The Altar Steps
by Compton MacKenzie
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"Here we are," said Mark, for by this time he had persuaded Mr. Mousley to put his foot upon the step of the front door.

"You managed the house very well," said the clergyman. "It's extraordinary how a house will take to some people and not to others. Now I can do anything I like with dogs, and you can do anything you like with houses. But it's no good patting or stroking a house. You've got to manage a house quite differently to that. You've got to keep a house's accounts. You haven't got to keep a dog's accounts."

They were in the gymnasium by now, which by the light of Mark's small candle loomed as vast as a church.

"Don't talk as you go upstairs," Mark admonished.

"Isn't that a dog I see there?"

"No, no, no," said Mark. "It's the horse. Come along."

"A horse?" Mousley echoed. "Well, I can manage horses too. Come here, Dobbin. If I'd known we were going to meet a horse I should have brought back some sugar with me. I suppose it's too late to go back and buy some sugar now?"

"Yes, yes," said Mark impatiently. "Much too late. Come along."

"If I had a piece of sugar he'd follow us upstairs. You'll find a horse will go anywhere after a piece of sugar. It is a horse, isn't it? Not a donkey? Because if it was a donkey he would want a thistle, and I don't know where I can get a thistle at this time of night. I say, did you prod me in the stomach then with anything?" asked Mr. Mousley severely.

"No, no," said Mark. "Come along, it was the parallel bars."

"I've not been near any bars to-night, and if you are suggesting that I've been in bars you're making an insinuation which I very much resent, an insinuation which I resent most bitterly, an insinuation which I should not allow anybody to make without first pointing out that it was an insinuation."

"Do come down off that ladder," Mark said.

"I beg your pardon, Lidderdale. I was under the impression for the moment that I was going upstairs. I have really been so confused by Confucius and by the extraordinary behaviour of the house to-night, recoiling from me as it did, that for the moment I was under the impression that I was going upstairs."

At this moment Mr. Mousley fell from the ladder, luckily on one of the gymnasium mats.

"I do think it's a most ridiculous habit," he said, "not to place a doormat in what I might describe as a suitable cavity. The number of times in my life that I've fallen over doormats simply because people will not take the trouble to make the necessary depression in the floor with which to contain such a useful domestic receptacle you would scarcely believe. I must have fallen over thousands of doormats in my life," he shouted at the top of his voice.

"You'll wake everybody up in the house," Mark exclaimed in an agony. "For heaven's sake keep quiet."

"Oh, we are in the house, are we?" said Mr. Mousley. "I'm very much relieved to hear you say that, Lidderdale. For a brief moment, I don't know why, I was almost as confused as Confucius as to where we were."

At this moment, candle in hand, and in a white flannel nightgown looking larger than ever, Father Rowley appeared in the gallery above and leaning over demanded who was there.

"Is that Father Rowley?" Mr. Mousley inquired with intense courtesy. "Or do my eyes deceive me? You'll excuse me from replying to your apparently simple question, Father Rowley, but I have met such a number of people to-night including the son of a man who used to know my father that I really don't know who is there, although I'm inclined to think that I am here. But I've had a series of such a remarkable series of adventures to-night that I should like your advice about them. I've been spending a very intellectual evening, Father Rowley."

"Go to bed," said the mission priest severely. "I'll speak to you in the morning."

"Father Rowley isn't annoyed with me, is he?" Mr. Mousley asked.

"I think he's rather annoyed at your being so late," said Mark.

"Late for what?"

"Is that you, Mark, down there?" asked the Missioner.

"I'm lighting Mr. Mousley across the gymnasium," Mark explained. "I think I'd better take him up to his room."

"If your young friend is as clever at managing rooms as he is at managing houses we shall get on splendidly, Father Rowley. I have perfect confidence in his manner with rooms. He soothed this house in the most remarkable way. It was jumping about like a pea in a pod till he caught hold of the reins."

"Mark, go to bed. I will see Mr. Mousley to his room."

"Several years ago," said the drunken priest. "I went with an old friend to see Miss Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth. The resemblance between Father Rowley and Miss Ellen Terry is very remarkable. Good-night, Lidderdale, I am perfectly comfortable on this mat. Good-night."

In the gallery above Mark, who had not dared to disobey Father Rowley's orders, asked him what was to be done to get Mr. Mousley to bed.

"Go and wake Cartwright and Warrender to help me to get him upstairs," the Missioner commanded.

"I can help you. . . ." Mark began.

"Do what I say," said the Missioner curtly.

In the morning Father Rowley sent for Mark to give his account of what had happened the night before, and when Mark had finished his tale, the priest sat for a while in silence.

"Are you going to send him away?" Mark asked.

"Send him away?" Father Rowley repeated. "Where would I send him? If he can't keep off drink in this house and in these surroundings where else will he keep off drink? No, I'm only amused at my optimism."

There was a knock on the door.

"I expect that is Mr. Mousley," said Mark. "I'll leave you with him."

"No, don't go away," said the Missioner. "If Mousley didn't mind your seeing him as he was last night, there's no reason why this morning he should mind your hearing my comments upon his behaviour."

The tap on the door was repeated.

"Come in, come in, Mousley, and take a seat."

Mr. Mousley walked timidly across the room and sat on the very edge of the chair offered him by Father Rowley. He was a quiet, rather drab little man, the kind of little man who always loses his seat in a railway carriage and who always gets pushed further up in an omnibus, one of life's pawns. The presence of Mark did not seem to affect him, for no sooner was he seated than he began to apologize with suspicious rapidity, as if by now his apologies had been reduced to a formula.

"I really must apologize, Father Rowley, for my lateness last night and for coming in, I fear, slightly the worse for liquor. The fact is I had a little headache and went to the chemist for a pick-me-up, on top of which I met an old college friend, and though I don't think I had more than two glasses of beer I may have had three. They didn't seem to go very well with the pick-me-up. I assure you—"

"Stop," said Father Rowley. "The only assurance of any value to me will be your behaviour in the future."

"Oh, then I'm not to leave this morning?" Mr. Mousley gasped with open mouth.

"Where would you go if you left here?"

"Well, to tell you the truth," Mr. Mousley admitted, "I have been rather worried over that little problem ever since I woke up this morning. I scarcely expected that you would tolerate my presence any longer in this house. You will excuse me, Father Rowley, but I am rather overwhelmed for the moment by your kindness. I scarcely know how to express what I feel. I have usually found people so very impatient of my weakness. Do you seriously mean I needn't go away this morning?"

"You have already been sufficiently punished, I hope," said the Missioner, "by the humiliations you have inflicted on yourself both outside and inside this house."

"My thoughts are always humiliating," said Mr. Mousley. "I think perhaps that nowadays these humiliating thoughts are my chief temptation to drink. Since I have been here and shared in your hospitality I have felt more sharply than ever my disgrace. I have several times been on the point of asking you to let me be given some kind of work, but I have always been too much ashamed when it came to the point to express my aspirations in words."

"Only yesterday afternoon," said Father Rowley, "I wrote to the Bishop of Warwick, who has continued to interest himself in you notwithstanding the many occasions you have disappointed him, yes, I wrote to the Bishop of Warwick to say that since you came to St. Agnes' your behaviour had justified my suggesting that you should once again be allowed to say Mass."

"You wrote that yesterday afternoon?" Mr. Mousley exclaimed. "And the instant afterwards I went out and got drunk?"

"You mean you took a pick-me-up and two glasses of beer," corrected Father Rowley.

"No, no, no, it wasn't a pick-me-up. I went out and got drunk on brandy quite deliberately."

Father Rowley looked quickly across at Mark, who hastily left the two priests together. He divined from the Missioner's quick glance that he was going to hear Mr. Mousley's confession. A week later Mr. Mousley asked Mark if he would serve at Mass the next morning.

"It may seem an odd request," he said, "but inasmuch as you have seen the depths to which I can sink, I want you equally to see the heights to which Father Rowley has raised me."



It was never allowed to be forgotten at St. Agnes' that the Mission was the Silchester College Mission; and there were few days in the year on which it was possible to visit the Mission House without finding there some member of the College past or present. Every Sunday during term two or three prefects would sit down to dinner; masters turned up during the holidays; even the mighty Provost himself paid occasional visits, during which he put off most of his majesty and became as nearly human as a facetious judge. Nor did Father Rowley allow Silchester to forget that it had a Mission. He was not at all content with issuing a half yearly report of progress and expenses, and he had no intention of letting St. Agnes' exist as a subject for an occasional school sermon or a religious tax levied on parents. From the first moment he had put foot in Chatsea he had done everything he could to make St. Agnes' be what it was supposed to be—the Silchester College Mission. He was particularly anxious that the new church should be built and beautified with money from Silchester sources, even if he also accepted money for this purpose from outside. Soon after Mark had become recognized as Father Rowley's confidential secretary, he visited Silchester for the first time in his company.

