The Calvary Chapel people were loath to have Marie and John Henry go, and in their real though limited way they bade them "Godspeed." The sister of the young organist of the chapel held a reception for them in her apartment, and there were real "good-byes" from all their fellow workers.
The young people had written much to each other during the last year of their long and varied engagement. Marie had written every day to John Henry, and he had written twice every day to her. These letters were very precious to them both, and they were determined that no future generations should ever possess any of them, or make fun of them. These letters must be destroyed. So they were all packed up in a big box, and expressed to Burlington, Vermont, where a few days were to be spent in the home of Marie's parents, on the way to Chicago. The plan was to await some moon-light evening, and to rent one of "Shambo's" row-boats, as they so often had done during John Henry's college days, and to row to the beach near Rock Point, and there to burn the letters in a beach fire, while the moon looked on approvingly.
Alas! for the "best laid plans of mice and men" and young married people! It rained hard every evening during their visit. So they packed up the letters again, and expressed them to Chicago. Once in that whirling maelstrom of activity, all thoughts of getting time for any such carefully planned destruction of the scores and dozens of letters seemed utterly futile. Finally, at the close of their first Chicago year, as they were preparing hurriedly for a brief vacation trip to the East, in the month of June, 1894, Marie suddenly thought of the letters, and on a very hot day, in their apartment's kitchen in St. James's parish house, she stood for more than an hour or two before the kitchen stove, gradually shoving these letters, handfuls at a time, into the rather unwilling maw of the lighted stove, until at last they were all successfully burned, and the ashes cast into the garbage pail. It was not very sentimental, but it was effective.
So loyally did these two stay by each other, year after year, that it was nearly twenty years after their wedding day before they were even once separated from each other far enough for either of them to write a letter to the other. That rather tragic time for them both came when Marie's strength gave way, while they were "on the road" as Missionary field secretary and wife. They were traveling through the "Fifth Department," as it was then styled in the crude nomenclature of our polyglot Church. It is now entitled "the Province of the Mid-west" and includes, as of yore, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. John Henry had to take Marie back to Vermont, and to leave her with her parents for six weeks, while he returned alone to his travels in the Mid-west. For these weeks they resumed their daily letters to each other, and, when that period was past they never had further occasion to write to each other for the following twenty-two years, which brings this chronicle of their life together up to date. Except for those six weeks, they were never away from each other for twenty-four hours at any time, during their entire married life. When the invitations came to either of them to leave home, for any conventions or speaking engagements, or the like, if they could not afford to go together they declined the invitations. They did not start out on this principle, but the first five years came and went without any separation, and they then set out to see how long they could continue to stay together, without any dereliction, or neglect of unquestioned duty. The above record was the result.
When the invitation came to go to Chicago, that wonder-city was quivering with even unwonted verve and life, inasmuch as a short time before they arrived it had been decided that "the World's Columbian Exposition" should be held in Chicago instead of in New York. There were about one million inhabitants in Chicago and suburbs at this time, and the city was thus small enough to be a complete unit. And every individual of the whole million was tense with interest and preparation as the great Exposition's beautiful "White City" in Jackson Park gradually rose from the lagoons and levels of the South Side. It was a wonderfully inspiriting time to begin any kind of work in Chicago.
St. James's Church, Cass and Huron streets (the "mother church" of the Episcopalians in Chicago), was socially and financially the leading congregation of the diocese, and one of the most conspicuous groups of Christian people in the whole Middle-west. Most of the directors of the "World's Fair" sat in the center aisle of this church. The Brotherhood of St. Andrew started in its men's Bible class. Every seat of its 1,200 was rented and usually occupied. Four hundred men were usually present at its mid-day Sunday service. Its "boy choir" was one of the institutions of music-loving Chicago. Fifty men or more came regularly to its Tuesday evening Brotherhood meetings. Its women were to be found on most of the boards of managers of the leading social and charitable organizations of Chicago. Town Topics used to say that "if one wanted to be in 'society' in Chicago, in those days, one had to live on the North Side, go to St. James's Church, and sit on the Rumseys' steps." Marie and John Henry "sat" on these parishioners' "steps," and on many others also. They thus found themselves suddenly transported from the tenement-house atmosphere of poorer New York people, to this kind of a brilliant, dominating, well-dressed and well-fed, tremendously busy, creatively enthusiastic, and in many cases internationally known people, at the supreme hour of said people's zeal and aspiration. It was a change so exhilarating and challenging that their every nerve tingled with zest, and each day brought new opportunities for every atom of their ability and devotion.
