Part 1 out of 6
Transcribed by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
YEAST: A PROBLEM
PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION
This book was written nearly twelve years ago; and so many things
have changed since then, that it is hardly fair to send it into the
world afresh, without some notice of the improvement--if such there
be--which has taken place meanwhile in those southern counties of
England, with which alone this book deals.
I believe that things are improved. Twelve years more of the new
Poor Law have taught the labouring men greater self-help and
independence; I hope that those virtues may not be destroyed in them
once more, by the boundless and indiscriminate almsgiving which has
become the fashion of the day, in most parishes where there are
resident gentry. If half the money which is now given away in
different forms to the agricultural poor could be spent in making
their dwellings fit for honest men to live in, then life, morals,
and poor-rates, would be saved to an immense amount. But as I do
not see how to carry out such a plan, I have no right to complain of
others for not seeing.
Meanwhile cottage improvement, and sanitary reform, throughout the
country districts, are going on at a fearfully slow rate. Here and
there high-hearted landlords, like the Duke of Bedford, are doing
their duty like men; but in general, the apathy of the educated
classes is most disgraceful.
But the labourers, during the last ten years, are altogether better
off. Free trade has increased their food, without lessening their
employment. The politician who wishes to know the effect on
agricultural life of that wise and just measure, may find it in Mr.
Grey of Dilston's answers to the queries of the French Government.
The country parson will not need to seek so far. He will see it (if
he be an observant man) in the faces and figures of his school-
children. He will see a rosier, fatter, bigger-boned race growing
up, which bids fair to surpass in bulk the puny and ill-fed
generation of 1815-45, and equal, perhaps, in thew and sinew, to the
men who saved Europe in the old French war.
If it should be so (as God grant it may), there is little fear but
that the labouring men of England will find their aristocracy able
to lead them in the battle-field, and to develop the agriculture of
the land at home, even better than did their grandfathers of the old
To a thoughtful man, no point of the social horizon is more full of
light, than the altered temper of the young gentlemen. They have
their faults and follies still--for when will young blood be other
than hot blood? But when one finds, more and more, swearing
banished from the hunting-field, foul songs from the universities,
drunkenness and gambling from the barracks; when one finds
everywhere, whether at college, in camp, or by the cover-side, more
and more, young men desirous to learn their duty as Englishmen, and
if possible to do it; when one hears their altered tone toward the
middle classes, and that word 'snob' (thanks very much to Mr.
Thackeray) used by them in its true sense, without regard of rank;
when one watches, as at Aldershott, the care and kindness of
officers toward their men; and over and above all this, when one
finds in every profession (in that of the soldier as much as any)
young men who are not only 'in the world,' but (in religious
phraseology) 'of the world,' living God-fearing, virtuous, and
useful lives, as Christian men should: then indeed one looks
forward with hope and confidence to the day when these men shall
settle down in life, and become, as holders of the land, the leaders
of agricultural progress, and the guides and guardians of the
I am bound to speak of the farmer, as I know him in the South of
England. In the North he is a man of altogether higher education
and breeding: but he is, even in the South, a much better man than
it is the fashion to believe him. No doubt, he has given heavy
cause of complaint. He was demoralised, as surely, if not as
deeply, as his own labourers, by the old Poor Law. He was
bewildered--to use the mildest term--by promises of Protection from
men who knew better. But his worst fault after all has been, that
young or old, he has copied his landlord too closely, and acted on
his maxims and example. And now that his landlord is growing wiser,
he is growing wiser too. Experience of the new Poor Law, and
experience of Free-trade, are helping him to show himself what he
always was at heart, an honest Englishman. All his brave
persistence and industry, his sturdy independence and self-help, and
last, but not least, his strong sense of justice, and his vast good-
nature, are coming out more and more, and working better and better
upon the land and the labourer; while among his sons I see many
growing up brave, manly, prudent young men, with a steadily
increasing knowledge of what is required of them, both as
manufacturers of food, and employers of human labour.
The country clergy, again, are steadily improving. I do not mean
merely in morality--for public opinion now demands that as a sine
qua non--but in actual efficiency. Every fresh appointment seems to
me, on the whole, a better one than the last. They are gaining more
and more the love and respect of their flocks; they are becoming
more and more centres of civilisation and morality to their
parishes; they are working, for the most part, very hard, each in
his own way; indeed their great danger is, that they should trust
too much in that outward 'business' work which they do so heartily;
that they should fancy that the administration of schools and
charities is their chief business, and literally leave the Word of
God to serve tables. Would that we clergymen could learn (some of
us are learning already) that influence over our people is not to be
gained by perpetual interference in their private affairs, too often
inquisitorial, irritating, and degrading to both parties, but by
showing ourselves their personal friends, of like passions with
them. Let a priest do that. Let us make our people feel that we
speak to them, and feel to them, as men to men, and then the more
cottages we enter the better. If we go into our neighbours' houses
only as judges, inquisitors, or at best gossips, we are best--as too
many are--at home in our studies. Would, too, that we would
recollect this--that our duty is, among other things, to preach the
Gospel; and consider firstly whether what we commonly preach be any
Gospel or good news at all, and not rather the worst possible news;
and secondly, whether we preach at all; whether our sermons are not
utterly unintelligible (being delivered in an unknown tongue), and
also of a dulness not to be surpassed; and whether, therefore, it
might not be worth our while to spend a little time in studying the
English tongue, and the art of touching human hearts and minds.
But to return: this improved tone (if the truth must be told) is
owing, far more than people themselves are aware, to the triumphs of
those liberal principles, for which the Whigs have fought for the
last forty years, and of that sounder natural philosophy of which
they have been the consistent patrons. England has become Whig; and
the death of the Whig party is the best proof of its victory. It
has ceased to exist, because it has done its work; because its
principles are accepted by its ancient enemies; because the
political economy and the physical science, which grew up under its
patronage, are leavening the thoughts and acts of Anglican and of
Evangelical alike, and supplying them with methods for carrying out
their own schemes. Lord Shaftesbury's truly noble speech on
Sanitary Reform at Liverpool is a striking proof of the extent to
which the Evangelical leaders have given in their adherence to those
scientific laws, the original preachers of which have been called by
his Lordship's party heretics and infidels, materialists and
rationalists. Be it so. Provided truth be preached, what matter
who preaches it? Provided the leaven of sound inductive science
leaven the whole lump, what matter who sets it working? Better,
perhaps, because more likely to produce practical success, that
these novel truths should be instilled into the minds of the
educated classes by men who share somewhat in their prejudices and
superstitions, and doled out to them in such measure as will not
terrify or disgust them. The child will take its medicine from the
nurse's hand trustfully enough, when it would scream itself into
convulsions at the sight of the doctor, and so do itself more harm
than the medicine would do it good. The doctor meanwhile (unless he
be one of Hesiod's 'fools, who know not how much more half is than
the whole') is content enough to see any part of his prescription
got down, by any hands whatsoever.
But there is another cause for the improved tone of the Landlord
class, and of the young men of what is commonly called the
aristocracy; and that is, a growing moral earnestness; which is in
great part owing (that justice may be done on all sides) to the
Anglican movement. How much soever Neo-Anglicanism may have failed
as an Ecclesiastical or Theological system; how much soever it may
have proved itself, both by the national dislike of it, and by the
defection of all its master-minds, to be radically un-English, it
has at least awakened hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cultivated men
and women to ask themselves whether God sent them into the world
merely to eat, drink, and be merry, and to have 'their souls saved'
upon the Spurgeon method, after they die; and has taught them an
answer to that question not unworthy of English Christians.
The Anglican movement, when it dies out, will leave behind at least
a legacy of grand old authors disinterred, of art, of music; of
churches too, schools, cottages, and charitable institutions, which
will form so many centres of future civilisation, and will entitle
it to the respect, if not to the allegiance, of the future
generation. And more than this; it has sown in the hearts of young
gentlemen and young ladies seed which will not perish; which, though
it may develop into forms little expected by those who sowed it,
will develop at least into a virtue more stately and reverent, more
chivalrous and self-sacrificing, more genial and human, than can be
learnt from that religion of the Stock Exchange, which reigned
triumphant--for a year and a day--in the popular pulpits.
I have said, that Neo-Anglicanism has proved a failure, as
seventeenth-century Anglicanism did. The causes of that failure
this book has tried to point out: and not one word which is spoken
of it therein, but has been drawn from personal and too-intimate
experience. But now--peace to its ashes. Is it so great a sin, to
have been dazzled by the splendour of an impossible ideal? Is it so
great a sin, to have had courage and conduct enough to attempt the
enforcing of that ideal, in the face of the prejudices of a whole
nation? And if that ideal was too narrow for the English nation,
and for the modern needs of mankind, is that either so great a sin?
Are other extant ideals, then, so very comprehensive? Does Mr.
Spurgeon, then, take so much broader or nobler views of the
capacities and destinies of his race, than that great genius, John
Henry Newman? If the world cannot answer that question now, it will
answer it promptly enough in another five-and-twenty years. And
meanwhile let not the party and the system which has conquered boast
itself too loudly. Let it take warning by the Whigs; and suspect
(as many a looker-on more than suspects) that its triumph may be, as
with the Whigs, its ruin; and that, having done the work for which
it was sent into the world, there may only remain for it, to decay
And die it surely will, if (as seems too probable) there succeeds to
this late thirty years of peace a thirty years of storm.
For it has lost all hold upon the young, the active, the daring. It
has sunk into a compromise between originally opposite dogmas. It
has become a religion for Jacob the smooth man; adapted to the
maxims of the market, and leaving him full liberty to supplant his
brother by all methods lawful in that market. No longer can it
embrace and explain all known facts of God and man, in heaven and
earth, and satisfy utterly such minds and hearts as those of
Cromwell's Ironsides, or the Scotch Covenanters, or even of a Newton
and a Colonel Gardiner. Let it make the most of its Hedley Vicars
and its Havelock, and sound its own trumpet as loudly as it can, in
sounding theirs; for they are the last specimens of heroism which it
is likely to beget--if indeed it did in any true sense beget them,
and if their gallantry was really owing to their creed, and not to
the simple fact of their being--like others--English gentlemen.
Well may Jacob's chaplains cackle in delighted surprise over their
noble memories, like geese who have unwittingly hatched a swan!
But on Esau in general:--on poor rough Esau, who sails Jacob's
ships, digs Jacob's mines, founds Jacob's colonies, pours out his
blood for him in those wars which Jacob himself has stirred up--
while his sleek brother sits at home in his counting-house, enjoying
at once 'the means of grace' and the produce of Esau's labour--on
him Jacob's chaplains have less and less influence; for him they
have less and less good news. He is afraid of them, and they of
him; the two do not comprehend one another, sympathise with one
another; they do not even understand one another's speech. The same
social and moral gulf has opened between them, as parted the
cultivated and wealthy Pharisee of Jerusalem from the rough fishers
of the Galilaean Lake: and yet the Galilaean fishers (if we are to
trust Josephus and the Gospels) were trusty, generous, affectionate-
-and it was not from among the Pharisees, it is said, that the
Apostles were chosen.
