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Title: Beside Still Waters
Author: Benson, Arthur Christopher, 1862-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's note: This book had varying page headings.  They have
been collected into chapter titles, and into a Table of Contents.]



BESIDE

STILL WATERS


BY

ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON


FELLOW OF MAGDALENE COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE



  "_I will run the way of Thy commandments;
  when Thou hast set my heart at liberty._"



FOURTH IMPRESSION



LONDON

SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE

1910

[All rights reserved]



  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & Co.
  At the Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh



CONTENTS

       I  The Family--The Scene--The Church--Childhood--Books
      II  The Schoolmaster--School Life--Companions
     III  The Public School--Friendships--The Opening Heart--The
          Mould--The Last Morning
      IV  Undergraduate Days--Strain--Recovery--A First Book
       V  Practical Life--The Official World--Drudgery--Resignation--
          Retirement
      VI  His Father's Friendship--His Sister's Death--The Silent River
     VII  Liberty--Cambridge--Literary Work--Egotism
    VIII  Foundations of Faith--Duality--Christianity--The Will of God
      IX  Art--The End of Art
       X  Retrospect--Renewal of Youth--The New Energy
      XI  Platonism--The Pure Gospel--The Pauline Gospel--The Harmony
     XII  Sacrifice--The Church--Certainty
    XIII  Waiting for Light
     XIV  Dreariness--Romance--The Choice of Work--Dulness--A Creed
      XV  The Pilgrim's Progress--The Pilgrimage--Development--The
          Eternal Will
     XVI  Humanity--Individuality--The Average
    XVII  Spring--Wonder
   XVIII  His Father's Death--Illness--A New Home--The New Light
     XIX  Women--The Feminine View--Society--Frank Relations--
          Coldness--Sensitiveness
      XX  Limitations--Sympathy--A Quiet Choice--The Mind of God--
          Intuition
     XXI  A Far-off Day--A Compact--Fragrant Memories
    XXII  Death--The Real and the Ideal--A Thunder Shower--Storm
          and Shadow
   XXIII  The Club--Homewards--The Garden of God
    XXIV  The Romance of Life--The Renewal of Youth--Youth
     XXV  A Narrow Path--A Letter--Asceticism--The Narrow Soul
    XXVI  Activity--Work--Isolation
   XXVII  Progress--Country Life--Sustained Happiness--The Twilight
  XXVIII  Democracy--Individualism--Corporateness--Materialism
    XXIX  Bees--A Patient Learner
     XXX  Flowers--The Garden
    XXXI  A Man of Science--Prophets--A Tranquil Faith--Trustfulness
   XXXII  Classical Education--Mental Discipline--Mental
          Fertilisation--Poetry--The August Soul--The Secret of a
          Star--The Voice of the Soul--Choice Studies--Alere Flammam
  XXXIII  Music--Church Music--Musicians--The Organ--False Asceticism
   XXXIV  Pictorial Art--Hand and Soul--Turner--Raphael--Secrets of Art
    XXXV  Artistic Susceptibility--An Apologia--Temperament--Criticism
          of Life--The Tangle
   XXXVI  The Mill--The Stream's Pilgrimage
  XXXVII  A Garden Scene--The Wine of the Soul
 XXXVIII  The Lakes--On the Fell--Peace
   XXXIX  A Friend--The Gate of Life
      XL  A Funeral Pomp--The Daily Manna--The Lapsing Moment
     XLI  Following the Light--Sincerity
    XLII  Aconite--The Dropping Veil



BESIDE STILL WATERS


I

The Family--The Scene--The Church--Childhood--Books


Hugh Neville was fond of tender and minute retrospect, and often
indulged himself, in lonely hours, with the meditative pleasures of
memory.  To look back into the old years was to him like gazing into a
misty place, with sudden and bright glimpses, and then the cloud closed
in again; but it was not only with his own life that he concerned
himself; he liked to trace in fancy his father's eager boyhood, brought
up as he had been in a great manufacturing town, by a mother of
straitened means, who yet maintained, among all her restrictions, a
careful tradition of gentle blood and honourable descent.  The children
of that household had been nurtured with no luxuries and few
enjoyments.  Every pound of the small income had had its appointed use;
but being, as they were, ardent, emotional natures, they had contrived
to extract the best kind of pleasure out of books, art, and music; and
the only trace that survived in Hugh's father of the old narrow days,
was a deep-seated hatred of wastefulness and luxury, which, in a man of
generous nature, produced certain anomalies, hard for his children,
living in comparative wealth and ease, to interpret.  His father, the
boy observed, was liberal to a fault in large matters, but scrupulously
and needlessly particular about small expenses.  He would take the
children on a foreign tour, and then practise an elaborate species of
discomfort, in an earnest endeavour to save some minute disbursements.
He would give his son a magnificent book, and chide him because he cut
instead of untying the string of the parcel.  Long after, the boy,
disentangling his father's early life in diaries and letters, would
wish, with a wistful regret, that he had only had the clue to this
earlier; he would have sympathised, he thought, with the idea that lay
beneath the little economies, instead of fretting over them, and
discussing them rebelliously with his sisters.  His father was a man of
almost passionate affections; there was nothing in the world that he
more desired than the company and the sympathy of his children; but he
had, besides this, an intense and tremulous sense of responsibility
towards them.  He attached an undue importance to small indications of
character; and thus the children were seldom at ease with their father,
because he rebuked them constantly, and found frequent fault, doing
almost violence to his tenderness, not from any pleasure in
censoriousness, but from a terror, that was almost morbid, of the
consequences of the unchecked development of minute tendencies.

Hugh's mother was of a very different disposition; she was fully as
affectionate as his father, but of a brighter, livelier, more facile
nature; she came of a wealthy family, and had never known the hard
discipline from which his father had suffered.  She was a good many
years younger than her husband; they were united by the intensest
affection; but while she devoted herself to him with a perfect
understanding of, and sympathy with, his somewhat jealous and
puritanical nature, she did not escape the severity of his sense of
responsibility, and his natural instinct for attempting to draw those
nearest to him into the circle of his high, if rigid, standards.  Long
afterwards, Hugh grew to discern a greater largeness and liberality in
her methods of dealing with life and other natures than his father had
displayed; and no shadow of any kind had ever clouded his love and
admiration for his mother; his love indeed could not have deepened; but
he came gradually to discern the sweet and patient wisdom which, after
many sorrows, nobly felt and ardently endured, filled and guided her
large and loving heart.

His father, after a highly distinguished academical career, entered the
Church; and at the time of Hugh's birth he held an important country
living together with one of the Archdeaconries of the diocese.

Hugh was the eldest child.  Two other children, both sisters, were born
into the household.  Hugh in later days loved to trace in family papers
the full and vivid life which had surrounded his unconscious self.  His
mother had been married young, and was scarcely more than a girl when
he was born; his father was already a man grave beyond his years, full
of affairs and constantly occupied.  But his melancholy moods, and they
were many, had drawn him to value with a pathetic intentness the quiet
family life.  Hugh could trace in old diaries the days his father and
mother had spent, the walks they had taken, the books they had read
together.  There seemed for him to brood over those days, in
imagination, a sort of singular brightness.  He always thought of the
old life as going on somewhere, behind the pine-woods, if he could only
find it.  He could never feel of it as wholly past, but rather as
possessing the living force of some romantic book, into the atmosphere
of which it was possible to plunge at will.

And then his own life; how vivid and delicate the perceptions were!
Looking back, it always seemed to be summer in those days.  He could
remember the grassy walks of the pleasant garden, which wound among the
shrubberies; the old-fashioned flowers, sweet-williams and
Canterbury-bells, that filled the deep borders; the rose-garden, with
the pointed white buds, or the big-bellied pink roses, full of scent,
that would fall at a touch and leave nothing but an orange-seeded
stump.  But there had been no thought of pathos to him in those years,
as there came to be afterwards, in the fading of sweet things; it was
all curious, delightful, strange.  The impressions of sense were
tyrannously strong, so that there was hardly room for reflection or
imagination; there was the huge chestnut covered with white spires,
that sent out so heavy a fragrance in the spring that it was at last
cut down; but the felling of the tree was a mere delightful excitement,
not a thing to be grieved over.  The country was very wild all round,
with tracts of heath and sand.  The melodious buzzing of nightjars in
hot mid-summer evenings, as they swept softly along the heather, lived
constantly in his memory.  In the moorland, half a mile away, stood
some brick-kilns, strange plastered cones, with blackened tops, from
which oozed a pungent smoke; those were too terrible to be visited
alone; but as he walked past with his nurse, it was delightful and yet
appalling to look into the door of the kiln, and see its fiery, glowing
heart.  Two things in particular the boy grew to love; one was the
sight of water in all its forms; a streamlet near the house trickled
out of a bog, full of cotton-grass; there were curious plants to be
found here, a low pink marsh-bugle, and the sundew, with its strange,
viscid red hands extended; the stream passed by clear dark pools to a
lake among the pines, and fell at the further end down a steep cascade;
the dark gliding water, the mysterious things that grew beneath, the
fish that paused for an instant and were gone, had all a deep
fascination for the boy, speaking, as they seemed to do, of a world
near and yet how far removed from his own!

And then still more wonderingly, with a kind of interfusion of terror
and mystery, did he love the woodlands of that forest country.  To
steal along the edge of the covert, with the trees knee-deep in fern,
to hear the flies hum angrily within, to find the glade in spring
carpeted with blue-bells--all these sights and sounds took hold of his
childish heart with a deep passion that never left him.

All this life was, in memory, as I have said, a series of vignettes and
pictures; the little dramas of the nursery, the fire that glowed in the
grate, the savour of the fresh-cut bread at meal-times, the games on
wet afternoons, with a tent made out of shawls and chairs, or a fort
built of bricks; these were the pictures that visited Hugh in after
days, small concrete things and sensations; he could trace, he often
thought, in later years, that his early life had been one more of
perception than of anything else; sights and sounds and scents had
filled his mind, to the exclusion of almost all beside.  He could
remember little of his relations with those about him; the figures of
the family and servants were accepted as all part of the environment.
The only very real figure was the old nurse, whose rare displeasure he
had sorrowed over more than anything else in the world, and whose
chance words, uttered to another servant and overheard by the child,
that she was thinking of leaving them, had given him a deeper throb of
emotion than anything he had before known, or was for many years to
know.

But the time for the eager and romantic association with other people,
which was to play so large a part in Hugh's life, was not yet come.
People had to be taken as they came, and their value depended entirely
upon their kindness or unkindness.  There was no sense of gratitude as
yet, or desire to win affection.  If they were kind, they were
unthinkingly and instinctively liked.  If they thwarted or interfered
with the child's little theory of existence, his chosen amusements, his
hours of leisure, his loved pursuits, they were simply obstacles round
which his tiny stream of life must find its way as it best could.

There was indeed one other chief delight for the child: the ordered
services of the Church hard by the house.  He loved with all his heart
the fallen day, the pillared vault, the high dusty cornices, the
venerable scent; and the services, with their music solemn and sweet,
the postures of the ministers, the faces, clothes, and habits of the
congregation--all was a delightful field of pleasing experience.  Yet
religion was a wholly unreal thing to the child.  He learnt his Bible
lessons and psalms; he knew the liturgy by heart; but the religious
idea, the thought of God, the Christian life of effort, were all things
that he merely accepted as so many facts that were taught him, but
without the least interest in them, or even the shadowiest attempt to
apply them to his own life.  It seemed strange to Hugh when, in years
long after, religion came to have so deep a meaning to him, that it
should have been so entirely a blank to him in the early days.  God was
no more to him than a far-off monarch; a mighty and shadowy person,
very remote and powerful, but the circle of whose influence never
touched his own.  And yet one of the deepest desires of his father's
mind had been to bring a sense of religion home to his children.  Hugh
used to wonder how he had missed it; but the practical application of
religion, to which the Bible lessons had led up, had been to the child
a mere relief from the tension of thought, because at last he had
escaped from the material teaching about which he might be questioned,
and which he would be expected to remember.

Personal relations, then, had scarcely existed for Hugh as a child.
Older and bigger people, armed with a vague authority, had to be
obeyed, and the boy had no theory which could account for their
inconsequent behaviour; they were amiable or ill-humoured, just or
unjust; he never attempted to criticise or condemn them by a moral
standard; he simply accepted them as they were, and kept as much as
possible out of the way of those who manifested sharpness or
indifference.  With children of his own age it was in many ways the
same, though there seemed to the boy to be more hope of influencing
their behaviour; threats, anger, promises, compliance could be applied;
but of the affection that simply desired to please the object of its
love, the boy knew nothing.  Once or twice he went away from home on a
visit, and because he wept on his departure, he was supposed to have a
tender and emotional nature; but it was not tenderness, at least not
tenderness for others, that made him weep.  It was partly the terror of
the unknown and the unfamiliar; it was partly the interruption to the
even tenor of his life and the customary engagements of his day; and in
this respect the boy had what may be called a middle-aged temperament,
an intense dislike of any interference with his own ways; he had no
enterprise, none of the high-hearted enjoyment of novelty, unless he
was surrounded by a bulwark of familiar personalities; but partly, too,
his love was all given to inanimate things; and as he drove out of the
gate on one of these visits, the thought that the larches of the copse
should be putting out their rosy buds, the rhododendrons thrusting out
their gummy, spiky cases, the stream passing slowly through its deep
pools, the bee-hive in the little birch avenue beginning to wake to
life, and that he should not be there to go his accustomed rounds, and
explore all the minute events of his dear domain--it was this that
brought out the tears afresh, with a bitter, uncomforted sense of loss
and bereavement.

So the early years passed for the boy, in a dream full to the brim of
small wonders and fragrant mysteries.  How pleasant it was to sink to
sleep on summer evenings with the imagination of voyaging all night in
a little boat or carriage; how delightful to wake, with the morning sun
streaming in at the window, to hear the casement ivy tap on the pane,
and to rehearse in the mind all the tiny pleasures of the long day!
His short lessons were easy enough for the boy; he was quick and acute,
and had a good memory; but he took not the smallest interest in them,
except the interest of making a situation go smoothly; the only
interest was in the thought of the unmolested lonely play that was to
follow.  He cared little for games, though they had a certain bitter
excitement, the desire of emulation, the joy of triumph about them.  He
loved best an aimless wending from haunt to haunt, an accumulation of
small treasures in places unknown to others; and most of all the rich
sense of observation of a hundred curious and delicate things; the
nests of birds in the shrubbery, the glossy cones of the young pines,
the green, uncurling fingers of the bracken, the fresh green
sword-grass that grew beneath the firs; he did not care to know the
nature or the reasons of these things; it was enough simply to see
them, to explore them with restless fingers, to recognise their scents,
hues, and savours, with the sharp and unblunted perceptions of
childhood.

Then came the intellectual awakening.  Hugh's mother, who had an
extraordinary gift for improvisation, began to tell the children
stories in the nursery evenings; and these tales of giants and fairies
grew to have an extreme fascination for the child; not that he peopled
his own world with them, as some imaginative children do; the boy's
perceptions were too definite for that; such beings belonged to a
different region; he had no idea that they existed, or had ever
existed.  They belonged to the story world, which was associated in his
mind with bright fires and toys put away, when he nestled as close as
he could to his mother's knee, with her hand in both his own, exploring
every ring and every finger, till he could recall, many years after,
each turn and curve, and even each finger-nail of those dear hands.
And then at last came the supremest joy of all; the children used to be
summoned down to their mother's room, and she began to read aloud
_Ivanhoe_ to them; and then indeed a new world, a world that had really
existed, sprang to light.

Hugh used to wonder afterwards how much he had really understood of
what was read; but the whole thing seemed absolutely alive to him; his
pictorial fancy came into play, and the details of woods and heaths
that he knew so well began to serve him in good stead; and then the
child, who had before thought of reading as merely a tiresome art that
he was forced to practise, found that it was the key that admitted him
into this wonderful world.  It did not indeed destroy his relish for
the outer world of nature, for at all hours of the day, when it was
possible to slip out of doors, he went his solitary way, looking,
looking; until every tree and flower-border and thicket of the small
domain became so sharply imprinted upon the mind that, years after, he
could walk in memory through the sunny garden, and recall the minutest
details with an astonishing accuracy.

But books became for the child a large part of his life.  It was a
story that he desired, something that should create a scene for him,
personalities like or unlike his own, whose deeds and words he could
survey, leaning, so it seemed to him, from a magic casement into the
new scene.  His father, whose taste was for the improving in
literature, was willing enough that the boy should be supplied with
books, but hardly understood that the child was living in a world of
bright fancies and simple dreams.  His father, moreover, who had all
his life had a harder and more definite turn of thought, and had
desired knowledge of a precise kind, wanted the boy to read the little
dry books, uncouthly and elaborately phrased, that had pleased himself
in his own early days.  Hugh's mind was precise enough; but these terse
biographies, these books of travel, these semi-scientific stories
seemed to Hugh only to relate the things that he did not want to know.
His father had been born at a time when the interest in the education
of children was first taking shape, the days of Miss Edgeworth's
_Frank_, and _Harry and Lucy_, that strange atmosphere of gravity and
piety, when children were looked upon as a serious responsibility more
than as a poetical accessory to life; not as mysterious and fairy-like
creatures, to be delicately wooed and tenderly guided, but rather as
little men and women, to be repressed and trained, and made as soon as
possible to have a sense of responsibility too.  Hugh used to look at
the old books in later days, and wonder what the exact social position
of the parents in such books as _Frank_, and _Harry and Lucy_, were
supposed to be.  They lived in the country; they were not apparently
wealthy; they lived with much simplicity.  Yet Harry's father seemed to
have nothing to do but to conduct his children over manufactories, and
to take them long walks--in the course of which he diligently improved
their minds by a species of Socratic inquiry.  But Hugh never thought
of quarrelling with the books provided; he seized upon any trace of
humanity or amusement that they afforded, any symptoms of character and
liveliness, and simply evaded the improving portion, which blew like a
dry wind over his spirit.  When his father talked over the books with
the child, he listened tolerantly to the boy's amusement at how the
cake had rolled down the hill, or how the little pig had got into the
garden; but he was disappointed that the boy seemed not to care whether
the stone which Harry threw described a parabola or not, though there
was an odious diagram to explain it, full of dotted lines and curves.
Yet the boy held on his way, deaf to all that did not move him or
interest him, and fixing jealously on all that fed his fancy.  Such
books as _Grimm's Fairy Tales_ and _Masterman Ready_ were wells of
delight, enacted as they were in a strange and exciting world; and he
was sensitive, too, to the beauty of metre and sonorous phrases,
learning poetry so easily that it was supposed to be a species of
wilfulness in him that the Collects and texts, and the very
Psalms--that seemed to him so unreal and husk-like then, and that later
became to him like fruits full of refreshment and savour and sweet
juices--found their way so slowly into his memory, and were so easily
forgotten.



II

The Schoolmaster--School Life--Companions


The time came for Hugh to go to school.  He drifted, it seemed to him
afterwards, with a singular indifference and apathy of mind, into the
new life, though the parting from home was one of dumb misery; not that
he cared deeply, as a softer-hearted child might have cared, at being
parted from his father, his mother, his sisters.  People, even those
nearest to the boy, were still only a part of the background of life, a
little nearer perhaps, but hardly dearer, hardly more important than
trees and flowers, except that a greater part of his life was spent
with them.  But the last afternoon in the familiar scene--it was a hot,
bright September day--tried the boy's fortitude to the uttermost.  He
felt as though the trees and walks would almost miss his greeting and
presence--and what was the saddest part of all to him was that he could
not be sure of this.  Was the world that he loved indifferent to him?
Did it perhaps not heed him, not even perceive him?  He had always
fancied that these trees and flowers had a species of sight, that they
watched him, the trees shyly out of their green foliage, the flowers
with their bright unshrinking gaze.  The tallest trees seemed to look
down on him from a height, regarding him with a dignified and quiet
interest; his personal affection for them had led him indeed to be
careful not to ill-use them; he had always disliked the gathering of
flowers, the tearing off of boughs or leaves from shrubs.  They seemed
to suffer injury patiently, but none the less did he think that they
were hurt.  He liked to touch the full-blown heads of the roses, when
they yielded their petals at a touch into his hand, because it seemed
that they gave themselves willingly.  And then too, when the big china
bowl that stood in the hall was full of them, and they were mixed with
spices, the embalming process seemed to give them a longer and a fuller
life.

But now he was leaving all this; day after day the garden would bloom,
until the autumn came, and the trees showered down their golden leaves
on walk and lawn.  He had seen it year after year, and now he would see
it no more.  Would they miss him as he would miss them?  And so the
last afternoon was to him a wistful valediction; he went softly about,
to and fro, with a strange sadness at his heart, the first shadow of
the leave-takings of the world.

The school to which he went was a big place in the suburbs of London,
standing near a royal park.  The place was full of dignified houses,
standing among trees and paddocks, with high blank garden-walls
everywhere.  The school itself had been once a great suburban mansion,
the villa of a statesman.  The rooms were large, high, and dignified,
but the bareness of life, under the new conditions, was a great trial
to the boy.  He had a certain luxuriousness of temperament, not in
matters of meat and drink, but in the surroundings and apparatus of
life.  The bare, uncurtained, uncarpeted rooms, the big dormitory with
its cubicles, the stone-flagged passages, all appeared to him mean and
sordid.  His schoolmaster was a man of real force of character, a tall
stately personage, with a great enthusiasm for literature, a fine
converser and teacher, and with a deep insight into character.  But
this was marred by a want of tenderness, a certain harshness of
disposition, and a belief that boys needed to be repressed and
dragooned.  Hugh conceived an overwhelming terror for this majestic
man, with the dress and bearing of a fine gentleman, with his flashing
eyes, his thin lips, his grey curly hair, his straggling beard.  He was
a friend of Hugh's father, and took a certain interest in the boy,
especially when he discovered that, though dreamy and forgetful, Hugh's
abilities were still of a high order.  His work was, in fact, always
easy to him, though he was entirely destitute of ambition.  Certain
scenes impressed themselves on the boy's mind with extraordinary
vividness.  Mr. Russell, the schoolmaster, used to read out every week
a passage for the boys to turn into verse.  He read finely, and Hugh
noticed, with a curious surprise, that Mr. Russell was almost
invariably affected to tears by his reading.  But, on the other hand, a
scene which he saw, when he and certain other boys were waiting to have
their exercises looked over, was for years a kind of nightmare to him.
There was a slow and stupid boy in the class, whom Mr. Russell chose to
consider obstinate, and who was severely caned, in the presence of the
others, for mistakes in his exercise.  Even ten years after, Hugh could
remember with a species of horror the jingling of the keys in Mr.
Russell's pocket, as he took them out to unlock the drawer where the
cane lay.  Perhaps this proved a salutary lesson for Hugh, for the
terror that such an incident might befall himself, caused him to take
an amount of trouble over his exercises which he would certainly not
otherwise have bestowed.

On Sunday evenings Mr. Russell read aloud to the upper boys in his
drawing-room; and this was a happy time for Hugh; he loved to sit in a
deep chair, and feast his eyes upon the pictures, the china, the warm
carpet and curtains of the fire-lit room, and the books that he heard
read had a curious magic for him.  Mr. Russell never seemed to take any
particular notice of him, and Hugh used to feel that he was despised
for his want of _savoir faire_, his slovenliness, his timidity; and it
was a great surprise to discover, long after, a bundle of letters from
Mr. Russell to his father, in which he found his abilities and
shortcomings discussed with extraordinary penetration.

Hugh played no games at his school; there was not then the organisation
of school games which has since grown up.  His favourite occupation was
wandering about the big grounds, to which certain boys were admitted,
or joining in the walks, which a dozen boys, conducted by a peevish or
good-tempered usher, as the case might be, used to take in the
neighbourhood of the school.  The high garden-walls, with the
mysterious posterns, the huge horse-chestnuts looking over the leaded
tops of the classical arbours with which the grounds of an adjacent
villa were adorned; the great gate-posts of the main entrances, the
school-house itself, looking grimly down from a great height, all these
held strange mysteries for the boy, sinking unconsciously into his
spirit.

But he made very few friends either with masters or boys.  He had none
of the merry sociability of childhood; he confided in no one, he simply
lived his life reluctantly, hating the place, never sure that some ugly
and painful punishment, some ridicule or persecution might not fall on
him out of a clear sky for some offence unconsciously committed.  He
had hardly a single pleasant memory connected with the school, except
of certain afternoons when the boys who had done well for the week were
allowed to go without supervision to the neighbouring shops, and
purchase simple provender.  But if he made no friends, he at least made
no enemies; he was always friendly and good-tempered, and he was
preserved by his solitariness from all grossness and evil.  It was a
big school, and occasionally he perceived in the talk and behaviour of
his companions the signs of some ugly and obscene mystery that he did
not understand, and that he had no wish to penetrate.  But the result,
which in after days surprised him with a sense of deep gratitude and
thankfulness, was, that though he spent two years at this school, he
left it with absolutely untainted innocence, such innocence as in later
days he would have held to be almost inconceivable, as to all the
darker temptations of the senses.  But the absence of close human
relationship was the strange thing.  He had a few boys with whom he
associated in a familiar way.  But he had no idea of the homes from
which they came, he knew nothing of their inner taste and fancies.  And
though his own feelings and interests were definite enough and even
strong, though he read books of all kinds with intense avidity, he
never spoke of them to other boys, while at the same time he was averse
to writing letters home; his father complained once in the holidays
that he knew nothing of what the boy did at school.  Hugh could not put
into words what he felt to be the truth, namely, that he hardly knew
himself.  He submitted quietly and obediently to the dull routine of
the place, and felt so little interest in it, that he could not
conceive that his father should do so either.  There were of course
occasional exciting incidents, but to relate them would have required
so much explanation, such a list of personages, such a description of
circumstances, that he felt unable to embark upon it.  His father asked
him whether he would not like some of his school friends to visit him
at home, and he rejected the suggestion with a kind of incredulous
horror.  The thought of invading the sanctity, the familiarity of home,
with the presence of a boy who might reveal its secrets to others, was
too appalling to face; it hardly occurred to him that the boys had
homes of their own, places which they loved.  He only thought of them
as figures on the school stage, to be conciliated, tolerated, lived
with, his only preoccupation being to shield and guard his own heart
and inner life from any intruding influence whatever.  He had no desire
ever to see one of the crew again, boys or masters.  Some indeed were
preferable to others, but no one could be trusted for an instant; the
only safe course was to make no claim, and to shield oneself as far as
possible against all external influences, all alliances, all
relationships.

Hugh, in after life, could hardly recall the faces of any of his
companions; the only way at the time in which he differentiated them to
himself was that some looked kinder than others--that was the only
thing that mattered.  Thus the years dragged themselves along, the
school-time hated with an intensity of dislike, the holidays eagerly
welcomed as a return to old pursuits.  The boy used to lie awake in the
big dormitory in the early summer mornings, thinking with vague terror
and disquiet of the ordered day of labour that lay before him.  There
were peacocks kept in the grounds, whose shrill feminine screams of
despairing reproach were always inseparably connected with the
dreariness of the place.  His last morning at the school he woke early,
full of joyful excitement, and heard the familiar cries with a thankful
sense that he would never hear them again.  He said no good-byes, made
no farewell visits.  He waved his hand, as he drove away, in merry
derision at the grim high windows that looked down on the road, the
only thought in his mind being the feeling of unconquerable relief that
the place would see him no more.

He used to wonder, in after days, whether this could have been avoided;
whether it was a wholesome discipline for a child of his age and his
perhaps peculiar temperament to have been brought up under these
conditions.  After all, it is the case of the average boy that has to
be considered, and for the average boy, insouciant, healthy-minded,
boisterous, there is probably little doubt that the barrack-life of
school has its value.  Probably too for Hugh himself, though it did not
in any way develop his intellect or his temperament, it had a real
value.  It taught him a certain self-reliance; it showed him that what
was disagreeable was not necessarily intolerable.  What Hugh needed to
make him effective was a certain touch of the world, a certain
hardness, which his home life did not tend to develop.  And thus this
bleak and uncheered episode of life gave him a superficial
ordinariness, and taught him the need of conventional compliance with
the ways of the mysterious, uninteresting world.



III

The Public School--Friendships--The Opening Heart--The Mould--The Last
Morning


The change was accomplished, and Hugh went to a public school.  In
later life, conscious as he became of the strain and significance of
personal relations with others, he used to wonder at the careless
indifference with which he had entered the big place which was to be
his home for several years, and was to leave so deep a mark upon him.
In his mature life, in the case of the official positions he was
afterwards to hold, unimportant though they were, the thought of his
relations to those with whom he was to work, the necessity of adapting
himself to their temperaments, of establishing terms of intercourse
with them, used to weigh on his mind for many days before the work
began.  But here, he reflected, where life was lived on so much closer
terms, when the words and deeds, the feelings and fancies of the boys,
among whom he was to live, were of the deepest and most vital
importance, he entered upon the new life, dull and careless, without
interest or excitement, simply going because he was sent, just dumbly
desirous of ease and tranquillity.  He had been elected on to the
foundation of an ancient school, and the surroundings of the new place
did indeed vaguely affect him with a sort of solemn pleasure.  The
quaint mediaeval chambers; the cloisters, with their dark and
mysterious doorways; the hall, with its high timbered roof and stained
glass; the huge Tudor chapel, with its pure white soaring lines; the
great organ, the rich stall-work, and the beautiful fields with their
great elms--all this gave him a dim delight.  He was taken to school by
his father, who was full of affection, hope, and anxiety.  But it
seemed to Hugh, with the curiously observant power that he already
possessed, though he could not have put it into words, that his father,
rather than himself, was experiencing the emotion that it would have
been appropriate for him to have felt.  His father was disappointed
that Hugh did not seem more conscious of membership, of the dignity and
greatness of the place.  His tender care about the books, the pictures,
and the furnishing of Hugh's little room, did indeed move the boy to a
certain gratitude.  But his father's way on such occasions was to order
what he himself would have liked, and his taste was severe; and then he
demanded that the boy should not only accept, but enthusiastically
like, what was given him.  Hugh's immature taste was all for what was
bright and fanciful; his father's for what was grave and dignified; and
thus though the boy was glad to have pictures of his own, he had rather
that they had not been engravings of old religious pictures; and he
would have preferred dainty china objects, such as candlesticks and
ornaments, to the solid metal fittings which his father gave him.  When
they parted, his father gave him a serious exhortation to which the
child hardly listened.  He set him on his guard against certain
temptations, when Hugh was ignorant of what he was alluding to; and the
emotion with which the boy took leave of his father was rather of envy
that he was returning to the dear home life, than regret at being
parted from him.

The first two years of the boy's school life passed like a bewildered
dream; he had a companion or two, but hardly a friend; he had little
idea of what was going on in the big place round him; he was not in the
least ambitious of distinction either in work or games; his one desire
was not to be conspicuous in any way.  He was now a shy, awkward
creature; but as he was good-humoured enough, and as his performances
excited no envy in any of his companions, he was left to a great extent
to his own devices.  The masters with whom he was brought into contact
he regarded with a distant awe; it never occurred to him that they took
any interest in their work or in the characters of the boys they dealt
with.  He supposed vaguely that they liked to show their power by
scoring under the mistakes in exercises, and by setting punishments.
But they were all dim and inhuman beings to him.  Only very gradually
did it dawn upon the boy that he had a place in a big society.  He was
habitually unsuccessful in examinations, but he became a proficient in
football, which gave him a certain small consequence.  He began to give
thought to his clothes, and to adopt the customary tone of talk, not
because he felt in sympathy with it, but because it was a convenient
shield under which he could pursue his own ideas.  But his tastes were
feeble enough; he spent hours in the great school library, a cool
panelled room, and though he had no taste for anything that was hard or
vigorous, he read an immense amount of poetry and fiction.  He began,
too, to write poetry, with extraordinary precautions that his
occupation should not be discovered.  He was present on one occasion
when a store of poems, the work of a curious and eccentric boy of his
own age, was discovered in the drawer of a bureau.  These were solemnly
read aloud by a small tormentor, while the unhappy author, writhing
with shame and misery, was firmly held in a chair, and each composition
received with derisive comments and loud laughter.  Hugh had joined, he
remembered with a sense of self-reproach, in the laughter and the
criticisms, though he felt in his heart both interest in and admiration
for the poems.  But he dare not so far brave ridicule as to express his
feelings, and simply fell, tamely and ungenerously, into the general
tone.  He did indeed make feeble overtures afterwards to the author,
which were suspiciously and fiercely repelled, and the only practical
lesson that Hugh learnt from the scene was to conceal his own literary
experiments with a painful caution.