The Rev. Floyd W. Tomkins, the Rector, gave them the most generous welcome as his co-workers. John Henry dated back to the large-hearted kindliness of his chief, during the rest of his own life, as a model to be followed as far as possible when he, too, had to select and to utilize the nine Curates of his subsequent ministry. But to Marie the St. James's opportunity was even more unusual, for the Rector frankly told John Henry at the start that Mrs. Tomkins was so much occupied with her duties as wife and mother, with a large group of young children to care for, that she simply could not have any time or strength for parochial work or connections, and that Marie must please hold herself in readiness to serve as the "Rector's wife," by representation, should the parishioners so desire. This very large opening was further emphasized by the special fact that Mrs. Vibbert, the wife of the previous Rector, had thrown herself unreservedly into the parish life, had been dearly beloved by all the women, and so had created a position which someone had to fill. And Marie filled it, with a brilliance, a skill, an untiring charm and winning leadership which made the twenty-three months in St. James's parish, in 1891, 1892, and part of 1893, unquestionably the most remarkable period of their life and work together, in many ways. Had it continued for very long, John Henry would have been completely spoiled, and even Marie's poise and able self-discipline might have wobbled a little at times.
There was nothing too good for them, in the hearts of these kind and generous St. James's people. Invitations of every social kind poured in upon them, especially upon Marie, even beyond their power to accept. Favors were lavished constantly. There were scores of homes, all through this select residential portion of Chicago, where they could have rung the doorbell at 5 p.m. any afternoon, and have been immediately urged to stay for dinner, unless there happened to be a set "party" expected, with a definite number of guests. Several families asked them to live with them. Marie would go out for some afternoon engagement, and on returning to her suite of rooms would find an expensive set of furs hanging on the doorknob, with a friend's card inside. One family in the parish was well acquainted with the proprietor of the most expensive hotel in New York City. On learning that the young clergyman and his wife were planning a brief vacation in the east, this generous family insisted that the tourists should be their guests at this "Hotel Savoy" while in Gotham. Four days had been thus enjoyed when John Henry casually enquired from the hotel clerk the price of the rooms. He learned that rooms and board were costing twenty-five dollars a day! An immediate departure was scheduled!
Marie took hold of the parish work from the start. She taught a large Bible class of women on Sunday mornings. She was at first an Associate of the large and flourishing Girls' Friendly Society of the parish, where between 100 and 200 members were enrolled, and finally she was placed in full charge of this large organization as the secretary. A fine group of young married women, such as Mrs. James L. Houghtel-ing, Mrs. H. B. Butler, Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, and others, organized a "Mothers' Meeting" at St. John's Chapel, on Clybourn Avenue. This was a mission of St. James's parish, with a Sunday school of 500, and a complete list of parish activities, Fr. Irving Spencer, the other Assistant of the parish, being in charge under the Rector. Marie assisted in this work also. In fact she began her experience as a platform speaker by making addresses to these poor women, who came to this "Mothers' Meeting" with their sewing as guests of the ladies from St. James's Church. These ladies provided the materials on which the mothers sewed, and also made the weekly meeting a social affair for the mothers by refreshments, etc. This audience was an exacting one, for if any speaker did not hold their very undisciplined attention, they at once began to talk freely to each other in no uncertain volume of voice. From this definite beginning as a speaker, Marie went on, with great rapidity, until she became, before her Chicago life was very far along in its number of years, one of the most effective and accomplished speakers in the diocese, if not in the city, among the women. In fact John Henry, who heard her often, said habitually that he had never heard any woman who could approach her, excepting one, and that was Maud Ballington Booth. She increased her repertory of lectures, year by year, until she had a list of over one hundred addresses on literary, historical, and biographical themes, all of which she gave without manuscript, and only from notes. During the nine years, later on, when she was the president of the Chicago diocesan branch of the Woman's Auxiliary, her annual addresses at the great meetings of the women (sometimes 700 in attendance) were models of literary charm. She worked over them with intense ambition and skill, until each was polished like a gem. More, later on, about the literary side of her varied and successful life.
And so the life at St. James's went on, each day and evening crowded with activities of many kinds. "Thursday evenings" in their suite of rooms in the parish house soon became largely attended gatherings of young people. Music was a central feature, and John Henry rented not only a piano, but a good reed organ, and the young people who came supplied not only vocal but instrumental music as well. One particularly interesting evening comes to mind, when a violinist, as well as several pianists and some singers, dropped in for this informal social gathering. Someone went to the piano, John Henry went to the organ, the violinist also tuned up, and someone else sang, and the performance of Gounod's "Ave Maria" which resulted was one which would have graced a fairly pretentious musicale programme anywhere. Of course there were other occasions, such as when a decidedly "chickenish" tenor among the young men would insist upon bringing more than one song, and when a young woman with a thin neck that was almost hollow, and which contained a tremendous alto voice loud enough for Opera, would also provide with great liberality a number of songs. But these incidents were accepted as a matter of course, and none but pleasurable evenings in the large living room are recalled.
