Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Jonathan Ingram and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: PAUL FABER.]
PAUL FABER, SURGEON
BY GEORGE MACDONALD
I. THE LANE
II. THE MINISTER'S DOOR
III. THE MANOR HOUSE
IV. THE RECTORY
V. THE ROAD TO OWLKIRK
VI. THE COTTAGE
VII. THE PULPIT
VIII. THE MANOR HOUSE DINING-ROOM
IX. THE RECTORY DRAWING-ROOM
X. MR. DRAKE'S ARBOR
XI. THE CHAMBER AT THE COTTAGE
XII. THE MINISTER'S GARDEN
XIII. THE HEATH AT NESTLEY
XIV. THE GARDEN AT OWLKIRK
XV. THE PARLOR AT OWLKIRK
XVI. THE BUTCHER'S SHOP
XVII. THE PARLOR AGAIN
XVIII. THE PARK AT NESTLEY
XIX. THE RECTORY
XX. AT THE PIANO
XXI. THE PASTOR'S STUDY
XXII. TWO MINDS
XXIII. THE MINISTER'S BEDROOM
XXIV. JULIET'S CHAMBER
XXV. OSTERFIELD PARK
XXVI. THE SURGERY DOOR
XXVII. THE GROANS OF THE INARTICULATE
XXVIII. COW-LANE CHAPEL
XXIX. THE DOCTOR'S HOUSE
XXX. THE PONY-CARRIAGE
XXXI. A CONSCIENCE
XXXII. THE OLD HOUSE AT GLASTON
XXXIII. PAUL FABER'S DRESSING-ROOM
XXXIV. THE BOTTOMLESS POOL
XXXV. A HEART
XXXVI. TWO MORE MINDS
XXXVII. THE DOCTOR'S STUDY
XXXVIII. THE MIND OF JULIET
XXXIX. ANOTHER MIND
XL. A DESOLATION
XLI. THE OLD GARDEN
XLII. THE POTTERY
XLIII. THE GATE-LODGE
XLIV. THE CORNER OF THE BUTCHER'S SHOP
XLV. HERE AND THERE
XLVI. THE MINISTER'S STUDY
XLVII. THE BLOWING OF THE WIND
XLVIII. THE BORDER-LAND
XLIX. EMPTY HOUSES
L. FALLOW FIELDS
LI. THE NEW OLD HOUSE
LII. THE LEVEL OF THE LYTHE
LIII. MY LADY'S CHAMBER
LIV. NOWHERE AND EVERYWHERE
Clear-windowed temple of the God of grace,
From the loud wind to me a hiding-place!
Thee gird broad lands with genial motions rife,
But in thee dwells, high-throned, the Life of life
Thy test no stagnant moat half-filled with mud,
But living waters witnessing in flood!
Thy priestess, beauty-clad, and gospel-shod,
A fellow laborer in the earth with God!
Good will art thou, and goodness all thy arts--
Doves to their windows, and to thee fly hearts!
Take of the corn in thy dear shelter grown,
Which else the storm had all too rudely blown;
When to a higher temple thou shalt mount,
Thy earthly gifts in heavenly friends shall count;
Let these first-fruits enter thy lofty door,
And golden lie upon thy golden floor.
PORTO FINO, _December_, 1878.
The rector sat on the box of his carriage, driving his horses toward his
church, the grand old abbey-church of Glaston. His wife was inside, and
an old woman--he had stopped on the road to take her up--sat with her
basket on the foot-board behind. His coachman sat beside him; he never
took the reins when his master was there. Mr. Bevis drove like a
gentleman, in an easy, informal, yet thoroughly business-like way. His
horses were black--large, well-bred, and well-fed, but neither young nor
showy, and the harness was just the least bit shabby. Indeed, the entire
turnout, including his own hat and the coachman's, offered the beholder
that aspect of indifference to show, which, by the suggestion of a
nodding acquaintance with poverty, gave it the right clerical air of
being not of this world. Mrs. Bevis had her basket on the seat before
her, containing, beneath an upper stratum of flowers, some of the first
rhubarb of the season and a pound or two of fresh butter for a poor
relation in the town.
The rector was a man about sixty, with keen gray eyes, a good-humored
mouth, a nose whose enlargement had not of late gone in the direction of
its original design, and a face more than inclining to the rubicund,
suggestive of good living as well as open air. Altogether he had the
look of a man who knew what he was about, and was on tolerable terms
with himself, and on still better with his neighbor. The heart under his
ribs was larger even than indicated by the benevolence of his
countenance and the humor hovering over his mouth. Upon the countenance
of his wife rested a placidity sinking almost into fatuity. Its features
were rather indications than completions, but there was a consciousness
of comfort about the mouth, and the eyes were alive.
They were passing at a good speed through a varying country--now a
thicket of hazel, now great patches of furze upon open common, and anon
well-kept farm-hedges, and clumps of pine, the remnants of ancient
forest, when, halfway through a lane so narrow that the rector felt
every yard toward the other end a gain, his horses started, threw up
their heads, and looked for a moment wild as youth. Just in front of
them, in the air, over a high hedge, scarce touching the topmost twigs
with his hoofs, appeared a great red horse. Down he came into the road,
bringing with him a rather tall, certainly handsome, and even at first
sight, attractive rider. A dark brown mustache upon a somewhat smooth
sunburned face, and a stern settling of the strong yet delicately
finished features gave him a military look; but the sparkle of his blue
eyes contradicted his otherwise cold expression. He drew up close to the
hedge to make room for the carriage, but as he neared him Mr. Bevis
slackened his speed, and during the following talk they were moving
gently along with just room for the rider to keep clear of the off fore
"Heigh, Faber," said the clergyman, "you'll break your neck some day!
You should think of your patients, man. That wasn't a jump for any man
in his senses to take."
"It is but fair to give my patients a chance now and then," returned the
surgeon, who never met the rector but there was a merry passage between
"Upon my word," said Mr. Bevis, "when you came over the hedge there, I
took you for Death in the Revelations, that had tired out his own and
changed horses with t'other one."
As he spoke, he glanced back with a queer look, for he found himself
guilty of a little irreverence, and his conscience sat behind him in the
person of his wife. But that conscience was a very easy one, being
almost as incapable of seeing a joke as of refusing a request.
"--How many have you bagged this week?" concluded the rector.
"I haven't counted up yet," answered the surgeon. "--_You_'ve got one
behind, I see," he added, signing with his whip over his shoulder.
"Poor old thing!" said the rector, as if excusing himself, "she's got a
heavy basket, and we all need a lift sometimes--eh, doctor?--into the
world and out again, at all events."
There was more of the reflective in this utterance than the parson was
in the habit of displaying; but he liked the doctor, and, although as
well as every one else he knew him to be no friend to the church, or to
Christianity, or even to religious belief of any sort, his liking,
coupled with a vague sense of duty, had urged him to this most
unassuming attempt to cast the friendly arm of faith around the
"I plead guilty to the former," answered Faber, "but somehow I have
never practiced the euthanasia. The instincts of my profession, I
suppose are against it. Besides, that ought to be your business."
"Not altogether," said the rector, with a kindly look from his box,
which, however, only fell on the top of the doctor's hat.
Faber seemed to feel the influence of it notwithstanding, for he
"If all clergymen were as liberal as you, Mr. Bevis, there would be more
danger of some of us giving in."
The word _liberal_ seemed to rouse the rector to the fact that his
coachman sat on the box, yet another conscience, beside him. _Sub divo_
one must not be _too_ liberal. There was a freedom that came out better
over a bottle of wine than over the backs of horses. With a word he
quickened the pace of his cleric steeds, and the doctor was dropped
parallel with the carriage window. There, catching sight of Mrs. Bevis,
of whose possible presence he had not thought once, he paid his
compliments, and made his apologies, then trotted his gaunt Ruber again
beside the wheel, and resumed talk, but not the same talk, with the
rector. For a few minutes it turned upon the state of this and that
ailing parishioner; for, while the rector left all the duties of public
service to his curate, he ministered to the ailing and poor upon and
immediately around his own little property, which was in that corner of
his parish furthest from the town; but ere long, as all talk was sure to
do between the parson and any body who owned but a donkey, it veered
round in a certain direction.
"You don't seem to feed that horse of yours upon beans, Faber," he said.
"I don't seem, I grant," returned the doctor; "but you should see him
feed! He eats enough for two, but he _can't_ make fat: all goes to
muscle and pluck."
"Well, I must allow the less fat he has to carry the better, if you're
in the way of heaving him over such hedges on to the hard road. In my
best days I should never have faced a jump like that in cold blood,"
said the rector.
"I've got no little belongings of wife or child to make a prudent man of
me, you see," returned the surgeon. "At worst it's but a knock on the
head and a longish snooze."
The rector fancied he felt his wife's shudder shake the carriage, but
the sensation was of his own producing. The careless defiant words
wrought in him an unaccountable kind of terror: it seemed almost as if
they had rushed of themselves from his own lips.
"Take care, my dear sir," he said solemnly. "There may be something to
believe, though you don't believe it."
"I must take the chance," replied Faber. "I will do my best to make
calamity of long life, by keeping the rheumatic and epileptic and
phthisical alive, while I know how. Where nothing _can_ be known, I
prefer not to intrude."
A pause followed. At length said the rector,
"You are so good a fellow, Faber, I wish you were better. When will you
come and dine with me?"
"Soon, I hope," answered the surgeon, "but I am too busy at present. For
all her sweet ways and looks, the spring is not friendly to man, and my
work is to wage war with nature."
A second pause followed. The rector would gladly have said something,
but nothing would come.
"By the by," he said at length, "I thought I saw you pass the gate--let
me see--on Monday: why did you not look in?"
"I hadn't a moment's time. I was sent for to a patient in the village."
"Yes, I know; I heard of that. I wish you would give me your impression
of the lady. She is a stranger here.--John, that gate is swinging across
the road. Get down and shut it.--Who and what is she?"
"That I should be glad to learn from you. All I know is that she is a
lady. There can not be two opinions as to that."
"They tell me she is a beauty," said the parson.
The doctor nodded his head emphatically.
"Haven't you seen her?" he said.
"Scarcely--only her back. She walks well. Do you know nothing about her?
Who has she with her?"
"Then Mrs. Bevis shall call upon her."
"I think at present she had better not. Mrs. Puckridge is a good old
soul, and pays her every attention."
"What is the matter with her? Nothing infectious?"
"Oh, no! She has caught a chill. I was afraid of pneumonia yesterday."
"Then she is better?"
"I confess I am a little anxious about her. But I ought not to be
dawdling like this, with half my patients to see. I must bid you good
morning.--Good morning, Mrs. Bevis."
As he spoke, Faber drew rein, and let the carriage pass; then turned his
horse's head to the other side of the way, scrambled up the steep bank
to the field above, and galloped toward Glaston, whose great church rose
high in sight. Over hedge and ditch he rode straight for its tower.
