The Reverend Elmer Gantry was in his oak and Spanish leather study at the great new Wellspring Church.
The building was of cheerful brick, trimmed with limestone. It had Gothic windows, a carillon in the square stone tower, dozens of Sunday School rooms, a gymnasium, a social room with a stage and a motion-picture booth, an electric range in the kitchen, and over it all a revolving electric cross and a debt.
But the debt was being attacked. Elmer had kept on the professional church-money-raiser whom he had employed during the campaign for the building fund. This financial crusader was named Emmanuel Navitsky; he was said to be the descendant of a noble Polish Catholic family converted to Protestantism; and certainly he was a most enthusiastic Christian — except possibly on Passover Eve. He had raised money for Presbyterian Churches, Y. M. C. A. buildings, Congregational Colleges, and dozens of other holy purposes. He did miracles with card indices of rich people; and he is said to have been the first ecclesiastical go-getter to think of inviting Jews to contribute to Christian temples.
Yes, Emmanuel would take care of the debt, and Elmer could give himself to purely spiritual matters.
He sat now in his study, dictating to Miss Bundle. He was happy in the matter of that dowdy lady, because her brother, a steward in the church, had recently died, and he could presently get rid of her without too much discord.
To him was brought the card of Loren Larimer Dodd, M. A., D. D., LL. D., president of Abernathy College, an institution of Methodist learning.
“Hm,” Elmer mused. “I bet he’s out raising money. Nothing doing! What the devil does he think we are!” and aloud: “Go out and bring Dr. Dodd right in, Miss Bundle. A great man! A wonderful educator! You know — president of Abernathy College!”
Looking her admiration at a boss who had such distinguished callers, Miss Bundle bundled out.
Dr. Dodd was a florid man with a voice, a Kiwanis pin, and a handshake.
“Well, well, well, Brother Gantry, I’ve heard so much of your magnificent work here that I ventured to drop in and bother you for a minute. What a magnificent church you have created! It must be a satisfaction, a pride! It’s — magnificent!”
“Thanks, Doctor. Mighty pleased to meet you. Uh. Uh. Uh. Visiting Zenith?”
“Well, I’m, as it were, on my rounds.”
(“Not a cent, you old pirate!”) “Visiting the alumni, I presume.”
“In a way. The fact is I—”
(“Not one damn’ cent. My salary gets raised next!”)
“— was wondering if you would consent to my taking a little time at your service Sunday evening to call to the attention of your magnificent congregation the great work and dire needs of Abernathy. We have such a group of earnest young men and women — and no few of the boys going into the Methodist ministry. But our endowment is so low, and what with the cost of the new athletic field — though I am delighted to be able to say our friends have made it possible to create a really magnificent field, with a fine cement stadium — but it has left us up against a heart-breaking deficit. Why, the entire chemistry department is housed in two rooms in what was a cowshed! And —
“Can’t do it, Doctor. Impossible. We haven’t begun to pay for this church. Be as much as my life is worth to go to my people with a plea for one extra cent. But possibly in two years from now — Though frankly,” and Elmer laughed brightly, “I don’t know why the people of Wellspring should contribute to a college which hasn’t thought enough of Wellspring’s pastor to give him a Doctor of Divinity degree!”
The two holy clerks looked squarely at each other, with poker faces.
“Of course, Doctor,” said Elmer, “I’ve been offered the degree a number of times, but by small, unimportant colleges, and I haven’t cared to accept it. So you can see that this is in no way a hint that I would LIKE such a degree. Heaven forbid! But I do know it might please my congregation, make them feel Abernathy was their own college, in a way.”
Dr. Dodd remarked serenely, “Pardon me if I smile! You see I had a double mission in coming to you. The second part was to ask you if you would honor Abernathy by accepting a D. D.!”
They did not wink at each other.
