English Ways--and Byways. Ii
‘BY LOVE UNFEIGNED’
BEFORE leaving Shrewsbury, I had told Ruth on which train I would leave Saltbridge; and, as I had to change trains at Manchester, she could send a wire to the station there if she had any special orders to give me. The wire was awaiting me, and from it I found that not only had Ruth gone off ‘on her own’ to Deepford, but that she had received an invitation from the Sanfords asking us both to come to them. She said that she was proceeding to London, and that she would go to the Sanfords by train, and hoped I would meet her there with the car.
So I returned to Shrewsbury, and the next day drove slowly through Stratford-on-Avon, where I had been before, and so did not stop, waiting till Ruth and I could make the pilgrimage together. I caught a glimpse of the spire of the parish church and could ‘visualize’ the smug bust in the chancel which an ungrateful town permits to be called Shakespeare!
I stopped the night at Banbury, where there is one of those old coaching inns which affect the imagination like an old print. The following day I went on to Oxford, where I left the car, and ran up to London for some necessary shopping.
When I returned to Oxford, I went again on my way and spent the night at Ipswich, in the same inn in which Mr. Pickwick had his compromising adventure with the lady in curl-papers. But there was nothing seen to recall that joyous night. No one I saw looked as if he had heard of the most distinguished guest the inn had ever entertained!
The next day I reached the Sanfords’ for tea. I understand now why the heroine in an English novel always arrives at tea-time! It is the ideal hour. One does not have to dress for a function and is received into the family at once.
This family consists of but two persons, — the husband and wife, — a lovely couple. I do not know which of them we loved best when the visit was over. An ancestor of Mr. Sanford was one of the Non-Jurors — and that night I lay in his bed. As a bed, it was a good bed, but as a place for sleeping, it was naught — as Touchstone would have said. As I lay awake, I thought of the noble folly of the NonJurors, and of Macaulay’s unsympathetic picture of them; though curiously enough, the only time he speaks well of a bishop, so far as I remember, is when he praises the ‘Seven Bishops.’ How characteristic this is! They are admirable when they defy the Stuart, but contemptible when they refuse to bow the knee to his Dutch hero! These thoughts led me on to Henry Esmond, — that most interesting prig, — and so on, hour after hour, the mind wandered through the history of England till I longed for the scenery of the land of Nod!
I would not have you think that my wakefulness was due solely to the imagination awakened by the old Non-Juror’s bed. It was due to a more modern and more material cause, namely, the strong Ceylon tea, which was so good that I had taken more than I am accustomed to. What we call ‘English Breakfast,’ the English call ‘China’ tea, and, so far as my experience goes, it is seldom served. Certainly it could not have been expected at the Sanfords’, because he is largely interested in the cultivation of Ceylon tea and, not unnaturally, thinks it superior to China. It is undoubtedly good, but so strong that it is apt to be followed by a sleepless night on the part, of the uninitiated.
The next day was Sunday, which began, I need not say, with a bountiful breakfast, at which, of course, we served ourselves, Mr. Sanford walking round the room with a little blue bowl in his hand, eating porridge and talking delightfully. By the way, do you believe the story of the American belle-mère, who, arriving at the castle of her noble son-in-law, late at night, and coming to the dining-room for the first time at breakfast, and seeing no servants, said to her daughter, ‘Honey, can’t you get no “help” at all over here?’ I do not. Ruth does, and begged me not to tell the story here, lest it be thought that the good lady was typical!
I do not think Mrs. Sanford would have believed it. But, if she had, she would have understood, for she has many American friends and a more sympathetic understanding of our problems than anyone I have met in England so far. Mr. Sanford was rather inclined to be depressed about England, and deplored the present policy of the Liberal government — especially in regard to land. Of course, I know nothing about the matter, but I could not help thinking I heard a faint echo of the old NonJuror’s voice. This, however, is sure: he is the quintessence of the Feudal System at its best, having its deep sense of responsibility.
