Yeast: A Problem
Part 5 out of 6
take the liberty of narrating Lancelot's fanatical conduct, without
execratory comment, certain that he will still receive his just
reward of condemnation; and that, if I find facts, a sensible public
will find abhorrence for them. His behaviour was, indeed, most
singular; he absolutely refused a good commercial situation which
his uncle procured him. He did not believe in being 'cured by a
hair of the dog that bit him;' and he refused, also, the really
generous offers of the creditors, to allow him a sufficient
'No,' he said, 'no more pay without work for me. I will earn my
bread or starve. It seems God's will to teach me what poverty is--I
will see that His intention is not left half fulfilled. I have
sinned, and only in the stern delight of a just penance can I gain
'But, my dear madman,' said his uncle, 'you are just the innocent
one among us all. You, at least, were only a sleeping partner.'
'And therein lies my sin; I took money which I never earned, and
cared as little how it was gained as how I spent it. Henceforth I
shall touch no farthing which is the fruit of a system which I
cannot approve. I accuse no one. Actions may vary in rightfulness,
according to the age and the person. But what may be right for you,
because you think it right, is surely wrong for me because I think
So, with grim determination, he sent to the hammer every article he
possessed, till he had literally nothing left but the clothes in
which he stood. 'He could not rest,' he said, 'till he had pulled
out all his borrowed peacock's feathers. When they were gone he
should be able to see, at last, whether he was jackdaw or eagle.'
And wonder not, reader, at this same strength of will. The very
genius, which too often makes its possessor self-indulgent in common
matters, from the intense capability of enjoyment which it brings,
may also, when once his whole being is stirred into motion by some
great object, transform him into a hero.
And he carried a letter, too, in his bosom, night and day, which
routed all coward fears and sad forebodings as soon as they arose,
and converted the lonely and squalid lodging to which he had
retired, into a fairy palace peopled with bright phantoms of future
bliss. I need not say from whom it came.
'Beloved!' (it ran) 'Darling! you need not pain yourself to tell me
anything. I know all; and I know, too (do not ask me how), your
noble determination to drink the wholesome cup of poverty to the
'Oh that I were with you! Oh that I could give you my fortune! but
that is not yet, alas! in my own power. No! rather would I share
that poverty with you, and strengthen you in your purpose. And yet,
I cannot bear the thought of you, lonely--perhaps miserable. But,
courage! though you have lost all, you have found me; and now you
are knitting me to you for ever--justifying my own love to me by
your nobleness; and am I not worth all the world to you? I dare say
this to you; you will not think me conceited. Can we misunderstand
each other's hearts? And all this while you are alone! Oh! I have
mourned for you! Since I heard of your misfortune I have not tasted
pleasure. The light of heaven has been black to me, and I have
lived only upon love. I will not taste comfort while you are
wretched. Would that I could be poor like you! Every night upon
the bare floor I lie down to sleep, and fancy you in your little
chamber, and nestle to you, and cover that dear face with kisses.
Strange! that I should dare to speak thus to you, whom a few months
ago I had never heard of! Wonderful simplicity of love! How all
that is prudish and artificial flees before it! I seem to have
begun a new life. If I could play now, it would be only with little
children. Farewell! be great--a glorious future is before you and
me in you!'
Lancelot's answer must remain untold; perhaps the veil has been
already too far lifted which hides the sanctuary of such love. But,
alas! to his letter no second had been returned; and he felt--though
he dared not confess it to himself--a gloomy presentiment of evil
flit across him, as he thought of his fallen fortunes, and the
altered light in which his suit would be regarded by Argemone's
parents. Once he blamed himself bitterly for not having gone to Mr.
Lavington the moment he discovered Argemone's affection, and
insuring--as he then might have done--his consent. But again he
felt that no sloth had kept him back, but adoring reverence for his
God-given treasure, and humble astonishment at his own happiness;
and he fled from the thought into renewed examination into the state
of the masses, the effect of which was only to deepen his own
determination to share their lot.
But at the same time it seemed to him but fair to live, as long as
it would last, on that part of his capital which his creditors would
have given nothing for--namely, his information; and he set to work
to write. But, alas! he had but a 'small literary connection;' and
the entree of the initiated ring is not obtained in a day. . . .
Besides, he would not write trash.--He was in far too grim a humour
for that; and if he wrote on important subjects, able editors always
were in the habit of entrusting them to old contributors,--men, in
short, in whose judgment they had confidence--not to say anything
which would commit the magazine to anything but its own little
party-theory. And behold! poor Lancelot found himself of no party
whatsoever. He was in a minority of one against the whole world, on
all points, right or wrong. He had the unhappiest knack (as all
geniuses have) of seeing connections, humorous or awful, between the
most seemingly antipodal things; of illustrating every subject from
three or four different spheres which it is anathema to mention in
the same page. If he wrote a physical-science article, able editors
asked him what the deuce a scrap of high-churchism did in the middle
of it? If he took the same article to a high-church magazine, the
editor could not commit himself to any theory which made the earth
more than six thousand years old, and was afraid that the public
taste would not approve of the allusions to free-masonry and Soyer's
soup. . . . And worse than that, one and all--Jew, Turk, infidel,
and heretic, as well as the orthodox--joined in pious horror at his
irreverence;--the shocking way he had of jumbling religion and
politics--the human and the divine--the theories of the pulpit with
the facts of the exchange. . . . The very atheists, who laughed at
him for believing in a God, agreed that that, at least, was
inconsistent with the dignity of the God--who did not exist. . . .
It was Syncretism . . . Pantheism. . . .
'Very well, friends,' quoth Lancelot to himself, in bitter rage, one
day, 'if you choose to be without God in the world, and to honour
Him by denying Him . . . do so! You shall have your way; and go to
the place whither it seems leading you just now, at railroad pace.
But I must live. . . . Well, at least, there is some old college
nonsense of mine, written three years ago, when I believed, like
you, that all heaven and earth was put together out of separate
bits, like a child's puzzle, and that each topic ought to have its
private little pigeon-hole all to itself in a man's brain, like
drugs in a chemist's shop. Perhaps it will suit you, friends;
perhaps it will be system-frozen, and narrow, and dogmatic, and
cowardly, and godless enough for you.' . . . So he went forth with
them to market; and behold! they were bought forthwith. There was
verily a demand for such; . . . and in spite of the ten thousand
ink-fountains which were daily pouring out similar Stygian liquors,
the public thirst remained unslaked. 'Well,' thought Lancelot, 'the
negro race is not the only one which is afflicted with manias for
eating dirt. . . . By the bye, where is poor Luke?'
Ah! where was poor Luke? Lancelot had received from him one short
and hurried note, blotted with tears, which told how he had informed
his father; and how his father had refused to see him, and had
forbid him the house; and how he had offered him an allowance of
fifty pounds a year (it should have been five hundred, he said, if
he had possessed it), which Luke's director, sensibly enough, had
compelled him to accept. . . . And there the letter ended,
abruptly, leaving the writer evidently in lower depths than he had
either experienced already, or expected at all.
Lancelot had often pleaded for him with his father; but in vain.
Not that the good man was hard-hearted: he would cry like a child
about it all to Lancelot when they sat together after dinner. But
he was utterly beside himself, what with grief, shame, terror, and
astonishment. On the whole, the sorrow was a real comfort to him:
it gave him something beside his bankruptcy to think of; and,
distracted between the two different griefs, he could brood over
neither. But of the two, certainly his son's conversion was the
worst in his eyes. The bankruptcy was intelligible--measurable; it
was something known and classified--part of the ills which flesh
(or, at least, commercial flesh) is heir to. But going to Rome!--
'I can't understand it. I won't believe it. It's so foolish, you
see, Lancelot--so foolish--like an ass that eats thistles! . . .
There must be some reason;--there must be--something we don't know,
sir! Do you think they could have promised to make him a cardinal?'
Lancelot quite agreed that there were reasons for it, that they--or,
at least, the banker--did not know. . . .
'Depend upon it, they promised him something--some prince-bishopric,
perhaps. Else why on earth could a man go over! It's out of the
course of nature!'
Lancelot tried in vain to make him understand that a man might
sacrifice everything to conscience, and actually give up all worldly
weal for what he thought right. The banker turned on him with angry
'Very well--I suppose he's done right then! I suppose you'll go
next! Take up a false religion, and give up everything for it!
Why, then, he must be honest; and if he's honest, he's in the right;
and I suppose I'd better go too!'
Lancelot argued: but in vain. The idea of disinterested sacrifice
was so utterly foreign to the good man's own creed and practice,
that he could but see one pair of alternatives.
'Either he is a good man, or he's a hypocrite. Either he's right,
or he's gone over for some vile selfish end; and what can that be
Lancelot gently hinted that there might be other selfish ends
besides pecuniary ones--saving one's soul, for instance.
'Why, if he wants to save his soul, he's right. What ought we all
to do, but try to save our souls? I tell you there's some sinister
reason. They've told him that they expect to convert England--I
should like to see them do it!--and that he'll be made a bishop.
Don't argue with me, or you'll drive me mad. I know those Jesuits!'
And as soon as he began upon the Jesuits, Lancelot prudently held
his tongue. The good man had worked himself up into a perfect
frenzy of terror and suspicion about them. He suspected concealed
Jesuits among his footmen and his housemaids; Jesuits in his
counting-house, Jesuits in his duns. . . .
'Hang it, sir! how do I know that there ain't a Jesuit listening to
us now behind the curtain?'
'I'll go and look,' quoth Lancelot, and suited the action to the
'Well, if there ain't there might be. They're everywhere, I tell
you. That vicar of Whitford was a Jesuit. I was sure of it all
along; but the man seemed so pious; and certainly he did my poor
dear boy a deal of good. But he ruined you, you know. And I'm
convinced--no, don't contradict me; I tell you, I won't stand it--
I'm convinced that this whole mess of mine is a plot of those
rascals;--I'm as certain of it as if they'd told me!'
'For what end?'
'How the deuce can I tell? Am I a Jesuit, to understand their
sneaking, underhand--pah! I'm sick of life! Nothing but rogues
wherever one turns!'
And then Lancelot used to try to persuade him to take poor Luke back
again. But vague terror had steeled his heart.
