Infomotions, Inc.The Altar Steps / MacKenzie, Compton, 1883-1972



Author: MacKenzie, Compton, 1883-1972
Title: The Altar Steps
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Title: The Altar Steps

Author: Compton MacKenzie

Release Date: January 20, 2005 [EBook #14739]

Language: English

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THE ALTAR STEPS

BY

COMPTON MACKENZIE

_Author of "Carnival," "Youth's Encounter,"
"Poor Relations," etc._



NEW YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
1922




_The only portrait in this book is
of one who is now dead_




THIS BOOK, THE PRELUDE TO
_The Parson's Progress_

I INSCRIBE
WITH DEEPEST AFFECTION
TO MY MOTHER

_S. Valentine's Day, 1922._




CONTENTS

     I  The Bishop's Shadow

    II  The Lima Street Mission

   III  Religious Education

    IV  Husband and Wife

     V  Palm Sunday

    VI  Nancepean

   VII  Life at Nancepean

  VIII  The Wreck

    IX  Slowbridge

     X  Whit-Sunday

    XI  Meade Cantorum

   XII  The Pomeroy Affair

  XIII  Wych-on-the-Wold

   XIV  St. Mark's Day

    XV  The Scholarship

   XVI  Chatsea

  XVII  The Drunken Priest

 XVIII  Silchester College Mission

   XIX  The Altar for the Dead

    XX  Father Rowley

   XXI  Points of View

  XXII  Sister Esther Magdalene

 XXIII  Malford Abbey

  XXIV  The Order of St. George

   XXV  Suscipe Me, Domine

  XXVI  Addition

 XXVII  Multiplication

XXVIII  Division

  XXIX  Subtraction

   XXX  The New Bishop of Silchester

  XXXI  Silchester Theological College

 XXXII  Ember Days




THE ALTAR STEPS



CHAPTER I

THE BISHOP'S SHADOW


Frightened by some alarm of sleep that was forgotten in the moment of
waking, a little boy threw back the bedclothes and with quick heart and
breath sat listening to the torrents of darkness that went rolling by.
He dared not open his mouth to scream lest he should be suffocated; he
dared not put out his arm to search for the bell-rope lest he should be
seized; he dared not hide beneath the blankets lest he should be kept
there; he could do nothing except sit up trembling in a vain effort to
orientate himself. Had the room really turned upside down? On an impulse
of terror he jumped back from the engorging night and bumped his
forehead on one of the brass knobs of the bedstead. With horror he
apprehended that what he had so often feared had finally come to pass.
An earthquake had swallowed up London in spite of everybody's assurance
that London could not be swallowed up by earthquakes. He was going down
down to smoke and fire . . . or was it the end of the world? The quick
and the dead . . . skeletons . . . thousands and thousands of skeletons.
. . .

"Guardian Angel!" he shrieked.

Now surely that Guardian Angel so often conjured must appear. A shaft of
golden candlelight flickered through the half open door. The little boy
prepared an attitude to greet his Angel that was a compound of the
suspicion and courtesy with which he would have welcomed a new governess
and the admiring fellowship with which he would have thrown a piece of
bread to a swan.

"Are you awake, Mark?" he heard his mother whisper outside.

He answered with a cry of exultation and relief.

"Oh, Mother," he sighed, clinging to the soft sleeves of her
dressing-gown. "I thought it was being the end of the world."

"What made you think that, my precious?"

"I don't know. I just woke up, and the room was upside down. And first I
thought it was an earthquake, and then I thought it was the Day of
Judgment." He suddenly began to chuckle to himself. "How silly of me,
Mother. Of course it couldn't be the Day of Judgment, because it's
night, isn't it? It couldn't ever be the Day of Judgment in the night,
could it?" he continued hopefully.

Mrs. Lidderdale did not hesitate to reassure her small son on this
point. She had no wish to add another to that long list of nightly fears
and fantasies which began with mad dogs and culminated in the Prince of
Darkness himself.

"The room looks quite safe now, doesn't it?" Mark theorized.

"It is quite safe, darling."

"Do you think I could have the gas lighted when you really _must_ go?"

"Just a little bit for once."

"Only a little bit?" he echoed doubtfully. A very small illumination was
in its eerie effect almost worse than absolute darkness.

"It isn't healthy to sleep with a great deal of light," said his mother.

"Well, how much could I have? Just for once not a crocus, but a tulip.
And of course not a violet."

Mark always thought of the gas-jets as flowers. The dimmest of all was
the violet; followed by the crocus, the tulip, and the water-lily; the
last a brilliant affair with wavy edges, and sparkling motes dancing
about in the blue water on which it swam.

"No, no, dearest boy. You really can't have as much as that. And now
snuggle down and go to sleep again. I wonder what made you wake up?"

Mark seized upon this splendid excuse to detain his mother for awhile.

"Well, it wasn't ergzackly a dream," he began to improvise. "Because I
was awake. And I heard a terrible plump and I said 'what can that be?'
and then I was frightened and. . . ."

"Yes, well, my sweetheart, you must tell Mother in the morning."

Mark perceived that he had been too slow in working up to his crisis and
desperately he sought for something to arrest the attention of his
beloved audience.

"Perhaps my Guardian Angel was beside me all the time, because, look!
here's a feather."

He eyed his mother, hoping against hope that she would pretend to accept
his suggestion; but alas, she was severely unimaginative.

"Now, darling, don't talk foolishly. You know perfectly that is only a
feather which has worked its way out of your pillow."

"Why?"

The monosyllable had served Mark well in its time; but even as he fell
back upon this stale resource he knew it had failed at last.

"I can't stay to explain 'why' now; but if you try to think you'll
understand why."

"Mother, if I don't have any gas at all, will you sit with me in the
dark for a little while, a tiny little while, and stroke my forehead
where I bumped it on the knob of the bed? I really did bump it quite
hard--I forgot to tell you that. I forgot to tell you because when it
was you I was so excited that I forgot."

"Now listen, Mark. Mother wants you to be a very good boy and turn over
and go to sleep. Father is very worried and very tired, and the Bishop
is coming tomorrow."

"Will he wear a hat like the Bishop who came last Easter? Why is he
coming?"

"No darling, he's not that kind of bishop. I can't explain to you why
he's coming, because you wouldn't understand; but we're all very
anxious, and you must be good and brave and unselfish. Now kiss me and
turn over."

Mark flung his arms round his mother's neck, and thrilled by a sudden
desire to sacrifice himself murmured that he would go to sleep in the
dark.

"In the quite dark," he offered, dipping down under the clothes so as to
be safe by the time the protecting candle-light wavered out along the
passage and the soft closing of his mother's door assured him that come
what might there was only a wall between him and her.

"And perhaps she won't go to sleep before I go to sleep," he hoped.

At first Mark meditated upon bishops. The perversity of night thoughts
would not allow him to meditate upon the pictures of some child-loving
bishop like St. Nicolas, but must needs fix his contemplation upon a
certain Bishop of Bingen who was eaten by rats. Mark could not remember
why he was eaten by rats, but he could with dreadful distinctness
remember that the prelate escaped to a castle on an island in the middle
of the Rhine, and that the rats swam after him and swarmed in by every
window until his castle was--ugh!--Mark tried to banish from his mind
the picture of the wicked Bishop Hatto and the rats, millions of them,
just going to eat him up. Suppose a lot of rats came swarming up Notting
Hill and unanimously turned to the right into Notting Dale and ate him?
An earthquake would be better than that. Mark began to feel thoroughly
frightened again; he wondered if he dared call out to his mother and put
forward the theory that there actually was a rat in his room. But he had
promised her to be brave and unselfish, and . . . there was always the
evening hymn to fall back upon.

    _Now the day is over,_
    _Night is drawing nigh,_
    _Shadows of the evening_
    _Steal across the sky._

Mark thought of a beautiful evening in the country as beheld in a Summer
Number, more of an afternoon really than an evening, with trees making
shadows right across a golden field, and spotted cows in the foreground.
It was a blissful and completely soothing picture while it lasted; but
it soon died away, and he was back in the midway of a London night with
icy stretches of sheet to right and left of him instead of golden
fields.

    _Now the darkness gathers,_
      _Stars begin to peep,_
    _Birds and beasts and flowers_
      _Soon will be asleep._

But rats did not sleep; they were at their worst and wake-fullest in the
night time.

    _Jesu, give the weary_
      _Calm and sweet repose,_
    _With thy tenderest blessing_
      _May mine eyelids close._

Mark waited a full five seconds in the hope that he need not finish the
hymn; but when he found that he was not asleep after five seconds he
resumed:

    _Grant to little children_
      _Visions bright of Thee;_
    _Guard the sailors tossing_
      _On the deep blue sea._

Mark envied the sailors.

    _Comfort every sufferer_
      _Watching late in pain._

This was a most encouraging couplet. Mark did not suppose that in the
event of a great emergency--he thanked Mrs. Ewing for that long and
descriptive word--the sufferers would be able to do much for him; but
the consciousness that all round him in the great city they were lying
awake at this moment was most helpful. At this point he once more
waited five seconds for sleep to arrive. The next couplet was less
encouraging, and he would have been glad to miss it out.

    _Those who plan some evil_
      _From their sin restrain._

Yes, but prayers were not always answered immediately. For instance he
was still awake. He hurried on to murmur aloud in fervour:

    _Through the long night watches_
      _May Thine Angels spread_
    _Their white wings above me,_
      _Watching round my bed._

A delicious idea, and even more delicious was the picture contained in
the next verse.

    _When the morning wakens,_
      _Then may I arise_
    _Pure, and fresh, and sinless_
      _In Thy Holy Eyes._

    _Glory to the Father,_
      _Glory to the Son,_
    _And to thee, blest Spirit,_
      _Whilst all ages run. Amen._

Mark murmured the last verse with special reverence in the hope that by
doing so he should obtain a speedy granting of the various requests in
the earlier part of the hymn.

In the morning his mother put out Sunday clothes for him.

"The Bishop is coming to-day," she explained.

"But it isn't going to be like Sunday?" Mark inquired anxiously. An
extra Sunday on top of such a night would have been hard to bear.

"No, but I want you to look nice."

"I can play with my soldiers?"

"Oh, yes, you can play with your soldiers."

"I won't bang, I'll only have them marching."

"No, dearest, don't bang. And when the Bishop comes to lunch I want you
not to ask questions. Will you promise me that?"

"Don't bishops like to be asked questions?"

"No, darling. They don't."

Mark registered this episcopal distaste in his memory beside other facts
such as that cats object to having their tails pulled.




CHAPTER II

THE LIMA STREET MISSION


In the year 1875, when the strife of ecclesiastical parties was bitter
and continuous, the Reverend James Lidderdale came as curate to the
large parish of St. Simon's, Notting Hill, which at that period was
looked upon as one of the chief expositions of what Disraeli called
"man-millinery." Inasmuch as the coiner of the phrase was a Jew, the
priests and people of St. Simon's paid no attention to it, and were
proud to consider themselves an outpost of the Catholic Movement in the
Church of England. James Lidderdale was given the charge of the Lima
Street Mission, a tabernacle of corrugated iron dedicated to St.
Wilfred; and Thurston, the Vicar of St. Simon's, who was a wise,
generous and single-hearted priest, was quick to recognize that his
missioner was capable of being left to convert the Notting Dale slum in
his own way.

"If St. Simon's is an outpost of the Movement, Lidderdale must be one of
the vedettes," he used to declare with a grin.

The Missioner was a tall hatchet-faced hollow-eyed ascetic, harsh and
bigoted in the company of his equals whether clerical or lay, but with
his flock tender and comprehending and patient. The only indulgence he
accorded to his senses was in the forms and ceremonies of his ritual,
the vestments and furniture of his church. His vicar was able to give
him a free hand in the obscure squalor of Lima Street; the
ecclesiastical battles he himself had to fight with bishops who were
pained or with retired military men who were disgusted by his own
conduct of the services at St. Simon's were not waged within the hearing
of Lima Street. There, year in, year out for six years, James Lidderdale
denied himself nothing in religion, in life everything. He used to
preach in the parish church during the penitential seasons, and with
such effect upon the pockets of his congregation that the Lima Street
Mission was rich for a long while afterward. Yet few of the worshippers
in the parish church visited the object of their charity, and those that
did venture seldom came twice. Lidderdale did not consider that it was
part of the Lima Street religion to be polite to well-dressed explorers
of the slum; in fact he rather encouraged Lima Street to suppose the
contrary.

"I don't like these dressed up women in my church," he used to tell his
vicar. "They distract my people's attention from the altar."

"Oh, I quite see your point," Thurston would agree.

"And I don't like these churchy young fools who come simpering down in
top-hats, with rosaries hanging out of their pockets. Lima Street
doesn't like them either. Lima Street is provoked to obscene comment,
and that just before Mass. It's no good, Vicar. My people are savages,
and I like them to remain savages so long as they go to their duties,
which Almighty God be thanked they do."

On one occasion the Archdeacon, who had been paying an official visit to
St. Simon's, expressed a desire to see the Lima Street Mission.

"Of which I have heard great things, great things, Mr. Thurston," he
boomed condescendingly.

The Vicar was doubtful of the impression that the Archdeacon's gaiters
would make on Lima Street, and he was also doubtful of the impression
that the images and prickets of St. Wilfred's would make on the
Archdeacon. The Vicar need not have worried. Long before Lima Street was
reached, indeed, halfway down Strugwell Terrace, which was the main road
out of respectable Notting Hill into the Mission area, the comments upon
the Archdeacon's appearance became so embarrassing that the dignitary
looked at his watch and remarked that after all he feared he should not
be able to spare the time that afternoon.

"But I am surprised," he observed when his guide had brought him safely
back into Notting Hill. "I am surprised that the people are still so
uncouth. I had always understood that a great work of purification had
been effected, that in fact--er--they were quite--er--cleaned up."

"In body or soul?" Thurston inquired.

"The whole district," said the Archdeacon vaguely. "I was referring to
the general tone, Mr. Thurston. One might be pardoned for supposing that
they had never seen a clergyman before. Of course one is loath--very
loath indeed--to criticize sincere effort of any kind, but I think that
perhaps almost the chief value of the missions we have established in
these poverty-stricken areas lies in their capacity for civilizing the
poor people who inhabit them. One is so anxious to bring into their drab
lives a little light, a little air. I am a great believer in education.
Oh, yes, Mr. Thurston, I have great hopes of popular education. However,
as I say, I should not dream of criticizing your work at St. Wilfred's."

"It is not my work. It is the work of one of my curates. And," said the
Vicar to Lidderdale, when he was giving him an account of the projected
visitation, "I believe the pompous ass thought I was ashamed of it."

Thurston died soon after this, and, his death occurring at a moment when
party strife in the Church was fiercer than ever, it was considered
expedient by the Lord Chancellor, in whose gift the living was, to
appoint a more moderate man than the late vicar. Majendie, the new man,
when he was sure of his audience, claimed to be just as advanced as
Thurston; but he was ambitious of preferment, or as he himself put it,
he felt that, when a member of the Catholic party had with the exercise
of prudence and tact an opportunity of enhancing the prestige of his
party in a higher ecclesiastical sphere, he should be wrong to neglect
it. Majendie's aim therefore was to avoid controversy with his
ecclesiastical superiors, and at a time when, as he told Lidderdale, he
was stepping back in order to jump farther, he was anxious that his
missioner should step back with him.

"I'm not suggesting, my dear fellow, that you should bring St. Wilfred's
actually into line with the parish church. But the Asperges, you know. I
can't countenance that. And the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday.
I really think that kind of thing creates unnecessary friction."

Lidderdale's impulse was to resign at once, for he was a man who found
restraint galling where so much passion went to his belief in the truth
of his teaching. When, however, he pondered how little he had done and
how much he had vowed to do, he gave way and agreed to step back with
his vicar. He was never convinced that he had taken the right course at
this crisis, and he spent hours in praying for an answer by God to a
question already answered by himself. The added strain of these hours of
prayer, which were not robbed from his work in the Mission, but from the
already short enough time he allowed himself for sleep, told upon his
health, and he was ordered by the doctor to take a holiday to avoid a
complete breakdown of health. He stayed for two months in Cornwall, and
came back with a wife, the daughter of a Cornish parson called Trehawke.
Lidderdale had been a fierce upholder of celibacy, and the news of his
marriage astonished all who knew him.

Grace Lidderdale with her slanting sombre eyes and full upcurving lips
made the pink and white Madonnas of the little mission church look
insipid, and her husband was horrified when he found himself criticizing
the images whose ability to lure the people of Lima Street to worship in
the way he believed to be best for their souls he had never doubted.
Yet, for all her air of having _trafficked for strange webs with Eastern
merchants_, Mrs. Lidderdale was only outwardly Phoenician or Iberian or
whatever other dimly imagined race is chosen for the strange types that
in Cornwall more than elsewhere so often occur. Actually she was a
simple and devout soul, loving husband and child and the poor people
with whom they lived. Doubtless she had looked more appropriate to her
surroundings in the tangled garden of her father's vicarage than in the
bleak Mission House of Lima Street; but inasmuch as she never thought
about her appearance it would have been a waste of time for anybody to
try to romanticize her. The civilizing effect of her presence in the
slum was quickly felt; and though Lidderdale continued to scoff at the
advantages of civilization, he finally learnt to give a grudging
welcome to her various schemes for making the bodies of the flock as
comfortable as her husband tried to make their souls.

When Mark was born, his father became once more the prey of gloomy
doubt. The guardianship of a soul which he was responsible for bringing
into the world was a ceaseless care, and in his anxiety to dedicate his
son to God he became a harsh and unsympathetic parent. Out of that
desire to justify himself for having been so inconsistent as to take a
wife and beget a son Lidderdale redoubled his efforts to put the Lima
Street Mission on a permanent basis. The civilization of the slum, which
was attributed by pious visitors to regular attendance at Mass rather
than to Mrs. Lidderdale's gentleness and charm, made it much easier for
outsiders to explore St. Simon's parish as far as Lima Street. Money for
the great church he designed to build on a site adjoining the old
tabernacle began to flow in; and five years after his marriage
Lidderdale had enough money subscribed to begin to build. The
rubbish-strewn waste-ground overlooked by the back-windows of the
Mission House was thronged with workmen; day by day the walls of the new
St. Wilfred's rose higher. Fifteen years after Lidderdale took charge of
the Lima Street Mission, it was decided to ask for St. Wilfred's,
Notting Dale, to be created a separate parish. The Reverend Aylmer
Majendie had become a canon residentiary of Chichester and had been
succeeded as vicar by the Reverend L. M. Astill, a man more of the type
of Thurston and only too anxious to help his senior curate to become a
vicar, and what is more cut L200 a year off his own net income in doing
so.

But when the question arose of consecrating the new St. Wilfred's in
order to the creation of a new parish, the Bishop asked many questions
that were never asked about the Lima Street Mission. There were Stations
of the Cross reported to be of an unusually idolatrous nature. There was
a second chapel apparently for the express purpose of worshipping the
Virgin Mary.

"He writes to me as if he suspected me of trying to carry on an
intrigue with the Mother of God," cried Lidderdale passionately to his
vicar.

"Steady, steady, dear man," said Astill. "You'll ruin your case by such
ill-considered exaggeration."

"But, Vicar, these cursed bishops of the Establishment who would rather
a whole parish went to Hell than give up one jot or one tittle of their
prejudice!" Lidderdale ejaculated in wrath.

Furthermore, the Bishop wanted to know if the report that on Good Friday
was held a Roman Catholic Service called the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified
followed by the ceremony of Creeping to the Cross was true. When
Majendie departed, the Lima Street Missioner jumped a long way forward
in one leap. There were many other practices which he (the Bishop) could
only characterize as highly objectionable and quite contrary to the
spirit of the Church of England, and would Mr. Lidderdale pay him a
visit at Fulham Palace as soon as possible. Lidderdale went, and he
argued with the Bishop until the Chaplain thought his Lordship had heard
enough, after which the argument was resumed by letter. Then Lidderdale
was invited to lunch at Fulham Palace and to argue the whole question
over again in person. In the end the Bishop was sufficiently impressed
by the Missioner's sincerity and zeal to agree to withhold his decision
until the Lord Bishop Suffragan of Devizes had paid a visit to the
proposed new parish. This was the visit that was expected on the day
after Mark Lidderdale woke from a nightmare and dreamed that London was
being swallowed up by an earthquake.




CHAPTER III

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION


When Mark was grown up and looked back at his early childhood--he was
seven years old in the year in which his father was able to see the new
St. Wilfred's an edifice complete except for consecration--it seemed to
him that his education had centered in the prevention of his acquiring a
Cockney accent. This was his mother's dread and for this reason he was
not allowed to play more than Christian equality demanded with the boys
of Lima Street. Had his mother had her way, he would never have been
allowed to play with them at all; but his father would sometimes break
out into fierce tirades against snobbery and hustle him out of the house
to amuse himself with half-a-dozen little girls looking after a dozen
babies in dilapidated perambulators, and countless smaller boys and
girls ragged and grubby and mischievous.

"You leave that kebbidge-stalk be, Elfie!"

"Ethel! Jew hear your ma calling you, you naughty girl?"

"Stanlee! will you give over fishing in that puddle, this sminute. I'll
give you such a slepping, you see if I don't."

"Come here, Maybel, and let me blow your nose. Daisy Hawkins, lend us
your henkerchif, there's a love! Our Maybel wants to blow her nose. Oo,
she is a sight! Come here, Maybel, do, and leave off sucking that orange
peel. There's the Father's little boy looking at you. Hold your head up,
do."

Mark would stand gravely to attention while Mabel Williams' toilet was
adjusted, and as gravely follow the shrill raucous procession to watch
pavement games like Hop Scotch or to help in gathering together enough
sickly greenery from the site of the new church to make the summer
grotto, which in Lima Street was a labour of love, since few of the
passers by in that neighbourhood could afford to remember St. James'
grotto with a careless penny.

The fact that all the other little boys and girls called the Missioner
Father made it hard for Mark to understand his own more particular
relationship to him, and Lidderdale was so much afraid of showing any
more affection to one child of his flock than to another that he was
less genial with his own son than with any of the other children. It was
natural that in these circumstances Mark should be even more dependent
than most solitary children upon his mother, and no doubt it was through
his passion to gratify her that he managed to avoid that Cockney accent.
His father wanted his first religious instruction to be of the communal
kind that he provided in the Sunday School. One might have thought that
he distrusted his wife's orthodoxy, so strongly did he disapprove of her
teaching Mark by himself in the nursery.

"It's the curse of the day," he used to assert, "this pampering of
children with an individual religion. They get into the habit of
thinking God is their special property and when they get older and find
he isn't, as often as not they give up religion altogether, because it
doesn't happen to fit in with the spoilt notions they got hold of as
infants."

Mark's bringing up was the only thing in which Mrs. Lidderdale did not
give way to her husband. She was determined that he should not have a
Cockney accent, and without irritating her husband any more than was
inevitable she was determined that he should not gobble down his
religion as a solid indigestible whole. On this point she even went so
far as directly to contradict the boy's father and argue that an
intelligent boy like Mark was likely to vomit up such an indigestible
whole later on, although she did not make use of such a coarse
expression.

"All mothers think their sons are the cleverest in the world."

"But, James, he _is_ an exceptionally clever little boy. Most observant,
with a splendid memory and plenty of imagination."

"Too much imagination. His nights are one long circus."

"But, James, you yourself have insisted so often on the personal Devil;
you can't expect a little boy of Mark's sensitiveness not to be
impressed by your picture."

"He has nothing to fear from the Devil, if he behaves himself. Haven't I
made that clear?"

Mrs. Lidderdale sighed.

"But, James dear, a child's mind is so literal, and though I know you
insist just as much on the reality of the Saints and Angels, a child's
mind is always most impressed by the things that have power to frighten
it."

"I want him to be frightened by Evil," declared James. "But go your own
way. Soften down everything in our Holy Religion that is ugly and
difficult. Sentimentalize the whole business. That's our modern method
in everything."

This was one of many arguments between husband and wife about the
religious education of their son.

Luckily for Mark his father had too many children, real children and
grown up children, in the Mission to be able to spend much time with his
son; and the teaching of Sunday morning, the clear-cut uncompromising
statement of hard religious facts in which the Missioner delighted, was
considerably toned down by his wife's gentle commentary.

Mark's mother taught him that the desire of a bad boy to be a good boy
is a better thing than the goodness of a Jack Horner. She taught him
that God was not merely a crotchety old gentleman reclining in a blue
dressing-gown on a mattress of cumulus, but that He was an Eye, an
all-seeing Eye, an Eye capable indeed of flashing with rage, yet so
rarely that whenever her little boy should imagine that Eye he might
behold it wet with tears.

"But can God cry?" asked Mark incredulously.

"Oh, darling. God can do everything."

"But fancy crying! If I could do everything I shouldn't cry."

Mrs. Lidderdale perceived that her picture of the wise and compassionate
Eye would require elaboration.

"But do you only cry, Mark dear, when you can't do what you want? Those
are not nice tears. Don't you ever cry because you're sorry you've been
disobedient?"

"I don't think so, Mother," Mark decided after a pause. "No, I don't
think I cry because I'm sorry except when you're sorry, and that
sometimes makes me cry. Not always, though. Sometimes I'm glad you're
sorry. I feel so angry that I like to see you sad."

"But you don't often feel like that?"

"No, not often," he admitted.

"But suppose you saw somebody being ill-treated, some poor dog or cat
being teased, wouldn't you feel inclined to cry?"

"Oh, no," Mark declared. "I get quite red inside of me, and I want to
kick the people who is doing it."

"Well, now you can understand why God sometimes gets angry. But even if
He gets angry," Mrs. Lidderdale went on, for she was rather afraid of
her son's capacity for logic, "God never lets His anger get the better
of Him. He is not only sorry for the poor dog, but He is also sorry for
the poor person who is ill-treating the dog. He knows that the poor
person has perhaps never been taught better, and then the Eye fills with
tears again."

"I think I like Jesus better than God," said Mark, going off at a
tangent. He felt that there were too many points of resemblance between
his own father and God to make it prudent to persevere with the
discussion. On the subject of his father he always found his mother
strangely uncomprehending, and the only times she was really angry with
him was when he refused out of his basic honesty to admit that he loved
his father.

"But Our Lord _is_ God," Mrs. Lidderdale protested.

Mark wrinkled his face in an effort to confront once more this eternal
puzzle.

"Don't you remember, darling, three Persons and one God?"

Mark sighed.

"You haven't forgotten that clover-leaf we picked one day in Kensington
Gardens?"

"When we fed the ducks on the Round Pond?"

"Yes, darling, but don't think about ducks just now. I want you to think
about the Holy Trinity."

"But I can't understand the Holy Trinity, Mother," he protested.

"Nobody can understand the Holy Trinity. It is a great mystery."

"Mystery," echoed Mark, taking pleasure in the word. It always thrilled
him, that word, ever since he first heard it used by Dora the servant
when she could not find her rolling-pin.

"Well, where that rolling-pin's got to is a mystery," she had declared.

Then he had seen the word in print. The Coram Street Mystery. All about
a dead body. He had pronounced it "micetery" at first, until he had been
corrected and was able to identify the word as the one used by Dora
about her rolling-pin. History stood for the hard dull fact, and mystery
stood for all that history was not. There were no dates in "mystery:"
Mark even at seven years, such was the fate of intelligent precocity,
had already had to grapple with a few conspicuous dates in the immense
tale of humanity. He knew for instance that William the Conqueror landed
in 1066, and that St. Augustine landed in 596, and that Julius Caesar
landed, but he could never remember exactly when. The last time he was
asked that date, he had countered with a request to know when Noah had
landed.

"The Holy Trinity is a mystery."

It belonged to the category of vanished rolling-pins and dead bodies
huddled up in dustbins: it had no date.

But what Mark liked better than speculations upon the nature of God were
the tales that were told like fairy tales without its seeming to matter
whether you remembered them or not, and which just because it did not
matter you were able to remember so much more easily. He could have
listened for ever to the story of the lupinseeds that rattled in their
pods when the donkey was trotting with the boy Christ and His mother and
St. Joseph far away from cruel Herod into Egypt and how the noise of the
rattling seeds nearly betrayed their flight and how the plant was cursed
for evermore and made as hungry as a wolf. And the story of how the
robin tried to loosen one of the cruel nails so that the blood from the
poor Saviour drenched his breast and stained it red for evermore, and of
that other bird, the crossbill, who pecked at the nails until his beak
became crossed. He could listen for ever to the tale of St. Cuthbert who
was fed by ravens, of St. Martin who cut off his cloak and gave it to a
beggar, of St. Anthony who preached to the fishes, of St. Raymond who
put up his cowl and floated from Spain to Africa like a nautilus, of St.
Nicolas who raised three boys from the dead after they had been killed
and cut up and salted in a tub by a cruel man that wanted to eat them,
and of that strange insect called a Praying Mantis which alighted upon
St. Francis' sleeve and sang the _Nunc Dimittis_ before it flew away.

These were all stories that made bedtime sweet, stories to remember and
brood upon gratefully in the darkness of the night when he lay awake and
when, alas, other stories less pleasant to recall would obtrude
themselves.

Mark was not brought up luxuriously in the Lima Street Mission House,
and the scarcity of toys stimulated his imagination. All his toys were
old and broken, because he was only allowed to have the toys left over
at the annual Christmas Tree in the Mission Hall; and since even the
best of toys on that tree were the cast-offs of rich little children
whose parents performed a vicarious act of charity in presenting them to
the poor, it may be understood that Mark's share of these was not
calculated to spoil him. His most conspicuous toy was a box of mutilated
grenadiers, whose stands had been melted by their former owner in the
first rapture of discovering that lead melts in fire and who in
consequence were only able to stand up uncertainly when stuck into
sliced corks.

Luckily Mark had better armies of his own in the coloured lines that
crossed the blankets of his bed. There marched the crimson army of St.
George, the blue army of St. Andrew, the green army of St. Patrick, the
yellow army of St. David, the rich sunset-hued army of St. Denis, the
striped armies of St. Anthony and St. James. When he lay awake in the
golden light of the morning, as golden in Lima Street as anywhere else,
he felt ineffably protected by the Seven Champions of Christendom; and
sometimes even at night he was able to think that with their bright
battalions they were still marching past. He used to lie awake,
listening to the sparrows and wondering what the country was like and
most of all the sea. His father would not let him go into the country
until he was considered old enough to go with one of the annual school
treats. His mother told him that the country in Cornwall was infinitely
more beautiful than Kensington Gardens, and that compared with the sea
the Serpentine was nothing at all. The sea! He had heard it once in a
prickly shell, and it had sounded beautiful. As for the country he had
read a story by Mrs. Ewing called _Our Field_, and if the country was
the tiniest part as wonderful as that, well . . . meanwhile Dora brought
him back from the greengrocer's a pot of musk, which Mark used to sniff
so enthusiastically that Dora said he would sniff it right away if he
wasn't careful. Later on when Lima Street was fetid in the August sun he
gave this pot of musk to a little girl with a broken leg, and when she
died in September her mother put it on her grave.




CHAPTER IV

HUSBAND AND WIFE


Mark was impressed by the appearance of the Bishop of Devizes; a portly
courtly man, he brought to the dingy little Mission House in Lima Street
that very sense of richness and grandeur which Mark had anticipated. The
Bishop's pink plump hands of which he made such use contrasted with the
lean, scratched, and grimy hands of his father; the Bishop's hair white
and glossy made his father's bristly, badly cut hair look more bristly
and worse cut than ever, and the Bishop's voice ripe and unctuous grew
more and more mellow as his father's became harsher and more assertive.
Mark found himself thinking of some lines in _The Jackdaw of Rheims_
about a cake of soap worthy of washing the hands of the Pope. The Pope
would have hands like the Bishop's, and Mark who had heard a great deal
about the Pope looked at the Bishop of Devizes with added interest.

"While we are at lunch, Mr. Lidderdale, you will I am sure pardon me for
referring again to our conversation of this morning from another point
of view--the point of view, if I may use so crude an expression, the
point of view of--er--expediency. Is it wise?"

"I'm not a wise man, my lord."

"Pardon me, my dear Mr. Lidderdale, but I have not completed my
question. Is it right? Is it right when you have an opportunity to
consolidate your great work . . . I use the adjective advisedly and with
no intention to flatter you, for when I had the privilege this morning
of accompanying you round the beautiful edifice that has been by your
efforts, by your self-sacrifice, by your eloquence, and by your devotion
erected to the glory of God . . . I repeat, Mr. Lidderdale, is it right
to fling all this away for the sake of a few--you will not
misunderstand me--if I call them a few excrescences?"

The Bishop helped himself to the cauliflower and paused to give his
rhetoric time to work.

"What you regard, my lord, as excrescences I regard as fundamentals of
our Holy Religion."

"Come, come, Mr. Lidderdale," the Bishop protested. "I do not think that
you expect to convince me that a ceremony like the--er--Asperges is a
fundamental of Christianity."

"I have taught my people that it is," said the Missioner. "In these days
when Bishops are found who will explain away the Incarnation, the
Atonement, the Resurrection of the Body, I hope you'll forgive a humble
parish priest who will explain away nothing and who would rather resign,
as I told you this morning, than surrender a single one of these
excrescences."

"I do not admit your indictment, your almost wholesale indictment of the
Anglican episcopate; but even were I to admit at lunch that some of my
brethren have been in their anxiety to keep the Man in the Street from
straying too far from the Church, have been as I was saying a little too
ready to tolerate a certain latitude of belief, even as I said just now
were that so, I do not think that you have any cause to suspect me of
what I should repudiate as gross infidelity. It was precisely because
the Bishop of London supposed that I should be more sympathetic with
your ideals that he asked me to represent him in this perfectly
informal--er--"

"Inquest," the Missioner supplied with a fierce smile.

The Bishop encouraged by the first sign of humour he had observed in the
bigoted priest hastened to smile back.

"Well, let us call it an inquest, but not, I hope, I sincerely and
devoutly hope, Mr. Lidderdale, not an inquest upon a dead body." Then
hurriedly he went on. "I may smile with the lips, but believe me, my
dear fellow labourer in the vineyard of Our Lord Jesus Christ, believe
me that my heart is sore at the prospect of your resignation. And the
Bishop of London, if I have to go back to him with such news, will be
pained, bitterly grievously pained. He admires your work, Mr.
Lidderdale, as much as I do, and I have no doubt that if it were not
for the unhappy controversies that are tearing asunder our National
Church, I say I do not doubt that he would give you a free hand. But how
can he give you a free hand when his own hands are tied by the
necessities of the situation? May I venture to observe that some of you
working priests are too ready to criticize men like myself who from no
desire of our own have been called by God to occupy a loftier seat in
the eyes of the world than many men infinitely more worthy. But to
return to the question immediately before us, let me, my dear Mr.
Lidderdale, do let me make to you a personal appeal for moderation. If
you will only consent to abandon one or two--I will not say excrescences
since you object to the word--but if you will only abandon one or two
purely ceremonial additions that cannot possibly be defended by any
rubric in the Book of Common Prayer, if you will only consent to do this
the Bishop of London will, I can guarantee, permit you a discretionary
latitude that he would scarcely be prepared to allow to any other priest
in his diocese. When I was called to be Bishop Suffragan of Devizes, Mr.
Lidderdale, do you suppose that I did not give up something? Do you
suppose that I was anxious to abandon some of the riches to which by my
reading of the Ornaments Rubric we are entitled? But I felt that I could
do something to help the position of my fellow priests struggling
against the prejudice of ignorance and the prey of political moves. In
twenty years from now, Mr. Lidderdale, you will be glad you took my
advice. Ceremonies that to-day are the privilege of the few will then be
the privilege of the many. Do not forget that by what I might almost
describe as the exorbitance of your demands you have gained more freedom
than any other priest in England. Be moderate. Do not resign. You will
be inhibited in every diocese; you will have the millstone of an unpaid
debt round your neck; you are a married man."

"That has nothing . . ." Lidderdale interrupted angrily.

"Pray let me finish. You are a married man, and if you should seek
consolation, where several of your fellow priests have lately sought it,
in the Church of Rome, you will have to seek it as a layman. I do not
pretend to know your private affairs, and I should consider it
impertinent if I tried to pry into them at such a moment. But I do know
your worth as a priest, and I have no hesitation in begging you once
more with a heart almost too full for words to pause, Mr. Lidderdale, to
pause and reflect before you take the irreparable step that you are
contemplating. I have already talked too much, and I see that your good
wife is looking anxiously at my plate. No more cauliflower, thank you,
Mrs. Lidderdale, no more of anything, thank you. Ah, there is a pudding
on the way? Dear me, that sounds very tempting, I'm afraid."

The Bishop now turned his attention entirely to Mrs. Lidderdale at the
other end of the table; the Missioner sat biting his nails; and Mark
wondered what all this conversation was about.

While the Bishop was waiting for his cab, which, he explained to his
hosts, was not so much a luxury as a necessity owing to his having to
address at three o'clock precisely a committee of ladies who were
meeting in Portman Square to discuss the dreadful condition of the
London streets, he laid a fatherly arm on the Missioner's threadbare
cassock.

"Take two or three days to decide, my dear Mr. Lidderdale. The Bishop of
London, who is always consideration personified, insisted that you were
to take two or three days to decide. Once more, for I hear my
cab-wheels, once more let me beg you to yield on the following points.
Let me just refer to my notes to be sure that I have not omitted
anything of importance. Oh, yes, the following points: no Asperges, no
unusual Good Friday services, except of course the Three Hours. _Is_ not
that enough?"

"The Three Hours I _would_ give up. It's a modern invention of the
Jesuits. The Adoration of the Cross goes back. . . ."

"Please, please, Mr. Lidderdale, my cab is at the door. We must not
embark on controversy. No celebrations without communicants. No direct
invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Saints. Oh, yes, and on
this the Bishop is particularly firm: no juggling with the _Gloria in
Excelsis_. Good-bye, Mr. Lidderdale, good-bye, Mrs. Lidderdale. Many
thanks for your delicious luncheon. Good-bye, young man. I had a little
boy like you once, but he is grown up now, and I am glad to say a
soldier."

The Bishop waved his umbrella, which looked much like a pastoral staff,
and lightly mounted the step of his cab.

"Was the Bishop cross with Father?" Mark inquired afterward; he could
find no other theory that would explain so much talking to his father,
so little talking by his father.

"Dearest, I'd rather you didn't ask questions about the Bishop," his
mother replied, and discerning that she was on the verge of one of those
headaches that while they lasted obliterated the world for Mark, he was
silent. Later in the afternoon Mr. Astill, the Vicar, came round to see
the Missioner and they had a long talk together, the murmur of which now
softer now louder was audible in Mark's nursery where he was playing by
himself with the cork-bottomed grenadiers. His instinct was to play a
quiet game, partly on account of his mother's onrushing headache, which
had already driven her to her room, partly because he knew that when his
father was closeted like this it was essential not to make the least
noise. So he tiptoed about the room and disposed the cork-bottomed
grenadiers as sentinels before the coal-scuttle, the washstand, and
other similar strongholds. Then he took his gun, the barrel of which,
broken before it was given to him, had been replaced by a thin bamboo
curtain-rod, and his finger on the trigger (a wooden match) he waited
for an invader. After ten minutes of statuesque silence Mark began to
think that this was a dull game, and he wished that his mother had not
gone to her room with a headache, because if she had been with him she
could have undoubtedly invented, so clever was she, a method of invading
the nursery without either the attackers or the defenders making any
noise about it. In her gentle voice she would have whispered of the
hordes that were stealthily creeping up the mountain side until Mark and
his vigilant cork-bottomed grenadiers would have been in a state of
suppressed exultation ready to die in defence of the nursery, to die
stolidly and silently at their posts with nobody else in the house aware
of their heroism.

"Rorke's Drift," said Mark to himself, trying to fancy that he heard in
the distance a Zulu _impi_ and whispering to his cork-bottomed
grenadiers to keep a good look-out. One of them who was guarding the
play-cupboard fell over on his face, and in the stillness the noise
sounded so loud that Mark did not dare cross the room to put him up
again, but had to assume that he had been shot where he stood. It was no
use. The game was a failure; Mark decided to look at _Battles of the
British Army_. He knew the pictures in every detail, and he could have
recited without a mistake the few lines of explanation at the bottom of
each page; but the book still possessed a capacity to thrill, and he
turned over the pages not pausing over Crecy or Poitiers or Blenheim or
Dettingen; but enjoying the storming of Badajoz with soldiers impaled on
_chevaux de frise_ and lingering over the rich uniforms and plumed
helmets in the picture of Joseph Bonaparte's flight at Vittoria. There
was too a grim picture of the Guards at Inkerman fighting in their
greatcoats with clubbed muskets against thousands of sinister dark green
Russians looming in the snow; and there was an attractive picture of a
regiment crossing the Alma and eating the grapes as they clambered up
the banks where they grew. Finally there was the Redan, a mysterious
wall, apparently of wickerwork, with bombs bursting and broken
scaling-ladders and dead English soldiers in the open space before it.

Mark did not feel that he wanted to look through the book again, and he
put it away, wondering how long that murmur of voices rising and falling
from his father's study below would continue. He wondered whether Dora
would be annoyed if he went down to the kitchen. She had been
discouraging on the last two or three occasions he had visited her, but
that had been because he could not keep his fingers out of the currants.
Fancy having a large red jar crammed full of currants on the floor of
the larder and never wanting to eat one! The thought of those currants
produced in Mark's mouth a craving for something sweet, and as quietly
as possible he stole off downstairs to quench this craving somehow or
other if it were only with a lump of sugar. But when he reached the
kitchen he found Dora in earnest talk with two women in bonnets, who
were nodding away and clicking their tongues with pleasure.

"Now whatever do you want down here?" Dora demanded ungraciously.

"I wanted," Mark paused. He longed to say "some currants," but he had
failed before, and he substituted "a lump of sugar." The two women in
bonnets looked at him and nodded their heads and clicked their tongues.

"Did you ever?" said one.

"Fancy! A lump of sugar! Goodness gracious!"

"What a sweet tooth!" commented the first.

The sugar happened to be close to Dora's hand on the kitchen-table, and
she gave him two lumps with the command to "sugar off back upstairs as
fast as you like." The craving for sweetness was allayed; but when Mark
had crunched up the two lumps on the dark kitchen-stairs, he was as
lonely as he had been before he left the nursery. He wished now that he
had not eaten up the sugar so fast, that he had taken it back with him
to the nursery and eked it out to wile away this endless afternoon. The
prospect of going back to the nursery depressed him; and he turned aside
to linger in the dining-room whence there was a view of Lima Street,
down which a dirty frayed man was wheeling a barrow and shouting for
housewives to bring out their old rags and bottles and bones. Mark felt
the thrill of trade and traffick, and he longed to be big enough to open
the window and call out that he had several rags and bottles and bones
to sell; but instead he had to be content with watching two
self-important little girls chaffer on behalf of their mothers, and go
off counting their pennies. The voice of the rag-and-bone man, grew
fainter and fainter round corners out of sight; Lima Street became as
empty and uninteresting as the nursery. Mark wished that a knife-grinder
would come along and that he would stop under the dining-room window so
that he could watch the sparks flying from the grindstone. Or that a
gipsy would sit down on the steps and begin to mend the seat of a chair.
Whenever he had seen those gipsy chair-menders at work, he had been out
of doors and afraid to linger watching them in case he should be stolen
and his face stained with walnut juice and all his clothes taken away
from him. But from the security of the dining-room of the Mission House
he should enjoy watching them. However, no gipsy came, nor anybody else
except women with men's caps pinned to their skimpy hair and little
girls with wrinkled stockings carrying jugs to and from the public
houses that stood at every corner.

Mark turned away from the window and tried to think of some game that
could be played in the dining-room. But it was not a room that fostered
the imagination. The carpet was so much worn that the pattern was now
scarcely visible and, looked one at it never so long and intently, it
was impossible to give it an inner life of its own that gradually
revealed itself to the fanciful observer. The sideboard had nothing on
it except a dirty cloth, a bottle of harvest burgundy, and half a dozen
forks and spoons. The cupboards on either side contained nothing edible
except salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar, and oil. There was a plain deal
table without a drawer and without any interesting screws and levers to
make it grow smaller or larger at the will of the creature who sat
beneath it. The eight chairs were just chairs; the wallpaper was like
the inside of the bath, but alas, without the water; of the two
pictures, the one over the mantelpiece was a steel-engraving of the Good
Shepherd and the one over the sideboard was an oleograph of the Sacred
Heart. Mark knew every fly speck on their glasses, every discoloration
of their margins. While he was sighing over the sterility of the room,
he heard the door of his father's study open, and his father and Mr.
Astill do down the passage, both of them still talking unceasingly.
Presently the front door slammed, and Mark watched them walk away in the
direction of the new church. Here was an opportunity to go into his
father's study and look at some of the books. Mark never went in when
his father was there, because once his mother had said to his father:

"Why don't you have Mark to sit with you?"

And his father had answered doubtfully:

"Mark? Oh yes, he can come. But I hope he'll keep quiet, because I
shall be rather busy."

Mark had felt a kind of hostility in his father's manner which had
chilled him; and after that, whenever his mother used to suggest his
going to sit quietly in the study, he had always made some excuse not to
go. But if his father was out he used to like going in, because there
were always books lying about that were interesting to look at, and the
smell of tobacco smoke and leather bindings was grateful to the senses.
The room smelt even more strongly than usual of tobacco smoke this
afternoon, and Mark inhaled the air with relish while he debated which
of the many volumes he should pore over. There was a large Bible with
pictures of palm-trees and camels and long-bearded patriarchs surrounded
by flocks of sheep, pictures of women with handkerchiefs over their
mouths drawing water from wells, of Daniel in the den of lions and of
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The frontispiece
was a coloured picture of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden surrounded
by amiable lions, benevolent tigers, ingratiating bears and leopards and
wolves. But more interesting than the pictures were some pages at the
beginning on which, in oval spaces framed in leaves and flowers, were
written the names of his grandfather and grandmother, of his father and
of his father's brother and sister, with the dates on which they were
born and baptized and confirmed. What a long time ago his father was
born! 1840. He asked his mother once about this Uncle Henry and Aunt
Helen; but she told him they had quarrelled with his father, and she had
said nothing more about them. Mark had been struck by the notion that
grown-up people could quarrel: he had supposed quarrelling to be
peculiar to childhood. Further, he noticed that Henry Lidderdale had
married somebody called Ada Prewbody who had died the same year; but
nothing was said in the oval that enshrined his father about his having
married anyone. He asked his mother the reason of this, and she
explained to him that the Bible had belonged to his grandfather who had
kept the entries up to date until he died, when the Bible came to his
eldest son who was Mark's father.

"Does it worry you, darling, that I'm not entered?" his mother had asked
with a smile.

"Well, it does rather," Mark had replied, and then to his great delight
she took a pen and wrote that James Lidderdale had married Grace Alethea
Trehawke on June 28th, 1880, at St. Tugdual's Church, Nancepean,
Cornwall, and to his even greater delight that on April 25th, 1881, Mark
Lidderdale had been born at 142 Lima Street, Notting Dale, London, W.,
and baptized on May 21st, 1881, at St. Wilfred's Mission Church, Lima
Street.

"Happy now?" she had asked.

Mark had nodded, and from that moment, if he went into his father's
study, he always opened the Family Bible and examined solemnly his own
short history wreathed in forget-me-nots and lilies of the valley.

This afternoon, after looking as usual at the entry of his birth and
baptism written in his mother's pretty pointed handwriting, he searched
for Dante's _Inferno_ illustrated by Gustave Dore, a large copy of which
had recently been presented to his father by the Servers and Choir of
St. Wilfred's. The last time he had been looking at this volume he had
caught a glimpse of a lot of people buried in the ground with only their
heads sticking out, a most attractive picture which he had only just
discovered when he had heard his father's footsteps and had closed the
book in a hurry.

Mark tried to find this picture, but the volume was large and the
pictures on the way of such fascination that it was long before he found
it. When he did, he thought it even more satisfying at a second glance,
although he wished he knew what they were all doing buried in the ground
like that. Mark was not satisfied with horrors even after he had gone
right through the Dante; in fact, his appetite was only whetted, and he
turned with relish to a large folio of Chinese tortures, in the coloured
prints of which a feature was made of blood profusely outpoured and
richly tinted. One picture of a Chinaman apparently impervious to the
pain of being slowly sawn in two held him entranced for five minutes.
It was growing dusk by now, and as it needed the light of the window to
bring out the full quality of the blood, Mark carried over the big
volume, propped it up in a chair behind the curtains, and knelt down to
gloat over these remote oriental barbarities without pausing to remember
that his father might come back at any moment, and that although he had
never actually been forbidden to look at this book, the thrill of
something unlawful always brooded over it. Suddenly the door of the
study opened and Mark sat transfixed by terror as completely as the
Chinaman on the page before him was transfixed by a sharpened bamboo;
then he heard his mother's voice, and before he could discover himself a
conversation between her and his father had begun of which Mark
understood enough to know that both of them would be equally angry if
they knew that he was listening. Mark was not old enough to escape
tactfully from such a difficult situation, and the only thing he could
think of doing was to stay absolutely still in the hope that they would
presently go out of the room and never know that he had been behind the
curtain while they were talking.

"I didn't mean you to dress yourself and come downstairs," his father
was saying ungraciously.

"My dear, I should have come down to tea in any case, and I was anxious
to hear the result of your conversation with Mr. Astill."

"You can guess, can't you?" said the husband.

Mark had heard his father speak angrily before; but he had never heard
his voice sound like a growl. He shrank farther back in affright behind
the curtains.

"You're going to give way to the Bishop?" the wife asked gently.

"Ah, you've guessed, have you? You've guessed by my manner? You've
realized, I hope, what this resolution has cost me and what it's going
to cost me in the future. I'm a coward. I'm a traitor. _Before the cock
crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice._ A coward and a traitor."

"Neither, James--at any rate to me."

"To you," the husband scoffed. "I should hope not to you, considering
that it is on your account I am surrendering. Do you suppose that if I
were free, as to serve God I ought to be free, do you suppose then that
I should give up my principles like this? Never! But because I'm a
married priest, because I've a wife and family to support, my hands are
tied. Oh, yes, Astill was very tactful. He kept insisting on my duty to
the parish; but did he once fail to rub in the position in which I
should find myself if I did resign? No bishop would license me; I should
be inhibited in every diocese--in other words I should starve. The
beliefs I hold most dear, the beliefs I've fought for all these years
surrendered for bread and butter! _Woman, what have I to do with thee?_
Our Blessed Lord could speak thus even to His Blessed Mother. But I! _He
that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he
that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of
me._"

The Missioner threw himself into his worn armchair and stared into the
unlighted grate. His wife came behind him and laid a white hand upon his
forehead; but her touch seemed to madden him, and he sprang away from
her.

"No more of that," he cried. "If I was weak when I married you I will
never be weak again. You have your child. Let that be enough for your
tenderness. I want none of it myself. Do you hear? I wish to devote
myself henceforth to my parish. My parish! The parish of a coward and a
traitor."

Mark heard his mother now speaking in a voice that was strange to him,
in a voice that did not belong to her, but that seemed to come from far
away, as if she were lost in a snowstorm and calling for help.

"James, if you feel this hatred for me and for poor little Mark, it is
better that we leave you. We can go to my father in Cornwall, and you
will not feel hampered by the responsibility of having to provide for
us. After what you have said to me, after the way you have looked at me,
I could never live with you as your wife again."

"That sounds a splendid scheme," said the Missioner bitterly. "But do
you think I have so little logic that I should be able to escape from my
responsibilities by planting them on the shoulders of another? No, I
sinned when I married you. I did not believe and I do not believe that a
priest ought to marry; but having done so I must face the situation and
do my duty to my family, so that I may also do my duty to God."

"Do you think that God will accept duty offered in that spirit? If he
does, he is not the God in Whom I believe. He is a devil that can be
propitiated with burnt offerings," exclaimed the woman passionately.

"Do not blaspheme," the priest commanded.

"Blaspheme!" she echoed. "It is you, James, who have blasphemed nature
this afternoon. You have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and
may you be forgiven by your God. I can never forgive you."

"You're becoming hysterical."

"How dare you say that? How dare you? I have loved you, James, with all
the love that I could give you. I have suffered in silence when I saw
how you regarded family life, how unkind you were to Mark, how utterly
wrapped up in the outward forms of religion. You are a Pharisee, James,
you should have lived before Our Lord came down to earth. But I will not
suffer any longer. You need not worry about the evasion of your
responsibilities. You cannot make me stay with you. You will not dare
keep Mark. Save your own soul in your own way; but Mark's soul is as
much mine as yours to save."

During this storm of words Mark had been thinking how wicked it was of
his father to upset his mother like that when she had a headache. He had
thought also how terrible it was that he should apparently be the cause
of this frightening quarrel. Often in Lima Street he had heard tales of
wives who were beaten by their husbands and now he supposed that his own
mother was going to be beaten. Suddenly he heard her crying. This was
too much for him; he sprang from his hiding place and ran to put his
arms round her in protection.

"Mother, mother, don't cry. You are bad, you are bad," he told his
father. "You are wicked and bad to make her cry."

"Have you been in the room all this time?" his father asked.

Mark did not even bother to nod his head, so intent was he upon
consoling his mother. She checked her emotion when her son put his arms
round her neck, and whispered to him not to speak. It was almost dark in
the study now, and what little light was still filtering in at the
window from the grey nightfall was obscured by the figure of the
Missioner gazing out at the lantern spire of his new church. There was a
tap at the door, and Mrs. Lidderdale snatched up the volume that Mark
had let fall upon the floor when he emerged from the curtains, so that
when Dora came in to light the gas and say that tea was ready, nothing
of the stress of the last few minutes was visible. The Missioner was
looking out of the window at his new church; his wife and son were
contemplating the picture of an impervious Chinaman suspended in a cage
where he could neither stand nor sit nor lie.




CHAPTER V

PALM SUNDAY


Mark's dream from which he woke to wonder if the end of the world was at
hand had been a shadow cast by coming events. So far as the world of
Lima Street was concerned, it was the end of it. The night after that
scene in his father's study, which made a deeper impression on him than
anything before that date in his short life, his mother came to sleep in
the nursery with him, to keep him company so that he should not be
frightened any more, she offered as the explanation of her arrival. But
Mark, although of course he never said so to her, was sure that she had
come to him to be protected against his father.

Mark did not overhear any more discussions between his parents, and he
was taken by surprise when one day a week after his mother had come to
sleep in his room, she asked him how he should like to go and live in
the country. To Mark the country was as remote as Paradise, and at first
he was inclined to regard the question as rhetorical to which a
conventional reply was expected. If anybody had asked him how he should
like to go to Heaven, he would have answered that he should like to go
to Heaven very much. Cows, sheep, saints, angels, they were all equally
unreal outside a picture book.

"I would like to go to the country very much," he said. "And I would
like to go to the Zoological Gardens very much. Perhaps we can go there
soon, can we, mother?"

"We can't go there if we're in the country."

Mark stared at her.

"But really go in the country?"

"Yes, darling, really go."

"Oh, mother," and immediately he checked his enthusiasm with a sceptical
"when?"

"Next Monday."

"And shall I see cows?"

"Yes."

"And donkeys? And horses? And pigs? And goats?"

To every question she nodded.

"Oh, mother, I will be good," he promised of his own accord. "And can I
take my grenadiers?"

"You can take everything you have, darling."

"Will Dora come?" He did not inquire about his father.

"No."

"Just you and me?"

She nodded, and Mark flung his arms round her neck to press upon her
lips a long fragrant kiss, such a kiss as only a child can give.

On Sunday morning, the last Sunday morning he would worship in the
little tin mission church, the last Sunday morning indeed that any of
the children of Lima Street would worship there, Mark sat close beside
his mother at the children's Mass. His father looking as he always
looked, took off his chasuble, and in his alb walked up and down the
aisle preaching his short sermon interspersed with questions.

"What is this Sunday called?"

There was a silence until a well-informed little girl breathed through
her nose that it was called Passion Sunday.

"Quite right. And next Sunday?"

"Palm Sunday," all the children shouted with alacrity, for they looked
forward to it almost more than to any Sunday in the year.

"Next Sunday, dear children, I had hoped to give you the blessed palms
in our beautiful new church, but God has willed otherwise, and another
priest will come in my place. I hope you will listen to him as
attentively as you have listened to me, and I hope you will try to
encourage him by your behaviour both in and out of the church, by your
punctuality and regular attendance at Mass, and by your example to other
children who have not had the advantage of learning all about our
glorious Catholic faith. I shall think about you all when I am gone and
I shall never cease to ask our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ to guard you
and keep you safe for Him. And I want you to pray to Our Blessed Lady
and to our great patron Saint Wilfred that they will intercede for you
and me. Will you all do this?"

There was a unanimous and sibilant "Yes, father," from the assembled
children, and then one little girl after being prodded by her companions
on either side of her spoke up and asked the Missioner why he was going.

"Ah, that is a very difficult question to answer; but I will try to
explain it to you by a parable. What is a parable?"

"Something that isn't true," sang out a too ready boy from the back of
the church.

"No, no, Arthur Williams. Surely some other boy or girl can correct
Arthur Williams? How many times have we had that word explained to us! A
parable is a story with a hidden meaning. Now please, every boy and
girl, repeat that answer after me. A parable is a story with a hidden
meaning."

And all the children baa'd in unison:

"A parable is a story with a hidden meaning."

"That's better," said the Missioner. "And now I will tell you my
parable. Once upon a time there was a little boy or a little girl, it
doesn't matter which, whose father put him in charge of a baby. He was
told not to let anybody take it away from him and he was told to look
after it and wheel it about in the perambulator, which was a very old
one, and not only very old but very small for the baby, who was growing
bigger and bigger every day. Well, a lot of kind people clubbed together
and bought a new perambulator, bigger than the other and more
comfortable. They told him to take this perambulator home to his father
and show him what a beautiful present they had made. Well, the boy
wheeled it home and his father was very pleased with it. But when the
boy took the baby out again, the nursemaid told him that the baby had
too many clothes on and said that he must either take some of the
clothes off or else she must take away the new perambulator. Well, the
little boy had promised his father, who had gone far away on a journey,
that nobody should touch the baby, and so he said he would not take off
any of the clothes. And when the nurse took away the perambulator the
little boy wrote to his father to ask what he should do and his father
wrote to him that he would put one of his brothers in charge who would
know how to do what the nurse wanted." The Missioner paused to see the
effect of his story. "Now, children, let us see if you can understand my
parable. Who is the little boy?"

A concordance of opinion cried "God."

"No. Now think. The father surely was God. And now once more, who was
the little boy?"

Several children said "Jesus Christ," and one little boy who evidently
thought that any connexion between babies and religion must have
something to do with the Holy Innocents confidently called out "Herod."

"No, no, no," said the Missioner. "Surely the little boy is myself. And
what is the baby?"

Without hesitation the boys and girls all together shouted "Jesus
Christ."

"No, no. The baby is our Holy Catholic Faith. For which we are ready if
necessary to--?"

There was no answer.

"To do what?"

"To be baptized," one boy hazarded.

"To die," said the Missioner reproachfully.

"To die," the class complacently echoed.

"And now what is the perambulator?"

This was a puzzle, but at last somebody tried:

"The Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ."

"No, no. The perambulator is our Mission here in Lima Street. The old
perambulator is the Church where we are sitting at Mass and the new
perambulator is--"

"The new church," two children answered simultaneously.

"Quite right. And now, who is the nursemaid? The nursemaid is the Bishop
of London. You remember that last Sunday we talked about bishops. What
is a bishop?"

"A high-priest."

"Well, that is not a bad answer, but don't you remember we said that
bishop meant 'overseer,' and you all know what an overseer is. Any of
your fathers who go out to work will tell you that. So the Bishop like
the nursemaid in my parable thought he knew better what clothes the baby
ought to wear in the new perambulator, that is to say what services we
ought to have in the new St. Wilfred's. And as God is far away and we
can only speak to Him by prayer, I have asked Him what I ought to do,
and He has told me that I ought to go away and that He will put a
brother in charge of the baby in the new perambulator. Who then is the
brother?"

"Jesus Christ," said the class, convinced that this time it must be He.

"No, no. The brother is the priest who will come to take charge of the
new St. Wilfred's. He will be called the Vicar, and St. Wilfred's,
instead of being called the Lima Street Mission, will become a parish.
And now, dear children, there is no time to say any more words to you.
My heart is sore at leaving you, but in my sorrow I shall be comforted
if I can have the certainty that you are growing up to be good and loyal
Catholics, loving Our Blessed Lord and His dear Mother, honouring the
Holy Saints and Martyrs, hating the Evil One and all his Spirits and
obeying God with whose voice the Church speaks. Now, for the last time
children, let me hear you sing _We are but little children weak_."

They all sang more loudly than usual to express a vague and troubled
sympathy:

    _There's not a child so small and weak_
    _But has his little cross to take,_
    _His little work of love and praise_
    _That he may do for Jesus' sake._

And they bleated a most canorous _Amen_.

Mark noticed that his mother clutched his hand tightly while his father
was speaking, and when once he looked up at her to show how loudly he
too was singing, he saw that her eyes were full of tears.

The next morning was Monday.

"Good-bye, Mark, be a good boy and obedient to your mother," said his
father on the platform at Paddington.

"Who is that man?" Mark whispered when the guard locked them in.

His mother explained, and Mark looked at him with as much awe as if he
were St. Peter with the keys of Heaven at his girdle. He waved his
handkerchief from the window while the train rushed on through tunnels
and between gloomy banks until suddenly the world became green, and
there was the sun in a great blue and white sky. Mark looked at his
mother and saw that again there were tears in her eyes, but that they
sparkled like diamonds.




CHAPTER VI

NANCEPEAN


The Rhos or, as it is popularly written and pronounced, the Rose is a
tract of land in the south-west of the Duchy of Cornwall, ten miles long
and six at its greatest breadth, which on account of its remoteness from
the railway, its unusual geological formation, and its peninsular shape
possesses both in the character of its inhabitants and in the peculiar
aspects of the natural scene all the limitations and advantages of an
island. The main road running south to Rose Head from Rosemarket cuts
the peninsula into two unequal portions, the eastern and by far the
larger of which consists of a flat tableland two or three hundred feet
above the sea covered with a bushy heath, which flourishes in the
magnesian soil and which when in bloom is of such a clear rosy pink,
with nothing to break the level monochrome except scattered drifts of
cotton grass, pools of silver water and a few stunted pines, that
ignorant observers have often supposed that the colour gave its name to
the whole peninsula. The ancient town of Rosemarket, which serves as the
only channel of communication with the rest of Cornwall, lies in the
extreme north-west of the peninsula between a wide creek of the Roseford
river and the Rose Pool, an irregular heart-shaped water about four
miles in circumference which on the west is only separated from the
Atlantic by a bar of fine shingle fifty yards across.

The parish of Nancepean, of which Mark's grandfather the Reverend
Charles Elphinstone Trehawke had been vicar for nearly thirty years, ran
southward from the Rose Pool between the main road and the sea for three
miles. It was a country of green valleys unfolding to the ocean, and of
small farms fertile enough when they were sheltered from the prevailing
wind; but on the southern confines of the parish the soil became
shallow and stony, the arable fields degenerated into a rough open
pasturage full of gorse and foxgloves and gradually widening patches of
heather, until finally the level monochrome of the Rhos absorbed the
last vestiges of cultivation, and the parish came to an end.

The actual village of Nancepean, set in a hollow about a quarter of a
mile from the sea, consisted of a smithy, a grocer's shop, a parish hall
and some two dozen white cottages with steep thatched roofs lying in
their own gardens on either side of the unfrequented road that branched
from the main road to follow the line of the coast. Where this road made
the turn south a track strewn with grey shingle ran down between the
cliffs, at this point not much more than grassy hummocks, to Nancepean
beach which extended northward in a wide curve until it disappeared two
miles away in the wooded heights above the Rose Pool. The metalled coast
road continued past the Hanover Inn, an isolated house standing at the
head of a small cove, to make the long ascent of Pendhu Cliff three
hundred and fifty feet high, from the brow of which it descended between
banks of fern past St. Tugdual's Church to the sands of Church Cove,
whence it emerged to climb in a steep zigzag the next headland, beyond
which it turned inland again to Lanyon and rejoined the main road to
Rose Head. The church itself had no architectural distinction; but the
solitary position, the churchyard walls sometimes washed by high spring
tides, the squat tower built into the rounded grassy cliff that
protected it from the direct attack of the sea, and its impressive
antiquity combined to give it more than the finest architecture could
give. Nowhere in the surrounding landscape was there a sign of human
habitation, neither on the road down from Pendhu nor on the road up
toward Lanyon, not on the bare towans sweeping from the beach to the sky
in undulating waves of sandy grass, nor in the valley between the towans
and Pendhu, a wide green valley watered by a small stream that flowed
into the cove, where it formed a miniature estuary, the configuration of
whose effluence changed with every tide.

The Vicarage was not so far from the church as the church was from the
village, but it was some way from both. It was reached from Nancepean by
a road or rather by a gated cart-track down one of the numerous valleys
of the parish, and it was reached from the church by another cart-track
along the valley between Pendhu and the towans. Probably it was an
ancient farmhouse, and it must have been a desolate and austere place
until, as at the date when Mark first came there, it was graced by the
perfume and gold of acacias, by wistaria and jasmine and honeysuckle, by
the ivory goblets of magnolias, by crimson fuchsias, and where formerly
its grey walls grew mossy north and east by pink and white camelias and
the waxen bells of lapagerias. The garden was a wilderness of scarlet
rhododendrons from the thickets of which innumerable blackbirds and
thrushes preyed upon the peas. The lawns were like meadows; the lily
ponds were marbled with weeds; the stables were hardly to be reached on
account of the tangle of roses and briers that filled the abandoned
yard. The front drive was bordered by evergreen oaks, underneath the
shade of which blue hydrangeas flowered sparsely with a profusion of
pale-green foliage and lanky stems.

Mark when he looked out of his window on the morning after his arrival
thought that he was in fairyland. He looked at the rhododendrons; he
looked at the raindrops of the night sparkling in the morning sun; he
looked at the birds, and the blue sky, and across the valley to a
hillside yellow with gorse. He hardly knew how to restrain himself from
waking his mother with news of the wonderful sights and sounds of this
first vision of the country; but when he saw a clump of daffodils
nodding in the grass below, it was no longer possible to be considerate.
Creeping to his mother's door, he gently opened it and listened. He
meant only to whisper "Mother," but in his excitement he shouted, and
she suddenly roused from sleep by his voice sat up in alarm.

"Mother, there are seven daffodils growing wild under my window."

"My darling, you frightened me so. I thought you'd hurt yourself."

"I don't know how my voice came big like that," said Mark
apologetically. "I only meant it to be a whisper. But you weren't
dreadfully frightened? Or were you?"

His mother smiled.

"No, not dreadfully frightened."

"Well, do you think I might dress myself and go in the garden?"

"You mustn't disturb grandfather."

"Oh, mother, of course not."

"All right, darling. But it's only six o'clock. Very early. And you must
remember that grandfather may be tired. He had to wait an hour for us at
Rosemarket last night."

"He's very nice, isn't he?"

Mark did not ask this tentatively; he really did think that his
grandfather was very nice, although he had been puzzled and not a little
frightened by his bushy black eyebrows slanting up to a profusion of
white hair. Mark had never seen such eyebrows, and he wondered whatever
grandfather's moustache would be like if it were allowed to grow.

"He's a dear," said Mrs. Lidderdale fervidly. "And now, sweetheart, if
you really intend to dress yourself run along, because Mother wants to
sleep a little longer if she can."

The only difficulty Mark had was with his flannel front, because one of
the tapes vanished like a worm into its hole, and nothing in his armoury
was at once long enough and pointed enough to hook it out again. Finally
he decided that at such an early hour of the morning it would not matter
if he went out exposing his vest, and soon he was wandering in that
enchanted shrubbery of rhododendrons, alternating between imagining it
to be the cave of Aladdin or the beach where Sinbad found all the
pebbles to be precious stones. He wandered down hill through the
thicket, listening with a sense of satisfaction to the increasing
squelchiness of the peaty soil and feeling when the blackbirds fled at
his approach with shrill quack and flapping wings much more like a
hunter than he ever felt in the nursery at Lima Street. He resolved to
bring his gun with him next time. This was just the place to find a
hippopotamus, or even a crocodile. Mark had reached the bottom of the
slope and discovered a dark sluggish stream full of decayed vegetable
matter which was slowly oozing on its course. Or even a crocodile, he
thought again; and he looked carefully at a half-submerged log. Or even
a crocodile . . . yes, but people had often thought before that logs
were not crocodiles and had not discovered their mistake until they were
half way down the crocodile's throat. It had been amusing to fancy the
existence of crocodiles when he was still close to the Vicarage, but
suppose after all that there really were crocodiles living down here?
Feeling a little ashamed of his cowardice, but glossing it over with an
assumption of filial piety, Mark turned to go back through the
rhododendrons so as not to be late for breakfast. He would find out if
any crocodiles had been seen about here lately, and if they had not, he
would bring out his gun and . . . suddenly Mark was turned inside out by
terror, for not twenty yards away there was without any possibility of
self-deception a wild beast something between an ant-eater and a
laughing hyena that with nose to the ground was evidently pursuing him,
and what was worse was between him and home. There flashed through
Mark's mind the memories of what other hunters had done in such
situations, what ruses they had adopted if unarmed, what method of
defence if armed; but in the very instant of the panoramic flash Mark
did what countless uncelebrated hunters must have done, he ran in the
opposition direction from his enemy. In this case it meant jumping over
the stream, crocodile or not, and tearing his away through snowberries
and brambles until he emerged on the moors at the bottom of the valley.

It was not until he had put half a dozen small streams between himself
and the unknown beast that Mark paused to look round. Behind him the
valley was lost in a green curve; before him another curve shut out the
ultimate view. On his left the slope of the valley rose to the sky in
tiers of blazing yellow gorse; to his right he could see the thickets
through which he had emerged upon this verdant solitude. But beyond the
thickets there was no sign of the Vicarage. There was not a living thing
in sight; there was nothing except the song of larks high up and
imperceptible against the steady morning sun that shed a benign warmth
upon the world, and particularly upon the back of Mark's neck when he
decided that his safest course was to walk in the direction of the
valley's gradual widening and to put as many more streams as he could
between him and the beast. Having once wetted himself to the knees, he
began to take a pleasure in splashing through the vivid wet greenery. He
wondered what he should behold at the next curve of the valley; without
knowing it he began to walk more slowly, for the beauty of the day was
drowsing his fears; the spell of earth was upon him. He walked more
slowly, because he was passing through a bed of forget-me-nots, and he
could not bear to blind one of those myriad blue eyes. He chose most
carefully the destination of each step, and walking thus he did not
notice that the valley would curve no more, but was opening at last. He
looked up in a sudden consciousness of added space, and there serene as
the sky above was spread the sea. Yesterday from the train Mark had had
what was actually his first view of the sea; but the rain had taken all
the colour out of it, and he had been thrilled rather by the word than
by the fact. Now the word was nothing, the fact was everything. There it
was within reach of him, blue as the pictures always made it. The
streams of the valley had gathered into one, and Mark caring no more
what happened to the forget-me-nots ran along the bank. This morning
when the stream reached the shore it broke into twenty limpid rivulets,
each one of which ploughed a separate silver furrow across the
glistening sand until all were merged in ocean, mighty father of streams
and men. Mark ran with the rivulets until he stood by the waves' edge.
All was here of which he had read, shells and seaweed, rocks and cliffs
and sand; he felt like Robinson Crusoe when he looked round him and saw
nothing to break the solitude. Every point of the compass invited
exploration and promised adventure. That white road running northward
and rising with the cliffs, whither did it lead, what view was outspread
where it dipped over the brow of the high table-land and disappeared
into the naked sky beyond? The billowy towans sweeping up from the beach
appeared to him like an illimitable prairie on which buffaloes and
bison might roam. Whither led the sandy track, the summit of whose long
diagonal was lost in the brightness of the morning sky? And surely that
huddled grey building against an isolated green cliff must be
grandfather's church of which his mother had often told him. Mark walked
round the stone walls that held up the little churchyard and, entering
by a gate on the farther side, he looked at the headstones and admired
the feathery tamarisks that waved over the tombs. He was reading an
inscription more legible than most on a headstone of highly polished
granite, when he heard a voice behind him say:

"You mind what you're doing with that grave. That's my granfa's grave,
that is, and if you touch it, I'll knock 'ee down."

Mark looked round and beheld a boy of about his own age and size in a
pair of worn corduroy knickerbockers and a guernsey, who was regarding
him from fierce blue eyes under a shock of curly yellow hair.

"I'm not touching it," Mark explained. Then something warned him that he
must assert himself, if he wished to hold his own with this boy, and he
added:

"But if I want to touch it, I will."

"Will 'ee? I say you won't do no such a thing then."

Mark seized the top of the headstone as firmly as his small hands would
allow him and invited the boy to look what he was doing.

"Lev go," the boy commanded.

"I won't," said Mark.

"I'll make 'ee lev go."

"All right, make me."

The boy punched Mark's shoulder, and Mark punched blindly back, hitting
his antagonist such a little way above the belt as to lay himself under
the imputation of a foul blow. The boy responded by smacking Mark's face
with his open palm; a moment later they were locked in a close struggle,
heaving and panting and pushing until both of them tripped on the low
railing of a grave and rolled over into a carefully tended bed of
primroses, whence they were suddenly jerked to their feet, separated,
and held at arm's length by an old man with a grey beard and a small
round hole in the left temple.

"I'll learn you to scat up my tombs," said the old man shaking them
violently. "'Tisn't the first time I've spoken to you, Cass Dale, and
who's this? Who's this boy?"

"Oh, my gosh, look behind 'ee, Mr. Timbury. The bullocks is coming into
the churchyard."

Mr. Timbury loosed his hold on the two boys as he turned, and Cass Dale
catching hold of Mark's hand shouted:

"Come on, run, or he'll have us again."

They were too quick for the old man's wooden leg, and scrambling over
the wall by the south porch of the church they were soon out of danger
on the beach below.

