Part 3 out of 6
we part our hearts between him and his creatures?'
'It is a sin, then, to love your sister? or your friend? What a
low, material view of love, to fancy that you can cut it up into so
many pieces, like a cake, and give to one person one tit-bit, and
another to another, as the Popish books would have you believe!
Love is like flame--light as many fresh flames at it as you will, it
grows, instead of diminishing, by the dispersion.'
'It is a beautiful imagination.'
'But, oh, how miserable and tantalising a thought, Miss Lavington,
to those who know that a priceless spirit is near them, which might
be one with theirs through all eternity, like twin stars in one
common atmosphere, for ever giving and receiving wisdom and might,
beauty and bliss, and yet are barred from their bliss by some
invisible adamantine wall, against which they must beat themselves
to death, like butterflies against the window-pane, gazing, and
longing, and unable to guess why they are forbidden to enjoy!'
Why did Argemone withdraw her arm from his? He knew, and he felt
that she was entrusted to him. He turned away from the subject.
'I wonder whether they are safe home by this time?'
'I hope my father will not catch cold. How sad, Mr. Smith, that he
will swear so. I do not like to say it; and yet you must have heard
him too often yourself.'
'It is hardly a sin with him now, I think. He has become so
habituated to it, that he attaches no meaning or notion whatsoever
to his own oaths. I have heard him do it with a smiling face to the
very beggar to whom he was giving half-a-crown. We must not judge a
man of his school by the standard of our own day.'
'Let us hope so,' said Argemone, sadly.
There was another pause. At a turn of the hill road the black
masses of beech-wood opened, and showed the Priory lights twinkling
right below. Strange that Argemone felt sorry to find herself so
'We shall go to town next week,' said she; "and then--You are going
to Norway this summer, are you not?'
'No. I have learnt that my duty lies nearer home.'
'What are you going to do?'
'I wish this summer, for the first time in my life, to try and do
some good--to examine a little into the real condition of English
'I am afraid, Mr. Smith, that I did not teach you that duty.'
'Oh, you have taught me priceless things! You have taught me beauty
is the sacrament of heaven, and love its gate; that that which is
the most luscious is also the most pure.'
'But I never spoke a word to you on such subjects.'
'There are those, Miss Lavington, to whom a human face can speak
truths too deep for books.'
Argemone was silent; but she understood him. Why did she not
withdraw her arm a second time?
In a moment more the colonel hailed them from the dog-cart and
behind him came the britschka with a relay of servants.
They parted with a long, lingering pressure of the hand, which
haunted her young palm all night in dreams. Argemone got into the
carriage, Lancelot jumped into the dog-cart, took the reins, and
relieved his heart by galloping Sandy up the hill, and frightening
the returning coachman down one bank and his led horses up the
'Vogue la Galere, Lancelot? I hope you have made good use of your
But Lancelot spoke no word all the way home, and wandered till dawn
in the woods around his cottage, kissing the hand which Argemone's
palm had pressed.
CHAPTER VIII: WHITHER?
Some three months slipped away--right dreary months for Lancelot,
for the Lavingtons went to Baden-Baden for the summer. 'The waters
were necessary for their health.' . . . How wonderful it is, by the
bye, that those German Brunnen are never necessary for poor people's
health! . . . and they did not return till the end of August. So
Lancelot buried himself up to the eyes in the Condition-of-the-Poor
question--that is, in blue books, red books, sanitary reports, mine
reports, factory reports; and came to the conclusion, which is now
pretty generally entertained, that something was the matter--but
what, no man knew, or, if they knew, thought proper to declare.
Hopeless and bewildered, he left the books, and wandered day after
day from farm to hamlet, and from field to tramper's tent, in hopes
of finding out the secret for himself. What he saw, of course I
must not say; for if I did the reviewers would declare, as usual,
one and all, that I copied out of the Morning Chronicle; and the
fact that these pages, ninety-nine hundredths of them at least, were
written two years before the Morning Chronicle began its invaluable
investigations, would be contemptuously put aside as at once
impossible and arrogant. I shall therefore only say, that he saw
what every one else has seen, at least heard of, and got tired of
hearing--though alas! they have not got tired of seeing it; and so
proceed with my story, only mentioning therein certain particulars
which folks seem, to me, somewhat strangely, to have generally
But whatever Lancelot saw, or thought he saw, I cannot say that it
brought him any nearer to a solution of the question; and he at last
ended by a sulky acquiescence in Sam Weller's memorable dictum:
'Who it is I can't say; but all I can say is that SOMEBODY ought to
be wopped for this!'
But one day, turning over, as hopelessly as he was beginning to turn
over everything else, a new work of Mr. Carlyle's, he fell on some
such words as these:--
'The beginning and the end of what is the matter with us in these
days is--that WE HAVE FORGOTTEN GOD.'
Forgotten God? That was at least a defect of which blue books had
taken no note. And it was one which, on the whole--granting, for
the sake of argument, any real, living, or practical existence to
That Being, might be a radical one--it brought him many hours of
thought, that saying; and when they were over, he rose up and went
'Yes, he is the man. He is the only man with whom I have ever met,
of whom I could be sure, that independent of his own interest,
without the allurements of respectability and decency, of habit and
custom, he believes in God. And he too is a poor man; he has known
the struggles, temptations, sorrows of the poor. I will go to him.'
But as Lancelot rose to find him, there was put into his hand a
letter, which kept him at home a while longer--none other, in fact,
than the long-expected answer from Luke.
'WELL, MY DEAR COUSIN--You may possibly have some logical ground
from which to deny Popery, if you deny all other religions with it;
but how those who hold any received form of Christianity whatsoever
can fairly side with you against Rome, I cannot see. I am sure I
have been sent to Rome by them, not drawn thither by Jesuits. Not
merely by their defects and inconsistencies; not merely because they
go on taunting us, and shrieking at us with the cry that we ought to
go to Rome, till we at last, wearied out, take them at their word,
and do at their bidding the thing we used to shrink from with
terror--not this merely but the very doctrines we hold in common
with them, have sent me to Rome. For would these men have known of
them if Rome had not been? The Trinity--the Atonement--the
Inspiration of Scripture.--A future state--that point on which the
present generation, without a smattering of psychological science,
without even the old belief in apparitions, dogmatises so narrowly
and arrogantly--what would they have known of them but for Rome?
And she says there are three realms in the future state . . .
heaven, hell, and purgatory . . . What right have they to throw
away the latter, and arbitrarily retain the two former? I am told
that Scripture gives no warrant for a third state. She says that it
does--that it teaches that implicitly, as it teaches other, the very
highest doctrines; some hold, the Trinity itself. . . . It may be
proved from Scripture; for it may be proved from the love and
justice of God revealed in Scripture. The Protestants divide--in
theory, that is--mankind into two classes, the righteous, who are
destined to infinite bliss; the wicked, who are doomed to infinite
torment; in which latter class, to make their arbitrary division
exhaustive, they put of course nine hundred and ninety-nine out of
the thousand, and doom to everlasting companionship with Borgias and
Cagliostros, the gentle, frivolous girl, or the peevish boy, who
would have shrunk, in life, with horror from the contact. . . .
Well, at least, their hell is hellish enough . . . if it were but
just. . . . But I, Lancelot, I cannot believe it! I will not
believe it! I had a brother once--affectionate, simple, generous,
full of noble aspirations--but without, alas! a thought of God;
yielding in a hundred little points, and some great ones, to the
infernal temptations of a public school. . . . He died at
seventeen. Where is he now? Lancelot! where is he now? Never for
a day has that thought left my mind for years. Not in heaven--for
he has no right there; Protestants would say that as well as I. . .
. Where, then?--Lancelot! not in that other place. I cannot, I will
not believe it. For the sake of God's honour, as well as of my own
sanity, I will not believe it! There must be some third place--some
intermediate chance, some door of hope--some purifying and redeeming
process beyond the grave. . . . Why not a purifying fire? Ages of
that are surely punishment enough--and if there be a fire of hell,
why not a fire of purgatory? . . . After all, the idea of purgatory
as a fire is only an opinion, not a dogma of the Church. . . . But
if the gross flesh which has sinned is to be punished by the matter
which it has abused, why may it not be purified by it?'
'You may laugh, if you will, at both, and say again, as I have heard
you say ere now, that the popular Christian paradise and hell are
but a Pagan Olympus and Tartarus, as grossly material as Mahomet's,
without the honest thorough-going sexuality, which you thought made
his notion logical and consistent. . . . Well, you may say that,
but Protestants cannot; for their idea of heaven and ours is the
same--with this exception, that theirs will contain but a thin band
of saved ones, while ours will fill and grow to all eternity. . . .
I tell you, Lancelot, it is just the very doctrines for which
England most curses Rome, and this very purgatory at the head of
them, which constitute her strength and her allurement; which appeal
to the reason, the conscience, the heart of men, like me, who have
revolted from the novel superstition which looks pitilessly on at
the fond memories of the brother, the prayers of the orphan, the
doubled desolation of the widow, with its cold terrible assurance,
"There is no hope for thy loved and lost ones--no hope, but hell for
'I do not expect to convert you. You have your metempsychosis, and
your theories of progressive incarnation, and your monads, and your
spirits of the stars and flowers. I have not forgotten a certain
talk of ours over Falk Von Muller's Recollections of Goethe, and how
you materialists are often the most fantastic of theorists. . . . I
do not expect, I say, to convert you. I only want to show you there
is no use trying to show the self-satisfied Pharisees of the popular
sect--why, in spite of all their curses, men still go back to Rome.'
Lancelot read this, and re-read it; and smiled, but sadly--and the
more he read, the stronger its arguments seemed to him, and he
rejoiced thereat. For there is a bad pleasure--happy he who has not
felt it--in a pitiless reductio ad absurdum, which asks tauntingly,
'Why do you not follow out your own conclusions?'--instead of
thanking God that people do not follow them out, and that their
hearts are sounder than their heads. Was it with this feeling that
the fancy took possession of him, to show the letter to Tregarva? I
hope not--perhaps he did not altogether wish to lead him into
temptation, any more than I wish to lead my readers, but only to
make him, just as I wish to make them, face manfully a real awful
question now racking the hearts of hundreds, and see how they will
be able to answer the sophist fiend--for honestly, such he is--when
their time comes, as come it will. At least he wanted to test at
once Tregarva's knowledge and his logic. As for his 'faith,' alas!
he had not so much reverence for it as to care what effect Luke's
arguments might have there. 'The whole man,' quoth Lancelot to
himself, 'is a novel phenomenon; and all phenomena, however
magnificent, are surely fair subjects for experiment. Magendie may
have gone too far, certainly, in dissecting a live dog--but what
harm in my pulling the mane of a dead lion?'