"The young fool!" said the rector, looking after him admiringly, and
pulling up his horses that he might more conveniently see him ride.
"Jolly old fellow!" said the surgeon at his second jump. "I wonder how
much he believes now of all the rot! Enough to humbug himself with--not
a hair more. He has no passion for humbugging other people. There's that
curate of his now believes every thing, and would humbug the whole world
if he could! How any man can come to fool himself so thoroughly as that
man does, is a mystery to me!--I wonder what the rector's driving into
Glaston for on a Saturday."
Paul Faber was a man who had espoused the cause of science with all the
energy of a suppressed poetic nature. He had such a horror of all kinds
of intellectual deception or mistake, that he would rather run the risk
of rejecting any number of truths than of accepting one error. In this
spirit he had concluded that, as no immediate communication had ever
reached his eye, or ear, or hand from any creator of men, he had no
ground for believing in the existence of such a creator; while a
thousand unfitnesses evident in the world, rendered the existence of one
perfectly wise and good and powerful, absolutely impossible. If one said
to him that he believed thousands of things he had never himself known,
he answered he did so upon testimony. If one rejoined that here too we
have testimony, he replied it was not credible testimony, but founded on
such experiences as he was justified in considering imaginary, seeing
they were like none he had ever had himself. When he was asked whether,
while he yet believed there was such a being as his mother told him of,
he had ever set himself to act upon that belief, he asserted himself
fortunate in the omission of what might have riveted on him the fetters
of a degrading faith. For years he had turned his face toward all
speculation favoring the non-existence of a creating Will, his back
toward all tending to show that such a one might be. Argument on the
latter side he set down as born of prejudice, and appealing to weakness;
on the other, as springing from courage, and appealing to honesty. He
had never put it to himself which would be the worse deception--to
believe there was a God when there was none; or to believe there was no
God when there was one.
He had, however, a large share of the lower but equally indispensable
half of religion--that, namely, which has respect to one's fellows. Not
a man in Glaston was readier, by day or by night, to run to the help of
another, and that not merely in his professional capacity, but as a
neighbor, whatever the sort of help was needed.
Thomas Wingfold, the curate, had a great respect for him. Having himself
passed through many phases of serious, and therefore painful doubt, he
was not as much shocked by the surgeon's unbelief as some whose real
faith was even less than Faber's; but he seldom laid himself out to
answer his objections. He sought rather, but as yet apparently in vain,
to cause the roots of those very objections to strike into, and thus
disclose to the man himself, the deeper strata of his being. This might
indeed at first only render him the more earnest in his denials, but at
length it would probably rouse in him that spiritual nature to which
alone such questions really belong, and which alone is capable of coping
with them. The first notable result, however, of the surgeon's
intercourse with the curate was, that, whereas he had till then kept his
opinions to himself in the presence of those who did not sympathize with
them, he now uttered his disbelief with such plainness as I have shown
him using toward the rector. This did not come of aggravated antagonism,
but of admiration of the curate's openness in the presentment of truths
which must be unacceptable to the majority of his congregation.
There had arisen therefore betwixt the doctor and the curate a certain
sort of intimacy, which had at length come to the rector's ears. He had,
no doubt, before this heard many complaints against the latter, but he
had laughed them aside. No theologian himself, he had found the
questions hitherto raised in respect of Wingfold's teaching, altogether
beyond the pale of his interest. He could not comprehend why people
should not content themselves with being good Christians, minding their
own affairs, going to church, and so feeling safe for the next world.
What did opinion matter as long as they were good Christians? He did not
exactly know what he believed himself, but he hoped he was none the less
of a Christian for that! Was it not enough to hold fast whatever lay in
the apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian creed, without splitting
metaphysical hairs with your neighbor? But was it decent that his curate
should be hand and glove with one who denied the existence of God? He
did not for a moment doubt the faith of Wingfold; but a man must have
some respect for appearances: appearances were facts as well as
realities were facts. An honest man must not keep company with a thief,
if he would escape the judgment of being of thievish kind. Something
must be done; probably something said would be enough, and the rector
was now on his way to say it.
THE MINISTER'S DOOR.
Every body knew Mr. Faber, whether he rode Ruber or Niger--Rubber and
Nigger, his groom called them--and many were the greetings that met him
as he passed along Pine Street, for, despite the brand of his atheism,
he was popular. The few ladies out shopping bowed graciously, for both
his manners and person were pleasing, and his professional attentions
were unexceptionable. When he dropped into a quick walk, to let Ruber
cool a little ere he reached his stall, he was several times accosted
and detained. The last who addressed him was Mr. Drew, the principal
draper of the town. He had been standing for some time in his shop-door,
but as Faber was about to turn the corner, he stepped out on the
pavement, and the doctor checked his horse in the gutter.
"I wish you would look in upon Mr. Drake, sir," he said. "I am quite
uneasy about him. Indeed I am sure he must be in a bad way, though he
won't allow it. He's not an easy man to do any thing for, but just you
let me know what _can_ be done for him--and we'll contrive. A _nod_, you
know, doctor, etc."
"I don't well see how I can," returned Faber. "To call now without being
sent for, when I never called before!--No, Mr. Drew, I don't think I
It was a lovely spring noon. The rain that had fallen heavily during the
night lay in flashing pools that filled the street with suns. Here and
there were little gardens before the houses, and the bushes in them were
hung with bright drops, so bright that the rain seemed to have fallen
from the sun himself, not from the clouds.
"Why, goodness gracious!" cried the draper, "here's your excuse come
Under the very nose of the doctor's great horse stood a little
woman-child, staring straight up at the huge red head above her. Now
Ruber was not quite gentle, and it was with some dismay that his master,
although the animal showed no offense at the glowering little thing,
pulled him back a step or two with the curb, the thought darting through
him how easily with one pash of his mighty hoof the horse could
annihilate a mirrored universe.
"Where from?" he asked, by what he would himself have called a
"From somewhere they say you don't believe in, doctor," answered the
draper. "It's little Amanda, the minister's own darling--Naughty little
dear!" he continued, his round good-humored face wrinkled all over with
smiles, as he caught up the truant, "what ever do you mean by splashing
through every gutter between home and here, making a little drab of
yourself? Why your frock is as wet as a dish-clout!--_and_ your shoes!
The little one answered only by patting his cheeks, which in shape much
resembled her own, with her little fat puds, as if she had been beating
a drum, while Faber looked down amused and interested.
"Here, doctor!" the draper went on, "you take the little mischief on the
saddle before you, and carry her home: that will be your excuse."
As he spoke he held up the child to him. Faber took her, and sitting as
far back in the saddle as he could, set her upon the pommel. She
screwed up her eyes, and grinned with delight, spreading her mouth wide,
and showing an incredible number of daintiest little teeth. When Ruber
began to move she shrieked in her ecstasy.
Holding his horse to a walk, the doctor crossed the main street and went
down a side one toward the river, whence again he entered a narrow lane.
There with the handle of his whip he managed to ring the door-bell of a
little old-fashioned house which rose immediately from the lane without
even a footpath between. The door was opened by a lady-like young
woman, with smooth soft brown hair, a white forehead, and serious,
rather troubled eyes.
"Aunty! aunty!" cried the child, "Ducky 'iding!"
Miss Drake looked a little surprised. The doctor lifted his hat. She
gravely returned his greeting and stretched up her arms to take the
child. But she drew back, nestling against Faber.
"Amanda! come, dear," said Miss Drake. "How kind of Dr. Faber to bring
you home! I'm afraid you've been a naughty child again--running out into
"Such a g'eat 'ide!" cried Amanda, heedless of reproof. "A yeal
She spread her arms wide, in indication of the vastness of the upbearing
body whereon she sat. But still she leaned back against the doctor, and
he awaited the result in amused silence. Again her aunt raised her hands
to take her.
"Mo' 'yide!" cried the child, looking up backward, to find Faber's eyes.
But her aunt caught her by the feet, and amid struggling and laughter
drew her down, and held her in her arms.
"I hope your father is pretty well, Miss Drake," said the doctor,
wasting no time in needless explanation.
"Ducky," said the girl, setting down the child, "go and tell grandpapa
how kind Dr. Faber has been to you. Tell him he is at the door." Then
turning to Faber, "I am sorry to say he does not seem at all well," she
answered him. "He has had a good deal of annoyance lately, and at his
age that sort of thing tells."
As she spoke she looked up at the doctor, full in his face, but with a
curious quaver in her eyes. Nor was it any wonder she should look at him
strangely, for she felt toward him very strangely: to her he was as it
were the apostle of a kakangel, the prophet of a doctrine that was
evil, yet perhaps was a truth. Terrible doubts had for some time been
assailing her--doubts which she could in part trace to him, and as he
sat there on Ruber, he looked like a beautiful evil angel, who _knew_
there was no God--an evil angel whom the curate, by his bold speech, had
raised, and could not banish.
The surgeon had scarcely begun a reply, when the old minister made his
appearance. He was a tall, well-built man, with strong features, rather
handsome than otherwise; but his hat hung on his occiput, gave his head
a look of weakness and oddity that by nature did not belong to it, while
baggy, ill-made clothes and big shoes manifested a reaction from the
over-trimness of earlier years. He greeted the doctor with a severe
"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Faber," he said, "for bringing me home my
little runaway. Where did you find her?"
"Under my horse's head, like the temple between the paws of the Sphinx,"
answered Faber, speaking a parable without knowing it.
"She is a fearless little damsel," said the minister, in a husky voice
that had once rung clear as a bell over crowded congregations--"too
fearless at times. But the very ignorance of danger seems the panoply of
childhood. And indeed who knows in the midst of what evils we all walk
that never touch us!"
"A Solon of platitudes!" said the doctor to himself.
"She has been in the river once, and almost twice," Mr. Drake went on.
"--I shall have to tie you with a string, pussie! Come away from the
horse. What if he should take to stroking you? I am afraid you would
find his hands both hard and heavy."
"How do you stand this trying spring weather, Mr. Drake? I don't hear
the best accounts of you," said the surgeon, drawing Ruber a pace back
from the door.
"I am as well as at my age I can perhaps expect to be," answered the
minister. "I am getting old--and--and--we all have our troubles, and, I
trust, our God also, to set them right for us," he added, with a
suggesting look in the face of the doctor.
"By Jove!" said Faber to himself, "the spring weather has roused the
worshiping instinct! The clergy are awake to-day! I had better look out,
or it will soon be too hot for me."
"I can't look you in the face, doctor," resumed the old man after a
pause, "and believe what people say of you. It can't be that you don't
even believe there _is_ a God?"
Faber would rather have said nothing; but his integrity he must keep
fast hold of, or perish in his own esteem.
"If there be one," he replied, "I only state a fact when I say He has
never given me ground sufficient to think so. You say yourselves He has
favorites to whom He reveals Himself: I am not one of them, and must
therefore of necessity be an unbeliever."
