To my readers: Our European ancestors knew, not by dint of reason, but by instinct, that faith and race are spiritually inseparable. A man who forsook his people would forsake his God. But the new European of the 20th century, the rational man, determined to divest himself of the “prejudices” of the past, divorced himself from his own people and sought to find divinity in and kinship with the sacred negro. What follows is a tale about the clash between the old Europe of faith and race and the new Europe of egotism, science, and negro worship. God bless all the old Europeans, and may you have a very Merry Christmas!
The Woman Who Loved Much
The rebels to God perfectly abhor the Author of their being. They hate him “with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, and with all their strength.” He never presents himself to their thoughts but to menace and alarm them. They cannot strike the Sun out of Heaven, but they are able to raise a smouldering smoke that obscures him from their own eyes. Not being able to revenge themselves on God, they have a delight in vicariously defacing, degrading, torturing, and tearing in pieces His image in man. – Edmund Burke
I probably should be following some kind of chronological order with these remembrances, but I find that my memory will not conform to any chronological order. Maybe that’s for the best.
It was 1920, two years after the end of that War in which so many young European men lost their lives. I don’t think Europe ever recovered from that war, which started, I think, from a deep spiritual malaise. But I’ll leave that topic alone for the time being.
As I started to say, it was 1920, early April, when Ann Harris came to see me. She was an attractive woman in her mid-fifties whom I recognized as a semi-regular attendee at St. Johns. I had never spoken personally to Mrs. Harris, as all my requests for pastoral visits remained unanswered. So I was quite surprised when my secretary told me that a Mrs. Harris wanted to see me.
“Thank you for taking the time to see me,” Mrs. Harris said as she entered the room.
“That’s quite all right,” I said as I rose to shake her hand and show her to a seat. “How can I help you?”
“I don’t know that you can help me, Reverend, but I most certainly need help. I’m not a very demonstrative person, so I might look quite calm and collected, but I’m not. I’m at the end of all patience, all endurance, and all hope.”
“Do you know the Rev. Lyte’s hymn, ‘Abide with Me’?” I asked her.
“Yes, of course, I was raised in the Church of England.”
“Let’s kneel then and let the first verse of Lyte’s hymn be our prayer.”
We both knelt while I said the first verse of that beautiful hymn and prayer:
Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness thickens. Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me!
“You’re the only man with whom I could pray like that without feeling like a complete ninny and a complete hypocrite.”
“How so? Do you usually find it difficult to pray?”
“Yes, for the simple reason that I don’t believe in God. Does that shock you?”
“No; European atheism is becoming more and more prevalent.”
“Why do you call it European atheism? Why not just call it atheism?”
“Because, I believe that Christ is the one true God. And the only people that have believed that, as a people, were the Europeans. One could say that the colored people of the world are atheists, in that they don’t believe in the true God, Jesus Christ, but the word ‘atheist’ is a European concept, and it refers to the Europeans’ rejection of Christ. I don’t know if I stated that very clearly.”
“I understand what you’re saying. Aren’t you worried about being called prejudiced and provincial for your views?”
She laughed. “You know, I don’t think I’ve laughed once in the last four years.”
“Then I’m glad I made you laugh.”
“Why are the Europeans all becoming atheists, Reverend?”
“I didn’t say they were all becoming atheists. But atheism, at least professed atheism, is becoming more widespread in Europe.”
“Then I’ll ask you again. Why is atheism becoming more widespread among Europeans?”
“I’m just one person, with one opinion, but it seems to me that the European intellectuals, particularly in France, which is always at the forefront of radicalism, think that they are too smart to believe in a provincial God who took flesh and dwelt among us.”
“That’s nothing new. There have always been a number of Voltaires and Rousseaus among the European intellectuals.”
“Yes, but now the infection is more widespread, and for the first time the masses, what I call the peasants, whether they work with the soil or not, are becoming intellectualized and atheistic. And it all stems from a fear of being called stupid.”
“You’re not London-born and bred, are you, Reverend?”
“No, I’m a country boy. But I’ve grown to love this city and its people. How about yourself – were you born here?”
“Yes, I’m a Londoner, born and bred. My parents vacationed in the country, but that is all I ever saw of the countryside. Maybe I would have turned out better if I had been country-bred. You know – Constable and all that sort of stuff – looking out over God’s creation and attending a small country church.”
“There are atheists in the country as well as the city.”
“I suppose there are, but still I can’t help but wonder if I might have turned out better had I been country-bred. What do you think?”
“It’s not for me to say that you haven’t turned out well.”
“But if I don’t believe in God, how can you, as an Anglican clergyman, tell me that I’ve turned out all right?”
“There is someone in that book on the table who says judge not lest ye be judged.”
“Yes, but that applies to the disposition of souls. It doesn’t mean you can’t judge an individual’s actions or beliefs.”
“You are a better debater than I am, Mrs. Harris.”
“Now you’re being condescending.”
“Perhaps I am. You’re quite right. We can and should judge the beliefs and actions of individuals and let God judge the disposition of souls. I do think atheism is an abomination, but I can’t really be sure, on first acquaintance, that I can take your atheism at face value. I know it’s often a mistake not to take an enemy at face value, and an atheist is my enemy, but there is a difference between a militant atheist who hates the light of the world, which is a contradiction – How do you hate a God who doesn’t exist? – and a person who says, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.’ I take you to be the latter type. Am I wrong?”
“I pray that you are right. Now you’ve made me cry; I thought I was beyond tears and laughter, and you’ve brought them both on in the space of fifteen minutes.”
“Here, it hasn’t been used,” I said, handing her a handkerchief.
“It would be helpful if I could get a better idea of your particular problem, then I could…”
“You could help me or tell me I’m crazy and to stop wasting your time. I apologize. Of course you need something to respond to and I’ve spoken nothing but drivel.”
“I don’t agree — you most certainly have not been speaking drivel. I just need a starting point.”
“I suppose I’m delaying, because it’s a bit embarrassing, actually more than a bit, it’s extremely embarrassing to air one’s dirty family linen before a stranger.”
“Am I a complete stranger to you, Mrs. Harris? I know we’ve never met socially, but you’ve heard and seen me in the pulpit.”
“Yes, I have. And that is why I have sought you out and no other. In fact, I know much more about you than what I’ve gleaned from your sermons, although it was your sermons that first gave me the idea that maybe there was one man who could help me.”
“Then give me a chance.”
“I will, Reverend.” And she began.
I was brought up a Victorian, in the best sense of the word. God, England, and the right were stuffed into me along with the tea and crumpets. And I was happy with that Victorian world, with its certainties, with its people, and with its God. And then I married. I’m going to sound terribly petty now, because I’m going to say horrible things about the man I married, Matthew Edmond Harris. But he is inextricably involved in my story and my son’s story, so I must speak of him.
I married Matthew when I was twenty years old. He was thirty, of a good family, and very wealthy. In addition to wealth, he had charm, humor, intelligence, and good looks. My family had money, and I’ve never put much store in good looks in a man, so those two attributes were not what attracted me to Matthew. It was partly his charm, humor, and intelligence, but it was something else as well, something inside of me. You see I’m a romantic, or at least I was a romantic. And Matthew had served in the British Army. Even a girl with less of a romantic strain than me might have been attracted to Matthew for that reason. And with my love of all things Victorian, Matthew would have had to have been an Ethiopian or a Hottentot in order to undermine my determination to marry a bred-in-the-bone Englishman. But I quickly discovered that having served in the British Army, and quite bravely, does not automatically make a man into the perfect Englishman. Matthew was evil. If there is a devil, then Matthew is in league with him. You described my husband when you quoted from Walter Scott in your sermon last month.”
“I believe that was four weeks ago last Sunday. I was talking about the swine in the Gospel who went over the cliff when they were possessed by the devils.”
“Yes, that was the sermon. At some point you read Scott’s description of the diabolical personality of Louis XI.”
“The passage was from the preface to Scott’s novel Quentin Durward. I think I have it on the shelf. Yes, here it is.” I turned to the page and read:
Among those who were the first to ridicule and abandon the self-denying principles in which the young knight was instructed, and to which he was so carefully trained up, Louis the XIth of France was the chief. That Sovereign was of a character so purely selfish – so guiltless of entertaining any purpose unconnected with his ambition, covetousness, and desire of selfish enjoyment, that he almost seems an incarnation of the devil himself, permitted to do his utmost to corrupt our ideas of honour in its very source. Nor is it to be forgotten, that Louis possessed to a great extent that caustic wit which can turn into ridicule all that a man does for any other person’s advantage but his own, and was, therefore, peculiarly qualified to play the part of a cold-hearted and sneering fiend.
“Yes, that’s it. When you read that passage in church I thought that Scott must have been writing about my husband. He is the embodiment of the devil, in his caustic wit and in his detached, cold-hearted contempt for all sentiment and all honor codes.”
“I must ask you, if you felt that way about your husband then why didn’t you leave him? I’m not an advocate of divorce, but there are some cases where a separation is necessary.”
“It’s difficult to explain. I’ve been married 35 years. For the first two or three, I can’t give an exact timetable, I was still enthralled with the man who fought for Britain. I put everything my husband said or did that seemed cruel or inhumane in a good light. This is easy to do if you’ve built up a false illusion that you are bound and determined to maintain against all the world.”
“What did your parents think of Matthew?”
“They were delighted with him. He seemed the perfect English gentleman. I can’t blame them for my marriage however; I thought the same thing about Matthew and I had spent a great deal more time with him than they did.”
“Was there any one incident that made you start believing that your husband was not the man you had thought he was when you married him?”
“No, it was mainly just a gradual awareness of his true nature, but there was one particular incident that, looking back on it now, rather highlighted Matthew’s nature.
“The papers were full of a tragic drowning of a young child and of an old retired soldier who had dived into the Thames to try and save the child. I asked Matthew if the soldier had been in his regiment. Matthew told me point blank he hadn’t the slightest interest in the death of a little street urchin or the pathetic rescue attempt and death of a doddering old fool who had once served in the same regiment as he did.
“‘I served in the military because it amused me to do so, not because of some stupid-God-save -the-Queen nonsense,’ Matthew said, without the slightest concern for how I might take such a callous statement.”
“Your disillusionment was in the early years of your marriage?”
“Yes, but I didn’t leave him upon my disillusionment because I thought – or rather, hoped – that he’d change. Then the years went by and Matthew didn’t change, but I changed. I lost my faith in everything. I hated Matthew’s beliefs, but I had been beaten down by Matthew’s constant intellectual contempt for everything I once held dear. Had I become like him? And if I was like him, by what right did I judge him? I don’t expect any answer to those questions, Reverend, I’m just letting you know my state of mind. Maybe it is as you said. I want to believe, so in that I am not like Matthew, who has no desire to believe in anything outside of himself.”
“Here, take this glass of sherry, it will help calm your nerves.”
“Am I drinking alone?”
“Yes, you’ll have to permit me a rather puritanical abstinence. It was a promise I made to my mother.”
“Like David Balfour’s promise to his mother about gambling?”
“Then I’ll have to drink alone. I didn’t know about your mother, Reverend, but I do know that you were married and lost your wife early in your marriage. I believe you were the curate at a country parish at the time.”
“Yes, I was.”
“A few years later you came to St. John’s.”
“That is also correct, but why have you taken the trouble to learn so much about me?”
“I told you, because you are my last hope. I also know about your war record, but then that is fairly common knowledge.”
“I didn’t fight in the war; I merely served as a chaplain to British troops from 1915 to 1916.”
“Merely served as a chaplain?”