But as the years passed there came a new influence into Hugh's life.
He had always been observant, in his quiet way, of other boys, and at
last, as his nature developed, he began to idealise them in a romantic
way.  The first object of his admiration was a boy much older than
himself, an independent, graceful creature, who had a strong taste for
beautiful things, and adorned his room with china and pictures; he was
moreover a contributor of verses to the school magazine, which seemed
to Hugh models of elegance and grace.  But he was far too shy to think
of attracting the notice of his hero.  It simply became an intense
preoccupation to watch him, in chapel or hall; it was a fearful joy to
meet him, and he used to invent excuses for passing his room, till he
knew the very ornaments and pictures by sight.  That room seemed to him
a kind of sacred shrine, where a bright being lived a life of high and
lofty intellectual emotion.  But he never succeeded in exchanging a
word with the object of his admiration, except on a certain day, marked
in his calendar long after with letters of gold.  There was a regatta
in the neighbourhood of the school, to which the boys were allowed to
go under certain conditions.  He had gone, and had spent his day in
wandering about alone, until the glare and the crowd had brought on a
headache; and he had resolved to return home by an early train.  He
went to the station, hoping that he might be unobserved, and stepped
into an empty carriage.  Just as the train started, he heard rapid
steps; the door was flung open, and his hero entered.  Seeing a junior
boy of his own house in the carriage, he made some good-natured remark,
and before Hugh could realise the greatness of his good fortune, his
hero had sate down beside him, and after a few words, with a friendly
impulse, had launched into a ghost story which lasted the whole of the
journey, and the very phrases of which haunted Hugh's mind for weeks.
They had walked down from the station together, but alas for the
vicissitudes of human affairs, his god, contented with having shown
courteous kindness to a lonely and uninteresting small boy, never gave
him for the rest of the school term, after which he left, the slightest
sign of recognition; and yet for years after the fields and trees and
houses which they had passed on the line were suffused for Hugh with a
subtle emotion in the memory of that journey.

And then, a little later than this, Hugh had the first and perhaps the
most abiding joy of his life.  A clever, ambitious, active boy of his
own standing, whom he had long secretly admired, took a pronounced
fancy to him.  He was a boy, Hugh saw afterwards, with a deeply jealous
disposition; and the first attraction of Hugh's friendship had been the
fact that Hugh threatened his supremacy in no department whatever.
Hugh was the only boy of the set who had never done better than he in
anything.  But then there came in a more generous feeling.  Hugh's
heart awoke; there was nothing which it was not a pleasure to do for
his friend.  He would put anything aside, at any moment, to walk, to
talk, to discharge little businesses, to fetch and carry, to be in
attendance.  Moreover, Hugh found his tongue, but his anxiety to retain
his friend's affection made him astonishingly tactful and discreet.  He
was always ready to sympathise, to enter into any suggestion; he
suppressed himself and his own tastes completely and utterly; and he
found too, to his vast delight, that he could be entertaining and
amusing.  The books he had read, the fiction with which he had crammed
himself, his keen eye for idiosyncrasies and absurdities, all came to
his assistance, and he was amply repaid by a smile for his trouble.

The two boys became inseparable, and perhaps the thing that made those
days of companionship bright with a singular and golden brightness, was
that there was in his friend the same fastidious vein, the same dislike
of any coarseness of talk or thought which was strong in Hugh.  Looking
back on his school life, with all the surprising foulness of the talk
of even high-principled boys, it was a deep satisfaction to Hugh to
reflect that there had never been in the course of this friendship a
single hint, so far as he could recollect, in their own intercourse
with each other, of the existence of evil.  They had tacitly ignored
it, and yet there had not been the least priggishness about the
relationship.  They had never inquired about each other's aspirations
or virtues, in the style of sentimental school-books.  They had never
said a word of religion, nor had there ever been the smallest
expression of sentiment.  All that was taken for granted.  It was
indeed one of those perfect, honest, wholesome companionships, which
can only exist between two cheerful boys of the same age.  Hugh indeed
was conscious of a depth of sacred emotion, too sacred to be spoken of
to any one, even to be expressed to himself.  It was not, in fact, a
definite relation which he represented to himself; it was rather like a
new light shed abroad over his life; incidents had a savour, a sharp
outline which they had lacked before.  He became conscious, too, of the
movement and intermingling of personal forces, of characters.  He no
longer had the purely spectatorial observation of others which had
distinguished him before, but beheld other personalities, as in a
mirror, in the mind of his friend.  And then, too, what was a far
deeper joy, literature and poetry began to yield up their secrets to
him.  Poetry had been to him before, a gracious, soulless thing like a
tree or a flower, and had been apprehended purely in its external
aspect.  But now he suddenly saw the emotion that burnt beneath, not
indeed of the love that is mingled with desire--that had still no
meaning for the soul of the boy, or only the significance of a far-off
mystery; but he perceived for the first time that it was indeed
possible to hold something dearer than oneself, one's country, one's
school, one's friend--something large and strong, that could intervene
between one's hopes and oneself.

Hugh was indeed not yet, if ever, to learn the force of these large
words--patriotism, honour, self-surrender, public spirit; he remained
an individualist to the end.  His country never became for him the
glowing reality that it means for some.  It was dear because his
friends, who were also Englishmen, were dear; and his school for the
same reason.  If he had a friend in the School Eleven Hugh would always
rather that his friend should be distinguished than that the school
should win.  He could not disentangle the personal fibre, or conceive
of an institution, a society, apart from the beings of which it was
composed.

But his friendship broke in pieces, once and for all, the dumb
isolation in which he had hitherto lived.  It opened for him the door
of a larger and finer life, and his soul, endowed with a new
elasticity, seemed to leap, to run, to climb, with a freshness and
vigour that he had never before so much as guessed at.

The closeness of this friendship gradually loosened--or rather the
exclusive companionship of its earlier stages grew less; but it seemed
to Hugh to bring him into new relations with half the world.  He became
a boy with many friends.  Other boys found his quaint humour, his
shrewd perceptions, his courtesy and gentleness attractive.  He took
his new-found popularity with a quiet prudence, a good-humoured
discretion that disarmed the most critical; but it was deeply
delightful to the boy; he seemed to himself to have passed out of the
shadow into the sun and air.  Life appeared to be full of gracious
secrets, delightful emotions, excellent surprises; it became a series
of small joyful discoveries.  His intellect responded to the stimulus,
and he became aware that he had, in certain directions, a definite
ability of which he had never suspected himself.  The only part of his
nature that was as yet dark and sealed was the religious spirit.  In a
world so full of interests and beauties, there was no room for God; and
at this period of his life, Hugh, with a blindness which afterwards
amazed him, grew to think of God in the same way that he unconsciously
thought of his father, as a checking and disapproving influence, not to
be provoked, but equally not to be trusted.  Hugh had no confidences
with his father; he never felt sure, if he gave way to easy and
unconstrained talk with him, that his father would not suddenly discern
something of levity and frivolity in his pursuits; and this developed
in Hugh a gentle hypocrisy, that was indeed the shadow of his sympathy,
which made him divine what would please his father to talk about.  He
found all his old letters after his father's death, arranged and
docketed--the thought of the unexpected tenderness which had prompted
this care filled his eyes with sudden tears--but how unreal they
seemed!  There was nothing of himself in them, though they were written
with a calculated easiness of expression which made him feel ashamed.

And it was even the same with his idea of God.  He never thought of Him
as the giver of beautiful things, as the inspirer of happy friendships;
he rather regarded Him as the liberal dispenser of disappointments, of
rainy days, of reproofs, of failures.  It was natural enough in a place
like a public school, where the masters set the boys an example of
awkward reticence on serious matters.  Even Hugh's house-master, a
conscientious, devoted man, who, in the time of expansion, was taken
into the circle of his sincere friendships--even he never said a
serious word to the boy, except with a constrained and official air as
though he heartily disliked the subject.

It is no part of this slender history to trace the outer life of Hugh
Neville.  It must suffice to say that, by the time that he rose to the
top of the school, he appeared a wholesome, manly, dignified boy, quiet
and unobtrusive; very few suspected him of taking anything but a simple
and conventional view of the scheme of things; and indeed Hugh's view
at this time was, if not exactly conventional, at least unreflective.
It was his second time of harvest.  He had gathered in, in his
childhood, a whole treasure of beautiful and delicate impressions of
nature.  Now he cared little for nature, except as a quiet background
for the drama which was proceeding, and which absorbed all his
thoughts.  What he was now garnering was impressions of personalities
and characters, the odd perversities that often surprisingly revealed
themselves, the strange generosities and noblenesses that sometimes
made themselves felt.  But an English public school is hardly a place
where these larger and finer qualities reveal themselves, though they
are indeed often there.  The whole atmosphere is one of decorum,
authority, subordination.  Introspection is disregarded and even
suppressed.  To be active, good-humoured, sensible, is the supreme
development.  Hugh indeed got nothing but good out of his school-days;
the simple code of the place gave him balance and width of view, and
the conventionality which is the danger of these institutions never
soaked into his mind; convention was indeed for him like a suit of
bright polished armour, in which he moved about like a youthful knight.
He left school curiously immature in many ways.  He had _savoir faire_
enough and mild literary interests, but of hard intellectual robustness
he had nothing.  The studies of the place were indeed not of a nature
to encourage it.  The most successful boys were graceful triflers with
ancient literatures; to write a polished and vapid poem of Latin verse
was Hugh's highest accomplishment, and he possessed the power of
reading, with moderate facility, both Latin and Greek; add to this a
slender knowledge of ancient history, a slight savour of mathematics,
and a few vague conceptions of science; such was the dainty
intellectual equipment with which he prepared to do battle with the
great world.  But for all that he knew something of the art of dealing
with men.  He had learnt to obey and to command, to be deferential to
authority and to exact due obedience, and he had too a priceless
treasure of friendship, of generous emotion, untinged with
sentimentality, that threw a golden light back upon the tall elms, the
ancient towers, the swiftly-running stream.  It was to come back to him
in later years, in reveries both bitter and sweet, how inexpressibly
dear the place had been to him; indeed when he left his school, it had
simply transmuted itself into his home,--the Rectory, with its trees
and walks, its narrower circle of interests, having faded quite into
the background.

The last morning at school was filled with a desolation that was almost
an anguish; he had packed, had distributed presents, had said a number
of farewells, each thrilled with a passionate hope that he would not be
quite forgotten, but that he might still claim a little part in the
place, in the hearts so dear to him.  He lay awake half the night, and
in the dawn he rose and put his curtain aside, and looked out on the
old buttresses of the chapel, the mellow towers of the college, all in
a clear light of infinite brightness and freshness.  He could not
restrain his tears, and went back to his bed shaken with sobs, yet
aware that it was a luxurious sorrow; it was not sorrow for misspent
days; there were carelessnesses and failures innumerable, but no dark
shadows of regret; it was rather the thought that the good time was
over, that he had not realised, as it sped away, how infinitely sweet
it had been, and the thought that it was indeed over and done with, the
page closed, the flower faded, the song silent, pierced the very core
of his heart.  One more last thrill of intense emotion was his; his
carriage, as he drove away, surmounted the bridge over the stream; the
old fields with the silent towers behind them lay beneath him, the home
of a hundred memories.  There was hardly a yard of it all that he could
not connect with some little incident; the troubles, the unhappinesses,
such as they had been, were gone like a shadow; only the joy remained;
and the memory of those lost joys seemed like a bird beating its wings
in the clear air, as it flew to the shadow of the pines.  What was to
follow? he cared little to think; all his mind was bent on the sweet
past.  Something of the mystery of life came home to him in that
moment.  He would have readily died then, he felt, if a wish could have
brought him death.  Yet there was nothing morbid in the thought; it was
only that death seemed for a moment a fitting consummation for the end
of a period that had held a richness and joy that nothing else could
ever hold again.



IV

Undergraduate Days--Strain--Recovery--A First Book


The desire to be returning to school with which Hugh went up to the
university did not last long; he paid a visit to his housemaster, and
saw with a mixture of envy and amusement how his juniors had all
stepped quietly into the places which he and his friends had vacated,
and were enjoying the sensation of influence and activity.  He was
courteously treated and even welcomed; but he felt all the time like
the _revenante_ of Christina Rossetti,--"I was of yesterday."  And then
too, a few weeks after he had settled at Cambridge, in spite of the
strangeness of it all, in spite of the humiliation of being turned in a
moment from a person of dignity and importance into a mere "freshman,"
he realised that the freedom of the life, as compared with the
barrack-life of school, was irresistibly attractive.  He had to keep
two or three engagements in the day, and even about these there was
great elasticity.  The independence, the liberty, the kindliness of it
all, came home to him with immense charm.  And then, too, the city full
of mediaeval palaces, the quiet dignity, the incomparable beauty of
everything, gave him a deep though partly unconscious satisfaction.
But for the first year he was merely a big schoolboy in mind.  The real
change in his mental history dated from his election to a small society
which met weekly, where a paper was read, and a free discussion
followed.  Up to this time Hugh's religion had been of a purely
orthodox and sensuous description.  He had grown up in an
ecclesiastical atmosphere, and the ritual of Church Services, the
music, the ceremonial, had been all attractive to him.  As for the
dogmatic side, he had believed it unquestioningly, just as he had
believed in the history or the science that had been taught him.  But
in this society he met young men--and older men too, for several of the
Dons were members--who were rationalists, materialists, and definitely
sceptical.  It dawned on his mind for the first time that, while all
other sciences were of a deductive kind, endeavouring to approach
principles from the observation and classification of phenomena, from
the scrutiny of evidence, that theology was a science based on
intuitions, and dependent on assumptions which it was impossible to
test scientifically.  The first effect of this was to develop a great
loyalty to his traditions, and almost the first hard thinking he had
ever done was in the direction of attempting to defend his faith on
scientific principles.  But the attempt proved fruitless; one by one
his cherished convictions were washed away, though he never owned it,
not even to himself.  He was regarded as a model of orthodoxy.  He made
friends with a young Fellow of his college, who was an advanced
free-thinker, and set himself to enlighten the undergraduate, whose
instinctive sympathy gave him a charm for older men, of which he was
entirely unconscious.  They had many serious talks on the subject; and
his friend employed a kind of gentle irony in undermining as far as he
could the foundations of what seemed to him so irrational a state of
mind.  One particular conversation Hugh remembered as vividly as he
remembered anything.  He and his friend had been sitting, one hot June
day, in the college garden, then arrayed in all its mid-summer pomp.
They sate near a great syringa bush, the perfume of which shrub in
later years always brought back the scene before him; overhead, among
the boughs of a lime-tree, a thrush fluted now cheerfully, now
pathetically, like one who was testing a gift of lyrical improvisation.
The elder man, wearied by a hard term's work, displayed a certain
irritability of argument.  Hugh held tenaciously to his points; and at
last, after a silence, his friend turned to him and said, "Well, after
all, it reduces itself to this; have you an interior witness to the
truth of what you say, which you can honestly hold to be superior to
the exterior evidences of its improbability?"  Hugh smiled uneasily,
and conscious that he was saying something which he hoped rather than
knew, said, "I think I have."  The older man shrugged his shoulders and
said, "Then I can say no more!"--nor did he ever again revert to the
question, from what Hugh thought was a real generosity and tenderness
of spirit.

All the time Hugh practised a species of emotional religion, attending
the chapel services devoutly, even willingly hearing sermons.  There
was a little dark church, in a tiny courtyard hemmed in by houses, and
approached by a narrow passage, served by a Fellow of a neighbouring
college, who preached gentle devotional discourses on Sunday evenings,
to which many undergraduates used to go.  These were a great help to
Hugh, because they transferred religion from the intellectual to the
spiritual region; and thus, though he was gradually made aware of the
weakness of his intellectual position, he continued his religious life,
in the hope that the door of a mystery might some day be opened to him,
and that he might arrive, by an inner process, at a conviction which
his intellect could not give him.  But here as elsewhere he was swayed
by a species of timidity and caution.  While on the one hand his
intellect told him that there was no sure and incontrovertible
standing-ground for the orthodoxy which he professed, yet, on the other
hand, he could not bear to relinquish the chance that certainty might
be found on different lines.

In the middle of these speculations, he suffered a dark experience.  He
fell, for the first time in his life, into ill-health.  His vitality
and nervous force were great, and though soon depleted were soon
recuperated; but the new and ardent interests of the university had
appealed to him on many sides; he worked hard, took violent exercise,
and filled up every space of time with conversation and social
enjoyment; he had no warning of the strain, except an unaccustomed
weariness, of which he made light, drawing upon his nervous energy to
sustain him; the wearier he grew, the more keenly he flung himself into
whatever interested him, learning, as he thought, that the way to
conquer lassitude was by increased exertions, the feeling of fatigue
always passing off when he once grew absorbed in a subject.  He took to
sitting up late and rising early, and he had never seemed to himself
more alert and vigorous in mind, when the collapse came.  He was
suddenly attacked, without warning, by insomnia.

One night he went to bed late, and found it difficult to sleep;
thoughts raced through his brain, scenes and images forming and
reforming with inconceivable rapidity; at last he fell asleep, to awake
an hour or two later in an intolerable agony of mind.  His heart beat
thick and fast, and a shapeless horror seemed to envelop him.  He
struck a light and tried to read, but a ghastly and poisonous fear of
he knew not what, seemed to clutch at his mind.  At last he fell into a
broken sleep; but when he rose in the morning, he knew that some
mysterious evil had befallen him.  If he had been older and wiser, he
would have gone at once to some sensible physician, and a short period
of rest would probably have restored him; but the suffering appeared to
be of so purely mental a character, that he did not realise how much of
it was physical.  For that day and for many days he wrestled with a
fierce blackness of depression, which gradually concentrated itself
upon his religious life; he became possessed by a strong delusion that
it was a punishment sent to him by God for tampering with freedom of
thought, and little by little a deep moral anxiety took hold of him.
He searched the recesses of his heart, and ended by painting his whole
life in the blackest of colours.

In the endeavour to find some degree of peace, he read the Scriptures
constantly, and the marks he made in his Bible against verses which
seemed to hold out hope to him or to plunge him into despair, remained
through the after years as signs of this strange conflict of mind.  His
distress was infinitely increased by attending some services at a
Mission which then happened to be proceeding which, instead of
inspiring him with hope, convinced him that his case was past recovery.
For some weeks he tasted, day by day, the dreary bitterness of the cup
of dark and causeless depression, and laboured under an agonising
dejection of spirit.  This intensity of suffering seemed to shake his
whole life to its foundation.  It made havoc of his work, of his
friendships, of the easy philosophy of his life.  He began to learn the
distressing necessity of dissembling his feelings; he endeavoured at
great cost to bear as unconcerned a part as before in simple
festivities and gatherings, while the clouds gathered and the thunder
muttered in his soul.  And all the time the answer never came.  Wrestle
as he might, there seemed to him an impenetrable barrier between him
and the golden light of God.  He learnt in what dark and cold isolation
it is possible for the soul to wander.  Slowly, very slowly, the
outlook brightened; a whole range of new emotions opened before him.
The expressions of suffering and sorrow, that had seemed to him before
but touching and beautiful phrases, became clear and vivid.  His own
powers of expression became more subtle and rich.  And thus, though he
gradually drifted back into a species of spiritual epicureanism, he
always felt grateful for his sojourn in the dark world.  He did not
abandon his religious profession, but he became more content to suspend
his judgment.  He saw dimly that the mistake he had made was in hoping
for anything of the nature of certainty.  He became indeed aware that
the only persons who are indubitably in error, are those who make up
their minds in early life to a theory about God and the world, and who
from that moment admit no evidence into their minds except the evidence
that supports their view.  Hugh saw that life must be, for him at all
events, a pilgrimage, in which, so long as his open-mindedness, his
candour, his enthusiasm did not desert him, there were endless lessons
to be learnt by the way.  And thus he came back gratefully and wearily
to his old life, his old friendships.  His college became to him a very
blessed place; apart from the ordinary social life, from the work and
the games which formed a background and framework in which
relationships were set, he found a new region of desires, impulses,
ideas, through which he wandered at his will.

At this time Hugh could not be said to be happy.  The shadows of his
dark moods often hung about him, and he bore in his face the traces of
his suffering.  He felt, too, that he had failed in his religious
quest, though side by side with this was the consciousness that he had
been meant to fail.  His religious views were a vague Theism, coupled
with a certain tendency to determinism, to which his wanderings had
conducted him.  Christian determinism he called it, because though his
old unquestioning view of the historical evidences of Christianity had
practically disappeared, yet his belief in Christian morality as the
highest system that had yet appeared in the world was unshaken.  And it
was at this time, just after taking his degree, that he wrote a little
book, a species of imaginary biography which attained, to his surprise,
a certain vogue.  The book was an extraordinarily formless and
irrelevant production, written upon no plan, into which he shovelled
all his vague speculations upon life.  But its charm was its ingenuous
youthfulness and emotional sincerity; and although he afterwards came
to dislike the thought of the book so much, that at a later date he
bought up and destroyed all the copies of it that remained unsold, yet
for all that it had the value of being a perfectly sincere revelation
of personality, and represented a real, if a sentimental, experience.
The book was severely reviewed, but as it was published anonymously,
this gave Hugh little anxiety; and so he shouldered his burden, and
went out of the sheltered life into the wilderness of the world.



V

Practical Life--The Official World--Drudgery--Resignation--Retirement


There will be no attempt made here to trace in any detail the
monotonous years of Hugh's professional life, because they seemed to
him to have been in one sense lost years; there was at all events no
conscious growth in his soul.  His spirit seemed to him afterwards to
have lain, during those years, like a worm in a cocoon, living a blind
life.  Externally, indeed, they were the busiest time of his life.  He
became a hard-worked official in the Civil Service.  He lived in rooms
in London.  He spent his day at the office, he composed innumerable
documents, he wrote endless letters; he seemed to himself, in a way, to
be useful; he did not dislike the work, and he found it interesting to
have to get up some detailed case, and to present it as lucidly as
possible.  He began his official life with an intention of doing some
sort of literary work as well; but he found himself incapable of any
sustained effort.  Still, he continued to write; he did a good deal of
reviewing, and kept a voluminous diary, in which he scribbled anything
that struck him, recording scenes, conversations, impressions of books
and people.  This he found was easy enough, but it seemed impossible to
complete anything, or to give it a finished form.  However, he acquired
the habit of writing, and gained some facility of expression.  His
short holidays were spent either in travel, with some like-minded
companion, or in his quiet country home, where he read a large number
of books, and lived much in the open air.  But his progress seemed to
have been purely intellectual.  He lost his interest in abstract
problems and in religious matters, which retired to a remote distance,
and appeared to him to be little more than a line of blue hills on a
distant horizon, as seen by a man who goes up and down in a city.  He
had visited them once, those hills of hope, and he used to think
vaguely of visiting them again; but meanwhile the impulse and the
opportunity alike failed him.

Yet in another sense he did not consider those days lost.  He gained,
he used to feel afterwards, a knowledge of the world, a knowledge of
men, a knowledge of affairs.  This contact with realities took from his
somewhat dreamy and reflective temperament its unpractical quality.  If
he chose afterwards to leave what is commonly called the world, it was
a deliberate choice, founded on a thorough knowledge of its conditions,
and not upon a timid and awkward ignorance.  He did not leave the world
because it frightened or bewildered him, but because he did not find in
it the things of which he was in search.  Neither, on the other hand,
did he quit the life of affairs like a weakling or an inefficient
person who had failed in it, and had persuaded himself that
incompetence was unworldliness.  Hugh became a remarkably efficient
official, alert, sensible, practical, and prudent.  He was marked out
for promotion.  He was looked upon as a man who got on well with
inferiors and superiors alike, who could be trusted to do a complicated
piece of business well, who was worth consulting.

Moreover he acquired a very serviceable and lucid style, a power of
clear statement, which afterwards stood him in good stead.  His
official work gave him the power of seeing the point, it gave him an
economy of words, an effective briskness and solidity of presentment;
at the same time his literary work prevented him from degenerating into
a mere précis-writer.

It is very difficult to say which of the days of a man's life are
wasted and which are fruitful.  It is not necessarily the days in which
a man gives himself up to his chosen work in which he makes most
progress.  Sometimes a long inarticulate period, when there seems to a
man to be a dearth of ideas, a mental drought, acts as a sort of
incubation in which a thought is slowly conceived and perfected.
Sometimes a long period of repression stores force at high pressure.
The lean years are often the prelude, even the cause, of the years of
fatness, when the exhausted and overteemed earth has lain fallow and
still, storing its vital juices.

Sometimes, too, a disagreeable duty, undertaken in heaviness and
faithfully fulfilled, rewards one by an increase of mental strength and
agility.  A painful experience which seems to drown a man's whole
nature in depression and sadness, to cloud hope and eagerness alike,
can be seen in retrospect to have been a period fertile in patience and
courage.

Hugh did not find his official life depressing, but very much the
reverse.  He enjoyed dealing with affairs and with men.  He used
sometimes to wonder, half regretfully, half comfortably, at the fading
of his old dreams, in which so much that was beautiful was mingled with
so much that was uneasy.  He began indeed to be somewhat impatient of
sentiment and emotion, and to think with a sort of compassion of those
who allowed themselves to be ruled by such motives.  He did not exactly
adopt a conventional standard, but he found it easier to live on a
conventional plane, until he even began to be viewed by some of his old
friends as a man who had adopted a conventional view.  Hugh indeed
found, in his official life, that the majority of those among whom his
lot was cast, did seem whole-heartedly content to live in a
conventional world and to enjoy conventional successes.  Such men, and
they were numerous, never seemed disposed to probe beneath the surface
of things, unless they were confronted by adverse circumstances,
bereavements, or indifferent health; and, under these conditions, their
one aim seemed to be to escape as soon as possible from the region of
discomfort: they viewed reflection as a sort of symptom of failing
vitality.  And so Hugh drifted to a certain extent into feeling that
self-questioning and abstract thought were a species of intellectual
ill-health.  One arrived at no solution, any more than one did in the
case of a toothache; the one thing to do was to get rid of the
unsatisfactory conditions as swiftly as possible.

During this period of his life Hugh made many acquaintances, but no
great friends.  In fact the idea of close and intimate relationship
with others fell more and more into the background; he became
interested rather in the superficial and spectatorial aspect of things
and persons.  He began to see how differences of character and
temperament played into each other, and formed a resultant which merged
itself in the slow current of affairs.  But he seemed to himself to be
acquiring and sorting tangible experiences, and to have little
speculative interest at all; he neither craved to make or to receive
confidences.  The hours not occupied by business were given to social
life and to reading; and he was, or fancied himself to be, perfectly
contented.

But as the years went on, instead of sinking into purely conventional
ways, Hugh found a mood of dissatisfaction growing upon him.  He found
that after his holidays he came back with increasing reluctance to his
work.  The work itself, how unsatisfactory it became!  Half the time
and energy of the office seemed to be spent on creating rather than
performing work; an immense amount of detail seemed to be entirely
useless, and to cumber rather than to assist the conduct of the
business that was important.  Of course much of it was necessary work
which had to be done by some one; but Hugh began to wonder whether his
life was well bestowed in carrying out a system of which so much seemed
to consist in dealing with unimportant minutiae, and in amassing
immense records of things that deserved only to be forgotten.  He found
himself reflecting that life was short, and that he tended to spend the
greater part of his waking hours in matters that were essentially
trivial.  He began to question whether there was any duty for him in
the matter at all, and by what law, human or divine, a man was bound to
spend his days in work in the usefulness of which he did not wholly
believe.

Living, as he did, an inexpensive life of great simplicity, he had
contrived to save a certain amount of money, and he was surprised to
find how fast it accumulated.  When he had been some fifteen years in
his office, a great-uncle of his died, leaving Hugh quite unexpectedly
a sum of a few thousand pounds, which, together with his savings, gave
him a small but secure competence, as large, in fact, as the income he
was accustomed to spend.

Even so, he did not at once decide to leave his official career.  It
seemed to him at first that the abandonment of a chosen profession
ought not to depend upon the fact that one could live independently
without it; he felt that there ought to be a better reason for pursuing
a certain course of life than mere livelihood.  But his accession of
means enabled Hugh to give up all literary hack-work, such as
reviewing, which had long been somewhat of a burden to him; he had
found himself of late agreeing more and more with William Morris's
doctrine, that there was something degrading in a man's printing his
opinions about other persons' books for money; and he now began to
indulge in more ambitious literary schemes.  This involved him in a
good deal of reading; but he found himself thwarted at every turn by
the pressure of official business.  He found that his reading had to be
done over and over again; that he would master a section of his
subject, and then for lack of time be compelled to put it aside, until
it had passed out of his mind and needed to be recovered.

At last he made up his mind that he would take the first obvious
opportunity that offered itself, to end his official work.  It came in
the form of an offer which, a year or two before, would have gratified
his ambition, and which would have bound him without question to
official work for the rest of his active life; he was offered in very
complimentary terms the headship of a newly created department.  He not
only declined it, to the surprise and disappointment of his chief, but
he resigned his appointment at the same time.  He had a somewhat
painful interview with the head of the office, who told him that he was
sacrificing a brilliant and honourable career at the very moment when
it was opening before him.  Hugh did not, however, hesitate; he found
it a difficult task to explain to his superior exactly what he intended
to do, who expressed a good-humoured contempt for the idea of making a
mild literary experiment, at an age when literary success seemed
unattainable.  The great man, indeed, one of whose virtues was an easy
frankness, said that it seemed to him as absurd as if Hugh had
expressed the intention of devoting the rest of his life to practising
the piano or drawing in water-colours.  Hugh was quite aware that his
literary position was of a dilettante kind, and that he had done
nothing to justify the hope that success in literature was within his
reach.  He pleaded that the service of the State was encumbered by a
mass of unnecessary detail, in the usefulness of which he did not
believe.  The Secretary said that of course there was a good deal of
drudgery, but that the same applied to most lives of practical
usefulness; and he pointed out that by accepting the new appointment,
Hugh would be set free to attend to work of a more original and
important kind.  But Hugh felt himself sustained by a curiously
inflexible determination, for which he could not wholly account; he
merely said that he had considered the question in all its bearings,
and that his mind was made up; upon which the Secretary shrugged his
shoulders, and said that he did not wish to over-persuade him; and that
indeed, if Hugh accepted the new post merely in deference to
persuasion, it would be good neither for himself nor for the service.
He added a few conventional words to the effect that the office would
be sorry to lose so courteous and competent an official; and Hugh
recognised that his chief, with the instinct of a thoroughly practical
man, had dismissed him from his thoughts, as an entirely fantastic and
wrong-headed person.

His retirement was not unattended by pain; he found that the
announcement of his departure aroused more surprise and sorrow among
his colleagues than he had expected; it was depressing, too, to say
good-bye to the well-known faces, the familiar rooms, the routine that
formed so substantial a part of his life.  But he found in himself a
wholly unanticipated courage, and even a secret glee at the prospect of
his release, which revealed to him how congenial it was.  He cleared up
the accumulations of years; he made his adieux with much real emotion;
yet it was a solemn rather than a sad moment when he put his papers
away for the last time, and handed over the keys of the familiar boxes
to his successor.  He went slowly down the stairs alone, and stopped at
the door to say good-bye to the old attendant, whom he never remembered
to have seen absent from his place.  The old man said, "Well, sir, I
did think as you would not have left us yet."  Hugh replied, smiling,
"Well, we have all to move on when our time comes, and I hope I leave
only friends behind me."  The old man seemed much affected by this, and
said, "Yes, sir, we shall be glad to see you whenever you can look in
upon us"--and then with much fumbling drew out and presented a small
pen-wiper to Hugh, which he had made with his own hands--"and God bless
you, sir!" he added, with an apology for the liberty he was taking.
This was the only incident in his leave-taking which affected Hugh to
tears; but they were tears of emotion, not of regret.  He was looking
on to the new life, and not back to the old; and as he went out into
the foggy air, and along the familiar pavement, there was nothing in
his heart that called him back.  He was grateful for all the kindness
and affection of his friends, and the thought that he held a place in
their hearts.  What he hoped, he hardly knew; but the release from the
burden of the tedious and useless work was like that which Christian
experienced, when the burden rolled from his back into the grave that
stood in the bottom, and he saw it no more.