"But think, Mr. Faber--if there should be a God, what an insult it is to
deny Him existence."
"I can't see it," returned the surgeon, suppressing a laugh. "If there
be such a one, would He not have me speak the truth? Anyhow, what great
matter can it be to Him that one should say he has never seen Him, and
can't therefore believe He is to be seen? A god should be above that
sort of pride."
The minister was too much shocked to find any answer beyond a sad
reproving shake of the head. But he felt almost as if the hearing of
such irreverence without withering retort, made him a party to the sin
against the Holy Ghost. Was he not now conferring with one of the
generals of the army of Antichrist? Ought he not to turn his back upon
him, and walk into the house? But a surge of concern for the frank young
fellow who sat so strong and alive upon the great horse, broke over his
heart, and he looked up at him pitifully.
Faber mistook the cause and object of his evident emotion.
"Come now, Mr. Drake, be frank with me," he said. "You are out of
health; let me know what is the matter. Though I'm not religious, I'm
not a humbug, and only speak the truth when I say I should be glad to
serve you. A man must be neighborly, or what is there left of him? Even
you will allow that our duty to our neighbor is half the law, and there
is some help in medicine, though I confess it is no science yet, and we
are but dabblers."
"But," said Mr. Drake, "I don't choose to accept the help of one who
looks upon all who think with me as a set of humbugs, and regards those
who deny every thing as the only honest men."
"By Jove! sir, I take you for an honest man, or I should never trouble
my head about you. What I say of such as you is, that, having inherited
a lot of humbug, you don't know it for such, and do the best you can
"If such is your opinion of me--and I have no right to complain of it in
my own person--I should just like to ask you one question about
another," said Mr. Drake: "Do you in your heart believe that Jesus
Christ was an impostor?"
"I believe, if the story about him be true, that he was a well-meaning
man, enormously self-deceived."
"Your judgment seems to me enormously illogical. That any ordinarily
good man should so deceive himself, appears to my mind altogether
impossible and incredible."
"Ah! but he was an extraordinarily good man."
"Therefore the more likely to think too much of himself?"
"Why not? I see the same thing in his followers all about me."
"Doubtless the servant shall be as his master," said the minister, and
closed his mouth, resolved to speak no more. But his conscience woke,
and goaded him with the truth that had come from the mouth of its
enemy--the reproach his disciples brought upon their master, for, in the
judgment of the world, the master is as his disciples.
"You Christians," the doctor went on, "seem to me to make yourselves,
most unnecessarily, the slaves of a fancied ideal. I have no such ideal
to contemplate; yet I am not aware that you do better by each other than
I am ready to do for any man. I can't pretend to love every body, but I
do my best for those I can help. Mr. Drake, I would gladly serve you."
The old man said nothing. His mood was stormy. Would he accept life
itself from the hand of him who denied his Master?--seek to the powers
of darkness for cure?--kneel to Antichrist for favor, as if he and not
Jesus were lord of life and death? Would _he_ pray a man to whom the
Bible was no better than a book of ballads, to come betwixt him and the
evils of growing age and disappointment, to lighten for him the
grasshopper, and stay the mourners as they went about his streets! He
had half turned, and was on the point of walking silent into the house,
when he bethought himself of the impression it would make on the
unbeliever, if he were thus to meet the offer of his kindness. Half
turned, he stood hesitating.
"I have a passion for therapeutics," persisted the doctor; "and if I
can do any thing to ease the yoke upon the shoulders of my fellows--"
Mr. Drake did not hear the end of the sentence: he heard instead,
somewhere in his soul, a voice saying, "My yoke is easy, and my burden
is light." He _could_ not let Faber help him.
"Doctor, you have the great gift of a kind heart," he began, still half
turned from him.
"My heart is like other people's," interrupted Faber. "If a man wants
help, and I've got it, what more natural than that we should come
There was in the doctor an opposition to every thing that had if it were
but the odor of religion about it, which might well have suggested doubt
of his own doubt, and weakness buttressing itself with assertion But the
case was not so. What untruth there was in him was of another and more
subtle kind. Neither must it be supposed that he was a propagandist, a
proselytizer. Say nothing, and the doctor said nothing. Fire but a
saloon pistol, however, and off went a great gun in answer--with no
bravado, for the doctor was a gentleman.
"Mr. Faber," said the minister, now turning toward him, and looking him
full in the face, "if you had a friend whom you loved with all your
heart, would you be under obligation to a man who counted your
friendship a folly?"
"The cases are not parallel. Say the man merely did not believe your
friend was alive, and there could be no insult to either."
"If the denial of his being in life, opened the door to the greatest
wrongs that could be done him--and if that denial seemed to me to have
its source in some element of moral antagonism to him--_could_ I
accept--I put it to yourself, Mr. Faber--_could_ I accept assistance
from that man? Do not take it ill. You prize honesty; so do I: ten times
rather would I cease to live than accept life at the hand of an enemy to
my Lord and Master."
"I am very sorry, Mr. Drake," said the doctor; "but from your point of
view I suppose you are right. Good morning."
He turned Ruber from the minister's door, went off quickly, and entered
his own stable-yard just as the rector's carriage appeared at the
further end of the street.
THE MANOR HOUSE.
Mr. Bevis drove up to the inn, threw the reins to his coachman, got
down, and helped his wife out of the carriage. Then they parted, she to
take her gift of flowers and butter to her poor relation, he to call
upon Mrs. Ramshorn.
That lady, being, as every body knew, the widow of a dean, considered
herself the chief ecclesiastical authority in Glaston. Her acknowledged
friends would, if pressed, have found themselves compelled to admit that
her theology was both scanty and confused, that her influence was not of
the most elevating nature, and that those who doubted her personal piety
might have something to say in excuse of their uncharitableness; but she
spoke in the might of the matrimonial nimbus around her head, and her
claims were undisputed in Glaston. There was a propriety, springing from
quite another source, however, in the rector's turning his footsteps
first toward the Manor House, where she resided. For his curate, whom
his business in Glaston that Saturday concerned, had, some nine or ten
months before, married Mrs. Ramshorn's niece, Helen Lingard by name, who
for many years had lived with her aunt, adding, if not to the comforts
of the housekeeping, for Mrs. Ramshorn was plentifully enough provided
for the remnant of her abode in this world, yet considerably to the
style of her menage. Therefore, when all of a sudden, as it seemed, the
girl calmly insisted on marrying the curate, a man obnoxious to every
fiber of her aunt's ecclesiastical nature, and transferring to him, with
a most unrighteous scorn of marriage-settlements, the entire property
inherited from her father and brother, the disappointment of Mrs.
Ramshorn in her niece was equaled only by her disgust at the object of
With a firm, dignified step, as if he measured the distance, the rector
paced the pavement between the inn and the Manor House. He knew of no
cause for the veiling of an eyelash before human being. It was true he
had closed his eyes to certain faults in the man of good estate and old
name who had done him the honor of requesting the hand of his one
child, and, leaving her to judge for herself, had not given her the
knowledge which might have led her to another conclusion; it had
satisfied him that the man's wild oats were sown: after the crop he made
no inquiry. It was also true that he had not mentioned a certain vice in
the last horse he sold; but then he hoped the severe measures taken had
cured him. He was aware that at times he took a few glasses of port more
than he would have judged it proper to carry to the pulpit or the
communion table, for those he counted the presence of his Maker; but
there was a time for every thing. He was conscious to himself, I repeat,
of nothing to cause him shame, and in the tramp of his boots there was
certainly no self-abasement. It was true he performed next to none of
the duties of the rectorship--but then neither did he turn any of its
income to his own uses; part he paid his curate, and the rest he laid
out on the church, which might easily have consumed six times the amount
in desirable, if not absolutely needful repairs. What further question
could be made of the matter? the church had her work done, and one of
her most precious buildings preserved from ruin to the bargain. How
indignant he would have been at the suggestion that he was after all
only an idolater, worshiping what he called _The Church_, instead of the
Lord Christ, the heart-inhabiting, world-ruling king of heaven! But he
was a very good sort of idolater, and some of the Christian graces had
filtered through the roofs of the temple upon him--eminently those of
hospitality and general humanity--even uprightness so far as his light
extended; so that he did less to obstruct the religion he thought he
furthered, than some men who preach it as on the house-tops.
It was from policy, not from confidence in Mrs. Ramshorn, that he went
to her first. He liked his curate, and every one knew she hated him. If,
of any thing he did, two interpretations were possible--one good, and
one bad, there was no room for a doubt as to which she would adopt and
publish. Not even to herself, however, did she allow that one chief
cause of her hatred was, that, having all her life been used to a pair
of horses, she had now to put up with only a brougham.
To the brass knocker on her door, the rector applied himself, and sent a
confident announcement of his presence through the house. Almost
instantly the long-faced butler, half undertaker, half parish-clerk,
opened the door; and seeing the rector, drew it wide to the wall,
inviting him to step into the library, as he had no doubt Mrs. Ramshorn
would be at home to _him_. Nor was it long ere she appeared, in rather
youthful morning dress, and gave him a hearty welcome; after which, by
no very wide spirals of descent, the talk swooped presently upon the
"The fact is," at length said the memorial shadow of the dean deceased,
"Mr. Wingfold is not a gentleman. It grieves me to say so of the husband
of my niece, who has been to me as my own child, but the truth must be
spoken. It may be difficult to keep such men out of holy orders, but if
ever the benefices of the church come to be freely bestowed upon them,
that moment the death-bell of religion is rung in England. My late
husband said so. While such men keep to barns and conventicles we can
despise them, but when they creep into the fold, then there is just
cause for alarm. The longer I live, the better I see my poor husband was
"I should scarcely have thought such a man as you describe could have
captivated Helen," said the rector with a smile.
"Depend upon it she perceives her mistake well enough by this time,"
returned Mrs. Ramshorn. "A lady born and bred _must_ make the discovery
before a week is over. But poor Helen always was headstrong! And in this
out-of-the-world place she saw so little of gentlemen!"
The rector could not help thinking birth and breeding must go for little
indeed, if nothing less than marriage could reveal to a lady that a man
was not a gentleman.
"Nobody knows," continued Mrs. Ramshorn, "who or what his father--not to
say his grandfather, was! But would you believe it! when I asked her
_who_ the man was, having a right to information concerning the person
she was about to connect with the family, she told me she had never
thought of inquiring. I pressed it upon her as a duty she owed to
society; she told me she was content with the man himself, and was not
going to ask him about his family. She would wait till they were
married! Actually, on my word as a lady, she said so, Mr. Bevis! What
could I do? She was of age, and independent fortune. And as to
gratitude, I know the ways of the world too well to look for that."
"We old ones"--Mrs. Ramshorn bridled a little: she was only
fifty-seven!--"have had our turn, and theirs is come," said the rector
"And a pretty mess they are like to make of it!--what with infidelity
and blasphemy--I must say it--blasphemy!--Really you must do something,
Mr. Bevis. Things have arrived at such a pass that, I give you my word,
reflections not a few are made upon the rector for committing his flock
to the care of such a wolf--a fox _I_ call him."
