Part 9 out of 10
"Traitor! everywhere--in everything--tricking me--supplanting me--in my
friends--in my love!"
"Your love? Yours?" And the fixed eye still glared upon me. "Listen, cousin
Alton! The strong and the weak have been matched for the same prize: and
what wonder, if the strong man conquers? Go and ask Lillian how she likes
the thought of being a Communist's love!"
As when, in a nightmare, we try by a desperate effort to break the spell, I
sprang forward, and struck at him, he put my hand by carelessly, and felled
me bleeding to the ground. I recollect hardly anything more, till I found
myself thrust into the street by sneering footmen, and heard them call
after me "Chartist" and "Communist" as I rushed along the pavement,
careless where I went.
I strode and staggered on through street after street, running blindly
against passengers, dashing under horses' heads, heedless of warnings and
execrations, till I found myself, I know not how, on Waterloo Bridge. I had
meant to go there when I left the door. I knew that at least--and now I was
I buried myself in a recess of the bridge, and stared around and up and
I was alone--deserted even by myself. Mother, sister, friends, love, the
idol of my life, were all gone. I could have borne that. But to be shamed,
and know that I deserved it; to be deserted by my own honour, self-respect,
strength of will--who can bear that?
I could have borne it, had one thing been left--faith in my own
destiny--the inner hope that God had called me to do a work for him.
"What drives the Frenchman to suicide?" I asked myself, arguing ever even
in the face of death and hell--"His faith in nothing but his own lusts and
pleasures; and when they are gone, then comes the pan of charcoal--and all
is over. What drives the German? His faith in nothing but his own brain. He
has fallen down and worshipped that miserable 'Ich' of his, and made that,
and not God's will, the centre and root of his philosophy, his poetry, and
his self-idolizing aesthetics; and when it fails him, then for prussic acid,
and nonentity. Those old Romans, too--why, they are the very experimentum
crucis of suicide! As long as they fancied that they had a calling to serve
the state, they could live on and suffer. But when they found no more work
left for them, then they could die--as Porcia died--as Cato--as I ought.
What is there left for me to do? outcast, disgraced, useless, decrepit--"
I looked out over the bridge into the desolate night. Below me the dark
moaning river-eddies hurried downward. The wild west-wind howled past me,
and leapt over the parapet downward. The huge reflexion of Saint Paul's,
the great tap-roots of light from lamp and window that shone upon the lurid
stream, pointed down--down--down. A black wherry shot through the arch
beneath me, still and smoothly downward. My brain began to whirl madly--I
sprang upon the step.--A man rushed past me, clambered on the parapet, and
threw up his arms wildly.--A moment more, and he would have leapt into the
stream. The sight recalled me to my senses--say, rather, it reawoke in me
the spirit of manhood. I seized him by the arm, tore him down upon the
pavement, and held him, in spite of his frantic struggles. It was Jemmy
Downes! Gaunt, ragged, sodden, blear-eyed, drivelling, the worn-out
gin-drinker stood, his momentary paroxysm of strength gone, trembling and
"Why won't you let a cove die? Why won't you let a cove die? They're all
dead--drunk, and poisoned, and dead! What is there left?"--he burst out
suddenly in his old ranting style--"what is there left on earth to live
for? The prayers of liberty are answered by the laughter of tyrants; her
sun is sunk beneath the ocean wave, and her pipe put out by the raging
billows of aristocracy! Those starving millions of Kennington Common--where
are they? Where? I axes you," he cried fiercely, raising his voice to a
womanish scream--"where are they?"
"Gone home to bed, like sensible people; and you had better go too."
"Bed! I sold ours a month ago; but we'll go. Come along, and I'll show you
my wife and family; and we'll have a tea-party--Jacob's Island tea. Come
"Flea, flea, unfortunate flea!
Bereft of his wife and his small family!"
He clutched my arm, and dragging me off towards the Surrey side, turned
down Stamford Street.
I followed half perforce; and the man seemed quite demented--whether with
gin or sorrow I could not tell. As he strode along the pavement, he kept
continually looking back, with a perplexed terrified air, as if expecting
some fearful object.
"The rats!--the rats! don't you see 'em coming out of the gullyholes,
atween the area railings--dozens and dozens?"
"No; I saw none."
"You lie; I hear their tails whisking; there's their shiny hats a
glistening, and every one on 'em with peelers' staves! Quick! quick! or
they'll have me to the station-house."
"Nonsense!" I said; "we are free men! What are the policemen to us?"
"You lie!" cried he, with a fearful oath, and a wrench at my arm which
almost threw me down. "Do you call a sweater's man a free man?"
"You a sweater's man?"
"Ay!" with another oath. "My men ran away--folks said I drank, too; but
here I am; and I, that sweated others, I'm sweated myself--and I'm a slave!
I'm a slave--a negro slave, I am, you aristocrat villain!"
"Mind me, Downes; if you will go quietly, I will go with you; but if you do
not let go of my arm, I give you in charge to the first policeman I meet."
"Oh, don't, don't!" whined the miserable wretch, as he almost fell on
his knees, gin-drinkers' tears running down his face, "or I shall be too
late.--And then, the rats'll get in at the roof, and up through the floor,
and eat 'em all up, and my work too--the grand new three-pound coat that
I've been stitching at this ten days, for the sum of one half-crown
sterling--and don't I wish I may see the money? Come on, quick; there
are the rats, close behind!" And he dashed across the broad roaring
thoroughfare of Bridge Street, and hurrying almost at a run down Tooley
Street, plunged into the wilderness of Bermondsey.
He stopped at the end of a miserable blind alley, where a dirty gas-lamp
just served to make darkness visible, and show the patched windows and
rickety doorways of the crazy houses, whose upper stories were lost in a
brooding cloud of fog; and the pools of stagnant water at our feet; and the
huge heap of cinders which filled up the waste end of the alley--a dreary,
black, formless mound, on which two or three spectral dogs prowled up and
down after the offal, appearing and vanishing like dark imps in and out of
the black misty chaos beyond.
The neighbourhood was undergoing, as it seemed, "improvements" of that
peculiar metropolitan species which consists in pulling down the dwellings
of the poor, and building up rich men's houses instead; and great
buildings, within high temporary palings, had already eaten up half the
little houses; as the great fish, and the great estates, and the great
shopkeepers, eat up the little ones of their species--by the law of
competition, lately discovered to be the true creator and preserver of the
universe. There they loomed up, the tall bullies, against the dreary sky,
looking down, with their grim, proud, stony visages, on the misery which
they were driving out of one corner, only to accumulate and intensify it in
The house at which we stopped was the last in the row; all its companions
had been pulled down; and there it stood, leaning out with one naked ugly
side into the gap, and stretching out long props, like feeble arms and
crutches, to resist the work of demolition.
A group of slatternly people were in the entry, talking loudly, and as
Downes pushed by them, a woman seized him by the arm.
"Oh! you unnatural villain!--To go away after your drink, and leave all
them poor dear dead corpses locked up, without even letting a body go in to
stretch them out!"
"And breeding the fever, too, to poison the whole house!" growled one.
"The relieving officer's been here, my cove," said another, "and he's gone
for a peeler and a search warrant to break open the door, I can tell you!"
But Downes pushed past unheeding, unlocked a door at the end of the
passage, thrust me in, locked it again, and then rushed across the room in
chase of two or three rats, who vanished into cracks and holes.
And what a room! A low lean-to with wooden walls, without a single article
of furniture; and through the broad chinks of the floor shone up as it
were ugly glaring eyes, staring at us. They were the reflexions of the
rushlight in the sewer below. The stench was frightful--the air heavy with
pestilence. The first breath I drew made my heart sink, and my stomach
turn. But I forgot everything in the object which lay before me, as Downes
tore a half-finished coat off three corpses laid side by side on the bare
There was his little Irish wife:--dead--and naked; the wasted white limbs
gleamed in the lurid light; the unclosed eyes stared, as if reproachfully,
at the husband whose drunkenness had brought her there to kill her with
the pestilence; and on each side of her a little, shrivelled, impish,
child-corpse,--the wretched man had laid their arms round the dead mother's
neck--and there they slept, their hungering and wailing over at last for
ever; the rats had been busy already with them--but what matter to them
"Look!" he cried; "I watched 'em dying! Day after day I saw the devils come
up through the cracks, like little maggots and beetles, and all manner of
ugly things, creeping down their throats; and I asked 'em, and they said
they were the fever devils."
It was too true; the poisonous exhalations had killed them. The wretched
man's delirium tremens had given that horrible substantiality to the
poisonous fever gases.
Suddenly Downes turned on me, almost menacingly. "Money! money! I want some
I was thoroughly terrified--and there was no shame in feeling fear, locked
up with a madman far my superior in size and strength, in so ghastly a
place. But the shame and the folly too, would have been in giving way to my
fear; and with a boldness half assumed, half the real fruit of excitement
and indignation at the horrors I beheld, I answered--
"If I had money, I would give you none. What do you want with gin? Look
at the fruits of your accursed tippling. If you had taken my advice,
my poor fellow," I went on, gaining courage as I spoke, "and become a
water-drinker, like me--"
"Curse you and your water-drinking! If you had had no water to drink
or wash with for two years but that--that," pointing to the foul ditch
below--"if you had emptied the slops in there with one hand, and filled
your kettle with the other--"
"Do you actually mean that that sewer is your only drinking water?"
"Where else can we get any? Everybody drinks it; and you shall, too--you
shall!" he cried, with a fearful oath, "and then see if you don't run off
to the gin-shop, to take the taste of it out of your mouth. Drink? and who
can help drinking, with his stomach turned with such hell-broth as that--or
such a hell's blast as this air is here, ready to vomit from morning till
night with the smells? I'll show you. You shall drink a bucket full of it,
as sure as you live, you shall."
And he ran out of the back door, upon a little balcony, which hung over the
I tried the door, but the key was gone, and the handle too. I beat
furiously on it, and called for help. Two gruff authoritative voices were
heard in the passage.
"Let us in; I'm the policeman!"
"Let me out, or mischief will happen!"
The policeman made a vigorous thrust at the crazy door; and just as it
burst open, and the light of his lantern streamed into the horrible den, a
heavy splash was heard outside.
"He has fallen into the ditch!"
"He'll be drowned, then, as sure as he's a born man," shouted one of the
We rushed out on the balcony. The light of the policeman's lantern glared
over the ghastly scene--along the double row of miserable house-backs,
which lined the sides of the open tidal ditch--over strange rambling
jetties, and balconies, and sleeping-sheds, which hung on rotting piles
over the black waters, with phosphorescent scraps of rotten fish gleaming
and twinkling out of the dark hollows, like devilish grave-lights--over
bubbles of poisonous gas, and bloated carcases of dogs, and lumps of offal,
floating on the stagnant olive-green hell-broth--over the slow sullen rows
of oily ripple which were dying away into the darkness far beyond, sending
up, as they stirred, hot breaths of miasma--the only sign that a spark of
humanity, after years of foul life, had quenched itself at last in that
foul death. I almost fancied that I could see the haggard face staring up
at me through the slimy water; but no, it was as opaque as stone.