Elmer gloated to himself, “And I’ve heard it cost old Mahlon Potts six hundred bucks for his D. D.! Oh, yes, Prexy, we’ll begin to raise money for Abernathy in two years — we’ll BEGIN!”
The chapel of Abernathy College was full. In front were the gowned seniors, looking singularly like a row of arm-chairs covered with dust-cloths. On the platform, with the president and the senior members of the faculty, were the celebrities whose achievements were to be acknowledged by honorary degrees.
Besides the Reverend Elmer Gantry, these distinguished guests were the Governor of the state — who had started as a divorce lawyer but had reformed and enabled the public service corporations to steal all the water-power in the state; Mr. B. D. Swenson, the automobile manufacturer, who had given most of the money for the Abernathy football stadium; and the renowned Eva Evaline Murphy, author, lecturer, painter, musician, and authority on floriculture, who was receiving a Litt. D. for having written (gratis) the new Abernathy College Song:
We’ll think of thee where’er we be,
On plain or mountain, town or sea,
Oh, let us sing how round us clings,
Dear Abernathy, thoooooooooughts — of — thee.
President Dodd was facing Elmer, and shouting: “— and now we have the privilege of conferring the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon one than whom no man in our honored neighboring state of Winnemac has done more to inculcate sound religious doctrine, increase the power of the church, uphold high standards of eloquence and scholarship, and in his own life give such an example of earnestness as is an inspiration to all of us!”
They cheered — and Elmer had become the Reverend Dr. Gantry.
It was a great relief at the Rotary Club. They had long felt uncomfortable in calling so weighty a presence “Elmer,” and now, with a pride of their own in his new dignity, they called him “Doc.”
The church gave him a reception and raised his salary to seventy-five hundred dollars.
The Rev. Dr. Gantry was the first clergyman in the state of Winnemac, almost the first in the country, to have his services broadcast by radio. He suggested it himself. At that time, the one broadcasting station in Zenith, that of the Celebes Gum and Chicle Company, presented only jazz orchestras and retired sopranos, to advertise the renowned Jolly Jack Gum. For fifty dollars a week Wellspring Church was able to use the radio Sunday mornings from eleven to twelve-thirty. Thus Elmer increased the number of his hearers from two thousand to ten thousand — and in another pair of years it would be a hundred thousand.
Eight thousand radio-owners listening to Elmer Gantry —
A bootlegger in his flat, coat off, exposing his pink silk shirt, his feet up on the table. . . . The house of a small-town doctor, with the neighbors come in to listen — the drug-store man, his fat wife, the bearded superintendent of schools. . . . Mrs. Sherman Reeves of Royal Ridge, wife of one of the richest young men in Zenith, listening in a black-and-gold dressing-gown, while she smoked a cigarette. . . . The captain of a schooner, out on Lake Michigan, hundreds of miles away, listening in his cabin. . . . The wife of a farmer in an Indiana valley, listening while her husband read the Sears–Roebuck catalogue and sniffed. . . . A retired railway conductor, very feeble, very religious. . . . A Catholic priest, in a hospital, chuckling a little. . . . A spinster school-teacher, mad with loneliness, worshiping Dr. Gantry’s virile voice. . . . Forty people gathered in a country church too poor to have a pastor. . . . A stock actor in his dressing-room, fagged with an all-night rehearsal.
All of them listening to the Rev. Dr. Elmer Gantry as he shouted:
“— and I want to tell you that the fellow who is eaten by ambition is putting the glories of this world before the glories of Heaven! Oh, if I could only help you to understand that it is humility, that it is simple loving kindness, that it is tender loyalty, which alone make the heart glad! Now, if you’ll let me tell a story: It reminds me of two Irishmen named Mike and Pat —”
For years Elmer had had a waking nightmare of seeing Jim Lefferts sitting before him in the audience, scoffing. It would be a dramatic encounter and terrible; he wasn’t sure but that Jim would speak up and by some magic kick him out of the pulpit.