The suite was the whole second storey of the four storey building which Miss Kirkland had used as her private school building for many years, and the living room alone would hold sixty guests. The tiny apartment in New York stretched its contents out about to the breaking point, to cover all this space, but Marie's genius for furnishing rooms was fully equal to the demand, even when supported by the limited purchasing power of John Henry's salary. This, as has been stated, was $150 a month, with almost no expense for rent, light, and heat. They shared in the parish house total for these items, and the parish treasurer generously felt that their share for one whole year was only $50, which fact helped us mightily with the purchase of furniture needed for this large apartment.
There seemed no end to the remarkable testimonials to Marie's popularity in St. James's parish. One night there died an elderly lady, who lived in a large house, and her family simply gave the whole houseful of fine furniture to Marie, for her to use or to dispose of as she felt inclined. She took for her use a handsomely carved black walnut sideboard, and one or two other pieces of furniture. She gave some to the Rector for his large Rectory, and how she disposed of the remainder this chronicler fails to remember. During all of their lives, however, that unusual gift was witnessed to by their keeping and using the black walnut sideboard, which finally reached the summer bungalow on Grand Isle, and abides there at this writing.
And so the busy and varied life in Chicago went on, week after week, being at first entirely couleur de rose. It seemed too good and too exhilarating to be true, or to last. And, sad to relate, it did not last.
As the first year of their St. James's life drew towards its close, John Henry became very seriously disturbed in spirit. His well-meaning, tireless, and able Rector had said to him, in the preliminary correspondence, "Come out to Chicago with me, and we will build up a Calvary parish in Chicago." The Rector meant one thing by that phrase, and John Henry thought that he meant another. Dr. Satterlee, Calvary's great and deeply religious Rector, once had told John Henry and his classmates of the long and patient work which had gladly been done in deepening the Churchmanship of that very conservative New York congregation. It took, for instance, eight years of systematic planning in order to place permanently the Cross on the re-table of Calvary's Altar. And so on. Dr. Tomkins, on the contrary, resolved to reduce St. James's Churchmanship from the standard which his predecessor, by long patience, had established, to the somewhat lower standard that at that time obtained in Calvary Church. For instance, at the close of this first year, Dr. Tomkins commanded the vested choir to refrain from "turning eastward" at the Glorias and Creeds. He himself had never so turned, all during this first year, and John Henry, determined to be outwardly respectful and loyal in action, also refrained from this accustomed act of reverence. When, however, the Rector stopped the choir from such expression of worship, a situation was developed which was serious. The item by itself was very small, but its meaning ran deep. Eight calls had come to John Henry during these few months at St. James's, from various parishes in the Middle-west, and he had courteously declined them all by return mail. But, as the second year advanced, on the Rector's return from his vacation in England, and in the whirl of affairs during that extraordinary fall before the World's Fair (1892), St. James's parish began to rumble, and grew restive and divisive. The younger portion of the large congregation (nearly 1,000 communicants in all, by that time), who had been prepared for confirmation by Dr. Vibbert, resented the lowering of even the smaller expressions of worship, and, as is often the case in such troubled times, turned away from the Rector and towards his very much embarrassed Assistant. Since John Henry's whole introduction to Chicago was due to Dr. Tomkins, this precipitated a situation which caused deep anxiety and much pain, probably on both sides.
To make the long and unhappy story short, as Lent and Easter, 1893, drew nigh, John Henry felt that he and Marie ought to leave Chicago as soon as possible. Neither of them could even go downtown to Marshall Field's without encountering some of St. James's people, and at once there would begin on the part of the parishioner an attempt to have a conversation about some sermon, some word, or some deed of the Rector's, either for or against, and every such attempt was, of course, silenced just as soon as possible. For six months John Henry made no calls on the distinctive parishioners of St. James's, but confined his pastoral activities to the Girls' Friendly shop-girls, and the young men in the boarding houses of the North Side.
