It will scarcely be imagined that Mr. Norman allowed his protégé to disappear so suddenly and mysteriously from the Rectory without instituting an active search for him. He was in reality deeply grieved and concerned, for he had already begun to conceive an affection for the child, and had not unfrequently laid to rest his conscience, which sometimes troubled him on the score of duties neglected, with the subtle reflection that in adopting this little outcast of society he was performing a service to his fellow-men capable of counteracting many shortcomings. But now all at once this opportunity was snatched from his hands. In vain the whole country-side was searched for more than a week. It scarcely occurred to the rector that Arthur could have returned to London; the distance was comparatively great, and he knew that the boy had no money. But when at length all inquiries had failed, the labourer of whom Arthur had inquired his way on the morning of his flight, suddenly came forward and gave his testimony to that fact. The matter was put into the hands of the Metropolitan police, who forthwith made inquiries at Mrs. Blatherwick's abode. By this time, however, Arthur had gone to live in Little St. Andrew Street, and no tidings of him were forthcoming. Accordingly the Rector was at length obliged to surrender all hope of recovering his charge. With a sigh of regret he settled down again to the epicureanism of his wonted life -- epicureanism, that is, in its truer and less ignoble sense -- and the episode formed in the life of the Rectory by the arrival and the departure of little Arthur Golding passed away as the bubbles pass from a pool into which a stone has been cast.
For a short time after this unfortunate occurrence Mr. Whiffle was disconsolate. Though latterly Arthur's progress under his tuition had been very far from satisfying his requirements, the curate had still clung to the hope of being the instrument whereby that somewhat intractable young nature should be modelled into that form of spiritual and intellectual nullity most adapted to ecclesiastical preferment. To instil his favourite doctrines into the mind of an apt and ready listener was Mr. Whiffle's ideal of happiness, and to have such a chance as this suddenly withdrawn was grievous, to say the least of it. In speaking to Mr. Norman of their mutual loss, he waxed eloquent on the glowing future which he had planned out in his own thoughts, tracing in imagination the whole life of his former pupil from a curacy upwards, and well nigh weeping when he came back to the sad reality. Mr. Whiffle had somewhat of a fondness for theatrical display, and it is not at all improbable that he used the present occasion to the profit of his eloquence long after his veritable chagrin had worked itself off.
"Such a boy, sir!" he exclaimed, on one occasion. "Bishop was written upon every line of his countenance! What an opportunity for putting into practice the precepts contained in my (as yet unpublished) pamphlets on the Principles of Education, and on the Rudiments of Ecclesiastical Training! I assure you, sir, I could sit in sack-cloth and ashes for the loss of that child. He was already more than a son to me."
"And yet you have sons of your own, Mr. Whiffle," interposed the Rector. "Would it not be easy and natural to transfer to your eldest boy the care you would have bestowed on poor Arthur?"
"My eldest boy?" exclaimed Mr. Whiffle, as if in astonishment. "That -- that young scamp? Upon my word I never thought of it."
This was doubtless very true. In all likelihood the curate did not think of his family once in a month. The most distant object of interest had a closer claim upon his attention than the inmates of his home.
"Upon my word, that's quite a new idea to me!" he cried. "Ah! now suppose I were to tackle young Augustus. I don't know. He might turn out something, with a little care."
"I think it very possible," replied Mr. Norman.
"You do really sir? Well, very possibly you are right. Young Augustus! Ha, ha, ha! The young dog!"
Mr. Whiffle laughed heartily, rising the while on his toes and falling back again on to his heels alternately. The idea had evidently all the charm of novelty for him.
"Upon my word, I think I shall try. When I come to think of it, I believe the youngster has brains, if only he can be made to use them. And if he won't take his learning patiently, why it can be licked into him, like doses of physic. An admirable idea!"
From that day Mr. Whiffle took his eldest son in hand, and proceeded very vigorously with his education, which had hitherto been entrusted to a village schoolmaster of no very distinguished abilities. Master Augustus, whom we have already seen receiving personal chastisement at the hand of his father, was a lanky, overgrown lad of some twelve years, bearing a rather striking resemblance in outward characteristics to Mr. Whiffle himself. He was by no means destitute of ability, but had acquired the unfortunate habit of employing it in the service of a somewhat impish disposition, the result being that he was in constant trouble, at home and abroad. It was to the young gentleman's considerable surprise, and very little to his satisfaction, when he became aware of his father's intention to devote an unusual degree of care to his future progress in the paths of literature. The first few days of the new régime were stormy in the extreme. As Mr. Whiffle had feared, young Augustus took by no means kindly to the strong food thus suddenly administered to him, and in consequence the curate, to use his own expression, "licked it into him." The lessons took place in Mr. Whiffle's study, whilst the rest of the family were assembled in the usual manner in the parlour. Mrs. Whiffle, whose nerves were sadly out of order, had a tremulous anticipation of the character of these interviews in the study, and sat, with her attention on the alert, to catch the least sounds which should issue from thence. As a rule she was rewarded at the expiration of the first ten minutes, when Mr. Whiffle's shrill tones, and Master Augustus' still shriller piping, would be heard rising to an ominous pitch. These sounds would increase, till at length both attained the character of a prolonged and piercing squeal, amid which would be heard the peculiar wish produced by the sharp descent of a cane upon tightened clothing. At this point poor Mrs. Whiffle would burst into tears, and, when at length she could bear her suffering no longer, would step sobbing to the study door and knock. As a rule her knock was either unheard or unheeded, and she would hurry back with her fingers in her ears, throw herself in her chair, and, encircling all her brood within her arms, weep till the termination of the lesson. When that moment happily arrived, the study door opened and Mr. Whiffle came into the parlour, followed, at a slinking pace, by Master Augustus, carrying his books and slate under his arm, both perspiring and both very much out of temper. Then, as a rule, Mr. Whiffle would set out on a walk, to restore his habitual calm, and Master Augustus would be pressed in his mother's arms with the rest of the brood, sobbing out the while that "it is a jolly shame to be so hard on a fellow," and that "I wish there was no such thing as a church in the world," whereupon Mrs. Whiffle would cast up her eyes in horror, or ask him where he expected to go to after his death, if he allowed himself to give utterance to such sentiments.
Evidently affairs could not long rest at this stage, which was, in the nature of things, transitional, Mr. Whiffle persevering, for a wonder, in the task to which he had applied himself. Master Augustus did not lack the wit to observe that he would gain very little save beatings by an obstinate persistence in a refractory course of behaviour, whereupon he gradually adopted a more conciliatory attitude, and before long discovered that he could, at the expense of very little trouble, master such tasks as were daily set him, earning in consequence a degree of liberty during the remainder of the day to which he had by no means been accustomed. Finding that the show of interest and attention was what his father principally required, and seeing how easily he was pleased with the recitation of a few stock phrases and formulæ which it was by no means difficult to remember, young Augustus ere long progressed very considerably in the art of hypocrisy. If before he had been a noisy, careless young imp, it took only a year or so of Mr. Whiffle's discipline to convert him into a demure-faced, canting little rascal, always ready on the sly for freaks quite remarkable for precocious villainy, but always preserving before his father and mother a sobriety of demeanour and facility in the quotation of text and rubric which constituted the delight of Mr. Whiffle's soul. Verily, he said to himself, the seeds of his sowing were already bearing fruit.
In the meantime the Rectory was also the scene of parental instruction -- instruction however, somewhat different in its character and its aims. However much Mr. Norman might feel justified in neglecting the duties of his care of souls, his constitutional idleness never led him to neglect the intellectual welfare of his little daughter Helen. When she reached the age of nine, Mr. Norman took her away from the school in which she had been taught to read and write, and devoted himself henceforth to her education, as to the main object of his life. During certain hours every day the two were alone together in the study which looked out upon the lawn, the little girl reading aloud, her father commenting upon what she read, and smoothing away all difficulties.
In pursuance of a clearly defined theory, Mr. Norman directed his efforts mainly towards the development of the emotional part of the child's nature, paying no attention whatever to many of the "branches" esteemed vital in the ordinary seminaries for female youth. Above all, first and foremost in his scheme of instruction, came the reading, marking, learning, and inward digestion of the poets. To know the poets, those who are unquestionably great in all ages, to read them with facility in the tongue they wrote in, this was the great end of his educational scheme. For inasmuch as poetry represents the highest phase of emotional activity, in that degree does it deserve to take a foremost place among the influences which may be relied upon for the moulding of the female character into the noblest form of which earth has knowledge. Not a day was allowed to pass on which Helen did not commit to memory, and carefully repeat to her father, certain verses, which the latter always chose with judicious consideration of the learner's age and disposition. But when she had attained her eleventh year, Helen had already stored up in her mind a veritable thesaurus of English poetical gems, had brooded over them till they had become a part of her rich nature, till they seemed to endue her very form with the essence of their own rhythmic grace and sweetness.
For Helen Norman was a wonderfully beautiful child, and seemed to bear promise of a womanhood fertile in all perfection of female loveliness. By her eleventh year the light gold of her many curls had deepened to a rich chestnut hue, the face had developed to a perfect oval, the nose had become Grecian in type and of exquisite delicacy, the lips and chin were adapting themselves to an expression at once infinitely sweet, and indicating a character far above the more distinctly female feebleness in energy and decision. She was already tall for her age, and gave promise of a figure little less than stately; her walk was upright, her step at once light and firm, her face ever looking upwards. Her fingers, already skilled either to hold the needle, direct the pencil, or touch the keys, were models of fairy delicacy; the flowers which she loved to train in the garden were scarcely more beautiful, they seemed to revive always, instead of drooping beneath her touch. Already she was the directing spirit in the household, inspiring involuntary respect even in so respectable a retainer as Mrs. Cope. The poultry-yard owned her as its mistress, and to no one did the shaken orchard trees yield a more abundant shower of ripe autumn fruit. She had two especial pets, the one a parrot, the tale of whose years was lost in the backward abyss of time, the door of whose cage stood always open that its tenant might remain within or sally forth to pace the room as it saw fit; the other, a magnificent Angora cat, who was on very excellent terms with the parrot, and whose place was at Helen's feet, whether she was sitting in the parlour, in the study, or in the garden. Master Augustus Whiffle, who occasionally visited at the Rectory and appeared to entertain a high esteem for Helen, had once brought her a lark of his own capture, securely fastened in a small cage, and offered it as a highly acceptable present; but Helen had cried at the sight of the poor bird's struggles for freedom, and, instead of accepting it, had begged that it might be set loose again, which Master Augustus, immensely surprised, accordingly did. Ever since that Helen had declined to keep a caged bird. The parrot could not be regarded in that light, for if it had ever been free, it must have forgotten it, and ceased to regret freedom centuries ago; and, moreover, the joyous loquacity which it perpetually indulged in appeared to denote anything rather than painful restraint. Helen used to call this bird the Genius of the house, and it was indeed always the centre of domestic activity. There was no end of its good-natured merriment. Tom was the name of the Angora cat, and Polly learned to call its name in tones so exactly like those of its mistress that it was no unfrequent thing for puss to come running into the room in response to the call, only to be greeted by a loud "Ha, ha, ha!" from within the cage. Tom, however, bore no malice. If he appeared sulky for a moment, he would, immediately after, approach the parrot's cage and put his head close against the bars, whereupon Poll would gently scratch it with her beak. After that Poll would in turn bow down her greyish-blue head close against the bars, and Tom would return the compliment by scratching it with his paw. This comedy was so frequently repeated that Helen came to observe it, and would often hide behind a curtain in the room to watch its occurrence. Sometimes she was unable to restrain her laughter to the end, and then her silvery voice would be echoed by a gruff "Ha, ha, ha!" from Polly, whilst Tom ran up to his mistress as usual, and crouched at her feet to be stroked.
To any child less wisely guided than Helen, and less blessed with natural gifts, this life at the Rectory would have been intolerable in its loneliness and monotony. Very rarely indeed did visitors cross the lawn, the most frequent stranger being Mr. Whiffle, with whom, as may be imagined, Helen could feel but little sympathy. Once a year, however, as a rule, the dull uniformity of the rector's existence was broken very agreeably by a visit from his best, and, indeed, only friend. This was Gilbert Gresham, an artist by profession, and a gentleman of considerable talent, yet more pride, and very comfortable income. The two had become acquainted first at the University, and a congenial laziness of disposition, a certain feeling which they possessed in common, that, belonging to the aristocracy of intellect, it was beneath them to trouble greatly concerning the inferior ones of the earth, had bound them together in a firm friendship. Each of them could appreciate the excellent qualities which lay at the root of the other's character, and perhaps none the less because they felt their mutual similarity. Like Mr. Norman, Gilbert Gresham had married early, and had now been for several years a widower; also like his friend he had a daughter for his only child, a girl some two years older than Helen, named Maud. These children looked forward to the yearly meeting with mutual delight, which increased as they grew older. Young as they were, there were developed in both, to a rather remarkable degree, features of character which already bade fair to be the true index to their respective lives. In many respects widely different, there was yet sufficient similarity between their mental dispositions to ensure much sympathy for each other. Helen Norman was already an enthusiast, her heart on fire with noble thoughts which it had been her father's constant care to nourish in her; her mind filled with all manner of lofty images, each one magnified and made glorious by the ardent imagination of generous childhood. Living so remote from the every-day life of the world she had never learned to talk of things which, as a rule, engross the thoughts of other children; the contents of her books, the simple pleasure of her home life, the rare delights of woodland, meadow and hill, these were her main subjects for conversation, and, since she conversed almost exclusively with her father, her turn of thought naturally acquired a reflective and mature character much beyond her years. Of the world, in the ordinary sense of the word, she knew absolutely nothing. Mr. Norman himself received a daily newspaper, but he purposely kept it from his daughter's sight, being unwilling that she should so soon darken the cheerful brightness of her fancy with an infusion of that saddening gloom which broods over the life of cities. Thus she was growing up almost entirely ignorant of the pains and the passions which convert earth's sanctuaries into dreary realms of chaos and black night. True, as we have seen, she was aware of the existence of poverty and ignorance, and, pursuing the bent of her nature, often looked forward with an eager delight to the possibility of one day combating both. As was to be expected from her wonted surroundings, the young ideas on such subjects were patriarchal; she knew of no suffering so severe that it could not be allayed by earnest individual effort. Compared with the views of life held by poor Arthur, her late companion, for Helen the world had reverted to the golden age.
Maud Gresham being two years older than her friend, it was natural that she should entertain somewhat shrewder views of life; but her natural disposition was by no means endued with so large a share of enthusiasm as Helen possessed. She had been born and bred in London, moreover, and being a spoilt child in a well-to-do house had seen already a good deal of the life of the world. By nature she was quiet and observant, rapid and shrewd in her judgments, with a tendency to epigram which might in time develop into causticity, displaying, moreover, at all times, and under all circumstances, certain good-humoured egotism, which was, indeed, the basis of her character. Her education was being cared for at a London ladies' school of irreproachable standing, with results, however, far from as thorough as those which marked Mr. Norman's instruction. Possibly Maud was not so quick to learn, but at the age of thirteen she fell considerably short of Helen at eleven in the foundations of culture. But what she lacked in depth she made up for in externals. About the same height as Helen -- who was tall for her age -- she possessed all that grace of manner which is the result of a dancing-master's care, and which was so different from the purely natural grace of the younger child. Whilst Helen's conversation was delicate and thoughtful, and refused to flow save on such subjects as held possession of her heart, Maud had the easy and spontaneous manner of a town-bred young lady, chattering gaily on all subjects whatsoever, and, though never affected, seldom very deep. Her face was pretty, rather than beautiful, but the assistance of her maid enabled her to make an appearance which was decidedly prepossessing, and gave promise of considerable charms in future years -- charms of a nature, however, which it would have been quite impossible ever to imagine Helen Norman in possession of. The two made a delicious picture, as, with arms twined around each other's waists, they wandered on the lawn or through the orchard in the bright summer weather, Helen wearing a dress of pure white muslin, only ornamented with a pale pink sash, Maud displaying a rather more elaborate toilet, her face shadowed with a large straw-hat which set off her charms admirably. Little wonder that Mr. Norman and Gilbert Gresham often sat long in silence behind the white curtains of the breakfast-room, gazing in delight at the unconscious children.
The difference between the character of the two children was very well illustrated on a certain occasion during the present visit, an incident which deserves narration on account of the unmistakable influence it was to exercise on the future growth of Helen's mind. The two had strolled together one remarkably fine morning rather beyond their usual limits, and quite alone. To the north of Bloomford, on the crest of the gentle hill whereon the Rectory stood, a large wood commenced, and spread for several miles, abounding in game and strictly closed against all trespassers. The owner of the land, an easy-tempered country gentleman who attended Bloomford parish church as regularly as his gout would permit him, made exceptions to this rigorous rule in the case of several of his friends, Mr. Norman among the number; and consequently, as often as her walks took her in that direction, Helen had no scruple in entering the wood and seeking her favourite flowers amidst the tangled copse-wood and short stretches of open lawn which alternated for miles around. Hither she had led Maud Gresham on the morning in question, and for nearly an hour they had wandered in the cool shadow of the trees, till a fallen trunk, overgrown with lichens and moss, and half-buried in years' deposit of dead leaves, offered them a tempting seat. Helen never went for a walk without taking some book as a companion, which she could either open or not as the humour took her, and now when they were seated side by side she opened on her knees a volume of Leigh Hunt's "Stories from the Italian Poets," a book which possessed a wonderful charm for the child's romantic fancy, and, opening at the chapter on Boiardo, she began to read of the loves of Orlando, whilst the melodies of a thousand birds and the continuous rustling of the branches overhead made a fitting accompaniment to the sweet fancies of the story.
"I shall ask papa to buy me that book," said Maud, when Helen paused and asked for her opinion on what she had been reading.
"I'm so glad you like it!" replied the other, with enthusiasm. "I have read it again and again, and should never get tired of it."
"When I grow up," said Maud, "and when I've got rid of all the stupid lessons and stupid teachers, I mean to do nothing but read nice books. I shall have a room of my own, and I shan't allow any one to disturb me from morning to night. Won't it be delicious?"
"I hope to read a great many books when I grow up," replied Helen, after a moment's thought, "but I shouldn't like to do nothing but read. Wouldn't that be a rather selfish life, Maud?"
"What is the good of having money," retorted the elder maiden, with true womanly inconsequence, "if you're not to make yourself comfortable with it, and do as you like?"
"But that wouldn't be what I should like," urged Helen, with native directness.
"Then what would you like?" asked the other, a little pettishly.
"Father always says," replied Helen, "that we must think of duties before pleasures. A woman has a great many duties. I am going to keep a school when I grow up, and then I shall have to attend to my pupils all day."
"Keep a school!" echoed Maud, with comical horror. "Do you mean you'll marry a schoolmaster! Oh, the horrid things!"
"No, I don't mean that," said Helen, decisively. "I mean never to be married. I shall have a school of my own, and the pupils shall be all poor children, who can't afford to pay much, you see. And if they're good, I shall often give them money to take home to buy everything they want. Oh, how I hope I shall be rich some day, to have a lot of money to give away!"
Maud broke into a long laugh.
"I shall be rich," she replied, with something of pride in her tone, "but I'm sure I shan't give my money away. Those nasty poor people! I can't bear to see them in the streets, they look so horrid. I'm sure I think one ought to look after oneself before anybody else. There's the Workhouse for poor people to. go to."
They had risen and were walking away. Suddenly Maud, who was a little in advance, on forcing her way through some bushes uttered a little scream and started back. Helen ran forward, and perceived the cause of her companion's fright. In a hollow on the other side of the hazel they were passing lay a man, fast asleep. He was dressed in the most miserable rags, which were clotted all over with the dirt of the roads, seeming to indicate that he had been tramping the country for a long time. His face was hideous in its hairy and cadaverous squalor, and one arm, which appeared bare through the torn sleeve of his coat, was wasted almost to the bone. As Helen's eyes fell upon this object her breath stopped short, and for a moment she was deadly pale.
"Oh, look, look, Maud," she whispered, clinging to the other's arm. I'm sure this man is suffering and in want. Oh, how I wish I had some money with me!"
"Come away!" replied Maud. "I don't like his look at all. He might hurt us if he woke."
"Oh, I'm sure he wouldn't, Maud, dear! I wish it wasn't so far home; I would run and fetch something to give him."
"Come away!" repeated Maud, in a frightened whisper. "I have often heard tales of these men doing people harm. He looks like a gipsy!"
The children exchanged a frightened look, but little Helen seemed to gain courage whilst her companion grew more timid.
"Have you a penny in your pocket, Maud, dear?" she asked. "Please let me have it. I will give it you back when we get home."
"No, no! How silly you are, Helen! I shall go, whether you do or not!"
But Helen persisted, and at last succeeded in inducing Maud to take out an elegant little purse, and open it to see if it contained the desired coin. Just at this moment the man opened his eyes and started to his feet. Maud darted away in terror, dropping her purse at Helen's feet. Helen's face was very pale, but she showed no signs of running away. She and the tramp stood looking at each other in silence.
"Could yer tell me the time, miss?" asked the tramp at length, passing his hand over his mouth and grinning, whilst he eyed the purse which Helen had picked up. "I doubt I've overslep' myself."
"I don't know the exact time," replied the child, "but I think it is nearly one o'clock. I -- I am so sorry I disturbed you."
"Don't matter, miss, as I knows on. I've got maybe a twenty mile to walk afore night."
"That's a long way," said Helen. "Will -- will you take this to buy something to eat with?"
And she handed him a sixpenny-piece out of the purse, the smallest coin it contained.
"Thankee, miss," replied the fellow, looking cautiously round. "You won't be alone 'ere i' this wood, I should think; eh, miss?"
"No; there is another little girl with me; but -- but she has walked on."
"I wonder at yer comin' into the wood alone; it's lonely like. An' couldn't yer spare me a little more, miss, out 0' that there purse? I ain't eaten nothin' for four days, s'elp me God!"
"I -- I really would if it was my own," replied Helen, looking about to see where Maud was; "but it isn't."
Whilst she spoke the tramp had also carefully reviewed the ground, had bent quickly forward, and, before Helen knew what had happened, had snatched the purse from her and escaped into the thicket. For a moment she stood looking after him in mute astonishment; then, as Maud came running to her from a short distance, where she had watched the whole episode, burst into tears.
"There now!" exclaimed Maud. "I told you so, didn't I? I was sure he was a bad man. I could tell from his face."
"And I have lost your purse, Maud, dear!" sobbed little Helen. "You will never forgive me!"
"Of course I will, you silly child!" exclaimed the other, who was not averse from an occasional show of magnanimity. "I have only to ask papa, and he will buy me another as soon as we get back to London. Don't cry so, Helen. That won't bring the purse back."
"But how cruel of him!" sobbed the injured little girl. "How ungrateful! When I offered him as much as I could afford! I couldn't have believed any one would have been so ungrateful!"
All the rest of the walk home she was very sad, and indeed all the rest of the day. When the story was told to Mr. Norman and his friend they laughed, and told the children to be more careful where they wandered to, and so dismissed the affair. But little Helen was far from forgetting it so easily. Long years after the occurrence was still fresh in her memory, and who can gauge the exact weight of its influence on her future life?
"Poor Golding!" exclaimed Mr. Gresham, during a conversation in which his friend had been recalling the strange incidents of little Arthur's history. "I was not so intimate with him as you were, Norman, but I always looked upon him as a good-natured fellow, and rather a clever fellow, too, if I remember aright. But I'll be hanged if I can spend so much sympathy on his fate as you do. He fell too low. However dissipated a man becomes, let him at least remain in respectable company. If a poor devil runs over head and ears in debt through living in too high a style, and then blows out his brains comfortably in his dressing-room -- well, I can spare him some sympathy. But to let oneself be starved to death in a noisome garret -- bah!"
Mr. Gilbert Gresham was a man of some thirty-six years of age, of tall and well-proportioned figure, and blessed with features, to adopt the easily-comprehended phrase, of an aristocratic cast. There was something in his tone and manner a trifle too supercilious to be altogether agreeable to one who did not know him intimately, but from time to time, as he grew warm in conversation, he would cast aside this manner and allow the indications of a warm heart and acute brain to make themselves pleasantly conspicuous. In his talk he mostly affected extremely aristocratic sentiments, the cause of this doubtless lying in an exquisitely refined taste which could not tolerate anything savouring of coarseness. And yet the listener could not help suspecting that these sentiments were only affected, an impression aided by the somewhat theatrical air and gesture with which he was fond of delivering them. It was this that led Mr. Norman to smile as he listened to the above utterances with regard to Arthur's father.
"I don't know that it matters much where such a man meets his end," he replied, with a slight sadness in his voice. "He has been equally a sinner against the great law of the fitness of things, and has equally broken loose from the bonds of that duty which should bind us all, and which, I fear, in reality binds so few."
"Why, my dear fellow," interposed Mr. Gresham, "what is duty, after all? If it be not the impulse to reconcile gratification of our most ardent longings, whatsoever they may be, with at all events a tolerable measure of respect for our fellow-creatures, I confess I scarcely know what to understand by it."