"My gosh, I never heard him coming. If I hadn't have thought to sing out
about the bullocks coming, he'd have laid that stick round us sure
enough. He don't care where he hits anybody, old man Timbury don't. I
belong to hear him tap-tapping along with his old wooden stump, but darn
'ee I never heard 'un coming this time."

The old man was leaning over the churchyard wall, shaking his stick and
abusing them with violent words.

"That's fine language for a sexton," commented Cass Dale. "I'd be
ashamed to swear like that, I would. You wouldn't hear my father swear
like that. My father's a local preacher."

"So's mine," said Mark.

"Is he? Where to?"

"London."

"A minister, is he?"

"No, he's a priest."

"Does he kiss the Pope's toe? My gosh, if the Pope asked me to kiss his
toe, I'd soon tell him to kiss something else, I would."

"My father doesn't kiss the Pope's toe," said Mark.

"I reckon he does then," Cass replied. "Passon Trehawke don't though.
Passon Trehawke's some fine old chap. My father said he'd lev me go
church of a morning sometimes if I'd a mind. My father belongs to come
himself to the Harvest Home, but my granfa never came to church at all
so long as he was alive. 'Time enough when I'm dead for that' he used to
say. He was a big man down to the Chapel, my granfa was. Mostly when he
did preach the maids would start screeching, so I've heard tell. But he
were too old for preaching when I knawed 'un."

"My grandfather is the priest here," said Mark.

"There isn't no priest to Nancepean. Only Passon Trehawke."

"My grandfather's name is Trehawke."

"Is it, by gosh? Well, why for do 'ee call him a priest? He isn't a
priest."

"Yes, he is."

"I say he isn't then. A parson isn't a priest. When I'm grown up I'm
going to be a minister. What are you going to be?"

Mark had for some time past intended to be a keeper at the Zoological
Gardens, but after his adventure with the wild beast in the thicket and
this encounter with the self-confident Cass Dale he decided that he
would not be a keeper but a parson. He informed Cass of his intention.

"Well, if you're a parson and I'm a minister," said Cass, "I'll bet
everyone comes to listen to me preaching and none of 'em don't go to
hear you."

"I wouldn't care if they didn't," Mark affirmed.

"You wouldn't care if you had to preach to a parcel of empty chairs and
benches?" exclaimed Cass.

"St. Francis preached to the trees," said Mark. "And St. Anthony
preached to the fishes."

"They must have been a couple of loonies."

"They were saints," Mark insisted.

"Saints, were they? Well, my father doesn't think much of saints. My
father says he reckons saints is the same as other people, only a bit
worse if anything. Are you saved?"

"What from?" Mark asked.

"Why, from Hell of course. What else would you be saved from?"

"You might be saved from a wild beast," Mark pointed out. "I saw a wild
beast this morning. A wild beast with a long nose and a sort of grey
colour."

"That wasn't a wild beast. That was an old badger."

"Well, isn't a badger a wild beast?"

Cass Dale laughed scornfully.

"My gosh, if that isn't a good one! I suppose you'd say a fox was a wild
beast?"

"No, I shouldn't," said Mark, repressing an inclination to cry, so much
mortified was he by Cass Dale's contemptuous tone.

"All the same," Cass went on. "It don't do to play around with badgers.
There was a chap over to Lanbaddern who was chased right across the Rose
one evening by seven badgers. He was in a muck of sweat when he got
home. But one old badger isn't nothing."

Mark had been counting on his adventure with the wild beast to justify
his long absence should he be reproached by his mother on his return to
the Vicarage. The way it had been disposed of by Cass Dale as an old
badger made him wonder if after all it would be accepted as such a good
excuse.

"I ought to be going home," he said. "But I don't think I remember the
way."

"To Passon Trehawke's?"

Mark nodded.

"I'll show 'ee," Cass volunteered, and he led the way past the mouth of
the stream to the track half way up the slope of the valley.

"Ever eat furze flowers?" asked Cass, offering Mark some that he had
pulled off in passing. "Kind of nutty taste they've got, I reckon. I
belong to eat them most days."

Mark acquired the habit and agreed with Cass that the blossoms were
delicious.

"Only you don't want to go eating everything you see," Cass warned him.
"I reckon you'd better always ask me before you eat anything. But furze
flowers is all right. I've eaten thousands. Next Friday's Good Friday."

"I know," said Mark reverently.

"We belong to get limpets every Good Friday. Are you coming with me?"

"Won't I be in church?" Mark inquired with memories of Good Friday in
Lima Street.

"Yes, I suppose they'll have some sort of a meeting down Church," said
Cass. "But you can come afterward. I'll wait for 'ee in Dollar Cove.
That's the next cove to Church Cove on the other side of the Castle
Cliff, and there's some handsome cave there. Years ago my granfa knawed
a chap who saw a mermaid combing out her hair in Dollar Cove. But
there's no mermaids been seen lately round these parts. My father says
he reckons since they scat up the apple orchards and give over drinking
cider they won't see no more mermaids to Nancepean. Have you signed the
pledge?"

"What's that?" Mark asked.

"My gosh, don't you know what the pledge is? Why, that's when you put a
blue ribbon in your buttonhole and swear you won't drink nothing all
your days."

"But you'd die," Mark objected. "People must drink."

"Water, yes, but there's no call for any one to drink anything only
water. My father says he reckons more folk have gone to hell from drink
than anything. You ought to hear him preach about drink. Why, when it
gets known in the village that Sam Dale's going to preach on drink there
isn't a seat down Chapel. Well, I tell 'ee he frightened me last time I
sat under him. That's why old man Timbury has it in for me whenever he
gets the chance."

Mark looked puzzled.

"Old man Timbury keeps the Hanover Inn. And he reckons my pa's preaching
spoils his trade for a week. That's why he's sexton to the church. 'Tis
the only way he can get even with the chapel folk. He used to be in the
Navy, and he lost his leg and got that hole in his head in a war with
the Rooshians. You'll hear him talking big about the Rooshians
sometimes. My father says anybody listening to old Steve Timbury would
think he'd fought with the Devil, instead of a lot of poor leary
Rooshians."

Mark was so much impressed by the older boy's confident chatter that
when he arrived back at the Vicarage and found his mother at breakfast
he tried the effect of an imitation of it upon her.

"Darling boy, you mustn't excite yourself too much," she warned him. "Do
try to eat a little more and talk a little less."

"But I can go out again with Cass Dale, can't I, mother, as soon as I've
finished my breakfast? He said he'd wait for me and he's going to show
me where we might find some silver dollars. He says they're five times
as big as a shilling and he's going to show me where there's a fox's
hole on the cliffs and he's . . ."

"But, Mark dear, don't forget," interrupted his mother who was feeling
faintly jealous of this absorbing new friend, "don't forget that I can
show you lots of the interesting things to see round here. I was a
little girl here myself and used to play with Cass Dale's father when he
was a little boy no bigger than Cass."

Just then grandfather came into the room and Mark was instantly dumb; he
had never been encouraged to talk much at breakfast in Lima Street. He
did, however, eye his grandfather from over the top of his cup, and he
found him less alarming in the morning than he had supposed him to be
last night. Parson Trehawke kept reaching across the table for the
various things he wanted until his daughter jumped up and putting her
arms round his neck said:

"Dearest father, why don't you ask Mark or me to pass you what you
want?"

"So long alone. So long alone," murmured Parson Trehawke with an
embarrassed smile and Mark observed with a thrill that when he smiled he
looked exactly like his mother, and had Mark but known it exactly like
himself.

"And it's so wonderful to be back here," went on Mrs. Lidderdale, "with
everything looking just the same. As for Mark, he's so happy that--Mark,
do tell grandfather how much you're enjoying yourself."

Mark gulped several times, and finally managed to mutter a confirmation
of his mother's statement.

"And he's already made friends with Cass Dale."

"He's intelligent but like his father he thinks he knows more than he
does," commented Parson Trehawke. "However, he'll make quite a good
companion for this young gentleman."

As soon as breakfast was over Mark rushed out to join Cass Dale, who
sitting crosslegged under an ilex-tree was peeling a pithy twig for a
whistle.




CHAPTER VII

LIFE AT NANCEPEAN


For six years Mark lived with his mother and his grandfather at
Nancepean, hearing nothing of his father except that he had gone out as
a missionary to the diocese of some place in Africa he could never
remember, so little interested was he in his father. His education was
shared between his two guardians, or rather his academic education; the
real education came either from what he read for himself in his
grandfather's ancient library of from what he learnt of Cass Dale, who
was much more than merely informative in the manner of a sixpenny
encyclopaedia. The Vicar, who made himself responsible for the Latin and
later on for the Greek, began with Horace, his own favourite author,
from the rapid translation aloud of whose Odes and Epodes one after
another he derived great pleasure, though it is doubtful if his grandson
would have learnt much Latin if Mrs. Lidderdale had not supplemented
Horace with the Primer and Henry's Exercises. However, if Mark did not
acquire a vocabulary, he greatly enjoyed listening to his grandfather's
melodious voice chanting forth that sonorous topography of Horace, while
the green windows of the study winked every other minute from the flight
past of birds in the garden. His grandfather would stop and ask what
bird it was, because he loved birds even better than he loved Horace.
And if Mark was tired of Latin he used to say that he wasn't sure, but
that he thought it was a lesser-spotted woodpecker or a shrike or any
one of the birds that experience taught him would always distract his
grandfather's attention from anything that he was doing in order that he
might confirm or contradict the rumour. People who are much interested
in birds are less sociable than other naturalists. Their hobby demands a
silent and solitary pursuit of knowledge, and the presence of human
beings is prejudicial to their success. Parson Trehawke found that
Mark's company was not so much of a handicap as he would have supposed;
on the contrary he began to find it an advantage, because his grandson's
eyes were sharp and his observation if he chose accurate: Parson
Trehawke, who was growing old, began to rely upon his help. It was only
when Mark was tired of listening to the translation of Horace that he
called thrushes shrikes: when he was wandering over the cliffs or
tramping beside his grandfather across the Rhos, he was severely
sceptical of any rarity and used to make short work of the old
gentleman's Dartford warblers and fire-crested wrens.

It was usually over birds if ever Parson Trehawke quarrelled with his
parishioners. Few of them attended his services, but they spoke well of
him personally, and they reckoned that he was a fine old boy was Parson.
They would not however abandon their beastly habit of snaring wildfowl
in winter with fish-hooks, and many a time had Mark seen his grandfather
stand on the top of Pendhu Cliff, a favourite place to bait the hooks,
cursing the scattered white houses of the village below as if it were
one of the cities of the plain.

Although the people of Nancepean except for a very few never attended
the services in their church they liked to be baptized and married
within its walls, and not for anything would they have been buried
outside the little churchyard by the sea. About three years after Mark's
arrival his grandfather had a great fight over a burial. The blacksmith,
a certain William Day, died, and although he had never been inside St.
Tugdual's Church since he was married, his relations set great store by
his being buried there and by Parson Trehawke's celebrating the last
rites.

"Never," vowed the Parson. "Never while I live will I lay that
blackguard in my churchyard."

The elders of the village remonstrated with him, pointing out that
although the late Mr. Day was a pillar of the Chapel it had ever been
the custom in Nancepean to let the bones of the most obstinate Wesleyan
rest beside his forefathers.

"Wesleyan!" shouted the Parson. "Who cares if he was a Jew? I won't have
my churchyard defiled by that blackguard's corpse. Only a week before he
died, I saw him with my own eyes fling two or three pieces of white-hot
metal to some ducks that were looking for worms in the ditch outside his
smithy, and the wretched birds gobbled them down and died in agony. I
cursed him where he stood, and the judgment of God has struck him low,
and never shall he rest in holy ground if I can keep him out of it."

The elders of the village expressed their astonishment at Mr. Trehawke's
unreasonableness. William Day had been a God-fearing and upright man all
his life with no scandal upon his reputation unless it were the rumour
that he had got with child a half lunatic servant in his house, and that
was never proved. Was a man to be refused Christian burial because he
had once played a joke on some ducks? And what would Parson Trehawke
have said to Jesus Christ about the joke he played on the Gadarene
swine?

There is nothing that irritates a Kelt so much as the least
consideration for any animal, and there was not a man in the whole of
the Rhos peninsula who did not sympathize with the corpse of William
Day. In the end the dispute was settled by a neighbouring parson's
coming over and reading the burial service over the blacksmith's grave.
Mark apprehended that his grandfather resented bitterly the compromise
as his fellow parson called it, the surrender as he himself called it.
This was the second time that Mark had witnessed the defeat of a
superior being whom he had been taught to regard as invincible, and it
slightly clouded that perfect serenity of being grown up to which, like
most children, he looked forward as the end of life's difficulties. He
argued the justification of his grandfather's action with Cass Dale, and
he found himself confronted by the workings of a mind naturally
nonconformist with its rebellion against authority, its contempt of
tradition, its blend of self-respect and self-importance. When Mark
found himself in danger of being beaten in argument, he took to his
fists, at which method of settling a dispute Cass Dale proved equally
his match; and the end of it was that Mark found himself upside down in
a furze bush with nothing to console him but an unalterable conviction
that he was right and, although tears of pain and mortification were
streaming down his cheeks, a fixed resolve to renew the argument as soon
as he was the right way up again, and if necessary the struggle as well.

Luckily for the friendship between Mark and Cass, a friendship that was
awarded a mystical significance by their two surnames, Lidderdale and
Dale, Parson Trehawke, soon after the burial episode, came forward as
the champion of the Nancepean Fishing Company in a quarrel with those
pirates from Lanyon, the next village down the coast. Inasmuch as a
pilchard catch worth L800 was in dispute, feeling ran high between the
Nancepean Daws and the Lanyon Gulls. All the inhabitants of the Rhos
parishes were called after various birds or animals that were supposed
to indicate their character; and when Parson Trehawke's championship of
his own won the day, his parishioners came to church in a body on the
following Sunday and put one pound five shillings and tenpence halfpenny
in the plate. The reconciliation between the two boys took place with
solemn preliminary handshakes followed by linking of arms as of old
after Cass reckoned audibly to Mark who was standing close by that
Parson Trehawke was a grand old chap, the grandest old chap from
Rosemarket to Rose Head. That afternoon Mark went back to tea with Cass
Dale, and over honey with Cornish cream they were brothers again. Samuel
Dale, the father of Cass, was a typical farmer of that part of the
country with his fifty or sixty acres of land, the capital to work which
had come from fish in the fat pilchard years. Cass was his only son, and
he had an ambition to turn him into a full-fledged minister. He had lost
his wife when Cass was a baby, and it pleased him to think that in
planning such a position for the boy he was carrying out the wishes of
the mother whom outwardly he so much resembled. For housekeeper Samuel
Dale had an unmarried sister whom her neighbours accused of putting on
too much gentility before her nephew's advancement warranted such airs.
Mark liked Aunt Keran and accepted her hospitality as a tribute to
himself rather than to his position as the grandson of the Vicar. Miss
Dale had been a schoolmistress before she came to keep house for her
brother, and she worked hard to supplement what learning Cass could get
from the village school before, some three years after Mark came to
Nancepean, he was sent to Rosemarket Grammar School.

Mark was anxious to attend the Grammar School with Cass; but Mrs.
Lidderdale's dread nowadays was that her son would acquire a West
country burr, and it was considered more prudent, economically and
otherwise, to let him go on learning with his grandfather and herself.
Mark missed Cass when he went to school in Rosemarket, because there was
no such thing as playing truant there, and it was so far away that Cass
did not come home for the midday meal. But in summertime, Mark used to
wait for him outside the town, where a lane branched from the main road
into the unfrequented country behind the Rose Pool and took them the
longest way home along the banks on the Nancepean side, which were low
and rushy unlike those on the Rosemarket side, which were steep and
densely wooded. The great water, though usually described as
heart-shaped, was really more like a pair of Gothic arches, the green
cusp between which was crowned by a lonely farmhouse, El Dorado of Mark
and his friend, and the base of which was the bar of shingle that kept
out the sea. There was much to beguile the boys on the way home, whether
it was the sight of strange wildfowl among the reeds, or the exploration
of a ruined cottage set in an ancient cherry-orchard, or the sailing of
paper boats, or even the mere delight of lying on the grass and
listening above the murmur of insects to the water nagging at the sedge.
So much indeed was there to beguile them that, if after sunset the Pool
had not been a haunted place, they would have lingered there till
nightfall. Sometimes indeed they did miscalculate the distance they had
come and finding themselves likely to be caught by twilight they would
hurry with eyes averted from the grey water lest the kelpie should rise
out of the depths and drown them. There were men and women now alive in
Nancepean who could tell of this happening to belated wayfarers, and it
was Mark who discovered that such a beast was called a kelpie. Moreover,
the bar where earlier in the evening it was pleasant to lie and pluck
the yellow sea-poppies, listening to tales of wrecks and buried treasure
and bygone smuggling, was no place at all in the chill of twilight;
moreover, when the bar had been left behind and before the coastguards'
cottages came into sight there was a two-mile stretch of lonely cliff
that was a famous haunt of ghosts. Drowned light dragoons whose bodies
were tossed ashore here a hundred years ago, wreckers revisiting the
scene of their crimes, murdered excisemen . . . it was not surprising
that the boys hurried along the narrow path, whistling to keep up their
spirits and almost ready to cry for help if nothing more dangerous than
a moth fanned their pale cheeks in passing. And after this Mark had to
undo alone the nine gates between the Vicarage and Nancepean, though
Cass would go with him as far along his road as the last light of the
village could be seen, and what was more stay there whistling for as
long as Mark could hear the heartening sound.

But if these adventures demanded the companionship of Cass, the
inspiration of them was Mark's mother. Just as in the nursery games of
Lima Street it had always been she who had made it worth while to play
with his grenadiers, which by the way had perished in a troopship like
their predecessors the light dragoons a century before, sinking one by
one and leaving nothing behind except their cork-stands bobbing on the
waves.

Mrs. Lidderdale knew every legend of the coast, so that it was thrilling
to sit beside her and turn over the musty pages of the church registers,
following from equinox to equinox in the entries of the burials the
wrecks since the year 1702:

     The bodies of fifteen seamen from the brigantine _Ann Pink_ wrecked
     in Church Cove, on the afternoon of Dec. 19, 1757.

     The body of a child washed into Pendhu Cove from the high seas
     during the night of Jan. 24, 1760.

     The body of an unknown sailor, the breast tattooed with a heart and
     the initials M. V. found in Hanover Cove on the morning of March 3,
     1801.

Such were the inscriptions below the wintry dates of two hundred years,
and for each one Mark's mother had a moving legend of fortune's malice.
She had tales too of treasure, from the golden doubloons of a Spanish
galleon wrecked on the Rose Bar in the sixteenth century to the silver
dollars of Portugal, a million of them, lost in the narrow cove on the
other side of the Castle Cliff in the lee of which was built St.
Tugdual's Church. At low spring tides it was possible to climb down and
sift the wet sand through one's fingers on the chance of finding a
dollar, and when the tide began to rise it was jolly to climb back to
the top of the cliff and listen to tales of mermaids while a gentle wind
blew the perfume of the sea-campion along the grassy slopes. It was here
that Mark first heard the story of the two princesses who were wrecked
in what was now called Church Cove and of how they were washed up on the
cliff and vowed to build a church in gratitude to God and St. Tugdual on
the very spot where they escaped from the sea, of how they quarrelled
about the site because each sister wished to commemorate the exact spot
where she was saved, and of how finally one built the tower on her spot
and the other built the church on hers, which was the reason why the
church and the tower were not joined to this day. When Mark went home
that afternoon, he searched among his grandfather's books until he found
the story of St. Tugdual who, it seemed, was a holy man in Brittany, so
holy that he was summoned to be Pope of Rome. When he had been Pope for
a few months, an angel appeared to him and said that he must come back
at once to Brittany, because since he went to Rome all the women were
become barren.

"But how am I to go back all the way from Rome to Brittany?" St. Tugdual
asked.

"I have a white horse waiting for you," the angel replied.

And sure enough there was a beautiful white horse with wings, which
carried St. Tugdual back to Brittany in a few minutes.

"What does it mean when a woman becomes barren?" Mark inquired of his
mother.

"It means when she does not have any more children, darling," said Mrs.
Lidderdale, who did not believe in telling lies about anything.

And because she answered her son simply, her son did not perplex himself
with shameful speculations, but was glad that St. Tugdual went back home
so that the women of Brittany were able to have children again.

Everything was simple at Nancepean except the parishioners; but Mark was
still too young and too simple himself to apprehend their complicacy.
The simplest thing of all was the Vicar's religion, and at an age when
for most children religion means being dressed up to go into the
drawing-room and say how d'you do to God, Mark was allowed to go to
church in his ordinary clothes and after church to play at whatever he
wanted to play, so that he learned to regard the assemblage of human
beings to worship God as nothing more remarkable than the song of birds.
He was too young to have experienced yet a personal need of religion;
but he had already been touched by that grace of fellowship which is
conferred upon a small congregation, the individual members of which are
in church to please themselves rather than to impress others. This was
always the case in the church of Nancepean, which had to contend not
merely with the popularity of methodism, but also with the situation of
the Chapel in the middle of the village. On the dark December evenings
there would be perhaps not more than half a dozen worshippers, each one
of whom would have brought his own candle and stuck it on the shelf of
the pew. The organist would have two candles for the harmonium; the
choir of three little boys and one little girl would have two between
them; the altar would have two; the Vicar would have two. But when all
the candle-light was put together, it left most of the church in shadow;
indeed, it scarcely even illuminated the space between the worshippers,
so that each one seemed wrapped in a golden aura of prayer, most of all
when at Evensong the people knelt in silence for a minute while the
sound of the sea without rose and fell and the noise of the wind
scuttling through the ivy on the walls was audible. When the
congregation had gone out and the Vicar was standing at the churchyard
gate saying "good night," Mark used to think that they must all be
feeling happy to go home together up the long hill to Pendhu and down
into twinkling Nancepean. And it did not matter whether it was a night
of clear or clouded moonshine or a night of windy stars or a night of
darkness; for when it was dark he could always look back from the valley
road and see a company of lanthorns moving homeward; and that more than
anything shed upon his young spirit the grace of human fellowship and
the love of mankind.




CHAPTER VIII

THE WRECK


One wild night in late October of the year before he would be thirteen,
Mark was lying awake hoping, as on such nights he always hoped, to hear
somebody shout "A wreck! A wreck!" A different Mark from that one who
used to lie trembling in Lima Street lest he should hear a shout of
"Fire! or Thieves!"

And then it happened! It happened as a hundred times he had imagined its
happening, so exactly that he could hardly believe for a moment he was
not dreaming. There was the flash of a lanthorn on the ceiling, a
thunderous, knocking on the Vicarage door. Mark leapt out of bed;
flinging open his window through which the wind rushed in like a flight
of angry birds, he heard voices below in the garden shouting "Parson!
Parson! Parson Trehawke! There's a brig driving in fast toward Church
Cove." He did not wait to hear more, but dashed along the passage to
rouse first his grandfather, then his mother, and then Emma, the Vicar's
old cook.

"And you must get soup ready," he cried, standing over the old woman in
his flannel pyjamas and waving his arms excitedly, while downstairs the
cuckoo popped in and out of his door in the clock twelve times. Emma
blinked at him in terror, and Mark pulled off all the bedclothes to
convince the old woman that he was not playing a practical joke. Then he
rushed back to his own room and began to dress for dear life.

"Mother," he shouted, while he was dressing, "the Captain can sleep in
my bed, if he isn't drowned, can't he?"

"Darling, do you really want to go down to the sea on such a night?"

"Oh, mother," he gasped, "I'm practically dressed. And you will see
that Emma has lots of hot soup ready, won't you? Because it'll be much
better to bring all the crew back here. I don't think they'd want to
walk all that way over Pendhu to Nancepean after they'd been wrecked, do
you?"

"Well, you must ask grandfather first before you make arrangements for
his house."

"Grandfather's simply tearing into his clothes; Ernie Hockin and Joe
Dunstan have both got lanthorns, and I'll carry ours, so if one blows
out we shall be all right. Oh, mother, the wind's simply shrieking
through the trees. Can you hear it?"

"Yes, dearest, I certainly can. I think you'd better shut your windows.
It's blowing everything about in your room most uncomfortably."

Mark's soul expanded in gratitude to God when he found himself neither
in a dream nor in a story, but actually, and without any possibility of
self-deception hurrying down the drive toward the sea beside Ernie and
Joe, who had come from the village to warn the Vicar of the wreck and
were wearing oilskins and sou'westers, thus striking the keynote as it
were of the night's adventure. At first in the shelter of the holm-oaks
the storm seemed far away overhead; but when they turned the corner and
took the road along the valley, the wind caught them full in the face
and Mark was blown back violently against the swinging gate of the
drive. The light of the lanthorns shining on a rut in the road showed a
field-mouse hurrying inland before the rushing gale. Mark bent double to
force himself to keep up with the others, lest somebody should think, by
his inability to maintain an equal pace that he ought to follow the
field-mouse back home. After they had struggled on for a while a bend of
the valley gave them a few minutes of easy progress and Mark listened
while Ernie Hockin explained to the Vicar what had happened:

"Just before dark Eddowes the coastguard said he reckoned there was a
brig making very heavy weather of it and he shouldn't be surprised if
she come ashore tonight. Couldn't seem to beat out of the bay noways, he
said. And afterwards about nine o'clock when me and Joe here and some
of the chaps were in the bar to the Hanover, Eddowes come in again and
said she was in a bad way by the looks of her last thing he saw, and he
telephoned along to Lanyon to ask if they'd seen her down to the
lifeboat house. They reckoned she was all right to the lifeboat, and old
man Timbury who do always go against anything Eddowes do say shouted
that of course she was all right because he'd taken a look at her
through his glass before it grew dark. Of course she was all right.
'She's on a lee shore,' said Eddowes. 'It don't take a coastguard to
tell that,' said old man Timbury. And then they got to talking one
against the other the same as they belong, and they'd soon got back to
the same old talk whether Jackie Fisher was the finest admiral who ever
lived or no use at all. 'What's the good in your talking to me?' old man
Timbury was saying. 'Why afore you was born I've seen' . . . and we all
started in to shout 'ships o' the line, frigates, and cavattes,' because
we belong to mock him like that, when somebody called 'Hark, listen,
wasn't that a rocket?' That fetched us all outside into the road where
we stood listening. The wind was blowing harder than ever, and there was
a parcel of sea rising. You could hear it against Shag Rock over the
wind. Eddowes, he were a bit upset to think he should have been talking
and not a-heard the rocket. But there wasn't a light in the sky, and
when we went home along about half past nine we saw Eddowes again and he
said he'd been so far as Church Cove and should walk up along to the
Bar. No mistake, Mr. Trehawke, he's a handy chap is Eddowes for the
coastguard job. And then about eleven o'clock he saw two rockets close
in to Church Cove and he come running back and telephoned to Lanyon, but
they said no one couldn't launch a boat to-night, and Eddowes he come
banging on the doors and windows shouting 'A Wreck' and some of us took
ropes along with Eddowes, and me and Joe here come and fetched you
along. Eddowes said he's afeard she'll strike in Dollar Cove unless
she's lucky and come ashore in Church Cove."

"How's the tide?" asked the Vicar.

"About an hour of the ebb," said Ernie Hockin. "And the moon's been up
this hour and more."

Just then the road turned the corner, and the world became a waste of
wind and spindrift driving inland. The noise of the gale made it
impossible for anybody to talk, and Mark was left wondering whether the
ship had actually struck or not. The wind drummed in his ears, the
flying grit and gravel and spray stung his face; but he struggled on
hoping that this midnight walk would not come to an abrupt end by his
grandfather's declining to go any farther. Above the drumming of the
wind the roar of the sea became more audible every moment; the spume was
thicker; the end of the valley, ordinarily the meeting-place of sand and
grass and small streams with their yellow flags and forget-me-nots, was
a desolation of white foam beyond which against the cliffs showing black
in the nebulous moonlight the breakers leapt high with frothy tongues.
Mark thought that they resembled immense ghosts clawing up to reach the
summit of the cliff. It was incredible that this hell-broth was Church
Cove.

"Hullo!" yelled Ernie Hockin. "Here's the bridge."

It was true. One wave at the moment of high tide had swept snarling over
the stream and carried the bridge into the meadow beyond.

"We'll have to get round by the road," shouted the Vicar.

They turned to the right across a ploughed field and after scrambling
through the hedge emerged in the comparative shelter of the road down
from Pendhu.

"I hope the churchyard wall is all right," said the Vicar. "I never
remember such a night since I came to Nancepean."

"Sure 'nough, 'tis blowing very fierce," Joe Dunstan agreed. "But don't
you worry about the wall, Mr. Trehawke. The worst of the water is broken
by the Castle and only comes in sideways, as you might say."

When they drew near the gate of the churchyard, the rain of sand and
small pebbles was agonizing, as it swept across up the low sandstone
cliffs on that side of the Castle. Two or three excited figures shouted
for them to hurry because she was going to strike in Dollar Cove, and
everybody began to scramble up the grassy slope, clutching at the
tuffets of thrift to aid their progress. It was calm here in the lee;
and Mark panting up the face thought of those two princesses who were
wrecked here ages ago, and he understood now why one of them had
insisted on planting the tower deep in the foundation of this green
fortress against the wind and weather. While he was thinking this, his
head came above the sky line, his breath left him at the assault of the
wind, and he had to crawl on all fours toward the sea. He reached the
edge of the cliff just as something like the wings of a gigantic bat
flapped across the dim wet moonlight, and before he realized that this
was the brig he heard the crashing of her spars. The watchers stood up
against the wind, battling with it to fling lines in the vain hope of
saving some sailor who was being churned to death in that dreadful
creaming of the sea below. Yes, and there were forms of men visible on
board; two had climbed the mainmast, which crashed before they could
clutch at the ropes that were being flung to them from land, crashed and
carried them down shrieking into the surge. Mark found it hard to
believe that last summer he had spent many sunlit hours dabbling in the
sand for silver dollars of Portugal lost perhaps on such a night as this
a hundred years ago, exactly where these two poor mariners were lost. A
few minutes after the mainmast the hull went also; but in the nebulous
moonlight nothing could be seen of any bodies alive or dead, nothing
except wreckage tossing upon the surge. The watchers on the cliff turned
away from the wind to gather new breath and give their cheeks a rest
from the stinging fragments of rock and earth. Away up over the towans
they could see the bobbing lanthorns of men hurrying down from Chypie
where news of the wreck had reached; and on the road from Lanyon they
could see lanthorns on the other side of Church Cove waiting until the
tide had ebbed far enough to let them cross the beach.

Suddenly the Vicar shouted:

"I can see a poor fellow hanging on to a ledge of rock. Bring a rope!
Bring a rope!"

Eddowes the coastguard took charge of the operation, and Mark with
beating pulses watched the end of the rope touch the huddled form below.
But either from exhaustion or because he feared to let go of the
slippery ledge for one moment the sailor made no attempt to grasp the
rope. The men above shouted to him, begged him to make an effort; but he
remained there inert.

"Somebody must go down with the rope and get a slip knot under his
arms," the Vicar shouted.

Nobody seemed to pay attention to this proposal, and Mark wondered if he
was the only one who had heard it. However, when the Vicar repeated his
suggestion, Eddowes came forward, knelt down by the edge of the cliff,
shook himself like a bather who is going to plunge into what he knows
will be very cold water, and then vanished down the rope. Everybody
crawled on hand and knees to see what would happen. Mark prayed that
Eddowes, who was a great friend of his, would not come to any harm, but
that he would rescue the sailor and be given the Albert medal for saving
life. It was Eddowes who had made him medal wise. The coastguard
struggled to slip the loop under the man's shoulders along his legs; but
it must have been impossible, for presently he made a signal to be
raised.

"I can't do it alone," he shouted. "He's got a hold like a limpet."

Nobody seemed anxious to suppose that the addition of another rescuer
would be any more successful.

"If there was two of us," Eddowes went on, "we might do something."

The people on the cliff shook their heads doubtfully.

"Isn't anybody coming down along with me to have a try?" the coastguard
demanded at the top of his voice.

Mark did not hear his grandfather's reply; he only saw him go over the
cliff's edge at the end of one rope while Eddowes went down on another.
A minute later the slipknot came untied (or that was how the accident
was explained) and the Vicar went to join the drowned mariners,
dislodging as he fell the man whom he had tried to save, so that of the
crew of the brig _Happy Return_ not one ever came to port.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the effect upon Mark Lidderdale of
that night. He was twelve years old at the time; but the years in
Cornwall had retarded that precocious development to which he seemed
destined by the surroundings of his early childhood in Lima Street, and
in many ways he was hardly any older than he was when he left London. In
after years he looked back with gratitude upon the shock he received
from what was as it were an experience of the material impact of death,
because it made him think about death, not morbidly as so many children
and young people will, but with the apprehension of something that
really does come in a moment and for which it is necessary for every
human being to prepare his soul. The platitudes of age may often be for
youth divine revelations, and there is nothing so stimulating as the
unaided apprehension of a great commonplace of existence. The awe with
which Mark was filled that night was too vast to evaporate in sentiment,
and when two days after this there came news from Africa that his father
had died of black-water fever that awe was crystallized indeed. Mark
looking round at his small world perceived that nobody was safe.
To-morrow his mother might die; to-morrow he might die himself. In any
case the death of his grandfather would have meant a profound change in
the future of his mother's life and his own; the living of Nancepean
would fall to some other priest and with it the house in which they
lived. Parson Trehawke had left nothing of any value except Gould's
_Birds of Great Britain_ and a few other works of ornithology. The
furniture of the Vicarage was rich neither in quality nor in quantity.
Three or four hundred pounds was the most his daughter could inherit.
She had spoken to Mark of their poverty, because in her dismay for the
future of her son she had no heart to pretend that the dead man's money
was of little importance.

"I must write and ask your father what we ought to do." . . . She
stopped in painful awareness of the possessive pronoun. Mark was
unresponsive, until there came the news from Africa, which made him
throw his arms about his mother's neck while she was still alive. Mrs.
Lidderdale, whatever bitterness she may once have felt for the ruin of
her married life, shed fresh tears of sorrow for her husband, and
supposing that Mark's embrace was the expression of his sympathy wept
more, as people will when others are sorry for them, and then still more
because the future for Mark seemed hopeless. How was she to educate him?
How clothe him? How feed him even? At her age where and how could she
earn money? She reproached herself with having been too ready out of
sensitiveness to sacrifice Mark to her own pride. She had had no right
to leave her husband and live in the country like this. She should have
repressed her own emotion and thought only of the family life, to the
maintenance of which by her marriage she had committed herself. At first
it had seemed the best thing for Mark; but she should have remembered
that her father could not live for ever and that one day she would have
to face the problem of life without his help and his hospitality. She
began to imagine that the disaster of that stormy night had been
contrived by God to punish her, and she prayed to Him that her
chastisement should not be increased, that at least her son might be
spared to her.

Mrs. Lidderdale was able to stay on at the Vicarage for several weeks,
because the new Vicar of Nancepean was not able to take over his charge
immediately. This delay gave her time to hold a sale of her father's
furniture, at which the desire of the neighbours to be generous fought
with their native avarice, so that in the end the furniture fetched
neither more nor less than had been expected, which was little enough.
She kept back enough to establish herself and Mark in rooms, should she
be successful in finding some unfurnished rooms sufficiently cheap to
allow her to take them, although how she was going to live for more than
two years on what she had was a riddle of which after a month of
sleepless nights she had not found the solution.

In the end, and as Mrs. Lidderdale supposed in answer to her prayers,
the solution was provided unexpectedly in the following letter:

     Haverton House,

     Elmhurst Road,

     Slowbridge.

     November 29th.

     Dear Grace,

     I have just received a letter from James written when he was at the
     point of death in Africa. It appears that in his zeal to convert
     the heathen to Popery he omitted to make any provision for his wife
     and child, so that in the event of his death, unless either your
     relatives or his relatives came forward to support you I was given
     to understand that you would be destitute. I recently read in the
     daily paper an account of the way in which your father Mr. Trehawke
     lost his life, and I caused inquiries to be made in Rosemarket
     about your prospects. These my informant tells me are not any too
     bright. You will, I am sure, pardon my having made these inquiries
     without reference to you, but I did not feel justified in offering
     you and my nephew a home with my sister Helen and myself unless I
     had first assured myself that some such offer was necessary. You
     are probably aware that for many years my brother James and myself
     have not been on the best of terms. I on my side found his
     religious teaching so eccentric as to repel me; he on his side was
     so bigoted that he could not tolerate my tacit disapproval. Not
     being a Ritualist but an Evangelical, I can perhaps bring myself
     more easily to forgive my brother's faults and at the same time
     indulge my theories of duty, as opposed to forms and ceremonies,
     theories that if carried out by everybody would soon transform our
     modern Christianity. You are no doubt a Ritualist, and your son has
     no doubt been educated in the same school. Let me hasten to give
     you my word that I shall not make the least attempt to interfere
     either with your religious practices or with his. The quarrel
     between myself and James was due almost entirely to James'
     inability to let me and my opinions alone.

     I am far from being a rich man, in fact I may say at once that I am
     scarcely even "comfortably off" as the phrase goes. It would
     therefore be outside my capacity to undertake the expense of any
     elaborate education for your son; but my own school, which while it
     does not pretend to compete with some of the fashionable
     establishments of the time is I venture to assert a first class
     school and well able to send your son into the world at the age of
     sixteen as well equipped, and better equipped than he would be if
     he went to one of the famous public schools. I possess some
     influence with a firm of solicitors, and I have no doubt that when
     my nephew, who is I believe now twelve years old, has had the
     necessary schooling I shall be able to secure him a position as an
     articled clerk, from which if he is honest and industrious he may
     be able to rise to the position of a junior partner. If you have
     saved anything from the sale of your father's effects I should
     advise you to invest the sum. However small it is, you will find
     the extra money useful, for as I remarked before I shall not be
     able to afford to do more than lodge and feed you both, educate
     your son, find him in clothes, and start him in a career on the
     lines I have already indicated. My local informant tells me that
     you have kept back a certain amount of your father's furniture in
     order to take lodgings elsewhere. As this will now be unnecessary I
     hope that you will sell the rest. Haverton House is sufficiently
     furnished, and we should not be able to find room for any more
     furniture. I suggest your coming to us next Friday. It will be
     easiest for you to take the fast train up to Paddington when you
     will be able to catch the 6.45 to Slowbridge arriving at 7.15. We
     usually dine at 7.30, but on Friday dinner will be at 8 p.m. in
     order to give you plenty of time. Helen sends her love. She would
     have written also, but I assured her that one letter was enough,
     and that a very long one.

     Your affectionate brother-in-law,

     Henry Lidderdale.

Mrs. Lidderdale would no doubt have criticized this letter more sharply
if she had not regarded it as inspired, almost actually written by the
hand of God. Whatever in it was displeasing to her she accepted as the
Divine decree, and if anybody had pointed out the inconsistency of some
of the opinions therein expressed with its Divine authorship, she would
have dismissed the objection as made by somebody who was incapable of
comprehending the mysterious action of God.

"Mark," she called to her son. "What do you think has happened? Your
Uncle Henry has offered us a home. I want you to write to him like a
dear boy and thank him for his kindness." She explained in detail what
Uncle Henry intended to do for them; but Mark would not be enthusiastic.
He on his side had been praying to God to put it into the mind of Samuel
Dale to offer him a job on his farm; Slowbridge was a poor substitute
for that.

"Where is Slowbridge?" he asked in a gloomy voice.

"It's a fairly large place near London," his mother told him. "It's near
Eton and Windsor and Stoke Poges where Gray wrote his Elegy, which we
learned last summer. You remember, don't you?" she asked anxiously, for
she wanted Mark to cut a figure with his uncle.

"Wolfe liked it," said Mark. "And I like it too," he added ungraciously.
He wished that he could have said he hated it; but Mark always found it
difficult to tell a lie about his personal feelings, or about any facts
that involved him in a false position.

"And now before you go down to tea with Cass Dale, you will write to
your uncle, won't you, and show me the letter?"

Mark groaned.

"It's so difficult to thank people. It makes me feel silly."

"Well, darling, mother wants you to. So sit down like a dear boy and get
it done."

"I think my nib is crossed."

"Is it? You'll find another in my desk."

"But, mother, yours are so thick."

"Please, Mark, don't make any more excuses. Don't you want to do
everything you can to help me just now?"

"Yes, of course," said Mark penitently, and sitting down in the window
he stared out at the yellow November sky, and at the magpies flying
busily from one side of the valley to the other.

     The Vicarage,

     Nancepean,

     South Cornwall.

     My dear Uncle Henry,

     Thank you very much for your kind invitation to come and live with
     you. We should enjoy it very much. I am going to tea with a friend
     of mine called Cass Dale who lives in Nancepean, and so I must stop
     now. With love,

     I remain,

     Your loving nephew,

     Mark.

And then the pen must needs go and drop a blot like a balloon right over
his name, so that the whole letter had to be copied out again before his
mother would say that she was satisfied, by which time the yellow sky
was dun and the magpies were gone to rest.

Mark left the Dales about half past six, and was accompanied by Cass to
the brow of Pendhu. At this point Cass declined to go any farther in
spite of Mark's reminder that this would be one of the last walks they
would take together, if it were not absolutely the very last.

"No," said Cass. "I wouldn't come up from Church Cove myself not for
anything."

"But I'm going down by myself," Mark argued. "If I hadn't thought you'd
come all the way with me, I'd have gone home by the fields. What are you
afraid of?"

"I'm not afraid of nothing, but I don't want to walk so far by myself.
I've come up the hill with 'ee. Now 'tis all down hill for both of us,
and that's fair."

"Oh, all right," said Mark, turning away in resentment at his friend's
desertion.

Both boys ran off in opposite directions, Cass past the splash of light
thrown across the road by the windows of the Hanover Inn, and on toward
the scattered lights of Nancepean, Mark into the gloom of the deep lane
down to Church Cove. It was a warm and humid evening that brought out
the smell of the ferns and earth in the high banks on either side, and
presently at the bottom of the hill the smell of the seaweed heaped up
in Church Cove by weeks of gales. The moon, about three days from the
full, was already up, shedding her aqueous lustre over the towans of
Chypie, which slowly penetrated the black gulfs of shadow in the
countryside until Mark could perceive the ghost of a familiar landscape.
There came over him, whose emotion had already been sprung by the
insensibility of Cass, an overwhelming awareness of parting, and he
gave to the landscape the expression of sentiment he had yearned to give
his friend. His fear of seeing the spirits of the drowned sailors, or as
he passed the churchyard gate of perceiving behind that tamarisk the
tall spectre of his grandfather, which on the way down from Pendhu had
seemed impossible to combat, had died away; and in his despair at losing
this beloved scene he wandered on past the church until he stood at the
edge of the tide. On this humid autumnal night the oily sea collapsed
upon the beach as if it, like everything else in nature, was overcome by
the prevailing heaviness. Mark sat down upon some tufts of samphire and
watched the Stag Light occulting out across St. Levan's Bay, distant
forty miles and more, and while he sat he perceived a glow-worm at his
feet creeping along a sprig of samphire that marked the limit of the
tide's advance. How did the samphire know that it was safe to grow where
it did, and how did the glow-worm know that the samphire was safe?

Mark was suddenly conscious of the protection of God, for might not he
expect as much as the glow-worm and the samphire? The ache of separation
from Nancepean was assuaged. That dread of the future, with which the
impact of death had filled him, was allayed.

"Good-night, sister glow-worm," he said aloud in imitation of St.
Francis. "Good-night, brother samphire."

A drift of distant fog had obliterated the Stag Light; but of her
samphire the glow-worm had made a moonlit forest, so brightly was she
shining, yes, a green world of interlacing, lucid boughs.

_Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven._

And Mark, aspiring to thank God Who had made manifest His protection,
left Nancepean three days later with the determination to become a
lighthouse-keeper, to polish well his lamp and tend it with care, so
that men passing by in ships should rejoice at his good works and call
him brother lighthouse-keeper, and glorify God their Father when they
walked again upon the grass, harking to the pleasant song of birds and
the hum of bees.




CHAPTER IX

SLOWBRIDGE


When Mark came to live with Uncle Henry Lidderdale at Slowbridge, he was
large for his age, or at any rate he was so loosely jointed as to appear
large; a swart complexion, prominent cheek-bones, and straight lank hair
gave him a melancholic aspect, the impression of which remained with the
observer until he heard the boy laugh in a paroxysm of merriment that
left his dark blue eyes dancing long after the outrageous noise had died
down. If Mark had occasion to relate some episode that appealed to him,
his laughter would accompany the narrative like a pack of hounds in full
cry, would as it were pursue the tale to its death, and communicate its
zest to the listener, who would think what a sense of humour Mark had,
whereas it was more truly the gusto of life.

Uncle Henry found this laughter boisterous and irritating; if his nephew
had been a canary in a cage, he would have covered him with a
table-cloth. Aunt Helen, if she was caught up in one of Mark's
narratives, would twitch until it was finished, when she would rub her
forehead with an acorn of menthol and wrap herself more closely in a
shawl of soft Shetland wool. The antipathy that formerly existed between
Mark and his father was much sharper between Mark and his uncle. It was
born in the instant of their first meeting, when Uncle Henry bent over,
his trunk at right angles to his legs, so that one could fancy the
pelvic bones to be clicking like the wooden joints of a monkey on a
stick, and offered his nephew an acrid whisker to be saluted.

"And what is Mark going to be?" Uncle Henry inquired.

"A lighthouse-keeper."

"Ah, we all have suchlike ambitions when we are young. I remember that
for nearly a year I intended to be a muffin-man," said Uncle Henry
severely.

Mark hated his uncle from that moment, and he fixed upon the throbbing
pulse of his scraped-out temples as the feature upon which that dislike
should henceforth be concentrated. Uncle Henry's pulse seemed to express
all the vitality that was left to him; Mark thought that Our Lord must
have felt about the barren fig-tree much as he felt about Uncle Henry.

Aunt Helen annoyed Mark in the way that one is annoyed by a cushion in
an easy chair. It is soft and apparently comfortable, but after a minute
or two one realizes that it is superfluous, and it is pushed over the
arm to the floor. Unfortunately Aunt Helen could not be treated like a
cushion; and there she was soft and comfortable in appearance, but
forever in Mark's way. Aunt Helen was the incarnation of her own
drawing-room. Her face was round and stupid like a clock's; she wore
brocaded gowns and carpet slippers; her shawls resembled antimacassars;
her hair was like the stuff that is put in grates during the summer; her
caps were like lace curtains tied back with velvet ribbons; cameos leant
against her bosom as if they were upon a mantelpiece. Mark never
overcame his dislike of kissing Aunt Helen, for it gave him a sensation
every time that a bit of her might stick to his lips. He lacked that
solemn sense of relationship with which most children are imbued, and
the compulsory intimacy offended him, particularly when his aunt
referred to little boys generically as if they were beetles or mice. Her
inability to appreciate that he was Mark outraged his young sense of
personality which was further dishonoured by the manner in which she
spoke of herself as Aunt Helen, thus seeming to imply that he was only
human at all in so far as he was her nephew. She continually shocked his
dignity by prescribing medicine for him without regard to the presence
of servants or visitors; and nothing gave her more obvious pleasure than
to get Mark into the drawing-room on afternoons when dreary mothers of
pupils came to call, so that she might bully him under the appearance of
teaching good manners, and impress the parents with the advantages of a
Haverton House education.

As long as his mother remained alive, Mark tried to make her happy by
pretending that he enjoyed living at Haverton House, that he enjoyed his
uncle's Preparatory School for the Sons of Gentlemen, that he enjoyed
Slowbridge with its fogs and laburnums, its perambulators and
tradesmen's carts and noise of whistling trains; but a year after they
left Nancepean Mrs. Lidderdale died of pneumonia, and Mark was left
alone with his uncle and aunt.

"He doesn't realize what death means," said Aunt Helen, when Mark on the
very afternoon of the funeral without even waiting to change out of his
best clothes began to play with soldiers instead of occupying himself
with the preparation of lessons that must begin again on the morrow.

"I wonder if you will play with soldiers when Aunt Helen dies?" she
pressed.

"No," said Mark quickly, "I shall work at my lessons when you die."

His uncle and aunt looked at him suspiciously. They could find no fault
with the answer; yet something in the boy's tone, some dreadful
suppressed exultation made them feel that they ought to find severe
fault with the answer.

"Wouldn't it be kinder to your poor mother's memory," Aunt Helen
suggested, "wouldn't it be more becoming now to work harder at your
lessons when your mother is watching you from above?"

Mark would not condescend to explain why he was playing with soldiers,
nor with what passionate sorrow he was recalling every fleeting
expression on his mother's face, every slight intonation of her voice
when she was able to share in his game; he hated his uncle and aunt so
profoundly that he revelled in their incapacity to understand him, and
he would have accounted it a desecration of her memory to share his
grief with them.

Haverton House School was a depressing establishment; in after years
when Mark looked back at it he used to wonder how it had managed to
survive so long, for when he came to live at Slowbridge it had actually
been in existence for twenty years, and his uncle was beginning to look
forward to the time when Old Havertonians, as he called them, would be
bringing their sons to be educated at the old place. There were about
fifty pupils, most of them the sons of local tradesmen, who left when
they were about fourteen, though a certain number lingered on until they
were as much as sixteen in what was called the Modern Class, where they
were supposed to receive at least as practical an education as they
would have received behind the counter, and certainly a more genteel
one. Fine fellows those were in the Modern Class at Haverton House,
stalwart heroes who made up the cricket and football teams and strode
about the playing fields of Haverton House with as keen a sense of their
own importance as Etonians of comparable status in their playing fields
not more than two miles away. Mark when everything else in his school
life should be obliterated by time would remember their names and
prowess. . . . Borrow, Tull, Yarde, Corke, Vincent, Macdougal, Skinner,
they would keep throughout his life some of that magic which clings to
Diomed and Deiphobus, to Hector and Achilles.

Apart from these heroic names the atmosphere of Haverton House was not
inspiring. It reduced the world to the size and quality of one of those
scratched globes with which Uncle Henry demonstrated geography. Every
subject at Haverton House, no matter how interesting it promised to be,
was ruined from an educative point of view by its impedimenta of dates,
imports, exports, capitals, capes, and Kings of Israel and Judah.
Neither Uncle Henry nor his assistants Mr. Spaull and Mr. Palmer
believed in departing from the book. Whatever books were chosen for the
term's curriculum were regarded as something for which money had been
paid and from which the last drop of information must be squeezed to
justify in the eyes of parents the expenditure. The teachers considered
the notes more important than the text; genealogical tables were exalted
above anything on the same page. Some books of history were adorned with
illustrations; but no use was made of them by the masters, and for the
pupils they merely served as outlines to which, were they the outlines
of human beings, inky beards and moustaches had to be affixed, or were
they landscapes, flights of birds.

Mr. Spaull was a fat flabby young man with a heavy fair moustache, who
was reading for Holy Orders; Mr. Palmer was a stocky bow-legged young
man in knickerbockers, who was good at football and used to lament the
gentle birth that prevented his becoming a professional. The boys called
him Gentleman Joe; but they were careful not to let Mr. Palmer hear
them, for he had a punch and did not believe in cuddling the young. He
used to jeer openly at his colleague, Mr. Spaull, who never played
football, never did anything in the way of exercise except wrestle
flirtatiously with the boys, while Mr. Palmer was bellowing up and down
the field of play and charging his pupils with additional vigour to
counteract the feebleness of Mr. Spaull. Poor Mr. Spaull, he was
ordained about three years after Mark came to Slowbridge, and a week
later he was run over by a brewer's dray and killed.




CHAPTER X

WHIT-SUNDAY


Mark at the age of fifteen was a bitter, lonely, and unattractive boy.
Three years of Haverton House, three years of Uncle Henry's desiccated
religion, three years of Mr. Palmer's athletic education and Mr.
Spaull's milksop morality, three years of wearing clothes that were too
small for him, three years of Haverton House cooking, three years of
warts and bad haircutting, of ink and Aunt Helen's confident purging had
destroyed that gusto for life which when Mark first came to Slowbridge
used to express itself in such loud laughter. Uncle Henry probably
supposed that the cure of his nephew's irritating laugh was the
foundation stone of that successful career, which it would soon be time
to discuss in detail. The few months between now and Mark's sixteenth
birthday would soon pass, however dreary the restrictions of Haverton
House, and then it would be time to go and talk to Mr. Hitchcock about
that articled clerkship toward the fees for which the small sum left by
his mother would contribute. Mark was so anxious to be finished with
Haverton House that he would have welcomed a prospect even less
attractive than Mr. Hitchcock's office in Finsbury Square; it never
occurred to him that the money left by his mother could be spent to
greater advantage for himself. By now it was over L500, and Uncle Henry
on Sunday evenings when he was feeling comfortably replete with the
day's devotion would sometimes allude to his having left the interest to
accumulate and would urge Mark to be up and doing in order to show his
gratitude for all that he and Aunt Helen had conferred upon him. Mark
felt no gratitude; in fact at this period he felt nothing except a kind
of surly listlessness. He was like somebody who through the carelessness
of his nurse or guardian has been crippled in youth, and who is
preparing to enter the world with a suppressed resentment against
everybody and everything.

"Not still hankering after a lighthouse?" Uncle Henry asked, and one
seemed to hear his words snapping like dry twigs beneath the heavy tread
of his mind.

"I'm not hankering after anything," Mark replied sullenly.

"But you're looking forward to Mr. Hitchcock's office?" his uncle
proceeded.

Mark grunted an assent in order to be left alone, and the entrance of
Mr. Palmer who always had supper with his headmaster and employer on
Sunday evening, brought the conversation to a close.

At supper Mr. Palmer asked suddenly if the headmaster wanted Mark to go
into the Confirmation Class this term.

"No thanks," said Mark.

Uncle Henry raised his eyebrows.

"I fancy that is for me to decide."

"Neither my father nor my mother nor my grandfather would have wanted me
to be confirmed against my will," Mark declared. He was angry without
knowing his reasons, angry in response to some impulse of the existence
of which he had been unaware until he began to speak. He only knew that
if he surrendered on this point he should never be able to act for
himself again.

"Are you suggesting that you should never be confirmed?" his uncle
required.

"I'm not suggesting anything," said Mark. "But I can remember my
father's saying once that boys ought to be confirmed before they are
thirteen. My mother just before she died wanted me to be confirmed, but
it couldn't be arranged, and now I don't intend to be confirmed till I
feel I want to be confirmed. I don't want to be prepared for
confirmation as if it was a football match. If you force me to go to the
confirmation I'll refuse to answer the Bishop's questions. You can't
make me answer against my will."

"Mark dear," said Aunt Helen, "I think you'd better take some Eno's
Fruit Salts to-morrow morning." In her nephew's present mood she did not
dare to prescribe anything stronger.

"I'm not going to take anything to-morrow morning," said Mark angrily.

"Do you want me to thrash you?" Uncle Henry demanded.

Mr. Palmer's eyes glittered with the zeal of muscular Christianity.

"You'll be sorry for it if you do," said Mark. "You can of course, if
you get Mr. Palmer to help you, but you'll be sorry if you do."

Mr. Palmer looked at his chief as a terrier looks at his master when a
rabbit is hiding in a bush. But the headmaster's vanity would not allow
him to summon help to punish his own nephew, and he weakly contented
himself with ordering Mark to be silent.

"It strikes me that Spaull is responsible for this sort of thing," said
Mr. Palmer. "He always resented my having any hand in the religious
teaching."

"That poor worm!" Mark scoffed.

"Mark, he's dead," Aunt Helen gasped. "You mustn't speak of him like
that."

"Get out of the room and go to bed," Uncle Henry shouted.

Mark retired with offensive alacrity, and while he was undressing he
wondered drearily why he had made himself so conspicuous on this Sunday
evening out of so many Sunday evenings. What did it matter whether he
were confirmed or not? What did anything matter except to get through
the next year and be finished with Haverton House?

He was more sullen than ever during the week, but on Saturday he had the
satisfaction of bowling Mr. Palmer in the first innings of a match and
in the second innings of hitting him on the jaw with a rising ball.

The next day he rose at five o'clock on a glorious morning in early June
and walked rapidly away from Slowbridge. By ten o'clock he had reached a
country of rolling beech-woods, and turning aside from the high road he
wandered over the bare nutbrown soil that gave the glossy leaves high
above a green unparagoned, a green so lambent that the glimpses of the
sky beyond seemed opaque as turquoises amongst it. In quick succession
Mark saw a squirrel, a woodpecker, and a jay, creatures so perfectly
expressive of the place, that they appeared to him more like visions
than natural objects; and when they were gone he stood with beating
heart in silence as if in a moment the trees should fly like
woodpeckers, the sky flash and flutter its blue like a jay's wing, and
the very earth leap like a squirrel for his amazement. Presently he came
to an open space where the young bracken was springing round a pool. He
flung himself down in the frondage, and the spice of it in his nostrils
was as if he were feeding upon summer. He was happy until he caught
sight of his own reflection in the pool, and then he could not bear to
stay any longer in this wood, because unlike the squirrel and the
woodpecker and the jay he was an ugly intruder here, a scarecrow in
ill-fitting clothes, round the ribbon of whose hat like a chain ran the
yellow zigzag of Haverton House. He became afraid of the wood,
perceiving nothing round him now except an assemblage of menacing
trunks, a slow gathering of angry and forbidding branches. The silence
of the day was dreadful in this wood, and Mark fled from it until he
emerged upon a brimming clover-ley full of drunken bees, a merry
clover-ley dancing in the sun, across which the sound of church bells
was being blown upon a honeyed wind. Mark welcomed the prospect of
seeing ugly people again after the humiliation inflicted upon him by the
wood; and he followed a footpath at the far end of the ley across
several stiles, until he stood beneath the limes that overhung the
churchyard gate and wondered if he should go inside to the service. The
bells were clanging an agitated final appeal to the worshippers; and
Mark, unable to resist, allowed himself to flow toward the cool dimness
within. There with a thrill he recognized the visible signs of his
childhood's religion, and now after so many years he perceived with new
eyes an unfamiliar beauty in the crossings and genuflexions, in the
pictures and images. The world which had lately seemed so jejune was
crowded like a dream, a dream moreover that did not elude the
recollection of it in the moment of waking, but that stayed with him
for the rest of his life as the evidence of things not seen, which is
Faith.

It was during the Gospel that Mark began to realize that what was being
said and done at the Altar demanded not merely his attention but also
his partaking. All the services he had attended since he came to
Slowbridge had demanded nothing from him, and even when he was at
Nancepean he had always been outside the sacred mysteries. But now on
this Whit-sunday morning he heard in the Gospel:

_Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world
cometh and hath nothing in me._

And while he listened it seemed that Jesus Christ was departing from
him, and that unless he were quick to offer himself he should be left to
the prince of this world; so black was Mark's world in those days that
the Prince of it meant most unmistakably the Prince of Darkness, and the
prophecy made him shiver with affright. With conviction he said the
Nicene Creed, and when the celebrating priest, a tall fair man, with a
gentle voice and of a mild and benignant aspect, went up into the pulpit
and announced that there would be a confirmation in his church on the
Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mark felt in this
newly found assurance of being commanded by God to follow Him that
somehow he must be confirmed in this church and prepared by this kindly
priest. The sermon was about the coming of the Holy Ghost and of our
bodies which are His temple. Any other Sunday Mark would have sat in a
stupor, while his mind would occasionally have taken flights of
activity, counting the lines of a prayer-book's page or following the
tributaries in the grain of the pew in front; but on this Sunday he sat
alert, finding every word of the discourse applicable to himself.

On other Sundays the first sentence of the Offertory would have passed
unheeded in the familiarity of its repetition, but this morning it took
him back to that night in Church Cove when he saw the glow-worm by the
edge of the tide and made up his mind to be a lighthouse-keeper.

_Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven._

"I will be a priest," Mark vowed to himself.

_Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and Curates that they may
both by their life and doctrines set forth thy true and lively word, and
rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments._

"I will, I will," he vowed.

_Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all that
truly turn to him. Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden,
and I will refresh you._

Mark prayed that with such words he might when he was a priest bring
consolation.

_Through Jesus Christ our Lord; according to whose most true promise,
the Holy Ghost came down as at this time from heaven with a sudden great
sound, as it had been a mighty wind, in the likeness of fiery tongues,
lighting upon the Apostles, to teach them and to lead them to all
truth;_

The red chasuble of the priest glowed with Pentecostal light.

_giving them both the gift of divers languages, and also boldness with
fervent seal constantly to preach the Gospel unto all nations; whereby
we have been brought out of darkness and error into the clear light and
true knowledge of thee, and of thy Son Jesus Christ._

And when after this proper preface of Whit-sunday, which seemed to Mark
to be telling him what was expected of his priesthood by God, the quire
sang the Sanctus, _Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all
the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore
praising thee, and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven
and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord most High.
Amen_, that sublime proclamation spoke the fullness of his aspiring
heart.

Mark came out of church with the rest of the congregation, and walked
down the road toward the roofs of the little village, on the outskirts
of which he could not help stopping to admire a small garden full of
pinks in front of two thatched cottages that had evidently been made
into one house. While he was standing there looking over the trim
quickset hedge, an old lady with silvery hair came slowly down the road,
paused a moment by the gate before she went in, and then asked Mark if
she had not seen him in church. Mark felt embarrassed at being
discovered looking over a hedge into somebody's garden; but he managed
to murmur an affirmative and turned to go away.

"Stop," said the old lady waving at him her ebony crook, "do not run
away, young gentleman. I see that you admire my garden. Pray step inside
and look more closely at it."

Mark thought at first by her manner of speech that she was laughing at
him; but soon perceiving that she was in earnest he followed her inside,
and walked behind her along the narrow winding paths, nodding with an
appearance of profound interest when she poked at some starry clump and
invited his admiration. As they drew nearer the house, the smell of the
pinks was merged in the smell of hot roast beef, and Mark discovered
that he was hungry, so hungry indeed that he felt he could not stay any
longer to be tantalized by the odours of the Sunday dinner, but must go
off and find an inn where he could obtain bread and cheese as quickly as
possible. He was preparing an excuse to get away, when the garden wicket
clicked, and looking up he saw the fair priest coming down the path
toward them accompanied by two ladies, one of whom resembled him so
closely that Mark was sure she was his sister. The other, who looked
windblown in spite of the serene June weather, had a nervous energy that
contrasted with the demeanour of the other two, whose deliberate pace
seemed to worry her so that she was continually two yards ahead and
turning round as if to urge them to walk more quickly.

The old lady must have guessed Mark's intention, for raising her stick
she forbade him to move, and before he had time to mumble an apology and
flee she was introducing the newcomers to him.

"This is my daughter Miriam," she said pointing to one who resembled her
brother. "And this is my daughter Esther. And this is my son, the Vicar.
What is your name?"

Mark told her, and he should have liked to ask what hers was, but he
felt too shy.

"You're going to stay and have lunch with us, I hope?" asked the Vicar.

Mark had no idea how to reply. He was much afraid that if he accepted he
should be seeming to have hung about by the Vicarage gate in order to be
invited. On the other hand he did not know how to refuse. It would be
absurd to say that he had to get home, because they would ask him where
he lived, and at this hour of the morning he could scarcely pretend that
he expected to be back in time for lunch twelve miles and more from
where he was.

"Of course he's going to stay," said the old lady.

And of course Mark did stay; a delightful lunch it was too, on chairs
covered with blue holland in a green shadowed room that smelt of dryness
and ancientry. After lunch Mark sat for a while with the Vicar in his
study, which was small and intimate with its two armchairs and
bookshelves reaching to the ceiling all round. He had not yet managed to
find out his name, and as it was obviously too late to ask as this stage
of their acquaintanceship he supposed that he should have to wait until
he left the Vicarage and could ask somebody in the village, of which by
the way he also did not know the name.

"Lidderdale," the Vicar was saying meditatively, "Lidderdale. I wonder
if you were a relative of the famous Lidderdale of St. Wilfred's?"

Mark flushed with a mixture of self-consciousness and pleasure to hear
his father spoken of as famous, and when he explained who he was he
flushed still more deeply to hear his father's work praised with such
enthusiasm.

"And do you hope to be a priest yourself?"

"Why, yes I do rather," said Mark.

"Splendid! Capital!" cried the Vicar, his kindly blue eye beaming with
approval of Mark's intention.

Presently Mark was talking to him as though he had known him for years.

"There's no reason why you shouldn't be confirmed here," the Vicar said.
"No reason at all. I'll mention it to the Bishop, and if you like I'll
write to your uncle. I shall feel justified in interfering on account of
your father's opinions. We all look upon him as one of the great
pioneers of the Movement. You must come over and lunch with us again
next Sunday. My mother will be delighted to see you. She's a dear old
thing, isn't she? I'm going to hand you over to her now and my youngest
sister. My other sister and I have got Sunday schools to deal with. Have
another cigarette? No. Quite right. You oughtn't to smoke too much at
your age. Only just fifteen, eh? By Jove, I suppose you oughtn't to have
smoked at all. But what rot. You'd only smoke all the more if it was
absolutely forbidden. Wisdom! Wisdom! Wisdom with the young! You don't
mind being called young? I've known boys who hated the epithet."

Mark was determined to show his new friend that he did not object to
being called young, and he could think of no better way to do it than by
asking him his name, thus proving that he did not mind if such a
question did make him look ridiculous.

"Ogilvie--Stephen Ogilvie. My dear boy, it's we who ought to be ashamed
of ourselves for not having had the gumption to enlighten you. How on
earth were you to know without asking? Now, look here, I must run. I
expect you'll be wanting to get home, or I'd suggest your staying until
I get back, but I must lie low after tea and think out my sermon. Look
here, come over to lunch on Saturday, haven't you a bicycle? You could
get over from Slowbridge by one o'clock, and after lunch we'll have a
good tramp in the woods. Splendid!"

Then chanting the _Dies Irae_ in a cheerful tenor the Reverend Stephen
Ogilvie hurried off to his Sunday School. Mark said good-bye to Mrs.
Ogilvie with an assured politeness that was typical of his new found
ease; and when he started on his long walk back to Slowbridge he felt
inclined to leap in the air and wake with shouts the slumberous Sabbath
afternoon, proclaiming the glory of life, the joy of living.

Mark had not expected his uncle to welcome his friendship with the Vicar
of Meade Cantorum; but he had supposed that after a few familiar sneers
he should be allowed to go his own way with nothing worse than silent
disapproval brooding over his perverse choice. He was surprised by the
vehemence of his uncle's opposition, and it must be added that he
thoroughly enjoyed it. The experience of that Whit-sunday had been too
rich not to be of enduring importance to his development in any case;
but the behaviour of Uncle Henry made it more important, because all
this criticism helped Mark to put his opinions into shape, consolidated
the position he had taken up, sharpened his determination to advance
along the path he had discovered for himself, and gave him an immediate
target for arrows that might otherwise have been shot into the air until
his quiver was empty.

"Mr. Ogilvie knew my father."

"That has nothing to do with the case," said Uncle Henry.

"I think it has."

"Do not be insolent, Mark. I've noticed lately a most unpleasant note in
your voice, an objectionably defiant note which I simply will not
tolerate."

"But do you really mean that I'm not to go and see Mr. Ogilvie?"

"It would have been more courteous if Mr. Ogilvie had given himself the
trouble of writing to me, your guardian, before inviting you out to
lunch and I don't know what not besides."

"He said he would write to you."

"I don't want to embark on a correspondence with him," Uncle Henry
exclaimed petulantly. "I know the man by reputation. A bigoted
Ritualist. A Romanizer of the worst type. He'll only fill your head with
a lot of effeminate nonsense, and that at a time when it's particularly
necessary for you to concentrate upon your work. Don't forget that this
is your last year of school. I advise you to make the most of it."

"I've asked Mr. Ogilvie to prepare me for confirmation," said Mark, who
was determined to goad his uncle into losing his temper.

"Then you deserve to be thrashed."

"Look here, Uncle Henry," Mark began; and while he was speaking he was
aware that he was stronger than his uncle now and looking across at his
aunt he perceived that she was just a ball of badly wound wool lying in
a chair. "Look here, Uncle Henry, it's quite useless for you to try to
stop my going to Meade Cantorum, because I'm going there whenever I'm
asked and I'm going to be confirmed there, because you promised Mother
you wouldn't interfere with my religion."

"Your religion!" broke in Mr. Lidderdale, scornful both of the pronoun
and the substantive.

"It's no use your losing your temper or arguing with me or doing
anything except letting me go my own way, because that's what I intend
to do."

Aunt Helen half rose in her chair upon an impulse to protect her brother
against Mark's violence.

"And you can't cure me with Gregory Powder," he said. "Nor with Senna
nor with Licorice nor even with Cascara."

"Your behaviour, my boy, is revolting," said Mr. Lidderdale. "A young
Mohawk would not talk to his guardians as you are talking to me."

"Well, I don't want you to think I'm going to obey you if you forbid me
to go to Meade Cantorum," said Mark. "I'm sorry I was rude, Aunt Helen.
I oughtn't to have spoken to you like that. And I'm sorry, Uncle Henry,
to seem ungrateful after what you've done for me." And then lest his
uncle should think that he was surrendering he quickly added: "But I'm
going to Meade Cantorum on Saturday." And like most people who know
their own minds Mark had his own way.




CHAPTER XI

MEADE CANTORUM


Mark did not suffer from "churchiness" during this period. His interest
in religion, although it resembled the familiar conversions of
adolescence, was a real resurrection of emotions which had been stifled
by these years at Haverton House following upon the paralyzing grief of
his mother's death. Had he been in contact during that time with an
influence like the Vicar of Meade Cantorum, he would probably have
escaped those ashen years, but as Mr. Ogilvie pointed out to him, he
would also never have received such evidence of God's loving kindness as
was shown to him upon that Whit-sunday morning.

"If in the future, my dear boy, you are ever tempted to doubt the wisdom
of Almighty God, remember what was vouchsafed to you at a moment when
you seemed to have no reason for any longer existing, so black was your
world. Remember how you caught sight of yourself in that pool and shrank
away in horror from the vision. I envy you, Mark. I have never been
granted such a revelation of myself."

"You were never so ugly," said Mark.

"My dear boy, we are all as ugly as the demons of Hell if we are allowed
to see ourselves as we really are. But God only grants that to a few
brave spirits whom he consecrates to his service and whom he fortifies
afterwards by proving to them that, no matter how great the horror of
their self-recognition, the Holy Ghost is within them to comfort them. I
don't suppose that many human beings are granted such an experience as
yours. I myself tremble at the thought of it, knowing that God considers
me too weak a subject for such a test."

"Oh, Mr. Ogilvie," Mark expostulated.

"I'm not talking to you as Mark Lidderdale, but as the recipient of the
grace of God, to one who before my own unworthy eyes has been lightened
by celestial fire. _Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, O Lord._ As for
yourself, my dear boy, I pray always that you may sustain your part,
that you will never allow the memory of this Whitsuntide to be obscured
by the fogs of this world and that you will always bear in mind that
having been given more talents by God a sharper account will be taken of
the use you make of them. Don't think I'm doubting your steadfastness,
old man, I believe in it. Do you hear? I believe in it absolutely. But
Catholic doctrine, which is the sum of humanity's knowledge of God and
than which nothing more can be known of God until we see Him face to
face, insists upon good works, demanding as it were a practical
demonstration to the rest of the world of the grace of God within you.
You remember St. Paul? _Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these
is Love._ The greatest because the least individual. Faith will move
mountains, but so will Love. That's the trouble with so many godly
Protestants. They are inclined to stay satisfied with their own
godliness, although the best of them like the Quakers are examples that
ought to make most of us Catholics ashamed of ourselves. And one thing
more, old man, before we get off this subject, don't forget that your
experience is a mercy accorded to you by the death of our Lord Jesus
Christ. You owe to His infinite Love your new life. What was granted to
you was the visible apprehension of the fact of Holy Baptism, and don't
forget St. John the Baptist's words: _I indeed baptize you with water
unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I. He
shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in
his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat
into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire._
Those are great words for you to think of now, and during this long
Trinitytide which is symbolical of what one might call the humdrum of
religious life, the day in day out sticking to it, make a resolution
never to say mechanically _The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the
love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all
evermore. Amen._ If you always remember to say those wonderful words
from the heart and not merely with the lips, you will each time you say
them marvel more and more at the great condescension of Almighty God in
favouring you, as He has favoured you, by teaching you the meaning of
these words Himself in a way that no poor mortal priest, however
eloquent, could teach you it. On that night when you watched beside the
glow-worm at the sea's edge the grace of our Lord gave you an
apprehension, child as you were, of the love of God, and now once more
the grace of our Lord gives you the realization of the fellowship of the
Holy Ghost. I don't want to spoil your wonderful experience with my
parsonic discoursing; but, Mark, don't look back from the plough."

Uncle Henry found it hard to dispose of words like these when he
deplored his nephew's collapse into ritualism.

"You really needn't bother about the incense and the vestments," Mark
assured him. "I like incense and vestments; but I don't think they're
the most important things in religion. You couldn't find anybody more
evangelical than Mr. Ogilvie, though he doesn't call himself
evangelical, or his party the Evangelical party. It's no use your trying
to argue me out of what I believe. I know I'm believing what it's right
for me to believe. When I'm older I shall try to make everybody else
believe in my way, because I should like everybody else to feel as happy
as I do. Your religion doesn't make you feel happy, Uncle Henry!"

"Leave the room," was Mr. Lidderdale's reply. "I won't stand this kind
of talk from a boy of your age."

Although Mark had only claimed from his uncle the right to believe what
it was right for him to believe, the richness of his belief presently
began to seem too much for one. His nature was generous in everything,
and he felt that he must share this happiness with somebody else. He
regretted the death of poor Mr. Spaull, for he was sure that he could
have persuaded poor Mr. Spaull to cut off his yellow moustache and
become a Catholic. Mr. Palmer was of course hopeless: Saint Augustine of
Hippo, St. Paul himself even, would have found it hard to deal with Mr.
Palmer; as for the new master, Mr. Blumey, with his long nose and long
chin and long frock coat and long boots, he was obviously absorbed by
the problems of mathematics and required nothing more.

