"Oh, you can count me in, all right, Reynolds; you know I'm not one for half-measures."
"Well, now, my friends, I believe I see daylight. By joining hands I really believe we are going to accomplish something for England." Crondall looked round the table at the faces of his friends. "We are all agreed, I know, that the present danger is the danger Kipling tried to warn us about years and years ago."
"'Lest we forget!'" quoted Sir Herbert quietly.
"Exactly. There are so many in England who have neither seen nor felt anything of the blow we have had."
And here I told them something of what I had seen and heard in Dorset; how remote and unreal the whole thing was to folk there.
"That's it, exactly," continued Crondall. "That's one difficulty which has just got to be overcome. Another is the danger that, among those who did see and feel something of it, here in London, and even in East Anglia, the habit of apathy in national matters, and the calls of business and pleasure may mean forgetting, indifference—the old fatal neglect. You see, we must remember that, crushing as the blow was, it did not actually reach so very many people. It did not force them to get up and fight for their lives. It was all over so soon. Directly they cried out, 'The Destroyers' answered with surrender, and so helped to strengthen the fatal delusion they had cherished so long, that everything is a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence."
"'They'll never go for England, because England's got the dibs,'" quoted Forbes Thompson, with a nod of assent.
"Yes, yes. 'Make alliances, and leave me to my business!' One knows it all so well. But, mind you, even to the blindest of them, the invasion has meant something."
"And the income-tax will mean something to 'em, too," said Sir Morell Strachey.
"Yes. But the English purse is deep, and the Englishman has long years of money-spinning freedom from discipline behind him. Still, here is this brutal fact of the invasion. Here we are actually condemned to nine years of life inside a circle of German encampments on English soil, with a hundred millions a year of tribute to pay for the right to live in our own England. Now my notion is that the lesson must not be lost. The teaching of the thing must be forced home. It must be burnt into these happy-go-lucky countrymen of ours—if Stairs and Reynolds are to achieve their end, or we ours."
"Our aim is to awake the sense of duty which seems to us to have become atrophied, even among the professedly religious," said Stairs.
"And ours," said Crondall, sharp as steel, "is to ram home your teaching, and to show them that the nearest duty to their hand is their duty to the State, to the Race, to their children—the duty of freeing England and throwing over German dominion."
"To render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's," said Reynolds. And Stairs nodded agreement.
"Now, by my way of it, Stairs and Reynolds must succeed before we can succeed," said Crondall. "That is my view, and because that is so, you can both look to me, up till the last breath in me, for any kind of support I can give you—for any kind of support at all. But that's not all. Where you sow, I mean to reap. We both want substantially the same harvest—mine is part of yours. I know I can count on you all. You, Stairs, and you, Reynolds, are going to carry your Message through England. I propose to follow in your wake with mine. You rouse them to the sense of duty; I show them their duty. You make them ready to do their duty; I show it them. I'll have a lecturer. I'll get pictures. They shall feel the invasion, and know what the German occupation means. You shall convert them, and I'll enlist them."
"Enlist them! By Jove! that's an idea," said Forbes Thompson. "A patriotic league, a league of defenders, a nation in arms."
"Ah! Yes, the Liberators."
"Or the Patriots, simply?"
"I would enrol them just as citizens," said Crondall. "By that time they should have learned the meaning of the word."
"Yes, by Jove! it is good enough—just 'The Citizens,'" said Sir Morell Strachey.
And then a servant came in with a message for Forbes Thompson, and we realized that dinner-time had come and almost gone. But we were in no mood for separating just then, and so every one welcomed John Crondall's invitation to dine with him at a neighbouring hotel.
MY OWN PART
Free men freely work; Whoever fears God, fears to sit at ease.
E. B. BROWNING.
Constance Grey and myself were the last of John Crondall's guests to leave him on that evening of the conference. As soon as we three were alone, Constance turned to Crondall, and said:
"You must expect to have me among your camp followers if I find Aunt Mary can stand the travelling. I dare say there will be little things I can do."
"Things you can do! By George, I should think so!" said Crondall. "I shall look to you to capture the women; and if we get the women, it will surprise me if we don't get the men as well. Besides, don't you fancy I have forgotten your prowess as a speaker in Cape Town and Pretoria. You remember that meeting of your father's, when you saved him from the wrath of Vrow Bischoff? Why, of course, I reckon on you. We'll have special women's meetings."
"And where do I come in?" I asked, with an assumed lightness of tone which was far from expressing my feeling.
"Yes," said Crondall, eying me thoughtfully; "I've been thinking of that."
As he said that, I had a swift vision of myself and my record, as both must have appeared to a man like Crondall, whose whole life had been spent in patriotic effort. The vision was a good corrective for the unworthy shafts of jealousy—for that no doubt they were—which had come to me with John Crondall's references to Constance. I was admitted cordially into the confidences of these people from whom, on my record, I scarcely deserved common courtesy. It was with a distinctly chastened mind that I gave them both some outline of the thoughts and resolutions which had come to me during my evening beside Barebarrow, overlooking sleepy little Tarn Regis.
"It's a kind of national telepathy," said Crondall. "God send it's at work in other counties besides Dorset."
"It had need be," I told them; "for all those that I spoke to in Dorset accepted the German occupation like a thing as absolutely outside their purview as the movements of the planets."
"Yes, they want a lot of stirring, I know; but I believe we shall stir 'em all right. But about your part in the campaign. Of course, I recognize that every one has to earn his living, just as much now as before. But yet I know you'd like to be in this thing, Dick Mordan, and I believe you can help it a lot. What I thought of was this: I shall want a secretary, and want him very badly. He will be the man who will do half my work. On the other hand, I can't pay him much, for every cent of my income will be wanted in the campaign, and a good deal more besides. The thing is, would you tackle it, for the sake of the cause, for a couple of hundred a year? Of course, I should stand all running expenses. What do you think? It's not much of an offer, but it would keep us all together?"
Constance looked expectantly at me, and I realized with a sudden thrill the uses of even such small means as I now possessed.
"Well, no," I said; "I couldn't agree to that." The pupils of John Crondall's eyes contracted sharply, and a pained, wondering look crept into the face I loved, the vivid, expressive face of Constance Grey. "But what I would put my whole heart and soul into, would be working as your secretary for the sake of the cause, as long as you could stand the running expense, and—and longer."
I think the next minute was the happiest I had ever known. I dare say it seems a small enough matter, but it was the only thing of the kind I had ever been able to do. These friends of mine had always given so much to our country's cause. I had felt myself so far beneath them in this. Now, as John Crondall's strong hand came down on my shoulder, and Constance's bright eyes shone upon me in affectionate approval, my heart swelled within me, with something of the glad pride which should be the possession of every man, as it indubitably is of every true citizen and patriot.
"You see," I explained deprecatingly, as Crondall swayed my shoulder affectionately to and fro in his firm grip; "I have become a sort of a minor capitalist. I have about a hundred and fifty a year coming in, and so I'm as free as I am glad to work with you, and—there'll be two hundred more for the campaign, you see."
"God bless you, old chap! You and Constance and I, we'll move mountains—even the great mountain of apathy—between us. Sir Herbert offers a thousand pounds toward expenses, and Forbes Thompson and Varley are ready to speak for us anywhere we like, and Winchester has a pal who he says will work wonders as a kind of advance agent. I'm pretty sure of Government help, too—or Opposition help; they'll be governing before Christmas, you'll find. Now, we all meet here again the day after to-morrow. We three will see each other to-morrow, I expect. I must write a stack of letters before the midnight post."
"Well, can I lend a hand?" I asked.
"No, not to-night, Mr. Secretary Dick, thank you! But it's late. Will you take Constance home? I'll get my fellow to whistle up a cab."
Ten minutes earlier I should have been chilled by his implied guardianship of Constance; but now I had that within which warmed me through and through: the most effectual kind of protection against chill. So all was settled, and we left John Crondall to his letters. And, driving out to South Kensington, we talked over our hopes, Constance and I, as partners in one cause.
"This is the beginning of everything for me, Constance," I said, when we parted in the hall below her flat.
"It is going to be the beginning of very much for a good many," she said, as she gave me her hand.
"I wonder if you know how much—for me!"