"I can tell you what duty is not, Gresham," returned Mr. Norman, earnestly. "It is not to continue year after year the paid servant of masters whom you despise or detest, masking with a hypocritical countenance your disgust for the offices which you only half perform."
Mr. Gresham looked sharply at the speaker, and there was silence for a moment.
"You take this matter too much to heart, Norman," he said, at length. "Do you think you are the only clergyman in the Established Church who goes through the prescribed routine with only half a heart? What paragraph of the rubric have you violated? I maintain that you fulfil your duties to the letter."
"To the letter, perhaps; but by no means in the spirit. Do you know what I ought to do, Gilbert Gresham, if I would earn the privilege of considering myself an honest man? I should walk down to the church next Sunday morning, mount the pulpit as I am, devoid of ecclesiastical mummery, and proclaim aloud to the congregation: 'Behold! Here am I, Edward Norman, who have been your pastor for so-and-so many years, preaching the Gospel to you day after day without in reality believing a word of what I preached! Now I come to show myself in my true colours. Find some one else who will preach to you with more conscientious earnestness -- if you can. For my part, I have done with preaching for ever!' That is what I should say, and what prevents me from doing it?"
"A most prudent distaste for the interior of lunatic asylums, my dear Norman," replied the other, smiling.
"Say rather," returned Mr. Norman, bitterly, "a most clinging taste for the income of my benefice."
"I tell you, Norman, you altogether deceive yourself. Do you imagine that you would deserve any credit for adopting the insane line of conduct you have just depicted so graphically? Why, you would merit the laughter of the universe! You forget that you live in the England of the nineteenth century, when 'only not all men lie.' I tell you, the world is not worthy of such self-sacrifice. Morality, remember, is but comparative; and the most moral man in an age like ours is, I repeat it, he who best reconciles enjoyment of life with external decency."
"I wish I could persuade you to think seriously of this question, Gresham; but you are always full of satire, even though it be at a friend's expense. Why, even, according to your dictum, I am a most immoral man, for my life affords me anything but the maximum of enjoyment. I grow more miserable every week. Now look at Whiffle, the curate. What would I give to have that man's energy and interest in his work!"
"Whiffle!" exclaimed Mr. Gresham, with a burst of laughter; "that sophisticated ass with an ecclesiastical bray! Why, do you for a moment imagine that he is any more convinced of the dogmas of his Church than you are yourself?"
"I don't know," replied the other, with a sigh. "At all events, he has the appearance of being whole-hearted in his work."
"Now I tell you what the matter is, Norman," said Mr. Gresham, more seriously. "You are very far from well in bodily health. You want a thorough change. What do the doctors say?"
"They allow me some four or five years of life yet," returned Mr. Norman, with a melancholy smile.
"Under the present circumstances, yes. But you are fretting yourself away, my good fellow. I tell you, you must have a change.
"It is too late, Gresham, to hope for any considerable prolongation of my life. I am perfectly well aware that the old ladies are already beginning to finger the shears with an eye to my especial thread, and only one thing in the prospect troubles me. What will poor Helen do?"
"Do you think, Norman," replied Gilbert Gresham, with a touch of nature in his tone, "that my theories extend to my conduct when a friend's wishes or a friend's interests are concerned? You know I make no great account of the majority of the tasks I imposed upon myself when I became godfather to your child, and I believe a somewhat modest computation would suffice to calculate the quantity of Catechism I have exerted myself to teach her; but as long as I remain in the land of the living, don't distress yourself with regard to Helen's future."
Mr. Norman pressed his friend's hand with a satisfied smile, and the sound of the dinner-bell very shortly terminated their conversation.
On the following day the visitors were to depart, and the consciousness of this made the dinner somewhat less lively than usual. But the dessert was destined to be relieved from the unusual silence, for as Mr. Whiffle happened to call whilst it was being placed upon the table, he was immediately invited to join the company, which he did without hesitation.
It soon appeared that the cause of the curate's arrival was a weighty one. He stated it thus, directing his conversation to Mr. Gresham, as to one who would be more likely to be impressed with its novelty than his usual auditor, the Rector.
"You see, sir, my mind is at present perplexed on what I may venture to call, perhaps, a not unimportant question of ecclesiastical discipline. To state the matter in a few words, the proposition has been made by the congregation's churchwarden that we should, in future, employ for the purpose of the offertory small bags -- if I may so express myself -- in preference to the open plates which have hitherto received that portion of treasure which the congregation desire to lay up out of the reach of moth, rust, and -- ahem! -- thieves. You will at once observe, Mr. Gresham, that the proposition involves momentous issues. As you are, doubtless, well aware, the passage in the rubric having reference to the points at issue runs thus: 'Whilst these sentences are in reading, the deacons, churchwardens, or other fit person appointed for that purpose shall receive the alms for the poor, and other devotions of the people in a decent basin, to be provided by the parish for that purpose,' and so on. We have here, you observe, explicit mention of a basin, which, if I may trust my technical knowledge, always conveys the idea of a vessel hollow on the inside to the depth of not less than, let us say, one inch and a half. Should the depth be less than this, the vessel, in my humble opinion, Mr. Gresham, falls more properly in the class of those domestic utensils which we are wont to designate as plates. Now, as it happens, it is a plate which has hitherto been used in the Church for the offertorial purposes, and, if I mistake not, the church of St. Peter, Bloomford, is not by any means singular in this country in the use of such a vessel. Hence, Mr. Gresham, we arrive at the logical conclusion that, although the Rubric expressly stipulates the use of a basin, it has become customary in the Church of England to substitute a plate therefore -- doubtless owing to considerations of conveniency into which it is at present scarcely necessary to enter."
Mr. Whiffle delivered the last remark in a half apologetic, half interrogatory tone, shuffling on his seat as he arrived at the period, thrusting his fingers repeatedly through his thick masses of red hair, and looking first at Mr. Gresham, then at his rector, then at the children, with an air of undisguised satisfaction. Never was the curate so thoroughly at home as when suffered to enter at length upon the discussion of a question such as the present.
"Certainly unnecessary, Mr. Whiffle," said the rector, suppressing a smile. "Mr. Gresham follows you with attention."
"And with pleasure, allow me to add," put in the artist. "Your exposition, sir, is lucid in the extreme, as becomes the importance of the matter."
Mr. Whiffle bowed, and continued with a gratified smile --
"Having arrived at this conclusion -- viz., that the strict prescription of the rubric has already submitted to modification in obedience to the dictates of conveniency, we have, as you will recognise, Mr. Gresham, established a precedent -- a precedent, sir." The curate dwelt on the word with satisfaction. "So far then, sir, there is nothing whatever objectionable in the proposition that Mr. Vokins, the churchwarden, has felt called upon to make; that I must in fairness admit. But when we examine the motives which Vokins urges as in favour of the substitution of -- so to speak -- a bag or wallet, in the place of the present plate, it appears to me that we trench upon very debatable ground. Mr. Vokins -- ahem! -- makes the statement, Mr. Gresham, that many members of the congregation who would be glad to contribute their mite on the occasion of collections are restrained from doing so by the fear of public opinion; in other words, they prefer not to give at all to depositing on an open plate, in the full view of their neighbours, for the time being, a coin which, by its diminutive value, would seem to lay an imputation either upon their liberality, or, what is still worse, upon the condition of their finances. Now, gentlemen, this is a frame of mind singularly human, it must be confessed, and one which, though raised above those ordinary frailties of the flesh by our position as servants in that glorious Temple which we denominate the Church of England as by law established, it behoves us to take into consideration. I, individually, still hold my judgment in suspense, though I confess to having spent considerable thought on the subject. On the one hand we must weigh whether it is consistent with the dignity of The Church to make concessions to human weaknesses, such as those so acutely observed by Mr. Vokins; on the other, I opine that we ought to consider whether such concession may not appear justified by the, doubtless, not inconsiderable accession of voluntary offering which would accrue to St. Peter's in the event of bags -- so to speak -- being substituted for plates. Might I venture to ask your opinion, Mr. Gresham, as that of a disinterested observer?"
"You do me too much honour, Mr. Whiffle," responded the artist, in a tone of fine sarcasm, wholly unrecognisable as such by the vanity of the curate. "There is, doubtless, much to be said on both sides; but, if I may express an opinion, I think it just possible that history, if well searched, might afford a precedent -- a precedent, sir -- for the dignity of the Church giving way before such very important considerations as those which we, in worldly phrase, denominate pecuniary."
"I think you are right, sir!" exclaimed the curate. "Allow me to compliment you on your delicate penetration in so nice a matter. And, possibly, since you have so expressed yourself, I may venture to declare that I rather incline to Mr. Vokins's opinion in this matter. We are well aware, Mr. Gresham, that twelve of those humble coins called halfpence amount to the value of a silver sixpenny-piece; as also that twelve of the but slightly more dignified pennies represent the value of a silver shilling; and I have yet to learn, gentlemen, that the current value of a fixed sum of money diminishes with the denomination of the fact in which it is expressed. Mr. Gresham will forgive the figure in the lips of one who once boasted himself something of a mathematician."
The conversation continued in the same strain for some half hour longer, Mr. Whiffle taking upon himself the main burden of it. At the end of that time Mr. Norman rose from the table and dismissed the subject with the remark that he would give it his consideration, upon which assurance Mr. Whiffle retired, excellently well pleased at having had such a remarkable opportunity of displaying his ingenuity and eloquence.
The church of St. Peter's, Bloomford, was conducted on Low Church Evangelical principles. The interior was very plain, and the service was totally without those adulterated reminiscences of Romanism with which most of the churches in that part of the country were then seeking to enliven the zeal of not too ardent congregations. This had been the state of affairs throughout the period of Mr. Norman's incumbency, in the early years owing to his convictions, later on account of habit and carelessness rather than anything else. But it was a state of affairs by no means agreeable to Mr. Whiffle, who had for a long time been doing his very best to breathe something of the spirit of Ritualism into the rector's Gallio-like disposition. His efforts had, naturally, been unsuccessful, greatly to the curate's chagrin. Had Mr. Whiffle had his will, St. Peter's would have been immediately converted into a model of advanced High Churchism. Thus it was that every subject of discourse connected with the service of the church was seized upon by him with eagerness, if only for the sake of averting stagnation.
In the meantime he consoled himself with the imagination of what he would do when the presentation, to which he never ceased to look forward, should ultimately realise itself.
And, indeed, it was just now nearer than Mr. Whiffle's most ardent hopes could have conceived. Mr. Norman, whose consumption, though working but slowly upon his frame, was none the less surely wasting him away, would long ago have resigned his living and gone to live in a more suitable climate, had it not been that the income of his rectory was quite indispensable to enable him to live in accordance with his usual habits. During the last half a dozen years he had twice spent several months of the winter at Mentone, each time to the manifest improvement of his health, and a not inconsiderable lengthening of his life might reasonably be hoped for were he able to establish himself permanently in that grateful climate. He would also have desired to live for some time on the Continent on Helen's account, for he was, of course, unable himself to give her the thorough instruction in the modern languages which he had set his heart upon her having. Reflection on these matters had often made him unusually melancholy of late, and a decided advance of his malady also made itself apparent.
He had almost resolved once more to obtain leave of absence for a few months, and this time in company with Helen, to revisit Mentone, when he received one morning, early in November, a letter bearing the seal of a firm of London solicitors. Upon reading it he became so nervously agitated as to bring on a severe fit of coughing, followed by spitting of blood. For the rest of the day he was quite incapable of maintaining any calmness, but paced his garden for several hours with the letter in his hand, constantly referring to it; and, on entering the house, walked in uncertainty between his study and the parlour, totally neglecting all food, and even Helen's lessons. Early on the following morning he came down, after a sleepless night, dressed for a journey, partook of a very slight breakfast, and walked to the railway station, where he took one of the first trains to London, having merely left a message behind for Helen, saying where he was gone. On arriving in town he went straight to the abode of his friend Gresham, in the neighbourhood of Regent's Park, but was so unfortunate as to find Mr. Gresham and his daughter from home. Thereupon he drove to his usual hotel in Oxford Street, and was very much engaged during three days, principally within the precincts of Gray's Inn. At the end of that time he returned to Bloomford. The excitement of his business had been so very unusual that it operated most unfavourably on his delicate state of health, and for several days he was confined to his room. On the last of those days he wrote the following letter --
"November 13th, 1863.
"My dear Gilbert,
"I dare say you will have learnt by this time that I made a very unexpected descent upon your dwelling some ten days ago, and found it vacant. Since my return to Bloomford, I have suffered from some confounded nervous complaint or other, which has rendered me incapable of penning you a line. But I must no longer delay letting you hear a piece of news which I doubt not will rejoice you.
"The occasion of my going to town was no other than this. I received a letter from Messrs. Connor and Tweed, of Gray's Inn Square, acquainting me with the fact that my brother William had recently died in San Francisco, intestate, that he had left behind him possessions to the amount of some £50,000, and that in default of a nearer heir, the whole of this fell to me! I think I have often told you of William's peculiarities. Nothing at all like a disagreement ever took place between him and myself, but as he went out to California some ten years ago, and has ever since been a desperately bad correspondent, we may be said to have become almost total strangers. I had no notion that he had become so wealthy, but as I fully believe that, had he made a will, he would have left, at all events, the bulk of his wealth to me, I have no hesitation whatever in availing myself of my legal rights in the matter.
"I need scarcely say how welcome such a windfall as this is. During the last few days I have reflected much on my future course, and, subject to any little modifications my friends and advisers may suggest, I think it will be pretty much as follows. As I am about as unfitted as it is possible for a man to be for my position in the Church, I shall as soon as possible resign my living, and bid adieu for ever to creeds and catechisms! Congratulate me on this, my dear Gilbert. Then, as I feel that my days are numbered, and, for the sake of Helen, I should like to remain still as long as possible in the land of the living -- which I have found on the whole remarkably agreeable -- I shall forthwith transplant myself to some more congenial climate, say to Mentone, or some such place, and there seek to enjoy the remainder of my life in that quiet manner of which, I flatter myself, I have so well learnt the secret. In doing this I contemplate no waste of time. Helen will of course go with me; I should like her to have a Continental education.
"And now, my dear Gilbert, let me see you as soon as possible. Come down on Monday, if you can, and bring Maud with you. It may be some time before she and Helen have another opportunity of seeing each other. I must not write any more, as I feel my head-ache approaching. Farewell for the present.
"Yours, ever affectionately,
Mr. Gresham obeyed the call, and the following Monday saw him and his daughter once more at Bloomford. They only remained two days, during which long conversations took place between them, and many matters of importance were decided. First of all it was determined that Mr. Norman should, as soon as it was practicable, resign his living and quit Bloomford; that thereupon he should take up his abode with Mr. Gresham in London till all necessary arrangements for his leaving England could be completed; and that as early in the following year as possible he should remove with Helen to Mentone.
Never, it seemed to Mr. Norman, had he known what real happiness was till now, never had he yearned more eagerly for any day than for that which would fairly set him loose from the bonds of his clerical position, for years intolerably galling. The condition which had been the dream of his life, he had at length lived to realise; he found himself henceforth at liberty to enjoy the remainder of his days in that absolute freedom from official restraint which was naturally the ideal of his epicurean nature. Henceforth he had but one serious care, the education of his daughter Helen, and that indeed was so completely a task dictated by ardent affection and the loftiest emotions of which he was capable, that it was anything but a drawback upon his freedom. This duty, however, excepted, his days were his own. No longer need he rise with a sigh from his beloved poets, to turn in disgust to the compilation of an insipid sermon; no longer would the calm peace of his Sundays be broken by the necessity of presiding at ceremonies which he loathed in every detail. Above all he would no longer be oppressed by that hideous nightmare of hypocrisy, so inimical to his instincts, but which he had been compelled by weakness and the force of circumstances so long to hug to his bosom. What mornings would now be his in the glowing atmosphere of southern lands, what ambrosial nights would it be his happy lot to enjoy, watching the full moon scatter silvery beams on the smooth surface of a tideless sea! Oh, ye gods, was not the cup of bliss too full? What if he were slowly but surely sinking to the grave beneath a remorseless disease; at least he would derive the maximum of enjoyment from those suns which would rise upon him, and what more could he wish? Man is mortal, and sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.
By Christmas, Mr. Norman had already resigned his living, and had left Bloomford. For several weeks speculation was rife in the village with regard to his successor, and many were the prayers breathed up that he might be a young unmarried man. Whether agreeable or not, mattered little; for Bloomford was a rich living. Mr. Whiffle was elated with all manner of hopes, it being principally in votis that the new incumbent might be a man of strong High Church sympathies. And so indeed he ultimately proved to be. For Mr. Norman, who cherished some degree of good feeling towards his old curate, and was perhaps infected with that fever of generosity which often possesses sudden heirs to a fortune, exerted his influence with the patron of the living, and without much difficulty secured the presentation of it to Mr. Whiffle himself.
I shall not attempt in this place to describe the state of mind into which the quondam curate was thrown by the communication of this piece of intelligence. For the present it may safely be left for the reader's imagination to depict. It is not unlikely we may have other opportunities of observing Mr. Whiffle with his honours fresh upon him.
In the meantime Mr. Norman and Helen were residing at Mr. Gresham's, in Portland Place. The little girl had never before been in London, and now went the round of the sights, accompanied sometimes by her father, sometimes by Maud and Miss Wilson, Maud's governess. She enjoyed it all in a quiet, self-contained manner, very rarely breaking into childish delight; a circumstance which somewhat surprised her father, who knew so well her ardent temperament. The fact was she was rather oppressed by the multitude of novel scenes, and by the strange sensation of living amidst so much life. It was only in the calm intimacy of the home circle that Helen could open her heart and speak freely all her impressions; a natural shyness kept her reserved in the presence of strangers. Only once did the stately little maiden allow herself to be betrayed into strong delight, and that was on the occasion of a visit to Westminster Abbey together with her father and Maud. At the sight of the tombs bearing names which she knew so well, and which, young as she was, she had already learned to love, she almost cried aloud with rapture, and when she issued from the solemn gloom of the Abbey into the open air, Mr. Norman noticed, not without pride, that. her eyes were dim with moisture.
Mr. Gresham's house was for ever full of gay company, but of this neither Helen nor her father saw much. The daily lessons were continued as usual, and Miss Wilson's skill was called into requisition to continue the musical instruction which had hitherto been superintended by the organist of St. Peter's church, a young man of only moderate abilities. And so the time passed till the commencement of February, when at length all Mr. Norman's preparations were complete, and the day was appointed on which he would leave England. Mr. Gresham and Maud accompanied the two as far as the boat which was to take them across the Channel, and here bade them farewell.
A week after, Maud Gresham received the following letter --
"Feb. 8th, 1864.
"My dear Maud,
"I promised to write to you as soon as possible, and let you know that we got here safely. The passage was a little rough, and I was a little ill, but it soon passed away when we reached land. I like Mentone very much, dear Maud; but I should like it better if you were with me. Papa says he is much better already. I am so glad, for you know how much I love dear papa. I enjoyed myself very much at your house, and I shall never forget the beautiful sights of London, and above all that dear Westminster Abbey. Try to remember me and write when you have time. I will write again soon and let you know everything that I do. Papa has got me a teacher for French and German. I like her very much, but she has a queer name which I cannot pronounce. I am very happy, and I hope you are. Good-bye.
"From your loving Friend,
Calm, uneventful were the years which succeeded Arthur's establishment under Mr. Tollady's roof. Uneventful outwardly, that is; for as regards those unseen circumstances, those silent conquests, defeats, and revolutions which succeed one another in the hidden depths of an expanding mind, these years from twelve to eighteen were fruitful to a degree of which we can only convey a partial idea by dwelling on a few of the visible results. Samuel Tollady had had no occasion to regret the attention he had paid to Arthur's intellectual training. The boy from the first picked up knowledge with an almost incredible facility; so quickly, indeed, that his master began before long to fear that his own knowledge would soon be insufficient to guide the boy's mind in those paths which it pursued with such eager delight. The printer was a most indulgent master, permitting to Arthur every practicable moment of leisure time, and not unfrequently himself per. forming tasks which were the boy's proper work, in order that the latter might enjoy the fruits of an extra hour spent over the book he happened to be reading. Indeed it would be scarcely correct to speak of the two in the mutual relationship of master and servant, for a very few months sufficed to create between them a feeling of mutual affection, which, as time went on, was strengthened on Arthur's side by growing respect, at times almost veneration, and on that of the old man by genuine admiration of, and pride in, the powers which he saw developing beneath his fostering care. By when Arthur had reached his fifteenth year, an actual son of his own could scarcely have been more to Mr. Tollady than he was; and if ever Arthur endeavoured to recall to his mind the aspect of that father whom he had so bitterly mourned years ago, he was quite unable to dissociate the dim memory of his features from the look of those grave, kind eyes which so often rested upon him during the day with affectionate interest.
About this time Mr. Tollady began to give Arthur his first lessons in the art of printing, on which occasion he addressed to him a few words in a more serious strain than he had hitherto ever made use of to the boy. It was shortly after one New Year's Day, as the two were sitting in the back parlour after supper, listening to a furious storm which seemed ever and anon to shake the foundations of the house. The printer had been unusually sad that day, and as Arthur glanced up at him occasionally from gazing thoughtfully at the live coals, he thought he had never seen him looking so old.
"Arthur," said Mr. Tollady, suddenly, "do you think I am a rich man?"
"Not -- not exactly rich," began Arthur, after some slight hesitation. "But -- but, indeed, I have never thought about it at all."
"I dare say you never have, for you are still in the happy years, Arthur, when the thoughts run but little on riches or poverty. Should you be surprised if I told you that I was a poor man -- a very poor man?"
"I should be surprised if you told me you were very poor, sir."
"You would?" repeated the other, smiling. "Would you be sorry to hear it?"
"Very sorry, for I am sure you do not deserve to be poor, sir," replied the boy with a proud firmness of tone beyond his years.
There was silence for a few moments, when the printer began again in a grave tone.
"I am indeed very poor, Arthur; so poor, that even the slightest expenses beyond our mere necessaries are a great burden to me. Do you remember how many newspapers you used to take out each morning when first you came to me?"
"I think about fifty, sir."
"Just so. And how many do you take out now?"
"Just so. Can you see why I ask you that, Arthur?"
"Yes, sir," replied the boy, sinking his head and speaking sadly.
"The papers used to be the best part of my business," pursued the old man; "but it was to the office that I looked for the greater part of my income. But that, too, has fallen off sadly during the last few years. Do you notice that James has not been here since Christmas?"
James was the printer whom Mr. Tollady had long employed in his office. Arthur replied in the affirmative.
"I have been obliged to do without him, though it grieved me sincerely to part with him. I had no longer business enough to keep him at work, Arthur. I can manage it all myself now-a-days, with your help."
"I am very sorry to hear it, sir."
There was again silence for several minutes, when Arthur suddenly broke out.
"Then why do you let me be a burden to you, sir? I'm sure I don't anything like earn my food and the money you give me; I have thought so for a long time, and wished to speak to you about it, but I was afraid you might be offended. Pray let me find some work somewhere! I am sure I could earn fifteen shillings a week, sir, and -- and that would be a little help -- though not much."
He added the last words blushingly, as he met Mr. Tollady's eye fixed upon him with its kindly smile.
"Don't be ashamed of your generous nature, Arthur," replied the latter. "No doubt you could earn what you say, and more; but it would be very much against my wish. I fear I have done wrong in telling you all this; you will distress yourself about it. No; I said that all expenses beyond those necessary for our support were a burden; but I am glad to say that there is still no difficulty in providing what we absolutely need, and, I trust, never will be. This is the reason I spoke to you about such things. You are now beginning to learn a business, one that has supported me for the greater part of my life, and which, if you master it thoroughly, will always stand you in good stead, for a first-class printer can always find employment. Now the very best way you can help me, Arthur, is to become a good compositor as soon as possible. Then you will be able to take James's place, and who knows but what you may bring us good luck. I am afraid I am getting too old to push ahead, as I ought to."
"You shall have no reason to complain of me, sir," replied Arthur. "I shall not sleep till morning for eagerness to begin."
"I wish you could bestow on me a little of your life and energy, Arthur," said Mr. Tollady, with a sigh. "It often rather grieves me to be able to provide no better field for their exercise than this musty old shop and office. But keep well in mind what I have said to you, my boy. I teach you to become a printer because I think that in so doing I shall best fulfil my duty towards you; I shall have given you knowledge by which you can always live. Do not suppose that I think you capable of nothing higher; had I the means I would spare nothing to give you the best advantages in whatever profession you should choose; but you see how it is with me. Have you done any more at your drawing to-day?"
Arthur started to his feet with a joyful look, and ran to a corner of the room where a large and much-worn portfolio was leaning upright against the wall. This he carried to the table, and then laid it open. It contained a large number of drawings, on paper of various shapes and sizes, but at the top lay one on which Arthur was at present engaged.