So he showed the letter to Tregarva as they were fishing together
one day--for Lancelot had been installed duly in the Whitford trout
preserves'--Tregarva read it slowly; asked, shrewdly enough, the
meaning of a word or two as he went on; at last folded it up
deliberately, and returned it to its owner with a deep sigh.
Lancelot said nothing for a few minutes; but the giant seemed so
little inclined to open the conversation, that he was forced at last
to ask him what he thought of it.
'It isn't a matter for thinking, sir, to my mind--There's a nice
fish on the feed there, just over-right that alder.'
'Hang the fish! Why not a matter for thinking?'
'To my mind, sir, a man may think a deal too much about many matters
that come in his way.'
'What should he do with them, then?'
'Mind his own business.'
'Pleasant for those whom they concern!--That's rather a cold-blooded
speech for you, Tregarva!'
The Cornishman looked up at him earnestly. His eyes were
glittering--was it with tears?
'Don't fancy I don't feel for the poor young gentleman--God help
him!--I've been through it all--or not through it, that's to say. I
had a brother once, as fine a young fellow as ever handled pick, as
kind-hearted as a woman, and as honest as the sun in Heaven.--But he
would drink, sir;--that one temptation, he never could stand it.
And one day at the shaft's mouth, reaching after the kibble-chain--
maybe he was in liquor, maybe not--the Lord knows; but--'
'I didn't know him again, sir, when we picked him up, any more than-
-' and the strong man shuddered from head to foot, and beat
impatiently on the ground with his heavy heel, as if to crush down
the rising horror.
'Where is he, sir?'
A long pause.
'Do you think I didn't ask that, sir, for years and years after, of
God, and my own soul, and heaven and earth, and the things under the
earth, too? For many a night did I go down that mine out of my
turn, and sat for hours in that level, watching and watching, if
perhaps the spirit of him might haunt about, and tell his poor
brother one word of news--one way or the other--anything would have
been a comfort--but the doubt I couldn't bear. And yet at last I
learnt to bear it--and what's more, I learnt not to care for it.
It's a bold word--there's one who knows whether or not it is a true
'Good Heavens!--and what then did you say to yourself?'
'I said this, sir--or rather, one came as I was on my knees, and
said it to me--What's done you can't mend. What's left, you can.
Whatever has happened is God's concern now, and none but His. Do
you see that as far as you can no such thing ever happen again, on
the face of His earth. And from that day, sir, I gave myself up to
that one thing, and will until I die, to save the poor young fellows
like myself, who are left now-a-days to the Devil, body and soul,
just when they are in the prime of their power to work for God.'
'Ah!' said Lancelot--'if poor Luke's spirit were but as strong as
'I strong?' answered he, with a sad smile; 'and so you think, sir.
But it's written, and it's true--"The heart knoweth its own
'Then you absolutely refuse to try to fancy your--his present
'Yes, sir, because if I did fancy it, that would be a certain sign I
didn't know it. If we can't conceive what God has prepared for
those that we know loved Him, how much less can we for them of whom
we don't know whether they loved Him or not?'
'Well,' thought Lancelot to himself, 'I did not do so very wrong in
trusting your intellect to cut through a sophism.'
'But what do you believe, Tregarva?'
'I believe this, sir--and your cousin will believe the same, if he
will only give up, as I am sore afraid he will need to some day,
sticking to arguments and doctrines about the Lord, and love and
trust the Lord himself. I believe, sir, that the judge of all the
earth will do right--and what's right can't be wrong, nor cruel
either, else it would not be like Him who loved us to the death,
that's all I know; and that's enough for me. To whom little is
given, of him is little required. He that didn't know his Master's
will, will be beaten with few stripes, and he that did know it, as I
do, will be beaten with many, if he neglects it--and that latter,
not the former, is my concern.'
'Well,' thought Lancelot to himself, 'this great heart has gone down
to the root of the matter--the right and wrong of it. He, at least,
has not forgotten God. Well, I would give up all the Teleologies
and cosmogonies that I ever dreamt or read, just to believe what he
believes--Heigho and well-a-day!--Paul! hist? I'll swear that was
'I hope not, sir, I'm sure. I haven't seen the spraint of one here
this two years.'
'There again--don't you see something move under that marl bank?'
Tregarva watched a moment, and then ran up to the spot, and throwing
himself on his face on the edge, leant over, grappled something--and
was instantly, to Lancelot's astonishment, grappled in his turn by a
rough, lank, white dog, whose teeth, however, could not get through
the velveteen sleeve.
'I'll give in, keeper! I'll give in. Doan't ye harm the dog! he's
deaf as a post, you knows.'
'I won't harm him if you take him off, and come up quietly.'
This mysterious conversation was carried on with a human head, which
peeped above the water, its arms supporting from beneath the
growling cur--such a visage as only worn-out poachers, or trampling
drovers, or London chiffonniers carry; pear-shaped and retreating to
a narrow peak above, while below, the bleared cheeks, and drooping
lips, and peering purblind eyes, perplexed, hopeless, defiant, and
yet sneaking, bespeak THEIR share in the 'inheritance of the kingdom
of heaven.'--Savages without the resources of a savage--slaves
without the protection of a master--to whom the cart-whip and the
rice-swamp would be a change for the better--for there, at least, is
food and shelter.
Slowly and distrustfully a dripping scarecrow of rags and bones rose
from his hiding-place in the water, and then stopped suddenly, and
seemed inclined to dash through the river; but Tregarva held him
'There's two on ye! That's a shame! I'll surrender to no man but
you, Paul. Hold off, or I'll set the dog on ye!'
'It's a gentleman fishing. He won't tell--will you, sir?' And he
turned to Lancelot. 'Have pity on the poor creature, sir, for God's
sake--it isn't often he gets it.'
'I won't tell, my man. I've not seen you doing any harm. Come out
like a man, and let's have a look at you.'
The creature crawled up the bank, and stood, abject and shivering,
with the dog growling from between his legs.
'I was only looking for a kingfisher's nest: indeed now, I was,
'Don't lie, you were setting night-lines. I saw a minnow lie on the
bank as I came up. Don't lie; I hate liars.'
'Well indeed, then--a man must live somehow.'
'You don't seem to live by this trade, my friend,' quoth Lancelot;
'I cannot say it seems a prosperous business, by the look of your
coat and trousers.'
'That Tim Goddard stole all my clothes, and no good may they do him;
last time as I went to gaol I gave them him to kep, and he went off
for a navvy meantime; so there I am.'
'If you will play with the dogs,' quoth Tregarva, 'you know what you
will be bit by. Haven't I warned you? Of course you won't prosper:
as you make your bed, so you must lie in it. The Lord can't be
expected to let those prosper that forget Him. What mercy would it
be to you if He did let you prosper by setting snares all church-
time, as you were last Sunday, instead of going to church?'
'I say, Paul Tregarva, I've told you my mind about that afore. If I
don't do what I knows to be right and good already, there ain't no
use in me a damning myself all the deeper by going to church to hear
'God help you!' quoth poor Paul.
'Now, I say,' quoth Crawy, with the air of a man who took the whole
thing as a matter of course, no more to be repined at than the rain
and wind--'what be you a going to do with me this time? I do hope
you won't have me up to bench. 'Tain't a month now as I'm out o'
prizzum along o' they fir-toppings, and I should, you see--' with a
look up and down and round at the gay hay-meadows, and the fleet
water, and the soft gleaming clouds, which to Lancelot seemed most
pathetic,--'I should like to ha' a spell o' fresh air, like, afore I
goes in again.'
Tregarva stood over him and looked down at him, like some huge
stately bloodhound on a trembling mangy cur. 'Good heavens!'
thought Lancelot, as his eye wandered from the sad steadfast dignity
of the one, to the dogged helpless misery of the other--'can those
two be really fellow-citizens? fellow-Christians?--even animals of
the same species? Hard to believe!'
True, Lancelot; but to quote you against yourself, Bacon, or rather
the instinct which taught Bacon, teaches you to discern the
invisible common law under the deceitful phenomena of sense.
'I must have those night-lines, Crawy,' quoth Tregarva, at length.
'Then I must starve. You might ever so well take away the dog.
They're the life of me.'
'They're the death of you. Why don't you go and work, instead of
idling about, stealing trout?'
'Be you a laughing at a poor fellow in his trouble? Who'd gie me a
day's work, I'd like to know? It's twenty year too late for that!'
Lancelot stood listening. Yes, that wretch, too, was a man and a
brother--at least so books used to say. Time was, when he had
looked on a poacher as a Pariah 'hostem humani generis'--and only
deplored that the law forbade him to shoot them down, like cats and
otters; but he had begun to change his mind.
He had learnt, and learnt rightly, the self-indulgence, the danger,
the cruelty, of indiscriminate alms. It looked well enough in
theory, on paper. 'But--but--but,' thought Lancelot, 'in practice,
one can't help feeling a little of that un-economic feeling called
pity. No doubt the fellow has committed an unpardonable sin in
daring to come into the world when there was no call for him; one
used to think, certainly, that children's opinions were not
consulted on such points before they were born, and that therefore
it might be hard to visit the sins of the fathers on the children,
even though the labour-market were a little overstocked--"mais nous
avons change tout cela," like M. Jourdain's doctors. No doubt, too,
the fellow might have got work if he had chosen--in Kamschatka or
the Cannibal Islands; for the political economists have proved,
beyond a doubt, that there is work somewhere or other for every one
who chooses to work. But as, unfortunately, society has neglected
to inform him of the state of the Cannibal Island labour-market, or
to pay his passage thither when informed thereof, he has had to
choose in the somewhat limited labour-field of the Whitford Priors'
union, whose workhouse is already every winter filled with abler-
bodied men than he, between starvation--and this--. Well, as for
employing him, one would have thought that there was a little work
waiting to be done in those five miles of heather and snipe-bog,
which I used to tramp over last winter--but those, it seems, are
still on the "margin of cultivation," and not a remunerative
investment--that is, to capitalists. I wonder if any one had made
Crawy a present of ten acres of them when he came of age, and
commanded him to till that or be hanged, whether he would not have
found it a profitable investment? But bygones are bygones, and
there he is, and the moors, thanks to the rights of property--in
this case the rights of the dog in the manger--belong to poor old
Lavington--that is, the game and timber on them; and neither Crawy
nor any one else can touch them. What can I do for him? Convert
him? to what? For the next life, even Tregarva's talisman seems to
fail. And for this life--perhaps if he had had a few more practical
proofs of a divine justice and government--that "kingdom of heaven"
of which Luke talks, in the sensible bodily matters which he does
appreciate, he might not be so unwilling to trust to it for the
invisible spiritual matters which he does not appreciate. At all
events, one has but one chance of winning him, and that is, through
those five senses which he has left. What if he does spend the
money in gross animal enjoyment? What will the amount of it be,
compared with the animal enjoyments which my station allows me daily
without reproach! A little more bacon--a little more beer--a little
more tobacco; at all events they will be more important to him than
a pair of new boots or an extra box of cigars to me.'--And Lancelot
put his hand in his pocket, and pulled out a sovereign. No doubt he
was a great goose; but if you can answer his arguments, reader, I
'Look here--what are your night-lines worth?'
