Part 2 out of 9
Mrs. Flaxman rang obediently. The butler appeared. Mr. Barron's servants,
it seemed, were having tea.
"Send them round, please, at once," said their master, frowning. "At
But the minutes passed on, and while trying to keep up a desultory
conversation with his hostess, and with the young lady at the tea-table,
to whom he was not introduced, Mr. Barron was all the while angrily
conscious of the conversation going on between the Rector and Manvers.
There seemed to be something personally offensive and humiliating to
himself in the knowledge displayed by these two men--men who had deserted
or were now betraying the Church--of the literature of Anglican
apologetics, and of the thought of the great Anglican bishop. Why this
parade of useless learning and hypocritical enthusiasm? What was Bishop
Butler to them? He could hardy sit patiently through it, and it was with
most evident relief that he rose to his feet when his carriage was
* * * * *
"How pretty Mrs. Flaxman is!" said his daughter as they drove away. "Yet
I'm sure she's forty, papa."
Her face still reflected the innocent pleasure that Rose Flaxman's
kindness had given her. It was not often that the world troubled itself
much about her. Her father, however, took no notice. He sat absent and
pondering, and soon he stretched out a peremptory hand and lowered the
window which his daughter had raised against an east wind to protect a
delicate ear and throat which had been the torment of her life. It was
done with no conscious unkindness; far from it. He was merely absorbed in
the planning of his campaign. The next all-important point was the
selection of the Commission of Inquiry. No effort must be spared by the
Church party to obtain the right men.
Meanwhile, in the drawing-room which he had left, there was silence for a
moment after his departure. Then Meynell said:
"I am afraid I frightened him away. I beg your pardon, Mrs. Flaxman."
Rose laughed, and glanced at the girl sitting hidden behind the
"Oh, I had had quite enough of Mr. Barron. Mr. Meynell, have I ever
introduced you to my niece?"
"Oh, but we know each other!" said Meynell, eagerly. "We met first at
Miss Puttenham's, a week ago--and since then--Miss Elsmere has been
visiting a woman I know."
"A woman who lost her husband some days since--a terrible case. We are
all so grateful to Miss Elsmere."
He looked toward her with a smile and a sigh; then as he saw the shy
discomfort in the girl's face, he changed the subject at once.
The conversation became general. Some feeling that she could not explain
to herself led Mrs. Flaxman into a closer observation of her niece Mary
than usual. There was much affection between the aunt and the niece, but
on Mrs. Flaxman's side, at least, not much understanding. She thought of
Mary as an interesting creature, with some striking gifts--amongst them
her mother's gift for goodness. But it seemed to the aunt that she was
far too grave and reserved for her age; that she had been too strenuously
brought up, and in a too narrow world. Rose Flaxman had often impatiently
tried to enliven the girl's existence, to give her nice clothes, to take
her to balls and to the opera. But Mary's adoration for her mother stood
in the way.
"And really if she would only take a hand for herself"--thought Mrs.
Flaxman--"she might be quite pretty! She is pretty!"
And she looked again at the girl beside her, wondering a little,
as though a veil were lifted from something familiar. Mary was
talking--softly, and with a delicate and rather old-fashioned choice of
words, but certainly with no lack of animation. And it was quite evident
to an inquisitive aunt with a notorious gift for match making that the
tired heretic with the patches of coal dust on his coat found her very
But as the clock struck six Meynell sprang up.
"I must go. Miss Elsmere"--he looked toward her--"has kindly promised to
take me on to see your sister at the Cottage--and after to-day I may not
have another opportunity." He hesitated, considering his hostess--then
burst out: "You were at church last Sunday--I know--I saw you. I want to
tell you--that you have a church quite as near to you as the parish
church, where everything is quite orthodox--the church at Haddon End. I
wish I could have warned you. I--I did ask Miss Elsmere to warn her
Rose looked at the carpet.
"You needn't pity us," she said, demurely. "Hugh wants to talk to you
dreadfully. But--I am afraid I am a Gallio."
"Of course--you don't need to be told--it was all a deliberate defiance
of the law--in order to raise vital questions. We have never done
anything half so bad before. We determined on it at a public meeting last
week, and we gave Barron and his friends full warning."
"In short, it is revolution," said Manvers, rubbing his hands gently,
"and you don't pretend that it isn't."
"It is revolution!" said Meynell, nodding. "Or a forlorn hope! The laymen
in the Church want a real franchise--a citizenship they can exercise--and
a law of their own making!"
There was silence a moment. Mary Elsmere took up her hat, and kissed her
aunt; Meynell made his farewells, and followed the girl's lead into the
Mrs. Flaxman and Manvers watched them open the gate of the park and
disappear behind a rising ground. Then the two spectators turned to each
other by a common impulse, smiling at the same thought. Mrs. Flaxman's
smile, however, was almost immediately drowned in a real concern. She
clasped her hands, excitedly.
"Oh! my poor Catharine! What would she--what _would_ she say?"
Meynell and his companion had taken a footpath winding gently down hill
and in a northwest direction across one of the most beautiful parks in
England. It lay on the fringe of the Chase and contained, within its
slopes and glades, now tracts of primitive woodland whence the charcoal
burners seemed to have but just departed; now purple wastes of heather,
wild as the Chase itself; or again, dense thickets of bracken and fir,
hiding primeval and impenetrable glooms. Maudeley House, behind them, a
seemly Georgian pile, with a columnar front, had the good fortune to
belong to a man not rich enough to live in or rebuild it, but
sufficiently attached to it to spend upon its decent maintenance the
money he got by letting it. So the delicately faded beauty of the house
had survived unspoilt; while there had never been any money to spend upon
the park, where the woods and fences looked after themselves year by
year, and colliers from the neighbouring villages poached freely.
The two people walking through the ferny paths leading to the cottage of
Forkéd Pond were not, however, paying much attention to the landscape
round them. Meynell showed himself at first preoccupied and silent. A
load of anxiety depressed his vitality; and on this particular day long
hours of literary work and correspondence, beginning almost with the dawn
and broken only by the colliery scene of which he had spoken to Mrs.
Flaxman, had left deep marks upon him. Yet the girl's voice and manner,
and the fragments of talk that passed between them, seemed gradually to
create a soothing and liberating atmosphere in which it was possible to
speak with frankness, though without effort or excitement.
The Rector indeed had so far very little precise knowledge of what his
companion's feeling might be toward his own critical plight. He would
have liked to get at it; for there was something in this winning,
reserved girl that made him desire her good opinion. And yet he shrank
from any discussion with her.
He knew of course that the outlines of what had happened must be known to
her. During the ten days since their first meeting both the local and
London newspapers had given much space to the affairs of Upcote Minor. An
important public meeting in which certain decisions had been taken with
only three dissentients had led up to the startling proceedings in the
village church which Mrs. Flaxman had described to Louis Manvers. The
Bishop had written another letter, this time of a more hurried and
peremptory kind. An account of the service had appeared in the _Times_,
and columns had been devoted to it in various Mercian newspapers. After
years of silence, during which his heart had burned within him; after a
shorter period of growing propaganda and expanding utterance, Meynell
realized fully that he had now let loose the floodgates. All round him
was rising that wide response from human minds and hearts--whether in
sympathy or in hostility--which tests and sifts the man who aspires to be
a leader of men--in religion or economics. Every trade union leader
lifted on the wave of a great strike, representing the urgent physical
need of his fellows, knows what the concentration of human passion can
be--in matters concerned with the daily bread and the homes of men.
Religion can gather and bring to bear forces as strong. Meynell knew it
well; and he was like a man stepping down into a rushing stream from
which there is no escape. It must be crossed--that is all the wayfarer
knows; but as he feels the water on his body he realizes that the moment
is perhaps for life or death.
Such crises in life bring with them, in the case of the nobler
personalities, a great sensitiveness; and Meynell seemed to be living in
a world where not only his own inner feelings and motives but those of
others were magnified and writ large. As he walked beside Mary Elsmere
his mind played round what he knew of her history and position; and it
troubled him to think that, both for her and her mother, contact with him
at this particular moment might be the reviving of old sorrows.
As they paused on the top of a rising ground looking westward he looked
at her with sudden and kindly decision.
"Miss Elsmere, are you sure your mother would like to see me? It was very
good of you to request that I should accompany you to-night--but--are you
Mary coloured deeply and hesitated a moment.
"Don't you think I'd better turn back?" he asked her, gently. "Your path
is clear before you." He pointed to it winding through the fern. "And you
know, I hope, that anything I could do for you and your mother during
your stay here I should be only too enchanted to do. The one thing I
shrink from doing is to interfere in any way with her rest here. And I am
afraid just now I might be a disturbing element."
"No, no! please come!" said Mary, earnestly. Then as she turned her head
away, she added: "Of course--there is nothing new--to her--"
"Except that my fight is waged from inside the Church--and your father's
from outside. But that might make all the difference to her."
"I don't think so. It is"--she faltered--"the change itself. It is all so
terrible to her."
"Any break with the old things? But doesn't it ever present itself to
her--force itself upon her--as the upwelling of a new life?" he asked,
"Ah!--if it didn't in my father's case--"
The girl's eyes filled with tears.
But she quickly checked herself, and they moved on in silence. Meynell,
with his pastoral instinct and training, longed to probe and soothe the
trouble he divined in her. A great natural dignity in the girl--delicacy
of feeling in the man--prevented it.
None the less her betrayal of emotion had altered their relation; or
rather had carried it farther. For he had already seen her in contact
with tragic and touching things. A day or two after that early morning
when he had told the outlines of the Batesons' story to the two ladies
who had entertained him at breakfast he had found her in Bateson's
cottage with his wife. Bateson was dead, and his wife in that dumb,
automaton state of grief when the human spirit grows poisonous to itself.
The young girl who came and went with so few words and such friendly
timid ways had stirred, as it were, the dark air of the house with a
breath of tenderness. She would sit beside the widow, sewing at a black
dress, or helping her to choose the text to be printed on the funeral
card; or she would come with her hands full of wild flowers, and coax
Mrs. Bateson to go in the dusk to the churchyard with them. She had
shown, indeed, wonderful inventiveness in filling the first week of loss
and anguish with such small incident as might satisfy feeling, and yet
take a woman out of herself.
The level sun shone full upon her as she walked beside him, and her face,
her simple dress, her attitude stole gradually like a spell on the mind
of her companion. It was a remarkable face; the lower lip a little
prominent, and the chin firmly rounded. But the smile, though rare, was
youth and sweetness itself, and the dark eyes beneath the full mass of
richly coloured hair were finely conscious and attentive--disinterested
also; so that they won the spectator instead of embarrassing him. She was
very lightly and slenderly made, yet so as to convey an impression of
strength and physical health. Meynell said to himself that there was
something cloistered in her look, like one brought up in a grave
atmosphere--an atmosphere of "recollection." At the same time nothing
could be merrier--more childish even--than her laugh.