“If you merely served as a chaplain then why did you receive a medal for valor? Don’t bother to answer that, Reverend. I’ll tell you why. At the beginning of the day on May 1st, 1915, you were performing a service behind the lines, which by midday had become the front lines, and you were pinned down with the rest of the troops. The British infantry charged, trying to regain the ground they had lost, but they failed and left – what was it? I’ve heard there were as many as twenty wounded British soldiers pinned down in no man’s land.”
“There were nineteen.”
“Ah, so you do remember.”
“Of course, I do. I’ve never forgotten anything from that hideous war.”
“Well, there was no reaching those wounded men. The fire from the German batteries was too intense. So everybody said. But there was one man who thought differently. Back and forth he went in the face of certain death, and he brought back all of the nineteen wounded men. Five died of their wounds, but fourteen others recovered. All because one man had enough faith in his God to walk through the valley of the shadow of death for his fellow men. That man was you, Reverend Grey. And I need such a man now.”
“You spoke of your son. Is he your reason for coming here?”
“Yes. He has just turned 19, so thankfully he missed that abominable war, but he is becoming his father’s son. He holds nothing sacred but his own intellect, which he thinks quite highly of. He holds me in contempt and only respects the opinions of my husband and the caustic wits my husband has gathered around him.”
“What type of men are your husband’s friends?”
“He doesn’t have any friends – he is incapable of friendship. What he has are intellectual acquaintances. And they run a gamut of Orientals, psychiatrists, Darwinists, French avant garde artists, and Roman Catholic theologians. Yes, even Roman Catholic theologians. You see, my husband converted to Roman Catholicism about two years into our marriage. It wouldn’t have been such a horrendous thing if he had converted because he believed that Christ was the Son of God, but that didn’t enter into his mind at all. He converted because he thought that Roman Catholicism is the most syncretistic of all religions. ‘It combines the quietism of Buddhism with the natural theology and nature worshipping aspects of the mystery religions, such as Isis and Cybele.’ It all sounds like complete bosh when I repeat it, but when they’re all gathered around my husband, spouting similar bosh, one feels drawn into their orbit.”
“I understand. And your son, does he attend these gatherings?”
“Yes, unfortunately he does. I tried my best, in his younger years, to minimize his contact with his father. Not that his father desired contact with him when he was young; he didn’t. But now that he is older, Matthew delights in spiritually debauching his son. And even if I’ve lost faith in everything, I don’t want my son to lose faith in everything.”
“You haven’t lost faith in everything, Mrs. Harris. If you had, you wouldn’t be so concerned about your son’s loss of faith.”
“I hope you’re right about that.”
“Is there some way I could meet with your son without it being an official meeting?”
“Yes, there is. My husband has what he calls ‘intellectual gatherings’ at least twice a month. My son doesn’t attend all of them because he is in his first year at Oxford, but when he’s home from school he attends. This coming Saturday night he’ll be home and in attendance. Can you come to dinner?”
“Yes, if nothing comes up, I think I can make it, but will your husband want me to be invited? I gather these dinners are rather exclusive affairs.”
“I’m allowed to invite whomever I want. I haven’t invited anyone for years because I don’t want to see my friends dragged through the filth of one of my husband’s ‘intellectual gatherings.’”
“But you don’t mind if I get dragged through filth?” I asked, smiling.
She laughed again. “I didn’t say that very well. Of course I mind…”
“There is no need to explain. I was just teasing you. What it amounts to is this: You’ve selected me as your champion, and I accept.”
“Why, yes, I guess that is what I’ve done. But let me warn you, Reverend, you’ll be all alone. Whatever clergymen that will be there will be against you, whether they are Anglican or Roman Catholic. Did you know the Reverend Hunter, formerly of this parish?”
“Of course, I served as his assistant here for five years.”
“Well, he used to attend my husband’s little gatherings, and he got along quite well with Matthew.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. The Reverend Hunter was a very mild mannered man; maybe he just didn’t want to offend your husband.”
“No, it wasn’t that. Reverend Hunter was a syncretistic Christian, and he didn’t have any problems with Matthew’s religion.”
“That is a tragedy.”
“Yes, it is. I don’t suppose I’m being fair to you; I’m really throwing you to the wolves.”
“Don’t look on it that way. You’ve asked me for help, and I intend to give it my best, but human beings are complicated: your son might remain under your husband’s influence despite my best efforts.”
“He probably will, but I have that small glimmer of hope.”
“This particular meeting – will there be a large number of guests?”
“Yes, there will be. There are always about 20 of the regulars, an assortment of academics, journalists, and scientists. There is one particular gentleman whom I find particularly loathsome; he is some kind of Oriental who dabbles in the occult sciences. I believe he runs an opium den which I’m sure Matthew frequents, and which I’m afraid my son has been to with his father on several occasions.”
“You suspect this or do you know this?”
“I know it. Not because I’ve seen Matthew or George at the opium den, but I still know it.”
“Besides the regulars, there will be twelve to twenty semi-regular guests. This particular meeting will feature the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.”
“The Sigmund Freud?”
“Yes, he is a disgusting-looking man in his mid-sixties, horribly pretentious and always babbling on about his psychoanalytic work. Matthew simply loves him; this is his fourth visit to the house.”
“What do the other guests think of Freud?”
“They all kowtow to him. They’re all afraid of being psychoanalyzed, particularly Father Braxton.”
“Who is Father Braxton?”
“A Roman Catholic priest, one of the regulars. You’d think he’d be against Freud, but he isn’t. ‘There is no ultimate conflict between psychoanalytic theory and religion. They both come from the same source.’ That’s his stock reply to Freud every time Freud attends one of Matthew’s gatherings.”
“I’m not sure exactly what Father Braxton means when he says there is no ultimate conflict between psychoanalytic theory and religion. There certainly is a conflict, at least there is a conflict between Christianity and psychoanalytic theory.”
“I haven’t the foggiest idea what he means about anything, Reverend. Maybe you’ll get some idea when you meet him.”
“Are there ever any guests who are not debunkers and scoffers?”
“Yes, sometimes one of the special guests is an Englishman of the old stock, a retired military man or a conservative member of Parliament. But those guests are few and far between, and they are invited so the other guests and Matthew – Matthew, in particular – can ridicule them. They do it quite well. But you’ll be the first – how shall I put it – believing country curate that has ever attended one of these gatherings.”
“But I’m not a country curate.”
“Yes, you are, Reverend; in my eyes you shall always be a country curate. A country curate who came to the city, but still a country curate whose faith is invincible.”
“That’s a tall order.”
“Yes, it is, but you’re my last hope.”
I was able to keep the dinner date on Saturday night. There were no emergency sick calls or anything of that nature. Perhaps God intended that there should be none.
I regarded my upcoming meeting with Matthew Harris as a battle between good and evil. Fully aware of my own sinful nature, I still was, in my view, a Christian soldier about to do battle with Satan’s minions. I didn’t regard this meeting as a friendly discussion – I knew it was to be a war, a much more subtle war than an outright military war, and hence a much more difficult war.
I’ve talked to parents, many years after their children were grown, who told me there were many situations regarding their children’s upbringing that even with many years of hindsight they were not sure whether they had said or done the right thing. Such is the case with me. So many years later I still don’t know if what I said or did was the very best thing that could have been said or done, but like the parents, I was the one God had chosen to be there in that particular situation. I did my best.
I should let the reader in on one more thing before I describe that rather eventful Saturday evening. I have what is called a photographic memory. This doesn’t mean I can recall all the minutiae of my life in accurate detail. It does mean that books, articles, and conversations which I consciously commit to my memory stay there and I can recall them verbatim many years afterwards. So my recollections of what was said at this particular meeting are accurate.
I won’t bore you with the particulars of the Harris mansion. To some these particulars might be more interesting than the conversations that took place, but I’m not particularly interested in conveying those particulars. Suffice it to say that the Harris home was a magnificent Victorian-styled mansion, in which everything was in perfect taste, all kept in order by the usual array of servants. After a few niceties and introductions, I was seated at the dinner table on the left side of Matthew Harris. Sigmund Freud was seated on Mr. Harris’ right. Mrs. Harris, who hadn’t been attending the gatherings for the last three months, was seated next to me, and her son, George, was seated next to her. I need not go into the rest of the seating arrangements; the assortment of intellectual jackals that Mrs. Harris had told me of were scattered around the dining table. I’ll recount only the conversation that I participated in.
Matthew Harris: I hope you don’t mind, Reverend Grey, that I didn’t have anyone say grace. Too many different religions present, you understand.
Rev. Grey: Yes, I understand.
Matthew Harris: My wife said you were a teetotaler, so we didn’t serve you any wine.
Father Braxton: I’m surprised at you, Reverend Grey; I’ve heard you’re High Church.
Mrs. Harris: It was a promise to his mother, leave it at that, won’t you, Father?
Braxton: I’m sorry, I meant no offense.
Rev. Grey: None taken, Father.
Harris: My dear, it’s not necessary for you to take offense at every comment we make that is directed at the Reverend Grey. After all, if Reverend Grey is to be your champion you must let him fight his own battles.
Mrs. Harris: Who said he was here to be my champion?
Matthew Harris: No one said it, my dear, but it is quite obvious. You haven’t attended one of these dinners for several months, and you haven’t invited a guest of your own for over a year, so I must assume that you have invited the Reverend Grey here to be your champion, to fight your evil, devil-worshipping husband. Isn’t that about the gist of it, my dear, loving wife?
Mrs. Harris [addressing the butler]: I’ll have my dinner in my room. Please don’t get up, gentlemen.
[Rev. Grey rises anyway and escorts Mrs. Harris out of the dining room and then returns to his seat.]
Matthew Harris: It’s a pity she didn’t want to stay. I’m sure this will be quite an interesting evening. Dr. Freud, what do you make of a woman who believes in knights errant when she is in her mid-fifties?
Freud: I’d rather not say.
Matthew Harris: Go ahead, you’re among friends.
Freud: Since you ask, I’d say such a woman was suffering from a neurosis. She obviously connects knights errant with a masculine representation of the deity. She must have been severely repressed in childhood and she hopes that a knight errant can release her from her repressed state. It’s a common neurosis of women who have been raised in Victorian England.
Matthew Harris: What do you say to that, Rev. Grey?
Rev. Grey: It’s nonsense.
Freud: I beg your pardon, I don’t speak nonsense. I have dedicated my life to the scientific study of human beings. Never before has there been such work done. In Vienna we have begun the work that will unlock the mysteries of the unconscious, and by doing so we will solve all the problems that plague mankind.
Rev. Grey: Will you solve man’s greatest problem?
Freud: And what is that?
Rev. Grey: That he must die.
Freud: Yes, we can solve that problem. We can teach men not to fear death.
Rev. Grey: Only one man is capable of that, Dr. Freud, and that man isn’t you or me.
Matthew Harris: It didn’t take you long to bring Jesus of Nazareth into the argument. But really, Reverend, isn’t that a bit of – how shall I say it – a cowardly retreat? You will cloak yourself in righteousness and expect us to run and hide because you have invoked Jesus Christ. But that won’t wash here. We’re all Thomists. You must base your arguments on reason and science, not on fairy tales.
Rev. Grey: But suppose I don’t accept your initial premise that reason — and in particular your reason — is capable of understanding existence. Suppose my heart, filled with fairy tales and intuitions, is greater than your reason.
George Harris: You can’t say such things, Rev. Grey, because you can’t enter into any rational conversation by denying the primacy of reason.
Rev. Grey: Why can’t I?
George Harris: Because it’s irrational.
Matthew Harris: My son is right. There really is no point in discussing anything with a man who denies the primacy of reason.