For he had not forgotten the old fondness which had first been awakened by the mendicant lodger at Mike Rumball's. Very shortly after he had begun to live at Mr. Tollady's he had recommenced his rude attempts on any scraps of paper which he found lying about, and this time, when he was at length discovered, he met with every encouragement to cultivate his taste. The printer was himself not without some facility in the use of the pencil; or at all events such had once been the case; and he now brought out several old sketch-books which he had filled years ago, and showed them to the delighted boy. Henceforth Arthur divided his leisure time pretty impartially between his books and his drawings, and with Mr. Tollady's occasional suggestions to aid his natural instincts, he made perceptible progress in the art. With what scorn would he now have viewed that portrait of the parrot which he had laboured at so earnestly, and which he had offered with so much pride to his goddess, little Lizzie Clinkscales! For, indeed, he began to acquire not a little facility in copying from pictures, or from objects which the printer set before him as models. One copy of a cut in an old Illustrated London News Mr. Tollady had liked well enough to have framed, and it now hung over the parlour mantelpiece -- a group of horses with legs a trifle too tong, and manes of astonishing luxuriance. The drawing which he now brought forth from the portfolio was a more ambitious attempt. It was a copy in pencil of Giotto's portrait of Dante, which he had found engraved in one of Mr. Tollady's books. The profoundly sad, and somewhat weird expression of the face was very finely caught, and expressed in a few bold lines which gave considerable promise for the future skill of the hand which drew them.
Mr. Tollady sighed as he looked at the drawing. He was wishing that he had it in his power to provide adequate instruction for such exceptional talent. As he held it up in his hand, Arthur had left the room, and in a moment returned, holding something out of sight behind his back. He came and stood before Mr. Tollady with a smile on his face.
"What have you got there, my boy?" asked the latter, answering the smile.
"Something that I am half afraid to show you, sir," replied Arthur. "I know it is very bad, but it is only a first trial. You won't make fun of it?"
"You know it is not my habit to make fun of anything well meant, Arthur."
The boy drew his hand from behind his back and brought forward a small piece of paper on which he had made his first attempt in colours. It was a copy from nature of a sprig of holly, thickly clustered with berries.
"Ha! Water-colours!" exclaimed Mr. Tollady. "Bravo, Arthur! very good, upon my word, very good! When did you do it?"
"This morning, sir."
"Very well. Persevere, Arthur, and you will do something worth putting in the window yet. Where did you find your colours?"
"I bought a blue, yellow, and red for twopence, sir."
"Why did you choose these three?" asked Mr. Tollady, smiling.
"I read the article on 'Colours' in your Cyclopædia, sir, and found that those were the three out of which all the others were made."
"Very well, Arthur. Try one or two more little things like this, and we will see whether we can find you a box of colours somewhere or other."
So the days went on. Arthur had worked away at case, and was making evident progress in the art of printing. Not that be took any pleasure in the work for its own sake; being merely manual dexterity he very soon grew disgusted with it. But he never failed to fulfil his hours destined to this employment conscientiously, for he knew that in so doing he was affording pleasure to his master, and had, moreover, the expectation of being very shortly absolutely useful to him.
He had grown to be a tall, handsome boy, with blue eyes full of light, and a countenance open and glad. His surroundings were by no means of a joyous character, and yet such is the natural ardour of youth, and especially of youth animated by the celestial gift of genius, that his life at this time was, as it were, a continual hymn of gladness, the joyful exuberance of a lofty soul breathed upwards, under unseen impulses, to the eternal source of life and light which we feel, but know not. The miserable little outcast of Whitecross Street had, thanks to the strivings of his inborn spirit, assisted by the never-ceasing teaching of his friend and guardian, developed into a youth of rich promise, his mind already stored with no despicable harvest of knowledge, his heart throbbing with generous sympathy with all that is most beautiful in the world of nature or Imagination. As he grew older he felt within himself the stirrings of a double life, the one, due to his natural gifts, comprehending all the instincts, the hopes, the ambitions of the artist; the other, originating in the outward circumstances of his childhood, and not a little in the instruction directly afforded him by Mr. Tollady, or indirectly caught from the conversation of such men as Mark Challenger and John Pether, which urged him on to the labours of the philanthropist, showing him in the terribly distinct reflex of his own imagination the ever-multiplying miseries of the poor amongst whom he lived, and painting in entrancing hues the glories of such a life as his master's, self-denying even to a fault, bent solely on the one object of making the world less wretched, even though he died in the effort. These two distinct impulses seemed to grow within Arthur Golding's mind with equal force and rigidity; he experienced neither of them any the less for being more and more convinced, as he grew in self-knowledge, that their co-existence was incompatible with the perfection of either. To which of the two should he wholly devote himself? As he drew on towards his eighteenth year he spent many and many an hour in vain efforts to decide. Already he began to feel that this would be the struggle of his life, that upon the solution of this inward problem would depend the happiness of his existence.
At times he was wholly the artist, especially when he had been working long at one of his drawings, or when he had been reading one of his favourite books on art, to procure him which Mr. Tollady had subscribed to a circulating library. His favourites were Cunningham's "Lives of British Artists," and Vasari's "Lives of the Painters." These he read and re-read with an enthusiasm which set at defiance the weariness of nature and made night tributary to the supply of hours of which the day had too few.
The second half of his nature grew strongest at those times when he took his weekly walk in Mr. Tollady's company. Sunday evening was invariably spent thus, when, that is to say, the weather was not so intolerably bad as altogether to forbid outdoor exercise. Starting from the shop about four o'clock, they would walk in a direction already agreed upon, and, by fetching a lengthy compass, regain home towards nine. On such occasions Mr. Tollady was more talkative than at other times. The exercise appeared to do him good, and not unfrequently in his flow of talk he would make mention of scenes and events which led Arthur to think that in his early days the printer must have seen a great deal of the world. But on his putting questions on this subject, or indeed on any other in the least personal to his companion, the result invariably was to turn the conversation immediately into other channels. Arthur soon observed this, and carefully avoided touching upon such points, but he nevertheless nourished a great curiosity to know more of Mr. Tollady's life, feeling sure that it must be interesting far beyond ordinary life stories.
One of these walks Arthur ever after remembered, partly on account of the energy and freedom with which Mr. Tollady that evening gave utterance to his opinions, partly from an event which followed upon the walk, and which we shall have shortly to relate. The direction they had taken was City-wards. After crossing Smithfield Market, they passed along Little Britain, and over Aldersgate Street into Barbican. When in Smithfield, Mr. Tollady said, looking round with a peculiar smile --
"You remember the associations connected with this place, Arthur don't you?"
"The burning of the martyrs, you mean!"
"Just so. When you read history, don't fall into the error of skipping over those parts affecting religion as too uninteresting to hold your attention. To my mind, Arthur, history of religious beliefs has always been at once the saddest and the most interesting of studies. It is nothing less than the struggle of the human mind from the black depths of ignorance and brutish fear up towards that glorious heritage of freedom to which, I cannot but believe, it is one day destined to attain. You can afford to smile at those writers who would have you reckon religious creeds among the influences which tend to exalt humanity. Never believe it! These faiths, one and all, great and small, from the most grovelling superstition of the cannibal to the purest phase of devotion nurtured in the mind of a Christian, trust me, they are nothing but remnants of the primeval darkness, clinging to man as he toils laboriously upwards, clinging in spite of all his efforts to shake them off. And woe to such as hug the darkness to their bosom!"
"Can you, then, feel no admiration for those men who suffered such fearful agonies in the cause they considered holy?"
"Admiration -- no, Arthur; profound pity, if you like. Why should I admire a man because he knits up his bodily frame to the patient endurance of suffering, and all for the sake of error? Shake off that prejudice, I beg of you. Admiration! It is only the body that is in question, and how can I spare admiration for the body? As well ask me to admire the porter who carries easily upon his head a weight which would crush me or you to the ground. That, too, is a wonderful exertion of bodily force. You will say, perhaps: 'Never mind whether their belief was right or wrong; admire it because it was so unshakable.' I tell you, nonsense! There is no abstract merit in that. Call it pig-headedness, and will you admire it then?"
"But," interrupted Arthur, "you do not actually despise them for the part they took?"
"Do not misunderstand me," pursued the other, eagerly. "I argue merely against the absurd claim for admiration and reverence. Despise them! No, certainly not. I despise absolutely no man, and simply because I esteem all alike as involuntary agents in the hands of a great power which most call Providence, but which I prefer to call the inexplicable spirit of the world. History pursues its path, using us as its agents for the working out of prescribed ends. To think that we men can modify those ends is the delusion of ignorance or of madness. Why then should I despise the martyrs? They performed their part in history, and could not otherwise. But do not ask me to actually admire them. Admiration I can only spare for those whom fate has ordained as instruments to advance humanity. Those who are so unfortunate as to represent the retarding forces in the life of man, I can only infinitely pity them."
"Does not this lead to a state of mind in which one despairs of being able to benefit the world, and let one's hands lie idle out of mere fear of doing harm? For you hold that we are merely agents, that we have no power to direct the course of human life."
"Wrong, Arthur. I did not say that we had no power to direct the course of human life; but, that we have no power to direct it otherwise than in a certain path which has been fore-ordained, and which experience proves to us it will most certainly pursue."
"Yes; but if we are sure the world is going to pursue this path, why trouble ourselves to help it on, why not sit and watch?"
"I will tell you, Arthur; because we cannot! The course of the world includes the course of each man's thoughts. These pursue a path which is fore-ordained in each individual case; how, I d9 not pretend to say. Now, you who propose to me to sit down and watch, could you follow your own counsel?"
"I certainly could not."
"No, I am sure of it. If you could -- well, that would be your part in the world, to be an obstruction, and even then you could not otherwise. You feel within you something that says: 'Rise up, and do so and so.' You may choose your own way of doing it, mark; and this is what we mean by freewill; but further than that you have no choice. This is quite distinct from the petty conventional distinctions of right and wrong, which, as the vulgar say, tempt one alternately. It is quite possible for a man to do wrong, in that conventional sense, and yet to be helping on in the noblest manner, and very likely unconsciously, the spirit of mankind!"
"Then is this inward feeling of a duty all that we have to guide our actions?"
"Not all. We have experience. The feeling which urges you to advance the world, at the same time takes the form of a craving for knowledge; thus affording you materials for judging as to the best of many courses for fulfilling your life-task. In the history of the past you read the history of the future, and learn to judge of the significance of cause and effect."
Talking thus earnestly they had passed out of Barbican into Beech Street, and so to the foot of Whitecross Street. Here Arthur suddenly stood still.
"You asked me what Smithfield was memorable for," he said, with a peculiar smile. "Can you tell me the association connected with Whitecross Street?"
"Do you mean the Debtor's Prison?" asked Mr. Tollady.
"By no means. I think I have never told you, but this was the place where several of my earliest years were spent."
Mr. Tollady looked into the young lad's face with a look at once of pity and curiosity.
"Let us turn up here," said Arthur; and they walked up the street.
It was a moderately fine summer's evening, and in front of all the doors, and in the mouths of the courts and alleys, groups of people were standing talking, driven by the warmth out of the pestilential air of their houses. Along the middle of the narrow street hundreds of children were playing, making the air resound with their laughter, shouts and screams.
"I must have been like one of those," said Arthur; "and listen! Ha! what remembrances that brings to my mind."
Coming towards them was a band of little girls, hand in hand, who, as they skipped along, joined in a chorus, and the words were:
Mr. Tollady, surprised at the broken tones in which his companion had spoken, looked up into his face and saw tears starting to his eyes.
"Aye, aye!" said the old man, sighing. "There had need be a happy land somewhere, for it is but little happiness that these poor creatures are fated to meet with on earth. 'Far, far away!' Alas! how far!"
They had come to the entrance of Adam and Eve Court, the appearance of which was fouler than that of any they had yet seen. Dirty whitewash covered the lower half of the houses, such at least, as the narrowness of the court would permit of being seen. The stench which reeked into the outer street was overpowering.
"There, there!" exclaimed Arthur, excitedly. "In that very court, that very house, the last you can see, my father died!"
Mr. Tollady said nothing, but turned away and walked on rapidly. His features were working violently with an inward emotion he could scarcely suppress. Arthur, hurrying on by his side, gave vent to one audible sob. On issuing into the more open neighbourhood of Old Street, they paused and looked around them once more.
"Let us stand here for a moment," said Mr. Tollady, "and watch the faces of these people who go past. Is there one upon which vice and crime are not written as legibly as if put there in words? Do not only look at their faces, look at their bodies also. Look at that old woman, scarcely three feet high. What a monster of deformity! What generations of toil-worn, vice blasted, hunger-nipped wretches has it taken to produce a scion such as that. Do you notice the faces? That lad, now. He is more than half drunk, but never mind. It gives him an advantage if anything. Have you not seen many a dog with a far more intelligent face? Look at the brutal cast of his nose and lips, the hideous protuberance of his jaw-bones. Or that young girl, about fifteen years old, I suppose. Is it possible to imagine a more perfectly hideous countenance? See the cat-like green eyes, swelling over with unutterable infamy; see the hair, coarse and foul as mud-growth. Listen, oh, for the sake of humanity, listen to her words! Nay, do not be ashamed, Arthur! Better men than we are, are not ashamed to employ thousands of such, and sigh at the most, when they hear their talk. Look at that puppy, with a cigar in his mouth which will make him sick before he reaches the end of the street! He is a draper's clerk, or something of the kind, and that girl with him is a miserable slave-of-all-work from next door, whom he is bent on seducing. Would the brains in that boy's head weigh as much as those of a cat, or be of equal reflecting power? Never believe it. Oh, Arthur, I could die of pity for them all! You have the hand and the eye of an artist. Paint a faithful picture of this crowd we have watched, be a successor of Hogarth, and give us the true image of our social dress, as he did of those of his own day. Paint them as you see them, and get your picture hung in the Academy. It would be a moral lesson to all who looked upon it, surpassing in value every sermon that fanaticism has ever concocted!"
They turned homewards, and so exhausted was Mr. Tollady by the force of his emotions that for some distance he was obliged to lean upon Arthur's arm.
"Is it not hideous," he continued, after proceeding a few moments in silence, "that half a nation should travel from the cradle to the grave in a gross darkness of ignorance and bodily misery such as is not surpassed by the condition of an old hack that toils its life away in the depths of a coal-mine! Let us disregard for the moment the absolute want of education for the millions of wretched children whose parents are either too poor or too careless to send them to school. [There were no school boards as yet in England.] Let us assume, what one is tempted to believe in places such as this, that they have no intellects, and only bodily wants. Is it not hideous, I say, that places such as those courts off Whitecross Street should be suffered to exist, places where not even a litter of pigs could grow up healthy? Is it not a disgrace to humanity that generations of servitude, as real and degrading as that of the negroes, should be suffered to produce in the centre of our proudest cities a breed of men and women such as those we have been observing, absolute Calibans, for the most part, in respect of a pure type of human strength and beauty? All my life I have given way to bursts of indignation at these monstrous scenes, and my reward has always been laughter and ridicule. 'What is the use of your railing thus?' they tell me. These things are an absolute necessity; it is as absurd to charge any human being with the fault, as it would be to throw upon mankind the blame of a droughty summer or a severe winter. Even you, Arthur, are perhaps saying in your mind that I am inconsistent, inasmuch as I one moment advocate the powerlessness of man to alter the course of history, and the next moment rail at the existing state of affairs, and protest that it might be better. But it is not so. Who is it effects the changes of history, if not man himself, acting, as I insist, in obedience to a law of which he knows not the author, but which he cannot resist? Now the mere fact that indignation, such as this, subsists in my bosom, and in the bosoms, I am glad to say, of thousands of my countrymen, is itself a sure sign that what we yearn for will ere long come about. We are the makers of history, Arthur, and it is the shooting of the seeds of future events which makes us restless. Only when the past is concerned is it foolish to say: 'That should have happened otherwise,' for otherwise it could not happen. The future is our and if we truly follow out those impulses which make our hearts burst with their impetuosity, we may be sure that we are truly working out the will of fate. There may be men at this day who long for a return to the despotism of the Inquisition as fiercely as I do for unlimited freedom of conscience. Well, let them strive their best to gain their ends. It is their allotted part. I shall oppose them to the utmost, for I know that to do so is my allotted part; but even in opposing them I shall understand them -- a fact which I flatter myself will conduce to some degree of charity on my side. No! Let them maintain that these horrors are a necessary condition of the present moment, if they please; but never that we have it not in our power to alter them! What is a Government, forsooth? Will any one attempt to persuade me that the duties of a Government are composed in the narrow bounds of paltry diplomacy; that the etiquette of courts should take precedence in the minds of statesmen of a people's wail for food, food for body and food for mind; that the only status of the poor, from our ruler's point of view, should be that of so much horse-power, to be employed either in the production of luxuries for the wealthy, or in the slaughter of hostile wretches, poor and ignorant as themselves? But if we despair of Governments, so long inured to views such as these, and scarcely capable of shaking them off till they feel the fierce fingers of the maddened populace tearing at their very throats, what shall we say of private wealth and influence, rotting in pestilential idleness, or active only in schemes for the still further brutalisation of the mob? Did you ever reflect that there are men in England whose private wealth would suffice to buy up every one of the vile slums we have just been traversing, and build fresh, healthy streets in their place, and the men still remain wealthy? To me it is one of the most fearful marvels of the time, that among such countless millionaires scarcely one arises in a generation actuated with the faintest shade of philanthropic motives, and not one worthy of the name of a true philanthropist. It is in the air they breathe, Arthur! These gold-cradled monsters -- monsters, verily, from a human point of view -- have every seed of benevolent or large-viewed impulse crushed in their hearts by the weight of barbarous luxury heaped upon them from the hour of their births. By the eternal truth, what opportunities do these men cast aside and neglect? Suppose a Rothschild, with his millions, actuated only by the purest love for his fellow-creatures, only waking to do good, and going to rest to devise fresh plans of philanthropy for the morrow! Imagine such a man calling into his counsels the wisest, the noblest, the bravest of a nation, and sitting down with them to devise schemes for the amelioration of his country! Do not ask what such a man could perform, ask rather what he could not! He could not make mankind wise, or learned, or good, in an instant, but what aid could he give them in their united struggle towards wisdom, learning, goodness! What help could he afford in a million cases to struggling, suffering, despairing merit; how could he lessen the inmates of hospital, gaol, asylum; what glorious service would he perform in the cause of humanity by the mere spectacle of such enlightened benevolence! And your preachers! I declare, I wonder how our preachers can walk the streets at the present day and not shrink in confusion and shame from the sights which meet their eyes on every hand. How many of them are there who in their sermons dare to speak out to the rich members of their congregation and rebuke them manfully for neglect of their opportunities? Jesus of Nazareth dared to do it; but then He received no payment for His sermons; and they would tell you that He was a god, which clearly explains why He could be bolder than ordinary men! If I needed any proof, beyond that afforded by my reason, of the emptiness of their pretensions, this listlessness and incapacity of theirs in the face of such problems as press upon us to-day, would be quite sufficient. Priests of the Almighty, forsooth! Nay, rather the hypocritical augurs of a wasting superstition, the very wrecks of which will in a few more centuries be hidden amidst the undistinguishable chaos of things that were."
During the rest of the walk both were silent. Twilight was just verging into the darkness of a summer's night as they entered the house. Mr. Tollady preceded Arthur into the parlour, and was just taking up a box of matches off the table to strike a light when the latter, in the dim light which still came through the window, saw him suddenly press his hand against his left side and fall back, with a slight sigh, into an arm chair. Arthur called to him, but received no answer. Hastily striking a match and lighting a candle, he approached the light to the old man's face, and saw that it was deadly pale. The fit lasted but for a minute; then Mr. Tollady's eyes again opened, and with a slight effort he rose to his feet.
"You are ill, sir," exclaimed Arthur, insensibly falling back into the expressions of earlier days in his anxiety.
"Nothing, Arthur, nothing!" replied the other. "Give me a glass of water, my dear boy. There, that's all right again. It was nothing."
Arthur saw that he was unwilling to speak of the incident, and accordingly maintained silence, but nevertheless it made him very uneasy. The action of pressing the hands to the heart previous to the fainting-fit had impressed itself on his mind, and gave him much matter for anxious thought during that night and for days after. But for the moment the weakness seemed to have passed. The old man appeared perfectly recovered and ate a little supper in his usual manner before retiring. They then parted, and Arthur went upstairs to his little bedroom.
The brightness of the full moon rendered it unnecessary for him to strike a light, and throwing open his window, for it was a little close in the house, he sat down to breathe the fresh air for a few moments. It was rather later than usual for him to be out of bed; the clock at the Middlesex Hospital was just striking eleven. His brain had been excited by the unwonted energy of Mr. Tollady's conversation, and by the circumstances of the latter's fainting, and the cool breath of the night air was grateful to his forehead. For more than an hour he sat thus, thinking of a multitude of things. First he thought of the old man, of his apparently failing health, and of what would happen in the event of his dying; and his eyes brimmed over with tears of affection as his heart warmed at the thought of all he owed to this noble benefactor. He reflected how little he used to understand Mr. Tollady in the earlier years of their acquaintance; how, little by little, an appreciation of the beauty and serenity of his character had grown upon him, till to-night he had obtained a more complete knowledge than ever of all the wonderful purity and lofty dignity concealed beneath the everyday details of that simple life. Then his thoughts wandered to the features of his own mind and character, and for some minutes he indulged in that self-examination which is beyond the power of ignoble natures. He thought of his beloved art, and wondered whether he was in reality born with the genius of a great painter, or whether it was mere talent which led him to pursue that course so eagerly. Rapidly emerging from such reflections he passed into his wonted current of thoughts, surveying in his mind a long panorama of glorious pictures which he firmly hoped one day to execute, and the very imagination of which made his blood leap in its courses, and his heart swell almost to bursting with the fervid yearnings of a noble ambition. Then his dream was checked, as such dreams always had been of late, by the thought of the far different aims to which Mr. Tollady was always directing his attention, whose end was a life of quiet usefulness, sacrificing all the claims of self to active exertion for the benefit of one's fellows. Was such a life consistent with the tumultuous aspirations of the artist which so often filled his mind? A vague fear seized him lest the two should be utterly incompatible. Yet not so, if he followed Mr. Tollady's advice and used his art for the purposes of social reform. Was not that a way out of the difficulty? He tried to think so, but felt in the depths of his soul that it was not, for the art to which he was devoted was not the same in which Hogarth had excelled. He felt that it would be impossible for him to take up his pencil for the delineation of such varieties of hideousness. Beauty was the goddess that he worshipped at the inmost shrine of his being, and to the bodying forth of visible shapes of beauty his life must be devoted, or he must cast aside the pencil for ever. Not the most inspired productions of human genius satisfied the criterion of excellence which he had established for himself, not the majesty of Angelo, the purity of Raphael, the glow of Titian approached that celestial ideal of the beautiful which was ever before his thoughts; and how should he go for his models to the slums and the hovels amidst which his wretched childhood had been passed? So it was with a sigh of despair that he rose from the mental conflict, postponing the decision, as he had so often done before, to a time when riper wisdom and experience should have come to his assistance. Nevertheless he was unable totally to destroy an apprehension that the decision might never be reached, that the doubt and hesitation would form the burden of his life, and that a future entered upon without the ardour of conviction could not fail to teem with perplexity and suffering.
"July 4th, 1867.
"My dear Helen,
"You are positively the most wretched correspondent it was ever my lot to encounter. Three months, and not a line. Papa has heard from your papa once or twice I believe during that time, but you had not the grace to enclose a line to your very respectable friend and monitress. Now this morning when I woke at about four o'clock I said to myself: 'Positively I must get a letter from Helen Norman to-day, and if I do not -- well, I renounce her acquaintance till we meet on the shores of Styx, on which occasion I shall certainly find an opportunity of disputing precedence with her in the matter of embarking upon old Charon's boat.' And why should I be so positive of a letter to-day? For no less a reason than because it is my birthday! To-day I attain the dignity of seventeen! You who are still at the kittenish stage of sixteen, do you not involuntarily bow before my grandeur, and wonder how you can have been so neglectful of your duty as to leave me ungreeted under such circumstances?
"Yes, I am seventeen. Papa has made me a wonderful present, nothing less than the most delightful little pony you ever saw in your life, an absolute darling of a pony! When he gave it me he said, in his usual way: 'Now, Miss Maud, I am not throwing away money on you for nothing, you understand. If I go to the expense of buying you a pony, it is that you may ride about and show yourself.' 'And why should I show myself, papa dear?' 'Why? To get a husband as quickly as possible, Miss Gresham, of course! You don't think I'm going to have you upon my hands till you're an old maid, do you?'