We walked to the little church, which is at their gate, and as we drew near and met the people on their way to worship, I was struck by the affection — so much better than perfunctory respect — with which my hosts were greeted by farmers and tenants alike.
Mr. Sanford showed Ruth and me into the second pew in the transept, while he and his wife occupied the one in front of it, which is the Squire’s. He read the Lessons, and I wished I could read as well! I once heard a distinguished minister at home praised for his reading of the Bible because it ‘sounded so modern — as if he were reading the paper.’ Well, his reading was not in the least like that! He read with deep reverence, as ‘the covenant made with our fathers’ and now delivered unto us.
The rector, a cousin of our host’s, was indisposed, arid his place was taken by a nearby vicar. The sermon had neither the interest of the morning paper, nor the awe of an ancient revelation! Indeed, it was a stupid thing — one of those I guessed which, it is said, can be bought ‘ready made,’ and of any shade of Churchmanship. This one had no color at all!
The preacher was invited to dine with the Squire and accepted. He must be a survival. He explained the difficulty the country parson has in collecting his tithes. Turning to his host, he said, ‘I had a most disagreeable task last week; Scroston was in arrears again, and I had to distrain his cow.’
Mr. Sanford looked much distressed, and said, ‘I don’t think I should have done that.’
‘Nor should I, had it been a personal matter: but one must consider one’s successor. If a precedent were once established, it might lead to much trouble.’
And to this there seemed to be no reply!
After dinner, when the neighboring parson had left, Mr. Sanford suggested a ‘look round.’ Ruth said she had some letters to write, which in England means a nap, so we started off together. In my ignorance, I supposed a ’look round’ meant a stroll about the place. I soon found it meant something more like what we call a ‘hike.’
There is a widespread impression among Americans that England is a small place. Let anyone go with an English gentleman after a good Sunday dinner, for a ‘look round,’ and I venture to say he will change his mind! I suppose I am ‘soft’ from motoring, but I know I was ‘all in’ when we at length reached home. But my host, no longer a young man, seemed as fresh as when we started.
He had been much amused by my attempts to make up to a farmer whom we met — also ‘taking a look round.’ We were crossing a beautiful field, in which were some noble oaks, and, by way of making myself agreeable, I remarked to him, ‘I have been telling Mr. Sanford how much I admire your trees. You must be proud of them.’
‘Aye, they look well to a town-dweller, but I never notice them except at hayin’, and then I wish they was anywhere else.’
‘But you turn your cattle into this field sometimes, I suppose; and they must enjoy the shade on a hot day.’
‘Well, if they stand under one of them on a hot day, they’ll be in a draft, and get a chill and maybe die.’
This certainly was not encouraging, but I did not know enough to stop. Just then some heifers came nosing round and I said, ‘That’s a beautiful heifer.’
‘Which one?’ said the farmer.
‘The white one,’ said I.
‘I wish you lived about here and I could sell her to you. No farmer would buy her.’
‘Why not?’ said I.
‘We think the white ones is “saft,”’ he replied.
This, as I say, gave great satisfaction to Mr. Sanford, who recounted it at tea, with great gusto.
The servants all went to evening service, but the family did not; so I ‘wrote letters.’
Supper was served at nine, and then all the servants came in for prayers: ‘cook’ first and the kitchen-maid last, the butler standing aside to close the door, then solemnly taking his place.
Mr. Sanford read a chapter, and after that a beautiful prayer that all might be faithful in their duties, kind and considerate to one another, honor the King and love the Church. Then Mrs. Sanford took her place at the harmonium and played several hymns, in which all the servants joined — I thought the footman’s tenor worthy of a church choir, and I suspect he thought so too! and I am sure the housemaid agreed with us both! Altogether the singing was beautiful.
When the service was over, Mr. Sanford said, very simply, —
‘My friends, we have now come to the beginning of another week and I wish to thank you all for faithful service. If at any time I have been impatient with any of you, I ask your forgiveness. And now I bid you all good-night.’