Their talk flowed on, from subject to subject, yet always tending,
whether they would or no, toward the matter which was inevitably in both
their minds. Insensibly the barrier between them and it broke away.
Neither, indeed, forgot the interposing shadow of Catharine Elsmere. But
the conversation touched on ideas; and ideas, like fire in stubble,
spread far afield. Oxford: the influences which had worked on Elsmere,
before Meynell's own youth felt them; men, books, controversies,
interwoven for Mary with her father's history, for Meynell with his own;
these topics, in spite of misgivings on both sides, could not but reveal
them to each other. The growing delight of their conversation was
presently beyond Meynell's resisting. And in Mary, the freedom of it, no
less than the sense of personal conflict and tragic possibilities that
lay behind it, awakened the subtlest and deepest feelings. Poignant,
concrete images rushed through her mind--a dying face to which her own
had been lifted, as a tiny child; the hall of the New Brotherhood, where
she sat sometimes beside her veiled mother; the sad nobility of that
mother's life; a score of trifling, heartpiercing things, that, to think
of, brought the sob to her throat. Silent revolts of her own too,
scattered along the course of her youth, revolts dumb, yet violent;
longings for an "ampler ether"--for the great tumultuous clash of thought
and doubt, of faith and denial, in a living and daring world. And yet
again, times of passionate remorse, in which all movement of revolt had
died away; when her only wish had been to smooth the path of her mother,
and to soften a misery she but dimly understood.
So that presently she was swept away--as by some released long-thwarted
force. And under the pressure of her quick, searching sympathy his talk
became insensibly more personal, more autobiographical. He was but little
given to confession, but she compelled it. It was as though through his
story she sought to understand her father's--to unveil many things yet
dark to her.
Thus gradually, through ways direct and indirect, the intellectual story
of the man revealed itself to the pure and sensitive mind of the girl.
She divined his home and upbringing--his father an Evangelical soldier of
the old school, a home imbued with the Puritan and Biblical ideas. She
understood something of the struggle provoked--after his ordination, in a
somewhat late maturity--by the uprising of the typical modern problems,
historical, critical, scientific. She pieced together much that only came
out incidentally as to the counsellors within the Church to whom he had
gone in his first urgent distress--the Bishop whom he reverenced--his
old teachers at Oxford--the new lights at Cambridge.
And the card houses, the frail resting-places, thus built, it seemed,
along the route, had lasted long; till at last a couple of small
French books by a French priest and the sudden uprush of new life
in the Roman Church had brought to the remote English clergyman at once
the crystallization of doubt and the passion of a freed faith.
"Modernism"--the attempt of the modern spirit, acting religiously, to
refashion Christianity, not outside, but _inside_, the warm limits of the
ancient churches--was born; and Richard Meynell became one of the first
converts in England.
"Ah, if your father had but lived!" he said at last, turning upon her
with emotion. "He died his noble death twenty years ago--think of the
difference between then and now! Then the Broad Church movement was
at an end. All that seemed so hopeful, so full of new life in the
seventies, had apparently died down. Stanley, John Richard Green, Hugh
Pearson were dead, Jowett was an old man of seventy; Liberalism within
the Church hardly seemed to breathe; the judgment in the Voysey case--as
much a defiance of modern knowledge as any Papal encyclical--though
people had nearly forgotten it, had yet in truth brought the whole
movement to a stand. All _within_ the gates seemed lost. Your father went
out into the wilderness, and there, amid everything that was poor and
mean and new, he laid down his life. But we!--we are no longer alone,
or helpless. The tide has come up to the stranded ship--the launching of
it depends now only on the faithfulness of those within it."
Mary was moved and silenced. The man's power, his transparent purity of
heart, affected her, as they had already affected thousands. She was
drawn to him also, unconsciously, by that something in personality which
determines the relations of men and women. Yet there were deep instincts
in her that protested. Girl as she was, she felt herself for the moment
more alive than he to the dead weight of the World, fighting the tug of
those who would fain move it from its ancient bases.
He seemed to guess at her thought; for he passed on to describe the
events by which, amid his own dumb or hidden struggle, he had become
aware of the same forces working all round him; among the more
intelligent and quick-witted miners, hungry for history and science,
reading voraciously a Socialist and anti-Christian literature, yet all
the while cherishing deep at heart certain primitive superstitions, and
falling periodically into hot abysses of Revivalism, under the influence
of Welsh preachers; or among the young men of the small middle class, in
whom a better education was beginning to awaken a number of new
intellectual and religious wants; among women, too, sensitive,
"Ah! but," said Mary, quickly interrupting him, "don't imagine there are
many women like Miss Puttenham! There are very, very few!"
He turned upon her with surprise.
"I was not thinking of Miss Puttenham, I assure you. She has taken very
little part in this particular movement. I never know whether she is
really with us. She stands outside the old things, but I can never make
myself happy by the hope that I have been able to win her to the new!"
Mary looked puzzled--interrogative. But she checked her question, and
drew him back instead to his narrative--to the small incidents and signs
which had gradually revealed to him, among even his brother clergy, years
before that date, the working of ideas and thoughts like his own. And
He broke off abruptly.
"You have heard of our meeting last week?"
"There were men there from all parts of the diocese--and some from other
counties. It made me think of what a French Catholic Modernist said to me
two years ago--'Pius X may write encyclicals as he pleases--I could show
him whole dioceses in France that are practically Modernist, where the
Seminaries are Modernist, and two thirds of the clergy. The Bishop knows
it quite well, and is helpless. Over the border perhaps you get an
Ultramontane diocese, and an Ultramontane bishop. But the process goes
on. Life and time are for _us_!'" He paused and laughed. "Ah, of course I
don't pretend things are so here--yet. Our reforms in England--in Church
and State--broaden slowly down. In France, reform, when it moves at all,
tends to be catastrophic. But in the Markborough diocese alone we have
won over perhaps a fifth of the clergy, and the dioceses all round are
moving. As to the rapidity of the movement in the last few months it has
been nothing short of amazing!"
"And what is the end to be? Not only--oh! Not only--_to destroy_!" said
Mary. The soft intensity of the voice, the beauty of the look, touched
He smiled, and there was a silence for a minute, as they wandered
downward through a purple stretch of heather to a little stream,
sun-smitten, that lay across their path. Once or twice she looked at him
timidly, afraid lest she might have wounded him.
But at last he said:
"Shall I answer you in the words of a beloved poet?
"'What though there still need effort, strife?
Though much be still unwon?
Yet warm it mounts, the hour of life!
Death's frozen hour is done!
"'The world's great order dawns in sheen
After long darkness rude,
Divinelier imaged, clearer seen,
With happier zeal pursued.
"'What still of strength is left, employ,
_This_ end to help attain--
_One common wave of thought and joy
Lifting mankind again_!'
"There"--his voice was low and rapid--"_there_ is the goal! a new
_happiness_: to be reached through a new comradeship--a freer and yet
intenser fellowship. We want to say to our fellowmen: 'Cease from groping
among ruins!--from making life and faith depend upon whether Christ was
born at Bethlehem or at Nazareth, whether He rose or did not rise,
whether Luke or some one else wrote the Third Gospel, whether the Fourth
Gospel is history or poetry. The life-giving force is _here_, and _now_!
It is burning in your life and mine--as it burnt in the life of Christ.
Give all you have to the flame of it--let it consume the chaff and purify
the gold. Take the cup of cold water to the thirsty, heal the sick, tend
the dying, and feel it thrill within you--the ineffable, the immortal
life! Let the false miracle go!--the true has grown out of it, up from
it, as the flower from the sheath.' Ah! but then"--he drew himself up
unconsciously; his tone hardened--"we turn to the sons of tradition, and
we say: 'We too must have our rights in what the past has built up, the
past has bequeathed--as well as you! Not for you alone, the institutions,
the buildings, the arts, the traditions, that the Christ-life has so far
fashioned for itself. They who made them are Our fathers no less than
yours--give us our share in them!--we claim it! Give us our share in the
cathedrals and churches of our country--our share in the beauty and
majesty of our ancestral Christianity.' The men who led the rebellion
against Rome in the sixteenth century claimed the _plant_ of English
Catholicism. 'We are our fathers' sons, and these things are _ours!_'
they said, as they looked at Salisbury and Winchester. We say the
same--with a difference. 'Give us the rights and the citizenship that
belong to us! But do not imagine that we want to attack yours. In God's
name, follow your own forms of faith--but allow us ours also--within
the common shelter of the common Church. We are children of the same
God--followers of the same Master. Who made you judges and dividers over
us? You shall not drive us into the desert any more. A new movement of
revolt has come--an hour of upheaval--and the men, with it!'"
Both stood motionless, gazing over the wide stretch of country--wood
beyond wood, distance beyond distance, that lay between them and the
Welsh border. Suddenly, as a shaft of light from the descending sun
fled ghostlike across the plain, touching trees and fields and farms in
its path, two noble towers emerged among the shadows--characters, as it
were, that gave a meaning to the scroll of nature. They were the towers
of Markborough Cathedral. Meynell pointed to them as he turned to his
companion, his face still quivering under the strain of feeling.
"Take the omen! It is for _them_, in a sense--a spiritual sense--we are
fighting. They belong not to any body of men that may chance to-day to
call itself the English Church. They belong to _England_--in her aspect
of faith--and to the English people!"
There was a silence. His look came back to her face, and the prophetic
glow died from his own. "I should be very, very sorry"--he said
anxiously--"if anything I have said had given you pain."
Mary shook her head.
"No--not to me. I--I have my own thoughts. But one must think--of
others." Her voice trembled.
The words seemed to suggest everything that in her own personal history
had stamped her with this sweet, shrinking look. Meynell was deeply
touched. But he did not answer her, or pursue the conversation any
farther. He gathered a great bunch of harebells for her, from the
sun-warmed dells in the heather; and was soon making her laugh by his
stories of colliery life and speech, _à propos_ of the colliery villages
fringing the plain at their feet.
* * * * *
The stream, as they neared it, proved to be the boundary between the
heath land and the pastures of the lower ground. It ran fresh and
brimming between its rushy banks, shadowed here and there by a few light
ashes and alders, but in general open to the sky, of which it was the
mirror. It shone now golden and blue under the deepening light of the
afternoon; and two or three hundred yards away Mary Elsmere distinguished
two figures walking beside it--a young man apparently, and a girl.
