Think as he would, there was no honest way of escape from whatever those facts might require of him, so J.W., long accustomed to go ahead and take what came, had known himself bound by the obligations of this matter also, days and days before the activities of Win-My-Chum week began.
The two were out one Saturday on the north road. They had been up to the woods on Barker's Hill for nuts, and with good success. The day was warm, the way was long, and there was no hurry. When they came to the roadside at the wood's edge they sat on a fallen tree and talked. At least Marty did. For J.W. was not himself.
It was his chance, and he knew it. But a thousand impulses leaped to life within him to make him put off what he knew he ought to say. The fear of being misunderstood—even by Marty—the knowledge that Marty, in the qualities by which boys judge and are judged, was quite as "good" as himself; and, above all, his sense of total unfitness to be a pattern of the Christian life to anybody, filled him with an uneasiness that actually hurt.
And Marty soon discovered that something was amiss. Willing as he was to do his full share of the talking, he became aware that except for inarticulate commonplaces he was having to do it all.
"What's the matter with you all at once, J.W.?" he asked. "You're not taken suddenly sick, are you? You were all right when we were among the trees. Are you sick?"
J.W. laughed shortly. "No, old man, I'm not sick. But I'm up against a new game, for me, and I'm not in training."
"Sounds interesting," said Marty, "but sort of mysterious. Is it anything I can do team-work on?"
"It surely is, but first I've got to say something, and I want you to promise that you won't think I'm putting on, or butting in, because I'm not; nothing like it. Will you?"
"Will I promise?" said Marty, much bewildered. "Course I'll promise not to think anything about you that you don't want me to think, but I must say I don't know within a thousand miles what you're driving at. Out with it, and even if you're the train bandit who held up the Cannonball or if you've plotted to kidnap the Board of Education, I'll never tell."
Marty's quizzical humor was not making J.W.'s enterprise any easier. He had always supposed that what the leaflets called "personal evangelism" had to be done in a spirit of solemnity. But how was he to acquire the proper frame of mind? And certainly there was nothing solemn about Marty just now. Yet the thing had gone too far; it was too late to retreat. He tried to think how Mr. Drury would do it, but saw only that if it was Mr. Dairy's business he would go straight to the center of it. Desperately, therefore, he plunged in.
"Well, Marty," he said, speaking now with nervous haste, "what I'm up against is this. What's the matter with your being a Christian?"
He will never forget the swift look of blank amazement that Marty turned on him, nor the slow-mounting flush that followed the first astonished start. For Marty did not answer, and turned his face away. J.W. was sure that in his blundering bluntness he had offended and probably angered his closest friend. The distress of that thought served at least to drive away all the self-consciousness which thus far had plagued him.
"Say, Marty," he pleaded, putting his hand on the other's arm, "forget it, if I've hurt your feelings. I know as well as you do that I'm not fit to talk about such things to anybody, and, honest, I meant nothing but to say what I knew I'd got to say."
Then Marty turned himself back slowly, and J.W. saw the troubled look in his eyes. In a voice that trembled despite his proud effort at control, he said, "Old man, you needn't apologize. You did surprise me, I'll admit; I wasn't looking for anything like this. It's all right, though, and I'm certainly not mad about it. But, say, J.W., let me put something up to you. Why did you never think to ask me that question before?"
"Why, it was this way," J.W. began, somewhat puzzled at the form of the question, and still thinking he must set himself right with Marty. "You know the Epworth League is planning for those special meetings soon—'Win-My-Chum Week'—and I've been asked to lead one of the meetings. But you can see that I wouldn't be ready to lead a meeting like that unless I had put this thing of being a Christian up to you, anyway. You're the only real chum I've got. Mr. Drury said something a little while ago that made it mighty plain."
"Yes," said Marty, "I can see that. But why did you never say anything to me about it when there wasn't any meeting coming? Haven't we always shared everything else, since away back? This is the one subject that you and I have kept away from in our talk of all we've ever thought about, and I was wondering why."
"Well, I don't exactly know," J.W. replied. "It may have been that it never seemed to be any of my business; that it was the preacher's business, or the Sunday school teacher's, or somebody's. And you know I've always been surer of what you really are than I have of myself. I think I was always afraid you would either make fun of me or believe I was letting on to be better than you were. But when the League got into this Win-My-Chum plan, why, the name itself was an eye-opener. And I've seen lately that a fellow's got to be a Christian, out and out, or his religion is no good. And when I heard the preacher say, not long ago, that a fellow might dodge Win-My-Chum week, but he couldn't forever dodge his chum, I knew I had to speak to you. But you're sure you're not offended?"
"Let me admit a thing to you, J.W. I've never said so before, but I've been wanting somebody to ask me to be a Christian for a long time. I was a coward about it, and wouldn't let on. I've been wanting to find out what I've got to do, but I wouldn't ask. Do you think I could be a Christian?"
"I know you could be a long way better Christian than I am," J.W. answered with unwonted feeling. "And if you did take Jesus Christ to be your Master, it would be more than just your getting religion. You would be the biggest kind of stand-by for me and for other people I know of. It's the one thing you need to be a hundred per cent right. I'm a pretty poor Christian, myself, Marty, partly because I don't know how to think much about it, but you'd be dead in earnest to get all that there is in the Christian life, and maybe I could follow along behind. You've always helped every other way, and I've always wanted you to help me be a genuine Christian."
Marty put his hand on J.W.'s shoulder and looked him straight in the eye: "You've got me rated a lot too high," he said. "How can I help you? But we two have been pretty good chums so far, haven't we? Well, there's a lot to settle before I can be sure I'm a Christian, but it means everything for you to think I can be of some use. And I promise you this, J.W., I'll not let up until I am a Christian, and we'll stick together all the more, when I am, us two. Is that ago?"
It was a go. J.W. was ready and far more than ready to call it a go. It had been easier than he had expected, but then it had all been so different from the vague and formal thing he had been afraid of. He could hardly believe, but he had one request to make. "I know you'll settle whatever has to be settled," he said, a bit unsteadily, "but when it's all done, and you tell people about it, as I know you will, please, Marty, don't bring me into it. Publicly, I mean. Let's just have this understanding between ourselves. I can lead my meeting now, but there's no need to say anything about me. Besides, I made a mess of it."
"It may be the best mess anybody ever stirred up for me, J.W., but I won't say anything to worry you, if the time comes for me to say anything at all. And I believe it will."
It did. Marty and the pastor had two or three long interviews. From the last of them the boy came away with a new light on his face and a new spring in his step. Evidently whatever needed to be settled, had been settled.
He kept his promise to his chum, but that did not prevent him from choosing the night when J.W. led the meeting to stand up at the first opportunity and make his straightforward confession of love and loyalty, since God had made him a sharer in the life that is in Christ. Then for a moment J.W. feared Marty might forget their agreement, but Marty said simply, "And part of the joy that is in my heart to-night is because there is a new tie, the only other one we needed, between myself and my old-time chum, the leader of this meeting."
In the back of the room Walter Drury, quietly looking on, sent up a silent thanksgiving. The great Experiment was going well.
So it was that J.W. and Marty had come into the inner places of each other's lives. Of all the developments of Institute week, naturally the one which filled J.W.'s thoughts with a sort of awed gladness was Marty's decision to offer himself for the ministry. Joe Carbrook's right-about-face was much more dramatic, for J.W. saw, when the decision was made, that Marty could not have been meant for anything but a preacher. It was as fit as you please. As to Joe, previous opinion had been pretty equally divided; one side leaning to the idea that he might make a lawyer, and the other predicting that he was more likely to be a perpetual and profitable client for some other lawyer.
In the light of the Institute happenings, it was to be expected that the question of college would promptly become a practical matter to four Delafield people. Marty was greatly troubled, for he knew if he was to be a preacher, he must go to college, and he couldn't see how. J.W. felt no great urge, though it had always been understood that he would go. Marcia Dayne had one year of normal school to her credit, and would take another next year, perhaps; but this year she must teach.
Joe Carbrook spent little time in debate with himself; he let everybody know that he was going to be a missionary doctor, and that he would go to the State University for the rest of his college course.
"But what about the religious influence of the University?" Marcia Dayne had ventured to ask him one evening as they walked slowly under the elms of Monroe Avenue.
"I don't know about that," Joe answered, "and maybe I'm making a mistake. But I don't think so. To begin with, there isn't any question about equipment at the State University. They have everything any church school has, and probably more than most church schools, for what I want. And they work in close relationship to the medical school. That's one thing. The big reason, though—I wonder if you'll understand it?"
"I believe I could understand anything you might be thinking about—now, Joe." And Marcia's voice had in it a note which stirred that usually self-possessed young man out of all his easy composure.
"I'll remember that, Marcia," he said in the thrill of a swift elation. "I'll remember that, because I think you do—understand, and some day I—but I've got at least five years of plugging ahead of me, and——"
"You were going to tell me about your big reason for going to the State University," Marcia broke in, though she wondered afterward if her instinct had not played her false.