Bishop McLaren took a hand in all of this trouble by inviting a very attractive eastern Priest to come to St. Chrysostom's Mission, on the North Side (then a tiny affair in a little building on North Clark street), and soon scores and dozens of the younger set of St. James's people left the old parish, joined St. Chrysostom's, made it a parish at once, soon built a larger church on Dearborn Avenue (near Lincoln Park), and depleted St. James's accordingly. This occurred just about the time that John Henry and Marie re-opened correspondence with Trinity parish, Atchison, Kansas, whose first call had been immediately declined. Bishop McLaren worked hard to keep them in Chicago, but they felt that honor compelled them to go as far away from Chicago as they could in order not to be complicating factors in the Rector's environment. As a matter of fact the Rector himself left in about a year, making his Chicago experience a matter of three years, with such disastrous effect upon the membership of St. James's parish that the fine old parish never fully recovered its strength or its position in the diocese. At least this was still largely true forty years afterwards.
Before leaving the chronicle of their first glimpse of Chicago, however, there are several other items which deserve special mention. One is Marie's help to John Henry in copying his Sunday afternoon sermons for him. He was probably the poorest penman that was ordained to the Episcopal ministry during his entire generation. He inherited most of the defects of writing which had handicapped his parents, neither of whom were very graceful handlers of the pen, and he added several queernesses of his own which had never before been used in the history of illegibility. The result was that after he had written out a sermon he couldn't read it, and the effect upon the 4 p.m. Sunday congregations at St. James's was not altogether edifying.
John Henry worked hard over his sermons from the start. He would write out the first draft in pencil, and then would go over it with his thesaurus and dictionary at hand, to select as many improvements in synonyms as possible, and to shorten the sentences that were too long. He usually began on Mondays, and finished this first draft, with corrections, some time on Tuesdays. Then Marie would be good enough, in her beautiful, clear and flowing penwomanship, to copy it out on sermon paper. Then he would devote the rest of the week to reading it over so often that he could deliver it from the pulpit with but few glances at the manuscript. Marie continued this very great help until she had copied out five hundred sermons for him. By that time he had acquired sufficient technique to dispense with the labor of writing it all out, and he thenceforth spoke from notes only. These, by deep and severe discipline, he managed to write out with sufficient clearness to enable him to read at least their outlines as he stood in the pulpit. Thus, after some years, Marie's labors in this direction were no longer needed. This emancipation came to her during their life in St. Joseph, Missouri.
She paid a heavy price, far too heavy, for this great kindness to her unworthy husband, for she got the evil reputation, somehow, of being the composer of these sermons, instead of their copyist. One of the gossipy Bishops (far from Chicago) in later years met one of Marie's family, and accused Marie to her of being the author of John Henry's sermons! This was probably the worst libel ever visited on her, for if she couldn't write any better sermons than these she was to be pitied. John Henry had to exercise all of his self-control for years not to smash that particular Bishop with a letter of his own composition, written in long-hand by himself. This would have been dire punishment, and might have been fatal, so John Henry never wrote the letter, and when he chanced to run across said Bishop unexpectedly at a convention in later years, he forced himself to be polite to him, at as great a distance as was even remotely conditioned by courtesy. Such creatures ought not to be elevated to the Episcopate, even by the aberrations of those exceedingly inept gatherings, the average diocesan conventions of the Episcopal Church.
Another item of their first Chicago life concerns John Henry more than Marie, but this chronicle, while strictly a biography of her, and not of him, finds their lives so intertwined that such an item may not be out of place. It was the "hold-up" which nearly killed John Henry by St. James's Church, one Sunday night in January, 1893. The Rector was out of the city, and had requested his Curate to give the Sunday evening confirmation lecture on "Christian Love" to the class then being prepared, and to take the evening service which followed. The young Priest was going over to the church, alone, of course, about 7 P.M., when, just as he neared the north transept of the church, he was accosted by two men and commanded to "hold up his hands." He at first thought that a couple of the choir men were fooling with him, as he was on very good terms with them all, but he was soon undeceived, for he suddenly found himself looking down into the barrel of a revolver, and two darkies were advancing upon him with force. Foolishly he resisted them, grabbed the end of the revolver, and began to kick. They began to sand-bag him on the head. He yelled loudly for help, and as suddenly the two "stick-ups" turned to flee while the windows of the neighbors' homes began to be raised. As the men turned to run one of them fired his revolver, missing John Henry's head by a small margin, and chipped off a bit of the wall of the church near the basement transept entrance. They had pounded the derby hat on John Henry's head pretty well to pieces before they left, though he went into the church and gave his lecture as well as he could do under the circumstances. By the time that the evening service opened, his head was so swollen that appearance before the congregation would have been highly improper. So a stray clergyman, happening to come along just in time, was impressed into action, and the congregation escaped the sermon that evening.