"That is papa's way of talking, you know. I really am afraid I don't quite understand papa sometimes. Now when he was saying that to me, he was so serious in face and tone that anyone else could not but have believed that he quite meant it. And yet I know, of course, that he was only in fun. The idea of my being married just yet! Of course I shall be married some day, you know, Helen; that I have very firmly decided in my own mind. But who it is to be, I am very far from knowing. Indeed I am not at all sure that I have formed an ideal yet. Let me see. I think the man I shall marry will be rather old; yes, notwithstanding your horror at such an idea; I think he must be oldish. You see I am rather old for my age, myself, and I could never endure a husband who would seem to me younger than myself, as I am quite sure any man would do who was not at least thirty. Then he must be a staid and sober individual. No Romeo or anything of the kind will do for me. For you know, Helen, or you ought to know, that myself and Miss Lydia Languish are as unlike as possible. If a suitor wrote a piece of poetry to me, it would ruin his chance for ever. No; he must be, as I said, a grave and sober gentleman, with not less than ten thousand a year, subscribing freely to public charities and all such useful institutions, a chairman at numerous committees, a member of Parliament, in short a highly useful man in every sense of the word. Ornamental he by no means need be, though of course I should not care to have an absolute Bruin. On the other hand I should detest an Antinous. In the first place I should be jealous of every lady he spoke to, and secondly I should be much too proud of him and make him most horribly conceited. It is my idea of married life to exist in a perfect calm; all such things as scenes, of any kind, I should avoid to the utmost. All this, I must tell you, is not quite original, for the husband I have sketched is just the kind of man that papa has frequently said I ought to choose when the time comes. But, as I said, I have such dreadful difficulty in determining, at times, whether papa is in earnest or not.
"But what a foolish girl I am to be writing on such subjects to a mere child. No, Helen, you shall not deceive me. For all that your portrait represents you as being as tall a£ myself and just about twenty times as good looking, and that your letters read as though written by an experienced novelist of I don't know how many years old, you shall not persuade me to consider you as more than a child. Remember it is not many months since you were sixteen, think of that and be humble.
"Talking of portraits, papa has just finished painting mine, and -- what do you think? -- seriously talks of sending it to the Academy next year! Unfortunately it was too late for the present exhibition. I will describe the picture to you. I am sitting at a solitaire-board, to begin with, my right hand just raised in the act of moving a glass marble from one hole to another. My dress is a very light blue, and, as I am painted in full length, shows my taste in such matters very admirably. I tell papa, too, that, if he exhibits the picture, he ought to charge Mdlle. Gateau, of Regent Street, a handsome sum in return for the advertisement, having it stated in the catalogue by whom the dress was made. I confess I look very creditably. My fingers, to which, of course, special attention is attracted, are of absolutely wonderful delicacy, almost transparent. Then my hair is a marvel of ingenuity. I did it up in imitation of Miss E----, the celebrated singer, and flatter myself that I improved upon the original. Altogether the picture is, I am assured, and well believe, a highly attractive piece of work. A gentleman last week offered papa two hundred pounds for it! But the gentleman is not after my taste, though my picture seems to suit his. He is a great fop, and only twenty-two!
"Now I know what your first remarks will be when you read all this. You will say: 'What a dreadful thing to be painted in such a frivolous attitude! Why not be represented as drawing, or reading, or at least embroidering?' Well, it was papa's choice. He always says that if women are not ornamental they are nothing, and that they should always be associated with the hours of relaxation, and not those of work. He has no belief whatever in the heroic woman, laughing to scorn women's rights, and speaking almost as disrespectfully of that schwärmerei of which you are yourself such an exalted instance.
"But I must conclude, and, as usual, reserve for the last paragraph the little quantity of sense which my letters contain. Be assured, dear Helen, that though papa makes fun of a woman's enthusiasm, I am, in reality, very far from doing so. Though I consider worldly prudence and good sense my strong point, yet I am by no means without moments in which I realise much the same feelings as those that you so admirably express in your, alas! too short letters. I hope you take it, as I mean it, for one of the truest signs of my friendship that I write to you the first things that come into my head, leaving you to divine the background of serious feeling which they conceal. But you really must write a line. Surely you are not so absorbed in your French, and your German, and your Italian, and your I-don't-know-what, that you cannot spare a few minutes to pen a word or two! Now I calculate upon a speedy reply.
"Your loving friend,
On the morning following the despatch of this letter, Maud received a short note from her friend, enclosed in a longer letter to Mr. Gresham --
"I have only time to write a line. Papa has suddenly been taken most seriously ill. He caught a severe cold the other day by an unfortunate accident, and I fear this is the result. He has asked me to write to Mr. Gresham, begging him, if possible, to come to us at once. I am afraid to think why he makes this request. Pray urge your papa to come.
"With love, dear Maud,
The letter to Mr. Gresham was written in most pressing terms, and admitted of no delay. Maud added her entreaties, and Mr. Gresham set off the same evening for the South of France. On arriving at Mentone he found that he had not come a moment too soon. Mr. Norman, it appeared, had been pursuing his favourite pleasure, that of boating, and had, through some carelessness or other, been capsized. He had saved himself by swimming, but was almost immediately after attacked by a most violent cold, which all precautions had been unable to prevent. This, acting upon his already almost worn-out constitution, rapidly laid him prostrate, with little hope of ever rising from his bed again. In this condition the artist found him, so reduced that he could not stir, and quite unable to speak above a whisper. The sight of his old friend seemed to revive him, and in a private interview he informed the latter that, with characteristic procrastination, he had put off from time to time the making of his will, but that he desired to perform the duty immediately, being convinced that he was upon his death-bed. Mr. Gresham undertook to fulfil the office of executor, and the will was forthwith made.
Two hours after completing its dictation, Mr. Norman sank into unconsciousness, from which he never revived, save very partially for a few moments at a time. Before the end of the third day after his friend's arrival he died.
The greater part of his property he left, of course, to Helen, who was to become the ward of Mr. Gresham, seeing that she had none but distant relatives on her mother's side, and those in very humble circumstances, whilst on her father's side absolutely no relation remained living.
Under these circumstances, Helen might very fairly consider herself an heiress. There were also legacies to Mr. Gresham and his daughter Maud. Last of all came an item very characteristic of the testator. He made over to his executor the sum of £5,000 in the 3 Per Cents., with the following instructions: --
He desired Mr. Gresham to do his best to discover whether Arthur Golding was still living, and, if by any chance he should find him, to pay to him on his attaining the age of twenty-one the said sum. Till such date the interest was to be drawn by Mr. Gresham, to cover any expenses that might be involved in the search; in the event of Arthur having been already discovered, might, if the executor saw fit, be applied to his use. If by the end of the year 1875 (to leave a fair margin), all efforts had met with no success, the sum to be employed for the benefit of any charity to which his executor might think fit to devote it.
Thus did Mr. Norman satisfy his conscience by bequeathing to another the performance of what he had always considered as a duty, and yet had never possessed sufficient energy to undertake.
It now remained to decide with regard to Helen's future. The poor girl was severely afflicted at her father's death, and begged to be allowed to remain a few months at least amid scenes which had hitherto possessed such happy, and had now acquired such mournful associations.
As her health seemed to advise this course Mr. Gresham readily acceded to the request, and it was arranged that Helen should live in the house of a very agreeable French family with whom she had long been acquainted. In the course of the autumn she was to return to England, when her future movements could be discussed at her guardian's house.
Early in October Mr. Gresham returned to Mentone to fetch Helen back to England, and this time Maud accompanied him. They remained in the South of France about a fortnight, and then started back.
It was rather more than four years since Helen left her old home, and she had greatly changed in the interval. If anything, she had slightly the advantage of Maud Gresham in height, and her excessive slimness made her appear even taller than she was. She had never been a robust child; but during the last few months grief had wasted her to a shadow. Her face was more beautiful than ever, for hers was a style of beauty which gained rather than lost by a marble paleness.
As she entered Mr. Gresham's drawing-room in the long black dress which she had travelled in, and, throwing back her veil, disclosed a face suffused with tears and smiles, which the excitement of the moment called forth, no one could have supposed her younger than the very compact yet elegant young lady who stood at her side; when they stood together it was Maud who appeared the child.
Upon Helen's face rested a sweet seriousness which bespoke a nature at once exquisitely refined, susceptible to keen emotion, and strong in the power of suppressing its outward signs when it appeared most fitting to withhold them from observation. Her forehead bore the unmistakable impress of thought superior to her years; her eyes had a clear directness of expression which seemed to pierce to the truth through all barriers of form, and irresistibly claimed respect from all upon whom they rested; her lips were rich in the grace of female modesty and tenderness. Her walk had not altered; it was, as it had always been, that of a queen. Unconscious dignity was present in every movement.
To a stranger her bearing might at first have appeared haughty; those who knew her soon learned that this was the mere outward expression of a loftiness of soul which made itself manifest in every word she spoke and every act she performed.
Maud soon discovered that a great change had passed over her friend's mind in the period since her father's death. A few minutes' conversation sufficed to show her that this was not the same Helen who had written such ardent letters, brimful of enthusiasm for all that is beautiful, and good, and true. The ardour was now suppressed, and it was something more than grief that had effected the change. Maud was not long in discovering the explanation of this. Helen had become devout.
In one of our earliest chapters we had an opportunity of seeing the kind of religious instruction which Mr. Norman was in the habit of affording his child as often as her eagerness in questioning compelled him to touch upon the subject. Otherwise, if not compelled by her curiosity, he avoided the subject, fearing somewhat, if the truth must be told, her premature power of thought and observation. The result of this was, that up to the time of her father's death Helen had thought little, if at all, on religious subjects. The fact that she had never known a mother doubtless contributed to make this possible, and the completeness with which her days were occupied in various studies gave her abundance of matter for thought in her leisure hours. But, as might reasonably have been anticipated, the suddenness of her bereavement acted as a powerful stimulus to those seeds of devotional piety which are present in the heart of every woman, and which usually receive numberless impulses by fructification long before the age at which Helen had now arrived.
What sectarian Christians would style a conversion took place in her mind. Of a sudden she became discontented with the occupations of her life. It came upon her with the force of a revelation that she had hitherto lived in absolute neglect of the veritable end of existence, namely, devout prayer and praise to the all-powerful Being, upon whose existence she had as yet scarcely reflected, but whom she now conceived of, with all the energy of a powerful imagination, as the distinct and personal God.
This attitude of mind was confirmed by the circumstance that the French family with whom she went to live were strictly religious. That their religion was Roman Catholic did not prevent Helen from being strongly impressed with their zealous fervour, and she forthwith commenced the performance of the duties of her faith with an ardour which marked her conduct whatever she undertook.
Her friends, who had long known her intimately, clearly observed the change, and were inspired with an eager hope that it might be the means of affording them the power of converting her to their own faith. To this end they forthwith began unobtrusively to exert themselves, and also secured the aid of a curé in their self-imposed task.
But the girl remained firm against their persuasions, which even had the result of rendering her more ardent than ever in the cultivation of her Protestantism. Her days were passed in the perusal of religious books, in self-rebuke for her sins of omission and commission in the past, in the contemplation of a future to be devoted to charitable deeds; whilst her nights were passed in prayer, the early dawn sometimes finding her still upon her knees, or bending over her Bible.
No wonder, under such circumstances, that she grew thin and pale. The old childlike enthusiasm had by this time well-nigh forsaken her; her excess of zeal compelled her to look with disapproval on the subjects which had occasioned it. The energy of her nature now exhaled in ecstasies which none were witness of, save her midnight lamp.
Mr. Gresham and his daughter agreed in strongly condemning this state of affairs, and before many days had passed began to unite in an attack upon what they esteemed Helen's self-destructive asceticism. They knew well that to attack it openly would only defeat their own object, so they proceeded by means of distractions to which Helen could scarcely refuse to consent without appearing ungrateful.
They arranged excursions into the country, in which they were joined only by one or two quiet friends; they spent mornings all together in the museums and the art-galleries; they induced Helen to read aloud occasionally in the evening from books which Maud knew had once been favourites of hers, and Mr. Gresham began to give her lessons in oil-painting.
Concession in these particulars at first caused the pious girl acute pain, and many secret hours were spent in tears after some unusual backsliding; but by degrees the remedy began to prove effectual, and those who practised it were rewarded by seeing a very gradual, but still very evident, improvement in Helen's spirits, an improvement which before long began to affect her bodily health.
Helen had at length become so far weaned from her habits of solitude as to voluntarily request that she might pay a visit to Bloomford. She had in reality secretly longed to see the place of her birth ever since she had been in England; and now that the spring had once more come round, she was quite unable to resist the vivifying influence of the fresh west winds and the attractions of all those green country scenes, which the sight of the parks coming into life, again called so strongly to her mind. As the distance was comparatively short, it was arranged that Helen and Maud should undertake the journey alone, going early in the morning and returning the same evening.
At about eleven o'clock they found themselves before the gates of the Rectory. The house had not altered in outward appearance; but a group of young children playing, or rather squabbling, together on the lawn, reminded the visitors of the change in its occupancy. Passing up the walk, they rang the door bell and requested to see Mr. Whiffle.
They were shown into the drawing-room, which was furnished precisely as Mr. Norman had left it, but which was scarcely as tidy as it might have been, and as it always was in the days of Mrs. Cope's dominion.
Whilst waiting for the rector's appearance Helen kept her veil down, and Maud could hear her in vain endeavouring to suppress a sob, occasioned by the memory of old times. She had just time to give her friend's hand a reassuring pressure when Mr. Whiffle entered.
He looked shorter than ever, probably because he had begun to contract a somewhat portly habit of body, and his hair was just as red and just as stubborn as ever. He wore spectacles now, and strutted about with a more dignified gait than he had previously exhibited; but he still retained the old habits of running his fingers through his coarse red hair, and of rising and falling on his toes as he discoursed. His voice had acquired a slightly nasal twang, probably due to attempting to make his crow-like note subservient to the purposes of intonation.
On entering the room he bowed, and requested to be informed in what way he could serve his visitors.
Maud was somewhat more prepared for a speech than Helen, and accordingly replied --
"We are two old acquaintances, sir, who, I much fear, have outgrown your recollection. Of me you had never more than a slight knowledge; but my companion is a very old friend of yours, indeed. Her you will probably recognise."
The rector gazed in a puzzled manner from the speaker to Helen and back again, and for some moments was entirely at a loss. But the sight of Helen's mourning seemed at length to stimulate his memory, and his face gradually brightened as the idea gained power over his mind.
"Upon my word! -- Ha! -- No! -- Yes! It must be. I do believe this is Miss Norman! And this --? Upon my word I cannot recollect."
"You are right as far as I am concerned, Mr. Whiffle," said Helen, who had now recovered her self-possession. "And this is Miss Gresham, whom you several times saw at the Rectory."
"Upon my word, and so it is! Miss Gresham, I am heartily glad to see you. Miss Norman, you have delighted me by this visit! Ladies, I beg you to consider yourselves both heartily welcome to Bloomford Rectory. Upon my word! This is one of my happiest days since that eventful one upon which I entered The Church! You have experienced a sad loss, Miss Norman, a very sad loss; but I feel sure that I need not remind the daughter of my sometime rector, whom I ever loved and revered, of the consolations which The Church offers for those similarly afflicted. And you have come down from Town, I suppose. Ha! I get to Town, myself, more frequently than I used to do, Miss Norman, in the by-gone days. You see, it behoves the pastor of a congregation to keep his mind thoroughly in contact with the movements of the day. I was in London, in fact, so recently as three weeks ago, when I had a little business in Paternoster Row, concerning the publication of a small pamphlet on the subject of 'Church Ritual,' a reply to certain calumnies which have of late been circulated with regard to my method of conducting our services in St. Peter's. I trust, Miss Norman, you favour the High Church form of worship?"
"I have been so long abroad," replied Helen, after a moment's hesitation, "that I doubt whether I am quite aware of the distinctions existing between the different forms of worship in England."
"Indeed! Ha! We must discuss the whole matter. You will, of course, take dinner with us? We dine at one."
"We shall have pleasure in doing so," replied Helen.
"Ha! Delighted! Upon my word, I must call Mrs. Whiffle -- and the children. They will all be charmed!"
So saying, the Rector hurried out of the room. In a moment a confused whispering, and shuffling, and pushing, and whimpering began to be audible in the drawing-room, which seemed to indicate that the whole Whiffle family was already gathered outside in the hall. A moment after a baby set up a terrific screaming, whereupon, as at a signal, Mr. Whiffle again marched into the room, with Mrs. Whiffle leaning on his arm, followed by nine children, the eldest girl bearing an infant in her arms. In the midst of agonising yells from this youngest member of the family circle, Mr. Whiffle introduced them all to the visitors.
"This is Master Peter," he concluded, taking the squalling brat in his arms, "so called because born on the day sacred to St. Peter, the patron of the church of which I have the honour to be rector. He is our latest arrival, and as yet somewhat of a care to Mrs. Whiffle. I often pity those people, Miss Norman, who have large families. The care of even a few children is something of which you, happily, can as yet form no conception. Augustus, my eldest, is not here, being at present a student at King's College, London, where he is preparing for the time when he shall have attained the years necessary for ordination."
There was something peculiar in Mr. Whiffle's tone, when he spoke of his eldest son, which might have led an acute observer to surmise that he was not altogether satisfied with that young gentleman's progress. But the thoughts of his visitors were elsewhere, and they did not notice this.
All through dinner Mr. Whiffle talked incessantly, expatiating on the details of the discussion going on between himself and a neighbouring vicar on the subject of his ritualism. With merciless detail he described the points at issue in the contest, went back for his authorities to the early ages of the Church, gave citations in Latin which he did not take the trouble to translate, described diagrams on the table with knives and forks to represent the Church ornaments of which he was speaking, and in short gave the young ladies an insight into the foundations of ritualism calculated to send them back home somewhat wiser than they came. And all this amidst such a hubbub of juvenile chatter, such a breaking of plates and overturning of glasses, such a thumping, and squalling, and threatening, as would inevitably have driven anyone but Mr. Whiffle frantic when engaged in the discussion of such engrossing topics.
Maud and Helen did their best to appear interested in all this talk, and with such success, that Mr. Whiffle was jubilant.
"I must take you into my study," he exclaimed, as they all rose from the dinner table, "and show you certain works which I have in progress, works which I flatter myself will open the eyes of certain degenerate sons of The Church, whom I could name, and may perchance make the name of Orlando Whiffle somewhat more widely known than it at present is. Ahem! I have in contemplation, Miss Norman, amongst other things, a series of Tracts not unlike those issued by the Tractarian Party during the years 1833 to 1841. I have likewise pamphlets on hand on very various topics, among them -- this way, if you please, Miss Gresham -- treatises on 'The Orthodoxy of Stained Glass Windows,' 'Pews or Stalls?' 'Confession from the Point of View of Expediency,' 'Interpretations of the Thirty-nine Articles,' and many others of a similar description. I really must get you to read a few, Miss Norman, and give me your opinion on them; likewise you Miss Gresham. You can have but little notion of the way in which work accumulates in the hands of a rector, or parson, as perhaps he should be more properly called: persona ecclesiæ, the representative of The Church, a proud title, Miss Norman."
They were now in the study, the room in which Helen had sat day after day at her lessons with her father. In those days it had been always in the most admirable order, at present it was rather in "admired disorder." Books of all shapes and sizes were recklessly piled upon the shelves, and heaped upon the tables or the floor. There was scarcely a chair free to sit down upon. Everywhere was a litter of torn manuscript, old numbers of Church magazines, daily and weekly papers, tracts by the thousand, even the backs of books which had been rent off in the struggle for existence. Certainly the dust could never have been once removed during the four years of Mr. Whiffle's incumbency. Maud could not repress a smile as she looked round; Helen with difficulty repressed a tear.
"I wish I had an opportunity, Miss Norman, of directing your reading. You intend to remain in England now? Ah! I certainly should advise it. Nowhere have you the benefit of such an enlightened movement in the matter of Church ritual as our country at present enjoys. Now suppose I were to suggest a few books for your perusal, Miss Norman, sterling works which you can easily obtain in London, works of sound, practical information. Here is a piece of paper, Miss Norman, and a pencil; possibly you would like to take the names of a few. Now here, for instance is Rogers's 'Practical Arrangement of Ecclesiastical Laws,' containing very much that is absolutely necessary to be known; here is Hook's 'Ecclesiastical Biography,' an extremely interesting work; here, again, is Lathbury on 'The History of Convocation,' very needful. You have got Lathbury? Here, now, is Palmer's 'Origines Liturgicæ,' which I am sure you will enjoy. Here we have Maskell's 'Ancient Liturgy of the Church of England,' very sound. Got Maskell, Miss Norman? Here are the 'Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ,' admirable; don't omit that. Here is Neale's 'Tetralogia Liturgicæ.' Possibly those might be enough to begin with, and when you have perused them if you would so far honour me as to intimate the fact by letter, or, still better, by coming down again to see me, I will have another list assorted. By-the-bye, you might of course add Burn's 'Ecclesiastical Law,' a compendious work."
At this moment Mrs. Whiffle appeared in the doorway.
"My dear," she said, "here's that man Potts come again about the burial of his child. He says he must see you."
"Ah! Does he? Well, show him in here. A very refractory parishioner, young ladies. You shall see how I will deal with him."
The man thus announced then appeared at the door. He was a rude countryman in labour-stained clothes, and with a sun-burnt face. The latter, however, was marked by signs of suffering, and Helen noticed that the hat he held in his hand was bound with a scrap of black ribbon.
"Well, my man?" asked Mr. Whiffle, as he appeared.
"Well, sir," replied the man, pulling his forelock respectfully, "I's come to ask whether you won't be so good as bury our little Tom. It 'ud be a great kindness, sir, if you only would this one time, an' we shouldn't forget it so quick, neither."
"I told you this morning, Potts," replied Mr. Whiffle, with dignity, "that it is impossible for me to read the service of the Church of England over your child, seeing that he was never baptized. Is not that enough?"
"Well, sir, if you can't see your way to do it, would you let Mr. Sykes do it, the one as preaches at t' chapel, you know? He's a Dissenter I know, but he's got no 'bjections to do this bit o' kindness for us, and we'd rather have him than no one. I'm sure as it'll kill his mother if our poor little Tom, as never did no 'arm to no one, no not a fly, is put into t' ground like a dog, without Christian burial. Would you let Mr. Sykes read over him, sir?"
At the first mention of the obnoxious schismatic, Mr. Whiffle's eyebrows had risen, and his eyes actually glared through his spectacles at the audacious speaker.
"Mr. -- Mr. -- Mr. Sykes!" he stuttered, scarcely able to speak. "Allow him to read a service in a burial ground belonging and appertaining to the English Church as by law established! I'll see Mr. Sykes in -- his pulpit first! I tell you the child must be buried in silence, Potts, so there's no use in further discussion. The ordinances of The Church do not permit me to read the service in such cases. Do I not know the ordinances of the Church in which I am a rector? Do you wish to insult me, man?"
"I's no wish to hinsult you, sir, or any one else," returned the man, "but I think it hard, that's all I's got to say; I think it hard, I do! It'll be the death of my poor wife, I know as it will; an' it's a blow for me myself. But I s'pose I must bide it. Well, sir, it's a queer Christian Church, that's all I's got to say, an' what's more ----"
"Now that will do, Potts," broke in Mr. Whiffle, majestically, pointing to the door. "You've heard my answer, and you may go. Any attempt to infringe my rights as rector of the parish of Bloomford will meet with condign punishment; that's all I have to say, Potts. You may go."
The man retired with a terribly downcast look, far too sad at heart to give ear to the scorn with which his rector treated him.
"This seems very hard for these poor people," said Helen, as soon as he was gone. "Surely the severity of such a rule must sometimes be relaxed."
"I grant you it is sometimes neglected, Miss Norman," returned the rector, "by those who have but an imperfect sense of their own dignity and their duty to The Church."
He was proceeding to a long discussion on the subject of Church ordinances when he was again interrupted by the presence of Mrs. Whiffle at the door, who requested to speak with him for a moment. Mr. Whiffle was absent for a few minutes, when he returned and announced that his eldest son, Augustus, had quite unexpectedly made his appearance at the Rectory. His face, when he made this announcement, once more presented the mingled expression which it had worn when he first spoke of his son. Immediately after, the young man himself appeared in the study.
The outward aspect of Augustus Whiffle was scarcely that which we are accustomed to associate with a student of divinity. His dress was decidedly "loud" in tone, cut in the extremity of the existing fashion, and the ornaments which he wore were in excessively bad taste. In short he precisely resembled the typical counter-man out for a holiday. In person he was very tall, with a face in which it was difficult to determine whether folly or vice predominated, and his hair, though kept in strict order by means of a liberal allowance of bear's grease, was of exactly the same hue as his father's. He wore a gold pince-nez, had his hands covered with flashy rings, and carried a demonstrative cane, with which, as he stood in the doorway, he tapped his shiny boots, as if to draw attention to their exquisite finish. Such was Mr. Augustus Whiffle, whom his reverend parent had destined to become a shining light in the Establishment. It was far from improbable that he might even yet attain to that distinction.
On being introduced to the young ladies, this young gentleman bowed with a mixture of superciliousness and awkwardness generally observable in those men who are wont to spend a considerable portion of time in the society of females who neither exact nor receive any great amount of deference. He muttered a few remarks with regard to the weather, and something to the effect that it was a long time since he had seen either of the visitors, after which he beat an awkward retreat, almost overturning his mother, who had stood behind him with an expression of countenance which seemed to indicate that she scarcely knew whether to admire or sigh over her son's appearance and behaviour.