"I think so. I am tremendously glad about it all."
But she did not know, could not know, just how much it meant to me.
"Good night, my patriotic Muse!" I said.
"Good night, Mr. Secretary Dick!"
And so we parted on the night of my return to London.
We were dreamers, dreaming greatly, in the man-stifled town; We yearned beyond the sky-line where the strange roads go down. Came the Whisper, came the Vision, came the Power, with the Need, Till the Soul that is not man's soul was lent us to lead.
. . . . .
Follow after—follow after—for the harvest is sown: By the bones about the wayside ye shall come to your own!
Never before had I known days so full, so compact of effort and achievement, as were those of the week following the conference in John Crondall's rooms. I could well appreciate Winchester's statement when he said that: "John Crondall is known through three Continents as a glutton for work."
Our little circle represented Canada, South Africa, Australia, and the Mother Country; and, while I admit that my old friend, George Stairs, and his Canadian-born partner, Reynolds, could give points to most people in the matter of unwearying energy, yet I am proud to report that the member of our circle who, so to say, worked us all to a standstill was John Crondall, an Englishman born and bred. I said as much in the presence of them all, and when my verdict was generally endorsed, John Crondall qualified it with the remark:
"Well, I can only say that pretty nearly all I know about work I learned in the Colonies."
And I learned later on to realize the justice of this qualification. Colonial life does teach directness and concentration. Action of any sort in England was at that time hedged about by innumerable complications and cross issues and formalities, many of which we have won clear from since then. Perhaps it was the strength of our Colonial support which set the pace of our procedure. Whatever the cause, I know I never worked harder, or accomplished more; and I had never been so happy.
I think John Crondall must have interviewed from two to three hundred prominent politicians and members of the official world during that week. I have heard it said by men who should know, that the money Crondall spent in cable messages to the Colonies that week was the price of the first Imperial Parliament ever assembled in Westminster Hall. I use these words in their true sense, their modern sense, of course. Nominally, the House of Commons had long been the "Imperial" Parliament.
I know that week's work established The Citizens as an already powerful organization, with a long list of names famous in history among its members, with a substantial banking account, and with volunteer agents in every great centre in the kingdom. The motto and watchword of The Citizens, as engraved upon a little bronze medal of membership, was: "For God; our Race; and Duty." The oath of enrolment said:
"I —— do hereby undertake and promise to do my duty to God, to our Race, and to the British Empire to the utmost limit of my ability, without fear and without compromise, so help me God!"
John Crondall interviewed the editors of most of the leading London newspapers during that week, and thereby earned a discreet measure of journalistic support for his campaign. There was a great need of discretion here, for our papers were carefully studied in Berlin, as well as by the German Generals commanding the various English towns now occupied by the Kaiser's troops. It was, of course, most important that no friction should be caused at this stage.
But it was with regard to the preaching pilgrimage of the two Canadian parsons that Crondall's friends of the Press rendered us the greatest possible service. Here no particular reticence was called for, and the Press could be, and was, unreservedly helpful and generous. In estimating the marvellous achievements of the two preachers, I do not think enough weight has been attached to the great services rendered to their mission by such journals as the great London daily which published each morning a column headed, "The New Evangel," and, indeed, by all the newspapers both in London and the provinces.
We were not directly aiming, during that first week, at enrolling members. No recruiting had been done. Yet when, at the end of the week, a meeting of the executive committee was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel, the founder, John Crondall, was able to submit a list of close upon six hundred sworn members of The Citizens; and, of these, I suppose fully five hundred were men of high standing in the world of politics, the Services, commerce, and the professions. Among them were three dukes, twenty-three peers, a Field Marshal, six newspaper proprietors, eleven editors, seven of the wealthiest men in England, and ninety-eight prominent Members of Parliament. And, as I say, no systematic recruiting had been done.
At that meeting of the executive a great deal of important business was transacted. John Crondall was able to announce a credit balance of ten thousand pounds, with powers to overdraw under guarantee at the Bank of England. A simple code of membership rules and objects was drawn up for publication, and a short code of secret rules was formed, by which every sworn member was to be bound. These rules stipulated for implicit obedience to the decision and orders of the executive, and by these every member was bound to take a certain course of rifle drill, and to respond immediately to any call that should be made for military service within the British Isles during a period of twelve months from the date of enrolment. John Crondall announced that there was every hope of The Citizens obtaining from the Government a grant of one service rifle and one hundred rounds of ammunition for every member who could pass a simple medical examination.
"We may not actually secure this grant until after the general election," Crondall explained; "but it can be regarded as a certain asset."
It was decided that, officially, there should be no connection between the Canadian preachers, as every one called them, and the propaganda of The Citizens. But it was also privately agreed that steps should be taken to follow the Canadians throughout their pilgrimage with lectures and addresses, and meetings at which members could be enrolled upon the roster of The Citizens, including volunteer instructors in rifle drill. My friend Stairs attended this meeting with Reynolds, and, after discussion, it was agreed that, for the present, they should not visit the towns occupied by the Germans.
"The people there have their lesson before them every day and all day long," said John Crondall. "The folk we want to reach are those who have not yet learned their lesson. My advice is to attack London first. Enlist London on your side, and on that go to the provinces."
There was a good deal of discussion over this, and finally an offer John Crondall made was accepted by Stairs and Reynolds, and our meeting was brought to a close. What Crondall said was this:
"To-day is Monday. There is still a great deal of detail to be attended to. Officially, there must be no connection between Stairs and Reynolds and The Citizens. Actually, we know the connection is vital. Give me the rest of this week for arrangements, and I promise that we shall all gain by it. I will not appear in the matter, and I will see you each evening for consultation. Your pilgrimage shall begin on Sunday, and ours within a day or so of that."
Then followed another week of tense effort. Stairs and Reynolds both addressed minor gatherings during the week, and met John Crondall every evening for consultation. On Wednesday the principal Imperialistic newspaper in London appeared with a long leading article and three columns of descriptive exposition of "The New Evangel." On the same day the papers published despatches telling of the departure from their various homes of the Premiers, and two specially elected representatives of all the British Colonies, who were coming to England for an Imperial Conference at Westminster. The Government's resignation was expected within the month, and writs for the election were to be issued immediately afterwards.
On Wednesday evening and Thursday morning the newspapers of London alone published one hundred and thirteen columns of matter regarding the message and the pilgrimage of the Rev. George Stairs and the Rev. Arthur J. Reynolds. During the latter part of the week all London was agog over the Canadian preachers. As yet, very little had appeared in print regarding The Citizens.
On Sunday morning at three o'clock John Crondall went into his bedroom to sleep, and I slept in the room he had set aside for me in his flat—too tired out to undress. Even Crondall's iron frame was weary that night, and he admitted to me before retiring from a table at which we had kept three typewriters busy till long after midnight, that he had reached his limit and must rest.
"I couldn't stand another hour of it—unless it were necessary, you know," was his way of putting it.
By my persuasion he kept his bed during a good slice of Sunday morning, and lunched with me at Constance Grey's flat. He always said that Mrs. Van Homrey was the most restful tonic London could supply to any man. I went to the morning service at Westminster Abbey that day with Constance, and listened to a magnificent sermon from the Bishop of London, whose text was drawn from the sixth chapter of Exodus: "And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God."
The Bishop struck a strong note of hopefulness, but there was also warning and exhortation in his discourse. He spoke of sons of our race who had gone into far countries, and, carrying our Faith and traditions with them, had preserved these and wrought them into a finer fabric than the original from which they were drawn. And now, when a great affliction had come upon the people of England, their sons of the Greater Britain oversea were holding out kindly hands of friendship and support. But it was not alone in the material sense that we should do well to avail ourselves of the support offered us from the outside places. These wandering children of the Old Land had cherished among them a strong and simple godliness, a devout habit of Christian morality, from which we might well draw spiritual sustenance.
"You have all heard of the Canadian preachers, and I hope you will all learn a good deal more of their Message this very afternoon at the Albert Hall, where I am to have the honour of presiding over a meeting which will be addressed by these Christian workers from across the sea."
We found John Crondall a giant refreshed after his long sleep.