A great deal of fuss was made over the event in the newspapers on account of the social prominence of St. James's parish, and Marie often regaled many of her friends with her own account of the conversation between the young Curate and his "shooters": "'Not tonight,' said the young Curate, as he backed up against the church and kicked one of the darkies in the stomach," etc., etc. However, aside from her very deep and real gratitude, and his too, that he had not been killed or seriously wounded, the only letter that he received (and there were many) which did him any good was one from his Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. W. E. McLaren, who, in a brief line, hoped that the narrow escape would "be of some spiritual benefit to him." This was the only letter which made him think, and it succeeded. For all the subsequent years of their Chicago life, John Henry paid an annual visit to that end of St. James's Church, and offered a very real though silent thanksgiving for his escape.
There is another item, about Marie's Chicago life at this time, which should also be mentioned. It applies not only to Chicago, but it held good in New York, and it held good throughout all their work together as Rector and wife. She always attended every regular Sunday service, wherever they lived. This included the weekly early morning Holy Eucharist, and the mid-day service, and that oft-neglected hour of worship, so far as the average Episcopalian communicant is concerned nowadays, the Sunday evening service. John Henry often urged her earnestly to go to other churches, now and then at least, for some of her Sunday services, but she never did this unless he went too. She stood his poor notices and his poorer preaching, and all the rest, year in and year out, and whenever he did manage to preach a sermon which she thought was better she encouraged him by telling him of her approval. This was always to him the greatest of stimuli, of course. He felt sorry for her, to insist upon such limitations of her time and opportunities, but she never flinched, and always was in her pew before the hour of service. This, of course, had a deep effect upon the congregation. She was always missed, and greatly so, whenever she was not present, though these occasions were rare, and only occurred when, as has been said, she accompanied John Henry to some other parish where he had been invited to preach for some brother Priest. She began this splendid record when they were in Calvary Chapel, and she kept it up wherever they were, save only on those very rare occasions when a severe cold would keep her at home. Her health was something superb, all through their life work together--until the shadows began to gather--though she often worked beyond her strength, and grew very tired. John Henry told her at the outset that she need not feel the slightest obligation to undertake any regular work in their parish life, but she paid no attention to this, and always took a very strenuous part in all or nearly all the work carried on by the women in every parish where they lived.
As nearly as this chronicler can recall, she never spent a whole 24-hour day and night indoors or in bed during all their working years together. She was most abstemious in her diet. Never did she drink tea or coffee, and when women began to smoke she never smoked! Nor did she ever drink wine during the years before (or after!) the Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment, not even in their Missouri parish, where, according to the customs of the Southland, it was common for women of culture and refinement to include light wines in their list of beverages. Nor was she even a devotee of the soda fountain. In their hot evenings, while in Missouri, many a time did John Henry disappoint the eager-eyed drugstore clerk by sailing up to the fountain and ordering one lemon phosphate! So Marie was almost always in her place at church, and many a time did the faithful women of the various congregations comment upon this fact. She always wanted to sit far forward, and when the traditional "Rector's pew" did not provide this location, she chose one which did.
Another experience of their Chicago life deserves recording here. John Henry made a pastoral call one day, at the close of their first year at St. James's, upon a young man in the parish who had the measles. The result was that John Henry, who had never had this sickness, came down himself with this unexpected illness, and for the usual number of weeks had to lie in bed, in a darkened room. Marie devotedly read aloud to him, hour after hour, and nursed him through the weary weeks successfully. Even his rather weak eyes showed no after-effects. And she stood good-naturedly the affectionate gibes and jeers of the young people of the parish, as they asked her how her husband was going to get through his "second summer," and how he liked his toys. For as has been said he had never had this infantile disease before.
Marie also tended him successfully as he recovered from falling down the stairs near the parish's mission in "Little Hell," at which time he succeeded in dislocating his left collar-bone. The street level in that part of Chicago had been raised several feet, for drainage purposes, but the back yards of the poorer neighborhoods had not been also elevated. Opening a door which he thought led into one of the rooms of the mission, one evening, John Henry found, when he reached the bottom of the stairs and his shoulder-blade was out of joint, that there was some distance between the street level and that of the bottom. His left arm was weak for years, and when, forty years afterwards, he had an attack of severe neuritis following a major operation, it was this same left arm and hand which bit him with this entertaining anguish, for several months. So Marie had some experience of home-nursing during these vivid twenty-three months in St. James's parish, Chicago.
One dreadful day the women of the parish swooped down upon the old Kirkland School building with that wholesale onset that a bunch of able women organize when setting up a big bazaar. The benefit object this time was the Day Nursery of the parish. Marie's pretty rooms were devastated by all sorts of tables and booths, and their dining room was appropriated by the table committee, so that they were quite ejected and homeless during the bazaar and its preparation time. This they stood stoutly and loyally, but the climax of the strain occurred at dinnertime on the day of the bazaar. They had to go out to North Clark street to find a bit to eat at some hash-house which was not a saloon (there were a few such in that neighborhood at that time), and as they left their home-apartment, they saw a South Side "Deb" and a North Side "Dude" occupying their own two seats at their own charming dining-table. A wave of bitterness, revenge, sadness, jealousy, and several other criminal instincts swept into John Henry's heart, and made him pass strong comment on bazaars in general as features of parish life!