Meynell looked at them absently.
"That's one of the most famous trout-streams in the Midlands. There
should be a capital rise to-night. If that man has the sense to put on a
sedge-fly, he'll get a creel-full."
"And what is that house among the trees?" asked his companion presently,
pointing to a gray pile of building about a quarter of a mile away, on
the other side of the stream. "What a wonderful old place!"
For the house that revealed itself stood with an impressive dignity among
its stern and blackish woods. The long, plain front suggested a monastic
origin; and there was indeed what looked like a ruined chapel at one end.
Its whole aspect was dilapidated and forlorn; and yet it seemed to have
grown into the landscape, and to be so deeply rooted in it that one could
not imagine it away.
Meynell glanced at it.
"That is Sandford Abbey. It belongs, I regret to say, to a neer-do-weel
cousin of mine who has spent all his time since he came into it in
neglecting his duties to it. Provided the owner of it is safely away, I
should advise you and Mrs. Elsmere to walk over and see it one day.
Otherwise it is better viewed at a distance. At least those are my own
Mary followed the house with her eyes as they walked along the bank of
the stream toward the two figures on the opposite bank.
A sudden exclamation from her companion caught her ear--and a light
musical laugh. Startled by something familiar in it, Mary looked across
the stream. She saw on the farther bank a few yards ahead a young man
fishing, and a young girl in white sitting beside him.
"Hester!--Miss Fox-Wilton!"--the tone showed her surprise; "and who is
that with her?"
Meynell, without replying, walked rapidly along the stream to a point
immediately opposite the pair.
"Good afternoon, Philip. I did not know you were here. Hester, I am going
round by Forkéd Pond, and then home. I shall be glad to escort you."
"Oh! thank you--thank you _so_ much. But it's very nice here. You can't
think what a rise there is. I have caught two myself. Sir Philip has been
"She frames magnificently!" said the young man. "How d'ye do, Meynell? A
long time since we've met."
"A long time," said Meynell briefly. "Hester, will you meet Miss Elsmere
and me at the bridge? We sha'n't take you much out of your way."
He pointed to a tiny wooden bridge across the stream, a hundred yards
A look of mischievous defiance was flung at Meynell across the stream.
"I'm all right, I assure you. Don't bother about me. How do you do, Mary?
We don't 'miss' each other, do we? Isn't it a lovely evening? Such good
luck I wouldn't go with mother to dine at the White House! Don't you hate
dinner parties? I told Mr. Barron that spiders were so much more refined
than humans--they did at least eat their flies by themselves! He was
quite angry--and I am afraid Stephen was too!"
She laughed again, and so did the man beside her. He was a dark, slim
fellow, finely made, dressed in blue serge, and a felt hat, which
seemed at the moment to be slipping over the back of his handsome head.
From a little distance he produced an impression of Apollo-like strength
and good looks. As the spectator came closer, this impression was a good
deal modified by certain loose and common lines in the face. But from
Mary Elsmere's position only Sir Philip Meryon's good points were
visible, and he appeared to her a dazzling creature.
And in point of looks his companion was more than his match. They made
indeed a brilliant pair, framed amid the light green of the river bank.
Hester Fox-Wilton was sitting on a log with her straw hat on her lap. In
pushing along the overgrown stream, the coils of her hair had been
disarranged and its combs loosened. The hair was of a warm brown shade,
and it made a cloud about her headland face, from which her eyes and
smile shone out triumphantly. Exceptionally tall, with clear-cut aquiline
features, with the movements and the grace of a wood nymph, the girl
carried her beautiful brows and her full throat with a provocative and
self-conscious arrogance. One might have guessed that fear was unknown
to her; perhaps tenderness also. She looked much older than seventeen,
until she moved or spoke; then the spectator soon realized that in spite
of her height and her precocious beauty she was a child, capable still of
a child's mischief.
And on mischief she was apparently bent this afternoon. Mary Elsmere,
shyly amused, held aloof, while Meynell and Miss Fox-Wilton talked across
the stream. Meynell's peremptory voice reached her now and then, and she
could not help hearing a sharp final demand that the truant should
transfer herself at once to his escort.
The girl threw him an odd look; she sprang to her feet, flushed, laughed,
"Very well!" said Meynell. "Then perhaps, as you won't join us, you will
allow me to join you. Miss Elsmere, I am very sorry, but I am afraid I
must put off my visit to your mother. Will you give her my regrets?"
The fury in Hester's look deepened. She lost her smile.
"I won't be watched and coerced! Why shouldn't I amuse myself as I
Meanwhile Sir Philip Meryon had laid aside his rod and was apparently
enjoying the encounter between his companion and the Rector.
"Perhaps you have forgotten--this is _my_ side of the river, Meynell!" he
shouted across it.
"I am quite aware of it," said the Rector, as he shook hands with the
embarrassed Mary. She was just moving away with a shy good-bye to the
angry young goddess on the farther bank, when the goddess said:
"Don't go, Mary! Here, Sir Philip--take the fly-book!" She flung it
toward him. "Goodnight."
And turning her back upon him without any further ceremony, she walked
quickly along the stream toward the little bridge which Meynell had
"Congratulations!" said Meryon, with a mocking wave of the hand to the
Rector, who made no reply. He ran to catch up Mary, and the two joined
the girl in white at the bridge. The owner of Sandford Abbey stood
meanwhile with his hand on his hip watching the receding figures. There
was a smile on his handsome mouth, but it was an angry one; and his
muttered remark as he turned away belied the unconcern he had affected.
* * * * *
"That comes, you see, of not letting me be engaged to Stephen!" said
Hester in a white heat, as the three walked on together.
Mary looked at her in astonishment.
"I see no connection," was the Rector's quiet reply. "You know very well
that your mother does not approve of Sir Philip Meryon, and does not wish
you to be in his company."
"Precisely. But as I am not to be allowed to marry Stephen, I must of
course amuse myself with some one else. If I can't be engaged to Stephen,
I won't be anything at all to him. But, then, I don't admit that I'm
"At present all you're asked"--said Meynell dryly--"is not to disobey
your mother. But don't you think it's rather rude to Miss Elsmere to be
discussing private affairs she doesn't understand?"
"Why shouldn't she understand them? Mary, my guardian here and my mother
say that I mustn't be engaged to Stephen Barron--that I'm too young--or
some nonsense of that kind. And Stephen--oh, well, Stephen's too good for
this world! If he really loved me, he'd do something desperate, wouldn't
he?--instead of giving in. I don't much mind, myself--I don't really care
so much about marrying Stephen--only if I'm not to marry him, and
somebody else wants to please me, why shouldn't I let him?"
She turned her beautiful wild eyes upon Mary Elsmere. And as she
did so Mary was suddenly seized with a strong sense of likeness in the
speaker--her gesture--her attitude--to something already familiar. She
could not identify the something, but her gaze fastened itself on the
face before her.
Meynell meanwhile answered Hester's tirade.
"I'm quite ready to talk this over with you, Hester, on our way home. But
don't you see that you are making Miss Elsmere uncomfortable?"
"Oh, no, I'm not," said Hester coolly. "You've been talking to her of
all sorts of grave, stupid things--and she wants amusing--waking up.
I know the look of her. Don't you?" She slipped her arm inside Mary's.
"You know, if you'd only do your hair a little differently--fluff it out
more--you'd be so pretty! Let me do it for you. And you shouldn't wear
that hat--no, you really shouldn't. It's a brute! I could trim you
another in half an hour. Shall I? You know--I really like you. _He_
sha'n't make us quarrel!"
She looked with a young malice at Meynell. But her brow had smoothed, and
it was evident that her temper was passing away.
"I don't agree with you at all about my hat," said Mary with spirit. "I
trimmed it myself, and I'm extremely proud of it."
Hester laughed out--a laugh that rang through the trees.
"How foolish you are!--isn't she, Rector? No!--I suppose that's just what
you like. I wonder what you _have_ been talking to her about? I shall
make her tell me. Where are you going to?"
She paused, as Mary and the Rector, at a point where two paths converged,
turned away from the path which led back to Upcote Minor. Mary explained
again that Mr. Meynell and she were on the way to the Forkéd Pond
cottage, where the Rector wished to call upon her mother.
Hester looked at her gravely.
"All right!--but your mother won't want to see me. No!--really it's no
good your saying she will. I saw her in the village yesterday. I'm not
her sort. Let me go home by myself."
Mary half laughed, half coaxed her into coming with them. But she went
very unwillingly; fell completely silent, and seemed to be in a dream all
the way to the cottage. Meynell took no notice of her; though once or
twice she stole a furtive look toward him.
* * * * *
The tiny house in which Catharine Elsmere and her daughter had settled
themselves for the summer stood on a narrow isthmus of land belonging to
the Maudeley estate, between the Sandford trout-stream and a large rushy
pond of two or three acres. It was a very lonely and a very beautiful
place, though the neighbourhood generally pronounced it damp and
rheumatic. The cottage, sheltered under a grove of firs, looked straight
out on the water, and over a bed of water-lilies. All round was a summer
murmur of woods, the call of waterfowl, and the hum of bees; for, at the
edges of the water, flowers and grasses pushed thickly out into the
sunlight from the shadow of the woods.
By the waterside, with a book on her knee, sat a lady who rose as they
came in sight.
Meynell approached her, hat in hand, his strong irregular face, which had
always in it a touch of _naiveté_, of the child, expressing both timidity
and pleasure. The memory of her husband was enshrined deep in the minds
of all religious liberals; and it was known to many that while the
husband and wife had differed widely in opinion, and the wife had
suffered profoundly from the husband's action, yet the love between them
had been, from first to last, a perfect and a sacred thing.
He saw a tall woman, very thin, in a black dress. Her brown hair, very
lightly touched with gray and arranged with the utmost simplicity, framed
a face in which the passage of years had emphasized and sharpened all
the main features, replacing also the delicate smoothness of youth by a
subtle network of small lines and shadows, which had turned the original
whiteness of the skin into a brownish ivory, full of charm. The eyes
looked steadily out from their deep hollows; the mouth, austere and
finely cut, the characteristic hands, and the unconscious dignity of
movement--these personal traits made of Elsmere's wife, even in late
middle age, a striking and impressive figure.
Yet Meynell realized at once, as she just touched his offered hand, that
the sympathy and the homage he would so gladly have brought her would be
unwelcome; and that it was a trial to her to see him.
He sat down beside her, while Mary and Hester--who, on her introduction
to Mrs. Elsmere, had dropped a little curtsey learnt at a German school,
and full of grace--wandered off a little way along the water-side.