Rev. Grey: You both are behaving like petulant children. You make up your own rules for an absurd game, and then you cry when one of the neighborhood children refuses to play the game by your rules.
Freud: I think it is you, Rev. Grey, who is behaving like a petulant child. You insist on playing with your baby toys even after you’ve become an adult, and you want the rest of us to get down on the floor and play with your baby toys as well. This we won’t do.
Rev. Grey: What are the baby toys you refer to, Dr. Freud?
Freud: The Christian religion is a baby toy, a comforter, for childish adults. In my work Moses and Monotheism I show that…
Rev. Grey: I’ve read that book.
Freud: You surprise me – I would have thought, in your repressed, neurotic state of mind, that you would have avoided the book.
Rev. Grey: I didn’t. I need to know what the enemy is up to.
Matthew Harris: Please, Reverend, let’s not use terms like ‘the enemy.’ We’re all rational, thinking type men here.
Rev. Grey: I’m not. I’m a bundle of prejudices, and so are you. So are we all.
Freud: I challenge that statement.
George Harris: So do I.
Rev. Grey: All right, let’s take Dr. Freud’s book, Moses and Monotheism, as an example. Correct me if I misinterpret. Your basic premise is that somewhere back in the mists of time a clan of primitives killed their father and then slept with their mother, thus causing some underlying guilt in what you call the psyche or the unconscious. The Hebrew people later repeated this primal crime when they killed Moses in the desert.
Enter the Christian faith. The father demands a blood sacrifice from the Son, and the Son complies. This helps the adherents of such a sacrificial religion to assuage their primal guilt. Hence the enormous appeal, for a time, of the Christian religion. Have I stated your case correctly, Dr. Freud?
Freud: You’ve put it a bit crudely, but you’ve stated my contention accurately.
Rev. Grey: All right then. I have this question for you: Let’s pretend what you say about the primitives’ crime is correct. Why the guilt? If men are no different from beasts, then why should they feel guilty about patricide and incest?
Freud: Because it is in men to feel guilt about such things.
Rev. Grey: That answer won’t do. It’s too mystical, Dr. Freud. If you tell me such guilt is just in man, I’ll demand that you tell me who put the guilt in man. And please take note that I’ve conceded your farfetched theory of primitive patricide and incest and still found holes in that theory. But your whole theory is very likely founded, not on any rational basis, but on your a priori prejudice against the Christian Faith.
Freud: I don’t base my theories on prejudices, I base them on careful scientific research.
Rev. Grey: That is utter nonsense. Were you in that primitive cave in a lab coat when the patricide and the incest took place?
Braxton: I think your colleague Dr. Jung might reconcile you two. Rev. Grey has a point, albeit a minor one; there is a kind of cosmic oversoul that informs our unconscious. Don’t you think so, Dr. Freud?
Freud: No, I don’t think so. And Dr. Jung is my former colleague precisely because he did think so.
Braxton: I still think we are merely quibbling over terms. Why can’t the oversoul be the rational element in man? And why can’t our reason have a conscience?
Matthew Harris: There is no ethical element in reason.
Braxton: But then where is the ethical element in man?
Matthew Harris: He has none.
Braxton: I don’t follow you. Surely our reason makes ethical choices?
Matthew Harris: Ethics are mere intellectual constructs. They have no basis in fact. Just as all religions are mere intellectual constructs. They have no basis in fact.
Braxton: I still think there is some kind of oversoul…
Freud: I concur with Mr. Harris. And I suppose, Reverend Grey, that you agree with Father Braxton.
Rev. Grey: I have no idea what Father Braxton is talking about, so I can’t agree or disagree with him. My beliefs are not that complicated.
Matthew Harris: Meaning?
Rev. Grey: I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was who He said He was.
Matthew Harris: Then you weren’t joking earlier. You are full of fairy tales and prejudices!
Rev. Grey: Yes, I am.
George Harris: Doesn’t the advent of science make you question your prejudices? I don’t see how an intelligent man, a man who knows science, can hold to any religion except in broad symbolic terms.
Rev. Grey: Do you love your mother, George?
George Harris: What kind of question is that?
Rev. Grey: It’s a rather straight-forward question, but you don’t have to answer it. But if you had answered yes to the question, I would have asked you if you loved a symbol of your mother or your actual flesh-and-blood mother.
Matthew Harris: Human beings are not capable of love; they have affinities, that is all.
Rev. Grey: What are affinities?
Matthew Harris: Animal instincts. Even animals nurse their young and teach them how to survive in the world. It doesn’t connote love, it’s just an instinct.
Rev. Grey: From whence comes that instinct?
Matthew Harris: It just comes — there is no source.
Rev. Grey: You’re too mystical for me, Mr. Harris.
Freud: Studying man as part of nature is not mysticism, it is science, Rev. Grey. And I’m surprised that even a clergyman, in this day and age, could be so obtuse.
Rev. Grey: You’re in for even more surprises, Freud, before this evening is over.
Matthew Harris: Let’s keep this gathering civil.
Rev. Grey: Why should we keep this gathering civil?
Matthew Harris: Because we are all rational… but I forgot you don’t consider yourself a rational man. We shall all have to keep that in mind as the evening progresses and deal with you in kind, Grey.
Rev. Grey: That’s fine. I’d prefer that we all become open, uncivil enemies rather than hypocritical, civil friends.
Braxton: I really must protest. Surely we can all be civil, using nature as our starting point and reason as our guide – we can…
Matthew Harris: No, Grey has bared his fangs and whatever happens is on his head. Dinner is over gentlemen. Let’s adjourn to the drawing room.
The gentlemen – and I use the term loosely – all adjourned to the drawing room and broke up into little groups. Father Braxton left my group and joined another more congenial group of men. An opium-soaked Oriental in his mid-sixties who taught Oriental studies at the university and was supposed to be some sort of mystical genius joined our group, consisting of Freud, Matthew Harris, and his son George. The only other newcomer to our group was a professor of chemistry who claimed to be some sort of Bentonite who believed that “everything comes down to chemistry.”
Oriental: I couldn’t help overhearing some of what you said at the dinner table, Rev. Grey…
Matthew Harris: We are dispensing with titles. Just call him Grey.
Oriental: I couldn’t possibly do that. I never dispense with titles.
Matthew Harris: Suit yourself.
Oriental: As I was saying, Rev. Grey, I think you are confusing essences when you champion Christianity over all other religions. The belief that God can take flesh is in conflict with the higher wisdom of all true religions. The spiritual life is in the mind which cannot become one with a material body. Pure contemplation allows for no intercommunion between gross matter and spiritual essences.
Rev. Grey: I don’t understand what you are saying. You say the material cannot be spiritualized. But doesn’t our own experience in material bodies give the lie to your assertion? Didn’t He show us that the body is ultimately a personal, spiritual entity?
Oriental: I don’t see that at all.
Matthew Harris: I don’t see how you can be so blind, Grey. Surely it is the mind and the mind only that can know anything about existence.
Freud: Quite right, it is the mind that informs the body. The body is simply a biological entity.
Rev. Grey: Why is the mind any less of a biological entity than the body? The mind will rot in the grave just as quickly as the body. If you’re going to be an atheist, Dr. Freud, be consistent. We all [looking at the group] are dependent on a spiritual power that animates the mind and the body. I say that power is a personal God who has made Himself known to us.
Bentonite: That’s terribly unscientific. We are just chemicals, that is all. I’m surprised to find a Reverend that believes in that sort of thing in these times.
Rev. Grey: Why do “these times” and “in this day and age” preclude the belief that Jesus Christ is true God and true man?
Bentonite: Because such a belief is unscientific.
Rev. Grey: Modern science is a relatively new discipline, and I don’t see it as an infallible source of knowledge.
Bentonite: I do.
Freud: So do I, so long as psychiatry is recognized as a science.
George Harris: But there is that point about the guilt, Dr. Freud. Why should those first men have felt guilty about sleeping with their mother and murdering their father? Why the guilt?
Freud: As I’ve already stated, it’s in man’s nature to feel guilty about such things.
George Harris: But why is it in his nature to do so?
Freud: Are you taking Grey’s side?
George Harris: No, I just thought that he brought up an interesting point.
Matthew Harris: It’s not the least bit interesting or pertinent. Grey is a sleight-of-hand carney man.
Bentonite: No, I think he’s sincere, but misguided.
Matthew Harris: Have it your way, but I think I know the type.
Freud: This whole discussion does show the limitations of rational discourse with those who are irrational.
Rev. Grey: Yes, there are limits to rationality.
Freud: That’s not what I said.
Oriental: The Reverend is playing with all of us. But I think I could cure his Christ complex better than you, Dr. Freud.
Oriental: With opium. One can see so clearly under its influence. It truly is the drug of the gods, and I mean that metaphorically.
Matthew Harris: I don’t think our teetotaler would take opium. He’d be afraid of what he’d see under its influence.
Oriental: Would you be afraid, Rev. Grey?
Rev. Grey: I don’t believe in the god opium, so it would not serve any purpose, except a satanic one, if I were to indulge in opium.
Matthew Harris: See, he’s afraid. All of these Christers are. They use Christ to cover up their cowardice.
Rev. Grey: You are an older man than I, and a physically weaker man than I, Mr. Harris, but I warn you I am not a pacifist when faced with blasphemy. Curb your tongue when you speak of Him or you’ll… well, you won’t like what happens.
Matthew Harris responded to my warning with an obscene, blasphemous remark. That was the end of the after dinner conversation. I picked up Mr. Harris and deposited him, kicking and cursing, in the fountain in front of the house. He called to his servants to stop me, but they were not able to break my hold on Harris. In fact, they ended up in the fountain with him.
The incident was noted in the newspapers. I saved the accounts that appeared in the two major papers. It’s interesting: both papers got the facts right, but they presented completely different views of the incident. The Guardian, which was a conservative paper, viewed me as a “battling parson,” fighting against the forces of atheism, while the Chronicle depicted me as a big bully, ruthlessly beating an older man and his negro servants.
From The Guardian
Last night at approximately 10 pm an incident occurred at the home of Matthew Harris, a prominent figure in London social circles and a former Captain during the African wars. In recent years, Mr. Harris has been primarily known for the intellectual gatherings at his home, where he entertains a rogues’ gallery of anti-English, anti-Christian intellectuals and troublemakers.
It’s not apparent at this time why Reverend Grey was invited to the gathering, but it is apparent that Reverend Grey attended, felt that his God was insulted, and acted accordingly. Matthew Harris was not struck by the Reverend, who used to be a pretty fair country wrestler, but merely deposited in a fountain on the front lawn of the Harris mansion. As for the Negro servants who tried to aid their employer, quite large, healthy, young men, they too were deposited in the fountain when they tried to lay hands on Reverend Grey. The incident should not be the cause of Reverend Grey’s removal from St. John’s. He has an excellent record in the community as a man of charity and good works. The battling parson was simply defending the church of Christ.
From The Chronicle
A rather shocking incident occurred last night in the Green Street section of London, near Hyde Park. It seems that the pastor of St. John’s in London, one Reverend Christopher Grey, assaulted Matthew Harris while a house guest of Mr. Harris. The incident started, apparently, over some kind of religious dispute. The distinguished psychiatrist, Dr. Sigmund Freud, who has given many lectures in London, was also present, and he has told reporters that the Reverend Grey was very aggressive from the first moment he set foot in the house, being most uncivil to Mr. Harris and all of his guests. “For no reason whatsoever that I could see, the Reverent Grey assaulted Mr. Harris and the negro servants,” Dr. Freud related.
Why was such a man ordained a pastor in the English church? And why is such a man allowed to remain a pastor in the English church? These are questions that demand answers.