Term came to an end, and during the holidays Mark was able to spend most
of his time at Meade Cantorum. He had always been a favourite of Mrs.
Ogilvie since that Whit-sunday nearly two months ago when she saw him
looking at her garden and invited him in, and every time he revisited
the Vicarage he had devoted some of his time to helping her weed or
prune or do whatever she wanted to do in her garden. He was also on
friendly terms with Miriam, the elder of Mr. Ogilvie's two sisters, who
was very like her brother in appearance and who gave to the house the
decorous loving care he gave to the church. And however enthralling her
domestic ministrations, she had always time to attend every service;
while, so well ordered was her manner of life, her religious duties
never involved the household in discomfort. She never gave the
impression that so many religious women give of going to church in a
fever of self-gratification, to which everything and everybody around
her must be subordinated. The practice of her religion was woven into
her life like the strand of wool on which all the others depend, but
which itself is no more conspicuous than any of the other strands. With
so many women religion is a substitute for something else; with Miriam
Ogilvie everything else was made as nearly and as beautifully as it
could be made a substitute for religion. Mark was intensely aware of her
holiness, but he was equally aware of her capable well-tended hands and
of her chatelaine glittering in and out of a lawn apron. One tress of
her abundant hair was grey, which stood out against the dark background
of the rest and gave her a serene purity, an austere strength, but yet
like a nun's coif seemed to make the face beneath more youthful, and
like a cavalier's plume more debonair. She could not have been over
thirty-five when Mark first knew her, perhaps not so much; but he
thought of her as ageless in the way a child thinks of its mother, and
if any woman should ever be able to be to him something of what his
mother had been, Mark thought that Miss Ogilvie might.

Esther Ogilvie the other sister was twenty-five. She told Mark this
when he imitated the villagers by addressing her as Miss Essie and she
ordered him to call her Esther. He might have supposed from this that
she intended to confer upon him a measure of friendliness, even of
sisterly affection; but on the contrary she either ignored him
altogether or gave him the impression that she considered his frequent
visits to Meade Cantorum a nuisance. Mark was sorry that she felt like
that toward him, because she seemed unhappy, and in his desire for
everybody to be happy he would have liked to proclaim how suddenly and
unexpectedly happiness may come. As a sister of the Vicar of the parish,
she went to church regularly, but Mark did not think that she was there
except in body. He once looked across at her open prayer book during the
_Magnificat_, and noticed that she was reading the Tables of Kindred and
Affinity. Now, Mark knew from personal experience that when one is
reduced to reading the Tables of Kindred and Affinity it argues a mind
untouched by the reality of worship. In his own case, when he sat beside
his uncle and aunt in the dreary Slowbridge church of their choice, it
had been nothing more than a sign of his own inward dreariness to read
the Tables of Kindred and Affinity or speculate upon the Paschal full
moons from the year 2200 to the year 2299 inclusive. But St. Margaret's,
Meade Cantorum, was a different church from St. Jude's, Slowbridge, and
for Esther Ogilvie to ignore the joyfulness of worshipping there in
order to ponder idly the complexities of Golden Numbers and Dominical
Letters could not be ascribed to inward dreariness. Besides, she wasn't
dreary. Once Mark saw her coming down a woodland glade and almost turned
aside to avoid meeting her, because she looked so fay with her wild blue
eyes and her windblown hair, the colour of last year's bracken after
rain. She seemed at once the pursued and the pursuer, and Mark felt that
whichever she was he would be in the way.

"Taking a quick walk by myself," she called out to him as they passed.

No, she was certainly not dreary. But what was she?

Mark abandoned the problem of Esther in the pleasure of meeting the
Reverend Oliver Dorward, who arrived one afternoon at the Vicarage with
a large turbot for Mrs. Ogilvie, and six Flemish candlesticks for the
Vicar, announcing that he wanted to stay a week before being inducted to
the living of Green Lanes in the County of Southampton, to which he had
recently been presented by Lord Chatsea. Mark liked him from the first
moment he saw him pacing the Vicarage garden in a soutane, buckled
shoes, and beaver hat, and he could not understand why Mr. Ogilvie, who
had often laughed about Dorward's eccentricity, should now that he had
an opportunity of enjoying it once more be so cross about his friend's
arrival and so ready to hand him over to Mark to be entertained.

"Just like Ogilvie," said Dorward confidentially, when he and Mark went
for a walk on the afternoon of his arrival. "He wants spiking up. They
get very slack and selfish, these country clergy. Time he gave up Meade
Cantorum. He's been here nearly ten years. Too long, nine years too
long. Hasn't been to his duties since Easter. Scandalous, you know. I
asked him, as soon as I'd explained to the cook about the turbot, when
he went last, and he was bored. Nice old pussy cat, the mother. Hullo,
is that the _Angelus_? Damn, I knelt on a thistle."

"It isn't the _Angelus_," said Mark quietly. "It's the bell on that
cow."

But Mr. Dorward had finished his devotion before he answered.

"I was half way through before you told me. You should have spoken
sooner."

"Well, I spoke as soon as I could."

"Very cunning of Satan," said Dorward meditatively. "Induced a cow to
simulate the _Angelus_, and planted a thistle just where I was bound to
kneel. Cunning. Cunning. Very cunning. I must go back now and confess to
Ogilvie. Good example. Wait a minute, I'll confess to-morrow before
Morning Prayer. Very good for Ogilvie's congregation. They're stuffy,
very stuffy. It'll shake them. It'll shake Ogilvie too. Are you staying
here to-night?"

"No, I shall bicycle back to Slowbridge and bicycle over to Mass
to-morrow."

"Ridiculous. Stay the night. Didn't Ogilvie invite you?"

Mark shook his head.

"Scandalous lack of hospitality. They're all alike these country clergy.
I'm tired of this walk. Let's go back and look after the turbot. Are you
a good cook?"

"I can boil eggs and that sort of thing," said Mark.

"What sort of things? An egg is unique. There's nothing like an egg.
Will you serve my Mass on Monday? Saying Mass for Napoleon on Monday."

"For whom?" Mark exclaimed.

"Napoleon, with a special intention for the conversion of the present
government in France. Last Monday I said a Mass for Shakespeare, with a
special intention for an improvement in contemporary verse."

Mark supposed that Mr. Dorward must be joking, and his expression must
have told as much to the priest, who murmured:

"Nothing to laugh at. Nothing to laugh at."

"No, of course not," said Mark feeling abashed. "But I'm afraid I
shouldn't be able to serve you. I've never had any practice."

"Perfectly easy. Perfectly easy. I'll give you a book when we get back."

Mark bicycled home that afternoon with a tall thin volume called _Ritual
Notes_, so tall that when it was in his pocket he could feel it digging
him in the ribs every time he was riding up the least slope. That night
in his bedroom he practised with the help of the wash-stand and its
accessories the technique of serving at Low Mass, and in his enthusiasm
he bicycled over to Meade Cantorum in time to attend both the Low Mass
at seven said by Mr. Dorward and the Low Mass at eight said by Mr.
Ogilvie. He was able to detect mistakes that were made by the village
boys who served that Sunday morning, and he vowed to himself that the
Monday Mass for the Emperor Napoleon should not be disfigured by such
inaccuracy or clumsiness. He declined the usual invitation to stay to
supper after Evening Prayer that he might have time to make perfection
more perfect in the seclusion of his own room, and when he set out about
six o'clock of a sun-drowsed morning in early August, apart from a faint
anxiety about the _Lavabo_, he felt secure of his accomplishment. It was
only when he reached the church that he remembered he had made no
arrangement about borrowing a cassock or a cotta, an omission that in
the mood of grand seriousness in which he had undertaken his
responsibility seemed nothing less than abominable. He did not like to
go to the Vicarage and worry Mr. Ogilvie who could scarcely fail to be
amused, even contemptuously amused at such an ineffective beginning.
Besides, ever since Mr. Dorward's arrival the Vicar had been slightly
irritable.

While Mark was wondering what was the best thing to do, Miss Hatchett, a
pious old maid who spent her nights in patience and sleep, her days in
worship and weeding, came hurrying down the churchyard path.

"I am not late, am I?" she exclaimed. "I never heard the bell. I was so
engrossed in pulling out one of those dreadful sow-thistles that when my
maid came running out and said 'Oh, Miss Hatchett, it's gone the five
to, you'll be late,' I just ran, and now I've brought my trowel and left
my prayer book on the path. . . ."

"I'm just going to ring the bell now," said Mark, in whom the horror of
another omission had been rapidly succeeded by an almost unnatural
composure.

"Oh, what a relief," Miss Hatchett sighed. "Are you sure I shall have
time to get my breath, for I know Mr. Ogilvie would dislike to hear me
panting in church?"

"Mr. Ogilvie isn't saying Mass this morning."

"Not saying Mass?" repeated the old maid in such a dejected tone of
voice that, when a small cloud passed over the face of the sun, it
seemed as if the natural scene desired to accord with the chill cast
upon her spirit by Mark's announcement.

"Mr. Dorward is saying Mass," he told her, and poor Miss Hatchett must
pretend with a forced smile that her blank look had been caused by the
prospect of being deprived of Mass when really. . . .

But Mark was not paying any more attention to Miss Hatchett. He was
standing under the bell, gazing up at the long rope and wondering what
manner of sound he should evoke. He took a breath and pulled; the rope
quivered with such an effect of life that he recoiled from the new force
he had conjured into being, afraid of his handiwork, timid of the
clamour that would resound. No louder noise ensued than might have been
given forth by a can kicked into the gutter. Mark pulled again more
strongly, and the bell began to chime, irregularly at first with
alternations of sonorous and feeble note; at last, however, when the
rhythm was established with such command and such insistence that the
ringer, looking over his shoulder to the south door, half expected to
see a stream of perturbed Christians hurrying to obey its summons. But
there was only poor Miss Hatchett sitting in the porch and fanning
herself with a handkerchief.

Mark went on ringing. . . .

Clang--clang--clang! All the holy Virgins were waving their palms.
Clang--clang--clang! All the blessed Doctors and Confessors were
twanging their harps to the clanging. Clang--clang--clang! All the holy
Saints and Martyrs were tossing their haloes in the air as schoolboys
toss their caps. Clang--clang--clang! Angels, Archangels, and
Principalities with faces that shone like brass and with forms that
quivered like flames thronged the noise. Clang--clang--clang! Virtues,
Powers, and Dominations bade the morning stars sing to the ringing.
Clang--clang--clang! The ringing reached up to the green-winged Thrones
who sustain the seat of the Most High. Clang--clang--clang! The azure
Cherubs heard the bells within their contemplation: the scarlet Seraphs
felt them within their love. Clang--clang--clang! The lidless Eye of God
looked down, and Miss Hatchett supposing it to be the sun crossed over
to the other side of the porch.

Clang--clang--clang--clang--clang--clang--clang--clang. . . .

"Hasn't Dorward come in yet? It's five past eight already. Go on
ringing for a little while. I'll go and see how long he'll be."

Mark in the absorption of ringing the bell had not noticed the Vicar's
approach, and he was gone again before he remembered that he wanted to
borrow a cassock and a cotta. Had he been rude? Would Mr. Ogilvie think
it cheek to ring the bell without asking his permission first? But
before these unanswered questions had had time to spoil the rhythm of
his ringing, the Vicar came back with Mr. Dorward, and the congregation,
that is to say Miss Hatchett and Miss Ogilvie, was already kneeling in
its place.

Mark in a cassock that was much too long for him and in a cotta that was
in the same ratio as much too short preceded Mr. Dorward from the
sacristy to the altar. A fear seized him that in spite of all his
practice he was kneeling on the wrong side of the priest; he forgot the
first responses; he was sure the Sanctus-bell was too far away; he
wished that Mr. Dorward would not mutter quite so inaudibly. Gradually,
however, the meetness of the gestures prescribed for him by the ancient
ritual cured his self-consciousness and included him in its pattern, so
that now for the first time he was aware of the significance of the
preface to the Sanctus: _It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty,
that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O
Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Everlasting God._

Twenty minutes ago when he was ringing the church bell Mark had
experienced the rapture of creative noise, the sense of individual
triumph over time and space; and the sound of his ringing came back to
him from the vaulted roof of the church with such exultation as the
missal thrush may know when he sits high above the fretted boughs of an
oak and his music plunges forth upon the January wind. Now when Mark was
ringing the Sanctus-bell, it was with a sense of his place in the scheme
of worship. If one listens to the twitter of a single linnet in open
country or to the buzz of a solitary fly upon a window pane, how
incredible it is that myriads of them twittering and buzzing together
should be the song of April, the murmur of June. And this Sanctus-bell
that tinkled so inadequately, almost so frivolously when sounded by a
server in Meade Cantorum church, was yet part of an unimaginable volume
of worship that swelled in unison with Angels and Archangels lauding and
magnifying the Holy Name. The importance of ceremony was as deeply
impressed upon Mark that morning as if he had been formally initiated to
great mysteries. His coming confirmation, which had been postponed from
July 2nd to September 8th seemed much more momentous now than it seemed
yesterday. It was no longer a step to Communion, but was apprehended as
a Sacrament itself, and though Mr. Ogilvie was inclined to regret the
ritualistic development of his catechumen, Mark derived much strength
from what was really the awakening in him of a sense of form, which more
than anything makes emotion durable. Perhaps Ogilvie may have been a
little jealous of Dorward's influence; he also was really alarmed at the
prospect, as he said, of so much fire being wasted upon poker-work. In
the end what between Dorward's encouragement of Mark's ritualistic
tendencies and the "spiking up" process to which he was himself being
subjected, Ogilvie was glad when a fortnight later Dorward took himself
off to his own living, and he expressed a hope that Mark would perceive
Dorward in his true proportions as a dear good fellow, perfectly
sincere, but just a little, well, not exactly mad, but so eccentric as
sometimes to do more harm than good to the Movement. Mark was shrewd
enough to notice that however much he grumbled about his friend's visit
Mr. Ogilvie was sufficiently influenced by that visit to put into
practice much of the advice to which he had taken exception. The
influence of Dorward upon Mark did not stop with his begetting in him an
appreciation of the value of form in worship. When Mark told Mr. Ogilvie
that he intended to become a priest, Mr. Ogilvie was impressed by the
manifestation of the Divine Grace, but he did not offer many practical
suggestions for Mark's immediate future. Dorward on the contrary
attached as much importance to the manner in which he was to become a
priest.

"Oxford," Mr. Dorward pronounced. "And then Glastonbury."

"Glastonbury?"

"Glastonbury Theological College."

Now to Mark Oxford was a legendary place to which before he met Mr.
Dorward he would never have aspired. Oxford at Haverton House was merely
an abstraction to which a certain number of people offered an illogical
allegiance in order to create an excuse for argument and strife.
Sometimes Mark had gazed at Eton and wondered vaguely about existence
there; sometimes he had gazed at the towers of Windsor and wondered what
the Queen ate for breakfast. Oxford was far more remote than either of
these, and yet when Mr. Dorward said that he must go there his heart
leapt as if to some recognized ambition long ago buried and now abruptly
resuscitated.

"I've always been Oxford," he admitted.

When Mr. Dorward had gone, Mark asked Mr. Ogilvie what he thought about
Oxford.

"If you can afford to go there, my dear boy, of course you ought to go."

"Well, I'm pretty sure I can't afford to. I don't think I've got any
money at all. My mother left some money, but my uncle says that that
will come in useful when I'm articled to this solicitor, Mr. Hitchcock.
Oh, but if I become a priest I can't become a solicitor, and perhaps I
could have that money. I don't know how much it is . . . I think five
hundred pounds. Would that be enough?"

"With care and economy," said Mr. Ogilvie. "And you might win a
scholarship."

"But I'm leaving school at the end of this year."

Mr. Ogilvie thought that it would be wiser not to say anything to his
uncle until after Mark had been confirmed. He advised him to work hard
meanwhile and to keep in mind the possibility of having to win a
scholarship.

The confirmation was held on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed
Virgin. Mark made his first Confession on the vigil, his first Communion
on the following Sunday.




CHAPTER XII

THE POMEROY AFFAIR


Mark was so much elated to find himself a fully equipped member of the
Church Militant that he looked about him again to find somebody whom he
could make as happy as himself. He even considered the possibility of
converting his uncle, and spent the Sunday evening before term began in
framing inexpugnable arguments to be preceded by unanswerable questions;
but always when he was on the point of speaking he was deterred by the
lifelessness of his uncle. No eloquence could irrigate his arid creed
and make that desert blossom now. And yet, Mark thought, he ought to
remember that in the eyes of the world he owed his uncle everything.
What did he owe him in the sight of God? Gratitude? Gratitude for what?
Gratitude for spending a certain amount of money on him. Once more Mark
opened his mouth to repay his debt by offering Uncle Henry Eternal Life.
But Uncle Henry fancied himself already in possession of Eternal Life.
He definitely labelled himself Evangelical. And again Mark prepared one
of his unanswerable questions.

"Mark," said Mr. Lidderdale. "If you can't keep from yawning you'd
better get off to bed. Don't forget school begins to-morrow, and you
must make the most of your last term."

Mark abandoned for ever the task of converting Uncle Henry, and pondered
his chance of doing something with Aunt Helen. There instead of
exsiccation he was confronted by a dreadful humidity, an infertile ooze
that seemed almost less susceptible to cultivation than the other.

"And I really don't owe _her_ anything," he thought. "Besides, it isn't
that I want to save people from damnation. I want people to be happy.
And it isn't quite that even. I want them to understand how happy I am.
I want people to feel fond of their pillows when they turn over to go to
sleep, because next morning is going to be what? Well, sort of
exciting."

Mark suddenly imagined how splendid it would be to give some of his
happiness to Esther Ogilvie; but a moment later he decided that it would
be rather cheek, and he abandoned the idea of converting Esther Ogilvie.
He fell back on wishing again that Mr. Spaull had not died; in him he
really would have had an ideal subject.

In the end Mark fixed upon a boy of his own age, one of the many sons of
a Papuan missionary called Pomeroy who was glad to have found in Mr.
Lidderdale a cheap and evangelical schoolmaster. Cyril Pomeroy was a
blushful, girlish youth, clever at the routine of school work, but in
other ways so much undeveloped as to give an impression of stupidity.
The notion of pointing out to him the beauty and utility of the Catholic
religion would probably never have occurred to Mark if the boy himself
had not approached him with a direct complaint of the dreariness of home
life. Mark had never had any intimate friends at Haverton House; there
was something in its atmosphere that was hostile to intimacy. Cyril
Pomeroy appealed to that idea of romantic protection which is the common
appendage of adolescence, and is the cause of half the extravagant
affection at which maturity is wont to laugh. In the company of Cyril,
Mark felt ineffably old than which upon the threshold of sixteen there
is no sensation more grateful; and while the intercourse flattered his
own sense of superiority he did feel that he had much to offer his
friend. Mark regarded Cyril's case as curable if the right treatment
were followed, and every evening after school during the veiled summer
of a fine October he paced the Slowbridge streets with his willing
proselyte, debating the gravest issues of religious practice, the
subtlest varieties of theological opinion. He also lent Cyril suitable
books, and finally he demanded from him as a double tribute to piety and
friendship that he should prove his metal by going to Confession.
Cyril, who was incapable of refusing whatever Mark demanded, bicycled
timorously behind him to Meade Cantorum one Saturday afternoon, where he
gulped out the table of his sins to Mr. Ogilvie, whom Mark had fetched
from the Vicarage with the urgency of one who fetches a midwife. Nor was
he at all abashed when Mr. Ogilvie was angry for not having been told
that Cyril's father would have disapproved of his son's confession. He
argued that the priest was applying social standards to religious
principles, and in the end he enjoyed the triumph of hearing Mr. Ogilvie
admit that perhaps he was right.

"I know I'm right. Come on, Cyril. You'd better get back home now. Oh,
and I say, Mr. Ogilvie, can I borrow for Cyril some of the books you
lent me?"

The priest was amused that Mark did not ask him to lend the books to his
friend, but to himself. However, when he found that the neophyte seemed
to flourish under Mark's assiduous priming, and that the fundamental
weakness of his character was likely to be strengthened by what, though
it was at present nothing more than an interest in religion, might later
on develop into a profound conviction of the truths of Christianity,
Ogilvie overlooked his scruples about deceiving parents and encouraged
the boy as much as he could.

"But I hope your manipulation of the plastic Cyril isn't going to turn
_you_ into too much of a ritualist," he said to Mark. "It's splendid of
course that you should have an opportunity so young of proving your
ability to get round people in the right way. But let it be the right
way, old man. At the beginning you were full of the happiness, the
secret of which you burnt to impart to others. That happiness was the
revelation of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you as He dwells in all
Christian souls. I am sure that the eloquent exposition I lately
overheard of the propriety of fiddle-backed chasubles and the
impropriety of Gothic ones doesn't mean that you are in any real danger
of supposing chasubles to be anything more important relatively than,
say, the uniform of a soldier compared with his valour and obedience
and selflessness. Now don't overwhelm me for a minute or two. I haven't
finished what I want to say. I wasn't speaking sarcastically when I said
that, and I wasn't criticizing you. But you are not Cyril. By God's
grace you have been kept from the temptations of the flesh. Yes, I know
the subject is distasteful to you. But you are old enough to understand
that your fastidiousness, if it isn't to be priggish, must be
safeguarded by your humility. I didn't mean to sandwich a sermon to you
between my remarks on Cyril, but your disdainful upper lip compelled
that testimony. Let us leave you and your virtues alone. Cyril is weak.
He's the weak pink type that may fall to women or drink or anything in
fact where an opportunity is given him of being influenced by a stronger
character than his own. At the moment he's being influenced by you to go
to Confession, and say his rosary, and hear Mass, and enjoy all the
other treats that our holy religion gives us. In addition to that he's
enjoying them like the proverbial stolen fruit. You were very severe
with me when I demurred at hearing his confession without authority from
his father; but I don't like stolen fruit, and I'm not sure even now if
I was right in yielding on that point. I shouldn't have yielded if I
hadn't felt that Cyril might be hurt in the future by my scruples. Now
look here, Mark, you've got to see that I don't regret my surrender. If
that youth doesn't get from religion what I hope and pray he will get
. . . but let that point alone. My scruples are my own affair. Your
convictions are your own affair. But Cyril is our joint affair. He's
your convert, but he's my penitent; and Mark, don't overdecorate your
building until you're sure the foundations are well and truly laid."

Mark was never given an opportunity of proving the excellence of his
methods by the excellence of Cyril's life, because on the morning after
this conversation, which took place one wet Sunday evening in Advent he
was sent for by his uncle, who demanded to know the meaning of This.
This was a letter from the Reverend Eustace Pomeroy.

     The Limes,

     38, Cranborne Road,

     Slowbridge.

     December 9.

     Dear Mr. Lidderdale,

     My son Cyril will not attend school for the rest of this term.
     Yesterday evening, being confined to the house by fever, I went up
     to his bedroom to verify a reference in a book I had recently lent
     him to assist his divinity studies under you. When I took down the
     book from the shelf I noticed several books hidden away behind, and
     my curiosity being aroused I examined them, in case they should be
     works of an unpleasant nature. To my horror and disgust, I found
     that they were all works of an extremely Popish character, most of
     them belonging to a clergyman in this neighbourhood called Ogilvie,
     whose illegal practices have for several years been a scandal to
     this diocese. These I am sending to the Bishop that he may see with
     his own eyes the kind of propaganda that is going on. Two of the
     books, inscribed Mark Lidderdale, are evidently the property of
     your nephew to whom I suppose my son is indebted for this wholesale
     corruption. On questioning my son I found him already so sunk in
     the mire of the pernicious doctrines he has imbibed that he
     actually defied his own father. I thrashed him severely in spite of
     my fever, and he is now under lock and key in his bedroom where he
     will remain until he sails with me to Sydney next week whither I am
     summoned to the conference of Australasian missionaries. During the
     voyage I shall wrestle with the demon that has entered into my son
     and endeavour to persuade him that Jesus only is necessary for
     salvation. And when I have done so, I shall leave him in Australia
     to earn his own living remote from the scene of his corruption. In
     the circumstances I assume that you will deduct a proportion of his
     school fees for this term. I know that you will be as much
     horrified and disgusted as I was by your nephew's conduct, and I
     trust that you will be able to wrestle with him in the Lord and
     prove to him that Jesus only is necessary to salvation.

     Yours very truly,

     Eustace Pomeroy.

     P.S. I suggest that instead of L6 6s. 0d. I should pay L5 5s. 0d.
     for this term, plus, of course, the usual extras.

The pulse in Mr. Lidderdale's temple had never throbbed so remarkably
as while Mark was reading this letter.

"A fine thing," he ranted, "if this story gets about in Slowbridge. A
fine reward for all my kindness if you ruin my school. As for this man
Ogilvie, I'll sue him for damages. Don't look at me with that expression
of bestial defiance. Do you hear? What prevents my thrashing you as you
deserve? What prevents me, I say?"

But Mark was not paying any attention to his uncle's fury; he was
thinking about the unfortunate martyr under lock and key in The Limes,
Cranborne Road, Slowbridge. He was wondering what would be the effect of
this violent removal to the Antipodes and how that fundamental weakness
of character would fare if Cyril were left to himself at his age.

"I think Mr. Pomeroy is a ruffian," said Mark. "Don't you, Uncle Henry?
If he writes to the Bishop about Mr. Ogilvie, I shall write to the
Bishop about him. I hate Protestants. I hate them."

"There's your father to the life. You'd like to burn them, wouldn't
you?"

"Yes, I would," Mark declared.

"You'd like to burn me, I suppose?"

"Not you in particular."

"Will you listen to him, Helen," he shouted to his sister. "Come here
and listen to him. Listen to the boy we took in and educated and clothed
and fed, listen to him saying he'd like to burn his uncle. Into Mr.
Hitchcock's office you go at once. No more education if this is what it
leads to. Read that letter, Helen, look at that book, Helen. _Catholic
Prayers for Church of England People by the Reverend A.H. Stanton._ Look
at this book, Helen. _The Catholic Religion by Vernon Staley._ No wonder
you hate Protestants, you ungrateful boy. No wonder you're longing to
burn your uncle and aunt. It'll be in the _Slowbridge Herald_ to-morrow.
Headlines! Ruin! They'll think I'm a Jesuit in disguise. I ought to have
got a very handsome sum of money for the good-will. Go back to your
class-room, and if you have a spark of affection in your nature, don't
brag about this to the other boys."

Mark, pondering all the morning the best thing to do for Cyril,
remembered that a boy called Hacking lived at The Laurels, 36, Cranborne
Road. He did not like Hacking, but wishing to utilize his back garden
for the purpose of communicating with the prisoner he made himself
agreeable to him in the interval between first and second school.

"Hullo, Hacking," he began. "I say, do you want a cricket bat? I shan't
be here next summer, so you may as well have mine."

Hacking looked at Mark suspicious of some hidden catch that would make
him appear a fool.

"No, really I'm not ragging," said Mark. "I'll bring it round to you
after dinner. I'll be at your place about a quarter to two. Wait for me,
won't you?"

Hacking puzzled his brains to account for this generous whim, and at
last decided that Mark must be "gone" on his sister Edith. He supposed
that he ought to warn Edith to be about when Mark called; if the bat was
not forthcoming he could easily prevent a meeting. The bat however
turned out to be much better than he expected, and Hacking was on the
point of presenting Cressida to Troilus when Troilus said:

"That's your garden at the back, isn't it?"

Hacking admitted that it was.

"It looks rather decent."

Hacking allowed modestly that it wasn't bad.

"My father's rather dead nuts on gardening. So's my kiddy sister," he
added.

"I vote we go out there," Mark suggested.

"Shall I give a yell to my kiddy sister?" asked Pandarus.

"Good lord, no," Mark exclaimed. "Don't the Pomeroys live next door to
you? Look here, Hacking, I want to speak to Cyril Pomeroy."

"He was absent this morning."

Mark considered Hacking as a possible adjutant to the enterprise he was
plotting. That he finally decided to admit Hacking to his confidence was
due less to the favourable result of the scrutiny than to the fact that
unless he confided in Hacking he would find it difficult to communicate
with Cyril and impossible to manage his escape. Mark aimed as high as
this. His first impulse had been to approach the Vicar of Meade
Cantorum, but on second thoughts he had rejected him in favour of Mr.
Dorward, who was not so likely to suffer from respect for paternal
authority.

"Look here, Hacking, will you swear not to say a word about what I'm
going to tell you?"

"Of course," said Hacking, who scenting a scandal would have promised
much more than this to obtain the details of it.

"What will you swear by?"

"Oh, anything," Hacking offered, without the least hesitation. "I don't
mind what it is."

"Well, what do you consider the most sacred thing in the world?"

If Hacking had known himself, he would have said food; not knowing
himself, he suggested the Bible.

"I suppose you know that if you swear something on the Bible and break
your oath you can be put in prison?" Mark demanded sternly.

"Yes, of course."

The oath was administered, and Hacking waited goggle-eyed for the
revelation.

"Is that all?" he asked when Mark stopped.

"Well, it's enough, isn't it? And now you've got to help him to escape."

"But I didn't swear I'd do that," argued Hacking.

"All right then. Don't. I thought you'd enjoy it."

"We should get into a row. There'd be an awful shine."

"Who's to know it's us? I've got a friend in the country. And I shall
telegraph to him and ask if he'll hide Pomeroy."

Mark was not sufficiently sure of Hacking's discretion or loyalty to
mention Dorward's name. After all this business wasn't just a rag.

"The first thing is for you to go out in the garden and attract
Pomeroy's attention. He's locked in his bedroom."

"But I don't know which is his bedroom," Hacking objected.

"Well, you don't suppose the whole family are locked in their bedrooms,
do you?" asked Mark scornfully.

"But how do you know his bedroom is on this side of the house?"

"I don't," said Mark. "That's what I want to find out. If it's in the
front of the house, I shan't want your help, especially as you're so
funky."

Hacking went out into the garden, and presently he came back with the
news that Pomeroy was waiting outside to talk to Mark over the wall.

"Waiting outside?" Mark repeated. "What do you mean, waiting outside?
How can he be waiting outside when he's locked in his bedroom?"

"But he's not," said Hacking.

Sure enough, when Mark went out he found Cyril astride the party wall
between the two gardens waiting for him.

"You can't let your father drag you off to Australia like this," Mark
argued. "You'll go all to pieces there. You'll lose your faith, and take
to drink, and--you must refuse to go."

Cyril smiled weakly and explained to Mark that when once his father had
made up his mind to do something it was impossible to stop him.

Thereupon Mark explained his scheme.

"I'll get an answer from Dorward to-night and you must escape to-morrow
afternoon as soon as it's dark. Have you got a rope ladder?"

Cyril smiled more feebly than ever.

"No, I suppose you haven't. Then what you must do is tear up your sheets
and let yourself down into the garden. Hacking will whistle three times
if all's clear, and then you must climb over into his garden and run as
hard as you can to the corner of the road where I'll be waiting for you
in a cab. I'll go up to London with you and see you off from Waterloo,
which is the station for Green Lanes where Father Dorward lives. You
take a ticket to Galton, and I expect he'll meet you, or if he doesn't,
it's only a seven mile walk. I don't know the way, but you can ask when
you get to Galton. Only if you could find your way without asking it
would be better, because if you're pursued and you're seen asking the
way you'll be caught more easily. Now I must rush off and borrow some
money from Mr. Ogilvie. No, perhaps it would rouse suspicions if I were
absent from afternoon school. My uncle would be sure to guess,
and--though I don't think he would--he might try to lock me up in my
room. But I say," Mark suddenly exclaimed in indignation, "how on earth
did you manage to come and talk to me out here?"

Cyril explained that he had only been locked in his bedroom last night
when his father was so angry. He had freedom to move about in the house
and garden, and, he added to Mark's annoyance, there would be no need
for him to use rope ladders or sheets to escape. If Mark would tell him
what time to be at the corner of the road and would wait for him a
little while in case his father saw him going out and prevented him, he
would easily be able to escape.

"Then I needn't have told Hacking," said Mark. "However, now I have told
him, he must do something, or else he's sure to let out what he knows. I
wish I knew where to get the money for the fare."

"I've got a pound in my money box."

"Have you?" said Mark, a little mortified, but at the same time relieved
that he could keep Mr. Ogilvie from being involved. "Well, that ought to
be enough. I've got enough to send a telegram to Dorward. As soon as I
get his answer I'll send you word by Hacking. Now don't hang about in
the garden all the afternoon or your people will begin to think
something's up. If you could, it would be a good thing for you to be
heard praying and groaning in your room."

Cyril smiled his feeble smile, and Mark felt inclined to abandon him to
his fate; but he decided on reflection that the importance of
vindicating the claims of the Church to a persecuted son was more
important than the foolishness and the feebleness of the son.

"Do you want me to do anything more?" Hacking asked.

Mark suggested that Hacking's name and address should be given for Mr.
Dorward's answer, but this Hacking refused.

"If a telegram came to our house, everybody would want to read it. Why
can't it be sent to you?"

Mark sighed for his fellow-conspirator's stupidity. To this useless clod
he had presented a valuable bat.

"All right," he said impatiently, "you needn't do anything more except
tell Pomeroy what time he's to be at the corner of the road to-morrow."

"I'll do that, Lidderdale."

"I should think you jolly well would," Mark exclaimed scornfully.

Mark spent a long time over the telegram to Dorward; in the end he
decided that it would be safer to assume that the priest would shelter
and hide Cyril rather than take the risk of getting an answer. The final
draft was as follows:--

     Dorward Green Lanes Medworth Hants

     Am sending persecuted Catholic boy by 7.30 from Waterloo Tuesday
     please send conveyance Mark Lidderdale.

Mark only had eightpence, and this message would cost tenpence. He took
out the _am_, changed _by 7.30 from Waterloo_ to _arriving 9.35_ and
_send conveyance_ to _meet_. If he had only borrowed Cyril's sovereign,
he could have been more explicit. However, he flattered himself that he
was getting full value for his eightpence. He then worked out the cost
of Cyril's escape.

                                                s.   d.
Third Class single to Paddington                1    6
Third Class return to Paddington (for self)     2    6
Third Class single Waterloo to Galton           3   11
Cab from Paddington to Waterloo                 3    6?
Cab from Waterloo to Paddington (for self)      3    6?
Sandwiches for Cyril and Self                   1    0
Ginger-beer for Cyril and Self (4 bottles)           8
                                               ________
Total                                          16    7

The cab of course might cost more, and he must take back the eightpence
out of it for himself. But Cyril would have at least one and sixpence
in his pocket when he arrived, which he could put in the offertory at
the Mass of thanksgiving for his escape that he would attend on the
following morning. Cyril would be useful to old Dorward, and he (Mark)
would give him some tips on serving if they had an empty compartment
from Slowbridge to Paddington. Mark's original intention had been to
wait at the corner of Cranborne Road in a closed cab like the proverbial
postchaise of elopements, but he discarded this idea for reasons of
economy. He hoped that Cyril would not get frightened on the way to the
station and turn back. Perhaps after all it would be wiser to order a
cab and give up the ginger-beer, or pay for the ginger-beer with the
money for the telegram. Once inside a cab Cyril was bound to go on.
Hacking might be committed more completely to the enterprise by waiting
inside until he arrived with Cyril. It was a pity that Cyril was not
locked in his room, and yet when it came to it he would probably have
funked letting himself down from the window by knotted sheets. Mark
walked home with Hacking after school, to give his final instructions
for the following day.

"I'm telling you now," he said, "because we oughtn't to be seen together
at all to-morrow, in case of arousing suspicion. You must get hold of
Pomeroy and tell him to run to the corner of the road at half-past-five,
and jump straight into the fly that'll be waiting there with you
inside."

"But where will you be?"

"I shall be waiting outside the ticket barrier with the tickets."

"Supposing he won't?"

"I'll risk seeing him once more. Go and ask if you can speak to him a
minute, and tell him to come out in the garden presently. Say you've
knocked a ball over or something and will Master Cyril throw it back. I
say, we might really put a message inside a ball and throw it over. That
was the way the Duc de Beaufort escaped in _Twenty Years After_."

Hacking looked blankly at Mark.

"But it's dark and wet," he objected. "I shouldn't knock a ball over on
a wet evening like this."

"Well, the skivvy won't think of that, and Pomeroy will guess that
we're trying to communicate with him."

Mark thought how odd it was that Hacking should be so utterly blind to
the romance of the enterprise. After a few more objections which were
disposed of by Mark, Hacking agreed to go next door and try to get the
prisoner into the garden. He succeeded in this, and Mark rated Cyril for
not having given him the sovereign yesterday.

"However, bunk in and get it now, because I shan't see you again till
to-morrow at the station, and I must have some money to buy the
tickets."

He explained the details of the escape and exacted from Cyril a promise
not to back out at the last moment.

"You've got nothing to do. It's as simple as A B C. It's too simple,
really, to be much of a rag. However, as it isn't a rag, but serious, I
suppose we oughtn't to grumble. Now, you are coming, aren't you?"

Cyril promised that nothing but physical force should prevent him.

"If you funk, don't forget that you'll have betrayed your faith and
. . ."

At this moment Mark in his enthusiasm slipped off the wall, and after
uttering one more solemn injunction against backing out at the last
minute he left Cyril to the protection of Angels for the next
twenty-four hours.

Although he would never have admitted as much, Mark was rather
astonished when Cyril actually did present himself at Slowbridge station
in time to catch the 5.47 train up to town. Their compartment was not
empty, so that Mark was unable to give Cyril that lesson in serving at
the altar which he had intended to give him. Instead, as Cyril seemed in
his reaction to the excitement of the escape likely to burst into tears
at any moment, he drew for him a vivid picture of the enjoyable life to
which the train was taking him.

"Father Dorward says that the country round Green Lanes is ripping. And
his church is Norman. I expect he'll make you his ceremonarius. You're
an awfully lucky chap, you know. He says that next Corpus Christi, he's
going to have Mass on the village green. Nobody will know where you
are, and I daresay later on you can become a hermit. You might become a
saint. The last English saint to be canonized was St. Thomas Cantilupe
of Hereford. But of course Charles the First ought to have been properly
canonized. By the time you die I should think we should have got back
canonization in the English Church, and if I'm alive then I'll propose
your canonization. St. Cyril Pomeroy you'd be."

Such were the bright colours in which Mark painted Cyril's future; when
he had watched him wave his farewells from the window of the departing
train at Waterloo, he felt as if he were watching the bodily assumption
of a saint.

"Where have you been all the evening?" asked Uncle Henry, when Mark came
back about nine o'clock.

"In London," said Mark.

"Your insolence is becoming insupportable. Get away to your room."

It never struck Mr. Lidderdale that his nephew was telling the truth.

The hue and cry for Cyril Pomeroy began at once, and though Mark
maintained at first that the discovery of Cyril's hiding-place was due
to nothing else except the cowardice of Hacking, who when confronted by
a detective burst into tears and revealed all he knew, he was bound to
admit afterward that, if Mr. Ogilvie had been questioned much more, he
would have had to reveal the secret himself. Mark was hurt that his
efforts to help a son of Holy Church should not be better appreciated by
Mr. Ogilvie; but he forgave his friend in view of the nuisance that it
undoubtedly must have been to have Meade Cantorum beleaguered by half a
dozen corpulent detectives. The only person in the Vicarage who seemed
to approve of what he had done was Esther; she who had always seemed to
ignore him, even sometimes in a sensitive mood to despise him, was full
of congratulations.

"How did you manage it, Mark?"

"Oh, I took a cab," said Mark modestly. "One from the corner of
Cranborne Road to Slowbridge, and another from Paddington to Waterloo.
We had some sandwiches, and a good deal of ginger-beer at Paddington
because we thought we mightn't be able to get any at Waterloo, but at
Waterloo we had some more ginger-beer. I wish I hadn't told Hacking. If
I hadn't, we should probably have pulled it off. Old Dorward was up to
anything. But Hacking is a hopeless ass."

"What does your uncle say?"

"He's rather sick," Mark admitted. "He refused to let me go to school
any more, which as you may imagine doesn't upset me very much, and I'm
to go into Hitchcock's office after Christmas. As far as I can make out
I shall be a kind of servant."

"Have you talked to Stephen about it?"

"Well, he's a bit annoyed with me about this kidnapping. I'm afraid I
have rather let him in for it. He says he doesn't mind so much if it's
kept out of the papers."

"Anyway, I think it was a sporting effort by you," said Esther. "I
wasn't particularly keen on you until you brought this off. I hate pious
boys. I wish you'd told me beforehand. I'd have loved to help."

"Would you? I say, I am sorry. I never thought of you," said Mark much
disappointed at the lost opportunity. "You'd have been much better than
that ass Hacking. If you and I had been the only people in it, I'll bet
the detectives would never have found him."

"And what's going to happen to the youth now?"

"Oh, his father's going to take him to Australia as he arranged. They
sail to-morrow. There's one thing," Mark added with a kind of gloomy
relish. "He's bound to go to the bad, and perhaps that'll be a lesson to
his father."

The hope of the Vicar of Meade Cantorum and equally it may be added the
hope of Mr. Lidderdale that the affair would be kept out of the papers
was not fulfilled. The day after Mr. Pomeroy and his son sailed from
Tilbury the following communication appeared in _The Times_:

     Sir,--The accompanying letter was handed to me by my friend the
     Reverend Eustace Pomeroy to be used as I thought fit and subject to
     only one stipulation--that it should not be published until he and
     his son were out of England. As President of the Society for the
     Protection of the English Church against Romish Aggression I feel
     that it is my duty to lay the facts before the country. I need
     scarcely add that I have been at pains to verify the surprising and
     alarming accusations made by a clergyman against two other
     clergymen, and I earnestly request the publicity of your columns
     for what I venture to believe is positive proof of the dangerous
     conspiracy existing in our very midst to romanize the Established
     Church of England. I shall be happy to produce for any of your
     readers who find Mr. Pomeroy's story incredible at the close of the
     nineteenth century the signed statements of witnesses and other
     documentary evidence.

     I am, Sir,

     Your obedient servant,

     Danvers.


     The Right Honble. the Lord Danvers, P.C.

     President of the Society for the Protection of the English Church
     against Romish Aggression.

     My Lord,

     I have to bring to your notice as President of the S.P.E. C.R.A.
     what I venture to assert is one of the most daring plots to subvert
     home and family life in the interests of priestcraft that has ever
     been discovered. In taking this step I am fully conscious of its
     seriousness, and if I ask your lordship to delay taking any
     measures for publicity until the unhappy principal is upon the high
     seas in the guardianship of his even more unhappy father, I do so
     for the sake of the wretched boy whose future has been nearly
     blasted by the Jesuitical behaviour of two so-called Protestant
     clergymen.

     Four years ago, my lord, I retired from a lifelong career as a
     missionary in New Guinea to give my children the advantages of
     English education and English climate, and it is surely hard that I
     should live to curse the day on which I did so. My third son Cyril
     was sent to school at Haverton House, Slowbridge, to an educational
     establishment kept by a Mr. Henry Lidderdale, reputed to be a
     strong Evangelical and I believe I am justified in saying rightly
     so reputed. At the same time I regret that Mr. Lidderdale, whose
     brother was a notorious Romanizer I have since discovered, should
     not have exercised more care in the supervision of his nephew, a
     fellow scholar with my own son at Haverton House. It appears that
     Mr. Lidderdale was so lax as to permit his nephew to frequent the
     services of the Reverend Stephen Ogilvie at Meade Cantorum, where
     every excess such as incense, lighted candles, mariolatry and
     creeping to the cross is openly practised. The Revd. S. Ogilvie I
     may add is a member of the S.S.C., that notorious secret society
     whose machinations have been so often exposed and the originators
     of that filthy book "The Priest in Absolution." He is also a member
     of the Guild of All Souls which has for its avowed object the
     restoration of the Romish doctrine of Purgatory with all its
     attendant horrors, and finally I need scarcely add he is a member
     of the Confraternity of the "Blessed Sacrament" which seeks openly
     to popularize the idolatrous and blasphemous cult of the Mass.

     Young Lidderdale presumably under the influence of this disloyal
     Protestant clergyman sought to corrupt my son, and was actually so
     far successful as to lure him to attend the idolatrous services at
     Meade Cantorum church, which of course he was only able to do by
     inventing lies and excuses to his father to account for his absence
     from the simple worship to which all his life he had been
     accustomed. Not content with this my unhappy son was actually
     persuaded to confess his sins to this self-styled "priest"! I
     wonder if he confessed the sin of deceiving his own father to
     "Father" Ogilvie who supplied him with numerous Mass books, several
     of which I enclose for your lordship's inspection. You will be
     amused if you are not too much horrified by these puerile and
     degraded works, and in one of them, impudently entitled "Catholic
     Prayers for Church of England People" you will actually see in cold
     print a prayer for the "Pope of Rome." This work emanates from that
     hotbed of sacerdotal disloyalty, St. Alban's, Holborn.

     These vile books I discovered by accident carefully hidden away in
     my son's bedroom. "Facilis descensus Averni!" You will easily
     imagine the humiliation of a parent who, having devoted his life to
     bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the heathen, finds that his own
     son has fallen as low as the lowest savage. As soon as I made my
     discovery, I removed him from Haverton House, and warned the
     proprietor of the risk he was running by not taking better care of
     his pupils. Having been summoned to a conference of missionaries in
     Sydney, N.S.W., I determined to take my son with me in the hope
     that a long voyage in the company of a loving parent, eager to help
     him back to the path of Truth and Salvation from which he had
     strayed, might cure him of his idolatrous fancies, and restore him
     to Jesus.

     What followed is, as I write this, scarcely credible to myself;
     but however incredible, it is true. Young Lidderdale, acting no
     doubt at the instigation of "Father" Ogilvie (as my son actually
     called him to my face, not realizing the blasphemy of according to
     a mortal clergyman the title that belongs to God alone), entered
     into a conspiracy with another Romanizing clergyman, the Reverend
     Oliver Dorward, Vicar of Green Lanes, Hants, to abduct my son from
     his own father's house, with what ultimate intention I dare not
     think. Incredible as it must sound to modern ears, they were so far
     successful that for a whole week I was in ignorance of his
     whereabouts, while detectives were hunting for him up and down
     England. The abduction was carried out by young Lidderdale, with
     the assistance of a youth called Hacking, so coolly and skilfully
     as to indicate that the abettors behind the scenes are USED TO SUCH
     ABDUCTIONS. This, my lord, points to a very grave state of affairs
     in our midst. If the son of a Protestant clergyman like myself can
     be spirited away from a populous but nevertheless comparatively
     small town like Slowbridge, what must be going on in great cities
     like London? Moreover, everything is done to make it attractive for
     the unhappy youth who is thus lured away from his father's hearth.
     My own son is even now still impenitent, and I have the greatest
     fears for his moral and religious future, so rapid has been the
     corruption set up by evil companionship.

     These, my lord, are the facts set out as shortly as possible and
     written on the eve of my departure in circumstances that militate
     against elegance of expression. I am, to tell the truth, still
     staggered by this affair, and if I make public my sorrow and my
     shame I do so in the hope that the Society of which your lordship
     is President, may see its way to take some kind of action that will
     make a repetition of such an outrage upon family life for ever
     impossible.

     Believe me to be,

     Your lordship's obedient servant,

     Eustace Pomeroy.

The publication of this letter stirred England. _The Times_ in a leading
article demanded a full inquiry into the alleged circumstances. _The
English Churchman_ said that nothing like it had happened since the days
of Bloody Mary. Questions were asked in the House of Commons, and
finally when it became known that Lord Danvers would ask a question in
the House of Lords, Mr. Ogilvie took Mark to see Lord Hull who wished to
be in possession of the facts before he rose to correct some
misapprehensions of Lord Danvers. Mark also had to interview two
Bishops, an Archdeacon, and a Rural Dean. He did not realize that for a
few weeks he was a central figure in what was called THE CHURCH CRISIS.
He was indignant at Mr. Pomeroy's exaggeration and perversions of fact,
and he was so evidently speaking the truth that everybody from Lord Hull
to a reporter of _The Sun_ was impressed by his account of the affair,
so that in the end the Pomeroy Abduction was decided to be less
revolutionary than the Gunpowder Plot.

Mr. Lidderdale, however, believed that his nephew had deliberately tried
to ruin him out of malice, and when two parents seized the opportunity
of such a scandal to remove their sons from Haverton House without
paying the terminal fees, Mr. Lidderdale told Mark that he should recoup
himself for the loss out of the money left by his mother.

"How much did she leave?" his nephew asked.

"Don't ask impertinent questions."

"But it's my money, isn't it?"

"It will be your money in another six years, if you behave yourself.
Meanwhile half of it will be devoted to paying your premium at the
office of my friend Mr. Hitchcock."

"But I don't want to be a solicitor. I want to be a priest," said Mark.

Uncle Henry produced a number of cogent reasons that would make his
nephew's ambition unattainable.

"Very well, if I can't be a priest, I don't want the money, and you can
keep it yourself," said Mark. "But I'm not going to be a solicitor."

"And what are you going to be, may I inquire?" asked Uncle Henry.

"In the end I probably _shall_ be a priest," Mark prophesied. "But I
haven't quite decided yet how. I warn you that I shall run away."

"Run away," his uncle echoed in amazement. "Good heavens, boy, haven't
you had enough of running away over this deplorable Pomeroy affair?
Where are you going to run to?"

"I couldn't tell you, could I, even if I knew?" Mark asked as tactfully
as he was able. "But as a matter of fact, I don't know. I only know that
I won't go into Mr. Hitchcock's office. If you try to force me, I shall
write to _The Times_ about it."

Such a threat would have sounded absurd in the mouth of a schoolboy
before the Pomeroy business; but now Mr. Lidderdale took it seriously
and began to wonder if Haverton House would survive any more of such
publicity. When a few days later Mr. Ogilvie, whom Mark had consulted
about his future, wrote to propose that Mark should live with him and
work under his superintendence with the idea of winning a scholarship at
Oxford, Mr. Lidderdale was inclined to treat his suggestion as a
solution of the problem, and he replied encouragingly:

     Haverton House,

     Slowbridge.

     Jan. 15.

     Dear Sir,

     Am I to understand from your letter that you are offering to make
     yourself responsible for my nephew's future, for I must warn you
     that I could not accept your suggestion unless such were the case?
     I do not approve of what I assume will be the trend of your
     education, and I should have to disclaim any further responsibility
     in the matter of my nephew's future. I may inform you that I hold
     in trust for him until he comes of age the sum of L522 8s. 7d.
     which was left by his mother. The annual interest upon this I have
     used until now as a slight contribution to the expense to which I
     have been put on his account; but I have not thought it right to
     use any of the capital sum. This I am proposing to transfer to you.
     His mother did not execute any legal document and I have nothing
     more binding than a moral obligation. If you undertake the
     responsibility of looking after him until such time as he is able
     to earn his own living, I consider that you are entitled to use
     this money in any way you think right. I hope that the boy will
     reward your confidence more amply than he has rewarded mine. I need
     not allude to the Pomeroy business to you, for notwithstanding your
     public denials I cannot but consider that you were as deeply
     implicated in that disgraceful affair as he was. I note what you
     say about the admiration you had for my brother. I wish I could
     honestly say that I shared that admiration. But my brother and I
     were not on good terms, for which state of affairs he was entirely
     responsible. I am more ready to surrender to you all my authority
     over Mark because I am only too well aware how during the last year
     you have consistently undermined that authority and encouraged my
     nephew's rebellious spirit. I have had a great experience of boys
     during thirty-five years of schoolmastering, and I can assure you
     that I have never had to deal with a boy so utterly insensible to
     kindness as my nephew. His conduct toward his aunt I can only
     characterize as callous. Of his conduct towards me I prefer to say
     no more. I came forward at a moment when he was likely to be sunk
     in the most abject poverty, and my reward has been ingratitude. I
     pray that his dark and stubborn temperament may not turn to vice
     and folly as he grows older, but I have little hope of its not
     doing so. I confess that to me his future seems dismally black. You
     may have acquired some kind of influence over his emotions, if he
     has any emotions, but I am not inclined to suppose that it will
     endure.

     On hearing from you that you persist in your offer to assume
     complete responsibility for my nephew, I will hand him over to your
     care at once. I cannot pretend that I shall be sorry to see the
     last of him, for I am not a hypocrite. I may add that his clothes
     are in rather a sorry state. I had intended to equip him upon his
     entering the office of my old friend Mr. Hitchcock and with that
     intention I have been letting him wear out what he has. This, I may
     say, he has done most effectually.

     I am, Sir,

     Yours faithfully,

     Henry Lidderdale.

To which Mr. Ogilvie replied:

     The Vicarage,

     Meade Cantorum,

     Bucks.

     Jan. 16.

     Dear Mr. Lidderdale,

     I accept full responsibility for Mark and for Mark's money. Send
     both of them along whenever you like. I'm not going to embark on
     another controversy about the "rights" of boys. I've exhausted
     every argument on this subject since Mark involved me in his
     drastic measures of a month ago. But please let me assure you that
     I will do my best for him and that I am convinced he will do his
     best for me.

     Yours truly,

     Stephen Ogilvie.




CHAPTER XIII

WYCH-ON-THE-WOLD


Mark rarely visited his uncle and aunt after he went to live at Meade
Cantorum; and the break was made complete soon afterward when the living
of Wych-on-the-Wold was accepted by Mr. Ogilvie, so complete indeed that
he never saw his relations again. Uncle Henry died five years later;
Aunt Helen went to live at St. Leonard's, where she took up palmistry
and became indispensable to the success of charitable bazaars in East
Sussex.

Wych, a large village on a spur of the Cotswold hills, was actually in
Oxfordshire, although by so bare a margin that all the windows looked
down into Gloucestershire, except those in the Rectory; they looked out
across a flat country of elms and willow-bordered streams to a flashing
spire in Northamptonshire reputed to be fifty miles away. It was a high
windy place, seeming higher and windier on account of the numbers of
pigeons that were always circling round the church tower. There was
hardly a house in Wych that did not have its pigeon-cote, from the great
round columbary in the Rectory garden to the few holes in a gable-end of
some steep-roofed cottage. Wych was architecturally as perfect as most
Cotswold villages, and if it lacked the variety of Wychford in the vale
below, that was because the exposed position had kept its successive
builders too intent on solidity to indulge their fancy. The result was
an austere uniformity of design that accorded fittingly with a landscape
whose beauty was all of line and whose colour like the lichen on an old
wall did not flauntingly reveal its gradations of tint to the transient
observer. The bleak upland airs had taught the builders to be sparing
with their windows; the result of such solicitude for the comfort of the
inmates was a succession of blank spaces of freestone that delighted
the eye with an effect of strength and leisure, of cleanliness and
tranquillity.

The Rectory, dating from the reign of Charles II, did not arrogate to
itself the right to retire behind trees from the long line of the single
village street; but being taller than the other houses it brought the
street to a dignified conclusion, and it was not unworthy of the noble
church which stood apart from the village, a landmark for miles, upon
the brow of the rolling wold. There was little traffic on the road that
climbed up from Wychford in the valley of the swift Greenrush five miles
away, and there was less traffic on the road beyond, which for eight
miles sent branch after branch to remote farms and hamlets until itself
became no more than a sheep track and faded out upon a hilly pasturage.
Yet even this unfrequented road only bisected the village at the end of
its wide street, where in the morning when the children were at school
and the labourers at work in the fields the silence was cloistral, where
one could stand listening to the larks high overhead, and where the
lightest footstep aroused curiosity, so that one turned the head to peep
and peer for the cause of so strange a sound.

Mr. Ogilvie's parish had a large superficial area; but his parishioners
were not many outside the village, and in that country of wide pastures
the whole of his cure did not include half-a-dozen farms. There was no
doctor and no squire, unless Will Starling of Rushbrooke Grange could be
counted as the squire.

Halfway to Wychford and close to the boundary of the two parishes an
infirm signpost managed with the aid of a stunted hawthorn to keep
itself partially upright and direct the wayfarer to Wych Maries. Without
the signpost nobody would have suspected that the grassgrown track thus
indicated led anywhere except over the top of the wold.

"You must go and explore Wych Maries," the Rector had said to Mark soon
after they arrived. "You'll find it rather attractive. There's a disused
chapel dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin and St. Mary Magdalene. My
predecessor took me there when we drove round the parish on my first
visit; but I haven't yet had time to go again. And you ought to have a
look at the gardens of Rushbrooke Grange. The present squire is away. In
the South Seas, I believe. But the housekeeper, Mrs. Honeybone, will
show you round."

It was in response to this advice that Mark and Esther set out on a
golden May evening to explore Wych Maries. Esther had continued to be
friendly with Mark after the Pomeroy affair; and when he came to live at
Meade Cantorum she had expressed her pleasure at the prospect of having
him for a brother.

"But you'll keep off religion, won't you?" she had demanded.

Mark promised that he would, wondering why she should suppose that he
was incapable of perceiving who was and who was not interested in it.

"I suppose you've guessed my fear?" she had continued. "Haven't you?
Haven't you guessed that I'm frightened to death of becoming religious?"

The reassuring contradiction that one naturally gives to anybody who
voices a dread of being overtaken by some misfortune might perhaps have
sounded inappropriate, and Mark had held his tongue.

"My father was very religious. My mother is more or less religious.
Stephen is religious. Miriam is religious. Oh, Mark, and I sometimes
feel that I too must fall on my knees and surrender. But I won't.
Because it spoils life. I shall be beaten in the end of course, and I'll
probably get religious mania when I am beaten. But until then--" She did
not finish her sentence; only her blue eyes glittered at the challenge
of life.

That was the last time religion was mentioned between Mark and Esther,
and since both of them enjoyed the country they became friends. On this
May evening they stood by the signpost and looked across the shimmering
grass to where the sun hung in his web of golden haze above the edge of
the wold.

"If we take the road to Wych Maries," said Mark, "we shall be walking
right into the sun."

Esther did not reply, but Mark understood that she assented to his
truism, and they walked on as silent as the long shadows that followed
them. A quarter of a mile from the high road the path reached the edge
of the wold and dipped over into a wood which was sparse just below the
brow, but which grew denser down the slope with many dark evergreens
interspersed, and in the valley below became a jungle. After the bare
upland country this volume of May verdure seemed indescribably rich and
the valley beyond, where the Greenrush flowed through kingcups toward
the sun, indescribably alluring. Esther and Mark forgot that they were
exploring Wych Maries and thinking only of reaching that wide valley
they ran down through the wood, rejoicing in the airy green of the
ash-trees above them and shouting as they ran. But presently cypresses
and sombre yews rose on either side of the path, and the road to Wych
Maries was soft and silent, and the serene sun was lost, and their
whispering footsteps forbade them to shout any more. At the bottom of
the hill the trees increased in number and variety; the sun shone
through pale oak-leaves and the warm green of sycamores. Nevertheless a
sadness haunted the wood, where the red campions made only a mist of
colour with no reality of life and flowers behind.

"This wood's awfully jolly, isn't it?" said Mark, hoping to gain from
Esther's agreement the dispersal of his gloom.

"I don't care for it much," she replied. "There doesn't seem to be any
life in it."

"I heard a cuckoo just now," said Mark.

"Yes, out of tune already."

"Mm, rather out of tune. Mind those nettles," he warned her.

"I thought Stephen said he drove here."

"Perhaps we've come the wrong way. I believe the road forked by the ash
wood above. Anyway if we go toward the sun we shall come out in the
valley, and we can walk back along the banks of the river to Wychford."

"We can always go back through the wood," said Esther.

"Yes, if you don't mind going back the way you came."

"Come on," she snapped. She was not going to be laughed at by Mark, and
she dared him to deny that he was not as much aware as herself of an
eeriness in the atmosphere.

"Only because it seems dark in here after that dazzling sunlight on the
wold. Hark! I hear the sound of water."

They struggled through the undergrowth toward the sound; soon from a
steep wooded bank they were gazing down into a millpool, the surface of
which reflected with a gloomy deepening of their hue the colour but not
the form of the trees above. Water was flowing through a rotten sluice
gate down from the level of the stream upon a slimy water-wheel that
must have been out of action for many years.

"The dark tarn of Auber in the misty mid region of Weir!" Mark
exclaimed. "Don't you love _Ulalume_? I think it's about my favourite
poem."

"Never heard of it," Esther replied indifferently. He might have taken
advantage of this confession to give her a lecture on poetry, if the
millpool and the melancholy wood had not been so affecting as to make
the least attempt at literary exposition impertinent.

"And there's the chapel," Mark exclaimed, pointing to a ruined edifice
of stone, the walls of which were stained with the damp of years rising
from the pool. "But how shall we reach it? We must have come the wrong
way."

"Let's go back! Let's go back!" Esther exclaimed, surrendering to the
command of an intuition that overcame her pride. "This place is
unlucky."

Mark looking at her wild eyes, wilder in the dark that came so early in
this overshadowed place, was half inclined to turn round at her behest;
but at that moment he perceived a possible path through the nettles and
briers at the farther end of the pool and unwilling to go back to the
Rectory without having visited the ruined chapel of Wych Maries he
called on her to follow him. This she did fearfully at first; but
gradually regaining her composure she emerged on the other side as cool
and scornful as the Esther with whom he was familiar.

"What frightened you?" he asked, when they were standing on a grassgrown
road that wound through a rank pasturage browsed on by a solitary black
cow and turned the corner by a clump of cedars toward a large building,
the presence of which was felt rather than seen beyond the trees.

"I was bored by the brambles," Esther offered for explanation.

"This must be the driving road," Mark proclaimed. "I say, this chapel is
rather ripping, isn't it?"

But Esther had wandered away across the rank meadow, where her
meditative form made the solitary black cow look lonelier than ever.
Mark turned aside to examine the chapel. He had been warned by the
Rector to look at the images of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Mary
Magdalene that had survived the ruin of the holy place of which they
were tutelary and to which they had given their name. The history of the
chapel was difficult to trace. It was so small as to suggest that it was
a chantry; but there was no historical justification for linking its
fortunes with the Starlings who owned Rushbrooke Grange, and there was
no record of any lost hamlet here. That it was called Wych Maries might
show a connexion either with Wychford or with Wych-on-the-Wold; it lay
about midway between the two, and in days gone by there had been
controversy on this point between the two parishes. The question had
been settled by a squire of Rushbrooke's buying it in the eighteenth
century, since when a legend had arisen that it was built and endowed by
some crusading Starling of the thirteenth century. There was record
neither of its glory nor of its decline, nor of what manner of folk
worshipped there, nor of those who destroyed it. The roofless haunt of
bats and owls, preserved from complete collapse by the ancient ivy that
covered its walls, the mortar between its stones the prey of briers, its
floor a nettle bed, the chapel remained a mystery. Yet over the arch of
the west door the two Maries gazed heavenward as they had gazed for six
hundred years. The curiosity of the few antiquarians who visited the
place and speculated upon its past had kept the images clear of the ivy
that covered the rest of the fabric. Mark did not put this to the credit
of the antiquarians; but now perceiving for the first time these two
austere shapes of divine women under conditions of atmosphere that
enhanced their austerity and unearthliness he ascribed their freedom
from decay to the interposition of God. To Mark's imagination, fixed
upon the images while Esther wandered solitary in the field beyond the
chapel, there was granted another of those moments of vision which
marked like milestones his spiritual progress. He became suddenly
assured that he would neither marry nor beget children. He was
astonished to find himself in the grip of this thought, for his mind had
never until this evening occupied itself with marriage or children, nor
even with love. Yet here he was obsessed by the conviction of his finite
purpose in the scheme of the world. He could not, he said to himself, be
considered credulous if he sought for the explanation of his state of
mind in the images of the two Maries. He looked at them resolved to
illuminate with reason's eye the fluttering shadows of dusk that gave to
the stone an illusion of life's bloom.

"Did their lips really move?" he asked aloud, and from the field beyond
the black cow lowed a melancholy negative. Whether the stone had spoken
or not, Mark accepted the revelation of his future as a Divine favour,
and thenceforth he regarded the ruined chapel of Wych Maries as the
place where the vow he made on that Whit-sunday was accepted by God.

"Aren't you ever coming?" the voice of Esther called across the field,
and Mark hurried away to rejoin her on the grassgrown drive that led
round the cedar grove to Rushbrooke Grange.

"It's too late now to go inside," he objected.

They were standing before the house.

"It's not too late at all," she contradicted eagerly. "Down here it
seems later than it really is."

Rushbrooke Grange lacked the architectural perfection of the average
Cotswold manor. Being a one-storied building it occupied a large
superficial area, and its tumbling irregular roofs of freestone, the
outlines of which were blurred by the encroaching mist of vegetation
that overhung them, gave the effect of water, as if the atmosphere of
this dank valley had wrought upon the substance of the building and as
if the architects themselves had been confused by the rivalry of the
trees by which it was surrounded. The owners of Rushbrooke Grange had
never occupied a prominent position in the county, and their estates had
grown smaller with each succeeding generation. There was no conspicuous
author of their decay, no outstanding gamester or libertine from whose
ownership the family's ruin could be dated. There was indeed nothing of
interest in their annals except an attack upon the Grange by a party of
armed burglars in the disorderly times at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, when the squire's wife and two little girls were
murdered while the squire and his sons were drinking deep in the Stag
Inn at Wychford four miles away. Mark did not feel much inclined to
blunt his impression of the chapel by perambulating Rushbrooke Grange
under the guidance of Mrs. Honeybone, the old housekeeper; but Esther
perversely insisted upon seeing the garden at any rate, giving as her
excuse that the Rector would like them to pay the visit. By now it was a
pink and green May dusk; the air was plumy with moths' wings, heavy with
the scent of apple blossom.

"Well, you must explain who we are," said Mark while the echoes of the
bell died away on the silence within the house and they waited for the
footsteps that should answer their summons. The answer came from a
window above the porch where Mrs. Honeybone's face, wreathed in
wistaria, looked down and demanded in accents that were harsh with alarm
who was there.

"I am the Rector's sister, Mrs. Honeybone," Esther explained.

"I don't care who you are," said Mrs. Honeybone. "You have no business
to go ringing the bell at this time of the evening. It frightened me to
death."

"The Rector asked me to call on you," she pressed.

Mark had already been surprised by Esther's using her brother as an
excuse to visit the house and he was still more surprised by hearing her
speak so politely, so ingratiatingly, it seemed, to this grim woman
embowered in wistaria.

"We lost our way," Esther explained, "and that's why we're so late. The
Rector told me about the water-lily pool, and I should so much like to
see it."

Mrs. Honeybone debated with herself for a moment, until at last with a
grunt of disapproval she came downstairs and opened the front door. The
lily pool, now a lily pool only in name, for it was covered with an
integument of duckweed which in twilight took on the texture of velvet,
was an attractive place set in an enclosure of grass between high grey
walls.

"That's all there is to see," said Mrs. Honeybone.

"Mr. Starling is abroad?" Esther asked.

The housekeeper nodded.

"And when is he coming back?" she went on.

"That's for him to say," said the housekeeper disagreeably. "He might
come back to-night for all I know."

Almost before the sentence was out of her mouth the hall bell jangled,
and a distant voice shouted:

"Nanny, Nanny, hurry up and open the door!"

Mrs. Honeybone could not have looked more startled if the voice had been
that of a ghost. Mark began to talk of going until Esther cut him short.

"I don't think Mr. Starling will mind our being here so much as that,"
she said.

Mrs. Honeybone had already hurried off to greet her master; and when she
was gone Mark looked at Esther, saw that her face was strangely flushed,
and in an instant of divination apprehended either that she had already
met the squire of Rushbrooke Grange or that she expected to meet him
here to-night; so that, when presently a tall man of about thirty-five
with brick-dust cheeks came into the close, he was not taken aback when
Esther greeted him by name with the assurance of old friendship. Nor was
he astonished that even in the wan light those brick-dust cheeks should
deepen to terra-cotta, those hard blue eyes glitter with recognition,
and the small thin-lipped mouth lose for a moment its immobility and
gape, yes, gape, in the amazement of meeting somebody whom he never
could have expected to meet at such an hour in such a place.

"You," he exclaimed. "You here!"

By the way he quickly looked behind him as if to intercept a prying
glance Mark knew that, whatever the relationship between Esther and the
squire had been in the past, it had been a relationship in which
secrecy had played a part. In that moment between him and Will Starling
there was enmity.

"You couldn't have expected him to make a great fuss about a boy," said
Esther brutally on their way back to the Rectory.

"I suppose you think that's the reason why I don't like him," said Mark.
"I don't want him to take any notice of me, but I think it's very odd
that you shouldn't have said a word about knowing him even to his
housekeeper."

"It was a whim of mine," she murmured. "Besides, I don't know him very
well. We met at Eastbourne once when I was staying there with Mother."

"Well, why didn't he say 'How do you do, Miss Ogilvie?' instead of
breathing out 'you' like that?"

Esther turned furiously upon Mark.

"What has it got to do with you?"

"Nothing whatever to do with me," he said deliberately. "But if you
think you're going to make a fool of me, you're not. Are you going to
tell your brother you knew him?"

Esther would not answer, and separated by several yards they walked
sullenly back to the Rectory.




CHAPTER XIV

ST. MARK'S DAY


Mark tried next day to make up his difference with Esther; but she
repulsed his advances, and the friendship that had blossomed after the
Pomeroy affair faded and died. There was no apparent dislike on either
side, nothing more than a coolness as of people too well used to each
other's company. In a way this was an advantage for Mark, who was having
to apply himself earnestly to the amount of study necessary to win a
scholarship at Oxford. Companionship with Esther would have meant
considerable disturbance of his work, for she was a woman who depended
on the inspiration of the moment for her pastimes and pleasures, who was
impatient of any postponement and always avowedly contemptuous of Mark's
serious side. His classical education at Haverton House had made little
of the material bequeathed to him by his grandfather's tuition at
Nancepean. None of his masters had been enough of a scholar or enough of
a gentleman (and to teach Latin and Greek well one must be one or the
other) to educate his taste. The result was an assortment of grammatical
facts to which he was incapable of giving life. If the Rector of
Wych-on-the-Wold was not a great scholar, he was at least able to repair
the neglect of, more than the neglect of, the positive damage done to
Mark's education by the meanness of Haverton House; moreover, after Mark
had been reading with him six months he did find a really first-class
scholar in Mr. Ford, the Vicar of Little Fairfield. Mark worked
steadily, and existence in Oxfordshire went by without any great
adventures of mind, body, or spirit. Life at the Rectory had a kind of
graceful austerity like the well-proportioned Rectory itself. If Mark
had bothered to analyze the cause of this graceful austerity, he might
have found it in the personality of the Rector's elder sister Miriam.
Even at Meade Cantorum, when he was younger, Mark had been fully
conscious of her qualities; but here they found a background against
which they could display themselves more perfectly. When they moved from
Buckinghamshire and the new rector was seeing how much Miriam
appreciated the new surroundings, he sold out some stock and presented
her with enough ready money to express herself in the outward beauty of
the Rectory's refurbishing. He was luckily not called upon to spend a
great deal on the church, both his predecessors having maintained the
fabric with care, and the fabric itself being sound enough and
magnificent enough to want no more than that. Miriam, though shaking one
of those capable and well-tended fingers at her beloved brother's
extravagance, accepted the gift with an almost childish determination to
give full value of beauty in return, so that there should not be a
servant's bedroom nor a cupboard nor a corridor that did not display the
evidence of her appreciation in loving care. The garden was handed over
to Mrs. Ogilvie, who as soon as May warmed its high enclosures bloomed
there like one of her own favourite peonies, rosy of face and fragrant,
ample of girth, golden-hearted.

Outside the Rectory Mark spent most of his time with Richard Ford, the
son of the Vicar of Little Fairfield, with whom he went to work in the
autumn after his arrival in Oxfordshire. Here again Mark was lucky, for
Richard, who was a year or two older than himself and a student at
Cooper's Hill whence he would emerge as a civil engineer bound for
India, was one of those entirely admirable young men who succeed in
being saintly without any rapture or righteousness.

Mark said one day:

"Rector, you know, Richard Ford really is a saint; only for goodness'
sake don't tell him I said so, because he'd be furious."

The Rector stopped humming a joyful _Miserere_ to give Mark an assurance
of his discretion. But Mark having said so much in praise of Richard
could say no more, and indeed he would have found it hard to express in
words what he felt about his friend.

Mark accompanied Richard on his visits to Wychford Rectory where in
this fortunate corner of England existed a third perfect family. Richard
was deeply in love with Margaret Grey, the second daughter, and if Mark
had ever been intended to fall in love he would certainly have fallen in
love with Pauline, the youngest daughter, who was fourteen.

"I could look at her for ever," he confided in Richard. "Walking down
the road from Wych-on-the-Wold this morning I saw two blue butterflies
on a wild rose, and they were like Pauline's eyes and the rose was like
her cheek."

"She's a decent kid," Richard agreed fervently.

Mark had had such a limited experience of the world that the amenities
of the society in which he found himself incorporated did not strike his
imagination as remarkable. It was in truth one of those eclectic,
somewhat exquisite, even slightly rarefied coteries which are produced
partly by chance, partly by interests shared in common, but most of all,
it would seem, by the very genius of the place. The genius of Cotswolds
imparts to those who come beneath his influence the art of existing
appropriately in the houses that were built at his inspiration. They do
not boast of their privilege like the people of Sussex. They are not
living up to a landscape so much as to an architecture, and their voices
lowered harmoniously with the sigh of the wind through willows and
aspens have not to compete with the sea-gales or the sea.

Mark accepted the manners of the society in which good fortune had set
him as the natural expression of an inward orderliness, a traditional
respect for beauty like the ritual of Christian worship. That the three
daughters of the Rector of Wychford should be critical of those who
failed to conform to their inherited refinement of life did not strike
him as priggish, because it never struck him for a moment that any other
standard than theirs existed. He felt the same about people who objected
to Catholic ceremonies; their dislike of them did not present itself to
him as arising out of a different religious experience from his own; but
it appeared as a propensity toward unmannerly behaviour, as a kind of
wanton disregard of decency and good taste. He was indeed still at the
age when externals possess not so much an undue importance, but when
they affect a boy as a mould through which the plastic experience of his
youth is passed and whence it emerges to harden slowly to the ultimate
form of the individual. In the case of Mark there was the revulsion from
the arid ugliness of Haverton House and the ambition to make up for
those years of beauty withheld, both of which urged him on to take the
utmost advantage of this opportunity to expose the blank surface of
those years to the fine etching of the present. Miriam at home, the
Greys at Wychford, and in some ways most of all Richard Ford at
Fairfield gave him in a few months the poise he would have received more
gradually from a public school education.