'What! Why, he'd convert us all! He'd convert his sisters! He'd
bring his priests in here, or his nuns disguised as ladies' maids,
and we should all go over, every one of us, like a set of nine-
'You seem to think Protestantism a rather shaky cause, if it is so
easy to be upset.'
'Sir! Protestantism is the cause of England and Christianity, and
civilisation, and freedom, and common sense, sir! and that's the
very reason why it's so easy to pervert men from it; and the very
reason why it's a lost cause, and popery, and Antichrist, and the
gates of hell are coming in like a flood to prevail against it!'
'Well,' thought Lancelot, 'that is the very strangest reason for
it's being a lost cause! Perhaps if my poor uncle believed it
really to be the cause of God Himself, he would not be in such
extreme fear for it, or fancy it required such a hotbed and
greenhouse culture. . . . Really, if his sisters were little girls
of ten years old, who looked up to him as an oracle, there would be
some reason in it. . . . But those tall, ball-going, flirting,
self-satisfied cousins of mine--who would have been glad enough,
either of them, two months ago, to snap up me, infidelity, bad
character, and all, as a charming rich young roue--if they have not
learnt enough Protestantism in the last five-and-twenty years to
take care of themselves, Protestantism must have very few
allurements, or else be very badly carried out in practice by those
who talk loudest in favour of it. . . . I heard them praising
O'Blareaway's "ministry," by the bye, the other day. So he is up in
town at last--at the summit of his ambition. Well, he may suit
them. I wonder how many young creatures like Argemone and Luke he
would keep from Popery!'
But there was no use arguing with a man in such a state of mind; and
gradually Lancelot gave it up, in hopes that time would bring the
good man to his sane wits again, and that a father's feelings would
prove themselves stronger, because more divine, than a so-called
Protestant's fears, though that would have been, in the banker's
eyes, and in the Jesuit's also--so do extremes meet--the very reason
for expecting them to be the weaker; for it is the rule with all
bigots, that the right cause is always a lost cause, and therefore
requires--God's weapons of love, truth, and reason being well known
to be too weak--to be defended, if it is to be saved, with the
devil's weapons of bad logic, spite, and calumny.
At last, in despair of obtaining tidings of his cousin by any other
method, Lancelot made up his mind to apply to a certain remarkable
man, whose 'conversion' had preceded Luke's about a year, and had,
indeed, mainly caused it.
He went, . . . and was not disappointed. With the most winning
courtesy and sweetness, his story and his request were patiently
'The outcome of your speech, then, my dear sir, as I apprehend it,
is a request to me to send back the fugitive lamb into the jaws of
the well-meaning, but still lupine wolf?'
This was spoken with so sweet and arch a smile, that it was
impossible to be angry.
'On my honour, I have no wish to convert him. All I want is to have
human speech of him--to hear from his own lips that he is content.
Whither should I convert him? Not to my own platform--for I am
nowhere. Not to that which he has left, . . . for if he could have
found standing ground there, he would not have gone elsewhere for
'Therefore they went out from you, because they were not of you,'
said the 'Father,' half aside.
'Most true, sir. I have felt long that argument was bootless with
those whose root-ideas of Deity, man, earth, and heaven, were as
utterly different from my own, as if we had been created by two
'Do you include in that catalogue those ideas of truth, love, and
justice, which are Deity itself? Have you no common ground in
'You are an elder and a better man than I. . . . It would be
insolent in me to answer that question, except in one way, . . .
'In that you cannot answer it. Be it so. . . . You shall see your
cousin. You may make what efforts you will for his re-conversion.
The Catholic Church,' continued he, with one of his arch, deep-
meaning smiles, 'is not, like popular Protestantism, driven into
shrieking terror at the approach of a foe. She has too much faith
in herself, and in Him who gives to her the power of truth, to
expect every gay meadow to allure away her lambs from the fold.'
'I assure you that your gallant permission is unnecessary. I am
beginning, at least, to believe that there is a Father in Heaven who
educates His children; and I have no wish to interfere with His
methods. Let my cousin go his way . . . he will learn something
which he wanted, I doubt not, on his present path, even as I shall
on mine. "Se tu segui la tua stella" is my motto. . . . Let it be
his too, wherever the star may guide him. If it be a will-o'-the-
wisp, and lead to the morass, he will only learn how to avoid
morasses better for the future.'
'Ave Maris stella! It is the star of Bethlehem which he follows . .
. the star of Mary, immaculate, all-loving!' . . . And he bowed his
head reverently. 'Would that you, too, would submit yourself to
that guidance! . . . You, too, would seem to want some loving heart
whereon to rest.' . . .
Lancelot sighed. 'I am not a child, but a man; I want not a mother
to pet, but a man to rule me.'
Slowly his companion raised his thin hand, and pointed to the
crucifix, which stood at the other end of the apartment.
'Behold him!' and he bowed his head once more . . . and Lancelot, he
knew not why, did the same . . . and yet in an instant he threw his
head up proudly, and answered with George Fox's old reply to the
'I want a live Christ, not a dead one. . . . That is noble . . .
beautiful . . . it may be true. . . . But it has no message for
'He died for you.'
'I care for the world, and not myself.'
'He died for the world.'
'And has deserted it, as folks say now, and become--an absentee,
performing His work by deputies. . . . Do not start; the blasphemy
is not mine, but those who preach it. No wonder that the owners of
the soil think it no shame to desert their estates, when preachers
tell them that He to whom they say, all power is given in heaven and
earth, has deserted His.'
'What would you have, my dear sir?' asked the father.
'What the Jews had. A king of my nation, and of the hearts of my
nation, who would teach soldiers, artists, craftsmen, statesmen,
poets, priests, if priests there must be. I want a human lord, who
understands me and the millions round me, pities us, teaches us,
orders our history, civilisation, development for us. I come to
you, full of manhood, and you send me to a woman. I go to the
Protestants, full of desires to right the world--and they begin to
talk of the next life, and give up this as lost!'
A quiet smile lighted up the thin wan face, full of unfathomable
thoughts; and he replied, again half to himself,--
'Am I God, to kill or to make alive, that thou sendest to me to
recover a man of his leprosy? Farewell. You shall see your cousin
here at noon to-morrow. You will not refuse my blessing, or my
prayers, even though they be offered to a mother?'
'I will refuse nothing in the form of human love.' And the father
blessed him fervently, and he went out. . . .
'What a man!' said he to himself, 'or rather the wreck of what a
man! Oh, for such a heart, with the thews and sinews of a truly
Next day he met Luke in that room. Their talk was short and sad.
Luke was on the point of entering an order devoted especially to the
worship of the Blessed Virgin.
'My father has cast me out . . . I must go to her feet. She will
have mercy, though man has none.'
'But why enter the order? Why take an irrevocable step?'
'Because it is irrevocable; because I shall enter an utterly new
life, in which old things shall pass away, and all things become
new, and I shall forget the very names of Parent, Englishman,
Citizen,--the very existence of that strange Babel of man's
building, whose roar and moan oppress me every time I walk the
street. Oh, for solitude, meditation, penance! Oh, to make up by
bitter self-punishment my ingratitude to her who has been leading me
unseen, for years, home to her bosom!--The all-prevailing mother,
daughter of Gabriel, spouse of Deity, flower of the earth, whom I
have so long despised! Oh, to follow the example of the blessed
Mary of Oignies, who every day inflicted on her most holy person
eleven hundred stripes in honour of that all-perfect maiden!'
'Such an honour, I could have thought, would have pleased better
Kali, the murder-goddess of the Thugs,' thought Lancelot to himself;
but he had not the heart to say it, and he only replied,--
'So torture propitiates the Virgin? That explains the strange story
I read lately, of her having appeared in the Cevennes, and informed
the peasantry that she had sent the potato disease on account of
their neglecting her shrines; that unless they repented, she would
next year destroy their cattle; and the third year, themselves.'
'Why not?' asked poor Luke.
'Why not, indeed? If God is to be capricious, proud, revengeful,
why not the Son of God? And if the Son of God, why not His mother?'
'You judge spiritual feelings by the carnal test of the
understanding; your Protestant horror of asceticism lies at the root
of all you say. How can you comprehend the self-satisfaction, the
absolute delight, of self-punishment?'
'So far from it, I have always had an infinite respect for
asceticism, as a noble and manful thing--the only manful thing to my
eyes left in popery; and fast dying out of that under Jesuit
influence. You recollect the quarrel between the Tablet and the
Jesuits, over Faber's unlucky honesty about St. Rose of Lima? . . .
But, really, as long as you honour asceticism as a means of
appeasing the angry deities, I shall prefer to St. Dominic's cuirass
or St. Hedwiga's chilblains, John Mytton's two hours' crawl on the
ice in his shirt, after a flock of wild ducks. They both endured
like heroes; but the former for a selfish, if not a blasphemous end;
the latter, as a man should, to test and strengthen his own powers
of endurance. . . . There, I will say no more. Go your way, in
God's name. There must be lessons to be learnt in all strong and
self-restraining action. . . . So you will learn something from the
scourge and the hair-shirt. We must all take the bitter medicine of
suffering, I suppose.'
'And, therefore, I am the wiser, in forcing the draught on myself.'
'Provided it be the right draught, and do not require another and
still bitterer one to expel the effects of the poison. I have no
faith in people's doctoring themselves, either physically or
'I am not my own physician; I follow the rules of an infallible
Church, and the examples of her canonised saints.'
'Well . . . perhaps they may have known what was best for
themselves. . . . But as for you and me here, in the year 1849. . .
. However, we shall argue on for ever. Forgive me if I have
'I am not offended. The Catholic Church has always been a
'Then walk with me a little way, and I will persecute you no more.'
'Where are you going?'
'To . . . To--' Lancelot had not the heart to say whither.
'To my father's! Ah! what a son I would have been to him now, in
his extreme need! . . . And he will not let me! Lancelot, is it
impossible to move him? I do not want to go home again . . . to
live there . . . I could not face that, though I longed but this
moment to do it. I cannot face the self-satisfied, pitying looks .
. . the everlasting suspicion that they suspect me to be speaking
untruths, or proselytising in secret. . . . Cruel and unjust!'