"To-morrow I shall hear him preach," said the parson.
"Then I sincerely trust no one will give him warning of your intention:
he is so clever, he would throw dust in any body's eyes."
The rector laughed. He had no overweening estimate of his own abilities,
but he did pride himself a little on his common sense.
"But," the lady went on, "in a place like this, where every body talks,
I fear the chance is small against his hearing of your arrival. Anyhow I
would not have you trust to one sermon. He will say just the opposite
the next. He contradicts himself incredibly. Even in the same sermon I
have heard him say things diametrically opposite."
"He can not have gone so far as to advocate the real presence: a rumor
of that has reached me," said the rector.
"There it is!" cried Mrs. Ramshorn. "If you had asked me, I should have
said he insisted the holy eucharist meant neither more nor less than any
other meal to which some said a grace. The man has not an atom of
consistency in his nature. He will say and unsay as fast as one sentence
can follow the other, and if you tax him with it, he will support both
sides: at least, that is my experience with him. I speak as I find him."
"What then would you have me do?" said the rector. "The straightforward
way would doubtless be to go to him."
"You would, I fear, gain nothing by that. He is so specious! The only
safe way is to dismiss him without giving a reason. Otherwise, he will
certainly prove you in the wrong. Don't take my word. Get the opinion of
your church-wardens. Every body knows he has made an atheist of poor
Faber. It is sadder than I have words to say. He _was_ such a
The rector took his departure, and made a series of calls upon those he
judged the most influential of the congregation. He did not think to ask
for what they were influential, or why he should go to them rather than
the people of the alms-house. What he heard embarrassed him not a
little. His friends spoke highly of Wingfold, his enemies otherwise: the
character of his friends his judge did not attempt to weigh with that of
his enemies, neither did he attempt to discover why these were his
enemies and those his friends. No more did he make the observation,
that, while his enemies differed in the things they said against him,
his friends agreed in those they said for him; the fact being, that
those who did as he roused their conscience to see they ought, more or
less understood the man and his aims; while those who would not submit
to the authority he brought to bear upon them, and yet tried to measure
and explain him after the standards of their own being and endeavors,
failed ludicrously. The church-wardens told him that, ever since he
came, the curate had done nothing but set the congregation by the ears;
and that he could not fail to receive as a weighty charge. But they told
him also that some of the principal dissenters declared him to be a
fountain of life in the place--and that seemed to him to involve the
worst accusation of all. For, without going so far as to hold, or even
say without meaning it, that dissenters ought to be burned, Mr. Bevis
regarded it as one of the first of merits, that a man should be a _good
The curate had been in the study all the morning. Three times had his
wife softly turned the handle of his door, but finding it locked, had
re-turned the handle yet more softly, and departed noiselessly. Next
time she knocked--and he came to her pale-eyed, but his face almost
luminous, and a smile hovering about his lips: she knew then that either
a battle had been fought amongst the hills, and he had won, or a
thought-storm had been raging, through which at length had descended the
meek-eyed Peace. She looked in his face for a moment with silent
reverence, then offered her lips, took him by the hand, and, without a
word, led him down the stair to their mid-day meal. When that was over,
she made him lie down, and taking a novel, read him asleep. She woke him
to an early tea--not, however, after it, to return to his study: in the
drawing-room, beside his wife, he always got the germ of his
discourse--his germon, he called it--ready for its growth in the pulpit.
Now he lay on the couch, now rose and stood, now walked about the room,
now threw himself again on the couch; while, all the time his wife
played softly on her piano, extemporizing and interweaving, with an
invention, taste, and expression, of which before her marriage she had
been quite incapable.
The text in his mind was, "_Ye can not serve God and Mammon_." But not
once did he speak to his wife about it. He did not even tell her what
his text was. Long ago he had given her to understand that he could not
part with her as one of his congregation--could not therefore take her
into his sermon before he met her in her hearing phase in church, with
the rows of pews and faces betwixt him and her, making her once more one
of his flock, the same into whose heart he had so often agonized to pour
the words of rousing, of strength, of consolation.
On the Saturday, except his wife saw good reason, she would let no one
trouble him, and almost the sole reason she counted good was trouble: if
a person was troubled, then he might trouble. His friends knew this, and
seldom came near him on a Saturday. But that evening, Mr. Drew, the
draper, who, although a dissenter, was one of the curate's warmest
friends, called late, when, he thought in his way of looking at sermons,
that for the morrow must be now finished, and laid aside like a parcel
for delivery the next morning. Helen went to him. He told her the rector
was in the town, had called upon not a few of his parishioners, and
doubtless was going to church in the morning.
"Thank you, Mr. Drew. I perfectly understand your kindness," said Mrs.
Wingfold, "but I shall not tell my husband to-night."
"Excuse the liberty, ma'am, but--but--do you think it well for a wife to
hide things from her husband?"
Helen laughed merrily.
"Assuredly not, as a rule," she replied. "But suppose I knew he would be
vexed with me if I told him some particular thing? Suppose I know now
that, when I do tell him on Monday, he will say to me, 'Thank you, wife.
I am glad you kept that from me till I had done my work,'--what then?"
"All right _then_," answered the draper.
You see, Mr. Drew, we think married people should be so sure of each
other that each should not only be content, but should prefer not to
know what the other thinks it better not to tell. If my husband
overheard any one calling me names, I don't think he would tell me. He
knows, as well as I do, that I am not yet good enough to behave better
to any one for knowing she hates and reviles me. It would be but to
propagate the evil, and for my part too, I would rather not be told."
"I quite understand you, ma'am," answered the draper.
"I know you do," returned Helen, with emphasis.
Mr. Drew blushed to the top of his white forehead, while the lower part
of his face, which in its forms was insignificant, blossomed into a
smile as radiant as that of an infant. He knew Mrs. Wingfold was aware
of the fact, known only to two or three beside in the town, that the
lady, who for the last few months had been lodging in his house, was his
own wife, who had forsaken him twenty years before. The man who during
that time had passed for her husband, had been otherwise dishonest as
well, and had fled the country; she and her daughter, brought to
absolute want, were received into his house by her forsaken husband;
there they occupied the same chamber, the mother ordered every thing,
and the daughter did not know that she paid for nothing. If the ways of
transgressors are hard, those of a righteous man are not always easy.
When Mr. Drew would now and then stop suddenly in the street, take off
his hat and wipe his forehead, little people thought the round smiling
face had such a secret behind it. Had they surmised a skeleton in his
house, they would as little have suspected it masked in the handsome,
well-dressed woman of little over forty, who, with her pretty daughter
so tossy and airy, occupied his first floor, and was supposed to pay him
handsomely for it.
The curate slept soundly, and woke in the morning eager to utter what he
THE ROAD TO OWLKIRK.
Paul Faber fared otherwise. Hardly was he in bed before he was called
out of it again. A messenger had come from Mrs. Puckridge to say that
Miss Meredith was worse, and if the doctor did not start at once, she
would be dead before he reached Owlkirk. He sent orders to his groom to
saddle Niger and bring him round instantly, and hurried on his clothes,
vexed that he had taken Ruber both in the morning and afternoon, and
could not have him now. But Niger was a good horse also: if he was but
two-thirds of Ruber's size, he was but one-third of his age, and saw
better at night. On the other hand he was less easily seen, but the
midnight there was so still and deserted, that that was of small
consequence. In a few minutes they were out together in a lane as dark
as pitch, compelled now to keep to the roads, for there was not light
enough to see the pocket-compass by which the surgeon sometimes steered
Could we learn what waking-dreams haunted the boyhood of a man, we
should have a rare help toward understanding the character he has
developed. Those of the young Faber were, almost exclusively, of playing
the prince of help and deliverance among women and men. Like most boys
that dream, he dreamed himself rich and powerful, but the wealth and
power were for the good of his fellow-creatures. If it must be confessed
that he lingered most over the thanks and admiration he set to haunt his
dream-steps, and hover about his dream-person, it must be remembered
that he was the only real person in the dreams, and that he regarded
lovingly the mere shadows of his fellow-men. His dreams were not of
strength and destruction, but of influence and life. Even his revenges
never-reached further than the making of his enemies ashamed.
It was the spirit of help, then, that had urged him into the profession
he followed. He had found much dirt about the door of it, and had not
been able to cross the threshold without some cleaving to his garments.
He is a high-souled youth indeed, in whom the low regards and corrupt
knowledge of his superiors will fail utterly of degrading influence; he
must be one stronger than Faber who can listen to scoffing materialism
from the lips of authority and experience, and not come to look upon
humanity and life with a less reverent regard. What man can learn to
look upon the dying as so much matter about to be rekneaded and
remodeled into a fresh mass of feverous joys, futile aspirations, and
stinging chagrins, without a self-contempt from which there is no
shelter but the poor hope that we may be a little better than we appear
to ourselves. But Faber escaped the worst. He did not learn to look on
humanity without respect, or to meet the stare of appealing eyes from
man or animal, without genuine response--without sympathy. He never
joined in any jest over suffering, not to say betted on the chance of
the man who lay panting under the terrors of an impending operation. Can
one be capable of such things, and not have sunk deep indeed in the
putrid pit of decomposing humanity? It is true that before he began to
practice, Faber had come to regard man as a body and not an embodiment,
the highest in him as dependent on his physical organization--as indeed
but the aroma, as it were, of its blossom the brain, therefore subject
to _all_ the vicissitudes of the human plant from which it rises; but he
had been touched to issues too fine to be absolutely interpenetrated and
inslaved by the reaction of accepted theories. His poetic nature, like
the indwelling fire of the world, was ever ready to play havoc with
induration and constriction, and the same moment when degrading
influences ceased to operate, the delicacy of his feeling began to
revive. Even at its lowest, this delicacy preserved him from much into
which vulgar natures plunge; it kept alive the memory of a lovely
mother; and fed the flame of that wondering, worshiping reverence for
women which is the saviour of men until the Truth Himself saves both. A
few years of worthy labor in his profession had done much to develop
him, and his character for uprightness, benevolence, and skill, with the
people of Glaston and its neighborhood, where he had been ministering
only about a year, was already of the highest. Even now, when, in a
fever of honesty, he declared there _could_ be no God in such an
ill-ordered world, so full was his heart of the human half of religion,
that he could not stand by the bedside of dying man or woman, without
lamenting that there was no consolation--that stern truth would allow
him to cast no feeblest glamour of hope upon the departing shadow. His
was a nobler nature than theirs who, believing no more than he, are
satisfied with the assurance that at the heart of the evils of the world
lie laws unchangeable.
The main weak point in him was, that, while he was indeed
tender-hearted, and did no kindnesses to be seen of men, he did them to
be seen of himself: he saw him who did them all the time. The boy was in
the man; doing his deeds he sought, not the approbation merely, but the
admiration of his own consciousness. I am afraid to say this was
_wrong_, but it was poor and childish, crippled his walk, and obstructed
his higher development. He liked to _know_ himself a benefactor. Such a
man may well be of noble nature, but he is a mere dabbler in nobility.