One of the philanthropic frills with which some of the well-dressed of those days tickled the fringe of the Labor-and-Capital problem was a society called the "Fruit and Flower Mission." Marie joined it at the request of some of her young friends. One of the distant excursions which this group occasionally achieved was to go out on the train to Dunning, a few miles from the heart of Chicago, where the County (Cook County) had the dreary buildings of the County Poor House, and other such institutions, such as the Insane Asylums, etc. The Poor House would be their destination, and these young people would bring out quite a load of fruit and flowers to distribute, as far as the goods would go, among the men and women of the big Poor House. There would be about such an excursion, for these carefully brought up debutants and their young friends, something of the peculiar atmosphere, not untinged with a kind of romance, which obtains to slumming parties, etc., among the benevolently curious and inexperienced. Marie went along with these young people once or twice, during her brief stay with the St. James's people. On one occasion she somehow became separated from the rest of the company, while they were distributing oranges, etc., among the hordes of hungry men who were loafing around the Poor House, and John Henry, who accompanied this excursion, was very much alarmed, for when he found her she was in the midst of a fierce and very rough crowd of these men, who tried to get more than each one's share of the fruit from her basket. She was standing them off, single handed and alone, and for a time, until she was rescued, she might have been in real danger. She had no fears, however, and rather enjoyed the experience. John Henry after that tried to find some excuse for keeping her safe in Chicago, when the philanthropic youth of the North Side felt inclined to tickle the fringe of the poverty problem with their fruit and flowers.
And so their first term in the wonderful city of Chicago went on its keenly vivid way. It was a thrilling time with everybody, for, as has been said above, the great World's Fair was being prepared for, and the whole world had its eyes on the young and vigorous city. There were only about a million inhabitants in Chicago at that time, as has been said, and the city was not so large but that some kind of unified feeling was possible. Marie lived to see Chicago grow until there were some 3,500,000 inhabitants, and the mammoth place had outgrown many of its earlier possibilities of fellowship and unity.
The young people entered with all their zest into everything that came across their horizon, and they in after years looked back upon these twenty-three months at St. James's Church somewhat as one does to a delightful college course, which cannot come again, or to some long holiday of keen pleasure and carefree enjoyment, which they knew could not last in this very real and burdened world. And the Chicago of those pre-World's Fair days was something so very unusual that it, too, could not last.
The whole city tingled with eager hope and anticipation, and its leading people threw themselves into this great enterprise with whole-souled devotion and unstinted zeal. The Fair's directors, most of whom, as we have said, were pew-holders in St. James's center aisle, were ready for any emergency. One memorable night they rose from bed at 1 a.m., and stood at their respective telephones, until right then and there they organized a new bank, to take care of the funds of the various and frightened foreigners who brought their exhibits to the Exposition.
John Henry ran down to the "Auditorium" one evening, after teaching his Sunday school teachers' class their weekly lesson, and there he found possibly 6,000 singers, crowding the great theatre to its topmost seats, all singing the "Hallelujah Chorus," as they rehearsed for the opening of the Mechanics' and Arts' Building, which held 125,000 people on that subsequent occasion. One thousand men filled the big stage, and when they thundered out "King of Kings," on high D for the basses, the great pipe organ accompanying, with its 125 stops all drawn, was completely drowned out except its deep 32-ft. pedal bass pipes. And when the whole immense chorus swelled to the climax of Handel's wondrous inspiration it was a thrilling moment never to be forgotten by those who were present. And this was only a passing incident, which was scarcely noticed, in the hurricane of deeds that prepared Chicago to welcome the world in 1893.