So, was I dismissed from my position? No, I was not. There was some talk of a suspension, but that was squelched by a tremendous outpouring of support from my parishioners. After the sermon on the Sunday following the dinner party, I briefly addressed my parishioners:
“Most of you must have heard by now that I was involved in an altercation with a London man, at that man’s house, where I was a guest. I will simply say that I am not ashamed of my actions. A man does not cease to be a man, with all the obligations of a man, when he puts on a clerical collar. I did what I hope all Christian Englishmen would have done in the same situation. So, there will be no apologies from me, but I will abide by my superiors’ decision regarding any disciplinary measures. Thank you all for your concern about my welfare. Now, let us resume the service.”
The moral climate in 1920 in England was still a Victorian moral climate. An Englishman was still expected to be chivalrous. Some 40 years later the moral climate has changed drastically. I have no doubt that if a similar incident had occurred today I would have been summarily dismissed from my duties and most probably would have done jail time. But in 1920 I was not dismissed nor was I arrested.
Two weeks after the dinner party Mrs. Harris came to see me again. I was glad to see her because I was afraid I had disappointed her. I was supposed to have been her “last hope,” and I hadn’t made a very good start, or so I thought.
“Thank you, again, for seeing me,” she said.
“No need to thank me.”
“Have you had any trouble from your superiors over the incident? I’m afraid I haven’t been in touch with the parish news in the last two weeks.”
“No, they were surprisingly lenient about the incident.”
“I’ll bet it was because of the support you got from your people.”
“How did you know?”
“I’ve seen how they love you.”
“It’s extraordinary, because I’ve done so little for them.”
“They don’t see it that way.”
“No, it doesn’t appear that they do, but what about you – did I make a terrible mess of everything?”
“No, as it turns out, you didn’t. Matthew was livid after the incident. He called you every foul name under the sun, threatened to challenge you to a duel, then to have you arrested, then to have you severely beaten. But when he had calmed down the next morning he came into the breakfast room and just stared at me in a very odd manner, and then he said, ‘I congratulate you, Ann Harris. You found the one man in England who actually believes all that rot. He is going to be quite an antagonist. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll crush him in the end, and I’ll enjoy doing it, but I still congratulate you. You’re never dead so long as you hate. And your hate for me has led you to that anachronism.’
“I told him it was not my hate for him so much as my love for our son that had led me to you, but he was having none of that. ‘You don’t love George any more than I do. He is just part of your ego that you don’t want to part with.’ What could I say to that? It isn’t true – it couldn’t be true. I do love my son.”
“I know you do.”
“Do you mean that?”
“Yes, I know you love your son.”
“Thank you, Reverend.”
“Here, it hasn’t been used.”
“You always seem to make me cry, but I’m not complaining. It feels good to cry when you thought you were beyond tears.”
“What did your son think of the evening, or was it too difficult to tell?”
“There was no instant conversion, but neither you nor I expected that type of result from one dinner party, did we?”
“No, of course not. But was there anything that we can build on?”
“Possibly. He kept coming back to the ‘why the guilt’ question until he got his father quite angry, and they had words. Later both Matthew and my son minimized their argument, but there was definitely a slight rift in their relationship. I don’t really understand the context of your discussion, but I was glad something was said that got my son thinking along some other lines than those of Freud, that Chinaman, and my husband.
“I’ll admit that when I first heard about the dunking I was afraid my last hope was gone. But neither my son nor the guests seemed particularly upset about the dunking. They said it was uncalled for and uncivilized, but at the same time I think they were rather impressed that a man ‘in this day and age’ – that’s always the catch phrase: ‘in this day and age’ – should be concerned about blasphemy. Now tell me, Reverend, just between you and me, did you plan that little demonstration?”
“No, I did not.”
“Then you really were outraged.”
“I envy you.”
“Because you can believe in Christ enough to be outraged when He is insulted.”
“You are outraged too, Mrs. Harris, or else you never would have come to me.”
“Back to that again: ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.’”
“Possibly, we’ll see about that. Now back to this business of my son, who is, for me, the subject of and the reason for this war with my husband.”
“What would you suggest? I don’t think I’d be welcome at another dinner party.”
“No, you wouldn’t be welcome. But my son is going back to Oxford this week. I’d like you to come up and see him with me.”
“Would he accept that?”
“I think he would. His father never comes up to see him, and I think that bothers him. Oh, he tries to feign that he is just like his father – no sentimentality and other such ‘rot’ – but I think he is offended that his father has never done fatherly things with him when he was growing up and still has no interest in his life at Oxford.”
“Whom does he associate with at the college?”
“I’m not sure about his student friends, but I do know about his friendship with Professor Min Chang.”
“Didn’t I meet him at the dinner party?”
“He wanted to solve our quarrel with opium. That seems to be his god.”
“Yes, it does. Supposedly he is a professor of Oriental languages, but I think he is simply an opium pusher and addict.”
“Do you think your son is taking opium?”
“Yes, I think he is. I don’t know how far it has gone, but I’m afraid for him, so afraid.”
“I can get away next Friday. Will that be soon enough?”
“I hope so. And really, I can’t thank you enough.”
When Friday came around I was somewhat delayed, so I called Mrs. Harris and told her to go on up to Oxford ahead of me. I told her I’d be there a few hours later and then we could have dinner with her son instead of lunch.
I never really adjusted to the automobile; the horse-drawn hansom cab was good enough for me. But they never asked for my opinion before they started making automobiles. So after the train ride to Oxford I took a cab to the college. When I arrived at the place on campus where I was to meet George and Mrs. Harris, I was surprised to find no one in sight. My first thought was that they were still chatting in George’s room and had forgotten the time. My second thought was that George had refused to see me. This posed a dilemma. I have always avoided trying to be too overt in my efforts to help people who don’t want my help. I’ve found that such ‘help’ is usually quite harmful, because human beings are fiercely independent creatures who do not like someone else’s idea of what is good imposed on them. I first look for some internal assent to my help before venturing into someone’s life. But in this case, Mrs. Harris had asked for my help and had also told me she thought she saw a glimmer of a cry for help within her son. Based on her word, which I knew could be wishful thinking, I decided to try to find Mrs. Harris and her son and risk being told to leave by George Harris.
One inquiry brought me to George’s rooms. I knocked, and a rather annoyed voice bid me enter. “Hunter, what the devil are you bothering me for, you know I have to study for this God awful… Oh, sorry, Reverend, I thought you were someone else.”
“Yes, I gathered that; you thought I was Hunter, and you are trying to study for an exam.”
“Yes, I’m afraid I’ve done too little studying this term, and if I don’t buckle down I’ll be sent down. Hunter gets by without studying, and he just assumes the rest of us can get by just like him. But I can’t.”
“Nor could I. Most of us are plodders, not race horses.”
“Exactly! And it’s a damn nuisance – pardon my language – to be rooming with a race horse.”
“I see your problem, but I’m adding to it. I was looking for George Harris and his mother. I was supposed to be meeting with them.”
“Oh, well… I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, Reverend, but George is down at the police station. It seems they wanted to question him. Something to do with that terrible Chinaman he is so fond of. I don’t know any of the details — the police didn’t take me into their confidence – all I can tell you is that George is down at the police station.”
“Do you know if his mother is there?”
“I suppose she is, because I told her the same thing I’m telling you.”
“I thank you, and I hope you aren’t sent down.”
“Oh, I’ll be all right, so long as I stay away from Hunter. Good luck, Reverend, if that doesn’t sound too impertinent.”
“No, it doesn’t, and thank you.”
I wish I had known Johnathan Talbot back then, because it would’ve helped to have had a friend at Scotland Yard. Not that anyone at the Yard was less than courteous; they were courteous. But that is all they were. I couldn’t find out anything about George Harris or Mrs. Harris. ‘I’m sorry, no comment,’ was all I got. So finally, having gone from London to Oxford, to Scotland Yard in London, I stumbled back to the rectory at approximately 1 a.m. I had a service in the morning and other duties, so I had to, whether I liked it or not, put George Harris and his mother on the back burner for awhile.
They didn’t stay on the back burner very long however. After the 8 o’clock service, Mrs. Harris was waiting for me in my office. She looked as if she had been up all night, which in fact was the case. She had walked the streets near St. John’s all night and then waited for the service to end. There was no preliminary hellos or anything when she saw me.
“George has been arrested for the murder of Min Chang, that hideous Chinaman.” At first Mrs. Harris was unable to give a coherent account of what had transpired during the evening prior to our scheduled visit with George, but after several false starts she finally gave me an account of George’s arrest. “I’m telling you what George told me, Reverend. And you can write me off as a mother who refuses to accept the fact that her son is a murderer – I’m certain everyone else will – but I believe what George told me.
“He said that Min Chang had become friends with him almost as soon as he got to the university, telling him he knew his father, and George was flattered that a professor, especially a professor of Oriental studies (because as you know everything English is now supposed to be inferior) was interested in becoming friends with him.
“The opium didn’t come into play at first, just long discussions about philosophy and ethics. And in all these discussions everything traditionally English, such as honor, chivalry, and faith in Christ was seen as juvenile and intellectually inferior to the great wisdom of the Orient. The ridicule of everything English was not new to George — he had got that from his father – but his father never gave him a substitute. George needed something to believe in besides the ridicule of everything English. Of course this is my interpretation of George’s spiritual state at the time he became friends with Min Chang, based on the information he gave me about his friendship with the man. It’s quite likely George would not agree with me about his motivations for becoming friends with Min Chang.
“For the first year of the friendship George steered clear of the opium. He accompanied Min Chang to the opium dens, which were right out of Edwin Drood he told me, but he didn’t at first take the opium. It was in the second year of the friendship, after Min Chang introduced him to his daughter, from all accounts a beautiful young Oriental girl about 17 years old, that George started taking the opium with Chang. From that moment he was hooked on the opium, the girl, and the philosophy of Min Chang. And it stayed that way for the next two years. Chang was milking him for money, which his father furnished him with, and besides that I think Chang got a perverse pleasure in corrupting a young Englishman.
“But something happened that Chang didn’t bargain for. George went to him that evening, the evening in which Chang was killed, and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. That’s when Min Chang told him the girl was not his daughter but his mistress. He called her in and asked her if she wanted to marry a young, handsome Englishman. She laughed, and so did Min Chang. They both thought it was a big joke.
“George didn’t see the humor of the situation, so he lunged at Chang in order to strangle him, but two of Chang’s servants got between them and managed to keep my son from ever touching Min Chang. He was thrown out into the street cursing, screaming, and hurling death threats at Min Chang.
“George wandered the streets for a couple hours, stopping in at some of the pubs for drinks, and then wandering the streets again. He told me that everything he ever felt for the Chinese girl died as soon as they laughed.
“‘Mother, it was a laugh from hell. The hell I’m not supposed to believe in. But I do believe in hell and the devil. I’ve seen both in the devilish laughs of Min Chang and his concubine. It was indescribable. I felt the presence of the evil one in the room. And I knew in an instant that I never loved a real woman; I loved a horrid dream of some Oriental paradise, devoid of all the pain and suffering of my English world. I’m the world’s biggest fool. But you know, mother, I swear to you, though I wanted to kill that fiend, I never got the chance. I climbed back into his house to… I don’t know what I intended, but when I entered his room and told him not to speak, until I had finished what I wanted to say, he seemed so still that I thought maybe he was in an opium stupor. But when I got closer to his bed, I saw what I thought was death on his face. I pulled back the bedclothes… there was a dagger in his heart. Foolishly – I told you I’m the world’s biggest fool – I grabbed the hilt of the dagger and started to pull it out. I don’t know why I did that, I just did it. Just as I pulled the dagger out, May Lin, his mistress, the former “love” of my life, came in. She saw me standing there with the dagger and quite naturally screamed. I dropped the dagger, brushed by her, and made it out of the house before the servants could lay hands on me. But I had no thought of getting away. I knew she had recognized me. I went back to my room at the University. Why? Again, I couldn’t say why. The police came and arrested me in the early morning hours.’