Be that as it may, Esau has a birthright; and this book, like all
books which I have ever written, is written to tell him so; and, I
trust, has not been written in vain. But it is not this book, or
any man's book, or any man at all, who can tell Esau the whole truth
about himself, his powers, his duty, and his God. Woman must do it,
and not man. His mother, his sister, the maid whom he may love; and
failing all these (as they often will fail him, in the wild
wandering life which he must live), those human angels of whom it is
written--'The barren hath many more children than she who has an
husband.' And such will not be wanting. As long as England can
produce at once two such women as Florence Nightingale and Catherine
Marsh, there is good hope that Esau will not be defrauded of his
birthright; and that by the time that Jacob comes crouching to him,
to defend him against the enemies who are near at hand, Esau,
instead of borrowing Jacob's religion, may be able to teach Jacob
his; and the two brothers face together the superstition and anarchy
of Europe, in the strength of a lofty and enlightened Christianity,
which shall be thoroughly human, and therefore thoroughly divine.
February 17th, 1859.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
This little tale was written between two and three years ago, in the
hope that it might help to call the attention of wiser and better
men than I am, to the questions which are now agitating the minds of
the rising generation, and to the absolute necessity of solving them
at once and earnestly, unless we would see the faith of our
forefathers crumble away beneath the combined influence of new
truths which are fancied to be incompatible with it, and new
mistakes as to its real essence. That this can be done I believe
and know: if I had not believed it, I would never have put pen to
paper on the subject.
I believe that the ancient Creed, the Eternal Gospel, will stand,
and conquer, and prove its might in this age, as it has in every
other for eighteen hundred years, by claiming, and subduing, and
organising those young anarchic forces, which now, unconscious of
their parentage, rebel against Him to whom they owe their being.
But for the time being, the young men and women of our day are fast
parting from their parents and each other; the more thoughtful are
wandering either towards Rome, towards sheer materialism, or towards
an unchristian and unphilosophic spiritualism. Epicurism which, in
my eyes, is the worst evil spirit of the three, precisely because it
looks at first sight most like an angel of light. The mass, again,
are fancying that they are still adhering to the old creeds, the old
church, to the honoured patriarchs of English Protestantism. I wish
I could agree with them in their belief about themselves. To me
they seem--with a small sprinkling of those noble and cheering
exceptions to popular error which are to be found in every age of
Christ's church--to be losing most fearfully and rapidly the living
spirit of Christianity, and to be, for that very reason, clinging
all the more convulsively--and who can blame them?--to the outward
letter of it, whether High Church or Evangelical; unconscious, all
the while, that they are sinking out of real living belief, into
that dead self-deceiving belief-in-believing, which has been always
heretofore, and is becoming in England now, the parent of the most
blind, dishonest, and pitiless bigotry.
In the following pages I have attempted to show what some at least
of the young in these days are really thinking and feeling. I know
well that my sketch is inadequate and partial: I have every reason
to believe, from the criticisms which I have received since its
first publication, that it is, as far as it goes, correct. I put it
as a problem. It would be the height of arrogance in me to do more
than indicate the direction in which I think a solution may be
found. I fear that my elder readers may complain that I have no
right to start doubts without answering them. I can only answer,--
Would that I had started them! would that I was not seeing them
daily around me, under some form or other, in just the very hearts
for whom one would most wish the peace and strength of a fixed and
healthy faith. To the young, this book can do no harm; for it will
put into their minds little but what is there already. To the
elder, it may do good; for it may teach some of them, as I earnestly
hope, something of the real, but too often utterly unsuspected,
state of their own children's minds; something of the reasons of
that calamitous estrangement between themselves and those who will
succeed them, which is often too painful and oppressive to be
confessed to their own hearts! Whatever amount of obloquy this book
may bring upon me, I shall think that a light price to pay, if by it
I shall have helped, even in a single case, to 'turn the hearts of
the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the
parents, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come,'--as
come it surely will, if we persist much longer in substituting
denunciation for sympathy, instruction for education, and Pharisaism
for the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
CHAPTER I: THE PHILOSOPHY OF FOX-HUNTING
As this my story will probably run counter to more than one fashion
of the day, literary and other, it is prudent to bow to those
fashions wherever I honestly can; and therefore to begin with a
scrap of description.
The edge of a great fox-cover; a flat wilderness of low leafless
oaks fortified by a long, dreary, thorn capped clay ditch, with sour
red water oozing out at every yard; a broken gate leading into a
straight wood ride, ragged with dead grasses and black with fallen
leaves, the centre mashed into a quagmire by innumerable horsehoofs;
some forty red coats and some four black; a sprinkling of young-
farmers, resplendent in gold buttons and green; a pair of sleek drab
stable-keepers, showing off horses for sale; the surgeon of the
union, in Mackintosh and antigropelos; two holiday schoolboys with
trousers strapped down to bursting point, like a penny steamer's
safety-valve; a midshipman, the only merry one in the field, bumping
about on a fretting, sweating hack, with its nose a foot above its
ears; and Lancelot Smith, who then kept two good horses, and 'rode
forward' as a fine young fellow of three-and-twenty who can afford
it, and 'has nothing else to do,' has a very good right to ride.
But what is a description, without a sketch of the weather?--In
these Pantheist days especially, when a hero or heroine's moral
state must entirely depend on the barometer, and authors talk as if
Christians were cabbages, and a man's soul as well as his lungs
might be saved by sea-breezes and sunshine; or his character
developed by wearing guano in his shoes, and training himself
against a south wall--we must have a weather description, though, as
I shall presently show, one in flat contradiction of the popular
theory. Luckily for our information, Lancelot was very much given
to watch both the weather and himself, and had indeed, while in his
teens, combined the two in a sort of a soul-almanack on the
principles just mentioned--somewhat in this style:--
'Monday, 21st.--Wind S.W., bright sun, mercury at 30.5 inches. Felt
my heart expanded towards the universe. Organs of veneration and
benevolence pleasingly excited; and gave a shilling to a tramp. An
inexpressible joy bounded through every vein, and the soft air
breathed purity and self-sacrifice through my soul. As I watched
the beetles, those children of the sun, who, as divine Shelley says,
"laden with light and odour, pass over the gleam of the living
grass," I gained an Eden-glimpse of the pleasures of virtue.
'N.B. Found the tramp drunk in a ditch. I could not have degraded
myself on such a day--ah! how could he?
'Tuesday, 22d.--Barometer rapidly falling. Heavy clouds in the
south-east. My heart sank into gloomy forebodings. Read Manfred,
and doubted whether I should live long. The laden weight of destiny
seemed to crush down my aching forehead, till the thunderstorm
burst, and peace was restored to my troubled soul.'
This was very bad; but to do justice to Lancelot, he had grown out
of it at the time when my story begins. He was now in the fifth act
of his 'Werterean' stage; that sentimental measles, which all clever
men must catch once in their lives, and which, generally, like the
physical measles, if taken early, settles their constitution for
good or evil; if taken late, goes far towards killing them.
Lancelot had found Byron and Shelley pall on his taste and commenced
devouring Bulwer and worshipping Ernest Maltravers. He had left
Bulwer for old ballads and romances, and Mr. Carlyle's reviews; was
next alternately chivalry-mad; and Germany-mad; was now reading hard
at physical science; and on the whole, trying to become a great man,
without any very clear notion of what a great man ought to be. Real
education he never had had. Bred up at home under his father, a
rich merchant, he had gone to college with a large stock of general
information, and a particular mania for dried plants, fossils,
butterflies, and sketching, and some such creed as this:--
That he was very clever.
That he ought to make his fortune.
That a great many things were very pleasant--beautiful things among
That it was a fine thing to be 'superior,' gentleman-like, generous,
That a man ought to be religious.
And left college with a good smattering of classics and mathematics,
picked up in the intervals of boat-racing and hunting, and much the
same creed as he brought with him, except in regard to the last
article. The scenery-and-natural-history mania was now somewhat at
a discount. He had discovered a new natural object, including in
itself all--more than all--yet found beauties and wonders--woman!
Draw, draw the veil and weep, guardian angel! if such there be.
What was to be expected? Pleasant things were pleasant--there was
no doubt of that, whatever else might be doubtful. He had read
Byron by stealth; he had been flogged into reading Ovid and
Tibullus; and commanded by his private tutor to read Martial and
Juvenal 'for the improvement of his style.' All conversation on the
subject of love had been prudishly avoided, as usual, by his parents
and teacher. The parts of the Bible which spoke of it had been
always kept out of his sight. Love had been to him, practically,
ground tabooed and 'carnal.' What was to be expected? Just what
happened--if woman's beauty had nothing holy in it, why should his
fondness for it? Just what happens every day--that he had to sow
his wild oats for himself, and eat the fruit thereof, and the dirt
O fathers! fathers! and you, clergymen, who monopolise education!
either tell boys the truth about love, or do not put into their
hands, without note or comment, the foul devil's lies about it,
which make up the mass of the Latin poets--and then go, fresh from
teaching Juvenal and Ovid, to declaim at Exeter Hall against poor
Peter Dens's well-meaning prurience! Had we not better take the
beam out of our own eye before we meddle with the mote in the
But where is my description of the weather all this time?
I cannot, I am sorry to say, give any very cheerful account of the
weather that day. But what matter? Are Englishmen hedge-gnats, who
only take their sport when the sun shines? Is it not, on the
contrary, symbolical of our national character, that almost all our
field amusements are wintry ones? Our fowling, our hunting, our
punt-shooting (pastime for Hymir himself and the frost giants)--our
golf and skating,--our very cricket, and boat-racing, and jack and
grayling fishing, carried on till we are fairly frozen out. We are
a stern people, and winter suits us. Nature then retires modestly
into the background, and spares us the obtrusive glitter of summer,
leaving us to think and work; and therefore it happens that in
England, it may be taken as a general rule, that whenever all the
rest of the world is in-doors, we are out and busy, and on the
whole, the worse the day, the better the deed.
The weather that day, the first day Lancelot ever saw his beloved,
was truly national. A silent, dim, distanceless, steaming, rotting
day in March. The last brown oak-leaf which had stood out the
winter's frost, spun and quivered plump down, and then lay; as if
ashamed to have broken for a moment the ghastly stillness, like an
awkward guest at a great dumb dinner-party. A cold suck of wind
just proved its existence, by toothaches on the north side of all
faces. The spiders having been weather-bewitched the night before,
had unanimously agreed to cover every brake and brier with gossamer-
cradles, and never a fly to be caught in them; like Manchester
cotton-spinners madly glutting the markets in the teeth of 'no
demand.' The steam crawled out of the dank turf, and reeked off the
flanks and nostrils of the shivering horses, and clung with clammy
paws to frosted hats and dripping boughs. A soulless, skyless,
catarrhal day, as if that bustling dowager, old mother Earth--what
with match-making in spring, and fetes champetres in summer, and
dinner-giving in autumn--was fairly worn out, and put to bed with
the influenza, under wet blankets and the cold-water cure.
