It was Christmas eve. In a fashionable church were gathered the great ones of the city in a pious swoon. For the hour bankers had put out of their weary minds the number of farmers on whom they must foreclose next day in order to make their twenty per cent. Real Estate men had ceased worrying what gaudy lies should embellish their prospectuses on the following Monday. Even fatigued flappers had turned to religion and were wondering if the man two pews ahead really looked like Valentino, or whether it was just the way his hair was cut in the back.
And at that moment, I, who had been suppering heavily in a house not two doors from the church, felt religion descend upon me also. A warm current seemed to run through my body. My sins were washed away and I felt, as my host strained a drop or so from the ultimate bottle, that my life was beginning all over again.
“Yes,” I said softly to myself, drawing on my overshoes, “I will go to church. I will find some friend and, sitting next to him, we will sing the Christmas hymns.”
The church was silent. The rector had mounted to the pulpit and was standing there motionless, conscious of the approving gaze of Mrs. T. T. Conquadine, the wife of the flour king, sitting in the front row.
I entered quietly and walked up the aisle toward him, searching the silent ranks of the faithful for some one whom I could call my friend. But no one hailed me. In all the church there was no sound but the metallic rasp of the buckles on my overshoes as I plodded toward the rector. At the very foot of the pulpit a kindly thought struck me—perhaps inspired by the faint odor of sanctity which exuded from the saintly man. I spoke.
“Don’t mind me,” I said, “go on with the sermon.”
Then, perhaps unsteadied a bit by my emotion, I passed down the other aisle, followed by a sort of amazed awe, and so out into the street.
The papers had the extra out before midnight.
Unsigned—one of ten contributions on the same topic by ten authors. There were prizes for readers who identified the authors. Fitzgerald’s confession recalls an escapade in St. Paul while he was a Princeton undergraduate.
Published in Vanity Fair magazine (October 1923).