The Bishop

: The Iron Heel

It was after my marriage that I chanced upon Bishop Morehouse. But I

must give the events in their proper sequence. After his outbreak at the

I. P. H. Convention, the Bishop, being a gentle soul, had yielded to

the friendly pressure brought to bear upon him, and had gone away on a

vacation. But he returned more fixed than ever in his determination

to preach the message of the Church. To the consternation of his

tion, his first sermon was quite similar to the address he

had given before the Convention. Again he said, and at length and with

distressing detail, that the Church had wandered away from the Master's

teaching, and that Mammon had been instated in the place of Christ.

And the result was, willy-nilly, that he was led away to a private

sanitarium for mental disease, while in the newspapers appeared

pathetic accounts of his mental breakdown and of the saintliness of

his character. He was held a prisoner in the sanitarium. I called

repeatedly, but was denied access to him; and I was terribly impressed

by the tragedy of a sane, normal, saintly man being crushed by the

brutal will of society. For the Bishop was sane, and pure, and noble. As

Ernest said, all that was the matter with him was that he had incorrect

notions of biology and sociology, and because of his incorrect notions

he had not gone about it in the right way to rectify matters.

What terrified me was the Bishop's helplessness. If he persisted in the

truth as he saw it, he was doomed to an insane ward. And he could do

nothing. His money, his position, his culture, could not save him. His

views were perilous to society, and society could not conceive that such

perilous views could be the product of a sane mind. Or, at least, it

seems to me that such was society's attitude.

But the Bishop, in spite of the gentleness and purity of his spirit, was

possessed of guile. He apprehended clearly his danger. He saw himself

caught in the web, and he tried to escape from it. Denied help from his

friends, such as father and Ernest and I could have given, he was

left to battle for himself alone. And in the enforced solitude of the

sanitarium he recovered. He became again sane. His eyes ceased to see

visions; his brain was purged of the fancy that it was the duty of

society to feed the Master's lambs.

As I say, he became well, quite well, and the newspapers and the church

people hailed his return with joy. I went once to his church. The sermon

was of the same order as the ones he had preached long before his eyes

had seen visions. I was disappointed, shocked. Had society then beaten

him into submission? Was he a coward? Had he been bulldozed into

recanting? Or had the strain been too great for him, and had he meekly

surrendered to the juggernaut of the established?

I called upon him in his beautiful home. He was woefully changed. He was

thinner, and there were lines on his face which I had never seen before.

He was manifestly distressed by my coming. He plucked nervously at his

sleeve as we talked; and his eyes were restless, fluttering here, there,

and everywhere, and refusing to meet mine. His mind seemed preoccupied,

and there were strange pauses in his conversation, abrupt changes of

topic, and an inconsecutiveness that was bewildering. Could this, then,

be the firm-poised, Christ-like man I had known, with pure, limpid eyes

and a gaze steady and unfaltering as his soul? He had been man-handled;

he had been cowed into subjection. His spirit was too gentle. It had not

been mighty enough to face the organized wolf-pack of society.

I felt sad, unutterably sad. He talked ambiguously, and was so

apprehensive of what I might say that I had not the heart to catechise

him. He spoke in a far-away manner of his illness, and we talked

disjointedly about the church, the alterations in the organ, and about

petty charities; and he saw me depart with such evident relief that I

should have laughed had not my heart been so full of tears.

The poor little hero! If I had only known! He was battling like a giant,

and I did not guess it. Alone, all alone, in the midst of millions of

his fellow-men, he was fighting his fight. Torn by his horror of the

asylum and his fidelity to truth and the right, he clung steadfastly to

truth and the right; but so alone was he that he did not dare to trust

even me. He had learned his lesson well--too well.

But I was soon to know. One day the Bishop disappeared. He had told

nobody that he was going away; and as the days went by and he did not

reappear, there was much gossip to the effect that he had committed

suicide while temporarily deranged. But this idea was dispelled when it

was learned that he had sold all his possessions,--his city mansion, his

country house at Menlo Park, his paintings, and collections, and even

his cherished library. It was patent that he had made a clean and secret

sweep of everything before he disappeared.