'A matter of seven shilling; ain't they now, Paul Tregarva?'
'I should suppose they are.'
'Then do you give me the lines, one and all, and there's a sovereign
for you.--No, I can't trust you with it all at once. I'll give it
to Tregarva, and he shall allow you four shillings a week as long as
it lasts, if you'll promise to keep off Squire Lavington's river.'
It was pathetic, and yet disgusting, to see the abject joy of the
poor creature. 'Well,' thought Lancelot, 'if he deserves to be
wretched, so do I--why, therefore, if we are one as bad as the
other, should I not make his wretchedness a little less for the time
'I waint come a-near the water. You trust me--I minds them as is
kind to me'--and a thought seemed suddenly to lighten up his dull
'I say, Paul, hark you here. I see that Bantam into D * * * t'other
'What! is he down already?'
'With a dog-cart; he and another of his pals; and I see 'em take out
a silk flue, I did. So, says I, you maunt be trying that ere along
o' the Whitford trout; they kepers is out o' nights so sure as the
'You didn't know that. Lying again!'
'No, but I sayed it in course. I didn't want they a-robbing here;
so I think they worked mainly up Squire Vaurien's water.'
'I wish I'd caught them here,' quoth Tregarva, grimly enough;
'though I don't think they came, or I should have seen the track on
'But he sayed like, as how he should be down here again about
'Trust him for it. Let us know, now, if you see him.'
'And that I will, too. I wouldn't save a feather for that 'ere old
rascal, Harry. If the devil don't have he, I don't see no use in
keeping no devil. But I minds them as has mercy on me, though my
name is Crawy. Ay,' he added, bitterly, ''tain't so many kind turns
as I gets in this life, that I can afford to forget e'er a one.'
And he sneaked off, with the deaf dog at his heels.
'How did that fellow get his name, Tregarva?'
'Oh, most of them have nicknames round here. Some of them hardly
know their own real names, sir.' ('A sure sign of low
civilisation,' thought Lancelot.) 'But he got his a foolish way;
and yet it was the ruin of him. When he was a boy of fifteen, he
got miching away in church-time, as boys will, and took off his
clothes to get in somewhere here in this very river, groping in the
banks after craw-fish; and as the devil--for I can think no less--
would have it, a big one catches hold of him by the fingers with one
claw, and a root with the other, and holds him there till Squire
Lavington comes out to take his walk after church, and there he
caught the boy, and gave him a thrashing there and then, naked as he
stood. And the story got wind, and all the chaps round called him
Crawy ever afterwards, and the poor fellow got quite reckless from
that day, and never looked any one in the face again; and being
ashamed of himself, you see, sir, was never ashamed of anything
else--and there he is. That dog's his only friend, and gets a
livelihood for them both. It's growing old now; and when it dies,
'Well--the world has no right to blame him for not doing his duty,
till it has done its own by him a little better.'
'But the world will, sir, because it hates its duty, and cries all
day long, like Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?"'
'Do you think it knows its duty? I have found it easy enough to see
that something is diseased, Tregarva; but to find the medicine
first, and to administer it afterwards, is a very different matter.'
'Well--I suppose the world will never be mended till the day of
'In plain English, not mended till it is destroyed. Hopeful for the
poor world! I should fancy, if I believed that, that the devil in
the old history--which you believe--had had the best of it with a
vengeance, when he brought sin into the world, and ruined it. I
dare not believe that. How dare you, who say that God sent His Son
into the world to defeat the devil?'
Tregarva was silent a while.
'Learning and the Gospel together ought to do something, sir,
towards mending it. One would think so. But the prophecies are
'As folks happen to read them just now. A hundred years hence they
may be finding the very opposite meaning in them. Come, Tregarva,--
Suppose I teach you a little of the learning, and you teach me a
little of the Gospel--do you think we two could mend the world
between us, or even mend Whitford Priors?'
'God knows, sir,' said Tregarva.
* * * * *
'Tregarva,' said Lancelot, as they were landing the next trout,
'where will that Crawy go, when he dies?'
'God knows, sir,' said Tregarva.
* * * * *
Lancelot went thoughtful home, and sat down--not to answer Luke's
letter--for he knew no answer but Tregarva's, and that, alas! he
could not give, for he did not believe it, but only longed to
believe it. So he turned off the subject by a question--
'You speak of yourself as being already a member of the Romish
communion. How is this? Have you given up your curacy? Have you
told your father? I fancy that if you had done so I must have heard
of it ere now. I entreat you to tell me the state of the case, for,
heathen as I am, I am still an Englishman; and there are certain old
superstitions still lingering among us--whencesoever we may have got
them first--about truth and common honesty--you understand me.--
'Do not be angry. But there is a prejudice against the truthfulness
of Romish priests and Romish converts.--It's no affair of mine. I
see quite enough Protestant rogues and liars, to prevent my having
any pleasure in proving Romanists, or any other persons, rogues and
liars also. But I am--if not fond of you--at least sufficiently
fond to be anxious for your good name. You used to be an open-
hearted fellow enough. Do prove to the world that coelum, non
animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt.'
CHAPTER IX: HARRY VERNEY HEARS HIS LAST SHOT FIRED
The day after the Lavingtons' return, when Lancelot walked up to the
Priory with a fluttering heart to inquire after all parties, and see
one, he found the squire in a great state of excitement.
A large gang of poachers, who had come down from London by rail, had
been devastating all the covers round, to stock the London markets
by the first of October, and intended, as Tregarva had discovered,
to pay Mr. Lavington's preserves a visit that night. They didn't
care for country justices, not they. Weren't all their fines paid
by highly respectable game-dealers at the West end? They owned
three dog-carts among them; a parcel by railway would bring them
down bail to any amount; they tossed their money away at the public-
houses, like gentlemen; thanks to the Game Laws, their profits ran
high, and when they had swept the country pretty clean of game, why,
they would just finish off the season by a stray highway robbery or
two, and vanish into Babylon and their native night.
Such was Harry Verney's information as he strutted about the
courtyard waiting for the squire's orders.
'But they've put their nose into a furze-bush, Muster Smith, they
have. We've got our posse-commontaturs, fourteen men, sir, as'll
play the whole vale to cricket, and whap them; and every one'll
fight, for they're half poachers themselves, you see' (and Harry
winked and chuckled); 'and they can't abide no interlopers to come
down and take the sport out of their mouths.'
'But are you sure they'll come to-night?'
'That 'ere Paul says so. Wonder how he found out--some of his
underhand, colloguing, Methodist ways, I'll warrant. I seed him
preaching to that 'ere Crawy, three or four times when he ought to
have hauled him up. He consorts with them poachers, sir, uncommon.
I hope he ben't one himself, that's all.'
'Oh? Eh? Don't say old Harry don't know nothing, that's all. I've
fixed his flint, anyhow.'
'Ah! Smith!' shouted the squire out of his study window, with a
cheerful and appropriate oath. 'The very man I wanted to see! You
must lead these keepers for me to-night. They always fight better
with a gentleman among them. Breeding tells, you know--breeding
Lancelot felt a strong disgust at the occupation, but he was under
too many obligations to the squire to refuse.
'Ay, I knew you were game,' said the old man. 'And you'll find it
capital fun. I used to think it so, I know, when I was young. Many
a shindy have I had here in my uncle's time, under the very windows,
before the chase was disparked, when the fellows used to come down
after the deer.'
Just then Lancelot turned and saw Argemone standing close to him.
He almost sprang towards her--and retreated, for he saw that she had
overheard the conversation between him and her father.
'What! Mr. Smith!' said she in a tone in which tenderness and
contempt, pity and affected carelessness, were strangely mingled.
'So! you are going to turn gamekeeper to-night?'
Lancelot was blundering out something, when the squire interposed.
'Let her alone, Smith. Women will be tender-hearted, you know.
Quite right--but they don't understand these things. They fight
with their tongues, and we with our fists; and then they fancy their
weapons don't hurt--Ha! ha! ha!'
'Mr. Smith,' said Argemone, in a low, determined voice, 'if you have
promised my father to go on this horrid business--go. But promise
me, too, that you will only look on, or I will never--'
Argemone had not time to finish her sentence before Lancelot had
promised seven times over, and meant to keep his promise, as we all
About ten o'clock that evening Lancelot and Tregarva were walking
stealthily up a ride in one of the home-covers, at the head of some
fifteen fine young fellows, keepers, grooms, and not extempore
'watchers,' whom old Harry was marshalling and tutoring, with
exhortations as many and as animated as if their ambition was
'Mourir pour la patrie.'
'How does this sort of work suit you, Tregarva, for I don't like it
at all! The fighting's all very well, but it's a poor cause.'
'Oh, sir, I have no mercy on these Londoners. If it was these poor
half-starved labourers, that snare the same hares that have been
eating up their garden-stuff all the week, I can't touch them, sir,
and that's truth; but these ruffians--And yet, sir, wouldn't it be
better for the parsons to preach to them, than for the keepers to
break their heads?'
'Oh?' said Lancelot, 'the parsons say all to them that they can.'
Tregarva shook his head.
'I doubt that, sir. But, no doubt, there's a great change for the
better in the parsons. I remember the time, sir, that there wasn't
an earnest clergyman in the vale; and now every other man you meet
is trying to do his best. But those London parsons, sir, what's the
matter with them? For all their societies and their schools, the
devil seems to keep ahead of them sadly. I doubt they haven't found
the right fly yet for publicans and sinners to rise at.'
A distant shot in the cover.
'There they are, sir. I thought that Crawy wouldn't lead me false
when I let him off.'
'Well, fight away, then, and win. I have promised Miss Lavington
not to lift a hand in the business.'
'Then you're a lucky man, sir. But the squire's game is his own,
and we must do our duty by our master.'
There was a rustle in the bushes, and a tramp of feet on the turf.
'There they are, sir, sure enough. The Lord keep us from murder
this night!' And Tregarva pulled off his neckcloth, and shook his
huge limbs, as if to feel that they were all in their places, in a
way that augured ill for the man who came across him.
