Part 1 out of 5
THE SOUL OF A BISHOP by H. G. WELLS
CHAPTER THE FIRST - THE DREAM
CHAPTER THE SECOND - THE WEAR AND TEAR OF EPISCOPACY
CHAPTER THE THIRD - INSOMNIA
CHAPTER THE FOURTH - THE SYMPATHY OF LADY SUNDERBUND
CHAPTER THE FIFTH - THE FIRST VISION
CHAPTER THE SIXTH - EXEGETICAL
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH - THE SECOND VISION
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH - THE NEW WORLD
CHAPTER THE NINTH - THE THIRD VISION
"Man's true Environment is God"
J. H. OLDHAM in "The Christian Gospel"
(Tract of the N. M. R. and H.)
THE SOUL OF A BISHOP
CHAPTER THE FIRST - THE DREAM
IT was a scene of bitter disputation. A hawk-nosed young man
with a pointing finger was prominent. His face worked violently,
his lips moved very rapidly, but what he said was inaudible.
Behind him the little rufous man with the big eyes twitched at
his robe and offered suggestions.
And behind these two clustered a great multitude of heated,
excited, swarthy faces....
The emperor sat on his golden throne in the midst of the
gathering, commanding silence by gestures, speaking inaudibly to
them in a tongue the majority did not use, and then prevailing.
They ceased their interruptions, and the old man, Arius, took up
the debate. For a time all those impassioned faces were intent
upon him; they listened as though they sought occasion, and
suddenly as if by a preconcerted arrangement they were all
thrusting their fingers into their ears and knitting their brows
in assumed horror; some were crying aloud and making as if to
fly. Some indeed tucked up their garments and fled. They spread
out into a pattern. They were like the little monks who run from
St. Jerome's lion in the picture by Carpaccio. Then one zealot
rushed forward and smote the old man heavily upon the mouth....
The hall seemed to grow vaster and vaster, the disputing,
infuriated figures multiplied to an innumerable assembly, they
drove about like snowflakes in a gale, they whirled in
argumentative couples, they spun in eddies of contradiction, they
made extraordinary patterns, and then amidst the cloudy darkness
of the unfathomable dome above them there appeared and increased
a radiant triangle in which shone an eye. The eye and the
triangle filled the heavens, sent out flickering rays, glowed to
a blinding incandescence, seemed to be speaking words of thunder
that were nevertheless inaudible. It was as if that thunder
filled the heavens, it was as if it were nothing but the beating
artery in the sleeper's ear. The attention strained to hear and
comprehend, and on the very verge of comprehension snapped like a
The word remained like a little ash after a flare.
The sleeper had awakened and lay very still, oppressed by a
sense of intellectual effort that had survived the dream in which
it had arisen. Was it so that things had happened? The slumber-
shadowed mind, moving obscurely, could not determine whether it
was so or not. Had they indeed behaved in this manner when the
great mystery was established? Who said they stopped their ears
with their fingers and fled, shouting with horror? Shouting? Was
it Eusebius or Athanasius? Or Sozomen.... Some letter or apology
by Athanasius?... And surely it was impossible that the Trinity
could have appeared visibly as a triangle and an eye. Above such
That was mere dreaming, of course. Was it dreaming after
Raphael? After Raphael? The drowsy mind wandered into a side
issue. Was the picture that had suggested this dream the one in
the Vatican where all the Fathers of the Church are shown
disputing together? But there surely God and the Son themselves
were painted with a symbol--some symbol--also? But was that
disputation about the Trinity at all? Wasn't it rather about a
chalice and a dove? Of course it was a chalice and a dove! Then
where did one see the triangle and the eye? And men disputing?
Some such picture there was....
What a lot of disputing there had been! What endless disputing!
Which had gone on. Until last night. When this very disagreeable
young man with the hawk nose and the pointing finger had tackled
one when one was sorely fagged, and disputed; disputed. Rebuked
and disputed. "Answer me this," he had said.... And still one's
poor brains disputed and would not rest.... About the Trinity....
The brain upon the pillow was now wearily awake. It was at once
hopelessly awake and active and hopelessly unprogressive. It was
like some floating stick that had got caught in an eddy in a
river, going round and round and round. And round. Eternally--
"But what possible meaning do you attach then to such a phrase
as eternally begotten?"
The brain upon the pillow stared hopelessly at this question,
without an answer, without an escape. The three repetitions spun
round and round, became a swiftly revolving triangle, like some
electric sign that had got beyond control, in the midst of which
stared an unwinking and resentful eye.
Every one knows that expedient of the sleepless, the counting
You lie quite still, you breathe regularly, you imagine sheep
jumping over a gate, one after another, you count them quietly
and slowly until you count yourself off through a fading string
of phantom numbers to number Nod....
But sheep, alas! suggest an episcopal crook.
And presently a black sheep had got into the succession and was
struggling violently with the crook about its leg, a hawk-nosed
black sheep full of reproof, with disordered hair and a pointing
finger. A young man with a most disagreeable voice.
At which the other sheep took heart and, deserting the numbered
succession, came and sat about the fire in a big drawing-room and
argued also. In particular there was Lady Sunderbund, a pretty
fragile tall woman in the corner, richly jewelled, who sat with
her pretty eyes watching and her lips compressed. What had she
thought of it? She had said very little.
It is an unusual thing for a mixed gathering of this sort to
argue about the Trinity. Simply because a tired bishop had fallen
into their party. It was not fair to him to pretend that the
atmosphere was a liberal and inquiring one, when the young man
who had sat still and dormant by the table was in reality a keen
and bitter Irish Roman Catholic. Then the question, a
question-begging question, was put quite suddenly, without
preparation or prelude, by surprise. "Why, Bishop, was the
Spermaticos Logos identified with the Second and not the Third
Person of the Trinity?"
It was indiscreet, it was silly, to turn upon the speaker and
affect an air of disengagement and modernity and to say: "Ah,
that indeed is the unfortunate aspect of the whole affair."
Whereupon the fierce young man had exploded with:
"To that, is it, that you Anglicans have come?"
The whole gathering had given itself up to the disputation,
Lady Sunderbund, an actress, a dancer--though she, it is true,
did not say very much--a novelist, a mechanical expert of some
sort, a railway peer, geniuses, hairy and Celtic, people of no
clearly definable position, but all quite unequal to the task of
maintaining that air of reverent vagueness, that tenderness of
touch, which is by all Anglican standards imperative in so deep,
so mysterious, and, nowadays, in mixed society at least, so
infrequent a discussion.
It was like animals breaking down a fence about some sacred
spot. Within a couple of minutes the affair had become highly
improper. They had raised their voices, they had spoken with the
utmost familiarity of almost unspeakable things. There had been
even attempts at epigram. Athanasian epigrams. Bent the novelist
had doubted if originally there had been a Third Person in the
Trinity at all. He suggested a reaction from a too-Manichaean
dualism at some date after the time of St. John's Gospel. He
maintained obstinately that that Gospel was dualistic.
The unpleasant quality of the talk was far more manifest in the
retrospect than it had been at the time. It had seemed then bold
and strange, but not impossible; now in the cold darkness it
seemed sacrilegious. And the bishop's share, which was indeed
only the weak yielding of a tired man to an atmosphere he had
misjudged, became a disgraceful display of levity and bad faith.
They had baited him. Some one had said that nowadays every one
was an Arian, knowingly or unknowingly. They had not concealed
their conviction that the bishop did not really believe in the
Creeds he uttered.
And that unfortunate first admission stuck terribly in his
Oh! Why had he made it?
Sleep had gone.
The awakened sleeper groaned, sat up in the darkness, and felt
gropingly in this unaccustomed bed and bedroom first for the edge
of the bed and then for the electric light that was possibly on
the little bedside table.
The searching hand touched something. A water-bottle. The hand
resumed its exploration. Here was something metallic and smooth,
a stem. Either above or below there must be a switch....
The switch was found, grasped, and turned.
The darkness fled.
In a mirror the sleeper saw the reflection of his face and a
corner of the bed in which he lay. The lamp had a tilted shade
that threw a slanting bar of shadow across the field of
reflection, lighting a right-angled triangle very brightly and
leaving the rest obscure. The bed was a very great one, a bed for
the Anakim. It had a canopy with yellow silk curtains, surmounted
by a gilded crown of carved wood. Between the curtains was a
man's face, clean-shaven, pale, with disordered brown hair and
weary, pale-blue eyes. He was clad in purple pyjamas, and the
hand that now ran its fingers through the brown hair was long and
lean and shapely.