"Yes," Joe said, with a little effort. "Well, this is it. You know I didn't make much of a hit at college; I pulled through sophomore year, but that's about all, and I doubt if the faculty will pass resolutions of regret when I don't show up there in the fall. The religious influences of a church school didn't prevent me from being a good deal of a heathen, though I will say that was no fault of the school. Maybe I ought to go back and face the music. It wouldn't be so bad, I guess. But I feel more like making a clean, new start, in a new place. The State University wouldn't be any worse for me than I should be for it, if nothing had happened to change my point of view. So, that isn't the issue. But if the State University life is able to beat me before I get to sawing bones at all, I'd make a pretty missionary doctor if I ever landed in foreign parts, wouldn't I?"
Marcia could find nothing to say; perhaps because her thoughts were busy with other and more personal aspects of Joe's plans for the future.
And as Joe's people were completely oblivious to everything except the startling change that had come over him, and were abundantly able to send him to three universities at once if necessary, Joe Carbrook was as good as enrolled.
Marty and J.W. did not find the future opening up before them so easily. Marty, for all he could not imagine the way opening before such as himself, was all eagerness about the nearest Methodist school, which happened to be the one where the Institute had been held, Cartwright College. It was named, as may be supposed, in honor of Peter Cartwright, that pioneer Methodist preacher who became famous on the same sort of schooling which sufficed for Abraham Lincoln, and once ran against Lincoln himself for Congress. J.W. was not specially eager to look for a college education anywhere. Why should he be, since he was expecting to go into business?
The two had many a discussion, Marty arguing in favor of college for everybody, and J.W. admitting that for preachers and teachers and lawyers and doctors it was necessary, but what use could it be in business?
"But say, J.W., you're not going to be one of these 'born a man, died a grocer' sort of business men," urged Marty. "Broad-minded—that's your future, with a knowledge of more than markets. And look at the personal side of college life. Haven't you heard Mr. Drury say that if he hadn't anything else to show for his four years at college than the lifelong friendships he made there it would have been worth all it cost? And you have reason to know he doesn't forget the studies."
"That's all right, Marty," J.W. rejoined. "I don't need much convincing on that score. I can see the good times too; you know I'd try for all the athletics I could get into, and I guess I could keep my end up socially. But is all that worth my time for the next four years, studying subjects that would be no earthly good to me in business, in making a living, I mean? The other boys in hardware stores would have four years the start of me."
"But don't you remember, J.W., what our commencement speaker said on that very point? He told us we had to be men and women first, no matter what occupations we got into. And he bore down hard on how it was a good deal bigger business to make a life than to make a living. In these days the most dangerous people, to themselves and to all of us, are the uneducated people."
"Yes, I remember," J.W. admitted. "'Cultural and social values of education,' he called that, didn't he? And that's what I'm not sure of. It seems pretty foggy to me. But, old man, you're going, that's settled, and maybe I'll just let dad send me to keep you company, if I can't find any better reason."
"That's all very well for you to say, J.W.," Marty retorted, with the least little touch of resentment in his tone. "You'll let your dad send you. My dad can't send me, though he'll do all he's able to do, and how I can earn enough, to get through is more than I can see from here."
But J.W. asserted, confidently: "There's a way, just the same, and I think I know how to find out about it. I haven't been a second assistant deputy secretary in the Sunday school for nothing. You reminded me of the commencement address; I'll ask you if you remember Children's Day? It came the very next Sunday."
"Yes, I remember it; but what of it?"
"Well, my boy, we took up a collection for you!"
"We did? Not much we did, and anyway, do you think I'd accept that sort of help? I'm not looking for charity, yet," and Marty showed the hurt he felt.
"Steady, Martin Luther! I wouldn't want you to get that collection anyway; it wasn't near big enough. But don't you know that every Children's Day collection in the whole church goes to the Board of Education, and that it has become a big fund, never to be given away but always to be loaned to students getting ready to be preachers and such? It's no charity; it's the same broad-minded business you want me to go to college for. I can see that much without getting any nearer to college than the Delafield First Church Sunday School. You borrow the money, just as if you stepped up to a bank window, and you agree to pay it back as soon as you can after you graduate. Then it goes into the Fund again, and some other boy or girl borrows it, and so on. More than twenty-five thousand students have borrowed from this fund. About fifteen hundred of 'em got loans last year. Ask the preacher if I'm not giving you this straight."
Marty had no immediate way of testing this unusual wealth of information, so he said, "Well, maybe there's something in it. I'll talk to Brother Drury about it, anyway."
That observing man was quite willing to be talked to. When Marty presented himself at the study a few days later he found the pastor as well prepared as if he had been expecting some such interview, as, indeed, he had.
He told Marty the story of the Student Loan Fund—how it originated in the celebration of the Centenary of American Methodism, in 1866, and how it had been growing all through the years, both by the annual Children's Day offering and by the increasing return of loans from former students.
Then he explained that this Fund, and many other educational affairs, were in the hands of the Church's Board of Education. This Board, Marty heard, is a sort of educational clearing house for the whole church, and especially for Methodist schools of higher learning. It helps young people to go to college, and it helps the colleges to take care of the young people when they go, of course always using money which has come from the churches. It has charge of a group of special schools in the South, and it sets the scholastic standards to which all the church's schools and colleges must conform. Besides looking out for these interests it helps the school to provide courses in the Bible and Christian principles, and it furnishes workers to serve the colleges in caring for the religious life of the students.
Marty listened carefully, and with no lack of interest, but when the minister paused the boy's mind sprang back to his own particular concern.
"But, Mr. Drury, can any student borrow money from that fund?"
"Well, no," said the preacher, "not every student. Only those who are preparing for the ministry or for other careers of special service. They have to show that the loan will help them in preparing to be of some definite Christian value when they graduate. That won't affect you; you can borrow, not all you could use, perhaps, but enough to be a big help. How much do you expect to need?"
"Why," answered Marty, "I hardly know. I hadn't really thought it possible I could go. But dad says he'll let me have all he can, and they tell me a fellow can get work to do if he's not particular about easy jobs. I'm pretty sure I could manage, except for tuition and books, but——"
"Then you may as well consider it settled," said the pastor, "Cartwright College will welcome you on those terms, or I'll know the reason why. And I think you can count on J.W. going with you."
J.W. was not hard to convince. His parents were all for it. The pastor had no intention of overdoing his own part in the affair, and contented himself with a suggestion that disposed of J.W.'s main objection.
J.W. had been saying to him one day, "I know I should have a good time at college, but I should be four years later getting into business than the other boys."
"That depends on what 'later' means," replied Mr. Drury. "You would not need four years to catch up, if college does for you what I think it will. Besides, you're intending to be a Christian citizen, I take it, and that will be even more of a job than to be a successful hardware man. Colleges have been operating these many years, to give young people the best possible preparations for a whole life. Remember what John Milton said: I care not how late I come, so I come fit.' You want to come to your work as fit as they make 'em, don't you?"
And J.W. owned up that he did. "I don't mean to be a dub in business, and I've no right to be a dub anywhere. Me for Cartwright, Brother Drury!"
Another day's work in the laboratory. Walter Drury knew how to be patient, yet every experience like this was a tonic to his soul. And now he must be content for a time to let others carry the work through its next stages, though he would hold himself ready for any unexpected development that might arise.
So it befell that J.W. and Marty started to Cartwright, and a week later Joe Carbrook went off to the State University.
The day after they had matriculated, J.W. and Marty were putting their room to rights—oh, yes, they thought it would be well to share the same room—and as they puttered about they reviewed the happenings of the first day. They had made a preliminary exploration of the grounds and buildings, revisiting the places which had become familiar during Institute week, and living over that crowded and epochal time.
Marty, scouting around for something to do, had discovered that he could get work, such as it was, for ten hours a week, anyway, and maybe more, at thirty to fifty cents an hour. He had a little money left after paying his tuition, and the college registrar assured him that the loan from the Board of Education would be forthcoming. Therefore the talk turned on money.
"That tuition bill sure reduced the swelling in my pocketbook, Marty," remarked J.W., as he examined his visible resources.
"What do you think it did to mine?" Marty observed quietly. "I'm still giddy from being relieved of so much money in one operation. And yet I can't see how they get along. Look at the big faculty they have, and all these buildings to keep up and keep going. When I think of how big a dollar seems to me, the tuition looks like the national debt of Mexico; but when I try to figure out how much it costs the college per student, I feel as though I were paying lunch-counter prices for a dining-car dinner. How do they do it, J.W.?"
"Who told you I was to be looked on in the light of a World Almanac, my son? I could give you the answer to that question without getting out of my chair, but for one small difficulty—I just don't know. Tell you what—it's a good question—let's look in the catalogue. I'd like to find information in that volume about something besides the four centuries of study that loom before my freshman eyes."