"I definitely promise you a seat this afternoon, Mrs. Van Homrey," he said, as we all sat down to lunch in the South Kensington flat, "but that's as much as I can promise. You and I will have to keep our feet, Dick, and you will have to share Lady Tate's seat, Constance. If every ticket-holder turns up this afternoon, there won't be a single vacant seat in the whole of that great hall."
"You earned your Sunday morning in, John," said Mrs. Van Homrey. "Is the Prime Minister coming?"
"No, he has failed me at the last, but half the members of the last Government will be there, and I have promises from prominent representatives of every religious denomination in England. There will be sixty military officers above captain's rank, in uniform, and forty-eight naval officers in uniform. There will be many scores of bluejackets and private soldiers, a hundred training-ship lads, fifty of the Legion of Frontiersmen, and a number of volunteers all in full uniform. There will be a tremendous number of society people, but the mass will be leavened, and I should say one-half the people will be middle-class folk. For to-night, no tickets have been issued. The attendance will depend to some extent on the success of this afternoon, but, to judge from the newspapers and the talk one hears, I should say it would be enormous."
Just before we left the flat Crondall told us a secret.
"You know they have a volunteer choir of fifty voices?" he said. "It was Stairs's idea, and he has carried it out alone. The choir consists entirely of bluejackets, soldiers, volunteers, Red Cross nurses, and boys from the Army bands."
THE SWORD OF THE LORD
Stern Daughter of the Voice of God! O Duty! if that name thou love Who art a light to guide, a rod To check the erring, and reprove; Thou who art victory and law When empty terrors overawe; From vain temptations dost set free, And calm'st the weary strife of frail humanity!
WORDSWORTH'S Ode to Duty.
I have always been glad that I was able to attend that first great service of the Canadian preachers; and so, I think, has every one else who was there. Other services of theirs may have been more notable in certain respects—indeed, I know they were; but this one was the beginning, the first wave in a great tide. And I am glad that I was there to see that first grand wave rise upon the rock of British apathy.
I have said something of the audience, but a book might well be devoted to its description, and, again, a sentence may serve. It was a representative English gathering, in that it embraced a member of the Royal Family, a little group of old men and women from an asylum for the indigent, and members of every grade of society that comes between. Also, it was a very large gathering—even for the Albert Hall.
It should be remembered that not many weeks prior to this Sunday afternoon, the people of London, maddened by hunger, fear, and bewildered panic, had stormed Westminster to enforce their demand for surrender, and had seen Von Fuechter with his bloodstained legions take possession of the capital of the British Empire. Fifty Londoners had been cut down, almost in as many seconds, within two miles of the Mansion House. In one terrible week London had passed through an age of terror and humiliation, the end of which had been purchased in panic and disorder by means of a greater humiliation than any. Now England had to pay the bill. Some, in the pursuit of business and pleasure, were already forgetting; but the majority among the great concourse of Londoners who sat waiting in the Albert Hall that afternoon, clothed in their Sunday best, were still shrewdly conscious of the terrible severity of the blow which had fallen upon England.
Having found Constance her half-seat with Lady Tate, I stood beside one of the gangways below the platform, which lead to the dressing-rooms and other offices. Beside me was a table for Press representatives. There, with their pencils, I noted Campbell, of the Daily Gazette, and other men I knew, including Carew, for the Standard, who had an assistant with him. He told me that somewhere in the hall his paper had a special descriptive writer as well.
Looking up and down that vast building, from dome to amphitheatre, I experienced, as it were vicariously, something of the nervousness of stage fright. Londoners were not simple prairie folk, I thought. How should my friend George Stairs hold that multitude? Two plain men from Western Canada, accustomed to minister to farmers and miners, what could they say to engage and hold these serried thousands of Londoners, the most blase people in England? I had never heard either of the preachers speak in public, but—I looked out over that assemblage, and I was horribly afraid for my friends. A Church of England clergyman and a Nonconformist minister from Canada, and I told myself they had never had so much as an elocution lesson between them!
And then the Bishop of London appeared on the crowded platform, followed by George Stairs and Arthur Reynolds; and a dead silence descended upon the hall. In the forefront of the platform was a plain table with a chair at either end of it, and a larger one in the middle. Here the Bishop and the two preachers placed themselves. Then the Bishop rose with right hand uplifted, and said solemnly:
"May God bless to us all the Message which His two servants have brought us from oversea; for Christ's sake, Amen."
George Stairs remained kneeling at his end of the table. But as the Bishop resumed his seat Arthur Reynolds stepped forward, and, pitching his voice well, said:
"My friends, let us sing the British Anthem."
And at that the great organ spoke, and the choir of sailors, soldiers, and nurses led the singing of the National Anthem. The first bar was sung by the choir alone, but by the time the third bar was reached thousands among the standing congregation were singing with them, and the volume of sound was most impressive. I think that a good many people besides myself found this solemn singing of the Anthem, from its first line to its last, something of a revelation. It made "God Save the King" a real prayer instead of a musical intimation that hats might be felt for and carriages ordered. It struck a note which the Canadian preachers desired to strike. They began with a National Hymn which was a prayer for King and Country. The people were at first startled, and then pleased, and then stirred by a departure from all customs known to them. And that this should be so was, I apprehend, the deliberate intention of the Canadian preachers.
Still George Stairs knelt at his end of the bare table.
As the last note of the organ accompaniment died away, Arthur Reynolds stepped to the front.
"Will you all pray, please?" he said. He closed his eyes and extended one hand.
I cannot tell you what simple magic the man used. I know those were his words. But the compelling appeal in them was most remarkable. There was something childlike about his simple request. I do not think any one could have scoffed at the man. After a minute's silence, he prayed aloud, and this is what he said:
"Father in Heaven, give us strength to understand our duty and to do it. Thou knowest that two of the least among Thy servants have crossed the sea to give a Message to their kinsmen in England. Our kinsmen are a great and proud people, and we, as Thou knowest, are but very simple men. But our Message is from Thee, and with Thee all things are possible. Father, have pity upon our weakness to-day. Open to us the hearts of even the proudest and the greatest of our kinsmen. Do not let them scorn us. And, O Father of all men, gentle and simple, breathe Thou upon us that we may have a strength not of ourselves; a power worthy of the Message we bring, which shall make its truth to shine so that none may mistake it. For Christ's sake. Amen."
Arthur Reynolds resumed his seat, and a great Australian singer, a prima donna of world-wide repute, stepped forward very simply and sang as a solo the hymn beginning:
Church of the Living God, Pillar and ground of truth, Keep the old paths the fathers trod In thy illumined youth.
The prayer had softened all hearts by its simplicity, its humility. The exquisitely rendered hymn attuned all minds to thoughts of ancient, simple piety, and the traditions which guided and inspired our race in the past. When it was ended, and not till then, George Stairs rose from his knees, and stepped forward to where a little temporary extension jutted out beyond the rest of the platform. He stood there with both hands by his side, and a Bible held in one of them. His head inclined a little forward. It was an attitude suggestive rather of submission to that great assembly, or to some Power above it, than of exhortation. Watching him as he stood there, I realized what a fine figure of a man George was, how well and surely Canadian life had developed him. His head was massive, his hair thick and very fair; his form lithe, tall, full of muscular elasticity.
He stood so, silent, for a full minute, till I began to catch my breath from nervousness. Then he opened the Bible, and:
"May I just read you a few verses from the Bible?" he said.
There was the same directness, the same simple, almost childlike appeal that had touched the people in Reynolds's prayer. He read some verses from the First Book of Samuel. I remember:
"'And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? And did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honouredst thy sons above me to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel, my people? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house and the house of thy father should walk before me for ever; but now the Lord saith, be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and them that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold the day is come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, and there shall not be an old man in my house. And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel.... And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind....'"
There was a pause, and then the preacher read a passage from Judges, ending with the famous war-cry: "The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon." He looked up then, and, without reference to the Bible in his hand, repeated several verses:
"'And by thy sword thou shalt live, and shalt serve thy brother: and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.'
"'He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.'
"'For he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.'
"'And take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.'
"'Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace but a sword.' Not the peace of indolence and dishonour; not the fatted peace of mercenary well-being; but a Sword; the Sword of the Lord, the Sword of Duty, which creates, establishes, and safeguards the only true peace—the peace of honourable peoples."