“When I came to his room his roommate told me he was at the police station, not the local police station either, but Scotland Yard. Of course I went and spoke with him and he told me what I’ve just told you.”
“Have you had any sleep?”
“There is a couch in my study. Please lie down there for a few hours while I go and see your son. I think they’ll let me see him now. And then we’ll talk, and we’ll decide what is to be done.”
“I must ask you one question, Reverend.”
“Do you think he murdered that man?”
“No, I do not.”
I didn’t know how or if I’d be received by George Harris. Our first meeting had been rather acrimonious. But I had seen something in George on the night of the dinner party that made me hope he would not, if exposed to an opposed vision, go the way of his father. The first night at the jail did nothing to diminish my hope.
“It’s kind of you to come and see me, Reverend. My own father has not seen fit to come.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“But you’re not surprised to hear it, are you?”
“No, unfortunately I’m not. I saw something in your father that is very rare.”
“He is a much more consistent liberal than his modern contemporaries. Most liberals spout their liberal blasphemies, but they only manage to adhere to a few of them. Your father really tries to hate all things English and all things Christian.”
“You don’t believe in a set of universal values then? A code of conduct that comes from the reason of men and not from God?”
“No, I do not. Everything we are that is good comes to us through the heart of God acting in the hearts of His people, not an abstract, universal people, but our people, our kith and our kin.”
“I wish I had known you sooner.”
“It’s certainly not too late, George.”
“I know it’s not too late for that. And I’m not disparaging that. Now that I’ve seen the devil, I more than partially believe it all. I mean it’s too late in terms of my life here on earth. I think it’s either prison for life or death by hanging. They are going to convict me. A rather ghoulish ill wisher in prison here showed me the latest edition of the liberal paper The Chronicle. They are urging an example be set, that Chinamen should have the same rights as Englishmen, and spoiled sons of the spoiled rich should not be allowed to kill them with impunity. That’s funny, isn’t it? My father was a good guy when he was ‘assaulted’ by you. Now he is a spoiled rich man with a spoiled son.”
“I’m afraid, George, that it’s a question of who is the least white. The liberals believe that there is nothing worse than a white man, particularly an English white man, so they want you to be guilty.”
“And they will find me guilty, won’t they?”
“Not if there is incontestable evidence that points to someone else.”
“But there isn’t any evidence pointing to anyone else. And the police are not looking for anyone else. They think they’ve found their murderer.”
“When is your trial?”
“Four weeks from today.”
“What does your solicitor say?”
“He says I should plead guilty and ask for mercy – life imprisonment instead of death.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him to go to hell, that I was not guilty, and I was going to plead not guilty. I’ll get another solicitor. I’ve got money – well, it’s not my money, but I assume my loving father will at least give me the money for my lawyers. If I’m going to be tried for being a spoiled rich son, then I should at least have the benefits that accrue to a spoiled rich son.”
“You’ve hardly been spoiled, George; you’ve been deprived. I’m sure there is money to be had for lawyers. But I don’t have a great deal of respect for the current state of English law. Let me try to work on this from my own perspective. Maybe I can uncover something that the law is blind to. In the meantime, will you allow me to give you my blessing?”
“Yes, please do.”
He knelt and I prayed:
Almighty God, king of all kings, and governor of all things, whose power no creature is able to resist, to whom it belongeth justly to punish sinners, and to be merciful to them that truly repent: Save and deliver us (we humbly beseech thee) from the hands of our enemies, abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices, that we, being armed with thy defense, may be preserved evermore from all perils to glorify thee, which art the only giver of all victory; through the merits of thy only son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I spoke to George almost daily during the weeks preceding his trial. There was never one dramatic moment when George said, “Yes, I believe,” but by the time of his trial George believed in the Man of Sorrows.
The trial did not go well though, largely, I think, because George’s father failed to speak up for George. When Christian morality starts to fade, as it had in the British upper crust, those who hold the law in their hands come to regard the courtroom as a game room. The object is not to see justice done but to win the game.
Matthew Harris was popular in liberal circles because of his famous dinner parties where the rich and liberal were wined and dined, but Matthew Harris had nothing good or bad to say about his son. He simply said he hoped his son was innocent, but he couldn’t say anything for or against his son’s character because he didn’t know his son’s character: “How can anyone really know such things?”
With that kind of tepid support from his father, George was left naked to his enemies, the liberal press and the liberal academics from the University where Min Chang had taught. They wanted justice: “English justice, if it is to be true justice, must be justice for the Chinaman, the Negro…” I spoke for George, but the prosecution pointed out that I really didn’t acquaint myself with him until after the murder. Nor did his mother’s testimony in his favor count for much: “After all, she is his mother. What is she going to say?”
Besides the fact that George had very few character references, there were also the cold hard facts of the case. George had been in love with Min Chang’s mistress, he had threatened Min Chang, and he was found standing over him with the murder weapon in his hand. But still I was surprised when the jury came back with a verdict of guilty. And I was even more surprised when the judge sentenced George to hang by the neck until he was dead. Many years later, I found out that there had been considerable political pressure placed on the judge to sentence George to death.
George took his death sentence with great courage. He wept after the sentence, in my presence and my presence alone, but even then he wept more for his mother’s sake than for his own.
Mrs. Harris, who had remained strong for George’s sake during the trial, broke down after the verdict and sentence was pronounced. She had to be hospitalized. It was in the hospital that I met with her and assured her that her son still had a chance.
“You mean there can be an appeal?”
“No, there is very little chance that an appeal will be granted. But there is a very good chance that in the next three months before the execution that some new evidence will turn up which will prove that George is innocent.”
“How will that happen, Reverend?”
“With God’s help, I hope to uncover some new evidence.”
“But if you couldn’t bring in any new evidence during the trial what makes you think you can find some new evidence now?”
“Because an intuition has been crystallizing into something concrete. I have hope. And I want you to have hope as well. Keep George and me in your prayers. And please, get well.
Almighty God, which has given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee, and dost promise that when two or three be gathered in thy name, thou wilt grant their requests: fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them, granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come, life everlasting. Amen.”
My intuition that had been growing started at the dinner party. It didn’t seem to matter then, but when I started to think about it in the light of Min Chang’s murder it became more and more significant in my eyes. What I saw at that dinner party was fear, fear in Matthew Harris’s eyes every time he looked at Min Chang. I certainly didn’t know why Matthew Harris should have feared Min Chang, but I was certain he had feared him. I felt that if I could discover why Matthew Harris was afraid of Min Chang, I should be very close to finding the real murderer. And I might as well tell you outright, since this is a memoir and not a mystery novel, that I thought Matthew Harris had killed Min Chang. His cold indifference to his son’s plight coupled with the fear in his eyes during the dinner party every time he looked at Min Chang had convinced me that Matthew Harris had murdered him. But of course no one would take my intuitions as truth. I needed concrete proof of my intuitions.
I started with another Oriental who had been a colleague of Chang at the University. This man, Yong Liu, had testified at George’s trial, describing the last time he had seen Chang and representing him as a model teacher and colleague who had nothing to do with opium as some ‘incendiary bigots’ had implied. Two days after my ‘there is still hope’ talk with Mrs. Harris I obtained an interview with Yong Liu in his quarters.
“Thank you for seeing me.”
“No thanks are necessary, Reverend, I know why you are here, and I have no intention of helping you to get that wretched murderer off.”
“Are you convinced that he is a murderer?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then why did you consent to see me?”
“To mock you.”
“To mock me?”
“Yes, I want to destroy any hope you might have in obtaining that pig’s release. And I want to tell you to your face what I think of you, your wretched country, and your wretched religion.”
“I don’t think you need to tell me what you think of me, my country, or my religion. Your face makes it obvious. Did it take much practice to twist your face into the shape of a reptile?”
“So, the Reverend has a temper. I warn you, I won’t be thrown in a fountain. I’ve taken precautions,” he said, revealing a revolver, “and you’ll have to behave yourself in my house.”
“I didn’t come here to throw you in a fountain. I wanted to know about your relationship with Min Chang. How long did you know him? Who started teaching here first? Things like that.”
“Find them out from somebody else.”
“I’ll find more than those things out. I’ll find out why Min Chang was blackmailing Matthew Harris. Then I shall be able to prove that Matthew Harris, not George Harris, murdered Min Chang.”
“Get out or I’ll have you thrown out.”
“Good day, Yong Liu.”
What had I accomplished by my visit to Yong Liu? It appeared that I had accomplished nothing. But I was wrong. My questions had brought on the wrath of Yong Liu. And why should he be mad because I thought George Harris innocent? I had no clue, but the following incident convinced me that Yong Liu wanted me to stop my inquiries.
What happened occurred one evening after my visit to Yong Liu’s. I often visited an herb shop, not far from Ludgate Circus (Potter and Clarke), which sold excellent herbs dating back to ancient times. The proprietors never diagnosed an ailment; they simply dispensed the herbs for whatever ailment the customer said he had. I knew many people who were aided by the herbalists after doctors had failed. In my case it was not a serious ailment. I often, after a three-sermon Sunday, had trouble with my voice box. St. John’s Bread is a pod that can be used to make a broth which soothes the vocal cords. A professional singer, a member of my parish, had recommended St. John’s Bread to me. I had never had any voice problems since I started using St. John’s Bread.
One night a week Potter and Clarke were open until 10 pm. I picked up my St. John’s Bread at 9:30 pm and proceeded to take a long walk by indirect routes back to the church. I needed to put in at least three miles before getting back to the rectory. For me long walks through London were a special tonic as necessary as St. John’s Bread.
I wasn’t far from the shop when I turned down one of my favorite side streets that looked much as it must have some 300 years ago. The street was poorly lit, but that never bothered me because I knew the street and liked being almost enveloped in the evening mists.
This time, however, I ran into two unexpected companions. Two large men accosted me, one tried to grab my arms and hold them behind my back while the other man attempted to plunge a dagger into my heart. Once I freed myself from the rather poor wrestler’s hold the larger man had on me and had disarmed the man with the knife, I rather enjoyed myself. It is seldom in life that we get to actually physically fight with evil. Most of the time the war with principalities and powers is an internal spiritual battle. But here were two men intent on killing me, which in those days entitled a man to fight. In an excellent book by C. S. Lewis, written in 1943, he relates how the hero in Perelandra actually gets to punch and pummel the devil himself. What a splendid depiction of the spiritual battle we all long for!
Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him–a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful hatred. The energy of hating, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing fully to distinguish the sinner from the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt that they were pillars of burning blood. What was before him appeared no longer a creature of corrupted will. It was corruption itself to which will was attached only as an instrument… It is perhaps difficult to understand why this filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy.
So to put it bluntly, I pounded the hell out of the two thugs. When both men were unconscious on the pavement, I lit a match and looked at their faces. They were both Chinamen. And I had seen both men on the day of my visit to Yong Liu. If this was a mystery I would say, “Ah, the plot thickens.” I felt that I was on the right track. Something had been going on between Min Chang and Matthew Harris. And possibly Yong Liu had been and was still involved in some dirty dealings with Matthew Harris.
