"Maybe you're right," J.W. conceded, "and the church is not to be blamed. Still, if our work for the black man has made him troublesome, and given him ideas bigger than he can hope to realize, how does that fit in with our Christianity? Shouldn't the church be a peacemaker, instead of a trouble-maker?"
"Now, John Wesley, Jr.," the other said, in mock protest, "that sermon of mine on 'Not Peace, but a Sword' must have been wasted on you. Our Lord most certainly came to make peace, and he spoke a great blessing on peacemakers. But he was himself the world's greatest disturber. Peace while there is injustice, or ignorance, or any sort of wickedness, has nothing to do with Christ's intentions. I know that the old-time slave-traders of the North, and the more persistent slave-buyers of the South, were always asking for that sort of peace. But they couldn't have it. Nobody ever can have it, so long as Jesus has a single follower in the world."
"Well, what has all this to do," asked J.W., "with our church's special work for the colored people?"
"Ah, yes," the pastor answered, "that's the very thing you must find out before you make that address of welcome."
By this time J.W. had gathered up a pile of books, pamphlets, reports, and papers—enough, he thought, to serve as the raw material of a Ph.D. thesis, and he said to Mr. Drury, "Would you mind if I took this home? I'll bring it all back, and it's not likely I'll damage it much.".
The asking was no more than a form; for years the people of First Church had known themselves freely welcome to any book in the preacher's shelves. An interest in his books was passport to his special favor. His own evident love for books had been the best possible insurance that these particular borrowers would be more scrupulous than the general. This bit of pastoral work, it should be said, with the frequent book-talk that grew out of it, was not least among all the reasons why First Church people thought their bachelor minister just the man for them.
So off went J.W. with his armful, and for a week thereafter you might have supposed he was cramming for a final exam of some sort. Early in his preparation he decided that his father's advice was wise, and he put the stress of his effort on the church's work and how Negro youth had responded to it. The other matter was too delicate, he felt, for his amateur handling, and, besides, he was not altogether sure even of his own position.
On the convention night Saint Marks was crowded with young colored people, some of whom came from places a hundred miles away. They were badged and pennanted quite in the fashion to which J.W. was accustomed. But for their color, and, to be frank, for a little more restraint and thoughtfulness in their really unusual singing, they were just young Methodists at a convention, not different from Caucasian Methodists of the same age.
When J.W.'s turn came to speak, the chairman introduced him in the fewest possible words, but with the courtesy which belongs to self-respect, saying, "Mr. Farwell will make the delegates welcome in the name of the First Church Epworthians."
And he did. He had his notes, pretty full ones, to which he made frequent references, but the quality in his speech which drew the convention's cheers was its frank and natural simplicity.
"I would have begged off from this duty, if I could," he began, "but I knew from the moment I was asked that I had no decent excuse. But I knew so little of what I ought to say that it was necessary for me to dig, just as I used to do at school."
The result of my digging is that I know now and I want you to know that I know, why First Church young people should join in welcoming you to Delafield. Some of them don't know yet, any more than I did ten days ago; but I intend to enlighten them the first chance I get.
We First Church Epworthians might welcome you for many reasons, but I have decided to stick to two, because, as I have said, I have just been learning something about them.
We welcome you, then, because you represent the most eager hunger for complete education that exists in America to-day, unless our new Hebrew citizens can match it. No others can. The record of our church's schools for your race prove that it simply is not possible to keep the Negro youth out of school. They will walk further, eat less, work harder, and stay longer to get an education than for anything else in the world.
Not so many days ago I ignorantly thought that the 'three R's' was all that ought to be offered, partly because the need is so great. I hope you will forgive me that thought, when I tell you that now I know what ignorance it revealed in me. The great need is the strongest argument for the highest education. Because of your great numbers, and because of your ever intenser racial self-respect, the Negro must educate the Negro, be physician for the Negro, preach to the Negro, nurse the Negro, lead the Negro in all his upward effort. Otherwise these things will be done badly, or patronizingly, or not at all.
But if you are to do your own educational work, your educators must be fully equipped. It is not possible to send the whole race to college, but it is possible to send college-trained youth to the race. For this reason our church has established normal schools, colleges of liberal arts, professional schools, homes for college girls, so that the coming leaders of your people may have access to the best the world offers in science and literature, in medicine and law, in business and religion.
You will not mistake my purpose, I am sure, in saying that you know better than we can guess how your people, through no fault of theirs, have been long in bondage to the unskilled hand, the unawakened mind, and the uninspired heart. But it is more and more an unwilling bondage.
And our church, your church, has set up these schools and these training homes I have mentioned, as though she were saying, in the words of one of your own wonderful songs, 'Let my people go!' And the results are coming. Your two bishops, one in the South and one in Africa, your leaders in the church's highest councils, your educators, your far-seeing business men, your great preachers, are part of the answer to your church's passion to give full freedom to all her people.
For you are her people, the people of the Christian Church; we are all God's people. It seems to me that just now God is interested in bringing to every race in the world the chance of liberty for hand and head and heart. God has greater things for us all to do than we can now understand, but all his purposes must wait on our getting free from everything that would defeat our work.
Our First-Church young people welcome you because with all else you represent a great purpose to make religion intelligent. You know, as we do, that piety to be vital must be mixed with sound learning. You have the missionary spirit, which never thrives in an atmosphere of resistance to education. You are 'fellow Christians,' fellow workers. We are sharers with you in personal devotion to our Lord, and in the common purpose to make him Master of all life.
And, finally, let me say it bluntly, we welcome you because we believe in your pride of race, and honor it in you as we honor it in our fellow citizens of other races. They and you have some things in common, but you will not misunderstand me when I congratulate you on what is peculiar to you. You have been fully Americanized for more generations than most other Americans. You have no need to strive after the American spirit. I have a friend of Greek birth, who thinks pridefully back to the Golden Age of Greece, and I envy him his glorying. But your pride of race, turning away from the unhappy past, sees your Golden Age in the days to come, not in the dim yesterdays. You are the makers, not the inheritors, of a great destiny.
"For that noble future which is to be yours in our common America, you do well to hold as above price the purity and strength of your racial life. Better than we of Caucasian stock, you know that only so may all the values be fully realized which are to be Africa's contribution to the spiritual wealth of America and the world."
There was a moment of silence, for the implications of the last sentence were not as plain as they might have been. But when the audience caught J.W.'s somewhat daring appeal to its racial self-respect it broke into such cheers as are not given to the polite phraser of conventional commonplaces.
THE FIRST AMERICAN CIVILIZATION
The full record of J.W.'s commercial career must he left to some other chronicler, but an occasional reference to it cannot be omitted from these pages.
Pastor Drury's brother Albert, a Saint Louis business man who knew the old city by the Mississippi from the levees to the University, was a citizen who loved his city so well that he did not need to join a Boosters' Club to prove it. The two Drurys saw each other, as both averred, all too seldom. On the infrequent occasions when they met, as, for instance, during a certain church federation gathering which had brought the minister down to Saint Louis from Delafield, their "visiting" was a joyous thing to see.
Lounging in the City Club one day after lunch, with every other subject of common interest at least touched on, Brother Albert turned to Brother Walter: "And how goes the church and parish of Delafield? You told me long ago that you wanted to stay there ten years; it's more than eight now. Does the ten-year mark yet stand?"
"Yes, Al., it still stands, if nothing should interfere," said Walter. He had never told his brother the reason back of that ten-year mark, and he was not ready, even yet, for that. Of late he had taken to wondering when and how the Experiment would come to its crisis. He wanted some help just now, and here might be an opening. So he went on, "I've been working away at several special jobs, as you know I like to do, and one of them has a good deal to do with a young fellow named Farwell, John Wesley Farwell, Jr., who'll be the mainstay of the best hardware store in Delafield before long if he sticks to it. Everybody calls him 'J.W.,' and he's the sort of boy that has always interested me, he's so 'average,'" He paused; his thoughts busy with the Experiment.
"Well," his brother broke in, after a moment, "what's this young John Wesley Methodist been doing?"
"It isn't altogether what he has been doing, but it's what I'd like to see him get a chance to do," explained the preacher. "He's tied to the store and to Delafield, so far, and I've reasons for wanting him to see some parts of this country he'll never see from Main Street in our town."
"Well, brother mine, maybe he could be induced to leave that particular Main Street. There's where we get the best citizens of this village. Has he any objections to making a change—to travel, for instance?"
"I don't know," said Walter; "probably not. He's young, and has a pretty good education. I do know that he's ambitious to make himself the best hardware man in our section, and I believe he'll do it, in time. Personally, I want him to travel. But how would anybody go about getting him the chance?"