Beside the bed was a convenient little table bearing the light,
a water-bottle and glass, a bunch of keys, a congested pocket-
book, a gold-banded fountain pen, and a gold watch that indicated
a quarter past three. On the lower edge of the picture in the
mirror appeared the back of a gilt chair, over which a garment of
peculiar construction had been carelessly thrown. It was in the
form of that sleeveless cassock of purple, opening at the side,
whose lower flap is called a bishop's apron; the corner of the
frogged coat showed behind the chair-back, and the sash lay
crumpled on the floor. Black doeskin breeches, still warmly lined
with their pants, lay where they had been thrust off at the
corner of the bed, partly covering black hose and silver-buckled
For a moment the tired gaze of the man in the bed rested upon
these evidences of his episcopal dignity. Then he turned from
them to the watch at the bedside.
He groaned helplessly.
These country doctors were no good. There wasn't a physician in
the diocese. He must go to London.
He looked into the weary eyes of his reflection and said, as
one makes a reassuring promise, "London."
He was being worried. He was being intolerably worried, and he
was ill and unable to sustain his positions. This doubt, this
sudden discovery of controversial unsoundness, was only one
aspect of his general neurasthenia. It had been creeping into his
mind since the "Light Unden the Altar" controversy. Now suddenly
it had leapt upon him from his own unwary lips.
The immediate trouble arose from his loyalty. He had followed
the King's example; he had become a total abstainer and, in
addition, on his own account he had ceased to smoke. And his
digestion, which Princhester had first made sensitive, was
deranged. He was suffering chemically, suffering one of those
nameless sequences of maladjustments that still defy our ordinary
medical science. It was afflicting him with a general malaise, it
was affecting his energy, his temper, all the balance and comfort
of his nerves. All day he was weary; all night he was wakeful. He
was estranged from his body. He was distressed by a sense of
detachment from the things about him, by a curious intimation of
unreality in everything he experienced. And with that went this
levity of conscience, a heaviness of soul and a levity of
conscience, that could make him talk as though the Creeds did not
matter--as though nothing mattered....
If only he could smoke!
He was persuaded that a couple of Egyptian cigarettes, or three
at the outside, a day, would do wonders in restoring his nervous
calm. That, and just a weak whisky and soda at lunch and dinner.
His conscience, his sense of honour, deserted him. Latterly he
had had several of these conscience-blanks; it was only when they
were over that he realized that they had occurred.
One might smoke up the chimney, he reflected. But he had no
cigarettes! Perhaps if he were to slip downstairs....
Why had he given up smoking?
He groaned aloud. He and his reflection eyed one another in
There came before his memory the image of a boy's face, a
swarthy little boy, grinning, grinning with a horrible
knowingness and pointing his finger--an accusing finger. It had
been the most exasperating, humiliating, and shameful incident in
the bishop's career. It was the afternoon for his fortnightly
address to the Shop-girls' Church Association, and he had been
seized with a panic fear, entirely irrational and unjustifiable,
that he would not be able to deliver the address. The fear had
arisen after lunch, had gripped his mind, and then as now had
come the thought, "If only I could smoke!" And he had smoked. It
seemed better to break a vow than fail the Association. He had
fallen to the temptation with a completeness that now filled him
with shame and horror. He had stalked Dunk, his valet-butler, out
of the dining-room, had affected to need a book from the
beyond the sideboard, had gone insincerely to the sideboard
humming "From Greenland's icy mountains," and then, glancing over
his shoulder, had stolen one of his own cigarettes, one of the
fatter sort. With this and his bedroom matches he had gone off to
the bottom of the garden among the laurels, looked everywhere
except above the wall to be sure that he was alone, and at last
lit up, only as he raised his eyes in gratitude for the first
blissful inhalation to discover that dreadful little boy peeping
at him from the crotch in the yew-tree in the next garden. As
though God had sent him to be a witness!
Their eyes had met. The bishop recalled with an agonized
distinctness every moment, every error, of that shameful
encounter. He had been too surprised to conceal the state of
affairs from the pitiless scrutiny of those youthful eyes. He had
instantly made as if to put the cigarette behind his back, and
then as frankly dropped it....
His soul would not be more naked at the resurrection. The
little boy had stared, realized the state of affairs slowly but
surely, pointed his finger....
Never had two human beings understood each other more
A dirty little boy! Capable no doubt of a thousand kindred
It seemed ages before the conscience-stricken bishop could tear
himself from the spot and walk back, with such a pretence of
dignity as he could muster, to the house.
And instead of the discourse he had prepared for the
Shop-girls' Church Association, he had preached on temptation and
falling, and how he knew they had all fallen, and how he
understood and could sympathize with the bitterness of a secret
shame, a moving but unsuitable discourse that had already been
subjected to misconstruction and severe reproof in the local
press of Princhester.
But the haunting thing in the bishop's memory was the face and
gesture of the little boy. That grubby little finger stabbed him
to the heart.
"Oh, God!" he groaned. "The meanness of it! How did I bring
He turned out the light convulsively, and rolled over in the
bed, making a sort of cocoon of himself. He bored his head into
the pillow and groaned, and then struggled impatiently to throw
the bed-clothes off himself. Then he sat up and talked aloud.
"I must go to Brighton-Pomfrey," he said. "And get a medical
dispensation. If I do not smoke--"
He paused for a long time.
Then his voice sounded again in the darkness, speaking quietly,
speaking with a note almost of satisfaction.
"I shall go mad. I must smoke or I shall go mad."
For a long time he sat up in the great bed with his arms about
Fearful things came to him; things at once dreadfully
blasphemous and entirely weak-minded.
The triangle and the eye became almost visible upon the black
background of night. They were very angry. They were spinning
round and round faster and faster. Because he was a bishop and
because really he did not believe fully and completely in the
Trinity. At one and the same time he did not believe in the
Trinity and was terrified by the anger of the Trinity at his
unbelief.... He was afraid. He was aghast.... And oh! he was
He rubbed his eyes.
"If I could have a cup of tea!" he said.
Then he perceived with surprise that he had not thought of
praying. What should he say? To what could he pray?
He tried not to think of that whizzing Triangle, that seemed
now to be nailed like a Catherine wheel to the very centre of his
forehead, and yet at the same time to be at the apex of the
universe. Against that--for protection against that--he was
praying. It was by a great effort that at last he pronounced the
"Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord ...."
Presently be had turned up his light, and was prowling about
the room. The clear inky dinginess that comes before the raw dawn
of a spring morning, found his white face at the window, looking
out upon the great terrace and the park.
CHAPTER THE SECOND - THE WEAR AND TEAR OF EPISCOPACY
IT was only in the last few years that the bishop had
experienced these nervous and mental crises. He was a belated
doubter. Whatever questionings had marked his intellectual
adolescence had either been very slight or had been too
adequately answered to leave any serious scars upon his
And even now he felt that he was afflicted physically rather
than mentally, that some protective padding of nerve-sheath or
brain-case had worn thin and weak, and left him a prey to strange
disturbances, rather than that any new process of thought was
eating into his mind. These doubts in his mind were still not
really doubts; they were rather alien and, for the first time,
uncontrolled movements of his intelligence. He had had a
sheltered upbringing; he was the well-connected son of a
comfortable rectory, the only son and sole survivor of a family
of three; he had been carefully instructed and he had been a
willing learner; it had been easy and natural to take many things
for granted. It had been very easy and pleasant for him to take
the world as he found it and God as he found Him. Indeed for all
his years up to manhood he had been able to take life exactly as
in his infancy he took his carefully warmed and prepared bottle
--unquestioningly and beneficially.
And indeed that has been the way with most bishops since
It is a busy continuous process that turns boys into bishops,
and it will stand few jars or discords. The student of
ecclesiastical biography will find that an early vocation has in
every age been almost universal among them; few are there among
these lives that do not display the incipient bishop from the
tenderest years. Bishop How of Wakefield composed hymns before he
was eleven, and Archbishop Benson when scarcely older possessed a
little oratory in which he conducted services and--a pleasant
touch of the more secular boy--which he protected from a too
inquisitive sister by means of a booby trap. It is rare that
those marked for episcopal dignities go so far into the outer
world as Archbishop Lang of York, who began as a barrister. This
early predestination has always been the common episcopal
experience. Archbishop Benson's early attempts at religious
services remind one both of St. Thomas a Becket, the "boy
bishop," and those early ceremonies of St. Athanasius which were
observed and inquired upon by the good bishop Alexander. (For
though still a tender infant, St. Athanasius with perfect
correctness and validity was baptizing a number of his innocent
playmates, and the bishop who "had paused to contemplate the
sports of the child remained to confirm the zeal of the
missionary.") And as with the bishop of the past, so with the
bishop of the future; the Rev. H. J. Campbell, in his story of
his soul's pilgrimage, has given us a pleasant picture of himself
as a child stealing out into the woods to build himself a little
Such minds as these, settled as it were from the outset, are
either incapable of real scepticism or become sceptical only
after catastrophic changes. They understand the sceptical mind
with difficulty, and their beliefs are regarded by the sceptical
mind with incredulity. They have determined their forms of belief
before their years of discretion, and once those forms are
determined they are not very easily changed. Within the shell it
has adopted the intelligence may be active and lively enough, may
indeed be extraordinarily active and lively, but only within the
There is an entire difference in the mental quality of those
who are converts to a faith and those who are brought up in it.