But the time wore on, George’s execution date was getting closer, and I had no definite proof of George’s innocence. Mrs. Harris was home now, but she was still bedridden. George was bearing up as well as might be expected, but his faith was new: he couldn’t help but wonder why he had to die for another man’s murder. I visited George every day and his mother two or three times a week, while trying to keep up with the rest of my pastoral duties. Fortunately I was now the head pastor of St. John’s and could allocate some of my time as I saw fit. One of my quirks, as the senior pastor had called it when I first came to St. John’s, was to take long rambles through London just to see if there was someone who needed the comfort of the gospel of Christ. For me that was the supreme benefit of wearing the clerical collar. People would accept help from such a man more readily than they would from another man without the collar.
Ever since I encountered a young man about to commit suicide off Waterloo Bridge, I made it a point to do a lot of walking over the various bridges of London. On four separate occasions I was able to head off suicides. There was the aforementioned young man, who, as young men are apt to feel, felt that his life was over because he had lost his true love to another man. There was also a young woman involved with a married man, a London financier who went belly-up in the market, and a bereaved widower who had just lost his wife.
The widower has since died of natural causes, but the other three are all doing well. The young man married another, the young lady married an eligible bachelor, and I was able to procure the financier a respectable job well below his former income but without the risks involved in financial speculation. God was good to me; He allowed me, in those situations, to be a channel of his grace.
It was on December 23rd, seven days prior to George Harris’s scheduled execution, that I took a long ramble through London with a particular emphasis on the bridges. As is often the case in London, there was a heavy fog that night. While walking over Waterloo Bridge I could barely see an arm’s length in front of me. At the highest point of the bridge I came upon a man leaning over the bridge and peering into the water below.
“Good evening, sir, I don’t mean to bother you, but could I be of any assistance to you?”
“Shove off, you… — Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t notice you were a vicar, what with this fog and all. I suppose you thought I was going to jump or something.”
“Yes, the thought had occurred to me.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to jump, your honor, I just likes to stand on this here bridge and look down into the water, or, on a night like this, down into the fog. Besides if I was to jump, with my luck I’d just break my leg or something and then have to hobble around on crutches for the rest of my days.”
“I can understand your fascination with the fog and the darkness. I was born and reared in the country, but I’ve come to love this city.”
“I don’t know if I love anything anymore, Reverend, but I do like this foggy city. It suits me.”
“Samuel Johnson said, ‘He who is tired of London is tired of existence.’”
“I dare say he was right, Vicar. I’m almost tired of existence, that’s why I stay in London. It keeps me going, just barely, but just barely is enough.”
“It’s still early enough — would you allow me to buy you a beer?”
“Now why would you want to do that?”
“Because I like you. We are fellow fog addicts.”
“Ha, ha, that’s a new one – fellow fog addicts. All right, I’ll take you up on your offer, and many thanks.”
The reader might be wondering why I picked this man out of so many wanderers of the night to ask into a pub for a drink and a chat. All I can answer is that it seemed like the thing to do. I believed him when he said he had no plans to jump off the bridge, but he still seemed like a man who desperately needed a human channel of grace. God is good; He sends us divine intuitions.
My fellow fog addict was a man somewhere between sixty and seventy years of age. He was small in stature but strongly built. In bearing and aspect he seemed like a man who had lived hard but wasn’t about to complain. I could tell he wasn’t a talker, but I managed to get him to talk to me. I think it was because he was drawn to what I represented.
“Won’t you have something besides buttermilk, your reverence?”
“You needn’t call me ‘your reverence.’ Christopher or Chris will do. And the buttermilk stems from a promise I made to my mother.”
“Say no more about it. So long as a man doesn’t think I shouldn’t drink, I don’t care what he drinks. But ‘Christopher’ just doesn’t sit easy with me. How about I call you ‘Vicar’?”
“That’s fine if it makes you feel more comfortable.”
“It does indeed. And so does this here beer make me feel comfortable. It’s been too long since I’ve had a couple.”
“I take it you’ve been kind of down on your luck.”
“I’m not complaining.”
“I know you’re not, but I’d like to know more about you.”
“Why is that, Vicar?”
“Because I like the cut of your jib and all that sort of thing.”
“I’m not a navy man.”
“Yes, I served in them there Zulu wars in Africa.”
It was as if a great light had descended upon me after months and months of darkness. I could barely contain myself even though I knew that having been in the Zulu wars at the same time as Matthew Harris did not guarantee that the man before me knew Matthew Harris. And even if it turned out that he did know Matthew Harris, why should that help me prove that Matthew Harris’s son was innocent of murder? It was completely illogical, but still I felt that this man across the barroom table from me could unlock the mystery of Min Chang’s murder.
“Did you fight in the Zulu wars?”
“Yes, I did. I was one of the few survivors of the massacre at Islandlwana. I didn’t receive no medals for that one. And I’m not saying that I deserved one. But there were just as many brave men doing brave deeds at Islandlwana as there was a Rorke’s Drift, Hlobane, and Khambula. But them other battles were victories. Rorke’s Drift made the Zulus waste their men and then they were cut to pieces at Hlobane and Khambula. I don’t blame the army though. You can’t go around giving medals for losing battles. But I am saying that there was just as many that deserved medals for what they done at Islandlwana as at them winning battles. Not me, mind you, but plenty of others. Take Lt. Wilson for instance. He could have got clean away, but he went back for Private Johns who was shot in the leg. He cut his way back through the Zulus, even though he was clear of the battle, and stood by Private Johns. He must have killed at least 20 of them before they got him.
“And then there was Sergeant Macintosh — he killed the Zulus who were fixing to finish me. I was bleeding inside from a spear thrust, and he set me on a horse. ‘Hold on to him and he’ll swim you cross the river,’ he said. I didn’t have the strength to do anything but hold on to the horse’s pommel, or I’d never have let him stand alone like that. But he did stand alone. The last I saw of him he was fighting hand to hand with at least fifteen Zulus. They finished him, the filthy swine. They never would stand up to a British soldier man to man. They always swarmed them in hordes. But I saw courage that day, real courage.”
“It must have been terrible to have seen so many of your comrades fighting nobly only to be cut down.”
“That it was, that it was, Vicar. Here’s to ’em all,” he said as he drained his third beer, “all but one.”
I don’t know why, but I sensed something momentous was coming.
“Why do you say all but one?”
“Because there was one man there that day that was a disgrace to the British Army. No, I’ll go further: he was a disgrace to Britain and the white race.”
“Do you know his name?”
“Sure I do, but I don’t know what good it will do bringing his name up. It would disgrace all the brave men I’ve been talking about.”
“I have very good reasons for wanting to know his name. Could you please tell me?”
“Sure, Vicar, if it means that much to you. His name was Lieutenant Matthew Harris, and he was a white man with a treacherous black heart.”
“Do you know anything about the recent murder trial of a young man named George Harris?”
“No, I don’t, Vicar. I don’t read the papers much. I ain’t heard about it.”
“The boy, George Harris, is the son of Matthew Harris, the man you’ve just told me about. I believe that Matthew Harris, not his son, is guilty of the murder.”
“I wouldn’t put it past him, providing it was murder on the sneak. He’d be afraid to take a man head-on.”
“The murdered man was killed in his sleep.”
“That would be just like Lt. Harris, a sneak attack.”
“Could you please tell me everything, without leaving anything out, of what you know of Matthew Harris? A young man’s life, a good man, depends on it.”
“That I will do.”
I asked the waiter to refill his beer glass, and he began his story.
“I lived on the streets of London for the past 40 years, Vicar. And I like it. Which might strike some as odd, but after what I seen in 8 years of service in that there British Army, I like just roaming around London, steering clear of people but at the same time being around people.
“I was born in Wales, christened Thomas Edward Jenkins. And I might have stayed there my whole life if the South-End Mine hadn’t caved in. I was fourteen when I started mining, and eighteen when the mine caved in. Over one hundred of my mates died in the cave-in. ‘This isn’t for me,’ I said, ‘if I’m going to be killed I’d prefer to die in the open.’ So I joined the British Army. And the Army didn’t disappoint me. They gave me plenty of opportunities to die in the open air. I was eight years in Africa. I don’t know why I didn’t die there, but I didn’t. And I’ve seen things that a white man shouldn’t see. I’ve seen bloody colored heathens killing and torturing in ways that made me believe the coloreds ain’t human. I’m sorry if that offends you, Vicar – I know I’m supposed to love all God’s creatures, but I don’t love those bloody heathens. That’s why I came to London when I left the service. I just wanted to be around white people, lots of them. After 8 years of being around lots of colored black heathens, I needed to be around lots of white people. It’s tonic to me. I don’t care if I have to sleep on park benches and under bridges, so long as I’m around white people. But I’m getting off the point, ain’t I? You wanted to know more about Matthew Harris.”
“Yes, but you tell it in a way that makes you comfortable.”
“Thank you. I ain’t forgot about that Harris fellow. I served under him in the Zulu wars. I was in my last year in Africa, and he was four years out of Sandhurst. The first thing I noticed about him was that he liked to ramrod his men for almost nothing. If a button was undone on a private’s uniform, he would stop the private and set him through his drills. He had me running in place for one hour, holding my rifle straight out in front of me till my arm and back muscles were like to burst, just because I had been chopping wood with my top button unbuttoned. And I wasn’t the only one he got on. He was always after us. The men hated him. Some might say we was just jealous because he was a handsome officer and popular with the ladies while no lady would look twice at any enlisted man. But that ain’t the case at all. If we liked an officer, we was proud of him and happy for him if the ladies liked him. No, it wasn’t jealousy that made me and the other men dislike Lt. Harris. He was a ramrod for no reason, not tough but mean, and then I later found out he was a coward too.
“I found out at Islandlwana. You know the story, Vicar, everybody does, how the officers didn’t post no lookouts, and we got ourselves surrounded by the Zulus. Well, they were in a killing mood – they always are – and they swarmed all over us. I fought my way through a wall of Zulus, using my bayonet and thinking that every thrust I made with it would be my last. But the fact that there was so many of the black devils made it hard for them. They kept getting in each other’s way. And I kept stabbing. It probably wasn’t that long, but it seemed like a long time to me, before I had fought my way through to the river. I was hoping to get a horse or maybe just a horse’s saddle and try to float down the river away from the Zulus. That’s when I saw Lt. Harris and Corporal Jones. Jonesy was standing over Lt. Harris, who was lying on the ground with a wound in his right thigh. Corporal Jones was keeping the Zulus off him with the Lieutenant’s sword. I fought my way over to Jonesy, and we fought back to back. I knew I was going to die, but I felt better knowing I was going to go down with one of my own, a British soldier. I think Jonesy felt the same because when he saw me, he simply said, ‘Glad for the company.’
“I didn’t have time to look at the Lieutenant except once, but that once was enough. He was paralyzed with fear, just staring up at the Zulus, but not using his pistol, which was still holstered, or anything else.
“When Lt. Holmes rode up, slashing and stabbing at the Zulus, I thought maybe I wasn’t going to die because they gave way before him at first.
“But when Lt. Holmes leant down to help Lt. Harris up onto his horse, Harris grabbed Lt. Holmes, pulled him off the horse, and climbed on himself. Lt. Holmes hadn’t been expecting that, so he fell to the ground and the Zulus stabbed him to death. With Jonesy and me still fighting and the Zulus busy stabbing Lt. Holmes, Lt. Harris bolted and urged his horse into the river. That’s the last I saw of him on that day. Jonesy went down next, and I kept fighting till one of the Zulus stabbed me clean through my right side and out the other end. I would have bought it for sure if Sergeant Macintosh hadn’t rode up then. He must have left hell behind him, because he was the strongest and bravest man in the regiment. He tore into those Zulus like a man possessed. It was while he was putting me on the horse that they stabbed him in the back. But still he turned on them and fought as I went down the river on the back of his horse. I owe him my life, such as it is. He was the bravest of the brave.”