I shuddered and went in again, to see slatternly gin-smelling women
stripping off their clothes--true women even there--to cover the poor naked
corpses; and pointing to the bruises which told a tale of long tyranny
and cruelty; and mingling their lamentations with stories of shrieks and
beating, and children locked up for hours to starve; and the men looked on
sullenly, as if they too were guilty, or rushed out to relieve themselves
by helping to find the drowned body. Ugh! it was the very mouth of hell,
that room. And in the midst of all the rout, the relieving officer stood
impassive, jotting down scraps of information, and warning us to appear the
next day, to state what we knew before the magistrates. Needless hypocrisy
of law! Too careless to save the woman and children from brutal tyranny,
nakedness, starvation!--Too superstitious to offend its idol of vested
interests, by protecting the poor man against his tyrants, the house-owning
shopkeepers under whose greed the dwellings of the poor become nests of
filth and pestilence, drunkenness and degradation. Careless, superstitious,
imbecile law!--leaving the victims to die unhelped, and then, when the
fever and the tyranny has done its work, in thy sanctimonious prudishness,
drugging thy respectable conscience by a "searching inquiry" as to how it
all happened--lest, forsooth, there should have been "foul play!" Is the
knife or the bludgeon, then, the only foul play, and not the cesspool and
the curse of Rabshakeh? Go through Bermondsey or Spitalfields, St. Giles's
or Lambeth, and see if _there_ is not foul play enough already--to be tried
hereafter at a more awful coroner's inquest than thou thinkest of!
It must have been two o'clock in the morning before I reached my lodgings.
Too much exhausted to think, I hurried to my bed. I remember now that I
reeled strangely as I went up-stairs. I lay down, and was asleep in an
How long I had slept I know not, when I awoke with a strange confusion and
whirling in my brain, and an intolerable weight and pain about my back and
loins. By the light of the gas-lamp I saw a figure standing at the foot of
my bed. I could not discern the face, but I knew instinctively that it was
my mother. I called to her again and again, but she did not answer. She
moved slowly away, and passed out through the wall of the room.
I tried to follow her, but could not. An enormous, unutterable weight
seemed to lie upon me. The bedclothes grew and grew before me, and upon
me, into a vast mountain, millions of miles in height. Then it seemed all
glowing red, like the cone of a volcano. I heard the roaring of the fires
within, the rattling of the cinders down the heaving slope. A river ran
from its summit; and up that river-bed it seemed I was doomed to climb
and climb for ever, millions and millions of miles upwards, against the
rushing stream. The thought was intolerable, and I shrieked aloud. A raging
thirst had seized me. I tried to drink the river-water: but it was boiling
hot--sulphurous--reeking of putrefaction. Suddenly I fancied that I could
pass round the foot of the mountain; and jumbling, as madmen will, the
sublime and the ridiculous, I sprang up to go round the foot of my bed,
which was the mountain.
I recollect lying on the floor. I recollect the people of the house, who
had been awoke by my shriek and my fall, rushing in and calling to me. I
could not rise or answer. I recollect a doctor; and talk about brain fever
and delirium. It was true. I was in a raging fever. And my fancy, long
pent-up and crushed by circumstances, burst out in uncontrollable wildness,
and swept my other faculties with it helpless away over all heaven and
earth, presenting to me, as in a vast kaleidoscope, fantastic symbols of
all I had ever thought, or read, or felt.
That fancy of the mountain returned; but I had climbed it now. I was
wandering along the lower ridge of the Himalaya. On my right the line of
snow peaks showed like a rosy saw against the clear blue morning sky.
Raspberries and cyclamens were peeping through the snow around me. As I
looked down the abysses, I could see far below, through the thin veils of
blue mist that wandered in the glens, the silver spires of giant deodars,
and huge rhododendrons glowing like trees of flame. The longing of my
life to behold that cradle of mankind was satisfied. My eyes revelled in
vastness, as they swept over the broad flat jungle at the mountain foot,
a desolate sheet of dark gigantic grasses, furrowed with the paths of the
buffalo and rhinoceros, with barren sandy water-courses, desolate pools,
and here and there a single tree, stunted with malaria, shattered by
mountain floods; and far beyond, the vast plains of Hindostan, enlaced with
myriad silver rivers and canals, tanks and rice-fields, cities with their
mosques and minarets, gleaming among the stately palm-groves along the
boundless horizon. Above me was a Hindoo temple, cut out of the yellow
sandstone. I climbed up to the higher tier of pillars among monstrous
shapes of gods and fiends, that mouthed and writhed and mocked at me,
struggling to free themselves from their bed of rock. The bull Nundi rose
and tried to gore me; hundred-handed gods brandished quoits and sabres
round my head; and Kali dropped the skull from her gore-dripping jaws, to
clutch me for her prey. Then my mother came, and seizing the pillars of the
portico, bent them like reeds: an earthquake shook the hills--great sheets
of woodland slid roaring and crashing into the valleys--a tornado swept
through the temple halls, which rocked and tossed like a vessel in a storm:
a crash--a cloud of yellow dust which filled the air--choked me--blinded
* * * * *
And Eleanor came by, and took my soul in the palm of her hand, as the
angels did Faust's, and carried it to a cavern by the seaside, and dropped
it in; and I fell and fell for ages. And all the velvet mosses, rock
flowers, and sparkling spars and ores, fell with me, round me, in showers
of diamonds, whirlwinds of emerald and ruby, and pattered into the sea that
moaned below, and were quenched; and the light lessened above me to one
small spark, and vanished; and I was in darkness, and turned again to my
* * * * *
And I was at the lowest point of created life; a madrepore rooted to the
rock, fathoms below the tide-mark; and worst of all, my individuality was
gone. I was not one thing, but many things--a crowd of innumerable polypi;
and I grew and grew, and the more I grew the more I divided, and multiplied
thousand and ten thousandfold. If I could have thought, I should have gone
mad at it; but I could only feel.
And I heard Eleanor and Lillian talking, as they floated past me through
the deep, for they were two angels; and Lillian said, "When will he be one
And Eleanor said, "He who falls from the golden ladder must climb through
ages to its top. He who tears himself in pieces by his lusts, ages only can
make him one again. The madrepore shall become a shell, and the shell a
fish, and the fish a bird, and the bird a beast; and then he shall become a
man again, and see the glory of the latter days."
* * * * *
And I was a soft crab, under a stone on the sea-shore. With infinite
starvation, and struggling, and kicking, I had got rid of my armour, shield
by shield, and joint by joint, and cowered, naked and pitiable, in the
dark, among dead shells and ooze. Suddenly the stone was turned up; and
there was my cousin's hated face laughing at me, and pointing me out
to Lillian. She laughed too, as I looked up, sneaking, ashamed, and
defenceless, and squared up at him with my soft useless claws. Why should
she not laugh? Are not crabs, and toads, and monkeys, and a hundred other
strange forms of animal life, jests of nature--embodiments of a divine
humour, at which men are meant to laugh and be merry? But, alas! my cousin,
as he turned away, thrust the stone back with his foot, and squelched me
* * * * *
And I was a remora, weak and helpless, till I could attach myself to some
living thing; and then I had power to stop the largest ship. And Lillian
was a flying fish, and skimmed over the crests of the waves on gauzy wings.
And my cousin was a huge shark, rushing after her, greedy and open-mouthed;
and I saw her danger, and clung to him, and held him back; and just as I
had stopped him, she turned and swam back into his open jaws.
* * * * *
Sand--sand--nothing but sand! The air was full of sand drifting over
granite temples, and painted kings and triumphs, and the skulls of a former
world; and I was an ostrich, flying madly before the simoon wind, and the
giant sand pillars, which stalked across the plains, hunting me down. And
Lillian was an Amazon queen, beautiful, and cold, and cruel; and she rode
upon a charmed horse, and carried behind her on her saddle a spotted ounce,
which, was my cousin; and, when I came near her, she made him leap down
and course me. And we ran for miles and for days through the interminable
sand, till he sprung on me, and dragged me down. And as I lay quivering
and dying, she reined in her horse above me, and looked down at me with
beautiful, pitiless eyes; and a wild Arab tore the plumes from my wings,
and she took them and wreathed them in her golden hair. The broad and
blood-red sun sank down beneath the sand, and the horse and the Amazon and
the ostrich plumes shone blood-red in his lurid rays.
* * * * *
I was a mylodon among South American forests--a vast sleepy mass, my
elephantine limbs and yard-long talons contrasting strangely with the
little meek rabbit's head, furnished with a poor dozen of clumsy grinders,
and a very small kernel of brains, whose highest consciousness was the
enjoyment of muscular strength. Where I had picked up the sensation which
my dreams realized for me, I know not: my waking life, alas! had never
given me experience of it. Has the mind power of creating sensations for
itself? Surely it does so, in those delicious dreams about flying which
haunt us poor wingless mortals, which would seem to give my namesake's
philosophy the lie. However that may be, intense and new was the animal
delight, to plant my hinder claws at some tree-foot deep into the black
rotting vegetable-mould which steamed rich gases up wherever it was
pierced, and clasp my huge arms round the stem of some palm or tree-fern;
and then slowly bring my enormous weight and muscle to bear upon it, till
the stem bent like a withe, and the laced bark cracked, and the fibres
groaned and shrieked, and the roots sprung up out of the soil; and then,
with a slow circular wrench, the whole tree was twisted bodily out of the
ground, and the maddening tension of my muscles suddenly relaxed, and I
sank sleepily down upon the turf, to browse upon the crisp tart foliage,
and fall asleep in the glare of sunshine which streamed through the new
gap in the green forest roof. Much as I had envied the strong, I had never
before suspected the delight of mere physical exertion. I now understood
the wild gambols of the dog, and the madness which makes the horse gallop
and strain onwards till he drops and dies. They fulfil their nature, as I
was doing, and in that is always happiness.
But I did more--whether from mere animal destructiveness, or from the
spark of humanity which was slowly rekindling in me, I began to delight in
tearing up trees for its own sake. I tried my strength daily on thicker and
thicker boles. I crawled up to the high palm-tops, and bowed them down by
my weight. My path through the forest was marked, like that of a tornado,
by snapped and prostrate stems and withering branches. Had I been a few
degrees more human, I might have expected a retribution for my sin. I had
fractured my own skull three or four times already. I used often to pass
the carcases of my race, killed, as geologists now find them, by the fall
of the trees they had overthrown; but still I went on, more and more
reckless, a slave, like many a so-called man, to the mere sense of power.
One day I wandered to the margin of the woods, and climbing a tree,
surveyed a prospect new to me. For miles and miles, away to the white
line of the smoking Cordillera, stretched a low rolling plain; one vast
thistle-bed, the down of which flew in grey gauzy clouds before a soft
fitful breeze; innumerable finches fluttered and pecked above it, and bent
the countless flower-heads. Far away, one tall tree rose above the level
thistle-ocean. A strange longing seized me to go and tear it down. The
forest leaves seemed tasteless; my stomach sickened at them; nothing but
that tree would satisfy me; and descending, I slowly brushed my way, with
half-shut eyes, through the tall thistles which buried even my bulk.
