Part 2 out of 6
death in the village pond, by means of the colonel, who had revenged
himself for a pair of wet feet by utterly corrupting the dog's
morals, and teaching him every week to answer to some fresh
But Lancelot was not to escape. Instead of moving on, as he had
hoped, the party stood looking over the bridge, and talking--he took
for granted, poor thin-skinned fellow--of him. And for once his
suspicions were right; for he overheard Argemone say--
'I wonder how Mr. Smith can be so rude as to sit there in my
presence over his stupid perch! Smoking those horrid cigars, too!
How selfish those field-sports do make men!'
'Thank you!' said the colonel, with a low bow. Lancelot rose.
'If a country girl, now, had spoken in that tone,' said he to
himself, 'it would have been called at least "saucy"--but Mammon's
elect ones may do anything. Well--here I come, limping to my new
tyrant's feet, like Goethe's bear to Lili's.'
She drew him away, as women only know how, from the rest of the
party, who were chatting and laughing with Claude. She had shown
off her fancied indifference to Lancelot before them, and now began
in a softer voice--
'Why will you be so shy and lonely, Mr. Smith?'
'Because I am not fit for your society.'
'Who tells you so? Why will you not become so?'
Lancelot hung down his head.
'As long as fish and game are your only society, you will become
more and more morne and self-absorbed.'
'Really fish were the last things of which I was thinking when you
came. My whole heart was filled with the beauty of nature, and
There was an opening for one of Argemone's preconcerted orations.
'Had you no better occupation,' she said gently, 'than nature, the
first day of returning to the open air after so frightful and
dangerous an accident? Were there no thanks due to One above?'
Lancelot understood her.
'How do you know that I was not even then showing my thankfulness?'
'What! with a cigar and a fishing-rod?'
'Certainly. Why not?'
Argemone really could not tell at the moment. The answer upset her
'Might not that very admiration of nature have been an act of
worship?' continued our hero. 'How can we better glorify the worker
than by delighting in his work?'
'Ah!' sighed the lady, 'why trust to these self-willed methods, and
neglect the noble and exquisite forms which the Church has prepared
for us as embodiments for every feeling of our hearts?'
'EVERY feeling, Miss Lavington?'
Argemone hesitated. She had made the good old stock assertion, as
in duty bound; but she could not help recollecting that there were
several Popish books of devotion at that moment on her table, which
seemed to her to patch a gap or two in the Prayer-book.
'My temple as yet,' said Lancelot, 'is only the heaven and the
earth; my church-music I can hear all day long, whenever I have the
sense to be silent, and "hear my mother sing;" my priests and
preachers are every bird and bee, every flower and cloud. Am I not
well enough furnished? Do you want to reduce my circular infinite
chapel to an oblong hundred-foot one? My sphere harmonies to the
Gregorian tones in four parts? My world-wide priesthood, with their
endless variety of costume, to one not over-educated gentleman in a
white sheet? And my dreams of naiads and flower-fairies, and the
blue-bells ringing God's praises, as they do in "The story without
an End," for the gross reality of naughty charity children, with
their pockets full of apples, bawling out Hebrew psalms of which
they neither feel nor understand a word?'
Argemone tried to look very much shocked at this piece of bombast.
Lancelot evidently meant it as such, but he eyed her all the while
as if there was solemn earnest under the surface.
'Oh, Mr. Smith!' she said, 'how can you dare talk so of a liturgy
compiled by the wisest and holiest of all countries and ages! You
revile that of whose beauty you are not qualified to judge!'
'There must be a beauty in it all, or such as you are would not love
'Oh,' she said hopefully, 'that you would but try the Church system!
How you would find it harmonise and methodise every day, every
thought for you! But I cannot explain myself. Why not go to our
vicar and open your doubts to him?'
'Pardon, but you must excuse me.'
'Why? He is one of the saintliest of men!'
'To tell the truth, I have been to him already.'
'You do not mean it! And what did he tell you?'
'What the rest of the world does--hearsays.'
'But did you not find him most kind?'
'I went to him to be comforted and guided. He received me as a
criminal. He told me that my first duty was penitence; that as long
as I lived the life I did, he could not dare to cast his pearls
before swine by answering my doubts; that I was in a state incapable
of appreciating spiritual truths; and, therefore, he had no right to
tell me any.'
'And what did he tell you?'
'Several spiritual lies instead, I thought. He told me, hearing me
quote Schiller, to beware of the Germans, for they were all
Pantheists at heart. I asked him whether he included Lange and
Bunsen, and it appeared that he had never read a German book in his
life. He then flew furiously at Mr. Carlyle, and I found that all
he knew of him was from a certain review in the Quarterly. He
called Boehmen a theosophic Atheist. I should have burst out at
that, had I not read the very words in a High Church review the day
before, and hoped that he was not aware of the impudent falsehood
which he was retailing. Whenever I feebly interposed an objection
to anything he said (for, after all, he talked on), he told me to
hear the Catholic Church. I asked him which Catholic Church? He
said the English. I asked him whether it was to be the Church of
the sixth century, or the thirteenth, or the seventeenth or the
eighteenth? He told me the one and eternal Church which belonged as
much to the nineteenth century as to the first. I begged to know
whether, then, I was to hear the Church according to Simeon, or
according to Newman, or according to St. Paul; for they seemed to me
a little at variance? He told me, austerely enough, that the mind
of the Church was embodied in her Liturgy and Articles. To which I
answered, that the mind of the episcopal clergy might, perhaps, be;
but, then, how happened it that they were always quarrelling and
calling hard names about the sense of those very documents? And so
I left him, assuring him that, living in the nineteenth century, I
wanted to hear the Church of the nineteenth century, and no other;
and should be most happy to listen to her, as soon as she had made
up her mind what to say.'
Argemone was angry and disappointed. She felt she could not cope
with Lancelot's quaint logic, which, however unsound, cut deeper
into questions than she had yet looked for herself. Somehow, too,
she was tongue-tied before him just when she wanted to be most
eloquent in behalf of her principles; and that fretted her still
more. But his manner puzzled her most of all. First he would run
on with his face turned away, as if soliloquising out into the air,
and then suddenly look round at her with most fascinating humility;
and, then, in a moment, a dark shade would pass over his
countenance, and he would look like one possessed, and his lips
wreathe in a sinister artificial smile, and his wild eyes glare
through and through her with such cunning understanding of himself
and her, that, for the first time in her life, she quailed and felt
frightened, as if in the power of a madman. She turned hastily away
to shake off the spell.
He sprang after her, almost on his knees, and looked up into her
beautiful face with an imploring cry.
'What, do you, too, throw me off? Will you, too, treat the poor
wild uneducated sportsman as a Pariah and an outcast, because he is
not ashamed to be a man?--because he cannot stuff his soul's hunger
with cut-and-dried hearsays, but dares to think for himself?--
because he wants to believe things, and dare not be satisfied with
only believing that he ought to believe them?'
She paused, astonished.
'Ah, yes,' he went on, 'I hoped too much! What right had I to
expect that you would understand me? What right, still more, to
expect that you would stoop, any more than the rest of the world, to
speak to me, as if I could become anything better than the wild hog
I seem? Oh yes!--the chrysalis has no butterfly in it, of course!
Stamp on the ugly motionless thing! And yet--you look so beautiful
and good!--are all my dreams to perish, about the Alrunen and
prophet-maidens, how they charmed our old fighting, hunting
forefathers into purity and sweet obedience among their Saxon
forests? Has woman forgotten her mission--to look at the heart and
have mercy, while cold man looks at the act and condemns? Do you,
too, like the rest of mankind, think no-belief better than
misbelief; and smile on hypocrisy, lip-assent, practical Atheism,
sooner than on the unpardonable sin of making a mistake? Will you,
like the rest of this wise world, let a man's spirit rot asleep into
the pit, if he will only lie quiet and not disturb your smooth
respectabilities; but if he dares, in waking, to yawn in an
unorthodox manner, knock him on the head at once, and "break the
bruised reed," and "quench the smoking flax"? And yet you
churchgoers have "renounced the world"!'
'What do you want, in Heaven's name?' asked Argemone, half
'I want YOU to tell me that. Here I am, with youth, health,
strength, money, every blessing of life but one; and I am utterly
miserable. I want some one to tell me what I want.'
'Is it not that you want--religion?'
'I see hundreds who have what you call religion, with whom I should
scorn to change my irreligion.'
'But, Mr. Smith, are you not--are you not wicked?--They tell me so,'
said Argemone, with an effort, 'And is that not the cause of your
'No, fairest prophetess, it is the disease itself. "Why am I what I
am, when I know more and more daily what I could be?"--That is the
mystery; and my sins are the fruit, and not the root of it. Who
will explain that?'
'Oh, Miss Lavington,' cried he, impatiently, 'will you, too, send me
back to that cold abstraction? I came to you, however presumptuous,
for living, human advice to a living, human heart; and will you pass
off on me that Proteus-dream the Church, which in every man's mouth
has a different meaning? In one book, meaning a method of
education, only it has never been carried out; in another, a system
of polity,--only it has never been realised;--now a set of words
written in books, on whose meaning all are divided; now a body of
men who are daily excommunicating each other as heretics and
apostates; now a universal idea; now the narrowest and most
exclusive of all parties. Really, before you ask me to hear the
Church, I have a right to ask you to define what the Church is.'
'Our Articles define it,' said Argemone drily.
'The "Visible Church," at least, it defines as "a company of
faithful men, in which," etc. But how does it define the
"Invisible" one? And what does "faithful" mean? What if I thought
Cromwell and Pierre Leroux infinitely more faithful men in their
way, and better members of the "Invisible Church," than the
torturer-pedant Laud, or the facing bothways Protestant-Manichee
It was lucky for the life of young Love that the discussion went no
further: Argemone was becoming scandalised beyond all measure.
But, happily, the colonel interposed,--
'Look here; tell me if you know for whom this sketch is meant?'
'Tregarva, the keeper: who can doubt?' answered they both at once.
'Has not Mellot succeeded perfectly?'
'Yes,' said Lancelot. 'But what wonder, with such a noble subject!
What a grand benevolence is enthroned on that lofty forehead!'