I remember his slow turning of leaves in his Bible, and I remember:
"'Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man—' the whole duty—— Yes, 'but isn't Duty rather an early Victorian sort of business, and a bit out of date, anyhow?' That was what a young countryman of mine—from Dorset, he came—said to me in Calgary, last year. I told him that, according to my reading of history, it had come down a little farther than early Victorian days. I remember I mentioned Rorke's Drift; and he rather liked that. But, of course, I knew what he meant."
It was in this very simple strain, without a gesture, without a trace of dramatic appeal, that George Stairs began to address that great gathering. Much has been said and written of the quality of revelation which was instinct in that first address; of its compelling force, its inspired strength, the convincing directness of it all. And I should be the last to deny to my old friend's address any of the praises lavished upon it by high and low. But what I would say of it is that, even now, sufficient emphasis and import are never attached to the most compelling quality of all in George Stairs's words: their absolutely unaffected simplicity. I think a ten-year-old child could have followed his every word with perfect understanding.
Nowadays we take a fair measure of simplicity for granted. Anything less would condemn a man as a fool or a mountebank. But be it remembered that the key-note and most striking feature of all recent progress has been the advance toward simplicity in all things. At the period of George Stairs's first exposition of the new evangel in the Albert Hall, we were not greatly given to simplicity. It was scarcely noticeable at that time even among tillers of the earth. Not to put too fine a point upon it, we were a tinselled lot of mimes, greatly given to apishness, and shunning naked truth as though it were the plague. Past masters in compromise and self-delusion, we had stripped ourselves of simplicity in every detail of life, and, from the cradle to the grave, seemed willingly to be hedged about with every kind of complexity. We so maltreated our physical palates that they responded only to flavours which would have alarmed a plain-living man; and, metaphorically, the same thing held good in every concern of our lives, until simplicity became non-existent among us, and was forgotten. There were men and women in that Sunday afternoon gathering at the Albert Hall whose very pleasures were a complicated and laborious art, whose pastimes were a strain upon the nervous system, whose leisure was quite an arduous business.
This it was which gave such striking freshness, such compelling strength, to the simple, forthright directness, the unaffected earnestness and modesty of the Message brought us by the Canadian preachers. The most bumptious and self-satisfied Cockney who ever heard the ringing of Bow Bells, would have found resentment impossible after George Stairs's little account of his leaving Dorset as a boy of twelve, and picking up such education as he had, while learning how to milk cows, bed down horses, split fire-wood, and perform "chores" generally, on a Canadian farm. Even during his theological course, vacations had found him in the harvest field.
"You may guess my diffidence, then," he said, "in lifting up my voice before such a gathering as this, here in the storied heart of the Empire, the city I have reverenced my life long as the centre of the world's intelligence. But there is not a man or woman here to-day who would chide a lad who came home from school with tidings of something he had learned there. That is my case, precisely. I have been to one of our outside schools, from my home here in this beloved island. Home and school alike, they are all part of our family heritage—yours and mine. I only bring you your own word from another part of our own place. That is my sole claim to stand before you to-day. Yet, when I think of it, it satisfies me; it safeguards me from the effect of misunderstanding or offence, so long as my hearers are of my kin—British."
His description of Canada and the life he had lived there occupied us for no more than ten minutes, at the outside. It has appeared in so many books that I will not attempt to quote that little masterpiece of illumination. But by no means every reproduction of this passage adds the simple little statement which divided it from its successor.
"That has been my life. No brilliant qualities are demanded of a man in such a life. The one thing demanded is that he shall do his duty. You remember that passage in Ecclesiastes—'The conclusion of the whole matter'?"
And then came the story of Edward Hare. That moved the people deeply.
"My first curacy was in Southern Manitoba. When I was walking from the church to the farmhouse where I lodged, after morning service, one perfect day in June, I passed a man called Edward Hare, sitting at the edge of a little bluff, on a rising piece of ground. I had felt drawn toward this man. He was a Londoner, and, in his first two years, had had a tough fight. But he had won through, and now had just succeeded in adding a hundred and sixty acres to his little farm, which was one of the most prosperous in the district.
"'I didn't see you at church this morning, Hare,' I said, after we had chatted a minute or two.
"'No,' said he; 'I wasn't at church. I've been here by this bluff since breakfast, and—Parson!' he said, with sudden emphasis, 'I shall give up the farm. I'm going back Home.'
"Well, of course, I was surprised, and pressed him for reasons. 'Well,' he said, 'I don't know as I can make much of a show of reasons; but I'm going. Did you notice anything special about the weather, or—or that, this morning, Parson?' I told him I had only noticed that it was a very sweet, clear, happy sort of a morning. 'That's just it, Parson,' he said; 'sweet and clear and clean it is; and I don't believe there's any sweeter, cleaner thing than this morning on my farm—no, not in heaven, Parson,' he said. 'And that's why I'm going back Home to London; to Battersea; that's where I lived before I came here.'
"I waited for him to tell me more, and presently he said: 'You know, Parson, I was never what you might call a drunkard, not even at Home, where drinking's the regular thing. But I used to get through a tidy lot of liquor, one way and another, and most generally two or three pints too many of a Saturday night. Then, of a Sunday morning, the job was waiting for the pubs to open. Nobody in our street ever did much else of a Sunday. I suppose you don't happen to have ever been down the Falcon Road of a Sunday morning, Parson? No? Well, you see, the street's a kind of market all Saturday night, up till long after midnight—costers' barrows with flare-lights, gin-shops full to the door, and all the fun of the fair—all the fun of the fair. Mothers and fathers, lads and sweethearts, babies in prams, and toddlers in blue plush and white wool; you see them all crowding the bars up till midnight, and they see—well, they see Battersea through a kind of a bright gaze. Then comes Sunday, and a dry throat, and waiting for the pubs to open. The streets are all a litter of dirty newspaper and cabbage-stumps, and worse; and the air's kind of sick and stale.'
"At that Hare stopped talking, and looked out over the prairie on that June morning. Presently he went on again: 'Well, Parson, when I came out here this morning—I haven't tasted beer for over three years—I sat down and looked around; and, somehow, I thought I'd never seen anything so fine in all my life; so sweet and clean; the air so bright, like dew; and green—well, look at it, far as your eye can carry! And all this round, away to the bluff there, and the creek this way; it's mine, every foot of it. Well, after a bit, I was looking over there to the church, and what d'ye think I saw, all through the pretty sunlight? I saw the Falcon Road, a pub I know there, and a streak of sunshine running over the wire blinds into the bar, all frowsy and shut in, with the liquor stains over everything. And outside, I saw the pasty-faced crowd waiting to get in, and all the Sunday litter in the road. Parson, I got the smell of it, the sick, stale smell of it, right here—in Paradise; I got the frowsy smell of it, and heard the waily children squabbling, and—I can't tell you any more of what I saw. If you'd ever seen it, you'd know.'
"And there he stopped again, until I moved. Then he said: 'Parson, if you saw a fellow starving on a bit of land over there that wouldn't feed a prairie-chick, and you knew of a free homestead across the creek, where he could raise five and twenty bushels to the acre and live like a man, would you leave him to rot on his bare patch? Not you. That's why I'm going Home—to Battersea.'
"If Hare had been a married man I might have advised him otherwise. But he was married only to the farm he had wrought so well, and it did not seem to me part of my business to come between a man and his duty—as he saw it. That man came Home, and took the cheapest lodging he could get in Battersea. He had sold his farm well. Now he took to street preaching, and what he preached was, not religion, but the prairie. 'Lord sake, young folk!' he used to say to the lads and girls when they turned toward the public-houses. 'Hold on! Wait a minute! I want to tell you something!' And he would tell them what four years' clean work had given him in Canada.
"He got into touch with various emigration agencies. The money he had lasted him, living as he did, for five years. In that time he was the means of sending nine hundred and twenty men and five hundred and forty women and girls to a free and independent life in Canada. Just before his money was exhausted, England's affliction, England's chastisement, came upon her like God's anger in a thunderbolt. Hare had meant to return to Canada to make another start, and earn money enough to return to his work here. Instead of that, my friends, instead of what he called Paradise in Manitoba, God took him straight into Heaven. He left his body beside the North London entrenchments, where, so one of his comrades told me, he fought like ten men for England, knowing well that, if captured, he would be shot out of hand as a civilian bearing arms. One may say of Edward Hare, I think, that he saw his duty very clearly—and did it.
