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The Way of all Flesh
Samuel Butler




"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God."

--ROM. viii. 28




PREFACE


Samuel Butleter began to write "The Way of All Flesh" about the year
1872, and was engaged upon it intermittently until 1884.  It is
therefore, to a great extent, contemporaneous with "Life and Habit," and
may be taken as a practical illustration of the theory of heredity
embodied in that book.  He did not work at it after 1884, but for various
reasons he postponed its publication.  He was occupied in other ways, and
he professed himself dissatisfied with it as a whole, and always intended
to rewrite or at any rate to revise it.  His death in 1902 prevented him
from doing this, and on his death-bed he gave me clearly to understand
that he wished it to be published in its present form.  I found that the
MS. of the fourth and fifth chapters had disappeared, but by consulting
and comparing various notes and sketches, which remained among his
papers, I have been able to supply the missing chapters in a form which I
believe does not differ materially from that which he finally adopted.
With regard to the chronology of the events recorded, the reader will do
well to bear in mind that the main body of the novel is supposed to have
been written in the year 1867, and the last chapter added as a postscript
in 1882.

R. A. STREATFEILD.




CHAPTER I


When I was a small boy at the beginning of the century I remember an old
man who wore knee-breeches and worsted stockings, and who used to hobble
about the street of our village with the help of a stick.  He must have
been getting on for eighty in the year 1807, earlier than which date I
suppose I can hardly remember him, for I was born in 1802.  A few white
locks hung about his ears, his shoulders were bent and his knees feeble,
but he was still hale, and was much respected in our little world of
Paleham.  His name was Pontifex.

His wife was said to be his master; I have been told she brought him a
little money, but it cannot have been much.  She was a tall,
square-shouldered person (I have heard my father call her a Gothic woman)
who had insisted on being married to Mr Pontifex when he was young and
too good-natured to say nay to any woman who wooed him.  The pair had
lived not unhappily together, for Mr Pontifex's temper was easy and he
soon learned to bow before his wife's more stormy moods.

Mr Pontifex was a carpenter by trade; he was also at one time parish
clerk; when I remember him, however, he had so far risen in life as to be
no longer compelled to work with his own hands.  In his earlier days he
had taught himself to draw.  I do not say he drew well, but it was
surprising he should draw as well as he did.  My father, who took the
living of Paleham about the year 1797, became possessed of a good many of
old Mr Pontifex's drawings, which were always of local subjects, and so
unaffectedly painstaking that they might have passed for the work of some
good early master.  I remember them as hanging up framed and glazed in
the study at the Rectory, and tinted, as all else in the room was tinted,
with the green reflected from the fringe of ivy leaves that grew around
the windows.  I wonder how they will actually cease and come to an end as
drawings, and into what new phases of being they will then enter.

Not content with being an artist, Mr Pontifex must needs also be a
musician.  He built the organ in the church with his own hands, and made
a smaller one which he kept in his own house.  He could play as much as
he could draw, not very well according to professional standards, but
much better than could have been expected.  I myself showed a taste for
music at an early age, and old Mr Pontifex on finding it out, as he soon
did, became partial to me in consequence.

It may be thought that with so many irons in the fire he could hardly be
a very thriving man, but this was not the case.  His father had been a
day labourer, and he had himself begun life with no other capital than
his good sense and good constitution; now, however, there was a goodly
show of timber about his yard, and a look of solid comfort over his whole
establishment.  Towards the close of the eighteenth century and not long
before my father came to Paleham, he had taken a farm of about ninety
acres, thus making a considerable rise in life.  Along with the farm
there went an old-fashioned but comfortable house with a charming garden
and an orchard.  The carpenter's business was now carried on in one of
the outhouses that had once been part of some conventual buildings, the
remains of which could be seen in what was called the Abbey Close.  The
house itself, embosomed in honeysuckles and creeping roses, was an
ornament to the whole village, nor were its internal arrangements less
exemplary than its outside was ornamental.  Report said that Mrs Pontifex
starched the sheets for her best bed, and I can well believe it.

How well do I remember her parlour half filled with the organ which her
husband had built, and scented with a withered apple or two from the
_pyrus japonica_ that grew outside the house; the picture of the prize ox
over the chimney-piece, which Mr Pontifex himself had painted; the
transparency of the man coming to show light to a coach upon a snowy
night, also by Mr Pontifex; the little old man and little old woman who
told the weather; the china shepherd and shepherdess; the jars of
feathery flowering grasses with a peacock's feather or two among them to
set them off, and the china bowls full of dead rose leaves dried with bay
salt.  All has long since vanished and become a memory, faded but still
fragrant to myself.

Nay, but her kitchen--and the glimpses into a cavernous cellar beyond it,
wherefrom came gleams from the pale surfaces of milk cans, or it may be
of the arms and face of a milkmaid skimming the cream; or again her
storeroom, where among other treasures she kept the famous lipsalve which
was one of her especial glories, and of which she would present a shape
yearly to those whom she delighted to honour.  She wrote out the recipe
for this and gave it to my mother a year or two before she died, but we
could never make it as she did.  When we were children she used sometimes
to send her respects to my mother, and ask leave for us to come and take
tea with her.  Right well she used to ply us.  As for her temper, we
never met such a delightful old lady in our lives; whatever Mr Pontifex
may have had to put up with, we had no cause for complaint, and then Mr
Pontifex would play to us upon the organ, and we would stand round him
open-mouthed and think him the most wonderfully clever man that ever was
born, except of course our papa.

Mrs Pontifex had no sense of humour, at least I can call to mind no signs
of this, but her husband had plenty of fun in him, though few would have
guessed it from his appearance.  I remember my father once sent me down
to his workship to get some glue, and I happened to come when old
Pontifex was in the act of scolding his boy.  He had got the lad--a
pudding-headed fellow--by the ear and was saying, "What?  Lost
again--smothered o' wit."  (I believe it was the boy who was himself
supposed to be a wandering soul, and who was thus addressed as lost.)
"Now, look here, my lad," he continued, "some boys are born stupid, and
thou art one of them; some achieve stupidity--that's thee again, Jim--thou
wast both born stupid and hast greatly increased thy birthright--and
some" (and here came a climax during which the boy's head and ear were
swayed from side to side) "have stupidity thrust upon them, which, if it
please the Lord, shall not be thy case, my lad, for I will thrust
stupidity from thee, though I have to box thine ears in doing so," but I
did not see that the old man really did box Jim's ears, or do more than
pretend to frighten him, for the two understood one another perfectly
well.  Another time I remember hearing him call the village rat-catcher
by saying, "Come hither, thou three-days-and-three-nights, thou,"
alluding, as I afterwards learned, to the rat-catcher's periods of
intoxication; but I will tell no more of such trifles.  My father's face
would always brighten when old Pontifex's name was mentioned.  "I tell
you, Edward," he would say to me, "old Pontifex was not only an able man,
but he was one of the very ablest men that ever I knew."

This was more than I as a young man was prepared to stand.  "My dear
father," I answered, "what did he do?  He could draw a little, but could
he to save his life have got a picture into the Royal Academy exhibition?
He built two organs and could play the Minuet in _Samson_ on one and the
March in _Scipio_ on the other; he was a good carpenter and a bit of a
wag; he was a good old fellow enough, but why make him out so much abler
than he was?"

"My boy," returned my father, "you must not judge by the work, but by the
work in connection with the surroundings.  Could Giotto or Filippo Lippi,
think you, have got a picture into the Exhibition?  Would a single one of
those frescoes we went to see when we were at Padua have the remotest
chance of being hung, if it were sent in for exhibition now?  Why, the
Academy people would be so outraged that they would not even write to
poor Giotto to tell him to come and take his fresco away.  Phew!"
continued he, waxing warm, "if old Pontifex had had Cromwell's chances he
would have done all that Cromwell did, and have done it better; if he had
had Giotto's chances he would have done all that Giotto did, and done it
no worse; as it was, he was a village carpenter, and I will undertake to
say he never scamped a job in the whole course of his life."

"But," said I, "we cannot judge people with so many 'ifs.'  If old
Pontifex had lived in Giotto's time he might have been another Giotto,
but he did not live in Giotto's time."

"I tell you, Edward," said my father with some severity, "we must judge
men not so much by what they do, as by what they make us feel that they
have it in them to do.  If a man has done enough either in painting,
music or the affairs of life, to make me feel that I might trust him in
an emergency he has done enough.  It is not by what a man has actually
put upon his canvas, nor yet by the acts which he has set down, so to
speak, upon the canvas of his life that I will judge him, but by what he
makes me feel that he felt and aimed at.  If he has made me feel that he
felt those things to be loveable which I hold loveable myself I ask no
more; his grammar may have been imperfect, but still I have understood
him; he and I are _en rapport_; and I say again, Edward, that old
Pontifex was not only an able man, but one of the very ablest men I ever
knew."

Against this there was no more to be said, and my sisters eyed me to
silence.  Somehow or other my sisters always did eye me to silence when I
differed from my father.

"Talk of his successful son," snorted my father, whom I had fairly
roused.  "He is not fit to black his father's boots.  He has his
thousands of pounds a year, while his father had perhaps three thousand
shillings a year towards the end of his life.  He _is_ a successful man;
but his father, hobbling about Paleham Street in his grey worsted
stockings, broad brimmed hat and brown swallow-tailed coat was worth a
hundred of George Pontifexes, for all his carriages and horses and the
airs he gives himself."

"But yet," he added, "George Pontifex is no fool either."  And this
brings us to the second generation of the Pontifex family with whom we
need concern ourselves.




CHAPTER II


Old Mr Pontifex had married in the year 1750, but for fifteen years his
wife bore no children.  At the end of that time Mrs Pontifex astonished
the whole village by showing unmistakable signs of a disposition to
present her husband with an heir or heiress.  Hers had long ago been
considered a hopeless case, and when on consulting the doctor concerning
the meaning of certain symptoms she was informed of their significance,
she became very angry and abused the doctor roundly for talking nonsense.
She refused to put so much as a piece of thread into a needle in
anticipation of her confinement and would have been absolutely
unprepared, if her neighbours had not been better judges of her condition
than she was, and got things ready without telling her anything about it.
Perhaps she feared Nemesis, though assuredly she knew not who or what
Nemesis was; perhaps she feared the doctor had made a mistake and she
should be laughed at; from whatever cause, however, her refusal to
recognise the obvious arose, she certainly refused to recognise it, until
one snowy night in January the doctor was sent for with all urgent speed
across the rough country roads.  When he arrived he found two patients,
not one, in need of his assistance, for a boy had been born who was in
due time christened George, in honour of his then reigning majesty.

To the best of my belief George Pontifex got the greater part of his
nature from this obstinate old lady, his mother--a mother who though she
loved no one else in the world except her husband (and him only after a
fashion) was most tenderly attached to the unexpected child of her old
age; nevertheless she showed it little.

The boy grew up into a sturdy bright-eyed little fellow, with plenty of
intelligence, and perhaps a trifle too great readiness at book learning.
Being kindly treated at home, he was as fond of his father and mother as
it was in his nature to be of anyone, but he was fond of no one else.  He
had a good healthy sense of _meum_, and as little of _tuum_ as he could
help.  Brought up much in the open air in one of the best situated and
healthiest villages in England, his little limbs had fair play, and in
those days children's brains were not overtasked as they now are; perhaps
it was for this very reason that the boy showed an avidity to learn.  At
seven or eight years old he could read, write and sum better than any
other boy of his age in the village.  My father was not yet rector of
Paleham, and did not remember George Pontifex's childhood, but I have
heard neighbours tell him that the boy was looked upon as unusually quick
and forward.  His father and mother were naturally proud of their
offspring, and his mother was determined that he should one day become
one of the kings and councillors of the earth.

It is one thing however to resolve that one's son shall win some of
life's larger prizes, and another to square matters with fortune in this
respect.  George Pontifex might have been brought up as a carpenter and
succeeded in no other way than as succeeding his father as one of the
minor magnates of Paleham, and yet have been a more truly successful man
than he actually was--for I take it there is not much more solid success
in this world than what fell to the lot of old Mr and Mrs Pontifex; it
happened, however, that about the year 1780, when George was a boy of
fifteen, a sister of Mrs Pontifex's, who had married a Mr Fairlie, came
to pay a few days' visit at Paleham.  Mr Fairlie was a publisher, chiefly
of religious works, and had an establishment in Paternoster Row; he had
risen in life, and his wife had risen with him.  No very close relations
had been maintained between the sisters for some years, and I forget
exactly how it came about that Mr and Mrs Fairlie were guests in the
quiet but exceedingly comfortable house of their sister and brother-in-
law; but for some reason or other the visit was paid, and little George
soon succeeded in making his way into his uncle and aunt's good graces.  A
quick, intelligent boy with a good address, a sound constitution, and
coming of respectable parents, has a potential value which a practised
business man who has need of many subordinates is little likely to
overlook.  Before his visit was over Mr Fairlie proposed to the lad's
father and mother that he should put him into his own business, at the
same time promising that if the boy did well he should not want some one
to bring him forward.  Mrs Pontifex had her son's interest too much at
heart to refuse such an offer, so the matter was soon arranged, and about
a fortnight after the Fairlies had left, George was sent up by coach to
London, where he was met by his uncle and aunt, with whom it was arranged
that he should live.

This was George's great start in life.  He now wore more fashionable
clothes than he had yet been accustomed to, and any little rusticity of
gait or pronunciation which he had brought from Paleham, was so quickly
and completely lost that it was ere long impossible to detect that he had
not been born and bred among people of what is commonly called education.
The boy paid great attention to his work, and more than justified the
favourable opinion which Mr Fairlie had formed concerning him.  Sometimes
Mr Fairlie would send him down to Paleham for a few days' holiday, and
ere long his parents perceived that he had acquired an air and manner of
talking different from any that he had taken with him from Paleham.  They
were proud of him, and soon fell into their proper places, resigning all
appearance of a parental control, for which indeed there was no kind of
necessity.  In return, George was always kindly to them, and to the end
of his life retained a more affectionate feeling towards his father and
mother than I imagine him ever to have felt again for man, woman, or
child.

George's visits to Paleham were never long, for the distance from London
was under fifty miles and there was a direct coach, so that the journey
was easy; there was not time, therefore, for the novelty to wear off
either on the part of the young man or of his parents.  George liked the
fresh country air and green fields after the darkness to which he had
been so long accustomed in Paternoster Row, which then, as now, was a
narrow gloomy lane rather than a street.  Independently of the pleasure
of seeing the familiar faces of the farmers and villagers, he liked also
being seen and being congratulated on growing up such a fine-looking and
fortunate young fellow, for he was not the youth to hide his light under
a bushel.  His uncle had had him taught Latin and Greek of an evening; he
had taken kindly to these languages and had rapidly and easily mastered
what many boys take years in acquiring.  I suppose his knowledge gave him
a self-confidence which made itself felt whether he intended it or not;
at any rate, he soon began to pose as a judge of literature, and from
this to being a judge of art, architecture, music and everything else,
the path was easy.  Like his father, he knew the value of money, but he
was at once more ostentatious and less liberal than his father; while yet
a boy he was a thorough little man of the world, and did well rather upon
principles which he had tested by personal experiment, and recognised as
principles, than from those profounder convictions which in his father
were so instinctive that he could give no account concerning them.

His father, as I have said, wondered at him and let him alone.  His son
had fairly distanced him, and in an inarticulate way the father knew it
perfectly well.  After a few years he took to wearing his best clothes
whenever his son came to stay with him, nor would he discard them for his
ordinary ones till the young man had returned to London.  I believe old
Mr Pontifex, along with his pride and affection, felt also a certain fear
of his son, as though of something which he could not thoroughly
understand, and whose ways, notwithstanding outward agreement, were
nevertheless not as his ways.  Mrs Pontifex felt nothing of this; to her
George was pure and absolute perfection, and she saw, or thought she saw,
with pleasure, that he resembled her and her family in feature as well as
in disposition rather than her husband and his.

When George was about twenty-five years old his uncle took him into
partnership on very liberal terms.  He had little cause to regret this
step.  The young man infused fresh vigour into a concern that was already
vigorous, and by the time he was thirty found himself in the receipt of
not less than 1500 pounds a year as his share of the profits.  Two years
later he married a lady about seven years younger than himself, who
brought him a handsome dowry.  She died in 1805, when her youngest child
Alethea was born, and her husband did not marry again.




CHAPTER III


In the early years of the century five little children and a couple of
nurses began to make periodical visits to Paleham.  It is needless to say
they were a rising generation of Pontifexes, towards whom the old couple,
their grandparents, were as tenderly deferential as they would have been
to the children of the Lord Lieutenant of the County.  Their names were
Eliza, Maria, John, Theobald (who like myself was born in 1802), and
Alethea.  Mr Pontifex always put the prefix "master" or "miss" before the
names of his grandchildren, except in the case of Alethea, who was his
favourite.  To have resisted his grandchildren would have been as
impossible for him as to have resisted his wife; even old Mrs Pontifex
yielded before her son's children, and gave them all manner of licence
which she would never have allowed even to my sisters and myself, who
stood next in her regard.  Two regulations only they must attend to; they
must wipe their shoes well on coming into the house, and they must not
overfeed Mr Pontifex's organ with wind, nor take the pipes out.

By us at the Rectory there was no time so much looked forward to as the
annual visit of the little Pontifexes to Paleham.  We came in for some of
the prevailing licence; we went to tea with Mrs Pontifex to meet her
grandchildren, and then our young friends were asked to the Rectory to
have tea with us, and we had what we considered great times.  I fell
desperately in love with Alethea, indeed we all fell in love with each
other, plurality and exchange whether of wives or husbands being openly
and unblushingly advocated in the very presence of our nurses.  We were
very merry, but it is so long ago that I have forgotten nearly everything
save that we _were_ very merry.  Almost the only thing that remains with
me as a permanent impression was the fact that Theobald one day beat his
nurse and teased her, and when she said she should go away cried out,
"You shan't go away--I'll keep you on purpose to torment you."

One winter's morning, however, in the year 1811, we heard the church bell
tolling while we were dressing in the back nursery and were told it was
for old Mrs Pontifex.  Our man-servant John told us and added with grim
levity that they were ringing the bell to come and take her away.  She
had had a fit of paralysis which had carried her off quite suddenly.  It
was very shocking, the more so because our nurse assured us that if God
chose we might all have fits of paralysis ourselves that very day and be
taken straight off to the Day of Judgement.  The Day of Judgement indeed,
according to the opinion of those who were most likely to know, would not
under any circumstances be delayed more than a few years longer, and then
the whole world would be burned, and we ourselves be consigned to an
eternity of torture, unless we mended our ways more than we at present
seemed at all likely to do.  All this was so alarming that we fell to
screaming and made such a hullabaloo that the nurse was obliged for her
own peace to reassure us.  Then we wept, but more composedly, as we
remembered that there would be no more tea and cakes for us now at old
Mrs Pontifex's.

On the day of the funeral, however, we had a great excitement; old Mr
Pontifex sent round a penny loaf to every inhabitant of the village
according to a custom still not uncommon at the beginning of the century;
the loaf was called a dole.  We had never heard of this custom before,
besides, though we had often heard of penny loaves, we had never before
seen one; moreover, they were presents to us as inhabitants of the
village, and we were treated as grown up people, for our father and
mother and the servants had each one loaf sent them, but only one.  We
had never yet suspected that we were inhabitants at all; finally, the
little loaves were new, and we were passionately fond of new bread, which
we were seldom or never allowed to have, as it was supposed not to be
good for us.  Our affection, therefore, for our old friend had to stand
against the combined attacks of archaeological interest, the rights of
citizenship and property, the pleasantness to the eye and goodness for
food of the little loaves themselves, and the sense of importance which
was given us by our having been intimate with someone who had actually
died.  It seemed upon further inquiry that there was little reason to
anticipate an early death for anyone of ourselves, and this being so, we
rather liked the idea of someone else's being put away into the
churchyard; we passed, therefore, in a short time from extreme depression
to a no less extreme exultation; a new heaven and a new earth had been
revealed to us in our perception of the possibility of benefiting by the
death of our friends, and I fear that for some time we took an interest
in the health of everyone in the village whose position rendered a
repetition of the dole in the least likely.

Those were the days in which all great things seemed far off, and we were
astonished to find that Napoleon Buonaparte was an actually living
person.  We had thought such a great man could only have lived a very
long time ago, and here he was after all almost as it were at our own
doors.  This lent colour to the view that the Day of Judgement might
indeed be nearer than we had thought, but nurse said that was all right
now, and she knew.  In those days the snow lay longer and drifted deeper
in the lanes than it does now, and the milk was sometimes brought in
frozen in winter, and we were taken down into the back kitchen to see it.
I suppose there are rectories up and down the country now where the milk
comes in frozen sometimes in winter, and the children go down to wonder
at it, but I never see any frozen milk in London, so I suppose the
winters are warmer than they used to be.

About one year after his wife's death Mr Pontifex also was gathered to
his fathers.  My father saw him the day before he died.  The old man had
a theory about sunsets, and had had two steps built up against a wall in
the kitchen garden on which he used to stand and watch the sun go down
whenever it was clear.  My father came on him in the afternoon, just as
the sun was setting, and saw him with his arms resting on the top of the
wall looking towards the sun over a field through which there was a path
on which my father was.  My father heard him say "Good-bye, sun; good-
bye, sun," as the sun sank, and saw by his tone and manner that he was
feeling very feeble.  Before the next sunset he was gone.

There was no dole.  Some of his grandchildren were brought to the funeral
and we remonstrated with them, but did not take much by doing so.  John
Pontifex, who was a year older than I was, sneered at penny loaves, and
intimated that if I wanted one it must be because my papa and mamma could
not afford to buy me one, whereon I believe we did something like
fighting, and I rather think John Pontifex got the worst of it, but it
may have been the other way.  I remember my sister's nurse, for I was
just outgrowing nurses myself, reported the matter to higher quarters,
and we were all of us put to some ignominy, but we had been thoroughly
awakened from our dream, and it was long enough before we could hear the
words "penny loaf" mentioned without our ears tingling with shame.  If
there had been a dozen doles afterwards we should not have deigned to
touch one of them.

George Pontifex put up a monument to his parents, a plain slab in Paleham
church, inscribed with the following epitaph:--

SACRED TO THE MEMORY

OF

JOHN PONTIFEX

WHO WAS BORN AUGUST 16TH,

1727, AND DIED FEBRUARY 8, 1812,

IN HIS 85TH YEAR,

AND OF

RUTH PONTIFEX, HIS WIFE,

WHO WAS BORN OCTOBER 13, 1727, AND DIED JANUARY 10, 1811,

IN HER 84TH YEAR.

THEY WERE UNOSTENTATIOUS BUT EXEMPLARY

IN THE DISCHARGE OF THEIR

RELIGIOUS, MORAL, AND SOCIAL DUTIES.

THIS MONUMENT WAS PLACED

BY THEIR ONLY SON.




CHAPTER IV


In a year or two more came Waterloo and the European peace.  Then Mr
George Pontifex went abroad more than once.  I remember seeing at
Battersby in after years the diary which he kept on the first of these
occasions.  It is a characteristic document.  I felt as I read it that
the author before starting had made up his mind to admire only what he
thought it would be creditable in him to admire, to look at nature and
art only through the spectacles that had been handed down to him by
generation after generation of prigs and impostors.  The first glimpse of
Mont Blanc threw Mr Pontifex into a conventional ecstasy.  "My feelings I
cannot express.  I gasped, yet hardly dared to breathe, as I viewed for
the first time the monarch of the mountains.  I seemed to fancy the
genius seated on his stupendous throne far above his aspiring brethren
and in his solitary might defying the universe.  I was so overcome by my
feelings that I was almost bereft of my faculties, and would not for
worlds have spoken after my first exclamation till I found some relief in
a gush of tears.  With pain I tore myself from contemplating for the
first time 'at distance dimly seen' (though I felt as if I had sent my
soul and eyes after it), this sublime spectacle."  After a nearer view of
the Alps from above Geneva he walked nine out of the twelve miles of the
descent: "My mind and heart were too full to sit still, and I found some
relief by exhausting my feelings through exercise."  In the course of
time he reached Chamonix and went on a Sunday to the Montanvert to see
the Mer de Glace.  There he wrote the following verses for the visitors'
book, which he considered, so he says, "suitable to the day and scene":--

   Lord, while these wonders of thy hand I see,
   My soul in holy reverence bends to thee.
   These awful solitudes, this dread repose,
   Yon pyramid sublime of spotless snows,
   These spiry pinnacles, those smiling plains,
   This sea where one eternal winter reigns,
   These are thy works, and while on them I gaze
   I hear a silent tongue that speaks thy praise.

Some poets always begin to get groggy about the knees after running for
seven or eight lines.  Mr Pontifex's last couplet gave him a lot of
trouble, and nearly every word has been erased and rewritten once at
least.  In the visitors' book at the Montanvert, however, he must have
been obliged to commit himself definitely to one reading or another.
Taking the verses all round, I should say that Mr Pontifex was right in
considering them suitable to the day; I don't like being too hard even on
the Mer de Glace, so will give no opinion as to whether they are suitable
to the scene also.

Mr Pontifex went on to the Great St Bernard and there he wrote some more
verses, this time I am afraid in Latin.  He also took good care to be
properly impressed by the Hospice and its situation.  "The whole of this
most extraordinary journey seemed like a dream, its conclusion
especially, in gentlemanly society, with every comfort and accommodation
amidst the rudest rocks and in the region of perpetual snow.  The thought
that I was sleeping in a convent and occupied the bed of no less a person
than Napoleon, that I was in the highest inhabited spot in the old world
and in a place celebrated in every part of it, kept me awake some time."
As a contrast to this, I may quote here an extract from a letter written
to me last year by his grandson Ernest, of whom the reader will hear more
presently.  The passage runs: "I went up to the Great St Bernard and saw
the dogs."  In due course Mr Pontifex found his way into Italy, where the
pictures and other works of art--those, at least, which were fashionable
at that time--threw him into genteel paroxysms of admiration.  Of the
Uffizi Gallery at Florence he writes: "I have spent three hours this
morning in the gallery and I have made up my mind that if of all the
treasures I have seen in Italy I were to choose one room it would be the
Tribune of this gallery.  It contains the Venus de' Medici, the
Explorator, the Pancratist, the Dancing Faun and a fine Apollo.  These
more than outweigh the Laocoon and the Belvedere Apollo at Rome.  It
contains, besides, the St John of Raphael and many other _chefs-d'oeuvre_
of the greatest masters in the world."  It is interesting to compare Mr
Pontifex's effusions with the rhapsodies of critics in our own times.  Not
long ago a much esteemed writer informed the world that he felt "disposed
to cry out with delight" before a figure by Michael Angelo.  I wonder
whether he would feel disposed to cry out before a real Michael Angelo,
if the critics had decided that it was not genuine, or before a reputed
Michael Angelo which was really by someone else.  But I suppose that a
prig with more money than brains was much the same sixty or seventy years
ago as he is now.

Look at Mendelssohn again about this same Tribune on which Mr Pontifex
felt so safe in staking his reputation as a man of taste and culture.  He
feels no less safe and writes, "I then went to the Tribune.  This room is
so delightfully small you can traverse it in fifteen paces, yet it
contains a world of art.  I again sought out my favourite arm chair which
stands under the statue of the 'Slave whetting his knife' (L'Arrotino),
and taking possession of it I enjoyed myself for a couple of hours; for
here at one glance I had the 'Madonna del Cardellino,' Pope Julius II., a
female portrait by Raphael, and above it a lovely Holy Family by
Perugino; and so close to me that I could have touched it with my hand
the Venus de' Medici; beyond, that of Titian . . . The space between is
occupied by other pictures of Raphael's, a portrait by Titian, a
Domenichino, etc., etc., all these within the circumference of a small
semi-circle no larger than one of your own rooms.  This is a spot where a
man feels his own insignificance and may well learn to be humble."  The
Tribune is a slippery place for people like Mendelssohn to study humility
in.  They generally take two steps away from it for one they take towards
it.  I wonder how many chalks Mendelssohn gave himself for having sat two
hours on that chair.  I wonder how often he looked at his watch to see if
his two hours were up.  I wonder how often he told himself that he was
quite as big a gun, if the truth were known, as any of the men whose
works he saw before him, how often he wondered whether any of the
visitors were recognizing him and admiring him for sitting such a long
time in the same chair, and how often he was vexed at seeing them pass
him by and take no notice of him.  But perhaps if the truth were known
his two hours was not quite two hours.

Returning to Mr Pontifex, whether he liked what he believed to be the
masterpieces of Greek and Italian art or no he brought back some copies
by Italian artists, which I have no doubt he satisfied himself would bear
the strictest examination with the originals.  Two of these copies fell
to Theobald's share on the division of his father's furniture, and I have
often seen them at Battersby on my visits to Theobald and his wife.  The
one was a Madonna by Sassoferrato with a blue hood over her head which
threw it half into shadow.  The other was a Magdalen by Carlo Dolci with
a very fine head of hair and a marble vase in her hands.  When I was a
young man I used to think these pictures were beautiful, but with each
successive visit to Battersby I got to dislike them more and more and to
see "George Pontifex" written all over both of them.  In the end I
ventured after a tentative fashion to blow on them a little, but Theobald
and his wife were up in arms at once.  They did not like their father and
father-in-law, but there could be no question about his power and general
ability, nor about his having been a man of consummate taste both in
literature and art--indeed the diary he kept during his foreign tour was
enough to prove this.  With one more short extract I will leave this
diary and proceed with my story.  During his stay in Florence Mr Pontifex
wrote: "I have just seen the Grand Duke and his family pass by in two
carriages and six, but little more notice is taken of them than if I, who
am utterly unknown here, were to pass by."  I don't think that he half
believed in his being utterly unknown in Florence or anywhere else!




CHAPTER V


Fortune, we are told, is a blind and fickle foster-mother, who showers
her gifts at random upon her nurslings.  But we do her a grave injustice
if we believe such an accusation.  Trace a man's career from his cradle
to his grave and mark how Fortune has treated him.  You will find that
when he is once dead she can for the most part be vindicated from the
charge of any but very superficial fickleness.  Her blindness is the
merest fable; she can espy her favourites long before they are born.  We
are as days and have had our parents for our yesterdays, but through all
the fair weather of a clear parental sky the eye of Fortune can discern
the coming storm, and she laughs as she places her favourites it may be
in a London alley or those whom she is resolved to ruin in kings'
palaces.  Seldom does she relent towards those whom she has suckled
unkindly and seldom does she completely fail a favoured nursling.

Was George Pontifex one of Fortune's favoured nurslings or not?  On the
whole I should say that he was not, for he did not consider himself so;
he was too religious to consider Fortune a deity at all; he took whatever
she gave and never thanked her, being firmly convinced that whatever he
got to his own advantage was of his own getting.  And so it was, after
Fortune had made him able to get it.

"Nos te, nos facimus, Fortuna, deam," exclaimed the poet.  "It is we who
make thee, Fortune, a goddess"; and so it is, after Fortune has made us
able to make her.  The poet says nothing as to the making of the "nos."
Perhaps some men are independent of antecedents and surroundings and have
an initial force within themselves which is in no way due to causation;
but this is supposed to be a difficult question and it may be as well to
avoid it.  Let it suffice that George Pontifex did not consider himself
fortunate, and he who does not consider himself fortunate is unfortunate.

True, he was rich, universally respected and of an excellent natural
constitution.  If he had eaten and drunk less he would never have known a
day's indisposition.  Perhaps his main strength lay in the fact that
though his capacity was a little above the average, it was not too much
so.  It is on this rock that so many clever people split.  The successful
man will see just so much more than his neighbours as they will be able
to see too when it is shown them, but not enough to puzzle them.  It is
far safer to know too little than too much.  People will condemn the one,
though they will resent being called upon to exert themselves to follow
the other.

The best example of Mr Pontifex's good sense in matters connected with
his business which I can think of at this moment is the revolution which
he effected in the style of advertising works published by the firm.  When
he first became a partner one of the firm's advertisements ran thus:--

   "Books proper to be given away at this Season.--

   "The Pious Country Parishioner, being directions how a Christian may
   manage every day in the course of his whole life with safety and
   success; how to spend the Sabbath Day; what books of the Holy
   Scripture ought to be read first; the whole method of education;
   collects for the most important virtues that adorn the soul; a
   discourse on the Lord's Supper; rules to set the soul right in
   sickness; so that in this treatise are contained all the rules
   requisite for salvation.  The 8th edition with additions.  Price 10d.

   *** An allowance will be made to those who give them away."

Before he had been many years a partner the advertisement stood as
follows:--

   "The Pious Country Parishioner.  A complete manual of Christian
   Devotion.  Price 10d.

   A reduction will be made to purchasers for gratuitous distribution."

What a stride is made in the foregoing towards the modern standard, and
what intelligence is involved in the perception of the unseemliness of
the old style, when others did not perceive it!

Where then was the weak place in George Pontifex's armour?  I suppose in
the fact that he had risen too rapidly.  It would almost seem as if a
transmitted education of some generations is necessary for the due
enjoyment of great wealth.  Adversity, if a man is set down to it by
degrees, is more supportable with equanimity by most people than any
great prosperity arrived at in a single lifetime.  Nevertheless a certain
kind of good fortune generally attends self-made men to the last.  It is
their children of the first, or first and second, generation who are in
greater danger, for the race can no more repeat its most successful
performances suddenly and without its ebbings and flowings of success
than the individual can do so, and the more brilliant the success in any
one generation, the greater as a general rule the subsequent exhaustion
until time has been allowed for recovery.  Hence it oftens happens that
the grandson of a successful man will be more successful than the son--the
spirit that actuated the grandfather having lain fallow in the son and
being refreshed by repose so as to be ready for fresh exertion in the
grandson.  A very successful man, moreover, has something of the hybrid
in him; he is a new animal, arising from the coming together of many
unfamiliar elements and it is well known that the reproduction of
abnormal growths, whether animal or vegetable, is irregular and not to be
depended upon, even when they are not absolutely sterile.

And certainly Mr Pontifex's success was exceedingly rapid.  Only a few
years after he had become a partner his uncle and aunt both died within a
few months of one another.  It was then found that they had made him
their heir.  He was thus not only sole partner in the business but found
himself with a fortune of some 30,000 pounds into the bargain, and this
was a large sum in those days.  Money came pouring in upon him, and the
faster it came the fonder he became of it, though, as he frequently said,
he valued it not for its own sake, but only as a means of providing for
his dear children.

Yet when a man is very fond of his money it is not easy for him at all
times to be very fond of his children also.  The two are like God and
Mammon.  Lord Macaulay has a passage in which he contrasts the pleasures
which a man may derive from books with the inconveniences to which he may
be put by his acquaintances.  "Plato," he says, "is never sullen.
Cervantes is never petulant.  Demosthenes never comes unseasonably.  Dante
never stays too long.  No difference of political opinion can alienate
Cicero.  No heresy can excite the horror of Bossuet."  I dare say I might
differ from Lord Macaulay in my estimate of some of the writers he has
named, but there can be no disputing his main proposition, namely, that
we need have no more trouble from any of them than we have a mind to,
whereas our friends are not always so easily disposed of.  George
Pontifex felt this as regards his children and his money.  His money was
never naughty; his money never made noise or litter, and did not spill
things on the tablecloth at meal times, or leave the door open when it
went out.  His dividends did not quarrel among themselves, nor was he
under any uneasiness lest his mortgages should become extravagant on
reaching manhood and run him up debts which sooner or later he should
have to pay.  There were tendencies in John which made him very uneasy,
and Theobald, his second son, was idle and at times far from truthful.
His children might, perhaps, have answered, had they known what was in
their father's mind, that he did not knock his money about as he not
infrequently knocked his children.  He never dealt hastily or pettishly
with his money, and that was perhaps why he and it got on so well
together.

It must be remembered that at the beginning of the nineteenth century the
relations between parents and children were still far from satisfactory.
The violent type of father, as described by Fielding, Richardson,
Smollett and Sheridan, is now hardly more likely to find a place in
literature than the original advertisement of Messrs. Fairlie &
Pontifex's "Pious Country Parishioner," but the type was much too
persistent not to have been drawn from nature closely.  The parents in
Miss Austen's novels are less like savage wild beasts than those of her
predecessors, but she evidently looks upon them with suspicion, and an
uneasy feeling that _le pere de famille est capable de tout_ makes itself
sufficiently apparent throughout the greater part of her writings.  In
the Elizabethan time the relations between parents and children seem on
the whole to have been more kindly.  The fathers and the sons are for the
most part friends in Shakespeare, nor does the evil appear to have
reached its full abomination till a long course of Puritanism had
familiarised men's minds with Jewish ideals as those which we should
endeavour to reproduce in our everyday life.  What precedents did not
Abraham, Jephthah and Jonadab the son of Rechab offer?  How easy was it
to quote and follow them in an age when few reasonable men or women
doubted that every syllable of the Old Testament was taken down
_verbatim_ from the mouth of God.  Moreover, Puritanism restricted
natural pleasures; it substituted the Jeremiad for the Paean, and it
forgot that the poor abuses of all times want countenance.

Mr Pontifex may have been a little sterner with his children than some of
his neighbours, but not much.  He thrashed his boys two or three times a
week and some weeks a good deal oftener, but in those days fathers were
always thrashing their boys.  It is easy to have juster views when
everyone else has them, but fortunately or unfortunately results have
nothing whatever to do with the moral guilt or blamelessness of him who
brings them about; they depend solely upon the thing done, whatever it
may happen to be.  The moral guilt or blamelessness in like manner has
nothing to do with the result; it turns upon the question whether a
sufficient number of reasonable people placed as the actor was placed
would have done as the actor has done.  At that time it was universally
admitted that to spare the rod was to spoil the child, and St Paul had
placed disobedience to parents in very ugly company.  If his children did
anything which Mr Pontifex disliked they were clearly disobedient to
their father.  In this case there was obviously only one course for a
sensible man to take.  It consisted in checking the first signs of self-
will while his children were too young to offer serious resistance.  If
their wills were "well broken" in childhood, to use an expression then
much in vogue, they would acquire habits of obedience which they would
not venture to break through till they were over twenty-one years old.
Then they might please themselves; he should know how to protect himself;
till then he and his money were more at their mercy than he liked.

How little do we know our thoughts--our reflex actions indeed, yes; but
our reflex reflections!  Man, forsooth, prides himself on his
consciousness!  We boast that we differ from the winds and waves and
falling stones and plants, which grow they know not why, and from the
wandering creatures which go up and down after their prey, as we are
pleased to say without the help of reason.  We know so well what we are
doing ourselves and why we do it, do we not?  I fancy that there is some
truth in the view which is being put forward nowadays, that it is our
less conscious thoughts and our less conscious actions which mainly mould
our lives and the lives of those who spring from us.




CHAPTER VI


Mr Pontifex was not the man to trouble himself much about his motives.
People were not so introspective then as we are now; they lived more
according to a rule of thumb.  Dr Arnold had not yet sown that crop of
earnest thinkers which we are now harvesting, and men did not see why
they should not have their own way if no evil consequences to themselves
seemed likely to follow upon their doing so.  Then as now, however, they
sometimes let themselves in for more evil consequences than they had
bargained for.

Like other rich men at the beginning of this century he ate and drank a
good deal more than was enough to keep him in health.  Even his excellent
constitution was not proof against a prolonged course of overfeeding and
what we should now consider overdrinking.  His liver would not
unfrequently get out of order, and he would come down to breakfast
looking yellow about the eyes.  Then the young people knew that they had
better look out.  It is not as a general rule the eating of sour grapes
that causes the children's teeth to be set on edge.  Well-to-do parents
seldom eat many sour grapes; the danger to the children lies in the
parents eating too many sweet ones.

I grant that at first sight it seems very unjust, that the parents should
have the fun and the children be punished for it, but young people should
remember that for many years they were part and parcel of their parents
and therefore had a good deal of the fun in the person of their parents.
If they have forgotten the fun now, that is no more than people do who
have a headache after having been tipsy overnight.  The man with a
headache does not pretend to be a different person from the man who got
drunk, and claim that it is his self of the preceding night and not his
self of this morning who should be punished; no more should offspring
complain of the headache which it has earned when in the person of its
parents, for the continuation of identity, though not so immediately
apparent, is just as real in one case as in the other.  What is really
hard is when the parents have the fun after the children have been born,
and the children are punished for this.

On these, his black days, he would take very gloomy views of things and
say to himself that in spite of all his goodness to them his children did
not love him.  But who can love any man whose liver is out of order?  How
base, he would exclaim to himself, was such ingratitude!  How especially
hard upon himself, who had been such a model son, and always honoured and
obeyed his parents though they had not spent one hundredth part of the
money upon him which he had lavished upon his own children.  "It is
always the same story," he would say to himself, "the more young people
have the more they want, and the less thanks one gets; I have made a
great mistake; I have been far too lenient with my children; never mind,
I have done my duty by them, and more; if they fail in theirs to me it is
a matter between God and them.  I, at any rate, am guiltless.  Why, I
might have married again and become the father of a second and perhaps
more affectionate family, etc., etc."  He pitied himself for the
expensive education which he was giving his children; he did not see that
the education cost the children far more than it cost him, inasmuch as it
cost them the power of earning their living easily rather than helped
them towards it, and ensured their being at the mercy of their father for
years after they had come to an age when they should be independent.  A
public school education cuts off a boy's retreat; he can no longer become
a labourer or a mechanic, and these are the only people whose tenure of
independence is not precarious--with the exception of course of those who
are born inheritors of money or who are placed young in some safe and
deep groove.  Mr Pontifex saw nothing of this; all he saw was that he was
spending much more money upon his children than the law would have
compelled him to do, and what more could you have?  Might he not have
apprenticed both his sons to greengrocers?  Might he not even yet do so
to-morrow morning if he were so minded?  The possibility of this course
being adopted was a favourite topic with him when he was out of temper;
true, he never did apprentice either of his sons to greengrocers, but his
boys comparing notes together had sometimes come to the conclusion that
they wished he would.

At other times when not quite well he would have them in for the fun of
shaking his will at them.  He would in his imagination cut them all out
one after another and leave his money to found almshouses, till at last
he was obliged to put them back, so that he might have the pleasure of
cutting them out again the next time he was in a passion.

Of course if young people allow their conduct to be in any way influenced
by regard to the wills of living persons they are doing very wrong and
must expect to be sufferers in the end, nevertheless the powers of will-
dangling and will-shaking are so liable to abuse and are continually made
so great an engine of torture that I would pass a law, if I could, to
incapacitate any man from making a will for three months from the date of
each offence in either of the above respects and let the bench of
magistrates or judge, before whom he has been convicted, dispose of his
property as they shall think right and reasonable if he dies during the
time that his will-making power is suspended.

Mr Pontifex would have the boys into the dining-room.  "My dear John, my
dear Theobald," he would say, "look at me.  I began life with nothing but
the clothes with which my father and mother sent me up to London.  My
father gave me ten shillings and my mother five for pocket money and I
thought them munificent.  I never asked my father for a shilling in the
whole course of my life, nor took aught from him beyond the small sum he
used to allow me monthly till I was in receipt of a salary.  I made my
own way and I shall expect my sons to do the same.  Pray don't take it
into your heads that I am going to wear my life out making money that my
sons may spend it for me.  If you want money you must make it for
yourselves as I did, for I give you my word I will not leave a penny to
either of you unless you show that you deserve it.  Young people seem
nowadays to expect all kinds of luxuries and indulgences which were never
heard of when I was a boy.  Why, my father was a common carpenter, and
here you are both of you at public schools, costing me ever so many
hundreds a year, while I at your age was plodding away behind a desk in
my Uncle Fairlie's counting house.  What should I not have done if I had
had one half of your advantages?  You should become dukes or found new
empires in undiscovered countries, and even then I doubt whether you
would have done proportionately so much as I have done.  No, no, I shall
see you through school and college and then, if you please, you will make
your own way in the world."

In this manner he would work himself up into such a state of virtuous
indignation that he would sometimes thrash the boys then and there upon
some pretext invented at the moment.

And yet, as children went, the young Pontifexes were fortunate; there
would be ten families of young people worse off for one better; they ate
and drank good wholesome food, slept in comfortable beds, had the best
doctors to attend them when they were ill and the best education that
could be had for money.  The want of fresh air does not seem much to
affect the happiness of children in a London alley: the greater part of
them sing and play as though they were on a moor in Scotland.  So the
absence of a genial mental atmosphere is not commonly recognised by
children who have never known it.  Young people have a marvellous faculty
of either dying or adapting themselves to circumstances.  Even if they
are unhappy--very unhappy--it is astonishing how easily they can be
prevented from finding it out, or at any rate from attributing it to any
other cause than their own sinfulness.

To parents who wish to lead a quiet life I would say: Tell your children
that they are very naughty--much naughtier than most children.  Point to
the young people of some acquaintances as models of perfection and
impress your own children with a deep sense of their own inferiority.  You
carry so many more guns than they do that they cannot fight you.  This is
called moral influence, and it will enable you to bounce them as much as
you please.  They think you know and they will not have yet caught you
lying often enough to suspect that you are not the unworldly and
scrupulously truthful person which you represent yourself to be; nor yet
will they know how great a coward you are, nor how soon you will run
away, if they fight you with persistency and judgement.  You keep the
dice and throw them both for your children and yourself.  Load them then,
for you can easily manage to stop your children from examining them.  Tell
them how singularly indulgent you are; insist on the incalculable benefit
you conferred upon them, firstly in bringing them into the world at all,
but more particularly in bringing them into it as your own children
rather than anyone else's.  Say that you have their highest interests at
stake whenever you are out of temper and wish to make yourself unpleasant
by way of balm to your soul.  Harp much upon these highest interests.
Feed them spiritually upon such brimstone and treacle as the late Bishop
of Winchester's Sunday stories.  You hold all the trump cards, or if you
do not you can filch them; if you play them with anything like judgement
you will find yourselves heads of happy, united, God-fearing families,
even as did my old friend Mr Pontifex.  True, your children will probably
find out all about it some day, but not until too late to be of much
service to them or inconvenience to yourself.

Some satirists have complained of life inasmuch as all the pleasures
belong to the fore part of it and we must see them dwindle till we are
left, it may be, with the miseries of a decrepit old age.

To me it seems that youth is like spring, an overpraised
season--delightful if it happen to be a favoured one, but in practice
very rarely favoured and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting
east winds than genial breezes.  Autumn is the mellower season, and what
we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.  Fontenelle at the age of
ninety, being asked what was the happiest time of his life, said he did
not know that he had ever been much happier than he then was, but that
perhaps his best years had been those when he was between fifty-five and
seventy-five, and Dr Johnson placed the pleasures of old age far higher
than those of youth.  True, in old age we live under the shadow of Death,
which, like a sword of Damocles, may descend at any moment, but we have
so long found life to be an affair of being rather frightened than hurt
that we have become like the people who live under Vesuvius, and chance
it without much misgiving.




CHAPTER VII


A few words may suffice for the greater number of the young people to
whom I have been alluding in the foregoing chapter.  Eliza and Maria, the
two elder girls, were neither exactly pretty nor exactly plain, and were
in all respects model young ladies, but Alethea was exceedingly pretty
and of a lively, affectionate disposition, which was in sharp contrast
with those of her brothers and sisters.  There was a trace of her
grandfather, not only in her face, but in her love of fun, of which her
father had none, though not without a certain boisterous and rather
coarse quasi-humour which passed for wit with many.

John grew up to be a good-looking, gentlemanly fellow, with features a
trifle too regular and finely chiselled.  He dressed himself so nicely,
had such good address, and stuck so steadily to his books that he became
a favourite with his masters; he had, however, an instinct for diplomacy,
and was less popular with the boys.  His father, in spite of the lectures
he would at times read him, was in a way proud of him as he grew older;
he saw in him, moreover, one who would probably develop into a good man
of business, and in whose hands the prospects of his house would not be
likely to decline.  John knew how to humour his father, and was at a
comparatively early age admitted to as much of his confidence as it was
in his nature to bestow on anyone.

His brother Theobald was no match for him, knew it, and accepted his
fate.  He was not so good-looking as his brother, nor was his address so
good; as a child he had been violently passionate; now, however, he was
reserved and shy, and, I should say, indolent in mind and body.  He was
less tidy than John, less well able to assert himself, and less skilful
in humouring the caprices of his father.  I do not think he could have
loved anyone heartily, but there was no one in his family circle who did
not repress, rather than invite his affection, with the exception of his
sister Alethea, and she was too quick and lively for his somewhat morose
temper.  He was always the scapegoat, and I have sometimes thought he had
two fathers to contend against--his father and his brother John; a third
and fourth also might almost be added in his sisters Eliza and Maria.
Perhaps if he had felt his bondage very acutely he would not have put up
with it, but he was constitutionally timid, and the strong hand of his
father knitted him into the closest outward harmony with his brother and
sisters.

The boys were of use to their father in one respect.  I mean that he
played them off against each other.  He kept them but poorly supplied
with pocket money, and to Theobald would urge that the claims of his
elder brother were naturally paramount, while he insisted to John upon
the fact that he had a numerous family, and would affirm solemnly that
his expenses were so heavy that at his death there would be very little
to divide.  He did not care whether they compared notes or no, provided
they did not do so in his presence.  Theobald did not complain even
behind his father's back.  I knew him as intimately as anyone was likely
to know him as a child, at school, and again at Cambridge, but he very
rarely mentioned his father's name even while his father was alive, and
never once in my hearing afterwards.  At school he was not actively
disliked as his brother was, but he was too dull and deficient in animal
spirits to be popular.

Before he was well out of his frocks it was settled that he was to be a
clergyman.  It was seemly that Mr Pontifex, the well-known publisher of
religious books, should devote at least one of his sons to the Church;
this might tend to bring business, or at any rate to keep it in the firm;
besides, Mr Pontifex had more or less interest with bishops and Church
dignitaries and might hope that some preferment would be offered to his
son through his influence.  The boy's future destiny was kept well before
his eyes from his earliest childhood and was treated as a matter which he
had already virtually settled by his acquiescence.  Nevertheless a
certain show of freedom was allowed him.  Mr Pontifex would say it was
only right to give a boy his option, and was much too equitable to grudge
his son whatever benefit he could derive from this.  He had the greatest
horror, he would exclaim, of driving any young man into a profession
which he did not like.  Far be it from him to put pressure upon a son of
his as regards any profession and much less when so sacred a calling as
the ministry was concerned.  He would talk in this way when there were
visitors in the house and when his son was in the room.  He spoke so
wisely and so well that his listening guests considered him a paragon of
right-mindedness.  He spoke, too, with such emphasis and his rosy gills
and bald head looked so benevolent that it was difficult not to be
carried away by his discourse.  I believe two or three heads of families
in the neighbourhood gave their sons absolute liberty of choice in the
matter of their professions--and am not sure that they had not afterwards
considerable cause to regret having done so.  The visitors, seeing
Theobald look shy and wholly unmoved by the exhibition of so much
consideration for his wishes, would remark to themselves that the boy
seemed hardly likely to be equal to his father and would set him down as
an unenthusiastic youth, who ought to have more life in him and be more
sensible of his advantages than he appeared to be.

No one believed in the righteousness of the whole transaction more firmly
than the boy himself; a sense of being ill at ease kept him silent, but
it was too profound and too much without break for him to become fully
alive to it, and come to an understanding with himself.  He feared the
dark scowl which would come over his father's face upon the slightest
opposition.  His father's violent threats, or coarse sneers, would not
have been taken _au serieux_ by a stronger boy, but Theobald was not a
strong boy, and rightly or wrongly, gave his father credit for being
quite ready to carry his threats into execution.  Opposition had never
got him anything he wanted yet, nor indeed had yielding, for the matter
of that, unless he happened to want exactly what his father wanted for
him.  If he had ever entertained thoughts of resistance, he had none now,
and the power to oppose was so completely lost for want of exercise that
hardly did the wish remain; there was nothing left save dull acquiescence
as of an ass crouched between two burdens.  He may have had an
ill-defined sense of ideals that were not his actuals; he might
occasionally dream of himself as a soldier or a sailor far away in
foreign lands, or even as a farmer's boy upon the wolds, but there was
not enough in him for there to be any chance of his turning his dreams
into realities, and he drifted on with his stream, which was a slow, and,
I am afraid, a muddy one.

I think the Church Catechism has a good deal to do with the unhappy
relations which commonly even now exist between parents and children.
That work was written too exclusively from the parental point of view;
the person who composed it did not get a few children to come in and help
him; he was clearly not young himself, nor should I say it was the work
of one who liked children--in spite of the words "my good child" which,
if I remember rightly, are once put into the mouth of the catechist and,
after all, carry a harsh sound with them.  The general impression it
leaves upon the mind of the young is that their wickedness at birth was
but very imperfectly wiped out at baptism, and that the mere fact of
being young at all has something with it that savours more or less
distinctly of the nature of sin.

If a new edition of the work is ever required I should like to introduce
a few words insisting on the duty of seeking all reasonable pleasure and
avoiding all pain that can be honourably avoided.  I should like to see
children taught that they should not say they like things which they do
not like, merely because certain other people say they like them, and how
foolish it is to say they believe this or that when they understand
nothing about it.  If it be urged that these additions would make the
Catechism too long I would curtail the remarks upon our duty towards our
neighbour and upon the sacraments.  In the place of the paragraph
beginning "I desire my Lord God our Heavenly Father" I would--but perhaps
I had better return to Theobald, and leave the recasting of the Catechism
to abler hands.




CHAPTER VIII


Mr Pontifex had set his heart on his son's becoming a fellow of a college
before he became a clergyman.  This would provide for him at once and
would ensure his getting a living if none of his father's ecclesiastical
friends gave him one.  The boy had done just well enough at school to
render this possible, so he was sent to one of the smaller colleges at
Cambridge and was at once set to read with the best private tutors that
could be found.  A system of examination had been adopted a year or so
before Theobald took his degree which had improved his chances of a
fellowship, for whatever ability he had was classical rather than
mathematical, and this system gave more encouragement to classical
studies than had been given hitherto.

Theobald had the sense to see that he had a chance of independence if he
worked hard, and he liked the notion of becoming a fellow.  He therefore
applied himself, and in the end took a degree which made his getting a
fellowship in all probability a mere question of time.  For a while Mr
Pontifex senior was really pleased, and told his son he would present him
with the works of any standard writer whom he might select.  The young
man chose the works of Bacon, and Bacon accordingly made his appearance
in ten nicely bound volumes.  A little inspection, however, showed that
the copy was a second hand one.

Now that he had taken his degree the next thing to look forward to was
ordination--about which Theobald had thought little hitherto beyond
acquiescing in it as something that would come as a matter of course some
day.  Now, however, it had actually come and was asserting itself as a
thing which should be only a few months off, and this rather frightened
him inasmuch as there would be no way out of it when he was once in it.
He did not like the near view of ordination as well as the distant one,
and even made some feeble efforts to escape, as may be perceived by the
following correspondence which his son Ernest found among his father's
papers written on gilt-edged paper, in faded ink and tied neatly round
with a piece of tape, but without any note or comment.  I have altered
nothing.  The letters are as follows:--

   "My dear Father,--I do not like opening up a question which has been
   considered settled, but as the time approaches I begin to be very
   doubtful how far I am fitted to be a clergyman.  Not, I am thankful to
   say, that I have the faintest doubts about the Church of England, and
   I could subscribe cordially to every one of the thirty-nine articles
   which do indeed appear to me to be the _ne plus ultra_ of human
   wisdom, and Paley, too, leaves no loop-hole for an opponent; but I am
   sure I should be running counter to your wishes if I were to conceal
   from you that I do not feel the inward call to be a minister of the
   gospel that I shall have to say I have felt when the Bishop ordains
   me.  I try to get this feeling, I pray for it earnestly, and sometimes
   half think that I have got it, but in a little time it wears off, and
   though I have no absolute repugnance to being a clergyman and trust
   that if I am one I shall endeavour to live to the Glory of God and to
   advance His interests upon earth, yet I feel that something more than
   this is wanted before I am fully justified in going into the Church.  I
   am aware that I have been a great expense to you in spite of my
   scholarships, but you have ever taught me that I should obey my
   conscience, and my conscience tells me I should do wrong if I became a
   clergyman.  God may yet give me the spirit for which I assure you I
   have been and am continually praying, but He may not, and in that case
   would it not be better for me to try and look out for something else?
   I know that neither you nor John wish me to go into your business, nor
   do I understand anything about money matters, but is there nothing
   else that I can do?  I do not like to ask you to maintain me while I
   go in for medicine or the bar; but when I get my fellowship, which
   should not be long first, I will endeavour to cost you nothing
   further, and I might make a little money by writing or taking pupils.
   I trust you will not think this letter improper; nothing is further
   from my wish than to cause you any uneasiness.  I hope you will make
   allowance for my present feelings which, indeed, spring from nothing
   but from that respect for my conscience which no one has so often
   instilled into me as yourself.  Pray let me have a few lines shortly.
   I hope your cold is better.  With love to Eliza and Maria, I am, your
   affectionate son,

   "THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

   "Dear Theobald,--I can enter into your feelings and have no wish to
   quarrel with your expression of them.  It is quite right and natural
   that you should feel as you do except as regards one passage, the
   impropriety of which you will yourself doubtless feel upon reflection,
   and to which I will not further allude than to say that it has wounded
   me.  You should not have said 'in spite of my scholarships.'  It was
   only proper that if you could do anything to assist me in bearing the
   heavy burden of your education, the money should be, as it was, made
   over to myself.  Every line in your letter convinces me that you are
   under the influence of a morbid sensitiveness which is one of the
   devil's favourite devices for luring people to their destruction.  I
   have, as you say, been at great expense with your education.  Nothing
   has been spared by me to give you the advantages, which, as an English
   gentleman, I was anxious to afford my son, but I am not prepared to
   see that expense thrown away and to have to begin again from the
   beginning, merely because you have taken some foolish scruples into
   your head, which you should resist as no less unjust to yourself than
   to me.

   "Don't give way to that restless desire for change which is the bane
   of so many persons of both sexes at the present day.

   "Of course you needn't be ordained: nobody will compel you; you are
   perfectly free; you are twenty-three years of age, and should know
   your own mind; but why not have known it sooner, instead of never so
   much as breathing a hint of opposition until I have had all the
   expense of sending you to the University, which I should never have
   done unless I had believed you to have made up your mind about taking
   orders?  I have letters from you in which you express the most perfect
   willingness to be ordained, and your brother and sisters will bear me
   out in saying that no pressure of any sort has been put upon you.  You
   mistake your own mind, and are suffering from a nervous timidity which
   may be very natural but may not the less be pregnant with serious
   consequences to yourself.  I am not at all well, and the anxiety
   occasioned by your letter is naturally preying upon me.  May God guide
   you to a better judgement.--Your affectionate father, G. PONTIFEX."

On the receipt of this letter Theobald plucked up his spirits.  "My
father," he said to himself, "tells me I need not be ordained if I do not
like.  I do not like, and therefore I will not be ordained.  But what was
the meaning of the words 'pregnant with serious consequences to
yourself'?  Did there lurk a threat under these words--though it was
impossible to lay hold of it or of them?  Were they not intended to
produce all the effect of a threat without being actually threatening?"

Theobald knew his father well enough to be little likely to misapprehend
his meaning, but having ventured so far on the path of opposition, and
being really anxious to get out of being ordained if he could, he
determined to venture farther.  He accordingly wrote the following:

   "My dear father,--You tell me--and I heartily thank you--that no one
   will compel me to be ordained.  I knew you would not press ordination
   upon me if my conscience was seriously opposed to it; I have therefore
   resolved on giving up the idea, and believe that if you will continue
   to allow me what you do at present, until I get my fellowship, which
   should not be long, I will then cease putting you to further expense.
   I will make up my mind as soon as possible what profession I will
   adopt, and will let you know at once.--Your affectionate son, THEOBALD
   PONTIFEX."

The remaining letter, written by return of post, must now be given.  It
has the merit of brevity.

   "Dear Theobald,--I have received yours.  I am at a loss to conceive
   its motive, but am very clear as to its effect.  You shall not receive
   a single sixpence from me till you come to your senses.  Should you
   persist in your folly and wickedness, I am happy to remember that I
   have yet other children whose conduct I can depend upon to be a source
   of credit and happiness to me.--Your affectionate but troubled father,
   G. PONTIFEX."

I do not know the immediate sequel to the foregoing correspondence, but
it all came perfectly right in the end.  Either Theobald's heart failed
him, or he interpreted the outward shove which his father gave him, as
the inward call for which I have no doubt he prayed with great
earnestness--for he was a firm believer in the efficacy of prayer.  And
so am I under certain circumstances.  Tennyson has said that more things
are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, but he has wisely
refrained from saying whether they are good things or bad things.  It
might perhaps be as well if the world were to dream of, or even become
wide awake to, some of the things that are being wrought by prayer.  But
the question is avowedly difficult.  In the end Theobald got his
fellowship by a stroke of luck very soon after taking his degree, and was
ordained in the autumn of the same year, 1825.




CHAPTER IX


Mr Allaby was rector of Crampsford, a village a few miles from Cambridge.
He, too, had taken a good degree, had got a fellowship, and in the course
of time had accepted a college living of about 400 pounds a year and a
house.  His private income did not exceed 200 pounds a year.  On
resigning his fellowship he married a woman a good deal younger than
himself who bore him eleven children, nine of whom--two sons and seven
daughters--were living.  The two eldest daughters had married fairly
well, but at the time of which I am now writing there were still five
unmarried, of ages varying between thirty and twenty-two--and the sons
were neither of them yet off their father's hands.  It was plain that if
anything were to happen to Mr Allaby the family would be left poorly off,
and this made both Mr and Mrs Allaby as unhappy as it ought to have made
them.

Reader, did you ever have an income at best none too large, which died
with you all except 200 pounds a year?  Did you ever at the same time
have two sons who must be started in life somehow, and five daughters
still unmarried for whom you would only be too thankful to find
husbands--if you knew how to find them?  If morality is that which, on
the whole, brings a man peace in his declining years--if, that is to say,
it is not an utter swindle, can you under these circumstances flatter
yourself that you have led a moral life?

And this, even though your wife has been so good a woman that you have
not grown tired of her, and has not fallen into such ill-health as lowers
your own health in sympathy; and though your family has grown up
vigorous, amiable, and blessed with common sense.  I know many old men
and women who are reputed moral, but who are living with partners whom
they have long ceased to love, or who have ugly disagreeable maiden
daughters for whom they have never been able to find husbands--daughters
whom they loathe and by whom they are loathed in secret, or sons whose
folly or extravagance is a perpetual wear and worry to them.  Is it moral
for a man to have brought such things upon himself?  Someone should do
for morals what that old Pecksniff Bacon has obtained the credit of
having done for science.

But to return to Mr and Mrs Allaby.  Mrs Allaby talked about having
married two of her daughters as though it had been the easiest thing in
the world.  She talked in this way because she heard other mothers do so,
but in her heart of hearts she did not know how she had done it, nor
indeed, if it had been her doing at all.  First there had been a young
man in connection with whom she had tried to practise certain manoeuvres
which she had rehearsed in imagination over and over again, but which she
found impossible to apply in practice.  Then there had been weeks of a
_wurra wurra_ of hopes and fears and little stratagems which as often as
not proved injudicious, and then somehow or other in the end, there lay
the young man bound and with an arrow through his heart at her daughter's
feet.  It seemed to her to be all a fluke which she could have little or
no hope of repeating.  She had indeed repeated it once, and might perhaps
with good luck repeat it yet once again--but five times over!  It was
awful: why she would rather have three confinements than go through the
wear and tear of marrying a single daughter.

Nevertheless it had got to be done, and poor Mrs Allaby never looked at a
young man without an eye to his being a future son-in-law.  Papas and
mammas sometimes ask young men whether their intentions are honourable
towards their daughters.  I think young men might occasionally ask papas
and mammas whether their intentions are honourable before they accept
invitations to houses where there are still unmarried daughters.

"I can't afford a curate, my dear," said Mr Allaby to his wife when the
pair were discussing what was next to be done.  "It will be better to get
some young man to come and help me for a time upon a Sunday.  A guinea a
Sunday will do this, and we can chop and change till we get someone who
suits."  So it was settled that Mr Allaby's health was not so strong as
it had been, and that he stood in need of help in the performance of his
Sunday duty.

Mrs Allaby had a great friend--a certain Mrs Cowey, wife of the
celebrated Professor Cowey.  She was what was called a truly spiritually
minded woman, a trifle portly, with an incipient beard, and an extensive
connection among undergraduates, more especially among those who were
inclined to take part in the great evangelical movement which was then at
its height.  She gave evening parties once a fortnight at which prayer
was part of the entertainment.  She was not only spiritually minded, but,
as enthusiastic Mrs Allaby used to exclaim, she was a thorough woman of
the world at the same time and had such a fund of strong masculine good
sense.  She too had daughters, but, as she used to say to Mrs Allaby, she
had been less fortunate than Mrs Allaby herself, for one by one they had
married and left her so that her old age would have been desolate indeed
if her Professor had not been spared to her.

Mrs Cowey, of course, knew the run of all the bachelor clergy in the
University, and was the very person to assist Mrs Allaby in finding an
eligible assistant for her husband, so this last named lady drove over
one morning in the November of 1825, by arrangement, to take an early
dinner with Mrs Cowey and spend the afternoon.  After dinner the two
ladies retired together, and the business of the day began.  How they
fenced, how they saw through one another, with what loyalty they
pretended not to see through one another, with what gentle dalliance they
prolonged the conversation discussing the spiritual fitness of this or
that deacon, and the other pros and cons connected with him after his
spiritual fitness had been disposed of, all this must be left to the
imagination of the reader.  Mrs Cowey had been so accustomed to scheming
on her own account that she would scheme for anyone rather than not
scheme at all.  Many mothers turned to her in their hour of need and,
provided they were spiritually minded, Mrs Cowey never failed to do her
best for them; if the marriage of a young Bachelor of Arts was not made
in Heaven, it was probably made, or at any rate attempted, in Mrs Cowey's
drawing-room.  On the present occasion all the deacons of the University
in whom there lurked any spark of promise were exhaustively discussed,
and the upshot was that our friend Theobald was declared by Mrs Cowey to
be about the best thing she could do that afternoon.

"I don't know that he's a particularly fascinating young man, my dear,"
said Mrs Cowey, "and he's only a second son, but then he's got his
fellowship, and even the second son of such a man as Mr Pontifex the
publisher should have something very comfortable."

"Why yes, my dear," rejoined Mrs Allaby complacently, "that's what one
rather feels."




CHAPTER X


The interview, like all other good things had to come to an end; the days
were short, and Mrs Allaby had a six miles' drive to Crampsford.  When
she was muffled up and had taken her seat, Mr Allaby's _factotum_, James,
could perceive no change in her appearance, and little knew what a series
of delightful visions he was driving home along with his mistress.

Professor Cowey had published works through Theobald's father, and
Theobald had on this account been taken in tow by Mrs Cowey from the
beginning of his University career.  She had had her eye upon him for
some time past, and almost as much felt it her duty to get him off her
list of young men for whom wives had to be provided, as poor Mrs Allaby
did to try and get a husband for one of her daughters.  She now wrote and
asked him to come and see her, in terms that awakened his curiosity.  When
he came she broached the subject of Mr Allaby's failing health, and after
the smoothing away of such difficulties as were only Mrs Cowey's due,
considering the interest she had taken, it was allowed to come to pass
that Theobald should go to Crampsford for six successive Sundays and take
the half of Mr Allaby's duty at half a guinea a Sunday, for Mrs Cowey cut
down the usual stipend mercilessly, and Theobald was not strong enough to
resist.

Ignorant of the plots which were being prepared for his peace of mind and
with no idea beyond that of earning his three guineas, and perhaps of
astonishing the inhabitants of Crampsford by his academic learning,
Theobald walked over to the Rectory one Sunday morning early in
December--a few weeks only after he had been ordained.  He had taken a
great deal of pains with his sermon, which was on the subject of
geology--then coming to the fore as a theological bugbear.  He showed
that so far as geology was worth anything at all--and he was too liberal
entirely to pooh-pooh it--it confirmed the absolutely historical
character of the Mosaic account of the Creation as given in Genesis.  Any
phenomena which at first sight appeared to make against this view were
only partial phenomena and broke down upon investigation.  Nothing could
be in more excellent taste, and when Theobald adjourned to the rectory,
where he was to dine between the services, Mr Allaby complimented him
warmly upon his debut, while the ladies of the family could hardly find
words with which to express their admiration.

Theobald knew nothing about women.  The only women he had been thrown in
contact with were his sisters, two of whom were always correcting him,
and a few school friends whom these had got their father to ask to
Elmhurst.  These young ladies had either been so shy that they and
Theobald had never amalgamated, or they had been supposed to be clever
and had said smart things to him.  He did not say smart things himself
and did not want other people to say them.  Besides, they talked about
music--and he hated music--or pictures--and he hated pictures--or
books--and except the classics he hated books.  And then sometimes he was
wanted to dance with them, and he did not know how to dance, and did not
want to know.

At Mrs Cowey's parties again he had seen some young ladies and had been
introduced to them.  He had tried to make himself agreeable, but was
always left with the impression that he had not been successful.  The
young ladies of Mrs Cowey's set were by no means the most attractive that
might have been found in the University, and Theobald may be excused for
not losing his heart to the greater number of them, while if for a minute
or two he was thrown in with one of the prettier and more agreeable girls
he was almost immediately cut out by someone less bashful than himself,
and sneaked off, feeling as far as the fair sex was concerned, like the
impotent man at the pool of Bethesda.

What a really nice girl might have done with him I cannot tell, but fate
had thrown none such in his way except his youngest sister Alethea, whom
he might perhaps have liked if she had not been his sister.  The result
of his experience was that women had never done him any good and he was
not accustomed to associate them with any pleasure; if there was a part
of Hamlet in connection with them it had been so completely cut out in
the edition of the play in which he was required to act that he had come
to disbelieve in its existence.  As for kissing, he had never kissed a
woman in his life except his sister--and my own sisters when we were all
small children together.  Over and above these kisses, he had until quite
lately been required to imprint a solemn flabby kiss night and morning
upon his father's cheek, and this, to the best of my belief, was the
extent of Theobald's knowledge in the matter of kissing, at the time of
which I am now writing.  The result of the foregoing was that he had come
to dislike women, as mysterious beings whose ways were not as his ways,
nor their thoughts as his thoughts.

With these antecedents Theobald naturally felt rather bashful on finding
himself the admired of five strange young ladies.  I remember when I was
a boy myself I was once asked to take tea at a girls' school where one of
my sisters was boarding.  I was then about twelve years old.  Everything
went off well during tea-time, for the Lady Principal of the
establishment was present.  But there came a time when she went away and
I was left alone with the girls.  The moment the mistress's back was
turned the head girl, who was about my own age, came up, pointed her
finger at me, made a face and said solemnly, "A na-a-sty bo-o-y!"  All
the girls followed her in rotation making the same gesture and the same
reproach upon my being a boy.  It gave me a great scare.  I believe I
cried, and I know it was a long time before I could again face a girl
without a strong desire to run away.

Theobald felt at first much as I had myself done at the girls' school,
but the Miss Allabys did not tell him he was a nasty bo-o-oy.  Their papa
and mamma were so cordial and they themselves lifted him so deftly over
conversational stiles that before dinner was over Theobald thought the
family to be a really very charming one, and felt as though he were being
appreciated in a way to which he had not hitherto been accustomed.

With dinner his shyness wore off.  He was by no means plain, his academic
prestige was very fair.  There was nothing about him to lay hold of as
unconventional or ridiculous; the impression he created upon the young
ladies was quite as favourable as that which they had created upon
himself; for they knew not much more about men than he about women.

As soon as he was gone, the harmony of the establishment was broken by a
storm which arose upon the question which of them it should be who should
become Mrs Pontifex.  "My dears," said their father, when he saw that
they did not seem likely to settle the matter among themselves, "Wait
till to-morrow, and then play at cards for him."  Having said which he
retired to his study, where he took a nightly glass of whisky and a pipe
of tobacco.




CHAPTER XI


The next morning saw Theobald in his rooms coaching a pupil, and the Miss
Allabys in the eldest Miss Allaby's bedroom playing at cards with
Theobald for the stakes.

The winner was Christina, the second unmarried daughter, then just twenty-
seven years old and therefore four years older than Theobald.  The
younger sisters complained that it was throwing a husband away to let
Christina try and catch him, for she was so much older that she had no
chance; but Christina showed fight in a way not usual with her, for she
was by nature yielding and good tempered.  Her mother thought it better
to back her up, so the two dangerous ones were packed off then and there
on visits to friends some way off, and those alone allowed to remain at
home whose loyalty could be depended upon.  The brothers did not even
suspect what was going on and believed their father's getting assistance
was because he really wanted it.

The sisters who remained at home kept their words and gave Christina all
the help they could, for over and above their sense of fair play they
reflected that the sooner Theobald was landed, the sooner another deacon
might be sent for who might be won by themselves.  So quickly was all
managed that the two unreliable sisters were actually out of the house
before Theobald's next visit--which was on the Sunday following his
first.

This time Theobald felt quite at home in the house of his new friends--for
so Mrs Allaby insisted that he should call them.  She took, she said,
such a motherly interest in young men, especially in clergymen.  Theobald
believed every word she said, as he had believed his father and all his
elders from his youth up.  Christina sat next him at dinner and played
her cards no less judiciously than she had played them in her sister's
bedroom.  She smiled (and her smile was one of her strong points)
whenever he spoke to her; she went through all her little artlessnesses
and set forth all her little wares in what she believed to be their most
taking aspect.  Who can blame her?  Theobald was not the ideal she had
dreamed of when reading Byron upstairs with her sisters, but he was an
actual within the bounds of possibility, and after all not a bad actual
as actuals went.  What else could she do?  Run away?  She dared not.
Marry beneath her and be considered a disgrace to her family?  She dared
not.  Remain at home and become an old maid and be laughed at?  Not if
she could help it.  She did the only thing that could reasonably be
expected.  She was drowning; Theobald might be only a straw, but she
could catch at him and catch at him she accordingly did.

If the course of true love never runs smooth, the course of true match-
making sometimes does so.  The only ground for complaint in the present
case was that it was rather slow.  Theobald fell into the part assigned
to him more easily than Mrs Cowey and Mrs Allaby had dared to hope.  He
was softened by Christina's winning manners: he admired the high moral
tone of everything she said; her sweetness towards her sisters and her
father and mother, her readiness to undertake any small burden which no
one else seemed willing to undertake, her sprightly manners, all were
fascinating to one who, though unused to woman's society, was still a
human being.  He was flattered by her unobtrusive but obviously sincere
admiration for himself; she seemed to see him in a more favourable light,
and to understand him better than anyone outside of this charming family
had ever done.  Instead of snubbing him as his father, brother and
sisters did, she drew him out, listened attentively to all he chose to
say, and evidently wanted him to say still more.  He told a college
friend that he knew he was in love now; he really was, for he liked Miss
Allaby's society much better than that of his sisters.

Over and above the recommendations already enumerated, she had another in
the possession of what was supposed to be a very beautiful contralto
voice.  Her voice was certainly contralto, for she could not reach higher
than D in the treble; its only defect was that it did not go
correspondingly low in the bass: in those days, however, a contralto
voice was understood to include even a soprano if the soprano could not
reach soprano notes, and it was not necessary that it should have the
quality which we now assign to contralto.  What her voice wanted in range
and power was made up in the feeling with which she sang.  She had
transposed "Angels ever bright and fair" into a lower key, so as to make
it suit her voice, thus proving, as her mamma said, that she had a
thorough knowledge of the laws of harmony; not only did she do this, but
at every pause added an embellishment of arpeggios from one end to the
other of the keyboard, on a principle which her governess had taught her;
she thus added life and interest to an air which everyone--so she
said--must feel to be rather heavy in the form in which Handel left it.
As for her governess, she indeed had been a rarely accomplished musician:
she was a pupil of the famous Dr Clarke of Cambridge, and used to play
the overture to _Atalanta_, arranged by Mazzinghi.  Nevertheless, it was
some time before Theobald could bring his courage to the sticking point
of actually proposing.  He made it quite clear that he believed himself
to be much smitten, but month after month went by, during which there was
still so much hope in Theobald that Mr Allaby dared not discover that he
was able to do his duty for himself, and was getting impatient at the
number of half-guineas he was disbursing--and yet there was no proposal.
Christina's mother assured him that she was the best daughter in the
whole world, and would be a priceless treasure to the man who married
her.  Theobald echoed Mrs Allaby's sentiments with warmth, but still,
though he visited the Rectory two or three times a week, besides coming
over on Sundays--he did not propose.  "She is heart-whole yet, dear Mr
Pontifex," said Mrs Allaby, one day, "at least I believe she is.  It is
not for want of admirers--oh! no--she has had her full share of these,
but she is too, too difficult to please.  I think, however, she would
fall before a _great and good_ man."  And she looked hard at Theobald,
who blushed; but the days went by and still he did not propose.

Another time Theobald actually took Mrs Cowey into his confidence, and
the reader may guess what account of Christina he got from her.  Mrs
Cowey tried the jealousy manoeuvre and hinted at a possible rival.
Theobald was, or pretended to be, very much alarmed; a little rudimentary
pang of jealousy shot across his bosom and he began to believe with pride
that he was not only in love, but desperately in love or he would never
feel so jealous.  Nevertheless, day after day still went by and he did
not propose.

The Allabys behaved with great judgement.  They humoured him till his
retreat was practically cut off, though he still flattered himself that
it was open.  One day about six months after Theobald had become an
almost daily visitor at the Rectory the conversation happened to turn
upon long engagements.  "I don't like long engagements, Mr Allaby, do
you?" said Theobald imprudently.  "No," said Mr Allaby in a pointed tone,
"nor long courtships," and he gave Theobald a look which he could not
pretend to misunderstand.  He went back to Cambridge as fast as he could
go, and in dread of the conversation with Mr Allaby which he felt to be
impending, composed the following letter which he despatched that same
afternoon by a private messenger to Crampsford.  The letter was as
follows:--

   "Dearest Miss Christina,--I do not know whether you have guessed the
   feelings that I have long entertained for you--feelings which I have
   concealed as much as I could through fear of drawing you into an
   engagement which, if you enter into it, must be prolonged for a
   considerable time, but, however this may be, it is out of my power to
   conceal them longer; I love you, ardently, devotedly, and send these
   few lines asking you to be my wife, because I dare not trust my tongue
   to give adequate expression to the magnitude of my affection for you.

   "I cannot pretend to offer you a heart which has never known either
   love or disappointment.  I have loved already, and my heart was years
   in recovering from the grief I felt at seeing her become another's.
   That, however, is over, and having seen yourself I rejoice over a
   disappointment which I thought at one time would have been fatal to
   me.  It has left me a less ardent lover than I should perhaps
   otherwise have been, but it has increased tenfold my power of
   appreciating your many charms and my desire that you should become my
   wife.  Please let me have a few lines of answer by the bearer to let
   me know whether or not my suit is accepted.  If you accept me I will
   at once come and talk the matter over with Mr and Mrs Allaby, whom I
   shall hope one day to be allowed to call father and mother.

   "I ought to warn you that in the event of your consenting to be my
   wife it may be years before our union can be consummated, for I cannot
   marry till a college living is offered me.  If, therefore, you see fit
   to reject me, I shall be grieved rather than surprised.--Ever most
   devotedly yours,

   "THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

And this was all that his public school and University education had been
able to do for Theobald!  Nevertheless for his own part he thought his
letter rather a good one, and congratulated himself in particular upon
his cleverness in inventing the story of a previous attachment, behind
which he intended to shelter himself if Christina should complain of any
lack of fervour in his behaviour to her.

I need not give Christina's answer, which of course was to accept.  Much
as Theobald feared old Mr Allaby I do not think he would have wrought up
his courage to the point of actually proposing but for the fact of the
engagement being necessarily a long one, during which a dozen things
might turn up to break it off.  However much he may have disapproved of
long engagements for other people, I doubt whether he had any particular
objection to them in his own case.  A pair of lovers are like sunset and
sunrise: there are such things every day but we very seldom see them.
Theobald posed as the most ardent lover imaginable, but, to use the
vulgarism for the moment in fashion, it was all "side."  Christina was in
love, as indeed she had been twenty times already.  But then Christina
was impressionable and could not even hear the name "Missolonghi"
mentioned without bursting into tears.  When Theobald accidentally left
his sermon case behind him one Sunday, she slept with it in her bosom and
was forlorn when she had as it were to disgorge it on the following
Sunday; but I do not think Theobald ever took so much as an old
toothbrush of Christina's to bed with him.  Why, I knew a young man once
who got hold of his mistress's skates and slept with them for a fortnight
and cried when he had to give them up.




CHAPTER XII


Theobald's engagement was all very well as far as it went, but there was
an old gentleman with a bald head and rosy cheeks in a counting-house in
Paternoster Row who must sooner or later be told of what his son had in
view, and Theobald's heart fluttered when he asked himself what view this
old gentleman was likely to take of the situation.  The murder, however,
had to come out, and Theobald and his intended, perhaps imprudently,
resolved on making a clean breast of it at once.  He wrote what he and
Christina, who helped him to draft the letter, thought to be everything
that was filial, and expressed himself as anxious to be married with the
least possible delay.  He could not help saying this, as Christina was at
his shoulder, and he knew it was safe, for his father might be trusted
not to help him.  He wound up by asking his father to use any influence
that might be at his command to help him to get a living, inasmuch as it
might be years before a college living fell vacant, and he saw no other
chance of being able to marry, for neither he nor his intended had any
money except Theobald's fellowship, which would, of course, lapse on his
taking a wife.

Any step of Theobald's was sure to be objectionable in his father's eyes,
but that at three-and-twenty he should want to marry a penniless girl who
was four years older than himself, afforded a golden opportunity which
the old gentleman--for so I may now call him, as he was at least
sixty--embraced with characteristic eagerness.

   "The ineffable folly," he wrote, on receiving his son's letter, "of
   your fancied passion for Miss Allaby fills me with the gravest
   apprehensions.  Making every allowance for a lover's blindness, I
   still have no doubt that the lady herself is a well-conducted and
   amiable young person, who would not disgrace our family, but were she
   ten times more desirable as a daughter-in-law than I can allow myself
   to hope, your joint poverty is an insuperable objection to your
   marriage.  I have four other children besides yourself, and my
   expenses do not permit me to save money.  This year they have been
   especially heavy, indeed I have had to purchase two not inconsiderable
   pieces of land which happened to come into the market and were
   necessary to complete a property which I have long wanted to round off
   in this way.  I gave you an education regardless of expense, which has
   put you in possession of a comfortable income, at an age when many
   young men are dependent.  I have thus started you fairly in life, and
   may claim that you should cease to be a drag upon me further.  Long
   engagements are proverbially unsatisfactory, and in the present case
   the prospect seems interminable.  What interest, pray, do you suppose
   I have that I could get a living for you?  Can I go up and down the
   country begging people to provide for my son because he has taken it
   into his head to want to get married without sufficient means?

   "I do not wish to write unkindly, nothing can be farther from my real
   feelings towards you, but there is often more kindness in plain
   speaking than in any amount of soft words which can end in no
   substantial performance.  Of course, I bear in mind that you are of
   age, and can therefore please yourself, but if you choose to claim the
   strict letter of the law, and act without consideration for your
   father's feelings, you must not be surprised if you one day find that
   I have claimed a like liberty for myself.--Believe me, your
   affectionate father, G. PONTIFEX."

I found this letter along with those already given and a few more which I
need not give, but throughout which the same tone prevails, and in all of
which there is the more or less obvious shake of the will near the end of
the letter.  Remembering Theobald's general dumbness concerning his
father for the many years I knew him after his father's death, there was
an eloquence in the preservation of the letters and in their endorsement
"Letters from my father," which seemed to have with it some faint odour
of health and nature.

Theobald did not show his father's letter to Christina, nor, indeed, I
believe to anyone.  He was by nature secretive, and had been repressed
too much and too early to be capable of railing or blowing off steam
where his father was concerned.  His sense of wrong was still
inarticulate, felt as a dull dead weight ever present day by day, and if
he woke at night-time still continually present, but he hardly knew what
it was.  I was about the closest friend he had, and I saw but little of
him, for I could not get on with him for long together.  He said I had no
reverence; whereas I thought that I had plenty of reverence for what
deserved to be revered, but that the gods which he deemed golden were in
reality made of baser metal.  He never, as I have said, complained of his
father to me, and his only other friends were, like himself, staid and
prim, of evangelical tendencies, and deeply imbued with a sense of the
sinfulness of any act of insubordination to parents--good young men, in
fact--and one cannot blow off steam to a good young man.

When Christina was informed by her lover of his father's opposition, and
of the time which must probably elapse before they could be married, she
offered--with how much sincerity I know not--to set him free from his
engagement; but Theobald declined to be released--"not at least," as he
said, "at present."  Christina and Mrs Allaby knew they could manage him,
and on this not very satisfactory footing the engagement was continued.

His engagement and his refusal to be released at once raised Theobald in
his own good opinion.  Dull as he was, he had no small share of quiet
self-approbation.  He admired himself for his University distinction, for
the purity of his life (I said of him once that if he had only a better
temper he would be as innocent as a new-laid egg) and for his
unimpeachable integrity in money matters.  He did not despair of
advancement in the Church when he had once got a living, and of course it
was within the bounds of possibility that he might one day become a
Bishop, and Christina said she felt convinced that this would ultimately
be the case.

As was natural for the daughter and intended wife of a clergyman,
Christina's thoughts ran much upon religion, and she was resolved that
even though an exalted position in this world were denied to her and
Theobald, their virtues should be fully appreciated in the next.  Her
religious opinions coincided absolutely with Theobald's own, and many a
conversation did she have with him about the glory of God, and the
completeness with which they would devote themselves to it, as soon as
Theobald had got his living and they were married.  So certain was she of
the great results which would then ensue that she wondered at times at
the blindness shown by Providence towards its own truest interests in not
killing off the rectors who stood between Theobald and his living a
little faster.

