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    Chapter 37

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    Chapter 37
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    He knew just where he was going, and walked so fast that before anyone had time to realize what was happening, he was on the altar steps, and facing the congregation. You could hear the gasp of amazement; he was so absolutely identical with the painted figure over his head, that if he had remained still, you could not have told which was painting and which was flesh and blood. The rector in the pulpit stood with his mouth open, staring as if seeing a ghost.

    The prophet stretched out both his hands, and pointed two accusing fingers at the congregation. His voice rang out, stern and commanding: "Let this mockery cease!" Again he cried: "What do ye with my Name?" And pointing over his head: "Ye crucify me in stained glass!"

    There came murmurs from the congregation, the first mutterings of a storm. "Oh! Outrageous! Blasphemy!"

    "Blasphemy?" cried Carpenter. "Is it not written that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands? Ye have built a temple to Mammon, and defile the name of my Father therein!"

    The storm grew louder. "This is preposterous!" exclaimed my uncle Timothy at my side. And the Reverend Lettuce-Spray managed to find his voice. "Sir, whoever you are, leave this church!"

    Carpenter turned upon him. "You give orders to me--you who have brought back the moneychangers into my Father's temple?" And suddenly he faced the congregation, crying in a voice of wrath: "Algernon de Wiggs! Stand up!"

    Strange as it may seem, the banker rose in his pew; whether under the spell of Carpenter's majestic presence, or preparing to rush at him and throw him out, I could not be sure. The great banker's face was vivid scarlet.

    And Carpenter pointed to another part of the congregation. "Peter Dexter! Stand up!" The president of the Dexter Trust Company also arose, trembling as if with palsy, mumbling something, one could not tell whether protest or apology.

    "Stuyvesant Gunning! Stand up!" And the president of the Fidelity National obeyed. Apparently Carpenter proposed to call the whole roll of financial directors; but the procedure was halted suddenly, as a tall, white-robed figure strode from its seat near the choir. Young Sidney Simpkinson, assistant to the rector, went up to Carpenter and took him by the arm.

    "Leave this house of God," he commanded.

    The other faced him. "It is written, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain."

    Young Simpkinson wasted no further words in parley. He was an advocate of what is known as "muscular Christianity," and kept himself in trim playing on the parish basket-ball team. He flung his strong arms about Carpenter, and half carrying him, half walking him, took him down the steps and down the aisle. As he went, Carpenter was proclaiming: "It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. He that steals little is called a pickpocket, but he that steals much is called a pillar of the church. Verily, he that deprives the laborer of the fruit of his toil is more dangerous than he that robs upon the highway; and he that steals the state and the powers of government is the father of all thieves."

    By that time, the prophet had been hustled two-thirds down the aisle; and then came a new development. Unobserved by anyone, a number of Carpenter's followers had come with him into the church; and these, seeing the way he was being handled, set up a cry: "For shame! For shame!" I saw Everett, secretary to T-S, and Korwsky, secretary of the tailor's union; I saw some one leap at Everett and strike him a ferocious blow in the teeth, and two other men leap upon the little Russian and hurl him to the ground.

    I started up, involuntarily. "Oh, shame! Shame!" I cried, and would have rushed out into the aisle. But I had to pass my uncle, and he had no intention of letting me make myself a spectacle. He threw his arms about me, and pinned me against the pew in front; and as he is one of the ten ranking golfers at the Western City Country Club, his embrace carried authority. I struggled, but there I stayed, shouting, "For shame! For shame!" and my uncle exclaiming, in a stern whisper, "Shut up! Sit down, you fool!" and my Aunt Caroline holding onto my coat-tails, crying, and my aunt Jennie threatening to faint.

    The melee came quickly to an end, for the men of the congregation seized the half dozen disturbers and flung them outside, and mounted guard to make sure they did not return. I sank back into my seat, my worthy uncle holding my arm tightly with both hands, lest I should try to make my escape over the laps of Aunt Caroline and Aunt Jennie.

    All this time the Reverend Lettuce-Spray had been standing in the pulpit, making no sound. Now, as the congregation settled back into order, he said, with the splendid, conscious self-possession of one who can remain "equal to the occasion": "We will resume the service." And he opened his portfolio, and spread out his manuscript before him, and announced:

    "Our text for the morning is the fifth chapter of the gospel according to St. Matthew, the thirty-ninth and fortieth verses: 'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man shall sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also."
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