Meynell, struggling with depression, tried to make conversation--on
anything and everything that was not Upcote Minor, its parish, or its
church. Mrs. Elsmere's gentle courtesy never failed; yet behind it he was
conscious of a steely withdrawal of her real self from any contact with
his. He talked of Oxford, of the great college where he had learnt from,
the same men who had been Elsmere's teachers; of current books, of the
wild flowers and birds of the Chase; he did his best; but never once
was there any living response in her quiet replies, even when she smiled.
He said to himself that she had judged him, and that the judgments of
such a personality once formed were probably irrevocable. Would she
discourage any acquaintance with her daughter? It startled him to feel
how much the unspoken question hurt.
Meanwhile the eyes of his hostess pursued the two girls, and she
presently called to them, greeting their reappearance with an evident
change and relaxation of manner. She made Hester sit near her, and it was
not long before the child, throwing off her momentary awe, was chattering
fast and freely, yet, as Mary perceived, with a tact, conscious or
unconscious, that kept the chatter within bounds.
Mrs. Elsmere watched the girl's beauty with evident delight, and when
Meynell rose to go, and Hester with him, she timidly drew the radiant
creature to her and kissed her. Hester opened her big eyes with surprise.
Catharine Elsmere sat silent a moment watching the two departing figures;
then as Mary found a place in the grass beside her, she said, with some
"You walked with him from Maudeley?"
"Mr. Meynell? Yes, I found him there at tea. He was very anxious to pay
his respects to you; so I brought him."
"I can't imagine why he should have thought it necessary."
Mary colored brightly and suddenly, under the vivacity of the tone. Then
she slipped her hand into her mother's.
"You didn't mind, dearest? Aunt Rose likes him very much, and--and I
wanted him to know you!" She smiled into her mother's eyes. "But we
needn't see him anymore if--"
Mrs. Elsmere interrupted her.
"I don't wish to be rude to any friend of Aunt Rose's," she said, rather
stiffly. "But there is no need we should see him, is there?"
"No," said Mary; her cheek dropped against her mother's knee, her eyes on
the water. "No--not that I know of." After a moment she added with
apparent inconsequence, "You mean because of his opinions?"
Catharine gave a rather hard little laugh.
"Well, of course he and I shouldn't agree; I only meant we needn't go out
of our way--"
"Certainly not. Only I can't help meeting him sometimes!"
Mary sat up, smiling, with her hands round her knees.
A pause. It was broken by the mother--as though reluctantly.
"Uncle Hugh was here while you were away. He told me about the service
last Sunday. Your father would never--never--have done such a thing!"
The repressed passion with which the last words were spoken startled
Mary. She made no reply, but her face, now once more turned toward the
sunlit pond, had visibly saddened. Inwardly she found herself asking--"If
father had lived?--if father were here now?"
Her reverie was broken by her mother's voice--softened--breathing
a kind of compunction.
"I daresay he's a good sort of man."
"I think he is," said Mary, simply.
They talked no more on the subject, and presently Catharine Elsmere rose,
and went into the house.
Mary sat on by the water-side thinking. Meynell's aspect, Meynell's
words, were in her mind--little traits too and incidents of his
parochial life that she had come across in the village. A man might
preach and preach, and be a villain! But for a man--a hasty, preoccupied,
student man--so to live, through twenty years, among these vigorous,
quick-tempered, sharp-brained miners, as to hold the place among them
Richard Meynell held, was not to be done by any mere pretender, any
spiritual charlatan. How well his voice pleased her!--his tenderness to
children--his impatience--his laugh.
The thoughts, too, he had expressed to her on their walk ran kindling
through her mind. There were in her many half-recognized thirsts and
desires of the spirit that seemed to have become suddenly strong and
urgent under the spur of his companionship.
She sat dreaming; then her mother called her to the evening meal, and she
went in. They passed the evening together, in the free and tender
intimacy which was their habitual relation. But in the mind of each there
were hidden movements of depression or misgiving not known to the other.
Meanwhile the Rector had walked home with his ward. A stormy business!
For much as he disliked scolding any young creature, least of all,
Hester, the situation simply could not be met without a scolding--by
Hester's guardian. Disobedience to her mother's wishes; disloyalty toward
those who loved her, including himself; deceit, open and unabashed, if
the paradox may be allowed--all these had to be brought home to her. He
talked, now tenderly, now severely, dreading to hurt her, yet hoping to
make his blows smart enough to be remembered. She was not to make friends
with Sir Philip Meryon. She was not to see him or walk with him. He was
not a fit person for her to know; and she must trust her elders in the
"You are not going to make us all anxious and miserable, dear Hester!" he
said at last, hoping devoutly that he was nearly through with his task.
"Promise me not to meet this man any more!" He looked at her appealingly.
"Oh, dear, no, I couldn't do that," said Hester cheerfully.
"I couldn't. I never know what I shall want to do. Why should I promise?"
"Because you are asked to do so by those who love you, and you ought to
Hester shook her head.
"It's no good promising. You'll have to prevent me."
Meynell was silent a moment. Then he said, not without sternness:
"We shall of course prevent you, Hester, if necessary. But it would be
far better if you took yourself in hand."
"Why did you stop my being engaged to Stephen?" she cried, raising her
He saw the bright tears in her eyes, and melted at once.
"Because you are too young to bind yourself, my child. Wait a while, and
if in two years you are of the same mind, nobody will stand in your way."
"I sha'n't care a rap about him in two years," said Hester vehemently. "I
don't care about him now. But I should have cared about him if I had been
engaged to him. Well, now, you and mamma have meddled--and you'll see!"
They were nearing the opening of the lane which led from the main road to
North Leigh, Lady Fox-Wilton's house. As she perceived it Hester suddenly
took to flight, and her light form was soon lost to view in the summer
The Rector did not attempt to pursue her. He turned back toward the
Rectory, perturbed and self-questioning. But it was not possible, after
all, to set a tragic value on the love affair of a young lady who, within
a week of its breaking off, had already consoled herself with another
swain. Anything less indicative of a broken heart than Hester's behaviour
during that week the Rector could not imagine. Personally he believed
that she spoke the simple truth when she said she no longer cared for
Stephen. He did not believe she ever had cared for him.
Still he was troubled, and on his way toward the Rectory he turned aside.
He knew that on his table he should find letters waiting that would take
him half the night. But they must lie there a bit longer. At Miss
Puttenham's gate he paused, hesitated a moment, then went straight into
the twilight garden, where he imagined that he should find its mistress.
He found her, in a far corner, among close-growing trees and with her
usual occupations, her books and her embroidery, beside her. But she was
neither reading nor sewing. She sprang up to greet him, and for an hour
of summer twilight they held a rapid, low-voiced conversation.
When he pressed her hand at parting they looked at each other, still
overshadowed by the doubt and perplexity which had marked the opening of
their interview. But he tried to reassure her.
"Put from you all idea of immediate difficulty," he said earnestly.
"There really is none--none at all. Stephen is perfectly reasonable, and
as for the escapade to-day--"
The woman before him shook her head.
"She means to marry at the earliest possible moment--simply to escape
from Edith--and that house. We sha'n't delay it long. And who knows what
may happen if we thwart her too much?"
"We _must_ delay it a year or two, if we possibly can--for her sake--and
for yours," said Meynell firmly. "Good night, my dear friend. Try and
sleep--put the anxiety away. When the moment comes--and of course I admit
it must come--you will reap the harvest of the love you have sown. She
does love you!--I am certain of that."
He heard a low sound--was it a sobbing breath?--as Alice Puttenham
disappeared in the darkness which had overtaken the garden.
Breakfast at the White House, Upcote Minor, was an affair of somewhat
About a fortnight after Mr. Barron's call on the new tenants of Maudeley
Hall, his deaf daughter Theresa entered the dining-room as usual on the
stroke of half-past eight. She glanced round her to see that all was in
order, the breakfast table ready, and the chairs placed for prayers. Then
she went up to a side-table on which was placed a large Bible and
prayer-book and a pile of hymn-books. She looked at the lessons and
psalms for the day and placed markers in the proper places. Then she
chose a hymn, and laid six open hymn-books one upon another. After which
she stood for a moment looking at the first verse of the psalm for the
day: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my
help." The verse was one of her favourites, and she smiled vaguely, like
one who recognizes in the distance a familiar musical phrase.
Theresa Barron was nearly thirty. She had a long face with rather high
cheek-bones, and timid gray eyes. Her complexion was sallow, her figure
awkward. Her only beauty indeed lay in a certain shy and fleeting charm
of expression, which very few people noticed. She passed generally for a
dull and plain woman, ill-dressed, with a stoop that was almost a
deformity, and a deafness that made her socially useless. But the young
servants whom she trained, and the few poor people on her father's estate
to whom she was allowed to minister, were very fond of "Miss Theresa."
But for her, the owner of Upcote Minor Park would have been even more
unpopular than he was, indoors and out. The wounds made by his brusque or
haughty manner to his inferiors were to a certain extent healed by the
gentleness and the good heart of his daughter. And a kind of glory was
reflected on him by her unreasoning devotion to him. She suffered under
his hardness or his self-will, but she adored him all the time; nor was
her ingenuity ever at a loss for excuses for him. He always treated her
carelessly, sometimes contemptuously; but he would not have known how to
get through life without her, and she was aware of it.
On this August morning, having rung the bell for the butler, she placed
the Bible and prayer-book beside her father's chair, and opening the door
between the library and the dining-room, she called, "Papa!"
Through the farther door into the hall there appeared a long procession
of servants, headed by the butler, majestically carrying the tea-urn.
Something in this daily procession, and its urn-bearer, had once
sent Stephen Barron, the eldest son--then an Eton boy just home from
school--into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, which had cost him his
father's good graces for a week. But the procession had been in no way
affected, and at this later date Stephen on his visits home took it as
gravely as anybody else.
The tea-urn, pleasantly hissing, was deposited on the white cloth; the
servants settled themselves on their chairs, while Theresa distributed
the open hymn-books amongst them; and when they were all seated, the
master of the house, like a chief actor for whom the stage waits,
appeared from the library.
He read a whole chapter from the Bible. It told the story of Gehazi, and
he read it with an emphasis which the footman opposite to him secretly
though vaguely resented; then Theresa at the piano played the hymn,
in which the butler and the scullery-maid supported the deep bass of Mr.
Barron and the uncertain treble of his daughter. The other servants
remained stolidly silent, the Scotch cook in particular looking straight
before her with dark-spectacled eyes and a sulky expression. She was
making up her mind that either she must be excused from prayers in
future, or Mr. Barron must be content with less cooking for breakfast.
