What would have been Tregarva's answer, I cannot tell; but Lancelot, who had unintentionally overheard the greater part of the conversation, disliked being any longer a listener, and came close to them.
'Here's your gudgeons and minnows, sir, as you bespoke,' quoth Harry; 'and here's that paternoster as you gave me to rig up. Beautiful minnows, sir, white as a silver spoon.—They're the ones now, ain't they, sir, eh?'
'Well, then, don't say old Harry don't know nothing, that's all, eh?' and the old fellow toddled off, peering and twisting his head about like a starling.
'An odd old fellow that, Tregarva,' said Lancelot.
'Very, sir, considering who made him,' answered the Cornishman, touching his hat, and then thrusting his nose deeper than ever into the eel-basket.
'Beautiful stream this,' said Lancelot, who had a continual longing- -right or wrong—to chat with his inferiors; and was proportionately sulky and reserved to his superiors.
'Beautiful enough, sir,' said the keeper, with an emphasis on the first word.
'Why, has it any other fault?'
'Not so wholesome as pretty, sir.'
'What harm does it do?'
'Fever, and ague, and rheumatism, sir.'
'Where?' asked Lancelot, a little amused by the man's laconic answers.
'Wherever the white fog spreads, sir.'
Lancelot burst out laughing. The man looked up at him slowly and seriously.
'You wouldn't laugh, sir, if you'd seen much of the inside of these cottages round.'
'Really,' said Lancelot, 'I was only laughing at our making such very short work of such a long and serious story. Do you mean that the unhealthiness of this country is wholly caused by the river?'
'No, sir. The river-damps are God's sending; and so they are not too bad to bear. But there's more of man's sending, that is too bad to bear.'
'What do you mean?'
'Are men likely to be healthy when they are worse housed than a pig?'
'And worse fed than a hound?'
'Good heavens! No!'
'Or packed together to sleep, like pilchards in a barrel?'
'But, my good fellow, do you mean that the labourers here are in that state?'
'It isn't far to walk, sir. Perhaps some day, when the May-fly is gone off, and the fish won't rise awhile, you could walk down and see. I beg your pardon, sir, though, for thinking of such a thing. They are not places fit for gentlemen, that's certain.' There was a staid irony in his tone, which Lancelot felt.
'But the clergyman goes?'
'And Miss Honoria goes?'
'Yes, God Almighty bless her!'
'And do not they see that all goes right?'
The giant twisted his huge limbs, as if trying to avoid an answer, and yet not daring to do so.
'Do clergymen go about among the poor much, sir, at college, before they are ordained?'
Lancelot smiled, and shook his head.
'I thought so, sir. Our good vicar is like the rest hereabouts. God knows, he stints neither time nor money—the souls of the poor are well looked after, and their bodies too—as far as his purse will go; but that's not far.'
'Is he ill-off, then?'
'The living's worth some forty pounds a year. The great tithes, they say, are worth better than twelve hundred; but Squire Lavington has them.'
'Oh, I see!' said Lancelot.
'I'm glad you do, sir, for I don't,' meekly answered Tregarva. 'But the vicar, sir, he is a kind man, and a good; but the poor don't understand him, nor he them. He is too learned, sir, and, saving your presence, too fond of his prayer-book.'
'One can't be too fond of a good thing.'
'Not unless you make an idol of it, sir, and fancy that men's souls were made for the prayer-book, and not the prayer-book for them.'
'But cannot he expose and redress these evils, if they exist?'
Tregarva twisted about again.
'I do not say that I think it, sir; but this I know, that every poor man in the vale thinks it—that the parsons are afraid of the landlords. They must see these things, for they are not blind; and they try to plaster them up out of their own pockets.'
'But why, in God's name, don't they strike at the root of the matter, and go straight to the landlords and tell them the truth?' asked Lancelot.
'So people say, sir. I see no reason for it except the one which I gave you. Besides, sir, you must remember, that a man can't quarrel with his own kin; and so many of them are their squire's brothers, or sons, or nephews.'
'Or good friends with him, at least.'
'Ay, sir, and, to do them justice, they had need, for the poor's sake, to keep good friends with the squire. How else are they to get a farthing for schools, or coal-subscriptions, or lying-in societies, or lending libraries, or penny clubs? If they spoke their minds to the great ones, sir, how could they keep the parish together?'
'You seem to see both sides of a question, certainly. But what a miserable state of things, that the labouring man should require all these societies, and charities, and helps from the rich!—that an industrious freeman cannot live without alms!'
'So I have thought this long time,' quietly answered Tregarva.
'But Miss Honoria,—she is not afraid to tell her father the truth?'
'Suppose, sir, when Adam and Eve were in the garden, that all the devils had come up and played their fiends' tricks before them,—do you think they'd have seen any shame in it?'
'I really cannot tell,' said Lancelot, smiling.
'Then I can, sir. They'd have seen no more harm in it than there was harm already in themselves; and that was none. A man's eyes can only see what they've learnt to see.'
Lancelot started: it was a favourite dictum of his in Carlyle's works.
'Where did you get that thought, my friend'
'By seeing, sir.'
'But what has that to do with Miss Honoria?'
'She is an angel of holiness herself, sir; and, therefore, she goes on without blushing or suspecting, where our blood would boil again. She sees people in want, and thinks it must be so, and pities them and relieves them. But she don't know want herself; and, therefore, she don't know that it makes men beasts and devils. She's as pure as God's light herself; and, therefore, she fancies every one is as spotless as she is. And there's another mistake in your charitable great people, sir. When they see poor folk sick or hungry before their eyes, they pull out their purses fast enough, God bless them; for they wouldn't like to be so themselves. But the oppression that goes on all the year round, and the want that goes on all the year round, and the filth, and the lying, and the swearing, and the profligacy, that go on all the year round, and the sickening weight of debt, and the miserable grinding anxiety from rent-day to rent- day, and Saturday night to Saturday night, that crushes a man's soul down, and drives every thought out of his head but how he is to fill his stomach and warm his back, and keep a house over his head, till he daren't for his life take his thoughts one moment off the meat that perisheth—oh, sir, they never felt this; and, therefore, they never dream that there are thousands who pass them in their daily walks who feel this, and feel nothing else!'
This outburst was uttered with an earnestness and majesty which astonished Lancelot. He forgot the subject in the speaker.
'You are a very extraordinary gamekeeper!' said he.
'When the Lord shows a man a thing, he can't well help seeing it,' answered Tregarva, in his usual staid tone.
There was a pause. The keeper looked at him with a glance, before which Lancelot's eyes fell.
'Hell is paved with hearsays, sir, and as all this talk of mine is hearsay, if you are in earnest, sir, go and see for yourself. I know you have a kind heart, and they tell me that you are a great scholar, which would to God I was! so you ought not to condescend to take my word for anything which you can look into yourself;' with which sound piece of common-sense Tregarva returned busily to his eel-lines.
'Hand me the rod and can, and help me out along the buck-stage,' said Lancelot; 'I must have some more talk with you, my fine fellow.'
'Amen,' answered Tregarva, as he assisted our lame hero along a huge beam which stretched out into the pool; and having settled him there, returned mechanically to his work, humming a Wesleyan hymn- tune.
Lancelot sat and tried to catch perch, but Tregarva's words haunted him. He lighted his cigar, and tried to think earnestly over the matter, but he had got into the wrong place for thinking. All his thoughts, all his sympathies, were drowned in the rush and whirl of the water. He forgot everything else in the mere animal enjoyment of sight and sound. Like many young men at his crisis of life, he had given himself up to the mere contemplation of Nature till he had become her slave; and now a luscious scene, a singing bird, were enough to allure his mind away from the most earnest and awful thoughts. He tried to think, but the river would not let him. It thundered and spouted out behind him from the hatches, and leapt madly past him, and caught his eyes in spite of him, and swept them away down its dancing waves, and let them go again only to sweep them down again and again, till his brain felt a delicious dizziness from the everlasting rush and the everlasting roar. And then below, how it spread, and writhed, and whirled into transparent fans, hissing and twining snakes, polished glass-wreaths, huge crystal bells, which boiled up from the bottom, and dived again beneath long threads of creamy foam, and swung round posts and roots, and rushed blackening under dark weed-fringed boughs, and gnawed at the marly banks, and shook the ever-restless bulrushes, till it was swept away and down over the white pebbles and olive weeds, in one broad rippling sheet of molten silver, towards the distant sea. Downwards it fleeted ever, and bore his thoughts floating on its oily stream; and the great trout, with their yellow sides and peacock backs, lounged among the eddies, and the silver grayling dimpled and wandered upon the shallows, and the may-flies flickered and rustled round him like water fairies, with their green gauzy wings; the coot clanked musically among the reeds; the frogs hummed their ceaseless vesper-monotone; the kingfisher darted from his hole in the bank like a blue spark of electric light; the swallows' bills snapped as they twined and hawked above the pool; the swift's wings whirred like musket-balls, as they rushed screaming past his head; and ever the river fleeted by, bearing his eyes away down the current, till its wild eddies began to glow with crimson beneath the setting sun. The complex harmony of sights and sounds slid softly over his soul, and he sank away into a still daydream, too passive for imagination, too deep for meditation, and
'Beauty born of murmuring sound, Did pass into his face.'
Blame him not. There are more things in a man's heart than ever get in through his thoughts.
On a sudden, a soft voice behind him startled him.
'Can a poor cockney artist venture himself along this timber without falling in?'
'Come out to me, and if you stumble, the naiads will rise out of their depths, and "hold up their pearled wrists" to save their favourite.'
The artist walked timidly out along the beams, and sat down beside Lancelot, who shook him warmly by the hand.