At last, after days of painful crawling, I dragged my unwieldiness to the
tree-foot. Around it the plain was bare, and scored by burrows and heaps
of earth, among which gold, some in dust, some in great knots and ingots,
sparkled everywhere in the sun, in fearful contrast to the skulls and bones
which lay bleaching round. Some were human, some were those of vast and
monstrous beasts. I knew (one knows everything in dreams) that they had
been slain by the winged ants, as large as panthers, who snuffed and
watched around over the magic treasure. Of them I felt no fear; and they
seemed not to perceive me, as I crawled, with greedy, hunger-sharpened
eyes, up to the foot of the tree. It seemed miles in height. Its stem was
bare and polished like a palm's, and above a vast feathery crown of dark
green velvet slept in the still sunlight. But wonders of wonders! from
among the branches hung great sea-green lilies, and, nestled in the heart
of each of them, the bust of a beautiful girl. Their white bosoms and
shoulders gleamed rosy-white against the emerald petals, like conch-shells
half-hidden among sea-weeds, while their delicate waists melted
mysteriously into the central sanctuary of the flower. Their long arms
and golden tresses waved languishingly downward in the breeze; their eyes
glittered like diamonds; their breaths perfumed the air. A blind ecstasy
seized me--I awoke again to humanity, and fiercely clasping the tree,
shook and tore at it, in the blind hope of bringing nearer to me the magic
beauties above: for I knew that I was in the famous land of Wak-Wak, from
which the Eastern merchants used to pluck those flower-born beauties, and
bring them home to fill the harems of the Indian kings. Suddenly I heard
a rustling in the thistles behind me, and looking round saw again that
dreaded face--my cousin!
He was dressed--strange jumble that dreams are!--like an American
backwoodsman. He carried the same revolver and bowie-knife which he had
showed me the fatal night that he intruded on the Chartist club. I shook
with terror; but he, too, did not see me. He threw himself on his knees,
and began fiercely digging and scraping for the gold.
The winged ants rushed on him, but he looked up, and "held them with his
glittering eye," and they shrank back abashed into the thistle covert;
while I strained and tugged on, and the faces of the dryads above grew
sadder and older, and their tears fell on me like a fragrant rain.
Suddenly the tree-bole cracked--it was tottering. I looked round, and saw
that my cousin knelt directly in the path of its fall. I tried to call
to him to move; but how could a poor edentate like myself articulate a
word? I tried to catch his attention by signs--he would not see. I tried,
convulsively, to hold the tree up, but it was too late; a sudden gust of
air swept by, and down it rushed, with a roar like a whirlwind, and leaving
my cousin untouched, struck me full across the loins, broke my backbone,
and pinned me to the ground in mortal agony. I heard one wild shriek rise
from the flower fairies, as they fell each from the lily cup, no longer of
full human size, but withered, shrivelled, diminished a thousand-fold, and
lay on the bare sand, like little rosy humming-birds' eggs, all crushed and
The great blue heaven above me spoke, and cried, "Selfish and sense-bound!
thou hast murdered beauty!"
The sighing thistle-ocean answered, and murmured, "Discontented! thou hast
One flower fairy alone lifted up her tiny cheek from the gold-strewn sand,
and cried, "Presumptuous! thou hast murdered beauty!"
It was Lillian's face--Lillian's voice! My cousin heard it too, and turned
eagerly; and as my eyes closed in the last death-shiver, I saw him coolly
pick up the little beautiful figure, which looked like a fragment of some
exquisite cameo, and deliberately put it away in his cigar-case, as he said
to himself, "A charming tit-bit for me, when I return from the diggings"!
* * * * *
When I awoke again, I was a baby-ape in Bornean forests, perched among
fragrant trailers and fantastic orchis flowers; and as I looked down,
beneath the green roof, into the clear waters paved with unknown
water-lilies on which the sun had never shone, I saw my face reflected
in the pool--a melancholy, thoughtful countenance, with large projecting
brow--it might have been a negro child's. And I felt stirring in me, germs
of a new and higher consciousness--yearnings of love towards the mother
ape, who fed me and carried me from tree to tree. But I grew and grew; and
then the weight of my destiny fell upon me. I saw year by year my brow
recede, my neck enlarge, my jaw protrude; my teeth became tusks; skinny
wattles grew from my cheeks--the animal faculties in me were swallowing
up the intellectual. I watched in myself, with stupid self-disgust, the
fearful degradation which goes on from youth to age in all the monkey
race, especially in those which approach nearest to the human form. Long
melancholy mopings, fruitless stragglings to think, were periodically
succeeded by wild frenzies, agonies of lust and aimless ferocity. I flew
upon my brother apes, and was driven off with wounds. I rushed howling down
into the village gardens, destroying everything I met. I caught the birds
and insects, and tore them to pieces with savage glee. One day, as I sat
among the boughs, I saw Lillian coming along a flowery path--decked as Eve
might have been, the day she turned from Paradise. The skins of gorgeous
birds were round her waist; her hair was wreathed with fragrant tropic
flowers. On her bosom lay a baby--it was my cousin's. I knew her, and
hated her. The madness came upon me. I longed to leap from the bough and
tear her limb from limb; but brutal terror, the dread of man which is the
doom of beasts, kept me rooted to my place. Then my cousin came--a hunter
missionary; and I heard him talk to her with pride of the new world of
civilization and Christianity which he was organizing in that tropic
wilderness. I listened with a dim jealous understanding--not of the words,
but of the facts. I saw them instinctively, as in a dream. She pointed up
to me in terror and disgust, as I sat gnashing and gibbering overhead. He
threw up the muzzle of his rifle carelessly, and fired--I fell dead, but
conscious still. I knew that my carcase was carried to the settlement; and
I watched while a smirking, chuckling surgeon dissected me, bone by bone,
and nerve by nerve. And as he was fingering at my heart, and discoursing
sneeringly about Van Helmont's dreams of the Archaeus, and the animal
spirit which dwells within the solar plexus, Eleanor glided by again, like
an angel, and drew my soul out of the knot of nerves, with one velvet
* * * * *
Child-dreams--more vague and fragmentary than my animal ones; and yet more
calm, and simple, and gradually, as they led me onward through a new life,
ripening into detail, coherence, and reflection. Dreams of a hut among
the valleys of Thibet--the young of forest animals, wild cats, and dogs,
and fowls, brought home to be my playmates, and grow up tame around me.
Snow-peaks which glittered white against the nightly sky, barring in the
horizon of the narrow valley, and yet seeming to beckon upwards, outwards.
Strange unspoken aspirations; instincts which pointed to unfulfilled
powers, a mighty destiny. A sense, awful and yet cheering, of a wonder
and a majesty, a presence and a voice around, in the cliffs and the pine
forests, and the great blue rainless heaven. The music of loving voices,
the sacred names of child and father, mother, brother, sister, first of all
inspirations.--Had we not an All-Father, whose eyes looked down upon us
from among those stars above; whose hand upheld the mountain roots below
us? Did He not love us, too, even as we loved each other?
* * * * *
The noise of wheels crushing slowly through meadows of tall marigolds and
asters, orchises and fragrant lilies. I lay, a child, upon a woman's bosom.
Was she my mother, or Eleanor, or Lillian? Or was she neither, and yet
all--some ideal of the great Arian tribe, containing in herself all future
types of European women? So I slept and woke, and slept again, day after
day, week after week, in the lazy bullock-waggon, among herds of grey
cattle, guarded by huge lop-eared mastiffs; among shaggy white horses,
heavy-horned sheep, and silky goats; among tall, bare-limbed men, with
stone axes on their shoulders, and horn bows at their backs. Westward,
through the boundless steppes, whither or why we knew not; but that the
All-Father had sent us forth. And behind us the rosy snow-peaks died into
ghastly grey, lower and lower as every evening came; and before us the
plains spread infinite, with gleaming salt-lakes, and ever fresh tribes
of gaudy flowers. Behind us dark lines of living beings streamed down
the mountain slopes; around us dark lines crawled along the plains--all
westward, westward ever.--The tribes of the Holy Mountain poured out like
water to replenish the earth and subdue it--lava-streams from the crater
of that great soul-volcano--Titan babies, dumb angels of God, bearing with
them in their unconscious pregnancy the law, the freedom, the science, the
poetry, the Christianity of Europe and the world.
Westward ever--who could stand against us? We met the wild asses on the
steppe, and tamed them, and made them our slaves. We slew the bison herds,
and swam broad rivers on their skins. The Python snake lay across our
path; the wolves and the wild dogs snarled at us out of their coverts;
we slew them and went on. The forest rose in black tangled barriers: we
hewed our way through them and went on. Strange giant tribes met us, and
eagle-visaged hordes, fierce and foolish; we smote them hip and thigh, and
went on, westward ever. Days and weeks and months rolled on, and our wheels
rolled on with them. New alps rose up before us; we climbed and climbed
them, till, in lonely glens, the mountain walls stood up, and barred our
Then one arose and said, "Rocks are strong, but the All-Father is stronger.
Let us pray to Him to send the earthquakes, and blast the mountains
So we sat down and prayed, but the earthquake did not come.
Then another arose and said, "Rocks are strong, but the All-Father is
stronger. If we are the children of the All-Father, we, too, are stronger
than the rocks. Let us portion out the valley, to every man an equal plot
of ground; and bring out the sacred seeds, and sow, and build, and come up
with me and bore the mountain."
And all said, "It is the voice of God. We will go up with thee, and bore
the mountain; and thou shalt be our king, for thou art wisest, and the
spirit of the All-Father is on thee; and whosoever will not go up with thee
shall die as a coward and an idler."
So we went up; and in the morning we bored the mountain, and at night we
came down and tilled the ground, and sowed wheat and barley, and planted
orchards. And in the upper glens we met the mining dwarfs, and saw their
tools of iron and copper, and their rock-houses and forges, and envied
them. But they would give us none of them: then our king said--
"The All-Father has given all things and all wisdom. Woe to him who keeps
them to himself: we will teach you to sow the sacred seeds; and do you
teach us your smith-work or you die."
Then the dwarf's taught us smith-work; and we loved them, for they were
wise; and they married our sons and daughters; and we went on boring the
Then some of us arose and said, "We are stronger than our brethren, and
can till more ground than they. Give us a greater portion of land, to each
according to his power."
But the king said, "Wherefore? that ye may eat and drink more than your
brethren? Have you larger stomachs, as well as stronger arms? As much as
a man needs for himself, that he may do for himself. The rest is the gift
of the All-Father, and we must do His work therewith. For the sake of the
women and the children, for the sake of the sick and the aged, let him that
is stronger go up and work the harder at the mountain." And all men said,
"It is well spoken."
So we were all equal--for none took more than he needed; and we were all
free, because we loved to obey the king by whom the spirit spoke; and
we were all brothers, because we had one work, and one hope, and one
But I grew up to be a man; and twenty years were past, and the mountain
was not bored through; and the king grew old, and men began to love their
flocks and herds better than quarrying, and they gave up boring through the
mountain. And the strong and the cunning said, "What can we do with all
this might of ours?" So, because they had no other way of employing it,
they turned it against each other, and swallowed up the heritage of the
weak: and a few grew rich, and many poor; and the valley was filled with
sorrow, for the land became too narrow for them.
Then I arose and said, "How is this?" And they said, "We must make
provision for our children."
And I answered, "The All-Father meant neither you nor your children to
devour your brethren. Why do you not break up more waste ground? Why do you
not try to grow more corn in your fields?"
And they answered, "We till the ground as our forefathers did: we will keep
to the old traditions."
And I answered, "Oh ye hypocrites! have ye not forgotten the old
traditions, that each man should have his equal share of ground, and that
we should go on working at the mountain, for the sake of the weak and the
children, the fatherless and the widow?"
And they answered nought for a while.
Then one said, "Are we not better off as we are? We buy the poor man's
ground for a price, and we pay him his wages for tilling it for us--and we
know better how to manage it than he."
And I said, "Oh ye hypocrites! See how your lie works! Those who were free
are now slaves. Those who had peace of mind are now anxious from day to day
for their daily bread. And the multitude gets poorer and poorer, while ye
grow fatter and fatter. If ye had gone on boring the mountain, ye would
have had no time to eat up your brethren."
