sermon out of it--and you probably will!"


4


The chastened and positively-for-the-last-time-reformed Elmer
lasted for days.  He was silent at the conference with Oscar
Dowler, Oscar's lawyer, Mannie Silverhorn, and T. J. Rigg in the
church study next noon.  Rigg and Silverhorn did the talking.  (And
Elmer was dismayed to see how friendly and jocose Rigg was with
Silverhorn, of whom he had spoken in most un-Methodist terms.)

"Yuh, you've got the goods on the Doctor," said Rigg.  "We admit
it.  And I agree that it's worth ten thousand.  But you've got to
give us a week to raise the money."

"All right, T. J.  See you here a week from today?" said Mannie
Silverhorn.

"No, better make it in your office.  Too many snooping sisters
around."

"All right."

Everybody shook hands profusely--except that Elmer did not shake
hands with Oscar Dowler, who snickered, "Why, Elmer, and us so
closely related, as it were!"

When they were gone, the broken Elmer whimpered, "But, T. J., I
never in the world could raise ten thousand!  Why, I haven't saved
a thousand!"

"Hell's big bells, Elmer!  You don't suppose we're going to pay 'em
any ten thousand, do you?  It may cost you fifteen hundred--which
I'll lend you--five hundred to sweeten Hettie, and maybe a thousand
for detectives."

"Uh?"

"At a quarter to two this morning I was talking to Pete Reese of
the Reese Detective Agency, telling him to get busy.  We'll know a
lot about the Dowlers in a few days.  So don't worry."


5


Elmer was sufficiently consoled not to agonize that week, yet not
so consoled but that he became a humble and tender Christian.  To
the embarrassed astonishment of his children, he played with them
every evening.  To Cleo he was almost uxorious.

"Dearest," he said, "I realize that I have--oh, it isn't entirely
my fault; I've been so absorbed in the Work: but the fact remains
that I haven't given you enough attention, and tomorrow evening I
want you to go to a concert with me."

"Oh, Elmer!" she rejoiced.

And he sent her flowers, once.

"You see!" his mother exulted.  "I knew you and Cleo would be
happier if I just pointed out a few things to you.  After all, your
old mother may be stupid and Main-Street, but there's nobody like a
mother to understand her own boy, and I knew that if I just spoke
to you, even if you are a Doctor of Divinity, you'd see things
different!"

"Yes, and it was your training that made me a Christian and a
preacher.  Oh, a man does owe so much to a pious mother!" said
Elmer.


6


Mannie Silverhorn was one of the best ambulance-chasers in Zenith.
A hundred times he had made the street-car company pay damages to
people whom they had not damaged; a hundred times he had made
motorists pay for injuring people whom they had not injured.  But
with all his talent, Mannie had one misfortune--he would get drunk.

Now, in general, when he was drunk Mannie was able to keep from
talking about his legal cases, but this time he was drunk in the
presence of Bill Kingdom, reporter for the Advocate-Times, and Mr.
Kingdom was an even harder cross-examiner than Mr. Silverhorn.

Bill had been speaking without affection of Dr. Gantry when Mannie
leered, "Say, jeeze, Bill, your Doc Gantry is going to get his!
Oh, I got him where I want him!  And maybe it won't cost him some
money to be so popular with the ladies!"

Bill looked rigorously uninterested.  "Aw, what are you trying to
pull, Mannie!  Don't be a fool!  You haven't got anything on Elmer,
and you never will have.  He's too smart for you!  You haven't got
enough brains to get that guy, Mannie!"

"Me?  I haven't got enough brains--Say, listen!"

Yes, Mannie was drunk.  Even so, it was only after an hour of
badgering Mannie about his inferiority to Elmer in trickiness, an
hour of Bill's harsh yet dulcet flattery, an hour of Bill's rather
novel willingness to buy drinks, that an infuriated Mannie
shrieked, "All right, you get a stenographer that's a notary public
and I'll dictate it!"

And at two in the morning, to an irritated but alert court reporter
in his shambles of a hotel room, Mannie Silverhorn dictated and
signed a statement that unless the Reverend Dr. Elmer Gantry
settled out of court, he would be sued (Emmanuel Silverhorn
attorney) for fifty thousand dollars for having, by inexcusable
intimacy with her, alienated Hettie Dowler's affections from her
husband.