'Welcome, Claude Mellot, and all lovely enthusiasms and symbolisms! Expound to me, now, the meaning of that water-lily leaf and its grand simple curve, as it lies sleeping there in the back eddy.'
'Oh, I am too amused to philosophise. The fair Argemone has just been treating me to her three hundred and sixty-fifth philippic against my unoffending beard.'
'Why, what fault can she find with such a graceful and natural ornament?'
'Just this, my dear fellow, that it is natural. As it is, she considers me only "intelligent-looking." If the beard were away, my face, she says, would be "so refined!" And, I suppose, if I was just a little more effeminate and pale, with a nice retreating under-jaw and a drooping lip, and a meek, peaking simper, like your starved Romish saints, I should be "so spiritual!" And if, again, to complete the climax, I did but shave my head like a Chinese, I should be a model for St. Francis himself!'
'But really, after all, why make yourself so singular by this said beard?'
'I wear it for a testimony and a sign that a man has no right to be ashamed of the mark of manhood. Oh, that one or two of your Protestant clergymen, who ought to be perfect ideal men, would have the courage to get up into the pulpit in a long beard, and testify that the very essential idea of Protestantism is the dignity and divinity of man as God made him! Our forefathers were not ashamed of their beards; but now even the soldier is only allowed to keep his moustache, while our quill-driving masses shave themselves as close as they can; and in proportion to a man's piety he wears less hair, from the young curate who shaves off his whiskers, to the Popish priest who shaves his crown!'
'What do you say, then, to cutting off nuns' hair?'
'I say, that extremes meet, and prudish Manichaeism always ends in sheer indecency. Those Papists have forgotten what woman was made for, and therefore, they have forgotten that a woman's hair is her glory, for it was given to her for a covering: as says your friend, Paul the Hebrew, who, by the bye, had as fine theories of art as he had of society, if he had only lived fifteen hundred years later, and had a chance of working them out.'
'How remarkably orthodox you are!' said Lancelot, smiling.
'How do you know that I am not? You never heard me deny the old creed. But what if an artist ought to be of all creeds at once? My business is to represent the beautiful, and therefore to accept it wherever I find it. Yours is to be a philosopher, and find the true.'
'But the beautiful must be truly beautiful to be worth anything; and so you, too, must search for the true.'
'Yes; truth of form, colour, chiaroscuro. They are worthy to occupy me a life; for they are eternal—or at least that which they express: and if I am to get at the symbolised unseen, it must be through the beauty of the symbolising phenomenon. If I, who live by art, for art, in art, or you either, who seem as much a born artist as myself, am to have a religion, it must be a worship of the fountain of art—of the
"Spirit of beauty, who doth consecrate With his own hues whate'er he shines upon."'
'As poor Shelley has it; and much peace of mind it gave him!' answered Lancelot. 'I have grown sick lately of such dreary tinsel abstractions. When you look through the glitter of the words, your "spirit of beauty" simply means certain shapes and colours which please you in beautiful things and in beautiful people.'
'Vile nominalist! renegade from the ideal and all its glories!' said Claude, laughing.
'I don't care sixpence now for the ideal! I want not beauty, but some beautiful thing—a woman perhaps,' and he sighed. 'But at least a person—a living, loving person—all lovely itself, and giving loveliness to all things! If I must have an ideal, let it be, for mercy's sake, a realised one.'
Claude opened his sketch-book.
'We shall get swamped in these metaphysical oceans, my dear dreamer. But lo, here come a couple, as near ideals as any in these degenerate days—the two poles of beauty: the milieu of which would be Venus with us Pagans, or the Virgin Mary with the Catholics. Look at them! Honoria the dark—symbolic of passionate depth; Argemone the fair, type of intellectual light! Oh, that I were a Zeuxis to unite them instead of having to paint them in two separate pictures, and split perfection in half, as everything is split in this piecemeal world!'
'You will have the honour of a sitting this afternoon, I suppose, from both beauties?'
'I hope so, for my own sake. There is no path left to immortality, or bread either, now for us poor artists but portrait-painting.'
'I envy you your path, when it leads through such Elysiums,' said Lancelot.
'Come here, gentlemen both!' cried Argemone from the bridge.
'Fairly caught!' grumbled Lancelot. 'You must go, at least; my lameness will excuse me, I hope.'
The two ladies were accompanied by Bracebridge, a gazelle which he had given Argemone, and a certain miserable cur of Honoria's adopting, who plays an important part in this story, and, therefore, deserves a little notice. Honoria had rescued him from a watery death in the village pond, by means of the colonel, who had revenged himself for a pair of wet feet by utterly corrupting the dog's morals, and teaching him every week to answer to some fresh scandalous name.
But Lancelot was not to escape. Instead of moving on, as he had hoped, the party stood looking over the bridge, and talking—he took for granted, poor thin-skinned fellow—of him. And for once his suspicions were right; for he overheard Argemone say—
'I wonder how Mr. Smith can be so rude as to sit there in my presence over his stupid perch! Smoking those horrid cigars, too! How selfish those field-sports do make men!'
'Thank you!' said the colonel, with a low bow. Lancelot rose.
'If a country girl, now, had spoken in that tone,' said he to himself, 'it would have been called at least "saucy"—but Mammon's elect ones may do anything. Well—here I come, limping to my new tyrant's feet, like Goethe's bear to Lili's.'
She drew him away, as women only know how, from the rest of the party, who were chatting and laughing with Claude. She had shown off her fancied indifference to Lancelot before them, and now began in a softer voice—
'Why will you be so shy and lonely, Mr. Smith?'
'Because I am not fit for your society.'
'Who tells you so? Why will you not become so?'
Lancelot hung down his head.
'As long as fish and game are your only society, you will become more and more morne and self-absorbed.'
'Really fish were the last things of which I was thinking when you came. My whole heart was filled with the beauty of nature, and nothing else.'
There was an opening for one of Argemone's preconcerted orations.
'Had you no better occupation,' she said gently, 'than nature, the first day of returning to the open air after so frightful and dangerous an accident? Were there no thanks due to One above?'
Lancelot understood her.
'How do you know that I was not even then showing my thankfulness?'
'What! with a cigar and a fishing-rod?'
'Certainly. Why not?'
Argemone really could not tell at the moment. The answer upset her scheme entirely.
'Might not that very admiration of nature have been an act of worship?' continued our hero. 'How can we better glorify the worker than by delighting in his work?'
'Ah!' sighed the lady, 'why trust to these self-willed methods, and neglect the noble and exquisite forms which the Church has prepared for us as embodiments for every feeling of our hearts?'
'EVERY feeling, Miss Lavington?'
Argemone hesitated. She had made the good old stock assertion, as in duty bound; but she could not help recollecting that there were several Popish books of devotion at that moment on her table, which seemed to her to patch a gap or two in the Prayer-book.
'My temple as yet,' said Lancelot, 'is only the heaven and the earth; my church-music I can hear all day long, whenever I have the sense to be silent, and "hear my mother sing;" my priests and preachers are every bird and bee, every flower and cloud. Am I not well enough furnished? Do you want to reduce my circular infinite chapel to an oblong hundred-foot one? My sphere harmonies to the Gregorian tones in four parts? My world-wide priesthood, with their endless variety of costume, to one not over-educated gentleman in a white sheet? And my dreams of naiads and flower-fairies, and the blue-bells ringing God's praises, as they do in "The story without an End," for the gross reality of naughty charity children, with their pockets full of apples, bawling out Hebrew psalms of which they neither feel nor understand a word?'
Argemone tried to look very much shocked at this piece of bombast. Lancelot evidently meant it as such, but he eyed her all the while as if there was solemn earnest under the surface.
'Oh, Mr. Smith!' she said, 'how can you dare talk so of a liturgy compiled by the wisest and holiest of all countries and ages! You revile that of whose beauty you are not qualified to judge!'
'There must be a beauty in it all, or such as you are would not love it.'
'Oh,' she said hopefully, 'that you would but try the Church system! How you would find it harmonise and methodise every day, every thought for you! But I cannot explain myself. Why not go to our vicar and open your doubts to him?'
'Pardon, but you must excuse me.'
'Why? He is one of the saintliest of men!'
'To tell the truth, I have been to him already.'
'You do not mean it! And what did he tell you?'
'What the rest of the world does—hearsays.'
'But did you not find him most kind?'
'I went to him to be comforted and guided. He received me as a criminal. He told me that my first duty was penitence; that as long as I lived the life I did, he could not dare to cast his pearls before swine by answering my doubts; that I was in a state incapable of appreciating spiritual truths; and, therefore, he had no right to tell me any.'
'And what did he tell you?'
'Several spiritual lies instead, I thought. He told me, hearing me quote Schiller, to beware of the Germans, for they were all Pantheists at heart. I asked him whether he included Lange and Bunsen, and it appeared that he had never read a German book in his life. He then flew furiously at Mr. Carlyle, and I found that all he knew of him was from a certain review in the Quarterly. He called Boehmen a theosophic Atheist. I should have burst out at that, had I not read the very words in a High Church review the day before, and hoped that he was not aware of the impudent falsehood which he was retailing. Whenever I feebly interposed an objection to anything he said (for, after all, he talked on), he told me to hear the Catholic Church. I asked him which Catholic Church? He said the English. I asked him whether it was to be the Church of the sixth century, or the thirteenth, or the seventeenth or the eighteenth? He told me the one and eternal Church which belonged as much to the nineteenth century as to the first. I begged to know whether, then, I was to hear the Church according to Simeon, or according to Newman, or according to St. Paul; for they seemed to me a little at variance? He told me, austerely enough, that the mind of the Church was embodied in her Liturgy and Articles. To which I answered, that the mind of the episcopal clergy might, perhaps, be; but, then, how happened it that they were always quarrelling and calling hard names about the sense of those very documents? And so I left him, assuring him that, living in the nineteenth century, I wanted to hear the Church of the nineteenth century, and no other; and should be most happy to listen to her, as soon as she had made up her mind what to say.'
