E. E. (Elizabeth E.) Flagg.

Between two opinions; or, The question of the hour online

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truth he was not likely to find very smooth sailing.
"I have been pretty busy of late with one or two
important cases, and the installation quite slipped
from my mind last night But now we are on the
subject, I must say that I have lately learned facts .
which have both surprised and pained me. I find
there are quite a number in our lodge who are in
one way or another connected with the liquor busi-
ness. I am trying, as you know, to serve faithfully
the temperance people of this city who have done



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A Peculiar Kind of Morality, 283

me the honor, though young and unknown, of mak-
ing me their special attorney. And it is embarrass-
ing to feel that I am joined by lodge vows with men
who have a personal interest in supporting the
traffic. I can well see how cases may, and no doubt
will, arise in which I shall have to act against a bro-
ther Odd-fellow or stultify my conscience: and I
have been seriously considering whether it would
not be better on the whole to procure a demit and
withdraw from the lodge entirely. I have nothing
against the order personally, and I know there are
good prohibitionists in it. But that has nothing to
do with the difficulty, for it is not with those that
my business as temperance attorney will be likely
to bring me into collision. Why, I know from un-
disputed authority that the saloon property which
pays the heaviest tax in Jacksonville is ovmed by
an Odd-fellow, a prominent member of our lodge."

"Oh, if you come to that," answered Mr. Basset,
whose countenance, after the first start of surprise,
settled back into its usual agreeable smile, "no so-
cial or even religious organization was ever perfect.
Look at the church! I can point out to you mem-
bers in good standing who do that very thing. I
could count you off a dozen, to say the least, good
Methodists and Presbjrterians, who rent their prop-
erty to saloon-keepers. I don't excuse such incon-
sistency of course, but the lodge is really no worse
than the church when it cymes to the point"

Stephen was silent. At heart he felt a thrill of
indignation, as if he had heard some courtesan with



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284 Between Two Opinions,

painted cheeks compared to his mother. If it were
so; if he ha^ been deceived all along in both; if one
were as good, or, to borrow Mr. Basset's expression,
no worse than the other, what better thing remained
for a man than to fall back on pantheism, positive-
ism, or even a refined paganism, and drift into the
unknown abyss with the motto of the old grovelling
heathen world of St. Paul's day on his lips, "Let us
eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." Not that
Stephen was really conscious of having any such
thought; he would have repudiated it at once had it
presented itself in honest fashion. He would have
said, "There is something better;" and clung to his
old faith with the tenacity of a soul that fears ship-
wreck. But the unconscious infidelity which is like
the microscopic germs that diffuse invisible poison
in the air we breathe and the water we drink, I know
of nothing that will guard against that but such a
baptism of the Holy Spirit as shall consume these
spiritual sporadic germs in its swift, down-rushing
fires that take the whole life for a sacrifice and the
whole heart for an altar. And it was just this that
Stephen lacked.

He was aware that what Mr. Basset had said was
sadly, unmistakably true. The churches in Jack-
sonville seemed to be engaged in a pretty even race
with the world, which begat the natural fruits: un-
seemly rivalries with each other, and spiritual dead-
ness. They had oyster suppers, and fairs, and fes-
tivals, and entertainments of every description; and
now and then there was a spasmodic effort to "get



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A Peculiar Kind of Morality. 285

up a revival;" as useless, and perhaps to heavenly
eyes as painful and hideous as the attempt to gal-
vanize a corpse into seeming life. Was it strange
that this modem Sardis allowed to stand unques-
tioned on her membership roll the names of those
who "took the price of blood and the wages of in-
iquity?" or that there were even whispered reports
of scandalous sin on the part of some of her promi-
nent professors? But why did it not occur to
Stephen, as a curious coincidence, to say the least,
that every professed Christian whom Mr. Basset
vauntingly pointed out as in complicity with the
liquor traflBc was either a Mason or an Odd-fellow?
Why did he not think that union with unbelievers
who practiced secret works of darkness might be
jubt as disastrous to the purity of the church now
as in early times when such "unequal yoking" was
so strictly forbidden?

But Stephen, as we have said, was silent His
silence, however, made no difference with Mr. Bas-
set, who talked on.