This happened during the time when calamity had overtaken us in our own

affairs; and it was not till we were well settled in our new home that

we had opportunity really to wonder and speculate about the Bishop's

doings. And then, everything was suddenly made clear. Early one evening,

while it was yet twilight, I had run across the street and into the

butcher-shop to get some chops for Ernest's supper. We called the last

meal of the day "supper" in our new environment.

Just at the moment I came out of the butcher-shop, a man emerged from

the corner grocery that stood alongside. A queer sense familiarity made

me look again. But the man had turned and was walking rapidly away.

There was something about the slope of the shoulders and the fringe

of silver hair between coat collar and slouch hat that aroused vague

memories. Instead of crossing the street, I hurried after the man. I

quickened my pace, trying not to think the thoughts that formed unbidden

in my brain. No, it was impossible. It could not be--not in those faded

overalls, too long in the legs and frayed at the bottoms.

I paused, laughed at myself, and almost abandoned the chase. But the

haunting familiarity of those shoulders and that silver hair! Again

I hurried on. As I passed him, I shot a keen look at his face; then I

whirled around abruptly and confronted--the Bishop.

He halted with equal abruptness, and gasped. A large paper bag in his

right hand fell to the sidewalk. It burst, and about his feet and mine

bounced and rolled a flood of potatoes. He looked at me with surprise

and alarm, then he seemed to wilt away; the shoulders drooped with

dejection, and he uttered a deep sigh.

I held out my hand. He shook it, but his hand felt clammy. He cleared

his throat in embarrassment, and I could see the sweat starting out on

his forehead. It was evident that he was badly frightened.

"The potatoes," he murmured faintly. "They are precious."

Between us we picked them up and replaced them in the broken bag, which

he now held carefully in the hollow of his arm. I tried to tell him my

gladness at meeting him and that he must come right home with me.

"Father will be rejoiced to see you," I said. "We live only a stone's

throw away.

"I can't," he said, "I must be going. Good-by."

He looked apprehensively about him, as though dreading discovery, and

made an attempt to walk on.

"Tell me where you live, and I shall call later," he said, when he saw

that I walked beside him and that it was my intention to stick to him

now that he was found.

"No," I answered firmly. "You must come now."

He looked at the potatoes spilling on his arm, and at the small parcels

on his other arm.

"Really, it is impossible," he said. "Forgive me for my rudeness. If you

only knew."

He looked as if he were going to break down, but the next moment he had

himself in control.

"Besides, this food," he went on. "It is a sad case. It is terrible. She

is an old woman. I must take it to her at once. She is suffering from

want of it. I must go at once. You understand. Then I will return. I

promise you."

"Let me go with you," I volunteered. "Is it far?"

He sighed again, and surrendered.

"Only two blocks," he said. "Let us hasten."

Under the Bishop's guidance I learned something of my own neighborhood.

I had not dreamed such wretchedness and misery existed in it. Of course,

this was because I did not concern myself with charity. I had become

convinced that Ernest was right when he sneered at charity as a

poulticing of an ulcer. Remove the ulcer, was his remedy; give to the

worker his product; pension as soldiers those who grow honorably old in

their toil, and there will be no need for charity. Convinced of this,

I toiled with him at the revolution, and did not exhaust my energy in

alleviating the social ills that continuously arose from the injustice

of the system.

I followed the Bishop into a small room, ten by twelve, in a rear

tenement. And there we found a little old German woman--sixty-four years

old, the Bishop said. She was surprised at seeing me, but she nodded a

pleasant greeting and went on sewing on the pair of men's trousers in

her lap. Beside her, on the floor, was a pile of trousers. The Bishop

discovered there was neither coal nor kindling, and went out to buy


I took up a pair of trousers and examined her work.

"Six cents, lady," she said, nodding her head gently while she went on

stitching. She stitched slowly, but never did she cease from stitching.

She seemed mastered by the verb "to stitch."

"For all that work?" I asked. "Is that what they pay? How long does it

take you?"

"Yes," she answered, "that is what they pay. Six cents for finishing.

Two hours' sewing on each pair."

"But the boss doesn't know that," she added quickly, betraying a fear

of getting him into trouble. "I'm slow. I've got the rheumatism in my

hands. Girls work much faster. They finish in half that time. The boss

is kind. He lets me take the work home, now that I am old and the noise

of the machine bothers my head. If it wasn't for his kindness, I'd


"Yes, those who work in the shop get eight cents. But what can you do?