Albert Drury laughed. "That's easy, only a preacher couldn't be expected to see it. If any country boy really knows the stuff he handles, whether it is hardware or candy or hides, he can get the chance all right. This town wants him. Don't you know that the big wholesale houses recruit their sales forces by spotting just such boys as your John Wesley Farwell may be? But what do you mean by calling him average, if he's such a keen judge of hardware?"
"Oh, well, he is more than average on hardware, but he's so beautifully average human; one of those chaps who do most of the real work of the world."
"All right, old man; I'm not sure that I follow you; but, anyway, I may be of some use. I'll tell you what I'll do; I know the very man. Peter McDougall, who's a friend I can bank on, is sales manager of the Cummings Hardware Corporation. Nothing will come of it if Peter is not impressed, but all I need to do is to tell him there's a prospective star salesman up at Delafield, and his man who has that territory will be looking up your John Wesley before you have time to write another sermon. By the way," he added, "what part of the country did you say you wanted young Farwell to see?"
"I didn't say," the preacher admitted, "but I would like him to see something of the Southwest. I want to see what will happen when he bumps up against the sort of civilization that followed the Spanish to America."
"Well, of course, you know that wholesale hardware houses don't run salesmen's excursions to help Methodist preachers try out the effect of American history on their young parishioners, no matter how lofty the motive," and Albert Drury poked his brother in the ribs. "But supposing this boy is otherwise good stuff he'll be in the right place, if he goes with the Cummings people. A big share of their business is in that end of the world."
If J.W. had been told of this conversation, which he wasn't, he might not have been quite so mystified over the letter from the great Peter McDougall, which came a few weeks after the preacher's return from Saint Louis. McDougall he knew well by reputation, having heard about him from every Cummings man who unpacked samples in Delafield. And to be invited to Saint Louis by the great man, with the possibility of "an opening, ultimately, in our sales force," was a surprise as interesting as it was unexpected. Naturally, J.W. could not know how much careful investigation had preceded the writing of that letter. The Cummings Corporation did not act on impulse. But he would have accepted the invitation in any case.
And that is enough for the present purpose of the story of J.W.'s first business venture away from Delafield. Not without some hesitation did he close with the Cummings offer; but after he had talked it all over with the folks at home, and then all over again out at Deep Creek with Jeannette Shenk, who was both sorry and proud, it was settled. Reaching Saint Louis, the canny McDougall looked him over and thought him worth trying out; so over he went to the stock department. Then followed busy weeks in the buildings of the Cummings Hardware Corporation down by the river, learning the stock. He discovered before the end of the first day that he had never yet guessed what "hardware" meant; he wandered through the mazes of the vast warehouses until his legs ached much and his eyes ached more.
At last came the day when he found himself on the road, not alone, of course, but in tow of Fred Finch, an old Cummings salesman who had occasionally "made" Delafield. The Cummings people did not throw their new men overboard and let them swim if they could. They had a careful training system, of which the stockroom days were one part, and this personally conducted introduction to the road was another.
Albert Drury had been sufficiently interested in his brother's wish to drop a hint to McDougall, to which that hard-headed executive would have paid no attention if it had not fitted in just then with the requirements of his sales policy. But the hint sent J.W. out with Finch over the longest route which the house worked for trade. On the map this route was a great kite-shaped thing, with its point at Saint Louis, and the whole Southwest this side of the Colorado River included in the sweep of its sides and top.
To Fred Finch it was a weary journey, but J.W. gave no thought to its discomforts. He was seeing the country, as well as learning to sell hardware, and both occupations were highly absorbing. Before long he found too that he was seeing a new people. Storekeepers he knew, as being of his own guild; the small towns were much like Delafield, when you had become used to their newer crudeness of architecture and their sprawling planlessness; and the people who used hardware were very much like his customers at home.
He had no fear of failing to become a salesman, after the first few experiences under Finch's watchful eye; his father had taught him a sort of salesmanship which experience could only make more effective. He knew already never to sell what he could see his customer ought not to buy, and he knew always to contrive as much as possible that the customer should do the selling to himself. The elder Farwell used to say, "Let your customer once see the advantage that buying is to him, and he won't care what advantage selling is to you."
Now, as has been said before, this is not a salesman's story. Let it suffice to say that before the two got back to Saint Louis J.W. knew he had found his trade. He was a natural salesman, and so Fred Finch reported to Peter McDougall. "If it's hardware," he said, "that boy can sell it, and I don't care where you put him. He can sell to people who can't speak English, and I believe he could sell to deaf mutes or the blind. He knows the line, and they know he knows it. Why, this very first trip he's sold more goods on his own say-so than on the house brand. Said he knew what the stuff would do, and people took that who usually want to know about the guarantee." All of which Peter McDougall filed where he would not forget it.
But to go back to the trip itself. Along the railway in Kansas J.W. began to see box-cars without trucks, roughly fitted up for dwellings. Dark-skinned men and women and children were in occupation, and all the household functions and processes were going on, though somewhat primitively.
"Mexicans," said Finch, as J.W. pointed out the cars. "Section hands; when I first began to make this territory you never saw them except right down on the border, but they have moved a long way east and north. I saw lots of them in the yards at Kansas City last time I was there."
J.W. watched the box-car life with a good deal of curiosity. Here and there were poor little attempts at color and adornment; flowers in window boxes and bits of lace at the windows. Delafield had plenty of foreigners, but these were foreigners of another sort. They seemed to be entirely at home.
"I suppose," he said to Finch, "these Mexicans have come to the States to get away from the robbery and ruin that Mexico has had instead of government these last ten years and more."
"Yes," Finch answered, "thousands of 'em. But not all. Some of these Mexicans are older Americans than we are. We took 'em over when we got Texas and New Mexico and California from Old Mexico. They were here then, speaking the Spanish their ancestors had learned three hundred years ago and more. But they're all the same Mexicans, no matter on which side of the Rio Grande they were born. Of course those born on this side have had some advantages that the peons never knew."
"But do you mean," J.W. wanted to know, "that they are not really American citizens?"
Fred Finch said no, he didn't mean exactly that. Certainly, those born on this side were American citizens in the eyes of the law, and those who came across the Rio Grande could get naturalized. But that made little real difference. A Mexican was a Mexican, and you had to deal with him as one.
J.W. was not quite satisfied with that explanation, but he preferred to wait until he had seen enough so that he could ask his questions more intelligently. So he kept relatively still, but his eyes did not cease from observing.
As the trip progressed, and the jumps between towns became longer, the young salesman had time to see a good deal. In the far Southwest he became aware that the increasingly numerous Mexican population was no longer a matter of box-car dwellers, more or less migratory. It was a settled people. Its little adobe villages, queer and quaint as they seemed to Middle-Western eyes, were centers of established life. And he discovered that in these villages always one building overshadowed all the rest.
One day as they were headed towards El Paso he ventured to mention this to his traveling companion. "Seems to me," he said, "that none of these little mud villages is too poor to have a church, and mostly a pretty good church too. How do they manage it?"
Now Finch was no student of church life, but he did know a little about the country. "That's the way it is all over this Southwest, my boy, and across the line in Old Mexico it's a good deal more so. My guess is that the churches and the priests began by teaching the people that whatever else happened they had to put up for the church, and from what I've noticed I reckon that now nothing else matters much to the church. It has become a kind of poor relation that's got to be fed and helped, whether it amounts to anything or not. But it's a long way from being as humble and thankful as you would naturally expect a poor relation to be."
During the El Paso layover the two of them took a day across the International Bridge. J.W. had watched the Mexicans coming over, and he wanted to see the country they came from.
"You'll not see much over there," a friendly spoken customs official told him. "It's a pretty poor section of desert 'round about these parts. You ought to get away down into the heart of the country."
"Yes, I suppose so," J.W. responded, "but there isn't time on this trip. Are such people as these coming over to the United States right along?"
"I should say they are," said the man of authority with emphasis. "In the last four or five years the Mexican population of the United States has about doubled; three quarters of a million have crossed the Rio Grande somewhere, or the border further west. You people from the East make a big fuss over immigration from Europe, but you hardly seem to know that a regular flood has been pouring in through these southwestern gateways. You will some day."
What they saw on the Mexican side of the bridge was, as the customs man had said, nothing much. But J.W. came away with a strange sense of depression. He had never before seen so much of the raw material of misery and squalor; what he had observed with wondering pity in the villages on the American side was as nothing to the unrelieved hopelessness of the south bank of the river.