They turned the corner of a ride, and, in an instant, found
themselves face to face with five or six armed men, with blackened
faces, who, without speaking a word, dashed at them, and the fight
began; reinforcements came up on each side, and the engagement
'The forest-laws were sharp and stern,
The forest blood was keen,
They lashed together for life and death
Beneath the hollies green.
'The metal good and the walnut-wood
Did soon in splinters flee;
They tossed the orts to south and north,
And grappled knee to knee.
'They wrestled up, they wrestled down,
They wrestled still and sore;
The herbage sweet beneath their feet
Was stamped to mud and gore.'
And all the while the broad still moon stared down on them grim and
cold, as if with a saturnine sneer at the whole humbug; and the
silly birds about whom all this butchery went on, slept quietly over
their heads, every one with his head under his wing. Oh! if
pheasants had but understanding, how they would split their sides
with chuckling and crowing at the follies which civilised Christian
men perpetrate for their precious sake!
Had I the pen of Homer (though they say he never used one), or even
that of the worthy who wasted precious years in writing a Homer
Burlesqued, what heroic exploits might not I immortalise! In every
stupid serf and cunning ruffian there, there was a heart as brave as
Ajax's own; but then they fought with sticks instead of lances, and
hammered away on fustian jackets instead of brazen shields; and,
therefore, poor fellows, they were beneath 'the dignity of poetry,'
whatever that may mean. If one of your squeamish 'dignity-of-
poetry' critics had just had his head among the gun-stocks for five
minutes that night, he would have found it grim tragic earnest
enough; not without a touch of fun though, here and there.
Lancelot leant against a tree and watched the riot with folded arms,
mindful of his promise to Argemone, and envied Tregarva as he hurled
his assailants right and left with immense strength, and led the van
of battle royally. Little would Argemone have valued the real proof
of love which he was giving her as he looked on sulkily, while his
fingers tingled with longing to be up and doing. Strange--that mere
lust of fighting, common to man and animals, whose traces even the
lamb and the civilised child evince in their mock-fights, the
earliest and most natural form of play. Is it, after all, the one
human propensity which is utterly evil, incapable of being turned to
any righteous use? Gross and animal, no doubt it is, but not the
less really pleasant, as every Irishman and many an Englishman knows
well enough. A curious instance of this, by the bye, occurred in
Paris during the February Revolution. A fat English coachman went
out, from mere curiosity, to see the fighting. As he stood and
watched, a new passion crept over him; he grew madder and madder as
the bullets whistled past him; at last, when men began to drop by
his side, he could stand it no longer, seized a musket, and rushed
in, careless which side he took,--
'To drink delight of battle with his peers.'
He was not heard of for a day or two, and then they found him stiff
and cold, lying on his face across a barricade, with a bullet
through his heart. Sedentary persons may call him a sinful fool.
Be it so. Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Lancelot, I verily believe, would have kept his promise, though he
saw that the keepers gave ground, finding Cockney skill too much for
their clumsy strength; but at last Harry Verney, who had been
fighting as venomously as a wild cat, and had been once before saved
from a broken skull by Tregarva, rolled over at his very feet with a
couple of poachers on him.
'You won't see an old man murdered, Mr. Smith?' cried he,
Lancelot tore the ruffians off the old man right and left. One of
them struck him; he returned the blow; and, in an instant, promises
and Argemone, philosophy and anti-game-law prejudices, were swept
out of his head, and 'he went,' as the old romances say, 'hurling
into the midst of the press,' as mere a wild animal for the moment
as angry bull or boar. An instant afterwards, though, he burst out
laughing, in spite of himself, as 'The Battersea Bantam,' who had
been ineffectually dancing round Tregarva like a gamecock spurring
at a bull, turned off with a voice of ineffable disgust,--
'That big cove's a yokel; ta'nt creditable to waste science on him.
You're my man, if you please, sir,'--and the little wiry lump of
courage and conceit, rascality and good humour, flew at Lancelot,
who was twice his size, 'with a heroism worthy of a better cause,'
as respectable papers, when they are not too frightened, say of the
* * * * *
'Do you want any more?' asked Lancelot.
'Quite a pleasure, sir, to meet a scientific gen'lman. Beg your
pardon, sir; stay a moment while I wipes my face. Now, sir, time,
if you please.'
Alas for the little man! in another moment he tumbled over and lay
senseless--Lancelot thought he had killed him. The gang saw their
champion fall, gave ground, and limped off, leaving three of their
party groaning on the ground, beside as many Whitford men.
As it was in the beginning, so is it to be to the end, my foolish
brothers! From the poacher to the prime minister--wearying
yourselves for very vanity! The soldier is not the only man in
England who is fool enough to be shot at for a shilling a day.
But while all the rest were busy picking up the wounded men and
securing the prisoners, Harry Verney alone held on, and as the
poachers retreated slowly up the ride, he followed them, peering
into the gloom, as if in hopes of recognising some old enemy.
'Stand back, Harry Verney; we know you, and we'd be loth to harm an
old man,' cried a voice out of the darkness.
'Eh? Do you think old Harry'd turn back when he was once on the
track of ye? You soft-fisted, gin-drinking, counter-skipping
Cockney rascals, that fancy you're to carry the county before you,
because you get your fines paid by London-tradesmen! Eh? What do
you take old Harry for?'
'Go back, you old fool!' and a volley of oaths followed. 'If you
follow us, we'll fire at you, as sure as the moon's in heaven!'
'Fire away, then! I'll follow you to--!' and the old man paced
stealthily but firmly up to them.
Tregarva saw his danger and sprang forward, but it was too late.
'What, you will have it, then?'
A sharp crack followed,--a bright flash in the darkness--every white
birch-stem and jagged oak-leaf shone out for a moment as bright as
day--and in front of the glare Lancelot saw the old man throw his
arms wildly upward, fall forward, and disappear on the dark ground.
'You've done it! off with you!' And the rascals rushed off up the
In a moment Tregarva was by the old man's side, and lifted him
'They've done for me, Paul. Old Harry's got his gruel. He's heard
his last shot fired. I knowed it 'ud come to this, and I said it.
Eh? Didn't I, now, Paul?' And as the old man spoke, the workings
of his lungs pumped great jets of blood out over the still heather-
flowers as they slept in the moonshine, and dabbled them with
'Here, men,' shouted the colonel, 'up with him at once, and home!
Here, put a brace of your guns together, muzzle and lock. Help him
to sit on them, Lancelot. There, Harry, put your arms round their
necks. Tregarva, hold him up behind. Now then, men, left legs
foremost--keep step--march!' And they moved off towards the Priory.
'You seem to know everything, colonel,' said Lancelot.
The colonel did not answer for a moment.
'Lancelot, I learnt this dodge from the only friend I ever had in
the world, or ever shall have; and a week after I marched him home
to his deathbed in this very way.'
'Paul--Paul Tregarva,' whispered old Harry, 'put your head down
here: wipe my mouth, there's a man; it's wet, uncommon wet.' It
was his own life-blood. 'I've been a beast to you, Paul. I've
hated you, and envied you, and tried to ruin you. And now you've
saved my life once this night; and here you be a-nursing of me as my
own son might do, if he was here, poor fellow! I've ruined you,
Paul; the Lord forgive me!'
'Pray! pray!' said Paul, 'and He will forgive you. He is all mercy.
He pardoned the thief on the cross--'
'No, Paul, no thief,--not so bad as that, I hope, anyhow; never
touched a feather of the squire's. But you dropped a song, Paul, a
bit of writing.'
Paul turned pale.
'And--the Lord forgive me!--I put it in the squire's fly-book.'
'The Lord forgive you! Amen!' said Paul, solemnly.
Wearily and slowly they stepped on towards the old man's cottage. A
messenger had gone on before, and in a few minutes the squire, Mrs.
Lavington, and the girls, were round the bed of their old retainer.
They sent off right and left for the doctor and the vicar; the
squire was in a frenzy of rage and grief.
'Don't take on, master, don't take on,' said old Harry, as he lay;
while the colonel and Honoria in vain endeavoured to stanch the
wound. 'I knowed it would be so, sooner or later; 'tis all in the
way of business. They haven't carried off a bird, squire, not a
bird; we was too many for 'em--eh, Paul, eh?'
'Where is that cursed doctor?' said the squire. 'Save him, colonel,
save him; and I'll give you--'
Alas! the charge of shot at a few feet distance had entered like a
bullet, tearing a great ragged hole.--There was no hope, and the
colonel knew it; but he said nothing.
'The second keeper,' sighed Argemone, 'who has been killed here!
Oh, Mr. Smith, must this be? Is God's blessing on all this?'
Lancelot said nothing. The old man lighted up at Argemone's voice.
'There's the beauty, there's the pride of Whitford. And sweet Miss
Honor, too,--so kind to nurse a poor old man! But she never would
let him teach her to catch perch, would she? She was always too
tender-hearted. Ah, squire, when we're dead and gone,--dead and
gone,--squire, they'll be the pride of Whitford still! And they'll
keep up the old place--won't you, my darlings? And the old name,
too! For, you know, there must always be a Lavington in Whitford
Priors, till the Nun's pool runs up to Ashy Down.'
'And a curse upon the Lavingtons,' sighed Argemone to herself in an
Lancelot heard what she said.
The vicar entered, but he was too late. The old man's strength was
failing, and his mind began to wander.
'Windy,' he murmured to himself, 'windy, dark and windy--birds won't
lie--not old Harry's fault. How black it grows! We must be gone by
nightfall, squire. Where's that young dog gone? Arter the larks,
Old Squire Lavington sobbed like a child.
'You will soon be home, my man,' said the vicar. 'Remember that you
have a Saviour in heaven. Cast yourself on His mercy.'
Harry shook his head.
'Very good words, very kind,--very heavy gamebag, though. Never get
home, never any more at all. Where's my boy Tom to carry it? Send
for my boy Tom. He was always a good boy till he got along with
'Listen,' he said, 'listen! There's bells a-ringing--ringing in my
head. Come you here, Paul Tregarva.'
He pulled Tregarva's face down to his own, and whispered,--
'Them's the bells a-ringing for Miss Honor's wedding.'
Paul started and drew back. Harry chuckled and grinned for a moment
in his old foxy, peering way, and then wandered off again.
'What's that thumping and roaring?' Alas! it was the failing
pulsation of his own heart. 'It's the weir, the weir--a-washing me
away--thundering over me.--Squire, I'm drowning,--drowning and
choking! Oh, Lord, how deep! Now it's running quieter--now I can
breathe again--swift and oily--running on, running on, down to the
sea. See how the grayling sparkle! There's a pike! 'Tain't my
fault, squire, so help me--Don't swear, now, squire; old men and
dying maun't swear, squire. How steady the river runs down? Lower
and slower--lower and slower: now it's quite still--still--still--'
His voice sank away--he was dead!