There sat Lancelot by the cover-side, his knees aching with cold and
wet, thanking his stars that he was not one of the whippers-in who
were lashing about in the dripping cover, laying up for themselves,
in catering for the amusement of their betters, a probable old age
of bed-ridden torture, in the form of rheumatic gout. Not that he
was at all happy--indeed, he had no reason to be so; for, first, the
hounds would not find; next, he had left half-finished at home a
review article on the Silurian System, which he had solemnly
promised an abject and beseeching editor to send to post that night;
next, he was on the windward side of the cover, and dare not light a
cigar; and lastly, his mucous membrane in general was not in the
happiest condition, seeing that he had been dining the evening
before with Mr. Vaurien of Rottenpalings, a young gentleman of a
convivial and melodious turn of mind, who sang--and played also--as
singing men are wont--in more senses than one, and had 'ladies and
gentlemen' down from town to stay with him; and they sang and played
too; and so somehow between vingt-un and champagne-punch, Lancelot
had not arrived at home till seven o'clock that morning, and was in
a fit state to appreciate the feelings of our grandfathers, when,
after the third bottle of port, they used to put the black silk
tights into their pockets, slip on the leathers and boots, and ride
the crop-tailed hack thirty miles on a winter's night, to meet the
hounds in the next county by ten in the morning. They are 'gone
down to Hades, even many stalwart souls of heroes,' with John Warde
of Squerries at their head--the fathers of the men who conquered at
Waterloo; and we their degenerate grandsons are left instead, with
puny arms, and polished leather boots, and a considerable taint of
hereditary disease, to sit in club-houses, and celebrate the
progress of the species.
Whether Lancelot or his horse, under these depressing circumstances,
fell asleep; or whether thoughts pertaining to such a life, and its
fitness for a clever and ardent young fellow in the nineteenth
century, became gradually too painful, and had to be peremptorily
shaken off, this deponent sayeth not; but certainly, after five-and-
thirty minutes of idleness and shivering, Lancelot opened his eyes
with a sudden start, and struck spurs into his hunter without due
cause shown; whereat Shiver-the-timbers, who was no Griselda in
temper--(Lancelot had bought him out of the Pytchley for half his
value, as unrideably vicious, when he had killed a groom, and fallen
backwards on a rough-rider, the first season after he came up from
Horncastle)--responded by a furious kick or two, threw his head up,
put his foot into a drain, and sprawled down all but on his nose,
pitching Lancelot unawares shamefully on the pommel of his saddle.
A certain fatality, by the bye, had lately attended all Lancelot's
efforts to shine; he never bought a new coat without tearing it
mysteriously next day, or tried to make a joke without bursting out
coughing in the middle . . . and now the whole field were looking on
at his mishap; between disgust and the start he turned almost sick,
and felt the blood rush into his cheeks and forehead as he heard a
shout of coarse jovial laughter burst out close to him, and the old
master of the hounds, Squire Lavington, roared aloud--
'A pretty sportsman you are, Mr. Smith, to fall asleep by the cover-
side and let your horse down--and your pockets, too! What's that
book on the ground? Sapping and studying still? I let nobody come
out with my hounds with their pocket full of learning. Hand it up
here, Tom; we'll see what it is. French, as I am no scholar!
Translate for us, Colonel Bracebridge!'
And, amid shouts of laughter, the gay Guardsman read out,--
'St. Francis de Sales: Introduction to a Devout Life.'
Poor Lancelot! Wishing himself fathoms under-ground, ashamed of his
book, still more ashamed of himself for his shame, he had to sit
there ten physical seconds, or spiritual years, while the colonel
solemnly returned him the book, complimenting him on the proofs of
its purifying influence which he had given the night before, in
helping to throw the turnpike-gate into the river.
But 'all things do end,' and so did this; and the silence of the
hounds also; and a faint but knowing whimper drove St. Francis out
of all heads, and Lancelot began to stalk slowly with a dozen
horsemen up the wood-ride, to a fitful accompaniment of wandering
hound-music, where the choristers were as invisible as nightingales
among the thick cover. And hark! just as the book was returned to
his pocket, the sweet hubbub suddenly crashed out into one jubilant
shriek, and then swept away fainter and fainter among the trees.
The walk became a trot--the trot a canter. Then a faint melancholy
shout at a distance, answered by a 'Stole away!' from the fields; a
doleful 'toot!' of the horn; the dull thunder of many horsehoofs
rolling along the farther woodside. Then red coats, flashing like
sparks of fire across the gray gap of mist at the ride's-mouth, then
a whipper-in, bringing up a belated hound, burst into the pathway,
smashing and plunging, with shut eyes, through ash-saplings and
hassock-grass; then a fat farmer, sedulously pounding through the
mud, was overtaken and bespattered in spite of all his struggles;--
until the line streamed out into the wide rushy pasture, startling
up pewits and curlews, as horsemen poured in from every side, and
cunning old farmers rode off at inexplicable angles to some well-
known haunts of pug: and right ahead, chiming and jangling sweet
madness, the dappled pack glanced and wavered through the veil of
soft grey mist. 'What's the use of this hurry?' growled Lancelot.
'They will all be back again. I never have the luck to see a run.'
But no; on and on--down the wind and down the vale; and the canter
became a gallop, and the gallop a long straining stride; and a
hundred horsehoofs crackled like flame among the stubbles, and
thundered fetlock-deep along the heavy meadows; and every fence
thinned the cavalcade, till the madness began to stir all bloods,
and with grim earnest silent faces, the initiated few settled
themselves to their work, and with the colonel and Lancelot at their
head, 'took their pleasure sadly, after the manner of their nation,'
as old Froissart has it.
'Thorough bush, through brier,
Thorough park, through pale;'
till the rolling grass-lands spread out into flat black open
fallows, crossed with grassy baulks, and here and there a long
melancholy line of tall elms, while before them the high chalk
ranges gleamed above the mist like a vast wall of emerald enamelled
with snow, and the winding river glittering at their feet.
'A polite fox!' observed the colonel. 'He's leading the squire
straight home to Whitford, just in time for dinner.'
* * * * *
They were in the last meadow, with the stream before them. A line
of struggling heads in the swollen and milky current showed the
hounds' opinion of Reynard's course. The sportsmen galloped off
towards the nearest bridge. Bracebridge looked back at Lancelot,
who had been keeping by his side in sulky rivalry, following him
successfully through all manner of desperate places, and more and
more angry with himself and the guiltless colonel, because he only
followed, while the colonel's quicker and unembarrassed wit, which
lived wholly in the present moment, saw long before Lancelot, 'how
to cut out his work,' in every field.
'I shan't go round,' quietly observed the colonel.
'Do you fancy I shall?' growled Lancelot, who took for granted--poor
thin-skinned soul! that the words were meant as a hit at himself.
'You're a brace of geese,' politely observed the old squire; 'and
you'll find it out in rheumatic fever. There--"one fool makes
many!" You'll kill Smith before you're done, colonel!' and the old
man wheeled away up the meadow, as Bracebridge shouted after him,--
'Oh, he'll make a fine rider--in time!'
'In time!' Lancelot could have knocked the unsuspecting colonel
down for the word. It just expressed the contrast, which had
fretted him ever since he began to hunt with the Whitford Priors
hounds. The colonel's long practice and consummate skill in all he
took in hand,--his experience of all society, from the prairie
Indian to Crockford's, from the prize-ring to the continental
courts,--his varied and ready store of information and anecdote,--
the harmony and completeness of the man,--his consistency with his
own small ideal, and his consequent apparent superiority everywhere
and in everything to the huge awkward Titan-cub, who, though
immeasurably beyond Bracebridge in intellect and heart, was still in
a state of convulsive dyspepsia, 'swallowing formulae,' and daily
well-nigh choked; diseased throughout with that morbid self-
consciousness and lust of praise, for which God prepares, with His
elect, a bitter cure. Alas! poor Lancelot! an unlicked bear, 'with
all his sorrows before him!'--
'Come along,' quoth Bracebridge, between snatches of a tune, his
coolness maddening Lancelot. 'Old Lavington will find us dry
clothes, a bottle of port, and a brace of charming daughters, at the
Priory. In with you, little Mustang of the prairie! Neck or
And in an instant the small wiry American, and the huge Horncastle-
bred hunter, were wallowing and staggering in the yeasty stream,
till they floated into a deep reach, and swam steadily down to a low
place in the bank. They crossed the stream, passed the Priory
Shrubberies, leapt the gate into the park, and then on and upward,
called by the unseen Ariel's music before them.--Up, into the hills;
past white crumbling chalk-pits, fringed with feathered juniper and
tottering ashes, their floors strewed with knolls of fallen soil and
vegetation, like wooded islets in a sea of milk.--Up, between steep
ridges of tuft crested with black fir-woods and silver beech, and
here and there a huge yew standing out alone, the advanced sentry of
the forest, with its luscious fretwork of green velvet, like a
mountain of Gothic spires and pinnacles, all glittering and steaming
as the sun drank up the dew-drops. The lark sprang upward into
song, and called merrily to the new-opened sunbeams, while the
wreaths and flakes of mist lingered reluctantly about the hollows,
and clung with dewy fingers to every knoll and belt of pine.--Up
into the labyrinthine bosom of the hills,--but who can describe
them? Is not all nature indescribable? every leaf infinite and
transcendental? How much more those mighty downs, with their
enormous sheets of spotless turf, where the dizzy eye loses all
standard of size and distance before the awful simplicity, the
delicate vastness, of those grand curves and swells, soft as the
outlines of a Greek Venus, as if the great goddess-mother Hertha had
laid herself down among the hills to sleep, her Titan limbs wrapt in
a thin veil of silvery green.
Up, into a vast amphitheatre of sward, whose walls banked out the
narrow sky above. And here, in the focus of the huge ring, an
object appeared which stirred strange melancholy in Lancelot,--a
little chapel, ivy-grown, girded with a few yews, and elders, and
grassy graves. A climbing rose over the porch, and iron railings
round the churchyard, told of human care; and from the graveyard
itself burst up one of those noble springs known as winter-bournes
in the chalk ranges, which, awakened in autumn from the abysses to
which it had shrunk during the summer's drought, was hurrying down
upon its six months' course, a broad sheet of oily silver over a
temporary channel of smooth greensward.
The hounds had checked in the woods behind; now they poured down the
hillside, so close together 'that you might have covered them with a
sheet,' straight for the little chapel.