The butler showed them all out, looking at the footman, I thought, as much as to say, ‘Have you any complaint to make about the master? If so, kindly address yourself to me!’As for me, I confess I had a lump in my throat.
As we drove away next morning, Ruth said, ‘I suppose by this time you have become a Tory!’
‘No,’ I said, ‘not quite; but if you ever hear me say a word against England again say, “Sanford,” and I will cry, “Peccavi!” How cheap and self-conscious Democracy seems after this glimpse of English gentle-people. Where can their like be found?’
I think Ruth has written you some nonsense about me to which I hope you will pay no attention. She is somewhat of a romancer. I do not mean that the bare facts are not as she states them; but I have your own high authority for the dictum that ‘A fact is often a most misleading thing’!
At any rate, I know she could not have told you about the interesting conversation we men had over our cigars after dinner last night. After the ladies withdrew, Sir William asked me many questions about our church. He wished particularly to learn how the ‘Anglican Church in the States’ got on without the supervision of the State. I explained how rectors were ‘called,’ and bishops elected, and deputies to the General Convention chosen, etc. He was greatly interested, and said that, unless something was done to give the laity a voice in the management of the parish, he believed the days of the Church of England were numbered. I asked him why he felt so despondent and he said, —
‘Take the case of this parish; the rector is an uncouth creature who was given the living by a man to whom his father was tutor, and who probably took orders with this in view, for he is far more interested in his glebe than in the cure of souls. He will not listen to any suggestions, but goes his own way. All the money goes into his hands, and there is no accounting to anyone. I do not suggest that he is dishonest, but I do say that a man who had the right feeling would recognize that the people should know the amounts given and the purposes for which they are used.’
I said, ‘Surely there is a churchwarden.’ *
‘True, but he is the schoolmaster, appointed by the rector and dependent upon him. The service is conducted in a most slovenly manner, and the music is quite painful. I offered to pay for a proper choirmaster, but he said that was an insult to his wife’s sister, who plays the organ. The result of his bad manners and dictatorial spirit is that the congregation has dwindled to a mere handful, and they are mostly children whom the schoolmaster compels to come. The fact is that Dissent is increasing at an alarming rate, and I think that soon there will be nothing left but the parson and the glebe!’
‘Can the Bishop do nothing? ’ I asked.
‘Apparently not. The Bishop says that, if a responsible person will prefer charges, he will take the matter up; but that “ a man cannot be deprived of his living because he happens to be unpopular.” Of course, if the Church of England exists to provide livings, there is nothing more to be said. But if its purpose is to minister to the people, a way must be found to accomplish that. But I fear the attempt will prove fatal to the Establishment.’
Of course, you and I should not feel that this would be fatal to the Church; but what those men fear is that, if the impartial hand of the State is withdrawn, the Church will become a sect, or, rather, as many sects as there are now parties. And if Disestablishment comes before the laity have gained their rights, we can guess what the Ecclesiastic-clerical, and especially the sort of laymen to whom Thomas Browne once referred as ‘Ecclesiastical eunuchs,’will make of it.
Mr. Buckthorne, who had kept silent while we were talking, now said, ‘This is a hard case, but it is nothing to what our parish has to endure.’
I said, ‘What is your trouble? What has your parson done?’
‘You might better ask, what has he not done! In the first place, there is a very ugly story about a farmer’s daughter— the rights of which I neither know nor wish to know; but as a result none of the farmers will have anything to say to him. In the second place, he sits in the bar of the public house every Saturday night till closing time, drinking with the village topers, and consequently the respectable tradesmen will not come into the church. And finally it is reported, — I do not say it is true, for I should not like to bring such a charge against any man without positive proof, — but I do know it is commonly believed that he has shot partridges sitting! and, of course, after that, no gentleman will have anything to do with him.’
‘I should hope not!’cried Sir William, indignantly.
No, I did not laugh at this moral anticlimax. I again asked if the Bishop could do nothing.