That night in the hotel lobby J.W. noticed a fresh-faced but rather elderly man whom he recognized as one whom he had seen over in Mexico earlier in the day. With the memory of what he had seen yet fresh upon him, J.W. ventured a commonplace or two with the stranger, and found him so genial and interesting that they were still talking long after Fred Finch had yawned himself off to bed.
"I thought I remembered seeing you over there," said the unknown, "and you didn't look like a seasoned traveler; more like the amateur I am myself, though I do get about a little."
"I'm no seasoned sightseer," said J.W.; "this is my first time out. And that's maybe the reason I've developed so much curiosity about the people we saw to-day. Do you know much about them?"
"Who? the Mexicans?" The other man smiled, and then was suddenly serious. "My friend, I begin to think I'm making the Mexicans my hobby. I don't know who you are, but if you are really interested in the Mexicans as human beings I'd rather tell you what I know than do anything else I can think of to-night. It isn't often I find a traveling man who cares."
"Well, I do care," J.W. asserted, stoutly. "They're people, folks, aren't they? And it looks as though they could stand having somebody get interested in them a little."
"Ah, I see now what you are; you are that remarkable combination, a traveling man and a Christian. Am I right?"
"Why, I suppose so," said J.W., with a smile and a touch of the old boyish pride in his name. "My initials, as you might say, are 'John Wesley,' and I'm not ashamed of them."
"And that means you are not only a Christian, but a Methodist? My dear man, we must shake on that. I'm a Methodist myself, as the stage robber said to Brother Van, with the romantic name of Tanner. Got my first interest in Mexico and the Mexicans when my daughter married a young Methodist preacher and they went down there as missionaries. I make a trip to see them and the babies about once a year. But now I am getting interested in these people as an American and, I hope, a Christian who tries to work at the business. What did you say your other name was?"
J.W. hadn't said, but now he did, and the two settled to their talk. This William Tanner, some sort of retired business man, certainly seemed to know his Mexico. And he had that most subtle of all stimulants to-night, a curious and sympathetic hearer. By consequence he was eager to give all that J.W. would take.
Before long J.W. had edged in a question about the church. He said, "You know, Mr. Tanner, we have a pretty good Roman Catholic church in my home town, though Father O'Neill doesn't tie up much to what the other churches are trying to do, and some of his flock seem to me pretty wild, for sheep. Now, these churches down here are all Roman Catholic too, yet they certainly don't look any kin to Saint Ursula's at Delafield. Are they?"
It was the sort of question which William Tanner had asked himself many a time when he first came to Mexico. "This is the way of it, Mr. Farwell," he said. "The church came to Mexico, and to all Latin America, from Spain and Portugal. It had a few great names, we must acknowledge, in those early times. But in a little while it settled down to two activities—to make itself the sole religious authority and to get rich. It was a church of God and gold, and as a matter of course it preached that it was the supreme arbiter of life and death in matters of faith, and extended its authority into every relation of life. It brought from the lands of the Inquisition the idea of priestly power, and there was none to dispute it in Latin America, as there was in the colonies of our own country. It gave the people little instruction, and no responsibility or freedom. It made outward submission the test of piety and faith. And so when Spain lost its grip on the western hemisphere the church found itself with nothing but its claim of power to fall back on. Well, you know that would work only with the ignorant and the superstitious."
"Mexico, and all Latin America for that matter, clear to the Straits of Magellan, is a land of innumerable crosses, but no Christ. The church has had left to it what it wanted; that is, the priestly prerogatives; it marries, baptizes, absolves, buries, where the people can pay the fees, and the people for various reasons have not cared that this is all. If they are afraid, or want to make a show, they call in the church; if they don't care, or if they are poor, they go unbaptized, unmarried, unshriven, and do not see that it makes any difference. They have no understanding of the church as a Christian institution; in fact, I think it would puzzle most of them to tell what a true church ought to be. Now, all this is the church's reward for its ancient choice, which, so far as I can see, is still its choice. To the average Latin American the church is, and in the nature of things must be, a demander of pay for ceremonial, and a bitterly jealous defender of all its old autocratic claims. That is of the nature of the church."
"But I don't understand," interposed J.W. "If the people have no real use for the church, why do they support it? It certainly is supported."
"That, Mr. Farwell, is the tragedy of the church in all these lands," said Mr. Tanner, soberly. "The church began by looking to its own interests first. It wanted great establishments and a docile people. It found the gospel hard to preach to the natives—the real gospel, I mean. The cruelties and greed of the conquest had made impossible any preaching of a ministering, merciful, and unselfish Christ. In fact, the vast majority of the priests who came over from Europe brought with them no such ideas. The church was ruler, not missionary. And so far as it dares it sticks stubbornly to that notion even to this day. So it has had to make practical compromise with the paganism and superstition it found here. Many of its religious observances are the aboriginal pagan practices disguised in Christian dress and given Christian names. The church has sold its birthright for the privilege of exploiting the credulity and the fears of the people. It has made merchandise of all its functions. Now, after the centuries have come and gone, both church and people through long custom are willing to have it so. The people have their great churches, with incense and lights and all the pomp of medaeival days. But they have no living Christ and no thought of him. The priests have their trade in ceremonial and their perquisites, but they have no power over the hearts of men."
As his new acquaintance paused for breath after this long answer to a short question, J.W., remembering something Fred Finch had said, brought the remark in: "The man who is showing me the ropes as a hardware man tells me that all over Latin America the church is likely to be the one real building in every town and village. Is that also something that the people are so used to that they don't notice it any more?"
"Oh, yes," Mr. Tanner assented. "I suppose the contrast between the church and the miserable little hovels around it never occurs to any of them. It has always been so. The church has built itself up out of the community, and for the most part it puts very little back. It conducts schools, to be sure; and yet eighty per cent of the Mexican people are illiterate, it has some few institutions of help and mercy; but the whole land cries out for doctors and teachers and friendly human concern."
"Is that really so?" J.W. asked. "Do the people really want our missionaries, or are we Protestants just shoving ourselves in? I can see that something is desperately wrong, but we are mostly Saxon, and they are Latins. Do these people want what to them must seem a queer religion and a lot of strange ideas?"
"So long as they do not understand what we come for, naturally they are suspicious. When they find out, they take to mission work and missionaries with very little urging. I wish you would meet my son-in-law," Mr. Tanner said with positiveness. "Why, the one tormenting desire of that man's life is to see more missionaries sent down into Mexico; more doctors, more teachers, more workers of every sort. He writes letters to the Board of Foreign Missions that would make your heart ache. The church at home couldn't oversupply Mexico with the sort of help it desperately needs if it should turn every recruit that way, and disregard all the rest of the world's mission fields."
"Do you mean," asked J.W., who was seeing new questions bob up every time an earlier one was answered, "do you mean that so many missionaries could be used on productive Christian work right away? Or is it that we ought to have a big force to prepare for the long future of our work in Mexico?" Now, J.W. was not so sure that this was an intelligent question, but he had heard that in some mission fields it was necessary to wait years for real and permanent results.
His companion saw nothing out of the way in the question. It was part of the whole problem. "I mean it both ways," he said. "What I've seen of our Methodist work down in these parts, particularly its schools and one wonderful hospital, makes me sure we could get big harvests of interest and success right off. We're doing it already, considering our relatively small force and our limited equipment."
"But all Latin American work takes patience. I've made one trip down as far as Santiago de Chile, and what is true in Mexico is, I guess, about as true in other parts. The Roman Catholic Church has been here four hundred years, and its biggest result is that the people who don't fear it despise it. Latin America is called Christian, but it is a world in which what you and I call religion simply does not count. Well, then, that's what makes me talk about the need of persistence and patience. The bad effects of three or four hundred years of such religion as has been taught and practiced between the Rio Grande and Cape Horn can't be got rid of in a hurry. Wait till Mexico has had a real chance at the Christ of the New Testament for three hundred years, and then see!"
J.W. had yet another question to ask before he was ready to call it a day. "If all that you say is so—and I believe it is, Mr. Tanner—why should so many of the Mexicans hate the United States? They do, for I've heard it spoken of a good deal lately, and I remember what was always said when some one proposed that we should intervene to make peace and restore order in Mexico. It would take ten years and a million men, and all Mexico would unite to oppose us. You talk about how much the Mexicans need us and want us. But a great many of them surely don't want us at all."
"I know what that means," Mr. Tanner admitted. And it is true. We are all influenced by the past. Look at the history of our dealings with Mexico. The very ideas we fought to establish as the charter of our own freedom we repudiated when we dealt with Mexico three quarters of a century ago. We had every advantage, and what we wanted we took. Certainly, we have done better by it than Mexico might have done, but I never heard that reason given in a court of law to excuse the same sort of transaction if it touched only private individuals. Then, in late years big business has gone into Mexico. It has had to take big chances. It has paid better wages than the peon could earn any other way. It has a lot to its credit; but it has been much like big business in other places, and, anyway, the admitted great profits have enriched the foreigner, not the Mexican.