In those days people believed with a simple downrightness which I do not
observe among educated men and women now.  It had never so much as
crossed Theobald's mind to doubt the literal accuracy of any syllable in
the Bible.  He had never seen any book in which this was disputed, nor
met with anyone who doubted it.  True, there was just a little scare
about geology, but there was nothing in it.  If it was said that God made
the world in six days, why He did make it in six days, neither in more
nor less; if it was said that He put Adam to sleep, took out one of his
ribs and made a woman of it, why it was so as a matter of course.  He,
Adam, went to sleep as it might be himself, Theobald Pontifex, in a
garden, as it might be the garden at Crampsford Rectory during the summer
months when it was so pretty, only that it was larger, and had some tame
wild animals in it.  Then God came up to him, as it might be Mr Allaby or
his father, dexterously took out one of his ribs without waking him, and
miraculously healed the wound so that no trace of the operation remained.
Finally, God had taken the rib perhaps into the greenhouse, and had
turned it into just such another young woman as Christina.  That was how
it was done; there was neither difficulty nor shadow of difficulty about
the matter.  Could not God do anything He liked, and had He not in His
own inspired Book told us that He had done this?

This was the average attitude of fairly educated young men and women
towards the Mosaic cosmogony fifty, forty, or even twenty years ago.  The
combating of infidelity, therefore, offered little scope for enterprising
young clergymen, nor had the Church awakened to the activity which she
has since displayed among the poor in our large towns.  These were then
left almost without an effort at resistance or co-operation to the
labours of those who had succeeded Wesley.  Missionary work indeed in
heathen countries was being carried on with some energy, but Theobald did
not feel any call to be a missionary.  Christina suggested this to him
more than once, and assured him of the unspeakable happiness it would be
to her to be the wife of a missionary, and to share his dangers; she and
Theobald might even be martyred; of course they would be martyred
simultaneously, and martyrdom many years hence as regarded from the
arbour in the Rectory garden was not painful, it would ensure them a
glorious future in the next world, and at any rate posthumous renown in
this--even if they were not miraculously restored to life again--and such
things had happened ere now in the case of martyrs.  Theobald, however,
had not been kindled by Christina's enthusiasm, so she fell back upon the
Church of Rome--an enemy more dangerous, if possible, than paganism
itself.  A combat with Romanism might even yet win for her and Theobald
the crown of martyrdom.  True, the Church of Rome was tolerably quiet
just then, but it was the calm before the storm, of this she was assured,
with a conviction deeper than she could have attained by any argument
founded upon mere reason.

"We, dearest Theobald," she exclaimed, "will be ever faithful.  We will
stand firm and support one another even in the hour of death itself.  God
in his mercy may spare us from being burnt alive.  He may or may not do
so.  Oh Lord" (and she turned her eyes prayerfully to Heaven), "spare my
Theobald, or grant that he may be beheaded."

"My dearest," said Theobald gravely, "do not let us agitate ourselves
unduly.  If the hour of trial comes we shall be best prepared to meet it
by having led a quiet unobtrusive life of self-denial and devotion to
God's glory.  Such a life let us pray God that it may please Him to
enable us to pray that we may lead."

"Dearest Theobald," exclaimed Christina, drying the tears that had
gathered in her eyes, "you are always, always right.  Let us be
self-denying, pure, upright, truthful in word and deed."  She clasped her
hands and looked up to Heaven as she spoke.

"Dearest," rejoined her lover, "we have ever hitherto endeavoured to be
all of these things; we have not been worldly people; let us watch and
pray that we may so continue to the end."

The moon had risen and the arbour was getting damp, so they adjourned
further aspirations for a more convenient season.  At other times
Christina pictured herself and Theobald as braving the scorn of almost
every human being in the achievement of some mighty task which should
redound to the honour of her Redeemer.  She could face anything for this.
But always towards the end of her vision there came a little coronation
scene high up in the golden regions of the Heavens, and a diadem was set
upon her head by the Son of Man Himself, amid a host of angels and
archangels who looked on with envy and admiration--and here even Theobald
himself was out of it.  If there could be such a thing as the Mammon of
Righteousness Christina would have assuredly made friends with it.  Her
papa and mamma were very estimable people and would in the course of time
receive Heavenly Mansions in which they would be exceedingly comfortable;
so doubtless would her sisters; so perhaps, even might her brothers; but
for herself she felt that a higher destiny was preparing, which it was
her duty never to lose sight of.  The first step towards it would be her
marriage with Theobald.  In spite, however, of these flights of religious
romanticism, Christina was a good-tempered kindly-natured girl enough,
who, if she had married a sensible layman--we will say a
hotel-keeper--would have developed into a good landlady and been
deservedly popular with her guests.

Such was Theobald's engaged life.  Many a little present passed between
the pair, and many a small surprise did they prepare pleasantly for one
another.  They never quarrelled, and neither of them ever flirted with
anyone else.  Mrs Allaby and his future sisters-in-law idolised Theobald
in spite of its being impossible to get another deacon to come and be
played for as long as Theobald was able to help Mr Allaby, which now of
course he did free gratis and for nothing; two of the sisters, however,
did manage to find husbands before Christina was actually married, and on
each occasion Theobald played the part of decoy elephant.  In the end
only two out of the seven daughters remained single.

After three or four years, old Mr Pontifex became accustomed to his son's
engagement and looked upon it as among the things which had now a
prescriptive right to toleration.  In the spring of 1831, more than five
years after Theobald had first walked over to Crampsford, one of the best
livings in the gift of the College unexpectedly fell vacant, and was for
various reasons declined by the two fellows senior to Theobald, who might
each have been expected to take it.  The living was then offered to and
of course accepted by Theobald, being in value not less than 500 pounds a
year with a suitable house and garden.  Old Mr Pontifex then came down
more handsomely than was expected and settled 10,000 pounds on his son
and daughter-in-law for life with remainder to such of their issue as
they might appoint.  In the month of July, 1831 Theobald and Christina
became man and wife.




CHAPTER XIII


A due number of old shoes had been thrown at the carriage in which the
happy pair departed from the Rectory, and it had turned the corner at the
bottom of the village.  It could then be seen for two or three hundred
yards creeping past a fir coppice, and after this was lost to view.

"John," said Mr Allaby to his man-servant, "shut the gate;" and he went
indoors with a sigh of relief which seemed to say: "I have done it, and I
am alive."  This was the reaction after a burst of enthusiastic merriment
during which the old gentleman had run twenty yards after the carriage to
fling a slipper at it--which he had duly flung.

But what were the feelings of Theobald and Christina when the village was
passed and they were rolling quietly by the fir plantation?  It is at
this point that even the stoutest heart must fail, unless it beat in the
breast of one who is over head and ears in love.  If a young man is in a
small boat on a choppy sea, along with his affianced bride and both are
sea-sick, and if the sick swain can forget his own anguish in the
happiness of holding the fair one's head when she is at her worst--then
he is in love, and his heart will be in no danger of failing him as he
passes his fir plantation.  Other people, and unfortunately by far the
greater number of those who get married must be classed among the "other
people," will inevitably go through a quarter or half an hour of greater
or less badness as the case may be.  Taking numbers into account, I
should think more mental suffering had been undergone in the streets
leading from St George's, Hanover Square, than in the condemned cells of
Newgate.  There is no time at which what the Italians call _la figlia
della Morte_ lays her cold hand upon a man more awfully than during the
first half hour that he is alone with a woman whom he has married but
never genuinely loved.

Death's daughter did not spare Theobald.  He had behaved very well
hitherto.  When Christina had offered to let him go, he had stuck to his
post with a magnanimity on which he had plumed himself ever since.  From
that time forward he had said to himself: "I, at any rate, am the very
soul of honour; I am not," etc., etc.  True, at the moment of magnanimity
the actual cash payment, so to speak, was still distant; when his father
gave formal consent to his marriage things began to look more serious;
when the college living had fallen vacant and been accepted they looked
more serious still; but when Christina actually named the day, then
Theobald's heart fainted within him.

The engagement had gone on so long that he had got into a groove, and the
prospect of change was disconcerting.  Christina and he had got on, he
thought to himself, very nicely for a great number of years; why--why--why
should they not continue to go on as they were doing now for the rest of
their lives?  But there was no more chance of escape for him than for the
sheep which is being driven to the butcher's back premises, and like the
sheep he felt that there was nothing to be gained by resistance, so he
made none.  He behaved, in fact, with decency, and was declared on all
hands to be one of the happiest men imaginable.

Now, however, to change the metaphor, the drop had actually fallen, and
the poor wretch was hanging in mid air along with the creature of his
affections.  This creature was now thirty-three years old, and looked it:
she had been weeping, and her eyes and nose were reddish; if "I have done
it and I am alive," was written on Mr Allaby's face after he had thrown
the shoe, "I have done it, and I do not see how I can possibly live much
longer" was upon the face of Theobald as he was being driven along by the
fir Plantation.  This, however, was not apparent at the Rectory.  All
that could be seen there was the bobbing up and down of the postilion's
head, which just over-topped the hedge by the roadside as he rose in his
stirrups, and the black and yellow body of the carriage.

For some time the pair said nothing: what they must have felt during
their first half hour, the reader must guess, for it is beyond my power
to tell him; at the end of that time, however, Theobald had rummaged up a
conclusion from some odd corner of his soul to the effect that now he and
Christina were married the sooner they fell into their future mutual
relations the better.  If people who are in a difficulty will only do the
first little reasonable thing which they can clearly recognise as
reasonable, they will always find the next step more easy both to see and
take.  What, then, thought Theobald, was here at this moment the first
and most obvious matter to be considered, and what would be an equitable
view of his and Christina's relative positions in respect to it?  Clearly
their first dinner was their first joint entry into the duties and
pleasures of married life.  No less clearly it was Christina's duty to
order it, and his own to eat it and pay for it.

The arguments leading to this conclusion, and the conclusion itself,
flashed upon Theobald about three and a half miles after he had left
Crampsford on the road to Newmarket.  He had breakfasted early, but his
usual appetite had failed him.  They had left the vicarage at noon
without staying for the wedding breakfast.  Theobald liked an early
dinner; it dawned upon him that he was beginning to be hungry; from this
to the conclusion stated in the preceding paragraph the steps had been
easy.  After a few minutes' further reflection he broached the matter to
his bride, and thus the ice was broken.

Mrs Theobald was not prepared for so sudden an assumption of importance.
Her nerves, never of the strongest, had been strung to their highest
tension by the event of the morning.  She wanted to escape observation;
she was conscious of looking a little older than she quite liked to look
as a bride who had been married that morning; she feared the landlady,
the chamber-maid, the waiter--everybody and everything; her heart beat so
fast that she could hardly speak, much less go through the ordeal of
ordering dinner in a strange hotel with a strange landlady.  She begged
and prayed to be let off.  If Theobald would only order dinner this once,
she would order it any day and every day in future.

But the inexorable Theobald was not to be put off with such absurd
excuses.  He was master now.  Had not Christina less than two hours ago
promised solemnly to honour and obey him, and was she turning restive
over such a trifle as this?  The loving smile departed from his face, and
was succeeded by a scowl which that old Turk, his father, might have
envied.  "Stuff and nonsense, my dearest Christina," he exclaimed mildly,
and stamped his foot upon the floor of the carriage.  "It is a wife's
duty to order her husband's dinner; you are my wife, and I shall expect
you to order mine."  For Theobald was nothing if he was not logical.

The bride began to cry, and said he was unkind; whereon he said nothing,
but revolved unutterable things in his heart.  Was this, then, the end of
his six years of unflagging devotion?  Was it for this that when
Christina had offered to let him off, he had stuck to his engagement?  Was
this the outcome of her talks about duty and spiritual mindedness--that
now upon the very day of her marriage she should fail to see that the
first step in obedience to God lay in obedience to himself?  He would
drive back to Crampsford; he would complain to Mr and Mrs Allaby; he
didn't mean to have married Christina; he hadn't married her; it was all
a hideous dream; he would--But a voice kept ringing in his ears which
said: "YOU CAN'T, CAN'T, CAN'T."

"CAN'T I?" screamed the unhappy creature to himself.

"No," said the remorseless voice, "YOU CAN'T.  YOU ARE A MARRIED MAN."

He rolled back in his corner of the carriage and for the first time felt
how iniquitous were the marriage laws of England.  But he would buy
Milton's prose works and read his pamphlet on divorce.  He might perhaps
be able to get them at Newmarket.

So the bride sat crying in one corner of the carriage; and the bridegroom
sulked in the other, and he feared her as only a bridegroom can fear.

Presently, however, a feeble voice was heard from the bride's corner
saying:

"Dearest Theobald--dearest Theobald, forgive me; I have been very, very
wrong.  Please do not be angry with me.  I will order the--the--" but the
word "dinner" was checked by rising sobs.

When Theobald heard these words a load began to be lifted from his heart,
but he only looked towards her, and that not too pleasantly.

"Please tell me," continued the voice, "what you think you would like,
and I will tell the landlady when we get to Newmar--" but another burst
of sobs checked the completion of the word.

The load on Theobald's heart grew lighter and lighter.  Was it possible
that she might not be going to henpeck him after all?  Besides, had she
not diverted his attention from herself to his approaching dinner?

He swallowed down more of his apprehensions and said, but still gloomily,
"I think we might have a roast fowl with bread sauce, new potatoes and
green peas, and then we will see if they could let us have a cherry tart
and some cream."

After a few minutes more he drew her towards him, kissed away her tears,
and assured her that he knew she would be a good wife to him.

"Dearest Theobald," she exclaimed in answer, "you are an angel."

Theobald believed her, and in ten minutes more the happy couple alighted
at the inn at Newmarket.

Bravely did Christina go through her arduous task.  Eagerly did she
beseech the landlady, in secret, not to keep her Theobald waiting longer
than was absolutely necessary.

"If you have any soup ready, you know, Mrs Barber, it might save ten
minutes, for we might have it while the fowl was browning."

See how necessity had nerved her!  But in truth she had a splitting
headache, and would have given anything to have been alone.

The dinner was a success.  A pint of sherry had warmed Theobald's heart,
and he began to hope that, after all, matters might still go well with
him.  He had conquered in the first battle, and this gives great
prestige.  How easy it had been too!  Why had he never treated his
sisters in this way?  He would do so next time he saw them; he might in
time be able to stand up to his brother John, or even his father.  Thus
do we build castles in air when flushed with wine and conquest.

The end of the honeymoon saw Mrs Theobald the most devotedly obsequious
wife in all England.  According to the old saying, Theobald had killed
the cat at the beginning.  It had been a very little cat, a mere kitten
in fact, or he might have been afraid to face it, but such as it had been
he had challenged it to mortal combat, and had held up its dripping head
defiantly before his wife's face.  The rest had been easy.

Strange that one whom I have described hitherto as so timid and easily
put upon should prove such a Tartar all of a sudden on the day of his
marriage.  Perhaps I have passed over his years of courtship too rapidly.
During these he had become a tutor of his college, and had at last been
Junior Dean.  I never yet knew a man whose sense of his own importance
did not become adequately developed after he had held a resident
fellowship for five or six years.  True--immediately on arriving within a
ten mile radius of his father's house, an enchantment fell upon him, so
that his knees waxed weak, his greatness departed, and he again felt
himself like an overgrown baby under a perpetual cloud; but then he was
not often at Elmhurst, and as soon as he left it the spell was taken off
again; once more he became the fellow and tutor of his college, the
Junior Dean, the betrothed of Christina, the idol of the Allaby
womankind.  From all which it may be gathered that if Christina had been
a Barbary hen, and had ruffled her feathers in any show of resistance
Theobald would not have ventured to swagger with her, but she was not a
Barbary hen, she was only a common hen, and that too with rather a
smaller share of personal bravery than hens generally have.




CHAPTER XIV


Battersby-On-The-Hill was the name of the village of which Theobald was
now Rector.  It contained 400 or 500 inhabitants, scattered over a rather
large area, and consisting entirely of farmers and agricultural
labourers.  The Rectory was commodious, and placed on the brow of a hill
which gave it a delightful prospect.  There was a fair sprinkling of
neighbours within visiting range, but with one or two exceptions they
were the clergymen and clergymen's families of the surrounding villages.

By these the Pontifexes were welcomed as great acquisitions to the
neighbourhood.  Mr Pontifex, they said was so clever; he had been senior
classic and senior wrangler; a perfect genius in fact, and yet with so
much sound practical common sense as well.  As son of such a
distinguished man as the great Mr Pontifex the publisher he would come
into a large property by-and-by.  Was there not an elder brother?  Yes,
but there would be so much that Theobald would probably get something
very considerable.  Of course they would give dinner parties.  And Mrs
Pontifex, what a charming woman she was; she was certainly not exactly
pretty perhaps, but then she had such a sweet smile and her manner was so
bright and winning.  She was so devoted too to her husband and her
husband to her; they really did come up to one's ideas of what lovers
used to be in days of old; it was rare to meet with such a pair in these
degenerate times; it was quite beautiful, etc., etc.  Such were the
comments of the neighbours on the new arrivals.

As for Theobald's own parishioners, the farmers were civil and the
labourers and their wives obsequious.  There was a little dissent, the
legacy of a careless predecessor, but as Mrs Theobald said proudly, "I
think Theobald may be trusted to deal with _that_."  The church was then
an interesting specimen of late Norman, with some early English
additions.  It was what in these days would be called in a very bad state
of repair, but forty or fifty years ago few churches were in good repair.
If there is one feature more characteristic of the present generation
than another it is that it has been a great restorer of churches.

Horace preached church restoration in his ode:--

   Delicta majorum immeritus lues,
   Romane, donec templa refeceris
      Aedesque labentes deorum et
         Foeda nigro simulacra fumo.

Nothing went right with Rome for long together after the Augustan age,
but whether it was because she did restore the temples or because she did
not restore them I know not.  They certainly went all wrong after
Constantine's time and yet Rome is still a city of some importance.

I may say here that before Theobald had been many years at Battersby he
found scope for useful work in the rebuilding of Battersby church, which
he carried out at considerable cost, towards which he subscribed
liberally himself.  He was his own architect, and this saved expense; but
architecture was not very well understood about the year 1834, when
Theobald commenced operations, and the result is not as satisfactory as
it would have been if he had waited a few years longer.

Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or
architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself, and the
more he tries to conceal himself the more clearly will his character
appear in spite of him.  I may very likely be condemning myself, all the
time that I am writing this book, for I know that whether I like it or no
I am portraying myself more surely than I am portraying any of the
characters whom I set before the reader.  I am sorry that it is so, but I
cannot help it--after which sop to Nemesis I will say that Battersby
church in its amended form has always struck me as a better portrait of
Theobald than any sculptor or painter short of a great master would be
able to produce.

I remember staying with Theobald some six or seven months after he was
married, and while the old church was still standing.  I went to church,
and felt as Naaman must have felt on certain occasions when he had to
accompany his master on his return after having been cured of his
leprosy.  I have carried away a more vivid recollection of this and of
the people, than of Theobald's sermon.  Even now I can see the men in
blue smock frocks reaching to their heels, and more than one old woman in
a scarlet cloak; the row of stolid, dull, vacant plough-boys, ungainly in
build, uncomely in face, lifeless, apathetic, a race a good deal more
like the pre-revolution French peasant as described by Carlyle than is
pleasant to reflect upon--a race now supplanted by a smarter, comelier
and more hopeful generation, which has discovered that it too has a right
to as much happiness as it can get, and with clearer ideas about the best
means of getting it.

They shamble in one after another, with steaming breath, for it is
winter, and loud clattering of hob-nailed boots; they beat the snow from
off them as they enter, and through the opened door I catch a momentary
glimpse of a dreary leaden sky and snow-clad tombstones.  Somehow or
other I find the strain which Handel has wedded to the words "There the
ploughman near at hand," has got into my head and there is no getting it
out again.  How marvellously old Handel understood these people!

They bob to Theobald as they passed the reading desk ("The people
hereabouts are truly respectful," whispered Christina to me, "they know
their betters."), and take their seats in a long row against the wall.
The choir clamber up into the gallery with their instruments--a
violoncello, a clarinet and a trombone.  I see them and soon I hear them,
for there is a hymn before the service, a wild strain, a remnant, if I
mistake not, of some pre-Reformation litany.  I have heard what I believe
was its remote musical progenitor in the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo
at Venice not five years since; and again I have heard it far away in mid-
Atlantic upon a grey sea-Sabbath in June, when neither winds nor waves
are stirring, so that the emigrants gather on deck, and their plaintive
psalm goes forth upon the silver haze of the sky, and on the wilderness
of a sea that has sighed till it can sigh no longer.  Or it may be heard
at some Methodist Camp Meeting upon a Welsh hillside, but in the churches
it is gone for ever.  If I were a musician I would take it as the subject
for the _adagio_ in a Wesleyan symphony.

Gone now are the clarinet, the violoncello and the trombone, wild
minstrelsy as of the doleful creatures in Ezekiel, discordant, but
infinitely pathetic.  Gone is that scarebabe stentor, that bellowing bull
of Bashan the village blacksmith, gone is the melodious carpenter, gone
the brawny shepherd with the red hair, who roared more lustily than all,
until they came to the words, "Shepherds with your flocks abiding," when
modesty covered him with confusion, and compelled him to be silent, as
though his own health were being drunk.  They were doomed and had a
presentiment of evil, even when first I saw them, but they had still a
little lease of choir life remaining, and they roared out

   [wick-ed hands have pierced and nailed him, pierced and nailed him to
   a tree.]

but no description can give a proper idea of the effect.  When I was last
in Battersby church there was a harmonium played by a sweet-looking girl
with a choir of school children around her, and they chanted the
canticles to the most correct of chants, and they sang Hymns Ancient and
Modern; the high pews were gone, nay, the very gallery in which the old
choir had sung was removed as an accursed thing which might remind the
people of the high places, and Theobald was old, and Christina was lying
under the yew trees in the churchyard.

But in the evening later on I saw three very old men come chuckling out
of a dissenting chapel, and surely enough they were my old friends the
blacksmith, the carpenter and the shepherd.  There was a look of content
upon their faces which made me feel certain they had been singing; not
doubtless with the old glory of the violoncello, the clarinet and the
trombone, but still songs of Sion and no new fangled papistry.




CHAPTER XV


The hymn had engaged my attention; when it was over I had time to take
stock of the congregation.  They were chiefly farmers--fat, very well-to-
do folk, who had come some of them with their wives and children from
outlying farms two and three miles away; haters of popery and of anything
which any one might choose to say was popish; good, sensible fellows who
detested theory of any kind, whose ideal was the maintenance of the
_status quo_ with perhaps a loving reminiscence of old war times, and a
sense of wrong that the weather was not more completely under their
control, who desired higher prices and cheaper wages, but otherwise were
most contented when things were changing least; tolerators, if not
lovers, of all that was familiar, haters of all that was unfamiliar; they
would have been equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion
doubted, and at seeing it practised.

"What can there be in common between Theobald and his parishioners?" said
Christina to me, in the course of the evening, when her husband was for a
few moments absent.  "Of course one must not complain, but I assure you
it grieves me to see a man of Theobald's ability thrown away upon such a
place as this.  If we had only been at Gaysbury, where there are the A's,
the B's, the C's, and Lord D's place, as you know, quite close, I should
not then have felt that we were living in such a desert; but I suppose it
is for the best," she added more cheerfully; "and then of course the
Bishop will come to us whenever he is in the neighbourhood, and if we
were at Gaysbury he might have gone to Lord D's."

Perhaps I have now said enough to indicate the kind of place in which
Theobald's lines were cast, and the sort of woman he had married.  As for
his own habits, I see him trudging through muddy lanes and over long
sweeps of plover-haunted pastures to visit a dying cottager's wife.  He
takes her meat and wine from his own table, and that not a little only
but liberally.  According to his lights also, he administers what he is
pleased to call spiritual consolation.

"I am afraid I'm going to Hell, Sir," says the sick woman with a whine.
"Oh, Sir, save me, save me, don't let me go there.  I couldn't stand it,
Sir, I should die with fear, the very thought of it drives me into a cold
sweat all over."

"Mrs Thompson," says Theobald gravely, "you must have faith in the
precious blood of your Redeemer; it is He alone who can save you."

"But are you sure, Sir," says she, looking wistfully at him, "that He
will forgive me--for I've not been a very good woman, indeed I
haven't--and if God would only say 'Yes' outright with His mouth when I
ask whether my sins are forgiven me--"

"But they _are_ forgiven you, Mrs Thompson," says Theobald with some
sternness, for the same ground has been gone over a good many times
already, and he has borne the unhappy woman's misgivings now for a full
quarter of an hour.  Then he puts a stop to the conversation by repeating
prayers taken from the "Visitation of the Sick," and overawes the poor
wretch from expressing further anxiety as to her condition.

"Can't you tell me, Sir," she exclaims piteously, as she sees that he is
preparing to go away, "can't you tell me that there is no Day of
Judgement, and that there is no such place as Hell?  I can do without the
Heaven, Sir, but I cannot do with the Hell."  Theobald is much shocked.

"Mrs Thompson," he rejoins impressively, "let me implore you to suffer no
doubt concerning these two cornerstones of our religion to cross your
mind at a moment like the present.  If there is one thing more certain
than another it is that we shall all appear before the Judgement Seat of
Christ, and that the wicked will be consumed in a lake of everlasting
fire.  Doubt this, Mrs Thompson, and you are lost."

The poor woman buries her fevered head in the coverlet in a paroxysm of
fear which at last finds relief in tears.

"Mrs Thompson," says Theobald, with his hand on the door, "compose
yourself, be calm; you must please to take my word for it that at the Day
of Judgement your sins will be all washed white in the blood of the Lamb,
Mrs Thompson.  Yea," he exclaims frantically, "though they be as scarlet,
yet shall they be as white as wool," and he makes off as fast as he can
from the fetid atmosphere of the cottage to the pure air outside.  Oh,
how thankful he is when the interview is over!

He returns home, conscious that he has done his duty, and administered
the comforts of religion to a dying sinner.  His admiring wife awaits him
at the Rectory, and assures him that never yet was clergyman so devoted
to the welfare of his flock.  He believes her; he has a natural tendency
to believe everything that is told him, and who should know the facts of
the case better than his wife?  Poor fellow!  He has done his best, but
what does a fish's best come to when the fish is out of water?  He has
left meat and wine--that he can do; he will call again and will leave
more meat and wine; day after day he trudges over the same plover-haunted
fields, and listens at the end of his walk to the same agony of
forebodings, which day after day he silences, but does not remove, till
at last a merciful weakness renders the sufferer careless of her future,
and Theobald is satisfied that her mind is now peacefully at rest in
Jesus.




CHAPTER XVI


He does not like this branch of his profession--indeed he hates it--but
will not admit it to himself.  The habit of not admitting things to
himself has become a confirmed one with him.  Nevertheless there haunts
him an ill defined sense that life would be pleasanter if there were no
sick sinners, or if they would at any rate face an eternity of torture
with more indifference.  He does not feel that he is in his element.  The
farmers look as if they were in their element.  They are full-bodied,
healthy and contented; but between him and them there is a great gulf
fixed.  A hard and drawn look begins to settle about the corners of his
mouth, so that even if he were not in a black coat and white tie a child
might know him for a parson.

He knows that he is doing his duty.  Every day convinces him of this more
firmly; but then there is not much duty for him to do.  He is sadly in
want of occupation.  He has no taste for any of those field sports which
were not considered unbecoming for a clergyman forty years ago.  He does
not ride, nor shoot, nor fish, nor course, nor play cricket.  Study, to
do him justice, he had never really liked, and what inducement was there
for him to study at Battersby?  He reads neither old books nor new ones.
He does not interest himself in art or science or politics, but he sets
his back up with some promptness if any of them show any development
unfamiliar to himself.  True, he writes his own sermons, but even his
wife considers that his _forte_ lies rather in the example of his life
(which is one long act of self-devotion) than in his utterances from the
pulpit.  After breakfast he retires to his study; he cuts little bits out
of the Bible and gums them with exquisite neatness by the side of other
little bits; this he calls making a Harmony of the Old and New
Testaments.  Alongside the extracts he copies in the very perfection of
hand-writing extracts from Mede (the only man, according to Theobald, who
really understood the Book of Revelation), Patrick, and other old
divines.  He works steadily at this for half an hour every morning during
many years, and the result is doubtless valuable.  After some years have
gone by he hears his children their lessons, and the daily oft-repeated
screams that issue from the study during the lesson hours tell their own
horrible story over the house.  He has also taken to collecting a _hortus
siccus_, and through the interest of his father was once mentioned in the
Saturday Magazine as having been the first to find a plant, whose name I
have forgotten, in the neighbourhood of Battersby.  This number of the
Saturday Magazine has been bound in red morocco, and is kept upon the
drawing-room table.  He potters about his garden; if he hears a hen
cackling he runs and tells Christina, and straightway goes hunting for
the egg.

When the two Miss Allabys came, as they sometimes did, to stay with
Christina, they said the life led by their sister and brother-in-law was
an idyll.  Happy indeed was Christina in her choice, for that she had had
a choice was a fiction which soon took root among them--and happy
Theobald in his Christina.  Somehow or other Christina was always a
little shy of cards when her sisters were staying with her, though at
other times she enjoyed a game of cribbage or a rubber of whist heartily
enough, but her sisters knew they would never be asked to Battersby again
if they were to refer to that little matter, and on the whole it was
worth their while to be asked to Battersby.  If Theobald's temper was
rather irritable he did not vent it upon them.

By nature reserved, if he could have found someone to cook his dinner for
him, he would rather have lived in a desert island than not.  In his
heart of hearts he held with Pope that "the greatest nuisance to mankind
is man" or words to that effect--only that women, with the exception
perhaps of Christina, were worse.  Yet for all this when visitors called
he put a better face on it than anyone who was behind the scenes would
have expected.

He was quick too at introducing the names of any literary celebrities
whom he had met at his father's house, and soon established an all-round
reputation which satisfied even Christina herself.

Who so _integer vitae scelerisque purus_, it was asked, as Mr Pontifex of
Battersby?  Who so fit to be consulted if any difficulty about parish
management should arise?  Who such a happy mixture of the sincere
uninquiring Christian and of the man of the world?  For so people
actually called him.  They said he was such an admirable man of business.
Certainly if he had said he would pay a sum of money at a certain time,
the money would be forthcoming on the appointed day, and this is saying a
good deal for any man.  His constitutional timidity rendered him
incapable of an attempt to overreach when there was the remotest chance
of opposition or publicity, and his correct bearing and somewhat stern
expression were a great protection to him against being overreached.  He
never talked of money, and invariably changed the subject whenever money
was introduced.  His expression of unutterable horror at all kinds of
meanness was a sufficient guarantee that he was not mean himself.  Besides
he had no business transactions save of the most ordinary butcher's book
and baker's book description.  His tastes--if he had any--were, as we
have seen, simple; he had 900 pounds a year and a house; the
neighbourhood was cheap, and for some time he had no children to be a
drag upon him.  Who was not to be envied, and if envied why then
respected, if Theobald was not enviable?

Yet I imagine that Christina was on the whole happier than her husband.
She had not to go and visit sick parishioners, and the management of her
house and the keeping of her accounts afforded as much occupation as she
desired.  Her principal duty was, as she well said, to her husband--to
love him, honour him, and keep him in a good temper.  To do her justice
she fulfilled this duty to the uttermost of her power.  It would have
been better perhaps if she had not so frequently assured her husband that
he was the best and wisest of mankind, for no one in his little world
ever dreamed of telling him anything else, and it was not long before he
ceased to have any doubt upon the matter.  As for his temper, which had
become very violent at times, she took care to humour it on the slightest
sign of an approaching outbreak.  She had early found that this was much
the easiest plan.  The thunder was seldom for herself.  Long before her
marriage even she had studied his little ways, and knew how to add fuel
to the fire as long as the fire seemed to want it, and then to damp it
judiciously down, making as little smoke as possible.

In money matters she was scrupulousness itself.  Theobald made her a
quarterly allowance for her dress, pocket money and little charities and
presents.  In these last items she was liberal in proportion to her
income; indeed she dressed with great economy and gave away whatever was
over in presents or charity.  Oh, what a comfort it was to Theobald to
reflect that he had a wife on whom he could rely never to cost him a
sixpence of unauthorised expenditure!  Letting alone her absolute
submission, the perfect coincidence of her opinion with his own upon
every subject and her constant assurances to him that he was right in
everything which he took it into his head to say or do, what a tower of
strength to him was her exactness in money matters!  As years went by he
became as fond of his wife as it was in his nature to be of any living
thing, and applauded himself for having stuck to his engagement--a piece
of virtue of which he was now reaping the reward.  Even when Christina
did outrun her quarterly stipend by some thirty shillings or a couple of
pounds, it was always made perfectly clear to Theobald how the deficiency
had arisen--there had been an unusually costly evening dress bought which
was to last a long time, or somebody's unexpected wedding had
necessitated a more handsome present than the quarter's balance would
quite allow: the excess of expenditure was always repaid in the following
quarter or quarters even though it were only ten shillings at a time.

I believe, however, that after they had been married some twenty years,
Christina had somewhat fallen from her original perfection as regards
money.  She had got gradually in arrear during many successive quarters,
till she had contracted a chronic loan a sort of domestic national debt,
amounting to between seven and eight pounds.  Theobald at length felt
that a remonstrance had become imperative, and took advantage of his
silver wedding day to inform Christina that her indebtedness was
cancelled, and at the same time to beg that she would endeavour
henceforth to equalise her expenditure and her income.  She burst into
tears of love and gratitude, assured him that he was the best and most
generous of men, and never during the remainder of her married life was
she a single shilling behind hand.

Christina hated change of all sorts no less cordially than her husband.
She and Theobald had nearly everything in this world that they could wish
for; why, then, should people desire to introduce all sorts of changes of
which no one could foresee the end?  Religion, she was deeply convinced,
had long since attained its final development, nor could it enter into
the heart of reasonable man to conceive any faith more perfect than was
inculcated by the Church of England.  She could imagine no position more
honourable than that of a clergyman's wife unless indeed it were a
bishop's.  Considering his father's influence it was not at all
impossible that Theobald might be a bishop some day--and then--then would
occur to her that one little flaw in the practice of the Church of
England--a flaw not indeed in its doctrine, but in its policy, which she
believed on the whole to be a mistaken one in this respect.  I mean the
fact that a bishop's wife does not take the rank of her husband.

This had been the doing of Elizabeth, who had been a bad woman, of
exceeding doubtful moral character, and at heart a Papist to the last.
Perhaps people ought to have been above mere considerations of worldly
dignity, but the world was as it was, and such things carried weight with
them, whether they ought to do so or no.  Her influence as plain Mrs
Pontifex, wife, we will say, of the Bishop of Winchester, would no doubt
be considerable.  Such a character as hers could not fail to carry weight
if she were ever in a sufficiently conspicuous sphere for its influence
to be widely felt; but as Lady Winchester--or the Bishopess--which would
sound quite nicely--who could doubt that her power for good would be
enhanced?  And it would be all the nicer because if she had a daughter
the daughter would not be a Bishopess unless indeed she were to marry a
Bishop too, which would not be likely.

These were her thoughts upon her good days; at other times she would, to
do her justice, have doubts whether she was in all respects as
spiritually minded as she ought to be.  She must press on, press on, till
every enemy to her salvation was surmounted and Satan himself lay bruised
under her feet.  It occurred to her on one of these occasions that she
might steal a march over some of her contemporaries if she were to leave
off eating black puddings, of which whenever they had killed a pig she
had hitherto partaken freely; and if she were also careful that no fowls
were served at her table which had had their necks wrung, but only such
as had had their throats cut and been allowed to bleed.  St Paul and the
Church of Jerusalem had insisted upon it as necessary that even Gentile
converts should abstain from things strangled and from blood, and they
had joined this prohibition with that of a vice about the abominable
nature of which there could be no question; it would be well therefore to
abstain in future and see whether any noteworthy spiritual result ensued.
She did abstain, and was certain that from the day of her resolve she had
felt stronger, purer in heart, and in all respects more spiritually
minded than she had ever felt hitherto.  Theobald did not lay so much
stress on this as she did, but as she settled what he should have at
dinner she could take care that he got no strangled fowls; as for black
puddings, happily, he had seen them made when he was a boy, and had never
got over his aversion for them.  She wished the matter were one of more
general observance than it was; this was just a case in which as Lady
Winchester she might have been able to do what as plain Mrs Pontifex it
was hopeless even to attempt.

And thus this worthy couple jogged on from month to month and from year
to year.  The reader, if he has passed middle life and has a clerical
connection, will probably remember scores and scores of rectors and
rectors' wives who differed in no material respect from Theobald and
Christina.  Speaking from a recollection and experience extending over
nearly eighty years from the time when I was myself a child in the
nursery of a vicarage, I should say I had drawn the better rather than
the worse side of the life of an English country parson of some fifty
years ago.  I admit, however, that there are no such people to be found
nowadays.  A more united or, on the whole, happier, couple could not have
been found in England.  One grief only overshadowed the early years of
their married life: I mean the fact that no living children were born to
them.




CHAPTER XVII


In the course of time this sorrow was removed.  At the beginning of the
fifth year of her married life Christina was safely delivered of a boy.
This was on the sixth of September 1835.

Word was immediately sent to old Mr Pontifex, who received the news with
real pleasure.  His son John's wife had borne daughters only, and he was
seriously uneasy lest there should be a failure in the male line of his
descendants.  The good news, therefore, was doubly welcome, and caused as
much delight at Elmhurst as dismay in Woburn Square, where the John
Pontifexes were then living.

Here, indeed, this freak of fortune was felt to be all the more cruel on
account of the impossibility of resenting it openly; but the delighted
grandfather cared nothing for what the John Pontifexes might feel or not
feel; he had wanted a grandson and he had got a grandson, and this should
be enough for everybody; and, now that Mrs Theobald had taken to good
ways, she might bring him more grandsons, which would be desirable, for
he should not feel safe with fewer than three.

He rang the bell for the butler.

"Gelstrap," he said solemnly, "I want to go down into the cellar."

Then Gelstrap preceded him with a candle, and he went into the inner
vault where he kept his choicest wines.

He passed many bins: there was 1803 Port, 1792 Imperial Tokay, 1800
Claret, 1812 Sherry, these and many others were passed, but it was not
for them that the head of the Pontifex family had gone down into his
inner cellar.  A bin, which had appeared empty until the full light of
the candle had been brought to bear upon it, was now found to contain a
single pint bottle.  This was the object of Mr Pontifex's search.

Gelstrap had often pondered over this bottle.  It had been placed there
by Mr Pontifex himself about a dozen years previously, on his return from
a visit to his friend the celebrated traveller Dr Jones--but there was no
tablet above the bin which might give a clue to the nature of its
contents.  On more than one occasion when his master had gone out and
left his keys accidentally behind him, as he sometimes did, Gelstrap had
submitted the bottle to all the tests he could venture upon, but it was
so carefully sealed that wisdom remained quite shut out from that
entrance at which he would have welcomed her most gladly--and indeed from
all other entrances, for he could make out nothing at all.

And now the mystery was to be solved.  But alas! it seemed as though the
last chance of securing even a sip of the contents was to be removed for
ever, for Mr Pontifex took the bottle into his own hands and held it up
to the light after carefully examining the seal.  He smiled and left the
bin with the bottle in his hands.

Then came a catastrophe.  He stumbled over an empty hamper; there was the
sound of a fall--a smash of broken glass, and in an instant the cellar
floor was covered with the liquid that had been preserved so carefully
for so many years.

With his usual presence of mind Mr Pontifex gasped out a month's warning
to Gelstrap.  Then he got up, and stamped as Theobald had done when
Christina had wanted not to order his dinner.

"It's water from the Jordan," he exclaimed furiously, "which I have been
saving for the baptism of my eldest grandson.  Damn you, Gelstrap, how
dare you be so infernally careless as to leave that hamper littering
about the cellar?"

I wonder the water of the sacred stream did not stand upright as an heap
upon the cellar floor and rebuke him.  Gelstrap told the other servants
afterwards that his master's language had made his backbone curdle.

The moment, however, that he heard the word "water," he saw his way
again, and flew to the pantry.  Before his master had well noted his
absence he returned with a little sponge and a basin, and had begun
sopping up the waters of the Jordan as though they had been a common
slop.

"I'll filter it, Sir," said Gelstrap meekly.  "It'll come quite clean."

Mr Pontifex saw hope in this suggestion, which was shortly carried out by
the help of a piece of blotting paper and a funnel, under his own eyes.
Eventually it was found that half a pint was saved, and this was held to
be sufficient.

Then he made preparations for a visit to Battersby.  He ordered goodly
hampers of the choicest eatables, he selected a goodly hamper of choice
drinkables.  I say choice and not choicest, for although in his first
exaltation he had selected some of his very best wine, yet on reflection
he had felt that there was moderation in all things, and as he was
parting with his best water from the Jordan, he would only send some of
his second best wine.

Before he went to Battersby he stayed a day or two in London, which he
now seldom did, being over seventy years old, and having practically
retired from business.  The John Pontifexes, who kept a sharp eye on him,
discovered to their dismay that he had had an interview with his
solicitors.




CHAPTER XVIII


For the first time in his life Theobald felt that he had done something
right, and could look forward to meeting his father without alarm.  The
old gentleman, indeed, had written him a most cordial letter, announcing
his intention of standing godfather to the boy--nay, I may as well give
it in full, as it shows the writer at his best.  It runs:

   "Dear Theobald,--Your letter gave me very sincere pleasure, the more
   so because I had made up my mind for the worst; pray accept my most
   hearty congratulations for my daughter-in-law and for yourself.

   "I have long preserved a phial of water from the Jordan for the
   christening of my first grandson, should it please God to grant me
   one.  It was given me by my old friend Dr Jones.  You will agree with
   me that though the efficacy of the sacrament does not depend upon the
   source of the baptismal waters, yet, _ceteris paribus_, there is a
   sentiment attaching to the waters of the Jordan which should not be
   despised.  Small matters like this sometimes influence a child's whole
   future career.

   "I shall bring my own cook, and have told him to get everything ready
   for the christening dinner.  Ask as many of your best neighbours as
   your table will hold.  By the way, I have told Lesueur _not to get a
   lobster_--you had better drive over yourself and get one from Saltness
   (for Battersby was only fourteen or fifteen miles from the sea coast);
   they are better there, at least I think so, than anywhere else in
   England.

   "I have put your boy down for something in the event of his attaining
   the age of twenty-one years.  If your brother John continues to have
   nothing but girls I may do more later on, but I have many claims upon
   me, and am not as well off as you may imagine.--Your affectionate
   father,

   "G.  PONTIFEX."

A few days afterwards the writer of the above letter made his appearance
in a fly which had brought him from Gildenham to Battersby, a distance of
fourteen miles.  There was Lesueur, the cook, on the box with the driver,
and as many hampers as the fly could carry were disposed upon the roof
and elsewhere.  Next day the John Pontifexes had to come, and Eliza and
Maria, as well as Alethea, who, by her own special request, was godmother
to the boy, for Mr Pontifex had decided that they were to form a happy
family party; so come they all must, and be happy they all must, or it
would be the worse for them.  Next day the author of all this hubbub was
actually christened.  Theobald had proposed to call him George after old
Mr Pontifex, but strange to say, Mr Pontifex over-ruled him in favour of
the name Ernest.  The word "earnest" was just beginning to come into
fashion, and he thought the possession of such a name might, like his
having been baptised in water from the Jordan, have a permanent effect
upon the boy's character, and influence him for good during the more
critical periods of his life.

I was asked to be his second godfather, and was rejoiced to have an
opportunity of meeting Alethea, whom I had not seen for some few years,
but with whom I had been in constant correspondence.  She and I had
always been friends from the time we had played together as children
onwards.  When the death of her grandfather and grandmother severed her
connection with Paleham my intimacy with the Pontifexes was kept up by my
having been at school and college with Theobald, and each time I saw her
I admired her more and more as the best, kindest, wittiest, most lovable,
and, to my mind, handsomest woman whom I had ever seen.  None of the
Pontifexes were deficient in good looks; they were a well-grown shapely
family enough, but Alethea was the flower of the flock even as regards
good looks, while in respect of all other qualities that make a woman
lovable, it seemed as though the stock that had been intended for the
three daughters, and would have been about sufficient for them, had all
been allotted to herself, her sisters getting none, and she all.

It is impossible for me to explain how it was that she and I never
married.  We two knew exceedingly well, and that must suffice for the
reader.  There was the most perfect sympathy and understanding between
us; we knew that neither of us would marry anyone else.  I had asked her
to marry me a dozen times over; having said this much I will say no more
upon a point which is in no way necessary for the development of my
story.  For the last few years there had been difficulties in the way of
our meeting, and I had not seen her, though, as I have said, keeping up a
close correspondence with her.  Naturally I was overjoyed to meet her
again; she was now just thirty years old, but I thought she looked
handsomer than ever.

Her father, of course, was the lion of the party, but seeing that we were
all meek and quite willing to be eaten, he roared to us rather than at
us.  It was a fine sight to see him tucking his napkin under his rosy old
gills, and letting it fall over his capacious waistcoat while the high
light from the chandelier danced about the bump of benevolence on his
bald old head like a star of Bethlehem.

The soup was real turtle; the old gentleman was evidently well pleased
and he was beginning to come out.  Gelstrap stood behind his master's
chair.  I sat next Mrs Theobald on her left hand, and was thus just
opposite her father-in-law, whom I had every opportunity of observing.

During the first ten minutes or so, which were taken up with the soup and
the bringing in of the fish, I should probably have thought, if I had not
long since made up my mind about him, what a fine old man he was and how
proud his children should be of him; but suddenly as he was helping
himself to lobster sauce, he flushed crimson, a look of extreme vexation
suffused his face, and he darted two furtive but fiery glances to the two
ends of the table, one for Theobald and one for Christina.  They, poor
simple souls, of course saw that something was exceedingly wrong, and so
did I, but I couldn't guess what it was till I heard the old man hiss in
Christina's ear: "It was not made with a hen lobster.  What's the use,"
he continued, "of my calling the boy Ernest, and getting him christened
in water from the Jordan, if his own father does not know a cock from a
hen lobster?"

This cut me too, for I felt that till that moment I had not so much as
known that there were cocks and hens among lobsters, but had vaguely
thought that in the matter of matrimony they were even as the angels in
heaven, and grew up almost spontaneously from rocks and sea-weed.

Before the next course was over Mr Pontifex had recovered his temper, and
from that time to the end of the evening he was at his best.  He told us
all about the water from the Jordan; how it had been brought by Dr Jones
along with some stone jars of water from the Rhine, the Rhone, the Elbe
and the Danube, and what trouble he had had with them at the Custom
Houses, and how the intention had been to make punch with waters from all
the greatest rivers in Europe; and how he, Mr Pontifex, had saved the
Jordan water from going into the bowl, etc., etc.  "No, no, no," he
continued, "it wouldn't have done at all, you know; very profane idea; so
we each took a pint bottle of it home with us, and the punch was much
better without it.  I had a narrow escape with mine, though, the other
day; I fell over a hamper in the cellar, when I was getting it up to
bring to Battersby, and if I had not taken the greatest care the bottle
would certainly have been broken, but I saved it."  And Gelstrap was
standing behind his chair all the time!

Nothing more happened to ruffle Mr Pontifex, so we had a delightful
evening, which has often recurred to me while watching the after career
of my godson.

I called a day or two afterwards and found Mr Pontifex still at
Battersby, laid up with one of those attacks of liver and depression to
which he was becoming more and more subject.  I stayed to luncheon.  The
old gentleman was cross and very difficult; he could eat nothing--had no
appetite at all.  Christina tried to coax him with a little bit of the
fleshy part of a mutton chop.  "How in the name of reason can I be asked
to eat a mutton chop?" he exclaimed angrily; "you forget, my dear
Christina, that you have to deal with a stomach that is totally
disorganised," and he pushed the plate from him, pouting and frowning
like a naughty old child.  Writing as I do by the light of a later
knowledge, I suppose I should have seen nothing in this but the world's
growing pains, the disturbance inseparable from transition in human
things.  I suppose in reality not a leaf goes yellow in autumn without
ceasing to care about its sap and making the parent tree very
uncomfortable by long growling and grumbling--but surely nature might
find some less irritating way of carrying on business if she would give
her mind to it.  Why should the generations overlap one another at all?
Why cannot we be buried as eggs in neat little cells with ten or twenty
thousand pounds each wrapped round us in Bank of England notes, and wake
up, as the sphex wasp does, to find that its papa and mamma have not only
left ample provision at its elbow, but have been eaten by sparrows some
weeks before it began to live consciously on its own account?

About a year and a half afterwards the tables were turned on
Battersby--for Mrs John Pontifex was safely delivered of a boy.  A year
or so later still, George Pontifex was himself struck down suddenly by a
fit of paralysis, much as his mother had been, but he did not see the
years of his mother.  When his will was opened, it was found that an
original bequest of 20,000 pounds to Theobald himself (over and above the
sum that had been settled upon him and Christina at the time of his
marriage) had been cut down to 17,500 pounds when Mr Pontifex left
"something" to Ernest.  The "something" proved to be 2500 pounds, which
was to accumulate in the hands of trustees.  The rest of the property
went to John Pontifex, except that each of the daughters was left with
about 15,000 pounds over and above 5000 pounds a piece which they
inherited from their mother.

Theobald's father then had told him the truth but not the whole truth.
Nevertheless, what right had Theobald to complain?  Certainly it was
rather hard to make him think that he and his were to be gainers, and get
the honour and glory of the bequest, when all the time the money was
virtually being taken out of Theobald's own pocket.  On the other hand
the father doubtless argued that he had never told Theobald he was to
have anything at all; he had a full right to do what he liked with his
own money; if Theobald chose to indulge in unwarrantable expectations
that was no affair of his; as it was he was providing for him liberally;
and if he did take 2500 pounds of Theobald's share he was still leaving
it to Theobald's son, which, of course, was much the same thing in the
end.

No one can deny that the testator had strict right upon his side;
nevertheless the reader will agree with me that Theobald and Christina
might not have considered the christening dinner so great a success if
all the facts had been before them.  Mr Pontifex had during his own
lifetime set up a monument in Elmhurst Church to the memory of his wife
(a slab with urns and cherubs like illegitimate children of King George
the Fourth, and all the rest of it), and had left space for his own
epitaph underneath that of his wife.  I do not know whether it was
written by one of his children, or whether they got some friend to write
it for them.  I do not believe that any satire was intended.  I believe
that it was the intention to convey that nothing short of the Day of
Judgement could give anyone an idea how good a man Mr Pontifex had been,
but at first I found it hard to think that it was free from guile.

The epitaph begins by giving dates of birth and death; then sets out that
the deceased was for many years head of the firm of Fairlie and Pontifex,
and also resident in the parish of Elmhurst.  There is not a syllable of
either praise or dispraise.  The last lines run as follows:--

   HE NOW LIES AWAITING A JOYFUL RESURRECTION
   AT THE LAST DAY.
   WHAT MANNER OF MAN HE WAS
   THAT DAY WILL DISCOVER.




CHAPTER XIX


This much, however, we may say in the meantime, that having lived to be
nearly seventy-three years old and died rich he must have been in very
fair harmony with his surroundings.  I have heard it said sometimes that
such and such a person's life was a lie: but no man's life can be a very
bad lie; as long as it continues at all it is at worst nine-tenths of it
true.

Mr Pontifex's life not only continued a long time, but was prosperous
right up to the end.  Is not this enough?  Being in this world is it not
our most obvious business to make the most of it--to observe what things
do _bona fide_ tend to long life and comfort, and to act accordingly?  All
animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy
it--and they do enjoy it as much as man and other circumstances will
allow.  He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most; God will take
care that we do not enjoy it any more than is good for us.  If Mr
Pontifex is to be blamed it is for not having eaten and drunk less and
thus suffered less from his liver, and lived perhaps a year or two
longer.

Goodness is naught unless it tends towards old age and sufficiency of
means.  I speak broadly and _exceptis excipiendis_.  So the psalmist
says, "The righteous shall not lack anything that is good."  Either this
is mere poetical license, or it follows that he who lacks anything that
is good is not righteous; there is a presumption also that he who has
passed a long life without lacking anything that is good has himself also
been good enough for practical purposes.

Mr Pontifex never lacked anything he much cared about.  True, he might
have been happier than he was if he had cared about things which he did
not care for, but the gist of this lies in the "if he had cared."  We
have all sinned and come short of the glory of making ourselves as
comfortable as we easily might have done, but in this particular case Mr
Pontifex did not care, and would not have gained much by getting what he
did not want.

There is no casting of swine's meat before men worse than that which
would flatter virtue as though her true origin were not good enough for
her, but she must have a lineage, deduced as it were by spiritual
heralds, from some stock with which she has nothing to do.  Virtue's true
lineage is older and more respectable than any that can be invented for
her.  She springs from man's experience concerning his own well-being--and
this, though not infallible, is still the least fallible thing we have.  A
system which cannot stand without a better foundation than this must have
something so unstable within itself that it will topple over on whatever
pedestal we place it.

The world has long ago settled that morality and virtue are what bring
men peace at the last.  "Be virtuous," says the copy-book, "and you will
be happy."  Surely if a reputed virtue fails often in this respect it is
only an insidious form of vice, and if a reputed vice brings no very
serious mischief on a man's later years it is not so bad a vice as it is
said to be.  Unfortunately though we are all of a mind about the main
opinion that virtue is what tends to happiness, and vice what ends in
sorrow, we are not so unanimous about details--that is to say as to
whether any given course, such, we will say, as smoking, has a tendency
to happiness or the reverse.

I submit it as the result of my own poor observation, that a good deal of
unkindness and selfishness on the part of parents towards children is not
generally followed by ill consequences to the parents themselves.  They
may cast a gloom over their children's lives for many years without
having to suffer anything that will hurt them.  I should say, then, that
it shows no great moral obliquity on the part of parents if within
certain limits they make their children's lives a burden to them.

Granted that Mr Pontifex's was not a very exalted character, ordinary men
are not required to have very exalted characters.  It is enough if we are
of the same moral and mental stature as the "main" or "mean" part of
men--that is to say as the average.

It is involved in the very essence of things that rich men who die old
shall have been mean.  The greatest and wisest of mankind will be almost
always found to be the meanest--the ones who have kept the "mean" best
between excess either of virtue or vice.  They hardly ever have been
prosperous if they have not done this, and, considering how many miscarry
altogether, it is no small feather in a man's cap if he has been no worse
than his neighbours.  Homer tells us about some one who made it his
business [Greek text]--always to excel and to stand higher than other
people.  What an uncompanionable disagreeable person he must have been!
Homer's heroes generally came to a bad end, and I doubt not that this
gentleman, whoever he was, did so sooner or later.

A very high standard, again, involves the possession of rare virtues, and
rare virtues are like rare plants or animals, things that have not been
able to hold their own in the world.  A virtue to be serviceable must,
like gold, be alloyed with some commoner but more durable metal.

People divide off vice and virtue as though they were two things, neither
of which had with it anything of the other.  This is not so.  There is no
useful virtue which has not some alloy of vice, and hardly any vice, if
any, which carries not with it a little dash of virtue; virtue and vice
are like life and death, or mind and matter--things which cannot exist
without being qualified by their opposite.  The most absolute life
contains death, and the corpse is still in many respects living; so also
it has been said, "If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done
amiss," which shows that even the highest ideal we can conceive will yet
admit so much compromise with vice as shall countenance the poor abuses
of the time, if they are not too outrageous.  That vice pays homage to
virtue is notorious; we call this hypocrisy; there should be a word found
for the homage which virtue not unfrequently pays, or at any rate would
be wise in paying, to vice.

I grant that some men will find happiness in having what we all feel to
be a higher moral standard than others.  If they go in for this, however,
they must be content with virtue as her own reward, and not grumble if
they find lofty Quixotism an expensive luxury, whose rewards belong to a
kingdom that is not of this world.  They must not wonder if they cut a
poor figure in trying to make the most of both worlds.  Disbelieve as we
may the details of the accounts which record the growth of the Christian
religion, yet a great part of Christian teaching will remain as true as
though we accepted the details.  We cannot serve God and Mammon; strait
is the way and narrow is the gate which leads to what those who live by
faith hold to be best worth having, and there is no way of saying this
better than the Bible has done.  It is well there should be some who
think thus, as it is well there should be speculators in commerce, who
will often burn their fingers--but it is not well that the majority
should leave the "mean" and beaten path.

For most men, and most circumstances, pleasure--tangible material
prosperity in this world--is the safest test of virtue.  Progress has
ever been through the pleasures rather than through the extreme sharp
virtues, and the most virtuous have leaned to excess rather than to
asceticism.  To use a commercial metaphor, competition is so keen, and
the margin of profits has been cut down so closely that virtue cannot
afford to throw any _bona fide_ chance away, and must base her action
rather on the actual moneying out of conduct than on a flattering
prospectus.  She will not therefore neglect--as some do who are prudent
and economical enough in other matters--the important factor of our
chance of escaping detection, or at any rate of our dying first.  A
reasonable virtue will give this chance its due value, neither more nor
less.

Pleasure, after all, is a safer guide than either right or duty.  For
hard as it is to know what gives us pleasure, right and duty are often
still harder to distinguish and, if we go wrong with them, will lead us
into just as sorry a plight as a mistaken opinion concerning pleasure.
When men burn their fingers through following after pleasure they find
out their mistake and get to see where they have gone wrong more easily
than when they have burnt them through following after a fancied duty, or
a fancied idea concerning right virtue.  The devil, in fact, when he
dresses himself in angel's clothes, can only be detected by experts of
exceptional skill, and so often does he adopt this disguise that it is
hardly safe to be seen talking to an angel at all, and prudent people
will follow after pleasure as a more homely but more respectable and on
the whole much more trustworthy guide.

Returning to Mr Pontifex, over and above his having lived long and
prosperously, he left numerous offspring, to all of whom he communicated
not only his physical and mental characteristics, with no more than the
usual amount of modification, but also no small share of characteristics
which are less easily transmitted--I mean his pecuniary characteristics.
It may be said that he acquired these by sitting still and letting money
run, as it were, right up against him, but against how many does not
money run who do not take it when it does, or who, even if they hold it
for a little while, cannot so incorporate it with themselves that it
shall descend through them to their offspring?  Mr Pontifex did this.  He
kept what he may be said to have made, and money is like a reputation for
ability--more easily made than kept.

Take him, then, for all in all, I am not inclined to be so severe upon
him as my father was.  Judge him according to any very lofty standard,
and he is nowhere.  Judge him according to a fair average standard, and
there is not much fault to be found with him.  I have said what I have
said in the foregoing chapter once for all, and shall not break my thread
to repeat it.  It should go without saying in modification of the verdict
which the reader may be inclined to pass too hastily, not only upon Mr
George Pontifex, but also upon Theobald and Christina.  And now I will
continue my story.




CHAPTER XX


The birth of his son opened Theobald's eyes to a good deal which he had
but faintly realised hitherto.  He had had no idea how great a nuisance a
baby was.  Babies come into the world so suddenly at the end, and upset
everything so terribly when they do come: why cannot they steal in upon
us with less of a shock to the domestic system?  His wife, too, did not
recover rapidly from her confinement; she remained an invalid for months;
here was another nuisance and an expensive one, which interfered with the
amount which Theobald liked to put by out of his income against, as he
said, a rainy day, or to make provision for his family if he should have
one.  Now he was getting a family, so that it became all the more
necessary to put money by, and here was the baby hindering him.  Theorists
may say what they like about a man's children being a continuation of his
own identity, but it will generally be found that those who talk in this
way have no children of their own.  Practical family men know better.

About twelve months after the birth of Ernest there came a second, also a
boy, who was christened Joseph, and in less than twelve months
afterwards, a girl, to whom was given the name of Charlotte.  A few
months before this girl was born Christina paid a visit to the John
Pontifexes in London, and, knowing her condition, passed a good deal of
time at the Royal Academy exhibition looking at the types of female
beauty portrayed by the Academicians, for she had made up her mind that
the child this time was to be a girl.  Alethea warned her not to do this,
but she persisted, and certainly the child turned out plain, but whether
the pictures caused this or no I cannot say.

Theobald had never liked children.  He had always got away from them as
soon as he could, and so had they from him; oh, why, he was inclined to
ask himself, could not children be born into the world grown up?  If
Christina could have given birth to a few full-grown clergymen in
priest's orders--of moderate views, but inclining rather to
Evangelicalism, with comfortable livings and in all respects facsimiles
of Theobald himself--why, there might have been more sense in it; or if
people could buy ready-made children at a shop of whatever age and sex
they liked, instead of always having to make them at home and to begin at
the beginning with them--that might do better, but as it was he did not
like it.  He felt as he had felt when he had been required to come and be
married to Christina--that he had been going on for a long time quite
nicely, and would much rather continue things on their present footing.
In the matter of getting married he had been obliged to pretend he liked
it; but times were changed, and if he did not like a thing now, he could
find a hundred unexceptionable ways of making his dislike apparent.

It might have been better if Theobald in his younger days had kicked more
against his father: the fact that he had not done so encouraged him to
expect the most implicit obedience from his own children.  He could trust
himself, he said (and so did Christina), to be more lenient than perhaps
his father had been to himself; his danger, he said (and so again did
Christina), would be rather in the direction of being too indulgent; he
must be on his guard against this, for no duty could be more important
than that of teaching a child to obey its parents in all things.

He had read not long since of an Eastern traveller, who, while exploring
somewhere in the more remote parts of Arabia and Asia Minor, had come
upon a remarkably hardy, sober, industrious little Christian
community--all of them in the best of health--who had turned out to be
the actual living descendants of Jonadab, the son of Rechab; and two men
in European costume, indeed, but speaking English with a broken accent,
and by their colour evidently Oriental, had come begging to Battersby
soon afterwards, and represented themselves as belonging to this people;
they had said they were collecting funds to promote the conversion of
their fellow tribesmen to the English branch of the Christian religion.
True, they turned out to be impostors, for when he gave them a pound and
Christina five shillings from her private purse, they went and got drunk
with it in the next village but one to Battersby; still, this did not
invalidate the story of the Eastern traveller.  Then there were the
Romans--whose greatness was probably due to the wholesome authority
exercised by the head of a family over all its members.  Some Romans had
even killed their children; this was going too far, but then the Romans
were not Christians, and knew no better.

The practical outcome of the foregoing was a conviction in Theobald's
mind, and if in his, then in Christina's, that it was their duty to begin
training up their children in the way they should go, even from their
earliest infancy.  The first signs of self-will must be carefully looked
for, and plucked up by the roots at once before they had time to grow.
Theobald picked up this numb serpent of a metaphor and cherished it in
his bosom.

Before Ernest could well crawl he was taught to kneel; before he could
well speak he was taught to lisp the Lord's prayer, and the general
confession.  How was it possible that these things could be taught too
early?  If his attention flagged or his memory failed him, here was an
ill weed which would grow apace, unless it were plucked out immediately,
and the only way to pluck it out was to whip him, or shut him up in a
cupboard, or dock him of some of the small pleasures of childhood.  Before
he was three years old he could read and, after a fashion, write.  Before
he was four he was learning Latin, and could do rule of three sums.

As for the child himself, he was naturally of an even temper, he doted
upon his nurse, on kittens and puppies, and on all things that would do
him the kindness of allowing him to be fond of them.  He was fond of his
mother, too, but as regards his father, he has told me in later life he
could remember no feeling but fear and shrinking.  Christina did not
remonstrate with Theobald concerning the severity of the tasks imposed
upon their boy, nor yet as to the continual whippings that were found
necessary at lesson times.  Indeed, when during any absence of Theobald's
the lessons were entrusted to her, she found to her sorrow that it was
the only thing to do, and she did it no less effectually than Theobald
himself, nevertheless she was fond of her boy, which Theobald never was,
and it was long before she could destroy all affection for herself in the
mind of her first-born.  But she persevered.




CHAPTER XXI


Strange! for she believed she doted upon him, and certainly she loved him
better than either of her other children.  Her version of the matter was
that there had never yet been two parents so self-denying and devoted to
the highest welfare of their children as Theobald and herself.  For
Ernest, a very great future--she was certain of it--was in store.  This
made severity all the more necessary, so that from the first he might
have been kept pure from every taint of evil.  She could not allow
herself the scope for castle building which, we read, was indulged in by
every Jewish matron before the appearance of the Messiah, for the Messiah
had now come, but there was to be a millennium shortly, certainly not
later than 1866, when Ernest would be just about the right age for it,
and a modern Elias would be wanted to herald its approach.  Heaven would
bear her witness that she had never shrunk from the idea of martyrdom for
herself and Theobald, nor would she avoid it for her boy, if his life was
required of her in her Redeemer's service.  Oh, no!  If God told her to
offer up her first-born, as He had told Abraham, she would take him up to
Pigbury Beacon and plunge the--no, that she could not do, but it would be
unnecessary--some one else might do that.  It was not for nothing that
Ernest had been baptised in water from the Jordan.  It had not been her
doing, nor yet Theobald's.  They had not sought it.  When water from the
sacred stream was wanted for a sacred infant, the channel had been found
through which it was to flow from far Palestine over land and sea to the
door of the house where the child was lying.  Why, it was a miracle!  It
was!  It was!  She saw it all now.  The Jordan had left its bed and
flowed into her own house.  It was idle to say that this was not a
miracle.  No miracle was effected without means of some kind; the
difference between the faithful and the unbeliever consisted in the very
fact that the former could see a miracle where the latter could not.  The
Jews could see no miracle even in the raising of Lazarus and the feeding
of the five thousand.  The John Pontifexes would see no miracle in this
matter of the water from the Jordan.  The essence of a miracle lay not in
the fact that means had been dispensed with, but in the adoption of means
to a great end that had not been available without interference; and no
one would suppose that Dr Jones would have brought the water unless he
had been directed.  She would tell this to Theobald, and get him to see
it in the . . . and yet perhaps it would be better not.  The insight of
women upon matters of this sort was deeper and more unerring than that of
men.  It was a woman and not a man who had been filled most completely
with the whole fulness of the Deity.  But why had they not treasured up
the water after it was used?  It ought never, never to have been thrown
away, but it had been.  Perhaps, however, this was for the best too--they
might have been tempted to set too much store by it, and it might have
become a source of spiritual danger to them--perhaps even of spiritual
pride, the very sin of all others which she most abhorred.  As for the
channel through which the Jordan had flowed to Battersby, that mattered
not more than the earth through which the river ran in Palestine itself.
Dr Jones was certainly worldly--very worldly; so, she regretted to feel,
had been her father-in-law, though in a less degree; spiritual, at heart,
doubtless, and becoming more and more spiritual continually as he grew
older, still he was tainted with the world, till a very few hours,
probably, before his death, whereas she and Theobald had given up all for
Christ's sake.  _They_ were not worldly.  At least Theobald was not.  She
had been, but she was sure she had grown in grace since she had left off
eating things strangled and blood--this was as the washing in Jordan as
against Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus.  Her boy should never
touch a strangled fowl nor a black pudding--that, at any rate, she could
see to.  He should have a coral from the neighbourhood of Joppa--there
were coral insects on those coasts, so that the thing could easily be
done with a little energy; she would write to Dr Jones about it, etc.  And
so on for hours together day after day for years.  Truly, Mrs Theobald
loved her child according to her lights with an exceeding great fondness,
but the dreams she had dreamed in sleep were sober realities in
comparison with those she indulged in while awake.

When Ernest was in his second year, Theobald, as I have already said,
began to teach him to read.  He began to whip him two days after he had
begun to teach him.

"It was painful," as he said to Christina, but it was the only thing to
do and it was done.  The child was puny, white and sickly, so they sent
continually for the doctor who dosed him with calomel and James's powder.
All was done in love, anxiety, timidity, stupidity, and impatience.  They
were stupid in little things; and he that is stupid in little will be
stupid also in much.

Presently old Mr Pontifex died, and then came the revelation of the
little alteration he had made in his will simultaneously with his bequest
to Ernest.  It was rather hard to bear, especially as there was no way of
conveying a bit of their minds to the testator now that he could no
longer hurt them.  As regards the boy himself anyone must see that the
bequest would be an unmitigated misfortune to him.  To leave him a small
independence was perhaps the greatest injury which one could inflict upon
a young man.  It would cripple his energies, and deaden his desire for
active employment.  Many a youth was led into evil courses by the
knowledge that on arriving at majority he would come into a few
thousands.  They might surely have been trusted to have their boy's
interests at heart, and must be better judges of those interests than he,
at twenty-one, could be expected to be: besides if Jonadab, the son of
Rechab's father--or perhaps it might be simpler under the circumstances
to say Rechab at once--if Rechab, then, had left handsome legacies to his
grandchildren--why Jonadab might not have found those children so easy to
deal with, etc.  "My dear," said Theobald, after having discussed the
matter with Christina for the twentieth time, "my dear, the only thing to
guide and console us under misfortunes of this kind is to take refuge in
practical work.  I will go and pay a visit to Mrs Thompson."

On those days Mrs Thompson would be told that her sins were all washed
white, etc., a little sooner and a little more peremptorily than on
others.




CHAPTER XXII


I used to stay at Battersby for a day or two sometimes, while my godson
and his brother and sister were children.  I hardly know why I went, for
Theobald and I grew more and more apart, but one gets into grooves
sometimes, and the supposed friendship between myself and the Pontifexes
continued to exist, though it was now little more than rudimentary.  My
godson pleased me more than either of the other children, but he had not
much of the buoyancy of childhood, and was more like a puny, sallow
little old man than I liked.  The young people, however, were very ready
to be friendly.

I remember Ernest and his brother hovered round me on the first day of
one of these visits with their hands full of fading flowers, which they
at length proffered me.  On this I did what I suppose was expected: I
inquired if there was a shop near where they could buy sweeties.  They
said there was, so I felt in my pockets, but only succeeded in finding
two pence halfpenny in small money.  This I gave them, and the
youngsters, aged four and three, toddled off alone.  Ere long they
returned, and Ernest said, "We can't get sweeties for all this money" (I
felt rebuked, but no rebuke was intended); "we can get sweeties for this"
(showing a penny), "and for this" (showing another penny), "but we cannot
get them for all this," and he added the halfpenny to the two pence.  I
suppose they had wanted a twopenny cake, or something like that.  I was
amused, and left them to solve the difficulty their own way, being
anxious to see what they would do.

Presently Ernest said, "May we give you back this" (showing the
halfpenny) "and not give you back this and this?" (showing the pence).  I
assented, and they gave a sigh of relief and went on their way rejoicing.
A few more presents of pence and small toys completed the conquest, and
they began to take me into their confidence.

They told me a good deal which I am afraid I ought not to have listened
to.  They said that if grandpapa had lived longer he would most likely
have been made a Lord, and that then papa would have been the Honourable
and Reverend, but that grandpapa was now in heaven singing beautiful
hymns with grandmamma Allaby to Jesus Christ, who was very fond of them;
and that when Ernest was ill, his mamma had told him he need not be
afraid of dying for he would go straight to heaven, if he would only be
sorry for having done his lessons so badly and vexed his dear papa, and
if he would promise never, never to vex him any more; and that when he
got to heaven grandpapa and grandmamma Allaby would meet him, and he
would be always with them, and they would be very good to him and teach
him to sing ever such beautiful hymns, more beautiful by far than those
which he was now so fond of, etc., etc.; but he did not wish to die, and
was glad when he got better, for there were no kittens in heaven, and he
did not think there were cowslips to make cowslip tea with.

Their mother was plainly disappointed in them.  "My children are none of
them geniuses, Mr Overton," she said to me at breakfast one morning.
"They have fair abilities, and, thanks to Theobald's tuition, they are
forward for their years, but they have nothing like genius: genius is a
thing apart from this, is it not?"

Of course I said it was "a thing quite apart from this," but if my
thoughts had been laid bare, they would have appeared as "Give me my
coffee immediately, ma'am, and don't talk nonsense."  I have no idea what
genius is, but so far as I can form any conception about it, I should say
it was a stupid word which cannot be too soon abandoned to scientific and
literary _claqueurs_.

I do not know exactly what Christina expected, but I should imagine it
was something like this: "My children ought to be all geniuses, because
they are mine and Theobald's, and it is naughty of them not to be; but,
of course, they cannot be so good and clever as Theobald and I were, and
if they show signs of being so it will be naughty of them.  Happily,
however, they are not this, and yet it is very dreadful that they are
not.  As for genius--hoity-toity, indeed--why, a genius should turn
intellectual summersaults as soon as it is born, and none of my children
have yet been able to get into the newspapers.  I will not have children
of mine give themselves airs--it is enough for them that Theobald and I
should do so."

She did not know, poor woman, that the true greatness wears an invisible
cloak, under cover of which it goes in and out among men without being
suspected; if its cloak does not conceal it from itself always, and from
all others for many years, its greatness will ere long shrink to very
ordinary dimensions.  What, then, it may be asked, is the good of being
great?  The answer is that you may understand greatness better in others,
whether alive or dead, and choose better company from these and enjoy and
understand that company better when you have chosen it--also that you may
be able to give pleasure to the best people and live in the lives of
those who are yet unborn.  This, one would think, was substantial gain
enough for greatness without its wanting to ride rough-shod over us, even
when disguised as humility.

I was there on a Sunday, and observed the rigour with which the young
people were taught to observe the Sabbath; they might not cut out things,
nor use their paintbox on a Sunday, and this they thought rather hard,
because their cousins the John Pontifexes might do these things.  Their
cousins might play with their toy train on Sunday, but though they had
promised that they would run none but Sunday trains, all traffic had been
prohibited.  One treat only was allowed them--on Sunday evenings they
might choose their own hymns.

In the course of the evening they came into the drawing-room, and, as an
especial treat, were to sing some of their hymns to me, instead of saying
them, so that I might hear how nicely they sang.  Ernest was to choose
the first hymn, and he chose one about some people who were to come to
the sunset tree.  I am no botanist, and do not know what kind of tree a
sunset tree is, but the words began, "Come, come, come; come to the
sunset tree for the day is past and gone."  The tune was rather pretty
and had taken Ernest's fancy, for he was unusually fond of music and had
a sweet little child's voice which he liked using.

He was, however, very late in being able to sound a hard it "c" or "k,"
and, instead of saying "Come," he said "Tum tum, tum."

"Ernest," said Theobald, from the arm-chair in front of the fire, where
he was sitting with his hands folded before him, "don't you think it
would be very nice if you were to say 'come' like other people, instead
of 'tum'?"

"I do say tum," replied Ernest, meaning that he had said "come."

Theobald was always in a bad temper on Sunday evening.  Whether it is
that they are as much bored with the day as their neighbours, or whether
they are tired, or whatever the cause may be, clergymen are seldom at
their best on Sunday evening; I had already seen signs that evening that
my host was cross, and was a little nervous at hearing Ernest say so
promptly "I do say tum," when his papa had said he did not say it as he
should.

Theobald noticed the fact that he was being contradicted in a moment.  He
got up from his arm-chair and went to the piano.

"No, Ernest, you don't," he said, "you say nothing of the kind, you say
'tum,' not 'come.'  Now say 'come' after me, as I do."

"Tum," said Ernest, at once; "is that better?"  I have no doubt he
thought it was, but it was not.

"Now, Ernest, you are not taking pains: you are not trying as you ought
to do.  It is high time you learned to say 'come,' why, Joey can say
'come,' can't you, Joey?"

"Yeth, I can," replied Joey, and he said something which was not far off
"come."

"There, Ernest, do you hear that?  There's no difficulty about it, nor
shadow of difficulty.  Now, take your own time, think about it, and say
'come' after me."

The boy remained silent a few seconds and then said "tum" again.

I laughed, but Theobald turned to me impatiently and said, "Please do not
laugh, Overton; it will make the boy think it does not matter, and it
matters a great deal;" then turning to Ernest he said, "Now, Ernest, I
will give you one more chance, and if you don't say 'come,' I shall know
that you are self-willed and naughty."

He looked very angry, and a shade came over Ernest's face, like that
which comes upon the face of a puppy when it is being scolded without
understanding why.  The child saw well what was coming now, was
frightened, and, of course, said "tum" once more.

"Very well, Ernest," said his father, catching him angrily by the
shoulder.  "I have done my best to save you, but if you will have it so,
you will," and he lugged the little wretch, crying by anticipation, out
of the room.  A few minutes more and we could hear screams coming from
the dining-room, across the hall which separated the drawing-room from
the dining-room, and knew that poor Ernest was being beaten.

"I have sent him up to bed," said Theobald, as he returned to the drawing-
room, "and now, Christina, I think we will have the servants in to
prayers," and he rang the bell for them, red-handed as he was.




CHAPTER XXIII


The man-servant William came and set the chairs for the maids, and
presently they filed in.  First Christina's maid, then the cook, then the
housemaid, then William, and then the coachman.  I sat opposite them, and
watched their faces as Theobald read a chapter from the Bible.  They were
nice people, but more absolute vacancy I never saw upon the countenances
of human beings.

Theobald began by reading a few verses from the Old Testament, according
to some system of his own.  On this occasion the passage came from the
fifteenth chapter of Numbers: it had no particular bearing that I could
see upon anything which was going on just then, but the spirit which
breathed throughout the whole seemed to me to be so like that of Theobald
himself, that I could understand better after hearing it, how he came to
think as he thought, and act as he acted.

The verses are as follows--

   "But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in
   the land or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul
   shall be cut off from among his people.

   "Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His
   commandments, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall
   be upon him.

   "And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness they found a
   man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day.

   "And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and
   Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

   "And they put him in ward because it was not declared what should be
   done to him.

   "And the Lord said unto Moses, the man shall be surely put to death;
   all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

   "And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him
   with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

   "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

   "Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them
   fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations,
   and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue.

   "And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it and
   remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them, and that ye
   seek not after your own heart and your own eyes.

   "That ye may remember and do all my commandments and be holy unto your
   God.

   "I am the Lord your God which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to
   be your God: I am the Lord your God."

My thoughts wandered while Theobald was reading the above, and reverted
to a little matter which I had observed in the course of the afternoon.

It happened that some years previously, a swarm of bees had taken up
their abode in the roof of the house under the slates, and had multiplied
so that the drawing-room was a good deal frequented by these bees during
the summer, when the windows were open.  The drawing-room paper was of a
pattern which consisted of bunches of red and white roses, and I saw
several bees at different times fly up to these bunches and try them,
under the impression that they were real flowers; having tried one bunch,
they tried the next, and the next, and the next, till they reached the
one that was nearest the ceiling, then they went down bunch by bunch as
they had ascended, till they were stopped by the back of the sofa; on
this they ascended bunch by bunch to the ceiling again; and so on, and so
on till I was tired of watching them.  As I thought of the family prayers
being repeated night and morning, week by week, month by month, and year
by year, I could nor help thinking how like it was to the way in which
the bees went up the wall and down the wall, bunch by bunch, without ever
suspecting that so many of the associated ideas could be present, and yet
the main idea be wanting hopelessly, and for ever.

When Theobald had finished reading we all knelt down and the Carlo Dolci
and the Sassoferrato looked down upon a sea of upturned backs, as we
buried our faces in our chairs.  I noted that Theobald prayed that we
might be made "truly honest and conscientious" in all our dealings, and
smiled at the introduction of the "truly."  Then my thoughts ran back to
the bees and I reflected that after all it was perhaps as well at any
rate for Theobald that our prayers were seldom marked by any very
encouraging degree of response, for if I had thought there was the
slightest chance of my being heard I should have prayed that some one
might ere long treat him as he had treated Ernest.

Then my thoughts wandered on to those calculations which people make
about waste of time and how much one can get done if one gives ten
minutes a day to it, and I was thinking what improper suggestion I could
make in connection with this and the time spent on family prayers which
should at the same time be just tolerable, when I heard Theobald
beginning "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" and in a few seconds the
ceremony was over, and the servants filed out again as they had filed in.

As soon as they had left the drawing-room, Christina, who was a little
ashamed of the transaction to which I had been a witness, imprudently
returned to it, and began to justify it, saying that it cut her to the
heart, and that it cut Theobald to the heart and a good deal more, but
that "it was the only thing to be done."

I received this as coldly as I decently could, and by my silence during
the rest of the evening showed that I disapproved of what I had seen.

Next day I was to go back to London, but before I went I said I should
like to take some new-laid eggs back with me, so Theobald took me to the
house of a labourer in the village who lived a stone's throw from the
Rectory as being likely to supply me with them.  Ernest, for some reason
or other, was allowed to come too.  I think the hens had begun to sit,
but at any rate eggs were scarce, and the cottager's wife could not find
me more than seven or eight, which we proceeded to wrap up in separate
pieces of paper so that I might take them to town safely.

This operation was carried on upon the ground in front of the cottage
door, and while we were in the midst of it the cottager's little boy, a
lad much about Ernest's age, trod upon one of the eggs that was wrapped
up in paper and broke it.

"There now, Jack," said his mother, "see what you've done, you've broken
a nice egg and cost me a penny--Here, Emma," she added, calling her
daughter, "take the child away, there's a dear."

Emma came at once, and walked off with the youngster, taking him out of
harm's way.

"Papa," said Ernest, after we had left the house, "Why didn't Mrs Heaton
whip Jack when he trod on the egg?"

I was spiteful enough to give Theobald a grim smile which said as plainly
as words could have done that I thought Ernest had hit him rather hard.

Theobald coloured and looked angry.  "I dare say," he said quickly, "that
his mother will whip him now that we are gone."

I was not going to have this and said I did not believe it, and so the
matter dropped, but Theobald did not forget it and my visits to Battersby
were henceforth less frequent.

On our return to the house we found the postman had arrived and had
brought a letter appointing Theobald to a rural deanery which had lately
fallen vacant by the death of one of the neighbouring clergy who had held
the office for many years.  The bishop wrote to Theobald most warmly, and
assured him that he valued him as among the most hard-working and devoted
of his parochial clergy.  Christina of course was delighted, and gave me
to understand that it was only an instalment of the much higher dignities
which were in store for Theobald when his merits were more widely known.

I did not then foresee how closely my godson's life and mine were in
after years to be bound up together; if I had, I should doubtless have
looked upon him with different eyes and noted much to which I paid no
attention at the time.  As it was, I was glad to get away from him, for I
could do nothing for him, or chose to say that I could not, and the sight
of so much suffering was painful to me.  A man should not only have his
own way as far as possible, but he should only consort with things that
are getting their own way so far that they are at any rate comfortable.
Unless for short times under exceptional circumstances, he should not
even see things that have been stunted or starved, much less should he
eat meat that has been vexed by having been over-driven or underfed, or
afflicted with any disease; nor should he touch vegetables that have not
been well grown.  For all these things cross a man; whatever a man comes
in contact with in any way forms a cross with him which will leave him
better or worse, and the better things he is crossed with the more likely
he is to live long and happily.  All things must be crossed a little or
they would cease to live--but holy things, such for example as Giovanni
Bellini's saints, have been crossed with nothing but what is good of its
kind,




CHAPTER XXIV


The storm which I have described in the previous chapter was a sample of
those that occurred daily for many years.  No matter how clear the sky,
it was always liable to cloud over now in one quarter now in another, and
the thunder and lightning were upon the young people before they knew
where they were.

"And then, you know," said Ernest to me, when I asked him not long since
to give me more of his childish reminiscences for the benefit of my
story, "we used to learn Mrs Barbauld's hymns; they were in prose, and
there was one about the lion which began, 'Come, and I will show you what
is strong.  The lion is strong; when he raiseth himself from his lair,
when he shaketh his mane, when the voice of his roaring is heard the
cattle of the field fly, and the beasts of the desert hide themselves,
for he is very terrible.'  I used to say this to Joey and Charlotte about
my father himself when I got a little older, but they were always
didactic, and said it was naughty of me.

"One great reason why clergymen's households are generally unhappy is
because the clergyman is so much at home or close about the house.  The
doctor is out visiting patients half his time: the lawyer and the
merchant have offices away from home, but the clergyman has no official
place of business which shall ensure his being away from home for many
hours together at stated times.  Our great days were when my father went
for a day's shopping to Gildenham.  We were some miles from this place,
and commissions used to accumulate on my father's list till he would make
a day of it and go and do the lot.  As soon as his back was turned the
air felt lighter; as soon as the hall door opened to let him in again,
the law with its all-reaching 'touch not, taste not, handle not' was upon
us again.  The worst of it was that I could never trust Joey and
Charlotte; they would go a good way with me and then turn back, or even
the whole way and then their consciences would compel them to tell papa
and mamma.  They liked running with the hare up to a certain point, but
their instinct was towards the hounds.

"It seems to me," he continued, "that the family is a survival of the
principle which is more logically embodied in the compound animal--and
the compound animal is a form of life which has been found incompatible
with high development.  I would do with the family among mankind what
nature has done with the compound animal, and confine it to the lower and
less progressive races.  Certainly there is no inherent love for the
family system on the part of nature herself.  Poll the forms of life and
you will find it in a ridiculously small minority.  The fishes know it
not, and they get along quite nicely.  The ants and the bees, who far
outnumber man, sting their fathers to death as a matter of course, and
are given to the atrocious mutilation of nine-tenths of the offspring
committed to their charge, yet where shall we find communities more
universally respected?  Take the cuckoo again--is there any bird which we
like better?"

I saw he was running off from his own reminiscences and tried to bring
him back to them, but it was no use.

"What a fool," he said, "a man is to remember anything that happened more
than a week ago unless it was pleasant, or unless he wants to make some
use of it.

"Sensible people get the greater part of their own dying done during
their own lifetime.  A man at five and thirty should no more regret not
having had a happier childhood than he should regret not having been born
a prince of the blood.  He might be happier if he had been more fortunate
in childhood, but, for aught he knows, if he had, something else might
have happened which might have killed him long ago.  If I had to be born
again I would be born at Battersby of the same father and mother as
before, and I would not alter anything that has ever happened to me."

The most amusing incident that I can remember about his childhood was
that when he was about seven years old he told me he was going to have a
natural child.  I asked him his reasons for thinking this, and he
explained that papa and mamma had always told him that nobody had
children till they were married, and as long as he had believed this of
course he had had no idea of having a child, till he was grown up; but
not long since he had been reading Mrs Markham's history of England and
had come upon the words "John of Gaunt had several natural children" he
had therefore asked his governess what a natural child was--were not all
children natural?

"Oh, my dear," said she, "a natural child is a child a person has before
he is married."  On this it seemed to follow logically that if John of
Gaunt had had children before he was married, he, Ernest Pontifex, might
have them also, and he would be obliged to me if I would tell him what he
had better do under the circumstances.