Then they laughed and said, "Thou art a singer of songs, and a dreamer of
dreams. Let those who want to get through the mountain go up and bore it;
we are well enough here. Come now, sing us pleasant songs, and talk no more
foolish dreams, and we will reward thee."
Then they brought out a veiled maiden, and said, "Look! her feet are like
ivory, and her hair like threads of gold; and she is the sweetest singer
in the whole valley. And she shall be thine, if thou wilt be like other
people, and prophesy smooth things unto us, and torment us no more with
talk about liberty, equality, and brotherhood; for they never were, and
never will be, on this earth. Living is too hard work to give in to such
And when the maiden's veil was lifted, it was Lillian. And she clasped me
round the neck, and cried, "Come! I will be your bride, and you shall be
rich and powerful; and all men shall speak well of you, and you shall write
songs; and we will sing them together, and feast and play from dawn to
And I wept; and turned me about, and cried, "Wife and child, song and
wealth, are pleasant; but blessed is the work which the All-Father has
given the people to do. Let the maimed and the halt and the blind, the
needy and the fatherless, come up after me, and we will bore the mountain."
But the rich drove me out, and drove back those who would have followed me.
So I went up by myself, and bored the mountain seven years, weeping; and
every year Lillian came to me, and said, "Come, and be my husband, for
my beauty is fading, and youth passes fast away." But I set my heart
steadfastly to the work.
And when seven years were over, the poor were so multiplied, that the rich
had not wherewith to pay their labour. And there came a famine in the land,
and many of the poor died. Then the rich said, "If we let these men starve,
they will turn on us, and kill us, for hunger has no conscience, and they
are all but like the beasts that perish." So they all brought, one a
bullock, another a sack of meal, each according to his substance, and fed
the poor therewith; and said to them, "Behold our love and mercy towards
you!" But the more they gave, the less they had wherewithal to pay their
labourers; and the more they gave, the less the poor liked to work; so that
at last they had not wherewithal to pay for tilling the ground, and each
man had to go and till his own, and knew not how; so the land lay waste,
and there was great perplexity.
Then I went down to them and said, "If you had hearkened to me, and not
robbed your brethren of their land, you would never have come into this
strait; for by this time the mountain would have been bored through."
Then they cursed the mountain, and me, and Him who made them, and came down
to my cottage at night, and cried, "One-sided and left-handed! father of
confusion, and disciple of dead donkeys, see to what thou hast brought the
land, with thy blasphemous doctrines! Here we are starving, and not only
we, but the poor misguided victims of thy abominable notions!"
"You have become wondrous pitiful to the poor," said I, "since you found
that they would not starve that you might wanton."
Then once more Lillian came to me, thin and pale, and worn. "See, I, too,
am starving! and you have been the cause of it; but I will forgive all if
you will help us but this once."
"How shall I help you?"
"You are a poet and an orator, and win over all hearts with your talk and
your songs. Go down to the tribes of the plain, and persuade them to send
us up warriors, that we may put down these riotous and idle wretches; and
you shall be king of all the land, and I will be your slave, by day and
But I went out, and quarried steadfastly at the mountain.
And when I came back the next evening, the poor had risen against the rich,
one and all, crying, "As you have done to us, so will we do to you;" and
they hunted them down like wild beasts, and slew many of them, and threw
their carcases on the dunghill, and took possession of their land and
houses, and cried, "We will be all free and equal as our forefathers were,
and live here, and eat and drink, and take our pleasure."
Then I ran out, and cried to them, "Fools I will you do as these rich did,
and neglect the work of God? If you do to them as they have done to you,
you will sin as they sinned, and devour each other at the last, as they
devoured you. The old paths are best. Let each man, rich or poor, have his
equal share of the land, as it was at first, and go up and dig through the
mountain, and possess the good land beyond, where no man need jostle his
neighbour, or rob him, when the land becomes too small for you. Were the
rich only in fault? Did not you, too, neglect the work which the All-Father
had given you, and run every man after his own comfort? So you entered into
a lie, and by your own sin raised up the rich man to be your punishment.
For the last time, who will go up with me to the mountain?"
Then they all cried with one voice, "We have sinned! We will go up and
pierce the mountain, and fulfil the work which God set to our forefathers."
We went up, and the first stroke that I struck a crag fell out; and behold,
the light of day! and far below us the good land and large, stretching away
boundless towards the western sun.
* * * * *
I sat by the cave's mouth at the dawning of the day. Past me the tribe
poured down, young and old, with their waggons, and their cattle, their
seeds, and their arms, as of old--yet not as of old--wiser and stronger,
taught by long labour and sore affliction. Downward they streamed from
the cave's mouth into the glens, following the guidance of the silver
water-courses; and as they passed me, each kissed my hands and feet, and
cried, "Thou hast saved us--thou hast given up all for us. Come and be our
"Nay," I said, "I have been your king this many a year; for I have been the
servant of you all."
I went down with them into the plain, and called them round me. Many times
they besought me to go with them and lead them.
"No," I said, "I am old and grey-headed, and I am not as I have been.
Choose out the wisest and most righteous among you, and let him lead you.
But bind him to yourselves with an oath, that whenever he shall say to you,
'Stay here, and let us sit down and build, and dwell here for ever,' you
shall cast him out of his office, and make him a hewer of wood and a drawer
of water, and choose one who will lead you forwards in the spirit of God."
The crowd opened, and a woman came forward into the circle. Her face was
veiled, but we all knew her for a prophetess. Slowly she stepped into
the midst, chanting a mystic song. Whether it spoke of past, present, or
future, we knew not; but it sank deep into all our hearts.
"True freedom stands in meekness--
True strength in utter weakness--
Justice in forgiveness lies--
Riches in self-sacrifice--
Own no rank but God's own spirit--
Wisdom rule!--and worth inherit!
Work for all, and all employ--
Share with all, and all enjoy--
God alike to all has given,
Heaven as Earth, and Earth as Heaven,
When the laud shall find her king again,
And the reign of God is come."
We all listened, awe-struck. She turned to us and continued:
"Hearken to me, children of Japhet, the unresting!
"On the holy mountain of Paradise, in the Asgard of the Hindoo-Koh, in
the cup of the four rivers, in the womb of the mother of nations, in
brotherhood, equality, and freedom, the sons of men were begotten, at the
wedding of the heaven and the earth. Mighty infants, you did the right
you knew not of, and sinned not, because there was no temptation. By
selfishness you fell, and became beasts of prey. Each man coveted the
universe for his own lusts, and not that he might fulfil in it God's
command to people and subdue it. Long have you wandered--and long will you
wander still. For here you have no abiding city. You shall build cities,
and they shall crumble; you shall invent forms of society and religion, and
they shall fail in the hour of need. You shall call the lands by your own
names, and fresh waves of men shall sweep you forth, westward, westward
ever, till you have travelled round the path of the sun, to the place from
whence you came. For out of Paradise you went, and unto Paradise you shall
return; you shall become once more as little children, and renew your youth
like the eagle's. Feature by feature, and limb by limb, ye shall renew
it; age after age, gradually and painfully, by hunger and pestilence, by
superstitions and tyrannies, by need and blank despair, shall you be driven
back to the All-Father's home, till you become as you were before you fell,
and left the likeness of your father for the likeness of the beasts. Out of
Paradise you came, from liberty, equality, and brotherhood, and unto them
you shall return again. You went forth in unconscious infancy--you shall
return in thoughtful manhood.--You went forth in ignorance and need--you
shall return in science and wealth, philosophy and art. You went forth with
the world a wilderness before you--you shall return when it is a garden
behind you. You went forth selfish-savages--you shall return as the
brothers of the Son of God.
"And for you," she said, looking on me, "your penance is accomplished. You
have learned what it is to be a man. You have lost your life and saved it.
He that gives up house, or land, or wife, or child, for God's sake, it
shall be repaid him an hundred-fold. Awake!"
Surely I knew that voice. She lifted her veil. The face was Lillian's?
Gently she touched my hand--I sank down into soft, weary happy sleep.
The spell was snapped. My fever and my dreams faded away together, and I
woke to the twittering of the sparrows, and the scent of the poplar leaves,
and the sights and sounds of childhood, and found Eleanor and her uncle
sitting by my bed, and with them Crossthwaite's little wife.
I would have spoken, but Eleanor laid her finger on her lips, and taking
her uncle's arm, glided from the room. Katie kept stubbornly a smiling
silence, and I was fain to obey my new-found guardian angels.
What need of many words? Slowly, and with relapses into insensibility,
I passed, like one who recovers from drowning, through the painful gate
of birth into another life. The fury of passion had been replaced by a
delicious weakness. The thunder-clouds had passed roaring down the wind,
and the calm bright holy evening was come. My heart, like a fretful child,
had stamped and wept itself to sleep. I was past even gratitude; infinite
submission and humility, feelings too long forgotten, absorbed my whole
being. Only I never dared meet Eleanor's eye. Her voice was like an angel's
when she spoke to me--friend, mother, sister, all in one. But I had a dim
recollection of being unjust to her--of some bar between us.
Katie and Crossthwaite, as they sat by me, tender and careful nurses both,
told me, in time, that to Eleanor I owed all my comforts. I could not thank
her--the debt was infinite, inexplicable. I felt as if I must speak all my
heart or none; and I watched her lavish kindness with a sort of sleepy,
passive wonder, like a new-born babe.
At last, one day, my kind nurses allowed me to speak a little. I broached
to Crossthwaite the subject which filled my thoughts. "How came I here? How
came you here? and Lady Ellerton? What is the meaning of it all?"
"The meaning is, that Lady Ellerton, as they call her, is an angel out of
heaven. Ah, Alton! she was your true friend, after all, if you had but
known it, and not that other one at all."
I turned my head away.
"Whisht--howld then, Johnny darlint! and don't go tormenting the poor dear
sowl, just when he's comin' round again."
"No, no! tell me all. I must--I ought--I deserve to bear it. How did she
"Why then, it's my belief, she had her eye on you ever since you came out
of that Bastille, and before that, too; and she found you out at Mackaye's,
and me with you, for I was there looking after you. If it hadn't been for
your illness, I'd have been in Texas now, with our friends, for all's up
with the Charter, and the country's too hot, at least for me. I'm sick of
the whole thing together, patriots, aristocrats, and everybody else, except
this blessed angel. And I've got a couple of hundred to emigrate with; and
what's more, so have you."
"Why, when poor dear old Mackaye's will was read, and you raving mad in the
next room, he had left all his stock-in-trade, that was, the books, to some
of our friends, to form a workmen's library with, and L400 he'd saved, to
be parted between you and me, on condition that we'd G.T.T., and cool down
across the Atlantic, for seven years come the tenth of April."
So, then, by the lasting love of my adopted father, I was at present at
least out of the reach of want! My heart was ready to overflow at my eyes;
but I could not rest till I had heard more of Lady Ellerton. What brought
her here, to nurse me as if she had been a sister?
"Why, then, she lives not far off by. When her husband died, his cousin got
the estate and title, and so she came, Katie tells me, and lived for one
year down somewhere in the East-end among the needlewomen; and spent her
whole fortune on the poor, and never kept a servant, so they say, but made
her own bed and cooked her own dinner, and got her bread with her own
needle, to see what it was really like. And she learnt a lesson there, I
can tell you, and God bless her for it. For now she's got a large house
here by, with fifty or more in it, all at work together, sharing the
earnings among themselves, and putting into their own pockets the profits
which would have gone to their tyrants; and she keeps the accounts for
them, and gets the goods sold, and manages everything, and reads to them
while they work, and teaches them every day."