So they looked in the catalogue and discovered that Cartwright College had an endowment of $1,750,000, producing an income of about $80,000 a year, and that the churches of its territory gave about $25,000 more. They learned also that most of the buildings had been provided by friends of the college, with the Carnegie Library mainly the gift of the millionaire ironmaster. They learned also that about $500,000 of the endowment had been raised in the last two years, under the promise of the General Education Board, which is a Rockefeller creation, to provide the last $125,000. The college property was valued at about half a million dollars.
"And there you are, Martin Luther, my bold reformer," said J.W., cheerfully. "The people who put up the money have invested about two and a half millions on you and me, and the other five hundred students, say about $250 a year per student. And we pay the rest of what it costs to give us a college career, $125 to $175 a year, depending on our taste in courses. I remember I felt as if the John Wesley Farwell family had almost gone broke when dad signed up for $1,000 on that last endowment campaign. I thought the money gone forever, but I see now he merely invested it. I've come to Cartwright to spend the income of it, and a little more. Five or six people have given a thousand dollars apiece to make a college course possible for each of us. There's some reason in college endowments, after all."
And Marty said, "One good I can see in this particular endowment is that anybody but a selfish idiot would be glad to match four years of his life against all the money and work that Christian people have put into Cartwright College."
"I hope you don't mean anything personal by that remark," J.W. said, with mock solemnity, "because I'm inclined to believe you're more than half right. It reminds me again of what Phil Khamis said. I'm beginning to think I'll never have a chance to forget that Greek's Christian remark about Christians."
By being off at school together J.W. and Marty gave each other unconfessed but very real moral support in those first days when a lone freshman would have known he was homesick.
But another antidote, both pleasant and potent, was supplied by the Epworth League of First Church. It had allied itself with the college Y.M.C.A.—and for the women students, with the Y.W.C.A.—in various ways, but particularly it purposed to see that the first few Sundays were safely tided over.
So the two chums found themselves in one of the two highly attractive study courses which had been put on in partnership with the Sunday school. It was in the early afternoon of one of the early Sundays that J.W. called Marty's attention to a still more alluring opportunity.
"Looky here, Marty, it's raining, I know, but I've a feeling that you'd better not write that letter home until a little further on in the day. What's to stop us from taking a look at this League fellowship hour we're invited to, and getting a light lunch? We don't need to stay to the League meeting unless we choose, though we're members, you know."
Marty picked up the card of invitation which J.W. had flipped across the table to him, and read it.
"Well," he commented, "it reads all right. Let's try it."
Out into the rain they went and put in two highly cheerful hours, including one in the devotional meeting, so that when Marty at last sat down to write home, he produced, without quite knowing how, a letter that was vastly more heartening when it reached the farm than it would have been if he had written it before dark.
Joe Carbrook set out for the State University in what was for him a fashion quite subdued. Before his experience at the Institute he would have gone, if at all, in his own car, and his arrival would have been notice to "the sporty crowd" that another candidate for initiation into that select circle had arrived.
But Joe was enjoying the novelty of thinking a little before he acted. Though he would always be of the irrepressible sort, he was not the same Joe. He had laid out a program which surprised himself somewhat, and astonished most of the people who knew him.
He knew now that he would become, if he could, a doctor; a missionary doctor. No other career entered his mind. He would finish his college work at the State University, and then go to medical school. He would devote himself without ceasing to all the studies he would need. Not for him any social life, any relaxation of purpose. Grimly he told himself that his play days were over. They had been lively while they lasted; but they were done.
Of course that was foolish. If he had persisted in any such scholastic regimen, the effort would have lasted a few days, or possibly weeks; and then in a reaction of disgust he might easily have come to despair of the whole project.
Fortunately for Joe and for a good many other people, his purpose of digging into his books and laboratory work and doggedly avoiding any other interest was tempered by the happenings of the first week. Doubtless he would have made a desperate struggle, but it would have been useless. Not even conversion can make new habits overnight, and in his first two years at college Joe had been known to teachers and students alike as distinctly a sketchy student, wholly inexpert at concentrated effort.
And so, instead of becoming first a grind and then a discouraged rebel against it all, he had the immense good fortune to be captured by an observant Junior whom he had met while they were both registering for Chemistry III.
"You're new here," said the Junior, Heatherby by name, "and I've had two years of it. Maybe you'll let me show you the place. I'm the proud half-owner of a decidedly second-hand 'Hooting Nanny,' you know, and I rather like bumping people around town in it."
That was the beginning of many things. Joe liked it that Heatherby made no apologies for his car, and before long he discovered that the other half-owner, Barnard, was equally unaffected and friendly. It was something of a surprise, though, to learn that Barnard was not a student, but the youthful-looking pastor of the University Methodist Church, of late known as the Wesley Foundation.
"I'm not up on Methodism as I should be," said Joe to Barnard, a day or two later, "and I may as well admit that I never heard before of this Wesley Foundation of yours. Is it a church affair?"
"Well, rather," Barnard answered. "It is just exactly that. You know, or could have guessed, that a good many of the students here are from Methodist homes—about a fourth of the whole student body, as it happens. And our church has been coming to see, perhaps a bit slowly, that although the State could not provide any religious influences, and could certainly do nothing for denominational interests, there was all the more reason for the church to do it. That's the idea under the Foundation, so to speak, and the work is now established in nine of the great State Universities."
"Yes, I see," Joe mused, "but just what is the Foundation's duty, and how do you do it?"
Barnard laughed as he said, "We do pretty near everything, in this University. We have a regular Methodist church, with a membership made up almost entirely of faculty and students. The town people have their own First Church, over on the West Side. Our church has its Sunday school, its Epworth League Chapter, and other activities. We try to come out strong on the social side, and in a little while, when our Social Center building is up—we're after the money for it now—we can do a good deal more. There is plenty of demand for it."
"That's all church work, of course. I suppose you have no relation to the University, though," Joe asked, "studies and all that?"
"Yes, indeed, and we're coming to more of it, but gradually. We are already offering courses in religious subjects, with teachers recognized by the University, and credit given. It's all very new yet, you know, but we're hoping and going ahead."
"I should think so," said Joe with emphasis. "But where does the money come from for all this? It must be Methodist money, of course; who puts it up?"
"Oh, the usual people," said Barnard. "A few well-to-do Methodists have provided some of it, but the really big money has to come from the churches—collections and subscriptions and all that. This sort of work is being done in forty-odd other schools, where the Wesley Foundation is not organized. The money comes officially through two of the benevolent boards."
"Yes?" queried Joe. "I've often heard of 'the benevolences,' but I never thought of them as meaning anything to me. How do they hook up to a proposition like that?"
"Well," said Barnard, "the Board of Education, naturally, is interested because of the Methodist students who are here. And the Board of Home Missions and Church Extension is interested because at bottom this is the realest sort of home mission and church extension work."
"Do these boards supply all the money you need?" was Joe's next question.
"No, not all at once, anyway," Barnard answered. "We're needing a good deal more before this thing really gets on its feet; and when our people know what work can be done in State schools, and what a glorious chance we have, I think they'll see that the money is provided. The students are there, half a hundred thousand of them, and the church must be there too."
"Well," Joe said, "I admire the faith of you. And I want to join. You know, although I'm a mighty green hand at religious work, I've got to go at it hard. There's a reason. So please count me in on everything where I'm likely to fit at all. I didn't tell you, did I, that I'm headed for medicine?—going to be a missionary doctor, if they'll take me when I'm ready. Maybe your Foundation can do something with me."
Barnard thought it could, and the next two years justified his confidence. Joe Carbrook, as downright in his new purpose as he had been in his old scornful refusal to look at life seriously, quickly found a place for himself in the church and the other activities of the Foundation. It saved him from his first heedless resolution to study an impossible number of hours a day, and from the certain crash which would have followed. It gave him not a few friends, and he was soon deep in the affairs of the League and the church. Besides, it made possible some special friendships among the faculty, which were to be of immense value in later days.
While Joe Carbrook was fitting himself into the life of the University and the Wesley Foundation, the chums at Cartwright were quite as busy making themselves a part of their new world. As always, they made a good team, so much so that people began to think of them not as individuals, but as necessarily related, like a pair of shoes, or collar and tie, or pork and beans. And, though the old differences of temperament and interest had not lessened, the two had reached a fine contentment over each other's purposes. J.W. was happy in Marty's preacher-plans, and Marty believed implicitly in the wisdom of J.W.'s understood purpose to be a forthright Christian layman.
But it was not all plain sailing for J.W. Nobody bothered Marty; he was going into the ministry, and that settled that. Among the students who went in for religious work were several who could not quite share Marty's complacence over J.W.'s program. They thought it strange that so active a Christian, with the right stuff in him, as everybody recognized, should not declare himself for some religious vocation.
And from time to time men came to college—bishops, secretaries, specialists—to talk to the students about this very thing. There was a student volunteer band, in which were enrolled all the students looking to foreign mission work. The prospective preachers had a club of their own, and there was even a little organized group of boys and girls who thought seriously of social service in some form or another as a career.