Argemone was angry and disappointed. She felt she could not cope with Lancelot's quaint logic, which, however unsound, cut deeper into questions than she had yet looked for herself. Somehow, too, she was tongue-tied before him just when she wanted to be most eloquent in behalf of her principles; and that fretted her still more. But his manner puzzled her most of all. First he would run on with his face turned away, as if soliloquising out into the air, and then suddenly look round at her with most fascinating humility; and, then, in a moment, a dark shade would pass over his countenance, and he would look like one possessed, and his lips wreathe in a sinister artificial smile, and his wild eyes glare through and through her with such cunning understanding of himself and her, that, for the first time in her life, she quailed and felt frightened, as if in the power of a madman. She turned hastily away to shake off the spell.
He sprang after her, almost on his knees, and looked up into her beautiful face with an imploring cry.
'What, do you, too, throw me off? Will you, too, treat the poor wild uneducated sportsman as a Pariah and an outcast, because he is not ashamed to be a man?—because he cannot stuff his soul's hunger with cut-and-dried hearsays, but dares to think for himself?— because he wants to believe things, and dare not be satisfied with only believing that he ought to believe them?'
She paused, astonished.
'Ah, yes,' he went on, 'I hoped too much! What right had I to expect that you would understand me? What right, still more, to expect that you would stoop, any more than the rest of the world, to speak to me, as if I could become anything better than the wild hog I seem? Oh yes!—the chrysalis has no butterfly in it, of course! Stamp on the ugly motionless thing! And yet—you look so beautiful and good!—are all my dreams to perish, about the Alrunen and prophet-maidens, how they charmed our old fighting, hunting forefathers into purity and sweet obedience among their Saxon forests? Has woman forgotten her mission—to look at the heart and have mercy, while cold man looks at the act and condemns? Do you, too, like the rest of mankind, think no-belief better than misbelief; and smile on hypocrisy, lip-assent, practical Atheism, sooner than on the unpardonable sin of making a mistake? Will you, like the rest of this wise world, let a man's spirit rot asleep into the pit, if he will only lie quiet and not disturb your smooth respectabilities; but if he dares, in waking, to yawn in an unorthodox manner, knock him on the head at once, and "break the bruised reed," and "quench the smoking flax"? And yet you churchgoers have "renounced the world"!'
'What do you want, in Heaven's name?' asked Argemone, half terrified.
'I want YOU to tell me that. Here I am, with youth, health, strength, money, every blessing of life but one; and I am utterly miserable. I want some one to tell me what I want.'
'Is it not that you want—religion?'
'I see hundreds who have what you call religion, with whom I should scorn to change my irreligion.'
'But, Mr. Smith, are you not—are you not wicked?—They tell me so,' said Argemone, with an effort, 'And is that not the cause of your disease?'
'No, fairest prophetess, it is the disease itself. "Why am I what I am, when I know more and more daily what I could be?"—That is the mystery; and my sins are the fruit, and not the root of it. Who will explain that?'
'Oh, Miss Lavington,' cried he, impatiently, 'will you, too, send me back to that cold abstraction? I came to you, however presumptuous, for living, human advice to a living, human heart; and will you pass off on me that Proteus-dream the Church, which in every man's mouth has a different meaning? In one book, meaning a method of education, only it has never been carried out; in another, a system of polity,—only it has never been realised;—now a set of words written in books, on whose meaning all are divided; now a body of men who are daily excommunicating each other as heretics and apostates; now a universal idea; now the narrowest and most exclusive of all parties. Really, before you ask me to hear the Church, I have a right to ask you to define what the Church is.'
'Our Articles define it,' said Argemone drily.
'The "Visible Church," at least, it defines as "a company of faithful men, in which," etc. But how does it define the "Invisible" one? And what does "faithful" mean? What if I thought Cromwell and Pierre Leroux infinitely more faithful men in their way, and better members of the "Invisible Church," than the torturer-pedant Laud, or the facing bothways Protestant-Manichee Taylor?'
It was lucky for the life of young Love that the discussion went no further: Argemone was becoming scandalised beyond all measure. But, happily, the colonel interposed,—
'Look here; tell me if you know for whom this sketch is meant?'
'Tregarva, the keeper: who can doubt?' answered they both at once.
'Has not Mellot succeeded perfectly?'
'Yes,' said Lancelot. 'But what wonder, with such a noble subject! What a grand benevolence is enthroned on that lofty forehead!'
'Oh, you would say so, indeed,' interposed Honoria, 'if you knew him! The stories that I could tell you about him! How he would go into cottages, read to sick people by the hour, dress the children, cook the food for them, as tenderly as any woman! I found out, last winter, if you will believe it, that he lived on bread and water, to give out of his own wages—which are barely twelve shillings a week- -five shillings a week for more than two months to a poor labouring man, to prevent his going to the workhouse, and being parted from his wife and children.'
'Noble, indeed!' said Lancelot. 'I do not wonder now at the effect his conversation just now had on me.'
'Has he been talking to you?' said Honoria eagerly. 'He seldom speaks to any one.'
'He has to me; and so well, that were I sure that the poor were as ill off as he says, and that I had the power of altering the system a hair, I could find it in my heart to excuse all political grievance-mongers, and turn one myself.'
Claude Mellot clapped his white woman-like hands.
'Bravo! bravo! O wonderful conversion! Lancelot has at last discovered that, besides the "glorious Past," there is a Present worthy of his sublime notice! We may now hope, in time, that he will discover the existence of a Future!'
'But, Mr. Mellot,' said Honoria, 'why have you been so unfaithful to your original? why have you, like all artists, been trying to soften and refine on your model?'
'Because, my dear lady, we are bound to see everything in its ideal- -not as it is, but as it ought to be, and will be, when the vices of this pitiful civilised world are exploded, and sanitary reform, and a variety of occupation, and harmonious education, let each man fulfil in body and soul the ideal which God embodied in him.'
'Fourierist!' cried Lancelot, laughing. 'But surely you never saw a face which had lost by wear less of the divine image? How thoroughly it exemplifies your great law of Protestant art, that "the Ideal is best manifested in the Peculiar." How classic, how independent of clime or race, is its bland, majestic self- possession! how thoroughly Norse its massive squareness!'
'And yet, as a Cornishman, he should be no Norseman.'
'I beg your pardon! Like all noble races, the Cornish owe their nobleness to the impurity of their blood—to its perpetual loans from foreign veins. See how the serpentine curve of his nose, his long nostril, and protruding, sharp-cut lips, mark his share of Phoenician or Jewish blood! how Norse, again, that dome-shaped forehead! how Celtic those dark curls, that restless gray eye, with its "swinden blicken," like Von Troneg Hagen's in the Niebelungen Lied!'
He turned: Honoria was devouring his words. He saw it, for he was in love, and young love makes man's senses as keen as woman's.
'Look! look at him now!' said Claude, in a low voice. 'How he sits, with his hands on his knees, the enormous size of his limbs quite concealed by the careless grace, with his Egyptian face, like some dumb granite Memnon!'
'Only waiting,' said Lancelot, 'for the day-star to arise on him and awake him into voice.'
He looked at Honoria as he spoke. She blushed angrily; and yet a sort of sympathy arose from that moment between Lancelot and herself.
Our hero feared he had gone too far, and tried to turn the subject off.
The smooth mill-head was alive with rising trout.
'What a huge fish leapt then!' said Lancelot carelessly; 'and close to the bridge, too!'
Honoria looked round, and uttered a piercing scream.
'Oh, my dog! my dog! Mops is in the river! That horrid gazelle has butted him in, and he'll be drowned!'
Alas! it was too true. There, a yard above the one open hatchway, through which the whole force of the stream was rushing, was the unhappy Mops, alias Scratch, alias Dirty Dick, alias Jack Sheppard, paddling, and sneezing, and winking, his little bald muzzle turned piteously upward to the sky.
'He will be drowned!' quoth the colonel.
There was no doubt of it; and so Mops thought, as, shivering and whining, he plied every leg, while the glassy current dragged him back and back, and Honoria sobbed like a child.
The colonel lay down on the bridge, and caught at him: his arm was a foot too short. In a moment the huge form of Tregarva plunged solemnly into the water, with a splash like seven salmon, and Mops was jerked out over the colonel's head high and dry on to the bridge.
'You'll be drowned, at least!' shouted the colonel, with an oath of Uncle Toby's own.
Tregarva saw his danger, made one desperate bound upward, and missed the bridge. The colonel caught at him, tore off a piece of his collar—the calm, solemn face of the keeper flashed past beneath him, and disappeared through the roaring gate.
They rushed to the other side of the bridge—caught one glimpse of a dark body fleeting and roaring down the foam-way. The colonel leapt the bridge-rail like a deer, rushed out along the buck-stage, tore off his coat, and sprung headlong into the boiling pool, 'rejoicing in his might,' as old Homer would say.
Lancelot, forgetting his crutches, was dashing after him, when he felt a soft hand clutching at his arm.
'Lancelot! Mr. Smith!' cried Argemone. 'You shall not go! You are too ill—weak—'
'A fellow-creature's life!'
'What is his life to yours?' she cried, in a tone of deep passion. And then, imperiously, 'Stay here, I command you!'
The magnetic touch of her hand thrilled through his whole frame. She had called him Lancelot! He shrank down, and stood spell-bound.
'Good heavens!' she cried; 'look at my sister!'