"Besides, Mexico is not the States. As you say, it is Latin in its civilization, not Saxon. It does not want our sort of culture. And some of our missionaries, both of the church and of industry, have thought that the Mexican ought to be 'Americanized.' That's a fatal mistake in any mission field outside the States. All in all, you can see that it isn't entirely inevitable that the Mexican should understand our motives, or appreciate them when he does understand. But that's all the more reason for bearing down hard on every form of genuine missionary work. It's the only thing that we Americans can do in Mexico with any hope of avoiding suspicion or of our presence being acceptable to the Mexicans in the long run. We've got to fight the backfire of our American commercialism, and the prejudice which is as real on the Texas side of the river as it is on the other; for if the Mexican thinks in terms of 'gringo,' the American of the Southwest is just as likely to think in terms of 'greaser.'"
When J.W. and Mr. Tanner parted for the night it was with the mutual promise that they would have another talk some time the next day, but the promise could not be kept. The retired business man heard from some of his business in the early morning, and had just time to say a hurried farewell. As he put it, "I thought I had retired, but unless I get back to look after this particular affair I may have to get into the harness again, and that is not a cheerful prospect at my age. So I go to business to avert the danger of going back to business."
A little later the two hardware salesmen were in El Paso again, after a couple of side trips. J.W. took advantage of a long train wait to hunt up the city library. He wanted to know whether Mr. Tanner was right in saying that the Latin-American question was much the same everywhere.
He wrote a letter to Mr. Drury that night, having thus far used picture postcards until he was ashamed. In the letter he took occasion to mention his talk with the "missionary father-in-law," and his own bit of reading up on the subject.
Said he: "I guess that man Tanner was right. He did not speak much of the difference between the people of one country and those of another, which rather surprised me. He said nothing of the two great classes, the rulers with much European blood, and the peons, largely or altogether Indian. There must be all sorts of Latin Americans, rich and poor, mixed blood of many strains, Castilian and Aztec and Inca, and whatever other people were here when Columbus set the fashion for American voyages. But this is where this 'missionary father-in-law' hit the heart of the trouble: Latin America has all sorts and conditions of men, but everywhere it has the same church. And it is a church that can't ever make good any more. It might, at the beginning, but it can't now. It has a reputation as fixed as Julius Caesar's. I'm hardly ready to set up as an expert observer, being only a cub salesman on his first trip, but, Mr. Drury, I believe I can see already that the only chance for these people to get religion and everything else which religion ought to produce, is for us to send it to them. Maybe that would stir up the church down here, and help to give it another chance at the people's confidence, though I'm not sure."
Our church ought to send doctors; the amount of fearful disease that flourishes among the poorer people is just frightful. If Joe Carbrook were not so set on going to the Orient, he could do a big work here, and so could a thousand other doctors. It would be so much more than mere doctoring; it would be the biggest kind of preaching.
And the church should send teachers. You know I believe in conversion; but if the Mexicans I have seen are samples of Latin America's common people, they need teachers who have the patience of Christ a good deal more than they need flaming evangelists who make a big stir and soon pass on. Because these folks have just got to be made over, in their very minds. They are not ready for the preaching of the gospel until they have seen it lived. Long experience has made them doubtful of living saints, though plenty of them pray to dead ones.
This is the whole trouble, Mr. Drury, it seems to me. They've known only a church that had got off the track. Any religious work that reaches them now has almost to begin all over again. It has to undo their thinking about prayer and faith and God's love and human conduct and nearly every other Christian idea. They have a Christian vocabulary, but it means very little. They think they can buy religion, if they want it—any kind they want. And if they can't afford it, or don't want it, they don't quite think they'll be sent to hell for that, in spite of what the priest says. They think enough to be afraid, but not enough to be sure of anything. The missionaries have to teach them a new set of religious numerals, if you get what I mean, before it is any use to teach them the arithmetic of the gospel.
"I'm beginning to see that everything among the Latin Americans runs back to the need of Christian living. The wrong notion of religion has got them all twisted. I know Delafield is a long way from being Christian, but the difference between Delafield and such a pitiful mud village as I've seen lately has more to do with the sort of Christianity each place has been taught than with anything else whatever. But I never thought of that before."
As Pastor Drury read that letter his heart warmed within him. He said to himself, "John Wesley, Jr., is 'beginning to see,' he says. Please God he musn't stop now until he gets his eyes wide open. The thing is working out. He's groping around for something, and some day he'll find it."
CHRIST AND THE EAST
For a first trip the Southwestern expedition under Fred Finch's tutelage had been something of an exploit. Finch's report to Peter McDougall was more than verified by the order sheets, and the observant Peter, keeping track of things during the succeeding weeks, noticed with quiet satisfaction that not a single order Was canceled.
To himself he said, "The lad's a find, I'm thinking. From Finch's talk I should say he has not only a natural knack of selling, but he sells for keeps. And that's the idea, Peter. Anybody can sell if the buyer means to call off the order by the next mail. This John Wesley boy may go far, and I'll have to tell Albert Drury the next time I see him that he's done the house of Cummings a real favor."
The months went by. J.W. kept his wits about him, and on the road he stuck to his salesman's faith that goods are better sold by those who know exactly how they may be used and that they are never sold until they are bought. So he found favor in the sight of Peter McDougall. The proof of that is easy. Peter gave him a week off before the end of his first year.
Delafield looked better to the homecoming salesman than it had to the boy coming back from college. And the town was glad to see him. He meant something to not a few of its people, altogether outside the interest of the Farwells—and Pastor Drury—and Jeannette!
Deep Creek was his first port of call, after his first half-day at home. He had been welcomed with deep, quiet gladness by the home folks, and he had talked a little over the telephone with the preacher. Then time was a laggard until he could head the Farwell car toward Deep Creek and the old farm.
Jeannette's welcome was all that even he could ask, though, of course, just precisely what it was is none of our business. In the car, and by the fireplace in the Shenk living room, and around the farm, they considered many things, some of them not so personal as others. J.W. told the story of his life in Saint Louis and on the road; Jeannette listening like another Desdemona to the recital. And once again it was not the adventure which supplied the thrill, but the adventurer.
And Jeannette told him the news of Delafield. How Joe Carbrook and Marcia Dayne's wedding had been the most wonderful wedding ever seen in Delafield, with the town as proud of its one-time scapegrace as it was of the beautiful bride. How brother Marty had been finding many excuses of late for driving up from his circuit, and how he managed to see Alma Wetherell a good deal. How Alma was now head bookkeeper and cashier of the Emporium, the town's biggest store, and how she was such a dear girl. How Pastor Drury and Marty had become great friends. How the minister was not so well as usual, and people were getting to be a little worried about him. How the Delafield church had taken up tithing, and was not only doing a lot better financially, but in every other way. How Deep Creek was going to have a new minister, a friend whom Marty had met at the summer school for rural ministers, who would try to help the Deep Creek people get an up-to-date church building and learn to use it. How the Everyday Doctrines of Delafield had been first boosted and then forgotten, and now again several of them were being practiced in some quarters. And much more, though never to the wearing out of J.W.'s interest. Certainly not, the news being just what he wanted to know, and the reporter thereof being just the person he wanted to tell it to him.
One bit of news Jeannette did not tell, for the sufficient reason that she did not know it. Pastor Drury and Brother Marty had become great friends, but what Jeannette could not tell was the special bond of interest which was back of the fact. Marty had long been aware that for some reason the Delafield pastor was peculiarly concerned about J.W. Never did he guess Walter Drury's secret, but he knew well enough there was one.
These two, the town preacher and the young circuit rider, read to each other J.W.'s letters, and talked much about him and his experiences, and made J.W. in general the theme of many discussions.
"It has been good for the boy that he has had that border trip," said the pastor to Marty a few days before J.W. got back. "Don't you think so?"
Marty was, as ever, J.W.'s ardent and self-effacing chum. "I certainly do," he said. "He's growing, is J.W., and growing the right way. We need business men of just the quality that's showing in him."
The pastor hesitated a moment. Then he spoke: "Marty, when J.W. comes home I hope something will set him thinking about the outer world that has no word of our Christ. He hasn't seen it yet, not clearly; and you know that there isn't any hope for that world to get out of the depths until it gets the news of a Helper. I'm counting on you to help me with J.W. if the chance comes. Just between ourselves, you know."