Faber delighted in the thought that, having repudiated all motives of
personal interest involved in religious belief, all that regard for the
future, with its rewards and punishments, which, in his ignorance,
genuine or willful, of essential Christianity, he took for its main
potence, he ministered to his neighbor, doing to him as he would have
him do to himself, hopeless of any divine recognition, of any betterness
beyond the grave, in a fashion at least as noble as that of the most
devoted of Christians. It did not occur to him to ask if he loved him as
well--if his care about him was equal to his satisfaction in himself.
Neither did he reflect that the devotion he admired in himself had been
brought to the birth in him through others, in whom it was first
generated by a fast belief in an unselfish, loving, self-devoting God.
Had he inquired he might have discovered that this belief had carried
some men immeasurably further in the help of their fellows, than he had
yet gone. Indeed he might, I think, have found instances of men of faith
spending their lives for their fellows, whose defective theology or
diseased humility would not allow them to hope their own salvation.
Inquiry might have given him ground for fearing that with the love of
the _imagined_ God, the love of the indubitable man would decay and
vanish. But such as Faber was, he was both loved and honored by all whom
he had ever attended; and, with his fine tastes, his genial nature, his
quiet conscience, his good health, his enjoyment of life, his knowledge
and love of his profession, his activity, his tender heart--especially
to women and children, his keen intellect, and his devising though not
embodying imagination, if any man could get on without a God, Faber was
that man. He was now trying it, and as yet the trial had cost him no
effort: he seemed to himself to be doing very well indeed. And why
should he not do as well as the thousands, who counting themselves
religious people, get through the business of the hour, the day, the
week, the year, without one reference in any thing they do or abstain
from doing, to the will of God, or the words of Christ? If he was more
helpful to his fellows than they, he fared better; for actions in
themselves good, however imperfect the motives that give rise to them,
react blissfully upon character and nature. It is better to be an
atheist who does the will of God, than a so-called Christian who does
not. The atheist will not be dismissed because he said _Lord, Lord,_ and
did not obey. The thing that God loves is the only lovely thing, and he
who does it, does well, and is upon the way to discover that he does it
very badly. When he comes to do it as the will of the perfect Good, then
is he on the road to do it perfectly--that is, from love of its own
inherent self-constituted goodness, born in the heart of the Perfect.
The doing of things from duty is but a stage on the road to the kingdom
of truth and love. Not the less must the stage be journeyed; every path
diverging from it is "the flowery way that leads to the broad gate and
the great fire."
It was with more than his usual zeal of helpfulness that Faber was now
riding toward Owlkirk, to revisit his new patient. Could he have
mistaken the symptoms of her attack?
Mrs. Puckridge was anxiously awaiting the doctor's arrival. She stood by
the bedside of her lodger, miserable in her ignorance and consequent
helplessness. The lady tossed and moaned, but for very pain could
neither toss nor moan much, and breathed--panted, rather--very quick.
Her color was white more than pale, and now and then she shivered from
head to foot, but her eyes burned. Mrs. Puckridge kept bringing her hot
flannels, and stood talking between the changes.
"I wish the doctor would come!--Them doctors!--I hope to goodness Dr.
Faber wasn't out when the boy got to Glaston. Every body in this mortal
universe always is out when he's wanted: that's _my_ experience. You
ain't so old as me, miss. And Dr. Faber, you see, miss, he be such a
favorite as _have_ to go out to his dinner not unfrequent. They may have
to send miles to fetch him."
She talked in the vain hope of distracting the poor lady's attention
from her suffering.
It was a little up stairs cottage-room, the corners betwixt the ceiling
and the walls cut off by the slope of the roof. So dark was the night,
that, when Mrs. Puckridge carried the candle out of the room, the
unshaded dormer window did not show itself even by a bluish glimmer. But
light and dark were alike to her who lay in the little tent-bed, in the
midst of whose white curtains, white coverlid, and white pillows, her
large eyes, black as human eyes could ever be, were like wells of
darkness throwing out flashes of strange light. Her hair too was dark,
brown-black, of great plenty, and so fine that it seemed to go off in a
mist on the whiteness. It had been her custom to throw it over the back
of her bed, but in this old-fashioned one that was impossible, and it
lay, in loveliest confusion, scattered here and there over pillow and
coverlid, as if the wind had been tossing it all a long night at his
will. Some of it had strayed more than half way to the foot of the bed.
Her face, distorted almost though it was with distress, showed yet a
regularity of feature rarely to be seen in combination with such evident
power of expression. Suffering had not yet flattened the delicate
roundness of her cheek, or sharpened the angles of her chin. In her
whiteness, and her constrained, pang-thwarted motions from side to side,
she looked like a form of marble in the agonies of coming to life at the
prayer of some Pygmalion. In throwing out her arms, she had flung back
the bedclothes, and her daintily embroidered night-gown revealed a
rather large, grand throat, of the same rare whiteness. Her hands were
perfect--every finger and every nail--
Those fine nimble brethren small,
Armed with pearl-shell helmets all.
[Footnote 1: _Joshua Sylvester._ I suspect the word ought to be _five_,
not _fine_, as my copy (1613) has it.]
When Mrs. Puckridge came into the room, she always set her candle on
the sill of the storm-window: it was there, happily, when the doctor
drew near the village, and it guided him to the cottage-gate. He
fastened Niger to the gate, crossed the little garden, gently lifted the
door-latch, and ascended the stair. He found the door of the chamber
open, signed to Mrs. Puckridge to be still, softly approached the bed,
and stood gazing in silence on the sufferer, who lay at the moment
apparently unconscious. But suddenly, as if she had become aware of a
presence, she flashed wide her great eyes, and the pitiful entreaty that
came into them when she saw him, went straight to his heart. Faber felt
more for the sufferings of some of the lower animals than for certain of
his patients; but children and women he would serve like a slave. The
dumb appeal of her eyes almost unmanned him.
"I am sorry to see you so ill," he said, as he took her wrist. "You are
in pain: where?"
Her other hand moved toward her side in reply. Every thing indicated
pleurisy--such that there was no longer room for gentle measures. She
must be relieved at once: he must open a vein. In the changed practice
of later days, it had seldom fallen to the lot of Faber to perform the
very simple operation of venesection, but that had little to do with the
trembling of the hands which annoyed him with himself, when he proceeded
to undo a sleeve of his patient's nightdress. Finding no button, he took
a pair of scissors from his pocket, cut ruthlessly through linen and
lace, and rolled back the sleeve. It disclosed an arm the sight of which
would have made a sculptor rejoice as over some marbles of old Greece. I
can not describe it, and if I could, for very love and reverence I would
rather let it alone. Faber felt his heart rise in his throat at the
necessity of breaking that exquisite surface with even such an
insignificant breach and blemish as the shining steel betwixt his
forefinger and thumb must occasion. But a slight tremble of the hand he
held acknowledged the intruding sharpness, and then the red parabola
rose from the golden bowl. He stroked the lovely arm to help its flow,
and soon the girl once more opened her eyes and looked at him. Already
her breathing was easier. But presently her eyes began to glaze with
approaching faintness, and he put his thumb on the wound. She smiled and
closed them. He bound up her arm, laid it gently by her side, gave her
something to drink, and sat down. He sat until he saw her sunk in a
quiet, gentle sleep: ease had dethroned pain, and order had begun to
dawn out of threatened chaos.
"Thank God!" he said, involuntarily, and stood up: what all that meant,
God only knows.
After various directions to Mrs. Puckridge, to which she seemed to
attend, but which, being as simple as necessary, I fear she forgot the
moment they were uttered, the doctor mounted, and rode away. The
darkness was gone, for the moon was rising, but when the road compelled
him to face her, she blinded him nearly as much. Slowly she rose through
a sky freckled with wavelets of cloud, and as she crept up amongst them
she brought them all out, in bluish, pearly, and opaline gray. Then,
suddenly almost, as it seemed, she left them, and walked up aloft,
drawing a thin veil around her as she ascended. All was so soft, so
sleepy, so vague, it seemed to Paul as he rode slowly along, himself
almost asleep, as if the Night had lost the blood he had caused to flow,
and the sweet exhaustion that followed had from the lady's brain
wandered out over Nature herself, as she sank, a lovelier Katadyomene,
into the hushed sea of pain-won repose.
Was he in love with her? I do not know. I could tell, if I knew what
being in love is. I think no two loves were ever the same since the
creation of the world. I know that something had passed from her eyes to
his--but what? He may have been in love with her already; but ere long
my reader may be more sure than I that he was not. The Maker of men
alone understands His awful mystery between the man and the woman. But
without it, frightful indeed as are some of its results, assuredly the
world He has made would burst its binding rings and fly asunder in
shards, leaving His spirit nothing to enter, no time to work His lovely
It must be to any man a terrible thing to find himself in wild pain,
with no God of whom to entreat that his soul may not faint within him;
but to a man who can think as well as feel, it were a more terrible
thing still, to find himself afloat on the tide of a lovely passion,
with no God to whom to cry, accountable to Himself for that which He has
made. Will any man who has ever cast more than a glance into the
mysteries of his being, dare think himself sufficient to the ruling of
his nature? And if he rule it not, what shall he be but the sport of the
demons that will ride its tempests, that will rouse and torment its
ocean? What help then is there? What high-hearted man would consent to
be possessed and sweetly ruled by the loveliest of angels? Truly it were
but a daintier madness. Come thou, holy Love, father of my spirit,
nearer to the unknown deeper me than my consciousness is to its known
self, possess me utterly, for thou art more me than I am myself. Rule
thou. Then first I rule. Shadow me from the too radiant splendors of thy
own creative thought. Folded in thy calm, I shall love, and not die. And
ye, women, be the daughters of Him from whose heart came your mothers;
be the saviours of men, and neither their torment nor their prey!
Before morning it rained hard again; but it cleared at sunrise, and the
first day of the week found the world new-washed. Glaston slept longer
than usual, however, for all the shine, and in the mounting sun looked
dead and deserted. There were no gay shop-windows to reflect his beams,
or fill them with rainbow colors. There were no carriages or carts, and
only, for a few moments, one rider. That was Paul Faber again, on Ruber
now, aglow in the morning. There were no children playing yet about the
streets or lanes; but the cries of some came at intervals from unseen
chambers, as the Sunday soap stung their eyes, or the Sunday comb tore
their matted locks.
As Faber rode out of his stable-yard, Wingfold took his hat from its
peg, to walk through his churchyard. He lived almost in the churchyard,
for, happily, since his marriage the rectory had lost its tenants, and
Mr. Bevis had allowed him to occupy it, in lieu of part of his salary.
