“My dear Dorcas,” he said, “you know me well enough—you know me perhaps better than your father knows me—know me well enough to believe that I wouldn’t urge you to do this thing if I didn’t think it was right for you—as well as for your father and me. But I know it is right, and for this reason. You are a deeply religious nature, but you need some outward symbol to hold on to,—you need, so to say, the magnetising association of a religious organisation. Henry can get along very well, as many poets have, with his birds and his sunsets and so forth; but you need something more authoritative. It happens that the church I represent, the church of your father, is nearest to you. You might, with all the goodwill in the world, so far as I am concerned, embrace some other modification of the Christian faith; but here is a church, so to say, ready for you, familiar by long association, endeared to your father. You believe in God, you believe in the spiritual meaning of life, you believe that we poor human beings need something to keep our eyes fixed upon that spiritual meaning—well, dear Dorcas,” he ended, abruptly, “what do you think?”
“I’ll do it,” said Dot.
“Good girl,” said the minister; “sometimes it is a form of righteousness to waive our doubts for those who are at once so dear and good as your father. And don’t for a moment think that it will leave you just where you are. These outward acts are great energisers of the soul. Dear Dorcas, I welcome you into one of God’s many churches.”
So it was that Dot came to be baptised; and, to witness the ceremony, all the Mesuriers assembled at the chapel that Sunday evening,—even Henry, who could hardly remember when he used to sit in this still-familiar pew, and scribble love-verses in the back of his hymn-book during the sermon.
To the mere mocker, the rite of baptism by immersion might well seem a somewhat grotesque antic of sectarianism; but to any one who must needs find sympathy for any observance into which, in whatsoever forgotten and superseded time, has passed the prayerful enthusiasm of man, the rite could hardly fail of a moving solemnity. As Chrysostom Trotter ordered it, it was certainly made to yield its fullest measure of impressiveness. To begin with, the chapel was quite a comely edifice inside and out; and its ministerial end, with its singers’ gallery backed by great organ pipes, and fronted by a handsome pulpit, which Mr. Trotter had dared to garnish with chrysanthemums on each side of his Bible, had a modest, sacerdotal effect. Beneath the pulpit on ordinary occasions stood the Communion-table; but on evenings when the rite of baptism was prepared, this table, and a boarding on which it stood, were removed, revealing a tiled baptistry,—that is, a tiled tank, about eight feet long, and six wide, with steps on each side descending into about four feet of water.
Towards the close of the service, the minister would leave his pulpit, and, during the singing of a hymn, would presently emerge from his vestry in a long waterproof garment. As the hymn ended, some “sister” or “brother” that night to be admitted into the church, would timidly join him at the baptistry side, and together they would go down into the water.