'Oh, you would say so, indeed,' interposed Honoria, 'if you knew
him! The stories that I could tell you about him! How he would go
into cottages, read to sick people by the hour, dress the children,
cook the food for them, as tenderly as any woman! I found out, last
winter, if you will believe it, that he lived on bread and water, to
give out of his own wages--which are barely twelve shillings a week-
-five shillings a week for more than two months to a poor labouring
man, to prevent his going to the workhouse, and being parted from
his wife and children.'
'Noble, indeed!' said Lancelot. 'I do not wonder now at the effect
his conversation just now had on me.'
'Has he been talking to you?' said Honoria eagerly. 'He seldom
speaks to any one.'
'He has to me; and so well, that were I sure that the poor were as
ill off as he says, and that I had the power of altering the system
a hair, I could find it in my heart to excuse all political
grievance-mongers, and turn one myself.'
Claude Mellot clapped his white woman-like hands.
'Bravo! bravo! O wonderful conversion! Lancelot has at last
discovered that, besides the "glorious Past," there is a Present
worthy of his sublime notice! We may now hope, in time, that he
will discover the existence of a Future!'
'But, Mr. Mellot,' said Honoria, 'why have you been so unfaithful to
your original? why have you, like all artists, been trying to soften
and refine on your model?'
'Because, my dear lady, we are bound to see everything in its ideal-
-not as it is, but as it ought to be, and will be, when the vices of
this pitiful civilised world are exploded, and sanitary reform, and
a variety of occupation, and harmonious education, let each man
fulfil in body and soul the ideal which God embodied in him.'
'Fourierist!' cried Lancelot, laughing. 'But surely you never saw a
face which had lost by wear less of the divine image? How
thoroughly it exemplifies your great law of Protestant art, that
"the Ideal is best manifested in the Peculiar." How classic, how
independent of clime or race, is its bland, majestic self-
possession! how thoroughly Norse its massive squareness!'
'And yet, as a Cornishman, he should be no Norseman.'
'I beg your pardon! Like all noble races, the Cornish owe their
nobleness to the impurity of their blood--to its perpetual loans
from foreign veins. See how the serpentine curve of his nose, his
long nostril, and protruding, sharp-cut lips, mark his share of
Phoenician or Jewish blood! how Norse, again, that dome-shaped
forehead! how Celtic those dark curls, that restless gray eye, with
its "swinden blicken," like Von Troneg Hagen's in the Niebelungen
He turned: Honoria was devouring his words. He saw it, for he was
in love, and young love makes man's senses as keen as woman's.
'Look! look at him now!' said Claude, in a low voice. 'How he sits,
with his hands on his knees, the enormous size of his limbs quite
concealed by the careless grace, with his Egyptian face, like some
dumb granite Memnon!'
'Only waiting,' said Lancelot, 'for the day-star to arise on him and
awake him into voice.'
He looked at Honoria as he spoke. She blushed angrily; and yet a
sort of sympathy arose from that moment between Lancelot and
Our hero feared he had gone too far, and tried to turn the subject
The smooth mill-head was alive with rising trout.
'What a huge fish leapt then!' said Lancelot carelessly; 'and close
to the bridge, too!'
Honoria looked round, and uttered a piercing scream.
'Oh, my dog! my dog! Mops is in the river! That horrid gazelle has
butted him in, and he'll be drowned!'
Alas! it was too true. There, a yard above the one open hatchway,
through which the whole force of the stream was rushing, was the
unhappy Mops, alias Scratch, alias Dirty Dick, alias Jack Sheppard,
paddling, and sneezing, and winking, his little bald muzzle turned
piteously upward to the sky.
'He will be drowned!' quoth the colonel.
There was no doubt of it; and so Mops thought, as, shivering and
whining, he plied every leg, while the glassy current dragged him
back and back, and Honoria sobbed like a child.
The colonel lay down on the bridge, and caught at him: his arm was
a foot too short. In a moment the huge form of Tregarva plunged
solemnly into the water, with a splash like seven salmon, and Mops
was jerked out over the colonel's head high and dry on to the
'You'll be drowned, at least!' shouted the colonel, with an oath of
Uncle Toby's own.
Tregarva saw his danger, made one desperate bound upward, and missed
the bridge. The colonel caught at him, tore off a piece of his
collar--the calm, solemn face of the keeper flashed past beneath
him, and disappeared through the roaring gate.
They rushed to the other side of the bridge--caught one glimpse of a
dark body fleeting and roaring down the foam-way. The colonel leapt
the bridge-rail like a deer, rushed out along the buck-stage, tore
off his coat, and sprung headlong into the boiling pool, 'rejoicing
in his might,' as old Homer would say.
Lancelot, forgetting his crutches, was dashing after him, when he
felt a soft hand clutching at his arm.
'Lancelot! Mr. Smith!' cried Argemone. 'You shall not go! You are
'A fellow-creature's life!'
'What is his life to yours?' she cried, in a tone of deep passion.
And then, imperiously, 'Stay here, I command you!'
The magnetic touch of her hand thrilled through his whole frame.
She had called him Lancelot! He shrank down, and stood spell-bound.
'Good heavens!' she cried; 'look at my sister!'
Out on the extremity of the buck-stage (how she got there neither
they nor she ever knew) crouched Honoria, her face idiotic with
terror, while she stared with bursting eyes into the foam. A shriek
of disappointment rose from her lips, as in a moment the colonel's
weather-worn head reappeared above, looking for all the world like
an old gray shiny-painted seal.
'Poof! tally-ho! Poof! poof! Heave me a piece of wood, Lancelot,
my boy!' And he disappeared again.
They looked round, there was not a loose bit near. Claude ran off
towards the house. Lancelot, desperate, seized the bridge-rail,
tore it off by sheer strength, and hurled it far into the pool.
Argemone saw it, and remembered it, like a true woman. Ay, be as
Manichaean-sentimental as you will, fair ladies, physical prowess,
that Eden-right of manhood, is sure to tell upon your hearts!
Again the colonel's grizzled head reappeared,--and, oh joy! beneath
it a draggled knot of black curls. In another instant he had hold
of the rail, and quietly floating down to the shallow, dragged the
lifeless giant high and dry on a patch of gravel.
Honoria never spoke. She rose, walked quietly back along the beam,
passed Argemone and Lancelot without seeing them, and firmly but
hurriedly led the way round the pool-side.
Before they arrived at the bank, the colonel had carried Tregarva to
it. Lancelot and two or three workmen, whom his cries had
attracted, lifted the body on to the meadow.
Honoria knelt quietly down on the grass, and watched, silent and
motionless, the dead face, with her wide, awestruck eyes.
'God bless her for a kind soul!' whispered the wan weather-beaten
field drudges, as they crowded round the body.
'Get out of the way, my men!' quoth the colonel. 'Too many cooks
spoil the broth.' And he packed off one here and another there for
necessaries, and commenced trying every restorative means with the
ready coolness of a practised surgeon; while Lancelot, whom he
ordered about like a baby, gulped down a great choking lump of envy,
and then tasted the rich delight of forgetting himself in admiring
obedience to a real superior.
But there Tregarva lay lifeless, with folded hands, and a quiet
satisfied smile, while Honoria watched and watched with parted lips,
unconscious of the presence of every one.
'Carry him to the house,' said the colonel, in a despairing tone,
after another attempt.
'He moves!' 'No!' 'He does!' 'He breathes!' 'Look at his
Slowly his eyes opened.
'Where am I? All gone? Sweet dreams--blessed dreams!'
His eye met Honoria's. One big deep sigh swelled to his lips and
burst. She seemed to recollect herself, rose, passed her arm
through Argemone's, and walked slowly away.
CHAPTER IV: AN 'INGLORIOUS MILTON'
Argemone, sweet prude, thought herself bound to read Honoria a
lecture that night, on her reckless exhibition of feeling; but it
profited little. The most consummate cunning could not have baffled
Argemone's suspicions more completely than her sister's utter
simplicity. She cried just as bitterly about Mops's danger as about
the keeper's, and then laughed heartily at Argemone's solemnity;
till at last, when pushed a little too hard, she broke out into
something very like a passion, and told her sister, bitterly enough,
that 'she was not accustomed to see men drowned every day, and
begged to hear no more about the subject.' Whereat Argemone
prudently held her tongue, knowing that under all Honoria's
tenderness lay a volcano of passionate determination, which was
generally kept down by her affections, but was just as likely to be
maddened by them. And so this conversation only went to increase
the unconscious estrangement between them, though they continued, as
sisters will do, to lavish upon each other the most extravagant
protestations of affection--vowing to live and die only for each
other--and believing honestly, sweet souls, that they felt all they
said; till real imperious Love came in, in one case of the two at
least, shouldering all other affections right and left; and then the
two beauties discovered, as others do, that it is not so possible or
reasonable as they thought for a woman to sacrifice herself and her
lover for the sake of her sister or her friend. Next morning
Lancelot and the colonel started out to Tregarva's cottage, on a
mission of inquiry. They found the giant propped up in bed with
pillows, his magnificent features looking in their paleness more
than ever like a granite Memnon. Before him lay an open Pilgrim's
Progress, and a drawer filled with feathers and furs, which he was
busily manufacturing into trout flies, reading as he worked. The
room was filled with nets, guns, and keepers' tackle, while a well-
filled shelf of books hung by the wall.
'Excuse my rising, gentlemen,' he said, in his slow, staid voice,
'but I am very weak, in spite of the Lord's goodness to me. You are
very kind to think of coming to my poor cottage,'
'Well, my man,' said the colonel, 'and how are you after your cold
bath? You are the heaviest fish I ever landed!'
'Pretty well, thank God, and you, sir. I am in your debt, sir, for
the dear life. How shall I ever repay you?'
'Repay, my good fellow? You would have done as much for me.'
'May be; but you did not think of that when you jumped in; and no
more must I in thanking you. God knows how a poor miner's son will
ever reward you; but the mouse repaid the lion, says the story, and,
at all events, I can pray for you. By the bye, gentlemen, I hope
you have brought up some trolling-tackle?'
'We came up to see you, and not to fish,' said Lancelot, charmed
with the stately courtesy of the man.
'Many thanks, gentlemen; but old Harry Verney was in here just now,
and had seen a great jack strike, at the tail of the lower reeds.