It was the custom during the summer for the various guilds and clubs connected with the parish to be entertained in turn at the College. It had never happened that Mark had accompanied any of these outings, which in the early days of St. Agnes' had been regarded with dread by the College authorities, so many flowers were picked, so much fruit was stolen, but which now were as orderly and respectable excursions as you could wish to see. Mark's first visit to Silchester was on the occasion of Father Rowley's terminal sermon in the June after he was nineteen. He found the experience intimidating, because he was not yet old enough to have learnt self-confidence and he had never passed through the ordeal either of a first term at a public school or of a first term at the University. Boys are always critical, and at Silchester with the tradition of six hundred years to give them a corporate self-confidence, the judgment of outsiders is more severe than anywhere in the world, unless it might be in the New Hebrides. Added to their critical regard was a chilling politeness which would have made downright insolence appear cordial in comparison. Mark felt like Gulliver in the presence of the Houyhnms. These noble animals, so graceful, so clean, so condescending, appalled him. Yet he had found the Silchester men who came to visit the Mission easy enough to get on with. No doubt they, without their background were themselves a little shy, although their shyness never mastered them so far as to make them ill at ease. Here, however, they seemed as imperturbable and unbending as the stone saints, row upon row on the great West front of the Cathedral. Mark apprehended more clearly than ever the powerful personality of Father Rowley when he found that these noble young animals accorded to him the same quality of respect that they gave to a popular master or even to a popular athlete. The Missioner seemed able to understand their intimate and allusive conversation, so characteristic of a small and highly developed society; he seemed able to chaff them at the right moment; to take them seriously when they ought to be taken seriously; in a word to have grasped without being a Siltonian the secret of Silchester. He and Mark were staying at a house which possessed super-imposed upon the Silchester tradition a tradition of its own extending over the forty years during which the Reverend William Jex Monkton had been a house master. It was difficult for Mark, who had nothing but the traditions of Haverton House for a standard to understand how with perfect respect the boys could address their master by his second name without prejudice to discipline. Yet everybody in Jex's house called him Jex; and when you looked at that delightful old gentleman himself with his criss-cross white tie and curly white hair, you realized how impossible it was for him to be called anything else except Jex.

For the first time since Mark, brooding upon the moonlit quadrangle of St. Osmund's Hall, bade farewell to Oxford, he regretted for a while his surrender of the scholarship to Emmett. What was Emmett doing now? Had his stammer improved in the confidence that his success must surely have brought him? Mark made an excuse to forsake the company of the four or five men in whose charge he had been left. He was tired of being continually rescued from drowning in their conversation. Their intentional courtesy galled him. He felt like a negro chief being shown the sights of England by a tired equerry. It was a fine summer day, and he went down to the playing fields to watch the cricket match. He sat down in the shade of an oak tree on the unfrequented side, unable in the mood he was in to ask against whom the College was playing or which side was in. Players and spectators alike appeared unreal, a mirage of the sunlight; the very landscape ceased to be anything more substantial than a landscape perceived by dreamers in the clouds. The trees and towers of Silchester, the bald hills of Berkshire on the horizon, the cattle in the meadows, the birds in the air exasperated Mark with his inability to put himself in the picture. The grass beneath the oak was scattered with a treasury of small suns minted by the leaves above, trembling patens and silver disks that Mark set himself to count.

"Trying not to yearn and trying not to yawn," he muttered. "Forty-four, forty-five, forty-six."

"You're ten out," said a voice. "We want fifty-six to tie, fifty-seven to win."

Mark looked up and saw that a Silchester man whom he remembered seeing once at the Mission was preparing to sit down beside him. He was a tall youth, fair and freckled and clear cut, perfectly self-possessed, but lacking any hint of condescension in his manner.

"Didn't you come over with Rowley?" he inquired.

Mark was going to explain that he was working at the Mission when it struck him that a Silchester man might have the right to resent that, and he gave no more than a simple affirmative.

"I remember seeing you at the Mission," he went on. "My name's Hathorne. Oh, well hit, sir, well hit!"

Hathorne's approbation of the batsman made the match appear even more remote. It was like the comment of a passer-by upon a well-designed figure in a tapestry. It was an expression of his own aesthetic pleasure, and bore no relation to the player he applauded.

"I've only been down to the Mission once," he continued, turning to Mark. "I felt rather up against it there."

"Well, I feel much more up against it in Silchester," replied Mark.

"Yes, I can understand that," Hathorne nodded. "But you're only up against form: I was up against matter. It struck me when I was down there what awful cheek it was for me to be calmly going down to Chatsea and supposing that I had a right to go there, because I had contributed a certain amount of money belonging to my father, to help spiritually a lot of people who probably need spiritual help much less than I do myself. Of course, with anybody else except Rowley in charge the effect would be damnable. As it is, he manages to keep us from feeling as if we'd paid to go and look at the Zoo. You're a lucky chap to be working there without the uncomfortable feeling that you're just being tolerated because you're a Siltonian."

"I was thinking," said Mark, "that I was only being tolerated here because I happened to come with Rowley. It's impossible to visit a place like this and not regret that one must remain an outsider."

"It depends on what you want to do," said Hathorne. "I want to be a parson. I'm going up to the Varsity in October, and I am beginning to wonder what on earth good I shall be at the end of it all."

He gave Mark an opportunity to comment on this announcement; but Mark did not know what to say and remained silent.

"I see you're not in the mood to be communicative," Hathorne went on with a smile. "I don't blame you. It's impossible to be communicative in this place; but some time, when I'm down at the Mission again, I'd like to have what is called a heart-to-heart talk. That was a good boundary. We shall win quite comfortably. So long!"

The tall, fair youth passed on; and although Mark never had that heart-to-heart talk with him in the Mission, because he was killed in a mountaineering accident in Switzerland that August, the memory of him sitting there under the oak tree on that fine summer afternoon remained with Mark for ever; and after that brief conversation he lost most of his shyness, so that he came to enjoy his visits to Silchester as much as the Missioner himself did.

As the new church drew near its completion, Mark apprehended why Father Rowley attached so much importance to as much of the money for it as possible coming directly from Silchester. He apprehended how the Missioner felt that he was building Silchester in a Chatsea slum; and from that moment that landscape like a mirage of the sunlight, that landscape into which he had been unable to fit himself when he first beheld it became his own, for now beyond the chimneypots he could always see the bald hills of Berkshire and the trees and towers of Silchester, and at the end of all the meanest alleys there were cattle in the meadows and birds in the air above.

Silchester was not the only place that Mark visited with Father Rowley. It became a recognized custom for him to travel up to London whenever the Missioner was preaching, and in London he was once more struck by the variety of Father Rowley's worldly knowledge and secular friends. One week-end will serve as a specimen of many. They left Chatsea on a Saturday morning travelling up to town in a third class smoker full of bluejackets and soldiers on leave. None of them happened to know the Missioner, and for a time they talked surlily in undertones, evidently viewing with distaste the prospect of having a Holy Joe in their compartment all the way to London; but when Father Rowley pulled out his pipe, for always when he was away from St. Agnes' he allowed himself the privilege of smoking, and began to talk to them about their ships and their regiments with unquestionable knowledge, they unbent, so that long before Waterloo was reached it must have been the jolliest compartment in the whole train. It was all done so easily, and yet without any of that deliberate descent from a pedestal, which is the democratic manner of so many parsons; there was none of that Friar Tuck style of aggressive laymanhood, nor that subtler way of denying Christ (of course with the best intentions) which consists of salting the conversation with a few "damns" and peppering it with a couple of "bloodies" to show that a parson may be what is called human. Father Rowley was simply himself; and a month later two of the bluejackets in that compartment and one of the soldiers were regular visitors to the Mission House, and what is more regular visitors to the Blessed Sacrament.

They reached London soon after midday and went to lunch at a restaurant in Jermyn Street famous for a Russian salad that Father Rowley sometimes spoke of with affection in Chatsea. After lunch they went to a matinee of Pelleas and Melisande, the Missioner having been given two stalls by an actor friend. Mark enjoyed the play and was being stirred by the imagination of old, unhappy, far off things until his companion began to laugh. Several clever women who looked as if they had been dragged through a hedge said "Hush!"; even Mark, compassionate of the players' feelings should they hear Father Rowley laugh at the poignant nonsense they were uttering on the stage, begged him to control himself.

"But this is most unending rubbish," he said. "I've never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. Terrible."

The curtain fell on the act at this moment, so that Father Rowley was able to give louder voice to his opinions.

"This is unspeakable bosh," he repeated. "I can't understand anything at all that is going on. People run on and run off again and make the most idiotic remarks. I really don't think I can stand any more of this."

The clever women rattled their beads and writhed their necks like angry snakes without effect upon the Missioner.

"I don't think I can stand any more of this," he repeated. "I shall have apoplexy if this goes on."

The clever women hissed angrily about the kind of people that came to theatres nowadays.

"This man Maeterlinck must have escaped from an asylum," Father Rowley went on. "I never heard such deplorable nonsense in my life."

"I shall ask an attendant if we can change our seats," snapped one of the clever women in front. "That's the worst of coming to a Saturday afternoon performance, such extraordinary people come up to town on Saturdays."

"There you are," exclaimed Father Rowley loudly, "even that poor woman in front thinks they're extraordinary."

"She's talking about you," said Mark, "not about the people in the play."

"My good woman," said Father Rowley, leaning over and tapping her on the shoulder. "You don't think that you really enjoy this rubbish, do you?"

One of her friends who was near the gangway called out to a programme seller:

"Attendant, attendant, is it possible for my friends and myself to move into another row? We are being pestered with a running commentary by that stout clergyman behind that lady in green."

"Don't disturb yourselves, you foolish geese," said Father Rowley rising. "I'm not going to sit through another act. Come along, Mark, come along, come along. I am not happy. I am not happy," he cried in an absurd falsetto.

Then roaring with laughter at his own imitation of Melisande, he went rolling out of the theatre and sniffed contentedly the air of the Strand.