So Mark read Greek with the Vicar of Little Fairfield and Latin with the
Rector of Wych-on-the-Wold, who, amiable and holy man, had to work
nearly twice as hard as his pupil to maintain his reserve of
instruction. Mark took long walks with Richard Ford when Richard was
home in his vacations, and long walks by himself when Richard was at
Cooper's Hill. He often went to Wychford Rectory, where he learnt to
enjoy Schumann and Beethoven and Bach and Brahms.

"You're like three Saint Cecilias," he told them. "Monica is by Luini
and Margaret is by Perugino and Pauline. . . ."

"Oh, who am I by?" Pauline exclaimed, clapping her hands.

"I give it up. You're just Saint Cecilia herself at fourteen."

"Isn't Mark foolish?" Pauline laughed.

"It's my birthday to-morrow," said Mark, "so I'm allowed to be foolish."

"It's my birthday in a week," said Pauline. "And as I'm two years
younger than you I can be two years more foolish."

Mark looked at her, and he was filled with wonder at the sanctity of her
maidenhood. Thenceforth meditating upon the Annunciation he should
always clothe Pauline in a robe of white samite and set her in his
mind's eye for that other maid of Jewry, even as painters found holy
maids in Florence or Perugia for their bright mysteries.

While Mark was walking back to Wych and when on the brow of the first
rise of the road he stood looking down at Wychford in the valley below,
a chill lisping wind from the east made him shiver and he thought of the
lines in Keats' _Eve of St. Mark_:

    _The chilly sunset faintly told_
    _Of unmatured green vallies cold,_
    _Of the green thorny bloomless hedge,_
    _Of rivers new with spring-tide sedge,_
    _Of primroses by shelter'd rills,_
    _And daisies on the aguish hills._

The sky in the west was an unmatured green valley tonight, where Venus
bloomed like a solitary primrose; and on the dark hills of Heaven the
stars were like daisies. He turned his back on the little town and set
off up the hill again, while the wind slipped through the hedge beside
him in and out of the blackthorn boughs, lisping, whispering, snuffling,
sniffing, like a small inquisitive animal. He thought of Monica,
Margaret, and Pauline playing in their warm, candle-lit room behind him,
and he thought of Miriam reading in her tall-back chair before dinner,
for Evensong would be over by now. Yes, Evensong would be over, he
remembered penitently, and he ought to have gone this evening, which was
the vigil of St. Mark and of his birthday. At this moment he caught
sight of the Wych Maries signpost black against that cold green sky. He
gave a momentary start, because seen thus the signpost had a human look;
and when his heart beat normally it was roused again, this time by the
sight of a human form indeed, the form of Esther, the wind blowing her
skirts before her, hurrying along the road to which the signpost so
crookedly pointed. Mark who had been climbing higher and higher now felt
the power of that wind full on his cheeks. It was as if it had found
what it wanted, for it no longer whispered and lisped among the boughs
of the blackthorn, but blew fiercely over the wide pastures, driving
Esther before it, cutting through Mark like a sword. By the time he had
reached the signpost she had disappeared in the wood.

Mark asked himself why she was going to Rushbrooke Grange.

"To Rushbrooke Grange," he said aloud. "Why should I think she is going
to Rushbrooke Grange?"

Though even in this desolate place he would not say it aloud, the answer
came back from this very afternoon when somebody had mentioned casually
that the Squire was come home again. Mark half turned to follow Esther,
but in the moment of turning he set his face resolutely in the direction
of home. If Esther were really on her way to meet Will Starling, he
would do more harm than good by appearing to pry.

Esther was the flaw in Mark's crystal clear world. When a year ago they
had quarrelled over his avowed dislike of Will Starling, she had gone
back to her solitary walks and he conscious, painfully conscious, that
she regarded him as a young prig, had with that foolish pride of youth
resolved to be so far as she was concerned what she supposed him to be.
His admiration for the Greys and the Fords had driven her into jeering
at them; throughout the year Mark and she had been scarcely polite to
each other even in public. The Rector and Miriam probably excused Mark's
rudeness whenever he let himself give way to it, because their sister
did not spare either of them, and they were made aware with exasperating
insistence of the dullness of the country and of the dreariness of
everybody who lived in the neighbourhood. Yet, Mark could never achieve
that indifference to her attitude either toward himself or toward other
people that he wished to achieve. It was odd that this evening he should
have beheld her in that relation to the wind, because in his thoughts
about her she always appeared to him like the wind, restlessly sighing
and fluttering round a comfortable house. However steady the
candle-light, however bright the fire, however absorbing the book,
however secure one may feel by the fireside, the wind is always there;
and throughout these tranquil months Esther had always been most
unmistakably there.

In the morning Mark went to Mass and made his Communion. It was a
strangely calm morning; through the unstained windows of the clerestory
the sun sloped quivering ladders of golden light. He looked round with
half a hope that Esther was in the church; but she was absent, and
throughout the service that brief vision of her dark transit across the
cold green sky of yester eve kept recurring to his imagination, so that
for all the rich peace of this interior he was troubled in spirit, and
the intention to make this Mass upon his seventeenth birthday another
spiritual experience was frustrated. In fact, he was worshipping
mechanically, and it was only when Mass was over and he was kneeling to
make an act of gratitude for his Communion that he began to apprehend
how he was asking fresh favours from God without having moved a step
forward to deserve them.

"I think I'm too pleased with myself," he decided, "I think I'm
suffering from spiritual pride. I think. . . ."

He paused, wondering if it was blasphemous to have an intuition that God
was about to play some horrible trick on him. Mark discussed with the
Rector the theological aspects of this intuition.

"The only thing I feel," said Mr. Ogilvie, "is that perhaps you are
leading too sheltered a life here and that the explanation of your
intuition is your soul's perception of this. Indeed, once or twice
lately I have been on the point of warning you that you must not get
into the habit of supposing you will always find the onset of the world
so gentle as here."

"But naturally I don't expect to," said Mark. "I was quite long enough
at Haverton House to appreciate what it means to be here."

"Yes," the Rector went on, "but even at Haverton House it was a passive
ugliness, just as here it is a passive beauty. After our Lord had fasted
forty days in the desert, accumulating reserves of spiritual energy,
just as we in our poor human fashion try to accumulate in Lent reserves
of spiritual energy that will enable us to celebrate Easter worthily, He
was assailed by the Tempter more fiercely than ever during His life on
earth. The history of all the early Egyptian monks, the history indeed
of any life lived without losing sight of the way of spiritual
perfection displays the same phenomena. In the action and reaction of
experience, in the rise and fall of the tides, in the very breathing of
the human lungs, you may perceive analogies of the divine rhythm. No, I
fancy your intuition of this morning is nothing more than one of those
movements which warn us that the sleeper will soon wake."

Mark went away from this conversation with the Rector dissatisfied. He
wanted something more than analogies taken from the experience of
spiritual giants, Titans of holiness whose mighty conquests of the flesh
seemed as remote from him as the achievements of Alexander might appear
to a captain of the local volunteers. What he had gone to ask the Rector
was whether it was blasphemous to suppose that God was going to play a
horrible trick on him. He had not wanted a theological discussion, an
academic question and reply. Anything could be answered like that,
probably himself in another twenty years, when he had preached some
hundreds of sermons, would talk like that. Moreover, when he was alone
Mark understood that he had not really wanted to talk about his own
troubles to the Rector at all, but that his real preoccupation had been
and still was Esther. He wondered, oh, how much he wondered, if her
brother had the least suspicion of her friendship with Will Starling, or
if Miriam had had the least inkling that Esther had not come in till
nine o'clock last night because she had been to Wych Maries? Mark,
remembering those wild eyes and that windblown hair when she stood for a
moment framed in the doorway of the Rector's library, could not believe
that none of her family had guessed that something more than the whim to
wander over the hills had taken her out on such a night. Did Mrs.
Ogilvie, promenading so placidly along her garden borders, ever pause in
perplexity at her daughter's behaviour? Calling them all to mind, their
attitudes, the expressions of their faces, the words upon their lips,
Mark was sure that none of them had any idea what Esther was doing. He
debated now the notion of warning Miriam in veiled language about her
sister; but such an idea would strike Miriam as monstrous, as a mad and
horrible nightmare. Mark shivered at the mere fancy of the chill that
would come over her and of the disdain in her eyes. Besides, what right
had he on the little he knew to involve Esther with her family?
Superficially he might count himself her younger brother; but if he
presumed too far, with what a deadly retort might she not annihilate his
claim. Most certainly he was not entitled to intervene unless he
intervened bravely and directly. Mark shook his head at the prospect of
doing that. He could not imagine anybody's tackling Esther directly on
such a subject. Seventeen to-day! He looked out of the window and felt
that he was bearing upon his shoulders the whole of that green world
outspread before him.

The serene morning ripened to a splendid noontide, and Mark who had
intended to celebrate his birthday by enjoying every moment of it had
allowed the best of the hours to slip away in a stupor of indecision.
More and more the vision of Esther last night haunted him, and he felt
that he could not go and see the Greys as he had intended. He could not
bear the contemplation of the three girls with the weight of Esther on
his mind. He decided to walk over to Little Fairfield and persuade
Richard to make a journey of exploration up the Greenrush in a canoe. He
would ask Richard his opinion of Will Starling. What a foolish notion!
He knew perfectly well Richard's opinion of the Squire, and to lure him
into a restatement of it would be the merest self-indulgence.

"Well, I must go somewhere to-day," Mark shouted at himself. He secured
a packet of sandwiches from the Rectory cook and set out to walk away
his worries.

"Why shouldn't I go down to Wych Maries? I needn't meet that chap. And
if I see him I needn't speak to him. He's always been only too jolly
glad to be offensive to me."

Mark turned aside from the high road by the crooked signpost and took
the same path down under the ash-trees as he had taken with Esther for
the first time nearly a year ago. Spring was much more like Spring in
these wooded hollows; the noise of bees in the blossom of the elms was
murmurous as limes in June. Mark congratulated himself on the spot in
which he had chosen to celebrate this fine birthday, a day robbed from
time like the day of a dream. He ate his lunch by the old mill dam,
feeding the roach with crumbs until an elderly pike came up from the
deeps and frightened the smaller fish away. He searched for a
bullfinch's nest; but he did not find one, though he saw several of the
birds singing in the snowberry bushes; round and ruddy as October apples
they looked. At last he went to the ruined chapel, where after
speculating idly for a little while upon its former state he fell as he
usually did when he visited Wych Maries into a contemplation of the two
images of the Blessed Virgin and St. Mary Magdalene. While he sat on a
hummock of grass before the old West doorway he received an impression
that since he last visited these forms of stone they had ceased to be
mere relics of ancient worship unaccountably preserved from ruin, but
that they had somehow regained their importance. It was not that he
discerned in them any miraculous quality of living, still less of
winking or sweating as images are reputed to wink and sweat for the
faithful. No, it was not that, he decided, although by regarding them
thus entranced as he was he could easily have brought himself to the
point of believing in a supernatural manifestation. He was too well
aware of this tendency to surrender to it; so, rousing himself from the
rapt contemplation of them and forsaking the hummock of grass, he
climbed up into the branches of a yew-tree that stood beside the chapel,
that there and from that elevation, viewing the images and yet unviewed
by them directly, he could be immune from the magic of fancy and
discover why they should give him this impression of having regained
their utility, yes, that was the word, utility, not importance. They
were revitalized not from within, but from without; and even as his mind
leapt at this explanation he perceived in the sunlight, beyond the
shadowy yew-tree in which he was perched, Esther sitting upon that
hummock of grass where but a moment ago he had himself been sitting.

For a moment, as if to contradict a reasonable explanation of the
strange impression the images had made upon him, Mark supposed that she
was come there for a tryst. This vanished almost at once in the
conviction that Esther's soul waited there either in question or appeal.
He restrained an impulse to declare his presence, for although he felt
that he was intruding upon a privacy of the soul, he feared to destroy
the fruits of that privacy by breaking in. He knew that Esther's pride
would be so deeply outraged at having been discovered in a moment of
weakness thus upon her knees, for she had by now fallen upon her knees
in prayer, that it might easily happen she would never in all her life
pray more. There was no escape for Mark without disturbing her, and he
sat breathless in the yew-tree, thinking that soon she must perceive his
glittering eye in the depths of the dark foliage as in passing a
hedgerow one may perceive the eye of a nested bird. From his position he
could see the images, and out of the spiritual agony of Esther kneeling
there, the force of which was communicated to himself, he watched them
close, scarcely able to believe that they would not stoop from their
pedestals and console the suppliant woman with benediction of those
stone hands now clasped aspiringly to God, themselves for centuries
suppliant like the woman at their feet. Mark could think of nothing
better to do than to turn his face from Esther's face and to say for her
many _Paternosters_ and _Aves_. At first he thought that he was praying
in a silence of nature; but presently the awkwardness of his position
began to affect his concentration, and he found that he was saying the
words mechanically, listening the while to the voices of birds. He
compelled his attention to the prayers; but the birds were too loud. The
_Paternosters_ and the _Aves_ were absorbed in their singing and
chirping and twittering, so that Mark gave up to them and wished for a
rosary to help his feeble attention. Yet could he have used a rosary
without falling out of the yew-tree? He took his hands from the bough
for a moment and nearly overbalanced. _Make not your rosary of yew
berries_, he found himself saying. Who wrote that? _Make not your rosary
of yew berries._ Why, of course, it was Keats. It was the first line of
the _Ode to Melancholy_. Esther was still kneeling out there in the
sunlight. And how did the poem continue? _Make not your rosary of yew
berries._ What was the second line? It was ridiculous to sit astride a
bough and say _Paternosters_ and _Aves_. He could not sit there much
longer. And then just as he was on the point of letting go he saw that
Esther had risen from her knees and that Will Starling was standing in
the doorway of the chapel looking at her, not speaking but waiting for
her to speak, while he wound a strand of ivy round his fingers and
unwound it again, and wound it round again until it broke and he was
saying:

"I thought we agreed after your last display here that you'd give this
cursed chapel the go by?"

"I can't escape from it," Esther cried. "You don't understand, Will,
what it means. You never have understood."

"Dearest Essie, I understand only too well. I've paid pretty handsomely
in having to listen to reproaches, in having to dry your tears and stop
your sighs with kisses. Your damned religion is a joke. Can't you grasp
that? It's not my fault we can't get married. If I were really the
scoundrel you torment yourself into thinking I am, I would have married
and taken the risk of my strumpet of a wife turning up. But I've treated
you honestly, Essie. I can't help loving you. I went away once. I went
away again. And a third time I went just to relieve your soul of the sin
of loving me. But I'm sick of suffering for the sake of a myth, a
superstition."

Esther had moved close to him, and now she put a hand upon his arm.

"To you, Will. Not to me."

"Look here, Essie," said her lover. "If you knew that you were liable to
these dreadful attacks of remorse and penitence, why did you ever
encourage me?"

"How dare you say I encouraged you?"

"Now don't let your religion make you dishonest," he stabbed. "No man
seduces a woman of your character without as much goodwill as deserves
to be called encouragement, and by God _is_ encouragement," he went on
furiously. "Let's cut away some of the cant before we begin arguing
again about religion."

"You don't know what a hell you're making for me when you talk like
that," she gasped. "If I did encourage you, then my sin is a thousand
times blacker."

"Oh, don't exaggerate, my dear girl," he said wearily. "It isn't a sin
for two people to love each other."

"I've tried my best to think as you do, but I can't. I've avoided going
to church. I've tried to hate religion, I've mocked at God . . ." she
broke off in despair of explaining the force of grace, against the gift
of which she had contended in vain.

"I always thought you were brave, Essie. But you're a real coward. The
reason for all this is your fear of being pitchforked into a big bonfire
by a pantomime demon with horns and a long tail." He laughed bitterly.
"To think that you, my adored Essie, should really have the soul of a
Sunday school teacher. You, a Bacchante of passion, to be puling about
your sins. You! You! Girl, you're mad! I tell you there is no such thing
as damnation. It's a bogey invented by priests to enchain mankind. But
if there is and if that muddle-headed old gentleman you call God really
exists and if he's a just God, why then let him damn me and let him give
you your harp and your halo while I burn for both. Essie, my mad foolish
frightened Essie, can't you understand that if you give me up for this
God of yours you'll drive me to murder. If I must marry you to hold you,
why then I'll kill that cursed wife of mine. . . ."

It was his turn now to break off in despair of being able to express his
will to keep Esther for his own, and because argument seemed so hopeless
he tried to take her in his arms, whereupon Mark who was aching with the
effort to maintain himself unobserved upon the bough of the yew-tree
said his _Paternosters_ and _Aves_ faster than ever, that she might have
the strength to resist that scoundrel of Rushbrooke Grange. He longed to
have the eloquence to make some wonderful prayer to the Blessed Virgin
and St. Mary Magdalene so that a miracle might happen and their images
point accusing hands at the blasphemer below.

And then it seemed as if a miracle did happen, for out of the jangle of
recriminations and appeals that now signified no more than the noise of
trees in a storm he heard the voice of Esther gradually gain its right
to be heard, gradually win from its rival silence until the tale was
told.

"I know that I am overcome by the saving grace of God," she was saying.
"And I know that I owe it to them." She pointed to the holy women above
the door. The squire shook his fist; but he still kept silence. "I have
run away from God since I knew you, Will. I have loved you as much as
that. I have gone to church only when I had to go for my brother's sake,
but I have actually stuffed my ears with cotton wool so that no word
there spoken might shake my faith in my right to love you. But it was
all to no purpose. You know that it was you who told me always to come
to our meetings through the wood and past the chapel. And however fast I
went and however tight I shut myself up in thoughts of you and your love
and my love I have always felt that these images spoke to me
reproachfully in passing. It's not mere imagination, Will. Why, before
we came to Wych-on-the-Wold when you went away to the Pacific that I
might have peace of mind, I used always to be haunted by the idea that
God was calling me back to Him, and I would run, yes, actually run
through the woods until my legs have been torn by brambles."

"Madness! Madness!" cried Starling.

"Let it be madness. If God chooses to pursue a human soul with madness,
the pursuit is not less swift and relentless for that. And I shook Him
off. I escaped from religion; I prayed to the Devil to keep me wicked,
so utterly did I love you. Then when my brother was offered
Wych-on-the-Wold I felt that the Devil had heard my prayer and had
indeed made me his own. That frightened me for a moment. When I wrote to
you and said we were coming here and you hurried back, I can't describe
to you the fear that overcame me when I first entered this hollow where
you lived. Several times I'd tried to come down before you arrived here,
but I'd always been afraid, and that was why the first night I brought
Mark with me."

"That long-legged prig and puppy," grunted the squire.

Mark could have shouted for joy when he heard this, shouted because he
was helping with his _Paternosters_ and his _Aves_ to drive this
ruffian out of Esther's life for ever, shouted because his long legs
were strong enough to hold on to this yew-tree bough.

"He's neither a prig nor a puppy," Esther said. "I've treated him badly
ever since he came to live with us, and I treated him badly on your
account, because whenever I was with him I found it harder to resist the
pursuit of God. Now let's leave Mark out of this. Everything was in your
favour, I tell you. I was sure that the Devil. . . ."

"The Devil!" Starling interrupted. "Your Devil, dear Essie, is as
ridiculous as your God. It's only your poor old God with his face
painted black like the bogey man of childhood."

"I was sure that the Devil," Esther repeated without seeming to hear the
blasphemy, "had taken me for his own and given us to each other. You to
me. Me to you, my darling. I didn't care. I was ready to burn in Hell
for you. So, don't call me coward, for mad though you think me I was
ready to be damned for you, and _I_ believe in damnation. You don't. Yet
the first time I passed by this chapel on my way to meet you again after
that endless horrible parting I had to run away from the holy influence.
I remember that there was a black cow in the field near the gates of the
Grange, and I waited there while Mark poked about in this chapel, waited
in the twilight afraid to go back and tell him to hurry in case I should
be recaptured by God and meet you only to meet you never more."

"I suppose you thought my old Kerry cow was the Devil, eh?" he sneered.

She paid no attention, but continued enthralled by the passion of her
spiritual adventure.

"It was no use. I couldn't come by here every day and not go back. Why,
once I opened the Bible at hazard just to show my defiance and I read
_Her sins which are many are forgiven for she loved much._ This must be
the end of our love, my lover, for I can't go on. Those two stone Maries
have brought me back to God. No more with you, my own beloved. No more,
my darling, no more. And yet if even now with one kiss you could give me
strength to sin I should rejoice. But they have made my lips as cold as
their own, and my arms that once knew how to clasp you to my heart they
have lifted up to Heaven like their own. I am going into a convent at
once, where until I die I shall pray for you, my own love."

The birds no longer sang nor twittered nor cheeped in the thickets
around, but all passion throbbed in the voice of Esther when she spoke
these words. She stood there with her hair in disarray transfigured like
a tree in autumn on which the sunlight shines when the gale has died,
but from which the leaves will soon fall because winter is at hand. Yet
her lover was so little moved by her ordeal that he went back to
mouthing his blasphemies.

"Go then," he shouted. "But these two stone dolls shall not have power
to drive my next mistress into folly. Wasn't Mary Magdalene a sinner?
Didn't she fall in love with Christ? Of course, she did! And I'll make
an example of her just as Christians make an example of all women who
love much."

The squire pulled himself up by the ivy and struck the image of St. Mary
Magdalene on the face.

"When you pray for me, dear Essie, in your convent of greensick women,
don't forget that your patron saint was kicked from her pedestal by your
lover."

Starling was as good as his word; but the effort he made to overthrow
the saint carried him with it; his foot catching in the ivy fell head
downward and striking upon a stone was killed.

Mark hesitated before he jumped down from his bough, because he dreaded
to add to Esther's despair the thought of his having overheard all that
went before. But seeing her in the sunlight now filled again with the
voices of birds, seeing her blue eyes staring in horror and the nervous
twitching of her hands he felt that the shock of his irruption might
save her reason and in a moment he was standing beside her looking down
at the dead man.

"Let me die too," she cried.

Mark found himself answering in a kind of inspiration:

"No, Esther, you must live to pray for his soul."

"He was struck dead for his blasphemy. He is in Hell. Of what use to
pray for his soul?"

"But Esther while he was falling, even in that second, he had time to
repent. Live, Esther. Live to pray for him."

Mark was overcome with a desire to laugh at the stilted way in which he
was talking, and, from the suppression of the desire, to laugh wildly at
everything in the scene, and not least at the comic death of Will
Starling, even at the corpse itself lying with a broken neck at his
feet. By an effort of will he regained control of his muscles, and the
tension of the last half hour finding no relief in bodily relaxation was
stamped ineffaceably upon his mind to take its place with that afternoon
in his father's study at the Lima Street Mission which first inspired
him with dread of the sexual relation of man to woman, a dread that was
now made permanent by what he had endured on the bough of that yew-tree.

Thanks to Mark's intervention the business was explained without
scandal; nobody doubted that the squire of Rushbrooke Grange died a
martyr to his dislike of ivy's encroaching upon ancient images. Esther's
stormy soul took refuge in a convent, and there it seemed at peace.




CHAPTER XV

THE SCHOLARSHIP


The encounter between Esther and Will Starling had the effect of
strengthening Mark's intention to be celibate. He never imagined himself
as a possible protagonist in such a scene; but the impression of that
earlier encounter between his mother and father which gave him a horror
of human love was now renewed. It was renewed, moreover, with the light
of a miracle to throw it into high relief. And this miracle could not be
explained away as a coincidence, but was an old-fashioned miracle that
required no psychical buttressing, a hard and fast miracle able to
withstand any criticism. It was a pity that out of regard for Esther he
could not publish it for the encouragement of the faithful and the
confusion of the unbelievers.

The miracle of St. Mary Magdalene's intervention on his seventeenth
birthday was the last violent impression of Mark's boyhood.
Thenceforward life moved placidly through the changing weeks of a
country calendar until the date of the scholarship examination held by
the group of colleges that contained St. Mary's, the college he aspired
to enter, but for which he failed to win even an exhibition. Mr. Ogilvie
was rather glad, for he had been worried how Mark was going to support
himself for three or four years at an expensive college like St. Mary's.
But when Mark was no more successful with another group of colleges, his
tutors began to be alarmed, wondering if their method of teaching Latin
and Greek lacked the tradition of the public school necessary to
success.

"Oh, no, it's obviously my fault," said Mark. "I expect I go to pieces
in examinations, or perhaps I'm not intended to go to Oxford."

"I beg you, my dear boy," said the Rector a little irritably, "not to
apply such a loose fatalism to your career. What will you do if you
don't go to the University?"

"It's not absolutely essential for a priest to have been to the
University," Mark argued.

"No, but in your case I think it's highly advisable. You haven't had a
public school education, and inasmuch as I stand to you _in loco
parentis_ I should consider myself most culpable if I didn't do
everything possible to give you a fair start. You haven't got a very
large sum of money to launch yourself upon the world, and I want you to
spend what you have to the best advantage. Of course, if you can't get a
scholarship, you can't and that's the end of it. But, rather than that
you should miss the University I will supplement from my own savings
enough to carry you through three years as a commoner."

Tears stood in Mark's eyes.

"You've already been far too generous," he said. "You shan't spend any
more on me. I'm sorry I talked in that foolish way. It was really only a
kind of affectation of indifference. I'm feeling pretty sore with myself
for being such a failure; but I'll have another shot and I hope I shall
do better."

Mark as a last chance tried for a close scholarship at St. Osmund's Hall
for the sons of clergymen.

"It's a tiny place of course," said the Rector. "But it's authentic
Oxford, and in some ways perhaps you would be happier at a very small
college. Certainly you'd find your money went much further."

The examination was held in the Easter vacation, and when Mark arrived
at the college he found only one other candidate besides himself. St.
Osmund's Hall with its miniature quadrangle, miniature hall, miniature
chapel, empty of undergraduates and with only the Principal and a couple
of tutors in residence, was more like an ancient almshouse than an
Oxford college. Mark and his rival, a raw-boned youth called Emmett who
was afflicted with paroxysms of stammering, moved about the precincts
upon tiptoe like people trespassing from a high road.

On their first evening the two candidates were invited to dine with the
Principal, who read second-hand book catalogues all through dinner, only
pausing from their perusal to ask occasionally in a courtly tone if Mr.
Lidderdale or Mr. Emmett would not take another glass of wine. After
dinner they sat in his library where the Principal addressed himself to
the evidently uncongenial task of estimating the comparative fitness of
his two guests to receive Mr. Tweedle's bounty. The Reverend Thomas
Tweedle was a benevolent parson of the eighteenth century who by his
will had provided the money to educate the son of one indigent clergyman
for four years. Mark was shy enough under the Principal's courtly
inquisition, but poor Emmett had a paroxysm each time he was asked the
simplest question about his tastes or his ambitions. His tongue
appearing like a disturbed mollusc waved its tip slowly round in an
agonized endeavour to give utterance to such familiar words as "yes" or
"no." Several times Mark feared that he would never get it back at all
and that Emmett would either have to spend the rest of his life with it
protruding before him or submit it to amputation and become a mute. When
the ordeal with the Principal was over and the two guests were strolling
back across the quadrangle to their rooms, Emmett talked normally and
without a single paroxysm about the effect his stammer must have had
upon the Principal. Mark did his best to reassure poor Emmett.

"Really," he said, "it was scarcely noticeable to anybody else. You
noticed it, because you felt your tongue getting wedged like that
between your teeth; but other people would hardly have noticed it at
all. When the Principal asked you if you were going to take Holy Orders
yourself, I'm sure he only thought you hadn't quite made up your mind
yet."

"But I'm sure he did notice something," poor Emmett bewailed. "Because
he began to hum."

"Well, but he was always humming," said Mark. "He hummed all through
dinner while he was reading those book catalogues."

"It's very kind of you, Lidderdale," said Emmett, "to make the best of
it for me, but I'm not such a fool as I look, and the Principal
certainly hummed six times as loud whenever he asked me a question as
he did over those catalogues. I know what I look like when I get into
one of those states. I once caught sight of myself in a glass by
accident, and now whenever my tongue gets caught up like that I'm
wondering all the time why everybody doesn't get up and run out of the
room."

"But I assure you," Mark persisted, "that little things like that--"

"Little things like that!" Emmett interrupted furiously. "It's all very
well for you, Lidderdale, to talk about little things like that. If you
had a tongue like mine which seems to get bigger instead of smaller
every year, you'd feel very differently."

"But people always grow out of stammering," Mark pointed out.

"Thanks very much," said Emmett bitterly, "but where shall I be by the
time I've grown out of it? You don't suppose I shall win this
scholarship, do you, after they've seen me gibbering and mouthing at
them like that? But if only I could manage somehow to get to Oxford I
should have a chance of being ordained, and--" he broke off, perhaps
unwilling to embarrass his rival by any more lamentations.

"Do forget about this evening," Mark begged, "and come up to my room and
have a talk before you turn in."

"No, thanks very much," said Emmett. "I must sit up and do some work.
We've got that general knowledge paper to-morrow morning."

"But you won't be able to acquire much more general knowledge in one
evening," Mark protested.

"I might," said Emmett darkly. "I noticed a Whitaker's almanack in the
rooms I have. My only chance to get this scholarship is to do really
well in my papers; and though I know it's no good and that this is my
last chance, I'm not going to neglect anything that could possibly help.
I've got a splendid memory for statistics, and if they'll only ask a few
statistics in the general knowledge paper I may have some luck
to-morrow. Good-night, Lidderdale, I'm sorry to have inflicted myself on
you like this."

Emmett hurried away up the staircase leading to his room and left his
rival standing on the moonlit grass of the quadrangle. Mark was turning
toward his own staircase when he heard a window open above and Emmett's
voice:

"I've found another Whitaker of the year before," it proclaimed. "I'll
read that, and you'd better read this year's. If by any chance I did win
this scholarship, I shouldn't like to think I'd taken an unfair
advantage of you, Lidderdale."

"Thanks very much, Emmett," said Mark. "But I think I'll have a shot at
getting to bed early."

"Ah, you're not worrying," said Emmett gloomily, retiring from the
window.

When Mark was sitting by the fire in his room and thinking over the
dinner with the Principal and poor Emmett's stammering and poor Emmett's
words in the quad afterwards, he began to imagine what it would mean to
poor Emmett if he failed to win the scholarship. Mark had not been so
successful himself in these examinations as to justify a grand
self-confidence; but he could not regard Emmett as a dangerous
competitor. Had he the right in view of Emmett's handicap to accept this
scholarship at his expense? To be sure, he might urge on his own behalf
that without it he should himself be debarred from Oxford. What would
the loss of it mean? It would mean, first of all, that Mr. Ogilvie would
make the financial effort to maintain him for three years as a commoner,
an effort which he could ill afford to make and which Mark had not the
slightest intention of allowing him to make. It would mean, next, that
he should have to occupy himself during the years before his ordination
with some kind of work among people. He obviously could not go on
reading theology at Wych-on-the-Wold until he went to Glastonbury. Such
an existence, however attractive, was no preparation for the active life
of a priest. It would mean, thirdly, a great disappointment to his
friend and patron, and considering the social claims of the Church of
England it would mean a handicap for himself. There was everything to be
said for winning this scholarship, nothing to be said against it on the
grounds of expediency. On the grounds of expediency, no, but on other
grounds? Should he not be playing the better part if he allowed Emmett
to win? No doubt all that was implied in the necessity for him to win a
scholarship was equally implied in the necessity for Emmett to win one.
It was obvious that Emmett was no better off than himself; it was
obvious that Emmett was competing in a kind of despair. Mark remembered
how a few minutes ago his rival had offered him this year's Whitaker,
keeping for himself last year's almanack. Looked at from the point of
view of Emmett who really believed that something might be gained at
this eleventh hour from a study of the more recent volume, it had been a
fine piece of self-denial. It showed that Emmett had Christian talents
which surely ought not to be wasted because he was handicapped by a
stammer.

The spell that Oxford had already cast on Mark, the glamour of the
firelight on the walls and raftered ceiling of this room haunted by
centuries of youthful hope, did not persuade him how foolish it was to
surrender all this. On the contrary, this prospect of Oxford so
beautiful in the firelight within, so fair in the moonlight without,
impelled him to renounce it, and the very strength of his temptation to
enjoy all this by winning the scholarship helped him to make up his mind
to lose it. But how? The obvious course was to send in idiotic answers
for the rest of his papers. Yet examinations were so mysterious that
when he thought he was being most idiotic he might actually be gaining
his best marks. Moreover, the examiners might ascribe his answers to ill
health, to some sudden attack of nerves, especially if his papers to-day
had been tolerably good. Looking back at the Principal's attitude after
dinner that night, Mark could not help feeling that there had been
something in his manner which had clearly shown a determination not to
award the scholarship to poor Emmett if it could possibly be avoided.
The safest way would be to escape to-morrow morning, put up at some
country inn for the next two days, and go back to Wych-on-the-Wold; but
if he did that, the college authorities might write to Mr. Ogilvie to
demand the reason for such extraordinary behaviour. And how should he
explain it? If he really intended to deny himself, he must take care
that nobody knew he was doing so. It would give him an air of
unbearable condescension, should it transpire that he had deliberately
surrendered his scholarship to Emmett. Moreover, poor Emmett would be so
dreadfully mortified if he found out. No, he must complete his papers,
do them as badly as he possibly could, and leave the result to the
wisdom of God. If God wished Emmett to stammer forth His praises and
stutter His precepts from the pulpit, God would know how to manage that
seemingly so intractable Principal. Or God might hear his prayers and
cure poor Emmett of his impediment. Mark wondered to what saint was
entrusted the patronage of stammerers; but he could not remember. The
man in whose rooms he was lodging possessed very few books, and those
few were mostly detective stories.

It amused Mark to make a fool of himself next morning in the general
knowledge paper. He flattered himself that no candidate for a
scholarship at St. Osmund's Hall had ever shown such black ignorance of
the facts of every-day life. Had he been dropped from Mars two days
before, he could scarcely have shown less knowledge of the Earth. Mark
tried to convey an impression that he had been injudiciously crammed
with Latin and Greek, and in the afternoon he produced a Latin prose
that would have revolted the easy conscience of a fourth form boy.
Finally, on the third day, in an unseen passage set from the Georgics he
translated _tonsisque ferunt mantelia villis_ by _having pulled down the
villas (i. e. literally shaved) they carry off the mantelpieces_ which
he followed up with translating _Maeonii carchesia Bacchi_ as the _lees
of Maeonian wine (i.e. literally carcases of Maeonian Bacchus)_.

"I say, Lidderdale," said Emmett, when they came out of the lecture room
where the examination was being held. "I had a tremendous piece of luck
this afternoon."

"Did you?"

"Yes, I've just been reading the fourth Georgics last term, and I don't
think I made a single mistake in that unseen."

"Good work," said Mark.

"I wonder when they'll let us know who's got the scholarship," said
Emmett. "But of course you've won," he added with a sigh.

"I did very badly both yesterday and to-day."

"Oh, you're only saying that to encourage me," Emmett sighed. "It sounds
a dreadful thing to say and I ought not to say it because it'll make you
uncomfortable, but if I don't succeed, I really think I shall kill
myself."

"All right, that's a bargain," Mark laughed; and when his rival shook
hands with him at parting he felt that poor Emmett was going home to
Rutland convinced that Mark was just as hard-hearted as the rest of the
world and just as ready to laugh at his misfortune.

It was Saturday when the examination was finished, and Mark wished he
could be granted the privilege of staying over Sunday in college. He had
no regrets for what he had done; he was content to let this experience
be all that he should ever intimately gain of Oxford; but he should like
to have the courage to accost one of the tutors and to tell him that
being convinced he should never come to Oxford again he desired the
privilege of remaining until Monday morning, so that he might
crystallize in that short space of time an impression which, had he been
successful in gaining the scholarship, would have been spread over four
years. Mark was not indulging in sentiment; he really felt that by the
intensity of the emotion with which he would live those twenty-four
hours he should be able to achieve for himself as much as he should
achieve in four years. So far as the world was concerned, this
experience would be valueless; for himself it would be beyond price. So
far as the world was concerned, he would never have been to Oxford; but
could he be granted this privilege, Oxford would live for ever in his
heart, a refuge and a meditation until the grave. Yet this coveted
experience must be granted from without to make it a perfect experience.
To ask and to be refused leave to stay till Monday would destroy for him
the value of what he had already experienced in three days' residence;
even to ask and to be granted the privilege would spoil it in
retrospect. He went down the stairs from his room and stood in the
little quadrangle, telling himself that at any rate he might postpone
his departure until twilight and walk the seven miles from Shipcot to
Wych-on-the-Wold. While he was on his way to notify the porter of the
time of his departure he met the Principal, who stopped him and asked
how he had got on with his papers. Mark wondered if the Principal had
been told about his lamentable performance and was making inquiries on
his own account to find out if the unsuccessful candidate really was a
lunatic.

"Rather badly, I'm afraid, sir."

"Well, I shall see you at dinner to-night," said the Principal
dismissing Mark with a gesture before he had time even to look
surprised. This was a new perplexity, for Mark divined from the
Principal's manner that he had entirely forgotten that the scholarship
examination was over and that the candidates had already dined with him.
He went into the lodge and asked the porter's advice.

"The Principal's a most absent-minded gentleman," said the porter. "Most
absent-minded, he is. He's the talk of Oxford sometimes is the
Principal. What do you think he went and did only last term. Why, he was
having some of the senior men to tea and was going to put some coal on
the fire with the tongs and some sugar in his cup. Bothered if he didn't
put the sugar in the fire and a lump of coal in his cup. It didn't so
much matter him putting sugar in the fire. That's all according, as they
say. But fancy--well, I tell you we had a good laugh over it in the
lodge when the gentlemen came out and told me."

"Ought I to explain that I've already dined with him?" Mark asked.

"Are you in any what you might call immediate hurry to get away?" the
porter asked judicially.

"I'm in no hurry at all. I'd like to stay a bit longer."

"Then you'd better go to dinner with him again to-night and stay in
college over the Sunday. I'll take it upon myself to explain to the Dean
why you're still here. If it had been tea I should have said 'don't
bother about it,' but dinner's another matter, isn't it? And he always
has dinner laid for two or more in case he's asked anybody and
forgotten."

Thus it came about that for the second time Mark dined with the
Principal, who disconcerted him by saying when he arrived:

"I remember now that you dined with me the night before last. You should
have told me. I forget these things. But never mind, you'd better stay
now you're here."

The Principal read second-hand book catalogues all through dinner just
as he had done two nights ago, and he only interrupted his perusal to
inquire in courtly tones if Mark would take another glass of wine. The
only difference between now and the former occasion was the absence of
poor Emmett and his paroxysms. After dinner with some misgivings if he
ought not to leave his host to himself Mark followed him upstairs to the
library. The principal was one of those scholars who live in an
atmosphere of their own given off by old calf-bound volumes and who
apparently can only inhale the air of the world in which ordinary men
move when they are smoking their battered old pipes. Mark sitting
opposite to him by the fireside was tempted to pour out the history of
himself and Emmett, to explain how he had come to make such a mess of
the examination. Perhaps if the Principal had alluded to his papers Mark
would have found the courage to talk about himself; but the Principal
was apparently unaware that his guest had any ambitions to enter St.
Osmund's Hall, and whatever questions he asked related to the ancient
folios and quartos he took down in turn from his shelves. A clock struck
ten in the moonlight without, and Mark rose to go. He felt a pang as he
walked from the cloudy room and looked for the last time at that tall
remote scholar, who had forgotten his guest's existence at the moment he
ceased to shake his hand and who by the time he had reached the doorway
was lost again in the deeps of the crabbed volume resting upon his
knees. Mark sighed as he closed the library door behind him, for he knew
that he was shutting out a world. But when he stood in the small silver
quadrangle Mark was glad that he had not given way to the temptation of
confiding in the Principal. It would have been a feeble end to his first
denial of self. He was sure that he had done right in surrendering his
place to Emmett, for was not the unexpected opportunity to spend these
few more hours in Oxford a sign of God's approval? _Bright as the
glimpses of eternity to saints accorded in their mortal hour._ Such was
Oxford to-night.

Mark sat for a long while at the open window of his room until the moon
had passed on her way and the quadrangle was in shadow; and while he sat
there he was conscious of how many people had inhabited this small
quadrangle and of how they too had passed on their way like the moon,
leaving behind them no more than he should leave behind from this one
hour of rapture, no more than the moon had left of her silver upon the
dim grass below.

Mark was not given to gazing at himself in mirrors, but he looked at
himself that night in the mirror of the tiny bedroom, into which the
April air came up sweet and frore from the watermeadows of the Cherwell
close at hand.

"What will you do now?" he asked his reflection. "Yet, you have such a
dark ecclesiastical face that I'm sure you'll be a priest whether you go
to Oxford or not."

Mark was right in supposing his countenance to be ecclesiastical. But it
was something more than that: it was religious. Even already, when he
was barely eighteen, the high cheekbones and deepset burning eyes gave
him an ascetic look, while the habit of prayer and meditation had added
to his expression a steadfast purpose that is rarely seen in people as
young as him. What his face lacked were those contours that come from
association with humanity; the ripeness that is bestowed by long
tolerance of folly, the mellowness that has survived the icy winds of
disillusion. It was the absence of these contours that made Mark think
his face so ecclesiastical; however, if at eighteen he had possessed
contours and soft curves, they would have been nothing but the contours
and soft curves of that rose, youth; and this ecclesiastical bonyness
would not fade and fall as swiftly as that.

Mark turned from the glass in sudden irritation at his selfishness in
speculating about his appearance and his future, when in a short time he
should have to break the news to his guardian that he had thrown away
for a kindly impulse the fruit of so many months of diligence and care.

"What am I going to say to Ogilvie?" he exclaimed. "I can't go back to
Wych and live there in pleasant idleness until it's time to go to
Glastonbury. I must have some scheme for the immediate future."

In bed when the light was out and darkness made the most fantastic
project appear practical, Mark had an inspiration to take the habit of a
preaching friar. Why should he not persuade Dorward to join him?
Together they would tramp the English country, compelling even the
dullest yokels to hear the word of God . . . discalced . . . over hill,
down dale . . . telling stories of the saints and martyrs in remote inns
. . . deep lanes . . . the butterflies and the birds . . . Dorward
should say Mass in the heart of great woods . . . over hill, down dale
. . . discalced . . . preaching to men of Christ. . . .

Mark fell asleep.

In the morning Mark heard Mass at the church of the Cowley Fathers, a
strengthening experience, because the Gregorian there so strictly and so
austerely chanted without any consideration for sentimental humanity
possessed that very effect of liberating and purifying spirit held in
the bonds of flesh which is conveyed by the wind blowing through a grove
of pines or by waves quiring below a rocky shore.

If Mark had had the least inclination to be sorry for himself and
indulge in the flattery of regret, it vanished in this music. Rolling
down through time on the billows of the mighty Gregorian it were as
grotesque to pity oneself as it were for an Arctic explorer to build a
snowman for company at the North Pole.

Mark came out of St. John's, Cowley, into the suburban prettiness of
Iffley Road, where men and women in their Sunday best tripped along in
the April sunlight, tripped along in their Sunday best like newly
hatched butterflies and beetles. Mark went in and out of colleges all
day long, forgetting about the problem of his immediate future just as
he forgot that the people in the sunny streets were not really
butterflies and beetles. At twilight he decided to attend Evensong at
St. Barnabas'. Perhaps the folk in the sunny April streets had turned
his thoughts unconsciously toward the simple aspirations of simple
human nature. He felt when he came into the warm candle-lit church like
one who has voyaged far and is glad to be at home again. How everybody
sang together that night, and how pleasant Mark found this
congregational outburst. It was all so jolly that if the organist had
suddenly turned round like an Italian organ-grinder and kissed his
fingers to the congregation, his action would have seemed perfectly
appropriate. Even during the _Magnificat_, when the altar was being
censed, the tinkling of the thurible reminded Mark of a tambourine; and
the lighting and extinction of the candles was done with as much
suppressed excitement as if the candles were going to shoot red and
green stars or go leaping and cracking all round the chancel.

It happened this evening that the preacher was Father Rowley, that
famous priest of the Silchester College Mission in the great naval port
of Chatsea. Father Rowley was a very corpulent man with a voice of such
compassion and with an eloquence so simple that when he ascended into
the pulpit, closed his eyes, and began to speak, his listeners
involuntarily closed their eyes and followed that voice whithersoever it
led them. He neither changed the expression of his face nor made use of
dramatic gestures; he scarcely varied his tone, yet he could keep a
congregation breathlessly attentive for an hour. Although he seemed to
be speaking in a kind of trance, it was evident that he was unusually
conscious of his hearers, for if by chance some pious woman coughed or
turned the pages of a prayer-book he would hold up the thread of his
sermon and without any change of tone reprove her. It was strange to
watch him at such a moment, his eyes still tightly shut and yet giving
the impression of looking directly at the offending member of the
congregation. This evening he was preaching about a naval disaster which
had lately occurred, the sinking of a great battleship by another great
battleship through a wrong signal. He was describing the scene when the
news reached Chatsea, telling of the sweethearts and wives of the lost
bluejackets who waited hoping against hope to hear that their loved ones
had escaped death and hearing nearly always the worst news.

"So many of our own dear bluejackets and marines, some of whom only
last Christmas had been eating their plum duff at our Christmas dinner,
so many of my own dear boys whom I prepared for Confirmation, whose
first Confession I had heard, and to whom I had given for the first time
the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

He spoke too of what it meant in the future of material suffering on top
of their mental agony. He asked for money to help these women
immediately, and he spoke fiercely of the Admiralty red tape and of the
obstruction of the official commission appointed to administer the
relief fund.

The preacher went on to tell stories from the lives of these boys,
finding in each of them some illustration of a Christian virtue and
conveying to his listeners a sense of the extraordinary preciousness of
human life, so that there was no one who heard him but was fain to weep
for those young bluejackets and marines taken in their prime. He
inspired in Mark a sense of shame that he had ever thought of people in
the aggregate, that he had ever walked along a crowded street without
perceiving the importance of every single human being that helped to
compose its variety. While he sat there listening to the Missioner and
watching the large tears roll slowly down his cheeks from beneath the
closed lids, Mark wondered how he could have dared to suppose last night
that he was qualified to become a friar and preach the Gospel to the
poor. While Father Rowley was speaking, he began to apprehend that
before he could aspire to do that he must himself first of all learn
about Christ from those very poor whom he had planned to convert.

This sermon was another milestone in Mark's religious life. It
discovered in him a hidden treasure of humility, and it taught him to
build upon the rock of human nature. He divined the true meaning of Our
Lord's words to St. Peter: _Thou art Peter and on this rock I will build
my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it._ John was
the disciple whom Jesus loved, but he chose Peter with all his failings
and all his follies, with his weakness and his cowardice and his vanity.
He chose Peter, the bedrock of human nature, and to him he gave the keys
of Heaven.

Mark knew that somehow he must pluck up courage to ask Father Rowley to
let him come and work under him at Chatsea. He was sure that if he could
only make him grasp the spirit in which he would offer himself, the
spirit of complete humility devoid of any kind of thought that he was
likely to be of the least use to the Mission, Father Rowley might accept
his oblation. He would have liked to wait behind after Evensong and
approach the Missioner directly, so that before speaking to Mr. Ogilvie
he might know what chance the offer had of being accepted; but he
decided against this course, because he felt that Father Rowley's
compassion might be embarrassed if he had to refuse his request, a point
of view that was characteristic of the mood roused in him by the sermon.
He went back to sleep for the last time in an Oxford college, profoundly
reassured of the rightness of his action in giving up the scholarship to
Emmett, although, which was characteristic of his new mood, he had by
this time begun to tell himself that he had really done nothing at all
and that probably in any case Emmett would have been the chosen scholar.

If Mark had still any doubts of his behaviour, they would have vanished
when on getting into the train for Shipcot he found himself in an
otherwise empty third-class smoking carriage opposite Father Rowley
himself, who with a small black bag beside him, so small that Mark
wondered how it could possibly contain the night attire of so fat a man,
was sitting back in the corner with a large pipe in his mouth. He was
wearing one of those square felt hats sometimes seen on the heads of
farmers, and if one had only seen his head and hat without the grubby
clerical attire beneath one might have guessed him to be a farmer. Mark
noticed now that his eyes of a limpid blue were like a child's, and he
realized that in his voice while he was preaching there had been the
same sweet gravity of childhood. Just at this moment Father Rowley
caught sight of someone he knew on the platform and shouting from the
window of the compartment he attracted the attention of a young man
wearing an Old Siltonian tie.

"My dear man," he cried, "how are you? I've just made a most idiotic
mistake. I got it into my head that I should be preaching here on the
first Sunday in term and was looking forward to seeing so many
Silchester men. I can't think how I came to make such a muddle."

Father Rowley's shoulders filled up all the space of the window, so that
Mark only heard scattered fragments of the conversation, which was
mostly about Silchester and the Siltonians he had hoped to see at
Oxford.

"Good-bye, my dear man, good-bye," the Missioner shouted, as the train
moved out of the station. "Come down and see us soon at Chatsea. The
more of you men who come, the more we shall be pleased."

Mark's heart leapt at these words, which seemed of good omen to his own
suit. When Father Rowley was ensconced in his corner and once more
puffing away at his pipe, Mark thought how ridiculous it would sound to
say that he had heard him preach last night at St. Barnabas' and that,
having been much moved by the sermon, he was anxious to be taken on at
St. Agnes' as a lay helper. He wished that Father Rowley would make some
remark to him that would lead up to his request, but all that Father
Rowley said was:

"This is a slow train to Birmingham, isn't it?"

This led to a long conversation about trains, and slow though this one
might be it was going much too fast for Mark, who would be at Shipcot in
another twenty minutes without having taken any advantage of his lucky
encounter.

"Are you up at Oxford?" the priest at last inquired.

It was now or never; and Mark took the opportunity given him by that one
question to tell Father Rowley twenty disjointed facts about his life,
which ended with a request to be allowed to come and work at Chatsea.

"You can come and see us whenever you like," said the Missioner.

"But I don't want just to come and pay a visit," said Mark. "I really do
want to be given something to do, and I shan't be any expense. I only
want to keep enough money to go to Glastonbury in four years' time. If
you'd only see how I got on for a month. I don't pretend I can be of any
help to you. I don't suppose I can. But I do so tremendously want you
to help me."

"Who did you say your father was?"

"Lidderdale, James Lidderdale. He was priest-in-charge of the Lima
Street Mission, which belonged to St. Simon's, Notting Hill, in those
days. St. Wilfred's, Notting Dale, it is now."

"Lidderdale," Father Rowley echoed. "I knew him. I knew him well. Lima
Street. Viner's there now, a dear good fellow. So you're Lidderdale's
son?"

"I say, here's my station," Mark exclaimed in despair, "and you haven't
said whether I can come or not."

"Come down on Tuesday week," said Father Rowley. "Hurry up, or you'll
get carried on to the next station."

Mark waved his farewell, and he knew, as he drove back on the omnibus
over the rolling wold to Wych that he had this morning won something
much better than a scholarship at St. Osmund's Hall.




CHAPTER XVI

CHATSEA


When Mark had been exactly a week at Chatsea he celebrated his
eighteenth birthday by writing a long letter to the Rector of Wych:

     St. Agnes' House,

     Keppel Street,

     Chatsea.

     St. Mark's Day.

     My dear Rector,

     Thank you very much for sending me the money. I've handed it over
     to a splendid fellow called Gurney who keeps all the accounts
     (private or otherwise) in the Mission House. Poor chap, he's
     desperately ill with asthma, and nobody thinks he can live much
     longer. He suffers tortures, particularly at night, and as I sleep
     in the next room I can hear him.

     You mustn't think me inconsiderate because I haven't written
     sooner, but I wanted to wait until I had seen a bit of this place
     before I wrote to you so that you might have some idea what I was
     doing and be able to realize that it is the one and only place
     where I ought to be at the moment.

     But first of all before I say anything about Chatsea I want to try
     to express a little of what your kindness has meant to me during
     the last two years. I look back at myself just before my sixteenth
     birthday when I was feeling that I should have to run away to sea
     or do something mad in order to escape that solicitor's office, and
     I simply gasp! What and where should I be now if it hadn't been for
     you? You have always made light of the burden I must have been, and
     though I have tried to show you my gratitude I'm afraid it hasn't
     been very successful. I'm not being very successful now in putting
     it into words. I know my failure to gain a scholarship at Oxford
     has been a great disappointment to you, especially after you had
     worked so hard yourself to coach me. Please don't be anxious about
     my letting my books go to the wall here. I had a talk about this
     with Father Rowley, who insisted that anything I am allowed to do
     in the district must only be done when I have a good morning's work
     with my books behind me. I quite realize the importance of a
     priest's education. One of the assistant priests here, a man called
     Snaith, took a good degree at Cambridge both in classics and
     theology, so I shall have somebody to keep me on the lines. If I
     stay here three years and then have two years at Glastonbury I
     don't honestly think that I shall start off much handicapped by
     having missed both public school and university. I expect you're
     smiling to read after one week of my staying here three years! But
     I assure you that the moment I sat down to supper on the evening of
     my arrival I felt at home. I think at first they all thought I was
     an eager young Ritualist, but when they found that they didn't get
     any rises out of ragging me, they shut up.

     This house is a most extraordinary place. It is an old
     Congregational chapel with a gallery all round which has been made
     into cubicles, scarcely one of which is ever empty or ever likely
     to be empty so far as I can see! I should think it must be rather
     like what the guest house of a monastery used to be like in the old
     days before the Reformation. The ground floor of the chapel has
     been turned into a gymnasium, and twice a week the apparatus is
     cleared away and we have a dance. Every other evening it's used
     furiously by Father Rowley's "boys." They're such a jolly lot, and
     most of them splendid gymnasts. Quite a few have become
     professional acrobats since they opened the gymnasium. The first
     morning after my arrival I asked Father Rowley if he'd got anything
     special for me to do and he told me to catalogue the books in his
     library. Everybody laughed at this, and I thought at first that
     some joke was intended, but when I got to his room I found it
     really was in utter confusion with masses of books lying about
     everywhere. So I set to work pretty hard and after about three days
     I got them catalogued and in good order. When I told him I had
     finished he looked very surprised, and a solemn visit of inspection
     was ordered. As the room was looking quite tidy at last, I didn't
     mind. I've realized since that Father Rowley always sets people the
     task of cataloguing and arranging his books when he doubts if they
     are really worth their salt, and now he complains that I have
     spoilt one of his best ordeals for slackers. I said to him that he
     needn't be afraid because from what I could see of the way he
     treated books they would be just as untidy as ever in another week.
     Everybody laughed, though I was afraid at first they might consider
     it rather cheek my talking like this, but you've got to stand up
     for yourself here because there never was such a place for turning
     a man inside out. It's a real discipline, and I think if I manage
     to deserve to stay here three years I shall have the right to feel
     I've had the finest training for Holy Orders anybody could possibly
     have.

     You know enough about Father Rowley yourself to understand how
     impossible it would be for me to give any impression of his
     personality in a letter. I have never felt so strongly the absolute
     goodness of anybody. I suppose that some of the great mediaeval
     saints like St. Francis and St. Anthony of Padua must have been
     like that. One reads about them and what they did, but the facts
     one reads don't really tell anything. I always feel that what we
     really depend on is a kind of tradition of their absolute
     saintliness handed on from the people who experienced it. I suppose
     in a way the same applies to Our Lord. I always feel it wouldn't
     matter a bit to me if the four Gospels were proved to be forgeries
     to-morrow, because I should still be convinced that Our Lord was
     God. I know this is a platitude, but I don't think until I met
     Father Rowley that I ever realized the force and power that goes
     with exceptional goodness. There are so many people who are good
     because they were born good. Richard Ford, for example, he couldn't
     have ever been anything else but good, but I always feel that
     people like him remain practically out of reach of the ordinary
     person and that the goodness is all their own and dies with them
     just as it was born with them. What I feel about a man like Father
     Rowley is that he probably had a tremendous fight to be good. Of
     course, I may be perfectly wrong and he may have had no fight at
     all. I know one of the people at the Mission House told me that,
     though there is nobody who likes smoking better than he or more
     enjoys a pint of beer with his dinner, he has given up both at St.
     Agnes merely to set an example to weak people. I feel that his
     goodness was with such energy fought for that it now exists as a
     kind of complete thing and will go on existing when Father Rowley
     himself is dead. I begin to understand the doctrine of the treasury
     of merit. I remember you once told me how grateful I ought to be to
     God because I had apparently escaped the temptations that attack
     most boys. I am grateful; but at the same time I can't claim any
     merit for it! The only time in my life when I might have acquired
     any merit was when I was at Haverton House. Instead of doing that,
     I just dried up, and if I hadn't had that wonderful experience at
     Whitsuntide in Meade Cantorum church nearly three years ago I
     should be spiritually dead by now.

     This is a very long letter, and I don't seem to have left myself
     any time to tell you about St. Agnes' Church. It reminds me of my
     father's mission church in Lima Street, and oddly enough a new
     church is being built almost next door just as one was being built
     in Lima Street. I went to the children's Mass last Sunday, and I
     seemed to see him walking up and down the aisle in his alb, and I
     thought to myself that I had never once asked you to say Mass for
     his soul. Will you do so now next time you say a black Mass? This
     is a wretched letter, and it doesn't succeed in the least in
     expressing what I owe to you and what I already owe to Father
     Rowley. I used to think that the Sacred Heart was a rather material
     device for attracting the multitude, but I'm beginning to realize
     in the atmosphere of St. Agnes' that it is a gloriously simple
     devotion and that it is human nature's attempt to express the
     inexpressible. I'll write to you again next week. Please give my
     love to everybody at the Rectory.

     Always your most affectionate

     Mark.

Father Rowley had been at St. Agnes' seven or eight years when Mark
found himself attached to the Mission, in which time he had transformed
the district completely. It was a small parish (actually of course it
was not a parish at all, although it was fast qualifying to become one)
of something over a thousand small houses, few of which were less than a
century old. The streets were narrow and crooked, mostly named after
bygone admirals or forgotten sea-fights; the romantic and picturesque
quarter of a great naval port to the casual glance of a passer-by, but
heartbreaking to any except the most courageous resident on account of
its overcrowded and tumbledown condition. Yet it lacked the dreariness
of an East End slum, for the sea winds blew down the narrowest streets
and alleys, sailors and soldiers were always in view, and the windows of
the pawnbrokers were filled with the relics of long voyages, with idols
and large shells, with savage weapons and the handiwork of remote
islands.

When Mark came to live in Keppel Street, most of the brothels and many
of the public houses had been eliminated from the district, and in their
place flourished various clubs and guilds. The services in the church
were crowded: there was a long roll of communicants; the civilization of
the city of God was visible in this Chatsea slum. One or two of the lay
helpers used to horrify Mark with stories of early days there, and when
he seemed inclined to regret that he had arrived so late upon the scene,
they used to tease him about his missionary spirit.

"If he can't reform the people," said Cartwright, one of the lay
helpers, a tall thin young man with a long nose and a pleasant smile,
"he still has us to reform."

"Come along, Mark Anthony," said Warrender, another lay helper, who
after working for seven years among the poor had at last been charily
accepted by the Bishop for ordination. "Come along. Why don't you try
your hand on us?"

"You people seem to think," said Mark, "that I've got a mania for
reforming. I don't mean that I should like to see St. Agnes' where it
was merely for my own personal amusement. The only thing I'm sorry about
is that I didn't actually see the work being done."

Father Rowley came in at this moment, and everybody shouted that Mark
was going to preach a sermon.

"Splendid," said the Missioner whose voice when not moved by emotion was
rich in a natural unction that encouraged everyone round to suppose he
was being successfully humorous, such a savour did it add to the most
innutritious chaff. Those who were privileged to share his ordinary life
never ceased to wonder how in the pulpit or in the confessional or at
prayer this unction was replaced by a remote beauty of tone, a plangent
and thrilling compassion that played upon the hearts of all who heard
him.

"Now really, Father Rowley," Mark protested. "Do I preach a great deal?
I'm always being chaffed by Cartwright and Warrender about an alleged
mania for reforming people, which only exists in their imagination."

Indeed Mark had long ago grown out of the desire to reform or to convert
anybody, although had he wished to keep his hand in, he could have had
plenty of practice among the guests of the Mission House. Nobody had
ever succeeded in laying down the exact number of casual visitors that
could be accommodated therein. However full it appeared, there was
always room for one more. Taking an average, day in, day out through the
year, one might fairly say that there were always eight or nine casual
guests in addition to the eight or nine permanent residents, of whom
Mark was soon glad to be able to count himself one. The company was
sufficiently mixed to have been offered as a proof to the sceptical that
there was something after all in simple Christianity. There would
usually be a couple of prefects from Silchester, one or two 'Varsity
men, two or three bluejackets or marines, an odd soldier or so, a naval
officer perhaps, a stray priest sometimes, an earnest seeker after
Christian example often, and often a drunkard who had been dumped down
at the door of St. Agnes' Mission House in the hope that where everybody
else had failed Father Rowley might succeed. Then there were the tramps,
some who had heard of a comfortable night's lodging, some who came
whining and cringing with a pretence of religion. This last class was
discouraged as much as possible, for one of the first rules of the
Mission House was to show no favour to any man who claimed to be
religious, it being Father Rowley's chief dread to make anybody's
religion a paying concern. Sometimes a jailbird just released from
prison would find in the Mission House an opportunity to recover his
self-respect. But whoever the guest was, soldier, sailor, tinker,
tailor, apothecary, ploughboy, or thief, he was judged at the Mission
House as a man. Some of the visitors repaid their host by theft or
fraud; but when they did, nobody uttered proverbs or platitudes about
mistaken kindness. If one lame dog bit the hand that was helping him
over the stile, the next dog that came limping along was helped over
just as freely.

"What right has one miserable mortal to be disillusioned by another
miserable mortal?" Father Rowley demanded. "Our dear Lord when he was
nailed to the cross said 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what
they do.' He did not say, 'I am fed up with these people I have come
down from Heaven to save. I've had enough of it. Send an angel with a
pair of pincers to pull out these nails.'"

If the Missioner's patience ever failed, it was when he had to deal with
High Church young men who made pilgrimages to St. Agnes' because they
had heard that this or that service was conducted there with a finer
relish of Romanism than anywhere else at the moment in England. On one
occasion a pietistic young creature, who brought with him his own lace
cotta but forgot to bring his nightshirt, begged to be allowed the joy
of serving Father Rowley at early Mass next morning. When they came back
and were sitting round the breakfast table, this young man simpered in a
ladylike voice:

"Oh, Father, couldn't you keep your fingers closed when you give the
_Dominus vobiscum_?"

"Et cum spiritu tuo," shouted Father Rowley. "I can keep my fingers
closed when I box your ears."

And he proved it.

It was a real box on the ears, so hard a blow that the ladylike young
man burst into tears to the great indignation of a Chief Petty Officer
staying in the Mission House, who declared that he was half in a mind to
catch the young swab such a snitch on the conk as really would give him
something to blubber about. Father Rowley evidently had no remorse for
his violence, and the young man went away that afternoon saying how
sorry he was that the legend of the good work being done at St. Agnes'
had been so much exaggerated.

Mark wrote an account of this incident, which had given him intense
pleasure, to Mr. Ogilvie. Perhaps the Rector was afraid that Mark in his
ambition to avoid "churchiness" was inclining toward the opposite
extreme; or perhaps, charitable and saintly man though he was, he felt a
pang of jealousy at Mark's unbounded admiration of his new friend; or
perhaps it was merely that the east wind was blowing more sharply than
usual that morning over the wold into the Rectory garden. Whatever the
cause, his answering letter made Mark feel that the Rector did not
appreciate Father Rowley as thoroughly as he ought.

     The Rectory,

     Wych-on-the-Wold.

     Oxon.

     Dec. 1.

     My dear Mark,

     I was glad to get your long and amusing letter of last week. I am
     delighted to think that as the months go by you are finding work
     among the poor more and more congenial. I would not for the world
     suggest your coming back here for Christmas after what you tell me
     of the amount of extra work it will entail for everybody in the
     Mission House; at the same time it would be useless to pretend that
     we shan't all be disappointed not to see you until the New Year.

     On reading through your last letter again I feel just a little
     worried lest, in the pleasure you derive from Father Rowley's
     treatment of what was no doubt a very irritating young man, you may
     be inclined to go to the opposite extreme and be too ready to laugh
     at real piety when it is not accompanied by geniality and good
     fellowship, or by an obvious zeal for good works. I know you will
     acquit me of any desire to defend extreme "churchiness," and I have
     no doubt you will remember one or two occasions in the past when I
     was rather afraid that you were tending that way yourself. I am not
     in the least criticizing Father Rowley's method of dealing with it,
     but I am a trifle uneasy at the inordinate delight it seems to have
     afforded you. Of course, it is intolerable for any young man
     serving a priest at Mass to watch his fingers all the time, but I
     don't think you have any right to assume because on this occasion
     the young man showed himself so sensitive to mere externals that he
     is always aware only of externals. Unfortunately a very great deal
     of true and fervid piety exists under this apparent passion for
     externals. Remember that the ordinary criticism by the man in the
     street of Catholic ceremonies and of Catholic methods of worship
     involves us all in this condemnation. I suppose that you would
     consider yourself justified, should the circumstances permit (which
     in this case of course they do not), in protesting against a
     priest's not taking the Eastward Position when he said Mass. I was
     talking to Colonel Fraser the other day, and he was telling me how
     much he had enjoyed the ministrations of the Reverend Archibald
     Tait, the Leicestershire cricketer, who throughout the "second
     service" never once turned his back on the congregation, and, so
     far as I could gather from the Colonel's description, conducted
     this "second service" very much as a conjuror performs his tricks.
     When I ventured to argue with the Colonel, he said to me: "That is
     the worst of you High Churchmen, you make the ritual more important
     than the Communion itself." All human judgments, my dear Mark, are
     relative, and I have no doubt that this unpleasant young man (who,
     as I have already said, was no doubt justly punished by Father
     Rowley) may have felt the same kind of feeling in a different
     degree that I should feel if I assisted at the jugglery of the
     Reverend Archibald Tait. At any rate you, my dear boy, are bound to
     credit this young man with as much sincerity as yourself, otherwise
     you commit a sin against charity. You must acquire at least as much
     toleration for the Ritualist as I am glad to notice you are
     acquiring for the thief. When you are a priest yourself, and in a
     comparatively short time you will be a priest, I do hope you won't,
     without his experience, try to imitate Father Rowley too closely in
     his summary treatment of what I have already I hope made myself
     quite clear in believing to be in this case a most insufferable
     young man. Don't misunderstand this letter. I have such great hopes
     of you in the stormy days to come, and the stormy days are coming,
     that I should feel I was wrong if I didn't warn you of your
     attitude towards the merest trifles, for I shall always judge you
     and your conduct by standards that I should be very cautious of
     setting for most of my penitents.

     Your ever affectionate,

     Stephen Ogilvie.


     My mother and Miriam send you much love. We miss you greatly at
     Wych. Esther seems happy in her convent and will soon be clothed as
     a novice.

When Mark read this letter, he was prompt to admit himself in the
wrong; but he could not bear the least implied criticism of Father
Rowley.

     St. Agnes' House,

     Keppel Street,

     Chatsea.

     Dec. 3.

     My dear Mr. Ogilvie,

     I'm afraid I must have expressed myself very badly in my last
     letter if I gave you the least idea that Father Rowley was not
     always charity personified. He had probably come to the conclusion
     that the young man was not much good and no doubt he deliberately
     made it impossible for him to stay on at the Mission House. We do
     get an awful lot of mere loafers here; I don't suppose that anybody
     who keeps open house can avoid getting them. After all, if the
     young man had been worth anything he would have realized that he
     had made a fool of himself and by the way he took his snubbing have
     re-established himself. What he actually did was to sulk and clear
     out with a sneer at the work done here. I'm sorry I gave you the
     impression that I was triumphing so tremendously over his
     discomfiture. By writing about it I probably made the incident
     appear much more important than it really was. I've no doubt I did
     triumph a little, and I'm afraid I shall never be able not to feel
     rather glad when a fellow like that is put in his place. I am not
     for a moment going to try to argue that you can carry Christian
     charity too far. The more one meditates on the words, and actions
     of Our Lord, the more one grasps how impossible it is to carry
     charity too far. All the same, one owes as much charity to Father
     Rowley as to the young man. This sounds now I have written it down
     as if I were getting in a hit at you, and that is the worst of
     writing letters to justify oneself. What I am trying to say is that
     if I were to have taken up arms for the young man and supposed him
     to be ill-used or misjudged I should be criticizing Father Rowley.
     I think that perhaps you don't quite realize what a saint he is in
     every way. This is my fault, no doubt, because in my letters to you
     I have always emphasized anything that would bring into relief his
     personality. I expect that I've been too much concerned to draw a
     picture of him as a man, in doing which I've perhaps been
     unsuccessful in giving you a picture of him as a priest. It's
     always difficult to talk or write about one's intimate religious
     feelings, and you've been the only person to whom I ever have been
     able to talk about them. However much I admire and revere Father
     Rowley I doubt if I could talk or write to him about myself as I do
     to you.

     Until I came here I don't think I ever quite realized all that the
     Blessed Sacrament means. I had accepted the Sacrifice of the Mass
     as one accepts so much in our creed, without grasping its full
     implication. If anybody were to have put me through a catechism
     about the dogma I should have answered with theological exactitude,
     without any appearance of misapprehending the meaning of it; but it
     was not until I came here that its practical reality--I don't know
     if I'm expressing myself properly or not, I'm pretty sure I'm not;
     I don't mean practical application and I don't mean any kind of
     addition to my faith; perhaps what I mean is that I've learnt to
     grasp the mystery of the Mass outside myself, outside that is to
     say my own devotion, my own awe, as a practical fact alive to these
     people here. Sometimes when I go to Mass I feel as people who
     watched Our Lord with His disciples and followers must have felt. I
     feel like one of those people who ran after Him and asked Him what
     they could do to be saved. I feel when I look at what has been done
     here as if I must go to each of these poor people in turn and beg
     them to bring me to the feet of Christ, just as I suppose on the
     shores of the sea of Galilee people must have begged St. Peter or
     St. Andrew or St. James or St. John to introduce them, if one can
     use such a word for such an occasion. This seems to me the great
     work that Father Rowley has effected in this parish. I have only
     had one rather shy talk with him about religion, and in the course
     of it I said something in praise of what his personality had
     effected.

     "My personality has effected nothing," he answered. "Everything
     here is effected by the Blessed Sacrament."

     That is why he surely has the right without any consideration for
     the dignity of churchy young men to box their ears if they question
     his outward respect for the Blessed Sacrament. Even Our Lord found
     it necessary at least on one occasion to chase the buyers and
     sellers out of the Temple, and though it is not recorded that He
     boxed the ears of any Pharisee, it seems to me quite permissible to
     believe that He did! He lashed them with scorn anyway.

     To come back to Father Rowley, you know the great cry of the
     so-called Evangelical party "Jesus only"? Well, Father Rowley has
     really managed to make out of what was becoming a sort of
     ecclesiastical party cry something that really is evangelical and
     at the same time Catholic. These people are taught to make the
     Blessed Sacrament the central fact of their lives in a way that I
     venture to say no Welsh revivalist or Salvation Army captain has
     ever made Our Lord the central fact in the lives of his converts,
     because with the Blessed Sacrament continually before them, Which
     is Our Lord Jesus Christ, their conversion endures. I could fill a
     book with stories of the wonderful behaviour of these poor souls.
     The temptation is to say of a man like Father Rowley that he has
     such a natural spring of human charity flowing from his heart that
     by offering to the world a Christlike example he converts his
     flock. Certainly he does give a Christlike example and undoubtedly
     that must have a great influence on his people; but he does not
     believe, and I don't believe, that a Christlike example is of any
     use without Christ, and he gives them Christ. Even the Bishop of
     Silchester had to admit the other day that Vespers of the Blessed
     Sacrament as held at St. Agnes' is a perfectly scriptural service.
     Father Rowley makes of the Blessed Sacrament Christ Himself, so
     that the poor people may flock round Him. He does not go round
     arguing with them, persuading them, but in the crises of their
     lives, as the answer to every question, as the solution of every
     difficulty and doubt, as the consolation in every sorrow, he offers
     them the Blessed Sacrament. All his prayers (and he makes a great
     use of extempore prayer, much to the annoyance of the Bishop, who
     considers it ungrammatical), all his sermons, all his actions
     revolve round that one great fact. "Jesus Christ is what you need,"
     he says, "and Jesus Christ is here in your church, here upon your
     altar."

     You can't go into the little church without finding fifty people
     praying before the Blessed Sacrament. The other day when the "King
     Harry" was sunk by the "Trafalgar," the people here subscribed I
     forget how many pounds for the widows and children of the
     bluejackets and marines of the Mission who were drowned, and when
     it was finished and the subscription list was closed, they
     subscribed all over again to erect an altar at which to say Masses
     for the dead. And the old women living in Father Rowley's free
     houses that were once brothels gave up their summer outing so that
     the money spent on them might be added to the fund. When the Bishop
     of Silchester came here last week for Confirmation he asked Father
     Rowley what that altar was.

     "That is the ugliest thing I've ever seen," he said. But when
     Father Rowley told him about the poor people and the old women who
     had no money of their own, he said: "That is the most beautiful
     thing I've ever heard."

     I am beginning to write as if it was necessary to convince you of
     the necessity of making the Blessed Sacrament the central feature
     of the religious life to-day and for ever until the end of the
     world. But, I know you won't think I'm doing anything of the kind,
     for really I am only trying to show you how much my faith has been
     strengthened and how much my outlook has deepened and how much more
     than ever I long to be a priest to be able to give poor people
     Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

     Your ever affectionate

     Mark.