The former know it from outside as well as from within. They know
not only that it is, but also that it is not. The latter have a
confidence in their creed that is one with their apprehension of
sky or air or gravitation. It is a primary mental structure, and
they not only do not doubt but they doubt the good faith of those
who do. They think that the Atheist and Agnostic really believe
but are impelled by a mysterious obstinacy to deny. So it had
been with the Bishop of Princhester; not of cunning or design but
in simple good faith he had accepted all the inherited assurances
of his native rectory, and held by Church, Crown, Empire,
decorum, respectability, solvency--and compulsory Greek at the
Little Go--as his father had done before him. If in his
undergraduate days he had said a thing or two in the modern vein,
affected the socialism of William Morris and learnt some
Swinburne by heart, it was out of a conscious wildness. He did
not wish to be a prig. He had taken a far more genuine interest
in the artistry of ritual.
Through all the time of his incumbency of the church of the
Holy Innocents, St. John's Wood, and of his career as the bishop
suffragan of Pinner, he had never faltered from his profound
confidence in those standards of his home. He had been kind,
popular, and endlessly active. His undergraduate socialism had
expanded simply and sincerely into a theory of administrative
philanthropy. He knew the Webbs. He was as successful with
working-class audiences as with fashionable congregations. His
home life with Lady Ella (she was the daughter of the fifth Earl
of Birkenholme) and his five little girls was simple, beautiful,
and happy as few homes are in these days of confusion. Until he
became Bishop of Princhester--he followed Hood, the first
bishop, as the reign of his Majesty King Edward the Peacemaker
drew to its close--no anticipation of his coming distress fell
across his path.
He came to Princhester an innocent and trustful man. The home
life at the old rectory of Otteringham was still his standard of
truth and reality. London had not disillusioned him. It was a
strange waste of people, it made him feel like a missionary in
infidel parts, but it was a kindly waste. It was neither
antagonistic nor malicious. He had always felt there that if he
searched his Londoner to the bottom, he would find the completest
recognition of the old rectory and all its data and implications.
But Princhester was different.
Princhester made one think that recently there had been a
second and much more serious Fall.
Princhester was industrial and unashamed. It was a countryside
savagely invaded by forges and mine shafts and gaunt black
things. It was scarred and impeded and discoloured. Even before
that invasion, when the heather was not in flower it must have
been a black country. Its people were dour uncandid individuals,
who slanted their heads and knitted their brows to look at you.
Occasionally one saw woods brown and blistered by the gases from
chemical works. Here and there remained old rectories, closely
reminiscent of the dear old home at Otteringham, jostled and
elbowed and overshadowed by horrible iron cylinders belching
smoke and flame. The fine old abbey church of Princhester, which
was the cathedral of the new diocese, looked when first he saw it
like a lady Abbess who had taken to drink and slept in a coal
truck. She minced apologetically upon the market-place; the
parvenu Town Hall patronized and protected her as if she were a
The old aristocracy of the countryside was unpicturesquely
decayed. The branch of the Walshinghams, Lady Ella's cousins, who
lived near Pringle, was poor, proud and ignoble. And extremely
unpopular. The rich people of the country were self-made and
inclined to nonconformity, the working-people were not strictly
speaking a "poor," they were highly paid, badly housed, and
deeply resentful. They went in vast droves to football matches,
and did not care a rap if it rained. The prevailing wind was
sarcastic. To come here from London was to come from atmospheric
blue-greys to ashen-greys, from smoke and soft smut to grime and
The bishop had been charmed by the historical associations of
Princhester when first the see was put before his mind. His
realization of his diocese was a profound shock.
Only one hint had he had of what was coming. He had met during
his season of congratulations Lord Gatling dining unusually at
the Athenaeum. Lord Gatling and he did not talk frequently, but
on this occasion the great racing peer came over to him. "You
will feel like a cherub in a stokehole," Lord Gatling had
"They used to heave lumps of slag at old Hood's gaiters," said
"In London a bishop's a lord and a lark and nobody minds him,"
said Lord Gatling, "but Princhester is different. It isn't used
to bishops.... Well,--I hope you'll get to like 'em."
Trouble began with a fearful row about the position of the
bishop's palace. Hood had always evaded this question, and a
number of strong-willed self-made men of wealth and influence,
full of local patriotism and that competitive spirit which has
made England what it is, already intensely irritated by Hood's
prevarications, were resolved to pin his successor to an
immediate decision. Of this the new bishop was unaware. Mindful
of a bishop's constant need to travel, he was disposed to seek a
home within easy reach of Pringle Junction, from which nearly
every point in the diocese could be simply and easily reached.
This fell in with Lady Ella's liking for the rare rural quiet of
the Kibe valley and the neighbourhood of her cousins the
Walshinghams. Unhappily it did not fall in with the inflexible
resolution of each and every one of the six leading towns of the
see to put up, own, obtrude, boast, and swagger about the biggest
and showiest thing in episcopal palaces in all industrial
England, and the new bishop had already taken a short lease and
gone some way towards the acquisition of Ganford House, two miles
from Pringle, before he realized the strength and fury of these
At first the magnates and influences seemed to be fighting only
among themselves, and he was so ill-advised as to broach the
Ganford House project as a compromise that would glorify no one
unfairly, and leave the erection of an episcopal palace for some
future date when he perhaps would have the good fortune to have
passed to "where beyond these voices there is peace," forgetting
altogether among other oversights the importance of architects
and builders in local affairs. His proposal seemed for a time to
concentrate the rich passions of the whole countryside upon
himself and his wife.
Because they did not leave Lady Ella alone. The Walshinghams
were already unpopular in their county on account of a poverty
and shyness that made them seem "stuck up" to successful captains
of industry only too ready with the hand of friendship, the iron
grip indeed of friendship, consciously hospitable and eager for
admission and endorsements. And Princhester in particular was
under the sway of that enterprising weekly, The White Blackbird,
which was illustrated by, which indeed monopolized the gifts of,
that brilliant young caricaturist "The Snicker."
It had seemed natural for Lady Ella to acquiesce in the
proposals of the leading Princhester photographer. She had always
helped where she could in her husband's public work, and she had
been popular upon her own merits in Wealdstone. The portrait was
abominable enough in itself; it dwelt on her chin, doubled her
age, and denied her gentleness, but it was a mere starting-point
for the subtle extravagance of The Snicker's poisonous gift....
The thing came upon the bishop suddenly from the book-stall at
He kept it carefully from Lady Ella.... It was only later that
he found that a copy of The White Blackbird had been sent to her,
and that she was keeping the horror from him. It was in her vein
that she should reproach herself for being a vulnerable side to
Even when the bishop capitulated in favour of Princhester, that
decision only opened a fresh trouble for him. Princhester wanted
the palace to be a palace; it wanted to combine all the best
points of Lambeth and Fulham with the marble splendours of a good
modern bank. The bishop's architectural tastes, on the other
hand, were rationalistic. He was all for building a useful palace
in undertones, with a green slate roof and long horizontal lines.
What he wanted more than anything else was a quite remote wing
with a lot of bright little bedrooms and a sitting-room and so
on, complete in itself, examination hall and everything, with a
long intricate connecting passage and several doors, to prevent
the ordination candidates straying all over the place and getting
into the talk and the tea. But the diocese wanted a proud archway
--and turrets, and did not care a rap if the ordination
candidates slept about on the carpets in the bishop's bedroom.
Ordination candidates were quite outside the sphere of its
And he disappointed Princhester with his equipage. Princhester
had a feeling that it deserved more for coming over to the church
from nonconformity as it was doing. It wanted a bishop in a mitre
and a gilt coach. It wanted a pastoral crook. It wanted something
to go with its mace and its mayor. And (obsessed by The Snicker)
it wanted less of Lady Ella. The cruelty and unreason of these
attacks upon his wife distressed the bishop beyond measure, and
baffled him hopelessly. He could not see any means of checking
them nor of defending or justifying her against them.
The palace was awaiting its tenant, but the controversies and
bitternesses were still swinging and swaying and developing when
King George was being crowned. Close upon that event came a wave
of social discontent, the great railway strike, a curious sense
of social and political instability, and the first beginnings of
the bishop's ill health.
There came a day of exceptional fatigue and significance.
The industrial trouble was a very real distress to the bishop.
He had a firm belief that it is a function of the church to act
as mediator between employer and employed. It was a common saying
of his that the aim of socialism--the right sort of socialism
--was to Christianize employment. Regardless of suspicion on
either hand, regardless of very distinct hints that he should
"mind his own business," he exerted himself in a search for
methods of reconciliation. He sought out every one who seemed
likely to be influential on either side, and did his utmost to
discover the conditions of a settlement. As far as possible and
with the help of a not very efficient chaplain he tried to
combine such interviews with his more normal visiting.