VI

His Father's Friendship--His Sister's Death--The Silent River


One of the best things that Hugh's professional life had brought him
was a friendship with his father; their relations had been increasingly
tense all through the undergraduate days; if Hugh had not been of a
superficially timorous temperament, disliking intensely the atmosphere
of displeasure, disapproval, or misunderstanding, among those with whom
he lived, there would probably have been sharp collisions.  His father
did not realise that the boy was growing up; active and vigorous
himself, he felt no diminution of energy, no sense of age, and he
forgot that the relations of the home circle were insensibly altering.
He took an intense interest in his son's university career, but
interfered with his natural liberty, expecting him to spend all his
vacations at home, and discouraging visits to houses of which he did
not approve.  He was very desirous that Hugh should ultimately take
orders, and was nervously anxious that he should come under no
sceptical influences.  The result was that Hugh simply excluded his
father from his confidence, telling him nothing except the things of
which he knew he would approve, and never asking his advice about
matters on which he felt at all keenly; because he knew that his father
would tend to attempt to demolish, with a certain bitterness and
contempt, the speculations in which he indulged, and would be shocked
and indignant at the mere beckoning of ideas which Hugh found to be
widely entertained even by men whom he respected greatly.  His father's
faith indeed, subtle and even beautiful as it was, was built upon
axioms which it seemed to him a kind of puerile perversity to deny.
Religion came to him in definite and traditional channels, and to seek
it in other directions appeared to him a species of wanton profanity.

The result was an entire divergence of thought, of which Hugh was fully
conscious; but it did not seem to him that there was anything to be
gained by candid avowal.  He was at one with his father in the
essential doctrines of Christianity; and being by nature of a
speculative turn, he considered the discrimination of religious truth,
the criticism of religious tradition, to be rather a stimulating and
agreeable mental pastime than a question of ethics or morals.  Thus he
was led into practising a kind of hypocrisy with his father in matters
of religion.  He felt that it was not worth while engaging in argument
of a kind that would have distressed his father and irritated himself,
upon matters which he believed to be intellectual, while his father
believed them to be ethical.  Hugh often pondered over this condition
of things, which he felt to be unsatisfactory, but no solution occurred
to him; he said to himself that he valued domestic peace rather than a
frank understanding upon matters to which he and his father attached a
wholly different value.  But meantime he drifted further and further
away from the ecclesiastical attitude, though his fondness for
ecclesiastical art and ceremony effectually disguised from his father
the speculative movement of his mind.

But his independent entrance upon his professional life had given him
an emancipation of which he was not at first fully conscious.  He did
not act from set purpose, and only became aware later that if he had
thought out a diplomatic scheme of action, he could not have devised a
more effectual one.  He simply made his own arrangements for the
holidays; he travelled, he paid visits; he came home when it was
convenient to him; but the result was that in the early years of his
professional life he was very little at home.  Hugh supposed afterwards
that his father must have felt this deeply; but he did not show it,
except that suddenly, almost in a day and an hour, Hugh became aware
that their relations had completely altered.  He found himself met with
a deference, a courteous equality which he had never before
experienced.  Instead of giving him advice, his father began to ask it,
and consulted him freely on matters which he had hitherto kept entirely
in his own hands.  The result was at once an extraordinary expansion of
affection and admiration on Hugh's part.  He realised, as he had never
done before, the richness and energy of his father's mind within
certain limits, his practical ability, his high-mindedness, his amazing
moral purity.  Once freed from the subservient relation imposed upon
him by habit, Hugh saw in his father a man of real genius and
effectiveness.  The effectiveness he had hitherto taken as a matter of
course; he had thought of his father as effective in the same way that
he had thought of him as severe, dignified, handsome--it had seemed a
part of himself; but he now began to compare his father with other men,
and to realise that he was not only an exceptional man, but a man with
a rare intensity of nature, whose whole life was lived on a plane and
in an atmosphere that was impossible to easy, tolerant, conventional
natures.  He realised his father's capacity for leadership, his
extraordinary and unconscious influence over all with whom he came in
contact, the burning glow of his fervid temperament, his scorn and
detestation of all that was vile or mean.  It did not at once become
easier for Hugh to speak freely of what was passing in his own mind;
indeed he realised that his father was one of those whose prejudices
were so strong, and whose personal magnetism was so great, that not
even his oldest and most intimate friends could afford to express
opposition to him in matters on which he felt deeply.  But Hugh saw
that he must accept it as an unalterable condition of his father's
nature, and realising this, he felt that he could concede him an honour
and a homage, due to one of commanding moral greatness, which he had
never willingly conceded to his paternal authority.  The result was a
great and growing happiness.  Sometimes indeed Hugh made mistakes,
beguiled by the increasing freedom of their intercourse; he allowed
himself to discuss lightly matters on which he could hardly believe
that any one could feel passionately.  But a real and deep friendship
sprang up between the two, and Hugh was at times simply astonished at
the confidence which his father reposed in him.  There were still,
indeed, days when the tension was felt.  But Hugh became aware that his
father made strong efforts to banish his own depression and melancholy
when he was with his son, that it might not cloud their intercourse.
Signs such as these came home to Hugh with intense pathos, and evoked
an affection which became one of the real forces of his life.  His
father had consented to Hugh's entering the Civil Service, but he
continued to hope that his son might ultimately decide to take orders;
he had cherished that hope from Hugh's earliest years, and seeing
Hugh's fondness for the externals of religion, while he knew nothing of
his mental attitude, he still believed and prayed that Hugh might be
led to enter the service of the Church.  Hugh realised that this was
still his father's deep preoccupation, and perceived that he avoided
any direct expression of his wishes, exercising only a transparent
diplomacy which was infinitely touching--so touching indeed that Hugh
sometimes debated within himself whether he might not so far sacrifice
his own bent, which was more and more directed to the maintenance of an
independent attitude, in order to give his father so deep and lasting a
delight.  But he was forced to decide that the motive was not cogent
enough, and that to adopt a definite position, involving the
suppression of some of his strongest convictions, for the sake of
giving one he loved a pleasure, was like exposing the ark to the risks
of battle.  He knew well enough that if he had declared his full mind
on the subject to his father, the extent to which he felt forced to
suspend his judgment in religious matters, his father would have
desired the step no longer.

With the rest of the family circle, in these years, Hugh's relations
were affectionate but colourless.  With his natural reticence, he
shrank from speaking of the thoughts which predominated in his mind;
especially while there was an abundance of interesting and
uncontroversial topics which afforded endless subjects of conversation;
and the tendency to leave matters alone which, if debated, might have
caused distress, was heightened by the death of one of Hugh's sisters.

She was a girl of a very deep, loyal, and generous nature, full of
activities and benevolences, and at the same time of a reflective order
of mind.  She had been a strong central force in the family; and Hugh
found it strange to realise, after her death, that each member of the
family had felt themselves in a peculiar relation to her, as the object
of her special preoccupation.  The event, which was strangely sudden,
stirred Hugh to the bottom of his soul.  The vacant chair, the closed
loom, the sudden cessation of a hundred activities, brought sharply to
his mind the dark mystery of death.  That a door should thus have been
suddenly opened, and one of the familiar band bidden to enter, and that
the loving heart that had left them should be unable to communicate the
slightest hint of its presence to those who desired her in vain, seemed
to him a horrible and desperate thing.  For the first time in his life
the terrible secrets of identity opened before his eyes.  He could not
bring himself to believe in the extinction of so vital, so individual a
force, but he recognised with a mournful terror that, so far as
scientific evidence went, the whole preponderating force of facts
tended to prove that the individuality was, if not extinguished, at
least merged in some central tide of life, and that the only rebutting
evidence was the cry of the burdened heart that dared not believe a
possibility so stern, so appalling.  He wrestled dumbly and darkly
against these sad convictions, and how many times, in miserable
solitude, did he send out a wistful prayer that, if it were possible,
some hint, some slender vision might be granted him as a proof that one
so dear, so desired, so momently missed, was still near him in spirit.
But no answer came back from the dark threshold, and, leaning in, he
could but discern a landscape of shapeless horror, in which no live
thing moved by the shore of a grey and weltering sea.  Little by little
a dim hint came to comfort him; he thought of all the unnumbered
generations of men who had lived their brief lives in sun and shade,
full of hopes and schemes and affections.  One by one they had lain
down in the dust.  In the face of so immutable, so absolute a law, it
seemed that rebellion and questioning was fruitless.  God gives, God
takes away, He makes and mars, He creates, He dissolves; and if we
cannot trust the Will that bids us be and not be, what else in this
shifting world, full of dark secrets, can we trust?  It cannot be said
that this thought comforted Hugh, but it sustained him.  He learnt
again to suspend his hopes and fears, and to leave all confidently in
the hands of God; and time, too, had its healing balm; the bitter loss,
by soft gradations, became a sweet and loving memory, and a memory that
sweetened the thought of the dark world whither too he must sometime
turn his steps.  For if indeed our individuality endures, he could
realise that one who loved so purely, so loyally, so intensely, would
not fail him on the other side of the silent river, but would welcome
him with unabated love, perhaps only feeling a tender wonder that those
who yet had the passage to make should find it to be so terrible, so
unendurable.



VII

Liberty--Cambridge--Literary Work--Egotism


The question which, when he resigned his appointment, occupied Hugh,
was where he should live.  He would have preferred to settle in the
country, loving, as he did, silence and pure air, woods and fields.  He
had never liked London, though it had become endurable to him by
familiarity.  He decided, however, that at first, at all events, he
must if possible find a place where he could see a certain amount of
society, and where he would be able to obtain the books he expected to
need.  He was afraid that if he transferred himself at once to the
country, he might sink into a morbid seclusion, as he had no strong
sociable impulses.  His thoughts naturally turned to his own
university.  He thought that if he could find a small house at
Cambridge, suitable to his means, he would be able to have as much or
as little society as he desired, while at the same time he would be on
the edge of the country.  Moreover the flat fenland, which is generally
supposed to be unattractive, had always possessed a peculiar charm for
Hugh.  He spent some time at home, revelling in his freedom, while he
made inquiries for a house.  The thought of a long perspective of days
before him, without fixed engagements, without responsibilities, so
that he could come and go as he pleased, filled him with delight.

His father had not at all disapproved of the decision.  Hugh had shown
him that he was pecuniarily independent; but he was aware that in the
background of his father's mind lay the hope that, even so late in
life, he might still be drawn to enter the ministry of the Church.  At
all events he thought that Hugh might gain some academical position;
and thus he gave a decidedly cordial assent to the change, only
expressing a hope that Hugh would not make a hurried decision.

Hugh did not delay to sketch out a plan of work.  But whereas before he
had worked only when he could, he now found himself in the blessed
position of being able to work when he would.  Instead of becoming, as
he had feared, desultory, he found that his work exercised a strong
attraction over him--indeed that it became for him, with an amazing
swiftness, the one pursuit in the world about which exercise, food,
amusement, grouped themselves as secondary accessories.  This was no
doubt in part accounted for by the fact that he had acquired a habit of
regular work, a craving for steady occupation; but it was also far more
due to the fact that Hugh had really, and almost as though by accident,
discovered his ruling passion.  He was in truth a writer, a
word-artist; his only fear was, whether, in the hard-worked unmitigated
years of specified toil, he had not perhaps lost the requisite mental
agility, whether he had not failed to acquire the elastic use of words,
the almost instinctive sense of colour and motion in language, which
can only be won through constant and even unsuccessful use.  That
remained to be seen; and meanwhile his plans settled themselves.  He
found a small, picturesque, irregularly-built house crushed in between
the road and the river, which in fact dipped its very feet in the
stream; from its quaint oriel and gallery, Hugh could look down, on a
bright day, into the clear heart of the water, and survey its swaying
reeds and poising fish.  The house was near the centre of the town; yet
from its back windows it overlooked a long green stretch of rough
pasture-land, now a common, and once a fen, which came like a long
green finger straight into the very heart of the town.  There was a
great sluice a few yards away, through which the river poured into a
wide reach of stream, so that the air was always musical with the sound
of falling water, the murmur of which could be heard on still nights
through the shuttered and curtained casements.  The sun, on the short
winter days, used to set, in smouldering glory, behind the long lines
of leafless trees which terminated the fen; and in summer the little
wooded peninsula that formed part of a neighbouring garden, was rich in
leaf, and loud with the song of birds.  The little house had, in fact,
the poetical quality, and charmed the eye and ear at every turn, the
whisper of the little weir outside seeming to brim with sweet contented
sound every corner of the quaint, irregular, and low-ceiled rooms, with
their large beams and dark corners.

So Hugh settled here after his emancipation, and for the first time in
his life realised what it meant to be free.  He woke day after day to
the sensation that he had no engagements, no ties; that he could
arrange his hours of work and liberty as he liked, go where he would;
that no one would question his right, interfere with his independence,
or even take the least interest in his movements.  His freedom was at
first, to his dismay, something of a burden to him; he had been used to
ceaseless interruptions, multifarious engagements; the one struggle,
the one preoccupation, had been to win a few hours for solitude, for
reflection, for literary work.  But now that the whole of time was at
his disposal, he found himself unable to concentrate his mind, to apply
himself.  He had several friends at Cambridge; but the strain of making
new acquaintances, of familiarising himself with the temperaments and
the tastes of the new set of personalities, was very great.  It was
impossible for Hugh to enter upon neutral, civil, colourless relations.
He could not meet a man or a woman without endeavouring to find some
common ground of sympathy and understanding.  And this was made more
difficult to him at Cambridge by the swift monotony in which the years
had flowed away.  Time seemed to have stood still there in those twenty
years.  Many of the men that he remembered seemed still to be there,
contentedly pursuing the customary round, circulating from their rooms
to Hall, from Hall to Combination-room, and back again.  Thus Hugh,
picking up the thread where he had laid it down, appeared to himself to
be youthful, inexperienced, insignificant; while to those who made his
acquaintance he seemed to be a grave and serious man of affairs, with a
standing in the world and a definite line of his own.

Thus the first months were months of some depression.  Not that he
would have gone back if he could, or that he ever doubted of the
wisdom, the inevitableness of the step; even in moments of dejection it
cheered him to feel that he was not eating his heart out in fruitless
work, or solemnly performing a duty, which relied for seriousness upon
its outer place in a settled scheme, rather than upon any intrinsic
value that it possessed.  But his life soon settled down into a steady
routine.  He gave his morning to letters, business, and reading; his
afternoons to exercise, his evenings to writing and academical
sociabilities.  His aim began gradually to be to make the most of the
sacred hours of the late afternoon, when his mind was most alert, and
when he seemed to possess the easiest mastery of language.  He
consecrated those hours to his chosen work, and it was his object to
fit himself, as by a species of training, to make the most and best of
that good time, which lay like gold among the débris of the day.  It
seemed to him that the solid, unimaginative work of the morning cleared
away a certain heaviness and sluggishness of apprehension, which was
the shadow of sleep; that the open air, the active movement of the
afternoon, removed the clumsier and grosser insistence of the body; and
that there resulted a frame of mind, when the imagination was lively
and alert, and when the willing brain served out its stores with a
cordial rapidity.  There was a danger perhaps of selfish absorption in
such a scheme of life; but at least no artist ever more sedulously
cultivated the best and most fruitful conditions for the practice of
his art.  Hugh grew to have an almost morbid sense of the value of
time.  Interruptions, social entertainments, engagements which
interfered with his programme, he resented and resolutely avoided.  He
became indeed aware that other people, to whom the value of his work
was not apparent, were apt to regard the jealous arrangement of his
hours as the mere whim of a self-absorbed dilettante.  But that
troubled Hugh little, because he realised that his only hope of doing
sound and worthy work lay in making a sacrifice of the ordinary and
trifling occupations of life, of forming definite habits, for the want
of which so many capable and brilliant persons sink into
unproductiveness.

Yet the life had a danger which Hugh did not at first perceive.  It
tended to concentrate his thoughts too much upon himself.  His writings
took on a personal colour, a warm, self-regarding light, of which his
candid friends did not hesitate to make him aware.  The bitterness of
the slow progress of a book, and of the long time that must elapse
between its execution and its appearance, is that the readers of it
tend to consider that it reflects the exact contemporary thought of its
writer.  Hugh's mind and personality grew fast in those days; and by
the time that his friends were criticising a book as the outcome of his
immediate thought, he was feeling himself that it was but a milestone
on the road, marking a spot that he had left leagues behind him.

But the creative instinct, which had struggled fitfully with the hard
practical conditions of his professional life, now took a sudden bound
forward.  His writing became the one important thing in the world for
Hugh.  He had gained, he found, through constant practice, dry as the
labour had been, a considerable fluency and firmness of touch: now
sentences shaped themselves under his hand like living things; words
flowed easily from their abundant reservoir.  Yet the peril, which he
soon grew to perceive, was that his outfit of emotional experience, his
knowledge of human life in its breadth and complexity, was very narrow
and limited.  He had seen life only under a single aspect, and that an
aspect which, poignant and intense as it was, did not easily lend
itself to artistic treatment.  The result was that his outlook was a
narrow one, and his mind was driven back upon itself.  The need to
speak, to express, to shape thoughts in appropriate words, so long
repressed, so instinctive to him, became almost fearfully imperative.
He was haunted by a hundred ardent speculations in art, in literature,
in religion, in metaphysics, all of a vague rather than a precise kind.
His mind had been always of a loose, poetical type, turning to the
quality of things rather than to outward facts or practical questions.
Temperaments, individualities, appealed to him more than national
movements or aspirations; and then the old love of nature came back
like a solemn passion.

This sudden growth of egotism and introspection tended to alarm and
disquiet Hugh's friends; they put it down to his severance from
practical activities, and began to fear a morbid and self-regarding
attitude.  Yet Hugh knew that it would right itself; it was but the
completion of a process, begun in his college days, and checked by his
early entry into professional life; it was a return of his youth, the
natural fulfilment of that period of speculative thought, which a young
man must pass through before he can put himself in line with the world.
And in any case it was inevitable; and Hugh was content as before to
leave himself in the hand of God, only glad at least that a process
which would naturally have been finished under the overshadowing of the
melancholy of youth, could thus be worked out with the temperate
tranquillity, the serenity of manhood.



VIII

Foundations of Faith--Duality--Christianity--The Will of God


After all the inevitable bustle, the moving and settling of furniture,
the constant noting of small needs, the conferences with tradesmen, all
the details inseparable from establishing a new home, had died away,
Hugh found himself, as has been said, for the first time in his life in
comparative solitude.  He had a few old friends in Cambridge; but
unless two men are members of the same college, meetings, in a place of
many small engagements, have to be deliberately arranged.  Hugh could
always go and dine in the hall of his college, and be certain of
finding there a quiet good-fellowship and a pleasant tolerance.  But he
had not as yet mastered the current of little incidents which furnish
so much of the conversation of small societies: allusions to facts
familiar to all beside himself were perpetually being made; and he knew
that nothing is so tiresome as a would-be sympathetic questioner, who
does not understand the precise lie of the ground.  He had as yet no
definite work; a literary task in which he was shortly to be engaged
had not as yet begun; the materials had not been placed in his hands.
Thus compelled by circumstances to pass through a period of enforced
retreat, Hugh resolved upon a certain course of action.  He determined
to put down in writing, for his own instruction and benefit, the
precise position he held in thought--his hopes, his desires, his
beliefs.  He set to work, it must be confessed, in a melancholy mood,
the melancholy that is inseparable from the position of a man who has
lived a very full and active life, and from whom the burden of
activities is suddenly lifted.  Though the lifting of the weight was an
immense relief, and though he could often summon back cheerfulness by
reflecting how entire his freedom was, and how troublesomely he would
have been occupied if he had still held his professional position, yet
the mere fact that there was no longer any necessity to brace his
energies and faculties to meet some particular call of duty, gave him
spaces of a flaccid dreariness, in which his accustomed literary work
palled on him; one could not read or write for ever; and so he set
himself, as I have said, to compose a memorandum, a _symbol_, so to
speak, of his moral and intellectual faith.

He was surprised, as soon as he began his task, to find how much of
what he had believed to be certainties shrank and dwindled.  A perfect
sincerity with himself was the only possible condition under which such
a work was worth undertaking.  A sincerity which should resolutely
discard all that was merely traditional and customary, should emphasise
nothing, should regard nothing as proved, in which hope outran
scientific certainty.

He found then that his creed began with a deep and abiding faith in
God; he believed, that is, in the existence of an all-pervading,
all-powerful Will, lying behind and in the scheme of things.

Side by side with this belief, and inextricably interwoven with it, was
his belief in his own identity and personality.  That was perhaps the
only thing of which he was ultimately assured.  But his experience of
the world was that it was peopled by similar personalities, each of
whom seemed equally conscious of a separate existence, who were swayed
by motives similar in kind, though differing in detail, from the
motives which swayed himself; beyond these personalities, lay whole
ranges of sentient beings, which sank at last, by slow and minute
gradations, into matter which seemed to him to be inanimate; but even
all this was permeated by certain forces, themselves unseen, but the
symptoms of which were apparent in all directions, such as heat,
motion, attraction, electricity.  He believed it possible that all
these might be different manifestations and specimens of the same
central force; but it was nothing more than a vague possibility.

He was next confronted with a mysterious fact.  In every day and hour
of his own life he was brought face to face with a double experience.
At moments he felt himself full of life, health, and joy; at other
moments he felt himself equally subject to torpor, _malaise_, and
suffering.  What it was that made these two classes of experience clear
to him he could not tell; but there was no questioning the fact that at
times he was the subject of experience of a pleasant kind, which he
would have prolonged if he could; while at times he was equally
conscious of experiences which his only desire was to terminate as
speedily as possible.

This mystery, which no philosopher had ever explained, seemed to him to
run equally through the whole of nature.  He asked himself whether he
was in the presence of two warring forces.  Would the Will, whatever it
was, which produced happiness, have made that happiness permanent, if
it could? was it thwarted by some other power, perhaps equally
strong--though it seemed to Hugh that the happiness of most sentient
beings decidedly and largely predominated over their unhappiness--a
power which was deliberately inimical to joy and peace, health and
well-being?

It seemed to him, however, that the two were so inextricably
intermingled, and so closely ministered, the one to the other, that
there was an essential unity of Will at work; and that both joyful and
painful experiences were the work of the same mind.  He therefore
rejected at the outset the belief that what was commonly called evil
could be a principle foreign to the nature of the Will of God; and he
put aside as childish the belief that evil is created by the faculty of
human choice, setting itself against the benevolent Will of God; for
benevolence thus hampered would at once become a mere tame and
ineffective desire for the welfare of sentient things, and be wholly
deprived of all the attributes of omnipotence.  Besides, he saw the
same qualities that produced suffering in humanity, such as the
instincts of cruelty, lust, self-preservation, manifesting themselves
with equal force among those sentient creatures which did not seem to
be capable of exercising any moral choice.

But in regarding nature, as revealed by the researches of scientists,
he saw that there was a slow development taking place, a development of
infinite patience and almost insupportable delay.  Finer and finer
became the organisation of animal life; and in the development of human
life, too, he saw a slow progress, a daily deepening power of
organising natural resources to gratify increasingly complicated needs.
Not only was an energy at work, but a progressive energy, bringing into
existence things that were not, and revealing secrets unknown before.

He next attempted to define his moral belief; and here, too, he saw in
the world a progressive force at work.  He saw society becoming more
and more refined, more desirous to amend faulty conditions, more
anxious to alleviate pain; and this not only with self-regarding
motives, but with a vital sympathy, which reached its height in the
deliberate purpose of many individuals that, even if condemned to
suffer themselves, they would yet spend thought and energy in
relieving, if possible, the ills of others.

He saw in the teaching of Christ what appeared to be the purest and
simplest attempt ever made to formulate unselfish affection.  No
teacher of morals had ever reached the point of inculcating upon men
the belief that it was the highest joy to spend the energies of life in
contributing to the happiness of others.  Though he saw in the system
of Christ, as popularised and interpreted, a whole host of insecure
assumptions, unverified assertions, and even degrading traditions, yet
he could not doubt of the Divine force of the central message.  If he
was not in a position to affirm with certitude the truth of the
recorded events which attended the origin of the Christian revelation,
he could yet affirm with confidence that in the teaching of Christ a
higher range of emotion had been reached than had ever been approached
before; and he saw that spirit, in countless regions, however slowly,
leavening the thought, the instincts of the world.  The question then
resolved itself into a practical one.  How in his own life was he to
make the serenity, the happiness which he desired, predominate over the
suffering, the discontent to which he was liable?  Could it be done by
an effort of mind?  His professional life had shown him that activity
had not brought him any peace of mind, principally because the system
which he was bound to serve demanded such immense expense of labour for
purely unprofitable ends.  It had not been part of the humble and
necessary work of the world, which must be done by some one, if human
beings are to live at all; it had only been the outcome of the
needlessly elaborate life of a highly organised community.  It had
filled his life full of a futile intellectual toil.  And then, the
effect upon his own character had been to hamper and stunt his natural
energies.  It had given him false ideals and wrong motives.

Looking back at his own life, Hugh saw that ambition, in one form or
another, had poisoned his spirit.  He saw that the instinct to gain a
supremacy at the expense of others had been the one serious motive
pressed upon him from first to last; indeed the necessity for moral
control had been really, though not nominally, urged upon him, on the
ground that by yielding to bodily desires he would be likely to
frustrate his visions of success.  Only of late had he had any
suspicion of the truth, that gentleness, peacefulness, kindness,
sincerity, quiet toil, activity of body and mind, were the things that
really made life sweet and joyful.  Had he learned it too late to be
able to exorcise the demons that had so long harboured in his soul?  He
feared so.

But at last, after long pondering, he arrived at his decision, which
was that if indeed this vast and patient Will was in the background of
all, the only way was to follow it, to lean upon it; above all things
not to be distracted by the conventions of society, which, though they
too, in a sense, had their origin in the Will of God, yet were things
to be left behind, to be struggled out of.  There might indeed be some
natures to which such things were attractive and satisfying, but Hugh
had no doubt that though they might attract him, they could not satisfy.

And yet over his thoughts there brooded the shadow of the sad
possibilities that lay in wait for him, and of which he had already
felt the touch--pain, weariness, a discontented mind, jealousy,
despair, and at the end of all death, which closed the prospect
whichever way he looked.  But if these things too were of the very
nature of God, His Will indeed, though obscure and terrible, the only
way was in a patient and loving submission, a knowledge that they could
not be wholly in vain; and so he resolved that his life should be even
so; that he would embrace all opportunities of showing kindness, giving
help to others; that he would live a simple life of labour, using his
faculties to the uttermost, as God should provide; and that his whole
being should be a deliberate prayer that he might do the Will of God as
affected himself, without seeking the praise or recognition of men.  He
foresaw indeed much solitude, much weariness.  God had never given him
one whom he could unreservedly love, though He had sent him abundance
of pure and noble friendships.  Quiet dependence upon God, simplicity
of life, a readiness to serve, a strenuous use of the gifts given to
him; that was the faith in which Hugh, now late in life, and after what
profitless squandering of energies, began his pilgrimage.



IX

Art--The End of Art


It seemed strange to Hugh to sit there as he did, in his quiet house
beside the stream, with an active professional life behind him, and
wonder what the next act would be.  His time was now filled with an
editorial task which would demand all his energies, or rather a large
part of them; but editorial work, however interesting in itself--and
the interest of his particular work was great--left one part of the
mind unsatisfied; that part of the mind which desired to create some
beautiful thing.  Hugh's difficulty was this, that he had no very
urgent message, to use a dignified word, to deliver to the world.
Nowadays, to appeal to the world, it is necessary to do things, it
would seem, in rather a strident way, to blow a trumpet, or wave a
flag, or command an army, or reform a department of state, or control a
railroad.  Hugh had neither the power nor the will to write a virile
book or a powerful story, or to take imagination captive.  He did not
wish to head a revolt against anything in particular.  The day of the
old, grim, sinister tyrannies, he felt, in the western corner of the
world, was over, and the kind of tyranny that vexed his spirit was a
far more secret and subtle distortion of liberty.  It was the rule of
conventionality that he desired to destroy, the appetite for luxury,
and power, and excitement, and strong sensation.  He would have liked
to do something to win men back to the joys that were within the reach
of all, the joys of peaceful work, and simplicity, and friendship, and
quiet hopefulness.  These were what seemed to Hugh to be the staple of
life, and to be within the reach of so many people.  And yet he had no
mission.  He could only detest the loud voices of the world and its
feverish excitements, with all his heart; and on the other hand he
loved with increasing contentment the gentler and beautiful background
of life, that enacted itself every day in garden and field and wood;
the quiet waiting things, the old church seen over orchards and
cottage-roofs, the deep pool in the reedy river, dreaming its own quiet
dreams, whatever passed in the noisy world.  He was sure that those
things would bring peace to many weary spirits, if they could but learn
to love them.

Artists and musicians, Hugh felt, were the happiest of all people; for
they made the beautiful thing that might stand by itself, without need
of comment.  The graceful boy or girl that they painted, undimmed by
age and evil experience, looked down at you from the canvas with a pure
and radiant smile, and became as it were a spring of clear water, where
a soul might bathe and be clean.  Or the picture of some silent
woodland place, some lilied pool on a golden summer afternoon--how the
peace of it came into the spirit, how it seemed to assure the heart
that God loved beauty best, lavishing it with an unwearied hand, even
where there could be none to behold it but Himself!  Then the
musician,--how he wove the airy stuff of sound, so that the pathos of
the world, its heavy mysteries, its sunlit joys, started into life,
embracing the soul, and bidding it not be faithless or blind.  These
were the pure gifts of art, the spells before which the dull
conventions of the world, its noise and dust, crumbled into the ugly
ashes that they really were.

Beside those magical secrets the clumsy art of the writer stood
abashed.  Those tints, those notes were such definite things; but in
the grosser and more tainted medium with which writers dealt, where so
much depended upon association and point of view, there was so much
less certainty of producing the effect intended, that one faltered and
lost faith.  One thing was certain, that it was useless to _search_ for
a mission; the purpose must descend from heaven, as the eagle pounced
on Ganymede, and carry the trembling and awed minister high above the
heads of men.  But the only thing that the faithful writer could do was
to map out some little piece of quiet work, make no vast design, seek
for no large sovereignty; and then work patiently on with ever-present
enjoyment, learning his art, gaining skill and mastery over his vast
and complex instrument, till he gained certainty of touch and the power
of saying, with perfect lucidity, with pure transparency of phrase,
exactly what he meant; and then, behind his art, to live resolutely in
his simple creed, whatever article of it he could master, sure of this,
that if his inspiration came, he would be able to present it worthily;
and if it did not come--well, his would have been a grave, quiet,
gracious life, like the life of a song-bird that had never had an
audience, or a stream which dropped in crystal cataracts from unvisited
rocks, upon which no gazer's eye had ever fallen.  And so there shaped
itself what must be for the lover of the beautiful the first article of
his faith, the thought that the happiness of art came in the making,
the weighing, the disposing, and not in the recognition of the triumph
by others; and that the temptation to gain a hearing, to touch hearts,
to sway emotions was a natural one enough, but that it must be the
first of all to be discarded, as one set foot in the enchanted world,
among the dim valleys and rock-ridges, the thickets and the plains,
that stretched beyond the sunset and on to the sea's rim,--that wider,
more shadowy, more remote world of awe and mystery which lay so near,
outside the window, at the opening of a door, at the sound of a voice,
the glance of an eye, and in which one's busy fevered life was set,
like the print of the wind's footstep in the crisping wave, on the
surface of some vast unfathomable sea.