CHAPTER XVII

THE DRUNKEN PRIEST


Gradually, Mark found to his pleasure and his pride that he was
becoming, if not indispensable to Father Rowley (the Missioner found no
human being indispensable) at any rate quite evidently useful. Perhaps
Father Rowley though that in allowing himself to rely considerably upon
Mark's secretarial talent he was indulging himself in a luxury to which
he was not entitled. That was Father Rowley's way. The moment he
discovered himself enjoying anything too much, whether it was a cigar or
a secretary, he cut himself off from it, and this not in any spirit of
mortification for mortification's sake, but because he dreaded the
possibility of putting the slightest drag upon his freedom to criticize
others. He had no doubt at all in his own mind that he was perfectly
justified in making use of Mark's intelligence and energy. But in a
place like the Mission House, where everybody from lay helper to casual
guest was supposed to stand on his own feet, the Missioner himself felt
that he must offer an example of independence.

"You're spoiling me, Mark Anthony," he said one day. "There's nothing
for me to do this evening."

"I know," Mark agreed contentedly. "I want to give you a rest for once."

"Rest?" the priest echoed. "You don't seriously expect a fat man like me
to sit down in an armchair and rest, do you? Besides, you've got your
own reading to do, and you didn't come to Chatsea as my punkah walla."

Mark insisted that he was getting along in his own way quite fast
enough, and that he had plenty of time on his hands to keep Father
Rowley's correspondence in some kind of order.

"All these other people have any amount to do," said Mark. "Cartwright
has his boys every evening and Warrender has his men."

"And Mark Anthony has nothing but a fat, poverty-stricken, slothful
mission priest," Father Rowley gurgled.

"Yes, and you're more trouble than all the rest put together. Look here,
I've written to the Bishop's chaplain about that confirmation; I
explained why we wanted to hold a special confirmation for these two
boys we are emigrating, and he has written back to say that the Bishop
has no objection to a special confirmation's being held by the Bishop of
Matabeleland when he comes to stay here next week. At the same time, he
says the Bishop doesn't want it to become a precedent."

"No. I can quite understand that," Father Rowley chuckled. "Bishops are
haunted by the creation of precedents. A precedent in the life of a
bishop is like an illegitimate child in the life of a respectable
churchwarden. No, the only thing I fear is that if I devour all your
spare time you won't get quite what you wanted to get by coming to live
with us."

He laid a fat hand on Mark's shoulder.

"Please don't bother about me," said Mark. "I get all I want and more
than I expected if I can be of the least use to you. I know I'm rather
disappointing you by not behaving like half the people who come down
here and want to get up a concert on Monday, a dance on Tuesday, a
conjuring entertainment on Wednesday, a street procession on Thursday, a
day of intercession on Friday, and an amateur dramatic entertainment on
Saturday, not to mention acting as ceremonarius on Sunday. I know you'd
like me to propose all sorts of energetic diversions, so that you could
have the pleasure of assuring me that I was only proposing them to
gratify my own vanity, which of course would be perfectly true. Luckily
I'm of a retiring disposition, and I don't want to do anything to help
the ten thousand benighted parishioners of Saint Agnes', except
indirectly by striving to help in my own feeble way the man who really
is helping them. Now don't throw that inkpot at me, because the room's
quite dirty enough already, and as I've made you sit still for five
minutes I've achieved something this evening that mighty few people
have achieved in Keppel Street. I believe the only time you really rest
is in the confessional box."

"Mark Anthony, Mark Anthony," said the priest, "you talk a great deal
too much. Come along now, it's bedtime."

One of the rules of the Mission House was that every inmate should be in
bed by ten o'clock and all lights out by a quarter past. The day began
with Mass at seven o'clock at which everybody was expected to be
present; and from that time onward everybody was so fully occupied that
it was essential to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Guests who came down
for a night or two were often apt to forget how much the regular workers
had to do and what a tax it put upon the willing servants to manage a
house of which nobody could say ten minutes before a meal how many would
sit down to it, nor even until lights out for how many people beds must
be made. In case any guest should forget this rule by coming back after
ten o'clock, Father Rowley made a point of having the front door bell to
ring in his bedroom, so that he might get out of bed at any hour of the
night and admit the loiterer. Guests were warned what would be the
effect of their lack of consideration, and it was seldom that Father
Rowley was disturbed.

Among the guests there was one class of which a representative was
usually to be found at the Mission House. This was the drunken
clergyman, which sounds as if there was at this date a high proportion
of drunken clergymen in the Church of England; but which means that when
one did come to St. Agnes' he usually stayed for a long time, because he
would in most cases have been sent there when everybody else had
despaired of him to see what Father Rowley could effect.

About the time when Mark was beginning to be recognized as Father
Rowley's personal vassal, it happened that the Reverend George Edward
Mousley who had been handed on from diocese to diocese during the last
five years had lately reached the Mission House. For more than two
months now he had spent his time inconspicuously reading in his own
room, and so well had he behaved, so humbly had he presented himself to
the notice of his fellow guests, that Father Rowley was moved one
afternoon to dictate a letter about him to Mark, who felt that the
Missioner by taking him so far into his confidence had surrendered to
his pertinacity and that thenceforth he might consider himself
established as his private secretary.

"The letter is to the Lord Bishop Suffragan of Warwick, St. Peter's
Rectory, Warwick," Father Rowley began. "My dear Bishop of Warwick, I
have now had poor Mousley here for two months. It is not a long time in
which to effect a lasting reformation of one who has fallen so often and
so grievously, but I think you know me well enough not to accuse me of
being too sanguine about drunken priests. I have had too many of them
here for that. In his case however I do feel justified in asking you to
agree with me in letting him have an opportunity to regain the respect
due to himself and the reverence due to his priesthood by being allowed
once more to the altar. I should not dream of allowing him to officiate
without your permission, because his sad history has been so much a
personal burden to yourself. I'm afraid that after the many
disappointments he has inflicted upon you, you will be doubtful of my
judgment. Yet I do think that the critical moment has arrived when by
surprising him thus we might clinch the matter of his future behaviour
once and for all. His conduct here has been so humble and patient and in
every way exemplary that my heart bleeds for him. Therefore, my dear
Bishop of Warwick, I hope you will agree to what I firmly trust will be
the completion of his spiritual cure. I am writing to you quite
impersonally and informally, as you see, so that in replying to me you
will not be involving yourself in the affairs of another diocese. You
will, of course, put me down as much a Jesuit as ever in writing to you
like this, but you will equally, I know, believe me to be, Yours ever
affectionately in Our Blessed Lord.

"And I'll sign it as soon as you can type it out," Father Rowley wound
up.

"Oh, I do hope he will agree," Mark exclaimed.

"He will," the Missioner prophesied. "He will because he is a wise and
tender and godly man and therefore will never be more than a Bishop
Suffragan as long as he lives. Mark!"

Mark looked up at the severity of the tone.

"Mark! Correct me when I fall into the habit of sneering at the
episcopate."

That night Father Rowley was attending a large temperance demonstration
in the Town Hall for the purpose of securing if possible a smaller
proportion of public houses than one for every eighty of the population,
which was the average for Chatsea. The meeting lasted until nearly ten
o'clock; and it had already struck the hour when Father Rowley with Mark
and two or three others got back to Keppel Street. There was nothing
Father Rowley disliked so much as arriving home himself after ten, and
he hurried up to his room without inquiring if everybody was in.

Mark's window looked out on Keppel Street; and the May night being warm
and his head aching from the effects of the meeting, he sat for nearly
an hour at the open window gazing down at the passers by. There was not
much to see, nothing more indeed than couples wandering home, a
bluejacket or two, an occasional cat, and a few women carrying jugs of
beer. By eleven o'clock even this slight traffic had ceased, and there
was nothing down the silent street except a salt wind from the harbour
that roused a memory of the beach at Nancepean years ago when he had sat
there watching the glow-worm and decided to be a lighthouse-keeper
keeping his lamps bright for mariners homeward bound. It was of streets
like Keppel Street that they would have dreamed, with the Stag Light
winking to port, and the west wind blowing strong astern. What a
lighthouse-keeper Father Rowley was! How except by the grace of God
could one explain such goodness as his? Fashions in saintliness might
change, but there was one kind of saint that always and for every creed
spoke plainly of God's existence, such saints as St. Francis of Assisi
or St. Anthony of Padua, who were manifestly the heirs of Christ. With
what a tender cynicism Our Lord had called St. Peter to be the
foundation stone of His Church, with what a sorrowful foreboding of the
failure of Christianity. Such a choice appeared as the expression of
God's will not to be let down again as He was let down by Adam. Jesus
Christ, conscious at the moment of what He must shortly suffer at the
hands of mankind, must have been equally conscious of the failure of
Christianity two thousand years beyond His Agony and Bloody Sweat and
Crucifixion. Why, within a short time after His life on earth it was
necessary for that light from heaven to shine round about Saul on the
Damascus road, because already scoffers, while the disciples were still
alive, may have been talking about the failure of Christianity. It must
have been another of God's self-imposed limitations that He did not give
to St. John that capacity of St. Paul for organization which might have
made practicable the Christianity of the master Who loved him. _Woman,
behold thy son! Behold thy mother!_ That dying charge showed that Our
Lord considered John the most Christlike of His disciples, and he
remained the most Christlike man until twelve hundred years later St.
Francis was born at Assisi. St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Dominic, if
Christianity could only produce mighty individualists of Faith like
them, it could scarcely have endured as it had endured. _And now abideth
faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is
charity._ There was something almost wistful in those words coming from
the mouth of St. Paul. It was scarcely conceivable that St. John or St.
Francis could ever have said that; it would scarcely have struck either
that the three virtues were separable.

Keppel Street was empty now. Mark's headache had been blown away by the
night wind with his memories and the incoherent thoughts which had
gathered round the contemplation of Father Rowley's character. He was
just going to draw away from the window and undress when he caught sight
of a figure tacking from one pavement to the other up Keppel Street.
Mark watched its progress, amused at the extraordinary amount of trouble
it was giving itself, until one tack was brought to a sharp conclusion
by a lamp-post to which the figure clung long enough to be recognized as
that of the Reverend George Edward Mousley, who had been tacking like
this to make the harbour of the Mission House. Mark, remembering the
letter which had been written to the Bishop of Warwick, wondered if he
could not at any rate for to-night spare Father Rowley the
disappointment of knowing that his plea for re-instatement was already
answered by the drunken priest himself. He must make up his mind
quickly, because even with the zigzag course Mousley was taking he would
soon be ringing the bell of the Mission House, which meant that Father
Rowley would be woken up and go down to let him in. Of course, he would
have to know all about it in the morning, but to-night when he had gone
to bed tired and full of hope for temperance in general and the
reformation of Mousley in particular it was surely right to let him
sleep in ignorance. Mark decided to take it upon himself to break the
rules of the house, to open the door to Mousley, and if possible to get
him upstairs to bed quietly. He went down with a lighted candle, crept
across the gymnasium, and opened the door. Mousley was still tacking
from pavement to pavement and making very little headway against a
strong current of drink. Mark thought he had better go out and offer his
services as pilot, because Mousley was beginning to sing an
extraordinary song in which the tune and the words of _Good-bye, Dolly,
I must leave you_, had got mixed up with _O happy band of pilgrims_.

"Look here, Mr. Mousley, you mustn't sing now," said Mark taking hold of
the arm with which the drunkard was trying to beat time. "It's after
eleven o'clock, and you're just outside the Mission House."

"I've been just outside the Mission House for an hour and three
quarters, old chap," said Mr. Mousley solemnly. "Most incompatible thing
I've ever known. I got back here at a quarter past nine, and I was just
going to walk in when the house took two paces to the rear, and I've
been walking after it the whole evening. Most incompatible thing I've
ever known. Most incompatible thing that's ever happened to me in my
life, Lidderdale. If I were a superstitious man, which I'm not, I should
say the house was bewitched. If I had a moment to spare, I should sit
down at once and write an account of my most incompatible experience to
the Society of Psychical Research, if I were a superstitious man, which
I'm not. Yes. . . ."

Mr. Mousley tried to focus his glassy eyes upon the arcana of
spiritualism, rocking ambiguously the while upon the kerb. Mark murmured
something more about the need for going in quietly.

"It's very kind of you to come out and talk to me like this," the
drunken priest went on. "But what you ought to have done was to have
kept hold of the house for a minute or two so as to give me time to get
in quietly. Now we shall probably both be out here all night trying to
get in quietly. It's impossible to keep warm by this lamp-post. Most
inadequate heating arrangement. It is a lamp-post, isn't it? Yes, I
thought it was. I had a fleeting impression that it was my bedroom
candle, but I see now that I was mistaken, I see now perfectly clearly
that it is a lamp-post, if not two. Of course, that may account for my
not being able to get into the Mission House. I was trying to decide
which front door I should go in by, and while I was waiting I think I
must have gone in by the wrong one, for I hit my nose a most severe blow
on the nose. One has to remember to be very careful with front doors. Of
course, if it was my own house I should have used a latch-key instanter;
for I inevitably, I mean invariably, carry a latch-key about with me and
when it won't open my front door I use it to wind my watch. You know,
it's one of those small keys you can wind up watches with, if you know
the kind of key I mean. I'd draw you a picture of it if I had a pencil,
but I haven't got a pencil."

"Now don't stay talking here," Mark urged. "Come along back, and do try
to come quietly. I keep telling you it's after eleven o'clock, and you
know Father Rowley likes everybody to be in by ten."

"That's what I've been saying to myself the whole evening," said Mr.
Mousley. "Only what happened, you see, was that I met the son of a man
who used to know my father, a very nice fellow indeed, a very
intellectual fellow. I never remember spending a more intellectual
evening in my life. A feast of reason and a flowing bowl, I mean soul,
s-o-u-l, not b-o-u-l. Did I say bowl? Soul. . . . Soul. . . ."

"All right," said Mark. "But if you've had such a jolly evening, come in
now and don't make a noise."

"I'll come in whenever you like," Mr. Mousley offered. "I'm at your
disposition entirely. The only request I have to make is that you will
guarantee that the house stays where it was built. It's all very fine
for an ordinary house to behave like this, but when a mission house
behaves like this I call it disgraceful. I don't know what I've done to
the house that it should conceive such a dislike to me. I say,
Lidderdale, have they been taking up the drains or something in this
street? Because I distinctly had an impression just then that I put my
foot into a hole."

"The street's perfectly all right," said Mark. "Nothing has been done to
it."

"There's no reason why they shouldn't take up the drains if they want
to, I'm not complaining. Drains have to be taken up and I should be the
last man to complain; but I merely asked a question, and I'm convinced
that they have been taking up the drains. Yes, I've had a very
intellectual evening. My head's whirling with philosophy. We've talked
about everything. My friend talked a good deal about Buddhism. And I
made rather a good joke about Confucius being so confusing, at which I
laughed inordinately. Inordinately, Lidderdale. I've had a very keen
sense of humour ever since I was a baby. I say, Lidderdale, you
certainly know your way about this street. I'm very much obliged to me
for meeting you. I shall get to know the street in time. You see, my
object was to get beyond the house, because I said to myself 'the house
is in Keppel Street, it can dodge about _in_ Keppel Street, but it can't
be in any other street,' so I thought that if I could dodge it into the
corner of Keppel Street--you follow what I mean? I may be talking a bit
above your head, we've been talking philosophy all the evening, but if
you concentrate you'll follow my meaning."

"Here we are," said Mark, for by this time he had persuaded Mr. Mousley
to put his foot upon the step of the front door.

"You managed the house very well," said the clergyman. "It's
extraordinary how a house will take to some people and not to others.
Now I can do anything I like with dogs, and you can do anything you like
with houses. But it's no good patting or stroking a house. You've got to
manage a house quite differently to that. You've got to keep a house's
accounts. You haven't got to keep a dog's accounts."

They were in the gymnasium by now, which by the light of Mark's small
candle loomed as vast as a church.

"Don't talk as you go upstairs," Mark admonished.

"Isn't that a dog I see there?"

"No, no, no," said Mark. "It's the horse. Come along."

"A horse?" Mousley echoed. "Well, I can manage horses too. Come here,
Dobbin. If I'd known we were going to meet a horse I should have brought
back some sugar with me. I suppose it's too late to go back and buy some
sugar now?"

"Yes, yes," said Mark impatiently. "Much too late. Come along."

"If I had a piece of sugar he'd follow us upstairs. You'll find a horse
will go anywhere after a piece of sugar. It is a horse, isn't it? Not a
donkey? Because if it was a donkey he would want a thistle, and I don't
know where I can get a thistle at this time of night. I say, did you
prod me in the stomach then with anything?" asked Mr. Mousley severely.

"No, no," said Mark. "Come along, it was the parallel bars."

"I've not been near any bars to-night, and if you are suggesting that
I've been in bars you're making an insinuation which I very much resent,
an insinuation which I resent most bitterly, an insinuation which I
should not allow anybody to make without first pointing out that it was
an insinuation."

"Do come down off that ladder," Mark said.

"I beg your pardon, Lidderdale. I was under the impression for the
moment that I was going upstairs. I have really been so confused by
Confucius and by the extraordinary behaviour of the house to-night,
recoiling from me as it did, that for the moment I was under the
impression that I was going upstairs."

At this moment Mr. Mousley fell from the ladder, luckily on one of the
gymnasium mats.

"I do think it's a most ridiculous habit," he said, "not to place a
doormat in what I might describe as a suitable cavity. The number of
times in my life that I've fallen over doormats simply because people
will not take the trouble to make the necessary depression in the floor
with which to contain such a useful domestic receptacle you would
scarcely believe. I must have fallen over thousands of doormats in my
life," he shouted at the top of his voice.

"You'll wake everybody up in the house," Mark exclaimed in an agony.
"For heaven's sake keep quiet."

"Oh, we are in the house, are we?" said Mr. Mousley. "I'm very much
relieved to hear you say that, Lidderdale. For a brief moment, I don't
know why, I was almost as confused as Confucius as to where we were."

At this moment, candle in hand, and in a white flannel nightgown looking
larger than ever, Father Rowley appeared in the gallery above and
leaning over demanded who was there.

"Is that Father Rowley?" Mr. Mousley inquired with intense courtesy. "Or
do my eyes deceive me? You'll excuse me from replying to your apparently
simple question, Father Rowley, but I have met such a number of people
to-night including the son of a man who used to know my father that I
really don't know who _is_ there, although I'm inclined to think that
_I_ am here. But I've had a series of such a remarkable series of
adventures to-night that I should like your advice about them. I've been
spending a very intellectual evening, Father Rowley."

"Go to bed," said the mission priest severely. "I'll speak to you in the
morning."

"Father Rowley isn't annoyed with me, is he?" Mr. Mousley asked.

"I think he's rather annoyed at your being so late," said Mark.

"Late for what?"

"Is that you, Mark, down there?" asked the Missioner.

"I'm lighting Mr. Mousley across the gymnasium," Mark explained. "I
think I'd better take him up to his room."

"If your young friend is as clever at managing rooms as he is at
managing houses we shall get on splendidly, Father Rowley. I have
perfect confidence in his manner with rooms. He soothed this house in
the most remarkable way. It was jumping about like a pea in a pod till
he caught hold of the reins."

"Mark, go to bed. I will see Mr. Mousley to his room."

"Several years ago," said the drunken priest. "I went with an old friend
to see Miss Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth. The resemblance between Father
Rowley and Miss Ellen Terry is very remarkable. Good-night, Lidderdale,
I am perfectly comfortable on this mat. Good-night."

In the gallery above Mark, who had not dared to disobey Father Rowley's
orders, asked him what was to be done to get Mr. Mousley to bed.

"Go and wake Cartwright and Warrender to help me to get him upstairs,"
the Missioner commanded.

"I can help you. . . ." Mark began.

"Do what I say," said the Missioner curtly.

In the morning Father Rowley sent for Mark to give his account of what
had happened the night before, and when Mark had finished his tale, the
priest sat for a while in silence.

"Are you going to send him away?" Mark asked.

"Send him away?" Father Rowley repeated. "Where would I send him? If he
can't keep off drink in this house and in these surroundings where else
will he keep off drink? No, I'm only amused at my optimism."

There was a knock on the door.

"I expect that is Mr. Mousley," said Mark. "I'll leave you with him."

"No, don't go away," said the Missioner. "If Mousley didn't mind your
seeing him as he was last night, there's no reason why this morning he
should mind your hearing my comments upon his behaviour."

The tap on the door was repeated.

"Come in, come in, Mousley, and take a seat."

Mr. Mousley walked timidly across the room and sat on the very edge of
the chair offered him by Father Rowley. He was a quiet, rather drab
little man, the kind of little man who always loses his seat in a
railway carriage and who always gets pushed further up in an omnibus,
one of life's pawns. The presence of Mark did not seem to affect him,
for no sooner was he seated than he began to apologize with suspicious
rapidity, as if by now his apologies had been reduced to a formula.

"I really must apologize, Father Rowley, for my lateness last night and
for coming in, I fear, slightly the worse for liquor. The fact is I had
a little headache and went to the chemist for a pick-me-up, on top of
which I met an old college friend, and though I don't think I had more
than two glasses of beer I may have had three. They didn't seem to go
very well with the pick-me-up. I assure you--"

"Stop," said Father Rowley. "The only assurance of any value to me will
be your behaviour in the future."

"Oh, then I'm not to leave this morning?" Mr. Mousley gasped with open
mouth.

"Where would you go if you left here?"

"Well, to tell you the truth," Mr. Mousley admitted, "I have been rather
worried over that little problem ever since I woke up this morning. I
scarcely expected that you would tolerate my presence any longer in this
house. You will excuse me, Father Rowley, but I am rather overwhelmed
for the moment by your kindness. I scarcely know how to express what I
feel. I have usually found people so very impatient of my weakness. Do
you seriously mean I needn't go away this morning?"

"You have already been sufficiently punished, I hope," said the
Missioner, "by the humiliations you have inflicted on yourself both
outside and inside this house."

"My thoughts are always humiliating," said Mr. Mousley. "I think perhaps
that nowadays these humiliating thoughts are my chief temptation to
drink. Since I have been here and shared in your hospitality I have felt
more sharply than ever my disgrace. I have several times been on the
point of asking you to let me be given some kind of work, but I have
always been too much ashamed when it came to the point to express my
aspirations in words."

"Only yesterday afternoon," said Father Rowley, "I wrote to the Bishop
of Warwick, who has continued to interest himself in you notwithstanding
the many occasions you have disappointed him, yes, I wrote to the Bishop
of Warwick to say that since you came to St. Agnes' your behaviour had
justified my suggesting that you should once again be allowed to say
Mass."

"You wrote that yesterday afternoon?" Mr. Mousley exclaimed. "And the
instant afterwards I went out and got drunk?"

"You mean you took a pick-me-up and two glasses of beer," corrected
Father Rowley.

"No, no, no, it wasn't a pick-me-up. I went out and got drunk on brandy
quite deliberately."

Father Rowley looked quickly across at Mark, who hastily left the two
priests together. He divined from the Missioner's quick glance that he
was going to hear Mr. Mousley's confession. A week later Mr. Mousley
asked Mark if he would serve at Mass the next morning.

"It may seem an odd request," he said, "but inasmuch as you have seen
the depths to which I can sink, I want you equally to see the heights to
which Father Rowley has raised me."




CHAPTER XVIII

SILCHESTER COLLEGE MISSION


It was never allowed to be forgotten at St. Agnes' that the Mission was
the Silchester College Mission; and there were few days in the year on
which it was possible to visit the Mission House without finding there
some member of the College past or present. Every Sunday during term two
or three prefects would sit down to dinner; masters turned up during the
holidays; even the mighty Provost himself paid occasional visits, during
which he put off most of his majesty and became as nearly human as a
facetious judge. Nor did Father Rowley allow Silchester to forget that
it had a Mission. He was not at all content with issuing a half yearly
report of progress and expenses, and he had no intention of letting St.
Agnes' exist as a subject for an occasional school sermon or a religious
tax levied on parents. From the first moment he had put foot in Chatsea
he had done everything he could to make St. Agnes' be what it was
supposed to be--the Silchester College Mission. He was particularly
anxious that the new church should be built and beautified with money
from Silchester sources, even if he also accepted money for this purpose
from outside. Soon after Mark had become recognized as Father Rowley's
confidential secretary, he visited Silchester for the first time in his
company.

It was the custom during the summer for the various guilds and clubs
connected with the parish to be entertained in turn at the College. It
had never happened that Mark had accompanied any of these outings, which
in the early days of St. Agnes' had been regarded with dread by the
College authorities, so many flowers were picked, so much fruit was
stolen, but which now were as orderly and respectable excursions as you
could wish to see. Mark's first visit to Silchester was on the occasion
of Father Rowley's terminal sermon in the June after he was nineteen. He
found the experience intimidating, because he was not yet old enough to
have learnt self-confidence and he had never passed through the ordeal
either of a first term at a public school or of a first term at the
University. Boys are always critical, and at Silchester with the
tradition of six hundred years to give them a corporate self-confidence,
the judgment of outsiders is more severe than anywhere in the world,
unless it might be in the New Hebrides. Added to their critical regard
was a chilling politeness which would have made downright insolence
appear cordial in comparison. Mark felt like Gulliver in the presence of
the Houyhnms. These noble animals, so graceful, so clean, so
condescending, appalled him. Yet he had found the Silchester men who
came to visit the Mission easy enough to get on with. No doubt they,
without their background were themselves a little shy, although their
shyness never mastered them so far as to make them ill at ease. Here,
however, they seemed as imperturbable and unbending as the stone saints,
row upon row on the great West front of the Cathedral. Mark apprehended
more clearly than ever the powerful personality of Father Rowley when he
found that these noble young animals accorded to him the same quality of
respect that they gave to a popular master or even to a popular athlete.
The Missioner seemed able to understand their intimate and allusive
conversation, so characteristic of a small and highly developed society;
he seemed able to chaff them at the right moment; to take them seriously
when they ought to be taken seriously; in a word to have grasped without
being a Siltonian the secret of Silchester. He and Mark were staying at
a house which possessed super-imposed upon the Silchester tradition a
tradition of its own extending over the forty years during which the
Reverend William Jex Monkton had been a house master. It was difficult
for Mark, who had nothing but the traditions of Haverton House for a
standard to understand how with perfect respect the boys could address
their master by his second name without prejudice to discipline. Yet
everybody in Jex's house called him Jex; and when you looked at that
delightful old gentleman himself with his criss-cross white tie and
curly white hair, you realized how impossible it was for him to be
called anything else except Jex.

For the first time since Mark, brooding upon the moonlit quadrangle of
St. Osmund's Hall, bade farewell to Oxford, he regretted for a while his
surrender of the scholarship to Emmett. What was Emmett doing now? Had
his stammer improved in the confidence that his success must surely have
brought him? Mark made an excuse to forsake the company of the four or
five men in whose charge he had been left. He was tired of being
continually rescued from drowning in their conversation. Their
intentional courtesy galled him. He felt like a negro chief being shown
the sights of England by a tired equerry. It was a fine summer day, and
he went down to the playing fields to watch the cricket match. He sat
down in the shade of an oak tree on the unfrequented side, unable in the
mood he was in to ask against whom the College was playing or which side
was in. Players and spectators alike appeared unreal, a mirage of the
sunlight; the very landscape ceased to be anything more substantial than
a landscape perceived by dreamers in the clouds. The trees and towers of
Silchester, the bald hills of Berkshire on the horizon, the cattle in
the meadows, the birds in the air exasperated Mark with his inability to
put himself in the picture. The grass beneath the oak was scattered with
a treasury of small suns minted by the leaves above, trembling patens
and silver disks that Mark set himself to count.

"Trying not to yearn and trying not to yawn," he muttered. "Forty-four,
forty-five, forty-six."

"You're ten out," said a voice. "We want fifty-six to tie, fifty-seven
to win."

Mark looked up and saw that a Silchester man whom he remembered seeing
once at the Mission was preparing to sit down beside him. He was a tall
youth, fair and freckled and clear cut, perfectly self-possessed, but
lacking any hint of condescension in his manner.

"Didn't you come over with Rowley?" he inquired.

Mark was going to explain that he was working at the Mission when it
struck him that a Silchester man might have the right to resent that,
and he gave no more than a simple affirmative.

"I remember seeing you at the Mission," he went on. "My name's Hathorne.
Oh, well hit, sir, well hit!"

Hathorne's approbation of the batsman made the match appear even more
remote. It was like the comment of a passer-by upon a well-designed
figure in a tapestry. It was an expression of his own aesthetic pleasure,
and bore no relation to the player he applauded.

"I've only been down to the Mission once," he continued, turning to
Mark. "I felt rather up against it there."

"Well, I feel much more up against it in Silchester," replied Mark.

"Yes, I can understand that," Hathorne nodded. "But you're only up
against form: I was up against matter. It struck me when I was down
there what awful cheek it was for me to be calmly going down to Chatsea
and supposing that I had a right to go there, because I had contributed
a certain amount of money belonging to my father, to help spiritually a
lot of people who probably need spiritual help much less than I do
myself. Of course, with anybody else except Rowley in charge the effect
would be damnable. As it is, he manages to keep us from feeling as if
we'd paid to go and look at the Zoo. You're a lucky chap to be working
there without the uncomfortable feeling that you're just being tolerated
because you're a Siltonian."

"I was thinking," said Mark, "that I was only being tolerated here
because I happened to come with Rowley. It's impossible to visit a place
like this and not regret that one must remain an outsider."

"It depends on what you want to do," said Hathorne. "I want to be a
parson. I'm going up to the Varsity in October, and I am beginning to
wonder what on earth good I shall be at the end of it all."

He gave Mark an opportunity to comment on this announcement; but Mark
did not know what to say and remained silent.

"I see you're not in the mood to be communicative," Hathorne went on
with a smile. "I don't blame you. It's impossible to be communicative in
this place; but some time, when I'm down at the Mission again, I'd like
to have what is called a heart-to-heart talk. That was a good boundary.
We shall win quite comfortably. So long!"

The tall, fair youth passed on; and although Mark never had that
heart-to-heart talk with him in the Mission, because he was killed in a
mountaineering accident in Switzerland that August, the memory of him
sitting there under the oak tree on that fine summer afternoon remained
with Mark for ever; and after that brief conversation he lost most of
his shyness, so that he came to enjoy his visits to Silchester as much
as the Missioner himself did.

As the new church drew near its completion, Mark apprehended why Father
Rowley attached so much importance to as much of the money for it as
possible coming directly from Silchester. He apprehended how the
Missioner felt that he was building Silchester in a Chatsea slum; and
from that moment that landscape like a mirage of the sunlight, that
landscape into which he had been unable to fit himself when he first
beheld it became his own, for now beyond the chimneypots he could always
see the bald hills of Berkshire and the trees and towers of Silchester,
and at the end of all the meanest alleys there were cattle in the
meadows and birds in the air above.

Silchester was not the only place that Mark visited with Father Rowley.
It became a recognized custom for him to travel up to London whenever
the Missioner was preaching, and in London he was once more struck by
the variety of Father Rowley's worldly knowledge and secular friends.
One week-end will serve as a specimen of many. They left Chatsea on a
Saturday morning travelling up to town in a third class smoker full of
bluejackets and soldiers on leave. None of them happened to know the
Missioner, and for a time they talked surlily in undertones, evidently
viewing with distaste the prospect of having a Holy Joe in their
compartment all the way to London; but when Father Rowley pulled out his
pipe, for always when he was away from St. Agnes' he allowed himself the
privilege of smoking, and began to talk to them about their ships and
their regiments with unquestionable knowledge, they unbent, so that long
before Waterloo was reached it must have been the jolliest compartment
in the whole train. It was all done so easily, and yet without any of
that deliberate descent from a pedestal, which is the democratic manner
of so many parsons; there was none of that Friar Tuck style of
aggressive laymanhood, nor that subtler way of denying Christ (of course
with the best intentions) which consists of salting the conversation
with a few "damns" and peppering it with a couple of "bloodies" to show
that a parson may be what is called human. Father Rowley was simply
himself; and a month later two of the bluejackets in that compartment
and one of the soldiers were regular visitors to the Mission House, and
what is more regular visitors to the Blessed Sacrament.

They reached London soon after midday and went to lunch at a restaurant
in Jermyn Street famous for a Russian salad that Father Rowley sometimes
spoke of with affection in Chatsea. After lunch they went to a matinee
of _Pelleas and Melisande_, the Missioner having been given two stalls
by an actor friend. Mark enjoyed the play and was being stirred by the
imagination of old, unhappy, far off things until his companion began to
laugh. Several clever women who looked as if they had been dragged
through a hedge said "Hush!"; even Mark, compassionate of the players'
feelings should they hear Father Rowley laugh at the poignant nonsense
they were uttering on the stage, begged him to control himself.

"But this is most unending rubbish," he said. "I've never heard anything
so ridiculous in my life. Terrible."

The curtain fell on the act at this moment, so that Father Rowley was
able to give louder voice to his opinions.

"This is unspeakable bosh," he repeated. "I can't understand anything at
all that is going on. People run on and run off again and make the most
idiotic remarks. I really don't think I can stand any more of this."

The clever women rattled their beads and writhed their necks like angry
snakes without effect upon the Missioner.

"I don't think I can stand any more of this," he repeated. "I shall
have apoplexy if this goes on."

The clever women hissed angrily about the kind of people that came to
theatres nowadays.

"This man Maeterlinck must have escaped from an asylum," Father Rowley
went on. "I never heard such deplorable nonsense in my life."

"I shall ask an attendant if we can change our seats," snapped one of
the clever women in front. "That's the worst of coming to a Saturday
afternoon performance, such extraordinary people come up to town on
Saturdays."

"There you are," exclaimed Father Rowley loudly, "even that poor woman
in front thinks they're extraordinary."

"She's talking about you," said Mark, "not about the people in the
play."

"My good woman," said Father Rowley, leaning over and tapping her on the
shoulder. "You don't think that you really enjoy this rubbish, do you?"

One of her friends who was near the gangway called out to a programme
seller:

"Attendant, attendant, is it possible for my friends and myself to move
into another row? We are being pestered with a running commentary by
that stout clergyman behind that lady in green."

"Don't disturb yourselves, you foolish geese," said Father Rowley
rising. "I'm not going to sit through another act. Come along, Mark,
come along, come along. I am not happy. I am not happy," he cried in an
absurd falsetto.

Then roaring with laughter at his own imitation of Melisande, he went
rolling out of the theatre and sniffed contentedly the air of the
Strand.

"I told Lady Pechell we shouldn't arrive till tea-time, so we'd better
go and ride on the top of a bus as far as the city."

It was an exhilarating ride, although Mark found that Father Rowley
occupied much more than half of the seat for two. About five o'clock
they came to the shadowy house in Portman Square in which they were to
stay till Monday. The Missioner was as much at home here as he was at
Silchester College or in a railway compartment full of bluejackets. He
knew as well how to greet the old butler as Lady Pechell and her sister
Mrs. Mannakay, to all of whom equally his visit was an obvious delight.
Not even Father Rowley's bulk could dwarf the proportions of that double
drawing-room or of that heavy Victorian furniture. He took his place
among the cases of stuffed humming birds and glass-topped tables of
curios, among the brocade curtains with shaped vallances and golden
tassels, among the chandeliers and lacquered cabinets and cages of
avadavats, sitting there like a great Buddha while he chatted to the two
old ladies of a society that seemed to Mark as remote as the people in
_Pelleas and Melisande_. From time to time one of the old ladies would
try to draw Mark into the conversation; but he preferred listening and
let them think that his monosyllabic answers signified a shyness that
did not want to be conspicuous. Soon they appeared to forget his
existence. Deep in the lap of an armchair covered with a glazed chintz
of Sevres roses and sable he was enthralled by that chronicle of
phantoms, that frieze of ghosts passing before his eyes, while the
present faded away upon the growing quiet of the London evening and
became remote as the distant roar of the traffic, which itself was
remote as the sound of the sea in a shell. Fox-hunting squires caracoled
by with the air of paladins; and there was never a lady mentioned that
did not take the fancy like a princess in an old tale.

"He's universal," Mark thought. "And that's one of the secrets of being
a great priest. And that's why he can talk about Heaven and make you
feel that he knows what he's talking about. And if I can discern what he
is," Mark went on to himself, "I can be what he is. And I will be," he
vowed in the rapture of a sudden revelation.

On Sunday morning Father Rowley preached in the fashionable church of
St. Cyprian's, South Kensington, after which they lunched at the
vicarage. The Reverend Drogo Mortemer was a dapper little bachelor (it
would be inappropriate to call such a worldly little fellow a celibate)
who considered himself the leader of the most advanced section of the
Catholic Party in the Church of England. He certainly had a finger in
the pie of every well-cooked intrigue, knew everybody worth knowing in
London, and had the private ears of several bishops. No more skilful
place-finder existed, and any member of the advanced section who wanted
a place for himself or for a friend had recourse to Mortemer.

"But the little man is all right," Father Rowley had told Mark. "Many
people would have used his talents to further himself. He has every
qualification for the episcopate except one--he believes in the
Sacraments."

Mr. Mortemer was the only son of James Mortimer of the famous firm of
Hadley and Mortimer. His father had become rich before he married the
youngest daughter of an ancient but impoverished house, and soon after
his marriage he died. Mrs. Mortemer brought up her son to forget that
his father had been a tradesman and to remember that he was rich. In
order to dissociate herself from a partnership which now existed only in
name above the plate glass of the enormous shop in Oxford Street Mrs.
Mortemer took to spelling her name with an "e," which as she pointed out
was the original spelling. She had already gratified her romantic fancy
by calling her son Drogo. Harrow and Cambridge completed what Mrs.
Mortemer began, and if Drogo had not developed what his mother spoke of
as a "mania for religion" there is no reason to suppose that he would
not one day have been a cabinet minister. However, as it was, Mrs.
Mortemer died cherishing with her last breath a profound conviction that
her son would soon be a bishop. That he was not likely to become a
bishop was due to the fact that with all his worldliness, with all his
wealth, with all his love of wire-pulling, with all his respect for rank
he held definite opinions and was not afraid to belong to a minority
unpopular in high places. He had too a simple piety that made his church
a power in spite of fashionable weddings and exorbitant pew rents.

"The sort of thing we're trying to do here in a small way," he said to
Father Rowley at lunch, "is what the Jesuits are doing at Farm Street.
My two assistant priests are both rather brilliant young people, and I'm
always on the look out to get more young men of the right type."

"You'd better offer Lidderdale a title when he's ready to be ordained."

"Why, of course I will," said the dapper little vicar with a courteous
smile for Mark. "Do take some more claret, Father Rowley. It's rather a
specialty of ours here. We have a friend in Bordeaux who buys for us."

It was typical of Mr. Mortemer to use the plural.

"There you are, Mark Anthony. I've secured you a title."

"Mr. Mortemer is only being polite," said Mark.

"No, no, my dear boy, on the contrary I meant absolutely what I said."

He seemed worried by Mark's distrust of his sincerity, and for the rest
of lunch he laid himself out to entertain his less important guest,
talking with a slight excess of charm about the lack of vitality, loss
of influence, and oriental barbarism of the Orthodox Church.

"_Enfin_, Asiatic religion," he said. "Don't you agree with me, Mr.
Lidderdale? And our Philorthodox brethren who would like to bring about
reunion with such a Church . . . the result would be dreadful . . .
Eurasian . . . yes, I must confess that sometimes I sympathize with the
behaviour of the Venetians in the Fourth Crusade."

Father Rowley looked at his watch and announced that it was time to
start for Poplar, where he was to address a large gathering of
Socialists in the Town Hall. Mr. Mortemer made a _moue_.

"Nevertheless I'm bound to admit that you have a strong case. Perhaps
I'm like the young man with large possessions," he burst out with a
sudden intense gravity. "Perhaps after all the St. Cyprian's religion
isn't Christianity at all. Just Catholicism. Nothing else."

"You'd better come down to Poplar with Mark and me," Father Rowley
suggested.

But Mr. Mortemer shook his head with a smile.

The Poplar meeting was crowded. In an atmosphere of good fellowship one
speaker after another got up and denounced the present order. It was
difficult to follow the arguments of the speakers, because the audience
cheered so many isolated statements. A number of people shook hands
with Father Rowley when he had finished his speech and wished that
there were more parsons like him. Father Rowley had not indulged in
political attacks, but had contented himself with praise of the poor. He
had spoken movingly, but Mark was not moved by his words. He had a vague
feeling that Father Rowley was being exploited. He was dazed by the
exuberance of the meeting and was glad when it was over and he was back
in Portman Square talking to Lady Pechell and Mrs. Mannakay while Father
Rowley rested for an hour before he walked round the corner to preach in
old Jamaica Chapel, a galleried Georgian conventicle that was now the
Church of the Visitation, but was still generally known as Jamaica
Chapel. Evensong was half over when the preacher arrived, and the church
being full Mark was given a chair by the sidesman in a dark corner,
which presently became darker when Father Rowley went up into the
pulpit, for all the lights were lowered except those above the
preacher's head, and nothing was visible in the church except the
luminous crucifix upon the High Altar. The warmth and darkness brought
out the scent of the many women gathered together; the atmosphere was
charged with human emotion so that Mark sitting in his corner could
fancy that he was lost in the sensuous glooms behind some _Mater
Addolorata_ of the seventeenth century. He longed to be back in Chatsea.
He was dismayed at the prospect of one day perhaps having to cope with
this quality of devotion. He shuddered at the thought, and for the first
time he wondered if he had not a vocation for the monastic life. But was
it a vocation if one longed to escape the world? Must not a true
vocation be a longing to draw nearer to God? Oh, this nauseating bouquet
of feminine perfumes . . . it was impossible to pay attention to the
sermon.

Mark went to bed early with a headache; but in the morning he woke
refreshed with the knowledge that they were going back to Chatsea,
although before they reached home the journey had to be broken at High
Thorpe whither Father Rowley had been summoned to an interview by the
Bishop of Silchester on account of refusing to communicate some people
at the mid-day celebration. Dr. Crawshay was at that time so ill that
he received the Chatsea Missioner in bed, and on hearing that he was
accompanied by a young man who hoped to take Holy Orders the Bishop sent
word for Mark to come up to his bedroom, where he gave him his blessing.
Mark never forgot the picture of the Bishop lying there under a
chequered coverlet looking like an old ivory chessman, a white bishop
that had been taken in the game and put off the board.

"And now, Mr. Rowley," Dr. Crawshay began when he had motioned Mark to a
chair. "To return to the subject under discussion between us. How can
you justify by any rubric of the Book of Common Prayer non-communicating
attendance?"

"I don't justify it by any rubric," the Missioner replied.

"Oh, you don't, don't you?"

"I justify it by the needs of human nature," the Missioner continued.
"In order to provide the necessary three communicants for the mid-day
Mass. . . ."

"One moment, Mr. Rowley," the Bishop interrupted. "I beg you most
earnestly to avoid that word. You know my old-fashioned Protestant
notions," he added, and his eyes so tired with pain twinkled for a
moment. "To me there is always something distasteful about that word."

"What shall I substitute, my lord?" the Missioner asked. "Do you object
to the word 'Eucharist'?"

"No, I don't object to that, though why you should want a Greek name
when we have a beautiful English name like the Lord's Supper, why you
should want to employ such a barbarism as 'Eucharist' I don't know.
However, if you must use Eucharist, use Eucharist. And now, by wandering
off into a discussion of terminology I forget where we were. Oh yes, you
were on the point of justifying non-communicating attendance by the
needs of human nature."

"I am afraid, my lord, that in a district like St. Agnes' it is
impossible always to ensure communicants for sometimes as many as four
early Lord's Suppers said by visiting priests."

The Bishop's eyes twinkled again.

"Yes, there you rather have me, Mr. Rowley. Four early Lord's Suppers
does sound, I must admit, a little odd."

"Four early Eucharists followed by another for children at half-past
nine, and the parochial sung Mass--sung Eucharist."

"Children?" Dr. Crawshay repeated. "You surely don't let children go to
the Celebration?"

"_Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of
such is the Kingdom of Heaven_," Father Rowley reminded the Bishop.

"Yes, yes, I happen to have heard that text before. But the devil, Mr.
Rowley, can cite Scripture to his purpose."

"In the last letter I wrote to your lordship about the services at St.
Agnes' I particularly mentioned our children's Eucharist."

"Did you, Mr. Rowley, did you? I had quite forgotten that."

Father Rowley turned to Mark for verification.

"Oh, if Mr. Rowley remembers that he did write, there is no need to call
witnesses. I have had to complain a good deal of him, but I have never
had to complain of his frankness. It must be my fault, but I certainly
hadn't understood that there was definitely a children's Eucharist. This
then, I fancy, must be the service at which those three ladies
complained of your treatment of them."

"What three ladies?" asked the priest.

"Dear me, I'm growing very unbusinesslike, I'm afraid. I thought I had
enclosed you a copy of their letter to me when I wrote to invite an
explanation of your high-handed action."

The Bishop sighed. The details of these ecclesiastical squabbles
distracted him at a time when he should soon leave this fretful earth
behind him. He continued wearily:

"These were the three ladies who were refused communion by you at, as I
understood, the mid-day Celebration, which now turns out to be what you
call the children's Eucharist."

"It is perfectly true, my lord," Father Rowley admitted, "that on Sunday
week three women did present themselves from a neighbouring parish."

"Ah, they were not parishioners?"

"Certainly not, my lord."

"Which is a point in your favour."

"Throughout the service they sat looking through opera-glasses at Snaith
who was officiating, and greatly scandalizing the children, who are not
used to such behaviour in church."

"Such behaviour was certainly most objectionable," the Bishop agreed.

"I happened to be sitting at the back of the church, thinking out my
sermon, and their behaviour annoyed me so much that I sent for the
sacristan to go and order a cab. I then went up and whispered to them
that inasmuch as they were strangers it would be better if they went and
made their Communion in the next parish where the service would be more
lenient to their theory of worship. I took one of them by the arm, led
her gently down the aisle and out into the street, and handed her into
the cab. Her two companions followed her; I paid the cabman; and that
was the end of the matter."

The Bishop lay back on the pillows and thought for a moment or two in
silence.

"Yes," he said finally, "I think that in this case you were justified.
At the same time your justification by the Book of Common Prayer lay in
the fact that these women did not give you notice beforehand of their
intention to communicate. I think I must insist that in future you make
some arrangement with your workers and helpers to secure the requisite
minimum of communicants for every celebration. Personally, I think six
on a Sunday and four on a week-day far too many. I think the repetition
has a tendency to cheapen the Sacrament."

"_By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God
continually_," Father Rowley quoted from the Epistle to the Hebrews.

"Yes, yes, I know," said the Bishop. "But I wish you wouldn't drag in
these texts. They really have nothing whatever to do with the point in
question. Please realize, Mr. Rowley, that I allow you a great deal of
latitude at St. Agnes' because I am aware of what a great influence for
good you have been among these poor people."

"Your lordship has always been consideration itself."

"If that be your opinion, I want you to obey my ruling in this small
matter. I am continually being involved in correspondence on your
account with Vigilance Societies of the type of the Protestant Alliance,
and I shall give myself the pleasure of answering their complaints
without at the same time not, as I hope, impeding your splendid work. I
wish also, if God allows me to leave this bed again, to take the next
Confirmation in St. Agnes' myself. My presence there will afford you a
measure of official support which will not, I venture to believe, be a
disadvantage to your work. I do not expect you to modify your method of
conducting the service too much. That would savour of hypocrisy, both on
your side and on mine. But there are one or two things which I should
prefer not to see again. Last time you dressed a number of your
choir-boys in red cassocks."

"The servers, you mean, my lord?"

"Whatever you call them, they wear red cassocks, red slippers, and red
skull caps. That I really cannot stand. You must put them into black
cassocks and leave their caps and slippers in the vestry cupboard.
Further, I do not wish that most conspicuous processional crucifix to be
carried about in front of me wherever I go."

"Would you like the crucifix to be taken down from the altar as well?"
Father Rowley asked.

"No, that can stay: I shan't see that one."

"What date will suit your lordship for the Confirmation?"

"Ought not the question to have been rather what date will suit you, for
I have never yet been fortunate enough, and I never hope to be fortunate
enough, to fix upon a date straight off that will suit you, Mr. Rowley.
Let me know that later. In any case, my presence must depend, alas, upon
the state of my health. Now, how are you getting on with your new
church?"

"We shall be ready to open it in the spring of next year if all goes
well. Do you think that a new licence will be required? The new St.
Agnes' is joined to the present church by the sacristy."

The Bishop considered the question for a moment.

"No, I think that the old licence will serve. There is no prospect yet
of making St. Agnes' into a parish, and I would rather take advantage of
the technicality, all things being considered. Good-bye, Mr. Rowley. God
bless you."

The Bishop raised his thin arm.

"God bless your lordship."

"You are always in my prayers, Mr. Rowley. I think much about you lying
here on the threshold of Eternal Life."

The Bishop turned to Mark who knelt beside the bed.

"Young man, I would fain be spared long enough to ordain you to the
service of Almighty God, but you are still young and I am very near to
death. You could not have before you a better example of a Christian
gentleman than your friend and my friend Mr. Rowley. I shall say nothing
about his example as a clergyman of the Church of England. Remember me,
both of you, in your prayers."

The Bishop sank back exhausted, and his visitors went quietly out of the
room.




CHAPTER XIX

THE ALTAR FOR THE DEAD


All went as well with the new St. Agnes' as the Bishop had hoped.
Columns of red brick were covered in marble and alabaster by the votive
offerings of individuals or the subscriptions of different Silchester
Houses; the baldacchino was given by one rich old lady, the pavement of
the church by another; the Duke of Birmingham contributed a thurible;
Oxford Old Siltonians decorated the Lady Chapel; Cambridge Old
Siltonians found the gold mosaic for the dome of the apse. Father Rowley
begged money for the fabric far and wide, and the architect, the
contractors, and the workmen, all Chatsea men, gave of their best and
asked as little as possible in return. The new church was to be opened
on Easter morning. But early in Lent the Bishop of Silchester died in
the bed from which he had never risen since the day Father Rowley and
Mark received his blessing. The diocese mourned him, for he was a gentle
scholar, wise in his knowledge of men, simple and pious in his own life.

Dr. Harvard Cheesman, the new Bishop, was translated from the see of
Ipswich to which he had been preferred from the Chapel Royal in the
Savoy. Bishop Cheesman possessed all the episcopal qualities. He had the
hands of a physician and the brow of a scholar. He was filled with a
sense of the importance of his position, and in that perhaps was
included n sense of the importance of himself. He was eloquent in
public, grandiloquent in private. To him Father Rowley wrote shortly
after his enthronement.

     St. Agnes' House,

     Keppel Street,

     Chatsea.

     March 24.

     My Lord Bishop,

     I am unwilling to trouble you at a moment when you must be
     unusually busy; but I shall be glad to hear from you about the
     opening of the new church of the Silchester College Mission, which
     was fixed for Easter Sunday. Your predecessor, Bishop Crawshay, did
     not think that any new licence would be necessary, because the new
     St. Agnes' is joined by the sacristy to the old mission church.
     There is no idea at present of asking you to constitute St. Agnes'
     a parish and therefore the question of consecration does not arise.
     I regret to say that Bishop Crawshay thoroughly disapproved of our
     services and ritual, and I think he may have felt unwilling to
     commit himself to endorsing them by the formal grant of a new
     licence. May I hear from you at your convenience, and may I
     respectfully add that your lordship has the prayers of all my
     people?

     I am your lordship's obedient servant,

     John Rowley.

To which the Lord Bishop of Silchester replied as follows:

     High Thorpe Castle.

     March 26.

     Dear Mr. Rowley,

     As my predecessor Bishop Crawshay did not think a new licence would
     be necessary I have no doubt that you can go ahead with your plan
     of opening the new St. Agnes' on Easter Sunday. At the same time I
     cannot help feeling that a new licence would be desirable and I am
     asking Canon Whymper as Rural Dean to pay a visit and make the
     necessary report. I have heard much of your work, and I pray that
     it may be as blessed in my time as it was in the time of my
     predecessor. I am grateful to your people for their prayers and I
     am, my dear Mr. Rowley,

     Yours very truly,

     Harvard Silton.

Canon Whymper, the Rector of Chatsea and Rural Dean, visited the new
church on the Monday of Passion week. On Saturday Father Rowley received
the following letter from the Bishop:

     High Thorpe Castle.

     April 9.

     Dear Mr. Rowley,

     I have just received Canon Whymper's report upon the new church of
     the Silchester College Mission, and I think before you open the
     church on Easter Sunday I should like to talk over one or two
     comparatively unimportant details with you personally. Moreover, it
     would give me pleasure to make your acquaintance and hear something
     of your method of work at St. Agnes'. Perhaps you will come to High
     Thorpe on Monday. There is a train which arrives at High Thorpe at
     2.36. So I shall expect you at the Castle at 2.42.

     Yours very truly,

     Harvard Silton.

Mark paid his second visit to High Thorpe Castle on one of those serene
April mornings that sail like swans across the lake of time. The
episcopal standard on the highest turret hung limp; the castle quivered
in the sunlight; the lawns wearing their richest green seemed as far
from being walked upon as the blue sky above them. Whether it was that
Mark was nervous about the result of the coming interview or whether it
was that his first visit to High Thorpe had been the climax of so many
new experiences, he was certainly much more sharply aware on this
occasion of what the Castle stood for. Looking back to the morning when
he and Father Rowley sat with Bishop Crawshay in his bedroom, he
realized how much the personality of the dead bishop had dominated his
surroundings and how little all this dignity and splendour, which must
have been as imposing then as it was now, had impressed his imagination.
There came over Mark, when he and Father Rowley were walking silently
along the drive, such a foreboding of the result of this visit that he
almost asked the priest why they bothered to continue their journey, why
they did not turn round immediately and take the next train back to
Chatsea. But before he had time to say anything Father Rowley had pulled
the chain of the door bell, the butler had opened the door, and they
were waiting the Bishop's pleasure in a room that smelt of the best
leather and the best furniture polish. It was a room that so long as Dr.
Cheesman held the see of Silchester would be given over to the
preliminary nervousness of the diocesan clergy, who would one after
another look at that steel engraving of Jesus Christ preaching by the
Sea of Galilee, and who when they had finished looking at that would
look at those two oil paintings of still life, those rich and sombre
accumulations of fish, fruit and game, that glowed upon the walls with a
kind of sinister luxury. Waiting rooms are all much alike, the doctor's,
the dentist's, the bishop's, the railway-station's; they may differ
slightly in externals, but they all possess the same atmosphere of
transitory discomfort. They have all occupied human beings with the
perusal of books they would never otherwise have dreamed of opening,
with the observation of pictures they would never otherwise have thought
of regarding twice.

"Would you step this way," the butler requested. "His lordship is
waiting for you in the library."

The two culprits, for by this time Mark was oblivious of every other
emotion except one of profound guilt, guilt of what he could not say,
but most unmistakably guilt, walked along toward the Bishop's
library--Father Rowley like a fat and naughty child who knows he is
going to be reproved for eating too many tarts.

There was a studied poise in the attitude of the Bishop when they
entered. One shapely leg trailed negligently behind his chair ready at
any moment to serve as the pivot upon which its owner could swing round
again into the every-day world; the other leg firmly wedged against the
desk supported the burden of his concentration. The Bishop swung round
on the shapely leg in attendance, and in a single sweeping gesture
blotted the last page of the letter he had been writing and shook Father
Rowley by the hand.

"I am delighted to have an opportunity of meeting you, Mr. Rowley," he
began, and then paused a moment with an inquiring look at Mark.

"I thought you wouldn't mind, my lord, if I brought with me young
Lidderdale, who is reading for Holy Orders and working with us at St.
Agnes'. I am apt to forget sometimes exactly to what I have and have not
committed myself and I thought your lordship would not object. . . ."

"To a witness?" interposed the Bishop in a tone of courtly banter.
"Come, come, Mr. Rowley, had I known you were going to be so suspicious
of me I should have asked my domestic chaplain to be present on my
side."

Mark, supposing that the Bishop was annoyed by his presence at the
interview, made a movement to retire, whereupon the Bishop tapped him
paternally upon the shoulder and said:

"Nonsense, non-sense, I was merely indulging in a mild pleasantry. Sit
down, Mr. Rowley. Mr. Lidderdale I think you will find that chair quite
comfortable. Well, Mr. Rowley," he began, "I have heard much of you and
your work. Our friend Canon Whymper spoke of it with enthusiasm. Yes,
yes, with enthusiasm. I often regret that in the course of my ministry I
have never had the good fortune to be called to work among the poor, the
real poor. You have been privileged, Mr. Rowley, if I may be allowed to
say so, greatly, immensely privileged. You find a wilderness, and you
make of it a garden. Wonderful. Wonderful."

Mark began to feel uncomfortable, and he thought by the way Father
Rowley was puffing his cheeks that he too was beginning to feel
uncomfortable. The Missioner looked as if he was blowing away the lather
of the soap that the Bishop was using upon him so prodigally.

"Some other time, Mr. Rowley, when I have a little leisure. . . . I
perceive the need of making myself acquainted with every side of my new
diocese--a little leisure, yes . . . sometime I should like to have a
long talk with you about all the details of your work at Chatsea, of
which as I said Canon Whymper has spoken to me most enthusiastically.
The question, however, immediately before us this morning is the licence
of your new church. Since writing to you first I have thought the matter
over most earnestly. I have given the matter the gravest consideration.
I have consulted Canon Whymper and I have come to the conclusion that
bearing all the circumstances in mind it will be wiser for you to apply,
and I hope be granted, a new licence. With this decision in my mind I
asked Canon Whymper in his capacity as Rural Dean to report upon the new
church. Mr. Rowley, his report is extremely favourable. He writes to me
of the noble fabric, noble is the actual epithet he employs, yes, the
very phrase. He expresses his conviction that you are to be
congratulated, most warmly congratulated, Mr. Rowley, upon your vigorous
work. I believe I am right in saying that all the money necessary to
erect this noble edifice has been raised by yourself?"

"Not all of it," said Father Rowley. "I still owe L3,000."

"A mere trifle," said the Bishop, dismissing the sum with the airy
gesture of a conjurer who palms a coin. "A mere trifle compared with
what you have already raised. I know that at the moment there is no
question of constituting as a parish what is at present merely a
district; but such a contingency must be borne in mind by both of us,
and inasmuch as that would imply consecration by myself I am unwilling
to prejudice any decision I might have to take later, should the
necessity for consecration arise, by allowing you at the moment a wider
latitude than I might be prepared to allow you in the future. Yes, Canon
Whymper writes most enthusiastically of the noble fabric." The Bishop
paused, drummed with his fingers on the arm of his chair as if he were
testing the pitch of his instrument, and then taking a deep breath
boomed forth: "But Mr. Rowley, in his report he informs me that in the
middle of the south aisle exists an altar or Holy Table expressly and
exclusively designed for what he was told are known as masses for the
dead."

"That is perfectly true," said Father Rowley.

"Ah," said the Bishop, shaking his head gravely. "I did not indeed
imagine that Canon Whymper would be misinformed about such an important
feature; but I did not think it right to act without ascertaining first
from you that such is indeed the case. Mr. Rowley, it would be difficult
for me to express how grievously it pains me to have to seem to
interfere in the slightest degree with the successful prosecution of
your work among the poor of Chatsea, especially to make such
interference one of the first of my actions in a new diocese; but the
responsibilities of a bishop are grave. He cannot lightly endorse a
condition of affairs, a method of services which in his inmost heart
after the deepest confederation he feels is repugnant to the spirit of
the Church Of England. . . ."

"I question that opinion, my lord," said the Missioner.

"Mr. Rowley, pray allow me to finish. We have little time at our
disposal for a theological argument which would in any case be
fruitless, for as I told you I have already examined the question with
the deepest consideration from every standpoint. Though I may respect
your opinions in my private capacity, for I do not wish to impugn for
one moment the sincerity of your beliefs, in my episcopal, or what I may
call my public character, I can only condemn them utterly. Utterly, Mr.
Rowley, and completely."

"But this altar, my lord," shouted Father Rowley, springing to his feet,
to the alarm of Mark, who thought he was going to shake his fist in the
Bishop's face, "this altar was subscribed for by the poor of St. Agnes',
by all the poor of St. Agnes', as a memorial of the lives of sailors and
marines of St. Agnes' lost in the sinking of the _King Harry_. Your
predecessor, Bishop Crawshay, knew of its existence, actually saw it and
commented on its ugliness; yet when I told him the circumstances in
which it had been erected he was deeply moved by the beautiful idea.
This altar has been in use for nearly three years. Masses for the dead
have been said there time after time. This altar is surrounded by
memorials of my dead people. It is one of the most vital factors in my
work there. You ask me to remove it, before you have been in the diocese
a month, before you have had time to see with your own eyes what an
influence for good it has on the daily lives of the poor people who
built it. My lord, I will not remove the altar."

While Father Rowley was speaking the Bishop of Silchester had been
looking like a man on a railway platform who has been ambushed by a
whistling engine.

"Mr. Rowley, Mr. Rowley," he said, "I pray you to control yourself. I
beg you to understand that this is not a mere question of red tape, if I
may use the expression, of one extra altar or Holy Table, but it is a
question of the services said at that altar or Holy Table."

"That is precisely what I am trying to point out to your lordship,"
said Father Rowley angrily.

"You yourself told me when you wrote to me that Bishop Crawshay
disapproved of much that was done at St. Agnes'. It was you who put it
into my head at the beginning of our correspondence that you were not
asking me formally to open the new church, because you were doubtful of
the effect your method of worship might have upon me. I don't wish for a
moment to suggest that you were trying to bundle on one side the
question of the licence, before I had had a moment to look round me in
my new diocese, I say I do _not_ think this for a moment; but inasmuch
as the question has come before me officially, as sooner or later it
must have come before me officially, I cannot allow my future action to
be prejudiced by giving you liberties now that I may not be prepared to
allow you later on. Suppose that in three years' time the question of
consecrating the new St. Agnes' arises and the legality of this third
altar or Holy Table is questioned, how should I be able to turn round
and forbid then what I have not forbidden now?"

"Your lordship prefers to force me to resign?"

"Force you to resign, Mr. Rowley?" the Bishop repeated in aggrieved
accents. "What can I possibly have said that could lead you to suppose
for one moment that I was desirous of forcing you to resign? I make
allowance for your natural disappointment. I make every allowance.
Otherwise Mr. Rowley I should be tempted to characterize such a
statement as cruel. As cruel, Mr. Rowley."

"What other alternative have I?"

"I should have said, Mr. Rowley, that you have one other very obvious
alternative, and that is to accept my ruling upon the subject of this
third altar or Holy Table. When I shall receive an assurance that you
will do so, I shall with pleasure, with great pleasure, give you a new
licence."

"I could not possibly do that," said the Missioner. "I could not
possibly go back to my people to-night and tell them this Holy Week that
what I have been teaching them for ten years is a lie. I would rather
resign a thousand times."

"That is a far more accurate statement than your previous assertion
that I was forcing you to resign."

"When will you have found a priest to take my place temporarily?" the
Missioner asked in a chill voice. "It is unlikely that the Silchester
College authorities will find another missioner at once, and I think it
rests with your lordship to find a locum tenens. I do not wish to
disappoint my people about the date of the opening of their new church.
They have been looking forward to this Easter for so long now. Poor
dears!"

Father Rowley sighed out the last ejaculation to himself, and his sigh
ran through the Bishop's opulent library like a dull wind. Mark had a
mad impulse to tell the Bishop the story of his father and the Lima
Street Mission. His father had resigned on Palm Sunday. Oh, this ghastly
dream. . . . Father Rowley leave Chatsea! It was unimaginable. . . .

But the Bishop was overthrowing the work of ten years with apparently as
little consciousness of the ruin he was creating as a boar that has
rooted up an ant-heap with his snout.

"Quite so. Quite so, Mr. Rowley. I certainly see your point," the Bishop
declared. "I will do my best to secure a priest, but meanwhile . . . let
me see. I need scarcely say how painful your decision has been, what
pain it has caused me. Let me see, yes, in the circumstances I agree
with you that it would be inadvisable to postpone the opening. I think
from every point of view it would be wisest to proceed according to
schedule. Could not this altar or Holy Table be railed off temporarily,
I do not say muffled up, but could not some indication be given of the
fact that I do not sanction its use? In that case I should have no
objection, indeed on the contrary I should be only too happy for you to
carry on with your work either until I can find a temporary substitute
or until the Silchester College authorities can appoint a new missioner.
Dear me, this is dreadfully painful for me."

Father Rowley stared at the Bishop in astonishment.

"You want me to continue?" he asked. "Really, my lord, you will excuse
my plain speaking if I tell you that I am amazed at your point of view.
A moment ago you told me that I must either remove this altar or
resign."

"Pardon me, Mr. Rowley. I did not mention the word 'resign.'"

"And now," the Missioner went on without paying any attention to the
interruption. "You are ready to let me stay at St. Agnes' until a
successor can conveniently be found. If my teaching is as pernicious as
you think, I cannot understand your lordship's tolerating my officiating
for another hour in your diocese."

"Mr. Rowley, you are introducing into this unhappy affair a great deal
of extraneous feeling. I do not reproach you. I know that you are
labouring under the stress of strong emotion. I overlook the manner
which you have adopted towards me. I overlook it, Mr. Rowley. Before we
close this interview, which I must once more assure you is as painful
for me as for you, I want you to understand how deeply I regret having
been forced to take the action I have. I ask your prayers, Mr. Rowley,
and please be sure that you always have and always will have my prayers.
Have you anything more you would like to say? Do not let me give you the
impression from my alluding to the heavy work of entering upon the
duties and responsibilities of a new diocese that I desire to hurry you
in any way this afternoon. You will want to catch the 4.10 back to
Chatsea I have no doubt. Too early perhaps for tea. Good-bye, Mr.
Rowley. Good-bye, Mr. . . ." the Bishop paused and looked inquiringly at
Mark. "Lidderdale, ah, yes," he said. "For the moment I forgot.
Good-bye, Mr. Lidderdale. A simple railing will, I think be sufficient
for the altar in question, Mr. Rowley. I perfectly appreciate your
motive in asking the Bishop of Barbadoes to officiate at the opening. I
quite see that you did not wish to commit me to an approval of a ritual
which might be more advanced than I might consider proper in my diocese.
. . . Good-bye, good-bye."

Father Rowley and Mark found themselves once more in the drive. The
episcopal standard floated in the wind, which had sprung up while they
were with the Bishop. They walked silently to the railway station under
a fast clouding sky.




CHAPTER XX

FATHER ROWLEY


The first episcopal act of the Bishop of Silchester drove many poor
souls away from God. It was a time of deep emotional stress for all the
St. Agnes' workers, and Father Rowley could not show himself in Keppel
Street without being surrounded by a crowd of supplicants who with tears
and lamentations begged him to give up the new St. Agnes' and to remain
in the old mission church rather than be lost to them for ever. There
were some who even wished him to surrender the Third Altar; but in his
last sermon preached on the Sunday night before he left Chatsea, he
spoke to them and said:

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The 15th verse of the 21st Chapter of the Holy Gospel according to Saint
John: _Feed my lambs._

"It is difficult for me, dear people, to preach to you this evening for
the last time as your missioner, to preach, moreover, the last sermon
that will ever be preached in this little mission church which has meant
so much to you and so much to me. By the mercy of God man does not
realize at the moment all that is implied by an occasion like this. He
speaks with his mouth words of farewell; but his heart still beats to
what was and what is, rather than to what will be.

"When I took as my text to-night those three words of Our Lord to St.
Peter, _Feed my Lambs_, I took them as words that might be applied,
first to the Lord Bishop of this diocese, secondly to the priest who
will take my place in this Mission, and thirdly and perhaps most
poignantly of all to myself. I cannot bring myself to suppose that in
this moment of grief, in this moment of bitterness, almost of despair I
am able to speak fairly of the Bishop of Silchester's action in
compelling me to resign what has counted for all that is most precious
in my life on earth. And already, in saying that the Bishop has
compelled me to resign, I am not speaking with perfect accuracy,
inasmuch as if I had been willing to surrender what I considered one of
the essential articles of our belief, the Bishop would have been glad to
licence the new St. Agnes' and to give his countenance and his support
to me, the unworthy priest in charge of it.

"I want you therefore, dear people, to try to look at the matter from
the standpoint of the Bishop. I want you to try to understand that in
objecting to our little altar for the dead he is objecting not so much
to the altar itself as to the services said at that altar. If it had
merely been a question between us of a third altar, whether here or in
the new St. Agnes', I should have found it possible, however
unwillingly, to ask you--you, who out of your hard-earned savings built
that altar--to allow it to be removed. Yes, I should have been selfish
enough to ask you to make that great sacrifice on my account. But when
the Bishop insisted that I and the priests who have borne with me and
worked with me and preached with me and prayed with me all these years
should abstain from saying those Masses which we believe and which you
believe help our dear ones waiting for the Day of Judgment--why, then, I
felt that my surrender would have been a denial of our dear Lord, such a
denial as St. Peter himself uttered in the hall of the high-priest's
house. But the Bishop does not believe that our prayers here below have
any efficacy or can in any way help the blessed dead. He does not
believe in such prayers, and he believes that those who do believe in
such prayers are wrong, not merely according to the teaching of the
Prayer Book, but also according to the revelation of Almighty God. I do
not want you to say, as you will be tempted to say, that the Bishop of
Silchester in condemning our method of services at St. Agnes' is
condemning them with an eye to public opinion or to political advantage.
Alas, I have myself been tempted to say bitter words about him, to think
bitter thoughts; but at this moment, with that last _Nunc Dimittis_
ringing in my ears, _Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace_,
I realize that the Bishop is acting honestly and sincerely, however
much he may be acting wrongly and hastily. It is dreadful for me at this
moment of parting to feel that some of you here to-night may be turned
from the face of God because you are angered against one of God's
ministers. If any poor words of mine have power to touch your hearts, I
beg you to believe that in giving us this great trial of our faith God
is acting with that mysterious justice and omniscience of which we speak
idly without in the least apprehending what He means. I shall say no
more in defence and explanation of the Bishop's action, and if he should
consider my defence and explanation of it a piece of presumption I send
him at this solemn moment of farewell a message that I shall never cease
to pray that he may long guide you on the way that leads up to eternal
happiness.

"I can speak more freely of what your attitude should be towards Father
Hungerford, the priest who is coming to take my place and who is going
with God's help to do far more for you here than ever I have been able
to do. I want you all to put yourselves in his place; I want you all to
think of him to-night wondering, fearing, doubting, hoping, and praying.
I want you to imagine how difficult he must be feeling the situation is
for him. He will come here to-morrow conscious that there is nobody in
this district of ours who does not feel, whether he be a communicant or
not, that the Bishop had no right to intervene so soon and without
greater knowledge of his new diocese in a district like ours. I cannot
help knowing how much I myself am to blame in this particular; but, my
dear people, it has been very hard for me during these last two weeks
always to be brave and hopeful. Often I have found those entreaties on
my doorstep almost more than I could endure to hear, those letters on my
desk almost more than I could bear to read. So, if you want to do the
one thing that can comfort me in this bitter hour of mine I entreat you
to show Father Hungerford that your faith and your hope and your love do
not depend on your affection for an unworthy priest, but upon that
deeper, greater, nobler affection for the word of God. There is only one
way in which you can show Father Hungerford that Jesus Christ lives in
your hearts, and that is by going to Confession and to Communion and by
hearing Mass as you have done all this time. Show him by your behaviour
in the street, by your kindness and consideration at home, by your
devotion and reverence in church, that you appreciate the mercies of
God, that you appreciate what it means to have Jesus Christ upon your
altar, that you are, in a word, Christians.

"And now at last I must think of those words of our dear Lord as they
apply to myself: _Feed my lambs._ And as I repeat them, I ask myself
again if I have done right, for I am troubled in spirit, and I wonder if
I ought to have given up that third altar and to have remained here. But
even as I wonder this, even as at this moment I stand in this pulpit for
the last time, a voice within me forbids me to doubt. No, my clear folk,
I cannot surrender that altar. I cannot come to you and say that what I
have been teaching for ten years was of so little value, of so little
importance, of so little worth, that for the sake of policy it can be
abandoned with a stroke of the pen or a nod of the head. I stand here
looking out into the future, hearing like angelic trumpets those three
words sounding and resounding upon the great void of time: _Feed my
lambs!_ I ask myself what work lies before me, what lambs I shall have
to feed elsewhere; I ask myself in my misery whether God has found me
unworthy of the trust He gave me. I feel that if I leave St. Agnes'
to-morrow with the thought that you still cherish angry and resentful
feelings I shall sink to a lower depth of humiliation and depression
than I have yet reached. But if I can leave St. Agnes' with the
assurance that my work here will go steadily forward to the glory of God
from the point at which I renounced it, I shall know that God must have
some other purpose for the remainder of my life, some other mission to
which He intends to call me. To you, my dear people, to you who have
borne with me patiently, to you who have tolerated so sweetly my
infirmities, to you who have been kind to my failings, to you who have
taught me so much more of our dear Lord Jesus Christ than I have been
able to teach you, to you I say good-bye. I cannot harrow your feelings
or my own by saying any more. In the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Notwithstanding these words, the first episcopal act of the Bishop of
Silchester drove many poor souls away from God.

The effect upon Mark, had his religion been merely a pastime of
adolescence, would have been disastrous. Owing to human nature's respect
for the conspicuous there is nothing so demoralizing to faith as the
failure of a leader of religion to set forth in his own actions the word
of God. Mark, however, looked at the whole business more from an
ecclesiastical angle. He had reason to condemn the Bishop for
unchristian behaviour; but he preferred to condemn him for uncatholic
behaviour. Dr. Cheesman and the many other Dr. Cheesmans of whom the
Anglican episcopate was at this period composed never succeeded in
shaking his belief in Christ; they did succeed in shaking for a short
time his belief in the Church of England. There are few Anglo-Catholics,
whether priests or laymen, who have never doubted the right of their
Church to proclaim herself a branch of the Holy Catholic Church. This
phase of doubt is indeed so common that in ecclesiastical circles it has
come to be regarded as a kind of mental chicken-pox, not very alarming
if it catches the patient when young, but growing more dangerous in
proportion to the lateness of its attack. Mark had his attack young.
When Father Rowley left Chatsea, he was anxious to accompany him on what
he knew would be an exhausting time of travelling round to preach and
collect the necessary money to pay off what was actually a personal
debt. It seemed that there must be something fundamentally wrong with a
Church that allowed a man to perambulate England in an endeavour to pay
off the debt upon a building from ministrating in which he had been
debarred. This debt, moreover, was presumably going to be paid by people
who fully subscribed to teaching which had been officially condemned.