With this fresh wind he will run till noon; and you are sure of him
with a dace. After that, he will not be up again on the shallows
till sunset. He works the works of darkness, and comes not to the
light, because his deeds are evil.'
Lancelot laughed. 'He does but follow his kind, poor fellow.'
'No doubt, sir, no doubt; all the Lord's works are good: but it is
a wonder why He should have made wasps, now, and blights, and
vermin, and jack, and such evil-featured things, that carry spite
and cruelty in their very faces--a great wonder. Do you think, sir,
all those creatures were in the Garden of Eden?'
'You are getting too deep for me,' said Lancelot. 'But why trouble
your head about fishing?'
'I beg your pardon for preaching to you, sir. I'm sure I forgot
myself. If you will let me, I'll get up and get you a couple of
bait from the stew. You'll do us keepers a kindness, and prevent
sin, sir, if you'll catch him. The squire will swear sadly--the
Lord forgive him--if he hears of a pike in the trout-runs. I'll get
up, if I may trouble you to go into the next room a minute.'
'Lie still, for Heaven's sake. Why bother your head about pike
'It is my business, sir, and I am paid for it, and I must do it
thoroughly;--and abide in the calling wherein I am called,' he
added, in a sadder tone.
'You seem to be fond enough of it, and to know enough about it, at
all events,' said the colonel, 'tying flies here on a sick-bed.'
'As for being fond of it, sir--those creatures of the water teach a
man many lessons; and when I tie flies, I earn books.'
'I send my flies all over the country, sir, to Salisbury and
Hungerford, and up to Winchester, even; and the money buys me many a
wise book--all my delight is in reading; perhaps so much the worse
'So much the better, say,' answered Lancelot warmly. 'I'll give you
an order for a couple of pounds' worth of flies at once.'
'The Lord reward you, sir,' answered the giant.
'And you shall make me the same quantity,' said the colonel. 'You
can make salmon-flies?'
'I made a lot by pattern for an Irish gent, sir.'
'Well, then, we'll send you some Norway patterns, and some golden
pheasant and parrot feathers. We're going to Norway this summer,
you know, Lancelot--'
Tregarva looked up with a quaint, solemn hesitation.
'If you please, gentlemen, you'll forgive a man's conscience.'
'But I'd not like to be a party to the making of Norway flies.'
'Here's a Protectionist, with a vengeance!' laughed the colonel.
'Do you want to keep all us fishermen in England? eh? to fee English
'No, sir. There's pretty fishing in Norway, I hear, and poor folk
that want money more than we keepers. God knows we get too much--we
that hang about great houses and serve great folks' pleasure--you
toss the money down our throats, without our deserving it; and we
spend it as we get it--a deal too fast--while hard-working labourers
'And yet you would keep us in England?'
'Would God I could!'
'Why then, my good fellow?' asked Lancelot, who was getting
intensely interested with the calm, self-possessed earnestness of
the man, and longed to draw him out.
The colonel yawned.
'Well, I'll go and get myself a couple of bait. Don't you stir, my
good parson-keeper. Down charge, I say! Odd if I don't find a
bait-net, and a rod for myself, under the verandah.'
'You will, colonel. I remember, now, I set it there last morning;
but the water washed many things out of my brains, and some things
into them--and I forgot it like a goose.'
'Well, good-bye, and lie still. I know what a drowning is, and more
than one. A day and a night have I been in the deep, like the man
in the good book; and bed is the best of medicine for a ducking;'
and the colonel shook him kindly by the hand and disappeared.
Lancelot sat down by the keeper's bed.
'You'll get those fish-hooks into your trousers, sir; and this is a
poor place to sit down in.'
'I want you to say your say out, friend, fish-hooks or none.'
The keeper looked warily at the door, and when the colonel had
passed the window, balancing the trolling-rod on his chin, and
whistling merrily, he began,--
'"A day and a night have I been in the deep!"--and brought back no
more from it! And yet the Psalms say how they that go down to the
sea in ships see the works of the Lord!--If the Lord has opened
their eyes to see them, that must mean--'
'What a gallant gentleman that is, and a valiant man of war, I'll
warrant,--and to have seen all the wonders he has, and yet to be
wasting his span of life like that!'
Lancelot's heart smote him.
'One would think, sir,--You'll pardon me for speaking out.' And the
noble face worked, as he murmured to himself, 'When ye are brought
before kings and princes for my name's sake.--I dare not hold my
tongue, sir. I am as one risen from the dead,'--and his face
flashed up into sudden enthusiasm--'and woe to me if I speak not.
Oh, why, why are you gentlemen running off to Norway, and foreign
parts, whither God has not called you! Are there no graves in
Egypt, that you must go out to die in the wilderness!'
Lancelot, quite unaccustomed to the language of the Dissenting poor,
felt keenly the bad taste of the allusion.
'What can you mean?' he asked.
'Pardon me, sir, if I cannot speak plainly; but are there not
temptations enough here in England that you must go to waste all
your gifts, your scholarship, and your rank, far away there out of
the sound of a church-going bell? I don't deny it's a great
temptation. I have read of Norway wonders in a book of one Miss
Martineau, with a strange name.'
'Feats on the Fiord?'
'That's it, sir. Her books are grand books to set one a-thinking;
but she don't seem to see the Lord in all things, does she, sir?'
Lancelot parried the question.
'You are wandering a little from the point.'
'So I am, and thank you for the rebuke. There's where I find you
scholars have the advantage of us poor fellows, who pick up
knowledge as we can. Your book-learning makes you stick to the
point so much better. You are taught how to think. After all--God
forgive me if I'm wrong! but I sometimes think that there must be
more good in that human wisdom, and philosophy falsely so called,
than we Wesleyans hold. Oh, sir, what a blessing is a good
education! What you gentlemen might do with it, if you did but see
your own power! Are there no fish in England, sir, to be caught?
precious fish, with immortal souls? And is there not One who has
said, "Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men?"'
'Would you have us all turn parsons?'
'Is no one to do God's work except the parson, sir? Oh, the game
that you rich folks have in your hands, if you would but play it!
Such a man as Colonel Bracebridge now, with the tongue of the
serpent, who can charm any living soul he likes to his will, as a
stoat charms a rabbit. Or you, sir, with your tongue:--you have
charmed one precious creature already. I can see it: though
neither of you know it, yet I know it.'
Lancelot started, and blushed crimson.
'Oh, that I had your tongue, sir!' And the keeper blushed crimson,
too, and went on hastily,--
'But why could you not charm all alike! Do not the poor want you as
well as the rich?'
'What can I do for the poor, my good fellow? And what do they want?
Have they not houses, work, a church, and schools,--and poor-rates
to fall back on?'
The keeper smiled sadly.
'To fall back on, indeed! and down on, too. At all events, you rich
might help to make Christians of them, and men of them. For I'm
beginning to fancy strangely, in spite of all the preachers say,
that, before ever you can make them Christians, you must make them
men and women.'
'Are they not so already?'
'Oh, sir, go and see! How can a man be a man in those crowded
styes, sleeping packed together like Irish pigs in a steamer, never
out of the fear of want, never knowing any higher amusement than the
beer-shop? Those old Greeks and Romans, as I read, were more like
men than half our English labourers. Go and see! Ask that sweet
heavenly angel, Miss Honoria,'--and the keeper again blushed,--'And
she, too, will tell you. I think sometimes if she had been born and
bred like her father's tenants' daughters, to sleep where they
sleep, and hear the talk they hear, and see the things they see,
what would she have been now? We mustn't think of it.' And the
keeper turned his head away, and fairly burst into tears.
Lancelot was moved.
'Are the poor very immoral, then?'
'You ask the rector, sir, how many children hereabouts are born
within six months of the wedding-day. None of them marry, sir, till
the devil forces them. There's no sadder sight than a labourer's
wedding now-a-days. You never see the parents come with them. They
just get another couple, that are keeping company, like themselves,
and come sneaking into church, looking all over as if they were
ashamed of it--and well they may be!'
'Is it possible?'
'I say, sir, that God makes you gentlemen, gentlemen, that you may
see into these things. You give away your charities kindly enough,
but you don't know the folks you give to. If a few of you would but
be like the blessed Lord, and stoop to go out of the road, just
behind the hedge, for once, among the publicans and harlots! Were
you ever at a country fair, sir? Though I suppose I am rude for
fancying that you could demean yourself to such company.'
'I should not think it demeaning myself,' said Lancelot, smiling;
'but I never was at one, and I should like for once to see the real
manners of the poor.'
'I'm no haunter of such places myself, God knows; but--I see you're
in earnest now--will you come with me, sir,--for once? for God's
sake and the poor's sake?'
'I shall be delighted.'
'Not after you've been there, I am afraid.'
'Well, it's a bargain when you are recovered. And, in the meantime,
the squire's orders are, that you lie by for a few days to rest; and
Miss Honoria's, too; and she has sent you down some wine.'
'She thought of me, did she?' And the still sad face blazed out
radiant with pleasure, and then collapsed as suddenly into deep
Lancelot saw it, but said nothing; and shaking him heartily by the
hand, had his shake returned by an iron grasp, and slipped silently
out of the cottage.
The keeper lay still, gazing on vacancy. Once he murmured to
'Through strange ways--strange ways--and though he let them wander
out of the road in the wilderness;--we know how that goes on--'
And then he fell into a mixed meditation--perhaps into a prayer.
CHAPTER V: A SHAM IS WORSE THAN NOTHING
At last, after Lancelot had waited long in vain, came his cousin's
answer to the letter which I gave in my second chapter.
'You are not fair to me, good cousin . . . but I have given up
expecting fairness from Protestants. I do not say that the front
and the back of my head have different makers, any more than that
doves and vipers have . . . and yet I kill the viper when I meet him
. . . and so do you. . . . And yet, are we not taught that our
animal nature is throughout equally viperous? . . . The Catholic
Church, at least, so teaches. . . . She believes in the corruption
of human nature. She believes in the literal meaning of Scripture.
She has no wish to paraphrase away St. Paul's awful words, that "in
his flesh dwelleth no good thing," by the unscientific euphemisms of
"fallen nature" or "corrupt humanity." The boasted discovery of
phrenologists, that thought, feeling, and passion reside in this
material brain and nerves of ours, has ages ago been anticipated by
her simple faith in the letter of Scripture; a faith which puts to
shame the irreverent vagueness and fantastic private interpretations
of those who make an idol of that very letter which they dare not
take literally, because it makes against their self-willed theories.