I enquired how long ago he had made this discovery.  He said about a
fortnight, and he did not know where to look for the child, for it might
come at any moment.  "You know," he said, "babies come so suddenly; one
goes to bed one night and next morning there is a baby.  Why, it might
die of cold if we are not on the look-out for it.  I hope it will be a
boy."

"And you have told your governess about this?"

"Yes, but she puts me off and does not help me: she says it will not come
for many years, and she hopes not then."

"Are you quite sure that you have not made any mistake in all this?"

"Oh, no; because Mrs Burne, you know, called here a few days ago, and I
was sent for to be looked at.  And mamma held me out at arm's length and
said, 'Is he Mr Pontifex's child, Mrs Burne, or is he mine?'  Of course,
she couldn't have said this if papa had not had some of the children
himself.  I did think the gentleman had all the boys and the lady all the
girls; but it can't be like this, or else mamma would not have asked Mrs
Burne to guess; but then Mrs Burne said, 'Oh, he's Mr Pontifex's child
_of course_,' and I didn't quite know what she meant by saying 'of
course': it seemed as though I was right in thinking that the husband has
all the boys and the wife all the girls; I wish you would explain to me
all about it."

This I could hardly do, so I changed the conversation, after reassuring
him as best I could.




CHAPTER XXV


Three or four years after the birth of her daughter, Christina had had
one more child.  She had never been strong since she married, and had a
presentiment that she should not survive this last confinement.  She
accordingly wrote the following letter, which was to be given, as she
endorsed upon it, to her sons when Ernest was sixteen years old.  It
reached him on his mother's death many years later, for it was the baby
who died now, and not Christina.  It was found among papers which she had
repeatedly and carefully arranged, with the seal already broken.  This, I
am afraid, shows that Christina had read it and thought it too creditable
to be destroyed when the occasion that had called it forth had gone by.
It is as follows--

   "BATTERSBY, March 15th, 1841.

   "My Two Dear Boys,--When this is put into your hands will you try to
   bring to mind the mother whom you lost in your childhood, and whom, I
   fear, you will almost have forgotten?  You, Ernest, will remember her
   best, for you are past five years old, and the many, many times that
   she has taught you your prayers and hymns and sums and told you
   stories, and our happy Sunday evenings will not quite have passed from
   your mind, and you, Joey, though only four, will perhaps recollect
   some of these things.  My dear, dear boys, for the sake of that mother
   who loved you very dearly--and for the sake of your own happiness for
   ever and ever--attend to and try to remember, and from time to time
   read over again the last words she can ever speak to you.  When I
   think about leaving you all, two things press heavily upon me: one,
   your father's sorrow (for you, my darlings, after missing me a little
   while, will soon forget your loss), the other, the everlasting welfare
   of my children.  I know how long and deep the former will be, and I
   know that he will look to his children to be almost his only earthly
   comfort.  You know (for I am certain that it will have been so), how
   he has devoted his life to you and taught you and laboured to lead you
   to all that is right and good.  Oh, then, be sure that you _are_ his
   comforts.  Let him find you obedient, affectionate and attentive to
   his wishes, upright, self-denying and diligent; let him never blush
   for or grieve over the sins and follies of those who owe him such a
   debt of gratitude, and whose first duty it is to study his happiness.
   You have both of you a name which must not be disgraced, a father and
   a grandfather of whom to show yourselves worthy; your respectability
   and well-doing in life rest mainly with yourselves, but far, far
   beyond earthly respectability and well-doing, and compared with which
   they are as nothing, your eternal happiness rests with yourselves.  You
   know your duty, but snares and temptations from without beset you, and
   the nearer you approach to manhood the more strongly will you feel
   this.  With God's help, with God's word, and with humble hearts you
   will stand in spite of everything, but should you leave off seeking in
   earnest for the first, and applying to the second, should you learn to
   trust in yourselves, or to the advice and example of too many around
   you, you will, you must fall.  Oh, 'let God be true and every man a
   liar.'  He says you cannot serve Him and Mammon.  He says that strait
   is the gate that leads to eternal life.  Many there are who seek to
   widen it; they will tell you that such and such self-indulgences are
   but venial offences--that this and that worldly compliance is
   excusable and even necessary.  The thing _cannot be_; for in a hundred
   and a hundred places He tells you so--look to your Bibles and seek
   there whether such counsel is true--and if not, oh, 'halt not between
   two opinions,' if God is the Lord follow Him; only be strong and of a
   good courage, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Remember,
   there is not in the Bible one law for the rich, and one for the
   poor--one for the educated and one for the ignorant.  To _all_ there
   is but one thing needful.  _All_ are to be living to God and their
   fellow-creatures, and not to themselves.  _All_ must seek first the
   Kingdom of God and His righteousness--must _deny themselves_, be pure
   and chaste and charitable in the fullest and widest sense--all,
   'forgetting those things that are behind,' must 'press forward towards
   the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God.'

   "And now I will add but two things more.  Be true through life to each
   other, love as only brothers should do, strengthen, warn, encourage
   one another, and let who will be against you, let each feel that in
   his brother he has a firm and faithful friend who will be so to the
   end; and, oh! be kind and watchful over your dear sister; without
   mother or sisters she will doubly need her brothers' love and
   tenderness and confidence.  I am certain she will seek them, and will
   love you and try to make you happy; be sure then that you do not fail
   her, and remember, that were she to lose her father and remain
   unmarried, she would doubly need protectors.  To you, then, I
   especially commend her.  Oh! my three darling children, be true to
   each other, your Father, and your God.  May He guide and bless you,
   and grant that in a better and happier world I and mine may meet
   again.--Your most affectionate mother,

   CHRISTINA PONTIFEX."

From enquiries I have made, I have satisfied myself that most mothers
write letters like this shortly before their confinements, and that fifty
per cent. keep them afterwards, as Christina did.




CHAPTER XXVI


The foregoing letter shows how much greater was Christina's anxiety for
the eternal than for the temporal welfare of her sons.  One would have
thought she had sowed enough of such religious wild oats by this time,
but she had plenty still to sow.  To me it seems that those who are happy
in this world are better and more lovable people than those who are not,
and that thus in the event of a Resurrection and Day of Judgement, they
will be the most likely to be deemed worthy of a heavenly mansion.
Perhaps a dim unconscious perception of this was the reason why Christina
was so anxious for Theobald's earthly happiness, or was it merely due to
a conviction that his eternal welfare was so much a matter of course,
that it only remained to secure his earthly happiness?  He was to "find
his sons obedient, affectionate, attentive to his wishes, self-denying
and diligent," a goodly string forsooth of all the virtues most
convenient to parents; he was never to have to blush for the follies of
those "who owed him such a debt of gratitude," and "whose first duty it
was to study his happiness."  How like maternal solicitude is this!
Solicitude for the most part lest the offspring should come to have
wishes and feelings of its own, which may occasion many difficulties,
fancied or real.  It is this that is at the bottom of the whole mischief;
but whether this last proposition is granted or no, at any rate we
observe that Christina had a sufficiently keen appreciation of the duties
of children towards their parents, and felt the task of fulfilling them
adequately to be so difficult that she was very doubtful how far Ernest
and Joey would succeed in mastering it.  It is plain in fact that her
supposed parting glance upon them was one of suspicion.  But there was no
suspicion of Theobald; that he should have devoted his life to his
children--why this was such a mere platitude, as almost to go without
saying.

How, let me ask, was it possible that a child only a little past five
years old, trained in such an atmosphere of prayers and hymns and sums
and happy Sunday evenings--to say nothing of daily repeated beatings over
the said prayers and hymns, etc., about which our authoress is silent--how
was it possible that a lad so trained should grow up in any healthy or
vigorous development, even though in her own way his mother was
undoubtedly very fond of him, and sometimes told him stories?  Can the
eye of any reader fail to detect the coming wrath of God as about to
descend upon the head of him who should be nurtured under the shadow of
such a letter as the foregoing?

I have often thought that the Church of Rome does wisely in not allowing
her priests to marry.  Certainly it is a matter of common observation in
England that the sons of clergymen are frequently unsatisfactory.  The
explanation is very simple, but is so often lost sight of that I may
perhaps be pardoned for giving it here.

The clergyman is expected to be a kind of human Sunday.  Things must not
be done in him which are venial in the week-day classes.  He is paid for
this business of leading a stricter life than other people.  It is his
_raison d'etre_.  If his parishioners feel that he does this, they
approve of him, for they look upon him as their own contribution towards
what they deem a holy life.  This is why the clergyman is so often called
a vicar--he being the person whose vicarious goodness is to stand for
that of those entrusted to his charge.  But his home is his castle as
much as that of any other Englishman, and with him, as with others,
unnatural tension in public is followed by exhaustion when tension is no
longer necessary.  His children are the most defenceless things he can
reach, and it is on them in nine cases out of ten that he will relieve
his mind.

A clergyman, again, can hardly ever allow himself to look facts fairly in
the face.  It is his profession to support one side; it is impossible,
therefore, for him to make an unbiassed examination of the other.

We forget that every clergyman with a living or curacy, is as much a paid
advocate as the barrister who is trying to persuade a jury to acquit a
prisoner.  We should listen to him with the same suspense of judgment,
the same full consideration of the arguments of the opposing counsel, as
a judge does when he is trying a case.  Unless we know these, and can
state them in a way that our opponents would admit to be a fair
representation of their views, we have no right to claim that we have
formed an opinion at all.  The misfortune is that by the law of the land
one side only can be heard.

Theobald and Christina were no exceptions to the general rule.  When they
came to Battersby they had every desire to fulfil the duties of their
position, and to devote themselves to the honour and glory of God.  But
it was Theobald's duty to see the honour and glory of God through the
eyes of a Church which had lived three hundred years without finding
reason to change a single one of its opinions.

I should doubt whether he ever got as far as doubting the wisdom of his
Church upon any single matter.  His scent for possible mischief was
tolerably keen; so was Christina's, and it is likely that if either of
them detected in him or herself the first faint symptoms of a want of
faith they were nipped no less peremptorily in the bud, than signs of
self-will in Ernest were--and I should imagine more successfully.  Yet
Theobald considered himself, and was generally considered to be, and
indeed perhaps was, an exceptionally truthful person; indeed he was
generally looked upon as an embodiment of all those virtues which make
the poor respectable and the rich respected.  In the course of time he
and his wife became persuaded even to unconsciousness, that no one could
even dwell under their roof without deep cause for thankfulness.  Their
children, their servants, their parishioners must be fortunate _ipso
facto_ that they were theirs.  There was no road to happiness here or
hereafter, but the road that they had themselves travelled, no good
people who did not think as they did upon every subject, and no
reasonable person who had wants the gratification of which would be
inconvenient to them--Theobald and Christina.

This was how it came to pass that their children were white and puny;
they were suffering from _home-sickness_.  They were starving, through
being over-crammed with the wrong things.  Nature came down upon them,
but she did not come down on Theobald and Christina.  Why should she?
They were not leading a starved existence.  There are two classes of
people in this world, those who sin, and those who are sinned against; if
a man must belong to either, he had better belong to the first than to
the second.




CHAPTER XXVII


I will give no more of the details of my hero's earlier years.  Enough
that he struggled through them, and at twelve years old knew every page
of his Latin and Greek Grammars by heart.  He had read the greater part
of Virgil, Horace and Livy, and I do not know how many Greek plays: he
was proficient in arithmetic, knew the first four books of Euclid
thoroughly, and had a fair knowledge of French.  It was now time he went
to school, and to school he was accordingly to go, under the famous Dr
Skinner of Roughborough.

Theobald had known Dr Skinner slightly at Cambridge.  He had been a
burning and a shining light in every position he had filled from his
boyhood upwards.  He was a very great genius.  Everyone knew this; they
said, indeed, that he was one of the few people to whom the word genius
could be applied without exaggeration.  Had he not taken I don't know how
many University Scholarships in his freshman's year?  Had he not been
afterwards Senior Wrangler, First Chancellor's Medallist and I do not
know how many more things besides?  And then, he was such a wonderful
speaker; at the Union Debating Club he had been without a rival, and had,
of course, been president; his moral character,--a point on which so many
geniuses were weak--was absolutely irreproachable; foremost of all,
however, among his many great qualities, and perhaps more remarkable even
than his genius was what biographers have called "the simple-minded and
child-like earnestness of his character," an earnestness which might be
perceived by the solemnity with which he spoke even about trifles.  It is
hardly necessary to say he was on the Liberal side in politics.

His personal appearance was not particularly prepossessing.  He was about
the middle height, portly, and had a couple of fierce grey eyes, that
flashed fire from beneath a pair of great bushy beetling eyebrows and
overawed all who came near him.  It was in respect of his personal
appearance, however, that, if he was vulnerable at all, his weak place
was to be found.  His hair when he was a young man was red, but after he
had taken his degree he had a brain fever which caused him to have his
head shaved; when he reappeared, he did so wearing a wig, and one which
was a good deal further off red than his own hair had been.  He not only
had never discarded his wig, but year by year it had edged itself a
little more and a little more off red, till by the time he was forty,
there was not a trace of red remaining, and his wig was brown.

When Dr Skinner was a very young man, hardly more than five-and-twenty,
the head-mastership of Roughborough Grammar School had fallen vacant, and
he had been unhesitatingly appointed.  The result justified the
selection.  Dr Skinner's pupils distinguished themselves at whichever
University they went to.  He moulded their minds after the model of his
own, and stamped an impression upon them which was indelible in after-
life; whatever else a Roughborough man might be, he was sure to make
everyone feel that he was a God-fearing earnest Christian and a Liberal,
if not a Radical, in politics.  Some boys, of course, were incapable of
appreciating the beauty and loftiness of Dr Skinner's nature.  Some such
boys, alas! there will be in every school; upon them Dr Skinner's hand
was very properly a heavy one.  His hand was against them, and theirs
against him during the whole time of the connection between them.  They
not only disliked him, but they hated all that he more especially
embodied, and throughout their lives disliked all that reminded them of
him.  Such boys, however, were in a minority, the spirit of the place
being decidedly Skinnerian.

I once had the honour of playing a game of chess with this great man.  It
was during the Christmas holidays, and I had come down to Roughborough
for a few days to see Alethea Pontifex (who was then living there) on
business.  It was very gracious of him to take notice of me, for if I was
a light of literature at all it was of the very lightest kind.

It is true that in the intervals of business I had written a good deal,
but my works had been almost exclusively for the stage, and for those
theatres that devoted themselves to extravaganza and burlesque.  I had
written many pieces of this description, full of puns and comic songs,
and they had had a fair success, but my best piece had been a treatment
of English history during the Reformation period, in the course of which
I had introduced Cranmer, Sir Thomas More, Henry the Eighth, Catherine of
Arragon, and Thomas Cromwell (in his youth better known as the _Malleus
Monachorum_), and had made them dance a break-down.  I had also
dramatised "The Pilgrim's Progress" for a Christmas Pantomime, and made
an important scene of Vanity Fair, with Mr Greatheart, Apollyon,
Christiana, Mercy, and Hopeful as the principal characters.  The
orchestra played music taken from Handel's best known works, but the time
was a good deal altered, and altogether the tunes were not exactly as
Handel left them.  Mr Greatheart was very stout and he had a red nose; he
wore a capacious waistcoat, and a shirt with a huge frill down the middle
of the front.  Hopeful was up to as much mischief as I could give him; he
wore the costume of a young swell of the period, and had a cigar in his
mouth which was continually going out.

Christiana did not wear much of anything: indeed it was said that the
dress which the Stage Manager had originally proposed for her had been
considered inadequate even by the Lord Chamberlain, but this is not the
case.  With all these delinquencies upon my mind it was natural that I
should feel convinced of sin while playing chess (which I hate) with the
great Dr Skinner of Roughborough--the historian of Athens and editor of
Demosthenes.  Dr Skinner, moreover, was one of those who pride themselves
on being able to set people at their ease at once, and I had been sitting
on the edge of my chair all the evening.  But I have always been very
easily overawed by a schoolmaster.

The game had been a long one, and at half-past nine, when supper came in,
we had each of us a few pieces remaining.  "What will you take for
supper, Dr Skinner?" said Mrs Skinner in a silvery voice.

He made no answer for some time, but at last in a tone of almost
superhuman solemnity, he said, first, "Nothing," and then "Nothing
whatever."

By and by, however, I had a sense come over me as though I were nearer
the consummation of all things than I had ever yet been.  The room seemed
to grow dark, as an expression came over Dr Skinner's face, which showed
that he was about to speak.  The expression gathered force, the room grew
darker and darker.  "Stay," he at length added, and I felt that here at
any rate was an end to a suspense which was rapidly becoming unbearable.
"Stay--I may presently take a glass of cold water--and a small piece of
bread and butter."

As he said the word "butter" his voice sank to a hardly audible whisper;
then there was a sigh as though of relief when the sentence was
concluded, and the universe this time was safe.

Another ten minutes of solemn silence finished the game.  The Doctor rose
briskly from his seat and placed himself at the supper table.  "Mrs
Skinner," he exclaimed jauntily, "what are those mysterious-looking
objects surrounded by potatoes?"

"Those are oysters, Dr Skinner."

"Give me some, and give Overton some."

And so on till he had eaten a good plate of oysters, a scallop shell of
minced veal nicely browned, some apple tart, and a hunk of bread and
cheese.  This was the small piece of bread and butter.

The cloth was now removed and tumblers with teaspoons in them, a lemon or
two and a jug of boiling water were placed upon the table.  Then the
great man unbent.  His face beamed.

"And what shall it be to drink?" he exclaimed persuasively.  "Shall it be
brandy and water?  No.  It shall be gin and water.  Gin is the more
wholesome liquor."

So gin it was, hot and stiff too.

Who can wonder at him or do anything but pity him?  Was he not
head-master of Roughborough School?  To whom had he owed money at any
time?  Whose ox had he taken, whose ass had he taken, or whom had he
defrauded?  What whisper had ever been breathed against his moral
character?  If he had become rich it was by the most honourable of all
means--his literary attainments; over and above his great works of
scholarship, his "Meditations upon the Epistle and Character of St Jude"
had placed him among the most popular of English theologians; it was so
exhaustive that no one who bought it need ever meditate upon the subject
again--indeed it exhausted all who had anything to do with it.  He had
made 5000 pounds by this work alone, and would very likely make another
5000 pounds before he died.  A man who had done all this and wanted a
piece of bread and butter had a right to announce the fact with some pomp
and circumstance.  Nor should his words be taken without searching for
what he used to call a "deeper and more hidden meaning."  Those who
searched for this even in his lightest utterances would not be without
their reward.  They would find that "bread and butter" was Skinnerese for
oyster-patties and apple tart, and "gin hot" the true translation of
water.

But independently of their money value, his works had made him a lasting
name in literature.  So probably Gallio was under the impression that his
fame would rest upon the treatises on natural history which we gather
from Seneca that he compiled, and which for aught we know may have
contained a complete theory of evolution; but the treatises are all gone
and Gallio has become immortal for the very last reason in the world that
he expected, and for the very last reason that would have flattered his
vanity.  He has become immortal because he cared nothing about the most
important movement with which he was ever brought into connection (I wish
people who are in search of immortality would lay the lesson to heart and
not make so much noise about important movements), and so, if Dr Skinner
becomes immortal, it will probably be for some reason very different from
the one which he so fondly imagined.

Could it be expected to enter into the head of such a man as this that in
reality he was making his money by corrupting youth; that it was his paid
profession to make the worse appear the better reason in the eyes of
those who were too young and inexperienced to be able to find him out;
that he kept out of the sight of those whom he professed to teach
material points of the argument, for the production of which they had a
right to rely upon the honour of anyone who made professions of
sincerity; that he was a passionate half-turkey-cock half-gander of a man
whose sallow, bilious face and hobble-gobble voice could scare the timid,
but who would take to his heels readily enough if he were met firmly;
that his "Meditations on St Jude," such as they were, were cribbed
without acknowledgment, and would have been beneath contempt if so many
people did not believe them to have been written honestly?  Mrs Skinner
might have perhaps kept him a little more in his proper place if she had
thought it worth while to try, but she had enough to attend to in looking
after her household and seeing that the boys were well fed and, if they
were ill, properly looked after--which she took good care they were.




CHAPTER XXVIII


Ernest had heard awful accounts of Dr Skinner's temper, and of the
bullying which the younger boys at Roughborough had to put up with at the
hands of the bigger ones.  He had now got about as much as he could
stand, and felt as though it must go hard with him if his burdens of
whatever kind were to be increased.  He did not cry on leaving home, but
I am afraid he did on being told that he was getting near Roughborough.
His father and mother were with him, having posted from home in their own
carriage; Roughborough had as yet no railway, and as it was only some
forty miles from Battersby, this was the easiest way of getting there.

On seeing him cry, his mother felt flattered and caressed him.  She said
she knew he must feel very sad at leaving such a happy home, and going
among people who, though they would be very good to him, could never,
never be as good as his dear papa and she had been; still, she was
herself, if he only knew it, much more deserving of pity than he was, for
the parting was more painful to her than it could possibly be to him,
etc., and Ernest, on being told that his tears were for grief at leaving
home, took it all on trust, and did not trouble to investigate the real
cause of his tears.  As they approached Roughborough he pulled himself
together, and was fairly calm by the time he reached Dr Skinner's.

On their arrival they had luncheon with the Doctor and his wife, and then
Mrs Skinner took Christina over the bedrooms, and showed her where her
dear little boy was to sleep.

Whatever men may think about the study of man, women do really believe
the noblest study for womankind to be woman, and Christina was too much
engrossed with Mrs Skinner to pay much attention to anything else; I
daresay Mrs Skinner, too, was taking pretty accurate stock of Christina.
Christina was charmed, as indeed she generally was with any new
acquaintance, for she found in them (and so must we all) something of the
nature of a cross; as for Mrs Skinner, I imagine she had seen too many
Christinas to find much regeneration in the sample now before her; I
believe her private opinion echoed the dictum of a well-known head-master
who declared that all parents were fools, but more especially mothers;
she was, however, all smiles and sweetness, and Christina devoured these
graciously as tributes paid more particularly to herself, and such as no
other mother would have been at all likely to have won.

In the meantime Theobald and Ernest were with Dr Skinner in his
library--the room where new boys were examined and old ones had up for
rebuke or chastisement.  If the walls of that room could speak, what an
amount of blundering and capricious cruelty would they not bear witness
to!

Like all houses, Dr Skinner's had its peculiar smell.  In this case the
prevailing odour was one of Russia leather, but along with it there was a
subordinate savour as of a chemist's shop.  This came from a small
laboratory in one corner of the room--the possession of which, together
with the free chattery and smattery use of such words as "carbonate,"
"hyposulphite," "phosphate," and "affinity," were enough to convince even
the most sceptical that Dr Skinner had a profound knowledge of chemistry.

I may say in passing that Dr Skinner had dabbled in a great many other
things as well as chemistry.  He was a man of many small knowledges, and
each of them dangerous.  I remember Alethea Pontifex once said in her
wicked way to me, that Dr Skinner put her in mind of the Bourbon princes
on their return from exile after the battle of Waterloo, only that he was
their exact converse; for whereas they had learned nothing and forgotten
nothing, Dr Skinner had learned everything and forgotten everything.  And
this puts me in mind of another of her wicked sayings about Dr Skinner.
She told me one day that he had the harmlessness of the serpent and the
wisdom of the dove.

But to return to Dr Skinner's library; over the chimney-piece there was a
Bishop's half length portrait of Dr Skinner himself, painted by the elder
Pickersgill, whose merit Dr Skinner had been among the first to discern
and foster.  There were no other pictures in the library, but in the
dining-room there was a fine collection, which the doctor had got
together with his usual consummate taste.  He added to it largely in
later life, and when it came to the hammer at Christie's, as it did not
long since, it was found to comprise many of the latest and most matured
works of Solomon Hart, O'Neil, Charles Landseer, and more of our recent
Academicians than I can at the moment remember.  There were thus brought
together and exhibited at one view many works which had attracted
attention at the Academy Exhibitions, and as to whose ultimate destiny
there had been some curiosity.  The prices realised were disappointing to
the executors, but, then, these things are so much a matter of chance.  An
unscrupulous writer in a well-known weekly paper had written the
collection down.  Moreover there had been one or two large sales a short
time before Dr Skinner's, so that at this last there was rather a panic,
and a reaction against the high prices that had ruled lately.

The table of the library was loaded with books many deep; MSS. of all
kinds were confusedly mixed up with them,--boys' exercises, probably, and
examination papers--but all littering untidily about.  The room in fact
was as depressing from its slatternliness as from its atmosphere of
erudition.  Theobald and Ernest as they entered it, stumbled over a large
hole in the Turkey carpet, and the dust that rose showed how long it was
since it had been taken up and beaten.  This, I should say, was no fault
of Mrs Skinner's but was due to the Doctor himself, who declared that if
his papers were once disturbed it would be the death of him.  Near the
window was a green cage containing a pair of turtle doves, whose
plaintive cooing added to the melancholy of the place.  The walls were
covered with book shelves from floor to ceiling, and on every shelf the
books stood in double rows.  It was horrible.  Prominent among the most
prominent upon the most prominent shelf were a series of splendidly bound
volumes entitled "Skinner's Works."

Boys are sadly apt to rush to conclusions, and Ernest believed that Dr
Skinner knew all the books in this terrible library, and that he, if he
were to be any good, should have to learn them too.  His heart fainted
within him.

He was told to sit on a chair against the wall and did so, while Dr
Skinner talked to Theobald upon the topics of the day.  He talked about
the Hampden Controversy then raging, and discoursed learnedly about
"Praemunire"; then he talked about the revolution which had just broken
out in Sicily, and rejoiced that the Pope had refused to allow foreign
troops to pass through his dominions in order to crush it.  Dr Skinner
and the other masters took in the Times among them, and Dr Skinner echoed
the _Times_' leaders.  In those days there were no penny papers and
Theobald only took in the _Spectator_--for he was at that time on the
Whig side in politics; besides this he used to receive the
_Ecclesiastical Gazette_ once a month, but he saw no other papers, and
was amazed at the ease and fluency with which Dr Skinner ran from subject
to subject.

The Pope's action in the matter of the Sicilian revolution naturally led
the Doctor to the reforms which his Holiness had introduced into his
dominions, and he laughed consumedly over the joke which had not long
since appeared in _Punch_, to the effect that Pio "No, No," should rather
have been named Pio "Yes, Yes," because, as the doctor explained, he
granted everything his subjects asked for.  Anything like a pun went
straight to Dr Skinner's heart.

Then he went on to the matter of these reforms themselves.  They opened
up a new era in the history of Christendom, and would have such momentous
and far-reaching consequences, that they might even lead to a
reconciliation between the Churches of England and Rome.  Dr Skinner had
lately published a pamphlet upon this subject, which had shown great
learning, and had attacked the Church of Rome in a way which did not
promise much hope of reconciliation.  He had grounded his attack upon the
letters A.M.D.G., which he had seen outside a Roman Catholic chapel, and
which of course stood for _Ad Mariam Dei Genetricem_.  Could anything be
more idolatrous?

I am told, by the way, that I must have let my memory play me one of the
tricks it often does play me, when I said the Doctor proposed _Ad Mariam
Dei Genetricem_ as the full harmonies, so to speak, which should be
constructed upon the bass A.M.D.G., for that this is bad Latin, and that
the doctor really harmonised the letters thus: _Ave Maria Dei Genetrix_.
No doubt the doctor did what was right in the matter of Latinity--I have
forgotten the little Latin I ever knew, and am not going to look the
matter up, but I believe the doctor said _Ad Mariam Dei Genetricem_, and
if so we may be sure that _Ad Mariam Dei Genetricem_, is good enough
Latin at any rate for ecclesiastical purposes.

The reply of the local priest had not yet appeared, and Dr Skinner was
jubilant, but when the answer appeared, and it was solemnly declared that
A.M.D.G. stood for nothing more dangerous than _Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam_,
it was felt that though this subterfuge would not succeed with any
intelligent Englishman, still it was a pity Dr Skinner had selected this
particular point for his attack, for he had to leave his enemy in
possession of the field.  When people are left in possession of the
field, spectators have an awkward habit of thinking that their adversary
does not dare to come to the scratch.

Dr Skinner was telling Theobald all about his pamphlet, and I doubt
whether this gentleman was much more comfortable than Ernest himself.  He
was bored, for in his heart he hated Liberalism, though he was ashamed to
say so, and, as I have said, professed to be on the Whig side.  He did
not want to be reconciled to the Church of Rome; he wanted to make all
Roman Catholics turn Protestants, and could never understand why they
would not do so; but the Doctor talked in such a truly liberal spirit,
and shut him up so sharply when he tried to edge in a word or two, that
he had to let him have it all his own way, and this was not what he was
accustomed to.  He was wondering how he could bring it to an end, when a
diversion was created by the discovery that Ernest had begun to
cry--doubtless through an intense but inarticulate sense of a boredom
greater than he could bear.  He was evidently in a highly nervous state,
and a good deal upset by the excitement of the morning, Mrs Skinner
therefore, who came in with Christina at this juncture, proposed that he
should spend the afternoon with Mrs Jay, the matron, and not be
introduced to his young companions until the following morning.  His
father and mother now bade him an affectionate farewell, and the lad was
handed over to Mrs Jay.

O schoolmasters--if any of you read this book--bear in mind when any
particularly timid drivelling urchin is brought by his papa into your
study, and you treat him with the contempt which he deserves, and
afterwards make his life a burden to him for years--bear in mind that it
is exactly in the disguise of such a boy as this that your future
chronicler will appear.  Never see a wretched little heavy-eyed mite
sitting on the edge of a chair against your study wall without saying to
yourselves, "perhaps this boy is he who, if I am not careful, will one
day tell the world what manner of man I was."  If even two or three
schoolmasters learn this lesson and remember it, the preceding chapters
will not have been written in vain.




CHAPTER XXIX


Soon after his father and mother had left him Ernest dropped asleep over
a book which Mrs Jay had given him, and he did not awake till dusk.  Then
he sat down on a stool in front of the fire, which showed pleasantly in
the late January twilight, and began to muse.  He felt weak, feeble, ill
at ease and unable to see his way out of the innumerable troubles that
were before him.  Perhaps, he said to himself, he might even die, but
this, far from being an end of his troubles, would prove the beginning of
new ones; for at the best he would only go to Grandpapa Pontifex and
Grandmamma Allaby, and though they would perhaps be more easy to get on
with than Papa and Mamma, yet they were undoubtedly not so really good,
and were more worldly; moreover they were grown-up people--especially
Grandpapa Pontifex, who so far as he could understand had been very much
grown-up, and he did not know why, but there was always something that
kept him from loving any grown-up people very much--except one or two of
the servants, who had indeed been as nice as anything that he could
imagine.  Besides even if he were to die and go to Heaven he supposed he
should have to complete his education somewhere.

In the meantime his father and mother were rolling along the muddy roads,
each in his or her own corner of the carriage, and each revolving many
things which were and were not to come to pass.  Times have changed since
I last showed them to the reader as sitting together silently in a
carriage, but except as regards their mutual relations, they have altered
singularly little.  When I was younger I used to think the Prayer Book
was wrong in requiring us to say the General Confession twice a week from
childhood to old age, without making provision for our not being quite
such great sinners at seventy as we had been at seven; granted that we
should go to the wash like table-cloths at least once a week, still I
used to think a day ought to come when we should want rather less rubbing
and scrubbing at.  Now that I have grown older myself I have seen that
the Church has estimated probabilities better than I had done.

The pair said not a word to one another, but watched the fading light and
naked trees, the brown fields with here and there a melancholy cottage by
the road side, and the rain that fell fast upon the carriage windows.  It
was a kind of afternoon on which nice people for the most part like to be
snug at home, and Theobald was a little snappish at reflecting how many
miles he had to post before he could be at his own fireside again.
However there was nothing for it, so the pair sat quietly and watched the
roadside objects flit by them, and get greyer and grimmer as the light
faded.

Though they spoke not to one another, there was one nearer to each of
them with whom they could converse freely.  "I hope," said Theobald to
himself, "I hope he'll work--or else that Skinner will make him.  I don't
like Skinner, I never did like him, but he is unquestionably a man of
genius, and no one turns out so many pupils who succeed at Oxford and
Cambridge, and that is the best test.  I have done my share towards
starting him well.  Skinner said he had been well grounded and was very
forward.  I suppose he will presume upon it now and do nothing, for his
nature is an idle one.  He is not fond of me, I'm sure he is not.  He
ought to be after all the trouble I have taken with him, but he is
ungrateful and selfish.  It is an unnatural thing for a boy not to be
fond of his own father.  If he was fond of me I should be fond of him,
but I cannot like a son who, I am sure, dislikes me.  He shrinks out of
my way whenever he sees me coming near him.  He will not stay five
minutes in the same room with me if he can help it.  He is deceitful.  He
would not want to hide himself away so much if he were not deceitful.
That is a bad sign and one which makes me fear he will grow up
extravagant.  I am sure he will grow up extravagant.  I should have given
him more pocket-money if I had not known this--but what is the good of
giving him pocket-money?  It is all gone directly.  If he doesn't buy
something with it he gives it away to the first little boy or girl he
sees who takes his fancy.  He forgets that it's my money he is giving
away.  I give him money that he may have money and learn to know its
uses, not that he may go and squander it immediately.  I wish he was not
so fond of music, it will interfere with his Latin and Greek.  I will
stop it as much as I can.  Why, when he was translating Livy the other
day he slipped out Handel's name in mistake for Hannibal's, and his
mother tells me he knows half the tunes in the 'Messiah' by heart.  What
should a boy of his age know about the 'Messiah'?  If I had shown half as
many dangerous tendencies when I was a boy, my father would have
apprenticed me to a greengrocer, of that I'm very sure," etc., etc.

Then his thoughts turned to Egypt and the tenth plague.  It seemed to him
that if the little Egyptians had been anything like Ernest, the plague
must have been something very like a blessing in disguise.  If the
Israelites were to come to England now he should be greatly tempted not
to let them go.

Mrs Theobald's thoughts ran in a different current.  "Lord Lonsford's
grandson--it's a pity his name is Figgins; however, blood is blood as
much through the female line as the male, indeed, perhaps even more so if
the truth were known.  I wonder who Mr Figgins was.  I think Mrs Skinner
said he was dead, however, I must find out all about him.  It would be
delightful if young Figgins were to ask Ernest home for the holidays.  Who
knows but he might meet Lord Lonsford himself, or at any rate some of
Lord Lonsford's other descendants?"

Meanwhile the boy himself was still sitting moodily before the fire in
Mrs Jay's room.  "Papa and Mamma," he was saying to himself, "are much
better and cleverer than anyone else, but, I, alas! shall never be either
good or clever."

Mrs Pontifex continued--

"Perhaps it would be best to get young Figgins on a visit to ourselves
first.  That would be charming.  Theobald would not like it, for he does
not like children; I must see how I can manage it, for it would be so
nice to have young Figgins--or stay!  Ernest shall go and stay with
Figgins and meet the future Lord Lonsford, who I should think must be
about Ernest's age, and then if he and Ernest were to become friends
Ernest might ask him to Battersby, and he might fall in love with
Charlotte.  I think we have done _most wisely_ in sending Ernest to Dr
Skinner's.  Dr Skinner's piety is no less remarkable than his genius.  One
can tell these things at a glance, and he must have felt it about me no
less strongly than I about him.  I think he seemed much struck with
Theobald and myself--indeed, Theobald's intellectual power must impress
any one, and I was showing, I do believe, to my best advantage.  When I
smiled at him and said I left my boy in his hands with the most entire
confidence that he would be as well cared for as if he were at my own
house, I am sure he was greatly pleased.  I should not think many of the
mothers who bring him boys can impress him so favourably, or say such
nice things to him as I did.  My smile is sweet when I desire to make it
so.  I never was perhaps exactly pretty, but I was always admitted to be
fascinating.  Dr Skinner is a very handsome man--too good on the whole I
should say for Mrs Skinner.  Theobald says he is not handsome, but men
are no judges, and he has such a pleasant bright face.  I think my bonnet
became me.  As soon as I get home I will tell Chambers to trim my blue
and yellow merino with--" etc., etc.

All this time the letter which has been given above was lying in
Christina's private little Japanese cabinet, read and re-read and
approved of many times over, not to say, if the truth were known,
rewritten more than once, though dated as in the first instance--and
this, too, though Christina was fond enough of a joke in a small way.

Ernest, still in Mrs Jay's room mused onward.  "Grown-up people," he said
to himself, "when they were ladies and gentlemen, never did naughty
things, but he was always doing them.  He had heard that some grown-up
people were worldly, which of course was wrong, still this was quite
distinct from being naughty, and did not get them punished or scolded.
His own Papa and Mamma were not even worldly; they had often explained to
him that they were exceptionally unworldly; he well knew that they had
never done anything naughty since they had been children, and that even
as children they had been nearly faultless.  Oh! how different from
himself!  When should he learn to love his Papa and Mamma as they had
loved theirs?  How could he hope ever to grow up to be as good and wise
as they, or even tolerably good and wise?  Alas! never.  It could not be.
He did not love his Papa and Mamma, in spite of all their goodness both
in themselves and to him.  He hated Papa, and did not like Mamma, and
this was what none but a bad and ungrateful boy would do after all that
had been done for him.  Besides he did not like Sunday; he did not like
anything that was really good; his tastes were low and such as he was
ashamed of.  He liked people best if they sometimes swore a little, so
long as it was not at him.  As for his Catechism and Bible readings he
had no heart in them.  He had never attended to a sermon in his life.
Even when he had been taken to hear Mr Vaughan at Brighton, who, as
everyone knew, preached such beautiful sermons for children, he had been
very glad when it was all over, nor did he believe he could get through
church at all if it was not for the voluntary upon the organ and the
hymns and chanting.  The Catechism was awful.  He had never been able to
understand what it was that he desired of his Lord God and Heavenly
Father, nor had he yet got hold of a single idea in connection with the
word Sacrament.  His duty towards his neighbour was another bugbear.  It
seemed to him that he had duties towards everybody, lying in wait for him
upon every side, but that nobody had any duties towards him.  Then there
was that awful and mysterious word 'business.'  What did it all mean?
What was 'business'?  His Papa was a wonderfully good man of business,
his Mamma had often told him so--but he should never be one.  It was
hopeless, and very awful, for people were continually telling him that he
would have to earn his own living.  No doubt, but how--considering how
stupid, idle, ignorant, self-indulgent, and physically puny he was?  All
grown-up people were clever, except servants--and even these were
cleverer than ever he should be.  Oh, why, why, why, could not people be
born into the world as grown-up persons?  Then he thought of Casabianca.
He had been examined in that poem by his father not long before.  'When
only would he leave his position?  To whom did he call?  Did he get an
answer?  Why?  How many times did he call upon his father?  What happened
to him?  What was the noblest life that perished there?  Do you think so?
Why do you think so?'  And all the rest of it.  Of course he thought
Casabianca's was the noblest life that perished there; there could be no
two opinions about that; it never occurred to him that the moral of the
poem was that young people cannot begin too soon to exercise discretion
in the obedience they pay to their Papa and Mamma.  Oh, no! the only
thought in his mind was that he should never, never have been like
Casabianca, and that Casabianca would have despised him so much, if he
could have known him, that he would not have condescended to speak to
him.  There was nobody else in the ship worth reckoning at all: it did
not matter how much they were blown up.  Mrs Hemans knew them all and
they were a very indifferent lot.  Besides Casabianca was so good-looking
and came of such a good family."

And thus his small mind kept wandering on till he could follow it no
longer, and again went off into a doze.




CHAPTER XXX


Next morning Theobald and Christina arose feeling a little tired from
their journey, but happy in that best of all happiness, the approbation
of their consciences.  It would be their boy's fault henceforth if he
were not good, and as prosperous as it was at all desirable that he
should be.  What more could parents do than they had done?  The answer
"Nothing" will rise as readily to the lips of the reader as to those of
Theobald and Christina themselves.

A few days later the parents were gratified at receiving the following
letter from their son--

   "My Dear Mamma,--I am very well.  Dr Skinner made me do about the
   horse free and exulting roaming in the wide fields in Latin verse, but
   as I had done it with Papa I knew how to do it, and it was nearly all
   right, and he put me in the fourth form under Mr Templer, and I have
   to begin a new Latin grammar not like the old, but much harder.  I
   know you wish me to work, and I will try very hard.  With best love to
   Joey and Charlotte, and to Papa, I remain, your affectionate son,
   ERNEST."

Nothing could be nicer or more proper.  It really did seem as though he
were inclined to turn over a new leaf.  The boys had all come back, the
examinations were over, and the routine of the half year began; Ernest
found that his fears about being kicked about and bullied were
exaggerated.  Nobody did anything very dreadful to him.  He had to run
errands between certain hours for the elder boys, and to take his turn at
greasing the footballs, and so forth, but there was an excellent spirit
in the school as regards bullying.

Nevertheless, he was far from happy.  Dr Skinner was much too like his
father.  True, Ernest was not thrown in with him much yet, but he was
always there; there was no knowing at what moment he might not put in an
appearance, and whenever he did show, it was to storm about something.  He
was like the lion in the Bishop of Oxford's Sunday story--always liable
to rush out from behind some bush and devour some one when he was least
expected.  He called Ernest "an audacious reptile" and said he wondered
the earth did not open and swallow him up because he pronounced Thalia
with a short i.  "And this to me," he thundered, "who never made a false
quantity in my life."  Surely he would have been a much nicer person if
he had made false quantities in his youth like other people.  Ernest
could not imagine how the boys in Dr Skinner's form continued to live;
but yet they did, and even throve, and, strange as it may seem, idolised
him, or professed to do so in after life.  To Ernest it seemed like
living on the crater of Vesuvius.

He was himself, as has been said, in Mr Templer's form, who was snappish,
but not downright wicked, and was very easy to crib under.  Ernest used
to wonder how Mr Templer could be so blind, for he supposed Mr Templer
must have cribbed when he was at school, and would ask himself whether he
should forget his youth when he got old, as Mr Templer had forgotten his.
He used to think he never could possibly forget any part of it.

Then there was Mrs Jay, who was sometimes very alarming.  A few days
after the half year had commenced, there being some little extra noise in
the hall, she rushed in with her spectacles on her forehead and her cap
strings flying, and called the boy whom Ernest had selected as his hero
the "rampingest-scampingest-rackety-tackety-tow-row-roaringest boy in the
whole school."  But she used to say things that Ernest liked.  If the
Doctor went out to dinner, and there were no prayers, she would come in
and say, "Young gentlemen, prayers are excused this evening"; and, take
her for all in all, she was a kindly old soul enough.

Most boys soon discover the difference between noise and actual danger,
but to others it is so unnatural to menace, unless they mean mischief,
that they are long before they leave off taking turkey-cocks and ganders
_au serieux_.  Ernest was one of the latter sort, and found the
atmosphere of Roughborough so gusty that he was glad to shrink out of
sight and out of mind whenever he could.  He disliked the games worse
even than the squalls of the class-room and hall, for he was still
feeble, not filling out and attaining his full strength till a much later
age than most boys.  This was perhaps due to the closeness with which his
father had kept him to his books in childhood, but I think in part also
to a tendency towards lateness in attaining maturity, hereditary in the
Pontifex family, which was one also of unusual longevity.  At thirteen or
fourteen he was a mere bag of bones, with upper arms about as thick as
the wrists of other boys of his age; his little chest was
pigeon-breasted; he appeared to have no strength or stamina whatever, and
finding he always went to the wall in physical encounters, whether
undertaken in jest or earnest, even with boys shorter than himself, the
timidity natural to childhood increased upon him to an extent that I am
afraid amounted to cowardice.  This rendered him even less capable than
he might otherwise have been, for as confidence increases power, so want
of confidence increases impotence.  After he had had the breath knocked
out of him and been well shinned half a dozen times in scrimmages at
football--scrimmages in which he had become involved sorely against his
will--he ceased to see any further fun in football, and shirked that
noble game in a way that got him into trouble with the elder boys, who
would stand no shirking on the part of the younger ones.

He was as useless and ill at ease with cricket as with football, nor in
spite of all his efforts could he ever throw a ball or a stone.  It soon
became plain, therefore, to everyone that Pontifex was a young muff, a
mollycoddle, not to be tortured, but still not to be rated highly.  He
was not however, actively unpopular, for it was seen that he was quite
square _inter pares_, not at all vindictive, easily pleased, perfectly
free with whatever little money he had, no greater lover of his school
work than of the games, and generally more inclinable to moderate vice
than to immoderate virtue.

These qualities will prevent any boy from sinking very low in the opinion
of his schoolfellows; but Ernest thought he had fallen lower than he
probably had, and hated and despised himself for what he, as much as
anyone else, believed to be his cowardice.  He did not like the boys whom
he thought like himself.  His heroes were strong and vigorous, and the
less they inclined towards him the more he worshipped them.  All this
made him very unhappy, for it never occurred to him that the instinct
which made him keep out of games for which he was ill adapted, was more
reasonable than the reason which would have driven him into them.
Nevertheless he followed his instinct for the most part, rather than his
reason.  _Sapiens suam si sapientiam norit_.




CHAPTER XXXI


With the masters Ernest was ere long in absolute disgrace.  He had more
liberty now than he had known heretofore.  The heavy hand and watchful
eye of Theobald were no longer about his path and about his bed and
spying out all his ways; and punishment by way of copying out lines of
Virgil was a very different thing from the savage beatings of his father.
The copying out in fact was often less trouble than the lesson.  Latin
and Greek had nothing in them which commended them to his instinct as
likely to bring him peace even at the last; still less did they hold out
any hope of doing so within some more reasonable time.  The deadness
inherent in these defunct languages themselves had never been
artificially counteracted by a system of _bona fide_ rewards for
application.  There had been any amount of punishments for want of
application, but no good comfortable bribes had baited the hook which was
to allure him to his good.

Indeed, the more pleasant side of learning to do this or that had always
been treated as something with which Ernest had no concern.  We had no
business with pleasant things at all, at any rate very little business,
at any rate not he, Ernest.  We were put into this world not for pleasure
but duty, and pleasure had in it something more or less sinful in its
very essence.  If we were doing anything we liked, we, or at any rate he,
Ernest, should apologise and think he was being very mercifully dealt
with, if not at once told to go and do something else.  With what he did
not like, however, it was different; the more he disliked a thing the
greater the presumption that it was right.  It never occurred to him that
the presumption was in favour of the rightness of what was most pleasant,
and that the onus of proving that it was not right lay with those who
disputed its being so.  I have said more than once that he believed in
his own depravity; never was there a little mortal more ready to accept
without cavil whatever he was told by those who were in authority over
him: he thought, at least, that he believed it, for as yet he knew
nothing of that other Ernest that dwelt within him, and was so much
stronger and more real than the Ernest of which he was conscious.  The
dumb Ernest persuaded with inarticulate feelings too swift and sure to be
translated into such debateable things as words, but practically insisted
as follows--

   "Growing is not the easy plain sailing business that it is commonly
   supposed to be: it is hard work--harder than any but a growing boy can
   understand; it requires attention, and you are not strong enough to
   attend to your bodily growth, and to your lessons too.  Besides, Latin
   and Greek are great humbug; the more people know of them the more
   odious they generally are; the nice people whom you delight in either
   never knew any at all or forgot what they had learned as soon as they
   could; they never turned to the classics after they were no longer
   forced to read them; therefore they are nonsense, all very well in
   their own time and country, but out of place here.  Never learn
   anything until you find you have been made uncomfortable for a good
   long while by not knowing it; when you find that you have occasion for
   this or that knowledge, or foresee that you will have occasion for it
   shortly, the sooner you learn it the better, but till then spend your
   time in growing bone and muscle; these will be much more useful to you
   than Latin and Greek, nor will you ever be able to make them if you do
   not do so now, whereas Latin and Greek can be acquired at any time by
   those who want them.

   "You are surrounded on every side by lies which would deceive even the
   elect, if the elect were not generally so uncommonly wide awake; the
   self of which you are conscious, your reasoning and reflecting self,
   will believe these lies and bid you act in accordance with them.  This
   conscious self of yours, Ernest, is a prig begotten of prigs and
   trained in priggishness; I will not allow it to shape your actions,
   though it will doubtless shape your words for many a year to come.
   Your papa is not here to beat you now; this is a change in the
   conditions of your existence, and should be followed by changed
   actions.  Obey me, your true self, and things will go tolerably well
   with you, but only listen to that outward and visible old husk of
   yours which is called your father, and I will rend you in pieces even
   unto the third and fourth generation as one who has hated God; for I,
   Ernest, am the God who made you."

How shocked Ernest would have been if he could have heard the advice he
was receiving; what consternation too there would have been at Battersby;
but the matter did not end here, for this same wicked inner self gave him
bad advice about his pocket money, the choice of his companions and on
the whole Ernest was attentive and obedient to its behests, more so than
Theobald had been.  The consequence was that he learned little, his mind
growing more slowly and his body rather faster than heretofore: and when
by and by his inner self urged him in directions where he met obstacles
beyond his strength to combat, he took--though with passionate
compunctions of conscience--the nearest course to the one from which he
was debarred which circumstances would allow.

It may be guessed that Ernest was not the chosen friend of the more
sedate and well-conducted youths then studying at Roughborough.  Some of
the less desirable boys used to go to public-houses and drink more beer
than was good for them; Ernest's inner self can hardly have told him to
ally himself to these young gentlemen, but he did so at an early age, and
was sometimes made pitiably sick by an amount of beer which would have
produced no effect upon a stronger boy.  Ernest's inner self must have
interposed at this point and told him that there was not much fun in
this, for he dropped the habit ere it had taken firm hold of him, and
never resumed it; but he contracted another at the disgracefully early
age of between thirteen and fourteen which he did not relinquish, though
to the present day his conscious self keeps dinging it into him that the
less he smokes the better.

And so matters went on till my hero was nearly fourteen years old.  If by
that time he was not actually a young blackguard, he belonged to a
debateable class between the sub-reputable and the upper disreputable,
with perhaps rather more leaning to the latter except so far as vices of
meanness were concerned, from which he was fairly free.  I gather this
partly from what Ernest has told me, and partly from his school bills
which I remember Theobald showed me with much complaining.  There was an
institution at Roughborough called the monthly merit money; the maximum
sum which a boy of Ernest's age could get was four shillings and
sixpence; several boys got four shillings and few less than sixpence, but
Ernest never got more than half-a-crown and seldom more than eighteen
pence; his average would, I should think, be about one and nine pence,
which was just too much for him to rank among the downright bad boys, but
too little to put him among the good ones.




CHAPTER XXXII


I must now return to Miss Alethea Pontifex, of whom I have said perhaps
too little hitherto, considering how great her influence upon my hero's
destiny proved to be.

On the death of her father, which happened when she was about thirty-two
years old, she parted company with her sisters, between whom and herself
there had been little sympathy, and came up to London.  She was
determined, so she said, to make the rest of her life as happy as she
could, and she had clearer ideas about the best way of setting to work to
do this than women, or indeed men, generally have.

Her fortune consisted, as I have said, of 5000 pounds, which had come to
her by her mother's marriage settlements, and 15,000 pounds left her by
her father, over both which sums she had now absolute control.  These
brought her in about 900 pounds a year, and the money being invested in
none but the soundest securities, she had no anxiety about her income.
She meant to be rich, so she formed a scheme of expenditure which
involved an annual outlay of about 500 pounds, and determined to put the
rest by.  "If I do this," she said laughingly, "I shall probably just
succeed in living comfortably within my income."  In accordance with this
scheme she took unfurnished apartments in a house in Gower Street, of
which the lower floors were let out as offices.  John Pontifex tried to
get her to take a house to herself, but Alethea told him to mind his own
business so plainly that he had to beat a retreat.  She had never liked
him, and from that time dropped him almost entirely.

Without going much into society she yet became acquainted with most of
the men and women who had attained a position in the literary, artistic
and scientific worlds, and it was singular how highly her opinion was
valued in spite of her never having attempted in any way to distinguish
herself.  She could have written if she had chosen, but she enjoyed
seeing others write and encouraging them better than taking a more active
part herself.  Perhaps literary people liked her all the better because
she did not write.

I, as she very well knew, had always been devoted to her, and she might
have had a score of other admirers if she had liked, but she had
discouraged them all, and railed at matrimony as women seldom do unless
they have a comfortable income of their own.  She by no means, however,
railed at man as she railed at matrimony, and though living after a
fashion in which even the most censorious could find nothing to complain
of, as far as she properly could she defended those of her own sex whom
the world condemned most severely.

In religion she was, I should think, as nearly a freethinker as anyone
could be whose mind seldom turned upon the subject.  She went to church,
but disliked equally those who aired either religion or irreligion.  I
remember once hearing her press a late well-known philosopher to write a
novel instead of pursuing his attacks upon religion.  The philosopher did
not much like this, and dilated upon the importance of showing people the
folly of much that they pretended to believe.  She smiled and said
demurely, "Have they not Moses and the prophets?  Let them hear them."
But she would say a wicked thing quietly on her own account sometimes,
and called my attention once to a note in her prayer-book which gave
account of the walk to Emmaus with the two disciples, and how Christ had
said to them "O fools and slow of heart to believe ALL that the prophets
have spoken"--the "all" being printed in small capitals.

Though scarcely on terms with her brother John, she had kept up closer
relations with Theobald and his family, and had paid a few days' visit to
Battersby once in every two years or so.  Alethea had always tried to
like Theobald and join forces with him as much as she could (for they two
were the hares of the family, the rest being all hounds), but it was no
use.  I believe her chief reason for maintaining relations with her
brother was that she might keep an eye on his children and give them a
lift if they proved nice.

When Miss Pontifex had come down to Battersby in old times the children
had not been beaten, and their lessons had been made lighter.  She easily
saw that they were overworked and unhappy, but she could hardly guess how
all-reaching was the regime under which they lived.  She knew she could
not interfere effectually then, and wisely forbore to make too many
enquiries.  Her time, if ever it was to come, would be when the children
were no longer living under the same roof as their parents.  It ended in
her making up her mind to have nothing to do with either Joey or
Charlotte, but to see so much of Ernest as should enable her to form an
opinion about his disposition and abilities.

He had now been a year and a half at Roughborough and was nearly fourteen
years old, so that his character had begun to shape.  His aunt had not
seen him for some little time and, thinking that if she was to exploit
him she could do so now perhaps better than at any other time, she
resolved to go down to Roughborough on some pretext which should be good
enough for Theobald, and to take stock of her nephew under circumstances
in which she could get him for some few hours to herself.  Accordingly in
August 1849, when Ernest was just entering on his fourth half year a cab
drove up to Dr Skinner's door with Miss Pontifex, who asked and obtained
leave for Ernest to come and dine with her at the Swan Hotel.  She had
written to Ernest to say she was coming and he was of course on the look-
out for her.  He had not seen her for so long that he was rather shy at
first, but her good nature soon set him at his ease.  She was so strongly
biassed in favour of anything young that her heart warmed towards him at
once, though his appearance was less prepossessing than she had hoped.
She took him to a cake shop and gave him whatever he liked as soon as she
had got him off the school premises; and Ernest felt at once that she
contrasted favourably even with his aunts the Misses Allaby, who were so
very sweet and good.  The Misses Allaby were very poor; sixpence was to
them what five shillings was to Alethea.  What chance had they against
one who, if she had a mind, could put by out of her income twice as much
as they, poor women, could spend?

The boy had plenty of prattle in him when he was not snubbed, and Alethea
encouraged him to chatter about whatever came uppermost.  He was always
ready to trust anyone who was kind to him; it took many years to make him
reasonably wary in this respect--if indeed, as I sometimes doubt, he ever
will be as wary as he ought to be--and in a short time he had quite
dissociated his aunt from his papa and mamma and the rest, with whom his
instinct told him he should be on his guard.  Little did he know how
great, as far as he was concerned, were the issues that depended upon his
behaviour.  If he had known, he would perhaps have played his part less
successfully.

His aunt drew from him more details of his home and school life than his
papa and mamma would have approved of, but he had no idea that he was
being pumped.  She got out of him all about the happy Sunday evenings,
and how he and Joey and Charlotte quarrelled sometimes, but she took no
side and treated everything as though it were a matter of course.  Like
all the boys, he could mimic Dr Skinner, and when warmed with dinner, and
two glasses of sherry which made him nearly tipsy, he favoured his aunt
with samples of the Doctor's manner and spoke of him familiarly as "Sam."

"Sam," he said, "is an awful old humbug."  It was the sherry that brought
out this piece of swagger, for whatever else he was Dr Skinner was a
reality to Master Ernest, before which, indeed, he sank into his boots in
no time.  Alethea smiled and said, "I must not say anything to that, must
I?"  Ernest said, "I suppose not," and was checked.  By-and-by he vented
a number of small second-hand priggishnesses which he had caught up
believing them to be the correct thing, and made it plain that even at
that early age Ernest believed in Ernest with a belief which was amusing
from its absurdity.  His aunt judged him charitably as she was sure to
do; she knew very well where the priggishness came from, and seeing that
the string of his tongue had been loosened sufficiently gave him no more
sherry.

It was after dinner, however, that he completed the conquest of his aunt.
She then discovered that, like herself, he was passionately fond of
music, and that, too, of the highest class.  He knew, and hummed or
whistled to her all sorts of pieces out of the works of the great
masters, which a boy of his age could hardly be expected to know, and it
was evident that this was purely instinctive, inasmuch as music received
no kind of encouragement at Roughborough.  There was no boy in the school
as fond of music as he was.  He picked up his knowledge, he said, from
the organist of St Michael's Church who used to practise sometimes on a
week-day afternoon.  Ernest had heard the organ booming away as he was
passing outside the church and had sneaked inside and up into the organ
loft.  In the course of time the organist became accustomed to him as a
familiar visitant, and the pair became friends.

It was this which decided Alethea that the boy was worth taking pains
with.  "He likes the best music," she thought, "and he hates Dr Skinner.
This is a very fair beginning."  When she sent him away at night with a
sovereign in his pocket (and he had only hoped to get five shillings) she
felt as though she had had a good deal more than her money's worth for
her money.




CHAPTER XXXIII


Next day Miss Pontifex returned to town, with her thoughts full of her
nephew and how she could best be of use to him.

It appeared to her that to do him any real service she must devote
herself almost entirely to him; she must in fact give up living in
London, at any rate for a long time, and live at Roughborough where she
could see him continually.  This was a serious undertaking; she had lived
in London for the last twelve years, and naturally disliked the prospect
of a small country town such as Roughborough.  Was it a prudent thing to
attempt so much?  Must not people take their chances in this world?  Can
anyone do much for anyone else unless by making a will in his favour and
dying then and there?  Should not each look after his own happiness, and
will not the world be best carried on if everyone minds his own business
and leaves other people to mind theirs?  Life is not a donkey race in
which everyone is to ride his neighbour's donkey and the last is to win,
and the psalmist long since formulated a common experience when he
declared that no man may deliver his brother nor make agreement unto God
for him, for it cost more to redeem their souls, so that he must let that
alone for ever.

All these excellent reasons for letting her nephew alone occurred to her,
and many more, but against them there pleaded a woman's love for
children, and her desire to find someone among the younger branches of
her own family to whom she could become warmly attached, and whom she
could attach warmly to herself.

Over and above this she wanted someone to leave her money to; she was not
going to leave it to people about whom she knew very little, merely
because they happened to be sons and daughters of brothers and sisters
whom she had never liked.  She knew the power and value of money
exceedingly well, and how many lovable people suffer and die yearly for
the want of it; she was little likely to leave it without being satisfied
that her legatees were square, lovable, and more or less hard up.  She
wanted those to have it who would be most likely to use it genially and
sensibly, and whom it would thus be likely to make most happy; if she
could find one such among her nephews and nieces, so much the better; it
was worth taking a great deal of pains to see whether she could or could
not; but if she failed, she must find an heir who was not related to her
by blood.

"Of course," she had said to me, more than once, "I shall make a mess of
it.  I shall choose some nice-looking, well-dressed screw, with
gentlemanly manners which will take me in, and he will go and paint
Academy pictures, or write for the _Times_, or do something just as
horrid the moment the breath is out of my body."

As yet, however, she had made no will at all, and this was one of the few
things that troubled her.  I believe she would have left most of her
money to me if I had not stopped her.  My father left me abundantly well
off, and my mode of life has been always simple, so that I have never
known uneasiness about money; moreover I was especially anxious that
there should be no occasion given for ill-natured talk; she knew well,
therefore, that her leaving her money to me would be of all things the
most likely to weaken the ties that existed between us, provided that I
was aware of it, but I did not mind her talking about whom she should
make her heir, so long as it was well understood that I was not to be the
person.

Ernest had satisfied her as having enough in him to tempt her strongly to
take him up, but it was not till after many days' reflection that she
gravitated towards actually doing so, with all the break in her daily
ways that this would entail.  At least, she said it took her some days,
and certainly it appeared to do so, but from the moment she had begun to
broach the subject, I had guessed how things were going to end.

It was now arranged she should take a house at Roughborough, and go and
live there for a couple of years.  As a compromise, however, to meet some
of my objections, it was also arranged that she should keep her rooms in
Gower Street, and come to town for a week once in each month; of course,
also, she would leave Roughborough for the greater part of the holidays.
After two years, the thing was to come to an end, unless it proved a
great success.  She should by that time, at any rate, have made up her
mind what the boy's character was, and would then act as circumstances
might determine.

The pretext she put forward ostensibly was that her doctor said she ought
to be a year or two in the country after so many years of London life,
and had recommended Roughborough on account of the purity of its air, and
its easy access to and from London--for by this time the railway had
reached it.  She was anxious not to give her brother and sister any right
to complain, if on seeing more of her nephew she found she could not get
on with him, and she was also anxious not to raise false hopes of any
kind in the boy's own mind.

Having settled how everything was to be, she wrote to Theobald and said
she meant to take a house in Roughborough from the Michaelmas then
approaching, and mentioned, as though casually, that one of the
attractions of the place would be that her nephew was at school there and
she should hope to see more of him than she had done hitherto.

Theobald and Christina knew how dearly Alethea loved London, and thought
it very odd that she should want to go and live at Roughborough, but they
did not suspect that she was going there solely on her nephew's account,
much less that she had thought of making Ernest her heir.  If they had
guessed this, they would have been so jealous that I half believe they
would have asked her to go and live somewhere else.  Alethea however, was
two or three years younger than Theobald; she was still some years short
of fifty, and might very well live to eighty-five or ninety; her money,
therefore, was not worth taking much trouble about, and her brother and
sister-in-law had dismissed it, so to speak, from their minds with costs,
assuming, however, that if anything did happen to her while they were
still alive, the money would, as a matter of course, come to them.

The prospect of Alethea seeing much of Ernest was a serious matter.
Christina smelt mischief from afar, as indeed she often did.  Alethea was
worldly--as worldly, that is to say, as a sister of Theobald's could be.
In her letter to Theobald she had said she knew how much of his and
Christina's thoughts were taken up with anxiety for the boy's welfare.
Alethea had thought this handsome enough, but Christina had wanted
something better and stronger.  "How can she know how much we think of
our darling?" she had exclaimed, when Theobald showed her his sister's
letter.  "I think, my dear, Alethea would understand these things better
if she had children of her own."  The least that would have satisfied
Christina was to have been told that there never yet had been any parents
comparable to Theobald and herself.  She did not feel easy that an
alliance of some kind would not grow up between aunt and nephew, and
neither she nor Theobald wanted Ernest to have any allies.  Joey and
Charlotte were quite as many allies as were good for him.  After all,
however, if Alethea chose to go and live at Roughborough, they could not
well stop her, and must make the best of it.

In a few weeks' time Alethea did choose to go and live at Roughborough.  A
house was found with a field and a nice little garden which suited her
very well.  "At any rate," she said to herself, "I will have fresh eggs
and flowers."  She even considered the question of keeping a cow, but in
the end decided not to do so.  She furnished her house throughout anew,
taking nothing whatever from her establishment in Gower Street, and by
Michaelmas--for the house was empty when she took it--she was settled
comfortably, and had begun to make herself at home.

One of Miss Pontifex's first moves was to ask a dozen of the smartest and
most gentlemanly boys to breakfast with her.  From her seat in church she
could see the faces of the upper-form boys, and soon made up her mind
which of them it would be best to cultivate.  Miss Pontifex, sitting
opposite the boys in church, and reckoning them up with her keen eyes
from under her veil by all a woman's criteria, came to a truer conclusion
about the greater number of those she scrutinized than even Dr Skinner
had done.  She fell in love with one boy from seeing him put on his
gloves.

Miss Pontifex, as I have said, got hold of some of these youngsters
through Ernest, and fed them well.  No boy can resist being fed well by a
good-natured and still handsome woman.  Boys are very like nice dogs in
this respect--give them a bone and they will like you at once.  Alethea
employed every other little artifice which she thought likely to win
their allegiance to herself, and through this their countenance for her
nephew.  She found the football club in a slight money difficulty and at
once gave half a sovereign towards its removal.  The boys had no chance
against her, she shot them down one after another as easily as though
they had been roosting pheasants.  Nor did she escape scathless herself,
for, as she wrote to me, she quite lost her heart to half a dozen of
them.  "How much nicer they are," she said, "and how much more they know
than those who profess to teach them!"

I believe it has been lately maintained that it is the young and fair who
are the truly old and truly experienced, inasmuch as it is they who alone
have a living memory to guide them; "the whole charm," it has been said,
"of youth lies in its advantage over age in respect of experience, and
when this has for some reason failed or been misapplied, the charm is
broken.  When we say that we are getting old, we should say rather that
we are getting new or young, and are suffering from inexperience; trying
to do things which we have never done before, and failing worse and
worse, till in the end we are landed in the utter impotence of death."

Miss Pontifex died many a long year before the above passage was written,
but she had arrived independently at much the same conclusion.

She first, therefore, squared the boys.  Dr Skinner was even more easily
dealt with.  He and Mrs Skinner called, as a matter of course, as soon as
Miss Pontifex was settled.  She fooled him to the top of his bent, and
obtained the promise of a MS. copy of one of his minor poems (for Dr
Skinner had the reputation of being quite one of our most facile and
elegant minor poets) on the occasion of his first visit.  The other
masters and masters' wives were not forgotten.  Alethea laid herself out
to please, as indeed she did wherever she went, and if any woman lays
herself out to do this, she generally succeeds.




CHAPTER XXXIV


Miss Pontifex soon found out that Ernest did not like games, but she saw
also that he could hardly be expected to like them.  He was perfectly
well shaped but unusually devoid of physical strength.  He got a fair
share of this in after life, but it came much later with him than with
other boys, and at the time of which I am writing he was a mere little
skeleton.  He wanted something to develop his arms and chest without
knocking him about as much as the school games did.  To supply this want
by some means which should add also to his pleasure was Alethea's first
anxiety.  Rowing would have answered every purpose, but unfortunately
there was no river at Roughborough.

Whatever it was to be, it must be something which he should like as much
as other boys liked cricket or football, and he must think the wish for
it to have come originally from himself; it was not very easy to find
anything that would do, but ere long it occurred to her that she might
enlist his love of music on her side, and asked him one day when he was
spending a half-holiday at her house whether he would like her to buy an
organ for him to play on.  Of course, the boy said yes; then she told him
about her grandfather and the organs he had built.  It had never entered
into his head that he could make one, but when he gathered from what his
aunt had said that this was not out of the question, he rose as eagerly
to the bait as she could have desired, and wanted to begin learning to
saw and plane so that he might make the wooden pipes at once.

Miss Pontifex did not see how she could have hit upon anything more
suitable, and she liked the idea that he would incidentally get a
knowledge of carpentering, for she was impressed, perhaps foolishly, with
the wisdom of the German custom which gives every boy a handicraft of
some sort.

Writing to me on this matter, she said "Professions are all very well for
those who have connection and interest as well as capital, but otherwise
they are white elephants.  How many men do not you and I know who have
talent, assiduity, excellent good sense, straightforwardness, every
quality in fact which should command success, and who yet go on from year
to year waiting and hoping against hope for the work which never comes?
How, indeed, is it likely to come unless to those who either are born
with interest, or who marry in order to get it?  Ernest's father and
mother have no interest, and if they had they would not use it.  I
suppose they will make him a clergyman, or try to do so--perhaps it is
the best thing to do with him, for he could buy a living with the money
his grandfather left him, but there is no knowing what the boy will think
of it when the time comes, and for aught we know he may insist on going
to the backwoods of America, as so many other young men are doing now."  .
. . But, anyway, he would like making an organ, and this could do him no
harm, so the sooner he began the better.

Alethea thought it would save trouble in the end if she told her brother
and sister-in-law of this scheme.  "I do not suppose," she wrote, "that
Dr Skinner will approve very cordially of my attempt to introduce organ-
building into the _curriculum_ of Roughborough, but I will see what I can
do with him, for I have set my heart on owning an organ built by Ernest's
own hands, which he may play on as much as he likes while it remains in
my house and which I will lend him permanently as soon as he gets one of
his own, but which is to be my property for the present, inasmuch as I
mean to pay for it."  This was put in to make it plain to Theobald and
Christina that they should not be out of pocket in the matter.

If Alethea had been as poor as the Misses Allaby, the reader may guess
what Ernest's papa and mamma would have said to this proposal; but then,
if she had been as poor as they, she would never have made it.  They did
not like Ernest's getting more and more into his aunt's good books, still
it was perhaps better that he should do so than that she should be driven
back upon the John Pontifexes.  The only thing, said Theobald, which made
him hesitate, was that the boy might be thrown with low associates later
on if he were to be encouraged in his taste for music--a taste which
Theobald had always disliked.  He had observed with regret that Ernest
had ere now shown rather a hankering after low company, and he might make
acquaintance with those who would corrupt his innocence.  Christina
shuddered at this, but when they had aired their scruples sufficiently
they felt (and when people begin to "feel," they are invariably going to
take what they believe to be the more worldly course) that to oppose
Alethea's proposal would be injuring their son's prospects more than was
right, so they consented, but not too graciously.

After a time, however, Christina got used to the idea, and then
considerations occurred to her which made her throw herself into it with
characteristic ardour.  If Miss Pontifex had been a railway stock she
might have been said to have been buoyant in the Battersby market for
some few days; buoyant for long together she could never be, still for a
time there really was an upward movement.  Christina's mind wandered to
the organ itself; she seemed to have made it with her own hands; there
would be no other in England to compare with it for combined sweetness
and power.  She already heard the famous Dr Walmisley of Cambridge
mistaking it for a Father Smith.  It would come, no doubt, in reality to
Battersby Church, which wanted an organ, for it must be all nonsense
about Alethea's wishing to keep it, and Ernest would not have a house of
his own for ever so many years, and they could never have it at the
Rectory.  Oh, no!  Battersby Church was the only proper place for it.

Of course, they would have a grand opening, and the Bishop would come
down, and perhaps young Figgins might be on a visit to them--she must ask
Ernest if young Figgins had yet left Roughborough--he might even persuade
his grandfather Lord Lonsford to be present.  Lord Lonsford and the
Bishop and everyone else would then compliment her, and Dr Wesley or Dr
Walmisley, who should preside (it did not much matter which), would say
to her, "My dear Mrs Pontifex, I never yet played upon so remarkable an
instrument."  Then she would give him one of her very sweetest smiles and
say she feared he was flattering her, on which he would rejoin with some
pleasant little trifle about remarkable men (the remarkable man being for
the moment Ernest) having invariably had remarkable women for their
mothers--and so on and so on.  The advantage of doing one's praising for
oneself is that one can lay it on so thick and exactly in the right
places.

Theobald wrote Ernest a short and surly letter _a propos_ of his aunt's
intentions in this matter.

"I will not commit myself," he said, "to an opinion whether anything will
come of it; this will depend entirely upon your own exertions; you have
had singular advantages hitherto, and your kind aunt is showing every
desire to befriend you, but you must give greater proof of stability and
steadiness of character than you have given yet if this organ matter is
not to prove in the end to be only one disappointment the more.

"I must insist on two things: firstly that this new iron in the fire does
not distract your attention from your Latin and Greek"--("They aren't
mine," thought Ernest, "and never have been")--"and secondly, that you
bring no smell of glue or shavings into the house here, if you make any
part of the organ during your holidays."

Ernest was still too young to know how unpleasant a letter he was
receiving.  He believed the innuendoes contained in it to be perfectly
just.  He knew he was sadly deficient in perseverance.  He liked some
things for a little while, and then found he did not like them any
more--and this was as bad as anything well could be.  His father's letter
gave him one of his many fits of melancholy over his own worthlessness,
but the thought of the organ consoled him, and he felt sure that here at
any rate was something to which he could apply himself steadily without
growing tired of it.

It was settled that the organ was not to be begun before the Christmas
holidays were over, and that till then Ernest should do a little plain
carpentering, so as to get to know how to use his tools.  Miss Pontifex
had a carpenter's bench set up in an outhouse upon her own premises, and
made terms with the most respectable carpenter in Roughborough, by which
one of his men was to come for a couple of hours twice a week and set
Ernest on the right way; then she discovered she wanted this or that
simple piece of work done, and gave the boy a commission to do it, paying
him handsomely as well as finding him in tools and materials.  She never
gave him a syllable of good advice, or talked to him about everything's
depending upon his own exertions, but she kissed him often, and would
come into the workshop and act the part of one who took an interest in
what was being done so cleverly as ere long to become really interested.

What boy would not take kindly to almost anything with such assistance?
All boys like making things; the exercise of sawing, planing and
hammering, proved exactly what his aunt had wanted to find--something
that should exercise, but not too much, and at the same time amuse him;
when Ernest's sallow face was flushed with his work, and his eyes were
sparkling with pleasure, he looked quite a different boy from the one his
aunt had taken in hand only a few months earlier.  His inner self never
told him that this was humbug, as it did about Latin and Greek.  Making
stools and drawers was worth living for, and after Christmas there loomed
the organ, which was scarcely ever absent from his mind.

His aunt let him invite his friends, encouraging him to bring those whom
her quick sense told her were the most desirable.  She smartened him up
also in his personal appearance, always without preaching to him.  Indeed
she worked wonders during the short time that was allowed her, and if her
life had been spared I cannot think that my hero would have come under
the shadow of that cloud which cast so heavy a gloom over his younger
manhood; but unfortunately for him his gleam of sunshine was too hot and
too brilliant to last, and he had many a storm yet to weather, before he
became fairly happy.  For the present, however, he was supremely so, and
his aunt was happy and grateful for his happiness, the improvement she
saw in him, and his unrepressed affection for herself.  She became fonder
of him from day to day in spite of his many faults and almost incredible
foolishnesses.  It was perhaps on account of these very things that she
saw how much he had need of her; but at any rate, from whatever cause,
she became strengthened in her determination to be to him in the place of
parents, and to find in him a son rather than a nephew.  But still she
made no will.




CHAPTER XXXV


All went well for the first part of the following half year.  Miss
Pontifex spent the greater part of her holidays in London, and I also saw
her at Roughborough, where I spent a few days, staying at the "Swan."  I
heard all about my godson in whom, however, I took less interest than I
said I did.  I took more interest in the stage at that time than in
anything else, and as for Ernest, I found him a nuisance for engrossing
so much of his aunt's attention, and taking her so much from London.  The
organ was begun, and made fair progress during the first two months of
the half year.  Ernest was happier than he had ever been before, and was
struggling upwards.  The best boys took more notice of him for his aunt's
sake, and he consorted less with those who led him into mischief.

But much as Miss Pontifex had done, she could not all at once undo the
effect of such surroundings as the boy had had at Battersby.  Much as he
feared and disliked his father (though he still knew not how much this
was), he had caught much from him; if Theobald had been kinder Ernest
would have modelled himself upon him entirely, and ere long would
probably have become as thorough a little prig as could have easily been
found.

Fortunately his temper had come to him from his mother, who, when not
frightened, and when there was nothing on the horizon which might cross
the slightest whim of her husband, was an amiable, good-natured woman.  If
it was not such an awful thing to say of anyone, I should say that she
meant well.

Ernest had also inherited his mother's love of building castles in the
air, and--so I suppose it must be called--her vanity.  He was very fond
of showing off, and, provided he could attract attention, cared little
from whom it came, nor what it was for.  He caught up, parrot-like,
whatever jargon he heard from his elders, which he thought was the
correct thing, and aired it in season and out of season, as though it
were his own.

Miss Pontifex was old enough and wise enough to know that this is the way
in which even the greatest men as a general rule begin to develop, and
was more pleased with his receptiveness and reproductiveness than alarmed
at the things he caught and reproduced.

She saw that he was much attached to herself, and trusted to this rather
than to anything else.  She saw also that his conceit was not very
profound, and that his fits of self-abasement were as extreme as his
exaltation had been.  His impulsiveness and sanguine trustfulness in
anyone who smiled pleasantly at him, or indeed was not absolutely unkind
to him, made her more anxious about him than any other point in his
character; she saw clearly that he would have to find himself rudely
undeceived many a time and oft, before he would learn to distinguish
friend from foe within reasonable time.  It was her perception of this
which led her to take the action which she was so soon called upon to
take.

Her health was for the most part excellent, and she had never had a
serious illness in her life.  One morning, however, soon after Easter
1850, she awoke feeling seriously unwell.  For some little time there had
been a talk of fever in the neighbourhood, but in those days the
precautions that ought to be taken against the spread of infection were
not so well understood as now, and nobody did anything.  In a day or two
it became plain that Miss Pontifex had got an attack of typhoid fever and
was dangerously ill.  On this she sent off a messenger to town, and
desired him not to return without her lawyer and myself.

We arrived on the afternoon of the day on which we had been summoned, and
found her still free from delirium: indeed, the cheery way in which she
received us made it difficult to think she could be in danger.  She at
once explained her wishes, which had reference, as I expected, to her
nephew, and repeated the substance of what I have already referred to as
her main source of uneasiness concerning him.  Then she begged me by our
long and close intimacy, by the suddenness of the danger that had fallen
on her and her powerlessness to avert it, to undertake what she said she
well knew, if she died, would be an unpleasant and invidious trust.

She wanted to leave the bulk of her money ostensibly to me, but in
reality to her nephew, so that I should hold it in trust for him till he
was twenty-eight years old, but neither he nor anyone else, except her
lawyer and myself, was to know anything about it.  She would leave 5000
pounds in other legacies, and 15,000 pounds to Ernest--which by the time
he was twenty-eight would have accumulated to, say, 30,000 pounds.  "Sell
out the debentures," she said, "where the money now is--and put it into
Midland Ordinary."

"Let him make his mistakes," she said, "upon the money his grandfather
left him.  I am no prophet, but even I can see that it will take that boy
many years to see things as his neighbours see them.  He will get no help
from his father and mother, who would never forgive him for his good luck
if I left him the money outright; I daresay I am wrong, but I think he
will have to lose the greater part or all of what he has, before he will
know how to keep what he will get from me."

Supposing he went bankrupt before he was twenty-eight years old, the
money was to be mine absolutely, but she could trust me, she said, to
hand it over to Ernest in due time.

"If," she continued, "I am mistaken, the worst that can happen is that he
will come into a larger sum at twenty-eight instead of a smaller sum at,
say, twenty-three, for I would never trust him with it earlier, and--if
he knows nothing about it he will not be unhappy for the want of it."

She begged me to take 2000 pounds in return for the trouble I should have
in taking charge of the boy's estate, and as a sign of the testatrix's
hope that I would now and again look after him while he was still young.
The remaining 3000 pounds I was to pay in legacies and annuities to
friends and servants.

In vain both her lawyer and myself remonstrated with her on the unusual
and hazardous nature of this arrangement.  We told her that sensible
people will not take a more sanguine view concerning human nature than
the Courts of Chancery do.  We said, in fact, everything that anyone else
would say.  She admitted everything, but urged that her time was short,
that nothing would induce her to leave her money to her nephew in the
usual way.  "It is an unusually foolish will," she said, "but he is an
unusually foolish boy;" and she smiled quite merrily at her little sally.
Like all the rest of her family, she was very stubborn when her mind was
made up.  So the thing was done as she wished it.

No provision was made for either my death or Ernest's--Miss Pontifex had
settled it that we were neither of us going to die, and was too ill to go
into details; she was so anxious, moreover, to sign her will while still
able to do so that we had practically no alternative but to do as she
told us.  If she recovered we could see things put on a more satisfactory
footing, and further discussion would evidently impair her chances of
recovery; it seemed then only too likely that it was a case of this will
or no will at all.

When the will was signed I wrote a letter in duplicate, saying that I
held all Miss Pontifex had left me in trust for Ernest except as regards
5000 pounds, but that he was not to come into the bequest, and was to
know nothing whatever about it directly or indirectly, till he was twenty-
eight years old, and if he was bankrupt before he came into it the money
was to be mine absolutely.  At the foot of each letter Miss Pontifex
wrote, "The above was my understanding when I made my will," and then
signed her name.  The solicitor and his clerk witnessed; I kept one copy
myself and handed the other to Miss Pontifex's solicitor.

When all this had been done she became more easy in her mind.  She talked
principally about her nephew.  "Don't scold him," she said, "if he is
volatile, and continually takes things up only to throw them down again.
How can he find out his strength or weakness otherwise?  A man's
profession," she said, and here she gave one of her wicked little laughs,
"is not like his wife, which he must take once for all, for better for
worse, without proof beforehand.  Let him go here and there, and learn
his truest liking by finding out what, after all, he catches himself
turning to most habitually--then let him stick to this; but I daresay
Ernest will be forty or five and forty before he settles down.  Then all
his previous infidelities will work together to him for good if he is the
boy I hope he is.

"Above all," she continued, "do not let him work up to his full strength,
except once or twice in his lifetime; nothing is well done nor worth
doing unless, take it all round, it has come pretty easily.  Theobald and
Christina would give him a pinch of salt and tell him to put it on the
tails of the seven deadly virtues;"--here she laughed again in her old
manner at once so mocking and so sweet--"I think if he likes pancakes he
had perhaps better eat them on Shrove Tuesday, but this is enough."  These
were the last coherent words she spoke.  From that time she grew
continually worse, and was never free from delirium till her death--which
took place less than a fortnight afterwards, to the inexpressible grief
of those who knew and loved her.




CHAPTER XXXVI


Letters had been written to Miss Pontifex's brothers and sisters, and one
and all came post-haste to Roughborough.  Before they arrived the poor
lady was already delirious, and for the sake of her own peace at the last
I am half glad she never recovered consciousness.

I had known these people all their lives, as none can know each other but
those who have played together as children; I knew how they had all of
them--perhaps Theobald least, but all of them more or less--made her life
a burden to her until the death of her father had made her her own
mistress, and I was displeased at their coming one after the other to
Roughborough, and inquiring whether their sister had recovered
consciousness sufficiently to be able to see them.  It was known that she
had sent for me on being taken ill, and that I remained at Roughborough,
and I own I was angered by the mingled air of suspicion, defiance and
inquisitiveness, with which they regarded me.  They would all, except
Theobald, I believe have cut me downright if they had not believed me to
know something they wanted to know themselves, and might have some chance
of learning from me--for it was plain I had been in some way concerned
with the making of their sister's will.  None of them suspected what the
ostensible nature of this would be, but I think they feared Miss Pontifex
was about to leave money for public uses.  John said to me in his
blandest manner that he fancied he remembered to have heard his sister
say that she thought of leaving money to found a college for the relief
of dramatic authors in distress; to this I made no rejoinder, and I have
no doubt his suspicions were deepened.

When the end came, I got Miss Pontifex's solicitor to write and tell her
brothers and sisters how she had left her money: they were not
unnaturally furious, and went each to his or her separate home without
attending the funeral, and without paying any attention to myself.  This
was perhaps the kindest thing they could have done by me, for their
behaviour made me so angry that I became almost reconciled to Alethea's
will out of pleasure at the anger it had aroused.  But for this I should
have felt the will keenly, as having been placed by it in the position
which of all others I had been most anxious to avoid, and as having
saddled me with a very heavy responsibility.  Still it was impossible for
me to escape, and I could only let things take their course.

Miss Pontifex had expressed a wish to be buried at Paleham; in the course
of the next few days I therefore took the body thither.  I had not been
to Paleham since the death of my father some six years earlier.  I had
often wished to go there, but had shrunk from doing so though my sister
had been two or three times.  I could not bear to see the house which had
been my home for so many years of my life in the hands of strangers; to
ring ceremoniously at a bell which I had never yet pulled except as a boy
in jest; to feel that I had nothing to do with a garden in which I had in
childhood gathered so many a nosegay, and which had seemed my own for
many years after I had reached man's estate; to see the rooms bereft of
every familiar feature, and made so unfamiliar in spite of their
familiarity.  Had there been any sufficient reason, I should have taken
these things as a matter of course, and should no doubt have found them
much worse in anticipation than in reality, but as there had been no
special reason why I should go to Paleham I had hitherto avoided doing
so.  Now, however, my going was a necessity, and I confess I never felt
more subdued than I did on arriving there with the dead playmate of my
childhood.

I found the village more changed than I had expected.  The railway had
come there, and a brand new yellow brick station was on the site of old
Mr and Mrs Pontifex's cottage.  Nothing but the carpenter's shop was now
standing.  I saw many faces I knew, but even in six years they seemed to
have grown wonderfully older.  Some of the very old were dead, and the
old were getting very old in their stead.  I felt like the changeling in
the fairy story who came back after a seven years' sleep.  Everyone
seemed glad to see me, though I had never given them particular cause to
be so, and everyone who remembered old Mr and Mrs Pontifex spoke warmly
of them and were pleased at their granddaughter's wishing to be laid near
them.  Entering the churchyard and standing in the twilight of a gusty
cloudy evening on the spot close beside old Mrs Pontifex's grave which I
had chosen for Alethea's, I thought of the many times that she, who would
lie there henceforth, and I, who must surely lie one day in some such
another place though when and where I knew not, had romped over this very
spot as childish lovers together.  Next morning I followed her to the
grave, and in due course set up a plain upright slab to her memory as
like as might be to those over the graves of her grandmother and
grandfather.  I gave the dates and places of her birth and death, but
added nothing except that this stone was set up by one who had known and
loved her.  Knowing how fond she had been of music I had been half
inclined at one time to inscribe a few bars of music, if I could find any
which seemed suitable to her character, but I knew how much she would
have disliked anything singular in connection with her tombstone and did
not do it.