CHAPTER XXXIII


1


When Mr. Mannie Silverhorn awoke at ten, with a head, he remembered
that he had been talking, and with agitation he looked at the
morning's Advocate-Times.  He was cheered to see that there was no
trace of his indiscretion.

But the next morning Mr. Silverhorn and the Reverend Dr. Gantry at
about the same moment noted on the front page of the Advocate-Times
the photostat of a document in which Emmanuel Silverhorn, atty.,
asserted that unless Dr. Gantry settled out of court, he would be
sued for alienation of affections by Mr. Oscar Dowler, of whose
wife, Dowler maintained, Dr. Gantry had taken criminal advantage.


2


It was not so much the clamor of the Zenith reporters, tracking him
from his own house to that of T. J. Rigg and out to the country--
it was not so much the sketches of his career and hints of his
uncovered wickedness in every Zenith paper, morning and evening--
it was not so much the thought that he had lost the respect of his
congregation.  What appalled him was the fact that the Associated
Press spread the story through the country, and that he had
telegrams from Dr. Wilkie Bannister of the Yorkville Methodist
Church and from the directors of the Napap to the effect:  Is this
story true?  Until the matter is settled, of course we must delay
action.


3


At the second conference with Mannie Silverhorn and Oscar Dowler,
Hettie was present, along with Elmer and T. J. Rigg, who was
peculiarly amiable.

They sat around Mannie's office, still hearing Oscar's opinion of
Mannie's indiscretion.

"Well, let's get things settled," twanged Rigg.  "Are we ready to
talk business?"

"I am," snarled Oscar.  "What about it?  Got the ten thou.?"

Into Mannie's office, pushing aside the agitated office-boy, came a
large man with flat feet.

"Hello, Pete," said Rigg affectionately.

"Hello, Pete," said Mannie anxiously.

"Who the devil are you?" said Oscar Dowler.

"Oh--Oscar!" said Hettie.

"All ready, Pete?" said T. J. Rigg.  "By the way, folks, this is
Mr. Peter Reese of the Reese Detective Agency.  You see, Hettie, I
figured that if you pulled this, your past record must be
interesting.  Is it, Pete?"

"Oh, not especially; about average," said Mr. Peter Reese.  "Now,
Hettie, why did you leave Seattle at midnight on January 12, 1920?"

"None of your business!" shrieked Hettie.

"Ain't, eh?  Well, it's some of the business of Arthur L. F.
Morrissey there.  He'd like to hear from you," said Mr. Reese, "and
know your present address--and present name!  Now, Hettie, what
about the time you did time in New York for shop-lifting?"

"You go--"

"Oh, Hettie, don't use bad language!  Remember there's a preacher
present," tittered Mr. Rigg.  "Got enough?"

"Oh, I suppose so," Hettie said wearily.  (And for the moment Elmer
loved her again, wanted to comfort her.)  "Let's bat it, Oscar."

"No, you don't--not till you sign this," said Mr. Rigg.  "If you do
sign, you get two hundred bucks to get out of town on--which will
be before tomorrow, or God help you!  If you don't sign, you go
back to Seattle to stand trial."

"All right," Hettie said, and Mr. Rigg read his statement:


I hereby voluntarily swear that all charges against the Reverend
Dr. Elmer Gantry made directly or by implication by myself and
husband are false, wicked, and absolutely unfounded.  I was
employed by Dr. Gantry as his secretary.  His relations to me were
always those of a gentleman and a Christian pastor.  I wickedly
concealed from him the fact that I was married to a man with a
criminal record.

The liquor interests, particularly certain distillers who wished to
injure Dr. Gantry as one of the greatest foes of the booze traffic,
came to me and paid me to attack the character of Dr. Gantry, and
in a moment which I shall never cease to regret, I assented, and
got my husband to help me by forging letters purporting to come
from Dr. Gantry.

The reason why I am making this confession is this:  I went to Dr.
Gantry, told him what I was going to do, and demanded money,
planning to double-cross my employers, the booze interests.  Dr.
Gantry said, "Sister, I am sorry you are going to do this wrong
thing, not on my behalf, because it is a part of the Christian life
to bear any crosses, but on behalf of your own soul.  Do as seems
best to you, Sister, but before you go further, will you kneel and
pray with me?"