But when, that Sunday morning, he saw Jim in the third row, he considered only, “Oh, Lord, there’s Jim Lefferts! He’s pretty gray. I suppose I’ll have to be nice to him.”
Jim came up afterward to shake hands. He did not look cynical; he looked tired; and when he spoke, in a flat prairie voice, Elmer felt urban and urbane and superior.
“Hello, Hell-cat,” said Jim.
“Well, well, well! Old Jim Lefferts! Well, by golly! Say, it certainly is a mighty great pleasure to see you, my boy! What you doing in this neck of the woods?”
“Looking up a claim for a client.”
“What you doing now, Jim?”
“I’m practising law in Topeka.”
“Doing pretty well?”
“Oh, I can’t complain. Oh, nothing extra special. I was in the state senate for a term though.”
“That’s fine! That’s fine! Say, how long gonna be in town?”
“Oh, ‘bout three days.”
“Say, want to have you up to the house for dinner; but doggone it, Cleo — that’s my wife — I’m married now — she’s gone and got me all sewed up with a lot of dates — you know how these women are — me, I’d rather sit home and read. But sure got to see you again. Say, gimme a ring, will you? — at the house (find it in the tel’phone book) or at my study here in the church.”
“Yuh, sure, you bet. Well, glad to seen you.”
“You bet. Tickled t’ death seen you, old Jim!”
Elmer watched Jim plod away, shoulders depressed, a man discouraged.
“And that,” he rejoiced, “is the poor fish that tried to keep me from going into the ministry!” He looked about his auditorium, with the organ pipes a vast golden pyramid, with the Chubbuck memorial window vivid in ruby and gold and amethyst. “And become a lawyer like him, in a dirty stinking little office! Huh! And he actually made fun of me and tried to hold me back when I got a clear and definite Call of God! Oh, I’ll be good and busy when he calls up, you can bet on that!”
Jim did not telephone.
On the third day Elmer had a longing to see him, a longing to regain his friendship. But he did not know where Jim was staying; he could not reach him at the principal hotels.
He never saw Jim Lefferts again, and within a week he had forgotten him, except as it was a relief to have lost his embarrassment before Jim’s sneering — the last bar between him and confident greatness.
It was in the summer of 1924 that Elmer was granted a three-months leave, and for the first time Cleo and he visited Europe.
He had heard the Rev. Dr. G. Prosper Edwards say, “I divide American clergymen into just two classes — those who could be invited to preach in a London church, and those who couldn’t.” Dr. Edwards was of the first honorable caste, and Elmer had seen him pick up great glory from having sermonized in the City Temple. The Zenith papers, even the national religious periodicals, hinted that when Dr. Edwards was in London, the entire population from king to navvies had galloped to worship under him, and the conclusion was that Zenith and New York would be sensible to do likewise.
Elmer thoughtfully saw to it that he should be invited also. He had Bishop Toomis write to his Wesleyan colleagues, he had Rigg and William Dollinger Styles write to their Nonconformist business acquaintances in London, and a month before he sailed he was bidden to address the celebrated Brompton Road Chapel, so that he went off in a glow not only of adventure but of message-bearing.
Dr. Elmer Gantry was walking the deck of the Scythia, a bright, confident, manly figure in a blue suit, a yachting cap, and white canvas shoes, swinging his arms and beaming pastorally on his fellow athletic maniacs.
He stopped at the deck chairs of a little old couple — a delicate blue-veined old lady, and her husband, with thin hands and a thin white beard.
“Well, you folks seem to be standing the trip pretty good — for old folks!” he roared.
“Yes, thank you very much,” said the old lady.
He patted her knee, and boomed, “If there’s anything I can do to make things nice and comfy for you, mother, you just holler! Don’t be afraid to call on me. I haven’t advertised the fact — kind of fun to travel what they call incognito — but fact is, I’m a minister of the gospel, even if I am a husky guy, and it’s my pleasure as well as my duty to help folks anyway I can. Say, don’t you think it’s just about the loveliest thing about this ocean traveling, the way folks have the leisure to get together and exchange ideas? Have you crossed before?”