A saddened tone of feeling spread itself through Lancelot's heart.
There were the everlasting hills around, even as they had grown and
grown for countless ages, beneath the still depths of the primeval
chalk ocean, in the milky youth of this great English land. And
here was he, the insect of a day, fox-hunting upon THEM! He felt
ashamed, and more ashamed when the inner voice whispered--'Fox-
hunting is not the shame--thou art the shame. If thou art the
insect of a day, it is thy sin that thou art one.'
And his sadness, foolish as it may seem, grew as he watched a brown
speck fleet rapidly up the opposite hill, and heard a gay view-
halloo burst from the colonel at his side. The chase lost its charm
for him the moment the game was seen. Then vanished that mysterious
delight of pursuing an invisible object, which gives to hunting and
fishing their unutterable and almost spiritual charm; which made
Shakespeare a nightly poacher; Davy and Chantrey the patriarchs of
fly-fishing; by which the twelve-foot rod is transfigured into an
enchanter's wand, potent over the unseen wonders of the water-world,
to 'call up spirits from the vasty deep,' which will really 'come if
you do call for them'--at least if the conjuration be orthodox--and
they there. That spell was broken by the sight of poor wearied pug,
his once gracefully-floating brush all draggled and drooping, as he
toiled up the sheep-paths towards the open down above.
But Lancelot's sadness reached its crisis, as he met the hounds just
outside the churchyard. Another moment--they had leaped the rails;
and there they swept round under the gray wall, leaping and yelling,
like Berserk fiends among the frowning tombstones, over the cradles
of the quiet dead.
Lancelot shuddered--the thing was not wrong--'it was no one's
fault,'--but there was a ghastly discord in it. Peace and strife,
time and eternity--the mad noisy flesh, and the silent immortal
spirit,--the frivolous game of life's outside show, and the terrible
earnest of its inward abysses, jarred together without and within
him. He pulled his horse up violently, and stood as if rooted to
the place, gazing at he knew not what.
The hounds caught sight of the fox, burst into one frantic shriek of
joy--and then a sudden and ghastly stillness, as, mute and
breathless, they toiled up the hillside, gaining on their victim at
every stride. The patter of the horsehoofs and the rattle of
rolling flints died away above. Lancelot looked up, startled at the
silence; laughed aloud, he knew not why, and sat, regardless of his
pawing and straining horse, still staring at the chapel and the
On a sudden the chapel-door opened, and a figure, timidly yet
loftily stepped out without observing him, and suddenly turning
round, met him full, face to face, and stood fixed with surprise as
completely as Lancelot himself.
That face and figure, and the spirit which spoke through them,
entered his heart at once, never again to leave it. Her features
were aquiline and grand, without a shade of harshness; her eyes
shone out like twain lakes of still azure, beneath a broad marble
cliff of polished forehead; her rich chestnut hair rippled downward
round the towering neck. With her perfect masque and queenly
figure, and earnest, upward gaze, she might have been the very model
from which Raphael conceived his glorious St. Catherine--the ideal
of the highest womanly genius, softened into self-forgetfulness by
girlish devotion. She was simply, almost coarsely dressed; but a
glance told him that she was a lady, by the courtesy of man as well
as by the will of God.
They gazed one moment more at each other--but what is time to
spirits? With them, as with their Father, 'one day is as a thousand
years.' But that eye-wedlock was cut short the next instant by the
decided interference of the horse, who, thoroughly disgusted at his
master's whole conduct, gave a significant shake of his head, and
shamming frightened (as both women and horses will do when only
cross), commenced a war-dance, which drove Argemone Lavington into
the porch, and gave the bewildered Lancelot an excuse for dashing
madly up the hill after his companions.
'What a horrible ugly face!' said Argemone to herself, 'but so
clever, and so unhappy!'
Blest pity! true mother of that graceless scamp, young Love, who is
ashamed of his real pedigree, and swears to this day that he is the
child of Venus!--the coxcomb!
* * * * *
[Here, for the sake of the reader, we omit, or rather postpone a
long dissertation on the famous Erototheogonic chorus of
Aristophanes's Birds, with illustrations taken from all earth and
heaven, from the Vedas and Proclus to Jacob Boehmen and Saint
'The dichotomy of Lancelot's personality,' as the Germans would call
it, returned as he dashed on. His understanding was trying to ride,
while his spirit was left behind with Argemone. Hence loose reins
and a looser seat. He rolled about like a tipsy man, holding on, in
fact, far more by his spurs than by his knees, to the utter
infuriation of Shiver-the-timbers, who kicked and snorted over the
down like one of Mephistopheles's Demon-steeds. They had mounted
the hill--the deer fled before them in terror--they neared the park
palings. In the road beyond them the hounds were just killing their
fox, struggling and growling in fierce groups for the red gobbets of
fur, a panting, steaming ring of horses round them. Half a dozen
voices hailed him as he came up.
'Where have you been?' 'He'll tumble off!' 'He's had a fall!' 'No
he hasn't!' ''Ware hounds, man alive!' 'He'll break his neck!'
'He has broken it, at last!' shouted the colonel, as Shiver-the-
timbers rushed at the high pales, out of breath, and blind with
rage. Lancelot saw and heard nothing till he was awakened from his
dream by the long heave of the huge brute's shoulder, and the
maddening sensation of sweeping through the air over the fence. He
started, checked the curb, the horse threw up his head, fulfilling
his name by driving his knees like a battering-ram against the
pales--the top-bar bent like a withe, flew out into a hundred
splinters, and man and horse rolled over headlong into the hard
For one long sickening second Lancelot watched the blue sky between
his own knees. Then a crash as if a shell had burst in his face--a
horrible grind--a sheet of flame--and the blackness of night. Did
you ever feel it, reader?
When he awoke, he found himself lying in bed, with Squire Lavington
sitting by him. There was real sorrow in the old man's face, 'Come
to himself!' and a great joyful oath rolled out. 'The boldest rider
of them all! I wouldn't have lost him for a dozen ready-made spick
and span Colonel Bracebridges!'
'Quite right, squire!' answered a laughing voice from behind the
curtain. 'Smith has a clear two thousand a year, and I live by my
CHAPTER II: SPRING YEARNINGS
I heard a story the other day of our most earnest and genial
humorist, who is just now proving himself also our most earnest and
genial novelist. 'I like your novel exceedingly,' said a lady; 'the
characters are so natural--all but the baronet, and he surely is
overdrawn: it is impossible to find such coarseness in his rank of
The artist laughed. 'And that character,' said he, 'is almost the
only exact portrait in the whole book.'
So it is. People do not see the strange things which pass them
every day. 'The romance of real life' is only one to the romantic
spirit. And then they set up for critics, instead of pupils; as if
the artist's business was not just to see what they cannot see--to
open their eyes to the harmonies and the discords, the miracles and
the absurdities, which seem to them one uniform gray fog of
Then let the reader believe, that whatsoever is commonplace in my
story is my own invention. Whatsoever may seem extravagant or
startling is most likely to be historic fact, else I should not have
dared to write it down, finding God's actual dealings here much too
wonderful to dare to invent many fresh ones for myself.
Lancelot, who had had a severe concussion of the brain and a broken
leg, kept his bed for a few weeks, and his room for a few more.
Colonel Bracebridge installed himself at the Priory, and nursed him
with indefatigable good-humour and few thanks. He brought Lancelot
his breakfast before hunting, described the run to him when he
returned, read him to sleep, told him stories of grizzly bear and
buffalo-hunts, made him laugh in spite of himself at extempore comic
medleys, kept his tables covered with flowers from the conservatory,
warmed his chocolate, and even his bed. Nothing came amiss to him,
and he to nothing. Lancelot longed at first every hour to be rid of
him, and eyed him about the room as a bulldog does the monkey who
rides him. In his dreams he was Sinbad the Sailor, and Bracebridge
the Old Man of the Sea; but he could not hold out against the
colonel's merry bustling kindliness, and the almost womanish
tenderness of his nursing. The ice thawed rapidly; and one evening
it split up altogether, when Bracebridge, who was sitting drawing by
Lancelot's sofa, instead of amusing himself with the ladies below,
suddenly threw his pencil into the fire, and broke out, a propos de
'What a strange pair we are, Smith! I think you just the best
fellow I ever met, and you hate me like poison--you can't deny it.'
There was something in the colonel's tone so utterly different from
his usual courtly and measured speech, that Lancelot was taken
completely by surprise, and stammered out,--
'I--I--I--no--no. I know I am very foolish--ungrateful. But I do
hate you,' he said, with a sudden impulse, 'and I'll tell you why.'
'Give me your hand,' quoth the colonel: 'I like that. Now we shall
see our way with each other, at least.'
'Because,' said Lancelot slowly, 'because you are cleverer than I,
readier than I, superior to me in every point.'
The colonel laughed, not quite merrily. Lancelot went on, holding
down his shaggy brows.
'I am a brute and an ass!--And yet I do not like to tell you so.
For if I am an ass, what are you?'
'Look here.--I am wasting my time and brains on ribaldry, but I am
worth nothing better--at least, I think so at times; but you, who
can do anything you put your hand to, what business have you, in the
devil's name, to be throwing yourself away on gimcracks and fox-
hunting foolery? Heavens! If I had your talents, I'd be--I'd make
a name for myself before I died, if I died to make it.' The colonel
griped his hand hard, rose, and looked out of the window for a few
minutes. There was a dead, brooding silence, till he turned to
'Mr. Smith, I thank you for your honesty, but good advice may come
too late. I am no saint, and God only knows how much less of one I
may become; but mark my words,--if you are ever tempted by passion,
and vanity, and fine ladies, to form liaisons, as the Jezebels call
them, snares, and nets, and labyrinths of blind ditches, to keep you
down through life, stumbling and grovelling, hating yourself and
hating the chain to which you cling--in that hour pray--pray as if
the devil had you by the throat,--to Almighty God, to help you out
of that cursed slough! There is nothing else for it!--pray, I tell
There was a terrible earnestness about the guardsman's face which
could not be mistaken. Lancelot looked at him for a moment, and
then dropped his eyes ashamed, as if he had intruded on the
speaker's confidence by witnessing his emotion.
In a moment the colonel had returned to his smile and his polish.
'And now, my dear invalid, I must beg your pardon for sermonising.
What do you say to a game of ecarte? We must play for love, or we
shall excite ourselves, and scandalise Mrs. Lavington's piety.' And
the colonel pulled a pack of cards out of his pocket, and seeing
that Lancelot was too thoughtful for play, commenced all manner of
juggler's tricks, and chuckled over them like any schoolboy.
'Happy man!' thought Lancelot, 'to have the strength of will which
can thrust its thoughts away once and for all.' No, Lancelot! more
happy are they whom God will not allow to thrust their thoughts from
them till the bitter draught has done its work.