It really took courage to leave Chicago at such a time, if anyone could have honorably remained. Marie stood by John Henry to the last nine hole, as she always did, but it cost her an indescribable tug at heart to turn away from such a pulsing, stimulating, garlanded life of all kinds of activity and privilege, and to go five hundred miles farther into the unknown West, to Atchison, Kansas, their first parish as Rector and wife. Four times did John Henry have to go to Bishop McLaren before the Bishop would give him his letter dimissory to the Bishop of Kansas. Some leading members of St. James's Vestry came down to Marie's large living room one memorable night, after a Vestry meeting, and said to John Henry, "It will be to your advantage to stay on here, and not to go to Atchison." There is no denying that this was one of the most terrible temptations that ever attacked him, and yet Marie backed him up without an instant's hesitation in his further resolve that honor compelled him to leave Chicago as soon as possible. This they felt to be obligatory in order, as has been said, that he and Marie might not complicate the thickening situation which was already closing in around the Priest who alone had invited them to this unprecedented opening in the great and throbbing city. Bishop McLaren offered John Henry an independent cure in his diocese, and said to him, "There are seventy-five letters now on my desk from clergy who want to enter this diocese. If you go away now you may never have another opportunity of working here in the Church." Yet duty was clear, to both Marie and her husband. Of the eight calls which had come during their St. James's term, Atchison's was the only one which was open at the time when they finally became clear in their minds about the absolute necessity of going away from St. James's and Chicago. So one night in Lent they went to Atchison, Kansas, and they spent the next day and the day following in that little city of 15,000 inhabitants, looking over the parish which had called them, and trying to see whether or not they could find work enough there to make them feel that their time was well spent in accepting the call.
They stayed at the home of Mr. and Mrs. D. P. Blish, of the hardware firm of Blish, Mize, and Silliman, and Mr. and Mrs. Blish received them with warm hospitality, as did all the other Atchison people whom they met during their brief visit. They returned to Chicago with somewhat sinking hearts, it must be confessed, for the contrast between that quiet little river town, one-half of whose people were colored people, and the great, rushing city of Chicago was something poignant.
In addition to this, the contrast between the little Trinity Church building and St. James's large and handsome structure was also great. And the contrast between the general atmosphere of Atchison, which was at the time in the "doldrums" (since Kansas City to the south, about fifty miles away, was then striding to its brilliant prosperity and growth as the metropolis of the Missouri Valley), and the enthusiastic optimism of Chicago was something almost stifling. And, for John Henry, the contrast between Trinity Church's unvested quartet choir which sang only on Sunday mornings and not at all at the afternoon service, and the splendid "boy choir" of St. James's Church with its fifty voices, its noble volume, and its large repertory under W. T. Smedley at the head as director, and Peter Lutkin at the fine old Johnson organ, was something which gripped his heart.
When they returned to Chicago, Dr. Tomkins, who possibly began to see that there might be some handwriting on the wall before long, spoke to John Henry very frankly, after one service, as they two were alone in the sacristy, and asked him on what terms he would be willing to remain. John Henry at the time had not had sufficient experience with this poor world to realize that this was a tremendous concession on the part of so strong and able a man as Dr. Tomkins. Promptly the reply came: "If, Dr. Tomkins, you would be willing to direct the choir to resume their orientating at the Glorias and Creeds during the services, I will stay on." This may seem but a trifling matter upon which to hinge such a decision, but it symbolized accurately the fundamental differences between the older Priest and the younger, as these centered at and radiated from the Altar and all that it means. For one instant it seemed that the Rector would yield. Then, with a great effort, he pursed up his lips and shook his head. He, too, saw that this small item in the regular worship of the parish symbolized the deep gap which in truth separated at that very time these two men, and they shook hands and parted.
Dr. Tomkins went on his way, with but few changes, for the next forty years, and in spite of his splendid personality and wide personal influence he found the Church leaving his Churchmanship completely behind, even in the legislation which succeeded in passing the General Convention's ordeal of compromise. John Henry went on his more limited way, deepening in his own grasp of what it all meant, until he finally found himself Rector of a parish in Chicago (The Church of The Redeemer) which placed the Altar at the very center of everything, with Daily Celebrations and, at times, with almost a complete adornment of worship, with lights, vestments, incense, acolytes, and some of the best music in the diocese. And he lived to see the Churchmanship, which at that early day had dawned upon him rather vaguely, become the only really hopeful and promising feature of the Church's life, in England as well as in the United States. So this parting of the ways which kept Dr. Tomkins in St. James's for at least another year, and which sent Marie and John Henry 500 miles out into a discouraged little city and a country diocese in "bleeding Kansas," was really a very significant experience for both of these Priests. What it meant to Marie she never said, in her pluck and splendid loyalty, but it was only her wonderful strength of character which carried her through, and enabled her to make the best of a most unexpected situation.