“Oh, yes, but I don’t think I ever shall again,” said the old lady.
“That’s right — that’s right! Tell you how I feel about it, mother.” Elmer patted her hand. “We’re Americans, and while it’s a fine thing to go abroad maybe once or twice — there’s nothing so broadening as travel, is there! — still, in America we’ve got a standard of decency and efficiency that these poor old European countries don’t know anything about, and in the long run the good old U. S. A. is the place where you’ll find your greatest happiness — especially for folks like us, that aren’t any blooming millionaires that can grab off a lot of castles and those kind of things and have a raft of butlers. You bet! Well, just holler when I can be of any service to you. So long, folks! Got to do my three miles!”
When he was gone, the little, delicate old lady said to her husband:
“Fabian, if that swine ever speaks to me again, I shall jump overboard! He’s almost the most offensive object I have ever encountered! Dear — How many times have we crossed now?”
“Oh, I’ve lost track. It was a hundred and ten two years ago.”
“Darling, don’t be so snooty.”
“But isn’t there a law that permits one to kill people who call you ‘Mother’?”
“Darling, the Duke calls you that!”
“I know. He does. That’s what I hate about him! Sweet, do you think fresh air is worth the penalty of being called ‘Mother’? The next time this animal stops, he’ll call you ‘Father’!”
“Only once, my dear!”
Elmer considered, “Well, I’ve given those poor old birds some cheerfulness to go on with. By golly, there’s nothing more important than to give people some happiness and faith to cheer them along life’s dark pathway.”
He was passing the veranda café. At a pale green table was a man who sat next to Elmer in the dining salon. With him were three men unknown, and each had a whisky-and-soda in front of him.
“Well, I see you’re keeping your strength up!” Elmer said forgivingly.
“Sure, you betcha,” said his friend of the salon. “Don’t you wanta sit down and have a jolt with us?”
Elmer sat, and when the steward stood at ruddy British attention, he gave voice:
“Well, of course, being a preacher, I’m not a big husky athalete like you boys, so all I can stand is just a ginger ale.” To the steward: “Do you keep anything like that, buddy, or have you only got hooch for big strong men?”
When Elmer explained to the purser that he would be willing to act as chairman of the concert, with the most perspiratory regret the purser said that the Rt. Hon. Lionel Smith had, unfortunately, already been invited to take the chair.
Cleo had not been more obnoxiously colorless than usual, but she had been seasick, and Elmer saw that it had been an error to bring her along. He had not talked to her an hour all the way. There had been so many interesting and broadening contacts; the man from China, who gave him enough ideas for a dozen missionary sermons; the professor from Higgins Presbyterian Institute, who explained that no really up-to-date scientist accepted evolution; the pretty journalist lady who needed consolation.
But now, alone with Cleo in the compartment of a train from Liverpool to London, Elmer made up for what she might have considered neglect by explaining the difficult aspects of a foreign country:
“Heh! English certainly are behind the times! Think of having these dingy coops instead of a Pullman car, so you can see your fellow-passengers and get acquainted. Just goes to show the way this country is still riddled with caste.
“Don’t think so much of these towns. Kind of pretty, cottages with vines and all that, but you don’t get any feeling that they’re up and coming and forward-looking, like American burgs. I tell you there’s one thing — and don’t know’s I’ve ever seen anybody bring this out — I might make a sermon out of it — one of the big advantages of foreign travel is, it makes you a lot more satisfied with being an American!
“Here we are, coming into London, I guess. Cer’nly is smoky, isn’t it.
“Well, by golly, so THIS is what they call a depot in London! Well, I don’t think much of it! Just look at all those dinky little trains. Why, say, an American engineer would be ashamed to take advantage of child-sized trains like them! And no marble anywhere in the depot!”