From that day, however, there was a cordial understanding between
the two. They never alluded to the subject; but they had known the
bottom of each other's heart. Lancelot's sick-room was now pleasant
enough, and he drank in daily his new friend's perpetual stream of
anecdote, till March and hunting were past, and April was half over.
The old squire came up after dinner regularly (during March he had
hunted every day, and slept every evening); and the trio chatted
along merrily enough, by the help of whist and backgammon, upon the
surface of this little island of life,--which is, like Sinbad's,
after all only the back of a floating whale, ready to dive at any
But what was Argemone doing all this time? Argemone was busy in her
boudoir (too often a true boudoir to her) among books and
statuettes, and dried flowers, fancying herself, and not unfairly,
very intellectual. She had four new manias every year; her last
winter's one had been that bottle-and-squirt mania, miscalled
chemistry; her spring madness was for the Greek drama. She had
devoured Schlegel's lectures, and thought them divine; and now she
was hard at work on Sophocles, with a little help from translations,
and thought she understood him every word. Then she was somewhat
High-Church in her notions, and used to go up every Wednesday and
Friday to the chapel in the hills, where Lancelot had met her, for
an hour's mystic devotion, set off by a little graceful asceticism.
As for Lancelot, she never thought of him but as an empty-headed
fox-hunter who had met with his deserts; and the brilliant accounts
which the all smoothing colonel gave at dinner of Lancelot's
physical well doing and agreeable conversation only made her set him
down the sooner as a twin clever-do-nothing to the despised
Bracebridge, whom she hated for keeping her father in a roar of
But her sister, little Honoria, had all the while been busy messing
and cooking with her own hands for the invalid; and almost fell in
love with the colonel for his watchful kindness. And here a word
about Honoria, to whom Nature, according to her wont with sisters,
had given almost everything which Argemone wanted, and denied almost
everything which Argemone had, except beauty. And even in that, the
many-sided mother had made her a perfect contrast to her sister,--
tiny and luscious, dark-eyed and dark-haired; as full of wild simple
passion as an Italian, thinking little, except where she felt much--
which was, indeed, everywhere; for she lived in a perpetual April-
shower of exaggerated sympathy for all suffering, whether in novels
or in life; and daily gave the lie to that shallow old calumny, that
'fictitious sorrows harden the heart to real ones.'
Argemone was almost angry with her sometimes, when she trotted whole
days about the village from school to sick-room: perhaps conscience
hinted to her that her duty, too, lay rather there than among her
luxurious day-dreams. But, alas! though she would have indignantly
repelled the accusation of selfishness, yet in self and for self
alone she lived; and while she had force of will for any so-called
'self-denial,' and would fast herself cross and stupefied, and quite
enjoy kneeling thinly clad and barefoot on the freezing chapel-floor
on a winter's morning, yet her fastidious delicacy revolted at
sitting, like Honoria, beside the bed of the ploughman's consumptive
daughter, in a reeking, stifling, lean-to garret, in which had slept
the night before, the father, mother, and two grown-up boys, not to
mention a new-married couple, the sick girl, and, alas! her baby.
And of such bedchambers there were too many in Whitford Priors.
The first evening that Lancelot came downstairs, Honoria clapped her
hands outright for joy as he entered, and ran up and down for ten
minutes, fetching and carrying endless unnecessary cushions and
footstools; while Argemone greeted him with a cold distant bow, and
a fine-lady drawl of carefully commonplace congratulations. Her
heart smote her though, as she saw the wan face and the wild,
melancholy, moonstruck eyes once more glaring through and through
her; she found a comfort in thinking his stare impertinent, drew
herself up, and turned away; once, indeed, she could not help
listening, as Lancelot thanked Mrs. Lavington for all the pious and
edifying books with which the good lady had kept his room rather
than his brain furnished for the last six weeks; he was going to say
more, but he saw the colonel's quaint foxy eye peering at him,
remembered St. Francis de Sales, and held his tongue.
But, as her destiny was, Argemone found herself, in the course of
the evening, alone with Lancelot, at the open window. It was a
still, hot, heavy night, after long easterly drought; sheet-
lightning glimmered on the far horizon over the dark woodlands; the
coming shower had sent forward as his herald a whispering draught of
'What a delicious shiver is creeping over those limes!' said
Lancelot, half to himself.
The expression struck Argemone: it was the right one, and it seemed
to open vistas of feeling and observation in the speaker which she
had not suspected. There was a rich melancholy in the voice;--she
turned to look at him.
'Ay,' he went on; 'and the same heat which crisps those thirsty
leaves must breed the thunder-shower which cools them? But so it is
throughout the universe: every yearning proves the existence of an
object meant to satisfy it; the same law creates both the giver and
the receiver, the longing and its home.'
'If one could but know sometimes what it is for which one is
longing!' said Argemone, without knowing that she was speaking from
her inmost heart: but thus does the soul involuntarily lay bare its
most unspoken depths in the presence of its yet unknown mate, and
then shudders at its own ABANDON as it first tries on the wedding
garment of Paradise.
Lancelot was not yet past the era at which young geniuses are apt to
'talk book' at little.
'For what?' he answered, flashing up according to his fashion. 'To
be;--to be great; to have done one mighty work before we die, and
live, unloved or loved, upon the lips of men. For this all long who
are not mere apes and wall-flies.'
'So longed the founders of Babel,' answered Argemone, carelessly, to
this tirade. She had risen a strange fish, the cunning beauty, and
now she was trying her fancy flies over him one by one.
'And were they so far wrong?' answered he. 'From the Babel society
sprung our architecture, our astronomy, politics, and colonisation.
No doubt the old Hebrew sheiks thought them impious enough, for
daring to build brick walls instead of keeping to the good old-
fashioned tents, and gathering themselves into a nation instead of
remaining a mere family horde; and gave their own account of the
myth, just as the antediluvian savages gave theirs of that strange
Eden scene, by the common interpretation of which the devil is made
the first inventor of modesty. Men are all conservatives;
everything new is impious, till we get accustomed to it; and if it
fails, the mob piously discover a divine vengeance in the mischance,
from Babel to Catholic Emancipation.'
Lancelot had stuttered horribly during the latter part of this most
heterodox outburst, for he had begun to think about himself, and try
to say a fine thing, suspecting all the while that it might not be
true. But Argemone did not remark the stammering: the new thoughts
startled and pained her; but there was a daring grace about them.
She tried, as women will, to answer him with arguments, and failed,
as women will fail. She was accustomed to lay down the law a la
Madame de Stael, to savants and non-savants and be heard with
reverence, as a woman should be. But poor truth-seeking Lancelot
did not see what sex had to do with logic; he flew at her as if she
had been a very barrister, and hunted her mercilessly up and down
through all sorts of charming sophisms, as she begged the question,
and shifted her ground, as thoroughly right in her conclusion as she
was wrong in her reasoning, till she grew quite confused and
pettish.--And then Lancelot suddenly shrank into his shell, claws
and all, like an affrighted soldier-crab, hung down his head, and
stammered out some incoherencies,--'N-n-not accustomed to talk to
women--ladies, I mean. F-forgot myself.--Pray forgive me!' And he
looked up, and her eyes, half-amused, met his, and she saw that they
were filled with tears.
'What have I to forgive?' she said, more gently, wondering on what
sort of strange sportsman she had fallen. 'You treat me like an
equal; you will deign to argue with me. But men in general--oh,
they hide their contempt for us, if not their own ignorance, under
that mask of chivalrous deference!' and then in the nasal fine
ladies' key, which was her shell, as bitter brusquerie was his, she
added, with an Amazon queen's toss of the head,--'You must come and
see us often. We shall suit each other, I see, better than most
whom we see here.'
A sneer and a blush passed together over Lancelot's ugliness.
'What, better than the glib Colonel Bracebridge yonder?'
'Oh, he is witty enough, but he lives on the surface of everything!
He is altogether shallow and blase. His good-nature is the fruit of
want of feeling; between his gracefulness and his sneering
persiflage he is a perfect Mephistopheles-Apollo.'
What a snare a decently-good nickname is! Out it must come, though
it carry a lie on its back. But the truth was, Argemone thought
herself infinitely superior to the colonel, for which simple reason
she could not in the least understand him.
[By the bye, how subtly Mr. Tennyson has embodied all this in The
Princess. How he shows us the woman, when she takes her stand on
the false masculine ground of intellect, working out her own moral
punishment, by destroying in herself the tender heart of flesh,
which is either woman's highest blessing or her bitterest curse; how
she loses all feminine sensibility to the under-current of feeling
in us poor world-worn, case-hardened men, and falls from pride to
sternness, from sternness to sheer inhumanity. I should have
honoured myself by pleading guilty to stealing much of Argemone's
character from The Princess, had not the idea been conceived, and
fairly worked out, long before the appearance of that noble poem.]
They said no more to each other that evening. Argemone was called
to the piano; and Lancelot took up the Sporting Magazine, and read
himself to sleep till the party separated for the night.
Argemone went up thoughtfully to her own room. The shower had
fallen, and the moon was shining bright, while every budding leaf
and knot of mould steamed up cool perfume, borrowed from the
treasures of the thundercloud. All around was working the infinite
mystery of birth and growth, of giving and taking, of beauty and
use. All things were harmonious--all things reciprocal without.
Argemone felt herself needless, lonely, and out of tune with herself
She sat in the window, and listlessly read over to herself a
fragment of her own poetry:--
She lay among the myrtles on the cliff;
Above her glared the moon; beneath, the sea.
Upon the white horizon Athos' peak
Weltered in burning haze; all airs were dead;
The sicale slept among the tamarisk's hair;
The birds sat dumb and drooping. Far below
The lazy sea-weed glistened in the sun:
The lazy sea-fowl dried their steaming wings;
The lazy swell crept whispering up the ledge,
And sank again. Great Pan was laid to rest;
And mother Earth watched by him as he slept,
And hushed her myriad children for awhile.
She lay among the myrtles on the cliff;
And sighed for sleep, for sleep that would not hear,
But left her tossing still: for night and day
A mighty hunger yearned within her heart,
Till all her veins ran fever, and her cheek,
Her long thin hands, and ivory-channell'd feet,
Were wasted with the wasting of her soul.
Then peevishly she flung her on her face,
And hid her eyeballs from the blinding glare,
And fingered at the grass, and tried to cool
Her crisp hot lips against the crisp hot sward:
And then she raised her head, and upward cast
Wild looks from homeless eyes, whose liquid light
Gleamed out between deep folds of blue-black hair,
As gleam twin lakes between the purple peaks
Of deep Parnassus, at the mournful moon.
Beside her lay a lyre. She snatched the shell,
And waked wild music from its silver strings;
Then tossed it sadly by,--'Ah, hush!' she cries,
'Dead offspring of the tortoise and the mine!
Why mock my discords with thine harmonies?