"Now just think of all the benevolent work that
is being done by the order. I don't mean to say
anything to run down other organizations, but for
pure charity commend me to Odd-fellowship. Over
two million dollars was paid out for relief last year
— ^you can see it for yourself in the printed reports,
I believe I've got one in my pocket now. When
anybody says anything against Odd-fellowship,
there's a plump knock-down argument for 'em. I
just turn round and say, *Why don't the churches do



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Between Two Opmioni,

this work?' and that generally shuts them up. Just
picture to yourself how many widows and orphans
have been made glad; how many desolate homes
have been cheered; in short, what a munificent work
of love and good-will has been accomplished by the
judicious distribution of this immense suml What-
ever else we do, my dear young friend, don't let us
circumscribe our charities. *He that giveth to the
poor lendeth unto the Lord.' "

Stephen colored. He was naturally generous and
open-handed, and he could not bear the tacit impu-
tation of meanness in his motives for leaving the
lodge. But he only reached up to one of the pigeon-
holes where he kept his papers, and drew out a let-
ter.

"What you say, Mr. Basset, reminds me of a let-
ter that I received to-day from the widow of a cer-
tain Jacob Strycker, a lately deceased member of
our lodge. I should like to show it to you as it re-
fers to an important matter that I think ought to be
set right immediately."

"Jacob Strycker?— let me see," said Mr. Basset
"Oh, I remember now. Mr. Strycker died at Ft
Wayne, slightly in debt to the lodge at the time.
That circumstance, you know, cancels all claim to
a benefit"

"But hear what Mrs. Strycker says: — *I write to
you, Mr. Howland, because you are a lawyer and
know about such things. The lodge in Jacksonville
to which my husband belonged, and of which I un-
derstand you are a member, has refused to give me



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A PecvUcur Kind of Morality, 287

the customary benefit on the ground that his dues
were unpaid at the time of iiis death. This is not
so. He mailed five dollars from Ft Waype the day
before he died, which was received and credited, and
left a small balance in his favor. I know my hus-
band believed that I would be provided for. Will
you please look into this matter, and see that justice
is done to a poor widow and her fatherless children,
though she can only pay you with her blessing and
her prayers. Lydia Strycker.' "

^'Of course there must be some misunderstand-
ing," remarked Stephen, as he folded the letter.
*<No lodge in the land, I hope, would take such mean
and dishonest advantage of a mere technicality, as
Mr. 8trycker*s money was of course on the road at
the time of his death."

"Well, now, that don't seem right, does it? She
has written a very touching letter. I declare, I am
really very sorry for her. But then as a sensible
woman she ought to understand that there can't be
any rule devised that will not sometimes and in
some cases bear hard. The rule of Odd fellowship
is, *Pay in advance,' and of course there will always
be some compelled by misfortune to violate it In
that case all they pay in is forfeited, but they enter
with that understanding, so it is really all fair
enough when one comes to look at it— only, as I
said before, it comes hard in particular cases."

"But Mr. Strycker kept up his dues," interrupted
Stephen, impatiently. "Lawfully that mcmey be-
longed to the lodge as soon as it left his hands,"



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288 Bettoem Two Opinions,

"Well, I think it would have been better to have
stretched the point and handed over the benefit; de-
cidedly I . do. Such things give a handle to the
anti-secret party if they leak out, and they are sure
to. We might pasp round a subscription paper for
Mrs. Strycker. I don't doubt but you could collect
a handsome sum from the members of our lodge by
going privately to them and stating the unfortunate
features of the case. I would be willing myself to
put down five dollars."

"No," said Stephen, rather hotly. "Mrs. Strycker
has not asked for charity but justice, and justice
she shall have. There shall be an appeal made to
the Grand Lodge."

Mr. Basset drummed lightly with his cane on the
floor and — a rather strange thing for him — did not
immediately reply. Clearly the young lawyer was
not made of the moat manageable material in the
world, and would have to be dealt with carefully,
or in other words, dosed liberally with that com-
modity vulgarly known as "soft soap," which, by
the way, as the reader has doubtless perceived, Mr.
Basset had a native gift for administering. He had
no intention of letting so valuable a member as
Stephen Rowland slip out of the order. And here
comes in the natural inquiry, what made him valu-
able? and why should Mr. Basset be so specially
anxious to retain him?