Their last Sunday at St. James's was Easter Day, April 2, 1893. It was, of course, a most difficult day for them both, and for their many friends. It is most likely that it was a trying day also for good Dr. Tomkins and his many more friends in the parish. The afternoon service was really so remarkable in many ways that it should be chronicled as a distinct event in their St. James's life. John Henry had learned this Easter festival for Sunday schools from Dr. Satterlee, his Calvary Rector in New York City, and he devoted a great deal of time and effort during this Lent to making it a success in every possible way. There were 1,000 children in the Sunday schools--St. James's, and St. John the Evangelist's on Clybourn Avenue--each school numbering about 500 scholars, teachers, and officers. The mission school classes were to be brought to Cass and Huron streets in large busses, and Father Spencer, the parish Assistant in charge of St. John's, saw to that part of the extensive programme. There were three choirs--St. James's, the vested male choir of St. John's, and a mixed choir of men and women who sang at the regular mission evening service which Dr. Tomkins instituted at St. James's. John Henry had organized a parish orchestra in St. James's, which was taught every other week by one of the first violinists of the Thomas Orchestra, John Henry under his direction conducting the alternate weekly rehearsals. He scored for this orchestra all the Easter carols sung at this Sunday school festival, as part of the preparation. He hung long ropes across the entire basement of St. James's, and from these he suspended sheets of butchers' paper, each bearing the name and number of one of the dozens of classes in the two Sunday schools. He wrote on cards for each class the name of the class in front and also the name of the class behind each one, in the three processions which were to enter the church by the three aisles. One serious difficulty was that there were only two doors of exit from the basement of St. James's, where the classes formed into these three processions, and one of the processions had to cross one of the other two on the sidewalk along the church on Huron street, as the classes formed the processional. There were many ushers, and each one had to be carefully instructed by letter as to just what his duties would be upstairs in the church. Each class was to have three officers among the children.
One was to carry the class banner. A second was to carry the class offering for Missions. The third was to carry a pot with an Easter lily in it, and these three delegates were from each class to start for the west door and vestibule of the church at the announcement of the Offertory carol. There they were to be formed into a long procession, which was to approach the chancel, class by class, leaving with the clergy who were to be in the Sanctuary the lily as well as their offering of money. Each delegate was to return to his or her own class at once from the chancel. There were so many of these delegates that the long center aisle of St. James's was completely filled With the children and their lilies. It was a most beautiful sight, as they all at once started for the chancel. For many years afterwards John Henry could close his eyes and see in memory that long aisle, filled with the bobbing lilies, and the very much excited children. Of course the church was crowded at this service. Another detail of preparation which involved a great deal of time and work was the arrangement by which every class, after the service was finished, was to send its lily-delegate back into the church to receive the flower and then to take it, escorted by the whole class, to someone who was sick, in home or hospital. John Henry wrote seventy-five letters in preparing for this unusual service, and the preliminaries were so thoroughly understood by everybody thus addressed and concerned that there was no confusion, and the three choirs, orchestra, and three processions started only five minutes late, viz., at 3:05 p.m. instead of 3 p.m., the appointed hour.
In after years John Henry attended many services for the children of the diocese of Chicago, but in thirty years of subsequent experience in the big city he failed to recall any service at Eastertide which had so many features, and which required such unstinted preparation. It was his "good-bye" to the city and diocese which had enlisted the complete enthusiasm of both Marie and himself for those unprecedented twenty-three months at St. James's.
The choir came up to their apartment on East Huron street near Cass one evening before their departure for Kansas, and gave them a fine serenade. The Sunday school gave John Henry a very fine leather armchair, which remained in constant service throughout all their subsequent movings, and finally graced the living room at "Twenty Acres," Grand Isle, Vermont. The ladies of St. James's gave Marie a beautiful silver "egg" filled with gold pieces. The Vestry signed a handsomely engrossed set of resolutions, among which was one line about "rightly dividing the word of Truth." This occasioned some debate, as was afterwards learned, but was carried by the majority, and the minority very graciously made it unanimous. The newspapers gave a good deal of space to the whole affair because of the social prominence of the parish, of course, and so Marie and her husband closed their three years of experience as Curate and wife, in New York and Chicago, and set forth as Rector and wife in Atchison, Kansas, 500 miles west of Chicago. Had anybody told them, three years before, that they would find themselves as far west as this, and in charge of such a parish, after their years in the two largest cities of the nation, they would not have believed it. They went out "not knowing whither they went" so far as experiences were to realize. They braced themselves for what they felt was duty. And in the sequel they found such an overwhelming amount of joy, blessing, opportunity, achievement, variety, and stimulating cooperation, that they were simply amazed, as well as most grateful.
Their furniture was packed and sent via the Santa Fe Railroad, and they themselves went by the night train from Chicago, starting on Easter Wednesday night, April 5, 1893. They found a striking coincidence six years later, as they arrived back in Chicago on the morning of April 6th, Thursday morning, 1899, when John Henry took up his duties as Rector of The Church of The Epiphany, on Chicago's great West Side.