But, much as man's religion looked to a more ordered and symmetrical existence to-morrow, just so, upon another scale, man's daily life seemed a continous looking-forward to a terrestrial to-morrow. Kennaston could find in the past--even he, who was priv ileged to view the past in its actuality, rather than through the distorting media of books and national pride--no suggestion as to what, if anything, he was expected to do while his physical life lasted, or to what, if anything, this life was a prelude. Yet that to-day was only a dull overture to to-morrow seemed in mankind an instinctive belief. All life everywhere, as all people spent it, was in preparation for something that was to happen to-morrow. This was true of Antioch as Lichfield, as much th e case with Charlemagne and Sardanapalus, with Agamemnon and Tiglath-Pileser, as with Felix Kennaston.

Kennaston considered his own life.... In childhood you had looked forward to being a man--a trapper of the plains or a railway engineer or a pirate, for choice, but pending that, to get through the necessity of going to school five times a week. In vaca tions, of coure, you looked forward to school's begining again, because last session, in retrospection, did not appear to have been half bad. And of course you were always wishing it would hurry up and be your birthday, or Christmas, or even Easter.... Later, with puberty, had come the desire to be a devil with the women, like the fellows in Wycherley's plays (a cherished volume, which your schoolmates, unaccountably, did not find sufficiently "spicy"); and to become a great author, like Shakespeare; an d to have plenty of money, like the Count of Monte-Cristo; and to be thrown with, and into the intimate confidence of, famous people, like the hero of a Scott novel.... Kennaston reflected that his touchstones seemed universally to have come from the libr ary.... And Felix Kennaston had achieved his desire, to every intent, however unapt might be posterity to bracket him with Casanova or Don Juan, and however many tourists still went with reverence to Stratford rather than Alcluid. He had money; and quit e certainly he had met more celebrities than any other person living. Felix Kennsaton reflected that, through accident's signal favor, he had done all he had at any time very ernestly wanted to do; and that the result was always disappointing, and not as it was depicted in story-books.... He wondered why he should again be harking back to literary standards.

Then it occurred to him that, in reality, he had always been shuffling through to-day--somehow and anyhow--in the belief that to-morrow the life of Felix Kennaston would be converted into a romance like those in story-books.

The transfiguring touch was to come,it seemed from a girl's lips; but it had not; he kissed, and life remained uncharmed. It was to come from marriage, after which everything would be quite differrent; but the main innovation was that he missed the long delightful talks he used to have with Kathleen (mostly about Felix Kennaston), since as married people they appeared only to speak to each other, in passing, as it were, between the discharge of various domestic and social duties, and to speak then of hav ing seen So-and-so, and of So-and so's having said this-or-that. The transfiguring touch was to come from wealth; and it had not, for all that his address was in the Social Register, and was neatly typed in at the begining of one copy of pretty much every appeal sent broadcast by charitable organizations. It was to come from fame; and it had not, even with the nine-day wonder over Men Who Loved Alison, and with Felix Kennaston's pictorial misrepresentation figuring in public journals alm ost as prodigally as if he had murdered his wife with peculiar brutality or headed a company to sell inexpensive shoes. And, at the bottom of his heart, he was still expecting the transfiguring touch to come, some day, from something he was to obtain or do, perhaps to-morrow.... Then he had by accident found out the sigil's power....

Men everywhere were living as he had lived. People got their notions of life, if only at second-or third-hand, from books, precisely as he had done. Even Amrou had derived his notiions as to the value of literature from a book. Men pretended laboriousl y that their own lives were like the purposeful and clearly motived life of book-land. In secret, and more perspicacious cherished the reflection that, anyhow, their lives would begin to be like that to-morrow. The purblind majority quite honestly belie ved that literature was meant to mimic human life, and that it did so. And in consequence, their love-affairs, their maxims, their so-called natural ties and instincts, and above all, their wickedness, became just so many bungling plagiarisms from someth ing they had read, in a novelor a Bible or a poem or a newspaper. People progressed from the kindergarten to the cemetery assuming that their emotion at every crisis was what books taught them was the appropriate emotion, and without noticing that it was in reality something quite different. Human life was a distorting tarnished mirror held up to literature: this much at least of Wilde's old paradox--that life mimicked art--was indisputable. Human life, very clumsily, tried to reproduce the printed word . Human life was prompted by, and was based upon, printed words--"in the beginning was the Word," precisely as Gospel asserted. Kennaston had it now. Living might become symmetrical, well-plotted, coherent, and as rational as living was in books. This was the hope which guided human beings through to-day with anticipation of to-morrow.

Then he preceived that there was no such thing as symmetry anywhere in inanimate nature....