* * * * *
"But what of us? What of you, and I, my friends? How do we stand regarding Duty?"
I never heard such questions in my life. He had been speaking smoothly, evenly, calmly, and without gesticulation. With the questions, his body was bent as though for a leap; his hands flung forward. These questions left him like bullets. It was as though that great hall had been in blackest darkness, and with a sudden movement the speaker had switched on ten thousand electric lights. I saw men rise to a half-erect posture. I heard women catch their breath. The air of the place seemed all aquiver.
"My friends, will you please pray with me?"
He leaned forward, an appeal in every line of his figure, addressed confidentially to each soul present. Then his right hand rose:
"Please God, help me to give my Message! Please God, open London's heart to hear my Message! Please God, give me strength to tell it—now! For Christ's sake. Amen!"
One heard a low, emphatic, and far-carrying "Amen!" from the lips of London's Bishop; and I think that, too, meant something to the great congregation of Londoners assembled there.
Immediately then, it was, while the electric thrill of his questions and the simple prayer still held all his audience at high tension, that George Stairs plunged into the famous declaration of the new evangel of Duty and Simplicity. If any man in the world has learned for himself that prayer is efficacious, that man is the Rev. George Stairs. For it is now universally admitted that such winged words as those of his first great exposition of the doctrine of Duty and simple living, the doctrine which has placed the English-speaking peoples in the forefront of Christendom, had never before thrilled an English audience.
His own words were a perfect example of the invincible virtue of simplicity; his presence there was a glowing evidence of the force of Duty. It is quite certain that the knowledge shown in his flashing summary of nineteenth-century English history was not knowledge based upon experience. But neither the poets, nor the most learned historians, nor the most erudite of naval experts, has ever given a picture so instantly convincing as the famous passage of his oration which showed us, first, the British Fleet on the morning of Trafalgar; then, Nelson going into action; then, the great sailor's dying apotheosis of Duty; and, finally, England's reception of her dead hero's body. The delivery of this much-quoted passage was a matter of moments only, but from where I stood I saw streaming eyes in women's faces, and that stiff, unwinking stare on men's faces which indicates tense effort to restrain emotion.
And so, with a fine directness and simplicity of progress, he carried us down through the century to its stormy close, with vivid words of tribute for the sturdy pioneers of Victorian reform who fought for and built the freest democracy in the world, and gave us the triumphant enlightenment which illumined Victoria's first Jubilee.
"'But isn't Duty a rather early Victorian sort of business, and out of date, anyhow?' said my young countryman in Calgary. To the first half of his question there can be no answer but 'Yes.' To deny it were to slander our fathers most cruelly. But what of the question's second half? Our fathers have no concern with the answering of that. Is Duty 'out of date,' my friends? If so, let us burn our churches. If so, let the bishops resign their bishoprics. If so, let us lower for ever the flag which our fathers made sacred from pole to pole. If so, let Britain admit—as well first as last—that she has retired for ever from her proud place among the nations, and is no more to be accounted a Power in Christendom; for that is no place for a people with whom Duty is out of date.
"'And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar?... But now the Lord saith, Be it far from me, for them that honour me I will honour, and them that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold the days come that I will cut off thine arm!'"
It was almost unbearable. No one had guessed the man had such a voice. He had recited that passage quietly. Then came the rolling thunder of the: "Behold the days come that I will cut off thine arm!" A woman in the centre of the hall cried aloud, upon a high note. The roar of German artillery in North London never stirred Londoners as this particular sentence of God's Word stirred them in the Albert Hall.
And then, in a voice keyed down again to calm and tender wisdom, the words of the Scriptural poet stole out over the heads of the perturbed people, stilling their minds once more into the right receptive vein: "'Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.'"
Like balm, the stately words fell upon the people, as a light to lighten their darkness, as an end and a solution to a situation found intolerable. But, though calm resolve was in George Stairs's gift that day, he suffered no complaisance; and, by this time, he held that great assembly in the hollow of his hand. It was then he dealt with the character of our own century, as distinguished from that of the Victorian era. It was then his words taught me, personally, more than all he had said besides.
I will not quote from a passage which has been incorporated in hundreds of school-books. It is generally admitted that the end and purpose underlying the civil and national code of our age has never since been more admirably stated than on the day of its first enunciation in the Albert Hall by George Stairs. His words were glowing when he showed us how the key-note of our fathers' age had been the claiming and establishing of rights and privileges. His words stung like whip-thongs when he depicted our greedy, self-satisfied enjoyment of those rights and privileges, with never a thought, either of the various obligations pertaining to them, or of our plain duty in the conservation for our children of all that had been won for us. Finally, his words were living fire of incentive, red wine of stimulation, when he urged upon us the twentieth-century watchword of Duty, and the loyal discharge of obligations.
"Theirs, an age crowned by well-won triumph, was the century of claimant demand; ours is the century of grateful obedience. Theirs was the age of claims; ours the age of Duty. Theirs the century of rights; ours the century of Duty. Theirs the period of brave, insistent constructive effort; ours the period of Duty—Duty—Duty!
"In fighting to obtain all that they won for us, our fathers pledged themselves—and us—to be fit recipients, true freemen. For a moment, misled by the glare of wealth and pleasure, we have played the caitiff's part; grasped freemen's privileges, without thanks, and with repudiation of the balancing duties and obligations without which no rights can survive. And—'Behold, the days come that I will cut off thine arm!'
"The God of our fathers trusted them, in our behalf; and we played traitor. So God smote England, through the arrogant war-lords of another people. That blow, self-administered, is Heaven's last warning to England. In truth, the blow was ours, yours and mine; we ourselves it was who played the traitor and struck a cruel blow at Britain's heart. Unworthy sons of valiant sires, we snatched our wages and shirked our work; seized the reward and refused the duty. God in His mercy gave us many warnings; but we hid our faces and pursued our selfish ends. 'Behold, the days come——'
"But God stayed His hand. England lies bloody but unbroken. There can be no more warnings. The time for warnings has gone by. There can be no more paltering. Now is the day of final choice. Will ye be men—or helots and outcasts? Will you choose Duty, and the favour of God's appointed way for us, of progress and of leadership; or will you choose—pleasure, swift decay, annihilation? Upon your heads be it! Our fathers nobly did their part. Upon your choice hangs the future of our race, the fate of your children, the destiny of God's chosen people, who have paltered with strange gods, blasphemed the true faith, and stepped aside from the white path—the Only Way: Duty!"
He turned, raising one hand, and the notes of the great organ rose and swelled mightily, filling the hall with the strains of the British National Anthem. Every soul in the building stood erect, and following the choir's lead, that great gathering sang the British hymn as it was never sung before. As the last note throbbed into silence in the hall's dome, George Stairs, who had knelt through the singing of the anthem, advanced, with hand uplifted.
"God helping us, as, if we choose aright, He surely will help us, do we choose Duty, or pleasure? Choose, my kinsmen! Is it Duty, or is it pleasure?"
It was a severe test to put to such an assembly, to a congregation of all classes of London society. There was a moment of silence in which I saw George Stairs's face, white and writhen, through a mist which seemed to cloud my vision. And then the answer came, like a long, rolling clap of thunder:
And I saw George Stairs fall upon his knees in prayer, as the Bishop dismissed the people with a benediction, delivered somewhat brokenly, in a hoarse voice.
There are who ask not if thine eye Be on them; who in love and truth Where no misgiving is, rely Upon the genial sense of youth: Glad hearts! without reproach or blot, Who do thy work, and know it not: O! if through confidence misplaced They fail, thy saving arms, dread Power! around them cast.
Ode to Duty.
It was with something of a shock that I learned, while endeavouring to make my way through a dense crowd to the Canadian preacher's dressing-room, that my friend, George Stairs, was lying unconscious in a fainting fit. But my anxiety was not long-lived. Several doctors had volunteered their services, and from one of them I learned that the fainting fit was no more than the momentary result of an exceptional strain of excitement.
