Infomotions, Inc.Way Of All Flesh / Butler, Samuel



Author: Butler, Samuel
Title: Way Of All Flesh
Publisher: Eris Etext Project
Tag(s): ernest; theobald; pontifex; christina; english literature
Contributor(s): Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.)
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 161,669 words (average) Grade range: 12-15 (college) Readability score: 57 (average)
Identifier: butler-way-362
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                                      1903

                                WAY OF ALL FLESH

                                by Samuel Butler

  CHAPTER I

  WHEN I was a small boy at the beginning of the century I remember an
old man who wore knee-breeches and worsted stockings, and who used
to hobble about the street of our village with the help of a stick. He
must have been getting on for eighty in the year 1807, earlier than
which date I suppose I can hardly remember him, for I was born in
1802. A few white locks hung about his ears, his shoulders were bent
and his knees feeble, but he was still hale, and was much respected in
our little world of Paleham. His name was Pontifex.

  His wife was said to be his master; I have been told she brought him
a little money, but it cannot have been much. She was a tall,
square-shouldered person (I have heard my father call her a Gothic
woman) who had insisted on being married to Mr. Pontifex when he was
young and too good-natured to say nay to any woman who wooed him.
The pair had lived not unhappily together, for Mr. Pontifex's temper
was easy and he soon learned to bow before his wife's more stormy
moods.

  Mr. Pontifex was a carpenter by trade; he was also at one time
parish clerk; when I remember him, however, he had so far risen in
life as to be no longer compelled to work with his own hands. In his
earlier days he had taught himself to draw. I do not say he drew well,
but it was surprising he should draw as well as he did. My father, who
took the living of Paleham about the year 1797, became possessed of
a good many of old Mr. Pontifex's drawings, which were always of local
subjects, and so unaffectedly painstaking that they might have
passed for the work of some good early master. I remember them as
hanging up framed and glazed in the study at the Rectory, and
tinted, as all else in the room was tinted, with the green reflected
from the fringe of ivy leaves that grew around the windows. I wonder
how they will actually cease and come to an end as drawings, and
into what new phases of being they will then enter.

  Not content with being an artist, Mr. Pontifex must needs also be
a musician. He built the organ in the church with his own hands, and
made a smaller one which he kept in his own house. He could play as
much as he could draw, not very well according to professional
standards, but much better than could have been expected. I myself
showed a taste for music at an early age, and old Mr. Pontifex on
finding it out, as he soon did, became partial to me in consequence.

  It may be thought that with so many irons in the fire he could
hardly be a very thriving man, but this was not the case. His father
had been a day labourer, and he had himself begun life with no other
capital than his good sense and good constitution; now, however, there
was a goodly show of timber about his yard, and a look of solid
comfort over his whole establishment. Towards the close of the
eighteenth century and not long before my father came to Paleham, he
had taken a farm of about ninety acres, thus making a considerable
rise in life. Along with the farm there went an old-fashioned but
comfortable house with a charming garden and an orchard. The
carpenter's business was now carried on in one of the outhouses that
had once been part of some conventual buildings, the remains of
which could be seen in what was called the Abbey Close. The house
itself, emblossomed in honeysuckles and creeping roses, was an
ornament to the whole village, nor were its internal arrangements less
exemplary than its outside was ornamental. Report said that Mrs.
Pontifex starched the sheets for her best bed, and I can well
believe it.

  How well do I remember her parlour half filled with the organ
which her husband had built, and scented with a withered apple or
two from the pyrus japonica that grew outside the house; the picture
of the prize ox over the chimney-piece, which Mr. Pontifex himself had
painted; the transparency of the man coming to show light to a coach
upon a snowy night, also by Mr. Pontifex; the by Mr. Pontifex; the
little old man and a little old woman who told the weather; the
china shepherd and shepherdess; the jars of feathery flowering grasses
with a peacock's feather or two among them to set them off, and the
china bowls full of dead rose leaves dried with bay salt. All has long
since vanished and become a memory, faded but still fragrant to
myself.

  Nay, but her kitchen- and the glimpses into a cavernous cellar
beyond it, wherefrom came gleams from the pale surfaces of milk
cans, or it may be of the arms and face of a milkmaid skimming the
cream; or again her storeroom, where among other treasures she kept
the famous lipsalve which was one of her especial glories, and of
which she would present a shape yearly to those whom she delighted
to honour. She wrote out the recipe for this and gave it to my
mother a year or two before she died, but we could never make it as
she did. When we were children she used sometimes to send her respects
to my mother, and ask leave for us to come and take tea with her.
Right well she used to ply us. As for her temper, we never met such
a delightful old lady in our lives; whatever Mr. Pontifex may have had
to put up with, we had no cause for complaint, and then Mr. Pontifex
would play to us upon the organ, and we would stand round him
open-mouthed and think him the most wonderfully clever man that ever
was born, except of course our papa.

  Mrs. Pontifex had no sense of humour, at least I can call to mind no
signs of this, but her husband had plenty of full in him, though few
would have guessed it from his appearance. I remember my father once
sent me down to his workshop to get some glue, and I happened to
come when old Pontifex was in the act of scolding his boy. He had
got the lad- a pudding-headed fellow- by the ear and was saying,
"What? Lost again- smothered o' wit." (I believe it was the boy who
was himself supposed to be a wandering soul, and who was thus
addressed as lost.) "Now, look here, my lad," he continued, "some boys
are born stupid, and thou art one of them; some achieve stupidity-
that's thee again, Jim-  thou wast both born stupid and hast greatly
increased thy birthright- and some" (and here came a climax during
which the boy's head and ear were swayed from side to side) "have
stupidity thrust upon them, which, if it please the Lord, shall not be
thy case, my lad, for I will thrust stupidity from thee, though I have
to box thine ears in doing so," but I did not see that the old man
really did box Jim's ears, or do more than pretend to frighten him,
for the two understood one another perfectly well. Another time I
remember hearing him call the village rat-catcher by saying, "Come
hither, thou three-days-and-three-nights, thou," alluding, as I
afterwards learned, to the rat-catcher's periods of intoxication;
but I will tell no more of such trifles. My father's face would always
brighten when old Pontifex's name was mentioned. "I tell you, Edward,"
he would say to me, "old Pontifex was not only an able man, but he was
one of the very ablest men that ever I knew."

  This was more than I as a young man was prepared to stand. "My
dear father," I answered, "what did he do? He could draw a little, but
could he to save his life have got a picture into the Royal Academy
exhibition? He built two organs and could play the Minuet in Samson on
one and the March in Scipio on the other; he was a good carpenter
and a bit of a wag; he was a good old fellow enough, but why make
him out so much abler than he was?"

  "My boy," returned my father, "you must not judge by the work, but
by the work in connection with the surroundings. Could Giotto or
Filippo Lippi, think you, have got a picture into the Exhibition?
Would a single one of those frescoes we went to see when we were at
Padua have the remotest chance of being hung, if it were sent in for
exhibition now? Why, the Academy people would be so outraged that they
would not even write to poor Giotto to tell him to come and take his
fresco away. Phew!" continued he, waxing warm, "if old Pontifex had
had Cromwell's chances he would have done all that Cromwell did, and
have done it better; if he had had Giotto's chances he would have done
all that Giotto did, and done it no worse; as it was, he was a village
carpenter, and I will undertake to say he never scamped a job in the
whole course of his life."

  "But," said I, "we cannot judge people with so many 'ifs.' If old
Pontifex had lived in Giotto's time he might have been another Giotto,
but he did not live in Giotto's time."

  "I tell you, Edward," said my father with some severity, "we must
judge men not so much by what they do, as by what they make us feel
that they have it in them to do. If a man has done enough, either in
painting, music or the affairs of life, to make me feel that I might
trust him in an emergency he has done enough. It is not by what a
man has actually put upon his canvas, nor yet by the acts which he has
set down, so to speak, upon the canvas of his life that I will judge
him, but by what he makes me feel that he felt and aimed at. If he has
made me feel that he felt those things to be lovable which I hold
lovable myself I ask no more; his grammar may have been imperfect, but
still I have understood him; he and I are en rapport; and I say again,
Edward, that old Pontifex was not only an able man, but one of the
very ablest men I ever knew."

  Against this there was no more to be said, and my sisters eyed me to
silence. Somehow or other my sisters always did eye me to silence when
I differed from my father.

  "Talk of his successful son," snorted my father, whom I had fairly
roused. "He is not fit to black his father's boots. He has his
thousands of pounds a year, while his father had perhaps three
thousand shillings a year towards the end of his life. He is a
successful man; but his father, hobbling about Paleham Street in his
grey worsted stockings, broad brimmed hat and brown swallow-tailed
coat, was worth a hundred of George Pontifexes, for all his
carriages and horses and the airs he gives himself."

  "But yet," he added, "George Pontifex is no fool either." And this
brings us to the second generation of the Pontifex family with whom we
need concern ourselves.

   CHAPTER II

  OLD Mr. Pontifex had married in the year 1750, but for fifteen years
his wife bore no children. At the end of that time Mrs. Pontifex
astonished the whole village by showing unmistakable signs of a
disposition to present her husband with an heir or heiress. Hers had
long ago been considered a hopeless case, and when on consulting the
doctor concerning the meaning of certain symptoms she was informed
of their significance, she became very angry and abused the doctor
roundly for talking nonsense. She refused to put so much as a piece of
thread into a needle in anticipation of her confinement and would have
been absolutely unprepared, if her neighbours had not been better
judges of her condition than she was, and got things ready without
telling her anything about it. Perhaps she feared Nemesis, though
assuredly she knew not who or what Nemesis was; perhaps she feared the
doctor had made a mistake and she should be laughed at; from
whatever cause, however, her refusal to recognise the obvious arose,
she certainly refused to recognise it, until one snowy night in
January the doctor was sent for with all urgent speed across the rough
country roads. When he arrived he found two patients, not one, in need
of his assistance, for a boy had been born who was in due time
christened George, in honour of his then reigning majesty.

  To the best of my belief George Pontifex got the greater part of his
nature from this obstinate old lady, his mother- a mother who though
she loved no one else in the world except her husband (and him only
after a fashion) was most tenderly attached to the unexpected child of
her old age; nevertheless she showed it little.

  The boy grew up into a sturdy bright-eyed little fellow, with plenty
of intelligence, and perhaps a trifle too great readiness at book
learning. Being kindly treated at home, he was as fond of his father
and mother as it was in his nature to be of anyone, but he was fond of
no one else. He had a good healthy sense of meum, and as little of
tuum as he could help. Brought up much in the open air in one of the
best situated and healthiest villages in England, his little limbs had
fair play, and in those days children's brains were not overtasked
as they now are; perhaps it was for this very reason that the boy
showed an avidity to learn. At seven or eight years old he could read,
write, and sum better than any other boy of his age in the village. My
father was not yet rector of Paleham, and did not remember George
Pontifex's childhood, but I have heard neighbours tell him that the
boy was looked upon as unusually quick and forward. His father and
mother were naturally proud of their offspring, and his mother was
determined that he should one day become one of the kings and
councillors of the earth.

  It is one thing, however, to resolve that one's son shall win some
of life's larger prizes and another to square matters with fortune
in this respect. George Pontifex might have been brought up as a
carpenter and succeeded in no other way than as succeeding his
father as one of the minor magnates of Paleham, and yet have been a
more truly successful man than he actually was- for I take it there is
not much more solid success in this world than what fell to the lot of
old Mr. and Mrs. Pontifex; it happened, however, that about the year
1780, when George was a boy of fifteen, a sister of Mrs. Pontifex's,
who had married a Mr. Fairlie, came to pay a few days' visit at
Paleham. Mr. Fairlie was a publisher, chiefly of religious works,
and had an establishment in Paternoster Row; he had risen in life, and
his wife had risen with him. No very close relations had been
maintained between the sisters for some years, and I forget exactly
how it came about that Mr. and Mrs. Fairlie were guests in the quiet
but exceedingly comfortable house of their sister and
brother-in-law; but for some reason or other the visit was paid, and
little George soon succeeded in making his way into his uncle and
aunt's good graces. A quick, intelligent boy with a good address, a
sound constitution, and coming of respectable parents, has a potential
value which a practised business man who has need of many subordinates
is little likely to overlook. Before his visit was over Mr. Fairlie
proposed to the lad's father and mother that he should put him into
his own business, at the same time promising that if the boy did
well he should not want someone to bring him forward. Mrs. Pontifex
had her son's interest too much at heart to refuse such an offer, so
the matter was soon arranged, and about a fortnight after the Fairlies
had left, George was sent up by coach to London, where he was met by
his uncle and aunt, with whom it was arranged that he should live.

  This was George's great start in life. He now wore more
fashionable clothes than he had yet been accustomed to, and any little
rusticity of gait or pronunciation which he had brought from
Paleham, was so quickly and completely lost that it was ere long
impossible to detect that he had not been born and bred among people
of what is commonly called education. The boy paid great attention
to his work, and more than justified the favourable opinion which
Mr. Fairlie had formed concerning him. Sometimes Mr. Fairlie would
send him down to Paleham for a few days' holiday, and ere long his
parents perceived that he had acquired an air and manner of talking
different from any that he had taken with him from Paleham. They
were proud of him, and soon fell into their proper places, resigning
all appearance of a parental control, for which indeed there was no
kind of necessity. In return, George was always kindly to them, and to
the end of his life retained a more affectionate feeling towards his
father and mother than I imagine him ever to have felt again for
man, woman or child.

  George's visits to Paleham were never long, for the distance from
London was under fifty miles and there was a direct coach, so that the
journey was easy; there was not time, therefore, for the novelty to
wear off either on the part of the young man or of his parents. George
liked the fresh country air and green fields after the darkness to
which he had been so long accustomed in Paternoster Row, which then,
as now, was a narrow gloomy lane rather than a street. Independently
of the pleasure of seeing the familiar faces of the farmers and
villagers, he liked also being seen and being congratulated on growing
up such a fine-looking and fortunate young fellow, for he was not
the youth to hide his light under a bushel. His uncle had had taught
him Latin and Greek of an evening; he had taken kindly to these
languages and had rapidly and easily mastered what many boys take
years in acquiring. I suppose his knowledge gave him a self-confidence
which made itself felt whether he intended it or not; at any rate,
he soon began to pose as a judge literature, and from this to being
a judge of art, architecture, music and everything else, the path
was easy. Like His father, he knew the value of money, but he was at
once more ostentatious and less liberal than his father; while yet a
boy he was a thorough little man of the world, and did well rather
upon principles which he had tested by personal experiment, and
recognised as principles, than from those profounder convictions which
in his father were so instinctive that he could give no account
concerning them.

  His father, as I have said, wondered at him and let him alone. His
son had fairly distanced him, and in an inarticulate way the father
knew it perfectly well. After a few years he took to wearing his
best clothes whenever his son came to stay with him, nor would he
discard them for his ordinary ones till the young man had returned
to London. I believe old Mr. Pontifex, along with his pride and
affection, felt also a certain fear of his son, as though of something
which he could not thoroughly understand, and whose ways,
notwithstanding outward agreement, were nevertheless not as his
ways. Mrs. Pontifex felt nothing of this; to her George was pure and
absolute perfection, and she saw, or thought she saw, with pleasure,
that he resembled her and her family in feature as well as in
disposition rather than her husband and his.

  When George was about twenty-five years old his uncle took him
into partnership on very liberal terms. He had little cause to
regret this step. The young man infused fresh vigour into a concern
that was already vigorous, and by the time he was thirty found himself
in the receipt of not less than L1500 a year as his share of the
profits. Two years later he married a lady about seven years younger
than himself, who brought him a handsome dowry. She died in 1805, when
her youngest child Alethea was born, and her husband did not marry
again.

   CHAPTER III

  IN the early years of the century five little children and a
couple of nurses began to make periodical visits to Paleham. It is
needless to say they were a rising generation of Pontifexes, towards
whom the old couple, their grandparents, were as tenderly
deferential as they would have been to the children of the Lord
Lieutenant of the County. Their names were Eliza, Maria, John,
Theobald (who like myself was born in 1802), and Alethea. Mr. Pontifex
always put the prefix "master" or "miss" before the names of his
grandchildren, except in the case of Alethea, who was his favourite.
To have resisted his grandchildren would have been as impossible for
him as to have resisted his wife; even old Mrs. Pontifex yielded
before her son's children, and gave them all manner of licence which
she would never have allowed even to my sisters and myself, who
stood next in her regard. Two regulations only they must attend to;
they must wipe their shoes well on coming into the house, and they
must not overfeed Mr. Pontifex's organ with wind, nor take the pipes
out.

  By us at the Rectory there was no time so much looked forward to
as the annual visit of the little Pontifexes to Paleham. We came in
for some of the prevailing licence; we went to tea with Mrs.
Pontifex to meet her grandchildren, and then our young friends were
asked to the Rectory to have tea with us, and we had what we
considered great times. I fell desperately in love with Alethea,
indeed we all fell in love with each other, plurality and exchange
whether of wives or husbands being openly and unblushingly advocated
in the very presence of our nurses. We were very merry, but it is so
long ago that I have forgotten nearly everything save that we were
very merry. Almost the only thing that remains with me as a
permanent impression was the fact that Theobald one day beat his nurse
and teased her, and when she said she should go away cried out, "You
shan't go away- I'll keep you on purpose to torment you."

  One winter's morning, however, in the year 1811, we heard the church
bell tolling while we were dressing in the back nursery and were
told it was for old Mrs. Pontifex. Our manservant John told us and
added with grim levity that they were ringing the bell to come and
take her away. She had had a fit of paralysis which had carried her
off quite suddenly. It was very shocking, the more so because our
nurse assured us that if God chose we might all have fits of paralysis
ourselves that very day and be taken straight off to the Day of
Judgement. The Day of Judgement indeed, according to the opinion of
those who were most likely to know, would not under any
circumstances be delayed more than a few years longer, and then the
whole world would be burned, and we ourselves be consigned to an
eternity of torture, unless we mended our ways more than we at present
seemed at all likely to do. All this was so alarming that we fell to
screaming and made such a hullabaloo that the nurse was obliged for
her own peace to reassure us. Then we wept, but more composedly, as we
remembered that there would be no more tea and cakes for us now at old
Mrs. Pontifex's.

  On the day of the funeral, however, we had a great excitement; old
Mr. Pontifex sent round a penny loaf to every inhabitant of the
village according to a custom still not uncommon at the beginning of
the century; the loaf was called a dole. We had never heard of this
custom before; besides, though we had often heard of penny loaves,
we had never before seen one; moreover, they were presents to us as
inhabitants of the village, and we were treated as grown-up people,
for our father and mother and the servants had each one loaf sent
them, but only one. We had never yet suspected that we were
inhabitants at all; finally, the little loaves were new, and we were
passionately fond of new bread, which we were seldom or never
allowed to have, as it was supposed not to be good for us. Our
affection, therefore, for our old friend had to stand against the
combined attacks of archaeological interest, the rights of citizenship
and property, the pleasantness to the eye and goodness for food of the
little loaves themselves, and the sense of importance which was
given us by our having been intimate with someone who had actually
died. It seemed upon further inquiry that there was little reason to
anticipate an early death for any one of ourselves, and this being so,
we rather liked the idea of someone else's being put away into the
churchyard; we passed, therefore, in a short time from extreme
depression to a no less extreme exultation; a new heaven and a new
earth had been revealed to us in our perception of the possibility
of benefiting by the death of our friends, and I fear that for some
time we took an interest in the health of everyone in the village
whose position rendered a repetition of the dole in the least likely.

  Those were the days in which all great things seemed far off, and we
were astonished to find that Napoleon Buonaparte was an actually
living person. We had thought such a great man could only have lived a
very long time ago, and here he was after all almost as it were at our
own doors. This lent colour to the view that the Day of Judgement
might indeed be nearer than we had thought, but nurse said that was
all right now, and she knew. In those days the snow lay longer and
drifted deeper in the lanes than it does now, and the milk was
sometimes brought in frozen in winter, and we were taken down into the
back kitchen to see it. I suppose there are rectories up and down
the country now where the milk comes in frozen sometimes in winter,
and the children go down to wonder at it, but I never see any frozen
milk in London, so I suppose the winters are warmer than they used
to be.

  About one year after his wife's death Mr. Pontifex also was gathered
to his fathers. My father saw him the day before he died. The old
man had a theory about sunsets, and had had two steps built up against
a wall in the kitchen garden on which he used to stand and watch the
sun go down whenever it was clear. My father came on him in the
afternoon, just as the sun was setting, and saw him with his arms
resting on the top of the wall looking towards the sun over a field
through which there was a path on which my father was. My father heard
him say "Good-bye, sun; good-bye, sun," as the sun sank, and saw by
his tone and manner that he was feeling very feeble. Before the next
sunset he was gone.

  There was no dole. Some of his grandchildren were brought to the
funeral and we remonstrated with them, but did not take much by
doing so. John Pontifex, who was a year older than I was, sneered at
penny loaves, and intimated that if I wanted one it must be because my
papa and mamma could not afford to buy me one, whereon I believe we
did something like fighting, and I rather think John Pontifex got
the worst of it, but it may have been the other way. I remember my
sister's nurse, for I was just outgrowing nurses myself, reported
the matter to higher quarters, and we were all of us put to some
ignominy, but we had been thoroughly awakened from our dream, and it
was long enough before we could hear the words "penny loaf"
mentioned without our ears tingling with shame. If there had been a
dozen doles afterwards we should not have deigned to touch one of
them.

  George Pontifex put up a monument to his parents, a plain slab in
Paleham church, inscribed with the following epitaph:

                        SACRED TO THE MEMORY

                                  OF

                            JOHN PONTIFEX

      WHO WAS BORN AUGUST 16TH, 1727, AND DIED FEBRUARY 8, 1812,

                           IN HIS 85TH YEAR,

                                 AND OF

                        RUTH PONTIFEX, HIS WIFE,

       WHO WAS BORN OCTOBER 13, 1727, AND DIED JANUARY 10, 1811,

                             IN HER 84TH YEAR.

                  THEY WERE UNOSTENTATIOUS BUT EXEMPLARY

                       IN HER DISCHARGE OF THEIR

                   RELIGIOUS, MORAL, AND SOCIAL DUTIES

                        THIS MONUMENT WAS PLACED

                           BY THEIR ONLY SON.

  CHAPTER IV

  IN a year or two more came Waterloo and the European peace. Then Mr.
George Pontifex went abroad more than once. I remember seeing at
Battersby in after-years the diary which he kept on the first of these
occasions. It is a characteristic document. I felt as I read it that
the author before starting had made up his mind to admire only what he
thought it would be creditable in him to admire, to look at nature and
art only through the spectacles that had been handed down to him by
generation after generation of prigs and impostors. The first
glimpse of Mont Blanc threw Mr. Pontifex into a conventional
ecstasy. "My feelings I cannot express. I gasped, yet hardly dared
to breathe, as I viewed for the first time the monarch of the
mountains. I seemed to fancy the genius seated on his stupendous
throne far above his aspiring brethren and in his solitary might
defying the universe. I was so overcome by my feelings that I was
almost bereft of my faculties, and would not for worlds have spoken
after my first exclamation till I found some relief in a gush of
tears. With pain I tore myself from contemplating for the first time
'at distance dimly seen' (though I felt as if I had sent my soul and
eyes after it), this sublime spectacle." After a nearer view of the
Alps from above Geneva he walked nine out of the twelve miles of the
descent: "My mind and heart were too full to sit still, and I found
some relief by exhausting my feelings through exercise." In the course
of time he reached Chamonix and went on a Sunday to the Montanvert
to see the Mer de Glace. There he wrote the following verses for the
visitors' book, which he considered, so he says, "suitable to the
day and scene":

     Lord, while these wonders of thy hand I see,

     My soul in holy reverence bends to thee.

     These awful solitudes, this dread repose,

     Yon pyramid sublime of spotless snows,

     These spiry pinnacles, those smiling plains,

     This sea where one eternal winter reigns,

     These are thy works, and while on them I gaze

     I hear a silent tongue that speaks thy  praise.

  Some poets always begin to get groggy about the knees after
running for seven or eight lines. Mr. Pontifex's last couplet gave him
a lot of trouble, and nearly every word has been erased and
rewritten once at least. In the visitors' book at the Montanvert,
however, he must have been obliged to commit himself definitely to one
reading or another. Taking the verses all round, I should say that Mr.
Pontifex was right in considering them suitable to the day; I don't
like being too hard even on the Mer de Glace, so will give no
opinion as to whether they are suitable to the scene also.

  Mr. Pontifex went on to the Great St. Bernard and there he wrote
some more verses, this time I am afraid in Latin. He also took good
care to be properly impressed by the Hospice and its situation. "The
whole of this most extraordinary journey seemed like a dream, its
conclusion especially, in gentlemanly society, with every comfort
and accommodation amidst the rudest rocks and in the region of
perpetual snow. The thought that I was sleeping in a convent and
occupied the bed of no less a person than Napoleon, that I was in
the highest inhabited spot in the old world and in a place
celebrated in every part of it, kept me awake some time." As a
contrast to this, I may quote here an extract from a letter written to
me last year by his grandson Ernest, of whom the reader will hear more
presently. The passage runs: "I went up to the Great St. Bernard and
saw the dogs." In due course Mr. Pontifex found his way into Italy,
where the pictures and other works of art- those, at least, which were
fashionable at that time- threw him into genteel paroxysms of
admiration. Of the Uffizi Gallery at Florence he writes: "I have spent
three hours this morning in the gallery and I have made up my mind
that if of all the treasures I have seen in Italy I were to choose one
room it would be the Tribune of this gallery. It contains the Venus
de' Medici, the Explorator, the Pancratist, the Dancing Faun, and a
fine Apollo. These more than outweigh the Laocoon and the Belvedere
Apollo at Rome. It contains, besides, the St. John of Raphael and many
other chefs-d'oeuvre of the greatest masters in the world." It is
interesting to compare Mr. Pontifex's effusions with the rhapsodies of
critics in our own times. Not long ago a much esteemed writer informed
the world that he felt "disposed to cry out with delight" before a
figure by Michael Angelo. I wonder whether he would feel disposed to
cry out before a real Michael Angelo, if the critics had decided
that it was not genuine, or before a reputed Michael Angelo which
was really by someone else. But I suppose that a prig with more
money than brains was much the same sixty or seventy years ago as he
is now.

  Look at Mendelssohn again about this same Tribune on which Mr.
Pontifex felt so safe in staking his reputation as a man of taste
and culture. He feels no less safe and writes, "I then went to the
Tribune. This room is so delightfully small you can traverse it in
fifteen paces, yet it contains a world of art. I again sought out my
favourite arm chair which stands under the statue of the 'Slave
whetting his knife' (L'Arrotino), and taking possession of it I
enjoyed myself for a couple of hours; for here at one glance I had the
'Madonna del Cardellino,' Pope Julius II., a female portrait by
Raphael, and above it a lovely Holy Family by Perugino; and so close
to me that I could have touched it with my hand the Venus de'
Medici; beyond, that of Titian... The space between is occupied by
other pictures of Raphael's, a portrait by Titian, a Domenichino,
etc., etc., all these within the circumference of a small
semi-circle no larger than one of your own rooms. This is a spot where
a man feels his own insignificance and may well learn to be humble."
The Tribune is a slippery place for people like Mendelssohn to study
humility in. They generally take two steps away from it for one they
take towards it. I wonder how many chalks Mendelssohn gave himself for
having sat two hours on that chair. I wonder how often he looked at
his watch to see if his two hours were up. I wonder how often he
told himself that he was quite as big a gun, if the truth were
known, as any of the men whose works he saw before him, how often he
wondered whether any of the visitors were recognizing him and admiring
him for sitting such a long time in the same chair, and how often he
was vexed at seeing them pass him by and take no notice of him. But
perhaps if the truth were known his two hours was not quite two hours.

  Returning to Mr. Pontifex, whether he liked what he believed to be
the masterpieces of Greek and Italian art or no, he brought back
some copies by Italian artists, which I have no doubt he satisfied
himself would bear the strictest examination with the originals. Two
of these copies fell to Theobald's share on the division of his
father's furniture, and I have often seen them at Battersby on my
visits to Theobald and his wife. The one was a Madonna by Sassoferrato
with a blue hood over her head which threw it half into shadow. The
other was a Magdalen by Carlo Dolci with a very fine head of hair
and a marble vase in her hands. When I was a young man I used to think
these pictures were beautiful, but with each successive visit to
Battersby I got to dislike them more and more and to see "George
Pontifex" written all over both of them. In the end I ventured after a
tentative fashion to blow on them a little, but Theobald and his
wife were up in arms at once. They did not like their father and
father-in-law, but there could be no question about his power and
general ability, nor about his having been a man of consummate taste
both in literature and art- indeed the diary he kept during his
foreign tour was enough to prove this. With one more short extract I
will leave this diary and proceed with my story. During his stay in
Florence Mr. Pontifex wrote: "I have just seen the Grand Duke and
his family pass by in two carriages and six, but little more notice is
taken of them than if I, who am utterly unknown here, were to pass
by." I don't think that he half believed in his being utterly
unknown in Florence or anywhere else!

   CHAPTER V

  FORTUNE, we are told, is a blind and fickle foster-mother who
showers her gifts at random upon her nurslings. But we do her a
grave injustice if we believe such an accusation. Trace a man's career
from his cradle to his grave and mark how Fortune has treated him. You
will find that when he is once dead she can for the most part be
vindicated from the charge of any but very superficial fickleness. Her
blindness is the merest fable; she can espy her favourites long before
they are born. We are as days and have had our parents for our
yesterdays, but through all the fair weather of a clear parental sky
the eye of Fortune can discern the coming storm, and she laughs as she
places her favourites it may be in a London alley or those whom she is
resolved to ruin in kings' palaces. Seldom does she relent towards
those whom she has suckled unkindly and seldom does she completely
fail a favoured nursling.

  Was George Pontifex one of Fortune's favoured nurslings or not? On
the whole I should say that he was not, for he did not consider
himself so; he was too religious to consider Fortune a deity at all;
he took whatever she gave and never thanked her, being firmly
convinced that whatever he got to his own advantage was of his own
getting. And so it was, after Fortune had made him able to get it.

  "Nos te, nos facimus, Fortuna, deam," exclaimed the poet. "It is
we who make thee, Fortune, a goddess"; and so it is, after Fortune has
made us able to make her. The poet says nothing as to the making of
the "nos." Perhaps some men are independent of antecedents and
surroundings and have an initial force within themselves which is in
no way due to causation; but this is supposed to be a difficult
question and it may be as well to avoid it. Let it suffice that George
Pontifex did not consider himself fortunate, and he who does not
consider himself fortunate is unfortunate.

  True, he was rich, universally respected and of an excellent natural
constitution. If he had eaten and drunk less he would never have known
a day's indisposition. Perhaps his main strength lay in the fact
that though his capacity was a little above the average, it was not
too much so. It is on this rock that so many clever people split.
The successful man will see just so much more than his neighbours,
as they will be able to see too when it is shown them, but not
enough to puzzle them. It is far safer to know too little than too
much. People will condemn the one, though they will resent being
called upon to exert themselves to follow the other. The best
example of Mr. Pontifex's good sense in matters connected with his
business which I can think of at this moment is the revolution which
he effected in the style of advertising works published by the firm.
When he first became a partner one of the firm's advertisements ran
thus:

  "Books proper to be given away at this Season.

  "The Pious Country Parishioner, being directions how a Christian may
manage every day in the course of his whole life with safety and
success; how to spend the Sabbath Day; what books of the Holy
Scriptures ought to be read first; the whole method of education;
collects for the most important virtues that adorn the soul; a
discourse on the Lord's Supper; rules to set the soul right in
sickness; so that in this treatise are contained all the rules
requisite for salvation. The 8th edition with additions. Price 10d.

  ** An allowance will be made to those who give them away."

  Before he had been many years a partner the advertisement stood as
follows:

  "The Pious Country Parishioner. A complete manual of Christian
Devotion. Price 10d.

  "A reduction will be made to purchasers for gratuitous
distribution."

  What a stride is made in the foregoing towards the modern
standard, and what intelligence is involved in the perception of the
unseemliness of the old style, when others did not perceive it!

  Where then was the weak place in George Pontifex's armour? I suppose
in the fact that he had risen too rapidly. It would almost seem as
if a transmitted education of some generations is necessary for the
due enjoyment of great wealth. Adversity, if a man is set down to it
by degrees, is more supportable with equanimity by most people than
any great prosperity arrived at in a single lifetime. Nevertheless a
certain kind of good fortune generally attends self-made men to the
last. It is their children of the first, or first and second,
generation who are in greater danger, for the race can no more
repeat its most successful performances suddenly and without its
ebbings and flowings of success than the individual can do so, and the
more brilliant the success in any one generation, the greater as a
general rule the subsequent exhaustion until time has been allowed for
recovery. Hence it often happens that the grandson of a successful man
will be more successful than the son- the spirit that actuated the
grandfather having lain fallow in the son and being refreshed by
repose so as to be ready for fresh exertion in the grandson. A very
successful man, moreover, has something of the hybrid in him; he is
a new animal, arising from the coming together of many unfamiliar
elements and it is well known that the reproduction of abnormal
growths, whether animal or vegetable, is irregular and not to be
depended upon, even when they are not absolutely sterile.

  And certainly Mr. Pontifex's success was exceedingly rapid. Only a
few years after he had become a partner his uncle and aunt both died
within a few months of one another. It was then found that they had
made him their heir. He was thus not only sole partner in the
business, but found himself with a fortune of some L30,000 into the
bargain, and this was a large sum in those days. Money came pouring in
upon him, and the faster it came the fonder he became of it, though,
as he frequently said, he valued it not for his own sake, but only
as a means of providing for his dear children.

  Yet when a man is very fond of his money it is not easy for him at
all times to be very fond of his children also. The two are like God
and Mammon. Lord Macaulay has a passage in which he contrasts the
pleasures which a man may derive from books with the inconveniences to
which he may be put by his acquaintances. "Plato," he says, "is
never sullen. Cervantes is never petulant. Demosthenes never comes
unseasonably. Dante never stays too long. No difference of political
opinion can alienate Cicero. No heresy can excite the horror of
Bossuet." I daresay I might differ from Lord Macaulay in my estimate
of some of the writers he has named, but there can be no disputing his
main proposition, namely, that we need have no more trouble from any
of them than we have a mind to, whereas our friends are not always
so easily disposed of. George Pontifex felt this as regards his
children and his money. His money was never naughty; his money never
made noise or litter, and did not spill things on the tablecloth at
meal times, or leave the door open when it went out. His dividends did
not quarrel among themselves, nor was he under any uneasiness lest his
mortgages should become extravagant on reaching manhood and run him up
debts which sooner or later he should have to pay. There were
tendencies in John which made him very uneasy, and Theobald, his
second son, was idle and at times far from truthful. His children
might, perhaps, have answered, had they known what was in their
father's mind, that he did not knock his money about as he not
infrequently knocked his children. He never dealt hastily or pettishly
with his money, and that was perhaps why he and it got on so well
together.

  It must be remembered that at the beginning of the nineteenth
century the relations between parents and children were still far from
satisfactory. The violent type of father, as described by Fielding,
Richardson, Smollett, and Sheridan, is now hardly more likely to
find a place in literature than the original advertisement of
Messrs. Fairlie & Pontifex's "Pious Country Parishioner," but the type
was much too persistent not to have been drawn from nature closely.
The parents in Miss Austen's novels are less like savage wild beasts
than those of her predecessors, but she evidently looks upon them with
suspicion, and an uneasy feeling that le pere de famille est capable
de tout makes itself sufficiently apparent throughout the greater part
of her writings. In the Elizabethan time the relations between parents
and children seem on the whole to have been more kindly. The fathers
and the sons are for the most part friends in Shakespeare, nor does
the evil appear to have reached its full abomination till a long
course of Puritanism had familiarised men's minds with Jewish ideals
as those which we should endeavour to reproduce in our everyday
life. What precedents did not Abraham, Jephthah and Jonadab the son of
Rechab offer? How easy was it to quote and follow them in an age
when few reasonable men or women doubted that every syllable of the
Old Testament was taken down verbatim from the mouth of God. Moreover,
Puritanism restricted natural pleasures; it substituted the Jeremiad
for the Paean, and it forgot that the poor abuses of all times want
countenance.

  Mr. Pontifex may have been a little sterner with his children than
some of his neighbours, but not much. He thrashed his boys two or
three times a week and some weeks a good deal oftener, but in those
days fathers were always thrashing their boys. It is easy to have
juster views when everyone else has them, but fortunately or
unfortunately results have nothing whatever to do with the moral guilt
or blamelessness of him who brings them about; they depend solely upon
the thing done, whatever it may happen to be. The moral guilt or
blamelessness in like manner has nothing to do with the result; it
turns upon the question whether a sufficient number of reasonable
people placed as the actor was placed would have done as the actor has
done. At that time it was universally admitted that to spare the rod
was to spoil the child, and St. Paul had placed disobedience to
parents in very ugly company. If his children did anything which Mr.
Pontifex disliked they were clearly disobedient to their father. In
this case there was obviously only one course for a sensible man to
take. It consisted in checking the first signs of self-will while
his children were too young to offer serious resistance. If their
wills were "well broken" in childhood, to use an expression then
much in vogue, they would acquire habits of obedience which they would
not venture to break through till they were over twenty-one years old.
Then they might please themselves; he should know how to protect
himself; till then he and his money were more at their mercy than he
liked.

  How little do we know our thoughts- our reflex actions indeed,
yes; but our reflections! Man, forsooth, prides himself on his
consciousness! We boast that we differ from the winds and waves and
falling stones and plants, which grow they know not why, and from
the wandering creatures which go up and down after their prey, as we
are pleased to say, without the help of reason. We know so well what
we are doing ourselves and why we do it, do we not? I fancy that there
is some truth in the view which is being put forward nowadays, that it
is our less conscious thoughts and our less conscious actions which
mainly mould our lives and the lives of those who spring from us.

  CHAPTER VI

  MR. Pontifex was not the man to trouble himself much about his
motives. People were not so introspective then as we are now; they
lived more according to a rule of thumb. Dr. Arnold had not yet sown
that crop of earnest thinkers which we are now harvesting, and men did
not see why they should not have their own way if no evil consequences
to themselves seemed likely to follow upon their doing so. Then as
now, however, they sometimes let themselves in for more evil
consequences than they had bargained for.

  Like other rich men at the beginning of this century he ate and
drank a good deal more than was enough to keep him in health. Even his
excellent constitution was not proof against a prolonged course of
overfeeding and what we should now consider overdrinking. His liver
would not infrequently get out of order, and he would come down to
breakfast looking yellow about the eyes. Then the young people knew
that they had better look out. It is not as a general rule the
eating of sour grapes that causes the children's teeth to be set on
edge. Well-to-do parents seldom eat many sour grapes; the danger to
the children lies in the parents eating too many sweet ones.

  I grant that at first sight it seems very unjust that the parents
should have the full and the children be punished for it, but young
people should remember that for many years they were part and parcel
of their parents and therefore had a good deal of the full in the
person of their parents. If they have forgotten the full now, that. is
no more than people do who have a headache after having been tipsy
overnight. The man with a headache does not pretend to be a
different person from the man who got drunk, and claim that it is
his self of the preceding night and not his self of this morning who
should be punished; no more should offspring complain of the
headache which it has earned when in the person of its parents, for
the continuation of identity, though not so immediately apparent, is
just as real in one case as in the other. What is really hard is
when the parents have the full after the children have been born,
and the children are punished for this.

  On these, his black days, he would take very gloomy views of
things and say to himself that in spite of all his goodness to them
his children did not love him. But who can love any man whose liver is
out of order? How base, he would exclaim to himself, was such
ingratitude! How especially hard upon himself, who had been such a
model son, and always honoured and obeyed his parents though they
had not spent one hundredth part of the money upon him which he had
lavished upon his own children. "It is always the same story," he
would say to himself, "the more young people have the more they
want, and the less thanks one gets; I have made a great mistake; I
have been far too lenient with my children; never mind, I have done my
duty by them, and more; if they fail in theirs to me it is a matter
between God and them. I, at any rate, am guiltless. Why, I might
have married again and become the father of a second and perhaps
more affectionate family, etc., etc." He pitied himself for the
expensive education which he was giving his children; he did not see
that the education cost the children far more than it cost him,
inasmuch as it cost them the power of earning their living easily
rather than helped them towards it, and ensured their being at the
mercy of their father for years after they had come to an age when
they should be independent. A public school education cuts off a boy's
retreat; he can no longer become a labourer or a mechanic, and these
are the only people whose tenure of independence is not precarious-
with the exception of course of those who are born inheritors of money
or who are placed young in some safe and deep groove. Mr. Pontifex saw
nothing of this; all he saw was that he was spending much more money
upon his children than the law would have compelled him to do, and
what more could you have? Might he not have apprenticed both his
sons to greengrocers? Might he not even yet do so to-morrow morning if
he were so minded? The possibility of this course being adopted was
a favourite topic with him when he was out of temper; true, he never
did apprentice either of his sons to greengrocers, but his boys
comparing notes together had sometimes come to the conclusion that
they wished he would.

  At other times when not quite well he would have them in for the
full of shaking his will at them. He would in his imagination cut them
all out one after another and leave his money to found almshouses,
found almshouses, till at last he was obliged to put them back, so
that he might have the pleasure of cutting them out again the next
time he was in a passion.

  Of course if young people allow their conduct to be in any way
influenced by regard to the wills of living persons, they are doing
very wrong and must expect to be sufferers in the end; nevertheless,
the powers of will-dangling and will-shaking are so liable to abuse
and are continually made so great an engine of torture that I would
pass a law, if I could, to incapacitate any man from making a will for
three months from the date of each offence in either of the above
respects and let the bench of magistrates or judge, before whom he has
been convicted, dispose of his property as they shall think right
and reasonable if he dies during the time that his willmaking power is
suspended.

  Mr. Pontifex would have the boys into the dining-room. "My dear
John, my dear Theobald," he would say, "look at me. I began life
with nothing but the clothes with which my father and mother sent me
up to London. My father gave me ten shillings and my mother five for
pocket-money and I thought them munificent. I never asked my father
for a shilling in the whole course of my Life, nor took aught from him
beyond the small sum he used to allow me monthly till I was in receipt
of a salary. I made my own way and I shall expect my sons to do the
same. Pray don't take it into your heads that I am going to wear my
life out making money that my sons may spend it for me. If you want
money you must make it for yourselves as I did, for I give you my word
I will not leave a penny to either of you unless you show that you
deserve it. Young people seem nowadays to expect all kinds of luxuries
and indulgences which were never heard of when I was a boy. Why, my
father was a common carpenter, and here you are both of you at
public schools, costing me ever so many hundreds a year, while I at
your age was plodding away behind a desk in my Uncle Fairlie's
counting house. What should I not have done if I had had one-half of
your advantages? You should become dukes or found new empires in
undiscovered countries, and even then I doubt whether you would have
done proportionately so much as I have done. No, no, I shall see you
through school and college and then, if you please, you will make your
own way in the world."

  In this manner he would work himself up into such a state of
virtuous indignation that he would sometimes thrash the boys then
and there upon some pretext invented at the moment.

  And yet, as children went, the young Pontifexes were fortunate;
there would be ten families of young people worse off for one
better; they ate and drank good wholesome food, slept in comfortable
beds, had the best doctors to attend them when they were ill and the
best education that could be had for money. The want of fresh air does
not seem much to affect the happiness of children in a London alley:
the greater part of them sing and play as though they were on a moor
in Scotland. So the absence of a genial mental atmosphere is not
commonly recognised by children who have never known it. Young
people have a marvellous faculty of either dying or adapting
themselves to circumstances. Even if they are unhappy- very unhappy-
it is astonishing how easily they can be prevented from finding it
out, or at any rate from attributing it to any other cause than
their own sinfulness.

  To parents who wish to lead a quiet life I would say: Tell your
children that they are very naughty- much naughtier than most
children. Point to the young people of some acquaintances as models of
perfection and impress your own children with a deep sense of their
own inferiority. You carry so many more guns than they do that they
cannot fight you. This is called moral influence, and it will enable
you to bounce them as much as you please. They think you know and they
will not have yet caught you lying often enough to suspect that you
are not the unworldly and scrupulously truthful person which you
represent yourself to be; nor yet will they know how great a coward
you are, nor how soon you will run away, if they fight you with
persistency and judgement. You keep the dice and throw them both for
your children and yourself. Load them then, for you can easily
manage to stop your children from examining them. Tell them how
singularly indulgent you are; insist on the incalculable benefit you
conferred upon them, firstly in bringing them into the world at all,
but more particularly in bringing them into it as your own children
rather than anyone else's. Say that you have their highest interests
at stake whenever you are out of temper and wish to make yourself
unpleasant by way of balm to your soul. Harp much upon these highest
interests. Feed them spiritually upon such brimstone and treacle as
the late Bishop of Winchester's Sunday stories. You hold all the trump
cards, or if you do not you can filch them; if you play them with
anything like judgement you will find yourselves heads of happy,
united, God-fearing families, even as did my old friend Mr.
Pontifex. True, your children will probably find out all about it some
day, but not until too late to be of much service to them or
inconvenience to yourself.

  Some satirists have complained of life, inasmuch as all the
pleasures belong to the fore part of it and we must see them dwindle
till we are left, it may be, with the miseries of a decrepit old age.

  To me it seems that youth is like spring, an overpraised season-
delightful if it happen to be a favoured one, but in practice very
rarely favoured and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting
east winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and
what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits. Fontenelle at the
age of ninety, being asked what was the happiest time of his life, said
he did not know that he had ever been much happier than he then was,
but that perhaps his best years had been those when he was between
fifty-five and seventy-five, and Dr. Johnson placed the pleasures of
old age far higher than those of youth. True, in old age we live under
under the shadow of Death, which, like a sword of Damocles, may descend
at any moment, but we have so long found life to be an affair of being
rather frightened than hurt that we have become like the people who
live under Vesuvius, and chance it without much misgiving.

  CHAPTER VII

  A FEW words may suffice for the greater number of the young people
to whom I have been alluding in the foregoing chapter. Eliza and
Maria, the two elder girls, were neither exactly pretty nor exactly
plain, and were in all respects model young ladies, but Alethea was
exceedingly pretty and of a lively, affectionate disposition, which
was in sharp contrast with those of her brothers and sisters. There
was a trace of her grandfather, not only in her face, but in her
love of fun, of which her father had none, though not without a
certain boisterous and rather coarse quasi-humour which passed for wit
with many.

  John grew up to be a good-looking, gentlemanly fellow, with features
a trifle too regular and finely chiselled. He dressed himself so
nicely, had such good address, and stuck so steadily to his books that
he became a favourite with his masters; he had, however, an instinct
for diplomacy, and was less popular with the boys. His father, in
spite of the lectures he would at times read him, was in a way proud
of him as he grew older; he saw in him, moreover, one who would
probably develop into a good man of business, and in whose hands the
prospects of his house would not be likely to decline. John knew how
to humour his father, and was at a comparatively early age admitted to
as much of his confidence as it was in his nature to bestow on anyone.

  His brother Theobald was no match for him, knew it, and accepted his
fate. He was not so good-looking as his brother, nor was his address
so good; as a child he had been violently passionate; now, however, he
was reserved and shy, and, I should say, indolent in mind and body. He
was less tidy than John, less well able to assert himself, and less
skilful in humouring the caprices of his father. I do not think he
could have loved anyone heartily, but there was no one in his family
circle who did not repress, rather than invite his affection, with the
exception of his sister Alethea, and she was too quick and lively
for his somewhat morose temper. He was always the scapegoat, and I
have sometimes thought he had two fathers to contend against- his
father and his brother John; a third and fourth also might almost be
added in his sisters Eliza and Maria. Perhaps if he had felt his
bondage very acutely he would not have put up with it, but he was
constitutionally timid, and the strong hand of his father knitted
him into the closest outward harmony with his brother and sisters.

  The boys were of use to their father in one respect. I mean that
he played them off against each other. He kept them but poorly
supplied with pocket-money, and to Theobald would urge that the claims
of his elder brother were naturally paramount, while he insisted to
John upon the fact that he had a numerous family, and would affirm
solemnly that his expenses were so heavy that at his death there would
be very little to divide. He did not care whether they compared
notes or no, provided they did not do so in his presence. Theobald did
not complain even behind his father's back. I knew him as intimately
as anyone was likely to know him as a child, at school, and again at
Cambridge, but he very rarely mentioned his father's name even while
his father was alive, and never once in my hearing afterwards. At
school he was not actively disliked, as his brother was, but he was
too dull and deficient in animal spirits to be popular.

  Before he was well out of his frocks it was settled that he was to
be a clergyman. It was seemly that Mr. Pontifex, the well-known
publisher of religious books, should devote at least one of his sons
to the Church; this might tend to bring business, or at any rate to
keep it in the firm; besides, Mr. Pontifex had more or less interest
with bishops and Church dignitaries and might hope that some
preferment would be offered to his son through his influence. The
boy's future destiny was kept well before his eyes from his earliest
childhood and was treated as a matter which he had already virtually
settled by his acquiescence. Nevertheless a certain show of freedom
was allowed him. Mr. Pontifex would say it was only right to give a
boy his option, and was much too equitable to grudge his son
whatever benefit he could derive from this. He had the greatest
horror, he would exclaim, of driving any young man into a profession
which he did not like. Far be it from him to put pressure upon a son
of his as regards any profession and much less when so sacred a
calling as the ministry was concerned. He would talk in this way
when there were visitors in the house and when his son was in the
room. He spoke so wisely and so well that his listening guests
considered him a paragon of right-mindedness. He spoke, too, with such
emphasis and his rosy gills and bald head looked so benevolent that it
was difficult not to be carried away by his discourse. I believe two
or three heads of families in the neighbourhood gave their sons
absolute liberty of choice in the matter of their professions- and
am not sure that they had not afterwards considerable cause to
regret having done so. The visitors, seeing Theobald look shy and
wholly unmoved by the exhibition of so much consideration for his
wishes, would remark to themselves that the boy seemed hardly likely
to be equal to his father and would set him down as an
unenthusiastic youth, who ought to have more life in him and be more
sensible of his advantages than he appeared to be.

  No one believed in the righteousness of the whole transaction more
firmly than the boy himself; a sense of being ill at ease kept him
silent, but it was too profound and too much without break for him
to become fully alive to it, and come to an understanding with
himself. He feared the dark scowl which would come over his father's
face upon the slightest opposition. His father's violent threats, or
coarse sneers, would not have been taken au serieux by a stronger boy,
but Theobald was not a strong boy, and, rightly or wrongly, gave his
father credit for being quite ready to carry his threats into
execution. Opposition had never got him anything he wanted yet, nor
indeed had yielding, for the matter of that, unless he happened to
want exactly what his father wanted for him. If he had ever
entertained thoughts of resistance, he had none now, and the power
to oppose was so completely lost for want of exercise that hardly
did the wish remain; there was nothing left save dull acquiescence
as of an ass crouched between two burdens. He may have had an
ill-defined sense of ideals that were not his actuals; he might
occasionally dream of himself as a soldier or a sailor far away in
foreign lands, or even as a farmer's boy upon the wolds, but there was
not enough in him for there to be any chance of his turning his dreams
into realities, and he drifted on with his stream, which was a slow,
and, I am afraid, a muddy one.

  I think the Church Catechism has a good deal to do with the
unhappy relations which commonly even now exist between parents and
children. That work was written too exclusively from the parental
point of view; the person who composed it did not get a few children
to come in and help him; he was clearly not young himself, nor
should I say it was the work of one who liked children -in spite of
the words "my good child" which, if I remember rightly, are once put
into the mouth of the catechist and, after all, carry a harsh sound
with them. The general impression it leaves upon the mind of the young
is that their wickedness at birth was but very imperfectly wiped out
at baptism, and that the mere fact of being young at all has something
with it that savours more or less distinctly of the nature of sin.

  If a new edition of the work is ever required, I should like to
introduce a few words insisting on the duty of seeking all
reasonable pleasure and avoiding all pain that can be honourably
avoided. I should like to see children taught that they should not say
they like things which they do not like, merely because certain
other people say they like them, and how foolish it is to say they
believe this or that when they understand nothing about it. If it be
urged that these additions would make the Catechism too long, I
would curtail the remarks upon our duty towards our neighbour and upon
the sacraments. In the place of the paragraph beginning "I desire my
Lord God our Heavenly Father" I would- but perhaps I had better return
to Theobald, and leave the recasting of the Catechism to abler hands.

  CHAPTER VIII

  MR. Pontifex had set his heart on his son's becoming a fellow of a
college before he became a clergyman. This would provide for him at
once and would ensure his getting a living if none of his father's
ecclesiastical friends gave him one. The boy had done just well enough
at school to render this possible, so he was sent to one of the
smaller colleges at Cambridge and was at once set to read with the
best private tutors that could be found. A system of examination had
been adopted a year or so before Theobald took his degree which had
improved his chances of a fellowship, for whatever ability he had
was classical rather than mathematical, and this system gave more
encouragement to classical studies than had been given hitherto.

  Theobald had the sense to see that he had a chance of independence
if he worked hard, and he liked the notion of becoming a fellow. He
therefore applied himself, and in the end took a degree which made his
getting a fellowship in all probability a mere question of time. For a
while Mr. Pontifex, senior, was really pleased, and told his son he
would present him with the works of any standard writer whom he
might select. The young man chose the works of Bacon, and Bacon
accordingly made his appearance in ten nicely bound volumes. A
little inspection, however, showed that the copy was a second-hand
one.

  Now that he had taken his degree, the next thing to look forward
to was ordination- about which Theobald had thought little hitherto
beyond acquiescing in it as something that would come as a matter of
course some day. Now, however, it had actually come and was
asserting itself as a thing which should be only a few months off, and
this rather frightened him, inasmuch as there would be no way out of
it when he was once in it. He did not like the near view of ordination
as well as the distant one, and even made some feeble efforts to
escape, as may be perceived by the following correspondence which
his son Ernest found among his father's papers written on gilt-edged
paper, in faded ink, and tied neatly round with a piece of tape, but
without any note or comment. I have altered nothing. The letters are
as  follows:

  "MY DEAR FATHER,- I do not like opening up a question which has been
considered settled, but as the time approaches I begin to be very
doubtful how far I am fitted to be a clergyman. Not, I am thankful
to say, that I have the faintest doubts about the Church of England,
and I could subscribe cordially to every one of the thirty-nine
articles which do indeed appear to me to be the ne plus ultra of human
wisdom, and Paley, too, leaves no loophole for an opponent; but I am
sure I should be running counter to your wishes if I were to conceal
from you that I do not feel the inward call to be a minister of the
gospel that I shall have to say I have felt when the Bishop ordains
me. I try to get this feeling, I pray for it earnestly, and
sometimes half think that I have got it, but in a little time it wears
off, and though I have no absolute repugnance to being a clergyman and
trust that if I am one I shall endeavour to live to the Glory of God
and to advance His interests upon earth, yet I feel that something
more than this is wanted before I am fully justified in going into the
Church. I am aware that I have been a great expense to you in spite of
my scholarships, but you have ever taught me that I should obey my
conscience, and my conscience tells me I should do wrong if I became a
clergyman. God may yet give me the spirit for which I assure you I
have been and am continually praying, but He may not, and in that case
would it not be better for me to try and look out for something
else? I know that neither you nor John wish me to go into your
business, nor do I understand anything about money matters, but is
there nothing else that I can do? I do not like to ask you to maintain
me while I go in for medicine or the bar; but when I get my
fellowship, which should not be long, first, I will endeavour to
cost you nothing further, and I might make a little money by writing
or taking pupils. I trust you will not think this letter improper;
nothing is further from my wish than to cause you any uneasiness. I
hope you will make allowance for my present feelings which, indeed,
spring from nothing but from that respect for my conscience which no
one has so often instilled into me as yourself. Pray let me have a few
lines shortly. I hope your cold is better. With love to Eliza and
Maria, I am, your affectionate son,

                                       "THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

  "DEAR THEOBALD,- I can enter into your feelings and have no wish
to quarrel with your expression of them. It is quite right and natural
that you should feel as you do except as regards one passage, the
impropriety of which you will yourself doubtless feel upon reflection,
and to which I will not further allude than to say that it has wounded
me. You should not have said 'in spite of my scholarships.' It was
only proper that if you could do anything to assist me in bearing
the heavy burden of your education, the money should be, as it was,
made over to myself. Every line in your letter convinces me that you
are under the influence of a morbid sensitiveness which is one of
the devil's favourite devices for luring people to their
destruction. I have, as you say, been at great expense with your
education. Nothing has been spared by me to give you the advantages,
which, as an English gentleman, I was anxious to afford my son, but
I am not prepared to see that expense thrown away and to have to begin
again from the beginning, merely because you have taken some foolish
scruples into your head, which you should resist as no less unjust
to yourself than to me.

  "Don't give way to that restless desire for change which is the bane
of so many persons of both sexes at the present day.

  "Of course you needn't be ordained: nobody will compel you; you
are perfectly free; you are twenty-three years of age, and should know
your own mind; but why not have known it sooner, instead of never so
much as breathing a hint of opposition until I have had all the
expense of sending you to the University, which I should never have
done unless I had believed you to have made up your mind about
taking orders? I have letters from you in which you express the most
perfect willingness to be ordained, and your brother and sisters
will bear me out in saying that no pressure of any sort has been put
upon you. You mistake your own mind, and are suffering from a nervous
timidity which may be very natural but may not the less be pregnant
with serious consequences to yourself. I am not at all well, and the
anxiety occasioned by your letter is naturally preying upon me. May
God guide you to a better judgement.- Your affectionate father,

                                                    "G. PONTIFEX."

  On the receipt of this letter Theobald plucked up his spirits. "My
father," he said to himself, "tells me I need not be ordained if I
do not like. I do not like, and therefore I will not be ordained.
But what was the meaning of the words 'pregnant with serious
consequences to yourself'? Did there lurk a threat under these words-
though it was impossible to lay hold of it or of them? Were they not
intended to produce all the effect of a threat without being
actually threatening?"

  Theobald knew his father well enough to be little likely to
misapprehend his meaning, but having ventured so far on the path of
opposition, and being really anxious to get out of being ordained if
he could, he determined to venture farther. He accordingly wrote the
following:

  "MY DEAR FATHER,- you tell me- and I heartily thank you- that no one
will compel me to be ordained. I knew you would not press ordination
upon me if my conscience was seriously opposed to it; I have therefore
resolved on giving up the idea, and believe that if you will continue
to allow me what you do at present, until I get my fellowship, which
should not be long, I will then cease putting you to further expense.
I will make up my mind as soon as possible what profession I will
adopt, and will let you know at once.- Your affectionate son,

                                               "THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

  The remaining letter, written by return of post, must now be
given. It has the merit of brevity.

  "DEAR THEOBALD,- I have received yours. I am at a loss to conceive
its motive, but am very clear as to its effect. You shall not
receive a single sixpence from me till you come to your senses. Should
you persist in your folly and wickedness, I am happy to remember
that I have yet other children whose conduct I can depend upon to be a
source of credit and happiness to me.- Your affectionate but
troubled father,

                                            "G. PONTIFEX."

  I do not know the immediate sequel to the foregoing
correspondence, but it all came perfectly right in the end. Either
Theobald's heart failed him, or he interpreted the outward shove which
his father gave him as the inward call for which I have no doubt he
prayed with great earnestness- for he was a firm believer in the
efficacy of prayer. And so am I under certain circumstances.
Tennyson has said that more things are wrought by prayer than this
world dreams of, but he has wisely refrained from saying whether
they are good things or bad things. It might perhaps be as well if the
world were to dream of, or even become wide awake to, some of the
things that are being wrought by prayer. But the question is
avowedly difficult. In the end Theobald got his fellowship by a stroke
of luck very soon after taking his degree, and was ordained in the
autumn of the same year, 1825.

  CHAPTER IX

  Mr. ALLABY was rector of Crampsford, a village a few miles from
Cambridge. He, too, had taken a good degree, had got a fellowship, and
in the course of time had accepted a college living of about L400 a
year and a house. His private income did not exceed L200 a year. On
resigning his fellowship he married a woman a good deal younger than
himself who bore him eleven children, nine of whom- two sons and seven
daughters- were living. The two eldest daughters had married fairly
well, but at the time of which I am now writing there were still
five unmarried, of ages varying between thirty and twenty-two- and the
sons were neither of them yet off their father's hands. It was plain
that if anything were to happen to Mr. Allaby the family would be left
poorly off, and this made both Mr. and Mrs. Allaby as unhappy as it
ought to have made them.

  Reader, did you ever have an income at best none too large, which
died with you all except L200 a year? Did you ever at the same time
have two sons who must be started in life somehow, and five
daughters still unmarried for whom you would only be too thankful to
find husbands- if you knew how to find them? If morality is that
which, on the whole, brings a man peace in his declining years- if,
that is to say, it is not an utter swindle, can you under these
circumstances flatter yourself that you have led a moral life?

  And this, even though your wife has been so good a woman that you
have not grown tired of her, and has not fallen into such ill health
as lowers your own health in sympathy; and though your family has
grown up vigorous, amiable, and blessed with common sense. I know many
old men and women who are reputed moral, but who are living with
partners whom they have long ceased to love, or who have ugly,
disagreeable maiden daughters for whom they have never been able to
find husbands- daughters whom they loathe and by whom they are loathed
in secret, or sons whose folly or extravagance is a perpetual wear and
worry to them. Is it moral for a man to have brought such things
upon himself? Someone should do for morals what that old Pecksniff
Bacon has obtained the credit of having done for science.

  But to return to Mr. and Mrs. Allaby. Mrs. Allaby talked about
having married two of her daughters as though it had been the
easiest thing in the world. She talked in this way because she heard
other mothers do so, but in her heart of hearts she did not know how
she had done it, nor indeed, if it had been her doing at all. First
there had been a young man in connection with whom she had tried to
practise certain manoeuvres which she had rehearsed in imagination
over and over again, but which she found impossible to apply in
practice. Then there had been weeks of a wurra-wurra of hopes and
fears and little stratagems which as often as not proved
injudicious, and then somehow or other in the end, there lay the young
man bound and with an arrow through his heart at her daughter's
feet. It seemed to her to be all a fluke which she could have little
or no hope of repeating. She had indeed repeated it once, and might
perhaps with good luck repeat it yet once again -five times over! It
was awful: why, she would rather have three confinements than go
through the wear and tear of marrying a single daughter.

  Nevertheless it had got to be done, and poor Mrs. Allaby never
looked at a young man without an eye to his being a future son-in-law.
Papas and mammas sometimes ask young men whether their intentions
are honourable towards their daughters. I think young men might
occasionally ask papas and mammas whether their intentions are
honourable before they accept invitations to houses where there are
still unmarried daughters.

  "I can't afford a curate, my dear," said Mr. Allaby to his wife when
the pair were discussing what was next to be done. "It will be
better to get some young man to come and help me for a time upon a
Sunday. A guinea a Sunday will do this, and we can chop and change
till we get someone who suits." So it was settled that Mr. Allaby's
health was not so strong as it had been, and that he stood in need
of help in the performance of his Sunday duty.

  Mrs. Allaby had a great friend- a certain Mrs. Cowey, wife of the
celebrated Professor Cowey. She was what was called a truly
spiritually minded woman, a trifle portly, with an incipient beard,
and an extensive connection among undergraduates, more especially
among those who were inclined to take part in the great evangelical
movement which was then at its height. She gave evening parties once a
fortnight at which prayer was part of the entertainment. She was not
only spiritually minded, but, as enthusiastic Mrs. Allaby used to
exclaim, she was a thorough woman of the world at the same time and
had such a fund of strong masculine good sense. She too had daughters,
but, as she used to say to Mrs. Allaby, she had been less fortunate
than Mrs. Allaby herself, for one by one they had married and left
her, so that her old age would have been desolate indeed if her
Professor had not been spared to her.

  Mrs. Cowey, of course, knew the run of all the bachelor clergy in
the University, and was the very person to assist Mrs. Allaby in
finding an eligible assistant for her husband, so this last named lady
drove over one morning in the November of 1825, by arrangement, to
take an early dinner with Mrs. Cowey and spend the afternoon. After
dinner the two ladies retired together, and the business of the day
began. How they fenced, how they saw through one another, with what
loyalty they pretended not to see through one another, with what
gentle dalliance they prolonged the conversation discussing the
spiritual fitness of this or that deacon, and the other pros and
cons connected with him after his spiritual fitness had been
disposed of, all this must be left to the imagination of the reader.
Mrs. Cowey had been so accustomed to scheming on her own account
that she would scheme for anyone rather than not scheme at all. Many
mothers turned to her in their hour of need and, provided they were
spiritually minded, Mrs. Cowey never failed to do her best for them;
if the marriage of a young Bachelor of Arts was not made in Heaven, it
was probably made, or at any rate attempted, in Mrs. Cowey's
drawing-room. On the present occasion all the deacons of the
University in whom there lurked any spark of promise were exhaustively
discussed, and the upshot was that our friend Theobald was declared by
Mrs. Cowey to be about the best thing she could do that afternoon.

  "I don't know that he's a particularly fascinating young man, my
dear," said Mrs. Cowey, "and he's only a second son, but then he's got
his fellowship, and even the second son of such a man as Mr. Pontifex,
the publisher, should have something very comfortable."

  "Why, yes, my dear," rejoined Mrs. Allaby complacently, "that's what
one rather feels."

  CHAPTER X

  THE interview, like all other good things, had to come to an end;
the days were short, and Mrs. Allaby had a six miles' drive to
Crampsford. When she was muffled up and had taken her seat, Mr.
Allaby's factotum, James, could perceive no change in her
appearance, and little knew what a series of delighted visions he
was driving home along with his mistress.

  Professor Cowey had published works through Theobald's father, and
Theobald had on this account been taken in tow by Mrs. Cowey from
the beginning of his University career. She had had an eye upon him
for some time past, and almost as much felt it her duty to get him off
her list of young men for whom wives had to be provided, as poor
Mrs. Allaby did to try and get a husband for one of her daughters. She
now wrote and asked him to come and see her, in terms that awakened
his curiosity. When he came she broached the subject of Mr. Allaby's
failing health, and after the smoothing away of such difficulties as
were only Mrs. Cowey's due, considering the interest she had taken, it
was allowed to come to pass that Theobald should go to Crampsford
for six successive Sundays and take the half of Mr. Allaby's duty at
half a guinea a Sunday, for Mrs. Cowey cut down the usual stipend
mercilessly, and Theobald was not strong enough to resist.

  Ignorant of the plots which were being prepared for his peace of
mind and with no idea beyond that of earning his three guineas, and
perhaps of astonishing the inhabitants of Crampsford by his academic
learning, Theobald walked over to the Rectory one Sunday morning early
in December- a few weeks only after he had been ordained. He had taken
a great deal of pains with his sermon, which was on the subject of
geology- then coming to the fore as a theological bugbear. He showed
that so far as geology was worth anything at all- and he was too
liberal entirely to pooh-pooh it- it confirmed the absolutely
historical character of the Mosaic account of the Creation as given in
Genesis. Any phenomena which at first sight appeared to make against
this view were only partial phenomena and broke down upon
investigation. Nothing could be in more excellent taste, and when
Theobald adjourned to the Rectory, where he was to dine between the
services, Mr. Allaby complimented him warmly upon his debut, while the
ladies of the family could hardly find words with which to express
their admiration.

  Theobald knew nothing about women. The only women he had been thrown
in contact with were his sisters, two of whom were always correcting
him, and a few school friends whom these had got their father to ask
to Elmhurst. These young ladies had either been so shy that they and
Theobald had never amalgamated, or they had been supposed to be clever
and had said smart things to him. He did not say smart things
himself and did not want other people to say them. Besides, they
talked about music- and he hated music- or pictures- and he hated
pictures- or books- and except the classics he hated books. And then
sometimes he was wanted to dance with them, and he did not know how to
dance, and did not want to know.

  At Mrs. Cowey's parties again he had seen some young ladies and
had been introduced to them. He had tried to make himself agreeable,
but was always left with the impression that he had not been
successful. The young ladies of Mrs. Cowey's set were by no means
the most attractive that might have been found in the University,
and Theobald may be excused for not losing his heart to the greater
number of them, while if for a minute or two he was thrown in with one
of the prettier and more agreeable girls he was almost immediately cut
out by someone less bashful than himself, and sneaked off, feeling, as
far as the fair sex was concerned, like the impotent man at the pool
of Bethesda.

  What a really nice girl might have done with him I cannot tell,
but fate had thrown none such in his way except His youngest sister
Alethea, whom he might perhaps have liked if she had not been his
sister. The result of his experience was that women had never done him
any good and he was not accustomed to associate them with any
pleasure; if there was a part of Hamlet in connection with them it had
been so completely cut out in the edition of the play in which he
was required to act that he had come to disbelieve in its existence.
As for kissing, he had never kissed a woman in his life except his
sister- and my own sisters when we were all small children together.
Over and above these kisses, he had until quite lately been required
to imprint a solemn, flabby kiss night and morning upon his father's
cheek, and this, to the best of my belief, was the extent of
Theobald's knowledge in the matter of kissing, at the time of which
I am now writing. The result of the foregoing was that he had come
to dislike women, as mysterious beings whose ways were not as his
ways, nor their thoughts as his thoughts.

  With these antecedents, Theobald naturally felt rather bashful on
finding himself the admired of five strange young ladies. I remember
when I was a boy myself I was once asked to take tea at a girls'
school where one of my sisters was boarding. I was then about twelve
years old. Everything went off well during tea-time, for the Lady
Principal of the establishment was present. But there came a time when
she went away and I was left alone with the girls. The moment the
mistress's back was turned the head girl, who was about my own age,
came up, pointed her finger at me, made a face and said solemnly, "A
na-a-sty bo-o-y!" All the girls followed her in rotation making the
same gesture and the same reproach upon my being a boy. It gave me a
great scare. I believe I cried, and I know it was a long time before I
could again face a girl without a strong desire to run away.

  Theobald felt at first much as I had myself done at the girls'
school, but the Miss Allabys did not tell him he was a nasty
bo-o-oy. Their papa and mamma were so cordial and they themselves
lifted him so deftly over conversational stiles that before dinner was
over Theobald thought the family to be a really very charming one, and
felt as though he were being appreciated in a way to which he had
not hitherto been accustomed.

  With dinner his shyness wore off. He was by no means plain, his
academic prestige was very fair. There was nothing about him to lay
hold of as unconventional or ridiculous; the impression he created
upon the young ladies was quite as favourable as that which they had
created upon himself, for they knew not much more about men than he
about women.

  As soon as he was gone, the harmony of the establishment was
broken by a storm which arose upon the question which of them it
should be who should become Mrs. Pontifex. "My dears," said their
father, when he saw that they did not seem likely to settle the matter
among themselves, "wait till to-morrow, and then play at cards for
him." Having said which he retired to his study, where he took a
nightly glass of whisky and a pipe of tobacco.

  CHAPTER XI

  THE next morning saw Theobald in his rooms coaching a pupil, and the
Miss Allabys in the eldest Miss Allaby's bedroom playing at cards,
with Theobald for the stakes.

  The winner was Christina, the second unmarried daughter, then just
twenty-seven years old and therefore four years older than Theobald.
The younger sisters complained that it was throwing a husband away
to let Christina try and catch him, for she was so much older that she
had no chance; but Christina showed fight in a way not usual with her,
for she was by nature yielding and good tempered. Her mother thought
it better to back her up, so the two dangerous ones were packed off
then and there on visits to friends some way off, and those alone
allowed to remain at home whose loyalty could be depended upon. The
brothers did not even suspect what was going on and believed their
father's getting assistance was because he really wanted it.

  The sisters who remained at home kept their words and gave Christina
all the help they could, for over and above their sense of fair play
they reflected that the sooner Theobald was landed, the sooner another
deacon might be sent for who might be won by themselves. So quickly
was all managed that the two unreliable sisters were actually out of
the house before Theobald's next visit- which was on the Sunday
following his first.

  This time Theobald felt quite at home in the house of his new
friends- for so Mrs. Allaby insisted that he should call them. She
took, she said, such a motherly interest in young men, especially in
clergymen. Theobald believed every word she said, as he had believed
his father and all his elders from his youth up. Christina sat next
him at dinner and played her cards no less judiciously than she had
played them in her sister's bedroom. She smiled (and her smile was one
of her strong points) whenever he spoke to her; she went through all
her little artlessnesses and set forth all her little wares in what
she believed to be their most taking aspect. Who can blame her?
Theobald was not the ideal she had dreamed of when reading Byron
upstairs with her sisters, but he was an actual within the bounds of
possibility, and after all not a bad actual as actuals went. What else
could she do? Run away? She dared not. Marry beneath her and be
considered a disgrace to her family? She dared not. Remain at home and
become an old maid and be laughed at? Not if she could help it. She
did the only thing that could reasonably be expected. She was
drowning; Theobald might be only a straw, but she could catch at
him, and catch at him she accordingly did.

  If the course of true love never runs smooth, the course of true
match-making sometimes does so. The only ground for complaint in the
present case was that it was rather slow. Theobald fell into the
part assigned to him more easily than Mrs. Cowey and Mrs. Allaby had
dared to hope. He was softened by Christina's winning manners: he
admired the high moral tone of everything she said; her sweetness
towards her sisters and her father and mother, her readiness to
undertake any small burden which no one else seemed willing to
undertake, her sprightly manners, all were fascinating to one who,
though unused to woman's society, was still a human being. He was
flattered by her unobtrusive but obviously sincere admiration for
himself; she seemed to see him in a more favourable light, and to
understand him better than anyone outside of this charming family
had ever done. Instead of snubbing him as his father, brother and
sisters did, she drew him out, listened attentively to all he chose to
say, and evidently wanted him to say still more. He told a college
friend that he knew he was in love now; he really was, for he liked
Miss Allaby's society much better than that of his sisters.

  Over and above the recommendations already enumerated, she had
another in the possession of what was supposed to be a very
beautiful contralto voice. Her voice was certainly contralto, for
she could not reach higher than D in the treble; its only defect was
that it did not go correspondingly low in the bass: in those days,
however, a contralto voice was understood to include even a soprano if
the soprano could not reach soprano notes, and it was not necessary
that it should have the quality which we now assign to contralto. What
her voice wanted in range and power was made up in the feeling with
which she sang. She had transposed "Angels ever bright and fair"
into a lower key, so as to make it suit her voice, thus proving, as
her mamma said, that she had a thorough knowledge of the laws of
harmony; not only did she do this, but at every pause she added an
embellishment of arpeggios from one end to the other of the
keyboard, on a principle which her governess had taught her; she
thus added life and interest to an air which everyone- so she said-
must feel to be rather heavy in the form in which Handel left it. As
for her governess, she indeed had been a rarely accomplished musician:
she was a pupil of the famous Dr. Clarke of Cambridge, and used to
play the overture to Atalanta, arranged by Mazzinghi. Nevertheless, it
was some time before Theobald could bring his courage to the
sticking point of actually proposing. He made it quite clear that he
believed himself to be much smitten, but month after month went by,
during which there was still so much hope in Theobald that Mr.
Allaby dared not discover that he was able to do his duty for himself,
and was getting impatient at the number of half-guineas he was
disbursing- and yet there was no proposal. Christina's mother
assured him that she was the best daughter in the whole world, and
would be a priceless treasure to the man who married her. Theobald
echoed Mrs. Allaby's sentiments with warmth, but still, though he
visited the Rectory two or three times a week, besides coming over
on Sunday- he did not propose. "She is heart-whole yet, dear Mr.
Pontifex," said Mrs. Allaby, one day, "at least I believe she is. It
is not for want of admirers- oh! no- she has had her full share of
these, but she is too, too difficult to please. I think however, she
would fall before a great and good man." And she looked hard at
Theobald, who blushed; but the days went by and still he did not
propose.

  Another time Theobald actually took Mrs. Cowey into his
confidence, and the reader may guess what account of Christina he
got from her. Mrs. Cowey tried the jealousy manoeuvre and hinted at
a possible rival. Theobald was, or pretended to be, very much alarmed;
a little rudimentary pang of jealousy shot across his bosom and he
began to believe with pride that he was not only in love, but
desperately in love, or he would never feel so jealous.
Nevertheless, day after day still went by and he did not propose.

  The Allabys behaved with great judgement. They humoured him till his
retreat was practically cut off, though he still flattered himself
that it was open. One day about six months after Theobald had become
an almost daily visitor at the Rectory the conversation happened to
turn upon long engagements. "I don't like long engagements, Mr.
Allaby, do you?" said Theobald imprudently. "No," said Mr. Allaby in a
pointed tone, "nor long courtships," and he gave Theobald a look which
he could not pretend to misunderstand. He went back to Cambridge as
fast as he could go, and in dread of the conversation with Mr.
Allaby which he felt to be impending, composed the following letter
which he despatched that same afternoon by a private messenger to
Crampsford. The letter was as follows:

  "DEAREST MISS CHRISTINA,- I do not know whether you have guessed the
feelings that I have long entertained for you- feelings which I have
concealed as much as I could through fear of drawing you into an
engagement which, if you enter into it, must be prolonged for a
considerable time, but, however this may be, it is out of my power
to conceal them longer; I love you, ardently, devotedly, and send
these few lines asking you to be my wife, because I dare not trust
my tongue to give adequate expression to the magnitude of my affection
for you.

  "I cannot pretend to offer you a heart which has never known
either love or disappointment. I have loved already, and my heart
was years in recovering from the grief I felt at seeing her become
another's. That, however, is over, and having seen yourself I
rejoice over a disappointment which I thought at one time would have
been fatal to me. It has left me a less ardent lover than I should
perhaps otherwise have been, but it has increased tenfold my power
of appreciating your many charms and my desire that you should
become my wife. Please let me have a few lines of answer by the bearer
to let me know whether or not my suit is accepted. If you accept me
I will at once come and talk the matter over with Mr. and Mrs. Allaby,
whom I shall hope one day to be allowed to call father and mother.

  "I ought to warn you that in the event of your consenting to be my
wife it may be years before our union can be consummated, for I cannot
marry till a college living is offered me. If, therefore, you see
fit to reject me, I shall be grieved rather than surprised.- Ever most
devotedly yours,

                                               "THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

  And this was all that his public school and University education had
been able to do for Theobald! Nevertheless for his own part he thought
his letter rather a good one, and congratulated himself in
particular upon his cleverness in inventing the story of a previous
attachment, behind which he intended to shelter himself if Christina
should complain of any lack of fervour in his behaviour to her.

  I need not give Christina's answer, which of course was to accept.
Much as Theobald feared old Mr. Allaby I do not think he would have
wrought up his courage to the point of actually proposing but for
the fact of the engagement being necessarily a long one, during
which a dozen things might turn up to break it off. However much he
may have disapproved of long engagements for other people, I doubt
whether he had any particular objection to them in his own case. A
pair of lovers are like sunset and sunrise: there are such things
every day but we very seldom see them. Theobald posed as the most
ardent lover imaginable, but, to use the vulgarism for the moment in
fashion, it was all "side." Christina was in love, as indeed she had
been twenty times already. But then Christina was impressionable and
could not even hear the name "Missolonghi" mentioned without
bursting into tears. When Theobald accidentally left his sermon case
behind him one Sunday, she slept with it in her bosom and was
forlorn when she had as it were to disgorge it on the following
Sunday; but I do not think Theobald ever took so much as an old
toothbrush of Christina's to bed with him. Why, I knew a young man
once who got hold of his mistress's skates and slept with them for a
fortnight and cried when he had to give them up.

  CHAPTER XII

  THEOBALD'S engagement was all very well as far as it went, but there
was an old gentleman with a bald head and rosy cheeks in a
counting-house in Paternoster Row who must sooner or later be told
of what his son had in view, and Theobald's heart fluttered when he
asked himself what view this old gentleman was likely to take of the
situation. The murder, however, had to come out, and Theobald and
his intended, perhaps imprudently, resolved on making a clean breast
of it at once. He wrote what he and Christina, who helped him to draft
the letter, thought to be everything that was filial, and expressed
himself as anxious to be married with the least possible delay. He
could not help saying this, as Christina was at his shoulder, and he
knew it was safe, for his father might be trusted not to help him.
He wound up by asking his father to use any influence that might be at
his command to help him to get a living, inasmuch as it might be years
before a college living fell vacant, and he saw no other chance of
being able to marry, for neither he nor his intended had any money
except Theobald's fellowship, which would, of course, lapse on his
taking a wife.

   Any step of Theobald's was sure to be objectionable in his father's
eyes, but that at three-and-twenty he should want to marry a penniless
girl who was four years older than himself, afforded a golden
opportunity which the old gentleman- for so I may now call him, as
he was at least sixty- embraced with characteristic eagerness.

 "The ineffable folly," he wrote, on receiving his son's letter, "of
your fancied passion for Miss Allaby fills me with the gravest
apprehensions. Making every allowance for a lover's blindness, I still
have no doubt that the lady herself is a well-conducted and amiable
young person, who would not disgrace our family, but were she ten
times more desirable as a daughter-in-law than I can allow myself to
hope, your joint poverty is an insuperable objection to your marriage.
I have four other children besides yourself, and my expenses do not
permit me to save money. This year they have been especially heavy,
indeed I have had to purchase two not inconsiderable pieces of land
which happened to come into the market and were necessary to
complete a property which I have long wanted to round off in this way.
I gave you an education regardless of expense, which has put you in
possession of a comfortable income, at an age when many young men
are dependent. I have I have thus started you fairly in life, and
may claim that you should cease to be a drag upon me further. Long
engagements are proverbially unsatisfactory, and in the present case
the prospect seems interminable. What interest, pray, do you suppose I
have that I could get a living for you? Can I go up and down the
country begging people to provide for my son because he has taken it
into his head to want to get married without sufficient means?

  "I do not wish to write unkindly, nothing can be farther from my
real feelings towards you, but there is often more kindness in plain
speaking than in any amount of soft words which can end in no
substantial performance. Of course, I bear in mind that you are of
age, and can therefore please yourself, but if you choose to claim the
strict letter of the law, and act without consideration for your
father's feelings, you must not be surprised if you one day find
that I have claimed a like liberty for myself.- Believe me, your
affectionate father,

                                           "G. PONTIFEX.".

  I found this letter along with those already given and a few more
which I need not give, but throughout which the same tone prevails,
and in all of which there is the more or less obvious shake of the
will near the end of the letter. Remembering Theobald's general
dumbness concerning his father for the many years I knew him after his
father's death, there was an eloquence in the preservation of the
letters and in their endorsement, "Letters from my father," which
seemed to have with it some faint odour of health and nature.

  Theobald did not show his father's letter to Christina, nor, indeed,
I believe to anyone. He was by nature secretive, and had been
repressed too much and too early to be capable of railing or blowing
off steam where his father was concerned. His sense of wrong was still
inarticulate, felt as a dull, dead weight ever present day by day, and
if he woke at night-time still continually present, but he hardly knew
what it was. I was about the closest friend he had, and I saw but
little of him, for I could not get on with him for long together. He
said I had no reverence; whereas, I thought that I had plenty of
reverence for what deserved to be revered, but that the gods which
he deemed golden were in reality made of baser metal. He never, as I
have said, complained of his father to me, and his only other
friends were, like himself, staid and prim, of evangelical tendencies,
and deeply imbued with a sense of the sinfulness of any act of
insubordination to parents- good young men, in fact- and one cannot
blow off steam to a good young man.

  When Christina was informed by her lover of his father's opposition,
and of the time which must probably elapse before they could be
married, she offered- with how much sincerity I know not to set him
free from his engagement; but Theobald declined to be released- "not
at least," as he said, "at present." Christina and Mrs. Allaby knew
they could manage him, and on this not very satisfactory footing the
engagement was continued.

  His engagement and his refusal to be released at once raised
Theobald in his own good opinion. Dull as he was, he had no small
share of quiet self-approbation. He admired himself for his University
distinction, for the purity of his life (I said of him once that if he
had only a better temper he would be as innocent as a newlaid egg) and
for his unimpeachable integrity in money matters. He did not despair
of advancement in the Church when he had once got a living, and of
course it was within the bounds of possibility that he might one day
become a Bishop, and Christina said she felt convinced that this would
ultimately be the case.

  As was natural for the daughter and intended wife of a clergyman,
Christina's thoughts ran much upon religion, and she was resolved that
even though an exalted position in this world were denied to her and
Theobald, their virtues should be fully appreciated in the next. Her
religious opinions coincided absolutely with Theobald's own, and
many a conversation did she have with him about the glory of God,
and the completeness with which they would devote themselves to it, as
soon as Theobald had got his living and they were married. So
certain was she of the great results which would then ensue that she
wondered at times at the blindness shown by Providence towards its own
truest interests in not killing off the rectors who stood between
Theobald and his living a little faster.

  In those days people believed with a simple downrightness which I do
not observe among educated men and women now. It had never so much
as crossed Theobald's mind to doubt the literal accuracy of any
syllable in the Bible. He had never seen any book in which this was
disputed, nor met with anyone who doubted it. True, there was just a
little scare about geology, but there was nothing in it. If it was
said that God made the world in six days, why He did make it in six
days, neither in more nor less; if it was said that He put Adam to
sleep, took out one of his ribs and made a woman of it, why it was
so as a matter of course. He, Adam, went to sleep as it might be
himself, Theobald Pontifex, in a garden, as it might be the garden
at Crampsford Rectory during the summer months when it was so
pretty, only that it was larger, and had some tame wild animals in it.
Then God came up to him, as it might be Mr. Allaby or his father,
dexterously took out one of his ribs without waking him, and
miraculously healed the wound so that no trace of the operation
remained. Finally, God had taken the rib perhaps into the
greenhouse, and had turned it into just such another young woman as
Christina. That was how it was done; there was neither difficulty
nor shadow of difficulty about the matter. Could not God do anything
He liked, and had He not in His own inspired Book told us that He
had done this?