It was not yet church-time by hours, but he had a custom of going every
Sunday morning, in the fine weather, quite early, to sit for an hour or
two alone in the pulpit, amidst the absolute solitude and silence of the
great church. It was a door, he said, through which a man who could not
go to Horeb, might enter and find the power that dwells on mountain-tops
and in desert places.
He went slowly through the churchyard, breathing deep breaths of the
delicious spring-morning air. Rain-drops were sparkling all over the
grassy graves, and in the hollows of the stones they had gathered in
pools. The eyes of the death-heads were full of water, as if weeping at
the defeat of their master. Every now and then a soft little wind awoke,
like a throb of the spirit of life, and shook together the scattered
drops upon the trees, and then down came diamond showers on the grass
and daisies of the mounds, and fed the green moss in the letters of the
epitaphs. Over all the sun was shining, as if everywhere and forever
spring was the order of things. And is it not so? Is not the idea of the
creation an eternal spring ever trembling on the verge of summer? It
seemed so to the curate, who was not given to sad, still less to
sentimental moralizing over the graves. From such moods his heart
recoiled. To him they were weak and mawkish, and in him they would have
been treacherous. No grave was to him the place where a friend was
lying; it was but a cenotaph--the place where the Lord had lain.
"Let those possessed with demons haunt the tombs," he said, as he sat
down in the pulpit; "for me, I will turn my back upon them with the
risen Christ. Yes, friend, I hear you! I know what you say! You have
more affection than I? you can not forsake the last resting-place of the
beloved? Well, you may have more feeling than I; there is no gauge by
which I can tell, and if there were, it would be useless: we are as God
made us.--No, I will not say that: I will say rather, I am as God is
making me, and I shall one day be as He has made me. Meantime I know
that He will have me love my enemy tenfold more than now I love my
friend. Thou believest that the malefactor--ah, there was faith now! Of
two men dying together in agony and shame, the one beseeches of the
other the grace of a king! Thou believest, I say--at least thou
professest to believe that the malefactor was that very day with Jesus
in Paradise, and yet thou broodest over thy friend's grave, gathering
thy thoughts about the pitiful garment he left behind him, and letting
himself drift away into the unknown, forsaken of all but thy vaguest,
most shapeless thinkings! Tell me not thou fearest to enter there whence
has issued no revealing. It is God who gives thee thy mirror of
imagination, and if thou keep it clean, it will give thee back no shadow
but of the truth. Never a cry of love went forth from human heart but
it found some heavenly chord to fold it in. Be sure thy friend inhabits
a day not out of harmony with this morning of earthly spring, with this
sunlight, those rain-drops, that sweet wind that flows so softly over
It was the first sprouting of a _germon_. He covered it up and left it:
he had something else to talk to his people about this morning.
While he sat thus in the pulpit, his wife was praying for him ere she
rose. She had not learned to love him in the vestibule of society, that
court of the Gentiles, but in the chamber of torture and the clouded
adytum of her own spiritual temple. For there a dark vapor had hid the
deity enthroned, until the words of His servant melted the gloom. Then
she saw that what she had taken for her own innermost chamber of awful
void, was the dwelling-place of the most high, most lovely, only One,
and through its windows she beheld a cosmos dawning out of chaos.
Therefore the wife walked beside the husband in the strength of a common
faith in absolute Good; and not seldom did the fire which the torch of
his prophecy had kindled upon her altar, kindle again that torch, when
some bitter wind of evil words, or mephitis of human perversity, or
thunder-rain of foiled charity, had extinguished it. She loved every
hair upon his head, but loved his well-being infinitely more than his
mortal life. A wrinkle on his forehead would cause her a pang, yet would
she a thousand times rather have seen him dead than known him guilty of
one of many things done openly by not a few of his profession.
And now, as one sometimes wonders what he shall dream to-night, she sat
wondering what new thing, or what old thing fresher and more alive than
the new, would this day flow from his heart into hers. The following is
the substance of what, a few hours after, she did hear from him. His
rector, sitting between Mrs. Bevis and Mrs. Ramshorn, heard it also. The
radiance of truth shone from Wingfold's face as he spoke, and those of
the congregation who turned away from his words were those whose lives
ran counter to the spirit of them. Whatever he uttered grew out of a
whole world of thought, but it grew before them--that is, he always
thought afresh in the presence of the people, and spoke extempore.
"'_Ye can not serve God and mammon_.'
"Who said this? The Lord by whose name ye are called, in whose name
this house was built, and who will at last judge every one of us. And
yet how many of you are, and have been for years, trying your very
hardest to do the thing your Master tells you is impossible! Thou man!
Thou woman! I appeal to thine own conscience whether thou art not
striving to serve God and mammon.
"But stay! am I right?--It can not be. For surely if a man strove hard
to serve God and mammon, he would presently discover the thing was
impossible. It is not easy to serve God, and it is easy to serve mammon;
if one strove to serve God, the hard thing, along with serving mammon,
the easy thing, the incompatibility of the two endeavors must appear.
The fact is there is no strife in you. With ease you serve mammon every
day and hour of your lives, and for God, you do not even ask yourselves
the question whether you are serving Him or no. Yet some of you are at
this very moment indignant that I call you servers of mammon. Those of
you who know that God knows you are His servants, know also that I do
not mean you; therefore, those who are indignant at being called the
servants of mammon, are so because they are indeed such. As I say these
words I do not lift my eyes, not that I am afraid to look you in the
face, as uttering an offensive thing, but that I would have your own
souls your accusers.
"Let us consider for a moment the God you do not serve, and then for a
moment the mammon you do serve. The God you do not serve is the Father
of Lights, the Source of love, the Maker of man and woman, the Head of
the great family, the Father of fatherhood and motherhood; the
Life-giver who would die to preserve His children, but would rather slay
them than they should live the servants of evil; the God who can neither
think nor do nor endure any thing mean or unfair; the God of poetry and
music and every marvel; the God of the mountain tops, and the rivers
that run from the snows of death, to make the earth joyous with life;
the God of the valley and the wheat-field, the God who has set love
betwixt youth and maiden; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the perfect; the God whom Christ knew, with whom Christ was satisfied,
of whom He declared that to know Him was eternal life. The mammon you do
serve is not a mere negation, but a positive Death. His temple is a
darkness, a black hollow, ever hungry, in the heart of man, who tumbles
into it every thing that should make life noble and lovely. To all who
serve him he makes it seem that his alone is the reasonable service.
His wages are death, but he calls them life, and they believe him. I
will tell you some of the marks of his service--a few of the badges of
his household--for he has no visible temple; no man bends the knee to
him; it is only his soul, his manhood, that the worshiper casts in the
dust before him. If a man talks of the main chance, meaning thereby that
of making money, or of number one, meaning thereby self, except indeed
he honestly jest, he is a servant of mammon. If, when thou makest a
bargain, thou thinkest _only_ of thyself and thy gain, though art a
servant of mammon. The eager looks of those that would get money, the
troubled looks of those who have lost it, worst of all the gloating
looks of them that have it, these are sure signs of the service of
mammon. If in the church thou sayest to the rich man, 'Sit here in a
good place,' and to the poor man, 'Stand there,' thou art a
mammon-server. If thou favorest the company of those whom men call
well-to-do, when they are only well-to-eat, well-to-drink, or
well-to-show, and declinest that of the simple and the meek, then in thy
deepest consciousness know that thou servest mammon, not God. If thy
hope of well-being in time to come, rests upon thy houses, or lands, or
business, or money in store, and not upon the living God, be thou
friendly and kind with the overflowings of thy possessions, or a churl
whom no man loves, thou art equally a server of mammon. If the loss of
thy goods would take from thee the joy of thy life; if it would tear thy
heart that the men thou hadst feasted should hold forth to thee the two
fingers instead of the whole hand; nay, if thy thought of to-morrow
makes thee quail before the duty of to-day, if thou broodest over the
evil that is not come, and turnest from the God who is with thee in the
life of the hour, thou servest mammon; he holds thee in his chain; thou
art his ape, whom he leads about the world for the mockery of his
fellow-devils. If with thy word, yea, even with thy judgment, thou
confessest that God is the only good, yet livest as if He had sent thee
into the world to make thyself rich before thou die; if it will add one
feeblest pang to the pains of thy death, to think that thou must leave
thy fair house, thy ancestral trees, thy horses, thy shop, thy books,
behind thee, then art thou a servant of mammon, and far truer to thy
master than he will prove to thee. Ah, slave! the moment the breath is
out of the body, lo, he has already deserted thee! and of all in which
thou didst rejoice, all that gave thee such power over thy fellows,
there is not left so much as a spike of thistle-down for the wind to
waft from thy sight. For all thou hast had, there is nothing to show.
Where is the friendship in which thou mightst have invested thy money,
in place of burying it in the maw of mammon? Troops of the dead might
now be coming to greet thee with love and service, hadst thou made thee
friends with thy money; but, alas! to thee it was not money, but mammon,
for thou didst love it--not for the righteousness and salvation thou by
its means mightst work in the earth, but for the honor it brought thee
among men, for the pleasures and immunities it purchased. Some of you
are saying in your hearts, 'Preach to thyself, and practice thine own
preaching;'--and you say well. And so I mean to do, lest having preached
to others I should be myself a cast-away--drowned with some of you in
the same pond of filth. God has put money in my power through the gift
of one whom you know. I shall endeavor to be a faithful steward of that
which God through her has committed to me in trust. Hear me, friends--to
none of you am I the less a friend that I tell you truths you would hide
from your own souls: money is not mammon; it is God's invention; it is
good and the gift of God. But for money and the need of it, there would
not be half the friendship in the world. It is powerful for good when
divinely used. Give it plenty of air, and it is sweet as the hawthorn;
shut it up, and it cankers and breeds worms. Like all the best gifts of
God, like the air and the water, it must have motion and change and
shakings asunder; like the earth itself, like the heart and mind of man,
it must be broken and turned, not heaped together and neglected. It is
an angel of mercy, whose wings are full of balm and dews and
refreshings; but when you lay hold of him, pluck his pinions, pen him in
a yard, and fall down and worship him--then, with the blessed vengeance
of his master, he deals plague and confusion and terror, to stay the
idolatry. If I misuse or waste or hoard the divine thing, I pray my
Master to see to it--my God to punish me. Any fire rather than be given
over to the mean idol! And now I will make an offer to my townsfolk in
the face of this congregation--that, whoever will, at the end of three
years, bring me his books, to him also will I lay open mine, that he
will see how I have sought to make friends of the mammon of
unrighteousness. Of the mammon-server I expect to be judged according
to the light that is in him, and that light I know to be darkness.