Out on the extremity of the buck-stage (how she got there neither they nor she ever knew) crouched Honoria, her face idiotic with terror, while she stared with bursting eyes into the foam. A shriek of disappointment rose from her lips, as in a moment the colonel's weather-worn head reappeared above, looking for all the world like an old gray shiny-painted seal.
'Poof! tally-ho! Poof! poof! Heave me a piece of wood, Lancelot, my boy!' And he disappeared again.
They looked round, there was not a loose bit near. Claude ran off towards the house. Lancelot, desperate, seized the bridge-rail, tore it off by sheer strength, and hurled it far into the pool. Argemone saw it, and remembered it, like a true woman. Ay, be as Manichaean-sentimental as you will, fair ladies, physical prowess, that Eden-right of manhood, is sure to tell upon your hearts!
Again the colonel's grizzled head reappeared,—and, oh joy! beneath it a draggled knot of black curls. In another instant he had hold of the rail, and quietly floating down to the shallow, dragged the lifeless giant high and dry on a patch of gravel.
Honoria never spoke. She rose, walked quietly back along the beam, passed Argemone and Lancelot without seeing them, and firmly but hurriedly led the way round the pool-side.
Before they arrived at the bank, the colonel had carried Tregarva to it. Lancelot and two or three workmen, whom his cries had attracted, lifted the body on to the meadow.
Honoria knelt quietly down on the grass, and watched, silent and motionless, the dead face, with her wide, awestruck eyes.
'God bless her for a kind soul!' whispered the wan weather-beaten field drudges, as they crowded round the body.
'Get out of the way, my men!' quoth the colonel. 'Too many cooks spoil the broth.' And he packed off one here and another there for necessaries, and commenced trying every restorative means with the ready coolness of a practised surgeon; while Lancelot, whom he ordered about like a baby, gulped down a great choking lump of envy, and then tasted the rich delight of forgetting himself in admiring obedience to a real superior.
But there Tregarva lay lifeless, with folded hands, and a quiet satisfied smile, while Honoria watched and watched with parted lips, unconscious of the presence of every one.
'Carry him to the house,' said the colonel, in a despairing tone, after another attempt.
'He moves!' 'No!' 'He does!' 'He breathes!' 'Look at his eyelids!'
Slowly his eyes opened.
'Where am I? All gone? Sweet dreams—blessed dreams!'
His eye met Honoria's. One big deep sigh swelled to his lips and burst. She seemed to recollect herself, rose, passed her arm through Argemone's, and walked slowly away.
CHAPTER IV: AN 'INGLORIOUS MILTON'
Argemone, sweet prude, thought herself bound to read Honoria a lecture that night, on her reckless exhibition of feeling; but it profited little. The most consummate cunning could not have baffled Argemone's suspicions more completely than her sister's utter simplicity. She cried just as bitterly about Mops's danger as about the keeper's, and then laughed heartily at Argemone's solemnity; till at last, when pushed a little too hard, she broke out into something very like a passion, and told her sister, bitterly enough, that 'she was not accustomed to see men drowned every day, and begged to hear no more about the subject.' Whereat Argemone prudently held her tongue, knowing that under all Honoria's tenderness lay a volcano of passionate determination, which was generally kept down by her affections, but was just as likely to be maddened by them. And so this conversation only went to increase the unconscious estrangement between them, though they continued, as sisters will do, to lavish upon each other the most extravagant protestations of affection—vowing to live and die only for each other—and believing honestly, sweet souls, that they felt all they said; till real imperious Love came in, in one case of the two at least, shouldering all other affections right and left; and then the two beauties discovered, as others do, that it is not so possible or reasonable as they thought for a woman to sacrifice herself and her lover for the sake of her sister or her friend. Next morning Lancelot and the colonel started out to Tregarva's cottage, on a mission of inquiry. They found the giant propped up in bed with pillows, his magnificent features looking in their paleness more than ever like a granite Memnon. Before him lay an open Pilgrim's Progress, and a drawer filled with feathers and furs, which he was busily manufacturing into trout flies, reading as he worked. The room was filled with nets, guns, and keepers' tackle, while a well- filled shelf of books hung by the wall.
'Excuse my rising, gentlemen,' he said, in his slow, staid voice, 'but I am very weak, in spite of the Lord's goodness to me. You are very kind to think of coming to my poor cottage,'
'Well, my man,' said the colonel, 'and how are you after your cold bath? You are the heaviest fish I ever landed!'
'Pretty well, thank God, and you, sir. I am in your debt, sir, for the dear life. How shall I ever repay you?'
'Repay, my good fellow? You would have done as much for me.'
'May be; but you did not think of that when you jumped in; and no more must I in thanking you. God knows how a poor miner's son will ever reward you; but the mouse repaid the lion, says the story, and, at all events, I can pray for you. By the bye, gentlemen, I hope you have brought up some trolling-tackle?'
'We came up to see you, and not to fish,' said Lancelot, charmed with the stately courtesy of the man.
'Many thanks, gentlemen; but old Harry Verney was in here just now, and had seen a great jack strike, at the tail of the lower reeds. With this fresh wind he will run till noon; and you are sure of him with a dace. After that, he will not be up again on the shallows till sunset. He works the works of darkness, and comes not to the light, because his deeds are evil.'
Lancelot laughed. 'He does but follow his kind, poor fellow.'
'No doubt, sir, no doubt; all the Lord's works are good: but it is a wonder why He should have made wasps, now, and blights, and vermin, and jack, and such evil-featured things, that carry spite and cruelty in their very faces—a great wonder. Do you think, sir, all those creatures were in the Garden of Eden?'
'You are getting too deep for me,' said Lancelot. 'But why trouble your head about fishing?'
'I beg your pardon for preaching to you, sir. I'm sure I forgot myself. If you will let me, I'll get up and get you a couple of bait from the stew. You'll do us keepers a kindness, and prevent sin, sir, if you'll catch him. The squire will swear sadly—the Lord forgive him—if he hears of a pike in the trout-runs. I'll get up, if I may trouble you to go into the next room a minute.'
'Lie still, for Heaven's sake. Why bother your head about pike now?'
'It is my business, sir, and I am paid for it, and I must do it thoroughly;—and abide in the calling wherein I am called,' he added, in a sadder tone.
'You seem to be fond enough of it, and to know enough about it, at all events,' said the colonel, 'tying flies here on a sick-bed.'
'As for being fond of it, sir—those creatures of the water teach a man many lessons; and when I tie flies, I earn books.'
'I send my flies all over the country, sir, to Salisbury and Hungerford, and up to Winchester, even; and the money buys me many a wise book—all my delight is in reading; perhaps so much the worse for me.'
'So much the better, say,' answered Lancelot warmly. 'I'll give you an order for a couple of pounds' worth of flies at once.'
'The Lord reward you, sir,' answered the giant.
'And you shall make me the same quantity,' said the colonel. 'You can make salmon-flies?'
'I made a lot by pattern for an Irish gent, sir.'
'Well, then, we'll send you some Norway patterns, and some golden pheasant and parrot feathers. We're going to Norway this summer, you know, Lancelot—'
Tregarva looked up with a quaint, solemn hesitation.
'If you please, gentlemen, you'll forgive a man's conscience.'
'But I'd not like to be a party to the making of Norway flies.'
'Here's a Protectionist, with a vengeance!' laughed the colonel. 'Do you want to keep all us fishermen in England? eh? to fee English keepers?
'No, sir. There's pretty fishing in Norway, I hear, and poor folk that want money more than we keepers. God knows we get too much—we that hang about great houses and serve great folks' pleasure—you toss the money down our throats, without our deserving it; and we spend it as we get it—a deal too fast—while hard-working labourers are starving.'
'And yet you would keep us in England?'
'Would God I could!'
'Why then, my good fellow?' asked Lancelot, who was getting intensely interested with the calm, self-possessed earnestness of the man, and longed to draw him out.
The colonel yawned.
'Well, I'll go and get myself a couple of bait. Don't you stir, my good parson-keeper. Down charge, I say! Odd if I don't find a bait-net, and a rod for myself, under the verandah.'
'You will, colonel. I remember, now, I set it there last morning; but the water washed many things out of my brains, and some things into them—and I forgot it like a goose.'
'Well, good-bye, and lie still. I know what a drowning is, and more than one. A day and a night have I been in the deep, like the man in the good book; and bed is the best of medicine for a ducking;' and the colonel shook him kindly by the hand and disappeared.
Lancelot sat down by the keeper's bed.
'You'll get those fish-hooks into your trousers, sir; and this is a poor place to sit down in.'
'I want you to say your say out, friend, fish-hooks or none.'
The keeper looked warily at the door, and when the colonel had passed the window, balancing the trolling-rod on his chin, and whistling merrily, he began,—
'"A day and a night have I been in the deep!"—and brought back no more from it! And yet the Psalms say how they that go down to the sea in ships see the works of the Lord!—If the Lord has opened their eyes to see them, that must mean—'
'What a gallant gentleman that is, and a valiant man of war, I'll warrant,—and to have seen all the wonders he has, and yet to be wasting his span of life like that!'
Lancelot's heart smote him.
'One would think, sir,—You'll pardon me for speaking out.' And the noble face worked, as he murmured to himself, 'When ye are brought before kings and princes for my name's sake.—I dare not hold my tongue, sir. I am as one risen from the dead,'—and his face flashed up into sudden enthusiasm—'and woe to me if I speak not. Oh, why, why are you gentlemen running off to Norway, and foreign parts, whither God has not called you! Are there no graves in Egypt, that you must go out to die in the wilderness!'
Lancelot, quite unaccustomed to the language of the Dissenting poor, felt keenly the bad taste of the allusion.