When Mark commented on this, Father Rowley pointed out that as a matter
of fact a great deal of money had been sent by people who admired the
practical side, or what they would have called the practical side of his
work among the poor, but who at the same time thoroughly disapproved of
its ecclesiastical form.

"In justice to the poor old Church of England," he said to Mark, "it
must be pointed out that a good deal of this money has been given by
devout Anglicans under protest."

"Yes, but that doesn't seriously affect the argument," said Mark. "You
collect I don't know how many thousands of pounds to put up a
magnificent church from which the Bishop of Silchester sees fit to turn
you out, but for the debt on which you are still personally responsible.
It's fantastic!"

"Mark Anthony," the priest said with a laugh, "you lack the legal mind.
The Bishop did not turn me out. The Bishop can perfectly well say I
turned myself out."

"It is all too subtle for me," said Mark. "But I'm not going to worry
you with any more arguments. You've had enough of them to last you for
ever. I do wish you'd let me stick to you personally and help you in any
way possible."

"No, Mark Anthony," the priest replied. "I've done my work at St.
Agnes', and you've done yours. Your business now is to take advantage of
what has happened and to get back to your books, which whatever you may
say have been more and more neglected lately. You'll find it of enormous
help to be a good theologian. I have never ceased to regret my own
shortcomings in that respect. Besides, I think you ought to spend a
certain amount of time with Ogilvie before you go to Glastonbury. There
is quite a lot of work to do if you look for it in a country parish
like--what's the name of the place? Wych. Oh, yes, quite a lot of work.
Don't bother your head about Anglican Orders and Roman Claims and the
Catholicity of the Church of England. Your business is to save souls,
your own included. Go back and read and get to know the people in
Ogilvie's parish. Anybody can tackle a district like St. Agnes'; anybody
that is who has the suitable personality. How many people can tackle an
English country parish? I hardly know one. I should like to have you
with me. I'm fond of you, and you're useful; but at your age to travel
round from town to town listening to my begging would be all wrong. I
might even go to America. I've had most cordial invitations from several
American bishops, and if I can't raise the money in England I shall
have to go there. If God has any more work for me to do I shall be
offered a cure some day somewhere. I want you to be one of my assistant
priests, and if you're going to be useful to me as an assistant priest,
you really must have some theology behind you. These bishops get more
and more difficult to deal with every year. Now, it's no good arguing.
My mind's made up. I won't take you with me."

So Mark went back to Wych-on-the-Wold and brooded upon the non-Catholic
aspects of the Anglican Church.




CHAPTER XXI

POINTS OF VIEW


Mark did not find that his guardian was much disturbed by his doubts of
the validity of Anglican Orders nor much alarmed by his suspicion that
the Establishment had no right to be considered a branch of the Holy
Catholic Church.

"The crucial point in the Roman position is their doctrine of
intention," said Mr. Ogilvie. "It always seems to me that this doctrine
is a particularly dangerous one for them to play with and one that may
recoil at any moment upon their own heads. There has been a great deal
of super-subtle dividing of intentions into actual, virtual, habitual,
and interpretative; but if you are going to take your stand on logic you
must be ready to face a logical conclusion. Let us agree for a moment
that Barlow and the other bishops who consecrated Matthew Parker had no
intention of consecrating him as a bishop for the purpose of ordaining
priests in the sense in which Catholics understand the word priest. Do
the Romans expect us to believe that all their prelates in the time of
the Renaissance had a perfect intention when they were consecrating? Or
leave on one side for a moment the sacrament of Orders; the validity of
other sacraments is affected by their extension of the doctrine beyond
the interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas. However improbable it may be
that at one moment all the priests of the Catholic Church should lack
the intention let us say of absolution, it _is_ a _logical_ possibility,
in which case all the faithful would logically speaking be damned. It
was in order to guard against this kind of logical catastrophe that the
first split between an actual intention and a virtual intention was
made. The Roman Church teaches that the virtual intention is enough; but
if we argue that a virtual intention might be ascribed to the bishops
who consecrated Parker, the Roman controversialists present us with
another subdivision--the habitual intention, which is one that formerly
existed, but of the present continuance of which there is no trace. Now
really, my dear Mark, you must admit that we've reached a point very
near to nonsense if this kind of logical subtlety is to control Faith."

"As a matter of fact," said Mark, "I don't think I should ever want to
'vert over the question of the validity of Anglican Orders. I haven't
any doubts now of their validity, and I think it's improbable that I
shall have any doubts after I'm ordained. At the same time, there _is_
something wrong with the Church of England if a situation like that in
Chatsea can be created by the whim of a bishop. Our unhappy union
between Church and State has created a class of bishops which has no
parallel anywhere else in Christendom. In order to become a bishop in
England, at any rate of the kind that has a seat in the House of Lords,
it is necessary to be a gentleman, or rather to have the outward and
visible signs of being a gentleman, to be a scholar, or to be a
diplomat. Of course, there will be exceptions; but if you look at almost
all our bishops, you will find they have reached their dignity by social
attainments or by political utility or sometimes by intellectual
distinction, but hardly ever by religious fervour, or spiritual honesty,
or fearless opinion. I can sympathize with the dissenters of the
seventeenth century in blaming the episcopate for all spiritual
maladies. I expect there were a good many Dr. Cheesmans in the days of
Defoe. Look back and see how the bishops have always voted in the House
of Lords with enthusiastic unanimity against every proposal of reform
that was ever put forward. I wonder what will happen when they are
called upon to face a real national crisis."

"I'm perfectly ready to agree with everything you say about bishops,"
the Rector volunteered. "But more or less, I'm sorry to add, it is a
criticism that can be applied to all the orders of the priesthood
everywhere in Christendom. What can we, what dare we say in favour of
priests when we remember Our Lord?"

"When a man does try to follow the Gospel a little more closely than
the rest," Mark raged, "the bishops down him. They exist to maintain the
safety of their class. They have reached their present position by
knowing the right people, by condemning the wrong people, and by
balancing their fat bottoms on fences. Sometimes when their political
patrons quarrel over a pair of mediocrities, a saintly man who is either
very old or very ill like Bishop Crawshay is appointed as a stop-gap."

"Yes," the Rector agreed. "But our present bishops are only one more
aspect of Victorian materialism. The whole of contemporary society can
be criticized in the same way. After all, we get the bishops we deserve,
just as we get the politicians we deserve and the generals we deserve
and the painters we deserve."

"I don't think that's any excuse for the bishops. I sometimes dream of
worming myself up and stopping at nothing in order to be made a bishop,
and then when I have the mitre at last of appearing in my true colours."

"Our Protestant brethren think that is what many of our right reverend
fathers in God do now," the Rector laughed.

These discussions might have continued for ever without taking Mark any
further. His failure to experience Oxford had deprived him of the
opportunity to whet his opinions upon the grindstone of debate, and
there had been no time for academic argument in the three years of
Keppel Street. In Wych-on-the-Wold there never seemed much else to do
but argue. It was one of the effects of leaving, or rather of seeing
destroyed, a society that was obviously performing useful work and
returning to a society that, so far as Mark could observe performed no
kind of work whatever. He was loath to criticize the Rector; but he felt
that he was moving along in a rut that might at any moment deepen to a
chasm in which he would be spiritually lost. He seemed to be taking his
priestly responsibilities too lightly, to be content with gratifying his
own desire to worship Almighty God without troubling about his
parishioners. Mark did not like to make any suggestions about parochial
work, because he was afraid of the Rector's retorting with an implied
criticism of St. Agnes'; and that would have involved him in a bitter
argument for which he would afterward be sorry. Nor was it only in his
missionary duties that he felt his old friend was allowing himself to
rust. Three years ago the Rector had said a daily Mass. Now he was
content with one on Thursdays except on festivals. Mark began to take
walks far afield, which was a sign of irritation with the inaction of
the life round him rather than the expression of an interest in the life
beyond. On one of these walks he found himself at Wield in the diocese
of Kidderminster thirty miles or more away from home. He had spent the
night in a remote Cotswold village, and all the morning he had been
travelling through the level vale of Wield which, beautiful at the time
of blossom, was now at midsummer a landscape without line, monotonously
green, prosperous and complacent. While he was eating his bread and
cheese at the public bar of the principal inn, he picked up one of the
local newspapers and reading it, as one so often reads in such
surroundings, with much greater particularity than the journal of a
metropolis, he came upon the following letter:

     To the Editor of the WIELD OBSERVER AND SOUTH WORCESTERSHIRE
     COURANT,

     SIR,--The leader in your issue of last Tuesday upon my sermon in
     St. Andrew's Church on the preceding Sunday calls for some
     corrections. The action of the Bishop of Kidderminster in
     inhibiting Father Rowley from accepting an invitation to preach in
     my church is due either to his ignorance of the facts of the case,
     to his stupidity in appreciating them, or, I must regretfully add,
     to his natural bias towards persecution. These are strong words for
     a parish priest to use about his diocesan; but the Bishop of
     Kidderminster's consistent support of latitudinarianism and his
     consistent hostility towards any of his clergy who practise the
     forms of worship which they feel they are bound to practise by the
     rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer call for strong words. The
     Bishop in correspondence with me declined to give any reason for
     his inhibition of Father Rowley beyond a general disapproval of his
     teaching. I am informed privately that the Bishop is suffering from
     a delusion that Father Rowley disobeyed the Bishop of Silchester,
     which is of course perfectly untrue and which is only one more sign
     of how completely out of accord our bishops are with what is going
     on either in their own diocese or in any other. My own inclination
     was frankly to defy his Lordship and insist upon Father Rowley's
     fulfilling his engagement. I am not sure that I do not now regret
     that I allowed my church-wardens to overpersuade me on this point.
     I take great exception to your statement that the offertories both
     in the morning and in the evening were sent by me to Father Rowley
     regardless of the wishes of my parishioners. That there are certain
     parishioners of St. Andrew's who objected I have no doubt. But when
     I send you the attached list of parishioners who subscribed no less
     than L18 to be added to the two collections, you will I am sure
     courteously admit that in this case the opinion of the parishioners
     of St. Andrew's was at one with the opinion of their Vicar.--I am,
     Sir, your obedient servant,

     ADRIAN FORSHAW.

Mark was so much delighted by this letter that he went off at once to
call on Mr. Forshaw, but did not find him at home; he was amused to hear
from the housekeeper that his reverence had been summoned to an
interview with the Bishop of Kidderminster. Mark fancied that it would
be the prelate who would have the unpleasant quarter of an hour.
Presently he began to ponder what it meant for such a letter to be
written and published; his doubts about the Church of England returned;
and in this condition of mind he found himself outside a small Roman
Catholic church dedicated to St. Joseph, where hopeful of gaining the
Divine guidance within he passed through the door. It may be that he was
in a less receptive mood than he thought, for what impressed him most
was the Anglican atmosphere of this Italian outpost. The stale perfume
of incense on stone could not eclipse that authentic perfume of
respectability which has been acquired by so many Roman Catholic
churches in England. There were still hanging on the pillars the framed
numbers of Sunday's hymns. Mark pictured the choir boy who must have
slipped the cards in the frame with anxious and triumphant and
immemorial Anglican zeal; and while he was contemplating this symbolical
hymn-board, over his shoulder floated an authentic Anglican voice, a
voice that sounded as if it was being choked out of the larynx by the
clerical collar. It was the Rector, a stumpy little man with the purple
stock of a monseigneur, who showed the stranger round his church and
ended by inviting him to lunch. Mark, wondering if he had reached a
crossroad in his progress, accepted the invitation, and prepared himself
reverently to hear the will of God. Monseigneur Cripps lived in a little
Gothic house next to St. Joseph's, a trim little Gothic house covered
with the oiled curls of an ampelopsis still undyed by autumn's henna.

"You've chosen a bad day to come to lunch," said Monseigneur with a
warning shake of the head. "It's Friday, you know. And it's hard to get
decent fish away from the big towns."

While his host went off to consult the housekeeper about the extra place
for lunch, a proceeding which induced him to make a joke about extra
'plaice' and extra 'place,' at which he laughed heartily, Mark
considered the most tactful way of leading up to a discussion of the
position of the Anglican Church in regard to Roman claims. It should not
be difficult, he supposed, because Monseigneur at the first hint of his
guest's desire to be converted would no doubt welcome the topic. But
when Monseigneur led the way to his little Gothic dining-room full of
Arundel prints, Mark soon apprehended that his host had evidently not
had the slightest notion of offering an _ad hoc_ hospitality. He paid no
attention to Mark's tentative advances, and if he was willing to talk
about Rome, it was only because he had just paid a visit there in
connexion with a school of which he was a trustee and out of which he
wanted to make one kind of school and the Roman Catholic Bishop of
Dudley wanted to make another.

"I had to take the whole question to headquarters," Monseigneur
explained impressively. "But I was disappointed by Rome, oh yes, I was
very disappointed. When I was a young man I saw it _couleur de rose_. I
did enjoy one thing though, and that was going round the Vatican. Yes,
they looked remarkably smart, the Papal Guards; as soon as they saw I
was _Monsignore_, they turned out and presented arms. I'm bound to admit
that I _was_ impressed by that. But on the way down I lost my pipe in
the train. And do you think I could buy a decent pipe in Rome? I
actually had to pay five _lire_--or was it six?--for this inadequate
tube."

He produced from his pocket the pipe he had been compelled to buy, a
curved briar all varnish and gold lettering.

"I've been badly treated in Wield. Certainly, they made me Monseigneur.
But then they couldn't very well do less after I built this church.
We've been successful here. And I venture to think popular. But the
Bishop is in the hands of the Irish. He cannot grasp that the English
people will not have Irish priests to rule them. They don't like it, and
I don't blame them. You're not Irish, are you?"

Mark reassured him.

"This plaice isn't bad, eh? I ordered turbot, but you never get the fish
you order in these Midland towns. It always ends in my having plaice,
which is good for the soul! Ha-ha! I hate the Irish myself. This school
of which I am the chief trustee was intended to be a Catholic
reformatory. That idea fell through, and now my notion is to turn it
into a decent school run by secular clergy. All the English Catholic
schools are in the hands of the regular clergy, which is a mistake. It
puts too much power in the hands of the Benedictines and the Jesuits and
the rest of them. After all, the great strength of the Catholic Church
in England will always be the secular clergy. And what do we get now? A
lot of objectionable Irishmen in Trilby hats. Last time I saw the Bishop
I gave him my frank opinion of his policy. I told him my opinion to his
face. He won't get me to kowtow to him. Yes, I said to him that, if he
handed over this school to the Dominicans, he was going to spoil one of
the finest opportunities ever presented of educating the sons of decent
English gentlemen to be simple parish priests. But the Bishop of Dudley
is an Irishman himself. He can't think of anything educationally better
than Ushaw. And, as I was telling you, I saw there was nothing for it
but to take the whole matter right up to headquarters, that is to Rome.
Did I tell you that the Papal Guards turned out and presented arms? Ah,
I remember now, I did mention it. I was extraordinarily impressed by
them. A fine body. But generally speaking, Rome disappointed me after
many years. Of course we English Catholics don't understand that way of
worshipping. I'm not criticizing it. I realize that it suits the
Italians. But suppose I started clearing my throat in the middle of
Mass? My congregation would be disgusted, and rightly. It's an
astonishing thing that I couldn't buy a good pipe in Rome, don't you
think? I must have lost mine when I got out of the carriage to look at
the leaning tower of Pisa, and my other one got clogged up with some
candle grease. I couldn't get the beastly stuff out, so I had to give
the pipe to a porter. They're keen on English pipes, those Italian
porters. Poor devils, I'm not surprised. Of course, I need hardly say
that in Rome they promised to do everything for me; but you can't trust
them when your back is turned, and I need hardly add that the Bishop was
pulling strings all the time. They showed me one of his letters, which
was a tissue of mis-statements--a regular tissue. Now, suppose you had a
son and you wanted him to be a priest? You don't necessarily want him to
become a Jesuit or a Benedictine or a Dominican. Where can you send him
now? Stonyhurst, Downside, Beaumont. There isn't a single decent school
run by the secular clergy. You know what I mean? A school for the sons
of gentlemen--a public school. We've got magnificent buildings, grounds,
everything you could wish. I've been promised all the money necessary,
and then the Bishop of Dudley steps in and says that these Dominicans
ought to take it on."

"I'm afraid I've somehow given you a wrong impression," Mark interposed
when Monseigneur Cripps at last filled his mouth with plaice. "I'm not a
Roman Catholic."

"Oh, aren't you?" said Monseigneur indifferently. "Never mind, I expect
you see my point about the necessity for the school to be run by secular
clergy. Did I tell you how I got the land for my church here? That's
rather an interesting story. It belonged to Lord Evesham who, as perhaps
you may know, is very anti-Catholic, but a thorough good sportsman. We
always get on capitally together. Well, one day I said to his agent,
Captain Hart: 'What about this land, Hart? Don't you think you could get
it out of his lordship?' 'It's no good, Father Cripps,' said Hart--I
wasn't Monseigneur then of course--'It's no good,' he said, 'his
lordship absolutely declines to let his land be used for a Catholic
church.' 'Come along, Hart,' I said, 'let's have a round of golf.' Well,
when we got to the eighteenth hole we were all square, and we'd both of
us gone round three better than bogie and broken our own records. I was
on the green with my second shot, and holed out in three. 'My game,' I
shouted because Hart had foozled his drive and wasn't on the green. 'Not
at all,' he said. 'You shouldn't be in such a hurry. I may hole out in
one,' he laughed. 'If you do,' I said, 'you ought to get Lord Evesham to
give me that land.' 'That's a bargain,' he said, and he took his mashie.
Will you believe it? He did the hole in two, sir, won the game, and beat
the record for the course! And that's how I got the land to build my
church. I was delighted! I was delighted! I've told that story
everywhere to show what sportsmen are. I told it to the Bishop, but of
course he being an Irishman didn't see anything funny in it. If he could
have stopped my being made Monseigneur, he'd have done so. But he
couldn't."

"You seem to have as much trouble with your bishops as we do with ours
in the Anglican Church," said Mark.

"We shouldn't, if we made the right men bishops," said Monseigneur. "But
so long as they think at Westminster that we're going to convert England
with a tagrag and bobtail mob of Irish priests, we never shall make the
right men. You were looking round my church just now. Didn't it remind
you of an English church?"

Mark agreed that it did very much.

"That's my secret: that's why I've been the most successful mission
priest in this diocese. I realize as an Englishman that it is no use to
give the English Irish Catholicism. When I was in Rome the other day I
was disgusted, I really was. I was disgusted. I thoroughly sympathize
with Protestants who go there and are disgusted. You cannot expect a
decent English family to confess to an Irish peasant. It's not
reasonable. We want to create an English tradition."

"What between the Roman party in the Anglican Church and the Anglican
party in the Roman Church," said Mark, "It seems a pity that some kind
of reunion cannot be effected."

"So it could," Monseigneur declared. "So it could, if it wasn't for the
Irish. Look at the way we treat our English converts. The clergy, I
mean. Why? Because the Irish do not want England to be converted."

Mark did not raise with Monseigneur Cripps the question of his doubts.
Indeed, before the plaice had been taken away he had decided that they
no longer existed. It became clear to him that the English Church was
England; and although he knew in his heart that Monseigneur Cripps was
suffering from a sense of grievance and that his criticism of Roman
policy was too obviously biased, it pleased him to believe that it was a
fair criticism.

Mark thanked Monseigneur Cripps for his hospitality and took a friendly
leave of him. An hour later he was walking back through the pleasant
vale of Wield toward the Cotswolds. As he went his way among the green
orchards, he thought over his late impulse to change allegiance,
marvelling at it now and considering it irrational, like one astonished
at his own behaviour in a dream. There came into his mind a story of
George Fox who drawing near to the city of Lichfield took off his shoes
in a meadow and cried three times in a loud voice "Woe unto the bloody
city of Lichfield," after which he put on his shoes again and proceeded
into the town. Mark looked back in amazement at his lunch with
Monseigneur Cripps and his own meditated apostasy. To his present mood
that intention to forsake his own Church appeared as remote from
actuality as the malediction of George Fox upon the city of Lichfield.

Here among these green orchards in the heart of England Roman
Catholicism presented itself to Mark's imagination as an exotic. The two
words "Roman Catholicism" uttered aloud in the quiet June sunlight gave
him the sensation of an allamanda or of a gardenia blossoming in an
apple-tree. People who talked about bringing the English Church into
line with the trend of Western Christianity lacked a sense of history.
Apart from the question whether the English Church before the
Reformation had accepted the pretensions of the Papacy, it was absurd
to suppose that contemporary Romanism had anything in common with
English Catholicism of the early sixteenth century. English Catholicism
long before the Reformation had been a Protestant Catholicism, always in
revolt against Roman claims, always preserving its insularity. It was
idle to question the Catholic intentions of a priesthood that could
produce within a century of the Reformation such prelates as Andrews and
Ken. It was ridiculous at the prompting of the party in the ascendancy
at Westminster to procure a Papal decision against English Orders when
two hundred and fifty years ago there was a cardinal's hat waiting for
Laud if he would leave the Church of England. And what about Paul IV and
Elizabeth? Was he not willing to recognize English Orders if she would
recognize his headship of Christendom?

But these were controversial arguments, and as Mark walked along through
the pleasant vale of Wield with the Cotswold hills rising taller before
him at every mile he apprehended that his adhesion to the English Church
had been secured by the natural scene rather than by argument.
Nevertheless, it was interesting to speculate why Romanism had not made
more progress in England, why even now with a hierarchy and with such a
distinguished line of converts beginning with Newman it remained so
completely out of touch with the national life of the country. While the
Romans converted one soul to Catholicism, the inheritors of the Oxford
Movement were converting twenty. Catholicism must be accounted a
disposition of mind, an attitude toward life that did not necessarily
imply all that was implied by Roman Catholicism. What was the secret of
the Roman failure? Everywhere else in the world Roman Catholicism had
known how to adapt itself to national needs; only in England did it
remain exotic. It was like an Anglo-Indian magnate who returns to find
himself of no importance in his native land, and who but for the flavour
of his curries and perhaps a black servant or two would be utterly
inconspicuous. He tries to fit in with the new conditions of his
readopted country, but he remains an exotic and is regarded by his
neighbours as one to whom the lesson must be taught that he is no
longer of importance. What had been the cause of this breach in the
Roman Catholic tradition, this curious incompetency, this Anglo-Indian
conservatism and pretentiousness? Perhaps it had begun when in the
seventeenth century the propagation of Roman Catholicism in England was
handed over to the Jesuits, who mismanaged the country hopelessly. By
the time Rome had perceived that the conversion of England could not be
left to the Jesuits the harm was done, so that when with greater
toleration the time was ripe to expand her organization it was necessary
to recruit her priests in Ireland. What the Jesuits had begun the Irish
completed. It had been amusing to listen to the lamentations of
Monseigneur Cripps; but Monseigneur Cripps had expressed, however
ludicrous his egoism, the failure of his Church in England.

Mark's statement of the Anglican position with nobody to answer his
arguments except the trees and the hedgerows seemed flawless. The level
road, the gentle breeze in the orchards on either side, the scent of the
grass, and the busy chirping of the birds coincided with the main point
of his argument that England was most inexpressibly Anglican and that
Roman Catholicism was most unmistakably not. His arguments were really
hasty foot-notes to his convictions; if each one had separately been
proved wrong, that would have had no influence on the point of view he
had reached. He forgot that this very landscape that was seeming
incomparable England herself had yesterday appeared complacent and
monotonous. In fact he was as bad as George Fox, who after taking off
his shoes to curse the bloody city of Lichfield should only have put
them on again to walk away from it.

The grey road was by now beginning to climb the foothills of the
Cotswolds; a yellow-hammer, keeping always a few paces ahead, twittered
from quickset boughs nine encouraging notes that drowned the echoes of
ancient controversies. In such a countryside no claims papal or
episcopal possessed the least importance; and Mark dismissed the subject
from his mind, abandoning himself to the pleasure of the slow ascent.
Looking back after a while he could see the town of Wield riding like a
ship in a sea of verdure, and when he surveyed thus England asleep in
the sunlight, the old ambition to become a preaching friar was kindled
again in his heart. He would re-establish the extinct and absolutely
English Order of St. Gilbert so that there should be no question of
Roman pretensions. Doubtless, St. Francis himself would understand a
revival of his Order without reference to existing Franciscans; but
nobody else would understand, and it would be foolish to insist upon
being a Franciscan if the rest of the Order disowned him and his
followers. If anybody had asked Mark at that moment why he wanted to
restore the preaching friars, he might have found it difficult to
answer. He was by no means imbued with the missionary spirit just then;
his experience at Chatsea had made him pessimistic about missionary
effort in the Church of England. If a man like Father Rowley had failed
to win the support of his ecclesiastical superiors, Mark, who possessed
more humility than is usual at twenty-one, did not fancy that he should
be successful. The ambition to become a friar was revived by an
incomprehensible, or if not incomprehensible, certainly by an
inexplicable impulse to put himself in tune with the landscape, to
proclaim as it were on behalf of that dumb heart of England beating down
there in the flowery Vale of Wield: _God rest you merry gentlemen, let
nothing you dismay!_ There was revealed to him with the assurance of
absolute faith that all the sorrows, all the ugliness, all the
soullessness (no other word could be found) of England in the first year
of the twentieth century was due to the Reformation; the desire to
become a preaching friar was the dramatic expression of this inspired
conviction. Before his journey through the Vale of Wield Mark in any
discussion would have been ready to argue the mistake of the
Reformation: but now there was no longer room for argument. What
formerly he thought now he knew. The song of the yellow-hammer was
louder in the quickset hedge; the trees burned with a sharper green; the
road urged his feet.

"If only everybody in England could move as I am moving now," he
thought. "If only I could be granted the power to show a few people, so
that they could show others, and those others show all the world. How
confidently that yellow-hammer repeats his song! How well he knows that
his song is right! How little he envies the linnet and how little the
linnet envies him! The fools that talk of nature's cruelty, the blind
fatuous sentimental coxcombs!"

Thus apostrophizing, Mark came to a wayside inn; discovering that he was
hungry, he took his seat at a rustic table outside and called for bread
and cheese and beer. While he was eating, a vehicle approached from the
direction in which he would soon be travelling. He took it at first for
a caravan of gipsies, but when it grew near he saw that it was painted
over with minatory texts and was evidently the vehicle of itinerant
gospellers. Two young men alighted from the caravan when it pulled up
before the door of the inn. They were long-nosed sallow creatures with
that expression of complacency which organized morality too often
produces, and in this quiet countryside they gave an effect of being
overgrown Sunday-school scholars upon their annual outing. Having cast a
censorious glance in the direction of Mark's jug of ale, they sat down
at the farther end of the bench and ordered food.

"The preaching friars of to-day," Mark thought gloomily.

"Excuse me," said one of the gospellers. "I notice you've been looking
very hard at our van. Excuse me, but are you saved?"

"No, are you?" Mark countered with an angry blush.

"We are," the gospeller proclaimed. "Or I and Mr. Smillie here," he
indicated his companion, "wouldn't be travelling round trying to save
others. Here, read this tract, my friend. Don't hurry over it. We can
wait all day and all night to bring one wandering soul to Jesus."

Mark looked at the young men curiously; perceiving that they were
sincere, he accepted the tract and out of courtesy perused it. The tale
therein enfolded reminded him of a narrative testifying to the efficacy
of a patent medicine. The process of conversation followed a stereotyped
formula.

_For three and a half years I was unable to keep down any sins for more
than five minutes after I had committed the last one. I had a dizzy
feeling in the heart and a sharp pain in the small of the soul. A friend
of mine recommended me to try the good minister in the slum. . . . After
the first text I was able to keep down my sins for six minutes . . .
after twenty-two bottles I am as good as I ever was. . . . I ascribe my
salvation entirely to_. . . . Mark handed back the tract with a smile.

"Do you convert many people with this literature?" he asked.

"We don't often convert a soul right off," said Mr. Smillie. "But we sow
the good seed, if you follow my meaning; and we leave the rest to Jesus.
Mr. Bullock and I have handed over seven hundred tracts in three weeks,
and we know that they won't all fall on stony ground or be choked by
tares and thistles."

"Do you mind my asking you a question?" Mark said.

The gospel bearers craned their necks like hungry fowls in their
eagerness to peck at any problems Mark felt inclined to scatter before
them. A ludicrous fancy passed through his mind that much of the good
seed was pecked up by the scatterers.

"What are you trying to convert people to?" Mark solemnly inquired.

"What are we trying to convert people to?" echoed Mr. Bullock and Mr.
Smillie in unison. Then the former became eloquent. "We're trying to
wash ignorant people in the blood of the Lamb. We're converting them
from the outer darkness, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing
of teeth, to be rocked safe for ever in the arms of Jesus. If you'd have
read that tract I handed you a bit more slowly and a bit more carefully,
you wouldn't have had any call to ask a question like that."

"Perhaps I framed my question rather badly," Mark admitted. "I
understand that you want to bring people to believe in Our Lord; but
when by a tract or by a personal exhortation or by an emotional appeal
you've induced them to suppose that they are converted, or as you put it
saved, what more do you give them?"

"What more do we give them?" Mr. Smillie shrilled. "What more can we
give them after we've given them Christ Jesus? We're sitting here
offering you Christ Jesus at this moment. You're sitting there mocking
at us. But Mr. Bullock and me don't mind how much you mock. We're ready
to stay here for hours if we can bring you safe to the bosom of
Emmanuel."

"Yes, but suppose I told you that I believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ
without any persuasion from you?" Mark inquired.

"Well, then you're saved," said Mr. Bullock decidedly. "And you can ask
the landlord for our bill, Mr. Smillie."

"But is nothing more necessary?" Mark persisted.

"_By faith are ye justified_," Mr. Bullock and Mr. Smillie shouted
simultaneously.

Mark paused for a moment to consider whether argument was worth while,
and then he returned to the attack.

"I'm afraid I think that people like you do a great deal of damage to
Christianity. You only flatter human conceit. You get hold of some
emotional creature and work upon his feelings until in an access of
self-absorption he feels that the universe is standing still while the
necessary measures are taken to secure his personal salvation. You
flatter this poor soul, and then you go away and leave him to work out
his own salvation."

"If you're dwelling in Christ Jesus and Christ Jesus is dwelling in you,
you haven't got to work out your own salvation. He worked out your
salvation on the Cross," said Mr. Bullock contemptuously.

"And you think that nothing more is necessary from a man? It seems to me
that the religion you preach is fatal to human character. I'm not trying
to be offensive when I tell you that it's the religion of a tapeworm.
It's a religion for parasites. It's a religion which ignores the Holy
Ghost."

"Perhaps you'll explain your assertion a little more fully?" Mr. Bullock
invited with a scowl.

"What I mean is that, if Our Lord's Atonement removed all responsibility
from human nature, there doesn't seem much for the Holy Ghost to do,
does there?"

"Well, as it happens," said Mr. Bullock sarcastically, "Mr. Smillie and
I here do most of our work with the help of the Holy Ghost, so you've
hit on a bad example to work off your sneers on."

"I'm not trying to sneer," Mark protested. "But strangely enough just
before you came along I was thinking to myself how much I should like to
travel over England preaching about Our Lord, because I think that
England has need of Him. But I also think, now you've answered my
question, that _you_ are doing more harm than good by your
interpretation of the Holy Ghost."

"Mr. Smillie," interrupted Mr. Bullock in an elaborately off-hand voice,
"if you've counted the change and it's all correct, we'd better get a
move on. Let's gird up our loins, Mr. Smillie, and not sit wrestling
here with infidels."

"No, really, you must allow me," Mark persisted. "You've had it so much
your own way with your tracts and your talks this last few weeks that by
now you must be in need of a sermon yourselves. The gospel you preach is
only going to add to the complacency of England, and England is too
complacent already. All Northern nations are, which is why they are
Protestant. They demand a religion which will truckle to them, a
religion which will allow them to devote six days of the week to what is
called business and on the seventh day to rest and praise God that they
are not as other men."

"_Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things
that are God's_," said Mr. Smillie, putting the change in his pocket and
untying the nosebag from the horse.

"_Ye cannot serve God and mammon_," Mark retorted. "And I wish you'd let
me finish my argument."

"Mr. Smillie and I aren't touring the Midlands trying to find grapes on
thorns and figs on thistles," said Mr. Bullock scathingly. "We'd have
given you a chance, if you'd have shown any fruits of the Spirit."

"You've just said you weren't looking for grapes or figs," Mark laughed.
"I'm sorry I've made you so cross. But you began the argument by asking
me if I was saved. Think how annoyed you would have been if I had begun
a conversation by asking you if you were washed."

"My last words to you is," said Mr. Bullock solemnly, looking out of
the caravan window, "my last words to you are," he corrected himself,
"is to avoid beer. You can touch up the horse, Mr. Smillie."

"I'll come and touch you up, you big-mouthed Bible thumpers," a rich
voice shouted from the inn door. "Yes, you sit outside my public-house
and swill minerals when you're so full of gas already you could light a
corporation gasworks. Avoid beer, you walking bellows? Step down out of
that travelling menagerie, and I'll give you 'avoid beer.' You'll avoid
more than beer before I've finished with you."

But the gospel bearers without paying any attention to the tirade went
on their way; and Mark who did not wait to listen to the innkeeper's
abuse of all religion and all religious people went on his way in the
opposite direction.

Swinging homeward over the Cotswolds Mark flattered himself on a victory
over heretics, and he imagined his adversaries entering Wield that
afternoon, the prey of doubt and mortification. At the highest point of
the road he even ventured to suppose that they might find themselves at
Evensong outside St. Andrew's Church and led within by the grace of the
Holy Spirit that they might renounce their errors before the altar.
Indeed, it was not until he was back in the Rectory that the futility of
his own bearing overwhelmed him with shame. Anxious to atone for his
self-conceit, Mark gave the Rector an account of the incident.

"It seems to me that I behaved very feebly, don't you think?"

"That kind of fellow is a hard nut to crack," the Rector said
consolingly. "And you can't expect just by quoting text against text to
effect an instant conversion. Don't forget that your friends are in
their way as great enthusiasts probably as yourself."

"Yes, but it's humiliating to be imagining oneself leading a revival of
the preaching friars and then to behave like that. What strikes me now,
when it's too late, is that I ought to have waited and taken the
opportunity to tackle the innkeeper. He was just the ordinary man who
supposes that religion is his natural enemy. You must admit that I
missed a chance there."

"I don't want to check your missionary zeal," said the Rector. "But I
really don't think you need worry yourself about an omission of that
kind so long before you are ordained. If I didn't know you as well as I
do, I might even be inclined to consider such a passion for souls at
your age a little morbid. I wish with all my heart you'd gone to
Oxford," he added with a sigh.

"Well, really, do you know," said Mark, "I don't regret that. Whatever
may be the advantages of a public school and university, the education
hampers one. One becomes identified with a class; and when one has
finished with that education, the next two or three years have to be
spent in discovering that public school and university men form a very
small proportion of the world's population. Sometimes I almost regret
that my mother did not let me acquire that Cockney accent. You can say a
lot of things in a Cockney accent which said without any accent sound
priggish. You must admit, Rector, that your inner comment on my tale of
the gospellers and the innkeeper is 'Dear me! I am afraid Mark's turning
into a prig.'"

"No, no. I laid particular stress on the point that if I didn't know you
as well as I do I might perhaps have thought that," the Rector
protested.

"I don't think I am a prig," Mark went on slowly. "I don't think I have
enough confidence in myself to be a prig. I think the way I argued with
Mr. Bullock and Mr. Smillie was a bit priggish, because at the back of
my head all the time I was talking I felt in addition to the arrogance
of faith a kind of confounded snobbishness; and this sense of
superiority came not from my being a member of the Church, but from
feeling myself more civilized than they were. Looking back now at the
conversation, I can remember that actually at the very moment I was
talking of the Holy Ghost I was noticing how Mr. Bullock's dicky would
keep escaping from his waistcoat. I wonder if the great missionary
saints of the middle ages had to contend with this accumulation of
social conventions with which we are faced nowadays. It seems to me
that in everything--in art, in religion, in mere ordinary everyday life
and living--man is adding daily to the wall that separates him from
God."

"H'm, yes," said the Rector, "all this only means that you are growing
up. The child is nearer to God than the man. Wordsworth said it better
than I can say it. Similarly, the human race must grow away from God as
it takes upon itself the burden of knowledge. That surely is inherent in
the fall of man. No philosopher has yet improved upon the first chapter
of Genesis as a symbolical explanation of humanity's plight. When man
was created--or if you like to put it evolved--there must have been an
exact moment at which he had the chance of remaining where he was--in
other words, in the Garden of Eden--or of developing further along his
own lines with free will. Satan fell from pride. It is natural to assume
that man, being tempted by Satan, would fall from the same sin, though
the occasion, of his fall might be the less heroic sin of curiosity.
Yes, I think that first chapter of Genesis, as an attempt to sum up the
history of millions of years, is astoundingly complete. Have you ever
thought how far by now the world would have grown away from God without
the Incarnation?"

"Yes," said Mark, "and after nineteen hundred years how little nearer it
has grown."

"My dear boy," said the Rector, "if man has not even yet got rid of
rudimentary gills or useless paps he is not going to grow very visibly
nearer to God in nineteen hundred years after growing away from God for
ninety million. Yet such is the mercy of our Father in Heaven that,
infinitely remote as we have grown from Him, we are still made in His
image, and in childhood we are allowed a few years of blessed innocency.
To some children--and you were one of them--God reveals Himself more
directly. But don't, my dear fellow, grow up imagining that these
visions you were accorded as a boy will be accorded to you all through
your life. You may succeed in remaining pure in act, but you will find
it hard to remain pure in heart. To me the most frightening beatitude is
_Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God._ What your
present state of mind really amounts to is lack of hope, for as soon as
you find yourself unable to be as miraculously eloquent as St. Anthony
of Padua you become the prey of despair."

"I am not so foolish as that," Mark replied. "But surely, Rector, it
behoves me during these years before my ordination to criticize myself
severely."

"As severely as you like," the Rector agreed, "provided that you only
criticize yourself, and don't criticize Almighty God."

"But surely," Mark went on, "I ought to be asking myself now that I am
twenty-one how I shall best occupy the next three years?"

"Certainly," the Rector assented. "Think it over, and be sure that, when
you have thought it over and have made your decision with the help of
prayer, I shall be the first to support that decision in every way
possible. Even if you decide to be a preaching friar," he added with a
smile. "And now I have some news for you. Esther arrives here tomorrow
to stay with us for a fortnight before she is professed."




CHAPTER XXII

SISTER ESTHER MAGDALENE


Esther's novitiate in the community of St. Mary Magdalene, Shoreditch,
had lasted six months longer than was usual, because the Mother Superior
while never doubting her vocation for the religious life had feared for
her ability to stand the strain of that work among penitents to which
the community was dedicated. In the end, her perseverance had been
rewarded, and the day of her profession was at hand.

During the whole of her nearly four years' novitiate Esther had not been
home once; although Mark and she had corresponded at long intervals,
their letters had been nothing more than formal records of minor events,
and on St. John's eve he drove with the dogcart to meet her, wondering
all the way how much she would have changed. The first thing that struck
him when he saw her alight from the train on Shipcot platform was her
neatness. In old days with windblown hair and clothes flung on anyhow
she had belonged so unmistakably to the open air. Now in her grey habit
and white veil of the novice she was as tranquil as Miriam, and for the
first time Mark perceived a resemblance between the sisters. Her
complexion, which formerly was flushed and much freckled by the open
air, was now like alabaster; and although her auburn hair was hidden
beneath the veil Mark was aware of it like a hidden fire. He had in the
very moment of welcoming her a swift vision of that auburn hair lying on
the steps of the altar a fortnight hence, and he was filled with a wild
desire to be present at her profession and gathering up the shorn locks
to let them run through his fingers like flames. He had no time to be
astonished at himself before they were shaking hands.

"Why, Esther," he laughed, "you're carrying an umbrella."

"It was raining in London," she said gravely.

He was on the point of exclaiming at such prudence in Esther when he
blushed in the remembrance that she was a nun. During the drive back
they talked shyly about the characters of the village and the Rectory
animals.

"I feel as if you'd just come back from school for the holidays," he
said.

"Yes, I feel as if I'd been at school," she agreed. "How sweet the
country smells."

"Don't you miss the country sometimes in Shoreditch?" he asked.

She shook her head and looked at him with puzzled eyes.

"Why should I miss anything in Shoreditch?"

Mark was abashed and silent for the rest of the drive, because he
fancied that Esther might have supposed that he was referring to the
past, rather than give which impression he would have cut out his
tongue. When they reached the Rectory, Mark was moved almost to tears by
the greetings.

"Dear little sister," Miriam murmured. "How happy we are to have you
with us again."

"Dear child," said Mrs. Ogilvie. "And really she does look like a nun."

"My dearest girl, we have missed you every moment of these four years,"
said the Rector, bending to kiss her. "How cold your cheek is."

"It was quite chilly driving," said Mark quickly, for there had come
upon him a sudden dismay lest they should think she was a ghost. He was
relieved when Miriam announced tea half an hour earlier than usual in
honour of Esther's arrival; it seemed to prove that to her family she
was still alive.

"After tea I'm going to Wych Maries to pick St. John's wort for the
church. Would you like to walk as far?" Mark suggested, and then stood
speechless, horrified at his want of tact. He had the presence of mind
not to excuse himself, and he was grateful to Esther when she replied in
a calm voice that she should like a walk after tea.

When the opportunity presented itself, Mark apologized for his
suggestion.

"By why apologize?" she asked. "I assure you I'm not at all tired and I
really should like to walk to Wych Maries."

He was amazed at her self-possession, and they walked along with
unhastening conventual steps to where the St. John's wort grew amid a
tangle of ground ivy in the open spaces of a cypress grove, appearing
most vividly and richly golden like sunlight breaking from black clouds
in the western sky.

"Gather some sprays quickly, Sister Esther Magdalene," Mark advised.
"And you will be safe against the demons of this night when evil has
such power."

"Are we ever safe against the demons of the night?" she asked solemnly.
"And has not evil great power always?"

"Always," he assented in a voice that trembled to a sigh, like the
uncertain wind that comes hesitating at dusk in the woods. "Always," he
repeated.

As he spoke Mark fell upon his knees among the holy flowers, for there
had come upon him temptation; and the sombre trees standing round
watched him like fiends with folded wings.

"Go to the chapel," he cried in an agony.

"Mark, what is the matter?"

"Go to the chapel. For God's sake, Esther, don't wait."

In another moment he felt that he should tear the white veil from her
forehead and set loose her auburn hair.

"Mark, are you ill?"

"Oh, do what I ask," he begged. "Once I prayed for you here. Pray for me
now."

At that moment she understood, and putting her hands to her eyes she
stumbled blindly toward the ruined church of the two Maries, heavily
too, because she was encumbered by her holy garb. When she was gone and
the last rustle of her footsteps had died away upon the mid-summer
silence, Mark buried his body in the golden flowers.

"How can I ever look any of them in the face again?" he cried aloud.
"Small wonder that yesterday I was so futile. Small wonder indeed! And
of all women, to think that I should fall in love with Esther. If I had
fallen in love with her four years ago . . . but now when she is going
to be professed . . . suddenly without any warning . . . without any
warning . . . yet perhaps I did love her in those days . . . and was
jealous. . . ."

And even while Mark poured forth his horror of himself he held her image
to his heart.

"I thought she was a ghost because she was dead to me, not because she
was dead to them. She is not a ghost to them. And is she to me?"

He leapt to his feet, listening.

"Should she come back," he thought with beating heart. "Should she come
back . . . I love her . . . she hasn't taken her final vows . . . might
she not love me? No," he shouted at the top of his voice. "I will not do
as my father did . . . I will not . . . I will not. . . ."

Mark felt sure of himself again: he felt as he used to feel as a little
boy when his mother entered on a shaft of light to console his childish
terrors. When he came to the ruined chapel and saw Esther standing with
uplifted palms before the image of St. Mary Magdalene long since put
back upon the pedestal from which it had been flung by the squire of
Rushbrooke Grange, Mark was himself again.

"My dear," Esther cried, impulsively taking his hand. "You frightened
me. What was the matter?"

He did not answer for a moment or two, because he wanted her to hold his
hand a little while longer, so much time was to come when she would
never hold it.

"Whenever I dip my hand in cold water," he said at last, "I shall think
of you. Why did you say that about the demons of the night?"

She dropped his hand in comprehension.

"You're disgusted with me," he murmured. "I'm not surprised."

"No, no, you mustn't think of me like that. I'm still a very human
Esther, so human that the Reverend Mother has made me wait an extra year
to be professed. But, Mark dear, can't you understand, you who know what
I endured in this place, that I am sometimes tempted by memories of
him, that I sometimes sin by regrets for giving him up, my dead lover
so near to me in this place. My dead love," she sighed to herself, "to
whose memory in my pride of piety I thought I should be utterly
indifferent."

A spasm of jealousy had shaken Mark while Esther was speaking, but by
the time she had finished he had fought it down.

"I think I must have loved you all this time," he told her.

"Mark dear, I'm ten years older than you. I'm going to be a nun for what
of my life remains. And I can never love anybody else. Don't make this
visit of mine a misery to me. I've had to conquer so much and I need
your prayers."

"I wish you needed my kisses."

"Mark!"

"What did I say? Oh, Esther, I'm a brute. Tell me one thing."

"I've already told you more than I've told anyone except my confessor."

"Have you found happiness in the religious life?"

"I have found myself. The Reverend Mother wanted me to leave the
community and enter a contemplative order. She did not think I should be
able to help poor girls."

"Esther, what a stupid woman! Why surely you would be wonderful with
them?"

"I think she is a wise woman," said Esther. "I think since we came
picking St. John's wort I understand how wise she is."

"Esther, dear dear Esther, you make me feel more than ever ashamed of
myself. I entreat you not to believe what the Reverend Mother says."

"You have only a fortnight to convince me," said Esther.

"And I will convince you."

"Mark, do you remember when you made me pray for his soul telling me
that in that brief second he had time to repent?"

Mark nodded grimly.

"You still do think that, don't you?"

"Of course I do. He must have repented."

She thanked him with her eyes; and Mark looking into their depths of
hope unfathomable put away from him the thought that the damned soul of
Will Starling was abroad to-night with power of evil. Yes, he put this
thought behind him; but carrying an armful of St. John's wort to hang in
sprays above the doors of the church he could not rid himself of the
fancy that his arms were filled with Esther's auburn hair.




CHAPTER XXIII

MALFORD ABBEY


Mark left Wych-on-the-Wold next day; although he did not announce that
he should be absent from home so long, he intended not to return until
Esther had gone back to Shoreditch. He hoped that he was not being
cowardly in thus running away; but after having assured Esther that she
could count on his behaving normally for the rest of her visit, he found
his sleep that night so profoundly disturbed by feverish visions that
when morning came he dreaded his inability to behave as both he would
wish himself and she would wish him to behave. Flight seemed the only
way to find peace. He was shocked not so much by being in love with
Esther, but by the suddenness with which his desires had overwhelmed
him, desires which had never been roused since he was born. If in an
instant he could be turned upside down like that, could he be sure that
upon the next occasion, supposing that he fell in love with somebody
more suitable, he should be able to escape so easily? His father must
have married his mother out of some such violent impulse as had seized
himself yesterday afternoon, and resentiment about his weakness had
spoilt his whole life. And those dreams! How significant now were the
words of the Compline hymn, and how much it behoved a Christian soul to
vanquish these ill dreams against beholding which the defence of the
Creator was invoked. He had vowed celibacy; yet already, three months
after his twenty-first birthday, after never once being troubled with
the slightest hint that the vow he had taken might be hard to keep, his
security had been threatened. How right the Rector had been about that
frightening beatitude.

Mark had taken the direction of Wychford, and when he reached the
bridge at the bottom of the road from Wych-on-the-Wold he thought he
would turn aside and visit the Greys whom he had not seen for a long
time. He was conscious of a curiosity to know if the feelings aroused by
Esther could be aroused by Monica or Margaret or Pauline. He found the
dear family unchanged and himself, so far as they were concerned,
equally unchanged and as much at his ease as he had ever been.

"And what are you going to do now?" one of them asked.

"You mean immediately?"

Mark could not bring himself to say that he did not know, because such a
reply would have seemed to link him with the state of mind in which he
had been thrown yesterday afternoon.

"Well, really, I was thinking of going into a monastery," he announced.

Pauline clapped her hands.

"Now I think that is just what you ought to do," she said.

Then followed questions about which Order he proposed to join; and Mark
ashamed to go back on what he had said lest they should think him
flippant answered that he thought of joining the Order of St. George.

"You know--Father Burrowes, who works among soldiers."

When Mark was standing by the cross-roads above Wychford and was
wondering which to take, he decided that really the best thing he could
do at this moment was to try to enter the Order of St. George. He might
succeed in being ordained without going to a theological college, or if
the Bishop insisted upon a theological course and he found that he had a
vocation for the religious life, he could go to Glastonbury and rejoin
the Order when he was a priest. It was true that Father Rowley
disapproved of Father Burrowes; but he had never expressed more than a
general disapproval, and Mark was inclined to attribute his attitude to
the prejudice of a man of strong personality and definite methods
against another man of strong personality and definite methods working
on similar lines among similar people. Mark remembered now that there
had been a question at one time of Father Burrowes' opening a priory in
the next parish to St. Agnes'. Probably that was the reason why Father
Rowley disapproved of him. Mark had heard the monk preach on one
occasion and had liked him. Outside the pulpit, however, he knew nothing
more of him than what he had heard from soldiers staying in the Keppel
Street Mission House, who from Aldershot had visited Malford Abbey, the
mother house of the Order. The alternative to Malford was Clere Abbey on
the Berkshire downs where Dom Cuthbert Manners ruled over a small
community of strict Benedictines. Had Mark really been convinced that he
was likely to remain a monk for the rest of his life, he would have
chosen the Benedictines; but he did not feel justified in presenting
himself for admission to Clere on what would seem impulse. He hoped that
if he was accepted by the Order of St. George he should be given an
opportunity to work at one of the priories in Aldershot or Sandgate, and
that the experience he might expect to gain would help him later as a
parish priest. He could not confide in the Rector his reason for wanting
to subject himself to monastic discipline, and he expected a good deal
of opposition. It might be better to write from whatever village he
stayed in to-night and make the announcement without going back at all.
And this is what in the end he decided to do.

     The Sun Inn,

     Ladingford.

     June 24.

     My dear Rector,

     I expect you gathered from our talk the day before yesterday that I
     was feeling dissatisfied with myself, and you must know that the
     problem of occupying my time wisely before I am ordained has lately
     been on my mind. I don't feel that I could honestly take up a
     profession to which I had no intention of sticking, and though
     Father Rowley recommended me to stay at home and work with the
     village people I don't feel capable of doing that yet. If it was a
     question of helping you by taking off your shoulders work that I
     could do it would be another matter. But you've often said to me
     that you had more time on your hands than you cared for since you
     gave up coaching me for an Oxford scholarship, and so I don't think
     I'm wrong in supposing that you would find it hard to discover for
     me any parochial routine work. I'm not old enough yet to fish for
     souls, and I have no confidence in my ability to hook them.
     Besides, I think it would bore you if I started "missionizing" in
     Wych-on-the-Wold.

     I've settled therefore to try to get into the Order of St. George.
     I don't think you know Father Burrowes personally, but I've always
     heard that he does a splendid work among soldiers, and I'm hoping
     that he will accept me as a novice.

     Latterly, in fact since I left Chatsea, I've been feeling the need
     of a regular existence, and, though I cannot pretend that I have a
     vocation for the monastic life in the highest sense, I do feel that
     I have a vocation for the Order of St. George. You will wonder why
     I have not mentioned this to you, but the fact is--and I hope
     you'll appreciate my frankness--I did not think of the O.S.G. till
     this morning. Of course they may refuse to have me. But I shall
     present myself without a preliminary letter, and I hope to persuade
     Father Burrowes to have me on probation. If he once does that, I'm
     sure that I shall satisfy him. This sounds like the letter of a
     conceited clerk. It must be the fault of this horrible inn pen,
     which is like writing with a tooth-pick dipped in a puddle! I
     thought it was best not to stay at the Rectory, with Esther on the
     verge of her profession. It wouldn't be fair to her at a time like
     this to make my immediate future a matter of prime importance. So
     do forgive my going off in this fashion. I suppose it's just
     possible that some bishop will accept me for ordination from
     Malford, though no doubt it's improbable. This will be a matter to
     discuss with Father Burrowes later.

     Do forgive what looks like a most erratic course of procedure. But
     I really should hate a long discussion, and if I make a mistake I
     shall have had a lesson. It really is essential for me to be
     tremendously occupied. I cannot say more than this, but I do beg
     you to believe that I'm not taking this apparently unpremeditated
     step without a very strong reason. It's a kind of compromise with
     my ambition to re-establish in the English Church an order of
     preaching friars. I haven't yet given up that idea, but I'm sure
     that I ought not to think about it seriously until I'm a priest.

     I'm staying here to-night after a glorious day's tramp, and
     to-morrow morning I shall take the train and go by Reading and
     Basingstoke to Malford. I'll write to you as soon as I know if I'm
     accepted. My best love to everybody, and please tell Esther that I
     shall think about her on St. Mary Magdalene's Day.

     Yours always affectionately,

     Mark.

To Esther he wrote by the same post:

     My dear Sister Esther Magdalene,

     Do not be angry with me for running away, and do not despise me for
     trying to enter a monastery in such a mood. I'm as much the prey of
     religion as you are. And I am really horrified by the revelation of
     what I am capable of. I saw in your eyes yesterday the passion of
     your soul for Divine things. The memory of them awes me. Pray for
     me, dear sister, that all my passion may be turned to the service
     of God. Defend me to your brother, who will not understand my
     behaviour.

     Mark.

Three days later Mark wrote again to the Rector:

     The Abbey,

     Malford,

     Surrey.

     June 27th.

     My dear Rector,

     I do hope that you're not so much annoyed with me that you don't
     want to hear anything about my monastic adventures. However, if you
     are you can send back this long letter unopened. I believe that is
     the proper way to show one's disapproval by correspondence.

     I reached Malford yesterday afternoon, and after a jolly walk
     between high hazel hedges for about two miles I reached the Abbey.
     It doesn't quite fulfil one's preconceived ideas of what an abbey
     should look like, but I suppose it is the most practicable building
     that could be erected with the amount of money that the Order had
     to spare for what in a way is a luxury for a working order like
     this. What it most resembles is three tin tabernacles put together
     to form three sides of a square, the fourth and empty side of which
     is by far the most beautiful, because it consists of a glorious
     view over a foreground of woods, a middle-distance of park land,
     and on the horizon the Hampshire downs.

     I am an authority on this view, because I had to gaze at it for
     about a quarter of an hour while I was waiting for somebody to open
     the Abbey door. At last the porter, Brother Lawrence, after taking
     a good look at me through the grill, demanded what I wanted. When I
     said that I wanted to be a monk, he looked very alarmed and hurried
     away, leaving me to gaze at that view for another ten minutes. He
     came back at last and let me in, informing me in a somewhat
     adenoidish voice that the Reverend Brother was busy in the garden
     and asking me to wait until he came in. Brother Lawrence has a
     large, pock-marked face, and while he is talking to anybody he
     stands with his right hand in his left sleeve and his left hand in
     his right sleeve like a Chinese mandarin or an old washer-woman
     with her arms folded under her apron. You must make the most of my
     descriptions in this letter, because if I am accepted as a
     probationer I shan't be able to indulge in any more personalities
     about my brethren.

     The guest-room like everything else in the monastery is
     match-boarded; and while I was waiting in it the noise was
     terrific, because some corrugated iron was being nailed on the roof
     of a building just outside. I began to regret that Brother Lawrence
     had opened the door at all and that he had not left me in the
     cloisters, as by the way I discovered that the space enclosed by
     the three tin tabernacles is called! There was nothing to read in
     the guest-room except one sheet of a six months' old newspaper
     which had been spread on the table presumably for a guest to mend
     something with glue. At last the Reverend Brother, looking most
     beautiful in a white habit with a zucchetto of mauve velvet, came
     in and welcomed me with much friendliness. I was surprised to find
     somebody so young as Brother Dunstan in charge of a monastery,
     especially as he said he was only a novice as yet. It appears that
     all the bigwigs--or should I say big-cowls?--are away at the moment
     on business of the Order and that various changes are in the
     offing, the most important being the giving up of their branch in
     Malta and the consequent arrival of Brother George, of whom
     Brother Dunstan spoke in a hushed voice. Father Burrowes, or the
     Reverend Father as he is called, is preaching in the north of
     England at the moment, and Brother Dunstan tells me it is quite
     impossible for him to say anything, still less to do anything,
     about my admission. However, he urged me to stay on for the present
     as a guest, an invitation which I accepted without hesitation. He
     had only just time to show me my cell and the card of rules for
     guests when a bell rang and, drawing his cowl over his head, he
     hurried off.

     After perusing the rules, I discovered that this was the bell which
     rings a quarter of an hour before Vespers for solemn silence. I
     hadn't the slightest idea where the chapel was, and when I asked
     Brother Lawrence he glared at me and put his finger to his mouth. I
     was not to be discouraged, however, and in the end he showed me
     into the ante-chapel which is curtained off from the quire. There
     was only one other person in the ante-chapel, a florid,
     well-dressed man with a rather mincing and fussy way of
     worshipping. The monks led by Brother Lawrence (who is not even a
     novice yet, but a postulant and wears a black habit, without a
     hood, tied round the waist with a rope) passed from the refectory
     through the ante-chapel into the quire, and Vespers began. They
     used an arrangement called "The Day Hours of the English Church,"
     but beyond a few extra antiphons there was very little difference
     from ordinary Evening Prayer. After Vespers I had a simple and
     solemn meal by myself, and I was wondering how I should get hold of
     a book to pass away the evening, when Brother Dunstan came in and
     asked me if I'd like to sit with the brethren in the library until
     the bell rang for simple silence a quarter of an hour before
     Compline at 9.15, after which everybody--guests and monks--are
     expected to go to bed in solemn silence. The difference between
     simple silence and solemn silence is that you may ask necessary
     questions and get necessary replies during simple silence; but as
     far as I can make out, during solemn silence you wouldn't be
     allowed to tell anybody that you were dying, or if you did tell
     anybody, he wouldn't be able to do anything about it until solemn
     silence was over.

     The other monks are Brother Jerome, the senior novice after Brother
     Dunstan, a pious but rather dull young man with fair hair and a
     squashed face, and Brother Raymond, attractive and bird-like, and
     considered a great Romanizer by the others. There is also Brother
     Walter, who is only a probationer and is not even allowed wide
     sleeves and a habit like Brother Lawrence, but has to wear a very
     moth-eaten cassock with a black band tied round it. Brother Walter
     had been marketing in High Thorpe (I wonder what the Bishop of
     Silchester thought if he saw him in the neighbourhood of the
     episcopal castle!) and having lost himself on the way home he had
     arrived back late for Vespers and was tremendously teased by the
     others in consequence. Brother Walter is a tall excitable awkward
     creature with black hair that sticks up on end and wide-open
     frightened eyes. His cassock is much too short for him both in the
     arms and in the legs; and as he has very large hands and very large
     feet, his hands and feet look still larger in consequence. They
     didn't talk about much that was interesting during recreation.
     Brother Dunstan and Brother Raymond were full of monkish jokes, at
     all of which Brother Walter laughed in a very high voice--so loudly
     once that Brother Jerome asked him if he would mind making less
     noise, as he was reading Montalembert's Monks of the West, at which
     Brother Walter fell into an abashed gloom.

     I asked who the visitor in the ante-chapel was and was told that he
     was a Sir Charles Horner who owns the whole of Malford and who has
     presented the Order with the thirty acres on which the Abbey is
     built. Sir Charles is evidently an ecclesiastically-minded person
     and, I should imagine, rather pleased to be able to be the patron
     of a monastic order.

     I will write you again when I have seen Father Burrowes. For the
     moment I'm inclined to think that Malford is rather playing at
     being monks; but as I said, the bigwigs are all away. Brother
     Dunstan is a delightful fellow, yet I shouldn't imagine that he
     would make a successful abbot for long.

     I enjoyed Compline most of all my experiences during the day, after
     which I retired to my cell and slept without turning till the bell
     rang for Lauds and Prime, both said as one office at six o'clock,
     after which I should have liked a conventual Mass. But alas, there
     is no priest here and I have been spending the time till breakfast
     by writing you this endless letter.

     Yours ever affectionately,

     Mark.

     P.S. They don't say Mattins, which I'm inclined to think rather
     slack. But I suppose I oughtn't to criticize so soon.

To those two letters of Mark's, the Rector replied as follows:

     The Rectory,

     Wych-on-the-Wold,

     Oxon.

     June 29th.

     My dear Mark,

     I cannot say frankly that I approve of your monastic scheme. I
     should have liked an opportunity to talk it over with you first of
     all, and I cannot congratulate you on your good manners in going
     off like that without any word. Although you are technically
     independent now, I think it would be a great mistake to sink your
     small capital of L500 in the Order of St. George, and you can't
     very well make use of them to pass the next two or three years
     without contributing anything.

     The other objection to your scheme is that you may not get taken at
     Glastonbury. In any case the Glastonbury people will give the
     preference to Varsity men, and I'm not sure that they would be very
     keen on having an ex-monk. However, as I said, you are independent
     now and can choose yourself what you do. Meanwhile, I suppose it is
     possible that Burrowes may decide you have no vocation, in which
     case I hope you'll give up your monastic ambitions and come back
     here.

     Yours affectionately,

     Stephen Ogilvie.

Mark who had been growing bored in the guest-room of Malford Abbey
nearly said farewell to it for ever when he received the Rector's
letter. His old friend and guardian was evidently wounded by his
behaviour, and Mark considering what he owed him felt that he ought to
abandon his monastic ambitions if by doing so he could repay the Rector
some of his kindness. His hand was on the bell that should summon the
guest-brother (when the bell was working and the guest-brother was not)
in order to tell him that he had been called away urgently and to ask if
he might have the Abbey cart to take him to the station; but at that
moment Sir Charles Horner came in and began to chat affably to Mark.

"I've been intending to come up and see you for the last three days. But
I've been so confoundedly busy. They wonder what we country gentlemen do
with ourselves. By gad, they ought to try our life for a change."

Mark supposed that the third person plural referred to the whole body of
Radical critics.

"You're the son of Lidderdale, I hear," Sir Charles went on without
giving Mark time to comment on the hardship of his existence. "I visited
Lima Street twenty-five years ago, before you were born that was. Your
father was a great pioneer. We owe him a lot. And you've been with
Rowley lately? That confounded bishop. He's our bishop, you know. But he
finds it difficult to get at Burrowes except by starving him for
priests. The fellow's a time-server, a pusher . . ."

Mark began to like Sir Charles; he would have liked anybody who would
abuse the Bishop of Silchester.

"So you're thinking of joining my Order," Sir Charles went on without
giving Mark time to say a word. "I call it my Order because I set them
up here with thirty acres of uncleared copse. It gives the Tommies
something to do when they come over here on furlough from Aldershot.
You've never met Burrowes, I hear."

Mark thought that Sir Charles for a busy man had managed to learn a
great deal about an unimportant person like himself.

"Will Father Burrowes be here soon?" Mark inquired.

"'Pon my word, I don't know. Nobody knows when he'll be anywhere. He's
preaching all over the place. He begs the deuce of a lot of money, you
know. Aren't you a friend of Dorward's? You were asking Brother Dunstan
about him. His parish isn't far from here. About fifteen miles, that's
all. He's an amusing fellow, isn't he? Has tremendous rows with his
squire, Philip Iredale. A pompous ass whose wife ran away from him a
little time ago. Served him right, Dorward told me in confidence. You
must come and have lunch with me. There's only Lady Landells. I can't
afford to live in the big place. Huge affair with Doric portico and all
that, don't you know. It's let to Lord Middlesborough, the shipping man.
I live at Malford Lodge. Quite a jolly little place I've made of it.
Suits me better than that great gaunt Georgian pile. You'd better walk
down with me this morning and stop to lunch."

Mark, who was by now growing tired of his own company in the guest-room,
accepted Sir Charles' invitation with alacrity; and they walked down
from the Abbey to the village of Malford, which was situated at the
confluence of the Mall and the Nodder, two diminutive tributaries of the
Wey, which itself is not a mighty stream.

"A rather charming village, don't you think?" said Sir Charles, pointing
with his tasselled cane to a particularly attractive rose-hung cottage.
"It was lucky that the railway missed us by a couple of miles; we should
have been festering with tin bungalows by now on any available land,
which means on any land that doesn't belong to me. I don't offer to show
you the church, because I never enter it."

Mark had paused as a matter of course by the lychgate, supposing that
with a squire like Sir Charles the inside should be of unusual interest.

"My uncle most outrageously sold the advowson to the Simeon Trustees, it
being the only part of my inheritance he could alienate from me, whom he
loathed. He knew nothing would enrage me more than that, and the result
is that I've got a fellow as vicar who preaches in a black gown and has
evening communion twice a month. That is why I took such pleasure in
planting a monastery in the parish; and if only that old time-server the
Bishop of Silchester would licence a chaplain to the community, I should
get my Sunday Mass in my own parish despite my uncle's simeony, as I
call it. As it is with Burrowes away all the time raising funds, I don't
get a Mass at the Abbey and I have to go to the next parish, which is
four miles away and appears highly undignified for the squire."

"And you can't get him out?" said Mark.

"If I did get him out, I should be afflicted with another one just as
bad. The Simeon Trustees only appoint people of the stamp of Mr.
Choules, my present enemy. He's a horrid little man with a gaunt wife
six feet high who beats her children and, if village gossip be true, her
husband as well. Now you can see Malford Place, which is let to
Middlesborough, as I told you."

Mark looked at the great Georgian house with its lawns and cedars and
gateposts surmounted by stone wyverns. He had seen many of these great
houses in the course of his tramping; but he had never thought of them
before except as natural features in the landscape; the idea that people
could consider a gigantic building like that as much a home as the small
houses in which Mark had spent his life came over him now with a sense
of novelty.

"Ghastly affair, isn't it?" said the owner contemptuously. "I'd let it
stand empty rather than live in it myself. It reeks of my uncle's
medicine and echoes with his gouty groans. Besides what is there in it
that's really mine?"

Mark who had been thinking what an easy affair life must be for Sir
Charles was struck by his tone of disillusionment. Perhaps all people
who inherited old names and old estates were affected by their awareness
of transitory possession. Sir Charles could not alienate even a piece of
furniture. A middle-aged bachelor and a cosmopolitan, he would have
moved about the corridors and halls of that huge house with less
permanency than Lord Middlesborough who paid him so well to walk about
in it in his stead, and who was no more restricted by the terms of his
lease than was his landlord by the conditions of the entail. Mark began
to feel sorry for him; but without cause, for when Sir Charles came in
sight of Malford Lodge where he lived, he was full of enthusiasm. It was
indeed a pretty little house of red brick, dating from the first quarter
of the nineteenth century and like so many houses of that period built
close to the road, surrounded too on three sides by a verandah of iron
and copper in the pagoda style, thoroughly ugly, but by reason of the
mellow peacock hues time had given its roof, full of personality and
charm. They entered by a green door in the brick wall and crossed a
lawn sloping down to the little river to reach the shade of a tulip tree
in full bloom, where seated in one of those tall wicker garden chairs
shaped like an alcove was an elderly lady as ugly as Priapus.

"There's Lady Landells, who's a poetess, you know," said Sir Charles
gravely.

Mark accepted the information with equal gravity. He was still
unsophisticated enough to be impressed at hearing a woman called a
poetess.

"Mr. Lidderdale is going to have lunch with us, Lady Landells," Sir
Charles announced.

"Oh, is he?" Lady Landells replied in a cracked murmur of complete
indifference.

"He's a great admirer of your poems," added Sir Charles, hearing which
Lady Landells looked at Mark with her cod's eyes and by way of greeting
offered him two fingers of her left hand.

"I can't read him any of my poems to-day, Charles, so pray don't ask me
to do so," the poetess groaned.

"I'm going to show Mr. Lidderdale some of our pictures before lunch,"
said Sir Charles.

Lady Landells paid no attention; Mark, supposing her to be on the verge
of a poetic frenzy, was glad to leave her in that wicker alcove under
the tulip tree and to follow Sir Charles into the house.

It was an astonishing house inside, with Gothic carving everywhere and
with ancient leaded casements built inside the sashed windows of the
exterior.

"I took an immense amount of trouble to get this place arranged to my
taste," said Sir Charles; and Mark wondered why he had bothered to
retain the outer shell, since that was all that was left of the
original. In every room there were copies, excellently done of pictures
by Botticelli and Mantegna and other pre-Raphaelite painters; the walls
were rich with antique brocades and tapestries; the ceilings were gilded
or elaborately moulded with fan traceries and groining; great
candlesticks stood in every corner; the doors were all old with
floriated hinges and huge locks--it was the sort of house in which
Victor Hugo might have put on his slippers and said, "I am at home."

"I admit nothing after 1520," said Sir Charles proudly.

Mark wondered why so fastidious a medievalist allowed the Order of St.
George to erect those three tin tabernacles and to matchboard the
interior of the Abbey. But perhaps that was only another outer shell
which would gradually be filled.

Lunch was a disappointment, because when Sir Charles began to talk about
the monastery, which was what Mark had been wanting to talk about all
the morning, Lady Landells broke in:

"I am sorry, Charles, but I'm afraid that I must beg for complete
silence at lunch, as I'm in the middle of a sonnet."

The poetess sighed, took a large mouthful of food, and sighed again.

After lunch Sir Charles took Mark to see his library, which reminded him
of a Rossetti interior and lacked only a beautiful long-necked creature,
full-lipped and auburn-haired, to sit by the casement languishing over a
cithern or gazing out through bottle-glass lights at a forlorn and
foreshortened landscape of faerie land.

"Poor Lady Landells was a little tiresome at lunch," said Sir Charles
half to himself. "She gets moods. Women seem never to grow out of
getting moods. But she has always been most kind to me, and she insists
on giving me anything I want for my house. Last year she was good enough
to buy it from me as it stands, so it's really her house, although she
has left it back to me in her will. She took rather a fancy to you by
the way."

Mark, who had supposed that Lady Landells had regarded him with aversion
and scorn, stared at this.

"Didn't she give you her hand when you said good-bye?" asked Sir
Charles.

"Her left hand," said Mark.

"Oh, she never gives her right hand to anybody. She has some fad about
spoiling the magnetic current of Apollo or something. Now, what about a
walk?"

Mark said he should like to go for a walk very much, but wasn't Sir
Charles too busy?

"Oh, no, I've nothing to do at all."

Yet only that morning he had held forth to Mark at great length on the
amount of work demanded for the management of an estate.

"Now, why do you want to join Burrowes?" Sir Charles inquired presently.

"Well, I hope to be a priest, and I think I should like to spend the
next two years out of the world."

"Yes, that is all very well," said Sir Charles, "but I don't know that I
altogether recommend the O.S.G. I'm not satisfied with the way things
are being run. However, they tell me that this fellow Brother George has
a good deal of common-sense. He has been running their house in Malta,
where he's done some good work. I gave them the land to build a mother
house so that they could train people for active service, as it were;
but Burrowes keeps chopping and changing and sending untrained novices
to take charge of an important branch like Sandgate, and now since
Rowley left he talks of opening a priory in Chatsea. That's all very
well, and it's quite right of him to bear in mind that the main object
of the Order is to work among soldiers; but at the same time he leaves
this place to run itself, and whenever he does come down here he plans
some hideous addition, to pay for which he has to go off preaching for
another three months, so that the Abbey gets looked after by a young
novice of twenty-five. It's ridiculous, you know. I was grumbling at the
Bishop; but really I can understand his disinclination to countenance
Burrowes. I have hopes of Brother George, and I shall take an early
opportunity of talking to him."

Mark was discouraged by Sir Charles' criticism of the Order; and that it
could be criticized like this through the conduct of its founder
accentuated for him the gulf that lay between the English Church and the
rest of Catholic Christendom.

It was not much solace to remember that every Benedictine community was
an independent congregation. One could not imagine the most independent
community's being placed in charge of a novice of twenty-five. It made
Mark's proposed monastic life appear amateurish; and when he was back in
the matchboarded guest-room the impulse to abandon his project was
revised. Yet he felt it would be wrong to return to Wych-on-the-Wold.
The impulse to come here, though sudden, had been very strong, and to
give it up without trial might mean the loss of an experience that one
day he should regret. The opinion of Sir Charles Horner might or might
not be well founded; but it was bound to be a prejudiced opinion,
because by constituting himself to the extent he had a patron of the
Order he must involuntarily expect that it should be conducted according
to his views. Sir Charles himself, seen in perspective, was a tolerably
ridiculous figure, too much occupied with the paraphernalia of worship,
too well pleased with himself, a man of rank and wealth who judged by
severe standards was an old maid, and like all old maids critical, but
not creative.




CHAPTER XXIV

THE ORDER OF ST. GEORGE


The Order of St. George was started by the Reverend Edward Burrowes six
years before Sir Charles Horner's gift of land for a Mother House led
him to suppose that he had made his foundation a permanent factor in the
religious life of England.

Edward Burrowes was the only son of a band-master in the Royal Artillery
who at an impressionable moment in the life of his son was stationed at
Malta. The religious atmosphere of Malta combined with the romantic
associations of chivalry and the influence of his mother determined the
boy's future. The band-master was puzzled and irritated by his son's
ecclesiastical bias. He thought that so much church-going argued an
unhealthy preoccupation, and as for Edward's rhapsodies about the
Auberge of Castile, which sheltered the Messes of the Royal Artillery
and the Royal Engineers, they made him sick, to use his own expression.

"You make me sick, Ted," he used to declare. "The sooner I get quit of
Malta and quartered at Woolwich again, the better I shall be pleased."