"And takes her victuals with them," said Katie, "share and share alike. She
that was so grand a lady, to demane herself to the poor unfortunate young
things! She's as blessed a saint as any a one in the Calendar, if they'll
forgive me for saying so."
"Ay! demeaning, indeed! for the best of it is, they're not the respectable
ones only, though she spends hundreds on them--"
"And sure, haven't I seen it with my own eyes, when I've been there
"Ay, but those she lives with are the fallen and the lost ones--those that
the rich would not set up in business, or help them to emigrate, or lift
them out of the gutter with a pair of tongs, for fear they should stain
their own whitewash in handling them."
"And sure they're as dacent as meself now, the poor darlints! It was misery
druv 'em to it, every one; perhaps it might hav' druv me the same way, if
I'd a lot o' childer, and Johnny gone to glory--and the blessed saints save
him from that same at all at all!"
"What! from going to glory?" said John.
"Och, thin, and wouldn't I just go mad if ever such ill luck happened to
yees as to be taken to heaven in the prime of your days, asthore?"
And she began sobbing and hugging and kissing the little man; and then
suddenly recollecting herself, scolded him heartily for making such a
"whillybaloo," and thrust him out of my room, to recommence kissing him in
the next, leaving me to many meditations.
THE TRUE DEMAGOGUE.
I used to try to arrange my thoughts, but could not; the past seemed
swept away and buried, like the wreck of some drowned land after a flood.
Ploughed by affliction to the core, my heart lay fallow for every seed that
fell. Eleanor understood me, and gently and gradually, beneath her skilful
hand, the chaos began again to bloom with verdure. She and Crossthwaite
used to sit and read to me--from the Bible, from poets, from every book
which could suggest soothing, graceful, or hopeful fancies. Now out of the
stillness of the darkened chamber, one or two priceless sentences of a
Kempis, or a spirit-stirring Hebrew psalm, would fall upon my ear: and then
there was silence again; and I was left to brood over the words in vacancy,
till they became a fibre of my own soul's core. Again and again the stories
of Lazarus and the Magdalene alternated with Milton's Penseroso, or with
Wordsworth's tenderest and most solemn strains. Exquisite prints from the
history of our Lord's life and death were hung one by one, each for a
few days, opposite my bed, where they might catch my eye the moment that
I woke, the moment before I fell asleep. I heard one day the good dean
remonstrating with her on the "sentimentalism" of her mode of treatment.
"Poor drowned butterfly!" she answered, smiling, "he must be fed with
honey-dew. Have I not surely had practice enough already?"
"Yes, angel that you are!" answered the old man. "You have indeed had
practice enough!" And lifting her hand reverentially to his lips, he turned
and left the room.
She sat down by me as I lay, and began to read from Tennyson's
Lotus-Eaters. But it was not reading--it was rather a soft dreamy chant,
which rose and fell like the waves of sound on an AEolian harp.
"There is sweet music here that softer falls
Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
Or night dews on still waters between wails
Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
Music that gentler on the spirit lies
Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes;
Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
Here are cool mosses deep,
And through the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.
"Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone?
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown:
Nor ever fold our wings.
And cease from wanderings;
Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm,
Nor hearken what the inner spirit sings,
'There is no joy but calm!'
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?"
My soul was an enchanted boat
Which, like a sleeping swan, did float
Upon the silver waves of her sweet singing.
Half-unconscious, I looked up. Before me hung a copy of Raffaelle's cartoon
of the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. As my eye wandered over it, it seemed
to blend into harmony with the feelings which the poem had stirred. I
seemed to float upon the glassy lake. I watched the vista of the waters
and mountains, receding into the dreamy infinite of the still summer sky.
Softly from distant shores came the hum of eager multitudes; towers and
palaces slept quietly beneath the eastern sun. In front, fantastic fishes,
and the birds of the mountain and the lake, confessed His power, who sat
there in His calm godlike beauty, His eye ranging over all that still
infinity of His own works, over all that wondrous line of figures, which
seemed to express every gradation of spiritual consciousness, from the
dark self-condemned dislike of Judas's averted and wily face, through mere
animal greediness to the first dawnings of surprise, and on to the manly
awe and gratitude of Andrew's majestic figure, and the self-abhorrent
humility of Peter, as he shrank down into the bottom of the skiff, and with
convulsive palms and bursting brow seemed to press out from his inmost
heart the words, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Truly,
pictures are the books of the unlearned, and of the mis-learned too.
Glorious Raffaelle! Shakspeare of the South! Mighty preacher, to whose
blessed intuition it was given to know all human hearts, to embody in form
and colour all spiritual truths, common alike to Protestant and Papist, to
workman and to sage--oh that I may meet thee before the throne of God, if
it be but to thank thee for that one picture, in which thou didst reveal to
me, in a single glance, every step of my own spiritual history!
She seemed to follow my eyes, and guess from them the workings of my heart;
for now, in a low, half-abstracted voice, as Diotima may have talked of
old, she began to speak of rest and labour, of death and life; of a labour
which is perfect rest--of a daily death, which is but daily birth--of
weakness, which is the strength of God; and so she wandered on in her
speech to Him who died for us. And gradually she turned to me. She laid one
finger solemnly on my listless palm, as her words and voice became more
intense, more personal. She talked of Him, as Mary may have talked just
risen from His feet. She spoke of Him as I had never heard Him spoken
of before--with a tender passionate loyalty, kept down and softened by
the deepest awe. The sense of her intense belief, shining out in every
lineament of her face, carried conviction to my heart more than ten
thousand arguments could do. It must be true!--Was not the power of it
around her like a glory? She spoke of Him as near us--watching us--in
words of such vivid eloquence that I turned half-startled to her, as if I
expected to see Him standing by her side.
She spoke of Him as the great Reformer; and yet as the true conservative;
the inspirer of all new truths, revealing in His Bible to every age abysses
of new wisdom, as the times require; and yet the vindicator of all which
is ancient and eternal--the justifier of His own dealings with man from
the beginning. She spoke of Him as the true demagogue--the champion of the
poor; and yet as the true King, above and below all earthly rank; on whose
will alone all real superiority of man to man, all the time-justified and
time-honoured usages of the family, the society, the nation, stand and
shall stand for ever.
* * * * *
And then she changed her tone; and in a voice of infinite tenderness she
spoke of Him as the Creator, the Word, the Inspirer, the only perfect
Artist, the Fountain of all Genius.
She made me feel--would that His ministers had made me feel it before,
since they say that they believe it--that He had passed victorious through
my vilest temptations, that He sympathized with my every struggle.
She told me how He, in the first dawn of manhood, full of the dim
consciousness of His own power, full of strange yearning presentiments
about His own sad and glorious destiny, went up into the wilderness, as
every youth, above all every genius, must, there to be tempted of the
devil. She told how alone with the wild beasts, and the brute powers of
nature, He saw into the open secret--the mystery of man's twofold life, His
kingship over earth, His sonship under God: and conquered in the might of
His knowledge. How He was tempted, like every genius, to use His creative
powers for selfish ends--to yield to the lust of display and singularity,
and break through those laws which He came to reveal and to fulfil--to do
one little act of evil, that He might secure thereby the harvest of good
which was the object of His life: and how He had conquered in the faith
that He was the Son of God. She told me how He had borne the sorrows of
genius; how the slightest pang that I had ever felt was but a dim faint
pattern of His; how He, above all men, had felt the agony of calumny,
misconception, misinterpretation; how He had fought with bigotry and
stupidity, casting His pearls before swine, knowing full well what it was
to speak to the deaf and the blind; how He had wept over Jerusalem, in the
bitterness of disappointed patriotism, when He had tried in vain to awaken
within a nation of slavish and yet rebellious bigots the consciousness of
their glorious calling....
It was too much--I hid my face in the coverlet, and burst out into long,
low, and yet most happy weeping. She rose and went to the window, and
beckoned Katie from the room within.
"I am afraid," she said, "my conversation has been too much for him."
"Showers sweeten the air," said Katie; and truly enough, as my own
lightened brain told me.
Eleanor--for so I must call her now--stood watching me for a few minutes,
and then glided back to the bedside, and sat down again.
"You find the room quiet?"
"Wonderfully quiet. The roar of the city outside is almost soothing, and
the noise of every carriage seems to cease suddenly just as it becomes
"We have had straw laid down," she answered, "all along this part of the
This last drop of kindness filled the cup to overflowing: a veil fell from
before my eyes--it was she who had been my friend, my guardian angel, from
"You--you--idiot that I have been! I see it all now. It was you who laid
that paper to catch my eye on that first evening at D * * *!--you paid my
debt to my cousin!--you visited Mackaye in his last illness!"
She made a sign of assent.
"You saw from the beginning my danger, my weakness!--you tried to turn
me from my frantic and fruitless passion!--you tried to save me from
the very gulf into which I forced myself!--and I--I have hated you in
return--cherished suspicions too ridiculous to confess, only equalled by
the absurdity of that other dream!"
"Would that other dream have ever given you peace, even if it had ever
She spoke gently, slowly, seriously; waiting between each question for the
answer which I dared not give.
"What was it that you adored? a soul or a face? The inward reality or the
outward symbol, which is only valuable as a sacrament of the loveliness
"Ay!" thought I, "and was that loveliness within? What was that beauty but
a hollow mask?" How barren, borrowed, trivial, every thought and word of
hers seemed now, as I looked back upon them, in comparison with the rich
luxuriance, the startling originality, of thought, and deed, and sympathy,
in her who now sat by me, wan and faded, beautiful no more as men call
beauty, but with the spirit of an archangel gazing from those clear, fiery
eyes! And as I looked at her, an emotion utterly new to me arose; utter
trust, delight, submission, gratitude, awe--if it was love, it was love as
of a dog towards his master....
"Ay," I murmured, half unconscious that I spoke aloud, "her I loved, and
love no longer; but you, you I worship, and for ever!"
"Worship God," she answered. "If it shall please you hereafter to call
me friend, I shall refuse neither the name nor its duties. But remember
always, that whatsoever interest I feel in you, and, indeed, have felt from
the first time I saw your poems, I cannot give or accept friendship upon
any ground so shallow and changeable as personal preference. The time was
when I thought it a mark of superior intellect and refinement to be as
exclusive in my friendships as in my theories. Now I have learnt that that
is most spiritual and noble which is also most universal. If we are to call
each other friends, it must be for a reason which equally includes the
outcast and the profligate, the felon, and the slave."
"What do you mean?" I asked, half disappointed.
"Only for the sake of Him who died for all alike."
Why did she rise and call Crossthwaite from the next room where he was
writing? Was it from the womanly tact and delicacy which feared lest my
excited feelings might lead me on to some too daring expression, and give
me the pain of a rebuff, however gentle; or was it that she wished him, as
well as me, to hear the memorable words which followed, to which she seemed
to have been all along alluring me, and calling up in my mind, one by one,
the very questions to which she had prepared the answers?
"That name!" I answered. "Alas! has it not been in every age the watchword,
not of an all-embracing charity, but of self-conceit and bigotry,
excommunication and persecution?"