Lancelot thought of a certain letter of Luke's . . . but who was he,
to break the bruised reed?
'No; I will not see him. Better thus; better vanish, and be known
only according to the spirit by the spirits of saints and
confessors, and their successors upon earth. No! I will die, and
give no sign.'
'I must see somewhat more of you, indeed.'
'I will meet you here, then, two hours hence. Near that house--even
along the way which leads to it--I cannot go. It would be too
painful: too painful to think that you were walking towards it,--
the old house where I was born and bred . . . and I shut out,--even
though it be for the sake of the kingdom of heaven!'
'Or for the sake of your own share therein, my poor cousin!' thought
Lancelot to himself, 'which is a very different matter.'
'Whither, after you have been--?' Luke could not get out the word
'To Claude Mellot's.'
'I will walk part of the way thither with you. But he is a very bad
companion for you.'
'I can't help that. I cannot live; and I am going to turn painter.
It is not the road in which to find a fortune; but still, the very
sign-painters live somehow, I suppose. I am going this very
afternoon to Claude Mellot, and enlist. I sold the last of my
treasured MSS. to a fifth-rate magazine this morning, for what it
would fetch. It has been like eating one's own children--but, at
least, they have fed me. So now "to fresh fields and pastures
CHAPTER XV: DEUS E MACHINA
When Lancelot reached the banker's a letter was put into his hand;
it bore the Whitford postmark, and Mrs. Lavington's handwriting. He
tore it open; it contained a letter from Argemone, which, it is
needless to say, he read before her mother's:--
'My beloved! my husband!--Yes--though you may fancy me fickle and
proud--I will call you so to the last; for were I fickle, I could
have saved myself the agony of writing this; and as for pride, oh!
how that darling vice has been crushed out of me! I have rolled at
my mother's feet with bitter tears, and vain entreaties--and been
refused; and yet I have obeyed her after all. We must write to each
other no more. This one last letter must explain the forced silence
which has been driving me mad with fears that you would suspect me.
And now you may call me weak; but it is your love which has made me
strong to do this--which has taught me to see with new intensity my
duty, not only to you, but to every human being--to my parents. By
this self-sacrifice alone can I atone to them for all my past
undutifulness. Let me, then, thus be worthy of you. Hope that by
this submission we may win even her to change. How calmly I write!
but it is only my hand that is calm. As for my heart, read
Tennyson's Fatima, and then know how I feel towards you! Yes, I
love you--madly, the world would say. I seem to understand now how
women have died of love. Ay, that indeed would be blessed; for then
my spirit would seek out yours, and hover over it for ever!
Farewell, beloved! and let me hear of you through your deeds. A
feeling at my heart, which should not be, although it is, a sad one,
tells me that we shall meet soon--soon.'
Stupefied and sickened, Lancelot turned carelessly to Mrs.
Lavington's cover, whose blameless respectability thus uttered
'I cannot deceive you or myself by saying I regret that providential
circumstances should have been permitted to break off a connection
which I always felt to be most unsuitable; and I rejoice that the
intercourse my dear child has had with you has not so far undermined
her principles as to prevent her yielding the most filial obedience
to my wishes on the point of her future correspondence with you.
Hoping that all that has occurred will be truly blessed to you, and
lead your thoughts to another world, and to a true concern for the
safety of your immortal soul,
'I remain, yours truly,
'Another world!' said Lancelot to himself. 'It is most merciful of
you, certainly, my dear madame, to put one in mind of the existence
of another world, while such as you have their own way in this one!'
and thrusting the latter epistle into the fire, he tried to collect
What had he lost? The oftener he asked himself, the less he found
to unman him. Argemone's letters were so new a want, that the
craving for them was not yet established. His intense imagination,
resting on the delicious certainty of her faith, seemed ready to
fill the silence with bright hopes and noble purposes. She herself
had said that he would see her soon. But yet--but yet--why did that
allusion to death strike chilly through him? They were but words,--
a melancholy fancy, such as women love at times to play with. He
would toss it from him. At least here was another reason for
bestirring himself at once to win fame in the noble profession he
And yet his brain reeled as he went upstairs to his uncle's private
There, however, he found a person closeted with the banker, whose
remarkable appearance drove everything else out of his mind. He was
a huge, shaggy, toil-worn man, the deep melancholy earnestness of
whose rugged features reminded him almost ludicrously of one of
Land-seer's bloodhounds. But withal there was a tenderness--a
genial, though covert humour playing about his massive features,
which awakened in Lancelot at first sight a fantastic longing to
open his whole heart to him. He was dressed like a foreigner, but
spoke English with perfect fluency. The banker sat listening, quite
crestfallen, beneath his intense and melancholy gaze, in which,
nevertheless, there twinkled some rays of kindly sympathy.
'It was all those foreign railways,' said Mr. Smith pensively.
'And it serves you quite right,' answered the stranger. 'Did I not
warn you of the folly and sin of sinking capital in foreign
countries while English land was crying out for tillage, and English
poor for employment?'
'My dear friend' (in a deprecatory tone), 'it was the best possible
investment I could make.'
'And pray, who told you that you were sent into the world to make
'But me no buts, or I won't stir a finger towards helping you. What
are you going to do with this money if I procure it for you?'
'Work till I can pay back that poor fellow's fortune,' said the
banker, earnestly pointing to Lancelot. 'And if I could clear my
conscience of that, I would not care if I starved myself, hardly if
my own children did.'
'Spoken like a man!' answered the stranger; 'work for that and I'll
help you. Be a new man, once and for all, my friend. Don't even
make this younker your first object. Say to yourself, not "I will
invest this money where it shall pay me most, but I will invest it
where it shall give most employment to English hands, and produce
most manufactures for English bodies." In short, seek first the
kingdom of God and His justice with this money of yours, and see if
all other things, profits and suchlike included, are not added unto
'And you are certain you can obtain the money?'
'My good friend the Begum of the Cannibal Islands has more than she
knows what to do with; and she owes me a good turn, you know.'
'What are you jesting about now?'
'Did I never tell you? The new king of the Cannibal Islands, just
like your European ones, ran away, and would neither govern himself
nor let any one else govern; so one morning his ministers, getting
impatient, ate him, and then asked my advice. I recommended them to
put his mother on the throne, who, being old and tough, would run
less danger; and since then everything has gone on smoothly as
'Are you mad?' thought Lancelot to himself, as he stared at the
speaker's matter-of-fact face.
'No, I am not mad, my young friend,' quoth he, facing right round
upon him, as if he had divined his thoughts.
'I--I beg your pardon, I did not speak,' stammered Lancelot, abashed
at a pair of eyes which could have looked down the boldest mesmerist
in three seconds.
'I am perfectly well aware that you did not. I must have some talk
with you: I've heard a good deal about you. You wrote those
articles in the --- Review about George Sand, did you not?'
'Well, there was a great deal of noble feeling in them, and a great
deal of abominable nonsense. You seem to be very anxious to reform
'Don't you think you had better begin by reforming yourself?'
'Really, sir,' answered Lancelot, 'I am too old for that worn-out
quibble. The root of all my sins has been selfishness and sloth.
Am I to cure them by becoming still more selfish and slothful? What
part of myself can I reform except my actions? and the very sin of
my actions has been, as I take it, that I've been doing nothing to
reform others; never fighting against the world, the flesh, and the
devil, as your Prayer-book has it.'
'MY Prayer-book?' answered the stranger, with a quaint smile.
'Upon my word, Lancelot,' interposed the banker, with a frightened
look, 'you must not get into an argument: you must be more
respectful: you don't know to whom you are speaking.'
'And I don't much care,' answered he. 'Life is really too grim
earnest in these days to stand on ceremony. I am sick of blind
leaders of the blind, of respectable preachers to the respectable,
who drawl out second-hand trivialities, which they neither practise
nor wish to see practised. I've had enough all my life of Scribes
and Pharisees in white cravats, laying on man heavy burdens, and
grievous to be borne, and then not touching them themselves with one
of their fingers.'
'Silence, sir!' roared the banker, while the stranger threw himself
into a chair, and burst into a storm of laughter.
'Upon my word, friend Mammon, here's another of Hans Andersen's ugly
'I really do not mean to be rude,' said Lancelot, recollecting
himself, 'but I am nearly desperate. If your heart is in the right
place, you will understand me! if not, the less we talk to each
other the better.'
'Most true,' answered the stranger; 'and I do understand you; and
if, as I hope, we see more of each other henceforth, we will see if
we cannot solve one or two of these problems between us.'
At this moment Lancelot was summoned downstairs, and found, to his
great pleasure, Tregarva waiting for him. That worthy personage
bowed to Lancelot reverently and distantly.
'I am quite ashamed to intrude myself upon you, sir, but I could not
rest without coming to ask whether you have had any news.'--He broke
down at this point in the sentence, but Lancelot understood him.
'I have no news,' he said. 'But what do you mean by standing off in
that way, as if we were not old and fast friends? Remember, I am as
poor as you are now; you may look me in the face and call me your
equal, if you will, or your inferior; I shall not deny it.'
'Pardon me, sir,' answered Tregarva; 'but I never felt what a real
substantial thing rank is, as I have since this sad misfortune of
'And I have never till now found out its worthlessness.'
'You're wrong, sir, you are wrong; look at the difference between
yourself and me. When you've lost all you have, and seven times
more, you're still a gentleman. No man can take that from you. You
may look the proudest duchess in the land in the face, and claim her
as your equal; while I, sir,--I don't mean, though, to talk of
myself--but suppose that you had loved a pious and a beautiful lady,
and among all your worship of her, and your awe of her, had felt
that you were worthy of her, that you could become her comforter,
and her pride, and her joy, if it wasn't for that accursed gulf that
men had put between you, that you were no gentleman; that you didn't
know how to walk, and how to pronounce, and when to speak, and when
to be silent, not even how to handle your own knife and fork without
disgusting her, or how to keep your own body clean and sweet--Ah,
sir, I see it now as I never did before, what a wall all these
little defects build up round a poor man; how he longs and struggles
to show himself as he is at heart, and cannot, till he feels
sometimes as if he was enchanted, pent up, like folks in fairy
tales, in the body of some dumb beast. But, sir,' he went on, with
a concentrated bitterness which Lancelot had never seen in him
before, 'just because this gulf which rank makes is such a deep one,
therefore it looks to me all the more devilish; not that I want to
pull down any man to my level; I despise my own level too much; I
want to rise; I want those like me to rise with me. Let the rich be
as rich as they will.--I, and those like me, covet not money, but
manners. Why should not the workman be a gentleman, and a workman
still? Why are they to be shut out from all that is beautiful, and
delicate, and winning, and stately?'