The page who took their bags up to their room in the Savoy was a brisk and smiling boy with fabulous pink cheeks.
“Say, buddy,” said the Rev. Dr. Gantry, “what do you pull down here?”
“Sorry, sir, I don’t think I quite understand, sir.”
“Whadda you make? How much do they pay you?”
“Oh. Oh, they pay me very decently, sir. Is there anything else I can do, sir? Thank you, sir.”
When the page was gone, Elmer complained, “Yuh, fine friendly kid THAT bell-boy, is, and can’t hardly understand the English language! Well, I’m glad we’re seeing the Old Country, but if folks aren’t going to be any friendlier than HE is, I see where we’ll be mighty darn glad to get back. Why, say, if he’d of been an American bell-boy, we’d of jawed along for an hour, and I’d of learned something. Well, come on, come on! Get your hat on, and let’s go out and give the town the once-over.”
They walked along the Strand.
“Say,” Elmer said portentously, “do you notice that? The cops got straps under their chins! Well, well, that certainly is different!”
“Yes, isn’t it!” said Cleo.
“But I don’t think so much of this street. I always heard it was a famous one, but these stores — why, say, we got a dozen streets in Zenith, say nothing of N’ York, that got better stores. No git up and git to these foreigners. Certainly does make a fellow glad he’s an American!”
They came, after exploring Swan & Edgar’s, to St. James’s Palace.
“Now,” said Elmer knowingly, “that certainly is an ancient site. Wonder what it is? Some kind of a castle, I guess.”
To a passing policeman: “Say, excuse me, Cap’n, but could you tell me what that brick building is?”
“St. James’s Palace, sir. You’re an American? The Prince of Wales lives there, sir.”
“Is that a fact! D’you hear that, Cleo? Well, sir, that’s certainly something to remember!”
When he regarded the meager audience at Brompton Road Chapel, Elmer had an inspiration.
All the way over he had planned to be poetic in his first London sermon. He was going to say that it was the strong man, the knight in armor, who was most willing to humble himself before God; and to say also that Love was the bow on life’s dark cloud, and the morning and evening star, both. But in a second of genius he cast it away, and reflected, “No! What they want is a good, pioneering, roughneck American!”
And that he was, splendidly.
“Folks,” he said, “it’s mighty nice of you to let a plain American come and bring his message to you. But I hope you don’t expect any Oxford College man. All I’ve got to give you — and may the dear Lord help my feebleness in giving you even that — is the message that God reigns among the grim frontiersmen of America, in cabin and trackless wild, even as he reigns here in your magnificent and towering city.
“It is true that just at the present moment, through no virtue of my own, I am the pastor of a church even larger than your beautiful chapel here. But, ah, I long for the day when the general superintendent will send me back to my own beloved frontier, to — Let me try, in my humble way, to give you a picture of the work I knew as a youth, that you may see how closely the grace of God binds your world-compelling city to the humblest vastnesses.
“I was the pastor — as a youngster, ignorant of everything save the fact that the one urgent duty of the preacher is to carry everywhere the Good News of the Atonement — of a log chapel in a frontier settlement called Schoenheim. I came at nightfall, weary and anhungered, a poor circuit-rider, to the house of Barney Bains, a pioneer, living all alone in his log cabin. I introduced myself. ‘I am Brother Gantry, the Wesleyan preacher,” I said. Well, he stared at me, a wild look in his eyes, beneath his matted hair, and slowly he spoke:
“‘Brother,’ he said, ‘I ain’t seen no strangers for nigh onto a year, and I’m mighty pleased to see you.’
“‘You must have been awfully lonely, friend,’ I said.
“‘No, sir, not me!’ he said.
“‘How’s that?’ I said.
“‘Because Jesus has been with me all the time!’”
They almost applauded.
They told him afterward that he was immense, and invited him to address them whenever he returned to London.