No! once more the light flashed up in the socket. He sprang upright
in the bed, and held out his withered paw with a kind of wild
majesty, as he shouted,--
'There ain't such a head of hares on any manor in the county. And
them's the last words of Harry Verney!'
He fell back--shuddered--a rattle in his throat--another--and all
CHAPTER X: 'MURDER WILL OUT,' AND LOVE TOO
Argemone need never have known of Lancelot's share in the poaching
affray; but he dared not conceal anything from her. And so he
boldly went up the next day to the Priory, not to beg pardon, but to
justify himself, and succeeded. And, before long, he found himself
fairly installed as her pupil, nominally in spiritual matters, but
really in subjects of which she little dreamed.
Every day he came to read and talk with her, and whatever objections
Mrs. Lavington expressed were silenced by Argemone. She would have
it so, and her mother neither dared nor knew how to control her.
The daughter had utterly out-read and out-thought her less educated
parent, who was clinging in honest bigotry to the old forms, while
Argemone was wandering forth over the chaos of the strange new age,-
-a poor homeless Noah's dove, seeking rest for the sole of her foot
and finding none. And now all motherly influence and sympathy had
vanished, and Mrs. Lavington, in fear and wonder, let her daughter
go her own way. She could not have done better, perhaps; for
Providence had found for Argemone a better guide than her mother
could have done, and her new pupil was rapidly becoming her teacher.
She was matched, for the first time, with a man who was her own
equal in intellect and knowledge; and she felt how real was that
sexual difference which she had been accustomed to consider as an
insolent calumny against woman. Proudly and indignantly she
struggled against the conviction, but in vain. Again and again she
argued with him, and was vanquished,--or, at least, what is far
better, made to see how many different sides there are to every
question. All appeals to authority he answered with a contemptuous
smile. 'The best authorities?' he used to say. 'On what question
do not the best authorities flatly contradict each other? And why?
Because every man believes just what it suits him to believe. Don't
fancy that men reason themselves into convictions; the prejudices
and feelings of their hearts give them some idea or theory, and then
they find facts at their leisure to prove their theory true. Every
man sees facts through narrow spectacles, red, or green, or blue, as
his nation or his temperament colours them: and he is quite right,
only he must allow us the liberty of having our spectacles too.
Authority is only good for proving facts. We must draw our own
conclusions.' And Argemone began to suspect that he was right,--at
least to see that her opinions were mere hearsays, picked up at her
own will and fancy; while his were living, daily-growing ideas. Her
mind was beside his as the vase of cut flowers by the side of the
rugged tree, whose roots are feeding deep in the mother earth. In
him she first learnt how one great truth received into the depths of
the soul germinates there, and bears fruit a thousandfold;
explaining, and connecting, and glorifying innumerable things,
apparently the most unlike and insignificant; and daily she became a
more reverent listener, and gave herself up, half against her will
and conscience, to the guidance of a man whom she knew to be her
inferior in morals and in orthodoxy. She had worshipped intellect,
and now it had become her tyrant; and she was ready to give up every
belief which she once had prized, to flutter like a moth round its
Who can blame her, poor girl? For Lancelot's humility was even more
irresistible than his eloquence. He assumed no superiority. He
demanded her assent to truths, not because they were his opinions,
but simply for the truth's sake; and on all points which touched the
heart he looked up to her as infallible and inspired. In questions
of morality, of taste, of feeling, he listened not as a lover to his
mistress, but rather as a baby to its mother; and thus, half
unconsciously to himself, he taught her where her true kingdom lay,-
-that the heart, and not the brain, enshrines the priceless pearl of
womanhood, the oracular jewel, the 'Urim and Thummim,' before which
gross man can only inquire and adore.
And, in the meantime, a change was passing upon Lancelot. His
morbid vanity--that brawl-begotten child of struggling self-conceit
and self-disgust--was vanishing away; and as Mr. Tennyson says in
one of those priceless idyls of his, before which the shade of
Theocritus must hide his diminished head,--
'He was altered, and began
To move about the house with joy,
And with the certain step of man.'
He had, at last, found one person who could appreciate him. And in
deliberate confidence he set to work to conquer her, and make her
his own. It was a traitorous return, but a very natural one. And
she, sweet creature! walked straight into the pleasant snare,
utterly blind, because she fancied that she saw clearly. In the
pride of her mysticism, she had fancied herself above so commonplace
a passion as love. It was a curious feature of lower humanity,
which she might investigate and analyse harmlessly as a cold
scientific spectator; and, in her mingled pride and purity, she used
to indulge Lancelot in metaphysical disquisitions about love and
beauty, like that first one in their walk home from Minchampstead,
from which a less celestially innocent soul would have shrunk. She
thought, forsooth, as the old proverb says, that she could deal in
honey, without putting her hand to her mouth. But Lancelot knew
better, and marked her for his own. And daily his self-confidence
and sense of rightful power developed, and with them, paradoxical as
it may seem, the bitterest self-abasement. The contact of her
stainless innocence, the growing certainty that the destiny of that
innocence was irrevocably bound up with his own, made him shrink
from her whenever he remembered his own guilty career. To remember
that there were passages in it which she must never know--that she
would cast him from her with abhorrence if she once really
understood their vileness? To think that, amid all the closest
bonds of love, there must for ever be an awful, silent gulf in the
past, of which they must never speak!--That she would bring to him
what he could never, never bring to her!--The thought was
unbearable. And as hideous recollections used to rise before him,
devilish caricatures of his former self, mopping and mowing at him
in his dreams, he would start from his lonely bed, and pace the room
for hours, or saddle his horse, and ride all night long aimlessly
through the awful woods, vainly trying to escape himself. How
gladly, at those moments, he would have welcomed centuries of a
material hell, to escape from the more awful spiritual hell within
him,--to buy back that pearl of innocence which he had cast
recklessly to be trampled under the feet of his own swinish
passions! But, no; that which was done could never be undone,--
never, to all eternity. And more than once, as he wandered
restlessly from one room to another, the barrels of his pistols
seemed to glitter with a cold, devilish smile, and call to him,--
'Come to us! and with one touch of your finger, send that bursting
spirit which throbs against your brow to flit forth free, and
nevermore to defile her purity by your presence!'
But no, again: a voice within seemed to command him to go on, and
claim her, and win her, spite of his own vileness. And in after
years, slowly, and in fear and trembling, he knew it for the voice
of God, who had been leading him to become worthy of her through
that bitter shame of his own unworthiness.
As One higher than them would have it, she took a fancy to read
Homer in the original, and Lancelot could do no less than offer his
services as translator. She would prepare for him portions of the
Odyssey, and every day that he came up to the Priory he used to
comment on it to her; and so for many a week, in the dark wainscoted
library, and in the clipt yew-alleys of the old gardens, and under
the brown autumn trees, they quarried together in that unexhausted
mine, among the records of the rich Titan-youth of man. And step by
step Lancelot opened to her the everlasting significance of the
poem; the unconscious purity which lingers in it, like the last rays
of the Paradise dawn; its sense of the dignity of man as man; the
religious reverence with which it speaks of all human ties, human
strength and beauty--ay, even of merely animal human appetites, as
God-given and Godlike symbols. She could not but listen and admire,
when he introduced her to the sheer paganism of Schiller's Gods of
Greece; for on this subject he was more eloquent than on any. He
had gradually, in fact, as we have seen, dropped all faith in
anything but Nature; the slightest fact about a bone or a weed was
more important to him than all the books of divinity which Argemone
lent him--to be laid by unread.
'What DO you believe in?' she asked him one day, sadly.
'In THIS!' he said, stamping his foot on the ground. 'In the earth
I stand on, and the things I see walking and growing on it. There
may be something beside it--what you call a spiritual world. But if
He who made me intended me to think of spirit first, He would have
let me see it first. But as He has given me material senses, and
put me in a material world, I take it as a fair hint that I am meant
to use those senses first, whatever may come after. I may be
intended to understand the unseen world, but if so, it must be, as I
suspect, by understanding the visible one: and there are enough
wonders there to occupy me for some time to come.'
'But the Bible?' (Argemone had given up long ago wasting words about
'My only Bible as yet is Bacon. I know that he is right, whoever is
wrong. If that Hebrew Bible is to be believed by me, it must agree
with what I know already from science.'
What was to be done with so intractable a heretic? Call him an
infidel and a Materialist, of course, and cast him off with horror.
But Argemone was beginning to find out that, when people are really
in earnest, it may be better sometimes to leave God's methods of
educating them alone, instead of calling the poor honest seekers
hard names, which the speakers themselves don't understand.
But words would fail sometimes, and in default of them Lancelot had
recourse to drawings, and manifested in them a talent for thinking
in visible forms which put the climax to all Argemone's wonder. A
single profile, even a mere mathematical figure, would, in his
hands, become the illustration of a spiritual truth. And, in time,
every fresh lesson on the Odyssey was accompanied by its
illustration,--some bold and simple outline drawing. In Argemone's
eyes, the sketches were immaculate and inspired; for their chief,
almost their only fault, was just those mere anatomical slips which
a woman would hardly perceive, provided the forms were generally
graceful and bold.
One day his fancy attempted a bolder flight. He brought a large
pen-and-ink drawing, and laying it silently on the table before her,
fixed his eyes intensely on her face. The sketch was labelled, the
'Triumph of Woman.' In the foreground, to the right and left, were
scattered groups of men, in the dresses and insignia of every period
and occupation. The distance showed, in a few bold outlines, a
dreary desert, broken by alpine ridges, and furrowed here and there
by a wandering watercourse. Long shadows pointed to the half-risen
sun, whose disc was climbing above the waste horizon. And in front
of the sun, down the path of the morning beams, came Woman, clothed
only in the armour of her own loveliness. Her bearing was stately,
and yet modest; in her face pensive tenderness seemed wedded with
earnest joy. In her right hand lay a cross, the emblem of self-
sacrifice. Her path across the desert was marked by the flowers
which sprang up beneath her steps; the wild gazelle stept forward
trustingly to lick her hand; a single wandering butterfly fluttered
round her head. As the group, one by one, caught sight of her, a
human tenderness and intelligence seemed to light up every face.