'And so you call me douce and meek? . . . You should remember what
I once was, Lancelot . . . I, at least, have not forgotten . . . I
have not forgotten how that very animal nature, on the possession of
which you seem to pride yourself, was in me only the parent of
remorse., . . I know it too well not to hate and fear it. Why do
you reproach me, if I try to abjure it, and cast away the burden
which I am too weak to bear? I am weak--Would you have me say that
I am strong? Would you have me try to be a Prometheus, while I am
longing to be once more an infant on a mother's breast? Let me
alone . . . I am a weary child, who knows nothing, can do nothing,
except lose its way in arguings and reasonings, and "find no end, in
wandering mazes lost." Will you reproach me, because when I see a
soft cradle lying open for me . . . with a Virgin Mother's face
smiling down all woman's love about it . . . I long to crawl into
it, and sleep awhile? I want loving, indulgent sympathy . . . I
want detailed, explicit guidance . . . Have you, then, found so
much of them in our former creed, that you forbid me to go to seek
them elsewhere, in the Church which not only professes them as an
organised system, but practises them . . . as you would find in your
first half-hour's talk with one of Her priests . . . true priests .
. . who know the heart of man, and pity, and console, and bear for
their flock the burdens which they cannot bear themselves? You ask
me who will teach a fast young man? . . . I answer, the Jesuit. Ay,
start and sneer, at that delicate woman-like tenderness, that subtle
instinctive sympathy, which you have never felt . . . which is as
new to me, alas, as it would be to you! For if there be none now-a-
days to teach such as you, who is there who will teach such as me?
Do not fancy that I have not craved and searched for teachers . . .
I went to one party long ago, and they commanded me, as the price of
their sympathy, even of anything but their denunciations, to ignore,
if not to abjure, all the very points on which I came for light--my
love for the Beautiful and the Symbolic--my desire to consecrate and
christianise it--my longing for a human voice to tell me with
authority that I was forgiven--my desire to find some practical and
palpable communion between myself and the saints of old. They told
me to cast away, as an accursed chaos, a thousand years of Christian
history, and believe that the devil had been for ages . . . just the
ages I thought noblest, most faithful, most interpenetrated with the
thought of God . . . triumphant over that church with which He had
promised to be till the end of the world. No . . . by the bye, they
made two exceptions--of their own choosing. One in favour of the
Albigenses . . . who seemed to me, from the original documents, to
have been very profligate Infidels, of whom the world was well rid .
. . and the Piedmontese . . . poor, simple, ill-used folk enough,
but who certainly cannot be said to have exercised much influence on
the destinies of mankind . . . and all the rest was chaos and the
pit. There never had been, never would be, a kingdom of God on
earth, but only a few scattered individuals, each selfishly intent
on the salvation of his own soul--without organisation, without
unity, without common purpose, without even a masonic sign whereby
to know one another when they chanced to meet . . . except
Shibboleths which the hypocrite could ape, and virtues which the
heathen have performed . . . Would YOU have had me accept such a
"Philosophy of History"?
'And then I went to another school . . . or rather wandered up and
down between those whom I have just described, and those who boast
on their side prescriptive right, and apostolic succession . . . and
I found that their ancient charter went back--just three hundred
years . . . and there derived its transmitted virtue, it seemed to
me, by something very like obtaining goods on false pretences, from
the very church which it now anathematises. Disheartened, but not
hopeless, I asked how it was that the priesthood, whose hands
bestowed the grace of ordination, could not withdraw it . . .
whether, at least, the schismatic did not forfeit it by the very act
of schism . . . and instead of any real answer to that fearful
spiritual dilemma, they set me down to folios of Nag's head
controversies . . . and myths of an independent British Church, now
represented, strangely enough, by those Saxons who, after its wicked
refusal to communicate with them, exterminated it with fire and
sword, and derived its own order from St. Gregory . . . and
decisions of mythical old councils (held by bishops of a different
faith and practice from their own), from which I was to pick the one
point which made for them, and omit the nine which made against
them, while I was to believe, by a stretch of imagination . . . or
common honesty . . ., which I leave you to conceive, that the Church
of Syria in the fourth century was, in doctrine, practice, and
constitution, like that of England in the nineteenth? . . . And
what was I to gain by all this? . . . For the sake of what was I to
strain logic and conscience? To believe myself a member of the same
body with all the Christian nations of the earth?--to be able to
hail the Frenchman, the Italian, the Spaniard, as a brother--to have
hopes even of the German and the Swede . . . if not in this life,
still in the life to come? No . . . to be able still to sit apart
from all Christendom in the exclusive pride of insular Pharisaism;
to claim for the modern littleness of England the infallibility
which I denied to the primaeval mother of Christendom, not to
enlarge my communion to the Catholic, but excommunicate, to all
practical purposes, over and above the Catholics, all other
Protestants except my own sect . . . or rather, in practice, except
my own party in my own sect. . . . And this was believing in one
Catholic and Apostolic church! . . . this was to be my share of the
communion of saints! And these were the theories which were to
satisfy a soul which longed for a kingdom of God on earth, which
felt that unless the highest of His promises are a mythic dream,
there must be some system on the earth commissioned to fulfil those
promises; some authority divinely appointed to regenerate, and rule,
and guide the lives of men, and the destinies of nations; who must
go mad, unless he finds that history is not a dreary aimless
procession of lost spirits descending into the pit, or that the
salvation of millions does not depend on an obscure and controverted
hair's breadth of ecclesiastic law.
'I have tried them both, Lancelot, and found them wanting; and now
but one road remains. . . . Home, to the fountain-head; to the
mother of all the churches whose fancied cruelty to her children can
no more destroy her motherhood, than their confest rebellion can. .
. . Shall I not hear her voice, when she, and she alone cries to
me, "I have authority and commission from the King of kings to
regenerate the world. History is a chaos, only because mankind has
been ever rebelling against me, its lawful ruler . . . and yet not a
chaos . . . for I still stand, and grow rooted on the rock of ages,
and under my boughs are fowl of every wing. I alone have been and
am consistent, progressive, expansive, welcoming every race, and
intellect and character into its proper place in my great organism .
. . meeting alike the wants of the king and the beggar, the artist
and the devotee . . . there is free room for all within my heaven-
wide bosom. Infallibility is not the exclusive heritage of one
proud and ignorant Island, but of a system which knows no
distinction of language, race, or clime. The communion of saints is
not a bygone tale, for my saints, redeemed from every age and every
nation under heaven, still live, and love, and help and intercede.
The union of heaven and earth is not a barbaric myth; for I have
still my miracles, my Host, my exorcism, my absolution. The present
rule of God is still, as ever, a living reality; for I rule in His
name, and fulfil all His will."
'How can I turn away from such a voice? What if some of her
doctrines may startle my untutored and ignorant understanding? . . .
If she is the appointed teacher, she will know best what truths to
teach. . . . The disciple is not above his master . . . or wise in
requiring him to demonstrate the abstrusest problems . . . spiritual
problems, too . . . before he allows his right to teach the
elements. Humbly I must enter the temple porch; gradually and
trustfully proceed with my initiation. . . . When that is past, and
not before . . . shall I be a fit judge of the mysteries of the
'There . . . I have written a long letter . . . with my own heart's
blood. . . . Think over it well, before you despise it. . . . And
if you can refute it for me, and sweep the whole away like a wild
dream when one awakes, none will be more thankful--paradoxical as it
may seem--than your unhappy Cousin.'
And Lancelot did consider that letter, and answered it as follows:--
'It is a relief to me at least, dear Luke, that you are going to
Rome in search of a great idea, and not merely from selfish
superstitious terror (as I should call it) about the "salvation of
your soul." And it is a new and very important thought to me, that
Rome's scheme of this world, rather than of the next, forms her
chief allurement. But as for that flesh and spirit question, or the
apostolic succession one either; all you seem to me, as a looker on,
to have logically proved, is that Protestants, orthodox and
unorthodox, must be a little more scientific and careful in their
use of the terms. But as for adopting your use of them, and the
consequences thereof--you must pardon me, and I suspect, them too.
Not that. Anything but that. Whatever is right, that is wrong.
Better to be inconsistent in truth, than consistent in a mistake.
And your Romish idea of man is a mistake--utterly wrong and absurd--
except in the one requirement of righteousness and godliness, which
Protestants and heathen philosophers have required and do require
just as much as you. My dear Luke, your ideal men and women won't
do--for they are not men and women at all, but what you call
"saints" . . . Your Calendar, your historic list of the Earth's
worthies, won't do--not they, but others, are the people who have
brought Humanity thus far. I don't deny that there are great souls
among them; Beckets, and Hugh Grostetes, and Elizabeths of Hungary.
