“Mr. Bishop,” he said, turning round as they departed, “I would advise you to go back quietly to the vicarage.”
Then the door closed and the little man sat down upon the nearest form. The bishop would never hear of his little alterations now; he would never think well of them, even if he did.
He burst into tears, and for some moments sat there with his head buried in his hands. Then he looked up, saw the bread which also had been kept over from the service, and, reaching forward, began pathetically to put the little squares one by one into his mouth.
That incident in itself is sufficient. There is no need to lead a way down the steps that brought the Rev. Samuel Bishop to his final degradation and ultimate death. The generous offer of the chaplaincy of a small union, the withdrawal of his son from Oxford, the dismissal of the tutelary services of the lady who had charge of his daughter’s education, the replacing of a better man in the rectory at Cailsham—all these stages of the little tragedy have no intimate importance in themselves, except that they formed the first evolutionary periods of the development of Sally’s life. These were the press-gang of circumstances that forced her into the service of her sex; these, the shrilling calls of the bugle that bid her strap the haversack to her slender shoulders and march out to war against the sea of trouble.
In a living and moving institution such as the Christian Church, you cannot afford to be lenient to incompetency. And the Rev. Samuel was incompetent. There is no doubt about that.
In such circumstances as these, assuming them up to the point where the obliging chauffeur had found the door closed in his face, a competent man would have lifted reason above his faith. Calmly, he would have told himself, as did the chauffeur, “This is the juice of the grape; it is in nowise altered in composition because these hands of mine—which have done many things—have been laid upon it. It is better to mix it again with unconsecrated wine, than pour it down the sacrilegious throat of an unbelieving chauffeur; I will put it back in the bottle.”
So a competent man would have acted, presuming that he had ever allowed himself to be so far caught in such a predicament. But the Rev. Samuel was too fully possessed of that first characteristic of faith, which the Christian Church demands. It only argues that you must take no man absolutely at his word, even when he presumes to speak, inspired with the voice of God. Nothing has yet been written, nothing has yet been said, which can be made to apply without deviation to the law of change, and also indiscriminately of persons.
And so, for this unswerving faith of the Rev. Samuel, Sally Bishop is made to suffer. Very shortly after the removal from Cailsham, she made her declaration of independence.