Story type: Essay
Referring to religious matters, the other day, Squaw Jim said: “I was up at the Post yesterday to kind of rub up against royalty, and refresh my memory with a few papers. I ain’t a regular subscriber to any paper, for I can’t always get my mail on time. We’re liable to be here, there and everywhere, mebbe at some celebrated Sioux watering place and mebbe on the warpath, so I can’t rely on the mails much, but I manage, generally, to get hold of a few old papers and magazines now and then. I don’t always know who’s president before breakfast the day after election, but I manage to skirmish around and find out before his term expires.
“Now, speaking about the religion of the day, or, rather, the place where it used to be, it seems to me as if there’s a mistake somewhere. It looks as if religion meant greenness, and infidelity meant science and smartness, according to the papers. I’m no scientist myself. I don’t know evolution from the side of a house. As an evolver I couldn’t earn my board, probably, and I wouldn’t know a protoplasm from a side of sole leather; but I know when I get to the end of my picket rope, and I know just as sure where the knowable quits and the unknowable begins as anybody. I mean I can crawl into a prairie dog hole, and pull the hole in and put it in my pocket, in my poor, weak way, just as well as a scientist can. If a man offered to trade me a spavined megatherium for a foundered hypothesis, I couldn’t know enough about either of the blamed brutes to trade and make a profit. I never run around after delightful worms and eccentric caterpillers. I have so far controlled myself and escaped the habit, but I am able to arrive at certain conclusions. You think that because I am the brother-in-law to an Indian outbreak, I don’t care whether Zion languishes or not; but you are erroneous. You make a very common mistake.
“Mind you, I don’t pretend to be up on the plan of salvation, and so far as vicarious atonement goes, I don’t even know who is the author of it, but I’ve got a kind of hand-made religion that suits me. It’s cheap, and portable, and durable, and stands our severe northern climate first rate. It ain’t the protuberant kind. It don’t protrude into other people’s way like a sore thumb. All-wool religion don’t go around with a chip on it’s shoulder looking for a personal deal.
“If I had time and could move my library around with me during our summer tour, I might monkey with speculative science and expose the plan of creation, but as it is now, I really haven’t time.
“I say this, however, friends, Romans and backsliders: I think sometimes when my little half-breed girl comes to me in the evening in her night dress, and kneels by me with her little brown face in between my knees, and with my hard hands in her unbraided hair, that she’s got something better than speculative science when she says:
‘Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take:
This I ask for Jesus’ sake;’
“and I know that a million more little angels are saying that same thing, at that same hour, to the same imaginary God, I say to myself, if that is a vain, empty infatuation, blessed be that holy infatuation.
“If that’s a wild and crazy delusion, let me be always deluded. If forty millions of chubby little angels bow their dimpled knees every evening to a false and foolish tradition, let me do so, too. If I die, then I will be in good company, even if I go no farther than the clouds of the valley.”
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