Augustus having disappeared, Mrs. Whiffle, with a look of intelligence at her husband, invited the young ladies to take a stroll in the garden, which being agreed to, they all three went out on to the lawn, accompanied by the nine young Whiffles. Scarcely were they gone than Augustus Whiffle again made his appearance in the study, where his father had been thoughtfully awaiting him. He closed the door behind him, and assumed the only vacant chair, cocking his hat on one side, and assuming the greatest possible extent of space for his legs, one of which, with an affectation of careless grace, he flung over the other, all the time continuing to tap his boots with his cane.
"Well, sir," began Mr. Whiffle, with a make-believe severity which his tremulous tones belied, "I thought I had expressly forbidden you to absent yourself from your duties again before the long vacation?"
"Very possibly," returned Augustus, drawing a gilt toothpick from his waistcoat pocket, and applying it to his teeth, which he smacked loudly with his tongue. "But if you tell a fellow to go and live in the society of other fellows, who are gentlemen, you must give a fellow the means to be a gentleman too!"
"What do you mean, sir?" asked the rector, still severely, though his hands were nervously twitching behind his back.
"I mean what I say. A fellow can't live like a gentleman unless he has the means!"
"Do you mean to tell me you have again run short of money?"
Augustus smacked each one of his pockets in turn -- and he had a great number of them -- but did not deign to make further reply.
"And what has become of the thirty pounds you had at Easter, sir? Where -- where are your accounts? Show me an account of your expenditure?"
"Don't keep any," returned the other, coolly, changing the position of his legs.
"And why not, sir, when I so expressly instructed you to?"
"Devilish ungentlemanly. No fellow that calls himself a gentleman keeps accounts."
"Indeed! And you swear too, sir! Is that indispensable to a gentleman?"
"Deucedly prevalent habit," replied Augustus, with a sarcastic smile.
Mr. Whiffle turned away from his son and made an attempt to pace the room in thought, but at the first turn he tripped over a folio and had difficulty in recovering himself with dignity. Augustus continued to pick his teeth and smile.
"I tell you what it is, sir!" exclaimed the rector, suddenly, in exasperation, "you'll have no more money from me till the long vacation comes -- not a penny! And what's more, if you show your face again at the Rectory before that period, I will give orders that you are not to be admitted. You shall be turned away like a beggar from the door, sir!"
"Very well," replied Augustus, rising. "Then I shall at once throw up the College, and look out for something that'll bring in the needful. In the meantime I shall live on tick, and you'll have the bills."
"I'll write to your lodgings immediately, sir," cried Mr. Whiffle, in wrath, "and warn them to turn you out of doors to-morrow!"
"No difficulty in the world in finding another place. Lots of gentlemanly fellows that will go bail."
"I will forbid you to come near the Rectory again, as long as you live! You shall no longer be in any way related to me! I'll advertise in the newspapers, and warn tradesmen against trusting you!"
"Oh no, you won't -- by no means!"
"Why not, sir?"
"Because you don't care to make yourself ridiculous. Now what is the good of calling a fellow over the coals in this way? You know a fellow can't get on without tin, and as long as you've got it, why not let a fellow have a reasonable supply?"
Mr. Whiffle wrung his hands in desperation.
"What have you done with all your money, Gus?" he asked, in a tragi-comic tone, which he, however, meant to be perfectly serious.
"Well, a good lot's gone in books," replied Augustus, who, it must be confessed, had very much the air of a studious youth. "They come so devilish high, you see."
"Don't swear in my presence, sir!" exclaimed the rector, stamping his foot. "What books have you bought?"
"Oh, I don't know. All sorts."
If this was meant to comprise a copious collection of very bad novels, it was certainly true.
"Have you got through the 'Origines Liturgicæ' yet?" asked the rector, after a pause, his wrath, never of long duration, perceptibly cooling.
"Very nearly," replied Augustus, who had never opened the book.
"You have!" exclaimed the credulous father, in delight. "Ha! Let me ask you a few questions."
"Well, I'm sorry," returned the young man, pulling out his watch, "but I really haven't time. I must positively get back to Town to-night. I have a lecture early to-morrow morning."
"Go back with Miss Norman and Miss Gresham," said the rector. "They go by the 5.30."
"Not a bad idea," replied Augustus, who felt rather uneasy at the prospect, for all that. "And, by-the-bye -- did you write the cheque?"
Mr. Whiffle looked at his son, sighed, paused a moment, then left the room and returned very shortly with a folded cheque in his hand.
"Augustus Whiffle," he said, solemnly, as he handed it over. "This is the last money I can let you have before the long vacation. As it is, I shall have to pinch myself and the children. There, take it, and make a proper use of it."
Augustus unfolded the cheque and glanced at it.
"Only twenty!" he exclaimed. "I say, governor, you re getting awfully shabby, you know."
At this moment the tea-bell made its clanging heard in the hall, and Mr. Whiffle, glad of an excuse, hurried away. Augustus followed, inserting the cheque in his pocket-book.
"What the devil's the good of this?" he muttered to himself. "Won't pay a twentieth part of a fellow's debts, let alone keeping a fellow in toggery and cigars. What an old screw the governor is!"
The journey home that night, as Mr. Whiffle had suggested, was travelled in the company of the divinity student, who, as soon as he had succeeded in vanquishing to some degree his awkward bashfulness, entertained the young ladies with descriptions of sundry adventures which he had at various times experienced in the company of congenial spirits, always denominated as "fellows." Maud listened with a well-affected interest, partly because she was in reality amused by the character being displayed before her, partly because Maud always paid deference to the convenances, and would not even have appeared rude to a chimney-sweep. Helen sat with her veil lowered, in absolute silence. She was unwilling to betray the disgust which she felt, but at the same time quite incapable of affecting an interest which she did not feel.
"I say, Miss Norman," exclaimed Augustus, at one point in the conversation, or rather monologue, "it seems an awful time since we used to know each other so well, don't it?"
"It does indeed seem a long time since I left Bloomford," replied Helen.
The quiet, ladylike tone of her voice, having nothing in the least childish about it, somewhat repressed the young man's conversational ardour. He gnawed the top of his cane for a moment, then renewed the attack.
"I say, Miss Norman, you remember the old parrot and the cat we used to laugh at?"
"Very well," replied Helen. "The parrot still lives. I have brought her back to London with me."
"I say, now! Think of that! It 'ud puzzle a fellow's brains now to calculate that old beast's age; wouldn't it, Miss Norman?"
"The bird must be very old."
"I say, Miss Norman," pursued the undaunted Augustus, after a little more gnawing of his cane, "do you remember that rummy little fellow that lived at the Rectory with you once -- a rummy-looking cove, that bolted one morning, you know?"
"I remember him, quite well."
"I say, did you ever hear any more of him, Miss Norman? He used to have lessons from the governor, I remember."
"He was never heard of, I think," replied Helen.
"What a rummy go! Drowned, I always said."
Helen made no reply, and Augustus, after in vain endeavouring to renew the conversation, again turned to Maud, whose attention he continued to engage to the end of the journey. At the station he assisted his companions into a cab, and lingered about the door with some wild notion that he might be invited to accompany them home. Being deceived in his hope he walked away somewhat disconsolate; but rapidly recovering his spirits, as he reflected on the brilliant conversational powers he had exhibited, he forthwith made for the lodgings of a certain "fellow," in whose company he spent the greater part of his time, and proceeded to detail in confidence the circumstances of his tête-à-tête which he professed to have held that afternoon with the charming daughter of "an awfully rich old cuss, the termination of which had been the acceptance of an offer of his heart and hand. On the strength of this, the pleasant "fellow" in question, who did not believe a word of the story, made bold to borrow a sovereign, which Augustus was ashamed to refuse, but the sure and certain loss of which he bitterly regretted.
"Well, Helen," said Mr. Gresham, as the three sat together the same evening, "how did you find Bloomford?"
"Very much changed I thought, Mr. Gresham," replied the girl.
"Or was the change in yourself, do you think?" pursued the artist.
"Possibly a little, but certainly not altogether."
"How was it changed?"
"Bloomford itself was as beautiful as ever," replied Helen, with some appearance of reluctance, "but the Rectory I scarcely recognised as my old home."
"Ha! Has Mr. Whiffle been making alterations?" asked Mr. Gresham, who perfectly understood Helen's meaning, but had a perverse delight in drawing her into more definite expressions.
"Oh, no; at least none that I noticed. I -- I can scarcely say how it was changed. I think it is hardly as quiet and homelike as it used to be. There -- there are many children about."
"You went into the church, of course?"
"No," replied Helen, sinking her head.
"Not! Now that was a pity. According to all accounts, Mr. Whiffle has made some charming alterations. I believe it is almost as pretty as a theatre," he added, carefully watching Helen from beneath his heavy eyebrows.
"I feared it," she replied, in a low voice, adding almost immediately, "I feel rather tired after the journey. Will you permit me to leave you to-night?"
"Certainly, Helen. You must not overtire yourself. Goodnight."
Helen rose in her wonted graceful manner, shook hands with her guardian, kissed Maud, and left the room with a firm step, yet so light that it could not be heard.
Mr. Gresham was silent for a moment after her departure, apparently engaged in reading a periodical. Maud continued to work at a pencil-drawing which had held her attention from the foregoing conversation.
"Pallas seems a trifle out of sorts to-night," said the former at length, throwing down his paper and speaking in the tone he usually adopted with his daughter, a half serious, half trifling tone very well adopted to the sceptical character of his remarks.
"Why do you call her Pallas?" asked Maud, quickly.
"Is she not in eye, in gait, in mien a young Pallas Athene? Let me tell you, Maud, if you practised before your glass a couple of hours a day you could never acquire the graceful dignity which Helen has from nature."
"It is very unlikely that I should ever make the attempt," replied Maud saucily. "But if I lack dignity I suppose I have something to make up for it. If Helen is Pallas Athene, what am I?"
"Neither Here nor Aphrodite, child, but just plain Maud Gresham; a girl not too pretty to be useful, not too witty to be talked to by a plain man of the world, and far from possessing too much reverence for the good-natured father who spoils her, like a fool as he is. You are not much like your mother, Maud."
"So you often say, papa."
"She was an angel, which you -- I hope -- are far from being; and the only mistake she ever made was in visiting earth to marry a man who had always been sceptical with regard to the existence of supernatural beings! You, I am glad to say, Maud, are decidedly of the earth earthy."
"You are not flattering, papa."
"I never am, my dear. But to return to our muttons. Why is Pallas out of sorts?"
"Can't you guess?"
"Possibly I can, but I wish for your opinion."
"I will give it you then, papa. She went to Bloomford with a mind full of images of her past life, images which a reflection from the happiness of childhood made to glow with an unnatural splendour. I think the appearance of the country disappointed her a little, after the scenes she has been accustomed to, but still more the people she saw there. She expected, I fancy, to behold her ideal of a country clergyman, an exalted combination of Chaucer's and Goldsmith's good parsons. Instead of that she found a -- but you know Mr. Whiffle, papa."
"Never mind, Maud. What did she find?" asked her father, regarding her with a malicious slyness.
"I say, you know Mr. Whiffle, papa, or, at all events, once knew him."
"And I say never mind, Miss Gresham. What did she find?"
"Well, if you will have me say it, a ridiculous old busy-body, possessed of about as much common-sense and good-feeling as the hassock he kneels upon, and as much entitled to the epithet of reverend as -- as I am."
"You progress in the art of epigram, Maud," said her father, looking rather pleased. "Did old Whiffle discuss the Rubric at large?"
"He favoured us with not a few remarks thereon."
"And Pallas appeared disgusted?"
"Pained, too, no doubt, poor child. However, I hoped it would happen so. A few more visits to a few more such parsons and she would be almost cured of her mania, I fancy."
"You speak too disrespectfully of Helen, papa. Her convictions are independent of such influences as those."
"You think so? Why, you are becoming an idealist all at once, Maudie."
"I have much more of the idealist in my temperament than you dream of, papa," returned the young lady, rising with a smile. "Pray don't think I am so sunk in the mud of scepticism as you are."
"Ho, ho! What are your ideals, Maudie?" cried Mr. Gresham, with jocose mockery.
"A calm domestic life, in which the passion of love interferes as little as that of hate; and at the end of it a sudden, unanticipated and painless death."
Mr. Gresham looked up at his daughter with something of natural surprise, not being quite sure whether she were in earnest or not. She seemed to be so.
"I tell you what it is, Miss Gresham," he returned, as he rose from his chair, "I shall begin to fear presently that I have been nurturing a species of female Mephistopheles. Do you entertain any opinions on the subject of patricide?"
"The subject has not yet come within my thoughts," returned the girl, with a slight shrug.
"Indeed! When you begin your speculations thereon perhaps you will be so good as to favour me with notice of the fact. The prospect of being kept rather too long out of her inheritance might excite curious designs in the mind of such a very idealistic young lady."
"Oh, don't fear, papa," called out Maud, as they parted at the door. "When the time comes, your death shall be as painless as that I hope for myself."
During the next few weeks Helen lived an extremely retired life. Mr. Gresham had assigned to her use an elegant little parlour, and from this she sometimes did not stir from morning to night, having the slight meals she partook of brought to her there.
In music, as indeed in everything she had undertaken, Helen showed precocious talent, and, on the few occasions when she was induced to play before strangers, manifested a taste and skill which filled her hearers with admiration. Mr. Gresham had procured her an excellent teacher, and those hours which were not devoted to solitary reflection were now usually spent in practice at her own piano. In music she found almost her only relief from the pressure of those distressing thoughts which had again assailed her with renewed force after her visit to Bloomford. For several months she had scarcely read at all. Her dainty little library, consisting of beautiful bound editions of the poets, novelists and historians, such a library as her father considered best adapted to the needs of a young lady, and which he had selected with the utmost care, now stood ranged in a couple of handsome bookcases on one side of her parlour; but the glass doors had remained unopened since her return to England. Her Bible, which had but lately been her constant companion, now lay upon the table, unopened from day to day. Those agonising doubts and obstinate questionings which so seldom assail a girl's mind, thanks to the atmosphere of enervating pietism in which females usually grow to maturity, if, indeed, they can ever be said to reach that stage, those torturing thoughts which every intellectual youth has sooner or later to combat with, now held Helen at their mercy. Now, more than ever, did she bitterly mourn her father's death, which had deprived her of the one person to whom she could lay bare her mind in perfect confidence. As she had no longer her father's living voice to advise her, she took refuge in reflection upon his life, striving to wrest from her memory of his acts and words, an explanation of the creed by which he had lived. As yet she could arrive at few satisfactory results. Her practical knowledge of life was too limited to afford her the necessary means of observation and comparison, and little by little, under the guidance of bitter suffering, she was led into that path which could alone afford an exit from the gloomy regions into which she had strayed.
One morning Maud had been engaged for an hour, reading in the library, and was just rising to leave the room, when she was in turn visited unexpectedly by Helen, who walked softly into the room.
"You here, Maud!" exclaimed Helen. "I thought this was your usual drawing hour?"
"So it is," replied Maud; "but I seem to have no taste for it this morning. And you -- I thought this was your usual music hour?"
"So it is," returned the other, smiling; "but Mr. Walsh is unable to give me my lesson this morning. You won't let me drive you from the room?"
"You came very opportunely to warn me that the morning is drawing on. I have an appointment with the housekeeper at eleven -- more's the pity. I had quite forgotten the time over an interesting book."
As she spoke she closed the book that lay open before her, and left it there upon the table.
Whether she had drawn Helen's attention to it purposely or not may remain a question; but as soon as she had left the room the latter at once took up the work to examine it.
It was the English translation of Strauss' "Leben Jesu," the popular edition. With a throb of the pulses, as if in anticipation of what the book contained -- though as yet she had no knowledge of it -- she assumed the seat Maud had just left, and began to read.
She did not appear at luncheon; but this was such an ordinary occurrence that it attracted no attention; but when the dinner hour had arrived, and she was still absent, Maud sought her, first in her own sitting-room, and then, failing of success, in the library.
Helen had lit the reading-lamp, and was still bending over the pages of Strauss.
She started as Maud entered the room, and rose from her seat.
"Are you resolved to become an absolute chameleon, my dear child?" cried Miss Gresham. "But," she added immediately, "I see that air has not been your only sustenance all day. Do you like my book?"
"Is it yours?" asked Helen, who had closed the book at the other's entrance, and now stood with her eyes cast down, for a moment uncertain how to act.
"Yes; papa gave it to me when it was first published, three years ago, and when, as you can imagine, I had but little taste for it. Do you like it?"
Helen paused for a moment, without replying.
"I cannot say yet," she returned, in a low voice. "I -- I cannot say till I have finished it."
"Shall you have the resolution?"
"I think so," replied Helen, looking up into her friend's face with a seriousness of expression, now unmixed with doubt or shame.
"I read it a year ago," said the other. "Perhaps you would like to take it away with you?"
"If you would kindly lend it to me, I should."
"Take it, by all means. But, in the meantime, are you aware that the dinner bell has rung?"
"I did not hear it."
"So I supposed. Come, I can only allow you three minutes."
"I should be glad if I might be excused to-night, Maud," said Helen. "I really have no appetite. Would you ask Mr. Gresham to excuse me?"
"Certainly, if you wish it. But I am not going to allow you to macerate yourself. I shall send you something up.
"Thanks, Maud; you are very kind."
So Helen ran quickly upstairs, carrying Strauss with her, and sat down to her reading-desk with a true, though solemn, gladness of heart to which she had long been a stranger, which, perhaps, in its present form, she had never before experienced.
And long after the rest of the house was in darkness and quietness, when the noise had died away in the street below, and the striking of the bells in the neighbouring steeples was almost the only sound to be heard, Helen still sat at her reading-desk, bending over the pages of him whose eyes saw with surpassing clearness through the mists of time and prejudice, whose spirit comes forth, like a ray of sunshine in winter, to greet those toiling painfully upwards to the temple of Truth.
Mr. Gresham's library was rich in German authors, a language of which Helen had as yet no knowledge. Overmastered by the eagerness of curiosity, which the reading of Strauss had awakened in her, she now procured a German grammar, and began, with painful earnestness, the study of the language.
Through many a long summer day she toiled at the grammar and dictionary, manifesting a strength of endurance which the frailty of her frame scarcely seemed capable of supporting.
But, after all, her progress was too slow to keep pace with her eagerness.
One morning, about the middle of July, just when Mr. Gresham was beginning to make arrangements for a tour on the Continent, she came downstairs prepared with a report which she had long meditated.
Mr. Gresham was seated in an arm-chair as she entered. Maud had not yet made her appearance.
After the usual greeting, Helen took a chair by her guardian a side, and requested his attention for a moment.
"I have for some time wished to ask a favour of you," she began. "Will you let me go to Germany?"
"Why that is just what we are all thinking of doing, Helen," replied the artist. "We shall certainly include the Rhine in our tour."
"You misunderstand me. I mean that I should like to go to Germany to study there for a year or two. I have a great anxiety to learn German thoroughly."
"Why didn't you tell me? I could have found you a teacher."
"A teacher would scarcely answer my purpose," pursued Helen. "He could not give me such a thorough knowledge as I require."
"But whatever has got into your head, Helen? Are you going to run away from us and look out for a place as a governess?"
"You are too kind to me for that. I fear I can hardly explain to you why I feel this desire."
At this moment Maud entered.
"What do you think, Maudie," said Mr. Gresham. "Here is Pallas threatening to desert us, and favour with her omens some synod of tobacco-wreathed professors in the land of the Teutons."
"I must beg you to speak somewhat less figuratively, papa, if I am to understand your meaning," replied the young lady, whose fresh complexion contrasted markedly with Helen's habitual paleness.
"In language suited to your intellect, then, Miss Gresham, she asks me to let her go to Germany for a short time, to study the language."
"And then?" asked Maud.
"Yes. And then, Helen?" repeated Mr. Gresham.
"I cannot look so far forward," replied Helen. "At my age, every day brings changes which one would have thought years could not effect."
She adhered firmly to her purpose, and her guardian, as usual, gave way to her wish.
It remained to decide upon the town she should go to reside in, and here her choice was influenced by her eager interest in Strauss.
She had discovered that at Tübingen Strauss had taught, and to Tübingen accordingly she decided to go, doubting not that her master's influence would there be most pronounced.
This determination of Helen's involved a few necessary changes in her guardian's plans; but ultimately all set out together, and together enjoyed a Continental tour of nearly two months' duration. In the course of this Mr. Gresham procured some good introductions to the professorial circle in Tübingen from one or two artist-friends, with the result that when he and Maud returned home, they left Helen behind them in the old university-town, comfortably established in the house of the widow of a recently-deceased professor.
Helen took leave of them in excellent spirits, looking forward to a long period of study with the utmost enthusiasm; and as for Mr. Gresham, he was in reality by no means sorry to be freed for a while from the task of caring for a young lady whose disposition appeared so little congenial to his own.
October, 5th, 1868. -- My guardian and Maud left Tübingen last evening, finally abandoning me, as the former characteristically expressed it, to my own devices. What these devices may be, I think neither of them has a very clear idea; possibly they look upon me as a hare-brained girl, possessing a desperate will of my own, and determined to gratify every whim, great or small. Doubtless it is partly my own fault if I am misunderstood by them, for I have never in reality opened my heart to them and exposed all the irresistible yearnings which have driven me to this step. These yearnings, it must be confessed, are as yet a trifle vague; yet there is one definite cry which my heart gives forth day after day, and that is -- knowledge, knowledge, knowledge! It is for knowledge that I have come here, and knowledge I will pursue with all the energy my nature is capable of.
"Whither that knowledge may lead me, I cannot as yet tell. Never mind; at least it will lead somewhere, give me, sooner or later, some definite convictions, such as my soul hungers for.
"This is the first time I have ever begun to keep a diary, and I wonder the thought never occurred to me before. The following pages are not to be filled with pretty sentiments, hysterical wailings, or scraps of verse -- I will not say poetry -- I write for my own benefit, that I may more clearly gauge my own progress, and not for the amusement of others.
"I am such a poor hand at conversation that it is really only fair I should be permitted to soliloquise a little. Who is there in the world with whom I can talk confidentially? Not a soul. I once thought that Maud would make a true friend, but I have long felt her companionship terribly unsatisfying. I wonder whether I shall make a friend here in Germany? I fear not; I am too timid and retiring, and adapt myself with such difficulty to the usages of society. Here in the silence of my own room I am comfortable; I wish there were no necessity for me to ever leave it. But I must really force myself to become acquainted with people, if only for the sake of learning to speak German.
"Frau Stockmaier, with whom I am living, seems really a very agreeable woman, and, I should imagine, cultivated to a very fair degree. She cannot speak English, but is well acquainted with French, and in the latter language we have hitherto for the most part conversed. But, of course, as she reminds me, that will not do. I must reconcile myself to the first serious plunge into the troubled waters of German conversation, and the sooner the better.
"One thing, however, I do not like in Frau Stockmaier. She really treats me too much as if I were still a child. She asked me my age this morning, and on my telling her that I was seventeen last April, she smiled and expressed a wonder that my guardian should have ventured to leave me here alone. I confess I felt a little piqued, for, if I may trust my glass, my personal appearance is not very childish, and as regards my mind ----. But here I should perhaps whisper to myself a caution against spiritual pride.
"As yet I am far from clear as to the order of studies I shall pursue; but perhaps that is of no immediate consequence. My first task is to become thoroughly acquainted with German, and how long that will take me I dare not think.
"Frau Stockmaier is to be herself my instructress for the present. I think she will not exercise too strict a despotism in intellectual matters, for that would be intolerable. I cannot as yet make out whether she is orthodox and conventional in her beliefs; at any rate, she does not appear to be intolerant, and for that I must be thankful."
"Oct. 10th. -- A delightful walk this morning with Frau Stockmaier, through lovely autumn scenery. How I wish I had taken up my abode here earlier in the summer, and how I shall long, all through the coming winter, for the return of sunny weather.
"After walking through the town, crossing the Neckar, and taking a turn through the beautiful Platanen-Allee, we passed over the bridge and went in the direction of the Oesterberg, passing the house of the poet Uhland. At present I am purposely abstaining from all reading of poetry, but some day I hope to know Uhland; Frau Stockmaier speaks of him with much enthusiasm. We climbed the Oesterberg, passing between vineyards and orchards, and, on reaching the summit, were richly rewarded for our efforts. On the point known as the Wielandshöhe, we stood for fully an hour, enjoying the glorious view. Below us lay the whole valley of the Neckar, the river flowing along it like a green cord, and also the valley of the little river Ammer, on the banks of which are the Botanical Gardens, and, near them, our house. In the distance stretched the Swabian Alps, one could see the Castle of Hohenzollern, making a fine object against a background of clear sky. We returned home tired but delighted with our walk.