Within half an hour, Stairs and Reynolds were both resting comfortably in a private sitting-room at a neighbouring hotel, and there I visited them, with Constance Grey and Mrs. Van Homrey, and John Crondall. Stairs assured us that his fainting was of no consequence, and that he felt perfectly fit and well again.
"You see it was something of an ordeal for me, a nobody from nowhere, to face such an assembly."
"Well," said John Crondall, "I suppose that at this moment there is not a man in London who is much more a somebody, and less a nobody from nowhere."
"You think we succeeded, then?"
"My dear fellow! I think your address of this afternoon was the most important event England has known this century. Mark my words, that great thunder of 'Duty!' that you drew from them—from a London audience, mind—is to have more far-reaching results for the British Empire than the acquisition of a continent."
"No, no, my dear Crondall, you surely overrate the thing," said Stairs, warm colour spreading over his pale face.
"Well, you can take my deliberate assurance that in my opinion you achieved more for your country this afternoon than it has been my good fortune to achieve in the whole of a rather busy life."
Stairs protested, blushing like a girl. But we know now that, so far at all events as his remarks were prophetic, John Crondall was absolutely right; though whether or not the new evangel could have achieved what it did without the invasion is another matter.
Myself, I believe nothing could have been more triumphantly successful, more pregnant with great possibilities for good, than the event of that afternoon. Yet I was assured that fully two thousand five hundred more people crowded into the hall for the evening service than had been there to hear Stairs's address. And I had thought the huge place crowded in the afternoon. As before, the service began and ended with the National Anthem; but in the evening the great assembly was thrilled to its heart by the Australian prima donna's splendid singing of Wordsworth's Ode to Duty in the setting specially composed for this occasion by Doctor Elgar.
I saw very many faces that I had seen at the first service, but I believe that there was a far greater proportion of poorer folk present than there had been in the afternoon. The President of the Congregational Union presided, and the address was delivered by Arthur Reynolds.
As with Stairs, so with Reynolds, Duty was the gist and heart of the Message delivered—Duty, plain living, simplicity; these they both urged to be the root of the whole matter. Both men gave substantially the same Message, there can be no doubt of that; but there were differences, and upon the whole I am inclined to think that Reynolds's address was more perfectly adapted to his hearers than Stairs's would have been if his had been given that evening. Reynolds's diction in public speaking was not quite his conversational speech, because nothing like slang, nothing altogether colloquial crept into it, but its simplicity was notable; it was the diction of a frank, earnest child. There were none of the stereotyped phrases of piety; yet I never heard a more truly pious and deeply religious discourse.
The social and political aspects of Duty were more cursorily treated by Reynolds than its moral and religious aspect. There was nothing heterodox in the view put forward by this preacher from oversea. A man may find salvation in this world and the next through love and faith, he said in effect; but the love and faith must be of the right sort. The redemption of the world was the world's greatest miracle; but it did not offer mankind salvation in return for a given measure of psalm-singing, sentimentalizing, and prayerful prostrations. Christianity was something which had to be lived, not merely contemplated. Love and faith were all-sufficient, but they must be the true love and faith, of which Duty was the legitimate offspring. The man who thought that any form of piety which permitted the neglect of Duty, would win him either true peace in this life or salvation in the next, was as pitifully misled as the man who indulged himself in a vicious life with a view to repentance when he should be too near his demise to care for indulgence.
"But, even if one could put aside all thought of God and the life compared with which this life is but an instant of time; even then there would be nothing left really worth serious consideration besides Duty. Dear friends, you who listen so kindly to the man who comes to you from across the sea, I ask you to look about you in the streets and among the people you know, and to tell me if the majority are really happy. In this connection I dare not speak of the land of my birth, because, though it is yours as truly as it is mine, and we are all blood-brothers, yet I might be thought guilty of a vain partiality. But I do say that I cannot think the majority of the people of England are really happy. I do not believe the majority of Londoners are happy. I am sure that the majority of those who spend an immense amount of money here in the West End of London, are not one whit happier than the average man who works hard for a few pounds a week.
"If I am certain of anything in this world, I am certain that the pursuit of pleasure never yet brought real happiness to any intelligent human being, and never will. True, I have met some happy people in London, even now, when England lies wounded from a cruel blow—a blow which I believe may prove the greatest blessing England ever knew. But those happy people are not running after pleasure or concentrating their intelligence upon their own gratification. No, no; those happy people are strenuously, soberly striving to do the whole of their duty as Christians and British citizens. They are happy because of that.
"Oh, my dear friends, do please believe me, that, even apart from God's will and the all-sacrificing love of His Son, there is absolutely no real happiness in this world outside the clean, sweet way of Duty. If you profess you love a woman, but shirk your duty by her, of what worth is such love? Is God of less importance to you? Is Eternity of less importance? Are King and Country, and the future of our race and the millions who depend on us for light and guidance and protection, of less importance? As God hears me, nothing is of any importance, beside the one thing vital to salvation, to happiness, to honour, to life, here and hereafter. That one thing is Duty."
The evening congregation was more demonstrative than that of the afternoon, and though I do not think the impression produced by Reynolds's address was deeper or stronger than that made by Stairs—it could hardly have been that—its effects were more noticeable. The great crowd that streamed out of the hall after the Benediction had been pronounced, testified in a hundred ways to the truth of John Crondall's assertion that the Canadian preachers had stirred the very depths of London's heart as no other missioners had ever stirred them.
By George Stairs's invitation, Mrs. Van Homrey, Constance, Crondall, myself, Sir Herbert Tate, and Forbes Thompson, joined the preachers that evening, quite informally, at their very modest supper board. It must have been a little startling to a bon vivant like Sir Herbert to find that the men who had stormed London, supped upon bread and cheese and celery and cold rice pudding, and, without a hint of apology, offered their guests the same Spartan entertainment. But it was quite a brilliant function so far as mental activity and high spirits were concerned. We were discussing the possibilities of the Canadian preachers' pilgrimage, and Crondall said:
"I know that some of you think I take too sanguine a view, but, mark my words, these meetings to-day are the beginning of the greatest religious, moral, and national revival that the British people have ever seen. I am certain of it. Your blushes are quite beside the point, Stairs; they are wholly irrelevant; so is your modesty. Why, my dear fellow, you couldn't help it if you tried. You two men are the mouthpiece of the hour. The hour having come, you could not stay its Message if you tried, nor check the tide of its effect. I know my London. In a matter of this kind—a moral movement—London is the hardest place in the kingdom to move, because its bigness and variety make it so many-sided. Having achieved what you have achieved to-day in London, I say nothing can check your progress. My counsel is for no more than a week in London; two days more in the west, three in the east, and one in the south; and then a bee-line due north through England, with a few days in all big centres."
"Well," said Reynolds, "whatever happens after to-night, I just want to say what George Stairs has more than once said to me, and that is, that to-day's success is three parts due to Mr. Crondall for every one part due to us."
"And to his secretary," said Stairs. "It really is no more than bare truth. Without you, Crondall, there would have been no Albert Hall for us."
"And no Bishop," added Reynolds.
"And no great personages."
"And no columns and columns of newspaper announcements."
"In point of fact, there would have been none of the splendid organization which made to-day possible. I recognize it very clearly. If this is to prove the beginning of a really big movement, then it is a beginning in which The Citizens and their founder have played a very big part. You won't find that we shall forget that; and I know Reynolds is with me when I say that we shall leave no word unsaid, or act undone, which could make our pilgrimage helpful to The Citizens' campaign. I tell you, standing before that vast assembly to-day, it was borne in upon me as I had not felt it before, that your aims and ours are inseparable. We cannot succeed without your succeeding, nor you without our succeeding. Our interpretation of Christianity, our Message, is Duty and simple living, and unless the people will accept that Message they will never achieve what you seek of them. On the other hand, if they will answer your call they will be going a long way toward accepting and acting upon our Message."