“Was that the last you ever saw of Matthew Harris?”
“Oh no, Vicar, I saw him again. You see it was only me, Lt. Holmes, and David Jones who knew what Lt. Harris had done. Jonesy and the Lieutenant were dead. I had to live in order to tell the Army what kind of man Matthew Harris was.
“I didn’t think I was going to live, though. I was bleeding bad and holding onto that horse for dear life. I drifted far enough down river to lose sight of any Zulus. Not that I had any control over where I ended up. I just went where the river took my horse. We finally came ashore in some brush about five miles, maybe more, down river from the battle. The horse kept going once we hit the shore, but I rolled off him and put the biggest pile of mud I could pick up on my wound. Then I laid down in the brush and either passed out or went to sleep – it amounts to the same thing.
“I must have slept there for over fourteen hours, waking up for a little and then falling back to sleep. I was burning up with fever and the hole in my side hurt like – if you forgive the expression – hell. But I got back. I kept walking, hoping I wouldn’t come across any more Zulus, still half out of mind with fever. Right before my final collapse, I kept seeing the town in Wales where I was born and raised. It was a dirty coal town, but it’s where my folks were. I kept seeing it. And then I just laid down and said goodbye to everything.
“No, it ain’t no ghost you see before you, Vicar. I collapsed – it was pitch dark – about 40 paces from a Boer farmhouse. I know we fought with them later, and we was wrong to do it, but let me tell you the Boers were the best of the human race. That farmer and his wife found me, nursed me, and fed me until I was a whole man again.
“Then, when I was fit to ride, they gave me a horse and sent me back to the regiment.”
“I don’t imagine Lt. Harris was too glad to see you.”
“No, he wasn’t. He acted all glad to see me – he even ran up and hugged me. It was all I could do to keep from strangling him on the spot. But he whispers in my ear, ‘See me in my tent before you report.’ I shouldn’t have listened to him, but I did. I didn’t see any high ranking officers around when I rode into camp, so I thought, ‘I’ll see what this slime of a man has to say to me.’ I thought he was going to make up some excuse or else deny that he had done anything wrong. I thought I’d listen to what he said and then spit in his face and go and report him to the Colonel. But he was too sharp for me. He came strutting into the tent, calm and cool as can be.
“‘You think you saw something out there, don’t you?’
“‘I know I saw something out there.’
“‘What do you think you saw?’
“‘I saw Lt. Holmes stop to save you from the Zulus and then I saw you drag Lt. Holmes off his horse, leaving him to be killed by the Zulus while you rode to safety.’
“‘Lt. Holmes would have done the same thing I did had our positions been reversed. So would you have, or anyone else in the British Army.’
“‘That’s a lie.’
“‘What did you say?’
“‘I said that’s a lie. Lt. Holmes did have a chance to get clean away, but instead he stopped to save you. And there isn’t any other soldier in the British Army that would have done what you done.’
“‘I see: ‘Some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules, of Hector and Lysander…’ All that British Grenadier type of nonsense.’
“‘It ain’t nonsense, I’ve seen the British soldier in action. They’re my mates, the dead ones and them that are still alive.’
“‘My family has money.’
“‘Good for you.’
“‘Some of that money, a lot of that money, can be yours.’
“‘Keep your money, I’m going to see the Colonel.’
“I never got out of the tent. As I turned to go, he hit me from behind with something much harder than a fist. I think it was a sword hilt. But whatever he hit me with, it did the trick. I was out long enough for him to get rid of me. Oh, I can see what you’re thinking. If he got rid of me, how come I’m here?”
“Yes, I was thinking along those lines.”
“He got rid of me without killing me. How was he going to explain my body in his tent if he killed me? At least twenty men had seen me ride in. He couldn’t just shoot me and say I never came back to camp. What he did was quite simple, and I was too stupid to see it coming. After hitting me he had me locked up. He told the Colonel that I had tried to attack him because I thought that he was responsible for turning the whole company over to the Zulus. Everything, according to me, was Lt. Harris’s fault. He said I had accused him of being in secret communication with the Zulus. ‘It’s pure delusion of course,’ he said, ‘no doubt brought on by his terrible ordeal, so I don’t want him brought up on charges or anything. Let’s just quietly ship him home and get him some mental treatment and a rest.’
“Well, Vicar, it worked. He was a smooth one and I wasn’t. He had me shipped home under a kind of house arrest the whole way. When I got home, I was put in some kind of mental ward for soldiers. And they kept an eye on me there, too.”
“Did you ever try to tell anyone about Lt. Harris?”
“Yes, I did. They wouldn’t let me see anybody high up in the military, but I told the doctors in the ward that I was in the ward because of that there Lt. Harris and not because I was suffering from a nervous breakdown. But they just smiled at me and said that I’d see things differently when I was well.”
“You never did get ‘well’, did you?”
“No, I didn’t. I knew what Lt. Harris was. But I learned to stop talking about Harris. It wasn’t doing me any good, in fact it was keeping me in the mental ward. Once I stopped talking about him, they gave me an honourable discharge from the service and let me out of the mental ward. You see, from their side of the fence I was cured.”
“How long did you serve in the Army?”
“Ten years — eight in Africa and two in that there mental ward. I went home to Wales when I got out of the mental ward. I got a chance to see my mother, but my father was dead. Mother died eight months after I came home. I’ve spent the last forty or so years roaming the streets of London.”
“That’s a long time to roam the streets.”
“Well, it ain’t all been roaming. I’ve worked the docks some, and I’ve peddled some and I even lived under a roof for a few years, but mainly I’ve been roaming, because I like the company…”
“Of white people?”
“Yes, that’s it. I don’t think that anyone who has not been in Africa and seen what those blacks are really like can know what it means to live white. There is something from hell in those black men that makes you sick to your soul. I can’t stand it when your missionary type Christians try to make out that a black man is simply a white man with black skin. That just ain’t so. A black man is different inside from a white man. And white men should stay clear of black men, if they want to hang on to their souls. You’ve been buying me beer, Reverend, so I don’t like talking against missionaries, but that’s the way I feel. I don’t think it’s Christian to go around preaching that a black man can ever be a white man.”
“You needn’t apologize. I don’t agree with everything done by my fellow pastors and ministers. In fact, I’m more often than not at odds with them. As regards the colored missions, I think it’s best for Europeans to stay in Europe and keep Europe Christian so that the light can shine on other nations. I don’t think we should bring the colored to Europe nor do I think we should ever confuse evangelization with mongrelization. But I think I’ve interrupted you. Please go on.”
“There isn’t much more to tell. Except for the one thing that you might find helpful. Like I said, the horror of negroes burned deep into my soul. So it hurt me, and I know it hurt plenty of the others that fought in those African wars, that when the whole thing was over and we were supposed to have won the Zulu wars, that they not only let Cetewayo, Chief of the Zulus, live, they invited him to England. He took a house in Kensington and had lunch with the Queen. And every time he went out, big crowds greeted him, patted on the back, and called him a jolly good fellow.”
“Didn’t certain of the bloodthirsty Indian chiefs in America get similar treatment when their fighting days were over?”
“I don’t know, Vicar. But it was wrong. Let me tell you about the Zulus and Cetewayo. They weren’t soldiers, they were Satanists. They never just killed a man, they mutilated his corpse. And when they caught some soldier alive, they tortured him. You’ve heard tell of the Jack the Ripper fellow that they never caught?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well, everyone said what he done was terrible, you know, cutting them women up. And it was terrible. But those black fiends from hell is all Jack the Rippers. They look on that type of killing and mutilating as normal. Cetewayo liked to watch his prisoners be cut up while he was eating, just like some white folk might like to hear music while they ate. I couldn’t stand to see him strutting around London, so I decided to kill him. I saw an advertisement for one of his gibberish talks. He talked Zulu and some missionary translated for him. I planned on blending in with the crowd and then, when I got close enough to him, sticking a knife into him. But it never happened like I wanted it to. As soon as I got into that there hall, I was taken away.”
“By Scotland Yard?”
“They said they was Scotland Yard, but they weren’t. They just told me they were working for Scotland Yard so I wouldn’t put up a fuss.”
“Who were they then?”
“They were working for Captain Harris – he was promoted to captain after Islandlwana – because as it turned out he was sponsoring the talk. He recognized me coming in and set his goons on me. He didn’t want some public row where I might tell what I knew about him. Nobody believed me before, but he still didn’t want it bandied about. Once the goons got me away from the hall, they coshed me. When I came to, I was tied up and looking into the face of a Chinaman.”
“I don’t mean to be constantly interrupting you, but this is vital. Do you remember the name of that Chinaman?”
“No, I don’t, Vicar, because he never said his name. And if you ask me to describe him all I could say was that he was a Chinaman.”
“What happened to you after you came to?”
“The Chinaman told me I was going on a long trip, but before I left he wanted some information from me. And he made it clear that if I didn’t give it willingly he would still get it from me. It would be his great pleasure, he assured me, to cause me great pain. But he needn’t have threatened me. I was quite willing to tell him what he wanted to know. It wasn’t no military secrets he was after. He wanted to know why Captain Harris wanted me killed. So I told him.”
Here then was the link between Matthew Harris and Min Chang that I had been seeking. Though Jenkins couldn’t give me his name, I was certain that Min Chang was the man who Matthew Harris had hired to kill Jenkins. But Chang didn’t kill him, because if he had he couldn’t blackmail Harris over his cowardice at Islandlwana. But I was beginning to see a different murder scenario. Tired of paying blackmail for so many years to Min Chang, Harris had not killed Min Chang himself as I had originally thought, but had hired Yong Liu to kill him. That was the reason Yong Liu didn’t want me to find Min Chang’s murderer. Yong Liu was the murderer!
All this was conjecture, and I knew it was too flimsy to hold up in court. I needed more.
“Obviously, Min Chang didn’t kill you.”
“No, he didn’t, and I couldn’t figure out why.”
“I think I know. He wanted to use the information you gave him to blackmail Captain Harris. If he murdered you, then Harris would have had something on him as well.”
“That makes sense, but I never put it together. I guess I’ve been the fool ten ways from Sunday.”
“No, you’ve been the one man among ravenous wolves. What did Min Chang do with you?”
“That’s assuming the Chinaman was Min Chang.”
“Yes, I am assuming that.”
“He had me put on a steamer bound for China. But he must not have paid the ship’s captain much money, because it was pretty easy for me to jump ship and make my way back to England.”
“How long did it take you to get back?”
“What did you do when you got back?”
“Well, I didn’t make no more tries on Cetewayo, because he was gone, on his way back to Zululand. And I lost track of Captain Harris. I’ve just been roaming ever since. I had a wife for a few years, those are the years that I lived under a roof. But the wife died and I went back to roaming through London.”
“Did Harris ever make any more tries on your life?”
“No, he didn’t. I always thought that he figured I was dead. But if that there Min Chang was blackmailing him over his cowardice he must have told him I was still alive and he could produce me if he wanted.”
“And all those years he’s had that hanging over his head.”
“I guess so, Vicar. It’s funny that a man who says he doesn’t believe in the British honour code would spend his life afraid that someone might prove that he didn’t live up to the code.”
“Thomas, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.’ There was an American author, Mark Twain, who served briefly on the Southern side in the South’s War for Independence. He deserted and then spent the rest of his life casting aspersions on the code of chivalry. He couldn’t abide Walter Scott, who was kind of the poet laureate of chivalry.”