"I told Lady Pechell we shouldn't arrive till tea-time, so we'd better go and ride on the top of a bus as far as the city."

It was an exhilarating ride, although Mark found that Father Rowley occupied much more than half of the seat for two. About five o'clock they came to the shadowy house in Portman Square in which they were to stay till Monday. The Missioner was as much at home here as he was at Silchester College or in a railway compartment full of bluejackets. He knew as well how to greet the old butler as Lady Pechell and her sister Mrs. Mannakay, to all of whom equally his visit was an obvious delight. Not even Father Rowley's bulk could dwarf the proportions of that double drawing-room or of that heavy Victorian furniture. He took his place among the cases of stuffed humming birds and glass-topped tables of curios, among the brocade curtains with shaped vallances and golden tassels, among the chandeliers and lacquered cabinets and cages of avadavats, sitting there like a great Buddha while he chatted to the two old ladies of a society that seemed to Mark as remote as the people in Pelleas and Melisande. From time to time one of the old ladies would try to draw Mark into the conversation; but he preferred listening and let them think that his monosyllabic answers signified a shyness that did not want to be conspicuous. Soon they appeared to forget his existence. Deep in the lap of an armchair covered with a glazed chintz of Sevres roses and sable he was enthralled by that chronicle of phantoms, that frieze of ghosts passing before his eyes, while the present faded away upon the growing quiet of the London evening and became remote as the distant roar of the traffic, which itself was remote as the sound of the sea in a shell. Fox-hunting squires caracoled by with the air of paladins; and there was never a lady mentioned that did not take the fancy like a princess in an old tale.

"He's universal," Mark thought. "And that's one of the secrets of being a great priest. And that's why he can talk about Heaven and make you feel that he knows what he's talking about. And if I can discern what he is," Mark went on to himself, "I can be what he is. And I will be," he vowed in the rapture of a sudden revelation.

On Sunday morning Father Rowley preached in the fashionable church of St. Cyprian's, South Kensington, after which they lunched at the vicarage. The Reverend Drogo Mortemer was a dapper little bachelor (it would be inappropriate to call such a worldly little fellow a celibate) who considered himself the leader of the most advanced section of the Catholic Party in the Church of England. He certainly had a finger in the pie of every well-cooked intrigue, knew everybody worth knowing in London, and had the private ears of several bishops. No more skilful place-finder existed, and any member of the advanced section who wanted a place for himself or for a friend had recourse to Mortemer.

"But the little man is all right," Father Rowley had told Mark. "Many people would have used his talents to further himself. He has every qualification for the episcopate except one—he believes in the Sacraments."

Mr. Mortemer was the only son of James Mortimer of the famous firm of Hadley and Mortimer. His father had become rich before he married the youngest daughter of an ancient but impoverished house, and soon after his marriage he died. Mrs. Mortemer brought up her son to forget that his father had been a tradesman and to remember that he was rich. In order to dissociate herself from a partnership which now existed only in name above the plate glass of the enormous shop in Oxford Street Mrs. Mortemer took to spelling her name with an "e," which as she pointed out was the original spelling. She had already gratified her romantic fancy by calling her son Drogo. Harrow and Cambridge completed what Mrs. Mortemer began, and if Drogo had not developed what his mother spoke of as a "mania for religion" there is no reason to suppose that he would not one day have been a cabinet minister. However, as it was, Mrs. Mortemer died cherishing with her last breath a profound conviction that her son would soon be a bishop. That he was not likely to become a bishop was due to the fact that with all his worldliness, with all his wealth, with all his love of wire-pulling, with all his respect for rank he held definite opinions and was not afraid to belong to a minority unpopular in high places. He had too a simple piety that made his church a power in spite of fashionable weddings and exorbitant pew rents.

"The sort of thing we're trying to do here in a small way," he said to Father Rowley at lunch, "is what the Jesuits are doing at Farm Street. My two assistant priests are both rather brilliant young people, and I'm always on the look out to get more young men of the right type."

"You'd better offer Lidderdale a title when he's ready to be ordained."

"Why, of course I will," said the dapper little vicar with a courteous smile for Mark. "Do take some more claret, Father Rowley. It's rather a specialty of ours here. We have a friend in Bordeaux who buys for us."

It was typical of Mr. Mortemer to use the plural.

"There you are, Mark Anthony. I've secured you a title."

"Mr. Mortemer is only being polite," said Mark.

"No, no, my dear boy, on the contrary I meant absolutely what I said."

He seemed worried by Mark's distrust of his sincerity, and for the rest of lunch he laid himself out to entertain his less important guest, talking with a slight excess of charm about the lack of vitality, loss of influence, and oriental barbarism of the Orthodox Church.

"Enfin, Asiatic religion," he said. "Don't you agree with me, Mr. Lidderdale? And our Philorthodox brethren who would like to bring about reunion with such a Church . . . the result would be dreadful . . . Eurasian . . . yes, I must confess that sometimes I sympathize with the behaviour of the Venetians in the Fourth Crusade."

Father Rowley looked at his watch and announced that it was time to start for Poplar, where he was to address a large gathering of Socialists in the Town Hall. Mr. Mortemer made a moue.

"Nevertheless I'm bound to admit that you have a strong case. Perhaps I'm like the young man with large possessions," he burst out with a sudden intense gravity. "Perhaps after all the St. Cyprian's religion isn't Christianity at all. Just Catholicism. Nothing else."

"You'd better come down to Poplar with Mark and me," Father Rowley suggested.

But Mr. Mortemer shook his head with a smile.

The Poplar meeting was crowded. In an atmosphere of good fellowship one speaker after another got up and denounced the present order. It was difficult to follow the arguments of the speakers, because the audience cheered so many isolated statements. A number of people shook hands with Father Rowley when he had finished his speech and wished that there were more parsons like him. Father Rowley had not indulged in political attacks, but had contented himself with praise of the poor. He had spoken movingly, but Mark was not moved by his words. He had a vague feeling that Father Rowley was being exploited. He was dazed by the exuberance of the meeting and was glad when it was over and he was back in Portman Square talking to Lady Pechell and Mrs. Mannakay while Father Rowley rested for an hour before he walked round the corner to preach in old Jamaica Chapel, a galleried Georgian conventicle that was now the Church of the Visitation, but was still generally known as Jamaica Chapel. Evensong was half over when the preacher arrived, and the church being full Mark was given a chair by the sidesman in a dark corner, which presently became darker when Father Rowley went up into the pulpit, for all the lights were lowered except those above the preacher's head, and nothing was visible in the church except the luminous crucifix upon the High Altar. The warmth and darkness brought out the scent of the many women gathered together; the atmosphere was charged with human emotion so that Mark sitting in his corner could fancy that he was lost in the sensuous glooms behind some Mater Addolorata of the seventeenth century. He longed to be back in Chatsea. He was dismayed at the prospect of one day perhaps having to cope with this quality of devotion. He shuddered at the thought, and for the first time he wondered if he had not a vocation for the monastic life. But was it a vocation if one longed to escape the world? Must not a true vocation be a longing to draw nearer to God? Oh, this nauseating bouquet of feminine perfumes . . . it was impossible to pay attention to the sermon.

Mark went to bed early with a headache; but in the morning he woke refreshed with the knowledge that they were going back to Chatsea, although before they reached home the journey had to be broken at High Thorpe whither Father Rowley had been summoned to an interview by the Bishop of Silchester on account of refusing to communicate some people at the mid-day celebration. Dr. Crawshay was at that time so ill that he received the Chatsea Missioner in bed, and on hearing that he was accompanied by a young man who hoped to take Holy Orders the Bishop sent word for Mark to come up to his bedroom, where he gave him his blessing. Mark never forgot the picture of the Bishop lying there under a chequered coverlet looking like an old ivory chessman, a white bishop that had been taken in the game and put off the board.

"And now, Mr. Rowley," Dr. Crawshay began when he had motioned Mark to a chair. "To return to the subject under discussion between us. How can you justify by any rubric of the Book of Common Prayer non-communicating attendance?"

"I don't justify it by any rubric," the Missioner replied.

"Oh, you don't, don't you?"

"I justify it by the needs of human nature," the Missioner continued. "In order to provide the necessary three communicants for the mid-day Mass. . . ."

"One moment, Mr. Rowley," the Bishop interrupted. "I beg you most earnestly to avoid that word. You know my old-fashioned Protestant notions," he added, and his eyes so tired with pain twinkled for a moment. "To me there is always something distasteful about that word."

"What shall I substitute, my lord?" the Missioner asked. "Do you object to the word 'Eucharist'?"

"No, I don't object to that, though why you should want a Greek name when we have a beautiful English name like the Lord's Supper, why you should want to employ such a barbarism as 'Eucharist' I don't know. However, if you must use Eucharist, use Eucharist. And now, by wandering off into a discussion of terminology I forget where we were. Oh yes, you were on the point of justifying non-communicating attendance by the needs of human nature."

"I am afraid, my lord, that in a district like St. Agnes' it is impossible always to ensure communicants for sometimes as many as four early Lord's Suppers said by visiting priests."

The Bishop's eyes twinkled again.

"Yes, there you rather have me, Mr. Rowley. Four early Lord's Suppers does sound, I must admit, a little odd."

"Four early Eucharists followed by another for children at half-past nine, and the parochial sung Mass—sung Eucharist."

"Children?" Dr. Crawshay repeated. "You surely don't let children go to the Celebration?"

"Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven," Father Rowley reminded the Bishop.

"Yes, yes, I happen to have heard that text before. But the devil, Mr. Rowley, can cite Scripture to his purpose."

"In the last letter I wrote to your lordship about the services at St. Agnes' I particularly mentioned our children's Eucharist."

"Did you, Mr. Rowley, did you? I had quite forgotten that."

Father Rowley turned to Mark for verification.

"Oh, if Mr. Rowley remembers that he did write, there is no need to call witnesses. I have had to complain a good deal of him, but I have never had to complain of his frankness. It must be my fault, but I certainly hadn't understood that there was definitely a children's Eucharist. This then, I fancy, must be the service at which those three ladies complained of your treatment of them."

"What three ladies?" asked the priest.

"Dear me, I'm growing very unbusinesslike, I'm afraid. I thought I had enclosed you a copy of their letter to me when I wrote to invite an explanation of your high-handed action."

The Bishop sighed. The details of these ecclesiastical squabbles distracted him at a time when he should soon leave this fretful earth behind him. He continued wearily:

"These were the three ladies who were refused communion by you at, as I understood, the mid-day Celebration, which now turns out to be what you call the children's Eucharist."

"It is perfectly true, my lord," Father Rowley admitted, "that on Sunday week three women did present themselves from a neighbouring parish."

"Ah, they were not parishioners?"

"Certainly not, my lord."

"Which is a point in your favour."

"Throughout the service they sat looking through opera-glasses at Snaith who was officiating, and greatly scandalizing the children, who are not used to such behaviour in church."

"Such behaviour was certainly most objectionable," the Bishop agreed.

"I happened to be sitting at the back of the church, thinking out my sermon, and their behaviour annoyed me so much that I sent for the sacristan to go and order a cab. I then went up and whispered to them that inasmuch as they were strangers it would be better if they went and made their Communion in the next parish where the service would be more lenient to their theory of worship. I took one of them by the arm, led her gently down the aisle and out into the street, and handed her into the cab. Her two companions followed her; I paid the cabman; and that was the end of the matter."

The Bishop lay back on the pillows and thought for a moment or two in silence.

"Yes," he said finally, "I think that in this case you were justified. At the same time your justification by the Book of Common Prayer lay in the fact that these women did not give you notice beforehand of their intention to communicate. I think I must insist that in future you make some arrangement with your workers and helpers to secure the requisite minimum of communicants for every celebration. Personally, I think six on a Sunday and four on a week-day far too many. I think the repetition has a tendency to cheapen the Sacrament."

"By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually," Father Rowley quoted from the Epistle to the Hebrews.

"Yes, yes, I know," said the Bishop. "But I wish you wouldn't drag in these texts. They really have nothing whatever to do with the point in question. Please realize, Mr. Rowley, that I allow you a great deal of latitude at St. Agnes' because I am aware of what a great influence for good you have been among these poor people."

"Your lordship has always been consideration itself."

"If that be your opinion, I want you to obey my ruling in this small matter. I am continually being involved in correspondence on your account with Vigilance Societies of the type of the Protestant Alliance, and I shall give myself the pleasure of answering their complaints without at the same time not, as I hope, impeding your splendid work. I wish also, if God allows me to leave this bed again, to take the next Confirmation in St. Agnes' myself. My presence there will afford you a measure of official support which will not, I venture to believe, be a disadvantage to your work. I do not expect you to modify your method of conducting the service too much. That would savour of hypocrisy, both on your side and on mine. But there are one or two things which I should prefer not to see again. Last time you dressed a number of your choir-boys in red cassocks."

"The servers, you mean, my lord?"

"Whatever you call them, they wear red cassocks, red slippers, and red skull caps. That I really cannot stand. You must put them into black cassocks and leave their caps and slippers in the vestry cupboard. Further, I do not wish that most conspicuous processional crucifix to be carried about in front of me wherever I go."

"Would you like the crucifix to be taken down from the altar as well?" Father Rowley asked.

"No, that can stay: I shan't see that one."

"What date will suit your lordship for the Confirmation?"

"Ought not the question to have been rather what date will suit you, for I have never yet been fortunate enough, and I never hope to be fortunate enough, to fix upon a date straight off that will suit you, Mr. Rowley. Let me know that later. In any case, my presence must depend, alas, upon the state of my health. Now, how are you getting on with your new church?"

"We shall be ready to open it in the spring of next year if all goes well. Do you think that a new licence will be required? The new St. Agnes' is joined to the present church by the sacristy."

The Bishop considered the question for a moment.

"No, I think that the old licence will serve. There is no prospect yet of making St. Agnes' into a parish, and I would rather take advantage of the technicality, all things being considered. Good-bye, Mr. Rowley. God bless you."

The Bishop raised his thin arm.

"God bless your lordship."

"You are always in my prayers, Mr. Rowley. I think much about you lying here on the threshold of Eternal Life."

The Bishop turned to Mark who knelt beside the bed.

"Young man, I would fain be spared long enough to ordain you to the service of Almighty God, but you are still young and I am very near to death. You could not have before you a better example of a Christian gentleman than your friend and my friend Mr. Rowley. I shall say nothing about his example as a clergyman of the Church of England. Remember me, both of you, in your prayers."

The Bishop sank back exhausted, and his visitors went quietly out of the room.



All went as well with the new St. Agnes' as the Bishop had hoped. Columns of red brick were covered in marble and alabaster by the votive offerings of individuals or the subscriptions of different Silchester Houses; the baldacchino was given by one rich old lady, the pavement of the church by another; the Duke of Birmingham contributed a thurible; Oxford Old Siltonians decorated the Lady Chapel; Cambridge Old Siltonians found the gold mosaic for the dome of the apse. Father Rowley begged money for the fabric far and wide, and the architect, the contractors, and the workmen, all Chatsea men, gave of their best and asked as little as possible in return. The new church was to be opened on Easter morning. But early in Lent the Bishop of Silchester died in the bed from which he had never risen since the day Father Rowley and Mark received his blessing. The diocese mourned him, for he was a gentle scholar, wise in his knowledge of men, simple and pious in his own life.

Dr. Harvard Cheesman, the new Bishop, was translated from the see of Ipswich to which he had been preferred from the Chapel Royal in the Savoy. Bishop Cheesman possessed all the episcopal qualities. He had the hands of a physician and the brow of a scholar. He was filled with a sense of the importance of his position, and in that perhaps was included n sense of the importance of himself. He was eloquent in public, grandiloquent in private. To him Father Rowley wrote shortly after his enthronement.

St. Agnes' House,

Keppel Street,


March 24.

My Lord Bishop,

I am unwilling to trouble you at a moment when you must be unusually busy; but I shall be glad to hear from you about the opening of the new church of the Silchester College Mission, which was fixed for Easter Sunday. Your predecessor, Bishop Crawshay, did not think that any new licence would be necessary, because the new St. Agnes' is joined by the sacristy to the old mission church. There is no idea at present of asking you to constitute St. Agnes' a parish and therefore the question of consecration does not arise. I regret to say that Bishop Crawshay thoroughly disapproved of our services and ritual, and I think he may have felt unwilling to commit himself to endorsing them by the formal grant of a new licence. May I hear from you at your convenience, and may I respectfully add that your lordship has the prayers of all my people?

I am your lordship's obedient servant,

John Rowley.

To which the Lord Bishop of Silchester replied as follows:

High Thorpe Castle.

March 26.

Dear Mr. Rowley,

As my predecessor Bishop Crawshay did not think a new licence would be necessary I have no doubt that you can go ahead with your plan of opening the new St. Agnes' on Easter Sunday. At the same time I cannot help feeling that a new licence would be desirable and I am asking Canon Whymper as Rural Dean to pay a visit and make the necessary report. I have heard much of your work, and I pray that it may be as blessed in my time as it was in the time of my predecessor. I am grateful to your people for their prayers and I am, my dear Mr. Rowley,

Yours very truly,

Harvard Silton.

Canon Whymper, the Rector of Chatsea and Rural Dean, visited the new church on the Monday of Passion week. On Saturday Father Rowley received the following letter from the Bishop:

High Thorpe Castle.

April 9.

Dear Mr. Rowley,

I have just received Canon Whymper's report upon the new church of the Silchester College Mission, and I think before you open the church on Easter Sunday I should like to talk over one or two comparatively unimportant details with you personally. Moreover, it would give me pleasure to make your acquaintance and hear something of your method of work at St. Agnes'. Perhaps you will come to High Thorpe on Monday. There is a train which arrives at High Thorpe at 2.36. So I shall expect you at the Castle at 2.42.

Yours very truly,

Harvard Silton.