"I am mighty thankful that has come home to you, Stairs," said Crondall. "I felt it very strongly when I first asked you to come and talk things over. Your pilgrimage is going to wake up England, morally. It will be our business to see that newly waked England choose the right direction for the first outlay of its energy. The thing will go far—much farther than I have said, and far beyond England's immediate need. But, of course, we mustn't lose sight of that immediate need. If I am not greatly mistaken, one of the first achievements of this movement will be the safe steering of the British public through the General Election. With the New Year I hope to see a real Imperial Parliament sitting. By that I mean a strong Government administering England from the House of Commons, while some of its members sit in an Imperial Chamber—Westminster Hall—and help elected representatives of every one of the Colonies to govern the Empire. My belief is there will be no such thing as an Opposition in the House. Why should England continue to waste its time and energy over pulling both ways in every little job its legislators have to tackle? It sterilizes the efforts of the good men, and gives innumerable openings to the fools and cranks and obstructionists. You will find the very names of the old futile cross-purposes of party warfare will fall into the limbo which has swallowed up the pillory, the stocks, and Little Englandism. With deference to the cloth present in the person of our reverend friends here, let me quote you what to me is one of the most strikingly interesting passages in the Bible: 'The vile person shall be no more called liberal.' It will become clear to all men that the only possible party, the only people who can possibly stand for progress, movement, advance, are those who stand firm for Imperial Federation."
"And then?" said Constance, leaning forward, her face illumined by her shining eyes. Crondall drew a long breath.
"And then—then Britain will have something to say to the Kaiser."
As we rose from the table, George Stairs laid his hand on Reynolds's shoulder.
"Deep waters these, my friend," said he, "for simple parsons from the backwoods. But our part is plain, and close at hand. Our work is to make the writing on the wall flame till all can read and feel: Duty first, last, and all the time. 'The conclusion of the whole matter.'"
"Yes, yes; that's so," said Reynolds, thoughtfully. And then he added, as it were an afterthought: "But was that remark about vile people no more being called liberal really scriptural, I wonder—I wonder!"
"Without a doubt," said Crondall, with a broad grin. "You look up Isaiah XXXII. 5. You will find it there, written maybe three thousand years ago, fitting to-day's situation like a glove."
On the way out to South Kensington, where I accompanied the ladies, I asked Constance what she thought of my old chum, George Stairs.
"Why, Dick," she said, "he makes me feel that an English village can still produce the finest type of man that walks the earth. But, as things have been, in our time, I'm glad this particular man didn't remain in his native village—aren't you?"
"Yes," I agreed, with a half-sad note I could not keep out of my voice. "I suppose Colonial life has taught him a lot."
"Oh, he is magnificent!"
"And look at John Crondall!"
"Ah, John is a wonderful man; Empire-taught, is John."
"And I suppose the man who has never lived the outside life in the big, open places can never——"
And then I think she saw what had brought the twinge of sadness to me; for she touched my arm, her bright eyes gleamed upon me, and—
"You're a terribly impatient man, Dick," she said, with a smile. "It seems to me you've trekked a mighty long way from The Mass office in—how many weeks is it?"
Serene will be our days, and bright And happy will our nature be When love is an unerring light, And joy its own security. And they a blissful course may hold Ev'n now, who, not unwisely bold, Live in the spirit of this creed, Yet find that other strength, according to their need.
Ode to Duty.
Charles Corbett's History of the Revival is to my mind the most interesting book of this century. There are passages in it which leave me marvelling afresh each time I read them, that any writer, however gifted, could make quite so intimate a revelation, without personal knowledge of the inside workings of the movement he describes so perfectly. But it is a fact that Corbett never spoke with Stairs or Reynolds, or Crondall; neither, I think, was he personally known to any member of the executive of The Citizens. Yet I know from my own working experience of the Revival, both in connection with the pilgrimage of the Canadian preachers and the campaign of The Citizens, that Corbett's descriptions are marvellously accurate and lifelike, and that the conclusions he draws could not have been made more correct and luminous if they had been written by the leaders of the great joint movement themselves.
The educational authorities were certainly well advised in making Corbett's great work the base from which the contemporary history text-books for use in the national schools were drawn. Your modern students, by the way, would find it hard to realize that, even at the time of the Revival, our school-children were obliged to waste most of the few hours a week which were devoted to historical studies, to the wearisome memorizing of dates and genealogies connected with the Saxon Heptarchy. As a rule they had no time left in which to learn anything whatever of the progress of their own age, or the nineteenth-century development of the Empire. At that time a national schoolboy destined to earn his living as a soldier or a sailor, or a tinker or a tailor, sometimes knew a little of the Saxon kings of England, or even a few dates connected with the Norman Conquest, and the fact that Henry VIII. had six wives. But he had never heard of the Reform Bill, and knew nothing whatever of the incorporation of India, Australia, South Africa, or Canada.
I suppose the most notable and impressive intimation received by the British public of the fact that a great religious, moral, and social revival had begun among them, was contained in Monday morning's newspapers, after the first great Albert Hall services. The recognized chief among imperialistic journals became from the beginning the organ of the new movement. Upon that Monday morning I remember that this journal's first leading article was devoted to the Message of the Canadian preachers, its second to the coming of the various Colonial delegates for the Westminster Hall Conference. For the rest, the centre of the paper was occupied by a four-page supplement, with portraits, describing fully, and reporting verbatim the Albert Hall services. The opening sentences of the leading article gave the public its cue:
"There can be little doubt, we think, that yesterday's services at the Albert Hall mark the inauguration of a national movement in morals, which, before it has gone far, is as likely to earn the name of the Revolution as that of Revival. A religious, moral, and social revolution is what we anticipate as the result of the mission of the Canadian preachers. Never before has London been so stirred to its moral and emotional depths. In such a movement the provincial centres are not likely to prove less susceptible than the metropolis."
As a matter of fact, I had occasion to know that Mr. James Bryanstone, the preachers' secretary (in whose name John Crondall had carried out the whole work of organization, while I served him as secretary and assistant) received during that Monday no fewer than thirty-four separate telegraphic invitations from provincial centres subsequently visited by Stairs and Reynolds. It was, as Crondall had said: The time was ripe, and the Canadian preachers were the mouthpiece of the hour. Their Message filled them, and England was conscious of its need of that Message.
On Monday and Tuesday the afternoon and evening services at the Albert Hall were repeated. Thousands of people were unable to obtain admission upon each occasion. Some of these people were addressed by friends of John Crondall's and The Citizens, within the precincts of the hall. On Tuesday morning, sunrise found a great throng of people waiting to secure places when the hall should open. On both days members of the Royal Family were present, and on Tuesday the Primate of England presided over the service addressed by Stairs.
During all this time, John Crondall was working night and day, and I was busy with him in organizing the recruiting campaign of The Citizens. The Legion of Frontiersmen, and the members of some scores of rifle clubs, had been enrolled en bloc as members, and applications were pouring in upon us by every post from men who had seen service in different parts of the world, and from men able to equip themselves either as mounted or foot riflemen. On Tuesday evening the Canadian preachers announced that their next day services would be held at the People's Palace, in the East End. But I fancy that, among the packed thousands who attended The Citizens' first public meeting at the Albert Hall on Wednesday afternoon, many came under the impression that they were to hear the Canadian preachers.
The man of all others in England most fitted for the office, presided over that first meeting, in full review uniform, and wearing the sword which had been returned to him by General Baron von Fuechter, after the historic surrender at the Mansion House on Black Saturday. The great little Field Marshal rose at three o'clock and stood for full five minutes, waiting for the tempest of cheering which greeted him to subside, before he could introduce John Crondall to that huge audience. Even when the Field Marshal began to speak he could not obtain complete silence. As one burst of cheering rumbled to its close, another would rise from the hall's far side like approaching thunder, swelling as it came.
It seemed the London public was trying to make up to its erstwhile hero for its long neglect of his brave endeavours to warn them against the evils which had actually befallen. At last, not to waste more time, the little Field Marshal drew his sword, and waved it above his head till a penetrant ray of afternoon sunlight caught and transformed the blade into a streak of living flame.
"There is a stain on it!" he shouted, shaking the blade. "It belongs to you—to England—and there's a stain on it; got on Black Saturday. Now silence, for the man who's for wiping out all stains. Silence!"