At times, and this was particularly the case on this day, he
seemed to be discovering nothing but the incurable perversity and
militancy of human nature. It was a day under an east wind, when
a steely-blue sky full of colourless light filled a stiff-necked
world with whitish high lights and inky shadows. These bright
harsh days of barometric high pressure in England rouse and
thwart every expectation of the happiness of spring. And as the
bishop drove through the afternoon in a hired fly along a rutted
road of slag between fields that were bitterly wired against the
Sunday trespasser, he fell into a despondent meditation upon the
political and social outlook.
His thoughts were of a sort not uncommon in those days. The
world was strangely restless. Since the passing of Victoria the
Great there had been an accumulating uneasiness in the national
life. It was as if some compact and dignified paper-weight had
been lifted from people's ideas, and as if at once they had begun
to blow about anyhow. Not that Queen Victoria had really been a
paper-weight or any weight at all, but it happened that she died
as an epoch closed, an epoch of tremendous stabilities. Her son,
already elderly, had followed as the selvedge follows the piece,
he had passed and left the new age stripped bare. In nearly every
department of economic and social life now there was upheaval,
and it was an upheaval very different in character from the
radicalism and liberalism of the Victorian days. There were not
only doubt and denial, but now there were also impatience and
unreason. People argued less and acted quicker. There was a pride
in rebellion for its own sake, an indiscipline and disposition to
sporadic violence that made it extremely hard to negotiate any
reconciliations or compromises. Behind every extremist it seemed
stood a further extremist prepared to go one better....
The bishop had spent most of the morning with one of the big
employers, a tall dark man, lean and nervous, and obviously tired
and worried by the struggle. He did not conceal his opinion that
the church was meddling with matters quite outside its sphere.
Never had it been conveyed to the bishop before how remote a rich
and established Englishman could consider the church from
"You've got no hold on them," he said. "It isn't your sphere."
And again: "They'll listen to you--if you speak well. But
they don't believe you know anything about it, and they don't
trust your good intentions. They won't mind a bit what you say
unless you drop something they can use against us."
The bishop tried a few phrases. He thought there might be
something in co-operation, in profit-sharing, in some more
permanent relationship between the business and the employee.
"There isn't," said the employer compactly. "It's just the
malice of being inferior against the man in control. It's just
the spirit of insubordination and boredom with duty. This
trouble's as old as the Devil."
"But that is exactly the business of the church," said the
bishop brightly, "to reconcile men to their duty."
"By chanting the Athanasian creed at 'em, I suppose," said the
big employer, betraying the sneer he had been hiding hitherto.
"This thing is a fight," said the big employer, carrying on
before the bishop could reply. "Religion had better get out of
the streets until this thing is over. The men won't listen to
reason. They don't mean to. They're bit by Syndicalism. They're
setting out, I tell you, to be unreasonable and impossible. It
isn't an argument; it's a fight. They don't want to make friends
with the employer. They want to make an end to the employer.
Whatever we give them they'll take and press us for more.
Directly we make terms with the leaders the men go behind it....
It's a raid on the whole system. They don't mean to work the
system--anyhow. I'm the capitalist, and the capitalist has to
go. I'm to be bundled out of my works, and some--some "--he
seemed to be rejecting unsuitable words--" confounded politician
put in. Much good it would do them. But before that happens I'm
going to fight. You would."
The bishop walked to the window and stood staring at the
brilliant spring bulbs in the big employer's garden, and at a
long vista of newly-mown lawn under great shapely trees just
budding into green.
"I can't admit," he said, "that these troubles lie outside the
sphere of the church."
The employer came and stood beside him. He felt he was being a
little hard on the bishop, but he could not see any way of making
"One doesn't want Sacred Things," he tried, "in a scrap like
"We've got to mend things or end things," continued the big
employer. "Nothing goes on for ever. Things can't last as they
are going on now...."
Then he went on abruptly to something that for a time he had
been keeping back.
"Of course just at present the church may do a confounded lot
of harm. Some of you clerical gentlemen are rather too fond of
talking socialism and even preaching socialism. Don't think I
want to be overcritical. I admit there's no end of things to be
said for a proper sort of socialism, Ruskin, and all that. We're
all Socialists nowadays. Ideals--excellent. But--it gets
misunderstood. It gives the men a sense of moral support. It
makes them fancy that they are It. Encourages them to forget
duties and set up preposterous claims. Class war and all that
sort of thing. You gentlemen of the clergy don't quite realize
that socialism may begin with Ruskin and end with Karl Marx. And
that from the Class War to the Commune is just one step."
From this conversation the bishop had made his way to the
vicarage of Mogham Banks. The vicar of Mogham Banks was a
sacerdotal socialist of the most advanced type, with the
reputation of being closely in touch with the labour extremists.
He was a man addicted to banners, prohibited ornaments, special
services at unusual hours, and processions in the streets. His
taste in chasubles was loud, he gardened in a cassock and, it was
said, he slept in his biretta; he certainly slept in a hair
shirt, and he littered his church with flowers, candles, side
altars, confessional boxes, requests for prayers for the
departed, and the like. There had already been two Kensitite
demonstrations at his services, and altogether he was a source of
considerable anxiety to the bishop. The bishop did his best not
to know too exactly what was going on at Mogham Banks. Sooner or
later he felt he would be forced to do something--and the
longer he could put that off the better. But the Rev. Morrice
Deans had promised to get together three or four prominent labour
leaders for tea and a frank talk, and the opportunity was one not
to be missed. So the bishop, after a hasty and not too digestible
lunch in the refreshment room at Pringle, was now in a fly that
smelt of straw and suggested infectious hospital patients, on his
way through the industry-scarred countryside to this second
The countryside had never seemed so scarred to him as it did
It was probably the bright hard spring sunshine that emphasized
the contrast between that dear England of hedges and homes and
the south-west wind in which his imagination lived, and the crude
presences of a mechanical age. Never before had the cuttings and
heapings, the smashing down of trees, the obtrusion of corrugated
iron and tar, the belchings of smoke and the haste, seemed so
harsh and disregardful of all the bishop's world. Across the
fields a line of gaunt iron standards, abominably designed,
carried an electric cable to some unknown end. The curve of the
hill made them seem a little out of the straight, as if they
hurried and bent forward furtively.
"Where are they going?" asked the bishop, leaning forward to
look out of the window of the fly, and then: "Where is it all
And presently the road was under repair, and was being done at
a great pace with a huge steam-roller, mechanically smashed
granite, and kettles of stinking stuff, asphalt or something of
that sort, that looked and smelt like Milton's hell. Beyond, a
gaunt hoarding advertised extensively the Princhester Music Hall,
a mean beastly place that corrupted boys and girls; and also it
clamoured of tyres and potted meats....
The afternoon's conference gave him no reassuring answer to his
question, "Where is it all going?"
The afternoon's conference did no more than intensify the new
and strange sense of alienation from the world that the morning's
talk had evoked.
The three labour extremists that Morrice Deans had assembled
obviously liked the bishop and found him picturesque, and were
not above a certain snobbish gratification at the purple-trimmed
company they were in, but it was clear that they regarded his
intervention in the great dispute as if it were a feeble waving
from the bank across the waters of a great river.
"There's an incurable misunderstanding between the modern
employer and the modern employed," the chief labour spokesman
said, speaking in a broad accent that completely hid from him and
the bishop and every one the fact that he was by far the
best-read man of the party. "Disraeli called them the Two
Nations, but that was long ago. Now it's a case of two species.
Machinery has made them into different species. The employer
lives away from his work-people, marries a wife foreign, out of a
county family or suchlike, trains his children from their very
birth in a different manner. Why, the growth curve is different
for the two species. They haven't even a common speech between
them. One looks east and the other looks west. How can you expect
them to agree? Of course they won't agree. We've got to fight it
out. They say we're their slaves for ever. Have you ever read
Lady Bell's 'At the Works'? A well-intentioned woman, but she
gives the whole thing away. We say, No! It's our sort and not
your sort. We'll do without you. We'll get a little more
education and then we'll do without you. We're pressing for all
we can get, and when we've got that we'll take breath and press
for more. We're the Morlocks. Coming up. It isn't our fault that
"But you haven't understood the drift of Christianity," said
the bishop. "It's just to assert that men are One community and
"There's not much of that in the Creeds," said a second labour
leader who was a rationalist. "There's not much of that in the
services of the church."
The vicar spoke before his bishop, and indeed he had plenty of
time to speak before his bishop. "Because you will not set
yourselves to understand the symbolism of her ritual," he said.
"If the church chooses to speak in riddles," said the
"Symbols," said Morrice Deans, "need not be riddles," and for a
time the talk eddied about this minor issue and the chief labour
spokesman and the bishop looked at one another. The vicar
instanced and explained certain apparently insignificant
observances, his antagonist was contemptuously polite to these
explanations. "That's all very pratty," he said....
The bishop wished that fine points of ceremonial might have
been left out of the discussion.