The former of these two questions is very easily
answered. Stephen, as a young and rising temper-
ance law3'er, could give the lodge a moral prestige



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A Peculiar Kind of Morality. 289

that would oflfeet any number of Van Gilders. What
could more effectually shut the mouth of anybody
disposed to carp at the convivial origin of Odd-fel-
lowship, or to intimate that while intoxicating
liquors might be forbidden in the lodge room, it still
kept up the traditions of its birthplace in an English
ale-house by gathering in saloons after the meetings
adjourned, or circulating pocket flasks privately in
committee rooms to an accompaniment of tobacco
smoke, vulgar stories and coarse jokes, than to point
to Stephen Howland, attorney for the Law and
Order League, as a member in good and regular
standing? As acceptable material for the lodge, he
ranked nearly equal in point of fact to a popular
clergyman.

The second reason is- not so easily given. Mr.
Basset's love for Odd-fellowship proceeded from
mixed motives that could be resolved into unmixed
selfishness by a little close analysis. He had an
ease-loving nature, and preferred, so to speak, a self-
adjustable religion that would fit every phase of
woridly requirement; that would have an elastic
adaptation to anything doubtful in belief or dubious
m practice; in short, something totally different from
the tight-fitting Bible code which would expose his
moral and spiritual infirmities by conscious twinges
as a tight shoe discovers a bunion. This he found
in Odd-fellowship. It made no difference that he
was nominally a professor of the Christian religion.
He could wear the livery of both; and perhaps in
the great day of account it will be found that at



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290 Between Two Opinians,

least a part of the guilt of such hypocnsy must be
laid at the doors of those churches that allow this
double profession, and thus in effect put the Christ-
less paganism of the lodge on a level with the soul-
saving doctrines of the cross. He never consciously
avowed to himself that he looked upon Odd-fellow-
ship as a possible covert in case of criminal "impru-
dence," for he hoped on the contrary never to for-
feit what he was very fond of — ^the good opinion of
his fellow-men, by any outward act that would con-
demn him in the eyes of society. And yet aU the
while there existed in his mental background a dim
shadowy consciousness that the protection clause in
the Odd-fellow's obligation might make it a very
convenient thing if — but Mr. Basset never carried
his thoughts beyond that innoeent little preposition.

Stephen, for his part, looked on Mr. Basset as a
good-hearted, social kind of a man, though rather
shallow. On the whole he liked him. He had a
certain open way with him that is always taking to
a frank nature, and any suspicion of selfish motives
in the latter's evident anxiety to retain him in the
lodge was as far as possible from Stephen's mind.

Mr. Basset, with all his seeming openness, had
not a little diplomatic craft So be did not tell
Stephen that he was morally sure the Grand Lodge
would render an adverse decision in Mrs. Strycker's
case; or that he himself had been knowing to more
than one similar instance where men had paid in
hundreds of dollars, but happening to die slightly
in debt to the lodge, the moral and charitable order



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A Peculiar Kind of Morality, 291

they had so trustingly joined kept their money, but
refused all benefit to the widows and orphans sup-
posed to be the objects of its beneficent care. There
was one screw, however, yet unturned, and like a
good-natured inquisitor of olden times, he proceeded
with an easy smile to make Stephen feel this power.

"Speaking about a demit now. Of course any-
body is at liberty to leave the lodge, but you re-
member the closing part of the Odd-fellow's obliga-
tion: ^Should I he expelled, or voluntarily leave the
fyrder, 1 will consider this promise as binding out of it
as in it' A demit makes no difference with the ir-
revocable nature of the vow."

Stephen* felt as if suddenly caught in a vice. He
had merely been turning the idea over in his mind
of leaving the lodge without coming to any definite
resolution, for he meant to take no hasty step;
though he could not help acknowledging that he had
been very hasty in joining a society which by its
very constitution he was prevented from knowing
anything about beforehand — he could easily slip his
neck from under the noose when convinced that it
was not a good thing. Now the idea of irrevocable-
ness made the obligation which had before rested on
him with the lightness of a silken thread press like
a band of iron. But he was too proud to let Mr.
> Basset discern his mental wincings. So he only
said quietly, "I haven't made up my mind whether
to leave yet or not, and if I do, it will not be be-
cause I have any difficulty with the obligation as I
understand it"



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292 Between Jhoo Opinions,

"Now that is a very important point — to under-
stand it right," said Mr. Basset, catching eagerly at
this latter clause in Stephen's remark. "Unprinci-
pled men creep into Odd-fellowship. There's no de-
nying that I'm sorry it is so. But you must take
it like eyer3rthing else, the evil along with the good.
This report, by the way, I'll leave with you, and you
can look it over when you have leisure. You know
we may reason and argue about a thing, but when it
comes to convincing, facts and figures do the busi-
ness."