'What can you mean?' he asked.
'Pardon me, sir, if I cannot speak plainly; but are there not temptations enough here in England that you must go to waste all your gifts, your scholarship, and your rank, far away there out of the sound of a church-going bell? I don't deny it's a great temptation. I have read of Norway wonders in a book of one Miss Martineau, with a strange name.'
'Feats on the Fiord?'
'That's it, sir. Her books are grand books to set one a-thinking; but she don't seem to see the Lord in all things, does she, sir?'
Lancelot parried the question.
'You are wandering a little from the point.'
'So I am, and thank you for the rebuke. There's where I find you scholars have the advantage of us poor fellows, who pick up knowledge as we can. Your book-learning makes you stick to the point so much better. You are taught how to think. After all—God forgive me if I'm wrong! but I sometimes think that there must be more good in that human wisdom, and philosophy falsely so called, than we Wesleyans hold. Oh, sir, what a blessing is a good education! What you gentlemen might do with it, if you did but see your own power! Are there no fish in England, sir, to be caught? precious fish, with immortal souls? And is there not One who has said, "Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men?"'
'Would you have us all turn parsons?'
'Is no one to do God's work except the parson, sir? Oh, the game that you rich folks have in your hands, if you would but play it! Such a man as Colonel Bracebridge now, with the tongue of the serpent, who can charm any living soul he likes to his will, as a stoat charms a rabbit. Or you, sir, with your tongue:—you have charmed one precious creature already. I can see it: though neither of you know it, yet I know it.'
Lancelot started, and blushed crimson.
'Oh, that I had your tongue, sir!' And the keeper blushed crimson, too, and went on hastily,—
'But why could you not charm all alike! Do not the poor want you as well as the rich?'
'What can I do for the poor, my good fellow? And what do they want? Have they not houses, work, a church, and schools,—and poor-rates to fall back on?'
The keeper smiled sadly.
'To fall back on, indeed! and down on, too. At all events, you rich might help to make Christians of them, and men of them. For I'm beginning to fancy strangely, in spite of all the preachers say, that, before ever you can make them Christians, you must make them men and women.'
'Are they not so already?'
'Oh, sir, go and see! How can a man be a man in those crowded styes, sleeping packed together like Irish pigs in a steamer, never out of the fear of want, never knowing any higher amusement than the beer-shop? Those old Greeks and Romans, as I read, were more like men than half our English labourers. Go and see! Ask that sweet heavenly angel, Miss Honoria,'—and the keeper again blushed,—'And she, too, will tell you. I think sometimes if she had been born and bred like her father's tenants' daughters, to sleep where they sleep, and hear the talk they hear, and see the things they see, what would she have been now? We mustn't think of it.' And the keeper turned his head away, and fairly burst into tears.
Lancelot was moved.
'Are the poor very immoral, then?'
'You ask the rector, sir, how many children hereabouts are born within six months of the wedding-day. None of them marry, sir, till the devil forces them. There's no sadder sight than a labourer's wedding now-a-days. You never see the parents come with them. They just get another couple, that are keeping company, like themselves, and come sneaking into church, looking all over as if they were ashamed of it—and well they may be!'
'Is it possible?'
'I say, sir, that God makes you gentlemen, gentlemen, that you may see into these things. You give away your charities kindly enough, but you don't know the folks you give to. If a few of you would but be like the blessed Lord, and stoop to go out of the road, just behind the hedge, for once, among the publicans and harlots! Were you ever at a country fair, sir? Though I suppose I am rude for fancying that you could demean yourself to such company.'
'I should not think it demeaning myself,' said Lancelot, smiling; 'but I never was at one, and I should like for once to see the real manners of the poor.'
'I'm no haunter of such places myself, God knows; but—I see you're in earnest now—will you come with me, sir,—for once? for God's sake and the poor's sake?'
'I shall be delighted.'
'Not after you've been there, I am afraid.'
'Well, it's a bargain when you are recovered. And, in the meantime, the squire's orders are, that you lie by for a few days to rest; and Miss Honoria's, too; and she has sent you down some wine.'
'She thought of me, did she?' And the still sad face blazed out radiant with pleasure, and then collapsed as suddenly into deep melancholy.
Lancelot saw it, but said nothing; and shaking him heartily by the hand, had his shake returned by an iron grasp, and slipped silently out of the cottage.
The keeper lay still, gazing on vacancy. Once he murmured to himself,—
'Through strange ways—strange ways—and though he let them wander out of the road in the wilderness;—we know how that goes on—'
And then he fell into a mixed meditation—perhaps into a prayer.
CHAPTER V: A SHAM IS WORSE THAN NOTHING
At last, after Lancelot had waited long in vain, came his cousin's answer to the letter which I gave in my second chapter.
'You are not fair to me, good cousin . . . but I have given up expecting fairness from Protestants. I do not say that the front and the back of my head have different makers, any more than that doves and vipers have . . . and yet I kill the viper when I meet him . . . and so do you. . . . And yet, are we not taught that our animal nature is throughout equally viperous? . . . The Catholic Church, at least, so teaches. . . . She believes in the corruption of human nature. She believes in the literal meaning of Scripture. She has no wish to paraphrase away St. Paul's awful words, that "in his flesh dwelleth no good thing," by the unscientific euphemisms of "fallen nature" or "corrupt humanity." The boasted discovery of phrenologists, that thought, feeling, and passion reside in this material brain and nerves of ours, has ages ago been anticipated by her simple faith in the letter of Scripture; a faith which puts to shame the irreverent vagueness and fantastic private interpretations of those who make an idol of that very letter which they dare not take literally, because it makes against their self-willed theories. . .
'And so you call me douce and meek? . . . You should remember what I once was, Lancelot . . . I, at least, have not forgotten . . . I have not forgotten how that very animal nature, on the possession of which you seem to pride yourself, was in me only the parent of remorse., . . I know it too well not to hate and fear it. Why do you reproach me, if I try to abjure it, and cast away the burden which I am too weak to bear? I am weak—Would you have me say that I am strong? Would you have me try to be a Prometheus, while I am longing to be once more an infant on a mother's breast? Let me alone . . . I am a weary child, who knows nothing, can do nothing, except lose its way in arguings and reasonings, and "find no end, in wandering mazes lost." Will you reproach me, because when I see a soft cradle lying open for me . . . with a Virgin Mother's face smiling down all woman's love about it . . . I long to crawl into it, and sleep awhile? I want loving, indulgent sympathy . . . I want detailed, explicit guidance . . . Have you, then, found so much of them in our former creed, that you forbid me to go to seek them elsewhere, in the Church which not only professes them as an organised system, but practises them . . . as you would find in your first half-hour's talk with one of Her priests . . . true priests . . . who know the heart of man, and pity, and console, and bear for their flock the burdens which they cannot bear themselves? You ask me who will teach a fast young man? . . . I answer, the Jesuit. Ay, start and sneer, at that delicate woman-like tenderness, that subtle instinctive sympathy, which you have never felt . . . which is as new to me, alas, as it would be to you! For if there be none now-a- days to teach such as you, who is there who will teach such as me? Do not fancy that I have not craved and searched for teachers . . . I went to one party long ago, and they commanded me, as the price of their sympathy, even of anything but their denunciations, to ignore, if not to abjure, all the very points on which I came for light—my love for the Beautiful and the Symbolic—my desire to consecrate and christianise it—my longing for a human voice to tell me with authority that I was forgiven—my desire to find some practical and palpable communion between myself and the saints of old. They told me to cast away, as an accursed chaos, a thousand years of Christian history, and believe that the devil had been for ages . . . just the ages I thought noblest, most faithful, most interpenetrated with the thought of God . . . triumphant over that church with which He had promised to be till the end of the world. No . . . by the bye, they made two exceptions—of their own choosing. One in favour of the Albigenses . . . who seemed to me, from the original documents, to have been very profligate Infidels, of whom the world was well rid . . . and the Piedmontese . . . poor, simple, ill-used folk enough, but who certainly cannot be said to have exercised much influence on the destinies of mankind . . . and all the rest was chaos and the pit. There never had been, never would be, a kingdom of God on earth, but only a few scattered individuals, each selfishly intent on the salvation of his own soul—without organisation, without unity, without common purpose, without even a masonic sign whereby to know one another when they chanced to meet . . . except Shibboleths which the hypocrite could ape, and virtues which the heathen have performed . . . Would YOU have had me accept such a "Philosophy of History"?
'And then I went to another school . . . or rather wandered up and down between those whom I have just described, and those who boast on their side prescriptive right, and apostolic succession . . . and I found that their ancient charter went back—just three hundred years . . . and there derived its transmitted virtue, it seemed to me, by something very like obtaining goods on false pretences, from the very church which it now anathematises. Disheartened, but not hopeless, I asked how it was that the priesthood, whose hands bestowed the grace of ordination, could not withdraw it . . . whether, at least, the schismatic did not forfeit it by the very act of schism . . . and instead of any real answer to that fearful spiritual dilemma, they set me down to folios of Nag's head controversies . . . and myths of an independent British Church, now represented, strangely enough, by those Saxons who, after its wicked refusal to communicate with them, exterminated it with fire and sword, and derived its own order from St. Gregory . . . and decisions of mythical old councils (held by bishops of a different faith and practice from their own), from which I was to pick the one point which made for them, and omit the nine which made against them, while I was to believe, by a stretch of imagination . . . or common honesty . . ., which I leave you to conceive, that the Church of Syria in the fourth century was, in doctrine, practice, and constitution, like that of England in the nineteenth? . . . And what was I to gain by all this? . . . For the sake of what was I to strain logic and conscience? To believe myself a member of the same body with all the Christian nations of the earth?—to be able to hail the Frenchman, the Italian, the Spaniard, as a brother—to have hopes even of the German and the Swede . . . if not in this life, still in the life to come? No . . . to be able still to sit apart from all Christendom in the exclusive pride of insular Pharisaism; to claim for the modern littleness of England the infallibility which I denied to the primaeval mother of Christendom, not to enlarge my communion to the Catholic, but excommunicate, to all practical purposes, over and above the Catholics, all other Protestants except my own sect . . . or rather, in practice, except my own party in my own sect. . . . And this was believing in one Catholic and Apostolic church! . . . this was to be my share of the communion of saints! And these were the theories which were to satisfy a soul which longed for a kingdom of God on earth, which felt that unless the highest of His promises are a mythic dream, there must be some system on the earth commissioned to fulfil those promises; some authority divinely appointed to regenerate, and rule, and guide the lives of men, and the destinies of nations; who must go mad, unless he finds that history is not a dreary aimless procession of lost spirits descending into the pit, or that the salvation of millions does not depend on an obscure and controverted hair's breadth of ecclesiastic law.