  This was the average attitude of fairly educated young men and women
towards the Mosaic cosmogony fifty, forty, or even twenty years ago.
The combating of infidelity, therefore, offered little scope for
enterprising young clergymen, nor had the Church awakened to the
activity which she has since displayed among the poor in our large
towns. These were then left almost without an effort at resistance
or co-operation to the labours of those who had succeeded Wesley.
Missionary work indeed in heathen countries was being carried on
with some energy, but Theobald did not feel any call to be a
missionary. Christina suggested this to him more than once, and
assured him of the unspeakable happiness it would be to her to be
the wife of a missionary, and to share his dangers; she and Theobald
might even be martyred; of course they would be martyred
simultaneously, and martyrdom many years hence as regarded from the
arbour in the Rectory garden was not painful; it would ensure them a
glorious future in the next world, and at any rate posthumous renown
in this- even if they were not miraculously restored to life again-
and such things had happened ere now in the case of martyrs. Theobald,
however, had not been kindled by Christina's enthusiasm, so she fell
back upon the Church of Rome- an enemy more dangerous, if possible,
than paganism itself. A combat with Romanism might even yet win for
her and Theobald the crown of martyrdom. True, the Church of Rome
was tolerably quiet just then, but it was the calm before the storm,
of this she was assured, with a conviction deeper than she could
have attained by any argument founded upon mere reason.

  "We, dearest Theobald," she exclaimed, "will be ever faithful. We
will stand firm and support one another even in the hour of death
itself. God in His mercy may spare us from being burnt alive. He may
or may not do so. O Lord" (and she turned her eyes prayerfully to
Heaven), "spare my Theobald, or grant that he may be beheaded."

  "My dearest," said Theobald gravely, "do not let us agitate
ourselves unduly. If the hour of trial comes we shall be best prepared
to meet it by having led a quiet, unobtrusive life of self-denial
and devotion to God's glory. Such a life let us pray God that it may
please Him to enable us to pray that we may lead."

  "Dearest Theobald," exclaimed Christina, drying the tears that had
gathered in her eyes, "you are always, always right. Let us be
self-denying, pure, upright, truthful in word and deed." She clasped
her hands and looked up to Heaven as she spoke.

  "Dearest," rejoined her lover, "we have ever hitherto endeavoured to
be all of these things; we have not been worldly people; let us
watch and pray that we may so continue to the end."

  The moon had risen and the arbour was getting damp, so they
adjourned further aspirations for a more convenient season. At other
times Christina pictured herself and Theobald as braving the scorn
of almost every human being in the achievement of some mighty task
which should redound to the honour of her Redeemer. She could face
anything for this. But always towards the end of her vision there came
a little coronation scene high up in the golden regions of the
Heavens, and a diadem was set upon her head by the Son of Man Himself,
amid a host of angels and archangels who looked on with envy and
admiration- and here even Theobald himself was out of it. If there
could be such a thing as the Mammon of Righteousness, Christina
would have assuredly made friends with it. Her papa and mamma were
very estimable people and would in the course of time receive Heavenly
Mansions in which they would be exceedingly comfortable; so
doubtless would her sisters; so perhaps, even might her brothers;
but for herself she felt that a higher destiny was preparing, which it
was her duty never to lose sight of. The first step towards it would
be her marriage with Theobald. In spite, however, of these flights
of religious romanticism, Christina was a good-tempered kindly-natured
girl enough, who, if she had married a sensible layman- we will say
a hotel-keeper- would have developed into a good landlady and been
deservedly popular with her guests.

  Such was Theobald's engaged life. Many a little present passed
between the pair, and many a small surprise did they prepare
pleasantly for one another. They never quarrelled, and neither of them
ever flirted with anyone else. Mrs. Allaby and his future
sisters-in-law idolised Theobald in spite of its being impossible to
get another deacon to come and be played for as long as Theobald was
able to help Mr. Allaby, which now of course he did free gratis and
for  nothing; two of the sisters, however, did manage to find husbands
before Christina was actually married, and on each occasion Theobald
played the part of decoy elephant. In the end only two out of the
seven daughters remained single.

  After three or four years, old Mr. Pontifex became accustomed to his
son's engagement and looked upon it as among the things which had
now a prescriptive right to toleration. In the spring of 1831 more
than five years after Theobald had first walked over to Crampsford,
one of the best livings in the gift of the College unexpectedly fell
vacant, and was for various reasons declined by the two fellows senior
to Theobald, who might each have been expected to take it. The
living was then offered to and of course accepted by Theobald, being
in value not less than not less than L500 a year with a suitable house
and garden. Old Mr. Pontifex then came down more handsomely than was
expected and settled L10,000 on his son and daughter-in-law for life
with remainder to such of their issue as they might appoint. In the
month of July, 1831, Theobald and Christina became man and wife.

  CHAPTER XIII

  A DUE number of old shoes had been thrown at the carriage in which
the happy pair departed from the Rectory, and it had turned the corner
at the bottom of the village. It could then be seen for two or three
hundred yards creeping past a fir coppice, and after this was lost
to view.

  "John," said Mr. Allaby to his manservant, "shut the gate"; and he
went indoors with a sigh of relief which seemed to say: "I have done
it, and I am alive." This was the reaction after a burst of
enthusiastic merriment during which the old gentleman had run twenty
yards after the carriage to fling a slipper at it- which he had duly
flung.

  But what were the feelings of Theobald and Christina when the
village was passed and they were rolling quietly by the fir
plantation? It is at this point that even the stoutest heart must
fail, unless it beat in the breast of one who is over head and ears in
love. If a young man is in a small boat on a choppy sea, along with
his affianced bride and both are seasick, and if the sick swain can
forget his own anguish in the happiness of holding the fair one's head
when she is at her worst- then he is in love, and his heart will be in
no danger of him as he passes his fir plantation. Other people, and
unfortunately by far the greater number of those who get married
must be classed among the "other people," will inevitably go through a
quarter or half an hour of greater or less badness as the case may be.
Taking numbers into account, I should think more mental suffering
had been undergone in the streets leading from St. George's Hanover
Square, than in the condemned cells of Newgate. There is no time at
which what the Italians call la figlia della Morte lays her cold
hand upon a man more awfully than during the first half hour that he
is alone with a woman whom he has married but never genuinely loved.

  Death's daughter did not spare Theobald. He had behaved very well
hitherto. When Christina had offered to let him go, he had stuck to
his post with a magnanimity on which he had plumed himself ever since.
From that time forward he had said to himself. "I, at any rate, am the
very soul of honour; I am not," etc., etc. True, at the moment of
magnanimity the actual cash payment, so to speak, was still distant;
when his father gave formal consent to his marriage things began to
look more serious; when the College living had fallen vacant and
been accepted they looked more serious still; but when Christina
actually named the day, then Theobald's heart fainted within him.

  The engagement had gone on so long that he had got into a groove,
and the prospect of change was disconcerting. Christina and he had got
on, he thought to himself, very nicely for a great number of years;
why- why- why should they not continue to go on as they were doing now
for the rest of their lives? But there was no more chance of escape
for him than for the sheep which is being driven to the butcher's back
premises, and like the sheep he felt that there was nothing to be
gained by resistance, so he made none. He behaved, in fact, with
decency, and was declared on all hands to be one of the happiest men

 imaginable.

  Now, however, to change the metaphor, the drop had actually
fallen, and the poor wretch was hanging in mid air along with the
creature of his affections. This creature was now thirty-three years
old, and looked it: she had been weeping, and her eyes and nose were
reddish; if "I have done it and I am alive" was written on Mr.
Allaby's face after he had thrown the shoe, "I have done it, and I
do not see how I can possibly live much longer" was upon the face of
Theobald as he was being driven along by the fir plantation. This,
however, was not apparent at the Rectory. All that could be seen there
was the bobbing up and down of the postilion's head, which just
over-topped the hedge by the roadside as he rose in his stirrups,
and the black and yellow body of the carriage.

  For some time the pair said nothing: what they must have felt during
the first half hour, the reader must guess, for it is beyond my
power to tell him; at the end of that time, however, Theobald had
rummaged up a conclusion from some odd corner of his soul to the
effect that now he and Christina were married, the sooner they fell
into their future mutual relations the better. If people who are in
a difficulty will only do the first little reasonable thing which they
can clearly recognise as reasonable, they will always find the next
step more easy both to see and take. What, then, thought Theobald, was
here at this moment the first and most obvious matter to be
considered, and what would be an equitable view of his and Christina's
relative positions in respect to it? Clearly their first dinner was
their first joint entry into the duties and pleasures of married life.
No less clearly it was Christina's duty to order it, and his own to
eat it and pay for it.

  The arguments leading to this conclusion, and the conclusion itself,
flashed upon Theobald about three and a half miles after he had left
Crampsford on the road to Newmarket. He had breakfasted early, but his
usual appetite had failed him. They had left the vicarage at noon
without staying for the wedding breakfast. Theobald liked an  early
dinner; it dawned upon him that he was beginning to be hungry; from
this to the conclusion stated in the preceding paragraph the steps had
been easy. After a few minutes' further reflection he broached the
matter to his bride, and thus the ice was broken.

  Mrs. Theobald was not prepared for so sudden an assumption of
importance. Her nerves, never of the strongest, had been strung to
their highest tension by the event of the morning. She wanted to
escape observation; she was conscious of looking a little older than
she quite liked to look as a bride who had been married that
morning; she feared the landlady, the chambermaid, the waiter-
everybody and everything; her heart beat so fast that she could hardly
speak, much less go through the ordeal of ordering dinner in a strange
hotel with a strange landlady. She begged and prayed to be let off. If
Theobald would only order dinner this once, she would order it any day
and every day in future.

  But the inexorable Theobald was not to be put off with such absurd
excuses. He was master now. Had not Christina less than two hours
ago promised solemnly to honour and obey him, and was she turning
restive over such a trifle as this? The loving smile departed from his
face, and was succeeded by a scowl which that old Turk, his father,
might have envied. "Stuff and nonsense, my dearest Christina," he
exclaimed mildly, and stamped his foot upon the floor of the carriage.
"It is a wife's duty to order her husband's dinner; you are my wife,
and I shall expect you to order mine." For Theobald was nothing if
he was not logical.

  The bride began to cry, and said he was unkind; whereon he said
nothing, but revolved unutterable things in his heart. Was this, then,
the end of his six years of unflagging devotion? Was it for this that,
when Christina had offered to let him off, he had stuck to his
engagement? Was this the outcome of her talks about duty and spiritual
mindedness- that now upon the very day of her marriage she should fail
to see that the first step in obedience to God lay in obedience to
himself He would drive back to Crampsford; he would complain to Mr.
and Mrs. Allaby; he didn't mean to have married Christina; he hadn't
married her; it was all a hideous dream; he  would- But a voice kept
ringing in his cars which said: "You CAN'T, CAN'T, CAN'T."

  "CAN'T I?" screamed the unhappy creature to himself.

  "No said the remorseless voice, "YOU CAN'T. YOU ARE A MARRIED MAN."

  He rolled back in his corner of the carriage and for the first
time felt how iniquitous were the marriage laws of England. But he
would buy Milton's prose works and read his pamphlet on divorce. He
might perhaps be able to get them at Newmarket.

  So the bride sat crying in one corner of the carriage; and the
bridegroom sulked in the other, and he feared her as only a bridegroom
can fear.

  Presently, however, a feeble voice was heard from the bride's corner
saying:

  "Dearest Theobald- dearest Theobald, forgive me; I have been very,
very wrong. Please do not be angry with me. I will order the- the-"
but the word "dinner" was checked by rising sobs.

  When Theobald heard these words a load began to be lifted from his
heart, but he only looked towards her, and that not too pleasantly.

  "Please tell me," continued the voice, "what you think you would
like, and I will tell the landlady when we get to Newmar-" but another
burst of sobs checked the completion of the word.

  The load on Theobald's heart grew lighter and lighter. Was it
possible that she might not be going to henpeck him after all?
Besides, had she not diverted his attention from herself to his
approaching dinner?

  He swallowed down more of his apprehensions and said, but still
gloomily, "I think we might have a roast fowl with bread sauce, new
potatoes and green peas, and then we will see if they could let us
have a cherry tart and some cream."

  After a few minutes more he drew her towards him, kissed away her
tears, and assured her that he knew she would be a good wife to him.

  "Dearest Theobald," she exclaimed in answer, "you are an angel."

  Theobald believed her, and in ten minutes more the happy couple
alighted at the inn at Newmarket.

  Bravely did Christina go through her arduous task. Eagerly did she
beseech the landlady, in secret, not to keep her Theobald waiting
longer than was absolutely necessary.

  "If you have any soup ready, you know, Mrs. Barber, it might save
ten minutes, for we might have it while the fowl was browning."

  See how necessity had nerved her! But in truth she had a splitting
headache, and would have given anything to have been alone.

  The dinner was a success. A pint of sherry had warmed Theobald's
heart, and he began to hope that, after all, matters might still go
well with him. He had conquered in the first battle, and this gives
great prestige. How easy it had been, too! Why had he never treated
his sisters in this way? He would do so next time he saw them; he
might in time be able to stand up to his brother John, or even his
father. Thus do we build castles in air when flushed with wine and
conquest.

  The end of the honeymoon saw Mrs. Theobald the most devotedly
obsequious wife in all England. According to the old saying,
Theobald had killed the cat at the beginning. It had been a very
little cat, a mere kitten in fact, or he might have been afraid to
face it, but such as it had been he had challenged it to mortal
combat, and had held up its dripping head defiantly before his
wife's face. The rest had been easy.

  Strange that one whom I have described hitherto as so timid and
easily put upon should prove such a Tartar all of a sudden on the
day of his marriage. Perhaps I have passed over his years of courtship
too rapidly. During these he had become a tutor of his college, and
had at last been Junior Dean. I never yet knew a man whose sense of
his own importance did not become adequately developed after he had
held a resident fellowship for five or six years. True- immediately on
arriving within a ten-mile radius of his father's house, an
enchantment fell upon him, so that his knees waxed weak, his greatness
departed, and he again felt himself like an overgrown baby under a
perpetual cloud; but then he was not often at Elmhurst, and as soon as
he left it the spell was taken off again; once more he became the
fellow and tutor of his college, the Junior Dean, the betrothed of
Christina, the idol of the Allaby womankind. From all which may be
gathered that if Christina had been a Barbary hen, and had ruffled her
feathers in any show of resistance, Theobald would not have ventured
to swagger with her, but she was not a Barbary hen, she was only a
common hen, and that too with rather a smaller share of personal
bravery than hens generally have.

  CHAPTER XIV

  BATTERSBY-ON-THE-HILL was the name of the village of which
Theobald was now Rector. It contained 400 or 500 inhabitants,
scattered over a rather large area, and consisting entirely of farmers
and agricultural labourers. The Rectory was commodious, and placed
on the brow of a hill which gave it a delightful prospect. There was a
fair sprinkling of neighbours within visiting range, but with one or
two exceptions they were the clergymen and clergymen's families of the
surrounding villages.

  By these the Pontifexes were welcomed as great acquisitions to the
neighbourhood. Mr. Pontifex, they said, was so clever; he had been
senior classic and senior wrangler; a perfect genius in fact, and
yet with so much sound practical common sense as well. As son of
such a distinguished man as the great Mr. Pontifex, the publisher,
he would come into a large property by-and-by. Was there not an
elder brother? Yes, but there would be so much that Theobald would
probably get something very considerable. Of course they would give
dinner parties. And Mrs. Pontifex, what a charming woman she was;
she was certainly not exactly pretty perhaps, but then she had such
a sweet smile and her manner was so bright and winning. She was so
devoted too to her husband and her husband to her; they really did
come up to one's ideas of what lovers used to be in days of old; it
was rare to meet with such a pair in these degenerate times; it was
quite beautiful, etc., etc. Such were the comments of the neighbours
on the new arrivals.

  As for Theobald's own parishioners, the farmers were civil and the
labourers and their wives obsequious. There was a little dissent,
the legacy of a careless predecessor, but as Mrs. Theobald said
proudly, "I think Theobald may be trusted to deal with that." The
church was then an interesting specimen of late Norman, with some
early English additions. It was what in these days would be called
in a very bad state of repair, but forty or fifty years ago few
churches were in good repair. If there is one feature more
characteristic of the present generation than another it is that it
has been a great restorer of churches.

  Horace preached church restoration in his ode:

               Delicta, majorum immeritus lues,

               Romane, donec templa refeceris

                AEdesque labentes deorum et

                 Foeda nigro simulacra fumo.

Nothing went right with Rome for long together after the Augustan age,
but whether it was because she did restore the temples or because
she did not restore them, I know not. They certainly went all wrong
after Constantine's time and yet Rome is still a city of some
importance.

  I may say here that before Theobald had been many years at Battersby
he found scope for useful work in the rebuilding of Battersby
church, which he carried out at considerable cost, towards which he
subscribed liberally himself. He was his own architect, and this saved
expense; but architecture was not very well understood about the
year 1834, when Theobald commenced operations, and the result is not
as satisfactory as it would have been if he had waited a few years
longer.

  Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or
architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself, and
the more he tries to conceal himself the more clearly will his
character appear in spite of him. I may very likely be condemning
myself, all the time that I am writing this book, for I know that
whether I like it or no I am portraying myself more surely than I am
portraying any of the characters whom I set before the reader. I am
sorry that it is so, but I cannot help it- after which sop to
Nemesis I will say that Battersby church in its amended form has
always struck me as a better portrait of Theobald than any sculptor or
painter short of a great master would be able to produce.

  I remember staying with Theobald some six or seven months after he
was married, and while the old church was still standing. I went to
church, and felt as Naaman must have felt on certain occasions when he
had to accompany his master on his return after having been cured of
his leprosy. I have carried away a more vivid recollection of this and
of the people, than of Theobald's sermon. Even now I can see the men
in blue smock frocks reaching to their heels, and more than one old
woman in a scarlet cloak; the row of stolid, dull, vacant plough-boys,
ungainly in build, uncomely in face, lifeless, apathetic, a race a
good deal more like the prerevolution French peasant as described by
Carlyle than is pleasant to reflect upon- a race now supplanted by a
smarter, comelier, and more hopeful generation, which has discovered
that it too has a right to as much happiness as it can get, and with
clearer ideas about the best means of getting it.

  They shamble in one after another, with steaming breath, for it is
winter, and loud clattering of hob-nailed boots; they beat the snow
from off them as they enter, and through the opened door I catch a
momentary glimpse of a dreary, leaden sky and snow-clad tombstones.
Somehow or other I find the strain which Handel has wedded to the
words "There the ploughman near at hand" has got into my head and
there is no getting it out again. How marvellously old Handel
understood these people!

 They bob to Theobald as they pass the reading desk ("The people
hereabouts are truly respectful," whispered Christina to me; "they
know their betters"), and take their seats in a long row against the
wall. The choir clamber up into the gallery with their instruments-
a violoncello, a clarinet, and a trombone. I see them and soon I
hear them, for there is a hymn before the service, a wild strain, a
remnant, if I mistake not, of some pre-Reformation litany. I have
heard what I believe was its remote musical progenitor in the church
of SS. Giovanni e Paolo at Venice not five years since; and again I
have heard it far away in mid-Atlantic upon a grey sea-Sabbath in
June, when neither winds nor waves are stirring, so that the emigrants
gather on deck, and their plaintive psalm goes forth upon the silver
haze of the sky, and on the wilderness of a sea that has sighed till
it can sigh no longer. Or it may be heard at some Methodist Camp
Meeting upon a Welsh hillside, but in the churches it is gone forever.
If I were a musician I would take it as the subject for the adagio
in a Wesleyan symphony.

  Gone now are the clarinet, the violoncello, and the trombone, wild
minstrelsy as of the doleful creatures in Ezekiel, discordant, but
infinitely pathetic. Gone is that scarebabe stentor, that bellowing
bull of Bashan, the village blacksmith, gone is the melodious
carpenter, gone the brawny shepherd with the red hair, who roared more
lustily than all, until they came to the words, "Shepherds, with
your flocks abiding," when modesty covered him with confusion, and
compelled him to be silent, as though his own health were being drunk.
They were doomed and had a presentiment of evil, even when first I saw
them, but they had still a little lease of choir life remaining, and
they roared out:

  wick - ed hands have pierced and nailed him to a tree. (See
illustration.)

but no description can give a proper idea of the effect. When I was
last in Battersby church there was a harmonium played by a
sweet-looking girl with a choir of school children around her, and
they chanted the canticles to the most correct of chants, and they
sang Hymns Ancient and Modern; the high pews were gone, nay, the
very gallery in which the old choir had sung was removed as an
accursed thing which might remind the people of the high places, and
Theobald was old, and Christina was lying under the yew trees in the
churchyard.

  But in the evening later on I saw three very old men come
chuckling out of a dissenting chapel, and surely enough they were my
old friends the blacksmith, the carpenter, and the shepherd. There was
a look of content upon their faces which made me feel certain they had
been singing; not doubtless with the old glory of the violoncello, the
clarinet, and the trombone, but still songs of Sion and no new fangled
papistry.

  CHAPTER XV

  THE hymn had engaged my attention; when it was over I had time to
take stock of the congregation. They were chiefly farmers- fat, very
well-to-do folk, who had come some of them with their wives and
children from outlying farms two and three miles away; haters of
popery and of anything which anyone might choose to say was popish;
good, sensible fellows who detested theory of any kind, whose ideal
was the maintenance of the status quo with perhaps a loving
reminiscence of old war times, and a sense of wrong that the weather
was not more completely under their control, who desired higher prices
and cheaper wages, but otherwise were most contented when things
were changing least; tolerators, if not lovers, of all that was
familiar, haters of all that was unfamiliar; they would have been
equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at
seeing it practised.

  "What can there be in common between Theobald and his parishioners?"
said Christina to me, in the course of the evening, when her husband
was for a few moments absent. "Of course one must not complain, but
I assure you it grieves me to see a man of Theobald's ability thrown
away upon such a place as this. If we had only been at Gaysbury, where
there are the A's, the B's, the C's, and Lord D's place, as you
know, quite close, I should not then have felt that we were living
in such a desert; but I suppose it is for the best," she added more
cheerfully, "and then of course the Bishop will come to us whenever he
is in the neighbourhood, and if we were at Gaysbury he might have gone
to Lord D's."

  Perhaps I have now said enough to indicate the kind of place in
which Theobald's lines were cast, and the sort of woman he had
married. As for his own habits, I see him trudging through muddy lanes
and over long sweeps of plover-haunted pastures to visit a dying
cottager's wife. He takes her meat and wine from his own table, and
that not a little only but liberally. According to his lights also, he
administers what he is pleased to call spiritual consolation.

  "I am afraid I'm going to Hell, Sir," says the sick woman with a
whine. "Oh, Sir, save me, save me, don't let me go there. I couldn't
stand it, Sir, I should die with fear, the very thought of it drives
me into a cold sweat all over."

  "Mrs. Thompson," says Theobald gravely, "you must have faith in
the precious blood of your Redeemer; it is He alone who can save you."

  "But are you sure, Sir," says she, looking wistfully at him, "that
He will forgive me- for I've not been a very good woman, indeed I
haven't- and if God would only say 'Yes' outright with His mouth
when I ask whether my sins are forgiven me-"

  "But they are forgiven you, Mrs. Thompson," says Theobald with
some sternness, for the same ground has been gone over a good many
times already, and he has borne the unhappy woman's misgivings now for
a full quarter of an hour. Then he puts a stop to the conversation
by repeating prayers taken from the "Visitation of the Sick," and
overawes the poor wretch from expressing further anxiety as to her
condition.

  "Can't you tell me, Sir," she exclaims piteously, as she sees that
he is preparing to go away, "can't you tell me that there is no Day of
Judgement, and that there is no such place as Hell? I can do without
the Heaven, Sir, but I cannot do with the Hell." Theobald is much
shocked.

  "Mrs. Thompson," he rejoins impressively, "Let me implore you to
suffer no doubt concerning these two cornerstones of our religion to
cross your mind at a moment like the present. If there is one thing
more certain than another it is that we shall all appear before the
Judgement Seat of Christ, and that the wicked will be consumed in a
lake of everlasting fire. Doubt this, Mrs. Thompson, and you are
lost."

  The poor woman buries her fevered head in the coverlet in a paroxysm
of fear which at last finds relief in tears.

  "Mrs. Thompson," says Theobald, with his hand on the door,
"compose yourself, be calm; you must please to take my word for it
that at the Day of your sins will be all washed white in the blood
of the Lamb, Mrs. Thompson. Yea," he exclaims frantically, "though
they be as scarlet, yet shall they be as white as wool," and he
makes off as fast as he can from the fetid atmosphere of the cottage
to the pure air outside. Oh, how thankful he is when the interview
is over!

  He returns home, conscious that he has done his duty, and
administered the comforts of religion to a dying sinner. His
admiring wife awaits him at the Rectory, and assures him that never
yet was clergyman so devoted to the welfare of his flock. He
believes her; he has a natural tendency to believe anything that is
told him, and who should know the facts of the case better than his
wife? Poor fellow! He has done his best, but what does a fish's best
come to when the fish is out of water? He has left meat and wine- that
he can do; he will call again and will leave more meat and wine; day
after day he trudges over the same plover-haunted fields, and
listens at the end of his walk to the same agony of forebodings, which
day after day he silences, but does not remove, till at last a
merciful weakness renders the sufferer careless of her future, and
Theobald is satisfied that her mind is now peacefully at rest in
Jesus.

  CHAPTER XVI

  HE does not like this branch of his profession- indeed he hates
it- but will not admit it to himself. The habit of not admitting
things to himself has become a confirmed one with him. Nevertheless
there haunts him an ill-defined sense that life would be pleasanter if
there were no sick sinners, or if they would at any rate face an
eternity of torture with more indifference. He does not feel that he
is in his element. The farmers look as if they were in their
element. They are full-bodied, healthy, and contented; but between him
and them there is a great gulf fixed. A hard and drawn look begins
to settle about the corners of his mouth, so that even if he were
not in a black coat and white tie a child might know him for a parson.

  He knows that he is doing his duty. Every day convinces him of
this more firmly; but then there is not much duty for him to do. He is
sadly in want of occupation. He has no taste for any of those field
sports which were not considered unbecoming for a clergyman forty
years ago. He does not ride, nor shoot, nor fish, nor course, nor play
cricket. Study, to do him justice, he had never really liked, and what
inducement was there for him to study at Battersby? He reads neither
old books nor new ones. He does not interest himself in art or science
or politics, but he sets his back up with some promptness if any of
them show any development unfamiliar to himself. True, he writes his
own sermons, but even his wife considers that his forte lies rather in
the example of his life (which is one long act of self-devotion)
than in his utterances from the pulpit. After breakfast he retires
to his study; he cuts little bits out of the Bible and gums them
with exquisite neatness by the side of other little bits; this he
calls making a Harmony of the Old and New Testaments. Alongside the
extracts he copies in the very perfection of handwriting extracts from
Mede (the only man, according to Theobald, who really understood the
Book of Revelation), Patrick, and other old divines. He works steadily
at this for half an hour every morning during many years, and the
result is doubtless valuable. After some years have gone by he hears
his children their lessons, and the daily oft-repeated screams that
issue from the study during the lesson hours tell their own horrible
story over the house. He has also taken to collecting a hortus siccus,
and through the interest of his father was once mentioned in the
Saturday Magazine as having been the first to find a plant, whose name
I have forgotten, in the neighbourhood of Battersby. This number of
the Saturday Magazine has been bound in red morocco, and is kept
upon the drawing-room table. He potters about his garden; if he
hears a hen cackling he runs and tells Christina, and straightway goes
hunting for the egg.

  When the two Miss Allabys came, as they sometimes did, to stay
with Christina, they said the life led by their sister and
brother-in-law was an idyll. Happy indeed was Christina in her choice-
for that she had had a choice was a fiction which soon took root among
them- and happy Theobald in his Christina. Somehow or other
Christina was always a little shy of cards when her sisters were
staying with her, though at other times she enjoyed a game of cribbage
or a rubber of whist heartily enough, but her sisters knew they
would never be asked to Battersby again if they were to refer to
that little matter, and on the whole it was worth their while to be
asked to Battersby. If Theobald's temper was rather irritable he did
not vent it upon them.

  By nature reserved, if he could have found someone to cook his
dinner for him, he would rather have lived in a desert island than
not. In his heart of hearts he held with Pope that "the greatest
nuisance to mankind is man" or words to that effect- only that
women, with the exception perhaps of Christina, were worse. Yet for
all this, when visitors called he put a better face on it than
anyone who was behind the scenes would have expected.

  He was quick too at introducing the names of any literary
celebrities whom he had met at his father's house, and soon
established an all-around reputation which satisfied even Christina
herself.

  Who so integer vitae scelerisque purus, it was asked, as Mr.
Pontifex of Battersby? Who so fit to be consulted if any difficulty
about parish management should arise? Who such a happy mixture of
the sincere uninquiring Christian and of the man of the world? For
so people actually called him. They said he was such an admirable
man of business. Certainly if he had said he would pay a sum of
money at a certain time, the money would be forthcoming on the
appointed day, and this is saying a good deal for any man. His
constitutional timidity rendered him incapable of an attempt to
overreach when there was the remotest chance of opposition or
publicity, and his correct bearing and somewhat stern expression
were a great protection to him against being overreached. He never
talked of money, and invariably changed the subject whenever money was
introduced. His expression of unutterable horror at all kinds of
meanness was a sufficient guarantee that he was not mean himself.
Besides, he had no business transactions save of the most ordinary
butcher's book and baker's book description. His tastes- if he had
any- were, as we have seen, simple; he had L900 a year and a house;
the neighbourhood was cheap, and for some time he had no children to
be a drag upon drag upon him. Who was not to be envied, and if
envied why then respected, if Theobald was not enviable?

  Yet I imagine that Christina was on the whole happier than her
husband. She had not to go and visit sick parishioners, and the
management of her house and the keeping of her accounts afforded as
much occupation as she desired. Her principal duty was, as she well
said, to her husband- to love him, honour him, and keep him in a
good temper. To do her justice, she fulfilled this duty to the
uttermost of her power. It would have been better perhaps if she had
not so frequently assured her husband that he was the best and
wisest of mankind, for no one in his little world ever dreamed of
telling him anything else, and it was not long before he ceased to
have any doubt upon the matter. As for his temper, which had become
very violent at times, she took care to humour it on the slightest
sign of an approaching outbreak. She had early found that this was
much the easiest plan. The thunder was seldom for herself. Long before
her marriage even she had studied his little ways, and knew how to add
fuel to the fire as long as the fire seemed to want it, and then to
damp it down, making as little smoke as possible.

  In money matters she was scrupulousness itself. Theobald made her
a quarterly allowance for her dress, pocket-money, and little
charities and presents. In these last items she was liberal in
proportion to her income; indeed she dressed with great economy and
gave away whatever was over in presents, or charity. Oh, what a
comfort it was to Theobald to reflect that he had a wife on whom he
could rely never to cost him a sixpence of unauthorised expenditure!
Letting alone her absolute submission, the perfect coincidence of
her opinion with his own upon every subject and her constant
assurances to him that he was right in everything which he took it
into his head to say or do, what a tower of strength to him was her
exactness in money matters! As years went by he became as fond of
his wife as it was in his nature to be of any living thing, and
applauded himself for having stuck to his engagement- a piece of
virtue of which he was now reaping the reward. Even when Christina did
outrun her quarterly stipend by some thirty shillings or a couple of
pounds, it was always made perfectly clear to Theobald how the
deficiency had arisen- there had been an unusually costly evening
dress bought which was to last a long time, or somebody's unexpected
wedding had necessitated a more handsome present than the quarter's
balance would quite allow: the excess of expenditure was always repaid
in the following quarter or quarters even though it were only ten
shillings at a time.

  I believe, however, that after they had been married some twenty
years, Christina had somewhat fallen from her original perfection as
regards money. She had got gradually in arrears during many successive
quarters, till she had contracted a chronic loan, a sort of domestic
national debt, amounting to between seven and eight pounds. Theobald
at length felt that a remonstrance had become imperative, and took
advantage of his silver wedding day to inform Christina that her
indebtedness was cancelled, and at the same time to beg that she would
endeavour henceforth to equalise her expenditure and her income. She
burst into tears of love and gratitude, assured him that he was the
best and most generous of men, and never during the remainder of her
married life was she a single shilling behindhand.

  Christina hated change of all sorts no less cordially than her
husband. She and Theobald had nearly everything in this world that
they could wish for; why, then, should people desire to introduce
all sorts of changes of which no one could foresee the end?
Religion, she was deeply convinced, had long since attained its
final development, nor could it enter into the heart of reasonable man
to conceive any faith more perfect than was inculcated by the Church
of England. She could imagine no  position more honourable than that
of a clergyman's wife unless indeed it were a bishop's. Considering
his father's influence it was not at all impossible that Theobald
might be a bishop some day- and then- then would occur to her that one
little flaw in the practice of the Church of England -a flaw not
indeed in its doctrine, but in its policy, which she believed on the
whole to be a mistaken one in this respect. I mean the fact that a
bishop's wife does not take the rank of her husband.

  This had been the doing of Elizabeth, who had been a bad woman, of
exceedingly doubtful moral character, and at heart a Papist to the
last. Perhaps people ought to have been above mere considerations of
worldly dignity, but the world was as it was, and such things
carried weight with them, whether they ought to do so or no. Her
influence as plain Mrs. Pontifex, wife, we will say, of the Bishop
of Winchester, would no doubt be considerable. Such a character as
hers could not fail to carry weight if she were ever in a sufficiently
conspicuous sphere for its influence to be widely felt; but as Lady
Winchester- or the Bishopess- which would sound quite nicely- who
could doubt that her power for good would be enhanced? And it would be
all the nicer because if she had a daughter, the daughter would not be
a Bishopess unless indeed she were to marry a Bishop too, which
would not be likely.

  These were her thoughts upon her good days; at other times she
would, to do her justice, have doubts whether she was in all
respects as spiritually minded as she ought to be. She must press
on, press on, till every enemy to her salvation was surmounted and
Satan himself lay bruised under her feet. It occurred to her on one of
these occasions that she might steal a march over some of her
contemporaries if she were to leave off eating black puddings, of
which whenever they had killed a pig she had hitherto partaken freely;
and if she were also careful that no fowls were served at her table
which had had their necks wrung, but only such as had had their
throats cut and been allowed to bleed. St. Paul and the Church of
had insisted upon it as necessary that even Gentile converts should
abstain from things strangled and from blood, and they had joined this
prohibition with that of a vice about the abominable nature of which
there could be no question; it would be well therefore to abstain in
future and see whether any noteworthy spiritual result ensued. She did
abstain, and was certain that from the day of her resolve she had felt
stronger, purer in heart, and in all respects more spiritually
minded than she had ever felt hitherto. Theobald did not lay so much
stress on this as she did, but as she settled what he should have at
dinner she could take care that he got no strangled fowls; as for
black puddings, happily, he had seen them made when he was a boy,
and had never got over his aversion for them. She wished the matter
were one of more general observance than it was; this was just a
case in which as Lady Winchester she might have been able to do what
as plain Mrs. Pontifex it was hopeless even to attempt.

  And thus this worthy couple jogged on from month to month and from
year to year. The reader, if he has passed middle life and has a
clerical connection, will probably remember scores and scores of
rectors and rectors' wives who differed in no material respect from
Theobald and Christina. Speaking from a recollection and experience
extending over nearly eighty years from the time when I was myself a
child in the nursery of a vicarage, I should say I had drawn the
better rather than the worst side of the life of an English country
parson of some fifty years ago. I admit, however, that there are no
such people to be found nowadays. A more united or, on the whole,
happier, couple could not have been found in England. One grief only
overshadowed the early years of their married life: I mean the fact
that no living children were born to them.

  CHAPTER XVII

  IN the course of time this sorrow was removed. At the beginning of
the fifth year of her married life Christina was safely delivered of a
boy. This was on the sixth of September, 1835.

  Word was immediately sent to old Mr. Pontifex, who received the news
with real pleasure. His son John's wife had borne daughters only,
and he was seriously uneasy lest there should be a failure in the male
line of his descendants. The good news, therefore, was doubly welcome,
and caused as much delight at Elmhurst as dismay in Woburn Square,
Woburn Square, where the John Pontifexes were then living.

  Here, indeed, this freak of fortune was felt to be all the more
cruel on account of the impossibility of resenting it openly; but
the delighted grandfather cared nothing for what the John Pontifexes
might feel or not feel; he had wanted a grandson and he had got a
grandson, and this should be enough for everybody; and, now that
Mrs. Theobald had taken to good ways, she might bring him more
grandsons, which would be desirable, for he should not feel safe
with fewer than three.

  He rang the bell for the butler.

  "Gelstrap," he said solemnly, "I want to go down into the cellar."

  Then Gelstrap preceded him with a candle, and he went into the inner
vault where he kept his choicest wines.

  He passed many bins: there was 1803 Port, 1792 Imperial Tokay,
1800 Claret, 1812 Sherry, these and many others were passed, but it
was not for them that the head of the Pontifex family had gone down
into his inner cellar. A bin, which had appeared empty until the
full light of the candle had been brought to bear upon it, was now
found it, to contain a single pint bottle. This was the object of
Mr. Pontifex's search.

  Gelstrap had often pondered over this bottle. It had been placed
there by Mr. Pontifex himself about a dozen years previously, on his
return from a visit to his friend the celebrated traveller, Dr. Jones-
but there was no tablet above the bin which might give a clue to the
nature of its contents. On more than one occasion when his master
had gone out and left his keys accidentally behind him, as he
sometimes did, Gelstrap had submitted the bottle to all the tests he
could venture upon, but it was so carefully sealed that wisdom
remained quite shut out from that entrance at which he would have
welcomed her most gladly- and indeed from all other entrances, for
he could make out nothing at all.

  And now the mystery was to be solved. But alas! it seemed as
though the last chance of securing even a sip of the contents was to
be removed for ever, for Mr. Pontifex took the bottle into his own
hands and held it up to the light after carefully examining the
seal. He smiled and left the bin with the bottle in his hands.

  Then came a catastrophe. He stumbled over an empty hamper; there was
the sound of a fall- a smash of broken glass, and in an instant the
cellar floor was covered with the liquid that had been preserved so
carefully for so many years.

  With his usual presence of mind Mr. Pontifex gasped out a month's
warning to Gelstrap. Then he got up, and stamped as Theobald had
done when Christina had wanted not to order his dinner.

  "It's water from the Jordan," he exclaimed furiously, "which I
have been saving for the baptism of my eldest grandson. Damn you,
Gelstrap, how dare you be so infernally careless as to leave that
hamper littering about the cellar?"

  I wonder the water of the sacred stream did not stand upright as a
heap upon the cellar floor and rebuke him. Gelstrap told the other
servants afterwards that his master's language had made his backbone
curdle.

  The moment, however, that he heard the word "water" he saw his way
again, and flew to the pantry. Before his master had well noted his
absence he returned with a little sponge and a basin, and had begun
sopping up the waters of the Jordan as though they had been a common
slop.

  "I'll filter it, Sir," said Gelstrap meekly. "It'll come quite
clean."

  Mr. Pontifex saw hope in this suggestion, which was shortly
carried out by the help of a piece of blotting paper and a funnel,
under his own eyes. Eventually it was found that half a pint was
saved, and this was held to be sufficient.

  Then he made preparations for a visit to Battersby. He ordered
goodly hampers of the choicest eatables, he selected a goodly hamper
of choice drinkables. I say choice and not choicest, for although in
his first exaltation he had selected some of his very best wine, yet
on reflection he had felt that there was moderation in all things, and
as he was parting with his best water from the Jordan, he would only
send some of his second best wine.

  Before he went to Battersby he stayed a day or two in London,
which he now seldom did, being over seventy years old, and having
practically retired from business. The John Pontifexes, who kept a
sharp eye on him, discovered to their dismay that he had had an
interview with his solicitors.

  CHAPTER XVIII

  FOR the first time in his life Theobald felt that he had done
something right, and could look forward to meeting his father
without alarm. The old gentleman, indeed, had written him a most
cordial letter, announcing his intention of standing godfather to
the boy- nay, I may as well give it in full, as it shows the writer at
his best. It runs:

  "DEAR THEOBALD,- Your letter gave me very sincere pleasure, the more
so because I had made up my mind for the worst; pray accept my most
hearty congratulations for my daughter-in-law and for yourself.

  "I have long preserved a phial of water from the Jordan for the
christening of my first grandson, should it please God to grant me
one. It was given me by my old friend, Dr. Jones. You will agree
with me that though the efficacy of the sacrament does not depend upon
the source of the baptismal waters, yet, ceteris paribus, there is a
sentiment attaching to the waters of the Jordan which should not be
despised. Small matters like this sometimes influence a child's
whole future career.

 "I shall bring my own cook, and have told him to get everything ready
for the christening dinner. Ask as many of your best neighbours as
your table will hold. By the way, I have told Lesueur not to get a
lobster- you had better drive over yourself and get one from
Saltness (for Battersby was only fourteen or fifteen miles from the
sea coast); they are better there, at least I think so, than
anywhere else in England.

  "I have put your boy down for something in the event of his
attaining the age of twenty-one years. If your brother John
continues to have nothing but girls I may do more later on, but I have
many claims upon me, and am not as well off as you may imagine.-
Your affectionate father,

                                         "G. PONTIFEX."

  A few days afterwards the writer of the above letter made his
appearance in a fly which had brought him from Gildenham to Battersby,
a distance of fourteen miles. There was Lesueur, the cook, on the
box with the driver, and as many hampers as the fly could carry were
disposed upon the roof and elsewhere. Next day the John Pontifexes had
to come, and Eliza and Maria, as well as Alethea, who, by her own
special request, was godmother to the boy, for Mr. Pontifex had
decided that they were to form a happy family party; so come they
all must, and be happy they all must, or it would be the worse for
them. Next day the author of all this hubbub was actually
christened. Theobald had proposed to call him George after old Mr.
Pontifex, but strange to say, Mr. Pontifex overruled him in favour
of the name Ernest. The word "earnest" was just beginning to come into
fashion, and he thought the possession of such a name might, like
his having been baptised in water from the Jordan, have a permanent
effect upon the boy's character, and influence him for good during the
more critical periods of his life.

  I was asked to be his second godfather, and was rejoiced to have
an opportunity of meeting Alethea, whom I had not seen for some few
years, but with whom I had been in constant correspondence. She and
I had always been friends from the time we had played together as
children onwards. When the death of her grandfather and grandmother
severed her connection with Paleham my intimacy with the Pontifexes
was kept up by my having been at school and college with Theobald, and
each time I saw her I admired her more and more as the best,
kindest, wittiest, most lovable, and, to my mind, handsomest woman
whom I had ever seen. None of the Pontifexes were deficient in good
looks; they were a well-grown, shapely family enough, but Alethea
was the flower of the flock even as regards good looks, while in
respect of all other qualities that make a woman lovable, it seemed as
though the stock that had been intended for the three daughters, and
would have been about sufficient for them, had all been allotted to
herself, her sisters getting none, and she all.

  It is impossible for me to explain how it was that she and I never
married. We two knew exceedingly well, and that must suffice for the
reader. There was the most perfect sympathy and understanding
between us; we knew that neither of us would marry anyone else. I
had asked her to marry me a dozen times over; having said this much
I will say no more upon a point which is in no way necessary for the
development of my story. For the last few years there had been
difficulties in the way of our meeting, and I had not seen her,
though, as I have said, keeping up a close correspondence with her.
Naturally I was overjoyed to meet her again; she was now just thirty
years old, but I thought she looked handsomer than ever.

  Her father, of course, was the lion of the party, but seeing that we
were all meek and quite willing to be eaten, he roared to us rather
than at us. It was a fine sight to see him tucking his napkin under
his rosy old gills, and letting it fall over his capacious waistcoat
wwle the high light from the chandelier danced about the bump of
benevolence on his bald old head like a star of Bethlehem.

  The soup was real turtle; the old gentleman was evidently well
pleased and he was beginning to come out. Gelstrap stood behind his
master's chair. I sat next Mrs. Theobald on her left hand, and was
thus just opposite her father-in-law, whom I had every opportunity
of observing.

  During the first ten minutes or so, which were taken up with the
soup and the bringing in of the fish, I should probably have
thought, if I had not long since made up my mind about him, what a
fine old man he was and how proud his children should be of him; but
suddenly as he was helping himself to lobster sauce, he flushed
crimson, a look of extreme vexation suffused his face, and he darted
two furtive but fiery glances to the two ends of the table, one for
Theobald and one for Christina. They, poor simple souls, of course saw
that something was exceedingly wrong, and so did I, but I couldn't
guess what it was till I heard the old man hiss in Christina's ear:
"It was not made with a hen lobster. What's the use," he continued,
"of my calling the boy Ernest, and getting him christened in water
from the Jordan, if his own father does not know a cock from a hen
lobster?"

  This cut me too, for I felt that till that moment I had not so
much as known that there were cocks and hens among lobsters, but had
vaguely thought that in the matter of matrimony they were even as
the angels in heaven, and grew up almost spontaneously from rocks
and seaweed.

  Before the next course was over Mr. Pontifex had recovered his
temper, and from that time to the end of the evening he was at his
best. He told us all about the water from the Jordan; how it had
been brought by Dr. Jones along with some stone jars of water from the
Rhine, the Rhone, the Elbe, and the Danube, and what trouble he had
had with them at the Custom Houses, and how the intention had been
to make punch with waters from all the greatest rivers in Europe;
and how he, Mr. Pontifex, had saved the Jordan water from going into
the bowl, etc., etc. "No, no, no," he continued, "it wouldn't have
done at all, you know; very profane idea; so we each took a pint
bottle of it home with us, and the punch was much better without it. I
had a narrow escape with mine, though, the other day; I fell over a
hamper in the cellar, when I was getting it up to bring to
Battersby, and if I had not taken the greatest care the bottle would
certainly have been broken, but I saved it." And Gelstrap was standing
behind his chair all the time.

  Nothing more happened to ruffle Mr. Pontifex, so we had a delightful
evening, which has often recurred to me while watching the
after-career of my godson.

  I called a day or two afterwards and found Mr. Pontifex still at
Battersby, laid up with one of those attacks of liver and depression
to which he was becoming more and more subject. I stayed to
luncheon. The old gentleman was cross and very difficult; he could eat
nothing- had no appetite at all. Christina tried to coax him with a
little bit of the fleshy part of a mutton chop. "How in the name of
reason can I be asked to eat a mutton chop?" he exclaimed angrily;
"you forget, my dear Christina, that you have to deal with a stomach
that is totally disorganised," and he pushed the plate from him,
pouting and frowning like a naughty old child. Writing as I do by
the light of a later knowledge, I suppose I should have seen nothing
in this but the world's growing pains, the disturbance inseparable
from transition in human things. I suppose in reality not a leaf
goes yellow in autumn care about its sap and making the parent tree
very uncomfortable by long growling and  grumbling- but surely
nature might find some less irritating way of carrying on business
if she would give her mind to it. Why should the generations overlap
one another at all? Why cannot we be buried as eggs in neat little
cells with ten or twenty thousand pounds each wrapped round us in Bank
of England notes, and wake up, as the sphex wasp does, to find that
its papa and mamma have not only left ample provision at its elbow,
but have been eaten by sparrows some weeks before it began to live
consciously on its own account?

  About a year and a half afterwards the tables were turned on
Battersby- for Mrs. John Pontifex was safely delivered of a boy. A
year or so later still, George Pontifex was himself struck down
suddenly by a fit of paralysis, much as his mother had been, but he
did not see the years of his mother. When his will was opened, it
was found that an original bequest of L20,000 to Theobald himself
(over and above the sum that had been settled upon him and Christina
at the time of his marriage) had been cut down to L17,500 when Mr.
Pontifex left "something" to Ernest. The "something" proved to be
L2500, which was to accumulate in the hands of trustees. The rest of
the property went to John Pontifex, except that each of the
daughters was left with about L15,000 over and above L5000 a piece
which they inherited from their mother.

  Theobald's father then had told him the truth but not the whole
truth. Nevertheless, what right had Theobald to complain? Certainly it
was rather hard to make him think that he and his were to be
gainers, and get the honour and glory of the bequest, when all the
time the money was virtually being taken out of Theobald's own pocket.
On the other hand the father doubtless argued that he had never told
Theobald he was to have anything at all; he had a full right to do
what he liked with his own money; if Theobald chose to indulge in
unwarrantable expectations that was no affair of his; as it was he was
providing for him liberally; and if he did take L2500 of Theobald's
share he was still leaving it to Theobald's son, which, of course, was
much the same thing in the end.

  No one can deny that the testator had strict right upon his side;
nevertheless the reader will agree with me that Theobald and Christina
might not have considered the christening dinner so great a success if
all the facts had been before them. Mr. Pontifex had during his own
lifetime set up a monument in Elmhurst Church to the memory of his
wife (a slab with urns and cherubs like illegitimate children of
King George the Fourth, and all the rest of it), and had left space
for his own epitaph underneath that of his wife. I do not know whether
it was written by one of his children, or whether they got some friend
to write it for them. I do not believe that any satire was intended. I
believe that it was the intention to convey that nothing short of
the Day of could give anyone an idea how good a man Mr. Pontifex had
been, but at first I found it hard to think that it was free from
guile.

  The epitaph begins by giving dates of birth and death; then sets out
that the deceased was for many years head of the firm of Fairlie and
Pontifex, and also resident in the parish of Elmhurst. There is not
a syllable of either praise or dispraise. The last lines run as
follows:

              HE NOW LIES AWAITING A JOYFUL RESURRECTION

                           AT THE LAST DAY

                      WHAT MANNER OF MAN HE WAS

                       THAT DAY WILL DISCOVER.

  CHAPTER XIX

  THIS much, however, we may say in the meantime, that having lived to
be nearly seventy-three years old and died rich he must have been in
very fair harmony with his surroundings. I have heard it said
sometimes that such and such a person's life was a lie: but no man's
life can be a very bad lie; as long as it continues at all it is at
worst nine-tenths of

  Mr. Pontifex's life not only continued a long time, but was
prosperous right up to the end. Is not this enough? Being in this
world is it not our most obvious business to make the most of it- to
observe what things do bona fide tend to long life and comfort, and to
act accordingly? All animals, except man, know that the principal
business of life is to enjoy it- and they do enjoy it as much as man
and other circumstances will allow. He has spent his life best who has
enjoyed it most; God will take care that we do not enjoy it any more
than is good for us. If Mr. Pontifex is to be blamed it is for not
having eaten and drunk less and thus suffered less from his liver, and
lived perhaps a year or two longer.

  Goodness is naught unless it tends towards old age and sufficiency
of means. I speak broadly and exceptis excipiendis. So the psalmist
says, "The righteous shall not lack anything that is good." Either
this is mere poetical licence, or it follows that he who lacks
anything that is good is not righteous; there is a presumption also
that he who has passed a long life without lacking anything that is
good has himself also been good enough for practical purposes.

  Mr. Pontifex never lacked anything he much cared about. True, he
might have been happier than he was if he had cared about things which
he did not care for, but the gist of this lies in the "if he had
cared." We have all sinned and come short of the glory of making
ourselves as comfortable as we easily might have done, but in this
particular case Mr. Pontifex did not care, and would not have gained
much by getting what he did not want.

  There is no casting of swine's meat before men worse than that which
would flatter virtue as though her true origin were not good enough
for her, but she must have a lineage, deduced as it were by
spiritual heralds, from some stock with which she has nothing to do.
Virtue's true lineage is older and more respectable than any that
can be invented for her. She springs from man's experience
concerning his own well-being- and this, though not infallible, is
still the least fallible thing we have. A system which cannot stand
without a better foundation than this must have something so
unstable within itself that it will topple over on whatever pedestal
we place it.

  The world has long ago settled that morality and virtue are what
bring men peace at the last. "Be virtuous," says the copy-book, "and
you will be happy." Surely if a reputed virtue fails often in this
respect it is only an insidious form of vice, and if a reputed vice
brings no very serious mischief on a man's later years it is not so
bad a vice as it is said to be. Unfortunately, though we are all of
a mind about the main opinion that virtue is what tends to
happiness, and vice what ends in sorrow, we are not so unanimous about
details- that is to say as to whether any given course, such, we
will say, as smoking, has a tendency to happiness or the reverse.

  I submit it as the result of my own poor observation, that a good
deal of unkindness and selfishness on the part of parents towards
children is not generally followed by ill consequences to the
parents themselves. They may cast a gloom over their children's
lives for many years without having to suffer anything that will
hurt them. I should say, then, that it shows no great moral
obliquity on the part of parents if within certain limits they make
their children's lives a burden to them.

  Granted that Mr. Pontifex's was not a very exalted character,
ordinary men are not required to have very exalted characters. It is
enough if we are of the same moral and mental stature as the "main" or
"mean" part of men- that is to say as the average.

  It is involved in the very essence of things that rich men who die
old shall have been mean. The greatest and wisest of mankind will be
almost always found to be the meanest- the ones who have kept the
"mean" best between excess either of virtue or vice. They hardly
ever have been prosperous if they have not done this, and, considering
how many miscarry altogether, it is no small feather in a man's cap if
he has been no worse than his neighbours. Homer tells us about someone
who made it his business aien arhoteuein kai upeirhochon emmenai allon
-- always to excel and to stand higher than other people. What
uncompanionable, disagreeable person he must have been! Homer's heroes
generally came to a bad end, and I doubt not that this gentleman,
whoever he was, did so sooner or later.

  A very high standard, again, involves the possession of rare
virtues, and rare virtues are like rare plants or animals, things that
have not been able to hold their own in the world. A virtue to be
serviceable must, like gold, be alloyed with some commoner but more
durable metal.

  People divide off vice and virtue as though they were two things,
neither of which had with it anything of the other. This is not so.
There is no useful virtue which has not some alloy of vice, and hardly
any vice, if any, which carries not with it a little dash of virtue;
virtue and vice are like life and death, or mind and matter -things
which cannot exist without being qualified by their opposite. The most
absolute life contains death, and the corpse is still in many respects
living; so also it has been said, "If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to
mark what is done amiss," which shows that even the highest ideal we
can conceive will yet admit so much compromise with vice as shall
countenance the poor abuses of the time, if they are not too
outrageous. That vice pays homage to virtue is notorious; we call this
hypocrisy; there should be a word found for the homage which virtue
not unfrequently pays, or at any rate would be wise in paying, to
vice.

  I grant that some men will find happiness in having what we all feel
to be a higher moral standard than others. If they go in for this,
however, they must be content with virtue as her own reward, and not
grumble if they find lofty Quixotism an expensive luxury, whose
rewards belong to a kingdom that is not of this world. They must not
wonder if they cut a poor figure in trying to make the most of both
worlds. Disbelieve as we may the details of the accounts which
record the growth of the Christian religion, yet a great part of
Christian teaching will remain as true as though we accepted the
details. We cannot serve God and Mammon; strait is the way and
narrow is the gate which leads to what those who live by faith hold to
be best worth having, and there is no way of saying this better than
the Bible has done. It is well there should be some who think thus, as
it is well there should be speculators in commerce, who will often
burn their fingers- but it is not well that the majority should
leave the "mean" and beaten path.

  For most men, and most circumstances, pleasure- tangible material
prosperity in this world- is the safest test of virtue. Progress has
ever been through the pleasures rather than through the extreme
sharp virtues, and the most virtuous have leaned to excess rather than
to asceticism. To use a commercial metaphor, competition is so keen,
and the margin of profits has been cut down so closely that virtue
cannot afford to throw any  bona fide chance away, and must base her
action rather on the actual moneying out of conduct than on a
flattering prospectus. She will not therefore neglect- as some do
who are prudent and economical enough in other matters- the
important factor of our chance of escaping detection, or at any rate
of our dying first. A reasonable virtue will give this chance its
due value, neither more nor less.

  Pleasure, after all, is a safer guide than either right or duty. For
hard as it is to know what gives us pleasure, right and duty are often
still harder to distinguish and, if we go wrong with them, will lead
us into just as sorry a plight as a mistaken opinion concerning
pleasure. When men burn their fingers through following after pleasure
they find out their mistake and get to see where they have gone
wrong more easily than when they have burnt them through following
after a fancied duty, or a fancied idea concerning right virtue. The
devil, in fact, when he dresses himself in angel's clothes, can only
be detected by experts of exceptional skill, and so often does he
adopt this disguise that it is hardly safe to be seen talking to an
angel at all and prudent people will follow after pleasure as a more
homely but more respectable and on the whole much more trustworthy
guide.

  Returning to Mr. Pontifex, over and above his having lived long
and prosperously, he left numerous offspring, to all of whom he
communicated not only his physical and mental characteristics, with no
more than the usual amount of modification, but also no small share of
characteristics which are less easily transmitted- I mean his
pecuniary characteristics. It may be said that he acquired these by
sitting still and letting money run, as it were, right up against him,
but against how many does not money run who do not take it when it
does, or who, even if they hold it for a little while, cannot so
incorporate it with themselves that it shall descend through them to
their offspring? Mr. Pontifex did this. He kept what he may be said to
have made, and money is like a reputation for ability- more easily
made than kept.

  Take him, then, for all in all, I am not inclined to be so severe
upon him as my father was. Judge him according to any very lofty
standard, and he is nowhere. Judge him according to a fair average
standard, and there is not much fault to be found with him. I have
said what I have said in the foregoing chapter once for all, and shall
not break my thread to repeat it. It should go without saying in
modification of the verdict which the reader may be inclined to pass
too hastily, not only upon Mr. George Pontifex, but also upon Theobald
and Christina. And now I will continue my story.

  CHAPTER XX

  THE birth of his son opened Theobald's eyes to a good deal which
he had but faintly realised hitherto. He had had no idea how great a
nuisance a baby was. Babies come into the world so suddenly at the
end, and upset everything so terribly when they do come: why cannot
they steal in upon us with less of a shock to the domestic system? His
wife, too, did not recover rapidly from her confinement; she
remained an invalid for months; here was another nuisance and an
expensive one, which interfered with the amount which Theobald liked
to put by out of his income against, as he said, a rainy day, or to
make provision for his family if he should have one. Now he was
getting a family, so that it became all the more necessary to put
money by, and here was the baby hindering him. Theorists may say
what they like about a man's children being a continuation of his
own identity, but it will generally be found that those who talk in
this way have no children of their own. Practical family men know
better.

  About twelve months after the birth of Ernest there came a second,
also a boy, who was christened Joseph, and in less than twelve
months afterwards, a girl, to whom was given the name of Charlotte.
A few months before this girl was born Christina paid a visit to the
John Pontifexes in London, and, knowing her condition, passed a good
deal of time at the Royal Academy exhibition looking at the types of
female beauty portrayed by the Academicians, for she had made up her
mind that the child this time was to be a girl. Alethea warned her not
to do this, but she persisted, and certainly the child turned out
plain, but whether the pictures caused this or no, I cannot say.

  Theobald had never liked children. He had always got away from
them as soon as he could, and so had they from him; oh, why, he was
inclined to ask himself, could not children be born into the world
grown-up? If Christina could have given birth to a few full-grown
clergymen in priest's orders- of moderate views, but inclining
rather to Evangelicism, with comfortable livings and in all respects
facsimiles of Theobald himself- why there might have been more sense
in it; or if people could buy ready-made children at a shop of
whatever age and sex they liked, instead of always having to make them
at home and to begin at the beginning with them- that might do better,
but as it was he did not like it. He felt as he had felt when he had
been required to come and be married to Christina- that he had been
going on for a long time quite nicely, and would much rather
continue things on their present footing. In the matter of getting
married he had been obliged to pretend he liked it; but times were
changed, and if he did not like a thing now, he could find a hundred
unexceptionable ways of making his dislike apparent.

  It might have been better if Theobald in his younger days had kicked
more against his father: the fact that he had not done so encouraged
him to expect the most implicit obedience from his own children. He
could trust himself, he said (and so did Christina), to be more
lenient than perhaps his father had been to himself; his danger, he
said (and so again did Christina), would be rather in the direction of
being too indulgent; he must be on his guard against this, for no duty
could be more important than that of teaching a child to obey its
parents in all things.

  He had read not long since of an Eastern traveller, who, while
exploring somewhere in the more remote parts of Arabia and Asia Minor,
had come upon a remarkably hardy, sober, industrious little
Christian community- all of them in the best of health- who had turned
out to be the actual living descendants of Jonadab, the son of Rechab;
and two men in European costume, indeed, but speaking English with a
broken accent, and by their colour evidently Oriental, had come
begging to Battersby soon afterwards, and represented themselves as
belonging to this people; they had said they were collecting funds
to promote the conversion of their fellow tribesmen to the English
branch of the Christian religion. True, they turned out to be
impostors, for when he gave them a pound and Christina five
shillings from her private purse, they went and got drunk with it in
the next village but one to Battersby; still, this did not
invalidate the story of the Eastern traveller. Then there were the
Romans- whose greatness was probably due to the wholesome authority
exercised by the head of a family over all its members. Some Romans
had even killed their children; this was going too far, but then the
Romans were not Christians, and knew no better.

  The practical outcome of the foregoing was a conviction in
Theobald's mind, and if in his, then in Christina's, that it was their
duty to begin training up their children in the way they should go,
even from their earliest infancy. The first signs of self-will must be
carefully looked for, and plucked up by the roots at once before
they had time to grow. Theobald picked up this numb serpent of
metaphor and cherished it in his bosom.

  Before Ernest could well crawl he was taught to kneel; before he
could well speak he was taught to lisp the Lord's Prayer, and the
general confession. How was it possible that these things could be
taught too early? If his attention flagged or his memory failed him,
here was an ill weed which would grow apace, unless it were plucked
out immediately, and the only way to pluck it out was to whip him,
or shut him up in a cupboard, or dock him of some of the small
pleasures of childhood. Before he was three years old he could read
and, after a fashion, write. Before he was four he was learning Latin,
and could do rule of three sums.

  As for the child himself, he was naturally of an even temper; he
doted upon his nurse, on kittens and puppies, and on all things that
would do him the kindness of allowing him to be fond of them. He was
fond of his mother, too, but as regards his father, he has told me
in later life he could remember no feeling but fear and shrinking.
Christina did not remonstrate with Theobald concerning the severity of
the tasks imposed upon their boy, nor yet as to the continual
whippings that were found necessary at lesson times. Indeed, when
during any absence of Theobald's the lessons were entrusted to her,
she found to her sorrow that it was the only thing to do, and she
did it no less effectually than Theobald himself; nevertheless she was
fond of her boy, which Theobald never was, and it was long before
she could destroy all affection for herself in the mind of her
first-born. But she persevered.

  CHAPTER XXI

  STRANGE! for she believed she doted upon him, and certainly she
loved him better than either of her other children. Her version of the
matter was that there had never yet been two parents so self-denying
and devoted to the highest welfare of their children as Theobald and
herself. For Ernest, a very great future- she was certain of it- was
in store. This made severity all the more necessary, so that from
the first he might have been kept pure from every taint of evil. She
could not allow herself the scope for castle building which, we
read, was indulged in by every Jewish matron before the appearance
of the Messiah, for the Messiah had now come, but there was to be a
millennium shortly, certainly not later than 1866 when Ernest would be
about the right age for it, and a modern Elias would be wanted to
herald its approach. Heaven would bear her witness that she had
never shrunk from the idea of martyrdom for herself and Theobald,
nor would she avoid it for her boy, if his life was required of her in
her Redeemer's service. Oh, no! If God told her to offer up her
first-born, as He had told Abraham, she would take him up to Pigbury
Beacon and plunge the- no, that she could not do, but it would be
unnecessary- someone else might do that. It was not for nothing that
Ernest had been baptised in water from the Jordan. It had not been her
doing, nor yet Theobald's. They had not sought it. When water from the
sacred stream was wanted for a sacred infant, the channel had been
found through which it was to flow from far Palestine over land and
sea to the door of the house where the child was lying. Why, it was
a miracle! It was! It was! She saw it all now. The Jordan had left its
bed and flowed into her own house. It was idle to say that this was
not a miracle. No miracle was effected without means of some kind; the
difference between the faithful and the unbeliever consisted in the
very fact that the former could see a miracle where the latter could
not. The Jews could see no miracle even in the raising of Lazarus
and the feeding of the five thousand. The John Pontifexes would see no
miracle in this matter of the water from the Jordan. The essence of
a miracle lay not in the fact that means had been dispensed with,
but in the adoption of means to a great end that had not been
available without interference; and no one would suppose that Dr.
Jones would have brought the water unless he had been directed. She
would tell this to Theobald, and get him to see it in the ... and
yet perhaps it would be better not. The insight of women upon
matters of this sort was deeper and more unerring than that of men. It
was a woman and not a man who had been filled most completely with the
whole fulness of the Deity. But why had they not treasured up the
water after it was used? It ought never, never to have been thrown
away, but it had been. Perhaps, however, this was for the best too-
they might have been tempted to set too much store by it, and it might
have become a source of spiritual danger to them- perhaps even of
spiritual pride, the very sin of all others which she most abhorred.
As for the channel through which the Jordan had flowed to Battersby,
that mattered not more than the earth through which the river ran in
Palestine itself. Dr. Jones was certainly worldly- very worldly; so,
she regretted to feel, had been her father-in-law, though in a less
degree; spiritual, at heart, doubtless, and becoming more and more
spiritual continually as he grew older, still he was tainted with
the world, till a very few hours, probably, before his death,
whereas she and Theobald had given up all for Christ's sake. They were
not worldly. At least Theobald was not. She had been, but she was sure
she had grown in grace since she left off eating things strangled
and blood -this was as the washing in Jordan as against Abana and
Pharpar, rivers of Damascus. Her boy should never touch a strangled
fowl nor a black pudding- that, at any rate, she could see to. He
should have a coral from the neighbourhood of Joppa- there were
coral insects on those coasts, so that the thing could easily be
done with a little energy; she would write to Dr. Jones about it, etc.
And so on for hours together day after day for years. Truly, Mrs.
Theobald loved her child according to her lights with an exceeding
great fondness, but the dreams she had dreamed in sleep were sober
realities in comparison with those she indulged in while awake.

  When Ernest was in his second year, Theobald, as I have already
said, began to teach him to read. He began to whip him two days
after he had begun to teach him.

  "It was painful," as he said to Christina, but it was the only thing
to do and it was done. The child was puny, white and sickly, so they
sent continually for the doctor who dosed him with calomel and James's
powder. All was done in love, anxiety, timidity, stupidity, and
impatience. They were stupid in little things; and he that is stupid
in little will be stupid also in much.

  Presently old Mr. Pontifex died, and then came the revelation of the
little alteration he had made in his will simultaneously with his
bequest to Ernest. It was rather hard to bear, especially as there was
no way of conveying a bit of their minds to the testator now that he
could no longer hurt them. As regards the boy himself anyone must
see that the bequest would be an unmitigated misfortune to him. To
leave him a small independence was perhaps the greatest injury which
one could inflict upon a young man. It would cripple his energies, and
deaden his desire for active employment. Many a youth was led into
evil courses by the knowledge that on arriving at majority he would
come into a few thousands. They might surely have been trusted to have
their boy's interests at heart, and must be better judges of those
interests than he, at twenty-one, could be expected to be: besides
if the son of Rechab's father- or perhaps it might be simpler under
the circumstances to say Rechab at once- if Rechab, then, had left
handsome legacies to his grandchildren- why, Jonadab might not have
found those children so easy to deal with, etc. "My dear," said
Theobald, after having discussed the matter with Christina for the
twentieth time, "my dear, the only thing to guide and console us under
misfortunes of this kind is to take refuge in practical work. I will
go and pay a visit to Mrs. Thompson."

  On those days Mrs. Thompson would be told that her sins were all
washed white, etc., a little sooner and a little more peremptorily
than on others.

  CHAPTER XXII

  I USED to stay at Battersby for a day or two sometimes, while my
godson and his brother and sister were children. I hardly know why I
went, for Theobald and I grew more and more apart, but one gets into
grooves sometimes, and the supposed friendship between myself and
the Pontifexes continued to exist, though it was now little more
than rudimentary. My godson pleased me more than either of the other
children, but he had not much of the buoyancy of childhood, and was
more like a puny, sallow little old man than I liked. The young
people, however, were very ready to be friendly.

  I remember Ernest and his brother hovered around me on the first day
of one of these visits with their hands full of fading flowers,
which they at length proffered me. On this I did what I suppose was
expected: I inquired if there was a shop near where they could buy
sweeties. They said there was, so I felt in my pockets, but only
succeeded in finding twopence halfpenny in small money. This I gave
them, and the youngsters, aged four and three, toddled off alone.
Ere long they returned, and Ernest said, "We can't get sweeties for
all this money" (I felt rebuked, but no rebuke was intended); "we
can get sweeties for this" (showing a penny), "and for this"
(showing another penny), "but we cannot get them for all this," and he
added the halfpenny to the two pence. I suppose they had wanted a
twopenny cake, or something like that. I was amused, and left them
to solve the difficulty their own way, being anxious to see what
they would do.

  Presently Ernest said, "May we give you back this" (showing the
halfpenny) "and not give you back this and this?" (showing the pence).
I assented, and they gave a sigh of relief and went on their way
rejoicing. A few more presents of pence and small toys completed the
conquest and they began to take me into their confidence.

  They told me a good deal which I am afraid I ought not to have
listened to. They said that if grandpapa had lived longer he would
most likely have been made a Lord, and that then papa would have
been the Honourable and Reverend, but that grandpapa was now in heaven
singing beautiful hymns with Grandmamma Allaby to Jesus Christ who was
very fond of them; and that when Ernest was ill, his mamma had told
him he need not be afraid of dying, for he would go straight to
heaven, if he would only be sorry for having done his lessons so badly
and vexed his dear papa, and if he would promise never, never to vex
him any more; and that when he got to heaven Grandpapa and
Grandmamma Allaby would meet him, and he would be always with them,
and they would be very good to him and teach him to sing ever such
beautiful hymns, more beautiful by far than those which he was now
so fond of, etc., etc.; but he did not wish to die, and was glad
when he got better, for there were no kittens in heaven, and he did
not think there were cowslips to make cowslip tea with.

  Their mother was plainly disappointed in them. "My children are none
of them geniuses, Mr. Overton," she said to me at breakfast one
morning. "They have fair abilities, and, thanks to Theobald's tuition,
they are forward for their years, but they have nothing like genius:
genius is a thing apart from this, is it not?"

  Of course I said it was "a thing quite apart from this," but if my
thoughts had been laid bare, they would have appeared as "Give me my
coffee immediately, ma'am, and don't talk nonsense." I have no idea
what genius is, but so far as I can form any conception about it, I
should say it was a stupid word which cannot be too soon abandoned
to scientific and literary claqueurs.

  I do not know exactly what Christina expected, but I should
imagine it was something like this: "My children ought to be all
geniuses, because they are mine and Theobald's, and it is naughty of
them not to be; but, of course, they cannot be so good and clever as
Theobald and I were, and if they show signs of being so it will be
naughty of them. Happily, however, they are not this, and yet it is
very dreadful that they are not. As for genius- hoity-toity, indeed
-why, a genius should turn intellectual somersaults as soon as it is
born, and none of my children have yet been able to get into the
newspapers. I will not have children of mine give themselves  airs -it
is enough for them that Theobald and I should do so."

  She did not know, poor woman, that the true greatness wears an
invisible cloak, under cover of which it goes in and out among men
without being suspected; if its cloak does not conceal it from
itself always, and from all others for many years, its greatness
will ere long shrink to very ordinary dimensions. What, then, it may
be asked, is the good of being great? The answer is that you may
understand greatness better in others, whether alive or dead, and
choose better company from these and enjoy and understand that company
better when you have chosen it- also that you may be able to give
pleasure to the best people and live in the lives of those who are yet
unborn. This, one would think, was substantial gain enough for
greatness without its wanting to ride rough-shod over us, even when
disguised as humility.

  I was there on a Sunday, and observed the rigour with which the
young people were taught to observe the Sabbath; they might not cut
out things, nor use their paintbox on a Sunday, and this they
thought rather hard, because their cousins the John Pontifexes might
do these things. Their cousins might play with their toy train on
Sunday, but though they had promised that they would run none but
Sunday trains, all traffic had been prohibited. One treat only was
allowed them- on Sunday evenings they might choose their own hymns.

  In the course of the evening they came into the drawing-room, and,
as an especial treat, were to sing some of their hymns to me,
instead of saying them, so that I might hear how nicely they sang.
Ernest was to choose the first hymn, and he chose one about some
people who were to come to the sunset tree. I am no botanist, and do
not know what kind of tree a sunset tree is, but the words began,
"Come, come, come; come to the sunset tree, for the day is past and
gone." The tune was rather pretty and had taken Ernest's fancy, for he
was unusually fond of music and had a sweet little child's voice which
he liked using.

  He was, however, very late in being able to sound a hard "c" or "k,"
and, instead of saying "Come," he said "Tum, tum, tum."

  "Ernest," said Theobald, from the armchair in front of the fire,
where he was sitting with his hands folded before him, "don't you
think it would be very nice if you were to say 'come' like other
people, instead of 'tum'?"

  "I do say tum," replied Ernest, meaning that he had said "come."

  Theobald was always in a bad temper on Sunday evening. Whether it is
that they are as much bored with the day as their neighbours, or
whether they are tired, or whatever the cause may be, clergymen are
seldom at their best on Sunday evening; I had already seen signs
that evening that my host was cross, and was a little nervous at
hearing Ernest say so promptly, "I do say tum," when his papa had said
he did not say it as he should.

  Theobald noticed the fact that he was being contradicted in a
moment. He got up from his armchair and went to the piano.

  "No, Ernest, you don't," he said, "you say nothing of the kind,
you say 'tum,' not 'come.' Now say 'come' after me, as I do."

  "Tum," said Ernest, at once; "is that better?" I have no doubt he
thought it was, but it was not.

  "Now, Ernest, you are not taking pains: you are not trying as you
ought to do. It is high time you learned to say 'come'; why, Joey
can say 'come,' can't you, Joey?"

  "Yeth, I can," replied Joey, and he said something which was not far
off "come."

  "There, Ernest, do you hear that? There's no difficulty about it,
nor shadow of difficulty. Now, take your own time, think about it, and
say 'come' after me."

  The boy remained silent a few seconds and then said "tum" again.

  I laughed, but Theobald turned to me impatiently and said, "Please
do not laugh, Overton; it will make the boy think it does not
matter, and it matters a great deal"; then turning to Ernest he
said, "Now, Ernest, I will give you one more chance, and if you
don't say 'come,' I shall know that you are self-willed and naughty."

  He looked very angry, and a shade came over Ernest's face, like that
which comes upon the face of a puppy when it is being scolded
without understanding why. The child saw well what was coming now, was
frightened, and, of course, said "tum" once more.

  "Very well, Ernest," said his father, catching him angrily by the
shoulder. "I have done my best to save you, but if you will have it
so, you will," and he lugged the little wretch, crying by
anticipation, out of the room. A few minutes more and we could hear
screams coming from the dining-room, across the hall which separated
the drawing-room from the dining-room, and knew that poor Ernest was
being beaten.

  "I have sent him up to bed," said Theobald, as he returned to in the
drawing-room, "and now, Christina, I think we will have the servants
in to prayers," and he rang the bell for them, red-handed as he was.

  CHAPTER XXIII

  THE manservant William came and set the chairs for the maids, and
presently they filed in. First Christina's maid, then the cook, then
the housemaid, then William, and then the coachman. I sat opposite
them, and watched their faces as Theobald read a chapter from the
Bible. They were nice people, but more absolute vacancy I never saw
upon the countenances of human beings.

  Theobald began by reading a few verses from the Old Testament,
according to some system of his own. On this occasion the passage came
from the fifteenth chapter of Numbers: it had no particular bearing
that I could see upon anything which was going on just then, but the
spirit which breathed throughout the whole seemed to me to be so
like that of Theobald himself, that I could understand better after
hearing it, how he came to think as he thought, and act as he acted.

  The verses are as follows--

  "But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in
the land or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul
shall be cut off from among his people.

  "Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken
His commandments, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity
shall be upon him.

  "And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness they
found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day.

  "And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and
Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

  "And they put him in ward because it was not declared what should be
done to him.

  "And the Lord said unto Moses, the man shall be surely put to death;
all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

  "And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned
him with stones, he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

  "And the Lord spake unto Moses,

  "Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them
fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations,
and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue.

  "And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it and
remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them, and that ye
seek not after your own heart and your own eyes.

  "That ye may remember and do all my commandments and be holy unto
your God.

  "I am the Lord your God which brought you out of the land of
Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God."

  My thoughts wandered while Theobald was reading the above, and
reverted to a little matter which I had observed in the course of
the afternoon.

  It happened that some years previously a swarm of bees had taken
up their abode in the roof of the house under the slates, and had
multiplied so that the drawing-room was a good deal frequented by
these bees during the summer, when the windows were open. The
drawing-room paper was of a pattern which consisted of bunches of
red and white roses, and I saw several bees at different times fly
up to these bunches and try them, under the impression that they
were real flowers; having tried one bunch, they tried the next, and
the next, and the next, till they reached the one that was nearest the
ceiling, then they went down bunch by bunch as they had ascended, till
they were stopped by the back of the sofa; on this they ascended bunch
by bunch to the ceiling again; and so on, and so on till I was tired
of watching them. As I thought of the family prayers being repeated
night and morning, week by week, month by month, and year by year, I
could not help thinking how like it was to the way in which the bees
went up the wall and down the wall, bunch by bunch, without ever
suspecting that so many of the associated ideas could be present,
and yet the main idea be wanting hopelessly, and for ever.

  When Theobald had finished reading we all knelt down and the Carlo
Dolci and the Sassoferrato looked down upon a sea of upturned backs,
as we buried our faces in our chairs. I noted that Theobald prayed
that we might be made "truly honest and conscientious" in all our
dealings, and smiled at the introduction of the "truly." Then my
thoughts ran back to the bees and I reflected that after all it was
perhaps as well, at any rate for Theobald, that our prayers were
seldom marked by any very encouraging degree of response, for if I had
thought there was the slightest chance of my being heard I should have
prayed that someone might ere long treat him as he had treated Ernest.

  Then my thoughts wandered on to those calculations which people make
about waste of time and how much one can get done if one gives ten
minutes a day to it, and I was thinking what improper suggestion I
could make in connection with this and the time spent on family
prayers which should at the same time be tolerable, when I heard
Theobald beginning, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," and in a few
seconds the ceremony was over, and the servants filed out again as
they had filed in.

 As soon as they had left the drawing-room Christina, who was a little
ashamed of the transaction to which I had been a witness,
imprudently returned to it, and began to justify it, saying that it
cut her to the heart, and that it cut Theobald to the heart and a good
deal more, but that "it was the only thing to be done."

  I received this as coldly as I decently could, and by my silence
during the rest of the evening showed that I disapproved of what I had
seen.

  Next day I was to go back to London, but before I went I said I
should like to take some new-laid eggs back with me, so Theobald
took me to the house of a labourer in the village who lived a
stone's throw from the Rectory as being likely to supply me with them.
Ernest, for some reason or other, was allowed to come too. I think the
hens had begun to sit, but at any rate eggs were scarce, and the
cottager's wife could not find me more than seven or eight, which we
proceeded to wrap up in separate pieces of paper so that I might
take them to town safely.

  This operation was carried on upon the ground in front of the
cottage door, and while we were in the midst of it the cottager's
little boy, a lad much about Ernest's age, trod upon one of the eggs
that was wrapped up in paper and broke it.

  "There now, Jack," said his mother, "see what you've done, you've
broken a nice egg and cost me a penny- here, Emma," she added, calling
her daughter, "take the child away, there's a dear."

  Emma came at once, and walked off with the youngster, taking him out
of harm's way.

  "Papa," said Ernest, after we had left the house, "why didn't Mrs.
Heaton whip Jack when he trod on the egg?"

  I was spiteful enough to give Theobald a grim smile which said as
plainly as words could have done that I thought Ernest had hit him
rather hard.

  Theobald coloured and looked angry. "I daresay," he said quickly,
"that his mother will whip him now that we are gone."

  I was not going to have this and said I did not believe it, and so
the matter dropped, but Theobald did not forget it, and my visits to
Battersby were henceforth less frequent.

  On our return to the house we found the postman had arrived and
had brought a letter appointing Theobald to a rural deanery which
had lately fallen vacant by the death of one of the neighbouring
clergy who had held the office for many years. The bishop wrote to
Theobald most warmly, and assured him that he valued him as among
the most hard-working and devoted of his parochial clergy.
Christina, of course, was delighted, and gave me to understand that it
was only an instalment of the much higher dignities which were in
store for Theobald when his merits were more widely known.

  I did not then foresee how closely my godson's life and mine were in
after-years to be bound up together; if I had, I should doubtless have
looked upon him with different eyes and noted much to which I paid
no attention at the time. As it was, I was glad to get away from
him, for I could do nothing for him, or chose to say that I could not,
and the sight of so much suffering was painful to me. A man should not
only have his own way as far as possible, but he should only consort
with things that are getting their own way so far that they are at any
rate comfortable. Unless for short times under exceptional
circumstances, he should not even see things that have been stunted or
starved, much less should he eat meat that has been vexed by having
been over-driven or underfed, or afflicted with any disease; nor
should he touch vegetables that have not been well grown. For all
these things cross a man; whatever a man comes in contact with in
any way forms a cross with him which will leave him better or worse,
and the better things he is crossed with the more likely he is to live
long and happily. All things must be crossed a little or they would
cease to live- but holy things, such for example as Giovanni Bellini's
saints, have been crossed with nothing but what is good of its kind.

  CHAPTER XXIV

  THE storm which I have described in the previous chapter was a
sample of those that occurred daily for many years. No matter how
clear the sky, it was always liable to cloud over now in one quarter
now in another, and the thunder and lightning were upon the young
people before they knew where they were.

  "And then, you know," said Ernest to me, when I asked him not long
since to give me more of his childish reminiscences for the benefit of
my story, "we used to learn Mrs. Barbauld's hymns; they were in prose,
and there was one about the lion which began, 'Come, and I will show
you what is strong. The lion is strong; when he raiseth himself from
his lair, when he shaketh his mane, when the voice of his roaring is
heard the cattle of the field fly, and the beasts of the desert hide
themselves, for he is very terrible.' I used to say this to Joey and
Charlotte about my father himself when I got a little older, but
they were always didactic, and said it was naughty of me.

  "One great reason why clergymen's households are generally unhappy
is because the clergyman is so much at home or close about the
house. The doctor is out visiting patients half his time: the lawyer
and the merchant have offices away from home, but the clergyman has no
official place of business which shall ensure his being away from home
for many hours together at stated times. Our great days were when my
father went for a day's shopping to Gildenham. We were some miles from
this place, and commissions used to accumulate on my father's list
till he would make a day of it and go and do the lot. As soon as his
back was turned the air felt lighter; as soon as the hall door
opened to let him in again, the law with its all-reaching 'touch
not, taste not, handle not' was upon us again. The worst of it was
that I could never trust Joey and they would go a good way with me and
then turn back, or even the whole way and then their consciences would
compel them to tell papa and mamma. They liked running with the hare
up to a certain point, but their instinct was towards the hounds.

  "It seems to me," he continued, "that the family is a survival of
the principle which is more logically embodied in the compound animal-
and the compound animal is a form of life which has been found
incompatible with high development. I would do with the family among
mankind what nature has done with the compound animal, and confine
it to the lower and less progressive races. Certainly there is no
inherent love for the family system on the part of nature herself.
Poll the forms of life and you will find it in a ridiculously small
minority. The fishes know it not, and they get along quite nicely. The
ants and the bees, who far outnumber man, sting their fathers to death
as a matter of course, and are given to the atrocious mutilation of
nine-tenths of the offspring committed to their charge, yet where
shall we find communities more universally respected? Take the
cuckoo again- is there any bird which we like better?"

  I saw he was running off from his own reminiscences and tried to
bring him back to them, but it was no use.

  "What a fool," he said, "a man is to remember anything that happened
more than a week ago unless it was pleasant, or unless he wants to
make some use of it.

  "Sensible people get the greater part of their own dying done during
their own lifetime. A man at five-and-thirty should no more regret not
having had a happier childhood than he should regret not having been
born a prince of the blood. He might be happier if he had been more
fortunate in childhood, but, for aught he knows, if he had,
something else might have happened which might have killed him long
ago. If I had to be born again I would be born at Battersby of the
same father and mother as before, and I would not alter anything
that has ever happened to me."

  The most amusing incident that I can remember about his childhood
was that when he was about seven years old he told me he was going
to have a natural child. I asked him his reasons for thinking this,
and he explained that papa and mamma had always told him that nobody
had children till they were married, and as long as he had believed
this of course he had had no idea of having a child till he was
grown-up; but not long since he had been reading Mrs. Markham's
history of England and had come upon the words, "John of Gaunt had
several natural children"; he had therefore asked his governess what a
natural child was- were not all children natural?

  "Oh, my dear," said she, "a natural child is a child a person has
before he is married." On this it seemed to follow logically that if
John of Gaunt had had children before he was married, he, Ernest
Pontifex, might have them also, and he would be obliged to me if I
would tell him what he had better do under the circumstances.

  I enquired how long ago he had made this discovery. He said about
a fortnight, and he did not know where to look for the child, for it
might come at any moment. "You know," he said,  "babies come so
suddenly; one goes to bed one night and next morning there is a
baby. Why, it might die of cold if we are not on the lookout for it. I
hope it will be a boy."

  "And you have told your governess about this?"

  "Yes, but she puts me off and does not help me: she says it will not
come for many years, and she hopes not then."

  "Are you quite sure that you have not made any mistake in all this?"