Now, J.W., before the end of sophomore year, had come to know all, or nearly all, of these young enthusiasts. Some of them developed into staunch and satisfying friends. If he had run with the sport crowd, which was always looking for recruits, or if he had been merely a hard student, working for Phi Beta Kappa, he might have been let alone. But, without being able to wear an identifying label, he yet belonged with those who had come to college with a definite life purpose.
Just because nobody seemed to realize that being a Christian in business could be as distinct a vocation as any, J.W. was at times vaguely troubled, in spite of his confident stand at the Institute. He wondered a little at what he had almost come to feel was his callousness. Not that he was uninterested; for Marty he had vast unspoken ambitions which would have stunned that unsuspecting youth if they had ever become vocal; and he never tired of the prospects which opened up before his other friends. He kept up an intermittent correspondence with Joe Carbrook, and found himself thinking much about the strange chain of circumstances which promised to make a medical missionary out of Joe. He more than suspected that Joe and Marcia Dayne were vastly interested in each other's future, and he got a lot of satisfaction out of that. They would have a great missionary career.
No; he was not unfeeling about all these high purposes of the boys and girls he knew; and if he could just get a final answer to the one question that was bothering him, his college life would need nothing to make it wholly satisfying. He had early forgotten all his old reluctance to put college before business.
Marty knew something of what was passing in J.W.'s mind, and it troubled him a little. He thought of tackling J.W. himself, and by this time there was nothing under the sun they could not discuss with each other freely. But he did not quite trust himself.
At last he made up his mind to write to their pastor at home. He knew that for some reason Mr. Drury had a peculiar interest in J.W. and was sure he could count on it now.
"I know J.W.'s bothered," he wrote, "but he doesn't talk about it. I think he has been disturbed by hearing so much about special calls to special work. We've had several lifework meetings lately, and the needs of the world have been pretty strongly stated. But the stand he took at the Institute is just as right for him as mine is for me. Can't you write to him, or something?"
Walter Drury could do better than write. He turned up at Cartwright that same week.
It happened that three or four prospective preachers and Christian workers had been in their room that afternoon, and J.W. was trying to think the thing through once more. He recalled what his pastor had said at the camp fire, and his own testimony on Institute Sunday in the life-service meeting, after Marcia Dayne had put it up to him. But he was making heavy weather of it. And just then came the pastor's knock at the door.
There was a boisterous welcome from them both, with something like relief in J.W.'s heart, that he would not, could not speak. But he could get help now. For the sake of saying something he asked the usual question. "What in the world brings you to Cartwright?"
"Oh," said Pastor Drury, "I like to come to Cartwright. Your President's an old friend. Besides, why shouldn't I come to see you two, if I wish? You are still part of my flock, you know."
So they talked of anything and everything. By and by Marty said he must go over to the library, and pretty soon J.W. was telling his friend the pastor all that had been disturbing him.
"It all began in the summer before I came to college, at the Institute here, you know, when you spoke at the camp fire on Saturday night."
"I remember," the pastor replied. "You hadn't taken much interest in your future work before that?"
"No real interest, I guess," J.W. admitted. "I'd always taken things as they came, and didn't go looking for what I couldn't see. I was enjoying every day's living, and didn't care deeply about anything else. Why, though I've been a Methodist all my life, you remember how I knew nothing at all about the Methodist Church outside of Delafield, except what little I picked up about its Sunday schools by serving as an assistant to our Sunday school secretary. And when I began to hear, at the Institute, about home missions and foreign missions, about Negro education and other business that the church was doing, I saw right off that it was up to us young people to supply the new workers that were always needed. But, even so, only those who had a real fitness for it ought to offer themselves, and I thought too that something else would be needed. I wasn't any duller than lots of other church members—even the older ones didn't seem to know much more about the church outside than I did. You would take up collections for the benevolences, but if you told us what they meant, we didn't pay enough attention to get the idea clearly, so as to have any real understanding. I suppose the women's societies had more. I know my mother talks about Industrial Homes in the South, and schools in India—she's in both the societies, you know—but that is about all."
"And it seemed when I began to find out about things, Mr. Drury, that if our whole church needed workers for all these places, it needed just as much to have in the local churches men and women who would know about the work in a big way, and who would care in a big way, to back up the whole work as it should be backed up. So, when you spoke at the camp fire it was just what I wanted to hear, and when I was called on, I made that sort of a declaration the next day at the life decision services."
"Yes I remember that too," said Mr. Drury, "and I remember telling Joe Carbrook that you had undertaken as big a career as any of them."
"That's what I kind of thought too," said J.W., simply, "but rooming with Marty Shenk—he's going to make a great preacher too—keeps me thinking, and I know about all the students who are getting ready for special work, and lately I've been wondering——"
"About some special sort of work you'd like to do?" Mr. Drury prompted.
"No; not that at all. I'm just as sure as ever I'm not that sort. If only I can make good in business, there's where I belong. But can a fellow make good just as a Christian in the same way I expect Marty Shenk to make good as a Christian preacher?"
The pastor stood up and came over to J.W.'s chair. "My boy, I know just what you are facing. It is a pretty old struggle, and there's only one way out of it. God hasn't any first place and second place for the people that let him guide them. A man may refuse his call, either to go or to stay, and then no matter what he does it will be a second best. But you—wait for your call. For my part, I think probably you've got it, and it's to a very real life. If you and those like you should fail, we should soon have no more missionaries. And if the missionaries should fail, we should soon have no more church. God has little patience with a church that always stays at home, and I doubt if he has more for a church that doesn't stand by the men and women it has sent to the outposts. It is all one job."
There was much more of the same sort, and when J.W. walked with his pastor to the train the next morning, the only doubt that had ever really disturbed him in college was quieted for good.
Walter Drury went back to Delafield and his work, surer now than ever that the Experiment was going forward. He knew, certainly, that all this was only the getting ready; that the real tests would come later But he was well content.
* * * * *
It was early football season of the junior year. The State University took on Cartwright College for the first Saturday's game, everybody well knowing that it was only a practice romp for the University. Always a big time for Cartwright, this year it was a day for remembering. Joe Carbrook, who had been graduated from the University in June, and was now a medical student in the city, drove down to see the game. For loyalty's sake he joined the little bunch of University rooters on the east stand. Otherwise it was Cartwright's crowd, as well as Cartwright's day.
To the surprise of everybody, neither side scored until the last quarter, and then both sides made a touchdown, Cartwright first! A high tricky wind spoiled both attempts to kick goal, and time was called with a score at 6-6. Cartwright had held State to a tie, for the first time in history!
Joe came from the game with the chums and took supper with them. The whole town was ablaze with excitement over its team's great showing against the State, and the talk at table was all of the way Cartwright's eleven could now go romping down the schedule and take every other college into camp, including, of course, Barton Poly, their dearest foe.
The boys were happy to have Joe with them, he looked so big and fine, and had the same easy, breezy bearing as of old. Nor had he lost any of that frank attitude toward his own career which never failed to interest everybody he met. After supper they had an hour together in the room.
"Those boys in the medical school surely do amuse me," he laughed. "When I tell 'em I'm to be a missionary doctor, which I do first thing to give 'em sort of a shock they don't often get, they stand off and say, 'What, you!' as if I had told 'em I was to be a traffic cop, or a trapeze artist in the circus. Some of 'em seem to think I'm queer in the head, but, boys, they are the ones with rooms to let. When the others talk about hanging out a shingle in Chicago or Saint Louis or Cleveland or some other over-doctored place, I tell 'em to watch me, when I'm the only doctor between Siam and sunrise! Won't I be somebody? With my own hospital—made out o' mud, I know—and a dispensary and a few native helpers who don't know what I'm going to do next, and all the sick people coming from ten days' journey away to the foreign doctor!" And then his mood changed. "That's what'll get me, though; all those helpless, ignorant humans who don't even know what I can do for their bodies, let alone having any suspicion of what Somebody Else can do for their souls! But it will be wonderful; next thing to being with him in Galilee!"
There was a pause, each boy filling it with thoughts he would not speak.
"Where do you expect to find that work, Joe?" J.W. asked him.
The answer was quick and straight: "Wherever I'm sent, J.W., boy," he said. "Only I've told the candidate secretary what I want. I met him last summer in Chicago, and there's nothing like getting in your bid early. He's agreed to recommend me, when I'm ready, for the hardest, neediest, most neglected place that's open. If I'm going into this missionary doctor business, I want a chance to prove Christianity where they won't be able to say that Christianity couldn't have done it alone. It can!"
Then, with one of those quick turns which were Joe Carbrook's devices for concealing his feelings, he said, "And how's everything going at this Methodist college of yours? Your boys put up a beautiful game to-day, and they ought to have won. How's the rest of the school?"
Both the boys assured him everything was going in a properly satisfactory fashion, but Marty had caught one word that he wanted Joe to enlarge upon.
"Why do you say 'Methodist college'? It is a Methodist college; but is there anything the matter with that?"