Mark paid his second visit to High Thorpe Castle on one of those serene April mornings that sail like swans across the lake of time. The episcopal standard on the highest turret hung limp; the castle quivered in the sunlight; the lawns wearing their richest green seemed as far from being walked upon as the blue sky above them. Whether it was that Mark was nervous about the result of the coming interview or whether it was that his first visit to High Thorpe had been the climax of so many new experiences, he was certainly much more sharply aware on this occasion of what the Castle stood for. Looking back to the morning when he and Father Rowley sat with Bishop Crawshay in his bedroom, he realized how much the personality of the dead bishop had dominated his surroundings and how little all this dignity and splendour, which must have been as imposing then as it was now, had impressed his imagination. There came over Mark, when he and Father Rowley were walking silently along the drive, such a foreboding of the result of this visit that he almost asked the priest why they bothered to continue their journey, why they did not turn round immediately and take the next train back to Chatsea. But before he had time to say anything Father Rowley had pulled the chain of the door bell, the butler had opened the door, and they were waiting the Bishop's pleasure in a room that smelt of the best leather and the best furniture polish. It was a room that so long as Dr. Cheesman held the see of Silchester would be given over to the preliminary nervousness of the diocesan clergy, who would one after another look at that steel engraving of Jesus Christ preaching by the Sea of Galilee, and who when they had finished looking at that would look at those two oil paintings of still life, those rich and sombre accumulations of fish, fruit and game, that glowed upon the walls with a kind of sinister luxury. Waiting rooms are all much alike, the doctor's, the dentist's, the bishop's, the railway-station's; they may differ slightly in externals, but they all possess the same atmosphere of transitory discomfort. They have all occupied human beings with the perusal of books they would never otherwise have dreamed of opening, with the observation of pictures they would never otherwise have thought of regarding twice.

"Would you step this way," the butler requested. "His lordship is waiting for you in the library."

The two culprits, for by this time Mark was oblivious of every other emotion except one of profound guilt, guilt of what he could not say, but most unmistakably guilt, walked along toward the Bishop's library—Father Rowley like a fat and naughty child who knows he is going to be reproved for eating too many tarts.

There was a studied poise in the attitude of the Bishop when they entered. One shapely leg trailed negligently behind his chair ready at any moment to serve as the pivot upon which its owner could swing round again into the every-day world; the other leg firmly wedged against the desk supported the burden of his concentration. The Bishop swung round on the shapely leg in attendance, and in a single sweeping gesture blotted the last page of the letter he had been writing and shook Father Rowley by the hand.

"I am delighted to have an opportunity of meeting you, Mr. Rowley," he began, and then paused a moment with an inquiring look at Mark.

"I thought you wouldn't mind, my lord, if I brought with me young Lidderdale, who is reading for Holy Orders and working with us at St. Agnes'. I am apt to forget sometimes exactly to what I have and have not committed myself and I thought your lordship would not object. . . ."

"To a witness?" interposed the Bishop in a tone of courtly banter. "Come, come, Mr. Rowley, had I known you were going to be so suspicious of me I should have asked my domestic chaplain to be present on my side."

Mark, supposing that the Bishop was annoyed by his presence at the interview, made a movement to retire, whereupon the Bishop tapped him paternally upon the shoulder and said:

"Nonsense, non-sense, I was merely indulging in a mild pleasantry. Sit down, Mr. Rowley. Mr. Lidderdale I think you will find that chair quite comfortable. Well, Mr. Rowley," he began, "I have heard much of you and your work. Our friend Canon Whymper spoke of it with enthusiasm. Yes, yes, with enthusiasm. I often regret that in the course of my ministry I have never had the good fortune to be called to work among the poor, the real poor. You have been privileged, Mr. Rowley, if I may be allowed to say so, greatly, immensely privileged. You find a wilderness, and you make of it a garden. Wonderful. Wonderful."

Mark began to feel uncomfortable, and he thought by the way Father Rowley was puffing his cheeks that he too was beginning to feel uncomfortable. The Missioner looked as if he was blowing away the lather of the soap that the Bishop was using upon him so prodigally.

"Some other time, Mr. Rowley, when I have a little leisure. . . . I perceive the need of making myself acquainted with every side of my new diocese—a little leisure, yes . . . sometime I should like to have a long talk with you about all the details of your work at Chatsea, of which as I said Canon Whymper has spoken to me most enthusiastically. The question, however, immediately before us this morning is the licence of your new church. Since writing to you first I have thought the matter over most earnestly. I have given the matter the gravest consideration. I have consulted Canon Whymper and I have come to the conclusion that bearing all the circumstances in mind it will be wiser for you to apply, and I hope be granted, a new licence. With this decision in my mind I asked Canon Whymper in his capacity as Rural Dean to report upon the new church. Mr. Rowley, his report is extremely favourable. He writes to me of the noble fabric, noble is the actual epithet he employs, yes, the very phrase. He expresses his conviction that you are to be congratulated, most warmly congratulated, Mr. Rowley, upon your vigorous work. I believe I am right in saying that all the money necessary to erect this noble edifice has been raised by yourself?"

"Not all of it," said Father Rowley. "I still owe L3,000."

"A mere trifle," said the Bishop, dismissing the sum with the airy gesture of a conjurer who palms a coin. "A mere trifle compared with what you have already raised. I know that at the moment there is no question of constituting as a parish what is at present merely a district; but such a contingency must be borne in mind by both of us, and inasmuch as that would imply consecration by myself I am unwilling to prejudice any decision I might have to take later, should the necessity for consecration arise, by allowing you at the moment a wider latitude than I might be prepared to allow you in the future. Yes, Canon Whymper writes most enthusiastically of the noble fabric." The Bishop paused, drummed with his fingers on the arm of his chair as if he were testing the pitch of his instrument, and then taking a deep breath boomed forth: "But Mr. Rowley, in his report he informs me that in the middle of the south aisle exists an altar or Holy Table expressly and exclusively designed for what he was told are known as masses for the dead."

"That is perfectly true," said Father Rowley.

"Ah," said the Bishop, shaking his head gravely. "I did not indeed imagine that Canon Whymper would be misinformed about such an important feature; but I did not think it right to act without ascertaining first from you that such is indeed the case. Mr. Rowley, it would be difficult for me to express how grievously it pains me to have to seem to interfere in the slightest degree with the successful prosecution of your work among the poor of Chatsea, especially to make such interference one of the first of my actions in a new diocese; but the responsibilities of a bishop are grave. He cannot lightly endorse a condition of affairs, a method of services which in his inmost heart after the deepest confederation he feels is repugnant to the spirit of the Church Of England. . . ."

"I question that opinion, my lord," said the Missioner.

"Mr. Rowley, pray allow me to finish. We have little time at our disposal for a theological argument which would in any case be fruitless, for as I told you I have already examined the question with the deepest consideration from every standpoint. Though I may respect your opinions in my private capacity, for I do not wish to impugn for one moment the sincerity of your beliefs, in my episcopal, or what I may call my public character, I can only condemn them utterly. Utterly, Mr. Rowley, and completely."

"But this altar, my lord," shouted Father Rowley, springing to his feet, to the alarm of Mark, who thought he was going to shake his fist in the Bishop's face, "this altar was subscribed for by the poor of St. Agnes', by all the poor of St. Agnes', as a memorial of the lives of sailors and marines of St. Agnes' lost in the sinking of the King Harry. Your predecessor, Bishop Crawshay, knew of its existence, actually saw it and commented on its ugliness; yet when I told him the circumstances in which it had been erected he was deeply moved by the beautiful idea. This altar has been in use for nearly three years. Masses for the dead have been said there time after time. This altar is surrounded by memorials of my dead people. It is one of the most vital factors in my work there. You ask me to remove it, before you have been in the diocese a month, before you have had time to see with your own eyes what an influence for good it has on the daily lives of the poor people who built it. My lord, I will not remove the altar."

While Father Rowley was speaking the Bishop of Silchester had been looking like a man on a railway platform who has been ambushed by a whistling engine.

"Mr. Rowley, Mr. Rowley," he said, "I pray you to control yourself. I beg you to understand that this is not a mere question of red tape, if I may use the expression, of one extra altar or Holy Table, but it is a question of the services said at that altar or Holy Table."

"That is precisely what I am trying to point out to your lordship," said Father Rowley angrily.

"You yourself told me when you wrote to me that Bishop Crawshay disapproved of much that was done at St. Agnes'. It was you who put it into my head at the beginning of our correspondence that you were not asking me formally to open the new church, because you were doubtful of the effect your method of worship might have upon me. I don't wish for a moment to suggest that you were trying to bundle on one side the question of the licence, before I had had a moment to look round me in my new diocese, I say I do not think this for a moment; but inasmuch as the question has come before me officially, as sooner or later it must have come before me officially, I cannot allow my future action to be prejudiced by giving you liberties now that I may not be prepared to allow you later on. Suppose that in three years' time the question of consecrating the new St. Agnes' arises and the legality of this third altar or Holy Table is questioned, how should I be able to turn round and forbid then what I have not forbidden now?"

"Your lordship prefers to force me to resign?"

"Force you to resign, Mr. Rowley?" the Bishop repeated in aggrieved accents. "What can I possibly have said that could lead you to suppose for one moment that I was desirous of forcing you to resign? I make allowance for your natural disappointment. I make every allowance. Otherwise Mr. Rowley I should be tempted to characterize such a statement as cruel. As cruel, Mr. Rowley."

"What other alternative have I?"

"I should have said, Mr. Rowley, that you have one other very obvious alternative, and that is to accept my ruling upon the subject of this third altar or Holy Table. When I shall receive an assurance that you will do so, I shall with pleasure, with great pleasure, give you a new licence."

"I could not possibly do that," said the Missioner. "I could not possibly go back to my people to-night and tell them this Holy Week that what I have been teaching them for ten years is a lie. I would rather resign a thousand times."

"That is a far more accurate statement than your previous assertion that I was forcing you to resign."

"When will you have found a priest to take my place temporarily?" the Missioner asked in a chill voice. "It is unlikely that the Silchester College authorities will find another missioner at once, and I think it rests with your lordship to find a locum tenens. I do not wish to disappoint my people about the date of the opening of their new church. They have been looking forward to this Easter for so long now. Poor dears!"