After the hymn, the prayer lasted about ten minutes. Stephen, a fervently
religious mind, had often fidgeted under the minute and detailed
petitions of it, which seemed to lay down the Almighty's precise course
of action toward mankind in general for the ensuing day. But Theresa, who
was no less spiritual, under other forms, took it all simply and
devoutly, and would have been uncomfortable if any item in the long
catalogue had been omitted. When the Amen came, the footman, who never
knew what to do with his legs during the time of kneeling, sprang up with
As soon as the father and daughter were seated at breakfast--close
together, for the benefit of Theresa's deafness--Mr. Barron opened the
post-bag and took out the letters. They arrived half an hour before
breakfast, but were not accessible to any one till the master of the
house had distributed them.
Theresa looked up from hers with an exclamation.
"Stephen hopes to get over for dinner to-night!"
"Unfortunate--as I may very probably not see him," said her father,
sharply. "I am going to Markborough, and may have to stay the night!"
"You are going to see the Bishop?" asked his daughter, timidly. Her
father nodded, adding after a minute, as he began upon his egg:
"However, I must have some conversation with Stephen before long. He
knows that I have not felt able to stay my hand to meet his wishes; and
perhaps now he will let me understand a little more plainly than I do,
what his own position is."
The speaker's tone betrayed bitterness of feeling. Theresa looked pained.
"Father, I am sure--"
"Don't be sure of anything, my dear, with regard to Stephen! He has
fallen more and more under Meynell's influence of late, and I more than
suspect that when the time comes he will take sides openly with him. It
will be a bitter blow to me, but that he doesn't consider. I don't expect
consideration from him, either as to that--or other things. Has he been
hanging round the Fox-Wiltons lately as usual?"
Theresa looked troubled.
"He told me something the other night, father, I ought to have told you.
"Only what? I am always kept in the dark between you."
"Oh, no, father! but it seems to annoy you, when--when I talk about
Stephen, so I waited. But the Rector and Lady Fox-Wilton have quite
forbidden any engagement between Stephen and Hester. Stephen _did_
propose--and they said--not for two years at least."
"You mean to say that Stephen actually was such a fool?" said her father
violently, staring at her.
"A girl of the most headstrong and frivolous character!--a trouble to
everybody about her. Lady Fox-Wilton has often complained to me that she
is perfectly unmanageable with her temper and her vanity! The worst
conceivable wife for a clergyman! Really, Stephen--"
The master of the house pushed his plate away from him in speechless
"And both Lady Fox-Wilton and the Rector have always taken such trouble
about her--much more than about the other children!" murmured Theresa,
"What sort of a bringing up do you think Meynell can give anybody?" said
her father, turning upon her.
Theresa only looked at him silently, with her large mild eyes. She knew
it was of no use to argue. Besides, on the subject of the Rector she very
much agreed with her father. Her deafness and her isolation had entirely
protected her from Meynell's personal influence.
"A man with no religious principles--making a god of his own
intellect--steeped in pride and unbelief--what can he do to train a girl
like Hester? What can he do to train himself?" thundered Barron, bringing
his hand down on the table-cloth.
"Every one says he is a good man," said Theresa, timidly.
"In outward appearance. What's that? A man like Meynell, who has thrown
over the Christian faith, may fall into sin at any moment. His unbelief
is the result of sin. He can neither help himself--nor other people--and
you need never be surprised to find that his supposed goodness is a mere
sham and delusion. I don't say it is always so, of course," he added.
Theresa made no reply, and the subject dropped. Barron returned to his
letters, and presently Theresa saw his brow darken afresh over one of
"Anything wrong, father?"
"There's always something wrong on this estate. Crawley [Crawley was the
head keeper] has caught those boys of John Broad again trespassing and
stealing wood in the west plantation! Perfectly abominable! It's the
second or third time. I shall give Broad notice at once, and we must put
somebody into that cottage who will behave decently!"
"Poor Broad!" said Theresa, with her gentle, scared look. "You know,
father, there isn't a cottage to be had in the village--and those boys
have no mother--and John works very hard."
"Let him find another cottage all the same," said Barron briefly. "I
shall go round, if I do get back from Markborough, and have a talk with
him this evening."
There was silence for a little. Theresa was evidently sad. "Perhaps Lady
Fox-Wilton would find him something," she said anxiously at last. "His
mother was her maid long ago. First she was their schoolroom maid--then
she went back to them, when her husband died and John married, and was a
kind of maid housekeeper. Nobody knew why Lady Fox-Wilton kept her so
long. They tell you in the village she had a shocking temper, and wasn't
at all a good servant. Afterward I believe she went to America and I
think she died. But she was with them a long while. I daresay they'd do
something for John."
Barron made no reply. He had not been listening, and was already deep in
One letter still remained unopened. Theresa knew very well that it was
from her brother Maurice, in London. And presently she pushed it toward
"Won't you open it? I do want to know if it's all right."
Barron opened it, rather unwillingly. His face cleared, however, as he
"Not a bad report. He seems to like the work, and says they treat him
kindly. He would like to come down for the Sunday--but he wants some
"He oughtn't to!" cried Theresa, flushing. "You gave him plenty."
"He makes out an account," said her father, glancing at the letter; "I
shall send him a small cheque. I must say, Theresa, you are always rather
inclined to a censorious temper toward your brother."
He looked at her with an unusual vivacity in his hard, handsome face.
Theresa hastily excused herself, and the incident dropped. But when
breakfast was over and her father had left the room, Theresa remained
sitting idly by the table, her eyes fixed on the envelope of Maurice's
letter, which had fallen to the floor. Maurice's behaviour was
simply disgraceful! He had lost employment after employment by lazy
self-indulgence, trusting always to his father's boundless affection for
him, and abusing it time after time. Theresa was vaguely certain that he
was besmirched by all sorts of dreadful things--drinking, and betting--if
not worse. Her woman's instinct told her much more than his father had
ever discovered about him. Though at the same time she had the good sense
to remind herself that her own small knowledge of the world might lead
her to exaggerate Maurice's misdoings. And for herself and Stephen, no
less than for her father, Maurice was still the darling and Benjamin of
the family, commended to them by a precious mother whose death had left
the whole moral structure of their common life insecure.
She was still absorbed in uneasy thoughts about her brother, when the
library door opened violently and her father came in with the Markborough
_Post_ in his hand.
His face was discomposed; his hand shook. Theresa sprang up.
"What is the matter, father?"
He pointed to the first page of the paper, and to the
heading--"Extraordinary meeting at Markborough. Proceedings against the
Rector of Upcote. Other clergy and congregations rally to his support."
She read the account with stupefaction. It described a meeting summoned
by the "Reformers' Club" of Markborough to consider the announcement that
a Commission of Inquiry had been issued by the Bishop of Markborough in
the case of the Rector of Upcote Minor, and that legal proceedings
against him for heretical teaching and unauthorized services would be
immediately begun by certain promoters, as soon as the Bishop's formal
consent had been given.
The meeting, it seemed, had been so crowded and tumultuous that
adjournment had been necessary from the rooms of the Reformers' Club to
the Town Hall. And there, in spite of a strong orthodox opposition, a
resolution in support of the Rector of Upcote had been passed, amid
scenes of astonishing enthusiasm. Three or four well-known local clergy
had made the most outspoken speeches, declaring that there must be room
made within the church for the liberal wing, as well as for the Ritualist
wing; that both had a right to the shelter of the common and ancestral
fold; and that the time had come when the two forms of Christianity now
prevailing in Christendom should be given full and equal rights within
the Church of the nation.
Meynell himself had spoken, urging on the meeting the profound
responsibility resting on the Reformers--the need for gentleness no less
than for courage; bidding them remember the sacredness of the ground they
were treading, the tenacity and depth of the roots they might be thought
to be disturbing.
"Yet at the same time we must _fight!_--and we must fight with all our
strength. For over whole classes of this nation, Christianity is either
dying or dead; and it is only we--and the ideas we represent--that can
The speech had been received with deep emotion rather than applause; and
the meeting had there and then proceeded to the formation of a
"Reformers' League" to extend throughout the diocese. "It is already
rumoured," said the _Post_, "that at least sixteen or eighteen beneficed
clergy, with their congregations, have either joined, or are about to
join, the Reformers. The next move now lies with the Bishop, and with the
orthodox majority of the diocese. If we are not mistaken, Mr. Meynell and
his companions in heresy will very soon find out that the Church has
still power enough to put down such scandalous rebellions against her
power and authority as that of the Rector of Upcote, and to purge her
borders of disloyal and revolutionary priests." Theresa looked up. Her
face had grown pale. "How _terrible_, father! Did you know they were to
hold the meeting?"
"I heard something about a debate at this precious club. What does that
matter? Let them blaspheme in private as they please, it hurts nobody but
themselves. But a public meeting at the Bishop's very door--and eighteen
of his clergy!"
He paced the room up and down, in an excitement he could hardly control.
"The poor, poor Bishop!" said Theresa, softly, the tears in her eyes.
"He will have the triumph of his life!" exclaimed Barron, looking up. "If
there are dry bones on our side, this will put life into them. Those
fellows have given themselves into our hands!"
He paused in his walk, falling into a profound reverie in which he lost
all sense of his daughter's presence. She dared not rouse him; and indeed
the magnitude of the scandal and distress left her speechless. She could
only think of the Bishop--their frail, saintly Bishop whom every one
loved. At last a clock struck. She said gently:
"Father, I think it is time to go."
Barron started, drew a long breath, gathered up the newspaper, and took a
letter from his pocket.
"That is for Maurice. Put in anything you like, but don't miss the
"Do you see the Bishop this morning, father?"
"No--this afternoon. But there will be plenty to do this morning." He
named two or three heads of the church party in Markborough on whom he
must call. He must also see his solicitor, and find out whether the
counsel whom the promoters of the writ against Meynell desired to secure
had been already retained.
He kissed his daughter absently and departed, settling all his home
business before he left the house in his usual peremptory manner, leaving
behind him indeed in the minds of his butler and head gardener, who had
business with him, a number of small but smarting wraths, which would
ultimately have to be smoothed away by Theresa.
But when Theresa explored the open envelope he had given her for her
brother, she found in it a cheque for £50, and a letter which seemed to
Maurice's sister--unselfish and tender as she was--deplorably lacking in
the scolding it ought to have contained. If only her father had ever
shown the same affection for Stephen!