Joe rose to the mild challenge. "Don't think I mean to be nasty," he said, "but I can't help comparing this place with the State University, and I wonder if there's any big reason for such colleges as this. You know they all have a hard time, and the State spends dollars to the church's dimes."
"Yes, we know that, don't we, J.W.?" and Marty appealed to his chum, remembering the frequent and half-curious talks they had on that very contrast.
J.W. said "Sure," but plainly meant to leave the defense of the Christian college to Marty, who, to tell the truth, was quite willing.
"There's room for both, and need for both," said that earnest young man. "Each has its work to do—the State University will probably help in attracting most of those who want special technical equipment, and the church colleges will keep on serving those who want an education for its own sake, whatever special line they may take up afterward: though each will say it welcomes both sorts of students."
This suited Joe; he intended Marty to keep it up a while. So he said, "But why is a church college, anyway?" And he got his answer, for Marty too was eager for the fray.
"The church college," he retorted with the merest hint of asperity, "is at the bottom of all that people call higher education. The church was founding colleges and supporting them before the State thought even of primary schools. Look at Oxford and Cambridge—church colleges. Look at Harvard and Yale and Princeton and the smaller New England colleges—church colleges. Look at Syracuse and Wesleyan and Northwestern and Chicago. Look at Vanderbilt, and most of the other great schools of the South. They are church colleges, founded, most of them, before the first State University, and many before there was any public high school. The church college showed the way. If it had never done anything else, it has some rights as the pioneer of higher learning."
J.W. had been getting more interested. He had never heard Marty in quite this strain, and he was proud of him.
"That's a pretty good answer he's given you, Joe," he said with a chuckle. "Now, isn't it?"
"It is," admitted Joe. "I reckon I knew most of what you say, Marty, but I hadn't thought of it that way before. Now I want to ask another question, only don't think I'm doing it for meanness; I've got a reason. And my question is this: granting all that the church schools have done, is it worth all they cost to keep them up now; in our time, I mean?"
"I think it is," Marty answered, quieter now. "They do provide a different sort of educational opportunity, as I said. Then, they are producing most of the recruits that the churches need for their work. Since the churches began to care for their members in the State Universities, a rather larger number of candidates for Christian service are coming out of the universities, but until the last year or two nearly all came, and the very large majority still comes, and probably for years will come, from the church colleges. And there's another reason that you State advocates ought to remember. Our Methodist colleges in this country have about fifty thousand students. If these colleges were to be put out of business, ten of the very greatest State Universities would have to be duplicated, dollar for dollar, at public expense, to take care of the Methodist students alone. When you think of all the other denominations, you would need to duplicate all the State Universities now in existence if you purposed to do the work the church colleges are now doing. And if you couldn't get the money, or if the students didn't take to the change, the country would be short just that many thousand college-trained men and women. The whole Methodist Church, with the other churches, is doing a piece of unselfish national service that costs up into the hundreds of millions, and where's any other big money that's better spent?"
When Marty stopped he looked up into Joe's good-natured face, and blushed, with an embarrassed self-consciousness. "You think you've been stringing me, don't you?"
"Now, Marty," Joe spoke genially, "don't you misunderstand. I said I had a reason. I have. My folks have some money they want to put into a safe place. And they like Cartwright. I do too, but—you know how it is. I want to be sure. Anyhow I'm glad I asked these questions. You've given me some highly important information; and, honestly, I'm grateful. You surely don't think I'm small enough to be making fun of you, or of Cartwright. If I seemed to be, I apologize on the spot. Believe me?" and there was no mistaking his genuine earnestness.
"Of course I believe you, old man," Marty rejoined, just a wee bit ashamed. "Forgive me too, but I've been reading up on that college thing lately, and it's a little different from what most people think. So you got me going."
"I'm glad he did," said J.W. "It makes me prouder than ever of Cartwright College." And, as he got up he said, as though still at the game, "The 'locomotive' now!" and gave Cartwright's favorite yell as a solo, while Marty and Joe grinned approval and some students passing in the street answered it with the "skyrocket."
* * * * *
There is material for a book, all mixt of interest varying from very light comedy to unplumbed gloom, in the life of two boys at college—any two; and some day the chronicles of the Delafield Duo may be written; but not now.
Senior year, with its bright glory and its seriously borne responsibilities. It found Marty a trifle less shy and reticent than when he came to Cartwright, and J.W., Jr., a shade more studious. Marty would miss Phi Beta Kappa, but only by the merest fraction; J.W. would rank about number twenty-seven in a graduating class of forty-five. Marty had successfully represented his college twice in debate, and J.W. had played second on the nine and end in the eleven, doing each job better than well, but rarely drawing the spotlight his way.
Curiously enough, you had but to talk to Marty, and you would learn that J.W., Jr., was the finest athlete and the most popular student in school. Conversely, J.W., Jr., was prepared to set Cartwright's debating record, as incarnated in Marty, against that of any other college in the State. What was more, he cherished an unshakable confidence that the "Rev. Martin Luther Shenk" would be one of the leading ministers of his Conference within five years.
And so they came to commencement, with the Shenk and the Farwell families, Pastor Drury, and Marcia Dayne in the throng of visitors. Mr. Drury rarely missed commencements at Cartwright, and naturally he could not stay away this year. The Farwells thought Marcia might like to see her old schoolmates graduate, and the boys had written her that they wanted somebody they could trot around during commencement week who might be trusted to join in the "I knew him when" chorus without being tempted to introduce devastating reminiscences. And Marcia, being in love with life and youth, had been delighted to accept the combined invitation. She was not at all in love with either of the boys, nor they with her. They thought they knew where her heart had been given, and they counted Joe Carbrook a lucky man.
"Tell us, Marcia," said J.W., Jr., one afternoon, as the three of them were down by the lake, "how it happens you went to the training school instead of the normal school last year."
"That's just like a man," said Marcia. "Here am I, your awed and admiring slave, brought on to adorn the crowning event of your scholastic career, and you don't even remember that I finished the normal school course in three years, and graduated a year ago!"
Marty rolled over on the sand in wordless glee.
"Aw, now, Marcia, why——" J.W., Jr., boggled, fairly caught, but soon recovering himself. "You must have been ashamed of it, then. I do remember something about your getting through, now you mention the fact, but why didn't I receive an invitation? Answer me that, young lady!"
"Oh, we educators don't think commencement amounts to so much as all that. With us, you know, life is real, life is earnest, and so forth. But I'll tell you the truth, J.W. I knew you couldn't come, either of you, and I was saving up a little on commencement expenses; so I left you—and a good many others—off the list. I needed the money, that's the simple fact; And the reason you didn't see me at home last summer was because I was busy spending the money I had saved on your invitations and other expensive things."
Marty usually waited for J.W., but the idea which now occurred to him demanded utterance. "Say, Marcia, I think it's fine of you to be studying dispensary work and first aid."
"How did you know?" Marcia demanded.
"Never mind; I saw Joe Carbrook in Chicago when we went through on our way to the Buckland-Cartwright debate, and I guessed a good deal more than he told me, which wasn't much."
"Marty," said Marcia, her face aglow and her brave eyes looking into his, "there's nothing secret about it. When Joe gets through medical school we shall go out together to whatever field they choose for him. The least I can do is to get ready to help."
"Is that why you've been going to training school?" asked J.W. They had so long been used to such complete frankness with each other that the question was "taken as meant."
"Yes, J.W., it is," said Marcia. "Joe has been doing perfectly splendid work in his medical course, and they say he will probably turn out to be a wonderful all-round doctor—everybody is surprised at his thoroughness, except me. I know what he means by it. But, of course, he has little time for training in other sorts of religious work, and so, ever since last June, I've been dividing my time between a settlement dispensary and the training school. Why shouldn't I be as keen on my preparation as he is on his, when we're going out to the same work?"
"You should, Marcia—you should," J.W. agreed, vigorously, "and we're proud of you; aren't we, Marty? I remember thinking two years ago what fine missionary pioneers you two would make. Only trouble is, we'll never know anything about it, after we've once seen your pictures in The Epworth Herald among the recruits of the year. If you were only going where a feller could hope to visit you once every two years or so!"
Marcia looked out across the lake, but she wasn't seeing the white sails that glided along above the rippling blue of its waters. In a moment she pulled herself together, and observed that there had been enough talk about a mere visitor. "What of you two, now that your student occupation's gone?"
"Tell her about yourself, Marty," said J.W. "She knows what I'm going to do." And for the moment it seemed to him a very drab and unromantic prospect, in spite of his agreement with Mr. Drury that all service ranks alike with God.
Marty was always slow to talk of himself. "It isn't much," he said. "The district superintendent is asking me to fill out the year on the Ellis and Valencia Circuit—the present pastor is going to Colorado for his health. So I'm to be the young circuit-rider," and he smiled a wry little smile. He had no conceit of himself to make the appointment seem poor; rather he wondered how any circuit would consent to put up with a boy's crude preaching and awkward pastoral effort.