'I have tried them both, Lancelot, and found them wanting; and now but one road remains. . . . Home, to the fountain-head; to the mother of all the churches whose fancied cruelty to her children can no more destroy her motherhood, than their confest rebellion can. . . . Shall I not hear her voice, when she, and she alone cries to me, "I have authority and commission from the King of kings to regenerate the world. History is a chaos, only because mankind has been ever rebelling against me, its lawful ruler . . . and yet not a chaos . . . for I still stand, and grow rooted on the rock of ages, and under my boughs are fowl of every wing. I alone have been and am consistent, progressive, expansive, welcoming every race, and intellect and character into its proper place in my great organism . . . meeting alike the wants of the king and the beggar, the artist and the devotee . . . there is free room for all within my heaven- wide bosom. Infallibility is not the exclusive heritage of one proud and ignorant Island, but of a system which knows no distinction of language, race, or clime. The communion of saints is not a bygone tale, for my saints, redeemed from every age and every nation under heaven, still live, and love, and help and intercede. The union of heaven and earth is not a barbaric myth; for I have still my miracles, my Host, my exorcism, my absolution. The present rule of God is still, as ever, a living reality; for I rule in His name, and fulfil all His will."
'How can I turn away from such a voice? What if some of her doctrines may startle my untutored and ignorant understanding? . . . If she is the appointed teacher, she will know best what truths to teach. . . . The disciple is not above his master . . . or wise in requiring him to demonstrate the abstrusest problems . . . spiritual problems, too . . . before he allows his right to teach the elements. Humbly I must enter the temple porch; gradually and trustfully proceed with my initiation. . . . When that is past, and not before . . . shall I be a fit judge of the mysteries of the inner shrine.
'There . . . I have written a long letter . . . with my own heart's blood. . . . Think over it well, before you despise it. . . . And if you can refute it for me, and sweep the whole away like a wild dream when one awakes, none will be more thankful—paradoxical as it may seem—than your unhappy Cousin.'
And Lancelot did consider that letter, and answered it as follows:—
'It is a relief to me at least, dear Luke, that you are going to Rome in search of a great idea, and not merely from selfish superstitious terror (as I should call it) about the "salvation of your soul." And it is a new and very important thought to me, that Rome's scheme of this world, rather than of the next, forms her chief allurement. But as for that flesh and spirit question, or the apostolic succession one either; all you seem to me, as a looker on, to have logically proved, is that Protestants, orthodox and unorthodox, must be a little more scientific and careful in their use of the terms. But as for adopting your use of them, and the consequences thereof—you must pardon me, and I suspect, them too. Not that. Anything but that. Whatever is right, that is wrong. Better to be inconsistent in truth, than consistent in a mistake. And your Romish idea of man is a mistake—utterly wrong and absurd— except in the one requirement of righteousness and godliness, which Protestants and heathen philosophers have required and do require just as much as you. My dear Luke, your ideal men and women won't do—for they are not men and women at all, but what you call "saints" . . . Your Calendar, your historic list of the Earth's worthies, won't do—not they, but others, are the people who have brought Humanity thus far. I don't deny that there are great souls among them; Beckets, and Hugh Grostetes, and Elizabeths of Hungary. But you are the last people to praise them, for you don't understand them. Thierry honours Thomas a Becket more than all Canonisations and worshippers do, because he does see where the man's true greatness lay, and you don't. Why, you may hunt all Surius for such a biography of a mediaeval worthy as Carlyle has given of your Abbot Samson. I have read, or tried to read your Surius, and Alban Butler, and so forth—and they seemed to me bats and asses—One really pitied the poor saints and martyrs for having such blind biographers—such dunghill cocks, who overlooked the pearl of real human love and nobleness in them, in their greediness to snatch up and parade the rotten chaff of superstition, and self-torture, and spiritual dyspepsia, which had overlaid it. My dear fellow, that Calendar ruins your cause—you are "sacres aristocrates"—kings and queens, bishops and virgins by the hundred at one end; a beggar or two at the other; and but one real human lay St. Homobonus to fill up the great gulf between—A pretty list to allure the English middle classes, or the Lancashire working-men!—Almost as charmingly suited to England as the present free, industrious, enlightened, and moral state of that Eternal City, which has been blest with the visible presence and peculiar rule, temporal as well as spiritual, too, of your Dalai Lama. His pills do not seem to have had much practical effect there. . . . My good Luke, till he can show us a little better specimen of the kingdom of Heaven organised and realised on earth, in the country which does belong to him, soil and people, body and soul, we must decline his assistance in realising that kingdom in countries which don't belong to him. If the state of Rome don't show his idea of man and society to be a rotten lie, what proof would you have? . . . perhaps the charming results of a century of Jesuitocracy, as they were represented on a French stage in the year 1793? I can't answer his arguments, you see, or yours either; I am an Englishman, and not a controversialist. The only answer I give is John Bull's old dumb instinctive "Everlasting No!" which he will stand by, if need be, with sharp shot and cold steel— "Not that; anything but that. No kingdom of Heaven at all for us, if the kingdom of Heaven is like that. No heroes at all for us, if their heroism is to consist in their being not-men. Better no society at all, but only a competitive wild-beast's den, than a sham society. Better no faith, no hope, no love, no God, than shams thereof." I take my stand on fact and nature; you may call them idols and phantoms; I say they need be so no longer to any man, since Bacon has taught us to discover the Eternal Laws under the outward phenomena. Here on blank materialism will I stand, and testify against all Religions and Gods whatsoever, if they must needs be like that Roman religion, that Roman God. I don't believe they need—not I. But if they need, they must go. We cannot have a "Deus quidam deceptor." If there be a God, these trees and stones, these beasts and birds must be His will, whatever else is not. My body, and brain, and faculties, and appetites must be His will, whatever else is not. Whatsoever I can do with them in accordance with the constitution of them and nature must be His will, whatever else is not. Those laws of Nature must reveal Him, and be revealed by Him, whatever else is not. Man's scientific conquest of nature must be one phase of His Kingdom on Earth, whatever else is not. I don't deny that there are spiritual laws which man is meant to obey- -How can I, who feel in my own daily and inexplicable unhappiness the fruits of having broken them?—But I do say, that those spiritual laws must be in perfect harmony with every fresh physical law which we discover: that they cannot be intended to compete self-destructively with each other; that the spiritual cannot be intended to be perfected by ignoring or crushing the physical, unless God is a deceiver, and His universe a self-contradiction. And by this test alone will I try all theories, and dogmas, and spiritualities whatsoever—Are they in accordance with the laws of nature? And therefore when your party compare sneeringly Romish Sanctity, and English Civilisation, I say, "Take you the Sanctity, and give me the Civilisation!" The one may be a dream, for it is unnatural; the other cannot be, for it is natural; and not an evil in it at which you sneer but is discovered, day by day, to be owing to some infringement of the laws of nature. When we "draw bills on nature," as Carlyle says, "she honours them,"—our ships do sail; our mills do work; our doctors do cure; our soldiers do fight. And she does not honour yours; for your Jesuits have, by their own confession, to lie, to swindle, to get even man to accept theirs for them. So give me the political economist, the sanitary reformer, the engineer; and take your saints and virgins, relics and miracles. The spinning-jenny and the railroad, Cunard's liners and the electric telegraph, are to me, if not to you, signs that we are, on some points at least, in harmony with the universe; that there is a mighty spirit working among us, who cannot be your anarchic and destroying Devil, and therefore may be the Ordering and Creating God.'
Which of them do you think, reader, had most right on his side?
CHAPTER VI: VOGUE LA GALERE
Lancelot was now so far improved in health as to return to his little cottage ornee. He gave himself up freely to his new passion. With his comfortable fortune and good connections, the future seemed bright and possible enough as to circumstances. He knew that Argemone felt for him; how much it seemed presumptuous even to speculate, and as yet no golden-visaged meteor had arisen portentous in his amatory zodiac. No rich man had stepped in to snatch, in spite of all his own flocks and herds, at the poor man's own ewe- lamb, and set him barking at all the world, as many a poor lover has to do in defence of his morsel of enjoyment, now turned into a mere bone of contention and loadstone for all hungry kites and crows.