“Meaning, he couldn’t be honourable and brave, so that meant there was no such thing as bravery and honour?”
“Yes. And I think that sums up Matthew Harris as well. A man that is pure ego cannot ever say he is a lesser man than other men. So Harris took refuge in his intellect, which he thought was better than anyone else’s intellect. The endless intellectual gatherings and dinner parties were all his attempt to convince himself and the world that he was Matthew Harris, the demi-god.”
“But why did he sponsor the Cetewayo talks and make such a big deal about the magnificent Zulus?”
“Because the true intellectual worships the noble savage, and that’s what the black man has become to white liberals: the Noble Black Savage.”
“But he ain’t noble; he’s just a savage.”
“I agree, but that’s the pathology of men like Matthew Harris. They love the devil through his conduit, the negro.”
“Are there a lot of men like Matthew Harris?”
“Unfortunately men like Harris are becoming more numerous. Our universities breed such men.”
“Then I’m glad I won’t be around much longer.”
“Never say that, Thomas. You’re the type of Britisher we need.”
“That’s kind of you to say, Vicar.”
“I mean it, Thomas. Now, I need you for something of great importance. Are you game for another try at Captain Harris?”
“That I am, Vicar.”
SCENE: The Harris Mansion in London, Christmas Eve,
approximately 7 p.m.
Mrs. Harris: Matthew, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but that man has been standing under that streetlight, staring up at the house for the last hour.
Matthew Harris: No, I hadn’t noticed.
Mrs. Harris: Well, it bothers me.
Matthew Harris: God forbid that anything should bother my dearest. I’ll ask one of the servants to call the police, though I doubt that they can do much. There is no law against standing under a streetlight. Wait, I’ll go out and speak to him myself.
Mrs. Harris: Do you think that’s wise?
Matthew Harris: It won’t take long and the man seems harmless.
SCENE: On the Street
Matthew Harris: I warn you, I’m armed.
Jenkins: Now why would you think you needed a gun against the likes of me?
Matthew Harris: What do you want?
Jenkins: I wants money, the money you offered me many years ago to keep my mouth shut. Now I wants it. And I want it to keep my mouth shut about more than your being a coward. I want money to keep me from telling that you hired that there Yong Liu to kill that other Chinaman that the papers have been talking about.
Matthew Harris: I had nothing to do with that murder. My son did it.
Jenkins: In the old days, I wouldn’t do business with a man that would sell out his comrades and then sell out his own son. But I’ve changed, Captain Harris. I’m so down and out that lying in the gutter would be a step up for me. You give me the money to live like a white man, and I’ll keep quiet about everything.
Matthew Harris: If I’ve done what you say, then what makes you think I won’t have you killed instead of paying you?
Jenkins: Because I’ve told a certain vicar everything I know, and he’ll go to the police if I’m killed. They might not believe him, but then again they might.
Matthew Harris: How much?
Jenkins: I’m not greedy. Let’s say 5,000 pounds right now.
Matthew Harris: 3,000 pounds is the most I can get you tonight.
Jenkins: That’ll do, you can get me the rest later.
Matthew Harris: Meet me in three hours at Dingman’s Wharf, and I’ll have the money for you. Providing you do one more thing for me.
Jenkins: What’s that?
Matthew Harris: Bring that parson with you.
Jenkins: Why do you want to see him?
Matthew Harris: Bring him. If you don’t, you won’t get the money.
Jenkins: All right, I’ll bring him.
SCENE: Dingman’s Wharf
Rev. Grey: You wouldn’t think there could be such a deserted and desolate looking place in a major city.
Jenkins: This here wharf is never used anymore, and certain it isn’t about to be used on Christmas Eve.
Matthew Harris (stepping out of the mists): But it is going to be used this Christmas Eve, for I have need of a desolate place.
Jenkins: Did you bring the money?
Matthew Harris: No, I didn’t, but I did bring this.
Rev. Grey: I thought you preferred to kill by proxy.
Matthew Harris: I do. But in both of your cases, I’ll enjoy making the exceptions.
Rev. Grey: But why deprive Yong Liu of the pleasure? He killed Min Chang for you, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind killing two more.
Matthew Harris: So you want a confession. Aren’t you being rather heavy-handed about it?
Rev. Grey: Yes, I’d like a confession from you, because I don’t think you have the nerve to kill me, and once you’ve dropped the gun, I’ll go to the police with your confession.
Matthew Harris: You’re wrong, you disgusting clerical pig. I’ll kill you and Jenkins there because it will be a pleasure. That Min Chang killing was business, and that’s why I hired Yong Liu to do it for me.
Rev. Grey: Why did you wait so many years?
Matthew Harris: He didn’t ask for that much at first. But then he started getting exorbitant in his demands. It was simply a business decision.
Rev. Grey: But this is pleasure?
Matthew Harris: Yes, pleasure and business.
Rev. Grey: Because I threw you in the fountain?
Matthew Harris: No, for that I could have paid someone to have you beaten.
Jenkins: I don’t think so, Captain, he’d be too much for a regiment.
Matthew Harris: Shut up, Jenkins. No, Mr. Grey, I’m not killing you for throwing me in a fountain. I’m killing you for the simple business reason that you know too much. But even more than that, I’m killing you because I hate you. You’re a Christer, a dying breed of a man that I will be quite happy to send out of this world. So you and that pathetic wretch, Private Thomas Edward Jenkins, can go to that great nothingness together… Who are you?
Inspector Palmer, Scotland Yard (stepping out of the mist with a revolver in hand): Unfortunately for you, Mr. Harris, I am justice, and I’m here to arrest you for the murder of Min Chang.
It was not a foolproof plan we had hatched to get a confession from Matthew Harris. In fact, it seemed highly unlikely that Matthew Harris would be fooled by such a simple plan. But there were a number of factors that worked in our favor. The first was Matthew Harris’s deep-rooted hatred for me. I sensed that we were bitter enemies from the very first time I had met him at the dinner party. That hatred, which went quite beyond mere dislike, no doubt stemmed from our opposed masters. I hoped that his hatred for me might make him so anxious to kill me that he might possibly overstep the bounds of caution and reveal his guilt.
The second factor was Harris’s contempt for Thomas Jenkins. I don’t think he believed that such a simpleton (his own view, not mine) as Thomas Jenkins could trick a giant intellect such as Matthew Harris. Once I got Mrs. Harris to point out Jenkins on the street in front of their home, the trap was sprung. It only needed a word to Inspector Palmer of Scotland Yard to seal Matthew Harris’s fate and prove George Harris’s innocence.
George was released from prison at 11:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, and he stepped across the threshold of his home and into his mother’s arms at 12 midnight, just as the Christmas chimes rang throughout London.
Yong Liu was arrested while trying to leave the country. There was a great deal of international haggling over where he was to be tried, because he was a Chinese citizen. He actually wanted to be tried in England, because he thought he had a better chance of escaping the death penalty in England than in China. Eventually he was sent back to China where he was executed. Min Chang’s family was more influential than Yong Liu’s family.
Matthew Harris? He pleaded not guilty, claiming Yong Liu had acted alone. His case dragged on for six months and eventually he was acquitted. His friends in high places, which he hadn’t chosen to use in defense of his son, came through for him.
I wasn’t surprised at the verdict. Nor was I particularly upset by it. It was George Harris’s release I had wanted, and through the grace of God it was given to me. You don’t believe it was the grace of God that released George Harris? That is your prerogative, but how do you explain my meeting with Thomas Jenkins? Mere chance? That would be too coincidental for me to believe.
George Harris is still alive today, with a wife, four children, and six grandchildren. He never left the Christian fold after his unexpected entry into it while in prison. His mother lived well into her nineties before passing away. And Thomas Jenkins lived another twenty-five years after the Matthew Harris trial. He never was comfortable living permanently under one roof, but like Edie Ochiltree in Walter Scott’s novel, The Antiquary, he stayed as a guest under many roofs, particularly mine. At his death he thanked God for allowing him “to die among white folk and not in that horrible Zululand.” He had become a legendary figure after Matthew Harris’s exposure. So when he died, he was buried with full military honors. That would have amused him, because he never thought he deserved any military honors. His one request, which I honored, was to be buried with his worn and tattered copy of the New Testament. God bless him.
After George’s acquittal, Matthew Harris’s wife and son moved to a country house outside of London, leaving Matthew Harris to the London house and his friends from academia. The dinner parties, however, were never quite as prestigious as before. It’s odd — even though the liberal academics were self-professed scoffers at such things as honour and chivalry, the fact that Matthew Harris was not a brave British soldier but was in fact an unchivalrous cad — and possibly a murderer – made the more ‘respectable’ academics such as Freud shun him. But still, because he had money, Matthew Harris managed to maintain a stable of diner party academic sycophants and spongers. He preceded his wife in death, dying quietly in his sleep in the eighty-ninth year of his life.
Was there any sign of repentance toward the end of his wretched life? His wife said there was not. He seemed obdurate right till the end. Deathbed conversions are rare, but they do occur. It’s always very sad for the surviving family members when their own flesh and blood dies without showing even a glimmer of repentance.
There was incredible hatred for Christ in Matthew Harris. And because of that hatred he spent a lifetime attacking Christ’s people. Every person who had anything to do with the building or maintaining of Christian Europe was an anathema to him. And unfortunately Matthew Harris, in his later years particularly, saw that the European people were starting to come around to his way of thinking. But ironically his son George, once he converted, was the last of a breed. George became a true-bred Englishman whose Christianity was the unshakeable, bred-in-the-bone Christianity of his noble grandsires. The European restoration will come from such Christians as George Harris.
I would be remiss if I left out the missing piece of the Ann Harris story. When I told Ann that I thought I could prove her son was innocent of the murder if she would simply point out Thomas Jenkins to her husband, she readily agreed.
“Is that all you want me to do?”
“There is one more thing.”
“I want you to pray.”
“I don’t think I can. I’m afraid to.”
“When your husband leaves the house to confront Thomas Jenkins, go to a quiet place, your own upper room, and pray to Christ.”
“I’ll try, Reverend, but it’s been so long.”
“Think of your son and how much you love him. And think of God’s Son. Trust me, you’ll be able to pray.”
After the Christmas services I had Christmas dinner with Ann Harris and her son. Ann took me aside after dinner. “Reverend, what time was it when my husband confessed to the murder?”
“About 11 p.m.”
“That’s the same time that I finished my prayer. It started out as an incoherent mumble to the great unknown God. But I thought of my son and how much I loved him. I’d do anything to free him. And then I felt, for the first time, a pang in my heart for Christ. How He must have loved us to do what He did. And surely He wouldn’t stop loving us. Then I was able to pray: ‘Please, Christ, please help my son, because I love him. And if you can’t help him, please give me the grace to bear it.’
“It wasn’t a prayer from my brain; it was from my heart, Reverend. And God surely knew it was from my heart, because he gave me back my son.”
George Harris’ life was saved that night, but an even greater miracle happened that Christmas Eve. A sinner returned to her God. Ann Harris was the prodigal who returned to her Father’s house. Our Christmas feast reminded me of another feast:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.
Will the European people, now that they have renounced the personal sins and think there are only social sins, such as racism, ever know what it is to be merry again? Only if they return to their provincial God who presides over the European hearth fires.
One of my most joyous Christmas memories shall always be of Ann Harris, the woman who, at the supreme crisis of her life, called on Him by name and asked Him to teach her faithful, loving, English heart to overrule her doubting brain. She loved much and was forgiven. So should we all. And that is my equivalent of Tiny Tim’s Christmas blessing.