But J.W., Jr., was otherwise minded. A country circuit for Marty did not accord with his views at all. Marty was too good for a country church, he argued, mainly from his memories of the bare little one-room meetinghouse of his early childhood. In his periodical trips to the farm he had seen the old church grow older and more forlorn, as one family after another moved away, and the multiplying cars brought the town and its allurements almost to the front gate of every farm.
So J.W. had tried to say "No," for Marty, who would not say it for himself. It was one of the rare times when they did not see eye to eye. But it made no difference in their sturdy affection; nothing ever could. And Marty would take the appointment.
Commencement over, for the first time in many years the chums went their separate ways, Marty to his circuit, and J.W. home to Delafield. Then for a little while each had frequent dark-blue days, without quite realizing what made his world so flavorless. But that passed, and the young preacher settled down to his preaching, and the young merchant to his merchandising; and soon all things seemed as if they had been just so through the years.
To J.W. came just one indication of the change that college had made. Pastor Drury, though he found it wise to do much of his important work in secret, thought to make use of the college-consciousness which most towns possess in June, and which is felt especially, though not confessed, by the college colony. The year's diplomas are still very new in June. So a college night was announced for the social rooms, with a college sermon to follow on the next Sunday night. The League and the Senior Sunday School Department united to send a personal invitation to every college graduate in town, and to every student home for the vacation. They responded, four score of them, to the college-night call.
As J.W. moved about and greeted people he had known for years he began to realize that college has its own freemasonry. These other graduates were from all sorts of schools; two had been to Harvard, and one to Princeton; several were State University alumni. Cartwright was represented by nine, six of them undergraduates, and the others confessed themselves as being from Chicago, Syracuse, De Pauw, three or four sorts of "Wesleyan," Northwestern, Knox, Wabash, Western Reserve, and many more.
Not even all Methodist, by any means, J.W. perceived; and yet the fellowship among these strangers was very real. They spoke each other's tongue; they had common interests and common experiences. He told himself that here was a suggestion as to the new friends he might make in Delafield, without forgetting the old ones. And the prospect of life in Delafield began to take on new values.
On the next Sunday night not so many college people were out to hear Mr. Drury's straight-thinking and plain-spoken sermon on "What our town asks of its college-trained youth"; and a few of those who came were inclined to resent what they called a lecture on manners and duty.
But to J.W. the sermon was precisely the challenge to service he had been looking for. It made up for his feeling at commencement that he was "out of it." It completed all which Mr. Drury had suggested at the Institute camp fire four years ago, all that he himself had tried to say at the decision service on the day after the camp fire; all that the pastor had urged two years ago when J.W., Jr., confessed to him his new hesitations and uneasiness.
The pastor had not preached any great thing. He had simply told the college folk in his audience that no matter where they had gone to school, many people had invested much in them, and that the investment was one which in its very nature could not be realized on by the original investors. The only possible beneficiaries were either the successive college generations or the communities in which they found their place. If they chose to take as personal and unconditional all the benefits of their education, none could forbid them that anti-social choice; but if they accepted education as a trust, a stewardship, something to be used for the common good, they would be worth more to Delafield than all the new factories the Chamber of Commerce could coax to the town.
And to those who might be interested in this view of education, Pastor Drury said: "Young people of the colleges, you have been trained to some forms of laboratory work, in chemistry, in biology, in geology—yes, even in English. I invite you to think of your own town of Delafield as your living laboratory, in which you will be at once experimenters and part of the experiment stuff. Look at this town with all its good and evil, its dying powers and its new forces, its dullnesses and its enthusiasms, its folly and wisdom, its old ways and its new people, its wealth and want. Do you think it is already becoming a bit of the kingdom of God? Or, if you conclude that it seems to be going in ways that lead very far from the Kingdom, do you think it might possess any Kingdom possibilities? If you do, no matter what your occupation in Delafield, Delafield itself may be your true vocation, your call from God!"
For John Wesley Farwell, Jr., it was to become all of that.
EXPLORING MAIN STREET
J.W., Jr., found small opportunity to make himself obnoxious by becoming a civic missionary before the time. He was busy enough with his adjustment to the business life of "Delafield and Madison county," this being the declared commercial sphere of the John W. Farwell Hardware Company. J.W. always had known hardware, but hitherto in a purely amateur and detached fashion. Now he lived with it, from tacks to tractors, ten or twelve hours a day. He found that being the son of his father gained him no safe conduct through the shop or with the customers. He had a lot to learn, even if he was John Wesley Farwell, Jr. That he was the heir apparent to all this array of cast iron and wrought and galvanized, of tin and wire and steel and aluminum and nickel, did not save him from aching back and skinned knuckles, nor from the various initiations staged by the three or four other employees.
But he was getting his bearings, and not from the store and the warehouse only. A good hardware store in a country town is a center of democracy for town and country alike. In what other place do farmers and artisans, country women and city women meet on so nearly equal terms? Not in the postoffice, nor in the bank; and certainly not in the department store. But the hardware store's customers, men and women all, are masters of the tools they work with; and whoso loves the tools of his craft is brother to every other craftsman.
It was in the store, therefore, that J.W. began to absorb some of the knowledge and acquire some of the experiences that were to make his work something to his town.
For one thing, he got a new view of local geography, in terms of tools. All the farmers from the bottoms of Mill Creek called for pretty much the same implements; the upland farms had different needs. The farmers' wives who lived along the route of the creamery wagon had one sort of troubles with tinware; the women of the fruit farms another. J.W. knew this by the exchange of experiences he listened to while he sold milk strainers and canning outfits. He found out that the people on the edge of town who "made garden" were particular about certain tools and equipment which the wheat farmer would not even look at.
And the townpeople he learned to classify in the same way. He was soon on good terms with those store clerks who were handy men about the house, with women who did all their own work, with blacksmiths and carpenters, with unskilled laborers and garage mechanics. In time he could almost tell where a man lived and what he did for a living, just by the hardware he bought and the questions he asked about it. Heretofore J.W. had thought he knew most of the people in Delafield. But the first weeks in the store showed him that he knew only a few. Up to this time "most of the people in Delafield" had meant, practically, his school friends, the clerks and salespeople in certain stores—and the members of the First Methodist Church.
That is to say, in the main, to him Delafield had been the church, and the church had been Delafield. But now he realized that his church was only a small part of Delafield. The town had other churches. It had lodges. When the store outfitted Odd Fellows' Hall with new window shades he learned that the Odd Fellows shared the place with strong lodges of the Maccabees and Modern Woodmen. And there were other halls. J.W. Farwell, Sr., was a Mason, but these other lodges seemed to have as many members as the Masons, and one or the other of them was always getting ready for a big public display.
The same condition was true of the country people. He began to hear about the Farm Federation, and the Grange, and the Farmers' Elevator, and the cooperative creamery, for members of all of these groups passed in and out of the store.
One day J.W. remarked to the pastor who had dropped into the store: "Mr. Drury, I never noticed before how this place is alive with societies and clubs and lodges and things. Everybody seems to belong to three or four organizations. And they talk about 'em! But I don't hear much about our church, and nothing at all about the old church out at Deep Creek. Yet I used to think that the church was the whole thing!"
The older man nodded. "It's true, J.W.," he said, "all the churches together are only a small part of the community. They are the best, and usually the best-organized forces we have, I'm sure of that; but the church and the town have to reckon with these others."
"What good are they all? They must cost a pile of money. What for?"
"That's what you might call a whale of a question, J.W." John W. Farwell, Senior, who had been standing by, listening, essayed to answer. "And you haven't heard yet of all the organizations. Look at me, for example. I belong to the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club. I'm on the Executive Committee of the Madison County Horticultural Society, and I've just retired from the Board of Directors of the Civic League. Then you must think of the political parties, and the County Sunday School Association, and the annual Chautauqua, and I don't know what all."
"Yes, and I notice, dad, that a good many of these," said J.W., Jr., "are just for the men. The women must have nearly as many. Why, Delafield ought to be a model town, and the country 'round here ought to be a regular paradise, with all these helpers and uplifters on the job. But it isn't. Maybe they're not all on the job."
"That's about it, my boy," his father agreed "I sometimes think we need just one more organization—a society that would never meet, but between the meetings of all the other societies would actually get done the things they talk about and pass resolutions about and then go off and forget until the next meeting."
"Well, dad, what I want to find out," J.W. said, as he started off with Mr. Drury to the post office, "is where the church heads in. Mr. Drury is sure it has a big responsibility, and maybe it has. But what is it willing to do and able to do, and what will the town let it do? It seems to me that is the question."
J.W. heard his father's voice echoing after him up the street, "Sure, that is the question," and Mr. Drury added, "Three questions in one."
J.W. found himself taking notice in a way he had not done before through all his years in Delafield. As might be expected, he had come home from college with new ideas and new standards. The town looked rather more sordid and commonplace than was his boy's remembrance of it. Of late it had taken to growing, and a large part of its development had come during his college years. So he must needs learn his own town all over again.
Cherishing his young college graduate's vague new enthusiasm for a better world, he had little sympathy with much that Delafield opinion acclaimed as progress.