It was Ettarre who first pointed out to him the fact, so tremendously apparent when once observed, that there was to be found nowhere in inamimate nature any approach to symmetry. It needed only a glance toward the sky the first clear night to show there was no pattern-work in the arrangement of the stars. Nor were the planets moving about the sun at speeds or distances which bore any conceivable relation to one another. It was all at loose ends. He wondered how he could possibly have been misled by p ulpit platitudes into likening this circumambient anarchy to mechanism. To his finicky love of neatness the universe showed on a sudden as a vast disheveled horror. There seemed so little harmony, so faint a sense of order, back of all this infinite tor rent of gyrations. Interstellar space seemed just a jumble of frozen or flaming spheres that, moving ceaselessly, appeared to avoid one another's orbits, or to collide, by pure chance. This spate of stars, as in three monstrous freshets, might roughly s erve some purpose; but there was to be found no more formal order therein than in the flow of water-drops over a mill-wheel.

And on earth there was no balancing in the distribution of land and water. Continents approached no regular shape. Mountains stood out like pimples or lay like broken welts across the habitable ground, with no symmetery of arrangement. Rivers ran anywi ther, just as the haphazard slope of earth's crevices directed; upon the map you saw quite clearly that these streams neither balanced one another nor watered the land with any pretence of equity. There was no symmetery anywhere in inanimate nature, no h armony, no equipoise of parts, no sense of form, not even a straight line. It was all at loose ends, except--bewilderingly--when water froze. For then, as the microsccope showed you, the ice-crystals were arranged in perfect and very elaborate patterns. And these stellular patterns, to the mused judgment of Kennaston, appeared to have been shaped by the last love-tap of unreason--when, in completing all, unreason made sure that even here the universe should run askew to any conceivable "design" and los e even the coherency of being every-where irregular.

But living things aimed toward symmetry. In plants the notion seemed rudimentary, yet the goal was recongnizable. The branches of a tree did not put out at ordered distance, nor could you discern any definite plan in their shaping: but in the leaves, a t least, you detected an effort toward true balance: the two halves of a leaf, in a rough fashion, were equal. In every leaf and flower and grass-blade you saw this never entirely successful effort.

And in insects and reptiles and fish and birds and animals you saw again this effort, more creditably performed. All life seemed about the rather childish employment of producing a creature which consisted of two equal and exactly corresponding parts. It was true that in most cases this effort was foiled by an uneven distribution of color in plumage or scales or hide; but in insects and in mankind the goal, so far as went the eye, was reached. Men and insects, to the eye at least, could be divided into two equal halves....

But even so, there was no real symmetry in man's body save in externals. The heart was not in the center; there was no order in the jumbled viscera; the two divisions of the brain did not correspond; there was nothing on the left side to balance the troub lesome vermiform appendix on the right; even the lines in the palm of one hand were unlike those which marked the other: and everywhere, in fine, there was some irrational discrepansy. Man, the highest form as yet of life, had attained at most only a te asing semblance of that crude symmetry toward which all life seemed to aim, and which inanimate nature appeared to ignore. Nowhere in the universe could Kennaston discover any instance of quite equal balance, of anything which, as vision went, could be d ivided into two similar halves--save only in man's handiwork. Here again, insects approached man's effort more closely than the rest of creation; for many of them builded almost as truly. But man, alone in the universe, could produce exact visual symmet ry, in a cathedral or a dinner-table or a pair of scissors, just as man so curiously mimicked symmetry in his outward appearance. The circumstance was droll, and no less quaint for the fact that it was perhaps without significance....

But Kennaston bemused himself with following out the notion that life was trying to evolve symmetry--order, proportion and true balance. Living creatures represented life's gropings toward that goal. You saw, no doubt, a dim perception of this in the dr eam which sustained all human beings--that to-morrow living would begin to be symmetrical, well-plotted and coherent, like the progress of a novel.... And that was precisely what religion promised, only in more explicit terms, and with the story's milieu fixed in romantic, rather than realistic, settings. Kennaston had here the sensation of fitting in the last bit of a puzzle. Life, yearning for symmetry, stood revealed as artist. Life strove to-wards the creation of art, and were to be judged accordi ng to art's canons alone. The universe was life's big barren studio, which the Artist certainly had neither planned nor builded, but had, somehow, occupied, to make the best of its limitations. For Kennaston insisted that living things and inanimate na ture had none of the earmarks of being by the same author. They were not in similar style, he said; thus, presupposing a sentient creator of the stars and planets, it would seem to have been in contradiction of his code to make both of a man's eyes the s ame color.

It was this course of speculation which converted Kennaston to an abiding faith in Christianity, such as, our rector informs me, is deplorably rare in these lax pleasure-loving days of materialism. To believe this inconsiderable planet the peculiar cen ter of a God's efforts and attention had for a long while strained Kennaston's credulity: the thing was so woefully out of proportion when you considered earth's relative value in the universe. But now Felix Kennaston comprehended that in the insensate universe there was no proportion. The idea was unknown to the astral architect, or at best no part of his plan, if indeed there had been any premeditation or contriver concerned. singly on our small earth--not even in the solar syatem of which earth mad e a part--was any sense of proportion evinced; and there it was apparent only in living things. Kennaston seemed to glimpse an Artist-God, with a commendable sense of form--Kennaston's fellow crafts-man--the earth as that corner of the studio wherein th e God was working just now, and all life as a romance the God was inditing....