But you are the last people to praise them, for you don't understand
them. Thierry honours Thomas a Becket more than all Canonisations
and worshippers do, because he does see where the man's true
greatness lay, and you don't. Why, you may hunt all Surius for such
a biography of a mediaeval worthy as Carlyle has given of your Abbot
Samson. I have read, or tried to read your Surius, and Alban
Butler, and so forth--and they seemed to me bats and asses--One
really pitied the poor saints and martyrs for having such blind
biographers--such dunghill cocks, who overlooked the pearl of real
human love and nobleness in them, in their greediness to snatch up
and parade the rotten chaff of superstition, and self-torture, and
spiritual dyspepsia, which had overlaid it. My dear fellow, that
Calendar ruins your cause--you are "sacres aristocrates"--kings and
queens, bishops and virgins by the hundred at one end; a beggar or
two at the other; and but one real human lay St. Homobonus to fill
up the great gulf between--A pretty list to allure the English
middle classes, or the Lancashire working-men!--Almost as charmingly
suited to England as the present free, industrious, enlightened, and
moral state of that Eternal City, which has been blest with the
visible presence and peculiar rule, temporal as well as spiritual,
too, of your Dalai Lama. His pills do not seem to have had much
practical effect there. . . . My good Luke, till he can show us a
little better specimen of the kingdom of Heaven organised and
realised on earth, in the country which does belong to him, soil and
people, body and soul, we must decline his assistance in realising
that kingdom in countries which don't belong to him. If the state
of Rome don't show his idea of man and society to be a rotten lie,
what proof would you have? . . . perhaps the charming results of a
century of Jesuitocracy, as they were represented on a French stage
in the year 1793? I can't answer his arguments, you see, or yours
either; I am an Englishman, and not a controversialist. The only
answer I give is John Bull's old dumb instinctive "Everlasting No!"
which he will stand by, if need be, with sharp shot and cold steel--
"Not that; anything but that. No kingdom of Heaven at all for us,
if the kingdom of Heaven is like that. No heroes at all for us, if
their heroism is to consist in their being not-men. Better no
society at all, but only a competitive wild-beast's den, than a sham
society. Better no faith, no hope, no love, no God, than shams
thereof." I take my stand on fact and nature; you may call them
idols and phantoms; I say they need be so no longer to any man,
since Bacon has taught us to discover the Eternal Laws under the
outward phenomena. Here on blank materialism will I stand, and
testify against all Religions and Gods whatsoever, if they must
needs be like that Roman religion, that Roman God. I don't believe
they need--not I. But if they need, they must go. We cannot have a
"Deus quidam deceptor." If there be a God, these trees and stones,
these beasts and birds must be His will, whatever else is not. My
body, and brain, and faculties, and appetites must be His will,
whatever else is not. Whatsoever I can do with them in accordance
with the constitution of them and nature must be His will, whatever
else is not. Those laws of Nature must reveal Him, and be revealed
by Him, whatever else is not. Man's scientific conquest of nature
must be one phase of His Kingdom on Earth, whatever else is not. I
don't deny that there are spiritual laws which man is meant to obey-
-How can I, who feel in my own daily and inexplicable unhappiness
the fruits of having broken them?--But I do say, that those
spiritual laws must be in perfect harmony with every fresh physical
law which we discover: that they cannot be intended to compete
self-destructively with each other; that the spiritual cannot be
intended to be perfected by ignoring or crushing the physical,
unless God is a deceiver, and His universe a self-contradiction.
And by this test alone will I try all theories, and dogmas, and
spiritualities whatsoever--Are they in accordance with the laws of
nature? And therefore when your party compare sneeringly Romish
Sanctity, and English Civilisation, I say, "Take you the Sanctity,
and give me the Civilisation!" The one may be a dream, for it is
unnatural; the other cannot be, for it is natural; and not an evil
in it at which you sneer but is discovered, day by day, to be owing
to some infringement of the laws of nature. When we "draw bills on
nature," as Carlyle says, "she honours them,"--our ships do sail;
our mills do work; our doctors do cure; our soldiers do fight. And
she does not honour yours; for your Jesuits have, by their own
confession, to lie, to swindle, to get even man to accept theirs for
them. So give me the political economist, the sanitary reformer,
the engineer; and take your saints and virgins, relics and miracles.
The spinning-jenny and the railroad, Cunard's liners and the
electric telegraph, are to me, if not to you, signs that we are, on
some points at least, in harmony with the universe; that there is a
mighty spirit working among us, who cannot be your anarchic and
destroying Devil, and therefore may be the Ordering and Creating
Which of them do you think, reader, had most right on his side?
CHAPTER VI: VOGUE LA GALERE
Lancelot was now so far improved in health as to return to his
little cottage ornee. He gave himself up freely to his new passion.
With his comfortable fortune and good connections, the future seemed
bright and possible enough as to circumstances. He knew that
Argemone felt for him; how much it seemed presumptuous even to
speculate, and as yet no golden-visaged meteor had arisen portentous
in his amatory zodiac. No rich man had stepped in to snatch, in
spite of all his own flocks and herds, at the poor man's own ewe-
lamb, and set him barking at all the world, as many a poor lover has
to do in defence of his morsel of enjoyment, now turned into a mere
bone of contention and loadstone for all hungry kites and crows.
All that had to be done was to render himself worthy of her, and in
doing so, to win her. And now he began to feel more painfully his
ignorance of society, of practical life, and the outward present.
He blamed himself angrily for having, as he now thought, wasted his
time on ancient histories and foreign travels, while he neglected
the living wonderful present, which weltered daily round him, every
face embodying a living soul. For now he began to feel that those
faces did hide living souls; formerly he had half believed--he had
tried, but from laziness, to make himself wholly believe--that they
were all empty masks, phantasies, without interest or significance
for him. But, somehow, in the light of his new love for Argemone,
the whole human race seemed glorified, brought nearer, endeared to
him. So it must be. He had spoken of a law wider than he thought
in his fancy, that the angels might learn love for all by love for
an individual. Do we not all learn love so? Is it not the first
touch of the mother's bosom which awakens in the infant's heart that
spark of affection which is hereafter to spread itself out towards
every human being, and to lose none of its devotion for its first
object, as it expands itself to innumerable new ones? Is it not by
love, too--by looking into loving human eyes, by feeling the care of
loving hands,--that the infant first learns that there exist other
beings beside itself?--that every body which it sees expresses a
heart and will like its own? Be sure of it. Be sure that to have
found the key to one heart is to have found the key to all; that
truly to love is truly to know; and truly to love one, is the first
step towards truly loving all who bear the same flesh and blood with
the beloved. Like children, we must dress up even our unseen future
in stage properties borrowed from the tried and palpable present,
ere we can look at it without horror. We fear and hate the utterly
unknown, and it only. Even pain we hate only when we cannot KNOW
it; when we can only feel it, without explaining it, and making it
harmonise with our notions of our own deserts and destiny. And as
for human beings, there surely it stands true, wherever else it may
not, that all knowledge is love, and all love knowledge; that even
with the meanest, we cannot gain a glimpse into their inward trials
and struggles, without an increase of sympathy and affection.
Whether he reasoned thus or not, Lancelot found that his new
interest in the working classes was strangely quickened by his
passion. It seemed the shortest and clearest way toward a practical
knowledge of the present. 'Here,' he said to himself, 'in the
investigation of existing relations between poor and rich, I shall
gain more real acquaintance with English society, than by dawdling
centuries in exclusive drawing-rooms.'
The inquiry had not yet presented itself to him as a duty; perhaps
so much the better, that it might be the more thoroughly a free-will
offering of love. At least it opened a new field of amusement and
knowledge; it promised him new studies of human life; and as he lay
on his sofa and let his thoughts flow, Tregarva's dark revelations
began to mix themselves with dreams about the regeneration of the
Whitford poor, and those again with dreams about the heiress of
Whitford; and many a luscious scene and noble plan rose brightly
detailed in his exuberant imagination. For Lancelot, like all born
artists, could only think in a concrete form. He never worked out a
subject without embodying it in some set oration, dialogue, or
dramatic castle in the air.
But the more he dreamt, the more he felt that a material beauty of
flesh and blood required a material house, baths, and boudoirs,
conservatories, and carriages; a safe material purse, and fixed
material society; law and order, and the established frame-work of
society, gained an importance in his eyes which they had never had
'Well,' he said to himself, 'I am turning quite practical and auld-
warld. Those old Greeks were not so far wrong when they said that
what made men citizens, patriots, heroes, was the love of wedded
wife and child.'
'Wedded wife and child!'--He shrank in from the daring of the
delicious thought, as if he had intruded without invitation into a
hidden sanctuary, and looked round for a book to drive away the
dazzling picture. But even there his thoughts were haunted by
Argemone's face, and
'When his regard
Was raised by intense pensiveness, two eyes,
Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought,
And seemed, with their serene and azure smiles,
To beckon him.'
He took up, with a new interest 'Chartism,' which alone of all Mr.
Carlyle's works he had hitherto disliked, because his own luxurious
day-dreams had always flowed in such sad discord with the terrible
warnings of the modern seer, and his dark vistas of starvation,
crime, neglect, and discontent.
'Well,' he said to himself, as he closed the book, 'I suppose it is
good for us easy-going ones now and then to face the possibility of
a change. Gold has grown on my back as feathers do on geese,
without my own will or deed; but considering that gold, like
feathers, is equally useful to those who have and those who have
not, why, it is worth while for the goose to remember that he may
possibly one day be plucked. And what remains? "Io," as Medea
says. . . . But Argemone?' . . . And Lancelot felt, for the
moment, as conservative as the tutelary genius of all special
As the last thought passed through his brain, Bracebridge's little
mustang slouched past the window, ridden (without a saddle) by a
horseman whom there was no mistaking for no one but the immaculate
colonel, the chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, dared to go about
the country 'such a figure.' A minute afterwards he walked in, in a
student's felt hat, a ragged heather-coloured coatee, and old white
'regulation drills,' shrunk half-way up his legs, a pair of
embroidered Indian mocassins, and an enormous meerschaum at his
'Where have you been this last week?'
'Over head and ears in Young England, till I fled to you for a
week's common sense. A glass of cider, for mercy's sake, "to take
the taste of it out of my mouth," as Bill Sykes has it.'
'Where have you been staying?'
'With young Lord Vieuxbois, among high art and painted glass, spade
farms, and model smell-traps, rubricalities and sanitary reforms,
and all other inventions, possible and impossible, for "stretching
the old formula to meet the new fact," as your favourite prophet
'Till the old formula cracks under the tension.'
'And cracks its devotees, too, I think. Here comes the cider!'
'But, my dear fellow, you must not laugh at all this. Young England
or Peelite, this is all right and noble. What a yet unspoken poetry
there is in that very sanitary reform! It is the great fact of the
age. We shall have men arise and write epics on it, when they have
learnt that "to the pure all things are pure," and that science and
usefulness contain a divine element, even in their lowest
'Write one yourself, and call it the Chadwickiad.'
'Smells and the Man I sing.
There's a beginning at once. Why don't YOU rather, with your
practical power, turn sanitary reformer--the only true soldier--and
conquer those real devils and "natural enemies" of Englishmen,
carbonic acid and sulphuretted hydrogen?'
'Ce n'est pas mon metier, my dear fellow. I am miserably behind the
age. People are getting so cursedly in earnest now-a-days, that I
shall have to bolt to the backwoods to amuse myself in peace; or
else sham dumb as the monkeys do, lest folks should find out that
I'm rational, and set me to work.'