‘Oh, the Bishop has been appealed to, and, being a good man himself and a gentleman, is, of course, greatly distressed. I was one of those who went to see him, but all he could say was, “Dear me, this is very sad. But it is to be remembered that the man is a rector and has a vested interest in the living. Of course, if responsible people can be found to substantiate these charges, undoubtedly he could be brought to trial; but it must not be forgotten that the law against libel is very stringent, and I should not care to move unless I could be assured that a verdict in my favor was a little more than probable.” And so the matter was dropped.’
What shall we say to these things? Well, the obvious thing is that it is not Royalty, as the Fourth-of-July orators used to declaim, not the House of Lords, as the Hyde Park speakers are asserting, nor the palaces of the Bishops, as some of our Nonconformist friends believe; it is the ‘vested interests,’ which the new Democracy must blast out of Church and State before t he people can determine their own destiny.
I suspect, if we were face to face, you, with your skeptical spirit, would suggest that there is something else to be said, which is that this quiet and intelligent-looking Mr. Buckthorne may have been feeding me on the same diet I served to his sister; at any rate, if not about the lesser immorality of his parson, at least about his heinous crime of shooting partridges sitting.
I do not deny that this is possible; and indeed, much as I should wish to believe such a story, I am almost in hopes it is not true; for, if you will read to the end of this long story, — which must, however, be left, to my next, — you will see why I have to-day a fellow feeling for the wretch which, last night, I should have thought impossible!
‘THE AULD UN’
We had intended to take our departure the next morning, but Sir William was so insistent that we should stay at least a part of the day, that we decided to wait until the afternoon. This gave great pleasure to Ruth, who wished to see the garden — she is still dreaming of that country parsonage, where she will have a garden of her own!
As there was nothing in particular for me to do, our host suggested that I might take a gun and go out with him to ‘pick up a few rabbits.’ I told him that the only ones I was likely to pick up would be those shot by someone else, for I had not handled a gun since I was in college. But, evidently, he felt about that as you would feel if a brother parson were to say that he was so rusty in his Greek that he could not read his New Testament. It would not seem credible!
You must know that nothing can be done in England without ‘dressing for the part.’ Sir William was already arrayed for the battue, but I had to get out some knickerbockers, which took time because the troublesome footman had put them away. However, they were found at last, and they with my Norfolk jacket made me presentable; so we started with the keeper, who carried over his shoulder a sack in which were evidently live creatures of some sort, for the bag was constantly agitated. I hoped they might be rabbits for me to ‘pick up,’ but they proved to be ferrets.
When we reached the warrens, these crawling creatures — which look like diminutive dachshunds — were cast out of the bag and promptly melted into the earth. Soon there was heard a faint squealing, and the keeper announced that one of the young ferrets was killing a rabbit and would be of no further use to us. But the others had a deeper sense of duty, — or were better sportsmen, which seems to mean the same thing, — for soon the rabbits began to pop up all over the place. Sir William had potted two before I could get my gun to my shoulder. The keeper called my attention to the fact that it was necessary to ’look lively,’ but that is a thing I have never been good at.
However, I determined that I would do better the next time the rabbits appeared. This I did, for a moment later, I saw a little bunch of fluff no bigger than your fist roll over and then lie still. One would have thought I had killed a bull moose, so generous was the applause of the keeper and Sir William. I felt as Mr. Winkle — or was it Mr. Tupman? — felt when he shut his eyes and brought down the bird! I shot a number of times more, but without success, and began to think I really must look more lively still. And I did! There were a few moments when no more rabbits appeared, though, from time to time, one of those slimy ferrets would come to the surface, stretch its long neck, and look around to see if anything of interest appeared, and then silently melt again into the earth. Suddenly a head appeared from a hole some distance away. Sir William did not move — evidently had not seen it; so, thinking this was my chance, I fired and the creature rolled over, kicked once or twice, and then lay still.
I looked for applause, but as you may have noticed, the audience does not always respond at the moment one expects!