When I heard Dr. Gantry praying, I suddenly repented and went home
and with my own hands typed this statement which I swear to be the
absolute truth.


When Hettie had signed, and her husband had signed a corroboration,
Mannie Silverhorn observed, "I think you've overdone it a little,
T. J.  Too good to be true.  Still, I suppose your idea was that
Hettie's such a fool that she'd slop over in her confession."

"That's the idea, Mannie."

"Well, maybe you're right.  Now if you'll give me the two hundred
bucks, I'll see these birds are out of town tonight, and maybe I'll
give 'em some of the two hundred."

"Maybe!" said Mr. Rigg.

"Maybe!" said Mr. Silverhorn.

"God!" cried Elmer Gantry, and suddenly he was disgracing himself
with tears.

That was Saturday morning.


4


The afternoon papers had front-page stories reproducing Hettie's
confession, joyfully announcing Elmer's innocence, recounting his
labors for purity, and assaulting the booze interests which had
bribed this poor, weak, silly girl to attack Elmer.

Before eight on Sunday morning, telegrams had come in from the
Yorkville Methodist Church and the Napap, congratulating Elmer,
asserting that they had never doubted his innocence, and offering
him the pastorate of Yorkville and the executive secretaryship of
the Napap.


5


When the papers had first made charges against Elmer, Cleo had said
furiously, "Oh, what a wicked, wicked lie--darling, you know I'll
stand back of you!" but his mother had crackled, "Just how much of
this is true, Elmy?  I'm getting kind of sick and tired of your
carryings on!"

Now, when he met them at Sunday breakfast, he held out the
telegrams, and the two women elbowed each other to read them.

"Oh, my dear, I am so glad and proud!" cried Cleo; and Elmer's
mother--she was an old woman, and bent; very wretched she looked as
she mumbled, "Oh, forgive me, my boy!  I've been as wicked as that
Dowler woman!"


6


But for all that, would his congregation believe him?

If they jeered when he faced them, he would be ruined, he would
still lose the Yorkville pastorate and the Napap.  Thus he fretted
in the quarter-hour before morning service, pacing his study and
noting through the window--for once, without satisfaction--that
hundreds on hundreds were trying to get into the crammed
auditorium.

His study was so quiet.  How he missed Hettie's presence!

He knelt.  He did not so much pray as yearn inarticulately.  But
this came out clearly:  "I've learned my lesson.  I'll never look
at a girl again.  I'm going to be the head of all the moral
agencies in the country--nothing can stop me, now I've got the
Napap!--but I'm going to be all the things I want other folks to
be!  Never again!"

He stood at his study door, watching the robed choir filing out to
the auditorium chanting.  He realized how he had come to love the
details of his church; how, if his people betrayed him now, he
would miss it: the choir, the pulpit, the singing, the adoring
faces.

It had come.  He could not put it off.  He had to face them.

Feebly the Reverend Dr. Gantry wavered through the door to the
auditorium and exposed himself to twenty-five hundred question
marks.

They rose and cheered--cheered--cheered.  Theirs were the shining
faces of friends.

Without planning it, Elmer knelt on the platform, holding his hands
out to them, sobbing, and with him they all knelt and sobbed and
prayed, while outside the locked glass door of the church, seeing
the mob kneel within, hundreds knelt on the steps of the church, on
the sidewalk, all down the block.

"Oh, my friends!" cried Elmer, "do you believe in my innocence, in
the fiendishness of my accusers?  Reassure me with a hallelujah!"

The church thundered with the triumphant hallelujah, and in a
sacred silence Elmer prayed:

"O Lord, thou hast stooped from thy mighty throne and rescued thy
servant from the assault of the mercenaries of Satan!  Mostly we
thank thee because thus we can go on doing thy work, and thine
alone!  Not less but more zealously shall we seek utter purity and
the prayer-life, and rejoice in freedom from all temptations!"

He turned to include the choir, and for the first time he saw that
there was a new singer, a girl with charming ankles and lively
eyes, with whom he would certainly have to become well acquainted.
But the thought was so swift that it did not interrupt the pæan of
his prayer:

"Let me count this day, Lord, as the beginning of a new and more
vigorous life, as the beginning of a crusade for complete morality
and the domination of the Christian church through all the land.
Dear Lord, thy work is but begun!  We shall yet make these United
States a moral nation!"



THE END




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