"I'll do all I can, Mr. Drury; you may be sure of that," said Marty. And he did.
J.W.'s holiday brought several young people together who had not met for a long time. Marty came up again, and spent the day with J.W., all over town, from the store to the house and back again. In the evening Mrs. Farwell made a feast, to which, besides Marty, Jeannette and Alma and Pastor Drury were bidden. Mrs. Farwell was much more to Delafield than the best cook and the most remarkable housekeeper in the place, but her son insisted that she was these to begin with. Certainly, she had not been experimenting on the two J.W.'s all these years for nothing.
After dinner—talk. No need of any other game in that company at such a time. There was plenty to talk about, and all had their reasons for enjoying it. Naturally, J.W. must tell about himself. Letters are all very well, but they are no more than makeshifts, after all. He was modest enough about it, not having any special exploits to parade before their wondering eyes, but quite willing. His Western experiences being called for, he was soon telling, not of desert and cactus and irrigation, but of the people who had so taken his attention, the Mexicans.
"I believe," said he, "that we can do something really big down there. And it's our business. Nobody except American Christians will do it; nobody else can. Besides, the Mexicans are Christians in name, now. What they need is the reality. They are not impossible—just uncertain. All I heard and what little I saw made me believe they are suffering from bad leadership and ignorance more than from anything hopelessly wrong. They seem easy to get along with. The women are the most patient workers I ever heard of. And the poor Mexicans, the 'peons,' do want an end to fighting and banditry."
"Well, J.W.," Marty asked, "what's the first thing we ought to think about for Mexico?"
"I told you I don't know anything about Mexico, except at second-hand. But, I should say, schools. Schools are good for any land, don't you think, Mr. Drury? And in Mexico they are such great disturbers of the old slouching indifference. They will make the right kind of discontent. Schools bring other things; new ideas of health and sanitation, home improvement, social outlook, and all that. Then, with the schools, I guess, the straight gospel. The Mexicans won't get converted all at once, and they won't become like us, ever. But I'm about ready to say that whether missions are needed anywhere else or not, they surely are needed in Mexico. And Mexico is the first stepping-stone to South America; which is next on my list of the places that ought to have the whole scheme of Christian teaching and life."
"Yes," said Alma, "and you know, I suppose, that the beginning of our Panama Mission was an Epworth League Institute enterprise? Well, it was. California young people assumed the support of the first missionary sent there, and later he went on down to South America, with the same young people determined to take him on as their representative, just as they did in Panama."
"Where did you get that story?" J.W. wanted to know.
"Oh, I forgot," Alma answered him, laughing. "You haven't had time to read The Epworth Herald in Saint Louis."
"Yes, I have, young lady," J.W. retorted, "but I missed that. Anyway, it's on the right track. I think we've got to change the thinking of all Latin America about Christianity, if we can. Most of the men, they say, are atheists, made so very largely by their loss of faith in the church; and many of the women substitute an almost fierce devotion to the same church for what we think of as being genuine religion."
The minister spoke up just here. "I should think it would be pretty difficult to treat our United States Mexicans in one way, and those across the Rio Grande in another. We must evangelize on both sides of the river, but only on this side can we even attempt to Americanize."
"That's right," J.W. affirmed. "And even on this side we can't do what we may do in Delafield. The language is a big question, and it has two sides. But no matter what the difficulties, I'm for a great advance of missions and education, starting with Mexico and going all the way to Cape Horn."
"That's all very fine," interposed Marty, "but what about the rest of the world, J.W.? What about the world that has not even the beginning of Christian knowledge?" Marty had put the question on the urge of the moment, and not until it was out did he remember that Mr. Drury had asked him to help raise this very issue.
"Well," J.W. answered, slowly, "maybe that part of the world is worse, though I don't know. But we can't tackle everything. Latin America is an immense job by itself, and we have some real responsibility there; a sort of Christian Monroe Doctrine. Ought we to scatter our forces? The non-Christian world has its own religions, and has had them for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. What's the hurry just now? If we could do everything, we Protestant Christians, I mean, in this country and Britain, it might be different, but we can't. Why not concentrate?"
"Yes," Marty came back, "but not because Latin America is so nearly Christian. What about this atheism and superstition and ignorance; isn't it just a non-Christian civilization with Christian labels on some parts of it?"
"One thing I've heard," put in Jeannette, not that she wanted to argue, but she felt she ought to say something on J.W.'s side if she could, "that the religions of the Orient, at least, are really great religions, more suited to the minds of the people than any other. 'East is East, and West is West,' you know. But, of course, the people don't live up to the high levels of their beliefs. Americans don't, either."
Mr. Drury shot an amused yet admiring glance at Jeannette. What a loyal soul she was! Then said he: "The religions of the East are great religions, Jeannette. They represent the best that men can do. The Orient has a genius for religion, and it has produced far better systems than the West could have done. Some of the truth that we Western people get only in Christianity the thinkers of Asia worked out for themselves. But God was back of it all."
That suited J.W.'s present mood. "All right, then; let's clean up as we go—Delafield, Saint Louis, the Southwest, Mexico, Latin America; that's the logical order. Then the rest of the world."
Marty put in a protest here: "That won't do, old man. Your logic's lame. You want us to go into Mexico now, with all we've got. Your letters have said so, and you've said it again to-night. But we're not 'cleaning up as we go.' Look at Delafield; the town you've moved away from. Look at Saint Louis; the town where you make your living. Are they Christianized? Cleaned up? Yet you are ready for Mexico. No; you're all wrong, J.W. I don't believe the world's going to be saved the way you break up prairie sod, a field at a time, and let the rest alone. We've got to do our missionary work the way they feed famine sufferers. They don't give any applicant all he can eat, but they try to make the supply go 'round, giving each one a little. Remember, J.W., the rest of the world is as human as our western hemisphere."
"I know," admitted J.W. "And I don't say I've got the right of it. I'd have to see the Orient before I made up my mind. But those countries have waited a long while. A few more years wouldn't be any great matter."
Alma Wetherell now joined the opposition. It looked as though J.W. and Jeannette must stand alone, for the old people said nothing, though they listened with eager ears. Said Alma, "I think it would matter a lot. The more we do for one people, while ignoring all the others, the less we should care to drop a developing work to begin at the bottom somewhere else."
"There's something in that," J.W. conceded. "I'm not meaning to be stubborn. But I've had just a glimpse of the size of the missionary job in one little corner of the world. Even that is too big for us. We could put our whole missionary investment into Mexico without being able to do what is needed."
"The missionary job, as you call it, is too big, certainly, for our present resources," said the pastor. "Everybody knows that."
"Yes," said Marty, who wondered if Mr. Drury had forgotten their compact about J.W., "but why limit ourselves to our present resources? They are not all we could get, if the church came to believe in the bigness of her privilege. I'd like to see for myself, as J.W. says, but I can't. Why don't you get a real traveling job, and go about the world looking things over for us, old man?"
"Me?" J.W. said, sarcastically; "yes, that's a likely prospect. Just as I'm getting over being scared by a sample case. I'll do well to hold the job I've got."
Alma didn't know what Marty's game was, but she played up to his suggestion. "Why shouldn't you go?" she asked. "You've told us that Cummings hardware and tools are sold all over the world. Doesn't that mean salesmen? And aren't you a salesman? They have to send somebody; why shouldn't they pick on you some time?"
J.W. rose to the lure, for the moment all salesman. "Nothing in it, Alma; no chance at all. But I would like to show the world the civilizing values of good tools, and I'd go if I got the chance."
Jeannette's reaction was quicker than thinking; "Would you go half way around the world just for that?" she asked, with a hint of alarm.
"Why, yes, I would," said J.W., "that is, if you were willing."
Whereupon everybody laughed but Jeannette, whose pale cheeks flamed into sudden rosiness.
The minister came to her rescue. "It would be a good thing every way, if more laymen would see the realities of Oriental life and bring back an impartial report. Suppose you should be right, J.W., and we found that the Orient could wait until the western hemisphere had been thoroughly Christianized. Think how many thousands—perhaps millions—of dollars could be directed into more productive channels. I can see what a great influence such reports would have if they came from Christian laymen. We have learned to expect stories of complete failure when the ordinary traveler comes back; and maybe the missionaries have their bias too. But business men with Christian ideals—that would be different."
Now, all this was far from unpleasant to J.W. He detested posing, but why wouldn't it be worth something to have laymen report on missionary work? Of course, though, if the time ever came when the firm was willing to trust him abroad, he wouldn't have much chance to study missions. Business would have to come first. It was no less a dream for being an agreeable one.