'Although a thrice-Olympian lot be thine,
Only to echo back in every tone,
The moods of nobler natures than thine own.'
'No!' she said. 'That soft and rounded rhyme suits ill with
Sappho's fitful and wayward agonies. She should burst out at once
into wild passionate life-weariness, and disgust at that universe,
with whose beauty she has filled her eyes in vain, to find it always
a dead picture, unsatisfying, unloving--as I have found it.'
Sweet self-deceiver! had you no other reason for choosing as your
heroine Sappho, the victim of the idolatry of intellect--trying in
vain to fill her heart with the friendship of her own sex, and then
sinking into mere passion for a handsome boy, and so down into self-
contempt and suicide?
She was conscious, I do believe, of no other reason than that she
gave; but consciousness is a dim candle--over a deep mine.
'After all,' she said pettishly, 'people will call it a mere
imitation of Shelley's Alastor. And what harm if it is? Is there
to be no female Alastor? Has not the woman as good a right as the
man to long after ideal beauty--to pine and die if she cannot find
it; and regenerate herself in its light?'
'Yo-hoo-oo-oo! Youp, youp! Oh-hooo!' arose doleful through the
Argemone started and looked out. It was not a banshee, but a
forgotten fox-hound puppy, sitting mournfully on the gravel-walk
beneath, staring at the clear ghastly moon.
She laughed and blushed--there was a rebuke in it. She turned to go
to rest; and as she knelt and prayed at her velvet faldstool, among
all the nicknacks which now-a-days make a luxury of devotion, was it
strange if, after she had prayed for the fate of nations and
churches, and for those who, as she thought, were fighting at Oxford
the cause of universal truth and reverend antiquity, she remembered
in her petitions the poor godless youth, with his troubled and
troubling eloquence? But it was strange that she blushed when she
mentioned his name--why should she not pray for him as she prayed
Perhaps she felt that she did not pray for him as she prayed for
She left the AEolian harp in the window, as a luxury if she should
wake, and coiled herself up among lace pillows and eider blemos; and
the hound coiled himself up on the gravel-walk, after a solemn
vesper-ceremony of three turns round in his own length, looking
vainly for a 'soft stone.' The finest of us are animals after all,
and live by eating and sleeping: and, taken as animals, not so
badly off either--unless we happen to be Dorsetshire labourers--or
Spitalfields weavers--or colliery children--or marching soldiers--
or, I am afraid, one half of English souls this day.
And Argemone dreamed;--that she was a fox, flying for her life
through a churchyard--and Lancelot was a hound, yelling and leaping,
in a red coat and white buckskins, close upon her--and she felt his
hot breath, and saw his white teeth glare. . . . And then her
father was there: and he was an Italian boy, and played the organ--
and Lancelot was a dancing dog, and stood up and danced to the tune
of 'C'est l'amour, l'amour, l'amour,' pitifully enough, in his red
coat--and she stood up and danced too; but she found her fox-fur
dress insufficient, and begged hard for a paper frill--which was
denied her: whereat she cried bitterly and woke; and saw the Night
peeping in with her bright diamond eyes, and blushed, and hid her
beautiful face in the pillows, and fell asleep again.
What the little imp, who managed this puppet-show on Argemone's
brain-stage, may have intended to symbolise thereby, and whence he
stole his actors and stage-properties, and whether he got up the
interlude for his own private fun, or for that of a choir of brother
Eulenspiegels, or, finally, for the edification of Argemone as to
her own history, past, present, or future, are questions which we
must leave unanswered, till physicians have become a little more of
metaphysicians, and have given up their present plan of ignoring for
nine hundred and ninety-nine pages that most awful and significant
custom of dreaming, and then in the thousandth page talking the
boldest materialist twaddle about it.
In the meantime, Lancelot, contrary to the colonel's express
commands, was sitting up to indite the following letter to his
cousin, the Tractarian curate:--
'You complain that I waste my time in field-sports: how do you know
that I waste my time? I find within myself certain appetites; and I
suppose that the God whom you say made me, made those appetites as a
part of me. Why are they to be crushed any more than any other part
of me? I am the whole of what I find in myself--am I to pick and
choose myself out of myself? And besides, I feel that the exercise
of freedom, activity, foresight, daring, independent self-
determination, even in a few minutes' burst across country,
strengthens me in mind as well as in body. It might not do so to
you; but you are of a different constitution, and, from all I see,
the power of a man's muscles, the excitability of his nerves, the
shape and balance of his brain, make him what he is. Else what is
the meaning of physiognomy? Every man's destiny, as the Turks say,
stands written on his forehead. One does not need two glances at
your face to know that you would not enjoy fox-hunting, that you
would enjoy book-learning and "refined repose," as they are pleased
to call it. Every man carries his character in his brain. You all
know that, and act upon it when you have to deal with a man for
sixpence; but your religious dogmas, which make out that everyman
comes into the world equally brutish and fiendish, make you afraid
to confess it. I don't quarrel with a "douce" man like you, with a
large organ of veneration, for following your bent. But if I am
fiery, with a huge cerebellum, why am I not to follow mine?--For
that is what you do, after all--what you like best. It is all very
easy for a man to talk of conquering his appetites, when he has none
to conquer. Try and conquer your organ of veneration, or of
benevolence, or of calculation--then I will call you an ascetic.
Why not!--The same Power which made the front of one's head made the
back, I suppose?
'And, I tell you, hunting does me good. It awakens me out of my
dreary mill-round of metaphysics. It sweeps away that infernal web
of self-consciousness, and absorbs me in outward objects; and my
red-hot Perillus's bull cools in proportion as my horse warms. I
tell you, I never saw a man who could cut out his way across country
who could not cut his way through better things when his turn came.
The cleverest and noblest fellows are sure to be the best riders in
the long run. And as for bad company and "the world," when you take
to going in the first-class carriages for fear of meeting a swearing
sailor in the second-class--when those who have "renounced the
world" give up buying and selling in the funds--when my uncle, the
pious banker, who will only "associate" with the truly religious,
gives up dealing with any scoundrel or heathen who can "do business"
with him--then you may quote pious people's opinions to me. In
God's name, if the Stock Exchange, and railway stagging, and the
advertisements in the Protestant Hue-and-Cry, and the frantic
Mammon-hunting which has been for the last fifty years the peculiar
pursuit of the majority of Quakers, Dissenters, and Religious
Churchmen, are not The World, what is? I don't complain of them,
though; Puritanism has interdicted to them all art, all excitement,
all amusement--except money-making. It is their dernier ressort,
'But you must explain to us naughty fox-hunters how all this agrees
with the good book. We see plainly enough, in the meantime, how it
agrees with "poor human nature." We see that the "religious world,"
like the "great world," and the "sporting world," and the "literary
"Compounds for sins she is inclined to,
By damning those she has no mind to;"
and that because England is a money-making country, and money-making
is an effeminate pursuit, therefore all sedentary and spoony sins,
like covetousness, slander, bigotry, and self-conceit, are to be
cockered and plastered over, while the more masculine vices, and no-
vices also, are mercilessly hunted down by your cold-blooded, soft-
'This is a more quiet letter than usual from me, my dear coz, for
many of your reproofs cut me home: they angered me at the time; but
I deserve them. I am miserable, self-disgusted, self-helpless,
craving for freedom, and yet crying aloud for some one to come and
guide me, and teach me; and WHO IS THERE IN THESE DAYS WHO COULD
TEACH A FAST MAN, EVEN IF HE WOULD TRY? Be sure, that as long as
you and yours make piety a synonym for unmanliness, you will never
convert either me or any other good sportsman.
'By the bye, my dear fellow, was I asleep or awake when I seemed to
read in the postscript of your last letter, something about "being
driven to Rome after all"? . . . Why thither, of all places in
heaven or earth? You know, I have no party interest in the
question. All creeds are very much alike to me just now. But allow
me to ask, in a spirit of the most tolerant curiosity, what possible
celestial bait, either of the useful or the agreeable kind, can the
present excellent Pope, or his adherents, hold out to you in
compensation for the solid earthly pudding which you would have to
desert? . . . I daresay, though, that I shall not comprehend your
answer when it comes. I am, you know, utterly deficient in that
sixth sense of the angelic or supralunar beautiful, which fills your
soul with ecstasy. You, I know, expect and long to become an angel
after death: I am under the strange hallucination that my body is
part of me, and in spite of old Plotinus, look with horror at a
disembodiment till the giving of that new body, the great perfection
of which, in your eyes, and those of every one else, seems to be,
that it will be less, and not more of a body, than our present one.
. . . Is this hope, to me at once inconceivable and contradictory,
palpable and valuable enough to you to send you to that Italian
Avernus, to get it made a little more certain? If so, I despair of
your making your meaning intelligible to a poor fellow wallowing,
like me, in the Hylic Borboros--or whatever else you may choose to
call the unfortunate fact of being flesh and blood. . . . Still,
CHAPTER III: NEW ACTORS, AND A NEW STAGE
When Argemone rose in the morning, her first thought was of
Lancelot. His face haunted her. The wild brilliance of his
intellect struggling through foul smoke-clouds, had haunted her
still more. She had heard of his profligacy, his bursts of fierce
Berserk-madness; and yet now these very faults, instead of
repelling, seemed to attract her, and intensify her longing to save
him. She would convert him; purify him; harmonise his discords.
And that very wish gave her a peace she had never felt before. She
had formed her idea; she had now a purpose for which to live, and
she determined to concentrate herself for the work, and longed for
the moment when she should meet Lancelot, and begin--how, she did
not very clearly see.
It is an old jest--the fair devotee trying to convert the young
rake. Men of the world laugh heartily at it; and so does the devil,
no doubt. If any readers wish to be fellow-jesters with that
personage, they may; but, as sure as old Saxon women-worship remains
for ever a blessed and healing law of life, the devotee may yet
convert the rake--and, perhaps, herself into the bargain.
Argemone looked almost angrily round at her beloved books and
drawings; for they spoke a message to her which they had never
spoken before, of self-centred ambition. 'Yes,' she said aloud to
herself, 'I have been selfish, utterly! Art, poetry, science--I
believe, after all, that I have only loved them for my own sake, not
for theirs, because they would make me something, feed my conceit of
my own talents. How infinitely more glorious to find my work-field
and my prize, not in dead forms and colours, or ink-and-paper
theories, but in a living, immortal, human spirit! I will study no
more, except the human heart, and only that to purify and ennoble
True, Argemone; and yet, like all resolutions, somewhat less than
the truth. That morning, indeed, her purpose was simple as God's
own light. She never dreamed of exciting Lancelot's admiration,
even his friendship for herself. She would have started as from a
snake, from the issue which the reader very clearly foresees, that
Lancelot would fall in love, not with Young Englandism, but with
Argemone Lavington. But yet self is not eradicated even from a
woman's heart in one morning before breakfast. Besides, it is not
'benevolence,' but love--the real Cupid of flesh and blood, who can
'Touch the chord of self which, trembling,
Passes in music out of sight.'