It was long since the little man had delivered himself of such a roar, as that last "Silence!" There were one or two Indian veterans in the hall who remembered the note. It had its effect, and John Crondall stood, presently, before an entirely silent and eagerly expectant multitude, when he began his explanation of the ends and aims of The Citizens. I remember he began by saying:
"I cannot pretend to be a Canadian preacher—I wish I could." And here there was another demonstration of cheering. One realized that afternoon that the Canadians had lighted a fire in London that would not easily be put out. "No, I am a native of your own London," said Crondall; "but I admit to having learned most of the little I know in Canada, South Africa, India, and Australia. And if there is one thing I have learned very thoroughly in those countries, it is to love England. She has no braver or more devoted sons and lovers within her own shores than our kinsmen oversea. You will find we shall have fresh proofs of that very soon. Meantime, just in passing, I want to tell you this: You have read something in the papers of The Citizens, the organization of Britishers who are sworn to the defence of Britain. I am here to tell you about them. Well, in the past fortnight, I have received two hundred and forty cable messages from representative citizens in Canada, South Africa, Australia, India, and other parts of the Empire, claiming membership, and promising support through thick and thin, from thousands of our kinsfolk oversea. So, before I begin, I give you the greeting of men of our blood from all the ends of the earth. They are with us heart and hand, my friends, and eager to prove it. And now I am going to tell you something about The Citizens."
But before that last sentence had left Crondall's lips, we were in the thick of another storm of cheering. The religious character of the Canadian preachers' meetings had been sufficient to prevent these outbursts of popular feeling; but now the public seemed to welcome the secular freedom of The Citizens' gathering, as an opportunity for giving their feelings vent. I am not sure that it was John Crondall's message from the Colonies that they cheered. They were moved, I am sure, by a vague general approval of the idea of a combination of citizens for British defence. But their cheering I take to have been produced by feelings they would have been hard put to it to define in any way. They had been deeply stirred by the teaching of the Canadian preachers. In short, they had been seized by the fundamental tenets of the simple faith which has since come to be known to the world as "British Christianity"; and they were eager to find some way in which they could give tangible expression to the faith that was burgeoning within them; stirring them as young mothers are stirred, filling them with resolves and aspirations, none the less real and deep-seated because they were as yet incoherent and shapeless.
I am only quoting the best observers of the time in this description of public feeling when John Crondall made his great recruiting speech for The Citizens. The event proved my chief to have been absolutely right in his reckoning, absolutely sound in his judgment. He had urged from the beginning that The Citizens and the Canadian preachers had a common aim. "But you teach a general principle," he had said to George Stairs, "while we supply the particular instance. We must reap where you sow; we must glean after you; we must follow you, as night follows day, as accomplishment follows preparation—because you arouse the sense of duty, you teach the sacredness of duty, while we give it particular direction. It's you who will make them Citizens, my dear fellow—for what you mean by a true Christian is what I mean by a true citizen—our part is to swear them in. Or, as you might say, you prepare, and we confirm. Those that won't come up to your standard as Christians, won't be any use to us as Citizens."
Just how shrewdly John Crondall had gauged the matter perhaps no one else can realize, even now, so clearly as those who played a recorder's part in the recruiting campaign, as I did from that first day in the Albert Hall, with Constance Grey's assistance, and, later on, with the assistance of many other people. At a further stage, and in other places, we made arrangements for enrolling members after every meeting. Upon this occasion we were unable to face the task, and, instead, a card was given to every applicant, for subsequent presentation at The Citizens' headquarters in Victoria Street, where I spent many busy hours, with a rapidly growing clerical staff, swearing in new members, and booking the full details of each man's position and capabilities, for registration on the roster.
We had no fees of any kind, but every new member was invited to contribute according to his means to The Citizens' equipment fund. During the twenty-four hours following that first meeting at the Albert Hall, over twenty-seven thousand pounds was received in this way from new members. But we enrolled many who contributed nothing; and we enrolled a few men to whom we actually made small payments from a special fund raised privately for that purpose. All this last-named minority, and a certain proportion of other members, went directly into camp training on the estates of various wealthy members, who themselves were providing camp equipment and instructors, while, in many cases, arranging also for employment which should make these camps as nearly as might be self-supporting.
Among the list of people who agreed to deliver addresses at our meetings we now included many of the most eloquent speakers, and some of the most famous names in England. But I am not sure that any of them ever evoked the same storms of enthusiasm, the same instant and direct response that John Crondall earned by his simple speeches. Heart and soul, John Crondall was absorbed in the perfection and furtherance of the organization he had founded, and when he sought public support he was irresistible.
In those first days of the campaign there were times when John Crondall was so furiously occupied, that his bed hardly knew the touch of him, and I could not exchange a word with him outside the immediate work of our hands. This was doubtless one reason why I took a certain idea of mine to Constance Grey, instead of to my chief. Together, she and I interviewed Brigadier-General Hapgood, of the Salvation Army, and, on the next day, the venerable chief of that remarkable organization, General Booth. The proposition we put before General Booth was that he should join hands with us in dealing with that section of our would-be members who described themselves as unemployed and without resources.
For five minutes the old General stroked his beard, and offered occasional ejaculatory interrogations. I pointed out that the converts of the Canadian preachers (for whom the General expressed unbounded admiration and respect) flocked to our standard, full of genuine eagerness to carry out the gospel of duty and simple living. Suddenly, in the middle of one of my sentences, this commander-in-chief of an army larger than that of any monarch in Christendom made up his mind, and stopped me with a gesture.
"We will do it," he said. "Yes, yes, I see what you would say. Yes, yes, to be sure, to be sure; that is quite so. We will do it. Come and see me again, and I will put a working plan before you. Good day—God bless you!"
And we were being shown out. It was all over in a few minutes; but that was the beginning of the connection between the Salvation Army and that section of The Citizens whose members lacked both means and employment. According to a safe and conservative estimate, we are told that the total number of sworn Citizens subsequently handled by the Salvation Army was six hundred and seventy-five thousand. We supplied the instructors, officers, and all equipment; the Salvation Army carried out all the other work of control, organization, and maintenance, and made their great farm camps so nearly self-supporting as to be practically no burden upon The Citizens' funds. The effect upon the men themselves was wholly admirable. Every one of them was a genuinely unemployed worker, and the way they all took their training was marvellous.
I think Constance Grey was as pleased as I was with the praise we won from John Crondall over this. A little while before this time I should have felt jealous pangs when I saw her sweet face lighten and glow at a word of commendation from John Crondall. But my secretaryship was teaching me many things. No other woman could ever mean to me one tithe of all that Constance Grey meant. Of that I was very sure. To think of such women as handsome Beatrice Blaine or Sylvia Wheeler, in a vein of comparison, was for me like comparing the light of a candle in a distant window with the moon herself. The mere sound of Constance's voice thrilled me as nothing else could. But I am glad to remember now that I no longer knew so small an emotion as jealousy where she was concerned.
John Crondall was the strongest man of all the men I knew; Constance was the sweetest woman. Here was a natural and fitting comradeship. I thought of my chief as the mate of the woman I loved. My heart ached at times. But I am glad and proud that I had no jealousy.
SMALL FIGURES ON A GREAT STAGE
I, loving freedom and untried, No sport of every random gust, Yet being to myself a guide, Too blindly have reposed my trust; And oft, when in my heart was heard Thy timely mandate, I deferred The task, in smoother walks to stray, But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.
Ode to Duty.
It has often been said of the Canadian preachers that they conferred the gift of eloquence upon all their converts. It is certainly a fact that long before Stairs and Reynolds had traversed half the length of England, disciples of theirs were winning converts to "British Christianity"—as the religion of Duty and simple living came to be called—in every county in the kingdom.
In the same way, the progress of The Citizens' recruiting campaign was made marvellously rapid and triumphant in character by reason of the enthusiastic activity of all new adherents. During the second of John Crondall's great meetings in Birmingham, for example, we received telegraphic greeting from the chairmen presiding over one hundred and ninety-eight other meetings then being held for the furtherance of our cause in different parts of the country. And, in many cases, those who addressed these meetings were among the most famous public speakers in England.
In most towns we spent no more than twenty-four hours, in others no more than twelve hours, and in some we stayed only a third of that time. In one memorable day we addressed immense gatherings in four different towns, and travelled one hundred and thirty miles to boot. But in each one of those towns, as in every centre visited, we left a properly organized committee at work, with arrangements for frequent meetings, and the swearing in of new members.