“Wait,” he reflected, “till I get back to Zenith and tell old Potts and Hickenlooper THAT!”
As they rode to the hotel on the ‘bus, Cleo sighed, “Oh, you were wonderful! But I never knew you had such a wild time of it in your first pastorate.”
“Oh, well, it was nothing. A man that’s a real man has to take the rough with the smooth.”
He stood impatiently on a corner of the Rue de la Paix, while Cleo gaped into the window of a perfumer. (She was too well trained to dream of asking him to buy expensive perfume.) He looked at the façades in the Place Vendôme.
“Not much class — too kind of plain,” he decided.
A little greasy man edged up to him, covertly sliding toward him a pack of postcards, and whispered, “Lovely cards — only two francs each.”
“Oh,” said Elmer intelligently, “you speak English.”
“Sure. All language.”
Then Elmer saw the topmost card and he was galvanized.
“Whee! Golly! Two francs apiece?” He seized the pack, gloating — But Cleo was suddenly upon him, and he handed back the cards, roaring, “You get out of here or I’ll call a cop! Trying to sell obscene pictures — and to a minister of the gospel! Cleo, these Europeans have dirty minds!”
It was on the steamer home that he met and became intimate with J. E. North, the renowned vice-slayer, executive secretary of the National Association for the Purification of Art and the Press — affectionately known through all the evangelical world as “the Napap.” Mr. North was not a clergyman (though he was a warm Presbyterian layman), but no clergyman in the country had more furiously pursued wickedness, more craftily forced congressmen, through threats in their home districts, to see legislation in the same reasonable manner as himself. For several sessions of Congress he had backed a bill for a federal censorship of all fiction, plays, and moving pictures, with a penitentiary sentence for any author mentioning adultery even by implication, ridiculing prohibition, or making light of any Christian sect or minister.
The bill had always been defeated, but it was gaining more votes in every session . . . .
Mr. North was a tight-mouthed, thin gentleman. He liked the earnestness, uprightness, and vigor of the Reverend Dr. Gantry, and all day they walked the deck or sat talking — anywhere save in the smoking-room, where fools were befouling their intellects with beer. He gave Elmer an inside view of the great new world of organized opposition to immorality; he spoke intimately of the leaders of that world — the executives of the Anti–Saloon League, the Lord’s Day Alliance, the Watch and Ward Society, the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals — modern St. Johns, armed with card indices.
He invited Elmer to lecture for him.
“We need men like you, Dr. Gantry,” said Mr. North, “men with rigid standards of decency, and yet with a physical power which will indicate to the poor misguided youth of this awful flask-toting age that morality is not less but more virile than immorality. And I think your parishioners will appreciate your being invited to address gatherings in places like New York and Chicago now and then.”
“Oh, I’m not looking for appreciation. It’s just that if I can do anything in my power to strike a blow at the forces of evil,” said Elmer, “I shall be most delighted to help you.”
“Do you suppose you could address the Detroit Y. M. C. A. on October fourth?”
“Well, it’s my wife’s birthday, and we’ve always made rather a holiday of it — we’re proud of being an old-fashioned homey family — but I know that Cleo wouldn’t want that to stand in the way of my doing anything I can to further the Kingdom.”
So Elmer came, though tardily, to the Great Idea which was to revolutionize his life and bring him eternal and splendid fame.
That shabby Corsican artillery lieutenant and author, Bonaparte, first conceiving that he might be the ruler of Europe — Darwin seeing dimly the scheme of evolution — Paolo realizing that all of life was nothing but an irradiation of Francesca — Newton pondering on the falling apple — Paul of Tarsus comprehending that a certain small Jewish sect might be the new religion of the doubting Greeks and Romans — Keats beginning to write “The Eve of St. Agnes”— none of these men, transformed by a Great Idea from mediocrity to genius, was more remarkable than Elmer Gantry of Paris, Kansas, when he beheld the purpose for which the heavenly powers had been training him.