But a time for all things; and it is now time for Argemone to go
down to breakfast, having prepared some dozen imaginary dialogues
between herself and Lancelot, in which, of course, her eloquence
always had the victory. She had yet to learn, that it is better
sometimes not to settle in one's heart what we shall speak, for the
Everlasting Will has good works ready prepared for us to walk in, by
what we call fortunate accident; and it shall be given us in that
day and that hour what we shall speak.
Lancelot, in the meantime, shrank from meeting Argemone; and was
quite glad of the weakness which kept him upstairs. Whether he was
afraid of her--whether he was ashamed of himself or of his crutches,
I cannot tell, but I daresay, reader, you are getting tired of all
this soul-dissecting. So we will have a bit of action again, for
the sake of variety, if for nothing better.
Of all the species of lovely scenery which England holds, none,
perhaps, is more exquisite than the banks of the chalk-rivers--the
perfect limpidity of the water, the gay and luxuriant vegetation of
the banks and ditches, the masses of noble wood embosoming the
villages, the unique beauty of the water-meadows, living sheets of
emerald and silver, tinkling and sparkling, cool under the fiercest
sun, brilliant under the blackest clouds.--There, if anywhere, one
would have expected to find Arcadia among fertility, loveliness,
industry, and wealth. But, alas for the sad reality! the cool
breath of those glittering water-meadows too often floats laden with
poisonous miasma. Those picturesque villages are generally the
perennial hotbeds of fever and ague, of squalid penury, sottish
profligacy, dull discontent too stale for words. There is luxury in
the park, wealth in the huge farm-steadings, knowledge in the
parsonage: but the poor? those by whose dull labour all that luxury
and wealth, ay, even that knowledge, is made possible--what are
they? We shall see, please God, ere the story's end.
But of all this Lancelot as yet thought nothing. He, too, had to be
emancipated, as much as Argemone, from selfish dreams; to learn to
work trustfully in the living Present, not to gloat sentimentally
over the unreturning Past. But his time was not yet come; and
little he thought of all the work which lay ready for him within a
mile of the Priory, as he watched the ladies go out for the
afternoon, and slipped down to the Nun's-pool on his crutches to
smoke and fish, and build castles in the air.
The Priory, with its rambling courts and gardens, stood on an island
in the river. The upper stream flowed in a straight artificial
channel through the garden, still and broad, towards the Priory
mill; while just above the Priory wall half the river fell over a
high weir, with all its appendages of bucks and hatchways, and eel-
baskets, into the Nun's-pool, and then swept round under the ivied
walls, with their fantastic turrets and gables, and little loopholed
windows, peering out over the stream, as it hurried down over the
shallows to join the race below the mill. A postern door in the
walls opened on an ornamental wooden bridge across the weir-head--a
favourite haunt of all fishers and sketchers who were admitted to
the dragon-guarded Elysium of Whitford Priors. Thither Lancelot
went, congratulating himself, strange to say, in having escaped the
only human being whom he loved on earth.
He found on the weir-bridge two of the keepers. The younger one,
Tregarva, was a stately, thoughtful-looking Cornishman, some six
feet three in height, with thews and sinews in proportion. He was
sitting on the bridge looking over a basket of eel-lines, and
listening silently to the chat of his companion.
Old Harry Verney, the other keeper, was a character in his way, and
a very bad character too, though he was a patriarch among all the
gamekeepers of the vale. He was a short, wiry, bandy-legged,
ferret-visaged old man, with grizzled hair, and a wizened face
tanned brown and purple by constant exposure. Between rheumatism
and constant handling the rod and gun, his fingers were crooked like
a hawk's claws. He kept his left eye always shut, apparently to
save trouble in shooting; and squinted, and sniffed, and peered,
with a stooping back and protruded chin, as if he were perpetually
on the watch for fish, flesh, and fowl, vermin and Christian. The
friendship between himself and the Scotch terrier at his heels would
have been easily explained by Lessing, for in the transmigration of
souls the spirit of Harry Verney had evidently once animated a dog
of that breed. He was dressed in a huge thick fustian jacket,
scratched, stained, and patched, with bulging, greasy pockets; a
cast of flies round a battered hat, riddled with shot-holes, a dog-
whistle at his button-hole, and an old gun cut short over his arm,
bespoke his business.
'I seed that 'ere Crawy against Ashy Down Plantations last night,
I'll be sworn,' said he, in a squeaking, sneaking tone.
'Well, what harm was the man doing?'
'Oh, ay, that's the way you young 'uns talk. If he warn't doing
mischief, he'd a been glad to have been doing it, I'll warrant. If
I'd been as young as you, I'd have picked a quarrel with him soon
enough, and found a cause for tackling him. It's worth a brace of
sovereigns with the squire to haul him up. Eh? eh? Ain't old Harry
'Humph!' growled the younger man.
'There, then, you get me a snare and a hare by to-morrow night,'
went on old Harry, 'and see if I don't nab him. It won't lay long
under the plantation afore he picks it up. You mind to snare me a
hare to-night, now!'
'I'll do no such thing, nor help to bring fake accusations against
'False accusations!' answered Harry, in his cringing way. 'Look at
that now, for a keeper to say! Why, if he don't happen to have a
snare just there, he has somewhere else, you know. Eh? Ain't old
Harry right now, eh?'
'There, don't say I don't know nothing then. Eh? What matter who
put the snare down, or the hare in, perwided he takes it up, man?
If 'twas his'n he'd be all the better pleased. The most
notoriousest poacher as walks unhung!' And old Harry lifted up his
crooked hands in pious indignation.
'I'll have no more gamekeeping, Harry. What with hunting down
Christians as if they were vermin, all night, and being cursed by
the squire all day, I'd sooner be a sheriff's runner, or a negro
'Ay, ay! that's the way the young dogs always bark afore they're
broke in, and gets to like it, as the eels does skinning. Haven't I
bounced pretty near out of my skin many a time afore now, on this
here very bridge, with "Harry, jump in, you stupid hound!" and
"Harry, get out, you one-eyed tailor!" And then, if one of the
gentlemen lost a fish with their clumsiness--Oh, Father! to hear 'em
let out at me and my landing-net, and curse fit to fright the devil!
Dash their sarcy tongues! Eh! Don't old Harry know their ways?
Don't he know 'em, now?'
'Ay,' said the young man, bitterly. 'We break the dogs, and we load
the guns, and we find the game, and mark the game,--and then they
call themselves sportsmen; we choose the flies, and we bait the
spinning-hooks, and we show them where the fish lie, and then when
they've hooked them, they can't get them out without us and the
spoonnet; and then they go home to the ladies and boast of the lot
of fish they killed--and who thinks of the keeper?'
'Oh! ah! Then don't say old Harry knows nothing, then. How nicely,
now, you and I might get a living off this 'ere manor, if the
landlords was served like the French ones was. Eh, Paul?' chuckled
old Harry. 'Wouldn't we pay our taxes with pheasants and grayling,
that's all, eh? Ain't old Harry right now, eh?'
The old fox was fishing for an assent, not for its own sake, for he
was a fierce Tory, and would have stood up to be shot at any day,
not only for his master's sake, but for the sake of a single
pheasant of his master's; but he hated Tregarva for many reasons,
and was daily on the watch to entrap him on some of his peculiar
points, whereof he had, as we shall find, a good many.
What would have been Tregarva's answer, I cannot tell; but Lancelot,
who had unintentionally overheard the greater part of the
conversation, disliked being any longer a listener, and came close
'Here's your gudgeons and minnows, sir, as you bespoke,' quoth
Harry; 'and here's that paternoster as you gave me to rig up.
Beautiful minnows, sir, white as a silver spoon.--They're the ones
now, ain't they, sir, eh?'
'Well, then, don't say old Harry don't know nothing, that's all,
eh?' and the old fellow toddled off, peering and twisting his head
about like a starling.
'An odd old fellow that, Tregarva,' said Lancelot.
'Very, sir, considering who made him,' answered the Cornishman,
touching his hat, and then thrusting his nose deeper than ever into
'Beautiful stream this,' said Lancelot, who had a continual longing-
-right or wrong--to chat with his inferiors; and was proportionately
sulky and reserved to his superiors.
'Beautiful enough, sir,' said the keeper, with an emphasis on the
'Why, has it any other fault?'
'Not so wholesome as pretty, sir.'
'What harm does it do?'
'Fever, and ague, and rheumatism, sir.'
'Where?' asked Lancelot, a little amused by the man's laconic
'Wherever the white fog spreads, sir.'
Lancelot burst out laughing. The man looked up at him slowly and
'You wouldn't laugh, sir, if you'd seen much of the inside of these
'Really,' said Lancelot, 'I was only laughing at our making such
very short work of such a long and serious story. Do you mean that
the unhealthiness of this country is wholly caused by the river?'
'No, sir. The river-damps are God's sending; and so they are not
too bad to bear. But there's more of man's sending, that is too bad
'What do you mean?'
'Are men likely to be healthy when they are worse housed than a
'And worse fed than a hound?'
'Good heavens! No!'
'Or packed together to sleep, like pilchards in a barrel?'
'But, my good fellow, do you mean that the labourers here are in
'It isn't far to walk, sir. Perhaps some day, when the May-fly is
gone off, and the fish won't rise awhile, you could walk down and
see. I beg your pardon, sir, though, for thinking of such a thing.
They are not places fit for gentlemen, that's certain.' There was a
staid irony in his tone, which Lancelot felt.
'But the clergyman goes?'
'And Miss Honoria goes?'
'Yes, God Almighty bless her!'
'And do not they see that all goes right?'
The giant twisted his huge limbs, as if trying to avoid an answer,
and yet not daring to do so.
'Do clergymen go about among the poor much, sir, at college, before
they are ordained?'
Lancelot smiled, and shook his head.
'I thought so, sir. Our good vicar is like the rest hereabouts.
God knows, he stints neither time nor money--the souls of the poor
are well looked after, and their bodies too--as far as his purse
will go; but that's not far.'
'Is he ill-off, then?'
'The living's worth some forty pounds a year. The great tithes,
they say, are worth better than twelve hundred; but Squire Lavington
'Oh, I see!' said Lancelot.
'I'm glad you do, sir, for I don't,' meekly answered Tregarva. 'But
the vicar, sir, he is a kind man, and a good; but the poor don't
understand him, nor he them. He is too learned, sir, and, saving
your presence, too fond of his prayer-book.'
'One can't be too fond of a good thing.'
'Not unless you make an idol of it, sir, and fancy that men's souls
were made for the prayer-book, and not the prayer-book for them.'
'But cannot he expose and redress these evils, if they exist?'
Tregarva twisted about again.