All that had to be done was to render himself worthy of her, and in doing so, to win her. And now he began to feel more painfully his ignorance of society, of practical life, and the outward present. He blamed himself angrily for having, as he now thought, wasted his time on ancient histories and foreign travels, while he neglected the living wonderful present, which weltered daily round him, every face embodying a living soul. For now he began to feel that those faces did hide living souls; formerly he had half believed—he had tried, but from laziness, to make himself wholly believe—that they were all empty masks, phantasies, without interest or significance for him. But, somehow, in the light of his new love for Argemone, the whole human race seemed glorified, brought nearer, endeared to him. So it must be. He had spoken of a law wider than he thought in his fancy, that the angels might learn love for all by love for an individual. Do we not all learn love so? Is it not the first touch of the mother's bosom which awakens in the infant's heart that spark of affection which is hereafter to spread itself out towards every human being, and to lose none of its devotion for its first object, as it expands itself to innumerable new ones? Is it not by love, too—by looking into loving human eyes, by feeling the care of loving hands,—that the infant first learns that there exist other beings beside itself?—that every body which it sees expresses a heart and will like its own? Be sure of it. Be sure that to have found the key to one heart is to have found the key to all; that truly to love is truly to know; and truly to love one, is the first step towards truly loving all who bear the same flesh and blood with the beloved. Like children, we must dress up even our unseen future in stage properties borrowed from the tried and palpable present, ere we can look at it without horror. We fear and hate the utterly unknown, and it only. Even pain we hate only when we cannot KNOW it; when we can only feel it, without explaining it, and making it harmonise with our notions of our own deserts and destiny. And as for human beings, there surely it stands true, wherever else it may not, that all knowledge is love, and all love knowledge; that even with the meanest, we cannot gain a glimpse into their inward trials and struggles, without an increase of sympathy and affection.
Whether he reasoned thus or not, Lancelot found that his new interest in the working classes was strangely quickened by his passion. It seemed the shortest and clearest way toward a practical knowledge of the present. 'Here,' he said to himself, 'in the investigation of existing relations between poor and rich, I shall gain more real acquaintance with English society, than by dawdling centuries in exclusive drawing-rooms.'
The inquiry had not yet presented itself to him as a duty; perhaps so much the better, that it might be the more thoroughly a free-will offering of love. At least it opened a new field of amusement and knowledge; it promised him new studies of human life; and as he lay on his sofa and let his thoughts flow, Tregarva's dark revelations began to mix themselves with dreams about the regeneration of the Whitford poor, and those again with dreams about the heiress of Whitford; and many a luscious scene and noble plan rose brightly detailed in his exuberant imagination. For Lancelot, like all born artists, could only think in a concrete form. He never worked out a subject without embodying it in some set oration, dialogue, or dramatic castle in the air.
But the more he dreamt, the more he felt that a material beauty of flesh and blood required a material house, baths, and boudoirs, conservatories, and carriages; a safe material purse, and fixed material society; law and order, and the established frame-work of society, gained an importance in his eyes which they had never had before.
'Well,' he said to himself, 'I am turning quite practical and auld- warld. Those old Greeks were not so far wrong when they said that what made men citizens, patriots, heroes, was the love of wedded wife and child.'
'Wedded wife and child!'—He shrank in from the daring of the delicious thought, as if he had intruded without invitation into a hidden sanctuary, and looked round for a book to drive away the dazzling picture. But even there his thoughts were haunted by Argemone's face, and
'When his regard Was raised by intense pensiveness, two eyes, Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought, And seemed, with their serene and azure smiles, To beckon him.'
He took up, with a new interest 'Chartism,' which alone of all Mr. Carlyle's works he had hitherto disliked, because his own luxurious day-dreams had always flowed in such sad discord with the terrible warnings of the modern seer, and his dark vistas of starvation, crime, neglect, and discontent.
'Well,' he said to himself, as he closed the book, 'I suppose it is good for us easy-going ones now and then to face the possibility of a change. Gold has grown on my back as feathers do on geese, without my own will or deed; but considering that gold, like feathers, is equally useful to those who have and those who have not, why, it is worth while for the goose to remember that he may possibly one day be plucked. And what remains? "Io," as Medea says. . . . But Argemone?' . . . And Lancelot felt, for the moment, as conservative as the tutelary genius of all special constables.
As the last thought passed through his brain, Bracebridge's little mustang slouched past the window, ridden (without a saddle) by a horseman whom there was no mistaking for no one but the immaculate colonel, the chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, dared to go about the country 'such a figure.' A minute afterwards he walked in, in a student's felt hat, a ragged heather-coloured coatee, and old white 'regulation drills,' shrunk half-way up his legs, a pair of embroidered Indian mocassins, and an enormous meerschaum at his button-hole.
'Where have you been this last week?'
'Over head and ears in Young England, till I fled to you for a week's common sense. A glass of cider, for mercy's sake, "to take the taste of it out of my mouth," as Bill Sykes has it.'
'Where have you been staying?'
'With young Lord Vieuxbois, among high art and painted glass, spade farms, and model smell-traps, rubricalities and sanitary reforms, and all other inventions, possible and impossible, for "stretching the old formula to meet the new fact," as your favourite prophet says.'
'Till the old formula cracks under the tension.'
'And cracks its devotees, too, I think. Here comes the cider!'
'But, my dear fellow, you must not laugh at all this. Young England or Peelite, this is all right and noble. What a yet unspoken poetry there is in that very sanitary reform! It is the great fact of the age. We shall have men arise and write epics on it, when they have learnt that "to the pure all things are pure," and that science and usefulness contain a divine element, even in their lowest appliances.'
'Write one yourself, and call it the Chadwickiad.'
'Smells and the Man I sing.
There's a beginning at once. Why don't YOU rather, with your practical power, turn sanitary reformer—the only true soldier—and conquer those real devils and "natural enemies" of Englishmen, carbonic acid and sulphuretted hydrogen?'
'Ce n'est pas mon metier, my dear fellow. I am miserably behind the age. People are getting so cursedly in earnest now-a-days, that I shall have to bolt to the backwoods to amuse myself in peace; or else sham dumb as the monkeys do, lest folks should find out that I'm rational, and set me to work.'
Lancelot laughed and sighed.
'But how on earth do you contrive to get on so well with men with whom you have not an idea in common!'
'Savoir faire, O infant Hercules! own daddy to savoir vivre. I am a good listener; and, therefore, the most perfect, because the most silent, of flatterers. When they talk Puginesquery, I stick my head on one side attentively, and "think the more," like the lady's parrot. I have been all the morning looking over a set of drawings for my lord's new chapel; and every soul in the party fancies me a great antiquary, just because I have been retailing to B as my own everything that A told me the moment before.'
'I envy you your tact, at all events.'
'Why the deuce should you? You may rise in time to something better than tact; to what the good book, I suppose, means by "wisdom." Young geniuses like you, who have been green enough to sell your souls to "truth," must not meddle with tact, unless you wish to fare as the donkey did when he tried to play lap-dog.'
'At all events, I would sooner remain cub till they run me down and eat me, than give up speaking my mind,' said Lancelot. 'Fool I may be, but the devil himself shan't make me knave.'
'Quite proper. On two thousand a year a man can afford to be honest. Kick out lustily right and left!—After all, the world is like a spaniel; the more you beat it, the better it likes you—if you have money. Only don't kick too hard; for, after all, it has a hundred million pair of shins to your one.'
'Don't fear that I shall run a-muck against society just now. I am too thoroughly out of my own good books. I have been for years laughing at Young England, and yet its little finger is thicker than my whole body, for it is trying to do something; and I, alas, am doing utterly nothing. I should be really glad to take a lesson of these men and their plans for social improvement.'
'You will have a fine opportunity this evening. Don't you dine at Minchampstead?'
'Yes. Do you?'
'Mr. Jingle dines everywhere, except at home. Will you take me over in your trap?'
'Done. But whom shall we meet there?'
'The Lavingtons, and Vieuxbois, and Vaurien, and a parson or two, I suppose. But between Saint Venus and Vieuxbois you may soon learn enough to make you a sadder man, if not a wiser one.'
'Why not a wiser one? Sadder than now I cannot be; or less wise, God knows.'
The colonel looked at Lancelot with one of those kindly thoughtful smiles, which came over him whenever his better child's heart could bubble up through the thick crust of worldliness.
'My young friend, you have been a little too much on the stilts heretofore. Take care that, now you are off them, you don't lie down and sleep, instead of walking honestly on your legs. Have faith in yourself; pick these men's brains, and all men's. You can do it. Say to yourself boldly, as the false prophet in India said to the missionary, "I have fire enough in my stomach to burn up" a dozen stucco and filigree reformers and "assimilate their ashes into the bargain, like one of Liebig's cabbages."'
'How can I have faith in myself, when I am playing traitor to myself every hour in the day? And yet faith in something I must have: in woman, perhaps.'
'Never!' said the colonel, energetically. 'In anything but woman? She must be led, not leader. If you love a woman, make her have faith in you. If you lean on her, you will ruin yourself, and her as well.'
Lancelot shook his head. There was a pause.
'After all, colonel, I think there must be a meaning in those old words our mothers used to teach us about "having faith in God."'
The colonel shrugged his shoulders.
'Quien sabe? said the Spanish girl, when they asked her who was her child's father. But here comes my kit on a clod's back, and it is time to dress for dinner.'
So to the dinner-party they went.