Meanwhile as Barron journeyed to Markborough, under the shadow of the
great Cathedral, quite another voice than his was in possession of the
episcopal ear. Precisely at eleven o'clock Richard Meynell appeared on
the doorstep of the Palace, and was at once admitted to the Bishop's
As he entered the large book-lined room his name was announced in a tone
which did not catch the Bishop's attention, and Meynell, as he
hesitatingly advanced, became the spectator of a scene not intended for
his eyes. On the Bishop's knee sat a little girl of seven or eight. She
was crying bitterly, and the Bishop had his arms round her and was
[Illustration: "Meynell, as he hesitatingly advanced, became the
spectator of a scene not intended for his eyes"]
"There _was_ bogies, grandfather!--there _was!_--and Nannie said I told
lies--and I didn't tell lies."
"Darling, there aren't bogies anywhere--but I'm sure you didn't tell
lies. What did you think they were like?"
"Grandfather, they was all black--and they jumped--and wiggled--and
And the child went off in another wail, at which moment the Bishop
perceived Meynell. His delicate cheek flushed, but he held up his hand,
in smiling entreaty; and Meynell disappeared behind a revolving bookcase.
The Bishop hastily returned to the charge, endeavouring to persuade his
little granddaughter that the "bogie" had really been "cook's black cat,"
generally condemned to the kitchen and blackbeetles, but occasionally let
loose to roam the upper floors in search of nobler game. The child dried
her eyes, and listened, gravely weighing his remarks. Her face gradually
cleared, and when at the end he said slyly, "And even if there were
bogies, little girls shouldn't throw hairbrushes at their Nannies!" she
nodded a judicial head, adding plaintively:
"But then Nannies mustn't talk _all_ the time, grandfather! Little girls
must talk a itty itty bit. If Nannies not let them, little girls _must_
frow somefing at Nannies."
The Bishop laughed--a low, soft sound, from which Meynell in the distance
caught the infection of mirth.
A few murmured words--no doubt a scolding--and then:
"Are you good, Barbara?"
"Ye-s," said the child, slowly--"not very."
"Good enough to say you're sorry to Nannie?"
The child smiled into his face.
"Go along then, and say it!" said the Bishop, "and mind you say it
Barbara threw her arm round his neck and hugged him passionately. Then he
set her down, and she ran happily away, through a door at the farther end
of the room.
Meynell advanced, and the Bishop came to meet him. Over both faces, as
they approached each other, there dropped a sudden shadow--a tremor as of
men who knew themselves on the brink of a tragical collision--decisive
of many things. And yet they smiled, the presence of the child still
"Excuse these domesticities," said the Bishop, "but there was such woe
and lamentation just before you came. And childish griefs go deep.
Bogies--of all kinds--have much to answer for!"
Then the Bishop's smile disappeared. He beckoned Meynell to a chair, and
sat down himself.
Francis Craye, Bishop of Markborough, was physically a person of great
charm. He was small--not more than five foot seven; but so slenderly and
perfectly made, so graceful and erect in bearing, that his height, or
lack of it, never detracted in the smallest degree from his dignity, or
from the reverence inspired by the innocence and unworldliness of his
character. A broad brow, overshadowing and overweighting the face,
combined, with extreme delicacy of feature, a touch of emaciation, and a
pure rose in the alabaster of the cheeks, to produce the aspect of a most
human ghost--a ghost which had just tasted the black blood, and recovered
for an hour all the vivacity of life. The mouth, thin-lipped and mobile
to excess, was as apt for laughter as for tenderness; the blue eyes were
frankness and eagerness itself. And when the glance of the spectator
pursued the Bishop downward, it was to find that his legs, in the
episcopal gaiters, were no less ethereal than his face; while his silky
white hair added the last touch of refinement to a personality of spirit
Meynell was the first to speak.
"My lord! let me begin this conversation by once more thanking you--from
my heart--for all the personal kindness that you have shown me in the
last few months, and in the correspondence of the last fortnight."
His voice wavered a little. The Bishop made no sign.
"And perhaps," Meynell resumed, "I felt it the kindest thing of all
that--after the letters I have written you this week--after the meeting
of yesterday--you should have sent me that telegram last night, saying
that you wished to see me to-day. That was like you--that touched me
indeed!" He spoke with visible emotion.
The Bishop looked up.
"There can be no question, Meynell, of any personal enmity between
yourself and me," he said gravely. "I shall act in the matter entirely as
the responsibilities of my office dictate--that you know. But I have owed
you much in the past--much help--much affection. This diocese owes you
much. I felt I must make one last appeal to you--terrible as the
situation has grown. You could not have foreseen that meeting of
yesterday!" he added impetuously, raising his head.
"No, I had no idea we were so strong. But it might have been foreseen.
The forces that brought it about have been rising steadily for many
There was no answer for a moment. The Bishop sat with clasped hands, his
legs stretched out before him, his white head bent. At last, without
moving, he said:
"There are grave times coming on this diocese, Meynell--there are grave
times coming on the Church!"
"Does any living church escape them?" said Meynell, watching him--with a
The Bishop shook his head.
"I am a man of peace. Where you see a hope of victory for what you think,
no doubt, a great cause, I see above the mêlée, Strife and Confusion and
Fate--"red with the blood of men." What can you--and those who were at
that meeting yesterday--hope to gain by these proceedings? If you could
succeed, you would break up the Church, the strongest weapon that exists
in this country against sin and selfishness--and who would be the
"Believe me--we sha'n't break it up."
"Certainly you will! Do you imagine that men who are the spiritual sons
and heirs of Pusey and Liddon are going to sit down quietly in the same
church with you and the eighteen who started this League yesterday? They
would sooner die."
Meynell bore the onslaught quietly.
"It depends upon our strength," he said slowly, "and the strength we
develop, as the fight goes on."
"Not at all!--a monstrous delusion!" The Bishop raised an indignant
brow. "If you overwhelmed us--if you got the State on your side, as in
France at the Revolution--you would still have done nothing toward your
end--nothing whatever! We refuse--we shall always refuse--to be unequally
yoked with those who deny the fundamental truths of the Faith!"
"My lord, you are so yoked at the present moment," said Meynell
firmly--the colour had flashed back into his cheeks--"it is the
foundation of our case that half the educated men and women we gather
into our churches to-day are--in our belief--Modernists already. Question
them!--they are with us--not with you. That is to say, they have tacitly
shaken off the old forms--the Creeds and formularies that bind the
visible, the legal, church. They do not even think much about them.
Forgive me if I speak plainly! They are not grieving about the old. Their
soul--those of them, I mean that have the gift of religion--is
travailing--dumbly travailing--with the new. Slowly, irresistibly, they
are evolving for themselves new forms, new creeds, whether they know it
or not. You--the traditional party--you, the bishops and the orthodox
majority--can help them, or hinder them. If you deny them organized
expression and outlet, you prolong the dull friction between them and the
current Christianity. You waste where you might gather--you quench where
you might kindle. But there they are--in the same church with you--and
you cannot drive them out!"
The Bishop made a sound of pain.
"I wish to drive no one out," he said, lifting a diaphanous hand. "To his
own master let each man stand or fall. But you ask us--_us_, the
appointed guardians of the Faith--the _ecclesia docens_--the historic
episcopate--to deny and betray the Faith! You ask us to assent formally
to the effacing of all difference between Faith and Unfaith--you bid us
tell the world publicly that belief matters nothing--that a man may deny
all the Divine Facts of Redemption, and still be as good a Christian as
any one else. History alone might tell you--and I am speaking for the
moment as a student to a student--that the thing is inconceivable!"
"Unless--_solvitur vivendo_!" said Meynell in a low voice. "What great
change in the religious life of men has not seemed inconceivable--till it
happened? Think of the great change that brought this English Church into
being! Within a couple of generations men had to learn to be baptized,
and married, and buried, with rites unknown to their fathers--to stand
alone and cut off from the great whole of Christendom--to which they
had once belonged--to see the Mass, the cult of Our Lady and the Saints,
disappear from their lives. What change that any Modernist proposes could
equal that? But England lived through it!--England emerged!--she
recovered her equilibrium. Looking back upon it all now, we see--you and
I agree there--that it was worth while--that the energizing, revealing
power behind the world was in the confusion and the dislocation; and that
England gained more than she lost when she made for herself an English
and a national Church in these islands, out of the shattered débris of
the Roman System."
He bent forward, and looked intently into the Bishop's face. "What if
another hour of travail be upon us? And is any birth possible without
"Don't let us argue the Reformation!" said the Bishop, with a new
sharpness of note. "We should be here all night. But let me at least
point out to you that the Church kept her Creeds!--the Succession!--the
four great Councils!--the unbroken unity of essential dogma. But you"--he
turned with renewed passion on his companion--"what have you done with
the Creeds? Every word in them steeped in the heart's blood of
generations!--and you put them aside as a kind of theological
bric-à-brac that concerns us no more. Meynell!--you have no conception of
the forces that this movement of yours, if you persist in it, will
unchain against you! You are like children playing with the lightning!"
Denunciation and warning sat with a curious majesty on the little Bishop
as he launched these words. It was with a visible effort that Meynell
braced himself against them.
"Perhaps I estimate the forces for and against differently from yourself,
Bishop. But when you prophesy war, I agree. There will be war!--and that
makes the novelty of the situation. Till now there has never been
equality enough for war. The heretic has been an excrescence to be cut
away. Now you will have to make some terms with him! For the ideas behind
him have invaded your inmost life. They are all about you and around
you--and when you go out to fight him, you will discover that you are
half on his side!"
"If that means," said the Bishop impatiently, "that the Church is
accessible to new ideas--that she is now, as she has always been, a
learned Church--the Church of Westcott and Lightfoot, of a host of
younger scholars who are as well acquainted with the ideas and
contentions of Modernism--as you call it--as any Modernist in Europe--and
are still the faithful servants and guardians of Christian dogma--why,
then, you say what is true! We perfectly understand your positions--and
we reject them."
Through Meynell's expression there passed a gleam--slight and gentle--of
something like triumph.
"Forgive me!--but I think you have given me my point. Let me recall to
you the French sayings--'Comprendre, c'est pardonner--Comprendre, c'est
aimer.' It is because for the first time you do understand them--that,
for the first time, the same arguments play upon you as play upon us--it
is for that very reason that we regard the field as half won, before the
battle is even joined."
The Bishop gazed upon him with a thin, dropping lip--an expression of
suffering in the clear blue eyes.
"That Christians"--he said under his breath--"should divide the forces of
Christ--with the sin and misery of this world devouring and defiling our
brethren day by day!"