"There's no danger of my going," he told them. "The Cummings people are not sending cub salesmen to promote their big Asiatic trade. What could they make by it?"
Then the talk drifted to the Carbrooks. Marty said, "Well, we've spoiled your scheme a little, J.W., right here in Delafield. Joe Carbrook and Marcia are in China by now, and I'd like to see both of 'em as they get down to work. You can't keep all our interest on this side of the Pacific so long as those two are on the other."
"No," said J.W., warmly, "and I don't want to. I'll help to back up those two missionaries wherever they go." And his thoughts went back to camp fire night at Cartwright Institute, when he had said to Joe Carbrook without suspecting the consequences, "Say, Joe; if you think you could be a doctor, why not a missionary doctor?"
Then he asked the company, "Just where have these missionary infants been sent?"
Nobody knew, exactly. They had the name of the town and the province, but the geography of China is not as yet familiar even to those who support the missions and missionaries of that vast, mysterious land.
The pastor thought it was two or three hundred miles inland from Foochow. "Anyhow," said he, "it is a good-sized town, of about one hundred thousand people or more, and Joe's hospital is the only one in the whole district. The man whose place he takes is home on furlough, and I've looked up his work in the Annual Report of the Foreign Missions Board. Six or eight years ago the hospital was a building of sun-dried brick, with a mud floor and accommodations for about seventy-five patients. He was running it on something like five dollars a day. But it is better now, costs more too. And there's a school attached, where Marcia has already begun to make herself necessary, or I'm much mistaken."
So the talk ran on, until the evening was far spent, and everybody wished there could be half a dozen such evenings before J.W. must go back to Saint Louis and the road.
No other opportunity offered, however, and all too soon for some people J.W. was gone again from Delafield.
Walter Drury, seeing his chance, set himself to follow up the talk of that one evening. It had given him a lead as to the next phase of the Experiment, and he wanted to try out the idea before anything else might happen.
So he wrote to his brother Albert in Saint Louis. "I know I'm a bother to you," the letter ran, "but you have always been generous, being your own unselfish self. It's about young Farwell, 'John Wesley, Jr.,' you know. I judge he's a boy with a fine business future, and I've found out from his father some of the reasons why he is making good. Now, I don't know much about business, but it seems to me that the very qualities which make J.W. a good salesman for a beginner would be profitable to his company if they sent him to their Oriental trade. He's young enough to learn something over there. My own interest is not on that side of the affair, but I know it would be out of the question to suggest his going unless the Cummings people could see a business advantage in it. If you think it is not asking too much, I wish you would talk to Mr. McDougall about it. Tell him what I have written, and what I told you long ago about J.W."
Albert Drury had unbounded confidence in his brother's sincerity and sense, so he lost no time in getting an interview with his friend McDougall.
"See here, Peter," said he, "I'll be frank with you; I know you think I'd better be if I'm to get anywhere."
"That's very true," said McDougall, with assumed severity.
"Well, then, read my brother's letter; and then tell me if he's wanting the impossible."
Peter McDougall read the letter twice. "No," he said, when he handed it back, "he's not wanting the impossible. He's given me an idea. I owe you something already, for finding this young fellow, and I'll tell you what I'm thinking of. Of course the boy isn't seasoned enough yet, but he's getting there fast. A couple of long trips, a few months under my own eye here in the office, and he'll be ready. Now, your brother has hinted at exactly what young Farwell is good for. That boy sells goods by getting over onto the buyer's side. And he knows tools—knew 'em before we hired him. Well, then, here's the idea; one big need of our foreign trade is to show our agencies what can really be done with American hardware and tools. It takes more than a salesman; and Farwell has the knack. So there you are. Tell your brother the boy shall have his chance."
A few months later McDougall sent for J.W. and put the whole proposal before him.
"But I'm not an expert, Mr. McDougall," J.W. protested. "I haven't the experience, and I might fall down completely in a new field like that."
"We're not looking for an expert," said McDougall, shortly. "You know what every user of our stuff ought to know; you can put yourself in his place; and you'll be a sort of missionary. How about it?"
At the word J.W.'s memory awoke, and he heard again what had been said in the living room at Delafield when he was last at home. A missionary! And here was the very chance they had all talked about.
"Of course I should like to go, if you think I'll do," he said.
Peter looked at him more kindly than was his wont. "My boy," he said, "I know something about you outside of business, though not much. And I think you'll do. Mind you, your missionary work will be tools and hardware, not the Methodist Church. You will have to show people who have their own ideas about tools how much more convenient our goods are; handier, lighter, more adaptable. What they need over there is modern stuff. It will help them to raise more crops and do better work and earn a better income. You've nothing to do with selling policies, finance, credits, and all that. Just be a tool and hardware missionary."
"Where had you thought of sending me?" asked J.W., still somewhat dazed.
"Oh, wherever we have agencies that you can use as bases: China, the Philippines, Malaysia, India. You will have to figure on a year or nearly that. And you mustn't stick to the ports or the big cities. Get hold of people who'll show you the country; the places where our goods are most needed and least known. Study the people and their tools. Work out better ways of doing things. Don't try to hustle the East, but remember that the East is doing a little hustling on its own account these days. And talk turkey to our agencies—when you're sure you have something to talk about."
The rest is detail. The trip determined on, preparations were hastened. A month before the date of starting J.W. had time for no more than a hurried visit to Delafield, to say good-by to the home folk and to the preacher whom he had come to think of as Timothy might have thought of Paul. Then he had something else to say to Jeannette. His prospects were becoming so promising that he could ask her a very definite question, and he dared to hope for a definite answer.
Jeannette, troubled at the thought of his long absence in strange lands, consoled herself by her promise, which was his promise also. As soon as he came home again they would be married. Brother Drury should officiate, assisted by "the Rev. Martin Luther Shenk, brother of the charming bride," as J.W. put it.
Walter Drury was not his usual alert self, J.W. thought, and it hurt him to see his much-loved friend touched even a little by the years. But the pastor brightened up, and grew visibly better as J.W. told him all his plans.
"Just think, Mr. Drury," he said with animation, "I'm to be a missionary, after all. Once long ago I remember you suggested I might go to China and see for myself the difference between their religion and ours; and now I'm going to China. Who knows, maybe I'll see Joe Carbrook at his work. And then I'm to go all over the East, to preach the gospel of better tools." Then he became thoughtful. "Don't you think that's almost as good as the gospel of better bodies—Joe's gospel?"
"Surely, I do," said the pastor, "if you and Joe preach in the same spirit, knowing that China won't be saved even by hospitals and modern hardware. They help. But remember our understanding; you have your chance now to see the religions of the East. Going right among the people, as you will, you can find out more in a week than the average tourist ever discovers. I'll give you the names of some people who will gladly help you. And we shall want a full report when you come back. God bless you, J.W."
It was a tired preacher who went to bed that night. This new adventure of his boy's; what would it mean to the Experiment? He had done his best to keep that long-ago pledge to himself. Not always had the project been easy; he could not control all its circumstances, but in the main it had gone well.
And now J.W. was in the last stage of the Experiment Walter Drury had contrived to shape its larger conditions, with the help of many friendly but unsuspecting conspirators. This tour in the interest of better tools was due mainly to his initiative. But he could do nothing more. The event was now out of his hands. The relaxed tension made him realize that his nerves were shaky, and he had a sense of great depression. But before he went to bed he pulled himself together long enough to write to five missionaries, including Joe Carbrook, whose fields were on or near the route J.W. would travel. He had told J.W. that he would let these men know of his coming, but he did more. To each one he said a word of appeal. "Don't argue much with this boy of mine; I want him to see it without too many second-hand opinions. Explain all you please, and let him get as near as he can to the people you are dealing with. If, as I hope, he gets a glimpse of the work's inner meaning, I shall be satisfied."
* * * * *
The first day which J.W. spent in Shanghai was a big day for him. Even amid the strangeness of the scene he felt almost at home. The people who had the Cummings agency had received their instructions, and were prepared to help him every way. He could begin an up-country trip at once if he wished. Then he met the first of the men to whom Pastor Drury had written, Mark Rutledge, and at once he saw that this well-groomed, alert young missionary, who used modern speech in deliberate but direct fashion, would be of immense service to him.
Rutledge received J.W.'s gospel of tools with almost boyish enthusiasm. "I've always said," he exclaimed, "that if the other business men of America had as much sense as the tobacco folks they would hasten the Christianizing of China by many a year. Not that tobacco is helping; far from it. But it's the idea of fitting their product to this particular market. And your house has evidently caught that idea. You must have a real sales manager in Saint Louis! Of course I'll help you all I can."