Lord Minchampstead was one of the few noblemen Lancelot had ever met who had aroused in him a thorough feeling of respect. He was always and in all things a strong man. Naturally keen, ready, business- like, daring, he had carved out his own way through life, and opened his oyster—the world, neither with sword nor pen, but with steam and cotton. His father was Mr. Obadiah Newbroom, of the well-known manufacturing firm of Newbroom, Stag, and Playforall. A stanch Dissenter himself, he saw with a slight pang his son Thomas turn Churchman, as soon as the young man had worked his way up to be the real head of the firm. But this was the only sorrow which Thomas Newbroom, now Lord Minchampstead, had ever given his father. 'I stood behind a loom myself, my boy, when I began life; and you must do with great means what I did with little ones. I have made a gentleman of you, you must make a nobleman of yourself.' Those were almost the last words of the stern, thrifty, old Puritan craftsman, and his son never forgot them. From a mill-owner he grew to coal- owner, shipowner, banker, railway director, money-lender to kings and princes; and last of all, as the summit of his own and his compeer's ambition, to land-owner. He had half a dozen estates in as many different counties. He had added house to house, and field to field; and at last bought Minchampstead Park and ten thousand acres, for two-thirds its real value, from that enthusiastic sportsman Lord Peu de Cervelle, whose family had come in with the Conqueror, and gone out with George IV. So, at least, they always said; but it was remarkable that their name could never be traced farther back than the dissolution of the monasteries: and Calumnious Dryasdusts would sometimes insolently father their title on James I. and one of his batches of bought peerages. But let the dead bury their dead. There was now a new lord in Minchampstead; and every country Caliban was finding, to his disgust, that he had 'got a new master,' and must perforce 'be a new man.' Oh! how the squires swore and the farmers chuckled, when the 'Parvenu' sold the Minchampstead hounds, and celebrated his 1st of September by exterminating every hare and pheasant on the estate! How the farmers swore and the labourers chuckled when he took all the cottages into his own hands and rebuilt them, set up a first-rate industrial school, gave every man a pig and a garden, and broke up all the commons 'to thin the labour-market.' Oh, how the labourers swore and the farmers chuckled, when he put up steam-engines on all his farms, refused to give away a farthing in alms, and enforced the new Poor-law to the very letter. How the country tradesmen swore, when he called them 'a pack of dilatory jobbers,' and announced his intention of employing only London workmen for his improvements. Oh! how they all swore together (behind his back, of course, for his dinners were worth eating), and the very ladies said naughty words, when the stern political economist proclaimed at his own table that 'he had bought Minchampstead for merely commercial purposes, as a profitable investment of capital, and he would see that, whatever else it did, it should PAY.'
But the new lord heard of all the hard words with a quiet self- possessed smile. He had formed his narrow theory of the universe, and he was methodically and conscientiously carrying it out. True, too often, like poor Keats's merchant brothers,—
'Half-ignorant, he turned an easy wheel, Which set sharp racks at work to pinch and peel.'
But of the harm which he did he was unconscious; in the good which he did he was consistent and indefatigable; infinitely superior, with all his defects, to the ignorant, extravagant do-nothing Squire Lavingtons around him. At heart, however, Mammoth-blinded, he was kindly and upright. A man of a stately presence; a broad, honest north-country face; a high square forehead, bland and unwrinkled. I sketch him here once for all, because I have no part for him after this scene in my corps de ballet.
Lord Minchampstead had many reasons for patronising Lancelot. In the first place, he had a true eye for a strong man wherever he met him; in the next place, Lancelot's uncle the banker, was a stanch Whig ally of his in the House. 'In the rotten-borough times, Mr. Smith,' he once said to Lancelot, 'we could have made a senator of you at once; but, for the sake of finality, we were forced to relinquish that organ of influence. The Tories had abused it, really, a little too far; and now we can only make a commissioner of you—which, after all, is a more useful post, and a more lucrative one.' But Lancelot had not as yet 'Galliolised,' as the Irish schoolmaster used to call it, and cared very little to play a political ninth fiddle.
The first thing which caught his eyes as he entered the drawing-room before dinner was Argemone listening in absorbed reverence to her favourite vicar,—a stern, prim, close-shaven, dyspeptic man, with a meek, cold smile, which might have become a cruel one. He watched and watched in vain, hoping to catch her eye; but no—there she stood, and talked and listened—
'Ah,' said Bracebridge, smiling, 'it is in vain, Smith! When did you know a woman leave the Church for one of us poor laymen?'
'Good heavens!' said Lancelot, impatiently, 'why will they make such fools of themselves with clergymen?'
'They are quite right. They always like the strong men—the fighters and the workers. In Voltaire's time they all ran after the philosophers. In the middle ages, books tell us, they worshipped the knights errant. They are always on the winning side, the cunning little beauties. In the war-time, when the soldiers had to play the world's game, the ladies all caught the red-coat fever; now, in these talking and thinking days (and be hanged to them for bores), they have the black-coat fever for the same reason. The parsons are the workers now-a-days—or rather, all the world expects them to be so. They have the game in their own hands, if they did but know how to play it.'
Lancelot stood still, sulking over many thoughts. The colonel lounged across the room towards Lord Vieuxbois, a quiet, truly high- bred young man, with a sweet open countenance, and an ample forehead, whose size would have vouched for great talents, had not the promise been contradicted by the weakness of the over-delicate mouth and chin.
'Who is that with whom you came into the room, Bracebridge?' asked Lord Vieuxbois. 'I am sure I know his face.'
'Lancelot Smith, the man who has taken the shooting-box at Lower Whitford.'
'Oh, I remember him well enough at Cambridge! He was one of a set who tried to look like blackguards, and really succeeded tolerably. They used to eschew gloves, and drink nothing but beer, and smoke disgusting short pipes; and when we established the Coverley Club in Trinity, they set up an opposition, and called themselves the Navvies. And they used to make piratical expeditions down to Lynn in eight oars, to attack bargemen, and fen girls, and shoot ducks, and sleep under turf-stacks, and come home when they had drank all the public-house taps dry. I remember the man perfectly.'
'Navvy or none,' said the colonel, 'he has just the longest head and the noblest heart of any man I ever met. If he does not distinguish himself before he dies, I know nothing of human nature.'
'Ah yes, I believe he is clever enough!—took a good degree, a better one than I did—but horribly eclectic; full of mesmerism, and German metaphysics, and all that sort of thing. I heard of him one night last spring, on which he had been seen, if you will believe it, going successively into a Swedenborgian chapel, the Garrick's Head, and one of Elliotson's magnetic soirees. What can you expect after that?'
'A great deal,' said Bracebridge drily. 'With such a head as he carries on his shoulders the man might be another Mirabeau, if he held the right cards in the right rubber. And he really ought to suit you, for he raves about the middle ages, and chivalry, and has edited a book full of old ballads.'
'Oh, all the eclectics do that sort of thing; and small thanks to them. However, I will speak to him after dinner, and see what there is in him.'
And Lord Vieuxbois turned away, and, alas for Lancelot! sat next to Argemone at dinner. Lancelot, who was cross with everybody for what was nobody's fault, revenged himself all dinner-time by never speaking a word to his next neighbour, Miss Newbroom, who was longing with all her heart to talk sentiment to him about the Exhibition; and when Argemone, in the midst of a brilliant word- skirmish with Lord Vieuxbois, stole a glance at him, he chose to fancy that they were both talking of him, and looked more cross than ever.
After the ladies retired, Lancelot, in his sulky way, made up his mind that the conversation was going to be ineffably stupid; and set to to dream, sip claret, and count the minutes till he found himself in the drawing-room with Argemone. But he soon discovered, as I suppose we all have, that 'it never rains but it pours,' and that one cannot fall in with a new fact or a new acquaintance but next day twenty fresh things shall spring up as if by magic, throwing unexpected light on one's new phenomenon. Lancelot's head was full of the condition-of-the-poor question, and lo! everybody seemed destined to talk about it.
'Well, Lord Vieuxbois,' said the host, casually, 'my girls are raving about your new school. They say it is a perfect antiquarian gem.'
'Yes, tolerable, I believe. But Wales has disappointed me a little. That vile modernist naturalism is creeping back even into our painted glass. I could have wished that the artist's designs for the windows had been a little more Catholic.'
'How then?' asked the host, with a puzzled face.
'Oh, he means,' said Bracebridge, 'that the figures' wrists and ankles were not sufficiently dislocated, and the patron saint did not look quite like a starved rabbit with its neck wrung. Some of the faces, I am sorry to say, were positively like good-looking men and women.'
'Oh, I understand,' said Lord Minchampstead; 'Bracebridge's tongue is privileged, you know, Lord Vieuxbois, so you must not be angry.'
'I don't see my way into all this,' said Squire Lavington (which was very likely to be true, considering that he never looked for his way). 'I don't see how all these painted windows, and crosses, and chanting, and the deuce and the Pope only know what else, are to make boys any better.'
'We have it on the highest authority,' said Vieuxbois, 'that pictures and music are the books of the unlearned. I do not think that we have any right in the nineteenth century to contest an opinion which the fathers of the Church gave in the fourth.'
'At all events,' said Lancelot, 'it is by pictures and music, by art and song, and symbolic representations, that all nations have been educated in their adolescence! and as the youth of the individual is exactly analogous to the youth of the collective race, we should employ the same means of instruction with our children which succeeded in the early ages with the whole world.'
Lancelot might as well have held his tongue—nobody understood him but Vieuxbois, and he had been taught to scent German neology in everything, as some folks are taught to scent Jesuitry, especially when it involved an inductive law, and not a mere red-tape precedent, and, therefore, could not see that Lancelot was arguing for him. 'All very fine, Smith,' said the squire; 'it's a pity you won't leave off puzzling your head with books, and stick to fox- hunting. All you young gentlemen will do is to turn the heads of the poor with your cursed education.' The national oath followed, of course. 'Pictures and chanting! Why, when I was a boy, a good honest labouring man wanted to see nothing better than a halfpenny ballad, with a wood-cut at the top, and they worked very well then, and wanted for nothing.'
'Oh, we shall give them the halfpenny ballads in time!' said Vieuxbois, smiling.
'You will do a very good deed, then,' said mine host. 'But I am sorry to say that, as far as I can find from my agents, when the upper classes write cheap publications, the lower classes will not read them.'