X

Retrospect--Renewal of Youth--The New Energy


In reading biographies of illustrious personages, Hugh was often
interested and surprised to compare the pictures of undergraduate life
drawn there with his own experience of that period.  They were
generally related in the form of reminiscences, seen far-off, at the
end of a long perspective of years.  It was generally represented as a
period of high enthusiasm, intense energy, eager work, unclouded
happiness.  The perception of great problems, noble thoughts, seemed in
these reminiscences to have fallen on chivalrous minds with a deep
natural joy.  They recorded hours of matchless talk, ingenuous debate,
brilliant wit, scintillating intellect.  Hugh liked to believe that
this was the case, but he often wondered whether it was not all
heightened by retrospect, and whether the radiance of the whole picture
was not merely the radiance of recollected youth.  If the picture was a
true one, then the later years of the men whose lives were thus told,
of whom more than one were known personally to Hugh, must have been
years of sad physical and mental decline.  There was one person in
particular, an eminent ecclesiastic, who had been a frequent guest at
his father's house, in whom Hugh had never discovered any particular
swiftness of perception, of agility of mind, yet the reminiscences of
whose undergraduate years were given in a vein of high enthusiasm.
This worthy clergyman had seemed, if his memory was to be trusted, to
have been the shining centre of a group whose life threw the life of
young Athens, as represented by Plato, into the shade.  The man in
question seemed, in later years, a sturdily built clergyman, slow and
cautious of speech, brusque and even grim of address, sensible, devoted
to commonplace activities, and with a due appreciation of the comforts
and conveniences of life.  His conversation had no suggestiveness or
subtlety.  He was grumpy in the morning and good-humoured in the
evening.  He seemed impatient of new ideas, and endowed with a firm
grasp of conventional and obvious notions.

Hugh's own recollection of his university days was very different, and
yet he had lived in what might be called an intellectual set.  There
had been plenty of easy friendship, abundance of lively gossip,
incessant and rather tedious festivities.  Men had groaned and grumbled
over their work, played games with hearty conviction, had nourished no
great illusions about themselves and each other, had had few generous
and ardent visions about art, poetry, or humanity; or, if they had,
they had kept them to themselves with a very good show of contented
indifference.  There was indeed a little society to which Hugh had
belonged, where books, and not very recondite ideas, of ethical or
moral import, were discussed freely and amiably, without affectation,
and occasionally with a certain amount of animation.  But the arguments
engendered were flimsy, inconsequent, and fantastic enough; the
dialectic flashed to and fro, never very convincing, and mostly
intended to aggravate rather than to persuade.  Even at the time it had
often appeared to Hugh to be shallow and flimsy.  He had seldom heard a
subject debated with any thoroughness or justice, and he had learnt far
more from the preparation of occasional papers framed to initiate a
discussion, than from any discussion that followed.  The best thoughts
that Hugh had apprehended in those days had been the thoughts that he
had won from books; his mind had opened rapidly then, in the direction
of a kind of poetical metaphysic, not deep speculation on the ultimate
nature of things, so much as reflection on the more psychological
problems of character and personality.  It seemed to Hugh that his own
mind, and the minds of those with whom he had lived, had been a mass of
prejudices, of half-formed and inconsistent theories.  None of them had
had any policy into which they fitted the ideas that came to them; but
a new and attractive idea had been seized upon, on its own merits,
without any reference to other theories, or with any desire to
co-ordinate it with other ideas, which were indeed just thrust aside to
make room for the new one.

Hugh's idea of mental progress, in his later years, was the slow
dwelling upon some thought, the quiet application of it to other
thoughts.  It seemed an inversion of the ordinary method of progress,
if the biographies that he read were true.  Taking the case, for
instance, of the particular man whom Hugh had known, and whose
biography he had studied, he seemed in youth to have been generous,
fearless, candid, and ardent, and life must have been to him a process
of hardening and encrusting with prejudice; he seemed to have begun
with a bright faith in ideas, and to have ended with a dull belief in
organisations.  He had begun by being thrilled with the beauty of
virtue, and he had ended by supporting the G.F.S.  Hugh's experience
was the exact opposite of this.  He had begun, he thought, by being
loaded and burdened with prejudices and stupid notions, acquired he
knew not how; he had not doubted the value of authority, tradition,
usage; as life went on, it seemed to him that he had got rid of his
prejudices one by one, and that he had arrived, at the age of forty, at
valuing sincerity, sympathy, simplicity, and candour, above dogma and
accumulated beliefs.  He had begun with a firm faith in systems and
institutions; he had ended by basing all his hopes on the individual.
He had begun by looking for beauty and perfection wherever he was told
to expect it; if he had not discerned it, he had blamed his own dulness
of perception.  It had been a heavy and soulless business; and the real
freshness of life, intellectual curiosity, mental independence, seemed
to have come to him in fullest measure, just at the age when most men
seemed to have parted with those qualities.  As an undergraduate, he
had been more aware of fitfulness and weariness than anything; only
gradually had he become conscious of concentration, sustained zest,
intention.  Then he had tended to condemn enthusiasm as a species of
defective manners.  Now he lived by its steady light.  Then he had been
at the mercy of a new idea, an attractive personality.  He shuddered to
think how easily he had made friendships, and how contemptuously he had
broken them the moment he was disappointed.  Now he weighed and tested
more; but at the same time he also opened his heart and his thoughts
far more deliberately and frankly to sympathetic and generous people.

Hugh seemed to have found rather than to have lost his youth.  His
actual youth, indeed, seemed to him to have been a tremulous and
listless thing, full of fears and sensibilities, feminine, unbalanced,
frivolous.  Life had so far been to Hugh pure gain.  Looking back he
saw himself irresolute, vague, sentimental, incapable of application,
unmethodical, half-hearted.  He had had none of the buoyancy, the
splendid dreams, the sparkling ambitions that seemed, according to the
records, to have been the stuff of great men's youth.

He sate one day in the ante-chapel of his old college, through a
morning service, listening, as in a dream, to the sweet singing within;
it seemed but a day since he had sate in his stall, a fitful-hearted
boy.  The service ended, and the procession streamed out, the rich
tints of the windows lighting up the faces and the white surplices of
the men, old and young, that issued from the dark door of the screen.
Hugh felt within himself that he would not have the old days back again
even if he could; he was nothing but grateful for the balance, the
serenity, that life had brought him.  He was conscious of greater
strength, undimmed energy, increased zest; faltering indeed he was
still, not better, not more unselfish; but he had a sense of truer
values, more proportion, more contentment.  The mysteries of life were
as dark as ever, but at least he no longer thought that he had the key;
in those days his little rickety system of life, that trembled in every
breeze, had seemed for him to bridge all gaps, to explain all
mysteries.  Now indeed chaos stretched all about him, full of huge
mists, dark chasms, hidden echoes; but he perceived something of its
vastness and immensity; he had broken down the poor frail fences of his
soul, and was in contact with reality.  He did not doubt that he seemed
to the younger generation an elderly and sombre personage, stumbling
down the dark descent of life, with youth and brightness behind him;
but that descent appeared to himself to be rather an upward-rising
road, over dim mountains, the air glowing about him with some far-off
sunrise.  Poetry, art, religion--they meant a thousandfold more to him
than they had meant in the old days.  They had been pretty melodies,
deft tricks of hand, choice toys then.  Now they were exultations,
agonies, surrenders, triumphs.  The prospect of life had been to him in
those days like misty ranges, full of threatening precipices, and dumb
valleys in which no foot had trod.  Now he saw from the hill-brow, a
broad and goodly land full of wood and pasture, clustered hamlets,
glittering, smoke-wrapt towns, rivers widening to the sea; the horizons
closed by the blue hills of hope, from which life and love, and even
death itself, seemed to wave hands of welcome ere they dipped to the
unseen.  He blessed God for that; and best of all he had now no desire,
as he had had in the old days, to be understood, to be felt, to claim a
place, to exercise an influence.  He had put all that aside; his only
concern was now to step as swiftly, as strongly as possible, upon the
path that opened before him, caring little whether it led on to grassy
moorlands, or sheltered valleys full of wood, or even to the towered
walls of some strong city of God.



XI

Platonism--The Pure Gospel--The Pauline Gospel--The Harmony


Hugh, in his leisure, determined to try if he could set his mind at
rest upon one point, a question that had always exercised a certain
attraction over him.  This was to make himself acquainted with some
technical philosophy, or at any rate to try and see what the
philosophers were doing.  He had not, he was aware, a mind suited for
the pursuit of metaphysics; he had little logical faculty and little
power of deduction; he tended to view a question at bright and radiant
points; he could not systematise or arrange it.  He did not expect to
be able to penetrate the mystery, or to advance step by step nearer to
the dim and ultimate causes of things; but he thought he would like to
look into the philosophers' workshop, as a man might visit a factory.
He expected to see a great many processes going on the nature of which
he did not hope to discern, and the object of which would be made still
more obscure by the desperately intelligent explanations of some
obliging workman, who would glibly use technical words to which he
would himself be able to attach no sort of meaning.

But after a few excursions into modern philosophy, in which he seemed,
as Tennyson said, to be wading as in a sea of glue, he went back to the
earliest philosophers and read Aristotle and Plato.  He soon conceived
a great horror of Aristotle, of his subtle and ingenious analysis,
which often seemed to him to be an attempt to define the undefinable,
and never to touch the point of the matter at all; he thought that
Aristotle was often occupied in the scientific treatment of essentially
poetical ideas, and in the attempt to classify rather than to explain.
Yet there were moments, it seemed to him, when Aristotle, writing with
a kind of grim contempt for the vagueness of Plato, was carried off his
feet by the Platonic enthusiasm; and so Hugh turned to Plato, which he
had scrambled through as an undergraduate long years before.  How
incomparably beautiful it was!  It revealed to Hugh what he had before
only dimly suspected, that the poet, the moralist, the priest, the
philosopher, and even the man of science, were all in reality engaged
in the same task--penetrating the vast and bewildering riddle of the
world.  In Plato he found the philosophical method suffused by a
burning poetical imagination; and he thought that Plato solved far more
metaphysical riddles by a species of swift intuition than ever could be
done by the closest analysis.  He realised that Plato's theory was of a
great, central, motionless entity, which acted not by expulsive energy
but by a sort of magnetic attraction; and that all the dreams, the
hopes, the activities of human minds were not the ripples of some
central outward-speeding force, but the irresistible inner motion, as
to the loadstone or the vortex, which made itself felt through the
whole universe, material and immaterial alike.  The intense desire to
know, to solve, to improve, to gain a tranquil balance of thought, was
nothing more, Hugh perceived, than this inward-drawing impulse, calling
rather than coercing men to aspire to its own supreme serenity; all our
ideas of what was pure and beautiful and true, then, were the same vast
centripetal force, moving silently inward; all our sorrows, our
mistakes, our sufferings, were but the checking of that overpowering
influence; and any rest was impossible till we had drawn nearer to the
central peace.  This seemed to Hugh to be not a theory but an intensely
inspiring and practical thought.  How light-hearted, how brave a
secret!  Instead of desiring that all should be made plain at once, one
could rejoice in the thought that one was certainly speeding homewards;
and experience was no longer a blind conflict of forces, but a joyful
nearing of the central sum of things.  At all events, what a
blitheness, what a zest it gave to the genius of Plato himself!  With
what eager inquisitiveness, in a sort of childlike gaiety, he hurried
hither and thither, catching at every point some bright indication of
the delightful mystery.  Plato seemed to differ from the serious and
preoccupied philosophers in this, that while they were lost in a grave
and anxious scrutiny of phenomena, he was rather penetrated by the
cheerfulness, the romance of the whole business.  The intense personal
emotions, which to the analytical philosophers seemed mere distracting
elements, experiences to be forgotten, crushed, and left behind, were
to Plato supreme manifestations of the one desire.  One desired in
others what one desired in God; the sense of admiration, the longing
for sympathy, the desire that no close embrace, no passionate glance
could satisfy, these were but deep yearnings after the perfect
sympathy, the perfect understanding of God.  And thus when Plato
appeared most to be trifling with a subject, to be turning it over and
over as a man may turn about a crystal in his hands, watching the
lights blend and flash and separate on the polished facets, he was
really drawing nearer to the truth, absorbing its delicious radiance
and sweetness.  Those sunny mornings, spent in strolling and talking,
in colonnade or garden, in that imperishable Athens, seemed to Hugh
like the talk of saints in some celestial city.  Saints not of heavy
and pious rectitude, conventional in posture and dreary in mind, but
souls to whom love and laughter, pathos and sorrow, were alike sweet.
Instead of approaching life with a sense of its gravity, its
heinousness, its complexity, timid of joy and emotion and delight,
practising sadness and solemnity, Plato and his followers began at the
other end, and with an irrepressible optimism believed that joy was
conquering and not being conquered, that light was in the ascendant,
rippling outwards and onwards.  And then the supreme figure of all,
whether imaginary or not mattered little, Socrates himself, with what a
joyful soberness and gravity did he move forward through experience,
never losing his balance, but serenely judging all, till the moment
came for him to enter behind the dark veil of death; and this he did
with the same imperturbable good-humour, neither lingering or hasting,
but with a tranquil confidence that life was beginning rather than
ending.

And then Hugh saw in a flash that the essence of the Gospel itself was
like that.  When he read the sacred record in the light of Plato, it
seemed to him as if it must in some subtle way be pervaded by the same
bright intuitions as those which lit up the Greek mind.  It seemed to
Hugh a strange and bewildering thing that the pure message of
simplicity and love, with its tender waiting upon God, its delight in
flowers and hills, its love of great ideas, its rich poetry, its
perfect art, had taken on the gloomy metaphysical tinge that St. Paul,
with all his genius, had contrived to communicate to it.  Surely it was
intolerable to believe that all those subtle notions of sacrificial
satisfaction, of justification, of substitution, had ever crossed the
Saviour's mind at all.  In a sense He fulfilled the law and the
prophets, for they had laid down, in grief and doubt, a harsh code of
morality, because they saw no other way of leavening the conscience of
the world.  But the Saviour, at least in the simple records, had not
trafficked in such thoughts; he had but shown the significance of the
primary emotions, had taught humanity that it was free as air, dear to
the heart of God, heir of a goodly inheritance of love and care.  St.
Paul was a man of burning ardour, but had he not made the mistake of
trying to lend too intellectual, too erudite, too complicated a colour
to it all?  The essence of the Gospel seemed to be that man should not
be bound by the tradition of men; but St. Paul had been so intent upon
drawing in those to whom tradition was dear, that in trying to
harmonise the new with the old, he had made concessions and developed
doctrines that had detrimentally affected Christianity ever since, and
gone near to cast it in a different mould.  Of course there was a
certain continuity in religion, a development.  But St. Paul was so
deeply imbued with Rabbinical methods and Jewish tradition, that in his
splendid attempt to show that Christianity was the fulfilment of the
law, he had deeply infected the pure stream with Jewish ideas.  The
essence of Christianity was meant to be a _tabula rasa_.  Christ bade
men trust their deepest and widest intuitions, their sense of
dependence upon God, their consciousness of divine origin.  In this
respect the teaching of Christ had more in common with the teaching of
Plato, than the doctrine of St. Paul with the doctrine of Christ.
Christ was concerned with the future, St. Paul with the past; Christ
was concerned with religious instinct, St. Paul with religious
development.  The strength of the gospel of Christ was that it depended
rather on the poetical and emotional consciousness of religion, and
thus made its appeal to the majority of the human race.  Plato, on the
other hand, was too intellectual, and a perception of his doctrine was
hardly possible except to a man of subtle and penetrating ability.
Hugh wondered if it would be possible to put the doctrine of Plato in
such a light that it would appeal to simple people; he thought that it
would be possible; and here he was struck by the fact that Plato, like
Christ, employed the device of the parable largely as a means of
interpreting religious ideas.  The teaching of the Gospel and the
teaching of Plato were alike deeply idealistic.  They both depended
upon the simple idea that men could conceive of themselves as better
than they actually were, and upon the fact that such a conception is
the strongest motive force in the world in the direction of
self-improvement.  The mystery of conversion is nothing more than the
conscious apprehension of the fact that one's life is meant to be noble
and beautiful, and that one has the power to make it nobler and more
beautiful than it is.

It seemed to Hugh, reflecting on the development of Christianity, that
perhaps it was not too much to say that the Pauline influence had been
to a great extent a misfortune; it was true that in a sense he had
resisted the Jewish tyranny, and moreover that his writings were full
of splendid aphorisms, inspiring thoughts, generous ideals.  But he had
formalised Christianity for all that; he had linked it closely to the
Judaic system; he was ultimately responsible for Puritanism; that is to
say, it was his influence more than any other that had given the Jewish
scriptures their weight in the Christian scheme.  It seemed to Hugh to
be a terrible calamity that had reserved, so to speak, a place in the
chariot of Christ for the Jewish dispensation; it was the firm belief
in the vital inspiration of the Jewish scriptures that had produced
that harsh and grim type of Christianity so dear to the Puritan heart.
With the exception of certain of the Psalms, certain portions of Job
and of the prophets, there seemed to Hugh to be little in the Old
Testament that did not merely hamper and encumber the religion of
Christ.  What endless and inextricable difficulties arose from trying
to harmonise the conception of the Father as preached by Christ, with
the conception of the vindictive, wrathful, national, local Deity of
the Old Testament.  How little countenance did Christ ever give to that
idea!  He did not even think of the Temple as a house of sacrifice, but
as a house of prayer!  How seldom he alluded to the national history!
How human and temporary a character He gave to the law of Moses!  How
constantly He appealed to personal rather than to national aspirations!
How he seemed to insist upon the fact that every man must make his
religion out of the simplest elements of moral consciousness!  How
often he appealed to the poetry of symbols rather than to the
effectiveness of ceremony!  How little claim he laid, at least in the
Synoptic Gospels, to any divinity, and then rather in virtue of his
perfect humanity!  He called himself the Son of Man; in the only
recorded prayer He gave to His disciples, there was no hint that prayer
should be directed to Himself; it was all centred upon the Father.

Here again the Aristotelian method, the delight in analysis, the
natural human desire to make truth precise and complete, had intruded
itself.  What was the Athanasian creed but an Aristotelian formula,
making a hard dogma out of a dim mystery?  The outcome of it all for
Hugh was the resolution that for himself, at all events, his business
was to disregard the temptation to formularise his position.  With
one's limited vision, one's finite inability to touch a thought at more
than one point at a time, one must give up all hope of attaining to a
perfected philosophical system.  The end was dark, the solution
incomprehensible.  He must rather live as far as possible in a high and
lofty emotion, beholding the truth by hints and glimpses, pursuing as
far as possible all uplifting intuitions, all free and generous
desires.  It was useless to walk in a prescribed path, to frame one's
life on the model of another's ideal.  He must be open-minded, ready to
revise his principles in the light of experience.  He must hold fast to
what brought him joy and peace.  How restful after all it was to know
that one had one's own problem, one's own conditions!  All that was
necessary was to put oneself firmly and constantly in harmony with the
great purpose that had set one exactly where one was, and given one a
temperament, a character, good and evil desires, hopes, longings,
temptations, aspirations.  One could not escape from them, thank God.
If one only desired God's will, one's sins and sufferings as well as
one's hopes and joys all worked together to a far-off end.  One must go
straight forward, in courage and patience and love.



XII

Sacrifice--The Church--Certainty


Hugh made friends at Cambridge with a young Roman Catholic priest, who
was working there.  His new friend was a very simple-minded man; he
seemed to Hugh the only man of great gifts he had ever known, who was
absolutely untouched by any shadow of worldliness.  Hugh knew of men
who resisted the temptations of the world very successfully, to whom
indeed they were elementary temptations, long since triumphed over; but
this man was the only man he had ever known who was gifted with
qualities that commanded the respect and admiration of the world, yet
to whom the temptations of ambition and success seemed never to have
appeared even upon the distant horizon.  He was an interesting talker,
a fine preacher, and a very accomplished writer; but his interest was
entirely centred upon his work, and not upon the rewards of it.  He was
very poor; but he had no regard for anything--luxury, power,
position--that the world could give him.  He had no wish to obtain
influence; he only cared to make the work on which he was engaged as
perfect as he could.  The man was really an artist pure and simple; he
seemed to have little taste even for pastoral work.

One day they sat together, on a hot breathless afternoon, in a college
garden, on a seat beneath some great shady chestnut-trees, and looked
out lazily upon the heavy-seeded grass of the meadow and the bright
flower-borders.  The priest said to Hugh suddenly, "I have often
wondered what your religion really is.  Do you mind my speaking of it?
You seem to me exactly the sort of man who needs a strong, definite
faith to make him happy."

Hugh smiled and said, "Well, I am trying, not very successfully I fear,
to find out what I really do believe.  I am trying to construct my
faith from the bottom; and I am anxious not to put into the foundations
any faulty stones, anything that I have not really tested."

"That is a very good thing to do," said the priest.  "But how are you
setting to work?"

"Well," said Hugh, "I have never had time before to think my religion
out; I seem to have accepted all kinds of loose ideas and shaky
traditions.  I want to arrive at some certainties; I try to apply a
severe intellectual test to everything: and the result is that I seem
obliged to discard one thing after another that I once believed."

"Perhaps," said the priest after a silence, "you are doing this too
drastically?  Religion, it seems to me, has to be apprehended in a
different region, the mystical region, the region of intuition rather
than logic."

"Yes," said Hugh, "and intuitions are what one practically lives by;
but I think that they ought to be able to stand an intellectual test
too--for, after all, it is only intellectually that one can approach
them."

The priest shook his head at this, with a half-smile.  And Hugh added,
"I wish you would give me a short sketch, in a few words if you can, of
how you reached your present position."

"That is not very easy," said the priest; "but I will try."  He sate
for a moment silent, and then he said, "When one looks back into
antiquity, before the coming of Christ, one sees a general searching
after God in the world; the one idea that seems to run through all
religions, is the idea of sacrifice--a coarse and brutal idea
originally, perhaps; but the essence of it is that there is such a
thing as sinfulness, and such a thing as atonement; and that only
through death can life be reached.  The Jews came nearest to the idea
of a personal, ruling God: and the sacrificial system is seen in its
fullest perfection with them.  Then, in the wise counsels of God, it
came about that our Saviour was born a Jew.  You will say that I beg
the question here; but approaching the subject intellectually, one
satisfies oneself that the purest and completest religion that the
world has ever seen was initiated by Him; it is impossible, in the
light of that religion, not to feel that one must give the greatest
weight to the credentials which such a teacher put forward; and we find
that the claim that He made was that He was Himself Very God.  The
moment that one realises that, one also realises that there is no
_primâ facie_ impossibility that God should so reveal Himself--for
indeed it seems an idea which no human mind would dare to originate,
except in a kind of insane delusion; and the teaching of Christ, His
utter modesty and meekness, His perfect sanity and clear-sightedness,
make it evident to me that we may put out of court the possibility that
He was under the influence of a delusion.  He, it seems to me, took all
the old vague ideas of sacrifice and consummated them; He showed that
the true spirit was there, hidden under the ancient sacrifices; that
one must offer one's best freely to God; and in this spirit He gave
Himself to suffering and death.  He founded a society with a definite
constitution, He provided it with certain simple rules, and said that,
when He was gone, it would be inspired and developed by the workings of
His Spirit.  He left this society as a witness in the world; it has
developed in many ways, holding its own, gaining strength, winning
adherents in a marvellous manner.  And I look upon the Church as the
witness to God in the world; I accept its developments as the
developments of the Spirit.  I see many things in it which I cannot
comprehend; but then the whole world is full of mysteries--and the
mysteries of the Church I accept in a tranquil faith.  I have put it, I
fear, very clumsily and awkwardly; but that is the outline of my
belief--and it seems to me to interpret the world and its secrets, not
perfectly indeed, but more perfectly than any other theory."

"I see!" said Hugh, "but I will tell you at once my initial difficulty.
I grant at the outset that the teaching of Christ is the purest and
best religious teaching that the world has ever seen; but I look upon
Him, not as the founder of a system, but as the most entire
individualist that the world has ever known.  It seems to me that all
His teaching was directed to the end that we should believe in God as a
loving Father, and regard all men as brothers; the principle which was
to direct His followers was to be the principle of perfect love, and I
think that His idea was that, if men could accept that, everything else
mattered little.  They must live their lives with that intuition to
guide them: the Church seems to me to be but the human spoiling and
complicating of that great simple idea.  I look round and see the other
religious systems of the world--Mahomedanism, Buddhism, and the rest.
In each I see a man of profound religious ideals, whose system has been
adopted, and then formalised and vitiated by his followers.  I do not
see that there is anything to make me believe that the same process has
not taken place in Christianity.  The elaborate system of dogma and
doctrine seems to me a perfectly natural human process of trying to
turn ideas, essentially poetical, into definite and scientific truths,
and half its errors to arise from feeling the necessity of reconciling
and harmonising ideas, which I have described as poetical, which were
never meant to be reconciled or harmonised.  And then there is the
added difficulty that, owing to the system of the Church, the ideas of
the earliest Christian teachers, like St. Paul, have been accepted as
infallible too; and hence arises the dilemma of having to bring into
line a whole series of statements, made, as in St. Paul's case, by a
man of intense emotion, which are neither consistent with each other,
nor, in all cases, with the teaching of Christ.  My idea of
Christianity is to get as close to Christ's own teaching as possible.
I do not concern myself with the historical accuracy of the Gospel
narratives, or even with the incidents there recorded.  Those records
are the work of men of very imperfect education, and feeble
intellectual grasp, in the grip of the prejudices and beliefs of their
age.  But their very imperfection makes me feel more strongly the
august personality of Christ, because the principles, which they
represent Him as maintaining, seem to me to be entirely beyond anything
that they could themselves have originated.  It seems to me, if I
discern Christ rightly--speaking of Him now purely as a man--that if He
could return to the earth, and be confronted with the system of any of
the Churches that bear His name, He would declare it to be all a
horrible mistake.  It seems to me that what He aimed at was a strictly
individualistic system, an attitude of sincerity, simplicity, and
loving-kindness, free from all formalism (which He seems to have
detested above everything), and free, too, from all elaborate and
metaphysical dogma.  Instead of this, He would find that men had seized
upon the letter, not the spirit, of His teaching, and had devised a
huge mundane organisation, full of pomp and policy, elaborate, severe,
hard, unloving.  Now if I apply my intellectual tests to the central
truths of Christianity, such as the law of Love, the power of
self-sacrifice, the brotherhood of men, they stand the test; they seem
to contain a true apprehension of the needs of the world, of the
methods by which the happiness of humanity may be attained.  But when I
apply the intellectual test to the superstructure of any Church, there
are innumerable doctrines which appear to me to be contrary to reason.
It is difficult indeed, in this world of mystery, to affirm that any
mystical claim is not true, but such claims ought not to appear to be
repugnant to reason, but to confirm the processes of reason, in a
region to which reason cannot scientifically and logically attain.
Such doctrines, for instance, as prayers to saints for their
intercession, or the efficacy of Masses for the dead, seem to me to
have a certain poetical beauty about them, but to be contrary both to
reason and experience.  I do not see the slightest hint of them in the
teaching of Christ, or anything which can be taken as giving them any
support whatever.  They seem to me purely human fancies, hardened into
a painful mechanical form, which forfeit all claim to be inspired by
the Spirit of Christ.  But I must apologise for giving you such an
harangue--still, you brought it on yourself."

The priest smiled quietly.  "I quite see your point," he said, "and we
are at one in your main position; the difficulty of the Church is that
it has to organise its system for people of all kinds of temperament,
and at all stages of development.  But the spirit is there--and if one
lets go of the letter, the grasp of many human beings is so weak that
they tend to lose the spirit.  The Church no doubt appears to many to
be over-organised, over-definite, but that is a practical difficulty
which every system which has to deal with large masses of people is
confronted with.  It is the same with education; boys have to do many
definite and precise things which seem at the time to have no
educational value; but at the end of their time they see the need of
these processes."

Hugh laughed.  "I wish they did!" he said; "my own belief is that, in
education as well as religion, we want more individualism, more
elasticity.  I think it is very doubtful whether great ideas, rigidly
interpreted and mechanically enforced, have any value at all for
undeveloped minds; the whole secret lies in their being liberally and
freely apprehended."

"What really divides us," said the priest--"and I do not think we are
very far apart--is my belief that God has not left the world without a
definite witness to Himself--which I believe the Church to be."

"Yes," said Hugh, "I believe that the Church is a witness to God: any
system which teaches pure morality is that; but I could not limit His
witness to a single system; Nature, beauty, music, poetry, art--to say
nothing of sweet and kindly persons--they are all the witnesses of His
spirit; and the Church is, in my belief, simply hampered and restricted
from doing what she might, by the woeful rigidity, the mechanical and
hard precision, which she has imported into the spiritual region.  The
moment that the liberty of the spirit is restricted, and grace is made
to flow in definite traditional channels, that moment the stream loses
its force and brightness."

"I should rather believe," said the priest, "that, with all the obvious
disadvantages of organisation, left to itself, the stream welters into
a shapeless marsh, instead of making glad the City of God!  And may I
say that you, and those like you, with ardent spiritual instincts, make
the mistake of thinking that we exclude you; indeed it is not so.  You
would find the yoke as easy and the burden as light as ever.  In
submission you would gain and not lose the liberty of which you are in
search."

The priest soon after this took his leave.  Hugh sate long pondering,
as the evening faded into dusk.  Was there no certainty, then,
attainable?  And the answer of his own spirit was that no ready-made
certainty was of avail; that a man must begin from the beginning, and
construct his own faith from the foundation; that reason must play its
part, lead the soul as far as it could, and set it in the right way;
but that the spirit must not halt there, but pass courageously and
serenely into the trackless waste, content, if need be, to make
mistakes, to retrace its path, only sincerely and gently advancing,
waiting for any hint that might fall from the divine spirit,
interpreting rather than selecting, divesting itself of preferences and
prejudices one by one, and conscious that One waited, smiling and
encouraging, but a little ahead upon the road, and that any turn in the
path might reveal his bright coming to the faithful eye.



XIII

Waiting for Light


The charm of the Cambridge life was to Hugh the alternation of society
and solitude.  He was soon fortunate enough to obtain a post at his old
college, and to be allotted a set of rooms there.  He was sociably
enough inclined, and the stir and movement of the minute society was
interesting and enlivening.  He had a little definite work to do, and
he tried to cultivate relations with every one in the college.  It was
pleasant that he had no connection with disciplinary matters; and thus
he was able to enter into a friendly intercourse with the
undergraduates, not checked or hampered by any necessity to find fault
or to offer advice.  He occupied his rooms during term-time, and lived
the life of the college with quiet enjoyment.  But he retained his
little house as well, and when the vacation began, he retired there,
and spent his days much in solitude.  He preferred this indeed to the
life of the college, but he was well aware that it owed half its
pleasure to its being an interlude in the busier life.  But it was thus
that what he felt were his best thoughts came to him; thoughts, that is
to say, that pierced below the surface, and had a quality of reality
which his mind, when he was employed and full of schemes, often seemed
to himself to lack.  But, like all speculative people who spend much
time in solitary thought, he seemed to himself very soon to cross the
debateable ground in which people of definite religious views appeared
to him to linger gladly.  Here he left behind all the persons who
depended upon systems.  Here remained Roman Catholics, who depended
chiefly upon the authority and tradition of the Church, and
Protestants, depending no less blindly and complacently upon the
authority of the Bible.  The real and crucial difficulty lay further
on; and it was simply this: he saw a world full of joy, and full too of
suffering; sometimes one of his fellow-pilgrims would be stricken down
with some incurable malady, and through slow gradations of pain, sink
wretchedly to death; was this suffering remedial, educative,
benevolent?  He hoped it was, he believed that it was, in the sense, at
least, that he could not bear to feel that it might not be; but however
ardently and eagerly he might try to believe it, there was always the
dark alternative that pain might not be either remedial or educative;
there was the terrible possibility that identity and personal
consciousness were absolutely extinguished by death; for there was no
sort of evidence to the contrary; and if this was the case, what
remained of all human belief, philosophies, and creeds?  They might
simply be beautiful dreams, adorable mistakes, exquisite fallacies: but
they could supply no inspiration for life, unless there was an element
of absolute certainty about them, which was just the element that they
lacked; and, in any case, the sad fact that such certainties as men
professed differed from and even contradicted each other, introduced a
new bewilderment upon the scene.  A Romanist maintained the absolute
divinity of the Church; a Protestant maintained the absolute
reliability of the Bible; both of these could not be true, because in
many points they contravened each other; the authority of the Church
contradicted the authority of the Bible, while neither was perfectly
consistent even with itself.  They could not both be true, and Hugh was
forced to believe that the point in which they were both in error, was
in their claim to any absolute certainty at all.  The conclusion seemed
to be that one must take refuge in a perfect sincerity, not formulate
one's hopes as beliefs, but wait for light, and keep the eyes of the
mind open to all indications of any kind--that one must, in the words
of the old wise proverb, be ready to begin one's life afresh many
times, in the light of any new knowledge, any hint of truth.  And thus
one kind of happiness became impossible for Hugh, the happiness that
comes of absolute certainty, when one may take a thing for granted, and
not argue any more about it; that was the sort of happiness which many
of his friends seemed to him to attain; and if life did indeed end with
death, it was probably the best practical system to adopt; but Hugh
could not adopt it; and therefore the only happiness he could expect
was a candid and patient waiting upon truth, a welcoming of any new
experience with a balanced and eager mind.  To some a human love, a
human passion, seemed the one satisfying thing, but this was denied to
Hugh; and the only thing in his life which was of the nature of a
passion was the sight of the beautiful world about him, which appealed
to him day by day with a hundred delicate surprises, unnumbered
novelties of rapture.  He realised that the one thing that he dreaded
was a cold tranquillity, uncheered by hope, unresponsive to beauty.