Before, however, I had come to this conclusion, I had thought that Ernest
might be able to help me to the right thing, and had written to him upon
the subject.  The following is the answer I received--

   "Dear Godpapa,--I send you the best bit I can think of; it is the
   subject of the last of Handel's six grand fugues and goes thus:--

   [Music score]

   It would do better for a man, especially for an old man who was very
   sorry for things, than for a woman, but I cannot think of anything
   better; if you do not like it for Aunt Alethea I shall keep it for
   myself.--Your affectionate Godson, ERNEST PONTIFEX."

Was this the little lad who could get sweeties for two-pence but not for
two-pence-halfpenny?  Dear, dear me, I thought to myself, how these babes
and sucklings do give us the go-by surely.  Choosing his own epitaph at
fifteen as for a man who "had been very sorry for things," and such a
strain as that--why it might have done for Leonardo da Vinci himself.
Then I set the boy down as a conceited young jackanapes, which no doubt
he was,--but so are a great many other young people of Ernest's age.




CHAPTER XXXVII


If Theobald and Christina had not been too well pleased when Miss
Pontifex first took Ernest in hand, they were still less so when the
connection between the two was interrupted so prematurely.  They said
they had made sure from what their sister had said that she was going to
make Ernest her heir.  I do not think she had given them so much as a
hint to this effect.  Theobald indeed gave Ernest to understand that she
had done so in a letter which will be given shortly, but if Theobald
wanted to make himself disagreeable, a trifle light as air would
forthwith assume in his imagination whatever form was most convenient to
him.  I do not think they had even made up their minds what Alethea was
to do with her money before they knew of her being at the point of death,
and as I have said already, if they had thought it likely that Ernest
would be made heir over their own heads without their having at any rate
a life interest in the bequest, they would have soon thrown obstacles in
the way of further intimacy between aunt and nephew.

This, however, did not bar their right to feeling aggrieved now that
neither they nor Ernest had taken anything at all, and they could profess
disappointment on their boy's behalf which they would have been too proud
to admit upon their own.  In fact, it was only amiable of them to be
disappointed under these circumstances.

Christina said that the will was simply fraudulent, and was convinced
that it could be upset if she and Theobald went the right way to work.
Theobald, she said, should go before the Lord Chancellor, not in full
court but in chambers, where he could explain the whole matter; or,
perhaps it would be even better if she were to go herself--and I dare not
trust myself to describe the reverie to which this last idea gave rise.  I
believe in the end Theobald died, and the Lord Chancellor (who had become
a widower a few weeks earlier) made her an offer, which, however, she
firmly but not ungratefully declined; she should ever, she said, continue
to think of him as a friend--at this point the cook came in, saying the
butcher had called, and what would she please to order.

I think Theobald must have had an idea that there was something behind
the bequest to me, but he said nothing about it to Christina.  He was
angry and felt wronged, because he could not get at Alethea to give her a
piece of his mind any more than he had been able to get at his father.
"It is so mean of people," he exclaimed to himself, "to inflict an injury
of this sort, and then shirk facing those whom they have injured; let us
hope that, at any rate, they and I may meet in Heaven."  But of this he
was doubtful, for when people had done so great a wrong as this, it was
hardly to be supposed that they would go to Heaven at all--and as for his
meeting them in another place, the idea never so much as entered his
mind.

One so angry and, of late, so little used to contradiction might be
trusted, however, to avenge himself upon someone, and Theobald had long
since developed the organ, by means of which he might vent spleen with
least risk and greatest satisfaction to himself.  This organ, it may be
guessed, was nothing else than Ernest; to Ernest therefore he proceeded
to unburden himself, not personally, but by letter.

"You ought to know," he wrote, "that your Aunt Alethea had given your
mother and me to understand that it was her wish to make you her heir--in
the event, of course, of your conducting yourself in such a manner as to
give her confidence in you; as a matter of fact, however, she has left
you nothing, and the whole of her property has gone to your godfather, Mr
Overton.  Your mother and I are willing to hope that if she had lived
longer you would yet have succeeded in winning her good opinion, but it
is too late to think of this now.

"The carpentering and organ-building must at once be discontinued.  I
never believed in the project, and have seen no reason to alter my
original opinion.  I am not sorry for your own sake, that it is to be at
an end, nor, I am sure, will you regret it yourself in after years.

"A few words more as regards your own prospects.  You have, as I believe
you know, a small inheritance, which is yours legally under your
grandfather's will.  This bequest was made inadvertently, and, I believe,
entirely through a misunderstanding on the lawyer's part.  The bequest
was probably intended not to take effect till after the death of your
mother and myself; nevertheless, as the will is actually worded, it will
now be at your command if you live to be twenty-one years old.  From
this, however, large deductions must be made.  There will be legacy duty,
and I do not know whether I am not entitled to deduct the expenses of
your education and maintenance from birth to your coming of age; I shall
not in all likelihood insist on this right to the full, if you conduct
yourself properly, but a considerable sum should certainly be deducted,
there will therefore remain very little--say 1000 pounds or 2000 pounds
at the outside, as what will be actually yours--but the strictest account
shall be rendered you in due time.

"This, let me warn you most seriously, is all that you must expect from
me (even Ernest saw that it was not from Theobald at all) at any rate
till after my death, which for aught any of us know may be yet many years
distant.  It is not a large sum, but it is sufficient if supplemented by
steadiness and earnestness of purpose.  Your mother and I gave you the
name Ernest, hoping that it would remind you continually of--" but I
really cannot copy more of this effusion.  It was all the same old will-
shaking game and came practically to this, that Ernest was no good, and
that if he went on as he was going on now, he would probably have to go
about the streets begging without any shoes or stockings soon after he
had left school, or at any rate, college; and that he, Theobald, and
Christina were almost too good for this world altogether.

After he had written this Theobald felt quite good-natured, and sent to
the Mrs Thompson of the moment even more soup and wine than her usual not
illiberal allowance.

Ernest was deeply, passionately upset by his father's letter; to think
that even his dear aunt, the one person of his relations whom he really
loved, should have turned against him and thought badly of him after all.
This was the unkindest cut of all.  In the hurry of her illness Miss
Pontifex, while thinking only of his welfare, had omitted to make such
small present mention of him as would have made his father's innuendoes
stingless; and her illness being infectious, she had not seen him after
its nature was known.  I myself did not know of Theobald's letter, nor
think enough about my godson to guess what might easily be his state.  It
was not till many years afterwards that I found Theobald's letter in the
pocket of an old portfolio which Ernest had used at school, and in which
other old letters and school documents were collected which I have used
in this book.  He had forgotten that he had it, but told me when he saw
it that he remembered it as the first thing that made him begin to rise
against his father in a rebellion which he recognised as righteous,
though he dared not openly avow it.  Not the least serious thing was that
it would, he feared, be his duty to give up the legacy his grandfather
had left him; for if it was his only through a mistake, how could he keep
it?

During the rest of the half year Ernest was listless and unhappy.  He was
very fond of some of his schoolfellows, but afraid of those whom he
believed to be better than himself, and prone to idealise everyone into
being his superior except those who were obviously a good deal beneath
him.  He held himself much too cheap, and because he was without that
physical strength and vigour which he so much coveted, and also because
he knew he shirked his lessons, he believed that he was without anything
which could deserve the name of a good quality; he was naturally bad, and
one of those for whom there was no place for repentance, though he sought
it even with tears.  So he shrank out of sight of those whom in his
boyish way he idolised, never for a moment suspecting that he might have
capacities to the full as high as theirs though of a different kind, and
fell in more with those who were reputed of the baser sort, with whom he
could at any rate be upon equal terms.  Before the end of the half year
he had dropped from the estate to which he had been raised during his
aunt's stay at Roughborough, and his old dejection, varied, however, with
bursts of conceit rivalling those of his mother, resumed its sway over
him.  "Pontifex," said Dr Skinner, who had fallen upon him in hall one
day like a moral landslip, before he had time to escape, "do you never
laugh?  Do you always look so preternaturally grave?"  The doctor had not
meant to be unkind, but the boy turned crimson, and escaped.

There was one place only where he was happy, and that was in the old
church of St Michael, when his friend the organist was practising.  About
this time cheap editions of the great oratorios began to appear, and
Ernest got them all as soon as they were published; he would sometimes
sell a school-book to a second-hand dealer, and buy a number or two of
the "Messiah," or the "Creation," or "Elijah," with the proceeds.  This
was simply cheating his papa and mamma, but Ernest was falling low
again--or thought he was--and he wanted the music much, and the Sallust,
or whatever it was, little.  Sometimes the organist would go home,
leaving his keys with Ernest, so that he could play by himself and lock
up the organ and the church in time to get back for calling over.  At
other times, while his friend was playing, he would wander round the
church, looking at the monuments and the old stained glass windows,
enchanted as regards both ears and eyes, at once.  Once the old rector
got hold of him as he was watching a new window being put in, which the
rector had bought in Germany--the work, it was supposed, of Albert Durer.
He questioned Ernest, and finding that he was fond of music, he said in
his old trembling voice (for he was over eighty), "Then you should have
known Dr Burney who wrote the history of music.  I knew him exceedingly
well when I was a young man."  That made Ernest's heart beat, for he knew
that Dr Burney, when a boy at school at Chester, used to break bounds
that he might watch Handel smoking his pipe in the Exchange coffee
house--and now he was in the presence of one who, if he had not seen
Handel himself, had at least seen those who had seen him.

These were oases in his desert, but, as a general rule, the boy looked
thin and pale, and as though he had a secret which depressed him, which
no doubt he had, but for which I cannot blame him.  He rose, in spite of
himself, higher in the school, but fell ever into deeper and deeper
disgrace with the masters, and did not gain in the opinion of those boys
about whom he was persuaded that they could assuredly never know what it
was to have a secret weighing upon their minds.  This was what Ernest
felt so keenly; he did not much care about the boys who liked him, and
idolised some who kept him as far as possible at a distance, but this is
pretty much the case with all boys everywhere.

At last things reached a crisis, below which they could not very well go,
for at the end of the half year but one after his aunt's death, Ernest
brought back a document in his portmanteau, which Theobald stigmatised as
"infamous and outrageous."  I need hardly say I am alluding to his school
bill.

This document was always a source of anxiety to Ernest, for it was gone
into with scrupulous care, and he was a good deal cross-examined about
it.  He would sometimes "write in" for articles necessary for his
education, such as a portfolio, or a dictionary, and sell the same, as I
have explained, in order to eke out his pocket money, probably to buy
either music or tobacco.  These frauds were sometimes, as Ernest thought,
in imminent danger of being discovered, and it was a load off his breast
when the cross-examination was safely over.  This time Theobald had made
a great fuss about the extras, but had grudgingly passed them; it was
another matter, however, with the character and the moral statistics,
with which the bill concluded.

The page on which these details were to be found was as follows:

   REPORT OF THE CONDUCT AND PROGRESS OF ERNEST PONTIFEX.
   UPPER FIFTH FORM, HALF YEAR ENDING MIDSUMMER 1851

   Classics--Idle, listless and unimproving.
   Mathematics " " "
   Divinity " " "
   Conduct in house.--Orderly.
   General Conduct--Not satisfactory, on account of his great
   unpunctuality and inattention to duties.
   Monthly merit money 1s. 6d. 6d. 0d. 6d.  Total 2s. 6d.
   Number of merit marks 2 0 1 1 0 Total 4
   Number of penal marks 26 20 25 30 25 Total 126
   Number of extra penals 9 6 10 12 11 Total 48
   I recommend that his pocket money be made to depend upon his merit
   money.
   S. SKINNER, Head-master.




CHAPTER XXXVIII


Ernest was thus in disgrace from the beginning of the holidays, but an
incident soon occurred which led him into delinquencies compared with
which all his previous sins were venial.

Among the servants at the Rectory was a remarkably pretty girl named
Ellen.  She came from Devonshire, and was the daughter of a fisherman who
had been drowned when she was a child.  Her mother set up a small shop in
the village where her husband had lived, and just managed to make a
living.  Ellen remained with her till she was fourteen, when she first
went out to service.  Four years later, when she was about eighteen, but
so well grown that she might have passed for twenty, she had been
strongly recommended to Christina, who was then in want of a housemaid,
and had now been at Battersby about twelve months.

As I have said the girl was remarkably pretty; she looked the perfection
of health and good temper, indeed there was a serene expression upon her
face which captivated almost all who saw her; she looked as if matters
had always gone well with her and were always going to do so, and as if
no conceivable combination of circumstances could put her for long
together out of temper either with herself or with anyone else.  Her
complexion was clear, but high; her eyes were grey and beautifully
shaped; her lips were full and restful, with something of an Egyptian
Sphinx-like character about them.  When I learned that she came from
Devonshire I fancied I saw a strain of far away Egyptian blood in her,
for I had heard, though I know not what foundation there was for the
story, that the Egyptians made settlements on the coast of Devonshire and
Cornwall long before the Romans conquered Britain.  Her hair was a rich
brown, and her figure--of about the middle height--perfect, but erring if
at all on the side of robustness.  Altogether she was one of those girls
about whom one is inclined to wonder how they can remain unmarried a week
or a day longer.

Her face (as indeed faces generally are, though I grant they lie
sometimes) was a fair index to her disposition.  She was good nature
itself, and everyone in the house, not excluding I believe even Theobald
himself after a fashion, was fond of her.  As for Christina she took the
very warmest interest in her, and used to have her into the dining-room
twice a week, and prepare her for confirmation (for by some accident she
had never been confirmed) by explaining to her the geography of Palestine
and the routes taken by St Paul on his various journeys in Asia Minor.

When Bishop Treadwell did actually come down to Battersby and hold a
confirmation there (Christina had her wish, he slept at Battersby, and
she had a grand dinner party for him, and called him "My lord" several
times), he was so much struck with her pretty face and modest demeanour
when he laid his hands upon her that he asked Christina about her.  When
she replied that Ellen was one of her own servants, the bishop seemed, so
she thought or chose to think, quite pleased that so pretty a girl should
have found so exceptionally good a situation.

Ernest used to get up early during the holidays so that he might play the
piano before breakfast without disturbing his papa and mamma--or rather,
perhaps, without being disturbed by them.  Ellen would generally be there
sweeping the drawing-room floor and dusting while he was playing, and the
boy, who was ready to make friends with most people, soon became very
fond of her.  He was not as a general rule sensitive to the charms of the
fair sex, indeed he had hardly been thrown in with any women except his
Aunts Allaby, and his Aunt Alethea, his mother, his sister Charlotte and
Mrs Jay; sometimes also he had had to take off his hat to the Miss
Skinners, and had felt as if he should sink into the earth on doing so,
but his shyness had worn off with Ellen, and the pair had become fast
friends.

Perhaps it was well that Ernest was not at home for very long together,
but as yet his affection though hearty was quite Platonic.  He was not
only innocent, but deplorably--I might even say guiltily--innocent.  His
preference was based upon the fact that Ellen never scolded him, but was
always smiling and good tempered; besides she used to like to hear him
play, and this gave him additional zest in playing.  The morning access
to the piano was indeed the one distinct advantage which the holidays had
in Ernest's eyes, for at school he could not get at a piano except quasi-
surreptitiously at the shop of Mr Pearsall, the music-seller.

On returning this midsummer he was shocked to find his favourite looking
pale and ill.  All her good spirits had left her, the roses had fled from
her cheek, and she seemed on the point of going into a decline.  She said
she was unhappy about her mother, whose health was failing, and was
afraid she was herself not long for this world.  Christina, of course,
noticed the change.  "I have often remarked," she said, "that those very
fresh-coloured, healthy-looking girls are the first to break up.  I have
given her calomel and James's powders repeatedly, and though she does not
like it, I think I must show her to Dr Martin when he next comes here."

"Very well, my dear," said Theobald, and so next time Dr Martin came
Ellen was sent for.  Dr Martin soon discovered what would probably have
been apparent to Christina herself if she had been able to conceive of
such an ailment in connection with a servant who lived under the same
roof as Theobald and herself--the purity of whose married life should
have preserved all unmarried people who came near them from any taint of
mischief.

When it was discovered that in three or four months more Ellen would
become a mother, Christina's natural good nature would have prompted her
to deal as leniently with the case as she could, if she had not been
panic-stricken lest any mercy on her and Theobald's part should be
construed into toleration, however partial, of so great a sin; hereon she
dashed off into the conviction that the only thing to do was to pay Ellen
her wages, and pack her off on the instant bag and baggage out of the
house which purity had more especially and particularly singled out for
its abiding city.  When she thought of the fearful contamination which
Ellen's continued presence even for a week would occasion, she could not
hesitate.

Then came the question--horrid thought!--as to who was the partner of
Ellen's guilt?  Was it, could it be, her own son, her darling Ernest?
Ernest was getting a big boy now.  She could excuse any young woman for
taking a fancy to him; as for himself, why she was sure he was behind no
young man of his age in appreciation of the charms of a nice-looking
young woman.  So long as he was innocent she did not mind this, but oh,
if he were guilty!

She could not bear to think of it, and yet it would be mere cowardice not
to look such a matter in the face--her hope was in the Lord, and she was
ready to bear cheerfully and make the best of any suffering He might
think fit to lay upon her.  That the baby must be either a boy or
girl--this much, at any rate, was clear.  No less clear was it that the
child, if a boy, would resemble Theobald, and if a girl, herself.
Resemblance, whether of body or mind, generally leaped over a generation.
The guilt of the parents must not be shared by the innocent offspring of
shame--oh! no--and such a child as this would be . . . She was off in one
of her reveries at once.

The child was in the act of being consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury
when Theobald came in from a visit in the parish, and was told of the
shocking discovery.

Christina said nothing about Ernest, and I believe was more than half
angry when the blame was laid upon other shoulders.  She was easily
consoled, however, and fell back on the double reflection, firstly, that
her son was pure, and secondly, that she was quite sure he would not have
been so had it not been for his religious convictions which had held him
back--as, of course, it was only to be expected they would.

Theobald agreed that no time must be lost in paying Ellen her wages and
packing her off.  So this was done, and less than two hours after Dr
Martin had entered the house Ellen was sitting beside John the coachman,
with her face muffled up so that it could not be seen, weeping bitterly
as she was being driven to the station.




CHAPTER XXXIX


Ernest had been out all the morning, but came in to the yard of the
Rectory from the spinney behind the house just as Ellen's things were
being put into the carriage.  He thought it was Ellen whom he then saw
get into the carriage, but as her face had been hidden by her
handkerchief he had not been able to see plainly who it was, and
dismissed the idea as improbable.

He went to the back-kitchen window, at which the cook was standing
peeling the potatoes for dinner, and found her crying bitterly.  Ernest
was much distressed, for he liked the cook, and, of course, wanted to
know what all the matter was, who it was that had just gone off in the
pony carriage, and why?  The cook told him it was Ellen, but said that no
earthly power should make it cross her lips why it was she was going
away; when, however, Ernest took her _au pied de la lettre_ and asked no
further questions, she told him all about it after extorting the most
solemn promises of secrecy.

It took Ernest some minutes to arrive at the facts of the case, but when
he understood them he leaned against the pump, which stood near the back-
kitchen window, and mingled his tears with the cook's.

Then his blood began to boil within him.  He did not see that after all
his father and mother could have done much otherwise than they actually
did.  They might perhaps have been less precipitate, and tried to keep
the matter a little more quiet, but this would not have been easy, nor
would it have mended things very materially.  The bitter fact remains
that if a girl does certain things she must do them at her peril, no
matter how young and pretty she is nor to what temptation she has
succumbed.  This is the way of the world, and as yet there has been no
help found for it.

Ernest could only see what he gathered from the cook, namely, that his
favourite, Ellen, was being turned adrift with a matter of three pounds
in her pocket, to go she knew not where, and to do she knew not what, and
that she had said she should hang or drown herself, which the boy
implicitly believed she would.

With greater promptitude than he had shown yet, he reckoned up his money
and found he had two shillings and threepence at his command; there was
his knife which might sell for a shilling, and there was the silver watch
his Aunt Alethea had given him shortly before she died.  The carriage had
been gone now a full quarter of an hour, and it must have got some
distance ahead, but he would do his best to catch it up, and there were
short cuts which would perhaps give him a chance.  He was off at once,
and from the top of the hill just past the Rectory paddock he could see
the carriage, looking very small, on a bit of road which showed perhaps a
mile and a half in front of him.

One of the most popular amusements at Roughborough was an institution
called "the hounds"--more commonly known elsewhere as "hare and hounds,"
but in this case the hare was a couple of boys who were called foxes, and
boys are so particular about correctness of nomenclature where their
sports are concerned that I dare not say they played "hare and hounds";
these were "the hounds," and that was all.  Ernest's want of muscular
strength did not tell against him here; there was no jostling up against
boys who, though neither older nor taller than he, were yet more robustly
built; if it came to mere endurance he was as good as any one else, so
when his carpentering was stopped he had naturally taken to "the hounds"
as his favourite amusement.  His lungs thus exercised had become
developed, and as a run of six or seven miles across country was not more
than he was used to, he did not despair by the help of the short cuts of
overtaking the carriage, or at the worst of catching Ellen at the station
before the train left.  So he ran and ran and ran till his first wind was
gone and his second came, and he could breathe more easily.  Never with
"the hounds" had he run so fast and with so few breaks as now, but with
all his efforts and the help of the short cuts he did not catch up the
carriage, and would probably not have done so had not John happened to
turn his head and seen him running and making signs for the carriage to
stop a quarter of a mile off.  He was now about five miles from home, and
was nearly done up.

He was crimson with his exertion; covered with dust, and with his
trousers and coat sleeves a trifle short for him he cut a poor figure
enough as he thrust on Ellen his watch, his knife, and the little money
he had.  The one thing he implored of her was not to do those dreadful
things which she threatened--for his sake if for no other reason.

Ellen at first would not hear of taking anything from him, but the
coachman, who was from the north country, sided with Ernest.  "Take it,
my lass," he said kindly, "take what thou canst get whiles thou canst get
it; as for Master Ernest here--he has run well after thee; therefore let
him give thee what he is minded."

Ellen did what she was told, and the two parted with many tears, the
girl's last words being that she should never forget him, and that they
should meet again hereafter, she was sure they should, and then she would
repay him.

Then Ernest got into a field by the roadside, flung himself on the grass,
and waited under the shadow of a hedge till the carriage should pass on
its return from the station and pick him up, for he was dead beat.
Thoughts which had already occurred to him with some force now came more
strongly before him, and he saw that he had got himself into one mess--or
rather into half-a-dozen messes--the more.

In the first place he should be late for dinner, and this was one of the
offences on which Theobald had no mercy.  Also he should have to say
where he had been, and there was a danger of being found out if he did
not speak the truth.  Not only this, but sooner or later it must come out
that he was no longer possessed of the beautiful watch which his dear
aunt had given him--and what, pray, had he done with it, or how had he
lost it?  The reader will know very well what he ought to have done.  He
should have gone straight home, and if questioned should have said, "I
have been running after the carriage to catch our housemaid Ellen, whom I
am very fond of; I have given her my watch, my knife and all my pocket
money, so that I have now no pocket money at all and shall probably ask
you for some more sooner than I otherwise might have done, and you will
also have to buy me a new watch and a knife."  But then fancy the
consternation which such an announcement would have occasioned!  Fancy
the scowl and flashing eyes of the infuriated Theobald!  "You
unprincipled young scoundrel," he would exclaim, "do you mean to vilify
your own parents by implying that they have dealt harshly by one whose
profligacy has disgraced their house?"

Or he might take it with one of those sallies of sarcastic calm, of which
he believed himself to be a master.

"Very well, Ernest, very well: I shall say nothing; you can please
yourself; you are not yet twenty-one, but pray act as if you were your
own master; your poor aunt doubtless gave you the watch that you might
fling it away upon the first improper character you came across; I think
I can now understand, however, why she did not leave you her money; and,
after all, your godfather may just as well have it as the kind of people
on whom you would lavish it if it were yours."

Then his mother would burst into tears and implore him to repent and seek
the things belonging to his peace while there was yet time, by falling on
his knees to Theobald and assuring him of his unfailing love for him as
the kindest and tenderest father in the universe.  Ernest could do all
this just as well as they could, and now, as he lay on the grass,
speeches, some one or other of which was as certain to come as the sun to
set, kept running in his head till they confuted the idea of telling the
truth by reducing it to an absurdity.  Truth might be heroic, but it was
not within the range of practical domestic politics.

Having settled then that he was to tell a lie, what lie should he tell?
Should he say he had been robbed?  He had enough imagination to know that
he had not enough imagination to carry him out here.  Young as he was,
his instinct told him that the best liar is he who makes the smallest
amount of lying go the longest way--who husbands it too carefully to
waste it where it can be dispensed with.  The simplest course would be to
say that he had lost the watch, and was late for dinner because he had
been looking for it.  He had been out for a long walk--he chose the line
across the fields that he had actually taken--and the weather being very
hot, he had taken off his coat and waistcoat; in carrying them over his
arm his watch, his money, and his knife had dropped out of them.  He had
got nearly home when he found out his loss, and had run back as fast as
he could, looking along the line he had followed, till at last he had
given it up; seeing the carriage coming back from the station, he had let
it pick him up and bring him home.

This covered everything, the running and all; for his face still showed
that he must have been running hard; the only question was whether he had
been seen about the Rectory by any but the servants for a couple of hours
or so before Ellen had gone, and this he was happy to believe was not the
case; for he had been out except during his few minutes' interview with
the cook.  His father had been out in the parish; his mother had
certainly not come across him, and his brother and sister had also been
out with the governess.  He knew he could depend upon the cook and the
other servants--the coachman would see to this; on the whole, therefore,
both he and the coachman thought the story as proposed by Ernest would
about meet the requirements of the case.




CHAPTER XL


When Ernest got home and sneaked in through the back door, he heard his
father's voice in its angriest tones, inquiring whether Master Ernest had
already returned.  He felt as Jack must have felt in the story of Jack
and the Bean Stalk, when from the oven in which he was hidden he heard
the ogre ask his wife what young children she had got for his supper.
With much courage, and, as the event proved, with not less courage than
discretion, he took the bull by the horns, and announced himself at once
as having just come in after having met with a terrible misfortune.
Little by little he told his story, and though Theobald stormed somewhat
at his "incredible folly and carelessness," he got off better than he
expected.  Theobald and Christina had indeed at first been inclined to
connect his absence from dinner with Ellen's dismissal, but on finding it
clear, as Theobald said--everything was always clear with Theobald--that
Ernest had not been in the house all the morning, and could therefore
have known nothing of what had happened, he was acquitted on this account
for once in a way, without a stain upon his character.  Perhaps Theobald
was in a good temper; he may have seen from the paper that morning that
his stocks had been rising; it may have been this or twenty other things,
but whatever it was, he did not scold so much as Ernest had expected,
and, seeing the boy look exhausted and believing him to be much grieved
at the loss of his watch, Theobald actually prescribed a glass of wine
after his dinner, which, strange to say, did not choke him, but made him
see things more cheerfully than was usual with him.

That night when he said his prayers, he inserted a few paragraphs to the
effect that he might not be discovered, and that things might go well
with Ellen, but he was anxious and ill at ease.  His guilty conscience
pointed out to him a score of weak places in his story, through any one
of which detection might even yet easily enter.  Next day and for many
days afterwards he fled when no man was pursuing, and trembled each time
he heard his father's voice calling for him.  He had already so many
causes of anxiety that he could stand little more, and in spite of all
his endeavours to look cheerful, even his mother could see that something
was preying upon his mind.  Then the idea returned to her that, after
all, her son might not be innocent in the Ellen matter--and this was so
interesting that she felt bound to get as near the truth as she could.

"Come here, my poor, pale-faced, heavy-eyed boy," she said to him one day
in her kindest manner; "come and sit down by me, and we will have a
little quiet confidential talk together, will we not?"

The boy went mechanically to the sofa.  Whenever his mother wanted what
she called a confidential talk with him she always selected the sofa as
the most suitable ground on which to open her campaign.  All mothers do
this; the sofa is to them what the dining-room is to fathers.  In the
present case the sofa was particularly well adapted for a strategic
purpose, being an old-fashioned one with a high back, mattress, bolsters
and cushions.  Once safely penned into one of its deep corners, it was
like a dentist's chair, not too easy to get out of again.  Here she could
get at him better to pull him about, if this should seem desirable, or if
she thought fit to cry she could bury her head in the sofa cushion and
abandon herself to an agony of grief which seldom failed of its effect.
None of her favourite manoeuvres were so easily adopted in her usual
seat, the arm-chair on the right hand side of the fireplace, and so well
did her son know from his mother's tone that this was going to be a sofa
conversation that he took his place like a lamb as soon as she began to
speak and before she could reach the sofa herself.

"My dearest boy," began his mother, taking hold of his hand and placing
it within her own, "promise me never to be afraid either of your dear
papa or of me; promise me this, my dear, as you love me, promise it to
me," and she kissed him again and again and stroked his hair.  But with
her other hand she still kept hold of his; she had got him and she meant
to keep him.

The lad hung down his head and promised.  What else could he do?

"You know there is no one, dear, dear Ernest, who loves you so much as
your papa and I do; no one who watches so carefully over your interests
or who is so anxious to enter into all your little joys and troubles as
we are; but my dearest boy, it grieves me to think sometimes that you
have not that perfect love for and confidence in us which you ought to
have.  You know, my darling, that it would be as much our pleasure as our
duty to watch over the development of your moral and spiritual nature,
but alas! you will not let us see your moral and spiritual nature.  At
times we are almost inclined to doubt whether you have a moral and
spiritual nature at all.  Of your inner life, my dear, we know nothing
beyond such scraps as we can glean in spite of you, from little things
which escape you almost before you know that you have said them."

The boy winced at this.  It made him feel hot and uncomfortable all over.
He knew well how careful he ought to be, and yet, do what he could, from
time to time his forgetfulness of the part betrayed him into unreserve.
His mother saw that he winced, and enjoyed the scratch she had given him.
Had she felt less confident of victory she had better have foregone the
pleasure of touching as it were the eyes at the end of the snail's horns
in order to enjoy seeing the snail draw them in again--but she knew that
when she had got him well down into the sofa, and held his hand, she had
the enemy almost absolutely at her mercy, and could do pretty much what
she liked.

"Papa does not feel," she continued, "that you love him with that fulness
and unreserve which would prompt you to have no concealment from him, and
to tell him everything freely and fearlessly as your most loving earthly
friend next only to your Heavenly Father.  Perfect love, as we know,
casteth out fear: your father loves you perfectly, my darling, but he
does not feel as though you loved him perfectly in return.  If you fear
him it is because you do not love him as he deserves, and I know it
sometimes cuts him to the very heart to think that he has earned from you
a deeper and more willing sympathy than you display towards him.  Oh,
Ernest, Ernest, do not grieve one who is so good and noble-hearted by
conduct which I can call by no other name than ingratitude."

Ernest could never stand being spoken to in this way by his mother: for
he still believed that she loved him, and that he was fond of her and had
a friend in her--up to a certain point.  But his mother was beginning to
come to the end of her tether; she had played the domestic confidence
trick upon him times without number already.  Over and over again had she
wheedled from him all she wanted to know, and afterwards got him into the
most horrible scrape by telling the whole to Theobald.  Ernest had
remonstrated more than once upon these occasions, and had pointed out to
his mother how disastrous to him his confidences had been, but Christina
had always joined issue with him and showed him in the clearest possible
manner that in each case she had been right, and that he could not
reasonably complain.  Generally it was her conscience that forbade her to
be silent, and against this there was no appeal, for we are all bound to
follow the dictates of our conscience.  Ernest used to have to recite a
hymn about conscience.  It was to the effect that if you did not pay
attention to its voice it would soon leave off speaking.  "My mamma's
conscience has not left off speaking," said Ernest to one of his chums at
Roughborough; "it's always jabbering."

When a boy has once spoken so disrespectfully as this about his mother's
conscience it is practically all over between him and her.  Ernest
through sheer force of habit, of the sofa, and of the return of the
associated ideas, was still so moved by the siren's voice as to yearn to
sail towards her, and fling himself into her arms, but it would not do;
there were other associated ideas that returned also, and the mangled
bones of too many murdered confessions were lying whitening round the
skirts of his mother's dress, to allow him by any possibility to trust
her further.  So he hung his head and looked sheepish, but kept his own
counsel.

"I see, my dearest," continued his mother, "either that I am mistaken,
and that there is nothing on your mind, or that you will not unburden
yourself to me: but oh, Ernest, tell me at least this much; is there
nothing that you repent of, nothing which makes you unhappy in connection
with that miserable girl Ellen?"

Ernest's heart failed him.  "I am a dead boy now," he said to himself.  He
had not the faintest conception what his mother was driving at, and
thought she suspected about the watch; but he held his ground.

I do not believe he was much more of a coward than his neighbours, only
he did not know that all sensible people are cowards when they are off
their beat, or when they think they are going to be roughly handled.  I
believe, that if the truth were known, it would be found that even the
valiant St Michael himself tried hard to shirk his famous combat with the
dragon; he pretended not to see all sorts of misconduct on the dragon's
part; shut his eyes to the eating up of I do not know how many hundreds
of men, women and children whom he had promised to protect; allowed
himself to be publicly insulted a dozen times over without resenting it;
and in the end when even an angel could stand it no longer he
shilly-shallied and temporised an unconscionable time before he would fix
the day and hour for the encounter.  As for the actual combat it was much
such another _wurra-wurra_ as Mrs Allaby had had with the young man who
had in the end married her eldest daughter, till after a time behold,
there was the dragon lying dead, while he was himself alive and not very
seriously hurt after all.

"I do not know what you mean, mamma," exclaimed Ernest anxiously and more
or less hurriedly.  His mother construed his manner into indignation at
being suspected, and being rather frightened herself she turned tail and
scuttled off as fast as her tongue could carry her.

"Oh!" she said, "I see by your tone that you are innocent!  Oh! oh! how I
thank my heavenly Father for this; may He for His dear Son's sake keep
you always pure.  Your father, my dear"--(here she spoke hurriedly but
gave him a searching look) "was as pure as a spotless angel when he came
to me.  Like him, always be self-denying, truly truthful both in word and
deed, never forgetful whose son and grandson you are, nor of the name we
gave you, of the sacred stream in whose waters your sins were washed out
of you through the blood and blessing of Christ," etc.

But Ernest cut this--I will not say short--but a great deal shorter than
it would have been if Christina had had her say out, by extricating
himself from his mamma's embrace and showing a clean pair of heels.  As
he got near the purlieus of the kitchen (where he was more at ease) he
heard his father calling for his mother, and again his guilty conscience
rose against him.  "He has found all out now," it cried, "and he is going
to tell mamma--this time I am done for."  But there was nothing in it;
his father only wanted the key of the cellaret.  Then Ernest slunk off
into a coppice or spinney behind the Rectory paddock, and consoled
himself with a pipe of tobacco.  Here in the wood with the summer sun
streaming through the trees and a book and his pipe the boy forgot his
cares and had an interval of that rest without which I verily believe his
life would have been insupportable.

Of course, Ernest was made to look for his lost property, and a reward
was offered for it, but it seemed he had wandered a good deal off the
path, thinking to find a lark's nest, more than once, and looking for a
watch and purse on Battersby piewipes was very like looking for a needle
in a bundle of hay: besides it might have been found and taken by some
tramp, or by a magpie of which there were many in the neighbourhood, so
that after a week or ten days the search was discontinued, and the
unpleasant fact had to be faced that Ernest must have another watch,
another knife, and a small sum of pocket money.

It was only right, however, that Ernest should pay half the cost of the
watch; this should be made easy for him, for it should be deducted from
his pocket money in half-yearly instalments extending over two, or even
it might be three years.  In Ernest's own interests, then, as well as
those of his father and mother, it would be well that the watch should
cost as little as possible, so it was resolved to buy a second-hand one.
Nothing was to be said to Ernest, but it was to be bought, and laid upon
his plate as a surprise just before the holidays were over.  Theobald
would have to go to the county town in a few days, and could then find
some second-hand watch which would answer sufficiently well.  In the
course of time, therefore, Theobald went, furnished with a long list of
household commissions, among which was the purchase of a watch for
Ernest.

Those, as I have said, were always happy times, when Theobald was away
for a whole day certain; the boy was beginning to feel easy in his mind
as though God had heard his prayers, and he was not going to be found
out.  Altogether the day had proved an unusually tranquil one, but, alas!
it was not to close as it had begun; the fickle atmosphere in which he
lived was never more likely to breed a storm than after such an interval
of brilliant calm, and when Theobald returned Ernest had only to look in
his face to see that a hurricane was approaching.

Christina saw that something had gone very wrong, and was quite
frightened lest Theobald should have heard of some serious money loss; he
did not, however, at once unbosom himself, but rang the bell and said to
the servant, "Tell Master Ernest I wish to speak to him in the dining-
room."




CHAPTER XLI


Long before Ernest reached the dining-room his ill-divining soul had told
him that his sin had found him out.  What head of a family ever sends for
any of its members into the dining-room if his intentions are honourable?

When he reached it he found it empty--his father having been called away
for a few minutes unexpectedly upon some parish business--and he was left
in the same kind of suspense as people are in after they have been
ushered into their dentist's ante-room.

Of all the rooms in the house he hated the dining-room worst.  It was
here that he had had to do his Latin and Greek lessons with his father.
It had a smell of some particular kind of polish or varnish which was
used in polishing the furniture, and neither I nor Ernest can even now
come within range of the smell of this kind of varnish without our hearts
failing us.

Over the chimney-piece there was a veritable old master, one of the few
original pictures which Mr George Pontifex had brought from Italy.  It
was supposed to be a Salvator Rosa, and had been bought as a great
bargain.  The subject was Elijah or Elisha (whichever it was) being fed
by the ravens in the desert.  There were the ravens in the upper right-
hand corner with bread and meat in their beaks and claws, and there was
the prophet in question in the lower left-hand corner looking longingly
up towards them.  When Ernest was a very small boy it had been a constant
matter of regret to him that the food which the ravens carried never
actually reached the prophet; he did not understand the limitation of the
painter's art, and wanted the meat and the prophet to be brought into
direct contact.  One day, with the help of some steps which had been left
in the room, he had clambered up to the picture and with a piece of bread
and butter traced a greasy line right across it from the ravens to
Elisha's mouth, after which he had felt more comfortable.

Ernest's mind was drifting back to this youthful escapade when he heard
his father's hand on the door, and in another second Theobald entered.

"Oh, Ernest," said he, in an off-hand, rather cheery manner, "there's a
little matter which I should like you to explain to me, as I have no
doubt you very easily can."  Thump, thump, thump, went Ernest's heart
against his ribs; but his father's manner was so much nicer than usual
that he began to think it might be after all only another false alarm.

"It had occurred to your mother and myself that we should like to set you
up with a watch again before you went back to school" ("Oh, that's all,"
said Ernest to himself quite relieved), "and I have been to-day to look
out for a second-hand one which should answer every purpose so long as
you're at school."

Theobald spoke as if watches had half-a-dozen purposes besides
time-keeping, but he could hardly open his mouth without using one or
other of his tags, and "answering every purpose" was one of them.

Ernest was breaking out into the usual expressions of gratitude, when
Theobald continued, "You are interrupting me," and Ernest's heart thumped
again.

"You are interrupting me, Ernest.  I have not yet done."  Ernest was
instantly dumb.

"I passed several shops with second-hand watches for sale, but I saw none
of a description and price which pleased me, till at last I was shown one
which had, so the shopman said, been left with him recently for sale, and
which I at once recognised as the one which had been given you by your
Aunt Alethea.  Even if I had failed to recognise it, as perhaps I might
have done, I should have identified it directly it reached my hands,
inasmuch as it had 'E. P., a present from A. P.' engraved upon the
inside.  I need say no more to show that this was the very watch which
you told your mother and me that you had dropped out of your pocket."

Up to this time Theobald's manner had been studiously calm, and his words
had been uttered slowly, but here he suddenly quickened and flung off the
mask as he added the words, "or some such cock and bull story, which your
mother and I were too truthful to disbelieve.  You can guess what must be
our feelings now."

Ernest felt that this last home-thrust was just.  In his less anxious
moments he had thought his papa and mamma "green" for the readiness with
which they believed him, but he could not deny that their credulity was a
proof of their habitual truthfulness of mind.  In common justice he must
own that it was very dreadful for two such truthful people to have a son
as untruthful as he knew himself to be.

"Believing that a son of your mother and myself would be incapable of
falsehood I at once assumed that some tramp had picked the watch up and
was now trying to dispose of it."

This to the best of my belief was not accurate.  Theobald's first
assumption had been that it was Ernest who was trying to sell the watch,
and it was an inspiration of the moment to say that his magnanimous mind
had at once conceived the idea of a tramp.

"You may imagine how shocked I was when I discovered that the watch had
been brought for sale by that miserable woman Ellen"--here Ernest's heart
hardened a little, and he felt as near an approach to an instinct to turn
as one so defenceless could be expected to feel; his father quickly
perceived this and continued, "who was turned out of this house in
circumstances which I will not pollute your ears by more particularly
describing.

"I put aside the horrid conviction which was beginning to dawn upon me,
and assumed that in the interval between her dismissal and her leaving
this house, she had added theft to her other sin, and having found your
watch in your bedroom had purloined it.  It even occurred to me that you
might have missed your watch after the woman was gone, and, suspecting
who had taken it, had run after the carriage in order to recover it; but
when I told the shopman of my suspicions he assured me that the person
who left it with him had declared most solemnly that it had been given
her by her master's son, whose property it was, and who had a perfect
right to dispose of it.

"He told me further that, thinking the circumstances in which the watch
was offered for sale somewhat suspicious, he had insisted upon the
woman's telling him the whole story of how she came by it, before he
would consent to buy it of her.

"He said that at first--as women of that stamp invariably do--she tried
prevarication, but on being threatened that she should at once be given
into custody if she did not tell the whole truth, she described the way
in which you had run after the carriage, till as she said you were black
in the face, and insisted on giving her all your pocket money, your knife
and your watch.  She added that my coachman John--whom I shall instantly
discharge--was witness to the whole transaction.  Now, Ernest, be pleased
to tell me whether this appalling story is true or false?"

It never occurred to Ernest to ask his father why he did not hit a man
his own size, or to stop him midway in the story with a remonstrance
against being kicked when he was down.  The boy was too much shocked and
shaken to be inventive; he could only drift and stammer out that the tale
was true.

"So I feared," said Theobald, "and now, Ernest, be good enough to ring
the bell."

When the bell had been answered, Theobald desired that John should be
sent for, and when John came Theobald calculated the wages due to him and
desired him at once to leave the house.

John's manner was quiet and respectful.  He took his dismissal as a
matter of course, for Theobald had hinted enough to make him understand
why he was being discharged, but when he saw Ernest sitting pale and awe-
struck on the edge of his chair against the dining-room wall, a sudden
thought seemed to strike him, and turning to Theobald he said in a broad
northern accent which I will not attempt to reproduce:

"Look here, master, I can guess what all this is about--now before I goes
I want to have a word with you."

"Ernest," said Theobald, "leave the room."

"No, Master Ernest, you shan't," said John, planting himself against the
door.  "Now, master," he continued, "you may do as you please about me.
I've been a good servant to you, and I don't mean to say as you've been a
bad master to me, but I do say that if you bear hardly on Master Ernest
here I have those in the village as 'll hear on't and let me know; and if
I do hear on't I'll come back and break every bone in your skin, so
there!"

John's breath came and went quickly, as though he would have been well
enough pleased to begin the bone-breaking business at once.  Theobald
turned of an ashen colour--not, as he explained afterwards, at the idle
threats of a detected and angry ruffian, but at such atrocious insolence
from one of his own servants.

"I shall leave Master Ernest, John," he rejoined proudly, "to the
reproaches of his own conscience."  ("Thank God and thank John," thought
Ernest.)  "As for yourself, I admit that you have been an excellent
servant until this unfortunate business came on, and I shall have much
pleasure in giving you a character if you want one.  Have you anything
more to say?"

"No more nor what I have said," said John sullenly, "but what I've said I
means and I'll stick to--character or no character."

"Oh, you need not be afraid about your character, John," said Theobald
kindly, "and as it is getting late, there can be no occasion for you to
leave the house before to-morrow morning."

To this there was no reply from John, who retired, packed up his things,
and left the house at once.

When Christina heard what had happened she said she could condone all
except that Theobald should have been subjected to such insolence from
one of his own servants through the misconduct of his son.  Theobald was
the bravest man in the whole world, and could easily have collared the
wretch and turned him out of the room, but how far more dignified, how
far nobler had been his reply!  How it would tell in a novel or upon the
stage, for though the stage as a whole was immoral, yet there were
doubtless some plays which were improving spectacles.  She could fancy
the whole house hushed with excitement at hearing John's menace, and
hardly breathing by reason of their interest and expectation of the
coming answer.  Then the actor--probably the great and good Mr
Macready--would say, "I shall leave Master Ernest, John, to the
reproaches of his own conscience."  Oh, it was sublime!  What a roar of
applause must follow!  Then she should enter herself, and fling her arms
about her husband's neck, and call him her lion-hearted husband.  When
the curtain dropped, it would be buzzed about the house that the scene
just witnessed had been drawn from real life, and had actually occurred
in the household of the Rev. Theobald Pontifex, who had married a Miss
Allaby, etc., etc.

As regards Ernest the suspicions which had already crossed her mind were
deepened, but she thought it better to leave the matter where it was.  At
present she was in a very strong position.  Ernest's official purity was
firmly established, but at the same time he had shown himself so
susceptible that she was able to fuse two contradictory impressions
concerning him into a single idea, and consider him as a kind of Joseph
and Don Juan in one.  This was what she had wanted all along, but her
vanity being gratified by the possession of such a son, there was an end
of it; the son himself was naught.

No doubt if John had not interfered, Ernest would have had to expiate his
offence with ache, penury and imprisonment.  As it was the boy was "to
consider himself" as undergoing these punishments, and as suffering pangs
of unavailing remorse inflicted on him by his conscience into the
bargain; but beyond the fact that Theobald kept him more closely to his
holiday task, and the continued coldness of his parents, no ostensible
punishment was meted out to him.  Ernest, however, tells me that he looks
back upon this as the time when he began to know that he had a cordial
and active dislike for both his parents, which I suppose means that he
was now beginning to be aware that he was reaching man's estate.




CHAPTER XLII


About a week before he went back to school his father again sent for him
into the dining-room, and told him that he should restore him his watch,
but that he should deduct the sum he had paid for it--for he had thought
it better to pay a few shillings rather than dispute the ownership of the
watch, seeing that Ernest had undoubtedly given it to Ellen--from his
pocket money, in payments which should extend over two half years.  He
would therefore have to go back to Roughborough this half year with only
five shillings' pocket money.  If he wanted more he must earn more merit
money.

Ernest was not so careful about money as a pattern boy should be.  He did
not say to himself, "Now I have got a sovereign which must last me
fifteen weeks, therefore I may spend exactly one shilling and fourpence
in each week"--and spend exactly one and fourpence in each week
accordingly.  He ran through his money at about the same rate as other
boys did, being pretty well cleaned out a few days after he had got back
to school.  When he had no more money, he got a little into debt, and
when as far in debt as he could see his way to repaying, he went without
luxuries.  Immediately he got any money he would pay his debts; if there
was any over he would spend it; if there was not--and there seldom was--he
would begin to go on tick again.

His finance was always based upon the supposition that he should go back
to school with 1 pound in his pocket--of which he owed say a matter of
fifteen shillings.  There would be five shillings for sundry school
subscriptions--but when these were paid the weekly allowance of sixpence
given to each boy in hall, his merit money (which this half he was
resolved should come to a good sum) and renewed credit, would carry him
through the half.

The sudden failure of 15/- was disastrous to my hero's scheme of finance.
His face betrayed his emotions so clearly that Theobald said he was
determined "to learn the truth at once, and _this time_ without days and
days of falsehood" before he reached it.  The melancholy fact was not
long in coming out, namely, that the wretched Ernest added debt to the
vices of idleness, falsehood and possibly--for it was not
impossible--immorality.

How had he come to get into debt?  Did the other boys do so?  Ernest
reluctantly admitted that they did.

With what shops did they get into debt?

This was asking too much, Ernest said he didn't know!

"Oh, Ernest, Ernest," exclaimed his mother, who was in the room, "do not
so soon a second time presume upon the forbearance of the
tenderest-hearted father in the world.  Give time for one stab to heal
before you wound him with another."

This was all very fine, but what was Ernest to do?  How could he get the
school shop-keepers into trouble by owning that they let some of the boys
go on tick with them?  There was Mrs Cross, a good old soul, who used to
sell hot rolls and butter for breakfast, or eggs and toast, or it might
be the quarter of a fowl with bread sauce and mashed potatoes for which
she would charge 6d.  If she made a farthing out of the sixpence it was
as much as she did.  When the boys would come trooping into her shop
after "the hounds" how often had not Ernest heard her say to her servant
girls, "Now then, you wanches, git some cheers."  All the boys were fond
of her, and was he, Ernest, to tell tales about her?  It was horrible.

"Now look here, Ernest," said his father with his blackest scowl, "I am
going to put a stop to this nonsense once for all.  Either take me fully
into your confidence, as a son should take a father, and trust me to deal
with this matter as a clergyman and a man of the world--or understand
distinctly that I shall take the whole story to Dr Skinner, who, I
imagine, will take much sterner measures than I should."

"Oh, Ernest, Ernest," sobbed Christina, "be wise in time, and trust those
who have already shown you that they know but too well how to be
forbearing."

No genuine hero of romance should have hesitated for a moment.  Nothing
should have cajoled or frightened him into telling tales out of school.
Ernest thought of his ideal boys: they, he well knew, would have let
their tongues be cut out of them before information could have been wrung
from any word of theirs.  But Ernest was not an ideal boy, and he was not
strong enough for his surroundings; I doubt how far any boy could
withstand the moral pressure which was brought to bear upon him; at any
rate he could not do so, and after a little more writhing he yielded
himself a passive prey to the enemy.  He consoled himself with the
reflection that his papa had not played the confidence trick on him quite
as often as his mamma had, and that probably it was better he should tell
his father, than that his father should insist on Dr Skinner's making an
inquiry.  His papa's conscience "jabbered" a good deal, but not as much
as his mamma's.  The little fool forgot that he had not given his father
as many chances of betraying him as he had given to Christina.

Then it all came out.  He owed this at Mrs Cross's, and this to Mrs
Jones, and this at the "Swan and Bottle" public house, to say nothing of
another shilling or sixpence or two in other quarters.  Nevertheless,
Theobald and Christina were not satiated, but rather the more they
discovered the greater grew their appetite for discovery; it was their
obvious duty to find out everything, for though they might rescue their
own darling from this hotbed of iniquity without getting to know more
than they knew at present, were there not other papas and mammas with
darlings whom also they were bound to rescue if it were yet possible?
What boys, then, owed money to these harpies as well as Ernest?

Here, again, there was a feeble show of resistance, but the thumbscrews
were instantly applied, and Ernest, demoralised as he already was,
recanted and submitted himself to the powers that were.  He told only a
little less than he knew or thought he knew.  He was examined,
re-examined, cross-examined, sent to the retirement of his own bedroom
and cross-examined again; the smoking in Mrs Jones' kitchen all came out;
which boys smoked and which did not; which boys owed money and, roughly,
how much and where; which boys swore and used bad language.  Theobald was
resolved that this time Ernest should, as he called it, take him into his
confidence without reserve, so the school list which went with Dr
Skinner's half-yearly bills was brought out, and the most secret
character of each boy was gone through _seriatim_ by Mr and Mrs Pontifex,
so far as it was in Ernest's power to give information concerning it, and
yet Theobald had on the preceding Sunday preached a less feeble sermon
than he commonly preached, upon the horrors of the Inquisition.  No
matter how awful was the depravity revealed to them, the pair never
flinched, but probed and probed, till they were on the point of reaching
subjects more delicate than they had yet touched upon.  Here Ernest's
unconscious self took the matter up and made a resistance to which his
conscious self was unequal, by tumbling him off his chair in a fit of
fainting.

Dr Martin was sent for and pronounced the boy to be seriously unwell; at
the same time he prescribed absolute rest and absence from nervous
excitement.  So the anxious parents were unwillingly compelled to be
content with what they had got already--being frightened into leading him
a quiet life for the short remainder of the holidays.  They were not
idle, but Satan can find as much mischief for busy hands as for idle
ones, so he sent a little job in the direction of Battersby which
Theobald and Christina undertook immediately.  It would be a pity, they
reasoned, that Ernest should leave Roughborough, now that he had been
there three years; it would be difficult to find another school for him,
and to explain why he had left Roughborough.  Besides, Dr Skinner and
Theobald were supposed to be old friends, and it would be unpleasant to
offend him; these were all valid reasons for not removing the boy.  The
proper thing to do, then, would be to warn Dr Skinner confidentially of
the state of his school, and to furnish him with a school list annotated
with the remarks extracted from Ernest, which should be appended to the
name of each boy.

Theobald was the perfection of neatness; while his son was ill upstairs,
he copied out the school list so that he could throw his comments into a
tabular form, which assumed the following shape--only that of course I
have changed the names.  One cross in each square was to indicate
occasional offence; two stood for frequent, and three for habitual
delinquency.

          Smoking     Drinking beer    Swearing      Notes
                      at the "Swan     and Obscene
                      and Bottle."     Language.
Smith        O            O              XX          Will smoke
                                                     next half
Brown       XXX           O               X
Jones        X            XX              XXX
Robinson    XX            XX              X

And thus through the whole school.

Of course, in justice to Ernest, Dr Skinner would be bound over to
secrecy before a word was said to him, but, Ernest being thus protected,
he could not be furnished with the facts too completely.




CHAPTER XLIII


So important did Theobald consider this matter that he made a special
journey to Roughborough before the half year began.  It was a relief to
have him out of the house, but though his destination was not mentioned,
Ernest guessed where he had gone.

To this day he considers his conduct at this crisis to have been one of
the most serious laches of his life--one which he can never think of
without shame and indignation.  He says he ought to have run away from
home.  But what good could he have done if he had?  He would have been
caught, brought back and examined two days later instead of two days
earlier.  A boy of barely sixteen cannot stand against the moral pressure
of a father and mother who have always oppressed him any more than he can
cope physically with a powerful full-grown man.  True, he may allow
himself to be killed rather than yield, but this is being so morbidly
heroic as to come close round again to cowardice; for it is little else
than suicide, which is universally condemned as cowardly.

On the re-assembling of the school it became apparent that something had
gone wrong.  Dr Skinner called the boys together, and with much pomp
excommunicated Mrs Cross and Mrs Jones, by declaring their shops to be
out of bounds.  The street in which the "Swan and Bottle" stood was also
forbidden.  The vices of drinking and smoking, therefore, were clearly
aimed at, and before prayers Dr Skinner spoke a few impressive words
about the abominable sin of using bad language.  Ernest's feelings can be
imagined.

Next day at the hour when the daily punishments were read out, though
there had not yet been time for him to have offended, Ernest Pontifex was
declared to have incurred every punishment which the school provided for
evil-doers.  He was placed on the idle list for the whole half year, and
on perpetual detentions; his bounds were curtailed; he was to attend
junior callings-over; in fact he was so hemmed in with punishments upon
ever side that it was hardly possible for him to go outside the school
gates.  This unparalleled list of punishments inflicted on the first day
of the half year, and intended to last till the ensuing Christmas
holidays, was not connected with any specified offence.  It required no
great penetration therefore, on the part of the boys to connect Ernest
with the putting Mrs Cross's and Mrs Jones's shops out of bounds.

Great indeed was the indignation about Mrs Cross who, it was known,
remembered Dr Skinner himself as a small boy only just got into jackets,
and had doubtless let him have many a sausage and mashed potatoes upon
deferred payment.  The head boys assembled in conclave to consider what
steps should be taken, but hardly had they done so before Ernest knocked
timidly at the head-room door and took the bull by the horns by
explaining the facts as far as he could bring himself to do so.  He made
a clean breast of everything except about the school list and the remarks
he had made about each boy's character.  This infamy was more than he
could own to, and he kept his counsel concerning it.  Fortunately he was
safe in doing so, for Dr Skinner, pedant and more than pedant though he
was, had still just sense enough to turn on Theobald in the matter of the
school list.  Whether he resented being told that he did not know the
characters of his own boys, or whether he dreaded a scandal about the
school I know not, but when Theobald had handed him the list, over which
he had expended so much pains, Dr Skinner had cut him uncommonly short,
and had then and there, with more suavity than was usual with him,
committed it to the flames before Theobald's own eyes.

Ernest got off with the head boys easier than he expected.  It was
admitted that the offence, heinous though it was, had been committed
under extenuating circumstances; the frankness with which the culprit had
confessed all, his evidently unfeigned remorse, and the fury with which
Dr Skinner was pursuing him tended to bring about a reaction in his
favour, as though he had been more sinned against than sinning.

As the half year wore on his spirits gradually revived, and when attacked
by one of his fits of self-abasement he was in some degree consoled by
having found out that even his father and mother, whom he had supposed so
immaculate, were no better than they should be.  About the fifth of
November it was a school custom to meet on a certain common not far from
Roughborough and burn somebody in effigy, this being the compromise
arrived at in the matter of fireworks and Guy Fawkes festivities.  This
year it was decided that Pontifex's governor should be the victim, and
Ernest though a good deal exercised in mind as to what he ought to do, in
the end saw no sufficient reason for holding aloof from proceedings
which, as he justly remarked, could not do his father any harm.

It so happened that the bishop had held a confirmation at the school on
the fifth of November.  Dr Skinner had not quite liked the selection of
this day, but the bishop was pressed by many engagements, and had been
compelled to make the arrangement as it then stood.  Ernest was among
those who had to be confirmed, and was deeply impressed with the solemn
importance of the ceremony.  When he felt the huge old bishop drawing
down upon him as he knelt in chapel he could hardly breathe, and when the
apparition paused before him and laid its hands upon his head he was
frightened almost out of his wits.  He felt that he had arrived at one of
the great turning points of his life, and that the Ernest of the future
could resemble only very faintly the Ernest of the past.

This happened at about noon, but by the one o'clock dinner-hour the
effect of the confirmation had worn off, and he saw no reason why he
should forego his annual amusement with the bonfire; so he went with the
others and was very valiant till the image was actually produced and was
about to be burnt; then he felt a little frightened.  It was a poor thing
enough, made of paper, calico and straw, but they had christened it The
Rev. Theobald Pontifex, and he had a revulsion of feeling as he saw it
being carried towards the bonfire.  Still he held his ground, and in a
few minutes when all was over felt none the worse for having assisted at
a ceremony which, after all, was prompted by a boyish love of mischief
rather than by rancour.

I should say that Ernest had written to his father, and told him of the
unprecedented way in which he was being treated; he even ventured to
suggest that Theobald should interfere for his protection and reminded
him how the story had been got out of him, but Theobald had had enough of
Dr Skinner for the present; the burning of the school list had been a
rebuff which did not encourage him to meddle a second time in the
internal economics of Roughborough.  He therefore replied that he must
either remove Ernest from Roughborough altogether, which would for many
reasons be undesirable, or trust to the discretion of the head master as
regards the treatment he might think best for any of his pupils.  Ernest
said no more; he still felt that it was so discreditable to him to have
allowed any confession to be wrung from him, that he could not press the
promised amnesty for himself.

It was during the "Mother Cross row," as it was long styled among the
boys, that a remarkable phenomenon was witnessed at Roughborough.  I mean
that of the head boys under certain conditions doing errands for their
juniors.  The head boys had no bounds and could go to Mrs Cross's
whenever they liked; they actually, therefore, made themselves
go-betweens, and would get anything from either Mrs Cross's or Mrs
Jones's for any boy, no matter how low in the school, between the hours
of a quarter to nine and nine in the morning, and a quarter to six and
six in the afternoon.  By degrees, however, the boys grew bolder, and the
shops, though not openly declared in bounds again, were tacitly allowed
to be so.




CHAPTER XLIV


I may spare the reader more details about my hero's school days.  He
rose, always in spite of himself, into the Doctor's form, and for the
last two years or so of his time was among the praepostors, though he
never rose into the upper half of them.  He did little, and I think the
Doctor rather gave him up as a boy whom he had better leave to himself,
for he rarely made him construe, and he used to send in his exercises or
not, pretty much as he liked.  His tacit, unconscious obstinacy had in
time effected more even than a few bold sallies in the first instance
would have done.  To the end of his career his position _inter pares_ was
what it had been at the beginning, namely, among the upper part of the
less reputable class--whether of seniors or juniors--rather than among
the lower part of the more respectable.

Only once in the whole course of his school life did he get praise from
Dr Skinner for any exercise, and this he has treasured as the best
example of guarded approval which he has ever seen.  He had had to write
a copy of Alcaics on "The dogs of the monks of St Bernard," and when the
exercise was returned to him he found the Doctor had written on it: "In
this copy of Alcaics--which is still excessively bad--I fancy that I can
discern some faint symptoms of improvement."  Ernest says that if the
exercise was any better than usual it must have been by a fluke, for he
is sure that he always liked dogs, especially St Bernard dogs, far too
much to take any pleasure in writing Alcaics about them.

"As I look back upon it," he said to me but the other day, with a hearty
laugh, "I respect myself more for having never once got the best mark for
an exercise than I should do if I had got it every time it could be got.
I am glad nothing could make me do Latin and Greek verses; I am glad
Skinner could never get any moral influence over me; I am glad I was idle
at school, and I am glad my father overtasked me as a boy--otherwise,
likely enough I should have acquiesced in the swindle, and might have
written as good a copy of Alcaics about the dogs of the monks of St
Bernard as my neighbours, and yet I don't know, for I remember there was
another boy, who sent in a Latin copy of some sort, but for his own
pleasure he wrote the following--

   The dogs of the monks of St Bernard go
   To pick little children out of the snow,
   And around their necks is the cordial gin
   Tied with a little bit of bob-bin.

I should like to have written that, and I did try, but I couldn't.  I
didn't quite like the last line, and tried to mend it, but I couldn't."

I fancied I could see traces of bitterness against the instructors of his
youth in Ernest's manner, and said something to this effect.

"Oh, no," he replied, still laughing, "no more than St Anthony felt
towards the devils who had tempted him, when he met some of them casually
a hundred or a couple of hundred years afterwards.  Of course he knew
they were devils, but that was all right enough; there must be devils.  St
Anthony probably liked these devils better than most others, and for old
acquaintance sake showed them as much indulgence as was compatible with
decorum.

"Besides, you know," he added, "St Anthony tempted the devils quite as
much as they tempted him; for his peculiar sanctity was a greater
temptation to tempt him than they could stand.  Strictly speaking, it was
the devils who were the more to be pitied, for they were led up by St
Anthony to be tempted and fell, whereas St Anthony did not fall.  I
believe I was a disagreeable and unintelligible boy, and if ever I meet
Skinner there is no one whom I would shake hands with, or do a good turn
to more readily."

At home things went on rather better; the Ellen and Mother Cross rows
sank slowly down upon the horizon, and even at home he had quieter times
now that he had become a praepostor.  Nevertheless the watchful eye and
protecting hand were still ever over him to guard his comings in and his
goings out, and to spy out all his ways.  Is it wonderful that the boy,
though always trying to keep up appearances as though he were cheerful
and contented--and at times actually being so--wore often an anxious,
jaded look when he thought none were looking, which told of an almost
incessant conflict within?

Doubtless Theobald saw these looks and knew how to interpret them, but it
was his profession to know how to shut his eyes to things that were
inconvenient--no clergyman could keep his benefice for a month if he
could not do this; besides he had allowed himself for so many years to
say things he ought not to have said, and not to say the things he ought
to have said, that he was little likely to see anything that he thought
it more convenient not to see unless he was made to do so.

It was not much that was wanted.  To make no mysteries where Nature has
made none, to bring his conscience under something like reasonable
control, to give Ernest his head a little more, to ask fewer questions,
and to give him pocket money with a desire that it should be spent upon
_menus plaisirs_ . . .

"Call that not much indeed," laughed Ernest, as I read him what I have
just written.  "Why it is the whole duty of a father, but it is the
mystery-making which is the worst evil.  If people would dare to speak to
one another unreservedly, there would be a good deal less sorrow in the
world a hundred years hence."

To return, however, to Roughborough.  On the day of his leaving, when he
was sent for into the library to be shaken hands with, he was surprised
to feel that, though assuredly glad to leave, he did not do so with any
especial grudge against the Doctor rankling in his breast.  He had come
to the end of it all, and was still alive, nor, take it all round, more
seriously amiss than other people.  Dr Skinner received him graciously,
and was even frolicsome after his own heavy fashion.  Young people are
almost always placable, and Ernest felt as he went away that another such
interview would not only have wiped off all old scores, but have brought
him round into the ranks of the Doctor's admirers and supporters--among
whom it is only fair to say that the greater number of the more promising
boys were found.

Just before saying good-bye the Doctor actually took down a volume from
those shelves which had seemed so awful six years previously, and gave it
to him after having written his name in it, and the words [Greek text],
which I believe means "with all kind wishes from the donor."  The book
was one written in Latin by a German--Schomann: "De comitiis
Atheniensibus"--not exactly light and cheerful reading, but Ernest felt
it was high time he got to understand the Athenian constitution and
manner of voting; he had got them up a great many times already, but had
forgotten them as fast as he had learned them; now, however, that the
Doctor had given him this book, he would master the subject once for all.
How strange it was!  He wanted to remember these things very badly; he
knew he did, but he could never retain them; in spite of himself they no
sooner fell upon his mind than they fell off it again, he had such a
dreadful memory; whereas, if anyone played him a piece of music and told
him where it came from, he never forgot that, though he made no effort to
retain it, and was not even conscious of trying to remember it at all.
His mind must be badly formed and he was no good.

Having still a short time to spare, he got the keys of St Michael's
church and went to have a farewell practice upon the organ, which he
could now play fairly well.  He walked up and down the aisle for a while
in a meditative mood, and then, settling down to the organ, played "They
loathed to drink of the river" about six times over, after which he felt
more composed and happier; then, tearing himself away from the instrument
he loved so well, he hurried to the station.

As the train drew out he looked down from a high embankment on to the
little house his aunt had taken, and where it might be said she had died
through her desire to do him a kindness.  There were the two well-known
bow windows, out of which he had often stepped to run across the lawn
into the workshop.  He reproached himself with the little gratitude he
had shown towards this kind lady--the only one of his relations whom he
had ever felt as though he could have taken into his confidence.  Dearly
as he loved her memory, he was glad she had not known the scrapes he had
got into since she died; perhaps she might not have forgiven them--and
how awful that would have been!  But then, if she had lived, perhaps many
of his ills would have been spared him.  As he mused thus he grew sad
again.  Where, where, he asked himself, was it all to end?  Was it to be
always sin, shame and sorrow in the future, as it had been in the past,
and the ever-watchful eye and protecting hand of his father laying
burdens on him greater than he could bear--or was he, too, some day or
another to come to feel that he was fairly well and happy?

There was a gray mist across the sun, so that the eye could bear its
light, and Ernest, while musing as above, was looking right into the
middle of the sun himself, as into the face of one whom he knew and was
fond of.  At first his face was grave, but kindly, as of a tired man who
feels that a long task is over; but in a few seconds the more humorous
side of his misfortunes presented itself to him, and he smiled half
reproachfully, half merrily, as thinking how little all that had happened
to him really mattered, and how small were his hardships as compared with
those of most people.  Still looking into the eye of the sun and smiling
dreamily, he thought how he had helped to burn his father in effigy, and
his look grew merrier, till at last he broke out into a laugh.  Exactly
at this moment the light veil of cloud parted from the sun, and he was
brought to _terra firma_ by the breaking forth of the sunshine.  On this
he became aware that he was being watched attentively by a
fellow-traveller opposite to him, an elderly gentleman with a large head
and iron-grey hair.

"My young friend," said he, good-naturedly, "you really must not carry on
conversations with people in the sun, while you are in a public railway
carriage."

The old gentleman said not another word, but unfolded his _Times_ and
began to read it.  As for Ernest, he blushed crimson.  The pair did not
speak during the rest of the time they were in the carriage, but they
eyed each other from time to time, so that the face of each was impressed
on the recollection of the other.




CHAPTER XLV


Some people say that their school days were the happiest of their lives.
They may be right, but I always look with suspicion upon those whom I
hear saying this.  It is hard enough to know whether one is happy or
unhappy now, and still harder to compare the relative happiness or
unhappiness of different times of one's life; the utmost that can be said
is that we are fairly happy so long as we are not distinctly aware of
being miserable.  As I was talking with Ernest one day not so long since
about this, he said he was so happy now that he was sure he had never
been happier, and did not wish to be so, but that Cambridge was the first
place where he had ever been consciously and continuously happy.

How can any boy fail to feel an ecstasy of pleasure on first finding
himself in rooms which he knows for the next few years are to be his
castle?  Here he will not be compelled to turn out of the most
comfortable place as soon as he has ensconced himself in it because papa
or mamma happens to come into the room, and he should give it up to them.
The most cosy chair here is for himself, there is no one even to share
the room with him, or to interfere with his doing as he likes in
it--smoking included.  Why, if such a room looked out both back and front
on to a blank dead wall it would still be a paradise, how much more then
when the view is of some quiet grassy court or cloister or garden, as
from the windows of the greater number of rooms at Oxford and Cambridge.

Theobald, as an old fellow and tutor of Emmanuel--at which college he had
entered Ernest--was able to obtain from the present tutor a certain
preference in the choice of rooms; Ernest's, therefore, were very
pleasant ones, looking out upon the grassy court that is bounded by the
Fellows' gardens.

Theobald accompanied him to Cambridge, and was at his best while doing
so.  He liked the jaunt, and even he was not without a certain feeling of
pride in having a full-blown son at the University.  Some of the
reflected rays of this splendour were allowed to fall upon Ernest
himself.  Theobald said he was "willing to hope"--this was one of his
tags--that his son would turn over a new leaf now that he had left
school, and for his own part he was "only too ready"--this was another
tag--to let bygones be bygones.

Ernest, not yet having his name on the books, was able to dine with his
father at the Fellows' table of one of the other colleges on the
invitation of an old friend of Theobald's; he there made acquaintance
with sundry of the good things of this life, the very names of which were
new to him, and felt as he ate them that he was now indeed receiving a
liberal education.  When at length the time came for him to go to
Emmanuel, where he was to sleep in his new rooms, his father came with
him to the gates and saw him safe into college; a few minutes more and he
found himself alone in a room for which he had a latch-key.

From this time he dated many days which, if not quite unclouded, were
upon the whole very happy ones.  I need not however describe them, as the
life of a quiet steady-going undergraduate has been told in a score of
novels better than I can tell it.  Some of Ernest's schoolfellows came up
to Cambridge at the same time as himself, and with these he continued on
friendly terms during the whole of his college career.  Other
schoolfellows were only a year or two his seniors; these called on him,
and he thus made a sufficiently favourable _entree_ into college life.  A
straightforwardness of character that was stamped upon his face, a love
of humour, and a temper which was more easily appeased than ruffled made
up for some awkwardness and want of _savoir faire_.  He soon became a not
unpopular member of the best set of his year, and though neither capable
of becoming, nor aspiring to become, a leader, was admitted by the
leaders as among their nearer hangers-on.

Of ambition he had at that time not one particle; greatness, or indeed
superiority of any kind, seemed so far off and incomprehensible to him
that the idea of connecting it with himself never crossed his mind.  If
he could escape the notice of all those with whom he did not feel himself
_en rapport_, he conceived that he had triumphed sufficiently.  He did
not care about taking a good degree, except that it must be good enough
to keep his father and mother quiet.  He did not dream of being able to
get a fellowship; if he had, he would have tried hard to do so, for he
became so fond of Cambridge that he could not bear the thought of having
to leave it; the briefness indeed of the season during which his present
happiness was to last was almost the only thing that now seriously
troubled him.

Having less to attend to in the matter of growing, and having got his
head more free, he took to reading fairly well--not because he liked it,
but because he was told he ought to do so, and his natural instinct, like
that of all very young men who are good for anything, was to do as those
in authority told him.  The intention at Battersby was (for Dr Skinner
had said that Ernest could never get a fellowship) that he should take a
sufficiently good degree to be able to get a tutorship or mastership in
some school preparatory to taking orders.  When he was twenty-one years
old his money was to come into his own hands, and the best thing he could
do with it would be to buy the next presentation to a living, the rector
of which was now old, and live on his mastership or tutorship till the
living fell in.  He could buy a very good living for the sum which his
grandfather's legacy now amounted to, for Theobald had never had any
serious intention of making deductions for his son's maintenance and
education, and the money had accumulated till it was now about five
thousand pounds; he had only talked about making deductions in order to
stimulate the boy to exertion as far as possible, by making him think
that this was his only chance of escaping starvation--or perhaps from
pure love of teasing.

When Ernest had a living of 600 or 700 pounds a year with a house, and
not too many parishioners--why, he might add to his income by taking
pupils, or even keeping a school, and then, say at thirty, he might
marry.  It was not easy for Theobald to hit on any much more sensible
plan.  He could not get Ernest into business, for he had no business
connections--besides he did not know what business meant; he had no
interest, again, at the Bar; medicine was a profession which subjected
its students to ordeals and temptations which these fond parents shrank
from on behalf of their boy; he would be thrown among companions and
familiarised with details which might sully him, and though he might
stand, it was "only too possible" that he would fall.  Besides,
ordination was the road which Theobald knew and understood, and indeed
the only road about which he knew anything at all, so not unnaturally it
was the one he chose for Ernest.

The foregoing had been instilled into my hero from earliest boyhood, much
as it had been instilled into Theobald himself, and with the same
result--the conviction, namely, that he was certainly to be a clergyman,
but that it was a long way off yet, and he supposed it was all right.  As
for the duty of reading hard, and taking as good a degree as he could,
this was plain enough, so he set himself to work, as I have said,
steadily, and to the surprise of everyone as well as himself got a
college scholarship, of no great value, but still a scholarship, in his
freshman's term.  It is hardly necessary to say that Theobald stuck to
the whole of this money, believing the pocket-money he allowed Ernest to
be sufficient for him, and knowing how dangerous it was for young men to
have money at command.  I do not suppose it even occurred to him to try
and remember what he had felt when his father took a like course in
regard to himself.

Ernest's position in this respect was much what it had been at school
except that things were on a larger scale.  His tutor's and cook's bills
were paid for him; his father sent him his wine; over and above this he
had 50 pounds a year with which to keep himself in clothes and all other
expenses; this was about the usual thing at Emmanuel in Ernest's day,
though many had much less than this.  Ernest did as he had done at
school--he spent what he could, soon after he received his money; he then
incurred a few modest liabilities, and then lived penuriously till next
term, when he would immediately pay his debts, and start new ones to much
the same extent as those which he had just got rid of.  When he came into
his 5000 pounds and became independent of his father, 15 or 20 pounds
served to cover the whole of his unauthorised expenditure.

He joined the boat club, and was constant in his attendance at the boats.
He still smoked, but never took more wine or beer than was good for him,
except perhaps on the occasion of a boating supper, but even then he
found the consequences unpleasant, and soon learned how to keep within
safe limits.  He attended chapel as often as he was compelled to do so;
he communicated two or three times a year, because his tutor told him he
ought to; in fact he set himself to live soberly and cleanly, as I
imagine all his instincts prompted him to do, and when he fell--as who
that is born of woman can help sometimes doing?--it was not till after a
sharp tussle with a temptation that was more than his flesh and blood
could stand; then he was very penitent and would go a fairly long while
without sinning again; and this was how it had always been with him since
he had arrived at years of indiscretion.

Even to the end of his career at Cambridge he was not aware that he had
it in him to do anything, but others had begun to see that he was not
wanting in ability and sometimes told him so.  He did not believe it;
indeed he knew very well that if they thought him clever they were being
taken in, but it pleased him to have been able to take them in, and he
tried to do so still further; he was therefore a good deal on the look-
out for cants that he could catch and apply in season, and might have
done himself some mischief thus if he had not been ready to throw over
any cant as soon as he had come across another more nearly to his fancy;
his friends used to say that when he rose he flew like a snipe, darting
several times in various directions before he settled down to a steady
straight flight, but when he had once got into this he would keep to it.




CHAPTER XLVI


When he was in his third year a magazine was founded at Cambridge, the
contributions to which were exclusively by undergraduates.  Ernest sent
in an essay upon the Greek Drama, which he has declined to let me
reproduce here without his being allowed to re-edit it.  I have therefore
been unable to give it in its original form, but when pruned of its
redundancies (and this is all that has been done to it) it runs as
follows--

   "I shall not attempt within the limits at my disposal to make a
   _resume_ of the rise and progress of the Greek drama, but will confine
   myself to considering whether the reputation enjoyed by the three
   chief Greek tragedians, AEschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, is one
   that will be permanent, or whether they will one day be held to have
   been overrated.

   "Why, I ask myself, do I see much that I can easily admire in Homer,
   Thucydides, Herodotus, Demosthenes, Aristophanes, Theocritus, parts of
   Lucretius, Horace's satires and epistles, to say nothing of other
   ancient writers, and yet find myself at once repelled by even those
   works of AEschylus, Sophocles and Euripides which are most generally
   admired.

   "With the first-named writers I am in the hands of men who feel, if
   not as I do, still as I can understand their feeling, and as I am
   interested to see that they should have felt; with the second I have
   so little sympathy that I cannot understand how anyone can ever have
   taken any interest in them whatever.  Their highest flights to me are
   dull, pompous and artificial productions, which, if they were to
   appear now for the first time, would, I should think, either fall dead
   or be severely handled by the critics.  I wish to know whether it is I
   who am in fault in this matter, or whether part of the blame may not
   rest with the tragedians themselves.

   "How far I wonder did the Athenians genuinely like these poets, and
   how far was the applause which was lavished upon them due to fashion
   or affectation?  How far, in fact, did admiration for the orthodox
   tragedians take that place among the Athenians which going to church
   does among ourselves?

   "This is a venturesome question considering the verdict now generally
   given for over two thousand years, nor should I have permitted myself
   to ask it if it had not been suggested to me by one whose reputation
   stands as high, and has been sanctioned for as long time as those of
   the tragedians themselves, I mean by Aristophanes.

   "Numbers, weight of authority, and time, have conspired to place
   Aristophanes on as high a literary pinnacle as any ancient writer,
   with the exception perhaps of Homer, but he makes no secret of
   heartily hating Euripides and Sophocles, and I strongly suspect only
   praises AEschylus that he may run down the other two with greater
   impunity.  For after all there is no such difference between AEschylus
   and his successors as will render the former very good and the latter
   very bad; and the thrusts at AEschylus which Aristophanes puts into
   the mouth of Euripides go home too well to have been written by an
   admirer.

   "It may be observed that while Euripides accuses AEschylus of being
   'pomp-bundle-worded,' which I suppose means bombastic and given to
   rodomontade, AEschylus retorts on Euripides that he is a 'gossip
   gleaner, a describer of beggars, and a rag-stitcher,' from which it
   may be inferred that he was truer to the life of his own times than
   AEschylus was.  It happens, however, that a faithful rendering of
   contemporary life is the very quality which gives its most permanent
   interest to any work of fiction, whether in literature or painting,
   and it is a not unnatural consequence that while only seven plays by
   AEschylus, and the same number by Sophocles, have come down to us, we
   have no fewer than nineteen by Euripides.

   "This, however, is a digression; the question before us is whether
   Aristophanes really liked AEschylus or only pretended to do so.  It
   must be remembered that the claims of AEschylus, Sophocles and
   Euripides, to the foremost place amongst tragedians were held to be as
   incontrovertible as those of Dante, Petrarch, Tasso and Ariosto to be
   the greatest of Italian poets, are held among the Italians of to-day.
   If we can fancy some witty, genial writer, we will say in Florence,
   finding himself bored by all the poets I have named, we can yet
   believe he would be unwilling to admit that he disliked them without
   exception.  He would prefer to think he could see something at any
   rate in Dante, whom he could idealise more easily, inasmuch as he was
   more remote; in order to carry his countrymen the farther with him, he
   would endeavour to meet them more than was consistent with his own
   instincts.  Without some such palliation as admiration for one, at any
   rate, of the tragedians, it would be almost as dangerous for
   Aristophanes to attack them as it would be for an Englishman now to
   say that he did not think very much of the Elizabethan dramatists.  Yet
   which of us in his heart likes any of the Elizabethan dramatists
   except Shakespeare?  Are they in reality anything else than literary
   Struldbrugs?

   "I conclude upon the whole that Aristophanes did not like any of the
   tragedians; yet no one will deny that this keen, witty, outspoken
   writer was as good a judge of literary value, and as able to see any
   beauties that the tragic dramas contained as nine-tenths, at any rate,
   of ourselves.  He had, moreover, the advantage of thoroughly
   understanding the standpoint from which the tragedians expected their
   work to be judged, and what was his conclusion?  Briefly it was little
   else than this, that they were a fraud or something very like it.  For
   my own part I cordially agree with him.  I am free to confess that
   with the exception perhaps of some of the Psalms of David I know no
   writings which seem so little to deserve their reputation.  I do not
   know that I should particularly mind my sisters reading them, but I
   will take good care never to read them myself."

This last bit about the Psalms was awful, and there was a great fight
with the editor as to whether or no it should be allowed to stand.  Ernest
himself was frightened at it, but he had once heard someone say that the
Psalms were many of them very poor, and on looking at them more closely,
after he had been told this, he found that there could hardly be two
opinions on the subject.  So he caught up the remark and reproduced it as
his own, concluding that these psalms had probably never been written by
David at all, but had got in among the others by mistake.

The essay, perhaps on account of the passage about the Psalms, created
quite a sensation, and on the whole was well received.  Ernest's friends
praised it more highly than it deserved, and he was himself very proud of
it, but he dared not show it at Battersby.  He knew also that he was now
at the end of his tether; this was his one idea (I feel sure he had
caught more than half of it from other people), and now he had not
another thing left to write about.  He found himself cursed with a small
reputation which seemed to him much bigger than it was, and a
consciousness that he could never keep it up.  Before many days were over
he felt his unfortunate essay to be a white elephant to him, which he
must feed by hurrying into all sorts of frantic attempts to cap his
triumph, and, as may be imagined, these attempts were failures.

He did not understand that if he waited and listened and observed,
another idea of some kind would probably occur to him some day, and that
the development of this would in its turn suggest still further ones.  He
did not yet know that the very worst way of getting hold of ideas is to
go hunting expressly after them.  The way to get them is to study
something of which one is fond, and to note down whatever crosses one's
mind in reference to it, either during study or relaxation, in a little
note-book kept always in the waistcoat pocket.  Ernest has come to know
all about this now, but it took him a long time to find it out, for this
is not the kind of thing that is taught at schools and universities.

Nor yet did he know that ideas, no less than the living beings in whose
minds they arise, must be begotten by parents not very unlike themselves,
the most original still differing but slightly from the parents that have
given rise to them.  Life is like a fugue, everything must grow out of
the subject and there must be nothing new.  Nor, again, did he see how
hard it is to say where one idea ends and another begins, nor yet how
closely this is paralleled in the difficulty of saying where a life
begins or ends, or an action or indeed anything, there being an unity in
spite of infinite multitude, and an infinite multitude in spite of unity.
He thought that ideas came into clever people's heads by a kind of
spontaneous germination, without parentage in the thoughts of others or
the course of observation; for as yet he believed in genius, of which he
well knew that he had none, if it was the fine frenzied thing he thought
it was.

Not very long before this he had come of age, and Theobald had handed him
over his money, which amounted now to 5000 pounds; it was invested to
bring in 5 pounds per cent and gave him therefore an income of 250 pounds
a year.  He did not, however, realise the fact (he could realise nothing
so foreign to his experience) that he was independent of his father till
a long time afterwards; nor did Theobald make any difference in his
manner towards him.  So strong was the hold which habit and association
held over both father and son, that the one considered he had as good a
right as ever to dictate, and the other that he had as little right as
ever to gainsay.

During his last year at Cambridge he overworked himself through this very
blind deference to his father's wishes, for there was no reason why he
should take more than a poll degree except that his father laid such
stress upon his taking honours.  He became so ill, indeed, that it was
doubtful how far he would be able to go in for his degree at all; but he
managed to do so, and when the list came out was found to be placed
higher than either he or anyone else expected, being among the first
three or four senior optimes, and a few weeks later, in the lower half of
the second class of the Classical Tripos.  Ill as he was when he got
home, Theobald made him go over all the examination papers with him, and
in fact reproduce as nearly as possible the replies that he had sent in.
So little kick had he in him, and so deep was the groove into which he
had got, that while at home he spent several hours a day in continuing
his classical and mathematical studies as though he had not yet taken his
degree.




CHAPTER XLVII


Ernest returned to Cambridge for the May term of 1858, on the plea of
reading for ordination, with which he was now face to face, and much
nearer than he liked.  Up to this time, though not religiously inclined,
he had never doubted the truth of anything that had been told him about
Christianity.  He had never seen anyone who doubted, nor read anything
that raised a suspicion in his mind as to the historical character of the
miracles recorded in the Old and New Testaments.

It must be remembered that the year 1858 was the last of a term during
which the peace of the Church of England was singularly unbroken.  Between
1844, when "Vestiges of Creation" appeared, and 1859, when "Essays and
Reviews" marked the commencement of that storm which raged until many
years afterwards, there was not a single book published in England that
caused serious commotion within the bosom of the Church.  Perhaps
Buckle's "History of Civilisation" and Mill's "Liberty" were the most
alarming, but they neither of them reached the substratum of the reading
public, and Ernest and his friends were ignorant of their very existence.
The Evangelical movement, with the exception to which I shall revert
presently, had become almost a matter of ancient history.  Tractarianism
had subsided into a tenth day's wonder; it was at work, but it was not
noisy.  The "Vestiges" were forgotten before Ernest went up to Cambridge;
the Catholic aggression scare had lost its terrors; Ritualism was still
unknown by the general provincial public, and the Gorham and Hampden
controversies were defunct some years since; Dissent was not spreading;
the Crimean war was the one engrossing subject, to be followed by the
Indian Mutiny and the Franco-Austrian war.  These great events turned
men's minds from speculative subjects, and there was no enemy to the
faith which could arouse even a languid interest.  At no time probably
since the beginning of the century could an ordinary observer have
detected less sign of coming disturbance than at that of which I am
writing.

I need hardly say that the calm was only on the surface.  Older men, who
knew more than undergraduates were likely to do, must have seen that the
wave of scepticism which had already broken over Germany was setting
towards our own shores, nor was it long, indeed, before it reached them.
Ernest had hardly been ordained before three works in quick succession
arrested the attention even of those who paid least heed to theological
controversy.  I mean "Essays and Reviews," Charles Darwin's "Origin of
Species," and Bishop Colenso's "Criticisms on the Pentateuch."