There was a moment of silence, and then Sir William exclaimed, ‘Good Lord! You’ve shot the ferret!’
The keeper groaned as if he had lost his only child and said, with tears in his voice, ‘It was the auld un!'
There was nothing to be said, and the keeper sadly buried his favorite, and I felt as if I were one of that party who had buried Sir John Moore: —
Not a drum was heard,
Slowly and sadly we laid him down!
We walked away without a word. There came, however, to my mind a story Sir William had told me, of an American who came over to one of the great ‘shoots’ in Yorkshire, and asked his host as they started out the first morning how much he ought to give the keeper. He replied, ‘It depends on where you hit him.’ I laughed then, but I was not laughing now! For I was wondering what sum would make good the loss of an ‘Auld Un.’
I gave him what I could afford, — indeed, more, — but I am not sure he will ever be the same man again! I know one thing. I could have bought a fat red deer for what that little handful of fluff cost me!
As we started to leave the little clump of pines which had been the scene of the murder, the keeper threw the sack on the ground and said to the boy who had accompanied us, — to bring home the rabbits, I suppose, — ‘You can bring ’em home, Jock.’
He evidently had not the heart to gather up the remaining ferrets, and so strode away after Sir William. The boy looked up at me with a grin, and held up the index finger of his right hand, on which there was the scar of a bite. I gathered that he and the ‘Auld Un’ had not been the best of friends, and that there was one of the party who did not mourn its untimely death!
I hurried after the others and, when I caught up with them, broke my gun to eject the lethal cartridge and the one that had not been fired. But my host said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t do that: we might meet a grouse on the way back. Jenkins,’ he said, turning to the keeper, ‘have you seen any hereabouts?’
‘There was a brace, Sir William,in the stubble-field this morning. They may be around now; we might take a look.’
‘I think, then,’ said Sir William, ‘we will cut through the Green Lane and see what there is in that field.’
We had hardly entered the lane when a bird rose from behind a bush with a whirr that startled me; but I fired almost without taking aim, and brought it down. There was an awful silence, and then Sir William said, in a strained voice, ‘I hardly know what we had better do. Still, as it is done, Jenkins, you had better send it up to the Hall.’
‘Excuse me, Sir William,’ said Jenkins, ’but there would be a lot of talk in the servants’ hall, and I think it would be better if I took it home and burnt the feathers, and no one but ourselves need be any the wiser. Thank God, the boy is back in the wood! And I don’t suppose the gentleman will talk.’
After a long pause, my host replied with a sigh, that he supposed that would be best.
Perhaps you will be asking, what was the trouble? I knew no more than you! At first I thought I must have killed the twin brother of the ‘Auld Un’; but reflected that ferrets do not fly. It could not have been one of the keeper’s children, as I feared when I caught a glimpse of his face, for children do not have feathers to burn! At last I said, rather testily, I fear, ‘ Would you mind telling me what is the trouble?’
Sir William looked at me, more in sorrow than in anger, and solemnly replied, ‘It was a PHEASANT!'
Even then I did not understand. But little by little it came out that I had committed the unpardonable sin. For the time of pheasants was not yet! There is a heavy fine for shooting them out of season, but that did not trouble my generous host. It was the shame of the thing! If it were ever known among his fellow sportsmen that he or his keeper had been seen with a dead pheasant in his possession before the appointed day, he was a ruined man!
Never again can I laugh at Mr. Winkle! It is true, I had not posed as a sportsman, but I should have had the moral courage to decline to have anything to do with a sport which might bring sorrow to the owner of the beloved ‘Auld Un’ and entail a shameful secret on my kindly host.
Much as I like them, I was glad to leave these kindly people, and one of them at least, I am sure, was glad to have me go! I can only hope that I may not be hereafter bracketed in his mind with the miscreant who is suspected of shooting partridges ‘sitting’!
CHURCH AND STATE
We were now headed again for Chester, but stopped the Sunday at Malvern. We had to go to the hotel near the station, because the more select one was full; but we found it very comfortable, and the people with whom we came in contact made up for the exclusiveness of the smaller one.