'Now perhaps,' said Lancelot, 'you begin to understand what I was
driving at on that night of the revel?'
'It has come home to me lately, sir, bitterly enough. If you knew
what had gone on in me this last fortnight, you would know that I
had cause to curse the state of things which brings a man up a
savage against his will, and cuts him off, as if he were an ape or a
monster, from those for whom the same Lord died, and on whom the
same Spirit rests. Is that God's will, sir? No, it is the devil's
will. "Those whom God hath joined, let no man put asunder."'
Lancelot coloured, for he remembered with how much less reason he
had been lately invoking in his own cause those very words. He was
at a loss for an answer; but seeing, to his relief, that Tregarva
had returned to his usual impassive calm, he forced him to sit down,
and began questioning him as to his own prospects and employment.
About them Tregarva seemed hopeful enough. He had found out a
Wesleyan minister in town who knew him, and had, by his means, after
assisting for a week or two in the London City Mission, got some
similar appointment in a large manufacturing town. Of the state of
things he spoke more sadly than ever. 'The rich cannot guess, sir,
how high ill-feeling is rising in these days. It's not only those
who are outwardly poorest who long for change; the middling people,
sir, the small town shopkeepers especially, are nearly past all
patience. One of the City Mission assured me that he has been
watching them these several years past, and that nothing could beat
their fortitude and industry, and their determination to stand
peaceably by law and order; but yet, this last year or two, things
are growing too bad to bear. Do what they will, they cannot get
their bread; and when a man cannot get that, sir--'
'But what do you think is the reason of it?'
'How should I tell, sir? But if I had to say, I should say this--
just what they say themselves--that there are too many of them. Go
where you will, in town or country, you'll find half-a-dozen shops
struggling for a custom that would only keep up one, and so they're
forced to undersell one another. And when they've got down prices
all they can by fair means, they're forced to get them down lower by
foul--to sand the sugar, and sloe-leave the tea, and put--Satan only
that prompts 'em knows what--into the bread; and then they don't
thrive--they can't thrive; God's curse must be on them. They begin
by trying to oust each other, and eat each other up; and while
they're eating up their neighbours, their neighbours eat up them;
and so they all come to ruin together.'
'Why, you talk like Mr. Mill himself, Tregarva; you ought to have
been a political economist, and not a City missionary. By the bye,
I don't like that profession for you.'
'It's the Lord's work, sir. It's the very sending to the Gentiles
that the Lord promised me.'
'I don't doubt it, Paul; but you are meant for other things, if not
better. There are plenty of smaller men than you to do that work.
Do you think that God would have given you that strength, that
brain, to waste on a work which could be done without them? Those
limbs would certainly be good capital for you, if you turned a live
model at the Academy. Perhaps you'd better be mine; but you can't
even be that if you go to Manchester.'
The giant looked hopelessly down at his huge limbs. 'Well! God
only knows what use they are of just now. But as for the brains,
sir--in much learning is much sorrow. One had much better work than
read, I find. If I read much more about what men might be, and are
not, and what English soil might be, and is not, I shall go mad.
And that puts me in mind of one thing I came here for, though, like
a poor rude country fellow as I am, I clean forgot it a thinking of-
-Look here, sir; you've given me a sight of books in my time, and
God bless you for it. But now I hear that--that you are determined
to be a poor man like us; and that you shan't be, while Paul
Tregarva has ought of yours. So I've just brought all the books
back, and there they lie in the hall; and may God reward you for the
loan of them to his poor child! And so, sir, farewell;' and he rose
'No, Paul; the books and you shall never part.'
'And I say, sir, the books and you shall never part.'
'Then we two can never part'--and a sudden impulse flashed over him-
-'and we will not part, Paul! The only man whom I utterly love, and
trust, and respect on the face of God's earth, is you; and I cannot
lose sight of you. If we are to earn our bread, let us earn it
together; if we are to endure poverty, and sorrow, and struggle to
find out the way of bettering these wretched millions round us, let
us learn our lesson together, and help each other to spell it out.'
'Do you mean what you say?' asked Paul slowly.
'Then I say what you say. Where thou goest, I will go; and where
thou lodgest, I will lodge. Come what will, I will be your servant,
for good luck or bad, for ever.'
'My equal, Paul, not my servant.'
'I know my place, sir. When I am as learned and as well-bred as
you, I shall not refuse to call myself your equal; and the sooner
that day comes, the better I shall be pleased. Till then I am your
friend and your brother; but I am your scholar too, and I shall not
set up myself against my master.'
'I have learnt more of you, Paul, than ever you have learnt of me.
But be it as you will; only whatever you may call yourself, we must
eat at the same table, live in the same room, and share alike all
this world's good things--or we shall have no right to share
together this world's bad things. If that is your bargain, there is
my hand on it.'
'Amen!' quoth Tregarva; and the two young men joined hands in that
sacred bond--now growing rarer and rarer year by year--the utter
friendship of two equal manful hearts.
'And now, sir, I have promised--and you would have me keep my
promise--to go and work for the City Mission in Manchester--at
least, for the next month, till a young man's place who has just
left, is filled up. Will you let me go for that time? and then, if
you hold your present mind, we will join home and fortunes
thenceforth, and go wherever the Lord shall send us. There's work
enough of His waiting to be done. I don't doubt but if we are
willing and able, He will set us about the thing we're meant for.'
As Lancelot opened the door for him, he lingered on the steps, and
grasping his hand, said, in a low, earnest voice: 'The Lord be with
you, sir. Be sure that He has mighty things in store for you, or He
would not have brought you so low in the days of your youth.'
'And so,' as John Bunyan has it, 'he went on his way;' and Lancelot
saw him no more till--but I must not outrun the order of time.
After all, this visit came to Lancelot timely. It had roused him to
hope, and turned off his feelings from the startling news he had
just heard. He stepped along arm in arm with Luke, cheerful, and
fate-defiant, and as he thought of Tregarva's complaints,--
'The beautiful?' he said to himself, 'they shall have it! At least
they shall be awakened to feel their need of it, their right to it.
What a high destiny, to be the artist of the people! to devote one's
powers of painting, not to mimicking obsolete legends, Pagan or
Popish, but to representing to the working men of England the
triumphs of the Past and the yet greater triumphs of the Future!'
Luke began at once questioning him about his father.
'And is he contrite and humbled? Does he see that he has sinned?'
'It is not for us to judge; but surely it must have been some sin or
other of his which has drawn down such a sore judgment on him.'
Lancelot smiled; but Luke went on, not perceiving him.
'Ah! we cannot find out for him. Nor has he, alas! as a Protestant,
much likelihood of finding out for himself. In our holy church he
would have been compelled to discriminate his faults by methodic
self-examination, and lay them one by one before his priest for
advice and pardon, and so start a new and free man once more.'
'Do you think,' asked Lancelot with a smile, 'that he who will not
confess his faults either to God or to himself, would confess them
to man? And would his priest honestly tell him what he really wants
to know? which sin of his has called down this so-called judgment?
It would be imputed, I suppose, to some vague generality, to
inattention to religious duties, to idolatry of the world, and so
forth. But a Romish priest would be the last person, I should
think, who could tell him fairly, in the present case, the cause of
his affliction; and I question whether he would give a patient
hearing to any one who told it him.'
'How so? Though, indeed, I have remarked that people are perfectly
willing to be told they are miserable sinners, and to confess
themselves such, in a general way; but if the preacher once begins
to specify, to fix on any particular act or habit, he is accused of
personality or uncharitableness; his hearers are ready to confess
guilty to any sin but the very one with which he charges them. But,
surely, this is just what I am urging against you Protestants--just
what the Catholic use of confession obviates.'
'Attempts to do so, you mean!' answered Lancelot. 'But what if your
religion preaches formally that which only remains in our religion
as a fast-dying superstition?--That those judgments of God, as you
call them, are not judgments at all in any fair use of the word, but
capricious acts of punishment on the part of Heaven, which have no
more reference to the fault which provokes them, than if you cut off
a man's finger because he made a bad use of his tongue. That is
part, but only a part, of what I meant just now, by saying that
people represent God as capricious, proud, revengeful.'
'But do not Protestants themselves confess that our sins provoke
'Your common creed, when it talks rightly of God as one "who has no
passions," ought to make you speak more reverently of the
possibility of any act of ours disturbing the everlasting equanimity
of the absolute Love. Why will men so often impute to God the
miseries which they bring upon themselves?'
'Because, I suppose, their pride makes them more willing to confess
themselves sinners than fools.'
'Right, my friend; they will not remember that it is of "their
pleasant vices that God makes whips to scourge them." Oh, I at
least have felt the deep wisdom of that saying of Wilhelm Meister's
harper, that it is
"Voices from the depth of NATURE borne
Which woe upon the guilty head proclaim."
Of nature--of those eternal laws of hers which we daily break. Yes!
it is not because God's temper changes, but because God's universe
is unchangeable, that such as I, such as your poor father, having
sown the wind, must reap the whirlwind. I have fed my self-esteem
with luxuries and not with virtue, and, losing them, have nothing
left. He has sold himself to a system which is its own punishment.
And yet the last place in which he will look for the cause of his
misery is in that very money-mongering to which he now clings as
frantically as ever. But so it is throughout the world. Only look
down over that bridge-parapet, at that huge black-mouthed sewer,
vomiting its pestilential riches across the mud. There it runs, and
will run, hurrying to the sea vast stores of wealth, elaborated by
Nature's chemistry into the ready materials of food; which proclaim,
too, by their own foul smell, God's will that they should be buried
out of sight in the fruitful all-regenerating grave of earth: there
it runs, turning them all into the seeds of pestilence, filth, and
drunkenness.--And then, when it obeys the laws which we despise, and
the pestilence is come at last, men will pray against it, and
confess it to be "a judgment for their sins;" but if you ask WHAT
sin, people will talk about "les voiles d'airain," as Fourier says,
and tell you that it is presumptuous to pry into God's secret
counsels, unless, perhaps, some fanatic should inform you that the
cholera has been drawn down on the poor by the endowment of Maynooth
by the rich.'