There is not enough work for the young. The old have no chance. Often

one pair is all I can get. Sometimes, like to-day, I am given eight pair

to finish before night."

I asked her the hours she worked, and she said it depended on the


"In the summer, when there is a rush order, I work from five in the

morning to nine at night. But in the winter it is too cold. The hands do

not early get over the stiffness. Then you must work later--till after

midnight sometimes.

"Yes, it has been a bad summer. The hard times. God must be angry.

This is the first work the boss has given me in a week. It is true, one

cannot eat much when there is no work. I am used to it. I have sewed

all my life, in the old country and here in San Francisco--thirty-three


"If you are sure of the rent, it is all right. The houseman is very

kind, but he must have his rent. It is fair. He only charges three

dollars for this room. That is cheap. But it is not easy for you to find

all of three dollars every month."

She ceased talking, and, nodding her head, went on stitching.

"You have to be very careful as to how you spend your earnings," I


She nodded emphatically.

"After the rent it's not so bad. Of course you can't buy meat. And there

is no milk for the coffee. But always there is one meal a day, and often


She said this last proudly. There was a smack of success in her words.

But as she stitched on in silence, I noticed the sadness in her pleasant

eyes and the droop of her mouth. The look in her eyes became far away.

She rubbed the dimness hastily out of them; it interfered with her


"No, it is not the hunger that makes the heart ache," she explained.

"You get used to being hungry. It is for my child that I cry. It was

the machine that killed her. It is true she worked hard, but I cannot

understand. She was strong. And she was young--only forty; and she

worked only thirty years. She began young, it is true; but my man died.

The boiler exploded down at the works. And what were we to do? She was

ten, but she was very strong. But the machine killed her. Yes, it

did. It killed her, and she was the fastest worker in the shop. I have

thought about it often, and I know. That is why I cannot work in the

shop. The machine bothers my head. Always I hear it saying, 'I did it, I

did it.' And it says that all day long. And then I think of my daughter,

and I cannot work."

The moistness was in her old eyes again, and she had to wipe it away

before she could go on stitching.

I heard the Bishop stumbling up the stairs, and I opened the door. What

a spectacle he was. On his back he carried half a sack of coal, with

kindling on top. Some of the coal dust had coated his face, and the

sweat from his exertions was running in streaks. He dropped his burden

in the corner by the stove and wiped his face on a coarse bandana

handkerchief. I could scarcely accept the verdict of my senses. The

Bishop, black as a coal-heaver, in a workingman's cheap cotton shirt

(one button was missing from the throat), and in overalls! That was the

most incongruous of all--the overalls, frayed at the bottoms, dragged

down at the heels, and held up by a narrow leather belt around the hips

such as laborers wear.

Though the Bishop was warm, the poor swollen hands of the old woman were

already cramping with the cold; and before we left her, the Bishop had

built the fire, while I had peeled the potatoes and put them on to boil.

I was to learn, as time went by, that there were many cases similar

to hers, and many worse, hidden away in the monstrous depths of the

tenements in my neighborhood.

We got back to find Ernest alarmed by my absence. After the first

surprise of greeting was over, the Bishop leaned back in his chair,

stretched out his overall-covered legs, and actually sighed a

comfortable sigh. We were the first of his old friends he had met since

his disappearance, he told us; and during the intervening weeks he must

have suffered greatly from loneliness. He told us much, though he told

us more of the joy he had experienced in doing the Master's bidding.

"For truly now," he said, "I am feeding his lambs. And I have learned

a great lesson. The soul cannot be ministered to till the stomach is

appeased. His lambs must be fed bread and butter and potatoes and

meat; after that, and only after that, are their spirits ready for more

refined nourishment."

He ate heartily of the supper I cooked. Never had he had such an

appetite at our table in the old days. We spoke of it, and he said that

he had never been so healthy in his life.

"I walk always now," he said, and a blush was on his cheek at the

thought of the time when he rode in his carriage, as though it were a

sin not lightly to be laid.

"My health is better for it," he added hastily. "And I am very

happy--indeed, most happy. At last I am a consecrated spirit."

And yet there was in his face a permanent pain, the pain of the world

that he was now taking to himself. He was seeing life in the raw, and it

was a different life from what he had known within the printed books of

his library.