"Already I am becoming very fond of Tübingen. I wish Mr. Gresham had remained long enough to paint views of the beautiful old place from several points which I could point out. I think I shall be tempted to exercise my own slight skill before the rich autumn hues have quite died away from the trees and the hillsides. I should like to sketch the whole town as it creeps in terraces up the mountain to the grey old towered and moated stronghold of Hohentübingen.
"The mountain-scenery around, without being absolutely imposing, is excessively beautiful. Especially the form of the Oesterberg, seen from a distance, is wonderfully graceful.
"And then there is such a delightful air of peace and quietness throughout the whole country, as if these pleasant hills shut out all the troublous noises of the busy world. I like to pass the University in my walks, to dream over its four hundred years of existence; to go back in fancy to the days when Reuchlin and Melanchthon taught within its walls. In the University the air of peace, of which I have spoken, is especially noticeable, for here, side by side, are a Protestant or a Roman Catholic institution, the Stift and the Convict, each nursing its own disciples undisturbed by the neighbourhood of a creed essentially different.
"It strikes me that this state of affairs must very greatly conduce to liberality of thought among the students, at all events among the Protestant students. And yet I cannot forget how Strauss was rewarded for his labours; but I suppose it would be too much to demand toleration for such a spirit as his.
"Frau Stockmaier is very agreeable company on a walk, and yet I cannot shake off my habit of very much preferring to be alone. During the last few days I have been especially thoughtful, finding a constant delight in wandering about alone, especially -- and this would, to some, seem childish -- in watching the golden leaves fall one by one to the ground. A favourite resort, when I am alone, is the fine 'Platanen-Allee' on the other side of the river. The trees run in two noble rows over against the houses of the town, forming, as it were, a natural temple. When I walk alone here an inexpressible longing comes over me to take up some 'of our dear old English poets and revel in them once more; but I do not permit myself to yield. For the present I must give myself wholly to stern facts; imagination must be laid aside till my mind is more at ease. But if I only could once throw aside this eternal trouble of my thoughts which does not let me rest, how delightful would it be to yield to the impressions of this lovely nature and dream away my life. But that is a dangerous thought."
"Nov. 30th. -- As winter draws on, and there is less and less temptation to wander about the hills, I am able to devote myself to severer study. Already I have made very noticeable progress in my German, and can now understand and make myself understood on every-day matters with very tolerable facility. I have determined that at the beginning of the new year I will commence a theological course, and, perhaps, at the same time, peep a little into philosophy. I begin to associate rather more freely with the friends and acquaintances of Frau Stockmaier, and have already been introduced to several gentlemen who would be willing to act as my tutors. Frau Stockmaier recommends me to choose a certain Dr. Eidenbenz, who is a Stiftsrepetent, that is to say, one who has completed his University curriculum, and is now engaged in directing the studies of undergraduates. Dr. E. is a youngish man, of rather pleasing appearance, and said to be remarkably clever. Though essentially a theologian, he would also be able to direct my philosophical reading, since, I am informed, all the students of the Stift are compelled to study philosophy for two years before commencing their theology. Of course I am, as yet, very ignorant in these matters, but it appears to me, from what I have heard and read of German philosophy, that those two years must be a somewhat dangerous side-path into the high-road of orthodox religion.
"I am prepared to find my tutor rather uncongenial at first, for I hear he is a stout opponent of dear old Strauss. Yet, on that very account he will be very useful to me. I want to see orthodox Christianity vigorously defended, not on the ground of mere sentiment, with which I am but too familiar, but with sterling arguments which will bear criticism of the light of superior knowledge. I trust I am by no means bigoted, though prejudiced I certainly am. Something warns me that the end of my intercourse with Dr. Eidenbenz will be mutual dissatisfaction; but probably he will have more ground for dissatisfaction than myself. At all events, he will serve to conform me in the beliefs I have embraced. And then, if his theology is barren to me, possibly his philosophy may stand me in better stead.
"In addition to my German, I have commenced to study Greek for a few hours each day; also to read a little Latin occasionally. I wish my poor father had lived long enough to give me the solid grounding in Greek that he did in Latin. I found the grammar horribly difficult, but it must be acquired. First of all I wish to be able to read the New Testament in the original; then, when I have got through my period of doubt and see my life float once more into calm waters, I know well what glorious regions a knowledge of Greek will open to me. If a mere translation could inspire such a sonnet as that of Keats, what must Homer in the original be!"
"Feb. 1st, 1869. -- For a month I have been working with Dr. Eidenbenz, and with what result? I think I may already safely say that my prophecy has fulfilled itself. In a word, the doctor is an unmitigated sophist. At first he followed my request, and adhered strictly to a critical examination of the origins of Christianity, and in his treatment of the subject there was little to find fault with. His knowledge seemed deep and extensive, and some of the information he gave me proved extremely interesting. But by the end of the second week I noticed a decided change for the worse; he began to be polemical, and polemical to an alarming degree. Oh, how learned he has already made me in modern sects and schisms. And to maintain his position he has recourse to sophisms which a healthy-minded child could at once see through, though I grant he seems to be sincerely their dupe. It is evident that he will never turn my mind back from the course into which Strauss irresistibly propelled it. I have, however, no intention of ceasing these lessons as yet. It is only fair to hear him to the end."
"March 1st. -- To-day ends my second month with Dr. Eidenbenz, and, to tell the truth, I am heartily tired of him. As I foresaw, I am merely strengthened in my rationalism; no argument I have heard advanced has sufficed to shake it. For several hours after he had left me yesterday, I sat reflecting earnestly upon these matters, endeavouring to ask myself, with all the solemnity of which I am capable, whether I am a really conscientious disbeliever, or one merely from caprice, affectation, or any other unworthy impulse. I convinced myself that no such impulse has power over me; I disbelieve because my reason bids me do so. It may be my mind follows a hereditary tendency on this, for, looking back in memory to those last years of my father's life, I now feel convinced that he, too, had yielded to the force of doubt; a suggestion which explains much in his conduct to me which I was never able to understand.
"In truth, I have fed to repletion on comparative estimates of Petrine and Pauline Christianity, and the like, and I have resolved to cease these theological studies, for my object is gained. But the philosophical readings I shall still persist in, for I find them vastly more interesting. True, the question now and then arose in my mind: 'Of what avail will all these metaphysical systems be in helping me to lead a happier and a better life, or in enabling me to make the lives of others happier and better?' But I suppose such doubts are really too profane. Dr. Eidenbenz is an enthusiastic metaphysician, and it puzzles me sadly to explain the co-existence of this enthusiasm with that mania for religious dogmas. The other morning I actually ventured to ask him to justify himself, and he replied with the curious statement that this philosophy was a mere matter of abstract speculation, a highly-amusing mental employment which could not in the least interfere with his more serious views of life. I could have made a rather startling reply, but wisely held my peace.
"A letter from Maud to-day. It seems to me sadly empty and unsatisfying. Why does she never send me her serious thoughts? Perhaps she would ask me the same question."
"April 18th. -- The last few days have witnessed a most curious, and rather alarming event here, which Frau Stockmaier tells me is by no means uncommon in the springtime. The whole valley of the Neckar is flooded. All the beautiful walks which I had again begun to visit with delightful anticipations of spring sunshine, are deep under water, which rises even to the boughs of the linden and plane trees. This morning I ascended the Schlossberg, from whence the view was very extraordinary. All the lovely stretch of green meadows on the south side of the Neckar up to the foot of the hills, was converted into a vast rolling sea. I thought irresistibly of Dr. Eidenbenz and of the Deluge.
"The doctor has remained here during the Easter vacation, and we have been busy for some weeks investigating the fearful and wonderful theories of Messrs. Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, and I protest I am sick to death of them all. It is a habit of mine to listen very patiently for a long time to my tutor's expositions, and then suddenly to astound him by some startling question. I know he regards me as a veritable daughter of the Philistines; but I follow the bent of my nature, and better to do that than to play the hypocrite. For the life of me, I cannot help interrupting him now and then, and exclaiming: 'What is the use of it?' In reply to which he merely smiles contemptuously, pitying my lack of appreciation. But I am not so sure that a contemptuous smile is a satisfactory answer to my question. If he asserts that such philosophising is of use, inasmuch as it sharpens the human intellect, keeps active speculation alive, and strengthens habits of independent thought, then I will grant that he is right. But surely the same results might be obtained by exercise upon very much more satisfactory topics. What is it to me whether I am or I am not, whether the internal world really exists, or is a mere creation of my fancy? Such speculations do not and cannot influence my practical life, which is the most serious consideration to me. I may be a young, unlearned, inexperienced girl, but still there is that within me that says that such questions as these are unanswerable, that to endeavour to ascertain the ultimate foundation of our knowledge of existing things, is, as men now are, an impossible task. And, such being the case, I confess I am rapidly losing all interest in metaphysics. Possibly if I were reading with a man who really held one of these theories, and could press it on me with all the energy of true conviction, I might see it in a different light; but Dr. Eidenbenz does not pretend to hold one of them.
"I was rather surprised last night to find Frau Stockmaier reading a German translation of Darwin's 'Origin of Species.' I have never read the book, though I heard father speak of it occasionally. I am sure it must be immensely interesting. A hunger for it seemed to seize me as I looked over the pages. I almost think natural science would be a study admirably adapted to my taste."
"May 2. -- I have read the 'Origin of Species' in German, and it has created an enthusiasm in me such as perhaps no other book, except the 'Leben Jesu,' ever did. How delightful it is to receive fresh, strong support when one is at war with one's own mind. Here is a theory which recompenses me a thousand fold for my loss of the old Biblical superstitions. What immense labour, what a wonderful intellect does it represent! Yes, yes, this is real, solid food, no insubstantial cloud-shape or chimera. Here is a theory built up on solid facts, facts one can grasp, handle, examine with the eye or the microscope. Oh, how dear hard, plain facts have become to me since I have been wandering in the dreamlands of philosophy. I wonder whether Dr. Eidenbenz has read Darwin. I must ask him.
"Beautiful spring weather is once more breathing upon the face of the land, making field and land lovely past description. I begin to look forward eagerly to long summer walks in the woods, lonely walks, when I can indulge to the uttermost in that self-communing which I delight in. With the impulse of a great delight, born, perhaps, of the season, I have cast aside, for a while -- perhaps for ever -- both theology and philosophy, and returned to poetry and romance. Long, long have I panted for them, 'as the hart panteth for the water brooks.' I have begun to read Goethe and Schiller both at once. Uhland, too, I have at length peeped into, and with much delight. Frau Stockmaier loves Uhland, and often warms eloquent to me with regard to him. What I know of his life and personal character pleases me much. A great poet is a fine subject for thought, but surely a great poet who also takes a noble part in the practical life of the world is fit for the admiration of the gods. Henceforth I shall always pass his house with a fresh interest. This morning I made a pilgrimage to his grave in the cemetery.
"I made a new acquaintance last night, a certain Dr. Gmelin, Frau Stockmaier's brother-in-law, who has been living as privatgelehrter in Stuttgart, but is now come to settle in Tübingen. It is probable he will have rooms in our house, and I sincerely hope so, for even at the first aspect I conceived a strong liking for him. He may be some forty years old, and has a wonderfully intellectual countenance, marked, moreover, with a rare benevolence. Frau Stockmaier smiles when she speaks of him; he seems a favourite of hers. She tells me he has never filled any professorship, though several have, from time to time, been offered him. He has very independent ideas on many subjects, and would never consent to hamper his free development by submission to official responsibilities and restraints. I admire him for his consistency."
"May 10. -- I have definitely ceased my connection with Dr. Eidenbenz, and rejoice that I had the resolution to do so. Really, to relinquish Dr. Gmelin's conversation for Dr. Eidenbenz's prelections was rather too much. I admire Dr. Gmelin more every day, and am flattered at the interest he appears to take in me. Frau Stockmaier tells me he has always been esteemed a misogamist, but that he ever really was such I cannot believe. He's all courtesy; certainly I never associated with a truer gentleman. And then his conversation is so fresh, so genial. Since he has come to reside in our house, he and I frequently take long walks together, and never run short of matter for discussion. Dr. Gmelin is a philosopher, without doubt, but, it appears to me, not committed to any definite system. In our conversation this morning he made frequent mention of Comte, whose name I have frequently seen, but of whom I know nothing. I must seek for information regarding him, for he evidently exercises much influence over Dr. Gmelin's mind.
"Dr. G. has lent me Häckel's 'Natürliche Schöpfungs-geschichte,' a work inspired by Darwin. I shall read it greedily."
"June 20th. -- I have had a delightful walk with Dr. Gmelin over the hills, through woods and orchards, to Bebenhausen, where the cloister is. The building is one of the finest remnants of Gothic architecture in Germany. It lies buried in a deep valley, appearing suddenly at one's feet as you issue from the thick beech-wood. The foliage was glorious, lighted up by the warm June sun. Exquisitely peaceful did the old cloister look, wonderfully attractive for an imaginative mind wearied with the combats of life. Dr. Gmelin told me that he had often wished his conscience would allow him to turn Roman Catholic and enter some such retreat as this; and indeed I am not surprised at his experiencing the desire, for his character has much of gentle and poetical mysticism in it. Yet at other times I see him give signs of such an earnestly practical temperament, that I can hardly reconcile the two sides of his nature. Doubtless it is this wavering and undecided bending of his mind which has prevented him from ever doing any important literary work. I, too, fear very much the same conflict within me at times; perhaps it is the same with all people in a greater or lesser degree. But for the cloister I can now feel little but horror, I can only see the dreadful side of this seclusion from the world's life. Even the life I lead here in Tübingen, though far from monastic, often somewhat irks me. I often think I should find a truer field for my exertions in the turmoil of some great city, such as London. But how I should employ myself I cannot yet clearly see. Possibly I may some day.
"We talked of a multitude of things on our way -- of fate, of predestination, of the basis of morals, of the future of society, of woman's place in the history of the world, in short of almost every important question which either of us has ever thought of. Dr. Gmelin holds many strange theories, some of them wonderfully at variance with his practice. As we stood looking at the cloister, the conversation turned on the subject of asceticism, and he thereupon unfolded to me a dreadful theory of life. The substance of it was this: That the origin of all evil is to be found in the desire for life, and that he is the perfect man who succeeds in altogether uprooting this desire from his mind, losing the sense of his own identity, fixing his thoughts eternally in an absolutely passionless calm. The desire for life being the root of all evil, it follows that the world, by virtue of its very existence, is hopelessly corrupt, that there is no hope for it in the future, nothing but condemnation for its past. Hence, if every man were truly wise, he would mortify all his passions, settle down to a condition of absolute inactivity, and so overcome evil by the complete extinction of life. On my expressing myself pained and shocked at such a philosophy, Dr. Gmelin laughed and told me that it was his favourite theory. Subsequently I learned from him that it was the teaching of the philosopher Schopenhauer, whom hitherto I have only known by name. Dr. Gmelin confesses that, with him, it is nothing more than a theory, that it does not in the least influence his practical life, as indeed I know from experience. Yet it is strange to be pessimistic in theory and optimistic in practice; such a contradiction would be impossible in my own nature. I suppose the truth of it is that his holding such a theory is a mere matter of sentiment; his mind, I know, has a natural bent towards asceticism and mysticism.
"Dr. Gmelin has just knocked at my door and brought me two rather large volumes. He handed me them with a smile, and, on examining the titles, I found they were a work of Schopenhauer, called 'Parerga and Paralipomena.' In them, he tells me, I shall find the kernel of the philosopher's theories. I shall read them at once."
"August 3rd. -- I have read through the two volumes of Schopenhauer twice, very carefully. I confess I have been agreeably disappointed. From what Dr. Gmelin had told me, I expected to find a misanthrope, but I have found the very opposite. The reading of these volumes has given me the utmost pleasure, and I am sure they will exercise a lasting influence upon my mind. Am I then a convert to the doctrine of pessimism? Not by any means, for, after all it appears to me that his pessimism is the least valuable part of Schopenhauer's teaching. The really excellent part of him is his wonderfully strong sympathy with the sufferings of mankind. Again and again he tells us that we should lose the consciousness of self in care for others, in fact identify ourselves with all our fellows, see only one great self in the whole world. For this doctrine alone I thank him heartily; it chimes exactly with the principle which has long been yearning for expression in my own mind."
"August 10th. -- Having acquired some knowledge of Schopenhauer, Dr. Gmelin is now very anxious that I should read Comte; he asserts that I should like him immensely. When he first proposed it, I declared that I was weary of philosophy, and had begun to wander at my will over the fields of poetry. But he presses me so earnestly that I shall be obliged to yield. Indeed, from what he tells me of Comte, I feel rather attracted. It seems it is Comte's principle that the true destination of philosophy must be social, practical, and herein I heartily agree with him. He, too, insists strongly upon the development of sympathetic instincts for the human race at large. The latter principle I have thoroughly imbibed from Schopenhauer. What if Comte can afford me some idea of the manner in which the principle may be practically worked out? That would be just what I need."
"Dec. 1st. -- For nearly four months I have been hard at work upon Comte's 'Philosophie Positive.' Yes, Dr. Gmelin was indeed right when he said this would suit me. I could not have conceived a system so admirably adapted to secure my sympathy. First and foremost, Comte discards metaphysics, thereby earning my heartiest approbation. He shows that metaphysical systems are a thing of the past, something which had its inevitable place in the history of mankind, but which has served its purpose and may be cast aside for something better. How delighted I am with his masterly following of the history of mankind through every stage of its development. There is something entrancing to me in these firmly-fixed laws, these positive investigations. Comte is for me the supplement to Darwin; the theories of both point to the same result, and must be true! What encouragement he gives to ardent work! How grand to feel that one is actually helping on the progress of humanity, as every one is doing who seeks earnestly to learn and to propagate the truth. Comte hopes for a speedy rectification of all the errors of our social system, not a rectification of arbitrary means, but one which follows naturally and necessarily upon the whole course of previous history. He holds that the first step towards this improvement is the re-discussing and re-modelling of all social theories in a purely scientific spirit, and their disposition in a systematic whole with all the rest of human knowledge. This is a noble theory. 1 feel convinced that Dr. Gmelin in reality holds these views; I must bring him to confession."
"Dec. 10th. -- It has been decided between Dr. Gmelin and myself that our conversation shall henceforth always run in practical grooves. Our metaphysical and religious discussions we will henceforth throw aside as done with. Every day I feel the longing for active life growing stronger within me. 'What can a woman do in the world?' I asked my friend this morning. His reply was wise and encouraging. I have already told him that I am possessed of considerable means, and it is his belief that, under these circumstances, if only I have the courage to despise vulgar conventionality and to pursue what I consider the path of duty, I can do considerable good. In early life, he travelled a good deal in Europe, and made it one of his special objects to observe the condition of the poor. Even now it is one of his favourite occupations to plan schemes for the relief of the poverty which burdens the world. In the course of a long conversation he made me acquainted with some of the theories of social improvement which are beginning to be advocated in Germany. Most of these involve an entire re-organisation of society, and that, though it will come in time, I fear neither Dr. Gmelin nor I shall live to see. Putting aside these extensive plans, we agreed that what was especially needed just now was the earnest exertion of private individuals. Let only private individuals do their utmost to relieve misery, let them keep the subject constantly in discussion, let them never lose sight of the need for improvement, and radical improvement will come as soon as is consistent with the progress of destiny. I am ashamed to think how little I know practically of the misery of great cities. Often I think that I shall cut short my proposed two years' stay in Germany, and return forthwith to London, to learn how I may perhaps be useful. Yet I am very loth to lose Dr. Gmelin's society. He has already done me vast good, and is capable of benefiting me still more."
"January 3rd, 1870. -- A new year has begun for me. Never before had this commencement of a new division of time such significance for me as now. Oh, how eagerly I long to get away into the midst of active life, there to play my part in the service of that true religion, the Religion of Humanity. What wonderful changes has my mind undergone since I have been in Germany, and how I shall always love to look upon Tübingen, upon this dear Schwaben where I have seen so much and been so happy.
"Yes, how much have I to thank Germany for. I came here with a mind rudely enough ploughed by the ploughshare of anguish, a mind lying in readiness for the sower, and here did the furrows receive these seeds which were to spring up into a harvest of peace and joy. How distant now seem those days which I languished out in bondage to the power of darkness, bondage of the spirit, far sterner and more deadly than any veritable bondage of the flesh could be! How well I remember the day when I took up Strauss' 'Leben Jesu' as Maud left it on the library table at home. The book was to me like the first ray of heavenly light piercing the darkness of a night of anguish, and striving, and woe unutterable. And yet how strange it now seems to me that I should ever have gone through such suffering, and so young, too. But it was terribly real at the time, and, but for happy circumstances, might have terminated very differently. I might even now have been telling my beads in a convent, hard-bound in the conception that thus I was fulfilling my own destiny and propitiating the favour of an avenging deity.
"No one can ever know how near I was becoming a Catholic during those days of bitter, bitter sorrow after my poor father's death. Even when I appeared to those who reasoned with me, most stubborn on my own faith, even then I was often on the point of raising my eyes to Heaven with a wild cry of rapture at my release from the agony of doubt, and for ever after bending before the crucifix in a sunless contrition of soul. Thanks to the unknown hand which guides suffering humanity through the storms of intellectual growth, safely leading it at length into the predestined haven, thanks to that mighty hand, which at times I feel pressing upon my heart, and moulding it into the forms to which its energies adapt it, I survived the struggle, and live to look back with a smile of pity upon all that I endured. Of pity -- by no means of contempt. At no stage in its struggles is a human mind contemptible; for as long as it does struggle, it asserts its native nobility, its inherent principle of life.
"For some months I have read the Times regularly, day after day. I have been wrong to neglect newspapers so long. What an apocalypse of human mystery is here set before my eyes! And yet how little conscious of it seem those whom good fortune has raised above the fear of cold, hunger, and the diseases they engender. I read the reports of a sitting in Parliament, and find that hours have been spent in the angry discussion of some absurd point of national etiquette, or on the clauses of a Bill the object of which seems to be merely to enrich a body of most undeserving men, and when I afterwards turn to the police reports, and read, as long as my nerves will permit me, the heart-rending stories which abound there, I am compelled to marvel that humanity is content to suffer so uncomplainingly."
"May 12th. -- I have had many a long talk lately with Dr. Gmelin on the course I propose to pursue when I return to England, and he has given me many practical hints which I am sure will be useful. In religious matters he is wonderfully tolerant; almost too tolerant, I think; and he never ceases to impress upon me what great and useful schemes of private charity are carried out by the religious sects. With some such sect he would have me enroll myself, merely for the purpose of having a better field for my work. But I fail to see how this would be possible without a degree of hypocrisy to which I could never reconcile myself. Doubtless I shall see my way much more clearly when I am once more actually in London; I shall be able to gauge the existent misery with my own eyes, and I am sure some good plan or other will not fail to suggest itself. Something I am determined to do. To live the life of an ordinary wealthy lady, the life of 'society,' either altogether heedless of the sufferings of the poor, or occasionally satisfying my conscience with a perfunctory contribution to one or two ill-conducted charities -- that would be quite impossible for me. I wonder whether I am what is generally known as a 'strong-minded' woman? It is possible; for I certainly feel but little sympathy with those many pitiful weaknesses generally pronounced to be the amiabilities of my sex. Well, I can only hope that my strength of mind, if it exist, will stand me in good stead, and enable me to make my life not altogether useless.
"Dr. Gmelin asked me the other day whether I did not intend to write at all on the subjects which interest me; write, that is to say, in the periodicals and daily papers. On reflection, I think not. In the first place I am not by any means sure that I possess a spark of literary ability, and then it is my firm belief that such work is not woman's true sphere. If I were to write, it must be something of genuine scientific value, something which would hasten the advent of vast social reforms; and to do that is certainly beyond my power. What ideas may sooner or later occur to me I shall employ myself in putting into practice; doubtless I shall have abundant opportunities. Nature appears to me to have ordained that woman's sphere should be that of personal influence, and the influence of my own personality, such as it is, should be brought face to face with the horrors of helpless poverty. My ideas may be extravagant and unpractical, but I have faith in humanity. The results of my determination may not be great, but at all events they shall be real."
"May 15th. -- My time in Germany grows short. As regards those I shall leave behind me here in dear old Tübingen, I shall depart with unfeigned regret; as regards the prospects before me, I am all eagerness to be gone. I have compelled Dr. Gmelin to promise that he will pay me a visit some day in England, but I very much fear such a journey would require too much resolution for him. Years of motionless existence have so bound him down to his books that I believe it would break his heart to have to leave them.
