From the Pulpit to Perdition

Chapter 2

The Church Entertainment

The time for the greatest entertainment that White Temple had ever undertaken came at last. So many tickets had been sold that the idea of giving the entertainment in the lecture-room had to be given up, and the great auditorium was opened, and a stage, with a drop-curtain and beautiful scenery, was erected on the pulpit platform. Extra seats were improvised, chairs were placed in the aisles, and every seat in the vast auditorium was occupied, while men and boys stood about the doors, or sat upon the window sills. A band of music enlivened the hour in which the people gathered. There was hurrying to and fro as car after car landed at the door the beautiful maidens, arrayed in silks and satins, and bedecked with flowers, who were to take part in the entertainment.

The great city had rarely witnessed a more splendid gathering of wealth and beauty than assembled at White Temple on that memorable evening. Millionaires were there with their proud wives leaning on their arms, and their charming daughters upon the stage, and their stately sons participating in the festivities.

A thousand electric lights shed a light as bright as noon day upon the dazzling scene.

Dr. Star was present in elaborate clergyman’s coat, white tie, tall silk hat, and kid gloves. If ever a pastor looked with content and satisfaction over his flock, that man was Dr. Star, as his eye swept over the magnificent audience before him that night.

When everything was ready for the beginning of the play to be enacted upon the stage, a cornet sounded and the curtain rolled slowly up, revealing Dr. Star, standing like a piece of statuary in the center of the stage, surrounded by fifty beautiful maidens, all arrayed in spotless white. The Doctor stepped gracefully forward, and in a few well-chosen words welcomed the audience to the entertainment. He explained that recreation was better than medicine, that “religion never was designed to make our pleasures less.” He congratulated himself that he was pastor of such a congregation of people, where large views and liberal actions had taken the place of superstition not worthy of the dark ages, yet to be found among the illiterate masses.

He closed his remarks with an eloquent tribute to the progress of science. As the curtain went down there was a great clapping of hands, and not a few persons who had brought flowers for their friends, in their enthusiasm threw them at their pastor’s feet.

“What a divine man,” whispered a wealthy sister, sitting on the front pew. As Dr. Star came down from the platform to take a prominent seat reserved for him, the people cheered again. All those within easy reach clasped his hand, and others nodded and smiled their approval.

The Doctor sat down as contented and happy as a man could well hope to be. Why not? No man ministered to a more cultured people, his salary was ample; his congregation filled all available space in his church; the papers were full of his praise; the products of his pen were sought by the leading publishers of the country. The Doctor himself, could hardly see how his surroundings could be improved.

The play went forward. The beautiful women and gallant men appeared in costumes appropriate to the parts they performed. There was no lack of talent, and the acting was more like that of noted stars than of amateurs.

When the curtain finally fell after the last scene, Dr. Star arose and announced that supper would be served to the members of the congregation in the basement below, and he hoped every one of his people would remain. Entreaty was unnecessary. Every stairway to the basement of the church was jammed with a merry throng of people.

Long tables were set in Sabbath-school and lecture-rooms, and tables in the sewing-rooms, and tables in the parlors, tables in nooks and corners, tables everywhere, where space could be found for a table that would accommodate even two persons. These tables were loaded with the fat of the land. The sea had contributed of its treasures of shell-fish. There were roast pigs and turkeys and smaller fowls. Great vases of white brittle celery stood in long lines down every festal board. The finest breads that could be baked were heaped up in abundance. Delicious fruits from sunny climes, in cut-glass bowls, decorated every table; nuts and candies of every kind abounded, and flowers of every color were in lavish profusion. It was a feast of millionaires and merchant princes. The scene was rich and brilliant and gay beyond the powers of my pen to describe. The people sat down to eat. There were seven hundred seated at the tables, and three hundred waitresses in their white costumes, that showed the rosy tint of round, plump arms, served in the lighter work, while strong young men bore the burden of the task.

The social revival had reached high tide at White Temple. A delirium of delight and gaiety seemed to pervade the place, and all present were drinking deep from the cup of this world’s pleasure.