He rode one day, in the height of summer, for miles across the fenland.
To left and right lay the huge plain with its wide fields, its solitary
trees; to his left, between grassy flood-banks, ran the straight reedy
river, full to-day of the little yellow water-lily, golden stars rising
from the cool floating leaves; far ahead ran a low wooded ridge, with
house-roofs clustering round a fantastic church tower, with a crown of
pinnacles.  Cattle grazed peacefully, and the whole scene was brimful
of sweet passionless life, ineffable content.  If he could only have
shared it!  Yet the sight of it all filled him with a sweet
hopefulness; he travelled on, a lonely pilgrim, eager and wistful,
desiring knowledge and love and serenity.  He felt that they were
waiting, certainly waiting; that they were tenderly and wisely
withheld.  That was the nearest that he could come to his heart's
desire.



XIV

Dreariness--Romance--The Choice of Work--Dulness--A Creed


It was always a great pleasure to Hugh to explore an unfamiliar
countryside, and the same pleasure was derivable to a certain extent
from railway travelling, though the vignettes that one saw from the
windows of a swiftly-rolling train were so transitory and so numerous,
that one had soon the same sense of fatigue that comes from turning
over a book of photographs, or from visiting a picture-gallery.  If one
explored the country in a leisurely manner it was less fatiguing,
because one could taste the savour of a sight at one's ease.  Hugh came
to the conclusion, as life advanced, that he preferred a landscape on
which humanity had set its mark to a landscape of a pure, natural
wildness, though that indeed had a beauty of its own, a more solemn
beauty, though not so near to the heart.  But the great red-brick
house, peering through its sun-blinds, among the flower-beds, with a
rookery behind in the tall trees of a grove, and the cupola of
stable-buildings among the shrubberies, that one saw in a flash as the
train emerged from the low cutting; or the tiled roofs of houses, with
an old mouldering church-tower peering out above them, in a gap between
green downs; or a quiet manor-house among pastures, seen at the close
of day when the shadows began to lengthen, gave him a sense of the long
succession of peaceable lives--the boy returning from school to the
familiar home, or the old squire, after a life of pleasant activities,
walking among the well-known fields, and knowing that he must soon make
haste to begone and leave his place for others.  There was a sense of
romance and pathos about it all; and the scenes thus unfolded suddenly
before his eyes were dear to him because they had been dear to others,
and stood for so much old tenderness and anxious love.  There was
always, too, a feeling in his mind of how easy, how sweet and tranquil,
life would be under such conditions.  Seen from outside, certain lives,
lived in beautiful surroundings and tinged with seemly traditions,
seemed to have a romantic quality, even in their sufferings and
sorrows.  No amount of experience, no accumulation of the certainty
that life was interwoven with a sordid and dreary fibre, seemed ever to
dispel this illusion, just as sorrows and miseries depicted in a book
or in a drama appeared to have a romance about them which, seen from
inside, they lacked.  There were in Hugh's own memory a few places and
a few houses, where by some happy fortune the hours had always been
touched with this poetical quality, and into which no touch of
dreariness had ever entered.  Something of the same romance lingered
for Hugh over certain of the colleges at Cambridge.  To wander through
their courts, to read the mysterious names inscribed over unknown
doors, to think of the long succession of inmates, grave or
light-hearted, that lived within, either for a happy space of youth, or
through long quiet years; this never ceased to communicate to him a
certain thrill of emotion.

The only period of his life that seemed to Hugh to lack this quality of
poetry were the years of his official life in London, the years that
the locust had eaten.  He did not grudge having spent them so, for they
had given a sort of solidity and gravity to life; but now that he was
free to live as he chose, he determined that he would, if he could, so
spend his days, that there should be as little as possible of this dull
and ugly quality intermixed with them; the sadness and incompleteness
of countless lives seemed to Hugh to arise from the fact that so many
men settled down to mechanical toil, which first robbed them of their
freshness, and then routine became essential to them.  But Hugh
determined that neither his work nor his occupation should have this
sunless and dismal quality; that he would deliberately eschew the
things that brought him dreariness, and the people who took a mean and
conventional view; that he would not take up, in a spirit of heavy
rectitude, work for which he knew himself to be unfit; and that such
mechanical work as he felt bound to undertake should be regarded by him
in the light of a tonic, which should enable him to return to his
chosen work with a sense of gladness and relief.

This would demand a certain sustained effort, he foresaw.  But whatever
qualities he possessed, he knew that he could reckon upon a vital
impatience of things that were dull and common; moreover it was
possible to determine that, whatever happened, he would not do things
in a dull way; so much depended upon how they were handled and
executed.  One of the dullest things in the world was the
multiplication of unnecessary business.  So many people made the
mistake of thinking that by minute organisation the success of a system
could be guaranteed.  Hugh knew that the real secret was to select the
right personalities, and to leave systems elastic and simple, and that
thus the best results were achieved; the most depressing thing in the
world was a dull person administering faithfully an elaborate system;
one of the most inspiring sights was an original man making the best of
a bad system.

And so Hugh resolved that he would bring to his task, his leisure, his
relations with others, his exits and entrances, his silence and his
speech, a freshness and a zest, not directed to surprising or
interesting others--that was the most vulgar expedient of all--but with
a deliberate design to transmute, as by the touch of the magical stone,
the common materials of life into pure gold.  He would endeavour to
discern the poetical quality in everything and in everyone.  In
inanimate things this was easy enough, for they were already full of
pungent distinctness, of subtle difference; it was all there, waiting
merely to be discerned.  With people it was different, because there
were so many who stared solemnly and impenetrably, who repelled one
with remarks about the weather and the events of the day, as a man
repels a barge with a pole.  With such people it would be necessary to
try a number of conversational flies over the surface of the sleeping
pool, in the hope that some impulse, some pleasant trait would dart
irresistibly to the surface, and be hauled struggling ashore.  Hugh had
seen, more than once, strange, repressed, mournful things looking out
of the guarded eyes of dreary persons; and it would be his business to
entice these to the light.  He determined, too, to cultivate the art of
being alone.  There were many people in the world who found themselves
the poorest of all company, and Hugh resolved that he would find his
own society the most interesting of all; he would not be beaten by
life, as so many people appeared to him to be.  Of course he knew that
there were threatening clouds in the sky, that in a moment might burst
and drench the air with driving rain.  But Hugh hoped that his attitude
of curiosity and wonder could find food for high-hearted reflection
even there.  The universe teemed with significance, and if God had
bestowed such a quality with rich abundance everywhere, there must be a
still larger store of it in His own eternal heart.  The world was full
of surprises; trees drooped their leaves over screening walls, houses
had backs as well as fronts; music was heard from shuttered windows,
lights burned in upper rooms.  There were a thousand pretty secrets in
the ways of people to each other.  Then, too, there were ideas, as
thick as sparrows in an ivied wall.  One had but to clap one's hands
and cry out, and there was a fluttering of innumerable wings; life was
as full of bubbles, forming, rising into amber foam, as a glass of
sparkling wine.  That cup he would drink, and try its savour.  There
would be times when he would flag, no doubt, but it should not be from
any failure of desire.  He would try to be temperate, so as to keep the
inner eye unclouded; and he would try to be perfectly simple and
sincere, deciding questions on their own merits, and with no
conventional judgment.  Such an attitude might be labelled by peevish
persons, with prejudices rather than preferences, a species of
intellectual Epicureanism.  But Hugh desired not to limit his gaze by
the phenomena of life, but to keep his eyes fixed upon the further
horizon; the light might dawn when it was least expected; but the best
chance of catching the first faint lights of that other sunrise, was to
have learnt expectancy, to have trained observation, and to have kept
one's heart unfettered and undimmed.

He saw that the first essential of all was to group his life round a
centre of some kind, to have a chosen work, to which he should be vowed
as by a species of consecration; it was in choosing their life-work, he
thought, that so many people failed.  He saw men of high ability, year
after year, who continued to put off the decision as to what their work
should be, until they suddenly found themselves confronted with the
necessity of earning their living, and then their choice had to be made
in a hurry; they pushed the nearest door open and went in; and then
habit began to forge chains about them; and soon, however uncongenial
their life might be, they were incapable of abandoning it.  There were
some melancholy instances at Cambridge of men of high intellectual
power, who had drifted thus into the academical life without any
aptitude for it, without educational zeal, without interest in young
people.  Such men went on tamely year after year, passing from one
college office to another, inadequately paid, with no belief in the
value of their work, averse to trying experiments, fond of comfort,
only anxious to have as little trouble as possible, expending their
ingenuity of mind in academical meetings, criticising the verbal
expression of reports with extreme subtlety, too fastidious to design
original work, too much occupied for patient research, and ending
either in a bitter sense of unrecognised merit, or in a frank and
unashamed indolence.

Hugh saw that in choosing the work of one's life, one must not be
guided by necessity, or even mere rectitude.  Work embraced from a
sense of duty was like driving a chariot in sea-sand.  One must have an
enthusiasm for one's task, and a delight in it; for only by enjoyment
of the results could one tolerate the mechanical labour inseparable
from all intellectual toil.  It was true that he had himself drifted
into official duties, but here Hugh saw the guidance of a very tender
providence, which had provided him with a species of discipline that he
could never have spontaneously practised.  His great need had been the
application of some hardening and hammering process, such as should
give him that sort of concentrated alertness which his education had
failed to bestow; and none the less tenderly provided, it seemed to
Hugh, was the irresistible impulse to arise and go, which had come upon
him when the process was completed.  And now he was free, with an
immense appetite for speculation, for intellectual pleasure, for the
criticism of life, for observation.  It was the quality, the fine
essence of things and thoughts that mattered.  To some was given the
desire to organise and manage the world, to others the instinct for
perception, for analysis, for the development of ideas.  It was not
that one kind of work was better than the other; both were needed, both
were noble; but Hugh had no doubt on which side of the battle he was
himself meant to fight.  And so he determined that he would devote his
life to the work, and that he would not allow any excessive intrusion
of extraneous elements.  The blessing of the academical life was that
it entailed a certain amount of social intercourse; it compelled one to
come into contact with a large variety of people.  Without this Hugh
felt that his outlook would have become narrow and self-centred.  He
knew of course that there would be times when it would seem to him that
his life was an ineffective one, when he would envy the men of affairs,
when he would wonder what, after all, his own performance amounted to.
But Hugh felt that the great lack of many lives was the failure to
perceive the interest of ideas; that many men and women went through
existence in a dull and mechanical way, raking together the straws and
dust of the street; and he thought that a man might do a great work if
he could put a philosophy of life into an accessible shape.  The great
need was the need of simplification; the world was full of palpitating
interests, of beauty, of sweetness, of delight.  But many people had no
criterion of values; they filled their lives with petty engagements,
and smilingly lamented that they had no time to think or read.  For
such people the sun rose over dewy fields, in the freshness of the
countryside, in vain: in vain the sunset glared among the empurpled
cloud-banks; in vain the moon rose pale over the hushed garden-walks,
while the nightingale, hidden in the dark heart of the bush, broke into
passionate song.  And even if it were argued that it was possible to be
sensible and virtuous without being responsive to the appeal of nature,
what did such people make of their social life?  they made no
excursions into the hearts and minds of others; their religion was a
conventional thing; they went to concerts, where the violins thrilled
with sweet passion, and the horns complained with a lazy richness, that
they might chatter in gangways and nod to their friends.  It was all so
elaborate, so hollow! and yet in the minds of these buzzing, voluble
persons one could generally discern a trickle of unconventional
feeling, which could have made glad the sun-scorched pleasaunce.

Hugh determined with all his might that he would try to preach this
simple gospel; that he would praise and uphold the doctrine of
sincerity, of appreciation, of joy.  He made up his mind that he would
not be drawn into the whirlpool, that he would intermingle long spaces
of eager solitude with his life, that he would meditate, reflect,
enjoy; that he would try to discern the significance of all things seen
or felt, and practise a disposition to approach all phenomena, whether
pleasant or painful, in a critical mood; and at the same time he
resolved that his criticism should not be a mere solvent; that he would
strive to discern not the dulness, the ugliness, the dreariness of
life, but its ardours, its passions, its transporting emotions, its
beauties.  That was a task for a lifetime.  Whatever was doubtful, this
was certain, that one was set in a mysterious, attractive, complex
place; if one regarded it carelessly, it seemed a commonplace affair
enough, full of material activities, dull necessities, foolish
stirrings, low purposes; but if one looked a little closer, there were
strange, dim, beautiful figures moving in and out, evanescent and
shadowy, behind the nearer and more distracting elements.  Here was
hope, with a far-off gaze, beauty with mournful yearning eyes, love
with finger on lip and dreamful gaze.  It was here that the larger, the
holier life lay.  What was necessary was to keep apart, with deliberate
purpose, from all fruitless vexations, dull anxieties, sordid designs.
To detach oneself, not from life, but from the scum and foam of life;
to realise that the secret lay in the middle of it all, and that it was
to be discerned not by fastidious abstention, not by a chilly
asceticism, but by welcoming all nobler impulses, all spiritual
influences; not by starving body or mind, but by selecting one's food
carefully and temperately.  If a man, Hugh thought, could live life in
this spirit, reasonable, kindly, humble, sincere, he could encourage
others to the same simplicity of aim.  To be selfish was to miss the
beauty of the whole; for the essence of the situation was to reveal to
others, by example and by precept, what they already so dimly knew.

To find out what one could do, where one could help, and to work with
all one's might; to live strongly and purely; not to be dissuaded by
comment or discouraged by lack of sympathy; to meet others simply and
frankly; to be more desirous to ascertain other points of view than to
propound one's own; not to be ashamed to speak unaffectedly of one's
own admirations and hopes; not to desire recognition; not to yield to
personal motives; not to assent to conventional principles blindly, nor
to dissent from them mechanically; never to be contemptuous or
intolerant; to foresee contingencies and not to be deterred by them; to
be open to all impressions; to be tender to all sincere scruples; not
to be censorious or hasty; not to anticipate opposition; to be neither
timid nor rash; to seek peace; to be gentle rather than conscientious;
to be appreciative rather than critical--on these lines Hugh wished to
live; he desired no deference, no personal domination; but neither did
he wish to reject responsibility if he were consulted and trusted.
Above all things he hoped to resist the temptation of taking soundings,
of calculating his successes.  Fame and renown allured him, none but he
could say how much; but he knew in his heart that he contemned their
specious claims, and he hoped that they would some day cease to trouble
him.  He knew that much depended upon health and vigour; but on the
other hand he believed that the most transforming power in the world
was the desire to be different; why he could not stride into his
kingdom and realise his ideal all at once, he could not divine; but
meanwhile he would desire the best, and look forward in confidence and
hope.



XV

The Pilgrim's Progress--The Pilgrimage--Development--The Eternal Will


Hugh was seized, one bright February morning of clear sun and keen
winds, with a sudden weariness of his work.  This rebellious impulse
did not often visit him, because he loved his work very greatly, and
there were no hours so happy as those which were so engaged.  But
to-day he thought to himself suddenly that, lost thus in his delightful
labour, he was forgetting to live.  How strange it was that the hours
one loved most were the hours of work that sped past unconsciously,
when one stood apart, absorbed in dreams, from the current of things.
It seemed to him that he was like the Lady of Shalott, so intent upon
her web and the weaving of it, that she thought of the moving forms
upon the road beyond the river merely as things that could be depicted
in her coloured threads.  He took up the _Pilgrim's Progress_ and sate
a long while reading it, and smiling as he read; he wondered why so
many critics spoke so slightingly of the second part, which seemed to
him in some ways almost more beautiful than the first.  There was not
perhaps quite the same imaginativeness or zest; but there was more
instinctive art, because the writer was retracing the same path,
lodging at the same grave houses, encountering the same terrors, and
yet representing everything as mirrored in a different quality of mind;
the mind of a faithful woman, and of the boys and maidens who walked
with her upon pilgrimage.  There was not quite the same romance,
perhaps, but there was more tenderness and sweetness.  It came less
from the mind and more from the heart.

Hugh smiled to see how rapidly the dangers of the road must have
diminished, if Mr. Greatheart had often convoyed a party on their way.
That mighty man laid about him with such valour, sliced off the heads
and arms of giants with such cordial good-humour, that there could
hardly, Hugh thought, have been for the next company any adventures
left at all.  Moreover so many of the stubborn and ill-favoured persons
had come by a bad end, were hung in chains by the road, or lying
pierced with sorrows, that later pilgrims would have to complain of a
lack of bracing incidents.  Still, how delicate and gentle a journey it
was, and with what caressing fondness the writer helped these young and
faltering feet along the way.  What pretty and absurd sights they saw!
How laden they were with presents!  Christiana had Mr. Skill's boxes,
twelve in all, of medicine, with no doubt a vial or two of tears of
repentance to wash the pills down; she had bottles of wine, parched
corn, figs and raisins from the Lord of the place, to say nothing of
the golden anchor which the maidens gave her, which must have impeded
her movements.

He read with a smile, which was not wholly one of amusement, Mr.
Greatheart's admirable argument as to how the process of redemption was
executed.  The Redeemer, it seemed, had no less than four kinds of
righteousness, three to keep, which he could not do without, and one
kind to give away.  Every detail of the case was supported by a little
cluster of marginal texts, and no doubt it appeared as logical and
simple to the author as a problem or an equation.  But what an
extraordinary form of religion it all was!  There was not the least
misgiving in the mind of the author.  The Bible was to him a perfectly
unquestioned manifesto of the mind of God, and solved everything and
anything.  And yet the whole basis of the pilgrimage was insecure.
There was no free gift of grace at all.  Some few fortunate people were
started on pilgrimage by being given an overpowering desire to set out,
while the pleasant party who met at Madam Wanton's house, Mr. Lightmind
and Mr. Love-the-flesh, with Mr. Lechery and Mrs. Filth, and passed the
afternoon with music and dancing, were troubled by no divine misgivings.

Then, too, the Lord of the way found no difficulty in easing the path
of the gentler sort of pilgrims.  He kept the Valley of the Shadow
comparatively quiet for Christiana and her tender band.  The ugly thing
that came to meet them, and the Lion that padded after them, were not
suffered to draw near.  The hobgoblins were stayed from howling.  It
never seemed to have occurred to Bunyan to question why the Lord of the
way had ever allowed this unhallowed crew to gather in the valley at
all.  If he could restrain them, and if Mr. Greatheart could hew the
giants in pieces, why could not the whole nest of hornets have been
smoked out once and for all?  Even the Slough of Despond could not be
mended with all the cartloads of promises and texts that were shot
there.  And yet for all that, when one came to reflect upon it, this
Calvinistic scheme of election and reprobation did seem to correspond
in a terrible manner with the phenomena of the world.  One saw people
around one, some of whom seemed to start with an instinct for all that
was pure and noble, and again others seemed to begin with no preference
for virtue at all, but to be dogged with inherited corruption from the
outset.  The mistake which moralists made was to treat all alike, as if
all men had the moral instinct equally developed; and yet Hugh had met
not a few men who were restrained by absolutely no scruples, except
prudential ones, and the dread of incurring conventional penalties,
from yielding to every bodily impulse.  If truth and purity and
unselfishness were the divine things, if happiness lay there, why were
there such multitudes of people created who had no implanted desire to
attain to these virtues?

It was in the grip of such thoughts that Hugh left the house and walked
alone through the streets of the town, as Christian might have walked
in the City of Destruction.  What was one to fly from? and whither was
the pilgrimage to tend?  The streets were full of busy comfortable
people, some, like Mr. Brisk, men of considerable breeding, some again,
like the two ill-favoured ones, marked for doom; here and there was a
young woman whose name might have been Dull.  What was one's duty in
the matter?  Was one indeed to repent, with groans and cries, for a
corruption of heart that had been bestowed upon one without any choice
of one's own?  Was one bound to overwhelm one's companions with
abundance of pious suggestions, to rebuke vice, to rejoice in the
disasters that befell the ungodly?  It seemed a hopeless business from
first to last; of course, if one had Bunyan's simple faith, if one
could believe that at a certain moment, on the Hill of Calvary, a thing
had been accomplished which had in an instant changed the whole scheme
of the world; that a wrathful Creator, possessed hitherto by a fierce
and vindictive anger with the frail creatures whom he moulded by
thousands from the clay, was in an instant converted into a tender and
compassionate father, his thirst for vengeance satisfied, it would be
plain enough; but Hugh felt in the depths of his heart that whatever
else might be true, that was not; or at least if it had any semblance
of truth in it, it simply consummated a mystery so appalling that one
must merely resign all hope and courage.

What could one make of a Gospel that could lend any colour to a theory
such as this?  Was it the fault of the Gospel, or was the error rooted
in human nature, a melancholy misinterpretation of a high truth?  It
seemed to Hugh that the mistake lay there; it seemed to arise from the
acceptance by the Puritans of the Bible as all one book, and by the
deliberate extrusion of the human element from it.  Christ, in the
Gospel, seemed to teach, so far as Hugh could understand, not that He
had effected any change in the nature or disposition of God, but that
He had always been a Father of men, full of infinite compassion and
love; the miracle of Christ's life was the showing how a Divine spirit,
bound by all the sad limitations of mortality, could yet lead a life of
inner peace and joy, a life of perfect trust and simplicity.  The
clouding of the pure Gospel came from the vehement breath of his
interpreters.  His later interpreters were men in whose minds was
instinctively implanted the old harsh doctrine of man's perverse
corruption, and the dark severity of God's justice; and thus the
Puritans were misled, because they laid an equal stress upon the whole
of the Bible, and spoke of it as all of equal and Divine authority.
Instead of rejecting, as faulty human conceptions, what did not
harmonise with the purer Gospel light, they sought and found in the
Gospel a confirmation of the older human view.  They treated the whole
collection of books as all equally true, all equally important, and
thus they were bent on seeing that the Gospel should fulfil rather than
supersede the law.  This was in part the spirit of St. Paul; and thus
the Puritan Gospel was the Gospel of St. Paul rather than the Gospel of
the Saviour.  To Hugh the Old Testament was a very wonderful thing,
wonderful because it showed the rise of a spirit of personal
righteousness in the world, a spirit that worshipped morality with the
same vehemence and enthusiasm as that with which the Greeks worshipped
beauty.  And thus because they had loved righteousness and hated
iniquity, there had been given to their imperious nation the reward
that the humanity of their race should be chosen to enshrine the Divine
Spirit of the Saviour.

Hugh felt that the weakness of the ecclesiastical position was its
obstinate refusal to admit the possibilities of future development.  A
century ago, a man who ventured to hint that the story of Noah's Ark
might not be historically and exactly true would have been pronounced a
dangerous heretic.  Now no one was required to affirm his belief in it.
Nowadays the belief in the miraculous element even of the New Testament
was undeniably weakening.  Yet the orthodox believer still pronounced a
Christian unsound who doubted it.

Here lay the insecurity of the orthodox champions.  They stumbled on,
fully accepting, when they could not help themselves, the progressive
developments of thought, yet loudly condemning any one who was a little
further ahead upon the road, until they had caught him up.

Still, the old Puritan poet, for all his over-preciseness of
definition, all his elaborate scheme of imputed righteousness, all his
dreary metaphysic, had yet laid his hand upon the essential truth.
Life was indeed a pilgrimage; and as the new law, the law of science,
was investigated and explored, it seemed hardly less arbitrary, hardly
more loving than the old.  It was a scheme of infinite delay; no ardent
hopes, no burning conceptions of justice and truth could hasten or
retard the working of the inflexible law, which blessed without
reference to goodness, and punished without reference to morality.  No
one could escape by righteousness, no man could plead his innocence or
his ignorance.  One was surrounded by inexplicable terrors, one's path
was set with gins and snares.  Here the smoke and the flame burst
forth, or the hobgoblins roared in concert; here was a vale of peace,
or a house of grave and kindly entertainment; and sometimes from the
hill-tops of the land of Beulah, there seemed indeed to be a radiant
vision, dim-descried, of towers and pearly gates, a high citadel of
heavenly peace.  But how little one learned even of one's own strength
and weakness!  The one instinct, which might itself be a delusion, was
that one had a choice in the matter, a will, a power to act or to
refrain from acting; there was a deep-seated impulse to fare onward, to
hope, to struggle.  It was useless to blame the mysterious conditions
of the journey, for they were certainly there.  The only faith that was
possible was the belief that the truth was somehow larger, nobler, more
beautiful than one could conceive it to be; and there was a
restfulness, when one apprehended what seemed so dark at first, in the
knowledge that one's character and environment alike were not one's own
choice; the only way was to keep one's eye fixed upon the furthest
hope, and never to cease imploring the Power that made us what we were,
to give us not abundant, but sufficient, strength, and to guide us into
acting, so far as we had power to act, as He willed.

This then became for Hugh his practical religion; to commit himself
unceasingly, in joy and trouble alike, in the smallest matters, to the
Eternal will; until he grew to feel that if there were anything true in
the world, it was the power of that perpetual surrender.  It was
surprising to him to find how anxiety melted into tranquillity, if one
could but do that.  Not only, he learnt, must great decisions be laid
before God, but the smallest acts of daily life.  How often one felt
the harassing weight of small duties, the distasteful business, the
anxious conversation, the dreary occasion; fatigue, disappointment,
care, uncertainty, timidity!  If one could but put the matter into the
hands of God, instead of rehearsing and calculating and anticipating,
what a peace flowed into one's spirit!  Difficulties melted away like
mist before it.  The business was tranquilly accomplished; the
interview that one dreaded provided its own obvious solution, vexations
were healed, troubles were suddenly revealed as marvellously
unimportant.  One blundered still, went perversely wrong, yielded
falteringly to an impulse knowing it to be evil; but even such events
had a wholesome humiliation about them which brought healing with it.
The essence of the whole situation was to have in one's heart the
romance of pilgrimage, to expect experience, both sweet and bitter, to
desire the goal rather than the prize; and to find the jewels of
patience, hopefulness, and wisdom by the way, where one had least
expected them.



XVI

Humanity--Individuality--The Average


Hugh, one Sunday, in walking alone outside Cambridge, went for some
considerable time behind a party of young men and boys, who were out
for a stroll.  He observed them with a disgustful curiosity.  They were
over-dressed; they talked loudly and rudely, and, so far as Hugh could
hear, both coarsely and unamusingly.  They laughed boisterously, they
made offensive remarks about humble people who passed them.  It was the
height of humour to push each other unexpectedly into the ditch at the
side of the road, and then their laughter became uproarious.  It was
harmless enough, but it was all so ugly and insolent, that Hugh thought
that he had seldom seen anything which was so singularly and supremely
unattractive.  The performance seemed to have no merit in it from any
point of view.  These youths were no doubt exulting in the pride of
their strength, but the only thing that they really enjoyed was that
the people who met them should be disconcerted and distressed.  Making
every allowance for thoughtlessness and high spirits, it seemed
unnecessary that these qualities should manifest themselves so
unpleasingly.  Hugh wondered whether, as democracy learned its
strength, humanity was indeed becoming more vulgar, more inconsiderate,
more odious.  Singly, perhaps, these very boys might be sensible and
good-humoured people enough, but association seemed only to develop all
that was worst in them.  And yet they were specimens of humanity at its
strongest and cheerfullest.  They were the hope of the race--for the
same thing was probably going on all over England--and they would no
doubt develop into respectable and virtuous citizens; but the spectacle
of their joy was one that had no single agreeable feature.  These
loutish, rowdy, loud-talking, intolerable young men were a blot upon
the sweet day, the pleasant countryside.  Probably, Hugh thought, there
was something sexual beneath it all, and the insolence of the group was
in some dim way concerned with the instinct for impressing and
captivating the female heart.  Perhaps the more demure village maidens
who met them felt that there was something dashing and even chivalrous
about these young squires.

There came into Hugh's mind the talk of a friend who had been staying
with him, a man of lofty socialistic ideals, who spoke much and
eloquently of the worship of humanity.  Reflecting upon the phrase,
Hugh felt that he could attach no sort of meaning to it.  What was the
humanity that one was to worship?  Was it the glory of the average man?
was it the memory of the past? was it the possibility of the future?
It seemed to Hugh to be an impossible abstraction.  He had said as much
to his friend, who had replied that it was like the worship of Nature,
which Hugh himself practised.  But Hugh replied that he did not worship
Nature at all.  There was much in Nature that he did not understand,
much that he feared and disliked.  There was an abundance of beautiful
things in Nature, beautiful objects, beautiful moments; but it was the
beautiful in Nature that he worshipped, not Nature as a whole; there
was enough, he said, in Nature that was desirable, to give him a kind
of hope that there was some high and beautiful thought behind it; at
which his friend became eloquent, veiling, Hugh thought, a great
confusion of mind behind a liberal use of rhetoric, and spoke of
suffering, toiling, sorrowing, onward-looking humanity, its impassioned
relations, its great wistful heart.  Hugh again, could not understand
him; he thought that his friend had formed some exotic and fanciful
conception, arrived at by subtracting from humanity all that was not
pathetic and solemn and dignified, and then fusing the residue into a
sort of corporeal entity.  He did not see any truth or reality about
the conception.  It seemed to him as unreal as though one had
personified the Great Western Railway into a sort of gigantic form,
striding westward, covered with packages of merchandise, and carrying a
typical human being, as St. Christopher carried the sacred child across
the flood.  It was pure Anthropomorphism.

Hugh could understand a personal relation, even the passionate
idealisation of an individual.  He could conceive of the latter as
giving one a higher idea of the possibilities of the human race: but to
lump a vast and complex system together, to concentrate unknown races,
dead and living, negroes, Chinamen, Homeric heroes and palaeolithic
men, into one definite conception, and to worship it, seemed to Hugh an
almost grotesque thought.  He could conceive of a species of Pantheism,
in which the object of one's awe and worship was the vast force
underlying all existing things; but even so it seemed necessary to Hugh
to focus it all into one personal force.  The essence of worship seemed
to Hugh to be that the thing worshipped should have unity and
individuality.  It seemed to him as impossible to worship a thing of
which he himself was a part, as to demand that a cat should adore the
principle of felinity.

The essence of the world, of life, to Hugh lay in the sense of his own
individuality.  He was instinctively conscious of his own existence, he
was experimentally conscious of the existence of a complicated world
outside of him.  But it was to him rather a depressing than an
ennobling thought, that he was one of a class, fettered by the same
disabilities, the same weaknesses, as millions of similar objects.
Perhaps it was a wholesome humiliation, but it was none the less
humiliating.  On the one hand he was conscious of the vast power of
imagination, the power of standing, as it were, side by side with God
upon the rampart of heaven, and surveying the whole scheme of created
things.  Yet on the other hand there fell the sense of a baffling and
miserable impotence, a despairing knowledge that one's consciousness of
the right to live, and to live happily, was conditioned by one's utter
frailty, the sense that one was surrounded by a thousand dangers, any
one of which might at any moment deprive one of the only thing of which
one was sure.  How, and by what subtle process of faith and
imagination, could the two thoughts be reconciled?