"Of late I have departed from my strict principle of reading none but German works, and in favour of one who I am surprised has not long since tempted me to forbidden fields. For a week I have been poring over Shelley, reading him to the exclusion of almost everything else -- Shelley, whom when I was a child I read without understanding, yet with such delight, carried on from page to page by the magic of his verse, and occasionally the glimpse of a thought which dazzled my feeble eyes. Of all the poets -- yes, of all I have ever read -- Shelley is my chosen one. Poets such as Keats, who live for art alone, regardless of the stream of human life, which makes fresh the meadows and the woods where they sing their songs, these have their irresistible charm, but they cannot always satisfy the heart. It is that glorious band of which Shelley is the foremost spirit, who, not content with for ever hymning poems at the altar of beauty, echo in their noblest songs the accents of that unceasing woe which writhes in the heart of the universe -- it is before these that I will fall down and worship with a devotion which shall only fade when the fire of life is quenched in my soul. They recognise that poetry is not alone the voice of joy, but rather the noblest utterance of humanity clamouring for vengeance against its oppressors at the door of Fate. Nature has forbidden that I should join this noble choir, but I can at least assert my privilege to listen when others are deaf, and feel my heart stirred to action by the inspiring harmony.
"Schopenhauer, Comte, and Shelley -- these three have each in turn directed the growth of my moral life. Schopenhauer awakened within me the fire of sympathy, gave a name to the uneasy feeling which made my life restless, taught me to forget myself and to live in others. Comte then came to me with his lucid unfolding of the mystery of the world, showed me why the fire of sympathy burned so within my breast, taught me the use to which it should be directed. Last of all Shelley breathed with the breath of life on the dry bones of scientific theory, turned conviction into passion, lit the heavens of the future with such glorious rays that the eye dazzles in gazing upwards, strengthened the heart with enthusiasm as with a coat of mail. Can I ever count myself an atheist when I worship such gods as these?"
"May 30th. -- A few more days, and farewell to Germany! Farewell, also, to one phase of my life, that of sitting still and reflecting. When I again step on the shores of England I shall be no longer a girl; but, I trust, a woman whose sufferings and struggles have not been without profit to herself, and may, perchance, be the means of good to others."
As the summer of 1870 began to draw near, the Greshams once more looked forward to having Helen Norman back in London, and not a little conversation took place between father and daughter with regard to the probable future relations between themselves and their ward. It was indeed a subject admitting of some little speculation. Would Helen come back a confirmed religious devotee, prepared to spend her life in alms-giving and in the discharge of the duties of a hospital nurse? Judging from her prevalent mood two years ago this did not seem an unlikely contingency. On the other hand, her residence on the Continent might have banished these morbid notions from her mind, and, whilst adding to her intellect and accomplishments, have introduced a mixture of worldliness into her nature that would make her rather more like an ordinary daughter of Eve than she had hitherto shown herself. Maud was inclined to adhere to the former supposition, considering it not unlikely that her friend would return a Roman Catholic. Mr. Gresham, however, sceptical, as usual, in all that concerned human consistency, held to the opinion that she would return very much like any other girl of eighteen, possibly already engaged, or at all events anxious to be so, and no doubt eager to make the most, from a worldly point of view, of her position as a heiress. How far either of these acute observers was right, the reader has already had an opportunity of determining.
They had very little means of judging of any alteration Helen's character might have undergone, except by their recollection of what she had previously been. For in her letters to Maud, written about once a month, she had confined herself entirely to remarks on the purely outward circumstances of her life, very often writing only of past times and of people she and Maud had known, at other times filling her letters, which never ceased to be affectionate, with descriptions of the scenery she beheld in her occasional excursions from Tübingen. She had purposely refrained from making Maud her confidant in what concerned her inward life; for, though still retaining the affectionate feeling which she associated with Maud, even back to her earliest childhood, she had grown sensible, during the months they had lived together, that Maud could no longer be regarded by her as a friend, in the sense of one with whom she might safely share every secret of her bosom. Much in the characters of both Maud and her father had repelled her when she came to observe them closely, as indeed was but natural when we compare their studied indifference to most of the loftier aims of life with Helen's fervour of mind and heart. It was thus with something of apprehension, on her own side, also, that Helen looked forward to her return to England.
The Greshams had not greatly altered during the past two years, either in appearance or habits of life. Mr. Gresham's reputation as a successful artist had continued to grow, and had brought him an increase of wealth, which he regarded by no means the least important of its consequences. I have not hitherto made any remark with regard to his stand-point as an artist, for the reason that there was very little to be said thereupon. He pursued multifarious branches of painting, never making an absolute failure, or at all events keeping them secret if he did make any, yet never, on the other hand, rising to productions which bore the unmistakable stamp of genius. He was possessed of considerable talent, without doubt, and took a pleasure in his profession, partly sincere, partly the logical outcome of his professed philosophy. He had a keen sense for the direction of popular taste, and was troubled by no subtle scruples with regard to the dignity of his art which might have withheld him from availing himself of popular favour. Probably few artists of his time were more successful, judged by the criterion of that substantial approbation which finds expression in the expenditure of pounds, shillings, and pence.
For Maud Gresham, now in her twentieth year, the intervening time had brought an event of some moment, which, however, found no place in the gossipy letters with which from time to time she favoured Helen Maud was engaged. It would be scarcely possible to conceive of a young lady who had passed through the days of wooing with a less fluctuating appetite, or who looked forward to her approaching marriage with a less fluttering heart. Her future husband, by name Mr. John Waghorn, she had been acquainted with for some two years. Her father had originally met him at his Club, had found him a gentlemanly kind of man, and one apparently possessed of means, and had ultimately invited him to dinner. It then became known that Mr. Waghorn was a railway director, and the suspicion of "means" became a satisfactory certainty. Mr. Gresham had intimated to his daughter that here was a very eligible match for her; Maud had reflected upon the matter and came to a similar conclusion; and an extremely gentlemanlike proposal had eventually made it clear that Mr. Waghorn entirely coincided with the views of his friend. Should nothing happen to prevent it, the marriage would be celebrated during the August of the present year.
During all the time that had elapsed since the death of Mr. Norman, his friend and executor had not once made an effort to fulfil the request made in the ex-clergyman's will with regard to Arthur Golding. Deeming such a search impracticable, and sure to remain void of result, Mr. Gresham had constantly procrastinated the performance of this duty, always in the intention, however, of some day easing his conscience by the execution of some such measure as forwarding a communication to the police, or inserting advertisements in various newspapers. And these steps he did at length take, though not till the commencement of May in the present year. As sometimes will happen in similar cases, the event he had esteemed well-nigh impossible actually occurred on the very day when he had roused himself to such a perfunctory discharge of his obligations, and, after all, by a pure piece of chance. On that day, as Fate would have it, he discovered Arthur Golding.
Returning homewards on foot from the Strand, he took a short cut out of Oxford Street by way of Rathbone Place, which brought him into Charlotte Place and past Mr. Tollady's shop door. Glancing up by chance into the printer's window, he saw a neatly-framed water-colour picture hanging there for sale, marked at the modest figure of five shillings. The execution of the drawing was in some respects remarkable, but this would hardly have sufficed to detain him without some other source of interest. This, however, he found in the picture itself, its subject and outline; for it was a copy of a picture of his own which had recently been exhibited in London, and had attracted some attention. It was a copy, and yet not a copy; for while the attitudes and countenances of the figures were precisely as in the original picture, the colouring was altogether different, and indeed much more effective. Mr. Gresham regarded it with curiosity for some moments, and, after a slight hesitation, entered the shop. Mr. Tollady was sitting there alone, and he rose as the stranger entered.
"Could you inform me by whom the drawing in the window was executed?" asked Mr. Gresham, speaking with that touch of aristocratic haughtiness which usually marked his speech when directed to those less wealthy than himself.
"It is by a young man who acts as my assistant, sir," returned the printer.
"Is he in the habit of selling pictures?"
"He occupies most of his leisure time in drawing and painting; but this is the first I have succeeded in persuading him to try and sell."
"Then you can, possibly, tell me how this copy was made? I mean, was it taken from the original picture, or otherwise?"
"It was made, sir, from an engraving in the Illustrated London News, which seemed to strike my young friend's fancy. He purposed first to make a copy in crayon, but afterwards decided to make it a study of colour. He has often expressed a wish to see the original, but has had no opportunity."
"I think I could afford him that," said Mr. Gresham, with a slight smile. "Will you take the picture from the window and let me look at it again?"
The old man obeyed with sincere joy. The picture had been hanging for more than a month, and as yet no customer had offered. The artist took it in his hands and examined it closely.
"May I ask your opinion of its execution, sir?" asked Mr. Tollady, closely watching the artist's face.
"It is not bad," returned the other, looking suddenly into his questioner's face, as if he half resented the liberty. "There are a few faults in the drawing, and many signs of inexperience in the colouring. Where has the young man received his instruction?"
"He has had none whatever, sir," replied Mr. Tollady, in a tone not unmixed with pride. "The merit is solely his."
Mr. Gresham looked up for a moment in surprise, but at once changed the look to a somewhat supercilious smile.
"And the demerits likewise, then," he said. "I am glad no one else is responsible."
"Do you know the original, sir?" asked Mr. Tollady, after a moment's silence.
"I myself painted it," replied the other, without looking up from the drawing.
The old man's heart throbbed high. The way in which Mr. Gresham regarded the picture began to inspire him with hopes he had scarcely dared entertain.
"If you will put this in paper I will be the young man's first patron," said the artist, at length, after apparently hesitating. "And, what is his name?"
"Arthur Golding," replied Mr. Tollady, as he took the picture and began to fold it in brown paper.
"What did you say?"
"Arthur Golding, sir," repeated the other, in some surprise at the earnestness of the question.
Mr. Gresham knitted his brows in a puzzled look, and regarded the printer closely.
"Arthur Golding, eh?" he said at length. "Excuse my curiosity, but has he long been your assistant?"
"Nearly eight years, sir," replied Mr. Tollady, smiling.
"But how old is he?"
"H'm. Then he was a mere child when he came to you?"
Mr. Gresham turned from the counter, walked into the doorway, and stood there for some moments in reflection. Making up his mind, he again faced the printer.
"The name you have mentioned," he said, "is one very familiar to me, and has raised my interest in an especial degree. Would you have any objection -- I leave it, of course, entirely to your own discretion -- to tell me what you know of this young man's history previous to his first coming to you?"
Mr. Tollady's turn for reflection had now come, and he was a minute before he replied --
"I think I can have no objection to do so, sir," he then said. "Arthur Golding is at present out, and will not return for at least an hour, or I should have much preferred to ask his permission. But as I know he is altogether free from false pride, and as you have shown so kind an interest in his work, I will freely venture to tell you what I know. It is included in a very few words. He came to me originally in reply to a notice in my window that I wanted a boy. He referred me then for a testimonial to his character to a bird-dealer in St. Andrew Street, whose name I have forgotten. From him I learnt that the boy had been found by a friend of his destitute in the street one night, and had him brought home and put to bed; after which he had continued to lodge there, earning his living by working as errand-boy, or something of the kind at a neighbouring shop."
"But before he was picked up in the street?" asked Mr. Gresham, seeing that the other paused.
"Of that I know very little, for he has always been reticent on the subject of his earliest years, and I should be loath to pain him by asking unpleasant questions. All I actually know is that he suffered the severest misery, and that he lived at one time in one of the most wretched alleys off Whitecross Street, in the City."
"Ah, he did!" ejaculated Mr. Gresham, who saw Arthur's identity confirmed by this last particular. "Well, it is a somewhat singular thing, but I have for some time had an interest in discovering an Arthur Golding, and have, not an hour ago, sent advertisements to various newspapers, addressed to him, if he should be living. From what you tell me, I feel pretty sure that you have saved me further trouble. Did he ever speak to you, bye-the-by, of a gentleman called Mr. Norman?"
"I have no recollection of the name."
"Nor of a town called Bloomford?"
"I think, never."
"Very possibly not; it was merely an idea that occurred to me. May I trouble you for your own name?"
"My name is Samuel Tollady, sir."
"Very well, Mr. Tollady; I will leave my card with you, and I shall feel obliged if you will allow your assistant, Arthur Golding, to call and see me, any time after six this evening. I may possibly show him the original of his drawing. Bye-the-by, you might give me some idea of his character. Pretty fair?"
"I have regarded him as my son, sir," replied Mr. Tollady, "for so many years that I feel as if it were hardly right for me to praise him. Nevertheless, I will say that I have never known him guilty of a mean or dishonourable action, and I believe that he would lose his life sooner than commit either."
"Strong expressions, those, Mr. Tollady," replied the other, with his sceptical smile. "I am glad you told me that you regard him as a son; otherwise I might have -- well, have given less credit to your judgment than I am still disposed to do. Good morning."
Mr. Tollady, left alone, pursued his work with a lighter heart and a more cheerful look than had been his for many years. I say pursued his work; but during the hour which intervened between Mr. Gresham's departure and Arthur's return from his absence on a business matter, he was indeed scarcely capable of applying himself to anything. He walked up and down the shop rubbing his hands together in his delight, knitting his brows in the puzzle of wondering what could be the artist's hidden connection with Arthur, and turning over and over in his pocket the five shillings which Mr. Gresham had paid for the picture.
How should he announce the news to Arthur? He knew very well that the absence of his picture from the window would at once strike the young man on his entrance, and this would exact an immediate explanation. Yet he scarcely knew how he should preserve the calmness necessary to give it. Be it noted, that in contemplating the consequences of this event, Mr. Tollady only thought of their advantages to Arthur.
During the last two years, since Arthur had been able to take an active share in the business, things had looked up again at the old printing-shop, and prospects were now much brighter than they had been for many years. In pondering on the morning's event, it appeared to Mr. Tollady as quite a natural thing that Arthur should forthwith leave the shop; but nothing was further from his mind than the least thought of selfish regret on this account. Such was not Samuel Tollady's nature.
After a delay which seemed several hours instead of only one, Mr. Tollady's anxious ear caught the sound of a well-known, light, quick step on the pavement outside, and the next moment Arthur Golding entered the shop.
He had grown to be tall for his age, and the promise of his boyhood was already fulfilling itself in his appearance as a young man. An abundance of hair, which was still light and wavy, hung about a face in which handsome and manly outlines blended with an expression of serious thoughtfulness which at once struck one as remarkable. It was not the face of a robust and healthy youth, but decidedly pale and a trifle thin, and the ceaseless motion of his large blue eyes gave him somewhat of the restless appearance of one who is urged to constant activity and exertion by impulses from within.
"Well," he exclaimed, in a full, joyous voice, as he entered the shop, "it is all right, Mr. Tollady. I have got the order!"
"Have you, my dear boy? I am glad of it -- I am glad of it."
The old man kept pacing up and down the shop, laughing inwardly, and quite surprising Arthur by the vividness of his delight. He had never seen him so pleased before at the mere acquisition of an order, and could scarcely understand it.
Mr. Tollady himself kept glancing towards the window, where the picture had hitherto hung, in the hope of attracting the young man's attention thither, but still without success.
"Well, come!" he exclaimed, at length. "As you have got the order, Arthur, it is only fair you should have some commission. What shall it be? Suppose we say five shillings -- five shillings, eh?"
As he spoke he took the two half-crowns from his pocket, and pressed them into Arthur's hand.
Then a sudden idea of the old man's meaning flashed across the other's mind. He turned rapidly towards the window, and at once perceived that his drawing was not there.
"It is gone! You have sold it!" exclaimed Arthur, with boyish delight, pressing one of Mr. Tollady's hands in both his own. "To whom? Tell me! How did it happen?"
For a few moments the old man was unable to speak; but at length he summoned the resolution to begin his story.
As he proceeded, Arthur's astonishment kept pace with the narrator's delight, and when he knew the whole a serious expression rested upon his countenance.
"What do you say the name on the card is?" he asked. "Gresham?"
"Yes, Gresham. Can you recall it?"
"Not in the least," replied Arthur, plunged in thought.
"Do you recall the name of Norman?" asked Mr. Tollady, after a slight hesitation.
Arthur raised his head suddenly.
"Yes, I do; I recall it perfectly. For years I have lost it. Mr. Norman was a clergyman."
"I suppose you knew him some time before you met with me?"
"Forgive me, Mr. Tollady," exclaimed Arthur, "for never having told you of this. I imagined it was an incident buried away in my old, miserable life, and little dreamt it would ever be spoken of again."
Arthur then related, in few words, and as well as he could remember the details, the story of his brief acquaintance with Mr. Norman at Bloomford, naturally exaggerating much which he barely retained of the far-off memories of childhood, but giving a true and vivid account of that uneasy yearning in his child's heart, that longing for a sight of his dead and gone father, and all the vague restlessness to which it gave rise, which had ultimately led to his running away from Bloomford.
Having completed his confidence, Arthur then went to work for a few hours at "case," leaving Mr. Tollady to his reflections.
At the stated hour, Arthur took his way towards Portland Place, discovered the number, and rang the visitor's bell. It was not without much natural tremulation that he found himself standing in the imposing doorway of what was a palace compared to any house he had ever entered. One moment he almost hoped they had not heard his ring, and that it might be possible to retreat unobserved to his life of happy obscurity; but bolder thoughts soon came to his assistance. The democratic education he had received told him that though this man might be wealthy, he was not necessarily an object of awe, or even of respect. As an able artist he might command deference, and that Arthur felt it would be no indignity to show. But as for his big house and his portentous doorbells, pooh! "A man's a man for a' that!"
A servant in livery at length opened the door, and, evidently apprised of Arthur's expected arrival, at once requested him to walk in. He then led the way upstairs, treading noiselessly with slippered feet, till he arrived before a door concealed behind a heavy green curtain. The curtain he drew back, and requested Arthur to step in, informing him that he would apprise Mr. Gresham of his presence.
"What a dreadful house to live in!" was Arthur's first thought, when left alone. The very air seemed oppressed by the weight of the luxury through which he had passed merely in ascending the stairs. The absolute silence which reigned throughout, scarcely broken by the affected whisper of the footman, seemed to assail his ears more painfully than the most intolerable noise. And now he looked around and surveyed the room he found himself in. The first glance showed him that it was a studio. An artist's studio! How the recollection of all the studios he had ever read of flashed across his mind, dazzling his perceptions with unnumbered rays of glory. How often had he seen studios in the spirit -- the studios of the great masters, to his imagination more sacred than any holy of holies reared by human superstition; but with how faint a hope of ever sating his bodily eyes with the appearance of an actual one.
Eagerly he gazed round at the multifarious objects which met his look. The room was a spacious one, round in shape, and lighted from above, where there was a species of glass dome, shaded on one side by a movable curtain, which allowed no ray to pass in that direction. Three or four large easels stood in the centre, each bearing an unfinished picture, one of a considerable size. On the walls hung a number of looking-glasses, also an abundance of framed sketches, studies, oil and water-colour pictures.
In one corner lay a heap of armour, very brightly polished, together with a few sheathed swords, and one or two enormous feathers. Against the wall, in another corner, hung a quantity of various-coloured robes. Everywhere were canvases, either finished, about to be finished, or never to be finished -- canvases, as it seemed to Arthur, by hundreds.
As for the multitude of small articles of luxury which were scattered about the room on every available space, his eyes refused to take note of them individually. The furniture of the room consisted of massive antique chairs and tables, and the fire-place was surmounted by a lofty mantel-piece of dark oak, marvellously carved in elaborate foliage, the whole a masterpiece. Then, standing on a small table near to one of the easels, he observed the colour-boxes, pallets, sheaves of brushes, together with a multitude of small appliances of which he knew neither the name nor the use. His mouth watered at the sight.
Surveying in turn the pictures hanging on, or leaning against the walls, he came at length to one at the sight of which he started in surprise. It was the picture which he had copied by means of the engraving; the subject, Arviragus coming forth from the cave with the corpse of Imogen in his arms, whilst Belarius and Guiderius regard him with surprise and grief. As he stood earnestly examining every feature and each tint, to compare it with his own execution, he was startled by a cough close behind him. Turning, he found that Mr. Gresham had entered unobserved.
"You have discovered the 'Imogen,'" said the artist, extending his hand to his visitor, and regarding him at the same time with a critical look.
"I was thinking how little I understand of art, and how I had spoilt the picture for want of skill in colouring."
The speech was very well adapted to secure favour, but it was in no calculating spirit that Arthur uttered it. He spoke, as he always did, the veritable thoughts of his heart.
"Perhaps you underrate your skill," returned Mr. Gresham, disposed to be gracious; "but it is not of that we have first to speak. Let us sit down. Now you will, in all probability, be prepared for my first question. Have you any objection to tell me precisely what you can remember of your life previous to your acquaintance with that bird-catcher, bird-trainer -- whatever the man was -- who lived Seven Dials way?"
Arthur replied that he had no objection whatever, and proceeded once again to relate those painful passages of his early years with which the reader is well acquainted. When he had finished, Mr. Gresham reflected a little.
"You have not heard of Mr. Norman since you left him in that -- that somewhat abrupt manner?" he asked at length, with the touch of sarcasm seldom absent from his speech.
"Never," replied Arthur.
"Very well. Then I must tell you that Mr. Norman died some three years ago, abroad. I was with him at the time of his death, and one of his last requests to me was that I should endeavour to re-discover you."
Arthur looked up in the utmost surprise.
"I have no doubt," proceeded Mr. Gresham, "that I have now fulfilled his wish, so far. May I ask you what is the nature of your plans as regards the future?"
"I have never reflected much upon them," replied Arthur, "for I have grown accustomed to regard my future as inseparably connected with Mr. Tollady. I have learned printing from him, and, if he should die, I have always the means thereby of earning my living."
"If he should die," repeated the artist, with a rather unfeeling emphasis. "He appeared to me rather an old man."
"He is an old man," said Arthur, with some sadness in his tone.
There was silence for some moments, during which Mr. Gresham cast side glances at his companion, and seemed to be in some doubt how to proceed.
"What made you first think of drawing?" he asked, at length.
"I can scarcely say. I have always been fond of it, as long, almost, as I can remember."
"You have never received lessons of any kind?"
"None at all."
"Should you be inclined to take advantage of the opportunity of obtaining instruction, in case it presented itself?"
"I should be glad to do so," replied the young man, with warmth.
Again Mr. Gresham paused, and this time he rose and paced the room.
"Mr. Norman," he began again, resuming his seat, "appears to have taken considerable interest in your welfare, Mr. Golding; so much, indeed, that in his will he left some little provision for you, in the event of my being successful in the search."
Arthur gazed at the speaker with unconcealed astonishment.
"You are surprised! Well, it remains with you to justify the hopes which seem to have prompted Mr. Norman's kindness. We will say nothing at present of the details of the bequest. Suppose I were to undertake to supply you with sufficient money to live upon, without the assistance of your own work, and to superintend your studies during an hour or two each day here in my own studio, would you be content to devote yourself entirely to art, and to pursue it in the manner I should suggest?"
For several minutes Arthur remained silent, experiencing sensations which deprived him of the power of rational thought. Conceive his situation. A youth of high spirit and lofty ambitions, inspired, though he knew it not, with the breath of genius, whose life hitherto had been hemmed between the narrowest bounds, who had pictured for his pleasure the most glowing futures, without the hope of ever rising above a scant subsistence, procured by persevering manual work, for him to be thus suddenly, and without warning, presented with the chance of realising his most rapturous dream -- a life devoted exclusively to the study of his beloved art; it was, indeed, too much for his brain to encompass. He stood unable to reply.
"Well, what do you think?" said the artist, reading with amusement the thoughts which impressed themselves on the young man's ingenuous features.
"I fear I could not reply without -- without reflection," said Arthur; "but no -- I know I could not fulfil these conditions. If I were to withdraw from our business, Mr. Tollady would be unable to carry it on alone."
"But he might obtain some one else."
"No one else, I fear, who -- who would suit him. No, sir; in any case I should be unable to devote myself entirely to art."
"Could you spare some two or three hours each morning?"
"I -- I fear not. It would be impossible for me to say without consulting Mr. Tollady."
"Is Mr. Tollady's business extensive?" asked Mr. Gresham, with a smile.
"It is not very large, sir; but I am glad to say it has been improving lately."
"Bye-the-by, where did you receive your education -- reading and writing, you know?"
"I owe it almost entirely to Mr. Tollady," replied Arthur. "He has been my father ever since I have known him. It would be impossible to over-estimate my indebtedness to him."
"I fancy Mr. Tollady must be a somewhat notable man," said Mr. Gresham, with his peculiar smile. "Well, I think we have talked enough for the present. The best thing you can do will be to return home and acquaint Mr. Tollady with the propositions I have made to you. Talk the matter over together. Then come to see me again to-morrow, at the same time, and let me know the results you have arrived at. Will you do so?"
"I will, sir."
"And, bye-the-by, bring me up a few of your drawings -- your ordinary work, you know. I shall be better able to judge of your ability from them."
So the interview ended, and Arthur returned to Charlotte Place, so distracted with contending emotions that he was quite unconscious of the streets he passed through, several times missing his way, and being roused at length by surprise when he heard Mr. Tollady speaking to him from the doorway of the shop.
Meanwhile Mr. Gresham had left his studio and descended to the library, where he found Maud writing a letter in the twilight, for it was after seven o'clock.
"To Helen?" he asked, standing on the hearth-rug with his hands behind him.
Maud nodded, but did not look up.
"Have you told her of my discovery?"
"I am just doing so. Has he been yet?"
"Well?" repeated Mr. Gresham, feigning not to catch her meaning.
"What is the verdict?"