Father Rowley sighed out the last ejaculation to himself, and his sigh ran through the Bishop's opulent library like a dull wind. Mark had a mad impulse to tell the Bishop the story of his father and the Lima Street Mission. His father had resigned on Palm Sunday. Oh, this ghastly dream. . . . Father Rowley leave Chatsea! It was unimaginable. . . .

But the Bishop was overthrowing the work of ten years with apparently as little consciousness of the ruin he was creating as a boar that has rooted up an ant-heap with his snout.

"Quite so. Quite so, Mr. Rowley. I certainly see your point," the Bishop declared. "I will do my best to secure a priest, but meanwhile . . . let me see. I need scarcely say how painful your decision has been, what pain it has caused me. Let me see, yes, in the circumstances I agree with you that it would be inadvisable to postpone the opening. I think from every point of view it would be wisest to proceed according to schedule. Could not this altar or Holy Table be railed off temporarily, I do not say muffled up, but could not some indication be given of the fact that I do not sanction its use? In that case I should have no objection, indeed on the contrary I should be only too happy for you to carry on with your work either until I can find a temporary substitute or until the Silchester College authorities can appoint a new missioner. Dear me, this is dreadfully painful for me."

Father Rowley stared at the Bishop in astonishment.

"You want me to continue?" he asked. "Really, my lord, you will excuse my plain speaking if I tell you that I am amazed at your point of view. A moment ago you told me that I must either remove this altar or resign."

"Pardon me, Mr. Rowley. I did not mention the word 'resign.'"

"And now," the Missioner went on without paying any attention to the interruption. "You are ready to let me stay at St. Agnes' until a successor can conveniently be found. If my teaching is as pernicious as you think, I cannot understand your lordship's tolerating my officiating for another hour in your diocese."

"Mr. Rowley, you are introducing into this unhappy affair a great deal of extraneous feeling. I do not reproach you. I know that you are labouring under the stress of strong emotion. I overlook the manner which you have adopted towards me. I overlook it, Mr. Rowley. Before we close this interview, which I must once more assure you is as painful for me as for you, I want you to understand how deeply I regret having been forced to take the action I have. I ask your prayers, Mr. Rowley, and please be sure that you always have and always will have my prayers. Have you anything more you would like to say? Do not let me give you the impression from my alluding to the heavy work of entering upon the duties and responsibilities of a new diocese that I desire to hurry you in any way this afternoon. You will want to catch the 4.10 back to Chatsea I have no doubt. Too early perhaps for tea. Good-bye, Mr. Rowley. Good-bye, Mr. . . ." the Bishop paused and looked inquiringly at Mark. "Lidderdale, ah, yes," he said. "For the moment I forgot. Good-bye, Mr. Lidderdale. A simple railing will, I think be sufficient for the altar in question, Mr. Rowley. I perfectly appreciate your motive in asking the Bishop of Barbadoes to officiate at the opening. I quite see that you did not wish to commit me to an approval of a ritual which might be more advanced than I might consider proper in my diocese. . . . Good-bye, good-bye."

Father Rowley and Mark found themselves once more in the drive. The episcopal standard floated in the wind, which had sprung up while they were with the Bishop. They walked silently to the railway station under a fast clouding sky.



The first episcopal act of the Bishop of Silchester drove many poor souls away from God. It was a time of deep emotional stress for all the St. Agnes' workers, and Father Rowley could not show himself in Keppel Street without being surrounded by a crowd of supplicants who with tears and lamentations begged him to give up the new St. Agnes' and to remain in the old mission church rather than be lost to them for ever. There were some who even wished him to surrender the Third Altar; but in his last sermon preached on the Sunday night before he left Chatsea, he spoke to them and said:

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. The 15th verse of the 21st Chapter of the Holy Gospel according to Saint John: Feed my lambs.

"It is difficult for me, dear people, to preach to you this evening for the last time as your missioner, to preach, moreover, the last sermon that will ever be preached in this little mission church which has meant so much to you and so much to me. By the mercy of God man does not realize at the moment all that is implied by an occasion like this. He speaks with his mouth words of farewell; but his heart still beats to what was and what is, rather than to what will be.

"When I took as my text to-night those three words of Our Lord to St. Peter, Feed my Lambs, I took them as words that might be applied, first to the Lord Bishop of this diocese, secondly to the priest who will take my place in this Mission, and thirdly and perhaps most poignantly of all to myself. I cannot bring myself to suppose that in this moment of grief, in this moment of bitterness, almost of despair I am able to speak fairly of the Bishop of Silchester's action in compelling me to resign what has counted for all that is most precious in my life on earth. And already, in saying that the Bishop has compelled me to resign, I am not speaking with perfect accuracy, inasmuch as if I had been willing to surrender what I considered one of the essential articles of our belief, the Bishop would have been glad to licence the new St. Agnes' and to give his countenance and his support to me, the unworthy priest in charge of it.

"I want you therefore, dear people, to try to look at the matter from the standpoint of the Bishop. I want you to try to understand that in objecting to our little altar for the dead he is objecting not so much to the altar itself as to the services said at that altar. If it had merely been a question between us of a third altar, whether here or in the new St. Agnes', I should have found it possible, however unwillingly, to ask you—you, who out of your hard-earned savings built that altar—to allow it to be removed. Yes, I should have been selfish enough to ask you to make that great sacrifice on my account. But when the Bishop insisted that I and the priests who have borne with me and worked with me and preached with me and prayed with me all these years should abstain from saying those Masses which we believe and which you believe help our dear ones waiting for the Day of Judgment—why, then, I felt that my surrender would have been a denial of our dear Lord, such a denial as St. Peter himself uttered in the hall of the high-priest's house. But the Bishop does not believe that our prayers here below have any efficacy or can in any way help the blessed dead. He does not believe in such prayers, and he believes that those who do believe in such prayers are wrong, not merely according to the teaching of the Prayer Book, but also according to the revelation of Almighty God. I do not want you to say, as you will be tempted to say, that the Bishop of Silchester in condemning our method of services at St. Agnes' is condemning them with an eye to public opinion or to political advantage. Alas, I have myself been tempted to say bitter words about him, to think bitter thoughts; but at this moment, with that last Nunc Dimittis ringing in my ears, Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, I realize that the Bishop is acting honestly and sincerely, however much he may be acting wrongly and hastily. It is dreadful for me at this moment of parting to feel that some of you here to-night may be turned from the face of God because you are angered against one of God's ministers. If any poor words of mine have power to touch your hearts, I beg you to believe that in giving us this great trial of our faith God is acting with that mysterious justice and omniscience of which we speak idly without in the least apprehending what He means. I shall say no more in defence and explanation of the Bishop's action, and if he should consider my defence and explanation of it a piece of presumption I send him at this solemn moment of farewell a message that I shall never cease to pray that he may long guide you on the way that leads up to eternal happiness.

"I can speak more freely of what your attitude should be towards Father Hungerford, the priest who is coming to take my place and who is going with God's help to do far more for you here than ever I have been able to do. I want you all to put yourselves in his place; I want you all to think of him to-night wondering, fearing, doubting, hoping, and praying. I want you to imagine how difficult he must be feeling the situation is for him. He will come here to-morrow conscious that there is nobody in this district of ours who does not feel, whether he be a communicant or not, that the Bishop had no right to intervene so soon and without greater knowledge of his new diocese in a district like ours. I cannot help knowing how much I myself am to blame in this particular; but, my dear people, it has been very hard for me during these last two weeks always to be brave and hopeful. Often I have found those entreaties on my doorstep almost more than I could endure to hear, those letters on my desk almost more than I could bear to read. So, if you want to do the one thing that can comfort me in this bitter hour of mine I entreat you to show Father Hungerford that your faith and your hope and your love do not depend on your affection for an unworthy priest, but upon that deeper, greater, nobler affection for the word of God. There is only one way in which you can show Father Hungerford that Jesus Christ lives in your hearts, and that is by going to Confession and to Communion and by hearing Mass as you have done all this time. Show him by your behaviour in the street, by your kindness and consideration at home, by your devotion and reverence in church, that you appreciate the mercies of God, that you appreciate what it means to have Jesus Christ upon your altar, that you are, in a word, Christians.

"And now at last I must think of those words of our dear Lord as they apply to myself: Feed my lambs. And as I repeat them, I ask myself again if I have done right, for I am troubled in spirit, and I wonder if I ought to have given up that third altar and to have remained here. But even as I wonder this, even as at this moment I stand in this pulpit for the last time, a voice within me forbids me to doubt. No, my clear folk, I cannot surrender that altar. I cannot come to you and say that what I have been teaching for ten years was of so little value, of so little importance, of so little worth, that for the sake of policy it can be abandoned with a stroke of the pen or a nod of the head. I stand here looking out into the future, hearing like angelic trumpets those three words sounding and resounding upon the great void of time: Feed my lambs! I ask myself what work lies before me, what lambs I shall have to feed elsewhere; I ask myself in my misery whether God has found me unworthy of the trust He gave me. I feel that if I leave St. Agnes' to-morrow with the thought that you still cherish angry and resentful feelings I shall sink to a lower depth of humiliation and depression than I have yet reached. But if I can leave St. Agnes' with the assurance that my work here will go steadily forward to the glory of God from the point at which I renounced it, I shall know that God must have some other purpose for the remainder of my life, some other mission to which He intends to call me. To you, my dear people, to you who have borne with me patiently, to you who have tolerated so sweetly my infirmities, to you who have been kind to my failings, to you who have taught me so much more of our dear Lord Jesus Christ than I have been able to teach you, to you I say good-bye. I cannot harrow your feelings or my own by saying any more. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Notwithstanding these words, the first episcopal act of the Bishop of Silchester drove many poor souls away from God.