And Mr. Basset departed with a smile so beaming
in its friendly cheerfulness that he might have al
most sat for the benevolent spirit of his favorite or-
der personified.

Stephen, in an interval of leisure between the
study of his law cases, took up the pamphlet and
ran his eye over the figures. It was certainly true
that Odd-fellow benevolence had mounted up the
last year to over two millions. At the same time its
collections had reached a sum of over Jive millions.
Stephen's mathematical mind at once perceived that
the lodge was very well paid for its "charity" by a
margin of three-fifths of the receipts. Would not
an insurance company that took 60 per cent to pay
its running expenses be called an arrant swindle?
And if the church should do so, would not lodgemen .
like Mr. Basset be the first to call her by even a
worse name?

These questions Stephen revolved in his mind and
half decided in his next letter home to confess his ^



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A Peculiar Kind of MorcdUy, 293

folly — ^for folly he now considered it — ^and afik
counsel. But it would pain the old couple to find
out that he had taken such a step and kept it so
long a secret from them; and his mind, until Mr.
Basset had so coolly showed him that he was reck-
oning without his host, had clung hopefully to pro-
curing a demit; for he flattered himself that then his
whole experience as an Odd-fellow would drop out
of his life so completely that it need never be re-
ferred to or thought of again.



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CHAPTER XXIV.

IN RAMAH WAS THERE A VOICE HEARD.

The president of the W. C. T. U. in Jacksonville,
like many another woman in the White Ribbon
ranks, had known a time when she constmed
St Paul with extreme literalness, and would have
faced the cannon's mouth sooner than an average-
sized audience. Yet she had conquered early preju-
dice and native timidity so far as to be not only an
indefatigable temperance worker, but one of the most
acceptable speakers in the organization, her glowing
eloquence and forceful logic being only matched on
the platform by the charm of her noble presence and
sweet, womanly voice.

There is nothing more wonderful in this whole
wonderful movement than the fact that it has devel-
oped — not one Deborah, that would be nothing re-
markable — but Jiundreds of Deborahs, each one a
host in herself, who have risen in their might "for
God and home and native land," unmindful of the
sneers or the misunderstandings of smaller and
weaker souls. Thank Grod for the army of temper-
ance Deborahs 1 Is it not fitting that by them he
should judge the traffic which has made so many
Rachels.



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A Voice in Ramah, 295

Martha, however, never thought of herself in this
exalted light, for she was in her own humble esti-
mate only one of the rank and file, though she
taught a primary class in the Jacksonville Band of
Hope; and so when Mrs. Judge Haviland made her
an informal call one day, she was as agreeably sur-
prised as one of Napoleon's subalterns might have
been, unexpectedly honored by a visit from his com-
mander-in-chief.

The weather was warm and close. Mrs. Haviland
sank down in the easy chair Martha offered her with
a look of weariness and exhaustion in her face that
might have been attributed to the heat by any one
who did not know that in the past six months the
number of local Unions and Bands of Hope which she
had organized, the addresses she had made to adults,
and the talks she had given the children, to say
nothing of the time and strength diffused through
numberless minor channels, were more than enough
to keep mind and body strained to their highest ten-
sion.

"1 called to have a little talk with you," she said,
"about our Band of Hope especially. I want to
praise you, Miss Benson, for the admirable way in
which you have trained those little midgets. I was
quite surprised as well as delighted the other day to
see how clearly they seemed to understand political
economy in its relations to the drink traffic."

"I am a pupil, myself," replied Martha, modestly.
"I have only lately begun to study these subjects.
My first introduction to temperance work was when



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296 Between Tux) Opinions,

I joined the Gk>od Templars, and the drink question
as related to economic or hygienic questions was
never once discussed in the lodge to which I be-
longed; or even alluded to."