On Sunday morning, Ruth announced that she was going to take a day off; so I went to the Abbey alone. It is a beautiful building in spite of restorations; but as usual I was more interested in the people than in the building. As I had to look with Ruth’s eyes as well as my own, the first thing I was struck by was the number of children in church, and secondly by the beauty of the girls’ hair. There were scores of girls whose hair would have made the fortune of the owner of a capillary tonic. It was long and glossy, and fine as silk. Sometimes it seemed to me the color was rather pale, but it floated over their shoulders in waves of beauty. I thought of St. Paul’s remark that a woman’s glory is her hair! Which showed a keener observation than one would have expected from him on such a subject. Indeed it is almost the only thing he says about women that appeals to the modern mind!
You remember Newman’s remark in the Apologia, that, if there is anything more dreary than the Anglican service, he does not know what it is? Well, that may have been true in his day, before the Oxford Movement had revealed the beauty of the Liturgy, but could hardly have been said of the service at the Abbey that morning. But the sermon! I learned afterwards that the vicar was ill and that a young curate had been suddenly called on to take his place. It would have been far better had there been no sermon at all. The service was enough. I believe it is often enough, and the trouble with us parsons is that we do not know when to stop! I do not mean after the sermon has begun, but before it! Certainly, in this church, had the organist been taken suddenly ill, they would not have called on a choir-boy to play the organ, nor should that curate have been allowed to fret the congregation as he did. Well, it had one merit: it was but ten minutes long.
As I walked away, I was joined by a man whom I had noticed at the hotel. He abruptly remarked, ‘Beastly sermon!’
Well, ‘dog will not eat dog,’ so I only said, ‘Did you think so?’
‘I should say I did. I call it a disgrace to allow such an exhibition. Damn lazy beggar, he did n’t even get his text right! I wonder if there is any other profession in which such incompetence would be permitted? I do not know what his stipend may be; I only know he is grossly overpaid, no matter how small it may be.’
There did not seem to be anything to say that would not sound like an anticlimax after such eloquence, so I kept silence — a thing, by the way, an Englishman never resents.
One often hears it said that Englishmen do not care for sermons, but I suspect t hey like them as much as other people, when they can get them! I have been wondering since if I should have been so much impressed by the girls’ hair if there had been more men in the church!
As you know, the cause célèbre is making great excitement here as all over the world — perhaps more here. As the judges were expected to give their decision yesterday, I hurried to the railway station this morning to get a Sunday paper. But there are no such things here! It seems incredible that the result of this portentous trial is known all over the world except less than a hundred miles from the spot where the verdict was given. But it is so!
In the evening I attended the service at the little church near the hotel — Ruth’s day off lasting into the evening! Not that I am surprised. We parsons work off the nervous strain in the act of preaching, and forget that the family has the strain without the relief! At any rate, that is the way with Ruth. I think she expects each Sunday that I shall come what the English call a ‘cropper,’ so I am glad when she can be induced to rest on the Lord’s Day. But, on the other hand, a parson is like an actor, of whom I have heard it said that, if he gets a night off, he goes to some other theatre! Well, apart from its religious influence, which I trust was not altogether lacking, I am glad I went to this church, for reasons I will now explain.
When the time for the notices came, the parson, with more hesitations and swallowings than I can describe, said,
’My brethren, at this morning’s service (ahem!) I reminded you that a trial in which the whole world is interested [swallow], and in which questions of the most momentous importance were to be decided (ahem!), was being held (ahem!), and I suggested [swallow] that it would be well, if in your private prayers (ahem!) you would ask that the judges might be guided to a right judgment. Since then, however [a fearful swallow], I have been informed that a private telegram (ahem!) has been received, by a person present at this morning’s service, saying (ahem!) that the judgment had been rendered yesterday. Possibly (ahem!) it may seem to some of you [swallow] that prayers offered after an event (ahem!) could in no wise affect that [swallow] event [swallow], and (ahem!) were therefore quite futile. But while this is (ahem!) a not unnatural, it is [swallow] a hasty conclusion. It may be that they will not immediately (ahem!) effect a reversal of a judgment, which, I am sure, we all feel was wrong. But even if that should be the result, who can put a limit to the Divine Omnipotence? I do not believe those prayers were in vain — I do not believe any prayers are in vain. I believe that, in ways we cannot foresee, God will bring good out of evil.’