"What if it be not 'dividing'--but doubling--the forces of Christ!" said
Meynell, with pale resolution. "All that we ask is the Church should
recognize existing facts--that organization should shape itself to
reality. In our eyes, Christendom is divided to-day--or is rapidly
dividing itself--into two wholly new camps. The division between Catholic
and Protestant is no longer the supreme division; for the force that is
rising affects both Protestant and Catholic equally. Each of the new
divisions has a philosophy and a criticism of its own; each of them has
an immense hold on human life, though Modernism is only now slowly
realizing and putting out its power. Two camps!--two systems of
thought!--both of them _Christian_ thought. Yet one of them, one only,
_is in possession_ of the churches, the forms, the institutions; the
other is everywhere knocking at the gates. 'Give us our portion!'--we
say--'in Christ's name.' But _only our portion!_ We do not dream of
dispossessing the old--it is the last thing, even, that we desire. But
for the sake of souls now wandering and desolate, we ask to live side by
side with the old--in brotherly peace, in equal right--sharing what the
past has bequeathed! Yes, even the loaves and fishes!--they ought to be
justly divided out like the rest. But, above all, the powers, the
opportunities, the trials, the labours of the Christian Church!"
"In other words, so far as the English Church is concerned, you propose
to reduce us within our own borders to a peddling confusion of sects,
held together by the mere physical link of our buildings and our
endowments!" said the Bishop, as he straightened himself in his chair.
He spoke with a stern and contemptuous force which transformed the small
body and sensitive face. In the old room, the library of the Palace, with
its rows of calf-bound folios, and its vaulted fifteenth century roof, he
sat as the embodiment of ancient, inherited things, his gentleness lost
in that collective, that corporate, pride which has been at once the
noblest and the deadliest force in history.
Meynell's expression changed, in correspondence. It, too, grew harder,
"My lord--is there no loss already to be faced, of another kind?--is
all well with the Church? How often have I found you here--forgive
me!--grieving for the loss of souls--the decline of faith--the empty
churches--the dwindling communicants--the spread of secularist
literature--the hostility of the workmen! And yet what devotion, what
zeal, there is in this diocese, beginning with our Bishop. Have we not
often asked ourselves what such facts could possibly mean--why God seemed
to have forsaken us?"
"They mean luxury and selfishness--the loss of discipline at home and
abroad," said the Bishop, with bitter emphasis. "It is hard indeed to
turn the denial of Christ into an argument against His Gospel!"
Meynell was silent. His heart was burning within him with a passionate
sense at once of the vast need and hungry unrest so sharply dismissed by
the Bishop, and of the efficacy of that "new teaching" for which he
stood. But he ceased to try and convey it by argument. After a few
moments he began in his ordinary voice to report various developments of
the Movement in the diocese of which he believed the Bishop to be still
"We wish to conceal nothing from you," he said at last with emotion; "and
consistently with the trial of strength that must come, we desire to
lighten the burden on our Bishop as much as we possibly can. This will be
a solemn testing of great issues--we on our side are determined to do
nothing to embitter or disgrace it."
The Bishop, now grown very white, looked at him intently.
"I make one last appeal, Meynell, to your obedience--and to the promises
of your ordination."
"I was a boy then"--said Meynell slowly--"I am a man now. I took those
vows sincerely, in absolute good faith; and all the changes in me have
come about, as it seems to me, by the inbreathing of a spirit not my
own--partly from new knowledge--partly in trying to help my people to
live--or to die. They represent to me things lawfully--divinely--learnt.
So that in the change itself, I cannot acknowledge or feel wrongdoing.
But you remind me--as you have every right to do--that I accepted certain
rules and conditions. Now that I break them, must I not resign the
position dependent on them? Clearly, if it were a question of any
ordinary society. But the Christian Church is not an ordinary society! It
is the sum of Christian life!"
The Bishop raised a hand of protest, but without speaking. Meynell
"And that Life makes the Church--moulds it afresh, from age to age. There
are times--we hold--when the Church very nearly expresses the Life; there
are others when there are great discordances between the Life, and its
expression in the Church. We believe that there are such discordances now
because--once more--of a New Learning. And we believe that to withdraw
from the struggle to make the Church more fully represent the Life would
be sheer disloyalty and cowardice. We must stay it out, and do our best.
We are not dishonest, for, unlike many Liberals of the past and the
present--we speak out! We are inconsistent indeed with a past pledge; but
are we any more inconsistent than the High Churchman who repudiates the
'blasphemous fables' of the Mass when he signs the Articles, and then
encourages adoration of the Reserved Sacrament in his church?"
The Bishop made no immediate reply. He was at that moment involved in a
struggle with an incumbent in Markborough itself who under the very
shadow of the Cathedral had been celebrating the Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin in flat disobedience to his diocesan. His mind wandered
for a minute or two to this case. Then, rousing himself, he said
abruptly, with a keen look at Meynell:
"I know of course that, in your case, there can be no question of
clinging to the money of the Church."
"I had not meant to speak of it--but your lordship knows that all I
receive from my living is given back to church purposes. I support myself
by what I write. There are others of us who risk much more than I--who
risk indeed their all!"
"You have done a noble work for your people, Meynell." The Bishop's voice
was not unlike a groan.
"I have done nothing but what was my bounden duty to do."
"And practically your parish is with you in this terrible business?"
"The church people in it, by an immense majority--and some of the
dissenters. Mr. Barron, as you know, is the chief complainant, and there
are of course some others with him."
"I expect to see Mr. Barron this afternoon," remarked the Bishop,
Meynell said nothing.
The Bishop rose.
"I understand from your letter this morning that you have no intention of
repeating the service of last Sunday?"
"Not at present. But the League will go to work at once on a revised
"Which you propose to introduce on a given Sunday--in all the Reformers'
"That is our plan."
"You are quite aware that this whole scheme may lead to tumults--breaches
of the peace?"
"It may," said Meynell reluctantly.
"But you risk it?"
"We must," said Meynell, after a pause.
"And you refuse--I ask you once more--to resign your living, at my
"I do--for the reasons I have given."
The Bishop's eyes sparkled.
"As to my course," he said, dryly, "Letters of Request will be sent at
once to the Court of Arches preferring charges of heretical teaching and
unauthorized services against yourself and two other clergy. I shall be
represented by so-and-so." He named the lawyers.
They stood, exchanging a few technical informations of this kind for a
few minutes. Then Meynell took up his hat. The Bishop hesitated a moment,
then held out his hand.
Meynell grasped it, and suddenly stooped and kissed the episcopal ring.
"I am an old man"--said the Bishop brokenly--"and a weary one. I pray God
that He will give me strength to bear this burden that is laid upon me."
Meynell went away, with bowed head. The Bishop was left alone. He moved
to the window and stood looking out. Across the green of the quadrangle
rose the noble mass of the Cathedral. His lips moved in prayer; but all
the time it was as though he saw beside the visible structure--its
ordered beauty, its proud and cherished antiquity--a ruined phantom of
the great church, roofless and fissured, its sacred places open to the
winds and rains, its pavements broken and desolate.
The imagination grew upon him, and it was only with a great effort that
he escaped from it.
"My bogies are as foolish as Barbara's," he said to himself with a smile
as he went back to the daily toil of his letters.
Meynell left the Palace shaken and exhausted. He carried in his mind the
image of his Bishop, and he walked in bitterness of soul. The quick,
optimistic imagination which had alone made the action of these last
weeks possible had for the moment deserted him, and he was paying the
penalty of his temperament.
He turned into the Cathedral, and knelt there some time, conscious less
of articulate prayer than of the vague influences of the place; the warm
gray of its shadows, the relief of its mere space and silence, the beauty
of the creeping sunlight--gules, or, and purple--on the spreading
pavements. And vaguely--while the Bishop's grief still, as it were,
smarted within his own heart--there arose the sense that he was the mere
instrument of a cause; that personal shrinking and compunction were not
allowed him; that he was the guardian of nascent rights and claims far
beyond anything affecting his own life. Some such conviction is essential
to the religious leader--to the enthusiast indeed of any kind; and it was
not withheld from Richard Meynell.
When he rose and went out, he saw coming toward him a man he knew
well--Fenton, the Vicar of a church on the outskirts of Markborough,
famous for its "high" doctrine and services; a young boyish fellow, curly
haired, in whom the "gayety" that Catholicism, Anglican or Roman,
prescribes to her most devout children was as conspicuous as an ascetic
and labourious life. Meynell loved and admired him. At a small clerical
meeting the two men had once held an argument that had been long
remembered--Fenton maintaining hotly the doctrine of an intermediate
and purgatorical state after death, basing it entirely on a vision of
Saint Perpetua recorded in the Acta of that Saint. Impossible, said the
fair-haired, frank-eyed priest--who had been one of the best wicket-keeps
of his day at Winchester--that so solemn a vision, granted to a martyr,
at the moment almost of death, could be misleading. Purgatory therefore
must be accepted and believed, even though it might not be expedient to
proclaim it publicly from an Anglican pulpit. "Since the evening when I
first read the Acta of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas," said the speaker,
with an awed sincerity, "I have never doubted for myself, nor have I
dared to hide from my penitents what is my own opinion."
In reply, Meynell, instead of any general argument, had gently taken the
very proof offered him--_i.e.,_ the vision--dissecting it, the time in
which it arose, and the mind in which it occurred, with a historical
knowledge and a quick and tender penetration which had presently absorbed
the little company of listeners, till Fenton said abruptly, with a frown
"In that way, one might explain anything--the Transfiguration for
Meynell looked up quickly.
"Except--the mind that dies for an idea!"
Yet the encounter had left them friends; and the two men had been
associated not long afterward in a heroic attempt to stop some dangerous
rioting arising out of a strike in one of the larger collieries.
Meynell watched the young figure of Fenton approaching through the bands
of light and shadow in the great nave. As it came nearer, some instinct
made him stand still, as though he became the mere spectator of what was
about to happen. Fenton lifted his head; his eyes met Meynell's, and,
without the smallest recognition, his gaze fixed on the pavement, he
passed on toward the east end of the Cathedral.
Meynell straightened himself for a minute's "recollection," and went his
way. On the pavement outside the western portal he ran into another
acquaintance--a Canon of the Cathedral--hurrying home to lunch from a
morning's work in the Cathedral library. Canon France looked up, saw who
it was, and Meynell, every nerve strained to its keenest, perceived the
instant change of expression. But there was no ignoring him, though the
Canon did not offer to shake hands.
"Ah! Meynell, is that you? A fine day at last!"
"Yes, we may save the harvest yet!" said Meynell, pausing in his walk.