Some of the help which Mark Rutledge gave him was of a sort that J.W. could not rightly estimate at the time, but he knew it was good. As long as he stayed in Shanghai, and as often he came back to the city as a base, he and Rutledge were pretty frequently together. The missionary kept his own counsel as to the Drury letter, merely dropping a hint now and then, or a suggestion which fitted both the Cummings agency's program and the pastor's desire.
The inland trips for business purposes kept J.W. busy for weeks; he found himself in so utterly novel a situation that he saw he could not work out anything without careful study and expert Chinese cooperation. As he came and went he saw, under Rutledge's guidance, much of the inside of mission work. In Shanghai he found a Methodist publishing house, sending out literature all over China, as well as two monthly papers, one in Chinese and one in English. Many missionary boards had headquarters here. From Shanghai as a business center every form of missionary work was being promoted, reaching as far as the foothills of the Thibetan plateau. Hospital equipment was distributed, and school equipment, and supplies of every variety. He saw that it was the financial center too, and mission finance is a special science. Shanghai seemed to J.W. to be one of the great capitals of the missionary world.
Rutledge's own work, many sided as J.W. saw it was, had two aspects of special significance. Rutledge was sending back to America all the information he could gather from the whole field. With the skill of a trained reporter he showed the missionaries how to write so as to make a genuine story seem convincing, and how to subordinate the details to the importance of making a clear and single impression.
The other work of Rutledge's which caught J.W.'s eye was his activity in behalf of the young people of China. Until lately nothing at all had been done comparable to the specialized development of young people's work in America, but now the Epworth League was beginning to be utilized and adapted to Chinese ways. Funds were available—not much, but a beginning. Leaders were being trained. A larger measure of local, Chinese help was being employed.
J.W. asked Mark Rutledge about all this one day. "Isn't it going to make a difference with the work by and by, if you get so many natives into places of responsibility? Are they ready for it?"
"No," said Rutledge, "they're not. But we must make them ready. You haven't begun to see China yet, but already you can see that the country could never be 'evangelized,' even in the narrowest use of that word, by foreign missionaries. And it ought not to be."
"You mean that we Americans ought to consider our work in China as temporary?" J.W. asked.
Rutledge answered, "Frankly, I do, if you let me put my own meaning into 'temporary,' We must start things. And much that must be done in the long run has not yet been started. We must stay here beyond my life expectation or yours. But China will be Christianized by the Chinese, not by foreigners. As far ahead as we can see the work will have help from outside, but I honestly want the time to come when we missionaries will be looked upon as the foreign helpers of the Chinese Church; not, as now, controlling the work ourselves and enlisting the services of 'native helpers.'"
"Then tell me another thing," J.W. persisted. "Is our Christianity, as the Chinese get it, any advance on their own religion? Or is their religion all right, if they would work it as we hope they may work the Christian program?"
"That's two questions," said Rutledge, dryly, "but, after all, it is only one. Our Christianity as the Chinese get it is far ahead of the best they have, in ideals, in human values, everything, even if they were more consistent in responding to its claims than Christians are. The old religions—and China has several—are helpless. We are not killing off the old faiths. If we should get out to-morrow these would none the less die out in time, but then China would be left without any religion at all. Instead, she's going to have the Christian faith in a form that will accord with the genius of the Chinese mind. That's my sure confidence, or I wouldn't be here."
It was necessary that J.W. should run down the coast to Foochow, the base for his next operations in the hardware adventure. "I know I'm green," he said to Rutledge, "and I may be thinking of impossibilities, but do you suppose there'll be any chance for me to get up to Dr. Carbrook's place from Foochow? I've told you about him and his wife, and I'd rather see those two than anybody else in all the East."
"It's not impossible at all," Rutledge assured him. "Carbrook's post is not so very far from Foochow, as distances go in China, and Ralph Bellew at the college will help you."
"Yes, my pastor at home told me to be sure and call on him," said J.W., and took his leave of a man he would long remember.
The call of Professor Bellew was not delayed long after J.W. had found his bearings in Foochow, and the Professor's welcome was even more cordial than that of the Cummings agency, though these gentlemen were, of course, the soul of courtesy. If they were not so sure as Peter McDougall that J.W. or any other American could teach them anything about selling the Cummings line in China, at least they would not put anything in his way.
One important interior town, Yenping, they had hoped J.W. might visit, but unfortunately there was no one connected with the agency who could be sent with him. They understood that some of his missionary friends were ready to help him in the general enterprise, and perhaps they might be able to suggest something.
When the difficulty was stated to Professor Bellew he said: "Why, that's one of our stations. It is a little out of the way to go up to Dr. Carbrook's place on the way to Yenping, but we'll see that you get to both towns."
"That's certainly good of you, Professor," said J.W., gratefully. "I've told you about Joe Carbrook, and I can hardly wait until I get to him." As a matter of fact, he had told everybody about Joe Carbrook.
Professor Bellew was sympathetic. "I know," he said, "and I understand. When you come back, if we can manage the dates, you may find something here which you ought to see."
The Carbrook Hospital—it has another name in the annual reports, but this will identify it sufficiently for our purposes—spread itself all over the compound and beyond in its welcome to J.W. Joe and Marcia were first, and joyfullest. The school turned out to the last scholar, and even the hospital's "walking cases" insisted on having a share in the welcome to the foreign doctor's friend.
"Tell us what you are up to," said the Carbrooks, when they were back in the house after a sketchy inspection of the whole establishment; hospital, dispensary, school, chapel, and so forth. And, "Tell me what you are doing with it, now that you have the hospital you have been dreaming about so long," said J.W.
But J.W. told his story first, just to get it out of the way, as he said. Then he turned to Marcia and said, "How about it, 'Mrs. Carbrook'?"
"Well, J.W.," said Marcia, "that name is not so strange as it was. I'm feeling as if I had been married a long time, judging by the responsibilities, that are dumped on me just because I am the doctor's wife. And this doctor man of mine hardly knows whether to be happy or miserable. He's happy, because he has found the very place he wanted. And he's miserable because he ought to be learning the language and can't get away from the work that crowds in on him."
"And you yourself, Marcia," J.W. asked, "are you happy or miserable, or both?"
"She's as mixed up as I am, old man," Joe answered for her. "Talk about the language! I don't hanker after learning it, but I've got to, some time. If they would just let me be a sort of deaf-mute doctor I'd be much obliged. The work is fairly maddening. You know, it was a question of closing up this hospital or putting me in as a green hand. Of course there are the nurses, and a couple of students. But I'm glad they put me in; only, look at the job! Never a day without new patients. A steady stream at the out-clinic. Why, J.W., I've done operations alone here that at home they'd hardly let me hold sponges for. Had to do 'em."
"Well," J.W. commented, "isn't that what you came for?"
"It is," Marcia answered—these two had a queer way of speaking for each other—"and it would be a good plenty if the hospital were all. But we are putting up a new building to take the place of an adobe horror, and Joe has to buy bricks and deal with workmen and give advice and dispense medicine and do operations, all with the help of a none too sure interpreter. He's the busiest man, I do believe, between here and Foochow."
J.W. wanted to draw Dr. Joe out about the work in general. What of the evangelistic work, and the educational work, and all the rest.
But Dr. Joe would not rise to it. "I'll tell you honestly, J.W., I just don't know. Haven't had time to find out. When I got here I found people standing three deep around the hospital doors, some wanting help for themselves, and some anxious to bring relatives or friends. I was at work before anything was unpacked except my instruments. And I've been at it ever since. Everything else could wait, but all this human misery couldn't. And I don't know much of what the evangelistic value of it all will be. We have a Bible woman and a teacher in the school who are very devoted. They read and pray every day with the patients, and as for gratitude, I never expected to be thanked for what I did as I have been thanked here. I'll tell you one thing; I didn't dream a man could be so content in the midst of such a hurricane of work. I'm done to a standstill every day; I bump into difficulties and tackle responsibilities that I hadn't even heard of in medical school, though I haven't killed anybody yet. And all the time I remember how I used to wish I might be the only doctor between Siam and sunrise. I'm plenty near enough to that, in all conscience. The only doctor in this town of one hundred thousand, and a district around us so big that I'm afraid to measure it. On one side the next doctor is a good hundred miles away. Now, do you know how I feel? Oh, yes; insufficient until it hurts like the toothache, yet somehow as though I were carrying on here, not in place of the man who has gone home on furlough, but in place of Jesus Christ himself. You know I'm not irreverent; I might have been, but this has taken all of the temptation out of me. It is his work, not mine."