You will note how, when he got on his own ground of personal experience, his confidence increased and his hesitations ceased. Illogical as it all sounds when it is put down in ‘cold’ type, I could not but admire the man’s courage in sticking to his guns. And I suspect he had laid hold of a great truth which he could not quite swing — as who could? — and shall watch this case with new interest to see if public opinion (which somehow we dissociate from the influence of God’s Spirit) does not compel the court to do justice in spite of all.
I suppose there must have been a sermon, but I cannot remember anything about it. I had enough to think of in meditating on the notice! I wonder how often this is the case!
On returning to the hotel, I went into the smoking-room for a final pipe. There were three other men there, evidently ‘gentry’ — you know the type and also the oppressive silence of such places. One would have supposed that no one of them had ever seen the other! For a long time no one spoke. Finally one of them said, —
‘That was an extraordinary remark of the parson’s this morning, asking the congregation to ask in their prayers that the French judges might be led to a right judgment when many of us knew they had already rendered their decision!’
The silence which followed was so long that I thought the others did not wish to be drawn into a discussion on such a subject. But I was mistaken. One of them, when he ‘got good and ready,’ as they used to say in the part of the country I know best, expressed himself as follows: —
‘It was worse than futile, it was highly improper. I felt incensed! I should never dream of praying for the damned scoundrels — I should consider it almost blasphemous.’
Another long silence, and then he continued: ‘Moreover, I resent any attempt on the part of a parson to dictate to me what I should or should not pray for. I consider such things entirely private between me and my Maker. His advice was an infringement of personal liberty, and I highly resent it.’
As no one said anything for a little space, I had time to rejoice in this exhibition of sturdy Protestant independence; but finally the silent member of the party spoke.
‘I am thankful to say,’ he remarked, as he knocked the ashes out of his pipe, ‘that I was not present. My wife told me about it, and I said to her, “My dear, this only illustrates what I have often said, that the clergy never intrude into politics without making damn fools of themselves.”'
I fled and sought for Ruth! At length I found her sitting in the drawingroom with three ladies — probably the wives of the smokers. She did not see me and this is what I heard: —
First Lady. Do you mean to say you like to live in America?
Ruth. Yes, very much.
First Lady. But do you not have a great deal of lynching there?
Ruth (confusedly). I am sorry to say we do have a good deal.
Second Lady. What is lynching?
First Lady. Why if a man is unpopular in a community, the leading people drag him away to a convenient tree and hang him. Sometimes they burn him. Shocking, is it not?
Second Lady. It would be shocking as a regular thing, but I confess it seems to me a most admirable custom for certain occasions, and I should be glad if it were brought over with other American inventions that we have found so convenient. Think what it would mean to wake up to-morrow and learn that Lloyd George had been hanged in the night!
Third Lady (vindictively). Yes, and better still, the whole Liberal cabinet.
Third Lady. Oh, that would be more than one could hope for.
First Lady (whose humanitarianism seems to have been poisoned by party politics, but who is trying to prevent a Reign of Terror in England). Surely you would except John Burns?
Second Lady. Perhaps I should. I sometimes think that he has really repented, and that now his face is set toward the light.
At that moment Ruth turned and caught my eye. She followed me out of the room, and though choking with laughter, said, ‘I would give a good deal if you had not overheard that conversation!’