This, however, is a digression; I must revert to the one phase of
spiritual activity which had any life in it during the time Ernest was at
Cambridge, that is to say, to the remains of the Evangelical awakening of
more than a generation earlier, which was connected with the name of
Simeon.

There were still a good many Simeonites, or as they were more briefly
called "Sims," in Ernest's time.  Every college contained some of them,
but their headquarters were at Caius, whither they were attracted by Mr
Clayton who was at that time senior tutor, and among the sizars of St
John's.

Behind the then chapel of this last-named college, there was a
"labyrinth" (this was the name it bore) of dingy, tumble-down rooms,
tenanted exclusively by the poorest undergraduates, who were dependent
upon sizarships and scholarships for the means of taking their degrees.
To many, even at St John's, the existence and whereabouts of the
labyrinth in which the sizars chiefly lived was unknown; some men in
Ernest's time, who had rooms in the first court, had never found their
way through the sinuous passage which led to it.

In the labyrinth there dwelt men of all ages, from mere lads to
grey-haired old men who had entered late in life.  They were rarely seen
except in hall or chapel or at lecture, where their manners of feeding,
praying and studying, were considered alike objectionable; no one knew
whence they came, whither they went, nor what they did, for they never
showed at cricket or the boats; they were a gloomy, seedy-looking
_conferie_, who had as little to glory in in clothes and manners as in
the flesh itself.

Ernest and his friends used to consider themselves marvels of economy for
getting on with so little money, but the greater number of dwellers in
the labyrinth would have considered one-half of their expenditure to be
an exceeding measure of affluence, and so doubtless any domestic tyranny
which had been experienced by Ernest was a small thing to what the
average Johnian sizar had had to put up with.

A few would at once emerge on its being found after their first
examination that they were likely to be ornaments to the college; these
would win valuable scholarships that enabled them to live in some degree
of comfort, and would amalgamate with the more studious of those who were
in a better social position, but even these, with few exceptions, were
long in shaking off the uncouthness they brought with them to the
University, nor would their origin cease to be easily recognisable till
they had become dons and tutors.  I have seen some of these men attain
high position in the world of politics or science, and yet still retain a
look of labyrinth and Johnian sizarship.

Unprepossessing then, in feature, gait and manners, unkempt and
ill-dressed beyond what can be easily described, these poor fellows
formed a class apart, whose thoughts and ways were not as the thoughts
and ways of Ernest and his friends, and it was among them that Simeonism
chiefly flourished.

Destined most of them for the Church (for in those days "holy orders"
were seldom heard of), the Simeonites held themselves to have received a
very loud call to the ministry, and were ready to pinch themselves for
years so as to prepare for it by the necessary theological courses.  To
most of them the fact of becoming clergymen would be the _entree_ into a
social position from which they were at present kept out by barriers they
well knew to be impassable; ordination, therefore, opened fields for
ambition which made it the central point in their thoughts, rather than
as with Ernest, something which he supposed would have to be done some
day, but about which, as about dying, he hoped there was no need to
trouble himself as yet.

By way of preparing themselves more completely they would have meetings
in one another's rooms for tea and prayer and other spiritual exercises.
Placing themselves under the guidance of a few well-known tutors they
would teach in Sunday Schools, and be instant, in season and out of
season, in imparting spiritual instruction to all whom they could
persuade to listen to them.

But the soil of the more prosperous undergraduates was not suitable for
the seed they tried to sow.  The small pieties with which they larded
their discourse, if chance threw them into the company of one whom they
considered worldly, caused nothing but aversion in the minds of those for
whom they were intended.  When they distributed tracts, dropping them by
night into good men's letter boxes while they were asleep, their tracts
got burnt, or met with even worse contumely; they were themselves also
treated with the ridicule which they reflected proudly had been the lot
of true followers of Christ in all ages.  Often at their prayer meetings
was the passage of St Paul referred to in which he bids his Corinthian
converts note concerning themselves that they were for the most part
neither well-bred nor intellectual people.  They reflected with pride
that they too had nothing to be proud of in these respects, and like St
Paul, gloried in the fact that in the flesh they had not much to glory.

Ernest had several Johnian friends, and came thus to hear about the
Simeonites and to see some of them, who were pointed out to him as they
passed through the courts.  They had a repellent attraction for him; he
disliked them, but he could not bring himself to leave them alone.  On
one occasion he had gone so far as to parody one of the tracts they had
sent round in the night, and to get a copy dropped into each of the
leading Simeonites' boxes.  The subject he had taken was "Personal
Cleanliness."  Cleanliness, he said, was next to godliness; he wished to
know on which side it was to stand, and concluded by exhorting Simeonites
to a freer use of the tub.  I cannot commend my hero's humour in this
matter; his tract was not brilliant, but I mention the fact as showing
that at this time he was something of a Saul and took pleasure in
persecuting the elect, not, as I have said, that he had any hankering
after scepticism, but because, like the farmers in his father's village,
though he would not stand seeing the Christian religion made light of, he
was not going to see it taken seriously.  Ernest's friends thought his
dislike for Simeonites was due to his being the son of a clergyman who,
it was known, bullied him; it is more likely, however, that it rose from
an unconscious sympathy with them, which, as in St Paul's case, in the
end drew him into the ranks of those whom he had most despised and hated.




CHAPTER XLVIII


Once, recently, when he was down at home after taking his degree, his
mother had had a short conversation with him about his becoming a
clergyman, set on thereto by Theobald, who shrank from the subject
himself.  This time it was during a turn taken in the garden, and not on
the sofa--which was reserved for supreme occasions.

"You know, my dearest boy," she said to him, "that papa" (she always
called Theobald "papa" when talking to Ernest) "is so anxious you should
not go into the Church blindly, and without fully realising the
difficulties of a clergyman's position.  He has considered all of them
himself, and has been shown how small they are, when they are faced
boldly, but he wishes you, too, to feel them as strongly and completely
as possible before committing yourself to irrevocable vows, so that you
may never, never have to regret the step you will have taken."

This was the first time Ernest had heard that there were any
difficulties, and he not unnaturally enquired in a vague way after their
nature.

"That, my dear boy," rejoined Christina, "is a question which I am not
fitted to enter upon either by nature or education.  I might easily
unsettle your mind without being able to settle it again.  Oh, no!  Such
questions are far better avoided by women, and, I should have thought, by
men, but papa wished me to speak to you upon the subject, so that there
might be no mistake hereafter, and I have done so.  Now, therefore, you
know all."

The conversation ended here, so far as this subject was concerned, and
Ernest thought he did know all.  His mother would not have told him he
knew all--not about a matter of that sort--unless he actually did know
it; well, it did not come to very much; he supposed there were some
difficulties, but his father, who at any rate was an excellent scholar
and a learned man, was probably quite right here, and he need not trouble
himself more about them.  So little impression did the conversation make
on him, that it was not till long afterwards that, happening to remember
it, he saw what a piece of sleight of hand had been practised upon him.
Theobald and Christina, however, were satisfied that they had done their
duty by opening their son's eyes to the difficulties of assenting to all
a clergyman must assent to.  This was enough; it was a matter for
rejoicing that, though they had been put so fully and candidly before
him, he did not find them serious.  It was not in vain that they had
prayed for so many years to be made "_truly_ honest and conscientious."

"And now, my dear," resumed Christina, after having disposed of all the
difficulties that might stand in the way of Ernest's becoming a
clergyman, "there is another matter on which I should like to have a talk
with you.  It is about your sister Charlotte.  You know how clever she
is, and what a dear, kind sister she has been and always will be to
yourself and Joey.  I wish, my dearest Ernest, that I saw more chance of
her finding a suitable husband than I do at Battersby, and I sometimes
think you might do more than you do to help her."

Ernest began to chafe at this, for he had heard it so often, but he said
nothing.

"You know, my dear, a brother can do so much for his sister if he lays
himself out to do it.  A mother can do very little--indeed, it is hardly
a mother's place to seek out young men; it is a brother's place to find a
suitable partner for his sister; all that I can do is to try to make
Battersby as attractive as possible to any of your friends whom you may
invite.  And in that," she added, with a little toss of her head, "I do
not think I have been deficient hitherto."

Ernest said he had already at different times asked several of his
friends.

"Yes, my dear, but you must admit that they were none of them exactly the
kind of young man whom Charlotte could be expected to take a fancy to.
Indeed, I must own to having been a little disappointed that you should
have yourself chosen any of these as your intimate friends."

Ernest winced again.

"You never brought down Figgins when you were at Roughborough; now I
should have thought Figgins would have been just the kind of boy whom you
might have asked to come and see us."

Figgins had been gone through times out of number already.  Ernest had
hardly known him, and Figgins, being nearly three years older than
Ernest, had left long before he did.  Besides he had not been a nice boy,
and had made himself unpleasant to Ernest in many ways.

"Now," continued his mother, "there's Towneley.  I have heard you speak
of Towneley as having rowed with you in a boat at Cambridge.  I wish, my
dear, you would cultivate your acquaintance with Towneley, and ask him to
pay us a visit.  The name has an aristocratic sound, and I think I have
heard you say he is an eldest son."

Ernest flushed at the sound of Towneley's name.

What had really happened in respect of Ernest's friends was briefly this.
His mother liked to get hold of the names of the boys and especially of
any who were at all intimate with her son; the more she heard, the more
she wanted to know; there was no gorging her to satiety; she was like a
ravenous young cuckoo being fed upon a grass plot by a water wag-tail,
she would swallow all that Ernest could bring her, and yet be as hungry
as before.  And she always went to Ernest for her meals rather than to
Joey, for Joey was either more stupid or more impenetrable--at any rate
she could pump Ernest much the better of the two.

From time to time an actual live boy had been thrown to her, either by
being caught and brought to Battersby, or by being asked to meet her if
at any time she came to Roughborough.  She had generally made herself
agreeable, or fairly agreeable, as long as the boy was present, but as
soon as she got Ernest to herself again she changed her note.  Into
whatever form she might throw her criticisms it came always in the end to
this, that his friend was no good, that Ernest was not much better, and
that he should have brought her someone else, for this one would not do
at all.

The more intimate the boy had been or was supposed to be with Ernest the
more he was declared to be naught, till in the end he had hit upon the
plan of saying, concerning any boy whom he particularly liked, that he
was not one of his especial chums, and that indeed he hardly knew why he
had asked him; but he found he only fell on Scylla in trying to avoid
Charybdis, for though the boy was declared to be more successful it was
Ernest who was naught for not thinking more highly of him.

When she had once got hold of a name she never forgot it.  "And how is So-
and-so?" she would exclaim, mentioning some former friend of Ernest's
with whom he had either now quarrelled, or who had long since proved to
be a mere comet and no fixed star at all.  How Ernest wished he had never
mentioned So-and-so's name, and vowed to himself that he would never talk
about his friends in future, but in a few hours he would forget and would
prattle away as imprudently as ever; then his mother would pounce
noiselessly on his remarks as a barn-owl pounces upon a mouse, and would
bring them up in a pellet six months afterwards when they were no longer
in harmony with their surroundings.

Then there was Theobald.  If a boy or college friend had been invited to
Battersby, Theobald would lay himself out at first to be agreeable.  He
could do this well enough when he liked, and as regards the outside world
he generally did like.  His clerical neighbours, and indeed all his
neighbours, respected him yearly more and more, and would have given
Ernest sufficient cause to regret his imprudence if he had dared to hint
that he had anything, however little, to complain of.  Theobald's mind
worked in this way: "Now, I know Ernest has told this boy what a
disagreeable person I am, and I will just show him that I am not
disagreeable at all, but a good old fellow, a jolly old boy, in fact a
regular old brick, and that it is Ernest who is in fault all through."

So he would behave very nicely to the boy at first, and the boy would be
delighted with him, and side with him against Ernest.  Of course if
Ernest had got the boy to come to Battersby he wanted him to enjoy his
visit, and was therefore pleased that Theobald should behave so well, but
at the same time he stood so much in need of moral support that it was
painful to him to see one of his own familiar friends go over to the
enemy's camp.  For no matter how well we may know a thing--how clearly we
may see a certain patch of colour, for example, as red, it shakes us and
knocks us about to find another see it, or be more than half inclined to
see it, as green.

Theobald had generally begun to get a little impatient before the end of
the visit, but the impression formed during the earlier part was the one
which the visitor had carried away with him.  Theobald never discussed
any of the boys with Ernest.  It was Christina who did this.  Theobald
let them come, because Christina in a quiet, persistent way insisted on
it; when they did come he behaved, as I have said, civilly, but he did
not like it, whereas Christina did like it very much; she would have had
half Roughborough and half Cambridge to come and stay at Battersby if she
could have managed it, and if it would not have cost so much money: she
liked their coming, so that she might make a new acquaintance, and she
liked tearing them to pieces and flinging the bits over Ernest as soon as
she had had enough of them.

The worst of it was that she had so often proved to be right.  Boys and
young men are violent in their affections, but they are seldom very
constant; it is not till they get older that they really know the kind of
friend they want; in their earlier essays young men are simply learning
to judge character.  Ernest had been no exception to the general rule.
His swans had one after the other proved to be more or less geese even in
his own estimation, and he was beginning almost to think that his mother
was a better judge of character than he was; but I think it may be
assumed with some certainty that if Ernest had brought her a real young
swan she would have declared it to be the ugliest and worst goose of all
that she had yet seen.

At first he had not suspected that his friends were wanted with a view to
Charlotte; it was understood that Charlotte and they might perhaps take a
fancy for one another; and that would be so very nice, would it not?  But
he did not see that there was any deliberate malice in the arrangement.
Now, however, that he had awoke to what it all meant, he was less
inclined to bring any friend of his to Battersby.  It seemed to his silly
young mind almost dishonest to ask your friend to come and see you when
all you really meant was "Please, marry my sister."  It was like trying
to obtain money under false pretences.  If he had been fond of Charlotte
it might have been another matter, but he thought her one of the most
disagreeable young women in the whole circle of his acquaintance.

She was supposed to be very clever.  All young ladies are either very
pretty or very clever or very sweet; they may take their choice as to
which category they will go in for, but go in for one of the three they
must.  It was hopeless to try and pass Charlotte off as either pretty or
sweet.  So she became clever as the only remaining alternative.  Ernest
never knew what particular branch of study it was in which she showed her
talent, for she could neither play nor sing nor draw, but so astute are
women that his mother and Charlotte really did persuade him into thinking
that she, Charlotte, had something more akin to true genius than any
other member of the family.  Not one, however, of all the friends whom
Ernest had been inveigled into trying to inveigle had shown the least
sign of being so far struck with Charlotte's commanding powers, as to
wish to make them his own, and this may have had something to do with the
rapidity and completeness with which Christina had dismissed them one
after another and had wanted a new one.

And now she wanted Towneley.  Ernest had seen this coming and had tried
to avoid it, for he knew how impossible it was for him to ask Towneley,
even if he had wished to do so.

Towneley belonged to one of the most exclusive sets in Cambridge, and was
perhaps the most popular man among the whole number of undergraduates.  He
was big and very handsome--as it seemed to Ernest the handsomest man whom
he ever had seen or ever could see, for it was impossible to imagine a
more lively and agreeable countenance.  He was good at cricket and
boating, very good-natured, singularly free from conceit, not clever but
very sensible, and, lastly, his father and mother had been drowned by the
overturning of a boat when he was only two years old and had left him as
their only child and heir to one of the finest estates in the South of
England.  Fortune every now and then does things handsomely by a man all
round; Towneley was one of those to whom she had taken a fancy, and the
universal verdict in this case was that she had chosen wisely.

Ernest had seen Towneley as every one else in the University (except, of
course, dons) had seen him, for he was a man of mark, and being very
susceptible he had liked Towneley even more than most people did, but at
the same time it never so much as entered his head that he should come to
know him.  He liked looking at him if he got a chance, and was very much
ashamed of himself for doing so, but there the matter ended.

By a strange accident, however, during Ernest's last year, when the names
of the crews for the scratch fours were drawn he had found himself
coxswain of a crew, among whom was none other than his especial hero
Towneley; the three others were ordinary mortals, but they could row
fairly well, and the crew on the whole was rather a good one.

Ernest was frightened out of his wits.  When, however, the two met, he
found Towneley no less remarkable for his entire want of anything like
"side," and for his power of setting those whom he came across at their
ease, than he was for outward accomplishments; the only difference he
found between Towneley and other people was that he was so very much
easier to get on with.  Of course Ernest worshipped him more and more.

The scratch fours being ended the connection between the two came to an
end, but Towneley never passed Ernest thenceforward without a nod and a
few good-natured words.  In an evil moment he had mentioned Towneley's
name at Battersby, and now what was the result?  Here was his mother
plaguing him to ask Towneley to come down to Battersby and marry
Charlotte.  Why, if he had thought there was the remotest chance of
Towneley's marrying Charlotte he would have gone down on his knees to him
and told him what an odious young woman she was, and implored him to save
himself while there was yet time.

But Ernest had not prayed to be made "truly honest and conscientious" for
as many years as Christina had.  He tried to conceal what he felt and
thought as well as he could, and led the conversation back to the
difficulties which a clergyman might feel to stand in the way of his
being ordained--not because he had any misgivings, but as a diversion.
His mother, however, thought she had settled all that, and he got no more
out of her.  Soon afterwards he found the means of escaping, and was not
slow to avail himself of them.




CHAPTER XLIX


On his return to Cambridge in the May term of 1858, Ernest and a few
other friends who were also intended for orders came to the conclusion
that they must now take a more serious view of their position.  They
therefore attended chapel more regularly than hitherto, and held evening
meetings of a somewhat furtive character, at which they would study the
New Testament.  They even began to commit the Epistles of St Paul to
memory in the original Greek.  They got up Beveridge on the Thirty-nine
Articles, and Pearson on the Creed; in their hours of recreation they
read More's "Mystery of Godliness," which Ernest thought was charming,
and Taylor's "Holy Living and Dying," which also impressed him deeply,
through what he thought was the splendour of its language.  They handed
themselves over to the guidance of Dean Alford's notes on the Greek
Testament, which made Ernest better understand what was meant by
"difficulties," but also made him feel how shallow and impotent were the
conclusions arrived at by German neologians, with whose works, being
innocent of German, he was not otherwise acquainted.  Some of the friends
who joined him in these pursuits were Johnians, and the meetings were
often held within the walls of St John's.

I do not know how tidings of these furtive gatherings had reached the
Simeonites, but they must have come round to them in some way, for they
had not been continued many weeks before a circular was sent to each of
the young men who attended them, informing them that the Rev. Gideon
Hawke, a well-known London Evangelical preacher, whose sermons were then
much talked of, was about to visit his young friend Badcock of St John's,
and would be glad to say a few words to any who might wish to hear them,
in Badcock's rooms on a certain evening in May.

Badcock was one of the most notorious of all the Simeonites.  Not only
was he ugly, dirty, ill-dressed, bumptious, and in every way
objectionable, but he was deformed and waddled when he walked so that he
had won a nick-name which I can only reproduce by calling it "Here's my
back, and there's my back," because the lower parts of his back
emphasised themselves demonstratively as though about to fly off in
different directions like the two extreme notes in the chord of the
augmented sixth, with every step he took.  It may be guessed, therefore,
that the receipt of the circular had for a moment an almost paralysing
effect on those to whom it was addressed, owing to the astonishment which
it occasioned them.  It certainly was a daring surprise, but like so many
deformed people, Badcock was forward and hard to check; he was a pushing
fellow to whom the present was just the opportunity he wanted for
carrying war into the enemy's quarters.

Ernest and his friends consulted.  Moved by the feeling that as they were
now preparing to be clergymen they ought not to stand so stiffly on
social dignity as heretofore, and also perhaps by the desire to have a
good private view of a preacher who was then much upon the lips of men,
they decided to accept the invitation.  When the appointed time came they
went with some confusion and self-abasement to the rooms of this man, on
whom they had looked down hitherto as from an immeasurable height, and
with whom nothing would have made them believe a few weeks earlier that
they could ever come to be on speaking terms.

Mr Hawke was a very different-looking person from Badcock.  He was
remarkably handsome, or rather would have been but for the thinness of
his lips, and a look of too great firmness and inflexibility.  His
features were a good deal like those of Leonardo da Vinci; moreover he
was kempt, looked in vigorous health, and was of a ruddy countenance.  He
was extremely courteous in his manner, and paid a good deal of attention
to Badcock, of whom he seemed to think highly.  Altogether our young
friends were taken aback, and inclined to think smaller beer of
themselves and larger of Badcock than was agreeable to the old Adam who
was still alive within them.  A few well-known "Sims" from St John's and
other colleges were present, but not enough to swamp the Ernest set, as
for the sake of brevity, I will call them.

After a preliminary conversation in which there was nothing to offend,
the business of the evening began by Mr Hawke's standing up at one end of
the table, and saying "Let us pray."  The Ernest set did not like this,
but they could not help themselves, so they knelt down and repeated the
Lord's Prayer and a few others after Mr Hawke, who delivered them
remarkably well.  Then, when all had sat down, Mr Hawke addressed them,
speaking without notes and taking for his text the words, "Saul, Saul,
why persecutest thou me?"  Whether owing to Mr Hawke's manner, which was
impressive, or to his well-known reputation for ability, or whether from
the fact that each one of the Ernest set knew that he had been more or
less a persecutor of the "Sims" and yet felt instinctively that the
"Sims" were after all much more like the early Christians than he was
himself--at any rate the text, familiar though it was, went home to the
consciences of Ernest and his friends as it had never yet done.  If Mr
Hawke had stopped here he would have almost said enough; as he scanned
the faces turned towards him, and saw the impression he had made, he was
perhaps minded to bring his sermon to an end before beginning it, but if
so, he reconsidered himself and proceeded as follows.  I give the sermon
in full, for it is a typical one, and will explain a state of mind which
in another generation or two will seem to stand sadly in need of
explanation.

"My young friends," said Mr Hawke, "I am persuaded there is not one of
you here who doubts the existence of a Personal God.  If there were, it
is to him assuredly that I should first address myself.  Should I be
mistaken in my belief that all here assembled accept the existence of a
God who is present amongst us though we see him not, and whose eye is
upon our most secret thoughts, let me implore the doubter to confer with
me in private before we part; I will then put before him considerations
through which God has been mercifully pleased to reveal himself to me, so
far as man can understand him, and which I have found bring peace to the
minds of others who have doubted.

"I assume also that there is none who doubts but that this God, after
whose likeness we have been made, did in the course of time have pity
upon man's blindness, and assume our nature, taking flesh and coming down
and dwelling among us as a man indistinguishable physically from
ourselves.  He who made the sun, moon and stars, the world and all that
therein is, came down from Heaven in the person of his Son, with the
express purpose of leading a scorned life, and dying the most cruel,
shameful death which fiendish ingenuity has invented.

"While on earth he worked many miracles.  He gave sight to the blind,
raised the dead to life, fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and
was seen to walk upon the waves, but at the end of his appointed time he
died, as was foredetermined, upon the cross, and was buried by a few
faithful friends.  Those, however, who had put him to death set a jealous
watch over his tomb.

"There is no one, I feel sure, in this room who doubts any part of the
foregoing, but if there is, let me again pray him to confer with me in
private, and I doubt not that by the blessing of God his doubts will
cease.

"The next day but one after our Lord was buried, the tomb being still
jealously guarded by enemies, an angel was seen descending from Heaven
with glittering raiment and a countenance that shone like fire.  This
glorious being rolled away the stone from the grave, and our Lord himself
came forth, risen from the dead.

"My young friends, this is no fanciful story like those of the ancient
deities, but a matter of plain history as certain as that you and I are
now here together.  If there is one fact better vouched for than another
in the whole range of certainties it is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ;
nor is it less well assured that a few weeks after he had risen from the
dead, our Lord was seen by many hundreds of men and women to rise amid a
host of angels into the air upon a heavenward journey till the clouds
covered him and concealed him from the sight of men.

"It may be said that the truth of these statements has been denied, but
what, let me ask you, has become of the questioners?  Where are they now?
Do we see them or hear of them?  Have they been able to hold what little
ground they made during the supineness of the last century?  Is there one
of your fathers or mothers or friends who does not see through them?  Is
there a single teacher or preacher in this great University who has not
examined what these men had to say, and found it naught?  Did you ever
meet one of them, or do you find any of their books securing the
respectful attention of those competent to judge concerning them?  I
think not; and I think also you know as well as I do why it is that they
have sunk back into the abyss from which they for a time emerged: it is
because after the most careful and patient examination by the ablest and
most judicial minds of many countries, their arguments were found so
untenable that they themselves renounced them.  They fled from the field
routed, dismayed, and suing for peace; nor have they again come to the
front in any civilised country.

"You know these things.  Why, then, do I insist upon them?  My dear young
friends, your own consciousness will have made the answer to each one of
you already; it is because, though you know so well that these things did
verily and indeed happen, you know also that you have not realised them
to yourselves as it was your duty to do, nor heeded their momentous,
awful import.

"And now let me go further.  You all know that you will one day come to
die, or if not to die--for there are not wanting signs which make me hope
that the Lord may come again, while some of us now present are alive--yet
to be changed; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible, for this corruption must put on incorruption, and this
mortal put on immortality, and the saying shall be brought to pass that
is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'

"Do you, or do you not believe that you will one day stand before the
Judgement Seat of Christ?  Do you, or do you not believe that you will
have to give an account for every idle word that you have ever spoken?  Do
you, or do you not believe that you are called to live, not according to
the will of man, but according to the will of that Christ who came down
from Heaven out of love for you, who suffered and died for you, who calls
you to him, and yearns towards you that you may take heed even in this
your day--but who, if you heed not, will also one day judge you, and with
whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning?

"My dear young friends, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which
leadeth to Eternal Life, and few there be that find it.  Few, few, few,
for he who will not give up ALL for Christ's sake, has given up nothing.

"If you would live in the friendship of this world, if indeed you are not
prepared to give up everything you most fondly cherish, should the Lord
require it of you, then, I say, put the idea of Christ deliberately on
one side at once.  Spit upon him, buffet him, crucify him anew, do
anything you like so long as you secure the friendship of this world
while it is still in your power to do so; the pleasures of this brief
life may not be worth paying for by the torments of eternity, but they
are something while they last.  If, on the other hand, you would live in
the friendship of God, and be among the number of those for whom Christ
has not died in vain; if, in a word, you value your eternal welfare, then
give up the friendship of this world; of a surety you must make your
choice between God and Mammon, for you cannot serve both.

"I put these considerations before you, if so homely a term may be
pardoned, as a plain matter of business.  There is nothing low or
unworthy in this, as some lately have pretended, for all nature shows us
that there is nothing more acceptable to God than an enlightened view of
our own self-interest; never let anyone delude you here; it is a simple
question of fact; did certain things happen or did they not?  If they did
happen, is it reasonable to suppose that you will make yourselves and
others more happy by one course of conduct or by another?

"And now let me ask you what answer you have made to this question
hitherto?  Whose friendship have you chosen?  If, knowing what you know,
you have not yet begun to act according to the immensity of the knowledge
that is in you, then he who builds his house and lays up his treasure on
the edge of a crater of molten lava is a sane, sensible person in
comparison with yourselves.  I say this as no figure of speech or bugbear
with which to frighten you, but as an unvarnished unexaggerated statement
which will be no more disputed by yourselves than by me."

And now Mr Hawke, who up to this time had spoken with singular quietness,
changed his manner to one of greater warmth and continued--

"Oh! my young friends turn, turn, turn, now while it is called to-day--now
from this hour, from this instant; stay not even to gird up your loins;
look not behind you for a second, but fly into the bosom of that Christ
who is to be found of all who seek him, and from that fearful wrath of
God which lieth in wait for those who know not the things belonging to
their peace.  For the Son of Man cometh as a thief in the night, and
there is not one of us can tell but what this day his soul may be
required of him.  If there is even one here who has heeded me,"--and he
let his eye fall for an instant upon almost all his hearers, but
especially on the Ernest set--"I shall know that it was not for nothing
that I felt the call of the Lord, and heard as I thought a voice by night
that bade me come hither quickly, for there was a chosen vessel who had
need of me."

Here Mr Hawke ended rather abruptly; his earnest manner, striking
countenance and excellent delivery had produced an effect greater than
the actual words I have given can convey to the reader; the virtue lay in
the man more than in what he said; as for the last few mysterious words
about his having heard a voice by night, their effect was magical; there
was not one who did not look down to the ground, nor who in his heart did
not half believe that he was the chosen vessel on whose especial behalf
God had sent Mr Hawke to Cambridge.  Even if this were not so, each one
of them felt that he was now for the first time in the actual presence of
one who had had a direct communication from the Almighty, and they were
thus suddenly brought a hundredfold nearer to the New Testament miracles.
They were amazed, not to say scared, and as though by tacit consent they
gathered together, thanked Mr Hawke for his sermon, said good-night in a
humble deferential manner to Badcock and the other Simeonites, and left
the room together.  They had heard nothing but what they had been hearing
all their lives; how was it, then, that they were so dumbfoundered by it?
I suppose partly because they had lately begun to think more seriously,
and were in a fit state to be impressed, partly from the greater
directness with which each felt himself addressed, through the sermon
being delivered in a room, and partly to the logical consistency, freedom
from exaggeration, and profound air of conviction with which Mr Hawke had
spoken.  His simplicity and obvious earnestness had impressed them even
before he had alluded to his special mission, but this clenched
everything, and the words "Lord, is it I?" were upon the hearts of each
as they walked pensively home through moonlit courts and cloisters.

I do not know what passed among the Simeonites after the Ernest set had
left them, but they would have been more than mortal if they had not been
a good deal elated with the results of the evening.  Why, one of Ernest's
friends was in the University eleven, and he had actually been in
Badcock's rooms and had slunk off on saying good-night as meekly as any
of them.  It was no small thing to have scored a success like this.




CHAPTER L


Ernest felt now that the turning point of his life had come.  He would
give up all for Christ--even his tobacco.

So he gathered together his pipes and pouches, and locked them up in his
portmanteau under his bed where they should be out of sight, and as much
out of mind as possible.  He did not burn them, because someone might
come in who wanted to smoke, and though he might abridge his own liberty,
yet, as smoking was not a sin, there was no reason why he should be hard
on other people.

After breakfast he left his rooms to call on a man named Dawson, who had
been one of Mr Hawke's hearers on the preceding evening, and who was
reading for ordination at the forthcoming Ember Weeks, now only four
months distant.  This man had been always of a rather serious turn of
mind--a little too much so for Ernest's taste; but times had changed, and
Dawson's undoubted sincerity seemed to render him a fitting counsellor
for Ernest at the present time.  As he was going through the first court
of John's on his way to Dawson's rooms, he met Badcock, and greeted him
with some deference.  His advance was received with one of those ecstatic
gleams which shone occasionally upon the face of Badcock, and which, if
Ernest had known more, would have reminded him of Robespierre.  As it
was, he saw it and unconsciously recognised the unrest and
self-seekingness of the man, but could not yet formulate them; he
disliked Badcock more than ever, but as he was going to profit by the
spiritual benefits which he had put in his way, he was bound to be civil
to him, and civil he therefore was.

Badcock told him that Mr Hawke had returned to town immediately his
discourse was over, but that before doing so he had enquired particularly
who Ernest and two or three others were.  I believe each one of Ernest's
friends was given to understand that he had been more or less
particularly enquired after.  Ernest's vanity--for he was his mother's
son--was tickled at this; the idea again presented itself to him that he
might be the one for whose benefit Mr Hawke had been sent.  There was
something, too, in Badcock's manner which conveyed the idea that he could
say more if he chose, but had been enjoined to silence.

On reaching Dawson's rooms, he found his friend in raptures over the
discourse of the preceding evening.  Hardly less delighted was he with
the effect it had produced on Ernest.  He had always known, he said, that
Ernest would come round; he had been sure of it, but he had hardly
expected the conversion to be so sudden.  Ernest said no more had he, but
now that he saw his duty so clearly he would get ordained as soon as
possible, and take a curacy, even though the doing so would make him have
to go down from Cambridge earlier, which would be a great grief to him.
Dawson applauded this determination, and it was arranged that as Ernest
was still more or less of a weak brother, Dawson should take him, so to
speak, in spiritual tow for a while, and strengthen and confirm his
faith.

An offensive and defensive alliance therefore was struck up between this
pair (who were in reality singularly ill assorted), and Ernest set to
work to master the books on which the Bishop would examine him.  Others
gradually joined them till they formed a small set or church (for these
are the same things), and the effect of Mr Hawke's sermon instead of
wearing off in a few days, as might have been expected, became more and
more marked, so much so that it was necessary for Ernest's friends to
hold him back rather than urge him on, for he seemed likely to develop--as
indeed he did for a time--into a religious enthusiast.

In one matter only, did he openly backslide.  He had, as I said above,
locked up his pipes and tobacco, so that he might not be tempted to use
them.  All day long on the day after Mr Hawke's sermon he let them lie in
his portmanteau bravely; but this was not very difficult, as he had for
some time given up smoking till after hall.  After hall this day he did
not smoke till chapel time, and then went to chapel in self-defence.  When
he returned he determined to look at the matter from a common sense point
of view.  On this he saw that, provided tobacco did not injure his
health--and he really could not see that it did--it stood much on the
same footing as tea or coffee.

Tobacco had nowhere been forbidden in the Bible, but then it had not yet
been discovered, and had probably only escaped proscription for this
reason.  We can conceive of St Paul or even our Lord Himself as drinking
a cup of tea, but we cannot imagine either of them as smoking a cigarette
or a churchwarden.  Ernest could not deny this, and admitted that Paul
would almost certainly have condemned tobacco in good round terms if he
had known of its existence.  Was it not then taking rather a mean
advantage of the Apostle to stand on his not having actually forbidden
it?  On the other hand, it was possible that God knew Paul would have
forbidden smoking, and had purposely arranged the discovery of tobacco
for a period at which Paul should be no longer living.  This might seem
rather hard on Paul, considering all he had done for Christianity, but it
would be made up to him in other ways.

These reflections satisfied Ernest that on the whole he had better smoke,
so he sneaked to his portmanteau and brought out his pipes and tobacco
again.  There should be moderation he felt in all things, even in virtue;
so for that night he smoked immoderately.  It was a pity, however, that
he had bragged to Dawson about giving up smoking.  The pipes had better
be kept in a cupboard for a week or two, till in other and easier
respects Ernest should have proved his steadfastness.  Then they might
steal out again little by little--and so they did.

Ernest now wrote home a letter couched in a vein different from his
ordinary ones.  His letters were usually all common form and padding, for
as I have already explained, if he wrote about anything that really
interested him, his mother always wanted to know more and more about
it--every fresh answer being as the lopping off of a hydra's head and
giving birth to half a dozen or more new questions--but in the end it
came invariably to the same result, namely, that he ought to have done
something else, or ought not to go on doing as he proposed.  Now,
however, there was a new departure, and for the thousandth time he
concluded that he was about to take a course of which his father and
mother would approve, and in which they would be interested, so that at
last he and they might get on more sympathetically than heretofore.  He
therefore wrote a gushing impulsive letter, which afforded much amusement
to myself as I read it, but which is too long for reproduction.  One
passage ran: "I am now going towards Christ; the greater number of my
college friends are, I fear, going away from Him; we must pray for them
that they may find the peace that is in Christ even as I have myself
found it."  Ernest covered his face with his hands for shame as he read
this extract from the bundle of letters he had put into my hands--they
had been returned to him by his father on his mother's death, his mother
having carefully preserved them.

"Shall I cut it out?" said I, "I will if you like."

"Certainly not," he answered, "and if good-natured friends have kept more
records of my follies, pick out any plums that may amuse the reader, and
let him have his laugh over them."  But fancy what effect a letter like
this--so unled up to--must have produced at Battersby!  Even Christina
refrained from ecstasy over her son's having discovered the power of
Christ's word, while Theobald was frightened out of his wits.  It was
well his son was not going to have any doubts or difficulties, and that
he would be ordained without making a fuss over it, but he smelt mischief
in this sudden conversion of one who had never yet shown any inclination
towards religion.  He hated people who did not know where to stop.  Ernest
was always so _outre_ and strange; there was never any knowing what he
would do next, except that it would be something unusual and silly.  If
he was to get the bit between his teeth after he had got ordained and
bought his living, he would play more pranks than ever he, Theobald, had
done.  The fact, doubtless, of his being ordained and having bought a
living would go a long way to steady him, and if he married, his wife
must see to the rest; this was his only chance and, to do justice to his
sagacity, Theobald in his heart did not think very highly of it.

When Ernest came down to Battersby in June, he imprudently tried to open
up a more unreserved communication with his father than was his wont.  The
first of Ernest's snipe-like flights on being flushed by Mr Hawke's
sermon was in the direction of ultra-evangelicalism.  Theobald himself
had been much more Low than High Church.  This was the normal development
of the country clergyman during the first years of his clerical life,
between, we will say, the years 1825 to 1850; but he was not prepared for
the almost contempt with which Ernest now regarded the doctrines of
baptismal regeneration and priestly absolution (Hoity toity, indeed, what
business had he with such questions?), nor for his desire to find some
means of reconciling Methodism and the Church.  Theobald hated the Church
of Rome, but he hated dissenters too, for he found them as a general rule
troublesome people to deal with; he always found people who did not agree
with him troublesome to deal with: besides, they set up for knowing as
much as he did; nevertheless if he had been let alone he would have
leaned towards them rather than towards the High Church party.  The
neighbouring clergy, however, would not let him alone.  One by one they
had come under the influence, directly or indirectly, of the Oxford
movement which had begun twenty years earlier.  It was surprising how
many practices he now tolerated which in his youth he would have
considered Popish; he knew very well therefore which way things were
going in Church matters, and saw that as usual Ernest was setting himself
the other way.  The opportunity for telling his son that he was a fool
was too favourable not to be embraced, and Theobald was not slow to
embrace it.  Ernest was annoyed and surprised, for had not his father and
mother been wanting him to be more religious all his life?  Now that he
had become so they were still not satisfied.  He said to himself that a
prophet was not without honour save in his own country, but he had been
lately--or rather until lately--getting into an odious habit of turning
proverbs upside down, and it occurred to him that a country is sometimes
not without honour save for its own prophet.  Then he laughed, and for
the rest of the day felt more as he used to feel before he had heard Mr
Hawke's sermon.

He returned to Cambridge for the Long Vacation of 1858--none too soon,
for he had to go in for the Voluntary Theological Examination, which
bishops were now beginning to insist upon.  He imagined all the time he
was reading that he was storing himself with the knowledge that would
best fit him for the work he had taken in hand.  In truth, he was
cramming for a pass.  In due time he did pass--creditably, and was
ordained Deacon with half-a-dozen others of his friends in the autumn of
1858.  He was then just twenty-three years old.




CHAPTER LI


Ernest had been ordained to a curacy in one of the central parts of
London.  He hardly knew anything of London yet, but his instincts drew
him thither.  The day after he was ordained he entered upon his
duties--feeling much as his father had done when he found himself boxed
up in the carriage with Christina on the morning of his marriage.  Before
the first three days were over, he became aware that the light of the
happiness which he had known during his four years at Cambridge had been
extinguished, and he was appalled by the irrevocable nature of the step
which he now felt that he had taken much too hurriedly.

The most charitable excuse that I can make for the vagaries which it will
now be my duty to chronicle is that the shock of change consequent upon
his becoming suddenly religious, being ordained and leaving Cambridge,
had been too much for my hero, and had for the time thrown him off an
equilibrium which was yet little supported by experience, and therefore
as a matter of course unstable.

Everyone has a mass of bad work in him which he will have to work off and
get rid of before he can do better--and indeed, the more lasting a man's
ultimate good work is, the more sure he is to pass through a time, and
perhaps a very long one, in which there seems very little hope for him at
all.  We must all sow our spiritual wild oats.  The fault I feel
personally disposed to find with my godson is not that he had wild oats
to sow, but that they were such an exceedingly tame and uninteresting
crop.  The sense of humour and tendency to think for himself, of which
till a few months previously he had been showing fair promise, were
nipped as though by a late frost, while his earlier habit of taking on
trust everything that was told him by those in authority, and following
everything out to the bitter end, no matter how preposterous, returned
with redoubled strength.  I suppose this was what might have been
expected from anyone placed as Ernest now was, especially when his
antecedents are remembered, but it surprised and disappointed some of his
cooler-headed Cambridge friends who had begun to think well of his
ability.  To himself it seemed that religion was incompatible with half
measures, or even with compromise.  Circumstances had led to his being
ordained; for the moment he was sorry they had, but he had done it and
must go through with it.  He therefore set himself to find out what was
expected of him, and to act accordingly.

His rector was a moderate High Churchman of no very pronounced views--an
elderly man who had had too many curates not to have long since found out
that the connection between rector and curate, like that between employer
and employed in every other walk of life, was a mere matter of business.
He had now two curates, of whom Ernest was the junior; the senior curate
was named Pryer, and when this gentleman made advances, as he presently
did, Ernest in his forlorn state was delighted to meet them.

Pryer was about twenty-eight years old.  He had been at Eton and at
Oxford.  He was tall, and passed generally for good-looking; I only saw
him once for about five minutes, and then thought him odious both in
manners and appearance.  Perhaps it was because he caught me up in a way
I did not like.  I had quoted Shakespeare for lack of something better to
fill up a sentence--and had said that one touch of nature made the whole
world kin.  "Ah," said Pryer, in a bold, brazen way which displeased me,
"but one touch of the unnatural makes it more kindred still," and he gave
me a look as though he thought me an old bore and did not care two straws
whether I was shocked or not.  Naturally enough, after this I did not
like him.

This, however, is anticipating, for it was not till Ernest had been three
or four months in London that I happened to meet his fellow-curate, and I
must deal here rather with the effect he produced upon my godson than
upon myself.  Besides being what was generally considered good-looking,
he was faultless in his get-up, and altogether the kind of man whom
Ernest was sure to be afraid of and yet be taken in by.  The style of his
dress was very High Church, and his acquaintances were exclusively of the
extreme High Church party, but he kept his views a good deal in the
background in his rector's presence, and that gentleman, though he looked
askance on some of Pryer's friends, had no such ground of complaint
against him as to make him sever the connection.  Pryer, too, was popular
in the pulpit, and, take him all round, it was probable that many worse
curates would be found for one better.  When Pryer called on my hero, as
soon as the two were alone together, he eyed him all over with a quick
penetrating glance and seemed not dissatisfied with the result--for I
must say here that Ernest had improved in personal appearance under the
more genial treatment he had received at Cambridge.  Pryer, in fact,
approved of him sufficiently to treat him civilly, and Ernest was
immediately won by anyone who did this.  It was not long before he
discovered that the High Church party, and even Rome itself, had more to
say for themselves than he had thought.  This was his first snipe-like
change of flight.

Pryer introduced him to several of his friends.  They were all of them
young clergymen, belonging as I have said to the highest of the High
Church school, but Ernest was surprised to find how much they resembled
other people when among themselves.  This was a shock to him; it was ere
long a still greater one to find that certain thoughts which he had
warred against as fatal to his soul, and which he had imagined he should
lose once for all on ordination, were still as troublesome to him as they
had been; he also saw plainly enough that the young gentlemen who formed
the circle of Pryer's friends were in much the same unhappy predicament
as himself.

This was deplorable.  The only way out of it that Ernest could see was
that he should get married at once.  But then he did not know any one
whom he wanted to marry.  He did not know any woman, in fact, whom he
would not rather die than marry.  It had been one of Theobald's and
Christina's main objects to keep him out of the way of women, and they
had so far succeeded that women had become to him mysterious, inscrutable
objects to be tolerated when it was impossible to avoid them, but never
to be sought out or encouraged.  As for any man loving, or even being at
all fond of any woman, he supposed it was so, but he believed the greater
number of those who professed such sentiments were liars.  Now, however,
it was clear that he had hoped against hope too long, and that the only
thing to do was to go and ask the first woman who would listen to him to
come and be married to him as soon as possible.

He broached this to Pryer, and was surprised to find that this gentleman,
though attentive to such members of his flock as were young and
good-looking, was strongly in favour of the celibacy of the clergy, as
indeed were the other demure young clerics to whom Pryer had introduced
Ernest.




CHAPTER LII


"You know, my dear Pontifex," said Pryer to him, some few weeks after
Ernest had become acquainted with him, when the two were taking a
constitutional one day in Kensington Gardens, "You know, my dear
Pontifex, it is all very well to quarrel with Rome, but Rome has reduced
the treatment of the human soul to a science, while our own Church,
though so much purer in many respects, has no organised system either of
diagnosis or pathology--I mean, of course, spiritual diagnosis and
spiritual pathology.  Our Church does not prescribe remedies upon any
settled system, and, what is still worse, even when her physicians have
according to their lights ascertained the disease and pointed out the
remedy, she has no discipline which will ensure its being actually
applied.  If our patients do not choose to do as we tell them, we cannot
make them.  Perhaps really under all the circumstances this is as well,
for we are spiritually mere horse doctors as compared with the Roman
priesthood, nor can we hope to make much headway against the sin and
misery that surround us, till we return in some respects to the practice
of our forefathers and of the greater part of Christendom."

Ernest asked in what respects it was that his friend desired a return to
the practice of our forefathers.

"Why, my dear fellow, can you really be ignorant?  It is just this,
either the priest is indeed a spiritual guide, as being able to show
people how they ought to live better than they can find out for
themselves, or he is nothing at all--he has no _raison d'etre_.  If the
priest is not as much a healer and director of men's souls as a physician
is of their bodies, what is he?  The history of all ages has shown--and
surely you must know this as well as I do--that as men cannot cure the
bodies of their patients if they have not been properly trained in
hospitals under skilled teachers, so neither can souls be cured of their
more hidden ailments without the help of men who are skilled in
soul-craft--or in other words, of priests.  What do one half of our
formularies and rubrics mean if not this?  How in the name of all that is
reasonable can we find out the exact nature of a spiritual malady, unless
we have had experience of other similar cases?  How can we get this
without express training?  At present we have to begin all experiments
for ourselves, without profiting by the organised experience of our
predecessors, inasmuch as that experience is never organised and
co-ordinated at all.  At the outset, therefore, each one of us must ruin
many souls which could be saved by knowledge of a few elementary
principles."

Ernest was very much impressed.

"As for men curing themselves," continued Pryer, "they can no more cure
their own souls than they can cure their own bodies, or manage their own
law affairs.  In these two last cases they see the folly of meddling with
their own cases clearly enough, and go to a professional adviser as a
matter of course; surely a man's soul is at once a more difficult and
intricate matter to treat, and at the same time it is more important to
him that it should be treated rightly than that either his body or his
money should be so.  What are we to think of the practice of a Church
which encourages people to rely on unprofessional advice in matters
affecting their eternal welfare, when they would not think of
jeopardising their worldly affairs by such insane conduct?"

Ernest could see no weak place in this.  These ideas had crossed his own
mind vaguely before now, but he had never laid hold of them or set them
in an orderly manner before himself.  Nor was he quick at detecting false
analogies and the misuse of metaphors; in fact he was a mere child in the
hands of his fellow curate.

"And what," resumed Pryer, "does all this point to?  Firstly, to the duty
of confession--the outcry against which is absurd as an outcry would be
against dissection as part of the training of medical students.  Granted
these young men must see and do a great deal we do not ourselves like
even to think of, but they should adopt some other profession unless they
are prepared for this; they may even get inoculated with poison from a
dead body and lose their lives, but they must stand their chance.  So if
we aspire to be priests in deed as well as name, we must familiarise
ourselves with the minutest and most repulsive details of all kinds of
sin, so that we may recognise it in all its stages.  Some of us must
doubtlessly perish spiritually in such investigations.  We cannot help
it; all science must have its martyrs, and none of these will deserve
better of humanity than those who have fallen in the pursuit of spiritual
pathology."

Ernest grew more and more interested, but in the meekness of his soul
said nothing.

"I do not desire this martyrdom for myself," continued the other, "on the
contrary I will avoid it to the very utmost of my power, but if it be
God's will that I should fall while studying what I believe most
calculated to advance his glory--then, I say, not my will, oh Lord, but
thine be done."

This was too much even for Ernest.  "I heard of an Irish-woman once," he
said, with a smile, "who said she was a martyr to the drink."

"And so she was," rejoined Pryer with warmth; and he went on to show that
this good woman was an experimentalist whose experiment, though
disastrous in its effects upon herself, was pregnant with instruction to
other people.  She was thus a true martyr or witness to the frightful
consequences of intemperance, to the saving, doubtless, of many who but
for her martyrdom would have taken to drinking.  She was one of a forlorn
hope whose failure to take a certain position went to the proving it to
be impregnable and therefore to the abandonment of all attempt to take
it.  This was almost as great a gain to mankind as the actual taking of
the position would have been.

"Besides," he added more hurriedly, "the limits of vice and virtue are
wretchedly ill-defined.  Half the vices which the world condemns most
loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderate use rather than
total abstinence."

Ernest asked timidly for an instance.

"No, no," said Pryer, "I will give you no instance, but I will give you a
formula that shall embrace all instances.  It is this, that no practice
is entirely vicious which has not been extinguished among the comeliest,
most vigorous, and most cultivated races of mankind in spite of centuries
of endeavour to extirpate it.  If a vice in spite of such efforts can
still hold its own among the most polished nations, it must be founded on
some immutable truth or fact in human nature, and must have some
compensatory advantage which we cannot afford altogether to dispense
with."

"But," said Ernest timidly, "is not this virtually doing away with all
distinction between right and wrong, and leaving people without any moral
guide whatever?"

"Not the people," was the answer: "it must be our care to be guides to
these, for they are and always will be incapable of guiding themselves
sufficiently.  We should tell them what they must do, and in an ideal
state of things should be able to enforce their doing it: perhaps when we
are better instructed the ideal state may come about; nothing will so
advance it as greater knowledge of spiritual pathology on our own part.
For this, three things are necessary; firstly, absolute freedom in
experiment for us the clergy; secondly, absolute knowledge of what the
laity think and do, and of what thoughts and actions result in what
spiritual conditions; and thirdly, a compacter organisation among
ourselves.

"If we are to do any good we must be a closely united body, and must be
sharply divided from the laity.  Also we must be free from those ties
which a wife and children involve.  I can hardly express the horror with
which I am filled by seeing English priests living in what I can only
designate as 'open matrimony.'  It is deplorable.  The priest must be
absolutely sexless--if not in practice, yet at any rate in theory,
absolutely--and that too, by a theory so universally accepted that none
shall venture to dispute it."

"But," said Ernest, "has not the Bible already told people what they
ought and ought not to do, and is it not enough for us to insist on what
can be found here, and let the rest alone?"

"If you begin with the Bible," was the rejoinder, "you are three parts
gone on the road to infidelity, and will go the other part before you
know where you are.  The Bible is not without its value to us the clergy,
but for the laity it is a stumbling-block which cannot be taken out of
their way too soon or too completely.  Of course, I mean on the
supposition that they read it, which, happily, they seldom do.  If people
read the Bible as the ordinary British churchman or churchwoman reads it,
it is harmless enough; but if they read it with any care--which we should
assume they will if we give it them at all--it is fatal to them."

"What do you mean?" said Ernest, more and more astonished, but more and
more feeling that he was at least in the hands of a man who had definite
ideas.

"Your question shows me that you have never read your Bible.  A more
unreliable book was never put upon paper.  Take my advice and don't read
it, not till you are a few years older, and may do so safely."

"But surely you believe the Bible when it tells you of such things as
that Christ died and rose from the dead?  Surely you believe this?" said
Ernest, quite prepared to be told that Pryer believed nothing of the
kind.

"I do not believe it, I know it."

"But how--if the testimony of the Bible fails?"

"On that of the living voice of the Church, which I know to be infallible
and to be informed of Christ himself."




CHAPTER LIII


The foregoing conversation and others like it made a deep impression upon
my hero.  If next day he had taken a walk with Mr Hawke, and heard what
he had to say on the other side, he would have been just as much struck,
and as ready to fling off what Pryer had told him, as he now was to throw
aside all he had ever heard from anyone except Pryer; but there was no Mr
Hawke at hand, so Pryer had everything his own way.

Embryo minds, like embryo bodies, pass through a number of strange
metamorphoses before they adopt their final shape.  It is no more to be
wondered at that one who is going to turn out a Roman Catholic, should
have passed through the stages of being first a Methodist, and then a
free thinker, than that a man should at some former time have been a mere
cell, and later on an invertebrate animal.  Ernest, however, could not be
expected to know this; embryos never do.  Embryos think with each stage
of their development that they have now reached the only condition which
really suits them.  This, they say, must certainly be their last,
inasmuch as its close will be so great a shock that nothing can survive
it.  Every change is a shock; every shock is a _pro tanto_ death.  What
we call death is only a shock great enough to destroy our power to
recognise a past and a present as resembling one another.  It is the
making us consider the points of difference between our present and our
past greater than the points of resemblance, so that we can no longer
call the former of these two in any proper sense a continuation of the
second, but find it less trouble to think of it as something that we
choose to call new.

But, to let this pass, it was clear that spiritual pathology (I confess
that I do not know myself what spiritual pathology means--but Pryer and
Ernest doubtless did) was the great desideratum of the age.  It seemed to
Ernest that he had made this discovery himself and been familiar with it
all his life, that he had never known, in fact, of anything else.  He
wrote long letters to his college friends expounding his views as though
he had been one of the Apostolic fathers.  As for the Old Testament
writers, he had no patience with them.  "Do oblige me," I find him
writing to one friend, "by reading the prophet Zechariah, and giving me
your candid opinion upon him.  He is poor stuff, full of Yankee bounce;
it is sickening to live in an age when such balderdash can be gravely
admired whether as poetry or prophecy."  This was because Pryer had set
him against Zechariah.  I do not know what Zechariah had done; I should
think myself that Zechariah was a very good prophet; perhaps it was
because he was a Bible writer, and not a very prominent one, that Pryer
selected him as one through whom to disparage the Bible in comparison
with the Church.

To his friend Dawson I find him saying a little later on: "Pryer and I
continue our walks, working out each other's thoughts.  At first he used
to do all the thinking, but I think I am pretty well abreast of him now,
and rather chuckle at seeing that he is already beginning to modify some
of the views he held most strongly when I first knew him.

"Then I think he was on the high road to Rome; now, however, he seems to
be a good deal struck with a suggestion of mine in which you, too,
perhaps may be interested.  You see we must infuse new life into the
Church somehow; we are not holding our own against either Rome or
infidelity."  (I may say in passing that I do not believe Ernest had as
yet ever seen an infidel--not to speak to.)  "I proposed, therefore, a
few days back to Pryer--and he fell in eagerly with the proposal as soon
as he saw that I had the means of carrying it out--that we should set on
foot a spiritual movement somewhat analogous to the Young England
movement of twenty years ago, the aim of which shall be at once to outbid
Rome on the one hand, and scepticism on the other.  For this purpose I
see nothing better than the foundation of an institution or college for
placing the nature and treatment of sin on a more scientific basis than
it rests at present.  We want--to borrow a useful term of Pryer's--a
College of Spiritual Pathology where young men" (I suppose Ernest thought
he was no longer young by this time) "may study the nature and treatment
of the sins of the soul as medical students study those of the bodies of
their patients.  Such a college, as you will probably admit, will
approach both Rome on the one hand, and science on the other--Rome, as
giving the priesthood more skill, and therefore as paving the way for
their obtaining greater power, and science, by recognising that even free
thought has a certain kind of value in spiritual enquiries.  To this
purpose Pryer and I have resolved to devote ourselves henceforth heart
and soul.

"Of course, my ideas are still unshaped, and all will depend upon the men
by whom the college is first worked.  I am not yet a priest, but Pryer
is, and if I were to start the College, Pryer might take charge of it for
a time and I work under him nominally as his subordinate.  Pryer himself
suggested this.  Is it not generous of him?

"The worst of it is that we have not enough money; I have, it is true,
5000 pounds, but we want at least 10,000 pounds, so Pryer says, before we
can start; when we are fairly under weigh I might live at the college and
draw a salary from the foundation, so that it is all one, or nearly so,
whether I invest my money in this way or in buying a living; besides I
want very little; it is certain that I shall never marry; no clergyman
should think of this, and an unmarried man can live on next to nothing.
Still I do not see my way to as much money as I want, and Pryer suggests
that as we can hardly earn more now we must get it by a judicious series
of investments.  Pryer knows several people who make quite a handsome
income out of very little or, indeed, I may say, nothing at all, by
buying things at a place they call the Stock Exchange; I don't know much
about it yet, but Pryer says I should soon learn; he thinks, indeed, that
I have shown rather a talent in this direction, and under proper auspices
should make a very good man of business.  Others, of course, and not I,
must decide this; but a man can do anything if he gives his mind to it,
and though I should not care about having more money for my own sake, I
care about it very much when I think of the good I could do with it by
saving souls from such horrible torture hereafter.  Why, if the thing
succeeds, and I really cannot see what is to hinder it, it is hardly
possible to exaggerate its importance, nor the proportions which it may
ultimately assume," etc., etc.

Again I asked Ernest whether he minded my printing this.  He winced, but
said "No, not if it helps you to tell your story: but don't you think it
is too long?"

I said it would let the reader see for himself how things were going in
half the time that it would take me to explain them to him.

"Very well then, keep it by all means."

I continue turning over my file of Ernest's letters and find as follows--

   "Thanks for your last, in answer to which I send you a rough copy of a
   letter I sent to the _Times_ a day or two back.  They did not insert
   it, but it embodies pretty fully my ideas on the parochial visitation
   question, and Pryer fully approves of the letter.  Think it carefully
   over and send it back to me when read, for it is so exactly my present
   creed that I cannot afford to lose it.

   "I should very much like to have a _viva voce_ discussion on these
   matters: I can only see for certain that we have suffered a dreadful
   loss in being no longer able to excommunicate.  We should
   excommunicate rich and poor alike, and pretty freely too.  If this
   power were restored to us we could, I think, soon put a stop to by far
   the greater part of the sin and misery with which we are surrounded."

These letters were written only a few weeks after Ernest had been
ordained, but they are nothing to others that he wrote a little later on.

In his eagerness to regenerate the Church of England (and through this
the universe) by the means which Pryer had suggested to him, it occurred
to him to try to familiarise himself with the habits and thoughts of the
poor by going and living among them.  I think he got this notion from
Kingsley's "Alton Locke," which, High Churchman though he for the nonce
was, he had devoured as he had devoured Stanley's Life of Arnold,
Dickens's novels, and whatever other literary garbage of the day was most
likely to do him harm; at any rate he actually put his scheme into
practice, and took lodgings in Ashpit Place, a small street in the
neighbourhood of Drury Lane Theatre, in a house of which the landlady was
the widow of a cabman.

This lady occupied the whole ground floor.  In the front kitchen there
was a tinker.  The back kitchen was let to a bellows-mender.  On the
first floor came Ernest, with his two rooms which he furnished
comfortably, for one must draw the line somewhere.  The two upper floors
were parcelled out among four different sets of lodgers: there was a
tailor named Holt, a drunken fellow who used to beat his wife at night
till her screams woke the house; above him there was another tailor with
a wife but no children; these people were Wesleyans, given to drink but
not noisy.  The two back rooms were held by single ladies, who it seemed
to Ernest must be respectably connected, for well-dressed gentlemanly-
looking young men used to go up and down stairs past Ernest's rooms to
call at any rate on Miss Snow--Ernest had heard her door slam after they
had passed.  He thought, too, that some of them went up to Miss
Maitland's.  Mrs Jupp, the landlady, told Ernest that these were brothers
and cousins of Miss Snow's, and that she was herself looking out for a
situation as a governess, but at present had an engagement as an actress
at the Drury Lane Theatre.  Ernest asked whether Miss Maitland in the top
back was also looking out for a situation, and was told she was wanting
an engagement as a milliner.  He believed whatever Mrs Jupp told him.




CHAPTER LIV


This move on Ernest's part was variously commented upon by his friends,
the general opinion being that it was just like Pontifex, who was sure to
do something unusual wherever he went, but that on the whole the idea was
commendable.  Christina could not restrain herself when on sounding her
clerical neighbours she found them inclined to applaud her son for
conduct which they idealised into something much more self-denying than
it really was.  She did not quite like his living in such an
unaristocratic neighbourhood; but what he was doing would probably get
into the newspapers, and then great people would take notice of him.
Besides, it would be very cheap; down among these poor people he could
live for next to nothing, and might put by a great deal of his income.  As
for temptations, there could be few or none in such a place as that.  This
argument about cheapness was the one with which she most successfully met
Theobald, who grumbled more _suo_ that he had no sympathy with his son's
extravagance and conceit.  When Christina pointed out to him that it
would be cheap he replied that there was something in that.

On Ernest himself the effect was to confirm the good opinion of himself
which had been growing upon him ever since he had begun to read for
orders, and to make him flatter himself that he was among the few who
were ready to give up _all_ for Christ.  Ere long he began to conceive of
himself as a man with a mission and a great future.  His lightest and
most hastily formed opinions began to be of momentous importance to him,
and he inflicted them, as I have already shown, on his old friends, week
by week becoming more and more _entete_ with himself and his own
crotchets.  I should like well enough to draw a veil over this part of my
hero's career, but cannot do so without marring my story.

In the spring of 1859 I find him writing--

   "I cannot call the visible Church Christian till its fruits are
   Christian, that is until the fruits of the members of the Church of
   England are in conformity, or something like conformity, with her
   teaching.  I cordially agree with the teaching of the Church of
   England in most respects, but she says one thing and does another, and
   until excommunication--yes, and wholesale excommunication--be resorted
   to, I cannot call her a Christian institution.  I should begin with
   our Rector, and if I found it necessary to follow him up by
   excommunicating the Bishop, I should not flinch even from this.

   "The present London Rectors are hopeless people to deal with.  My own
   is one of the best of them, but the moment Pryer and I show signs of
   wanting to attack an evil in a way not recognised by routine, or of
   remedying anything about which no outcry has been made, we are met
   with, 'I cannot think what you mean by all this disturbance; nobody
   else among the clergy sees these things, and I have no wish to be the
   first to begin turning everything topsy-turvy.'  And then people call
   him a sensible man.  I have no patience with them.  However, we know
   what we want, and, as I wrote to Dawson the other day, have a scheme
   on foot which will, I think, fairly meet the requirements of the case.
   But we want more money, and my first move towards getting this has not
   turned out quite so satisfactorily as Pryer and I had hoped; we shall,
   however, I doubt not, retrieve it shortly."

When Ernest came to London he intended doing a good deal of
house-to-house visiting, but Pryer had talked him out of this even before
he settled down in his new and strangely-chosen apartments.  The line he
now took was that if people wanted Christ, they must prove their want by
taking some little trouble, and the trouble required of them was that
they should come and seek him, Ernest, out; there he was in the midst of
them ready to teach; if people did not choose to come to him it was no
fault of his.

"My great business here," he writes again to Dawson, "is to observe.  I
am not doing much in parish work beyond my share of the daily services.  I
have a man's Bible Class, and a boy's Bible Class, and a good many young
men and boys to whom I give instruction one way or another; then there
are the Sunday School children, with whom I fill my room on a Sunday
evening as full as it will hold, and let them sing hymns and chants.  They
like this.  I do a great deal of reading--chiefly of books which Pryer
and I think most likely to help; we find nothing comparable to the
Jesuits.  Pryer is a thorough gentleman, and an admirable man of
business--no less observant of the things of this world, in fact, than of
the things above; by a brilliant coup he has retrieved, or nearly so, a
rather serious loss which threatened to delay indefinitely the execution
of our great scheme.  He and I daily gather fresh principles.  I believe
great things are before me, and am strong in the hope of being able by
and by to effect much.

"As for you I bid you God speed.  Be bold but logical, speculative but
cautious, daringly courageous, but properly circumspect withal," etc.,
etc.

I think this may do for the present.




CHAPTER LV


I had called on Ernest as a matter of course when he first came to
London, but had not seen him.  I had been out when he returned my call,
so that he had been in town for some weeks before I actually saw him,
which I did not very long after he had taken possession of his new rooms.
I liked his face, but except for the common bond of music, in respect of
which our tastes were singularly alike, I should hardly have known how to
get on with him.  To do him justice he did not air any of his schemes to
me until I had drawn him out concerning them.  I, to borrow the words of
Ernest's landlady, Mrs Jupp, "am not a very regular church-goer"--I
discovered upon cross-examination that Mrs Jupp had been to church once
when she was churched for her son Tom some five and twenty years since,
but never either before or afterwards; not even, I fear, to be married,
for though she called herself "Mrs" she wore no wedding ring, and spoke
of the person who should have been Mr Jupp as "my poor dear boy's
father," not as "my husband."  But to return.  I was vexed at Ernest's
having been ordained.  I was not ordained myself and I did not like my
friends to be ordained, nor did I like having to be on my best behaviour
and to look as if butter would not melt in my mouth, and all for a boy
whom I remembered when he knew yesterday and to-morrow and Tuesday, but
not a day of the week more--not even Sunday itself--and when he said he
did not like the kitten because it had pins in its toes.

I looked at him and thought of his aunt Alethea, and how fast the money
she had left him was accumulating; and it was all to go to this young
man, who would use it probably in the very last ways with which Miss
Pontifex would have sympathised.  I was annoyed.  "She always said," I
thought to myself, "that she should make a mess of it, but I did not
think she would have made as great a mess of it as this."  Then I thought
that perhaps if his aunt had lived he would not have been like this.

Ernest behaved quite nicely to me and I own that the fault was mine if
the conversation drew towards dangerous subjects.  I was the aggressor,
presuming I suppose upon my age and long acquaintance with him, as giving
me a right to make myself unpleasant in a quiet way.

Then he came out, and the exasperating part of it was that up to a
certain point he was so very right.  Grant him his premises and his
conclusions were sound enough, nor could I, seeing that he was already
ordained, join issue with him about his premises as I should certainly
have done if I had had a chance of doing so before he had taken orders.
The result was that I had to beat a retreat and went away not in the best
of humours.  I believe the truth was that I liked Ernest, and was vexed
at his being a clergyman, and at a clergyman having so much money coming
to him.

I talked a little with Mrs Jupp on my way out.  She and I had reckoned
one another up at first sight as being neither of us "very regular church-
goers," and the strings of her tongue had been loosened.  She said Ernest
would die.  He was much too good for the world and he looked so sad "just
like young Watkins of the 'Crown' over the way who died a month ago, and
his poor dear skin was white as alablaster; least-ways they say he shot
hisself.  They took him from the Mortimer, I met them just as I was going
with my Rose to get a pint o' four ale, and she had her arm in splints.
She told her sister she wanted to go to Perry's to get some wool, instead
o' which it was only a stall to get me a pint o' ale, bless her heart;
there's nobody else would do that much for poor old Jupp, and it's a
horrid lie to say she is gay; not but what I like a gay woman, I do: I'd
rather give a gay woman half-a-crown than stand a modest woman a pot o'
beer, but I don't want to go associating with bad girls for all that.  So
they took him from the Mortimer; they wouldn't let him go home no more;
and he done it that artful you know.  His wife was in the country living
with her mother, and she always spoke respectful o' my Rose.  Poor dear,
I hope his soul is in Heaven.  Well Sir, would you believe it, there's
that in Mr Pontifex's face which is just like young Watkins; he looks
that worrited and scrunched up at times, but it's never for the same
reason, for he don't know nothing at all, no more than a unborn babe, no
he don't; why there's not a monkey going about London with an Italian
organ grinder but knows more than Mr Pontifex do.  He don't know--well I
suppose--"

Here a child came in on an errand from some neighbour and interrupted
her, or I can form no idea where or when she would have ended her
discourse.  I seized the opportunity to run away, but not before I had
given her five shillings and made her write down my address, for I was a
little frightened by what she said.  I told her if she thought her lodger
grew worse, she was to come and let me know.

Weeks went by and I did not see her again.  Having done as much as I had,
I felt absolved from doing more, and let Ernest alone as thinking that he
and I should only bore one another.

He had now been ordained a little over four months, but these months had
not brought happiness or satisfaction with them.  He had lived in a
clergyman's house all his life, and might have been expected perhaps to
have known pretty much what being a clergyman was like, and so he did--a
country clergyman; he had formed an ideal, however, as regards what a
town clergyman could do, and was trying in a feeble tentative way to
realise it, but somehow or other it always managed to escape him.

He lived among the poor, but he did not find that he got to know them.
The idea that they would come to him proved to be a mistaken one.  He did
indeed visit a few tame pets whom his rector desired him to look after.
There was an old man and his wife who lived next door but one to Ernest
himself; then there was a plumber of the name of Chesterfield; an aged
lady of the name of Gover, blind and bed-ridden, who munched and munched
her feeble old toothless jaws as Ernest spoke or read to her, but who
could do little more; a Mr Brookes, a rag and bottle merchant in
Birdsey's Rents in the last stage of dropsy, and perhaps half a dozen or
so others.  What did it all come to, when he did go to see them?  The
plumber wanted to be flattered, and liked fooling a gentleman into
wasting his time by scratching his ears for him.  Mrs Gover, poor old
woman, wanted money; she was very good and meek, and when Ernest got her
a shilling from Lady Anne Jones's bequest, she said it was "small but
seasonable," and munched and munched in gratitude.  Ernest sometimes gave
her a little money himself, but not, as he says now, half what he ought
to have given.

What could he do else that would have been of the smallest use to her?
Nothing indeed; but giving occasional half-crowns to Mrs Gover was not
regenerating the universe, and Ernest wanted nothing short of this.  The
world was all out of joint, and instead of feeling it to be a cursed
spite that he was born to set it right, he thought he was just the kind
of person that was wanted for the job, and was eager to set to work, only
he did not exactly know how to begin, for the beginning he had made with
Mr Chesterfield and Mrs Gover did not promise great developments.

Then poor Mr Brookes--he suffered very much, terribly indeed; he was not
in want of money; he wanted to die and couldn't, just as we sometimes
want to go to sleep and cannot.  He had been a serious-minded man, and
death frightened him as it must frighten anyone who believes that all his
most secret thoughts will be shortly exposed in public.  When I read
Ernest the description of how his father used to visit Mrs Thompson at
Battersby, he coloured and said--"that's just what I used to say to Mr
Brookes."  Ernest felt that his visits, so far from comforting Mr
Brookes, made him fear death more and more, but how could he help it?

Even Pryer, who had been curate a couple of years, did not know
personally more than a couple of hundred people in the parish at the
outside, and it was only at the houses of very few of these that he ever
visited, but then Pryer had such a strong objection on principle to house
visitations.  What a drop in the sea were those with whom he and Pryer
were brought into direct communication in comparison with those whom he
must reach and move if he were to produce much effect of any kind, one
way or the other.  Why there were between fifteen and twenty thousand
poor in the parish, of whom but the merest fraction ever attended a place
of worship.  Some few went to dissenting chapels, a few were Roman
Catholics; by far the greater number, however, were practically infidels,
if not actively hostile, at any rate indifferent to religion, while many
were avowed Atheists--admirers of Tom Paine, of whom he now heard for the
first time; but he never met and conversed with any of these.

Was he really doing everything that could be expected of him?  It was all
very well to say that he was doing as much as other young clergymen did;
that was not the kind of answer which Jesus Christ was likely to accept;
why, the Pharisees themselves in all probability did as much as the other
Pharisees did.  What he should do was to go into the highways and byways,
and compel people to come in.  Was he doing this?   Or were not they
rather compelling him to keep out--outside their doors at any rate?  He
began to have an uneasy feeling as though ere long, unless he kept a
sharp look out, he should drift into being a sham.

True, all would be changed as soon as he could endow the College for
Spiritual Pathology; matters, however, had not gone too well with "the
things that people bought in the place that was called the Stock
Exchange."  In order to get on faster, it had been arranged that Ernest
should buy more of these things than he could pay for, with the idea that
in a few weeks, or even days, they would be much higher in value, and he
could sell them at a tremendous profit; but, unfortunately, instead of
getting higher, they had fallen immediately after Ernest had bought, and
obstinately refused to get up again; so, after a few settlements, he had
got frightened, for he read an article in some newspaper, which said they
would go ever so much lower, and, contrary to Pryer's advice, he insisted
on selling--at a loss of something like 500 pounds.  He had hardly sold
when up went the shares again, and he saw how foolish he had been, and
how wise Pryer was, for if Pryer's advice had been followed, he would
have made 500 pounds, instead of losing it.  However, he told himself he
must live and learn.

Then Pryer made a mistake.  They had bought some shares, and the shares
went up delightfully for about a fortnight.  This was a happy time
indeed, for by the end of a fortnight, the lost 500 pounds had been
recovered, and three or four hundred pounds had been cleared into the
bargain.  All the feverish anxiety of that miserable six weeks, when the
500 pounds was being lost, was now being repaid with interest.  Ernest
wanted to sell and make sure of the profit, but Pryer would not hear of
it; they would go ever so much higher yet, and he showed Ernest an
article in some newspaper which proved that what he said was reasonable,
and they did go up a little--but only a very little, for then they went
down, down, and Ernest saw first his clear profit of three or four
hundred pounds go, and then the 500 pounds loss, which he thought he had
recovered, slipped away by falls of a half and one at a time, and then he
lost 200 pounds more.  Then a newspaper said that these shares were the
greatest rubbish that had ever been imposed upon the English public, and
Ernest could stand it no longer, so he sold out, again this time against
Pryer's advice, so that when they went up, as they shortly did, Pryer
scored off Ernest a second time.

Ernest was not used to vicissitudes of this kind, and they made him so
anxious that his health was affected.  It was arranged therefore that he
had better know nothing of what was being done.  Pryer was a much better
man of business than he was, and would see to it all.  This relieved
Ernest of a good deal of trouble, and was better after all for the
investments themselves; for, as Pryer justly said, a man must not have a
faint heart if he hopes to succeed in buying and selling upon the Stock
Exchange, and seeing Ernest nervous made Pryer nervous too--at least, he
said it did.  So the money drifted more and more into Pryer's hands.  As
for Pryer himself, he had nothing but his curacy and a small allowance
from his father.

Some of Ernest's old friends got an inkling from his letters of what he
was doing, and did their utmost to dissuade him, but he was as infatuated
as a young lover of two and twenty.  Finding that these friends
disapproved, he dropped away from them, and they, being bored with his
egotism and high-flown ideas, were not sorry to let him do so.  Of
course, he said nothing about his speculations--indeed, he hardly knew
that anything done in so good a cause could be called speculation.  At
Battersby, when his father urged him to look out for a next presentation,
and even brought one or two promising ones under his notice, he made
objections and excuses, though always promising to do as his father
desired very shortly.




CHAPTER LVI


By and by a subtle, indefinable _malaise_ began to take possession of
him.  I once saw a very young foal trying to eat some most objectionable
refuse, and unable to make up its mind whether it was good or no.  Clearly
it wanted to be told.  If its mother had seen what it was doing she would
have set it right in a moment, and as soon as ever it had been told that
what it was eating was filth, the foal would have recognised it and never
have wanted to be told again; but the foal could not settle the matter
for itself, or make up its mind whether it liked what it was trying to
eat or no, without assistance from without.  I suppose it would have come
to do so by and by, but it was wasting time and trouble, which a single
look from its mother would have saved, just as wort will in time ferment
of itself, but will ferment much more quickly if a little yeast be added
to it.  In the matter of knowing what gives us pleasure we are all like
wort, and if unaided from without can only ferment slowly and toilsomely.

My unhappy hero about this time was very much like the foal, or rather he
felt much what the foal would have felt if its mother and all the other
grown-up horses in the field had vowed that what it was eating was the
most excellent and nutritious food to be found anywhere.  He was so
anxious to do what was right, and so ready to believe that every one knew
better than himself, that he never ventured to admit to himself that he
might be all the while on a hopelessly wrong tack.  It did not occur to
him that there might be a blunder anywhere, much less did it occur to him
to try and find out where the blunder was.  Nevertheless he became daily
more full of _malaise_, and daily, only he knew it not, more ripe for an
explosion should a spark fall upon him.

One thing, however, did begin to loom out of the general vagueness, and
to this he instinctively turned as trying to seize it--I mean, the fact
that he was saving very few souls, whereas there were thousands and
thousands being lost hourly all around him which a little energy such as
Mr Hawke's might save.  Day after day went by, and what was he doing?
Standing on professional _etiquette_, and praying that his shares might
go up and down as he wanted them, so that they might give him money
enough to enable him to regenerate the universe.  But in the meantime the
people were dying.  How many souls would not be doomed to endless ages of
the most frightful torments that the mind could think of, before he could
bring his spiritual pathology engine to bear upon them?  Why might he not
stand and preach as he saw the Dissenters doing sometimes in Lincoln's
Inn Fields and other thoroughfares?  He could say all that Mr Hawke had
said.  Mr Hawke was a very poor creature in Ernest's eyes now, for he was
a Low Churchman, but we should not be above learning from any one, and
surely he could affect his hearers as powerfully as Mr Hawke had affected
him if he only had the courage to set to work.  The people whom he saw
preaching in the squares sometimes drew large audiences.  He could at any
rate preach better than they.

Ernest broached this to Pryer, who treated it as something too outrageous
to be even thought of.  Nothing, he said, could more tend to lower the
dignity of the clergy and bring the Church into contempt.  His manner was
brusque, and even rude.

Ernest ventured a little mild dissent; he admitted it was not usual, but
something at any rate must be done, and that quickly.  This was how
Wesley and Whitfield had begun that great movement which had kindled
religious life in the minds of hundreds of thousands.  This was no time
to be standing on dignity.  It was just because Wesley and Whitfield had
done what the Church would not that they had won men to follow them whom
the Church had now lost.

Pryer eyed Ernest searchingly, and after a pause said, "I don't know what
to make of you, Pontifex; you are at once so very right and so very
wrong.  I agree with you heartily that something should be done, but it
must not be done in a way which experience has shown leads to nothing but
fanaticism and dissent.  Do you approve of these Wesleyans?  Do you hold
your ordination vows so cheaply as to think that it does not matter
whether the services of the Church are performed in her churches and with
all due ceremony or not?  If you do--then, frankly, you had no business
to be ordained; if you do not, then remember that one of the first duties
of a young deacon is obedience to authority.  Neither the Catholic
Church, nor yet the Church of England allows her clergy to preach in the
streets of cities where there is no lack of churches."

Ernest felt the force of this, and Pryer saw that he wavered.

"We are living," he continued more genially, "in an age of transition,
and in a country which, though it has gained much by the Reformation,
does not perceive how much it has also lost.  You cannot and must not
hawk Christ about in the streets as though you were in a heathen country
whose inhabitants had never heard of him.  The people here in London have
had ample warning.  Every church they pass is a protest to them against
their lives, and a call to them to repent.  Every church-bell they hear
is a witness against them, everyone of those whom they meet on Sundays
going to or coming from church is a warning voice from God.  If these
countless influences produce no effect upon them, neither will the few
transient words which they would hear from you.  You are like Dives, and
think that if one rose from the dead they would hear him.  Perhaps they
might; but then you cannot pretend that you have risen from the dead."

Though the last few words were spoken laughingly, there was a sub-sneer
about them which made Ernest wince; but he was quite subdued, and so the
conversation ended.  It left Ernest, however, not for the first time,
consciously dissatisfied with Pryer, and inclined to set his friend's
opinion on one side--not openly, but quietly, and without telling Pryer
anything about it.




CHAPTER LVII


He had hardly parted from Pryer before there occurred another incident
which strengthened his discontent.  He had fallen, as I have shown, among
a gang of spiritual thieves or coiners, who passed the basest metal upon
him without his finding it out, so childish and inexperienced was he in
the ways of anything but those back eddies of the world, schools and
universities.  Among the bad threepenny pieces which had been passed off
upon him, and which he kept for small hourly disbursement, was a remark
that poor people were much nicer than the richer and better educated.
Ernest now said that he always travelled third class not because it was
cheaper, but because the people whom he met in third class carriages were
so much pleasanter and better behaved.  As for the young men who attended
Ernest's evening classes, they were pronounced to be more intelligent and
better ordered generally than the average run of Oxford and Cambridge
men.  Our foolish young friend having heard Pryer talk to this effect,
caught up all he said and reproduced it _more suo_.

One evening, however, about this time, whom should he see coming along a
small street not far from his own but, of all persons in the world,
Towneley, looking as full of life and good spirits as ever, and if
possible even handsomer than he had been at Cambridge.  Much as Ernest
liked him he found himself shrinking from speaking to him, and was
endeavouring to pass him without doing so when Towneley saw him and
stopped him at once, being pleased to see an old Cambridge face.  He
seemed for the moment a little confused at being seen in such a
neighbourhood, but recovered himself so soon that Ernest hardly noticed
it, and then plunged into a few kindly remarks about old times.  Ernest
felt that he quailed as he saw Towneley's eye wander to his white necktie
and saw that he was being reckoned up, and rather disapprovingly reckoned
up, as a parson.  It was the merest passing shade upon Towneley's face,
but Ernest had felt it.

Towneley said a few words of common form to Ernest about his profession
as being what he thought would be most likely to interest him, and
Ernest, still confused and shy, gave him for lack of something better to
say his little threepenny-bit about poor people being so very nice.
Towneley took this for what it was worth and nodded assent, whereon
Ernest imprudently went further and said "Don't you like poor people very
much yourself?"

Towneley gave his face a comical but good-natured screw, and said
quietly, but slowly and decidedly, "No, no, no," and escaped.

It was all over with Ernest from that moment.  As usual he did not know
it, but he had entered none the less upon another reaction.  Towneley had
just taken Ernest's threepenny-bit into his hands, looked at it and
returned it to him as a bad one.  Why did he see in a moment that it was
a bad one now, though he had been unable to see it when he had taken it
from Pryer?  Of course some poor people were very nice, and always would
be so, but as though scales had fallen suddenly from his eyes he saw that
no one was nicer for being poor, and that between the upper and lower
classes there was a gulf which amounted practically to an impassable
barrier.

That evening he reflected a good deal.  If Towneley was right, and Ernest
felt that the "No" had applied not to the remark about poor people only,
but to the whole scheme and scope of his own recently adopted ideas, he
and Pryer must surely be on a wrong track.  Towneley had not argued with
him; he had said one word only, and that one of the shortest in the
language, but Ernest was in a fit state for inoculation, and the minute
particle of virus set about working immediately.

Which did he now think was most likely to have taken the juster view of
life and things, and whom would it be best to imitate, Towneley or Pryer?
His heart returned answer to itself without a moment's hesitation.  The
faces of men like Towneley were open and kindly; they looked as if at
ease themselves, and as though they would set all who had to do with them
at ease as far as might be.  The faces of Pryer and his friends were not
like this.  Why had he felt tacitly rebuked as soon as he had met
Towneley?  Was he not a Christian?  Certainly; he believed in the Church
of England as a matter of course.  Then how could he be himself wrong in
trying to act up to the faith that he and Towneley held in common?  He
was trying to lead a quiet, unobtrusive life of self-devotion, whereas
Towneley was not, so far as he could see, trying to do anything of the
kind; he was only trying to get on comfortably in the world, and to look
and be as nice as possible.  And he was nice, and Ernest knew that such
men as himself and Pryer were not nice, and his old dejection came over
him.

Then came an even worse reflection; how if he had fallen among material
thieves as well as spiritual ones?  He knew very little of how his money
was going on; he had put it all now into Pryer's hands, and though Pryer
gave him cash to spend whenever he wanted it, he seemed impatient of
being questioned as to what was being done with the principal.  It was
part of the understanding, he said, that that was to be left to him, and
Ernest had better stick to this, or he, Pryer, would throw up the College
of Spiritual Pathology altogether; and so Ernest was cowed into
acquiescence, or cajoled, according to the humour in which Pryer saw him
to be.  Ernest thought that further questions would look as if he doubted
Pryer's word, and also that he had gone too far to be able to recede in
decency or honour.  This, however, he felt was riding out to meet trouble
unnecessarily.  Pryer had been a little impatient, but he was a gentleman
and an admirable man of business, so his money would doubtless come back
to him all right some day.

Ernest comforted himself as regards this last source of anxiety, but as
regards the other, he began to feel as though, if he was to be saved, a
good Samaritan must hurry up from somewhere--he knew not whence.




CHAPTER LVIII


Next day he felt stronger again.  He had been listening to the voice of
the evil one on the night before, and would parley no more with such
thoughts.  He had chosen his profession, and his duty was to persevere
with it.  If he was unhappy it was probably because he was not giving up
all for Christ.  Let him see whether he could not do more than he was
doing now, and then perhaps a light would be shed upon his path.

It was all very well to have made the discovery that he didn't very much
like poor people, but he had got to put up with them, for it was among
them that his work must lie.  Such men as Towneley were very kind and
considerate, but he knew well enough it was only on condition that he did
not preach to them.  He could manage the poor better, and, let Pryer
sneer as he liked, he was resolved to go more among them, and try the
effect of bringing Christ to them if they would not come and seek Christ
of themselves.  He would begin with his own house.

Who then should he take first?  Surely he could not do better than begin
with the tailor who lived immediately over his head.  This would be
desirable, not only because he was the one who seemed to stand most in
need of conversion, but also because, if he were once converted, he would
no longer beat his wife at two o'clock in the morning, and the house
would be much pleasanter in consequence.  He would therefore go upstairs
at once, and have a quiet talk with this man.

Before doing so, he thought it would be well if he were to draw up
something like a plan of a campaign; he therefore reflected over some
pretty conversations which would do very nicely if Mr Holt would be kind
enough to make the answers proposed for him in their proper places.  But
the man was a great hulking fellow, of a savage temper, and Ernest was
forced to admit that unforeseen developments might arise to disconcert
him.  They say it takes nine tailors to make a man, but Ernest felt that
it would take at least nine Ernests to make a Mr Holt.  How if, as soon
as Ernest came in, the tailor were to become violent and abusive?  What
could he do?  Mr Holt was in his own lodgings, and had a right to be
undisturbed.  A legal right, yes, but had he a moral right?  Ernest
thought not, considering his mode of life.  But put this on one side; if
the man were to be violent, what should he do?  Paul had fought with wild
beasts at Ephesus--that must indeed have been awful--but perhaps they
were not very wild wild beasts; a rabbit and a canary are wild beasts;
but, formidable or not as wild beasts go, they would, nevertheless stand
no chance against St Paul, for he was inspired; the miracle would have
been if the wild beasts escaped, not that St Paul should have done so;
but, however all this might be, Ernest felt that he dared not begin to
convert Mr Holt by fighting him.  Why, when he had heard Mrs Holt
screaming "murder," he had cowered under the bed clothes and waited,
expecting to hear the blood dripping through the ceiling on to his own
floor.  His imagination translated every sound into a pat, pat, pat, and
once or twice he thought he had felt it dropping on to his counterpane,
but he had never gone upstairs to try and rescue poor Mrs Holt.  Happily
it had proved next morning that Mrs Holt was in her usual health.