"Rather favourable, on the whole. Indeed, considering his antecedents, I should say that he bears a wonderful resemblance to a gentleman."
"Without, of course," returned Maud, "exciting the least suspicion that he really may be a gentleman?"
"I wouldn't commit myself to a decided opinion yet," returned her father, smiling.
"And what do you intend to do with him?" asked Maud, after writing on for a few minutes.
"To tell you the truth, Maudie, I find it a trifle difficult to decide. At all events, I have offered him the chance of taking lessons here, and I fancy he will be much tempted to accept."
"It doesn't ever strike you, papa, that you may be doing a very foolish thing?"
"How so, Miss Gresham?"
"Wouldn't it be much better for this young man to keep to his tailoring, or shoe-making, or whatever else it is he has been brought up to, without having his head disturbed with fancies which can never come to anything?"
"Pray be accurate, my dear. In the first place he is neither a tailor nor a shoemaker, but a printer; secondly, I beg to tell you that he possesses a most uncommon talent, and the fancies, as you term them, may not improbably result in something very substantial indeed."
"Oh, I have no desire to damp your philanthropy, papa," returned Maud, with a sly look. "It is somewhat novel to find you taking such an absorbing interest in a sans culottes."
"You are severe, Miss Gresham."
"Not at all, papa. Do you authorise me to tell Helen what you say with regard to -- to the foundling?"
"Just as you please. It will help to fill up the letter."
"Do we dine alone, papa?" asked Maud, rising at length from her seat.
"Waghorn promised to drop in. I saw him at the Club this afternoon."
"Oh, bother the man! He is here perpetually."
"In a month or so, Maud, you are likely to find his society still more perpetual."
"Pooh! That will be a different thing. Don't stand all night in the dark there, papa. You seem unusually thoughtful to-night, and it doesn't become you."
Notwithstanding Maud's parting injunction, Mr. Gresham still remained for some time in the gathering darkness of the library, plunged in thought of a description somewhat unusual to him.
The subject of his meditation was Maud herself. That last remark of hers in reference to her future husband had, he scarcely knew why, jarred most unpleasantly upon his ear. For the first time he asked himself seriously whether this marriage of his daughter with Mr. Waghorn was a prudent one, or likely to be a happy one. In vain he represented to himself that Waghorn was undoubtedly a highly respectable man -- a railway director, to boot -- and that Maud had exhibited no repugnance whatever for the match; indeed that she had been left to her own will entirely in the matter. He could not restore his mind to that state of calm indifferentism which it was his habit to pursue. He reflected upon his own marriage. It had been a happy one, he thought; yes, he certainly thought so; for the truth of the matter was, that his wife had been a helpless, good-hearted, inoffensive child, with whom scarcely most refractory husband could have had the brutality to quarrel.
In all probability, he thought, Maud had no particular affection for her intended husband; but what matter, so long as she did not absolutely dislike him? It was a highly respectable match.
"Pooh, pooh!" exclaimed Mr. Gresham, at length, and went to dinner. The mood had passed away.
Mr. Gresham had been more favourably impressed with Arthur Golding than, in accordance with his usual habit, he had seen fit to declare. He looked forward with some pleasure to his return on the ensuing evening, and, when he arrived, was awaiting him in the studio. Arthur had a large portfolio under his arm.
"You have brought me some drawings to look at?" said the artist. "Let me see."
He took the portfolio, laid it open upon the table, and proceeded to examine the contents, whilst Arthur stood regarding the pictures on the wall, from time to time stealing a glance at Mr. Gresham in an endeavour to observe the effect the drawings were producing upon him.
"Some of these are by no means bad," said the latter, at length, "considering the circumstances under which they were produced. Well, did you discuss the matter with Mr. Tollady?"
Arthur replied that he had done so. He did not say, however, that in doing so, he had made no mention of the pecuniary circumstances, and had merely spoken of Mr. Gresham's offer to give him lessons for an hour or two each day.
"And what was the result?" asked the artist.
"We fear that it would be impossible for me to cease working in the office altogether; but Mr. Tollady. is very anxious that I should accept your kind offer to direct me in my studies."
"Well, I will tell you, Mr. Golding," said the artist, "precisely my opinion on this affair. I have carefully examined your drawings, and I feel sure that you possess ability, which, if rightly directed, will make you an eminent and successful artist. But you no doubt understand that ability alone is of little good without careful training. Your drawings are very clever, there is no denying it; but, if I chose, I could pick holes in them after a manner you wouldn't thank me for. And this merely because your taste has not been trained properly. Now if I undertake to instruct you in these things you lack, you understand it would be with the intention of making an artist of you. That to become an artist, you must be able to devote all your time to your art. Now, what is to be done?"
"Then I am sorry, sir," replied Arthur, "but I fear it is useless for me to think of becoming an artist. My duty must come before my inclinations."
"But is it not one's first duty to consider one's own future?" asked Mr. Gresham, looking at Arthur from under his eyebrows.
"Not in such a manner as to inflict injury upon others," replied Arthur, firmly.
"And you would be content to resign the glories of a successful artist's life merely because your preparation for such would give Mr. Tollady a little inconvenience?"
"You do not know Mr. Tollady, sir," replied Arthur, with a touch of indignation in his tone. "He would gladly submit to any inconvenience if he thought it for my benefit; but I could not accept such a sacrifice. It would not merely be inconvenience to him if I were to desert his business now, it would be a serious loss; for circumstances have made me very useful to him. I must not think of taking such a step; I could not."
"You are young, Mr. Golding," said the artist, with his peculiar smile. "If you live another twenty years your views of life will change."
"Never, I trust, in this particular!" exclaimed Arthur.
"I see a number of drawings from casts here," said Mr. Gresham, turning suddenly round to the portfolio. "Did you purchase the models?"
"Mr. Tollady has bought me them from time to time, sir."
"And when do you work at them?"
"In the evenings and early in the morning."
"When do you usually rise?"
"At five, sir."
"And go to bed?"
"Generally a little before midnight."
"Have you any design upon your life, Mr. Golding?"
"Habit has made those hours easy to me," replied Arthur, with a smile.
"Yesterday," resumed the artist, after a short pause, "I referred to a legacy of Mr. Norman's. I think it is time to speak of it in detail. Mr. Norman left you in his will the sum of five thousand pounds."
Arthur kept his eyes fixed upon the floor, and made no reply.
"The money," pursued Mr. Gresham, "is invested in Three per cent. Consols, and produces accordingly a hundred and fifty pounds a year. You could almost live on that, Mr. Golding?"
Probably Mr. Gresham had no intention of looking fiendish when he spoke these words; but an observer could scarcely have helped associating his expression of face with that of a diabolical tempter.
Arthur still held his eyes down and made no reply.
"Discretion is left to me in the will," pursued the artist, "with regard to the disposal of this money till you reach your twenty-first year. If you think it desirable, I will direct that the half-yearly dividends shall be paid to you henceforth."
Still Arthur made no reply.
"Perhaps I am taking you at an unfair advantage," said Mr. Gresham, after watching the young man with an amused face for several minutes. "Suppose you were to ask my advice on this point. I am in a certain sense, you see, your guardian."
"I should gladly listen to your advice, sir," said Arthur, raising a pale and anxious face to his questioner.
"It shall be sincere, then. Listen! As you conceive that to give up your printing would be an unjustifiable injury to Mr. Tollady, suppose you reconcile your doubts in this way. Say to Mr. Tollady: 'I find it is very desirable that I should have all my time to devote to my art studies. In place, therefore, of working myself in the business for the future, I will become a sleeping partner, advancing towards our joint expenses of every kind the sum of a hundred and fifty pounds a year. With this we shall be able to employ another man in my stead, and I shall esteem my board and lodging as quite adequate interest upon my money.' I am well aware that this would be a peculiar arrangement under ordinary circumstances, but between yourself and Mr. Tollady it might possibly exist."
"Nothing would please me so much as to use my money for Mr. Tollady's advantage," replied Arthur: "but I very much fear he could not be brought to accept it."
"Mr. Tollady has, probably, maturer views of life than yourself, Mr. Golding," said Mr. Gresham, smiling.
"I am sure, sir," replied Arthur, "it is quite impossible for any man to be more nobly disinterested in all his views. Had he been of a less benevolent nature he would be a far richer man than he is."
"Do you mean he employs much money in charity?"
"More than he can afford to. I know his life would be valueless to him if he lost the means of relieving suffering."
"I fear there are not many such men," said the artist, with concealed irony.
"It is impossible there should be," replied Arthur. "The world would not be so miserable as it is."
"Do you find it miserable? On the whole, it appears to me a sufficiently agreeable spot."
"You view it as a wealthy man, sir," replied Arthur, surprised at his own boldness, but feeling impelled to speak. "You see only the bright side of life; into the darkness which envelopes the majority of mankind you never penetrate, the scorn or disgust which it excites in you is too strong. Could you view a tenth of the hopeless depravity, the unspeakable wretchedness, which we who live in a poor quarter have daily before our eyes, it would render you unhappy for the rest of your life."
"I must not detract from your estimation of my humanity," replied Mr. Gresham. "But let us stick to the matter in hand. Do you think it would be of any use if I saw Mr. Tollady personally, and endeavoured to bring him round to our plans?"
"But I beg," interposed Arthur, "that you will not consider me to have given my absolute consent. In any case I must necessarily have a few hours of leisure time during each day, and you would not object to my employing these in Mr. Tollady's affairs?"
"That will, of course, be your own business. I think we shall find a way out of the difficulty. In the meantime, will you do me the favour of dining with me? Then we will go together and see Mr. Tollady after dinner."
Arthur started at the unexpected invitation, and was on the point of making a hurried and awkward excuse, when Mr. Gresham, who was by no means deficient in agreeable tact, when he chose to exercise it, perceiving his embarrassment, hastened to reassure him.
"My daughter and myself are alone to-night, and dinner under such circumstances is apt to lack conversation. You have no pressing engagement?"
Arthur could not allege that he had, and Mr. Gresham turned to show the way from the room.
"Bye-the-by," he remarked, as they passed out of the studio, "do you remember Miss Norman, the little girl at the Rectory, as she was in those days?"
"I remember her distinctly," replied Arthur. "One circumstance has especially fixed itself in my memory, that of our having once looked over a book of engravings together, which gave me great delight."
"You were an artist even then?" returned Mr. Gresham. "Miss Norman will be with us in a short time. She has been studying in Germany for a couple of years."
As he spoke they entered the dining-room, where Maud awaited them. Arthur was duly presented, and got through the business in a very creditable manner. His natural grace of demeanour never suffered him to be absolutely awkward in his movements, but the deep blush upon his features told how keenly he felt the unwonted nature of his position.
"How delightfully you have altered papa's picture!" exclaimed Maud, as they assumed their seats at table, the wonted expression of the corners of her lips rendering it uncertain how she meant the remark to be interpreted. "I really scarcely recognised it in your beautiful little water-colour."
"The alterations were due to my not having seen the original picture," replied Arthur, in his tone of manly modesty. "I made the copy from an engraving, and had to trust to my imagination for the colouring."
"Our imaginations are wonderfully useful; are they not, papa?" proceeded Miss Gresham. "Life would be scarcely tolerable without them."
"I thought, Miss Gresham," said her father, "you rather prided yourself upon your actuality."
"Very possibly," replied Maud, "but that does not exclude a very useful employment for my imagination. By means of it I gauge the sufferings of those whose imagination is too powerful, and derive consolation from the contrast."
Conversation was maintained with more or less vivacity till the dessert was being laid, when a servant announced that Mr. Waghorn had called.
"Oh, ask him to come in here," said Mr. Gresham. "He is just in time for dessert. Mr. Waghorn is one of our especial friends, Mr. Golding."
Mr. John Waghorn entered. He was rather a tall man, partly bald, and, to judge from his features, about thirty-six or thirty-seven. The appearance was intensely respectable, from the scanty locks carefully brushed forward on each side of the forehead, down to the immaculate boots which made no sound upon the carpet. He was in evening dress, and wore an exceedingly massive gold chain, supporting a wonderable number of valuable seals. In body he showed a tendency to stoutness, and one observed that his fingers were short and chubby. He had a very full beard, but no moustache. The outlines of his face could hardly be called agreeable; and there was an expression in the dull eye and the rather thick lips which denoted a sensual temperament; whilst the narrow and retreating forehead was suggestive of no very liberal supply of brains. For all that, Mr. Waghorn's appearance was intensely respectable. He bore the stamp of a wealthy man on every part of his person. A certain habit he had of drawing in the lips and suddenly shooting them out again somehow conveyed an impression of the aftertaste of good dinners. Stepping up to the table with an astonishingly polite air, he shook hands with Mr. and Miss Gresham, and bowed to Arthur Golding, then assumed the seat indicated by Mr. Gresham, which was over against Arthur.
Why did this man's face appear familiar to Arthur? He felt sure that he did not now see it for the first time, but, though he racked his brains to discover when he and Mr. Waghorn could by any possibility have met, the effort was quite in vain. The countenance excited in him feelings of intense repulsion, though he had no idea why. He felt instinctively that beneath that smooth outside of immaculate respectability lay hidden secret depths of foulness and all impurity. He felt uncomfortable in the man's presence, and when he discerned, as he soon did, that closer relation than mere acquaintanceship existed between him and Miss Gresham, he experienced, involuntarily, a keen sensation of pity for the young lady.
Mr. Waghorn's conversation was, like his appearance, eminently respectable. His object in looking in this evening, he said, had been to request his friends' company in his box at the opera. "Lucia di Lammermuir" was to be played, he informed them, and thereupon gave utterance to a number of most respectable criticisms of the piece, such as may be heard in the mouth of any respectable gentleman during the opera season. Here Miss Gresham made a diversion by asking Mr. Golding if he liked Scott, and upon Arthur replying that he read Scott with exceeding pleasure, Mr. Waghorn broke in, if so boisterous an expression may be applied to his velvety-tongued discourse, with the remark that he supposed his hearers knew that the Waverley Novels had remained for a long time anonymous, and how very curious it was that such should have been the case. Upon Mr. Gresham's entertaining the company with a few rather more interesting remarks in reference to the same subject, Mr.. Waghorn said that he had heard on very good authority that Lord So-and-So had just completed a novel, which he seriously thought of publishing; and upon Maud's observing, somewhat satirically, that she was glad his lordship was reflecting upon the point before coming to his ultimate decision, Mr. Waghorn replied that he echoed Miss Gresham's sentiments, for the reading public were so deplorably inappreciative now-a-days. And so the conversation continued to the end of dessert, when, Mr. Gresham excusing himself from the opera, Maud proposed that she should despatch a note to a friend a few doors off, begging her to make up the trio. This was accordingly done, the friend yielded her gracious assent, and she, Miss Gresham, and Mr. Waghorn drove off in the latter's carriage to the opera.
Mr. Gresham and Arthur Golding then set out to walk to Charlotte Place, where they found Mr. Tollady standing in the doorway of his shop, awaiting Arthur, whose long absence somewhat surprised him. All retired to the back-parlour, and there discussed the proposition which Mr. Gresham brought forward. Mr. Tollady would not at first listen to the proposal that Arthur should surrender his money to him, but on the latter and Mr. Gresham's representing to him that it was in reality an investment in the business which Arthur wished to make, in return for which he obtained the necessaries of life in any case, and, perhaps, some share of subsequent profits, the printer, though reluctantly, ceased his opposition. He showed to Mr. Gresham that, considering the modesty of Arthur's wants, the hundred and fifty pounds a year would quite suffice to supply them all and to pay for the services of a new assistant as well, and would only consent to the arrangement in case Arthur would make a definite stipulation to accept a certain percentage upon the profits that might result. In this way, at length, the matter was settled, and Mr. Gresham, after bidding Arthur to visit him in Portland Place at ten o'clock on the following morning, took his leave.
"I don't like it, Arthur; I don't like it," said Mr. Tollady, after pacing the little room for some time in silence. "I shall become a dead-weight upon you, holding you back from no one knows what advantages. You will regret having thus disposed of your money; I fear you will, Arthur."
"Never," exclaimed the young man. "You know well, Mr. Tollady, how often we have said that a little capital in our business was what we chiefly wanted. It will be a gain in every way. Do not think that I shall desert you, even when you get the new man. I shall find many an hour to look after office work; and you have often said that I had good ideas in business matters. And then I shall every day be making progress in my art. I feel like a new man today! Oh, how I will work, work, work! When shall I have my first picture in the Academy? It shall not be long, I assure you. Why, have I not already begun to earn money for my pictures? Here, Mr. Tollady, take these five shillings you gave me to-day. Take them and do anything you like with them; I beg you to! I will make a resolution that all the money I henceforth earn by my paintings I will put into your hands, to be used as you think best. I could not dispose of it better!"
"Stop, stop, my dear boy!" cried Mr. Tollady, with a smile, at once pleased and pained. "Why, Arthur, you will never get on in the world if you give away all your money in that fashion. You would always be miserably poor, and if there is any curse which I would fervently hope and trust may be averted from you, it is that of a weary, grinding, life-long poverty. Besides, you speak as if I should live for ever. You forget that I am close upon my sixtieth year, and that I cannot hope to share your hopes and your triumphs for very much longer."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Arthur, who was in wonderfully high spirits. "You shall live to see me R. A. yet! Don't shake your head, Mr. Tollady; I tell you, you shall!"
"Arthur," began the old man, in a grave voice, the smile dying away from his worn features. He seemed on the point of communicating something which lay upon his mind, but suddenly he ceased, and shook his head.
"What were you going to say?" asked Arthur.
"Nothing, my dear boy, except that I am heartily glad of this piece of good fortune that has befallen you. I feel sure it will only be the prologue to a series of such scenes, each brighter and happier than the other. No, Arthur, I shall not live to see your richest rewards; but I can imagine them, and the rest of my days will be the more peaceful for the prospect. Make a good use of your fortune, Arthur. If you ever become wealthy, do not let your wealth pervert you. It is a furnace through which few can pass unscathed; but if youth holds forth any promise of manhood, I think you may be one of those. For my own part I am getting a little tired of life, though I hold with the old philosophers that no man should desert his post till Fate calls him from it. Life has not been over kind to me, on the whole, though in the sight of your happiness, Arthur, in the hope of your future I find rich amends for all I have suffered. Still I am tired, and I am not sorry to feel that Fate is preparing the summons. I feel that any day I may fall into my last sleep, and from that I hope and believe that no one will ever wake me.
Arthur could not reply in words, for the solemn pathos of the old man's last words affected him too strongly. But he caught his friend's right hand in both his own, and pressed it fervently. Then, according to his habit, he went upstairs into the printing office and worked an hour at case, till Mr. Tollady called him down to share his supper. It was eleven o'clock when they parted for the night, and for several hours after this Arthur paced his room, unable to go to rest. His forehead was hot and feverish with the ardent thoughts which wrought tumultuously in his mind. Now for the first time, in the dead stillness of the night, he seemed fully to realise the extent of his good fortune. He possessed for the future a yearly income amply sufficient for all his moderate wants, if Mr. Tollady's sad forebodings should prove true, and he should find himself dependent on his own resources. A hundred and fifty pounds a year represent nearly three pounds a week, a fortune to one brought up among the hard-working classes of London life. How many have to live and support a family on not more than a third of that sum. And, in addition, all his thoughts arose before a background of calm delight, the consciousness that henceforth it would be possible to devote himself entirely to his art. Not for the present Was his mind disturbed by those uneasy conflicts between the varying elements of his nature which we have already described. Tonight he was all artist; the thought of living for anything but art never occurred to him during these hours of enraptured reverie.
Strange that in the midst of his thoughts an old recollection should come back with startling vividness, and he should see himself as a child in Bloomford Rectory, sitting by the side of another child, a little girl, and gazing with delight at a large volume of pictures. Then he remembered what Mr. Gresham had said to him with regard to Helen Norman, and immediately his mind began to picture her as she must appear now that she was grown up. He retained, of course, no recollection of her face as a child, but he had never ceased to associate with her memory a distinct consciousness of wonder, partaking of reverence, from which he concluded that she had been, in all probability, a beautiful child. Should he ever see her at Mr. Gresham's? If he did, would she pay any attention to him, or show any sign of remembering his name? There was but little chance of her doing so, and yet he felt he should very much like to see her, to know what she had become in the years since he had sat by her side. Doubtless she was now a tall, handsome, proud young lady, whom the recollection of such an incident would cause to blush and be annoyed.
As the clock at the Middlesex Hospital sounded two he put out his lamp and threw himself, still dressed, upon the bed. He never had felt more wakeful; sleep was altogether impossible for him. For half-an-hour he made vain endeavours to rest, and then once more rose and re-lit his lamp. Over his bed hung a small book-shelf, on which were ranged the few favourite books which he had been able to buy, and one of these he now took down and began to read. Tiring of this, he took up his drawing-board, and, having fixed the light in a suitable position, commenced to work at a crayon copy of a cast which he had hung for the purpose against the wall. And at this be worked with desperate energy till at length the change in the position of the light and shade on his model told him that daylight was beginning to make its way into the room. Putting aside his work, he washed and made some alterations in his dress, stole gently downstairs, and took a brisk walk till the hour for fetching the newspapers arrived, when he opened the shop and made the preparations for the day's work in the usual way.
For a couple of hours each morning after this, he worked in Mr. Gresham's studio, and the greater part of the rest of the day he spent in studies which the former suggested, working with an energy begotten of the intense love he had for the work. Several hours, also, he continued to devote to Mr. Tollady's service, disregarding all the latter's remonstrances and his earnest entreaties that he would have more regard to his health. In the course of the following month he executed two little water-colours, the fruit of two days spent in excursions to spots some miles up the Thames, and these being placed by Mr. Gresham's recommendation in the window of a picture shop in Oxford Street, were very shortly sold for prices which Arthur laughed at as extravagant.
One morning Arthur had gone as usual to Portland Place, and, on being admitted, had ascended to the studio. It was Mr. Gresham's habit to enter the room some ten minutes after his pupil's arrival, so that the latter always opened the door and went in without the precaution of a knock. This morning, on doing so, he found that the studio was not empty. Standing before one of the large easels, examining a picture which was still incomplete, he saw a young lady, tall and graceful in figure, robed in a morning-dress of dark material, which fitted tightly round her perfect shape, her hair gathered into a simple knot behind her head, around her neck a plain collar and a narrow violet coloured tie, which made a small bow in front, but with that exception devoid of ornaments. So easy, and yet so naturally dignified, was the attitude in which she stood, so marvellous was the chaste beauty of her countenance, lighted up with a look of pleasure as she gazed at the picture, so impressive was the extreme simplicity of her attire, that the first glance almost persuaded Arthur that he had before him the real person of one of the goddesses whose forms made beautiful his day-dreams and flitted in ghost-like silence across the vacancy of his sleep. So intensely was his artistic sense impressed by the beauty of the vision that he with difficulty suppressed an exclamation of delight which had risen to his lips. The next moment, the lady's clear, deep eye had turned upon him, and his sunk before its gaze.
For a moment there was silence, during which both stood still. The lady was the first to speak.
"Mr. Golding, is it not?" she said; and the voice thrilled upon every nerve in the hearer's body, so wonderfully sweet did it sound to him.
Arthur bowed, but could find no words.
"I had forgotten the time," pursued Helen Norman, "and must request you to pardon my intrusion. I knew that you came at ten, but the delight of looking at these pictures has kept me here too long."
"Pray do not let me disturb you, Miss Norman," said Arthur, venturing at length to raise his eyes.
"You know who I am, then?" said Helen, speaking in the absolutely natural and unaffected manner which had always been characteristic of her, containing as little of self-consciousness as her beauty did of the commonplace. "I scarcely thought we should need a formal introduction."
Arthur's heart swelled with a mingled pain and delight at the kind tones in which he heard himself addressed. The pain might be partly excess of pleasure, partly it was caused by the recollection of how very different his relations to this beautiful girl might have been had Fate suffered him to grow up at Bloomford Rectory. Almost in spite of himself an expression of these thoughts rose to his lips.
"I should scarcely have thought you would have remembered my name, Miss Norman. My childish folly and ingratitude certainly rendered me unworthy of recollection."
"It is not my habit, Mr. Golding," replied Helen, "to judge the motives of others. One's own are often scarcely to be understood. My father never ceased to speak of you."
"My thoughts have often turned in gratitude to Mr. Norman," said Arthur, with sincerity in his voice. "It pains me that I was not able to see him again and express the feelings with which I remembered his kindness to me as a child."
"My guardian speaks to me in high terms of your talent as an artist," said Helen; "I hope I may soon have the pleasure of seeing one of your pictures. But I am keeping you from your work. Good morning, Mr. Golding."
She bowed and passed out of the room; and though by looking up to the ceiling of the room the summer sunshine could be seen playing athwart the blue vault of heaven, it seemed to Arthur as though she had left the room in darkness.
"She is indeed a goddess!" he exclaimed to himself, as, for the first time in his life, perhaps, he began with reluctance to work. "And she is as far superior to me as a 'Madonna' of Raphael is to this miserable smudge which I call a picture!"
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