‘Wouldn’t have missed it for the world,’ I replied; ‘I have another to go with it and I shall call them “Church and State!” ’
THE CHAPLAIN TO THE QUEEN
The average American returns from England declaring that the climate is wretched, and I have often shared that opinion myself; but, after all, where can one enjoy the twilight as in the British Isles? We do not know what it means, at home. But here, from eight to ten in the evening is the most enjoyable part of the day. We were sitting in the garden of the hotel in this pleasant time, I smoking and Ruth thinking, — I wonder of what? there was a far-away look in her eyes, — when a man came out of the dining-room and settled himself in one of the basket-chairs on the lawn, not far from us, and drawing out a dainty case, lit a small cigar, whose aroma floated to us.
I glanced at him indifferently but when Ruth said, ‘That is an interesting face,’ I looked at him more carefully. He was evidently a clergyman, but his dress was not that of the conventional parson, with the rigid ‘dog-collar.’ He wore a waistcoat, which buttoned to the throat, but was open enough to show a lawn cravat and a shirt of fine linen, which softened his somewhat formal costume. He looked not unlike the portrait of Dean Stanley which hangs in your study, and evidently belonged to the same period, or a little later. His face showed breeding and was one that would attract attention. It lacked, however, the high intelligence of Stanley, being rather weak — indeed, almost self-indulgent, in a refined way. Suddenly I recalled him. It was the Reverend Henry Waitland, rector of a fashionable West End ‘Chapel of Ease.’ I had last seen him when I was in college, at one of John Ropes’s Sunday dinners. I remembered that I had been told that he was a well-known man in London, a friend of Ellen Terry and other celebrities. Indeed, he had the reputation of being more interested in the drama than in divinity! I thought it might please Ruth to meet him, so I strolled over and introduced myself, reminding him of our last meeting.
He was polite, but not enthusiastic. Indeed, I was reminded of the remark of the ‘con man’ on the steamer! However, when he caught a glimpse of Ruth, and learned she was my wife, he seemed to think better of us, and asked to be presented.
When we had talked a little about Boston, and he found that Ruth knew the right people, he thawed out and began to talk about London and the distinguished people he had known. It was most interesting to hear about the people one knew from books, and get the impressions of an eye-witness.
Ruth asked him what a ‘Queen’s chaplain’ was. He laughed and said it was a man who had to leave his own congregation and go to Windsor to preach before the Queen whenever ‘commanded.’ Ruth remarked that she should think that would be a bore. But he said it was an honor. This sounded like a snub, but was evidently intended only as a statement of fact.
‘Still,’ he added, ‘I will not deny that it is sometimes inconvenient. For instance: a year or two before the Queen’s death, I was summoned to preach the Easter sermon before Her Majesty, and would much have preferred to stop at home for that day. However, I went to Windsor, and found that my old friend Ponsonby was to take the service; but as I was to preach, he suggested that I read the Gospel. But imagine my surprise when, instead of saying the Collect for Easter, he said a collect which for the life of me I could not recall, or rather could not tell to what Sunday it belonged! You may imagine my embarrassment! I said to myself, “Whatever shall I do? Shall I read the Gospel for Easter, or shall I match Ponsonby?” It seemed the decent thing to stand by him, but then I said to myself, “How can I match Ponsonby, when I don’t know this minute what Epistle he is now reading? And then I said to myself, “You have nothing to do with Ponsonby. You have been commanded to preach before Her Majesty on Easter Day, and your business is to read the service appointed for that day!” And that is what I did.
‘After service the Queen sent for me, and after saying a few pleasant things, added: “I was both astonished and annoyed that Mr. Ponsonby should not have read the Collect for Easter.” I did n’t want to be unfair to Ponsonby, but I said, “You may imagine my feeling, ma’am, when I heard a collect for I did not know what day; and though I said to myself, ‘Shall I match Ponsonby?’ I did think it best to read the Gospel appointed for the day.”
‘ “You were quite right,” said the Queen, “and I shall tell Mr. Ponsonby how much I dislike any deviation from the appointed service.”
‘So you see,’ he added, ‘that honors have their burdens.’
Now, I ask you, has Trollope any clerical story to equal this?