Something much bigger than that was laying hold of his
intelligence, the realization of a world extravagantly out of
hand. The sky, the wind, the telegraph poles, had been jabbing in
the harsh lesson of these men's voices, that the church, as
people say, "wasn't in it." And that at the same time the church
held the one remedy for all this ugliness and contention in its
teaching of the universal fatherhood of God and the universal
brotherhood of men. Only for some reason he hadn't the phrases
and he hadn't the voice to assert this over their wrangling and
their stiff resolution. He wanted to think the whole business out
thoroughly, for the moment he had nothing to say, and there was
the labour leader opposite waiting smilingly to hear what he had
to say so soon as the bout between the vicar and the rationalist
That morning in the long galleries of the bishop's imagination
a fresh painting had been added. It was a big wall painting
rather in the manner of Puvis de Chavannes. And the central
figure had been the bishop of Princhester himself. He had been
standing upon the steps of the great door of the cathedral that
looks upon the marketplace where the tram-lines meet, and he had
been dressed very magnificently and rather after the older use.
He had been wearing a tunicle and dalmatic under a chasuble, a
pectoral cross, purple gloves, sandals and buskins, a mitre and
his presentation ring. In his hand he had borne his pastoral
staff. And the clustering pillars and arches of the great doorway
were painted with a loving flat particularity that omitted
nothing but the sooty tinge of the later discolourations.
On his right hand had stood a group of employers very richly
dressed in the fashion of the fifteenth century, and on the left
a rather more numerous group of less decorative artisans. With
them their wives and children had been shown, all greatly
impressed by the canonicals. Every one had been extremely
He had been reconciling the people and blessing them and
calling them his "sheep" and his "little children."
But all this was so different.
Neither party resembled sheep or little children in the least
The labour leader became impatient with the ritualistic
controversy; he set his tea-cup aside out of danger and leant
across the corner of the table to the bishop and spoke in a
sawing undertone. "You see," he said, "the church does not talk
our language. I doubt if it understands our language. I doubt if
we understand clearly where we are ourselves. These things have
to be fought out and hammered out. It's a big dusty dirty noisy
job. It may be a bloody job before it's through. You can't
suddenly call a halt in the middle of the scrap and have a sort
of millennium just because you want it....
"Of course if the church had a plan," he said, "if it had a
proposal to make, if it had anything more than a few pious
palliatives to suggest, that might be different. But has it?"
The bishop had a bankrupt feeling. On the spur of the moment he
could say no more than: "It offers its mediation."
Full as he was with the preoccupation of these things and so a
little slow and inattentive in his movements, the bishop had his
usual luck at Pringle Junction and just missed the 7.27 for
Princhester. He might perhaps have got it by running through the
subway and pushing past people, but bishops must not run through
subways and push past people. His mind swore at the mischance,
even if his lips refrained.
He was hungry and, tired; he would not get to the palace now
until long after nine; dinner would be over and Lady Ella would
naturally suppose he had dined early with the Rev. Morrice Deans.
Very probably there would be nothing ready for him at all.
He tried to think he was exercising self-control, but indeed
all his sub-conscious self was busy in a manner that would not
have disgraced Tertullian with the eternal welfare of those city
fathers whose obstinacy had fixed the palace at Princhester. He
walked up and down the platform, gripping his hands very tightly
behind him, and maintaining a serene upcast countenance by a
steadfast effort. It seemed a small matter to him that the
placards of the local evening papers should proclaim "Lloyd
George's Reconciliation Meeting at Wombash Broken up by
Suffragettes." For a year now he had observed a strict rule
against buying the products of the local press, and he saw no
reason for varying this protective regulation.
His mind was full of angry helplessness.
Was he to blame, was the church to blame, for its powerlessness
in these social disputes? Could an abler man with a readier
eloquence have done more?
He envied the cleverness of Cardinal Manning. Manning would
have got right into the front of this affair. He would have
accumulated credit for his church and himself....
But would he have done much?...
The bishop wandered along the platform to its end, and stood
contemplating the convergent ways that gather together beyond the
station and plunge into the hillside and the wilderness of
sidings and trucks, signal-boxes, huts, coal-pits, electric
standards, goods sheds, turntables, and engine-houses, that ends
in a bluish bricked-up cliff against the hill. A train rushed
with a roar and clatter into the throat of the great tunnel and
was immediately silenced; its rear lights twinkled and vanished,
and then out of that huge black throat came wisps of white steam
and curled slowly upward like lazy snakes until they caught the
slanting sunshine. For the first time the day betrayed a softness
and touched this scene of black energy to gold. All late
afternoons are beautiful, whatever the day has been--if only
there is a gleam of sun. And now a kind of mechanical greatness
took the place of mere black disorder in the bishop's perception
of his see. It was harsh, it was vast and strong, it was no lamb
he had to rule but a dragon. Would it ever be given to him to
overcome his dragon, to lead it home, and bless it?
He stood at the very end of the platform, with his gaitered
legs wide apart and his hands folded behind him, staring beyond
all visible things.
Should he do something very bold and striking? Should he invite
both men and masters to the cathedral, and preach tremendous
sermons to them upon these living issues?
Short sermons, of course.
But stating the church's attitude with a new and convincing
He had a vision of the great aisle strangely full and alive and
astir. The organ notes still echoed in the fretted vaulting, as
the preacher made his way from the chancel to the pulpit. The
congregation was tense with expectation, and for some reason his
mind dwelt for a long time upon the figure of the preacher
ascending the steps of the pulpit. Outside the day was dark and
stormy, so that the stained-glass windows looked absolutely dead.
For a little while the preacher prayed. Then in the attentive
silence the tenor of the preacher would begin, a thin jet of
sound, a ray of light in the darkness, speaking to all these men
as they had never been spoken to before....
Surely so one might call a halt to all these harsh conflicts.
So one might lay hands afresh upon these stubborn minds, one
might win them round to look at Christ the Master and Servant....
That, he thought, would be a good phrase: "Christ the Master
"Members of one Body," that should be his text.... At last it
was finished. The big congregation, which had kept so still,
sighed and stirred. The task of reconciliation was as good as
done. "And now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy
Outside the day had become suddenly bright, the threatening
storm had drifted away, and great shafts of coloured light from
the pictured windows were smiting like arrows amidst his
This idea of a great sermon upon capital and labour did so
powerfully grip the bishop's imagination that he came near to
losing the 8.27 train also.
He discovered it when it was already in the station. He had to
walk down the platform very quickly. He did not run, but his
gaiters, he felt, twinkled more than a bishop's should.
Directly he met his wife he realized that he had to hear
something important and unpleasant.
She stood waiting for him in the inner hall, looking very grave
and still. The light fell upon her pale face and her dark hair
and her long white silken dress, making her seem more delicate
and unworldly than usual and making the bishop feel grimy and
"I must have a wash," he said, though before he had thought of
nothing but food. "I have had nothing to eat since tea-time--
and that was mostly talk."
Lady Ella considered. "There are cold things.... You shall have
a tray in the study. Not in the dining-room. Eleanor is there. I
want to tell you something. But go upstairs first and wash your
poor tired face."
"Nothing serious, I hope?" he asked, struck by an unusual
quality in her voice.
"I will tell you," she evaded, and after a moment of mutual
scrutiny he went past her upstairs.
Since they had come to Princhester Lady Ella had changed very
markedly. She seemed to her husband to have gained in dignity;
she was stiller and more restrained; a certain faint arrogance, a
touch of the "ruling class" manner had dwindled almost to the
vanishing point. There had been a time when she had inclined to
an authoritative hauteur, when she had seemed likely to develop
into one of those aggressive and interfering old ladies who play
so overwhelming a part in British public affairs. She had been
known to initiate adverse judgments, to exercise the snub, to cut
and humiliate. Princhester had done much to purge her of such
tendencies. Princhester had made her think abundantly, and had
put a new and subtler quality into her beauty. It had taken away
the least little disposition to rustle as she moved, and it had
softened her voice.
Now, when presently she stood in the study, she showed a new
circumspection in her treatment of her husband. She surveyed the
tray before him.
"You ought not to drink that Burgundy," she said. "I can see
you are dog-tired. It was uncorked yesterday, and anyhow it is
not very digestible. This cold meat is bad enough. You ought to
have one of those quarter bottles of champagne you got for my
last convalescence. There's more than a dozen left over."
The bishop felt that this was a pretty return of his own kindly
thoughts "after many days," and soon Dunk, his valet-butler, was
pouring out the precious and refreshing glassful....
"And now, dear?" said the bishop, feeling already much better.
Lady Ella had come round to the marble fireplace. The
mantel-piece was a handsome work by a Princhester artist in the
Gill style--with contemplative ascetics as supporters.
"I am worried about Eleanor," said Lady Ella.
"She is in the dining-room now," she said, "having some dinner.
She came in about a quarter past eight, half way through dinner."
"Where had she been?" asked the bishop.