"That is what men have made it; not God, or He who bears it, the Son
of God. Yes, men have separated from each other, slandered each other,
murdered each other in that name, and blasphemed it by that very act. But
when did they unite in any name but that? Look all history through--from
the early churches, unconscious and infantile ideas of God's kingdom,
as Eden was of the human race, when love alone was law, and none said
that aught that he possessed was his own, but they had all things in
common--Whose name was the, bond of unity for that brotherhood, such as
the earth had never seen--when the Roman lady and the Negro slave partook
together at the table of the same bread and wine, and sat together at the
feet of the Syrian tent-maker?--'One is our Master, even Christ, who sits
at the right hand of God, and in Him we are all brothers.' Not self-chosen
preference for His precepts, but the overwhelming faith in His presence,
His rule, His love, bound those rich hearts together. Look onward, too,
at the first followers of St. Bennet and St. Francis, at the Cameronians
among their Scottish hills, or the little persecuted flock who in a dark
and godless time gathered around Wesley by pit mouths and on Cornish
cliffs--Look, too, at the great societies of our own days, which, however
imperfectly, still lovingly and earnestly do their measure of God's work
at home and abroad; and say, when was there ever real union, co-operation,
philanthropy, equality, brotherhood, among men, save in loyalty to
Him--Jesus, who died upon the cross?"
And she bowed her head reverently before that unseen Majesty; and then
looked up at us again--Those eyes, now brimming full of earnest tears,
would have melted stonier hearts than ours that day.
"Do you not believe me? Then I must quote against you one of your own
prophets--a ruined angel--even as you might have been.
"When Camille Desmoulins, the revolutionary, about to die, as is the fate
of such, by the hands of revolutionaries, was asked his age, he answered,
they say, that it was the same as that of the 'bon sans-culotte Jesus.'
I do not blame those who shrink from that speech as blasphemous. I, too,
have spoken hasty words and hard, and prided myself on breaking the bruised
reed, and quenching the smoking flax. Time was when I should have been the
loudest in denouncing poor Camille; but I have long since seemed to see
in those words the distortion of an almighty truth--a truth that shall
shake thrones, and principalities, and powers, and fill the earth with its
sound, as with the trump of God; a prophecy like Balaam's of old--'I shall
see Him, but not nigh; I shall behold Him, but not near.'... Take all
the heroes, prophets, poets, philosophers--where will you find the true
demagogue--the speaker to man simply as man--the friend of publicans and
sinners, the stern foe of the scribe and the Pharisee--with whom was no
respect of persons--where is he? Socrates and Plato were noble; Zerdusht
and Confutzee, for aught we know, were nobler still; but what were they but
the exclusive mystagogues of an enlightened few, like our own Emersons and
Strausses, to compare great with small? What gospel have they, or Strauss,
or Emerson, for the poor, the suffering, the oppressed? The People's
Friend? Where will you find him, but in Jesus of Nazareth?"
"We feel that; I assure you, we feel that," said Crossthwaite. "There are
thousands of us who delight in His moral teaching, as the perfection of
"And what gospel is there in a moral teaching? What good news is it to the
savage of St. Giles, to the artizan, crushed by the competition of others
and his own evil habits, to tell him that he can be free--if he can make
himself free?--That all men are his equals--if he can rise to their level,
or pull them down to his?--All men his brothers--if he can only stop them
from devouring him, or making it necessary for him to devour them? Liberty,
equality, and brotherhood? Let the history of every nation, of every
revolution--let your own sad experience speak--have they been aught as yet
but delusive phantoms--angels that turned to fiends the moment you seemed
about to clasp them? Remember the tenth of April, and the plots thereof,
and answer your own hearts!"
Crossthwaite buried his face in his hands.
"What!" I answered, passionately, "will you rob us poor creatures of our
only faith, our only hope on earth? Let us be deceived, and deceived again,
yet we will believe! We will hope on in spite of hope. We may die, but the
idea lives for ever. Liberty, equality, and fraternity must come. We know,
we know, that they must come; and woe to those who seek to rob us of our
"Keep, keep your faith," she cried; "for it is not yours, but God's, who
gave it! But do not seek to realize that idea for yourselves."
"Why, then, in the name of reason and mercy?"
"Because it is realized already for you. You are free; God has made you
free. You are equals--you are brothers; for He is your king who is no
respecter of persons. He is your king, who has bought for you the rights
of sons of God. He is your king, to whom all power is given in heaven and
earth; who reigns, and will reign, till He has put all enemies under His
feet. That was Luther's charter,--with that alone he freed half Europe.
That is your charter, and mine; the everlasting ground of our rights,
our mights, our duties, of ever-gathering storm for the oppressor,
of ever-brightening sunshine for the oppressed. Own no other. Claim
your investiture as free men from none but God. His will, His love,
is a stronger ground, surely, than abstract rights and ethnological
opinions. Abstract rights? What ground, what root have they, but the
ever-changing opinions of men, born anew and dying anew with each fresh
generation?--while the word of God stands sure--'You are mine, and I am
yours, bound to you in an everlasting covenant.'
"Abstract rights? They are sure to end, in practice, only in the tyranny of
their father--opinion. In favoured England here, the notions of abstract
right among the many are not so incorrect, thanks to three centuries of
Protestant civilization; but only because the right notions suit the many
at this moment. But in America, even now, the same ideas of abstract right
do not interfere with the tyranny of the white man over the black. Why
should they? The white man is handsomer, stronger, cunninger, worthier than
the black. The black is more like an ape than the white man--he is--the
fact is there; and no notions of an abstract right will put that down:
nothing but another fact--a mightier, more universal fact--Jesus of
Nazareth died for the negro as well as for the white. Looked at apart from
Him, each race, each individual of mankind, stands separate and alone,
owing no more brotherhood to each other than wolf to wolf, or pike to
pike--himself a mightier beast of prey--even as he has proved himself in
every age. Looked at as he is, as joined into one family in Christ, his
archetype and head, even the most frantic declamations of the French
democrat, about the majesty of the people, the divinity of mankind,
become rational, reverent, and literal. God's grace outrivals all man's
boasting--'I have said, ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the
Most Highest:'--'children of God, members of Christ, of His body, of His
flesh, and of His bones,'--'kings and priests to God,'--free inheritors of
the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of prudence and courage,
of reverence and love, the spirit of Him who has said, 'Behold, the days
come, when I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and no one shall teach
his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know Him, from the least
even unto the greatest. Ay, even on the slaves and on the handmaidens in
those days will I pour out my spirit, saith the Lord!'"
"And that is really in the Bible?" asked Crossthwaite.
"Ay"--she went on, her figure dilating, and her eyes flashing, like an
inspired prophetess--"that is in the Bible! What would you more than that?
That is your charter; the only ground of all charters. You, like all
mankind, have had dim inspirations, confused yearnings after your future
destiny, and, like all the world from the beginning, you have tried to
realize, by self-willed methods of your own, what you can only do by God's
inspiration, by God's method. Like the builders of Babel in old time, you
have said, 'Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top shall
reach to heaven'--And God has confounded you as he did them. By mistrust,
division, passion, and folly, you are scattered abroad. Even in these last
few days, the last dregs of your late plot have exploded miserably and
ludicrously--your late companions are in prison, and the name of Chartist
is a laughing-stock as well as an abomination."
"Good Heavens! Is this true?" asked I, looking at Crossthwaite for
"Too true, dear boy, too true: and if it had not been for these two angels
here, I should have been in Newgate now!"
"Yes," she went on. "The Charter seems dead, and liberty further off than
"That seems true enough, indeed," said I, bitterly.
"Yes. But it is because Liberty is God's beloved child, that He will not
have her purity sullied by the touch of the profane. Because He loves the
people, He will allow none but Himself to lead the people. Because He loves
the people, He will teach the people by afflictions. And even now, while
all this madness has been destroying itself, He has been hiding you in His
secret place from the strife of tongues, that you may have to look for a
state founded on better things than acts of parliament, social contracts,
and abstract rights--a city whose foundations are in the eternal promises,
whose builder and maker is God."
She paused.--"Go on, go on," cried Crossthwaite and I in the same breath.
"That state, that city, Jesus said, was come--was now within us, had we
eyes to see. And it is come. Call it the church, the gospel, civilization,
freedom, democracy, association, what you will--I shall call it by the name
by which my Master spoke of it--the name which includes all these, and more
than these--the kingdom of God. 'Without observation,' as he promised,
secretly, but mightily, it has been growing, spreading, since that first
Whitsuntide; civilizing, humanizing, uniting this distracted earth. Men
have fancied they found it in this system or in that, and in them only.
They have cursed it in its own name, when they found it too wide for their
own narrow notions. They have cried, 'Lo here!' and 'Lo there!' 'To this
communion!' or 'To that set of opinions.' But it has gone its way--the way
of Him who made all things, and redeemed all things to Himself. In every
age it has been a gospel to the poor, In every age it has, sooner or later,
claimed the steps of civilization, the discoveries of science, as God's
inspirations, not man's inventions. In every age, it has taught men to do
that by God which they had failed in doing without Him. It is now ready,
if we may judge by the signs of the times, once again to penetrate, to
convert, to reorganize, the political and social life of England, perhaps
of the world; to vindicate democracy as the will and gift of God. Take
it for the ground of your rights. If, henceforth, you claim political
enfranchisement, claim it not as mere men, who may be villains, savages,
animals, slaves of their own prejudices and passions; but as members of
Christ, children of God, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, and therefore
bound to realize it on earth. All other rights are mere mights--mere
selfish demands to become tyrants in your turn. If you wish to justify your
Charter, do it on that ground. Claim your share in national life, only
because the nation is a spiritual body, whose king is the Son of God; whose
work, whose national character and powers, are allotted to it by the Spirit
of Christ. Claim universal suffrage, only on the ground of the universal
redemption of mankind--the universal priesthood of Christians. That
argument will conquer, when all have failed; for God will make it conquer.
Claim the disenfranchisement of every man, rich or poor, who breaks
the laws of God and man, not merely because he is an obstacle to you,
but because he is a traitor to your common King in heaven, and to the
spiritual kingdom of which he is a citizen. Denounce the effete idol
of property-qualification, not because it happens to strengthen class
interests against you, but because, as your mystic dream reminded you, and,
therefore, as you knew long ago, there is no real rank, no real power, but
worth; and worth consists not in property, but in the grace of God. Claim,
if you will, annual parliaments, as a means of enforcing the responsibility
of rulers to the Christian community, of which they are to be, not the
lords, but the ministers--the servants of all. But claim these, and all
else for which you long, not from man, but from God, the King of men. And
therefore, before you attempt to obtain them, make yourselves worthy of
them--perhaps by that process you will find some of them have become less
needful. At all events, do not ask, do not hope, that He will give them to
you before you are able to profit by them. Believe that he has kept them
from you hitherto, because they would have been curses, and not blessings.
Oh! look back, look back, at the history of English Radicalism for the last
half century, and judge by your own deeds, your own words; were you fit for
those privileges which you so frantically demanded? Do not answer me, that
those who had them were equally unfit; but thank God, if the case be indeed
so, that your incapacity was not added to theirs, to make confusion worse
confounded! Learn a new lesson. Believe at last that you are in Christ, and
become new creatures. With those miserable, awful farce tragedies of April
and June, let old things pass away, and all things become new. Believe
that your kingdom is not of this world, but of One whose servants must not
fight. He that believeth, as the prophet says, will not make haste. Beloved
suffering brothers! are not your times in the hand of One who loved you to
the death, who conquered, as you must do, not by wrath, but by martyrdom?
Try no more to meet Mammon with his own weapons, but commit your cause to
Him who judges righteously, who is even now coming out of His place to
judge the earth, and to help the fatherless and poor unto their right, that
the man of the world may be no more exalted against them--the poor man of
Nazareth, crucified for you!"