The scholar dropt his book, the miser his gold, the savage his
weapons; even in the visage of the half-slumbering sot some nobler
recollection seemed wistfully to struggle into life. The artist
caught up his pencil, the poet his lyre, with eyes that beamed forth
sudden inspiration. The sage, whose broad brow rose above the group
like some torrent furrowed Alp, scathed with all the temptations and
all the sorrows of his race, watched with a thoughtful smile that
preacher more mighty than himself. A youth, decked out in the most
fantastic fopperies of the middle age, stood with clasped hands and
brimming eyes, as remorse and pleasure struggled in his face; and as
he looked, the fierce sensual features seemed to melt, and his flesh
came again to him like the flesh of a little child. The slave
forgot his fetters; little children clapped their hands; and the
toil-worn, stunted, savage woman sprung forward to kneel at her
feet, and see herself transfigured in that new and divine ideal of
Descriptions of drawings are clumsy things at best; the reader must
fill up the sketch for himself by the eye of faith.
Entranced in wonder and pleasure, Argemone let her eyes wander over
the drawing. And her feelings for Lancelot amounted almost to
worship, as she apprehended the harmonious unity of the manifold
conception,--the rugged boldness of the groups in front, the soft
grandeur of the figure which was the lodestar of all their emotions-
-the virginal purity of the whole. And when she fancied that she
traced in those bland aquiline lineaments, and in the crisp ringlets
which floated like a cloud down to the knees of the figure, some
traces of her own likeness, a dream of a new destiny flitted before
her,--she blushed to her very neck; and as she bent her face over
the drawing and gazed, her whole soul seemed to rise into her eyes,
and a single tear dropped upon the paper. She laid her hand over
it, and then turned hastily away.
'You do not like it! I have been too bold,'--said Lancelot,
'Oh, no! no! It is so beautiful--so full of deep wisdom! But--but-
-You may leave it.'
Lancelot slipped silently out of the room, he hardly knew why; and
when he was gone, Argemone caught up the drawing, pressed it to her
bosom, covered it with kisses, and hid it, as too precious for any
eyes but her own, in the farthest corner of her secretaire.
And yet she fancied that she was not in love!
The vicar saw the growth of this intimacy with a fast-lengthening
face; for it was very evident that Argemone could not serve two
masters so utterly contradictory as himself and Lancelot, and that
either the lover or the father-confessor must speedily resign
office. The vicar had had great disadvantages, by the bye, in
fulfilling the latter function; for his visits at the Priory had
been all but forbidden; and Argemone's 'spiritual state' had been
directed by means of a secret correspondence,--a method which some
clergymen, and some young ladies too, have discovered, in the last
few years, to be quite consistent with moral delicacy and filial
obedience. John Bull, like a stupid fellow as he is, has still his
doubts upon the point; but he should remember that though St. Paul
tells women when they want advice to ask their husbands at home, yet
if the poor woman has no husband, or, as often happens, her
husband's advice is unpleasant, to whom is she to go but to the next
best substitute, her spiritual cicisbeo, or favourite clergyman? In
sad earnest, neither husband nor parent deserves pity in the immense
majority of such cases. Woman will have guidance. It is her
delight and glory to be led; and if her husband or her parents will
not meet the cravings of her intellect, she must go elsewhere to
find a teacher, and run into the wildest extravagances of private
judgment, in the very hope of getting rid of it, just as poor
Argemone had been led to do.
And, indeed, she had, of late, wandered into very strange paths:
would to God they were as uncommon as strange! Both she and the
vicar had a great wish that she should lead a 'devoted life;' but
then they both disdained to use common means for their object. The
good old English plan of district visiting, by which ladies can have
mercy on the bodies and souls of those below them, without casting
off the holy discipline which a home, even the most ungenial, alone
supplies, savoured too much of mere 'Protestantism.' It might be
God's plan for christianising England just now, but that was no
reason, alas! for its being their plan: they wanted something more
'Catholic,' more in accordance with Church principles (for, indeed,
is it not the business of the Church to correct the errors of
Providence!); and what they sought they found at once in a certain
favourite establishment of the vicar's, a Church-of-England
beguinage, or quasi-Protestant nunnery, which he fostered in a
neighbouring city, and went thither on all high tides to confess the
young ladies, who were in all things nuns, but bound by no vows,
except, of course, such as they might choose to make for themselves
Here they laboured among the lowest haunts of misery and sin,
piously and self-denyingly enough, sweet souls! in hope of 'the
peculiar crown,' and a higher place in heaven than the relations
whom they had left behind them 'in the world,' and unshackled by the
interference of parents, and other such merely fleshly
relationships, which, as they cannot have been instituted by God
merely to be trampled under foot on the path to holiness, and cannot
well have instituted themselves (unless, after all, the Materialists
are right, and this world does grind of itself, except when its
Maker happens to interfere once every thousand years), must needs
have been instituted by the devil. And so more than one girl in
that nunnery, and out of it, too, believed in her inmost heart,
though her 'Catholic principles,' by a happy inconsistency, forbade
her to say so.
In a moment of excitement, fascinated by the romance of the notion,
Argemone had proposed to her mother to allow her to enter this
beguinage, and called in the vicar as advocate; which produced a
correspondence between him and Mrs. Lavington, stormy on her side,
provokingly calm on his: and when the poor lady, tired of raging,
had descended to an affecting appeal to his human sympathies,
entreating him to spare a mother's feelings, he had answered with
the same impassive fanaticism, that 'he was surprised at her putting
a mother's selfish feelings in competition with the sanctity of her
child,' and that 'had his own daughter shown such a desire for a
higher vocation, he should have esteemed it the very highest
honour;' to which Mrs. Lavington answered, naively enough, that 'it
depended very much on what his daughter was like.'--So he was all
but forbidden the house. Nevertheless he contrived, by means of
this same secret correspondence, to keep alive in Argemone's mind
the longing to turn nun, and fancied honestly that he was doing God
service, while he was pampering the poor girl's lust for singularity
But, lately, Argemone's letters had become less frequent and less
confiding; and the vicar, who well knew the reason, had resolved to
bring the matter to a crisis.
So he wrote earnestly and peremptorily to his pupil, urging her,
with all his subtle and refined eloquence, to make a final appeal to
her mother, and if that failed, to act 'as her conscience should
direct her;' and enclosed an answer from the superior of the
convent, to a letter which Argemone had in a mad moment asked him to
write. The superior's letter spoke of Argemone's joining her as a
settled matter, and of her room as ready for her, while it lauded to
the skies the peaceful activity and usefulness of the establishment.
This letter troubled Argemone exceedingly. She had never before
been compelled to face her own feelings, either about the nunnery or
about Lancelot. She had taken up the fancy of becoming a Sister of
Charity, not as Honoria might have done, from genuine love of the
poor, but from 'a sense of duty.' Almsgiving and visiting the sick
were one of the methods of earning heaven prescribed by her new
creed. She was ashamed of her own laziness by the side of Honoria's
simple benevolence; and, sad though it may be to have to say it, she
longed to outdo her by some signal act of self-sacrifice. She had
looked to this nunnery, too, as an escape, once and for all, from
her own luxury, just as people who have not strength to be temperate
take refuge in teetotalism; and the thought of menial services
towards the poor, however distasteful to her, came in quite prettily
to fill up the little ideal of a life of romantic asceticisms and
mystic contemplation, which gave the true charm in her eyes to her
wild project. But now--just as a field had opened to her cravings
after poetry and art, wider and richer than she had ever imagined--
just as those simple childlike views of man and nature, which she
had learnt to despise, were assuming an awful holiness in her eyes--
just as she had found a human soul to whose regeneration she could
devote all her energies,--to be required to give all up, perhaps for
ever (and she felt that if at all, it ought to be for ever);--it was
too much for her little heart to bear; and she cried bitterly; and
tried to pray, and could not; and longed for a strong and tender
bosom on which to lay her head, and pour out all her doubts and
struggles; and there was none. Her mother did not understand--
hardly loved her. Honoria loved her; but understood her even less
than her mother. Pride--the pride of intellect, the pride of self-
will--had long since sealed her lips to her own family. . . .
And then, out of the darkness of her heart, Lancelot's image rose
before her stronger than all, tenderer than all; and as she
remembered his magical faculty of anticipating all her thoughts,
embodying for her all her vague surmises, he seemed to beckon her
towards him.--She shuddered and turned away. And now she first
became conscious how he had haunted her thoughts in the last few
months, not as a soul to be saved, but as a living man--his face,
his figure, his voice, his every gesture and expression, rising
clear before her, in spite of herself, by day and night.
And then she thought of his last drawing, and the looks which had
accompanied it,--unmistakable looks of passionate and adoring love.
There was no denying it--she had always known that he loved her, but
she had never dared to confess it to herself. But now the
earthquake was come, and all the secrets of her heart burst upward
to the light, and she faced the thought in shame and terror. 'How
unjust I have been to him! how cruel! thus to entice him on in
She lifted up her eyes, and saw in the mirror opposite the
reflection of her own exquisite beauty.
'I could have known what I was doing! I knew all the while! And
yet it is so delicious to feel that any one loves me! Is it
selfishness? It is selfishness, to pamper my vanity on an affection
which I do not, will not return. I will not be thus in debt to him,
even for his love. I do not love him--I do not; and even if I did,
to give myself up to a man of whom I know so little, who is not even
a Christian, much less a Churchman! Ay! and to give up my will to
any man! to become the subject, the slave, of another human being!
I, who have worshipped the belief in woman's independence, the hope
of woman's enfranchisement, who have felt how glorious it is to live
like the angels, single and self-sustained! What if I cut the
Gordian knot, and here make, once for all, a vow of perpetual
She flung herself on her knees--she could not collect her thoughts.
'No,' she said, 'I am not prepared for this. It is too solemn to be
undertaken in this miserable whirlwind of passion. I will fast, and
meditate, and go up formally to the little chapel, and there devote
myself to God; and, in the meantime, to write at once to the
superior of the Beguines; to go to my mother, and tell her once for
all--What? Must I lose him?--must I give him up? Not his love--I
cannot give up that--would that I could! but no! he will love me for
ever. I know it as well as if an angel told me. But to give up
him! Never to see him! never to hear his voice! never to walk with
him among the beech woods any more! Oh, Argemone! Argemone!
miserable girl! and is it come to this?' And she threw herself on
the sofa, and hid her face in her hands.
Yes, Argemone, it is come to this; and the best thing you can do, is
just what you are doing--to lie there and cry yourself to sleep,
while the angels are laughing kindly (if a solemn public, who
settles everything for them, will permit them to laugh) at the
rickety old windmill of sham-Popery which you have taken for a real
At that same day and hour, as it chanced, Lancelot, little dreaming
what the said windmill was grinding for him, was scribbling a hasty
and angry answer to a letter of Luke's, which, perhaps, came that
very morning in order to put him into a proper temper for the
demolishing of windmills. It ran thus,--
'Ay, my good Cousin,--So I expected--
'Suave mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis
E terra magnum alterius spectare laborem . . .