The effect upon Mark, had his religion been merely a pastime of adolescence, would have been disastrous. Owing to human nature's respect for the conspicuous there is nothing so demoralizing to faith as the failure of a leader of religion to set forth in his own actions the word of God. Mark, however, looked at the whole business more from an ecclesiastical angle. He had reason to condemn the Bishop for unchristian behaviour; but he preferred to condemn him for uncatholic behaviour. Dr. Cheesman and the many other Dr. Cheesmans of whom the Anglican episcopate was at this period composed never succeeded in shaking his belief in Christ; they did succeed in shaking for a short time his belief in the Church of England. There are few Anglo-Catholics, whether priests or laymen, who have never doubted the right of their Church to proclaim herself a branch of the Holy Catholic Church. This phase of doubt is indeed so common that in ecclesiastical circles it has come to be regarded as a kind of mental chicken-pox, not very alarming if it catches the patient when young, but growing more dangerous in proportion to the lateness of its attack. Mark had his attack young. When Father Rowley left Chatsea, he was anxious to accompany him on what he knew would be an exhausting time of travelling round to preach and collect the necessary money to pay off what was actually a personal debt. It seemed that there must be something fundamentally wrong with a Church that allowed a man to perambulate England in an endeavour to pay off the debt upon a building from ministrating in which he had been debarred. This debt, moreover, was presumably going to be paid by people who fully subscribed to teaching which had been officially condemned.

When Mark commented on this, Father Rowley pointed out that as a matter of fact a great deal of money had been sent by people who admired the practical side, or what they would have called the practical side of his work among the poor, but who at the same time thoroughly disapproved of its ecclesiastical form.

"In justice to the poor old Church of England," he said to Mark, "it must be pointed out that a good deal of this money has been given by devout Anglicans under protest."

"Yes, but that doesn't seriously affect the argument," said Mark. "You collect I don't know how many thousands of pounds to put up a magnificent church from which the Bishop of Silchester sees fit to turn you out, but for the debt on which you are still personally responsible. It's fantastic!"

"Mark Anthony," the priest said with a laugh, "you lack the legal mind. The Bishop did not turn me out. The Bishop can perfectly well say I turned myself out."

"It is all too subtle for me," said Mark. "But I'm not going to worry you with any more arguments. You've had enough of them to last you for ever. I do wish you'd let me stick to you personally and help you in any way possible."

"No, Mark Anthony," the priest replied. "I've done my work at St. Agnes', and you've done yours. Your business now is to take advantage of what has happened and to get back to your books, which whatever you may say have been more and more neglected lately. You'll find it of enormous help to be a good theologian. I have never ceased to regret my own shortcomings in that respect. Besides, I think you ought to spend a certain amount of time with Ogilvie before you go to Glastonbury. There is quite a lot of work to do if you look for it in a country parish like—what's the name of the place? Wych. Oh, yes, quite a lot of work. Don't bother your head about Anglican Orders and Roman Claims and the Catholicity of the Church of England. Your business is to save souls, your own included. Go back and read and get to know the people in Ogilvie's parish. Anybody can tackle a district like St. Agnes'; anybody that is who has the suitable personality. How many people can tackle an English country parish? I hardly know one. I should like to have you with me. I'm fond of you, and you're useful; but at your age to travel round from town to town listening to my begging would be all wrong. I might even go to America. I've had most cordial invitations from several American bishops, and if I can't raise the money in England I shall have to go there. If God has any more work for me to do I shall be offered a cure some day somewhere. I want you to be one of my assistant priests, and if you're going to be useful to me as an assistant priest, you really must have some theology behind you. These bishops get more and more difficult to deal with every year. Now, it's no good arguing. My mind's made up. I won't take you with me."

So Mark went back to Wych-on-the-Wold and brooded upon the non-Catholic aspects of the Anglican Church.



Mark did not find that his guardian was much disturbed by his doubts of the validity of Anglican Orders nor much alarmed by his suspicion that the Establishment had no right to be considered a branch of the Holy Catholic Church.

"The crucial point in the Roman position is their doctrine of intention," said Mr. Ogilvie. "It always seems to me that this doctrine is a particularly dangerous one for them to play with and one that may recoil at any moment upon their own heads. There has been a great deal of super-subtle dividing of intentions into actual, virtual, habitual, and interpretative; but if you are going to take your stand on logic you must be ready to face a logical conclusion. Let us agree for a moment that Barlow and the other bishops who consecrated Matthew Parker had no intention of consecrating him as a bishop for the purpose of ordaining priests in the sense in which Catholics understand the word priest. Do the Romans expect us to believe that all their prelates in the time of the Renaissance had a perfect intention when they were consecrating? Or leave on one side for a moment the sacrament of Orders; the validity of other sacraments is affected by their extension of the doctrine beyond the interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas. However improbable it may be that at one moment all the priests of the Catholic Church should lack the intention let us say of absolution, it is a logical possibility, in which case all the faithful would logically speaking be damned. It was in order to guard against this kind of logical catastrophe that the first split between an actual intention and a virtual intention was made. The Roman Church teaches that the virtual intention is enough; but if we argue that a virtual intention might be ascribed to the bishops who consecrated Parker, the Roman controversialists present us with another subdivision—the habitual intention, which is one that formerly existed, but of the present continuance of which there is no trace. Now really, my dear Mark, you must admit that we've reached a point very near to nonsense if this kind of logical subtlety is to control Faith."

"As a matter of fact," said Mark, "I don't think I should ever want to 'vert over the question of the validity of Anglican Orders. I haven't any doubts now of their validity, and I think it's improbable that I shall have any doubts after I'm ordained. At the same time, there is something wrong with the Church of England if a situation like that in Chatsea can be created by the whim of a bishop. Our unhappy union between Church and State has created a class of bishops which has no parallel anywhere else in Christendom. In order to become a bishop in England, at any rate of the kind that has a seat in the House of Lords, it is necessary to be a gentleman, or rather to have the outward and visible signs of being a gentleman, to be a scholar, or to be a diplomat. Of course, there will be exceptions; but if you look at almost all our bishops, you will find they have reached their dignity by social attainments or by political utility or sometimes by intellectual distinction, but hardly ever by religious fervour, or spiritual honesty, or fearless opinion. I can sympathize with the dissenters of the seventeenth century in blaming the episcopate for all spiritual maladies. I expect there were a good many Dr. Cheesmans in the days of Defoe. Look back and see how the bishops have always voted in the House of Lords with enthusiastic unanimity against every proposal of reform that was ever put forward. I wonder what will happen when they are called upon to face a real national crisis."

"I'm perfectly ready to agree with everything you say about bishops," the Rector volunteered. "But more or less, I'm sorry to add, it is a criticism that can be applied to all the orders of the priesthood everywhere in Christendom. What can we, what dare we say in favour of priests when we remember Our Lord?"

"When a man does try to follow the Gospel a little more closely than the rest," Mark raged, "the bishops down him. They exist to maintain the safety of their class. They have reached their present position by knowing the right people, by condemning the wrong people, and by balancing their fat bottoms on fences. Sometimes when their political patrons quarrel over a pair of mediocrities, a saintly man who is either very old or very ill like Bishop Crawshay is appointed as a stop-gap."

"Yes," the Rector agreed. "But our present bishops are only one more aspect of Victorian materialism. The whole of contemporary society can be criticized in the same way. After all, we get the bishops we deserve, just as we get the politicians we deserve and the generals we deserve and the painters we deserve."

"I don't think that's any excuse for the bishops. I sometimes dream of worming myself up and stopping at nothing in order to be made a bishop, and then when I have the mitre at last of appearing in my true colours."

"Our Protestant brethren think that is what many of our right reverend fathers in God do now," the Rector laughed.