  "Oh, no; because Mrs. Burne, you know, called here a few days ago,
and I was sent for to be looked at. And mamma held me out at arm's
length and said, 'Is he Mr. Pontifex's child, Mrs. Burne, or is he
mine?' Of course, she couldn't have said this if papa had not had some
of the children himself. I did think the gentleman had all the boys
and the lady all the girls; but it can't be like this, or else mamma
would not have asked Mrs. Burne to guess; but then Mrs. Burne said,
'Oh, he's Mr. Pontifex's child of course,' and I didn't quite know
what she meant by saying 'of course': it seemed as though I was
right in thinking that the husband has all the boys and the wife all
the girls; I wish you would explain to me all about it."

  This I could hardly do, so I changed the conversation, after
reassuring him as best I could.

  CHAPTER XXV

  THREE or four years after the birth of her daughter, Christina had
had one more child. She had never been strong since she ,narried,
and had a presentiment that she should not survive this last
confinement. She accordingly wrote the following letter, which was
to be given, as she endorsed upon it, to her sons when Ernest was
sixteen years old. It reached him on his mother's death many years
later, for it was the baby who died now, and not Christina. It was
found among papers which she had repeatedly and carefully arranged,
with the seal already broken. This, I am afraid, shows that
Christina had read it and thought it too creditable to be destroyed
when the occasion that had called it forth had gone by. It is as
follows-

                                         "BATTERSBY, March 15th, 1841.

  "MY TWO DEAR BOYS,- When this is put into your hands will you try to
bring to mind the mother whom you lost in your childhood, and whom,
I fear, you will almost have forgotten? You, Ernest, will remember her
best, for you are past five years old, and the many, many times that
she has taught you your prayers and hymns and sums and told you
stories, and our happy Sunday evenings will not quite have passed from
your mind, and you, Joey, though only four, will perhaps recollect
some of these things. My dear, dear boys, for the sake of that
mother who loved you very dearly- and for the sake of your own
happiness for ever and ever- attend to and try to remember, and from
time to time read over again the last words she can ever speak to you.
When I think about leaving you all, two things press heavily upon
me: one, your father's sorrow (for you, my darlings, after missing
me a little while, will soon forget your loss), the other, the
everlasting welfare of my children. I know how long and deep the
former will be, and I know that he will look to his children to be
almost his only earthly comfort. You know (for I am certain that it
will have been so), how he has devoted his life to you and taught
you and laboured to lead you to all that is right and good. Oh,
then, be sure that you are his comforts. Let him find you obedient,
affectionate, and attentive to his wishes, upright, self-denying,
and diligent; let him never blush for or grieve over the sins and
follies of those who owe him such a debt of gratitude, and whose tude,
and whose first duty it is to study his happiness. You have both of
you a name which must not be disgraced, a father and a grandfather
of whom to show yourselves worthy; your respectability and
well-doing in life rest mainly with yourselves, but far, far beyond
earthly respectability and well-doing, and compared with which they
are as nothing, your eternal happiness rests with yourselves. You know
your duty, but snares and temptations from without beset you, and
the nearer you approach to manhood the more strongly will you feel
this. With God's help, with God's word, and with humble hearts you
will stand in spite of everything, but should you leave off seeking in
earnest for the first, and applying to the second, should you learn to
trust in yourselves, or to the advice and example of too many around
you, you will, you must fall. Oh, 'let God be true and every man a
liar.' He says you cannot serve Him and Mammon. He says that strait is
the gate that leads to eternal life. Many there are who seek to
widen it; they will tell you that such and such self-indulgences are
but venial offences- that this and that worldly compliance is
excusable and even necessary. The thing cannot be; for in a hundred
and a hundred places He tells you so- look to your Bibles and seek
there whether such counsel is true- and if not, oh, 'halt not
between two opinions,' if God is the Lord follow Him; only be strong
and of a good courage, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Remember, there is not in the Bible one law for the rich, and one
for the poor- one for the educated and one for the ignorant. To all
there is but one thing needful. All are to be living to God and
their fellow-creatures, and not to themselves. All must seek first the
Kingdom of God and His righteousness- must deny themselves, be pure
and chaste and charitable in the fullest and widest sense- all,
'forgetting those things that are behind,' must 'press forward towards
the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God.'

  "And now I will add but two things more. Be true through life to
each other, love as only brothers should do, strengthen, warn,
encourage one another, and let who will be against you, let each
feel that in his brother he has a firm and faithful friend who will be
so to the end; and, oh! be kind and watchful over your dear sister;
without mother or sisters she will doubly need her brothers' love
and tenderness and confidence. I am certain she will seek them, and
will love you and try to make you happy; be sure then that you do
not fail her, and remember, that were she to lose her father and
remain unmarried, she would doubly need protectors. To you, then, I
especially commend her. Oh! my three darling children, be true to each
other, your Father, and your God. May He guide and bless you, and
grant that in a better and happier world I and mine may meet again.-
Your most affectionate mother,

                                  "CHRISTINA PONTIFEX.".

  From enquiries I have made, I have satisfied myself that most
mothers write letters like this shortly before their confinements, and
that fifty per cent keep them afterwards, as Christina did.

  CHAPTER XXVI

  THE foregoing letter shows how much greater was Christina's
anxiety for the eternal than for the temporal welfare of her sons. One
would have thought she had sowed enough of such religious wild oats by
this time, but she had plenty still to sow. To me it seems that
those who are happy in this world are better and more lovable people
than those who are not, and that thus in the event of a Resurrection
and Day of Judgement, they will be the most likely to be deemed worthy
of a heavenly mansion. Perhaps a dim unconscious perception of this
was the reason why Christina was so anxious for Theobald's earthly
happiness, or was it merely due to a conviction that his eternal
welfare was so much a matter of course, that it only remained to
secure his earthly happiness? He was to "find his sons obedient,
affectionate, attentive to his wishes, selfdenying, and diligent," a
goodly string forsooth of all the virtues most convenient to
parents; he was never to have to blush for the follies of those "who
owed him such a debt of gratitude," and "whose first duty it was to
study his happiness." How like maternal solicitude is this! Solicitude
for the most part lest the offspring should come to have wishes and
feelings of its own, which may occasion many difficulties, fancied
or real. It is this that is at the bottom of the whole mischief; but
whether this last proposition is granted or no, at any rate we observe
that Christina had a sufficiently keen appreciation of the duties of
children towards their parents, and felt the task of fulfilling them
adequately to be so difficult that she was very doubtful how far
Ernest and Joey would succeed in mastering it. It is plain in fact
that her supposed parting glance upon them was one of suspicion. But
there was no suspicion of Theobald; that he should have devoted his
life to his children- why, this was such a mere platitude, as almost
to go without saying.

  How, let me ask, was it possible that a child only a little past
five years old, trained in such an atmosphere of prayers and hymns and
sums and happy Sunday evenings- to say nothing of daily repeated
beatings over the said prayers and hymns, etc., about which our
authoress is silent- how was it possible that a lad so trained
should grow up in any healthy or vigorous development, even though
in her own way his mother was undoubtedly very fond of him, and
sometimes told him stories? Can the eye of any reader fail to detect
the coming wrath of God as about to descend upon the head of him who
should be nurtured under the shadow of such a letter as the foregoing?

  I have often thought that the Church of Rome does wisely in not
allowing her priests to marry. Certainly it is a matter of common
observation in England that the sons of clergymen are frequently
unsatisfactory. The explanation is very simple, but it is so often
lost sight of that I may perhaps be pardoned for giving it here.

  The clergyman is expected to be a kind of human Sunday. Things
must not be done in him which are venial in the week-day classes. He
is paid for this business of leading a stricter life than other
people. It is his raison d'etre. If his parishioners feel that he does
this, they approve of him, for they look upon him as their own
contribution towards what they deem a holy life. This is why the
clergyman is so often called a vicar- he being the person whose
vicarious goodness is to stand for that of those entrusted to his
charge. But his home is his castle as much as that of any other
Englishman, and with him, as with others, unnatural tension in
public is followed by exhaustion when tension is no longer
necessary. His children are the most defenceless things he can
reach, and it is on them in nine cases out of ten that he will relieve
his mind.

  A clergyman, again, can hardly ever allow himself to look facts
fairly in the face. It is his profession to support one side; it is
impossible, therefore, for him to make an unbiassed examination of the
other.

  We forget that every clergyman with a living or curacy is as much
a paid advocate as the barrister who is trying to persuade a jury to
acquit a prisoner. We should listen to him with the same suspense of
judgement, the same full consideration of the arguments of the
opposing counsel, as a judge does when he is trying a case. Unless
we know these, and can state them in a way that our opponents would
admit to be a fair representation of their views, we have no right
to claim that we have formed an opinion at all. The misfortune is that
by the law of the land one side only can be heard.

  Theobald and Christina were no exceptions to the general rule.
When they came to Battersby they had every desire to fulfil the duties
of their position, and to devote themselves to the honour and glory of
God. But it was Theobald's duty to see the honour and glory of God
through the eyes of a Church which had lived three hundred years
without finding reason to change a single one of its opinions.

  I should doubt whether he ever got as far as doubting the wisdom
of his Church upon any single matter. His scent for possible
mischief was tolerably keen; so was Christina's, and it is likely that
if either of them detected in him or herself the first faint
symptoms of a want of faith they were nipped no less peremptorily in
the bud, than signs of self-will in Ernest were- and I should
imagine more successfully. Yet Theobald considered himself, and was
generally considered to be, and indeed perhaps was, an exceptionally
truthful person; indeed he was generally looked upon as an
embodiment of all those virtues which make the poor respectable and
the rich respected. In the course of time he and his wife became
persuaded, even to unconsciousness, that no one could even dwell under
their roof without deep cause for thankfulness. Their children,
their servants, their parishioners must be fortunate ipso facto that
they were theirs. There was no road to happiness here or hereafter,
but the road that they had themselves travelled, no good people who
did not think as they did upon every subject, and no reasonable person
who had wants the gratification of which would be inconvenient to
them- Theobald and Christina.

  This was how it came to pass that their children were white and
puny; they were suffering from home-sickness. They were starving,
through being over-crammed with the wrong things. Nature came down
upon them, but she did not come down on Theobald and Christina. Why
should she? They were not leading a starved existence. There are two
classes of people in this world, those who sin, and those who are
sinned against; if a man must belong to either, he had better belong
to the first than to the second.

  CHAPTER XXVII

  I WILL give no more of the details of my hero's earlier years.
Enough that he struggled through them, and at twelve years old knew
every page of his Latin and Greek Grammars by heart. He had read the
greater part of Virgil, Horace, and Livy, and I do not know how many
Greek plays: he was proficient in arithmetic, knew the first four
books of Euclid thoroughly, and had a fair knowledge of French. It was
now time he went to school, and to school he was accordingly to go,
under the famous Dr. Skinner of Roughborough.

  Theobald had known Dr. Skinner slightly at Cambridge. He had been
a burning and a shining light in every position he had filled from his
boyhood upwards. He was a very great genius. Everyone knew this;
they said, indeed, that he was one of the few people to whom the
word genius could be applied without exaggeration. Had he not taken
I don't know how many University Scholarships in his freshman's
year? Had he not been afterwards Senior Wrangler, First Chancellor's
Medallist and I do not know how many more things besides? And then, he
was such a wonderful speaker; at the Union Debating Club he had been
without a rival, and had, of course, been president; his moral
character- a point on which so many geniuses were weak- was absolutely
irreproachable; foremost of all, however, among his many great
qualities, and perhaps more remarkable even than his genius was what
biographers have called "the simple-minded and childlike earnestness
of his character," an earnestness which might be perceived by the
solemnity with which he spoke even about trifles. It is hardly
necessary to say he was on the Liberal side in politics.

  His personal appearance was not particularly prepossessing. He was
about the middle height, portly, and had a couple of fierce grey eyes,
that flashed fire from beneath a pair of great, bushy, beetling
eyebrows and overawed all who came near him. It was in respect of
his personal appearance, however, that, if he was vulnerable at all,
his weak place was to be found. His hair when he was a young man was
red, but after he had taken his degree he had a brain fever which
caused him to have his head shaved; when he reappeared he did so
wearing a wig, and one which was a good deal further off red than
his own hair had been. He not only had never discarded his wig, but
year by year it had edged itself a little more and a little more off
red, till by the time he was forty, there was not a trace of red
remaining, and his wig was brown.

  When Dr. Skinner was a very young man, hardly more than
five-and-twenty, the head-mastership of Roughborough Grammar School
had fallen vacant, and he had been unhesitatingly appointed. The
result justified the selection. Dr. Skinner's pupils distinguished
themselves at whichever University they went to. He moulded their
minds after the model of his own, and stamped an impression upon
them which was indelible in after life; whatever else a Roughborough
man might be, he was sure to make everyone feel that he was a
God-fearing earnest Christian and a Liberal, if not a Radical, in
politics. Some boys, of course, were incapable of appreciating the
beauty and loftiness of Dr. Skinner's nature. Some such boys, alas!
there will be in every school; upon them Dr. Skinner's hand was very
properly a heavy one. His hand was against them, and theirs against
him during the whole time of the connection between them. They not
only disliked him, but they hated all that he more especially
embodied, and throughout their lives disliked all that reminded them
of him. Such boys, however, were in a minority, the spirit of the
place being decidedly Skinnerian.

  I once had the honour of playing a game of chess with this great
man. It was during the Christmas holidays, and I had come down to
Roughborough for a few days to see Alethea Pontifex (who was then
living there) on business. It was very gracious of him to take
notice of me, for if I was a light of literature at all it was of
the very lightest kind.

  It is true that in the intervals of business I had written a good
deal, but my works had been almost exclusively for the stage, and
for those theatres that devoted themselves to extravaganza and
burlesque. I had written many pieces of this description, full of puns
and comic songs, and they had had a fair success, but my best piece
had been a treatment of English history during the Reformation period,
in the course of which I had introduced Cranmer, Sir Thomas More,
Henry the Eighth, Catherine of Arragon, and Thomas Cromwell (in his
youth better known as the Malleus Monachorum), and had made them dance
a breakdown. I had also dramatised "The Pilgrim's Progress" for a
Christmas Pantomime, and made an important scene of Vanity Fair,
with Mr. Greatheart, Apollyon, Christiana, Mercy, and Hopeful as the
principal characters. The orchestra played music taken from Handel's
best known works, but the time was a good deal altered, and altogether
the tunes were not exactly as Handel left them. Mr. Greatheart was
very stout and he had a red nose; he wore a capacious waistcoat, and a
shirt with a huge frill down the middle of the front. Hopeful was up
to as much mischief as I could give him; he wore the costume of a
young swell of the period, and had a cigar in his mouth which was
continually going out.

  Christiana did not wear much of anything: indeed it was said that
the dress which the Stage Manager had originally proposed for her
had been considered inadequate even by the Lord Chamberlain, but
this is not the case. With all these delinquencies upon my mind it was
natural that I should feel convinced of sin while playing chess (which
I hate) with the great Dr. Skinner of Roughborough- the historian of
Athens and editor of Demosthenes. Dr. Skinner, moreover, was one of
those who pride themselves on being able to set people at their case
at once, and I had been sitting on the edge of my chair all the
evening. But I have always been very easily overawed by a
schoolmaster.

  The game had been a long one, and at half-past nine, when supper
came in, we had each of us a few pieces remaining. "What will you take
for supper, Dr. Skinner?" said Mrs. Skinner in a silvery voice.

  He made no answer for some time, but at last in a tone of almost
superhuman solemnity, he said, first, "Nothing," and then, "Nothing
whatever."

  By-and-by, however, I had a sense come over me as though I were
nearer the consummation of all things than I had ever yet been. The
room seemed to grow dark, as an expression came over Dr. Skinner's
face, which showed that he was about to speak. The expression gathered
force, the room grew darker and darker. "Stay," he at length added,
and I felt that here at any rate was an end to a suspense which was
rapidly becoming unbearable. "Stay- I may presently take a glass of
cold water- and a small piece of bread and butter."

  As he said the word "butter" his voice sank to a hardly audible
whisper; then there was a sigh as though of relief when the sentence
was concluded, and the universe this time was safe.

  Another ten minutes of solemn silence finished the game. The
Doctor rose briskly from his seat and placed himself at the supper
table. "Mrs. Skinner," he exclaimed jauntily, "what are those
mysterious-looking objects surrounded by potatoes?"

  "Those are oysters, Dr. Skinner."

  "Give me some, and give Overton some."

  And so on till he had eaten a good plate of oysters, a scallop shell
of minced veal nicely browned, some apple tart, and a hunk of bread
and cheese. This was the small piece of bread and butter.

  The cloth was now removed and tumblers with teaspoons in them, a
lemon or two and a jug of boiling water were placed upon the table.
Then the great man unbent. His face beamed.

  "And what shall it be to drink?" he exclaimed persuasively. "Shall
it be brandy and water? No. It shall be gin and water. Gin is the more
wholesome liquor."

  So gin it was, hot and stiff, too.

  Who can wonder at him or do anything but pity him? Was he not
head-master of Roughborough School? To whom had he owed money at any
time? Whose ox had he taken, whose ass had he taken, or whom had he
defrauded? What whisper had ever been breathed against his moral
character? If he had become rich it was by the most honourable of
all means- his literary attainments; over and above his great works of
scholarship, his "Meditations upon the Epistle and Character of St.
jude" had placed him among the most popular of English theologians; it
was so exhaustive that no one who bought it need ever meditate upon
the subject again- indeed it exhausted all who had anything to do with
it. He had made L5000 by this work alone, and would very likely make
another L5000 before he died. A man who had done all this and wanted a
piece of bread and butter had a right to announce the fact with some
pomp and circumstance. Nor should his words be taken without searching
for what he used to call a "deeper and more hidden meaning." Those who
searched for this even in his lightest utterances would not be without
their reward. They would find that "bread and butter" was Skinnerese
for oyster-patties and apple tart, and "gin hot" the true
translation of water.

  But independently of their money value, his works had made him a
lasting name in literature. So probably Gallio was under the
impression that his fame would rest upon the treatises on natural
history which we gather from Seneca that he compiled, and which for
aught we know may have contained a complete theory of evolution; but
the treatises are all gone and Gallio has become immortal for the very
last reason in the world that he expected, and for the very last
reason that would have flattered his vanity. He has become immortal
because he cared nothing about the most important movement with
which he was ever brought into connection (I wish people who are in
search of immortality would lay the lesson to heart and not make so
much noise about important movements) and so, if Dr. Skinner becomes
immortal, it will probably be for some reason very different from
the one which he so fondly imagined.

  Could it be expected to enter into the head of such a man as this
that in reality he was making his money by corrupting youth; that it
was his paid profession to make the worse appear the better reason
in the eyes of those who were too young and inexperienced to be able
to find him out; that he kept out of the sight of those whom he
professed to teach material points of the argument, for the production
of which they had a right to rely upon the honour of anyone who made
professions of sincerity; that he was a passionate,
half-turkey-cock, half-gander of a man whose sallow, bilious face
and hobble-gobble voice could scare the timid, but who would take to
his heels readily enough if he were met firmly; that his
"Meditations on St. Jude," such as they were, were cribbed without
acknowledgment, and would have been beneath contempt if so many people
did not believe them to have been written honestly? Mrs. Skinner might
have perhaps kept him a little more in his proper place if she had
thought it worth while to try, but she had enough to attend to in
looking after her household and seeing that the boys were well fed
and, if they were ill, properly looked after- which she took good care
they were.

  CHAPTER XXVIII

  ERNEST had heard awful accounts of Dr. Skinner's temper, and of
the bullying which the younger boys at Roughborough had to put up with
at the hands of the bigger ones. He had now got about as much as he
could stand, and felt as though it must go hard with him if his
burdens of whatever kind were to be increased. He did not cry on
leaving home, but I am afraid he did on being told that he was getting
near Roughborough. His father and mother were with him, having
posted from home in their own carriage; Roughborough had as yet no
railway, and as it was only some forty miles from Battersby, this
was the easiest way of getting there.

  On seeing him cry, his mother felt flattered and caressed him. She
said she knew he must feel very sad at leaving such a happy home,
and going among people who, though they would be very good to him,
could never, never be as good as his dear papa and she had been;
still, she was herself, if he only knew it, much more deserving of
pity than he was, for the parting was more painful to her than it
could possibly be to him, etc., and Ernest, on being told that his
tears were for grief at leaving home, took it all on trust, and did
not trouble to investigate the real cause of his tears. As they
approached Roughborough he pulled himself together, and was fairly
calm by the time he reached Dr. Skinner's.

  On their arrival they had luncheon with the Doctor and his wife, and
then Mrs. Skinner took Christina over the bedrooms, and showed her
where her dear little boy was to sleep.

  Whatever men may think about the study of man, women do really
believe the noblest study for womankind to be woman, and Christina was
too much engrossed with Mrs. Skinner to pay much attention to anything
else; I daresay Mrs. Skinner, too, was taking pretty accurate stock of
Christina. Christina was charmed, as indeed she generally was with any
new acquaintance, for she found in them (and so must we all) something
of the nature of a cross; as for Mrs. Skinner, I imagine she had
seen too many Christinas to find much regeneration in the sample now
before her; I believe her private opinion echoed the dictum of a
well-known head-master who declared that all parents were fools, but
more especially mothers; she was, however, all smiles and sweetness,
and Christina devoured these graciously as tributes paid more
particularly to herself, and such as no other mother would have been
at all likely to have won.

  In the meantime Theobald and Ernest were with Dr. Skinner in his
library- the room where new boys were examined and old ones had up for
rebuke or chastisement. If the walls of that room could speak, what an
amount of blundering and capricious cruelty would they not bear
witness to!

  Like all houses, Dr. Skinner's had its peculiar smell. In this
case the prevailing odour was one of Russia leather, but along with it
there was a subordinate savour as of a chemist's shop. This came
from a small laboratory in one corner of the room- the possession of
which, together with the free chattery and smattery use of such
words as "carbonate," "hyposulphite," "phosphate," and "affinity,"
were enough to convince even the most sceptical that Dr. Skinner had a
profound knowledge of chemistry.

  I may say in passing that Dr. Skinner had dabbled in a great many
other things as well as chemistry. He was a man of many small
knowledges, and each of them dangerous. I remember Alethea Pontifex
once said in her wicked way to me, that Dr. Skinner put her in mind of
the Bourbon princes on their return from exile after the battle of
Waterloo, only that he was their exact converse; for whereas they
had learned nothing and forgotten nothing, Dr. Skinner had learned
everything and forgotten everything. And this puts me in mind of
another of her wicked sayings about Dr. Skinner. She told me one day
that he had the harmlessness of the serpent and the wisdom of the
dove.

  But to return to Dr. Skinner's library; over the chimney-piece there
was a Bishop's half length portrait of Dr. Skinner himself, painted by
the elder Pickersgill, whose merit Dr. Skinner had been among the
first to discern and foster. There were no other pictures in the
library, but in the dining-room there was a fine collection, which the
Doctor had got together with his usual consummate taste. He added to
it largely in later life, and when it came to the hammer at
Christie's, as it did not long since, it was found to comprise many of
the latest and most matured works of Solomon Hart, O'Neil, Charles
Landseer, and more of our recent Academicians than I can at the moment
remember. There were thus brought together and exhibited at one view
many works which had attracted attention at the Academy Exhibitions,
and as to whose ultimate destiny there had been some curiosity. The
prices realised were disappointing to the executors, but, then,
these things are so much a matter of chance. An unscrupulous writer in
a well-known weekly paper had written the collection down. Moreover
there had been one or two large sales a short time before Dr.
Skinner's, so that at this last there was rather a panic, and a
reaction against the high prices that had ruled lately.

  The table of the library was loaded with books many deep; MSS. of
all kinds were confusedly mixed up with them- boys' exercises,
probably, and examination papers- but all littering untidily about.
The room in fact was as depressing from its slatternliness as from its
atmosphere of erudition. Theobald and Ernest, as they entered it,
stumbled over a large hole in the Turkey carpet, and the dust that
rose showed how long it was since it had been taken up and beaten.
This, I should say, was no fault of Mrs. Skinner's but was due to
the Doctor himself, who declared that if his papers were once
disturbed it would be the death of him. Near the window was a green
cage containing a pair of turtle doves, whose plaintive cooing added
to the melancholy of the place. The walls were covered with book
shelves from floor to ceiling, and on every shelf the books stood in
double rows. It was horrible. Prominent among the most prominent
upon the most prominent shelf were a series of splendidly bound
volumes entitled "Skinner's Works."

  Boys are sadly apt to rush to conclusions, and Ernest believed
that Dr. Skinner knew all the books in this terrible library, and that
he, if he were to be any good, should have to learn them too. His
heart fainted within him.

  He was told to sit on a chair against the wall and did so, while Dr.
Skinner talked to Theobald upon the topics of the day. He talked about
the Hampden Controversy then raging, and discoursed learnedly about
"Praemunire"; then he talked about the revolution which had just
broken out in Sicily, and rejoiced that the Pope had refused to
allow foreign troops to pass through his dominions in order to crush
it. Dr. Skinner and the other masters took in the Times among them,
and Dr. Skinner echoed the Times' leaders. In those days there were no
penny papers and Theobald only took in the Spectator- for he was at
that time on the Whig side in politics; besides this he used to
receive the Ecclesiastical Gazette once a month, but he saw no other
papers, and was amazed at the ease and fluency with which Dr.
Skinner ran from subject to subject.

  The Pope's action in the matter of the Sicilian revolution naturally
led the Doctor to the reforms which his Holiness had introduced into
his dominions, and he laughed consumedly over the joke which had not
long since appeared in Punch, to the effect that Pio "No, No,"
should rather have been named Pio "Yes, Yes," because, as the Doctor
explained, he granted everything his subjects asked for. Anything like
a pun went straight to Dr. Skinner's heart.

  Then he went on to the matter of these reforms themselves. They
opened up a new era in the history of Christendom, and would have such
momentous and far-reaching consequences, that they might even lead
to a reconciliation between the Churches of England and Rome. Dr.
Skinner had lately published a pamphlet upon this subject, which had
shown great learning, and had attacked the Church of Rome in a way
which did not promise much hope of reconciliation. He had grounded his
attack upon the letters A.M.D.G., which he had seen outside a Roman
Catholic chapel, and which of course stood for Ad Mariam Dei
Genetricem. Could anything be more idolatrous?

  I am told, by the way, that I must have let my memory play me one of
the tricks it often does play me, when I said the Doctor proposed Ad
Mariam Dei Genetricem as the full harmonies, so to speak, which should
be constructed upon the bass A.M.D.G., for that this is bad Latin, and
that the doctor really harmonised the letters thus: Ave Maria Dei
Genetrix. No doubt the Doctor did what was right in the matter of
Latinity- I have forgotten the little Latin I ever knew, and am not
going to look the matter up, but I believe the Doctor said Ad Mariam
Dei Genetricem, and if so we may be sure that Ad Mariam Dei Genetricem
is good enough Latin at any rate for ecclesiastical purposes.

  The reply of the local priest had not yet appeared, and Dr.
Skinner was jubilant, but when the answer appeared, and it was
solemnly declared that A.M.D.G. stood for nothing more dangerous
than Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, it was felt that though this subterfuge
would not succeed with any intelligent Englishman, still it was a pity
Dr. Skinner had selected this particular point for his attack, for
he had to leave his enemy in possession of the field. When people
are left in possession of the field, spectators have an awkward
habit of thinking that their adversary does not dare to come to the
scratch.

  Dr. Skinner was telling Theobald all about his pamphlet, and I doubt
whether this gentleman was much more comfortable than Ernest
himself. He was bored, for in his heart he hated Liberalism, though he
was ashamed to say so, and, as I have said, professed to be on the
Whig side. He did not want to be reconciled to the Church of Rome;
he wanted to make all Roman Catholics turn Protestants, and could
never understand why they would not do so; but the Doctor talked in
such a truly liberal spirit, and shut him up so sharply when he
tried to edge in a word or two, that he had to let him have it all his
own way, and this was not what he was accustomed to. He was
wondering how he could bring it to an end, when a diversion was
created by the discovery that Ernest had begun to cry- doubtless
through an intense but inarticulate sense of a boredom greater than he
could bear. He was evidently in a highly nervous state, and a good
deal upset by the excitement of the morning; Mrs. Skinner therefore,
who came in with Christina at this juncture, proposed that he should
spend the afternoon with Mrs. Jay, the matron, and not be introduced
to his young companions until the following morning. His father and
mother now bade him an affectionate farewell, and the lad was handed
over to Mrs. Jay.

  O schoolmasters- if any of you read this book- bear in mind when any
particularly timid, drivelling urchin is brought by his papa into your
study, and you treat him with the contempt which he deserves, and
afterwards make his life a burden to him for years- bear in mind
that it is exactly in the disguise of such a boy as this that your
future chronicler will appear. Never see a wretched little
heavy-eyed mite sitting on the edge of a chair against your study wall
without saying to yourselves, "Perhaps this boy is he who, if I am not
careful, will one day tell the world what manner of man I was." If
even two or three schoolmasters learn this lesson and remember it, the
preceding chapters will not have been written in vain.

  CHAPTER XXIX

  SOON after his father and mother had left him Ernest dropped
asleep over a book which Mrs. Jay had given him, and he did not
awake till dusk. Then he sat down on a stool in front of the fire,
which showed pleasantly in the late January twilight, and began to
muse. He felt weak, feeble, ill at ease, and unable to see his way out
of the innumerable troubles that were before him. Perhaps, he said
to himself, he might even die, but this, far from being an end of
his troubles, would prove the beginning of new ones; for at the best
he would only go to Grandpapa Pontifex and Grandmamma Allaby, and
though they would perhaps be more easy to get on with than papa and
mamma, yet they were undoubtedly not so really good, and were more
worldly; moreover they were grown-up people- especially Grandpapa
Pontifex, who so far as he could understand had been very much
grown-up, and he did not know why, but there was always something that
kept him from loving any grown-up people very much- except one or
two of the servants, who had indeed been as nice as anything that he
could imagine. Besides even if he were to die and go to Heaven he
supposed he should have to complete his education somewhere.

  In the meantime his father and mother were rolling along the muddy
roads, each in his or her own corner of the carriage, and each
revolving many things which were and were not to come to pass. Times
have changed since I last showed them to the reader as sitting
together silently in a carriage, but except as regards their mutual
relations, they have altered singularly little. When I was younger I
used to think the Prayer Book was wrong in requiring us to say the
General Confession twice a week from childhood to old age, without
making provision for our not being quite such great sinners at seventy
as we had been at seven; granted that we should go to the wash like
table-cloths at least once a week, still I used to think a day ought
to come when we should want rather less rubbing and scrubbing at.
Now that I have grown older myself I have seen that the Church has
estimated probabilities better than I had done.

  The pair said not a word to one another, but watched the fading
light and naked trees, the brown fields with here and there a
melancholy cottage by the roadside, and the rain that fell fast upon
the carriage windows. It was a kind of afternoon on which nice
people for the most part like to be snug at home, and Theobald was a
little snappish at reflecting how many miles he had to post before
he could be at his own fireside again. However, there was nothing
for it, so the pair sat quietly and watched the roadside objects
flit by them, and get greyer and grimmer as the light faded.

  Though they spoke not to one another, there was one nearer to each
of them with whom they could converse freely. "I hope," said
Theobald to himself, "I hope he'll work- or else that Skinner will
make him. I don't like Skinner, I never did like him, but he is
unquestionably a man of genius, and no one turns out so many pupils
who succeed at Oxford and Cambridge, and that is the best test. I have
done my share towards starting him well. Skinner said he had been well
grounded and was very forward. I suppose he will presume upon it now
and do nothing, for his nature is an idle one. He is not fond of me,
I'm sure he is not. He ought to be after all the trouble I have
taken with him, but he is ungrateful and selfish. It is an unnatural
thing for a boy not to be fond of his own father. If he was fond of me
I should be fond of him, but I cannot like a son who, I am sure,
dislikes me. He shrinks out of my way whenever he sees me coming
near him. He will not stay five minutes in the same room with me if he
can help it. He is deceitful. He would not want to hide himself away
so much if he were not deceitful. That is a bad sign and one which
makes me fear he will grow up extravagant. I am sure he will grow up
extravagant. I should have given him more pocket-money if I had not
known this- but what is the good of giving him pocket-money? It is all
gone directly. If he doesn't buy something with it he gives it away to
the first little boy or girl he sees who takes his fancy. He forgets
that it's my money he is giving away. I give him money that he may
have money and learn to know its uses, not that he may go and squander
it immediately. I wish he was not so fond of music; it will
interfere with his Latin and Greek. I will stop it as much as I can.
Why, when he was translating Livy the other day he slipped out
Handel's name in mistake for Hannibal's, and his mother tells me he
knows half the tunes in the 'Messiah' by heart. What should a boy of
his age know about the 'Messiah'? I had shown half as many dangerous
tendencies when I was a boy, my father would have apprenticed me to
a greengrocer, of that I'm very sure," etc., etc.

  Then his thoughts turned to Egypt and the tenth plague. It seemed to
him that if the little Egyptians had been anything like Ernest, the
plague must have been something very like a blessing in disguise. If
the Israelites were to come to England now he should be greatly
tempted not to let them go.

  Mrs. Theobald's thoughts ran in a different current. "Lord
Lonsford's grandson- it's a pity his name is Figgins; however, blood
is blood as much through the female line as the male; indeed,
perhaps even more so if the truth were known. I wonder who Mr. Figgins
was. I think Mrs. Skinner said he was dead; however, I must find out
all about him. It would be delightful if young Figgins were to ask
Ernest home for the holidays. Who knows but he might meet Lord
Lonsford himself, or at any rate some of Lord Lonsford's other
descendants?"

  Meanwhile the boy himself was still sitting moodily before the
fire in Mrs. Jay's room. "Papa and mamma," he was saying to himself,
"are much better and cleverer than anyone else, but, I, alas! shall
never be either good or clever."

  Mrs. Pontifex continued-

  "Perhaps it would be best to get young Figgins on a visit to
ourselves first. That would be charming. Theobald would not like it,
for he does not like children; I must see how I can manage it, for
it would be so nice to have young Figgins- or stay! Ernest shall go
and stay with Figgins and meet the future Lord Lonsford, who I
should think must be about Ernest's age, and then if he and Ernest
were to become friends Ernest might ask him to Battersby, and he might
fall in love with Charlotte. I think we have done most wisely in
sending Ernest to Dr. Skinner's. Dr. Skinner's piety is no less
remarkable than his genius. One can tell these things at a glance, and
he must have felt it about me no less strongly than I about him. I
think he seemed much struck with Theobald and myself- indeed,
Theobald's intellectual power must impress anyone, and I was
showing, I do believe, to my best advantage. When I smiled at him
and said I left my boy in his hands with the most entire confidence
that he would be as well cared for as if he were at my own house, I am
sure he was greatly pleased. I should not think many of the mothers
who bring him boys can impress him so favourably, or say such nice
things to him as I did. My smile is sweet when I desire to make it so.
I never was perhaps exactly pretty, but I was always admitted to be
fascinating. Dr. Skinner is a very handsome man- too good on the whole
I should say for Mrs. Skinner. Theobald says he is not handsome, but
men are no judges, and he has such a pleasant, bright face. I think my
bonnet became me. As soon as I get home I will tell Chambers to trim
my blue and yellow merino with-" etc., etc.

  All this time the letter which has been given above was lying in
Christina's private little Japanese cabinet, read and re-read and
approved of many times over, not to say, if the truth were known,
rewritten more than once, though dated as in the first instance- and
this, too, though Christina was fond enough of a joke in a small way.

  Ernest, still in Mrs. Jay's room, mused onward. "Grown-up people,"
he said to himself, "when they were ladies and gentlemen, never did
naughty things, but he was always doing them. He had heard that some
grown-up people were worldly, which of course was wrong, still this
was quite distinct from being naughty, and did not get them punished
or scolded. His own papa and mamma were not even worldly; they had
often explained to him that they were exceptionally unworldly; he well
knew that they had never done anything naughty since they had been
children, and that even as children they had been nearly faultless.
Oh, how different from himself! When should he learn to love his
papa and mamma as they had loved theirs? How could he hope ever to
grow up to be as good and wise as they, or even tolerably good and
wise? Alas! never. It could not be. He did not love his papa and
mamma, in spite of all their goodness both in themselves and to him.
He hated papa, and did not like mamma, and this was what none but a
bad and ungrateful boy would do after all that had been done for
him. Besides, he did not like Sunday; he did not like anything that
was really good; his tastes were low and such as he was ashamed of. He
liked people best if they sometimes swore a little, so long as it
was not at him. As for his Catechism and Bible readings he had no
heart in them. He had never attended to a sermon in his life. Even
when he had been taken to hear Mr. Vaughan at Brighton, who, as
everyone knew, preached such beautiful sermons for children, he had
been very glad when it was all over, nor did he believe he could get
through church at all if it was not for the voluntary upon the organ
and the hymns and chanting. The Catechism was awful. He had never been
able to understand what it was that he desired of his Lord God and
Heavenly Father, nor had he yet got hold of a single idea in
connection with the word Sacrament. His duty towards his neighbour was
another bugbear. It seemed to him that he had duties towards
everybody, lying in wait for him upon every side, but that nobody
had any duties towards him. Then there was that awful and mysterious
word 'business.' What did it all mean? What was 'business'? His papa
was a wonderfully good man of business, his mamma had often told him
so- but he should never be one. It was hopeless, and very awful, for
people were continually telling him that he would have to earn his own
living. No doubt, but how- considering how stupid, idle, ignorant,
self-indulgent, and physically puny he was? All grown-up people were
clever, except servants- and even these were cleverer than ever he
should be. Oh, why, why, why, could not people be born into the
world as grown-up persons? Then he thought of Casabianca. He had
been examined in that poem by his father not long before. 'When only
would he leave his position? To whom did he call? Did he get an
answer? Why? How many times did he call upon his father? What happened
to him? What was the noblest life that perished there? Do you think
so? Why do you think so?' And all the rest of it. Of course he thought
Casabianca's was the noblest life that perished there; there could
be no two opinions about that; it never occurred to him that the moral
of the poem was that young people cannot begin too soon to exercise
discretion in the obedience they pay to their papa and mamma. Oh,
no! the only thought in his mind was that he should never, never
have been like Casabianca, and that Casabianca would have despised him
so much, if he could have known him, that he would not have
condescended to speak to him. There was nobody else in the ship
worth reckoning at all: it did not matter how much they were blown up.
Mrs. Hemans knew them all and they were a very indifferent lot.
Besides, Casabianca was so good-looking and came of such a good
family."

  And thus his small mind kept wandering on till he could follow it no
longer, and again went off into a doze.

  CHAPTER XXX

  NEXT morning Theobald and Christina arose feeling a little tired
from their journey, but happy in that best of all happiness, the
approbation of their consciences. It would be their boy's fault
henceforth if he were not good, and as prosperous as it was at all
desirable that he should be. What more could parents do than they
had done? The answer "Nothing" will rise as readily to the lips of the
reader as to those of Theobald and Christina themselves.

  A few days later the parents were gratified at receiving the
following letter from their  son--

  "MY DEAR MAMMA,- I am very well. Dr. Skinner made me do about the
horse free and exulting roaming in the wide fields in Latin verse, but
as I had done it with Papa I knew how to do it, and it was nearly
all right, and he put me in the fourth form under Mr. Templer, and I
have to begin a new Latin grammar not like the old, but much harder. I
know you wish me to work, and I will try very hard. With best love
to Joey and Charlotte, and to Papa, I remain, your affectionate son,

                                              "ERNEST."

  Nothing could be nicer or more proper. It really did seem as
though he were inclined to turn over a new leaf. The boys had all come
back, the examinations were over, and the routine of the half year
began; Ernest found that his fears about being kicked about and
bullied were exaggerated. Nobody did anything very dreadful to him. He
had to run errands between certain hours for the elder boys, and to
take his turn at greasing the footballs, and so forth, but there was
an excellent spirit in the school as regards bullying.

  Nevertheless, he was far from happy. Dr. Skinner was much too like
his father. True, Ernest was not thrown in with him much yet, but he
was always there; there was no knowing at what moment he might not put
in an appearance, and whenever he did show, it was to storm about
something. He was like the lion in the Bishop of Oxford's Sunday
story- always liable to rush out from behind some bush and devour
someone when he was least expected. He called Ernest "an audacious
reptile" and said he wondered the earth did not open and swallow him
up because he pronounced Thalia with a short i. "And this to me," he
thundered, "who never made a false quantity in my life." Surely he
would have been a much nicer person if he had made false quantities in
his youth like other people. Ernest could not imagine how the boys
in Dr. Skinner's form continued to live; but yet they did, and even
throve, and, strange as it may seem, idolised him, or professed to
do so, in after life. To Ernest it seemed like living on the crater of
Vesuvius.

  He was himself, as has been said, in Mr. Templer's form, who was
snappish, but not downright wicked, and was very easy to crib under.
Ernest used to wonder how Mr. Templer could be so blind, for he
supposed Mr. Templer must have cribbed when he was at school, and
would ask himself whether he should forget his youth when he got
old, as Mr. Templer had forgotten his. He used to think he never could
possibly forget any part of it.

  Then there was Mrs. Jay, who was sometimes very alarming. A few days
after the half year had commenced, there being some little extra noise
in the hall, she rushed in with her spectacles on her forehead and her
cap strings flying, and called the boy whom Ernest had selected as his
hero the "rampingest-scampingest-rackety-tackety-tow-row-roaringest
boy in the whole school." But she used to say things that Ernest
liked. If the Doctor went out to dinner, and there were no prayers,
she would come in and say, "Young gentlemen, prayers are excused
this evening"; and, take her for all in all, she was a kindly old soul
enough.

  Most boys soon discover the difference between noise and actual
danger, but to others it is so unnatural to menace, unless they mean
mischief, that they are long before they leave off taking turkey-cocks
and ganders au serieux. Ernest was one of the latter sort, and found
the atmosphere of Roughborough so gusty that he was glad to shrink out
of sight and out of mind whenever he could. He disliked the games
worse even than the squalls of the class-room and hall, for he was
still feeble, not filling out and attaining his full strength till a
much later age than most boys. This was perhaps due to the closeness
with which his father had kept him to his books in childhood, but I
think in part also to a tendency towards lateness in attaining
maturity, hereditary in the Pontifex family, which was one also of
unusual longevity. At thirteen or fourteen he was a mere bag of bones,
with upper arms about as thick as the wrists of other boys of his age;
his little chest was pigeon-breasted; he appeared to have no
strength or stamina whatever, and finding he always went to the wall
in physical encounters, whether undertaken in or earnest, even with
boys shorter than himself, the timidity natural to childhood increased
upon him to an extent that I am afraid amounted to cowardice. This
rendered him even less capable than he might otherwise have been,
for as confidence increases power, so want of confidence increases
impotence. After he had had the breath knocked out of him and been
well shinned half a dozen times in scrimmages at football-
scrimmages in which he had become involved sorely against his will- he
ceased to see any further fun in football, and shirked that noble game
in a way that got him into trouble with the elder boys, who would
stand no shirking on the part of the younger ones.

  He was as useless and ill at ease with cricket as with football, nor
in spite of all his efforts could he ever throw a ball or a stone.
It soon became plain, therefore, to everyone that Pontifex was a young
muff, a mollycoddle, not to be tortured, but still not to be rated
highly. He was not, however, actively unpopular, for it was seen
that he was quite square inter pares, not at all vindictive, easily
pleased, perfectly free with whatever little money he had, no
greater lover of his school work than of the games, and generally more
inclinable to moderate vice than to immoderate virtue.

  These qualities will prevent any boy from sinking very low in the
opinion of his schoolfellows; but Ernest thought he had fallen lower
than he probably had, and hated and despised himself for what he, as
much as anyone else, believed to be his cowardice. He did not like the
boys whom he thought like himself. His heroes were strong and
vigorous, and the less they inclined towards him the more he
worshipped them. All this made him very unhappy, for it never occurred
to him that the instinct which made him keep out of games for which he
was ill adapted, was more reasonable than the reason which would
have driven him into them. Nevertheless he followed his instinct for
the most part, rather than his reason. Sapiens suam si sapientiam
norit.

  CHAPTER XXXI

  WITH the masters Ernest was ere long in absolute disgrace. He had
more liberty now than he had known heretofore. The heavy hand and
watchful eye of Theobald were no longer about his path and about his
bed and spying out all his ways; and punishment by way of copying
out lines of Virgil was a very different thing from the savage
beatings of his father. The copying out in fact was often less trouble
than the lesson. Latin and Greek had nothing in them which commended
them to his instinct as likely to bring him peace even at the last;
still less did they hold out any hope of doing so within some more
reasonable time. The deadness inherent in these defunct languages
themselves had never been artificially counteracted by a system of
bona fide rewards for application. There had been any amount of
punishments for want of application, but no good comfortable bribes
had baited the hook which was to allure him to his good.

  Indeed, the more pleasant side of learning to do this or that had
always been treated as something with which Ernest had no concern.
We had no business with pleasant things at all, at any rate very
little business, at any rate not he, Ernest. We were put into this
world not for pleasure but duty, and pleasure had in it something more
or less sinful in its very essence. If we were doing anything we
liked, we, or at any rate he, Ernest, should apologise and think he
was being very mercifully dealt with, if not at once told to go and do
something else. With what he did not like, however, it was
different; the more he disliked a thing the greater the presumption
that it was right. It never occurred to him that the presumption was
in favour of the rightness of what was most pleasant, and that the
onus of proving that it was not right lay with those who disputed
its being so. I have said more than once that he believed in his own
depravity; never was there a little mortal more ready to accept
without cavil whatever he was told by those who were in authority over
him: he thought, at least, that he believed it, for as yet he knew
nothing of that other Ernest that dwelt within him, and was so much
stronger and more real than the Ernest of which he was conscious.
The dumb Ernest persuaded with inarticulate feelings too swift and
sure to be translated into such debatable things as words, but
practically insisted as follows-

  "Growing is not the easy, plain sailing business that it is commonly
supposed to be: it is hard work- harder than any but a growing boy can
understand; it requires attention, and you are not strong enough to
attend to your bodily growth, and to your lessons too. Besides,
Latin and Greek are great humbugs; the more people know of them the
more odious they generally are; the nice people whom you delight in
either never knew any at all or forgot what they had learned as soon
as they could; they never turned to the classics after they were no
longer forced to read them; therefore they are nonsense, all very well
in their own time and country, but out of place here. Never learn
anything until you find you have been made uncomfortable for a good
long while by not knowing it; when you find that you have occasion for
this or that knowledge, or foresee that you will have occasion for
it shortly, the sooner you learn it the better, but till then spend
your time in growing bone and muscle; these will be much more useful
to you than Latin and Greek, nor will you ever be able to make them if
you do not do so now, whereas Latin and Greek can be acquired at any
time by those who want them.

  "You are surrounded on every side by lies which would deceive even
the elect, if the elect were not generally so uncommonly wide awake;
the self of which you are conscious, your reasoning and reflecting
self, will believe these lies and bid you act in accordance with them.
This conscious self of yours, Ernest, is a prig begotten of prigs
and trained in priggishness; I will not allow it to shape your
actions, though it will doubtless shape your words for many a year
to come. Your papa is not here to beat you now; this is a change in
the conditions of your existence, and should be followed by changed
actions. Obey me, your true self, and things will go tolerably well
with you, but only listen to that outward and visible old husk of
yours which is called your father, and I will rend you in pieces
even unto the third and fourth generation as one who has hated God;
for I, Ernest, am the God who made you."

  How shocked Ernest would have been if he could have heard the advice
he was receiving; what consternation too there would have been at
Battersby; but the matter did not end here, for this same wicked inner
self gave him bad advice about his pocket-money, the choice of his
companions, and on the whole Ernest was attentive and obedient to
its behests, more so than Theobald had been. The consequence was
that he learned little, his mind growing more slowly and his body
rather faster than heretofore: and when by and by his inner self urged
him in directions where he met obstacles beyond his strength to
combat, he took- though with passionate compunctions of conscience-
the nearest course to the one from which he was debarred which
circumstances would allow.

  It may be guessed that Ernest was not the chosen friend of the
more sedate and well-conducted youths then studying at Roughborough.
Some of the less desirable boys used to go to publichouses and drink
more beer than was good for them; Ernest's inner self can hardly
have told him to ally himself to these young gentlemen, but he did
so at an early age, and was sometimes made pitiably sick by an
amount of beer which would have produced no effect upon a stronger
boy. Ernest's inner self must have interposed at this point and told
him that there was not much fun in this, for he dropped the habit
ere it had taken firm hold of him, and never resumed it; but he
contracted another at the disgracefully early age of between
thirteen and fourteen which he did not relinquish, though to the
present day his conscious self keeps dinging it into him that the less
he smokes the better.

  And so matters went on till my hero was nearly fourteen years old.
If by that time he was not actually a young blackguard, he belonged to
a debatable class between the sub-reputable and the upper
disreputable, with perhaps rather more leaning to the latter except so
far as vices of meanness were concerned, from which he was fairly
free. I gather this partly from what Ernest has told me, and partly
from his school bills which I remember Theobald showed me with much
complaining. There was an institution at Roughborough called the
monthly merit money; the maximum sum which a boy of Ernest's age could
get was four shillings and sixpence; several boys got four shillings
and few less than sixpence, but Ernest never got more than
half-a-crown and seldom more than eighteen pence; his average would, I
should think, be about one and nine pence, which was just too much for
him to rank among the downright bad boys, but too little to put him
among the good ones.

  CHAPTER XXXII

  I MUST now return to Miss Alethea Pontifex, of whom I have said
perhaps too little hitherto, considering how great her influence
upon my hero's destiny proved to be.

  On the death of her father, which happened when she was about
thirty-two years old, she parted company with her sisters, between
whom and herself there had been little sympathy, and came up to
London. She was determined, so she said, to make the rest of her
life as happy as she could, and she had clearer ideas about the best
way of setting to work to do this than women, or indeed men, generally
have.

  Her fortune consisted, as I have said, of L5000, which had come to
her by her mother's marriage settlements, and L15,000 left her by
her father, over both which sums she had now absolute control. These
brought her in about L900 a year, and the money being invested in none
but the soundest securities, she had no anxiety about her income.
She meant to be rich, so she formed a scheme of expenditure which
involved an annual outlay of about L500, and determined to put the
rest by. "If I do this," she said laughingly, "I shall probably just
succeed in living comfortably within my income." In accordance with
this scheme she took unfurnished apartments in a house in Gower
Street, of which the lower floors were let out as offices. John
Pontifex tried to get her to take a house to herself, but Alethea told
him to mind his own business so plainly that he had to beat a retreat.
She had never liked him, and from that time dropped him almost
entirely.

  Without going much into society she yet became acquainted with
most of the men and women who had attained a position in the literary,
artistic, and scientific worlds, and it was singular how highly her
opinion was valued in spite of her never having attempted in any way
to distinguish herself. She could have written if she had chosen,
but she enjoyed seeing others write and encouraging them better than
taking a more active part herself. Perhaps literary people liked her
all the better because she did not write.

  I, as she very well knew, had always been devoted to her, and she
might have had a score of other admirers if she had liked, but she had
discouraged them all, and railed at matrimony as women seldom do
unless they have a comfortable income of their own. She by no means,
however, railed at man as she railed at matrimony, and though living
after a fashion which even the most censorious could find nothing to
complain of, as far as she properly could she defended those of her
own sex whom the world condemned most severely.

  In religion she was, I should think, as nearly a freethinker as
anyone could be whose mind seldom turned upon the subject. She went to
church, but disliked equally those who aired either religion or
irreligion. I remember once hearing her press a late well-known
philosopher to write a novel instead of pursuing his attacks upon
religion. The philosopher did not much like this, and dilated upon the
importance of showing people the folly of much that they pretended
to believe. She to believe. She smiled and said demurely, "Have they
not Moses and the prophets? Let them hear them." But she would say a
wicked thing quietly on her own account sometimes, and called my
attention once to a note in her prayer-book which gave an account of
the walk to Emmaus with the two disciples, and how Christ had said
to them, "O fools and slow of heart to believe ALL that the prophets
have spoken"- the "all" being printed in small capitals.

  Though scarcely on terms with her brother John, she had kept up
closer relations with Theobald and his family, and had paid a few
days' visit to Battersby once in every two years or so. Alethea had
always tried to like Theobald and join forces with him as much as
she could (for they two were the hares of the family, the rest being
all hounds), but it was no use. I believe her chief reason for
maintaining relations with her brother was that she might keep an
eye on his children and give them a lift if they proved nice.

  When Miss Pontifex had come down to Battersby in old times the
children had not been beaten, and their lessons had been made lighter.
She easily saw that they were overworked and unhappy, but she could
hardly guess how all-reaching was the regime under which they lived.
She knew she could not interfere effectually then, and wisely forebore
to make too many enquiries. Her time, if ever it was to come, would be
when the children were no longer living under the same roof as their
parents. It ended in her making up her mind to have nothing to do with
either Joey or Charlotte, but to see so much of Ernest as should
enable her to form an opinion about his disposition and abilities.

  He had now been a year and a half at Roughborough and was nearly
fourteen years old, so that his character had begun to shape. His aunt
had not seen him for some little time, and, thinking that if she was
to exploit him she could do so now perhaps better than at any other
time, she resolved to go down to Roughborough on some pretext which
should be good enough for Theobald, and to take stock of her nephew
under circumstances in which she could get him for some few hours to
herself. Accordingly in August, 1849, when Ernest was just entering on
his fourth half year, a cab drove up to Dr. Skinner's door with Miss
Pontifex, who asked and obtained leave for Ernest to come and dine
with her at the Swan Hotel. She had written to Ernest to say she was
coming and he was of course on the lookout for her. He had not seen
her for so long that he was rather shy at first, but her good nature
soon set him at his ease. She was so strongly biassed in favour of
anything young that her heart warmed towards him at once, though his
appearance was less prepossessing than she had hoped. She took him
to a cake shop and gave him whatever he liked as soon as she had got
him off the school premises; and Ernest felt at once that she
contrasted favourably even with his aunts the Misses Allaby, who
were so very sweet and good. The Misses Allaby were very poor;
sixpence was to them what five shillings was to Alethea. What chance
had they against one who, if she had a mind, could put by out of her
income twice as much as they, poor women, could spend?

  The boy had plenty of prattle in him when he was not snubbed, and
Alethea encouraged him to chatter about whatever came uppermost. He
was always ready to trust anyone who was kind to him; it took many
years to make him reasonably wary in this respect- if indeed, as I
sometimes doubt, he ever will be as wary as he ought to be- and in a
short time he had quite dissociated his aunt from his papa and mamma
and the rest, with whom his instinct told him he should be on his
guard. Little did he know how great, as far as he was concerned,
were the issues that depended upon his behaviour. If he had known,
he would perhaps have played his part less successfully.

  His aunt drew from him more details of his home and school life than
his papa and mamma would have approved of, but he had no idea that
he was being pumped. She got out of him all about the happy Sunday
evenings, and how he and Joey and Charlotte quarrelled sometimes,
but she took no side and treated everything as though it were a matter
of course. Like all the boys, he could mimic Dr. Skinner, and when
warmed with dinner, and two glasses of sherry which made him nearly
tipsy, he favoured his aunt with samples of the Doctor's manner and
spoke of him familiarly as "Sam."

  "Sam," he said, "is an awful old humbug." It was the sherry that
brought out this piece of swagger, for whatever else he was Dr.
Skinner was a reality to Master Ernest, before which, indeed, he
sank into his boots in no time. Alethea smiled and said, "I must not
say anything to that, must I?" Ernest said, "I suppose not," and was
checked. By-and-by he vented a number of small secondhand
priggishnesses which he had caught up believing them to be the correct
thing, and made it plain that even at that early age Ernest believed
in Ernest with a belief which was amusing from its absurdity. His aunt
judged him charitably, as she was sure to do; she knew very well where
the priggishness came from, and seeing that the string of his tongue
had been loosened sufficiently gave him no more sherry.

  It was after dinner, however, that he completed the conquest of
his aunt. She then discovered that, like herself, he was
passionately fond of music, and that, too, of the highest class. He
knew, and hummed or whistled to her all sorts of pieces out of the
works of the great masters, which a boy of his age could hardly be
expected to know, and it was evident that this was purely instinctive,
inasmuch as music received no kind of encouragement at Roughborough.
There was no boy in the school as fond of music as he was. He picked
up his knowledge, he said, from the organist of St. Michael's
Church, who used to practise sometimes on a week-day afternoon. Ernest
had heard the organ booming away as he was passing outside the
church and had sneaked inside and up into the organ loft. In the
course of time the organist became accustomed to him as a familiar
visitant, and the pair became friends.

  It was this which decided Alethea that the boy was worth taking
pains with. "He likes the best music," she thought, "and he hates
Dr. Skinner. This is a very fair beginning." When she sent him away at
night with a sovereign in his pocket (and he had only hoped to get
five shillings) she felt as though she had had a good deal more than
her money's worth for her money.

  CHAPTER XXXIII

  NEXT day Miss Pontifex returned to town, with her thoughts full of
her nephew and how she could best be of use to him.

  It appeared to her that to do him any real service she must devote
herself almost entirely to him; she must in fact give up living in
London, at any rate for a long time, and live at Roughborough where
she could see him continually. This was a serious undertaking; she had
lived in London for the last twelve years, and naturally disliked
the prospect of a small country town such as Roughborough. Was it a
prudent thing to attempt so much? Must not people take their chances
in this world? Can anyone do much for anyone else unless by making a
will in his favour and dying then and there? Should not each look
after his own happiness, and will not the world be best carried on
if everyone minds his own business and leaves other people to mind
theirs? Life is not a donkey race in which everyone is to ride his
neighbour's donkey and the last is to win, and the psalmist long since
formulated a common experience when he declared that no man may
deliver his brother nor make agreement unto God for him, for it cost
more to redeem their souls, so that he must let that alone for ever.

  All these excellent reasons for letting her nephew alone occurred to
her, and many more, but against them there pleaded a woman's love
for children, and her desire to find someone among the younger
branches of her own family to whom she could become warmly attached,
and whom she could attach warmly to herself.

  Over and above this she wanted someone to leave her money to; she
was not going to leave it to people about whom she knew very little,
merely because they happened to be sons and daughters of brothers
and sisters whom she had never liked. She knew the power and value
of money exceedingly well, and how many lovable people suffer and
die yearly for the want of it; she was little likely to leave it
without being satisfied that her legatees were square, lovable, and
more or less hard up. She wanted those to have it who would be most
likely to use it genially and sensibly, and whom it would thus be
likely to make most happy; if she could find one such among her
nephews and nieces, so much the better; it was worth taking a great
deal of pains to see whether she could or could not; but if she
failed, she must find an heir who was not related to her by blood.

  "Of course," she had said to me, more than once, "I shall make a
mess of it. I shall choose some nice-looking, well-dressed screw, with
gentlemanly manners which will take me in, and he will go and paint
Academy pictures, or write for the Times, or do something just as
horrid the moment the breath is out of my body."

  As yet, however, she had made no will at all, and this was one of
the few things that troubled her. I believe she would have left most
of her money to me if I had not stopped her. My father left me
abundantly well off, and my mode of life has been always simple, so
that I have never known uneasiness about money; moreover I was
especially anxious that there should be no occasion given for
ill-natured talk; she knew well, therefore, that her leaving her money
to me would be of all things the most likely to weaken the ties that
existed between us, provided that I was aware of it, but I did not
mind her talking about whom she should make her heir, so long as it
was well understood that I was not to be the person.

  Ernest had satisfied her as having enough in him to tempt her
strongly to take him up, but it was not till after many days'
reflection that she gravitated towards actually doing so, with all the
break in her daily ways that this would entail. At least, she said
it took her some days, and certainly it appeared to do so, but from
the moment she had begun to broach the subject, I had guessed how
things were going to end.

  It was now arranged she should take a house at Roughborough, and
go and live there for a couple of years. As a compromise, however,
to meet some of my objections, it was also arranged that she should
keep her rooms in Gower Street, and come to town for a week once in
each month; of course, also, she would leave Roughborough for the
greater part of the holidays. After two years, the thing was to come
to an end, unless it proved a great success. She should by that
time, at any rate, have made up her mind what the boy's character was,
and would then act as circumstances might determine.

  The pretext she put forward ostensibly was that her doctor said
she ought to be a year or two in the country after so many years of
London life, and had recommended Roughborough on account of the purity
of its air, and its easy access to and from London- for by this time
the railway had reached it. She was anxious not to give her brother
and sister any right to complain, if on seeing more of her nephew
she found she could not get on with him, and she was also anxious
not to raise false hopes of any kind in the boy's own mind.

  Having settled how everything was to be, she wrote to Theobald and
said she meant to take a house in Roughborough from the Michaelmas
then approaching, and mentioned, as though casually, that one of the
attractions of the place would be that her nephew was at school
there and she should hope to see more of him than she had done
hitherto.

  Theobald and Christina knew how dearly Alethea loved London and
thought it very odd that she should want to go and live at
Roughborough, but they did not suspect that she was going there solely
on her nephew's account, much less that she had thought of making
Ernest her heir. If they had guessed this, they would have been so
that I half believe they would have asked her to go and live somewhere
else. Alethea, however, was two or three years younger than
Theobald; she was still some years short of fifty, and might very well
live to eighty-five or ninety; her money, therefore, was not worth
taking much trouble about, and her brother and sister-in-law had
dismissed it, so to speak, from their minds with costs, assuming,
however, that if anything did happen to her while they were still
alive, the money would, as a matter of course, come to them.

  The prospect of Alethea seeing much of Ernest was a serious
matter. Christina smelt mischief from afar, as indeed she often did.
Alethea was worldly- as worldly, that is to say, as a sister of
Theobald's could be. In her letter to Theobald she had said she knew
how much of his and Christina's thoughts were taken up with anxiety
for the boy's welfare. Alethea had thought this handsome enough, but
Christina had wanted something better and stronger. "How can she
know how much we think of our darling?" she had exclaimed, when
Theobald showed her his sister's letter. "I think, my dear, Alethea
would understand these things better if she had children of her
own." The least that would have satisfied Christina was to have been
told that there never yet had been any parents comparable to
Theobald and herself. She did not feel easy that an alliance of some
kind would not grow up between aunt and nephew, and neither she nor
Theobald wanted Ernest to have any allies. Joey and Charlotte were
quite as many allies as were good for him. After all, however, if
Alethea chose to go and live at Roughborough, they could not well stop
her, and must make the best of it.

  In a few weeks' time Alethea did choose to go and live at
Roughborough. A house was found with a field and a nice little
garden which suited her very well. "At any rate," she said to herself,
"I will have fresh eggs and flowers." She even considered the question
of keeping a cow, but in the end decided not to do so. She furnished
her house throughout anew, taking nothing whatever from her
establishment in Gower Street, and by Michaelmas- for the house was
empty when she took it- she was settled comfortably, and had begun
to make herself at home.

  One of Miss Pontifex's first moves was to ask a dozen of the
smartest and most gentlemanly boys to breakfast with her. From her
seat in church she could see the faces of the upper-form boys, and
soon made up her mind which of them it would be best to cultivate.
Miss Pontifex, sitting opposite the boys in church, and reckoning them
up with her keen eyes from under her veil by all a woman's criteria,
came to a truer conclusion about the greater number of those she
scrutinized than even Dr. Skinner had done. She fell in love with
one boy from seeing him put on his gloves.

  Miss Pontifex, as I have said, got hold of some of these
youngsters through Ernest, and fed them well. No boy can resist
being fed well by a good-natured and still handsome woman. Boys are
very like nice dogs in this respect- give them a bone and they will
like you at once. Alethea employed every other little artifice which
she thought likely to win their allegiance to herself, and through
this their countenance for her nephew. She found the football club
in a slight money difficulty and at once gave half a sovereign towards
its removal. The boys had no chance against her, she shot them down
one after another as easily as though they had been roosting
pheasants. Nor did she escape scathless herself, for, as she wrote
to me, she quite lost her heart to half a dozen of them. "How much
nicer they are," she said, "and how much more they know than those who
profess to teach them!"

  I believe it has been lately maintained that it is the young and
fair who are the truly old and truly experienced, inasmuch as it is
they who alone have a living memory to guide them; "the whole
charm," it has been said, "of youth lies in its advantage over age
in respect of experience, and when this has for some reason failed
or been misapplied, the charm is broken. When we say that we are
getting old, we should say rather that we are getting new or young,
and are suffering from inexperience; trying to do things which we have
never done before, and failing worse and worse, till in the end we are
landed in the utter impotence of death."

  Miss Pontifex died many a long year before the above passage was
written, but she had arrived independently at much the same
conclusion.

  She first, therefore, squared the boys. Dr. Skinner was even more
easily dealt with. He and Mrs. Skinner called, as a matter of
course, as soon as Miss Pontifex was settled. She fooled him to the
top of his bent, and obtained the promise of a MS. copy of one of
his minor poems (for Dr. Skinner had the reputation of being quite one
of our most facile and elegant minor poets) on the occasion of his
first visit. The other masters and masters' wives were not
forgotten. Alethea laid herself out to please, as indeed she did
whereever she went, and if any woman lays herself out to do this,
she generally succeeds.

  CHAPTER XXXIV

  MISS PONTIFEX soon found out that Ernest did not like games, but
also that he could hardly be expected to like them. He was perfectly
well shaped but unusually devoid of physical strength. He got a fair
share of this in after life, but it came much later with him than with
other boys, and at the time of which I am writing he was a mere little
skeleton. He wanted something to develop his arms and chest without
knocking him about as much as the school games did. To supply this
want by some means which should add also to his pleasure was Alethea's
first anxiety. Rowing would have answered every purpose, but
unfortunately there was no river at Roughborough.

  Whatever it was to be, it must be something which he should like
as much as other boys liked cricket or football, and he must think the
wish for it to have come originally from himself; it was not very easy
to find anything that would do, but ere long it occurred to her that
she might enlist his love of music on her side, and asked him one
day when he was spending a half-holiday at her house whether he
would like her to buy an organ for him to play on. Of course, the
boy said yes; then she told him about her grandfather and the organs
he had built. It had never entered into his head that he could make
one, but when he gathered from what his aunt had said that this was
not out of the question, he rose as eagerly to the bait as she could
have desired, and wanted to begin learning to saw and plane so that he
might make the wooden pipes at once.

  Miss Pontifex did not see how she could have hit upon anything
more suitable, and she liked the idea that he would incidentally get a
knowledge of carpentering, for she was impressed, perhaps foolishly,
with the wisdom of the German custom which gives every boy a
handicraft of some sort.

  Writing to me on this matter, she said, "Professions are all very
well for those who have connection and interest as well as capital,
but otherwise they are white elephants. How many men do not you and
I know who have talent, assiduity, excellent good sense,
straightforwardness, every quality in fact which should command
success, and who yet go on from year to year waiting and hoping
against hope for the work which never comes? How, indeed, is it likely
to come unless to those who either are born with interest, or who
marry in order to get it? Ernest's father and mother have no interest,
and if they had they would not use it. I suppose they will make him
a clergyman, or try to do so- perhaps it is the best thing to do
with him, for he could buy a living with the money his grandfather
left him, but there is no knowing what the boy will think of it when
the time comes, and for aught we know he may insist on going to the
backwoods of America, as so many other young men are doing now."
....But, anyway, he would like making an organ, and this could do him
no harm, so the sooner he began the better.

  Alethea thought it would save trouble in the end if she told her
brother and sister-in-law of this scheme. "I do not suppose," she
wrote, "that Dr. Skinner will approve very cordially of my attempt
to introduce organ-building into the curriculum of Roughborough, but I
will see what I can do with him, for I have set my heart on owning
an organ built by Ernest's own hands, which he may play on as much
as he likes while it remains in my house and which I will lend him
permanently as soon as he gets one of his own, but which is to be my
property for the present, inasmuch as I mean to pay for it." This
was put in to make it plain to Theobald and Christina that they should
not be out of pocket in the matter.

  If Alethea had been as poor as the Misses Allaby, the reader may
guess what Ernest's papa and mamma would have said to this proposal;
but then, if she had been as poor as they, she would never have made
it. They did not like Ernest's getting more and more into his aunt's
good books; still it was perhaps better that he should do so than that
she should be driven back upon the John Pontifexes. The only thing,
said Theobald, which made him hesitate, was that the boy might be
thrown with low associates later on if he were to be encouraged in his
taste for music- a taste which Theobald had always disliked. He had
observed with regret that Ernest had ere now shown rather a
hankering after low company, and he might make acquaintance with those
who would corrupt his innocence. Christina shuddered at this, but when
they had aired their scruples sufficiently they felt (and when
people begin to "feel," they are invariably going to take what they
believe to be the more worldly course) that to oppose Alethea's
proposal would be injuring their son's prospects more than was
right, so they consented, but not too graciously.

  After a time, however, Christina got used to the idea, and then
considerations occurred to her which made her throw herself into it
with characteristic ardour. If Miss Pontifex had been a railway
stock she might have been said to have been buoyant in the Battersby
market for some few days; buoyant for long together she could never
be, still for a time there really was an upward movement.
Christina's mind wandered to the organ itself; she seemed to have made
it with her own hands; there would be no other in England to compare
with it for combined sweetness and power. She already heard the famous
Dr. Walmisley of Cambridge mistaking it for a Father Smith. It would
come, no doubt, in reality to Battersby church, which wanted an organ,
for it must be all nonsense about Alethea's wishing to keep it, and
Ernest would not have a house of his own for ever so many years, and
they could never have it at the Rectory. Oh, no! Battersby church
was the only proper place for it.

  Of course, they would have a grand opening, and the Bishop would
come down, and perhaps young Figgins might be on a visit to them-
she must ask Ernest if young Figgins had yet left Roughborough- he
might even persuade his grandfather, Lord Lonsford, to be present.
Lord Lonsford and the Bishop and everyone else would then compliment
her, and Dr. Wesley or Dr. Walmisley, who should preside (it did not
much matter which), would say to her, "My dear Mrs. Pontifex, I
never yet played upon so remarkable an instrument." Then she would
give him one of her very sweetest smiles and say she feared he was
flattering her, on which he would rejoin with some pleasant little
trifle about remarkable men (the remarkable man being for the moment
Ernest) having invariably had remarkable women for their mothers-
and so on and so on. The advantage of doing one's praising for oneself
is that one can lay it on so thick and exactly in the right places.

  Theobald wrote Ernest a short and surly letter a propos of his
aunt's intentions in this matter.

  "I will not commit myself," he said, "to an opinion whether anything
will come of it; this will depend entirely upon your own exertions;
you have had singular advantages hitherto, and your kind aunt is
showing every desire to befriend you, but you must give greater
proof of stability and steadiness of character than you have given yet
if this organ matter is not to prove in the end to be only one
disappointment the more.

  "I must insist on two things: firstly, that this new iron in the
fire does not distract your attention from your Latin and Greek"
-("They aren't mine," thought Ernest, "and never have been") -"and
secondly, that you bring no smell of glue or shavings into the house
here, if you make any part of the organ during your holidays."

  Ernest was still too young to know how unpleasant a letter he was
receiving. He believed the innuendoes contained in it to be
perfectly just. He knew he was sadly deficient in perseverance. He
liked some things for a little while, and then found he did not like
them any more- and this was as bad as anything well could be. His
father's letter gave him one of his many fits of melancholy over his
own worthlessness, but the thought of the organ consoled him, and he
felt sure that here at any rate was something to which he could
apply himself steadily without growing tired of it.

  It was settled that the organ was not to be begun before the
Christmas holidays were over, and that till then Ernest should do a
little plain carpentering, so as to get to know how to use his
tools. Miss Pontifex had a carpenter's bench set up in an outhouse
upon her own premises, and made terms with the most respectable
carpenter in Roughborough, by which one of his men was to come for a
couple of hours twice a week and set Ernest on the right way; then she
discovered she wanted this or that simple piece of work done, and gave
the boy a commission to do it, paying him handsomely as well as
finding him in tools and materials. She never gave him a syllable of
good advice, or talked to him about everything's depending upon his
own exertions, but she kissed him often, and would come into the
workshop and act the part of one who took an interest in what was
being done so cleverly as ere long to become really interested.

  What boy would not take kindly to almost anything with such
assistance? All boys like making things; the exercise of sawing,
planing, and hammering, proved exactly what his aunt had wanted to
find- something that should exercise, but not too much, and at the
same time amuse him; when Ernest's sallow face was flushed with his
work, and his eyes were sparkling with pleasure, he looked quite a
different boy from the one his aunt had taken in hand only a few
months earlier. His inner self never told him that this was humbug, as
it did about Latin and Greek. Making tools and drawers was worth
living for, and after Christmas there loomed the organ, which was
scarcely ever absent from his mind.

  His aunt let him invite his friends, encouraging him to bring
those whom her quick sense told her were the most desirable. She
smartened him up also in his personal appearance, always without
preaching to him. Indeed she worked wonders during the short time that
was allowed her, and if her life had been spared I cannot think that
my hero would have come under the shadow of that cloud which cast so
heavy a gloom over his younger manhood; but unfortunately for him
his gleam of sunshine was too hot and too brilliant to last, and he
had many a storm yet to weather, before he became fairly happy. For
the present, however, he was supremely so, and his aunt was happy
and grateful for his happiness, the improvement she saw in him, and
his unrepressed affection for herself. She became fonder of him from
day to day in spite of his many faults and almost incredible
foolishnesses. It was perhaps on account of these very things that she
saw how much he had need of her; but at any rate, from whatever cause,
she became strengthened in her determination to be to him in the place
of parents, and to find in him a son rather than a nephew. But still
she made no will.

  CHAPTER XXXV

  ALL went well for the first part of the following half year. Miss
Pontifex spent the greater part of her holidays in London, and I
also saw her at Roughborough, where I spent a few days, staying at the
"Swan." I heard all about my godson in whom, however, I took less
interest than I said I did. I took more interest in the stage at
that time than in anything else, and as for Ernest, I found him a
nuisance for engrossing so much of his aunt's attention, and taking
her so much from London. The organ was begun, and made fair progress
during the first two months of the half year. Ernest was happier
than he had ever been before, and was struggling upwards. The best
boys took more notice of him for his aunt's sake, and he consorted
less with those who led him into mischief.

  But much as Miss Pontifex had done, she could not all at once undo
the effect of such surroundings as the boy had had at Battersby.
Much as he feared and disliked his father (though he still knew not
how much this was), he had caught much from him; if Theobald had
been kinder Ernest would have modelled himself upon him entirely,
and ere long would probably have become as thorough a little prig as
could have easily been found.

  Fortunately his temper had come to him from his mother, who, when
not frightened, and when there was nothing on the horizon which
might cross the slightest whim of her husband, was an amiable,
good-natured woman. If it was not such an awful thing to say of
anyone, I should say that she meant well.

  Ernest had also inherited his mother's love of building castles in
the air, and- so I suppose it must be called- her vanity. He was
very fond of showing off, and, provided he could attract attention,
cared little from whom it came, nor what it was for. He caught up,
parrot-like, whatever jargon he heard from his elders, which he
thought was the correct thing, and aired it in season and out of
season, as though it were his own.

  Miss Pontifex was old enough and wise enough to know that this is
the way in which even the greatest men as a general rule begin to
develop, and was more pleased with his receptiveness and
reproductiveness than alarmed at the things he caught and reproduced.

  She saw that he was much attached to herself, and trusted to this
rather than to anything else. She saw also that his conceit was not
very profound, and that his fits of self-abasement were as extreme
as his exaltation had been. His impulsiveness and sanguine
trustfulness in anyone who smiled pleasantly at him, or indeed was not
absolutely unkind to him, made her more anxious about him than any
other point in his character; she saw clearly that he would have to
find himself rudely undeceived many a time and oft, before he would
learn to distinguish friend from foe within reasonable time. It was
her perception of this which led her to take the action which she
was so soon called upon to take.

  Her health was for the most part excellent, and she had never had
a serious illness in her life. One morning, however, soon after
Easter, 1850, she awoke feeling seriously unwell. For some little time
there had been a talk of fever in the neighbourhood, but in those days
the precautions that ought to be taken against the spread of infection
were not so well understood as now, and nobody did anything. In a
day or two it became plain that Miss Pontifex had got an attack of
typhoid fever and was dangerously ill. On this she sent off a
messenger to town, and desired him not to return without her lawyer
and myself.

  We arrived on the afternoon of the day on which we had been
summoned, and found her still free from delirium: indeed, the cheery
way in which she received us made it difficult to think she could be
in danger. She at once explained her wishes, which had reference, as I
expected, to her nephew, and repeated the substance of what I have
already referred to as her main source of uneasiness concerning him.
Then she begged me by our long and close intimacy, by the suddenness
of the danger that had fallen on her and her powerlessness to avert
it, to undertake what she said she well knew, if she died, would be an
unpleasant and invidious trust.

  She wanted to leave the bulk of her money ostensibly to me, but in
reality to her nephew, so that I should hold it in trust for him
till he was twenty-eight years old, but neither he nor anyone else,
except her lawyer and myself, was to know anything about it. She would
leave L5000 in other legacies, and L15,000 to Ernest- which by the
time he was twenty-eight would have accumulated to, say, L30,000,
"Sell out the debentures," she said, "where the money now is- and
put it into Midland Ordinary.

  "Let him make his mistakes," she said, "upon the money his
grandfather left him. I am no prophet, but even I can see that it will
take that boy many years to see things as his neighbours see them.
He will get no help from his father and mother, who would never
forgive him for his good luck if I left him the money outright; I
daresay I am wrong, but I think he will have to lose the greater
part or all of what he has, before he will know how to keep what he
will get from me."

  Supposing he went bankrupt before he was twenty-eight years old, the
money was to be mine absolutely, but she could trust me, she said,
to hand it over to Ernest in due time.

  "If," she continued, "I am mistaken, the worst that can happen is
that he will come into a larger sum at twenty-eight instead of a
smaller sum at, say, twenty-three, for I would never trust him with it
earlier, and if he knows nothing about it he will not be unhappy for
the want of it."

  She begged me to take L2000 in return for the trouble I should
have in taking charge of the boy's estate, and as a sign of the
testatrix's hope that I would now and again look after him while he
was still young. The remaining L3000 I was to pay in legacies and
annuities to friends and servants.

  In vain both her lawyer and myself remonstrated with her on the
unusual and hazardous nature of this arrangement. We told her that
sensible people will not take a more sanguine view concerning human
nature than the Courts of Chancery do. We said, in fact, everything
that anyone else would say. She admitted everything, but urged that
her time was short, that nothing would induce her to leave her money
to her nephew in the usual way. "It is an unusually foolish will," she
said, "but he is an unusually foolish boy"; and she smiled quite
merrily at her little sally. Like all the rest of her family, she
was very stubborn when her mind was made up. So the thing was done
as she wished it.

  No provision was made for either my death or Ernest's -Miss Pontifex
had settled it that we were neither of us going to die, and was too
ill to go into details; she was so anxious, moreover, to sign her will
while still able to do so that we had practically no alternative but
to do as she told us. If she recovered we could see things put on a
more satisfactory footing, and further discussion would evidently
impair her chances of recovery; it seemed then only too likely that it
was a case of this will or no will at all.

  When the will was signed I wrote a letter in duplicate, saying
that I held all Miss Pontifex had left me in trust for Ernest except
as regards L5000, but that he was not to come into the bequest, and
was to know nothing whatever about it directly or indirectly, till
he was twenty-eight years old, and if he was bankrupt before he came
into it the money was to be mine absolutely. At the foot of each
letter Miss Pontifex wrote, "The above was my understanding when I
made my will," and then signed her name. The solicitor and his clerk
witnessed; I kept one copy myself and handed the other to Miss
Pontifex's solicitor.

  When all this had been done she became more easy in her mind. She
talked principally about her nephew. "Don't scold him," she said,
"if he is volatile, and continually takes things up only to throw them
down again. How can he find out his strength or weakness otherwise?
A man's profession," she said, and here she gave one of her wicked
little laughs, "is not like his wife, which he must take once for all,
for better for worse, without proof beforehand. Let him go here and
there, and learn his truest liking by finding out what, after all,
he catches himself turning to most habitually -then let him stick to
this; but I daresay Ernest will be forty or five-and-forty before he
settles down. Then all his previous infidelities will work together to
him for good if he is the boy I hope he is.

  "Above all," she continued, "do not let him work up to his full
strength, except once or twice in his lifetime; nothing is well done
nor worth doing unless, take it all round, it has come pretty
easily. Theobald and Christina would give him a pinch of salt and tell
him to put it on the tails of the seven deadly virtues"; -here she
laughed again in her old manner at once so mocking and so sweet- "I
think if he likes pancakes he had perhaps better eat them on Shrove
Tuesday, but this is enough." These were the last coherent words she
spoke. From that time she grew continually worse, and was never free
from delirium till her death- which took place less than a fortnight
afterwards, to the inexpressible grief of those who knew and loved
her.

  CHAPTER XXXVI

  Letters had been written to Miss Pontifex's brothers and sisters,
one and all came post-haste to Roughborough. Before they arrived the
poor lady was already delirious, and for the sake of her own peace
at the last I am half glad she never recovered consciousness.

  I had known these people all their lives, as none can know each
other but those who have played together as children; I knew how
they had all of them- perhaps Theobald least, but all of them more
or less- made her life a burden to her until the death of her father
had made her her own mistress, and I was displeased at their coming
one after the other to Roughborough, and inquiring whether their
sister had recovered consciousness sufficiently to be able to see
them. It was known that she had sent for me on being taken ill, and
that I remained at Roughborough, and I own I was angered by the
mingled air of suspicion, defiance, and inquisitiveness, with which
they regarded me. They would all, except Theobald, I believe, have cut
me downright if they had not believed me to know something they wanted
to know themselves, and might have some chance of learning from me-
for it was plain I had been in some way concerned with the making of
their sister's will. None of them suspected what the ostensible nature
of this would be, but I think they feared Miss Pontifex was about to
leave money for public uses. John said to me in his blandest manner
that he fancied he remembered to have heard his sister say that she
thought of leaving money to found a college for the relief of dramatic
authors in distress; to this I made no rejoinder, and I have no
doubt his suspicions were deepened.

  When the end came, I got Miss Pontifex's solicitor to write and tell
her brothers and sisters how she had left her money: they were not
unnaturally furious, and went each to his her separate home without
attending the funeral, and without paying any attention to myself.
This was perhaps the kindest thing they could have done by me, for
their behaviour made me so angry that I became almost reconciled to
Alethea's will out of pleasure at the anger it had aroused. But for
this, I should have felt the will keenly, as having been placed by
it in the position which of all others I had been most anxious to
avoid, and as having saddled me with a very heavy responsibility.
Still it was impossible for me to escape, and I could only let
things take their course.

  Miss Pontifex had expressed a wish to be buried at Paleham; in the
course of the next few days I therefore took the body thither. I had
not been to Paleham since the death of my father some six years
earlier. I had often wished to go there, but had shrunk from doing so,
though my sister had been two or three times. I could not bear to
see the house which had been my home for so many years of my life in
the hands of strangers; to ring ceremoniously at a bell which I had
never yet pulled except as a boy in jest; to feel that I had nothing
to do with a garden in which I had in childhood gathered so many a
nosegay, and which had seemed my own for many years after I had
reached man's estate; to see the rooms bereft of every familiar
feature, and made so unfamiliar in spite of their familiarity. Had
there been any sufficient reason, I should have taken these things
as a matter of course, and should no doubt have found them much
worse in anticipation than in reality; but as there had been no
special reason why I should go to Paleham I had hitherto avoided doing
so. Now, however, my going was a necessity, and I confess I never felt
more subdued than I did on arriving there with the dead playmate of my
childhood.

  I found the village more changed than I had expected. The railway
had come there, and a brand new yellow brick station was on the site
of old Mr. and Mrs. Pontifex's cottage. Nothing but the carpenter's
shop was now standing. I saw many faces I knew, but even in six
years they seemed to have grown wonderfully older. Some of the very
old were dead, and the old were getting very old in their stead. I
felt like the changeling in the fairy story who came back after a
seven years' sleep. Everyone seemed glad to see me, though I had never
given them particular cause to be so, and everyone who remembered
old Mr. and Mrs. Pontifex spoke warmly of them and were pleased at
their granddaughter's wishing to be laid near them. Entering the
churchyard and standing in the twilight of a gusty, cloudy evening
on the spot close beside old Mrs. Pontifex's grave which I had
chosen for Alethea's, I thought of the many times that she, who
would lie there henceforth, and I, who must surely lie one day in some
such another place, though when and where I knew not, had romped
over this very spot as childish lovers together.

  Next morning I followed her to the grave, and in due course set up a
plain upright slab to her memory as like as might be to those over the
graves of her grandmother and grandfather. I gave the dates and places
of her birth and death, but added nothing except that this stone was
set up by one who had known and loved her. Knowing how fond she had
been of music I had been half inclined at one time to inscribe a few
bars of music, if I could find any which seemed suitable to her
character, but I knew how much she would have disliked anything
singular in connection with her tombstone, and did not do it.

  Before, however, I had come to this conclusion, I had thought that
Ernest might be able to help me to the right thing, and had written to
him upon the subject. The following is the answer I received--

  "DEAR GODPAPA, -I send you the best bit I can think of; it is the
subject of the last of Handel's six grand fugues and goes thus:

   (See illustration.)

   It would do better for a man, especially for an old man who was
very sorry for things, than for a woman, but I cannot think of
anything better; if you do not like it for Aunt Alethea I shall keep
it for myself.- Your affectionate Godson,    "ERNEST PONTIFEX."

  Was this the little lad who could get sweeties for twopence but
not for twopence halfpenny? Dear, dear me, I thought to myself, how
these babes and sucklings do give us the go-by surely. Choosing his
own epitaph at fifteen as for a man who "had been very sorry for
things," and such a strain as that- why it might have done for
Leonardo da Vinci himself. Then I set the boy down as a conceited
young jackanapes, which no doubt he was,- but so are a great many
other young people of Ernest's age.