"Her dress was torn--in two places. Her wrist had been
twisted and a little sprained."
"Her face--Grubby! And she had been crying."
"But, my dear, what had happened to her? You don't mean--?"
Husband and wife stared at one another aghast. Neither of them
said the horrid word that flamed between them.
"Merciful heaven!" said the bishop, and assumed an attitude of
"I didn't know she knew any of them. But it seems it is the
second Walshingham girl--Phoebe. It's impossible to trace a
girl's thoughts and friends. She persuaded her to go."
"But did she understand?"
"That's the serious thing," said Lady Ella.
She seemed to consider whether he could bear the blow.
"She understands all sorts of things. She argues.... I am quite
unable to argue with her."
"About this vote business?"
"About all sorts of things. Things I didn't imagine she had
heard of. I knew she had been reading books. But I never imagined
that she could have understood...."
The bishop laid down his knife and fork.
"One may read in books, one may even talk of things, without
fully understanding," he said.
Lady Ella tried to entertain this comforting thought. "It isn't
like that," she said at last. "She talks like a grown-up person.
This--this escapade is just an accident. But things have gone
further than that. She seems to think--that she is not being
educated properly here, that she ought to go to a College. As if
we were keeping things from her...."
The bishop reconsidered his plate.
"But what things?" he said.
"She says we get all round her," said Lady Ella, and left the
implications of that phrase to unfold.
For a time the bishop said very little.
Lady Ella had found it necessary to make her first announcement
standing behind him upon the hearthrug, but now she sat upon the
arm of the great armchair as close to him as possible, and spoke
in a more familiar tone.
The thing, she said, had come to her as a complete surprise.
Everything had seemed so safe. Eleanor had been thoughtful, it
was true, but it had never occurred to her mother that she had
really been thinking--about such things as she had been
thinking about. She had ranged in the library, and displayed a
disposition to read the weekly papers and the monthly reviews.
But never a sign of discontent.
"But I don't understand," said the bishop. "Why is she
discontented? What is there that she wants different?"
"Exactly," said Lady Ella.
"She has got this idea that life here is secluded in some way,"
she expanded. "She used words like 'secluded' and 'artificial'
and--what was it?--'cloistered.' And she said--"
Lady Ella paused with an effect of exact retrospection.
"'Out there,' she said, 'things are alive. Real things are
happening.' It is almost as if she did not fully believe--"
Lady Ella paused again.
The bishop sat with his arm over the back of his chair, and his
"The ferment of youth," he said at last. "The ferment of youth.
Who has given her these ideas?"
Lady Ella did not know. She could have thought a school like
St. Aubyns would have been safe, but nowadays nothing was safe.
It was clear the girls who went there talked as girls a
generation ago did not talk. Their people at home encouraged them
to talk and profess opinions about everything. It seemed that
Phoebe Walshingham and Lady Kitty Kingdom were the leaders in
these premature mental excursions. Phoebe aired religious doubts.
"But little Phoebe!" said the bishop.
"Kitty," said Lady Ella, "has written a novel."
"With elopements in it--and all sorts of things. She's had it
typed. You'd think Mary Crosshampton would know better than to
let her daughter go flourishing the family imagination about in
"Eleanor told you?"
"By way of showing that they think of--things in general."
The bishop reflected. "She wants to go to College."
"They want to go in a set."
"I wonder if college can be much worse than school.... She's
eighteen--? But I will talk to her...."
All our children are changelings. They are perpetually fresh
strangers. Every day they vanish and a new person masquerades as
yesterday's child until some unexpected development betrays the
The bishop had still to learn this perennial newness of the
young. He learnt it in half an hour at the end of a fatiguing
He went into the dining-room. He went in as carelessly as
possible and smoking a cigarette. He had an honourable dread of
being portentous in his family; almost ostentatiously he laid the
bishop aside. Eleanor had finished her meal, and was sitting in
the arm-chair by the fire with one hand holding her sprained
"Well," he said, and strolled to the hearthrug. He had had an
odd idea that he would find her still dirty, torn, and tearful,
as her mother had described her, a little girl in a scrape. But
she had changed into her best white evening frock and put up her
hair, and became in the firelight more of a lady, a very young
lady but still a lady, than she had ever been to him before. She
was dark like her mother, but not of the same willowy type; she
had more of her father's sturdy build, and she had developed her
shoulders at hockey and tennis. The firelight brought out the
gracious reposeful lines of a body that ripened in adolescence.
And though there was a vibration of resolution in her voice she
spoke like one who is under her own control.
"Mother has told you that I have disgraced myself," she began.
"No," said the bishop, weighing it. "No. But you seem to have
been indiscreet, little Norah."
"I got excited," she said. "They began turning out the other
women--roughly. I was indignant."
"You didn't go to interrupt?" he asked.
She considered. "No," she said. "But I went."
He liked her disposition to get it right. "On that side," he
"It isn't the same thing as really meaning, Daddy," she said.
"And then things happened?"
"Yes," she said to the fire.
A pause followed. If they had been in a law-court, her
barrister would have said, "That is my case, my lord." The bishop
prepared to open the next stage in the proceedings.
"I think, Norah, you shouldn't have been there at all," he
"Mother says that."
"A man in my position is apt to be judged by his family. You
commit more than yourself when you commit an indiscretion. Apart
from that, it wasn't the place for a girl to be at. You are not a
child now. We give you freedom--more freedom than most girls
get--because we think you will use it wisely. You knew--
enough to know that there was likely to be trouble."
The girl looked into the fire and spoke very carefully. "I
don't think that I oughtn't to know the things that are going
The bishop studied her face for an instant. It struck him that
they had reached something very fundamental as between parent and
child. His modernity showed itself in the temperance of his
"Don't you think, my dear, that on the whole your mother and I,
who have lived longer and know more, are more likely to know when
it is best that you should begin to know--this or that?"
The girl knitted her brows and seemed to be reading her answer
out of the depths of the coals. She was on the verge of speaking,
altered her mind and tried a different beginning.
"I think that every one must do their thinking--his thinking
--for--oneself," she said awkwardly.
"You mean you can't trust--?"
"It isn't trusting. But one knows best for oneself when one is
"And you find yourself hungry?"
"I want to find out for myself what all this trouble about
votes and things means."
"And we starve you--intellectually?"
"You know I don't think that. But you are busy...."
"Aren't you being perhaps a little impatient, Eleanor? After
all--you are barely eighteen.... We have given you all sorts of
Her silence admitted it. "But still," she said after a long
pause, "there are other girls, younger than I am, in these
things. They talk about--oh, all sorts of things. Freely...."
"You've been awfully good to me," she said irrelevantly. "And
of course this meeting was all pure accident."
Father and daughter remained silent for awhile, seeking a
"What exactly do you want, Eleanor? " he asked.
She looked up at him. "Generally?" she asked.
"Your mother has the impression that you are discontented."
"Discontented is a horrid word."
She remained still for a time. She felt the moment had come to
make her demand.
"I would like to go to Newnham or Somerville--and work. I
feel--so horribly ignorant. Of all sorts of things. If I were a
son I should go--"
"Ye--es," said the bishop and reflected.
He had gone rather far in the direction of the Woman Suffrage
people; he had advocated equality of standard in all sorts of
matters, and the memory of these utterances hampered him.
"You could read here," he tried.
"If I were a son, you wouldn't say that."
His reply was vague. "But in this home," he said, "we have a
certain atmosphere. .
He left her to imply her differences in sensibility and
response from the hardier male.
Her hesitation marked the full gravity of her reply. "It's just
that," she said. "One feels--" She considered it further. "As if
we were living in a kind of magic world--not really real. Out
there--" she glanced over her shoulder at the drawn blind that
hid the night. "One meets with different sorts of minds and
different--atmospheres. All this is very beautiful. I've had
the most wonderful home. But there's a sort of feeling as though
it couldn't really go on, as though all these strikes and doubts
She stopped short at questionings, for the thing was said.
The bishop took her meaning gallantly and honestly.
"The church of Christ, little Norah, is built upon a rock."
She made no answer. She moved her head very slightly so that he
could not see her face, and remained sitting rather stiffly and
awkwardly with her eyes upon the fire.
Her silence was the third and greatest blow the bishop received
It seemed very long indeed before either of them spoke. At last
he said: "We must talk about these things again, Norah, when we
are less tired and have more time.... You have been reading
books.... When Caxton set up his printing-press he thrust a new
power between church and disciple and father and child.... And I
am tired. We must talk it over a little later."
The girl stood up. She took her father's hands. "Dear, dear
Daddy," she said, "I am so sorry to be a bother. I am so sorry I
went to that meeting.... You look tired out."
"We must talk--properly," said the bishop, patting
one hand, then discovering from her wincing face that it was the
sprained one. "Your poor wrist," he said.
"It's so hard to talk, but I want to talk to you, Daddy. It
isn't that I have hidden things...."