'It is most fearful, indeed, to think that these diseases should be
confined to the poor--that a man should be exposed to cholera,
typhus, and a host of attendant diseases, simply because he is born
into the world an artisan; while the rich, by the mere fact of
money, are exempt from such curses, except when they come in contact
with those whom they call on Sunday "their brethren," and on week
days the "masses."
'Thank Heaven that you do see that,--that in a country calling
itself civilised and Christian, pestilence should be the peculiar
heritage of the poor! It is past all comment.'
'And yet are not these pestilences a judgment, even on them, for
their dirt and profligacy?'
'And how should they be clean without water? And how can you wonder
if their appetites, sickened with filth and self-disgust, crave
after the gin-shop for temporary strength, and then for temporary
forgetfulness? Every London doctor knows that I speak the truth;
would that every London preacher would tell that truth from his
'Then would you too say, that God punishes one class for the sins of
'Some would say,' answered Lancelot, half aside, 'that He may be
punishing them for not demanding their RIGHT to live like human
beings, to all those social circumstances which shall not make their
children's life one long disease. But are not these pestilences a
judgment on the rich, too, in the truest sense of the word? Are
they not the broad, unmistakable seal to God's opinion of a state of
society which confesses its economic relations to be so utterly
rotten and confused, that it actually cannot afford to save yearly
millions of pounds' worth of the materials of food, not to mention
thousands of human lives? Is not every man who allows such things
hastening the ruin of the society in which he lives, by helping to
foster the indignation and fury of its victims? Look at that group
of stunted, haggard artisans, who are passing us. What if one day
they should call to account the landlords whose coveteousness and
ignorance make their dwellings hells on earth?'
By this time they had reached the artist's house.
Luke refused to enter. . . . 'He had done with this world, and the
painters of this world.' . . . And with a tearful last farewell,
he turned away up the street, leaving Lancelot to gaze at his slow,
painful steps, and abject, earth-fixed mien.
'Ah!' thought Lancelot, 'here is the end of YOUR anthropology! At
first, your ideal man is an angel. But your angel is merely an
unsexed woman; and so you are forced to go back to the humanity
after all--but to a woman, not a man? And this, in the nineteenth
century, when men are telling us that the poetic and enthusiastic
have become impossible, and that the only possible state of the
world henceforward will be a universal good-humoured hive, of the
Franklin-Benthamite religion . . . a vast prosaic Cockaigne of steam
mills for grinding sausages--for those who can get at them. And all
the while, in spite of all Manchester schools, and high and dry
orthodox schools, here are the strangest phantasms, new and old,
sane and insane, starting up suddenly into live practical power, to
give their prosaic theories the lie--Popish conversions, Mormonisms,
Mesmerisms, Californias, Continental revolutions, Paris days of June
. . . Ye hypocrites! ye can discern the face of the sky, and yet ye
cannot discern the signs of this time!'
He was ushered upstairs to the door of his studio, at which he
knocked, and was answered by a loud 'Come in.' Lancelot heard a
rustle as he entered, and caught sight of a most charming little
white foot retreating hastily through the folding doors into the
The artist, who was seated at his easel, held up his brush as a
signal of silence, and did not even raise his eyes till he had
finished the touches on which he was engaged.
'And now--what do I see!--the last man I should have expected! I
thought you were far down in the country. And what brings you to me
with such serious and business-like looks?'
'I am a penniless youth--'
'Ruined to my last shilling, and I want to turn artist.'
'Oh, ye gracious powers! Come to my arms, brother at last with me
in the holy order of those who must work or starve. Long have I
wept in secret over the pernicious fulness of your purse!'
'Dry your tears, then, now,' said Lancelot, 'for I neither have ten
pounds in the world, nor intend to have till I can earn them.'
'Artist!' ran on Mellot; 'ah! you shall be an artist, indeed! You
shall stay with me and become the English Michael Angelo; or, if you
are fool enough, go to Rome, and utterly eclipse Overbeck, and throw
Schadow for ever into the shade.'
'I fine you a supper,' said Lancelot, 'for that execrable attempt at
'Agreed! Here, Sabina, send to Covent Garden for huge nosegays, and
get out the best bottle of Burgundy. We will pass an evening worthy
of Horace, and with garlands and libations honour the muse of
'Luxurious dog!' said Lancelot, 'with all your cant about poverty.'
As he spoke, the folding doors opened, and an exquisite little
brunette danced in from the inner room, in which, by the bye, had
been going on all the while a suspicious rustling, as of garments
hastily arranged. She was dressed gracefully in a loose French
morning-gown, down which Lancelot's eye glanced towards the little
foot, which, however, was now hidden in a tiny velvet slipper. The
artist's wife was a real beauty, though without a single perfect
feature, except a most delicious little mouth, a skin like velvet,
and clear brown eyes, from which beamed earnest simplicity and arch
good humour. She darted forward to her husband's friend, while her
rippling brown hair, fantastically arranged, fluttered about her
neck, and seizing Lancelot's hands successively in both of hers,
broke out in an accent prettily tinged with French,--
'Charming!--delightful! And so you are really going to turn
painter! And I have longed so to be introduced to you! Claude has
been raving about you these two years; you already seem to me the
oldest friend in the world. You must not go to Rome. We shall keep
you, Mr. Lancelot; positively you must come and live with us--we
shall be the happiest trio in London. I will make you so
comfortable: you must let me cater for you--cook for you.'
'And be my study sometimes?' said Lancelot, smiling.
'Ah,' she said, blushing, and shaking her pretty little fist at
Claude, 'that madcap! how he has betrayed me! When he is at his
easel, he is so in the seventh heaven, that he sees nothing, thinks
of nothing, but his own dreams.'
At this moment a heavy step sounded on the stairs, the door opened,
and there entered, to Lancelot's astonishment, the stranger who had
just puzzled him so much at his uncle's.
Claude rose reverentially, and came forward, but Sabina was
beforehand with him, and running up to her visitor, kissed his hand
again and again, almost kneeling to him.
'The dear master!' she cried; 'what a delightful surprise! we have
not seen you this fortnight past, and gave you up for lost.'
'Where do you come from, my dear master?' asked Claude.
'From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in
it,' answered he, smiling, and laying his finger on his lips, 'my
dear pupils. And you are both well and happy?'
'Perfectly, and doubly delighted at your presence to-day, for your
advice will come in a providential moment for my friend here.'
'Ah!' said the strange man, 'well met once more! So you are going
to turn painter?'
He bent a severe and searching look on Lancelot.
'You have a painter's face, young man,' he said; 'go on and prosper.
What branch of art do you intend to study?'
'The ancient Italian painters, as my first step.'
'Ancient? it is not four hundred years since Perugino died. But I
should suppose you do not intend to ignore classic art?'
'You have divined rightly. I wish, in the study of the antique, to
arrive at the primeval laws of unfallen human beauty.'
'Were Phidias and Praxiteles, then, so primeval? the world had
lasted many a thousand years before their turn came. If you intend
to begin at the beginning, why not go back at once to the garden of
Eden, and there study the true antique?'
'If there were but any relics of it,' said Lancelot, puzzled, and
'You would find it very near you, young man, if you had but eyes to
Claude Mellot laughed significantly, and Sabina clapped her little
'Yet till you take him with you, master, and show it to him, he must
needs be content with the Royal Academy and the Elgin marbles.'
'But to what branch of painting, pray,' said the master to Lancelot,
'will you apply your knowledge of the antique? Will you, like this
foolish fellow here' (with a kindly glance at Claude), 'fritter
yourself away on Nymphs and Venuses, in which neither he nor any one
'Historic art, as the highest,' answered Lancelot, 'is my ambition.'
'It is well to aim at the highest, but only when it is possible for
us. And how can such a school exist in England now? You English
must learn to understand your own history before you paint it.
Rather follow in the steps of your Turners, and Landseers, and
Standfields, and Creswicks, and add your contribution to the present
noble school of naturalist painters. That is the niche in the
temple which God has set you English to fill up just now. These
men's patient, reverent faith in Nature as they see her, their
knowledge that the ideal is neither to be invented nor abstracted,
but found and left where God has put it, and where alone it can be
represented, in actual and individual phenomena;--in these lies an
honest development of the true idea of Protestantism, which is
paving the way to the mesothetic art of the future.'
'Glorious!' said Sabina: 'not a single word that we poor creatures
But our hero, who always took a virtuous delight in hearing what he
could not comprehend, went on to question the orator.
'What, then, is the true idea of Protestantism?' said he.
'The universal symbolism and dignity of matter, whether in man or
'But the Puritans--?'
'Were inconsistent with themselves and with Protestantism, and
therefore God would not allow them to proceed. Yet their
repudiation of all art was better than the Judas-kiss which Romanism
bestows on it, in the meagre eclecticism of the ancient religious
schools, and of your modern Overbecks and Pugins. The only really
wholesome designer of great power whom I have seen in Germany is
Kaulbach; and perhaps every one would not agree with my reasons for
admiring him, in this whitewashed age. But you, young sir, were
meant for better things than art. Many young geniuses have an early
hankering, as Goethe had, to turn painters. It seems the shortest
and easiest method of embodying their conceptions in visible form;
but they get wiser afterwards, when they find in themselves thoughts
that cannot be laid upon the canvas. Come with me--I like striking
while the iron is hot; walk with me towards my lodgings, and we will
discuss this weighty matter.'
And with a gay farewell to the adoring little Sabina, he passed an
iron arm through Lancelot's, and marched him down into the street.
Lancelot was surprised and almost nettled at the sudden influence
which he found this quaint personage was exerting over him. But he
had, of late, tasted the high delight of feeling himself under the
guidance of a superior mind, and longed to enjoy it once more.
Perhaps they were reminiscences of this kind which stirred in him
the strange fancy of a connection, almost of a likeness, between his
new acquaintance and Argemone. He asked, humbly enough, why Art was
to be a forbidden path to him?