  CHAPTER XXXVII

  IF Theobald and Christina had not been too well pleased when Miss
Pontifex first took Ernest in hand, they were still less so when the
connection between the two was interrupted so prematurely. They said
they had made sure from what their sister had said that she was
going to make Ernest her heir. I do not think she had given them so
much as a hint to this effect. Theobald indeed gave Ernest to
understand that she had done so in a letter which will be given
shortly, but if Theobald wanted to make himself disagreeable, a trifle
light as air would forthwith assume in his imagination whatever form
was most convenient to him. I do not think they had even made up their
minds what Alethea was to do with her money before they knew of her
being at the point of death, and as I have said already, if they had
thought it likely that Ernest would be made heir over their own
heads without their having at any rate a life interest in the bequest,
they would have soon thrown obstacles in the way of further intimacy
between aunt and nephew.

  This, however, did not bar their right to feeling aggrieved now that
neither they nor Ernest had taken anything at all, and they could
profess disappointment on their boy's behalf which they would have
been too proud to admit upon their own. In fact, it was only amiable
of them to be disappointed under these circumstances.

  Christina said that the will was simply fraudulent, and was
convinced that it could be upset if she and Theobald went the right
way to work. Theobald, she said, should go before the Lord Chancellor,
not in full court but in chambers, where he could explain the whole
matter; or, perhaps it would be even better if she were to go herself-
and I dare not trust myself to describe the reverie to which this last
idea gave rise. I believe in the end Theobald died, and the Lord
Chancellor (who had become a widower a few weeks earlier) made her
an offer, which, however, she firmly but not ungratefully declined;
she should ever, she said, continue to think of him as a friend- at
this point the cook came in, saying the butcher had called, and what
would she please to order.

  I think Theobald must have had an idea that there was something
behind the bequest to me, but he said nothing about it to Christina.
He was angry and felt wronged, because he could not get at Alethea
to give her a piece of his mind any more than he had been able to
get at his father. "It is so mean of people," he exclaimed to himself,
"to inflict an injury of this sort, and then shirk facing those whom
they have injured; let us hope that, at any rate, they and I may
meet in Heaven." But of this he was doubtful, for when people had done
so great a wrong as this, it was hardly to be supposed that they would
go to Heaven at all- and as for his meeting them in another place, the
idea never so much as entered his mind.

  One so angry and, of late, so little used to contradiction might
be trusted, however, to avenge himself upon someone, and Theobald
had long since developed the organ by means of which he might vent
spleen with least risk and greatest satisfaction to himself. This
organ, it may be guessed, was nothing else than Ernest; to Ernest
therefore he proceeded to unburden himself, not personally, but by
letter.

  "You ought to know," he wrote, "that your Aunt Alethea had given
your mother and me to understand that it was her wish to make you
her heir- in the event, of course, of your conducting yourself in such
a manner as to give her confidence in you; as a matter of fact,
however, she has left you nothing, and the whole of her property has
gone to your godfather, Mr. Overton. Your mother and I are willing
to hope that if she had lived longer you would yet have succeeded in
winning her good opinion, but it is too late to think of this now.

  "The carpentering and organ-building must at once be dis. continued.
I never believed in the project, and have seen no reason to alter my
original opinion. I am not sorry for your own sake, that it is to be
at an end, nor, I am sure, will you regret it yourself in after-years.

  "A few words more as regards your own prospects. You have, as I
believe you know, a small inheritance, which is yours legally under
your granffather's will. This bequest was made inadvertently, and, I
believe, entirely through a misunderstanding on the lawyer's part. The
bequest was probably intended not to take effect till after the
death of your mother and myself; nevertheless, as the will is actually
worded, it will now be at your command if you live to be twenty-one
years old. From this, however, large deductions must be made. There
will be legacy duty, and I do not know whether I am not entitled to
deduct the expenses of your education and maintenance from birth to
your coming of age; I shall not in all likelihood insist on this right
to the full, if you conduct yourself properly, but a considerable
sum should certainly be deducted; there will therefore remain very
little -say L1000 or L2000 at the outside, as what will be actually
yours -but the strictest account shall be rendered you in due time.

  "This, let me warn you most seriously, is all that you must expect
from me" (even Ernest saw that it was not from Theobald at all), "at
any rate till after my death, which for aught any of us know may be
yet many years distant. It is not a large sum, but it is sufficient if
supplemented by steadiness and earnestness of purpose. Your mother and
I gave you the name Ernest, hoping that it would remind you
continually of --" but I really cannot copy more of this effusion.
It was all the same old will-shaking game and came practically to
this, that Ernest was no good, and that if he went on as he was
going on now, he would probably have to go about the streets begging
without any shoes or stockings soon after he had left school, or at
any rate, college; and that he, Theobald, and Christina were almost
too good for this world altogether.

  After he had written this Theobald felt quite good-natured, and sent
to the Mrs. Thompson of the moment even more soup and wine than her
usual not illiberal allowance.

  Ernest was deeply, passionately upset by his father's letter; to
think that even his dear aunt, the one person of his relations whom he
really loved, should have turned against him and thought badly of
him after all. This was the unkindest cut of all. In the hurry of
her illness Miss Pontifex, while thinking only of his welfare, had
omitted to make such small present mention of him as would have made
his father's innuendoes stingless; and her illness being infectious,
she had not seen him after its nature was known. I myself did not know
of Theobald's letter, nor think enough about my godson to guess what
might easily be his state. It was not till many years afterwards
that I found Theobald's letter in the pocket of an old portfolio which
Ernest had used at school, and in which other old letters and school
documents were collected which I have used in this book. He had
forgotten that he had it, but told me when he saw it that he
remembered it as the first thing that made him begin to rise against
his father in a rebellion which he recognized as righteous, though
he dared not openly avow it. Not the least serious thing was that it
would, he feared, be his duty to give up the legacy his grandfather
had left him; for if it was his only through a mistake, how could he
keep it?

  During the rest of the half year Ernest was listless and unhappy. He
was very fond of some of his schoolfellows, but afraid of those whom
he believed to be better than himself, and prone to idealise
everyone into being his superior except those who were obviously a
good deal beneath him. He held himself much too cheap, and because
he was without that physical strength and vigour which he so much
coveted, and also because he knew he shirked his lessons, he
believed that he was without anything which could deserve the name
of a good quality; he was naturally bad, and one of those for whom
there was no place for repentance, though he sought it even with
tears. So he shrank out of sight of those whom in his boyish way he
idolised, never for a moment suspecting that he might have
capacities to the full as high as theirs though of a different kind,
and fell in more with those who were reputed of the baser sort, with
whom he could at any rate be upon equal terms. Before the end of the
half year he had dropped from the estate to which he had been raised
during his aunt's stay at Roughborough, and his old dejection, varied,
however, with bursts of conceit rivalling those of his mother, resumed
its sway over him. "Pontifex," said Dr. Skinner, who had fallen upon
him in hall one day like a moral landslip, before he had time to
escape, "do you never laugh? Do you always look so preternaturally
grave?" The Doctor had not meant to be unkind, but the boy turned
crimson, and escaped.

  There was one place only where he was happy, and that was in the old
church of St. Michael, when his friend the organist was practising.
About this time cheap editions of the great oratorios began to appear,
and Ernest got them all as soon as they were published; he would
sometimes sell a school-book to a second-hand dealer, and buy a number
or two of the "Messiah," or the "Creation," or "Elijah," with the
proceeds. This was simply cheating his papa and mamma, but Ernest
was falling low again- or thought he was- and he wanted the music
much, and the Sallust, or whatever it was, little. Sometimes the
organist would go home, leaving his keys with Ernest, so that he could
play by himself and lock up the organ and the church in time to get
back for calling over. At other times, while his friend was playing,
he would wander round the church, looking at the monuments and the old
stained glass windows, enchanted as regards both ears and eyes, at
once. Once the old rector got hold of him as he was watching a new
window being put in, which the rector had bought in Germany- the work,
it was supposed, of Albert Durer. He questioned Ernest, and finding
that he was fond of music, he said in his old trembling voice (for
he was over eighty), "Then you should have known Dr. Burney who
wrote the history of music. I knew him exceedingly well when I was a
young man." That made Ernest's heart beat, for he knew that Dr.
Burney, when a boy at school at Chester, used to break bounds that
he might watch Handel smoking his pipe in the Exchange coffee house-
and now he was in the presence of one who, if he had not seen Handel
himself, had at least seen those who had seen him.

  These were oases in his desert, but, as a general rule, the boy
looked thin and pale, and as though he had a secret which depressed
him, which no doubt he had, but for which I cannot blame him. He rose,
in spite of himself, higher in the school, but fell ever into deeper
and deeper disgrace with the masters, and did not gain in the
opinion of those boys about whom he was persuaded that they could
assuredly never know what it was to have a secret weighing upon
their minds. This was what Ernest felt so keenly; he did not much care
about the boys who liked him, and idolised some who kept him as far as
possible at a distance, but this is pretty much the case with all boys
everywhere.

  At last things reached a crisis, below which they could not very
well go, for at the end of the half year but one after his aunt's
death, Ernest brought back a document in his portmanteau, which
Theobald stigmatised as "infamous and outrageous." I need hardly say I
am alluding to his school bill.

  This document was always a source of anxiety to Ernest, for it was
gone into with scrupulous care, and he was a good deal
cross-examined about it. He would sometimes "write in" for articles
necessary for his education, such as a portfolio, or a dictionary, and
sell the same, as I have explained, in order to eke out his
pocket-money, probably to buy either music or tobacco. These frauds
were sometimes, as Ernest thought, in imminent danger of being
discovered, and it was a load off his breast when the
cross-examination was safely over. This time Theobald had made a great
fuss about the extras, but had grudgingly passed them; it was
another matter, however, with the character and the moral
statistics, with which the bill concluded.

  The page on which these details were to be found was as follows:

        REPORT OF THE CONDUCT AND PROGRESS OF ERNEST PONTIFEX.

         UPPER FIFTH FORM, HALF YEAR ENDING MIDSUMMER 1851.

   Classics - Idle, listless and unimproving.

   Mathematics         "              "

   Divinity            "              "

   Conduct in house - Orderly.

   General Conduct - Not satisfactory, on account of his great

                       unpunctuality and inattention to duties.

   Monthly merit money     1s.  6d.  6d.  0d.  6d.  Total  2s.  6d.

   Number of merit marks   2    0    1    1    0    Total       4

   Number of penal marks  26   20   25   30   25    Total     126

   Number of extra penals  9    6   10   12   11    Total      48

  I recommend that his pocket-money be made to depend upon his merit
money.

                                          S. SKINNER, Head-master.

  CHAPTER XXXVIII

  ERNEST was thus in disgrace from the beginning of the holidays,
but an incident soon occurred which led him into delinquencies
compared with which all his previous sins were venial.

  Among the servants at the Rectory was a remarkably pretty girl named
Ellen. She came from Devonshire, and was the daughter of a fisherman
who had been drowned when she was a child. Her mother set up a small
shop in the village where her husband had lived, and just managed to
make a living. Ellen remained with her till she was fourteen, when she
first went out to service. Four years later, when she was about
eighteen, but so well grown that she might have passed for twenty, she
had been strongly recommended to Christina, who was then in want of
a housemaid, and had now been at Battersby about twelve months.

  As I have said, the girl was remarkably pretty; she looked the
perfection of health and good temper, indeed there was a serene
expression upon her face which captivated almost all who saw her;
she looked as if matters had always gone well with her and were always
going to do so, and as if no conceivable combination of
circumstances could put her for long together out of temper either
with herself or with anyone else. Her complexion was clear, but
high; her eyes were grey and beautifully shaped; her lips were full
and restful, with something of an Egyptian Sphinx-like character about
them. When I learned that she came from Devonshire I fancied I saw a
strain of far-away Egyptian blood in her, for I had heard, though I
know not what foundation there was for the story, that the Egyptians
made settlements on the coast of Devonshire and Cornwall long before
the Romans conquered Britain. Her hair was a rich brown, and her
figure- of about the middle height-perfect, but erring if at all on
the side of robustness. Altogether she was one of those girls about
whom one is inclined to wonder how is inclined to wonder how they
can remain unmarried a week or a day longer.

  Her face (as indeed faces generally are, though I grant they lie
sometimes) was a fair index to her disposition. She was good nature
itself, and everyone in the house, not excluding I believe even
Theobald himself after a fashion, was fond of her. As for Christina,
she took the very warmest interest in her, and used to have her into
the dining-room twice a week, and prepare her for confirmation (for by
some accident she had never been confirmed) by explaining to her the
geography of Palestine and the routes taken by St. Paul on his various
journeys in Asia Minor.

  When Bishop Treadwell did actually come down to Battersby and hold a
confirmation there (Christina had her wish, he slept at Battersby, and
she had a grand dinner party for him, and called him "My lord" several
times), he was so much struck with her pretty face and modest
demeanour when he laid his hands upon her that he asked Christina
about her. When she replied that Ellen was one of her own servants,
the Bishop seemed, so she thought or chose to think, quite pleased
that so pretty a girl should have found so exceptionally good a
situation.

  Ernest used to get up early during the holidays so that he might
play the piano before breakfast without disturbing his papa and mamma-
or rather, perhaps, without being disturbed by them. Ellen would
generally be there sweeping the drawing-room floor and dusting while
he was playing, and the boy, who was ready to make friends with most
people, soon became very fond of her. He was not as a general rule
sensitive to the charms of the fair sex, indeed he had hardly been
thrown in with any women except his Aunts Allaby, and his Aunt
Alethea, his mother, his sister Charlotte and Mrs. Jay; sometimes also
he had had to take off his hat to the Miss Skinners, and had felt as
if he should sink into the earth on doing so, but his shyness had worn
off with Ellen, and the pair had become fast friends.

  Perhaps it was well that Ernest was not at home for very long
together, but as yet his affection though hearty was quite Platonic.
He was not only innocent, but deplorably- I might even say guiltily-
innocent. His preference was based upon the fact that Ellen never
scolded him, but was always smiling and good-tempered; besides she
used to like to hear him play, and this gave him additional zest in
playing. The morning access to the piano was indeed the one distinct
advantage which the holidays had in Ernest's eyes, for at school he
could not get at a piano except quasi-surreptitiously at the shop of
Mr. Pearsall, the music-seller.

  On returning this midsummer he was shocked to find his favourite
looking pale and ill. All her good spirits had left her, the roses had
fled from her cheek, and she seemed on the point of going into a
decline. She said she was unhappy about her mother, whose health was
failing, and was afraid she was herself not long for this world.
Christina, of course, noticed the change. "I have often remarked," she
said, "that those very fresh-coloured, healthy-looking girls are the
first to break up. I have given her calomel and james's powders
repeatedly, and though she does not like it, I think I must show her
to Dr. Martin when he next comes here."

  "Very well, my dear," said Theobald, and so next time Dr. Martin
came Ellen was sent for. Dr. Martin soon discovered what would
probably have been apparent to Christina herself if she had been
able to conceive of such an ailment in connection with a servant who
lived under the same roof as Theobald and herself -the purity of whose
married life should have preserved all unmarried people who came
near them from any taint of mischief.

  When it was discovered that in three or four months more Ellen would
become a mother, Christina's natural good nature would have prompted
her to deal as leniently with the case as she could, if she had not
been panic-stricken lest any mercy on her and Theobald's part should
be construed into toleration, however partial, of so great a sin;
hereon she dashed off into the conviction that the only thing to do
was to pay Ellen her wages, and pack her off on the instant bag and
baggage out of the house which purity had more especially and
particularly singled out for its abiding city. When she thought of the
fearful contamination which Ellen's continued presence even for a week
would occasion, she could not hesitate.

  Then came the question- horrid thought!- as to who was the partner
of Ellen's guilt? Was it, could it be, her own son, her darling
Ernest? Ernest was getting a big boy now. She could excuse any young
woman for taking a fancy to him; as for himself, why, she was sure
he was behind no young man of his age in appreciation of the charms of
a nice-looking young woman. So long as he was innocent she did not
mind this, but oh, if he were guilty!

  She could not bear to think of it, and yet it would be mere
cowardice not to look such a matter in the face- her hope was in the
Lord, and she was ready to bear cheerfully and make the best of any
suffering He might think fit to lay upon her. That the baby must be
either a boy or girl- this much, at any rate, was clear. No less clear
was it that the child, if a boy, would resemble Theobald, and if a
girl, herself. Resemblance, whether of body or mind, generally
leaped over a generation. The guilt of the parents must not be
shared by the innocent offspring of shame- oh! no- and such a child as
this would be.... She was off in one of her reveries at once.

  The child was in the act of being consecrated Archbishop of
Canterbury when Theobald came in from a visit in the parish, and was
told of the shocking discovery.

  Christina said nothing about Ernest, and I believe was more than
half angry when the blame was laid upon other shoulders. She was
easily consoled, however, and fell back on the double reflection,
firstly, that her son was pure, and secondly, that she was quite
sure he would not have been so had it not been for his religious
convictions which had held him back- as, of course, it was only to
be expected they would.

  Theobald agreed that no time must be lost in paying Ellen her
wages and packing her off. So this was done, and less than two hours
after Dr. Martin had entered the house Ellen was sitting beside John
the coachman, with her face muffled up so that it could not be seen,
weeping bitterly as she was being driven to the station.

  CHAPTER XXXIX

  ERNEST had been out all the morning, but came into the yard of the
Rectory from the spinney behind the house just as Ellen's things
were being put into the carriage. He thought it was Ellen whom he then
saw get into the carriage, but as her face had been hidden by her
handkerchief he had not been able to see plainly who it was, and
dismissed the idea as improbable.

  He went to the back-kitchen window, at which the cook was standing
peeling the potatoes for dinner, and found her crying bitterly. Ernest
was much distressed, for he liked the cook, and, of course, wanted
to know what all the matter was, who it was that had just gone off
in the pony carriage, and why? The cook told him it was Ellen, but
said that no earthly power should make it cross her lips why it was
she was going away; when, however, Ernest took her au pied de la
lettre and asked no further questions, she told him all about it after
extorting the most solemn promises of secrecy.

  It took Ernest some minutes to arrive at the facts of the case,
but when he understood them he leaned against the pump, which stood
near the back-kitchen window, and mingled his tears with the cook's.

  Then his blood began to boil within him. He did not see that after
all his father and mother could have done much otherwise than they
actually did. They might perhaps have been less precipitate, and tried
to keep the matter a little more quiet, but this would not have been
easy, nor would it have mended things very materially. The bitter fact
remains that if a girl does certain things she must do them at her
peril, no matter how young and pretty she is nor to what temptation
she has succumbed. This is the way of the world, and as yet there
has been no help found for it.

  Ernest could only see what he gathered from the cook, namely, that
his favourite, Ellen, was being turned adrift with a matter of three
pounds in her pocket, to go she knew not where, and to do she knew not
what, and that she had said she should hang or drown herself, which
the boy implicitly believed she would.

  With greater promptitude than he had shown yet, he reckoned up his
money and found he had two shillings and threepence at his command;
there was his knife which might sell for a shilling, and there was the
silver watch his Aunt Alethea had given him shortly before she died.
The carriage had been gone now a full quarter of an hour, and it
must have got some distance ahead, but he would do his best to catch
it up, and there were short cuts which would perhaps give him a
chance. He was off at once, and from the top of the hill just past the
Rectory paddock he could see the carriage, looking very small, on a
bit of road which showed perhaps a mile and a half in front of him.

  One of the most popular amusements at Roughborough was an
institution called "the hounds"- more commonly known elsewhere as
"hare and hounds," but in this case the hare was a couple of boys
who were called foxes, and boys are so particular about correctness of
nomenclature where their sports are concerned that I dare not say they
played "hare and hounds"; these were "the hounds," and that was all.
Ernest's want of muscular strength did not tell against him here;
there was no jostling up against boys who, though neither older nor
taller than he, were yet more robustly built; if it came to mere
endurance he was as good as anyone else, so when his carpentering
was stopped he had naturally taken to "the hounds" as his favourite
amusement. His lungs thus exercised had become developed, and as a run
of six or seven miles across country was not more than he was used to,
he did not despair by the help of the short cuts of overtaking the
carriage, or at the worst of catching Ellen at the station before
the train left. So he ran and ran and ran till his first wind was gone
and his second came, and he could breathe more easily. Never with "the
hounds" had he run so fast and with so few breaks as now, but with all
his efforts and the help of the short cuts he did not catch up the
carriage, and would probably not have done so had not John happened to
turn his head and seen him running and making signs for the carriage
to stop a quarter of a mile off. He was now about five miles from
home, and was nearly done up.

  He was crimson with his exertion; covered with dust, and with his
trousers and coat sleeves a trifle short for him he cut a poor
figure enough as he thrust on Ellen his watch, his knife, and the
little money he had. The one thing he implored of her was not to do
those dreadful things which she threatened- for his sake if for no
other reason.

  Ellen at first would not hear of taking anything from him, but the
coachman, who was from the north country, sided with Ernest. "Take it,
my lass," he said kindly; "take what thou canst get whiles thou
canst get it; as for Master Ernest here- he has run well after thee;
therefore let him give thee what he is minded."

  Ellen did what she was told, and the two parted with many tears, the
girl's last words being that she should never forget him, and that
they should meet again hereafter, she was sure they should, and then
she would repay him.

  Then Ernest got into a field by the roadside, flung himself on the
grass, and waited under the shadow of a hedge till the carriage should
pass on its return from the station and pick him up, for he was dead
beat. Thoughts which had already occurred to him with some force now
came more strongly before him, and he saw that he had got himself into
one mess- or rather into a half-a-dozen messes- the more.

  In the first place he should be late for dinner, and this was one of
the offences on which Theobald had no mercy. Also he should have to
say where he had been, and there was a danger of being found out if he
did not speak the truth. Not only this, but sooner or later it must
come out that he was no longer possessed of the beautiful watch
which his dear aunt had given him- and what, pray, had he done with
it, or how had he lost it? The reader will know very well what he
ought to have done. He should have gone straight home, and if
questioned should have said, "I have been running after the carriage
to catch our housemaid Ellen, whom I am very fond of; I have given her
my watch, my knife, and all my pocket-money, so that I have now no
pocket-money at all and shall probably ask you for some more sooner
than I otherwise might have done, and you will also have to buy me a
new watch and a knife." But then fancy the consternation which such an
announcement would have occasioned! Fancy the scowl and flashing
eyes of the infuriated Theobald! "You unprincipled young scoundrel,"
he would exclaim, "do you mean to vilify your own parents by
implying that they have dealt harshly by one whose profligacy has
disgraced their house?"

  Or he might take it with one of those sallies of sarcastic calm,
of which he believed himself to be a master.

  "Very well, Ernest, very well: I shall say nothing; you can please
yourself; you are not yet twenty-one, but pray act as if you were your
own master; your poor aunt doubtless gave you the watch that you might
fling it away upon the first improper character you came across; I
think I can now understand, however, why she did not leave you her
money; and, after all, your godfather may just as well have it as
the kind of people on whom you would lavish it if it were yours."

  Then his mother would burst into tears and implore him to repent and
seek the things belonging to his peace while there was yet time, by
falling on his knees to Theobald and assuring him of his unfailing
love for him as the kindest and tenderest father in the universe.
Ernest could do all this just as well as they could, and now, as he
lay on the grass, speeches, some one or other of which was as
certain to come as the sun to set, kept running in his head till
they confuted the idea of telling the truth by reducing it to an
absurdity. Truth might be heroic, but it was not within the range of
practical domestic politics.

  Having settled then that he was to tell a lie, what lie should he
tell? Should he say he had been robbed? He had enough imagination to
know that he had not enough imagination to carry him out here. Young
as he was, his instinct told him that the best liar is he who makes
the smallest amount of lying go the longest way -who husbands it too
carefully to waste it where it can be dispensed with. The simplest
course would be to say that he had lost the watch, and was late for
dinner because he had been looking for it. He had been out for a
long walk- he chose the line across the fields that he had actually
taken- and the weather being very hot, he had taken off his coat and
waistcoat; in carrying them over his arm his watch, his money, and his
knife had dropped out of them. He had got nearly home when he found
out his loss, and had run back as fast as he could, looking along
the line he had followed, till at last he had given it up; seeing
the carriage coming back from the station, he had let it pick him up
and bring him home.

  This covered everything, the running and all; for his face still
showed that he must have been running hard; the only question was
whether he had been seen about the Rectory by any but the servants for
a couple of hours or so before Ellen had gone, and this he was happy
to believe was not the case; for he had been out except during his few
minutes' interview with the cook. His father had been out in the
parish; his mother had certainly not come across him, and his
brother and sister had also been out with the governess. He knew he
could depend upon the cook and the other servants- the coachman
would see to this; on the whole, therefore, both he and the coachman
thought the story as proposed by Ernest would about meet the
requirements of the case.

  CHAPTER XL

  When Ernest got home and sneaked in through the back door, he
heard his father's voice in its angriest tones, enquiring whether
Master Ernest had already returned. He felt as Jack must have felt
in the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk, when from the oven in which
he was hidden he heard the ogre ask his wife what young children she
had got for his supper. With much courage, and, as the event proved,
with not less courage than discretion, he took the bull by the
horns, and announced himself at once as having just come in after
having met with a terrible misfortune. Little by little he told his
story, and though Theobald stormed somewhat at his "incredible folly
and carelessness he got off better than he expected. Theobald and
Christina had indeed at first been inclined to connect his absence
from dinner with Ellen's dismissal, but on finding it clear, as
Theobald said- everything was always clear with Theobald- that
Ernest had not been in the house all the morning, and could
therefore have known nothing of what had happened, he was acquitted on
this account for once in a way, without a stain upon his character.
Perhaps Theobald was in a good temper; he may have seen from the paper
that morning that his stocks had been rising; it may have been this or
twenty other things, but whatever it was, he did not scold so much
as Ernest had expected, and, seeing the boy look exhausted and
believing him to be much grieved at the loss of his watch, Theobald
actually prescribed a glass of wine after his dinner, which, strange
to say, did not choke him, but made him see things more cheerfully
than was usual with him.

  That night when he said his prayers, he inserted a few paragraphs to
the effect that he might not be discovered, and that things might go
well with Ellen, but he was anxious and ill at ease. His guilty
conscience pointed out to him a score of weak places in his story,
through any one of which detection might even yet easily enter. Next
day and for many days afterwards he fled when no man was pursuing, and
trembled each time he heard his father's voice calling for him. He had
already so many causes of anxiety that he could stand little more, and
in spite of all his endeavours to look cheerful, even his mother could
see that something was preying upon his mind. Then the idea returned
to her that, after all, her son might not be innocent in the Ellen
matter- and this was so interesting that she felt bound to get as near
the truth as she could.

  "Come here, my poor, pale-faced, heavy-eyed boy," she said to him
one day in her kindest manner; "come and sit down by me, and we will
have a little quiet confidential talk together, will we not?"

  The boy went mechanically to the sofa. Whenever his mother wanted
what she called a confidential talk with him she always selected the
sofa as the most suitable ground on which to open her campaign. All
mothers do this; the sofa is to them what the dining-room is to
fathers. In the present case the sofa was particularly well adapted
for a strategic purpose, being an old-fashioned one with a high
back, mattress, bolsters and cushions. Once safely penned into one
of its deep corners, it was like a dentist's chair, not too easy to
get out of again. Here she could get at him better to pull him
about, if this should seem desirable, or if she thought fit to cry she
could bury her head in the sofa cushion and abandon herself to an
agony of grief which seldom failed of its effect. None of her
favourite manoeuvres were so easily adopted in her usual seat, the
armchair on the right hand side of the fireplace, and so well did
her son know from his mother's tone that this was going to be a sofa
conversation that he took his place like a lamb as soon as she began
to speak and before she could reach the sofa herself.

  "My dearest boy," began his mother, taking hold of his hand and
placing it within her own, "promise me never to be afraid either of
your dear papa or of me; promise me this, my dear, as you love me,
promise it to me," and she kissed him again and again and stroked
his hair. But with her other hand she still kept hold of his; she
had got him and she meant to keep him.

  The lad hung down his head and promised. What else could he do?

  "You know there is no one, dear, dear Ernest, who loves you so
much as your papa and I do; no one who watches so carefully over
your interests or who is so anxious to enter into all your little joys
and troubles as we are; but, my dearest boy, it grieves me to think
sometimes that you have not that perfect love for and confidence in us
which you ought to have. You know, my darling, that it would be as
much our pleasure as our duty to watch over the development of your
moral and spiritual nature, but alas! you will not let us see your
moral and spiritual nature. At times we are almost inclined to doubt
whether you have a moral and spiritual nature at all. Of your inner
life, my dear, we know nothing beyond such scraps as we can glean in
spite of you, from little things which escape you almost before you
know that you have said them."

  The boy winced at this. It made him feel hot and uncomfortable all
over. He knew well how careful he ought to be, and yet, do what he
could, from time to time his forgetfulness of the part betrayed him
into unreserve. His mother saw that he winced, and enjoyed the scratch
she had given him. Had she felt less confident of victory she had
better have foregone the pleasure of touching as it were the eyes at
the end of the snail's horns in order to enjoy seeing the snail draw
them in again- but she knew that when she had got him well down into
the sofa, and held his hand, she had the enemy almost absolutely at
her mercy, and could do pretty much what she liked.

  "Papa does not feel," she continued, "that you love him with that
fulness and unreserve which would prompt you to have no concealment
from him, and to tell him everything freely and fearlessly as your
most loving earthly friend next only to your Heavenly Father.
Perfect love, as we know, casteth out fear: your father loves you
perfectly, my darling, but he does not feel as though you loved him
perfectly in return. If you fear him it is because you do not love him
as he deserves, and I know it sometimes cuts him to the very heart
to think that he has earned from you a deeper and more willing
sympathy than you display towards him. Oh, Ernest, Ernest, do not
grieve one who is so good and noble-hearted by conduct which I can
call by no other name than ingratitude."

  Ernest could never stand being spoken to in this way by his
mother: for he still believed that she loved him, and that he was fond
of her and had a friend in her- up to a certain point. But his
mother was beginning to come to the end of her tether; she had
played the domestic confidence trick upon him times without number
already. Over and over again had she wheedled from him all she
wanted to know, and afterwards got him into the most horrible scrape
by telling the whole to Theobald. Ernest had remonstrated more than
once upon these occasions, and had pointed out to his mother how
disastrous to him his confidences had been, but Christina had always
joined issue with him and showed him in the clearest possible manner
that in each case she had been right, and that he could not reasonably
complain. Generally it was her conscience that forbade her to be
silent, and against this there was no appeal, for we are all bound
to follow the dictates of our conscience. Ernest used to have to
recite a hymn about conscience. It was to the effect that if you did
not pay attention to its voice it would soon leave off speaking. "My
mamma's conscience has not left off speaking," said Ernest to one of
his chums at Roughborough; "it's always jabbering."

  When a boy has once spoken so disrespectfully as this about his
mother's conscience it is practically all over between him and her.
Ernest through sheer force of habit, of the sofa, and of the return of
the associated ideas, was still so moved by the siren's voice as to
yearn to sail towards her, and fling himself into her arms, but it
would not do; there were other associated ideas that returned also,
and the mangled bones of too many murdered confessions were lying
whitening round the skirts of his mother's dress, to allow him by
any possibility to trust her further. So he hung his head and looked
sheepish, but kept his own counsel.

  "I see, my dearest," continued his mother, "either that I am
mistaken, and that there is nothing on your mind, or that you will not
unburden yourself to me: but oh, Ernest, tell me at least this much;
is there nothing that you repent of, nothing which makes you unhappy
in connection with that miserable girl Ellen?"

  Ernest's heart failed him. "I am a dead boy now," he said to
himself. He had not the faintest conception what his mother was
driving at, and thought she suspected about the watch; but he held his
ground.

  I do not believe he was much more of a coward than his neighbours,
only he did not know that all sensible people are cowards when they
are off their beat, or when they think they are going to be roughly
handled. I believe that if the truth were known, it would be found
that even the valiant St. Michael himself tried hard to shirk his
famous combat with the dragon; he pretended not to see all sorts of
misconduct on the dragon's part; shut his eyes to the eating up of I
do not know how many hundreds of men, women, and children whom he
had promised to protect; allowed himself to be publicly insulted a
dozen times over without resenting it; and in the end, when even an
angel could stand it no longer, he shillyshallied and temporised an
unconscionable time before he would fix the day and hour for the
encounter. As for the actual combat it was much such another
wurra-wurra as Mrs. Allaby had had with the young man who had in the
end married her eldest daughter, till after a time, behold, there
was the dragon lying dead, while he was himself alive and not very
seriously hurt after all.

  "I do not know what you mean, mamma," exclaimed Ernest anxiously and
more or less hurriedly. His mother construed his manner into
indignation at being suspected, and being rather frightened herself
she turned tail and scuttled off as fast as her tongue could carry
her.

  "Oh!" she said, "I see by your tone that you are innocent! Oh! oh!
how I thank my Heavenly Father for this; may He for His dear Son's
sake keep you always pure. Your father, my dear"- (here she spoke
hurriedly but gave him a searching look) "was as pure as a spotless
angel when he came to me. Like him, always be self-denying, truly
truthful both in word and deed, never forgetful whose son and grandson
you are, nor of the name we gave you, of the sacred stream in whose
waters your sins were washed out of you through the blood and blessing
of Christ," etc.

  But Ernest cut this- I will not say short- but a great deal
shorter than it would have been if Christina had had her say out, by
extricating himself from his mamma's embrace and showing a clean
pair of heels. As he got near the purlieus of the kitchen (where he
was more at ease) he heard his father calling for his mother, and
again his guilty conscience rose against him. "He has found all out
now," it cried, "and he is going to tell mamma- this time I am done
for." But there was nothing in it; his father only wanted the key of
the cellaret. Then Ernest slunk off into a coppice or spinney behind
the Rectory paddock, and consoled himself with a pipe of tobacco. Here
in the wood with the summer sun streaming through the trees and a book
and his pipe the boy forgot his cares and had an interval of that rest
without which I verily believe his life would have been insupportable.

  Of course, Ernest was made to look for his lost property, and a
reward was offered for it, but it seemed he had wandered a good deal
off the path, thinking to find a lark's nest, more than once, and
looking for a watch and purse on Battersby piewipes was very like
looking for a needle in a bundle of hay: besides it might have been
found and taken by some tramp, or by a magpie of which there were many
in the neighbourhood, so that after a week or ten days the search
was discontinued, and the unpleasant fact had to be faced that
Ernest must have another watch, another knife, and a small sum of
pocket-money.

  It was only right, however, that Ernest should pay half the cost
of the watch; this should be made easy for him, for it should be
deducted from his pocket-money in half-yearly installments extending
over two, or even it might be three years. In Ernest's own
interests, then, as well as those of as well as those of his father
and mother, it would be well that the watch should cost as little as
possible, so it was resolved to buy a second-hand one. Nothing was
to be said to Ernest, but it was to be bought, and laid upon his plate
as a surprise just before the holidays were over. Theobald would
have to go to the county town in a few days, and could then find
some second-hand watch which would answer sufficiently well. In the
course of time, therefore, Theobald went, furnished with a long list
of household commissions, among which was the purchase of a watch
for Ernest.

  Those, as I have said, were always happy times, when Theobald was
away for a whole day certain; the boy was beginning feel easy in his
mind as though God had heard his prayers, and he was not going to be
found out. Altogether the day had proved an unusually tranquil one,
but, alas! it was not to close as it had begun; the fickle
atmosphere in which he lived was never more likely to breed a storm
than after such an interval of brilliant calm, and when Theobald
returned Ernest had only to look in his face to see that a hurricane
was approaching.

  Christina saw that something had gone very wrong, and was quite
frightened lest Theobald should have heard of some serious money loss;
he did not, however, at once unbosom himself, but rang the bell and
said to the servant, "Tell Master Ernest I wish to speak to him in the
dining-room."

  CHAPTER XLI

  LONG before Ernest reached the dining-room his ill-divining soul had
told him that his sin had found him out. What head of a family ever
sends for any of its members into the dining-room if his intentions
are honourable?

  When he reached it he found it empty- his father having been
called away for a few minutes unexpectedly upon some parish
business- and he was left in the same kind of suspense as people are
in after they have been ushered into their dentist's ante-room.

  Of all the rooms in the house he hated the dining-room worst. It was
here that he had had to do his Latin and Greek lessons with his
father. It had a smell of some particular kind of polish or varnish
which was used in polishing the furniture, and neither I nor Ernest
can even now come within range of the smell of this kind of varnish
without our hearts failing us.

  Over the chimney-piece there was a veritable old master, one of
the few original pictures which Mr. George Pontifex had brought from
Italy. It was supposed to be a Salvator Rosa, and had been bought as a
great bargain. The subject was Elijah or Elisha (whichever it was)
being fed by the ravens in the desert. There were the ravens in the
upper right-hand corner with bread and meat in their beaks and
claws, and there was the prophet in question in the lower left-hand
corner looking longingly up towards them. When Ernest was a very small
boy it had been a constant matter of regret to him that the food which
the ravens carried never actually reached the prophet; he did not
understand the limitation of the painter's art, and wanted the meat
and the prophet to be brought into direct contact. One day, with the
help of some steps which had been left in the room, he had clambered
up to the picture and with a piece of bread and butter traced a greasy
line right across it from the ravens to Elisha's mouth, after which he
had felt more comfortable.

  Ernest's mind was drifting back to this youthful escapade when he
heard his father's hand on the door, and in another second Theobald
entered.

  "Oh, Ernest," said he, in an off-hand, rather cheery manner,
"there's a little matter which I should like you to explain to me,
as I have no doubt you very easily can." Thump, thump, thump, went
Ernest's heart against his ribs; but his father's manner was so much
nicer than usual that he began to think it might be after all only
another false alarm.

  "It had occurred to your mother and myself that we should like to
set you up with a watch again before you went back to school" ("Oh,
that's all," said Ernest to himself, quite relieved), "and I have been
to-day to look out for a second-hand one which should answer every
purpose so long as you are at school."

  Theobald spoke as if watches had half-a-dozen purposes besides
time-keeping, but he could hardly open his mouth without using one
or other of his tags, and "answering every purpose" was one of them.

  Ernest was breaking out into the usual expressions of gratitude,
when Theobald continued, "You are interrupting me," and Ernest's heart
thumped again.

  "You are interrupting me, Ernest. I have not yet done." Ernest was
instantly dumb.

  "I passed several shops with second-hand watches for sale, but I saw
none of a description and price which pleased me, till at last I was
shown one which had, so the shopman said, been left with him
recently for sale, and which I at once recognised as the one which had
been given you by your Aunt Alethea. Even if I had failed to recognise
it, as perhaps I might have done, I should have identified it directly
it reached my hands, inasmuch as it had 'E.P., a present from A.P.'
engraved upon the inside. I need say no more to show that this was the
very watch which you told your mother and me that you had dropped
out of your pocket."

  Up to this time Theobald's manner had been studiously calm, and
his words had been uttered slowly, but here he suddenly quickened
and flung off the mask as he added the words, "or some such cock and
bull story, which your mother and I were too truthful to disbelieve.
You can guess what must be our feelings now."

  Ernest felt that this last home-thrust was just. In his less anxious
moments he had thought his papa and mamma "green" for the readiness
with which they believed him, but he could not deny that their
credulity was a proof of their habitual truthfulness of mind. In
common justice he must own that it was very dreadful for two such
truthful people to have a son as untruthful as he knew himself to be.

  "Believing that a son of your mother and myself would be incapable
of falsehood I at once assumed that some tramp had picked the watch up
and was now trying to dispose of it."

  This, to the best of my belief, was not accurate. Theobald's first
assumption had been that it was Ernest who was trying to sell the
watch, and it was an inspiration of the moment to say that his
magnanimous mind had at once conceived the idea of a tramp.

  "You may imagine how shocked I was when I discovered that the
watch had been brought for sale by that miserable woman Ellen"- here
Ernest's heart hardened a little, and he felt as near an approach to
an instinct to turn as one so defenceless could be expected to feel;
his father quickly perceived this and continued, "who was turned out
of this house in circumstances which I will not pollute your ears by
more particularly describing.

  "I put aside the horrid conviction which was beginning to dawn
upon me, and assumed that in the interval between her dismissal and
her leaving this house, she had added theft to her other sin, and
having found your watch in your bedroom had purloined it. It even
occurred to me that you might have missed your watch after the woman
was gone, and, suspecting who had taken it, had run after the carriage
in order to recover it; but when I told the shopman of my suspicions
he assured me that the person who left it with him had declared most
solemnly that it had been given her by her master's son, whose
property it was, and who had a perfect right to dispose of it.

  "He told me further that, thinking the circumstances in which the
watch was offered for sale somewhat suspicious, he had insisted upon
the woman's telling him the whole story of how she came by it,
before he would consent to buy it of her.

  "'He said that at first- as women of that stamp invariably do- she
tried prevarication, but on being threatened that she should at once
be given into custody if she did not tell the whole truth, she
described the way in which you had run after the carriage, till as she
said you were black in the face, and insisted on giving her all your
pocket-money, your knife, and your watch. She added that my coachman
John- whom I shall instantly discharge- was witness to the whole
transaction. Now, Ernest, be pleased to tell me whether this appalling
story is true or false?"

  It never occurred to Ernest to ask his father why he did not hit a
man his own size, or to stop him midway in the story with a
remonstrance against being kicked when he was down. The boy was too
much shocked and shaken to be inventive; he could only drift and
stammer out that the tale was true.

  "So I feared," said Theobald, "and now, Ernest, be good enough to
ring the bell."

  When the bell had been answered, Theobald desired that John should
be sent for, and when John came Theobald calculated the wages due to
him and desired him at once to leave the house.

  John's manner was quiet and respectful. He took his dismissal as a
matter of course, for Theobald had hinted enough to make him
understand why he was being discharged, but when he saw Ernest sitting
pale and awe-struck on the edge of his chair against the dining-room
wall, a sudden thought seemed to strike him, and turning to Theobald
he said in a broad northern accent which I will not attempt to
reproduce:

  "Look here, master, I can guess what all this is about- now before I
goes I want to have a word with you."

  "Ernest," said Theobald, "leave the room."

  "No, Master Ernest, you shan't," said John, planting himself against
the door. "Now, master," he continued, "you may do as you please about
me. I've been a good servant to you, and I don't mean to say as you've
been a bad master to me, but I do say that if you bear hardly on
Master Ernest here I have those in the village as'll hear on't and let
me know; and if I do hear on't I'll come back and break every bone
in your skin, so there!"

  John's breath came and went quickly, as though he would have been
well enough pleased to begin the bone-breaking business at once.
Theobald turned of an ashen colour- not, as he explained afterwards,
at the idle threats of a detected and angry ruffian, but at such
atrocious insolence from one of his own servants.

  "I shall leave Master Ernest, John," he rejoined proudly, "to the
reproaches of his own conscience." ("Thank God and thank John,"
thought Ernest.) "As for yourself, I admit that you have been an
excellent servant until this unfortunate business came on, and I shall
have much pleasure in giving you a character if you want one. Have you
anything more to say?"

  "No more nor what I have said," said John sullenly, "but what I've
said I means and I'll stick to- character or no character."

  "Oh, you need not be afraid about your character, John," said
Theobald kindly, "and as it is getting late, there can be no
occasion for you to leave the house before to-morrow morning."

  To this there was no reply from John, who retired, packed up his
things, and left the house at once.

  When Christina heard what had happened she said she could condone
all except that Theobald should have been subjected to such
insolence from one of his own servants through the misconduct of his
son. Theobald was the bravest man in the whole world, and could easily
have collared the wretch and turned him out of the room, but how far
more dignified, how far nobler had been his reply! How it would tell
in a novel or upon the stage, for though the stage as a whole was
immoral, yet there were doubtless some plays which were improving
spectacles. She could fancy the whole house hushed with excitement
at hearing John's menace, and hardly breathing by reason of their
interest and expectation of the coming answer. Then the actor-
probably the great and good Mr. Macready- would say, "I shall leave
Master Ernest, John, to the reproaches of his own conscience." Oh,
it was sublime! What a roar of applause must follow! Then she should
enter herself, and fling her arms about her husband's neck, and call
him her lion-hearted husband. When the curtain dropped, it would be
buzzed about the house that the scene just witnessed had been drawn
from real life, and had actually occurred in the household of the Rev.
Theobald Pontifex, who had married a Miss Allaby, etc., etc.

  As regards Ernest the suspicions which had already crossed her
mind were deepened, but she thought it better to leave the matter
where it was. At present she was in a very strong position. Ernest's
official purity was firmly established, but at the same time he had
shown himself so susceptible that she was able to fuse two
contradictory impressions concerning him into a single idea, and
consider him as a kind of Joseph and Don Juan in one. This was what
she had wanted all along, but her vanity being gratified by the
possession of such a son, there was an end of it; the son himself
was naught.

  No doubt if John had not interfered, Ernest would have had to
expiate his offence with ache, penury, and imprisonment. As it was the
boy was "to consider himself" as undergoing these punishments, and
as suffering pangs of unavailing remorse inflicted on him by his
conscience into the bargain; but beyond the fact that Theobald kept
him more closely to his holiday task, and the continued coldness of
his parents, no ostensible punishment was meted out to him. Ernest,
however, tells me that he looks back upon this as the time when he
began to know that he had a cordial and active dislike for both his
parents, which I suppose means that he was now beginning to be aware
that he was reaching man's estate.

  CHAPTER XLII

  ABOUT a week before he went back to school his father again sent for
him into the dining-room, and told him that he should restore him
his watch, but that he should deduct the sum he had paid for it- for
he had thought it better to pay a few shillings rather than dispute
the ownership of the watch, seeing that Ernest had undoubtedly given
it to Ellen- from his pocket-money, in payments which should extend
over two half years. He would therefore have to go back to
Roughborough this half year with only five shillings' pocket-money. If
he wanted more he must earn more merit money.

  Ernest was not so careful about money as a pattern boy should be. He
did not say to himself, "Now I have got a sovereign which must last me
fifteen weeks, therefore I may spend exactly one shilling and
fourpence in each week"- and spend exactly one and fourpence in each
week accordingly. He ran through his money at about the same rate as
other boys did, being pretty well cleaned out a few days after he
had got back to school. When he had no more money, he got a little
into debt, and when as far in debt as he could see his way to
repaying, he went without luxuries. Immediately he got any money he
would pay his debts; if there was any over he would spend it; if there
was not- and there seldom was- he would begin to go on tick again.

  His finance was always based upon the supposition that he should
go back to school with L1 in his pocket- of which he owed say a matter
of fifteen shillings. There would be five shillings for sundry
school subscriptions- but when these cooks bills were paid the
weekly allowance of sixpence given to each boy in hall, his merit
money (which this half he was resolved should come to a good sum)
and renewed credit, would carry him through the half.

  The sudden failure of 15/- was disastrous to my hero's scheme of
finance. His face betrayed his emotions so clearly that Theobald
said he was determined "to learn the truth at once, and this time
without days and days of falsehood" before he reached it. The
melancholy fact was not long in coming out, namely, that the
wretched Ernest added debt to the vices of idleness, falsehood, and
possibly -for it was not impossible -immorality.

  How had he come to get into debt? Did the other boys do so? Ernest
reluctantly admitted that they did.

  With what shops did they get into debt?

  This was asking too much. Ernest said he didn't know!

  "Oh, Ernest, Ernest," exclaimed his mother, who was in the room, "do
not so soon a second time presume upon the forbearance of the
tenderest-hearted father in the world. Give time for one stab to
heal before you wound him with another."

  This was all very fine, but what was Ernest to do? How could he
get the school shopkeepers into trouble by owning that they let some
of the boys go on tick with them? There was Mrs. Cross, a good old
soul, who used to sell hot rolls and butter for breakfast, or eggs and
toast, or it might be the quarter of a fowl with bread sauce and
mashed potatoes for which she would charge 6d. If she made a
farthing out of the sixpence it was as much as she did. When the
boys would come trooping into her shop after "the hounds" how often
had not Ernest heard her say to her servant girls, "Now then, you
wanches, git some cheers." All the boys were fond of her, and was
he, Ernest, to tell tales about her? It was horrible.

  "Now look here, Ernest," said his father with his blackest scowl, "I
am going to put a stop to this nonsense once for all. Either take me
fully into your confidence, as a son should take a father, and trust
me to deal with this matter as a clergyman and a man of the world-
or understand distinctly that I shall take the whole story to Dr.
Skinner, who, I imagine, will take much sterner measures than I
should."

  "Oh, Ernest, Ernest," sobbed Christina, "be wise in time, and
trust those who have already shown you that they know but too well how
to be forbearing."

  No genuine hero of romance should have hesitated for a moment.
Nothing should have cajoled or frightened him into telling tales out
of school. Ernest thought of his ideal boys: they, he well knew, would
have let their tongues be cut out of them before information could
have been wrung from any word of theirs. But Ernest was not an ideal
boy, and he was not strong enough for his surroundings; I doubt how
far any boy could withstand the moral pressure which was brought to
bear upon him; at any rate he could not do so, and after a little more
writhing he yielded himself a passive prey to the enemy. He consoled
himself with the reflection that his papa had not played the
confidence trick on him quite as often as his mamma had, and that
probably it was better he should tell his father, than that his father
should insist on Dr. Skinner's making an enquiry. His papa's
conscience "jabbered" a good deal, but not as much as his mamma's. The
little fool forgot that he had not given his father as many chances of
betraying him as he had to Christina.

  Then it all came out. He owed this at Mrs. Cross's, and this to Mrs.
Jones, and this at the "Swan and Bottle" public house, to say
nothing of another shilling or sixpence or two in other quarters.
Nevertheless, Theobald and Christina were not satiated, but rather the
more they discovered the greater grew their appetite for discovery; it
was their obvious duty to find out everything, for though they might
rescue their own darling from this hotbed of iniquity without
getting to know more than they knew at present, were there not other
papas and mammas with darlings whom also they were bound to rescue
if it were yet possible? What boys, then, owed money to these
harpies as well as Ernest?

  Here, again, there was a feeble show of resistance, but the
thumbscrews were instantly applied, and Ernest, demoralised as he
already was, recanted and submitted himself to the powers that were.
He told only a little less than he knew or thought he knew. He was
examined, re-examined, cross-examined, sent to the retirement of his
own bedroom and cross-examined again; the smoking in Mrs. Jones's
kitchen all came out; which boys smoked and which did not; which
boys owed money and, roughly, how much and where; which boys swore and
used bad language. Theobald was resolved that this time Ernest should,
as he called it, take him into his confidence without reserve, so
the school list which went with Dr. Skinner's half-yearly bills was
brought out, and the most secret character of each boy was gone
through seriatim by Mr. and Mrs. Pontifex, so far as it was in
Ernest's power to give information concerning it, and yet Theobald had
on the preceding Sunday preached a less feeble sermon than he commonly
preached, upon the horrors of the Inquisition. No matter how awful was
the depravity revealed to them, the pair never flinched, but probed
and probed, till they were on the point of reaching subjects more
delicate than they had yet touched upon. Here Ernest's unconscious
self took the matter up and made a resistance to which his conscious
self was unequal, by tumbling him off his chair in a fit of fainting.

  Dr. Martin was sent for and pronounced the boy to be seriously
unwell; at the same time he prescribed absolute rest and absence
from nervous excitement. So the anxious parents were unwillingly
compelled to be content with what they had got already- being
frightened into leading him a quiet life for the short remainder of
the holidays. They were not idle, but Satan can find as much
mischief for busy hands as for idle ones, so he sent a little job in
the direction of Battersby which Theobald and Christina undertook
immediately. It would be a pity, they reasoned, that Ernest should
leave Roughborough, now that he had been there three years; it would
be difficult to find another school for him, and to explain why he had
left Roughborough. Besides, Dr. Skinner and Theobald were supposed
to be old friends, and it would be unpleasant to offend him; these
were all valid reasons for not removing the boy. The proper thing to
do then, would be to warn Dr. Skinner confidentially of the state of
his school, and to furnish him with a school list annotated with the
remarks extracted from Ernest, which should be appended to the name of
each boy.

  Theobald was the perfection of neatness; while his son was ill
upstairs, he copied out the school list so that he could throw his
comments into a tabular form, which assumed the following shape
-only that of course I have changed the names. One cross in each
square was to indicate occasional offence; two stood for frequent, and
three for habitual delinquency.

                          Drinking      Swearing        Notes

                         Beer at the       and

             Smoking      "Swan and      Obsene

                           Bottle"      Language

   Smith.        O            O            XX          Will smoke

                                                       next half.

   Brown.       XXX           O             X

   Jones.        X           XX            XXX

   Robinson.    XX           XX             X

 And thus through the whole school.

  Of course, in justice to Ernest, Dr. Skinner would be bound over
to secrecy before a word was said to him, but, Ernest being thus
protected, he could not be furnished with the facts too completely.

  CHAPTER XLIII

  SO important did Theobald consider this matter that he made a
special journey to Roughborough before the half year began. It was a
relief to have him out of the house, but though his destination was
not mentioned, Ernest guessed where he had gone.

  To this day he considers his conduct at this crisis to have been one
of the most serious laches of his life- one which he can never think
of without shame and indignation. He says he ought to have run away
from home. But what good could he have done if he had? He would have
been caught, brought back and examined two days later instead of two
days earlier. A boy of barely sixteen cannot stand against the moral
pressure of a father and mother who have always oppressed him any more
than he can cope physically with a powerful full-grown man. True, he
may allow himself to be killed rather than yield, but this is being so
morbidly heroic as to come close round again to cowardice; for it is
little else than suicide, which is universally condemned as cowardly.

  On the re-assembling of the school it became apparent that something
had gone wrong. Dr. Skinner called the boys together, and with much
pomp excommunicated Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Jones, by declaring their
shops to be out of bounds. The street in which the "Swan and Bottle"
stood was also forbidden. The vices of drinking and smoking,
therefore, were clearly aimed at, and before prayers Dr. Skinner spoke
a few impressive words about the abominable sin of using bad language.
Ernest's feelings can be imagined.

  Next day at the hour when the daily punishments were read out,
though there had not yet been time for him to have offended, Ernest
Pontifex was declared to have incurred every punishment which the
school provided for evil-doers. He was placed on the idle list for the
whole half year, and on perpetual detentions; his bounds were
curtailed; he was to attend Junior callings-over; in fact he was so
hemmed in with punishments upon every side that it was hardly possible
for him to go outside the school gates. This unparalleled list of
punishments inflicted on the first day of the half year, and
intended to last till the ensuing Christmas holidays, was not
connected with any specified offence. It required no great
penetration, therefore, on the part of the boys to connect Ernest with
the putting Mrs. Cross's and Mrs. Jones's shops out of bounds.

  Great indeed was the indignation about Mrs. Cross, who, it was
known, remembered Dr. Skinner himself as a small boy only just got
into jackets, and had doubtless let him have many a sausage and mashed
potatoes upon deferred payment. The head boys assembled in conclave to
consider what steps should be taken, but hardly had they done so
before Ernest knocked timidly at the headroom door and took the bull
by the horns by explaining the facts as far as he could bring
himself to do so. He made a clean breast of everything except about
the school list and the remarks he had made about each boy's
character. This infamy was more than he could own to, and he kept
his counsel concerning it. Fortunately he was safe in doing so, for
Dr. Skinner, pedant and more than pedant though he was, had just sense
enough to turn on Theobald in the matter of the school list. Whether
he resented being told that he did not know the characters of his
own boys, or whether he dreaded a scandal about the school I know not,
but when Theobald had handed him the list, over which he had
expended so much pains, Dr. Skinner had cut him uncommonly short,
and had then and there, with more suavity than was usual with him,
committed it to the flames before Theobald's own eyes.

  Ernest got off with the head boys easier than he expected. It was
admitted that the offence, heinous though it was, had been committed
under extenuating circumstances; the frankness with which the
culprit had confessed all, his evidently unfeigned remorse, and the
fury with which Dr. Skinner was pursuing him tended to bring about a
reaction in his favour, as though he had been more sinned against than

 sinning.

  As the half year wore on his spirits gradually revived, and when
attacked by one of his fits of self-abasement he was in some degree
consoled by having found out that even his father and mother, whom
he had supposed so immaculate, were no better than they should be.
About the fifth of November it was a school custom to meet on a
certain common not far from Roughborough and burn somebody in
effigy, this being the compromise arrived at in the matter of
fireworks and Guy Fawkes festivities. This year it was decided that
Pontifex's governor should be the victim, and Ernest, though a good
deal exercised in mind as to what he ought to do, in the end saw no
sufficient reason for holding aloof from proceedings which, as he
justly remarked, could not do his father any harm.

  It so happened that the Bishop had held a confirmation at the school
on the fifth of November. Dr. Skinner had not quite liked the
selection of this day, but the Bishop was pressed by many engagements,
and had been compelled to make the arrangement as it then stood.
Ernest was among those who had to be confirmed, and was deeply
impressed with the solemn importance of the ceremony. When he felt the
huge old Bishop drawing down upon him as he knelt in chapel he could
hardly breathe, and when the apparition paused before him and laid its
hands upon his head he was frightened almost out of his wits. He
felt that he had arrived at one of the great turning points of his
life, and that the Ernest of the future could resemble only very
faintly the Ernest of the past.

  This happened at about noon, but by the one o'clock dinner-hour
the effect of the confirmation had worn off, and he saw no reason
why he should forego his annual amusement with the bonfire; so he went
with the others and was very valiant till the image was actually
produced and was about to be burnt; then he felt a little
frightened. It was a poor thing enough, made of paper, calico and
straw, but they had christened it The Rev. Theobald Pontifex, and he
had a revulsion of feeling as he saw it being carried towards the
bonfire. Still he held his ground, and in a few minutes when all was
over felt none the worse for having assisted at a ceremony which,
after all, was prompted by a boyish love of mischief rather than by
rancour.

  I should say that Ernest had written to his father, and told him
of the unprecedented way in which he was being treated; he even
ventured to suggest that Theobald should interfere for his
protection and reminded him how the story had been got out of him, but
Theobald had had enough of Dr. Skinner for the present; the burning of
the school list had been a rebuff which did not encourage which did
not encourage him to meddle a second time in the internal economics of
Roughborough. He therefore replied that he must either remove Ernest
from Roughborough altogether, which would for many reasons be
undesirable, or trust to the discretion of the head-master as
regards the treatment he might think best for any of his pupils.
Ernest said no more; he still felt that it was so discreditable to him
to have allowed any confession to be wrung from him, that he could not
press the promised amnesty for himself.

  It was during the "Mother Cross row," as it was long styled among
the boys, that a remarkable phenomenon was witnessed at
Roughborough: I mean that of the head boys under certain conditions
doing errands for their juniors. The head boys had no bounds and could
go to Mrs. Cross's whenever they liked; they actually, therefore, made
themselves go-betweens, and would get anything from either Mrs.
Cross's or Mrs. Jones's for any boy, no matter how low in the
school, between the hours of a quarter to nine and nine in the
morning, and a quarter to six and six in the afternoon. By degrees,
however, the boys grew bolder, and the shops, though not openly
declared in bounds again, were tacitly allowed to be so.

  CHAPTER XLIV

  I MAY spare the reader more details about my hero's school days.
He rose, always in spite of himself, into the Doctor's form, and for
the last two years or so of his time was among the praepostors, though
he never rose into the upper half of them. He did little, and I
think the Doctor rather gave him up as a boy whom he had better
leave to himself, for he rarely made him construe, and he used to send
in his exercises or not, pretty much as he liked. His tacit,
unconscious obstinacy had in time effected more even than a few bold
sallies in the first instance would have done. To the end of his
career his position inter pares was what it had been at the beginning,
namely, among the upper part of the less reputable class- whether of
seniors or juniors-rather than among the lower part of the more
respectable.

  Only once in the whole course of his school life did he get praise
from Dr. Skinner for any exercise, and this he has treasured as the
best example of guarded approval which he has ever seen. He had had to
write a copy of Alcaics on "The dogs of the monks of St. Bernard," and
when the exercise was returned to him he found the Doctor had
written on it: "In this copy of Alcaics- which is still excessively
bad- I fancy that I can discern some faint symptoms of improvement."
Ernest says that if the exercise was any better than usual it must
have been by a fluke, for he is sure that he always liked dogs,
especially St. Bernard dogs, far too much to take any pleasure in
writing Alcaics about them.

  "As I look back upon it," he said to me but the other day, with a
hearty laugh, "I respect myself more for having never once got the
best mark for an exercise than I should do if I had got it every
time it could be got. I am glad nothing could make me do Latin and
Greek verses; I am glad Skinner could never get any moral influence
over me; I am glad I was idle at school, and I am glad my father
overtasked me as a boy- otherwise, likely enough I should have
acquiesced in the swindle, and might have written as good a copy of
Alcaics about the dogs of the monks of St. Bernard as my neighbours,
and yet I don't know, for I remember there was another boy, who sent
in a Latin copy of some sort, but for his own pleasure he wrote the
following--

       The dogs of the monks of St. Bernard go

       To pick little children out of the snow,

       And around their necks is the cordial gin

       Tied with a little bit of bob-bin.

I should like to have written that, and I did try, but I couldn't. I
didn't quite like the last line, and tried to mend it, but I
couldn't."

  I fancied I could see traces of bitterness against the instructors
of his youth in Ernest's manner, and said something to this effect.

  "Oh, no," he replied, still laughing, "no more than St. Anthony felt
towards the devils who had tempted him, when he met some of them
casually a hundred or a couple of hundred years afterwards. Of
course he knew they were devils, but that was all right enough;
there must be devils. St. Anthony probably liked these devils better
than most others, and for old acquaintance sake showed them as much
indulgence as was compatible with decorum.

  "Besides, you know," he added, "St. Anthony tempted the devils quite
as much as they tempted him; for his peculiar sanctity was a greater
temptation to tempt him than they could stand. Strictly speaking, it
was the devils who were the more to be pitied, for they were led up by
St. Anthony to be tempted and fell, whereas St. Anthony did not
fall. I believe I was a disagreeable and unintelligible boy, and if
ever I meet Skinner there is no one whom I would shake hands with,
or do a good turn to more readily."

  At home things went on rather better; the Ellen and Mother Cross
rows sank slowly down upon the horizon, and even at home he had
quieter times now that he had become a praepostor. Nevertheless the
watchful eye and protecting hand were still ever over him to guard his
comings in and his goings out, and to spy out all his ways. Is it
wonderful that the boy, though always trying to keep up appearances as
though he were cheerful and contented-and at times actually being
so- wore often an anxious, jaded look when he thought none were
looking, which told of an almost incessant conflict within?

  Doubtless Theobald saw these looks and knew how to interpret them,
but it was his profession to know how to shut his eyes to things
that were inconvenient- no clergyman could keep his benefice for a
month if he could not do this; besides he had allowed himself for so
many years to say things he ought not to have said, and not to say the
things he ought to have said, that he was little likely to see
anything that he thought it more convenient not to see unless he was
made to do so.

  It was not much that was wanted. To make no mysteries where Nature
has made none, to bring his conscience under some% like reasonable
control, to give Ernest his head a little more, to ask fewer
questions, and to give him pocket-money with a desire it should be
spent upon menus plaisirs....

  "Call that not much indeed," laughed Ernest, as I read him what I
have just written. "Why, it is the whole duty of a father, but it is
the mystery-making which is the worst evil. If people, would dare to
speak to one another unreservedly, there would be a good deal less
sorrow in the world a hundred years hence."

  To return, however, to Roughborough. On the day of his leaving, when
he was sent for into the library to be shaken hands with, he was
surprised to feel that, though assuredly glad to leave, he did not
do so with any especial grudge against the Doctor rankling in his
breast. He had come to the end of it all, and was still alive, nor,
take it all round, more seriously amiss than other people. Dr. Skinner
received him graciously, and was even frolicsome after his own heavy
fashion. Young people are almost always placable, and Ernest felt as
he went away that another such interview would not only have wiped off
all old scores, but have brought him round into the ranks of the
Doctor's admirers and supporters- among whom it is only fair to say
that the greater number of the more promising boys were found.

  Just before saying good-bye the Doctor actually took down a volume
from those shelves which had seemed so awful six years previously, and
gave it to him after having written his name in it, and the words
Philias Kai Eunoias Charhin, which I believe means "with all kind
wishes from donor." The book was one written in Latin by a German
-Schomann: "De comitiis Atheniensibus"- not exactly light and cheerful
reading, but Ernest felt it was high time he got to understand the
Athenian constitution and manner of voting; he had got them up a great
many times already, but had forgotten them as fast as he had learned
them; now, however, that the Doctor had given him this book, he
would master the subject once for all. How strange it How strange it
was! I He wanted to remember these things very badly; he knew he
did, but he could never retain them; in spite of himself they no
sooner fell upon his mind than they fell off it again, he had such a
dreadful memory; whereas, if anyone played him a piece of music and
told him where it came from, he never forgot that, though he made no
effort to retain it, and was not even conscious of trying to
remember it at all. His mind must be badly formed and he was no good.

  Having still a short time to spare, he got the keys of St. Michael's
church and went to have a farewell practice upon the organ, which he
could now play fairly well. He walked up and down the aisle for a
while in a meditative mood, and then, settling down to the organ,
played "They loathed to drink of the river" about six times over,
after which he felt more composed and happier; then, tearing himself
away from the instrument he loved so well, he hurried to the station.

  As the train drew out he looked down from a high embankment onto the
little house his aunt had taken, and where it might be said she had
died through her desire to do him a kindness. There were the two
well-known bow windows, out of which he had often stepped to run
across the lawn into the workshop. He reproached himself with the
little gratitude he had shown towards this kind lady -the only one
of his relations whom he had ever felt as though he could have taken
into his confidence. Dearly as he loved her memory, he was glad she
had not known the scrapes he had got into since she died; perhaps
she might not have forgiven them- and how awful that would have
been! But then, if she had lived, perhaps many of his ills would
have been spared him. As he mused thus he grew sad again. Where,
where, he asked himself, was it all to end? Was it to be always sin,
shame, and sorrow in the future, as it had been in the past, and the
ever-watchful eye and protecting hand of his father laying burdens
on him greater than he could bear- or was he, too, some day or another
to come to feel that he was fairly well and happy?

  There was a grey mist across the sun, so that the eye could bear its
light, and Ernest, while musing as above, was looking right into the
middle of the sun himself, as into the face of one whom he knew and
was fond of. At first his face was grave, but kindly, as of a tired
man who feels that a long task is over; but in a few seconds the
more humorous side of his misfortunes presented itself to him, and
he smiled half reproachfully, half merrily, as thinking how little all
that had happened to him really mattered, and how small were his
hardships as compared with those of most people. Still looking into
the eye of the sun and smiling dreamily, he thought how he had
helped to burn his father in effigy, and his look grew merrier, till
at last he broke out into a laugh. Exactly at this moment the light
veil of cloud parted from the sun, and he was brought to terra firma
by the breaking forth of the sunshine. On this he became aware that he
was being watched attentively by a fellow-traveller opposite to him,
an elderly gentleman with a large head and iron-grey hair.

  "My young friend," said he, good-naturedly, "you really must not
carry on conversations with people in the sun, while you are in a
public railway carriage."

  The old gentleman said not another word, but unfolded his Times
and began to read it. As for Ernest, he blushed crimson. The pair
did not speak during the rest of the time they were in the carriage,
but they eyed each other from time to time, so that the face of each
was impressed on the recollection of the other.

  CHAPTER XLV

  SOME people say that their school days were the happiest of their
lives. They may be right, but I always look with suspicion upon
those whom I hear saying this. It is hard enough to know whether one
is happy or unhappy now, and still harder to compare the relative
happiness or unhappiness of different times of one's life; the
utmost that can be said is that we are fairly happy so long as we
are not distinctly aware of being miserable. As I was talking with
Ernest one day not so long since about this, he said he was so happy
now that he was sure he had never been happier, and did not wish to be
so, but that Cambridge was the first place where he had ever been
consciously and continuously happy.

  How can any boy fail to feel an ecstasy of pleasure on first finding
himself in rooms which he knows for the next few years are to be his
castle? Here he will not be compelled to turn out of the most
comfortable place as soon as he has ensconced himself in it because
papa or mamma happens to come into the room, and he should give it
up to them. The most cosy chair here is for himself, there is no one
even to share the room with him, or to interfere with his doing as
he likes in it- smoking included. Why, if such a room looked out
both back and front on to a blank dead wall it would still be a
paradise; how much more then when the view is of some quiet grassy
court or cloister or garden, as from the windows of the greater number
of rooms at Oxford and Cambridge.

  Theobald, as an old fellow and tutor of Emmanuel- at which college
he had entered Ernest- was able to obtain from the present tutor a
certain preference in the choice of rooms; Ernest's, therefore, were
very pleasant ones, looking out upon the grassy court that is
bounded by the Fellows' gardens.

  Theobald accompanied him to Cambridge, and was at his best while
doing so. He liked the jaunt, and even he was not without a certain
feeling of pride in having a full-blown son at the University. Some of
the reflected rays of this splendour were allowed to fall upon
Ernest himself. Theobald said he was "willing to hope"- this was one
of his tags- that his son would turn over a new leaf now that he had
left school, and for his own part he was "only too ready"- this was
another tag- to let bygones be bygones.

  Ernest, not yet having his name on the books, was able to dine
with his father at the Fellows' table of one of the other colleges
on the invitation of an old friend of Theobald's; he there made
acquaintance with sundry of the good things of this life, the very
names of which were new to him, and felt as he ate them that he was
now indeed receiving a liberal education. When at length the time came
for him to go to Emmanuel, where he was to sleep in his new rooms, his
father came with him to the gates and saw him safe into college; a few
minutes more and he found himself alone in a room for which he had a
latchkey.

  From this time he dated many days which, if not quite unclouded,
were upon the whole very happy ones. I need not, however, describe
them, as the life of a quiet, steady-going undergraduate has been told
in a score of novels better than I can tell it. Some of Ernest's
schoolfellows came up to Cambridge at the same time a. himself, and
with these he continued on friendly terms during the whole of his
college career. Other schoolfellows were only a year or two his
seniors; these called on him, and he thus made a sufficiently
favourable entree into college life. A straightforwardness of
character that was stamped upon his face, a love of humour, and a
temper which was more easily appeased than ruffled made up for some
awkwardness and want of savoir faire. He soon became a not unpopular
member of the best set of his year, and though neither capable of
becoming, nor aspiring to become, a leader, was admitted by the
leaders as among their nearer hangers-on.

  Of ambition he had at that time not one particle; greatness, or
indeed superiority of any kind, seemed so far off and incomprehensible
to him that the idea of connecting it with himself never crossed his
mind. If he could escape the notice of all those with whom he did
not feel himself en rapport, he conceived that he had triumphed
sufficiently. He did not care about taking a good degree, except
that it must be good enough to keep his father and mother quiet. He
did not dream of being able to get a fellowship; if he had, he would
have tried hard to do so, for he became so fond of Cambridge that he
could not bear the thought of having to leave it; the briefness indeed
of the season during which his present happiness was to last was
almost the only thing that now seriously troubled him.

  Having less to attend to in the matter of growing, and having got
his head more free, he took to reading fairly well- not because he
liked it, but because he was told he ought to do so, and his natural
instinct, like that of all very young men who are good for anything,
was to do as those in authority told him. The intention at Battersby
was (for Dr. Skinner had said that Ernest could never get a
fellowship) that he should take a sufficiently good degree to be
able to get a tutorship or mastership in some school preparatory to
taking orders. When he was twenty-one years old his money was to
come into his own hands, and the best thing he could do with it
would be to buy the next presentation to a living, the rector of which
was now old, and live on his mastership or tutorship till the living
fell in. He could buy a very good living for the sum which his
grandfather's legacy now amounted to, for Theobald had never had any
serious intention of making deductions for his son's maintenance and
education, and the money had accumulated till it was now about five
thousand pounds; he had only talked about making deductions in order
to stimulate the boy to exertion as far as possible, by making him
think that this was his only chance of escaping starvation- or perhaps
from pure love of teasing.

  When Ernest had a living of L600 or L700 a year with a house, and
not too many parishioners- why, he might add to his income by taking
pupils, or even keeping a school, and then, say at thirty, he might
marry. It was not easy for Theobald to hit on any much more sensible
plan. He could not get Ernest into business, for he had no business
connections- besides he did not know what business meant; he had no
interest, again, at the Bar; medicine was a profession which subjected
its students to ordeals and temptations which these fond parents
shrank from on behalf of their boy; he would be thrown among
companions and familiarised with details which might sully him, and
though he might stand, it was "only too possible" that he would
fall. Besides, ordination was the road which Theobald knew and
understood, and indeed the only road about which he knew anything at
all, so not unnaturally it was the one he chose for Ernest.

  The foregoing had been instilled into my hero from carliest boyhood,
much as it had been instilled into Theobald himself, and with the same
result- the conviction, namely, that he was certainly to be a
clergyman, but that it was a long way off yet, and he supposed it
was all right. As for the duty of reading hard, and taking as good a
degree as he could, this was plain enough, so he set himself to
work, as I have said, steadily, and to the surprise of everyone as
well as himself got a college scholarship, of no great value, but
still a scholarship, in his freshman's term. It is hardly necessary to
say that Theobald stuck to the whole of this money, believing the
pocket-money he allowed Ernest to be sufficient for him, and knowing
how dangerous it was for young men to have money at command. I do
not suppose it even occurred to him to try to remember what he had
felt when his father took a like course in regard to  himself.

  Ernest's position in this respect was much what it had been at
school except that things were on a larger scale. His tutor's and
cook's bills were paid for him; his father sent him his wine; over and
above this he had L50 a year with which to keep himself in clothes and
all other expenses; this was about the usual thing at Emmanuel in
Ernest's day, though many had much less than this. Ernest did as he
had done at school- he spent what he could, soon after he received his
money; he then incurred a few modest liabilities, and then lived
penuriously till next term, when he would immediately pay his debts,
and start new ones to much the same extent as those which he had
just got rid of. When he came into his L5000 and became independent of
his father, L15 or L20 served to cover the whole of his unauthorised
expenditure.

  He joined the boat club, and was constant in his attendance at the
boats. He still smoked, but never took more wine or beer than was good
for him, except perhaps on the occasion of a boating supper, but
even then he found the consequences unpleasant, and soon learned how
to keep within safe limits. He attended chapel as often as he was
compelled to do so; he communicated two or three times a year, because
his tutor told him he ought to; in fact he set himself to live soberly
and cleanly, as I imagine all his instincts prompted him to do, and
when he fell -as who that is born of woman can help sometimes doing?
-it was not till after a sharp tussle with a temptation that was
more than his flesh and blood could stand; then he was very penitent
and would go a fairly long while without sinning again; and this was
how it had always been with him since he had arrived at years of
indiscretion.

  Even to the end of his career at Cambridge he was not aware that
he had it in him to do anything, but others had begun to see that he
was not wanting in ability and sometimes told him so. He did not
believe it; indeed he knew very well that if they thought him clever
they were being taken in, but it pleased him to have been able to take
them in, and he tried to do so still further; he was therefore a
good deal on the lookout for cants that he could catch and apply in
season, and might have done himself some mischief thus if he had not
been ready to throw over any cant as soon as he had come across
another more nearly to his fancy; his friends used to say that when he
rose he flew like a snipe, darting several times in various directions
before he settled down to a steady, straight flight, but when he had
once got into this he would keep to it.

  CHAPTER XLVI

  WHEN he was in his third year a magazine was founded at Cambridge,
the contributions to which were exclusively by undergraduates.
Ernest sent in an essay upon the Greek Drama, which he has declined to
let me reproduce here without his being allowed to re-edit it. I
have therefore been unable to give it in its original form, but when
pruned of its redundancies (and this is all that has been done to
it) it runs as follows-

  "I shall not attempt within the limits at my disposal to make a
resume of the rise and progress of the Greek drama, but will confine
myself to considering whether the reputation enjoyed by the three
chief Greek tragedians, AEschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, is one
that will be permanent, or whether they will one day be held to have
been overrated.

  "Why, I ask myself, do I see much that I can easily admire in Homer,
Thucydides, Herodotus, Demosthenes, Aristophanes, Theocritus, parts of
Lucretius, Horace's satires and epistles, to say nothing of other
ancient writers, and yet find myself at once repelled by even those
works of AEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides which are most
generally admired.

  "With the first-named writers I am in the hands of men who feel,
if not as I do, still as I can understand their feeling, and as I am
interested to see that they should have felt; with the second I have
so little sympathy that I cannot understand how anyone can ever have
taken any interest in them whatever. Their highest flights to me are
dull, pompous, and artificial productions, which, if they were to
appear now for the first time, would, I should think, either fall dead
or be severely handled by the critics. I wish to know whether it is
I who am in fault in this matter, or whether part of the blame may not
rest with the tragedians themselves.

  "How far, I wonder, did the Athenians genuinely like these poets,
and how far was the applause which was lavished upon them due to
fashion or affectation? How far, in fact, did admiration for the
orthodox tragedians take that place among the Athenians which going to
church does among ourselves?

  "This is a venturesome question considering the verdict now
generally given for over two thousand years, nor should I have
permitted myself to ask it if it had not been suggested to me by one
whose reputation stands as high, and has been sanctioned for as long
time as those of the tragedians themselves, I mean by  Aristophanes.

  "Numbers, weight of authority, and time, have conspired to place
Aristphanes on as high a literary pinnacle as any ancient writer, with
the exception perhaps of Homer, but he makes no secret of heartily
hating Euripides and Sophocles, and I strongly suspect only praises
AEschylus that he may run down the other two with greater impunity.
For after all there is no such difference between AEschylus and his
successors as will render the former very good and the latter very
bad; and the thrusts at AEschylus which Aristophanes puts into the
mouth of Euripides go home too well to have been written by an
admirer.

  "It may be observed that while Euripides accuses AEschylus of
being 'pomp-bundle-worded,' which I suppose means bombastic and
given to rodomontade, AEschylus retorts on Euripides that he is a
'gossip gleaner, a describer of beggars, and a rag-stitcher,' from
which it may be inferred that he was truer to the life of his own
times than AEschylus was. It happens, however, that a faithful
rendering of contemporary life is the very quality which gives its
most permanent interest to any work of fiction, whether in
literature or painting, and it is a not unnatural consequence that
while only seven plays by AEschylus, and the same number by Sophocles,
have come down to us, we have no fewer than nineteen by Euripides.

  "This, however, is a digression; the question before us is whether
Aristophanes really liked AEschylus or only pretended to do so. It
must be remembered that the claims of AEschylus, Sophocles and
Euripides, to the foremost place amongst tragedians were held to be as
incontrovertible as those of Dante, Petrarch, Tasso and Ariosto to
be the greatest of Italian poets, are held among the Italians of
to-day. If we can fancy some witty, genial writer, we will say in
Florence, finding himself bored by all the poets I have named, we
can yet believe he would be unwilling to admit that he disliked them
without exception. He would prefer to think he could see something
at any rate in Dante, whom he could idealise more easily, inasmuch
as he was more remote; in order to carry his countrymen the farther
with him, he would endeavour to meet them more than was consistent
with his own instincts. Without some such palliation as admiration for
one, at any rate, of the tragedians, it would be almost as dangerous
for Aristophanes to attack them as it would be for an Englishman now
to say that he did not think very much of the Elizabethan
dramatists. Yet which of us in his heart likes any of the
Elizabethan dramatists except Shakespeare? Are they in reality
anything else than literary Struldbrugs?

  "I conclude upon the whole that Aristophanes did not like any of the
tragedians; yet no one will deny that this keen, witty, outspoken
writer was as good a judge of literary value, and as able to see any
beauties that the tragic dramas contained as nine-tenths, at any rate,
of ourselves. He had, moreover, the advantage of thoroughly
understanding the standpoint from which the tragedians expected
their work to be judged, and what was his conclusion? Briefly it was
little else than this, that they were a fraud or something very like
it. For my own part I cordially agree with him. I am free to confess
that with the exception perhaps of some of the Psalms of David I
know no writings which seem so little to deserve their reputation. I
do not know that I should particularly mind my sisters reading them,
but I will take good care never to read them myself.

  This last bit about the Psalms was awful, and there was a great
fight the editor as to whether or not it should be allowed to stand.
Ernest himself was frightened at it, but he had once heard someone say
that the Psalms were many of them very poor, and on looking at them
more closely, after he had been told this, he found that there could
hardly be two opinions on the subject. So he caught up the remark
and reproduced it as his own, concluding that these psalms had
probably never been written by David at all, but had got in among
the others by mistake.

  The essay, perhaps on account of the passage about the Psalms,
created quite a sensation, and on the whole was well received.
Ernest's friends praised it more highly than it deserved, and he was
himself very proud of it, but he dared not show it at Battersby. He
knew also that he was now at the end of his tether; this was his one
idea (I feel sure he had caught more than half of it from other
people), and now he had not another thing left to write about. He
found himself cursed with a small reputation which seemed to him
much bigger than it was, and a consciousness that he could never
keep it up. Before many days were over he felt his unfortunate essay
to be a white elephant to him, which he must feed by hurrying into all
sorts of frantic attempts to cap his triumph, and, as may be imagined,
these attempts were failures.

  He did not understand that if he waited and listened and observed,
another idea of some kind would probably occur to him some day, and
that the development of this would in its turn suggest still further
ones. He did not yet know that the very worst way of getting hold of
ideas is to go hunting expressly after them. The way to get them is to
study something of which one is fond, and to note down whatever
crosses one's mind in reference to it, either during study or
relaxation, in a little notebook kept always in the waistcoat
pocket. Ernest has come to know all about this now, but it took him
a long time to find it out, for this is not the kind of thing that
is taught at schools and universities.

  Nor yet did he know that ideas, no less than the living beings in
whose minds they arise, must be begotten by parents not very unlike
themselves, the most original still differing but slightly from the
parents that have given rise to them. Life is like a fugue, everything
must grow out of the subject and there must be nothing new. Nor,
again, did he see how hard it is to say where one idea ends and
another begins, nor yet how closely this is paralleled in the
difficulty of saying where a life begins or ends, or an action or
indeed anything, there being an unity in spite of infinite
multitude, and an infinite multitude in spite of unity. He thought
that ideas came into clever people's heads by a kind of spontaneous
germination, without parentage in the thoughts of others or the course
of observation; for as yet he believed in genius, of which he well
knew that he had none, if it was the fine frenzied thing he thought it
was.

  Not very long before this he had come of age, and Theobald had
handed him over his money, which amounted now to L5000; it was
invested to bring in 5 per cent and gave him therefore an income of
L250 a year. He did not, however, realise the fact (he could realise
nothing so foreign to his experience) that he was independent of his
father till a long time afterwards; nor did Theobald make any
difference in his manner towards him. So strong was the hold which
habit and association held over both father and son, that the one
considered he had as good a right as ever to dictate, and the other
that he had as little right as ever to gainsay.

  During his last year at Cambridge he overworked himself through this
very blind deference to his father's wishes, for there was no reason
why he should take more than a poll degree except that his father laid
such stress upon his taking honours. He became so ill, indeed, that it
was doubtful how far he would be able to go in for his degree at
all; but he managed to do so, and when the list came out was found
to be placed higher than either he or anyone else expected, being
among the first three or four senior optimes, and a few weeks later,
in the lower half of the second class of the Classical Tripos. Ill
as he was when he got home, Theobald made him go over all the
examination papers with him, and in fact reproduce as nearly as
possible the replies that he had sent in. So little kick had lie in
him, and so deep was the groove into which he had got, that while at
home he spent several hours a day in continuing his classical and
mathematical studies as though he had not yet taken his degree.

  CHAPTER XLVII

  ERNEST returned to Cambridge for the May term of 1858, on the plea
of reading for ordination, with which he was now face to face, and
much nearer than he liked. Up to this time, though not religiously
inclined, he had never doubted the truth of anything that had been
told him about Christianity. He had never seen anyone who doubted, nor
read anything that raised a suspicion in his mind as to the historical
character of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testaments.

  It must be remembered that the year 1858 was the last of a term
during which the peace of the Church of England was singularly
unbroken. Between 1844, when "Vestiges of Creation" appeared, and
1859, when "Essays and Reviews" marked the commence. ment of that
storm which raged until many years afterwards, there was not a
single book published in England that caused serious commotion
within the bosom of the Church. Perhaps Buckle's "History of
Civilisation" and "Mill's "Liberty" were the most alarming, but they
neither of them reached the substratum of the reading public, and
Ernest and his friends were ignorant of their very existence. The
Evangelical movement, with the exception to which I shall revert
presently, had become almost a matter of ancient history.
Tractarianism had subsided into a tenth day's wonder; it was at
work, but it was not noisy. The "Vestiges" were forgotten before
Ernest went up to Cambridge; the Catholic aggression scare had lost
its terrors; Ritualism was still unknown by the general provincial
public, and the Gorham and Hampden controversies were defunct some
years since; Dissent was not spreading; the Crimean war was the one
engrossing subject, to be followed by the Indian Mutiny and the
Franco-Austrian war. These great events turned men's minds from
speculative subjects, and there was no enemy to the faith which
could arouse even a languid interest. At no time probably since the
beginning of the century could an ordinary observer have detected less
sign of coming disturbance than at that of which I am writing.

  I need hardly say that the calm was only on the surface. Older
men, who knew more than undergraduates were likely to do, must have
seen that the wave of scepticism which had already broken over Germany
was setting towards our own shores, nor was it long, indeed, before it
reached them. Ernest had hardly been ordained before three works in
quick succession arrested the attention even of those who paid least
heed to theological controversy. I mean "Essays and Reviews,"
Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species," and Bishop Colenso's "Criticisms
on the Pentateuch."