The best that Hugh could make of the ardent love of life and joy which
inspired him, was the belief that it was implanted in man, that he
might have, for some inscrutable reason, a motive for experiencing, and
for desiring to continue to experience, the strange discipline of the
world.  If men did not love life and ease so intensely, at the first
discouragement, at the first touch of pain, they would languidly and
despairingly cease to be.  Hugh seemed to discern that men were put
into the world that they might apprehend something that it was worth
their while to apprehend; that for some reason which he had no means of
divining, life could not be a wholly easy or pleasurable thing; but
that in order to inspire men to bear pain and unhappiness, they were
permeated with an intense desire to continue to live, and to regain
some measure of contentment, if that contentment were for a time
forfeited.  Of course there were many things which that did not
explain, but it was a working theory that seemed to contain a large
element of truth.  Sometimes a technically religious person would say
that the world was created for the glory of God, a phrase which filled
Hugh with a sense of bewildered disgust.  It either implied that God
demanded recognition, or that it was all done in a species of
intolerable pride of heart, as a mere exhibition of power.  That God
should yield to a desire for display seemed to Hugh entirely
inconsistent with a belief in His awful supremacy.

It seemed to him rather that God must have abundant cause to be
dissatisfied with the world as it was, but that at the same time He
must have some overpoweringly just reason for acquiescing for a time in
its imperfection.  How else could one pray, or aspire, or hope at all?

But the sight of human beings, such as Hugh had before his eyes that
day, filled him with perplexity.  One was only possessed by an intense
desire that they might be different from what they were.  Hugh indeed
knew that he himself had sore need to be different from what he was.
But the qualities that lay behind the motions and speech of these
lads--inconsiderateness, indifference to others, vanity,
grossness--were the things that he had always been endeavouring to
suppress and eradicate in himself; they were the things that were
detested by poets, saints, and all chivalrous and generous souls.

Sometimes indeed one was confronted, in the world of men, by a
perfectly sincere, noble, quiet, gentle, loving personality; and then
one perceived, as in a gracious portrait, what humanity could hope to
aspire to.  But on the other hand Hugh had seen, in the pages of a
periodical, an attempt to arrive at a typical human face, by
photographing a number of individuals upon the same plate; and what a
blurred, dim, uncomfortable personality seemed to peer forth!  To
worship humanity seemed to Hugh like trying to worship this
concentrated average; and he had little hope that, if an absolutely
average man were constructed, every single living individual
contributing his characteristics to the result, the result would be
edifying, encouraging, or inspiring.  Hugh feared that the type would
but sink the most tolerant philosopher in a sense of irreclaimable
depression.  And yet if, guided by prejudice and preference, one made
up a figure that one could wholly admire, how untrue to nature it would
be, how different from the figure that other human beings would consent
to admire!

The problem was insoluble; the only way was to set one's self
courageously at one's own little corner of the gigantic scheme, to
attack it as faithfully as one could, by humble aspirations, quiet
ministries, and tender-hearted sympathy; to take as simply as possible
whatever message of beauty and hope fell to one's share; not to be
absorbed in one's own dreams and imaginings, but to interpret
faithfully every syllabic of the great Gospel; and, above all, to
remember that work was inevitable, necessary, and even beautiful; but
that it only had the noble quality, when it was undertaken for the love
of others, and not for love of oneself.



XVII

Spring--Wonder


The return of the sweet spring days, with the balmy breath of warm
winds, soft sunshine on the pastures, the songs of contented birds in
thicket and holt, brought to Hugh an astonishing richness of sensation,
a waft of joy that was yet not light-hearted, joy that was on the one
hand touched with a fine rapture, yet on the other hand overshadowed by
a wistful melancholy.  The frame, braced by wintry cold, revelled in
the outburst of warmth, of light, of life; and yet the very
luxuriousness of the sensation brought with it a languor and a
weariness that was akin rather to death than life.  He rode alone far
into the shining countryside, and found, in the middle of wide fields
with softly swelling outlines, where the dry ploughlands were dappled
with faint fawn-coloured tints, a little wood, in the centre of which
was a reed-fringed pool.  The new rushes were beginning to fringe the
edges of the tiny lake, but the winter sedge stood pale and sere, and
filled the air with a dry rustling.  The water was as clear as a
translucent gem, and Hugh saw that life was at work on the floor of the
pool, sending up rich tresses of green-haired water-weed.  The copse
was green under foot, full of fresh, uncrumpling leaves.  He sat down
beside the pool; the silence of the wide fields was broken only by the
faint rustling of sedge and tree, and the piping of a bird, hid in some
darkling bush hard by.  Never had Hugh been more conscious of the
genial outburst of life all about him, yet never more aware of his
isolation from it all.  His body seemed to belong to it all, swayed and
governed by the same laws that prompted their gentle motions to tree
and herb; but his soul seemed to him to-day like a bright creature
caught in the meshes of a net, beating its wings in vain against the
constraining threads.  From what other free and spacious country was it
exiled?  What other place did it turn to with desire and love?  It
seemed to him to-day that he was a captive in a strange land,
remembering some distant home, some heavenly Zion, even in his mirth.
It seemed to him as if the memory of some gracious place dwelt in his
mind, separated only from his earthly memory by a thin yet impenetrable
veil.  His spirit held out listless hands of entreaty to some unseen
power, desiring he knew not what.  To-day on earth the desire of all
created things seemed to be directed to each other.  The tiny creeping
sprays of delicate plants that carpeted the wood seemed to interlace
with one another in tender embraces.  In loneliness they had slept
beneath the dark ground, and now that they had risen to the light, they
seemed to thrill with joy to find themselves alone no longer.  He saw
in the leafless branches of a tree near him two doves, with white rings
upon their necks, that turned to each other with looks of desire and
love.  Was it for some kindred spirit, for the sweet consent of some
desirous heart that Hugh hankered?  No! it was not that!  It was rather
for some unimagined freedom, some perfect tranquillity that he yearned.
It was like the desire of the stranded boat for the motion and dip of
the blue sea-billows.  He would have hoisted the sail of his thought,
have left the world behind, steering out across the hissing, leaping
seas, till he should see at last the shadowy summits, the green coves
of some remote land, draw near across the azure sea-line.  To-day the
fretful and poisonous ambitions of the world seemed alien and
intolerable to him.  As the dweller in wide fields sees the smoke of
the distant town rise in a shadowy arc upon the horizon, and thinks
with pity of the toilers there in the hot streets, so Hugh thought of
the intricate movement of life as of a thing that was both remote and
insupportable.  That world where one jostled and strove, where one made
so many unwilling mistakes, where one laboured so unprofitably, was it
not, after all, an ugly place?  What seemed so strange to him was that
one should be set so unerringly in the middle of it, while at the same
time one was given the sense of its unreality, its distastefulness.  So
marvellously was one made that one sickened at its contact, and yet, if
one separated oneself from it, one drooped and languished in a morbid
gloom.  The burden of the flesh!  The frailty of the spirit!  The two
things seemed irreconcilable, and yet one endured them both.  The world
so full of beauty and joy, and yet the one gift withheld that would
make one content.

And yet it was undeniable that the very sadness that he felt had a
sweet fragrance about it.  It was not the sadness of despair, but of
hope unfulfilled.  The soul clasped hands with the unknown, with tears
of joy, and leaned out of the world as from a casement, on perilous
seas.  Indeed the very wealth of loveliness on every hand, and the
mysterious yearning to take hold of it, to make it one's own, to draw
it into the spirit, the hope that seemed at once so possible and yet so
baffling, gave the key of the mystery.  There _was_ a beauty, there
_was_ a truth that was waiting for one, and the sweetness here was a
type of the unseen.  It was only the narrow soul that grudged if it was
not satisfied.  The brave heart went quietly and simply about its task,
welcoming every delicate sight, every whisper of soft airs, every touch
of loving hands, every glance of gentle eyes, rejoicing in the mystery
of it all; thanking the Lord of life for the speechless wonder of it,
and even daring to thank Him that the end was not yet; and that the
bird must still speed onwards to the home of its heart, dipping its
feet in the crest of the wandering wave, till the land, whither it was
bound, should rise like a soft shadow over the horizon; till the shadow
became a shape, and at last the tall cliffs, with the green downs
above, the glittering plain, the sombre forest, loomed out above one,
just beyond where the waves whitened on the loud sea-beaches, and the
sound of the breakers came harmoniously over the waste of waters, like
the soft tolling of a muffled bell.



XVIII

His Father's Death--Illness--A New Home--The New Light


Up to this time it may be said that Hugh had never felt the pressure of
sordid anxieties, or experienced any sorrows but the sorrows of pure
emotion.  But now all at once there fell on him a series of heavy
afflictions.  His father died after a very short illness; so little had
a fatal result been expected, that Hugh only reached home after his
death.  It happened that the last sight he had had of his father had
been one of peculiar brightness.  He had been staying at home, and, on
the morning of his return to Cambridge, had gone into the study for a
parting talk.  He had found his father in a mood, not common with him,
but which was growing commoner as he grew older, of serene
cheerfulness.  He had talked to Hugh very eagerly about a little book
of poems that Hugh had lately published.  Hugh had hardly mentioned it
to his father beforehand, but he had dedicated the book to him, though
he imagined that his father must consider poetry a dilettante kind of
occupation.  He was amazed to find, when he discussed the book with his
father, that he was met with so vivid and personal a sympathy, that he
discerned that the writing of poetry must have been a preoccupation of
his father's in early days, one of those delicate ambitions on which he
had sharply turned the key.  His mother and sister were away for the
day, so that when it was time to go, and the carriage was announced,
there was no one but his father in the house.  He had, as his custom
was, laid his hand on his son's head, and blessed him with a deep
emotion, adding a few words of love and confidence that had filled
Hugh's eyes with tears; and his father had then put his arm through his
son's, walked to the door with him, and had stood there in the bright
morning, with his grey hair stirred by the wind, waving his hand till
the carriage had turned the corner of the shrubbery.

Hugh often suffered from a certain apprehensiveness of mind on leaving
home; he had sometimes wondered, as he said farewell to the group,
whether he would see them thus again.  But that morning it had never
occurred to him that there was any such possibility in store for him;
so that now, when he returned to the darkened house, and presently saw
that pale, still form, with a quiet smile on the face, as of one
satisfied beyond his dearest wish, he plunged into a depth of
ineffectual sorrow such as he had never known before.  The one thought
that sustained him was that he and his father had loved, understood,
and trusted each other.  It was a horror to Hugh to think what his
feelings might have been in the old days, if his father had died when
his own predominant emotion had been a respectful fear of him.

It seemed impossible to believe that all the activities of that long
life were over; and as Hugh went through his father's papers, with
incessant little heart-broken griefs at the arrangements and precisions
that had stood for so much devoted faithfulness and loyal
responsibility, it seemed to him as though the door must open, and the
well-known figure, with the smile that Hugh knew so well, stand before
him.

The first disaster that was revealed to him was the smallness of his
father's fortune; his father, though often talking about business to
his son, had a curious reticence about money affairs, and had never
prepared him for the scantiness of the provision that he had
accumulated.  Hugh saw at once that the utmost care would have for the
future to be exercised, and that their whole scale of life must be
altered.  The fact was that his father's professional income had been
ample, and that he had had a strong dislike to saving money from
ecclesiastical sources.  The home must evidently be broken up at once,
and a small house taken for his mother.  But fortunately both his
mother and sister were entirely undismayed by this; their tastes were
simple enough; but Hugh saw that he would have himself to contribute to
their assistance.  With his own small fortune, his literary work, and a
little academical work that he was doing, he had been able to live
comfortably enough without taking thought; but now he saw that all this
must be curtailed.  He had an intense dislike of thinking about money;
and he therefore determined that there should be no small economies on
his part, but that he would simply, if necessary, alter his easy scale
of living.

It was a terrible process disestablishing the old home; the sale of
furniture and books, the displacing of the old pictures, seemed to tear
and rend all sorts of delicate fibres; but at last the house was
dismantled, and it became a bitter sort of joy to leave a place that
had become like a sad skeleton of one that he had loved.  The trees,
the flowers, the church-tower over the elms--as they drove away on that
last morning, these seemed to regard him with mournful and hollow eyes;
the parting was indeed so intensely sad, that Hugh experienced a grim
relief in completing it; and there fell on him a deep dreariness of
spirit, which seemed at last to benumb him, until he felt that he could
no longer care for anything.

He returned at last to Cambridge; and now illness fell upon him for the
second time in his life.  Not a definite illness, but a lingering
_malaise_, which seemed to bereave him of all spring and energy.  He
was told that he must not work, must spend his time in the open air,
must be careful in matters of food and sleep.  He lived indeed for some
months the life of an invalid.  The restrictions fretted him
intolerably; but he found that every carelessness brought its swift
revenge.  He had previously felt little or no sympathy with invalids;
he had disliked the signs of illness in others, the languor, the sunken
eye, the fretfulness of fever, and now he had to bear them himself.  He
had always felt, half unconsciously, that illness was a fanciful thing,
and might be avoided by a kind of cheerful effort.  But now he had to
go through the experience of feebleness and peevish inactivity.  He
used sometimes, out of pure irritability, to resume his work; but he
had no grip or vigour; his conceptions were languid, his technical
resources were dulled; and then came strange and unmanning dizzinesses,
the horrible feeling, in the middle of a cheerful company, that one is
hardly accountable for one's actions, when the only escape seems to be
to hold on with all one's might to the slenderest thread of
conventional thought.  The difficulty was to know how to fill the time.
There was no relish in company, and yet a hatred of solitude; he used
to moon about, sit in the garden, take irresolute walks; he read
novels, and found them unutterably dreary.  Music was the only thing
that lifted him out of his causeless depression, and gave back a little
zest to life; but the fear that was almost intolerable was the
possibility that he would never emerge out of this wretchedness.  Day
after day passed, and no change was apparent; till just when he was on
the verge of despair, when the darkest visions began to haunt his mind,
the cloud began to lift.  He found that he could work a little, though
the smallest excess was still punished by days of feebleness.  But,
holding to this thread of hope, Hugh climbed slowly out of the
darkness; and it was a day to him of deep and abiding gratitude when,
after a long Swiss holiday, in which his bodily activity had come back
to him with an intensity of pleasure, Hugh realised that he was again
in his ordinary health.

But he had at this time a bitter disappointment.  Just before his
father's death he had finished preparing a little work for publication,
a set of essays on a variety of subjects, to which he had devoted much
care and thought.  To his deep vexation it met with a very contemptuous
reception.  Its errors were mercilessly criticised, and it was
proclaimed to be the work of a sickly, sentimental dilettante.  Hugh
found it hard to believe in the verdict; but his conviction was
established by the opinion of one of his old friends who, as kindly as
possible, pointed out that the book was both thin and egotistical.
Hugh felt as if he could never write again, and as if the chief
occupation of his life would be gone; but with renewed health his
confidence returned, and in a few weeks he was able to look the
situation in the face.  The reception of the book had brought home to
him the direction in which he was drifting.  He saw that a certain
toughness and hardness of fibre had been wanting.  He saw that he had
tried to fill a book up out of his own mind, in a leisurely and
trifling mood.  He had not attempted to grasp his subjects, but had
allowed himself to put down loose and half-hearted impressions, instead
of trying to see into the essence of the things he was describing.

But, his illness over, he was astonished to find how little both money
anxieties and the shattering of literary hopes distressed him.  For the
first, it was clear that his mother and sister could live with an
adequate degree of comfort and dignity.  And as for his literary hopes,
he realised that the failure had been a real revelation of his own
weakness; but he realised too that other people would forget about the
book still faster than he himself, and that no previous failures would
damn a further work, if only it possessed the true qualities of art;
and indeed from this time he dated a real increase of artistic faculty,
a sense of constraining vocation, a joy in literary labour, which soon,
like a sunrise, brightened all his horizon; and it was pleasant too,
though Hugh did not overvalue it, to find his work beginning to bring
him a definite, though slight reputation, and a position among
imaginative critics.

Moreover his new home began to have a very potent charm for him.  His
mother had settled in a small ancient house in the depths of the
country.  They had very few neighbours.  The little building itself was
full of charm, the charm of mellow beauty and old human ownership; it
was embosomed among trees, and had a small walled garden, rich in
flowers and shade.  He had been there but a few weeks, when he realised
that the old feeling of a vague friendliness and intimate concern with
nature had come back.  It was as though the spirits, which had peopled
the remembered flowers and trees of his first home, had flitted with
them, and had taken up their abode in this other garden.  The flowers
seemed to smile at him with the same shy mystery, the trees to surround
the house like a troop of loyal sentinels.  The absence of the constant
social interruptions that had been characteristic of the Rectory was an
added charm; his mother and sister, too, though heavily overshadowed by
grief, found the place peaceful and congenial; and the best joy of all
was the sweet and fragrant relation that sprung up among the three.
They were like the survivors of a wreck, whose former familiarity had
been converted suddenly into a deep and emotional loyalty, by the sad
experiences through which they had passed together.  The relations had
before been affectionate, but in some ways superficial.  Hugh to his
surprise found himself daily making discoveries about his mother and
sister, through the close relationship into which they were brought.
Unsuspected tastes and feelings revealed themselves, and he began to be
aware of a whole host of new interests that sprang up between them.
Sometimes, when a hedgerow is rooted up, one may notice how a whole
crop of unknown flowers, whose seeds had been buried deep in the soil,
suddenly emerge to conceal the bare scarred ditch.  Hugh thought to
himself that the experiences through which they had passed had had this
effect of enlarging and extending sympathies which were there all the
time, and which had never had an opportunity of revealing themselves.
And thus, out of sorrow and wretchedness, there sprang to light a whole
range of new forces, a vision of new possibilities.  It seemed to Hugh
that he was like a man who had passed by night through an unfamiliar
country, by unknown roads; that as the darkness had begun to glimmer to
dawn, the shapeless shadows of things about him had gradually taken
shape, and revealed themselves at last to be but the quiet trees with
their gentle tapestry of leaves, leaning over his way; and what had
been but a formless horror, became revealed as a company of friendly
living things that beckoned comfortably to his spirit, and grew into
purer colour as the dawn began to break from underground.



XIX

Women--The Feminine View--Society--Frank
Relations--Coldness--Sensitiveness


Hugh had always felt that he had very little comprehension of the
feminine temperament; he realised to the full how much more generous,
unselfish, high-minded, and sympathetic women were than men, their
perceptions of personalities more subtle, their intuitions more
delicate; in a difficult matter, a crisis involving the relations of
people, when it was hard to know how to act, and when, in dealing with
the situation, tact and judgment were required, he found it a good rule
to consult a woman about what had happened, and a man about what would
happen.  Women had as a rule a finer instinct about characters and
motives, but their advice about how to act was generally too vehement
and rash; a woman could often divine the complexities of a situation
better, a man could advise one better how to proceed.  But what he
could seldom follow was the intellectual processes of women; they
intermingled too much of emotion with their logic; they made birdlike,
darting movements from point to point, instead of following the track;
they tended to be partisans.  They forgave nothing in those they
disliked; they condoned anything in those they loved.  Hugh lived so
much himself in the intellectual region, and desired so constantly a
certain equable and direct quality in his relations with others, that
he seldom felt at ease in his relations with women, except with those
who could give him the sort of sisterly camaraderie that he desired.
Women seemed to him to have, as a rule, a curious desire for influence,
for personal power; they translated everything into personal values;
they desired to dominate situations, to have their own way in
superficial matters, to have secret understandings.  They acted, he
thought, as a rule, from personal and emotional motives; and thus Hugh,
who above all things desired to live by instinct rather than by
impulse, found himself fretted and entangled in a fine network of
shadowy loyalties, exacting chivalries, subtle diplomacies, delicate
jealousies, unaccountable irritabilities, if he endeavoured to form a
friendship with a woman.  A normal man took a friendship just as it
came, exacted neither attendance nor communication, welcomed
opportunities of intercourse, but did not scheme for them, was not hurt
by apparent neglect, demanded no effusiveness, and disliked sentiment.
Hugh, as he grew older, did not desire very close relationships with
people; he valued frankness above intimacy, and candour above sympathy.
He found as a rule that women gave too much sympathy, and the result
was that he felt himself encouraged to be egotistical.  He used to
think that when he spoke frankly to women, they tended to express
admiration for the way he had acted or thought; and if he met that by
saying that he neither deserved or wanted praise, he received further
admiration for disinterestedness, when all that he desired was to take
the matter out of the region of credit altogether.  He believed indeed
that women valued the pleasure of making an impression, of exercising
influence, too highly, and that in this point their perception seemed
to fail; they did not understand that a man acts very often from
impersonal motives, and is interested in the doing of the thing itself,
whatever it may happen to be, rather than in the effect that his action
may have upon other people.  It was part of the high-mindedness of
women that they could not understand that a man should be so absorbed
in the practical execution of a matter.  They looked upon men's
ambitions, their desire to do or make something--a book, a picture, a
poem--as a sort of game in which they could not believe that any one
could be seriously interested.  Hugh indeed seemed to divine the
curious fact that, generally speaking, men and women looked upon the
preoccupations and employments of the opposite sex as rather childish;
a man would be immersed in practical activities, in business, in
organisation, in education, in communicating definite knowledge, in
writing books, in attending meetings--this he thought to be the serious
and real business of the world; and he was inclined to look upon
relationships with other people, sentiment, tender affections, wistful
thoughts of others, as a sort of fireside amusement and recreation.

Women, on the other hand, found their real life in these things,
desired to please, to win and retain affection, to admire and to be
admired, to love and be loved; and they tended to look upon material
things--comfort, wealth, business, work, art--as essentially secondary
things, which had of course a certain value, but which were not to be
weighed in the scale with emotional things.  There were naturally many
exceptions to this; there were hard, business-like, practical women;
there were emotional, tender-hearted, sensitive men; but the general
principle held good.  And thus it was that men and women regarded the
supreme emotion of love from such different points of view, and failed
so often to comprehend the way in which the opposite sex regarded it;
to women it was but the natural climax, the raising and heightening of
their habitual mood into one great momentous passion; it was the flower
of life slowly matured into bloom; to men it was more a surprising and
tremendous experience, an amazing episode, cutting across life and
interrupting its habitual current, contradicting rather than confirming
their previous experience.

Hugh was himself rather on the feminine side: though he had a strong
practical turn, and could carry through a matter effectively enough,
yet he valued delicate and sincere emotions, disinterestedness,
simplicity, and loyalty, above practical activity and organisation; the
result of this, he supposed, was that he tended, from a sense of the
refreshment of contrast, to make his friends rather among men than
among women, and this was, he believed, the reason why he had never
fallen frankly in love, because he could to a great extent supply out
of his own nature the elements which as a rule men sought among women;
and because the complexity and sensitiveness of his own temperament
took refuge rather in tranquillity and straight-forward commonsense.
As he grew older, as he became absorbed more and more in literary work,
he tended, he thought, to draw more and more away from human
relationships; the energy, the interest, that had formerly gone into
making new relationships now began to run in a narrower channel.
Whether it was prudent to yield to this impulse he did not stop to
inquire.  It seemed to him that many of his friends wasted a great deal
of force and activity from semi-prudential motives.  As his life became
more solitary, an old friend once took him to task on this point.  He
said that it was all very well for a time, but that Hugh would find his
interest in his work flag, and that there would be nothing to fill the
gap.  He advised him, at the cost of some inconvenience, to cultivate
relations with a wider circle, to go to social gatherings, to make
acquaintances.  He knew, he said, that Hugh would possibly find it
rather tiresome, but it was of the nature of an investment which might
some day prove of value.

Hugh replied that he thought that this was living life too much on the
principle of the White Knight in _Through the Looking-Glass_.  The
White Knight kept a mouse-trap slung to his saddle; when it was
objected that he would not be likely to find mice on the back of his
horse, he replied that perhaps it was not likely, but that if they were
there, he did not choose to have them running about.  Hugh confessed
that he did find ordinary society tiresome; but to persist in
frequenting it, on the chance that some day it would turn out to be a
method of filling up vacant hours, seemed to him to be providing
against an unlikely contingency, and indeed an ugly and commercial
business.  He did not think it probable that he would lose interest in
his work, and he thought it better to devote himself to it while it
interested him.  If the time ever came when he needed a new set of
relationships, he thought he could trust himself to form them; and if
he did not desire to form them, well, to be bored was bad enough, but
it was better on the whole to be passively rather than to be actively
bored.

But Hugh's theory in reality went deeper than that.  He had a strong
belief, which grew in intensity with age, that the only chance of
realising one's true life was to do something that interested one with
all one's might.  He did not believe that what was done purely from a
sense of duty, unless it pleased and satisfied some part of one's
nature, was ever effective or even useful.  It was not well done, and
it was neglected on any excuse.  His pilgrimage through the world
presented itself to Hugh in the light of a journey through hilly
country.  The ridge that rose in front of one concealed a definite type
of scenery; that scenery was there; there were indeed a hundred
possibilities about it, and the imagination might amuse itself by
forecasting what it was to be like.  But it seemed to Hugh that one
wasted time in these forecasts; and that it was better to wait and see
what it actually was, and then to enjoy it as vigorously as one could.
To spend one's time in fantastic speculation as to what was coming, was
to waste vigour and thought, which were better employed in observing
and interpreting what was around one.

And so Hugh resolved that his relations with others should be of this
kind; that he would not seek restlessly for particular kinds of
friendships; but that he would accept the circle that he found, the
persons with whom relations were inevitable; and that he would make the
most of what he found.  Choice and selection!  How little one really
employed them! the world streamed past one, an unsuspected,
unlooked-for friend would suddenly emerge from the throng, and one
would find oneself journeying shoulder to shoulder for a space.  Hugh
thought indeed sometimes that one made no friendships at all of
oneself; but that God sent the influences of which one had need, at the
very time at which one needed them, and then silently and tenderly
withdrew them again for a time, when they had done their work for the
soul.  One received much, and perhaps, however unconsciously, however
lightly, one gave something of one's own as well.

But all Hugh's relations with others were overshadowed by the great
doubt, which was perhaps the heaviest burden he had to carry, as to
whether one's individuality endured.  The thought that it might not
survive death, made him shrink back from establishing a closeness of
emotional dependence on another, the loss of which would be
intolerable.  The natural flame of the heart seemed quenched and
baffled by that cold thought.  It was the same instinct that made him,
as a boy, refuse the gift of a dog, when a pet collie, that had been
his own, had been killed by an accident.  The pain of the loss had
seemed so acute, so irreparable, that he preferred to live uncomforted
rather than face such another parting; and there seemed, too, a kind of
treachery in replacing love.  If, on the other hand, individuality did
endure, the best of all relationships seemed to Hugh a frank and
sincere companionship, such as may arise between two wayfarers whose
road lies together for a little, and who talk easily and familiarly as
they walk in the clear light of the dawn.  Hugh felt that there was an
abundance of fellow-pilgrims, men and women alike, to consort with, to
admire, to love; this affability and accessibility made it always easy
for Hugh to enter into close relationship with others.  He had little
desire to guard his heart; and the sacred intimacy, the sharing of
secret thoughts and hopes, which men as a rule give but to a few, Hugh
was perhaps too ready to give to all.  What he lost in depth and
intensity he perhaps gained in breadth.  But he also became aware that
he had a certain coldness of temperament.  Many were dear to him, but
none essential.  There was no jealousy about his relations with others.
He never demanded of a friend that he should give him a special or
peculiar regard.  His frankness was indeed sometimes misunderstood, and
people occasionally supposed that they had evoked a nearness of
feeling, an impassioned quality, which was not really there.  "You give
away your heart in handfuls," said a friend to him once in a paroxysm
of anger, fancying himself neglected; and Hugh felt that it was both
just and unjust.  He had never, he thought, given his heart away at
all, except as a boy to his chosen friend.  But he gave a smiling and
tender affection very easily to all who seemed to desire it.  He knew
indeed from that first experience something of the sweet mystery of
faithful devotion; but now he could only idealise, he could not
idolise.  The world was full of friendly, gracious, interesting people.
Circumstance spun one to and fro among the groups and companies; how
could one give a unique regard, when there were so many that claimed
allegiance and admiration?  He saw others flit from passion to passion,
from friendship to friendship--Hugh's aim was rather to be the same, to
be loyal and true, to be able to take up a suspended friendship where
he had laid it down; the most shameful thing in the world seemed to him
the ebbing away of vitality out of a relationship; and therefore he
would not give pledges which he might be unable to redeem.  If the
conscious soul survived mortal death, then perhaps these limitations of
time and space, which suspended friendships, would exist no longer, and
he could wait for that with a quiet hopefulness.  But if it all passed
away, and was as though it had never been, if life was but a leaping
flame, a ripple on the stream, then how could one have the heart to tie
indissoluble links?

Hugh half understood that the weakness of his case was that he could
argue about it at all.  Others went blindly and ardently into loves and
friendships, because an irresistible impulse carried them away--with
Hugh the impulse was not irresistible.  Meanwhile he would give what he
could, offer rather than claim; he would reject no proffer of
friendship, but he would not, or perhaps he could not, fetter himself
with the heavy chains of emotion.  But even so he was aware that this
temperance, this balance of nature, was not a wholly beautiful or
desirable thing.

The perception of this came home to Hugh with peculiar force on a
bright fresh day of early spring, when he walked with a friend in the
broad green fields beside the Cam.  They had been strolling first in
the college gardens, where the snowdrops were pushing up, some of them
bearing on their heads the crust of earth that had sheltered them;
crocuses rose in the borders, like little bursts of flame.  A thrush
was singing on a high bough, and seemed to be telling, in an eager
mystery, the very hopes and dreams of Hugh's heart.  He said something
that implied as much to his friend, who replied that he did not
understand that.

This friend of Hugh's was much younger than himself, a fastidious and
somewhat secluded nature, but possessing for Hugh the deep attraction
of a peculiar type of character.  He had great critical and literary
gifts, and seemed to Hugh to bring to the judgment of artistic work an
extraordinarily clear and fine criterion of values.  But beside this,
he seemed to Hugh to have the power of entering into a very close and
emotional relationship with people; and out in the meadows where the
sun shone bright, the breeze blew soft, and the first daisies showed
their heads among the grass, Hugh asked him to explain what he felt
about his relationship with others.  His friend said that it came to
this, that it was the only real and vital thing in the world; and when
Hugh pressed him further, and asked him what he felt about the artistic
life, his friend said that it was a great mystery, because art also
seemed to him a strong, entrancing, fascinating thing; but that it ran
counter to and cut across his relations with others, and seemed almost
like a violent and distracting temptation, that tore him away from the
more vital impulse.  He added that the problem as to whether
individuality endured (of which they had spoken earlier) seemed to him
not to affect the question at all, any more than it affected one's
sleep or appetite.  At this, for a moment, a mist seemed to roll away
from Hugh's eyes, though he knew that it would close in again, and for
an instant he understood; to himself relations with others were but one
class of beautiful experiences, like art, and music, and nature, and
hints of the unseen; not differing in quality, but only in kind, from
other experiences.  Hugh saw too, in the same flash of insight, that
what kept him from emotional relationships was a certain timidity--a
dislike of anything painful or disturbing; and that the mistake he
made, if that can be called a mistake which was so purely instinctive,
was his desire to obliterate and annihilate all the unpleasing,
painful, and disagreeable elements from all circumstances and
situations.  The reason why Hugh did not hunger and thirst after
friendship was, he saw, that inconveniences, humours,
misunderstandings, mannerisms, _entourage_, were all so many
disagreeable incidents which interfered with his tranquillity of
enjoyment.  If he had really loved, these things would have weighed as
nothing in comparison with the need of satisfying the desire of
relationship; as it was, they weighed so much with Hugh that they
overpowered the other instinct.  It was really a sort of luxuriousness
of temperament that intervened; and Hugh felt that for a man to say
that he loved his friends, and yet to allow this fastidious sense of
discomfort to prevent his seeing them, was as if a man said that he was
devoted to music, and yet allowed the tumult of concert-rooms to
prevent his ever going to hear music.  And yet the language of
friendship was so familiar, and the power of multiplying relations with
others was so facile a thing with Hugh, that he saw that his failure in
the matter was a deplorable and a miserable thing.  He was singularly
and even richly equipped for the pursuit of friendship; while his very
sensitiveness, his inherent epicureanism, which made advance so easy,
made progress impossible.

And yet he realised that it was useless to deplore this; that no amount
of desire for the larger and deeper experience would make him capable
of sustaining its pains and penalties.  He saw that he was condemned to
pass through life, a smiling and courteous spectator of beauty and
delight; but that, through a real and vital deficiency of soul, he
could have no share in the inner and holier mysteries.