"I do not like to say anything against any society
which professes to work for temperance/' replied
Mrs. Haviland, '^but I find that these secret tem-
perance lodges educate superficially if they educate
at all, which I am sometimes inclined to doubt; and
the result is a host of nominal laborers who may be
well-trained in lodge work but no farther. I rejoice
in the broadening scope of the W. C. T. U. Looked
upon merely as a grand educational agency for
woman, it is a most powerful force in the mental
and spiritual development of our sex. By it God is
training the future mothers of our Republic for who
knows what duties, what responsibilities!"

Mrs. Haviland was silent for a moment — a silence
Martha did not choose to break; and then she con-
tinued, her face lighting up with a strange radiance
as she dwelt on the record of the past, "I was
one of the Ohio crusaders. Perhaps our way was a
wrong one, but it was the way God led us. Even
now I hear people sneer at that first early movement
as a mere craze, a folly, a mistake. Perhaps it was
all that, but it was a great deal mote. God was in
our mistake, our folly, if such it was — guiding us,
teaching us, leading us by a way that we knew not
of. And better to blunder and have God with us,
than not to blunder and walk without him." ^

"We were native-born American women, educated,



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A Voice in Ramah, 297

religioas, home-loving, with all the deep-rooted,
moral instincts that belong to such as their native
birthright, yet we were bound and helpless. We
had to stand by while the tempei^nce laws were
made a dead letter, and ^primaries* packed by ignor-
ant, whisky-drinking foreigners governed the elec-
tions. And what could we do? We were desperate
and the cry of the desperate is to God. In a week
every saloon in the city where I lived was closed.
We felt almost as if the millennial day had come.
But the time was not yet ready for us to sing the
song of Miriam. In less than a year those gates of
hell that we thought we had closed forever were
opened wider than before. We could not understand
it. Would this have been if all the voters who pro-
fessed temperance principle had stood by us at the
polls? Could men who did not love the cause well
enough to risk a little personal discomfort and in-
convenience to themselves adequately represent wo-
men who would have gladly died for it? It was a
crisis for us and our work, but in that crisis a great
idea was bom — the Woman'i^ Christian Temperance
Union. There are many things I believe in now
that I did not believe in then. We had much fallow
ground of ignorance and prejudice to break up; but
we did it thoroughly, and we sowed seed — ^good
seed. Who will reap the harvest?"

Mrs. Haviland paused an instant in her rapid re-
tiospection ,a shadow swept over her grand face, and
she turned to Martha and clasped both her hands
with a strangely eager, earnest pressure.



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298 Between Two Opinions,

"It is to you we look — ^young, brave, earnest souls,
to take our places when we fall in the battle. For
we must fall. We are human; we want to see the
end for which we have prayed and labored. But for
many of us that cannot be. And we know it; I
know it"

Her voice dropped lower, and the brief, detached
sentences came slowly as if wrung out by the pres-
sure of some inward suffering.

Martha looked up at her wonderingly.

"Dear Mrs. HavUand; don't talk of any one's fill-
ing 3'our place, least of all one so humble as myself,
without talents, or wealth, or social rank."

"Martha — Miss Benson, you do not know the
place you may be filling twenty years from now.
What American girl does?"

Martha colored slightly. Although she was a be-
liever in woman's suffrage, she was a very unambi-
tious little person. If Nelson ever rose to stations
of public honor, she felt that nothing would make
her prouder or happier than to shine herself in that
reflected glory, but she. remembered that Mrs. Havi-
land might not know anything about Nelson, and be
even unaware of their engagement, in which case
her words were of course quite innocent of any pro-
phetic intent She made no reply save to listen
with eager, reverent attention as the sweet, low, im-
passioned voice sounded on like the notes of an an-
cient chorus, half wail, half triumph.

"I entered the warfare like many another' woman,
because I was forced into it by the presence of the



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A Voice in Ramah, 299

monster in my own home. I had only one child —
a son. Oh, how I loved him! How I tried to shield
him from every touch of evil! But a taste for drink
was hereditary in the Haviland blood, and I did not
know it till it was too late. Perhaps it would have


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Online LibraryE. E. (Elizabeth E.) FlaggBetween two opinions; or, The question of the hour → online text (page 17 of 22)