"Friend, be not a slave. Be wary. Look not on the gold when it is yellow
in thy purse. Hoard not. In God's name, spend--spend on. Take heed how
thou spendest, but take heed that thou spend. Be thou as the sun in
heaven; let thy gold be thy rays, thy angels of love and life and
deliverance. Be thou a candle of the Lord to spread His light through
the world. If hitherto, in any fashion of faithlessness, thou hast
radiated darkness into the universe, humble thyself, and arise and
"But if thou art poor, then look not on thy purse when it is empty. He
who desires more than God wills him to have, is also a servant of
mammon, for he trusts in what God has made, and not in God Himself. He
who laments what God has taken from him, he is a servant of mammon. He
who for care can not pray, is a servant of mammon. There are men in this
town who love and trust their horses more than the God that made them
and their horses too. None the less confidently will they give judgment
on the doctrine of God. But the opinion of no man who does not render
back his soul to the living God and live in Him, is, in religion, worth
the splinter of a straw. Friends, cast your idol into the furnace; melt
your mammon down, coin him up, make God's money of him, and send him
coursing. Make of him cups to carry the gift of God, the water of life,
through the world--in lovely justice to the oppressed, in healthful
labor to them whom no man hath hired, in rest to the weary who have
borne the burden and heat of the day, in joy to the heavy-hearted, in
laughter to the dull-spirited. Let them all be glad with reason, and
merry without revel. Ah! what gifts in music, in drama, in the tale, in
the picture, in the spectacle, in books and models, in flowers and
friendly feasting, what true gifts might not the mammon of
unrighteousness, changed back into the money of God, give to men and
women, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh! How would you not spend
your money for the Lord, if He needed it at your hand! He does need it;
for he that spends it upon the least of his fellows, spends it upon his
Lord. To hold fast upon God with one hand, and open wide the other to
your neighbor--that is religion; that is the law and the prophets, and
the true way to all better things that are yet to come.--Lord, defend us
from Mammon. Hold Thy temple against his foul invasion. Purify our
money with Thy air, and Thy sun, that it may be our slave, and Thou our
The moment his sermon was ended, the curate always set himself to forget
it. This for three reasons: first, he was so dissatisfied with it, that
to think of it was painful--and the more, that many things he might have
said, and many better ways of saying what he had said, would constantly
present themselves. Second, it was useless to brood over what could not
be bettered; and, third, it was hurtful, inasmuch as it prevented the
growth of new, hopeful, invigorating thought, and took from his
strength, and the quality of his following endeavor. A man's labors must
pass like the sunrises and sunsets of the world. The next thing, not the
last, must be his care. When he reached home, he would therefore use
means to this end of diversion, and not unfrequently would write verses.
Here are those he wrote that afternoon.
LET YOUR LIGHT SO SHINE.
Sometimes, O Lord, thou lightest in my head
A lamp that well might Pharos all the lands;
Anon the light will neither burn nor spread
Shrouded in danger gray the beacon stands.
A Pharos? Oh, dull brain! Oh, poor quenched lamp,
Under a bushel, with an earthy smell!
Moldering it lies, in rust and eating damp,
While the slow oil keeps oozing from its cell!
For me it were enough to be a flower
Knowing its root in thee was somewhere hid--
To blossom at the far appointed hour,
And fold in sleep when thou, my Nature, bid.
But hear my brethren crying in the dark!
Light up my lamp that it may shine abroad.
Fain would I cry--See, brothers! sisters, mark!
This is the shining of light's father, God.
THE MANOR HOUSE DINING-ROOM.
The rector never took his eyes off the preacher, but the preacher never
saw him. The reason was that he dared not let his eyes wander in the
direction of Mrs. Ramshorn; he was not yet so near perfection but that
the sight of her supercilious, unbelieving face, was a reviving cordial
to the old Adam, whom he was so anxious to poison with love and prayer.
Church over, the rector walked in silence, between the two ladies, to
the Manor House. He courted no greetings from the sheep of his neglected
flock as he went, and returned those offered with a constrained
solemnity. The moment they stood in the hall together, and before the
servant who had opened the door to them had quite disappeared, Mrs.
Ramshorn, to the indignant consternation of Mrs. Bevis, who was utterly
forgotten by both in the colloquy that ensued, turned sharp on the
rector, and said,
"There! what do you say to your curate now?"
"He _is_ enough to set the whole parish by the ears," he answered.
"I told you so, Mr. Bevis!"
"Only it does not follow that therefore he is in the wrong. Our Lord
Himself came not to send peace on earth but a sword."
"Irreverence ill becomes a beneficed clergyman, Mr. Bevis," said Mrs.
Ramshorn--who very consistently regarded any practical reference to our
Lord as irrelevant, thence naturally as irreverent.
"And, by Jove!" added the rector, heedless of her remark, and tumbling
back into an old college-habit, "I fear he is in the right; and if he
is, it will go hard with you and me at the last day, Mrs. Ramshorn."
"Do you mean to say you are going to let that man turn every thing
topsy-turvy, and the congregation out of the church, John Bevis?"
"I never saw such a congregation in it before, Mrs. Ramshorn."
"It's little better than a low-bred conventicle now, and what it will
come to, if things go on like this, God knows."
"That ought to be a comfort," said the rector. "But I hardly know yet
where I am. The fellow has knocked the wind out of me with his
personalities, and I haven't got my breath yet. Have you a bottle of
Mrs. Ramshorn led the way to the dining-room, where the early Sunday
dinner was already laid, and the decanters stood on the sideboard. The
rector poured himself out a large glass of sherry, and drank it off in
"Such buffoonery! such coarseness! such vulgarity! such indelicacy!"
cried Mrs. Ramshorn, while the parson was still occupied with the
sherry. "Not content with talking about himself in the pulpit, he must
even talk about his wife! What's he or his wife in the house of God?
When his gown is on, a clergyman is neither Mr. This nor Mr. That any
longer, but a priest of the Church of England, as by law established. My
poor Helen! She has thrown herself away upon a charlatan! And what will
become of her money in the hands of a man with such leveling notions, I
dread to think."
"He said something about buying friends with it," said the rector.
"Bribery and corruption must come natural to a fellow who could preach a
sermon like that after marrying money!"
"Why, my good madam, would you have a man turn his back on a girl
because she has a purse in her pocket?"
"But to pretend to despise it! And then, worst of all! I don't know
whether the indelicacy or the profanity was the greater!--when I think
of it now, I can scarcely believe I really heard it!--to offer to show
his books to every inquisitive fool itching to know _my_ niece's
fortune! Well, she shan't see a penny of mine--that I'm determined on."
"You need not be uneasy about the books, Mrs. Ramshorn. You remember the
"Stuff and hypocrisy! He's played his game well! But time will show."
Mr. Bevis checked his answer. He was beginning to get disgusted with the
old cat, as he called her to himself.
He too had made a good speculation in the hymeneo-money-market,
otherwise he could hardly have afforded to give up the exercise of his
profession. Mrs. Bevis had brought him the nice little property at
Owlkirk, where, if he worshiped mammon--and after his curate's sermon he
was not at all sure he did not--he worshiped him in a very moderate and
gentlemanly fashion. Every body liked the rector, and two or three
loved him a little. If it would be a stretch of the truth to call a man
a Christian who never yet in his life had consciously done a thing
because it was commanded by Christ, he was not therefore a godless man;
while, through the age-long process of spiritual infiltration, he had
received and retained much that was Christian.
The ladies went to take off their bonnets, and their departure was a
relief to the rector. He helped himself to another glass of sherry, and
seated himself in the great easy chair formerly approved of the dean,
long promoted. But what are easy chairs to uneasy men? Dinner, however,
was at hand, and that would make a diversion in favor of less
Mrs. Ramshorn, also, was uncomfortable--too much so to be relieved by
taking off her bonnet. She felt, with no little soreness, that the
rector was not with her in her depreciation of Wingfold. She did her
best to play the hostess, but the rector, while enjoying his dinner
despite discomfort in the inward parts, was in a mood of silence
altogether new both to himself and his companions. Mrs. Bevis, however,
talked away in a soft, continuous murmur. She was a good-natured, gentle
soul, without whose sort the world would be harder for many. She did not
contribute much to its positive enjoyment, but for my part, I can not
help being grateful even to a cat that will condescend to purr to me.
But she had not much mollifying influence on her hostess, who snarled,
and judged, and condemned, nor seemed to enjoy her dinner the less. When
it was over, the ladies went to the drawing-room; and the rector,
finding his company unpleasant, drank but a week-day's allowance of
wine, and went to have a look at his horses.
They neighed a welcome the moment his boot struck the stones of the
yard, for they loved their master with all the love their strong, timid,
patient hearts were as yet capable of. Satisfied that they were
comfortable, for he found them busy with a large feed of oats and chaff
and Indian corn, he threw his arm over the back of his favorite, and
stood, leaning against her for minutes, half dreaming, half thinking. As
long as they were busy, their munching and grinding soothed him--held
him at least in quiescent mood; the moment it ceased, he seemed to
himself to wake up out of a dream. In that dream, however, he had been
more awake than any hour for long years, and had heard and seen many
things. He patted his mare lovingly, then, with a faint sense of
rebuked injustice, went into the horse's stall, and patted and stroked
him as he had never done before.
He went into the inn, and asked for a cup of tea. He would have had a
sleep on Mrs. Pinks's sofa, as was his custom in his study--little
study, alas, went on there!--but he had a call to make, and must rouse
himself, and that was partly why he had sought the inn. For Mrs.
Ramshorn's household was so well ordered that nothing was to be had out
of the usual routine. It was like an American country inn, where, if you
arrive after supper, you will most likely have to starve till next
morning. Her servants, in fact, were her masters, and she dared not go
into her own kitchen for a jug of hot water. Possibly it was her
dethronement in her own house that made her, with a futile clutching
after lost respect, so anxious to rule in the abbey church. As it was,
although John Bevis and she had known each other long, and in some poor
sense intimately, he would never in her house have dared ask for a cup
of tea except it were on the table. But here was the ease of his inn,
where the landlady herself was proud to get him what he wanted. She made
the tea from her own caddy; and when he had drunk three cups of it,
washed his red face, and re-tied his white neck-cloth, he set out to
make his call.
THE RECTORY DRAWING-ROOM.
The call was upon his curate. It was years since he had entered the
rectory. The people who last occupied it, he had scarcely known, and
even during its preparation for Wingfold he had not gone near the place.
Yet of that house had been his dream as he stood in his mare's stall,
and it was with a strange feeling he now approached it. Friends
generally took the pleasanter way to the garden door, opening on the
churchyard, but Mr. Bevis went round by the lane to the more public
All his years with his first wife had been spent in that house. She was
delicate when he married her, and soon grew sickly and suffering. One
after another her children died as babies. At last came one who lived,
and then the mother began to die. She was one of those lowly women who
apply the severity born of their creed to themselves, and spend only the
love born of the indwelling Spirit upon their neighbors. She was rather
melancholy, but hoped as much as she could, and when she could not hope
did not stand still, but walked on in the dark. I think when the sun
rises upon them, some people will be astonished to find how far they
have got in the dark.