He was walking the deck — but only in the body, for his soul was soaring among the stars — he was walking the deck alone, late at night, clenching his fists and wanting to shout as he saw it all clearly.
He would combine in one association all the moral organizations in America — perhaps, later, in the entire world. He would be the executive of that combination; he would be the super-president of the United States, and some day the dictator of the world.
Combine them all. The Anti–Saloon League, the W. C. T. U., and the other organizations fighting alcohol. The Napap and the other Vice Societies doing such magnificent work in censoring unmoral novels and paintings and motion pictures and plays. The Anti–Cigarette League. The associations lobbying for anti-evolution laws in the state legislatures. The associations making so brave a fight against Sunday baseball, Sunday movies, Sunday golfing, Sunday motoring, and the other abominations whereby the Sabbath was desecrated and the preachers’ congregations and collections were lessened. The fraternities opposing Romanism. The societies which gallantly wanted to make it a crime to take the name of the Lord in vain or to use the nine Saxon physiological monosyllables. And all the rest.
Combine the lot. They were pursuing the same purpose — to make life conform to the ideals agreed upon by the principal Christian Protestant denominations. Divided, they were comparatively feeble; united, they would represent thirty million Protestant church-goers; they would have such a treasury and such a membership that they would no longer have to coax Congress and the state legislatures into passing moral legislation, but in a quiet way they would merely state to the representatives of the people what they wanted, and get it.
And the head of this united organization would be the Warwick of America, the man behind the throne, the man who would send for presidents, of whatever party, and give orders . . . and that man, perhaps the most powerful man since the beginning of history, was going to be Elmer Gantry. Not even Napoleon or Alexander had been able to dictate what a whole nation should wear and eat and say and think. That, Elmer Gantry was about to do.
“A BISHOP? ME? A Wes Toomis? Hell, don’t be silly! I’m going to be the emperor of America — maybe of the world. I’m glad I’ve got this idea so early, when I’m only forty-three. I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” Elmer exulted. “Now let’s see: The first step is to kid this J. S. North along, and do whatever he wants me to — until it comes time to kick him out — and get a church in New York, so they’ll know I’m A-1. . . . My God, and Jim Lefferts tried to keep me from becoming a preacher!”
“— and I stood,” Elmer was explaining, in the pulpit of Wellspring Church, “there on the Roo deluh Pay in Paris, filled almost to an intolerable historical appreciation of those aged and historical structures, when suddenly up to me comes a man obviously a Frenchman.
“Now to me, of course, any man who is a countryman of Joan of Arc and of Marshal Foch is a friend. So when this man said to me, ‘Brother, would you like to have a good time tonight?’ I answered — though truth to tell I did not like his looks entirely — I said, ‘Brother, that depends entirely on what you mean by a good time’— he spoke English.
“‘Well,’ he said, ‘I can take you places where you can meet many pretty girls and have fine liquor to drink.’
“Well, I had to laugh. I think I was more sorry for him than anything else. I laid my hand on his shoulder and I said, ‘Brother, I’m afraid I can’t go with you. I’m already dated up for a good time this evening.’
“‘How’s that?’ he said. ‘And what may you be going to do?’
“‘I’m going,’ I said, ‘back to my hotel to have dinner with my dear wife, and after that,’ I said, ‘I’m going to do something that you may not regard as interesting but which is my idea of a dandy time! I’m going to read a couple of chapters of the Bible aloud, and say my prayers, and go to bed! And now,’ I said, ‘I’ll give you exactly three seconds to get out of here, and if you’re in my sight after that — well, it’ll be over you that I’ll be saying the prayers!’
“I see that my time is nearly up, but before I close I want to say a word on behalf of the Napap — that great organization, the National Association for the Purification of Art and the Press. I am pleased to say that its executive secretary, my dear friend Dr. J. E. North, will be with us next month, and I want you all to give him a rousing greeting —”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11