Lancelot laughed and sighed.
'But how on earth do you contrive to get on so well with men with
whom you have not an idea in common!'
'Savoir faire, O infant Hercules! own daddy to savoir vivre. I am a
good listener; and, therefore, the most perfect, because the most
silent, of flatterers. When they talk Puginesquery, I stick my head
on one side attentively, and "think the more," like the lady's
parrot. I have been all the morning looking over a set of drawings
for my lord's new chapel; and every soul in the party fancies me a
great antiquary, just because I have been retailing to B as my own
everything that A told me the moment before.'
'I envy you your tact, at all events.'
'Why the deuce should you? You may rise in time to something better
than tact; to what the good book, I suppose, means by "wisdom."
Young geniuses like you, who have been green enough to sell your
souls to "truth," must not meddle with tact, unless you wish to fare
as the donkey did when he tried to play lap-dog.'
'At all events, I would sooner remain cub till they run me down and
eat me, than give up speaking my mind,' said Lancelot. 'Fool I may
be, but the devil himself shan't make me knave.'
'Quite proper. On two thousand a year a man can afford to be
honest. Kick out lustily right and left!--After all, the world is
like a spaniel; the more you beat it, the better it likes you--if
you have money. Only don't kick too hard; for, after all, it has a
hundred million pair of shins to your one.'
'Don't fear that I shall run a-muck against society just now. I am
too thoroughly out of my own good books. I have been for years
laughing at Young England, and yet its little finger is thicker than
my whole body, for it is trying to do something; and I, alas, am
doing utterly nothing. I should be really glad to take a lesson of
these men and their plans for social improvement.'
'You will have a fine opportunity this evening. Don't you dine at
'Yes. Do you?'
'Mr. Jingle dines everywhere, except at home. Will you take me over
in your trap?'
'Done. But whom shall we meet there?'
'The Lavingtons, and Vieuxbois, and Vaurien, and a parson or two, I
suppose. But between Saint Venus and Vieuxbois you may soon learn
enough to make you a sadder man, if not a wiser one.'
'Why not a wiser one? Sadder than now I cannot be; or less wise,
The colonel looked at Lancelot with one of those kindly thoughtful
smiles, which came over him whenever his better child's heart could
bubble up through the thick crust of worldliness.
'My young friend, you have been a little too much on the stilts
heretofore. Take care that, now you are off them, you don't lie
down and sleep, instead of walking honestly on your legs. Have
faith in yourself; pick these men's brains, and all men's. You can
do it. Say to yourself boldly, as the false prophet in India said
to the missionary, "I have fire enough in my stomach to burn up" a
dozen stucco and filigree reformers and "assimilate their ashes into
the bargain, like one of Liebig's cabbages."'
'How can I have faith in myself, when I am playing traitor to myself
every hour in the day? And yet faith in something I must have: in
'Never!' said the colonel, energetically. 'In anything but woman?
She must be led, not leader. If you love a woman, make her have
faith in you. If you lean on her, you will ruin yourself, and her
Lancelot shook his head. There was a pause.
'After all, colonel, I think there must be a meaning in those old
words our mothers used to teach us about "having faith in God."'
The colonel shrugged his shoulders.
'Quien sabe? said the Spanish girl, when they asked her who was her
child's father. But here comes my kit on a clod's back, and it is
time to dress for dinner.'
So to the dinner-party they went.
Lord Minchampstead was one of the few noblemen Lancelot had ever met
who had aroused in him a thorough feeling of respect. He was always
and in all things a strong man. Naturally keen, ready, business-
like, daring, he had carved out his own way through life, and opened
his oyster--the world, neither with sword nor pen, but with steam
and cotton. His father was Mr. Obadiah Newbroom, of the well-known
manufacturing firm of Newbroom, Stag, and Playforall. A stanch
Dissenter himself, he saw with a slight pang his son Thomas turn
Churchman, as soon as the young man had worked his way up to be the
real head of the firm. But this was the only sorrow which Thomas
Newbroom, now Lord Minchampstead, had ever given his father. 'I
stood behind a loom myself, my boy, when I began life; and you must
do with great means what I did with little ones. I have made a
gentleman of you, you must make a nobleman of yourself.' Those were
almost the last words of the stern, thrifty, old Puritan craftsman,
and his son never forgot them. From a mill-owner he grew to coal-
owner, shipowner, banker, railway director, money-lender to kings
and princes; and last of all, as the summit of his own and his
compeer's ambition, to land-owner. He had half a dozen estates in
as many different counties. He had added house to house, and field
to field; and at last bought Minchampstead Park and ten thousand
acres, for two-thirds its real value, from that enthusiastic
sportsman Lord Peu de Cervelle, whose family had come in with the
Conqueror, and gone out with George IV. So, at least, they always
said; but it was remarkable that their name could never be traced
farther back than the dissolution of the monasteries: and
Calumnious Dryasdusts would sometimes insolently father their title
on James I. and one of his batches of bought peerages. But let the
dead bury their dead. There was now a new lord in Minchampstead;
and every country Caliban was finding, to his disgust, that he had
'got a new master,' and must perforce 'be a new man.' Oh! how the
squires swore and the farmers chuckled, when the 'Parvenu' sold the
Minchampstead hounds, and celebrated his 1st of September by
exterminating every hare and pheasant on the estate! How the
farmers swore and the labourers chuckled when he took all the
cottages into his own hands and rebuilt them, set up a first-rate
industrial school, gave every man a pig and a garden, and broke up
all the commons 'to thin the labour-market.' Oh, how the labourers
swore and the farmers chuckled, when he put up steam-engines on all
his farms, refused to give away a farthing in alms, and enforced the
new Poor-law to the very letter. How the country tradesmen swore,
when he called them 'a pack of dilatory jobbers,' and announced his
intention of employing only London workmen for his improvements.
Oh! how they all swore together (behind his back, of course, for his
dinners were worth eating), and the very ladies said naughty words,
when the stern political economist proclaimed at his own table that
'he had bought Minchampstead for merely commercial purposes, as a
profitable investment of capital, and he would see that, whatever
else it did, it should PAY.'
But the new lord heard of all the hard words with a quiet self-
possessed smile. He had formed his narrow theory of the universe,
and he was methodically and conscientiously carrying it out. True,
too often, like poor Keats's merchant brothers,--
'Half-ignorant, he turned an easy wheel,
Which set sharp racks at work to pinch and peel.'
But of the harm which he did he was unconscious; in the good which
he did he was consistent and indefatigable; infinitely superior,
with all his defects, to the ignorant, extravagant do-nothing Squire
Lavingtons around him. At heart, however, Mammoth-blinded, he was
kindly and upright. A man of a stately presence; a broad, honest
north-country face; a high square forehead, bland and unwrinkled. I
sketch him here once for all, because I have no part for him after
this scene in my corps de ballet.
Lord Minchampstead had many reasons for patronising Lancelot. In
the first place, he had a true eye for a strong man wherever he met
him; in the next place, Lancelot's uncle the banker, was a stanch
Whig ally of his in the House. 'In the rotten-borough times, Mr.
Smith,' he once said to Lancelot, 'we could have made a senator of
you at once; but, for the sake of finality, we were forced to
relinquish that organ of influence. The Tories had abused it,
really, a little too far; and now we can only make a commissioner of
you--which, after all, is a more useful post, and a more lucrative
one.' But Lancelot had not as yet 'Galliolised,' as the Irish
schoolmaster used to call it, and cared very little to play a
political ninth fiddle.
The first thing which caught his eyes as he entered the drawing-room
before dinner was Argemone listening in absorbed reverence to her
favourite vicar,--a stern, prim, close-shaven, dyspeptic man, with a
meek, cold smile, which might have become a cruel one. He watched
and watched in vain, hoping to catch her eye; but no--there she
stood, and talked and listened--
'Ah,' said Bracebridge, smiling, 'it is in vain, Smith! When did
you know a woman leave the Church for one of us poor laymen?'
'Good heavens!' said Lancelot, impatiently, 'why will they make such
fools of themselves with clergymen?'
'They are quite right. They always like the strong men--the
fighters and the workers. In Voltaire's time they all ran after the
philosophers. In the middle ages, books tell us, they worshipped
the knights errant. They are always on the winning side, the
cunning little beauties. In the war-time, when the soldiers had to
play the world's game, the ladies all caught the red-coat fever;
now, in these talking and thinking days (and be hanged to them for
bores), they have the black-coat fever for the same reason. The
parsons are the workers now-a-days--or rather, all the world expects
them to be so. They have the game in their own hands, if they did
but know how to play it.'
Lancelot stood still, sulking over many thoughts. The colonel
lounged across the room towards Lord Vieuxbois, a quiet, truly high-
bred young man, with a sweet open countenance, and an ample
forehead, whose size would have vouched for great talents, had not
the promise been contradicted by the weakness of the over-delicate
mouth and chin.
'Who is that with whom you came into the room, Bracebridge?' asked
Lord Vieuxbois. 'I am sure I know his face.'
'Lancelot Smith, the man who has taken the shooting-box at Lower
'Oh, I remember him well enough at Cambridge! He was one of a set
who tried to look like blackguards, and really succeeded tolerably.
They used to eschew gloves, and drink nothing but beer, and smoke
disgusting short pipes; and when we established the Coverley Club in
Trinity, they set up an opposition, and called themselves the
Navvies. And they used to make piratical expeditions down to Lynn
in eight oars, to attack bargemen, and fen girls, and shoot ducks,
and sleep under turf-stacks, and come home when they had drank all
the public-house taps dry. I remember the man perfectly.'
'Navvy or none,' said the colonel, 'he has just the longest head and
the noblest heart of any man I ever met. If he does not distinguish
himself before he dies, I know nothing of human nature.'
'Ah yes, I believe he is clever enough!--took a good degree, a
better one than I did--but horribly eclectic; full of mesmerism, and
German metaphysics, and all that sort of thing. I heard of him one
night last spring, on which he had been seen, if you will believe
it, going successively into a Swedenborgian chapel, the Garrick's
Head, and one of Elliotson's magnetic soirees. What can you expect
'A great deal,' said Bracebridge drily. 'With such a head as he
carries on his shoulders the man might be another Mirabeau, if he
held the right cards in the right rubber. And he really ought to
suit you, for he raves about the middle ages, and chivalry, and has
edited a book full of old ballads.'