These discussions might have continued for ever without taking Mark any further. His failure to experience Oxford had deprived him of the opportunity to whet his opinions upon the grindstone of debate, and there had been no time for academic argument in the three years of Keppel Street. In Wych-on-the-Wold there never seemed much else to do but argue. It was one of the effects of leaving, or rather of seeing destroyed, a society that was obviously performing useful work and returning to a society that, so far as Mark could observe performed no kind of work whatever. He was loath to criticize the Rector; but he felt that he was moving along in a rut that might at any moment deepen to a chasm in which he would be spiritually lost. He seemed to be taking his priestly responsibilities too lightly, to be content with gratifying his own desire to worship Almighty God without troubling about his parishioners. Mark did not like to make any suggestions about parochial work, because he was afraid of the Rector's retorting with an implied criticism of St. Agnes'; and that would have involved him in a bitter argument for which he would afterward be sorry. Nor was it only in his missionary duties that he felt his old friend was allowing himself to rust. Three years ago the Rector had said a daily Mass. Now he was content with one on Thursdays except on festivals. Mark began to take walks far afield, which was a sign of irritation with the inaction of the life round him rather than the expression of an interest in the life beyond. On one of these walks he found himself at Wield in the diocese of Kidderminster thirty miles or more away from home. He had spent the night in a remote Cotswold village, and all the morning he had been travelling through the level vale of Wield which, beautiful at the time of blossom, was now at midsummer a landscape without line, monotonously green, prosperous and complacent. While he was eating his bread and cheese at the public bar of the principal inn, he picked up one of the local newspapers and reading it, as one so often reads in such surroundings, with much greater particularity than the journal of a metropolis, he came upon the following letter:


SIR,—The leader in your issue of last Tuesday upon my sermon in St. Andrew's Church on the preceding Sunday calls for some corrections. The action of the Bishop of Kidderminster in inhibiting Father Rowley from accepting an invitation to preach in my church is due either to his ignorance of the facts of the case, to his stupidity in appreciating them, or, I must regretfully add, to his natural bias towards persecution. These are strong words for a parish priest to use about his diocesan; but the Bishop of Kidderminster's consistent support of latitudinarianism and his consistent hostility towards any of his clergy who practise the forms of worship which they feel they are bound to practise by the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer call for strong words. The Bishop in correspondence with me declined to give any reason for his inhibition of Father Rowley beyond a general disapproval of his teaching. I am informed privately that the Bishop is suffering from a delusion that Father Rowley disobeyed the Bishop of Silchester, which is of course perfectly untrue and which is only one more sign of how completely out of accord our bishops are with what is going on either in their own diocese or in any other. My own inclination was frankly to defy his Lordship and insist upon Father Rowley's fulfilling his engagement. I am not sure that I do not now regret that I allowed my church-wardens to overpersuade me on this point. I take great exception to your statement that the offertories both in the morning and in the evening were sent by me to Father Rowley regardless of the wishes of my parishioners. That there are certain parishioners of St. Andrew's who objected I have no doubt. But when I send you the attached list of parishioners who subscribed no less than L18 to be added to the two collections, you will I am sure courteously admit that in this case the opinion of the parishioners of St. Andrew's was at one with the opinion of their Vicar.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


Mark was so much delighted by this letter that he went off at once to call on Mr. Forshaw, but did not find him at home; he was amused to hear from the housekeeper that his reverence had been summoned to an interview with the Bishop of Kidderminster. Mark fancied that it would be the prelate who would have the unpleasant quarter of an hour. Presently he began to ponder what it meant for such a letter to be written and published; his doubts about the Church of England returned; and in this condition of mind he found himself outside a small Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. Joseph, where hopeful of gaining the Divine guidance within he passed through the door. It may be that he was in a less receptive mood than he thought, for what impressed him most was the Anglican atmosphere of this Italian outpost. The stale perfume of incense on stone could not eclipse that authentic perfume of respectability which has been acquired by so many Roman Catholic churches in England. There were still hanging on the pillars the framed numbers of Sunday's hymns. Mark pictured the choir boy who must have slipped the cards in the frame with anxious and triumphant and immemorial Anglican zeal; and while he was contemplating this symbolical hymn-board, over his shoulder floated an authentic Anglican voice, a voice that sounded as if it was being choked out of the larynx by the clerical collar. It was the Rector, a stumpy little man with the purple stock of a monseigneur, who showed the stranger round his church and ended by inviting him to lunch. Mark, wondering if he had reached a crossroad in his progress, accepted the invitation, and prepared himself reverently to hear the will of God. Monseigneur Cripps lived in a little Gothic house next to St. Joseph's, a trim little Gothic house covered with the oiled curls of an ampelopsis still undyed by autumn's henna.

"You've chosen a bad day to come to lunch," said Monseigneur with a warning shake of the head. "It's Friday, you know. And it's hard to get decent fish away from the big towns."

While his host went off to consult the housekeeper about the extra place for lunch, a proceeding which induced him to make a joke about extra 'plaice' and extra 'place,' at which he laughed heartily, Mark considered the most tactful way of leading up to a discussion of the position of the Anglican Church in regard to Roman claims. It should not be difficult, he supposed, because Monseigneur at the first hint of his guest's desire to be converted would no doubt welcome the topic. But when Monseigneur led the way to his little Gothic dining-room full of Arundel prints, Mark soon apprehended that his host had evidently not had the slightest notion of offering an ad hoc hospitality. He paid no attention to Mark's tentative advances, and if he was willing to talk about Rome, it was only because he had just paid a visit there in connexion with a school of which he was a trustee and out of which he wanted to make one kind of school and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dudley wanted to make another.

"I had to take the whole question to headquarters," Monseigneur explained impressively. "But I was disappointed by Rome, oh yes, I was very disappointed. When I was a young man I saw it couleur de rose. I did enjoy one thing though, and that was going round the Vatican. Yes, they looked remarkably smart, the Papal Guards; as soon as they saw I was Monsignore, they turned out and presented arms. I'm bound to admit that I was impressed by that. But on the way down I lost my pipe in the train. And do you think I could buy a decent pipe in Rome? I actually had to pay five lire—or was it six?—for this inadequate tube."

He produced from his pocket the pipe he had been compelled to buy, a curved briar all varnish and gold lettering.

"I've been badly treated in Wield. Certainly, they made me Monseigneur. But then they couldn't very well do less after I built this church. We've been successful here. And I venture to think popular. But the Bishop is in the hands of the Irish. He cannot grasp that the English people will not have Irish priests to rule them. They don't like it, and I don't blame them. You're not Irish, are you?"

Mark reassured him.

"This plaice isn't bad, eh? I ordered turbot, but you never get the fish you order in these Midland towns. It always ends in my having plaice, which is good for the soul! Ha-ha! I hate the Irish myself. This school of which I am the chief trustee was intended to be a Catholic reformatory. That idea fell through, and now my notion is to turn it into a decent school run by secular clergy. All the English Catholic schools are in the hands of the regular clergy, which is a mistake. It puts too much power in the hands of the Benedictines and the Jesuits and the rest of them. After all, the great strength of the Catholic Church in England will always be the secular clergy. And what do we get now? A lot of objectionable Irishmen in Trilby hats. Last time I saw the Bishop I gave him my frank opinion of his policy. I told him my opinion to his face. He won't get me to kowtow to him. Yes, I said to him that, if he handed over this school to the Dominicans, he was going to spoil one of the finest opportunities ever presented of educating the sons of decent English gentlemen to be simple parish priests. But the Bishop of Dudley is an Irishman himself. He can't think of anything educationally better than Ushaw. And, as I was telling you, I saw there was nothing for it but to take the whole matter right up to headquarters, that is to Rome. Did I tell you that the Papal Guards turned out and presented arms? Ah, I remember now, I did mention it. I was extraordinarily impressed by them. A fine body. But generally speaking, Rome disappointed me after many years. Of course we English Catholics don't understand that way of worshipping. I'm not criticizing it. I realize that it suits the Italians. But suppose I started clearing my throat in the middle of Mass? My congregation would be disgusted, and rightly. It's an astonishing thing that I couldn't buy a good pipe in Rome, don't you think? I must have lost mine when I got out of the carriage to look at the leaning tower of Pisa, and my other one got clogged up with some candle grease. I couldn't get the beastly stuff out, so I had to give the pipe to a porter. They're keen on English pipes, those Italian porters. Poor devils, I'm not surprised. Of course, I need hardly say that in Rome they promised to do everything for me; but you can't trust them when your back is turned, and I need hardly add that the Bishop was pulling strings all the time. They showed me one of his letters, which was a tissue of mis-statements—a regular tissue. Now, suppose you had a son and you wanted him to be a priest? You don't necessarily want him to become a Jesuit or a Benedictine or a Dominican. Where can you send him now? Stonyhurst, Downside, Beaumont. There isn't a single decent school run by the secular clergy. You know what I mean? A school for the sons of gentlemen—a public school. We've got magnificent buildings, grounds, everything you could wish. I've been promised all the money necessary, and then the Bishop of Dudley steps in and says that these Dominicans ought to take it on."

"I'm afraid I've somehow given you a wrong impression," Mark interposed when Monseigneur Cripps at last filled his mouth with plaice. "I'm not a Roman Catholic."

"Oh, aren't you?" said Monseigneur indifferently. "Never mind, I expect you see my point about the necessity for the school to be run by secular clergy. Did I tell you how I got the land for my church here? That's rather an interesting story. It belonged to Lord Evesham who, as perhaps you may know, is very anti-Catholic, but a thorough good sportsman. We always get on capitally together. Well, one day I said to his agent, Captain Hart: 'What about this land, Hart? Don't you think you could get it out of his lordship?' 'It's no good, Father Cripps,' said Hart—I wasn't Monseigneur then of course—'It's no good,' he said, 'his lordship absolutely declines to let his land be used for a Catholic church.' 'Come along, Hart,' I said, 'let's have a round of golf.' Well, when we got to the eighteenth hole we were all square, and we'd both of us gone round three better than bogie and broken our own records. I was on the green with my second shot, and holed out in three. 'My game,' I shouted because Hart had foozled his drive and wasn't on the green. 'Not at all,' he said. 'You shouldn't be in such a hurry. I may hole out in one,' he laughed. 'If you do,' I said, 'you ought to get Lord Evesham to give me that land.' 'That's a bargain,' he said, and he took his mashie. Will you believe it? He did the hole in two, sir, won the game, and beat the record for the course! And that's how I got the land to build my church. I was delighted! I was delighted! I've told that story everywhere to show what sportsmen are. I told it to the Bishop, but of course he being an Irishman didn't see anything funny in it. If he could have stopped my being made Monseigneur, he'd have done so. But he couldn't."

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