XX

Limitations--Sympathy--A Quiet Choice--The Mind of God--Intuition


Hitherto it had seemed to Hugh that life was a struggle to escape from
himself, from that haunting personality which, like a shadow, dogged
and imitated his movements, but all with a sombre blackness, a species
of business-like sadness of gesture, doing heavily and mechanically
what he himself did with such blitheness and joy.  Again and again that
self seemed to thwart, to hinder, to check him.  There were days, it
seemed to him, when a conflict was waged, an unequal conflict, between
that outer and that inner self.  Days when the inner spirit was
intense, alert, eager, and when the outer self was languid, dreary,
mockingly sedate and indolent.  Again there were days, and these were
the saddest of all, when the inner spirit seemed to Hugh to be
tranquil, high-minded, and strong; when that outer self was malign,
turbulent, and headstrong, and when all the resolution and vigour he
possessed, appeared to be wasted, not in following the higher aims and
imaginings with a patient purpose, but in curbing and reining the rough
and coltish nature that seemed so sadly yoked with his own.  He felt on
those days like a wearied and fretful charioteer, driving through a
scene of rich and moving beauty, on which he would fain feast his eyes
and heart, but compelled to an incessant watchfulness, a despairing
strain, in watching and guiding his refractory, his spiteful steeds.
The control he had never forfeited wholly.  Perhaps his sensitiveness,
his solitariness, his fastidiousness, had tended to keep his sensuous
nature within bounds.

But he went through strange moods, when he could almost wish that he
had not been so cautious, so prudent; he felt that he had travelled
through life as a spectator merely; and the element of passionate
feeling, of confessed devotion, of uncalculating love, had passed him
by.  He used, in these moods, to wish that he had some soul-stirring
experience to look back upon, some passionate affection, some
overpowering emotion, which might have constrained him to open and
unashamed utterance.  How had he missed, he used to ask himself, the
experience of a deep and whole-hearted love?  There was nothing easier
in the world than to establish a certain intimacy of relation.  He had,
he was aware, a friendly air and a certain simple charm of manner,
which made it an easy thing for him to say what was in his mind.  A
single interview was often enough for him to make a friendship.  He had
an acute superficial sensibility, which made it very easy for him to
divine another's tastes and emotions; and his own emotional
experiences, his freedom of expression, gave him the power of
interpreting and entering into the feelings of others.  But his
experience was always the same.  He could clasp hands with another
soul, he could step pleasantly and congenially through the ante-rooms
and corridors of friendship; but as soon as the great door that led to
the inner rooms of the house came in sight, a certain coldness, a
shamefacedness held him back; the hand was dropped, the expected word
unspoken.

Thus Hugh found himself with a great number of close friends, and
without a single intimate one.  He had never bared his heart to
another, he had never seen another heart bare before his eyes.  He had
never let himself go.  Thus he was a master, so to speak, of the
emotional elements up to a certain point; but he had never made a
surrender of himself, and had always with a certain coldness checked
any signs of a surrender in others.  A close friendship had once been
abruptly ended by the bestowal of certain deep confidences by his
friend, sad and touching confidences.  This incident had drawn a veil
between him and his friend, a veil that he could not withdraw.  His
evident coldness, on the day following, to the friend who had trusted
him, disconcerted and repelled the other.  Hugh could remember a mute
and appealing look that he gave him; but though he felt that he was
acting ungenerously and even basely, he could only meet it with a blank
and repellent gaze, and the friendship had been broken off, never to be
renewed.  He had made, too, friends with women both of his own age and
older; but the moment that the friendship seemed cemented, the emotion
on Hugh's part cooled into a _camaraderie_ which was both misunderstood
and blamed.  Why go so far if you did not mean to go further? appeared
to be the unuttered question which met him; to which his own
temperament seemed always to reply, why shake our easy and comfortable
friendship by distracting and bewildering emotions?  It was, Hugh grew
to discern, a real blot in his character; it was a prudence, a caution
in emotional things, a terror, no doubt, in a sensitive spirit, of
giving pledges, of making vows, of surrendering the will and the
spirit.  It did not indeed bring him unhappiness--that was the saddest
part of it; but it left him involved in a kind of selfish isolation.
His soul, he felt, was like a smiling island, which with its green
glades and soft turf invites the wayfarer to set foot therein, with a
smiling welcome from the spirit of the place.  But the wood once
penetrated, then at the back of the paradise ran a cliff-front of
sad-coloured crags, preventing further ingress.  If indeed the shrine
of the island had stood guarded within a temple which, in its deep
columned and shadowed recesses, had shielded a holy presence, it would
have been different; but the land beyond was bare and desolate.  That
was, Hugh thought, the solution.  The bright foreshore, the waving
trees, the shelter and fountains, seemed to promise a place of delicate
delights; and there were some of those who landed there, who, on seeing
the pale cliff behind, believed, with a deep curiosity, that some very
sacred and beautiful thing must there be enshrined.  But it was the
emptiness of the further land, Hugh thought, that made it imperative to
guard the mystery.  In that bare land indeed he himself seemed to pace,
bitterly pondering; he would even kneel on the bare rocks, and hold out
his hands in intense entreaty to the God who had made him, and who
withdrew Himself so relentlessly within the blank sky, that a blessing
might tall upon the stony wilderness.  But this blessing was withheld;
whether by his own fault, or through the just will of the Father, Hugh
could not wholly discern.  The hard fact remained that the inner
fortress was blank and bare, and that no friend or lover could be
invited thither.

But as Hugh's manhood melted into his middle age, the conflict between
the outer and inner spirit decreased.  He was still, as ever, conscious
of the coldness of his inner heart; but he grew to believe that a
compromise was possible, and that his work was to cheer and welcome,
with all the outer resources at his command, any pilgrims who sought
his aid.  He became patiently and unwearyingly kind.  There was no
trouble he would not take for any one who appealed to him.  He gave a
simple affection, a quiet sympathy, with eager readiness; and learned
that, if he lacked that fiery and impetuous core of emotion, which can
make the whole world different to those who can light their torches at
its glow, yet he could smoothe the path and comfort the steps of less
ardent, less impulsive spirits.  He could add something of light and
warmth to the cold world.  If sometimes those who were attracted by his
genial bearing and sympathetic kindness were disappointed and troubled
at finding how slender a stream it was, well, that was inevitable.  He
realised himself that his was a shallow nature, full of motion and
foam, wide but not deep, and that its bright force and swift curves hid
from others, though not from himself, its lack of force and energy.
And so when it came to him to lay aside his public work, and to enter a
life which seemed an almost disappointingly meagre field to those who
had formed high hopes of him, believing that he had a rich and prodigal
nature, a depth of insight and force, he made the change himself with a
fervent and abundant gratitude; feeling that he was unequal to the
larger claims, and would but have attempted to hide his lack of force
under a certain brisk liveliness and paradoxical display; while that in
the narrow channel which his life now entered, he would at least be
employing all the force of which he was capable.

He was not free from misgivings; but he felt that what appeared to be a
shrinking and cowardly diffidence to others, was the inevitable result
of the richness of his outer nature, the exuberance of which they held
to issue from a reservoir of secret force; but, though he sighed at
their disappointment, he felt that he was estimating himself more
truly; and that he lacked that inner fulness of spirit, that patient
unselfishness, which could alone have sustained him.  He remained
indeed a child, with the charm, the gaiety, the simplicity of a child,
but with the wilfulness, the faint-heartedness, the desultoriness of a
child.  And he felt that in making his choice he was indeed following
the will of his Father, making the most of his single talent, instead
of juggling with it to make it appear to be two or even ten.

He had his reward in an immediate and simple tranquillity of spirit.
He never doubted nor looked back.  Those who saw him, and thought
regretfully what he might have been, what he might have done, would
sometimes give utterance to their disappointment, and even peevishly
blame him.  But here again his coldness of temperament assisted him.
He submitted to such criticisms and censures with a regretful air, as
though he were half convinced of their truth.  But the severer and
sterner spirit within was never touched or affected.  Ambitious and
fond of display as he had been, the loss of dignity and influence
weighed nothing with him; he was even surprised to find how little it
touched him with any sense of regret or yearning.  His fear had been
once that perhaps he was great, and that indolence and luxuriousness
alone held him back from exercising that greatness.  But God had been
good to him in neither humiliating nor exposing him, and now that he
himself had lifted the lid of the ark in the innermost shrine, and had
seen how bare and unfurnished it was, he saw in a flash of humble
insight how wisely he was held back.

Truth, however painful, has always something bracing and sustaining
about it; and the days in which Hugh learnt the truth about himself had
nothing of gloom or sadness about them.  The discovery indeed surprised
him with a certain lightness and freshness of spirit.  He smiled to
think that he had entered the vale of humiliation, and had found it
full of greenness and musical with fountains.  A great flood of peace
flowed in upon him; and all the delicate love of nature, of trees and
skies, of flowers and moving water, came back to him with an increased
and deep significance.  Before, he had seen their outward appearance;
now he looked into their spirit; and so he passed along the dreary
valley light of foot and singing to himself.  Mr. Fearing, in the
_Pilgrim's Progress_, went down from the House Beautiful into the
valley, said Mr. Greatheart, "as well as ever I saw man in my life.  I
never saw him better in all his pilgrimage than when he was in that
valley.  Here he would lie down, embrace the ground, and kiss the very
flowers that grew in the valley.  He would now be up every morning by
break of day tracing and walking to and fro in this valley."

Even so was it with Hugh.  The place that he had feared was revealed to
him in a moment as his native air.  Men do not lose all of a sudden
their temptations, and least of all those who have desired the prize
rather than the labour.  But Hugh saw that the place where he set his
feet was holy.  And as for his poor desires, he put them in the hands
of his Father, and rejoiced to find that they were faithfully and
serenely purged away.

He began to learn, but with what infinite difficulty, what entanglement
of delay, that the great mistake that he had made in his religious
life, was the limiting the direct influence of God to the pietistic,
the devotional region.  All the tender and remote associations of
childhood had to be broken off and drawn away one by one, as one snaps
and pulls ivy down from a wall, before he could reach the thought he
was approaching; and how often, too, did the old conception surprise
him, interrupt him, entangle him again unawares!  It seemed to Hugh,
reflecting on the problem, how strange a thing was the pageant of life
all about him, the march of invisible winds, the sweeping up of cloudy
vapours, the slow ruin of rocky places, the spilling of sweet streams;
and then, in a nearer region, the quaint arbitrary forms of living
creatures, their innate instincts, their intelligence, so profoundly
and delicately organised in one direction, so weak in another; and then
again the horrible threads of cruelty, of suffering, of death, inwoven
so relentlessly in the fabric of the world, the pitiless preying of
beast upon beast; and, further still, the subtle and pathetic wisdom of
the human spirit, sadly marking what is amiss, and setting itself so
feebly, so pitifully, to amend it; the shaping of communities, the
social moralities, so distinct from, so adverse to the morality of
nature--reflecting, as I say, on these things, Hugh became aware, with
a growing astonishment, that though mankind attributed, in an easy and
perfunctory way, all these phenomena to the creative hand of God, yet
instead of trying to form a conception of Him and His dark thoughts
from this legible and gigantic handwriting, which revealed so
impenetrable, so imperturbable a will, they sought to trace His
influence only in some bewildered region of the human spirit, the
struggles of inherited conscience, the patient charity of men, that
would seek to knot up the loose ends which, in their pathetic belief in
self-developed principles, they could not help imagining that the Maker
of all had left unravelled and untied.

To believe in God and yet to seek to improve upon His ways! what a
strange and incredible contradiction!  And yet what made the position a
more bewildering one still was the certainty that these very inner
impulses to amend, to improve, came from God as clearly as the very
evils that He permitted and indeed originated.  What was the exit from
this intolerable tangle of thought?  Law indeed seemed absolute, law on
a scale at once so colossal and so minute, law that sent the planets
whirling through space round the central sun--and yet dwelt, cell
within cell, in the heart of the smallest pebble that rolled upon the
sea-beach.  And side by side with this law ran a thwarting force, an
impulse to make man do blindly the very things that led inevitably to
destruction, to endow him with an intense desire of life, and yet to
leave him ignorant of the laws that hurried him, reluctant and amazed,
to death.  Hugh grew to feel that some compromise was necessary; that
to live in the natural impulses alone, or in the developed impulses
alone, was an impossibility.  A hundred voices called him, a hundred
hands beckoned or waved him back; nature prompted one thing, reason
another, association another, piety another; and yet each was in a
sense the calling of God.  The saddest thing was that to obey any of
the voices brought no peace or tranquillity; he obeyed piety, and
nature continued fiercely to prompt the opposite; he obeyed
association, and reason mocked his choice.  He became aware that in
order to triumph over these manifold and uneasy contradictions, a
certain tranquillity of mind must be acquired; he found that to a large
extent he must trust intuition, which could at all events settle, if it
could not reconcile, conflicting claims; even when reason indicated a
choice of paths, the voice of the soul cried out clearly the way that
he must choose; the obedience to intuition was generally approved by
experience, until Hugh began to see, at last, that it was the safest
guide of all, and that thus we came nearest to the heart of God.  He
found, indeed, very often, that even when prudence and reason afforded
excellent reasons for abstaining from action, to yield to intuition
turned out to be the wisest and the kindest course; until, in practical
matters, he learnt to trust it unhesitatingly, even if it led him, as
the light led the pilgrim, to stumble for a time in a field full of
dark mountains.



XXI

A Far-off Day--A Compact--Fragrant Memories


There was, as I have said, a strong visionary tendency in Hugh, which
had been to a certain extent restricted in the days of his professional
life; but now that he was free, it began to recur with extraordinary
frequency and force.  It was when he was reading that this faculty
visited him, as a rule, and more especially when he read, as he was
accustomed to do, after he was awake in the morning, until the time
came for him to rise.  The mind, struggling to free itself from the
dominion of sleep, had not yet put on the obedience of the day, but
seemed to act with a whimsical independence of its own.  His thoughts
were then most apt to wear a melancholy tinge; a certain apprehensive
shadow often lay upon him, a sense of being unequal to the claims of
the day, a tendency to rehearse, without hopefulness or spring, the
part he would have to play, to exaggerate difficulties and obstacles.
Reading, as a rule, served to distract his thoughts; but it was hardly
an intellectual so much as a meditative process; the thoughts and words
of the writer, on such occasions, often seemed to him like beaters
going through a covert, trampling the fern and rapping the tree trunks,
starting from their lairs all kinds of hidden game.

One morning he was lying thus, reading quietly, when there suddenly
darted into his mind, for no particular reason, the thought of a summer
day he had spent as a small boy at his public school.  It had been a
holiday; the day cloudless and bright, yet with a delicious coolness in
the air; and the sunshine fell, he remembered, on the great trees of
the place and the venerable buildings, gleaming through a golden haze,
which made it seem as though he viewed everything, not through empty
air, but through a tinted and tangible medium, as it were an aerial
honey, which lent a liquid sweetness to all outlines and surfaces.  He
had wandered off with a friend, in that perfect afternoon, through the
meadows, for a long vague ramble, ending up with a bathe in the river.
The day was beautifully still, and he could almost smell the hot honied
fragrance of the flowers, and hear the angry murmur of the busy flies,
that sate basking on the leaves of the hedgerow.  He seemed to himself
to have been full of a vague and restless emotion, a sense of happiness
that just missed its end, that would have been complete if there had
not been something wanting, some satisfaction of an instinct that he
could not put into words.  His companion had been a boy of his own age,
who, it had seemed to Hugh, was in the same wistful mood.  But there
had been no attempt to express in words any of these thoughts.  They
had walked for the most part in silence, interrupted by the vague,
inconsequent, and rather gruff remarks, that are the symbols of equal
friendship.  They had rambled a long way beside the stream, with the
thick water-plants growing deep at the edge.  The river came brimming
down, clear and cool, the tiny weeds swaying among the dark pools, the
rushes bowing and bending, as though plucked by unseen hands.  The
stream was full of boys in boats, and the eager noise and stir was not
congenial to Hugh's meditative mood.  The bathing-place was by a weir,
where the green water plunged through the sluices, filling the stream
with foam and sound; all about floated the exquisite reedy smell of
warm river-water, bringing with it a sense of cool and unvisited
places, hidden backwaters among green fields, where the willows leaned
together, and the fish hung mute in the pools.  They had bathed under a
tall grove of poplars, and Hugh could remember the delicious freshness
of the turf under his naked feet, and the sun-warmed heat of the wooden
beams of the wharf.  The plunge in the cold bubbling water had swept
all his thoughts away into the mere joy of life, but as he sat, after
dressing, with the music of the water in his ears, the same wistful
mood had settled down on his mind.

What did it all mean?  Whither was all this beauty, this delight
tending?  He thought of all the generations of boys who had bathed in
this place, full of joy and life.  Where were they all now?  He thought
of those who should come after, when he too was gone to take his place
in the world.  And then they had gone slowly back through the meadows,
with a delicious languor of sensation; the sun was now beginning to
decline, and the blue wooded hills across the stream, with the smoke
going up beneath them from unseen houses, wore the same air of holding
some simple and sweet secret which they would not tell, and which Hugh
could not penetrate.  It was sad, too, to think that the beautiful day
was done, become a memory only; and that he must plunge again for the
morrow and for many morrows into the tide of affairs and boisterous
life.  He made one effort to put his thoughts into words.  Putting his
arm for a moment in the arm of his companion, he said, "Let us remember
to-day!"  His friend, who was walking sedately along with a stalk of
grass between his lips, looked at him in a peculiar manner, smiled and
nodded; this little compact, so quietly made, seemed for an instant to
have brought Hugh and his friend together into a charmed circle.  Had
his friend forgotten what he remembered?  The last time he had seen
him, he had found a prosperous business man, full of affairs; and he
had not reminded him of the day when they went together by the stream.

The whole picture came before Hugh as an almost impossible sweet and
rapturous memory, clutching with a poignant passion at his heart.  What
was the secret of the fragrant days that had departed and could never
return?  Was it well to recall them?  And what too was the secret of
that strange and beautiful alchemy of the mind, that forgot all the
troubles and cares of the old life, and even touched the few harsh
incidents that it did retain with a wistful beauty, as though they had
had some desirable element in them?  Would it not be better, more
tranquillising for the spirit, if the memory retained only the dark
shadows of the past? so that the mind could turn with zest and interest
to the joys of the moment?  Instead of that, memory tempted the soul,
by a kind of magical seduction, to dwell only upon what was sweet and
beautiful in the past, thereby emphasising and heightening the sense of
dissatisfaction with the present.  Was it true that the very days that
were then passing, those sober, uneventful days, would at some future
time be touched by the same reluctant, pathetic quality of
recollection?  It was certainly so; the mind, dwelling on the past, had
that extraordinary power of rejecting all the dreary débris of life,
and leaving only the pure gold, a hundred times refined; and yet it
brought with it that mournful shadow of sadness, of the irrevocable,
the irreplaceable past.  But it seemed, too, to hold a hope within it,
a hope that, if the pilgrimage of the soul were not to be ended by
death, then memory, unshadowed by present sadness, in the deep content
of a freedom from all material anxieties, might become one of the
purest and deepest treasures that it was possible to conceive.  Hugh
thought that his disembodied spirit might, in the after time, perhaps
haunt those very river-banks, and with the mystery solved that had
oppressed and darkened his human pilgrimage, might surrender itself to
that beautiful and absolute tranquillity, that peace which the world
could not give, for which he daily and hourly yearned.  Perhaps indeed
it was the presence of some such invisible, haunting _revenant_
whispering at his ear, longing even for some contact with healthy
humanity, that had given him the wistful sense of mystery and longing.
Who could say?

And then the mood of recollection lapsed and rolled away like mists
from a morning hill, and left Hugh once more confronted with the
ugliness and dreariness of the actual world; only from his vision
remained the hope, the resolution, to extract from life, as it passed,
the purest and most delicate elements; its sweetness, its serenity; so
that he might leave, as far as was possible, an inheritance of undimmed
beauty for the memory to traffic with, to rid it so far as he could
from all the envy, the dull detail, the tiresome complexities that
might poison retrospect, leaving nothing but the fine gold of thought.



XXII

Death--The Real and the Ideal--A Thunder Shower--Storm and Shadow


Hugh was wandering as his custom was, one hot and thunderous day, in
the country lanes; it was very still, and through the soft haze that
filled the air, the distant trees and fields lost their remoteness, and
stood stiffly and quaintly as though painted.  There seemed a presage
of storm in the church-tower, which showed a ghostly white among the
elms.  A fitful breeze stirred at intervals.  Hugh drew near the
hamlet, and all of a sudden stepped into a stream of inconceivable
sweetness and fragrance; he saw in a moment what was its origin.  The
strawberry-pickers were out in a broad field, and from the crushed
berries, however lightly bruised, there poured this flow of scent, at
once rich and pure, with all the native soul of the fruit exhaling upon
the air.  It was to other familiar scents like ointment poured forth;
it seemed indeed to Hugh that anything so intensely impressive to the
sense ought to have power to tinge the colourless air, which was thus
so exquisitely laden and impregnated.

He was now close to the church.  It was a little, low, ancient
structure, with a small, quaint, open belfry, beautifully proportioned,
and all built out of a soft and mellow grey stone.  The grass grew long
in the churchyard, which was not so much neglected as wisely left
alone, and an abundance of pink mallow, growing very thickly, gave a
touch of bright colour to the grass.  He stopped for a while
considering the grave of a child, who had died at the age of five
years, with an artless epitaph painted on a wooden cross.  The grave
was piously tended, though it bore a date of some ten years back; there
were little rose-trees growing there, and a border of pansies, all the
work, Hugh fancied, of children, doing gentle honour to a dead sister;
whom they thought of, no doubt, as lying below in all her undimmed
childish beauty; the pale face, the waxen limbs, the flowing hair, as
they had looked their last upon her, waiting in a quiet sleep for the
dawn of that other morning.  How much better to think of her so, than
of the dreadful reality which Hugh, in a sudden, almost terrified,
flash of fancy, knew to be lying, an almost insupportable blot upon all
that was fair and seemly, in the stained and mouldered coffin.  Yet
there was a place for that difficult horror too in the scheme of
things, though the thought seemed almost to taint the sweet air of the
place.

This was only one of the parts of the great mystery over which he
brooded so often; the noisome things of the world, its weakness, its
decay; the shivering repugnance of the spirit, the almost impossibility
of joy or courage in the presence of such thoughts; that was the
strangest part of it, the rebellion of the inmost central spirit
against what was so natural, so common.  Death was harsh enough, but
that it should be attended with such an extremity of disgrace and
degradation--that seemed an intolerable thing.

Yet to the charnel-worm, rioting in all the horror of decay, there
could be nothing but a blind joy in the conditions which Hugh hardly
even dared to imagine.  To indulge such thoughts was morbid, perhaps.
But here they presented themselves at every turn, and Hugh felt that to
turn his back upon them was but to shirk the part of the problem that
he disliked.  Not so could he attain to any knowledge of the secret of
things.  The horror must not of course be unduly emphasised; the
morbidity lay there, in the danger of seeing things out of due
proportion; but the proportion was just as much sacrificed, indeed more
sacrificed, by ignoring the facts.  Neither was he at all afraid of any
undue preponderance of the morbid element in his contemplations.  He
took far too deep a delight in the beautiful and gracious sights and
sounds of earth for that; and the conclusion that he drew, as he turned
away, was that a suspension of judgment in the face of an insoluble
mystery was the only course; to leave the windows of the soul open to
every impression, to every fact, whether it was the voice and glance of
humanity, the sweetness of art and sound, the appeal of ancient
buildings, the waving of tall trees, the faces of bright flowers, the
songs of lively birds in the thicket--ay, and the intimations of death
and decay as well, all that was ugly and wretched in humanity, the
coarse song from the alehouse, the slatternly woman about her weary
work, the crying of a child that had been punished, the foul oozings of
the stockyard.  These were all as real, as true impressions as the
others.  To strike some balance, neither to forget the ideal in the
real, or to lose sight of the real in the ideal, that was his task.
And the consolation, though a stern one, lay in the fact that, dark and
bitter as the mystery was at one point, gracious and glowing as it was
at another, yet it was certainly _there_.  Concrete and abstract, the
impressions of sense, the intuitions of the spirit, each and all had
their part.  In this life, this swift interchange of darkness and
light, of sunshine and gloom, he might never approach the secret--nay,
he did not even hope that he would.  But at least he could draw a few
steps nearer, and with a humble heart he would wait for the glory that
should be revealed, or for the silence and darkness that it might be
would close upon him.  For whatever should be the end, Hugh had no
doubt that there was certainly behind life a mind and a will, to which
it was not only no mystery, but a truth simple, obvious and plain; for
him, his duty was to use both observation and imagination; not to let
the imagination outrun the observation, but to mark all that he could,
and infer what he could; while at the same time he felt equally sure
that he was not to be a mere observer, blindly registering impressions,
content to analyse difficulties.  Better than that was to repose an
ardent faith in his intuitions; but each alike, without the aid of the
other, was perilous and insecure.

While he thus reflected, there seemed to flow into his mind a deep
melancholy, which, like a dark liquid dropped into clear water, began
to tinge and cloud the translucent tide.  To live by a due proportion
of emotion and reason, that was the problem; but how were they to be
mingled?  One seemed so isolated in the matter, so left without any
certainty of guidance.  If one allowed emotion too great a latitude,
one became sentimental, unbalanced, personal; if one was swayed by
reason, one became dry, impersonal, cold.  Was one indeed meant to
stumble along the track, making irreparable mistakes, seeing only in
retrospect, with a shocking clearness of vision, what one ought to have
done?  Was one to regret alike impulse and prudence?  And the old
faults of temperament, how they appeared and reappeared!  However
clearly one saw one's mistakes, however much one admired nobleness, and
generosity, and courage, could one change the innermost character at
all?  The ghastly fact was that one seemed framed to desire the
unattainable.  What broken, faded, feeble things the majority of men's
lives were!  The pageant of human life seemed nothing more than failure
on a gigantic scale.

Suddenly the lightning writhed and fell, the thunder broke out over
Hugh's head, as he walked in the quiet lane; a rattling, furious peal,
like leaden weights poured in a cascade upon a vast boarded floor--an
inconceivable sound, from its sharpness, its tangibility, its solidity,
to proceed from those soft regions of the air, in which a velvety
greyness dwelt suffused, with a lurid redness in the west.  The rain
fell a moment afterwards in a soft sheet, leaping in the road, and
making a mist above the ground.

It was soon over, while Hugh sheltered in a big barn, with a pleasant
dark dusty roof, and high piles of fragrant straw all about him.

What a change when he stepped out! the thunder had leapt into the west,
the air was clean and sweet, and a ravishing scent came from the
satisfied fields.

With the drench of rain, something poisonous seemed to have been washed
out of Hugh's mind.  All that afternoon, in the sullen heat, he had
brooded stupidly and miserably enough, picking up, as it were, dart
after dart from his little bundle of cares and miseries, and pricking
his heart with them.

Where was it all gone?  In the clear fresh air he felt like a man
awaked from a nightmare, and restored to cheerful life again.  What did
past failures, future anxieties, matter to him?  He had his work, his
place, his liberty, and what further could he need?

His liberty!  How good that was!  He might go and come as he would,
unquestioned, unblamed.  He thought with a pitying horror of what his
life had previously been--the tangle of small engagements, the silly
routine work, in which no one believed; they had all been bound on a
kind of make-believe pilgrimage, carrying burdens round and round, and
putting them down where they had taken them up.

He determined that, whatever happened, he would do no more work in
which he did not believe, that he would say what he felt, not what
traditional formulas required him to say.  Work! he believed in that
with all his heart, so long as it had an end, an object.  To wrestle
with the comprehension of some difficult matter, there were few
pleasures like that! but it must have been an advance, when it was
over; one must feel that one was stronger, more clear-minded, more
alert, more sincere; one must not feel that one was only more weary,
more dissatisfied.  His path was clear before him at all events.

Plans and schemes began to rise in Hugh's brain he felt as if he was
delivered from the brooding sway of some evil and melancholy spirit.
How strange was the power that physical conditions had upon the very
stuff of the mind!  Half-an-hour ago the grievances, the self-pity, the
dissatisfaction had appeared to him to be real and tangible troubles;
not indeed things which it was wise to brood over, but inevitable
pains, to be borne with such philosophy as was attainable.  But now
they seemed as unreal, as untrue, as painful dreams, from which one
wakes with a sharp and great relief.

What remained with Hugh was the sense of one of the dangers of the
solitary life--the over-influence, the preponderance of sentiment.  The
only serenity was to be found in claiming and expecting nothing, but in
welcoming what came as a gift, as an added joy, to which one had indeed
no right; but which fell like the sunshine and the rain; one must be
ready to help, to work, to use one's strength at whatever point it
could be best applied, and to look for no reward.  This was what
poisoned life, the claim to be paid in the coin that pleased one best.
Payment indeed was made largely; and the blessed thing was that if one
was not paid fully for one's efforts, neither was one paid relentlessly
for one's mistakes.

And then, as to the deeper shadows of the world, the sorrows, the
bereavements, the sufferings, the dark possibilities, that lay like the
shadows of trees across a sunlit road--death itself, that grim horizon
that closed the view whichever way one looked--the mistake lay in
attempting to reckon with them beforehand, to anticipate them, to
discount them.  They were all part of the plan, and one could not alter
them.  Better to let them come, to husband strength and joy to meet
them, rather than to dissipate one's courage by dwelling upon them.
Indeed all Hugh's experience showed him that troubles, even the
deepest, wore a very different aspect when one was inside them.

The very storm itself was a parable.  Those zigzag ribbons of purple
fire, the fierce shouting of the thunderclap that followed!  In all the
wide forest-tracts over which the tempest hung, all that grim artillery
did but rend and split some one tough tree.  Rather it turned again to
gladden the earth, and the tears of heaven, that fell so steeply, only
laid the dust of the hot road, and filled the pasture and the lane with
the fragrance of the cleansed earth and the comforted brake.



XXIII

The Club--Homewards--The Garden of God


As Hugh became more and more enamoured of his work, and of the sweet
peace of the countryside, he became more and more averse to visiting
London.  But he was forced to do this at intervals.  One hot summer day
he went thus reluctantly to town; the rattle of the train, the heated
crowd of passengers, the warm mephitic air that blew into the carriage
from the stifling, smoke-grimed tunnel--all these seemed to him
insupportably disgusting.  But the sight, the sound, the very smell of
London itself, was like a dreadful obsession; he wondered how he could
ever have endured to live there.  The streets lay in the steady sun,
filled with fatigued, hurrying persons.  The air was full of a sombre
and oppressive murmur; the smell of the roadways, the hot vapour of
cookshops, the din and whizz of vehicles, the ceaseless motion of
faces: all this filled him with a deep pity for those who had to live
their lives under such conditions.  Was it to this that our boasted
civilisation had brought us? and yet it seemed that the normal taste of
ordinary people turned by preference to this humming and buzzing life,
rather than to the quiet and lonely life in the green spaces of the
country; Hugh had little doubt that the vast majority of those he saw,
even the pale, patient workpeople who were peeping, as they toiled,
grimy and sweat-stained, from the open windows, would choose this life
rather than the other, and would have condemned the life of the country
as dull.  Was it he, Hugh wondered, or they that were out of joint?
Ought he to accept the ordinary, sensible point of view, and try to
conform himself to it, crush down his love for trees and open fields
and smiling waters?  The sociable, herding instinct was as true, as
God-sent an instinct as his own pleasure in free solitude; and the old
adage that God made the country but man the town was as patently absurd
as to say that God made the iceberg, but the ant made the ant-heap.

He went to his club, a place which he rarely entered; it was full of
brisk and cheerful men, lunching with relish; some of them had hurried
in from their work, and were enjoying the hour of leisure; some were
the old frequenters of the place, men whose work in the world was over,
as well as men who had never known what it was to work.  But these men,
even some who seemed crippled with age and infirmity, seemed as intent
upon their pleasures, as avid of news, as eager for conversation, as
particular about their food, as if their existence was of a supreme and
weighty importance,  Hugh watched an elderly man, whom he knew by name,
who was said to be the most unoccupied man in London, who was
administering food and drink to himself with a serious air of delicate
zest, as though he were presiding benevolently at some work of charity
and mercy.  He had certainly flourished on his idleness like a green
bay tree!  Hugh was inclined to believe in the necessity to happiness
of the observance of some primal laws, like the law of labour, but here
was a contradiction to all his theories.  He sighed to think of the
mountains of carefully prepared food that this rosy, well-brushed
person must have consumed in the course of his life!  He was a
notoriously selfish man, who never laid out a penny except on his own
needs and pleasures.  Yet here was he, guarded like the apple of God's
eye, and all the good things that the earth held--ease, comfort,
independence, health, honour, and the power of enjoyment--were heaped
upon him with a liberal hand.  No wonder he thought so well of the
world!  Hugh had heard him say, with an air of virtuous complacency,
that he was generally pretty comfortable.