J.W. turned to Marcia again. "I thought you said this Joe of yours was miserable, I've seen him when he was enjoying himself pretty well, but I never saw him like this."
"I know," Marcia admitted, "and I didn't mean he was really unhappy. But it is a big strain, and there's no sign of its letting up until the regular doctor gets back."
The next day J.W. watched his old friend amid the press of duties which crowded the hours, and he marveled as much as the wretchedness of the patients as he did at the steady resourcefulness of the man whom he had known when he was Delafield's adventurous and spendthrift idler.
As he looked on, J.W. could understand something which had been a closed book to him before. No one could stand by and see this abjectness of need, this helplessness, this pathetic faith which was almost fatalistic in the foreign doctor's miraculous powers—it recalled that beseeching cry in the New Testament story, "Lord, if thou wilt thou canst"—without being deeply, poignantly glad that there were such men as Joe Carbrook. It was all very well to talk at long range about letting China and other places wait. But on the spot nobody could talk that way.
The visit might have lasted two weeks, instead of two days, and then the Carbrooks would have hung on and besought him to stay a little longer. Torture would not have drawn any admission from them, but back of all the joy in the work was a something that left them without words as J.W. and his little group from Foochow set out for the next stopping place. Just before the last silent hand-grips, J.W. told his friends about Jeannette and himself, and promised Joe a wedding present. "You see," he said, "I never sent you one when you were married, and I'd like to send you a double one now, for yourselves and for us. You send me word what it is you most need for the hospital, an X-ray outfit, or a sterilizer, or a thingamajig for making cultures, microscope included, and Jeannette and I will see that you get it. I'm a tither, you know, and my salary's been raised, and I want to do something to show what a fool I was before I knew what sort of a business you were really in out here. So don't be modest; you can't hurt my feelings!"
Back at Foochow in the course of the slow days which Chinese travel gives to those who go aside from the beaten path, Professor Bellew welcomed J.W. with eager warmth. "You're back just in time, if you can stay a few days; the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the college begins to-morrow."
J.W. had at least a week's business with the Cummings agents. He had found some conditions on his inland journey which called for much discussion. So he had time for sharing in a good deal of the celebration. It was something to marvel at, that a Christian college had been at work in this great city for forty years.
The president of the college and his wife started the proceedings with a formal reception, at which a Chinese orchestra furnished music outside the house, and Western musicians rendered more familiar selections in the parlors. Alumni flocked to the reception, men of every variety of occupation, but all one in their devotion to their Alma Mater. The next afternoon was given over to athletics, and the evening to a lecture, quite in the American fashion.
The third day being Sunday, J.W. listened to an American missionary in the morning, who spoke boldly of the prime need for a college like this if the youth of China were to be trained for the highest service to their country. At night he sat through nearly three hours of the most amazing testimony meeting he had ever seen. It was led by a Chinese who had been graduated from the college thirty years before. The eagerness, almost impatience, to confess what Jesus Christ and Christian education had meant to these Chinese leaders—for it was evident they were leaders—was a thing to stir the most sluggish Christian pulse. J.W.'s mind took him back to a memorable love feast at Cartwright Institute, when Joe Carbrook had made his first confession of and surrender to Jesus Christ, and it seemed to him that the likeness between these two so different gatherings was far more real than all their contrasts.
On Monday the anniversary banquet brought the American consul, a representative of the provincial governor, and many other dignitaries. And on Tuesday the students put on a pageant which illustrated in gorgeousness of color and costume and accessories the history of the college. Besides all this pomp and circumstance there was a wonderful industrial exhibit. The president of China sent a scroll, as did also the prime minister. Former students in the cities of China, from Peking to Amoy, sent subscriptions amounting to twenty-five thousand dollars for new buildings, and other old students in the Philippines sent a second twenty-five thousand dollars.
All of which stirred J.W. to the very soul. Here was a Christian college older than many in America. Its results could not be measured by any visible standards, yet he had seen graduates of the school and students who did not stay long enough to graduate, men of light and leading, men of wealth and station, officials, men in whom the spirit of the new China burned, Christian workers; and all these bore convincing testimony that this college had been the one great mastering influence of their lives. A Christian college—in China!
J.W. thought of it all and said to himself: "I wonder if I am the same individual as he who not so many months ago was talking about the good sense of letting China wait indefinitely for Christ? Anyhow, somebody has had better sense than that every day of the last forty years!"
The "tour of the tools" was teaching J.W. more than he could teach the merchants of Asia. And yet he was doing no little missionary work, as evidenced both in his own reports to Peter McDougall, and still more in the reports which went to that observant gentleman after J.W. had moved on from any given place. The Cummings Hardware Corporation may be without a soul, as corporations are known to be, but it has many eyes.
These eyes followed J.W.'s progress from Shanghai to Foochow, to Hong Kong, to Manila. They observed how he studied artisans and their ways with tools, and the ways of builders with house fittings, and the various devices with which in field and garden the toilers set themselves to their endless labor. As the eyes of the Cummings organization saw these things, the word went back across the water to Saint Louis, and Peter McDougall took credit to himself for a commendable shrewdness.
But the ever-watchful eyes had no instructions to report on the tool missionary's other activities, and therefore no report was made. None the less they saw, and wondered, and thought that there was something back of it all. There was more back of it than they could have guessed.
For J.W. had come to a new zest for both of his quests. The business which had brought him into the East was daily becoming more fascinating in its possibilities and promise. In even greater measure the interests which belong especially to this chronicle were taking on a new importance. Everywhere he went he sought out the missions and the missionaries. He plied the workers with question on question until they told him all the hopes and fears and needs and longings which often they hesitated to put into their official letters to the Boards.
In Manila he saw, after a little more than two decades of far from complete missionary occupation, the signs that a Christian civilization was rising. The schools and churches and hospitals and other organization work established in Manila were proof that all through the islands the everyday humdrum of missionary service was going forward, perhaps without haste, but surely without rest.
When he came to Singapore, that traffic corner to which all the sea roads of the East converge, he heard the story of a miracle, and then he saw the miracle itself, the Anglo-Chinese College.
They told him what it meant, not the missionaries only, but the Chinese merchants who controlled the Cummings line for all the archipelago, and Sumatra planters, and British officials, and business men from Malaysian trade centers whose names he had never before heard.
The teacher who put himself at J.W.'s service was one of the men to whom Pastor Drury had written his word of appeal on J.W.'s behalf. He respected it altogether, and the more because he well knew that here was no need for mere talk. A visitor with eyes and ears could come to his own conclusions. If the college were not its own strongest argument, no words could strengthen it.
The college had been started by intrepid men who had no capital but faith and an overmastering sense of duty. That was a short generation ago. Now J.W. saw crowded halls and students with purposeful faces, and he heard how, at first by the hundreds and now by thousands, the product of this school was spreading a sense of Christian life-values through all the vast island and ocean spaces from Rangoon to New Guinea, and from Batavia to Sulu.
But it may as well be told that, even more than China, India made the deepest impress on the mind and heart of our tool-traveler. From the moment when he landed in Calcutta to the moment when he watched the low coasts of the Ganges delta merge into the horizon far astern, India would not let him alone. He saw poverty such as could scarcely be described, and religious rites the very telling of which might sear the tongue. If China's poor had a certain apathy which seemed like poise, even in their wretchedness, not so India's, but, rather, a slow-moving misery, a dull progress toward nothing better, with only nothingness and its empty peace at last.
Once in Calcutta, and his business plans set going, he started out to find some of the city's Christian forces. They were not easy to find. As in every Oriental city, missionary work is relatively small. Indeed, J. W. began to think that this third city of Asia had little religion of any sort.
He had been prepared in part for the first meager showing of mission work. On shipboard he had encountered the usual assortment of missionary critics; the unobservant, the profane, the superior, the loose-living, and all that tribe. The first of them he had met on the second day out from San Francisco, and every boat which sailed the Eastern seas appeared to carry its complement of self-appointed and all-knowing enemies of the whole missionary enterprise. While steaming up the Bay of Bengal, the anti-mission chorus appeared at its critical best. J.W. was told as they neared Calcutta that the Indian Christian was servile, and slick and totally untrustworthy. Never had these expert observers seen a genuine convert, but only hypocrites, liars, petty thieves, and grafters.
In spite of it all, at last he found the Methodist Mission, and it was not so small, when once you saw the whole of it. By great good fortune his instructions from home ordered him up country as far as Cawnpore. And to his delight he met a Methodist bishop, one of the new ones, who was setting out with a party for the Northwest. So, on the bishop's most cordial invitation, he joined himself to the company, and learned in a day or two from experts how to make the best of India's rather trying travel conditions.