A kind of nervous curiosity bade him try and detain the Canon. But
France--a man of sixty-five, with a large Buddha-like face, and a pair of
remarkably shrewd and humorous black eyes--looked him quickly over from
top to toe, and hurried on, throwing a "good-bye" over his shoulder. When
he and Meynell had last met it had been to talk for a friendly hour over
Monseigneur Duchesne's last book and its bearing on Ultramontane
pretensions; and they had parted with a cordial grip of the hand,
promising soon to meet again.
"Yet he knew me for a heretic then!" thought Meynell. "I never made any
secret of my opinions."
All the same, as he walked on, he forced himself to acknowledge to the
full the radical change in the situation. Acts of war suspend the normal
order; and no combatant has any right to complain.
Then a moment's weariness seized him of the whole train of thought to
which his days and nights were now committed, and he turned with
eagerness to look at the streets of Markborough, full of a market-day
crowd, and of "the great mundane movement." Farmers and labourers were
walking up and down; oxen and sheep in the temporary pens of the
market-place were waiting for purchasers; there was a Socialist lecturer
in one corner, and a Suffragist lady on a wagon in another. The late
August sun shone upon the ruddy faces and broad backs of men to whom
certainly it did not seem to be of great importance whether the
Athanasian Creed were omitted from the devotions of Christian people or
no. There was a great deal of chaffering going on; a little courting, and
some cheating. Meynell recognized some of his parishioners, spoke to a
farmer or two, exchanged greeting with a sub-agent of the miners' union,
and gave some advice to a lad of his choir who had turned against the
pits and come to "hire" himself at Markborough.
It was plain to him, however, after a little, that although he might wish
to forget himself among the crowd, the crowd was on the contrary rather
sharply aware of the Rector of Upcote. He perceived as he moved slowly up
the street that he was in fact a marked man. Looks followed him; and the
men he knew greeted him with a difference.
A little beyond the market-place he turned down a narrow street leading
to the mother church of the town--an older foundation even than the
Cathedral. Knocking at the door in the wall, he was admitted to an old
rectory house, adjacent to the church, and in its low-ceiled dining-room
he found six of the already famous "eighteen" assembled, among them the
two other clergy who with himself had been singled out for the first
testing prosecution. A joint letter was being drawn up for the press.
Meynell was greeted with rejoicing--a quiet rejoicing, as of men occupied
with grave matters, that precluded any ebullience of talk. With Meynell's
appearance, the meeting became more formal, and it was proposed to put
the Vicar of the ancient church under whose shadow they were gathered,
into the chair. The old man, Treherne by name, had been a double-first in
days when double-firsts were everything, and in a class-list not much
more modern than Mr. Gladstone's. He was a gentle, scholarly person,
silent and timid in ordinary life, and his adhesion to the "eighteen" had
been an astonishment to friends and foes. But he was not to be inveigled
into the "chair" on any occasion, least of all in his own dining-room.
"I should keep you here all night, and you would get nothing done,"
he said with a smiling wave of the hand. "Besides--_excludat jurgia
finis!_--let there be an age-limit in all things! Put Meynell in. It is
he that has brought us all into this business."
So, for some hours or more, Meynell and the six grappled with the letter
that was to convey the challenge of the revolted congregations to the
general public through the _Times_. It was not an easy matter, and some
small jealousies and frictions lifted their heads that had been wholly
lost sight of in the white-hot feeling of the inauguration meeting.
Yet on the whole the seven men gathered in this room were not unworthy to
lead the "forlorn hope" they had long determined on. Darwen--young,
handsome, Spiritual, a Third Classic, and a Chancellor's medallist;
Waller, his Oxford friend, a man of the same type, both representing the
recent flowing back of intellectual forces into the Church which for
nearly half a century had abandoned her; Petitôt, Swiss by origin, small,
black-eyed, irrepressible, with a great popularity among the hosiery
operatives of whom his parish was mainly composed; Derrick, the
Socialist, of humble origin and starved education, yet possessed
Of a natural sway over men, given him by a pair of marvellous blue
eyes, a character of transparent simplicity, a tragic honesty and the
bitter-sweet gift of the orator; Chesham, a man who had left the army for
the Church, had been grappling for ten years with a large parish of
secularist artisans, and was now preaching Modernism with a Franciscan
fervour and success; and Rollin, who owned a slashing literary style, was
a passionate Liberal in all fields, had done excellent work in the
clearing and cleaning of slums, with much loud and unnecessary talk by
the way, and wrote occasionally for the _Daily Watchman_. Chesham and
Darwen were Meynell's co-defendants in the suit brought by the Bishop.
Rollin alone seemed out of place in this gathering of men, drawing tense
breath under a new and almost unbearable responsibility. He was so in
love with the sensational, notoriety side of the business, so eager to
pull wires, and square editors, so frankly exultant in the "big row"
coming on, that Meynell, with the Bishop's face still in his mind, could
presently hardly endure him. He felt as Renan toward Gavroche. Was it
worth while to go through so much that Rollin might cut a figure, and
talk at large about "modern thought?"
However Darwen and Waller, Derrick also, were just as determined as
Meynell to keep down the frothy self-advertising element in the campaign
to the minimum that human nature seems unable to do without. So that
Rollin found himself gradually brought into line, being not a bad fellow,
but only a common one; and he abandoned with much inward chagrin the
project of a flaming "interview" for the _Daily Watchman_ on the
And indeed, as this handful of men settled down to the consideration of
the agenda for a large conference to be held in Markborough the following
week, there might have been discerned in six of them, at least, a temper
that glorified both them and their enterprise; a temper of seriousness,
courage, unalterable conviction, with such delicacy of feeling as befits
men whose own brethren and familiar companions have become their foes.
They were all pastors in the true sense, and every man of them knew that
in a few months he would probably have lost his benefice and his
prospects. Only Treherne was married, and only he and Rollin had private
Meynell was clearly their leader. Where the hopefulness of the others was
intermittent his was constant; his knowledge of the English situation
generally, as well as of the lie of forces in the Markborough district,
was greater than theirs; and his ability as a writer made him their
natural exponent. It was he who drew up the greater part of their
"encyclical" for the press; and by the time the meeting was over he had
so heightened in them the sense of mission, so cheered them with the
vision of a wide response from the mind of England, that all lesser
thoughts were sunk, and they parted in quietness and courage.
Meynell left the outskirts of Markborough by the Maudeley road, meaning
to walk to Upcote by Forkéd Pond and Maudeley Park.
It was now nearly a fortnight since he had seen Mary Elsmere, and for the
first time, almost, in these days of storm and stress could the mind make
room for some sore brooding on the fact. He had dined at Maudeley, making
time with infinite difficulty; Mrs. Elsmere and her daughter were not
there. He had asked Mrs. Flaxman to tea at the Rectory, and had suggested
that she should bring her sister and her niece. Mr. and Mrs. Flaxman
appeared--without companions. Once or twice he had caught sight of Mary
Elsmere's figure in the distance of Miss Puttenham's garden. Yet he had
not ventured to intrude upon the two friends. It had seemed to him by
then it must be her will to avoid him, and he respected it.
As to other misgivings and anxieties, they were many. As Meynell entered
the Maudeley lane, with the woods of Sandford Abbey on his left, and the
little trout-stream flashing and looping through the water meadows on his
right, his mind was often occupied by a conversation between himself and
Stephen Barron which had taken place the night before. Meynell could not
but think of it remorsefully.
"And I can explain nothing--to make it easier for the poor old
fellow--nothing! He thinks if we had allowed the engagement, it would
all have come right--he would have got a hold upon her, and been able to
shape her. Oh, my dear boy--my dear boy! Yet, when the time comes,
Stephen shall have any chance, any help, I can give him--unless indeed
she has settled her destiny for herself by then, without any reference
to us. And Stephen shall know--what there is to know!"
As to Hester herself, she seemed to have been keeping the Fox-Wilton
household in perpetual fear. She went about in her mocking, mysterious
way, denying that she knew anything about Sir Philip Meryon, or had any
dealings with him. Yet it was shrewdly suspected that letters had passed
between them, and Hester's proceedings were so quick-silverish and
incalculable that it was impossible to keep a constant watch upon her. In
the wilderness of Maudeley Park, which lay directly between the two
houses, they might quite well have met--they probably had met. Meynell
noticed and rebuked in himself a kind of settled pessimism as to Hester's
conduct and future. "Do what you will," it seemed to say--"do all you
can--but that life has in it the ferments of tragedy."
Had they at least been doing all they could? he asked himself anxiously,
vowing that no public campaign must or should distract him from a private
trust much older than it, and no less sacred. In the midst of the turmoil
of these weeks he had been corresponding on Lady Fox-Wilton's behalf with
a lady in Paris to whom a girl of Hester's age and kind might be safely
committed for the perfecting of her French and music. It had been
necessary to warn the lady that in the case of such a pensionnaire as
Hester the male sex might give trouble; and Hester had not yet signified
her gracious consent to go.
But she would go--she must go--and either he or Alice Puttenham would
take her over and install her. Good heavens, if one had only Edith
Fox-Wilton to depend on in these troubles!
As for Philip Meryon, he was, of course, now and always, a man of vicious
habits and no scruples. He seemed to be staying at Sandford with the
usual crew of flashy, disreputable people, and to allow Hester to run any
risks with regard to him would be simply criminal. Yet with so
inefficient a watch-dog as Lady Fox-Wilton, who could guarantee anything?
Alice, of course, thought of nothing else than Hester, night and day. But
it was part of the pathos of the situation that she had so little
influence on the child's thoughts and deeds.
Poor, lonely woman! In Alice's sudden friendship for Mary Elsmere, her
junior by some twelve years, the Rector, with an infinite pity, read the
confession of a need that had become at last intolerable. For these
seventeen years he had never known her make an intimate friend, and to
see her now with this charming, responsive girl was to realize what the
long hunger for affection must have been. Yet even now, how impossible to
satisfy it, as other women could satisfy it! What ghosts and shadows
about the path of friendship!
"A dim and perilous way," his mind went sounding back along the
intricacies of Alice Puttenham's story. The old problems arose in
connection with it--problems now of ethics, now of expediency. And
interfused with them a sense of dull amazement and yet of intolerable
repetition--in this difficulty which had risen with regard to Hester. The
owner of Sandford--_and Hester!_ When he had first seen them together, it
had seemed a thing so sinister that his mind had refused to take it
seriously. A sharp word to her, a word of warning to her natural
guardians--and surely all was mended. Philip never stayed more than three
weeks in the old house; he would very soon be gone, and Hester's fancy
would turn to something else.
But that the passing shock should become anything more! There rose before