When at last the band-master was moved to Woolwich, he hoped that the
effect of such prosaic surroundings would put an end to Ted's mooning,
and that he would settle down to a career more likely to reward him in
this world rather than in that ambiguous world beyond to which his
dreams aspired. Edward, who was by this time seventeen and who had so
far submitted to his father's wishes as to be working in a solicitor's
office, found that the effect of being banished from Malta was to
stimulate him into a practical attempt to express his dreams of
religious devotion. He hired a small room over a stable in a back street
and started a club for the sons of soldiers. The band-master would not
have minded this so much, especially when he was congratulated on his
son's enterprise by the wife of the Colonel. Unfortunately this was not
enough for Edward, who having got the right side of an unscrupulously
romantic curate persuaded him to receive his vows of a Benedictine
oblate. The band-master, proud and fond though he might be of his own
uniform, objected to his son's arriving home from business and walking
about the house in a cassock. He objected equally to finding that his
own musical gifts had with his son degenerated into a passion for
playing Gregorian chants on a vile harmonium. It was only consideration
for his delicate wife that kept the band-master from pitching both
cassock and harmonium into the street. The amateur oblate regretted his
father's hostility; but he persevered with the manner of life he had
marked out for himself, finding much comfort and encouragement in
reading the lives of the saintly founders of religious orders.

At last, after a long struggle against the difficulties that friends and
father put in his way, Edward Burrowes managed at the age of
twenty-seven to get ordained in Canada, whither, in despair of escaping
otherwise from the solicitor's office, he had gone to seek his own
fortune. He took with him the oblate's cassock; but he left behind the
harmonium, which his father kicked to pieces in rage at not being able
to kick his son. Burrowes worked as a curate in a dismal lakeside town
in Ontario, consoling himself with dreams of monasticism and chivalry,
and gaining a reputation as a preacher. His chief friend was a young
farmer, called George Harvey, whom he succeeded in firing with his own
enthusiasm and whom he managed to persuade--which shows that Burrowes
must have had great powers of persuasion--to wear the habit of a
Benedictine novice, when he came to spend Saturday night to Monday
morning with his friend. By this time Burrowes had passed beyond the
oblate stage, for having found a Canadian bishop willing to dispense him
from that portion of the Benedictine rule which was incompatible with
his work as a curate in Jonesville, Ontario, he got himself clothed as a
novice. About this period a third man joined Burrowes and Harvey in
their spare-time monasticism. This was John Holcombe, who had emigrated
from Dorsetshire after an unfortunate love affair and who had been taken
on by George Harvey as a carter. Holcombe was the son of a yeoman farmer
that owned several hundred acres of land. He had been educated at
Sherborne, and soon by his capacity and attractive personality he made
himself so indispensable to his employer that George Harvey's farm was
turned into a joint concern. No doubt Harvey's example was the immediate
cause of Holcombe's associating himself with the little community: but
it still says much for Burrowes' powers of persuasion that he should
have been able to impress this young Dorset farmer with the serious
possibility of leading the monastic life in Ontario.

When another year had passed, an opportunity arose of acquiring a better
farm in Alberta. It was the Bishop of Alberta who had been so
sympathetic with Burrowes' monastic aspirations; and, when Harvey and
Holcombe decided to move to Moose Rib, Burrowes gave up his curacy to
lead a regular monastic life, so far as one could lead a regular
monastic life on a farm in the North-west.

Two more years had gone by when a letter arrived from England to tell
George Harvey that he was the heir to L12,000. Burrowes had kept all his
influence over the young farmer, and he was actually able to persuade
Harvey to devote this fortune to founding the Order of St. George for
mission work among soldiers. There was some debate whether Father
Burrowes, Brother George, and Brother Birinus should take their final
vows immediately; but in the end Father Burrowes had his way, and they
were all three professed by the sympathetic Bishop of Alberta, who
granted them a constitution subject to the ratification of the
Archbishop of Canterbury. Father Burrowes was elected Father Superior,
Brother George was made Assistant Superior, and Brother Birinus had to
concentrate in his person various monastic offices just as on the Moose
Rib Farm he had combined in his person the duties of the various hands.

The immediate objective of the new community was Malta, where it was
proposed to open their first house and where, in despite of the
outraged dignity of innumerable real monks already there, they made a
successful beginning. A second house was opened at Gibraltar and put in
charge of Brother Birinus. Neither Malta nor Gibraltar provided much of
a field for reinforcing the Order, which, if it was to endure, required
additional members. Father Burrowes proposed that he should go to
England and open a house at Aldershot, and that, if he could obtain a
hearing as a preacher, he should try to raise enough funds for a house
at Sandgate as well. Brother George and Brother Birinus in a solemn
chapter of three accepted the proposal; the house at Gibraltar was given
up; the Father Superior went to seek the fortunes of the Order in
England, while the other two remained at their work in Malta. Father
Burrowes was even more successful as a preacher than he hoped; ascribing
the steady flow of offertories to Divine favour, he instituted during
the next four years, priories at Aldershot and Sandgate. He began to
feel the need of a Mother House, having now more than enough candidates
for the Order of Saint George, where the novices could be suitably
trained to meet the stress of active mission work. One of his moving
appeals for this object was heard by Sir Charles Horner who, for reasons
he had already explained to Mark and because underneath all his
ecclesiasticism there did exist a genuine desire for the glory of God,
had presented the land at Malford to the Order. Father Burrowes preached
harder than ever, addressed drawing-room meetings, and started a monthly
magazine called _The Dragon_ to raise the necessary money to build a
mighty abbey. Meanwhile, he had to be contented with those three tin
tabernacles. Brother George, who had remained all these years in Malta,
suggested that it was time for somebody else to take his place out
there, and the Father Superior, although somewhat unwillingly, had
agreed to his coming to Malford. Not having heard of anybody whom at the
moment he considered suitable to take charge of what was now a distant
outpost of the Order, he told Brother George to close the house. It was
at this stage in the history of the Order that Mark presented himself as
a candidate for admission.

Father Burrowes arrived unexpectedly two days after the lunch at
Malford Lodge; and presently Brother Dunstan came to tell Mark that the
Reverend Father would see him in the Abbott's Parlour immediately after
Nones. Mark thought that Sir Charles might have given a mediaeval lining
to this room at least, which with its roll-top desk looked like the
office of the clerk of the works.

"So you want to be a monk?" said Father Burrowes contemptuously. "Want
to dress up in a beautiful white habit, eh?"

"I really don't mind what I wear," said Mark, trying not to appear
ruffled by the imputation of wrong motives. "But I do want to be a monk,
yes."

"You can't come here to play at it," said the Superior, looking keenly
at Mark from his bright blue eyes and lighting up a large pipe.

"Curiously enough," said Mark, who had forgotten the Benedictine
injunction to discourage newcomers that seek to enter a community, "I
wrote to my guardian a few days ago that my impression of Malford Abbey
was rather that it was playing at being monks."

The Superior flushed to a vivid red. He was a burly man of fair
complexion, inclined to plumpness, and with a large mobile mouth
eloquent and sensual. His hands were definitely fat, the backs of them
covered with golden hairs and freckles.

"So you're a critical young gentleman, are you? I suppose we're not
Catholic enough for you. Well," he snapped, "I'm afraid you won't suit
us. We don't want you. Sorry."

"I'm sorry too," said Mark. "But I thought you would prefer frankness.
If you will spare me a few minutes, I'll explain why I want to join the
Order of St. George. If when you've heard what I have to say you still
think that I'm not suitable, I shall recognize your right to be of that
opinion from your experience of many young men like myself who have been
tried and found wanting."

"Did you learn that speech by heart?" the Superior inquired, raising his
eyebrows mockingly.

"I see you're determined to find fault," Mark laughed. "But, Reverend
Father, surely you will listen to my reasons before deciding against
them or me?"

"My instinct tells me you'll be no good to us. But if you insist on
wasting my time, fire ahead. Only please remember that, though I may be
a monk, I'm a very busy man."

Mark gave a full account of himself until the present and wound up by
saying:

"I don't think I have any sentimental reasons for wanting to enter a
monastery. I like working among soldiers and sailors. I am ready to put
down L200 and I hope to be of use. I wish to be a priest, and if you
find or I find that when the time comes for me to be ordained I shall
make a better secular priest, at any rate, I shall have had the
advantage of a life of discipline and you, I promise, will have had a
novice who will have regarded himself as such, but yet will have learnt
somehow to have justified your confidence."

The Superior looked down at his desk pondering. Presently he opened a
letter and threw a quick suspicious glance at Mark.

"Why didn't you tell me that you had an introduction from Sir Charles
Horner?"

"I didn't know that I had," Mark answered in some astonishment. "I only
met him here a few days ago for the first time. He invited me to lunch,
and he was very pleasant; but I never asked him to write to you, nor did
he suggest doing so."

"Have you any vices?" Father Burrowes asked abruptly.

"I don't think--what do you mean exactly?" Mark inquired.

"Drink?"

"No, certainly not."

"Women?"

Mark flushed.

"No." He wondered if he should speak of the episode of St. John's eve
such a short time ago; but he could not bring himself to do so, and he
repeated the denial.

"You seem doubtful," the Superior insisted.

"As a matter of fact," said Mark, "since you press this point I ought
to tell you that I took a vow of celibacy when I was sixteen."

Father Burrowes looked at him sharply.

"Did you indeed? That sounds very morbid. Don't you like women?"

"I don't think a priest ought to marry. I was told by Sir Charles that
you vowed yourself to the monastic life when you were not much more than
seventeen. Was that morbid?"

The Superior laughed boisterously, and Mark glad to have put him in a
good humour laughed with him. It was only after the interview was over
that the echo of that laugh sounded unpleasantly in the caves of memory,
that it rang false somehow like a denial of himself.

"Well, I suppose we must try you as a probationer at any rate," said the
Superior. And suddenly his whole manner changed. He became affectionate
and sentimental as he put his hand on Mark's shoulder.

"I hope, dear lad, that you will find a vocation to serve our dear Lord
in the religious life. God bless you and give you endurance in the path
you have chosen."

Mark reproached himself for his inclination to dislike the Reverend
Father to whom he now owed filial affection, piety, and respect, apart
from what he owed him as a Christian of Christian charity. He should
gain but small spiritual benefit from his self-chosen experiment if this
was the mood in which he was beginning his monastic life; and when
Brother Jerome, who was acting novice-master, began to instruct him in
his monastic duty, he made up his mind to drive out that demon of
criticism or rather to tame it to his own service by criticizing
himself. He wrote on markers for his favourite devotional books:

_Observe at every moment of the day the good in others, the evil in
thyself; and when thou liest awake in the night remember only what good
thou hast found in others, what evil in thyself._

This was Mark's addition to Thomas a Kempis, to Mother Juliana of
Norwich, to Jeremy Taylor and William Law; this was Mark's sprout of
holy wisdom among the Little Flowers of Saint Francis.

The Rule of Malford was not a very austere adaptation of the Rule of
Saint Benedict; and, with the Reverend Father departing after Mark had
been admitted as a probationer and leaving the administration of the
Abbey to the priority of Brother Dunstan, a good deal of what austerity
had been retained was now relaxed.

The Night Office was not said at Malford, where the liturgical worship
of the day began with Lauds and Prime at six. On Mark devolved the duty
of waking the brethren in the morning, which was done by striking the
door of each cell with a hammer and saying: _The Lord be with you_,
whereupon the sleeping brother must rise from his couch and open the
door of his cell to make the customary response. After Lauds and Prime,
which lasted about half an hour, the brethren retired to their cells to
put them in order for the day and to meditate until seven o'clock,
unless they had been given tasks out of doors. At seven o'clock, if
there was a priest in the monastery, Mass was said; otherwise meditation
and study was prolonged until eight o'clock, when breakfast was eaten.
Those who had work in the fields or about the house departed after
breakfast to their tasks. At nine Terce was said, which was not attended
by the brethren working out of doors; at twelve Sext was said attended
by all the brethren, and at twelve-fifteen dinner was eaten. After
dinner, the brethren retired to their cells and meditated until one
o'clock, when their various duties were resumed, interrupted only in the
case of those working indoors by the office of None at three o'clock. At
a quarter to five the bell rang for tea. Simple silence was relaxed, and
the brethren enjoyed their recreation until six-fifteen when the bell
rang for a quarter of an hour's solemn silence before Vespers. Supper
was eaten after Vespers, and after supper, which was finished about
eight o'clock, there was reading and recreation until the bell rang for
Compline at nine-fifteen. This office said, solemn silence was not
broken until the response to the _dominus vobiscum_ in the morning. The
rule of simple silence was not kept very strictly at this period. Two
brethren working in the garden in these hot July days found that
permitted conversation about the immediate matter in hand, say the
whereabouts of a trowel or a hoe, was easily extended into observations
about the whereabouts of Brother So-and-So during Terce or the way
Brother Somebody-else was late with the antiphon. From the little
incidents of the Abbey's daily round the conversation was easily
extended into a discussion of the policy of the Order in general.
Speculations where the Reverend Father was preaching that evening or
that morning and whether his offertories would be as large during the
summer as they had been during the spring were easily amplified from
discussions about the general policy of the Order into discussions about
the general policy of Christendom, the pros and cons of the Roman
position, the disgraceful latitudinarianism of bishops and deans; and
still more widely amplified from remarks upon the general policy of
Christendom into arguments about the universe and the great philosophies
of humanity. Thus Mark, who was an ardent Platonist, would find himself
at odds with Brother Jerome who was an equally ardent Aristotelian,
while the weeds, taking advantage of the philosophic contest, grew
faster than ever.

Whatever may have been Brother Dunstan's faults of indulgence, they
sprang from a debonair and kindly personality which shone like a sun
upon the little family and made everybody good-humoured, even Brother
Lawrence, who was apt to be cross because he had been kept a postulant
longer than he expected. But perhaps the happiest of all was Brother
Walter, who though still a probationer was now the senior probationer, a
status which afforded him the most profound satisfaction and gave him a
kindly feeling toward Mark who was the cause of promotion.

"And the Reverend Father has promised me that I shall be clothed as a
postulant on August 10th when Brother Lawrence is to be clothed as a
novice. The thought makes me so excited that I hardly know what to do
sometimes, and I still don't know what saint's name I'm going to take.
You see, there was some mystery about my birth, and I was called Walter
because I was found by a policeman in Walter Street, and as ill-luck
would have it there's no St. Walter. Of course, I know I have a very
wide choice of names, but that is what makes it so difficult. I had
rather a fancy to be Peter, but he's such a very conspicuous saint that
it struck me as being a little presumptuous. Of course, I have no doubt
whatever that St. Peter would take me under his protection, for if you
remember he was a modest saint, a very modest saint indeed who asked to
be crucified upside down, not liking to show the least sign of
competition with our dear Lord. I should very much like to call myself
Brother Paul, because at the school I was at we were taken twice a year
to see St. Paul's Cathedral and had toffee when we came home. I look
back to those days as some of the happiest of my life. There again it
does seem to be putting yourself up rather to take the name of a great
saint like St. Paul. Then I thought of taking William after the little
St. William of Norwich who was murdered by the Jews. That seems going to
the other extreme, doesn't it, for though I know that out of the mouths
of babes and sucklings shall come forth praise, one would like to feel
one had for a patron saint somebody a little more conspicuous than a
baby. I wish you'd give me a word of advice. I think about this problem
until sometimes my head's in a regular whirl, and I lose my place in the
Office. Only yesterday at Sext, I found myself saying the antiphon
proper to St. Peter a fortnight after St. Peter's day had passed and
gone, which seems to show that my mind is really set upon being Brother
Peter, doesn't it? And yet I don't know. He is so very conspicuous all
through the Gospels, isn't he?"

"Then why don't you compromise," suggested Mark, "and call yourself
Brother Simon?"

"Oh, what a splendid idea!" Brother Walter exclaimed, clapping his
hands. "Oh, thank you, Brother Mark. That has solved all my
difficulties. Oh, do let me pull up that thistle for you."

Brother Walter the probationer resumed his weeding with joyful ferocity
of purpose, his mind at peace in the expectation of shortly becoming
Brother Simon the postulant.

What Mark enjoyed most in his personal relations with the community were
the walks on Sunday afternoons. Sir Charles Horner made a habit of
joining these to obtain the Abbey gossip and also because he took
pleasure in hearing himself hold forth on the management of his estate.
Most of his property was woodland, and the walks round Malford possessed
that rich intimacy of the English countryside at its best. Mark was not
much interested in what Sir Charles had to ask or in what Sir Charles
had to tell or in what Sir Charles had to show, but to find himself
walking with his monastic brethren in their habits down glades of mighty
oaks, or through sparse plantations of birches, beneath which grew
brakes of wild raspberries that would redden with the yellowing corn,
gave him as assurance of that old England before the Reformation to
which he looked back as to a Golden Age. Years after, when much that was
good and much that was bad in his monastic experience had been
forgotten, he held in his memory one of these walks on a fine afternoon
at July's end within the octave of St. Mary Magdalene. It happened that
Sir Charles had not accompanied the monks that Sunday; but in his place
was an old priest who had spent the week-end as a guest in the Abbey and
who had said Mass for the brethren that morning. This had given Mark
deep pleasure, because it was the Sunday after Esther's profession, and
he had been able to make his intention her present joy and future
happiness. He had been silent throughout the walk, seeming to listen in
turn to Brother Dunstan's rhapsodies about the forthcoming arrival of
Brother George and Brother Birinus with all that it meant to him of
responsibility more than he could bear removed from his shoulders; or to
Brother Raymond's doubts if it should not be made a rule that when no
priest was in the Abbey the brethren ought to walk over to Wivelrod, the
church Sir Charles attended four miles away, or to Brother Jerome's
disclaimer of Roman sympathies in voicing his opinion that the Office
should be said in Latin. Actually he paid little attention to any of
them, his thoughts being far away with Esther. They had chosen Hollybush
Down for their walk that Sunday, because they thought that the view over
many miles of country would please the ancient priest. Seated on the
short aromatic grass in the shade of a massive hawthorn full-berried
with tawny fruit, the brethren looked down across a slope dotted with
junipers to the view outspread before them. None spoke, for it had been
warm work in their habits to climb the burnished grass. It would have
been hard to explain the significance of that group, unless it were due
to some haphazard achievement of perfect form; yet somehow for Mark that
moment was taken from time and placed in eternity, so that whenever
afterward in his life he read about the Middle Ages he was able to be
what he read, merely by re-conjuring that monkish company in the shade
of that hawthorn tree.

On their way back to the Abbey Mark found himself walking with Mr.
Lamplugh, the ancient priest, who turned out to have known his father.

"Dear me, are you really the son of James Lidderdale? Why, I used to go
and preach at Lima Street in old days long before your father married.
And so you're Lidderdale's son. Now I wonder why you want to be a monk."

Mark gave an account of himself since he left school and tried to give
some good reasons why he was at Malford.

"And so you were with Rowley? Well, really you ought to know something
about missions by now. But perhaps you're tired of mission work
already?" the old priest inquired with a quick glance at Mark as if he
would see how much of the real stuff existed underneath that
probationer's cassock.

"This is an active Order, isn't it?" Mark countered. "Of course, I'm not
tired of mission work. But after being with Father Rowley and being kept
busy all the time I found that being at home in the country made me
idle. I told the Reverend Father that I hoped to be ordained as a
secular priest and that I did not imagine I had any vocation for the
contemplative life. I have as a matter of fact a great longing for it.
But I don't think that twenty-one is a good age for being quite sure if
that longing is not mere sentiment. I suppose you think I'm just
indulging myself with the decorative side of religion, Father Lamplugh?
I really am not. I can assure you that I'm far too much accustomed to
the decorative side to be greatly influenced by it."

The old priest laid a thin hand on Mark's sleeve.

"To tell the truth, my dear boy, I was on the verge of violating the
decencies of accepted hospitality by criticizing the Order of which you
have become a probationer. I am just a little doubtful about the
efficacy of its method of training young men. However, it really is not
my business, and I hope that I am wrong. But I _am_ a little doubtful if
all these excellent young brethren are really desirous . . . no, I'll
not say another word, I've already disgracefully exceeded the
limitations to criticism that courtesy alone demands of me. I was
carried away by my interest in you when I heard whose son you were. What
a debt we owe to men like your father and Rowley! And here am I at
seventy-six after a long and useless life presuming to criticize other
people. God forgive me!" The old man crossed himself.

That afternoon and evening recreation was unusually noisy, and during
Vespers one or two of the brethren were seized with an attack of giggles
because Brother Lawrence, who was in a rapt condition of mind owing to
the near approach of St. Lawrence's day when he was to be clothed as a
novice, tripped while he was holding back the cope during the censing of
the _Magnificat_ and falling on his knees almost upset Father Lamplugh.
There was no doubt that the way Brother Lawrence stuck out his lower jaw
when he was self-conscious was very funny; but Mark wished that the
giggling had not occurred in front of Father Lamplugh. He wished too
that during recreation after supper Brother Raymond would be less
skittish and Brother Dunstan less arch in the manner of reproving him.

"Holy simplicity is all very well," Mark thought. "But holy imbecility
is a great bore, especially when there is a stranger present."

Luckily Father Burrowes came back the following week, and Mark's
deepening impression of the monastery's futility was temporarily
obliterated by the exciting news that the Bishop of Alberta whom the
brethren were taught to reverence as a second founder would be the guest
of the Order on St. Lawrence's day and attend the profession of Brother
Anselm. Mark had not yet seen Brother Anselm, who was the brother in
charge of the Aldershot priory, and he welcomed the opportunity of
witnessing those solemn final vows. He felt that he should gain much
from meeting Brother Anselm, whose work at Aldershot was considered
after the Reverend Father's preaching to be the chief glory of the
Order. Brother Lawrence was a little jealous that his name day, on which
he was to be clothed in Chapter as a novice, should be chosen for the
much more important ceremony, and he spoke sharply to poor Brother
Walter when the latter rejoiced in the added lustre Brother Anselm's
profession would shed upon his own promotion.

"You must remember, Brother," he said, "that you'll probably remain a
postulant for a very long time."

"But not for ever," replied poor Brother Walter in a depressed tone of
voice.

"There may not be time to attend to you," said Brother Lawrence
spitefully. "You may have to wait until the Bishop has gone."

"Oh dear, oh dear," sighed Brother Walter looking woeful. "Brother Mark,
do you hear what they say?"

"Never mind," said Mark, "we'll take our final vows together when
Brother Lawrence is still a doddering old novice."

Brother Lawrence clicked his tongue and bit his under lip in disgust at
such a flippant remark.

"What a thing to say," he muttered, and burying his hands in his sleeves
he walked off disdainfully, his jaw thrust before him.

"Like a cow-catcher," Mark thought with a smile.

The Bishop of Alberta was a dear old gentleman with silvery hair and a
complexion as fresh and pink as a boy's. With his laced rochet and
purple biretta he lent the little matchboarded chapel an exotic
splendour when he sat in a Glastonbury chair beside the altar during the
Office. The more ritualistic of the brethren greatly enjoyed giving him
reverent genuflexions and kissing his episcopal ring. Brother Raymond's
behaviour towards him was like that of a child who has been presented
with a large doll to play with, a large doll that can be dressed and
undressed at the pleasure of its owner with nothing to deter him except
a faint squeak of protest such as the Bishop himself occasionally
emitted.




CHAPTER XXV

SUSCIPE ME, DOMINE


Brother Anselm was to arrive on the vigil of St. Lawrence. Normally
Brother Walter would have been sent to meet him with the Abbey cart at
the station three miles away. But Brother Walter was in a state of such
excitement over his near promotion to postulant that it was not
considered safe to entrust him with the pony. So Mark was sent in his
place. It was a hot August evening with thunder clouds lying heavy on
the Malford woods when Mark drove down the deep lanes to the junction,
wondering what Brother Anselm would be like and awed by the imagination
of Brother Anselm's thoughts in the train that was bringing him from
Aldershot to this momentous date of his life's history. Almost before he
knew what he was saying Mark was quoting from _Romeo and Juliet_:

                       _My mind misgives_
    _Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,_
    _Shall bitterly begin his fearful date_
    _With this night's revels._

"Now why should I have thought that?" he asked himself, and he was just
deciding that it was merely a verbal sequence of thought when the first
far-off peal of thunder muttered a kind of menacing contradiction of so
easy an explanation. It would be raining soon; Mark thumped the pony's
angular haunches, and tried to feel cheerful in the oppressive air.

Brother Anselm did not appear as Mark had pictured him. Instead of the
lithe enthusiast with flaming eyes he saw a heavily built man with
blunted features, wearing powerful horn spectacles, his expression
morose, his movements ungainly. He had, however, a mellow and strangely
sympathetic voice, in which Mark fancied that he perceived the power he
was reputed to wield over the soldiers for whose well-being he fought so
hard. Mark would have liked to ask him about life in the Aldershot
priory; perhaps if Brother Anselm had been less taciturn, he would have
broken if not the letter at any rate the spirit of the Rule by begging
the senior to ask for his services in the Priory. But no sooner were
they jogging back to Malford than the rain came down in a deluge, and
Brother Anselm, pulling the hood of his frock over his head, was more
unapproachable than ever. Mark wished that he had a novice's frock and
hood, for the rain was pouring down the back of his neck and the
threadbare cassock he wore was already drenched.

"Thank you, Brother," said the new-comer when the Abbey was attained.

It was dark by now, and, with nothing visible of the speaker except his
white habit in the gloom, the voice might have been the voice of a
heavenly visitant, so rarely sweet, so gentle and harmonious were the
tones. Mark was much moved by that brief recognition of himself.

The wind rose high during the night; listening to it roaring through the
coppice in which the Abbey was built, Mark lay awake for a long time in
mute prayer that Brother Anselm might find peace and felicity in his new
state. And while he prayed for Brother Anselm he prayed for Esther in
Shoreditch. In the morning when Mark went from cell to cell, rousing the
brethren from sleep with his hammer and salutation, the sun was climbing
a serene and windless sky. The familiar landscape was become a mountain
top. Heaven was very near.

Mark was glad that the day was so fair for the profession of Brother
Anselm, and at Lauds the antiphon, versicle, and response proper to St.
Lawrence appealed to him by their fitness to the occasion,

_Gold is tried in the fire: and acceptable men in the furnace of
adversity._

    _V. The Righteous shall grow as a lily._
    _R. He shall flourish for ever before the Lord._

Mark concerned himself less with his own reception as a postulant. The
distinction between a probationer and a postulant was very slight,
really an arbitrary one made by Father Burrowes for his own convenience,
and until he had to decide whether he should petition to be clothed as a
novice Mark did not feel that he was called upon to take himself too
seriously as a monk. For that reason he did not change his name, but
preferred to stay Brother Mark. The little ceremony of reception was
carried through in Chapter before the brethren went into the Oratory to
say Terce, and Brother Walter was so much excited when he heard himself
addressed as Brother Simon that for a moment it seemed doubtful if he
would be sufficiently calm to attend the profession of Brother Anselm at
the conventual Mass. However, during the clothing of Brother Lawrence as
a novice Brother Simon quieted down, and even gave over counting the
three knots in the rope with which he had been girdled. Ordinarily,
Brother Lawrence would have been clothed after Mass, but this morning it
was felt that such a ceremony coming after the profession of Brother
Anselm would be an anti-climax, and it was carried through in Chapter.
It took Brother Lawrence all he had ever heard and read about humility
and obedience not to protest at the way his clothing on his own saint's
day, for which he had been made to wait nearly a year, was being carried
through in such a hole in the corner fashion. But he fixed his mind upon
the torments of the blessed archdeacon on the gridiron and succeeded in
keeping his temper.

Mark felt that the profession of Brother Anselm lost some of its dignity
by the absence of Brother George and Brother Birinus, the only other
professed members of the Order apart from Father Burrowes himself. It
struck him as slightly ludicrous that a few young novices and postulants
should represent the venerable choir-monks whom one pictured at such a
ceremony from one's reading of the Rule of St. Benedict. Moreover,
Father Burrowes never presented himself to Mark's imagination as an
authentic abbot. Nor indeed was he such. Malford Abbey was a courtesy
title, and such monastic euphemisms as the Abbot's Parlour and the
Abbot's Lodgings to describe the matchboarded apartments sacred to the
Father Superior, while they might please such ecclesiastical enthusiasts
as Brother Raymond, appealed to Mark as pretentious and somewhat silly.
In fact, if it had not been for the presence of the Bishop of Alberta in
cope and mitre Mark would have found it hard, when after Terce the
brethren assembled in the Chapter-room to hear Brother Anselm make his
final petition, to believe in the reality of what was happening, to
believe, when Brother Anselm in reply to the Father Superior's
exhortation chose the white cowl and scapular (which in the Order of St.
George differentiated the professed monk from the novice) and rejected
the suit of dittos belonging to his worldly condition, that he was
passing through moments of greater spiritual importance than any since
he was baptized or than any he would pass through before he stood upon
the threshold of eternity.

But this was a transient scepticism, a fleeting discontent, which
vanished when the brethren formed into procession and returned to the
oratory singing the psalm: _In Convertendo_.

     _When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion: then were we
     like unto them, that dream._

     _Then was our mouth filled with laughter: and our tongue with joy._

     _Then said they among the heathen: The Lord hath done great things
     for them._

     _Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already: whereof we
     rejoice._

     _Turn our captivity, O Lord: as the rivers in the south._

     _They that sow in tears: shall reap in joy._

     _He that now goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth good seed:
     shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with
     him._

The Father Superior of the Order sang the Mass, while the Bishop of
Alberta seated in his Glastonbury chair suffered with an expression of
childlike benignity the ritualistic ministrations of Brother Raymond,
the ceremonial doffing and donning of his mitre. It was very still in
the little Oratory, for it was the season when birds are hushed; and
even Sir Charles Horner who was all by himself in the ante-chapel did
not fidget or try to peep through the heavy brocaded curtains that shut
out the quire. Mark dared not look up when at the offertory Brother
Anselm stood before the Altar and answered the solemn interrogations of
the Father Superior, question after question about his faith and
endurance in the life he desired to enter. And to every question he
answered clearly _I will_. The Father Superior took the parchment on
which were written the vows and read aloud the document. Then it was
placed upon the Altar, and there upon that sacrificial stone Brother
Anselm signed his name to a contract with Almighty God. The holy calm
that shed itself upon the scene was like a spell on every heart that was
beating there in unison with the heart of him who was drawing nearer to
Heaven. Prostrating himself, the professed monk prayed first to God the
Father:

     _O receive me according to thy word that I may live; and let me not
     be disappointed of my hope._

The hearts that beat in unison with his took up the prayer, and the
voices of his brethren repeated it word for word. And now the professed
monk prayed to God the Son:

     _O receive me according to thy word that I may live; and let me not
     be disappointed of my hope._

Once more his brethren echoed the entreaty.

And lastly the professed monk prayed to God the Holy Ghost:

     _O receive me according to thy word that I may live; and let me not
     be disappointed of my hope._

For the third time his brethren echoed the entreaty, and then one and
all in that Oratory cried:

     _Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it
     was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
     Amen._

There followed prayers that the peace of God might be granted to the
professed monk to enable him worthily to perform the vows which he had
made, and before the blessing and imposition of the scapular the Bishop
rose to speak in tones of deep emotion:

"Brethren, I scarcely dared to hope, when, now nearly ten years ago, I
received the vows of your Father Superior as a novice, that I should one
day be privileged to be present at this inspiring ceremony. Nor even
when five years ago in the far north-west of Canada I professed your
Father Superior and those two devoted souls who will soon be with you,
now that their work in Malta is for the time finished, did I expect to
find myself in this beautiful Oratory which your Order owes to the
generosity of a true son of the Church. My heart goes out to you, and I
thank God humbly that He has vouchsafed to hear my prayers and bless the
enterprise from which I had indeed expected much, but which Almighty God
has allowed to prosper more, far more, than I ventured to hope. All my
days I have longed to behold the restoration of the religious life to
our country, and now when my eyes are dim with age I am granted the
ineffable joy of beholding what for too long in my weakness and lack of
faith I feared was never likely to come to pass.

"The profession of our dear brother this morning is, I pray, an earnest
of many professions at Malford. May these first vows placed upon the
Altar of this Oratory be blessed by Almighty God! May our brother be
steadfast and happy in his choice! Brethren, I had meant to speak more
and with greater eloquence, but my heart is too full. The Lord be with
you."

Now Brother Anselm was clothed in the blessed habit while the brethren
sang:

    _Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,_
    _And lighten with celestial fire._

The Father Superior of the Order gave him the paternal kiss. He begged
the prayers of his brethren there assembled, and drawing the hood of his
cowl over his head prostrated himself again before the Altar. The Mass
proceeded.

If the strict Benedictine usage had been followed at Malford, Brother
Anselm would have remained apart from the others for three days ofter
his profession, wrapped in his cowl, alone with God. But he was anxious
to go back to Aldershot that very afternoon, excusing himself because
Brother Chad, left behind in charge of the Priory, would be overwhelmed
by his various responsibilities. Brother Dunstan, who had wept
throughout the ceremony of the profession, was much upset by Brother
Anselm's departure. He had hoped to achieve great exaltation of spirit
by Brother Anselm's silent presence. He began to wonder if the newly
professed monk appreciated his position. Had himself been granted what
Brother Anselm had been granted, he should have liked to spend a week in
contemplation of the wonder which had befallen him. Brother Dunstan
asked himself if his thoughts were worthy of a senior novice, of one who
had for a while acted as Prior and been accorded the address of Reverend
Brother. He decided that they were not, and as a penance he begged for
the nib with which Brother Anselm had signed his profession. This he
wore round his neck as an amulet against unbrotherly thoughts and as a
pledge of his own determination to vow himself eternally to the service
of God.

Mark was glad that Brother Anselm was going back so soon to his active
work. It was an assurance that the Order of St. George did have active
work to do; and when he was called upon to drive Brother Anselm to the
station he made up his mind to conquer his shyness and hint that he
should be glad to serve the Order in the Priory at Aldershot.

This time, notwithstanding that he had a good excuse to draw his hood
close, Brother Anselm showed himself more approachable.

"If the Reverend Father suggests your name," he promised Mark, "I shall
be glad to have you with us. Brother Chad is simply splendid, and the
Tommies are wonderful. It's quite right of course to have a Mother
House, but. . . ." He broke off, disinclined to criticize the direction
of the Order's policy to a member so junior as Mark.

"Oh, I'm not asking you to do anything yet awhile," Mark explained. "I
quite realize that I have a great deal to learn before I should be any
use at Aldershot or Sandgate. I hope you don't mind my talking like
this. But until this morning I had not really intended to remain in the
Order. My hope was to be ordained as soon as I was old enough. Now since
this morning I feel that I do long for the spiritual support of a
community for my own feeble aspirations. The Bishop's words moved me
tremendously. It wasn't what he said so much, but I was filled with all
his faith and I could have cried out to him a promise that I for one
would help to carry on the restoration. At the same time, I know that
I'm more fitted for active work, not by any good I expect to do, but for
the good it will do me. I suppose you'd say that if I had a true
vocation I shouldn't be thinking about what part I was going to play in
the life of the Order, but that I should be content to do whatever I was
told. I'm boring you?" Mark broke off to inquire, for Brother Anselm was
staring in front of him through his big horn spectacles like an owl.

"No, no," said the senior. "But I'm not the novice-master. Who is, by
the way?"

"Brother Jerome."

The other did not comment on this information, but Mark was sure that he
was trying not to look contemptuous.

Soon the junction came in sight, and from down the line the white smoke
of a train approaching.

"Hurry, Brother, I don't want to miss it."

Mark thumped the haunches of the pony and drove up just in time for
Brother Anselm to escape.

"Thank you, Brother," said that same voice which yesterday, only
yesterday night, had sounded so rarely sweet. Here on this mellow August
afternoon it was the voice of the golden air itself, and the shriek of
the engine did not drown its echoes in Mark's soul where all the way
back to Malford it was chiming like a bell.




CHAPTER XXVI

ADDITION


Mark's ambition to go and work at Aldershot was gratified before the end
of August, because Brother Chad fell ill, and it was considered
advisable to let him spend a long convalescence at the Abbey.

     The Priory,

     17, Farnborough Villas,

     Aldershot.

     St. Michael and All Angels.

     My dear Rector,

     I don't think you'll be sorry to read from the above address that
     I've been transferred from Malford to one of the active branches of
     the Order. I don't accept your condemnation of the Abbey as
     pseudo-monasticism, though I can quite well understand that my
     account of it might lead you to make such a criticism. The trouble
     with me is that my emotions and judgment are always quarrelling. I
     suppose you might say that is true of most people. It's like the
     palmist who tells everybody that he is ruled by his head or his
     heart, as the case may be. But when one approaches the problem of
     religion (let alone what is called the religious life) one is
     terribly perplexed to know which is to be obeyed. I don't think
     that you can altogether rule out emotion as a touchstone of truth.
     The endless volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas, through which I've been
     wading, do not cope with the fact that the whole of his vast
     intellectual and severely logical structure is built up on the
     assumption of faith, which is the gift of emotion, not judgment.
     The whole system is a petitio principii really.

     I did not mean to embark on a discussion of the question of the
     Ultimate Cause of religion, but to argue with you about the
     religious life! The Abbot Paphnutius told Cassian that there were
     three sorts of vocation--ex Deo, per hominem, and ex necessitate.
     Now suppose I have a vocation, mine is obviously per hominem. I
     inherit the missionary spirit from my father. That spirit was
     fostered by association with Rowley. My main object in entering the
     Order of St. George was to work among soldiers, not because I felt
     that soldiers needed "missionizing" more than any other class, but
     because the work at Chatsea brought me into contact with both
     sailors and soldiers, and turned my thoughts in their direction. I
     also felt the need of an organization behind my efforts. My first
     impulse was to be a preaching friar, but that would have laid too
     much on me as an individual, and from lack of self-confidence,
     youthfulness, want of faith perhaps, I was afraid. Well, to come
     back to the Abbot Paphnutius and his three vocations--it seems
     fairly clear that the first, direct from God, is a better vocation
     than the one which is inspired by human example, or the third,
     which arises from the failure of everything else. At the same time
     they ARE all three genuine vocations. What applies to the vocation
     seems to me to apply equally to the community. What you stigmatize
     as our pseudo-monasticism is still experimental, and I think I can
     see the Reverend Father's idea. He has had a great deal of
     experience with an Order which began so amateurishly, if I may use
     the word, that nobody could have imagined that it would grow to the
     size and strength it has reached in ten years. The Bishop of
     Alberta revealed much to us of our beginnings during his stay at
     the Abbey, and after I had listened to him I felt how presumptuous
     it was for me to criticize the central source of the religious life
     we are hoping to spread. You see, Rector, I must have criticized it
     implicitly in my letters to you, for your objections are simply the
     expression of what I did not like to say, but what I managed to
     convey through the medium of would-be humorous description. One
     hears of the saving grace of humour, but I'm not sure that humour
     is a saving grace. I rather wish that I had no sense of humour.
     It's a destructive quality. All the great sceptics have been
     humourists. Humour is really a device to secure human comfort. Take
     me. I am inspired to become a preaching friar. I instantly perceive
     the funny side of setting out to be a preaching friar. I tell
     myself that other people will perceive the funny side of it, and
     that consequently I shall do no good as a preaching friar. Yes,
     humour is a moisture which rusts everything except gold. As a
     nation the Jews have the greatest sense of humour, and they have
     been the greatest disintegrating force in the history of mankind.
     The Scotch are reputed to have no sense of humour, and they are
     morally the most impressive nation in the world. What humour is
     allowed them is known as dry humour. The corroding moisture has
     been eliminated. They are still capable of laughter, but never so
     as to interfere with their seriousness in the great things of life.
     I remember I once heard a tiresome woman, who was striving to be
     clever, say that Our Lord could not have had much sense of humour
     or He would not have hung so long on the Cross. At the time I was
     indignant with the silly blasphemy, but thinking it over since I
     believe that she was right, and that, while her only thought had
     been to make a remark that would create a sensation in the room,
     she had actually hit on the explanation of some of Our Lord's human
     actions. And his lack of humour is the more conspicuous because he
     was a Jew. I was reading the other day a book of essays by one of
     our leading young latitudinarian divines, in which he was most
     anxious to prove that Our Lord had all the graces of a well-bred
     young man about town, including a pretty wit. He actually claimed
     that the pun on Peter's name was an example of Our Lord's urbane
     and genial humour! It gives away the latitudinarian position
     completely. They're really ashamed of Christianity. They want to
     bring it into line with modern thought. They hope by throwing
     overboard the Incarnation, the Resurrection of the Body, and the
     Ascension, to lighten the ship so effectually that it will ride
     buoyantly over the billows of modern knowledge. But however lightly
     the ship rides, she will still be at sea, and it would be the
     better if she struck on the rock of Peter and perished than that
     she should ride buoyantly but aimlessly over the uneasy oceans of
     knowledge.

     I've once more got a long way from the subject of my letter, but
     I've always taken advantage of your patience to air my theories,
     and when I begin to write to you my pen runs away with me. The
     point I want to make is that unless there is a mother house which
     is going to create a reserve of spiritual energy, the active work
     of the Order is going to suffer. The impulse to save souls might
     easily exhaust itself in the individual. A few disappointments,
     unceasing hard work, the interference of a bishop, the failure of
     financial support, a long period in which his work seems to have
     come to a standstill, all these are going to react on the
     individual missioner who depends on himself. Looking back now at
     the work done by my father, and by Rowley at Chatsea, I'm beginning
     to understand how dangerous it is for one man to make himself the
     pivot of an enterprise. I only really know about my father's work
     at second hand, but look at Chatsea. I hear now that already the
     work is falling to pieces. Although that may not justify the Bishop
     of Silchester, I'm beginning to see that he might argue that if
     Rowley had shown himself sufficiently humble to obey the forces of
     law and order in the Church, he would have had accumulated for him
     a fresh store of energy from which he might have drawn to
     consolidate his influence upon the people with whom he worked.
     Anyway, that's what I'm going to try to acquire from the
     pseudo-monasticism of Malford. I'm determined to dry up the
     critical and humorous side of myself. Half of it is nothing more
     than arrogance. I'm grateful for being sent to Aldershot, but I'm
     going to make my work here depend on the central source of energy
     and power. I'm going to say that my work is per hominem, but that
     the success of my work is ex Deo. You may tell me that any man with
     the least conception of Christian Grace would know that. Yes, he
     may know it intellectually, but does he know it emotionally? I
     confess I don't yet awhile. But I do know that if the Order of St.
     George proves itself a real force, it will not be per hominem, it
     will not be by the Reverend Father's eloquence in the pulpit, but
     by the vocation of the community ex Deo.

     Meanwhile, here I am at Aldershot. Brother Chad, whose place I have
     taken, was a character of infinite sweetness and humility. All our
     Tommies speak of him in a sort of protective way, as if he were a
     little boy they had adopted. He had--has, for after all he's only
     gone to the Abbey to get over a bad attack of influenza on top of
     months of hard work--he has a strangely youthful look, although
     he's nearly thirty. He hails from Lichfield. I wonder what Dr.
     Johnson would have made of him. I've already told you about Brother
     Anselm. Well, now that I've seen him at home, as it were, I can't
     discover the secret of his influence with our men. He's every bit
     as taciturn with them as he was with me on that drive from the
     station, and yet there is not one of them that doesn't seem to
     regard him as an intimate friend. He's extraordinarily good at the
     practical side of the business. He makes the men comfortable. He
     always knows just what they're wanting for tea or for supper, and
     the games always go well when Brother Anselm presides, much better
     than they do when I'm in charge! I think perhaps that's because I
     play myself, and want to win. It infects the others. And yet we
     ought to want to win a game--otherwise it's not worth playing.
     Also, I must admit that there's usually a row in the billiard room
     on my nights on duty. Brother Anselm makes them talk better than I
     do, and I don't think he's a bit interested in their South African
     experiences. I am, and they won't say a word about them to me. I've
     been here a month now, so they ought to be used to me by this time.

     We've just heard that the guest-house for soldiers at the Abbey
     will be finished by the middle of next month, so we're already
     discussing our Christmas party. The Priory, which sounds so grand
     and gothic, is really the corner house of a most depressing row of
     suburban villas, called Glenview and that sort of thing. The last
     tenant was a traveller in tea and had a stable instead of the usual
     back-garden. This we have converted into a billiard room. An
     officer in one of the regiments quartered here told us that it was
     the only thing in Aldershot we had converted. The authorities
     aren't very fond of us. They say we encourage the men to grumble
     and give them too great idea of their own importance. Brother
     Anselm asked a general once with whom we fell out if it was
     possible to give a man whose profession it was to defend his
     country too great an idea of his own importance. The general merely
     blew out his cheeks and looked choleric. He had no suspicion that
     he had been scored off. We don't push too much religion into the
     men at present. We've taught them to respect the Crucifix on the
     wall in the dining-room, and sometimes they attend Vespers. But
     they're still rather afraid of chaff, such as being called the
     Salvation Army by their comrades. Well, here's an end to this long
     letter, for I must write now to Brother Jerome, whose name-day it
     is to-morrow. Love to all at the Rectory.

     Your ever affectionate

     Mark.

Mark remained at Aldershot until the week before Christmas, when with a
party of Tommies he went back to the Abbey. He found that Brother Chad's
convalescence had been seriously impeded in its later stages by the
prospect of having to remain at the Abbey as guest-master, and though
Mark was sorry to leave Aldershot he saw by the way the Tommies greeted
their old friend that he was dear to their hearts. When after Christmas
Brother Chad took the party back, Mark made up his mind that the right
person was going.

Mark found many changes at the Abbey during the four months he had been
away. The greatest of all was the presence of Brother George as Prior.
The legend of him had led Mark to expect someone out of the ordinary;
but he had not been prepared for a personality as strong as this.
Brother George was six feet three inches tall, with a presence of great
dignity and much personal beauty. He had an aquiline nose, strong chin,
dark curly hair and bright imperious eyes. His complexion, burnt by the
Mediterranean sun, made him seem in his white habit darker than he
really was. His manner was of one accustomed to be immediately obeyed.
Mark could scarcely believe when he saw Brother Dunstan beside Brother
George that only last June Brother Dunstan was acting as Prior. As for
Brother Raymond, who had always been so voluble at recreation, one look
from Brother George sent him into a silence that was as solemn as the
disciplinary silence imposed by the rule. Brother Birinus, who was
Brother George's right hand in the Abbey as much as he had been his
right hand on the Moose Rib farm, was even taller than the Prior; but he
was lanky and raw-boned, and had not the proportions of Brother George.
He was of a swarthy complexion, not given to talking much, although when
he did speak he always spoke to the point. He and Brother George were
hard at work ploughing up some derelict fields which they had persuaded
Sir Charles Horner to let to the Abbey rent free on condition that they
were put back into cultivation. The patron himself had gone away for the
winter to Rome and Florence, and Mark was glad that he had, for he was
sure that otherwise his inquisitiveness would have been severely
snubbed by the Prior. Father Burrowes went away as usual to preach after
Christmas; but before he went Mark was clothed as a novice together with
two other postulants who had been at Malford since September. Of these
Brother Giles was a former school-master, a dried-up, tobacco-coloured
little man of about fifty, with a quick and nervous, but always precise
manner. Mark liked him, and his manual labour was done under the
direction of Brother Giles, who had been made gardener, a post for which
he was well suited. The other new novice was Brother Nicholas whom, had
Mark not been the fellow-member of a community, he would have disliked
immensely. Brother Nicholas was one of those people who are in a
perpetual state of prurient concern about the sexual morality of the
human race. He was impervious to snubs, of which he received many from
Brother George, and he had somehow managed to become a favourite of the
Reverend Father, so that he had been appointed guest-master, a post that
was always coveted, and one for which nobody felt Brother Nicholas was
suited.

Besides the increase of numbers there had been considerable additions
made to the fabric of the Abbey, if such a word as fabric may be applied
to matchboard, felt, and corrugated iron. Mention has already been made
of the new Guest-house, which accommodated not only soldiers invited to
spend their furloughs at the Abbey, but also tramps who sought a night's
lodging. Mark, as Porter, found his time considerably taken up with
these casuals, because as soon as the news spread of a comfortable
lodging they came begging for shelter in greater numbers than had been
anticipated. A rule was made that they should pay for their
entertainment by doing a day's work, and it was one of Mark's duties to
report on the qualifications of these casuals to Brother George, whose
whole life was occupied with the farm that he was creating out of those
derelict fields.

"There's a black man just arrived, Reverend Brother. He says he lost his
ship at Southampton through a boiler explosion, and is tramping to
Cardiff," Mark would report.

"Can he plough a straight furrow?" the Prior would demand.

"I doubt it," Mark would answer with a smile. "He can't walk straight
across the dormitory."

"What's he been drinking?"

"Rum, I fancy."

"Why did you let him in?"

"It's such a stormy night."

"Well, send him along to me to-morrow after Lauds, and I'll put him to
cleaning out the pigsties."

Mark only had to deal with these casuals. Regular guests like the
soldiers, who were always welcome, and ecclesiastically minded inquirers
were looked after by Brother Nicholas. One of the things for which Mark
detested Brother Nicholas was the habit he had of showing off his poor
casuals to the paying guests. It took Mark a stern reading of St.
Benedict's Rule and the observations therein upon humility and obedience
not to be rude to Brother Nicholas sometimes.

"Brother," he asked one day. "Have you ever read what our Holy Father
says about gyrovagues and sarabaites?"

Brother Nicholas, who always thought that any long word with which he
was unfamiliar referred to sexual perversion, asked what such people
were.

"You evidently haven't," said Mark. "Our Holy Father disapproves of
them."

"Oh, so should I, Brother Mark," said Brother Nicholas quickly. "I hate
anything like that."

"It struck me," Mark went on, "that most of our paying guests are
gyrovagues and sarabaites."

"What an accusation to make," said Brother Nicholas, flushing with
expectant curiosity and looking down his long nose to give the
impression that it was the blush of innocence and modesty.

When, an hour or so later, he had had leisure to discover the meaning of
both terms, he came up to Mark and exclaimed:

"Oh, brother, how could you?"

"How could I what?" Mark asked.

"How could you let me think that it meant something much worse? Why,
it's nothing really. Just wandering monks."

"They annoyed our Holy Father," said Mark.

"Yes, they did seem to make him a bit ratty. Perhaps the translation
softened it down," surmised Brother Nicholas. "I'll get a dictionary
to-morrow."

The bell for solemn silence clanged, and Brother Nicholas must have
spent his quarter of an hour in most unprofitable meditation.

Another addition to the buildings was a wide, covered verandah, which
had been built on in front of the central block, and which therefore
extended the length of the Refectory, the Library, the Chapter Room, and
the Abbot's Parlour. The last was now the Prior's Parlour, because
lodgings for Father Burrowes were being built in the Gatehouse, the only
building of stone that was being erected.

This Gatehouse was to be finished as an Easter offering to the Father
Superior from devout ladies, who had been dismayed at the imagination of
his discomfort. The verandah was granted the title of the Cloister, and
the hours of recreation were now spent here instead of in the Library as
formerly, which enabled studious brethren to read in peace.

The Prior made a rule that every Sunday afternoon all the brethren
should assemble in the Cloister at tea, and spend the hour until Vespers
in jovial intercourse. He did not actually specify that the intercourse
was to be jovial, but he look care by judicious teazing to see that it
was jovial. In his anxiety to bring his farm into cultivation, Brother
George was apt to make any monastic duty give way to manual labour on
those thistle-grown fields, and it was seldom that there were more than
a couple of brethren to say the Office between Lauds and Vespers. The
others had to be content with crossing themselves when they heard the
bell for Terce or None, and even Sext was sparingly attended after the
Prior instituted the eating of the mid-day meal in the fields on fine
days. Hence the conversation in the Cloister on Sunday afternoons was
chiefly agricultural.

"Are you going to help me drill the ten-acre field tomorrow, Brother
Giles?" the Prior asked one grey Sunday afternoon in the middle of
March.

"No, I'm certainly not, Reverend Brother, unless you put me under
obedience to do so."

"Then I think I shall," the Prior laughed.

"If you do, Reverend Brother," the gardener retorted, "you'll have to
put my peas under obedience to sow themselves."

"Peas!" the Prior scoffed. "Who cares about peas?"

"Oh, Reverend Brother!" cried Brother Simon, his hair standing up with
excitement. "We couldn't do without peas."

Brother Simon was assistant cook nowadays, a post he filled tolerably
well under the supervision of the one-legged soldier who was cook.

"We couldn't do without oats," said Brother Birinus severely.

He spoke so seldom at these gatherings that when he did few were found
to disagree with him, because they felt his words must have been deeply
pondered before they were allowed utterance.

"Have you any flowers in the garden for St. Joseph?" asked Brother
Raymond, who was sacristan.

"A few daffodils, that's all," Brother Giles replied.

"Oh, I don't think that St. Joseph would like daffodils," exclaimed
Brother Raymond. "He's so fond of white flowers, isn't he?"

"Good gracious!" the Prior thundered. "Are we a girls' school or a
company of able-bodied men?"

"Well, St. Joseph is always painted with lilies, Reverend Brother," said
the sacristan, rather sulkily.

He disapproved of the way the Prior treated what he called his pet
saints.

"We're not an agricultural college either," he added in an undertone to
Brother Dunstan, who shook his finger and whispered "hush."

"I doubt if we ought to keep St. Joseph's Day," said the Prior
truculently. There was nothing he enjoyed better on these Sunday
afternoons than showing his contempt for ecclesiasticism.

"Reverend Brother!" gasped Brother Dunstan. "Not keep St. Joseph's Day?"

"He's not in our calendar," Brother George argued. "If we're going to
keep St. Joseph, why not keep St. Alo--what's his name and Philip Neri
and Anthony of Padua and Bernardine of Sienna and half-a-dozen other
Italian saints?"

"Why not?" asked Brother Raymond. "At any rate we have to keep my
patron, who was a dear, even if he was a Spaniard."

The Prior looked as if he were wondering if there was a clause in the
Rule that forbade a prior to throw anything within reach at an imbecile
sacristan.

"I don't think you can put St. Joseph in the same class as the saints
you have just mentioned," pompously interposed Brother Jerome, who was
cellarer nowadays and fancied that the continued existence of the Abbey
depended on himself.

"Until you can learn to harness a pair of horses to the plough," said
the Prior, "your opinions on the relative importance of Roman saints
will not be accepted."

"I've never been used to horses," said Brother Jerome.

"And you have been used to saints?" the Prior laughed, raising his
eyebrows.

Brother Jerome was silent.

"Well, Brother Lawrence, what do you say?"

Brother Lawrence stuck out his lower jaw and assumed the expression of
the good boy in a Sunday School class.

"St. Joseph was the foster-father of Our Blessed Lord, Reverend
Brother," he said primly. "I think it would be most disrespectful both
to Our Blessed Lord and to Our Blessed Lady if we didn't keep his
feast-day, though I am sure St. Joseph would have no objection to
daffodils. No objections at all. His whole life and character show him
to have been a man of the greatest humility and forbearance."

The Prior rocked with laughter. This was the kind of speech that
sometimes rewarded his teasing.

"We always kept St. Joseph's day at the Visitation, Hornsey," Brother
Nicholas volunteered. "In fact we always made it a great feature. We
found it came as such a relief in Lent."

The Prior nodded his head mockingly.

"These young folk can teach us a lot about the way to worship God,
Brother Birinus," he commented.

Brother Birinus scowled.

"I broke three shares ploughing that bad bit of ground by the fir
trees," he announced gloomily. "I think I'll drill in the oats to-morrow
in the ten-acre. It's no good ploughing deep," he added reproachfully.

"Well, I believe in deep ploughing," the Prior argued.

Mark realized that Brother Birinus had deliberately brought back the
conversation to where it started in order to put an end to the
discussion about St. Joseph. He was glad, because he himself was the
only one of the brethren who had not yet been called upon to face the
Prior's contemptuous teasing. He wondered if he should have had the
courage to speak up for St. Joseph's Day. He should have found it
difficult to oppose Brother George, whom he liked and revered. But in
this case he was wrong, and perhaps he was also wrong to make the
observation of St. Joseph's Day a cudgel with which to belabour the
brethren.

The following afternoon Mark had two casuals who he fancied might be
useful to the Prior, and leaving the ward of the gate to Brother
Nicholas he took them down with him through the coppice to where over
the bleak March furrows Brother George was ploughing that rocky strip of
bad land by the fir trees. The men were told to go and report themselves
to Brother Birinus, who with Brother Dunstan to feed the drill was
sowing oats a field or two away.

"I don't think Brother Birinus will be sorry to let Brother Dunstan go
back to his domestic duties," the Prior commented sardonically.

Mark was turning to go back to _his_ domestic duties when Brother George
signed to him to stop.

"I suppose that like the rest of them you think I've no business to be a
monk?" Brother George began.

Mark looked at him in surprise.

"I don't believe that anybody thinks that," he said; but even as he
spoke he looked at the Prior and wondered why he had become a monk. He
did not appear, standing there in breeches and gaiters, his shirt open
at the neck, his hair tossing in the wind, his face and form of the soil
like a figure in one of Fred Walker's pictures, no, he certainly did not
appear the kind of man who could be led away by Father Burrowes'
eloquence and persuasiveness into choosing the method of life he had
chosen. Yes, now that the question had been put to him Mark wondered why
Brother George was a monk.

"You too are astonished at me," said the Prior. "Well, in a way I don't
blame you. You've only seen me on the land. This comes of letting myself
be tempted by Horner's offer to give us this land rent free if I would
take it in hand. And after all," he went on talking to the wide grey sky
rather than to Mark, "the old monks were great tillers of the soil. It's
right that we should maintain the tradition. Besides, all those years in
Malta I've dreamed just this. Brother Birinus and I have stewed on those
sun-baked heights above Valetta and dreamed of this. What made you join
our Order?" he asked abruptly.

Mark told him about himself.

"I see, you want to keep your hand in, eh? Well, I suppose you might
have done worse for a couple of years. Now, I've never wanted to be a
priest. The Reverend Father would like me to be ordained, but I don't
think I should make a good priest. I believe if I were to become a
priest, I should lose my faith. That sounds a queer thing to say, and
I'd rather you didn't repeat it to any of those young men up there."

The monastery bell sounded on the wind.

"Three o'clock already," exclaimed the Prior. And crossing himself he
said the short prayer offered to God instead of the formal attendance at
the Office.

"Well, I mustn't let the horses get chilled. You'd better get back to
your casuals. By the way, I'm going to have Brother Nicholas to work out
here awhile, and I want you to act as guest-master. Brother Raymond
will be porter, and I'm going to send Brother Birinus off the farm to be
sacristan. I shall miss him out here, of course."

The Prior put his hand once more to the plough, and Mark went slowly
back to the Abbey. On the brow of the hill before he plunged into the
coppice he turned to look down at the distant figure moving with slow
paces across the field below.

"He's wrestling with himself," Mark thought, "more than he's wrestling
with the soil."




CHAPTER XXVII

MULTIPLICATION


At Easter the Abbey Gatehouse was blessed by the Father Superior, who
established himself in the rooms above and allowed himself to take a
holiday from his labour of preaching. Mark expected to be made porter
again, but the Reverend Father did not attempt to change the posts
assigned to the brethren by the Prior, and Mark remained guest-master, a
duty that was likely to give him plenty of occupation during the summer
months now close at hand.

On Low Sunday the Father Superior convened a full Chapter of the Order,
to which were summoned Brother Dominic, the head of the Sandgate house,
and Brother Anselm. When the brethren, with the exception of Brother
Simon, who was still a postulant, were gathered together, the Father
Superior addressed them as follows:

"Brethren, I have called this Chapter of the Order of St. George to
acquaint you with our financial position, and to ask you to make a grave
decision. Before I say any more I ought to explain that our three
professed brethren considered that a Chapter convened to make a decision
such as I am going to ask you to make presently should not include the
novices. I contended that in the present state of our Order where
novices are called upon to fill the most responsible positions it would
be unfair to exclude them; and our professed brethren, like true sons of
St. Benedict, have accepted my ruling. You all know what great additions
to our Mother House we have made during the past year, and you will all
realize what a burden of debt this has laid upon the Order and on myself
what a weight of responsibility. The closing of our Malta Priory, which
was too far away to interest people in England, eased us a little. But
if we are going to establish ourselves as a permanent force in modern
religious life, we must establish our Mother House before anything. You
may say that the Order of St. George is an Order devoted to active work
among soldiers, and that we are not concerned with the establishment of
a partially contemplative community. But all of you will recognize the
advantage it has been to you to be asked to stay here and prepare
yourselves for active work, to gather within yourselves a great store of
spiritual energy, and hoard within your hearts a mighty treasure of
spiritual strength. Brethren, if the Order of St. George is to be worthy
of its name and of its claim we must not rest till we have a priory in
every port and garrison, and in every great city where soldiers are
stationed. Even if we had the necessary funds to endow these priories,
have we enough brethren to take charge of them? We have not. I cannot
help feeling that I was too hasty in establishing active houses both at
Aldershot and at Sandgate, and I have convened you to-day to ask you to
vote in Chapter that the house at Sandgate be temporarily given up,
great spiritual influence though it has proved itself under our dear
Brother Dominic with the men of Shorncliffe Camp, not only that we may
concentrate our resources and pay our debts, but also that we may have
the help of Brother Dominic himself, and of Brother Athanasius, who has
remained behind in charge and is not here today."

The Father Superior then read a statement of the Order's financial
liabilities, and invited any Brother who wished, to speak his mind. All
waited for the Prior, who after a short silence rose:

"Reverend Father and Brethren, I don't think that there is much to say.
Frankly, I am not convinced that we ought to have spent so much on the
Abbey, but having done so, we must obviously try and put ourselves on a
sound financial basis. I should like to hear what Brother Dominic has to
say."

Brother Dominic was a slight man with black hair and a sallow
complexion, whose most prominent feature was an, immense hooked nose
with thin nostrils. Whether through the associations with his name
saint, or merely by his personality, Mark considered that he looked a
typical inquisitor. When he spoke, his lips seemed to curl in a sneer.
The expression was probably quite accidental, perhaps caused by some
difficulty in breathing, but the effect was sinister, and his smooth
voice did nothing to counteract the unpleasant grimace. Mark wondered if
he was really successful with the men at Shorncliffe.

"Reverend Father, Reverend Brother, and Brethren," said Brother Dominic,
"you can imagine that it is no easy matter for me to destroy with a few
words a house that in a small way I had a share in building up."

"The lion's share," interposed the Father Superior.

"You are too generous, Reverend Father," said Brother Dominic. "We could
have done very little at Sandgate if you had not worked so hard for us
throughout the length and breadth of England. And that is what
personally I do feel, Brethren," he continued in more emphatic tones. "I
do feel that the Reverend Father knows better than we what is the right
policy for us to adopt. I will not pretend that I shall be anything but
loath to leave Sandgate, but the future of the whole order depends on
the ability of brethren like myself," Brother Dominic paused for the
briefest instant to flash a quick glance at Brother Anselm, "to
recognize that our usefulness to the soldiers among whom we are proud
and happy to spend our lives is bounded by our usefulness to the Order
of St. George. I give my vote without hesitation in favour of closing
the Priory at Sandgate, and abandoning temporarily the work at
Shorncliffe Camp."

Nobody else spoke when Brother Dominic sat down, and everybody voted in
favour of the course of action proposed by the Father Superior.

Brother Dominic, in addition to his other work, had been editing _The
Dragon_, the monthly magazine of the Order, and it was now decided to
print this in future at the Abbey, some constant reader having presented
a fount of type. The opening of a printing-press involved housing room,
and it was decided to devote the old kitchens to this purpose, so that
new kitchens could be built, a desirable addition in view of the
increasing numbers in the Abbey and the likelihood of a further increase
presently.

Mark had not been touched by the abandonment of the Sandgate priory
until Brother Athanasius arrived. Brother Athanasius was a florid young
man with bright blue eyes, and so much pent-up energy as sometimes to
appear blustering. He lacked any kind of ability to hide his feelings,
and he was loud in his denunciation of the Chapter that abolished his
work. His criticisms were so loud, aggressive, and blatant, that he was
nearly ordered to retire from the Order altogether. However, the Father
Superior went away to address a series of drawing-room meetings in
London, and Brother George, with whom Brother Athanasius, almost alone
of the brethren, never hesitated to keep his end up, discovering that he
was as ready to stick up to horses and cows, did not pay attention to
the Father Superior's threat that, if Brother Athanasius could not keep
his tongue quiet, he must be sent away. Mark made friends with him, and
when he found that, in spite of all his blatancy and self-assertion,
Brother Athanasius could not keep the tears from his bright blue eyes
whenever he spoke of Shorncliffe, he was sorry for him and vexed with
himself for accepting the surrender of Sandgate priory so much as a
matter of course, because he had no personal experience of its work.

"But was Brother Dominic really good with the men?" Mark asked.

"Oh, Brother Dominic was all right. Don't you try and make me criticize
Brother Dominic. He bought the gloves and I did the fighting. Good man
of business was Brother D. I wish we could have some boxing here. Half
the brethren want punching about in my opinion. Old Brother Jerome's
face is squashed flat like a prize-fighter's, but I bet he's never had
the gloves on in his life. I'm fond of old Brother J. But, my word,
wouldn't I like to punch into him when he gives us that pea-soup more
than four times a week. Chronic, I call it. Well, if he doesn't give us
a jolly good blow out on my name-day next week I really will punch into
him. Old Brother Flatface, as I called him the other day. And he wasn't
half angry either. Didn't we have sport last second of May! I took a
party of them all round Hythe and Folkestone. No end of a spree!"

Mark was soon too much occupied with his duties as guestmaster to lament
with Brother Athanasius the end of the Sandgate priory. The Reverend
Father's drawing-room addresses were sending fresh visitors down every
week to see for themselves the size of the foundation that required
money, and more money, and more money still to keep it going. In the old
Chatsea days guests who visited the Mission House were expected to
provide entertainment for their hosts. It mattered not who they were,
millionaires or paupers, parsons or laymen, undergraduates or
board-school boys, they had to share the common table, face the common
teasing, and help the common task. Here at the Abbey, although the
guests had much more opportunity of intercourse with the brethren than
would have been permitted in a less novel monastic house, they were
definitely guests, from whom nothing was expected beyond observance of
the rules for guests. They were of all kinds, from the distinguished lay
leaders of the Catholic party to young men who thought emotionally of
joining the Order.

Mark tried to conduct himself as impersonally as possible, and in doing
so he managed to impress all the visitors with being a young man
intensely preoccupied with his vocation, and as such to be treated with
gravity and a certain amount of deference. Mark himself was anxious not
to take advantage of his position, and make friends with people that
otherwise he might not have met. Had he been sure that he was going to
remain in the Order of St. George, he would have allowed himself a
greater liberty of intercourse, because he would not then have been
afraid of one day seeing these people in the world. He desired to be
forgotten when they left the Abbey, or if he was remembered to be
remembered only as a guestmaster who tried to make the Monastery guests
comfortable, who treated them with courtesy, but also with reserve.

None of the young men who came down to see if they would like to be
monks got as far as being accepted as a probationer until the end of
May, when a certain Mr. Arthur Yarrell, an undergraduate from Keble
College, Oxford, whose mind was a dictionary of ecclesiastical terms,
was accepted and a month later became a postulant as Brother Augustine,
to the great pleasure of Brother Raymond, who said that he really
thought he should have been compelled to leave the Order if somebody had
not joined it with an appreciation of historic Catholicism. Early in
June Sir Charles Horner introduced another young man called Aubrey Wyon,
whom he had met at Venice in May.

"Take a little trouble over entertaining him," Sir Charles counselled.
And then, looking round to see that no thieves or highwaymen were
listening, he whispered to Mark that Wyon had money. "He would be an
asset, I fancy. And he's seriously thinking of joining you," the baronet
declared.

To tell the truth, Sir Charles who was beginning to be worried by the
financial state of the Order of St. George, would at this crisis have
tried to persuade the Devil to become a monk if the Devil would have
provided a handsome dowry. He had met Aubrey Wyon at an expensive hotel,
had noticed that he was expensively dressed and drank good wine, had
found that he was interested in ecclesiastical religion, and, having
bragged a bit about the land he had presented to the Order of St.
George, had inspired Wyon to do some bragging of what he had done for
various churches.

"If I could find happiness at Malford," Wyon had said, "I would give
them all that I possess."

Sir Charles had warned the Father Superior that he would do well to
accept Wyon as a probationer, should he propose himself; and the Father
Superior, who was by now as anxious for money as a company-promoter,
made himself as pleasant to Wyon as he knew how, flattering him
carefully and giving voice to his dreams for the great stone Abbey to be
built here in days to come.

Mark took an immediate and violent dislike to the newcomer, which, had
he been questioned about it, he would have attributed to his elaborate
choice of socks and tie, or to his habit of perpetually tightening the
leather belt he wore instead of braces, as if he would compel that
flabbiness of waist caused by soft living to vanish; but to himself he
admitted that the antipathy was deeper seated.

"It's like the odour of corruption," he murmured, though actually it was
the odour of hair washes and lotions and scents that filled the guest's
cell.

However, Aubrey Wyon became for a week a probationer, ludicrously known
as Brother Aubrey, after which he remained a postulant only a fortnight
before he was clothed as a novice, having by then taken the name of
Anthony, alleging that the inspiration to become a monk had been due to
the direct intervention of St. Anthony of Padua on June 13th.

Whether Brother Anthony turned the Father Superior's head with his
promises of what he intended to give the Order when he was professed, or
whether having once started he was unable to stop, there was continuous
building all that summer, culminating in a decision to begin the Abbey
Church.

Mark wondered why Brother George did not protest against the
expenditure, and he came to the conclusion that the Prior was as much
bewitched by ambition for his farm as the head of the Order was by his
hope of a mighty fane.

Thus things drifted during the summer, when, since the Father Superior
was not away so much, his influence was exerted more strongly over the
brethren, though at the same time he was not attracting as much money as
was now always required in ever increasing amounts.

Such preaching as he did manage later on during the autumn was by no
means so financially successful as his campaign of the preceding year at
the same time. Perhaps the natural buoyancy of his spirit led Father
Burrowes in his disappointment to place more trust than he might
otherwise have done in Brother Anthony's plan for the benefit of the
Order. The cloister became like Aladdin's Cave whenever there were
enough brethren assembled to make an audience for his luscious projects
and prefigurations. Sundays were the days when Brother Anthony was
particularly eloquent, and one Sunday in mid-September--it was the Feast
of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross--he surpassed himself.

"My notion would be to copy," he proclaimed, "with of course certain
improvements, the buildings on Monte Cassino. We are not quite so high
here; but then on the other hand that is an advantage, because it will
enable us to allot less space to the superficial area. Yes, I have a
very soft spot for the cloisters of Monte Cassino."

Brother Anthony gazed round for the approbation of the assembled
brethren, none of whom had the least idea what the cloisters of Monte
Cassino looked like.

"And I think some of our altar furniture is a little mean," Brother
Anthony continued. "I'm not advocating undue ostentation; but there is
room for improvement. They understood so well in the Middle Ages the
importance of a rich equipment. If I'd only known when I was in Sienna
this spring that I was coming here, I should certainly have bought a
superb reredos that was offered to me comparatively cheap. The columns
were of malachite and porphyry, and the panels of _rosso antico_ with
scrolls of _lumachella_. They only asked 15,000 lire. It was absurdly
cheap. However, perhaps it would be wiser to wait till we finish the
Abbey Church before we decide on the reredos. I'm very much in favour of
beaten gold for the tabernacle. By the way, Reverend Father, have you
decided to build an ambulatory round the clerestory? I must say I think
it would be effective, and of course for meditation unique. I shall have
to find if my money will run to it. Oh, and Brother Birinus, weren't you
saying the other day that the green vestments were rather faded? Don't
worry. I'm only waiting to make up my mind between velvet and brocade
for the purple set to order a completely new lot, including a set in old
rose damask for mid-Lent. It always seems to me such a mistake not to
take advantage of that charming use."

Father Burrowes was transported to the days of his youth at Malta when
his own imagination was filled with visions of precious metals, of rare
fabrics and mighty architecture.

"A silver chalice of severe pattern encrusted round the stem with blue
zircons," Brother Anthony was chanting in his melodious voice, his eyes
bright with the reflection of celestial splendours. "And perhaps another
in gold with the sacred monogram wrought on the cup in jacinths and
orange tourmalines. Yes, I'll talk it over with Sir Charles and get him
to approve the design."

The next morning two detectives came to Malford Abbey, and arrested
Aubrey Wyon alias Brother Anthony for obtaining money under false
pretences in various parts of the world. With them he departed to prison
and a life more ascetic than any he had hitherto known. Brother Anthony
departed indeed, but he was not discredited until it was too late. His
grandiose projects and extravagant promises had already incited Father
Burrowes to launch out on several new building operations that the Order
could ill afford.

Perhaps the cloister had been less like the Cave of Aladdin than the
Cave of the Forty Thieves.

After Christmas another Chapter was convened, to which Brother Anselm
and Brother Chad were both bidden. The Father Superior addressed the
brethren as he had addressed them a year ago, and finished up his speech
by announcing that, deeply as he regretted it, he felt bound to propose
that the Aldershot priory should be closed.

"What?" shouted Brother Anselm, leaping to his feet, his eyes blazing
with wrath through his great horn spectacles.

The Prior quickly rose to say that he could not agree to the Reverend
Father's suggestion. It was impossible for them any longer to claim that
they were an active Order if they confined themselves entirely to the
Abbey. He had not opposed the shutting down of the Sandgate priory, nor,
he would remind the Reverend Father, had he offered any resistance to
the abandonment of Malta. But he felt obliged to give his opinion
strongly in favour of making any sacrifice to keep alive the Aldershot
priory.

Brother George had spoken with force, but without eloquence; and Mark
was afraid that his speech had not carried much weight.

The next to rise was Brother Birinus, who stood up as tall as a tree and
said:

"I agree with Brother George."

And when he sat down it was as if a tree had been uprooted.

There was a pause after this, while every brother looked at his
neighbour, waiting for him to rise at this crisis in the history of the
Order. At last the Father Superior asked Brother Anselm if he did not
intend to speak.

"What can I say?" asked Brother Anselm bitterly. "Last year I should
have been true to myself and voted against the closing of the Sandgate
house. I was silent then in my egoism. I am not fit to defend our house
now."