Pleasant and easy for you Protestants (for I will call you what you
are, in spite of your own denials, a truly consistent and logical
Protestant--and therefore a Materialist)--easy for you, I say, to
sit on the shore, in cold, cruel self-satisfaction, and tell the
poor wretch buffeting with the waves what he ought to do while he is
choking and drowning. . . . Thank Heaven, the storm has stranded me
upon the everlasting Rock of Peter;--but it has been a sore trouble
to reach it. Protestants, who look at creeds as things to be
changed like coats, whenever they seem not to fit them, little know
what we Catholic-hearted ones suffer. . . . If they did, they would
be more merciful and more chary in the requirements of us, just as
we are in the very throe of a new-born existence. The excellent
man, to whose care I have committed myself, has a wise and a tender
heart . . . he saw no harm in my concealing from my father the
spiritual reason of my giving up my curacy (for I have given it up),
and only giving the outward, but equally true reason, that I found
it on the whole an ineligible and distressing post. . . . I know
you will apply to such an act that disgusting monosyllable of which
Protestants are so fond. He felt with me and for me--for my horror
of giving pain to my father, and for my wearied and excited state of
mind; and strangely enough--to show how differently, according to
the difference of the organs, the same object may appear to two
people--he quoted in my favour that very verse which you wrest
against me. He wished me to show my father that I had only changed
my heaven, and not my character, by becoming an Ultramontane-
Catholic . . . that, as far as his esteem and affection were founded
on anything in me, the ground of it did not vanish with my
conversion. If I had told him at once of my altered opinions, he
would have henceforth viewed every word and action with a perjudiced
eye. . . . Protestants are so bigoted . . . but if, after seeing me
for a month or two the same Luke that he had ever known me, he were
gradually informed that I had all the while held that creed which he
had considered incompatible with such a life as I hope mine would
be--you must see the effect which it ought to have. . . . I don't
doubt that you will complain of all this. . . . All I can say is,
that I cannot sympathise with that superstitious reverence for mere
verbal truth, which is so common among Protestants. . . . It seems
to me they throw away the spirit of truth, in their idolatry of its
letter. For instance,--what is the use of informing a man of a true
fact but to induce a true opinion in him? But if, by clinging to
the exact letter of the fact, you create a false opinion in his
mind, as I should do in my father's case, if by telling him at once
of my change, I gave him an unjust horror of Catholicism,--you do
not tell him the truth. . . . You may speak what is true to you,--
but it becomes an error when received into his mind. . . . If his
mind is a refracting and polarising medium--if the crystalline lens
of his soul's eye has been changed into tourmaline or Labrador spar-
-the only way to give him a true image of the fact, is to present it
to him already properly altered in form, and adapted to suit the
obliquity of his vision; in order that the very refractive power of
his faculties may, instead of distorting it, correct it, and make it
straight for him; and so a verbal wrong in fact may possess him with
a right opinion. . . .
'You see the whole question turns on your Protestant deification of
the intellect. . . . If you really believed, as you all say you do,
that the nature of man, and therefore his intellect among the rest,
was utterly corrupt, you would not be so superstitiously careful to
tell the truth . . . as you call it; because you would know that
man's heart, if not his head, would needs turn the truth into a lie
by its own corruption. . . . The proper use of reasoning is to
produce opinion,--and if the subject in which you wish to produce
the opinion is diseased, you must adapt the medicine accordingly.'
To all which Lancelot, with several strong curses, scrawled the
'And this is my Cousin Luke!--Well, I shall believe henceforward
that there is, after all, a thousand times greater moral gulf fixed
between Popery and Tractarianism, than between Tractarianism and the
extremest Protestantism. My dear fellow,--I won't bother you, by
cutting up your charming ambiguous middle terms, which make reason
and reasoning identical, or your theory that the office of reasoning
is to induce opinions--(the devil take opinions, right or wrong--I
want facts, faith in real facts!)--or about deifying the intellect--
as if all sound intellect was not in itself divine light--a
revelation to man of absolute laws independent of him, as the very
heathens hold. But this I will do--thank you most sincerely for the
compliment you pay us Cismontane heretics. We do retain some dim
belief in a God--even I am beginning to believe in believing in Him.
And therefore, as I begin to suppose, it is, that we reverence
facts, as the work of God, His acted words and will, which we dare
not falsify; which we believe will tell their own story better than
we can tell it for them. If our eyes are dimmed, we think it safer
to clear them, which do belong to us, than to bedevil, by the light
of those very ALREADY DIMMED eyes, the objects round, which do not
belong to us. Whether we are consistent or not about the
corruptness of man, we are about the incorruptness of God; and
therefore about that of the facts by which God teaches men: and
believe, and will continue to believe, that the blackest of all
sins, the deepest of all Atheisms, that which, above all things,
proves no faith in God's government of the universe, no sense of His
presence, no understanding of His character, is--a lie.
'One word more--Unless you tell your father within twenty-four hours
after receiving this letter, I will. And I, being a Protestant (if
cursing Popery means Protestantism), mean what I say.'
As Lancelot walked up to the Priory that morning, the Reverend
Panurgus O'Blareaway dashed out of a cottage by the roadside, and
seized him unceremoniously by the shoulders. He was a specimen of
humanity which Lancelot could not help at once liking and despising;
a quaint mixture of conceit and earnestness, uniting the shrewdness
of a stockjobber with the frolic of a schoolboy broke loose. He was
rector of a place in the west of Ireland, containing some ten
Protestants and some thousand Papists. Being, unfortunately for
himself, a red-hot Orangeman, he had thought fit to quarrel with the
priest, in consequence of which he found himself deprived both of
tithes and congregation; and after receiving three or four Rockite
letters, and a charge of slugs through his hat (of which he always
talked as if being shot at was the most pleasant and amusing feature
of Irish life), he repaired to England, and there, after trying to
set up as popular preacher in London, declaiming at Exeter Hall, and
writing for all the third-rate magazines, found himself incumbent of
Lower Whitford. He worked there, as he said himself, 'like a
horse;' spent his mornings in the schools, his afternoons in the
cottages; preached four or five extempore sermons every week to
overflowing congregations; took the lead, by virtue of the 'gift of
the gab,' at all 'religious' meetings for ten miles round; and
really did a great deal of good in his way. He had an unblushing
candour about his own worldly ambition, with a tremendous brogue;
and prided himself on exaggerating deliberately both of these
'The top of the morning to ye, Mr. Smith. Ye haven't such a thing
as a cegar about ye? I've been preaching to school-children till me
throat's as dry as the slave of a lime-burner's coat.'
'I am very sorry; but, really, I have left my case at home.'
'Oh! ah! faix and I forgot. Ye mustn't be smokin' the nasty things
going up to the castle. Och, Mr. Smith, but you're the lucky man!'
'I am much obliged to you for the compliment,' said Lancelot,
gruffly; 'but really I don't see how I deserve it.'
'Desarve it! Sure luck's all, and that's your luck, and not your
deserts at all. To have the handsomest girl in the county dying for
love of ye'--(Panurgus had a happy knack of blurting out truths--
when they were pleasant ones). 'And she just the beautifulest
creature that ever spilte shoe-leather, barring Lady Philandria
Mountflunkey, of Castle Mountflunkey, Quane's County, that shall be
'Upon my word, O'Blareaway, you seem to be better acquainted with my
matters than I am. Don't you think, on the whole, it might be
better to mind your own business?'
'Me own business! Poker o' Moses! and ain't it me own business?
Haven't ye spilte my tenderest hopes? And good luck to ye in that
same, for ye're as pretty a rider as ever kicked coping-stones out
of a wall; and poor Paddy loves a sportsman by nature. Och! but
ye've got a hand of trumps this time. Didn't I mate the vicar the
other day, and spake my mind to him?'
'What do you mean?' asked Lancelot, with a strong expletive.
'Faix, I told him he might as well Faugh a ballagh--make a rid road,
and get out of that, with his bowings and his crossings, and his
Popery made asy for small minds, for there was a gun a-field that
would wipe his eye,--maning yourself, ye Prathestant.'
'All I can say is, that you had really better mind your own
business, and I'll mind my own.'
'Och,' said the good-natured Irishman, 'and it's you must mind my
business, and I'll mind yours; and that's all fair and aqual. Ye've
cut me out intirely at the Priory, ye Tory, and so ye're bound to
give me a lift somehow. Couldn't ye look me out a fine fat widow,
with an illigant little fortune? For what's England made for except
to find poor Paddy a wife and money? Ah, ye may laugh, but I'd buy
me a chapel at the West-end: me talents are thrown away here
intirely, wasting me swateness on the desert air, as Tom Moore says'
(Panurgus used to attribute all quotations whatsoever to Irish
geniuses); 'and I flatter meself I'm the boy to shute the Gospel to
Lancelot burst into a roar of laughter, and escaped over the next
gate: but the Irishman's coarse hints stuck by him as they were
intended to do. 'Dying for the love of me!' He knew it was an
impudent exaggeration, but, somehow, it gave him confidence; 'there
is no smoke,' he thought, 'without fire.' And his heart beat high
with new hopes, for which he laughed at himself all the while. It
was just the cordial which he needed. That conversation determined
the history of his life.
He met Argemone that morning in the library, as usual; but he soon
found that she was not thinking of Homer. She was moody and
abstracted; and he could not help at last saying,--
'I am afraid I and my classics are de trop this morning, Miss
'Oh, no, no. Never that.' She turned away her head. He fancied
that it was to hide a tear.
Suddenly she rose, and turned to him with a clear, calm, gentle
'Listen to me, Mr. Smith. We must part to-day, and for ever. This
intimacy has gone on--too long, I am afraid, for your happiness.
And now, like all pleasant things in this miserable world, it must
cease. I cannot tell you why; but you will trust me. I thank you
for it--I thank God for it. I have learnt things from it which I
shall never forget. I have learnt, at least from it, to esteem and
honour you. You have vast powers. Nothing, nothing, I believe, is
too high for you to attempt and succeed. But we must part; and now,
God be with you. Oh, that you would but believe that these glorious
talents are His loan! That you would but be a true and loyal knight
to him who said--"Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and
ye shall find rest unto your souls!"--Ay,' she went on, more and
more passionately, for she felt that not she, but One mightier than
herself was speaking through her, 'then you might be great indeed.