  This, however, is a digression; I must revert to the one phase of
spiritual activity which had any life in it during the time Ernest was
at Cambridge, that is to say, to the remains of the Evangelical
awakening of more than a generation earlier, which was connected
with the name of Simeon.

  There were still a good many Simeonites, or as they were more
briefly called "Sims," in Ernest's time. Every college contained
some of them, but their headquarters were at Caius, whither they
were attracted by Mr. Clayton, who was at that time senior tutor,
and among the sizars of St. John's.

  Behind the then chapel of this last-named college, there was a
"labyrinth" (this was the name it bore) of dingy, tumble-down rooms,
tenanted exclusively by the poorest undergraduates, who were dependent
upon sizarships and scholarships for the means of taking their
degrees. To many, even at St. John's, the existence and whereabouts of
the labyrinth in which the sizars chiefly lived was unknown; some
men in Ernest's time, who had rooms in the first court, had never
found their way through the sinuous passage which led to it.

  In the labyrinth there dwelt men of all ages, from mere lads to
grey-haired old men who had entered late in life. They were rarely
seen except in hall or chapel or at lecture, where their manners of
feeding, praying, and studying, were considered alike objectionable;
no one knew whence they came, whither they went, nor what they did,
for they never showed at cricket or the boats; they were a gloomy,
seedy-looking confrerie, who had as little to glory in and manners
as in the flesh itself.

  Ernest and his friends used to consider themselves marvels of
economy for getting on with so little money, but the greater number of
dwellers in the labyrinth would have considered one-half of their
expenditure to be an exceeding measure of affluence, and so
doubtless any domestic tyranny which had been experienced by Ernest
was a small thing to what the average Johnian sizar had had to put
up with.

  A few would at once emerge on its being found after their first
examination that they were likely to be ornaments to the college;
these would win valuable scholarships that enabled them to live in
some degree of comfort, and would amalgamate with the more studious of
those who were in a better social position, but even these, with few
exceptions, were long in shaking off the uncouthness they brought with
them to the University, nor would their origin cease to be easily
recognisable till they had become dons and tutors. I have seen some of
these men attain high position in the world of politics or science,
and yet still retain a look of labyrinth and sizarship.

  Unprepossessing then, in feature, gait, and manners, unkempt and
ill-dressed beyond what can be easily described, these poor fellows
formed a class apart, whose thoughts and ways were not as the thoughts
and ways of Ernest and his friends, and it was among them that
Simeonism chiefly flourished.

  Destined most of them for the Church (for in those days "holy
orders" were seldom heard of), the Simeonites held themselves to
have received a very loud call to the ministry, and were ready to
pinch themselves for years so as to prepare for it by the necessary
theological courses. To most of them the fact of becoming clergymen
would be the entree into a social position from which they were at
present kept out by barriers they well knew to be impassable;
ordination, therefore, opened fields for ambition which made it the
central point in their thoughts, rather than as with Ernest, something
which he supposed would have to be done some day, but about which,
as about dying, he hoped there was no need to trouble himself as yet.

  By way of preparing themselves more completely they would have
meetings in one another's rooms for tea and prayer and other spiritual
exercises. Placing themselves under the guidance of a few well-known
tutors they would teach in Sunday Schools, and be instant, in season
and out of season, in imparting spiritual instruction to all whom they
could persuade to listen to them.

  But the soil of the more prosperous undergraduates was not
suitable for the seed they tried to sow. The small pieties with
which they larded their discourse, if chance threw them into the
company of one whom they considered worldly, caused nothing but
aversion in the minds of those for whom they were intended. When
they distributed tracts, dropping them by night into good men's letter
boxes while they were asleep, their tracts got burnt, or met with even
worse contumely; they were themselves also treated with the ridicule
which they reflected proudly had been the lot of true followers of
Christ in all ages. Often at their prayer meetings was the passage
of St. Paul referred to in which he bids his Corinthian converts
note concerning themselves that they were for the most part neither
well-bred nor intellectual people. They reflected with pride that they
too had nothing to be proud of in these respects, and, like St.
Paul, gloried in the fact that in the flesh they had not much to
glory.

  Ernest had several Johnian friends, and came thus to hear about
the Simeonites and to see some of them, who were pointed out to him as
they passed through the courts. They had a repellent attraction for
him; he disliked them, but he could not bring himself to leave them
alone. On one occasion he had gone so far as to parody one of the
tracts they had sent round in the night, and to get a copy dropped
into each of the leading Simeonites' boxes. The subject he had taken
was "Personal Cleanliness." Cleanliness, he said, was next to
godliness; he wished to know on which side it was to stand, and
concluded by exhorting Simeonites to a freer use of the tub. I
cannot commend my hero's humour in this matter; his tract was not
brilliant, but I mention the fact as showing that at this time he
was something of a Saul and took pleasure in persecuting the elect,
not, as I have said, that he had any hankering after scepticism, but
because, like the farmers in his father's village, though he would not
stand seeing the Christian religion made light of, he was not going to
see it taken seriously. Ernest's friends thought his dislike for
Simeonites was due to his being the son of a clergyman who, it was
known, bullied him; it is more likely, however, that it rose from an
unconscious sympathy with them, which, as in St. Paul's case, in the
end drew him into the ranks of those whom be had most despised and
hated.

  CHAPTER XLVIII

  ONCE recently, when he was down at home after taking his degree, his
mother had had a short conversation with him about his becoming a
clergyman, set on thereto by Theobald, who shrank from the subject
himself. This time it was during a turn taken in the garden, and not
on the sofa- which was reserved for supreme occasions.

  "You know, my dearest boy," she said to him, "that papa" (she always
called Theobald "papa" when talking to Ernest) "is so anxious you
should not go into the Church blindly, and without fully realising the
difficulties of a clergyman's position. He has considered all of
them himself, and has been shown how small they are, when they are
faced boldly, but he wishes you, too, to feel them as strongly and
completely as possible before committing yourself to irrevocable vows,
so that you may never, never have to regret the step you will have
taken."

  This was the first time Ernest had heard that there were any
difficulties, and he not unnaturally enquired in a vague way after
their nature.

  "That, my dear boy," rejoined Christina, "is a question which I am
not fitted to enter upon either by nature or education. I might easily
unsettle your mind without being able to settle it again. Oh, no! Such
questions are far better avoided by women, and, I should have thought,
by men, but papa wished me to speak to you upon the subject, so that
there might be no mistake hereafter, and I have done so. Now,
therefore, you know all."

  The conversation ended here, so far as this subject was concerned,
and Ernest thought he did know all. His mother would not have told him
he knew all- not about a matter of that sort- unless he actually did
know it; well, it did not come to very much; he supposed there were
some difficulties, but his father, who at any rate was an excellent
scholar and a learned man, was probably quite right here, and he
need not trouble himself more about them. So little impression did the
conversation make on him, that it was not till long afterwards that,
happening to remember it, he saw what a piece of sleight of hand had
been practised upon him. Theobald and Christina, however, were
satisfied that they had done their duty by opening their son's eyes to
the difficulties of assenting to all a clergyman must assent to.
This was enough; it was a matter for rejoicing that, though they had
been put so fully and candidly before him, he did not find them
serious. It was not in vain that they had prayed for so many years
to be made "truly honest and conscientious."

  "And now, my dear," resumed Christina, after having disposed of
all the difficulties that might stand in the way of Ernest's
becoming a clergyman, "there is another matter on which I should
like to have a talk with you. It is about your sister Charlotte. You
know how clever she is, and what a dear, kind sister she has been
and always will be to yourself and Joey. I wish, my dearest Ernest,
that I saw more chance of her finding a suitable husband than I do
at Battersby, and I sometimes think you might do more than you do to
help her."

  Ernest began to chafe at this, for he had heard it so often, but
he said nothing.

  "You know, my dear, a brother can do so much for his sister if he
lays himself out to do it. A mother can do very little- indeed, it
is hardly a mother's place to seek out young men; it is a brother's
place to find a suitable partner for his sister; all that I can do
is to try to make Battersby as attractive as possible to any of your
friends whom you may invite. And in that," she added, with a little
toss of her head, "I do not think I have been deficient hitherto."

  Ernest said he had already at different times asked several of his
friends.

  "Yes, my dear, but you must admit that they were none of them
exactly the kind of young man whom Charlotte could be expected to take
a fancy to. Indeed, I must own to having been a little disappointed
that you should have yourself chosen any of these as your intimate
friends."

  Ernest winced again.

  "You never brought down Figgins when you were at Roughborough; now I
should have thought Figgins would have been just the kind of boy
whom you might have asked to come and see us."

  Figgins had been gone through times out of number already. Ernest
had hardly known him, and Figgins, being nearly three years older than
Ernest, had left long before he did. Besides, he had not been a nice
boy, and had made himself unpleasant to Ernest in many ways.

  "Now," continued his mather, "there's Towneley. I have heard you
speak of Towneley as having rowed with you in a boat at Cambridge. I
wish, my dear, you would cultivate your acquaintance with Towneley,
and ask him to pay us a visit. The name has an aristocratic sound, and
I think I have heard you say he is an eldest son."

  Ernest flushed at the sound of Towneley's name.

  What had really happened in respect of Ernest's friends was
briefly this: His mother liked to get hold of the names of the boys
and especially of any who were at all intimate with her son; the
more she heard, the more she wanted to know; there was no gorging
her to satiety; she was like a ravenous young cuckoo being fed upon
a grass plot by a water wag-tail, she would swallow all that Ernest
could bring her, and yet be as hungry as before. And she always went
to Ernest for her meals rather than to Joey, for Joey was either
more stupid or more impenetrable- at any rate she could pump Ernest
much the better of the two.

  From time to time an actual live boy had been thrown to her,
either by being caught and brought to Battersby, or by being asked
to meet her if at any time she came to Roughborough. She had generally
made herself agreeable, or fairly agreeable, as long as the boy was
present, but as soon as she got Ernest to herself again she changed
her note. Into whatever form she might throw her criticisms it came
always in the end to this, that his friend was no good, that Ernest
was not much better, and that he should have brought her someone else,
for this one would not do at all.

  The more intimate the boy had been or was supposed to be with Ernest
the more he was declared to be naught, till in the end he had hit upon
the plan of saying, concerning any boy whom he particularly liked,
that he was not one of his especial chums, and that indeed he hardly
knew why he had asked him; but he found he only fell on Scylla in
trying to avoid Charybdis, for though the boy was declared to be
more successful, it was Ernest who was naught for not thinking more
highly of him.

  When she had once got hold of a name she never forgot it. "And how
is So-and-so?" she would exclaim, mentioning some former friend of
Ernest's with whom he had either now quarrelled, or who had long since
proved to be a mere comet and no fixed star at all. How Ernest
wished he had never mentioned So-and-so's name, and vowed to himself
that he would never talk about his friends in future, but in a few
hours he would forget and would prattle away as imprudently as ever;
then his mother would pounce noiselessly on his remarks as a
barn-owl pounces upon a mouse, and would bring them up in a pellet six
months afterwards when they were no longer in harmony with their
surroundings.

  Then there was Theobald. If a boy or college friend had been invited
to Battersby, Theobald would lay himself out at first to be agreeable.
He could do this well enough when he liked, and as regards the outside
world he generally did like. His clerical neighbours, and indeed all
his neighbours, respected him yearly more and more, and would have
given Ernest sufficient cause to regret his imprudence if he had dared
to hint that he had anything, however little, to complain of.
Theobald's mind worked in this way: "Now, I know Ernest has told
this boy what a disagreeable person I am, and I will just show him
that I am not disagreeable at all, but a good old fellow, a jolly
old boy, in fact a regular old brick, and that it is Ernest who is
in fault all through."

  So he would behave very nicely to the boy at first, and the boy
would be delighted with him, and side with him against Ernest. Of
course if Ernest had got the boy to come to Battersby he wanted him to
enjoy his visit, and was therefore pleased that Theobald should behave
so well, but at the same time he stood so much in need of moral
support that it was painful to him to see one of his own familiar
friends go over to the enemy's camp. For no matter how well we may
know a thing- how clearly we may see a certain patch of colour, for
example, as red, it shakes us and knocks us about to find another
see it, or be more than half inclined to see it, as green.

  Theobald had generally begun to get a little impatient before the
end of the visit, but the impression formed during the earlier part
was the one which the visitor had carried away with him. Theobald
never discussed any of the boys with Ernest. It was Christina who
did this. Theobald let them come, because Christina, in a quiet,
persistent way, insisted on it; when they did come he behaved, as I
have said, civilly, but he did not like it, whereas Christina did like
it very much; she would have had half Roughborough and half
Cambridge to come and stay at Battersby if she could have managed
it, and if it would not have cost so much money: she liked their
corning, so that she might make a new acquaintance, and she liked
tearing them to pieces and flinging the bits over Ernest as soon as
she had had enough of them.

  The worst of it was that she had so often proved to be right. Boys
and young men are violent in their affections, but they are seldom
very constant; it is not till they get older that they really know the
kind of friend they want; in their earlier essays young men are simply
learning to judge character. Ernest had been no exception to the
general rule. His swans had one after the other proved to be more or
less geese even in his own estimation, and he was beginning almost
to think that his mother was a better judge of character than he
was; but I think it may be assumed with some certainty that if
Ernest had brought her a real young swan she would have declared it to
be the ugliest and worst goose of all that she had yet seen.

  At first he had not suspected that his friends were wanted with a
view to Charlotte; it was understood that Charlotte and they might
perhaps take a fancy for one another; and that would be so very
nice, would it not? But he did not see that there was any deliberate
malice in the arrangement. Now, however, that he had awoke to what
it all meant, he was less inclined to bring any friend of his to
Battersby. It seemed to his silly young mind almost dishonest to ask
your friend to come and see you when all you really meant was,
"Please, marry my sister." It was like trying to obtain money under
false pretences. If he had been fond of Charlotte it might have been
another matter, but he thought her one of the most disagreeable
young women in the whole circle of his acquaintance.

  She was supposed to be very clever. All young ladies are either very
pretty or very clever or very sweet; they may take their choice as
to which category they will go in for, but go in for one of the
three they must. It was hopeless to try and pass Charlotte off as
either pretty or sweet. So she became clever as the only remaining
alternative. Ernest never knew what particular branch of study it
was in which she showed her talent, for she could neither play nor
sing nor draw, but so astute are women that his mother and Charlotte
really did persuade him into thinking that she, Charlotte, had
something more akin to true genius than any other member of the
family. Not one, however, of all the friends whom Ernest had been
inveigled into trying to inveigle had shown the least sign of being so
far struck with Charlotte's commanding powers, as to wish to make them
his own, and this may have had something to do with the rapidity and
completeness with which Christina had dismissed them one after another
and had wanted a new one.

  And now she wanted Towneley. Ernest had seen this coming and had
tried to avoid it, for he knew how impossible it was for him to ask
Towneley even if he had wished to do so.

  Towneley belonged to one of the most exclusive sets in Cambridge,
and was perhaps the most popular man among the whole number of
undergraduates. He was big and very handsome- as it seemed to Ernest
the handsomest man whom he ever had seen or ever could see, for it was
impossible to imagine a more lively and agreeable countenance. He
was good at cricket and boating, very good-natured, singularly free
from conceit, not clever but very sensible, and, lastly, his father
and mother had been drowned by the overturning of a boat when he was
only two years old and had left him as their only child and heir to
one of the finest estates in the South of England. Fortune every now
and then does things handsomely by a man all round; Towneley was one
of those to whom she had taken a fancy, and the universal verdict in
this case was that she had chosen wisely.

  Ernest had seen Towneley as everyone else in the University (except,
of course, dons) had seen him, for he was a man of mark, and being
very susceptible he had liked Towneley even more than most people did,
but at the same time it never so much as entered his head that he
should come to know him. He liked looking at him if he got a chance,
and was very much ashamed of himself for doing so, but there the
matter ended.

  By a strange accident, however, during Ernest's last year, when
the names of the crews for the scratch fours were drawn he had found
himself coxswain of a crew, among whom was none other than his
especial hero Towneley; the three others were ordinary mortals, but
they could row fairly well, and the crew on the whole was rather a
good one.

  Ernest was frightened out of his wits. When, however, the two met,
he found Towneley no less remarkable for his entire want of anything
like "side." and for his power of setting those whom he came across at
their ease, than he was for outward accomplishments; the only
difference he found between Towneley and other people was that he
was so very much easier to get on with. Of course Ernest worshipped
him more and more.

  The scratch fours being ended the connection between the two came to
an end, but Towneley never passed Ernest thenceforward without a nod
and a few good-natured words. In an evil moment he had mentioned
Towneley's name at Battersby, and now what was the result? Here was
his mother plaguing him to ask Towneley to come down to Battersby
and marry Charlotte. Why, if he had thought there was the remotest
chance of Towneley's marrying Charlotte he would have gone down on his
knees to him and told him what an odious young woman she was, and
implored him to save himself while there was yet time.

  But Ernest had not prayed to be made "truly honest and
conscientious" for as many years as Christina had. He tried to conceal
what he felt and thought as well as he could, and led the conversation
back to the difficulties which a clergyman might feel to stand in
the way of his being ordained-not because he had any misgivings, but
as a diversion. His mother, however, thought she had settled all that,
and he got no more out of her. Soon afterwards he found the means of
escaping, and was not slow to avail himself of them.

  CHAPTER XLIX

  ON his return to Cambridge in the May term of 1858, Ernest and a few
other friends who were also intended for orders came to the conclusion
that they must now take a more serious view of their position. They
therefore attended chapel more regularly than hitherto, and held
evening meetings of a somewhat furtive character, at which they
would study the New Testament. They even began to commit the
Epistles of St. Paul to memory in the original Greek. They got up
Beveridge on the Thirty-nine Articles, and Pearson on the Creed; in
their hours of recreation they read More's "Mystery of Godliness,"
which Ernest thought was charming, and Taylor's "Holy Living and
Dying," which also impressed him deeply, through what he thought was
the splendour of its language. They handed themselves over to the
guidance of Dean Alford's notes on the Greek Testament, which made
Ernest better understand what was meant by "difficulties," but also
made him feel how shallow and impotent were the conclusions arrived at
by German neologians, with whose works, being innocent of German, he
was not otherwise acquainted. Some of the friends who joined him in
these pursuits were Johnians, and the meetings were often held
within the walls of St. John's.

  I do not know how tidings of these furtive gatherings had reached
the Simeonites, but they must have come round to them in some way, for
they had not been continued many weeks before a circular was sent to
each of the young men who attended them, informing them that the
Rev. Gideon Hawke, a well-known London Evangelical preacher, whose
sermons were then much talked of, was about to visit his young
friend Badcock of St. John's, and would be glad to say a few words
to any who might wish to hear them, in Badcock's rooms on a certain
evening in May.

  Badcock was one of the most notorious of all the Simeonites. Not
only was he ugly, dirty, ill-dressed, bumptious, and in every way
objectionable, but he was deformed and waddled when he walked so
that he had won a nickname which I can only reproduce by calling it
"Here's my back, and there's my back," because the lower parts of
his back emphasised themselves demonstratively as though about to
fly off in different directions like the two extreme notes in the
chord of the augmented sixth, with every step he took. It may be
guessed, therefore, that the receipt of the circular had for a
moment an almost paralysing effect on those to whom it was
addressed, owing to the astonishment which it occasioned them. It
certainly was a daring surprise, but like so many deformed people,
Badcock was forward and hard to check; he was a pushing fellow to whom
the present was just the opportunity he wanted for carrying war into
the enemy's quarters.

  Ernest and his friends consulted. Moved by the feeling that as
they were now preparing to be clergymen they ought not to stand so
stiffly on social dignity as heretofore, and also perhaps by the
desire to have a good private view of a preacher who was then much
upon the lips of men, they decided to accept the invitation. When
the appointed time came they went with some confusion and
self-abasement to the rooms of this man, on whom they had looked
down hitherto as from an immeasurable height, and with whom nothing
would have made them believe a few weeks earlier that they could
ever come to be on speaking terms.

  Mr. Hawke was a very different-looking person from Badcock. He was
remarkably handsome, or rather would have been but for the thinness of
his lips, and a look of too great firmness and inflexibility. His
features were a good deal like those of Leonardo da Vinci; moreover,
he was kempt, looked in vigorous health, and was of a ruddy
countenance. He was extremely courteous in his manner, and paid a good
deal of attention to Badcock, of whom he seemed to think highly.
Altogether our young friends were taken aback, and inclined to think
smaller beer of themselves and larger of Badcock than was agreeable to
the old Adam who was still alive within them. A few well-known
"Sims" from St. John's and other colleges were present, but not enough
to swamp the Ernest set, as, for the sake of brevity, I will call
them.

  After a preliminary conversation in which there was nothing to
offend, the business of the evening began by Mr. Hawke's standing up
at one end of the table, and saying, "Let us pray." The Ernest set did
not like this, but they could not help themselves, so they knelt
down and repeated the Lord's Prayer and a few others after Mr.
Hawke, who delivered them remarkably well. Then, when all had sat
down, Mr. Hawke addressed them, speaking without notes and taking
for his text the words "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"
Whether owing to Mr. Hawke's manner, which was impressive, or to his
well-known reputation for ability, or whether from the fact that
each one of the Ernest set knew that he had been more or less a
persecutor of the "Sims" and yet felt instinctively that the "Sims"
were after all much more like the early Christians than he was
himself- at any rate the text, familiar though it was, went home to
the consciences of Ernest and his friends as it had never yet done. If
Mr. Hawke had stopped here he would have almost said enough; as he
scanned the faces turned towards him, and saw the impression he had
made, he was perhaps minded to bring his sermon to an end before
beginning it, but if so, he reconsidered himself and proceeded as
follows. I give the sermon in full, for it is a typical one, and
will explain a state of mind which in another generation or two will
seem to stand sadly in need of explanation.

  "My young friends," said Mr. Hawke, "I am persuaded there is not one
of you here who doubts the existence of a Personal God. If there were,
it is to him assuredly that I should first address myself. Should I be
mistaken in my belief that all here assembled accept the existence
of a God who is present amongst us though we see him not, and whose
eye is upon our most secret thoughts, let me implore the doubter to
confer with me in private before we part; I will then put before him
considerations through which God has been mercifully pleased to reveal
himself to me, so far as man can understand him, and which I have
found bring peace to the minds of others who have doubted.

  "I assume also that there is none who doubts but that this God,
after whose likeness we have been made, did in the course of time have
pity upon man's blindness, and assume our nature, taking flesh and
coming down and dwelling among us as a man indistinguishable
physically from ourselves. He who made the sun, moon, and stars, the
world and all that therein is, came down from Heaven in the person
of his Son, with the express purpose of leading a scorned life, and
dying the most cruel, shameful death which fiendish ingenuity has
invented.

  "While on earth he worked many miracles. He gave sight to the blind,
raised the dead to life, fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes,
and was seen to walk upon the waves, but at the end of his appointed
time he died, as was foredetermined, upon the cross, and was buried by
a few faithful friends. Those, however, who had put him to death set a
jealous watch over his tomb.

  "There is no one, I feel sure, in this room who doubts any part of
the foregoing, but if there is, let me again pray him to confer with
me in private, and I doubt not that by the blessing of God his
doubts will cease.

  "The next day but one after our Lord was buried, the tomb being
still jealously guarded by enemies, an angel was seen descending
from Heaven with glittering raiment and a countenance that shone
like fire. This glorious being rolled away the stone from the grave,
and our Lord himself came forth, risen from the dead.

  "My young friends, this is no fanciful story like those of the
ancient deities, but a matter of plain history as certain as that
you and I are now here together. If there is one fact better vouched
for than another in the whole range of certainties it is the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ; nor is it less well assured that a few
weeks after he had risen from the dead, our Lord was seen by many
hundreds of men and women to rise amid a host of angels into the air
upon a heavenward journey till the clouds covered him and concealed
him from the sight of men.

  "It may be said that the truth of these statements has been
denied, but what, let me ask you, has become of the questioners? Where
are they now? Do we see them or hear of them? Have they been able to
hold what little ground they made during the supineness of the last
century? Is there one of your fathers or mothers or friends who does
not see through them? Is there a single teacher or preacher in this
great University who has not examined what these men had to say, and
found it naught? Did you ever meet one of them, or do you find any
of their books securing the respectful attention of those competent to
judge concerning them? I think not; and I think also you know as
well as I do why it is that they have sunk back into the abyss from
which they for a time emerged: it is because after the most careful
and patient examination by the ablest and most judicial minds of
many countries, their arguments were found so untenable that they
themselves renounced them. They fled from the field routed,
dismayed, and suing for peace; nor have they again come to the front
in any civilised country.

  "You know these things. Why, then, do I insist upon them? My dear
young friends, your own consciousness will have made the answer to
each one of you already; it is because, though you know so well that
these things did verily and indeed happen, you know also that you have
not realised them to yourselves as it was your duty to do, nor
heeded their momentous, awful import.

  "And now let me go further. You all know that you will one day
come to die, or if not to die- for there are not wanting signs which
make me hope that the Lord may come again, while some of us now
present are alive- yet to be changed; for the trumpet shall sound, and
the dead shall be raised incorruptible, for this corruption must put
on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality, and the saying
shall be brought to pass that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in
victory.'

  "Do you, or do you not believe that you will one day stand before
the Judgement Seat of Christ? Do you, or do you not believe that you
will have to give an account for every idle word that you have ever
spoken? Do you, or do you not believe that you are called to live, not
according to the will of man, but according to the will of that Christ
who came down from Heaven out of love for you, who suffered and died
for you, who calls you to him, and yearns towards you that you may
take heed even in this your day- but who, if you heed not, will also
one day judge you, and with whom there is no variableness nor shadow
of turning?

  "My dear young friends, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way
which leadeth to Eternal Life, and few there be that find it. Few,
few, few, for he who will not give up ALL for Christ's sake, has given
up  nothing.

  "If you would live in the friendship of this world, if indeed you
are not prepared to give up everything you most fondly cherish, should
the Lord require it of you, then, I say, put the idea of Christ
deliberately on one side at once. Spit upon him, buffet him, crucify
him anew, do anything you like so long as you secure the friendship of
this world while it is still in your power to do so; the pleasures
of this brief life may not be worth paying for by the torments of
eternity, but they are something while they last. If, on the other
hand, you would live in the friendship of God, and be among the number
of those for whom Christ has not died in vain; if, in a word, you
value your eternal welfare, then give up the friendship of this world;
of a surety you must make your choice between God and Mammon, for
you cannot serve both.

  "I put these considerations before you, if so homely a term may be
pardoned, as a plain matter of business. There is nothing low or
unworthy in this, as some lately have pretended, for all nature
shows us that there is nothing more acceptable to God than an
enlightened view of our own self-interest; never let anyone delude you
here; it is a simple question of fact; did certain things happen or
did they not? If they did happen, is it reasonable to suppose that you
will make yourselves and others more happy by one course of conduct or
by another?

  "And now let me ask you what answer you have made to this question
hitherto? Whose friendship have you chosen? If, knowing what you know,
you have not yet begun to act according to the immensity of the
knowledge that is in you, then he who builds his house and lays up his
treasure on the edge of a crater of molten lava is a sane, sensible
person in comparison with yourselves. I say this as no figure of
speech or bugbear with which to frighten you, but as an unvarnished
unexaggerated statement which will be no more disputed by yourselves
than by me."

  And now Mr. Hawke, who up to this time had spoken with singular
quietness, changed his manner to one of greater warmth and continued-

  "Oh! my young friends, turn, turn, turn, now while it is called
to-day- now from this hour, from this instant; stay not even to gird
up your loins; look not behind you for a second, but fly into the
bosom of that Christ who is to be found of all who seek him, and
from that fearful wrath of God which lieth in wait for those who
know not the things belonging to their peace. For the Son of Man
cometh as a thief in the night, and there is not one of us can tell
but what this day his soul may be required of him. If there is even
one here who has heeded me,"- and he let his eye fall for an instant
upon almost all his hearers, but especially on the Ernest set - "I
shall know that it was not for nothing that I felt the call of the
Lord, and heard as I thought a voice by night that bade me come hither
quickly, for there was a chosen vessel who had need of me."

  Here Mr. Hawke ended rather abruptly; his earnest manner, striking
countenance and excellent delivery had produced an effect greater than
the actual words I have given can convey to the reader; the virtue lay
in the man more than in what he said; as for the last few mysterious
words about his having heard a voice by night, their effect was
magical; there was not one who did not look down to the ground, nor
who in his heart did not half believe that he was the chosen vessel on
whose especial behalf God had sent Mr. Hawke to Cambridge. Even if
this were not so, each one of them felt that he was now for the
first time in the actual presence of one who had had a direct
communication from the Almighty, and they were thus suddenly brought a
hundredfold nearer to the New Testament miracles. They were amazed,
not to say scared, and as though by tacit consent they gathered
together, thanked Mr. Hawke for his sermon, said good-night in a
humble, deferential manner to Badcock and the other Simeonites, and
left the room together. They had heard nothing but what they had
been hearing all their lives; how was it, then, that they were so
dumbfounded by it? I suppose partly because they had lately begun to
think more seriously, and were in a fit state to be impressed,
partly by the greater directness with which each felt himself
addressed, through the sermon being delivered in a room, and partly by
the logical consistency, freedom from exaggeration, and profound air
of conviction with which Mr. Hawke had spoken. His simplicity and
obvious earnestness had impressed them even before he had alluded to
his special mission, but this clenched everything, and the words
"Lord, is it I?" were upon the hearts of each as they walked pensively
home through moonlit courts and cloisters.

  I do not know what passed among the Simeonites after the Ernest
set had left them, but they would have been more than mortal if they
had not been a good deal elated with the results of the evening.
Why, one of Ernest's friends was in the University eleven, and he
had actually been in Badcock's rooms and had slunk off on saying
good-night as meekly as any of them. It was no small thing to have
scored a success like this.

  CHAPTER L

  ERNEST felt now that the turning point of his life had come. He
would give up all for Christ-even his tobacco.

  So he gathered together his pipes and pouches, and locked them up in
his portmanteau under his bed where they should be out of sight, and
as much out of mind as possible. He did not burn them, because someone
might come in who wanted to smoke, and though he might abridge his own
liberty, yet, as smoking was not a sin, there was no reason why he
should be hard on other people.

  After breakfast he left his rooms to call on a man named Dawson, who
had been one of Mr. Hawke's hearers on the preceding evening, and
who was reading for ordination at the forthcoming Ember Weeks, now
only four months distant. This man had been always of a rather serious
turn of mind- a little too much so for Ernest's taste; but times had
changed, and Dawson's undoubted sincerity seemed to render him a
fitting counsellor for Ernest at the present time. As he was going
through the first court of John's on his way to Dawson's rooms, he met
Badcock, and greeted him with some deference. His advance was received
with one of those ecstatic gleams which shone occasionally upon the
face of Badcock, and which, if Ernest had known more, would have
reminded him of Robespierre. As it was, he saw it and unconsciously
recognised the unrest and self-seekingness of the man, but could not
yet formulate them; he disliked Badcock more than ever, but as he
was going to profit by the spiritual benefits which he had put in
his way, he was bound to be civil to him, and civil he therefore was.

  Badcock told him that Mr. Hawke had returned to town immediately his
discourse was over, but that before doing so he had enquired
particularly who Ernest and two or three others were. I believe each
one of Ernest's friends was given to understand that he had been
more or less particularly enquired after. Ernest's vanity- for he
was his mother's son- was tickled at this; the idea again presented
itself to him that he might be the one for whose benefit Mr. Hawke had
been sent. There was something, too, in Badcock's manner which
conveyed the idea that he could say more if he chose, but had been
enjoined to silence.

  On reaching Dawson's rooms, he found his friend in raptures over the
discourse of the preceding evening. Hardly less delighted was he
with the effect it had produced on Ernest. He had always known, he
said, that Ernest would come round; he had been sure of it, but he had
hardly expected the conversion to be so sudden. Ernest said no more
had he, but now that he saw his duty so clearly he would get
ordained as soon as possible, and take a curacy, even though the doing
so would make him have to go down from Cambridge earlier, which
would be a great grief to him. Dawson applauded this determination,
and it was arranged that as Ernest was still more or less of a weak
brother, Dawson should take him, so to speak, in spiritual tow for a
while, and strengthen and confirm his faith.

  An offensive and defensive alliance therefore was struck up
between this pair (who were in reality singularly ill assorted), and
Ernest set to work to master the books on which the Bishop would
examine him. Others gradually joined them till they formed a small set
or church (for these are the same things), and the effect of Mr.
Hawke's sermon, instead of wearing off in a few days, as might have
been expected, became more and more marked, so much so that it was
necessary for Ernest's friends to hold him back rather than urge him
on, for he seemed likely to develop- as indeed he did for a time- into
a religious enthusiast.

  In one matter only did he openly backslide. He had, as I said above,
locked up his pipes and tobacco, so that he might not be tempted to
use them. All day long on the day after Mr. Hawke's sermon he let them
lie in his portmanteau bravely; but this was not very difficult, as he
had for some time given up smoking till after hall. After hall this
day he did not smoke till chapel time, and then went to chapel in
self-defence. When he returned he determined to look at the matter
from a common sense point of view. On this he saw that, provided
tobacco did not injure his health- and he really could not see that it
did- it stood much on the same footing as tea or coffee.

  Tobacco had nowhere been forbidden in the Bible, but then it had not
yet been discovered, and had probably only escaped proscription for
this reason. We can conceive of St. Paul or even our Lord Himself as
drinking a cup of tea, but we cannot imagine either of them as smoking
a cigarette, or a churchwarden. Ernest could not deny this, and
admitted that Paul would almost certainly have condemned tobacco in
good round terms if he had known of its existence. Was it not then
taking rather a mean advantage of the Apostle to stand on his not
having actually forbidden it? On the other hand, it was possible
that God knew Paul would have forbidden smoking, and had purposely
arranged the discovery of tobacco for a period at which Paul should be
no longer living. This might seem rather hard on Paul, considering all
he had done for Christianity, but it would be made up to him in
other ways.

  These reflections satisfied Ernest that on the whole he had better
smoke, so he sneaked to his portmanteau and brought out his pipes
and tobacco again. There should be moderation, he felt, in all things,
even in virtue; so for that night he smoked immoderately. It was a
pity, however, that he had bragged to Dawson about giving up
smoking. The pipes had better be kept in a cupboard for a week or two,
till in other and easier respects Ernest should have proved his
steadfastness. Then they might steal out again little by little- and
so they did.

  Ernest now wrote home a letter couched in a vein different from
his ordinary ones. His letters were usually all common form and
padding, for as I have already explained, if he wrote about anything
that really interested him, his mother always wanted to know more
and more about it- every fresh answer being as the lopping off of a
hydra's head and giving birth to half-a-dozen or more new questions-
but in the end it came invariably to the same result, namely, that
he ought to have done something else, or ought not to go on doing as
he proposed. Now, however, there was a new departure, and for the
thousandth time he concluded that he was about to take a course of
which his father and mother would approve, and in which they would
be interested, so at last he and they might get on more
sympathetically than heretofore. He therefore wrote a gushing,
impulsive letter, which afforded much amusement to myself as I read
it, but which is too long for reproduction. One passage ran: "I am now
going towards Christ; the greater number of my college friends are,
I fear, going away from Him; we must pray for them that they may
find the peace that is in Christ even as I have myself found it."
Ernest covered his face with his hands for shame as he read this
extract from the bundle of letters he had put into my hands- they
had been returned to him by his father on his mother's death, his
mother having carefully preserved them.

  "Shall I cut it out?" said I. "I will, if you like."

  "Certainly not," he answered, "and if good-natured friends have kept
more records of my follies, pick out any plums that may amuse the
reader, and let him have his laugh over them." But fancy what effect a
letter like this- so unled up to- must have produced at Battersby!
Even Christina refrained from ecstasy over her son's having discovered
the power of Christ's word, while Theobald was frightened out of his
wits. It was well his son was not going to have any doubts or
difficulties, and that he would be ordained without making a fuss over
it, but he smelt mischief in this sudden conversion of one who had
never yet shown any inclination towards religion. He hated people
who did not know where to stop. Ernest was always so outre and
strange; there was never any knowing what he would do next, except
that it would be something unusual and silly. If he was to get the bit
between his teeth after he had got ordained and bought his living,
he would play more pranks than ever he, Theobald, had done. The
fact, doubtless, of his being ordained and having bought a living
would go a long way to steady him, and if he married, his wife must
see to the rest; this was his only chance and, to do justice to his
sagacity, Theobald in his heart did not think very highly of it.

  When Ernest came down to Battersby in June, he imprudently tried
to open up a more unreserved communication with his father than was
his wont. The first of Ernest's snipe-like flights on being flushed by
Mr. Hawke's sermon was in the direction of ultra-Evangelicalism.
Theobald himself had been much more Low than High Church. This was the
normal development of the country clergyman during the first years
of his clerical life, between, we will say, the years 1825 and 1850;
but he was not prepared for the almost contempt with which Ernest
now regarded the doctrines of baptismal regeneration and priestly
absolution (Hoity-toity, indeed, what business had he with such
questions?) nor for his desire to find some means of reconciling
Methodism and the Church. Theobald hated the Church of Rome, but he
hated dissenters too, for he found them as a general rule
troublesome people to deal with; he always found people who did not
agree with him troublesome to deal with: besides, they set up for
knowing as much as he did; nevertheless if he had been let alone he
would have leaned towards them rather than towards the High Church
party. The neighbouring clergy, however, would not let him alone.
One by one they had come under the influence, directly or
indirectly, of the Oxford movement which had begun twenty years
earlier. It was surprising how many practices he now tolerated which
in his youth he would have considered Popish; he knew very well
therefore which way things were going in Church matters, and saw
that as usual Ernest was setting himself the other way. The
opportunity for telling his son that he was a fool was too
favourable not to be embraced, and Theobald was not slow to embrace
it. Ernest was annoyed and surprised, for had not his father and
mother been wanting him to be more religious all his life? Now that he
had become so they were still not satisfied. He said to himself that a
prophet was not without honour save in his own country, but he had
been lately- or rather until lately- getting into an odious habit of
turning proverbs upside down, and it occurred to him that a country is
sometimes not without honour save for its own prophet. Then he
laughed, and for the rest of the day felt more as he used to feel
before he had heard Mr. Hawke's sermon.

  He returned to Cambridge for the Long Vacation of 1858 -none too
soon, for he had to go in for the Voluntary Theological Examination,
which bishops were now beginning to insist upon. He imagined all the
time he was reading that he was storing himself with the knowledge
that would best fit him for the work he had taken in hand. In truth,
he was cramming for a pass. In due time he did pass- creditably, and
was ordained Deacon with half-a-dozen others of his friends in the
autumn of 1858. He was then just twenty-three years old.

  CHAPTER LI

  ERNEST had been ordained to a curacy in one of the central parts
of London. He hardly knew anything of London yet, but his instincts
drew him thither. The day after he was ordained he entered upon his
duties- feeling much as his father had done when he found himself
boxed up in the carriage with Christina on the morning of his
marriage. Before the first three days were over, he became aware
that the light of the happiness, which he had known during his four
years at Cambridge had been extinguished, and he was appalled by the
irrevocable nature of the step which he now felt that he had taken
much too hurriedly.

  The most charitable excuse that I can make for the vagaries which it
will now be my duty to chronicle is that the shock of change
consequent upon his becoming suddenly religious, being ordained, and
leaving Cambridge, had been too much for my hero, and had for the time
thrown him off an equilibrium which was yet little supported by
experience, and therefore as a matter of course unstable.

  Everyone has a mass of bad work in him which he will have to work
off and get rid of before he can do better- and indeed, the more
lasting a man's ultimate good work is, the more sure he is to pass
through a time, and perhaps a very long one, in which there seems very
little hope for him at all. We must all sow our spiritual wild oats.
The fault I feel personally disposed to find with my godson is not
that he had wild oats to sow, but that they were such an exceedingly
tame and uninteresting crop. The sense of humour and tendency to think
for himself, of which till a few months previously he had been showing
fair promise, were nipped as though by a late frost, while his earlier
habit of taking on trust everything that was told him by those in
authority, and following everything out to the bitter end, no matter
how preposterous, returned with redoubled strength. I suppose this was
what might have been expected from anyone placed as Ernest now was,
especially when his antecedents are remembered, but it surprised and
disappointed some of his cooler-headed Cambridge friends who had begun
to think well of his ability. To himself it seemed that religion was
incompatible with half measures, or even with compromise.
Circumstances had led to his being ordained; for the moment he was
sorry they had, but he had done it and must go through with it. He
therefore set himself to find out what was expected of him, and to act
accordingly.

  His rector was a moderate High Churchman of no very pronounced
views- an elderly man who had had too many curates not to have long
since found out that the connection between rector and curate, like
that between employer and employed in every other walk of life, was
a mere matter of business. He had now two curates, of whom Ernest
was the junior; the senior curate was named Pryer, and when this
gentleman made advances, as he presently did, Ernest in his forlorn
state was delighted to meet them.

  Pryer was about twenty-eight years old. He had been at Eton and at
Oxford. He was tall, and passed generally for good-looking; I only saw
him once for about five minutes, and then thought him odious both in
manners and appearance. Perhaps it was because he caught me up in a
way I did not like. I had quoted Shakespeare for lack of something
better to fill up a sentence- and had said that one touch of nature
made the whole world kin. "Ah," said Pryer, in a bold, brazen way
which displeased me, "but one touch of the unnatural makes it more
kindred still," and he gave me a look as though he thought me an old
bore and did not care two straws whether I was shocked or not.
Naturally enough, after this I did not like him.

  This, however, is anticipating, for it was not till Ernest had
been three or four months in London that I happened to meet his fellow
curate, and I must deal here rather with the effect he produced upon
my godson than upon myself. Besides being what was generally
considered good-looking, he was faultless in his get-up, and
altogether the kind of man whom Ernest was sure to be afraid of and
yet be taken in by. The style of his dress was very High Church, and
his acquaintances were exclusively of the extreme High Church party,
but he kept his views a good deal in the background in his rector's
presence, and that gentleman, though he looked askance on some of
Pryer's friends, had no such ground of complaint against him as to
make him sever the connection. Pryer, too, was popular in the
pulpit, and, take him all round, it was probable that many worse
curates would be found for one better. When Pryer called on my hero,
as soon as the two were alone together, he eyed him all over with a
quick, penetrating glance and seemed not dissatisfied with the result-
for I must say here that Ernest had improved in personal appearance
under the more genial treatment he had received at Cambridge. Pryer,
in fact, approved of him sufficiently to treat him civilly, and Ernest
was immediately won by anyone who did this. It was not long before
he discovered that the High Church party, and even Rome itself, had
more to say for themselves than he had thought. This was his first
snipe-like change of flight.

  Pryer introduced him to several of his friends. They were all of
them young clergymen, belonging as I have said to the highest of the
High Church school, but Ernest was surprised to find how much they
resembled other people when among themselves. This was a shock to him;
it was ere long a still greater one to find that certain thoughts
which he had warred against as fatal to his soul, and which he had
imagined he should lose once for all on ordination, were still as
troublesome to him as they had been; he also saw plainly enough that
the young gentlemen who formed the circle of Pryer's friends were in
much the same unhappy predicament as himself.

  This was deplorable. The only way out of it that Ernest could see
was that he should get married at once. But then he did not know
anyone whom he wanted to marry. He did not know any woman, in fact,
whom he would not rather die than marry. It had been one of Theobald's
and Christina's main objects to keep him out of the way of women,
and they had so far succeeded that women had become to him mysterious,
inscrutable objects to be tolerated when it was impossible to avoid
them, but never to be sought out or encouraged. As for any man loving,
or even being at all fond of any woman, he supposed it was so, but
he believed the greater number of those who professed such
sentiments were liars. Now, however, it was clear that he had hoped
against hope too long, and that the only thing to do was to go and ask
the first woman who would listen to him to come and be married to
him as soon as possible.

  He broached this to Pryer, and was surprised to find that this
gentleman, though attentive to such members of his flock as were young
and good-looking, was strongly in favour of the celibacy of the
clergy, as indeed were the other demure young clerics to whom Pryer
had introduced Ernest.

  CHAPTER LII

  "YOU know, my dear Pontifex," said Pryer to him, some few weeks
after Ernest had become acquainted with him, when the two were
taking a constitutional one day in Kensington Gardens, "you know, my
dear Pontifex, it is all very well to quarrel with Rome, but Rome
has reduced the treatment of the human soul to a science, while our
own Church, though so much purer in many respects, has no organised
system either of diagnosis or pathology- I mean, of course,
spiritual diagnosis and spiritual pathology. Our Church does not
prescribe remedies upon any settled system, and, what is still
worse, even when her physicians have according to their lights
ascertained the disease and pointed out the remedy, she has no
discipline which will ensure its being actually applied. If our
patients do not choose to do as we tell them, we cannot make them.
Perhaps really under all the circumstances this is as well, for we are
spiritually mere horse doctors as compared with the Roman
priesthood, nor can we hope to make much headway against the sin and
misery that surround us, till we return in some respects to the
practice of our forefathers and of the greater part of Christendom."

  Ernest asked in what respects it was that his friend desired a
return to the practice of our forefathers.

  "Why, my dear fellow, can you really be ignorant? It is just this,
either the priest is indeed a spiritual guide, as being able to show
people how they ought to live better than they can find out for
themselves, or he is nothing at all -he has no raison d'etre. If the
priest is not as much a healer and director of men's souls as a
physician is of their bodies, what is he? The history of all ages
has shown- and surely you must know this as well as I do- that as
men cannot cure the bodies of their patients if they have not been
properly trained in hospitals under skilled teachers, so neither can
souls be cured of their more hidden ailments without the help of men
who are skilled in soul-craft -or in other words, of priests. What
do one half of our formularies and rubrics mean if not this? How in
the name of all that is reasonable can we find out the exact nature of
a spiritual malady, unless we have had experience of other similar
cases? How can we get this without express training? At present we
have to begin all experiments for ourselves, without profiting by
the organised experience of our predecessors, inasmuch as that
experience is never organised and co-ordinated at all. At the
outset, therefore, each one of us must ruin many souls which could
be saved by knowledge of a few elementary principles."

  Ernest was very much impressed.

  "As for men curing themselves," continued Pryer, "they can no more
cure their own souls than they can cure their own bodies, or manage
their own law affairs. In these two last cases they see the folly of
meddling with their own cases clearly enough, and go to a professional
adviser as a matter of course; surely a man's soul is at once a more
difficult and intricate matter to treat, and at the same time it is
more important to him that it should be treated rightly than that
either his body or his money should be so. What are we to think of the
practice of a Church which encourages people to rely on unprofessional
advice in matters affecting their eternal welfare, when they would not
think of jeopardising their worldly affairs by such insane conduct?"

  Ernest could see no weak place in this. These ideas had crossed
his own mind vaguely before now, but he had never laid hold of them or
set them in an orderly manner before himself. Nor was he quick at
detecting false analogies and the misuse of metaphors; in fact he
was a mere child in the hands of his fellow curate.

  "And what," resumed Pryer, "does all this point to? Firstly, to
the duty of confession- the outcry against which is absurd as an
outcry would be against dissection as part of the training of
medical students. Granted these young men must see and do a great deal
we do not ourselves like even to think of, but they should adopt
some other profession unless they are prepared for this; they may even
get inoculated with poison from a dead body and lose their lives,
but they must stand their chance. So if we aspire to be priests in
deed as well as name, we must familiarise ourselves with the
minutest and most repulsive details of all kinds of sin, so that we
may recognise it in all its stages. Some of us must doubtless perish
spiritually in such investigations. We cannot help it; all science
must have its martyrs, and none of these will deserve better of
humanity than those who have fallen in the pursuit of spiritual
pathology."

  Ernest grew more and more interested, but in the meekness of his
soul said nothing.

  "I do not desire this martyrdom for myself," continued the other;
"on the contrary I will avoid it to the very utmost of my power, but
if it be God's will that I should fall while studying while what I
believe most calculated to advance his glory- then, I say, not my
will, O Lord, but thine be done."

  This was too much even for Ernest. "I heard of an Irishwoman
once," he said, with a smile, "who said she was a martyr to the
drink."

  "And so she was," rejoined Pryer with warmth; and he went on to show
that this good woman was an experimentalist whose experiment, though
disastrous in its effects upon herself, was pregnant with
instruction to other people. She was thus a true martyr or witness
to the frightful consequences of intemperance, to the saving,
doubtless, of many who but for her martyrdom would have taken to
drinking. She was one of a forlorn hope whose failure to take a
certain position went to the proving it to be impregnable and
therefore to the abandonment of all attempt to take it. This was
almost as great a gain to mankind as the actual taking of the position
would have been.

  "Besides," he added more hurriedly, "the limits of vice and virtue
are wretchedly ill-defined. Half the vices which the world condemns
most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderate use rather
than total abstinence."

  Ernest asked timidly for an instance.

  "No, no," said Pryer, "I will give you no instance, but I will
give you a formula that shall embrace all instances. It is this,
that no practice is entirely vicious which has not been extinguished
among the comeliest, most vigorous, and most cultivated races of
mankind in spite of centuries of endeavour to extirpate it. If a
vice in spite of such efforts can still hold its own among the most
polished nations, it must be founded on some immutable truth or fact
in human nature, and must have some compensatory advantage which we
cannot afford altogether to dispense with."

  "But," said Ernest timidly, "is not this virtually doing away with
all distinction between right and wrong, and leaving people without
any moral guide whatever?"

  "Not the people," was the answer: "it must be our care to be
guides to these, for they are and always will be incapable of
guiding themselves sufficiently. We should tell them what they must
do, and in an ideal state of things should be able to enforce their
doing it: perhaps when we are better instructed the ideal state may
come about; nothing will so advance it as greater knowledge of
spiritual pathology on our own part. For this, three things are
necessary; firstly, absolute freedom in experiment for us the
clergy; secondly, absolute knowledge of what the laity think and do,
and of what thoughts and actions result in what spiritual
conditions; and thirdly, a compacter organisation among ourselves.

  "If we are to do any good we must be a closely united body, and must
be sharply divided from the laity. Also we must be free from those
ties which a wife and children involve. I can hardly express the
horror with which I am filled by seeing English priests living in what
I can only designate as 'open matrimony.' It is deplorable. The priest
must be absolutely sexless- if not in practice, yet at any rate in
theory, absolutely- and that, too, by a theory so universally accepted
that none shall venture to dispute it."

  "But," said Ernest, "has not the Bible already told people what they
ought and ought not to do, and is it not enough for us to insist on
what can be found here, and let the rest alone?"

  "If you begin with the Bible," was the rejoinder, "you are three
parts gone on the road to infidelity, and will go the other part
before you know where you are. The Bible is not without its value to
us the clergy, but for the laity it is a stumbling-block which
cannot be taken out of their way too soon or too completely. Of
course, I mean on the supposition that they read it, which, happily,
they seldom do. If people read the Bible as the ordinary British
churchman or churchwoman reads it, it is harmless enough; but if
they read it with any care- which we should assume they will if we
give it them at all- it is fatal to them."

  "What do you mean?" said Ernest, more and more astonished, but
more and more feeling that he was at least in the hands of a man who
had definite ideas.

  "Your question shows me that you have never read your Bible. A
more unreliable book was never put upon paper. Take my advice and
don't read it, not till you are a few years older, and may do so
safely."

  "But surely you believe the Bible when it tells you of such things
as that Christ died and rose from the dead? Surely you believe
this?" said Ernest, quite prepared to be told that Pryer believed
nothing of the kind.

  "I do not believe it, I know it."

  "But how- if the testimony of the Bible fails?"

  "On that of the living voice of the Church, which I know to be
infallible and to be informed of Christ himself."

  CHAPTER LIII

  THE foregoing conversation and others like it made a deep impression
upon my hero. If next day he had taken a walk with Mr. Hawke, and
heard what he had to say on the other side, he would have been just as
much struck, and as ready to fling off what Pryer had told him, as
he now was to throw aside all he had ever heard from anyone except
Pryer; but there was no Mr. Hawke at hand, so Pryer had everything his
own way.

  Embryo minds, like embryo bodies, pass through a number of strange
metamorphoses before they adopt their final shape. It is no more to be
wondered at that one who is going to turn out a Roman Catholic, should
have passed through the stages of being first a Methodist, and then
a freethinker, than that a man should at some former time have been
a mere cell, and later on an invertebrate animal. Ernest, however,
could not be expected to know this; embryos never do. Embryos think
with each stage of their development that they have now reached the
only condition which really suits them. This, they say, must certainly
be their last, inasmuch as its close will be so great a shock that
nothing can survive it. Every change is a shock; every shock is a
pro tanto death. What we call death is only a shock great enough to
destroy our power to recognise a past and a present as resembling
one another. It is the making us consider the points of difference
between our present and our past greater than the points of
resemblance, so that we can no longer call the former of these two
in any proper sense a continuation of the second, but find it less
trouble to think of it as something that we choose to call new.

  But, to let this pass, it was clear that spiritual pathology (I
confess that I do not know myself what spiritual pathology means
-but Pryer and Ernest doubtless did) was the great desideratum of
the age. It seemed to Ernest that he had made this discovery himself
and been familiar with it all his life, that he had never known, in
fact, of anything else. He wrote long letters to his college friends
expounding his views as though he had been one of the Apostolic
fathers. As for the Old Testament writers, he had no patience with
them. "Do oblige me," I find him writing to one friend, "by reading
the prophet Zechariah, and giving me your candid opinion upon him.
He is poor stuff, full of Yankee bounce; it is sickening to live in an
age when such balderdash can be gravely admired whether as poetry or
prophecy." This was because Pryer had set him against Zechariah. I
do not know what Zechariah had done; I should think myself that
Zechariah was a very good prophet; perhaps it was because he was a
Bible writer, and not a very prominent one, that Pryer selected him as
one through whom to disparage the Bible in comparison with the Church.

  To his friend Dawson I find him saying a little later on: "Pryer and
I continue our walks, working out each other's thoughts. At first he
used to do all the thinking, but I think I am pretty well abreast of
him now, and rather chuckle at seeing that he is already beginning
to modify some of the views he held most strongly when I first knew
him.

  "Then I think he was on the high road to Rome; now, however, he
seems to be a good deal struck with a suggestion of mine in which you,
too, perhaps may be interested. You see we must infuse new life into
the Church somehow; we are not holding our own against either Rome
or infidelity." (I may say in passing that I do not believe Ernest had
as yet ever seen an infidel- not to speak to.) "I proposed, therefore,
a few days back to Pryer- and he fell in eagerly with the proposal
as soon as he saw that I had the means of carrying it out- that we
should set on foot a spiritual movement somewhat analogous to the
Young England movement of twenty years ago, the aim of which shall
be at once to outbid Rome on the one hand, and scepticism on the
other. For this purpose I see nothing better than the foundation of an
institution or college for placing the nature and treatment of sin
on a more scientific basis than it rests at present. We want- to
borrow a useful term of Pryer's - a College of Spiritual Pathology
where young men" (I suppose Ernest thought he was no longer young by
this time) "may study the nature and treatment of the sins of the soul
as medical students study those of the bodies of their patients.
Such a college, as you will probably admit, will approach both Rome on
the one hand, and science on the other- Rome, as giving the priesthood
more skill, and therefore as paving the way for their obtaining
greater power, and science, by recognising that even free thought
has a certain kind of value in spiritual enquiries. To this purpose
Pryer and I have resolved to devote ourselves henceforth heart and
soul.

  "Of course, my ideas are still unshaped, and all will depend upon
the men by whom the College is first worked. I am not yet a priest,
but Pryer is, and if I were to start the College, Pryer might take
charge of it for a time and I work under him nominally as his
subordinate. Pryer himself suggested this. Is it not generous of him?

  "The worst of it is that we have not enough money; I have, it is
true, L5000, but we want at least L10,000, so Pryer says, before we
can start; when we are fairly under weigh I might live at the
college and draw a salary from the foundation, so that it is all
one, or nearly so, whether I invest my money in this way or in
buying a living; besides I want very little; it is certain that I
shall never marry; no clergyman should think of this, and an unmarried
man can live on next to nothing. Still I do not see my way to as
much money as I want, and Pryer suggests that as we can hardly earn
more now we must get it by a judicious series of investments. Pryer
knows several people who make quite a handsome income out of very
little or, indeed, I may say, nothing at all, by buying things at a
place they call the Stock Exchange; I don't know much about it yet,
but Pryer says I should soon learn; he thinks, indeed, that I have
shown rather a talent in this direction, and under proper auspices
should make a very good man of business. Others, of course, and not I,
must decide this; but a man can do anything if he gives his mind to
it, and though I should not care about having more money for my own
sake, I care about it very much when I think of the good I could do
with it by saving souls from such horrible torture hereafter. Why,
if the thing succeeds, and I really cannot see what is to hinder it,
it is hardly possible to exaggerate its importance, nor the
proportions which it may ultimately assume," etc., etc.

  Again I asked Ernest whether he minded my printing this. He
winced, but said, "No, not if it helps you to tell your story: but
don't you think it is too long?"

  I said it would let the reader see for himself how things were going
in half the time that it would take me to explain them to him.

  "Very well then, keep it by all means."

  I continue turning over my file of Ernest's letters and find as
follows-

  "Thanks for your last, in answer to which I send you a rough copy of
a letter I sent to the Times a day or two back. They did not insert
it, but it embodies pretty fully my ideas on the parochial
visitation question, and Pryer fully approves of the letter. Think
it carefully over and send it back to me when read, for it is so
exactly my present creed that I cannot afford to lose it.

  "I should very much like to have a viva voce discussion on these
matters: I can only see for certain that we have suffered a dreadful
loss in being no longer able to excommunicate. We should excommunicate
rich and poor alike, and pretty freely too. If this power were
restored to us we could, I think, soon put a stop to by far the
greater part of the sin and misery with which we are surrounded."

  These letters were written only a few weeks after Ernest had been
ordained, but they are nothing to others that he wrote a little
later on.

 In his eagerness to regenerate the Church of England (and through
this the universe) by the means which Pryer had suggested to him, it
occurred to him to try to familiarise himself with the habits and
thoughts of the poor by going and living among them. I think he got
this notion from Kingsley's "Alton Locke," which, High Churchman
though he for the nonce was, he had devoured as he had devoured
Stanley's "Life of Arnold," Dickens's novels, and whatever other
literary garbage of the day was most likely to do him harm; at any
rate he actually put his scheme into practice, and took lodgings in
Ashpit Place, a small street in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane
Theatre, in a house of which the landlady was the widow of a cabman.

  This lady occupied the whole ground floor. In the front kitchen
there was a tinker. The back kitchen was let to a bellows-mender. On
the first floor came Ernest, with his two rooms which he furnished
comfortably, for one must draw the line somewhere. The two upper
floors were parcelled out among four different sets of lodgers:
there was a tailor named Holt, a drunken fellow who used to beat his
wife at night till her screams woke the house; above him there was
another tailor with a wife but no children; these people were
Wesleyans, given to drink but not noisy. The two back rooms were
held by single ladies, who it seemed to Ernest must be respectably
connected, for well-dressed, gentlemanly-looking young men used to
go up and down stairs past Ernest's rooms to call at any rate on
Miss Snow- Ernest had heard her door slam after they had passed. He
thought, too, that some of them went up to Miss Maitland's. Mrs. Jupp,
the landlady, told Ernest that these were brothers and cousins of Miss
Snow's, and that she was herself looking out for a situation as a
governess, but at present had an engagement as an actress at the Drury
Lane Theatre. Ernest asked whether Miss Maitland in the top back was
also looking out for a situation, and was told she was wanting an
engagement as a milliner. He believed whatever Mrs. Jupp told him.

  CHAPTER LIV

  THIS move on Ernest's part was variously commented upon by his
friends, the general opinion being that it was just like Pontifex, who
was sure to do something unusual wherever he went, but that on the
whole the idea was commendable. Christina could not restrain herself
when on sounding her clerical neighbours she found them inclined to
applaud her son for conduct which they idealised into something much
more self-denying than it really was. She did not quite like his
living in such an unaristocratic neighbourhood; but what he was
doing would probably get into the newspapers, and then great people
would take notice of him. Besides, it would be very cheap; down
among these poor people he could live for next to nothing, and might
put by a great deal of his income. As for temptations, there could
be few or none in such a place as that. This argument about
cheapness was the one with which she most successfully met Theobald,
who grumbled more suo that he had no sympathy with his son's
extravagance and conceit. When Christina pointed out to him that it
would be cheap he replied that there was something in that.

  On Ernest himself the effect was to confirm the good opinion of
himself which had been growing upon him ever since he had begun to
read for orders, and to make him flatter himself that he was among the
few who were ready to give up all for Christ. Ere long he began to
conceive of himself as a man with a mission and a great future. His
lightest and most hastily formed opinions began to be of momentous
importance to him, and he inflicted them, as I have already shown,
on his old friends, week by week becoming more and more entete with
himself and his own crotchets. I should like well enough to draw a
veil over this part of my hero's career, but cannot do so without
marring my story.

  In the spring of 1859 I find him writing--

  "I cannot call the visible Church Christian till its fruits are
Christian, that is until the fruits of the members of the Church of
England are in conformity, or something like conformity, with her
teaching. I cordially agree with the teaching of the Church of England
in most respects, but she says one thing and does another, and until
excommunication -yes, and wholesale excommunication -be resorted to, I
cannot call her a Christian institution. I should begin with our
Rector, and if I found it necessary to follow him up by
excommunicating the Bishop, I should not flinch even from this.

  "The present London Rectors are hopeless people to deal with. My own
is one of the best of them, but the moment Pryer and I show signs of
wanting to attack an evil in a way not  recognised by routine, or of
remedying anything about which no outcry has been made, we are met
with, 'I cannot think what you mean by all this disturbance; nobody
else among the clergy sees these things, and I have no wish to be
the first to begin turning everything topsy-turvy.' And then people
call him a sensible man. I have no patience with them. However, we
know what we want, and, as I wrote to Dawson the other day, have a
scheme on foot which will, I think, fairly meet the requirements of
the case. But we want more money, and my first move towards getting
this has not turned out quite so satisfactorily as Pryer and I had
hoped; we shall, however, doubt not, retrieve it shortly."

  When Ernest came to London he intended doing a good deal of
house-to-house visiting, but Pryer had talked him out of this even
before he settled down in his new and strangely-chosen apartments. The
line he now took was that if people wanted Christ, they must prove
their want by taking some little trouble, and the trouble required
of them was that they should come and seek him, Ernest, out; there
he was in the midst of them ready to teach; if people did not choose
to come to him it was no fault of his.

  "My great business here," he writes again to Dawson, "is to observe.
I am not doing much in parish work beyond my share of the daily
services. I have a man's Bible Class, and a boy's Bible Class, and a
good many young men and boys to whom I give instruction one way or
another; then there are the Sunday School children, with whom I fill
my room on a Sunday evening as full as it will hold, and let them sing
hymns and chants. They like this. I do a great deal of reading-
chiefly of books which Pryer and I think most likely to help; we
find nothing comparable to the Jesuits. Pryer is a thorough gentleman,
and an admirable man of business -no less observant of the things of
this world, in fact, than of the things above; by a brilliant coup
he has retrieved, or nearly so, a rather serious loss which threatened
to delay indefinitely the execution of our great scheme. He and I
daily gather fresh principles. I believe great things are before me,
and am strong in the hope of being able by-and-by to effect much.

  "As for you I bid you Godspeed. Be bold but logical, speculative but
cautious, daringly courageous, but properly circumspect withal," etc.,
etc.

  I think this may do for the present.

  CHAPTER LV

  I HAD called on Ernest as a matter of course when he first came to
London, but had not seen him. I had been out when he returned my call,
so that he had been in town for some weeks before I actually saw
him, which I did not very long after he had taken possession of his
new rooms. I liked his face, but except for the common bond of
music, in respect of which our tastes were singularly alike, I
should hardly have known how to get on with him. To do him justice
he did not air any of his schemes to me until I had drawn him out
concerning them. I, to borrow the words of Ernest's landlady, Mrs.
Jupp, "am not a very regular church-goer" -I discovered upon
cross-examination that Mrs. Jupp had been to church once when she
was churched for her son Tom some five-and-twenty years since, years
since, but never either before or afterwards; not even, I fear, to
be married, for though she called herself "Mrs." she wore no wedding
ring, and spoke of the person who should have been Mr. Jupp as "my
poor dear boy's father," not as "my husband." But to return. I was
vexed at Ernest's having been ordained. I was not ordained myself
and I did not like my friends to be ordained, nor did I like having to
be on my best behaviour and to look as if butter would not melt in
my mouth, and all for a boy whom I remembered when he knew yesterday
and to-morrow and Tuesday, but not a day of the week more- not even
Sunday itself -and when he said he did not like the kitten because
it had pins in its toes.

  I looked at him and thought of his Aunt Alethea, and how fast the
money she had left him was accumulating; and it was all to go to
this young man, who would use it probably in the very last ways with
which Miss Pontifex would have sympathised. I was annoyed. "She always
said," I thought to myself, "that she should make a mess of it, but
I did not think she would have made as great a mess of it as this."
Then I thought that perhaps if his aunt had lived he would not have
been like this.

  Ernest behaved quite nicely to me and I own that the fault was
mine if the conversation drew towards dangerous subjects. I was the
aggressor, presuming I suppose upon my age and long acquaintance
with him, as giving me a right to make myself unpleasant in a quiet
way.

  Then he came out, and the exasperating part of it was that up to a
certain point he was so very right. Grant him his premises and his
conclusions were sound enough, nor could I, seeing that he was already
ordained, join issue with him about his premises as I should certainly
have done if I had had a chance of doing so before he had taken
orders. The result was that I had to beat a retreat and went away
not in the best of humours. I believe the truth was that I liked
Ernest, and was vexed at his being a clergyman, and at a clergyman
having so much money coming to him.

  I talked a little with Mrs. Jupp on my way out. She and I had
reckoned one another up at first sight as being neither of us "very
regular church-goers," and the strings of her tongue had been
loosened. She said Ernest would die. He was much too good for the
world and he looked so sad "just like young Watkins of the 'Crown'
over the way who died a month ago, and his poor dear skin was white as
alablaster; least-ways they say he shot hisself. They took him from
the Mortimer, I met them just as I was going with my Rose to get a
pint o' four ale, and she had her arm in splints. She told her
sister she wanted to go to Perry's to get some wool, instead o'
which it was only a stall to get me a pint o' ale, bless her heart;
there's nobody else would do that much for poor old Jupp, and it's a
horrid lie to say she is gay; not but what I like a gay woman, I do:
I'd rather give a gay woman half-a-crown than stand a modest woman a
pot o' beer, but I don't want to go associating with bad girls for all
that. So they took him from the Mortimer; they wouldn't let him go
home no more; and he done it that artful, you know. His wife was in
the country living with her mother, and she always spoke respectful o'
my Rose. Poor dear, I hope his soul is in Heaven. Well, sir, would you
believe it, there's that in Mr. Pontifex's face which is just like
young Watkins; he looks that worrited and scrunched up at times, but
it's never for the same reason, for he don't know nothing at all, no
more than a unborn babe, no he don't; why there's not a monkey going
about London with an Italian organ grinder but knows more than Mr.
Pontifex do. He don't know- well I suppose--"

  Here a child came in on an errand from some neighbour and
interrupted her, or I can form no idea where or when she would have
ended her discourse. I seized the opportunity to run away, but not
before I had given her five shillings and made her write down my
address, for I was a little frightened by what she said. I told her if
she thought her lodger grew worse, she was to come and let me know.

  Weeks went by and I did not see her again. Having done as much as
I had, I felt absolved from doing more, and let Ernest alone as
thinking that he and I should only bore one another.

  He had now been ordained a little over four months, but these months
had not brought happiness or satisfaction with them. He had lived in a
clergyman's house all his life, and might have been expected perhaps
to have known pretty much what being a clergyman was like, and so he
did- a country clergyman; he had formed an ideal, however, as
regards what a town clergyman could do, and was trying in a feeble,
tentative way to realise it, but somehow or other it always managed to
escape him.

  He lived among the poor, but he did not find that he got to know
them. The idea that they would come to him proved to be a mistaken
one. He did indeed visit a few tame pets whom his rector desired him
to look after. There was an old man and his wife who lived next door
but one to Ernest himself; then there was a plumber of the name of
Chesterfield; an aged lady of the name of Gover, blind and bed-ridden,
who munched and munched her feeble old toothless jaws as Ernest
spoke or read to her, but who could do little more; a Mr. Brookes, a
rag and bottle merchant in Birdsey's Rents, in the last stage of
dropsy, and perhaps half-a-dozen or so others. What did it all come
to, when he did go to see them? The plumber wanted to be flattered,
and liked fooling a gentleman into wasting his time by scratching
his ears for him. Mrs. Gover, poor old woman, wanted money; she was
very good and meek, and when Ernest got her a shilling from Lady
Anne Jones's bequest, she said it was "small but seasonable," and
munched and munched in gratitude. Ernest sometimes gave her a little
money himself, but not, as he says now, half what he ought to have
given.

  What could he do else that would have been of the smallest use to
her? Nothing indeed; but giving occasional half-crowns to Mrs. Gover
was not regenerating the universe, and Ernest wanted nothing short
of this. The world was all out of joint, and instead of feeling it
to be a cursed spite that he was born to set it right, he thought he
was just the kind of person that was wanted for the job, and was eager
to set to work, only he did not exactly know how to begin, for the
beginning he had made with Mr. Chesterfield and Mrs. Gover did not
promise great developments.

  Then poor Mr. Brookes -he suffered very much, terribly indeed; he
was not in want of money; he wanted to die and couldn't, just as we
sometimes want to go to sleep and cannot. He had been a serious-minded
man, and death frightened him as it must frighten anyone who
believes that all his most secret thoughts will be shortly exposed
in public. When I read Ernest the description of how his father used
to visit Mrs. Thompson at Battersby, he coloured and said- "That's
just what I used to say to Mr. Brookes." Ernest felt that his
visits, so far from comforting Mr. Brookes, made him fear death more
and more, but how could he help it?

  Even Pryer, who had been curate a couple of years, did not know
personally more than a couple of hundred people in the parish at the
outside, and it was only at the houses of very few of these that he
ever visited, but then Pryer had such a strong objection on
principle to house visitations. What a drop in the sea were those with
whom he and Pryer were brought into direct communication in comparison
with those whom he must reach and move if he were to produce much
effect of any kind, one way or the other. Why, there were between
fifteen and twenty thousand poor in the parish, of whom but the merest
fraction ever attended a place of worship. Some few went to dissenting
chapels, a few were Roman Catholics; by far the greater number,
however, were practically infidels, if not actively hostile, at any
rate indifferent to religion, while many were avowed Atheists-
admirers of Tom Paine, of whom he now heard for the first time; but he
never met and conversed with any of these.

  Was he really doing everything that could be expected of him? It was
all very well to say that he was doing as much as other young
clergymen did; that was not the kind of answer which Jesus Christ
was likely to accept; why, the Pharisees themselves in all probability
did as much as the other Pharisees did. What he should do was to go
into the highways and byways, and compel people to come in. Was he
doing this? Or were not they rather compelling him to keep out-
outside their doors at any rate? He began to have an uneasy feeling as
though ere long, unless he kept a sharp lookout, he should drift
into being a sham.

  True, all would be changed as soon as he could endow the College for
Spiritual Pathology; matters, however, had not gone too well with "the
things that people bought in the place that was called the Stock
Exchange." In order to get on faster, it had been arranged that Ernest
should buy more of these things than he could pay for, with the idea
that in a few weeks, or even days, they would be much higher in value,
and he could sell them at a tremendous profit; but, unfortunately,
instead of getting higher, they had fallen immediately after Ernest
had bought, and obstinately refused to get up again; so, after a few
settlements, he had got frightened, for he read an article in some
newspaper, which said they would go ever so much lower, and,
contrary to Pryer's advice, he insisted on selling -at a loss of
something like L500. He had hardly sold when up went the shares again,
and he saw how foolish he had been, and how wise Pryer was, for if
Pryer's advice had been followed, he would have made instead of losing
it. However, he told himself, he must live and learn.

  Then Pryer made a mistake. They had bought some shares, and the
shares went up delightfully for about a fortnight. This was a happy
time indeed, for by the end of a fortnight the lost L500 had been
recovered, and three or four hundred pounds had been cleared into
the bargain. All the feverish anxiety of that miserable six weeks,
when the L500 was being lost, was now being repaid with interest.
Ernest wanted to sell and make sure of the profit, but Pryer would not
hear of it; they would go ever so much higher yet, and he showed
Ernest an article in some newspaper which proved that what he said was
reasonable, and they did go up a little- but only a very little, for
then they went down, down, and Ernest saw his first his clear profit
of three or four hundred pounds go, and then the L500 loss, which he
thought he had recovered, slipped away by falls of a half and one at a
time, and then he lost L200 more. Then a newspaper said that these
shares were the greatest rubbish that had ever been imposed upon the
English public, and Ernest could stand it no longer, so he sold out,
again this time against Pryer's advice, so that when they went up,
as they shortly did, Pryer scored off Ernest a second time.

  Ernest was not used to vicissitudes of this kind, and they made
him so anxious that his health was affected. It was arranged therefore
that he had better know nothing of what was being done. Pryer was a
much better man of business than he was, and would see to it all. This
relieved Ernest of a good deal of trouble, and was better after all
for the investments themselves; for, as Pryer justly said, a man
must not have a faint heart if he hopes to succeed in buying and
selling upon the Stock Exchange, and seeing Ernest nervous made
Pryer nervous too- at least, he said it did. So the money drifted more
and more into Pryer's hands. As for Pryer himself, he had nothing
but his curacy and a small allowance from his father.

  Some of Ernest's old friends got an inkling from his letters of what
he was doing, and did their utmost to dissuade him, but he was as
infatuated as a young lover of two-and-twenty. Finding that these
friends disapproved, he dropped away from them, and they, being
bored with his egotism and high-flown ideas, were not sorry to let him
do so. Of course, he said nothing about his speculations -indeed, he
hardly knew that anything done in so good a cause could be called
speculation. At Battersby, when his father urged him to look out for a
next presentation, and even brought one or two promising ones under
his notice, he made objections and excuses, though always promising to
do as his father desired very shortly.

  CHAPTER LVI

  BY-AND-BY a subtle, indefinable malaise began to take possession
of him. I once saw a very young foal trying to eat some most
objectionable refuse, and unable to make up its mind whether it was
good or no. Clearly it wanted to be told. If its mother had seen
what it was doing she would have set it right in a moment, and as soon
as ever it had been told that what it was eating was filth, the foal
would have recognised it and never have wanted to be told again; but
the foal could not settle the matter for itself, or make up its mind
whether it liked what it was trying to eat or no, without assistance
from without. I suppose it would have come to do so by-and-by but it
was wasting time and trouble, which a single look from its mother
would have saved, just as wort will in time ferment of itself, but
will ferment much more quickly if a little yeast be added to it. In
the matter of knowing what gives us pleasure we are all like wort, and
if unaided from without can only ferment slowly and toilsomely.

  My unhappy hero about this time was very much like the foal, or
rather he felt much what the foal would have felt if its mother and
all the other grown-up horses in the field had vowed that what it
was eating was the most excellent and nutritious food to be found
anywhere. He was so anxious to do what was right, and so ready to
believe that everyone knew better than himself, that he never ventured
to admit to himself that he might be all the while on a hopelessly
wrong track. It did not occur to him that there might be a blunder
anywhere, much less did it occur to him to try and find out where
the blunder was. Nevertheless he became daily more full of malaise,
and daily, only he knew it not, more ripe for an explosion should a
spark fall upon him.

  One thing, however, did begin to loom out of the general
vagueness, and to this he instinctively turned as trying to seize
it- I mean, the fact that he was saving very few souls, whereas
there were thousands and thousands being lost hourly all around him
which a little energy such as Mr. Hawke's might save. Day after day
went by, and what was he doing? Standing on professional etiquette,
and praying that his shares might go up and down as he wanted them, so
that they might give him money enough to enable him to regenerate
the universe. But in the meantime the people were dying. How many
souls would not be doomed to endless ages of the most frightful
torments that the mind could think of, before he could bring his
spiritual pathology engine to bear upon them? Why might he not stand
and preach as he saw the Dissenters doing sometimes in Lincoln's Inn
Fields and other thoroughfares? He could say all that Mr. Hawke had
said. Mr. Hawke was a very poor creature in Ernest's eyes now, for
he was a Low Churchman, but we should not be above learning from
anyone, and surely he could affect his hearers as powerfully as Mr.
Hawke had affected him if he only had the courage to set to work.
The people whom he saw preaching in the squares sometimes drew large
audiences. He could at any rate preach better than they.

  Ernest broached this to Pryer, who treated it as something too
outrageous to be even thought of. Nothing, he said, could more tend to
lower the dignity of the clergy and bring the Church into contempt.
His manner was brusque, and even rude.

  Ernest ventured a little mild dissent; he admitted it was not usual,
but something at any rate must be done, and that quickly. This was how
Wesley and Whitefield had begun that great movement which had
kindled religious life in the minds of hundreds of thousands. This was
no time to be standing on dignity. It was just because Wesley and
Whitefield had done what the Church would not that they had won men to
follow them whom the Church had now lost.

  Pryer eyed Ernest searchingly, and after a pause said, "I don't know
what to make of you, Pontifex; you are at once so very right and so
very wrong. I agree with you heartily that something should be done,
but it must not be done in a way which experience has shown leads to
nothing but fanaticism and dissent. Do you approve of these Wesleyans?
Do you hold your ordination vows so cheaply as to think that it does
not matter whether the services of the Church are performed in her
churches and with all due ceremony or not? If you do- then, frankly,
you had no business to be ordained; if you do not, then remember
that one of the first duties of a young deacon is obedience to
authority. Neither the Catholic Church, nor yet the Church of
England allows her clergy to preach in the streets of cities where
there is no lack of churches."

  Ernest felt the force of this, and Pryer saw that he wavered.

  "We are living," he continued more genially, "in an age of
transition, and in a country which, though it has gained much by the
Reformation, does not perceive how much it has also lost. You cannot
and must not hawk Christ about in the streets as though you were in
a heathen country whose inhabitants had never heard of him. The people
here in London have had ample warning. Every church they pass is a
protest to them against their lives, and a call to them to repent.
Every church-bell they hear is a witness against them, every one of
those whom they meet on Sundays going to or coming from church is a
warning voice from God. If these countless influences produce no
effect upon them, neither will the few transient words which they
would hear from you. You are like Dives, and think that if one rose
from the dead they would hear him. Perhaps they might; but then you
cannot pretend that you have risen from the dead."

  Though the last few words were spoken laughingly, there was a
sub-sneer about them which made Ernest wince; but he was quite
subdued, and so the conversation ended. It left Ernest, however, not
for the first time, consciously dissatisfied with Pryer, and
inclined to set his friend's opinion on one side- not openly, but
quietly, and without telling Pryer anything about it.

  CHAPTER LVII

  HE had hardly parted from Pryer before there occurred another
incident which strengthened his discontent. He had fallen, as I have
shown, among a gang of spiritual thieves or coiners, who passed the
basest metal upon him without his finding it out, so childish and
inexperienced was he in the ways of anything but those back eddies
of the world, schools and universities. Among the bad threepenny
pieces which had been passed off upon him, and which he kept for small
hourly disbursement, was a remark that poor people were much nicer
than the richer and better educated. Ernest now said that he always
travelled third class not because it was cheaper, but because the
people whom he met in third class carriages were so much pleasanter
and better behaved. As for the young men who attended Ernest's evening
classes, they were pronounced to be more intelligent and better
ordered generally than the average run of Oxford and Cambridge men.
Our foolish young friend, having heard Pryer talk to this effect,
caught up all he said and reproduced it more suo.

  One evening, however, about this time, whom should he see coming
along a small street not far from his own but, of all persons in the
world, Towneley, looking as full of life and good spirits as ever, and
if possible even handsomer than he had been at Cambridge. Much as
Ernest liked him he found himself shrinking from speaking to him,
and was endeavouring to pass him without doing so when Towneley saw
him and stopped him at once, being pleased to see an old Cambridge
face. He seemed for the moment a little confused at being seen in such
a neighbourhood, but recovered himself so soon that Ernest hardly
noticed it, and then plunged into a few kindly remarks about old
times. Ernest felt that he quailed as he saw Towneley's eye wander
to his white necktie and saw that he was being reckoned up, and rather
disapprovingly reckoned up, as a parson. It was the merest passing
shade upon Towneley's face, but Ernest had felt it.

  Towneley said a few words of common form to Ernest about his
profession as being what he thought would be most likely to interest
him, and Ernest; still confused and shy, gave him for lack of
something better to say his little threepenny-bit about poor people
being so very nice. Towneley took this for what it was worth and
nodded assent, whereon Ernest imprudently went further and said,
"Don't you like poor people very much yourself.?"

  Towneley gave his face a comical but good-natured screw, and said
quietly, but slowly and decidedly, "No, no, no," and escaped.

  It was all over with Ernest from that moment. As usual he did not
know it, but he had entered none the less upon another reaction.
Towneley had just taken Ernest's threepenny-bit into his hands, looked
at it and returned it to him as a bad one. Why did he see in a
moment that it was a bad one now, though he had been unable to see
it when he had taken it from Pryer? Of course some poor people were
very nice, and always would be so, but as though scales had fallen
suddenly from his eyes he saw that no one was nicer for being poor,
and that between the upper and lower classes there was a gulf which
amounted practically to an impassable barrier.

  That evening he reflected a good deal. If Towneley was right, and
Ernest felt that the "No" had applied not to the remark about poor
people only, but to the whole scheme and scope of his own recently
adopted ideas, he and Pryer must surely be on a wrong track.
Towneley had not argued with him; he had said one word only, and
that one of the shortest in the language, but Ernest was in a fit
state for inoculation, and the minute particle of virus set about
working immediately.

  Which did he now think was most likely to have taken the juster view
of life and things, and whom would it be best to imitate, Towneley
or Pryer? His heart returned answer to itself without a moment's
hesitation. The faces of men like Towneley were open and kindly;
they looked as if at ease themselves, and as though they would set all
who had to do with them at ease as far as might be. The faces of Pryer
and his friends were not like this. Why had he felt tacitly rebuked as
soon as he had met Towneley? Was he not a Christian? Certainly; he
believed in the Church of England as a matter of course. Then how
could he be himself wrong in trying to act up to the faith that he and
Towneley held in common? He was trying to lead a quiet, unobtrusive
life of self-devotion, whereas Towneley was not, so far as he could
see, trying to do anything of the kind; he was only trying to get on
comfortably in the world, and to look and be as nice as possible.
And he was nice, and Ernest knew that such men as himself and Pryer
were not nice, and his old dejection came over him.

  Then came an even worse reflection; how if he had fallen among
material thieves as well as spiritual ones? He knew very little of how
his money was going on; he had put it all now into Pryer's hands,
and though Pryer gave him cash to spend whenever he wanted it, he
seemed impatient of being questioned as to what was being done with
the principal. It was part of the understanding, he said, that was
to be left to him, and Ernest had better stick to this, or he,
Pryer, would throw up the College of Spiritual Pathology altogether;
and so Ernest was cowed into acquiescence, or cajoled, according to
the humour in which Pryer saw him to be. Ernest thought that further
questions would look as if he doubted Pryer's word, and also that he
had gone too far to be able to recede in decency or honour. This,
however, he felt was riding out to meet trouble unnecessarily. Pryer
had been a little impatient, but he was a gentleman and an admirable
man of business, so his money would doubtless come back to him all
right some day.

  Ernest comforted himself as regards this last source of anxiety, but
as regards the other, he began to feel as though, if he was to be
saved, a good Samaritan must hurry up from somewhere- he knew not
whence.

  CHAPTER LVIII

  NEXT day he felt stronger again. He had been listening to the
voice of the evil one on the night before, and would parley no more
with such thoughts. He had chosen his profession, and his duty was
to persevere with it. If he was unhappy it was probably because he was
not giving up all for Christ. Let him see whether he could not do more
than he was doing now, and then perhaps a light would be shed upon his
path.

  It was all very well to have made the discovery that he didn't
very much like poor people, but he had got to put up with them, for it
was among them that his work must lie. Such men as Towneley were
very kind and considerate, but he knew well enough it was only on
condition that he did not preach to them. He could manage the poor
better, and, let Pryer sneer as he liked, he was resolved to go more
among them, and try the effect of bringing Christ to them if they
would not come and seek Christ of themselves. He would begin with
his own house.

  Whom then should he take first? Surely he could not do better than
begin with the tailor who lived immediately over his head. This
would be desirable, not only because he was the one who seemed to
stand most in need of conversion, but also because, if he were once
converted, he would no longer beat his wife at two o'clock in the
morning, and the house would be much pleasanter in consequence. He
would therefore go upstairs at once, and have a quiet talk with this
man.

  Before doing so, he thought it would be well if he were to draw up
something like a plan of a campaign; he therefore reflected over
some pretty conversations which would do very nicely if Mr. Holt would
be kind enough to make the answers proposed for him in their proper
places. But the man was a great hulking fellow, of a savage temper,
and Ernest was forced to admit that unforeseen developments might
arise to disconcert him. They say it takes nine tailors to make a man,
but Ernest felt that it would take at least nine Ernests to make a Mr.
Holt. How if, as soon as Ernest came in, the tailor were to become
violent and abusive? What could he do? Mr. Holt was in his own
lodgings, and had a right to be undisturbed. A legal right, yes, but
had he a moral right? Ernest thought not, considering his mode of
life. But put this on one side; if the man were to be violent, what
should he do? Paul had fought with wild beasts at Ephesus- that must
indeed have been awful- but perhaps they were not very wild wild
beasts; a rabbit and a canary are wild beasts; but, formidable or
not as wild beasts go, they would, nevertheless, stand no chance
against St. Paul, for he was inspired; the miracle would have been
if the wild beasts escaped, not that St. Paul should have done so;
but, however all this might be, Ernest felt that he dared not begin to
convert Mr. Holt by fighting him. Why, when he had heard Mrs. Holt
screaming "murder," he had cowered under the bed clothes and waited,
expecting to hear the blood dripping through the ceiling onto his
own floor. His imagination translated every sound into a pat, pat,
pat, and once or twice he thought he had felt it dropping onto his
counterpane, but he had never gone upstairs to try and rescue poor
Mrs. Holt. Happily it had proved next morning that Mrs. Holt was in
her usual health.