'Besides you are an Englishman, and a man of uncommon talent, unless
your physiognomy belies you; and one, too, for whom God has strange
things in store, or He would not have so suddenly and strangely
Lancelot started. He remembered that Tregarva had said just the
same thing to him that very morning, and the (to him) strange
coincidence sank deep into his heart.
'You must be a politician,' the stranger went on. 'You are bound to
it as your birthright. It has been England's privilege hitherto to
solve all political questions as they arise for the rest of the
world; it is her duty now. Here, or nowhere, must the solution be
attempted of those social problems which are convulsing more and
more all Christendom. She cannot afford to waste brains like yours,
while in thousands of reeking alleys, such as that one opposite us,
heathens and savages are demanding the rights of citizenship.
Whether they be right or wrong, is what you, and such as you, have
to find out at this day.'
Silent and thoughtful, Lancelot walked on by his side.
'What is become of your friend Tregarva? I met him this morning
after he parted from you, and had some talk with him. I was sorely
minded to enlist him. Perhaps I shall; in the meantime, I shall
busy myself with you.'
'In what way,' asked Lancelot, 'most strange sir, of whose name,
much less of whose occupation, I can gain no tidings.'
'My name for the time being is Barnakill. And as for business, as
it is your English fashion to call new things obstinately by old
names, careless whether they apply or not, you may consider me as a
recruiting-sergeant; which trade, indeed, I follow, though I am no
more like the popular red-coated ones than your present "glorious
constitution" is like William the Third's, or Overbeck's high art
like Fra Angelico's. Farewell! When I want you, which will be most
likely when you want me, I shall find you again.'
The evening was passed, as Claude had promised, in a truly Horatian
manner. Sabina was most piquante, and Claude interspersed his
genial and enthusiastic eloquence with various wise saws of 'the
'But why on earth,' quoth Lancelot, at last, 'do you call him a
'Because he is one; it's his business, his calling. He gets his
living thereby, as the showman did by his elephant.'
'But what does he foretell?'
'Oh, son of the earth! And you went to Cambridge--are reported to
have gone in for the thing, or phantom, called the tripos, and taken
a first class! . . . Did you ever look out the word "prophetes" in
Liddell and Scott?'
'Why, what do you know about Liddell and Scott?'
'Nothing, thank goodness; I never had time to waste over the crooked
letters. But I have heard say that prophetes means, not a
foreteller, but an out-teller--one who declares the will of a deity,
and interprets his oracles. Is it not so?'
'And that he became a foreteller among heathens at least--as I
consider, among all peoples whatsoever--because knowing the real
bearing of what had happened, and what was happening, he could
discern the signs of the times, and so had what the world calls a
shrewd guess--what I, like a Pantheist as I am denominated, should
call a divine and inspired foresight--of what was going to happen.'
'A new notion, and a pleasant one, for it looks something like a
'I am no scollard, as they would say in Whitford, you know; but it
has often struck me, that if folks would but believe that the
Apostles talked not such very bad Greek, and had some slight notion
of the received meaning of the words they used, and of the absurdity
of using the same term to express nineteen different things, the New
Testament would be found to be a much simpler and more severely
philosophic book than "Theologians" ("Anthropo-sophists" I call
'Where on earth did you get all this wisdom, or foolishness?'
'From the prophet, a fortnight ago.'
'Who is this prophet? I will know.'
'Then you will know more than I do. Sabina--light my meerschaum,
there's a darling; it will taste the sweeter after your lips.' And
Claude laid his delicate woman-like limbs upon the sofa, and looked
the very picture of luxurious nonchalance.
'What is he, you pitiless wretch?'
'Fairest Hebe, fill our Prometheus Vinctus another glass of
Burgundy, and find your guitar, to silence him.'
'It was the ocean nymphs who came to comfort Prometheus--and
unsandalled, too, if I recollect right,' said Lancelot, smiling at
Sabina. 'Come, now, if he will not tell me, perhaps you will?'
Sabina only blushed, and laughed mysteriously.
'You surely are intimate with him, Claude? When and where did you
meet him first?'
'Seventeen years ago, on the barricades of the three days, in the
charming little pandemonium called Paris, he picked me out of a
gutter, a boy of fifteen, with a musket-ball through my body; mended
me, and sent me to a painter's studio. . . . The next sejour I had
with him began in sight of the Demawend. Sabina, perhaps you might
like to relate to Mr. Smith that interview, and the circumstances
under which you made your first sketch of that magnificent and
Sabina blushed again--this time scarlet; and, to Lancelot's
astonishment, pulled off her slipper, and brandishing it daintily,
uttered some unintelligible threat, in an Oriental language, at the
'Why, you must have been in the East?'
'Why not! Do you think that figure and that walk were picked up in
stay-ridden, toe-pinching England? . . . Ay, in the East; and why
not elsewhere? Do you think I got my knowledge of the human figure
from the live-model in the Royal Academy?'
'I certainly have always had my doubts of it. You are the only man
I know who can paint muscle in motion.'
'Because I am almost the only man in England who has ever seen it.
Artists should go to the Cannibal Islands for that. . . . J'ai fait
le grand tour. I should not wonder if the prophet made you take
'That would be very much as I chose.'
'What do you mean?'
'That if he wills you to go, I defy you to stay. Eh, Sabina!'
'Well, you are a very mysterious pair,--and a very charming one.'
'So we think ourselves--as to the charmingness. . . . and as for the
mystery . . . "Omnia exeunt in mysterium," says somebody, somewhere-
-or if he don't, ought to, seeing that it is so. You will be a
mystery some day, and a myth, and a thousand years hence pious old
ladies will be pulling caps as to whether you were a saint or a
devil, and whether you did really work miracles or not, as
corroborations of your ex-supra-lunar illumination on social
questions. . . . Yes . . . you will have to submit, and see Bogy,
and enter the Eleusinian mysteries. Eh, Sabina?'
'My dear Claude, what between the Burgundy and your usual
foolishness, you seem very much inclined to divulge the Eleusinian
'I can't well do that, my beauty, seeing that, if you recollect, we
were both turned back at the vestibule, for a pair of naughty
children as we are.'
'Do be quiet! and let me enjoy, for once, my woman's right to the
And in this hopeful state of mystification, Lancelot went home, and
dreamt of Argemone.
His uncle would, and, indeed, as it seemed, could, give him very
little information on the question which had so excited his
curiosity. He had met the man in India many years before, had
received there from him most important kindnesses, and considered
him, from experience, of oracular wisdom. He seemed to have an
unlimited command of money, though most frugal in his private
habits; visited England for a short time every few years, and always
under a different appellation; but as for his real name, habitation,
or business, here or at home, the good banker knew nothing, except
that whenever questioned on them, he wandered off into Pantagruelist
jokes, and ended in Cloud-land. So that Lancelot was fain to give
up his questions and content himself with longing for the
reappearance of this inexplicable sage.
CHAPTER XVI: ONCE IN A WAY
A few mornings afterwards, Lancelot, as he glanced his eye over the
columns of The Times, stopped short at the beloved name of Whitford.
To his disgust and disappointment, it only occurred in one of those
miserable cases, now of weekly occurrence, of concealing the birth
of a child. He was turning from it, when he saw Bracebridge's name.
Another look sufficed to show him that he ought to go at once to the
colonel, who had returned the day before from Norway.
A few minutes brought him to his friend's lodging, but The Times had
arrived there before him. Bracebridge was sitting over his untasted
breakfast, his face buried in his hands.
'Do not speak to me,' he said, without looking up. 'It was right of
you to come--kind of you; but it is too late.'
He started, and looked wildly round him, as if listening for some
sound which he expected, and then laid his head down on the table.
Lancelot turned to go.
'No--do not leave me! Not alone, for God's sake, not alone!'
Lancelot sat down. There was a fearful alteration in Bracebridge.
His old keen self-confident look had vanished. He was haggard,
life-weary, shame-stricken, almost abject. His limbs looked quite
shrunk and powerless, as he rested his head on the table before him,
and murmured incoherently from time to time,--
'My own child! And I never shall have another! No second chance
for those who--Oh Mary! Mary! you might have waited--you might have
trusted me! And why should you?--ay, why, indeed? And such a
pretty baby, too!--just like his father!'
Lancelot laid his hand kindly on his shoulder.
'My dearest Bracebridge, the evidence proves that the child was born
'They lie!' he said, fiercely, starting up. 'It cried twice after
it was born!'
Lancelot stood horror-struck.
'I heard it last night, and the night before that, and the night
before that again, under my pillow, shrieking--stifling--two little
squeaks, like a caught hare; and I tore the pillows off it--I did;
and once I saw it, and it had beautiful black eyes--just like its
father--just like a little miniature that used to lie on my mother's
table, when I knelt at her knee, before they sent me out "to see
life," and Eton, and the army, and Crockford's, and Newmarket, and
fine gentlemen, and fine ladies, and luxury, and flattery, brought
me to this! Oh, father! father! was that the only way to make a
gentleman of your son?--There it is again! Don't you hear it?--
under the sofa cushions! Tear them off! Curse you! Save it!'
And, with a fearful oath, the wretched man sent Lancelot staggering
across the room, and madly tore up the cushions.
A long postman's knock at the door.--He suddenly rose up quite
'The letter! I knew it would come. She need not have written it:
I know what is in it.'
The servant's step came up the stairs. Poor Bracebridge turned to
Lancelot with something of his own stately determination.
'I must be alone when I receive this letter. Stay here.' And with
compressed lips and fixed eyes he stalked out at the door, and shut
Lancelot heard him stop; then the servant's footsteps down the
stairs; then the colonel's treading, slowly and heavily, went step
by step up to the room above. He shut that door too. A dead
silence followed. Lancelot stood in fearful suspense, and held his
breath to listen. Perhaps he had fainted? No, for then he would
have heard a fall. Perhaps he had fallen on the bed? He would go
and see. No, he would wait a little longer. Perhaps he was
praying? He had told Lancelot to pray once--he dared not interrupt
him now. A slight stir--a noise as of an opening box. Thank God,
he was, at least, alive! Nonsense! Why should he not be alive?