Then I might watch your name from afar, rising higher and higher
daily in the ranks of God's own heroes. I see it--and you have
taught me to see it--that you are meant for a faith nobler and
deeper than all doctrines and systems can give. You must become the
philosopher, who can discover new truths--the artist who can embody
them in new forms, while poor I--And that is another reason why we
should part.--Hush! hear me out. I must not be a clog, to drag you
down in your course. Take this, and farewell; and remember that you
once had a friend called Argemone.'
She put into his hands a little Bible. He took it, and laid it down
on the table.
For a minute he stood silent and rooted to the spot.
Disappointment, shame, rage, hatred, all boiled up madly within him.
The bitterest insults rose to his lips--'Flirt, cold-hearted pedant,
fanatic!' but they sank again unspoken, as he looked into the
celestial azure of those eyes, calm and pure as a soft evening sky.
A mighty struggle between good and evil shook his heart to the
roots; and, for the first time in his life, his soul breathed out
one real prayer, that God would help him now or never to play the
man. And in a moment the darkness passed; a new spirit called out
all the latent strength within him; and gently and proudly he
'Yes, I will go. I have had mad dreams, conceited and insolent, and
have met with my deserts. Brute and fool as I am, I have aspired
even to you! And I have gained, in the sunshine of your
condescension, strength and purity.--Is not that enough for me? And
now I will show you that I love you--by obeying you. You tell me to
depart--I go for ever.'
He turned away. Why did she almost spring after him?
'Lancelot! one word! Do not misunderstand me, as I know you will.
You will think me so cold, heartless, fickle.--Oh, you do not know--
you never can know--how much I, too, have felt!'
He stopped, spell-bound. In an instant his conversation with the
Irishman flashed up before him with new force and meaning. A
thousand petty incidents, which he had driven contemptuously from
his mind, returned as triumphant evidences; and, with an impetuous
determination, he cried out,--
'I see--I see it all, Argemone! We love each other! You are mine,
never to be parted!'
What was her womanhood, that it could stand against the energy of
his manly will! The almost coarse simplicity of his words silenced
her with a delicious violence. She could only bury her face in her
hands and sob out,--
'Oh, Lancelot, Lancelot, whither are you forcing me?'
'I am forcing you no whither. God, the Father of spirits, is
leading you! You, who believe in Him, how dare you fight against
'Lancelot, I cannot--I cannot listen to you--read that!' And she
handed him the vicar's letter. He read it, tossed it on the carpet,
and crushed it with his heel.
'Wretched pedant! Can your intellect be deluded by such barefaced
sophistries? "God's will," forsooth! And if your mother's
opposition is not a sign that God's will--if it mean anything except
your own will, or that--that man's--is against this mad project, and
not for it, what sign would you have? So "celibacy is the highest
state!" And why? Because "it is the safest and the easiest road to
heaven?" A pretty reason, vicar! I should have thought that that
was a sign of a lower state and not a higher. Noble spirits show
their nobleness by daring the most difficult paths. And even if
marriage was but one weed-field of temptations, as these miserable
pedants say, who have either never tried it, or misused it to their
own shame, it would be a greater deed to conquer its temptations
than to flee from them in cowardly longings after ease and safety!'
She did not answer him, but kept her face buried in her hands.
'Again, I say, Argemone, will you fight against Fate--Providence--
God--call it what you will? Who made us meet at the chapel? Who
made me, by my accident, a guest in your father's house! Who put it
into your heart to care for my poor soul? Who gave us this strange
attraction towards each other, in spite of our unlikeness?
Wonderful that the very chain of circumstances which you seem to
fancy the offspring of chance or the devil, should have first taught
me to believe that there is a God who guides us! Argemone! speak,
tell me, if you will, to go for ever; but tell me first the truth--
You love me!'
A strong shudder ran through her frame--the ice of artificial years
cracked, and the clear stream of her woman's nature welled up to the
light, as pure as when she first lay on her mother's bosom: she
lifted up her eyes, and with one long look of passionate tenderness
she faltered out,--
'I love you!'
He did not stir, but watched her with clasped hands, like one who in
dreams finds himself in some fairy palace, and fears that a movement
may break the spell.
'Now, go,' she said; 'go, and let me collect my thoughts. All this
has been too much for me. Do not look sad--you may come again to-
She smiled and held out her hand. He caught it, covered it with
kisses, and pressed it to his heart. She half drew it back,
frightened. The sensation was new to her. Again the delicious
feeling of being utterly in his power came over her, and she left
her hand upon his heart, and blushed as she felt its passionate
He turned to go--not as before. She followed with greedy eyes her
new-found treasure; and as the door closed behind him, she felt as
if Lancelot was the whole world, and there was nothing beside him,
and wondered how a moment had made him all in all to her; and then
she sank upon her knees, and folded her hands upon her bosom, and
her prayers for him were like the prayers of a little child.
CHAPTER XI: THUNDERSTORM THE FIRST
But what had become of the 'bit of writing' which Harry Verney, by
the instigation of his evil genius, had put into the squire's fly-
book? Tregarva had waited in terrible suspense for many weeks,
expecting the explosion which he knew must follow its discovery. He
had confided to Lancelot the contents of the paper, and Lancelot had
tried many stratagems to get possession of it, but all in vain.
Tregarva took this as calmly as he did everything else. Only once,
on the morning of the eclaircissement between Lancelot and Argemone,
he talked to Lancelot of leaving his place, and going out to seek
his fortune; but some spell, which he did not explain, seemed to
chain him to the Priory. Lancelot thought it was the want of money,
and offered to lend him ten pounds whenever he liked; but Tregarva
shook his head.
'You have treated me, sir, as no one else has done--like a man and a
friend; but I am not going to make a market of your generosity. I
will owe no man anything, save to love one another.'
'But how do you intend to live?' asked Lancelot, as they stood
together in the cloisters.
'There's enough of me, sir, to make a good navigator if all trades
'Nonsense! you must not throw yourself away so.'
'Oh, sir, there's good to be done, believe me, among those poor
fellows. They wander up and down the land like hogs and heathens,
and no one tells them that they have a soul to be saved. Not one
parson in a thousand gives a thought to them. They can manage old
folks and little children, sir, but, somehow, they never can get
hold of the young men--just those who want them most. There's a
talk about ragged schools, now. Why don't they try ragged churches,
sir, and a ragged service?'
'What do you mean?'
'Why, sir, the parsons are ready enough to save souls, but it must
be only according to rule and regulation. Before the Gospel can be
preached there must be three thousand pounds got together for a
church, and a thousand for an endowment, not to mention the thousand
pounds that the clergyman's education costs: I don't think of his
own keep, sir; that's little enough, often; and those that work
hardest get least pay, it seems to me. But after all that expense,
when they've built the church, it's the tradesmen, and the gentry,
and the old folk that fill it, and the working men never come near
it from one year's end to another.'
'What's the cause, do you think?' asked Lancelot, who had himself
remarked the same thing more than once.
'Half of the reason, sir, I do believe, is that same Prayer-book.
Not that the Prayer-book ain't a fine book enough, and a true one;
but, don't you see, sir, to understand the virtue of it, the poor
fellows ought to be already just what you want to make them.'
'You mean that they ought to be thorough Christians already, to
appreciate the spirituality of the liturgy.'
'You've hit it, sir. And see what comes of the present plan; how a
navvy drops into a church by accident, and there he has to sit like
a fish out of water, through that hour's service, staring or
sleeping, before he can hear a word that he understands; and, sir,
when the sermon does come at last, it's not many of them can make
much out of those fine book-words and long sentences. Why don't
they have a short simple service, now and then, that might catch the
ears of the roughs and the blowens, without tiring out the poor
thoughtless creatures' patience, as they do now?'
'Because,' said Lancelot,--'because--I really don't know why.--But I
think there is a simpler plan than even a ragged service.'
'What, then, sir?'
'Field-preaching. If the mountain won't come to Mahomet, let
Mahomet go to the mountain.'
'Right, sir; right you are. "Go out into the highways and hedges,
and compel them to come in." And why are they to speak to them only
one by one? Why not by the dozen and the hundred? We Wesleyans
know, sir,--for the matter of that, every soldier knows,--what
virtue there is in getting a lot of men together; how good and evil
spread like wildfire through a crowd; and one man, if you can stir
him up, will become leaven to leaven the whole lump. Oh why, sir,
are they so afraid of field-preaching? Was not their Master and
mine the prince of all field-preachers? Think, if the Apostles had
waited to collect subscriptions for a church before they spoke to
the poor heathens, where should we have been now?'
Lancelot could not but agree. But at that moment a footman came up,
and, with a face half laughing, half terrified, said,--
'Tregarva, master wants you in the study. And please, sir, I think
you had better go in too; master knows you're here, and you might
speak a word for good, for he's raging like a mad bull.'
'I knew it would come at last,' said Tregarva, quietly, as he
followed Lancelot into the house.
It had come at last. The squire was sitting in his study, purple
with rage, while his daughters were trying vainly to pacify him.
All the men-servants, grooms, and helpers, were drawn up in line
along the wall, and greeted Tregarva, whom they all heartily liked,
with sly and sorrowful looks of warning,
'Here, you sir; you--, look at this! Is this the way you repay me?
I, who have kept you out of the workhouse, treated you like my own
child? And then to go and write filthy, rascally, Radical ballads
on me and mine! This comes of your Methodism, you canting, sneaking
hypocrite!--you viper--you adder--you snake--you--!' And the
squire, whose vocabulary was not large, at a loss for another
synonym, rounded off his oration by a torrent of oaths; at which
Argemone, taking Honoria's hand, walked proudly out of the room,
with one glance at Lancelot of mingled shame and love. 'This is
your handwriting, you villain! you know it' (and the squire tossed
the fatal paper across the table); 'though I suppose you'll lie
about it. How can you depend on fellows who speak evil of their
betters? But all the servants are ready to swear it's your
'Beg your pardon, sir,' interposed the old butler, 'we didn't quite
say that; but we'll all swear it isn't ours.'
'The paper is mine,' said Tregarva.
'Confound your coolness! He's no more ashamed of it than--Read it
out, Smith, read it out every word; and let them all hear how this
pauper, this ballad-singing vagabond, whom I have bred up to insult
me, dares to abuse his own master.'
'I have not abused you, sir,' answered Tregarva. 'I will be heard,
sir!' he went on in a voice which made the old man start from his
seat and clench his fist but he sat down again. 'Not a word in it
is meant for you. You have been a kind and a good master to me.
Ask where you will if I was ever heard to say a word against you. I
would have cut off my right hand sooner than write about you or
yours. But what I had to say about others lies there, and I am not
ashamed of it.'
'Not against me? Read it out, Smith, and see if every word of it