She ceased, and there was silence for a few moments, as if angels were
waiting, hushed, to carry our repentance to the throne of Him we had
Crossthwaite had kept his face fast buried in his hands; now he looked up
with brimming eyes--
"I see it--I see it all now. Oh, my God! my God! what infidels we have
MIRACLES AND SCIENCE.
Sunrise, they say, often at first draws up and deepens the very mists
which it is about to scatter: and even so, as the excitement of my first
conviction cooled, dark doubts arose to dim the new-born light of hope and
trust within me. The question of miracles had been ever since I had read
Strauss my greatest stumbling-block--perhaps not unwillingly, for my doubts
pampered my sense of intellectual acuteness and scientific knowledge; and
"a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." But now that they interfered
with nobler, more important, more immediately practical ideas, I longed
to have them removed--I longed even to swallow them down on trust--to
take the miracles "into the bargain" as it were, for the sake of that
mighty gospel of deliverance for the people which accompanied them. Mean
subterfuge! which would not, could not, satisfy me. The thing was too
precious, too all-important, to take one tittle of it on trust. I could
not bear the consciousness of one hollow spot--the nether fires of doubt
glaring through, even at one little crevice. I took my doubts to Lady
Ellerton--Eleanor, as I must now call her, for she never allowed herself
to be addressed by her title--and she referred me to her uncle--
"I could say somewhat on that point myself. But since your doubts are
scientific ones, I had rather that you should discuss them with one whose
knowledge of such subjects you, and all England with you, must revere."
"Ah, but--pardon me; he is a clergyman."
"And therefore bound to prove, whether he believes in his own proof or not.
Unworthy suspicion!" she cried, with a touch of her old manner. "If you had
known that man's literary history for the last thirty years, you would not
suspect him, at least, of sacrificing truth and conscience to interest, or
to fear of the world's insults."
I was rebuked; and not without hope and confidence, I broached the question
to the good dean when he came in--as he happened to do that very day.
"I hardly like to state my difficulties," I began--"for I am afraid that I
must hurt myself in your eyes by offending your--prejudices, if you will
pardon so plain-spoken an expression."
"If," he replied, in his bland courtly way, "I am so unfortunate as to have
any prejudices left, you cannot do me a greater kindness than by offending
them--or by any other means, however severe--to make me conscious of the
locality of such a secret canker."
"But I am afraid that your own teaching has created, or at least
corroborated, these doubts of mine."
"You first taught me to revere science. You first taught me to admire and
trust the immutable order, the perfect harmony of the laws of Nature."
"Ah! I comprehend now!" he answered, in a somewhat mournful tone--"How much
we have to answer for! How often, in our carelessness, we offend those
little ones, whose souls are precious in the sight of God! I have thought
long and earnestly on the very subject which now distresses you; perhaps
every doubt which has passed through your mind, has exercised my own;
and, strange to say, you first set me on that new path of thought. A
conversation which passed between us years ago at D * * * * on the
antithesis of natural and revealed religion--perhaps you recollect it?"
Yes, I recollected it better than he fancied, and recollected too--I thrust
the thought behind me--it was even yet intolerable.
"That conversation first awoke in me the sense of an hitherto unconscious
inconsistency--a desire to reconcile two lines of thought--which I had
hitherto considered as parallel, and impossible to unite. To you, and to my
beloved niece here, I owe gratitude for that evening's talk; and you are
freely welcome to all my conclusions, for you have been, indirectly, the
originator of them all."
"Then, I must confess, that miracles seem to me impossible, just because
they break the laws of Nature. Pardon me--but there seems something
blasphemous in supposing that God can mar His own order: His power I do not
call in question, but the very thought of His so doing is abhorrent to me."
"It is as abhorrent to me as it can be to you, to Goethe, or to Strauss;
and yet I believe firmly in our Lord's miracles."
"How so, if they break the laws of Nature?"
"Who told you, my dear young friend, that to break the customs of Nature,
is to break her laws? A phenomenon, an appearance, whether it be a miracle
or a comet, need not contradict them because it is rare, because it is as
yet not referable to them. Nature's deepest laws, her only true laws, are
her invisible ones. All analyses (I think you know enough to understand
my terms), whether of appearances, of causes, or of elements, only lead
us down to fresh appearances--we cannot see a law, let the power of our
lens be ever so immense. The true causes remain just as impalpable,
as unfathomable as ever, eluding equally our microscope and our
induction--ever tending towards some great primal law, as Mr. Grove has
well shown lately in his most valuable pamphlet--some great primal law, I
say, manifesting itself, according to circumstances, in countless diverse
and unexpected forms--till all that the philosopher as well as the divine
can say, is--the Spirit of Life, impalpable, transcendental, direct from
God, is the only real cause. 'It bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest
the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it
goeth.' What, if miracles should be the orderly result of some such deep,
most orderly, and yet most spiritual law?"
"I feel the force of your argument, but--"
"But you will confess, at least, that you, after the fashion of the crowd,
have begun your argument by begging the very question in dispute, and may
have, after all, created the very difficulty which torments you."
"I confess it; but I cannot see how the miracles of Jesus--of our
Lord--have anything of order in them."
"Tell me, then--to try the Socratic method--is disease, or health, the
order and law of Nature?"
"Health, surely; we all confess that by calling diseases disorders."
"Then, would one who healed diseases be a restorer, or a breaker of order?"
"A restorer, doubtless; but--"
"Like a patient scholar, and a scholarly patient, allow me to 'exhibit'
my own medicines according to my own notion of the various crises of your
distemper. I assure you I will not play you false, or entrap you by quips
and special pleading. You are aware that our Lord's miracles were almost
exclusively miracles of healing--restorations of that order of health which
disease was breaking--that when the Scribes and Pharisees, superstitious
and sense-bound, asked him for a sign from heaven, a contra-natural
prodigy, he refused them as peremptorily as he did the fiend's 'Command
these stones that they be made bread.' You will quote against me the water
turned into wine, as an exception to this rule. St. Augustine answered that
objection centuries ago, by the same argument as I am now using. Allow
Jesus to have been the Lord of Creation, and what was he doing then, but
what he does in the maturing of every grape--transformed from air and
water even as that wine in Cana? Goethe, himself, unwittingly, has made
Mephistopheles even say as much as that--
"Wine is sap, and grapes are wood,
The wooden board yields wine as good."
"But the time?--so infinitely shorter than that which Nature usually
occupies in the process?"
"Time and space are no Gods, as a wise German says; and as the electric
telegraph ought already to have taught you. They are customs, but who has
proved them to be laws of Nature? No; analyse these miracles one by one,
fairly, carefully, scientifically, and you will find that if you want
prodigies really blasphemous and absurd, infractions of the laws of Nature,
amputated limbs growing again, and dead men walking away with their heads
under their arms, you must go to the Popish legends, but not to the
miracles of the Gospels. And now for your 'but'--"
"The raising of the dead to life? Surely death is the appointed end of
every animal--ay, of every species, and of man among the rest."
"Who denies it? But is premature death?--the death of Jairus's daughter, of
the widow's son at Nain, the death of Jesus himself, in the prime of youth
and vigour--or rather that gradual decay of ripe old age, through which I
now, thank God, so fast am travelling? What nobler restoration of order,
what clearer vindication of the laws of Nature from the disorder of
diseases, than to recall the dead to their natural and normal period of
I was silent a few moments, having nothing to answer; then--
"After all, these may have been restorations of the law of Nature. But why
was the law broken in order to restore it? The Tenth of April has taught
me, at least, that disorder cannot cast disorder out."
"Again I ask, why do you assume the very point in question? Again I ask,
who knows what really are the laws of Nature? You have heard Bacon's golden
rule--'Nature is conquered by obeying her?'"
"Then who more likely, who more certain, to fulfil that law to hitherto
unattained perfection, than He who came to obey, not outward nature merely,
but, as Bacon meant, the inner ideas, the spirit of Nature, which is the
will of God?--He who came to do utterly, not His own will, but the will
of the Father who sent Him? Who is so presumptuous as to limit the future
triumphs of science? Surely no one who has watched her giant strides during
the last century. Shall Stephenson and Faraday, and the inventors of the
calculating machine, and the electric telegraph, have fulfilled such
wonders by their weak and partial obedience to the 'Will of God expressed
in things'--and He who obeyed, even unto the death, have possessed no
higher power than theirs?"
"Indeed," I said, "your words stagger me. But there is another old
objection which they have reawakened in my mind. You will say I am shifting
my ground sadly. But you must pardon me"
"Let us hear. They need not be irrelevant. The unconscious logic of
association is often deeper and truer than any syllogism."
"These modern discoveries in medicine seem to show that Christ's miracles
may be attributed to natural causes."
"And thereby justify them. For what else have I been arguing. The
difficulty lies only in the rationalist's shallow and sensuous view of
Nature, and in his ambiguous, slip-slop trick of using the word natural
to mean, in one sentence, 'material,' and in the next, as I use it, only
'normal and orderly.' Every new wonder in medicine which this great age
discovers--what does it prove, but that Christ need have broken no natural
laws to do that of old, which can be done now without breaking them--if you
will but believe that these gifts of healing are all inspired and revealed
by Him who is the Great Physician, the Life, the Lord of that vital energy
by whom all cures are wrought.
"The surgeons of St. George's make the boy walk who has been lame from his
mother's womb. But have they given life to a single bone or muscle of his
limbs? They have only put them into that position--those circumstances in
which the God-given life in them can have its free and normal play, and
produce the cure which they only assist. I claim that miracle of science,
as I do all future ones, as the inspiration of Him who made the lame
to walk in Judea, not by producing new organs, but by His creative
will--quickening and liberating those which already existed.
"The mesmerist, again, says that he can cure a spirit of infirmity, an
hysteric or paralytic patient, by shedding forth on them his own vital
energy; and, therefore he will have it, that Christ's miracles were but
mesmeric feats. I grant, for the sake of argument, that he possesses
the power which he claims; though I may think his facts too new, too
undigested, often too exaggerated, to claim my certain assent. But, I say,
I take you on your own ground; and, indeed, if man be the image of God, his
vital energy may, for aught I know, be able, like God's, to communicate
some spark of life--But then, what must have been the vital energy of Him
who was the life itself; who was filled without measure with the spirit,
not only of humanity, but with that of God the Lord and Giver of life? Do
but let the Bible tell its own story; grant, for the sake of argument,
the truth of the dogmas which it asserts throughout, and it becomes
a consistent whole. When a man begins, as Strauss does, by assuming
the falsity of its conclusions, no wonder if he finds its premises a
fragmentary chaos of contradictions."
"And what else?" asked Eleanor, passionately--"what else is the meaning
of that highest human honour, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, but a
perennial token that the same life-giving spirit is the free right of all?"
And thereon followed happy, peaceful, hopeful words, which the reader, if
he call himself a Christian, ought to be able to imagine for himself. I am
afraid that writing from memory, I should do as little justice to them as
I have to the dean's arguments in this chapter. Of the consequences which
they produced in me, I will speak anon.
It was a month or more before I summoned courage to ask after my cousin.
Eleanor looked solemnly at me.
"Did you not know it? He is dead."
"Dead!" I was almost stunned by the announcement.
"Of typhus fever. He died three weeks ago; and not only he, but the servant
who brushed his clothes, and the shopman, who had a few days before,
brought him a new coat home."
"How did you learn all this?"
"From Mr. Crossthwaite. But the strangest part of the sad story is to come.
Crossthwaite's suspicions were aroused by some incidental circumstance, and
knowing of Downes's death, and the fact that you most probably caught your
fever in that miserable being's house, he made such inquiries as satisfied
him that it was no other than your cousin's coat--"
"Which covered the corpses in that fearful chamber?"