  Ernest was in despair about hitting on any good way of opening up
spiritual communication with his neighbour, when it occurred to him
that he had better perhaps begin by going upstairs, and knocking
very gently at Mr. Holt's door. He would then resign himself to the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, and act as the occasion, which, I
suppose, was another name for the Holy Spirit, suggested. Triply armed
with this reflection, he mounted the stairs quite jauntily, and was
about to knock when he heard Holt's voice inside swearing savagely
at his wife. This made him pause to think whether after all the moment
was an auspicious one, and while he was thus pausing, Mr. Holt, who
had heard that someone was on the stairs, opened the door and put
his head out. When he saw Ernest, he made an unpleasant, not to say
offensive movement, which might or might not have been directed at
Ernest, and looked altogether so ugly that my hero had an
instantaneous and unequivocal revelation from the Holy Spirit to the
effect that he should continue his journey upstairs at once, as though
he had never intended arresting it at Mr. Holt's room, and begin by
converting Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, the Methodists in the top floor front.
So this was what he did.

  These good people received him with open arms, and were quite
ready to talk. He was beginning to convert them from Methodism to
the Church of England, when all at once he found himself embarrassed
by discovering that he did not know what he was to convert them
from. He knew the Church of England, or thought he did, but he knew
nothing of Methodism beyond its name. When he found that, according to
Mr. Baxter, the Wesleyans had a vigorous system of Church discipline
(which worked admirably in practice) it appeared to him that Wesley
had anticipated the spiritual engine which he and Pryer were
preparing, and when he left the room he was aware that he had caught
more of a spiritual Tartar than he had expected. But he must certainly
explain to Pryer that the Wesleyans had a system of Church discipline.
This was very important.

  Mr. Baxter advised Ernest on no account to meddle with Mr. Holt, and
Ernest was much relieved at the advice. If an opportunity arose of
touching the man's heart, he would take it; he would pat the
children on the head when he saw them on the stairs, and ingratiate
himself with them as far as he dared; they were sturdy youngsters, and
Ernest was afraid even of them, for they were ready with their
tongues, and knew much for their ages. Ernest felt that it would
indeed be almost better for him that a millstone should be hanged
about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend
one of the little Holts. However, he would try not to offend them;
perhaps an occasional penny or two might square them. This was as much
as he could do, for he saw that the attempt to be instant out of
season, as well as in season, would, St. Paul's injunction
notwithstanding, end in failure.

  Mrs. Baxter gave a very bad account of Miss Emily Snow, who lodged
in the second floor back next to Mr. Holt. Her story was quite
different from that of Mrs. Jupp, the landlady. She would doubtless be
only too glad to receive Ernest's ministrations or those of any
other gentleman, but she was no governess, she was in the ballet at
Drury Lane, and besides this, she was a very bad young woman, and if
Mrs. Baxter was landlady would not be allowed to stay in the house a
single hour, not she indeed.

  Miss Maitland in the next room to Mrs. Baxter's own was a quiet
and respectable young woman to all appearance; Mrs. Baxter had never
known of any goings on in that quarter, but, bless you, still waters
run deep, and these girls were all alike, one as bad as the other. She
was out at all kinds of hours, and when you knew that you knew all.

  Ernest did not pay much heed to these aspersions of Mrs. Baxter's.
Mrs. Jupp had got round the greater number of his many blind sides,
and had warned him not to believe Mrs. Baxter, whose lip she said
was something awful.

  Ernest had heard that women were always jealous of one another,
and certainly these young women were more attractive than Mrs.
Baxter was, so jealousy was probably at the bottom of it. If they were
maligned there could be no objection to his making their acquaintance;
if not maligned they had all the more need of his ministrations. He
would reclaim them at once.

  He told Mrs. Jupp of his intention. Mrs. Jupp at first tried to
dissuade him, but seeing him resolute, suggested that she should
herself see Miss Snow first, so as to prepare her and prevent her from
being alarmed by his visit. She was not at home now, but in the course
of the next day, it should be arranged. In the meantime he had
better try Mr. Shaw, the tinker, in the front kitchen. Mrs. Baxter had
told Ernest that Mr. Shaw was from the North Country, and an avowed
freethinker; he would probably, she said, rather like a visit, but she
did not think Ernest would stand much chance of making a convert of
him.

  CHAPTER LIX

  BEFORE going down into the kitchen to convert the tinker Ernest
ran hurriedly over his analysis of Paley's evidences, and put into his
pocket a copy of Archbishop Whateley's "Historic Doubts." Then he
descended the dark rotten old stairs and knocked at the tinker's door.
Mr. Shaw was very civil; he said he was rather throng just now, but if
Ernest did not mind the sound of hammering he should be very glad of a
talk with him. Our hero, assenting to this, ere long led the
conversation to Whateley's "Historic Doubts"- a work which, as the
reader may know, pretends to show that there never was any such person
as Napoleon Buonaparte, and thus satirises the arguments of those
who have attacked the Christian miracles.

  Mr. Shaw said he knew "Historic Doubts" very well.

  "And what do you think of it?" said Ernest, who regarded the
pamphlet as a masterpiece of wit and cogency.

  "If you really want to know," said Mr. Shaw, with a sly twinkle,
"I think that he who was so willing and able to prove that what was
would be equally able and willing to make a case for thinking that
what was not was, if it suited his purpose." Ernest was very much
taken aback. How was it that all the clever people of Cambridge had
never put him up to this simple rejoinder? The answer is easy: they
did not develop it for the same reason that a hen had never
developed webbed feet- that is to say, because they did not want to do
so; but this was before the days of Evolution, and Ernest could not as
yet know anything of the great principle that underlies it.

  "You see," continued Mr. Shaw, "these writers all get their living
by writing in a certain way, and the more they write in that way,
the more they are likely to get on. You should not call them dishonest
for this any more than a judge should call a barrister dishonest for
earning his living by defending one in whose innocence he does not
seriously believe; but you should hear the barrister on the other side
before you decide upon the case."

  This was another facer. Ernest could only stammer that he had
endeavoured to examine these questions as carefully as he could.

  "You think you have," said Mr. Shaw; "you Oxford and Cambridge
gentlemen think you have examined everything. I have examined very
little myself except the bottoms of old kettles and saucepans, but
if you will answer me a few questions, I will tell you whether or no
you have examined much more than I have."

  Ernest expressed his readiness to be questioned.

  "Then," said the tinker, "give me the story of the Resurrection of
Jesus Christ as told in St. John's Gospel."

  I am sorry to say that Ernest mixed up the four accounts in, a
deplorable manner; he even made the angel come down and roll away
the stone and sit upon it. He was covered with confusion when the
tinker first told him without the book of some of his many
inaccuracies, and then verified his criticisms by referring to the New
Testament itself.

  "Now," said Mr. Shaw good-naturedly, "I am an old man and you are
a young one, so perhaps you'll not mind my giving you a piece of
advice. I like you, for I believe you mean well, but you've been
real bad brought up, and I don't think you have ever had so much as
a chance yet. You know nothing of our side of the question, and I have
just shown you that you do not know much more of your own, but I think
you will make a kind of Carlyle sort of a man some day. Now go
upstairs and read the accounts of the Resurrection correctly without
mixing them up, and have a clear idea of what it is that each writer
tells us, then if you feel inclined to pay me another visit I shall be
glad to see you, for I shall know you have made a good beginning and
mean business. Till then, sir, I must wish you a very good morning."

  Ernest retreated abashed. An hour sufficed him to perform the task
enjoined upon him by Mr. Shaw; and at the end of that hour the "No,
no, no," which still sounded in his cars as he heard it from Towneley,
came ringing up more loudly still from the very pages of the Bible
itself, and in respect of the most important of all the events which
are recorded in it. Surely Ernest's first day's attempt at more
promiscuous visiting, and at carrying out his principles more
thoroughly, had not been unfruitful. But he must go and have a talk
with Pryer. He therefore got his lunch and went to Pryer's lodgings.
Pryer not being at home, he lounged to the British Museum Reading
Room, then recently opened, sent for the "Vestiges of Creation," which
he had never yet seen, and spent the rest of the afternoon in
reading it.

  Ernest did not see Pryer on the day of his conversation with Mr.
Shaw, but he did so next morning and found him in a good temper, which
of late he had rarely been. Sometimes, indeed, he had behaved to
Ernest in a way which did not bode well for the harmony with which the
College of Spiritual Pathology would work when it had once been
founded. It almost seemed as though he were trying to get a complete
moral ascendency over him, so as to make him a creature of his own.

  He did not think it possible that he could go too far, and,
indeed, when I reflect upon my hero's folly and inexperience, there is
much to be said in excuse for the conclusion which Pryer came to.

  As a matter of fact, however, it was not so. Ernest's faith in Pryer
had been too great to be shaken down all in a moment, but it had
been weakened lately more than once. Ernest had fought hard against
allowing himself to see this, nevertheless any third person who knew
the pair would have been able to see that the connection between the
two might end at any moment, for when the time for one of Ernest's
snipe-like changes of flight came, he was quick in making it; the
time, however, was not yet come, and the intimacy between the two
was apparently all that it had ever been. It was only that horrid
money business (so said Ernest to himself) that caused any
unpleasantness between them, and no doubt Pryer was right, and he,
Ernest, much too nervous. However, that might stand over for the
present.

  In like manner, though he had received a shock by reason of his
conversation with Mr. Shaw, and by looking at the "Vestiges," he was
as yet too much stunned to realise the change which was coming over
him. In each case the momentum of old habits carried him forward in
the old direction. He therefore called on Pryer, and spent an hour and
more with him.

  He did not say that he had been visiting among his neighbours;
this to Pryer would have been like a red rag to a bull. He only talked
in much his usual vein about the proposed College, the lamentable want
of interest in spiritual things which was characteristic of modern
society, and other kindred matters; he concluded by saying that for
the present he feared Pryer was indeed right, and that nothing could
be done.

  "As regards the laity," said Pryer, "nothing; not until we have a
discipline which we can enforce with pains and penalties. How can a
sheep dog work a flock of sheep unless he can bite occasionally as
well as bark? But as regards ourselves we can do much."

  Pryer's manner was strange throughout the conversation, as though he
were thinking all the time of something else. His eyes wandered
curiously over Ernest, as Ernest had often noticed them wander before:
the words were about Church discipline, but somehow or other the
discipline part of the story had a knack of dropping out after
having been again and again emphatically declared to apply to the
laity and not to the clergy: once indeed Pryer had pettishly
exclaimed: "Oh, bother the College of Spiritual Pathology." As regards
the clergy, glimpses of a pretty large cloven hoof kept peeping out
from under the saintly robe of Pryer's conversation, to the effect,
that so long as they were theoretically perfect, practical
peccadilloes- or even peccadaccios, if there is such a word, were of
less importance. He was restless, as though wanting to approach a
subject which he did not quite venture to touch upon, and kept harping
(he did this about every third day) on the wretched lack of definition
concerning the limits of vice and virtue, and the way in which half
the vices wanted regulating rather than prohibiting. He dwelt also
on the advantages of complete unreserve, and hinted that there were
mysteries into which Ernest had not yet been initiated, but which
would enlighten him when he got to know them, as he would be allowed
to do when his friends saw that he was strong enough.

  Pryer had often been like this before, but never so nearly, as ft
seemed to Ernest, coming to a point- though what the point was he
could not fully understand. His inquietude was communicating itself to
Ernest, who would probably ere long have come to know as much as Pryer
could tell him, but the conversation was abruptly interrupted by the
appearance of a visitor. We shall never know how it would have
ended, for this was the very last time that Ernest ever saw Pryer.
Perhaps Pryer was going to break him some bad news about his
speculations.

  CHAPTER LX

  ERNEST now went home and occupied himself till luncheon with
studying Dean Alford's notes upon the various Evangelistic records
of the Resurrection, doing as Mr. Shaw had told him, and trying to
find out, not that they were all accurate, but whether they were all
accurate or no. He did not care which result he should arrive at,
but he was resolved that he would reach one or the other. When he
had finished Dean Alford's notes he found them come to this, namely,
that no one yet had succeeded in bringing the four accounts into
tolerable harmony with each other, and that the Dean, seeing no chance
of succeeding better than his predecessors had done, recommended
that the whole story should be taken on trust- and this Ernest was not
prepared to do.

  He got his luncheon, went out for a long walk, and returned to
dinner at half past six. While Mrs. Jupp was getting him his dinner -a
steak and a pint of stout -she told him that Miss Snow would be very
happy to see him in about an hour's time. This disconcerted him, for
his mind was too unsettled for him to wish to convert anyone just
then. He reflected a little, and found that, in spite of the sudden
shock to his opinions, he was being irresistibly drawn to pay the
visit as though nothing had happened. It would not look well for him
not to go, for he was known to be in the house. He ought not to be
in too great a hurry to change his opinions on such a matter as the
evidence for Christ's Resurrection all of a sudden -besides he need
not talk to Miss Snow about this subject to-day -there were other
things he might talk about. What other things? Ernest felt his heart
beat fast and fiercely, and an inward monitor warned him that he was
thinking of anything rather than of Miss Snow's soul.

  What should he do? Fly, fly, fly -it was the only safety. But
would Christ have fled? Even though Christ had not died and risen from
the dead there could be no question that He was the model whose
example we were bound to follow. Christ would not have fled from
Miss Snow; he was sure of that, for He went about more especially with
prostitutes and disreputable people. Now, as then, it was the business
of the true Christian to call not the righteous but sinners to
repentance. It would be inconvenient to him to change his lodgings,
and he could not ask Mrs. Jupp to turn Miss Snow and Miss Maitland out
of the house. Where was he to draw the line? Who would be just good
enough to live in the same house with him, and who just not good
enough?

  Besides, where were these poor girls to go? Was he to drive them
from house to house till they had no place to lie in? It was absurd;
his duty was clear: he would go and see Miss Snow at once, and try
if he could not induce her to change her present mode of life; if he
found temptation becoming too strong for him he would fly then- so
he went upstairs with his Bible under his arm, and a consuming fire in
his heart.

  He found Miss Snow looking very pretty in a neatly, not to say
demurely, furnished room. I think she had bought an illuminated text
or two, and pinned it up over her fireplace that morning. Ernest was
very much pleased with her, and mechanically placed his Bible upon the
table. He had just opened a timid conversation and was deep in
blushes, when a hurried step came bounding up the stairs as though
of one over whom the force of gravity had little power, and a man
burst into the room saying, "I'm come before my time." It was
Towneley.

  His face dropped as he caught sight of Ernest. "What, you here,
Pontifex! Well, upon my word!"

  I cannot describe the hurried explanations that passed quickly
between the three -enough that in less than a minute Ernest,
blushing more scarlet than ever, slunk off, Bible and all, deeply
humiliated as he contrasted himself and Towneley. Before he had
reached the bottom of the staircase leading to his own room he heard
Towneley's hearty laugh through Miss Snow's door, and cursed the
hour that he was born.

  Then it flashed upon him that if he could not see Miss Snow he could
at any rate see Miss Maitland. He knew well enough what he wanted now,
and as for the Bible, he pushed it from him to the other end of his
table. It fell over onto the floor, and he kicked it into a corner. It
was the Bible given him at his christening by his affectionate aunt,
Elizabeth Allaby. True, he knew very little of Miss Maitland, but
ignorant young fools in Ernest's state do not reflect or reason
closely. Mrs. Baxter had said that Miss Maitland and Miss Snow were
birds of a feather, and Mrs. Baxter probably knew better than that old
liar, Mrs. Jupp. Shakespeare says:

       O Opportunity, thy guilt is great,

       'Tis thou that execut'st the traitor's treason:

       Thou set'st the wolf where he the lamb may get:

       Whoever plots the sin, thou 'point'st the season;

       'Tis thou that spurn'st at right, at law, at reason;

         And in thy shady cell, where none may spy him,

         Sits Sin, to seize the souls that wander by him.

  If the guilt of opportunity is great, how much greater is the
guilt of that which is believed to be opportunity, but in reality is
no opportunity at all. If the better part of valour is discretion, how
much more is not discretion the better part of vice?

   About ten minutes after we last saw Ernest, a scared, insulted
girl, flushed and trembling, was seen hurrying from Mrs. Jupp's
house as fast as her agitated state would let her, and in another
ten minutes two policemen were seen also coming out of Mrs. Jupp's,
between whom there shambled rather than walked our unhappy friend
Ernest, with staring eyes, ghastly pale, and with despair branded upon
every line of his face.

  CHAPTER LXI

  Pryer had done well to warn Ernest against promiscuous
house-to-house visitation. He had not gone outside Mrs. Jupp's
street door, and yet what had been the result? Mr. Holt had put him in
bodily fear; Mr. and Mrs. Baxter had nearly made a Methodist of him;
Mr. Shaw had undermined his faith in the Resurrection; Miss Snow's
charms had ruined- or would have done so but for an accident- his
moral character. As for Miss Maitland, he had done his best to ruin
hers, and had damaged himself gravely and irretrievably in
consequence. The only lodger who had done him no harm was the
bellows-mender, whom he had not visited.

  Other young clergymen, much greater fools in many respects than
he, would not have got into these scrapes. He seemed to have developed
an aptitude for mischief almost from the day of his having been
ordained. He could hardly preach without making some horrid faux
pas. He preached one Sunday morning when the Bishop was at his
Rector's church, and made his sermon turn upon the question what
kind of little cake it was that the widow of Zarephath had intended
making when Elijah found her gathering a few sticks. He demonstrated
that it was a seed cake. The sermon was really very amusing, and
more than once he saw a smile pass over the sea of faces underneath
him. The Bishop was very angry, and gave my hero a severe reprimand in
the vestry after service was over; the only excuse he could make was
that he was preaching ex tempore, had not thought of this particular
point till he was actually in the pulpit, and had then been carried
away by it.

  Another time he preached upon the barren fig-tree, and described the
hopes of the owner as he watched the delicate blossom unfold, and give
promise of such beautiful fruit in autumn. Next day he received a
letter from a botanical member of his congregation who explained to
him that this could hardly have been, inasmuch as the fig produces its
fruit first and blossoms inside the fruit, or so nearly so that no
flower is perceptible to an ordinary observer. This last, however, was
an accident which might have happened to anyone but a scientist or
an inspired writer.

  The only excuse I can make for him is that he was very young- not
yet four-and-twenty-and that in mind as in body, like most of those
who in the end come to think for themselves, he was a slow grower.
By far the greater part, moreover, of his education had been an
attempt, not so much to keep him in blinkers as to gouge his eyes
out altogether.

  But to return to my story. It transpired afterwards that Miss
Maitland had had no intention of giving Ernest in charge when she
ran out of Mrs. Jupp's house. She was running away because she was
frightened, but almost the first person whom she ran against had
happened to be a policeman of a serious turn of mind, who wished to
gain a reputation for activity. He stopped her, questioned her,
frightened her still more, and it was he rather than Miss Maitland who
insisted on giving my hero in charge to himself and another constable.

  Towneley was still in Mrs. Jupp's house when the policemen came.
He had heard a disturbance, and going down to Ernest's room while Miss
Maitland was out of doors, had found him lying, as it were, stunned at
the foot of the moral precipice over which he had that moment
fallen. He saw the whole thing at a glance, but before he could take
action, the policemen came in and action became impossible.

  He asked Ernest who were his friends in London. Ernest at first
wanted not to say, but Towneley soon gave him to understand that he
must do as he was bid, and selected myself from the few whom he had
named. "Writes for the stage, does he?" said Towneley. "Does he
write comedy?" Ernest thought Towneley meant that I ought to write
tragedy, and said he was afraid I wrote burlesque. "Oh, come, come,"
Towneley, "that will do famously. I will go and see him at once." But
on second thoughts he determined to stay with Ernest and go with him
to the police court. So he sent Mrs. Jupp for me. Mrs. Jupp hurried so
fast to fetch me, that in spite of the weather's being still cold
she was "giving out," as she expressed it, in streams. The poor old
wretch would have taken a cab, but she had no money and did not like
to ask Towneley to give her some. I saw that something very serious
had happened, but was not prepared for anything so deplorable as
what Mrs. Jupp actually told me. As for Mrs. Jupp, she said her
heart had been jumping out of its socket and back again ever since.

  I got her into a cab with me, and we went off to the police station.
She talked without ceasing.

  "And if the neighbours do say cruel things about me, I'm sure it
ain't no thanks to him if they're true. Mr. Pontifex never took a
bit o' notice of me no more than if I had been his sister. Oh, it's
enough to make anyone's back bone curdle. Then I thought perhaps my
Rose might get on better with him, so I set her to dust him and
clean him as though I were busy, and gave her such a beautiful clean
new pinny, but he never took no notice of her no more than he did of
me, and she didn't want no compliment neither; she wouldn't have taken
not a shilling from him, though he had offered it, but he didn't
seem to know anything at all. I can't make out what the young men
are a-coming to; I wish the horn may blow for me and the worms take me
this very night, if it's not enough to make a woman stand before God
and strike the one half on 'em silly to see the way they goes on,
and many an honest girl has to go home night after night without so
much as a fourpenny-bit and paying three and sixpence a week rent, and
not a shelf nor cupboard in the place and a dead wall in front of
the window.

  "It's not Mr. Pontifex," she continued, "that's so bad; he's good at
heart. He never says nothing unkind. And then there's his dear eyes-
but when I speak about that to my Rose she calls me an old fool and
says I ought to be poleaxed. It's that Pryer as I can't abide. Oh, he!
He likes to wound a woman's feelings, he do, and to chuck anything
in her face, he do- he likes to wind a woman up and to wound her
down." (Mrs. Jupp pronounced "wound" as though it rhymed to
"sound.") "It's a gentleman's place to soothe a woman, but he, he'd
like to tear her hair out by handfuls. Why, he told me to my face that
I was a-getting old; old, indeed! there's not a woman in London
knows my age except Mrs. Davis down in the Old Kent Road, and beyond a
haricot vein in one of my legs I'm as young as ever I was. Old,
indeed! There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle. I hate his
nasty insinuendos."

  Even if I had wanted to stop her, I could not have done so. She said
a great deal more than I have given above. I have left out much
because I could not remember it, but still more because it was
really impossible for me to print it.

  When we got to the police station I found Towneley and Ernest
already there. The charge was one of assault, but not aggravated by
serious violence. Even so, however, it was lamentable enough, and we
both saw that our young friend would have to pay dearly for his
inexperience. We tried to bail him out for the night, but the
Inspector would not accept bail, so we were forced to leave him.

  Towneley then went back to Mrs. Jupp's to see if he could find
Miss Maitland and arrange matters with her. She was not there, but
he traced her to her house of her father, who lived at Camberwell. The
father was furious and would not hear of any intercession on
Towneley's part. He was a Dissenter, and glad to make the most of
any scandal against a clergyman; Towneley, therefore, was obliged to
return unsuccessful.

  Next morning, Towneley- who regarded Ernest as a drowning man, who
must be picked out of the water somehow or other if possible,
irrespective of the way in which he got into it- called on me, and
we put the matter into the hands of one of the best known attorneys of
the day. I was greatly pleased with Towneley, and thought it due to
him to tell him what I had told no one else. I mean that Ernest
would come into his aunt's money in a few years' time, and would
therefore then be rich.

  Towneley was doing all he could before this, but I knew that the
knowledge I had imparted to him would make him feel as though Ernest
was more one of his own class, and had therefore a greater claim
upon his good offices. As for Ernest himself, his gratitude was
greater than could be expressed in words. I have heard him say that he
can call to mind many moments, each one of which might well pass for
the happiest of his life, but that this night stands clearly out as
the most painful that he ever passed, yet so kind and considerate
was Towneley that it was quite bearable.

  But with all the best wishes in the world neither Towneley nor I
could do much to help beyond giving our moral support. Our attorney
told us that the magistrate before whom Ernest would appear was very
severe on cases of this description, and that the fact of his being
a clergyman would tell against him. "Ask for no remand," he said, "and
make no defence. We will call Mr. Pontifex's rector and you two
gentlemen as witnesses for previous good character. These will be
enough. Let us then make a profound apology and beg the magistrate
to deal with the case summarily instead of sending it for trial. If
you can get this, believe me, your young friend will be better out
of it than he has any right to expect."

  CHAPTER LXII

  THIS advice, besides being obviously sensible, would end in saving
Ernest both time and suspense of mind, so we had no hesitation in
adopting it. The case was called on about eleven o'clock, but we got
it adjourned till three, so as to give time for Ernest to set his
affairs as straight as he could, and to execute a power of attorney
enabling me to act for him as I should think fit while he was in
prison.

  Then all came out about Pryer and the College of Spiritual
Pathology. Ernest had even greater difficulty in making a clean breast
of this than he had had in telling us about Miss Maitland, but he told
us all, and the upshot was that he had actually handed over to Pryer
every halfpenny that he then possessed with no other security than
Pryers I.O.U.'s for the amount. Ernest, though still declining to
believe that Pryer could be guilty of dishonourable conduct, was
becoming alive to the folly of what he had been doing; he still made
sure, however, of recovering, at any rate, the greater part of his
property as soon as Pryer should have had time to sell. Towneley and I
were of a different opinion, but we did not say what we thought.

  It was dreary work waiting all the morning amid such unfamiliar
and depressing surroundings. I thought how the Psalmist had
exclaimed with quiet irony, "One day in thy courts is better than a
thousand," and I thought that I could utter a very similar sentiment
in respect of the courts in which Towneley and I were compelled to
loiter. At last, about three o'clock the case was called on, and we
went round to the part of the court which is reserved for the
general public, while Ernest was taken into the prisoner's dock. As
soon as he had collected himself sufficiently he recognised the
magistrate as the old gentleman who had spoken to him in the train
on the day he was leaving school, and saw, or thought he saw, to his
great grief, that he too was recognised.

  Mr. Ottery, for this was our attorney's name, took the line he had
proposed. He called no other witnesses than the rector, Towneley and
myself, and threw himself on the mercy of the magistrate. When he
had concluded, the magistrate spoke as follows: "Ernest Pontifex,
yours is one of the most painful cases that I have ever had to deal
with. You have been singularly favoured in your parentage and
education. You have had before you the example of blameless parents,
who doubtless instilled into you from childhood the enormity of the
offence which by your own confession you have committed. You were sent
to one of the best public schools in England. It is not likely that in
the healthy atmosphere of such a school as you can have come across
contaminating influences; you were probably, I may say certainly,
impressed at school with the heinousness of any attempt to depart from
the strictest chastity until such time as you had entered into a state
of matrimony. At Cambridge you were shielded from impurity by every
obstacle which virtuous and vigilant authorities could devise, and
even had the obstacles been fewer, your parents probably took care
that your means should not admit of your throwing money away upon
abandoned characters. At night proctors patrolled the street and
dogged your steps if you tried to go into any haunt where the presence
of vice was suspected. By day the females who were admitted within the
college walls were selected mainly on the score of age and ugliness.
It is hard to see what more can be done for any young man than this.
For the last four or five months you have been a clergyman, and if a
single impure thought had still remained within your mind,
ordination should have removed it: nevertheless, not only does it
appear that your mind is as impure as though none of the influences to
which I have referred had been brought to bear upon it, but it seems
as though their only result had been this- that you have not even
the common sense to be able to distinguish between a respectable
girl and a prostitute.

  "If I were to take a strict view of my duty I should commit you
for trial, but in consideration of this being your first offence, I
shall deal leniently with you and sentence you to imprisonment with
hard labour for six calendar months."

  Towneley and I both thought there was a touch of irony in the
magistrate's speech, and that he could have given a lighter sentence
if he would, but that was neither here nor there. We obtained leave to
see Ernest for a few minutes before he was removed to Coldbath Fields,
where he was to serve his term, and found him so thankful to have been
summarily dealt with that he hardly seemed to care about the miserable
plight in which he was to pass the next six months. When he came
out, he said, he would take what remained of his money, go off to
America or Australia and never be heard of more.

  We left him full of this resolve, I, to write to Theobald, and
also to instruct my solicitor to get Ernest's money out of Pryer's
hands, and Towneley to see the reporters and keep the case out of
the newspapers. He was successful as regards all the higher-class
papers. There was only one journal, and that of the lowest class,
which was incorruptible.

  CHAPTER LXIII

  I SAW my solicitor at once, but when I tried to write to Theobald, I
found it better to say I would run down and see him. I therefore
proposed this, asking him to meet me at the station, and hinting
that I must bring bad news about his son. I knew he would not get my
letter more than a couple of hours before I should see him, and
thought the short interval of suspense might break the shock of what I
had to say.

  Never do I remember to have halted more between two opinions than on
my journey to Battersby upon this unhappy errand. When I thought of
the little sallow-faced lad whom I had remembered years before, of the
long and savage cruelty with which he had been treated in childhood-
cruelty none the less real for having been due to ignorance and
stupidity rather than to deliberate malice; of the atmosphere of lying
and self-laudatory hallucination in which he had been brought up; of
the readiness the boy had shown to love anything that would be good
enough to let him, and of how affection for his parents, unless I am
much mistaken, had only died in him because it had been killed anew,
again and again and again, each time that it had tried to spring; when
I thought of all this I felt as though, if the matter had rested
with me, I would have sentenced Theobald and Christina to mental
suffering even more severe than that which was about to fall upon
them. But on the other hand, when I thought of Theobald's own
childhood, of that dreadful old George Pontifex his father, of John
and Mrs. John, and of his two sisters, when again I thought of
Christina's long years of hope deferred that maketh the heart sick,
before she was married, of the life she must have led at Crampsford,
and of the surroundings in the midst of which she and her husband both
lived at Battersby, I felt as though the wonder was that misfortunes
so persistent had not been followed by even graver retribution.

  Poor people! They had tried to keep their ignorance of the world
from themselves by calling it the pursuit of heavenly things, and then
shutting their eyes to anything that might give them trouble. A son
having been born to them they had shut his eyes also as far as was
practicable. Who could blame them? They had chapter and verse for
everything they had either done or left undone; there is no better
thumbed precedent than that for being a clergyman's wife. In what
respect had they differed from their neighbours? How did their
household differ from that of any other clergyman of the better sort
from one end of England to the other? Why then should it have been
upon them, of all people in the world, that this tower of Siloam had
fallen?

  Surely it was the tower of Siloam that was naught rather than
those who stood under it; it was the system rather than the people
that was at fault. If Theobald and his wife had but known more the
world and of the things that are therein, they would have done
little harm to anyone. Selfish they would have always been, but not
more so than may very well be pardoned, and not more than other people
would be. As it was, the case was hopeless; it would be no use their
even entering into their mothers' wombs and being born again. They
must not only be born again but they must be born again each one of
them of a new father and of a new mother and of a different line of
ancestry for many generations before their minds could become supple
enough to learn anew. The only thing to do with them was to humour
them and make the best of them till they died- and be thankful when
they did so.

  Theobald got my letter as I had expected, and met me at the
station nearest to Battersby. As I walked back with him towards his
own house I broke the news to him as gently as I could. I pretended
that the whole thing was in great measure a mistake, and that though
Ernest no doubt had had intentions which he ought to have resisted, he
had not meant going anything like the length which Miss Maitland
supposed. I said we had felt how much appearances were against him,
and had not dared to set up this defence before the magistrate, though
we had no doubt about its being the true one.

  Theobald acted with a readier and acuter moral sense than I had
given him credit for.

  "I will have nothing more to do with him," he exclaimed promptly. "I
will never see his face again; do not let him write either to me or to
his mother; we know of no such person. Tell him you have seen me,
and that from this day forward I shall put him out of my mind as
though he had never been born. I have been a good father to him, and
his mother idolised him; selfishness and ingratitude have been the
only return we have ever had from him; my hope henceforth must be in
my remaining children."

  I told him how Ernest's fellow curate had got hold of his money, and
hinted that he might very likely be penniless, or nearly so, on
leaving prison. Theobald did not seem displeased at this, but added
soon afterwards: "If this proves to be the case, tell him from me that
I will give him a hundred pounds if he will tell me through you when
he will have it paid, but tell him not to write and thank me, and
say that if he attempts to open up direct communication either with
his mother or myself, he shall not have a penny of the money."

  Knowing what I knew, and having determined on violating Miss
Pontifex's instructions should the occasion arise, I did not think
Ernest would be any the worse for a complete estrangement from his
family, so I acquiesced more readily in what Theobald had proposed
than that gentleman may have expected.

  Thinking it better that I should not see Christina, I left
Theobald near Battersby and walked back to the station. On my way I
was pleased to reflect that Ernest's father was less of a fool than
I had taken him to be, and had the greater hopes, therefore, that
his son's blunders might be due to postnatal, rather than congenital
misfortunes. Accidents which happen to a man before he is born, in the
persons of his ancestors, will, if he remembers them at all, leave
an indelible impression on him; they will have moulded his character
that, do what he will it is hardly possible for him to escape their
consequences. If a man is to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he must do
so, not only as a little child, but as a little embryo, or rather as a
little zoosperm- and not only this, but as one that has come of
zoosperms which have entered into the Kingdom of Heaven before him for
many generations. Accidents which occur for the first time, and belong
to the period since a man's last birth, are not, as a general rule, so
permanent in their effects, though of course they may sometimes be so.
At any rate, I was not displeased at the view which Ernest's father
took of the situation.

  CHAPTER LXIV

  AFTER Ernest had been sentenced, he was taken back to the cells to
wait for the van which should take him to Coldbath Fields, where he
was to serve his term.

  He was still too stunned and dazed by the suddenness with which
events had happened during the last twenty-four hours to be able to
realise his position. A great chasm had opened between his past and
future; nevertheless he breathed, his pulse beat, he could think and
speak. It seemed to him that he ought to be prostrated by the blow
that had fallen on him, but he was not prostrated; he had suffered
from many smaller laches far more acutely. It was not until he thought
of the pain his disgrace would inflict on his father and mother that
he felt how readily he would have given up all he had, rather than
have fallen into his present plight. It would break his mother's
heart. It must, he knew it would- and it was he who had done this.

  He had had a headache coming on all the forenoon, but as he
thought of his father and mother, his pulse quickened, and the pain in
his head suddenly became intense. He could hardly walk to the van, and
he found its motion insupportable. On reaching the prison he was too
ill to walk without assistance across the hall to the corridor or
gallery where prisoners are marshalled on their arrival. The prison
warder, seeing at once that he was a clergyman, did not suppose he was
shamming, as he might have done in the case of an old gaol-bird; he
therefore sent for the doctor. When this gentleman arrived, Ernest was
declared to be suffering from an incipient attack of brain fever,
and was taken away to the infirmary. Here he hovered for the next
two months between life and death, never in full possession of his
reason and often delirious, but at last, contrary to the expectation
of both doctor and nurse, he began slowly to recover.

  It is said that those who have been nearly drowned find the return
to consciousness much more painful than the loss of it had been, and
so it was with my hero. As he lay helpless and feeble, it seemed to
him a refinement of cruelty that he had not died once for all during
his delirium. He thought he should still most likely recover only to
sink a little later on from shame and sorrow; nevertheless from day to
day he mended, though so slowly that he could hardly realise it to
himself. One afternoon, however, about three weeks after he had
regained consciousness, the nurse who tended him, and who had been
very kind to him, made some little rallying sally which amused him; he
laughed, and as he did so she clapped her hands and told him he
would be a man again. The spark of hope was kindled, and again he
wished to live. Almost from that moment his thoughts began to turn
less to the horrors of the past, and more to the best way of meeting
the future.

  His worst pain was on behalf of his father and mother, and how he
should again face them. It still seemed to him that the best thing
both for him and them would be that he should sever himself from
them completely, take whatever money he could recover from Pryer,
and go to some place in the uttermost parts of the earth, where he
should never meet anyone who had known him at school or college, and
start afresh. Or perhaps he might go to the gold fields in
California or Australia, of which such wonderful accounts were then
heard; there he might even make his fortune, and return as an old
man many years hence, unknown to everyone, and if so, he would live at
Cambridge. As he built these castles in the air, the spark of life
became a flame, and he longed for health, and for the freedom which,
now that so much of his sentence had expired, was not after all very
far distant.

  Then things began to shape themselves more definitely. Whatever
happened he would be a clergyman no longer. It would have been
practically impossible for him to have found another curacy, even if
he had been so minded, but he was not so minded. He hated the life
he had been leading ever since he had begun to read for orders; he
could not argue about it, but simply he loathed it and would have no
more of it. As he dwelt on the prospect of becoming a layman again,
however disgraced, he rejoiced at what had befallen him, and found a
blessing in this very imprisonment which had at first seemed such an
unspeakable misfortune.

  Perhaps the shock of so great a change in his surroundings had
accelerated changes in his opinions, just as the cocoons of silkworms,
when sent in baskets by rail, hatch before their time through the
novelty of heat and jolting. But however this may be, his belief in
the stories concerning the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus
Christ, and hence his faith in all the other Christian miracles, had
dropped off him once and for ever. The investigation he had made in
consequence of Mr. Shaw's rebuke, hurried though it was, had left a
deep impression upon him, and now he was well enough to read he made
the New Testament his chief study, going through it in the spirit
which Mr. Shaw had desired of him, that is to say as one who wished
neither to believe nor disbelieve, but cared only about finding out
whether he ought to believe or no. The more he read in this spirit the
more the balance seemed to lie in favour of unbelief, till, in the
end, all further doubt became impossible, and he saw plainly enough
that, whatever else might be true, the story that Christ had died,
come to life again, and been carried from earth through clouds into
the heavens could not now be accepted by unbiassed people. It was well
he had found it out so soon. In one way or another it was sure to meet
him sooner or later. He would probably have seen it years ago if he
had not been hoodwinked by people who were paid for hoodwinking him.
What should he have done, he asked himself, if he had not made his
present discovery till years later, when he was more deeply
committed to the life of a clergyman? Should he have had the courage
to face it, or would he not more probably have evolved some
excellent reason for continuing to think as he had thought hitherto?
Should he have had the courage to break away even from his present
curacy?

  He thought not, and knew not whether to be more thankful for
having been shown his error or for having been caught up and twisted
round so that he could hardly err further, almost at the very moment
of his having discovered it. The price he had had to pay for this boon
was light as compared with the boon itself. What is too heavy a
price to pay for having duty made at once clear and easy of fulfilment
instead of very difficult? He was sorry for his father and mother, and
he was sorry for Miss Maitland, but he was no longer sorry for
himself.

  It puzzled him, however, that he should not have known how much he
had hated being a clergyman till now. He knew that he did not
particularly like it, but if anyone had asked him whether he
actually hated it, he would have answered no. I suppose people
almost always want something external to themselves, to reveal to them
their own likes and dislikes. Our most assured likings have for the
most part been arrived at neither by introspection nor by any
process of conscious reasoning, but by the bounding forth of the heart
to welcome the gospel proclaimed to it by another. We hear some say
that such and such a thing is thus or thus, and in a moment the
train that has been laid within us, but whose presence we knew not,
flashes into consciousness and perception.

  Only a year ago he had bounded forth to welcome Mr. Hawke's
sermon; since then he had bounded after a College of Spiritual
Pathology; now he was in full cry after rationalism pure and simple;
how could he be sure that his present state of mind would be more
lasting than his previous ones? He could not be certain, but he felt
as though he were now on firmer ground than he had ever been before,
and no matter how fleeting his present opinions might prove to be,
he could not but act according to them till he saw reason to change
them. How impossible, he reflected, it would have been for him to do
this, if he had remained surrounded by people like his father and
mother, or Pryer and Pryer's friends, and his rector. He had been
observing, reflecting, and assimilating all these months with no
more consciousness of mental growth than a schoolboy has of growth
of body, but should he have been able to admit his growth to
himself, and to act up to his increased strength if he had remained in
constant close connection with people who assured him solemnly that he
was under a hallucination? The combination against him was greater
than his unaided strength could have broken through, and he felt
doubtful how far any shock less severe than the one from which he
was suffering would have sufficed to free him.

  CHAPTER LXV

  AS he lay on his bed day after day slowly recovering, he woke up
to the fact which most men arrive at sooner or later, I mean that very
few care two straws about truth, or have any confidence that it is
righter and better to believe what is true than what is untrue, even
though belief in the untruth may seem at first sight most expedient.
Yet it is only these few who can be said to believe anything at all;
the rest are simply unbelievers in disguise. Perhaps, after all, these
last are right. They have numbers and prosperity on their side. They
have all which the rationalist appeals to as his tests of right and
wrong. Right, according to him, is what seems right to the majority of
sensible, well-to-do people; we know of no safer criterion than
this, but what does the decision thus arrived at involve? Simply this,
that a conspiracy of silence about things whose truth would be
immediately apparent to disinterested enquirers is not only
tolerable but righteous on the part of those who profess to be and
take money for being par excellence guardians and teachers of truth.

  Ernest saw no logical escape from this conclusion. He saw that
belief on the part of the early Christians in the miraculous nature of
Christ's Resurrection was explicable. without any supposition of
miracle. The explanation lay under the eyes of anyone who chose to
take a moderate degree of trouble; it had been put before the world
again and again, and there had been no serious attempt to refute it.
How was it that Dean Alford, for example, who had made the New
Testament his specialty, could not or would not see what was so
obvious to Ernest himself? Could it be for any other reason than
that he did not want to see it, and if so was he not a traitor to
the cause of truth? Yes, but was he not also a respectable and
successful man, and were not the vast majority of respectable and
successful men, such for example, as all the bishops and
archbishops, doing exactly as Dean Alford did, and did not this make
their action right, no matter though it had been cannibalism or
infanticide, or even habitual untruthfulness of mind?

  Monstrous, odious falsehood! Ernest's feeble pulse quickened and his
pale face flushed as this hateful view of life presented itself to him
in all its logical consistency. It was not the fact of most men
being liars that shocked him- that was all right enough; but even
the momentary doubt whether the few who were not liars ought not to
become liars too. There was no hope left if this were so; if this were
so, let him die, the sooner the better. "Lord," he exclaimed inwardly,
"I don't believe one word of it. Strengthen Thou and confirm my
disbelief." It seemed to him that he could never henceforth see a
bishop going to consecration without saying to himself: "There, but
for the grace of God, went Ernest Pontifex." It was no doing of his.
He could not boast; if he had lived in the time of Christ he might
himself have been an early Christian, or even an Apostle for aught
he knew. On the whole, he felt that he had much to be thankful for.

  The conclusion, then, that it might be better to believe error
than truth, should be ordered out of court at once, no matter by how
clear a logic it had been arrived at; but what was the alternative? It
was this, that our criterion of truth -i.e., that truth is what
commends itself to the great majority of sensible and successful
people- is not infallible. The rule is sound, and covers by far the
greater number of cases, but it has its exceptions.

  He asked himself, what were they? Ah! that was a difficult matter;
there were so many, and the rules which governed them were sometimes
so subtle that mistakes always had and always would be made; it was
just this that made it impossible to reduce life to an exact
science. There was a rough-and-ready, rule-of-thumb test of truth, and
a number of rules as regards exceptions which could be mastered
without much trouble, yet there was a residue of cases in which
decision was difficult- so difficult that a man had better follow
his instinct than attempt to decide them by any process of reasoning.

  Instinct then is the ultimate court of appeal. And what is instinct?
It is a mode of faith in the evidence of things not actually seen. And
so my hero returned almost to the point from which he had started
originally, namely, that the just shall live by faith.

  And this is what the just -that is to say reasonable people- do as
regards those daily affairs of life which most concern them. They
settle smaller matters by the exercise of their own deliberation. More
important ones, such as the cure of their own bodies and the bodies of
those whom they love, the investment of their money, the extrication
of their affairs from any serious mess- these things they generally
entrust to others of whose capacity they know little save from general
report; they act therefore on the strength of faith, not of knowledge.
So the English nation entrusts the welfare of its fleet and naval
defences to a First Lord of the Admiralty, who, not being a sailor,
can know nothing about these matters except by acts of faith. There
can be no doubt about faith and not reason being the ultima ratio.

  Even Euclid, who has laid himself as little open to the charge of
credulity as any writer who ever lived, cannot get beyond this. He has
no demonstrable first premise. He requires postulates and axioms which
transcend demonstration, and without which he can do nothing. His
superstructure indeed is demonstration, but his ground is faith. Nor
again can he get further than telling a man he is a fool if he
persists in differing from him. He says "which is absurd," and
declines to discuss the matter further. Faith and authority,
therefore, prove to be as necessary for him as for anyone else. "By
faith in what, then," asked Ernest of himself, "shall a just man
endeavour to live at this present time?" He answered to himself, "At
any rate not by faith in the supernatural element of the Christian
religion."

  And how should he best persuade his fellow-countrymen to leave off
believing in this supernatural element? Looking at the matter from a
practical point of view, he thought the Archbishop of Canterbury
afforded the most promising key to the situation. It lay between him
and the Pope. The Pope was perhaps best in theory, but in practice the
Archbishop of Canterbury would do sufficiently well. If he could
only manage to sprinkle a pinch of salt, as it were, on the
Archbishop's tail, he might convert the whole Church of England to
free thought by a coup de main. There must be an amount of cogency
which even an Archbishop -an Archbishop whose perceptions had never
been quickened by imprisonment for assault -would not be able to
withstand. When brought face to face with the facts, as he, Ernest,
could arrange them, his Grace would have no resource but to admit
them; being an honourable man he would at once resign his
Archbishopric, and Christianity would become extinct in England within
a few months' time. This, at any rate, was how things ought to be. But
all the time Ernest had no confidence in the Archbishop's not
hopping off just as the pinch was about to fall on him, and this
seemed so unfair that his blood boiled at the thought of it. If this
was to be so, he must try if he could not fix him by the judicious use
of bird-lime or a snare, or throw the salt on his tail from an
ambuscade.

  To do him justice, it was not himself that he greatly cared about.
He knew he had been humbugged, and he knew also that the greater
part of the ills which had afflicted him were due, indirectly, in
chief measure to the influence of Christian teaching; still, if the
mischief had ended with himself, he should have thought little about
it, but there was his sister, and his brother Joey, and the hundreds
and thousands of young people throughout England whose lives were
being blighted through the lies told them by people whose business
it was to know better, but who scamped their work and shirked
difficulties instead of facing them. It was this which made him
think it worth while to be angry, and to consider whether he could not
at least do something towards saving others from such years of waste
and misery as he had had to pass himself. If there was no truth in the
miraculous accounts of Christ's Death and Resurrection, the whole of
the religion founded upon the historic truth of those events tumbled
to the ground. "Why," he exclaimed, with all the arrogance of youth,
"they put a gipsy or fortune-teller into prison for getting money
out of silly people who think they have supernatural power; why should
they not put a clergyman in prison for pretending that he can
absolve sins, or turn bread and wine into the flesh and blood of One
who died two thousand years ago? What," he asked himself, "could be
more pure 'hanky-panky' than that a bishop should lay his hands upon a
young man and pretend to convey to him the spiritual power to work
this miracle? It was all very well to talk about toleration;
toleration, like everything else, had its limits; besides, if it was
to include the bishop, let it include the fortune-teller too." He
would explain all this to the Archbishop of Canterbury by-and-by,
but as he could not get hold of him just now, it occurred to him
that he might experimentalise advantageously upon the viler soul of
the prison chaplain. It was only those who took the first and most
obvious step in their power who ever did great things in the end, so
one day, when Mr. Hughes -for this was the chaplain's name- was
talking with him, Ernest introduced the question of Christian
evidences, and tried to raise a discussion upon them. Mr. Hughes had
been very kind to him, but he was more than twice my hero's age, and
had long taken the measure of such objections as Ernest tried to put
before him. I do not suppose he believed in the actual objective truth
of the stories about Christ's Resurrection and Ascension any more than
Ernest did, but he knew that this was a small matter, and that the
real issue lay much deeper than this.

  Mr. Hughes was a man who had been in authority for many years, and
he brushed Ernest on one side as if he had been a fly. He did it so
well that my hero never ventured to tackle him again, and confined his
conversation with him for the future to such matters as what he had
better do when he got out of prison; and here Mr. Hughes was ever
ready to listen to him with sympathy and kindness.

  CHAPTER LXVI

  ERNEST was now so far convalescent as to be able to sit up for the
greater part of the day. He had been three months in prison, and,
though not strong enough to leave the infirmary, was beyond all fear
of a relapse. He was talking one day with Mr. Hughes about his future,
and again expressed his intention of emigrating to Australia or New
Zealand with the money he should recover from Pryer. Whenever he spoke
of this he noticed that Mr. Hughes looked grave and was silent: he had
thought that perhaps the chaplain wanted him to return to his
profession, and disapproved of his evident anxiety to turn to
something else; now, however, he asked Mr. Hughes point blank why it
was that he disapproved of his idea of emigrating.

  Mr. Hughes endeavoured to evade him, but Ernest was not to be put
off. There was something in the chaplain's manner which suggested that
he knew more than Ernest did, but did not like to say it. This alarmed
him so much that he begged him not to keep him in suspense; after a
little hesitation Mr. Hughes, thinking him now strong enough to
stand it, broke the news as gently as he could that the whole of
Ernest's money had disappeared.

  The day after my return from Battersby I called on my solicitor, and
was told that he had written to Pryer, requiring him to refund the
monies for which he had given his I.O.U.'s. Pryer replied that he
had given orders to his broker to close his operations, which
unfortunately had resulted so far in heavy loss, and that the
balance should be paid to my solicitor on the following settling
day, then about a week distant. When the time came, we heard nothing
from Pryer, and going to his lodgings, found that he had left with his
few effects on the very day after he had heard from us, and had not
been seen since.

  I had heard from Ernest the name of the broker who had been
employed, and went at once to see him. He told me Pryer had closed all
his accounts for cash on the day that Ernest had been sentenced, and
had received L2315, which was all that remained of Ernest's original
L5000. With this he had decamped, nor had we enough clue as to his
whereabouts to be able to take any steps to recover the money. There
was in fact nothing to be done but to consider the whole as lost. I
may say here that neither I nor Ernest ever heard of Pryer again,
nor have any idea what became of him.

  This placed me in a difficult position. I knew, of course, that in a
few years Ernest would have many times over as much money as he had
lost, but I knew also that he did not know this, and feared that the
supposed loss of all he had in the world might be more than he could
stand when coupled with his other misfortunes.

  The prison authorities had found Theobald's address from a letter in
Ernest's pocket, and had communicated with him more than once
concerning his son's illness, but Theobald had not written to me,
and I supposed my godson to be in good health. He would be just
twenty-four years old when he left prison, and if I followed out his
aunt's instructions, would have to battle with fortune for another
four years as well as he could. The question before me was whether
it was right to let him run so much risk, or whether I should not to
some extent transgress my instructions- which there was nothing to
prevent my doing if I thought Miss Pontifex would have wished it-
and let him have the same sum that he would have recovered from Pryer.

  If my godson had been an older man, and more fixed in any definite
groove, this is what I should have done, but he was still very
young, and more than commonly unformed for his age. If, again, I had
known of his illness I should not have dared to lay any heavier burden
on his back than he had to bear already; but not being uneasy about
his health, I thought a few years of roughing it and of experience
concerning the importance of not playing tricks with money would do
him no harm. So I decided to keep a sharp eye upon him as soon as he
came out of prison, and to let him splash about in deep water as
best he could till I saw whether he was able to swim, or was about
to sink. In the first case I would let him go on swimming till he
was nearly eight-and-twenty, when I would prepare him gradually for
the good fortune that awaited him; in the second I would hurry up to
the rescue. So I wrote to say that Pryer had absconded, and that he
could have L100 from his father when he came out of prison. I then
waited to see what effect these tidings would have, not expecting to
receive an answer for three months, for I had been told on enquiry
that no letter could be received by a prisoner till after he had
been three months in gaol. I also wrote to Theobald and told him of
Pryer's disappearance.

  As a matter of fact, when my letter arrived the governor of the gaol
read it, and in a case of such importance would have relaxed the rules
if Ernest's state had allowed it; his illness prevented this, and
the governor left it to the chaplain and the doctor to break the
news to him when they thought him strong enough to bear it, which
was now the case. In the meantime I received a formal official
document saying that my letter had been received and would be
communicated to the prisoner in due course; I believe it was simply
through a mistake on the part of a clerk that I was not informed of
Ernest's illness, but I heard nothing of it till I saw him by his
own desire a few days after the chaplain had broken to him the
substance of what I had written.

  Ernest was terribly shocked when he heard of the loss of his
money, but his ignorance of the world prevented him from seeing the
full extent of the mischief. He had never been in serious want of
money yet, and did not know what it meant. In reality, money losses
are the hardest to bear of any by those who are old enough to
comprehend them.

  A man can stand being told that he must submit to a severe
surgical operation, or that he has some disease which will shortly
kill him, or that he will be a cripple or blind for the rest of his
life; dreadful as such tidings must be, we do not find that they
unnerve the greater number of mankind; most men, indeed, go coolly
enough even to be hanged, but the strongest quail before financial
ruin, and the better men they are, the more complete, as a general
rule, is their prostration. Suicide is a common consequence of money
losses; it is rarely sought as a means of escape from bodily
suffering. If we feel that we have a competence at our backs, so
that we can die warm and quietly in our beds, with no need to worry
about expense, we live our lives out to the dregs, no matter how
excruciating our torments. Job probably felt the loss of his flocks
and herds more than that of his wife and family, for he could enjoy
his flocks and herds without his family, but not his family- not for
long- if he had lost all his money. Loss of money indeed is not only
the worst pain in itself, but it is the parent of all others. Let a
man have been brought up to a moderate competence, and have no
specialty; then let his money be suddenly taken from him, and how long
is his health likely to survive the change in all his little ways
which loss of money will entail? How long again is the esteem and
sympathy of friends likely to survive ruin? People may be very sorry
for us, but their attitude towards us hitherto has been based upon the
supposition that we were situated thus or thus in money matters;
when this breaks down there must be a restatement of the social
problem so far as we are concerned; we have been obtaining esteem
under false pretences. Granted, then, that the three most serious
losses which a man can suffer are those affecting money, health, and
reputation. Loss of money is far the worst, then comes ill-health, and
then loss of reputation; loss of reputation is a bad third, for, if
a man keeps health and money unimpaired, it will be generally found
that his loss of reputation is due to breaches of parvenu
conventions only, and not to violations of those older, better
established canons whose authority is unquestionable. In this case a
man may grow a new reputation as easily as a lobster grows a new claw,
or, if he have health and money, may thrive in great peace of mind
without any reputation at all. The only chance for a man who has
lost his money is that he shall still be young enough to stand
uprooting and transplanting without more than temporary derangement,
and this I believed my godson still to be.

  By the prison rules he might receive and send a letter after he
had been in gaol three months, and might also receive one visit from a
friend. When he received my letter, he at once asked me to come and
see him, which of course I did. I found him very much changed, and
still so feeble that the exertion of coming from the infirmary to
the cell in which I was allowed to see him, and the agitation of
seeing me were too much for him. At first he quite broke down, and I
was so pained at the state in which I found him, that I was on the
point of breaking my instructions then and there. I contented
myself, however, for the time, with assuring him that I would help him
as soon as he came out of prison, and that, when he had made up his
mind what he would do, he was to come to me for what money might be
necessary, if he could not get it from his father. To make it easier
for him I told him that his aunt, on her deathbed, had desired me to
do something of this sort should an emergency arise, so that he
would only be taking what his aunt had left him.

  "Then," said he, "I will not take the L100 from my father, and I
will never see him or my mother again."

  I said: "Take the L100, Ernest, and as much more as you can get, and
then do not see them again if you do not like."

  This Ernest would not do. If he took money from them, he could not
cut them, and he wanted to cut them. I thought my godson would get
on a great deal better if he would only have the firmness to do as
he proposed, as regards breaking completely with his father and
mother, and said so. "Then don't you like them?" said he, with a
look of surprise.

  "Like them!" said I, "I think they're horrid."

  "Oh, that's the kindest thing of all you have done for me," he
exclaimed. "I thought all- all middle-aged people liked my father
and mother."

  He had been about to call me old, but I was only fifty-seven, and
was not going to have this, so I made a face when I saw him
hesitating, which drove him into "middle-aged."

  "If you like it," said I, "I will say all your family are horrid
except yourself and your Aunt Alethea. The greater part of every
family is always odious; if there are one or two good ones in a very
large family, it is as much as can be expected."

  "Thank you," he replied, gratefully, "I think I can now stand almost
anything. I will come to see you as soon as I come out of gaol.
Good-bye." For the warder had told us that the time allowed for our
interview was at an end.

  CHAPTER LXVII

  AS soon as Ernest found that he had no money to look to upon leaving
prison he saw that his dreams about emigrating and farming must come
to an end, for he knew that he was incapable of working at the
plough or with the axe for long together himself. And now it seemed he
should have no money to pay anyone else for doing so. It was this that
resolved him to part once and for all with his parents. If he had been
going abroad he could have kept up relations with them, for they would
have been too far off to interfere with him.

  He knew his father and mother would object to being cut; they
would wish to appear kind and forgiving; they would also dislike
having no further power to plague him; but he knew also very well that
so long as he and they ran in harness together they would be always
pulling one way and he another. He wanted to drop the gentleman and go
down into the ranks, beginning on the lowest rung of the ladder, where
no one would know of his disgrace or mind it if he did know; his
father and mother on the other hand would wish him to clutch on to the
fag-end of gentility at a starvation salary and with no prospect of
advancement. Ernest had seen enough in Ashpit Place to know that a
tailor, if he did not drink and attended to his business, could earn
more money than a clerk or a curate, while much less expense by way of
show was required of him. The tailor also had more liberty, and a
better chance of rising. Ernest resolved at once, as he had fallen
so far, to fall still lower- promptly, gracefully, and with the idea
of rising again, rather than cling to the skirts of a respectability
which would permit him to exist on sufferance only, and make him pay
an utterly extortionate price for an article which he could do
better without.

  He arrived at this result more quickly than he might otherwise
have done through remembering something he had once heard his aunt say
about "kissing the soil." This had impressed him and stuck by him
perhaps by reason of its brevity; when later on he came to know the
story of Hercules and Antaeus, lie found it one of the very few
ancient fables which had a hold over him- his chiefest debt to
classical literature. His aunt had wanted him to learn carpentering,
as a means of kissing the soil should his Hercules ever throw him.
It was too late for this now- or he thought it was- but the mode of
carrying out his aunt's idea was a detail; there were a hundred ways
of kissing the soil besides becoming a carpenter.

  He had told me this during our interview, and I had encouraged him
to the utmost of my power. He showed so much more good sense than I
had given him credit for that I became comparatively easy about him,
and determined to let him play his own game, being always, however,
ready to hand in case things went too far wrong. It was not simply
because he disliked his father and mother that he wanted to have no
more to do with them; if it had been only this he would have put up
with them; but a warning voice within told him distinctly enough
that if he was clean cut away from them he might still have a chance
of success, whereas if they had anything whatever to do with him, or
even knew where he was, they would hamper him and in the end ruin him.
Absolute independence he believed to be his only chance of very life
itself.

  Over and above this- if this were not enough- Ernest had a faith
in his own destiny such as most young men, I suppose, feel, but the
grounds of which were not apparent to anyone but himself. Rightly or
wrongly, in a quiet way he believed he possessed a strength which,
if he were only free to use it in his own way, might do great things
some day. He did not know when, nor where, nor how his opportunity was
to come, but he never doubted that it would come in spite of all
that had happened, and above all else he cherished the hope that he
might know how to seize it if it came, for whatever it was it would be
something that no one else could do so well as he could. People said
there were no dragons and giants for adventurous men to fight with
nowadays; it was beginning to dawn upon him that there were just as
many now as at any past time.

  Monstrous as such a faith may seem in one who was qualifying himself
for a high mission by a term of imprisonment, he could no more help it
than he could help breathing; it was innate in him, and it was even
more with a view to this than for other reasons that he wished to
sever the connection between himself and his parents; for he knew that
if ever the day came in which it should appear that before him too
there was a race set in which it might be an honour to have run
among the foremost, his father and mother would be the first to let
him and hinder him in running it. They had been the first to say
that he ought to run such a race; they would also be the first to trip
him up if he took them at their word, and then afterwards upbraid
him for not having won. Achievement of any kind would be impossible
for him unless he was free from those who would be for ever dragging
him back into the conventional. The conventional had been tried
already and had been found wanting.

  He had an opportunity now, if he chose to take it, of escaping
once for all from those who at once tormented him and would hold him
earthward should a chance of soaring open before him. He should
never have had it but for his imprisonment; but for this the force
of habit and routine would have been too strong for him; he should
hardly have had it if he had not lost all his money; the gap would not
have been so wide but that he might have been inclined to throw a
plank across it. He rejoiced now, therefore, over his loss of money as
well as over his imprisonment, which had made it more easy for him
to follow his truest and most lasting interests.

  At times he wavered, when he thought of how his mother, who in her
way, as he thought, had loved him, would weep and think sadly over
him, or how perhaps she might even fall ill and die, and how the blame
would rest with him. At these times his resolution was near
breaking, but when he found I applauded his design, the voice
within, which bade him see his father's and mother's faces no more,
grew louder and more persistent. If he could not cut himself adrift
from those who he knew would hamper him, when so small an effort was
wanted, his dream of a destiny was idle; what was the prospect of a
hundred pounds from his father in comparison with jeopardy to this? He
still felt deeply the pain his disgrace had inflicted upon his
father and mother, but he was getting stronger, and reflected that
as he had run his chance with them for parents, so they must run
theirs with him for a son.

  He had nearly settled down to this conclusion when he received a
letter from his father which made his decision final. If the prison
rules had been interpreted strictly, he would not have been allowed to
have this letter for another three months, as he had already heard
from me, but the governor took a lenient view, and considered the
letter from me to be a business communication hardly coming under
the category of a letter from friends. Theobald's letter therefore was
given to his son. It ran as follows:

  "MY DEAR ERNEST, My object in writing is not to upbraid you with the
disgrace and shame you have inflicted upon your mother and myself,
to say nothing of your brother Joey, and your sister. Suffer of course
we must, but we know to whom to look in our affliction, and are filled
with anxiety rather on your behalf than our own. Your mother is
wonderful. She is pretty well in health, and desires me to send you
her love.

  "Have you considered your prospects on leaving prison? I
understand from Mr. Overton that you have lost the legacy which your
grandfather left you, together with all the interest that accrued
during your minority, in the course of speculation upon the Stock
Exchange! If you have indeed been guilty of such appalling folly it is
difficult to see what you can turn your hand to, and I suppose you
will try to find a clerkship in an office. Your salary will
doubtless be low at first, but you have made your bed and must not
complain if you have to lie upon it. If you take pains to please
your employers they will not be backward in promoting you.

  "When I first heard from Mr. Overton of the unspeakable calamity
which had befallen your mother and myself, I had resolved not to see
you again. I am unwilling, however, to have recourse to a measure
which would deprive you of your last connecting link with
respectable people. Your mother and I will see you as soon as you come
out of prison; not at Battersby- we do not wish you to come down
here at present- but somewhere else, probably in London. You need
not shrink from seeing us; we shall not reproach you. We will then
decide about your future.

  "At present our impression is that you will find a fairer start
probably in Australia or New Zealand than here, and I am prepared to
find you L75 or even if necessary so far as L100 to pay your passage
money. Once in the colony you must be dependent upon your own
exertions.

  "May Heaven prosper them and you, and restore you to us years
hence a respected member of society. -Your affectionate father,

                                             "T. PONTIFEX."

  Then there was a postscript in Christina's writing.

  "My darling, darling boy, pray with me daily and hourly that we
may yet again become a happy, united, God-fearing family as we were
before this horrible pain fell upon us.- Your sorrowing but ever
loving mother,

                                               "C. P."

  This letter did not produce the effect on Ernest that it would
have done before his imprisonment began. His father and mother thought
they could take him up as they had left him off They forgot the
rapidity with which development follows misfortune, if the sufferer is
young and of a sound temperament. Ernest made no reply to his father's
letter, but his desire for a total break developed into something like
a passion. "There are orphanages," he exclaimed to himself, "for
children who have lost their parents- oh! why, why, why, are there
no harbours of refuge for grown men who have not yet lost them?" And
he brooded over the bliss of Melchisedek who had been born an
orphan, without father, without mother, and without descent.

  CHAPTER LXVIII

  WHEN I think over all that Ernest told me about his prison
meditations, and the conclusions he was drawn to, it occurs to me that
in reality he was wanting to do the very last thing which it would
have entered into his head to think of wanting. I mean that he was
trying to give up father and mother for Christ's sake. He would have
said he was giving them up because he thought they hindered him in the
pursuit of his truest and most lasting happiness. Granted, but what is
this if it is not Christ? What is Christ if He is not this? He who
takes the highest and most self-respecting view of his own welfare
which it is in his power to conceive, and adheres to it in spite of
conventionality, is a Christian whether he knows it and calls
himself one, or whether he does not. A rose is not the less a rose
because it does not know its own name.

  What if circumstances had made his duty more easy for him than it
would be to most men? That was his luck, as much as it is other
people's luck to have other duties made easy for them by accident of
birth. Surely if people are born rich or handsome they have a right to
their good fortune. Some, I know, will say that one man has no right
to be born with a better constitution than another; others again
will say that luck is the only righteous object of human veneration.
Both, I daresay, can make out a very good case, but whichever may be
right surely Ernest had as much right to the good luck of finding a
duty made easier as he had had to the bad fortune of falling into
the scrape which had got him into prison. A man is not to be sneered
at for having a trump card in his hand; he is only to be sneered at if
he plays his trump card badly.

  Indeed, I question whether it is ever much harder for anyone to give
up father and mother for Christ's sake than it was for Ernest. The
relations between the parties will have almost always been severely
strained before it comes to this. I doubt whether anyone was ever
yet required to give up those to whom he was tenderly attached for a
mere matter of conscience: he will have ceased to be tenderly attached
to them long before he is called upon to break with them; for
differences of opinion concerning any matter of vital importance
spring from differences of constitution, and these will already have
led to so much other disagreement that the "giving up," when it comes,
is like giving up an aching but very loose and hollow tooth. It is the
loss of those whom we are not required to give up for Christ's sake
which is really painful to us. Then there is a wrench in earnest.
Happily, no matter how light the task that is demanded from us, it
is enough if we do it; we reap our reward, much as though it were a
Herculean labour.

  But to return, the conclusion Ernest came to was that he would be
a tailor. He talked the matter over with the chaplain,  who told him
there was no reason why he should not be able to earn his six or seven
shillings a day by the time he came out of prison, if he chose to
learn the trade during the remainder of his term- not quite three
months; the doctor said he was strong enough for this, and that it was
about the only thing he was as yet fit for; so he left the infirmary
sooner than he would otherwise have done and entered the tailor's
shop, overjoyed at the thoughts of seeing his way again, and confident
of rising some day if he could only get a firm foothold to start from.

  Everyone whom he had to do with saw that he did not belong to what
are called the criminal classes, and finding him eager to learn and to
save trouble always treated him kindly and almost respectfully. He did
not find the work irksome: it was far more pleasant than making
Latin and Greek verses at Roughborough; he felt that he would rather
be here in prison than at Roughborough again- yes, or even at
Cambridge itself. The only trouble he was ever in danger of getting
into was through exchanging words or looks with the more
decent-looking of his fellow-prisoners. This was forbidden, but he
never missed a chance of breaking the rules in this respect.

  Any man of his ability who was at the same time anxious to learn
would of course make rapid progress, and before he left prison the
warder said he was as good a tailor with his three months'
apprenticeship as many a man was with twelve. Ernest had never
before been so much praised by any of his teachers. Each day as he
grew stronger in health and more accustomed to his surroundings he saw
some fresh advantage in his position, an advantage which he had not
aimed at, but which had come almost in spite of himself, and he
marvelled at his own good fortune, which had ordered things so greatly
better for him than he could have ordered them for himself.

  His having lived six months in Ashpit Place was a case in point.
Things were possible to him which to others like him would be
impossible. If such a man as Towneley were told he must live
henceforth in a house like those in Ashpit Place it would be more than
he could stand. Ernest could not have stood it himself if he had
gone to live there of compulsion through want of money. It was only
because he had felt himself able to run away at any minute that he had
not wanted to do so; now, however, that he had become familiar with
life in Ashpit Place he no longer minded it, and could live gladly
in lower parts of London than that so long as he could pay his way. It
was from no prudence or forethought that he had served this
apprenticeship to life among the poor. He had been trying in a
feeble way to be thorough in his work: he had not been thorough, the
whole thing had been a fiasco; but he had made a little puny effort in
the direction of being genuine, and behold, in his hour of need it had
been returned to him with a reward far richer than he had deserved. He
could not have faced becoming one of the very poor unless he had had
such a bridge to conduct him, over to them as he had found unwittingly
in Ashpit Place. True, there had been drawbacks in the particular
house he had chosen, but, he need not live in a house where there
was a Mr. Holt, and he should no longer be tied to the profession
which he so much hated; if there were neither screams nor scripture
readings he could be happy in a garret at three shillings a week, such
as Miss Maitland lived in.

  As he thought further he remembered that all things work together
for good to them that love God; was it possible, he asked himself,
that he too, however imperfectly, had been trying to love Him? He
dared not answer Yes, but he would try hard that it should be so. Then
there came into his mind that noble air of Handel's: "Great God, who
yet but darkly known," and he felt it as he had never felt it
before. He had lost his faith in Christianity, but his faith in
something-he knew not what, but that there was a something as yet
but darkly known, which made right right and wrong wrong- his faith in
this grew stronger and stronger daily.

  Again there crossed his mind thoughts of the power which he felt
to be in him, and of how and where it was to find its vent. The same
instinct which had led him to live among the poor because it was the
nearest thing to him which he could lay hold of with any clearness
came to his assistance here too. He thought of the Australian gold and
how those who lived among it had never seen it though it abounded
all around them: "Here is gold everywhere," he exclaimed inwardly, "to
those who look for it." Might not his opportunity be close upon him if
he looked carefully enough at his immediate surroundings? What was his
position? He had lost all. Could he not turn his having lost all
into an opportunity? Might he not, if he too sought the strength of
the Lord, find, like St. Paul, that it was perfected in weakness?

  He had nothing more to lose; money, friends, character, all were
gone for a very long time if not for ever; but there was something
else also that had taken its flight along with these. I mean the
fear of that which man could do unto him. Cantabit vacuus. Who could
hurt him more than he had been hurt already? Let him but be able to
earn his bread, and he knew of nothing which he dared not venture if
it would make the world a happier place for those who were young and
lovable. Herein he found so much comfort that he almost wished he
had lost his reputation even more completely -for he saw that it was
like a man's life which may be found of them that lose it and lost
of them that would find it. He should not have had the courage to give
up all for Christ's sake, but now Christ had mercifully taken all, and
lo! it seemed as though all were found.

  As the days went slowly by he came to see that Christianity and
the denial of Christianity after all met as much as any other extremes
do; it was a fight about names -not about things; practically the
Church of Rome, the Church of England, and the free-thinker have the
same ideal standard and meet in the gentleman; for he is the most
perfect saint who is the most perfect gentleman. Then he saw also that
it matters little what profession, whether of religion or
irreligion, a man may make, provided only he follows it out with
charitable inconsistency, and without insisting on it to the bitter
end. It is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and
not in the dogma or want of dogma that the danger lies. This was the
crowning point of the edifice; when he had got here he no longer
wished to molest even the Pope. The Archbishop of Canterbury might
have hopped about all round him and even picked crumbs out of his hand
without running risk of getting a sly sprinkle of salt. That wary
prelate himself might perhaps have been of a different opinion, but
the robins and thrushes that hop about our lawns are not more
needlessly distrustful of the hand that throws them out crumbs of
bread in winter, than the Archbishop would have been of my hero.

  Perhaps he was helped to arrive at the foregoing conclusion by an
event which almost thrust inconsistency upon him. A few days after
he had left the infirmary the chaplain came to his cell and told him
that the prisoner who played the organ in chapel had just finished his
sentence and was leaving the prison; he therefore offered the post
to Ernest, who, he already knew, played the organ. Ernest was at first
in doubt whether it would be right for him to assist at religious
services more than he was actually compelled to do, but the pleasure
of playing the organ, and the privileges which the post involved, made
him see excellent reasons for not riding consistency to death. Having,
then, once introduced an element of inconsistency into his system,
he was far too consistent not to be inconsistent consistently, and
he lapsed ere long into an amiable indifferentism which to outward
appearance differed but little from the indifferentism from which
Mr. Hawke had aroused him.

  By becoming organist he was saved from the treadmill, for which
the doctor had said he was unfit as yet, but which he would probably
have been put to in due course as soon as he was stronger. He might
have escaped the tailor's shop altogether and done only the
comparatively light work of attending to the chaplain's rooms if he
had liked, but he wanted to learn as much tailoring as he could, and
did not therefore take advantage of this offer; he was allowed,
however, two hours a day in the afternoon for practice. From that
moment his prison life ceased to be monotonous, and the remaining
two months of his sentence slipped by almost as rapidly as they
would have done if he had been free. What with music, books,
learning his trade, and conversation with the chaplain, who was just
the kindly, sensible person that Ernest wanted in order to steady
him a little, the days went by so pleasantly that when the time came
for him to leave prison, he did so, or thought he did so, not
without regret.

  CHAPTER LXIX

  IN coming to the conclusion that he would sever the connection
between himself and his family once for all Ernest had reckoned
without his family. Theobald wanted to be rid of his son, it is
true, in so far as he wished him to be no nearer at any rate than
the Antipodes; but he had no idea of entirely breaking with him. He
knew his son well enough to have a pretty shrewd idea that this was
what Ernest would wish himself, and perhaps as much for this reason as
for any other he was determined to keep up the connection, provided it
did not involve Ernest's coming to Battersby nor any recurring outlay.

  When the time approached for him to leave prison, his father and
mother consulted as to what course they should adopt.

  "We must never leave him to himself," said Theobald impressively;
"we can neither of us wish that."

  "Oh, no! no! dearest Theobald," exclaimed Christina. "Whoever else
deserts him, and however distant he may be from us, he must still feel
that he has parents whose hearts beat with affection for him no matter
how cruelly he has pained them."

  "He has been his own worst enemy," said Theobald. "He has never
loved us as we deserved, and now he will be withheld by false shame
from wishing to see us. He will avoid us if he can."

  "Then we must go to him ourselves," said Christina; "whether he
likes it or not we must be at his side to support him as he enters
again upon the world."

  "If we do not want him to give us the slip we must catch him as he
leaves prison."

  "We will, we will; our faces shall be the first to gladden his
eyes as he comes out, and our voices the first to exhort him to return
to the paths of virtue."

  "I think," said Theobald, "if he sees us in the street he will
turn round and run away from us. He is intensely selfish."

  "Then we must get leave to go inside the prison, and see him
before he gets outside."

  After a good deal of discussion this was the plan they decided on
adopting, and having so decided, Theobald wrote to the governor of the
gaol asking whether he could be admitted inside the gaol to receive
Ernest when his sentence had expired. He received answer in the
affirmative, and the pair left Battersby the day before Ernest was
to come out of prison.

  Ernest had not reckoned on this, and was rather surprised on being
told a few minutes before nine that he was to go into the receiving
room before he left the prison, as there were visitors waiting to
see him. His heart fell, for he guessed who they were, but he
screwed up his courage and hastened to the receiving room. There, sure
enough, standing at the end of the table nearest the door were the two
people whom he regarded as the most dangerous enemies he had in all
the world- his father and mother.

  He could not fly, but he knew that if he wavered he was lost.

  His mother was crying, but she sprang forward to meet him and
clasped him in her arms. "Oh, my boy, my boy," she sobbed, and she
could say no more.

  Ernest was as white as a sheet. His heart beat so that he could
hardly breathe. He let his mother embrace him, and then withdrawing
himself stood silently before her with the tears falling from his
eyes.

  At first he could not speak. For a minute or so the silence on all
sides was complete. Then, gathering strength, he said in a low voice:

  "Mother" (it was the first time he had called her anything but
("mamma"), "we must part." On this, turning to the warder, he said: "I
believe I am free to leave the prison if I wish to do so. You cannot
compel me to remain here longer. Please take me to the gates."

  Theobald stepped forward. "Ernest, you must not, shall not, leave us
in this way."

  "Do not speak to me," said Ernest, his eyes flashing with a fire
that was unwonted in them. Another warder then came up and took
Theobald aside, while the first conducted Ernest to the gates.

  "Tell them," said Ernest, "from me that they must think of me as one
dead, for I am dead to them. Say that my greatest pain is the
thought of the disgrace I have inflicted upon them, and that above all
things else I will study to avoid paining them hereafter; but say also
that if they write to me I will return their letters unopened, and
that if they come and see me I will protect myself in whatever way I
can."

  By this time he was at the prison gate, and in another moment was at
liberty. After he had got a few steps out he turned his face to the
prison wall, leant against it for support, and wept as though his
heart would break.

  Giving up father and mother for Christ's sake was not such an easy
matter after all. If a man has been possessed by devils for long
enough they will rend him as they leave him, however imperatively they
may have been cast out. Ernest did not stay long where he was, for
he feared each moment that his father and mother would come out. He
pulled himself together and turned into the labyrinth of small streets
which opened out in front of him.

  He had crossed his Rubicon -not perhaps very heroically or
dramatically, but then it is only in dramas that people act
dramatically. At any rate, by hook or by crook, he had scrambled over,
and was out upon the other side. Already he thought of much which he
would gladly have said, and blamed his want of presence of mind;
but, after all, it mattered very little. Inclined though he was to
make very great allowances for his father and mother, he was indignant
at their having thrust themselves upon him without warning at a moment
when the excitement of leaving prison was already as much as he was
fit for. It was a mean advantage to have taken over Miss, but he was
glad they had taken it, for it made him realise more fully than ever
that his one chance lay in separating himself completely from them.

  The morning was grey, and the first signs of winter fog were
beginning to show themselves, for it was now the 30th of September.
Ernest wore the clothes in which he had entered prison, and was
therefore dressed as a clergyman. No one who looked at him would
have seen any difference between his present appearance and his
appearance six months previously; indeed, as he walked slowly
through the dingy crowded lane called Eyre Street Hill (which he
well knew, for he had clerical friends in that neighbourhood), the
months he had passed in prison seemed to drop out of his life, and
so powerfully did association carry him away that, finding himself
in his old dress and in his old surroundings, he felt dragged back
into his old self- as though his six months of prison life had been
a dream from which he was now waking to take things up as he had
left them. This was the effect of unchanged surroundings upon the
unchanged part of him. But there was a changed part, and the effect of
unchanged surroundings upon this was to make everything seem almost as
strange as though he had never had any life but his prison one, and
was now born into a new world.

  All our lives long, every day and very hour, we are engaged in the
process of accommodating our changed and unchanged selves to changed
and unchanged surroundings; living, in fact, is nothing else than this
process of accommodation; when we fail in it a little we are stupid,
when we fail flagrantly we are mad, when we suspend it temporarily
we sleep, when we give up the attempt altogether we die. In quiet,
uneventful lives the changes internal and external are so small that
there is little or no strain in the process of fusion and
accommodation; in other lives there is great strain, but there is also
great fusing and accommodating power; in others great strain with
little accommodating power. A life will be successful or not according
as the power of accommodation is equal to or unequal to the strain
of fusing and adjusting internal and external changes.

  The trouble is that in the end we shall be driven to admit the unity
of the universe so completely as to be compelled to deny that there is
either an external or an internal, but must see everything both as
external and internal at one and the same time, subject and object
-external and internal -being unified as much as everything else. This
will knock our whole system over, but then every system has got to
be knocked over by something.

  Much the best way out of this difficulty is to go in for
separation between internal and external- subject and object- when
we find this convenient, and unity between the same when we find unity
convenient. This is illogical, but extremes are alone logical, and
they are always absurd, the mean is alone practicable and it is always
illogical. It is faith and not logic which is the supreme arbiter.
They say all roads lead to Rome, and all philosophies that I have ever
seen lead ultimately either to some gross absurdity, or else to the
conclusion already more than once insisted on in these pages, that the
just shall live by faith, that is to say that sensible people will get
through life by rule of thumb as they may interpret it most
conveniently without asking too many questions for conscience sake.
Take any fact, and reason upon it to the bitter end, and it will ere
long lead to this as the only refuge from some palpable folly.

  But to return to my story. When Ernest got to the top of the
street and looked back, he saw the grimy, sullen walls of his prison
filling up the end of it. He paused for a minute or two. "There," he
said to himself, "I was hemmed in by bolts which I could see and
touch; here I am barred by others which are none the less real
-poverty and ignorance of the world. It was no part of my business
to try to break the material bolts of iron and escape from prison, but
now that I am free I must surely seek to break these others."

  He had read somewhere of a prisoner who had made his escape by
cutting up his bedstead with an iron spoon. He admired and marvelled
at the man's mind, but could not even try to imitate him; in the
presence of immaterial barriers, however, he was not so easily
daunted, and felt as though, even if the bed were iron and the spoon a
wooden one, he could find some means of making the wood cut the iron
sooner or later.

  He turned his back upon Eyre Street Hill and walked down Leather
Lane into Holborn. Each step he took, each face or object that he
knew, helped at once to link him on to the life he had led before
his imprisonment, and at the same time to make him feel how completely
that imprisonment had cut his life into two parts, the one of which
could bear no resemblance to the other.

  He passed down Fetter Lane into Fleet Street and so to the Temple,
to which I had just returned from my summer holiday. It was about half
past nine, and I was having my breakfast, when I heard a timid knock
at the door and opened it to find Ernest.

  CHAPTER LXX

  I HAD begun to like him on the night Towneley had sent for me, and
on the following day I thought he had shaped well. I had liked him
also during our interview in prison, and wanted to see more of him, so
that I might make up my mind about him. I had lived long enough to
know that some men who do great things in the end are not very wise
when they are young; knowing that he would leave prison on the 30th, I
had expected him, and, as I had a spare bedroom, pressed him to stay
with me till he could make up his mind what he would do.

  Being so much older than he was, I anticipated no trouble in getting
my own way, but he would not hear of it. The utmost he would assent to
was that he should be my guest till he could find a room for
himself, which he would set about doing at once.

  He was still much agitated, but grew better as he ate a breakfast,
not of prison fare and in a comfortable room. It pleased me to see the
delight he took in all about him; the fireplace with a fire in it; the
easy chairs, the Times, my cat, the red geraniums in the window, to
say nothing of coffee, bread and butter, sausages, marmalade, etc.
Everything was pregnant with the most exquisite pleasure to him. The
plane trees were full of leaf still; he kept rising from the breakfast
table to admire them; never till now, he said, had he known what the
enjoyment of these things really was. He ate, looked, laughed and
cried by turns, with an emotion which I can neither forget nor
describe.

  He told me how his father and mother had lain in wait for him, as he
was about to leave prison. I was furious, and applauded him heartily
for what he had done. He was very grateful to me for this. Other
people, he said, would tell him he ought to think of his father and
mother rather than of himself, and it was such a comfort to find
someone who saw things as he saw them himself. Even if I had
differed from him I should not have said so, but I was of his opinion,
and was almost as much obliged to him for seeing things as I saw them,
as he to me for doing the same kind office by himself. Cordially as
I disliked Theobald and Christina, I was in such a hopeless minority
in the opinion I had formed concerning them that it was pleasant to
find someone who agreed with me.

  Then there came an awful moment for both of us.

  A knock, as of a visitor and not a postman, was heard at my door.

  "Goodness gracious," I exclaimed, "why didn't we sport the oak?
Perhaps it is your father. But surely he would hardly come at this
time of day! Go at once into my bedroom."

  I went to the door, and, sure enough, there were both Theobald and
Christina. I could not refuse to let them in and was obliged to listen
to their version of the story, which agreed substantially with
Ernest's. Christina cried bitterly- Theobald stormed. After about
ten minutes, during which I assured them that I had not the faintest
conception where their son was, I dismissed them both. I saw they
looked suspiciously upon the manifest signs that someone was
breakfasting with me, and parted from me more or less defiantly, but I
got rid of them, and poor Ernest came out again, looking white,
frightened, and upset. He had heard voices, but no more, and did not
feel sure that the enemy might not be gaining over me. We sported
the oak now, and before long he began to recover.

  After breakfast, we discussed the situation. I had taken away his
wardrobe and books from Mrs. Jupp's, but had left his furniture,
pictures, and piano, giving Mrs. Jupp the use of these, so that she
might let her room furnished, in lieu of charge for taking care of the
furniture. As soon as Ernest heard that his wardrobe was at hand, he
got out a suit of clothes he had had before he had been ordained,
and put it on at once, much, as I thought, to the improvement of his
personal appearance.

  Then we went into the subject of his finances. He had had ten pounds
from Pryer only a day or two before he was apprehended, of which
between seven and eight were in his purse when he entered the
prison. This money was restored to him on leaving. He had always
paid cash for whatever he bought, so that there was nothing to be
deducted for debts. Besides this, he had his clothes, books, and
furniture. He could, as I have said, have had L100 from his father
if he had chosen to emigrate, but this both Ernest and I (for he
brought me round to his opinion) agreed it would be better to decline.
This was all he knew of as belonging to him.

  He said he proposed at once taking an unfurnished top back attic
in as quiet a house as he could find, say at three or four shillings a
week, and looking out for work as a tailor. I did not think it much
mattered what he began with, for I felt pretty sure he would ere
long find his way to something that suited him, if he could get a
start with anything at all. The difficulty was how to get him started.
It was not enough that he should be able to cut out and make
clothes- that he should have the organs, so to speak, of a tailor;
he must be put into a tailor's shop and guided for a little while by
someone who knew how and where to help him.

