The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Searching for the ideal

Posted on: December 13, 2007

Driving back to Jubilee with Bita, Herald Newton took the opportunity of letting her know his thoughts.

“I think the sermon made a good impression,” he said. “I did my best.”

“The people liked it,” said Bita.

“Oh yes, the way they crowned it. I poured all I had into it although it was only a bush village. I kept imagining all the time that it was a bigger and a better audience. That’s the way, to practise in the small places, so that when you come to the big you won’t feel intimidated.”

“Yes,” said Bita.

“I haven’t had the chance yet of anything at Jubilee but evening services and such. But the day when I mount that pulpit will be a day. I want to beat the Rev. Craig at his best.”

Bita said nothing.

“Of course you know I expect to succeed Mr. Craig some day. I’ll be the first Negro to take charge of Jubilee. Won’t that be a grand thing?”

Bita said, “Yes,” but it was a doubtful yes. She had a deep affection for Malcolm Craig and rapidly appraising Herald Newton could not visualize his measuring up to the gaunt and ascetic figure of the present incumbent in the pulpit of Jubilee.

“Yes, it will be fine for you and me, Miss Bita. You know I wasn’t thinking of Jubilee without you. For we were both trained to think of Jubilee — I might just as well say it — for the two of us together. I don’t know if you feel about it as much as I do. If it will appeal to you as much as it does to me. But I know my father will be very happy. And Mrs. Carig too. Everybody would be happy if we both got married.”

Bita made no reply and after an interval Herald Newton said: “Well, what do you think of it, Miss Bita?”

“I suppose we might as well do it and please everybody,” she said.

Herald Newton slackened the reins and took Bita’s hand.

“What a nice way you’ve put it, Miss Bita. Or may I say Bita, now? I didn’t think of phrasing it as neatly as that.”

“But I just borrowed that from you,” she protested.

“Well, that’s an indication already of how we’ll be helping each other, our minds working together. You know at first when I began studying for the ministry and thinking of the great work before me, I thought that perhaps only a white woman could help me. One having a pure mind and lofty ideals like Mrs. Craig. For purity is my ideal of the married state. With clean hearts thinking and living purely and bearing children under the benediction of God.

“I know you will understand,” — Herald squeezed Bita’s hand, but she felt that it was not herself that inspired the impulse, but perhaps his thought — “Just as Mrs. Craig would. For you have been trained like a pure-minded white lady.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Bita. “But whatever I was trained like or to be, I know one thing. And that is that I am myself.”

“And yourself is the best,” he said.

Bita broke a pretty laugh and Herald Newton caught up the reins and shook the pony into a trot.

From Banana Bottom by Claude McKay 


3 Responses to "Searching for the ideal"

Thank you my friend for all of your hard work on your wonder blog! Merry Christmas!

I meant wonderful! Although it is a wonder also.

Awww, thanks so much, Miss Daisy. Merry Christmas to you too!

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