That the plot of this romance began with Eden and reached its climax at Calvary, Kennaston was persuaded, solely and ardently, bacause of the surpassing of the Christ-legend. No other myth compared with it from an aesthetic standpoint. He could imagine no theme more adequate to sustain a great romance than this of an Author suffering willingly for His puppets' welfare; and mingling with His puppets in the similitude of one of them; and able to wring only contempt and pity from His puppets--since He had not endowed them with any faculties wherewith to comprehend their Creator's nature and intent. Indeed, it was pretty much the plight which Kennaston had invented for his own puppets at Storisende, as Kennaston complacently reflected. It was the most tre mendous "situation" imaginable; and quite certainly no Author could ever have failed to perceive, and to avail Himself of its dramatic possibilities. To conceive that the world-romance did not center upon Calvary was to presume an intelligent and skilled Romancer blind to the basic principles of His art. His sense of pathos and of beauty and of irony could have led Him to select no other legend. And in the inconsistencies and unsolved problems, or even the apparent contradictions, of Christianity, Feli x Kennaston could see only possible error or omission on the Author's part, such as was common to all romances. A few errata did not hamper the tale's worth and splendor, or render it a whit less meritorious of admiration....

And, indeed, Felix Kennaston found that his theory of the Atonement was in harmony with quite orthodox teachings. The library at Alcluid revealed bewildered and perturbed generations at guess-work. How could a God have been placated, and turned from wra th to benevolence, by witnessing the torment of His own son? What pleasure, whereby He was propitiated, could the God have derived from watching the scene on Calvary? Or was the god, as priests had taught so long (within the same moment that they procla imed the God's omnipotence) not wholly a free agent, because bound by laws whereby He was compelled to punish some one for humanity's disobedience, with the staggering option of substituting an innocent victim? For if you granted that, you conceded to be higher than the God, and overruling Him, a power which made for flat injustice. Since Schleiermacher's time, at least as Kennaston discovered, there had been reasoning creatures to contest the possibility of such discrepant assumptions, and a dynasty of teachers who adhered to the "subjective" theory of propitiation. For these considered that Christ came, not primarily to be crucified, but by his life to reveal to men the nature of their God. The crucifixion was an incidental, almost inevitable, resul t of human obtuseness; and was pregent with value only in that thereby the full extent of divine love was perfectly evinced. The personality, rather than the sufferings, of the Nazarene had thus satisfied, not any demand or attribute of the God by acting upon it from without, "but God's total nature by revealing it and realizing it in humanity." The God, in short, had satisfied Himself "by revealing and expressing His nature" in the material universe, precisely as lesser artists got relief from the wor ries of existence by depecting themselves in their books. Just as poets express themselves communicatively in words, so here the Author had expressed Himself in flesh. Such, in effect, had been the teaching of Karl Immanuel Nitzsch, of Richard Rothe, an d of von`Hofman, in Germany; of Auguste Bouvier in Geneva; of Alexandre Vinet, and of course Auguste Sabatier, in France; of Frederick Denison Maurice, and John Caird, and Benjamin Jowet, in England; and in America of Horace Bushnell, and Elisha Mulford, and William Newton Clarke. The list was imposing: and Kennaston rejoiced to find himself at one with so many reputable theologians. For all these scholars had dimly divined, with whatever variousness they worded the belief, that the God's satisfaction sprang, in reality, from the consciousness of having at last done a fine piece of artistic work, in creating the character of Christ....

So, as nearly as one can phrase the matter, it was really as a proof of confidence in his Author's literary abilities that Felix Kennaston was presently confirmed at our little country church, to the delight of his wife and the approbation of his neighbor s. It was felt to be eminently suitable: that such a quiet well-to-do man of his years and station should not be a communicant was generally, indeed, adjudged unnatural. And when William T. Vartrey (of the Liichfield Iron Works) was gathered to his gra ndfathers, in the following autumn, Mr. Kennaston was rather as a matter of course elected to succeed him in the vestry. And Kennaston was unfeignedly pleased and flattered.


To the discerning it is easy enough to detect in all this fantastic theorizing the man's obsessing love of ordered beauty and his abhorrence of slovenliness and shapelessness--very easy to see just what makes the writings of Felix Kennaston most admirabl e--here alluring him to believe that such ideals must also be cherished by Omnipotence. This poet loved his formal art to the extent of coming to assume it was the purpose and the origin of terrestrial life. Life seemed to him, in short, a God's chosen form of artistic self-expression; and as a confrere, Kennaston found the result praiseworthy. Even inanimate nature, he sometimes thought, might be a divine experiment in vers libre.... But neither the justice of Kennaston's airdrawn surmises, nor their wildness, matters; the point is that they made of him a vestryman who in appearance and speech and actions, and in essential beliefs, differed not at all from his associates in office, who had comfortably acquired their standards by hearsay. So that the moral of his theorizing should be no less obvious than salutary.

Chapter Twenty-Eight