Of course he had known this story from his earliest years. In almost every chapter he came now upon a phrase or an incident which had served him as the basis for a sermon. He had preached about Hagar in the wilderness, about Lot’s wife, about the visit of the angels, about the intended sacrifice of Isaac, about a dozen other things suggested by the ancient narrative. Somehow this time it all seemed different to him. The people he read about were altered to his vision. Heretofore a poetic light had shone about them, where indeed they had not glowed in a halo of sanctification. Now, by some chance, this light was gone, and he saw them instead as untutored and unwashed barbarians, filled with animal lusts and ferocities, struggling by violence and foul chicanery to secure a foothold in a country which did not belong to them—all rude tramps and robbers of the uncivilized plain.
The apparent fact that Abram was a Chaldean struck him with peculiar force. How was it, he wondered, that this had never occurred to him before? Examining himself, he found that he had supposed vaguely that there had been Jews from the beginning, or at least, say, from the flood. But, no, Abram was introduced simply as a citizen of the Chaldean town of Ur, and there was no hint of any difference in race between him and his neighbors. It was specially mentioned that his brother, Lot’s father, died in Ur, the city of his nativity. Evidently the family belonged there, and were Chaldeans like the rest.
I do not cite this as at all a striking discovery, but it did have a curious effect upon Theron Ware. Up to that very afternoon, his notion of the kind of book he wanted to write had been founded upon a popular book called “Ruth the Moabitess,” written by a clergyman he knew very well, the Rev. E. Ray Mifflin. This model performance troubled itself not at all with difficult points, but went swimmingly along through scented summer seas of pretty rhetoric, teaching nothing, it is true, but pleasing a good deal and selling like hot cakes. Now, all at once Theron felt that he hated that sort of book. His work should be of a vastly different order. He might fairly assume, he thought, that if the fact that Abram was a Chaldean was new to him, it would fall upon the world in general as a novelty. Very well, then, there was his chance. He would write a learned book, showing who the Chaldeans were, and how their manners and beliefs differed from, and influenced—
It was at this psychological instant that the wave of self-condemnation suddenly burst upon and submerged the young clergyman. It passed again, leaving him staring fixedly at the pile of books he had taken down from the shelves, and gasping a little, as if for breath. Then the humorous side of the thing, perversely enough, appealed to him, and he grinned feebly to himself at the joke of his having imagined that he could write learnedly about the Chaldeans, or anything else. But, no, it shouldn’t