'Oh, all the eclectics do that sort of thing; and small thanks to
them. However, I will speak to him after dinner, and see what there
is in him.'
And Lord Vieuxbois turned away, and, alas for Lancelot! sat next to
Argemone at dinner. Lancelot, who was cross with everybody for what
was nobody's fault, revenged himself all dinner-time by never
speaking a word to his next neighbour, Miss Newbroom, who was
longing with all her heart to talk sentiment to him about the
Exhibition; and when Argemone, in the midst of a brilliant word-
skirmish with Lord Vieuxbois, stole a glance at him, he chose to
fancy that they were both talking of him, and looked more cross than
After the ladies retired, Lancelot, in his sulky way, made up his
mind that the conversation was going to be ineffably stupid; and set
to to dream, sip claret, and count the minutes till he found himself
in the drawing-room with Argemone. But he soon discovered, as I
suppose we all have, that 'it never rains but it pours,' and that
one cannot fall in with a new fact or a new acquaintance but next
day twenty fresh things shall spring up as if by magic, throwing
unexpected light on one's new phenomenon. Lancelot's head was full
of the condition-of-the-poor question, and lo! everybody seemed
destined to talk about it.
'Well, Lord Vieuxbois,' said the host, casually, 'my girls are
raving about your new school. They say it is a perfect antiquarian
'Yes, tolerable, I believe. But Wales has disappointed me a little.
That vile modernist naturalism is creeping back even into our
painted glass. I could have wished that the artist's designs for
the windows had been a little more Catholic.'
'How then?' asked the host, with a puzzled face.
'Oh, he means,' said Bracebridge, 'that the figures' wrists and
ankles were not sufficiently dislocated, and the patron saint did
not look quite like a starved rabbit with its neck wrung. Some of
the faces, I am sorry to say, were positively like good-looking men
'Oh, I understand,' said Lord Minchampstead; 'Bracebridge's tongue
is privileged, you know, Lord Vieuxbois, so you must not be angry.'
'I don't see my way into all this,' said Squire Lavington (which was
very likely to be true, considering that he never looked for his
way). 'I don't see how all these painted windows, and crosses, and
chanting, and the deuce and the Pope only know what else, are to
make boys any better.'
'We have it on the highest authority,' said Vieuxbois, 'that
pictures and music are the books of the unlearned. I do not think
that we have any right in the nineteenth century to contest an
opinion which the fathers of the Church gave in the fourth.'
'At all events,' said Lancelot, 'it is by pictures and music, by art
and song, and symbolic representations, that all nations have been
educated in their adolescence! and as the youth of the individual is
exactly analogous to the youth of the collective race, we should
employ the same means of instruction with our children which
succeeded in the early ages with the whole world.'
Lancelot might as well have held his tongue--nobody understood him
but Vieuxbois, and he had been taught to scent German neology in
everything, as some folks are taught to scent Jesuitry, especially
when it involved an inductive law, and not a mere red-tape
precedent, and, therefore, could not see that Lancelot was arguing
for him. 'All very fine, Smith,' said the squire; 'it's a pity you
won't leave off puzzling your head with books, and stick to fox-
hunting. All you young gentlemen will do is to turn the heads of
the poor with your cursed education.' The national oath followed,
of course. 'Pictures and chanting! Why, when I was a boy, a good
honest labouring man wanted to see nothing better than a halfpenny
ballad, with a wood-cut at the top, and they worked very well then,
and wanted for nothing.'
'Oh, we shall give them the halfpenny ballads in time!' said
'You will do a very good deed, then,' said mine host. 'But I am
sorry to say that, as far as I can find from my agents, when the
upper classes write cheap publications, the lower classes will not
'Too true,' said Vieuxbois.
'Is not the cause,' asked Lancelot, 'just that the upper classes do
'The writings of working men, certainly,' said Lord Minchampstead,
'have an enormous sale among their own class.'
'Just because they express the feelings of that class, of which I am
beginning to fear that we know very little. Look again, what a
noble literature of people's songs and hymns Germany has. Some of
Lord Vieuxbois's friends, I know, are busy translating many of
'As many of them, that is to say,' said Vieuxbois, 'as are
compatible with a real Church spirit.'
'Be it so; but who wrote them? Not the German aristocracy for the
people, but the German people for themselves. There is the secret
of their power. Why not educate the people up to such a standard
that they should be able to write their own literature?'
'What,' said Mr. Chalklands, of Chalklands, who sat opposite, 'would
you have working men turn ballad writers? There would be an end of
work, then, I think.'
'I have not heard,' said Lancelot, 'that the young women--LADIES, I
ought to say, if the word mean anything--who wrote the "Lowell
Offering," spun less or worse cotton than their neighbours.'
'On the contrary," said Lord Minchampstead, 'we have the most noble
accounts of heroic industry and self-sacrifice in girls whose
education, to judge by its fruits, might shame that of most English
Mr. Chalklands expressed certain confused notions that, in America,
factory girls carried green silk parasols, put the legs of pianos
into trousers, and were too prudish to make a shirt, or to call it a
shirt after it was made, he did not quite remember which.
'It is a great pity,' said Lord Minchampstead, 'that our factory
girls are not in the same state of civilisation. But it is socially
impossible. America is in an abnormal state. In a young country
the laws of political economy do not make themselves fully felt.
Here, where we have no uncleared world to drain the labour-market,
we may pity and alleviate the condition of the working-classes, but
we can do nothing more. All the modern schemes for the amelioration
which ignore the laws of competition, must end either in
pauperisation'--(with a glance at Lord Vieuxbois),--'or in the
destruction of property.'
Lancelot said nothing, but thought the more. It did strike him at
the moment that the few might, possibly, be made for the many, and
not the many for the few; and that property was made for man, not
man for property. But he contented himself with asking,--
'You think, then, my lord, that in the present state of society, no
dead-lift can be given to the condition--in plain English, the
wages--of working men, without the destruction of property?'
Lord Minchampstead smiled, and parried the question.
'There may be other dead-lift ameliorations, my young friend,
besides a dead-lift of wages.'
So Lancelot thought, also; but Lord Minchampstead would have been a
little startled could he have seen Lancelot's notion of a dead-lift.
Lord Minchampstead was thinking of cheap bread and sugar. Do you
think that I will tell you of what Lancelot was thinking?
But here Vieuxbois spurred in to break a last lance. He had been
very much disgusted with the turn the conversation was taking, for
he considered nothing more heterodox than the notion that the poor
were to educate themselves. In his scheme, of course the clergy and
the gentry were to educate the poor, who were to take down
thankfully as much as it was thought proper to give them: and all
beyond was 'self-will' and 'private judgment,' the fathers of
Dissent and Chartism, Trades'-union strikes, and French Revolutions,
et si qua alia.
'And pray, Mr. Smith, may I ask what limit you would put to
'The capacities of each man,' said Lancelot. 'If man living in
civilised society has one right which he can demand it is this, that
the State which exists by his labour shall enable him to develop,
or, at least, not hinder his developing, his whole faculties to
their very utmost, however lofty that may be. While a man who might
be an author remains a spade-drudge, or a journeyman while he has
capacities for a master; while any man able to rise in life remains
by social circumstances lower than he is willing to place himself,
that man has a right to complain of the State's injustice and
'Really, I do not see,' said Vieuxbois, 'why people should wish to
rise in life. They had no such self-willed fancy in the good old
times. The whole notion is a product of these modern days--'
He would have said more, but he luckily remembered at whose table he
'I think, honestly,' said Lancelot, whose blood was up, 'that we
gentlemen all run into the same fallacy. We fancy ourselves the
fixed and necessary element in society, to which all others are to
accommodate themselves. "Given the rights of the few rich, to find
the condition of the many poor." It seems to me that other
postulate is quite as fair: "Given the rights of the many poor, to
find the condition of the few rich."'
Lord Minchampstead laughed.
'If you hit us so hard, Mr. Smith, I must really denounce you as a
Communist. Lord Vieuxbois, shall we join the ladies?'
In the drawing-room, poor Lancelot, after rejecting overtures of
fraternity from several young ladies, set himself steadily again
against the wall to sulk and watch Argemone. But this time she
spied in a few minutes his melancholy, moonstruck face, swam up to
him, and said something kind and commonplace. She spoke in the
simplicity of her heart, but he chose to think she was patronising
him--she had not talked commonplaces to the vicar. He tried to say
something smart and cutting,--stuttered, broke down, blushed, and
shrank back again to the wall, fancying that every eye in the room
was on him; and for one moment a flash of sheer hatred to Argemone
swept through him.
Was Argemone patronising him? Of course she was. True, she was but
three-and-twenty, and he was of the same age; but, spiritually and
socially, the girl develops ten years earlier than the boy. She was
flattered and worshipped by gray-headed men, and in her simplicity
she thought it a noble self-sacrifice to stoop to notice the poor
awkward youth. And yet if he could have seen the pure moonlight of
sisterly pity which filled all her heart as she retreated, with
something of a blush and something of a sigh, and her heart
fluttered and fell, would he have been content? Not he. It was her
love he wanted, and not her pity; it was to conquer her and possess
her, and inform himself with her image, and her with his own; though
as yet he did not know it; though the moment that she turned away he
cursed himself for selfish vanity, and moroseness and conceit.
'Who am I to demand her all to myself? Her, the glorious, the
saintly, the unfallen! Is not a look, a word, infinitely more than
I deserve? And yet I pretend to admire tales of chivalry! Old
knightly hearts would have fought and wandered for years to earn a
tithe of the favours which have been bestowed on me unasked.'--
Peace! poor Lancelot! Thy egg is by no means addle; but the chick
is breaking the shell in somewhat a cross-grained fashion.