"It was indeed."
Just, awful God. And this was the consistent Nemesis of all poor
George's thrift and cunning, of his determination to carry the
buy-cheap-and-sell-dear commercialism, in which he had been brought up,
into every act of life! Did I rejoice? No; all revenge, all spite had been
scourged out of me. I mourned for him as for a brother, till the thought
flashed across me--Lillian was free. Half unconscious, I stammered her name
"Judge for yourself," answered Eleanor, mildly, yet with a deep, severe
meaning in her tone.
I was silent.
* * * * *
The tempest in my heart was ready to burst forth again; but she, my
guardian angel, soothed it for me.
"She is much changed; sorrow and sickness--for she, too, has had the fever,
and, alas! less resignation or peace within, than those who love her
would have wished to see--have worn her down. Little remains now of that
"Which I idolized in my folly!"
"Thank God, thank God! that you see that at last: I knew it all along. I
knew that there was nothing there for your heart to rest upon--nothing
to satisfy your intellect--and, therefore, I tried to turn you from your
dream. I did it harshly, angrily, too sharply, yet not explicitly enough. I
ought to have made allowances for you. I should have known how enchanting,
intoxicating, mere outward perfections must have been to one of your
perceptions, shut out so long as you had been from the beautiful in art and
nature. But I was cruel. Alas! I had not then learnt to sympathize; and I
have often since felt with terror that I, too, may have many of your sins
to answer for; that I, even I, helped to drive you on to bitterness and
"Oh, do not say so! You have done to me, meant to me, nothing but good."
"Be not too sure of that. You little know me. You little know the pride
which I have fostered--even the mean anger against you, for being the
protege of any one but myself. That exclusiveness, and shyness, and proud
reserve, is the bane of our English character--it has been the bane of
mine--daily I strive to root it out. Come--I will do so now. You wonder why
I am here. You shall hear somewhat of my story; and do not fancy that I am
showing you a peculiar mark of honour or confidence. If the history of my
life can be of use to the meanest, they are welcome to the secrets of my
"I was my parents' only child, an heiress, highly born, and highly
educated. Every circumstance of humanity which could pamper pride was mine,
and I battened on the poison. I painted, I sang, I wrote in prose and
verse--they told me, not without success. Men said that I was beautiful--I
knew that myself, and revelled and gloried in the thought. Accustomed to
see myself the centre of all my parents' hopes and fears, to be surrounded
by flatterers, to indulge in secret the still more fatal triumph of
contempt for those I thought less gifted than myself, self became the
centre of my thoughts. Pleasure was all I thought of. But not what the
vulgar call pleasure. That I disdained, while, like you, I worshipped all
that was pleasurable to the intellect and the taste. The beautiful was my
God. I lived, in deliberate intoxication, on poetry, music, painting, and
every anti-type of them which I could find in the world around. At last I
met with--one whom you once saw. He first awoke in me the sense of the vast
duties and responsibilities of my station--his example first taught me to
care for the many rather than for the few. It was a blessed lesson: yet
even that I turned to poison, by making self, still self, the object of my
very benevolence. To be a philanthropist, a philosopher, a feudal queen,
amid the blessings and the praise of dependent hundreds--that was my new
ideal; for that I turned the whole force of my intellect to the study
of history, of social and economic questions. From Bentham and Malthus
to Fourier and Proudhon, I read them all. I made them all fit into that
idol-temple of self which I was rearing, and fancied that I did my duty, by
becoming one of the great ones of the earth. My ideal was not the crucified
Nazarene, but some Hairoun Alraschid, in luxurious splendour, pampering
his pride by bestowing as a favour those mercies which God commands as
the right of all. I thought to serve God, forsooth, by serving Mammon and
myself. Fool that I was! I could not see God's handwriting on the wall
against me. 'How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom
"You gave me, unintentionally, a warning hint. The capabilities which I
saw in you made me suspect that those below might be more nearly my equals
than I had yet fancied. Your vivid descriptions of the misery among whole
classes of workmen--misery caused and ever increased by the very system of
society itself--gave a momentary shock to my fairy palace. They drove me
back upon the simple old question, which has been asked by every honest
heart, age after age, 'What right have I to revel in luxury while thousands
are starving? Why do I pride myself on doling out to them small fractions
of that wealth, which, if sacrificed utterly and at once, might help
to raise hundreds to a civilization as high as my own?' I could not
face the thought; and angry with you for having awakened it, however
unintentionally, I shrank back behind the pitiable, worn-out fallacy, that
luxury was necessary to give employment. I knew that it was a fallacy; I
knew that the labour spent in producing unnecessary things for one rich man
may just as well have gone in producing necessaries for a hundred poor, or
employ the architect and the painter for public bodies as well as private
individuals. That even for the production of luxuries, the monopolizing
demand of the rich was not required--that the appliances of real
civilization, the landscapes, gardens, stately rooms, baths, books,
pictures, works of art, collections of curiosities, which now went to
pamper me alone--me, one single human soul--might be helping, in an
associate society, to civilize a hundred families, now debarred from them
by isolated poverty, without robbing me of an atom of the real enjoyment or
benefit of them. I knew it, I say, to be a fallacy, and yet I hid behind it
from the eye of God. Besides, 'it always had been so--the few rich, and the
many poor. I was but one more among millions.'"
She paused a moment as if to gather strength, and then continued:
"The blow came. My idol--for he, too, was an idol--To please him I had
begun--To please myself in pleasing him, I was trying to become great--and
with him went from me that sphere of labour which was to witness the
triumph of my pride. I saw the estate pass into other hands; a mighty
change passed over me, as impossible, perhaps, as unfitting, for me
to analyse. I was considered mad. Perhaps I was so: there is a divine
insanity, a celestial folly, which conquers worlds. At least, when that
period was past, I had done, and suffered so strangely, that nothing
henceforth could seem strange to me. I had broken the yoke of custom and
opinion. My only ground was now the bare realities of human life and duty.
In poverty and loneliness I thought out the problems of society, and seemed
to myself to have found the one solution--self-sacrifice. Following my
first impulse, I had given largely to every charitable institution I could
hear of--God forbid that I should regret those gifts--yet the money, I
soon found, might have been better spent. One by one, every institution
disappointed me; they seemed, after all, only means for keeping the poor
in their degradation, by making it just not intolerable to them--means for
enabling Mammon to draw fresh victims into his den, by taking off his
hands those whom he had already worn out into uselessness. Then I tried
association among my own sex--among the most miserable and degraded of
them. I simply tried to put them into a position in which they might work
for each other, and not for a single tyrant; in which that tyrant's profits
might be divided among the slaves themselves. Experienced men warned me
that I should fail; that such a plan would be destroyed by the innate
selfishness and rivalry of human nature; that it demanded what was
impossible to find, good faith, fraternal love, overruling moral influence.
I answered, that I knew that already; that nothing but Christianity alone
could supply that want, but that it could and should supply it; that I
would teach them to live as sisters, by living with them as their sister
myself. To become the teacher, the minister, the slave of those whom I was
trying to rescue, was now my one idea; to lead them on, not by machinery,
but by precept, by example, by the influence of every gift and talent which
God had bestowed upon me; to devote to them my enthusiasm, my eloquence, my
poetry, my art, my science; to tell them who had bestowed their gifts on
me, and would bestow, to each according to her measure, the same on them;
to make my workrooms, in one word, not a machinery, but a family. And
I have succeeded--as others will succeed, long after my name, my small
endeavours, are forgotten amid the great new world--new Church I should
have said--of enfranchised and fraternal labour."
And this was the suspected aristocrat! Oh, my brothers, my brothers! little
you know how many a noble soul, among those ranks which you consider only
as your foes, is yearning to love, to help, to live and die for you, did
they but know the way! Is it their fault if God has placed them where they
are? Is it their fault, if they refuse to part with their wealth, before
they are sure that such a sacrifice would really be a mercy to you? Show
yourselves worthy of association. Show that you can do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God, as brothers before one Father, subjects of
one crucified King--and see then whether the spirit of self-sacrifice is
dead among the rich! See whether there are not left in England yet seven
thousand who have not bowed the knee to Mammon, who will not fear to "give
their substance to the free," if they find that the Son has made you
free--free from your own sins, as well as from the sins of others!
PRIESTS AND PEOPLE.
"But after all," I said one day, "the great practical objection still
remains unanswered--the clergy? Are we to throw ourselves into their
hands after all? Are we, who have been declaiming all our lives against
priestcraft, voluntarily to forge again the chains of our slavery to a
class whom we neither trust nor honour?"
She smiled. "If you will examine the Prayer-Book, you will not find, as
far as I am aware, anything which binds a man to become the slave of
the priesthood, voluntarily or otherwise. Whether the people become
priest-ridden or not, hereafter, will depend, as it always has done,
utterly on themselves. As long as the people act upon their spiritual
liberty, and live with eyes undimmed by superstitious fear, fixed in loving
boldness on their Father in heaven, and their King, the first-born among
many brethren, the priesthood will remain, as God intended them, only the
interpreters and witnesses of His will and His kingdom. But let them turn
their eyes from Him to aught in earth or heaven beside, and there will be
no lack of priestcraft, of veils to hide Him from them, tyrants to keep
them from Him, idols to ape His likeness. A sinful people will be sure to
be a priest-ridden people; in reality, though not in name; by journalists
and demagogues, if not by class-leaders and popes: and of the two, I
confess I should prefer a Hildebrand to an O'Flynn."
"But," I replied, "we do not love, we do not trust, we do not respect the
clergy. Has their conduct to the masses for the last century deserved that
we should do so? Will you ask us to obey the men whom we despise?"
"God forbid!" she answered. "But you must surely be aware of the
miraculous, ever-increasing improvement in the clergy."
"In morals," I said, "and in industry, doubtless; but not upon those points
which are to us just now dearer than their morals or their industry,
because they involve the very existence of our own industry and our own
morals--I mean, social and political subjects. On them the clergy seem to
me as ignorant, as bigoted, as aristocratic as ever."
"But, suppose that there were a rapidly-increasing class among the clergy,
who were willing to help you to the uttermost--and you must feel that their
help would be worth having--towards the attainment of social reform, if you
would waive for a time merely political reform?"
"What?" I said, "give up the very ideas for which we have struggled, and
sinned, and all but died? and will struggle, and, if need be, die for
still, or confess ourselves traitors to the common weal?"
"The Charter, like its supporters, must die to itself before it lives to
God. Is it not even now farther off than ever?"
"It seems so indeed--but what do you mean?"
"You regarded the Charter as an absolute end. You made a selfish and a
self-willed idol of it. And therefore God's blessing did not rest on it or
"We want it as a means as well as an end--as a means for the highest and
widest social reform, as well as a right dependent on eternal justice."
"Let the working classes prove that, then," she replied, "in their actions
now. If it be true, as I would fain believe it to be, let them show that
they are willing to give up their will to God's will; to compass those
social reforms by the means which God puts in their way, and wait for His
own good time to give them, or not to give them, those means which they in
their own minds prefer. This is what I meant by saying that Chartism must
die to itself before it has a chance of living to God. You must feel, too,
that Chartism has sinned--has defiled itself in the eyes of the wise, the
good, the gentle. Your only way now to soften the prejudice against it is
to show that you can live like men and brothers and Christians without it.
You cannot wonder if the clergy shall object awhile to help you towards
that Charter, which the majority of you demanded for the express purpose of