What could happen to him? And yet he knew that something was going
to happen. The silence was ominous--unbearable; the air of the room
felt heavy and stifling, as if a thunderstorm were about to burst.
He longed to hear the man raging and stamping. And yet he could not
connect the thought of one so gay and full of gallant life, with the
terrible dread that was creeping over him--with the terrible scene
which he had just witnessed. It must be all a temporary excitement-
-a mistake--a hideous dream, which the next post would sweep away.
He would go and tell him so. No, he could not stir. His limbs
seemed leaden, his feet felt rooted to the ground, as in long
nightmare. And still the intolerable silence brooded overhead.
What broke it? A dull, stifled report, as of a pistol fired against
the ground; a heavy fall; and again the silence of death.
He rushed upstairs. A corpse lay on its face upon the floor, and
from among its hair, a crimson thread crept slowly across the
carpet. It was all over. He bent over the head, but one look was
sufficient. He did not try to lift it up.
On the table lay the fatal letter. Lancelot knew that he had a
right to read it. It was scrawled, mis-spelt--but there were no
tear-blots on the paper:--
'Sir--I am in prison--and where are you? Cruel man! Where were you
all those miserable weeks, while I was coming nearer and nearer to
my shame? Murdering dumb beasts in foreign lands. You have
murdered more than them. How I loved you once! How I hate you now!
But I have my revenge. YOUR BABY CRIED TWICE AFTER IT WAS BORN!'
Lancelot tore the letter into a hundred pieces, and swallowed them,
for every foot in the house was on the stairs.
So there was terror, and confusion, and running in and out: but
there were no wet eyes there except those of Bracebridge's groom,
who threw himself on the body, and would not stir. And then there
was a coroner's inquest; and it came out in the evidence how 'the
deceased had been for several days very much depressed, and had
talked of voices and apparitions;' whereat the jury--as twelve
honest, good-natured Christians were bound to do--returned a verdict
of temporary insanity; and in a week more the penny-a-liners grew
tired; and the world, too, who never expects anything, not even
French revolutions, grew tired also of repeating,--'Dear me! who
would have expected it?' and having filled up the colonel's place,
swaggered on as usual, arm-in-arm with the flesh and the devil.
Bracebridge's death had, of course, a great effect on Lancelot's
spirit. Not in the way of warning, though--such events seldom act
in that way, on the highest as well as on the lowest minds. After
all, your 'Rakes' Progresses,' and 'Atheists' Deathbeds,' do no more
good than noble George Cruikshank's 'Bottle' will, because every one
knows that they are the exception, and not the rule; that the
Atheist generally dies with a conscience as comfortably callous as a
rhinocerous-hide; and the rake, when old age stops his power of
sinning, becomes generally rather more respectable than his
neighbours. The New Testament deals very little in appeals ad
terrorem; and it would be well if some, who fancy that they follow
it, would do the same, and by abstaining from making 'hell-fire' the
chief incentive to virtue, cease from tempting many a poor fellow to
enlist on the devil's side the only manly feeling he has left--
But yet Lancelot was affected. And when, on the night of the
colonel's funeral, he opened, at hazard, Argemone's Bible, and his
eyes fell on the passage which tells how 'one shall be taken and
another left,' great honest tears of gratitude dropped upon the
page; and he fell on his knees, and in bitter self-reproach thanked
the new found Upper Powers, who, as he began to hope, were leading
him not in vain,--that he had yet a life before him wherein to play
And now he felt that the last link was broken between him and all
his late frivolous companions. All had deserted him in his ruin but
this one--and he was silent in the grave. And now, from the world
and all its toys and revelry, he was parted once and for ever; and
he stood alone in the desert, like the last Arab of a plague-
stricken tribe, looking over the wreck of ancient cities, across
barren sands, where far rivers gleamed in the distance, that seemed
to beckon him away into other climes, other hopes, other duties.
Old things had passed away--when would all things become new?
Not yet, Lancelot. Thou hast still one selfish hope, one dream of
bliss, however impossible, yet still cherished. Thou art a changed
man--but for whose sake? For Argemone's. Is she to be thy god,
then? Art thou to live for her, or for the sake of One greater than
she? All thine idols are broken--swiftly the desert sands are
drifting over them, and covering them in.--All but one--must that,
too, be taken from thee?
One morning a letter was put into Lancelot's hands, bearing the
Whitford postmark. Tremblingly he tore it open. It contained a few
passionate words from Honoria. Argemone was dying of typhus fever,
and entreating to see him once again; and Honoria had, with some
difficulty, as she hinted, obtained leave from her parents to send
for him. His last bank note carried him down to Whitford; and, calm
and determined, as one who feels that he has nothing more to lose on
earth, and whose torment must henceforth become his element, he
entered the Priory that evening.
He hardly spoke or looked at a soul; he felt that he was there on an
errand which none understood; that he was moving towards Argemone
through a spiritual world, in which he and she were alone; that, in
his utter poverty and hopelessness, he stood above all the luxury,
even above all the sorrow, around him; that she belonged to him, and
to him alone; and the broken-hearted beggar followed the weeping
Honoria towards his lady's chamber, with the step and bearing of a
lord. He was wrong; there were pride and fierceness enough in his
heart, mingled with that sense of nothingness of rank, money, chance
and change, yea, death itself, of all but Love;--mingled even with
that intense belief that his sorrows were but his just deserts,
which now possessed all his soul. And in after years he knew that
he was wrong; but so he felt at the time; and even then the strength
was not all of earth which bore him manlike through that hour.
He entered the room; the darkness, the silence, the cool scent of
vinegar, struck a shudder through him. The squire was sitting half
idiotic and helpless, in his arm-chair. His face lighted up as
Lancelot entered, and he tried to hold out his palsied hand.
Lancelot did not see him. Mrs. Lavington moved proudly and primly
back from the bed, with a face that seemed to say through its tears,
'I at least am responsible for nothing that occurs from this
interview.' Lancelot did not see her either: he walked straight up
towards the bed as if he were treading on his own ground. His heart
was between his lips, and yet his whole soul felt as dry and hard as
some burnt-out volcano-crater.
A faint voice--oh, how faint, how changed!--called him from within
the closed curtains.
'He is there! I know it is he! Lancelot! my Lancelot!'
Silently still he drew aside the curtain; the light fell full upon
her face. What a sight! Her beautiful hair cut close, a ghastly
white handkerchief round her head, those bright eyes sunk and
lustreless, those ripe lips baked, and black and drawn; her thin
hand fingering uneasily the coverlid.--It was too much for him. He
shuddered and turned his face away. Quick-sighted that love is,
even to the last! slight as the gesture was, she saw it in an
'You are not afraid of infection?' she said, faintly. 'I was not.'
Lancelot laughed aloud, as men will at strangest moments, sprung
towards her with open arms, and threw himself on his knees beside
the bed. With sudden strength she rose upright, and clasped him in
'Once more!' she sighed, in a whisper to herself, 'Once more on
earth!' And the room, and the spectators, and disease itself faded
from around them like vain dreams, as she nestled closer and closer
to him, and gazed into his eyes, and passed her shrunken hand over
his cheeks, and toyed with his hair, and seemed to drink in magnetic
life from his embrace.
No one spoke or stirred. They felt that an awful and blessed spirit
overshadowed the lovers, and were hushed, as if in the sanctuary of
Suddenly again she raised her head from his bosom, and in a tone, in
which her old queenliness mingled strangely with the saddest
'All of you go away now; I must talk to my husband alone.'
They went, leading out the squire, who cast puzzled glances toward
the pair, and murmured to himself that 'she was sure to get well now
Smith was come: everything went right when he was in the way.'
So they were left alone.
'I do not look so very ugly, my darling, do I? Not so very ugly?
though they have cut off all my poor hair, and I told them so often
not! But I kept a lock for you;' and feebly she drew from under the
pillow a long auburn tress, and tried to wreathe it round his neck,
but could not, and sunk back.
Poor fellow! he could bear no more. He hid his face in his hands,
and burst into a long low weeping.
'I am very thirsty, darling; reach me--No, I will drink no more,
except from your dear lips.'
He lifted up his head, and breathed his whole soul upon her lips;
his tears fell on her closed eyelids.
'Weeping? No.--You must not cry. See how comfortable I am. They
are all so kind--soft bed, cool room, fresh air, sweet drinks, sweet
scents. Oh, so different from THAT room!'
'What room?--my own!'
'Listen, and I will tell you. Sit down--put your arm under my head-
-so. When I am on your bosom I feel so strong. God! let me last to
tell him all. It was for that I sent for him.'
And then, in broken words, she told him how she had gone up to the
fever patient at Ashy, on the fatal night on which Lancelot had last
seen her. Shuddering, she hinted at the horrible filth and misery
she had seen, at the foul scents which had sickened her. A madness
of remorse, she said, had seized her. She had gone, in spite of her
disgust, to several houses which she found open. There were worse
cottages there than even her father's; some tradesmen in a
neighbouring town had been allowed to run up a set of rack rent
hovels.--Another shudder seized her when she spoke of them; and from
that point in her story all was fitful, broken, like the images of a
hideous dream. 'Every instant those foul memories were defiling her
nostrils. A horrible loathing had taken possession of her,
recurring from time to time, till it ended in delirium and fever. A
scent-fiend was haunting her night and day,' she said. 'And now the
curse of the Lavingtons had truly come upon her. To perish by the
people whom they made. Their neglect, cupidity, oppression, are
avenged on me! Why not? Have I not wantoned in down and perfumes,
while they, by whose labour my luxuries were bought, were pining
among scents and sounds,--one day of which would have driven me mad!
And then they wonder why men turn Chartists! There are those
horrible scents again! Save me from them! Lancelot--darling! Take
me to the fresh air! I choke! I am festering away! The Nun-pool!
Take all the water, every drop, and wash Ashy clean again! Make a
great fountain in it--beautiful marble--to bubble and gurgle, and
trickle and foam, for ever and ever, and wash away the sins of the
Lavingtons, that the little rosy children may play round it, and the
poor toil-bent woman may wash--and wash--and drink--Water! water! I
am dying of thirst!'
He gave her water, and then she lay back and babbled about the Nun-
pool sweeping 'all the houses of Ashy into one beautiful palace,
among great flower-gardens, where the school children will sit and
sing such merry hymns, and never struggle with great pails of water
up the hill of Ashy any more.'