Her husband, without verifying for himself one of the things it was his
business to teach others, was yet held in some sort of communion with
sacred things by his love for his suffering wife, and his admiration of
her goodness and gentleness. He had looked up to her, though several
years younger than himself, with something of the same reverence with
which he had regarded his mother, a women with an element of greatness
in her. It was not possible he should ever have adopted her views, or in
any active manner allied himself with the school whose doctrines she
accepted as the logical embodiment of the gospel, but there was in him
all the time a vague something that was not far from the kingdom of
heaven. Some of his wife's friends looked upon him as a wolf in the
sheepfold; he was no wolf, he was only a hireling. Any neighborhood
might have been the better for having such a man as he for the parson of
the parish--only, for one commissioned to be in the world as he was in
the world!--why he knew more about the will of God as to a horse's legs,
than as to the heart of a man. As he drew near the house, the older and
tenderer time came to meet him, and the spirit of his suffering,
ministering wife seemed to overshadow him. Two tears grew half-way into
his eyes:--they were a little bloodshot, but kind, true eyes. He was not
sorry he had married again, for he and his wife were at peace with each
other, but he had found that the same part of his mind would not serve
to think of the two: they belonged to different zones of his unexplored
world. For one thing, his present wife looked up to him with perfect
admiration, and he, knowing his own poverty, rather looked down upon her
in consequence, though in a loving, gentle, and gentlemanlike way.
He was shown into the same room, looking out on the churchyard, where in
the first months of his married life, he sat and heard his wife sing her
few songs, accompanying them on the little piano he had saved hard to
buy for her, until she made him love them. It had lasted only through
those few months; after her first baby died, she rarely sang. But all
the colors and forms of the room were different, and that made it easier
to check the lump rising in his throat. It was the faith of his curate
that had thus set his wife before him, although the two would hardly
have agreed in any confession narrower than the Apostles' creed.
When Wingfold entered the room, the rector rose, went halfway to meet
him, and shook hands with him heartily. They seated themselves, and a
short silence followed. But the rector knew it was his part to speak.
"I was in church this morning," he said, with a half-humorous glance
right into the clear gray eyes of his curate.
"So my wife tells me," returned Wingfold with a smile.
"You didn't know it then?" rejoined the rector, with now an almost
quizzical glance, in which hovered a little doubt. "I thought you were
preaching at me all the time."
"God forbid!" said the curate; "I was not aware of your presence. I did
not even know you were in the town yesterday."
"You must have had some one in your mind's eye. No man could speak as
you did this morning, who addressed mere abstract humanity."
"I will not say that individuals did not come up before me; how can a
man help it where he knows every body in his congregation more or less?
But I give you my word, sir, I never thought of you."
"Then you might have done so with the greatest propriety," returned the
rector. "My conscience sided with you all the time. You found me out.
I've got a bit of the muscle they call a heart left in me yet, though it
_has_ got rather leathery.--But what do they mean when they say you are
setting the parish by the ears?"
"I don't know, sir. I have heard of no quarreling. I have made some
enemies, but they are not very dangerous, and I hope not very bitter
ones; and I have made many more friends, I am sure."
"What they tell me is, that your congregation is divided--that they take
sides for and against you, which is a most undesirable thing, surely!"
"It is indeed; and yet it may be a thing that, for a time, can not be
helped. Was there ever a man with the cure of souls, concerning whom
there has not been more or less of such division? But, if you will have
patience with me, sir, I am bold to say, believing in the force and
final victory of the truth, there will be more unity by and by."
"I don't doubt it. But come now!--you are a thoroughly good
fellow--that, a blind horse could see in the dimmits--and I'm
accountable for the parish--couldn't you draw it a little milder, you
know? couldn't you make it just a little less peculiar--only the way of
putting it, I mean--so that it should look a little more like what they
have been used to? I'm only suggesting the thing, you know--dictating
nothing, on my soul, Mr. Wingfold. I am sure that, whatever you do, you
will act according to your own conscience, otherwise I should not
venture to say a word, lest I should lead you wrong."
"If you will allow me," said the curate, "I will tell you my whole
story; and then if you should wish it, I will resign my curacy, without
saying a word more than that my rector thinks it better. Neither in
private shall I make a single remark in a different spirit."
"Let me hear," said the rector.
"Then if you will please take this chair, that I may know that I am not
wearying you bodily at least."
The rector did as he was requested, laid his head back, crossed his
legs, and folded his hands over his worn waist-coat: he was not one of
the neat order of parsons; he had a not unwholesome disregard of his
outermost man, and did not know when he was shabby. Without an atom of
pomposity or air rectorial, he settled himself to listen.
Condensing as much as he could, Wingfold told him how through great
doubt, and dismal trouble of mind, he had come to hope in God, and to
see that there was no choice for a man but to give himself, heart, and
soul, and body, to the love, and will, and care of the Being who had
made him. He could no longer, he said, regard his profession as any
thing less than a call to use every means and energy at his command for
the rousing of men and women from that spiritual sleep and moral
carelessness in which he had himself been so lately sunk.
"I don't want to give up my curacy," he concluded. "Still less do I want
to leave Glaston, for there are here some whom I teach and some who
teach me. In all that has given ground for complaint, I have seemed to
myself to be but following the dictates of common sense; if you think me
wrong, I have no justification to offer. We both love God,----"
"How do you know that?" interrupted the rector. "I wish you could make
me sure of that."
"I do, I know I do," said the curate earnestly. "I can say no more."
"My dear fellow, I haven't the merest shadow of a doubt of it," returned
the rector, smiling. "What I wished was, that you could make me sure _I_
"Pardon me, my dear sir, but, judging from sore experience, if I could I
would rather make you doubt it; the doubt, even if an utter mistake,
would in the end be so much more profitable than any present
"You have your wish, then, Wingfold: I doubt it very much," replied the
rector. "I must go home and think about it all. You shall hear from me
in a day or two."
As he spoke Mr. Bevis rose, and stood for a moment like a man greatly
urged to stretch his arms and legs. An air of uneasiness pervaded his
"Will you not stop and take tea with us?" said the curate. "My wife will
be disappointed if you do not. You have been good to her for twenty
years, she says."
"She makes an old man of me," returned the rector musingly. "I remember
her such a tiny thing in a white frock and curls. Tell her what we have
been talking about, and beg her to excuse me. I _must_ go home."
He took his hat from the table, shook hands with Wingfold, and walked
back to the inn. There he found his horses bedded, and the hostler away.
His coachman was gone too, nobody knew whither.
To sleep at the inn would have given pointed offense, but he would
rather have done so than go back to the Manor House to hear his curate
abused. With the help of the barmaid, he put the horses to the carriage
himself, and to the astonishment of Mrs. Ramshorn and his wife, drew up
at the door of the Manor House.
Expostulation on the part of the former was vain. The latter made none:
it was much the same to Mrs. Bevis where she was, so long as she was
with her husband. Indeed few things were more pleasant to her than
sitting in the carriage alone, contemplating the back of Mr. Bevis on
the box, and the motion of his elbows as he drove. Mrs. Ramshorn
received their adieux very stiffly, and never after mentioned the rector
without adding the epithet, "poor man!"
Mrs. Bevis enjoyed the drive; Mr. Bevis did not. The doubt was growing
stronger and stronger all the way, that he had not behaved like a
gentleman in his relation to the head of the church. He had naturally,
as I have already shown, a fine, honorable, boyish if not childlike
nature; and the eyes of his mind were not so dim with good living as one
might have feared from the look of those in his head: in the glass of
loyalty he now saw himself a defaulter; in the scales of honor he
weighed and found himself wanting. Of true discipleship was not now the
question: he had not behaved like an honorable gentleman to Jesus
Christ. It was only in a spasm of terror St. Peter had denied him: John
Bevis had for nigh forty years been taking his pay, and for the last
thirty at least had done nothing in return. Either Jesus Christ did not
care, and then what was the church?--what the whole system of things
called Christianity?--or he did care, and what then was John Bevis in
the eyes of his Master? When they reached home, he went neither to the
stable nor the study, but, without even lighting a cigar, walked out on
the neighboring heath, where he found the universe rather gray about
him. When he returned he tried to behave as usual, but his wife saw that
he scarcely ate at supper, and left half of his brandy and water. She
set it down to the annoyance the curate had caused him, and wisely
forbore troubling him with questions.
MR. DRAKE'S ARBOR.
While the curate was preaching that same Sunday morning, in the cool
cavernous church, with its great lights overhead, Walter Drake--the old
minister, he was now called by his disloyal congregation--sat in a
little arbor looking out on the river that flowed through the town to
the sea. Green grass went down from where he sat to the very water's
brink. It was a spot the old man loved, for there his best thoughts came
to him. There was in him a good deal of the stuff of which poets are
made, and since trouble overtook him, the river had more and more
gathered to itself the aspect of that in the Pilgrim's Progress; and
often, as he sat thus almost on its edge, he fancied himself waiting
the welcome summoms to go home. It was a tidal river, with many changes.
Now it flowed with a full, calm current, conquering the tide, like life
sweeping death with it down into the bosom of the eternal. Now it seemed
to stand still, as if aghast at the inroad of the awful thing; and then
the minister would bethink himself that it was the tide of the eternal
rising in the narrow earthly channel: men, he said to himself, called it
_death_, because they did not know what it was, or the loveliness of its
quickening energy. It fails on their sense by the might of its grand
excess, and they call it by the name of its opposite. A weary and rather
disappointed pilgrim, he thus comforted himself as he sat.
There a great salmon rose and fell, gleaming like a bolt of silver in
the sun! There a little waterbeetle scurried along after some invisible
prey. The blue smoke of his pipe melted in the Sabbath air. The softened
sounds of a singing congregation came across gardens and hedges to his
ear. They sang with more energy than grace, and, not for the first time,
he felt they did. Were they indeed singing to the Lord, he asked
himself, or only to the idol Custom? A silence came: the young man in
the pulpit was giving out his text, and the faces that had turned
themselves up to Walter Drake as flowers to the sun, were now all
turning to the face of him they had chosen in his stead, "to minister to
them in holy things." He took his pipe from his mouth, and sat
motionless, with his eyes fixed on the ground.
But why was he not at chapel himself? Could it be that he yielded to
temptation, actually preferring his clay pipe and the long glide of the
river, to the worship, and the hymns and the sermon? Had there not been
a time when he judged that man careless of the truth who did not go to
the chapel, and that man little better who went to the church? Yet there
he sat on a Sunday morning, the church on one side of him and the chapel
on the other, smoking his pipe! His daughter was at the chapel; she had
taken Ducky with her; the dog lay in the porch waiting for them; the cat
thought too much of herself to make friends with her master; he had
forgotten his New Testament on the study table; and now he had let his
He was not well, it is true, but he was well enough to have gone. Was he
too proud to be taught where he had been a teacher? or was it that the
youth in his place taught there doctrines which neither they nor their
fathers had known? It could not surely be from resentment that they had
super-annuated him in the prime of his old age, with a pared third of
his late salary, which nothing but honesty in respect to the small