|"But I thought always that was what hurt you most, my breach
with the church."
"Things are so different now," she said.
Her heart dissolved within her into tender possessiveness.
There came flooding into her mind the old phrases of an ancient
story: "Whither thou goest I will go... thy people shall be my
people and thy God my God.... The Lord do so to me and more also
if aught but death part thee and me."
Just those words would Lady Ella have said to her husband now,
but she was capable of no such rhetoric.
"Whither thou goest," she whispered almost inaudibly, and she
could get no further. "My dear," she said.
At two o'clock the next morning Scrope was still up. He was
sitting over the snoring gas fire in his study. He did not want
to go to bed. His mind was too excited, he knew, for any hope of
sleep. In the last twelve hours, since he had gone out across the
park to his momentous talk with Lady Sunderbund, it seemed to him
that his life had passed through its cardinal crisis and come to
its crown and decision. The spiritual voyage that had begun five
years ago amidst a stormy succession of theological nightmares
had reached harbour at last. He was established now in the sure
conviction of God's reality, and of his advent to unify the lives
of men and to save mankind. Some unobserved process in his mind
had perfected that conviction, behind the cloudy veil of his
vacillations and moods. Surely that work was finished now, and
the day's experience had drawn the veil and discovered God
established for ever.
He contrasted this simple and overruling knowledge of God as
the supreme fact in a practical world with that vague and
ineffective subject for sentiment who had been the "God" of his
Anglican days. Some theologian once spoke of God as "the friend
behind phenomena"; that Anglican deity had been rather a vague
flummery behind court and society, wealth, "respectability," and
the comfortable life. And even while he had lived in lipservice
to that complaisant compromise, this true God had been here, this
God he now certainly professed, waiting for his allegiance,
waiting to take up the kingship of this distraught and
bloodstained earth. The finding of God is but the stripping of
bandages from the eyes. Seek and ye shall find....
He whispered four words very softly: "The Kingdom of God!"
He was quite sure he had that now, quite sure.
The Kingdom of God!
That now was the form into which all his life must fall. He
recalled his vision of the silver sphere and of ten thousand
diverse minds about the world all making their ways to the same
one conclusion. Here at last was a king and emperor for mankind
for whom one need have neither contempt nor resentment; here was
an aim for which man might forge the steel and wield the scalpel,
write and paint and till and teach. Upon this conception he must
model all his life. Upon this basis he must found friendships and
co-operations. All the great religions, Christianity, Islam, in
the days of their power and honesty, had proclaimed the advent of
this kingdom of God. It had been their common inspiration. A
religion surrenders when it abandons the promise of its
Millennium. He had recovered that ancient and immortal hope. All
men must achieve it, and with their achievement the rule of God
begins. He muttered his faith. It made it more definite to put it
into words and utter it. "It comes. It surely comes. To-morrow I
begin. I will do no work that goes not Godward. Always now it
shall be the truth as near as I can put it. Always now it shall
be the service of the commonweal as well as I can do it. I will
live for the ending of all false kingship and priestcraft, for
the eternal growth of the spirit of man...."
He was, he knew clearly, only one common soldier in a great
army that was finding its way to enlistment round and about the
earth. He was not alone. While the kings of this world fought for
dominion these others gathered and found themselves and one
another, these others of the faith that grows plain, these men
who have resolved to end the bloodstained chronicles of the
Dynasts and the miseries of a world that trades in life, for
ever. They were many men, speaking divers tongues. He was but one
who obeyed the worldwide impulse. He could smile at the artless
vanity that had blinded him to the import of his earlier visions,
that had made him imagine himself a sole discoverer, a new
Prophet, that had brought him so near to founding a new sect.
Every soldier in the new host was a recruiting sergeant according
to his opportunity.... And none was leader. Only God was
"The achievement of the Kingdom of God;" this was his calling.
Henceforth this was his business in life....
For a time he indulged in vague dreams of that kingdom of God
on earth of which he would be one of the makers; it was a dream
of a shadowy splendour of cities, of great scientific
achievements, of a universal beauty, of beautiful people living
in the light of God, of a splendid adventure, thrusting out at
last among the stars. But neither his natural bent nor his mental
training inclined him to mechanical or administrative
explicitness. Much more was his dream a vision of men inwardly
ennobled and united in spirit. He saw history growing reasonable
and life visibly noble as mankind realized the divine aim. All
the outward peace and order, the joy of physical existence finely
conceived, the mounting power and widening aim were but the
expression and verification of the growth of God within. Then we
would bear children for finer ends than the blood and mud of
battlefields. Life would tower up like a great flame. By faith we
reached forward to that. The vision grew more splendid as it grew
more metaphorical. And the price one paid for that; one gave sham
dignities, false honour, a Levitical righteousness, immediate
peace, one bartered kings and churches for God.... He looked at
the mean, poverty-struck room, he marked the dinginess and
tawdriness of its detail and all the sordid evidences of
ungracious bargaining and grudging service in its appointments.