'You will do it! darling! Strong, wise, noble-hearted that you are!
Why do you look at me? You will be rich some day. You will own
land, for you are worthy to own it. Oh that I could give you
Whitford! No! It was mine too long--therefore I die! because I--
Lord Jesus! have I not repented of my sin?'
Then she grew calm once more. A soft smile crept over her face, as
it grew sharper and paler every moment. Faintly she sank back on
the pillows, and faintly whispered to him to kneel and pray. He
obeyed her mechanically. . . . 'No--not for me, for them--for them,
and for yourself--that you may save them whom I never dreamt that I
was bound to save!'
And he knelt and prayed . . . what, he alone and those who heard his
prayer, can tell. . . .
* * * * *
When he lifted up his head at last, he saw that Argemone lay
motionless. For a moment he thought she was dead, and frantically
sprang to the bell. The family rushed in with the physician. She
gave some faint token of life, but none of consciousness. The
doctor sighed, and said that her end was near. Lancelot had known
that all along.
'I think, sir, you had better leave the room,' said Mrs. Lavington;
and followed him into the passage.
What she was about to say remained unspoken; for Lancelot seized her
hand in spite of her, with frantic thanks for having allowed him
this one interview, and entreaties that he might see her again, if
but for one moment.
Mrs. Lavington, somewhat more softly than usual, said,--'That the
result of this visit had not been such as to make a second
desirable--that she had no wish to disturb her daughter's mind at
such a moment with earthly regrets.'
'Earthly regrets!' How little she knew what had passed there! But
if she had known, would she have been one whit softened? For,
indeed, Argemone's spirituality was not in her mother's language.
And yet the good woman had prayed, and prayed, and wept bitter
tears, by her daughter's bedside, day after day; but she had never
heard her pronounce the talismanic formula of words, necessary in
her eyes to ensure salvation; and so she was almost without hope for
her. Oh, Bigotry! Devil, who turnest God's love into man's curse!
are not human hearts hard and blind enough of themselves, without
thy cursed help?
For one moment a storm of unutterable pride and rage convulsed
Lancelot--the next instant love conquered; and the strong proud man
threw himself on his knees at the feet of the woman he despised, and
with wild sobs entreated for one moment more--one only!
At that instant a shriek from Honoria resounded from the sick
chamber. Lancelot knew what it meant, and sprang up, as men do when
shot through the heart.--In a moment he was himself again. A new
life had begun for him--alone.
'You will not need to grant my prayer, madam,' he said, calmly:
'Argemone is dead.'
CHAPTER XVII: THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
Let us pass over the period of dull, stupefied misery that followed,
when Lancelot had returned to his lonely lodging, and the excitement
of his feelings had died away. It is impossible to describe that
which could not be separated into parts, in which there was no
foreground, no distance, but only one dead, black, colourless
present. After a time, however, he began to find that fancies,
almost ridiculously trivial, arrested and absorbed his attention;
even as when our eyes have become accustomed to darkness, every
light-coloured mote shows luminous against the void blackness of
night. So we are tempted to unseemly frivolity in churches, and at
funerals, and all most solemn moments; and so Lancelot found his
imagination fluttering back, half amused, to every smallest
circumstance of the last few weeks, as objects of mere curiosity,
and found with astonishment that they had lost their power of
paining him. Just as victims on the rack have fallen, it is said,
by length of torture, into insensibility, and even calm repose, his
brain had been wrought until all feeling was benumbed. He began to
think what an interesting autobiography his life might make; and the
events of the last few years began to arrange themselves in a most
attractive dramatic form. He began even to work out a scene or two,
and where 'motives' seemed wanting, to invent them here and there.
He sat thus for hours silent over his fire, playing with his old
self, as though it were a thing which did not belong to him--a suit
of clothes which he had put off, and which,
'For that it was too rich to hang by the wall,
It must be ripped,'
and then pieced and dizened out afresh as a toy. And then again he
started away from his own thoughts, at finding himself on the edge
of that very gulf, which, as Mellot had lately told him, Barnakill
denounced as the true hell of genius, where Art is regarded as an
end and not a means, and objects are interesting, not in as far as
they form our spirits, but in proportion as they can be shaped into
effective parts of some beautiful whole. But whether it was a
temptation or none, the desire recurred to him again and again. He
even attempted to write, but sickened at the sight of the first
words. He turned to his pencil, and tried to represent with it one
scene at least; and with the horrible calmness of some self-
torturing ascetic, he sat down to sketch a drawing of himself and
Argemone on her dying day, with her head upon his bosom for the last
time--and then tossed it angrily into the fire, partly because he
felt just as he had in his attempts to write, that there was
something more in all these events than he could utter by pen or
pencil, than he could even understand; principally because he could
not arrange the attitudes gracefully enough. And now, in front of
the stern realities of sorrow and death, he began to see a meaning
in another mysterious saying of Barnakill's, which Mellot was
continually quoting, that 'Art was never Art till it was more than
Art; that the Finite only existed as a body of the Infinite; and
that the man of genius must first know the Infinite, unless he
wished to become not a poet, but a maker of idols.' Still he felt
in himself a capability, nay, an infinite longing to speak; though
what he should utter, or how--whether as poet, social theorist,
preacher, he could not yet decide. Barnakill had forbidden him
painting, and though he hardly knew why, he dared not disobey him.
But Argemone's dying words lay on him as a divine command to labour.
All his doubts, his social observations, his dreams of the beautiful
and the blissful, his intense perception of social evils, his new-
born hope--faith it could not yet be called--in a ruler and
deliverer of the world, all urged him on to labour: but at what?
He felt as if he were the demon in the legend, condemned to twine
endless ropes of sand. The world, outside which he now stood for
good and evil, seemed to him like some frantic whirling waltz; some
serried struggling crowd, which rushed past him in aimless
confusion, without allowing him time or opening to take his place
among their ranks: and as for wings to rise above, and to look down
upon the uproar, where were they? His melancholy paralysed him more
and more. He was too listless even to cater for his daily bread by
writing his articles for the magazines. Why should he? He had
nothing to say. Why should he pour out words and empty sound, and
add one more futility to the herd of 'prophets that had become wind,
and had no truth in them'? Those who could write without a
conscience, without an object except that of seeing their own fine
words, and filling their own pockets--let them do it: for his part
he would have none of it. But his purse was empty, and so was his
stomach; and as for asking assistance of his uncle, it was returning
like the dog to his vomit. So one day he settled all bills with his
last shilling, tied up his remaining clothes in a bundle, and
stoutly stepped forth into the street to find a job--to hold a
horse, if nothing better offered; when, behold! on the threshold he
met Barnakill himself.
'Whither away?' said that strange personage. 'I was just going to
call on you.'
'To earn my bread by the labour of my hands. So our fathers all
'And so their sons must all end. Do you want work?'
'Yes, if you have any.'
'Follow me, and carry a trunk home from a shop to my lodgings.'
He strode off, with Lancelot after him; entered a mathematical
instrument maker's shop in the neighbouring street, and pointed out
a heavy corded case to Lancelot, who, with the assistance of the
shopman, got it on his shoulders; and trudging forth through the
streets after his employer, who walked before him silent and
unregarding, felt himself for the first time in his life in the same
situation as nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of
Adam's descendants, and discovered somewhat to his satisfaction that
when he could once rid his mind of its old superstition that every
one was looking at him, it mattered very little whether the burden
carried were a deal trunk or a Downing Street despatch-box.
His employer's lodgings were in St. Paul's Churchyard. Lancelot set
the trunk down inside the door.
'What do you charge?'
Barnakill looked him steadily in the face, gave him the sixpence,
went in, and shut the door.
Lancelot wandered down the street, half amused at the simple test
which had just been applied to him, and yet sickened with
disappointment; for he had cherished a mysterious fancy that with
this strange being all his hopes of future activity were bound up.
Tregarva's month was nearly over, and yet no tidings of him had
come. Mellot had left London on some mysterious errand of the
prophet's, and for the first time in his life he seemed to stand
utterly alone. He was at one pole, and the whole universe at the
other. It was in vain to tell himself that his own act had placed
him there; that he had friends to whom he might appeal. He would
not, he dare not, accept outward help, even outward friendship,
however hearty and sincere, at that crisis of his existence. It
seemed a desecration of its awfulness to find comfort in anything
but the highest and the deepest. And the glimpse of that which he
had attained seemed to have passed away from him again,--seemed to
be something which, as it had arisen with Argemone, was lost with
her also,--one speck of the far blue sky which the rolling clouds
had covered in again. As he passed under the shadow of the huge
soot-blackened cathedral, and looked at its grim spiked railings and
closed doors, it seemed to him a symbol of the spiritual world,
clouded and barred from him. He stopped and looked up, and tried to
think. The rays of the setting sun lighted up in clear radiance the
huge cross on the summit. Was it an omen? Lancelot thought so; but
at that instant he felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked round.
It was that strange man again.
'So far well,' said he. 'You are making a better day's work than
you fancy, and earning more wages. For instance, here is a packet
Lancelot seized it, trembling, and tore it open. It was directed in
'Whence had you this?' said he.
'Through Mellot, through whom I can return your answer, if one be
The letter was significant of Honoria's character. It busied itself
entirely about facts, and showed the depth of her sorrow by making
no allusion to it. 'Argemone, as Lancelot was probably aware, had
bequeathed to him the whole of her own fortune at Mrs. Lavington's
death, and had directed that various precious things of hers should
be delivered over to him immediately. Her mother, however, kept her
chamber under lock and key, and refused to allow an article to be
removed from its accustomed place. It was natural in the first
burst of her sorrow, and Lancelot would pardon.' All his drawings
and letters had been, by Argemone's desire, placed with her in her
coffin. Honoria had been only able to obey her in sending a
favourite ring of hers, and with it the last stanzas which she had
composed before her death:--
'Twin stars, aloft in ether clear,
Around each other roll away,
Within one common atmosphere
Of their own mutual light and day.
'And myriad happy eyes are bent
Upon their changeless love alway;
As, strengthened by their one intent,
They pour the flood of life and day,
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