"And you are responsible for all this, young man," he said directly to


Ernest was embarrassed and awkward.

"I--I warned you," he faltered.

"No, you misunderstand," the Bishop answered. "I speak not in reproach,

but in gratitude. I have you to thank for showing me my path. You led me

from theories about life to life itself. You pulled aside the veils from

the social shams. You were light in my darkness, but now I, too, see the

light. And I am very happy, only . . ." he hesitated painfully, and in

his eyes fear leaped large. "Only the persecution. I harm no one. Why

will they not let me alone? But it is not that. It is the nature of

the persecution. I shouldn't mind if they cut my flesh with stripes, or

burned me at the stake, or crucified me head--downward. But it is the

asylum that frightens me. Think of it! Of me--in an asylum for the

insane! It is revolting. I saw some of the cases at the sanitarium. They

were violent. My blood chills when I think of it. And to be imprisoned

for the rest of my life amid scenes of screaming madness! No! no! Not

that! Not that!"

It was pitiful. His hands shook, his whole body quivered and shrank away

from the picture he had conjured. But the next moment he was calm.

"Forgive me," he said simply. "It is my wretched nerves. And if the

Master's work leads there, so be it. Who am I to complain?"

I felt like crying aloud as I looked at him: "Great Bishop! O hero!

God's hero!"

As the evening wore on we learned more of his doings.

"I sold my house--my houses, rather," he said, "all my other possessions.

I knew I must do it secretly, else they would have taken everything away

from me. That would have been terrible. I often marvel these days at the

immense quantity of potatoes two or three hundred thousand dollars will

buy, or bread, or meat, or coal and kindling." He turned to Ernest. "You

are right, young man. Labor is dreadfully underpaid. I never did a

bit of work in my life, except to appeal aesthetically to Pharisees--I

thought I was preaching the message--and yet I was worth half a million

dollars. I never knew what half a million dollars meant until I realized

how much potatoes and bread and butter and meat it could buy. And then

I realized something more. I realized that all those potatoes and that

bread and butter and meat were mine, and that I had not worked to make

them. Then it was clear to me, some one else had worked and made them

and been robbed of them. And when I came down amongst the poor I found

those who had been robbed and who were hungry and wretched because they

had been robbed."

We drew him back to his narrative.

"The money? I have it deposited in many different banks under different

names. It can never be taken away from me, because it can never be

found. And it is so good, that money. It buys so much food. I never knew

before what money was good for."

"I wish we could get some of it for the propaganda," Ernest said

wistfully. "It would do immense good."

"Do you think so?" the Bishop said. "I do not have much faith in

politics. In fact, I am afraid I do not understand politics."

Ernest was delicate in such matters. He did not repeat his suggestion,

though he knew only too well the sore straits the Socialist Party was in

through lack of money.

"I sleep in cheap lodging houses," the Bishop went on. "But I am afraid,

and never stay long in one place. Also, I rent two rooms in workingmen's

houses in different quarters of the city. It is a great extravagance,

I know, but it is necessary. I make up for it in part by doing my own

cooking, though sometimes I get something to eat in cheap coffee-houses.

And I have made a discovery. Tamales* are very good when the air grows

chilly late at night. Only they are so expensive. But I have discovered

a place where I can get three for ten cents. They are not so good as the

others, but they are very warming.

* A Mexican dish, referred to occasionally in the literature

of the times. It is supposed that it was warmly seasoned.

No recipe of it has come down to us.

"And so I have at last found my work in the world, thanks to you, young

man. It is the Master's work." He looked at me, and his eyes twinkled.

"You caught me feeding his lambs, you know. And of course you will all

keep my secret."

He spoke carelessly enough, but there was real fear behind the speech.

He promised to call upon us again. But a week later we read in the

newspaper of the sad case of Bishop Morehouse, who had been committed to

the Napa Asylum and for whom there were still hopes held out. In vain

we tried to see him, to have his case reconsidered or investigated. Nor

could we learn anything about him except the reiterated statements that

slight hopes were still held for his recovery.

"Christ told the rich young man to sell all he had," Ernest said

bitterly. "The Bishop obeyed Christ's injunction and got locked up in a

madhouse. Times have changed since Christ's day. A rich man to-day who

gives all he has to the poor is crazy. There is no discussion. Society

has spoken."