She kissed him, and the bishop had the odd fancy that she
kissed him as though she was sorry for him....
It occurred to him that really there could be no time like the
present for discussing these "questionings" of hers, and then his
fatigue and shyness had the better of him again.
The papers got hold of Eleanor's share in the suffragette
disturbance. The White Blackbird said things about her.
It did not attack her. It did worse. It admired her
It spoke of her once as "Norah," and once as "the Scrope
Its headline proclaimed: "Plucky Flappers Hold Up L. G."
CHAPTER THE THIRD - INSOMNIA
THE night after his conversation with Eleanor was the first
night of the bishop's insomnia. It was the definite beginning of
a new phase in his life.
Doctors explain to us that the immediate cause of insomnia is
always some poisoned or depleted state of the body, and no doubt
the fatigues and hasty meals of the day had left the bishop in a
state of unprecedented chemical disorder, with his nerves
irritated by strange compounds and unsoothed by familiar
lubricants. But chemical disorders follow mental disturbances,
and the core and essence of his trouble was an intellectual
distress. For the first time in his life he was really in doubt,
about himself, about his way of living, about all his
persuasions. It was a general doubt. It was not a specific
suspicion upon this point or that. It was a feeling of detachment
and unreality at once extraordinarily vague and extraordinarily
oppressive. It was as if he discovered himself flimsy and
transparent in a world of minatory solidity and opacity. It was
as if he found himself made not of flesh and blood but of tissue
But this intellectual insecurity extended into his physical
sensations. It affected his feeling in his skin, as if it were
not absolutely his own skin.
And as he lay there, a weak phantom mentally and bodily, an
endless succession and recurrence of anxieties for which he could
find no reassurance besieged him.
Chief of this was his distress for Eleanor.
She was the central figure in this new sense of illusion in
familiar and trusted things. It was not only that the world of
his existence which had seemed to be the whole universe had
become diaphanous and betrayed vast and uncontrollable realities
beyond it, but his daughter had as it were suddenly opened a door
in this glassy sphere of insecurity that had been his abiding
refuge, a door upon the stormy rebel outer world, and she stood
there, young, ignorant, confident, adventurous, ready to step
"Could it be possible that she did not believe?"
He saw her very vividly as he had seen her in the dining-room,
slender and upright, half child, half woman, so fragile and so
fearless. And the door she opened thus carelessly gave upon a
stormy background like one of the stormy backgrounds that were
popular behind portrait Dianas in eighteenth century paintings.
Did she believe that all be had taught her, all the life he led
was--what was her phrase?--a kind of magic world, not really
He groaned and turned over and repeated the words:
"A kind of magic world--not really real!"
The wind blew through the door she opened, and scattered
everything in the room. And still she held the door open.
He was astonished at himself. He started up in swift
indignation. Had he not taught the child? Had he not brought her
up in an atmosphere of faith? What right had she to turn upon him
in this matter? It was--indeed it was--a sort of insolence, a
lack of reverence....
It was strange he had not perceived this at the time.
But indeed at the first mention of "questionings" he ought to
have thundered. He saw that quite clearly now. He ought to have
cried out and said, "On your knees, my Norah, and ask pardon of
Because after all faith is an emotional thing....
He began to think very rapidly and copiously of things he ought
to have said to Eleanor. And now the eloquence of reverie was
upon him. In a little time he was also addressing the tea-party
at Morrice Deans'. Upon them too he ought to have thundered. And
he knew now also all that he should have said to the recalcitrant
employer. Thunder also. Thunder is surely the privilege of the
higher clergy--under Jove.
But why hadn't he thundered?
He gesticulated in the darkness, thrust out a clutching hand.
There are situations that must be gripped--gripped firmly.
And without delay. In the middle ages there had been grip enough
in a purple glove.
From these belated seizures of the day's lost opportunities the
bishop passed to such a pessimistic estimate of the church as had
never entered his mind before.
It was as if he had fallen suddenly out of a spiritual balloon
into a world of bleak realism. He found himself asking
unprecedented and devastating questions, questions that implied
the most fundamental shiftings of opinion. Why was the church
such a failure? Why had it no grip upon either masters or men
amidst this vigorous life of modern industrialism, and why had it
no grip upon the questioning young? It was a tolerated thing, he
felt, just as sometimes he had felt that the Crown was a
tolerated thing. He too was a tolerated thing; a curious
This was not as things should be. He struggled to recover a
proper attitude. But he remained enormously dissatisfied....
The church was no Levite to pass by on the other side away from
the struggles and wrongs of the social conflict. It had no right
when the children asked for the bread of life to offer them
He began to make interminable weak plans for fulfilling his
duty to his diocese and his daughter.
What could he do to revivify his clergy? He wished he had more
personal magnetism, he wished he had a darker and a larger
presence. He wished he had not been saddled with Whippham's
rather futile son as his chaplain. He wished he had a dean
instead of being his own dean. With an unsympathetic rector. He
wished he had it in him to make some resounding appeal. He might
of course preach a series of thumping addresses and sermons,
rather on the lines of "Fors Clavigera," to masters and men, in
the Cathedral. Only it was so difficult to get either masters or
men into the Cathedral.
Well, if the people will not come to the bishop the bishop must
go out to the people. Should he go outside the Cathedral--to
the place where the trains met?
Interweaving with such thoughts the problem of Eleanor rose
again into his consciousness.
Weren't there books she ought to read? Weren't there books she
ought to be made to read? And books--and friends--that ought
to be imperatively forbidden? Imperatively!
But how to define the forbidden?
He began to compose an address on Modern Literature
It became acrimonious.
Before dawn the birds began to sing.
His mind had seemed to be a little tranquillized, there had
been a distinct feeling of subsidence sleepwards, when first one
and then another little creature roused itself and the bishop to
greet the gathering daylight.
It became a little clamour, a misty sea of sound in which
individuality appeared and disappeared. For a time a distant
cuckoo was very perceptible, like a landmark looming up over a
fog, like the cuckoo in the Pastoral Symphony.
The bishop tried not to heed these sounds, but they were by
their very nature insistent sounds. He lay disregarding them
Presently he pulled the coverlet over his ears.
A little later he sat up in bed.
Again in a slight detail he marked his strange and novel
detachment from the world of his upbringing. His hallucination of
disillusionment had spread from himself and his church and his
faith to the whole animate creation. He knew that these were the
voices of "our feathered songsters," that this was "a joyous
chorus" greeting the day. He knew that a wakeful bishop ought to
bless these happy creatures, and join with them by reciting Ken's
morning hymn. He made an effort that was more than half habit, to
repeat and he repeated with a scowling face and the voice of a
"Awake my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run...."
He got no further. He stopped short, sat still, thinking what
utterly detestable things singing birds were. A. blackbird had
gripped his attention. Never had he heard such vain repetitions.
He struggled against the dark mood of criticism. "He prayeth best
who loveth best--"
No, he did not love the birds. It was useless to pretend.
Whatever one may say about other birds a cuckoo is a low
detestable cad of a bird.
Then the bishop began to be particularly tormented by a bird
that made a short, insistent, wheezing sound at regular intervals
of perhaps twenty seconds. If a bird could have whooping-cough,
that, he thought, was the sort of whoop it would have. But even
if it had whooping-cough he could not pity it. He hung in its
intervals waiting for the return of the wheeze.
And then that blackbird reasserted itself. It had a rich
boastful note; it seemed proud of its noisy reiteration of simple
self-assertion. For some obscure reason the phrase "oleographic
sounds" drifted into the bishop's thoughts. This bird produced
the peculiar and irrational impression that it had recently made
a considerable sum of money by shrewd industrialism. It was, he
thought grimly, a genuine Princhester blackbird.
This wickedly uncharitable reference to his diocese ran all
unchallenged through the bishop's mind. And others no less wicked
Once during his summer holidays in Florence he and Lady Ella
had subscribed to an association for the protection of
song-birds. He recalled this now with a mild wonder. It seemed to
him that perhaps after all it was as well to let fruit-growers
and Italians deal with singing-birds in their own way. Perhaps
after all they had a wisdom....
He passed his hands over his face. The world after all is not
made entirely for singing-birds; there is such a thing as
proportion. Singing-birds may become a luxury, an indulgence, an
Did the birds eat the fruit in Paradise?
Perhaps there they worked for some collective musical effect,
had some sort of conductor in the place of this--hullabaloo....
He decided to walk about the room for a time and then remake
The sunrise found the bishop with his head and shoulders out of
the window trying to see that blackbird. He just wanted to look
at it. He was persuaded it was a quite exceptional blackbird.
Again came that oppressive sense of the futility of the
contemporary church, but this time it came in the most grotesque
form. For hanging half out of the casement he was suddenly
reminded of St. Francis of Assisi, and how at his rebuke the
wheeling swallow stilled their cries.
But it was all so different then.
It was only after he had passed four similar nights, with
intervening days of lassitude and afternoon siestas, that the
bishop realized that he was in the grip of insomnia.