  The rest of the day he spent in looking for a room, which he soon
found, and in familiarising himself with liberty. In the evening I
took him to the Olympic, where Robson was then acting in a burlesque
on Macbeth, Mrs. Keeley, if I remember rightly, taking the part of
Lady Macbeth. In the scene before the murder, Macbeth had said he
could not kill Duncan when he saw his boots upon the landing. Lady
Macbeth put a stop to her husband's hesitation by whipping him up
under her arm, and carrying him off the stage, kicking and
screaming. Ernest laughed till he cried. "What rot Shakespeare is
after this," he exclaimed, involuntarily. I remembered his essay on
the Greek tragedians, and was more epris with than ever.

  Next day he set about looking for employment, and I did not see
him til about five o'clock, when he came and said that he had had no
success. The same thing happened the next day and the day after
that. Wherever he went he was invariably refused and often ordered
point blank out of the shop; I could see by the expression of his
face, though he said nothing, that he was getting frightened, and
began to think I should have to come to the rescue. He said he had
made a great many enquiries and had always been told the same story.
He found that it was easy to keep on in an old line, but very hard
to strike out into a new one.

  He talked to the fishmonger in Leather Lane, where he went to buy
a bloater for his tea, casually as though from curiosity and without
any interested motive. "Sell," said the master of the shop, "why,
nobody wouldn't believe what can be sold by penn'orths and
twopenn'orths if you go the right way to work. Look at whelks, for
instance. Last Saturday night me and my little Emma here, we sold L7
worth of whelks between eight and half past eleven o'clock -and almost
all in penn'orths and twopenn'orths -a few hap'orths, but not many. It
was the steam that did it. We kept aboiling of 'em hot and hot, and
whenever the steam came strong up from the cellar onto the pavement,
the people bought, but whenever the steam went down they left off
buying; so we boiled them over and over again till they was all
sold. That's just where it is; if you know your business you can sell,
if you don't you'll soon make a mess of it. Why, but for the steam,
I should not have sold 10s. worth of whelks all the night through."

  This and many another yarn of kindred substance which he heard from
other people determined Ernest more than ever to stake on tailoring as
the one trade about which he knew anything at all, nevertheless,
here were three or four days gone by and employment seemed as far
off as ever.

  I now did what I ought to have done before, that is to say, I called
on my own tailor whom I had dealt with for over a quarter of a century
and asked his advice. He declared Ernest's plan to be hopeless.
"If," said Mr. Larkins, for this was my tailor's name, "he had begun
at fourteen, it might have done, but no man of twenty-four could stand
being turned to work into a workshop full of tailors; he would not get
on with the men, nor the men with him; you could not expect him to
be 'hail fellow, well met' with them, and you could not expect his
fellow-workmen to like him if he was not. A man must have sunk low
through drink or natural taste for low company, before he could get on
with those who have had such a different training from his own."

  Mr. Larkins said a great deal more and wound up by taking me to
see the place where his own men worked. "This is a paradise," he said,
"compared to most workshops. What gentleman could stand this air,
think you, for a fortnight?"

  I was glad enough to get out of the hot, fetid atmosphere in five
minutes, and saw that there was no brick of Ernest's prison to be
loosened by going and working among tailors in a workshop.

  Mr. Larkins wound up by saying that even if my protege were a much
better workman than he probably was, no master would give him
employment, for fear of creating a bother among the men.

  I left feeling that I ought to have thought of all this myself,
and was more than ever perplexed as to whether I had not better let my
young friend have a few thousand pounds and send him out to the
colonies, when, on my return home at about five o'clock, I found him
waiting for me, radiant, and declaring that he had found all he
wanted.

  CHAPTER LXXI

  IT seems he had been patrolling the streets for the last three or
four nights -I suppose in search of something to do -at any rate
knowing better what he wanted to get than how to get it. Nevertheless,
what he wanted was in reality so easily to be found that it took a
highly educated scholar like himself to be unable to find it. But,
however this may be, he had been scared, and now saw lions where there
were none, and was shocked and frightened, and night after night his
courage had failed him and he had returned to his lodgings in Laystall
Street without accomplishing his errand. He had not taken me into
his confidence upon this matter, and I had not enquired what he did
with himself in the evenings. At last he had concluded that, however
painful it might be to him, he would call on Mrs. Jupp, who he thought
would be able to help him if anyone could. He had been walking moodily
from seven till about nine, and now resolved to go straight to
Ashpit Place and make a mother confessor of Mrs. Jupp without more
delay.

  Of all tasks that could be performed by mortal woman there was
none which Mrs. Jupp would have liked better than the one Ernest was
thinking of imposing upon her; nor do I know that in his scared and
broken-down state he could have done much better than he now proposed.
Mrs. Jupp would have made it very easy for him to open his grief to
her; indeed, she would have coaxed it all out of him before he knew
where he was; but the fates were against Mrs. Jupp, and the meeting
between my hero and his former landlady was postponed sine die, for
his determination had hardly been formed and he had not gone more than
a hundred yards in the direction of Mrs. Jupp's house, when a woman
accosted him.

  He was turning from her, as he had turned from so many others,
when she started back with a movement that aroused his curiosity. He
had hardly seen her face, but being determined to catch sight of it,
followed her as she hurried away, and passed her; then turning round
he saw that she was none other than Ellen, the housemaid who had
been dismissed by his mother eight years previously.

  He ought to have assigned Ellen's unwillingness to see him to its
true cause, but a guilty conscience made him think she had heard of
his disgrace and was turning away from him in contempt. Brave as had
been his resolutions about facing the world, this was more than he was
prepared for. "What! you too shun me, Ellen?" he exclaimed.

  The girl was crying bitterly and did not understand him. "Oh, Master
Ernest," she sobbed, "let me go; you are too good for the likes of
me to speak to now."

  "Why, Ellen," said he, "what nonsense you talk; you haven't been
in prison, have you?"

  "Oh, no, no, no, not so bad as that," she exclaimed passionately.

  "Well, I have," said Ernest, with a forced laugh; "I came out
three or four days ago after six months with hard labour."

  Ellen did not believe him, but she looked at him with a "Lor'!
Master Ernest," and dried her eyes at once. The ice was broken between
them, for as a matter of fact Ellen had been in prison several
times, and though she did not believe Ernest, his merely saying he had
been in prison made her feel more at ease with him. For her there were
two classes of people, those who had been in prison and those who
had not. The first she looked upon as fellow-creatures and more or
less Christians, the second, with few exceptions, she regarded with
suspicion, not wholly unmingled with contempt.

  Then Ernest told her what had happened to him during the last six
months, and by-and-by she believed him.

  "Master Ernest," said she, after they had talked for a quarter of an
hour or so, "there's a place over the way where they sell tripe and
onions. I know you was always very fond of tripe and onions; let's
go over and have some, and we can talk better there."

  So the pair crossed the street and entered the tripe shop; Ernest
ordered supper.

  "And how is your pore dear mamma, and your dear papa, Master
Ernest.?" said Ellen, who had now recovered herself and was quite at
home with my hero. "Oh, dear, dear me," she said, "I did love your pa;
he was a good gentleman, he was, and your ma too; it would do anyone
good to live with her, I'm sure."

  Ernest was surprised and hardly knew what to say. He had expected to
find Ellen indignant at the way she had been treated, and inclined
to lay the blame of her having fallen to her present state at his
father's and mother's door. It was not so. Her only recollection of
Battersby was as of a place where she had had plenty to eat and drink,
not too much hard work, and where she had not been scolded. When she
heard that Ernest had quarrelled with his father and mother she
assumed as a matter of course that the fault must lie entirely with
Ernest.

  "Oh, your pore, pore ma!" said Ellen. "She was always so very fond
of you, Master Ernest: you was always her favourite; I can't bear to
think of anything between you and her. To think now of the way she
used to have me into the dining-room and teach me my catechism, that
she did! Oh, Master Ernest, you really must go and make it all up with
her; indeed you must."

  Ernest felt rueful, but he had resisted so valiantly already that
the devil might have saved himself the trouble of trying to get at him
through Ellen in the matter of his father and mother. He changed the
subject, and the pair warmed to one another as they had their tripe
and pots of beer. Of all people in the world Ellen was perhaps the one
to whom Ernest could have spoken most freely at this juncture. He told
her what he thought he could have told to no one else.

  "You know, Ellen," he concluded, "I had learnt as a boy things
that I ought not to have learnt, and had never had a chance of that
which would have set me straight."

  "Gentlefolks is always like that," said Ellen musingly.

  "I believe you are right, but I am no longer a gentleman, Ellen, and
I don't see why I should be 'like that' any longer, my dear. I want
you to help me to be like something else as soon as possible."

  "Lor'! Master Ernest, whatever can you be meaning?"

   The pair soon afterwards left the eating-house and walked up Fetter
Lane together.

  Ellen had had hard times since she had left Battersby, but they
had left little trace upon her.

  Ernest saw only the fresh-looking, smiling face, the dimpled
cheek, the clear blue eyes and lovely, sphinx-like lips which he had
remembered as a boy. At nineteen she had looked older than she was,
now she looked much younger; indeed she looked hardly older than
when Ernest had last seen her, and it would have taken a man of much
greater experience than he possessed to suspect how completely she had
fallen from her first estate. It never occurred to him that the poor
condition of her wardrobe was due to her passion for ardent spirits,
and that first and last she had served five or six times as much
time in gaol as he had. He ascribed the poverty of her attire to the
attempts to keep herself respectable, which Ellen during supper had
more than once alluded to. He had been charmed with the way in which
she had declared that a pint of beer would make her tipsy, and had
only allowed herself to be forced into drinking the whole after a good
deal of remonstrance. To him she appeared a very angel dropped from
the sky, and all the more easy to get on with for being a fallen one.

  As he walked up Fetter Lane with her towards Laystall Street, he
thought of the wonderful goodness of God towards him in throwing in
his way the very person of all others whom he was most glad to see,
and whom, of all others, in spite of her living so near him, he
might have never fallen in with but for a happy accident.

  When people get it into their heads that they are being specially
favoured by the Almighty, they had better as a general rule mind their
p's and q's, and when they think they see the devil's drift with
more special clearness, let them remember that he has had much more
experience than they have, and is probably meditating mischief.

  Already during supper the thought that in Ellen at last he had found
a woman whom he could love well enough to wish to live with and
marry had flitted across his mind, and the more they had chatted the
more reasons kept suggesting themselves for thinking that what might
be folly in ordinary cases would not be folly in his.

  He must marry someone; that was already settled. He could not
marry a lady; that was absurd. He must marry a poor woman. Yes, but
a fallen one? Was he not fallen himself? Ellen would fall no more.
He had only to look at her to be sure of this. He could not live
with her in sin, not for more than the shortest time that could elapse
before their marriage; he no longer believed in the supernatural
element of Christianity, but the Christian morality at any rate was
indisputable. Besides, they might have children, and a stigma would
rest upon them. Whom had he to consult but himself now? His father and
mother never need know, and even if they did, they should be
thankful to see him married to any woman who would make him happy as
Ellen would. As for not being able to afford marriage, how did poor
people do? Did not a good wife rather help matters than not? Where one
could live two could do so, and if Ellen was three or four years older
than he was- well, what was that?

  Have you, gentle reader, ever loved at first sight? When you fell in
love at first sight, how long, let me ask, did it take you to become
ready to fling every other consideration to the winds except that of
obtaining possession of the loved one? Or rather, how long would it
have taken you if you had had no father or mother, nothing to lose
in the way of money, position, friends, professional advancement, or
what not, and if the object of your affections was as free from all
these impedimenta as you were yourself.?

  If you were a young John Stuart Mill, perhaps it would have taken
you some time, but suppose your nature was Quixotic, impulsive,
altruistic, guileless; suppose you were a hungry man starving for
something to love and lean upon, for one whose burdens you might bear,
and who might help you to bear yours. Suppose you were down on your
luck, still stunned by a horrible shock, and this bright vista of a
happy future floated suddenly before you, how long under these
circumstances do you think you would reflect before you would decide
on embracing what chance had thrown in your way?

  It did not take my hero long, for before he got past the ham and
beef shop near the top of Fetter Lane, he had told Ellen that she must
come home with him and live with him till they could get married,
which they would do upon the first day that the law allowed.

  I think the devil must have chuckled and made tolerably sure of
his game this time.

  CHAPTER LXXII

  ERNEST told Ellen of his difficulty about finding employment. "But
what do what do you think of going into a shop for, my dear," said
Ellen. "Why not take a little shop yourself?"

  Ernest asked how much this would cost. Ellen told him that he
might take a house in some small street, say near the "Elephant and
Castle," for 17s. or 18s. a week, and let off the two top floors for
10s., keeping the back parlour and shop for themselves. If he could
raise five or six pounds to buy some second-hand clothes to stock
the shop with, they could mend them and clean them, and she could look
after the women's clothes while he did the men's. Then he could mend
and make, if he could get the orders.

  They could soon make a business of L2 a week in this way; she had
a friend who began like that and had now moved to a better shop, where
she made L5 or L6 a week at least- and she, Ellen, had done the
greater part of the buying and selling herself.

  Here was a new light indeed. It was as though he had got his L5000
back again all of a sudden, and perhaps ever so much more later on
into the bargain. Ellen seemed more than ever to be his good genius.

  She went out and got a few rashers of bacon for his and her
breakfast. She cooked them much more nicely than he had been able to
do, and laid breakfast for him and made coffee, and some nice brown
toast. Ernest had been his own cook and housemaid for the last few
days and had not given himself satisfaction. Here he suddenly found
himself with someone to wait on him again. Not only had Ellen
pointed out to him how he could earn a living when no one except
himself had known how to advise him, but here she was so pretty and
smiling, looking after even his comforts, and restoring him
practically in all respects that he much cared about to the position
which he had lost- or rather putting him in one that he already
liked much better. No wonder he was radiant when he came to explain
his plans to me.

  He had some difficulty in telling all that had happened. He
hesitated, blushed, hummed, and hawed. Misgivings began to cross his
mind when he found himself obliged to tell his story to someone
else. He felt inclined to slur things over, but I wanted to get at the
facts, so I helped him over the bad places, and questioned him tin I
had got out pretty nearly the whole story as I have given it above.

  I hope I did not show it, but I was very angry. I had begun to
like Ernest. I don't know why, but I never have heard that any young
man to whom I had become attached was going to get married without
hating his intended instinctively, though I had never seen her; I have
observed that most bachelors feel the same thing, though we are
generally at some pains to hide the fact. Perhaps it is because we
know we ought to have got married ourselves. Ordinarily we say we
are delighted- in the present case I did not feel obliged to do
this, though I made an effort to conceal my vexation. That a young man
of much promise who was heir also to what was now a handsome
fortune, should fling himself away upon such a person as Ellen was
quite too provoking, and the more so because of the unexpectedness
of the whole affair.

  I begged him not to marry Ellen yet- not at least until he had known
her for a longer time. He would not hear of it; he had given his word,
and if he had not given it he should go and give it at once. I had
hitherto found him upon most matters singularly docile and easy to
manage, but on this point I could do nothing with him. His recent
victory over his father and mother had increased his strength, and I
was nowhere. I would have told him of his true position, but I knew
very well that this would only make him more bent on having his own
way- for with so much money why should he not please himself? I said
nothing, therefore, on this head, and yet all that I could urge went
for very little with one who believed himself to be an artisan or
nothing.

  Really from his own standpoint there was nothing very outrageous
in what he was doing. He had known and been very fond of Ellen years
before. He knew her to come of respectable people, and to have borne a
good character, and to have been universally liked at Battersby. She
was then a quick, smart, hard-working girl -and a very pretty one.
When at last they met again she was on her best behaviour- in fact,
she was modesty and demureness itself. What wonder, then, that his
imagination should fail to realise the changes that eight years must
have worked? He knew too much against himself, and was too bankrupt in
love to be squeamish; if Ellen had been only what he thought her,
and if his prospects had been in reality no better than he believed
they were, I do not know that there is anything much more imprudent in
what Ernest proposed than there is in half the marriages that take
place every day.

  There was nothing for it, however, but to make the best of the
inevitable, so I wished my young friend good fortune, and told him
he could have whatever money he wanted to start his shop with, if what
he had in hand was not sufficient. He thanked me, asked me to be
kind enough to let him do all my mending and repairing, and to get him
any other like orders that I could, and left me to my own reflections.

  I was even more angry when he was gone than I had been while he
was with me. His frank, boyish face had beamed with a happiness that
had rarely visited it. Except at Cambridge he had hardly known what
happiness meant, and even there his life had been clouded as of a
man for whom wisdom at the greatest of its entrances was quite shut
out. I had seen enough of the world and of him to have observed
this, but it was impossible, or I thought it had been impossible,
for me to have helped him.

  Whether I ought to have tried to help him or not I do not know,
but I am sure that the young of all animals often do want help upon
matters about which anyone would say a priori that there should be
no difficulty. One would think that a young seal would want no
teaching how to swim, nor yet a bird to fly, but in practice a young
seal drowns if put out of its depth before its parents have taught
it to swim; and so again, even the young hawk must be taught to fly
before it can do so.

  I grant that the tendency of the times is to exaggerate the good
which teaching can do, but in trying to teach too much, in most
matters, we have neglected others in respect of which a little
sensible teaching would do no harm.

  I know it is the fashion to say that young people must find out
things for themselves, and so they probably would if they had fair
play to the extent of not having obstacles put in their way. But
they seldom have fair play; as a general rule they meet with foul
play, and foul play from those who live by selling them stones made
into a great variety of shapes and sizes so as to form a tolerable
imitation of bread.

  Some are lucky enough to meet with few obstacles, some are plucky
enough to override them, but in the greater number of cases, if people
are saved at all they are saved so as by fire.

  While Ernest was with me Ellen was looking out for a shop on the
south side of the Thames near the "Elephant and Castle," which was
then almost a new and a very rising neighbourhood. By one o'clock
she had found several from which a selection was to be made, and
before night the pair had made their choice.

  Ernest brought Ellen to me. I did not want to see her, but could not
well refuse. He had laid out a few of his shillings upon her wardrobe,
so that she was neatly dressed, and, indeed, she looked very pretty
and so good that I could hardly be surprised at Ernest's infatuation
when the other circumstances of the case were taken into
consideration. Of course we hated one another instinctively from the
first moment we set eyes on one another, but we each told Ernest
that we had been most favourably impressed.

  Then I was taken to see the shop. An empty house is like a stray dog
or a body from which life has departed. Decay sets in at once in every
part of it, and what mould and wind and weather would spare, street
boys commonly destroy. Ernest's shop in its untenanted state was a
dirty, unsavoury place enough. The house was not old, but it had
been run up by a jerry-builder and its constitution had no stamina
whatever. It was only by being kept warm and quiet that it would
remain in health for many months together. Now it had been empty for
some weeks and the cats had got in by night, while the boys had broken
the windows by day. The parlour floor was covered with stones and
dirt, and in the area was a dead dog which had been killed in the
street and been thrown down into the first unprotected place that
could be found. There was a strong smell throughout the house, but
whether it was bugs, or rats, or cats, or drains, or a compound of all
four, I could not determine. The sashes did not fit, the flimsy
doors hung badly; the skirting was gone in several places, and there
were not a few holes in the floor; the locks were loose, and paper was
torn and dirty; the stairs were weak and one felt the treads give as
one went up them.

  Over and above these drawbacks the house had an ill name, by
reason of the fact that the wife of the last occupant had hanged
herself in it not very many weeks previously. She had set down a
bloater before the fire for her husband's tea, and had made him a
round of toast. She then left the room as though about to return to it
shortly, but instead of doing so she went into the back kitchen and
hanged herself without a word. It was this which had kept the house
empty so long in spite of its excellent position as a corner shop. The
last tenant had left immediately after the inquest, and if the owner
had had it done up then people would have got over the tragedy that
had been enacted in it, but the combination of bad condition and bad
fame had hindered many from taking it, who, like Ellen, could see that
it had great business capabilities. Almost anything would have sold
there, but it happened also that there was no second-hand clothes shop
in close proximity, so that everything combined in its favour,
except its filthy state and its reputation.

  When I saw it, I thought I would rather die than live in such an
awful place- but then I had been living in the Temple for the last
five-and-twenty years. Ernest was lodging in Laystall Street and had
just come out of prison; before this he had lived in Ashpit Place,
so that this house had no terrors for him provided he could get it
done up. The difficulty was that the landlord was hard to move in this
respect. It ended in my finding the money to do everything that was
wanted, and taking a lease of the house for five years at the same
rental as that paid by the last occupant. I then sublet it to
Ernest, of course taking care that it was put more efficiently into
repair than his landlord was at all likely to have put it.

  A week later I called and found everything so completely transformed
that I should hardly have recognised the house. All the ceilings had
been whitewashed, all the rooms papered, the broken glass hacked out
and reinstated, the defective wood-work renewed, all the sashes,
cupboards and doors had been painted. The drains had been thoroughly
overhauled, everything in fact that could be done had been done, and
the rooms now looked as cheerful as they had been forbidding when I
had last seen them. The people who had done the repairs were
supposed to have cleaned the house down before leaving, but Ellen
had given it another scrub from top to bottom herself after they
were gone, and it was as clean as a new pin. I almost felt as though I
could have lived in it myself, and as for Ernest, he was in the
seventh heaven. He said it was all my doing and Ellen's.

  There was already a counter in the shop and a few fittings, so
that nothing now remained but to get some stock and set them out for
sale. Ernest said he could not begin better than by selling his
clerical wardrobe and his books, for though the shop was intended
especially for the sale of second-hand clothes, yet Ellen said there
was no reason why they should not sell a few books too; so a beginning
was to be made by selling the books he had had at school and college
at about one shilling a volume, taking them all round, and I have
heard him say that he learned more that proved of practical use to him
through stocking his books on a bench in front of his shop and selling
them, than he had done from all the years of study which he had
bestowed upon their contents.

  For the enquiries that were made of him, whether he had such and
such a book, taught him what he could sell and what he could not;
how much he could get for this, and how much for that. Having made
ever such a little beginning with books, he took to attending book
sales as well as clothes sales, and ere long this branch of his
business became no less important than the tailoring, and would, I
have no doubt, have been the one which he would have settled down to
exclusively, if he had been called upon to remain a tradesman; but
this is anticipating.

  I made a contribution and a stipulation. Ernest wanted to sink the
gentleman completely, until such time as he could work his way up
again. If he had been left to himself he would have lived with Ellen
in the shop back parlour and kitchen, and have let out both the
upper floors according to his original programme. I did not want
him, however, to cut himself adrift from music, letters, and polite
life, and feared that unless he had some kind of den into which he
could retire he would ere long become the tradesman and nothing
else. I therefore insisted on taking the first floor front and back
myself, and furnishing them with the things which had been left at
Mrs. Jupp's. I bought these things of him for a small sum and had them
moved into his present abode.

  I went to Mrs. Jupp's to arrange all this, as Ernest did not like
going to Ashpit Place. I had half expected to find the furniture
sold and Mrs. Jupp gone, but it was not so; with all her faults the
poor old woman was perfectly honest.

  I told her that Pryer had taken all Ernest's money and run away with
it. She hated Pryer. "I never knew anyone," she exclaimed, "as
white-livered in the face as that Pryer; he hasn't got an upright vein
in his whole body. Why, all that time when he used to come
breakfasting with Mr. Pontifex morning after morning, it took me to
a perfect shadow the way he carried on. There was no doing anything to
please him right. First I used to get them eggs and bacon, and he
didn't like that; and then I got him a bit of fish, and he didn't like
that, or else it was too dear, and you know fish is dearer than
ever; and then I got him a bit of German, and he said it rose on
him; then I tried sausages, and he said they hit him in the eye
worse even than German; oh! how I used to wander my room and fret
about it inwardly and cry for hours, and all about them paltry
breakfasts- and it wasn't Mr. Pontifex; he'd like anything that anyone
chose to give him.

  "And so the piano's to go," she continued. "What beautiful tunes Mr.
Pontifex did play upon it, to be sure; and there was one I liked
better than any I ever heard. I was in the room when he played it once
and when I said, 'Oh, Mr. Pontifex, that's the kind of woman I am,' he
said, 'No, Mrs. Jupp, it isn't, for this tune is old, but no one can
say you are old.' But, bless you, he meant nothing by it, it was
only his mucky flattery."

  Like myself, she was vexed at his getting married. She didn't like
his being married, and she didn't like his not being married- but,
anyhow, it was Ellen's fault, not his, and she hoped he would be
happy. "But after all," she concluded, "it ain't you and it ain't
me, and it ain't him and it ain't her. It's what you must call the
fortunes of matterimony, for there ain't no other word for it."

  In the course of the afternoon the furniture arrived at Ernest's new
abode. In the first floor we placed the piano, table, pictures,
bookshelves, a couple of armchairs, and all the little household
gods which he had brought from Cambridge. The back room was
furnished exactly as his bedroom at Ashpit Place had been- new
things being got for the bridal apartment downstairs. These two
first-floor rooms I insisted on retaining as my own, but Ernest was to
use them whenever he pleased; he was never to sublet even the bedroom,
but was to keep it for himself in case his wife should be ill at any
time, or in case he might be ill himself.

  In less than a fortnight from the time of his leaving prison all
these arrangements had been completed, and Ernest felt that he had
again linked himself on to the life which he had led before his
imprisonment- with a few important differences, however, which were
greatly to his advantage. He was no longer a clergyman; he was about
to marry a woman to whom he was much attached, and he had parted
company for ever with his father and mother.

  True, he had lost all his money, his reputation, and his position as
a gentleman; he had, in fact, had to burn his house down in order to
get his roast sucking pig; but if asked whether he would rather be
as he was now or as he was on the day before his arrest, he would
not have had a moment's hesitation in preferring his present to his
past. If his present could only have been purchased at the expense
of all that he had gone through, it was still worth purchasing at
the price, and he would go through it all again if necessary. The loss
of the money was the worst, but Ellen said she was sure they would get
on, and she knew all about it. As for the loss of reputation-
considering that he had Ellen and me left, it did not come to much.

  I saw the house on the afternoon of the day on which all was
finished, and there remained nothing but to buy some stock and begin
selling. when was gone, after he had had his tea, he stole up to his
castle- the first floor front. He lit his pipe and sat down to the
piano. He played Handel for an hour or so, and then set himself to the
table to read and write. He took all his sermons and all the
theological works he had begun to compose during the time he had
been a clergyman and put them in the fire; as he saw them consume he
felt as though he had got rid of another incubus. Then he took up some
of the little pieces he had begun to write during the latter part of
his undergraduate life at Cambridge, and began to cut them about and
rewrite them. As he worked quietly at these till he heard the clock
strike ten and it was time to go to bed, he felt that he was now not
only happy but supremely happy.

  Next day Ellen took him to Debenham's auction rooms, and they
surveyed the lots of clothes which were hung up all round the
auction room to be viewed. Ellen had had sufficient experience to know
about how much each lot ought to fetch; she overhauled lot after
lot, and valued it; in a very short time Ernest himself began to
have a pretty fair idea what each lot should go for, and before the
morning was over valued a dozen lots running at prices about which
Ellen said he would not hurt if he could get them for that.

  So far from disliking this work or finding it tedious, he liked it
very much, indeed he would have liked anything which did not overtax
his physical strength, and which held out a prospect of bringing him
in money. Ellen would not let him buy anything on the occasion of this
sale; she said he had better see one sale first and watch how prices
actually went. So at twelve o'clock when the sale began, he saw the
lots sold which he and Ellen had marked, and by the time the sale
was over he knew enough to be able to bid with safety whenever he
should actually want to buy. Knowledge of this sort is very easily
acquired by anyone who is in bona fide want of it.

  But Ellen did not want him to buy at auctions- not much at least
at present. Private dealing, she said, was best. If I, for example,
had any cast-off clothes, he was to buy them from my laundress, and
get a connection with other laundresses to whom he might give a trifle
more than they got at present for whatever clothes their masters might
give them, and yet make a good profit. If gentlemen sold their things,
he was to try and get them to sell to him. He flinched at nothing;
perhaps he would have flinched if he had had any idea how outre his
proceedings were, but the very ignorance of the world which had ruined
him up till now, by a happy irony began to work its own cure. If
some malignant fairy had meant to curse him in this respect, she had
overdone her malice. He did not know he was doing anything strange. He
only knew that he had no money, and must provide for himself, a
wife, and a possible family. More than this, he wanted to have some
leisure in an evening, so that he might read and write and keep up his
music. If anyone would show him how he could do better than he was
doing, he should be much obliged to them, but to himself it seemed
that he was doing sufficiently well; for at the end of the first
week the pair found they had made a clear profit of L3. In a few weeks
this had increased to L4, and by the New Year they had made a profit
of L5 in one week.

  Ernest had by this time been married some two months, for he had
stuck to his original plan of marrying Ellen on the first day he could
legally do so. This date was a little delayed by the change of abode
from Laystall Street to Blackfriars, but on the first day that it
could be done it was done. He had never had more than L250 a year,
even in the times of his affluence, so that a profit of L5 a week,
if it could be maintained steadily, would place him where he had
been as far as income went, and, though he should have to feed two
mouths instead of one, yet his expenses in other ways were so much
curtailed by his changed social position, that, take it all round, his
income was practically what it had been a twelvemonth before. The next
thing to do was to increase it, and put by money.

  Prosperity depends, as we all know, in great measure upon energy and
good sense, but it also depends not a little upon pure luck that is to
say, upon connections which are in such a tangle that it is more
easy to say that they do not exist than to try to trace them. A
neighbourhood may have an excellent reputation as being likely to be a
rising one, and yet may become suddenly eclipsed by another, which
no one would have thought so promising. A fewer hospital may divert
the stream of business, or a new station attract it; so little,
indeed, can be certainly known, that it is better not to try to know
more than is in everybody's mouth, and to leave the rest to chance.

  Luck, which certainly had not been too kind to my hero hitherto. now
seemed to have taken him under her protection. The neighbourhood
prospered, and he with it. It seemed as though he no sooner bought a
thing and put it into his shop, than it sold with a profit of from
thirty to fifty per cent. He learned bookkeeping, and watched his
accounts carefully, following up any success immediately; he began
to buy other things besides clothes- such as books, music, odds and
ends of furniture, etc. Whether it was luck or business aptitude, or
energy, or the politeness with which he treated all his customers, I
cannot say- but to the surprise of no one more than himself, he went
ahead faster than he had anticipated, even in his wildest dreams,
and by Easter was established in a strong position as the owner of a
business which was bringing him in between four and five hundred a
year, and which he understood how to extend.

  CHAPTER LXXIII

  ELLEN and he got on capitally, all the better, perhaps, because
the disparity between them was so great, that neither did Ellen want
to be elevated, nor did Ernest want to elevate her. He was very fond
of her, and very kind to her; they had interests which they could
serve in common; they had antecedents with a good part of which each
was familiar; they had each of them excellent tempers, and this was
enough. Ellen did not seem jealous at Ernest's preferring to sit the
greater part of his time after the day's work was done in the first
floor front where I occasionally visited him. She might have come
and sat with him if she had liked, but, somehow or other, she
generally found enough to occupy her down below. She had the tact also
to encourage him to go out of an evening whenever he had a mind,
without in the least caring that he should take her too- and this
suited Ernest very well. He was, I should say, much happier in his
married life than people generally are.

  At first it had been very painful to him to meet any of his old
friends, as he sometimes accidentally did, but this soon passed;
either they cut him, or he cut them; it was not nice being cut for the
first time or two, but after that, it became rather pleasant than not,
and when he began to see that he was going ahead, he cared very little
what people might say about his antecedents. The ordeal is a painful
one, but if a man's moral and intellectual constitution is naturally
sound, there is nothing which will give him so much strength of
character as having been well cut.

  It was easy for him to keep his expenditure down, for his tastes
were not luxurious. He liked theatres, outings into the country on a
Sunday, and tobacco, but he did not care for much else, except writing
and music. As for the usual run of concerts, he hated them. He
worshipped Handel; he liked Offenbach, and the airs that went about
the streets, but he cared for nothing between these two extremes.
Music, therefore, cost him little. As for theatres, I got him and
Ellen as many orders as they liked, so these cost them nothing. The
Sunday outings were a small item; for a shilling or two he could get a
return ticket to some place far enough out of town to give him a
good walk and a thorough change for the day. Ellen went with him the
first few times, but she said she found it too much for her, there
were a few of her old friends whom she should sometimes like to see,
and they and he, she said, would not hit it off perhaps too well, so
it would be better for him to go alone. This seemed so sensible, and
suited Ernest so exactly that he readily fell into it, nor did he
suspect dangers which were apparent enough to me when I heard how
she had treated the matter. I kept silence, however, and for a time
all continued to go well. As I have said, one of his chief pleasures
was in writing. If a man carries with him a little sketch book and
is continually jotting down sketches, he has the artistic instinct;
a hundred things may hinder his due development, but the instinct is
there. The literary instinct may be known by a man's keeping a small
note-book in his waistcoat pocket, into which he jots down anything
that strikes him, or any good thing that he hears said, or a reference
to any passage which he thinks will come in useful to him. Ernest
had such a note-book always with him. Even when he was at Cambridge he
had begun the practice without anyone's having suggested it to him.
These notes he copied out from time to time into a book, which as they
accumulated, he was driven into indexing approximately, as he went
along. When I found out this, I knew that he had the literary
instinct, and when I saw his notes I began to hope great things of
him.

  For a long time I was disappointed. He was kept back by the nature
of the subjects he chose- which were generally metaphysical. In vain I
tried to get him away from these to matters which had a greater
interest for the general public. When I begged him to try his hand
at some pretty, graceful little story which should be full of whatever
people knew and liked best, he would immediately set to work upon a
treatise to show the grounds on which all belief rested.

  "You are stirring mud," said I, "or poking at a sleeping dog. You
are trying to make people resume consciousness about things, which,
with sensible men, have already passed into the unconscious stage. The
men whom you would disturb are in front of you, and not, as you fancy,
behind you; it is you who are the lagger, not they."

  He could not see it. He said he was engaged on an essay upon the
famous quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus of St. Vincent de
Lerins. This was the more provoking because he showed himself able
to do better things if he had liked.

  I was then at work upon my burlesque, "The Impatient Griselda,"
and was sometimes at my wits' end for a piece of business or a
situation; he gave me many suggestions, all of which were marked by
excellent good sense. Nevertheless I could not prevail with him to put
philosophy on one side, and was obliged to leave him to himself.

  For a long time, as I have said, his choice of subjects continued to
be such as I could not approve. He was continually studying scientific
and metaphysical writers, in the hope of either finding or making
for himself philosopher's stone in the shape of a system which
should go on all fours under all circumstances, instead of being
liable to be upset at every touch and turn, as every system yet
promulgated has turned out to be.

  He kept to the pursuit of this will-o'-the-wisp so long that I
gave up hope, and set him down as another fly that had been caught, as
it were, by a piece of paper daubed over with some sticky stuff that
had not even the merit of being sweet, but to my surprise he at last
declared that he was satisfied, and had found what he wanted.

  I supposed that he had only hit upon some new "Lo, here!" when to my
relief, he told me that he had concluded that no system which should
go perfectly upon all fours was possible, inasmuch as no one could get
behind Bishop Berkeley, and therefore no absolutely incontrovertible
first premise could ever be laid. Having found this he was just as
well pleased as if he had found the most perfect system imaginable.
All he wanted, he said, was to know which way it was to be- that is to
say whether a system was possible or not, and if possible then what
the system was to be. Having found out that no system based on
absolute certainty was possible he was contented.

  I had only a very vague idea who Bishop Berkeley was, but was
thankful to him for having defended us from an incontrovertible
first premise. I am afraid I said a few words implying that after a
great deal of trouble he had arrived at the conclusion which
sensible people reach without bothering their brains so much.

  He said: "Yes, but I was not born sensible. A child of ordinary
powers learns to walk at a year or two old without knowing much
about it; failing ordinary powers he had better learn laboriously than
never learn at all. I am sorry I was not stronger, but to do as I
did was my only chance."

  He looked so meek that I was vexed with myself for having said
what I had, more especially when I remembered his bringing-up, which
had doubtless done much to impair his power of taking a common-sense
view of things. He continued--

  "I see it all now. The people like Towneley are the only ones who
know anything that is worth knowing, and like that of course I can
never be. But to make Towneleys possible there must be hewers of
wood and drawers of water- men in fact through whom conscious
knowledge must pass before it can reach those who can apply it
gracefully and instinctively as the Towneleys can. I am a hewer of
wood, but if I accept the position frankly and do not set up to be a
Towneley, it does not matter."

  He still, therefore, stuck to science instead of turning to
literature proper as I hoped he would have done, but he confined
himself henceforth to enquiries on specific subjects concerning
which an increase of our knowledge- as he said- was possible. Having
in fact, after infinite vexation of spirit, arrived at a conclusion
which cut at the roots of all knowledge, he settled contentedly down
to the pursuit of knowledge, and has pursued it ever since in spite of
occasional excursions into the regions of literature proper.

  But this is anticipating, and may perhaps also convey a wrong
impression, for from the outset he did occasionally turn his attention
to work which must be more properly cared literary than either
scientific or metaphysical.

  CHAPTER LXXIV

  ABOUT six months after he had set up his shop his prosperity had
reached its climax. It seemed even then as though he were likely to go
ahead no less fast than heretofore, and I doubt not that he would have
done so, if success or non-success had depended upon himself alone.
Unfortunately he was not the only person to be reckoned with.

  One morning he had gone out to attend some sales, leaving his wife
perfectly well, as usual in good spirits, and looking very pretty.
When he came back he found her sitting on a chair in the back parlour,
with her hair over her face, sobbing and crying as though her heart
would break. She said she had been frightened in the morning by a
man who had pretended to be a customer, and had threatened her
unless she gave him some things, and she had had to give them to him
in order to save herself from violence; she had been in hysterics ever
since the man had gone. This was her story, but her speech was so
incoherent that it was not easy to make out what she said. Ernest knew
she was with child, and thinking this might have something to do
with the matter, would have sent for a doctor if Ellen had not
begged him not to do so.

  Anyone who had had experience of drunken people would have seen at a
glance what the matter was, but my hero knew nothing about them-
nothing, that is to say, about the drunkenness of the habitual
drunkard, which shows itself very differently from that of one who
gets drunk only once in a way. The idea that his wife could drink
had never even crossed his mind, indeed she always made a fuss about
taking more than a very little beer, and never touched spirits. He did
not know much more about hysterics than he did about drunkenness,
but he had always heard that women who were about to become mothers
were liable to be easily upset and were often rather flighty, so he
was not greatly surprised, and thought he had settled the matter by
registering the discovery that being about to become a father has
its troublesome as well as its pleasant side.

  The great change in Ellen's life consequent upon her meeting
Ernest and getting married had for a time actually sobered her by
shaking her out of her old ways. Drunkenness is so much a matter of
habit, and habit so much a matter of surroundings, that if you
completely change the surroundings you will sometimes get rid of the
drunkenness altogether. Ellen had intended remaining always sober
henceforward, and never having had so long a steady fit before,
believed she was now cured. So she perhaps would have been if she
had seen none of her old acquaintances. When, however, her new life
was beginning to lose its newness, and when her old acquaintances came
to see her, her present surroundings became more like her past, and on
this she herself began to get like her past too. At first she only got
a little tipsy and struggled against a relapse; but it was no use, she
soon lost the heart to fight, and now her object was not to try to
keep sober, but to get gin without her husband's finding it out.

  So the hysterics continued, and she managed to make her husband
still think that they were due to her being about to become a
mother. The worse her attacks were, the more devoted he became in
his attention to her. At last he insisted that a doctor should see
her. The doctor of course took in the situation at a glance, but
said nothing to Ernest except in such a guarded way that he did not
understand the hints that were thrown out to him. He was much too
downright and matter-of-fact to be quick at taking hints of this sort.
He hoped that as soon as his wife's confinement was over she would
regain her health and had no thought save how to spare her as far as
possible till that happy time should come.

  In the mornings she was generally better, as long that is to say
as Ernest remained at home; but he had to go out buying, and on his
return would generally find that she had had another attack as soon as
he had left the house. At times she would laugh and cry for half an
hour together, at others she would lie in a semi-comatose state upon
state upon the bed, and when he came back he would find that the
shop had been neglected and all the work of the household left undone.
Still he took it for granted that this was all part of the usual
course when women were going to become mothers, and when Ellen's share
of the work settled down more and more upon his own shoulders he did
it all and drudged away without a murmur. Nevertheless, he began to
feel in a vague way more as he had felt in Ashpit Place, at
Roughborough, or at Battersby, and to lose the buoyancy of spirits
which had made another man of him during the first six months of his
married life.

  It was not only that he had to do so much household work, for even
the cooking, cleaning up slops, bed-making, and fire-fighting ere long
devolved upon him, but his business no longer prospered. He could
buy as hitherto, but Ellen seemed unable to sell as she had sold at
first. The fact was that she sold as well as ever, but kept back
part of the proceeds in order to buy gin, and she did this more and
more till even the unsuspecting Ernest ought to have seen that she was
not telling the truth. When she sold better- that is to say when she
did not think it safe to keep back more than a certain amount, she got
money out of him on the plea that she had a longing for this or
that, and that it would perhaps irreparably damage the baby if her
longing was denied her. All seemed right, reasonable, and unavoidable,
nevertheless Ernest saw that until the confinement was over he was
likely to have a hard time of it. All, however, would then come
right again.

  CHAPTER LXXV

  IN the month of September, 1860, a girl was born, and Ernest was
proud and happy. The birth of the child, and a rather alarming talk
which the doctor had given to Ellen sobered her for a few weeks, and
it really seemed as though his hopes were about to be fulfilled. The
expenses of his wife's confinement were heavy, and he was obliged to
trench upon his savings, but he had no doubt about soon recouping
this, now that Ellen was herself again; for a time indeed his business
did revive a little, nevertheless it seemed as though the interruption
to his prosperity had in some way broken the spell of good luck
which had attended him in the outset; he was still sanguine,
however, and worked night and day with a will, but there was no more
music, or reading, or writing now. His Sunday outings were put a
stop to, and but for the first floor being let to myself, he would
have lost his citadel there too, but he seldom used it, for Ellen
had to wait more and more upon the baby, and, as a consequence, Ernest
had to wait more and more upon Ellen.

  One afternoon, about a couple of months after the baby had been
born, and just as my unhappy hero was beginning to feel more hopeful
and therefore better able to bear his burdens, he returned from a
sale, and found Ellen in the same hysterical condition that he had
found her in spring. She said she was again with child, and Ernest
still believed her.

  All the troubles of the preceding six months began again then and
there, and grew worse and worse continually. Money not come in
quickly, for Ellen cheated him by keeping it back, and dealing
improperly with the goods he bought. When it did come in she got it
out of him as before on pretexts which it seemed inhuman to enquire
into. It was always the same story. By-and-by a new feature began to
show itself. Ernest had inherited his father's punctuality and
exactness as regards money; he liked to know the worst of what he
had to pay at once; he hated having expenses sprung upon him which
if not foreseen might and ought to have been so, but now bills began
to be brought to him for things ordered by Ellen without his
knowledge, or for which he had already given her the money. This was
awful, and even Ernest turned. When he remonstrated with her- not
for having bought the things, but for having said nothing to him about
the money's being owing -Ellen met him with hysteria and there was a
scene. She had now pretty well forgotten the hard times she had
known when she had been on her own resources and reproached him
downright with having married her- on that moment the scales fell from
Ernest's eyes as they had fallen when Towneley had said, "No, no, no."
He said nothing, but he woke up once for all to the fact that he had
made a mistake in marrying. A touch had again come which had
revealed him to himself.

  He went upstairs to the disused citadel, flung himself into the
armchair, and covered his face with his hands.

  He still did not know that his wife drank, but he could no longer
trust her, and his dream of happiness was over. He had been saved from
the Church- so as by fire, but still saved- but what could now save
him from his marriage? He had made the same mistake that he had made
in wedding himself to the Church, but with a hundred times worse
results. He had learnt nothing by experience: he was an Esau -one of
those wretches whose hearts the Lord had hardened, who, having ears,
heard not, having eyes saw not, and who should find no place for
repentance though they sought it even with tears.

  Yet had he not on the whole tried to find out what the ways of God
were, and to follow them in singleness of heart? To a certain
extent, yes; but he had not been thorough; he had not given up all for
God. He knew that very well; he had done little as compared with
what he might and ought to have done, but still if he was being
punished for this, God was a hard taskmaster, and one, too, who was
continually pouncing out upon his unhappy creatures from ambuscades.
In marrying Ellen he had meant to avoid a life of sin, and to take the
course he believed to be moral and right. With his antecedents and
surroundings it was the most natural thing in the world for him to
have done, yet in what a frightful position had not his morality
landed him. Could any amount of immorality have placed him in a much
worse one? What was morality worth if it was not that which on the
whole brought a man peace at the last, and could anyone have
reasonable certainty that marriage would do this? It seemed to him
that in his attempt to be moral he had been following a devil which
had disguised itself as an angel of light. But if so, what ground
was there on which a man might rest the sole of his foot and tread
in reasonable safety?

  He was still too young to reach the answer, "On common sense" -an
answer which he would have felt to be unworthy of anyone who had an
ideal standard.

  However this might be, it was plain that he had now done for
himself. It had been thus with him all his life. If there had come
at any time a gleam of sunshine and hope, it was to be obscured
immediately- why, prison was happier than this! There, at any rate, he
had had no money anxieties, and these were beginning to weigh upon him
now with all their horrors. He was happier even now than he had been
at Battersby or at Roughborough, and he would not now go back, even if
he could, to his Cambridge life, but for all that the outlook was so
gloomy, in fact so hopeless, that he felt as if he could have only too
gladly gone to sleep and died in his armchair once for all.

  As he was musing thus and looking upon the wreck of his hopes -for
he saw well enough that as long as he was linked to Ellen he should
never rise as he had dreamed of doing- he heard a noise below, and
presently a neighbour ran upstairs and entered his room hurriedly.

  "Good gracious, Mr. Pontifex," she exclaimed, "for goodness' sake
come down quickly and help. Mrs. Pontifex is took with the horrors-
and she's orkard."

  The unhappy man came down as he was bid and found his wife mad
with delirium tremens.

  He knew all now. The neighbours thought he must have known that
his wife drank all along, but Ellen had been so artful, and he so
simple, that, as I have said, he had had no suspicion. "Why," said the
woman who had summoned him, "she'll drink anything she can stand up
and pay her money for." Ernest could hardly believe his ears, but when
the doctor had seen his wife and she had become more quiet, he went
over to the public house hard by and made enquiries, the result of
which rendered further doubt impossible. The publican took the
opportunity to present my hero with a bill of several pounds for
bottles of spirits supplied to his wife, and what with his wife's
confinement and the way business had fallen off, he had not the
money to pay with, for the sum exceeded the remnant of his savings.

  He came to me- not for money, but to tell me his miserable story.
I had seen for some time that there was something wrong, and had
suspected pretty shrewdly what the matter was, but of course I said
nothing. Ernest and I had been growing apart for some time. I was
vexed at his having married, and he knew I was vexed, though I did
my best to hide it.

  A man's friendships are, like his will, invalidated by marriage- but
they are also no less invalidated by the marriage of his friends.
The rift in friendship which invariably makes its appearance on the
marriage of either of the parties to it was fast widening, as it no
less invariably does, into the great gulf which is fixed between the
married and the unmarried, and I was beginning to leave my protege
to a fate with which I had neither right nor power to meddle. In
fact I had begun to feel him rather a burden; I did not so much mind
this when I could be of use, but I grudged it when I could be of none.
He had made his bed and he must lie upon it. Ernest had felt all
this and had seldom come near me till now, one evening late in 1860,
he called on me, and with a very woe-begone face told me his troubles.

  As soon as I found that he no longer liked his wife I forgave him at
once and was as much interested in him as ever. There is nothing an
old bachelor likes better than to find a young married man who
wishes he had not got married- especially when the case is such an
extreme one that he need not pretend to hope that matters will come
all right again, or encourage his young friend to make the best of it.

  I was myself in favour of a separation, and said I would make
Ellen an allowance myself- of course intending that it should come out
of Ernest's money; but he would not hear of this. He had married
Ellen, he said, and he must try to reform her. He hated it, but he
must try; and finding him as usual very obstinate I was obliged to
acquiesce, though with little confidence as to the result. I was vexed
at seeing him waste himself upon such a barren task, and again began
to feel him burdensome. I am afraid I showed this, for he again
avoided me for some time, and, indeed, for many months I hardly saw
him at all.

  Ellen remained very ill for some days, and then gradually recovered.
Ernest hardly left her till she was out of danger. When she had
recovered he got the doctor to tell her that if she had such another
attack she would certainly die; this so frightened her that she took
the pledge.

  Then he became more hopeful again. When she was sober she was just
what she was during the first days of her married life, and so quick
was he to forget pain, that after a few days he was as fond of her
as ever. But Ellen could not forgive him for knowing what he did.
She knew that he was on the watch to shield her from temptation, and
though he did his best to make her think that he had no further
uneasiness about her, she found the burden of her union with
respectability grow more and more heavy upon her, and looked back more
and more longingly upon the lawless freedom of the life she had led
before she met her husband.

  I will dwell no longer on this part of my story. During the spring
months of 1861 she kept straight- she had had her fling of
dissipation, and this, together with the impression made upon her by
her having taken the pledge, tamed her for a while. The shop went
fairly well, and enabled Ernest to make the two ends meet. In the
spring and summer of 1861 he even put by a little money again. In
the autumn his wife was confined of a boy- a very fine one, so
everyone said. She soon recovered, and Ernest was beginning to breathe
freely and be almost sanguine when, without a word of warning, the
storm broke again. He returned one afternoon about two years after his
marriage, and found his wife lying upon the floor insensible.

  From this time he became hopeless, and began to go visibly down
hill. He had been knocked about too much, and the luck had gone too
long against him. The wear and tear of the last three years had told
on him, and though not actually ill he was overworked, below par,
and unfit for any further burden.

  He struggled for a while to prevent himself from finding this out,
but facts were too strong for him. Again he called on me and told me
what had happened. I was glad the crisis had come; I was sorry for
Ellen, but a complete separation from her was the only chance for
her husband. Even after this last outbreak he was unwilling to consent
to this, and talked nonsense about dying at his post, till I got tired
of him. Each time I saw him the old gloom had settled more and more
deeply upon his face, and I had about made up my mind to put an end to
the situation by a coup de main, such as bribing Ellen to run away
with somebody else, or something of that kind, when matters settled
themselves as usual in a way which I had not anticipated.

  CHAPTER LXXVI

  THE winter had been a trying one. Ernest had only paid his way by
selling his piano. With this he seemed to cut away the last link
that connected him with his earlier life, and to sink once for all
into the small shopkeeper. It seemed to him that however low he
might sink his pain could not last much longer, for he should simply
die if it did.

  He hated Ellen now, and the pair lived in open want of harmony
with each other. If it had not been for his children, he would have
left her and gone to America, but he could not leave the children with
Ellen, and as for taking them with him he did not know how to do it,
nor what to do with them when he had got them to America. If he had
not lost energy he would probably in the end have taken the children
and gone off, but his nerve was shaken, so day after day went by and
nothing was done.

  He had only got a few shillings in the world now, except the value
of his stock, which was very little; he could get perhaps L3 or L4
by selling his music and what few pictures and pieces of furniture
still belonged to him. He thought of trying to live by his pen, but
his writing had dropped off long ago; he no longer had an idea in
his head. Look which way he would he saw no hope; the end, if it had
not actually come, was within easy distance, and he was almost face to
face with actual want. When he saw people going about poorly clad,
or even without shoes and stockings, he wondered whether within a
few months' time he too should not have to go about in this way. The
remorseless, resistless hand of fate had caught him in its grip and
was dragging him down, down, down. Still he staggered on, going his
daily rounds, buying second-hand clothes, and spending his evenings in
cleaning and mending them.

  One morning, as he was returning from a house at the West End
where he had bought some clothes from one of the servants, he was
struck by a small crowd which had gathered round a space that had been
railed off on the grass near one of the paths in the Green Park.

  It was a lovely soft spring morning at the end of March, and
unusually balmy for the time of year; even Ernest's melancholy was
relieved for a while by the look of spring that pervaded earth and
sky; but it soon returned, and smiling sadly he said to himself: "It
may bring hope to others, but for me there can be no hope henceforth."

  As these words were in his mind he joined the small crowd who were
gathered round the railings, and saw that they were looking at three
sheep with very small lambs only a day or two old, which had been
penned off for shelter and protection from the others that ranged
the park.

  They were very pretty, and Londoners so seldom get a chance of
seeing lambs that it was no wonder everyone stopped to look at them.
Ernest observed that no one seemed fonder of them than a great
lubberly butcher boy, who leaned up against the railings with a tray
of meat upon his shoulder. He was looking at this boy and smiling at
the grotesqueness his admiration, when he became aware that he was
being watched intently by a man in coachman's livery, who had also
stopped to admire the lambs, and was leaning against the opposite side
of the enclosure. Ernest knew him in a moment as John, his father's
old coachman at Battersby, and went up to him at once.

  "Why, Master Ernest," said he, with his strong northern accent, "I
was thinking of you only this very morning," and the pair shook
hands heartily. John was in an excellent place at the West End. He had
done very well, he said, ever since he had left Battersby, except
for the first year or two, and that, he said, with a screw of the
face, had well nigh broke him.

  Ernest asked how this was.

  "Why, you see," said "I was always main fond of that lass Ellen,
whom you remember running after, Master Ernest, and giving your
watch to. I expect you haven't forgotten that day, have you?" And here
he laughed. "I don't know as I be the father of the child she
carried away with her from Battersby, but I very easily may have been.
Anyhow, after I had left your papa's place a few days I wrote to Ellen
to an address we had agreed upon, and told her I would do what I ought
to do, and so I did, for I married her within a month afterwards. Why,
Lord love the man, whatever is the matter with him?"- for as he had
spoken the last few words of his story Ernest had turned white as a
sheet, and was leaning against the railings.

  "John," said my hero, gasping for breath, "are you sure of what
you say- are you quite sure you really married her?"

  "Of course I am," said John; "I married her before the registrar
at Letchbury on the 15th of August, 1851."

  "Give me your arm," said Ernest, "and take me into Piccadilly, and
put me into a cab, and come with me at once, if you can spare time, to
Mr. Overton's at the Temple."

  CHAPTER LXXVII

  I DO not think Ernest himself was much more pleased at finding
that he had never been married than I was. To him, however, the
shock of pleasure was positively numbing in its intensity. As he
felt his burden removed, he reeled for the unaccustomed lightness of
his movements; his position was so shattered that his identity
seemed to have been shattered also; he was as one waking up from a
horrible nightmare to find himself safe and sound in bed, but who
can hardly even yet believe that the room is not fun of armed men
who are about to spring upon him.

  "And it is I," he said, "who not an hour ago complained that I was
without hope. It is I, who for weeks have been railing at fortune, and
saying that though she smiled on others she never smiled at me. Why,
never was anyone half so fortunate as I am."

  "Yes," said I, "you have been inoculated for marriage, and have
recovered."

  "And yet," he said, "I was very fond of her till she took to
drinking."

  "Perhaps; but is it not Tennyson who has said: ''Tis better to
have loved and lost, than never to have lost at all'?"

  "You are an inveterate bachelor," was the rejoinder.

  Then we had a long talk with John, to whom I gave a L5 note upon the
spot. He said Ellen had used to drink at Battersby; the cook had
taught her; he had known it, but was so fond of her, that he had
chanced it and married her to save her from the streets and in the
hope of being able to keep her straight. She had done with just as she
had done with Ernest- made him an excellent wife as long as she kept
sober, but a very bad one afterwards.

  "There isn't," said John, "a sweeter-tempered, handier, prettier
girl than she was in all England, nor one as knows better what a man
likes, and how to make him happy, if you can keep her from drink;
but you can't keep her; she's that artful she'll get it under your
very eyes, without you knowing it. If she can't get any more of your
things to pawn or sell, she'll steal her neighbours'. That's how she
got into trouble first when I was with her. During the six months
she was in prison I should have felt happy if I had not known she
would come out again. And then she did come out, and before she had
been free a fortnight, she began shop-lifting and going on the loose
again- and all to get money to drink with. So seeing I could do
nothing with her and that she was just a-killing of me, I left her,
and came up to London, and went into service again, and I did not know
what had become of her till you and Mr. Ernest here told me. I hope
you'll neither of you say you've seen me."

  We assured him we would keep his counsel, and then he left us,
with many protestations of affection towards Ernest, to whom he had
been always much attached.

  We talked the situation over, and decided first to get the
children away, and then to come to terms with Ellen concerning their
future custody; as for herself, I proposed that we should make her
an allowance of, say, a pound a week to be paid so long as she gave no
trouble. Ernest did not see where the pound a week was to come from,
so I eased his mind by saying I would pay it myself. Before the day
was two hours older we had got the children, about whom Ellen had
always appeared to be indifferent, and had confided them to the care
of my laundress, a good motherly sort of woman, who took to them and
to whom they took at once.

  Then came the odious task of getting rid of their unhappy mother.
Ernest's heart smote him at the notion of the shock the break-up would
be to her. He was always thinking that people had a claim upon him for
some inestimable service they had rendered him, or for some
irreparable mischief done to them by himself, the case however was
so clear, that Ernest's scruples did not offer serious resistance.

  I did not see why he should have the pain of another interview
with his wife, so I got Mr. Ottery to manage the whole business. It
turned out that we need not have harrowed ourselves so much about
the agony of mind which Ellen would suffer on becoming an outcast
again. Ernest saw Mrs. Richards, the neighbour who had called him down
on the night when he had first discovered his wife's drunkenness,
and got from her some details of Ellen's opinions upon the matter. She
did not seem in the least conscience-stricken; she said: "Thank
goodness, at last!" And although aware that her marriage was not a
valid one, evidently regarded this as a mere detail which it would not
be worth anybody's while to go into more particularly. As regards
his breaking with her, she said it was a good job both for him and for
her.

  "This life," she continued, "don't suit me. Ernest is too good for
me; he wants a woman as shall be a bit better than me, and I want a
man that shall be a bit worse than him. We should have got on all very
well if we had not lived together as married folks, but I've been used
to have a little place of my own, however small, for a many years, and
I don't want Ernest, or any other man, always hanging about it.
Besides, he is too steady: his being in prison hasn't done him a bit
of good- he's just as grave as those as have never been in prison at
all, and he never swears nor curses, come what may; it makes me
afeared of him, and therefore I drink the worse. What us poor girls
wants is not to be jumped up all of a sudden and made honest women of;
this is too much for us and throws us off our perch; what we wants
is a regular friend or two, who'll just keep us from starving, and
force us to be good for a bit together now and again. That's about
as much as we can stand. He may have the children; he can do better
for them than I can; and as for his money, he may give it or keep it
as he likes; he's never done me any harm, and I shall let him alone;
but if he means me to have it, I suppose I'd better have it."- And
have it she did.

  "And I," thought Ernest to himself again when the arrangement was
concluded, "am the man who thought himself unlucky!"

  I may as well say here all that need be said further about Ellen.
For the next three years she used to call regularly at Mr. Ottery's
every Monday morning for her pound. She was always neatly dressed, and
looked so quiet and pretty that no one would have suspected her
antecedents. At first she wanted sometimes to anticipate, but after
three or four ineffectual attempts- on each of which occasions she
told a most pitiful story- she gave it up and took her money regularly
without a word. Once she came with a bad black eye, "which a boy had
throwed a stone and hit her by "mistake"; but on the whole she
looked pretty much the same at the end of the three years as she had
done at the beginning. Then she explained that she was going to be
married again. Mr. Ottery saw her on this, and pointed out to her that
she would very likely be again committing bigamy by doing so. "You may
call it what you like," she replied, "but I am going off to America
with Bill the butcher's man, and we hope Mr. Pontifex won't be too
hard on us and stop the allowance." Ernest was little likely to do
this, so the pair went in peace. I believe it was Bill who had blacked
her eye, and she liked him all the better for it.

  From one or two little things I have been able to gather that the
couple got on very well together, and that in Bill she has found a
partner better suited to her than either John or Ernest. On his
birthday Ernest generally receives an envelope with an American
postmark containing a bookmarker with a flaunting text upon it, or a
moral kettle-holder, or some other similar small token of recognition,
but no letter. Of the children she has taken no notice.

  CHAPTER LXXVIII

  ERNEST was now well turned twenty-six years old, and in little
more than another year and a half would come into possession of his
money. I saw no reason for letting him have it earlier than the date
fixed by Miss Pontifex herself, at the same time I did not like his
continuing the shop at Blackfriars after the present crisis. It was
not till now that I fully understood how much he had suffered, nor how
nearly his supposed wife's habits had brought him to actual want.

  I had indeed noted the old, wan, worn look settling upon his face,
but was either too indolent or too hopeless of being able to sustain a
protracted and successful warfare with Ellen to extend the sympathy
and make the enquiries which I suppose I ought to have made. And yet I
hardly know what I could have done, for nothing short of his finding
out what he had found out would have detached him from his wife, and
nothing could do him much good as long as he continued to live with
her.

  After all I suppose I was right; I suppose things did turn out all
the better in the end for having been left to settle themselves-at any
rate whether they did or did not, the whole thing was in too great a
muddle for me to venture to tackle it so long as Ellen was upon the
scene; now, however, that she was removed, all my interest in my
godson revived, and I turned over many times in my mind what I had
better do with him.

  It was now three and a half years since he had come up to London and
begun to live, so to speak, upon his own account. Of these years,
six months had been spent as a clergyman, six months in gaol, and
for two and a half years he had been acquiring twofold experience in
the ways of business and of marriage. He had failed, I may say, in
everything that he had undertaken, even as a prisoner; yet his defeats
had been always, as it seemed to me, something so like victories, that
I was satisfied of his being worth all the pains I could bestow upon
him; my only fear was lest I should meddle with him when it might be
better for him to be let alone. On the whole I concluded that a
three and a half years' apprenticeship to a rough life was enough; the
shop had done much for him; it had kept him going after a fashion,
when he was in great need; it had thrown him upon his own resources,
and taught him to see profitable openings all around him, where a
few months before he would have seen nothing but insuperable
difficulties; it had enlarged his sympathies by making him
understand the lower classes, and not confining his view of life to
that taken by gentlemen only. When he went about the streets and saw
the books outside the secondhand book-stalls, the bric-a-brac in the
curiosity shops, and the infinite commercial activity which is
omnipresent around us, he understood it and sympathised with it as
he could never have done if he had not kept a shop himself.

  He has often told me that when he used to travel on a railway that
overlooked populous suburbs, and looked down upon street after
street of dingy houses, he used to wonder what kind of people lived in
them, what they did and felt, and how far it was like what he did
and felt himself. Now, he said, he knew all about it. I am not very
familiar with the writer of the Odyssey (who, by the way, I suspect
strongly of having been a clergyman), but he assuredly hit the right
nail on the head when he epitomised his typical wise man as knowing
"the ways and farings of many men." What culture is comparable to
this? What a lie, what a sickly, debilitating debauch did not Ernest's
school and university career now seem to him, in comparison with his
life in prison and as a tailor in Blackfriars. I have heard him say he
would have gone through all he had suffered if it were only for the
deeper insight it gave him into the spirit of the Grecian and the
Surrey pantomimes. What confidence again in his own power to swim if
thrown into deep waters had not he won through his experiences
during the last three years!

  But, as I have said, I thought my godson had now seen as much of the
under currents of life as was likely to be of use to him, and that
it was time he began to live in a style more suitable to his
prospects. His aunt had wished him to kiss the soil, and he had kissed
it with a vengeance; but I did not like the notion of his coming
suddenly from the position of a small shopkeeper to that of a man with
an income of between three and four thousand a year. Too sudden a jump
from bad fortune to good is just as dangerous as one from good to bad;
besides, poverty is very wearing; it is a quasi-embryonic condition,
through which a man had better pass if he is to hold his later
developments securely, but like measles or scarlet fever he had better
have it mildly and get it over early.

  No man is safe from losing every penny he has in the world, unless
he has had his facer. How often do I not hear middle-aged women and
quiet family men say that they have no speculative tendency; they
never had touched, and never would touch, any but the very soundest,
best reputed investments, and as for unlimited liability, oh, dear!
dear! and they throw up their hands and eyes.

  Whenever a person is heard to talk thus he may be recognised as
the easy prey of the first adventurer who comes across him; he will
commonly, indeed, wind up his discourse by saying that in spite of all
his natural caution, and his well knowing how foolish speculation
is, yet there are some investments which are called speculative but in
reality are not so, and he will pull out of his pocket the
prospectus of a Cornish gold mine. It is only on having actually
lost money that one realises what an awful thing the loss of it is,
and finds out how easily it is lost by those who venture out of the
middle of the most beaten path. Ernest had had his facer, as he had
had his attack of poverty, young, and sufficiently badly for a
sensible man to be little likely to forget it. I can fancy few
pieces of good fortune greater than this as happening to any man,
provided, of course, that he is not damaged irretrievably.

  So strongly do I feel on this subject that if I had my way I would
have a speculation master attached to every school. The boys would
be encouraged to read the Money Market Review, the Railway News, and
all the best financial papers, and should establish a stock exchange
amongst themselves in which pence should stand as pounds. Then let
them see how this making haste to get rich moneys out in actual
practice. There might be a prize awarded by the head-master to the
most prudent dealer, and the boys who lost their money time after time
should be dismissed. Of course if any boy proved to have a genius
for speculation and made money -well and good, let him speculate by
all means.

  If universities were not the worst teachers in the world I should
like to see professorships of speculation established at Oxford and
Cambridge. When I reflect, however, that the only things worth doing
which Oxford and Cambridge can do well are cooking, cricket, rowing
and games, of which there is no professorship, I fear that the
establishment of a professorial chair would end in teaching young
men neither how to speculate, nor how not to speculate, but would
simply turn them out as bad speculators.

  I heard of one case in which a father actually carried my idea
into practice. He wanted his son to learn how little confidence was to
be placed in glowing prospectuses and flaming articles, and found
him five hundred pounds which he was to invest according to his
lights. The father expected he would lose the money; but it did not
turn out so in practice, for the boy took so much pains and played
so cautiously that the money kept growing and growing till the
father took it away again, increment and all- as he was pleased to
say, in self defence.

  I had made my own mistakes with money about the year 1846, when
everyone else was making them. For a few years I had been so scared
and had suffered so severely, that when (owing to the good advice of
the broker who had advised my father and grandfather before me) I came
out in the end a winner and not a loser, I played no more pranks,
but kept henceforward as nearly in the middle the middle rut as I
could. I tried in fact to keep my money rather than to make more of
it. I had done with Ernest's money as with my own-that is to say I had
let it alone after investing it in Midland ordinary stock according to
Miss Pontifex's instructions. No amount of trouble would have been
likely to have increased my godson's estate one half so much as it had
increased without my taking any trouble at all.

  Midland stock at the end of August, 1850, when I sold out Miss
Pontifex's debentures, stood at L32 per L100. I invested the whole
of Ernest's L15,000 at this price, and did not change the investment
till a few months before the time of which I have been writing lately-
that is to say until September, 1861. I then sold at L129 per share
and invested in London and North-Western ordinary stock, which I was
advised was more likely to rise than Midlands now were. I bought the
London and North-Western stock at L93 per L100, and my godson now in
1882 still holds it.

  The original LI5,000 had increased in eleven years to over
L60,000; the accumulated interest, which, of course, I had
re-invested, had come to about L10,000 more, so that Ernest was then
worth over L70,000. At present he is worth nearly double that sum, and
all as the result of leaving well alone.

  Large as his property now was, it ought to be increased still
further during the year and a half that remained of his minority, so
that on coming of age he ought to have an income of at least L3500 a
year.

  I wished him to understand bookkeeping by double entry. I had myself
as a young man been compelled to master this not very difficult art;
having acquired it, I have become enamoured of it, and consider it the
most branch of any young man's education after reading and writing.
I was determined, therefore, that Ernest should master it, and
proposed that he should become my steward, bookkeeper, and the manager
of my hoardings, for I called the sum which my ledger showed to have
accumulated from L15,000 to L70,000. I told him I was going to begin
to spend the income as soon as it had mounted up to L80,000.

  A few days after Ernest's discovery that he was still a bachelor,
while he was still at the very beginning of the honeymoon, as it were,
of his renewed unmarried life, I broached my scheme, desired him to
give up his shop, and offered him L300 a year for managing (so far
indeed as it required any managing) his own property. This L300 a
year, I need hardly say, I made him charge to the estate.

  If anything had been wanting to complete his happiness it was
this. Here, within three or four days he found himself freed from
one of the most hideous, hopeless liaisons imaginable, and at the same
time raised from a life of almost squalor to the enjoyment of what
would to him be a handsome income.

  "A pound a week," he thought, "for Ellen, and the rest for myself."

  "No," said I, "we will charge Ellen's pound a week to the estate
also. You must have a clear L300 for yourself."

  "I fixed upon this sum, because it was the one which Mr. Disraeli
gave Coningsby when Coningsby was at the lowest ebb of his fortunes.
Mr. Disraeli evidently thought L300 a year the smallest sum on which
Coningsby could be expected to live, and make the two ends meet;
with this, however, he thought his hero could manage to get along
for a year or two. In 1862, of which I am now writing, prices had
risen, though not so much as they have since done; on the other hand
Ernest had had less expensive antecedents than Coningsby, so on the
whole I thought L300 a year would be about the right thing for him.

  CHAPTER LXXIX

  THE question now arose what was to be done with the children. I
explained to Ernest that their expenses must be charged to the estate,
and showed him how small a hole all the various items I proposed to
charge would make in the income at my disposal. He was beginning to
make difficulties, when I quieted him by pointing out that the money
had all come to me from his aunt over his own head, and reminded him
there had been an understanding between her and me that I should do
much as I was doing, if occasion should arise.

  He wanted his children to be brought up in the fresh pure air, and
among other children who were happy and contented; but being still
ignorant of the fortune that awaited him, he insisted that they should
pass their earlier years among the poor rather than the rich. I
remonstrated, but he was very decided about it; and when I reflected
that they were illegitimate, I was not sure but that what Ernest
proposed might be as well for everyone in the end. They were still
so young that it did not much matter where they were, so long as
they were with kindly, decent people, and in a healthy neighbourhood.

  "I shall be just as unkind to my children," he said, "as my
grandfather was to my father, or my father to me. If they did not
succeed in making their children love them, neither shall I. I say
to myself that I should like to do so, but so did they. I can make
sure that they shall not know how much they would have hated me if
they had had much to do with me, but this is all I can do. If I must
ruin their prospects, let me do so at a reasonable time before they
are old enough to feel it."

  He mused a little and added with a laugh:

  "A man first quarrels with his father about three-quarters of a year
before he is born. It is then he insists on setting up a separate
establishment; when this has been once agreed to, the more complete
the separation for ever after the better for both." Then he said
more seriously: "I want to put the children where they will be well
and happy, and where they will not be betrayed into the misery of
false expectations."

  In the end he remembered that on his Sunday walks he had more than
once seen a couple who lived on the waterside a few miles below
Gravesend, just where the sea was beginning, and who he thought
would do. They had a family of their own fast coming on and the
children seemed to thrive; both father and mother indeed were
comfortable, well grown folks, in whose hands young people would be
likely to have as fair a chance of coming to a good development as
in those of any whom he knew.

  We went down to see this couple, and as I thought no less well of
them than Ernest did, we offered them a pound a week to take the
children and bring them up as though they were their own. They
jumped at the offer, and in another day or two we brought the children
down and left them, feeling that we had done as well as we could by
them, at any rate for the present. Then Ernest sent his small stock of
goods to Debenham's, gave up the house he had taken two and a half
years previously, and returned to civilisation.

  I had expected that he would now rapidly recover, and was
disappointed to see him get as I thought decidedly worse. Indeed,
before long I thought him looking so ill that I insisted on his
going with me to consult one of the most eminent doctors in London.
This gentleman said there was no acute disease but that my young
friend was suffering from nervous prostration, the result of long
and severe mental suffering, from which there was no remedy except
time, prosperity, and rest.

  He said that Ernest must have broken down later on, but that he
might have gone on for some months yet. It was the suddenness of the
relief from tension which had knocked him over now.

  "Cross him," said the doctor, "at once. Crossing is the great
medical discovery of the age. Shake him out of himself by shaking
something else into him."

  I had not told him that money was no object to us, and I think he
had reckoned me up as not over rich. He continued:

  "Seeing is a mode of touching, touching is a mode of feeding,
feeding is a mode of assimilation, assimilation is a mode of
re-creation and reproduction, and this is crossing- shaking yourself
into something else and something else into you." He spoke laughingly,
but it was plain he was serious. He continued:

  "People are always coming to me who want crossing, or change, if you
prefer it, and who I know have not money enough to let them get away
from London. This has set me thinking how I can best cross them even
if they cannot leave home, and I have made a list of cheap London
amusements which I recommend to my patients; none of them cost more
than a few shillings or take more than half a day or a day."

  I explained that there was no occasion to consider money in this
case.

  "I am glad it," he said, still laughing. "The homoeopathists use
aurum as a medicine, but they do not give it in large enough doses; if
you can dose your young friend with this pretty freely you will soon
bring him round. However, Mr. Pontifex is not well enough to stand
so great a change as going abroad yet; from what you tell me I
should think he had had as much change lately as is good for him. If
he were to go abroad now he would probably be taken seriously ill
within a week. We must wait till he has recovered tone a little
more. I will begin by ringing my London changes on him."

  He thought a little and then said:

  "I have found the Zoological Gardens of service to many of my
patients. I should prescribe for Mr. Pontifex a course of the larger
mammals. Don't let him think he is taking them medicinally, but let
him go to their house twice a week for a fortnight, and stay with
the hippopotamus, the rhinoceros, and the elephants, till they begin
to bore him. I find these beasts do my patients more good than any
others. The monkeys are not a wide enough cross; they do not stimulate
sufficiently. The larger carnivora are unsympathetic. The reptiles are
worse than useless, and the marsupials are not much better. Birds
again, except parrots, are not very beneficial; he may look at them
now and again, but with the elephants and the pig tribe generally he
should mix just now as freely as possible.

  "Then, you know, to prevent monotony I should send him, say, to
morning service at the Abbey before he goes. He need not stay longer
than the Te Deum. I don't know why, but Jubilates are seldom
satisfactory. Just let him look in at the Abbey, and sit quietly in
Poets' Corner till the main part of the music is over. Let him do this
two or three times, not more, before he goes to the Zoo.

  "Then next day send him down to Gravesend by boat. By all means
let him go to the theatres in the evenings- and then let him come to
me again in a fortnight."

  Had the doctor been less eminent in his profession I should have
doubted whether he was in earnest, but I knew him to be a man of
business who would neither waste his own time nor that of his
patients. As soon as we were out of the house we took a cab to
Regent's Park, and spent a couple of hours in sauntering around the
different houses. Perhaps it was on account of what the doctor had
told me, but I certainly became aware of a feeling I had never
experienced before. I mean that I was receiving an influx of new life,
or deriving new ways of looking at life- which is the same thing- by
the process. I found the doctor quite right in his estimate of the
larger mammals as the ones which on the whole were most beneficial,
and observed that Ernest, who had heard nothing of what the doctor had
said to me, lingered instinctively in front of them. As for the
elephants, especially the baby elephant, he seemed to be drinking in
large draughts of their lives to the re-creation and regeneration of
his own.

  We dined in the gardens, and I noticed with pleasure that Ernest's
appetite was already improved. Since this time, whenever I have been a
little out of sorts myself I have at once gone up to Regent's Park,
and have invariably been benefited. I mention this here in the hope
that some one or other of my readers may find the hint a useful one.

  At the end of his fortnight my hero was much better, more so even
than our friend the doctor had expected. "Now," he said, "Mr. Pontifex
may go abroad, and the sooner the better. Let him stay a couple of
months."

  This was the first Ernest had heard about his going abroad, and he
talked about my not being able to spare him for so long. I soon made
this all right.

  "It is now the beginning April," said I; "go down to Marseilles at
once, and take steamer to Nice. Then saunter down the Riviera to
Genoa- from Genoa go to Florence, Rome, and Naples, and come home by
way of Venice and the Italian lakes."

  "And won't you come too?" said he, eagerly.

  I said I did not mind if I did, so we began to make our arrangements
next morning, and completed them within a very few days.

  CHAPTER LXXX

  WE left by the night mail, crossing from Dover. The night was
soft, and there was a bright moon upon the sea. "Don't you love the
smell of grease about the engine of a Channel steamer? Isn't there a
lot of hope in it?" said Ernest to me, for he had been to Normandy one
summer as a boy with his father and mother, and the smell carried
him back to days before those in which he had begun to bruise
himself against the great outside world. "I always think one of the
best parts of going abroad is the first thud of the piston, and the
first gurgling of the water when the paddle begins to strike it."

  It was very dreamy getting out at Calais, and trudging about with
luggage in a foreign town at an hour when we were generally both of us
in bed and fast asleep, but we settled down to sleep as soon as we got
into the railway carriage, and dozed till we had passed Amiens. Then
waking when the first signs of morning crispness were beginning to
show themselves, I saw that Ernest was already devouring every
object we passed with quick sympathetic curiousness. There was not a
peasant in a blouse driving his cart betimes along the road to market,
not a signalman's wife in her husband's hat and coat waving a green
flag, not a shepherd taking out his sheep to the dewy pastures, not
a bank of opening cowslips as we passed through the railway
cuttings, but he was drinking it all in with an enjoyment too deep for
words. The name of the engine that drew us was Mozart, and Ernest
liked this too.

  We reached Paris by six, and had just time to get across the town
and take a morning express train to Marseilles, but before noon my
young friend was tired out and had resigned himself to a series of
sleeps which were seldom intermitted for more than an hour or so
together. He fought against this for a time, but in the end consoled
himself by saying it was so nice to have so much pleasure that he
could afford to throw a lot of it away. Having found a theory on which
to justify himself, he slept in peace.

  At Marseilles we rested, and there the excitement of the change
proved, as I had half feared it would, too much for my godson's
still enfeebled state. For a few days he was really ill, but after
this he righted. For my own part I reckon being ill as one of the
great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not
obliged to work till one is better. I remember being once in a foreign
hotel myself and how much I enjoyed it. To lie there careless of
everything, quiet and warm, and with no weight upon the mind, to
hear the clinking of the plates in the far-off kitchen as the scullion
rinsed them and put them by; to watch the soft shadows come and go
upon the ceiling as the sun came out or went behind a cloud; to listen
to the pleasant murmuring of the fountain in the court below, and
the shaking of the bells on the horses' collars and the clink of their
hoofs upon the ground as the flies plagued them; not only to be a
lotus-eater but to know that it was one's duty to be a lotus-eater.
"Oh," I thought to myself, "if I could only now, having so forgotten
care, drop off to sleep for ever, would not this be a better piece
of fortune than any I can ever hope for?"

  Of course it would, but we would not take it though it were
offered us. No matter what evil may befall us, we will mostly abide by
it and see it out.

  I could see that Ernest felt much as I had felt myself. He said
little, but noted everything. Once only did he frighten me. He
called me to his bedside just as it was getting dusk and said in a
grave, quiet manner that he should like to speak to me.

  "I have been thinking," he said, "that I may perhaps never recover
from this illness, and in case I do not I should like you to know that
there is only one thing which weighs upon me. I refer," he continued
after a slight pause, "to my conduct towards my father and mother. I
have been much too good to them. I treated them much too
considerately," on which he broke into a smile which assured me that
there was nothing seriously amiss with him.

  On the walls of his bedroom were a series of French Revolution
prints representing events in the life of Lycurgus. There was
"Grandeur d'ame de Lycurgue," and "Lycurgue consulte l'oracle," and
then there was "Calciope a la Cour." Under this was written in
French and Spanish: "Modele de grace et de beaute, la jeune Calciope
non moins sage que belle avait merite l'estime et l'attachement du
vertueux Lycurgue. Vivement epris de tant de charmes, l'illustre
philosophe la conduisait dans le temple de Junon, ou ils s'unirent par
un serment sacre. Apres cette auguste ceremonie, Lycurgue s'empressa
de conduire sa jeune epouse au palais de son frere Polydecte, Roi de
Lacedemon. Seigneur, lui dit-il, la vertueuse Calciope vient de
recevoir mes voeux aux pieds de sautels, j'ose vous prier
d'approuver cette union. Le Roi temoigna d'abord quelque surprise,
mais l'estime qu'il avait pour son frere lui inspira une reponse
pleine de bienveillance. Il s'approcha aussitot de Calciope qu'il
embrassa tendrement, combla ensuite Lycurgue de prevenances et parut
tres satisfait."

  He called my attention to this and then said somewhat timidly that
he would rather have married Ellen than Calciope. I saw he was
hardening and made no hesitation about proposing that in another day
or two we should proceed upon our journey.

  I will not weary the reader by taking him with us over beaten
ground. We stopped at Siena, Cortona, Orvieto, Perugia, and many other
cities, and then after a fortnight passed between Rome and Naples went
to the Venetian provinces and visited all those wondrous towns that
lie between the southern slopes of the Alps and the northern ones of
the Apennines, coming back at last by the St. Gothard. I doubt whether
he had enjoyed the trip more than I did myself, but it was not till we
were on the point of returning that Ernest had recovered strength
enough to be called fairly well, and it was not for many months that
he so completely lost all sense of the wounds which the last four
years had inflicted on him as to feel as though there were a scar
and a scar only remaining.

  They say that when people have lost an arm or a foot they feel pains
in it now and again for a long while after they have lost it. One pain
which he had almost forgotten came upon him on his return to
England, I mean the sting of his having been imprisoned. As long as he
was only a small shopkeeper his imprisonment mattered nothing;
nobody knew of it, and if they had known they would not have cared;
now, however, though he was returning to his old position he was
returning to it disgraced, and the pain from which he had been saved
in the first instance by surroundings so new that he had hardly
recognised his own identity in the middle of them, came on him as from
a wound inflicted yesterday.

  He thought of the high resolves which he had made in prison about
using his disgrace as a vantage ground of strength rather than
trying to make people forget it. "That was all very well then," he
thought to himself, "when the grapes were beyond my reach, but now
it is different." Besides, who but a prig would set himself high aims,
or make high resolves at all?

  Some of his old friends, on learning that he had got rid of his
supposed wife and was now comfortably off again, wanted to renew their
acquaintance; he was grateful to them and sometimes tried to meet
their advances half way, but it did not do, and ere long he shrank
back into himself, pretending not to know them. An infernal demon of
honesty haunted him which made him say to himself: "These men know a
great deal, but do not know all- if they did they would cut me- and
therefore I have no right to their acquaintance."

  He thought that everyone except himself was sans peur et sans
reproche. Of course they must be, for if they had not been, would they
not have been bound to warn all who had anything to do with them of
their deficiencies? Well, he could not do this, and he would not
have people's acquaintance under false pretences, so he gave up even
hankering after rehabilitation and fell back upon his old tastes for
music and literature.

  Of course he has long since found out how silly all this was, how
silly I mean in theory, for in practice it worked better than it ought
to have done, by keeping him free from liaisons which would have
tied his tongue and made him see success elsewhere than where he
came in time to see it. He did what he did instinctively and for no
other reason than because it was most natural to him. So far as he
thought at all, he thought wrong, but what he did was right. I said
something of this kind to him once not so very long ago, and told
him he had always aimed high. "I never aimed at all," he replied a
little indignantly, "and you may be sure I should have aimed low
enough if I had thought I had thought I had got the chance."

  I suppose after all that no one whose mind was not, to put it
mildly, abnormal, ever yet aimed very high out of pure malice
aforethought. I once saw a fly alight on a cup of hot coffee on
which the milk had formed a thin skin; he perceived his extreme
danger, and I noted with what ample strides and almost supermuscan
effort he struck across the treacherous surface and made for the
edge of the cup- for the ground was not solid enough to let him
raise himself from it by his wings. As I watched him I fancied that so
supreme a moment of difficulty and danger might leave him with an
increase of moral and physical power which might even descend in
some measure to his offspring. But surely he would not have got the
increased moral power if he could have helped it, and he will not
knowingly alight upon another cup of hot coffee. The more I see, the
more sure I am that it does not matter why people do the right thing
so long only as they do it, nor why they may have done the wrong if
they have done it. The result depends upon the thing done and the
motive goes for nothing. I have read somewhere, but cannot remember
where, that in some country district there was once a great scarcity
of food, during which the poor suffered acutely; many indeed
actually died of starvation, and all were hard put to it. In one
village, however, there was a poor widow with a family of young
children, who, though she had small visible means of subsistence,
still looked well-fed and comfortable, as also did all her little
ones. "How," everyone asked, "did they manage to live?" It was plain
they had a secret, and it was equally plain that it could be no good
one; for there came a harried, hunted look over the poor woman's
face if anyone alluded to the way in which she and hers throve when
others starved; the family, moreover, were sometimes seen out at
unusual hours of the night, and evidently brought things home, which
could hardly have been honestly come by. They knew they were under
suspicion, and, being hitherto of excellent name, it made them very
unhappy, for it must be confessed that they believed what they did
to be uncanny if not absolutely wicked; nevertheless, in spite of this
they throve, and kept their strength when all their neighbours were
pinched.

  At length matters came to a head and the clergyman of the parish
cross-questioned the poor woman so closely that with many tears and
a bitter sense of degradation she confessed the truth; she and her
children went into the hedges and gathered snails, which they made
into broth and ate- could she ever be forgiven? Was there any hope
of salvation for her either in this world or the next after such
unnatural conduct?