'I do not say that I think it, sir; but this I know, that every poor
man in the vale thinks it--that the parsons are afraid of the
landlords. They must see these things, for they are not blind; and
they try to plaster them up out of their own pockets.'
'But why, in God's name, don't they strike at the root of the
matter, and go straight to the landlords and tell them the truth?'
'So people say, sir. I see no reason for it except the one which I
gave you. Besides, sir, you must remember, that a man can't quarrel
with his own kin; and so many of them are their squire's brothers,
or sons, or nephews.'
'Or good friends with him, at least.'
'Ay, sir, and, to do them justice, they had need, for the poor's
sake, to keep good friends with the squire. How else are they to
get a farthing for schools, or coal-subscriptions, or lying-in
societies, or lending libraries, or penny clubs? If they spoke
their minds to the great ones, sir, how could they keep the parish
'You seem to see both sides of a question, certainly. But what a
miserable state of things, that the labouring man should require all
these societies, and charities, and helps from the rich!--that an
industrious freeman cannot live without alms!'
'So I have thought this long time,' quietly answered Tregarva.
'But Miss Honoria,--she is not afraid to tell her father the truth?'
'Suppose, sir, when Adam and Eve were in the garden, that all the
devils had come up and played their fiends' tricks before them,--do
you think they'd have seen any shame in it?'
'I really cannot tell,' said Lancelot, smiling.
'Then I can, sir. They'd have seen no more harm in it than there
was harm already in themselves; and that was none. A man's eyes can
only see what they've learnt to see.'
Lancelot started: it was a favourite dictum of his in Carlyle's
'Where did you get that thought, my friend'
'By seeing, sir.'
'But what has that to do with Miss Honoria?'
'She is an angel of holiness herself, sir; and, therefore, she goes
on without blushing or suspecting, where our blood would boil again.
She sees people in want, and thinks it must be so, and pities them
and relieves them. But she don't know want herself; and, therefore,
she don't know that it makes men beasts and devils. She's as pure
as God's light herself; and, therefore, she fancies every one is as
spotless as she is. And there's another mistake in your charitable
great people, sir. When they see poor folk sick or hungry before
their eyes, they pull out their purses fast enough, God bless them;
for they wouldn't like to be so themselves. But the oppression that
goes on all the year round, and the want that goes on all the year
round, and the filth, and the lying, and the swearing, and the
profligacy, that go on all the year round, and the sickening weight
of debt, and the miserable grinding anxiety from rent-day to rent-
day, and Saturday night to Saturday night, that crushes a man's soul
down, and drives every thought out of his head but how he is to fill
his stomach and warm his back, and keep a house over his head, till
he daren't for his life take his thoughts one moment off the meat
that perisheth--oh, sir, they never felt this; and, therefore, they
never dream that there are thousands who pass them in their daily
walks who feel this, and feel nothing else!'
This outburst was uttered with an earnestness and majesty which
astonished Lancelot. He forgot the subject in the speaker.
'You are a very extraordinary gamekeeper!' said he.
'When the Lord shows a man a thing, he can't well help seeing it,'
answered Tregarva, in his usual staid tone.
There was a pause. The keeper looked at him with a glance, before
which Lancelot's eyes fell.
'Hell is paved with hearsays, sir, and as all this talk of mine is
hearsay, if you are in earnest, sir, go and see for yourself. I
know you have a kind heart, and they tell me that you are a great
scholar, which would to God I was! so you ought not to condescend to
take my word for anything which you can look into yourself;' with
which sound piece of common-sense Tregarva returned busily to his
'Hand me the rod and can, and help me out along the buck-stage,'
said Lancelot; 'I must have some more talk with you, my fine
'Amen,' answered Tregarva, as he assisted our lame hero along a huge
beam which stretched out into the pool; and having settled him
there, returned mechanically to his work, humming a Wesleyan hymn-
Lancelot sat and tried to catch perch, but Tregarva's words haunted
him. He lighted his cigar, and tried to think earnestly over the
matter, but he had got into the wrong place for thinking. All his
thoughts, all his sympathies, were drowned in the rush and whirl of
the water. He forgot everything else in the mere animal enjoyment
of sight and sound. Like many young men at his crisis of life, he
had given himself up to the mere contemplation of Nature till he had
become her slave; and now a luscious scene, a singing bird, were
enough to allure his mind away from the most earnest and awful
thoughts. He tried to think, but the river would not let him. It
thundered and spouted out behind him from the hatches, and leapt
madly past him, and caught his eyes in spite of him, and swept them
away down its dancing waves, and let them go again only to sweep
them down again and again, till his brain felt a delicious dizziness
from the everlasting rush and the everlasting roar. And then below,
how it spread, and writhed, and whirled into transparent fans,
hissing and twining snakes, polished glass-wreaths, huge crystal
bells, which boiled up from the bottom, and dived again beneath long
threads of creamy foam, and swung round posts and roots, and rushed
blackening under dark weed-fringed boughs, and gnawed at the marly
banks, and shook the ever-restless bulrushes, till it was swept away
and down over the white pebbles and olive weeds, in one broad
rippling sheet of molten silver, towards the distant sea. Downwards
it fleeted ever, and bore his thoughts floating on its oily stream;
and the great trout, with their yellow sides and peacock backs,
lounged among the eddies, and the silver grayling dimpled and
wandered upon the shallows, and the may-flies flickered and rustled
round him like water fairies, with their green gauzy wings; the coot
clanked musically among the reeds; the frogs hummed their ceaseless
vesper-monotone; the kingfisher darted from his hole in the bank
like a blue spark of electric light; the swallows' bills snapped as
they twined and hawked above the pool; the swift's wings whirred
like musket-balls, as they rushed screaming past his head; and ever
the river fleeted by, bearing his eyes away down the current, till
its wild eddies began to glow with crimson beneath the setting sun.
The complex harmony of sights and sounds slid softly over his soul,
and he sank away into a still daydream, too passive for imagination,
too deep for meditation, and
'Beauty born of murmuring sound,
Did pass into his face.'
Blame him not. There are more things in a man's heart than ever get
in through his thoughts.
On a sudden, a soft voice behind him startled him.
'Can a poor cockney artist venture himself along this timber without
'Come out to me, and if you stumble, the naiads will rise out of
their depths, and "hold up their pearled wrists" to save their
The artist walked timidly out along the beams, and sat down beside
Lancelot, who shook him warmly by the hand.
'Welcome, Claude Mellot, and all lovely enthusiasms and symbolisms!
Expound to me, now, the meaning of that water-lily leaf and its
grand simple curve, as it lies sleeping there in the back eddy.'
'Oh, I am too amused to philosophise. The fair Argemone has just
been treating me to her three hundred and sixty-fifth philippic
against my unoffending beard.'
'Why, what fault can she find with such a graceful and natural
'Just this, my dear fellow, that it is natural. As it is, she
considers me only "intelligent-looking." If the beard were away, my
face, she says, would be "so refined!" And, I suppose, if I was
just a little more effeminate and pale, with a nice retreating
under-jaw and a drooping lip, and a meek, peaking simper, like your
starved Romish saints, I should be "so spiritual!" And if, again,
to complete the climax, I did but shave my head like a Chinese, I
should be a model for St. Francis himself!'
'But really, after all, why make yourself so singular by this said
'I wear it for a testimony and a sign that a man has no right to be
ashamed of the mark of manhood. Oh, that one or two of your
Protestant clergymen, who ought to be perfect ideal men, would have
the courage to get up into the pulpit in a long beard, and testify
that the very essential idea of Protestantism is the dignity and
divinity of man as God made him! Our forefathers were not ashamed
of their beards; but now even the soldier is only allowed to keep
his moustache, while our quill-driving masses shave themselves as
close as they can; and in proportion to a man's piety he wears less
hair, from the young curate who shaves off his whiskers, to the
Popish priest who shaves his crown!'
'What do you say, then, to cutting off nuns' hair?'
'I say, that extremes meet, and prudish Manichaeism always ends in
sheer indecency. Those Papists have forgotten what woman was made
for, and therefore, they have forgotten that a woman's hair is her
glory, for it was given to her for a covering: as says your friend,
Paul the Hebrew, who, by the bye, had as fine theories of art as he
had of society, if he had only lived fifteen hundred years later,
and had a chance of working them out.'
'How remarkably orthodox you are!' said Lancelot, smiling.
'How do you know that I am not? You never heard me deny the old
creed. But what if an artist ought to be of all creeds at once? My
business is to represent the beautiful, and therefore to accept it
wherever I find it. Yours is to be a philosopher, and find the
'But the beautiful must be truly beautiful to be worth anything; and
so you, too, must search for the true.'
'Yes; truth of form, colour, chiaroscuro. They are worthy to occupy
me a life; for they are eternal--or at least that which they
express: and if I am to get at the symbolised unseen, it must be
through the beauty of the symbolising phenomenon. If I, who live by
art, for art, in art, or you either, who seem as much a born artist
as myself, am to have a religion, it must be a worship of the
fountain of art--of the
"Spirit of beauty, who doth consecrate
With his own hues whate'er he shines upon."'
'As poor Shelley has it; and much peace of mind it gave him!'
answered Lancelot. 'I have grown sick lately of such dreary tinsel
abstractions. When you look through the glitter of the words, your
"spirit of beauty" simply means certain shapes and colours which
please you in beautiful things and in beautiful people.'
'Vile nominalist! renegade from the ideal and all its glories!' said
'I don't care sixpence now for the ideal! I want not beauty, but
some beautiful thing--a woman perhaps,' and he sighed. 'But at
least a person--a living, loving person--all lovely itself, and
giving loveliness to all things! If I must have an ideal, let it
be, for mercy's sake, a realised one.'
Claude opened his sketch-book.
'We shall get swamped in these metaphysical oceans, my dear dreamer.
But lo, here come a couple, as near ideals as any in these
degenerate days--the two poles of beauty: the milieu of which would
be Venus with us Pagans, or the Virgin Mary with the Catholics.
Look at them! Honoria the dark--symbolic of passionate depth;
Argemone the fair, type of intellectual light! Oh, that I were a
Zeuxis to unite them instead of having to paint them in two separate
pictures, and split perfection in half, as everything is split in
this piecemeal world!'
'You will have the honour of a sitting this afternoon, I suppose,
from both beauties?'
'I hope so, for my own sake. There is no path left to immortality,
or bread either, now for us poor artists but portrait-painting.'
'I envy you your path, when it leads through such Elysiums,' said
'Come here, gentlemen both!' cried Argemone from the bridge.
'Fairly caught!' grumbled Lancelot. 'You must go, at least; my
lameness will excuse me, I hope.'
The two ladies were accompanied by Bracebridge, a gazelle which he
had given Argemone, and a certain miserable cur of Honoria's
adopting, who plays an important part in this story, and, therefore,
deserves a little notice. Honoria had rescued him from a watery