Ernest was in despair about hitting on any good way of opening up
spiritual communication with his neighbour, when it occurred to him that
he had better perhaps begin by going upstairs, and knocking very gently
at Mr Holt's door.  He would then resign himself to the guidance of the
Holy Spirit, and act as the occasion, which, I suppose, was another name
for the Holy Spirit, suggested.  Triply armed with this reflection, he
mounted the stairs quite jauntily, and was about to knock when he heard
Holt's voice inside swearing savagely at his wife.  This made him pause
to think whether after all the moment was an auspicious one, and while he
was thus pausing, Mr Holt, who had heard that someone was on the stairs,
opened the door and put his head out.  When he saw Ernest, he made an
unpleasant, not to say offensive movement, which might or might not have
been directed at Ernest and looked altogether so ugly that my hero had an
instantaneous and unequivocal revelation from the Holy Spirit to the
effect that he should continue his journey upstairs at once, as though he
had never intended arresting it at Mr Holt's room, and begin by
converting Mr and Mrs Baxter, the Methodists in the top floor front.  So
this was what he did.

These good people received him with open arms, and were quite ready to
talk.  He was beginning to convert them from Methodism to the Church of
England, when all at once he found himself embarrassed by discovering
that he did not know what he was to convert them from.  He knew the
Church of England, or thought he did, but he knew nothing of Methodism
beyond its name.  When he found that, according to Mr Baxter, the
Wesleyans had a vigorous system of Church discipline (which worked
admirably in practice) it appeared to him that John Wesley had
anticipated the spiritual engine which he and Pryer were preparing, and
when he left the room he was aware that he had caught more of a spiritual
Tartar than he had expected.  But he must certainly explain to Pryer that
the Wesleyans had a system of Church discipline.  This was very
important.

Mr Baxter advised Ernest on no account to meddle with Mr Holt, and Ernest
was much relieved at the advice.  If an opportunity arose of touching the
man's heart, he would take it; he would pat the children on the head when
he saw them on the stairs, and ingratiate himself with them as far as he
dared; they were sturdy youngsters, and Ernest was afraid even of them,
for they were ready with their tongues, and knew much for their ages.
Ernest felt that it would indeed be almost better for him that a
millstone should be hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than
that he should offend one of the little Holts.  However, he would try not
to offend them; perhaps an occasional penny or two might square them.
This was as much as he could do, for he saw that the attempt to be
instant out of season, as well as in season, would, St Paul's injunction
notwithstanding, end in failure.

Mrs Baxter gave a very bad account of Miss Emily Snow, who lodged in the
second floor back next to Mr Holt.  Her story was quite different from
that of Mrs Jupp the landlady.  She would doubtless be only too glad to
receive Ernest's ministrations or those of any other gentleman, but she
was no governess, she was in the ballet at Drury Lane, and besides this,
she was a very bad young woman, and if Mrs Baxter was landlady would not
be allowed to stay in the house a single hour, not she indeed.

Miss Maitland in the next room to Mrs Baxter's own was a quiet and
respectable young woman to all appearance; Mrs Baxter had never known of
any goings on in that quarter, but, bless you, still waters run deep, and
these girls were all alike, one as bad as the other.  She was out at all
kinds of hours, and when you knew that you knew all.

Ernest did not pay much heed to these aspersions of Mrs Baxter's.  Mrs
Jupp had got round the greater number of his many blind sides, and had
warned him not to believe Mrs Baxter, whose lip she said was something
awful.

Ernest had heard that women were always jealous of one another, and
certainly these young women were more attractive than Mrs Baxter was, so
jealousy was probably at the bottom of it.  If they were maligned there
could be no objection to his making their acquaintance; if not maligned
they had all the more need of his ministrations.  He would reclaim them
at once.

He told Mrs Jupp of his intention.  Mrs Jupp at first tried to dissuade
him, but seeing him resolute, suggested that she should herself see Miss
Snow first, so as to prepare her and prevent her from being alarmed by
his visit.  She was not at home now, but in the course of the next day,
it should be arranged.  In the meantime he had better try Mr Shaw, the
tinker, in the front kitchen.  Mrs Baxter had told Ernest that Mr Shaw
was from the North Country, and an avowed freethinker; he would probably,
she said, rather like a visit, but she did not think Ernest would stand
much chance of making a convert of him.




CHAPTER LIX


Before going down into the kitchen to convert the tinker Ernest ran
hurriedly over his analysis of Paley's evidences, and put into his pocket
a copy of Archbishop Whateley's "Historic Doubts."  Then he descended the
dark rotten old stairs and knocked at the tinker's door.  Mr Shaw was
very civil; he said he was rather throng just now, but if Ernest did not
mind the sound of hammering he should be very glad of a talk with him.
Our hero, assenting to this, ere long led the conversation to Whateley's
"Historic Doubts"--a work which, as the reader may know, pretends to show
that there never was any such person as Napoleon Buonaparte, and thus
satirises the arguments of those who have attacked the Christian
miracles.

Mr Shaw said he knew "Historic Doubts" very well.

"And what you think of it?" said Ernest, who regarded the pamphlet as a
masterpiece of wit and cogency.

"If you really want to know," said Mr Shaw, with a sly twinkle, "I think
that he who was so willing and able to prove that what was was not, would
be equally able and willing to make a case for thinking that what was not
was, if it suited his purpose."  Ernest was very much taken aback.  How
was it that all the clever people of Cambridge had never put him up to
this simple rejoinder?  The answer is easy: they did not develop it for
the same reason that a hen had never developed webbed feet--that is to
say, because they did not want to do so; but this was before the days of
Evolution, and Ernest could not as yet know anything of the great
principle that underlies it.

"You see," continued Mr Shaw, "these writers all get their living by
writing in a certain way, and the more they write in that way, the more
they are likely to get on.  You should not call them dishonest for this
any more than a judge should call a barrister dishonest for earning his
living by defending one in whose innocence he does not seriously believe;
but you should hear the barrister on the other side before you decide
upon the case."

This was another facer.  Ernest could only stammer that he had
endeavoured to examine these questions as carefully as he could.

"You think you have," said Mr Shaw; "you Oxford and Cambridge gentlemen
think you have examined everything.  I have examined very little myself
except the bottoms of old kettles and saucepans, but if you will answer
me a few questions, I will tell you whether or no you have examined much
more than I have."

Ernest expressed his readiness to be questioned.

"Then," said the tinker, "give me the story of the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ as told in St John's gospel."

I am sorry to say that Ernest mixed up the four accounts in a deplorable
manner; he even made the angel come down and roll away the stone and sit
upon it.  He was covered with confusion when the tinker first told him
without the book of some of his many inaccuracies, and then verified his
criticisms by referring to the New Testament itself.

"Now," said Mr Shaw good naturedly, "I am an old man and you are a young
one, so perhaps you'll not mind my giving you a piece of advice.  I like
you, for I believe you mean well, but you've been real bad brought up,
and I don't think you have ever had so much as a chance yet.  You know
nothing of our side of the question, and I have just shown you that you
do not know much more of your own, but I think you will make a kind of
Carlyle sort of a man some day.  Now go upstairs and read the accounts of
the Resurrection correctly without mixing them up, and have a clear idea
of what it is that each writer tells us, then if you feel inclined to pay
me another visit I shall be glad to see you, for I shall know you have
made a good beginning and mean business.  Till then, Sir, I must wish you
a very good morning."

Ernest retreated abashed.  An hour sufficed him to perform the task
enjoined upon him by Mr Shaw; and at the end of that hour the "No, no,
no," which still sounded in his ears as he heard it from Towneley, came
ringing up more loudly still from the very pages of the Bible itself, and
in respect of the most important of all the events which are recorded in
it.  Surely Ernest's first day's attempt at more promiscuous visiting,
and at carrying out his principles more thoroughly, had not been
unfruitful.  But he must go and have a talk with Pryer.  He therefore got
his lunch and went to Pryer's lodgings.  Pryer not being at home, he
lounged to the British Museum Reading Room, then recently opened, sent
for the "Vestiges of Creation," which he had never yet seen, and spent
the rest of the afternoon in reading it.

Ernest did not see Pryer on the day of his conversation with Mr Shaw, but
he did so next morning and found him in a good temper, which of late he
had rarely been.  Sometimes, indeed, he had behaved to Ernest in a way
which did not bode well for the harmony with which the College of
Spiritual Pathology would work when it had once been founded.  It almost
seemed as though he were trying to get a complete moral ascendency over
him, so as to make him a creature of his own.

He did not think it possible that he could go too far, and indeed, when I
reflect upon my hero's folly and inexperience, there is much to be said
in excuse for the conclusion which Pryer came to.

As a matter of fact, however, it was not so.  Ernest's faith in Pryer had
been too great to be shaken down all in a moment, but it had been
weakened lately more than once.  Ernest had fought hard against allowing
himself to see this, nevertheless any third person who knew the pair
would have been able to see that the connection between the two might end
at any moment, for when the time for one of Ernest's snipe-like changes
of flight came, he was quick in making it; the time, however, was not yet
come, and the intimacy between the two was apparently all that it had
ever been.  It was only that horrid money business (so said Ernest to
himself) that caused any unpleasantness between them, and no doubt Pryer
was right, and he, Ernest, much too nervous.  However, that might stand
over for the present.

In like manner, though he had received a shock by reason of his
conversation with Mr Shaw, and by looking at the "Vestiges," he was as
yet too much stunned to realise the change which was coming over him.  In
each case the momentum of old habits carried him forward in the old
direction.  He therefore called on Pryer, and spent an hour and more with
him.

He did not say that he had been visiting among his neighbours; this to
Pryer would have been like a red rag to a bull.  He only talked in much
his usual vein about the proposed College, the lamentable want of
interest in spiritual things which was characteristic of modern society,
and other kindred matters; he concluded by saying that for the present he
feared Pryer was indeed right, and that nothing could be done.

"As regards the laity," said Pryer, "nothing; not until we have a
discipline which we can enforce with pains and penalties.  How can a
sheep dog work a flock of sheep unless he can bite occasionally as well
as bark?  But as regards ourselves we can do much."

Pryer's manner was strange throughout the conversation, as though he were
thinking all the time of something else.  His eyes wandered curiously
over Ernest, as Ernest had often noticed them wander before: the words
were about Church discipline, but somehow or other the discipline part of
the story had a knack of dropping out after having been again and again
emphatically declared to apply to the laity and not to the clergy: once
indeed Pryer had pettishly exclaimed: "Oh, bother the College of
Spiritual Pathology."  As regards the clergy, glimpses of a pretty large
cloven hoof kept peeping out from under the saintly robe of Pryer's
conversation, to the effect, that so long as they were theoretically
perfect, practical peccadilloes--or even peccadaccios, if there is such a
word, were of less importance.  He was restless, as though wanting to
approach a subject which he did not quite venture to touch upon, and kept
harping (he did this about every third day) on the wretched lack of
definition concerning the limits of vice and virtue, and the way in which
half the vices wanted regulating rather than prohibiting.  He dwelt also
on the advantages of complete unreserve, and hinted that there were
mysteries into which Ernest had not yet been initiated, but which would
enlighten him when he got to know them, as he would be allowed to do when
his friends saw that he was strong enough.

Pryer had often been like this before, but never so nearly, as it seemed
to Ernest, coming to a point--though what the point was he could not
fully understand.  His inquietude was communicating itself to Ernest, who
would probably ere long have come to know as much as Pryer could tell
him, but the conversation was abruptly interrupted by the appearance of a
visitor.  We shall never know how it would have ended, for this was the
very last time that Ernest ever saw Pryer.  Perhaps Pryer was going to
break to him some bad news about his speculations.




CHAPTER LX


Ernest now went home and occupied himself till luncheon with studying
Dean Alford's notes upon the various Evangelistic records of the
Resurrection, doing as Mr Shaw had told him, and trying to find out not
that they were all accurate, but whether they were all accurate or no.  He
did not care which result he should arrive at, but he was resolved that
he would reach one or the other.  When he had finished Dean Alford's
notes he found them come to this, namely, that no one yet had succeeded
in bringing the four accounts into tolerable harmony with each other, and
that the Dean, seeing no chance of succeeding better than his
predecessors had done, recommended that the whole story should be taken
on trust--and this Ernest was not prepared to do.

He got his luncheon, went out for a long walk, and returned to dinner at
half past six.  While Mrs Jupp was getting him his dinner--a steak and a
pint of stout--she told him that Miss Snow would be very happy to see him
in about an hour's time.  This disconcerted him, for his mind was too
unsettled for him to wish to convert anyone just then.  He reflected a
little, and found that, in spite of the sudden shock to his opinions, he
was being irresistibly drawn to pay the visit as though nothing had
happened.  It would not look well for him not to go, for he was known to
be in the house.  He ought not to be in too great a hurry to change his
opinions on such a matter as the evidence for Christ's Resurrection all
of a sudden--besides he need not talk to Miss Snow about this subject to-
day--there were other things he might talk about.  What other things?
Ernest felt his heart beat fast and fiercely, and an inward monitor
warned him that he was thinking of anything rather than of Miss Snow's
soul.

What should he do?  Fly, fly, fly--it was the only safety.  But would
Christ have fled?  Even though Christ had not died and risen from the
dead there could be no question that He was the model whose example we
were bound to follow.  Christ would not have fled from Miss Snow; he was
sure of that, for He went about more especially with prostitutes and
disreputable people.  Now, as then, it was the business of the true
Christian to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.  It would
be inconvenient to him to change his lodgings, and he could not ask Mrs
Jupp to turn Miss Snow and Miss Maitland out of the house.  Where was he
to draw the line?  Who would be just good enough to live in the same
house with him, and who just not good enough?

Besides, where were these poor girls to go?  Was he to drive them from
house to house till they had no place to lie in?  It was absurd; his duty
was clear: he would go and see Miss Snow at once, and try if he could not
induce her to change her present mode of life; if he found temptation
becoming too strong for him he would fly then--so he went upstairs with
his Bible under his arm, and a consuming fire in his heart.

He found Miss Snow looking very pretty in a neatly, not to say demurely,
furnished room.  I think she had bought an illuminated text or two, and
pinned it up over her fireplace that morning.  Ernest was very much
pleased with her, and mechanically placed his Bible upon the table.  He
had just opened a timid conversation and was deep in blushes, when a
hurried step came bounding up the stairs as though of one over whom the
force of gravity had little power, and a man burst into the room saying,
"I'm come before my time."  It was Towneley.

His face dropped as he caught sight of Ernest.  "What, you here,
Pontifex!  Well, upon my word!"

I cannot describe the hurried explanations that passed quickly between
the three--enough that in less than a minute Ernest, blushing more
scarlet than ever, slunk off, Bible and all, deeply humiliated as he
contrasted himself and Towneley.  Before he had reached the bottom of the
staircase leading to his own room he heard Towneley's hearty laugh
through Miss Snow's door, and cursed the hour that he was born.

Then it flashed upon him that if he could not see Miss Snow he could at
any rate see Miss Maitland.  He knew well enough what he wanted now, and
as for the Bible, he pushed it from him to the other end of his table.  It
fell over on to the floor, and he kicked it into a corner.  It was the
Bible given him at his christening by his affectionate aunt, Elizabeth
Allaby.  True, he knew very little of Miss Maitland, but ignorant young
fools in Ernest's state do not reflect or reason closely.  Mrs Baxter had
said that Miss Maitland and Miss Snow were birds of a feather, and Mrs
Baxter probably knew better than that old liar, Mrs Jupp.  Shakespeare
says:

   O Opportunity, thy guilt is great
   'Tis thou that execut'st the traitor's treason:
   Thou set'st the wolf where he the lamb may get;
   Whoever plots the sin, thou 'point'st the season;
   'Tis thou that spurn'st at right, at law, at reason;
   And in thy shady cell, where none may spy him,
   Sits Sin, to seize the souls that wander by him.

If the guilt of opportunity is great, how much greater is the guilt of
that which is believed to be opportunity, but in reality is no
opportunity at all.  If the better part of valour is discretion, how much
more is not discretion the better part of vice

About ten minutes after we last saw Ernest, a scared, insulted girl,
flushed and trembling, was seen hurrying from Mrs Jupp's house as fast as
her agitated state would let her, and in another ten minutes two
policemen were seen also coming out of Mrs Jupp's, between whom there
shambled rather than walked our unhappy friend Ernest, with staring eyes,
ghastly pale, and with despair branded upon every line of his face.




CHAPTER LXI


Pryer had done well to warn Ernest against promiscuous house to house
visitation.  He had not gone outside Mrs Jupp's street door, and yet what
had been the result?

Mr Holt had put him in bodily fear; Mr and Mrs Baxter had nearly made a
Methodist of him; Mr Shaw had undermined his faith in the Resurrection;
Miss Snow's charms had ruined--or would have done so but for an
accident--his moral character.  As for Miss Maitland, he had done his
best to ruin hers, and had damaged himself gravely and irretrievably in
consequence.  The only lodger who had done him no harm was the bellows'
mender, whom he had not visited.

Other young clergymen, much greater fools in many respects than he, would
not have got into these scrapes.  He seemed to have developed an aptitude
for mischief almost from the day of his having been ordained.  He could
hardly preach without making some horrid _faux pas_.  He preached one
Sunday morning when the Bishop was at his Rector's church, and made his
sermon turn upon the question what kind of little cake it was that the
widow of Zarephath had intended making when Elijah found her gathering a
few sticks.  He demonstrated that it was a seed cake.  The sermon was
really very amusing, and more than once he saw a smile pass over the sea
of faces underneath him.  The Bishop was very angry, and gave my hero a
severe reprimand in the vestry after service was over; the only excuse he
could make was that he was preaching _ex tempore_, had not thought of
this particular point till he was actually in the pulpit, and had then
been carried away by it.

Another time he preached upon the barren fig-tree, and described the
hopes of the owner as he watched the delicate blossom unfold, and give
promise of such beautiful fruit in autumn.  Next day he received a letter
from a botanical member of his congregation who explained to him that
this could hardly have been, inasmuch as the fig produces its fruit first
and blossoms inside the fruit, or so nearly so that no flower is
perceptible to an ordinary observer.  This last, however, was an accident
which might have happened to any one but a scientist or an inspired
writer.

The only excuse I can make for him is that he was very young--not yet
four and twenty--and that in mind as in body, like most of those who in
the end come to think for themselves, he was a slow grower.  By far the
greater part, moreover, of his education had been an attempt, not so much
to keep him in blinkers as to gouge his eyes out altogether.

But to return to my story.  It transpired afterwards that Miss Maitland
had had no intention of giving Ernest in charge when she ran out of Mrs
Jupp's house.  She was running away because she was frightened, but
almost the first person whom she ran against had happened to be a
policeman of a serious turn of mind, who wished to gain a reputation for
activity.  He stopped her, questioned her, frightened her still more, and
it was he rather than Miss Maitland, who insisted on giving my hero in
charge to himself and another constable.

Towneley was still in Mrs Jupp's house when the policeman came.  He had
heard a disturbance, and going down to Ernest's room while Miss Maitland
was out of doors, had found him lying, as it were, stunned at the foot of
the moral precipice over which he had that moment fallen.  He saw the
whole thing at a glance, but before he could take action, the policemen
came in and action became impossible.

He asked Ernest who were his friends in London.  Ernest at first wanted
not to say, but Towneley soon gave him to understand that he must do as
he was bid, and selected myself from the few whom he had named.  "Writes
for the stage, does he?" said Towneley.  "Does he write comedy?"  Ernest
thought Towneley meant that I ought to write tragedy, and said he was
afraid I wrote burlesque.  "Oh, come, come," said Towneley, "that will do
famously.  I will go and see him at once."  But on second thoughts he
determined to stay with Ernest and go with him to the police court.  So
he sent Mrs Jupp for me.  Mrs Jupp hurried so fast to fetch me, that in
spite of the weather's being still cold she was "giving out," as she
expressed it, in streams.  The poor old wretch would have taken a cab,
but she had no money and did not like to ask Towneley to give her some.  I
saw that something very serious had happened, but was not prepared for
anything so deplorable as what Mrs Jupp actually told me.  As for Mrs
Jupp, she said her heart had been jumping out of its socket and back
again ever since.

I got her into a cab with me, and we went off to the police station.  She
talked without ceasing.

"And if the neighbours do say cruel things about me, I'm sure it ain't no
thanks to _him_ if they're true.  Mr Pontifex never took a bit o' notice
of me no more than if I had been his sister.  Oh, it's enough to make
anyone's back bone curdle.  Then I thought perhaps my Rose might get on
better with him, so I set her to dust him and clean him as though I were
busy, and gave her such a beautiful clean new pinny, but he never took no
notice of her no more than he did of me, and she didn't want no
compliment neither, she wouldn't have taken not a shilling from him,
though he had offered it, but he didn't seem to know anything at all.  I
can't make out what the young men are a-coming to; I wish the horn may
blow for me and the worms take me this very night, if it's not enough to
make a woman stand before God and strike the one half on 'em silly to see
the way they goes on, and many an honest girl has to go home night after
night without so much as a fourpenny bit and paying three and sixpence a
week rent, and not a shelf nor cupboard in the place and a dead wall in
front of the window.

"It's not Mr Pontifex," she continued, "that's so bad, he's good at
heart.  He never says nothing unkind.  And then there's his dear eyes--but
when I speak about that to my Rose she calls me an old fool and says I
ought to be poleaxed.  It's that Pryer as I can't abide.  Oh he!  He
likes to wound a woman's feelings he do, and to chuck anything in her
face, he do--he likes to wind a woman up and to wound her down."  (Mrs
Jupp pronounced "wound" as though it rhymed to "sound.")  "It's a
gentleman's place to soothe a woman, but he, he'd like to tear her hair
out by handfuls.  Why, he told me to my face that I was a-getting old;
old indeed! there's not a woman in London knows my age except Mrs Davis
down in the Old Kent Road, and beyond a haricot vein in one of my legs
I'm as young as ever I was.  Old indeed!  There's many a good tune played
on an old fiddle.  I hate his nasty insinuendos."

Even if I had wanted to stop her, I could not have done so.  She said a
great deal more than I have given above.  I have left out much because I
could not remember it, but still more because it was really impossible
for me to print it.

When we got to the police station I found Towneley and Ernest already
there.  The charge was one of assault, but not aggravated by serious
violence.  Even so, however, it was lamentable enough, and we both saw
that our young friend would have to pay dearly for his inexperience.  We
tried to bail him out for the night, but the Inspector would not accept
bail, so we were forced to leave him.

Towneley then went back to Mrs Jupp's to see if he could find Miss
Maitland and arrange matters with her.  She was not there, but he traced
her to the house of her father, who lived at Camberwell.  The father was
furious and would not hear of any intercession on Towneley's part.  He
was a Dissenter, and glad to make the most of any scandal against a
clergyman; Towneley, therefore, was obliged to return unsuccessful.

Next morning, Towneley--who regarded Ernest as a drowning man, who must
be picked out of the water somehow or other if possible, irrespective of
the way in which he got into it--called on me, and we put the matter into
the hands of one of the best known attorneys of the day.  I was greatly
pleased with Towneley, and thought it due to him to tell him what I had
told no one else.  I mean that Ernest would come into his aunt's money in
a few years' time, and would therefore then be rich.

Towneley was doing all he could before this, but I knew that the
knowledge I had imparted to him would make him feel as though Ernest was
more one of his own class, and had therefore a greater claim upon his
good offices.  As for Ernest himself, his gratitude was greater than
could be expressed in words.  I have heard him say that he can call to
mind many moments, each one of which might well pass for the happiest of
his life, but that this night stands clearly out as the most painful that
he ever passed, yet so kind and considerate was Towneley that it was
quite bearable.

But with all the best wishes in the world neither Towneley nor I could do
much to help beyond giving our moral support.  Our attorney told us that
the magistrate before whom Ernest would appear was very severe on cases
of this description, and that the fact of his being a clergyman would
tell against him.  "Ask for no remand," he said, "and make no defence.  We
will call Mr Pontifex's rector and you two gentlemen as witnesses for
previous good character.  These will be enough.  Let us then make a
profound apology and beg the magistrate to deal with the case summarily
instead of sending it for trial.  If you can get this, believe me, your
young friend will be better out of it than he has any right to expect."




CHAPTER LXII


This advice, besides being obviously sensible, would end in saving Ernest
both time and suspense of mind, so we had no hesitation in adopting it.
The case was called on about eleven o'clock, but we got it adjourned till
three, so as to give time for Ernest to set his affairs as straight as he
could, and to execute a power of attorney enabling me to act for him as I
should think fit while he was in prison.

Then all came out about Pryer and the College of Spiritual Pathology.
Ernest had even greater difficulty in making a clean breast of this than
he had had in telling us about Miss Maitland, but he told us all, and the
upshot was that he had actually handed over to Pryer every halfpenny that
he then possessed with no other security than Pryer's I.O.U.'s for the
amount.  Ernest, though still declining to believe that Pryer could be
guilty of dishonourable conduct, was becoming alive to the folly of what
he had been doing; he still made sure, however, of recovering, at any
rate, the greater part of his property as soon as Pryer should have had
time to sell.  Towneley and I were of a different opinion, but we did not
say what we thought.

It was dreary work waiting all the morning amid such unfamiliar and
depressing surroundings.  I thought how the Psalmist had exclaimed with
quiet irony, "One day in thy courts is better than a thousand," and I
thought that I could utter a very similar sentiment in respect of the
Courts in which Towneley and I were compelled to loiter.  At last, about
three o'clock the case was called on, and we went round to the part of
the court which is reserved for the general public, while Ernest was
taken into the prisoner's dock.  As soon as he had collected himself
sufficiently he recognised the magistrate as the old gentleman who had
spoken to him in the train on the day he was leaving school, and saw, or
thought he saw, to his great grief, that he too was recognised.

Mr Ottery, for this was our attorney's name, took the line he had
proposed.  He called no other witnesses than the rector, Towneley and
myself, and threw himself on the mercy of the magistrate.  When he had
concluded, the magistrate spoke as follows: "Ernest Pontifex, yours is
one of the most painful cases that I have ever had to deal with.  You
have been singularly favoured in your parentage and education.  You have
had before you the example of blameless parents, who doubtless instilled
into you from childhood the enormity of the offence which by your own
confession you have committed.  You were sent to one of the best public
schools in England.  It is not likely that in the healthy atmosphere of
such a school as Roughborough you can have come across contaminating
influences; you were probably, I may say certainly, impressed at school
with the heinousness of any attempt to depart from the strictest chastity
until such time as you had entered into a state of matrimony.  At
Cambridge you were shielded from impurity by every obstacle which
virtuous and vigilant authorities could devise, and even had the
obstacles been fewer, your parents probably took care that your means
should not admit of your throwing money away upon abandoned characters.
At night proctors patrolled the street and dogged your steps if you tried
to go into any haunt where the presence of vice was suspected.  By day
the females who were admitted within the college walls were selected
mainly on the score of age and ugliness.  It is hard to see what more can
be done for any young man than this.  For the last four or five months
you have been a clergyman, and if a single impure thought had still
remained within your mind, ordination should have removed it:
nevertheless, not only does it appear that your mind is as impure as
though none of the influences to which I have referred had been brought
to bear upon it, but it seems as though their only result had been
this--that you have not even the common sense to be able to distinguish
between a respectable girl and a prostitute.

"If I were to take a strict view of my duty I should commit you for
trial, but in consideration of this being your first offence, I shall
deal leniently with you and sentence you to imprisonment with hard labour
for six calendar months."

Towneley and I both thought there was a touch of irony in the
magistrate's speech, and that he could have given a lighter sentence if
he would, but that was neither here nor there.  We obtained leave to see
Ernest for a few minutes before he was removed to Coldbath Fields, where
he was to serve his term, and found him so thankful to have been
summarily dealt with that he hardly seemed to care about the miserable
plight in which he was to pass the next six months.  When he came out, he
said, he would take what remained of his money, go off to America or
Australia and never be heard of more.

We left him full of this resolve, I, to write to Theobald, and also to
instruct my solicitor to get Ernest's money out of Pryer's hands, and
Towneley to see the reporters and keep the case out of the newspapers.  He
was successful as regards all the higher-class papers.  There was only
one journal, and that of the lowest class, which was incorruptible.




CHAPTER LXIII


I saw my solicitor at once, but when I tried to write to Theobald, I
found it better to say I would run down and see him.  I therefore
proposed this, asking him to meet me at the station, and hinting that I
must bring bad news about his son.  I knew he would not get my letter
more than a couple of hours before I should see him, and thought the
short interval of suspense might break the shock of what I had to say.

Never do I remember to have halted more between two opinions than on my
journey to Battersby upon this unhappy errand.  When I thought of the
little sallow-faced lad whom I had remembered years before, of the long
and savage cruelty with which he had been treated in childhood--cruelty
none the less real for having been due to ignorance and stupidity rather
than to deliberate malice; of the atmosphere of lying and self-laudatory
hallucination in which he had been brought up; of the readiness the boy
had shown to love anything that would be good enough to let him, and of
how affection for his parents, unless I am much mistaken, had only died
in him because it had been killed anew, again and again and again, each
time that it had tried to spring.  When I thought of all this I felt as
though, if the matter had rested with me, I would have sentenced Theobald
and Christina to mental suffering even more severe than that which was
about to fall upon them.  But on the other hand, when I thought of
Theobald's own childhood, of that dreadful old George Pontifex his
father, of John and Mrs John, and of his two sisters, when again I
thought of Christina's long years of hope deferred that maketh the heart
sick, before she was married, of the life she must have led at
Crampsford, and of the surroundings in the midst of which she and her
husband both lived at Battersby, I felt as though the wonder was that
misfortunes so persistent had not been followed by even graver
retribution.

Poor people!  They had tried to keep their ignorance of the world from
themselves by calling it the pursuit of heavenly things, and then
shutting their eyes to anything that might give them trouble.  A son
having been born to them they had shut his eyes also as far as was
practicable.  Who could blame them?  They had chapter and verse for
everything they had either done or left undone; there is no better
thumbed precedent than that for being a clergyman and a clergyman's wife.
In what respect had they differed from their neighbours?  How did their
household differ from that of any other clergyman of the better sort from
one end of England to the other?  Why then should it have been upon them,
of all people in the world, that this tower of Siloam had fallen?

Surely it was the tower of Siloam that was naught rather than those who
stood under it; it was the system rather than the people that was at
fault.  If Theobald and his wife had but known more of the world and of
the things that are therein, they would have done little harm to anyone.
Selfish they would have always been, but not more so than may very well
be pardoned, and not more than other people would be.  As it was, the
case was hopeless; it would be no use their even entering into their
mothers' wombs and being born again.  They must not only be born again
but they must be born again each one of them of a new father and of a new
mother and of a different line of ancestry for many generations before
their minds could become supple enough to learn anew.  The only thing to
do with them was to humour them and make the best of them till they
died--and be thankful when they did so.

Theobald got my letter as I had expected, and met me at the station
nearest to Battersby.  As I walked back with him towards his own house I
broke the news to him as gently as I could.  I pretended that the whole
thing was in great measure a mistake, and that though Ernest no doubt had
had intentions which he ought to have resisted, he had not meant going
anything like the length which Miss Maitland supposed.  I said we had
felt how much appearances were against him, and had not dared to set up
this defence before the magistrate, though we had no doubt about its
being the true one.

Theobald acted with a readier and acuter moral sense than I had given him
credit for.

"I will have nothing more to do with him," he exclaimed promptly, "I will
never see his face again; do not let him write either to me or to his
mother; we know of no such person.  Tell him you have seen me, and that
from this day forward I shall put him out of my mind as though he had
never been born.  I have been a good father to him, and his mother
idolised him; selfishness and ingratitude have been the only return we
have ever had from him; my hope henceforth must be in my remaining
children."

I told him how Ernest's fellow curate had got hold of his money, and
hinted that he might very likely be penniless, or nearly so, on leaving
prison.  Theobald did not seem displeased at this, but added soon
afterwards: "If this proves to be the case, tell him from me that I will
give him a hundred pounds if he will tell me through you when he will
have it paid, but tell him not to write and thank me, and say that if he
attempts to open up direct communication either with his mother or
myself, he shall not have a penny of the money."

Knowing what I knew, and having determined on violating Miss Pontifex's
instructions should the occasion arise, I did not think Ernest would be
any the worse for a complete estrangement from his family, so I
acquiesced more readily in what Theobald had proposed than that gentleman
may have expected.

Thinking it better that I should not see Christina, I left Theobald near
Battersby and walked back to the station.  On my way I was pleased to
reflect that Ernest's father was less of a fool than I had taken him to
be, and had the greater hopes, therefore, that his son's blunders might
be due to postnatal, rather than congenital misfortunes.  Accidents which
happen to a man before he is born, in the persons of his ancestors, will,
if he remembers them at all, leave an indelible impression on him; they
will have moulded his character so that, do what he will, it is hardly
possible for him to escape their consequences.  If a man is to enter into
the Kingdom of Heaven, he must do so, not only as a little child, but as
a little embryo, or rather as a little zoosperm--and not only this, but
as one that has come of zoosperms which have entered into the Kingdom of
Heaven before him for many generations.  Accidents which occur for the
first time, and belong to the period since a man's last birth, are not,
as a general rule, so permanent in their effects, though of course they
may sometimes be so.  At any rate, I was not displeased at the view which
Ernest's father took of the situation.




CHAPTER LXIV


After Ernest had been sentenced, he was taken back to the cells to wait
for the van which should take him to Coldbath Fields, where he was to
serve his term.

He was still too stunned and dazed by the suddenness with which events
had happened during the last twenty-four hours to be able to realise his
position.  A great chasm had opened between his past and future;
nevertheless he breathed, his pulse beat, he could think and speak.  It
seemed to him that he ought to be prostrated by the blow that had fallen
on him, but he was not prostrated; he had suffered from many smaller
laches far more acutely.  It was not until he thought of the pain his
disgrace would inflict on his father and mother that he felt how readily
he would have given up all he had, rather than have fallen into his
present plight.  It would break his mother's heart.  It must, he knew it
would--and it was he who had done this.

He had had a headache coming on all the forenoon, but as he thought of
his father and mother, his pulse quickened, and the pain in his head
suddenly became intense.  He could hardly walk to the van, and he found
its motion insupportable.  On reaching the prison he was too ill to walk
without assistance across the hall to the corridor or gallery where
prisoners are marshalled on their arrival.  The prison warder, seeing at
once that he was a clergyman, did not suppose he was shamming, as he
might have done in the case of an old gaol-bird; he therefore sent for
the doctor.  When this gentleman arrived, Ernest was declared to be
suffering from an incipient attack of brain fever, and was taken away to
the infirmary.  Here he hovered for the next two months between life and
death, never in full possession of his reason and often delirious, but at
last, contrary to the expectation of both doctor and nurse, he began
slowly to recover.

It is said that those who have been nearly drowned, find the return to
consciousness much more painful than the loss of it had been, and so it
was with my hero.  As he lay helpless and feeble, it seemed to him a
refinement of cruelty that he had not died once for all during his
delirium.  He thought he should still most likely recover only to sink a
little later on from shame and sorrow; nevertheless from day to day he
mended, though so slowly that he could hardly realise it to himself.  One
afternoon, however, about three weeks after he had regained
consciousness, the nurse who tended him, and who had been very kind to
him, made some little rallying sally which amused him; he laughed, and as
he did so, she clapped her hands and told him he would be a man again.
The spark of hope was kindled, and again he wished to live.  Almost from
that moment his thoughts began to turn less to the horrors of the past,
and more to the best way of meeting the future.

His worst pain was on behalf of his father and mother, and how he should
again face them.  It still seemed to him that the best thing both for him
and them would be that he should sever himself from them completely, take
whatever money he could recover from Pryer, and go to some place in the
uttermost parts of the earth, where he should never meet anyone who had
known him at school or college, and start afresh.  Or perhaps he might go
to the gold fields in California or Australia, of which such wonderful
accounts were then heard; there he might even make his fortune, and
return as an old man many years hence, unknown to everyone, and if so, he
would live at Cambridge.  As he built these castles in the air, the spark
of life became a flame, and he longed for health, and for the freedom
which, now that so much of his sentence had expired, was not after all
very far distant.

Then things began to shape themselves more definitely.  Whatever happened
he would be a clergyman no longer.  It would have been practically
impossible for him to have found another curacy, even if he had been so
minded, but he was not so minded.  He hated the life he had been leading
ever since he had begun to read for orders; he could not argue about it,
but simply he loathed it and would have no more of it.  As he dwelt on
the prospect of becoming a layman again, however disgraced, he rejoiced
at what had befallen him, and found a blessing in this very imprisonment
which had at first seemed such an unspeakable misfortune.

Perhaps the shock of so great a change in his surroundings had
accelerated changes in his opinions, just as the cocoons of silkworms,
when sent in baskets by rail, hatch before their time through the novelty
of heat and jolting.  But however this may be, his belief in the stories
concerning the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, and
hence his faith in all the other Christian miracles, had dropped off him
once and for ever.  The investigation he had made in consequence of Mr
Shaw's rebuke, hurried though it was, had left a deep impression upon
him, and now he was well enough to read he made the New Testament his
chief study, going through it in the spirit which Mr Shaw had desired of
him, that is to say as one who wished neither to believe nor disbelieve,
but cared only about finding out whether he ought to believe or no.  The
more he read in this spirit the more the balance seemed to lie in favour
of unbelief, till, in the end, all further doubt became impossible, and
he saw plainly enough that, whatever else might be true, the story that
Christ had died, come to life again, and been carried from earth through
clouds into the heavens could not now be accepted by unbiassed people.  It
was well he had found it out so soon.  In one way or another it was sure
to meet him sooner or later.  He would probably have seen it years ago if
he had not been hoodwinked by people who were paid for hoodwinking him.
What should he have done, he asked himself, if he had not made his
present discovery till years later when he was more deeply committed to
the life of a clergyman?  Should he have had the courage to face it, or
would he not more probably have evolved some excellent reason for
continuing to think as he had thought hitherto?  Should he have had the
courage to break away even from his present curacy?

He thought not, and knew not whether to be more thankful for having been
shown his error or for having been caught up and twisted round so that he
could hardly err farther, almost at the very moment of his having
discovered it.  The price he had had to pay for this boon was light as
compared with the boon itself.  What is too heavy a price to pay for
having duty made at once clear and easy of fulfilment instead of very
difficult?  He was sorry for his father and mother, and he was sorry for
Miss Maitland, but he was no longer sorry for himself.

It puzzled him, however, that he should not have known how much he had
hated being a clergyman till now.  He knew that he did not particularly
like it, but if anyone had asked him whether he actually hated it, he
would have answered no.  I suppose people almost always want something
external to themselves, to reveal to them their own likes and dislikes.
Our most assured likings have for the most part been arrived at neither
by introspection nor by any process of conscious reasoning, but by the
bounding forth of the heart to welcome the gospel proclaimed to it by
another.  We hear some say that such and such a thing is thus or thus,
and in a moment the train that has been laid within us, but whose
presence we knew not, flashes into consciousness and perception.

Only a year ago he had bounded forth to welcome Mr Hawke's sermon; since
then he had bounded after a College of Spiritual Pathology; now he was in
full cry after rationalism pure and simple; how could he be sure that his
present state of mind would be more lasting than his previous ones?  He
could not be certain, but he felt as though he were now on firmer ground
than he had ever been before, and no matter how fleeting his present
opinions might prove to be, he could not but act according to them till
he saw reason to change them.  How impossible, he reflected, it would
have been for him to do this, if he had remained surrounded by people
like his father and mother, or Pryer and Pryer's friends, and his rector.
He had been observing, reflecting, and assimilating all these months with
no more consciousness of mental growth than a school-boy has of growth of
body, but should he have been able to admit his growth to himself, and to
act up to his increased strength if he had remained in constant close
connection with people who assured him solemnly that he was under a
hallucination?  The combination against him was greater than his unaided
strength could have broken through, and he felt doubtful how far any
shock less severe than the one from which he was suffering would have
sufficed to free him.




CHAPTER LXV


As he lay on his bed day after day slowly recovering he woke up to the
fact which most men arrive at sooner or later, I mean that very few care
two straws about truth, or have any confidence that it is righter and
better to believe what is true than what is untrue, even though belief in
the untruth may seem at first sight most expedient.  Yet it is only these
few who can be said to believe anything at all; the rest are simply
unbelievers in disguise.  Perhaps, after all, these last are right.  They
have numbers and prosperity on their side.  They have all which the
rationalist appeals to as his tests of right and wrong.  Right, according
to him, is what seems right to the majority of sensible, well-to-do
people; we know of no safer criterion than this, but what does the
decision thus arrived at involve?  Simply this, that a conspiracy of
silence about things whose truth would be immediately apparent to
disinterested enquirers is not only tolerable but righteous on the part
of those who profess to be and take money for being _par excellence_
guardians and teachers of truth.

Ernest saw no logical escape from this conclusion.  He saw that belief on
the part of the early Christians in the miraculous nature of Christ's
Resurrection was explicable, without any supposition of miracle.  The
explanation lay under the eyes of anyone who chose to take a moderate
degree of trouble; it had been put before the world again and again, and
there had been no serious attempt to refute it.  How was it that Dean
Alford for example who had made the New Testament his speciality, could
not or would not see what was so obvious to Ernest himself?  Could it be
for any other reason than that he did not want to see it, and if so was
he not a traitor to the cause of truth?  Yes, but was he not also a
respectable and successful man, and were not the vast majority of
respectable and successful men, such for example, as all the bishops and
archbishops, doing exactly as Dean Alford did, and did not this make
their action right, no matter though it had been cannibalism or
infanticide, or even habitual untruthfulness of mind?

Monstrous, odious falsehood!  Ernest's feeble pulse quickened and his
pale face flushed as this hateful view of life presented itself to him in
all its logical consistency.  It was not the fact of most men being liars
that shocked him--that was all right enough; but even the momentary doubt
whether the few who were not liars ought not to become liars too.  There
was no hope left if this were so; if this were so, let him die, the
sooner the better.  "Lord," he exclaimed inwardly, "I don't believe one
word of it.  Strengthen Thou and confirm my disbelief."  It seemed to him
that he could never henceforth see a bishop going to consecration without
saying to himself: "There, but for the grace of God, went Ernest
Pontifex."  It was no doing of his.  He could not boast; if he had lived
in the time of Christ he might himself have been an early Christian, or
even an Apostle for aught he knew.  On the whole he felt that he had much
to be thankful for.

The conclusion, then, that it might be better to believe error than truth
should be ordered out of court at once, no matter by how clear a logic it
had been arrived at; but what was the alternative?  It was this, that our
criterion of truth--i.e. that truth is what commends itself to the great
majority of sensible and successful people--is not infallible.  The rule
is sound, and covers by far the greater number of cases, but it has its
exceptions.

He asked himself, what were they?  Ah! that was a difficult matter; there
were so many, and the rules which governed them were sometimes so subtle,
that mistakes always had and always would be made; it was just this that
made it impossible to reduce life to an exact science.  There was a rough
and ready rule-of-thumb test of truth, and a number of rules as regards
exceptions which could be mastered without much trouble, yet there was a
residue of cases in which decision was difficult--so difficult that a man
had better follow his instinct than attempt to decide them by any process
of reasoning.

Instinct then is the ultimate court of appeal.  And what is instinct?  It
is a mode of faith in the evidence of things not actually seen.  And so
my hero returned almost to the point from which he had started
originally, namely that the just shall live by faith.

And this is what the just--that is to say reasonable people--do as
regards those daily affairs of life which most concern them.  They settle
smaller matters by the exercise of their own deliberation.  More
important ones, such as the cure of their own bodies and the bodies of
those whom they love, the investment of their money, the extrication of
their affairs from any serious mess--these things they generally entrust
to others of whose capacity they know little save from general report;
they act therefore on the strength of faith, not of knowledge.  So the
English nation entrusts the welfare of its fleet and naval defences to a
First Lord of the Admiralty, who, not being a sailor can know nothing
about these matters except by acts of faith.  There can be no doubt about
faith and not reason being the _ultima ratio_.

Even Euclid, who has laid himself as little open to the charge of
credulity as any writer who ever lived, cannot get beyond this.  He has
no demonstrable first premise.  He requires postulates and axioms which
transcend demonstration, and without which he can do nothing.  His
superstructure indeed is demonstration, but his ground is faith.  Nor
again can he get further than telling a man he is a fool if he persists
in differing from him.  He says "which is absurd," and declines to
discuss the matter further.  Faith and authority, therefore, prove to be
as necessary for him as for anyone else.  "By faith in what, then," asked
Ernest of himself, "shall a just man endeavour to live at this present
time?"  He answered to himself, "At any rate not by faith in the
supernatural element of the Christian religion."

And how should he best persuade his fellow-countrymen to leave off
believing in this supernatural element?  Looking at the matter from a
practical point of view he thought the Archbishop of Canterbury afforded
the most promising key to the situation.  It lay between him and the
Pope.  The Pope was perhaps best in theory, but in practice the
Archbishop of Canterbury would do sufficiently well.  If he could only
manage to sprinkle a pinch of salt, as it were, on the Archbishop's tail,
he might convert the whole Church of England to free thought by a _coup
de main_.  There must be an amount of cogency which even an Archbishop--an
Archbishop whose perceptions had never been quickened by imprisonment for
assault--would not be able to withstand.  When brought face to face with
the facts, as he, Ernest, could arrange them; his Grace would have no
resource but to admit them; being an honourable man he would at once
resign his Archbishopric, and Christianity would become extinct in
England within a few months' time.  This, at any rate, was how things
ought to be.  But all the time Ernest had no confidence in the
Archbishop's not hopping off just as the pinch was about to fall on him,
and this seemed so unfair that his blood boiled at the thought of it.  If
this was to be so, he must try if he could not fix him by the judicious
use of bird-lime or a snare, or throw the salt on his tail from an
ambuscade.

To do him justice it was not himself that he greatly cared about.  He
knew he had been humbugged, and he knew also that the greater part of the
ills which had afflicted him were due, indirectly, in chief measure to
the influence of Christian teaching; still, if the mischief had ended
with himself, he should have thought little about it, but there was his
sister, and his brother Joey, and the hundreds and thousands of young
people throughout England whose lives were being blighted through the
lies told them by people whose business it was to know better, but who
scamped their work and shirked difficulties instead of facing them.  It
was this which made him think it worth while to be angry, and to consider
whether he could not at least do something towards saving others from
such years of waste and misery as he had had to pass himself.  If there
was no truth in the miraculous accounts of Christ's Death and
Resurrection, the whole of the religion founded upon the historic truth
of those events tumbled to the ground.  "My," he exclaimed, with all the
arrogance of youth, "they put a gipsy or fortune-teller into prison for
getting money out of silly people who think they have supernatural power;
why should they not put a clergyman in prison for pretending that he can
absolve sins, or turn bread and wine into the flesh and blood of One who
died two thousand years ago?  What," he asked himself, "could be more
pure 'hanky-panky' than that a bishop should lay his hands upon a young
man and pretend to convey to him the spiritual power to work this
miracle?  It was all very well to talk about toleration; toleration, like
everything else, had its limits; besides, if it was to include the bishop
let it include the fortune-teller too."  He would explain all this to the
Archbishop of Canterbury by and by, but as he could not get hold of him
just now, it occurred to him that he might experimentalise advantageously
upon the viler soul of the prison chaplain.  It was only those who took
the first and most obvious step in their power who ever did great things
in the end, so one day, when Mr Hughes--for this was the chaplain's
name--was talking with him, Ernest introduced the question of Christian
evidences, and tried to raise a discussion upon them.  Mr Hughes had been
very kind to him, but he was more than twice my hero's age, and had long
taken the measure of such objections as Ernest tried to put before him.  I
do not suppose he believed in the actual objective truth of the stories
about Christ's Resurrection and Ascension any more than Ernest did, but
he knew that this was a small matter, and that the real issue lay much
deeper than this.

Mr Hughes was a man who had been in authority for many years, and he
brushed Ernest on one side as if he had been a fly.  He did it so well
that my hero never ventured to tackle him again, and confined his
conversation with him for the future to such matters as what he had
better do when he got out of prison; and here Mr Hughes was ever ready to
listen to him with sympathy and kindness.




CHAPTER LXVI


Ernest was now so far convalescent as to be able to sit up for the
greater part of the day.  He had been three months in prison, and, though
not strong enough to leave the infirmary, was beyond all fear of a
relapse.  He was talking one day with Mr Hughes about his future, and
again expressed his intention of emigrating to Australia or New Zealand
with the money he should recover from Pryer.  Whenever he spoke of this
he noticed that Mr Hughes looked grave and was silent: he had thought
that perhaps the chaplain wanted him to return to his profession, and
disapproved of his evident anxiety to turn to something else; now,
however, he asked Mr Hughes point blank why it was that he disapproved of
his idea of emigrating.

Mr Hughes endeavoured to evade him, but Ernest was not to be put off.
There was something in the chaplain's manner which suggested that he knew
more than Ernest did, but did not like to say it.  This alarmed him so
much that he begged him not to keep him in suspense; after a little
hesitation Mr Hughes, thinking him now strong enough to stand it, broke
the news as gently as he could that the whole of Ernest's money had
disappeared.

The day after my return from Battersby I called on my solicitor, and was
told that he had written to Pryer, requiring him to refund the monies for
which he had given his I.O.U.'s.  Pryer replied that he had given orders
to his broker to close his operations, which unfortunately had resulted
so far in heavy loss, and that the balance should be paid to my solicitor
on the following settling day, then about a week distant.  When the time
came, we heard nothing from Pryer, and going to his lodgings found that
he had left with his few effects on the very day after he had heard from
us, and had not been seen since.

I had heard from Ernest the name of the broker who had been employed, and
went at once to see him.  He told me Pryer had closed all his accounts
for cash on the day that Ernest had been sentenced, and had received 2315
pounds, which was all that remained of Ernest's original 5000 pounds.
With this he had decamped, nor had we enough clue as to his whereabouts
to be able to take any steps to recover the money.  There was in fact
nothing to be done but to consider the whole as lost.  I may say here
that neither I nor Ernest ever heard of Pryer again, nor have any idea
what became of him.

This placed me in a difficult position.  I knew, of course, that in a few
years Ernest would have many times over as much money as he had lost, but
I knew also that he did not know this, and feared that the supposed loss
of all he had in the world might be more than he could stand when coupled
with his other misfortunes.

The prison authorities had found Theobald's address from a letter in
Ernest's pocket, and had communicated with him more than once concerning
his son's illness, but Theobald had not written to me, and I supposed my
godson to be in good health.  He would be just twenty-four years old when
he left prison, and if I followed out his aunt's instructions, would have
to battle with fortune for another four years as well as he could.  The
question before me was whether it was right to let him run so much risk,
or whether I should not to some extent transgress my instructions--which
there was nothing to prevent my doing if I thought Miss Pontifex would
have wished it--and let him have the same sum that he would have
recovered from Pryer.

If my godson had been an older man, and more fixed in any definite
groove, this is what I should have done, but he was still very young, and
more than commonly unformed for his age.  If, again, I had known of his
illness I should not have dared to lay any heavier burden on his back
than he had to bear already; but not being uneasy about his health, I
thought a few years of roughing it and of experience concerning the
importance of not playing tricks with money would do him no harm.  So I
decided to keep a sharp eye upon him as soon as he came out of prison,
and to let him splash about in deep water as best he could till I saw
whether he was able to swim, or was about to sink.  In the first case I
would let him go on swimming till he was nearly eight-and-twenty, when I
would prepare him gradually for the good fortune that awaited him; in the
second I would hurry up to the rescue.  So I wrote to say that Pryer had
absconded, and that he could have 100 pounds from his father when he came
out of prison.  I then waited to see what effect these tidings would
have, not expecting to receive an answer for three months, for I had been
told on enquiry that no letter could be received by a prisoner till after
he had been three months in gaol.  I also wrote to Theobald and told him
of Pryer's disappearance.

As a matter of fact, when my letter arrived the governor of the gaol read
it, and in a case of such importance would have relaxed the rules if
Ernest's state had allowed it; his illness prevented this, and the
governor left it to the chaplain and the doctor to break the news to him
when they thought him strong enough to bear it, which was now the case.
In the meantime I received a formal official document saying that my
letter had been received and would be communicated to the prisoner in due
course; I believe it was simply through a mistake on the part of a clerk
that I was not informed of Ernest's illness, but I heard nothing of it
till I saw him by his own desire a few days after the chaplin had broken
to him the substance of what I had written.

Ernest was terribly shocked when he heard of the loss of his money, but
his ignorance of the world prevented him from seeing the full extent of
the mischief.  He had never been in serious want of money yet, and did
not know what it meant.  In reality, money losses are the hardest to bear
of any by those who are old enough to comprehend them.

A man can stand being told that he must submit to a severe surgical
operation, or that he has some disease which will shortly kill him, or
that he will be a cripple or blind for the rest of his life; dreadful as
such tidings must be, we do not find that they unnerve the greater number
of mankind; most men, indeed, go coolly enough even to be hanged, but the
strongest quail before financial ruin, and the better men they are, the
more complete, as a general rule, is their prostration.  Suicide is a
common consequence of money losses; it is rarely sought as a means of
escape from bodily suffering.  If we feel that we have a competence at
our backs, so that we can die warm and quietly in our beds, with no need
to worry about expense, we live our lives out to the dregs, no matter how
excruciating our torments.  Job probably felt the loss of his flocks and
herds more than that of his wife and family, for he could enjoy his
flocks and herds without his family, but not his family--not for long--if
he had lost all his money.  Loss of money indeed is not only the worst
pain in itself, but it is the parent of all others.  Let a man have been
brought up to a moderate competence, and have no specially; then let his
money be suddenly taken from him, and how long is his health likely to
survive the change in all his little ways which loss of money will
entail?  How long again is the esteem and sympathy of friends likely to
survive ruin?  People may be very sorry for us, but their attitude
towards us hitherto has been based upon the supposition that we were
situated thus or thus in money matters; when this breaks down there must
be a restatement of the social problem so far as we are concerned; we
have been obtaining esteem under false pretences.  Granted, then, that
the three most serious losses which a man can suffer are those affecting
money, health and reputation.  Loss of money is far the worst, then comes
ill-health, and then loss of reputation; loss of reputation is a bad
third, for, if a man keeps health and money unimpaired, it will be
generally found that his loss of reputation is due to breaches of parvenu
conventions only, and not to violations of those older, better
established canons whose authority is unquestionable.  In this case a man
may grow a new reputation as easily as a lobster grows a new claw, or, if
he have health and money, may thrive in great peace of mind without any
reputation at all.  The only chance for a man who has lost his money is
that he shall still be young enough to stand uprooting and transplanting
without more than temporary derangement, and this I believed my godson
still to be.

By the prison rules he might receive and send a letter after he had been
in gaol three months, and might also receive one visit from a friend.
When he received my letter, he at once asked me to come and see him,
which of course I did.  I found him very much changed, and still so
feeble, that the exertion of coming from the infirmary to the cell in
which I was allowed to see him, and the agitation of seeing me were too
much for him.  At first he quite broke down, and I was so pained at the
state in which I found him, that I was on the point of breaking my
instructions then and there.  I contented myself, however, for the time,
with assuring him that I would help him as soon as he came out of prison,
and that, when he had made up his mind what he would do, he was to come
to me for what money might be necessary, if he could not get it from his
father.  To make it easier for him I told him that his aunt, on her death-
bed, had desired me to do something of this sort should an emergency
arise, so that he would only be taking what his aunt had left him.

"Then," said he, "I will not take the 100 pounds from my father, and I
will never see him or my mother again."

I said: "Take the 100 pounds, Ernest, and as much more as you can get,
and then do not see them again if you do not like."

This Ernest would not do.  If he took money from them, he could not cut
them, and he wanted to cut them.  I thought my godson would get on a
great deal better if he would only have the firmness to do as he
proposed, as regards breaking completely with his father and mother, and
said so.  "Then don't you like them?" said he, with a look of surprise.

"Like them!" said I, "I think they're horrid."

"Oh, that's the kindest thing of all you have done for me," he exclaimed,
"I thought all--all middle-aged people liked my father and mother."

He had been about to call me old, but I was only fifty-seven, and was not
going to have this, so I made a face when I saw him hesitating, which
drove him into "middle-aged."

"If you like it," said I, "I will say all your family are horrid except
yourself and your aunt Alethea.  The greater part of every family is
always odious; if there are one or two good ones in a very large family,
it is as much as can be expected."

"Thank you," he replied, gratefully, "I think I can now stand almost
anything.  I will come and see you as soon as I come out of gaol.  Good-
bye."  For the warder had told us that the time allowed for our interview
was at an end.




CHAPTER LXVII


As soon as Ernest found that he had no money to look to upon leaving
prison he saw that his dreams about emigrating and farming must come to
an end, for he knew that he was incapable of working at the plough or
with the axe for long together himself.  And now it seemed he should have
no money to pay any one else for doing so.  It was this that resolved him
to part once and for all with his parents.  If he had been going abroad
he could have kept up relations with them, for they would have been too
far off to interfere with him.

He knew his father and mother would object to being cut; they would wish
to appear kind and forgiving; they would also dislike having no further
power to plague him; but he knew also very well that so long as he and
they ran in harness together they would be always pulling one way and he
another.  He wanted to drop the gentleman and go down into the ranks,
beginning on the lowest rung of the ladder, where no one would know of
his disgrace or mind it if he did know; his father and mother on the
other hand would wish him to clutch on to the fag-end of gentility at a
starvation salary and with no prospect of advancement.  Ernest had seen
enough in Ashpit Place to know that a tailor, if he did not drink and
attended to his business, could earn more money than a clerk or a curate,
while much less expense by way of show was required of him.  The tailor
also had more liberty, and a better chance of rising.  Ernest resolved at
once, as he had fallen so far, to fall still lower--promptly, gracefully
and with the idea of rising again, rather than cling to the skirts of a
respectability which would permit him to exist on sufferance only, and
make him pay an utterly extortionate price for an article which he could
do better without.

He arrived at this result more quickly than he might otherwise have done
through remembering something he had once heard his aunt say about
"kissing the soil."  This had impressed him and stuck by him perhaps by
reason of its brevity; when later on he came to know the story of
Hercules and Antaeus, he found it one of the very few ancient fables
which had a hold over him--his chiefest debt to classical literature.  His
aunt had wanted him to learn carpentering, as a means of kissing the soil
should his Hercules ever throw him.  It was too late for this now--or he
thought it was--but the mode of carrying out his aunt's idea was a
detail; there were a hundred ways of kissing the soil besides becoming a
carpenter.

He had told me this during our interview, and I had encouraged him to the
utmost of my power.  He showed so much more good sense than I had given
him credit for that I became comparatively easy about him, and determined
to let him play his own game, being always, however, ready to hand in
case things went too far wrong.  It was not simply because he disliked
his father and mother that he wanted to have no more to do with them; if
it had been only this he would have put up with them; but a warning voice
within told him distinctly enough that if he was clean cut away from them
he might still have a chance of success, whereas if they had anything
whatever to do with him, or even knew where he was, they would hamper him
and in the end ruin him.  Absolute independence he believed to be his
only chance of very life itself.

Over and above this--if this were not enough--Ernest had a faith in his
own destiny such as most young men, I suppose, feel, but the grounds of
which were not apparent to any one but himself.  Rightly or wrongly, in a
quiet way he believed he possessed a strength which, if he were only free
to use it in his own way, might do great things some day.  He did not
know when, nor where, nor how his opportunity was to come, but he never
doubted that it would come in spite of all that had happened, and above
all else he cherished the hope that he might know how to seize it if it
came, for whatever it was it would be something that no one else could do
so well as he could.  People said there were no dragons and giants for
adventurous men to fight with nowadays; it was beginning to dawn upon him
that there were just as many now as at any past time.

Monstrous as such a faith may seem in one who was qualifying himself for
a high mission by a term of imprisonment, he could no more help it than
he could help breathing; it was innate in him, and it was even more with
a view to this than for other reasons that he wished to sever the
connection between himself and his parents; for he knew that if ever the
day came in which it should appear that before him too there was a race
set in which it might be an honour to have run among the foremost, his
father and mother would be the first to let him and hinder him in running
it.  They had been the first to say that he ought to run such a race;
they would also be the first to trip him up if he took them at their
word, and then afterwards upbraid him for not having won.  Achievement of
any kind would be impossible for him unless he was free from those who
would be for ever dragging him back into the conventional.  The
conventional had been tried already and had been found wanting.

He had an opportunity now, if he chose to take it, of escaping once for
all from those who at once tormented him and would hold him earthward
should a chance of soaring open before him.  He should never have had it
but for his imprisonment; but for this the force of habit and routine
would have been too strong for him; he should hardly have had it if he
had not lost all his money; the gap would not have been so wide but that
he might have been inclined to throw a plank across it.  He rejoiced now,
therefore, over his loss of money as well as over his imprisonment, which
had made it more easy for him to follow his truest and most lasting
interests.

At times he wavered, when he thought of how his mother, who in her way,
as he thought, had loved him, would weep and think sadly over him, or how
perhaps she might even fall ill and die, and how the blame would rest
with him.  At these times his resolution was near breaking, but when he
found I applauded his design, the voice within, which bade him see his
father's and mother's faces no more, grew louder and more persistent.  If
he could not cut himself adrift from those who he knew would hamper him,
when so small an effort was wanted, his dream of a destiny was idle; what
was the prospect of a hundred pounds from his father in comparison with
jeopardy to this?  He still felt deeply the pain his disgrace had
inflicted upon his father and mother, but he was getting stronger, and
reflected that as he had run his chance with them for parents, so they
must run theirs with him for a son.

He had nearly settled down to this conclusion when he received a letter
from his father which made his decision final.  If the prison rules had
been interpreted strictly, he would not have been allowed to have this
letter for another three months, as he had already heard from me, but the
governor took a lenient view, and considered the letter from me to be a
business communication hardly coming under the category of a letter from
friends.  Theobald's letter therefore was given to his son.  It ran as
follows:--

   "My dear Ernest, My object in writing is not to upbraid you with the
   disgrace and shame you have inflicted upon your mother and myself, to
   say nothing of your brother Joey, and your sister.  Suffer of course
   we must, but we know to whom to look in our affliction, and are filled
   with anxiety rather on your behalf than our own.  Your mother is
   wonderful.  She is pretty well in health, and desires me to send you
   her love.

   "Have you considered your prospects on leaving prison?  I understand
   from Mr Overton that you have lost the legacy which your grandfather
   left you, together with all the interest that accrued during your
   minority, in the course of speculation upon the Stock Exchange!  If
   you have indeed been guilty of such appalling folly it is difficult to
   see what you can turn your hand to, and I suppose you will try to find
   a clerkship in an office.  Your salary will doubtless be low at first,
   but you have made your bed and must not complain if you have to lie
   upon it.  If you take pains to please your employers they will not be
   backward in promoting you.

   "When I first heard from Mr Overton of the unspeakable calamity which
   had befallen your mother and myself, I had resolved not to see you
   again.  I am unwilling, however, to have recourse to a measure which
   would deprive you of your last connecting link with respectable
   people.  Your mother and I will see you as soon as you come out of
   prison; not at Battersby--we do not wish you to come down here at
   present--but somewhere else, probably in London.  You need not shrink
   from seeing us; we shall not reproach you.  We will then decide about
   your future.

   "At present our impression is that you will find a fairer start
   probably in Australia or New Zealand than here, and I am prepared to
   find you 75 or even if necessary so far as 100 pounds to pay your
   passage money.  Once in the colony you must be dependent upon your own
   exertions.

   "May Heaven prosper them and you, and restore you to us years hence a
   respected member of society.--Your affectionate father, T. PONTIFEX."

Then there was a postscript in Christina's writing.

   "My darling, darling boy, pray with me daily and hourly that we may
   yet again become a happy, united, God-fearing family as we were before
   this horrible pain fell upon us.--Your sorrowing but ever loving
   mother, C. P."

This letter did not produce the effect on Ernest that it would have done
before his imprisonment began.  His father and mother thought they could
take him up as they had left him off.  They forgot the rapidity with
which development follows misfortune, if the sufferer is young and of a
sound temperament.  Ernest made no reply to his father's letter, but his
desire for a total break developed into something like a passion.  "There
are orphanages," he exclaimed to himself, "for children who have lost
their parents--oh! why, why, why, are there no harbours of refuge for
grown men who have not yet lost them?"  And he brooded over the bliss of
Melchisedek who had been born an orphan, without father, without mother,
and without descent.




CHAPTER LXVIII


When I think over all that Ernest told me about his prison meditations,
and the conclusions he was drawn to, it occurs to me that in reality he
was wanting to do the very last thing which it would have entered into
his head to think of wanting.  I mean that he was trying to give up
father and mother for Christ's sake.  He would have said he was giving
them up because he thought they hindered him in the pursuit of his truest
and most lasting happiness.  Granted, but what is this if it is not
Christ?  What is Christ if He is not this?  He who takes the highest and
most self-respecting view of his own welfare which it is in his power to
conceive, and adheres to it in spite of conventionality, is a Christian
whether he knows it and calls himself one, or whether he does not.  A
rose is not the less a rose because it does not know its own name.

What if circumstances had made his duty more easy for him than it would
be to most men?  That was his luck, as much as it is other people's luck
to have other duties made easy for them by accident of birth.  Surely if
people are born rich or handsome they have a right to their good fortune.
Some I know, will say that one man has no right to be born with a better
constitution than another; others again will say that luck is the only
righteous object of human veneration.  Both, I daresay, can make out a
very good case, but whichever may be right surely Ernest had as much
right to the good luck of finding a duty made easier as he had had to the
bad fortune of falling into the scrape which had got him into prison.  A
man is not to be sneered at for having a trump card in his hand; he is
only to be sneered at if he plays his trump card badly.

Indeed, I question whether it is ever much harder for anyone to give up
father and mother for Christ's sake than it was for Ernest.  The
relations between the parties will have almost always been severely
strained before it comes to this.  I doubt whether anyone was ever yet
required to give up those to whom he was tenderly attached for a mere
matter of conscience: he will have ceased to be tenderly attached to them
long before he is called upon to break with them; for differences of
opinion concerning any matter of vital importance spring from differences
of constitution, and these will already have led to so much other
disagreement that the "giving up" when it comes, is like giving up an
aching but very loose and hollow tooth.  It is the loss of those whom we
are not required to give up for Christ's sake which is really painful to
us.  Then there is a wrench in earnest.  Happily, no matter how light the
task that is demanded from us, it is enough if we do it; we reap our
reward, much as though it were a Herculean labour.

But to return, the conclusion Ernest came to was that he would be a
tailor.  He talked the matter over with the chaplain, who told him there
was no reason why he should not be able to earn his six or seven
shillings a day by the time he came out of prison, if he chose to learn
the trade during the remainder of his term--not quite three months; the
doctor said he was strong enough for this, and that it was about the only
thing he was as yet fit for; so he left the infirmary sooner than he
would otherwise have done and entered the tailor's shop, overjoyed at the
thoughts of seeing his way again, and confident of rising some day if he
could only get a firm foothold to start from.

Everyone whom he had to do with saw that he did not belong to what are
called the criminal classes, and finding him eager to learn and to save
trouble always treated him kindly and almost respectfully.  He did not
find the work irksome: it was far more pleasant than making Latin and
Greek verses at Roughborough; he felt that he would rather be here in
prison than at Roughborough again--yes, or even at Cambridge itself.  The
only trouble he was ever in danger of getting into was through exchanging
words or looks with the more decent-looking of his fellow-prisoners.  This
was forbidden, but he never missed a chance of breaking the rules in this
respect.

Any man of his ability who was at the same time anxious to learn would of
course make rapid progress, and before he left prison the warder said he
was as good a tailor with his three months' apprenticeship as many a man
was with twelve.  Ernest had never before been so much praised by any of
his teachers.  Each day as he grew stronger in health and more accustomed
to his surroundings he saw some fresh advantage in his position, an
advantage which he had not aimed at, but which had come almost in spite
of himself, and he marvelled at his own good fortune, which had ordered
things so greatly better for him than he could have ordered them for
himself.

His having lived six months in Ashpit Place was a case in point.  Things
were possible to him which to others like him would be impossible.  If
such a man as Towneley were told he must live henceforth in a house like
those in Ashpit Place it would be more than he could stand.  Ernest could
not have stood it himself if he had gone to live there of compulsion
through want of money.  It was only because he had felt himself able to
run away at any minute that he had not wanted to do so; now, however,
that he had become familiar with life in Ashpit Place he no longer minded
it, and could live gladly in lower parts of London than that so long as
he could pay his way.  It was from no prudence or forethought that he had
served this apprenticeship to life among the poor.  He had been trying in
a feeble way to be thorough in his work: he had not been thorough, the
whole thing had been a _fiasco_; but he had made a little puny effort in
the direction of being genuine, and behold, in his hour of need it had
been returned to him with a reward far richer than he had deserved.  He
could not have faced becoming one of the very poor unless he had had such
a bridge to conduct him over to them as he had found unwittingly in
Ashpit Place.  True, there had been drawbacks in the particular house he
had chosen, but he need not live in a house where there was a Mr Holt and
he should no longer be tied to the profession which he so much hated; if
there were neither screams nor scripture readings he could be happy in a
garret at three shillings a week, such as Miss Maitland lived in.

As he thought further he remembered that all things work together for
good to them that love God; was it possible, he asked himself, that he
too, however imperfectly, had been trying to love him?  He dared not
answer Yes, but he would try hard that it should be so.  Then there came
into his mind that noble air of Handel's: "Great God, who yet but darkly
known," and he felt it as he had never felt it before.  He had lost his
faith in Christianity, but his faith in something--he knew not what, but
that there was a something as yet but darkly known which made right right
and wrong wrong--his faith in this grew stronger and stronger daily.

Again there crossed his mind thoughts of the power which he felt to be in
him, and of how and where it was to find its vent.  The same instinct
which had led him to live among the poor because it was the nearest thing
to him which he could lay hold of with any clearness came to his
assistance here too.  He thought of the Australian gold and how those who
lived among it had never seen it though it abounded all around them:
"There is gold everywhere," he exclaimed inwardly, "to those who look for
it."  Might not his opportunity be close upon him if he looked carefully
enough at his immediate surroundings?  What was his position?  He had
lost all.  Could he not turn his having lost all into an opportunity?
Might he not, if he too sought the strength of the Lord, find, like St
Paul, that it was perfected in weakness?

He had nothing more to lose; money, friends, character, all were gone for
a very long time if not for ever; but there was something else also that
had taken its flight along with these.  I mean the fear of that which man
could do unto him.  _Cantabil vacuus_.  Who could hurt him more than he
had been hurt already?  Let him but be able to earn his bread, and he
knew of nothing which he dared not venture if it would make the world a
happier place for those who were young and loveable.  Herein he found so
much comfort that he almost wished he had lost his reputation even more
completely--for he saw that it was like a man's life which may be found
of them that lose it and lost of them that would find it.  He should not
have had the courage to give up all for Christ's sake, but now Christ had
mercifully taken all, and lo! it seemed as though all were found.

As the days went slowly by he came to see that Christianity and the
denial of Christianity after all met as much as any other extremes do; it
was a fight about names--not about things; practically the Church of
Rome, the Church of England, and the freethinker have the same ideal
standard and meet in the gentleman; for he is the most perfect saint who
is the most perfect gentleman.  Then he saw also that it matters little
what profession, whether of religion or irreligion, a man may make,
provided only he follows it out with charitable inconsistency, and
without insisting on it to the bitter end.  It is in the
uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and not in the dogma or want
of dogma that the danger lies.  This was the crowning point of the
edifice; when he had got here he no longer wished to molest even the
Pope.  The Archbishop of Canterbury might have hopped about all round him
and even picked crumbs out of his hand without running risk of getting a
sly sprinkle of salt.  That wary prelate himself might perhaps have been
of a different opinion, but the robins and thrushes that hop about our
lawns are not more needlessly distrustful of the hand that throws them
out crumbs of bread in winter, than the Archbishop would have been of my
hero.

Perhaps he was helped to arrive at the foregoing conclusion by an event
which almost thrust inconsistency upon him.  A few days after he had left
the infirmary the chaplain came to his cell and told him that the
prisoner who played the organ in chapel had just finished his sentence
and was leaving the prison; he therefore offered the post to Ernest, who
he already knew played the organ.  Ernest was at first in doubt whether
it would be right for him to assist at religious services more than he
was actually compelled to do, but the pleasure of playing the organ, and
the privileges which the post involved, made him see excellent reasons
for not riding consistency to death.  Having, then, once introduced an
element of inconsistency into his system, he was far too consistent not
to be inconsistent consistently, and he lapsed ere long into an amiable
indifferentism which to outward appearance differed but little from the
indifferentism from which Mr Hawke had aroused him.

By becoming organist he was saved from the treadmill, for which the
doctor had said he was unfit as yet, but which he would probably have
been put to in due course as soon as he was stronger.  He might have
escaped the tailor's shop altogether and done only the comparatively
light work of attending to the chaplain's rooms if he had liked, but he
wanted to learn as much tailoring as he could, and did not therefore take
advantage of this offer; he was allowed, however, two hours a day in the
afternoon for practice.  From that moment his prison life ceased to be
monotonous, and the remaining two months of his sentence slipped by
almost as rapidly as they would have done if he had been free.  What with
music, books, learning his trade, and conversation with the chaplain, who
was just the kindly, sensible person that Ernest wanted in order to
steady him a little, the days went by so pleasantly that when the time
came for him to leave prison, he did so, or thought he did so, not
without regret.




CHAPTER LXIX


In coming to the conclusion that he would sever the connection between
himself and his family once for all Ernest had reckoned without his
family.  Theobald wanted to be rid of his son, it is true, in so far as
he wished him to be no nearer at any rate than the Antipodes; but he had
no idea of entirely breaking with him.  He knew his son well enough to
have a pretty shrewd idea that this was what Ernest would wish himself,
and perhaps as much for this reason as for any other he was determined to
keep up the connection, provided it did not involve Ernest's coming to
Battersby nor any recurring outlay.

When the time approached for him to leave prison, his father and mother
consulted as to what course they should adopt.

"We must never leave him to himself," said Theobald impressively; "we can
neither of us wish that."

"Oh, no! no! dearest Theobald," exclaimed Christina.  "Whoever else
deserts him, and however distant he may be from us, he must still feel
that he has parents whose hearts beat with affection for him no matter
how cruelly he has pained them."

"He has been his own worst enemy," said Theobald.  "He has never loved us
as we deserved, and now he will be withheld by false shame from wishing
to see us.  He will avoid us if he can."

"Then we must go to him ourselves," said Christina, "whether he likes it
or not we must be at his side to support him as he enters again upon the
world."

"If we do not want him to give us the slip we must catch him as he leaves
prison."

"We will, we will; our faces shall be the first to gladden his eyes as he
comes out, and our voices the first to exhort him to return to the paths
of virtue."

"I think," said Theobald, "if he sees us in the street he will turn round
and run away from us.  He is intensely selfish."

"Then we must get leave to go inside the prison, and see him before he
gets outside."

After a good deal of discussion this was the plan they decided on
adopting, and having so decided, Theobald wrote to the governor of the
gaol asking whether he could be admitted inside the gaol to receive
Ernest when his sentence had expired.  He received answer in the
affirmative, and the pair left Battersby the day before Ernest was to
come out of prison.

Ernest had not reckoned on this, and was rather surprised on being told a
few minutes before nine that he was to go into the receiving room before
he left the prison as there were visitors waiting to see him.  His heart
fell, for he guessed who they were, but he screwed up his courage and
hastened to the receiving room.  There, sure enough, standing at the end
of the table nearest the door were the two people whom he regarded as the
most dangerous enemies he had in all the world--his father and mother.

He could not fly, but he knew that if he wavered he was lost.

His mother was crying, but she sprang forward to meet him and clasped him
in her arms.  "Oh, my boy, my boy," she sobbed, and she could say no
more.

Ernest was as white as a sheet.  His heart beat so that he could hardly
breathe.  He let his mother embrace him, and then withdrawing himself
stood silently before her with the tears falling from his eyes.

At first he could not speak.  For a minute or so the silence on all sides
was complete.  Then, gathering strength, he said in a low voice:

"Mother," (it was the first time he had called her anything but "mamma"?)
"we must part."  On this, turning to the warder, he said: "I believe I am
free to leave the prison if I wish to do so.  You cannot compel me to
remain here longer.  Please take me to the gates."

Theobald stepped forward.  "Ernest, you must not, shall not, leave us in
this way."

"Do not speak to me," said Ernest, his eyes flashing with a fire that was
unwonted in them.  Another warder then came up and took Theobald aside,
while the first conducted Ernest to the gates.

"Tell them," said Ernest, "from me that they must think of me as one
dead, for I am dead to them.  Say that my greatest pain is the thought of
the disgrace I have inflicted upon them, and that above all things else I
will study to avoid paining them hereafter; but say also that if they
write to me I will return their letters unopened, and that if they come
and see me I will protect myself in whatever way I can."

By this time he was at the prison gate, and in another moment was at
liberty.  After he had got a few steps out he turned his face to the
prison wall, leant against it for support, and wept as though his heart
would break.

Giving up father and mother for Christ's sake was not such an easy matter
after all.  If a man has been possessed by devils for long enough they
will rend him as they leave him, however imperatively they may have been
cast out.  Ernest did not stay long where he was, for he feared each
moment that his father and mother would come out.  He pulled himself
together and turned into the labyrinth of small streets which opened out
in front of him.

He had crossed his Rubicon--not perhaps very heroically or dramatically,
but then it is only in dramas that people act dramatically.  At any rate,
by hook or by crook, he had scrambled over, and was out upon the other
side.  Already he thought of much which he would gladly have said, and
blamed his want of presence of mind; but, after all, it mattered very
little.  Inclined though he was to make very great allowances for his
father and mother, he was indignant at their having thrust themselves
upon him without warning at a moment when the excitement of leaving
prison was already as much as he was fit for.  It was a mean advantage to
have taken over him, but he was glad they had taken it, for it made him
realise more fully than ever that his one chance lay in separating
himself completely from them.

The morning was grey, and the first signs of winter fog were beginning to
show themselves, for it was now the 30th of September.  Ernest wore the
clothes in which he had entered prison, and was therefore dressed as a
clergyman.  No one who looked at him would have seen any difference
between his present appearance and his appearance six months previously;
indeed, as he walked slowly through the dingy crowded lane called Eyre
Street Hill (which he well knew, for he had clerical friends in that
neighbourhood), the months he had passed in prison seemed to drop out of
his life, and so powerfully did association carry him away that, finding
himself in his old dress and in his old surroundings, he felt dragged
back into his old self--as though his six months of prison life had been
a dream from which he was now waking to take things up as he had left
them.  This was the effect of unchanged surroundings upon the unchanged
part of him.  But there was a changed part, and the effect of unchanged
surroundings upon this was to make everything seem almost as strange as
though he had never had any life but his prison one, and was now born
into a new world.

All our lives long, every day and every hour, we are engaged in the
process of accommodating our changed and unchanged selves to changed and
unchanged surroundings; living, in fact, in nothing else than this
process of accommodation; when we fail in it a little we are stupid, when
we fail flagrantly we are mad, when we suspend it temporarily we sleep,
when we give up the attempt altogether we die.  In quiet, uneventful
lives the changes internal and external are so small that there is little
or no strain in the process of fusion and accommodation; in other lives
there is great strain, but there is also great fusing and accommodating
power; in others great strain with little accommodating power.  A life
will be successful or not according as the power of accommodation is
equal to or unequal to the strain of fusing and adjusting internal and
external changes.

The trouble is that in the end we shall be driven to admit the unity of
the universe so completely as to be compelled to deny that there is
either an external or an internal, but must see everything both as
external and internal at one and the same time, subject and
object--external and internal--being unified as much as everything else.
This will knock our whole system over, but then every system has got to
be knocked over by something.

Much the best way out of this difficulty is to go in for separation
between internal and external--subject and object--when we find this
convenient, and unity between the same when we find unity convenient.
This is illogical, but extremes are alone logical, and they are always
absurd, the mean is alone practicable and it is always illogical.  It is
faith and not logic which is the supreme arbiter.  They say all roads
lead to Rome, and all philosophies that I have ever seen lead ultimately
either to some gross absurdity, or else to the conclusion already more
than once insisted on in these pages, that the just shall live by faith,
that is to say that sensible people will get through life by rule of
thumb as they may interpret it most conveniently without asking too many
questions for conscience sake.  Take any fact, and reason upon it to the
bitter end, and it will ere long lead to this as the only refuge from
some palpable folly.

But to return to my story.  When Ernest got to the top of the street and
looked back, he saw the grimy, sullen walls of his prison filling up the
end of it.  He paused for a minute or two.  "There," he said to himself,
"I was hemmed in by bolts which I could see and touch; here I am barred
by others which are none the less real--poverty and ignorance of the
world.  It was no part of my business to try to break the material bolts
of iron and escape from prison, but now that I am free I must surely seek
to break these others."

He had read somewhere of a prisoner who had made his escape by cutting up
his bedstead with an iron spoon.  He admired and marvelled at the man's
mind, but could not even try to imitate him; in the presence of
immaterial barriers, however, he was not so easily daunted, and felt as
though, even if the bed were iron and the spoon a wooden one, he could
find some means of making the wood cut the iron sooner or later.

He turned his back upon Eyre Street Hill and walked down Leather Lane
into Holborn.  Each step he took, each face or object that he knew,
helped at once to link him on to the life he had led before his
imprisonment, and at the same time to make him feel how completely that
imprisonment had cut his life into two parts, the one of which could bear
no resemblance to the other.

He passed down Fetter Lane into Fleet Street and so to the Temple, to
which I had just returned from my summer holiday.  It was about half past
nine, and I was having my breakfast, when I heard a timid knock at the
door and opened it to find Ernest.




CHAPTER LXX


I had begun to like him on the night Towneley had sent for me, and on the
following day I thought he had shaped well.  I had liked him also during
our interview in prison, and wanted to see more of him, so that I might
make up my mind about him.  I had lived long enough to know that some men
who do great things in the end are not very wise when they are young;
knowing that he would leave prison on the 30th, I had expected him, and,
as I had a spare bedroom, pressed him to stay with me, till he could make
up his mind what he would do.

Being so much older than he was, I anticipated no trouble in getting my
own way, but he would not hear of it.  The utmost he would assent to was
that he should be my guest till he could find a room for himself, which
he would set about doing at once.

He was still much agitated, but grew better as he ate a breakfast, not of
prison fare and in a comfortable room.  It pleased me to see the delight
he took in all about him; the fireplace with a fire in it; the easy
chairs, the _Times_, my cat, the red geraniums in the window, to say
nothing of coffee, bread and butter, sausages, marmalade, etc.  Everything
was pregnant with the most exquisite pleasure to him.  The plane trees
were full of leaf still; he kept rising from the breakfast table to
admire them; never till now, he said, had he known what the enjoyment of
these things really was.  He ate, looked, laughed and cried by turns,
with an emotion which I can neither forget nor describe.

He told me how his father and mother had lain in wait for him, as he was
about to leave prison.  I was furious, and applauded him heartily for
what he had done.  He was very grateful to me for this.  Other people, he
said, would tell him he ought to think of his father and mother rather
than of himself, and it was such a comfort to find someone who saw things
as he saw them himself.  Even if I had differed from him I should not
have said so, but I was of his opinion, and was almost as much obliged to
him for seeing things as I saw them, as he to me for doing the same kind
office by himself.  Cordially as I disliked Theobald and Christina, I was
in such a hopeless minority in the opinion I had formed concerning them
that it was pleasant to find someone who agreed with me.

Then there came an awful moment for both of us.

A knock, as of a visitor and not a postman, was heard at my door.

"Goodness gracious," I exclaimed, "why didn't we sport the oak?  Perhaps
it is your father.  But surely he would hardly come at this time of day!
Go at once into my bedroom."

I went to the door, and, sure enough, there were both Theobald and
Christina.  I could not refuse to let them in and was obliged to listen
to their version of the story, which agreed substantially with Ernest's.
Christina cried bitterly--Theobald stormed.  After about ten minutes,
during which I assured them that I had not the faintest conception where
their son was, I dismissed them both.  I saw they looked suspiciously
upon the manifest signs that someone was breakfasting with me, and parted
from me more or less defiantly, but I got rid of them, and poor Ernest
came out again, looking white, frightened and upset.  He had heard
voices, but no more, and did not feel sure that the enemy might not be
gaining over me.  We sported the oak now, and before long he began to
recover.

After breakfast, we discussed the situation.  I had taken away his
wardrobe and books from Mrs Jupp's, but had left his furniture, pictures
and piano, giving Mrs Jupp the use of these, so that she might let her
room furnished, in lieu of charge for taking care of the furniture.  As
soon as Ernest heard that his wardrobe was at hand, he got out a suit of
clothes he had had before he had been ordained, and put it on at once,
much, as I thought, to the improvement of his personal appearance.

Then we went into the subject of his finances.  He had had ten pounds
from Pryer only a day or two before he was apprehended, of which between
seven and eight were in his purse when he entered the prison.  This money
was restored to him on leaving.  He had always paid cash for whatever he
bought, so that there was nothing to be deducted for debts.  Besides
this, he had his clothes, books and furniture.  He could, as I have said,
have had 100 pounds from his father if he had chosen to emigrate, but
this both Ernest and I (for he brought me round to his opinion) agreed it
would be better to decline.  This was all he knew of as belonging to him.

He said he proposed at once taking an unfurnished top back attic in as
quiet a house as he could find, say at three or four shillings a week,
and looking out for work as a tailor.  I did not think it much mattered
what he began with, for I felt pretty sure he would ere long find his way
to something that suited him, if he could get a start with anything at
all.  The difficulty was how to get him started.  It was not enough that
he should be able to cut out and make clothes--that he should have the
organs, so to speak, of a tailor; he must be put into a tailor's shop and
guided for a little while by someone who knew how and where to help him.