The Delafield Daily Dispatch carried at its masthead every afternoon one or more of such slogans as these: "Be a Delafield Booster," "Boost for more Industries," "Put Delafield on the Map," "Double Delafield in Half a Decade," "Delafield, the Darling of Destiny," "Watch Delafield Grow, but Don't Stop Boosting to Rubber."
These were taken by many citizens as a sort of business gospel; any "theorist" who ventured to question the wisdom of bringing more people to town, whether the town's business could give them all a decent living or not, was told to sell his hammer and buy a horn. J.W. said nothing; he was too young and too recent a comer into the town's business life. But he could not work up any zeal for this form of town "loyalty."
A big cannery had been built down near the river, where truck gardens flourished, and there was a new furniture factory at the edge of the freight yards. Hereabouts a lot of supremely ugly flats had gone up, two families to each floor and three stories high; and in J.W.'s eyes the rubbish and disorder and generally slattern appearance of the region was no great addition to Delafield's attractions.
Still more did the tumbledown shacks in the neighborhood of the cannery offend the eyes and, to be frank, the ears and nose as well. It was a forlorn-looking lot of hovels, occupied by listless, frowsy adults and noisy children. Here existence seemed to be a grim caricature of life; the children, the only symbol of abundance to be seen, continued to be grotesque in their very dirt. What clothes they had were second or third-hand garments too large for them, which they seemed to be perpetually in danger of losing altogether.
To J.W., Delafield had always been a town of homes; but in these dismal quarters there was little to answer to the home idea. They were merely places where people contrived to camp for a time, longer or shorter; none but a Gradgrind could call them homes.
One of the factory foremen was a great admirer of Mr. Drury, who introduced him to J.W. one day when the foreman had come to the store for some tools. He had talked with J.W., and in time a rather casual friendliness developed between them. It was this same Foreman Angus MacPherson, a Scot with a name for shrewdness, who gave the boy his first glimpse of what the factory and the cannery meant to Delafield—especially the factory.
J.W. was down at the factory to see about some new band-saws that had been installed; and, his errand finished, he stopped for a chat with Angus.
"This factory wasn't here when I went off to college," he said. "What ever brought it to Delafield?"
At that MacPherson was off to a perfect start.
"Ye see, my boy," he began, "Delafield is so central it is a good town for a good-working plant; freights on lumber and finished stuff are not so high as in some places. And then there's labor. Lots of husky fellows around here want better than farm wages, and they want a chance at town life as well. Men from the big cities, with families, hope to find a quieter, cheaper place to live. So we've had no trouble getting help. Skill isn't essential for most of the work. It's not much of a trick nowadays to get by in most factories—the machines do most of the thinking for you, and that's good in some ways. Only the men that 'tend the machines can't work up much pride in the output. Things go well enough when business is good. But when the factory begins to run short time, and lay men off, like it did last winter, there's trouble."
J.W. wanted to know what sort of trouble.
"Oh, well," said MacPherson, "strikes hurt worst at the time, but strikes are just like boils, a sign of something wrong inside. And short-time and lay-offs—well, ye can't expect the factory to go on making golden oak rockers just to store in the sheds. Somebody has to buy 'em. But the boys ain't happy over four-day weeks, let alone no jobs at all."
His sociology professor at Cartwright, J.W. recalled, had talked a good deal about the labor question, but maybe this foreman knew something about it too. So J.W. put it up to him: "What is at the bottom of it all, MacPherson? What makes the thing the papers call 'labor unrest'?"
MacPherson hesitated a moment. Then he settled himself more comfortably on a pile of boards and proceeded to deliver his soul, or part of it.
"I can tell you; but there's them that would ship me out of town if I talked too much, so I'll have to be careful. John Wesley, you've got a grand name, and the church John Wesley started has a good name, though it's not my church. I'm a Scot, you know. But I know your preacher, and he and I are of the same mind about this, I know. Well, then, if your Methodist Church could find a method with labor, it would get hold of the same sort of common people as the ones who heard Jesus gladly. These working-men are not in the way of being saints, ye ken, but they think that somewhere there is a rotten spot in the world of factories and shops and mills. They think they learn from experience, who by the way, is the dominie of a high-priced school, that they get most of the losses and few of the profits of industry. They get a living wage when times are good. When times are bad they lose the one thing they've got to sell, and that's their day's work; when a loafing day is gone there's nothing to show for it, and no way to make it up. Maybe that's as it should be, but the worker can't see it, especially if the boss can still buy gasoline and tires when the plant is idle. Oh, yes, laddie, I know the working man is headstrong. I'll tell you privately, I think he's a fool, because so often he gets into a blind rage and wants to smash the very tools that earn his bite and sup. He may have reason to hate some employer, but why hate the job? It's a good job, if he makes good chairs. He goes on strike, many's the time, without caring that it hurts him and his worse than it hurts the boss. And often the boss thinks he wants nothing bigger than a few more things. Maybe he is wild for a phonograph and a Ford and golden oak rockers of his own in the parlor, and photographs enlarged in crayon hanging on the walls—and a steady job. But, listen to me, John Wesley, Jr., and you'll be a credit to your namesake: these wild, unreasonable workers, with all their foolishness and sometimes wickedness, are whiles dreaming of a different world, a better world for everybody. 'Twould be no harm if some bosses dreamed more about that too, me boy. Your preacher—he's a fine man too, is Mr. Drury—he understands that, and he wants to use it for something to build on. That's why I tell folks he's a Methodist preacher with a real method in his ministry. Now I'll quit me fashin' and get back to the job. I doubt you'll be busy yourself this afternoon."
He gripped J.W.'s hand, so that the knuckles were unable to forget him all day, but what he had said gripped harder than his handshake. If the furniture factory was a mixed blessing, what of the cannery?
Somewhat to his own surprise, J.W. was getting interested in his town, but if at first he was inclined to wonder how he happened to develop all this new concern, he soon ceased to think of it. So slight a matter could not stay in the front of his thinking when he really began to know something of the Delafield to which he had never paid much attention.
It was through Joe Carbrook that he got his next jolt. Joe, now spending his vacations in ways that amazed people who had memories of his wild younger manner, was in and out of the Farwell store a good deal. Also he spent considerable time with Pastor Drury, though there is no record of what they talked about.
"J.W., old boy," Joe asked one day, coming away from the pastor's study, "have you ever by any chance observed Main Street?"
"Why, yes," J.W. answered, "seeing that two or three or four times a day I walk six blocks of it back and forth to this store door, I suppose I have."
"Oh, yes, that way," Joe came back at him, "and you've seen me, a thousand times. But did you ever observe me? My ears, for instance," and he put his hands over them. "Which one is the larger?"
Without in the least understanding what his friend was driving at, and stupidly wondering if he ever had noticed any difference in Joe's ears, J.W. stared with inane bewilderment. "Is one really larger than the other?" he asked, helplessly.
Joe took his hands down, and laughed. "I knew it," he said. "You've never observed my ears, and yet you think you have observed Main Street. As it happens, each of my ears takes the same-sized ear-muff. But you didn't know it. Well, never mind ears; I'm thinking about Main Street. What do you know of Main Street?"
J.W. thought he could make up for the ear question. So he said, boldly, "Joe Carbrook, I can name every place from here to the livery barn north, and from here to the bridge south, on both sides of the street. Want me to prove it?"
"No, J.W., I don't. I reckon you can. But I believe you're still as blind as I've been about Main Street, just the same. I know Chicago pretty well and I doubt if there's as big a percentage of graft and littleness and dollar-pinching and going to the devil generally on State Street or Wabash Avenue as there is an Main Street, Delafield."
"You're not trying to say that our business men are crooks, are you, Joe?" J.W. asked, with a touch of resentment. "You know I happen to be connected with a business house on Main Street myself."
"Sure, I know it, and there's Marshall Field's on State Street, and Lyon & Healy's on Wabash Avenue, and Hart, Schaffner & Marx over by the Chicago River; just the same as here. But I—well, of course, there's a story back of it all. Mother heard a couple of weeks ago that one of our old Epworth League girls was having a hard time of it—she's working at the Racket store, helping to support her folks. They've had sickness, and the girl doesn't get big wages. So mother asked me to look her up. Mother can't get about very easily, you know, and since I'm studying medicine she seems to think I'm the original Mr. Fix-It. I made a few discreet inquiries, discreet, that is, for me, and can you guess who that girl is? You can't, I know. Well, she's Alma Wetherell, and that's the identical girl who gave me such a dressing down one day at the Cartwright Institute four years ago. Remember? Say, J.W., that day she told me so much of the deadly truth about myself that I hated her even more for knowing what to say than I did for saying it. But she had a big lot to do with waking me up, and I owe her something."
J.W. had not remembered the Institute incident. But he recalled that Alma was at Cartwright that summer, and he had seen her at church occasionally since he came home from college. She was living in town and working in some store or other he knew, but that was all.