CHAPTER VII: THE DRIVE HOME, AND WHAT CAME OF IT
Now it was not extraordinary that Squire Lavington had 'assimilated'
a couple of bottles of Carbonel's best port; for however abstemious
the new lord himself might be, he felt for the habits, and for the
vote of an old-fashioned Whig squire. Nor was it extraordinary that
he fell fast asleep the moment he got into the carriage; nor, again,
that his wife and daughters were not solicitous about waking him;
nor, on the other hand, that the coachman and footman, who were like
all the squire's servants, of the good old sort, honest, faithful,
boozing, extravagant, happy-go-lucky souls, who had 'been about the
place these forty years,' were somewhat owlish and unsteady on the
box. Nor was it extraordinary that there was a heavy storm of
lightning, for that happened three times a-week in the chalk hills
the summer through; nor, again, that under these circumstances the
horses, who were of the squire's own breeding, and never thoroughly
broke (nothing was done thoroughly at Whitford), went rather wildly
home, and that the carriage swung alarmingly down the steep hills,
and the boughs brushed the windows rather too often. But it was
extraordinary that Mrs. Lavington had cast off her usual primness,
and seemed to-night, for the first time in her life, in an exuberant
good humour, which she evinced by snubbing her usual favourite
Honoria, and lavishing caresses on Argemone, whose vagaries she
usually regarded with a sort of puzzled terror, like a hen who has
hatched a duckling.
'Honoria, take your feet off my dress. Argemone, my child, I hope
you spent a pleasant evening?'
Argemone answered by some tossy commonplace.
A pause--and then Mrs. Lavington recommenced,--
'How very pleasing that poor young Lord Vieuxbois is, after all!'
'I thought you disliked him so much.'
'His opinions, my child; but we must hope for the best. He seems
moral and well inclined, and really desirous of doing good in his
way; and so successful in the House, too, I hear.'
'To me,' said Argemone, 'he seems to want life, originality, depth,
everything that makes a great man. He knows nothing but what he has
picked up ready-made from books. After all, his opinions are the
one redeeming point in him.'
'Ah, my dear, when it pleases Heaven to open your eyes, you will see
as I do!'
Poor Mrs. Lavington! Unconscious spokeswoman for the ninety-nine
hundredths of the human race! What are we all doing from morning to
night, but setting up our own fancies as the measure of all heaven
and earth, and saying, each in his own dialect, Whig, Radical, or
Tory, Papist or Protestant, 'When it pleases Heaven to open your
eyes you will see as I do'?
'It is a great pity,' went on Mrs. Lavington, meditatively, 'to see
a young man so benighted and thrown away. With his vast fortune,
too--such a means of good! Really we ought to have seen a little
more of him. I think Mr. O'Blareaway's conversation might be a
blessing to him. I think of asking him over to stay a week at
Whitford, to meet that sainted young man.'
Now Argemone did not think the Reverend Panurgus O'Blareaway,
incumbent of Lower Whitford, at all a sainted young man, but, on the
contrary, a very vulgar, slippery Irishman; and she had, somehow,
tired of her late favourite, Lord Vieuxbois; so she answered tossily
'Really, mamma, a week of Lord Vieuxbois will be too much. We shall
be bored to death with the Cambridge Camden Society, and ballads for
'I think, my dear,' said Mrs. Lavington (who had, half unconsciously
to herself, more reasons than one for bringing the young lord to
Whitford), 'I think, my dear, that his conversation, with all its
faults, will be a very improving change for your father. I hope
The squire's nose answered for itself.
'Really, what between Mr. Smith, and Colonel Bracebridge, and their
very ineligible friend, Mr. Mellot, whom I should never have allowed
to enter my house if I had suspected his religious views, the place
has become a hotbed of false doctrine and heresy. I have been quite
frightened when I have heard their conversation at dinner, lest the
footmen should turn infidels!'
'Perhaps, mamma,' said Honoria, slyly, 'Lord Vieuxbois might convert
them to something quite as bad. How shocking if old Giles, the
butler, should turn Papist!'
'Honoria, you are very silly. Lord Vieuxbois, at least can be
trusted. He has no liking for low companions. HE is above joking
with grooms, and taking country walks with gamekeepers.'
It was lucky that it was dark, for Honoria and Argemone both blushed
'Your poor father's mind has been quite unsettled by all their
ribaldry. They have kept him so continually amused, that all my
efforts to bring him to a sense of his awful state have been more
unavailing than ever.'
Poor Mrs. Lavington! She had married, at eighteen, a man far her
inferior in intellect; and had become--as often happens in such
cases--a prude and a devotee. The squire, who really admired and
respected her, confined his disgust to sly curses at the Methodists
(under which name he used to include every species of religious
earnestness, from Quakerism to that of Mr. Newman). Mrs. Lavington
used at first to dignify these disagreeables by the name of
persecution, and now she was trying to convert the old man by
coldness, severity, and long curtain-lectures, utterly
unintelligible to their victim, because couched in the peculiar
conventional phraseology of a certain school. She forgot, poor
earnest soul, that the same form of religion which had captivated a
disappointed girl of twenty, might not be the most attractive one
for a jovial old man of sixty.
Argemone, who a fortnight before would have chimed in with all her
mother's lamentations, now felt a little nettled and jealous. She
could not bear to hear Lancelot classed with the colonel.
'Indeed,' she said, 'if amusement is bad for my father, he is not
likely to get much of it during Lord Vieuxbois's stay. But, of
course, mamma, you will do as you please.'
'Of course I shall, my dear,' answered the good lady, in a tragedy-
queen tone. 'I shall only take the liberty of adding, that it is
very painful to me to find you adding to the anxiety which your
unfortunate opinions give me, by throwing every possible obstacle in
the way of my plans for your good.'
Argemone burst into proud tears (she often did so after a
conversation with her mother). 'Plans for my good!'--And an
unworthy suspicion about her mother crossed her mind, and was
peremptorily expelled again. What turn the conversation would have
taken next, I know not, but at that moment Honoria and her mother
uttered a fearful shriek, as their side of the carriage jolted half-
way up the bank, and stuck still in that pleasant position.
The squire awoke, and the ladies simultaneously clapped their hands
to their ears, knowing what was coming. He thrust his head out of
the window, and discharged a broadside of at least ten pounds' worth
of oaths (Bow Street valuation) at the servants, who were examining
the broken wheel, with a side volley or two at Mrs. Lavington for
being frightened. He often treated her and Honoria to that style of
oratory. At Argemone he had never sworn but once since she left the
nursery, and was so frightened at the consequences, that he took
care never to do it again.
But there they were fast, with a broken wheel, plunging horses, and
a drunken coachman. Luckily for them, the colonel and Lancelot were
following close behind, and came to their assistance.
The colonel, as usual, solved the problem.
'Your dog-cart will carry four, Smith?'
'Then let the ladies get in, and Mr. Lavington drive them home.'
'What?' said the squire, 'with both my hands red-hot with the gout?
You must drive three of us, colonel, and one of us must walk.'
'I will walk,' said Argemone, in her determined way.
Mrs. Lavington began something about propriety, but was stopped with
another pound's worth of oaths by the squire, who, however, had
tolerably recovered his good humour, and hurried Mrs. Lavington and
Honoria, laughingly, into the dog-cart, saying--
'Argemone's safe enough with Smith; the servants will lead the
horses behind them. It's only three miles home, and I should like
to see any one speak to her twice while Smith's fists are in the
Lancelot thought so too.
'You can trust yourself to me, Miss Lavington?'
'By all means. I shall enjoy the walk after--:' and she stopped.
In a moment the dog-cart had rattled off, with a parting curse from
the squire to the servants, who were unharnessing the horses.
Argemone took Lancelot's arm; the soft touch thrilled through and
through him; and Argemone felt, she knew not why, a new sensation
run through her frame. She shuddered--not with pain.
'You are cold, Miss Lavington?'
'Oh, not in the least.' Cold! when every vein was boiling so
strangely! A soft luscious melancholy crept over her. She had
always had a terror of darkness; but now she felt quite safe in his
strength. The thought of her own unprotected girlhood drew her
heart closer to him. She remembered with pleasure the stories of
his personal prowess, which had once made her think him coarse and
brutal. For the first time in her life she knew the delight of
dependence--the holy charm of weakness. And as they paced on
silently together, through the black awful night, while the servants
lingered, far out of sight, about the horses, she found out how
utterly she trusted to him.
'Listen!' she said. A nightingale was close to them, pouring out
his whole soul in song.
'Is it not very late in the year for a nightingale?'
'He is waiting for his mate. She is rearing a late brood, I
'What do you think it is which can stir him up to such an ecstasy of
joy, and transfigure his whole heart into melody?'
'What but love, the fulness of all joy, the evoker of all song?'
'All song?--The angels sing in heaven.'
'So they say: but the angels must love if they sing.'
'They love God!'
'And no one else?'
'Oh yes: but that is universal, spiritual love; not earthly love--a
narrow passion for an individual.'
'How do we know that they do not learn to love all by first loving
'Oh, the angelic life is single!'
'Who told you so, Miss Lavington?'
She quoted the stock text, of course:--'"In heaven they neither
marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels."'
'"As the tree falls, so it lies." And God forbid that those who
have been true lovers on earth should contract new marriages in the
next world. Love is eternal. Death may part lovers, but not love.
And how do we know that these angels, as they call them, if they be
really persons, may not be united in pairs by some marriage bond,
infinitely more perfect than any we can dream of on earth?'
'That is a very wild view, Mr. Smith, and not sanctioned by the
Church,' said Argemone, severely. (Curious and significant it is,
how severe ladies are apt to be whenever they talk of the Church.)
'In plain historic fact, the early fathers and the middle-age monks
did not sanction it: and are not they the very last persons to whom
one would go to be taught about marriage? Strange! that people
should take their notions of love from the very men who prided
themselves on being bound, by their own vows, to know nothing about
'They were very holy men.'
'But still men, as I take it. And do you not see that Love is, like
all spiritual things, only to be understood by experience--by
'But is love spiritual?'
'Pardon me, but what a question for one who believes that "God is
'But the divines tell us that the love of human beings is earthly.'
'How did they know? They had never tried. Oh, Miss Lavington!
cannot you see that in those barbarous and profligate ages of the
later empire, it was impossible for men to discern the spiritual
beauty of marriage, degraded as it had been by heathen brutality?
Do you not see that there must have been a continual tendency in the
minds of a celibate clergy to look with contempt, almost with spite,
on pleasures which were forbidden to them?'
'It must be very delicious,' said Argemone, thoughtfully, 'for any
one who believes it, to think that marriage can last through
eternity. But, then, what becomes of entire love to God? How can