The rest of the day he spent in looking for a room, which he soon found,
and in familiarising himself with liberty.  In the evening I took him to
the Olympic, where Robson was then acting in a burlesque on Macbeth, Mrs
Keeley, if I remember rightly, taking the part of Lady Macbeth.  In the
scene before the murder, Macbeth had said he could not kill Duncan when
he saw his boots upon the landing.  Lady Macbeth put a stop to her
husband's hesitation by whipping him up under her arm, and carrying him
off the stage, kicking and screaming.  Ernest laughed till he cried.
"What rot Shakespeare is after this," he exclaimed, involuntarily.  I
remembered his essay on the Greek tragedians, and was more I _epris_ with
him than ever.

Next day he set about looking for employment, and I did not see him till
about five o'clock, when he came and said that he had had no success.  The
same thing happened the next day and the day after that.  Wherever he
went he was invariably refused and often ordered point blank out of the
shop; I could see by the expression of his face, though he said nothing,
that he was getting frightened, and began to think I should have to come
to the rescue.  He said he had made a great many enquiries and had always
been told the same story.  He found that it was easy to keep on in an old
line, but very hard to strike out into a new one.

He talked to the fishmonger in Leather Lane, where he went to buy a
bloater for his tea, casually as though from curiosity and without any
interested motive.  "Sell," said the master of the shop, "Why nobody
wouldn't believe what can be sold by penn'orths and twopenn'orths if you
go the right way to work.  Look at whelks, for instance.  Last Saturday
night me and my little Emma here, we sold 7 pounds worth of whelks
between eight and half past eleven o'clock--and almost all in penn'orths
and twopenn'orths--a few, hap'orths, but not many.  It was the steam that
did it.  We kept a-boiling of 'em hot and hot, and whenever the steam
came strong up from the cellar on to the pavement, the people bought, but
whenever the steam went down they left off buying; so we boiled them over
and over again till they was all sold.  That's just where it is; if you
know your business you can sell, if you don't you'll soon make a mess of
it.  Why, but for the steam, I should not have sold 10s. worth of whelks
all the night through."

This, and many another yarn of kindred substance which he heard from
other people determined Ernest more than ever to stake on tailoring as
the one trade about which he knew anything at all, nevertheless, here
were three or four days gone by and employment seemed as far off as ever.

I now did what I ought to have done before, that is to say, I called on
my own tailor whom I had dealt with for over a quarter of a century and
asked his advice.  He declared Ernest's plan to be hopeless.  "If," said
Mr Larkins, for this was my tailor's name, "he had begun at fourteen, it
might have done, but no man of twenty-four could stand being turned to
work into a workshop full of tailors; he would not get on with the men,
nor the men with him; you could not expect him to be 'hail fellow, well
met' with them, and you could not expect his fellow-workmen to like him
if he was not.  A man must have sunk low through drink or natural taste
for low company, before he could get on with those who have had such a
different training from his own."

Mr Larkins said a great deal more and wound up by taking me to see the
place where his own men worked.  "This is a paradise," he said, "compared
to most workshops.  What gentleman could stand this air, think you, for a
fortnight?"

I was glad enough to get out of the hot, fetid atmosphere in five
minutes, and saw that there was no brick of Ernest's prison to be
loosened by going and working among tailors in a workshop.

Mr Larkins wound up by saying that even if my _protege_ were a much
better workman than he probably was, no master would give him employment,
for fear of creating a bother among the men.

I left, feeling that I ought to have thought of all this myself, and was
more than ever perplexed as to whether I had not better let my young
friend have a few thousand pounds and send him out to the colonies, when,
on my return home at about five o'clock, I found him waiting for me,
radiant, and declaring that he had found all he wanted.




CHAPTER LXXI


It seems he had been patrolling the streets for the last three or four
nights--I suppose in search of something to do--at any rate knowing
better what he wanted to get than how to get it.  Nevertheless, what he
wanted was in reality so easily to be found that it took a highly
educated scholar like himself to be unable to find it.  But, however this
may be, he had been scared, and now saw lions where there were none, and
was shocked and frightened, and night after night his courage had failed
him and he had returned to his lodgings in Laystall Street without
accomplishing his errand.  He had not taken me into his confidence upon
this matter, and I had not enquired what he did with himself in the
evenings.  At last he had concluded that, however painful it might be to
him, he would call on Mrs Jupp, who he thought would be able to help him
if anyone could.  He had been walking moodily from seven till about nine,
and now resolved to go straight to Ashpit Place and make a mother
confessor of Mrs Jupp without more delay.

Of all tasks that could be performed by mortal woman there was none which
Mrs Jupp would have liked better than the one Ernest was thinking of
imposing upon her; nor do I know that in his scared and broken-down state
he could have done much better than he now proposed.  Miss Jupp would
have made it very easy for him to open his grief to her; indeed, she
would have coaxed it all out of him before he knew where he was; but the
fates were against Mrs Jupp, and the meeting between my hero and his
former landlady was postponed _sine die_, for his determination had
hardly been formed and he had not gone more than a hundred yards in the
direction of Mrs Jupp's house, when a woman accosted him.

He was turning from her, as he had turned from so many others, when she
started back with a movement that aroused his curiosity.  He had hardly
seen her face, but being determined to catch sight of it, followed her as
she hurried away, and passed her; then turning round he saw that she was
none other than Ellen, the housemaid who had been dismissed by his mother
eight years previously.

He ought to have assigned Ellen's unwillingness to see him to its true
cause, but a guilty conscience made him think she had heard of his
disgrace and was turning away from him in contempt.  Brave as had been
his resolutions about facing the world, this was more than he was
prepared for; "What! you too shun me, Ellen?" he exclaimed.

The girl was crying bitterly and did not understand him.  "Oh, Master
Ernest," she sobbed, "let me go; you are too good for the likes of me to
speak to now."

"Why, Ellen," said he, "what nonsense you talk; you haven't been in
prison, have you?"

"Oh, no, no, no, not so bad as that," she exclaimed passionately.

"Well, I have," said Ernest, with a forced laugh, "I came out three or
four days ago after six months with hard labour."

Ellen did not believe him, but she looked at him with a "Lor'! Master
Ernest," and dried her eyes at once.  The ice was broken between them,
for as a matter of fact Ellen had been in prison several times, and
though she did not believe Ernest, his merely saying he had been in
prison made her feel more at ease with him.  For her there were two
classes of people, those who had been in prison and those who had not.
The first she looked upon as fellow-creatures and more or less
Christians, the second, with few exceptions, she regarded with suspicion,
not wholly unmingled with contempt.

Then Ernest told her what had happened to him during the last six months,
and by-and-by she believed him.

"Master Ernest," said she, after they had talked for a quarter of an hour
or so, "There's a place over the way where they sell tripe and onions.  I
know you was always very fond of tripe and onions, let's go over and have
some, and we can talk better there."

So the pair crossed the street and entered the tripe shop; Ernest ordered
supper.

"And how is your pore dear mamma, and your dear papa, Master Ernest,"
said Ellen, who had now recovered herself and was quite at home with my
hero.  "Oh, dear, dear me," she said, "I did love your pa; he was a good
gentleman, he was, and your ma too; it would do anyone good to live with
her, I'm sure."

Ernest was surprised and hardly knew what to say.  He had expected to
find Ellen indignant at the way she had been treated, and inclined to lay
the blame of her having fallen to her present state at his father's and
mother's door.  It was not so.  Her only recollection of Battersby was as
of a place where she had had plenty to eat and drink, not too much hard
work, and where she had not been scolded.  When she heard that Ernest had
quarrelled with his father and mother she assumed as a matter of course
that the fault must lie entirely with Ernest.

"Oh, your pore, pore ma!" said Ellen.  "She was always so very fond of
you, Master Ernest: you was always her favourite; I can't abear to think
of anything between you and her.  To think now of the way she used to
have me into the dining-room and teach me my catechism, that she did!  Oh,
Master Ernest, you really must go and make it all up with her; indeed you
must."

Ernest felt rueful, but he had resisted so valiantly already that the
devil might have saved himself the trouble of trying to get at him
through Ellen in the matter of his father and mother.  He changed the
subject, and the pair warmed to one another as they had their tripe and
pots of beer.  Of all people in the world Ellen was perhaps the one to
whom Ernest could have spoken most freely at this juncture.  He told her
what he thought he could have told to no one else.

"You know, Ellen," he concluded, "I had learnt as a boy things that I
ought not to have learnt, and had never had a chance of that which would
have set me straight."

"Gentlefolks is always like that," said Ellen musingly.

"I believe you are right, but I am no longer a gentleman, Ellen, and I
don't see why I should be 'like that' any longer, my dear.  I want you to
help me to be like something else as soon as possible."

"Lor'! Master Ernest, whatever can you be meaning?"

The pair soon afterwards left the eating-house and walked up Fetter Lane
together.

Ellen had had hard times since she had left Battersby, but they had left
little trace upon her.

Ernest saw only the fresh-looking smiling face, the dimpled cheek, the
clear blue eyes and lovely sphinx-like lips which he had remembered as a
boy.  At nineteen she had looked older than she was, now she looked much
younger; indeed she looked hardly older than when Ernest had last seen
her, and it would have taken a man of much greater experience than he
possessed to suspect how completely she had fallen from her first estate.
It never occurred to him that the poor condition of her wardrobe was due
to her passion for ardent spirits, and that first and last she had served
five or six times as much time in gaol as he had.  He ascribed the
poverty of her attire to the attempts to keep herself respectable, which
Ellen during supper had more than once alluded to.  He had been charmed
with the way in which she had declared that a pint of beer would make her
tipsy, and had only allowed herself to be forced into drinking the whole
after a good deal of remonstrance.  To him she appeared a very angel
dropped from the sky, and all the more easy to get on with for being a
fallen one.

As he walked up Fetter Lane with her towards Laystall Street, he thought
of the wonderful goodness of God towards him in throwing in his way the
very person of all others whom he was most glad to see, and whom, of all
others, in spite of her living so near him, he might have never fallen in
with but for a happy accident.

When people get it into their heads that they are being specially
favoured by the Almighty, they had better as a general rule mind their
p's and q's, and when they think they see the devil's drift with more
special clearness, let them remember that he has had much more experience
than they have, and is probably meditating mischief.

Already during supper the thought that in Ellen at last he had found a
woman whom he could love well enough to wish to live with and marry had
flitted across his mind, and the more they had chatted the more reasons
kept suggesting themselves for thinking that what might be folly in
ordinary cases would not be folly in his.

He must marry someone; that was already settled.  He could not marry a
lady; that was absurd.  He must marry a poor woman.  Yes, but a fallen
one?  Was he not fallen himself?  Ellen would fall no more.  He had only
to look at her to be sure of this.  He could not live with her in sin,
not for more than the shortest time that could elapse before their
marriage; he no longer believed in the supernatural element of
Christianity, but the Christian morality at any rate was indisputable.
Besides, they might have children, and a stigma would rest upon them.
Whom had he to consult but himself now?  His father and mother never need
know, and even if they did, they should be thankful to see him married to
any woman who would make him happy as Ellen would.  As for not being able
to afford marriage, how did poor people do?  Did not a good wife rather
help matters than not?  Where one could live two could do so, and if
Ellen was three or four years older than he was--well, what was that?

Have you, gentle reader, ever loved at first sight?  When you fell in
love at first sight, how long, let me ask, did it take you to become
ready to fling every other consideration to the winds except that of
obtaining possession of the loved one?  Or rather, how long would it have
taken you if you had had no father or mother, nothing to lose in the way
of money, position, friends, professional advancement, or what not, and
if the object of your affections was as free from all these _impedimenta_
as you were yourself?

If you were a young John Stuart Mill, perhaps it would have taken you
some time, but suppose your nature was Quixotic, impulsive, altruistic,
guileless; suppose you were a hungry man starving for something to love
and lean upon, for one whose burdens you might bear, and who might help
you to bear yours.  Suppose you were down on your luck, still stunned by
a horrible shock, and this bright vista of a happy future floated
suddenly before you, how long under these circumstances do you think you
would reflect before you would decide on embracing what chance had thrown
in your way?

It did not take my hero long, for before he got past the ham and beef
shop near the top of Fetter Lane, he had told Ellen that she must come
home with him and live with him till they could get married, which they
would do upon the first day that the law allowed.

I think the devil must have chuckled and made tolerably sure of his game
this time.




CHAPTER LXXII


Ernest told Ellen of his difficulty about finding employment.

"But what do you think of going into a shop for, my dear," said Ellen.
"Why not take a little shop yourself?"

Ernest asked how much this would cost.  Ellen told him that he might take
a house in some small street, say near the "Elephant and Castle," for
17s. or 18s. a week, and let off the two top floors for 10s., keeping the
back parlour and shop for themselves.  If he could raise five or six
pounds to buy some second-hand clothes to stock the shop with, they could
mend them and clean them, and she could look after the women's clothes
while he did the men's.  Then he could mend and make, if he could get the
orders.

They could soon make a business of 2 pounds a week in this way; she had a
friend who began like that and had now moved to a better shop, where she
made 5 or 6 pounds a week at least--and she, Ellen, had done the greater
part of the buying and selling herself.

Here was a new light indeed.  It was as though he had got his 5000 pounds
back again all of a sudden, and perhaps ever so much more later on into
the bargain.  Ellen seemed more than ever to be his good genius.

She went out and got a few rashers of bacon for his and her breakfast.
She cooked them much more nicely than he had been able to do, and laid
breakfast for him and made coffee, and some nice brown toast.  Ernest had
been his own cook and housemaid for the last few days and had not given
himself satisfaction.  Here he suddenly found himself with someone to
wait on him again.  Not only had Ellen pointed out to him how he could
earn a living when no one except himself had known how to advise him, but
here she was so pretty and smiling, looking after even his comforts, and
restoring him practically in all respects that he much cared about to the
position which he had lost--or rather putting him in one that he already
liked much better.  No wonder he was radiant when he came to explain his
plans to me.

He had some difficulty in telling all that had happened.  He hesitated,
blushed, hummed and hawed.  Misgivings began to cross his mind when he
found himself obliged to tell his story to someone else.  He felt
inclined to slur things over, but I wanted to get at the facts, so I
helped him over the bad places, and questioned him till I had got out
pretty nearly the whole story as I have given it above.

I hope I did not show it, but I was very angry.  I had begun to like
Ernest.  I don't know why, but I never have heard that any young man to
whom I had become attached was going to get married without hating his
intended instinctively, though I had never seen her; I have observed that
most bachelors feel the same thing, though we are generally at some pains
to hide the fact.  Perhaps it is because we know we ought to have got
married ourselves.  Ordinarily we say we are delighted--in the present
case I did not feel obliged to do this, though I made an effort to
conceal my vexation.  That a young man of much promise who was heir also
to what was now a handsome fortune, should fling himself away upon such a
person as Ellen was quite too provoking, and the more so because of the
unexpectedness of the whole affair.

I begged him not to marry Ellen yet--not at least until he had known her
for a longer time.  He would not hear of it; he had given his word, and
if he had not given it he should go and give it at once.  I had hitherto
found him upon most matters singularly docile and easy to manage, but on
this point I could do nothing with him.  His recent victory over his
father and mother had increased his strength, and I was nowhere.  I would
have told him of his true position, but I knew very well that this would
only make him more bent on having his own way--for with so much money why
should he not please himself?  I said nothing, therefore, on this head,
and yet all that I could urge went for very little with one who believed
himself to be an artisan or nothing.

Really from his own standpoint there was nothing very outrageous in what
he was doing.  He had known and been very fond of Ellen years before.  He
knew her to come of respectable people, and to have borne a good
character, and to have been universally liked at Battersby.  She was then
a quick, smart, hard-working girl--and a very pretty one.  When at last
they met again she was on her best behaviour, in fact, she was modesty
and demureness itself.  What wonder, then, that his imagination should
fail to realise the changes that eight years must have worked?  He knew
too much against himself, and was too bankrupt in love to be squeamish;
if Ellen had been only what he thought her, and if his prospects had been
in reality no better than he believed they were, I do not know that there
is anything much more imprudent in what Ernest proposed than there is in
half the marriages that take place every day.

There was nothing for it, however, but to make the best of the
inevitable, so I wished my young friend good fortune, and told him he
could have whatever money he wanted to start his shop with, if what he
had in hand was not sufficient.  He thanked me, asked me to be kind
enough to let him do all my mending and repairing, and to get him any
other like orders that I could, and left me to my own reflections.

I was even more angry when he was gone than I had been while he was with
me.  His frank, boyish face had beamed with a happiness that had rarely
visited it.  Except at Cambridge he had hardly known what happiness
meant, and even there his life had been clouded as of a man for whom
wisdom at the greatest of its entrances was quite shut out.  I had seen
enough of the world and of him to have observed this, but it was
impossible, or I thought it had been impossible, for me to have helped
him.

Whether I ought to have tried to help him or not I do not know, but I am
sure that the young of all animals often do want help upon matters about
which anyone would say _a priori_ that there should be no difficulty.  One
would think that a young seal would want no teaching how to swim, nor yet
a bird to fly, but in practice a young seal drowns if put out of its
depth before its parents have taught it to swim; and so again, even the
young hawk must be taught to fly before it can do so.

I grant that the tendency of the times is to exaggerate the good which
teaching can do, but in trying to teach too much, in most matters, we
have neglected others in respect of which a little sensible teaching
would do no harm.

I know it is the fashion to say that young people must find out things
for themselves, and so they probably would if they had fair play to the
extent of not having obstacles put in their way.  But they seldom have
fair play; as a general rule they meet with foul play, and foul play from
those who live by selling them stones made into a great variety of shapes
and sizes so as to form a tolerable imitation of bread.

Some are lucky enough to meet with few obstacles, some are plucky enough
to over-ride them, but in the greater number of cases, if people are
saved at all they are saved so as by fire.

While Ernest was with me Ellen was looking out for a shop on the south
side of the Thames near the "Elephant and Castle," which was then almost
a new and a very rising neighbourhood.  By one o'clock she had found
several from which a selection was to be made, and before night the pair
had made their choice.

Ernest brought Ellen to me.  I did not want to see her, but could not
well refuse.  He had laid out a few of his shillings upon her wardrobe,
so that she was neatly dressed, and, indeed, she looked very pretty and
so good that I could hardly be surprised at Ernest's infatuation when the
other circumstances of the case were taken into consideration.  Of course
we hated one another instinctively from the first moment we set eyes on
one another, but we each told Ernest that we had been most favourably
impressed.

Then I was taken to see the shop.  An empty house is like a stray dog or
a body from which life has departed.  Decay sets in at once in every part
of it, and what mould and wind and weather would spare, street boys
commonly destroy.  Ernest's shop in its untenanted state was a dirty
unsavoury place enough.  The house was not old, but it had been run up by
a jerry-builder and its constitution had no stamina whatever.  It was
only by being kept warm and quiet that it would remain in health for many
months together.  Now it had been empty for some weeks and the cats had
got in by night, while the boys had broken the windows by day.  The
parlour floor was covered with stones and dirt, and in the area was a
dead dog which had been killed in the street and been thrown down into
the first unprotected place that could be found.  There was a strong
smell throughout the house, but whether it was bugs, or rats, or cats, or
drains, or a compound of all four, I could not determine.  The sashes did
not fit, the flimsy doors hung badly; the skirting was gone in several
places, and there were not a few holes in the floor; the locks were
loose, and paper was torn and dirty; the stairs were weak and one felt
the treads give as one went up them.

Over and above these drawbacks the house had an ill name, by reason of
the fact that the wife of the last occupant had hanged herself in it not
very many weeks previously.  She had set down a bloater before the fire
for her husband's tea, and had made him a round of toast.  She then left
the room as though about to return to it shortly, but instead of doing so
she went into the back kitchen and hanged herself without a word.  It was
this which had kept the house empty so long in spite of its excellent
position as a corner shop.  The last tenant had left immediately after
the inquest, and if the owner had had it done up then people would have
got over the tragedy that had been enacted in it, but the combination of
bad condition and bad fame had hindered many from taking it, who like
Ellen, could see that it had great business capabilities.  Almost
anything would have sold there, but it happened also that there was no
second-hand clothes shop in close proximity so that everything combined
in its favour, except its filthy state and its reputation.

When I saw it, I thought I would rather die than live in such an awful
place--but then I had been living in the Temple for the last five and
twenty years.  Ernest was lodging in Laystall Street and had just come
out of prison; before this he had lived in Ashpit Place so that this
house had no terrors for him provided he could get it done up.  The
difficulty was that the landlord was hard to move in this respect.  It
ended in my finding the money to do everything that was wanted, and
taking a lease of the house for five years at the same rental as that
paid by the last occupant.  I then sublet it to Ernest, of course taking
care that it was put more efficiently into repair than his landlord was
at all likely to have put it.

A week later I called and found everything so completely transformed that
I should hardly have recognised the house.  All the ceilings had been
whitewashed, all the rooms papered, the broken glass hacked out and
reinstated, the defective wood-work renewed, all the sashes, cupboards
and doors had been painted.  The drains had been thoroughly overhauled,
everything in fact, that could be done had been done, and the rooms now
looked as cheerful as they had been forbidding when I had last seen them.
The people who had done the repairs were supposed to have cleaned the
house down before leaving, but Ellen had given it another scrub from top
to bottom herself after they were gone, and it was as clean as a new pin.
I almost felt as though I could have lived in it myself, and as for
Ernest, he was in the seventh heaven.  He said it was all my doing and
Ellen's.

There was already a counter in the shop and a few fittings, so that
nothing now remained but to get some stock and set them out for sale.
Ernest said he could not begin better than by selling his clerical
wardrobe and his books, for though the shop was intended especially for
the sale of second-hand clothes, yet Ellen said there was no reason why
they should not sell a few books too; so a beginning was to be made by
selling the books he had had at school and college at about one shilling
a volume, taking them all round, and I have heard him say that he learned
more that proved of practical use to him through stocking his books on a
bench in front of his shop and selling them, than he had done from all
the years of study which he had bestowed upon their contents.

For the enquiries that were made of him whether he had such and such a
book taught him what he could sell and what he could not; how much he
could get for this, and how much for that.  Having made ever such a
little beginning with books, he took to attending book sales as well as
clothes sales, and ere long this branch of his business became no less
important than the tailoring, and would, I have no doubt, have been the
one which he would have settled down to exclusively, if he had been
called upon to remain a tradesman; but this is anticipating.

I made a contribution and a stipulation.  Ernest wanted to sink the
gentleman completely, until such time as he could work his way up again.
If he had been left to himself he would have lived with Ellen in the shop
back parlour and kitchen, and have let out both the upper floors
according to his original programme.  I did not want him, however, to cut
himself adrift from music, letters and polite life, and feared that
unless he had some kind of den into which he could retire he would ere
long become the tradesman and nothing else.  I therefore insisted on
taking the first floor front and back myself, and furnishing them with
the things which had been left at Mrs Jupp's.  I bought these things of
him for a small sum and had them moved into his present abode.

I went to Mrs Jupp's to arrange all this, as Ernest did not like going to
Ashpit Place.  I had half expected to find the furniture sold and Mrs
Jupp gone, but it was not so; with all her faults the poor old woman was
perfectly honest.

I told her that Pryer had taken all Ernest's money and run away with it.
She hated Pryer.  "I never knew anyone," she exclaimed, "as white-livered
in the face as that Pryer; he hasn't got an upright vein in his whole
body.  Why, all that time when he used to come breakfasting with Mr
Pontifex morning after morning, it took me to a perfect shadow the way he
carried on.  There was no doing anything to please him right.  First I
used to get them eggs and bacon, and he didn't like that; and then I got
him a bit of fish, and he didn't like that, or else it was too dear, and
you know fish is dearer than ever; and then I got him a bit of German,
and he said it rose on him; then I tried sausages, and he said they hit
him in the eye worse even than German; oh! how I used to wander my room
and fret about it inwardly and cry for hours, and all about them paltry
breakfasts--and it wasn't Mr Pontifex; he'd like anything that anyone
chose to give him.

"And so the piano's to go," she continued.  "What beautiful tunes Mr
Pontifex did play upon it, to be sure; and there was one I liked better
than any I ever heard.  I was in the room when he played it once and when
I said, 'Oh, Mr Pontifex, that's the kind of woman I am,' he said, 'No,
Mrs Jupp, it isn't, for this tune is old, but no one can say you are
old.'  But, bless you, he meant nothing by it, it was only his mucky
flattery."

Like myself, she was vexed at his getting married.  She didn't like his
being married, and she didn't like his not being married--but, anyhow, it
was Ellen's fault, not his, and she hoped he would be happy.  "But after
all," she concluded, "it ain't you and it ain't me, and it ain't him and
it ain't her.  It's what you must call the fortunes of matterimony, for
there ain't no other word for it."

In the course of the afternoon the furniture arrived at Ernest's new
abode.  In the first floor we placed the piano, table, pictures,
bookshelves, a couple of arm-chairs, and all the little household gods
which he had brought from Cambridge.  The back room was furnished exactly
as his bedroom at Ashpit Place had been--new things being got for the
bridal apartment downstairs.  These two first-floor rooms I insisted on
retaining as my own, but Ernest was to use them whenever he pleased; he
was never to sublet even the bedroom, but was to keep it for himself in
case his wife should be ill at any time, or in case he might be ill
himself.

In less than a fortnight from the time of his leaving prison all these
arrangements had been completed, and Ernest felt that he had again linked
himself on to the life which he had led before his imprisonment--with a
few important differences, however, which were greatly to his advantage.
He was no longer a clergyman; he was about to marry a woman to whom he
was much attached, and he had parted company for ever with his father and
mother.

True, he had lost all his money, his reputation, and his position as a
gentleman; he had, in fact, had to burn his house down in order to get
his roast sucking pig; but if asked whether he would rather be as he was
now or as he was on the day before his arrest, he would not have had a
moment's hesitation in preferring his present to his past.  If his
present could only have been purchased at the expense of all that he had
gone through, it was still worth purchasing at the price, and he would go
through it all again if necessary.  The loss of the money was the worst,
but Ellen said she was sure they would get on, and she knew all about it.
As for the loss of reputation--considering that he had Ellen and me left,
it did not come to much.

I saw the house on the afternoon of the day on which all was finished,
and there remained nothing but to buy some stock and begin selling.  When
I was gone, after he had had his tea, he stole up to his castle--the
first floor front.  He lit his pipe and sat down to the piano.  He played
Handel for an hour or so, and then set himself to the table to read and
write.  He took all his sermons and all the theological works he had
begun to compose during the time he had been a clergyman and put them in
the fire; as he saw them consume he felt as though he had got rid of
another incubus.  Then he took up some of the little pieces he had begun
to write during the latter part of his undergraduate life at Cambridge,
and began to cut them about and re-write them.  As he worked quietly at
these till he heard the clock strike ten and it was time to go to bed, he
felt that he was now not only happy but supremely happy.

Next day Ellen took him to Debenham's auction rooms, and they surveyed
the lots of clothes which were hung up all round the auction room to be
viewed.  Ellen had had sufficient experience to know about how much each
lot ought to fetch; she overhauled lot after lot, and valued it; in a
very short time Ernest himself began to have a pretty fair idea what each
lot should go for, and before the morning was over valued a dozen lots
running at prices about which Ellen said he would not hurt if he could
get them for that.

So far from disliking this work or finding it tedious, he liked it very
much, indeed he would have liked anything which did not overtax his
physical strength, and which held out a prospect of bringing him in
money.  Ellen would not let him buy anything on the occasion of this
sale; she said he had better see one sale first and watch how prices
actually went.  So at twelve o'clock when the sale began, he saw the lots
sold which he and Ellen had marked, and by the time the sale was over he
knew enough to be able to bid with safety whenever he should actually
want to buy.  Knowledge of this sort is very easily acquired by anyone
who is in _bona fide_ want of it.

But Ellen did not want him to buy at auctions--not much at least at
present.  Private dealing, she said, was best.  If I, for example, had
any cast-off clothes, he was to buy them from my laundress, and get a
connection with other laundresses, to whom he might give a trifle more
than they got at present for whatever clothes their masters might give
them, and yet make a good profit.  If gentlemen sold their things, he was
to try and get them to sell to him.  He flinched at nothing; perhaps he
would have flinched if he had had any idea how _outre_ his proceedings
were, but the very ignorance of the world which had ruined him up till
now, by a happy irony began to work its own cure.  If some malignant
fairy had meant to curse him in this respect, she had overdone her
malice.  He did not know he was doing anything strange.  He only knew
that he had no money, and must provide for himself, a wife, and a
possible family.  More than this, he wanted to have some leisure in an
evening, so that he might read and write and keep up his music.  If
anyone would show him how he could do better than he was doing, he should
be much obliged to them, but to himself it seemed that he was doing
sufficiently well; for at the end of the first week the pair found they
had made a clear profit of 3 pounds.  In a few weeks this had increased
to 4 pounds, and by the New Year they had made a profit of 5 pounds in
one week.

Ernest had by this time been married some two months, for he had stuck to
his original plan of marrying Ellen on the first day he could legally do
so.  This date was a little delayed by the change of abode from Laystall
Street to Blackfriars, but on the first day that it could be done it was
done.  He had never had more than 250 pounds a year, even in the times of
his affluence, so that a profit of 5 pounds a week, if it could be
maintained steadily, would place him where he had been as far as income
went, and, though he should have to feed two mouths instead of one, yet
his expenses in other ways were so much curtailed by his changed social
position, that, take it all round, his income was practically what it had
been a twelvemonth before.  The next thing to do was to increase it, and
put by money.

Prosperity depends, as we all know, in great measure upon energy and good
sense, but it also depends not a little upon pure luck--that is to say,
upon connections which are in such a tangle that it is more easy to say
that they do not exist, than to try to trace them.  A neighbourhood may
have an excellent reputation as being likely to be a rising one, and yet
may become suddenly eclipsed by another, which no one would have thought
so promising.  A fever hospital may divert the stream of business, or a
new station attract it; so little, indeed, can be certainly known, that
it is better not to try to know more than is in everybody's mouth, and to
leave the rest to chance.

Luck, which certainly had not been too kind to my hero hitherto, now
seemed to have taken him under her protection.  The neighbourhood
prospered, and he with it.  It seemed as though he no sooner bought a
thing and put it into his shop, than it sold with a profit of from thirty
to fifty per cent.  He learned book-keeping, and watched his accounts
carefully, following up any success immediately; he began to buy other
things besides clothes--such as books, music, odds and ends of furniture,
etc.  Whether it was luck or business aptitude, or energy, or the
politeness with which he treated all his customers, I cannot say--but to
the surprise of no one more than himself, he went ahead faster than he
had anticipated, even in his wildest dreams, and by Easter was
established in a strong position as the owner of a business which was
bringing him in between four and five hundred a year, and which he
understood how to extend.




CHAPTER LXXIII


Ellen and he got on capitally, all the better, perhaps, because the
disparity between them was so great, that neither did Ellen want to be
elevated, nor did Ernest want to elevate her.  He was very fond of her,
and very kind to her; they had interests which they could serve in
common; they had antecedents with a good part of which each was familiar;
they had each of them excellent tempers, and this was enough.  Ellen did
not seem jealous at Ernest's preferring to sit the greater part of his
time after the day's work was done in the first floor front where I
occasionally visited him.  She might have come and sat with him if she
had liked, but, somehow or other, she generally found enough to occupy
her down below.  She had the tact also to encourage him to go out of an
evening whenever he had a mind, without in the least caring that he
should take her too--and this suited Ernest very well.  He was, I should
say, much happier in his married life than people generally are.

At first it had been very painful to him to meet any of his old friends,
as he sometimes accidentally did, but this soon passed; either they cut
him, or he cut them; it was not nice being cut for the first time or two,
but after that, it became rather pleasant than not, and when he began to
see that he was going ahead, he cared very little what people might say
about his antecedents.  The ordeal is a painful one, but if a man's moral
and intellectual constitution are naturally sound, there is nothing which
will give him so much strength of character as having been well cut.

It was easy for him to keep his expenditure down, for his tastes were not
luxurious.  He liked theatres, outings into the country on a Sunday, and
tobacco, but he did not care for much else, except writing and music.  As
for the usual run of concerts, he hated them.  He worshipped Handel; he
liked Offenbach, and the airs that went about the streets, but he cared
for nothing between these two extremes.  Music, therefore, cost him
little.  As for theatres, I got him and Ellen as many orders as they
liked, so these cost them nothing.  The Sunday outings were a small item;
for a shilling or two he could get a return ticket to some place far
enough out of town to give him a good walk and a thorough change for the
day.  Ellen went with him the first few times, but she said she found it
too much for her, there were a few of her old friends whom she should
sometimes like to see, and they and he, she said, would not hit it off
perhaps too well, so it would be better for him to go alone.  This seemed
so sensible, and suited Ernest so exactly that he readily fell into it,
nor did he suspect dangers which were apparent enough to me when I heard
how she had treated the matter.  I kept silence, however, and for a time
all continued to go well.  As I have said, one of his chief pleasures was
in writing.  If a man carries with him a little sketch book and is
continually jotting down sketches, he has the artistic instinct; a
hundred things may hinder his due development, but the instinct is there.
The literary instinct may be known by a man's keeping a small note-book
in his waistcoat pocket, into which he jots down anything that strikes
him, or any good thing that he hears said, or a reference to any passage
which he thinks will come in useful to him.  Ernest had such a note-book
always with him.  Even when he was at Cambridge he had begun the practice
without anyone's having suggested it to him.  These notes he copied out
from time to time into a book, which as they accumulated, he was driven
into indexing approximately, as he went along.  When I found out this, I
knew that he had the literary instinct, and when I saw his notes I began
to hope great things of him.

For a long time I was disappointed.  He was kept back by the nature of
the subjects he chose--which were generally metaphysical.  In vain I
tried to get him away from these to matters which had a greater interest
for the general public.  When I begged him to try his hand at some
pretty, graceful, little story which should be full of whatever people
knew and liked best, he would immediately set to work upon a treatise to
show the grounds on which all belief rested.

"You are stirring mud," said I, "or poking at a sleeping dog.  You are
trying to make people resume consciousness about things, which, with
sensible men, have already passed into the unconscious stage.  The men
whom you would disturb are in front of you, and not, as you fancy, behind
you; it is you who are the lagger, not they."

He could not see it.  He said he was engaged on an essay upon the famous
_quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus_ of St Vincent de Lerins.  This
was the more provoking because he showed himself able to do better things
if he had liked.

I was then at work upon my burlesque "The Impatient Griselda," and was
sometimes at my wits' end for a piece of business or a situation; he gave
me many suggestions, all of which were marked by excellent good sense.
Nevertheless I could not prevail with him to put philosophy on one side,
and was obliged to leave him to himself.

For a long time, as I have said, his choice of subjects continued to be
such as I could not approve.  He was continually studying scientific and
metaphysical writers, in the hope of either finding or making for himself
a philosopher's stone in the shape of a system which should go on all
fours under all circumstances, instead of being liable to be upset at
every touch and turn, as every system yet promulgated has turned out to
be.

He kept to the pursuit of this will-o'-the-wisp so long that I gave up
hope, and set him down as another fly that had been caught, as it were,
by a piece of paper daubed over with some sticky stuff that had not even
the merit of being sweet, but to my surprise he at last declared that he
was satisfied, and had found what he wanted.

I supposed that he had only hit upon some new "Lo, here!" when to my
relief, he told me that he had concluded that no system which should go
perfectly upon all fours was possible, inasmuch as no one could get
behind Bishop Berkeley, and therefore no absolutely incontrovertible
first premise could ever be laid.  Having found this he was just as well
pleased as if he had found the most perfect system imaginable.  All he
wanted he said, was to know which way it was to be--that is to say
whether a system was possible or not, and if possible then what the
system was to be.  Having found out that no system based on absolute
certainty was possible he was contented.

I had only a very vague idea who Bishop Berkeley was, but was thankful to
him for having defended us from an incontrovertible first premise.  I am
afraid I said a few words implying that after a great deal of trouble he
had arrived at the conclusion which sensible people reach without
bothering their brains so much.

He said: "Yes, but I was not born sensible.  A child of ordinary powers
learns to walk at a year or two old without knowing much about it;
failing ordinary powers he had better learn laboriously than never learn
at all.  I am sorry I was not stronger, but to do as I did was my only
chance."

He looked so meek that I was vexed with myself for having said what I
had, more especially when I remembered his bringing-up, which had
doubtless done much to impair his power of taking a common-sense view of
things.  He continued--

"I see it all now.  The people like Towneley are the only ones who know
anything that is worth knowing, and like that of course I can never be.
But to make Towneleys possible there must be hewers of wood and drawers
of water--men in fact through whom conscious knowledge must pass before
it can reach those who can apply it gracefully and instinctively as the
Towneleys can.  I am a hewer of wood, but if I accept the position
frankly and do not set up to be a Towneley, it does not matter."

He still, therefore, stuck to science instead of turning to literature
proper as I hoped he would have done, but he confined himself henceforth
to enquiries on specific subjects concerning which an increase of our
knowledge--as he said--was possible.  Having in fact, after infinite
vexation of spirit, arrived at a conclusion which cut at the roots of all
knowledge, he settled contentedly down to the pursuit of knowledge, and
has pursued it ever since in spite of occasional excursions into the
regions of literature proper.

But this is anticipating, and may perhaps also convey a wrong impression,
for from the outset he did occasionally turn his attention to work which
must be more properly called literary than either scientific or
metaphysical.




CHAPTER LXXIV


About six months after he had set up his shop his prosperity had reached
its climax.  It seemed even then as though he were likely to go ahead no
less fast than heretofore, and I doubt not that he would have done so, if
success or non-success had depended upon himself alone.  Unfortunately he
was not the only person to be reckoned with.

One morning he had gone out to attend some sales, leaving his wife
perfectly well, as usual in good spirits, and looking very pretty.  When
he came back he found her sitting on a chair in the back parlour, with
her hair over her face, sobbing and crying as though her heart would
break.  She said she had been frightened in the morning by a man who had
pretended to be a customer, and had threatened her unless she gave him
some things, and she had had to give them to him in order to save herself
from violence; she had been in hysterics ever since the man had gone.
This was her story, but her speech was so incoherent that it was not easy
to make out what she said.  Ernest knew she was with child, and thinking
this might have something to do with the matter, would have sent for a
doctor if Ellen had not begged him not to do so.

Anyone who had had experience of drunken people would have seen at a
glance what the matter was, but my hero knew nothing about them--nothing,
that is to say, about the drunkenness of the habitual drunkard, which
shows itself very differently from that of one who gets drunk only once
in a way.  The idea that his wife could drink had never even crossed his
mind, indeed she always made a fuss about taking more than a very little
beer, and never touched spirits.  He did not know much more about
hysterics than he did about drunkenness, but he had always heard that
women who were about to become mothers were liable to be easily upset and
were often rather flighty, so he was not greatly surprised, and thought
he had settled the matter by registering the discovery that being about
to become a father has its troublesome as well as its pleasant side.

The great change in Ellen's life consequent upon her meeting Ernest and
getting married had for a time actually sobered her by shaking her out of
her old ways.  Drunkenness is so much a matter of habit, and habit so
much a matter of surroundings, that if you completely change the
surroundings you will sometimes get rid of the drunkenness altogether.
Ellen had intended remaining always sober henceforward, and never having
had so long a steady fit before, believed she was now cured.  So she
perhaps would have been if she had seen none of her old acquaintances.
When, however, her new life was beginning to lose its newness, and when
her old acquaintances came to see her, her present surroundings became
more like her past, and on this she herself began to get like her past
too.  At first she only got a little tipsy and struggled against a
relapse; but it was no use, she soon lost the heart to fight, and now her
object was not to try and keep sober, but to get gin without her
husband's finding it out.

So the hysterics continued, and she managed to make her husband still
think that they were due to her being about to become a mother.  The
worse her attacks were, the more devoted he became in his attention to
her.  At last he insisted that a doctor should see her.  The doctor of
course took in the situation at a glance, but said nothing to Ernest
except in such a guarded way that he did not understand the hints that
were thrown out to him.  He was much too downright and matter of fact to
be quick at taking hints of this sort.  He hoped that as soon as his
wife's confinement was over she would regain her health and had no
thought save how to spare her as far as possible till that happy time
should come.

In the mornings she was generally better, as long that is to say as
Ernest remained at home; but he had to go out buying, and on his return
would generally find that she had had another attack as soon as he had
left the house.  At times she would laugh and cry for half an hour
together, at others she would lie in a semi-comatose state upon the bed,
and when he came back he would find that the shop had been neglected and
all the work of the household left undone.  Still he took it for granted
that this was all part of the usual course when women were going to
become mothers, and when Ellen's share of the work settled down more and
more upon his own shoulders he did it all and drudged away without a
murmur.  Nevertheless, he began to feel in a vague way more as he had
felt in Ashpit Place, at Roughborough, or at Battersby, and to lose the
buoyancy of spirits which had made another man of him during the first
six months of his married life.

It was not only that he had to do so much household work, for even the
cooking, cleaning up slops, bed-making and fire-lighting ere long
devolved upon him, but his business no longer prospered.  He could buy as
hitherto, but Ellen seemed unable to sell as she had sold at first.  The
fact was that she sold as well as ever, but kept back part of the
proceeds in order to buy gin, and she did this more and more till even
the unsuspecting Ernest ought to have seen that she was not telling the
truth.  When she sold better--that is to say when she did not think it
safe to keep back more than a certain amount, she got money out of him on
the plea that she had a longing for this or that, and that it would
perhaps irreparably damage the baby if her longing was denied her.  All
seemed right, reasonable, and unavoidable, nevertheless Ernest saw that
until the confinement was over he was likely to have a hard time of it.
All however would then come right again.




CHAPTER LXXV


In the month of September 1860 a girl was born, and Ernest was proud and
happy.  The birth of the child, and a rather alarming talk which the
doctor had given to Ellen sobered her for a few weeks, and it really
seemed as though his hopes were about to be fulfilled.  The expenses of
his wife's confinement were heavy, and he was obliged to trench upon his
savings, but he had no doubt about soon recouping this now that Ellen was
herself again; for a time indeed his business did revive a little,
nevertheless it seemed as though the interruption to his prosperity had
in some way broken the spell of good luck which had attended him in the
outset; he was still sanguine, however, and worked night and day with a
will, but there was no more music, or reading, or writing now.  His
Sunday outings were put a stop to, and but for the first floor being let
to myself, he would have lost his citadel there too, but he seldom used
it, for Ellen had to wait more and more upon the baby, and, as a
consequence, Ernest had to wait more and more upon Ellen.

One afternoon, about a couple of months after the baby had been born, and
just as my unhappy hero was beginning to feel more hopeful and therefore
better able to bear his burdens, he returned from a sale, and found Ellen
in the same hysterical condition that he had found her in in the spring.
She said she was again with child, and Ernest still believed her.

All the troubles of the preceding six months began again then and there,
and grew worse and worse continually.  Money did not come in quickly, for
Ellen cheated him by keeping it back, and dealing improperly with the
goods he bought.  When it did come in she got it out of him as before on
pretexts which it seemed inhuman to inquire into.  It was always the same
story.  By and by a new feature began to show itself.  Ernest had
inherited his father's punctuality and exactness as regards money; he
liked to know the worst of what he had to pay at once; he hated having
expenses sprung upon him which if not foreseen might and ought to have
been so, but now bills began to be brought to him for things ordered by
Ellen without his knowledge, or for which he had already given her the
money.  This was awful, and even Ernest turned.  When he remonstrated
with her--not for having bought the things, but for having said nothing
to him about the moneys being owing--Ellen met him with hysteria and
there was a scene.  She had now pretty well forgotten the hard times she
had known when she had been on her own resources and reproached him
downright with having married her--on that moment the scales fell from
Ernest's eyes as they had fallen when Towneley had said, "No, no, no."  He
said nothing, but he woke up once for all to the fact that he had made a
mistake in marrying.  A touch had again come which had revealed him to
himself.

He went upstairs to the disused citadel, flung himself into the
arm-chair, and covered his face with his hands.

He still did not know that his wife drank, but he could no longer trust
her, and his dream of happiness was over.  He had been saved from the
Church--so as by fire, but still saved--but what could now save him from
his marriage?  He had made the same mistake that he had made in wedding
himself to the Church, but with a hundred times worse results.  He had
learnt nothing by experience: he was an Esau--one of those wretches whose
hearts the Lord had hardened, who, having ears, heard not, having eyes
saw not, and who should find no place for repentance though they sought
it even with tears.

Yet had he not on the whole tried to find out what the ways of God were,
and to follow them in singleness of heart?  To a certain extent, yes; but
he had not been thorough; he had not given up all for God.  He knew that
very well he had done little as compared with what he might and ought to
have done, but still if he was being punished for this, God was a hard
taskmaster, and one, too, who was continually pouncing out upon his
unhappy creatures from ambuscades.  In marrying Ellen he had meant to
avoid a life of sin, and to take the course he believed to be moral and
right.  With his antecedents and surroundings it was the most natural
thing in the world for him to have done, yet in what a frightful position
had not his morality landed him.  Could any amount of immorality have
placed him in a much worse one?  What was morality worth if it was not
that which on the whole brought a man peace at the last, and could anyone
have reasonable certainty that marriage would do this?  It seemed to him
that in his attempt to be moral he had been following a devil which had
disguised itself as an angel of light.  But if so, what ground was there
on which a man might rest the sole of his foot and tread in reasonable
safety?

He was still too young to reach the answer, "On common sense"--an answer
which he would have felt to be unworthy of anyone who had an ideal
standard.

However this might be, it was plain that he had now done for himself.  It
had been thus with him all his life.  If there had come at any time a
gleam of sunshine and hope, it was to be obscured immediately--why,
prison was happier than this!  There, at any rate, he had had no money
anxieties, and these were beginning to weigh upon him now with all their
horrors.  He was happier even now than he had been at Battersby or at
Roughborough, and he would not now go back, even if he could, to his
Cambridge life, but for all that the outlook was so gloomy, in fact so
hopeless, that he felt as if he could have only too gladly gone to sleep
and died in his arm-chair once for all.

As he was musing thus and looking upon the wreck of his hopes--for he saw
well enough that as long as he was linked to Ellen he should never rise
as he had dreamed of doing--he heard a noise below, and presently a
neighbour ran upstairs and entered his room hurriedly--

"Good gracious, Mr Pontifex," she exclaimed, "for goodness' sake come
down quickly and help.  O Mrs Pontifex is took with the horrors--and
she's orkard."

The unhappy man came down as he was bid and found his wife mad with
_delirium tremens_.

He knew all now.  The neighbours thought he must have known that his wife
drank all along, but Ellen had been so artful, and he so simple, that, as
I have said, he had had no suspicion.  "Why," said the woman who had
summoned him, "she'll drink anything she can stand up and pay her money
for."  Ernest could hardly believe his ears, but when the doctor had seen
his wife and she had become more quiet, he went over to the public house
hard by and made enquiries, the result of which rendered further doubt
impossible.  The publican took the opportunity to present my hero with a
bill of several pounds for bottles of spirits supplied to his wife, and
what with his wife's confinement and the way business had fallen off, he
had not the money to pay with, for the sum exceeded the remnant of his
savings.

He came to me--not for money, but to tell me his miserable story.  I had
seen for some time that there was something wrong, and had suspected
pretty shrewdly what the matter was, but of course I said nothing.  Ernest
and I had been growing apart for some time.  I was vexed at his having
married, and he knew I was vexed, though I did my best to hide it.

A man's friendships are, like his will, invalidated by marriage--but they
are also no less invalidated by the marriage of his friends.  The rift in
friendship which invariably makes its appearance on the marriage of
either of the parties to it was fast widening, as it no less invariably
does, into the great gulf which is fixed between the married and the
unmarried, and I was beginning to leave my _protege_ to a fate with which
I had neither right nor power to meddle.  In fact I had begun to feel him
rather a burden; I did not so much mind this when I could be of use, but
I grudged it when I could be of none.  He had made his bed and he must
lie upon it.  Ernest had felt all this and had seldom come near me till
now, one evening late in 1860, he called on me, and with a very woebegone
face told me his troubles.

As soon as I found that he no longer liked his wife I forgave him at
once, and was as much interested in him as ever.  There is nothing an old
bachelor likes better than to find a young married man who wishes he had
not got married--especially when the case is such an extreme one that he
need not pretend to hope that matters will come all right again, or
encourage his young friend to make the best of it.

I was myself in favour of a separation, and said I would make Ellen an
allowance myself--of course intending that it should come out of Ernest's
money; but he would not hear of this.  He had married Ellen, he said, and
he must try to reform her.  He hated it, but he must try; and finding him
as usual very obstinate I was obliged to acquiesce, though with little
confidence as to the result.  I was vexed at seeing him waste himself
upon such a barren task, and again began to feel him burdensome.  I am
afraid I showed this, for he again avoided me for some time, and, indeed,
for many months I hardly saw him at all.

Ellen remained very ill for some days, and then gradually recovered.
Ernest hardly left her till she was out of danger.  When she had
recovered he got the doctor to tell her that if she had such another
attack she would certainly die; this so frightened her that she took the
pledge.

Then he became more hopeful again.  When she was sober she was just what
she was during the first days of her married life, and so quick was he to
forget pain, that after a few days he was as fond of her as ever.  But
Ellen could not forgive him for knowing what he did.  She knew that he
was on the watch to shield her from temptation, and though he did his
best to make her think that he had no further uneasiness about her, she
found the burden of her union with respectability grow more and more
heavy upon her, and looked back more and more longingly upon the lawless
freedom of the life she had led before she met her husband.

I will dwell no longer on this part of my story.  During the spring
months of 1861 she kept straight--she had had her fling of dissipation,
and this, together with the impression made upon her by her having taken
the pledge, tamed her for a while.  The shop went fairly well, and
enabled Ernest to make the two ends meet.  In the spring and summer of
1861 he even put by a little money again.  In the autumn his wife was
confined of a boy--a very fine one, so everyone said.  She soon
recovered, and Ernest was beginning to breathe freely and be almost
sanguine when, without a word of warning, the storm broke again.  He
returned one afternoon about two years after his marriage, and found his
wife lying upon the floor insensible.

From this time he became hopeless, and began to go visibly down hill.  He
had been knocked about too much, and the luck had gone too long against
him.  The wear and tear of the last three years had told on him, and
though not actually ill he was overworked, below par, and unfit for any
further burden.

He struggled for a while to prevent himself from finding this out, but
facts were too strong for him.  Again he called on me and told me what
had happened.  I was glad the crisis had come; I was sorry for Ellen, but
a complete separation from her was the only chance for her husband.  Even
after this last outbreak he was unwilling to consent to this, and talked
nonsense about dying at his post, till I got tired of him.  Each time I
saw him the old gloom had settled more and more deeply upon his face, and
I had about made up my mind to put an end to the situation by a _coup de
main_, such as bribing Ellen to run away with somebody else, or something
of that kind, when matters settled themselves as usual in a way which I
had not anticipated.




CHAPTER LXXVI


The winter had been a trying one.  Ernest had only paid his way by
selling his piano.  With this he seemed to cut away the last link that
connected him with his earlier life, and to sink once for all into the
small shop-keeper.  It seemed to him that however low he might sink his
pain could not last much longer, for he should simply die if it did.

He hated Ellen now, and the pair lived in open want of harmony with each
other.  If it had not been for his children, he would have left her and
gone to America, but he could not leave the children with Ellen, and as
for taking them with him he did not know how to do it, nor what to do
with them when he had got them to America.  If he had not lost energy he
would probably in the end have taken the children and gone off, but his
nerve was shaken, so day after day went by and nothing was done.

He had only got a few shillings in the world now, except the value of his
stock, which was very little; he could get perhaps 3 or 4 pounds by
selling his music and what few pictures and pieces of furniture still
belonged to him.  He thought of trying to live by his pen, but his
writing had dropped off long ago; he no longer had an idea in his head.
Look which way he would he saw no hope; the end, if it had not actually
come, was within easy distance and he was almost face to face with actual
want.  When he saw people going about poorly clad, or even without shoes
and stockings, he wondered whether within a few months' time he too
should not have to go about in this way.  The remorseless, resistless
hand of fate had caught him in its grip and was dragging him down, down,
down.  Still he staggered on, going his daily rounds, buying second-hand
clothes, and spending his evenings in cleaning and mending them.

One morning, as he was returning from a house at the West End where he
had bought some clothes from one of the servants, he was struck by a
small crowd which had gathered round a space that had been railed off on
the grass near one of the paths in the Green Park.

It was a lovely soft spring morning at the end of March, and unusually
balmy for the time of year; even Ernest's melancholy was relieved for a
while by the look of spring that pervaded earth and sky; but it soon
returned, and smiling sadly he said to himself: "It may bring hope to
others, but for me there can be no hope henceforth."

As these words were in his mind he joined the small crowd who were
gathered round the railings, and saw that they were looking at three
sheep with very small lambs only a day or two old, which had been penned
off for shelter and protection from the others that ranged the park.

They were very pretty, and Londoners so seldom get a chance of seeing
lambs that it was no wonder every one stopped to look at them.  Ernest
observed that no one seemed fonder of them than a great lubberly butcher
boy, who leaned up against the railings with a tray of meat upon his
shoulder.  He was looking at this boy and smiling at the grotesqueness of
his admiration, when he became aware that he was being watched intently
by a man in coachman's livery, who had also stopped to admire the lambs,
and was leaning against the opposite side of the enclosure.  Ernest knew
him in a moment as John, his father's old coachman at Battersby, and went
up to him at once.

"Why, Master Ernest," said he, with his strong northern accent, "I was
thinking of you only this very morning," and the pair shook hands
heartily.  John was in an excellent place at the West End.  He had done
very well, he said, ever since he had left Battersby, except for the
first year or two, and that, he said, with a screw of the face, had well
nigh broke him.

Ernest asked how this was.

"Why, you see," said John, "I was always main fond of that lass Ellen,
whom you remember running after, Master Ernest, and giving your watch to.
I expect you haven't forgotten that day, have you?"  And here he laughed.
"I don't know as I be the father of the child she carried away with her
from Battersby, but I very easily may have been.  Anyhow, after I had
left your papa's place a few days I wrote to Ellen to an address we had
agreed upon, and told her I would do what I ought to do, and so I did,
for I married her within a month afterwards.  Why, Lord love the man,
whatever is the matter with him?"--for as he had spoken the last few
words of his story Ernest had turned white as a sheet, and was leaning
against the railings.

"John," said my hero, gasping for breath, "are you sure of what you
say--are you quite sure you really married her?"

"Of course I am," said John, "I married her before the registrar at
Letchbury on the 15th of August 1851.

"Give me your arm," said Ernest, "and take me into Piccadilly, and put me
into a cab, and come with me at once, if you can spare time, to Mr
Overton's at the Temple."




CHAPTER LXXVII


I do not think Ernest himself was much more pleased at finding that he
had never been married than I was.  To him, however, the shock of
pleasure was positively numbing in its intensity.  As he felt his burden
removed, he reeled for the unaccustomed lightness of his movements; his
position was so shattered that his identity seemed to have been shattered
also; he was as one waking up from a horrible nightmare to find himself
safe and sound in bed, but who can hardly even yet believe that the room
is not full of armed men who are about to spring upon him.

"And it is I," he said, "who not an hour ago complained that I was
without hope.  It is I, who for weeks have been railing at fortune, and
saying that though she smiled on others she never smiled at me.  Why,
never was anyone half so fortunate as I am."

"Yes," said I, "you have been inoculated for marriage, and have
recovered."

"And yet," he said, "I was very fond of her till she took to drinking."

"Perhaps; but is it not Tennyson who has said: ''Tis better to have loved
and lost, than never to have lost at all'?"

"You are an inveterate bachelor," was the rejoinder.

Then we had a long talk with John, to whom I gave a 5 pound note upon the
spot.  He said, "Ellen had used to drink at Battersby; the cook had
taught her; he had known it, but was so fond of her, that he had chanced
it and married her to save her from the streets and in the hope of being
able to keep her straight.  She had done with him just as she had done
with Ernest--made him an excellent wife as long as she kept sober, but a
very bad one afterwards."

"There isn't," said John, "a sweeter-tempered, handier, prettier girl
than she was in all England, nor one as knows better what a man likes,
and how to make him happy, if you can keep her from drink; but you can't
keep her; she's that artful she'll get it under your very eyes, without
you knowing it.  If she can't get any more of your things to pawn or
sell, she'll steal her neighbours'.  That's how she got into trouble
first when I was with her.  During the six months she was in prison I
should have felt happy if I had not known she would come out again.  And
then she did come out, and before she had been free a fortnight, she
began shop-lifting and going on the loose again--and all to get money to
drink with.  So seeing I could do nothing with her and that she was just
a-killing of me, I left her, and came up to London, and went into service
again, and I did not know what had become of her till you and Mr Ernest
here told me.  I hope you'll neither of you say you've seen me."

We assured him we would keep his counsel, and then he left us, with many
protestations of affection towards Ernest, to whom he had been always
much attached.

We talked the situation over, and decided first to get the children away,
and then to come to terms with Ellen concerning their future custody; as
for herself, I proposed that we should make her an allowance of, say, a
pound a week to be paid so long as she gave no trouble.  Ernest did not
see where the pound a week was to come from, so I eased his mind by
saying I would pay it myself.  Before the day was two hours older we had
got the children, about whom Ellen had always appeared to be indifferent,
and had confided them to the care of my laundress, a good motherly sort
of woman, who took to them and to whom they took at once.

Then came the odious task of getting rid of their unhappy mother.
Ernest's heart smote him at the notion of the shock the break-up would be
to her.  He was always thinking that people had a claim upon him for some
inestimable service they had rendered him, or for some irreparable
mischief done to them by himself; the case however was so clear, that
Ernest's scruples did not offer serious resistance.

I did not see why he should have the pain of another interview with his
wife, so I got Mr Ottery to manage the whole business.  It turned out
that we need not have harrowed ourselves so much about the agony of mind
which Ellen would suffer on becoming an outcast again.  Ernest saw Mrs
Richards, the neighbour who had called him down on the night when he had
first discovered his wife's drunkenness, and got from her some details of
Ellen's opinions upon the matter.  She did not seem in the least
conscience-stricken; she said: "Thank goodness, at last!"  And although
aware that her marriage was not a valid one, evidently regarded this as a
mere detail which it would not be worth anybody's while to go into more
particularly.  As regards his breaking with her, she said it was a good
job both for him and for her.

"This life," she continued, "don't suit me.  Ernest is too good for me;
he wants a woman as shall be a bit better than me, and I want a man that
shall be a bit worse than him.  We should have got on all very well if we
had not lived together as married folks, but I've been used to have a
little place of my own, however small, for a many years, and I don't want
Ernest, or any other man, always hanging about it.  Besides he is too
steady: his being in prison hasn't done him a bit of good--he's just as
grave as those as have never been in prison at all, and he never swears
nor curses, come what may; it makes me afeared of him, and therefore I
drink the worse.  What us poor girls wants is not to be jumped up all of
a sudden and made honest women of; this is too much for us and throws us
off our perch; what we wants is a regular friend or two, who'll just keep
us from starving, and force us to be good for a bit together now and
again.  That's about as much as we can stand.  He may have the children;
he can do better for them than I can; and as for his money, he may give
it or keep it as he likes, he's never done me any harm, and I shall let
him alone; but if he means me to have it, I suppose I'd better have
it."--And have it she did.

"And I," thought Ernest to himself again when the arrangement was
concluded, "am the man who thought himself unlucky!"

I may as well say here all that need be said further about Ellen.  For
the next three years she used to call regularly at Mr Ottery's every
Monday morning for her pound.  She was always neatly dressed, and looked
so quiet and pretty that no one would have suspected her antecedents.  At
first she wanted sometimes to anticipate, but after three or four
ineffectual attempts--on each of which occasions she told a most pitiful
story--she gave it up and took her money regularly without a word.  Once
she came with a bad black eye, "which a boy had throwed a stone and hit
her by mistake"; but on the whole she looked pretty much the same at the
end of the three years as she had done at the beginning.  Then she
explained that she was going to be married again.  Mr Ottery saw her on
this, and pointed out to her that she would very likely be again
committing bigamy by doing so.  "You may call it what you like," she
replied, "but I am going off to America with Bill the butcher's man, and
we hope Mr Pontifex won't be too hard on us and stop the allowance."
Ernest was little likely to do this, so the pair went in peace.  I
believe it was Bill who had blacked her eye, and she liked him all the
better for it.

From one or two little things I have been able to gather that the couple
got on very well together, and that in Bill she has found a partner
better suited to her than either John or Ernest.  On his birthday Ernest
generally receives an envelope with an American post-mark containing a
book-marker with a flaunting text upon it, or a moral kettle-holder, or
some other similar small token of recognition, but no letter.  Of the
children she has taken no notice.




CHAPTER LXXVIII


Ernest was now well turned twenty-six years old, and in little more than
another year and a half would come into possession of his money.  I saw
no reason for letting him have it earlier than the date fixed by Miss
Pontifex herself; at the same time I did not like his continuing the shop
at Blackfriars after the present crisis.  It was not till now that I
fully understood how much he had suffered, nor how nearly his supposed
wife's habits had brought him to actual want.

I had indeed noted the old wan worn look settling upon his face, but was
either too indolent or too hopeless of being able to sustain a protracted
and successful warfare with Ellen to extend the sympathy and make the
inquiries which I suppose I ought to have made.  And yet I hardly know
what I could have done, for nothing short of his finding out what he had
found out would have detached him from his wife, and nothing could do him
much good as long as he continued to live with her.

After all I suppose I was right; I suppose things did turn out all the
better in the end for having been left to settle themselves--at any rate
whether they did or did not, the whole thing was in too great a muddle
for me to venture to tackle it so long as Ellen was upon the scene; now,
however, that she was removed, all my interest in my godson revived, and
I turned over many times in my mind, what I had better do with him.

It was now three and a half years since he had come up to London and
begun to live, so to speak, upon his own account.  Of these years, six
months had been spent as a clergyman, six months in gaol, and for two and
a half years he had been acquiring twofold experience in the ways of
business and of marriage.  He had failed, I may say, in everything that
he had undertaken, even as a prisoner; yet his defeats had been always,
as it seemed to me, something so like victories, that I was satisfied of
his being worth all the pains I could bestow upon him; my only fear was
lest I should meddle with him when it might be better for him to be let
alone.  On the whole I concluded that a three and a half years'
apprenticeship to a rough life was enough; the shop had done much for
him; it had kept him going after a fashion, when he was in great need; it
had thrown him upon his own resources, and taught him to see profitable
openings all around him, where a few months before he would have seen
nothing but insuperable difficulties; it had enlarged his sympathies by
making him understand the lower classes, and not confining his view of
life to that taken by gentlemen only.  When he went about the streets and
saw the books outside the second-hand book-stalls, the bric-a-brac in the
curiosity shops, and the infinite commercial activity which is
omnipresent around us, he understood it and sympathised with it as he
could never have done if he had not kept a shop himself.

He has often told me that when he used to travel on a railway that
overlooked populous suburbs, and looked down upon street after street of
dingy houses, he used to wonder what kind of people lived in them, what
they did and felt, and how far it was like what he did and felt himself.
Now, he said he knew all about it.  I am not very familiar with the
writer of the Odyssey (who, by the way, I suspect strongly of having been
a clergyman), but he assuredly hit the right nail on the head when he
epitomised his typical wise man as knowing "the ways and farings of many
men."  What culture is comparable to this?  What a lie, what a sickly
debilitating debauch did not Ernest's school and university career now
seem to him, in comparison with his life in prison and as a tailor in
Blackfriars.  I have heard him say he would have gone through all he had
suffered if it were only for the deeper insight it gave him into the
spirit of the Grecian and the Surrey pantomimes.  What confidence again
in his own power to swim if thrown into deep waters had not he won
through his experiences during the last three years!

But, as I have said, I thought my godson had now seen as much of the
under currents of life as was likely to be of use to him, and that it was
time he began to live in a style more suitable to his prospects.  His
aunt had wished him to kiss the soil, and he had kissed it with a
vengeance; but I did not like the notion of his coming suddenly from the
position of a small shop-keeper to that of a man with an income of
between three and four thousand a year.  Too sudden a jump from bad
fortune to good is just as dangerous as one from good to bad; besides,
poverty is very wearing; it is a quasi-embryonic condition, through which
a man had better pass if he is to hold his later developments securely,
but like measles or scarlet fever he had better have it mildly and get it
over early.

No man is safe from losing every penny he has in the world, unless he has
had his facer.  How often do I not hear middle-aged women and quiet
family men say that they have no speculative tendency; _they_ never had
touched, and never would touch, any but the very soundest, best reputed
investments, and as for unlimited liability, oh dear! dear! and they
throw up their hands and eyes.

Whenever a person is heard to talk thus he may be recognised as the easy
prey of the first adventurer who comes across him; he will commonly,
indeed, wind up his discourse by saying that in spite of all his natural
caution, and his well knowing how foolish speculation is, yet there are
some investments which are called speculative but in reality are not so,
and he will pull out of his pocket the prospectus of a Cornish gold mine.
It is only on having actually lost money that one realises what an awful
thing the loss of it is, and finds out how easily it is lost by those who
venture out of the middle of the most beaten path.  Ernest had had his
facer, as he had had his attack of poverty, young, and sufficiently badly
for a sensible man to be little likely to forget it.  I can fancy few
pieces of good fortune greater than this as happening to any man,
provided, of course, that he is not damaged irretrievably.

So strongly do I feel on this subject that if I had my way I would have a
speculation master attached to every school.  The boys would be
encouraged to read the _Money Market Review_, the _Railway News_, and all
the best financial papers, and should establish a stock exchange amongst
themselves in which pence should stand as pounds.  Then let them see how
this making haste to get rich moneys out in actual practice.  There might
be a prize awarded by the head-master to the most prudent dealer, and the
boys who lost their money time after time should be dismissed.  Of course
if any boy proved to have a genius for speculation and made money--well
and good, let him speculate by all means.

If Universities were not the worst teachers in the world I should like to
see professorships of speculation established at Oxford and Cambridge.
When I reflect, however, that the only things worth doing which Oxford
and Cambridge can do well are cooking, cricket, rowing and games, of
which there is no professorship, I fear that the establishment of a
professorial chair would end in teaching young men neither how to
speculate, nor how not to speculate, but would simply turn them out as
bad speculators.

I heard of one case in which a father actually carried my idea into
practice.  He wanted his son to learn how little confidence was to be
placed in glowing prospectuses and flaming articles, and found him five
hundred pounds which he was to invest according to his lights.  The
father expected he would lose the money; but it did not turn out so in
practice, for the boy took so much pains and played so cautiously that
the money kept growing and growing till the father took it away again,
increment and all--as he was pleased to say, in self defence.

I had made my own mistakes with money about the year 1846, when everyone
else was making them.  For a few years I had been so scared and had
suffered so severely, that when (owing to the good advice of the broker
who had advised my father and grandfather before me) I came out in the
end a winner and not a loser, I played no more pranks, but kept
henceforward as nearly in the middle of the middle rut as I could.  I
tried in fact to keep my money rather than to make more of it.  I had
done with Ernest's money as with my own--that is to say I had let it
alone after investing it in Midland ordinary stock according to Miss
Pontifex's instructions.  No amount of trouble would have been likely to
have increased my godson's estate one half so much as it had increased
without my taking any trouble at all.

Midland stock at the end of August 1850, when I sold out Miss Pontifex's
debentures, stood at 32 pounds per 100 pounds.  I invested the whole of
Ernest's 15,000 pounds at this price, and did not change the investment
till a few months before the time of which I have been writing
lately--that is to say until September 1861.  I then sold at 129 pounds
per share and invested in London and North-Western ordinary stock, which
I was advised was more likely to rise than Midlands now were.  I bought
the London and North-Western stock at 93 pounds per 100 pounds, and my
godson now in 1882 still holds it.

The original 15,000 pounds had increased in eleven years to over 60,000
pounds; the accumulated interest, which, of course, I had re-invested,
had come to about 10,000 pounds more, so that Ernest was then worth over
70,000 pounds.  At present he is worth nearly double that sum, and all as
the result of leaving well alone.

Large as his property now was, it ought to be increased still further
during the year and a half that remained of his minority, so that on
coming of age he ought to have an income of at least 3500 pounds a year.

I wished him to understand book-keeping by double entry.  I had myself as
a young man been compelled to master this not very difficult art; having
acquired it, I have become enamoured of it, and consider it the most
necessary branch of any young man's education after reading and writing.
I was determined, therefore, that Ernest should master it, and proposed
that he should become my steward, book-keeper, and the manager of my
hoardings, for so I called the sum which my ledger showed to have
accumulated from 15,000 to 70,000 pounds.  I told him I was going to
begin to spend the income as soon as it had amounted up to 80,000 pounds.

A few days after Ernest's discovery that he was still a bachelor, while
he was still at the very beginning of the honeymoon, as it were, of his
renewed unmarried life, I broached my scheme, desired him to give up his
shop, and offered him 300 pounds a year for managing (so far indeed as it
required any managing) his own property.  This 300 pounds a year, I need
hardly say, I made him charge to the estate.

If anything had been wanting to complete his happiness it was this.  Here,
within three or four days he found himself freed from one of the most
hideous, hopeless _liaisons_ imaginable, and at the same time raised from
a life of almost squalor to the enjoyment of what would to him be a
handsome income.

"A pound a week," he thought, "for Ellen, and the rest for myself."

"No," said I, "we will charge Ellen's pound a week to the estate also.
You must have a clear 300 pounds for yourself."

I fixed upon this sum, because it was the one which Mr Disraeli gave
Coningsby when Coningsby was at the lowest ebb of his fortunes.  Mr
Disraeli evidently thought 300 pounds a year the smallest sum on which
Coningsby could be expected to live, and make the two ends meet; with
this, however, he thought his hero could manage to get along for a year
or two.  In 1862, of which I am now writing, prices had risen, though not
so much as they have since done; on the other hand Ernest had had less
expensive antecedents than Coningsby, so on the whole I thought 300
pounds a year would be about the right thing for him.




CHAPTER LXXIX


The question now arose what was to be done with the children.  I
explained to Ernest that their expenses must be charged to the estate,
and showed him how small a hole all the various items I proposed to
charge would make in the income at my disposal.  He was beginning to make
difficulties, when I quieted him by pointing out that the money had all
come to me from his aunt, over his own head, and reminded him there had
been an understanding between her and me that I should do much as I was
doing, if occasion should arise.

He wanted his children to be brought up in the fresh pure air, and among
other children who were happy and contented; but being still ignorant of
the fortune that awaited him, he insisted that they should pass their
earlier years among the poor rather than the rich.  I remonstrated, but
he was very decided about it; and when I reflected that they were
illegitimate, I was not sure but that what Ernest proposed might be as
well for everyone in the end.  They were still so young that it did not
much matter where they were, so long as they were with kindly decent
people, and in a healthy neighbourhood.

"I shall be just as unkind to my children," he said, "as my grandfather
was to my father, or my father to me.  If they did not succeed in making
their children love them, neither shall I.  I say to myself that I should
like to do so, but so did they.  I can make sure that they shall not know
how much they would have hated me if they had had much to do with me, but
this is all I can do.  If I must ruin their prospects, let me do so at a
reasonable time before they are old enough to feel it."

He mused a little and added with a laugh:--

"A man first quarrels with his father about three-quarters of a year
before he is born.  It is then he insists on setting up a separate
establishment; when this has been once agreed to, the more complete the
separation for ever after the better for both."  Then he said more
seriously: "I want to put the children where they will be well and happy,
and where they will not be betrayed into the misery of false
expectations."

In the end he remembered that on his Sunday walks he had more than once
seen a couple who lived on the waterside a few miles below Gravesend,
just where the sea was beginning, and who he thought would do.  They had
a family of their own fast coming on and the children seemed to thrive;
both father and mother indeed were comfortable well grown folks, in whose
hands young people would be likely to have as fair a chance of coming to
a good development as in those of any whom he knew.

We went down to see this couple, and as I thought no less well of them
than Ernest did, we offered them a pound a week to take the children and
bring them up as though they were their own.  They jumped at the offer,
and in another day or two we brought the children down and left them,
feeling that we had done as well as we could by them, at any rate for the
present.  Then Ernest sent his small stock of goods to Debenham's, gave
up the house he had taken two and a half years previously, and returned
to civilisation.

I had expected that he would now rapidly recover, and was disappointed to
see him get as I thought decidedly worse.  Indeed, before long I thought
him looking so ill that I insisted on his going with me to consult one of
the most eminent doctors in London.  This gentleman said there was no
acute disease but that my young friend was suffering from nervous
prostration, the result of long and severe mental suffering, from which
there was no remedy except time, prosperity and rest.

He said that Ernest must have broken down later on, but that he might
have gone on for some months yet.  It was the suddenness of the relief
from tension which had knocked him over now.

"Cross him," said the doctor, "at once.  Crossing is the great medical
discovery of the age.  Shake him out of himself by shaking something else
into him."

I had not told him that money was no object to us and I think he had
reckoned me up as not over rich.  He continued:--

"Seeing is a mode of touching, touching is a mode of feeding, feeding is
a mode of assimilation, assimilation is a mode of recreation and
reproduction, and this is crossing--shaking yourself into something else
and something else into you."

He spoke laughingly, but it was plain he was serious.  He continued:--

"People are always coming to me who want crossing, or change, if you
prefer it, and who I know have not money enough to let them get away from
London.  This has set me thinking how I can best cross them even if they
cannot leave home, and I have made a list of cheap London amusements
which I recommend to my patients; none of them cost more than a few
shillings or take more than half a day or a day."

I explained that there was no occasion to consider money in this case.

"I am glad of it," he said, still laughing.  "The homoeopathists use
_aurum_ as a medicine, but they do not give it in large doses enough; if
you can dose your young friend with this pretty freely you will soon
bring him round.  However, Mr Pontifex is not well enough to stand so
great a change as going abroad yet; from what you tell me I should think
he had had as much change lately as is good for him.  If he were to go
abroad now he would probably be taken seriously ill within a week.  We
must wait till he has recovered tone a little more.  I will begin by
ringing my London changes on him."

He thought a little and then said:--

"I have found the Zoological Gardens of service to many of my patients.  I
should prescribe for Mr Pontifex a course of the larger mammals.  Don't
let him think he is taking them medicinally, but let him go to their
house twice a week for a fortnight, and stay with the hippopotamus, the
rhinoceros, and the elephants, till they begin to bore him.  I find these
beasts do my patients more good than any others.  The monkeys are not a
wide enough cross; they do not stimulate sufficiently.  The larger
carnivora are unsympathetic.  The reptiles are worse than useless, and
the marsupials are not much better.  Birds again, except parrots, are not
very beneficial; he may look at them now and again, but with the
elephants and the pig tribe generally he should mix just now as freely as
possible.

"Then, you know, to prevent monotony I should send him, say, to morning
service at the Abbey before he goes.  He need not stay longer than the
_Te Deum_.  I don't know why, but _Jubilates_ are seldom satisfactory.
Just let him look in at the Abbey, and sit quietly in Poets' Corner till
the main part of the music is over.  Let him do this two or three times,
not more, before he goes to the Zoo.

"Then next day send him down to Gravesend by boat.  By all means let him
go to the theatres in the evenings--and then let him come to me again in
a fortnight."

Had the doctor been less eminent in his profession I should have doubted
whether he was in earnest, but I knew him to be a man of business who
would neither waste his own time nor that of his patients.  As soon as we
were out of the house we took a cab to Regent's Park, and spent a couple
of hours in sauntering round the different houses.  Perhaps it was on
account of what the doctor had told me, but I certainly became aware of a
feeling I had never experienced before.  I mean that I was receiving an
influx of new life, or deriving new ways of looking at life--which is the
same thing--by the process.  I found the doctor quite right in his
estimate of the larger mammals as the ones which on the whole were most
beneficial, and observed that Ernest, who had heard nothing of what the
doctor had said to me, lingered instinctively in front of them.  As for
the elephants, especially the baby elephant, he seemed to be drinking in
large draughts of their lives to the re-creation and regeneration of his
own.

We dined in the gardens, and I noticed with pleasure that Ernest's
appetite was already improved.  Since this time, whenever I have been a
little out of sorts myself I have at once gone up to Regent's Park, and
have invariably been benefited.  I mention this here in the hope that
some one or other of my readers may find the hint a useful one.

At the end of his fortnight my hero was much better, more so even than
our friend the doctor had expected.  "Now," he said, "Mr Pontifex may go
abroad, and the sooner the better.  Let him stay a couple of months."

This was the first Ernest had heard about his going abroad, and he talked
about my not being able to spare him for so long.  I soon made this all
right.

"It is now the beginning of April," said I, "go down to Marseilles at
once, and take steamer to Nice.  Then saunter down the Riviera to
Genoa--from Genoa go to Florence, Rome and Naples, and come home by way
of Venice and the Italian lakes."

"And won't you come too?" said he, eagerly.

I said I did not mind if I did, so we began to make our arrangements next
morning, and completed them within a very few days.




CHAPTER LXXX


We left by the night mail, crossing from Dover.  The night was soft, and
there was a bright moon upon the sea.  "Don't you love the smell of
grease about the engine of a Channel steamer?  Isn't there a lot of hope
in it?" said Ernest to me, for he had been to Normandy one summer as a
boy with his father and mother, and the smell carried him back to days
before those in which he had begun to bruise himself against the great
outside world.  "I always think one of the best parts of going abroad is
the first thud of the piston, and the first gurgling of the water when
the paddle begins to strike it."

It was very dreamy getting out at Calais, and trudging about with luggage
in a foreign town at an hour when we were generally both of us in bed and
fast asleep, but we settled down to sleep as soon as we got into the
railway carriage, and dozed till we had passed Amiens.  Then waking when
the first signs of morning crispness were beginning to show themselves, I
saw that Ernest was already devouring every object we passed with quick
sympathetic curiousness.  There was not a peasant in a blouse driving his
cart betimes along the road to market, not a signalman's wife in her
husband's hat and coat waving a green flag, not a shepherd taking out his
sheep to the dewy pastures, not a bank of opening cowslips as we passed
through the railway cuttings, but he was drinking it all in with an
enjoyment too deep for words.  The name of the engine that drew us was
Mozart, and Ernest liked this too.

We reached Paris by six, and had just time to get across the town and
take a morning express train to Marseilles, but before noon my young
friend was tired out and had resigned himself to a series of sleeps which
were seldom intermitted for more than an hour or so together.  He fought
against this for a time, but in the end consoled himself by saying it was
so nice to have so much pleasure that he could afford to throw a lot of
it away.  Having found a theory on which to justify himself, he slept in
peace.

At Marseilles we rested, and there the excitement of the change proved,
as I had half feared it would, too much for my godson's still enfeebled
state.  For a few days he was really ill, but after this he righted.  For
my own part I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life,
provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is
better.  I remember being ill once in a foreign hotel myself and how much
I enjoyed it.  To lie there careless of everything, quiet and warm, and
with no weight upon the mind, to hear the clinking of the plates in the
far-off kitchen as the scullion rinsed them and put them by; to watch the
soft shadows come and go upon the ceiling as the sun came out or went
behind a cloud; to listen to the pleasant murmuring of the fountain in
the court below, and the shaking of the bells on the horses' collars and
the clink of their hoofs upon the ground as the flies plagued them; not
only to be a lotus-eater but to know that it was one's duty to be a lotus-
eater.  "Oh," I thought to myself, "if I could only now, having so
forgotten care, drop off to sleep for ever, would not this be a better
piece of fortune than any I can ever hope for?"

Of course it would, but we would not take it though it were offered us.
No matter what evil may befall us, we will mostly abide by it and see it
out.

I could see that Ernest felt much as I had felt myself.  He said little,
but noted everything.  Once only did he frighten me.  He called me to his
bedside just as it was getting dusk and said in a grave, quiet manner
that he should like to speak to me.

"I have been thinking," he said, "that I may perhaps never recover from
this illness, and in case I do not I should like you to know that there
is only one thing which weighs upon me.  I refer," he continued after a
slight pause, "to my conduct towards my father and mother.  I have been
much too good to them.  I treated them much too considerately," on which
he broke into a smile which assured me that there was nothing seriously
amiss with him.

On the walls of his bedroom were a series of French Revolution prints
representing events in the life of Lycurgus.  There was "Grandeur d'ame
de Lycurgue," and "Lycurgue consulte l'oracle," and then there was
"Calciope a la Cour."  Under this was written in French and Spanish:
"Modele de grace et de beaute, la jeune Calciope non moins sage que belle
avait merite l'estime et l'attachement du vertueux Lycurgue.  Vivement
epris de tant de charmes, l'illustre philosophe la conduisait dans le
temple de Junon, ou ils s'unirent par un serment sacre.  Apres cette
auguste ceremonie, Lycurgue s'empressa de conduire sa jeune epouse au
palais de son frere Polydecte, Roi de Lacedemon.  Seigneur, lui dit-il,
la vertueuse Calciope vient de recevoir mes voeux aux pieds des autels,
j'ose vous prier d'approuver cette union.  Le Roi temoigna d'abord
quelque surprise, mais l'estime qu'il avait pour son frere lui inspira
une reponse pleine de beinveillance.  Il s'approcha aussitot de Calciope
qu'il embrassa tendrement, combla ensuite Lycurgue de prevenances et
parut tres satisfait."

He called my attention to this and then said somewhat timidly that he
would rather have married Ellen than Calciope.  I saw he was hardening
and made no hesitation about proposing that in another day or two we
should proceed upon our journey.

I will not weary the reader by taking him with us over beaten ground.  We
stopped at Siena, Cortona, Orvieto, Perugia and many other cities, and
then after a fortnight passed between Rome and Naples went to the
Venetian provinces and visited all those wondrous towns that lie between
the southern slopes of the Alps and the northern ones of the Apennines,
coming back at last by the S. Gothard.  I doubt whether he had enjoyed
the trip more than I did myself, but it was not till we were on the point
of returning that Ernest had recovered strength enough to be called
fairly well, and it was not for many months that he so completely lost
all sense of the wounds which the last four years had inflicted on him as
to feel as though there were a scar and a scar only remaining.

They say that when people have lost an arm or a foot they feel pains in
it now and again for a long while after they have lost it.  One pain
which he had almost forgotten came upon him on his return to England, I
mean the sting of his having been imprisoned.  As long as he was only a
small shop-keeper his imprisonment mattered nothing; nobody knew of it,
and if they had known they would not have cared; now, however, though he
was returning to his old position he was returning to it disgraced, and
the pain from which he had been saved in the first instance by
surroundings so new that he had hardly recognised his own identity in the
middle of them, came on him as from a wound inflicted yesterday.

He thought of the high resolves which he had made in prison about using
his disgrace as a vantage ground of strength rather than trying to make
people forget it.  "That was all very well then," he thought to himself,
"when the grapes were beyond my reach, but now it is different."  Besides,
who but a prig would set himself high aims, or make high resolves at all?

Some of his old friends, on learning that he had got rid of his supposed
wife and was now comfortably off again, wanted to renew their
acquaintance; he was grateful to them and sometimes tried to meet their
advances half way, but it did not do, and ere long he shrank back into
himself, pretending not to know them.  An infernal demon of honesty
haunted him which made him say to himself: "These men know a great deal,
but do not know all--if they did they would cut me--and therefore I have
no right to their acquaintance."

He thought that everyone except himself was _sans peur et sans reproche_.
Of course they must be, for if they had not been, would they not have
been bound to warn all who had anything to do with them of their
deficiencies?  Well, he could not do this, and he would not have people's
acquaintance under false pretences, so he gave up even hankering after
rehabilitation and fell back upon his old tastes for music and
literature.

Of course he has long since found out how silly all this was, how silly I
mean in theory, for in practice it worked better than it ought to have
done, by keeping him free from _liaisons_ which would have tied his
tongue and made him see success elsewhere than where he came in time to
see it.  He did what he did instinctively and for no other reason than
because it was most natural to him.  So far as he thought at all, he
thought wrong, but what he did was right.  I said something of this kind
to him once not so very long ago, and told him he had always aimed high.
"I never aimed at all," he replied a little indignantly, "and you may be
sure I should have aimed low enough if I had thought I had got the
chance."

I suppose after all that no one whose mind was not, to put it mildly,
abnormal, ever yet aimed very high out of pure malice aforethought.  I
once saw a fly alight on a cup of hot coffee on which the milk had formed
a thin skin; he perceived his extreme danger, and I noted with what ample
strides and almost supermuscan effort he struck across the treacherous
surface and made for the edge of the cup--for the ground was not solid
enough to let him raise himself from it by his wings.  As I watched him I
fancied that so supreme a moment of difficulty and danger might leave him
with an increase of moral and physical power which might even descend in
some measure to his offspring.  But surely he would not have got the
increased moral power if he could have helped it, and he will not
knowingly alight upon another cup of hot coffee.  The more I see the more
sure I am that it does not matter why people do the right thing so long
only as they do it, nor why they may have done the wrong if they have
done it.  The result depends upon the thing done and the motive goes for
nothing.  I have read somewhere, but cannot remember where, that in some
country district there was once a great scarcity of food, during which
the poor suffered acutely; many indeed actually died of starvation, and
all were hard put to it.  In one village, however, there was a poor widow
with a family of young children, who, though she had small visible means
of subsistence, still looked well-fed and comfortable, as also did all
her little ones.  "How," everyone asked, "did they manage to live?"  It
was plain they had a secret, and it was equally plain that it could be no
good one; for there came a hurried, hunted look over the poor woman's
face if anyone alluded to the way in which she and hers throve when
others starved; the family, moreover, were sometimes seen out at unusual
hours of the night, and evidently brought things home, which could hardly
have been honestly come by.  They knew they were under suspicion, and,
being hitherto of excellent name, it made them very unhappy, for it must
be confessed that they believed what they did to be uncanny if not
absolutely wicked; nevertheless, in spite of this they throve, and kept
their strength when all their neighbours were pinched.

At length matters came to a head and the clergyman of the parish cross-
questioned the poor woman so closely that with many tears and a bitter
sense of degradation she confessed the truth; she and her children went
into the hedges and gathered snails, which they made into broth and
ate--could she ever be forgiven?  Was there any hope of salvation for her
either in this world or the next after such unnatural conduct?