  So again I have heard of an old dowager countess whose money was all
in Consols; she had had many sons, and in her anxiety to give the
younger ones a good start, wanted a larger income than Consols would
give her. She consulted her solicitor and was advised to sell her
Consols and invest in the London and North Western Railway, then at
about 85. This was to her what eating snails was to the poor widow
whose story I have told above. With shame and grief, as of one doing
an unclean thing- but her boys must have their start- she did as she
was advised. Then for a long while she could not sleep at night and
was haunted by a presage of disaster. Yet what happened? She started
her boys, and in a few years found her capital doubled into the
bargain, on which she sold out and went back again to Consols and died
in the full blessedness of fund-holding.

  She thought, indeed, that she was doing a wrong and dangerous thing,
but this had absolutely nothing to do with it. Suppose she had
invested in the full confidence of a recommendation by some eminent
London banker whose advice was bad, and so had lost all her money, and
suppose she had done this with a light heart and with no conviction of
sin- would her innocence of evil purpose and the excellence of her
motive have stood her in any stead? Not they.

  But to return to my story. Towneley gave my hero most trouble.
Towneley, as I have said, knew that Ernest would have money soon,
but Ernest did not of course know that he knew it. Towneley was rich
himself, and was married now; Ernest would be rich soon, had bona fide
intended to be married already, and would doubtless marry a lawful
wife later on. Such a man was worth taking pains with, and when
Towneley one day met Ernest in the street, and Ernest tried to avoid
him, Towneley would not have it, but with his usual quick good
nature read his thoughts, caught him, morally speaking, by the
scruff of his neck, and turned him laughingly inside out, telling
him he would have no such nonsense.

  Towneley was just as much Ernest's idol now as he had ever been, and
Ernest, who was very easily touched, felt more gratefully and warmly
than ever towards him, but there was an unconscious something which
was stronger than Towneley, and made my hero determine to break with
him more determinedly perhaps than with any other living person; he
thanked him in a low, hurried voice and pressed his hand, while
tears came into his eyes in spite of all his efforts to repress
them. "If we meet again he said, "do not look at me, but if
hereafter you hear of me writing things you do not like, think of me
as charitably as you can," and so they parted.

  "Towneley is a good fellow," said I, gravely, "and you should not
have cut him."

  "Towneley," he answered, "is not only a good fellow, but he is
without exception the very best man I ever saw in my life- except," he
paid me the compliment of saying, "yourself; Towneley is my notion
of everything which I should most like to be- but there is no real
solidarity between us. I should be in perpetual fear of losing his
good opinion if I said things he did not like, and I mean to say a
great many things," he continued more merrily, "which Towneley will
not like."

  A man, as I have said already, can give up father and mother for
Christ's sake tolerably easily for the most part, but it is not so
easy to give up people like Towneley.

  CHAPTER LXXXI

  SO he fell away from all old friends except myself and three or four
old intimates of my own, who were as sure to take to him as he to
them, and who like myself enjoyed getting hold of a young fresh
mind. Ernest attended to the keeping of my account books whenever
there was anything which could possibly be attended to, which there
seldom was, and spent the greater part of the rest of his time in
adding to the many notes and tentative essays which had already
accumulated in his portfolios. Anyone who was used to writing could
see at a glance that literature was his natural development, and I was
pleased at seeing him settle down to it so spontaneously. I was less
pleased, however, to observe that he would still occupy himself with
none but the most serious, I had almost said solemn, subjects, just as
he never cared about any but the most serious kind of music.

  I said to him one day that the very slender reward which God had
attached to the pursuit of serious enquiry was a sufficient proof that
He disapproved of it, or at any rate that He did not set much store by
it nor wish to encourage it.

  He said: "Oh, don't talk about rewards. Look at Milton, who only got
L5 for 'Paradise Lost.'

  "And a great deal too much," I rejoined promptly. "I would have
given him twice as much myself not to have written it at all."

  Ernest was a little shocked. "At any rate," he said laughingly, "I
don't write poetry."

  This was a cut at me, for my burlesques were, of course, written
in rhyme. So I dropped the matter.

  After a time he took it into his head to reopen the question of
his getting L300 a year for doing, as he said, absolutely nothing, and
said he would try to find some employment which should bring him in
enough to live upon.

  I laughed at this but let him alone. He tried and tried very hard
for a long while, but I need hardly say was unsuccessful. The older
I grow, the more convinced I become of the folly and credulity of
the public; but at the same time the harder do I see it is to impose
oneself upon that folly and credulity.

  He tried editor after editor with article after article. Sometimes
an editor listened to him and told him to leave his articles; he
almost invariably, however, had them returned to him in the end with a
polite note saying that they were not suited for the particular
paper to which he had sent them. And yet many of these very articles
appeared in his later works, and no one complained of them, not at
least on the score of bad literary workmanship. "I see," he said to me
one day, "that demand is very imperious, and supply must be very
suppliant."

  Once, indeed, the editor of an important monthly magazine accepted
an article from him, and he thought he had now got a footing in the
literary world. The article was to appear in the next issue but one,
and he was to receive proof from the printers in about ten days or a
fortnight; but week after week passed and there was no proof; month
after month went by and there was still no room for Ernest's
article; at length after about six months the editor one morning
told him that he had filled every number of his review for the next
ten months, but that his article should definitely appear. On this
he insisted on having his MS. returned to him.

  Sometimes his articles were actually published, and he found the
editor had edited them according to his own fancy, putting in jokes
which he thought were funny, or cutting out the very passage which
Ernest had considered the point of the whole thing, and then, though
the articles appeared, when it came to paying for them it was
another matter, and he never saw his money. "Editors," he said to me
one day about this time, "are like the people who bought and sold in
the book of Revelation; there is not one but has the mark of the beast
upon him."

  At last after months of disappointment and many a tedious hour
wasted in dingy ante-rooms (and of all ante-rooms those of editors
appear to me to be the dreariest), he got a bona fide offer of
employment from one of the first class weekly papers through an
introduction I was able to get for him from one who had powerful
influence with the paper in question. The editor sent him a dozen long
books upon varied and difficult subjects, and told him to review
them in a single article within a week. In one book there was an
editorial note to the effect that the writer was to be condemned.
Ernest particularly admired the book he was desired to condemn, and
feeling how hopeless it was for him to do anything like justice to the
books submitted to him, returned them to the editor.

  At last one paper did actually take a dozen or so of articles from
him, and gave him cash down a couple of guineas apiece for them, but
having done this it expired within a fortnight after the last of
Ernest's articles had appeared. It certainly looked very much as if
the other editors knew their business in declining to have anything to
do with my unlucky godson.

  I was not sorry that he failed with periodical literature, for
writing for reviews or newspapers is bad training for one who may
aspire to write works of more permanent interest. A young writer
should have more time for reflection than he can get as a
contributor to the daily or even weekly press. Ernest himself,
however, was chagrined at finding how unmarketable he was. "Why," he
said to me, "if I was a well-bred horse, or sheep, or a pure-bred
pigeon, or lop-eared rabbit I should be more salable. If I was even
a cathedral in a colonial town people would give me something, but
as it is they do not want me"; and now that he was well and rested
he wanted to set up a shop again, but this, of course, I would not
hear of.

  "What care I," said he to me one day, "about being what they call
a gentleman?" And his manner was almost fierce. "What has being a
gentleman ever done for me except make me less able to prey and more
easy to be preyed upon? It has changed the manner of my being
swindled, that is all. But for your kindness to me I should be
penniless. Thank heaven I have placed my children where I have."

  I begged him to keep quiet a little longer and not talk about taking
a shop.

  "Will being a gentleman," he said, "bring me money at the last,
and will anything bring me as much peace at the last as money will?
They say that those who have riches enter hardly into the kingdom of
Heaven. By Jove, they do; they are like Struldbrugs; they live and
live and live and are happy for many a long year after they would have
entered into the kingdom of Heaven if they had been poor. I want to
live long and to raise my children, if I see they would be happier for
the raising; that is what I want, and it is not what I am doing now
that will help me. Being a gentleman is a luxury which I cannot
afford, therefore I do not want it. Let me go back to my shop again,
and do things for people which they want done and will pay me for
doing for them. They know what they want and what is good for them
better than I can tell them."

  It was hard to deny the soundness of this, and if he had been
dependent only on the L300 a year which he was getting from me I
should have advised him to open his shop again next morning. As it
was, I temporised and raised obstacles, and quieted him from time to
time as best I could.

  Of course he read Mr. Darwin's books as fast as they came out and
adopted evolution as an article of faith. "It seems to me," he said
once, "that I am like one of those caterpillars which, if they have
been interrupted in making their hammock, must begin again from the
beginning. So long as I went back a long way down in the social
scale I got on all right, and should have made money but for Ellen;
when I try to take up the work at a higher stage I fail completely." I
do not know whether the analogy holds good or not, but I am sure
Ernest's instinct was right in telling him that after a heavy fall
he had better begin life again at a very low stage, and as I have just
said, I would have let him go back to his shop if I had not known what
I did.

  As the time fixed upon by his aunt drew nearer I prepared him more
and more for what was coming, and at last, on his twenty-eighth
birthday, I was able to tell him all and to show him the letter signed
by his aunt upon her death-bed to the effect that I was to hold the
money in trust for him. His birthday happened that year (1863) to be
on a Sunday, but on the following day I transferred his shares into
his own name, and presented him with the account books which he had
been keeping for the last year and a half.

  In spite of all that I had done to prepare him, it was a long
while before I could get him actually to believe that the money was
his own. He did not say much- no more did I, for I am not sure that
I did not feel as much moved at having brought my long trusteeship
to a satisfactory conclusion as Ernest did at finding himself owner of
more than L70,000. When he did speak it was to jerk out a sentence
or two of reflection at a time. "If I were rendering this moment in
music," he said, "I should allow myself free use of the augmented
sixth." A little later I remember his saying with a laugh that had
something of a family likeness to his aunt's: "It is not the
pleasure it causes me which I enjoy so, it is the pain it will cause
to all my friends except yourself and Towneley."

  I said: "You cannot tell your father and mother- it would drive them
mad."

  "No, no, no," said he, "it would be too cruel; it would be like
Isaac offering up Abraham and no thicket with a ram in it near at
hand. Besides, why should I? We have cut each other these four years."

  CHAPTER LXXXII

  IT almost seemed as though our casual mention of Theobald and
Christina had in some way excited them from a dormant to an active
state. During the years that had elapsed since they last appeared upon
the scene they had remained at Battersby, and had concentrated their
affection upon their other children.

  It had been a bitter pill to Theobald to lose his power of
plaguing his first-born; if the truth were known I believe he had felt
this more acutely than any disgrace which might have been shed upon
him by Ernest's imprisonment. He had made one or two attempts to
reopen negotiations through me, but I never said anything about them
to Ernest, for I knew it would upset him. I wrote, however, to
Theobald that I had found his son inexorable, and recommended him
for the present, at any rate, to desist from returning to the subject.
This I thought would be at once what Ernest would like best and
Theobald least.

  A few days, however, after Ernest had come into his property, I
received a letter from Theobald enclosing one for Ernest which I could
not withhold.

  The letter ran thus:

  "TO MY SON ERNEST,- Although you have more than once rejected my
overtures I appeal yet again to your better nature. Your mother, who
has long been ailing, is, I believe, near her end; she is unable to
keep anything on her stomach, and Dr. Martin holds out but little
hopes of her recovery. She has expressed a wish to see you, and says
she knows you will not refuse to come to her, which, considering her
condition, I am unwilling to suppose you will.

  "I remit you a Post Office order for your fare, and will pay your
return journey.

  "If you want clothes to come in, order what you consider suitable,
and desire that the bill be sent to me; I will pay it immediately,
to an amount not exceeding eight or nine pounds, and if you will let
me know what train you will come by, I will send the carriage to
meet you. Believe me, Your affectionate father,

                                           "T. PONTIFEX."

  Of course there could be no hesitation on Ernest's part. He could
afford to smile now at his father's offering to pay for his clothes,
and his sending him a Post Office order for the exact price of a
second-class ticket, and he was of course shocked at learning the
state his mother was said to be in, and touched at her desire to see
him. He telegraphed that he would come down at once. I saw him a
little before he started, and was pleased to see how well his tailor
had done by him. Towneley himself could not have been appointed more
becomingly. His portmanteau, his railway wrapper, everything he had
about him, was in keeping. I thought he had grown much
better-looking than he had been at two- or three-and-twenty. His
year and a half of peace had effaced all the ill effects of his
previous suffering, and now that he had become actually rich there was
an air of insouciance and good humour upon his face, as of a man
with whom everything was going perfectly right, which would have
made a much plainer man good-looking. I was proud of him and delighted
with him. "I am sure," I said to myself, "that whatever else he may
do, he will never marry again."

  The journey was a painful one. As he drew near to the station and
caught sight of each familiar feature, so strong was the force of
association that he felt as though his coming into his aunt's money
had been a dream, and he were again returning to his father's house as
he had returned to it from Cambridge for the vacations. Do what he
would, the old dull weight of home-sickness began to oppress him,
his heart beat fast as he thought of his approaching meeting with
his father and mother. "And I shall have," he said to himself, "to
kiss Charlotte."

  Would his father meet him at the station? Would he greet him as
though nothing had happened, or would he be cold and distant? How,
again, would he take the news of his son's good fortune? As the
train drew up to the platform, Ernest's eye ran hurriedly over the few
people who were in the station. His father's well-known form was not
among them, but on the other side of the palings which divided the
station yard from the platform, he saw the pony carriage, looking,
as he thought, rather shabby, and recognised his father's coachman. In
a few minutes more he was in the carriage driving towards Battersby.
He could not help smiling as he saw the coachman give a look of
surprise at finding him so much changed in personal appearance. The
coachman was the more surprised because when Ernest had last been at
home he had been dressed as a clergyman, and now he was not only a
layman, but a layman who was got up regardless of expense. The
change was so great that it was not till Ernest actually spoke to
him that the coachman knew him.

  "How are my father and mother?" he asked hurriedly, as he got into
the carriage. "The Master's well, sir," was the answer, "but the
Missis is very sadly." The horse knew that he was going home and
pulled hard at the reins. The weather was cold and raw -the very ideal
of a November day; in one part of the road the floods were out, and
near here they had to pass through a number of horsemen and dogs,
for the hounds had met that morning at a place near Battersby.
Ernest saw several people whom he knew, but they either, as is most
likely, did not recognise him, or did not know of his good luck.
When Battersby church tower drew near, and he saw the Rectory on the
top of the hill, its chimneys just showing above the leafless trees
with which it was surrounded, he threw himself back in the carriage
and covered his face with his hands.

  It came to an end, as even the worst quarters of an hour do, and
in a few minutes more he was on the steps in front of his father's
house. His father, hearing the carriage arrive, came a little way down
the steps to meet him. Like the coachman he saw at a glance that
Ernest was appointed as though money were abundant with him, and
that he was looking robust and full of health and vigour.

  This was not what he had bargained for. He wanted Ernest to
return, but he was to return as any respectable, well-regulated
prodigal ought to return -abject, brokenhearted, asking forgiveness
from the tenderest and most long-suffering father in the whole
world. If he should have shoes and stockings and whole clothes at all,
it should be only because absolute rags and tatters had been
graciously dispensed with, whereas here he was swaggering in a grey
ulster and a blue and white necktie, and looking better than
Theobald had ever seen him in his life. It was unprincipled. Was it
for this that he had been generous enough to offer to provide Ernest
with decent clothes in which to come and visit his mother's death-bed?
Could any advantage be meaner than the one which Ernest had taken?
Well, he would not go a penny beyond the eight or nine pounds which he
had promised. It was fortunate he had given a limit. Why, he,
Theobald, had never been able to afford such a portmanteau in his
life. He was still using an old one which his father had turned over
to him when he went up to Cambridge. Besides, he had said clothes, not
a portmanteau.

  Ernest saw what was passing through his father's mind, and felt that
he ought to have prepared him in some way for what he now saw; but
he had sent his telegram so immediately on receiving his father's
letter, and had followed it so promptly that it would not have been
easy to do so even if he had thought of it. He put out his hand and
said laughingly, "Oh, it's all paid for- I am afraid you do not know
that Mr. Overton has handed over to me Aunt Alethea's money."

  Theobald flushed scarlet. "But why," he said, and these were the
first words that actually crossed his lips- "if the money was not
his to keep, did he not hand it over to my brother John and me?" He
stammered a good deal and looked sheepish, but he got the words out.

  "Because, my dear father," said Ernest still laughing, "my aunt left
it to him in trust for me, not in trust either for you or for my Uncle
John- and it has accumulated till it is now over L70,000. But tell
me how is my mother?"

  "No, Ernest," said Theobald excitedly, "the matter cannot rest here;
I must know that this is all open and above board."

  This had the true Theobald ring and instantly brought the whole
train of ideas which in Ernest's mind were connected with his
father. The surroundings were the old familiar ones, but the
surrounded were changed almost beyond power of recognition. He
turned sharply on Theobald in a moment. I will not repeat the words he
used, for they came out before he had time to consider them, and
they might strike some of my readers as disrespectful; there were
not many of them, but they were effectual. Theobald said nothing,
but turned almost of an ashen colour; he never again spoke to his
son in such a way as to make it necessary for him to repeat what he
had said on this occasion. Ernest quickly recovered his temper and
again asked after his mother. Theobald was glad enough to take this
opening now, and replied at once in the tone he would have assumed
towards one he most particularly desired to conciliate, that she was
getting rapidly worse in spite of all he had been able to do for
her, and concluded by saying she had been the comfort and mainstay
of his life for more than thirty years, but that he could not wish
it prolonged.

  The pair then went upstairs to Christina's room, the one in which
Ernest had been born. His father went before him and prepared her
for her son's approach. The poor woman raised herself in bed as he
came towards her and weeping as she flung her arms around him,
cried: "Oh, I knew he would come, I knew, I knew he would come."

  Ernest broke down and wept as he had not done for years.

  "Oh, my boy, my boy," she said as soon as she could recover her
voice. "Have you never really been near us for all these years? Ah,
you do not know how we have loved you and mourned over you, papa
just as much as I have. You know he shows his feelings less, but I can
never tell you how very, very deeply he has felt for you. Sometimes at
night I have thought I have heard footsteps in the garden, and have
got quietly out of bed lest I should wake him, and gone to the
window to look out, but there has been only dark or the greyness of
the morning, and I have gone crying back to bed again. Still I think
you have been near us though you were too proud to let us know- and
now at last I have you in my arms once more, my dearest, dearest boy."

  How cruel, how infamously unfeeling Ernest thought he had been.

  "Mother," he said, "forgive me- the fault was mine; I ought not to
have been so hard; I was wrong, very wrong"; the poor blubbering
fellow meant what he said, and his heart yearned to his mother as he
had never thought that it could yearn again. "But have you never," she
continued, "come although it was in the dark and we did not know it-
oh, let me think that you have not been so cruel as we have thought
you. Tell me that you came if only to comfort me and make me happier."

  Ernest was ready. "I had no money to come with, mother, till just
lately."

  This was an excuse Christina could understand and make allowance
for: "Oh, then you would have come, and I will take the will for the
deed- and now that I have you safe again, say that you will never,
never leave me- not till- not till- oh, my boy, have they told you I
am dying?" She wept bitterly and buried her head in her pillow.

  CHAPTER LXXXIII

  JOEY and Charlotte were in the room. Joey was now ordained, and
was curate to Theobald. He and Ernest had never been sympathetic,
and Ernest saw at a glance that there was no chance of a rapprochement
between them. He was a little startled at seeing Joey dressed as a
clergyman, and looking so like what he had looked himself a few
years earlier, for there was a good deal of family likeness between
the pair; but Joey's face was cold and was illumined with no spark
of Bohemianism; he was going to do as other clergymen did, neither
better nor worse. He greeted Ernest rather de haut en has, that is
to say he began by trying to do so, but the affair tailed off
unsatisfactorily.

  His sister presented her cheek to him to be kissed. How he hated it;
he had been dreading it for the last three hours. She, too, was
distant and reproachful in her manner, as such a superior person was
sure to be. She had a grievance against him inasmuch as she was
still unmarried. She laid the blame this at Ernest's door; it was
his misconduct, she maintained in secret, which had prevented young
men from making offers to her, and she ran him up a heavy bill for
consequential damages. She and Joey had from the first developed an
instinct for hunting with the hounds, and now these two had fairly
identified themselves with the older generation- that is to say as
against Ernest. On this head there was an offensive and defensive
alliance between them, but between themselves there was subdued but
internecine warfare.

  This at least was what Ernest gathered, partly from his
recollections of the parties concerned, and partly from his
observation of their little ways during the first half-hour after
his arrival, while they were all together in his mother's bedroom- for
as yet of course they did not know that he had money. He could see
that they eyed him from time to time with a surprise not unmixed
with indignation, and knew very well what they were thinking.

  Christina saw the change which had come over him- how much firmer
and more vigorous both in mind and body he seemed than when she had
last seen him. She saw too how well he was dressed, and, like the
others, in spite of the return of all her affection for her
first-born, was a little alarmed about Theobald's pocket, which she
supposed would have to be mulcted for all this magnificence.
Perceiving this, Ernest relieved her mind and told her all about his
aunt's bequest, and how I had husbanded it, in the presence of his
brother and sister- who, however, pretended not to notice, or at any
rate to notice as a matter in which they could hardly be expected to
take an interest.

  His mother kicked a little at first against the money's having
gone to him as she said "over his papa's head." "Why, my dear," she
said in a deprecating tone, "this is more than ever your papa has
had"; but Ernest calmed her by suggesting that if Miss Pontifex had
known how large the sum would become she would have left the greater
part of it to Theobald. This compromise was accepted by Christina
who forthwith, ill as she was, entered with ardour into the new
position, and taking it as a fresh point of departure, began
spending Ernest's money for him.

  I may say in passing that Christina was right in saying that
Theobald had never had so much money as his son was now possessed
of. In the first place he had not had a fourteen years' minority
with no outgoings to prevent the accumulation of the money, and in the
second he, like myself and almost everyone else, had suffered somewhat
in the 1846 times- not enough to cripple him or even seriously to hurt
him, but enough to give him a scare and make him stick to debentures
for the rest of his life. It was the fact of his son's being the
richer man of the two, and of his being rich so young, which rankled
with Theobald even more than the fact of his having money at all. If
he had had to wait till he was sixty or sixty-five, and become
broken down from long failure in the meantime, why then perhaps he
might have been allowed to have whatever sum should suffice to keep
him out of the workhouse and pay his death-bed expenses; but that he
should come in to L70,000 at eight-and-twenty, and have no wife and
only two children- it was intolerable. Christina was too ill and in
too great a hurry to spend the money to care much about such details
as the foregoing, and she was naturally much more good-natured than
Theobald.

  "This piece of good fortune"- she saw it at a glance- "quite wiped
out the disgrace of his having been imprisoned. There should be no
more nonsense about that. The whole thing was a mistake, an
unfortunate mistake, true, but the less said about it now the
better. Of course Ernest would come back and live at Battersby until
he was married, and he would pay his father handsomely for board and
lodging. In fact it would be only right that Theobald should make a
profit, nor would Ernest himself wish it to be other than a handsome
one; this was far the best and simplest arrangement; and he could take
his sister out more than Theobald or Joey cared to do, and would
also doubtless entertain very handsomely at Battersby.

  "Of course he would buy Joey a living, and make large presents
yearly to his sister- was there anything else? Oh! yes- he would
become a county magnate now; a man with nearly L4,000 a year should
certainly become a county magnate. He might even go into Parliament.
He had very fair abilities, nothing indeed approaching such genius
as Dr. Skinner's nor even as Theobald's, still he was not deficient
and if he got into Parliament- so young too- there was nothing to
hinder his being Prime Minister before he died, and if so, of
course, he would become a peer. Oh! why did he not set about it all at
once, so that she might live to hear people call her son 'my lord'-
Lord Battersby she thought would do very nicely, and if she was well
enough to sit he must certainly have her portrait painted at full
length for one end of his large dining-hall. It should be exhibited at
the Royal Academy: 'Portrait of Lord Battersby's mother,' she said
to herself, and her heart fluttered with all its wonted vivacity. If
she could not sit, happily, she had been photographed not so very long
ago, and the portrait had been as successful as any photograph could
be of a face which depended so entirely upon its expression as her
own. Perhaps the painter could take the portrait sufficiently from
this. It was better after all that Ernest had given up the
Church-how far more wisely God arranges matters for us than ever we
can do for ourselves! She saw it all now-it was Joey who would
become Archbishop of Canterbury and Ernest would remain a layman and
become Prime Minister"... and so on till her daughter told her it
was time to take her medicine.

  I suppose this reverie, which is a mere fragment of what actually
ran through Christina's brain, occupied about a minute and a half, but
it, or the presence of her son, seemed to revive her spirits
wonderfully. Ill, dying indeed, and suffering as she was, she
brightened up so as to laugh once or twice quite merrily during the
course of the afternoon. Next day Dr. Martin said she was so much
better that he almost began to have hopes of her recovery again.
Theobald, whenever this was touched upon as possible, would shake
his head and say: "We can't wish it prolonged," and then Charlotte
caught Ernest unawares and said: "You know, dear Ernest, that these
ups and downs of talk are terribly agitating to papa; he could stand
whatever comes, but it is quite too wearing to him to think
half-a-dozen different things backwards and forwards, up and down in
the same twenty-four hours, and it would be kinder of you not to do
it- I mean not to say anything to him even though Dr. Martin does hold
out hopes."

  Charlotte had meant to imply that it was Ernest who was at the
bottom of all the inconvenience felt by Theobald, herself, Joey, and
everyone else, and she had actually got words out which should
convey this; true, she had not dared to stick to them and had turned
them off, but she had made them hers at any rate for one brief moment,
and this was better than nothing. Ernest noticed throughout his
mother's illness, that Charlotte found immediate occasion to make
herself disagreeable to him whenever either the doctor or nurse
pronounced her mother to be a little better. When she wrote to
Crampsford to desire the prayers of the congregation (she was sure her
mother would wish it, and that the Crampsford people would be
pleased at her remembrance of them), she was sending another letter on
some quite different subject at the same time, and put the two letters
into the wrong envelopes. Ernest was asked to take these letters to
the village post office, and imprudently did so; when the error came
to be discovered Christina happened to have rallied a little.
Charlotte flew at Ernest immediately, and laid all the blame of the
blunder upon his shoulders.

  Except that Joey and Charlotte were more fully developed, the
house and its inmates, organic and inorganic, were little changed
since Ernest had last seen them. The furniture and the ornaments on
the chimney-piece were just as they had been ever since he could
remember anything at all. In the drawing-room, on either side of the
fireplace there hung the Carlo Dolci and the Sassoferrato as in old
times; there was the water colour of a scene on the Lago Maggiore,
copied by Charlotte from an original lent her by her drawing master,
and finished under his direction. This was the picture of which one of
the servants had said that it must be good, for Mr. Pontifex had given
ten shillings for the frame. The paper on the walls was unchanged; the
roses were still waiting for the bees; and the whole family still
prayed night and morning to be made "truly honest and conscientious."

  One picture only was removed- a photograph of himself which had hung
under one of his father and between those of his brother and sister.
Ernest noticed this at prayer time, while his father was reading about
Noah's ark and how they daubed it with slime, which, as it happened,
had been Ernest's favourite text when he was a boy. Next morning,
however, the photograph had found its way back again, a little dusty
and with a bit of the gilding chipped off from one corner of the
frame, but there sure enough it was. I suppose they put it back when
they found how rich he had become.

  In the dining-room the ravens were still trying to feed Elijah
over the fireplace; what a crowd of reminiscences did not this picture
bring back! Looking out of the window, there were the flower beds in
the front garden exactly as they had been, and Ernest found himself
looking hard against the blue door at the bottom of the garden to
see if there was rain falling, as he had been used to look when he was
a child doing lessons with his father.

  After their early dinner, when Joey and Ernest and their father were
left alone, Theobald rose and stood in the middle of the hearthrug
under the Elijah picture, and began to whistle in his old absent
way. He had two tunes only -one was "In my Cottage near a Wood," and
the other was the Easter Hymn; he had been trying to whistle them
all his life, but had never succeeded; he whistled them as a clever
bullfinch might whistle them- he had got them, but he had not got them
right; he would be a semitone out in every third note as though
reverting to some remote musical progenitor, who had known none but
the Lydian or the Phrygian mode, or whatever would enable him to go
most wrong while still keeping the tune near enough to be
recognised. Theobald stood before the middle of the fire and
whistled his two tunes softly in his own old way till Ernest left
the room; the unchangedness of the external and changedness of the
internal he felt were likely to throw him completely off his balance.

  He strolled out of doors into the sodden spinney behind the house,
and solaced himself with a pipe. Ere long he found himself at the door
of the cottage of his father's coachman, who had married an old lady's
maid of his mother's, to whom Ernest had been always much attached
as she also to him, for she had known him ever since he had been
five or six years old. Her name was Susan. He sat down in the
rocking-chair before her fire, and Susan went on ironing at the
table in front of the window, and a smell of hot flannel pervaded
the kitchen.

  Susan had been retained too securely by Christina to be likely to
side with Ernest all in a moment. He knew this very well, and did
not call on her for the sake of support, moral or otherwise. He had
called because he liked her, and also because he knew that he should
gather much in a chat with her that he should not be able to arrive at
in any other way.

  "Oh, Master Ernest," said Susan, "why did you not come back when
your poor papa and mamma wanted you? I'm sure your ma has said to me a
hundred times over if she has said it once that all should be
exactly as it had been before."

  Ernest smiled to himself. It was no use explaining to Susan why he
smiled, so he said nothing.

  "For the first day or two I thought she never would get over it; she
said it was a judgement upon her, and went on about things as she
had said and done many years ago, before your pa knew her, and I don't
know what she didn't say or wouldn't have said only I stopped her; she
seemed out of her mind like, and said that none of the neighbours
would ever speak to her again, but the next day Mrs. Bushby (her
that was Miss Cowey, you know) called, and your ma always was so
fond of her, and it seemed to do her a power o' good, for the next day
she went through all her dresses, and we settled how she should have
them altered; and then all the neighbours called for miles and miles
round, and your ma came in here, and said she had been going through
the waters of misery, and the Lord had turned them to a well.

  "'Oh, yes, Susan,' said she, 'be sure it is so. Whom the Lord loveth
he chasteneth, Susan,' and here she began to cry again. 'As for
him,' she went on, 'he has made his bed, and he must lie on it; when
he comes out of prison his pa will know what is best to be done, and
Master Ernest may be thankful that he has a pa so good and so
long-suffering.'

  "Then when you would not see them, that was a cruel blow to your ma.
Your pa did not say anything; you know your pa never does say very
much unless he's downright waxy for the time; but your ma took on
dreadful for a few days, and I never saw the master look so black;
but, bless you, it all went off in a few days, and I don't know that
there's been much difference in either of them since then, not till
your ma was took ill."

  On the night of his arrival he had behaved well at family prayers,
as also on the following morning; his father read about David's
dying injunction to Solomon in the matter of Shimei, but he did not
mind it. In the course of the day, however, his corns had been trodden
on so many times that he was in a misbehaving humour, on this the
second night after his arrival. He knelt next Charlotte and said the
responses perfunctorily, not so perfunctorily that she should know for
certain that he was doing it maliciously, but so perfunctorily as to
make her uncertain whether he might be malicious or not, and when he
had to pray to be made truly honest and conscientious he emphasised
the "truly." I do not know whether Charlotte noticed anything, but she
knelt at some distance from him during the rest of his stay. He
assures me that this was the only spiteful thing he did during the
whole time he was at Battersby.

  When he went up to his bedroom, in which, to do them justice, they
had given him a fire, he noticed what indeed he had noticed as soon as
he was shown into it on his arrival, that there was an illuminated
card framed and glazed over his bed with the words, "Be the day
weary or be the day long, at last it ringeth to evensong." He wondered
to himself how such people could leave such a card in a room in
which their visitors would have to spend the last hours of their
evening, but he let it alone. "There's not enough difference between
'weary' and 'long' to warrant an 'or,'" he said, "but I suppose it
is all right." I believe Christina had bought the card at a bazaar
in aid of the restoration of a neighbouring church, and having been
bought it had got to be used- besides, the sentiment was so touching
and the illumination was really lovely. how, no irony could be more
complete than leaving it in my hero's bedroom, though assuredly no
irony had been intended.

  On the third day after Ernest's arrival Christina relapsed again.
For the last two days she had been in no pain and had slept a good
deal; her son's presence still seemed to cheer her, and she often said
how thankful she was to be surrounded on her death-bed by a family
so happy, so God-fearing, so united, but now she began to wander, and,
being more sensible of the approach of death, seemed also more alarmed
at the thoughts of the Day of Judgement.

  She ventured more than once or twice to return to the subject of her
sins, and implored Theobald to make quite sure that they were forgiven
her. She hinted that she considered his professional reputation was at
stake; it would never do for his own wife to fail in securing at any
rate a pass. This was touching Theobald on a tender spot; he winced
and rejoined with an impatient toss of the head, "But, Christina, they
are forgiven you"; and then he entrenched himself in a firm but
dignified manner behind the Lord's Prayer. When he rose he left the
room, but called Ernest out to say that he could not wish it
prolonged.

  Joey was no more use in quieting his mother's anxiety than
Theobald had been- indeed he was only Theobald and water; at last
Ernest, who had not liked interfering took the matter in hand, and,
sitting beside her, let her pour out her grief to him without let or
hindrance.

  She said she knew she had not given up all for Christ's sake; it was
this that weighed upon her. She had given up much, and had always
tried to give up more year by year, still she knew very well that
she had not been so spiritually minded as she ought to have been. If
she had, she should probably have been favoured with some direct
vision or communication; whereas, though God had vouchsafed such
direct and visible angelic visits to one of her dear children, yet she
had had none such herself- nor even had Theobald.

  She was talking rather to herself than to Ernest as she said these
words, but they made him open his ears. He wanted to know whether
the angel had appeared to Joey or to Charlotte. He asked his mother,
but she seemed surprised, as though she expected him to know all about
it; then, as if she remembered, she checked herself and said, "Ah!
yes-you know nothing of all this, and perhaps it is as well." Ernest
could not of course press the subject, so he never found out which
of his near relations it was who had had direct communication with
an immortal. The others never said anything to him about it, though
whether this was because they were ashamed, or because they feared
he would not believe the story and thus increase his own damnation, he
could not determine.

  Ernest has often thought about this since. He tried to get the facts
out of Susan, who he was sure would know, but Charlotte had been
beforehand with him. "No, Master Ernest," said Susan, when he began to
question her, "your ma has sent a message to me by Miss Charlotte as I
am not to say nothing at all about it, and I never will." Of course no
further questioning was possible. It had more than once occurred to
Ernest that Charlotte did not in reality believe more than he did
himself, and this incident went far to strengthen his surmises, but he
wavered when he remembered how she had misdirected the letter asking
for the prayers of the congregation. "I suppose," he said to himself
gloomily, "she does believe in it after all."

  Then Christina returned to the subject of her own want of
spiritual-mindedness, she even harped upon the old grievance of her
having eaten black puddings -true, she had given them up years ago,
but for how many years had she not persevered in eating them after she
had had misgivings about their having been forbidden! Then there was
something that weighed on her mind that had taken place before her
marriage, and she should like--

  Ernest interrupted her: "My dear mother," he said, "you are ill
and your mind is unstrung; others can now judge better about you
than you can; I assure you that to me you seem to have been the most
devotedly unselfish wife and mother that ever lived. Even if you
have not literally given up all for Christ's sake, you have done so
practically as far as it was in your power, and more than this is
not required of anyone. I believe you will not only be a saint, but
a very distinguished one."

  At these words Christina brightened. "You give me hope, you give
me hope," she cried, and dried her eyes. She made him assure her
over and over again that this was his solemn conviction; she did not
care about being a distinguished saint now; she would be quite content
to be among the meanest who actually got into heaven, provided she
could make sure of escaping that awful Hell. The fear of this
evidently was omnipresent with her, and in spite of all Ernest could
say he did not quite dispel it. She was rather ungrateful, I must
confess, for after more than an hour's consolation from Ernest she
prayed for him that he might have every blessing in this world,
inasmuch as she always feared that he was the only one of her children
whom she should never meet in heaven; but she was then wandering,
and was hardly aware of his presence; her mind in fact was reverting
to states in which it had been before her illness.

  On Sunday Ernest went to church as a matter of course, and noted
that the ever receding tide of Evangelicalism had ebbed many a stage
lower, even during the few years of his absence. His father used to
walk to the church through the Rectory garden, and across a small
intervening field. He had been used to walk in a tall hat, his
master's gown, and wearing a pair of Geneva bands. Ernest noticed that
the bands were worn no longer, and lo! greater marvel still,
Theobald did not preach in his master's gown, but in a surplice. The
whole character of the service was changed; you could not say it was
high even now, for high-church Theobald could never under any
circumstances become, but the old easy-going slovenliness, if I may
say so, was gone for ever. The orchestral accompaniments to the
hymns had disappeared while my hero was yet a boy, but there had
been no chanting for some years after the harmonium had been
introduced. While Ernest was at Cambridge, Charlotte and Christina had
prevailed on Theobald to allow the canticles to be sung; and sung they
were to old-fashioned double chants by Lord Mornington and Dr.
Dupuis and others. Theobald did not like it, but he did it, or allowed
it to be done.

  Then Christina said: "My dear, do you know, I really think"
(Christina always "really" thought) "that the people like the chanting
very much, and that it will be a means of bringing many to church
who have stayed away hitherto. I was talking about it to Mrs.
Goodhew and to old Miss Wright only yesterday, and they quite agreed
with me, but they all said that we ought to chant the 'Glory be to the
Father' at the end of each of the psalms instead of saying it."

  Theobald looked black- he felt the waters of chanting rising
higher and higher upon him inch by inch; but he felt also, he knew not
why, that he had better yield than fight. So he ordered the "Glory
be to the Father" to be chanted in future, but he did not like it.

  "Really, mamma dear," said Charlotte, when the battle was won,
"you should not call it the 'Glory be to the Father'- you should say
'Gloria.'

  "Of course, my dear," said Christina, and she said "Gloria" for ever
after. Then she thought what a wonderfully clever girl Charlotte
was, and how she ought to marry no one lower than a bishop.
By-and-by when Theobald went away for an unusually long holiday one
summer, he could find no one but a rather high-church clergyman to
take his duty. This gentleman was a man of weight in the
neighbourhood, having considerable private means, but without
preferment. In the summer he would often help his brother clergymen,
and it was through his being willing to take the duty at Battersby for
a few Sundays that Theobald had been able to get away for so long.
On his return, however, he found that the whole psalms were being
chanted as well as the Glorias. The influential clergyman,
Christina, and Charlotte took the bull by the horns as soon as
Theobald returned, and laughed it all off; and the clergyman laughed
and bounced, and Christina laughed and coaxed, and Charlotte uttered
unexceptionable sentiments, and the thing was done now, and could
not be undone, and it was no use grieving over spilt milk; so
henceforth the psalms were to be chanted, but Theobald grisled over it
in his heart, and he did not like it.

  During this same absence what had Mrs. Goodhew and old Miss Wright
taken to doing  but turning towards the east while repeating the
Belief? Theobald disliked this even worse than chanting. When he
said something about it in a timid way at dinner after service,
Charlotte said, "Really, papa dear, you must take to caring it the
'Creed' and not the 'Belief'"; and Theobald winced impatiently and
snorted meek defiance, but the spirit of her aunts Jane and Eliza
was strong in Charlotte, and the thing was too small to fight about,
and he turned it off with a laugh. "As for Charlotte," thought
Christina, "I believe she knows everything." So Mrs. Good. and Miss
Wright continued to turn to the east during the time the Creed was
said, and by-and-by others followed their example, and ere long the
few who had stood out yielded and turned eastward too; and then
Theobald made as though he had thought it all very right and proper
from the first, but like it he did not. By-and-by Charlotte tried to
make him say "Alleluia" instead of "Hallelujah," but this was going
too far, and Theobald turned, and she got frightened and ran away.

  And they changed the double chants for single ones, and altered them
psalm by psalm, and in the middle of psalms, just where a cursory
reader would see no reason why they should do so, they changed from
major to minor and from minor back to major; and then they got
"Hymns Ancient and Modern," and, as I have said, they robbed him of
his beloved bands, and they made him preach in a surplice, and he must
have celebration of the Holy Communion once a month instead of only
five times in the year as heretofore, and he struggled in vain against
the unseen influence which he felt to be working in season and out
of season against all that he had been accustomed to consider most
distinctive of his party. Where it was, or what it was, he knew not,
nor exactly what it would do next, but he knew exceedingly well that
go where he would it was undermining him; that it was too persistent
for him; that Christina and Charlotte liked it a great deal better
than he did, and that it could end in nothing but Rome. Easter
decorations indeed! Christmas decorations- in reason- were proper
enough, but Easter decorations! well, it might last his time.

  This was the course things had taken in the Church of England during
the last forty years. The set has been steadily in one direction. A
few men who knew what they wanted made catspaws of the Christinas
and the Charlottes, and the Christinas and the Charlottes made
catspaws of the Mrs. Goodhews and the old Miss Wrights, and the Mrs.
Goodhews and old Miss Wrights told the Mr. Goodhews and young Miss
Wrights what they should do, and when the Mr. Goodhews and the young
Miss Wrights did it the little Goodhews and the rest of the
spiritual flock did as they did, and the Theobalds went for nothing;
step by step, day by day, year by year, parish by parish, diocese by
diocese this was how it was done. And yet the Church of England
looks with no friendly eyes upon the theory of Evolution or Descent
with Modification.

  My hero thought over these things, and remembered many a ruse on the
part of Christina and Charlotte, and many a detail of the struggle
which I cannot further interrupt my story to refer to, and he
remembered his father's favourite retort that it could only end in
Rome. When he was a boy he had firmly believed this, but he smiled now
as he thought of another alternative clear enough to himself, but so
horrible that it had not even occurred to Theobald- I mean the
toppling over of the whole system. At that time he welcomed the hope
that the absurdities and unrealities of the Church would end in her
downfall. Since then he has come to think very differently, not as
believing in the cow jumping over the moon more than he used to, or
more, probably, than nine-tenths of the clergy themselves- who know as
well as he does that their outward and visible symbols are out of
date- but because he knows the baffling complexity of the problem when
it comes to deciding what is actually to be done. Also, now that he
has seen them more closely, he knows better the nature of those wolves
in sheep's clothing, who are thirsting for the blood of their
victim, and exulting so clamorously over its anticipated early fall
into their clutches. The spirit behind the Church is true, though
her letter -true once -is now true no longer. The spirit behind the
High Priests of Science is as lying as its letter. The Theobalds,
who do what they do because it seems to be the correct thing, but
who in their hearts neither like it nor believe in it, are in
reality the least dangerous of all classes to the peace and
liberties of mankind. The man to fear is he who goes at things with
the cocksureness of pushing vulgarity and self-conceit. These are
not vices which can be justly laid to the charge of the English
clergy.

  Many of the farmers came up to Ernest when service was over, and
shook hands with him. He found everyone knew of his having come into a
fortune. The fact was that Theobald had immediately told two or
three of the greatest gossips in the village, and the story was not
long in spreading. "It simplified matters," he had said to himself, "a
good deal." Ernest was civil to Mrs. Goodhew for her husband's sake,
but he gave Miss Wright the cut direct, for he knew that she was
only Charlotte in disguise.

  A week passed slowly away. Two or three times the family took the
sacrament together round Christina's death-bed. Theobald's
impatience became more and more transparent daily, but fortunately
Christina (who even if she had been well would have been ready to shut
her eyes to it) became weaker and less coherent in mind also, so
that she hardly, if at all, perceived it. After Ernest had been in the
house about a week his mother fell into a comatose state which
lasted a couple of days, and in the end went away so peacefully that
it was like the blending of sea and sky in mid-ocean upon a soft
hazy day when none can say where the earth ends and the heavens begin.
Indeed she died to the realities of life with less pain than she had
waked from many of its illusions.

  "She has been the comfort and mainstay of my life for more than
thirty years," said Theobald as soon as all was over, "but one could
not wish it prolonged," and he buried his face in his handkerchief
to conceal his want of emotion.

  Ernest came back to town the day after his mother's death, and
returned to the funeral accompanied by myself. He wanted me to see his
father in order to prevent any possible misapprehension about Miss
Pontifex's intentions, and I was such an old friend of the family that
my presence at Christina's funeral would surprise no one. With all her
faults I had always rather liked Christina. She would have chopped
Ernest or anyone else into little pieces of mincemeat to gratify the
slightest wish of her husband, but she would not have chopped him up
for anyone else, and so long as he did not cross her she was very fond
of him. By nature she was of an even temper, more willing to be
pleased than ruffled, very ready to do a good-natured action, provided
it did not cost her much exertion, nor involve expense to Theobald.
Her own little purse did not matter; anyone might have as much of that
as he or she could get after she had reserved what was absolutely
necessary for her dress. I could not hear of her end as Ernest
described it to me without feeling very compassionate towards her,
indeed her own son could hardly have felt more so; I at once,
therefore, consented to go down to the funeral; perhaps I was also
influenced by a desire to see Charlotte and Joey, in whom I felt
interested on hearing what my godson had told me.

  I found Theobald looking remarkably well. Everyone said he was
bearing it so beautifully. He did indeed once or twice shake his
head and say that his wife had been the comfort and mainstay of his
life for over thirty years, but there the matter ended. I stayed
over the next day, which was Sunday, and took my departure on the
following morning after having told Theobald all that his son wished
me to tell him. Theobald asked me to help him with Christina's
epitaph.

  "I would say," said he, "as little as possible; eulogies of the
departed are in most cases both unnecessary and untrue. Christina's
epitaph shall contain nothing which shall be either the one or the
other. I should give her name, the dates of her birth and death, and
of course say she was my wife, and then I think I should wind up with
a simple text-her favourite one for example, none indeed could be more
appropriate, 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'

  I said I thought this would be very nice, and it was settled. So
Ernest was sent to give the order to Mr. Prosser, the stonemason in
the nearest town, who said it came from "the Beetitudes."

  CHAPTER LXXXIV

  "ON our way to town Ernest broached his plans for spending the
next year or two. I wanted him to try to get more into society
again, but he brushed this aside at once as the very last thing he had
a fancy for. For society indeed of all sorts, except of course that of
a few intimate friends, he had an unconquerable aversion. "I always
did hate those people," he said, "and they always have hated and
always will hate me. I am an Ishmael by instinct as much as by
accident of circumstances, but if I keep out of society I shall be
less vulnerable than Ishmaels generally are. The moment a man goes
into society, he becomes vulnerable all round."

  I was very sorry to hear him talk in this way; for whatever strength
a man may have he should surely be able to make more of it if he act
in concert than alone. I said this.

  "I don't care," he answered, "whether I make the most of my strength
or not; I don't know whether I have any strength, but if I have I
daresay it will find some way of exerting itself. I will live as I
like living, not as other people would like me to live; thanks to my
aunt and you, I can afford the luxury of a quiet, unobtrusive life
of self-indulgence," said he laughing, "and I mean to have it. You
know I like writing," he added after a pause of some minutes; "I
have been a scribbler for years. If I am to come to the fore at all it
must be by writing."

  I had already long since come to that conclusion myself.

  "Well," he continued, "there are a lot of things that want saying
which no one dares to say, a lot of shams which want attacking, and
yet no one attacks them. It seems to me that I can say things which
not another man in England except myself will venture to say, and
yet which are crying to be said."

  I said: "But who will listen? If you say things which nobody else
would dare to say, is not this much the same as saying what everyone
except yourself knows to be better left unsaid just now?"

  "Perhaps," said he, "but I don't know it; I am bursting with these
things, and it is my fate to say them."

  I knew there would be no stopping him, so I gave in and asked what
question he felt a special desire to burn his fingers with in the
first instance.

  "Marriage," he rejoined promptly, "and the power of disposing of his
property after a man is dead. The question of Christianity is
virtually settled, or if not settled there is no lack of those engaged
in settling it. The question of the day now is marriage and the family
system."

  "That," said I drily, "is a hornets' nest indeed."

  "Yes," said he no less drily, "but hornets' nests are exactly what I
happen to like. Before, however, I begin to stir up this particular
one I propose to travel for a few years, with the especial object of
finding out what nations now existing are the best, comeliest, and
most lovable, and also what nations have been so in times past. I want
to find out how these people live, and have lived, and what their
customs are.

  "I have very vague notions upon the subject as yet, but the
general impression I have formed is that, putting ourselves on one
side, the most vigorous and amiable of known nations are the modern
Italians, the old Greeks and Romans, and the South Sea Islanders. I
believe that these nice peoples have not as a general rule been
purists, but I want to see those of them who can yet be seen; they are
the practical authorities on the question -What is best for man? and I
should like to see them and find out what they do. Let us settle the
fact first and fight about the moral tendencies afterwards."

  "In fact," said I laughingly, "you mean to have high old times."

  "Neither higher nor lower," was the answer, "than those people
whom I can find to have been the best in all ages. But let us change
the subject." He put his hand into his pocket and brought out a
letter. "My father," he said, "gave me this letter this morning with
the seal already broken." He passed it over to me, and I found it to
be the one which Christina had written before the birth of her last
child, and which I have given in an earlier  chapter.

  "And you do not find this letter," said I, "affects the conclusion
which you have just told me you have come to concerning your present
plans?"

  He smiled, and answered: "No. But if you do what you have
sometimes talked about and turn the adventures of my unworthy self
into a novel, mind you print this letter."

  "Why so?" said I, feeling as though such a letter as this should
have been held sacred from the public gaze.

  "Because my mother would have wished it published; if she had
known you were writing about me and had this letter in your
possession, she would above all things have desired that you should
publish it. Therefore publish it if you write at all."

  This is why I have done so.

  Within a month Ernest carried his intention into effect, and
having made all the arrangements necessary for his children's welfare,
left England before Christmas.

  I heard from him now and again and learnt that he was visiting
almost all parts of the world, but only staying in those places
where he found the inhabitants unusually good-looking and agreeable.
He said he had filled an immense quantity of note-books, and I have no
doubt he had. At last in the spring of 1867 he returned, his luggage
stained with the variation of each hotel advertisement 'twixt here and
Japan. He looked very brown and strong, and so well favoured that it
almost seemed as if he must have caught some good looks from the
people among whom he had been living. He came back to his old rooms in
the Temple, and settled down as easily as if he had never been away
a day.

  One of the first things we did was to go and see the children; we
took the train to Gravesend, and walked thence for a few miles along
the riverside till we came to the solitary house where the good people
lived with whom Ernest had placed them. It was a lovely April morning,
but with a fresh air blowing from off the sea; the tide was high,
and the river was alive with shipping coming up with wind and tide.
Sea-gulls wheeled around us overhead, seaweed clung everywhere to
the banks which the advancing tide had not yet covered, everything was
of the sea sea-ey, and the fine bracing air which blew over the
water made me feel more hungry than I had done for many a day; I did
not see how children could live in a better physical atmosphere than
this, and applauded the selection which had made on behalf of his
youngsters.

  While we were still a quarter of a mile off we heard shouts and
children's laughter, and could see a lot of boys and girls romping
together and running after one another. We could not distinguish our
own two, but when we got near they were soon made out, for the other
children were blue-eyed, flaxen-pated little folks, whereas ours
were dark and straight-haired.

  We had written to say that we were coming, but had desired that
nothing should be said to the children, so these paid no more
attention to us than they would have done to any other stranger who
happened to visit a spot so unfrequented except by sea-faring folk,
which we plainly were not. The interest, however, in us was much
quickened when it was discovered that we had got our pockets full of
oranges and sweeties, to an extent greater than it had entered into
their small imaginations to conceive as possible. At first we had
great difficulty in making them come near us. They were like a lot
of wild young colts, very inquisitive, but very coy and not to be
cajoled easily. The children were nine in all- five boys and two girls
belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Rollings, and two to Ernest. I never saw a
finer lot of children than the young Rollingses- the boys were
hardy, robust, fearless little fellows with eyes as clear as hawks;
the elder girl was exquisitely pretty, but the younger one was a
mere baby. I felt as I looked at them that if I had had children of my
own I could have wished no better home for them, nor better
companions.

  Georgie and Alice, Ernest's two children, were evidently quite as
one family with the others, and called Mr. and Mrs. Rollings uncle and
aunt. They had been so young when they were first brought to the house
that they had been looked upon in the light of new babies who had been
born into the family. They knew nothing about Mr. and Mrs. Rollings
being paid so much a week to look after them. Ernest asked them all
what they wanted to be. They had only one idea; one and all, Georgie
among the rest, wanted to be bargemen. Young ducks could hardly have a
more evident hankering after the water.

  "And what do you want, Alice?" said Ernest.

  "Oh," she said, "I'm going to marry Jack here, and be a bargeman's
wife."

  Jack was the eldest boy, now nearly twelve, a sturdy little
fellow, the image of what Mr. Rollings must have been at his age. As
we looked at him, so straight and well grown and well done all
round, I could see it was in Ernest's mind as much as in mine that she
could hardly do much better.

  "Come here, Jack, my boy," said Ernest, "here's a shilling for you."
The boy blushed and could hardly be got to come in spite of our
previous blandishments; he had had pennies given him before, but
shillings never. His father caught him good-naturedly by the ear and
lugged him to us.

  "He's a good boy, Jack is," said Ernest to Mr. Rollings, "I'm sure
of that."

  "Yes," said Mr. Rollings, "he's a werry good boy, only that I
can't get him to learn his reading and writing. He don't like going to
school- that's the only complaint I have against him. I don't know
what's the matter with all my children, and yours, Mr. Pontifex, is as
bad, but they none of 'em likes book learning, though they learn
anything else fast enough. Why, as for Jack here, he's almost as
good a bargeman as I am." And he looked fondly and patronisingly
towards his offspring.

  "I think," said Ernest to Mr. Rollings, "if he wants to marry
Alice when he gets older he had better do so, and he shall have as
many barges as he likes. In the meantime, Mr. Rollings, say in what
way money can be of use to you, and whatever you can make useful is at
your disposal."

  I need hardly say that Ernest made matters easy for this good
couple; one stipulation, however, he insisted on, namely, there was to
be no more smuggling, and that the young people were to be kept out of
this; for a little bird had told Ernest that smuggling in a quiet
way was one of the resources of the Rollings family. Mr. Rollings
was not sorry to assent to this, and I believe it is now many years
since the coastguard people have suspected any of the Rollings
family as offenders against the revenue law.

  "Why should I take them from where they are," said Ernest to me in
the train as we went home, "to send them to schools where they will
not be one half so happy, and where their illegitimacy will very
likely be a worry to them? Georgie wants to be a bargeman, let him
begin as one, the sooner the better; he may as well begin with this as
with anything else; then if he shows developments I can be on the
lookout to encourage them and make things easy for him; while if he
shows no desire to go ahead, what on earth is the good of trying to
shove him forward?"

  Ernest, I believe, went on with a homily upon education generally,
and upon the way in which young people should go through the embryonic
stages with their money as much as with their limbs, beginning life in
a much lower social position than that in which their parents were,
and a lot more, which he has since published; but I was getting on
in years, and the walk and the bracing air had made me sleepy, so
ere we had got past Greenhithe Station on our return journey I had
sunk into a refreshing sleep.

  CHAPTER LXXXV

  ERNEST, being about two-and-thirty years old and having had his
fling for the last three or four years, now settled down in London,
and began to write steadily. Up to this time he had given abundant
promise, but had produced nothing, nor indeed did he come before the
public for another three or four years yet.

  He lived as I have said very quietly, secing hardly anyone but
myself, and the three or four old friends with whom I had been
intimate for years. Ernest and we formed our little set, and outside
of this my godson was hardly known at all.

  His main expense was travelling, which he indulged in at frequent
intervals, but for short times only. Do what he would he could not get
through more than about fifteen hundred a year; the rest of his income
he gave away if he happened to find a case where he thought money
would be well bestowed, or put by until some opportunity arose of
getting rid of it with advantage.

  I knew he was writing, but we had had so many little differences
of opinion upon this head that by a tacit understanding the subject
was seldom referred to between us, and I did not know that he was
actually publishing till one day he brought me a book and told me that
it was his own. I opened it and found it to be a series of
semitheological, semi-social essays, purporting to have been written
by six or seven different people, and viewing the same class of
subjects from different standpoints.

  People had not yet forgotten the famous "Essays and Reviews," and
Ernest had wickedly given a few touches to at least two of the
essays which suggested vaguely that they had been written by a bishop.
The essays were all of them in support of the Church of England, and
appeared both by implied internal suggestion and their prima facie
purport to be the work of some half-dozen men of experience and high
position who had determined to face the difficult questions of the day
no less boldly from within the bosom of the Church than the Church's
enemies had faced them from without her pale.

  There was an essay on the external evidences of the Resurrection;
another on the marriage laws of the most eminent nations of the
world in times past and present; another was devoted to a
consideration of the many questions which must be reopened and
reconsidered on their merits if the teaching of the Church of
England were to cease to carry moral authority with it; another
dealt with the more purely social subject of middle class destitution;
another with the authenticity or rather the unauthenticity of the
fourth gospel; another was headed "Irrational Rationalism," and
there were two or three more.

  They were all written vigorously and fearlessly as though by
people used to authority; all granted that the Church professed to
enjoin belief in much which no one could accept who had been
accustomed to weigh evidence; but it was contended that so much
valuable truth had got so closely mixed up with these mistakes that
the mistakes had better not be meddled with. To lay great stress on
these was like cavilling at the queen's right to reign, on the
ground that William the Conqueror was illegitimate.

  One article maintained that though it would be inconvenient to
change the words of our prayer book and articles, it would not be
inconvenient to change in a quiet way the meanings which we put upon
those words. This, it was argued, was what was actually done in the
case of law; this had been the law's mode of growth and adaptation,
and had in all ages been found a righteous and convenient method of
effecting change. It was suggested that the Church should adopt it.

  In another essay it was boldly denied that the Church rested upon
reason. It was proved incontestably that its ultimate foundation was
and ought to be faith, there being indeed no other ultimate foundation
than this for any of man's beliefs. If so, the writer claimed that the
Church could not be upset by reason. It was founded, like everything
else, on initial assumptions, that is to say on faith, and if it was
to be upset it was to be upset by faith, by the faith of those who
in their lives appeared more graceful, more lovable, better bred, in
fact, and better able to overcome difficulties. Any sect which
showed its superiority in these respects might carry all before it,
but none other would make much headway for long together. Christianity
was true in so far as it had fostered beauty, and it had fostered much
beauty. It was false in so far as it fostered ugliness, and it had
fostered much ugliness. It was therefore not a little true and not a
little false; on the whole one might go farther and fare worse; the
wisest course would be to live with it, and make the best and not
the worst of it. The writer urged that we become persecutors as a
matter of course as soon as we begin to feel very strongly upon any
subject; we ought not therefore to do this; we ought not to feel
very strongly even upon that institution which was dearer to the
writer than any other- the Church of England. We should be
churchmen, but somewhat lukewarm churchmen, inasmuch as those who care
very much about either religion or irreligion are seldom observed to
be very well bred or agreeable people. The Church herself should
approach as nearly to that of Laodicea as was compatible with her
continuing to be a Church at all, and each individual member should
only be hot in striving to be as lukewarm as possible.

  The book rang with the courage alike of conviction and of an
entire absence of conviction; it appeared to be the work of men who
had a rule-of-thumb way of steering between iconoclasm on the one hand
and credulity on the other; who cut Gordian knots as a matter of
course when it suited their convenience; who shrank from no conclusion
in theory, nor from any want of logic in practice so long as they were
illogical of malice prepense, and for what they held to be
sufficient reason. The conclusions were conservative, quietistic,
comforting. The arguments by which they were reached were taken from
the most advanced writers of the day. All that these people
contended for was granted them, but the fruits of victory were for the
most part handed over to those already in possession.

  Perhaps the passage which attracted most attention in the book was
one from the essay on the various marriage systems of the world. It
ran:

  "If people require us to construct," exclaimed the writer, "we set
good breeding as the corner-stone of our edifice. We would have it
ever present consciously or unconsciously in the minds of all as the
central faith in which they should live and move and have their being,
as the touchstone of all things whereby they may be known as good or
evil according as they make for good breeding or against.

  That a man should have been bred well and breed others well; that
his figure, head, hands, feet, voice, manner, and clothes should carry
conviction upon this point, so that no one can look at him without
seeing that he has come of good stock and is likely to throw good
stock himself, this is the desiderandum. And the same with a woman.
The greatest number of these well-bred men and women, and the greatest
happiness of these well-bred men and women, this is the highest
good; towards this all government, all social conventions, all art,
literature, and science should directly or indirectly tend. Holy men
and holy women are those who keep this unconsciously in view at all
times whether of work or pastime."

  If Ernest had published this work in his own name I should think
it would have fallen still-born from the press, but the form he had
chosen was calculated at that time to arouse curiosity, and as I
have said he had wickedly dropped a few hints which the reviewers
did not think anyone would have been impudent enough to do if he
were not a bishop, or at any rate someone in authority. A well-known
judge was spoken of as being another of the writers, and the idea
spread ere long that six or seven of the leading bishops and judges
had laid their heads together to produce a volume, which should at
once outbid "Essays and Reviews" and counteract the influence of
that then still famous work.

  Reviewers are men of like passions with ourselves, and with them
as with everyone else omne ignotum pro magnifico. The book was
really an able one and abounded with humour, just satire, and good
sense. It struck a new note, and the speculation which for some time
was rife concerning its authorship made many turn to it who would
never have looked at it otherwise. One of the most gushing weeklies
had a fit over it, and declared it to be the finest thing that had
been done since the "Provincial Letters" of Pascal. Once a month or so
that weekly always found some picture which was the finest that had
been done since the old masters, or some satire that was the finest
that had appeared since Swift or some something which was incomparably
the finest that had appeared since something else. If Ernest had put
his name to the book, and the writer had known that it was by a
nobody, he would doubtless have written in a very different strain.
Reviewers like to think that for aught they know they are patting a
duke or even a prince of the blood upon the back, and lay it on
thick till they find they have been only praising Brown, Jones, or
Robinson. Then they are disappointed, and as a general rule will pay
Brown, Jones, or Robinson out.

  Ernest was not so much up to the ropes of the literary world as I
was, and I am afraid his head was a little turned when he woke up
one morning to find himself famous. He was Christina's son, and
perhaps would not have been able to do what he had done if he were not
capable of occasional undue elation. Ere long, however, he found out
all about it, and settled quietly down to write a series of books,
in which he insisted on saying things which no one else would say even
if they could, or could even if they would.

  He has got himself a bad literary character. I said to him
laughingly one day that he was like the man in the last century of
whom it was said that nothing but such a character could keep down
such parts.

  He laughed and said he would rather be like that than like a
modern writer or two whom he could name, whose parts were so poor that
they could be kept up by nothing but by such a character.

  I remember soon after one of these books was published I happened to
meet Mrs. Jupp to whom, by the way, Ernest made a small weekly
allowance. It was at Ernest's chambers, and for some reason we were
left alone for a few minutes. I said to her: "Mr. Pontifex has written
another book, Mrs. Jupp."

  "Lor' now," said she, "has he really? Dear gentleman! Is it about
love?" And the old sinner threw up a wicked sheep's eye glance at me
from under her aged eyelids. I forget what there was in my reply which
provoked it- probably nothing- but she went rattling on at full
speed to the effect that Bell had given her a ticket for the opera.
"So, of course," she said, "I went. I didn't understand one word of
it, for it was all French, but I saw their legs. Oh dear, oh dear! I'm
afraid I shan't be here much longer, and when dear Mr. Pontifex sees
me in my coffin he'll say, 'Poor old Jupp, she'll never talk broad any
more'; but bless you I'm not so old as all that, and I'm taking
lessons in dancing."

  At this moment Ernest came in and the conversation was changed. Mrs.
Jupp asked if he was still going on writing more books now that this
one was done. course I am," he answered; "I'm always writing books;
here is the manuscript of my next"; and he showed her a heap of paper.

  "Well now," she exclaimed, "dear, dear me, and is that manuscript?
I've often heard talk about manuscripts, but I never thought I
should live to see some myself. Well! well! So that is really
manuscript?"

  There were a few geraniums in the window and they did not look well.
Ernest asked Mrs. Jupp if she understood flowers. "I understand the
language of flowers," she said, with one of her most bewitching leers,
and on this we sent her off till she should choose to honour us with
another visit, which she knows she is privileged from time to time
to do, for Ernest likes her.

  CHAPTER LXXXVI

  AND now I must bring my story to a close.

  The preceding chapter was written soon after the events it
records- that is to say in the spring of 1867. By that time my story
had been written up to this point; but it has been altered here and
there from time to time occasionally. It is now the autumn of 1882,
and if I am to say more I should do so quickly, for I am eighty
years old and though well in health cannot conceal from myself that
I am no longer young. Ernest himself is forty-seven, though he
hardly looks it.

  He is richer than ever, for he has never married and his London
and North-Western shares have nearly doubled themselves. Through sheer
inability to spend his income he has been obliged to hoard in
self-defence. He still lives in the Temple in the same rooms I took
for him when he gave up his shop, for no one has been able to induce
him to take a house. His house, he says, is wherever there is a good
hotel. When he is in town he likes to work and to be quiet. When out
of town he feels that he has left little behind him that can go wrong,
and he would not like to be tied to a single locality. "I know no
exception," he says, "to the rule that it is cheaper to buy milk
than to keep a cow."

  As I have mentioned Mrs. Jupp, I may as well say here the little
that remains to be said about her. She is a very old woman now, but no
one now living, as she says triumphantly, can say how old, for the
woman in the Old Kent Road is dead, and presumably has carried her
secret to the grave. Old, however, though she is, she lives in the
same house, and finds it hard work to make the two ends meet, but I do
not know that she minds this very much, and it has prevented her
from getting more to drink than would be good for her. It is no use
trying to do anything for her beyond paying her allowance weekly,
and absolutely refusing to let her anticipate it. She pawns her flat
iron every Saturday for 4d., and takes it out every Monday morning for
4 1/2d. when she gets her allowance, and has done this for the last
ten years as regularly as the week comes round. As long as she does
not let the flat iron actually go we know that she can still worry out
her financial problems in her own hugger-mugger way and had better
be left to do so. If the flat iron were to go beyond redemption, we
should know that it was time to interfere. I do not know why, but
there is something about her which always reminds me of a woman who
was as unlike her as one person can be to another- I mean Ernest's
mother.

  The last time I had a long gossip with her was about two years ago
when she came to me instead of to Ernest. She said she had seen a
cab drive up just as she was going to enter the staircase, and had
seen Mr. Pontifex's pa put his Beelzebub old head out of the window,
so she had come on to me, for she hadn't greased her sides for no
curtsey, not for the likes of him. She professed to be very much
down on her luck. Her lodgers did use her so dreadful going away
without paying and leaving not so much as a stick behind, but to-day
she was as pleased as a penny carrot. She had had such a lovely dinner
-a cushion of ham and green peas. She had had a good cry over it,
but then she was so silly, she was.

  "And there's that Bell," she continued, though I could not detect
any appearance of connection, "it's enough to give anyone the hump
to see him now that he's taken to chapel-going, and his mother's
prepared to meet Jesus and all that to me, and now she ain't a-going
to die, and drinks half a bottle of champagne a day, and then Grigg,
him as preaches, you know, asked Bell if I really was too gay, not but
what when I was young I'd snap my fingers at any 'fly by night' in
Holborn, and if I was togged out and had my teeth I'd do it now. I
lost my poor dear Watkins, but of course that couldn't be helped,
and then I lost my dear Rose. Silly faggot to go and ride on a cart
and catch the bronchitics. I never thought when I kissed my dear
Rose in Pullen's Passage and she gave me the chop, that I should never
see her again, and her gentleman friend was fond her too, though he
was a married man. I daresay she's gone to bits by now. If she could
rise and see me with my bad finger, she would cry, and I should say,
'Never mind, ducky, I'm all right.' Oh! dear, it's coming on to
rain. I do hate a wet Saturday night- poor women with their nice white
stockings and their living to get," etc., etc.

  And yet age does not wither this godless old sinner, as people would
say it ought to do. Whatever life she has led, it has agreed with
her very sufficiently. At times she gives us to understand that she is
still much solicited; at others she takes quite a different tone.
She has not allowed even Joe King so much as to put his lips to hers
this ten years. She would rather have a mutton chop any day. "But
ah! you should have seen me when I was sweet seventeen. I was the very
moral of my poor dear mother, and she was a pretty woman, though I say
it that shouldn't. She had such a splendid mouth of teeth. It was a
sin to bury her in her teeth."

  I only knew of one thing at which she professes to be shocked. It is
that her son Tom and his wife Topsy are teaching the baby to swear.
"Oh! it's too dreadful awful," she exclaimed; "I don't know the
meaning of the words, but I tell him he's a drunken sot." I believe
the old woman in reality rather likes it.

  "But surely, Mrs. Jupp," said I, "Tom's wife used not to be Topsy.
You used to speak of her as Pheeb."

  "Ah! yes," she answered, "but Pheeb behaved bad, and it's Topsy
now."

  Ernest's daughter Alice married the boy who had been her playmate
more than a year ago. Ernest gave them all they said they wanted and a
good deal more. They have already presented him with a grandson, and I
doubt not will do so with many more. Georgie though only twenty-one is
owner of a fine steamer which his father has bought for him. He
began when about thirteen going with old Rollings and Jack in the
barge from Rochester to the upper Thames with bricks; then his
father bought him and Jack barges of their own, and then he bought
them both ships, and then steamers. I do not exactly know how people
make money by having a steamer, but he does whatever is usual, and
from I can gather makes it pay extremely well. He is a good deal
like his father in the face, but without a spark- so far as I have
been able to observe- of any literary ability; he has a fair sense
of humour and abundance of common sense, but his instinct is clearly a
practical one. I am not sure that he does not put me in mind almost
more of what Theobald would have been if he had been a sailor, than of
Ernest. Ernest used to go down to Battersby and stay with his father
for a few days twice a year until Theobald's death, and the pair
continued on excellent terms, in spite of what the neighbouring clergy
call "the atrocious books which Mr. Ernest Pontifex" has written.
Perhaps the harmony, or rather absence of discord, which subsisted
between the pair was due to the fact that Theobald had never looked
into the inside of one of his son's works, and Ernest, of course,
never alluded to them in his father's presence. The pair, as I have
said, got on excellently, but it was doubtless as well that Ernest's
visits were short and not too frequent. Once Theobald wanted Ernest to
bring his children, but Ernest knew they would not like it, so this
was not done.

  Sometimes Theobald came up to town on small business matters and
paid a visit to Ernest's chambers; he generally brought with him a
couple of lettuces, or a cabbage, or half-a-dozen turnips done up in a
piece of brown paper, and told Ernest that he knew fresh vegetables
were rather hard to get in London, and he had brought him some. Ernest
had often explained to him that the vegetables were of no use to
him, and that he had rather he would not bring them; but Theobald
persisted, I believe through sheer love of doing something which his
son did not like, but which was too small to take notice of.

  He lived until about twelve months ago, when he was found dead in
his bed on the morning after having written the following letter to
his son:

  "DEAR ERNEST,- I've nothing particular to write about, but your
letter has been lying for some days in the limbo of unanswered
letters, to wit my pocket, and it's time it was answered.

  "I keep wonderfully well and am able to walk my five or six miles
with comfort, but at my age there's no knowing how long it will
last, and time flies quickly. I have been busy potting plants all
the morning, but this afternoon is wet.

  "What is this horrid Government going to do with Ireland? I don't
exactly wish they'd blow up Mr. Gladstone, but if a mad bull would
chivy him there, and he would never come back any more, I should not
be sorry. Lord Hartington is not exactly the man I should like to
set in his place, but he would be immeasurably better than Gladstone.

  "I miss your sister Charlotte more than I can express. She kept my
household accounts, and I could pour out to her all my little
worries, and now that Joey is married too, I don't know what I
should do if one or other them did not come sometimes and take care of
me. My only comfort is that Charlotte will make her husband happy, and
that he is as nearly worthy of her as a husband can well be.-Believe
me, Your affectionate father,

                                     "THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

  I may say in passing that though Theobald speaks of Charlotte's
marriage as though it were recent, it had really taken place some
six years previously, she being then about thirty-eight years old, and
her husband about seven years younger.

  There was no doubt that Theobald passed peacefully away during his
sleep. Can a man who died thus be said to have died at all? He has
presented the phenomena of death to other people, but in respect of
himself he has not only not died, but has not even thought that he was
going to die. This is not more than half dying, but then neither was
his life more than half living. He presented so many of the
phenomena of living that I suppose on the whole it would be less
trouble to think of him as having been alive than as never having been
born at all, but this is only possible because association does not
stick to the strict letter of its bond.

  This, however, was not the general verdict concerning him, and the
general verdict is often the truest.

  Ernest was overwhelmed with expressions of condolence and respect
for his father's memory. "He never," said Dr. Martin, the old doctor
who brought Ernest into the world, "spoke an ill word against
anyone. He was not only liked, he was beloved by all who had
anything to do with him."

  "A more perfectly just and righteously dealing man," said the family
solicitor, "I have never had anything to do with- nor one more
punctual in the discharge of every business obligation."

  "We shall miss him sadly," the bishop wrote to Joey in the very
warmest terms. The poor were in consternation. "The well's never
missed," said one old woman, "till it's dry," and she only said what
everyone else felt. Ernest knew that the general regret was unaffected
as for a loss which could not be easily repaired. He felt that there
were only three people in the world who joined insincerely in the
tribute of applause, and these were the very three who could least
show their want of sympathy. I mean Joey, Charlotte, and himself. He
felt bitter against himself for being of a mind with either Joey or
Charlotte upon any subject, and thankful that he must conceal his
being so as far as possible, not because of anything his father had
done to him- these grievances were too old to  be remembered now-
but because he would never allow him to feel towards him as he was
always trying to feel. As long as communication was confined to the
merest commonplace all went well, but if these were departed from ever
such a little he invariably felt that his father's instincts showed
themselves in immediate opposition to his own. When he was attacked
his father laid whatever stress was possible on everything which his
opponents said. If he met with any check his father was clearly
pleased. What the old doctor had said about Theobald's speaking ill of
no man was perfectly true as regards others than himself, but he
knew very well that no one had injured his reputation in a quiet
way, so far as he dared to do, more than his own father. This is a
very common case and a very natural one. It often happens that if
the son is right, the father is wrong, and the father is not going
to have this if he can help it.

  It was very hard, however, to say what was the true root of the
mischief in the present case. It was not Ernest's having been
imprisoned. Theobald forgot all about that much sooner than nine
fathers out of ten would have done. Partly, no doubt, it was due to
incompatibility of temperament, but I believe the main ground of
complaint lay in the fact that he had been so independent and so
rich while still very young, and that thus the old gentleman had
been robbed of his power to tease and scratch in the way which he felt
he was entitled to do. The love of teasing in a small way when he felt
safe in doing so had remained part of his nature from the days when he
told his nurse that he would keep her on purpose to torment her. I
suppose it is so with all of us. At any rate I am sure that most
fathers, especially if they are clergymen, are like Theobald.

  He did not in reality, I am convinced, like Joey or Charlotte one
whit better than he liked Ernest. He did not like anyone or
anything, or if he liked anyone at all it was his butler, who looked
after him when he was not well, and took great care of him and
believed him to be the best and ablest man in the whole world. Whether
this faithful and attached servant continued to think this after
Theobald's will was opened and it was found what kind of legacy had
been left him I know not. Of his children, the baby who had died at
a day old was the only one whom he held to have treated him quite
filially. As for Christina he hardly ever pretended to miss her and
never mentioned her name; but this was taken as a proof that he felt
her loss too keenly to be able ever to speak of her. It may have
been so, but I do not think it.

  Theobald's effects were sold by auction, and among them the
Harmony of the Old and New Testaments which he had compiled during
many years with such exquisite neatness and a huge collection of MS.
sermons- being all in fact that he had ever written. These and the
Harmony fetched nine-pence a barrow load. I was surprised to hear that
Joey had not given the three or four shillings which would have bought
the whole lot, but Ernest tells me that Joey was far fiercer in his
dislike of his father than ever he had been himself, and wished to get
rid of that I reminded him of him.

  It has already appeared that both Joey and Charlotte are Joey has
a family, but he and Ernest very rarely have any intercourse. Of
course, Ernest took nothing under his father's will; this had long
been understood, so that the other two are both well provided for.

  Charlotte is as clever as ever, and sometimes asks Ernest to come
and stay with her and her husband near Dover, I suppose because she
knows that the invitation will not be agreeable to him. There is a
de haut en bas tone in all her letters; it is rather hard to lay one's
finger upon it, but Ernest never gets a letter from her without
feeling that he is being written to by one who has had direct
communication with an angel. "What an awful creature," he once said to
me, "that angel must have been if it had anything to do with making
Charlotte what she is."

  "Could you like," she wrote to him not long ago, "the thoughts of
a little sea change here? The top of the cliffs will soon be bright
with heather: the gorse must be out already, and the heather I
should think begun, to judge by the state of the hill at Ewell, and
heather or no heather the cliffs are always beautiful, and if you come
your room shall be cosy so that you may have a resting corner to
yourself. Nineteen and sixpence is the price of a return ticket
which covers a month. Would you decide just as you would yourself
like, only if you come we would hope to try and make it bright for
you; but you must not feel it a burden on your mind if you feel
disinclined to come in this direction."

  "When I have a bad nightmare," said Ernest to me, laughing as he
showed me this letter, "I dream that I have got to stay with
Charlotte."

  Her letters are supposed to be unusually well written, and I believe
it is said among the family that Charlotte has far more real
literary power than Ernest has. Sometimes we think that she is writing
at him as much as to say, "There now- don't you think you are the only
one of us who can write; read this! And if you want a telling bit of
descriptive writing for your next book, you can make what use of it
you like." I daresay she writes very well, but she has fallen under
the dominion of the words "hope," "think," "feel," "try," "bright,"
and "little," and can hardly write a page without introducing all
these words and some of them more than once. All this has the effect
of making her style monotonous.

  Ernest is as fond of music as ever, perhaps more so, and of late
years has added musical composition to the other irons in his fire. He
finds it still a little difficult, and is in constant trouble
through getting into the key of sharp after beginning in the key of
and being unable to get back again.

  "Getting into the key of C sharp," he said, "is like an
unprotected female travelling on the Metropolitan Railway, and finding
herself at Shepherd's Bush, without quite knowing where she wants to
go to. How is she ever to get safe back to Clapham Junction? And
Clapham Junction won't quite do either, for Clapham Junction is like
the diminished seventh- susceptible of such unharmonic change, that
you can resolve it into all the possible termini of music."

  Talking of music reminds me of a little passage that took place
between Ernest and Miss Skinner, Dr. Skinner's eldest daughter, not so
very long ago. Dr. Skinner had long left Roughborough, and had
become Dean of a Cathedral in one of our Midland counties -a
position which exactly suited him. Finding himself once in the
neighbourhood Ernest called, for old acquaintance sake, and was
hospitably entertained at lunch.

  Thirty years had whitened the Doctor's bushy eyebrows-his hair
they could not whiten. I believe that but for that wig he would have
been made a bishop.

  His voice and manner were unchanged, and when Ernest, remarking upon
a plan of Rome which hung in the hall, spoke inadvertently of the
Quirinal, he replied with all his wonted pomp: "Yes, the Quirinal-
or as I myself prefer to call it, the Quirinal." After this triumph he
inhaled a long breath through the corners of his mouth, and flung it
back again into the face of Heaven, as in his finest form during his
head-mastership. At lunch he did indeed once say, "next to
impossible to think of anything else," but he immediately corrected
himself and substituted the words, "next to impossible to entertain
irrelevant ideas," after which he seemed to feel a good deal more
comfortable. Ernest saw the familiar volumes of Dr. Skinner's works
upon the book-shelves in the Deanery dining-room, but he saw no copy
of "Rome or the Bible-Which?"

  "And are you still as fond of music as ever, Mr. Pontifex?" said
Miss Skinner to Ernest during the course of lunch.

  "Of some kinds of music, yes, Miss Skinner, but you know I never did
like modern music."

  "Isn't that rather dreadful? -Don't you think you rather"-she was
going to have added, "ought to?" but she left it unsaid, feeling
doubtless that she had sufficiently conveyed her meaning.

  "I would like modern music, if I could; I have been trying all my
life to like it, but I succeed less and less the older I grow."

  "And pray, where do you consider modern music to begin?"

  "With Sebastian Bach."

  "And don't you like Beethoven?"

  "No; I used to think I did, when I was younger, but I know now
that I never really liked him."

  "Ah! how can you say so? You cannot understand him- you never
could say this if you understood him. For me a simple chord of
Beethoven is enough. This is happiness."

  Ernest was amused at her strong family likeness to her father -a
likeness which had grown upon her as she had become older, and which
extended even to voice and manner of speaking. He remembered how he
had heard me describe the game of chess I had played with the Doctor
in days gone by, and with his mind's ear seemed to hear Miss Skinner
saying, as though it were an epitaph:

                              "Stay:

                       I may presently take

                    A simple chord of Beethoven

                        Or a small semiquaver

             From one of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words."

  After luncheon when Ernest was left alone for half an hour or so
with the Dean he plied him so well with compliments that the old
gentleman was pleased and flattered beyond his wont. He rose and
bowed. "These expressions," he said, voce sua, "are very valuable to
me." "They are but a small part, sir," rejoined Ernest, "of what any
one of your old pupils must feel towards you." and the pair danced
as it were a minuet at end of the dining-room table in front of the
old bay window that looked upon the smooth shaven lawn. On this Ernest
departed; but a few days afterwards, the Doctor wrote him a letter and
told him that his critics were sklerhoi kai antitupoi, and at the same
time anekplektoi. Ernest remembered sklerhoi, and knew that the
other words were something of like nature, so it was all right. A
month or two afterwards, Dr. Skinner was gathered to his fathers.

  "He was an old fool, Ernest," said I, "and you should not relent
towards him."

  "I could not help it," he replied; "he was so old that it was almost
like playing with a child."

  Sometimes, like all whose minds are active, Ernest overworks
himself, and then occasionally he has fierce and reproachful
encounters with Dr. Skinner or Theobald in his sleep-but beyond this
neither of these two worthies can now molest him further.

  To myself he has been a son and more than a son; at times I am
half afraid- as for example when I talk to him about his books- that I
may have been to him more like a father than I ought; if I have, I
trust he has forgiven me. His books are the only bone of contention
between us. I want him to write like other people, and not to offend
so many his readers; he says he can no more change his manner of
writing than the colour of his hair and that he must write as he
does or not at all.

  With the public generally he is not a favourite. He is admitted to
have talent, but it is considered generally to be of a queer,
unpractical kind, and no matter how serious he is, he is always
accused of being in jest. His first book was a success for reasons
which I have already explained, but none of his others have been
more than creditable failures. He is one of those unfortunate men,
each one of whose books is sneered at by literary critics as soon as
it comes out, but becomes "excellent reading" as soon as it has been
followed by a later work which may in its turn be condemned.

  He never asked a reviewer to dinner in his life. I have told him
over and over again that this is madness, and find that this is the
only thing I can say to him which makes him angry with me.

  "What can it matter to me," he says, "whether people read my books
or not? It may matter to them- but I have too much money to want more,
and if the books have any stuff in them it will work by-and-by. I do
not know nor greatly care whether they are good or not. What opinion
can any sane man form about his own work? Some people must write
stupid books just as there must be juniors ops and third class poll
men. Why should I complain of being among the mediocrities? If a man
is not absolutely below mediocrity let him be thankful- besides, the
books will have to stand by themselves some day, so the sooner they
begin the better."

  I spoke to his publisher about him not long since. "Mr. Pontifex,"
he said, "is a homo unius libri, but it doesn't do to tell him so."

  I could see the publisher, who ought to know, had lost all faith
in Ernest's literary position, and looked upon him as a man whose
failure was all the more hopeless for the fact of his having once made
a coup. "He is in a very solitary position, Mr. Overton," continued
the publisher. "He has formed no alliances, and has made enemies not
only of the religious world but of the literary and scientific
brotherhood as well. This will not do nowadays. If a man wishes to get
on he must belong to a set, and Mr. Pontifex belongs to no set- not
even to a club."

  I replied, "Mr. Pontifex is the exact likeness of Othello, but
with a difference-he hates not wisely but too well. He would dislike
the literary and scientific swells if he were to come to know them and
they him; there is no natural solidarity between him and them, and
if he were brought into contact with them his last state would be
worse than his first. His instinct tells him this, so he keeps clear
of them, and attacks them whenever he thinks they deserve it- in the
hope, perhaps, that a younger generation will listen to him more
willingly than the present."

  "Can anything," said the publisher, "be conceived more impracticable
and imprudent?"

  To all this Ernest replies with one word only- "Wait."

  Such is my friend's latest development. He would not, it is true,
run much chance at present of trying to found a College of Spiritual
Pathology, but I must leave the reader to determine whether there is
not a strong family likeness between the Ernest of the College of
Spiritual Pathology and the Ernest who will insist on addressing the
next generation rather than his own. He says he trusts that there is
not, and takes the sacrament duly once a year as a sop to Nemesis lest
he should again feel strongly upon any subject. It rather fatigues
him, but "no man's opinions," he sometimes says, "can be worth holding
unless he knows how to deny them easily and gracefully upon occasion
in the cause of charity." In politics he is a Conservative so far as
his vote and interest are concerned. In all other respects he is an
advanced Radical. His father and grandfather could probably no more
understand his state of mind than they could understand Chinese, but
those who know him intimately do not know that they wish him greatly
different from what he actually is.

                              -THE END-
.

Colophon

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