"What did you find out?" he asked Joe.
"I found out enough so that Alma has a better job, and things are going easier at home. But that was just a starter. My brave John Wesley, do you remember your college sociology and economics and civics and all the rest? Never mind confessing; you don't; I didn't either. But I began to review 'em in actual business practice. First I told the right merchant what sort of a bookkeeper I had found slaving away for ten dollars a week on the dark, smelly balcony of the Racket—and he's given Alma a job at twenty in a sun-lighted office. Then I told Mr. Peters of the Racket what I had done, and why. He didn't like it, but it will do him good. That made me feel able to settle anything, and I'm looking around for my next joy as journeyman rescuer and expert business adjuster. Honest, J.W., I've not seen near all there is to see, but I'm swamped already. You've got to come along, you and some others, and see for yourself what's the matter with Main Street."
Not all at once, but before very long, J.W. shared Joe's aroused interest. Pastor Drury was with them, of course; and the three called into consultation a few other capable and trustworthy men and women. Marcia Dayne had come home for a few weeks' holiday, and at once enlisted. Alma Wetherell was able to give some highly significant suggestions.
There was no noise of trumpets, and no publicity of any sort. Mr. Drury insisted that what they needed first and most was not newspaper attention, and not even organization, but exact information. So for many days a group of puzzled and increasingly astonished people set about the study of their own town's principal street, as though they had never seen it before. And, in truth, they never had.
It was no different from all other small town business districts. The Gem Theater vied with the Star and the Orpheum in lavish display of gaudy posters advertising pictures that were "coming to-morrow," and in two weeks of observation the investigators learned what sort of moving pictures Delafield demanded, or, at least what sort it got. They took note of the Amethyst Coterie's Saturday night dances—"Wardrobe, 50 cents, Ladies Free"—and of the boys and girls who patronized the place. The various cigar and pocket-billiards combinations were quietly observed, some of the observers learning for the first time that young men are so determined to get together that they are not to be deterred by dirt or bad air or foul and brainless talk.
The candy stores with soda fountains and some of the drug stores which served refreshments took on a new importance. Instead of being no more than handy purveyors of sweets, of soft drinks and household remedies, they were seen to be also social centers, places for "dates" and telephone flirtations and dalliance. Much of their doings was the merest silly time-killing, but generally the youthful patrons welcomed all this because it was a change from the empty dullness of homes that had missed the home secret, and from the still duller and wasting monotony of uninteresting toil.
It was Pastor Drury who suggested the explanation for all these forms of profitless and often dangerous amusement. He was chatting with the whole group one night, and merely happened to address himself first to J.W., Jr.
Your great namesake, J.W., was so much a part of his day that he believed with most other great religious thinkers of his time that play was a device of the devil. His belief belonged to eighteenth-century theology and psychology. But even more it grew out of the vicious diversions of the rich and the brutalizing amusements of the poor. Both were bad, and there was not much middle ground. But here on Main Street we see people, most of them young, who feel, without always understanding why, that they simply must be amused. They feel it so strongly that they will pay any price for it if circumstances won't let them get it any other way. And Main Street is ready to oblige them. There could be no amusement business if people were not clamoring to be amused. And we know now why we have no right to say that all this clamor is the devil's prompting. Isn't it queer that the church is only now beginning to believe in the genuineness and wholesomeness of the play instinct, though it is a proper and natural human hunger? Literally everybody wants to play.
"People pay more for the gratification of this hunger than they do for bread or shoes or education or religion. They take greater moral risks for it than they do for money. We have seen people who undoubtedly are going to the devil by the amusement route, unless something is done to stop them. They go wrong quicker and oftener in their play than in their work. Are we going to be content with denouncing the dance hall and the poolroom and the vile pictures and the loose conduct of the soft-drink places and Electric Park? Haven't we some sort of duty to see that every young person in Delafield has a chance at first-hand, enjoyable, and decent play?"
All agreed that the pastor was right, though they were not so clear about what could be done.
But commercialized amusement was not all they found in their quiet voyages of discovery up and down Main Street.
The chain stores had come to Delafield—not the "5 and 10" only, but stores which specialized in groceries, tobacco, shoes, dry goods, drugs, and other commodities. Alongside of them were the locally owned stores. Altogether, Main Street had far too many stores to afford good service or reasonable prices. With all this duplication on the one hand, and absentee-control on the other, Main Street was a street of underlings—clerks and salespeople and delivery men. That condition produced low wages and inefficient methods, many of the workers being too young to be out of school and too dense to show any intelligence about the work they were supposed to do. Cheap help was costly, and the efficient help was scarcely to be found at any price.
The investigators were frankly dismayed at the extent and complexity of the situation. They had thought to find occasional cases calling for adjustment, or even for the law. But instead they had found a whole fabric of interwoven questions—amusements, wages, competition, cooperation, ignorance, vulgarity, vice, cheapness, trickery, "business is business." True, they had found more honest businesses than shady ones, more faithful clerks than shirkers, more decent people in the pleasure resorts than doubtful people. But the total of folly and evil was very great; could the church do anything to decrease it?
And that question led the little company of inquisitive Christians into yet wider reaches of inquiry. J.W. and Joe and Marcia at Mr. Drury's suggestion agreed to be a sort of unofficial committee to find out about the churches of Delafield. He told them that this was first of all a work for laymen. The preachers might come in later.
Joe invited the others to the new Carbrook home on the Heights into which his people had lately moved. The Heights was a new thing to J.W.—a rather exclusive residential quarter which had been laid out park-wise in the last four or five years; with houses in the midst of wide lawns, a Heights club house and tennis courts and an exquisite little Gothic church.
"When our folks first talked about moving out here I thought it was all right; and I do yet, in some ways," explained Joe. "But the Heights is getting a little too good for me; I'm not as keen about being exclusive as I used to be. I've thought lately that exclusiveness may be just as bad for people inside the gates, as for the people outside. But here we are, as the Atlantic City whale said when the ebb tide stranded it in front of the Board Walk. What are we up to, us three?"
"We're up to finding out about the town churches," said J.W. "Maybe they can help the town more than they do, but we don't know how, and so far we haven't found anybody else who knows how."
And Marcia said: "At least we know some things. We have the figures. About one Delafield citizen in seven goes to church or Sunday school on Sunday. Church membership is one in ten. And as many people go to the movies and the Columbia vaudeville and the dance halls and poolrooms on Saturday as go to church on Sunday, to say nothing of the crowds that go on the other five days."
Joe Carbrook whistled. "That's a tough nut to crack, gentle people," he said, "because you've simply got to think of those other five days. The chances are that four times as many people in Delafield go to other public places as go to church and Sunday school."
"What can the churches do?" asked J.W. "You can't make people go to church."
"No," assented Marcia, "and if you could, it would be foolish. We want to make people like the churches, not hate them. One thing I believe our churches can do is to put their public services more into methods and forms that don't have to be taken for granted or just mentally dodged. Half the time people don't know what a religious service really stands for."
"Meaning by that——?" Joe queried, as much to hear Marcia talk as for the sake of what she might say.
"Well, they have seen and heard it since they were children. When they were little they didn't understand it, and now it is so familiar that they forget they don't understand it," Marcia responded, not wholly oblivious of Joe's strategy, but too much in earnest to care. "I've heard of a successful preacher in the East who seems to be making them understand. He says he tries to put into each service four things—light, music, motion; that is, change—and a touch of the dramatic. Why not? I think it could be done without destroying the solemnity of the worship. They did it in the Temple at Jerusalem, and they do it in Saint Peter's at Rome and in Westminster Abbey and Saint John's Cathedral in New York. Why shouldn't we do it here in our little churches?"
"Make a note of it, J.W.," ordered Joe. "It's worth suggesting to some of the preachers."
J.W. made his note, rather absently, and offered a conclusion of his own:
"The church must take note of the town's sore spots too. I've found out that crowding people in tenements and shacks means disease and immorality. Isn't that the church's affair? Angus MacPherson has taught me that when the jobs are gone little crimes come, followed by bigger ones; and sickness comes too, with the death rate going up. Babies are born to unmarried mothers, and babies, with names or without, die off a lot faster in the river shacks and the east side tenements than they do up this way. Maybe the church couldn't help all this even if it knew; but I'm for asking it to know."
"I'll vote for that," Joe asserted, "if you'll vote for my proposition, which is this: our churches must quit trying just to be prosperous; they must quit competing for business like rival barkers at a street fair; they must begin to find out that their only reason for existence is the service they can give to those who need it most; they've got to believe in each other and work with each other and with all the other town forces that are trying to make a better Delafield."
"That's right," said J.W. "I was talking to Mr. Drury this morning, and I asked him what he would think of our starting a suggestion list. He said it ought to be a fine thing. But he wants us to do it all ourselves. Just the same, we can take our suggestions to him, and then, if he believes in them, he can talk to the other preachers about them, and, of course, about any ideas of his own. Because you know, I'm pretty sure he has been thinking about all this a good deal longer than we have."