So again I have heard of an old dowager countess whose money was all in
Consols; she had had many sons, and in her anxiety to give the younger
ones a good start, wanted a larger income than Consols would give her.
She consulted her solicitor and was advised to sell her Consols and
invest in the London and North-Western Railway, then at about 85.  This
was to her what eating snails was to the poor widow whose story I have
told above.  With shame and grief, as of one doing an unclean thing--but
her boys must have their start--she did as she was advised.  Then for a
long while she could not sleep at night and was haunted by a presage of
disaster.  Yet what happened?  She started her boys, and in a few years
found her capital doubled into the bargain, on which she sold out and
went back again to Consols and died in the full blessedness of
fund-holding.

She thought, indeed, that she was doing a wrong and dangerous thing, but
this had absolutely nothing to do with it.  Suppose she had invested in
the full confidence of a recommendation by some eminent London banker
whose advice was bad, and so had lost all her money, and suppose she had
done this with a light heart and with no conviction of sin--would her
innocence of evil purpose and the excellence of her motive have stood her
in any stead?  Not they.

But to return to my story.  Towneley gave my hero most trouble.  Towneley,
as I have said, knew that Ernest would have money soon, but Ernest did
not of course know that he knew it.  Towneley was rich himself, and was
married now; Ernest would be rich soon, had _bona fide_ intended to be
married already, and would doubtless marry a lawful wife later on.  Such
a man was worth taking pains with, and when Towneley one day met Ernest
in the street, and Ernest tried to avoid him, Towneley would not have it,
but with his usual quick good nature read his thoughts, caught him,
morally speaking, by the scruff of his neck, and turned him laughingly
inside out, telling him he would have no such nonsense.

Towneley was just as much Ernest's idol now as he had ever been, and
Ernest, who was very easily touched, felt more gratefully and warmly than
ever towards him, but there was an unconscious something which was
stronger than Towneley, and made my hero determine to break with him more
determinedly perhaps than with any other living person; he thanked him in
a low hurried voice and pressed his hand, while tears came into his eyes
in spite of all his efforts to repress them.  "If we meet again," he
said, "do not look at me, but if hereafter you hear of me writing things
you do not like, think of me as charitably as you can," and so they
parted.

"Towneley is a good fellow," said I, gravely, "and you should not have
cut him."

"Towneley," he answered, "is not only a good fellow, but he is without
exception the very best man I ever saw in my life--except," he paid me
the compliment of saying, "yourself; Towneley is my notion of everything
which I should most like to be--but there is no real solidarity between
us.  I should be in perpetual fear of losing his good opinion if I said
things he did not like, and I mean to say a great many things," he
continued more merrily, "which Towneley will not like."

A man, as I have said already, can give up father and mother for Christ's
sake tolerably easily for the most part, but it is not so easy to give up
people like Towneley.




CHAPTER LXXXI


So he fell away from all old friends except myself and three or four old
intimates of my own, who were as sure to take to him as he to them, and
who like myself enjoyed getting hold of a young fresh mind.  Ernest
attended to the keeping of my account books whenever there was anything
which could possibly be attended to, which there seldom was, and spent
the greater part of the rest of his time in adding to the many notes and
tentative essays which had already accumulated in his portfolios.  Anyone
who was used to writing could see at a glance that literature was his
natural development, and I was pleased at seeing him settle down to it so
spontaneously.  I was less pleased, however, to observe that he would
still occupy himself with none but the most serious, I had almost said
solemn, subjects, just as he never cared about any but the most serious
kind of music.

I said to him one day that the very slender reward which God had attached
to the pursuit of serious inquiry was a sufficient proof that He
disapproved of it, or at any rate that He did not set much store by it
nor wish to encourage it.

He said: "Oh, don't talk about rewards.  Look at Milton, who only got 5
pounds for 'Paradise Lost.'"

"And a great deal too much," I rejoined promptly.  "I would have given
him twice as much myself not to have written it at all."

Ernest was a little shocked.  "At any rate," he said laughingly, "I don't
write poetry."

This was a cut at me, for my burlesques were, of course, written in
rhyme.  So I dropped the matter.

After a time he took it into his head to reopen the question of his
getting 300 pounds a year for doing, as he said, absolutely nothing, and
said he would try to find some employment which should bring him in
enough to live upon.

I laughed at this but let him alone.  He tried and tried very hard for a
long while, but I need hardly say was unsuccessful.  The older I grow,
the more convinced I become of the folly and credulity of the public; but
at the same time the harder do I see it is to impose oneself upon that
folly and credulity.

He tried editor after editor with article after article.  Sometimes an
editor listened to him and told him to leave his articles; he almost
invariably, however, had them returned to him in the end with a polite
note saying that they were not suited for the particular paper to which
he had sent them.  And yet many of these very articles appeared in his
later works, and no one complained of them, not at least on the score of
bad literary workmanship.  "I see," he said to me one day, "that demand
is very imperious, and supply must be very suppliant."

Once, indeed, the editor of an important monthly magazine accepted an
article from him, and he thought he had now got a footing in the literary
world.  The article was to appear in the next issue but one, and he was
to receive proof from the printers in about ten days or a fortnight; but
week after week passed and there was no proof; month after month went by
and there was still no room for Ernest's article; at length after about
six months the editor one morning told him that he had filled every
number of his review for the next ten months, but that his article should
definitely appear.  On this he insisted on having his MS. returned to
him.

Sometimes his articles were actually published, and he found the editor
had edited them according to his own fancy, putting in jokes which he
thought were funny, or cutting out the very passage which Ernest had
considered the point of the whole thing, and then, though the articles
appeared, when it came to paying for them it was another matter, and he
never saw his money.  "Editors," he said to me one day about this time,
"are like the people who bought and sold in the book of Revelation; there
is not one but has the mark of the beast upon him."

At last after months of disappointment and many a tedious hour wasted in
dingy anterooms (and of all anterooms those of editors appear to me to be
the dreariest), he got a _bona fide_ offer of employment from one of the
first class weekly papers through an introduction I was able to get for
him from one who had powerful influence with the paper in question.  The
editor sent him a dozen long books upon varied and difficult subjects,
and told him to review them in a single article within a week.  In one
book there was an editorial note to the effect that the writer was to be
condemned.  Ernest particularly admired the book he was desired to
condemn, and feeling how hopeless it was for him to do anything like
justice to the books submitted to him, returned them to the editor.

At last one paper did actually take a dozen or so of articles from him,
and gave him cash down a couple of guineas apiece for them, but having
done this it expired within a fortnight after the last of Ernest's
articles had appeared.  It certainly looked very much as if the other
editors knew their business in declining to have anything to do with my
unlucky godson.

I was not sorry that he failed with periodical literature, for writing
for reviews or newspapers is bad training for one who may aspire to write
works of more permanent interest.  A young writer should have more time
for reflection than he can get as a contributor to the daily or even
weekly press.  Ernest himself, however, was chagrined at finding how
unmarketable he was.  "Why," he said to me, "If I was a well-bred horse,
or sheep, or a pure-bred pigeon or lop-eared rabbit I should be more
saleable.  If I was even a cathedral in a colonial town people would give
me something, but as it is they do not want me"; and now that he was well
and rested he wanted to set up a shop again, but this, of course, I would
not hear of.

"What care I," said he to me one day, "about being what they call a
gentleman?"  And his manner was almost fierce.

"What has being a gentleman ever done for me except make me less able to
prey and more easy to be preyed upon?  It has changed the manner of my
being swindled, that is all.  But for your kindness to me I should be
penniless.  Thank heaven I have placed my children where I have."

I begged him to keep quiet a little longer and not talk about taking a
shop.

"Will being a gentleman," he said, "bring me money at the last, and will
anything bring me as much peace at the last as money will?  They say that
those who have riches enter hardly into the kingdom of Heaven.  By Jove,
they do; they are like Struldbrugs; they live and live and live and are
happy for many a long year after they would have entered into the kingdom
of Heaven if they had been poor.  I want to live long and to raise my
children, if I see they would be happier for the raising; that is what I
want, and it is not what I am doing now that will help me.  Being a
gentleman is a luxury which I cannot afford, therefore I do not want it.
Let me go back to my shop again, and do things for people which they want
done and will pay me for doing for them.  They know what they want and
what is good for them better than I can tell them."

It was hard to deny the soundness of this, and if he had been dependent
only on the 300 pounds a year which he was getting from me I should have
advised him to open his shop again next morning.  As it was, I temporised
and raised obstacles, and quieted him from time to time as best I could.

Of course he read Mr Darwin's books as fast as they came out and adopted
evolution as an article of faith.  "It seems to me," he said once, "that
I am like one of those caterpillars which, if they have been interrupted
in making their hammock, must begin again from the beginning.  So long as
I went back a long way down in the social scale I got on all right, and
should have made money but for Ellen; when I try to take up the work at a
higher stage I fail completely."  I do not know whether the analogy holds
good or not, but I am sure Ernest's instinct was right in telling him
that after a heavy fall he had better begin life again at a very low
stage, and as I have just said, I would have let him go back to his shop
if I had not known what I did.

As the time fixed upon by his aunt drew nearer I prepared him more and
more for what was coming, and at last, on his twenty-eighth birthday, I
was able to tell him all and to show him the letter signed by his aunt
upon her death-bed to the effect that I was to hold the money in trust
for him.  His birthday happened that year (1863) to be on a Sunday, but
on the following day I transferred his shares into his own name, and
presented him with the account books which he had been keeping for the
last year and a half.

In spite of all that I had done to prepare him, it was a long while
before I could get him actually to believe that the money was his own.  He
did not say much--no more did I, for I am not sure that I did not feel as
much moved at having brought my long trusteeship to a satisfactory
conclusion as Ernest did at finding himself owner of more than 70,000
pounds.  When he did speak it was to jerk out a sentence or two of
reflection at a time.  "If I were rendering this moment in music," he
said, "I should allow myself free use of the augmented sixth."  A little
later I remember his saying with a laugh that had something of a family
likeness to his aunt's: "It is not the pleasure it causes me which I
enjoy so, it is the pain it will cause to all my friends except yourself
and Towneley."

I said: "You cannot tell your father and mother--it would drive them
mad."

"No, no, no," said he, "it would be too cruel; it would be like Isaac
offering up Abraham and no thicket with a ram in it near at hand.  Besides
why should I?  We have cut each other these four years."




CHAPTER LXXXII


It almost seemed as though our casual mention of Theobald and Christina
had in some way excited them from a dormant to an active state.  During
the years that had elapsed since they last appeared upon the scene they
had remained at Battersby, and had concentrated their affection upon
their other children.

It had been a bitter pill to Theobald to lose his power of plaguing his
first-born; if the truth were known I believe he had felt this more
acutely than any disgrace which might have been shed upon him by Ernest's
imprisonment.  He had made one or two attempts to reopen negotiations
through me, but I never said anything about them to Ernest, for I knew it
would upset him.  I wrote, however, to Theobald that I had found his son
inexorable, and recommended him for the present, at any rate, to desist
from returning to the subject.  This I thought would be at once what
Ernest would like best and Theobald least.

A few days, however, after Ernest had come into his property, I received
a letter from Theobald enclosing one for Ernest which I could not
withhold.

The letter ran thus:--

   "To my son Ernest,--Although you have more than once rejected my
   overtures I appeal yet again to your better nature.  Your mother, who
   has long been ailing, is, I believe, near her end; she is unable to
   keep anything on her stomach, and Dr Martin holds out but little hopes
   of her recovery.  She has expressed a wish to see you, and says she
   knows you will not refuse to come to her, which, considering her
   condition, I am unwilling to suppose you will.

   "I remit you a Post Office order for your fare, and will pay your
   return journey.

   "If you want clothes to come in, order what you consider suitable, and
   desire that the bill be sent to me; I will pay it immediately, to an
   amount not exceeding eight or nine pounds, and if you will let me know
   what train you will come by, I will send the carriage to meet you.
   Believe me, Your affectionate father, T. PONTIFEX."

Of course there could be no hesitation on Ernest's part.  He could afford
to smile now at his father's offering to pay for his clothes, and his
sending him a Post Office order for the exact price of a second-class
ticket, and he was of course shocked at learning the state his mother was
said to be in, and touched at her desire to see him.  He telegraphed that
he would come down at once.  I saw him a little before he started, and
was pleased to see how well his tailor had done by him.  Towneley himself
could not have been appointed more becomingly.  His portmanteau, his
railway wrapper, everything he had about him, was in keeping.  I thought
he had grown much better-looking than he had been at two or three and
twenty.  His year and a half of peace had effaced all the ill effects of
his previous suffering, and now that he had become actually rich there
was an air of _insouciance_ and good humour upon his face, as of a man
with whom everything was going perfectly right, which would have made a
much plainer man good-looking.  I was proud of him and delighted with
him.  "I am sure," I said to myself, "that whatever else he may do, he
will never marry again."

The journey was a painful one.  As he drew near to the station and caught
sight of each familiar feature, so strong was the force of association
that he felt as though his coming into his aunt's money had been a dream,
and he were again returning to his father's house as he had returned to
it from Cambridge for the vacations.  Do what he would, the old dull
weight of _home-sickness_ began to oppress him, his heart beat fast as he
thought of his approaching meeting with his father and mother, "and I
shall have," he said to himself, "to kiss Charlotte."

Would his father meet him at the station?  Would he greet him as though
nothing had happened, or would he be cold and distant?  How, again, would
he take the news of his son's good fortune?  As the train drew up to the
platform, Ernest's eye ran hurriedly over the few people who were in the
station.  His father's well-known form was not among them, but on the
other side of the palings which divided the station yard from the
platform, he saw the pony carriage, looking, as he thought, rather
shabby, and recognised his father's coachman.  In a few minutes more he
was in the carriage driving towards Battersby.  He could not help smiling
as he saw the coachman give a look of surprise at finding him so much
changed in personal appearance.  The coachman was the more surprised
because when Ernest had last been at home he had been dressed as a
clergyman, and now he was not only a layman, but a layman who was got up
regardless of expense.  The change was so great that it was not till
Ernest actually spoke to him that the coachman knew him.

"How are my father and mother?" he asked hurriedly, as he got into the
carriage.  "The Master's well, sir," was the answer, "but the Missis is
very sadly."  The horse knew that he was going home and pulled hard at
the reins.  The weather was cold and raw--the very ideal of a November
day; in one part of the road the floods were out, and near here they had
to pass through a number of horsemen and dogs, for the hounds had met
that morning at a place near Battersby.  Ernest saw several people whom
he knew, but they either, as is most likely, did not recognise him, or
did not know of his good luck.  When Battersby church tower drew near,
and he saw the Rectory on the top of the hill, its chimneys just showing
above the leafless trees with which it was surrounded, he threw himself
back in the carriage and covered his face with his hands.

It came to an end, as even the worst quarters of an hour do, and in a few
minutes more he was on the steps in front of his father's house.  His
father, hearing the carriage arrive, came a little way down the steps to
meet him.  Like the coachman he saw at a glance that Ernest was appointed
as though money were abundant with him, and that he was looking robust
and full of health and vigour.

This was not what he had bargained for.  He wanted Ernest to return, but
he was to return as any respectable, well-regulated prodigal ought to
return--abject, broken-hearted, asking forgiveness from the tenderest and
most long-suffering father in the whole world.  If he should have shoes
and stockings and whole clothes at all, it should be only because
absolute rags and tatters had been graciously dispensed with, whereas
here he was swaggering in a grey ulster and a blue and white necktie, and
looking better than Theobald had ever seen him in his life.  It was
unprincipled.  Was it for this that he had been generous enough to offer
to provide Ernest with decent clothes in which to come and visit his
mother's death-bed?  Could any advantage be meaner than the one which
Ernest had taken?  Well, he would not go a penny beyond the eight or nine
pounds which he had promised.  It was fortunate he had given a limit.  Why
he, Theobald, had never been able to afford such a portmanteau in his
life.  He was still using an old one which his father had turned over to
him when he went up to Cambridge.  Besides, he had said clothes, not a
portmanteau.

Ernest saw what was passing through his father's mind, and felt that he
ought to have prepared him in some way for what he now saw; but he had
sent his telegram so immediately on receiving his father's letter, and
had followed it so promptly that it would not have been easy to do so
even if he had thought of it.  He put out his hand and said laughingly,
"Oh, it's all paid for--I am afraid you do not know that Mr Overton has
handed over to me Aunt Alethea's money."

Theobald flushed scarlet.  "But why," he said, and these were the first
words that actually crossed his lips--"if the money was not his to keep,
did he not hand it over to my brother John and me?"  He stammered a good
deal and looked sheepish, but he got the words out.

"Because, my dear father," said Ernest still laughing, "my aunt left it
to him in trust for me, not in trust either for you or for my Uncle
John--and it has accumulated till it is now over 70,000 pounds.  But tell
me how is my mother?"

"No, Ernest," said Theobald excitedly, "the matter cannot rest here, I
must know that this is all open and above board."

This had the true Theobald ring and instantly brought the whole train of
ideas which in Ernest's mind were connected with his father.  The
surroundings were the old familiar ones, but the surrounded were changed
almost beyond power of recognition.  He turned sharply on Theobald in a
moment.  I will not repeat the words he used, for they came out before he
had time to consider them, and they might strike some of my readers as
disrespectful; there were not many of them, but they were effectual.
Theobald said nothing, but turned almost of an ashen colour; he never
again spoke to his son in such a way as to make it necessary for him to
repeat what he had said on this occasion.  Ernest quickly recovered his
temper and again asked after his mother.  Theobald was glad enough to
take this opening now, and replied at once in the tone he would have
assumed towards one he most particularly desired to conciliate, that she
was getting rapidly worse in spite of all he had been able to do for her,
and concluded by saying she had been the comfort and mainstay of his life
for more than thirty years, but that he could not wish it prolonged.

The pair then went upstairs to Christina's room, the one in which Ernest
had been born.  His father went before him and prepared her for her son's
approach.  The poor woman raised herself in bed as he came towards her,
and weeping as she flung her arms around him, cried: "Oh, I knew he would
come, I knew, I knew he could come."

Ernest broke down and wept as he had not done for years.

"Oh, my boy, my boy," she said as soon as she could recover her voice.
"Have you never really been near us for all these years?  Ah, you do not
know how we have loved you and mourned over you, papa just as much as I
have.  You know he shows his feelings less, but I can never tell you how
very, very deeply he has felt for you.  Sometimes at night I have thought
I have heard footsteps in the garden, and have got quietly out of bed
lest I should wake him, and gone to the window to look out, but there has
been only dark or the greyness of the morning, and I have gone crying
back to bed again.  Still I think you have been near us though you were
too proud to let us know--and now at last I have you in my arms once
more, my dearest, dearest boy."

How cruel, how infamously unfeeling Ernest thought he had been.

"Mother," he said, "forgive me--the fault was mine, I ought not to have
been so hard; I was wrong, very wrong"; the poor blubbering fellow meant
what he said, and his heart yearned to his mother as he had never thought
that it could yearn again.  "But have you never," she continued, "come
although it was in the dark and we did not know it--oh, let me think that
you have not been so cruel as we have thought you.  Tell me that you came
if only to comfort me and make me happier."

Ernest was ready.  "I had no money to come with, mother, till just
lately."

This was an excuse Christina could understand and make allowance for;
"Oh, then you would have come, and I will take the will for the deed--and
now that I have you safe again, say that you will never, never leave
me--not till--not till--oh, my boy, have they told you I am dying?"  She
wept bitterly, and buried her head in her pillow.




CHAPTER LXXXIII


Joey and Charlotte were in the room.  Joey was now ordained, and was
curate to Theobald.  He and Ernest had never been sympathetic, and Ernest
saw at a glance that there was no chance of a _rapprochement_ between
them.  He was a little startled at seeing Joey dressed as a clergyman,
and looking so like what he had looked himself a few years earlier, for
there was a good deal of family likeness between the pair; but Joey's
face was cold and was illumined with no spark of Bohemianism; he was a
clergyman and was going to do as other clergymen did, neither better nor
worse.  He greeted Ernest rather _de haut en bas_, that is to say he
began by trying to do so, but the affair tailed off unsatisfactorily.

His sister presented her cheek to him to be kissed.  How he hated it; he
had been dreading it for the last three hours.  She, too, was distant and
reproachful in her manner, as such a superior person was sure to be.  She
had a grievance against him inasmuch as she was still unmarried.  She
laid the blame of this at Ernest's door; it was his misconduct she
maintained in secret, which had prevented young men from making offers to
her, and she ran him up a heavy bill for consequential damages.  She and
Joey had from the first developed an instinct for hunting with the
hounds, and now these two had fairly identified themselves with the older
generation--that is to say as against Ernest.  On this head there was an
offensive and defensive alliance between them, but between themselves
there was subdued but internecine warfare.

This at least was what Ernest gathered, partly from his recollections of
the parties concerned, and partly from his observation of their little
ways during the first half-hour after his arrival, while they were all
together in his mother's bedroom--for as yet of course they did not know
that he had money.  He could see that they eyed him from time to time
with a surprise not unmixed with indignation, and knew very well what
they were thinking.

Christina saw the change which had come over him--how much firmer and
more vigorous both in mind and body he seemed than when she had last seen
him.  She saw too how well he was dressed, and, like the others, in spite
of the return of all her affection for her first-born, was a little
alarmed about Theobald's pocket, which she supposed would have to be
mulcted for all this magnificence.  Perceiving this, Ernest relieved her
mind and told her all about his aunt's bequest, and how I had husbanded
it, in the presence of his brother and sister--who, however, pretended
not to notice, or at any rate to notice as a matter in which they could
hardly be expected to take an interest.

His mother kicked a little at first against the money's having gone to
him as she said "over his papa's head."  "Why, my dear," she said in a
deprecating tone, "this is more than ever your papa has had"; but Ernest
calmed her by suggesting that if Miss Pontifex had known how large the
sum would become she would have left the greater part of it to Theobald.
This compromise was accepted by Christina who forthwith, ill as she was,
entered with ardour into the new position, and taking it as a fresh point
of departure, began spending Ernest's money for him.

I may say in passing that Christina was right in saying that Theobald had
never had so much money as his son was now possessed of.  In the first
place he had not had a fourteen years' minority with no outgoings to
prevent the accumulation of the money, and in the second he, like myself
and almost everyone else, had suffered somewhat in the 1846 times--not
enough to cripple him or even seriously to hurt him, but enough to give
him a scare and make him stick to debentures for the rest of his life.  It
was the fact of his son's being the richer man of the two, and of his
being rich so young, which rankled with Theobald even more than the fact
of his having money at all.  If he had had to wait till he was sixty or
sixty-five, and become broken down from long failure in the meantime, why
then perhaps he might have been allowed to have whatever sum should
suffice to keep him out of the workhouse and pay his death-bed expenses;
but that he should come in to 70,000 pounds at eight and twenty, and have
no wife and only two children--it was intolerable.  Christina was too ill
and in too great a hurry to spend the money to care much about such
details as the foregoing, and she was naturally much more good-natured
than Theobald.

"This piece of good fortune"--she saw it at a glance--"quite wiped out
the disgrace of his having been imprisoned.  There should be no more
nonsense about that.  The whole thing was a mistake, an unfortunate
mistake, true, but the less said about it now the better.  Of course
Ernest would come back and live at Battersby until he was married, and he
would pay his father handsomely for board and lodging.  In fact it would
be only right that Theobald should make a profit, nor would Ernest
himself wish it to be other than a handsome one; this was far the best
and simplest arrangement; and he could take his sister out more than
Theobald or Joey cared to do, and would also doubtless entertain very
handsomely at Battersby.

"Of course he would buy Joey a living, and make large presents yearly to
his sister--was there anything else?  Oh! yes--he would become a county
magnate now; a man with nearly 4000 pounds a year should certainly become
a county magnate.  He might even go into Parliament.  He had very fair
abilities, nothing indeed approaching such genius as Dr Skinner's, nor
even as Theobald's, still he was not deficient and if he got into
Parliament--so young too--there was nothing to hinder his being Prime
Minister before he died, and if so, of course, he would become a peer.
Oh! why did he not set about it all at once, so that she might live to
hear people call her son 'my lord'--Lord Battersby she thought would do
very nicely, and if she was well enough to sit he must certainly have her
portrait painted at full length for one end of his large dining-hall.  It
should be exhibited at the Royal Academy: 'Portrait of Lord Battersby's
mother,' she said to herself, and her heart fluttered with all its wonted
vivacity.  If she could not sit, happily, she had been photographed not
so very long ago, and the portrait had been as successful as any
photograph could be of a face which depended so entirely upon its
expression as her own.  Perhaps the painter could take the portrait
sufficiently from this.  It was better after all that Ernest had given up
the Church--how far more wisely God arranges matters for us than ever we
can do for ourselves!  She saw it all now--it was Joey who would become
Archbishop of Canterbury and Ernest would remain a layman and become
Prime Minister" . . . and so on till her daughter told her it was time to
take her medicine.

I suppose this reverie, which is a mere fragment of what actually ran
through Christina's brain, occupied about a minute and a half, but it, or
the presence of her son, seemed to revive her spirits wonderfully.  Ill,
dying indeed, and suffering as she was, she brightened up so as to laugh
once or twice quite merrily during the course of the afternoon.  Next day
Dr Martin said she was so much better that he almost began to have hopes
of her recovery again.  Theobald, whenever this was touched upon as
possible, would shake his head and say: "We can't wish it prolonged," and
then Charlotte caught Ernest unawares and said: "You know, dear Ernest,
that these ups and downs of talk are terribly agitating to papa; he could
stand whatever comes, but it is quite too wearing to him to think half-a-
dozen different things backwards and forwards, up and down in the same
twenty-four hours, and it would be kinder of you not to do it--I mean not
to say anything to him even though Dr Martin does hold out hopes."

Charlotte had meant to imply that it was Ernest who was at the bottom of
all the inconvenience felt by Theobald, herself, Joey and everyone else,
and she had actually got words out which should convey this; true, she
had not dared to stick to them and had turned them off, but she had made
them hers at any rate for one brief moment, and this was better than
nothing.  Ernest noticed throughout his mother's illness, that Charlotte
found immediate occasion to make herself disagreeable to him whenever
either doctor or nurse pronounced her mother to be a little better.  When
she wrote to Crampsford to desire the prayers of the congregation (she
was sure her mother would wish it, and that the Crampsford people would
be pleased at her remembrance of them), she was sending another letter on
some quite different subject at the same time, and put the two letters
into the wrong envelopes.  Ernest was asked to take these letters to the
village post-office, and imprudently did so; when the error came to be
discovered Christina happened to have rallied a little.  Charlotte flew
at Ernest immediately, and laid all the blame of the blunder upon his
shoulders.

Except that Joey and Charlotte were more fully developed, the house and
its inmates, organic and inorganic, were little changed since Ernest had
last seen them.  The furniture and the ornaments on the chimney-piece
were just as they had been ever since he could remember anything at all.
In the drawing-room, on either side of the fireplace there hung the Carlo
Dolci and the Sassoferrato as in old times; there was the water colour of
a scene on the Lago Maggiore, copied by Charlotte from an original lent
her by her drawing master, and finished under his direction.  This was
the picture of which one of the servants had said that it must be good,
for Mr Pontifex had given ten shillings for the frame.  The paper on the
walls was unchanged; the roses were still waiting for the bees; and the
whole family still prayed night and morning to be made "truly honest and
conscientious."

One picture only was removed--a photograph of himself which had hung
under one of his father and between those of his brother and sister.
Ernest noticed this at prayer time, while his father was reading about
Noah's ark and how they daubed it with slime, which, as it happened, had
been Ernest's favourite text when he was a boy.  Next morning, however,
the photograph had found its way back again, a little dusty and with a
bit of the gilding chipped off from one corner of the frame, but there
sure enough it was.  I suppose they put it back when they found how rich
he had become.

In the dining-room the ravens were still trying to feed Elijah over the
fireplace; what a crowd of reminiscences did not this picture bring back!
Looking out of the window, there were the flower beds in the front garden
exactly as they had been, and Ernest found himself looking hard against
the blue door at the bottom of the garden to see if there was rain
falling, as he had been used to look when he was a child doing lessons
with his father.

After their early dinner, when Joey and Ernest and their father were left
alone, Theobald rose and stood in the middle of the hearthrug under the
Elijah picture, and began to whistle in his old absent way.  He had two
tunes only, one was "In my Cottage near a Wood," and the other was the
Easter Hymn; he had been trying to whistle them all his life, but had
never succeeded; he whistled them as a clever bullfinch might whistle
them--he had got them, but he had not got them right; he would be a
semitone out in every third note as though reverting to some remote
musical progenitor, who had known none but the Lydian or the Phrygian
mode, or whatever would enable him to go most wrong while still keeping
the tune near enough to be recognised.  Theobald stood before the middle
of the fire and whistled his two tunes softly in his own old way till
Ernest left the room; the unchangedness of the external and changedness
of the internal he felt were likely to throw him completely off his
balance.

He strolled out of doors into the sodden spinney behind the house, and
solaced himself with a pipe.  Ere long he found himself at the door of
the cottage of his father's coachman, who had married an old lady's maid
of his mother's, to whom Ernest had been always much attached as she also
to him, for she had known him ever since he had been five or six years
old.  Her name was Susan.  He sat down in the rocking-chair before her
fire, and Susan went on ironing at the table in front of the window, and
a smell of hot flannel pervaded the kitchen.

Susan had been retained too securely by Christina to be likely to side
with Ernest all in a moment.  He knew this very well, and did not call on
her for the sake of support, moral or otherwise.  He had called because
he liked her, and also because he knew that he should gather much in a
chat with her that he should not be able to arrive at in any other way.

"Oh, Master Ernest," said Susan, "why did you not come back when your
poor papa and mamma wanted you?  I'm sure your ma has said to me a
hundred times over if she has said it once that all should be exactly as
it had been before."

Ernest smiled to himself.  It was no use explaining to Susan why he
smiled, so he said nothing.

"For the first day or two I thought she never would get over it; she said
it was a judgement upon her, and went on about things as she had said and
done many years ago, before your pa knew her, and I don't know what she
didn't say or wouldn't have said only I stopped her; she seemed out of
her mind like, and said that none of the neighbours would ever speak to
her again, but the next day Mrs Bushby (her that was Miss Cowey, you
know) called, and your ma always was so fond of her, and it seemed to do
her a power o' good, for the next day she went through all her dresses,
and we settled how she should have them altered; and then all the
neighbours called for miles and miles round, and your ma came in here,
and said she had been going through the waters of misery, and the Lord
had turned them to a well.

"'Oh yes, Susan,' said she, 'be sure it is so.  Whom the Lord loveth he
chasteneth, Susan,' and here she began to cry again.  'As for him,' she
went on, 'he has made his bed, and he must lie on it; when he comes out
of prison his pa will know what is best to be done, and Master Ernest may
be thankful that he has a pa so good and so long-suffering.'

"Then when you would not see them, that was a cruel blow to your ma.  Your
pa did not say anything; you know your pa never does say very much unless
he's downright waxy for the time; but your ma took on dreadful for a few
days, and I never saw the master look so black; but, bless you, it all
went off in a few days, and I don't know that there's been much
difference in either of them since then, not till your ma was took ill."

On the night of his arrival he had behaved well at family prayers, as
also on the following morning; his father read about David's dying
injunctions to Solomon in the matter of Shimei, but he did not mind it.
In the course of the day, however, his corns had been trodden on so many
times that he was in a misbehaving humour, on this the second night after
his arrival.  He knelt next Charlotte and said the responses
perfunctorily, not so perfunctorily that she should know for certain that
he was doing it maliciously, but so perfunctorily as to make her
uncertain whether he might be malicious or not, and when he had to pray
to be made truly honest and conscientious he emphasised the "truly."  I
do not know whether Charlotte noticed anything, but she knelt at some
distance from him during the rest of his stay.  He assures me that this
was the only spiteful thing he did during the whole time he was at
Battersby.

When he went up to his bedroom, in which, to do them justice, they had
given him a fire, he noticed what indeed he had noticed as soon as he was
shown into it on his arrival, that there was an illuminated card framed
and glazed over his bed with the words, "Be the day weary or be the day
long, at last it ringeth to evensong."  He wondered to himself how such
people could leave such a card in a room in which their visitors would
have to spend the last hours of their evening, but he let it alone.
"There's not enough difference between 'weary' and 'long' to warrant an
'or,'" he said, "but I suppose it is all right."  I believe Christina had
bought the card at a bazaar in aid of the restoration of a neighbouring
church, and having been bought it had got to be used--besides, the
sentiment was so touching and the illumination was really lovely.  Anyhow,
no irony could be more complete than leaving it in my hero's bedroom,
though assuredly no irony had been intended.

On the third day after Ernest's arrival Christina relapsed again.  For
the last two days she had been in no pain and had slept a good deal; her
son's presence still seemed to cheer her, and she often said how thankful
she was to be surrounded on her death-bed by a family so happy, so God-
fearing, so united, but now she began to wander, and, being more sensible
of the approach of death, seemed also more alarmed at the thoughts of the
Day of Judgment.

She ventured more than once or twice to return to the subject of her
sins, and implored Theobald to make quite sure that they were forgiven
her.  She hinted that she considered his professional reputation was at
stake; it would never do for his own wife to fail in securing at any rate
a pass.  This was touching Theobald on a tender spot; he winced and
rejoined with an impatient toss of the head, "But, Christina, they _are_
forgiven you"; and then he entrenched himself in a firm but dignified
manner behind the Lord's prayer.  When he rose he left the room, but
called Ernest out to say that he could not wish it prolonged.

Joey was no more use in quieting his mother's anxiety than Theobald had
been--indeed he was only Theobald and water; at last Ernest, who had not
liked interfering, took the matter in hand, and, sitting beside her, let
her pour out her grief to him without let or hindrance.

She said she knew she had not given up all for Christ's sake; it was this
that weighed upon her.  She had given up much, and had always tried to
give up more year by year, still she knew very well that she had not been
so spiritually minded as she ought to have been.  If she had, she should
probably have been favoured with some direct vision or communication;
whereas, though God had vouchsafed such direct and visible angelic visits
to one of her dear children, yet she had had none such herself--nor even
had Theobald.

She was talking rather to herself than to Ernest as she said these words,
but they made him open his ears.  He wanted to know whether the angel had
appeared to Joey or to Charlotte.  He asked his mother, but she seemed
surprised, as though she expected him to know all about it, then, as if
she remembered, she checked herself and said, "Ah! yes--you know nothing
of all this, and perhaps it is as well."  Ernest could not of course
press the subject, so he never found out which of his near relations it
was who had had direct communication with an immortal.  The others never
said anything to him about it, though whether this was because they were
ashamed, or because they feared he would not believe the story and thus
increase his own damnation, he could not determine.

Ernest has often thought about this since.  He tried to get the facts out
of Susan, who he was sure would know, but Charlotte had been beforehand
with him.  "No, Master Ernest," said Susan, when he began to question
her, "your ma has sent a message to me by Miss Charlotte as I am not to
say nothing at all about it, and I never will."  Of course no further
questioning was possible.  It had more than once occurred to Ernest that
Charlotte did not in reality believe more than he did himself, and this
incident went far to strengthen his surmises, but he wavered when he
remembered how she had misdirected the letter asking for the prayers of
the congregation.  "I suppose," he said to himself gloomily, "she does
believe in it after all."

Then Christina returned to the subject of her own want of
spiritual-mindedness, she even harped upon the old grievance of her
having eaten black puddings--true, she had given them up years ago, but
for how many years had she not persevered in eating them after she had
had misgivings about their having been forbidden!  Then there was
something that weighed on her mind that had taken place before her
marriage, and she should like--

Ernest interrupted: "My dear mother," he said, "you are ill and your mind
is unstrung; others can now judge better about you than you can; I assure
you that to me you seem to have been the most devotedly unselfish wife
and mother that ever lived.  Even if you have not literally given up all
for Christ's sake, you have done so practically as far as it was in your
power, and more than this is not required of anyone.  I believe you will
not only be a saint, but a very distinguished one."

At these words Christina brightened.  "You give me hope, you give me
hope," she cried, and dried her eyes.  She made him assure her over and
over again that this was his solemn conviction; she did not care about
being a distinguished saint now; she would be quite content to be among
the meanest who actually got into heaven, provided she could make sure of
escaping that awful Hell.  The fear of this evidently was omnipresent
with her, and in spite of all Ernest could say he did not quite dispel
it.  She was rather ungrateful, I must confess, for after more than an
hour's consolation from Ernest she prayed for him that he might have
every blessing in this world, inasmuch as she always feared that he was
the only one of her children whom she should never meet in heaven; but
she was then wandering, and was hardly aware of his presence; her mind in
fact was reverting to states in which it had been before her illness.

On Sunday Ernest went to church as a matter of course, and noted that the
ever receding tide of Evangelicalism had ebbed many a stage lower, even
during the few years of his absence.  His father used to walk to the
church through the Rectory garden, and across a small intervening field.
He had been used to walk in a tall hat, his Master's gown, and wearing a
pair of Geneva bands.  Ernest noticed that the bands were worn no longer,
and lo! greater marvel still, Theobald did not preach in his Master's
gown, but in a surplice.  The whole character of the service was changed;
you could not say it was high even now, for high-church Theobald could
never under any circumstances become, but the old easy-going
slovenliness, if I may say so, was gone for ever.  The orchestral
accompaniments to the hymns had disappeared while my hero was yet a boy,
but there had been no chanting for some years after the harmonium had
been introduced.  While Ernest was at Cambridge, Charlotte and Christina
had prevailed on Theobald to allow the canticles to be sung; and sung
they were to old-fashioned double chants by Lord Mornington and Dr Dupuis
and others.  Theobald did not like it, but he did it, or allowed it to be
done.

Then Christina said: "My dear, do you know, I really think" (Christina
always "really" thought) "that the people like the chanting very much,
and that it will be a means of bringing many to church who have stayed
away hitherto.  I was talking about it to Mrs Goodhew and to old Miss
Wright only yesterday, and they _quite_ agreed with me, but they all said
that we ought to chant the 'Glory be to the Father' at the end of each of
the psalms instead of saying it."

Theobald looked black--he felt the waters of chanting rising higher and
higher upon him inch by inch; but he felt also, he knew not why, that he
had better yield than fight.  So he ordered the "Glory be to the Father"
to be chanted in future, but he did not like it.

"Really, mamma dear," said Charlotte, when the battle was won, "you
should not call it the 'Glory be to the Father' you should say 'Gloria.'"

"Of course, my dear," said Christina, and she said "Gloria" for ever
after.  Then she thought what a wonderfully clever girl Charlotte was,
and how she ought to marry no one lower than a bishop.  By-and-by when
Theobald went away for an unusually long holiday one summer, he could
find no one but a rather high-church clergyman to take his duty.  This
gentleman was a man of weight in the neighbourhood, having considerable
private means, but without preferment.  In the summer he would often help
his brother clergymen, and it was through his being willing to take the
duty at Battersby for a few Sundays that Theobald had been able to get
away for so long.  On his return, however, he found that the whole psalms
were being chanted as well as the Glorias.  The influential clergyman,
Christina, and Charlotte took the bull by the horns as soon as Theobald
returned, and laughed it all off; and the clergyman laughed and bounced,
and Christina laughed and coaxed, and Charlotte uttered unexceptionable
sentiments, and the thing was done now, and could not be undone, and it
was no use grieving over spilt milk; so henceforth the psalms were to be
chanted, but Theobald grisled over it in his heart, and he did not like
it.

During this same absence what had Mrs Goodhew and old Miss Wright taken
to doing but turning towards the east while repeating the Belief?
Theobald disliked this even worse than chanting.  When he said something
about it in a timid way at dinner after service, Charlotte said, "Really,
papa dear, you _must_ take to calling it the 'Creed' and not the
'Belief'"; and Theobald winced impatiently and snorted meek defiance, but
the spirit of her aunts Jane and Eliza was strong in Charlotte, and the
thing was too small to fight about, and he turned it off with a laugh.
"As for Charlotte," thought Christina, "I believe she knows
_everything_."  So Mrs Goodhew and old Miss Wright continued to turn to
the east during the time the Creed was said, and by-and-by others
followed their example, and ere long the few who had stood out yielded
and turned eastward too; and then Theobald made as though he had thought
it all very right and proper from the first, but like it he did not.  By-
and-by Charlotte tried to make him say "Alleluia" instead of
"Hallelujah," but this was going too far, and Theobald turned, and she
got frightened and ran away.

And they changed the double chants for single ones, and altered them
psalm by psalm, and in the middle of psalms, just where a cursory reader
would see no reason why they should do so, they changed from major to
minor and from minor back to major; and then they got "Hymns Ancient and
Modern," and, as I have said, they robbed him of his beloved bands, and
they made him preach in a surplice, and he must have celebration of the
Holy Communion once a month instead of only five times in the year as
heretofore, and he struggled in vain against the unseen influence which
he felt to be working in season and out of season against all that he had
been accustomed to consider most distinctive of his party.  Where it was,
or what it was, he knew not, nor exactly what it would do next, but he
knew exceedingly well that go where he would it was undermining him; that
it was too persistent for him; that Christina and Charlotte liked it a
great deal better than he did, and that it could end in nothing but Rome.
Easter decorations indeed!  Christmas decorations--in reason--were proper
enough, but Easter decorations! well, it might last his time.

This was the course things had taken in the Church of England during the
last forty years.  The set has been steadily in one direction.  A few men
who knew what they wanted made cats' paws of the Christmas and the
Charlottes, and the Christmas and the Charlottes made cats' paws of the
Mrs Goodhews and the old Miss Wrights, and Mrs Goodhews and old Miss
Wrights told the Mr Goodhews and young Miss Wrights what they should do,
and when the Mr Goodhews and the young Miss Wrights did it the little
Goodhews and the rest of the spiritual flock did as they did, and the
Theobalds went for nothing; step by step, day by day, year by year,
parish by parish, diocese by diocese this was how it was done.  And yet
the Church of England looks with no friendly eyes upon the theory of
Evolution or Descent with Modification.

My hero thought over these things, and remembered many a _ruse_ on the
part of Christina and Charlotte, and many a detail of the struggle which
I cannot further interrupt my story to refer to, and he remembered his
father's favourite retort that it could only end in Rome.  When he was a
boy he had firmly believed this, but he smiled now as he thought of
another alternative clear enough to himself, but so horrible that it had
not even occurred to Theobald--I mean the toppling over of the whole
system.  At that time he welcomed the hope that the absurdities and
unrealities of the Church would end in her downfall.  Since then he has
come to think very differently, not as believing in the cow jumping over
the moon more than he used to, or more, probably, than nine-tenths of the
clergy themselves--who know as well as he does that their outward and
visible symbols are out of date--but because he knows the baffling
complexity of the problem when it comes to deciding what is actually to
be done.  Also, now that he has seen them more closely, he knows better
the nature of those wolves in sheep's clothing, who are thirsting for the
blood of their victim, and exulting so clamorously over its anticipated
early fall into their clutches.  The spirit behind the Church is true,
though her letter--true once--is now true no longer.  The spirit behind
the High Priests of Science is as lying as its letter.  The Theobalds,
who do what they do because it seems to be the correct thing, but who in
their hearts neither like it nor believe in it, are in reality the least
dangerous of all classes to the peace and liberties of mankind.  The man
to fear is he who goes at things with the cocksureness of pushing
vulgarity and self-conceit.  These are not vices which can be justly laid
to the charge of the English clergy.

Many of the farmers came up to Ernest when service was over, and shook
hands with him.  He found every one knew of his having come into a
fortune.  The fact was that Theobald had immediately told two or three of
the greatest gossips in the village, and the story was not long in
spreading.  "It simplified matters," he had said to himself, "a good
deal."  Ernest was civil to Mrs Goodhew for her husband's sake, but he
gave Miss Wright the cut direct, for he knew that she was only Charlotte
in disguise.

A week passed slowly away.  Two or three times the family took the
sacrament together round Christina's death-bed.  Theobald's impatience
became more and more transparent daily, but fortunately Christina (who
even if she had been well would have been ready to shut her eyes to it)
became weaker and less coherent in mind also, so that she hardly, if at
all, perceived it.  After Ernest had been in the house about a week his
mother fell into a comatose state which lasted a couple of days, and in
the end went away so peacefully that it was like the blending of sea and
sky in mid-ocean upon a soft hazy day when none can say where the earth
ends and the heavens begin.  Indeed she died to the realities of life
with less pain than she had waked from many of its illusions.

"She has been the comfort and mainstay of my life for more than thirty
years," said Theobald as soon as all was over, "but one could not wish it
prolonged," and he buried his face in his handkerchief to conceal his
want of emotion.

Ernest came back to town the day after his mother's death, and returned
to the funeral accompanied by myself.  He wanted me to see his father in
order to prevent any possible misapprehension about Miss Pontifex's
intentions, and I was such an old friend of the family that my presence
at Christina's funeral would surprise no one.  With all her faults I had
always rather liked Christina.  She would have chopped Ernest or any one
else into little pieces of mincemeat to gratify the slightest wish of her
husband, but she would not have chopped him up for any one else, and so
long as he did not cross her she was very fond of him.  By nature she was
of an even temper, more willing to be pleased than ruffled, very ready to
do a good-natured action, provided it did not cost her much exertion, nor
involve expense to Theobald.  Her own little purse did not matter; any
one might have as much of that as he or she could get after she had
reserved what was absolutely necessary for her dress.  I could not hear
of her end as Ernest described it to me without feeling very
compassionate towards her, indeed her own son could hardly have felt more
so; I at once, therefore, consented to go down to the funeral; perhaps I
was also influenced by a desire to see Charlotte and Joey, in whom I felt
interested on hearing what my godson had told me.

I found Theobald looking remarkably well.  Every one said he was bearing
it so beautifully.  He did indeed once or twice shake his head and say
that his wife had been the comfort and mainstay of his life for over
thirty years, but there the matter ended.  I stayed over the next day
which was Sunday, and took my departure on the following morning after
having told Theobald all that his son wished me to tell him.  Theobald
asked me to help him with Christina's epitaph.

"I would say," said he, "as little as possible; eulogies of the departed
are in most cases both unnecessary and untrue.  Christina's epitaph shall
contain nothing which shall be either the one or the other.  I should
give her name, the dates of her birth and death, and of course say she
was my wife, and then I think I should wind up with a simple text--her
favourite one for example, none indeed could be more appropriate,
'Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.'"

I said I thought this would be very nice, and it was settled.  So Ernest
was sent to give the order to Mr Prosser, the stonemason in the nearest
town, who said it came from "the Beetitudes."




CHAPTER LXXXIV


On our way to town Ernest broached his plans for spending the next year
or two.  I wanted him to try and get more into society again, but he
brushed this aside at once as the very last thing he had a fancy for.  For
society indeed of all sorts, except of course that of a few intimate
friends, he had an unconquerable aversion.  "I always did hate those
people," he said, "and they always have hated and always will hate me.  I
am an Ishmael by instinct as much as by accident of circumstances, but if
I keep out of society I shall be less vulnerable than Ishmaels generally
are.  The moment a man goes into society, he becomes vulnerable all
round."

I was very sorry to hear him talk in this way; for whatever strength a
man may have he should surely be able to make more of it if he act in
concert than alone.  I said this.

"I don't care," he answered, "whether I make the most of my strength or
not; I don't know whether I have any strength, but if I have I dare say
it will find some way of exerting itself.  I will live as I like living,
not as other people would like me to live; thanks to my aunt and you I
can afford the luxury of a quiet unobtrusive life of self-indulgence,"
said he laughing, "and I mean to have it.  You know I like writing," he
added after a pause of some minutes, "I have been a scribbler for years.
If I am to come to the fore at all it must be by writing."

I had already long since come to that conclusion myself.

"Well," he continued, "there are a lot of things that want saying which
no one dares to say, a lot of shams which want attacking, and yet no one
attacks them.  It seems to me that I can say things which not another man
in England except myself will venture to say, and yet which are crying to
be said."

I said: "But who will listen?  If you say things which nobody else would
dare to say is not this much the same as saying what everyone except
yourself knows to be better left unsaid just now?"

"Perhaps," said he, "but I don't know it; I am bursting with these
things, and it is my fate to say them."

I knew there would be no stopping him, so I gave in and asked what
question he felt a special desire to burn his fingers with in the first
instance.

"Marriage," he rejoined promptly, "and the power of disposing of his
property after a man is dead.  The question of Christianity is virtually
settled, or if not settled there is no lack of those engaged in settling
it.  The question of the day now is marriage and the family system."

"That," said I drily, "is a hornet's nest indeed."

"Yes," said he no less drily, "but hornet's nests are exactly what I
happen to like.  Before, however, I begin to stir up this particular one
I propose to travel for a few years, with the especial object of finding
out what nations now existing are the best, comeliest and most lovable,
and also what nations have been so in times past.  I want to find out how
these people live, and have lived, and what their customs are.

"I have very vague notions upon the subject as yet, but the general
impression I have formed is that, putting ourselves on one side, the most
vigorous and amiable of known nations are the modern Italians, the old
Greeks and Romans, and the South Sea Islanders.  I believe that these
nice peoples have not as a general rule been purists, but I want to see
those of them who can yet be seen; they are the practical authorities on
the question--What is best for man? and I should like to see them and
find out what they do.  Let us settle the fact first and fight about the
moral tendencies afterwards."

"In fact," said I laughingly, "you mean to have high old times."

"Neither higher nor lower," was the answer, "than those people whom I can
find to have been the best in all ages.  But let us change the subject."
He put his hand into his pocket and brought out a letter.  "My father,"
he said, "gave me this letter this morning with the seal already broken."
He passed it over to me, and I found it to be the one which Christina had
written before the birth of her last child, and which I have given in an
earlier chapter.

"And you do not find this letter," said I, "affect the conclusion which
you have just told me you have come to concerning your present plans?"

He smiled, and answered: "No.  But if you do what you have sometimes
talked about and turn the adventures of my unworthy self into a novel,
mind you print this letter."

"Why so?" said I, feeling as though such a letter as this should have
been held sacred from the public gaze.

"Because my mother would have wished it published; if she had known you
were writing about me and had this letter in your possession, she would
above all things have desired that you should publish it.  Therefore
publish it if you write at all."

This is why I have done so.

Within a month Ernest carried his intention into effect, and having made
all the arrangements necessary for his children's welfare left England
before Christmas.

I heard from him now and again and learnt that he was visiting almost all
parts of the world, but only staying in those places where he found the
inhabitants unusually good-looking and agreeable.  He said he had filled
an immense quantity of note-books, and I have no doubt he had.  At last
in the spring of 1867 he returned, his luggage stained with the variation
of each hotel advertisement 'twixt here and Japan.  He looked very brown
and strong, and so well favoured that it almost seemed as if he must have
caught some good looks from the people among whom he had been living.  He
came back to his old rooms in the Temple, and settled down as easily as
if he had never been away a day.

One of the first things we did was to go and see the children; we took
the train to Gravesend, and walked thence for a few miles along the
riverside till we came to the solitary house where the good people lived
with whom Ernest had placed them.  It was a lovely April morning, but
with a fresh air blowing from off the sea; the tide was high, and the
river was alive with shipping coming up with wind and tide.  Sea-gulls
wheeled around us overhead, sea-weed clung everywhere to the banks which
the advancing tide had not yet covered, everything was of the sea sea-ey,
and the fine bracing air which blew over the water made me feel more
hungry than I had done for many a day; I did not see how children could
live in a better physical atmosphere than this, and applauded the
selection which Ernest had made on behalf of his youngsters.

While we were still a quarter of a mile off we heard shouts and
children's laughter, and could see a lot of boys and girls romping
together and running after one another.  We could not distinguish our own
two, but when we got near they were soon made out, for the other children
were blue-eyed, flaxen-pated little folks, whereas ours were dark and
straight-haired.

We had written to say that we were coming, but had desired that nothing
should be said to the children, so these paid no more attention to us
than they would have done to any other stranger, who happened to visit a
spot so unfrequented except by sea-faring folk, which we plainly were
not.  The interest, however, in us was much quickened when it was
discovered that we had got our pockets full of oranges and sweeties, to
an extent greater than it had entered into their small imaginations to
conceive as possible.  At first we had great difficulty in making them
come near us.  They were like a lot of wild young colts, very
inquisitive, but very coy and not to be cajoled easily.  The children
were nine in all--five boys and two girls belonging to Mr and Mrs
Rollings, and two to Ernest.  I never saw a finer lot of children than
the young Rollings, the boys were hardy, robust, fearless little fellows
with eyes as clear as hawks; the elder girl was exquisitely pretty, but
the younger one was a mere baby.  I felt as I looked at them, that if I
had had children of my own I could have wished no better home for them,
nor better companions.

Georgie and Alice, Ernest's two children, were evidently quite as one
family with the others, and called Mr and Mrs Rollings uncle and aunt.
They had been so young when they were first brought to the house that
they had been looked upon in the light of new babies who had been born
into the family.  They knew nothing about Mr and Mrs Rollings being paid
so much a week to look after them.  Ernest asked them all what they
wanted to be.  They had only one idea; one and all, Georgie among the
rest, wanted to be bargemen.  Young ducks could hardly have a more
evident hankering after the water.

"And what do you want, Alice?" said Ernest.

"Oh," she said, "I'm going to marry Jack here, and be a bargeman's wife."

Jack was the eldest boy, now nearly twelve, a sturdy little fellow, the
image of what Mr Rollings must have been at his age.  As we looked at
him, so straight and well grown and well done all round, I could see it
was in Ernest's mind as much as in mine that she could hardly do much
better.

"Come here, Jack, my boy," said Ernest, "here's a shilling for you."  The
boy blushed and could hardly be got to come in spite of our previous
blandishments; he had had pennies given him before, but shillings never.
His father caught him good-naturedly by the ear and lugged him to us.

"He's a good boy, Jack is," said Ernest to Mr Rollings, "I'm sure of
that."

"Yes," said Mr Rollings, "he's a werry good boy, only that I can't get
him to learn his reading and writing.  He don't like going to school,
that's the only complaint I have against him.  I don't know what's the
matter with all my children, and yours, Mr Pontifex, is just as bad, but
they none of 'em likes book learning, though they learn anything else
fast enough.  Why, as for Jack here, he's almost as good a bargeman as I
am."  And he looked fondly and patronisingly towards his offspring.

"I think," said Ernest to Mr Rollings, "if he wants to marry Alice when
he gets older he had better do so, and he shall have as many barges as he
likes.  In the meantime, Mr Rollings, say in what way money can be of use
to you, and whatever you can make useful is at your disposal."

I need hardly say that Ernest made matters easy for this good couple; one
stipulation, however, he insisted on, namely, there was to be no more
smuggling, and that the young people were to be kept out of this; for a
little bird had told Ernest that smuggling in a quiet way was one of the
resources of the Rollings family.  Mr Rollings was not sorry to assent to
this, and I believe it is now many years since the coastguard people have
suspected any of the Rollings family as offenders against the revenue
law.

"Why should I take them from where they are," said Ernest to me in the
train as we went home, "to send them to schools where they will not be
one half so happy, and where their illegitimacy will very likely be a
worry to them?  Georgie wants to be a bargeman, let him begin as one, the
sooner the better; he may as well begin with this as with anything else;
then if he shows developments I can be on the look-out to encourage them
and make things easy for him; while if he shows no desire to go ahead,
what on earth is the good of trying to shove him forward?"

Ernest, I believe, went on with a homily upon education generally, and
upon the way in which young people should go through the embryonic stages
with their money as much as with their limbs, beginning life in a much
lower social position than that in which their parents were, and a lot
more, which he has since published; but I was getting on in years, and
the walk and the bracing air had made me sleepy, so ere we had got past
Greenhithe Station on our return journey I had sunk into a refreshing
sleep.




CHAPTER LXXXV


Ernest being about two and thirty years old and having had his fling for
the last three or four years, now settled down in London, and began to
write steadily.  Up to this time he had given abundant promise, but had
produced nothing, nor indeed did he come before the public for another
three or four years yet.

He lived as I have said very quietly, seeing hardly anyone but myself,
and the three or four old friends with whom I had been intimate for
years.  Ernest and we formed our little set, and outside of this my
godson was hardly known at all.

His main expense was travelling, which he indulged in at frequent
intervals, but for short times only.  Do what he would he could not get
through more than about fifteen hundred a year; the rest of his income he
gave away if he happened to find a case where he thought money would be
well bestowed, or put by until some opportunity arose of getting rid of
it with advantage.

I knew he was writing, but we had had so many little differences of
opinion upon this head that by a tacit understanding the subject was
seldom referred to between us, and I did not know that he was actually
publishing till one day he brought me a book and told me flat it was his
own.  I opened it and found it to be a series of semi-theological, semi-
social essays, purporting to have been written by six or seven different
people, and viewing the same class of subjects from different
standpoints.

People had not yet forgotten the famous "Essays and Reviews," and Ernest
had wickedly given a few touches to at least two of the essays which
suggested vaguely that they had been written by a bishop.  The essays
were all of them in support of the Church of England, and appeared both
by internal suggestion, and their prima facie purport to be the work of
some half-dozen men of experience and high position who had determined to
face the difficult questions of the day no less boldly from within the
bosom of the Church than the Church's enemies had faced them from without
her pale.

There was an essay on the external evidences of the Resurrection; another
on the marriage laws of the most eminent nations of the world in times
past and present; another was devoted to a consideration of the many
questions which must be reopened and reconsidered on their merits if the
teaching of the Church of England were to cease to carry moral authority
with it; another dealt with the more purely social subject of middle
class destitution; another with the authenticity or rather the
unauthenticity of the fourth gospel--another was headed "Irrational
Rationalism," and there were two or three more.

They were all written vigorously and fearlessly as though by people used
to authority; all granted that the Church professed to enjoin belief in
much which no one could accept who had been accustomed to weigh evidence;
but it was contended that so much valuable truth had got so closely mixed
up with these mistakes, that the mistakes had better not be meddled with.
To lay great stress on these was like cavilling at the Queen's right to
reign, on the ground that William the Conqueror was illegitimate.

One article maintained that though it would be inconvenient to change the
words of our prayer book and articles, it would not be inconvenient to
change in a quiet way the meanings which we put upon those words.  This,
it was argued, was what was actually done in the case of law; this had
been the law's mode of growth and adaptation, and had in all ages been
found a righteous and convenient method of effecting change.  It was
suggested that the Church should adopt it.

In another essay it was boldly denied that the Church rested upon reason.
It was proved incontestably that its ultimate foundation was and ought to
be faith, there being indeed no other ultimate foundation than this for
any of man's beliefs.  If so, the writer claimed that the Church could
not be upset by reason.  It was founded, like everything else, on initial
assumptions, that is to say on faith, and if it was to be upset it was to
be upset by faith, by the faith of those who in their lives appeared more
graceful, more lovable, better bred, in fact, and better able to overcome
difficulties.  Any sect which showed its superiority in these respects
might carry all before it, but none other would make much headway for
long together.  Christianity was true in so far as it had fostered
beauty, and it had fostered much beauty.  It was false in so far as it
fostered ugliness, and it had fostered much ugliness.  It was therefore
not a little true and not a little false; on the whole one might go
farther and fare worse; the wisest course would be to live with it, and
make the best and not the worst of it.  The writer urged that we become
persecutors as a matter of course as soon as we begin to feel very
strongly upon any subject; we ought not therefore to do this; we ought
not to feel very strongly--even upon that institution which was dearer to
the writer than any other--the Church of England.  We should be
churchmen, but somewhat lukewarm churchmen, inasmuch as those who care
very much about either religion or irreligion are seldom observed to be
very well bred or agreeable people.  The Church herself should approach
as nearly to that of Laodicea as was compatible with her continuing to be
a Church at all, and each individual member should only be hot in
striving to be as lukewarm as possible.

The book rang with the courage alike of conviction and of an entire
absence of conviction; it appeared to be the work of men who had a rule-
of-thumb way of steering between iconoclasm on the one hand and credulity
on the other; who cut Gordian knots as a matter of course when it suited
their convenience; who shrank from no conclusion in theory, nor from any
want of logic in practice so long as they were illogical of malice
prepense, and for what they held to be sufficient reason.  The
conclusions were conservative, quietistic, comforting.  The arguments by
which they were reached were taken from the most advanced writers of the
day.  All that these people contended for was granted them, but the
fruits of victory were for the most part handed over to those already in
possession.

Perhaps the passage which attracted most attention in the book was one
from the essay on the various marriage systems of the world.  It ran:--

"If people require us to construct," exclaimed the writer, "we set good
breeding as the corner-stone of our edifice.  We would have it ever
present consciously or unconsciously in the minds of all as the central
faith in which they should live and move and have their being, as the
touchstone of all things whereby they may be known as good or evil
according as they make for good breeding or against it."

"That a man should have been bred well and breed others well; that his
figure, head, hands, feet, voice, manner and clothes should carry
conviction upon this point, so that no one can look at him without seeing
that he has come of good stock and is likely to throw good stock himself,
this is the _desiderandum_.  And the same with a woman.  The greatest
number of these well-bred men and women, and the greatest happiness of
these well-bred men and women, this is the highest good; towards this all
government, all social conventions, all art, literature and science
should directly or indirectly tend.  Holy men and holy women are those
who keep this unconsciously in view at all times whether of work or
pastime."

If Ernest had published this work in his own name I should think it would
have fallen stillborn from the press, but the form he had chosen was
calculated at that time to arouse curiosity, and as I have said he had
wickedly dropped a few hints which the reviewers did not think anyone
would have been impudent enough to do if he were not a bishop, or at any
rate some one in authority.  A well-known judge was spoken of as being
another of the writers, and the idea spread ere long that six or seven of
the leading bishops and judges had laid their heads together to produce a
volume, which should at once outbid "Essays and Reviews" and counteract
the influence of that then still famous work.

Reviewers are men of like passions with ourselves, and with them as with
everyone else _omne ignotum pro magnifico_.  The book was really an able
one and abounded with humour, just satire, and good sense.  It struck a
new note and the speculation which for some time was rife concerning its
authorship made many turn to it who would never have looked at it
otherwise.  One of the most gushing weeklies had a fit over it, and
declared it to be the finest thing that had been done since the
"Provincial Letters" of Pascal.  Once a month or so that weekly always
found some picture which was the finest that had been done since the old
masters, or some satire that was the finest that had appeared since Swift
or some something which was incomparably the finest that had appeared
since something else.  If Ernest had put his name to the book, and the
writer had known that it was by a nobody, he would doubtless have written
in a very different strain.  Reviewers like to think that for aught they
know they are patting a Duke or even a Prince of the blood upon the back,
and lay it on thick till they find they have been only praising Brown,
Jones or Robinson.  Then they are disappointed, and as a general rule
will pay Brown, Jones or Robinson out.

Ernest was not so much up to the ropes of the literary world as I was,
and I am afraid his head was a little turned when he woke up one morning
to find himself famous.  He was Christina's son, and perhaps would not
have been able to do what he had done if he was not capable of occasional
undue elation.  Ere long, however, he found out all about it, and settled
quietly down to write a series of books, in which he insisted on saying
things which no one else would say even if they could, or could even if
they would.

He has got himself a bad literary character.  I said to him laughingly
one day that he was like the man in the last century of whom it was said
that nothing but such a character could keep down such parts.

He laughed and said he would rather be like that than like a modern
writer or two whom he could name, whose parts were so poor that they
could be kept up by nothing but by such a character.

I remember soon after one of these books was published I happened to meet
Mrs Jupp to whom, by the way, Ernest made a small weekly allowance.  It
was at Ernest's chambers, and for some reason we were left alone for a
few minutes.  I said to her: "Mr Pontifex has written another book, Mrs
Jupp."

"Lor' now," said she, "has he really?  Dear gentleman!  Is it about
love?"  And the old sinner threw up a wicked sheep's eye glance at me
from under her aged eyelids.  I forget what there was in my reply which
provoked it--probably nothing--but she went rattling on at full speed to
the effect that Bell had given her a ticket for the opera, "So, of
course," she said, "I went.  I didn't understand one word of it, for it
was all French, but I saw their legs.  Oh dear, oh dear!  I'm afraid I
shan't be here much longer, and when dear Mr Pontifex sees me in my
coffin he'll say, 'Poor old Jupp, she'll never talk broad any more'; but
bless you I'm not so old as all that, and I'm taking lessons in dancing."

At this moment Ernest came in and the conversation was changed.  Mrs Jupp
asked if he was still going on writing more books now that this one was
done.  "Of course I am," he answered, "I'm always writing books; here is
the manuscript of my next;" and he showed her a heap of paper.

"Well now," she exclaimed, "dear, dear me, and is that manuscript?  I've
often heard talk about manuscripts, but I never thought I should live to
see some myself.  Well! well!  So that is really manuscript?"

There were a few geraniums in the window and they did not look well.
Ernest asked Mrs Jupp if she understood flowers.  "I understand the
language of flowers," she said, with one of her most bewitching leers,
and on this we sent her off till she should choose to honour us with
another visit, which she knows she is privileged from time to time to do,
for Ernest likes her.




CHAPTER LXXXVI


And now I must bring my story to a close.

The preceding chapter was written soon after the events it records--that
is to say in the spring of 1867.  By that time my story had been written
up to this point; but it has been altered here and there from time to
time occasionally.  It is now the autumn of 1882, and if I am to say more
I should do so quickly, for I am eighty years old and though well in
health cannot conceal from myself that I am no longer young.  Ernest
himself is forty-seven, though he hardly looks it.

He is richer than ever, for he has never married and his London and North-
Western shares have nearly doubled themselves.  Through sheer inability
to spend his income he has been obliged to hoard in self-defence.  He
still lives in the Temple in the same rooms I took for him when he gave
up his shop, for no one has been able to induce him to take a house.  His
house, he says, is wherever there is a good hotel.  When he is in town he
likes to work and to be quiet.  When out of town he feels that he has
left little behind him that can go wrong, and he would not like to be
tied to a single locality.  "I know no exception," he says, "to the rule
that it is cheaper to buy milk than to keep a cow."

As I have mentioned Mrs Jupp, I may as well say here the little that
remains to be said about her.  She is a very old woman now, but no one
now living, as she says triumphantly, can say how old, for the woman in
the Old Kent Road is dead, and presumably has carried her secret to the
grave.  Old, however, though she is, she lives in the same house, and
finds it hard work to make the two ends meet, but I do not know that she
minds this very much, and it has prevented her from getting more to drink
than would be good for her.  It is no use trying to do anything for her
beyond paying her allowance weekly, and absolutely refusing to let her
anticipate it.  She pawns her flat iron every Saturday for 4d., and takes
it out every Monday morning for 4.5d. when she gets her allowance, and
has done this for the last ten years as regularly as the week comes
round.  As long as she does not let the flat iron actually go we know
that she can still worry out her financial problems in her own hugger-
mugger way and had better be left to do so.  If the flat iron were to go
beyond redemption, we should know that it was time to interfere.  I do
not know why, but there is something about her which always reminds me of
a woman who was as unlike her as one person can be to another--I mean
Ernest's mother.

The last time I had a long gossip with her was about two years ago when
she came to me instead of to Ernest.  She said she had seen a cab drive
up just as she was going to enter the staircase, and had seen Mr
Pontifex's pa put his Beelzebub old head out of the window, so she had
come on to me, for she hadn't greased her sides for no curtsey, not for
the likes of him.  She professed to be very much down on her luck.  Her
lodgers did use her so dreadful, going away without paying and leaving
not so much as a stick behind, but to-day she was as pleased as a penny
carrot.  She had had such a lovely dinner--a cushion of ham and green
peas.  She had had a good cry over it, but then she was so silly, she
was.

"And there's that Bell," she continued, though I could not detect any
appearance of connection, "it's enough to give anyone the hump to see him
now that he's taken to chapel-going, and his mother's prepared to meet
Jesus and all that to me, and now she ain't a-going to die, and drinks
half a bottle of champagne a day, and then Grigg, him as preaches, you
know, asked Bell if I really was too gay, not but what when I was young
I'd snap my fingers at any 'fly by night' in Holborn, and if I was togged
out and had my teeth I'd do it now.  I lost my poor dear Watkins, but of
course that couldn't be helped, and then I lost my dear Rose.  Silly
faggot to go and ride on a cart and catch the bronchitics.  I never
thought when I kissed my dear Rose in Pullen's Passage and she gave me
the chop, that I should never see her again, and her gentleman friend was
fond of her too, though he was a married man.  I daresay she's gone to
bits by now.  If she could rise and see me with my bad finger, she would
cry, and I should say, 'Never mind, ducky, I'm all right.'  Oh! dear,
it's coming on to rain.  I do hate a wet Saturday night--poor women with
their nice white stockings and their living to get," etc., etc.

And yet age does not wither this godless old sinner, as people would say
it ought to do.  Whatever life she has led, it has agreed with her very
sufficiently.  At times she gives us to understand that she is still much
solicited; at others she takes quite a different tone.  She has not
allowed even Joe King so much as to put his lips to hers this ten years.
She would rather have a mutton chop any day.  "But ah! you should have
seen me when I was sweet seventeen.  I was the very moral of my poor dear
mother, and she was a pretty woman, though I say it that shouldn't.  She
had such a splendid mouth of teeth.  It was a sin to bury her in her
teeth."

I only knew of one thing at which she professes to be shocked.  It is
that her son Tom and his wife Topsy are teaching the baby to swear.  "Oh!
it's too dreadful awful," she exclaimed, "I don't know the meaning of the
words, but I tell him he's a drunken sot."  I believe the old woman in
reality rather likes it.

"But surely, Mrs Jupp," said I, "Tom's wife used not to be Topsy.  You
used to speak of her as Pheeb."

"Ah! yes," she answered, "but Pheeb behaved bad, and it's Topsy now."

Ernest's daughter Alice married the boy who had been her playmate more
than a year ago.  Ernest gave them all they said they wanted and a good
deal more.  They have already presented him with a grandson, and I doubt
not, will do so with many more.  Georgie though only twenty-one is owner
of a fine steamer which his father has bought for him.  He began when
about thirteen going with old Rollings and Jack in the barge from
Rochester to the upper Thames with bricks; then his father bought him and
Jack barges of their own, and then he bought them both ships, and then
steamers.  I do not exactly know how people make money by having a
steamer, but he does whatever is usual, and from all I can gather makes
it pay extremely well.  He is a good deal like his father in the face,
but without a spark--so far as I have been able to observe--any literary
ability; he has a fair sense of humour and abundance of common sense, but
his instinct is clearly a practical one.  I am not sure that he does not
put me in mind almost more of what Theobald would have been if he had
been a sailor, than of Ernest.  Ernest used to go down to Battersby and
stay with his father for a few days twice a year until Theobald's death,
and the pair continued on excellent terms, in spite of what the
neighbouring clergy call "the atrocious books which Mr Ernest Pontifex"
has written.  Perhaps the harmony, or rather absence of discord which
subsisted between the pair was due to the fact that Theobald had never
looked into the inside of one of his son's works, and Ernest, of course,
never alluded to them in his father's presence.  The pair, as I have
said, got on excellently, but it was doubtless as well that Ernest's
visits were short and not too frequent.  Once Theobald wanted Ernest to
bring his children, but Ernest knew they would not like it, so this was
not done.

Sometimes Theobald came up to town on small business matters and paid a
visit to Ernest's chambers; he generally brought with him a couple of
lettuces, or a cabbage, or half-a-dozen turnips done up in a piece of
brown paper, and told Ernest that he knew fresh vegetables were rather
hard to get in London, and he had brought him some.  Ernest had often
explained to him that the vegetables were of no use to him, and that he
had rather he would not bring them; but Theobald persisted, I believe
through sheer love of doing something which his son did not like, but
which was too small to take notice of.

He lived until about twelve months ago, when he was found dead in his bed
on the morning after having written the following letter to his son:--

   "Dear Ernest,--I've nothing particular to write about, but your letter
   has been lying for some days in the limbo of unanswered letters, to
   wit my pocket, and it's time it was answered.

   "I keep wonderfully well and am able to walk my five or six miles with
   comfort, but at my age there's no knowing how long it will last, and
   time flies quickly.  I have been busy potting plants all the morning,
   but this afternoon is wet.

   "What is this horrid Government going to do with Ireland?  I don't
   exactly wish they'd blow up Mr Gladstone, but if a mad bull would
   chivy him there, and he would never come back any more, I should not
   be sorry.  Lord Hartington is not exactly the man I should like to set
   in his place, but he would be immeasurably better than Gladstone.

   "I miss your sister Charlotte more than I can express.  She kept my
   household accounts, and I could pour out to her all little worries,
   and now that Joey is married too, I don't know what I should do if one
   or other of them did not come sometimes and take care of me.  My only
   comfort is that Charlotte will make her husband happy, and that he is
   as nearly worthy of her as a husband can well be.--Believe me, Your
   affectionate father,

   "THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

I may say in passing that though Theobald speaks of Charlotte's marriage
as though it were recent, it had really taken place some six years
previously, she being then about thirty-eight years old, and her husband
about seven years younger.

There was no doubt that Theobald passed peacefully away during his sleep.
Can a man who died thus be said to have died at all?  He has presented
the phenomena of death to other people, but in respect of himself he has
not only not died, but has not even thought that he was going to die.
This is not more than half dying, but then neither was his life more than
half living.  He presented so many of the phenomena of living that I
suppose on the whole it would be less trouble to think of him as having
been alive than as never having been born at all, but this is only
possible because association does not stick to the strict letter of its
bond.

This, however, was not the general verdict concerning him, and the
general verdict is often the truest.

Ernest was overwhelmed with expressions of condolence and respect for his
father's memory.  "He never," said Dr Martin, the old doctor who brought
Ernest into the world, "spoke an ill word against anyone.  He was not
only liked, he was beloved by all who had anything to do with him."

"A more perfectly just and righteously dealing man," said the family
solicitor, "I have never had anything to do with--nor one more punctual
in the discharge of every business obligation."

"We shall miss him sadly," the bishop wrote to Joey in the very warmest
terms.  The poor were in consternation.  "The well's never missed," said
one old woman, "till it's dry," and she only said what everyone else
felt.  Ernest knew that the general regret was unaffected as for a loss
which could not be easily repaired.  He felt that there were only three
people in the world who joined insincerely in the tribute of applause,
and these were the very three who could least show their want of
sympathy.  I mean Joey, Charlotte, and himself.  He felt bitter against
himself for being of a mind with either Joey or Charlotte upon any
subject, and thankful that he must conceal his being so as far as
possible, not because of anything his father had done to him--these
grievances were too old to be remembered now--but because he would never
allow him to feel towards him as he was always trying to feel.  As long
as communication was confined to the merest commonplace all went well,
but if these were departed from ever such a little he invariably felt
that his father's instincts showed themselves in immediate opposition to
his own.  When he was attacked his father laid whatever stress was
possible on everything which his opponents said.  If he met with any
check his father was clearly pleased.  What the old doctor had said about
Theobald's speaking ill of no man was perfectly true as regards others
than himself, but he knew very well that no one had injured his
reputation in a quiet way, so far as he dared to do, more than his own
father.  This is a very common case and a very natural one.  It often
happens that if the son is right, the father is wrong, and the father is
not going to have this if he can help it.

It was very hard, however, to say what was the true root of the mischief
in the present case.  It was not Ernest's having been imprisoned.
Theobald forgot all about that much sooner than nine fathers out of ten
would have done.  Partly, no doubt, it was due to incompatibility of
temperament, but I believe the main ground of complaint lay in the fact
that he had been so independent and so rich while still very young, and
that thus the old gentleman had been robbed of his power to tease and
scratch in the way which he felt he was entitled to do.  The love of
teasing in a small way when he felt safe in doing so had remained part of
his nature from the days when he told his nurse that he would keep her on
purpose to torment her.  I suppose it is so with all of us.  At any rate
I am sure that most fathers, especially if they are clergymen, are like
Theobald.

He did not in reality, I am convinced, like Joey or Charlotte one whit
better than he liked Ernest.  He did not like anyone or anything, or if
he liked anyone at all it was his butler, who looked after him when he
was not well, and took great care of him and believed him to be the best
and ablest man in the whole world.  Whether this faithful and attached
servant continued to think this after Theobald's will was opened and it
was found what kind of legacy had been left him I know not.  Of his
children, the baby who had died at a day old was the only one whom he
held to have treated him quite filially.  As for Christina he hardly ever
pretended to miss her and never mentioned her name; but this was taken as
a proof that he felt her loss too keenly to be able ever to speak of her.
It may have been so, but I do not think it.

Theobald's effects were sold by auction, and among them the Harmony of
the Old and New Testaments which he had compiled during many years with
such exquisite neatness and a huge collection of MS. sermons--being all
in fact that he had ever written.  These and the Harmony fetched
ninepence a barrow load.  I was surprised to hear that Joey had not given
the three or four shillings which would have bought the whole lot, but
Ernest tells me that Joey was far fiercer in his dislike of his father
than ever he had been himself, and wished to get rid of everything that
reminded him of him.

It has already appeared that both Joey and Charlotte are married.  Joey
has a family, but he and Ernest very rarely have any intercourse.  Of
course, Ernest took nothing under his father's will; this had long been
understood, so that the other two are both well provided for.

Charlotte is as clever as ever, and sometimes asks Ernest to come and
stay with her and her husband near Dover, I suppose because she knows
that the invitation will not be agreeable to him.  There is a _de haut en
bas_ tone in all her letters; it is rather hard to lay one's finger upon
it but Ernest never gets a letter from her without feeling that he is
being written to by one who has had direct communication with an angel.
"What an awful creature," he once said to me, "that angel must have been
if it had anything to do with making Charlotte what she is."

"Could you like," she wrote to him not long ago, "the thoughts of a
little sea change here?  The top of the cliffs will soon be bright with
heather: the gorse must be out already, and the heather I should think
begun, to judge by the state of the hill at Ewell, and heather or no
heather--the cliffs are always beautiful, and if you come your room shall
be cosy so that you may have a resting corner to yourself.  Nineteen and
sixpence is the price of a return-ticket which covers a month.  Would you
decide just as you would yourself like, only if you come we would hope to
try and make it bright for you; but you must not feel it a burden on your
mind if you feel disinclined to come in this direction."

"When I have a bad nightmare," said Ernest to me, laughing as he showed
me this letter, "I dream that I have got to stay with Charlotte."

Her letters are supposed to be unusually well written, and I believe it
is said among the family that Charlotte has far more real literary power
than Ernest has.  Sometimes we think that she is writing at him as much
as to say, "There now--don't you think you are the only one of us who can
write; read this!  And if you want a telling bit of descriptive writing
for your next book, you can make what use of it you like."  I daresay she
writes very well, but she has fallen under the dominion of the words
"hope," "think," "feel," "try," "bright," and "little," and can hardly
write a page without introducing all these words and some of them more
than once.  All this has the effect of making her style monotonous.

Ernest is as fond of music as ever, perhaps more so, and of late years
has added musical composition to the other irons in his fire.  He finds
it still a little difficult, and is in constant trouble through getting
into the key of C sharp after beginning in the key of C and being unable
to get back again.

"Getting into the key of C sharp," he said, "is like an unprotected
female travelling on the Metropolitan Railway, and finding herself at
Shepherd's Bush, without quite knowing where she wants to go to.  How is
she ever to get safe back to Clapham Junction?  And Clapham Junction
won't quite do either, for Clapham Junction is like the diminished
seventh--susceptible of such enharmonic change, that you can resolve it
into all the possible termini of music."

Talking of music reminds me of a little passage that took place between
Ernest and Miss Skinner, Dr Skinner's eldest daughter, not so very long
ago.  Dr Skinner had long left Roughborough, and had become Dean of a
Cathedral in one of our Midland counties--a position which exactly suited
him.  Finding himself once in the neighbourhood Ernest called, for old
acquaintance sake, and was hospitably entertained at lunch.

Thirty years had whitened the Doctor's bushy eyebrows--his hair they
could not whiten.  I believe that but for that wig he would have been
made a bishop.

His voice and manner were unchanged, and when Ernest remarking upon a
plan of Rome which hung in the hall, spoke inadvertently of the Quirinal,
he replied with all his wonted pomp: "Yes, the QuirInal--or as I myself
prefer to call it, the QuirInal."  After this triumph he inhaled a long
breath through the corners of his mouth, and flung it back again into the
face of Heaven, as in his finest form during his head-mastership.  At
lunch he did indeed once say, "next to impossible to think of anything
else," but he immediately corrected himself and substituted the words,
"next to impossible to entertain irrelevant ideas," after which he seemed
to feel a good deal more comfortable.  Ernest saw the familiar volumes of
Dr Skinner's works upon the bookshelves in the Deanery dining-room, but
he saw no copy of "Rome or the Bible--Which?"

"And are you still as fond of music as ever, Mr Pontifex?" said Miss
Skinner to Ernest during the course of lunch.

"Of some kinds of music, yes, Miss Skinner, but you know I never did like
modern music."

"Isn't that rather dreadful?--Don't you think you rather"--she was going
to have added, "ought to?" but she left it unsaid, feeling doubtless that
she had sufficiently conveyed her meaning.

"I would like modern music, if I could; I have been trying all my life to
like it, but I succeed less and less the older I grow."

"And pray, where do you consider modern music to begin?"

"With Sebastian Bach."

"And don't you like Beethoven?"

"No, I used to think I did, when I was younger, but I know now that I
never really liked him."

"Ah! how can you say so?  You cannot understand him, you never could say
this if you understood him.  For me a simple chord of Beethoven is
enough.  This is happiness."

Ernest was amused at her strong family likeness to her father--a likeness
which had grown upon her as she had become older, and which extended even
to voice and manner of speaking.  He remembered how he had heard me
describe the game of chess I had played with the doctor in days gone by,
and with his mind's ear seemed to hear Miss Skinner saying, as though it
were an epitaph:--

   "Stay:
   I may presently take
   A simple chord of Beethoven,
   Or a small semiquaver
   From one of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words."

After luncheon when Ernest was left alone for half an hour or so with the
Dean he plied him so well with compliments that the old gentleman was
pleased and flattered beyond his wont.  He rose and bowed.  "These
expressions," he said, _voce sua_, "are very valuable to me."  "They are
but a small part, Sir," rejoined Ernest, "of what anyone of your old
pupils must feel towards you," and the pair danced as it were a minuet at
the end of the dining-room table in front of the old bay window that
looked upon the smooth shaven lawn.  On this Ernest departed; but a few
days afterwards, the Doctor wrote him a letter and told him that his
critics were a [Greek text], and at the same time [Greek text].  Ernest
remembered [Greek text], and knew that the other words were something of
like nature, so it was all right.  A month or two afterwards, Dr Skinner
was gathered to his fathers.

"He was an old fool, Ernest," said I, "and you should not relent towards
him."

"I could not help it," he replied, "he was so old that it was almost like
playing with a child."

Sometimes, like all whose minds are active, Ernest overworks himself, and
then occasionally he has fierce and reproachful encounters with Dr
Skinner or Theobald in his sleep--but beyond this neither of these two
worthies can now molest him further.

To myself he has been a son and more than a son; at times I am half
afraid--as for example when I talk to him about his books--that I may
have been to him more like a father than I ought; if I have, I trust he
has forgiven me.  His books are the only bone of contention between us.  I
want him to write like other people, and not to offend so many of his
readers; he says he can no more change his manner of writing than the
colour of his hair, and that he must write as he does or not at all.

With the public generally he is not a favourite.  He is admitted to have
talent, but it is considered generally to be of a queer unpractical kind,
and no matter how serious he is, he is always accused of being in jest.
His first book was a success for reasons which I have already explained,
but none of his others have been more than creditable failures.  He is
one of those unfortunate men, each one of whose books is sneered at by
literary critics as soon as it comes out, but becomes "excellent reading"
as soon as it has been followed by a later work which may in its turn be
condemned.

He never asked a reviewer to dinner in his life.  I have told him over
and over again that this is madness, and find that this is the only thing
I can say to him which makes him angry with me.

"What can it matter to me," he says, "whether people read my books or
not?  It may matter to them--but I have too much money to want more, and
if the books have any stuff in them it will work by-and-by.  I do not
know nor greatly care whether they are good or not.  What opinion can any
sane man form about his own work?  Some people must write stupid books
just as there must be junior ops and third class poll men.  Why should I
complain of being among the mediocrities?  If a man is not absolutely
below mediocrity let him be thankful--besides, the books will have to
stand by themselves some day, so the sooner they begin the better."

I spoke to his publisher about him not long since.  "Mr Pontifex," he
said, "is a _homo unius libri_, but it doesn't do to tell him so."

I could see the publisher, who ought to know, had lost all faith in
Ernest's literary position, and looked upon him as a man whose failure
was all the more hopeless for the fact of his having once made a _coup_.
"He is in a very solitary position, Mr Overton," continued the publisher.
"He has formed no alliances, and has made enemies not only of the
religious world but of the literary and scientific brotherhood as well.
This will not do nowadays.  If a man wishes to get on he must belong to a
set, and Mr Pontifex belongs to no set--not even to a club."

I replied, "Mr Pontifex is the exact likeness of Othello, but with a
difference--he hates not wisely but too well.  He would dislike the
literary and scientific swells if he were to come to know them and they
him; there is no natural solidarity between him and them, and if he were
brought into contact with them his last state would be worse than his
first.  His instinct tells him this, so he keeps clear of them, and
attacks them whenever he thinks they deserve it--in the hope, perhaps,
that a younger generation will listen to him more willingly than the
present."

"Can anything,"' said the publisher, "be conceived more impracticable and
imprudent?"

To all this Ernest replies with one word only--"Wait."

Such is my friend's latest development.  He would not, it is true, run
much chance at present of trying to found a College of Spiritual
Pathology, but I must leave the reader to determine whether there is not
a strong family likeness between the Ernest of the College of Spiritual
Pathology and the Ernest who will insist on addressing the next
generation rather than his own.  He says he trusts that there is not, and
takes the sacrament duly once a year as a sop to Nemesis lest he should
again feel strongly upon any subject.  It rather fatigues him, but "no
man's opinions," he sometimes says, "can be worth holding unless he knows
how to deny them easily and gracefully upon occasion in the cause of
charity."  In politics he is a Conservative so far as his vote and
interest are concerned.  In all other respects he is an advanced Radical.
His father and grandfather could probably no more understand his state of
mind than they could understand Chinese, but those who know him
intimately do not know that they wish him greatly different from what he
actually is.



THE END





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