"But I will," cried Brother Chad, rising. "Begging your pardon, Reverend
Father and Brethren, if I am speaking too soon, but I cannot believe
that you seriously consider closing us down. We're just beginning to get
on well with the authorities, and we've a regular lot of communicants
now. We began as just a Club, but we're something more than a Club now.
We're bringing men to Our Lord, Brethren. You will do a great wrong if
you let those poor souls think that for the sake of your own comfort you
are ready to forsake them. Forgive me, Reverend Father. Forgive me, dear
Brethren, if I have said too much and spoken uncharitably."

"He has not spoken uncharitably enough," Brother Athanasius shouted,
rising to his feet, and as he did so unconsciously assuming the attitude
of a boxer. "If I'd been here last year, I should have spoken much more
uncharitably. I did not join this Order to sit about playing with
vestments. I wanted to bring soldiers to God. If this Order is to be
turned into a kind of male nunnery, I'm off to-morrow. I'm boiling over,
that's what I am, boiling over. If we can't afford to do what we should
be doing, we can't afford to build gatehouses, and lay out flower-beds,
and sit giggling in tin cloisters. It's the limit, that's what it is,
the limit."

Brother Athanasius stood there flushed with defiance, until the Father
Superior told him to sit down and not make a fool of himself, a command
which, notwithstanding that the feeling of the Chapter had been so far
entirely against the head of the Order, such was the Father Superior's
authority, Brother Athanasius immediately obeyed.

Brother Dominic now rose to try, as he said, to bring an atmosphere of
reasonableness into the discussion.

"I do not think that I can be accused of inconsistency," he pointed out
smoothly, "when we look back to our general Chapter of a year ago.
Whatever my personal feelings were about closing the Sandgate priory, I
recognized at once that the Reverend Father was right. There is really
no doubt that we must be strong at the roots before we try to grow into
a tall tree. However flourishing the branches, they will wither if the
roots are not fed. The Reverend Father has no desire, as I understand
him, to abandon the activity of the Order. He is merely anxious to
establish us on a firm basis. The Reverend Brother said that we should
make any sacrifice to maintain the Aldershot house. I have no desire to
accuse the Reverend Brother of inconsistency, but I would ask him if he
is willing to give up the farm, which, as you know, has cost so far a
great deal more than we could afford. But of course the Reverend Brother
would give up the farm. At the same time, we do not want him to give it
up. We realize that under his capable guidance that farm will presently
be a source of profit. Therefore, I beg the Reverend Brother to
understand that I am making a purely rhetorical point when I ask him if
he is prepared to give up the farm. I repeat, we do not want the farm
given up.

"Another point which I feel has been missed. In giving up Aldershot, we
are not giving up active work entirely. We have a good deal of active
work here. We have our guest-house for casuals, and we are always ready
to feed, clothe, and shelter any old soldiers who come to us. We are
still young as an Order. We have only four professed monks, including
the Reverend Father. We want to have more than that before we can
consider ourselves established. I for one should hesitate to take my
final vows until I had spent a long time in strict religious
preparation, which in the hurry and scurry of active work is impossible.
We have listened to a couple of violent speeches, or at any rate to one
violent speech by a brother who was for a year in close touch with
myself. I appeal to him not to drag the discussion down to the level of
lay politics. We are free, we novices, to leave to-morrow. Let us
remember that, and do not let us take advantage of our freedom to impart
to this Mother House of ours the atmosphere of the world to which we may
return when we will.

"And let us remember when we oppose the judgment of the Reverend Father
that we are exalting ourselves without reason. Let us remember that it
is he who by his eloquence and by his devotion and by his endurance and
by his personality, has given us this wonderful house. Are we to turn
round and say to him who has worked so hard for us that we do not want
his gifts, that we are such wonderful fishers of men that we can be
independent of him? Oh, my dear Brethren, let me beg you to vote in
favour of abandoning all our dependencies until we are ourselves no
longer dependent on the Reverend Father's eloquence and devotion and
endurance and personality. God has blessed us infinitely. Are we to
fling those blessings in His face?"

Brother Dominic sat down; after him in succession Brother Raymond,
Brother Dunstan, Brother Lawrence, Brother Jerome, Brother Nicholas, and
Brother Augustine spoke in support of the Father Superior. Brother Giles
refused to speak, and though Mark's heart was thundering in his mouth
with unuttered eloquence, at the moment he should rise he could not find
a word, and he indicated with a sign that like Brother Giles, he had
nothing to say.

"The voting will be by ballot," the Reverend Father announced. "It is
proposed to give up the Priory at Aldershot. Let those brethren who
agree write Yes on a strip of paper. Let those who disagree write No."

All knelt in silent prayer before they inscribed their will; after which
they advanced one by one to the ballot-box, into which under the eyes of
a large crucifix they dropped their papers. The Father Superior did not
vote. Brother Simon, who was still a postulant, and not eligible to sit
in Chapter, was fetched to count the votes. He was much excited at his
task, and when he announced that seven papers were inscribed Yes, that
six were inscribed No, and that one paper was blank, his teeth were
chattering.

"One paper blank?" somebody repeated.

"Yes, really," said Brother Simon. "I looked everywhere, and there's not
a mark on it."

All turned involuntarily toward Mark, whose paper in fact it was,
although he gave no sign of being conscious of the ownership.

"_In a General Chapter of the Order of St. George, held upon the Vigil
of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the year of Grace, 1903, it
was resolved to close the Priory of the Order in the town of
Aldershot._"

The Reverend Father, having invoked the Holy Trinity, declared the
Chapter dissolved.




CHAPTER XXVIII

DIVISION


Mark was vexed with himself for evading the responsibility of recording
his opinion. His vote would not have changed the direction of the
policy; but if he had voted against giving up the house at Aldershot,
the Father Superior would have had to record the casting vote in favour
of his own proposal, and whatever praise or blame was ultimately awarded
to the decision would have belonged to him alone, who as head of the
Order was best able to bear it. Mark's whole sympathy had been on the
side of Brother George, and as one who had known at first hand the work
in Aldershot, he did feel that it ought not to be abandoned so easily.
Then when Brother Athanasius was speaking, Mark, in his embarrassment at
such violence of manner and tone, picked up a volume lying on the table
by his elbow that by reading he might avoid the eyes of his brethren
until Brother Athanasius had ceased to shout. It was the Rule of St.
Benedict which, with a print of Fra Angelico's Crucifixion and an image
of St. George, was all the decoration allowed to the bare Chapter Room,
and the page at which Mark opened the leather-bound volume was headed:
DE PRAEPOSITO MONASTERII.

     "_It happens too often that through the appointment of the Prior
     grave scandals arise in monasteries, since some there be who,
     puffed up with a malignant spirit of pride, imagining themselves to
     be second Abbots, and assuming unto themselves a tyrannous
     authority, encourage scandals and create dissensions in the
     community. . . ._

     "_Hence envy is excited, strife, evil-speaking, jealousy, discord,
     confusion; and while the Abbot and the Prior run counter to each
     other, by such dissension their souls must of necessity be
     imperilled; and those who are under them, when they take sides, are
     travelling on the road to perdition. . . ._

     "_On this account we apprehend that it is expedient for the
     preservation of peace and good-will that the management of his
     monastery should be left to the discretion of the Abbot. . . ._

     "_Let the Prior carry out with reverence whatever shall be enjoined
     upon him by his Abbot, doing nothing against the Abbot's will, nor
     against his orders. . . ._"

Mark could not be otherwise than impressed by what he read.

     _Ii qui sub ipsis sunt, dum adulantur partibus, eunt in
     perditionem. . . ._

     _Nihil contra Abbatis voluntatem faciens. . . ._

Mark looked up at the figure of St. Benedict standing in that holy group
at the foot of the Cross.

     _Ideoque nos proevidemus expedire, propter pacis caritatisque
     custodiam, in Abbatis pendere arbitrio ordinationem monasterii
     sui. . . ._

St. Benedict had more than apprehended; he had actually foreseen that
the Abbot ought to manage his own monastery. It was as if centuries ago,
in the cave at Subiaco, he had heard that strident voice of Brother
Athanasius in this matchboarded Chapter-room, as if he had beheld
Brother Dominic, while apparently he was striving to persuade his
brethren to accept the Father Superior's advice, nevertheless taking
sides, and thereby travelling along the road that leads toward
destruction. This was the thought that paralyzed Mark's tongue when it
was his turn to speak, and this was why he would not commit himself to
an opinion. Afterward, his neutrality appeared to him a weak compromise,
and he regretted that he had not definitely allied himself with one
party or the other.

The announcement in _The Dragon_ that the Order had been compelled to
give up the Aldershot house produced a large sum of sympathetic
contributions; and when the Father Superior came back just before Lent,
he convened another Chapter, at which he told the Community that it was
imperative to establish a priory in London before they tried to reopen
any houses elsewhere. His argument was cogent, and once again there was
the appearance of unanimity among the Brethren, who all approved of the
proposal. It had always been the custom of Father Burrowes to preach his
hardest during Lent, because during that season of self-denial he was
able to raise more money than at any other time, but until now he had
never failed to be at the Abbey at the beginning of Passion Week, nor to
remain there until Easter was over.

The Feast of St. Benedict fell upon the Saturday before the fifth Sunday
in Lent, and the Father Superior, who had travelled down from the North
in order to be present, announced that he considered it would be
prudent, so freely was the money flowing in, not to give up preaching
this year during Passion Week and Holy Week. Naturally, he did not
intend to leave the Community without a priest at such a season, and he
had made arrangements with the Reverend Andrew Hett to act as chaplain
until he could come back into residence himself.

Brother Raymond and Brother Augustine were particularly thrilled by the
prospect of enjoying the ministrations of Andrew Hett, less perhaps
because they would otherwise be debarred from their Easter duties than
because they looked forward to services and ceremonies of which they
felt they had been robbed by the austere Anglicanism of Brother George.

"Andrew Hett is famous," declared Brother Raymond at the pitch of
exultation. "It was he who told the Bishop of Ipswich that if the Bishop
made him give up Benediction he would give up singing Morning and
Evening Prayer."

"That must have upset the Bishop," said Mark. "I suppose he resigned
his bishopric."

"I should have thought that you, Brother Mark, would have been the last
one to take the part of a bishop when he persecutes a Catholic priest!"

"I'm not taking the part of the Bishop," Mark replied. "But I think it
was a silly remark for a curate to make. It merely put him in the wrong,
and gave the Bishop an opportunity to score."

The Prior had questioned the policy of engaging Andrew Hett as Chaplain,
even for so brief a period as a month. He argued that, inasmuch as the
Bishop of Silchester had twice refused to licence him to parishes in the
diocese, it would prejudice the Bishop against the Order of St. George,
and might lead to his inhibiting the Father Superior later on, should an
excuse present itself.

"Nonsense, my dear Brother George," said the Reverend Father. "He won't
know anything about it officially, and in any case ours is a private
oratory, where refusals to licence and episcopal inhibitions have no
effect."

"That's not my point," argued Brother George. "My point is that any
communication with a notorious ecclesiastical outlaw like this fellow
Hett is liable to react unfavourably upon us. Why can't we get down
somebody else? There must be a number of unemployed elderly priests who
would be glad of the holiday."

"I'm afraid that I've offered Hett the job now, so let us make up our
minds to be content."

Mark, who was doing secretarial work for the Reverend Father, happened
to be present during this conversation, which distressed him, because it
showed him that the Prior was still at variance with the Abbot, a state
of affairs that was ultimately bound to be disastrous for the Community.
He withdrew almost immediately on some excuse to the Superior's inner
room, whence he intended to go downstairs to the Porter's Lodge until
the Prior was gone. Unfortunately, the door of the inner room was
locked, and before he could explain what had happened, a conversation
had begun which he could not help overhearing, but which he dreaded to
interrupt.

"I'm afraid, dear Brother George," the Reverend Father was saying, "I'm
very much afraid that you are beginning to think I have outlived my
usefulness as Superior of the Order."

"I've never suggested that," Brother George replied angrily.

"You may not have meant to give that impression, but certainly that is
what you have succeeded in making me feel personally," said the
Superior.

"I have been associated with you long enough to be entitled to express
my opinion in private."

"In private, yes. But are you always careful only to do so in private?
I'm not complaining. My only desire is the prosperity and health of the
Order. Next Christmas I am ready to resign, and let the brethren elect
another Superior-general."

"That's talking nonsense," said the Prior. "You know as well as I do
that nobody else except you could possibly be Superior. But recently I
happen to have had a better opportunity than you to criticize our Mother
House, and frankly I'm not satisfied with the men we have. Few of them
will be any use to us. Birinus, Anselm, Giles, Chad, Athanasius if
properly suppressed, Mark, these in varying degrees, have something in
them, but look at the others! Dominic, ambitious and sly, Jerome, a
pompous prig, Dunstan, a nincompoop, Raymond, a milliner, Nicholas,
a--well, you know what I think Nicholas is, Augustine, another
nincompoop, Lawrence, still at Sunday School, and poor Simon, a clown.
I've had a dozen probationers through my hands, and not one of them was
as good as what we've got. I'm afraid I'm less hopeful of the future
than I was in Canada."

"I notice, dear Brother George," said the Father Superior, "that you are
prejudiced in favour of the brethren who follow your lead with a certain
amount of enthusiasm. That is very natural. But I'm not so pessimistic
about the others as you are. Perhaps you feel that I am forgetting how
much the Order owes to your generosity in the past. Believe me, I have
forgotten nothing. At the same time, you gave your money with your eyes
open. You took your vows without being pressed. Don't you think you owe
it to yourself, if not to the Order or to me personally, to go through
with what you undertook? Your three vows were Chastity, Poverty, and
Obedience."

There was no answer from the Prior; a moment later he shut the door
behind him, and went downstairs alone. Mark came into the room at once.

"Reverend Father," he said. "I'm sorry to have to tell you that I
overheard what you and the Reverend Brother were saying." He went on to
explain how this had happened, and why he had not liked to make his
presence known.

"You thought the Reverend Brother would not bear the mortification with
as much fortitude as myself?" the Father Superior suggested with a faint
smile.

It struck Mark how true this was, and he looked in astonishment at
Father Burrowes, who had offered him the key to his action.

"Well, we must forget what we heard, my son," said the Father Superior.
"Sit down, and let's finish off these letters."

An hour's work was done, at the end of which the Reverend Father asked
Mark if his had been the blank paper when the votes were counted in
Chapter, and when Mark admitted that it had been, he pressed him for the
reason of his neutrality.

"I'm not sure that it oughtn't to be called indecision," said Mark. "I
was personally interested in the keeping on of Aldershot, because I had
worked there."

"Then why not have voted for doing so?" the Superior asked, in accents
that were devoid of the least grudge against Mark for disagreeing with
himself.

"I tried to get rid of my personal opinion," Mark explained. "I tried to
look at the question strictly from the standpoint of the member of a
community. As such I felt that the Reverend Brother was wrong to run
counter to his Superior. At the same time, if you'll forgive me for
saying so, I felt that you were wrong to give up Aldershot. I simply
could not arrive at a decision between the two opinions."

"I do not blame you, my son, for your scrupulous cast of mind. Only
beware of letting it chill your enthusiasm. Satan may avail himself of
it one day, and attack your faith. Solomon was just. Our Blessed Lord,
by our cowardly standards, was unjust. Remembering the Gadarene swine,
the barren fig-tree, the parable of the wedding-guest without a garment,
Martha and Mary. . . ."

"Martha and Mary!" interrupted Mark. "Why, that was really the point at
issue. And the ointment that might have been sold for the benefit of the
poor. Yes, Judas would have voted with the Reverend Brother."

"And Pontius Pilate would have remained neutral," added Father Burrowes,
his blue eyes glittering with delight at the effect upon Mark of his
words.

But when Mark was walking back to the Abbey down the winding drive among
the hazels, he wished that he and not the Reverend Father had used that
illustration. However, useless regrets for his indecision in the matter
of the priory at Aldershot were soon obliterated by a new cause of
division, which was the arrival of the Reverend Andrew Hett on the Vigil
of the Annunciation, just in time to sing first Vespers.

It fell to Mark's lot to entertain the new chaplain that evening,
because Brother Jerome who had become guest-master when Brother Anselm
took his place as cellarer was in the infirmary. Mark was scarcely
prepared for the kind of personality that Hett's proved to be. He had
grown accustomed during his time at the Abbey to look down upon the
protagonists of ecclesiastical battles, so little else did any of the
guests who visited them want to discuss, so much awe was lavished upon
them by Brother Raymond and Brother Augustine. It did not strike Mark
that the fight at St. Agnes' might appear to the large majority of
people as much a foolish squabble over trifles, a cherishing of the
letter rather than the spirit of Christian worship, as the dispute
between Mr. So-and-so and the Bishop of Somewhere-or-other in regard to
his use of the Litany of the Saints in solemn procession on high days
and holy days.

Andrew Hett revived in Mark his admiration of the bigot, which would
have been a dangerous thing to lose in one's early twenties. The
chaplain was a young man of perhaps thirty-five, tall, raw-boned,
sandy-haired, with a complexion of extreme pallor. His light-blue eyes
were very red round the rims, and what eyebrows he possessed slanted up
at a diabolic angle. His voice was harsh, high, and rasping as a guinea
fowl's. When Mark brought him his supper, Hett asked him several
questions about the Abbey time-table, and then said abruptly:

"The ugliness of this place must be soul-destroying."

Mark looked at the Guest-chamber with new eyes. There was such a force
of assertion in Hett's tone that he could not contradict him, and indeed
it certainly was ugly.

"Nobody can live with matchboarded walls and ceilings and not suffer for
it," Hett went on. "Why didn't you buy an old tithe barn and live in
that? It's an insult to Almighty God to worship Him in such
surroundings."

"This is only a beginning," Mark pointed out.

"A very bad beginning," Hett growled. "Such brutalizing ugliness would
be inexcusable if you were leading an active life. But I gather that you
claim to be contemplative here. I've been reading your ridiculous
monthly paper _The Dragon_. Full of sentimental bosh about bringing back
the glories of monasticism to England. Tintern was not built of tin. How
can you contemplate Almighty God here? It's not possible. What Divine
purpose is served by collecting men under hundreds of square feet of
corrugated iron? I'm astonished at Charles Horner. I thought he knew
better than to encourage this kind of abomination."

There was only one answer to make to Hett, which was that the religious
life of the Community did not depend upon any externals, least of all
upon its lodging; but when Mark tried to frame this answer, his lips
would not utter the words. In that moment he knew that it was time for
him to leave Malford and prepare himself to be a priest elsewhere, and
otherwise than by what the Rector had stigmatized as the pseudo-monastic
life.

Mark wondered when he had left the chaplain to his ferocious
meditations what would have been the effect of that diatribe upon some
of his brethren. He smiled to himself, as he sat over his solitary
supper in the Refectory, to picture the various expressions he could
imagine upon their faces when they came hotfoot from the Guest-chamber
with the news of what manner of priest was in their midst. And while he
was sipping his bowl of pea-soup, he looked up at the image of St.
George and perceived that the dragon's expression bore a distinct
resemblance to that of the Reverend Andrew Hett. That night it seemed to
Mark, in one of those waking trances that occur like dreams between one
disturbed sleep and another, that the presence of the chaplain was
shaking the flimsy foundations of the Abbey with such ruthlessness that
the whole structure must soon collapse.

"It's only the wind," he murmured, with that half of his mind which was
awake. "March is going out like a dragon."

After Mass next day, when Mark was giving the chaplain his breakfast,
the latter asked who kept the key of the tabernacle.

"Brother Birinus, I expect. He is the sacristan."

"It ought to have been given to me before Mass. Please go and ask for
it," requested the chaplain.

Mark found Brother Birinus in the Sacristy, putting away the white
vestments in the press. When Mark gave him the chaplain's message,
Brother Birinus told him that the Reverend Brother had the key.

"What does he want the key for?" asked Brother George when Mark had
repeated to him the chaplain's request.

"He probably wishes to change the Host," Mark suggested.

"There is no need to do that. And I don't believe that is the reason. I
believe he wants to have Benediction. He's not going to have Benediction
here."

Mark felt that it was not his place to argue with the Reverend Brother,
and he merely asked him what reply he was to give to the chaplain.

"Tell him that the key of the Tabernacle is kept by me while the
Reverend Father is away, and that I regret I cannot give it to him."

The priest's eyes blazed with anger when Mark returned without the key.

"Who is the Reverend Brother?" he rasped.

"Brother George."

"Yes, but what is he? Apothecary, tailor, ploughboy, what?"

"Brother George is the Prior."

"Well, please tell the Prior that I should like to speak to him
instantly."

When Mark found Brother George he had already doffed his habit, and was
dressed in his farmer's clothes to go working on the land.

"I'll speak to Mr. Hett before Sext. Meanwhile, you can assure him that
the key of the Tabernacle is perfectly safe. I wear it round my neck."

Brother George pulled open his shirt, and showed Mark the golden key
hanging from a cord.

On receiving the Prior's message, the chaplain asked for a railway
time-table.

"I see there is a fast train at 10.30. Please order the trap."

"You're not going to leave us?" Mark exclaimed.

"Do you suppose, Brother Mark, that no bishop in the Establishment will
receive me in his diocese because I am accustomed to give way? I should
not have asked for the key of the Tabernacle unless I thought that it
was my duty to ask for it. I cannot take it from the Reverend Brother's
neck. I will not stay here without its being given up to me. Please
order the trap in time to catch the 10.30 train."

"Surely you will see the Reverend Brother first," Mark urged. "I should
have made it clear to you that he is out in the fields, and that all the
work of the farm falls upon his shoulders. It cannot make any difference
whether you have the key now or before Sext. And I'm sure the Reverend
Brother will see your point of view when you put it to him."

"I am not going to argue about the custody of God," said the chaplain.
"I should consider such an argument blasphemy, and I consider the
Prior's action in refusing to give up the key sacrilege. Please order
the trap."

"But if you sent a telegram to the Reverend Father . . . Brother Dominic
will know where he is . . . I'm sure that the Reverend Father will put
it right with Brother George, and that he will at once give you the
key."

"I was summoned here as a priest," said the chaplain. "If the amateur
monk left in charge of this monastery does not understand the
prerogatives of my priesthood, I am not concerned to teach him except
directly."

"Well, will you wait until I've found the Reverend Brother and told him
that you intend to leave us unless he gives you the key?" Mark begged,
in despair at the prospect of what the chaplain's departure would mean
to a Community already too much divided against itself.

"It is not one of my prerogatives to threaten the prior of a monastery,
even if he is an amateur," said the chaplain. "From the moment that
Brother George refuses to recognize my position, I cease to hold that
position. Please order the trap."

"You won't have to leave till half-past nine," said Mark, who had made
up his mind to wrestle with Brother George on his own initiative, and if
possible to persuade him to surrender the key to the chaplain of his own
accord. With this object he hurried out, to find Brother George
ploughing that stony ground by the fir-trees. He was looking ruefully at
a broken share when Mark approached him.

"Two since I started," he commented.

But he was breaking more precious things than shares, thought Mark, if
he could but understand.

"Let the fellow go," said Brother George coldly, when Mark had related
his interview with the chaplain.

"But, Reverend Brother, if he goes we shall have no priest for Easter."

"We shall be better off with no priest than with a fellow like that."

"Reverend Brother," said Mark miserably, "I have no right to remonstrate
with you, I know. But I must say something. You are making a mistake.
You will break up the Community. I am not speaking on my own account
now, because I have already made up my mind to leave, and get ordained.
But the others! They're not all strong like you. They really are not. If
they feel that they have been deprived of their Easter Communion by you
. . . and have you the right to deprive them? After all, Father Hett has
reason on his side. He is entitled to keep the key of the Tabernacle. If
he wishes to hold Benediction, you can forbid him, or at least you can
forbid the brethren to attend. But the key of the Tabernacle belongs to
him, if he says Mass there. Please forgive me for speaking like this,
but I love you and respect you, and I cannot bear to see you put
yourself in the wrong."

The Prior patted Mark on the shoulder.

"Cheer up, Brother," he said. "You mustn't mind if I think that I know
better than you what is good for the Community. I have had a longer time
to learn, you must remember. And so you're going to leave us?"

"Yes, but I don't want to talk about that now," Mark said.

"Nor do I," said Brother George. "I want to get on with my ploughing."

Mark saw that it was as useless to argue with him as attempt to persuade
the chaplain to stay. He turned sadly away, and walked back with heavy
steps towards the Abbey. Overhead, the larks, rising and falling upon
their fountains of song, seemed to mock the way men worshipped Almighty
God.




CHAPTER XXIX

SUBTRACTION


Mark had not spent a more unhappy Easter since the days of Haverton
House. He was oppressed by the sense of excommunication that brooded
over the Abbey, and on the Saturday of Passion Week the versicles and
responses of the proper Compline had a dreadful irony.

    _V. O King most Blessed, govern Thy servants in the right way._
    _R. Among Thy Saints, O King most Blessed._
    _V. By holy fasts to amend our sinful lives._
    _R. O King most Blessed, govern Thy Saints in the right way._
    _V. To duly keep Thy Paschal Feast._
    _R. Among Thy Saints, O King most Blessed._

"Brother Mark," said Brother Augustine, on the morning of Palm Sunday,
"_did_ you notice that ghastly split infinitive in the last versicle at
Compline? _To duly keep._ I can't think why we don't say the Office in
Latin."

Mark felt inclined to tell Brother Augustine that if nothing more vital
than an infinitive was split during this holy season, the Community
might have cause to congratulate itself. Here now was Brother Birinus
throwing away as useless the bundle of palms that lacked the blessing of
a priest, throwing them away like dead flowers.

Sir Charles Horner, who had been in town, arrived at the Abbey on the
Tuesday, and announced that he was going to spend Holy Week with the
Community.

"We have no chaplain," Mark told him.

"No chaplain!" Sir Charles exclaimed. "But I understood that Andrew
Hett had undertaken the job while Father Burrowes was away."

Mark did not think that it was his duty to enlighten Sir Charles upon
the dispute between Brother George and the chaplain. However, it was not
long before he found out what had occurred from the Prior's own lips and
came fuming back to the Guest-chamber.

"I consider the whole state of affairs most unsatisfactory," he said. "I
really thought that when Brother George took charge here the Abbey would
be better managed."

"Please, Sir Charles," Mark begged, "you make it very uncomfortable for
me when you talk like that about the Reverend Brother before me."

"Yes, but I must give my opinion. I have a right to criticize when I am
the person who is responsible for the Abbey's existence here. It's all
very fine for Brother George to ask me to notify Bazely at Wivelrod that
the brethren wish to go to their Easter duties in his church. Bazely is
a very timid man. I've already driven him into doing more than he really
likes, and my presence in his church doesn't alarm the parishioners. In
fact, they rather like it. But they won't like to see the church full of
monks on Easter morning. They'll be more suspicious than ever of what
they call poor Bazely's innovations. It's not fair to administer such a
shock to a remote country parish like Wivelrod, especially when they're
just beginning to get used to the vestments I gave them. It seems to me
that you've deliberately driven Andrew Hett away from the Abbey, and I
don't see why poor Bazely should be made to suffer. How many monks are
you now? Fifteen? Why, fifteen bulls in Wivelrod church would create
less dismay!"

Sir Charles's protest on behalf of the Vicar of Wivelrod was effective,
for the Prior announced that after all he had decided that it was the
duty of the Community to observe Easter within the Abbey gates. The
Reverend Father would return on Easter Tuesday, and their Easter duties
would be accomplished within the Octave. Withal, it was a gloomy Easter
for the brethren, and when they began the first Vespers with the
quadruple Alleluia, it seemed as if they were still chanting the
sorrowful antiphons of Good Friday.

     _My spirit is vexed within Me: and My heart within Me is desolate._

     _Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by: behold and see if there
     be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me._

     _What are these wounds in Thy Hands: Those with which I was wounded
     in the house of My friends._

Nor was there rejoicing in the Community when at Lauds of Easter Day
they chanted:

    _V. In Thy Resurrection, O Christ._
    _R. Let Heaven and earth rejoice, Alleluia._

Nor when at Prime and Terce and Sext and None they chanted:

     _This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be
     glad in it._

And when at the second Vespers the Brethren declared:

    _V. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep
        the Feast._

    _R. Not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and
        wickedness; but with the unleavened Bread of sincerity and
        truth. Alleluia._

scarcely could they who chanted the versicle challenge with their eyes
those who hung down their heads when they gave the response.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hour of recreation before Compline, which upon great Feasts was wont
to be so glad, lay heavily upon the brethren that night, so that Mark
could not bear to sit in the Cloister; there being no guests in the
Abbey for his attention, he sat in the library and wrote to the Rector.

     The Abbey,

     Malford, Surrey.

     Easter Sunday.

     My dear Rector,

     I should have written before to wish you all a happy Easter, but
     I've been making up my mind during the last fortnight to leave the
     Order, and I did not want to write until my mind was made up. That
     feat is now achieved. I shall stay here until St. George's Day, and
     then the next day, which will be St. Mark's Eve, I shall come home
     to spend my birthday with you. I do not regret the year and six
     months that I have spent at Malford and Aldershot, because during
     that time, if I have decided not to be a monk, I am none the less
     determined to be a priest. I shall be 23 this birthday, and I hope
     that I shall find a Bishop to ordain me next year and a Theological
     College to accept responsibility for my training and a beneficed
     priest to give me a title. I will give you a full account of myself
     when we meet at the end of the month; but in this letter, written
     in sad circumstances, I want to tell you that I have learnt with
     the soul what I have long spoken with the lips--the need of God. I
     expect you will tell me that I ought to have learnt that lesson
     long ago upon that Whit-Sunday morning in Meade Cantorum church.
     But I think I was granted then by God to desire Him with my heart.
     I was scarcely old enough to realize that I needed Him with my
     soul. "You're not so old now," I hear you say with a smile. But in
     a place like this one learns almost more than one would learn in
     the world in the time. One beholds human nature very intimately. I
     know more about my fellow-men from association with two or three
     dozen people here than I learnt at St. Agnes' from association with
     two or three hundred. This much at least my pseudo-monasticism has
     taught me.

     We have passed through a sad time lately at the Abbey, and I feel
     that for the Community sorrows are in store. You know from my
     letters that there have been divisions, and you know how hard I
     have found it to decide which party I ought to follow. But of
     course the truth is that from the moment one feels the inclination
     to side with a party in a community it is time to leave that
     community. Owing to an unfortunate disagreement between Brother
     George and the Reverend Andrew Hett, who came down to act as
     chaplain during the absence of the Reverend Father, Andrew Hett
     felt obliged to leave us. The consequence is we have had no Mass
     this Easter, and thus I have learned with my soul to need God. I
     cannot describe to you the torment of deprivation which I
     personally feel, a torment that is made worse by the consciousness
     that all my brethren will go to their cells to-night needing God
     and not finding Him, because they like myself are involved in an
     earthly quarrel, so that we are incapable of opening our hearts to
     God this night. You may say that if we were in such a state we
     should have had no right to make our Easter Communion. But that
     surely is what Our Blessed Lord can do for us with His Body and
     Blood. I have been realizing that all this Holy Week. I have felt
     as I have never felt before the consciousness of sinning against
     Him. There has not been an antiphon, not a versicle nor a response,
     that has not stabbed me with a consciousness of my sin against His
     Divine Love.

     "What are these wounds in Thy Hands: Those with which I was wounded
     in the house of My friends."

     But if on Easter eve we could have confessed our sins against His
     Love, and if this morning we could have partaken of Him, He would
     have been with us, and our hearts would have been fit for the
     presence of God. We should have been freed from this spirit of
     strife, we should have come together in Jesus Christ. We should
     have seen how to live "with the unleavened Bread of sincerity and
     truth." God would have revealed His Will, and we, submitting our
     Order to His Will, should have ceased to think for ourselves, to
     judge our brethren, to criticize our seniors, to suspect that
     brother of personal ambition, this brother of toadyism. The
     Community is being devoured by the Dragon and, unless St. George
     comes to the rescue of his Order on Thursday week, it will perish.
     Perhaps I have not much faith in St. George. He has always seemed
     to me an unreal, fairy-tale sort of a saint. I have more faith in
     St. Benedict and his Holy Rule. But I have no vocation for the
     contemplative life. I don't feel that my prayers are good enough to
     save my own soul, let alone the souls of others. I _must_ give
     Jesus Christ to my fellow-men in the Blessed Sacrament. I long to
     be a priest for that service. I don't feel that I want by my own
     efforts to make people better, or to relieve poverty, or to thunder
     against sin, or to preach them up to and through Heaven's gates. I
     want to give them the Blessed Sacrament, because I know that
     nothing else will be the slightest use to them. I know it more
     positively to-night than I have ever known it, because as I sit
     here writing to you I am starved. God has given me the grace to
     understand why I am starved. It is my duty to bring Our Lord to
     souls who do not know why they are starved. And if after nearly two
     years of Malford this passion to bring the Sacraments to human
     beings consumes me like a fire, then I have not wasted my time, and
     I can look you in the face and ask for your blessing upon my
     determination to be a priest.

     Your ever affectionate

     Mark.

When Mark had written this letter, and thus put into words what had
hitherto been a more or less nebulous intention, and when in addition to
that he had affixed a date to the carrying out of his intention, he felt
comparatively at ease. He wasted no time in letting the Father Superior
know that he was going to leave; in fact he told him after he had
confessed to him before making his Communion on Easter Thursday.

"I'm sorry to lose you, my dear boy," said Father Burrowes. "Very sorry.
We are just going to open a priory in London, though that is a secret
for the moment, please. I shall make the announcement at the Easter
Chapter. Yes, some kind friends have given us a house in Soho.
Splendidly central, which is important for our work. I had planned that
you would be one of the brethren chosen to go there."

"It's very kind of you, Reverend Father," said Mark. "But I'm sure that
you understand my anxiety not to lose any time, now that I feel
perfectly convinced that I want to be a priest."

"I had my doubts about you when you first came to us. Let me see, it was
nearly two years ago, wasn't it? How time flies! Yes, I had my doubts
about you. But I was wrong. You seem to possess a real fixity of
purpose. I remember that you told me then that you were not sure you
wanted to be a monk. Rare candour! I could have professed a hundred
monks, had I been willing to profess them within ten minutes of their
first coming to see me."

The Father Superior gave Mark his blessing and dismissed him. Nothing
had been said about the dispute between the Prior and the Chaplain, and
Mark began to wonder if Father Burrowes thought the results of it would
tell more surely in favour of his own influence if he did not allude to
it nor make any attempt to adjudicate upon the point at issue. Now that
he was leaving Malford in little more than a week, Mark felt that he was
completely relieved of the necessity of assisting at any conventual
legislation, and he would gladly have absented himself from the Easter
Chapter, which was held on the Saturday within the Octave, had not
Father Burrowes told him that so long as he wore the habit of a novice
of the Order he was expected to share in every side of the Community's
life.

"Brethren," said the Father Superior, "I have brought you back news that
will gladden your hearts, news that will show I you how by the Grace of
God your confidence in my judgment was not misplaced. Some kind friends
have taken for us the long lease of a splendid house in Soho Square, so
that we may have our priory in London, and resume the active work that
was abandoned temporarily last Christmas. Not only have these kind
friends taken for us this splendid house, but other kind friends have
come forward to guarantee the working expenses up to L20 a week. God is
indeed good to us, brethren, and when I remember that next Thursday is
the Feast of our great Patron Saint, my heart is too full for words.
During the last three or four months there have been unhappy differences
of opinion in our beloved Order. Do let me entreat you to forget all
these in gratitude for God's bountiful mercies. Do let us, with the
arrival once more of our patronal festival, resolve to forget our doubts
and our hesitations, our timidity and our rashness, our suspicions and
our jealousies. I blame myself for much that has happened, because I
have been far away from you, dear brethren, in moments of great
spiritual distress. But this year I hope by God's mercy to be with you
more. I hope that you will never again spend such an Easter as this. I
have only one more announcement to make, which is that I have appointed
Brother Dominic to be Prior of St. George's Priory, Soho Square, and
Brother Chad and Brother Dunstan to work with him for God and our
soldiers."

In the morning, Brother Simon, whose duty it was nowadays to knock with
the hammer upon the doors of the cells and rouse the brethren from sleep
with the customary salutation, went running from the dormitory to the
Prior's cell, his hair standing even more on end than it usually did at
such an hour.

"Reverend Brother, Reverend Brother," he cried. "I've knocked and
knocked on Brother Anselm's door, and I've said 'The Lord be with you'
nine times and shouted 'The Lord be with you' twice, but there's no
answer, and at last I opened the door, though I know it's against the
Rule to open the door of a brother's cell, but I thought he might be
dead, and he isn't dead, but he isn't there. He isn't there, Reverend
Brother, and he isn't anywhere. He's nowhere, Reverend Brother, and
shall I go and ring the fire-alarm?"

Brother George sternly bade Brother Simon be quiet; but when the
Brethren sat in choir to sing Lauds and Prime, they saw that Brother
Anselm's stall was empty, and those who had heard Brother Simon's
clamour feared that something terrible had happened.

After Mass the Community was summoned to the Chapter room to learn from
the lips of the Father Superior that Brother Anselm had broken his vows
and left the Order. Brother Dunstan, who wore round his neck the nib
with which Brother Anselm signed his profession, burst into tears.
Brother Dominic looked down his big nose to avoid the glances of his
brethren. If Easter Sunday had been gloomy, Low Sunday was gloomier
still, and as for the Feast of St. George nobody had the courage to
think what that would be like with such a cloud hanging over the
Community.

Mark felt that he could not stay even until the patronal festival. If
Brother George or Brother Birinus had broken his vows, he could have
borne it more easily, for he had not witnessed their profession; fond he
might be of the Prior, but he had worked for human souls under the
orders of Brother Anselm. He went to Father Burrowes and begged to leave
on Monday.

"Brother Athanasius and Brother Chad are leaving tomorrow," said the
Father Superior, "Yes, you may go."

Brother Simon drove them to the station. Strange figures they seemed to
each other in their lay clothes.

"I've been meaning to go for a long time," said Brother Athanasius, who
was now Percy Wade. "And it's my belief that Brother George and Brother
Birinus won't stay long."

"I hoped never to go," said Brother Chad, who was now Cecil Masters.

"Then why are you going?" asked the late Brother Athanasius. "I never do
anything I don't want to do."

"I think I shall be more help to Brother Anselm than to soldiers in
London," said the late Brother Chad.

Mark beamed at him.

"That's just like you, Brother. I am so glad you're going to do that."

The train came in, and they all shook hands with Brother Simon, who had
been cheerful throughout the drive, and even now found great difficulty
in looking serious.

"You seem very happy, Brother Simon," said Mark.

"Oh, I am very happy, Brother Mark. I should say Mr. Mark. The Reverend
Father has told me that I'm to be clothed as a novice on Wednesday. All
last week when we sung, '_The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared
unto Simon_,' I knew something wonderful was going to happen. That's
what made me so anxious when Brother Anselm didn't answer my knock."

The train left the station, and the three ex-novices settled themselves
to face the world. They were all glad that Brother Simon at least was
happy amid so much unhappiness.




CHAPTER XXX

THE NEW BISHOP OF SILCHESTER


The Rector of Wych thought that Mark's wisest plan if he wished to be
ordained was to write and ask the Bishop of Silchester for an interview.

"The Bishop of Silchester?" Mark exclaimed. "But he's the last bishop I
should expect to help me."

"On the contrary," said the Rector, "you have lived in his diocese for
more than five years, and if you repair to another bishop, he will
certainly wonder why you didn't go first to the Bishop of Silchester."

"But I don't suppose that the Bishop of Silchester is likely to help
me," Mark objected. "He wasn't so much enamoured of Rowley as all that,
and I don't gather that he has much affection or admiration for
Burrowes."

"That's not the point; the point is that you have devoted yourself to
the religious life, both informally and formally, in his diocese. You
have shown that you possess some capacity for sticking to it, and I
fancy that you will find the Bishop less unsympathetic than you expect."

However, Mark was not given an opportunity to put the Bishop of
Silchester's good-will to the test, for no sooner had he made up his
mind to write to him than the news came that he was seriously ill, so
seriously ill that he was not expected to live, which in fact turned out
a true prognostication, for on the Feast of St. Philip and St. James the
prelate died in his Castle of High Thorpe. He was succeeded by the
Bishop of Warwick, much to Mark's pleasure and surprise, for the new
Bishop was an old friend of Father Rowley and a High Churchman, one who
might lend a kindly ear to Mark's ambition. Father Rowley had been in
the United States for nearly two years, where he had been treated with
much sympathy and where he had collected enough money to pay off the
debt upon the new St. Agnes'. He had arrived home about a week before
Mark left Malford, and in answer to Mark he wrote immediately to Dr.
Oliphant, the new Bishop of Silchester, to enlist his interest. Early in
June Mark received a cordial letter inviting him to visit the Bishop at
High Thorpe.

The promotion of Dr. Aylmer Oliphant to the see of Silchester was
considered at the time to be an indication that the political party then
in power was going mad in preparation for its destruction by the gods.
The Press in commenting upon the appointment did not attempt to cast a
slur upon the sanctity and spiritual fervour of the new Bishop, but it
felt bound to observe that the presence of such a man on the episcopal
bench was an indication that the party in power was oblivious of the
existence of an enraged electorate already eager to hurl them out of
office. At a time when thinking men and women were beginning to turn to
the leaders of the National Church for a social policy, a government
worn out by eight years of office that included a costly war was so
little alive to the signs of the times as to select for promotion a
prelate conspicuously identified with the obscurantist tactics of that
small but noisy group in the Church of England which arrogated to itself
the presumptuous claim to be the Catholic party. Dr. Oliphant's learning
was indisputable; his liturgical knowledge was profound; his eloquence
in the pulpit was not to be gainsaid; his life, granted his sacerdotal
eccentricities, was a noble example to his fellow clergy. But had he
shown those qualities of statesmanship, that capacity for moderation,
which were so marked a feature of his predecessor's reign? Was he not
identified with what might almost be called an unchristian agitation to
prosecute the holy, wise, and scholarly Dean of Leicester for appearing
to countenance an opinion that the Virgin Birth was not vital to the
belief of a Christian? Had he not denounced the Reverend Albert Blundell
for heresy, and thereby exhibited himself in active opposition to his
late diocesan, the sagacious Bishop of Kidderminster, who had been
compelled to express disapproval of his Suffragan's bigotry by
appointing the Reverend Albert Blundell to be one of his examining
chaplains?

"We view with the gravest apprehension the appointment of Dr. Aylmer
Oliphant to the historic see of Silchester," said one great journal.
"Such reckless disregard, such contempt we might almost say, for the
feelings of the English people demonstrates that the present government
has ceased to enjoy the confidence of the electorate. We have for Dr.
Oliphant personally nothing but the warmest admiration. We do not
venture for one moment to impugn his sincerity. We do not hesitate to
affirm most solemnly our disbelief that he is actuated by any but the
highest motives in lending his name to persecutions that recall the
spirit of the Star Chamber. But in these days when the rapid and
relentless march of Scientific Knowledge is devastating the plain of
Theological Speculation we owe it to our readers to observe that the
appointment of Dr. Aylmer Oliphant to the Bishopric of Silchester must
be regarded as an act of intellectual cowardice. Not merely is Dr.
Oliphant a notorious extremist in religious matters, one who for the
sake of outworn forms and ceremonies is inclined to keep alive the
unhappy dissensions that tear asunder our National Church, but he is
also what is called a Christian Socialist of the most advanced type, one
who by his misreading of the Gospel spreads the unwholesome and perilous
doctrine that all men are equal. This is not the time nor the place to
break a controversial lance with Dr. Oliphant. We shall content
ourselves with registering a solemn protest against the unparagoned
cynicism of a Conservative government which thus gambles not merely with
its own security, but what is far more unpardonable with the security of
the Nation and the welfare of the State."

The subject of this ponderous censure received Mark in the same room
where two and a half years ago the late Bishop had decided that the
Third Altar in St. Agnes' Church was an intolerable excrescence.
Nowadays the room was less imposing, not more imposing indeed than the
room of a scholarly priest who had been able to collect a few books and
buy such pieces of ancient furniture as consorted with his severe taste.
Dr. Oliphant himself, a tall spare man, seeming the taller and more
spare in his worn purple cassock, with clean-shaven hawk's face and
black bushy eyebrows most conspicuous on account of his grey hair, stood
before the empty summer grate, his long lean neck out-thrust, his arms
crossed behind his back, like a gigantic and emaciated shadow of
Napoleon. Mark felt no embarrassment in genuflecting to salute him; the
action was spontaneous and was not dictated by any ritualistic
indulgence. Dr. Oliphant, as he might have guessed from the anger with
which his appointment had been received, was in outward semblance all
that a prelate should be.

"Why do you want to be a priest?" the Bishop asked him abruptly.

"To administer the Sacraments," Mark replied without hesitation.

The Bishop's head and neck wagged up and down in grave approbation.

"Mr. Rowley, as no doubt he has told you, wrote to me about you. And so
you've been with the Order of St. George lately? Is it any good?"

Mark was at a loss what to reply to this. His impulse was to say firmly
and frankly that it was no good; but after not far short of two years at
Malford it would be ungrateful and disloyal to criticize the Order,
particularly to the Bishop of the diocese.

"I don't think it is much good yet," Mark said. He felt that he simply
could not praise the Order without qualification. "But I expect that
when they've learnt how to combine the contemplative with the active
side of their religious life they will be splendid. At least, I hope
they will."

"What's wrong at present?"

"I don't know that anything's exactly wrong."

Mark paused; but the Bishop was evidently waiting for him to continue,
and feeling that this was perhaps the best way to present his own point
of view about the life he had chosen for himself he plunged into an
account of life at Malford.

"Capital," said the Bishop when the narrative was done. "You have given
me a very clear picture of the present state of the Order and
incidentally a fairly clear picture of yourself. Well, I'm going to
recommend you to Canon Havelock, the Principal of the Theological
College here, and if he reports well of you and you can pass the
Cambridge Preliminary Theological Examination, I will ordain you at
Advent next year, or at any rate, if not in Advent, at Whitsuntide."

"But isn't Silchester Theological College only for graduates?" Mark
asked.

"Yes, but I'm going to suggest that Canon Havelock stretches a point in
your favour. I can, if you like, write to the Glastonbury people, but in
that case you would be out of my diocese where you have spent so much of
your time and where I have no doubt you will easily find a beneficed
priest to give you a title. Moreover, in the case of a young man like
yourself who has been brought up from infancy upon Catholic teaching, I
think it is advisable to give you an opportunity of mixing with the
moderate man who wishes to take Holy Orders. You can lose nothing by
such an association, and it may well happen that you will gain a great
deal. Silchester Theological College is eminently moderate. The
lecturers are men of real learning, and the Principal is a man whom it
would be impertinent for me to praise for his devout and Christian
life."

"I hardly know how to thank you, my lord," said Mark.

"Do you not, my son?" said the Bishop with a smile. Then his head and
neck wagged up and down. "Thank me by the life you lead as a priest."

"I will try, my lord," Mark promised.

"Of that I am sure. By the way, didn't you come across a priest at St.
Agnes' Mission House called Mousley?"

"Oh rather, I remember him well."

"You'll be glad to hear that he has never relapsed since I sent him to
Rowley. In fact only last week I had the satisfaction of recommending
him to a friend of mine who had a living in his gift."

Mark spent the three months before he went to Silchester at the Rectory
where he worked hard at Latin and Greek and the history of the Church.
At the end of August he entered Silchester Theological College.




CHAPTER XXXI

SILCHESTER THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE


The theological students of Silchester were housed in a red-brick alley
of detached Georgian houses, both ends of which were closed to traffic
by double gates of beautifully wrought iron. This alley known as Vicar's
Walk had formerly been inhabited by the lay vicars of the Cathedral,
whose music was now performed by minor canons.

There were four little houses on either side of the broad pavement, the
crevices in which were gay with small rock plants, so infrequent were
the footsteps that passed over them. Each house consisted of four rooms
and each room held one student. Vicar's Walk led directly into the
Close, a large green space surrounded by the houses of dignitaries, from
a quiet road lined with elms, which skirted the wall of the Deanery
garden and after several twists and turns among the shadows of great
Gothic walls found its way downhill into the narrow streets of the small
city. One of the houses in the Close had been handed over to the
Theological College, the Principal of which usually occupied a Canon's
stall in the Cathedral. Here were the lecture-rooms, and here lived
Canon Havelock the Principal, Mr. Drakeford the Vice-Principal, Mr.
Brewis the Chaplain, and Mr. Moore and Mr. Waters the Lecturers.

There did not seem to be many arduous rules. Probably the most ascetic
was one that forbade gentlemen to smoke in the streets of Silchester.
There was no early Mass except on Saints' days at eight; but gentlemen
were expected, unless prevented by reasonable cause, to attend Matins in
the Cathedral before breakfast and Evensong in the College Oratory at
seven. A mutilated Compline was delivered at ten, after which gentlemen
were requested to retire immediately to their rooms. Academic Dress was
to be worn at lectures, and Mark wondered what costume would be designed
for him. The lectures took place every morning between nine and one, and
every afternoon between five and seven. The Principal lectured on
Dogmatic Theology and Old Testament history; the Vice-Principal on the
Old and New Testament set books; the Chaplain on Christian worship and
Church history; Mr. Moore on Pastoralia and Old Testament Theology; and
Mr. Waters on Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

As against the prevailing Gothic of the mighty Cathedral Vicar's Walk
stood out with a simple and fragrant charm of its own, so against the
prevailing Gothic of Mark's religious experience life at the Theological
College remained in his memory as an unvexed interlude during which
flesh and spirit never sought to trouble each other. Perhaps if Mark had
not been educated at Haverton House, had not experienced conversion, had
not spent those years at Chatsea and Malford, but like his fellow
students had gone decorously from public school to University and still
more decorously from University to Theological College, he might with
his temperament have wondered if this red-brick alley closed to traffic
at either end by beautifully wrought iron gates was the best place to
prepare a man for the professional service of Jesus Christ.

Sin appeared very remote in that sunny lecture-room where to the sound
of cawing rooks the Principal held forth upon the strife between
Pelagius and Augustine, when prevenient Grace, operating Grace,
co-operating Grace and the _donum perseverantiae_ all seemed to depend
for their importance so much more upon a good memory than upon the
inscrutable favours of Almighty God. Even the Confessions of St.
Augustine, which might have shed their own fierce light of Africa upon
the dark problem of sin, were scarcely touched upon. Here in this
tranquil room St. Augustine lived in quotations from his controversial
works, or in discussions whether he had not wrongly translated [Greek]
in the Epistle to the Romans by _in quo omnes
peccaverunt_ instead of like the Pelagians by _propter quod omnes
peccaverunt_. The dim echoes of the strife between Semipelagian
Marseilles and Augustinian Carthage resounded faintly in Mark's brain;
but they only resounded at all, because he knew that without being able
to display some ability to convey the impression that he understood the
Thirty-Nine Articles he should never be ordained. Mark wondered what
Canon Havelock would have done or said if a woman taken in adultery had
been brought into the lecture-room by the beadle. Yet such a supposition
was really beside the point, he thought penitently. After all, human
beings would soon be degraded to wax-works if they could be lectured
upon individually in this tranquil and sunny room to the sound of rooks
cawing in the elms beyond the Deanery garden.

Mark made no intimate friendships among his fellows. Perhaps the
moderation of their views chilled him into an exceptional reserve, or
perhaps they were an unusually dull company that year. Of the thirty-one
students, eighteen were from Oxford, twelve from Cambridge, and the
thirty-first from Durham. Even he was looked at with a good deal of
suspicion. As for Mark, nothing less than God's prevenient grace could
explain his presence at Silchester. Naturally, inasmuch as they were
going to be clergymen, the greatest charity, the sweetest toleration was
shown to Mark's unfortunate lack of advantages; but he was never unaware
that intercourse with him involved his companions in an effort, a
distinct, a would-be Christlike effort to make the best of him. It was
the same kind of effort they would soon be making when as Deacons they
sought for the sick, poor, and impotent people of the Parish. Mark might
have expected to find among them one or two of whom it might be
prophesied that they would go far. But he was unlucky. All the brilliant
young candidates for Ordination must have betaken themselves to
Cuddesdon or Wells or Lichfield that year.

Of the eighteen graduates from Oxford, half took their religion as a hot
bath, the other half as a cold one. Nine resembled the pale young
curates of domestic legend, nine the muscular Christian that is for some
reason attributed to the example of Charles Kingsley. Of the twelve
graduates from Cambridge, six treated religion as a cricket match played
before the man in the street with God as umpire, six regarded it as a
respectable livelihood for young men with normal brains, social
connexions, and weak digestions. The young man from Durham looked upon
religion as a more than respectable livelihood for one who had plenty of
brains, an excellent digestion, and no social connexions whatever.

Mark wondered if the Bishop of Silchester's design in placing him amid
such surroundings was to cure him for ever of moderation. As was his
custom when he was puzzled, he wrote to the Rector.

     The Theological College,

     Silchester.

     All Souls, '03.

     My dear Rector,

     My first impressions have not undergone much change. The young men
     are as good as gold, but oh dear, the gold is the gold of
     Mediocritas. The only thing that kindles a mild phosphorescence, a
     dim luminousness as of a bedside match-tray in the dark, in their
     eyes is when they hear of somebody's what they call conspicuous
     moderation. I suppose every deacon carries a bishop's apron in his
     sponge-bag or an archbishop's crosier among his golf-clubs. But in
     this lot I simply cannot perceive even an embryonic archdeacon. I
     rather expected when I came here that I should be up against men of
     brains and culture. I was looking forward to being trampled on by
     ruthless logicians. I hoped that latitudinarian opinions were going
     to make my flesh creep and my hair stand on end. But nothing of the
     kind. I've always got rather angry when I've read caricatures of
     curates in books with jokes about goloshes and bath-buns. Yet
     honestly, half my fellows might easily serve as models to any
     literary cheapjack of the moment. I'm willing to admit that
     probably most of them will develop under the pressure of life, but
     a few are bound to remain what they are. I know we get some
     eccentrics and hotheads and a few sensual knaves among the Catholic
     clergy, but we do not get these anaemic creatures. I feel that
     before I came here I knew nothing about the Church of England. I've
     been thrown all my life with people who had rich ideas and violent
     beliefs and passionate sympathies and deplorable hatreds, so that
     when I come into contact with what I am bound to accept as the
     typical English parson in the making I am really appalled.

     I've been wondering why the Bishop of Silchester told me to come
     here. Did he really think that the spectacle of moderation in the
     moulding was good for me? Did he fancy that I was a young zealot
     who required putting in his place? Or did he more subtly realize
     from the account I gave him of Malford that I was in danger of
     becoming moderate, even luke-warm, even tepid, perhaps even
     stone-cold? Did he grasp that I must owe something to party as well
     as mankind, if I was to give up anything worth giving to mankind?
     But perhaps in my egoism I am attributing much more to his
     lordship's paternal interest, a keener glance to his episcopal eye,
     than I have any right to attribute. Perhaps, after all, he merely
     saw in me a young man who had missed the advantages of Oxford,
     etc., and wished out of regard for my future to provide me with the
     best substitute.

     Anyway, please don't think that I live in a constant state of
     criticism with a correspondingly dangerous increase of self-esteem.
     I really am working hard. I sometimes wonder if the preparation of
     a "good" theological college is the best preparation for the
     priesthood. But so long as bishops demand the knowledge they do, it
     is obvious that this form of preparation will continue. There again
     though, I daresay if I imagined myself an inspired pianist I should
     grumble at the amount of scales I was set to practice. I'm not,
     once I've written down or talked out some of my folly, so very
     foolish at bottom.

     Beyond a slight inclination to flirt with the opinions of most of
     the great heresiarchs in turn, but only with each one until the
     next comes along, I'm not having any intellectual adventures. One
     of the excitements I had imagined beforehand was wrestling with
     Doubt. But I have no wrestles. Shall I always be spared?

     Your ever affectionate,

     Mark.

Gradually, as the months went by, either because the students became
more mellow in such surroundings or because he himself was achieving a
wider tolerance, Mark lost much of his capacity for criticism and
learned to recognize in his fellows a simple goodness and sincerity of
purpose that almost frightened him when he thought of that great world
outside, in the confusion and complexity of which they had pledged
themselves to lead souls up to God. He felt how much they missed by not
relying rather upon the Sacraments than upon personal holiness and the
upright conduct of the individual. They were obsessed with the need of
setting a good example and of being able from the pulpit to direct the
wandering lamb to the Good Shepherd. Mark scarcely ever argued about his
point of view, because he was sure that perception of what the
Sacraments could do for human nature must be given by the grace of God,
and that the most exhaustive process of inductive logic would not avail
in the least to convince somebody on whom the fact had not dawned in a
swift and comprehensive inspiration of his inner life. Sometimes indeed
Mark would defend himself from attack, as when it was suggested that his
reliance upon the Sacraments was only another aspect of Justification by
Faith Alone, in which the effect of a momentary conversion was prolonged
by mechanical aids to worship.

"But I should prefer my idolatry of the outward form to your idolatry of
the outward form," he would maintain.

"What possible idolatry can come from the effect upon a congregation of
a good sermon?" they protested.

"I don't claim that a preacher might not bring the whole of his
congregation to the feet of God," Mark allowed. "But I must have less
faith in human nature than you have, for I cannot believe that any
preacher could exercise a permanent effect without the Sacraments. You
all know the person who says that the sound of an organ gives him holy
thoughts, makes him feel good, as the cant phrase goes? I've no doubt
that people who sit under famous preachers get the same kind of
sensation Sunday after Sunday. But sooner or later they will be
worshipping the outward form--that is to say the words that issue from
the preacher's mouth and produce those internal moral rumblings in the
pit of the soul which other listeners get from the diapason. Have your
organs, have your sermons, have your matins and evensong; but don't put
them on the same level as the Blessed Sacrament. The value of that is
absolute, and I refuse to consider It from the point of view of
pragmatic philosophy."

All would protest that Mark was putting a wrong interpretation upon
their argument; what they desired to avoid was the substitution of the
Blessed Sacrament for the Person of the Divine Saviour.

"But I believe," Mark argued, "I believe profoundly with the whole of my
intellectual, moral, and emotional self that the Blessed Sacrament _is_
our Divine Saviour. I maintain that only through the Blessed Sacrament
can we hope to form within our own minds the slightest idea of the
Person of the Divine Saviour. In the pulpit I would undertake to present
fifty human characters as moving as our Lord; but when I am at the Altar
I shall actually give Him to those who will take Him. I shall know that
I am doing as much for the lowest savage as for the finest product of
civilization. All are equal on the altar steps. Elsewhere man remains
divided into classes. You may rent the best pew from which to see and
hear the preacher; but you cannot rent a stone on which to kneel at your
Communion."

Mark rarely indulged in these outbursts. On him too Silchester exerted a
mellowing influence, and he gained from his sojourn there much of what
he might have carried away from Oxford; he recaptured the charm of that
June day when in the shade of the oak-tree he had watched a College
cricket match, and conversed with Hathorne the Siltonian who wished to
be a priest, but who was killed in the Alps soon after Mark met him.

The bells chimed from early morning until sombre eve; ancient clocks
sounded the hour with strikes rusty from long service of time; rooks and
white fantail-pigeons spoke with the slow voice of creatures that are
lazily content with the slumbrous present and undismayed by the sleepy
morrow. In Summer the black-robed dignitaries and white choristers,
themselves not more than larger rooks and fantails, passed slowly across
the green Close to their dutiful worship. In Winter they battled with
the wind like the birds in the sky. In Autumn there was a sound of
leaves along the alleys and in the Gothic entries. In Spring there were
daisies in the Close, and daffodils nodding among the tombs, and on the
grey wall of the Archdeacon's garden a flaming peacock's tail of
Japanese quince.

Sometimes Mark was overwhelmed by the tyranny of the past in
Silchester; sometimes it seemed that nothing was worth while except at
the end of living to have one's effigy in stone upon the walls of the
Cathedral, and to rest there for ever with viewless eyes and cold
prayerful hands, oneself in harmony at last with all that had gone
before.

"Yet this peace is the peace of God," he told himself. "And I who am
privileged for a little time to share in it must carry away with me
enough to make a treasure of peace in my own heart, so that I can give
from that treasure to those who have never known peace."

     _The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your
     hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son
     Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the
     Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with
     you always._

When Mark heard these words sound from the altar far away in the golden
glooms of the Cathedral, it seemed to him that the building bowed like a
mighty couchant beast and fell asleep in the security of God's presence.

After Mark had been a year at the Theological College he received a
letter from the Bishop:

     High Thorpe Castle.

     Sept. 21, '04.

     Dear Lidderdale,

     I have heard from Canon Havelock that he considers you are ready to
     be ordained at Advent, having satisfactorily passed the Cambridge
     Preliminary Theological Examination. If therefore you succeed in
     passing my examination early in November, I am willing to ordain
     you on December 18. It will be necessary of course for you to
     obtain a title, and I have just heard from Mr. Shuter, the Vicar of
     St. Luke's, Galton, that he is anxious to make arrangements for a
     curate. You had better make an appointment, and if I hear
     favourably from him I will licence you for his church. It has
     always been the rule in this diocese that non-graduate candidates
     for Holy Orders should spend at least two years over their
     theological studies, but I am not disposed to enforce this rule in
     your case.

     Yours very truly,

     Aylmer Silton.

This expression of fatherly interest made Mark anxious to show his
appreciation of it, and whatever he had thought of St. Luke's, Galton,
or of its incumbent he would have done his best to secure the title
merely to please the Bishop. Moreover, his money was coming to an end,
and another year at the Theological College would have compelled him to
borrow from Mr. Ogilvie, a step which he was most anxious to avoid. He
found that Galton, which he remembered from the days when he had sent
Cyril Pomeroy there to be met by Dorward, was a small county town of
some eight or nine thousand inhabitants and that St. Luke's was a new
church which had originally been a chapel of ease to the parish church,
but which had acquired with the growth of a poor population on the
outskirts of the town an independent parochial status of its own. The
Reverend Arnold Shuter, who was the first vicar, was at first glance
just a nervous bearded man, though Mark soon discovered that he
possessed a great deal of spiritual force. He was a widower and lived in
the care of a housekeeper who regarded religion as the curse of good
cooking. Latterly he had suffered from acute neurasthenia, and three or
four of his wealthier parishioners--they were only relatively
wealthy--had clubbed together to guarantee the stipend of a curate. Mark
was to live at the Vicarage, a detached villa, with pointed windows and
a front door like a lychgate, which gave the impression of having been
built with what material was left over from building the church.

"You may think that there is not much to do in Galton," said Mr. Shuter
when he and Mark were sitting in his study after a round of the parish.

"I hope I didn't suggest that," Mark said quickly.

The Vicar tugged nervously at his beard and blinked at his prospective
curate from pale blue eyes.

"You seem so full of life and energy," he went on, half to himself, as
though he were wondering if the company of this tall, bright-eyed,
hatchet-faced young man might not prove too bracing for his worn-out
nerves.

"Indeed I'm glad I do strike you that way," Mark laughed. "After
dreaming at Silchester I'd begun to wonder if I hadn't grown rather too
much into a type of that sedate and sleepy city."

"But there is plenty of work," Mr. Shuter insisted. "We have the
hop-pickers at the end of the summer, and I've tried to run a mission
for them. Out in the hop-gardens, you know. And then there's Oaktown."

"Oaktown?" Mark echoed.

"Yes. A queer collection of people who have settled on a derelict farm
that was bought up and sold in small plots by a land-speculator. They'll
give plenty of scope for your activity. By the way, I hope you're not
too extreme. We have to go very slowly here. I manage an early Eucharist
every Sunday and Thursday, and of course on Saints' days; but the
attendance is not good. We have vestments during the week, but not at
the mid-day Celebration."

Mark had not intended to attach himself to what he considered a too
indefinite Catholicism; but inasmuch as the Bishop had found him this
job he made up his mind to give to it at any rate his deacon's year and
his first year as a priest.

"I've been brought up in the vanguard of the Movement," he admitted.
"But you can rely on me, sir, to be loyal to your point of view, even if
I disagreed with it. I can't pretend to believe much in moderation; but
I should always be your curate before anything else, and I hope very
much indeed that you will offer me the title."

"You'll find me dull company," Mr. Shuter sighed. "My health has gone
all to pieces this last year."

"I shall have a good deal of reading to do for my priest's examination,"
Mark reminded him. "I shall try not to bother you."

The result of Mark's visit to Galton was that amongst the various
testimonials and papers he forwarded two months later to the Bishop's
Registrar was the following:

     To the Right Reverend Aylmer, Lord Bishop of Silchester.

     I, Arnold Shuter, Vicar of St. Luke's, Galton, in the County of
     Southampton, and your Lordship's Diocese of Silchester, do hereby
     nominate Mark Lidderdale, to perform the office of Assistant Curate
     in my Church of St. Luke aforesaid; and do promise to allow him the
     yearly stipend of L120 to be paid by equal quarterly instalments;
     And I do hereby state to your Lordship that the said Mark
     Lidderdale intends to reside in the said Parish in my Vicarage; and
     that the said Mark Lidderdale does not intend to serve any other
     Parish as Incumbent or Curate.

     Witness my hand this fourteenth day of November; in the year of our
     Lord, 1904.

     Arnold Shuter,

     St. Luke's Vicarage,

     Galton,

     Hants.


     I, Arnold Shuter, Incumbent of St. Luke's, Galton, in the County of
     Southampton, bona fide undertake to pay Mark Lidderdale, of the
     Rectory, Wych-on-the-Wold, in the County of Oxford, the annual sum
     of one hundred and twenty pounds as a stipend for his services as
     Curate, and I, Mark Lidderdale, bona fide intend to receive the
     whole of the said stipend. And each of us, Arnold Shuter and Mark
     Lidderdale, declare that no abatement is to be made out of the said
     stipend in respect of rent or consideration for the use of the
     Glebe House; and that I, Arnold Shuter, undertake to pay the same,
     and I, Mark Lidderdale, intend to receive the same, without any
     deduction or abatement whatsoever.

     Arnold Shuter,

     Mark Lidderdale.




CHAPTER XXXII

EMBER DAYS


Mark, having been notified that he had been successful in passing the
Bishop's examination for Deacons, was summoned to High Thorpe on
Thursday. He travelled down with the other candidates from Silchester on
an iron-grey afternoon that threatened snow from the louring North, and
in the atmosphere of High Thorpe under the rule of Dr. Oliphant he found
more of the spirit of preparation than he would have been likely to find
in any other diocese at this date. So many of the preliminaries to
Ordination had consisted of filling up forms, signing documents, and
answering the questions of the Examining Chaplain that Mark, when he was
now verily on the threshold of his new life, reproached himself with
having allowed incidental details and petty arrangements to make him for
a while oblivious of the overwhelming fact of his having been accepted
for the service of God. Luckily at High Thorpe he was granted a day to
confront his soul before being harassed again on Ember Saturday with
further legal formalities and signing of documents. He was able to spend
the whole of Ember Friday in prayer and meditation, in beseeching God to
grant him grace to serve Him worthily, strength to fulfil his vows, and
that great _donum perseverantiae_ to endure faithful unto death.

"Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord," Mark remembered in the
damasked twilight of the Bishop's Chapel, where he was kneeling. "Let me
keep those words in my heart. Not everyone," he repeated aloud. Then
perversely as always come volatile and impertinent thoughts when the
mind is concentrated on lofty aspirations Mark began to wonder if he had
quoted the text correctly. He began to be almost sure that he had not,
and on that to torment his brain in trying to recall what was the exact
wording of the text he desired to impress upon his heart. "Not everyone
that saith unto me, Lord, Lord," he repeated once more aloud.

At that moment the tall figure of the Bishop passed by.

"Do you want me, my son?" he asked kindly.

"I should like to make my confession, reverend father in God," said
Mark.

The Bishop beckoned him into the little sacristy, and putting on rochet
and purple stole he sat down to hear his penitent.

Mark had few sins of which to accuse himself since he last went to his
duties a month ago. However, he did have upon his conscience what he
felt was a breach of the Third Commandment in that he had allowed
himself to obscure the mighty fact of his approaching ordination by
attaching too much importance to and fussing too much about the
preliminary formalities.

The Bishop did not seem to think that Mark's soul was in grave peril on
that account, and he took the opportunity to warn Mark against an
over-scrupulousness that might lead him in his confidence to allow sin
to enter into his soul by some unguarded portal which he supposed firmly
and for ever secure.

"That is always the danger of a temperament like yours?" he mused. "By
all means keep your eyes on the high ground ahead of you; but do not
forget that the more intently you look up, the more liable you are to
slip on some unnoticed slippery stone in your path. If you abandoned
yourself to the formalities that are a necessary preliminary to
Ordination, you did wisely. Our Blessed Lord usually gave practical
advice, and some of His miracles like the turning of water into wine at
Cana were reproofs to carelessness in matters of detail. It was only
when people worshipped utility unduly that He went to the other extreme
as in His rebuke to Judas over the cruse of ointment."

The Bishop raised his head and gave Mark absolution. When they came out
of the sacristy he invited him to come up to his library and have a
talk.

"I'm glad that you are going to Galton," he said, wagging his long neck
over a crumpet. "I think you'll find your experience in such a parish
extraordinarily useful at the beginning of your career. So many young
men have an idea that the only way to serve God is to go immediately to
a slum. You'll be much more discouraged at Galton than you can imagine.
You'll learn there more of the difficulties of a clergyman's life in a
year than you could learn in London in a lifetime. Rowley, as no doubt
you've heard, has just accepted a slum parish in Shoreditch. Well, he
wrote to me the other day and suggested that you should go to him. But I
dissented. You'll have an opportunity at Galton to rely upon yourself.
You'll begin in the ruck. You'll be one of many who struggle year in
year out with an ordinary parish. There won't be any paragraphs about
St. Luke's in the Church papers. There won't be any enthusiastic
pilgrims. There'll be nothing but the thought of our Blessed Lord to
keep you struggling on, only that, only our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ."

The Bishop's head wagged slowly to and fro in the silence that succeeded
his words, and Mark pondering them in that silence felt no longer that
he was saying "Lord, Lord," but that he had been called to follow and
that he was ready without hesitation to follow Him whithersoever He
should lead.

The quiet Ember Friday came to an end, and on the Saturday there were
more formalities, of which Mark dreaded most the taking of the oath
before the Registrar. He had managed with the help of subtle High Church
divines to persuade himself that he could swear he assented to the
Thirty-nine Articles without perjury. Nevertheless he wished that he was
not bound to take that oath, and he was glad that the sense in which the
Thirty-nine Articles were to be accepted was left to the discretion of
him who took the oath. Of one thing Mark was positive. He was assuredly
not assenting to those Thirty-nine Articles that their compilers
intended when they framed them. However, when it came to it, Mark
affirmed:

"I, Mark Lidderdale, about to be admitted to the Holy Order of Deacons,
do solemnly make the following declaration:--I assent to the Thirty-nine
Articles of Religion, and to the Book of Common Prayer, and the
ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. I believe the doctrine of the
Church of England, as therein set forth, to be agreeable to the Word of
God; and in Public Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments I will
use the Form in the said Book prescribed, and none other, except so far
as shall be ordered by lawful authority.

"I, Mark Lidderdale, about to be admitted to the Holy Order of Deacons,
do swear that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to His Majesty
King Edward, his heirs and successors according to law.

"So help me God."

"But the strange thing is," Mark said to one of his fellow candidates,
"nobody asks us to take the oath of allegiance to God."

"We do that when we're baptized," said the other, a serious young man
who feared that Mark was being flippant.

"Personally," Mark concluded, "I think the solemn profession of a monk
speaks more directly to the soul."

And this was the feeling that Mark had throughout the Ordination of the
Deacons notwithstanding that the Bishop of Silchester in cope and mitre
was an awe-inspiring figure in his own Chapel. But when Mark heard him
say:

     _Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the
     Church of God_,

he was caught up to the Seventh Heaven and prayed that, when a year
hence he should be kneeling thus to hear those words uttered to him and
to feel upon his head those hands imposed, he should receive the Holy
Ghost more worthily than lately he had received authority to execute the
office of a Deacon in the Church of God.

Suddenly at the back of the chapel Mark caught sight of Miriam, who must
have travelled down from Oxfordshire last night to be present at his
Ordination. His mind went back to that Whit-Sunday in Meade Cantorum
nearly ten years ago. Miriam's plume of grey hair was no longer visible,
for all her hair was grey nowadays; but her face had scarcely altered,
and she sat there at this moment with that same expression of austere
sweetness which had been shed like a benison upon Mark's dreary boyhood.
How dear of Miriam to grace his Ordination, and if only Esther too could
have been with him! He knelt down to thank God humbly for His mercies,
and of those mercies not least for the Ogilvies' influence upon his
life.

Mark could not find Miriam when they came out from the chapel. She must
have hurried away to catch some slow Sunday train that would get her
back to Wych-on-the-Wold to-night. She could not have known that he had
seen her, and when he arrived at the Rectory to-morrow as glossy as a
beetle in his new clerical attire, Miriam would listen to his account of
the Ordination, and only when he had finished would she murmur how she
had been present all the time.

And now there was still the oath of canonical obedience to take before
lunch; but luckily that was short. Mark was hungry, since unlike most of
the candidates he had not eaten an enormous breakfast that morning.

Snow was falling outside when the young priests and deacons in their new
frock coats sat down to lunch; and when they put on their sleek silk
hats and hurried away to catch the afternoon train back to Silchester,
it was still falling.

"Even nature is putting on a surplice in our honour," Mark laughed to
one of his companions, who not feeling quite sure whether Mark was being
poetical or profane, decided that he was being flippant, and looked
suitably grieved.

It was dusk of that short winter day when Mark reached Silchester, and
wandered back in a dream toward Vicar's Walk. Usually on Sunday evenings
the streets of the city pattered with numerous footsteps; but to-night
the snow deadened every sound, and the peace of God had gone out from
the Cathedral to shed itself upon the city.

"It will be Christmas Day in a week," Mark thought, listening to the
Sabbath bells muffled by the soft snow-laden air. For the first time it
occurred to him that he should probably have to preach next Sunday
evening.

     _And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us._

That should be his text, Mark decided; and, passing from the snowy
streets, he sat thinking in the golden glooms of the Cathedral about his
sermon.


EXPLICIT PRAELUDIUM





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