He did not go at once to a doctor, but he told his trouble to
every one he met and received much tentative advice. He had meant
to have his talk with Eleanor on the morning next after their
conversation in the dining-room, but his bodily and spiritual
anaemia prevented him.
The fifth night was the beginning of the Whitsuntide Ember
week, and he wore a red cassock and had a distracting and rather
interesting day welcoming his ordination candidates. They had a
good effect upon him; we spiritualize ourselves when we seek to
spiritualize others, and he went to bed in a happier frame of
mind than he had done since the day of the shock. He woke in the
night, but he woke much more himself than he had been since the
trouble began. He repeated that verse of Ken's:
"When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest."
Almost immediately after these there floated into his mind, as
if it were a message, the dear familiar words:
"He giveth his Beloved sleep."
These words irradiated and soothed him quite miraculously, the
clouds of doubt seemed to dissolve and vanish and leave him safe
and calm under a clear sky; he knew those words were a promise,
and very speedily he fell asleep and slept until he was called.
But the next day was a troubled one. Whippham had muddled his
timetable and crowded his afternoon; the strike of the transport
workers had begun, and the ugly noises they made at the tramway
depot, where they were booing some one, penetrated into the
palace. He had to snatch a meal between services, and the sense
of hurry invaded his afternoon lectures to the candidates. He
hated hurry in Ember week. His ideal was one of quiet serenity,
of grave things said slowly, of still, kneeling figures, of a
sort of dark cool spiritual germination. But what sort of dark
cool spiritual germination is possible with an ass like Whippham
In the fresh courage of the morning the bishop had arranged for
that talk with Eleanor he had already deferred too long, and this
had proved less satisfactory than he had intended it to be.
The bishop's experience with the ordination candidates was
following the usual course. Before they came there was something
bordering upon distaste for the coming invasion; then always
there was an effect of surprise at the youth and faith of the
neophytes and a real response of the spirit to the occasion.
Throughout the first twenty-four hours they were all simply
neophytes, without individuality to break up their uniformity of
self-devotion. Then afterwards they began to develop little
personal traits, and scarcely ever were these pleasing traits.
Always one or two of them would begin haunting the bishop, giving
way to an appetite for special words, special recognitions. He
knew the expression of that craving on their faces. He knew the
way-laying movements in room and passage that presently began.
This time in particular there was a freckled underbred young
man who handed in what was evidently a carefully prepared
memorandum upon what he called "my positions." Apparently he had
a muddle of doubts about the early fathers and the dates of the
earlier authentic copies of the gospels, things of no conceivable
The bishop glanced through this bale of papers--it had of
course no index and no synopsis, and some of the pages were not
numbered--handed it over to Whippham, and when he proved, as
usual, a broken reed, the bishop had the brilliant idea of
referring the young man to Canon Bliss (of Pringle), "who has a
special knowledge quite beyond my own in this field."
But he knew from the young man's eye even as he said this that
it was not going to put him off for more than a day or so.
The immediate result of glancing over these papers was,
however, to enhance in the bishop's mind a growing disposition to
minimize the importance of all dated and explicit evidences and
arguments for orthodox beliefs, and to resort to vague symbolic
and liberal interpretations, and it was in this state that he
came to his talk with Eleanor.
He did not give her much time to develop her objections. He met
her half way and stated them for her, and overwhelmed her with
sympathy and understanding. She had been "too literal." "Too
literal" was his keynote. He was a little astonished at the
liberality of his own views. He had been getting along now for
some years without looking into his own opinions too closely and
he was by no means prepared to discover how far he had come to
meet his daughter's scepticisms. But he did meet them. He met
them so thoroughly that he almost conveyed that hers was a
needlessly conservative and oldfashioned attitude.
Occasionally he felt he was being a little evasive, but she did
not seem to notice it. As she took his drift, her relief and
happiness were manifest. And he had never noticed before how
clear and pretty her eyes were; they were the most honest eyes he
had ever seen. She looked at him very steadily as he explained,
and lit up at his points. She brightened wonderfully as she
realized that after all they were not apart, they had not
differed; simply they had misunderstood....
And before he knew where he was, and in a mere parenthetical
declaration of liberality, he surprised himself by conceding her
demand for Newnham even before she had repeated it. It helped his
"Call in every exterior witness you can. The church will
welcome them.... No, I want you to go, my dear...."
But his mind was stirred again to its depths by this
discussion. And in particular he was surprised and a little
puzzled by this Newnham concession and the necessity of making
his new attitude clear to Lady Ella....
It was with a sense of fatality that he found himself awake
again that night, like some one lying drowned and still and yet
perfectly conscious at the bottom of deep cold water.
He repeated, "He giveth his Beloved sleep," but all the
conviction had gone out of the words.
Neither the bishop's insomnia nor his incertitudes about
himself and his faith developed in a simple and orderly manner.
There were periods of sustained suffering and periods of
recovery; it was not for a year or so that he regarded these
troubles as more than acute incidental interruptions of his
general tranquillity or realized that he was passing into a new
phase of life and into a new quality of thought. He told every
one of the insomnia and no one of his doubts; these he betrayed
only by an increasing tendency towards vagueness, symbolism,
poetry and toleration. Eleanor seemed satisfied with his
exposition; she did not press for further enlightenment. She
continued all her outward conformities except that after a time
she ceased to communicate; and in September she went away to
Newnham. Her doubts had not visibly affected Clementina or her
other sisters, and the bishop made no further attempts to explore
the spiritual life of his family below the surface of its formal
As a matter of fact his own spiritual wrestlings were almost
exclusively nocturnal. During his spells of insomnia he led a
curiously double existence. In the daytime he was largely the
self he had always been, able, assured, ecclesiastical, except
that he was a little jaded and irritable or sleepy instead of
being quick and bright; he believed in God and the church and the
Royal Family and himself securely; in the wakeful night time he
experienced a different and novel self, a bare-minded self,
bleakly fearless at its best, shamelessly weak at its worst,
critical, sceptical, joyless, anxious. The anxiety was quite the
worst element of all. Something sat by his pillow asking grey
questions: "What are you doing? Where are you going? Is it really
well with the children? Is it really well with the church? Is it
really well with the country? Are you indeed doing anything at
all? Are you anything more than an actor wearing a costume in an
archaic play? The people turn their backs on you."
He would twist over on his pillow. He would whisper hymns and
prayers that had the quality of charms.
"He giveth his Beloved sleep"; that answered many times, and
many times it failed.
The labour troubles of 1912 eased off as the year wore on, and
the bitterness of the local press over the palace abated very
considerably. Indeed there was something like a watery gleam of
popularity when he brought down his consistent friend, the dear
old Princess Christiana of Hoch and Unter, black bonnet,
deafness, and all, to open a new wing of the children's hospital.
The Princhester conservative paper took the occasion to inform
the diocese that he was a fluent German scholar and consequently
a persona grata with the royal aunts, and that the Princess
Christiana was merely just one of a number of royalties now
practically at the beck and call of Princhester. It was not true,
but it was very effective locally, and seemed to justify a little
the hauteur of which Lady Ella was so unjustly suspected. Yet it
involved a possibility of disappointments in the future.
He went to Brighton-Pomfrey too upon the score of his general
health, and Brighton-Pomfrey revised his general regimen,
discouraged indiscreet fasting, and suggested a complete
abstinence from red wine except white port, if indeed that can be
called a red wine, and a moderate use of Egyptian cigarettes.
But 1913 was a strenuous year. The labour troubles revived, the
suffragette movement increased greatly in violence and
aggressiveness, and there sprang up no less than three
ecclesiastical scandals in the diocese. First, the Kensitites set
themselves firmly to make presentations and prosecutions against
Morrice Deans, who was reserving the sacrament, wearing, they
said, "Babylonish garments," going beyond all reason in the
matter of infant confession, and generally brightening up Mogham
Banks; next, a popular preacher in Wombash, published a book
under the exasperating title, "The Light Under the Altar," in
which he showed himself as something between an Arian and a
Pantheist, and treated the dogma of the Trinity with as little
respect as one would show to an intrusive cat; while thirdly, an
obscure but overworked missioner of a tin mission church in the
new working-class district at Pringle, being discovered in some
sort of polygamous relationship, had seen fit to publish in
pamphlet form a scandalous admission and defence, a pamphlet
entitled "Marriage True and False," taking the public needlessly
into his completest confidence and quoting the affairs of Abraham
and Hosea, reviving many points that are better forgotten about
Luther, and appealing also to such uncanonical authorities as
Milton, Plato, and John Humphrey Noyes. This abnormal concurrence
of indiscipline was extremely unlucky for the bishop. It plunged
him into strenuous controversy upon three fronts, so to speak,
and involved a great number of personal encounters far too vivid
for his mental serenity.
The Pringle polygamist was the most moving as Morrice Deans was
the most exacting and troublesome and the Wombash Pantheist the