For all his life now he would have to live in such rooms. He who
had been one of the lucky ones.... Well, men were living in
dug-outs and dying gaily in muddy trenches, they had given limbs
and lives, eyes and the joy of movement, prosperity and pride,
for a smaller cause and a feebler assurance than this that he had
Presently his thoughts were brought back to his family by the
sounds of Eleanor's return. He heard her key in the outer door;
he heard her move about in the hall and then slip lightly up to
bed. He did not go out to speak to her, and she did not note the
light under his door.
He would talk to her later when this discovery of her own
emotions no longer dominated her mind. He recalled her departing
figure and how she had walked, touching and looking up to her
young mate, and he a little leaning to her....
"God bless them and save them," he said....
He thought of her sisters. They had said but little to his
clumsy explanations. He thought of the years and experience that
they must needs pass through before they could think the fulness
of his present thoughts, and so he tempered his disappointment.
They were a gallant group, he felt. He had to thank Ella and good
fortune that so they were. There was Clementina with her odd
quick combatant sharpness, a harder being than Eleanor, but
nevertheless a finespirited and even more independent. There was
Miriam, indefatigably kind. Phoebe too had a real passion of the
intellect and Daphne an innate disposition to service. But it was
strange how they had taken his proclamation of a conclusive
breach with the church as though it was a command they must, at
least outwardly, obey. He had expected them to be more deeply
shocked; he had thought he would have to argue against objections
and convert them to his views. Their acquiescence was strange.
They were content he should think all this great issue out and
give his results to them. And his wife, well as he knew her, had
surprised him. He thought of her words: "Whither thou goest--"
He was dissatisfied with this unconditional agreement. Why
could not his wife meet God as he had met God? Why must Miriam
put the fantastic question--as though it was not for her to
decide: "Are we still Christians?" And pursuing this thought, why
couldn't Lady Sunderbund set up in religion for herself without
going about the world seeking for a priest and prophet. Were
women Undines who must get their souls from mortal men? And who
was it tempted men to set themselves up as priests? It was the
wife, the disciple, the lover, who was the last, the most fatal
pitfall on the way to God.
He began to pray, still sitting as he prayed.
"Oh God!" he prayed. "Thou who has shown thyself to me, let me
never forget thee again. Save me from forgetfulness. And show
thyself to those I love; show thyself to all mankind. Use me, O
God, use me; but keep my soul alive. Save me from the presumption
of the trusted servant; save me from the vanity of authority....
"And let thy light shine upon all those who are so dear to
me.... Save them from me. Take their dear loyalty...."
He paused. A flushed, childishly miserable face that stared
indignantly through glittering tears, rose before his eyes. He
forgot that he had been addressing God.
"How can I help you, you silly thing?" he said. "I would give
my own soul to know that God had given his peace to you. I could
not do as you wished. And I have hurt you!... You hurt
yourself.... But all the time you would have hampered me and
tempted me--and wasted yourself. It was impossible.... And yet
you are so fine!"
He was struck by another aspect.
"Ella was happy--partly because Lady Sunderbund was hurt and
"Both of them are still living upon nothings. Living for
nothings. A phantom way of living...."
He stared blankly at the humming blue gas jets amidst the
incandescent asbestos for a space.
"Make them understand," he pleaded, as though he spoke
confidentially of some desirable and reasonable thing to a friend
who sat beside him. "You see it is so hard for them until they
understand. It is easy enough when one understands. Easy--" He
reflected for some moments--" It is as if they could not exist -
- except in relationship to other definite people. I want them
to exist--as now I exist--in relationship to God. Knowing
But now he was talking to himself again.
"So far as one can know God," he said presently.
For a while he remained frowning at the fire. Then he bent
forward, turned out the gas, arose with the air of a man who
relinquishes a difficult task. "One is limited," he said. "All
one's ideas must fall within one's limitations. Faith is a sort
of tour de force. A feat of the imagination. For such things as
we are. Naturally--naturally.... One perceives it clearly only
in rare moments.... That alters nothing...."
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Soul of a Bishop, by H. G. Wells
Mr. WELLS has also written the following novels:
LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM
THE WHEELS OF CHANCE
THE NEW MACHIAVELLI
THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS
THE WIFE OF SIR ISAAC HARMAN
THE RESEARCH MAGNIFICENT
MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH
The following fantastic and imaginative romances:
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
THE TIME MACHINE
THE WONDERFUL VISIT
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
THE SEA LADY
THE SLEEPER AWAKES
THE FOOD OF THE GODS
THE WAR IN THE AIR
THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON
IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET
THE WORLD SET FREE
And numerous Short Stories now collected in
One Volume under the title of
THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND
A Series of books upon Social, Religious and
MANKIND IN THE MAKING
FIRST AND LAST THINGS (RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY)
NEW WORLDS FOR OLD
A MODERN UTOPIA
THE FUTURE IN AMERICA
AN ENGLISHMAN LOOKS AT THE WORLD
WHAT IS COMING?
WAR AND THE FUTURE
GOD THE INVISIBLE KING
And two little books about children's play, called:
FLOOR GAMES and LITTLE WARS
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Soul of a Bishop, by H. G. Wells