Hugh did not grudge his luxurious ease to the great statesman who sate
in the corner, with an evening paper propped up on a silver dish, and
some iced compound bubbling pleasantly in his glass, smiling benignly
at a caricature of himself.  He, at all events, paid for his comforts
by unremitting labour.  But what of the sleek and goodly drones of the
hive?

Hugh had some cheerful unmeaning talk to several of his old friends,
who regretted that they saw so little of him; he laughed with careful
enjoyment at some ancient stories, very familiar to him, told him with
rich zest by an acquaintance.  But he could not help speculating what
was the point of it all.  Some of the happiest and most contented men
there were high officials, engaged with a sense of solemn importance in
doing work that could have been quite as well done by very ordinary
people, and much of which, indeed, might as well have been left undone
altogether.  There was a bishop there, an old family friend of Hugh's
father, with whom he entered into talk.  The bishop had once been a man
of great force and ability, who had been a conspicuous university
teacher, and had written profound books.  But now he was looking
forward with a sense of solemn satisfaction to spending the following
day in going down to his diocese in order to preside at a Church
_fête_, make a humorous speech, and meet a number of important county
people.  There was no question of any religious element entering into
the function, and Hugh found himself dimly wondering whether such a
development of the energies of Christian elders was seriously
contemplated in the Gospel.  But the bishop seemed to have no doubts on
the subject.

Well, anyhow, this was life; this was what men had to do, and what as a
rule they enjoyed doing.  Hugh had no objection to that, so long as
people freely admitted that it was simply their chosen diversion, and
that they did it because they liked it.  It was only the solemn parade
of duty that Hugh disliked.

One of the friends whom Hugh met said to him smilingly that he heard
that he had become quite a hermit--adding that he must confess that he
did not look like one.  Hugh replied laughingly that it was only that
he was fortunate enough to discover that his work amused him more and
more; at which his friend smiled again, and told him to beware of
eccentricity.

Hugh began to wonder whether his simple and solitary life was indeed
tinged with that quality; but he answered that he was finding out to
his great delight that he was less afraid than he used to be of living
alone, to which his friend, a good-humoured and ineffective man, said
that he found that the stir and movement of town kept people from
rusting.  Hugh wondered--but did not express his wonder--what was
supposed to be the use of keeping the blade bright to no purpose; and
he wished to ask his contented friend what his object was; but that
appeared to be priggish, so Hugh left the question unuttered.

It was however with a huge relief that, his business over, Hugh found
himself in the homeward train.  But at the same time he took himself to
task for finding this suspension of routine, this interruption of his
literary work, so unpalatable.  He realised that he was becoming
inconveniently speculative; and that his growing impulse to get behind
things, to weigh their value, to mistrust the conventional view of
life, had its weak side, After all, the conventional, the normal view
reflected the tastes of the majority of mankind.  Their life was laid
out and regulated on those lines; and the regulating instinct was a
perfectly natural development of human temperament.  Ought he not to
embrace it for himself? was he not, perhaps, by seeking so diligently
for fine flavours and intense impressions, missing the food of the
banquet, and sipping only at the sauces?  If his own work had been of
any particular importance; if he was exercising a wide influence
through his books, in the direction of leading others to love the
simple sources of happiness, then his withdrawal from ordinary
activities and pleasures would be justifiable.  Was it justified as it
was?  Hugh could not answer the question.  He only knew that as the
train glided on its way, as the streets became less dense, as the
country verdure began to occupy more and more of the horizon; as the
train at last began to speed through wide fields full of ripening
grain, and hamlets half hidden in high elms, he felt the blessed
consciousness of returning freedom, the sense of recovering the region
of peace and purity dear to his spirit; and the thought of the hot
stifling town, with all its veins and arteries full of that endless ebb
and flow of humanity, seemed to him like a nightmare from which he was
being gradually delivered, and which he was leaving far behind him.

It was not peace, indeed! there was the obstinate spirit, repining,
questioning, reviewing all things, striving to pierce the veil.  But
the veil was not so thick as it had seemed in the city.  There he was
distracted, bewildered, agitated.  But in this quiet country the veil
seemed thin enough.  The trees, the flowers, seemed somehow nearer to
God, who of very truth appeared to walk as of old in the garden, in the
cool of the day.



XXIV

The Romance of Life--The Renewal of Youth--Youth


There were some days when the whole air of the place, the houses, the
fields, the gardens, even the very people that Hugh met in the streets,
seemed to be full of romance and poetry.  There was no particular
quality about the days themselves, that Hugh could ever divine, that
produced this impression.  Perhaps such moods came oftener and more
poignantly when the air was cool and fresh, when the temperate sun
filled his low rooms from end to end, lay serene upon the pastures, or
danced in the ripples of the stream.  But the mood came just as
inevitably on dull days, when the sky was roofed with high grey clouds,
or even on raw days of winter, when fitful gusts whirled round corners,
and when the spouts and cornices dripped with slow rains.  In these
hours the whole world seemed possessed by some gracious and sweet
mystery; everything was in the secret, everything was included in the
eager and high-hearted conspiracy.  It was all the same, on such days,
whether Hugh was alone or with company; if he was among friends or even
strangers, they seemed to look upon him, to speak, to move, with a
blithe significance; he seemed to intercept tender messages in a casual
glance, to experience the sense of a delighted goodwill, such as reigns
among a party of friends on an expedition of pleasure.  This mood did
not produce in Hugh the sense of merriment or high spirits; it was not
an excited frame of mind; it was rather a feeling of widespread
tenderness, a sort of brotherly admiration.  At such moments, the most
crabbed and peevish person seemed to be transfigured, to be acting a
delightful part for the pleasure of a spectator, and an inner
benevolence, a desire to contribute zest and amusement to the banquet
of life, seemed to underlie the most fractious gestures or irritable
speech.  On such days, one seemed to have an affectionate understanding
with even slight acquaintances, an understanding which seemed to say,
"We are all comrades in heart, and nothing but circumstance and bodily
limitation prevents us from being comrades in life."  Hugh used to
fancy that this mood was like an earnest of the bodiless joy, the free
companionship of heaven, if such a place there were, where one should
know even as one was known, and be able to enter in and possess, in a
flash of thought, the whole fabric of a fellow-creature's soul.

And then if Hugh spent such a day alone, his thoughts seemed to have
the same enlightening and invigorating quality.  He did not fumble
among dreary details, but saw swiftly into the essence of things, so
that he smiled as he sate.  A book would, on such occasions, touch into
life a whole train of pretty thoughts, as a spark leaps along a
scattered line of gunpowder.  A few remembered lines of poetry, a few
notes played by unseen hands on a musical instrument, from a window
that he passed in the street, would give a sense of completed
happiness; so that one said, "Yes, it is like that!"  The palings of
gardens, the screen of shrubs through which the pleasaunce could be
dimly discerned within, the high trees holding up their branches to the
air, all half guarded, half revealed the same jocund secret.  Here, by
a hedgerow, in a lane, Hugh would discern the beady eye of a fat thrush
which hopped in the tall grass, or plied some tiny business among the
stems, lifting his head at intervals to look briskly round.  "I see
you!" said Hugh, as he used to say long ago to the birds in the Rectory
garden, and the bird seemed almost to nod his head in reply.

And then, too, the houses that he passed all breathed the same air of
romance.  There, perhaps, behind the wall or at the open window, sat or
moved the one friend of whom he was ever in search; but on these days
it mattered little that he had not found him; he could wait, he could
be faithful, and Hugh could wait too, until the day when all things
should be made new.  If he walked on days like these through some
college court, the thought of the happy, careless, cheerful lives,
lived there in strength and brightness, by generation after generation
of merry young men, filled Hugh's heart with content; he liked to think
that all the world over, in busy offices, in grave parlours, in
pleasant parsonages, there were serious, commonplace, well-occupied
men, who perhaps, in a tiny flash of memory, sent back a wistful
thought to the old walls and gables, the towns with their chiming
bells, and remembered tenderly the days of their blithe youth, the old
companions, the lively hours.  The whole world seemed knit together by
sweet and gentle ties: labour and strife mattered little; it was but a
cloud upon the path, and would melt into the sunlit air at last.

Hugh used to feel half amused at the irrepressible sense of youth which
thrilled him still.  As a boy, he had little suspected that the serious
elderly men, of settled habits and close-shaved chins, had any such
thoughts as these under their battered exteriors.  He had thought that
such persons were necessarily stolid and comfortable persons, believing
in committees and correspondence, fond of food and drink, careful of
their balance at the bank, and rather disgusted at than tolerant of the
irrepressible levity and flightiness of youth.  Yet now that he himself
was approaching middle age, he was conscious, not indeed of increased
levity or high spirits, but of undiminished vigour, wider sympathy,
larger joy.  Life was not only not less interesting, but it seemed
rather to thrill and pulsate with fresh and delightful emotion.  If he
could not taste it with the same insouciance, it was only because he
perceived its quality more poignantly.  If life were less full of
laughter, it was only because there were sweeter and more joyful things
to enjoy.  What was best of all about this later delight, was that it
left no bitter taste behind it; in youth, a day of abandonment to
elation, a day of breezy talk, hearty laughter, active pleasure, would
often leave a sense of flatness and dissatisfaction behind it; but the
later joy had no sort of weariness as its shadow; it left one
invigorated and hopeful.

The most marked difference of all was in one's relations with others.
In youth a new friendship had been a kind of excited capture; it had
been shadowed by jealousy; it had been a desire for possession.  One
had not been content unless one had been sure that one's friend had the
same sort of unique regard that one experienced oneself.  One had
resented his other friendships, and wished to supersede them.  But now
Hugh had no such feeling.  He had no desire to make a relationship,
because the relationship seemed already there.  If one met a
sympathetic and congenial person, one made, as it were, a sort of
sunlit excursion in a new and pleasing country.  One admired the
prospects, surveyed the contours.  In old days, one had desired to
establish a kind of fortress in the centre, and claim the fruitful land
for one's own.

Of course, in Hugh's dealings with the youthful persons whom he
encountered in his Cambridge life, he became aware of the existence of
the subtle barrier which is erected between youth and middle age; he
was conscious often that the delightful egotism of youth has, as a
rule, very little deference for, or interest in, the opinions of older
persons.  Youth is so profoundly absorbed in its own visions, that it
is very rarely curious about the duller reveries of older people.  It
regards them as necessarily dreary, grey, wise, and prudent.  The only
thing it values is sympathy for itself, just as a child is far more
interested in the few chords which it can strum on a piano than in the
richest performance of a maestro.  But Hugh did not find this to be
disagreeable, because he was less and less concerned about the effect
he produced.  He had found out that the joys of perception are at least
equal to the joys of expression.  Youth cannot wait, it must utter its
half-formed wishes, put out its crude fruits; and it used to seem to
Hugh that one of the most pathetic and beautiful things in the world
was the intensity of feeling, the limitless dreams, that rose shadowily
in a boy's mind side by side with the inarticulateness, the failure to
command any medium of expression.  One of the reasons why young and
clever men are so desperately anxious to be amusing and humorous, is
because they desire above all things to see the effect of their words,
and long to convulse an audience; while they lack, as a rule, the
practised delicacy, the finished economy in which humour, to be
effective, must be clothed.

But, after all, what brought Hugh the best comfort, was the discovery
that advancing years did not bring with them any lack of sensitiveness,
any dreariness, any sense of dulness.  It was indeed rather the
reverse.  The whole fabric of life was richer, more impassioned, more
desirable than he had ever supposed.  In youth, emotion and feeling had
seemed to him like oases in a desert, oases which one had to quit, when
one crossed the threshold of life, to plod wearily among endless sands.
But now he had found that the desert had a life, an emotion, a beauty
of its own, and the oases of youthful fancy seemed to be tame and
limited by comparison.  Hugh still thought with a shudder of old age,
which lay ahead of him; but even as he shuddered, he began to wonder
whether that too would not open up to him a whole range of experiences
and emotions, of which to-day he had no inkling at all.  Would life
perhaps seem richer still?  That was what he dared to hope.  Meanwhile
he would neither linger nor make haste: he would not catch at the past
as containing a lost and faded sweetness; neither would he anticipate,
so far as he could help it, the closing of the windows of the soul.



XXV

A Narrow Path--A Letter--Asceticism--The Narrow Soul


One morning when he was sitting in his rooms at Cambridge, Hugh heard a
knock at the door; there presently entered a clergyman, whom at first
sight Hugh thought to be a stranger, but whom he almost immediately
recognised as an old school-fellow, called Ralph Maitland, whom he had
not seen for more than twenty years.  Maitland had been an idle,
good-humoured boy, full of ideas, a great reader and a voluble talker.
Hugh had never known him particularly well; but he remembered to have
heard that Maitland had fallen under religious impulses at Oxford, had
become serious, had been ordained, and had eventually become a devoted
and hard-working clergyman in a northern manufacturing town.  He had
been lately threatened with a break-down in health, and had been
ordered abroad; he had come to Cambridge to see some friends, and
hearing that Hugh was in residence there, had called upon him.  Hugh
was very much interested to see him, and gradually began to discern the
smooth-faced boy he had known, under the worn and hard-featured mask of
the priest.  They spent most of that day together, and went out for a
long walk.  Hugh thought he perceived a touch of fanaticism about
Maitland, who found it difficult to talk except on matters connected
with his parish.  But eventually he began to talk of the religious
life, and Hugh gradually perceived that Maitland held a very ardent and
almost fierce view of the priestly vocation; he drew a picture of the
joys of mortification and self-denial, which impressed Hugh, partly
because of its intensity, and partly also from an uneasy sense of
strain and self-consciousness which it gave him.  Maitland's idea
seemed to be that all impulses, except the religious impulse in its
narrowest sense, needed to be sternly repressed; that the highest life
was a severe detachment from all earthly things; that the Christian
pilgrim marched along a very narrow way, bristling with pitfalls both
of opinion and practice; that the way was defined, hazily by Scripture
and precisely by the Church, along which the believer must advance;
"Few there be that find it!" said Maitland, with a kind of menacing
joy.  He was full of the errors of other sects and communions.  The
Roman doctrine was over-developed, not primitive enough; the Protestant
nonconformists were neglectful of ecclesiastical ordinances.  The only
people, it seemed, who were in the right path were a small band of
rather rigid Anglicans, who appeared to Maitland to be the precise type
of humanity that Christ had desired to develop.

As he spoke, his eye became bright, his lip intolerant, and Hugh was
haunted by the text, "The zeal of Thine house hath ever eaten me."
Maitland seemed to be literally devoured by an idea, which, like the
fox in the old story of the Spartan boy, appeared to prey on his
vitals.  Hugh became gradually nettled by the argument, but he was no
match for Maitland in scholastic disputation.  Maitland felled his
arguments with an armoury of texts, which he used like cudgels.  Hugh
at last said that what he thought was the weak point in Maitland's
argument was this--that in every sect and every church there were
certainly people who held with the same inflexible determination to the
belief that they were absolutely in the right, and had unique
possession of the exact faith delivered to the saints; and that each of
these persons would be able to justify themselves by a rigid
application of texts.  Hugh said that it seemed to him to be
practically certain that no one of them was infallibly in the right,
and that the truth probably lay in certain wide religious ideas which
underlay all forms of Christian faith.  Maitland rejected this with
scorn as a dangerous and nebulous kind of religion--"nerveless and
flabby, without bone or sinew."  They then diverged on to a wider
ground, and Hugh tried to defend his theory that God called souls to
Himself by an infinite variety of appeal, and that the contest was not
between orthodoxy on the one hand and heterodoxy on the other, but
between pure and unselfish emotion on the one hand and hard and
self-centred materialism on the other.  To this Maitland replied by
saying that such vagueness was one of the darkest temptations that
beset cultured and intellectual people, and that the duty of a
Christian was to follow precise and accurate religious truth, as
revealed in Scripture and interpreted by the Church, however much
reason and indolence revolted from the conclusions he was forced to
draw.  They parted, however, in a very friendly way, and pledged
themselves to meet again and continue their discussion on Maitland's
return.

A few days afterwards Hugh was surprised to receive a letter from
Maitland from Paris which ran as follows:--


"_MY DEAR NEVILLE,--It was a great pleasure to see you and to revive
the memories of old days.  I have thought a good deal over our
conversation, and have made up my mind that I ought to write to you.
But first let me ask your pardon, if in the heat of argument I allowed
my zeal to outrun my courtesy.  I was over-tired and over-strained, and
in the mood when any opposition to one's own cherished ideals is deeply
and perhaps unreasonably distressing._

"_You seemed to me--I will freely grant this--to be a real and candid
seeker after truth; but the sheltered and easy life that you have led
disguises from you the urgency of the struggle.  If you had wrestled as
I have for years with infidelity and wickedness, and had seen, as I
have a thousand times, how any laxity of doctrinal opinion is always
visited upon its victim by a corresponding laxity of moral action, you
would feel very differently._

"_I think you are treading a very dangerous path.  To me it is clear
that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in His recorded utterances, in
a world of incredible wickedness and vague speculation, deliberately
narrowed the issues of life and death.  He originated a society, to
which He promised the guidance of the Spirit, and woe to the man who
tries to find a religion outside of that Church._

"_You seem to me, if you will forgive the expression, to be more than
half a Pagan; to put Christianity on a level--though you allow it a
certain pre-eminence--with other refining influences.  You spoke of art
and poetry as if they could bring men to God, and that in spite of the
fact that, as I reminded you, there is not a syllable in our Lord's
words that could be construed into the least sympathy with art or
poetry at all.  You called yourself a Christian, and I have no doubt
that you sincerely believe yourself to be one; but to me you seemed to
be more like one of those, cultured Greeks who gave St. Paul an
interested hearing on the Acropolis.  And yet you seemed to me so
genuinely anxious to do what was right, that I am going to ask you,
faithfully and sincerely, to reconsider your position.  You are
drifting into a kind of vague and epicurean optimism.  You spoke of the
message of God through nature; there is no direct message through that
channel, it is only symbolical of the inner divine processes._

"_I am not going to argue with you; but I implore you to give some time
to a careful study of the New Testament and the Fathers.  I feel sure
that light will be sent you.  Pray earnestly for it, if you have not,
as I more than half suspect, given up prayer in favour of a vague
aspiration.  And be sure of this, that I shall not forget you in my own
prayers.  I shall offer the Holy Sacrifice in your intention; I shall
make humble intercession for you, for you seem to me to be so near the
truth and yet so far away.  Forgive my writing thus, but I feel called
upon to warn you of what is painfully clear to me.--Believe me, ever
sincerely yours,_

"_RALPH MAITLAND_"


This letter touched Hugh very much with a kind of melancholy pathos.
He contented himself with writing back that he did indeed, he believed,
desire to see the truth, and that he deeply appreciated Maitland's
sympathy and interest.


"_No impulse of the heart, on behalf of another, is ever thrown away, I
am sure of that.  But you would be the first to confess, I know, that a
man must advance by whatever light he has; that no good can come of
accepting the conclusions of another, if the heart and mind do not
sincerely assent; and that if I differ from yourself as to the precise
degree of certainty attainable in religious matters, it is not because
I despise the Spirit, but because I think that I discern a wider
influence than you can admit._"


He received in reply a short note to say that Maitland felt that Hugh
was making the mistake of trusting more to reason than to divine
guidance, but adding that he would not cease to pray for him day by day.

Hugh reflected long and seriously over this strange episode; but he did
not experience the smallest temptation to desert a rational process of
inquiry.  He read the Gospels again, and they seemed to confirm him in
his belief that a wide and simple view of life was there indicated.  He
seemed to see that the spirit which Christ inculcated was a kind of
mystical uplifting of the heart to God, not a doctrinal apprehension of
His nature.  It seemed indeed to him that Christ's treatment of life
was profoundly poetical, that it tended to point men to the aim of
discerning a beautiful quality in action and life.  Those delicate and
moving stories that He told--how little they dealt with sacramental
processes or ecclesiastical systems!  They rather expressed a vivid and
ardent interest in the simplest emotions of life.  They taught one to
be humble, forgiving, sincere, honest, affectionate; there was, it was
true, an absence of intellectual and artistic appeal in them, though
there were parables, like the parable of the talents, which seemed to
point to the duty of exercising faithfully a diversity of gifts; but it
was not, Hugh thought, due to a want of sympathy with the things of the
mind, but seemed to arise from an intense and burning desire to prove
that the secret lay rather in one's relations to humanity, and even to
nature, than in one's intellectual processes and conceptions.

And then as to the point that Christ enforced upon men a fierce ideal
of mortification and self-denial, Hugh could see no trace of it.
Christ did not turn his back upon the world; He loved and enjoyed
beautiful sights and sounds, such as birds and flowers.  He did indeed
clearly assert that one must not be at the mercy of material
conditions, and that it was the privilege of man to live among the
things of the soul.  It was the path of simplicity, not the path of
asceticism, that was indicated.  Christ seemed to Hugh to be entirely
preoccupied with one idea--that love was the strongest and most
beautiful thing in the world; and that if one recognised that love
alone could be victorious over evil and pain and death, one might be
certain that its source and origin lay deepest of all in the vast heart
of God, however sadly and strangely that seemed to be contradicted by
actual experience.  And so Hugh felt that whatever befell him, he would
not be persuaded to desert the broad highway of love and beauty and
truth, for the narrow and muddy alley of ecclesiastical opinion.  The
kingdom of God seemed to him to have suffered more disastrous violence
from the hands of bigoted ecclesiastics than it had ever suffered from
the onslaughts of the world.  Ecclesiastics polluted the crystal stream
at its very source by confining the river of life to a small and
crooked channel.  Hugh prayed with all his heart that he might escape
from any system that led him to judge others harshly, to condemn their
beliefs, to define their errors.  That seemed to him to be the one
spirit against which the Saviour had uttered denunciations of an almost
appalling sternness.  The Lord's Prayer and not the Athanasian Creed
seemed to him to sum up the essential spirit of Christ.  He believed
himself to be following the will of God in yielding to every emotional
impulse that made life more sacred, more beautiful, more tender, more
hopeful.  He believed himself, no less sincerely, to be slighting and
despising the tender love of God for all the sheep of His hand, when he
made religion into either a subtle and metaphysical thing on the one
hand, or a conventional and ceremonious business on the other.  The
peace that the world cannot give--how desirable, how remote that
seemed!  How large and free a quality it was!  But the peace promised
him by his friend seemed to him the apathy of a soul crushed and
confined in the narrowest of dungeons, and denying the existence of the
free air and the sun because of the streaming walls and shapen stones
which hemmed it round.



XXVI

Activity--Work--Isolation


Hugh went once to spend a few days with an old friend who had held an
important living in a big country town.  It was a somewhat bewildering
experience.  His friend was what would be called a practical person,
and loved organisation--the word was often on his lips--with a
consuming passion.  Hugh saw that he was a very happy man; he was a big
fellow, with a sanguine complexion and a resonant voice.  He was always
in high spirits: he banged doors behind him, and when he hurried
upstairs, the whole house seemed to shake.  Every moment of his day was
full to the brim of occupation.  He could be heard shouting directions
in the garden and stables at an early hour; he received and wrote a
great many letters; he attended many committees and meetings.  He
hurried about the country, he made speeches, he preached.  Hugh heard
one of his sermons, which was delivered with abundant geniality.  It
consisted of a somewhat obvious paraphrase of a Scripture scene--the
slaughter of the prophets of Baal by Elijah.  The preacher described
the ugly carnage with much gusto.  He then invited his hearers to stamp
out evil with similar vigour, and ended with drawing a highly
optimistic picture of the world, representing evil and sin as a kind of
skulking and lingering contagion, which God was doing His best to get
rid of, and which was indeed only kept alive by the foolish perversity
of a few abandoned persons, and would soon be extirpated altogether if
only enough committees would meet and take the thing up in a
businesslike way.  It was in a sense a vigorous performance, and Hugh
thought that though there was little attempt to bind up the
broken-hearted, yet he could conceive its having an inspiriting effect
on people who felt themselves on the right side.

His friend found time one evening, as they sat smoking together, to
inquire into Hugh's occupations, and read him a friendly lecture on the
subject of making himself more useful.  Hugh felt that it was useless
to argue the question; but when he came away, somewhat dizzied and
wearied by the tumultuous energy of his friend's life, he found himself
wondering exactly how much resulted from this buzzing and humming
organisation.  There was not a marked difference between his friend's
parish and other parishes, except that there were certainly more
meetings.  Hugh had indeed an uneasy sense that a man with less taste
for organisation, and more leisure for pastoral intercourse with his
flock, might have effected more.  The vicar's chief concern indeed
seemed to be with the prosperous and healthy members of his parish; if
there was a case of destitution, of illness, of sorrow, it was
certainly inquired into; some hard-featured lady, with a strong sense
of rectitude and usefulness, would be commissioned to go and look into
the matter.  She generally returned saying cheerfully that she had put
things straight, and that it turned out to be all their own fault.

But Hugh found his reflections taking a still more sceptical turn.  The
vicar's theory was that we were all put into the world to be of use to
other people.  But his idea of helping other people was not to help
them to what they desired, but to what he thought it was right that
they should desire.  He had very little compassion, Hugh saw, for
failure and error.  If a parishioner was in trouble, the vicar tended
to say he had no one to blame but himself for it.  Hugh felt that he
did not wish to be in his friend's parish.  If one was able-bodied and
sensible, one was put on a committee or two; if one was unfortunate or
obscure, one was invaded by a district visitor.  If one was a
Dissenter, one would be treated with a kind of gloomy courtesy--for the
vicar was great on not alienating Dissenters, but bringing them in, as
he phrased it; and if a Dissenter became an Anglican, the vicar
rejoiced with what he believed to be the joy of the angels over a
repentant sinner, and made him a parish worker at once.

Then Hugh went further and deeper, and tried to ascertain what he
really felt on the subject of usefulness.  Tracing back the
constitution of society to its origin, he saw that it was clear that
every one owed a certain duty of work to the community.  A society
could not exist in idleness; and every one who was capable of work must
work to support himself; and then a certain amount of work must be done
by the able-bodied to support those who were either too old or too
young to support themselves.  But the labouring class, the producers,
were forced by the constitution of things to work even more than that;
because there were a certain number of persons in the community,
capitalists and leisurely people, who lived in idleness on the labour
of the workers.

He put aside the great majority of simple workers, the labouring
classes, because there was no doubt about their position.  If a man did
his work honestly, and supported himself and his family, living
virtuously, and endeavouring to bring up his children virtuously, that
was a fine simple life.  Then came the professional classes, who were
necessary too, doctors, lawyers, priests, soldiers, sailors, merchants,
even writers and artists; all of them had a work to do in the world.

This then seemed the law of one's being: that men were put into the
world, and the one thing that was clear was that they were meant to
work; did duty stop there? had a man, when his work was done, a right
to amuse and employ himself as he liked, so long as he did not
interfere with or annoy other people? or had he an imperative duty laid
upon him to devote his energies, if any were left, to helping other
people?

What in fact _was_ the obscure purpose for which people were sent into
the world?  It was a pleasant place on the whole for healthy persons,
but there was still a large number of individuals to whom it was by no
means a pleasant place.  No choice was given us, so far as we knew, as
to whether we would enter the world or not, nor about the circumstances
which were to surround us.  Our lives indeed were strangely conditioned
by an abundance of causes which lay entirely outside our control, such
as heredity, temperament, environment.  One supposed oneself to be
free, but in reality one was intolerably hampered and bound.

The only theory that could satisfactorily account for life as we found
it was, that either it was an educational progress, and that we were
being prepared for some further existence, for which in some mysterious
way our experience, however mean, miserable, and ungentle, must be
intended to fit us; or else it was all a hopeless mystery, the work of
some prodigious power who neither loved or hated, but just chose to act
so.  In any case it was a very slow process; the world was bound with
innumerable heavy chains.  There was much cruelty, stupidity,
selfishness, meanness abroad; all those ugly things decreased very
slowly, if indeed they decreased at all.  Yet there seemed, too, to be
a species of development at work.  But the real mystery lay in the fact
that, while our hopes and intuitions pointed to there being a great and
glorious scheme in the background, our reason and experience alike
tended to contradict that hope.  How little one changed as the years
went on!  How ineradicable our faults seemed! how ineffectual our
efforts!  God indeed seemed to implant in us a wish to improve, and
then very often seemed steadily and deliberately to thwart that wish.

And then, too, how difficult it seemed really to draw near to other
people; in what a terrible isolation one's life was spent; even in the
midst of a cheerful and merry company, how the secrets of one's heart
hung like an invisible veil between us and our dearest and nearest.
The most one could hope for was to be a pleasant and kindly influence
in the lives of other people, and, when one was gone, one might live a
little while in their memories.  The fact that some few healthily
organised people contrived to live simply and straightforwardly in the
activities of the moment, without questioning or speculating on the
causes of things, did not make things simpler for those on whom these
questions hourly and daily pressed.  The people whom one accounted
best, did indeed spend their time in helping the happiness of others;
but did one perhaps only tend to think them so, because they ministered
to one's own contentment?

The only conclusion for Hugh seemed to be this: that one must have a
work to be faithfully and resolutely fulfilled; and that, outside of
that, one must live tenderly, simply, and kindly, adding so far as one
might to the happiness of others; and that one might resolutely eschew
all the busy multiplication of activities, which produced such scanty
results, and were indeed mainly originated in order that so-called
active people might feel themselves to be righteously employed.



XXVII

Progress--Country Life--Sustained Happiness--The Twilight


One hot still summer day Hugh went far afield, and struck into a little
piece of country that was new to him.  He seemed to discern from the
map that it must have once been a large, low island almost entirely
surrounded by marshes; and this turned out to be the case.  It was
approached along a high causeway crossing the fen, with rich black land
on either hand.  No high-road led through or out of the village,
nothing but grass-tracks and drift-ways.  The place consisted of a
small hamlet, with an old church and two or three farmhouses of some
size and antiquity; it was all finely timbered with an abundance of
ancient elm-trees everywhere; they stood that afternoon absolutely
still and motionless, with the sun hot on their towering green heads;
and Hugh remembered how, long ago, as a boy at school, he used to
watch, out of the windows of a stuffy class-room, the great elms of the
school close rising just thus in the warm summer air, while his
thoughts wandered from the dull lesson into a region of delighted,
irrecoverable reverie.  To-day he sate for a long time in the little
churchyard, the bees humming about the limes with a soft musical note,
that rose and fell with a lazy cadence, while doves hidden somewhere in
the elms lent as it were a voice to the trees.  That soft note seemed
to brim over from a spring of measureless content; it seemed like the
calling of the spirit of summer, brooding in indolent joy and innocent
satisfaction over the long sweet hours of sunshine, while the day stood
still to listen.  Hugh resigned himself luxuriously to the soft
influences of the place, and felt that for a short space he need
neither look backwards nor forwards, but simply float with the golden
hour.

At last he bestirred himself, realising that he had yet far to go.  It
was now cool and fresh, and the shadows of the trees lay long across
the grass.  Hugh struck down on to the fen and walked for a long time
in the solitary fields, by a dyke, passing a big ancient farm that lay
very peacefully among its wide pastures.

The thought of the happy, quiet-minded people that might be living
there, leading their simple lives, so little affected by the current of
the world, brought much peace into Hugh's mind.  It seemed to him a
very beautiful thing, with something ancient and tranquil about it.  It
was all utterly remote from ambition and adventure, and even from
intellectual efficiency; and here Hugh felt himself in a dilemma.  His
faith did not permit him to doubt that the civilisation and development
of the world were in accordance with the purpose of God on the one
hand, and yet, on the other hand, that expansion brought with it social
conditions and problems that appeared to him of an essentially ugly
kind, as the herding of human beings into cities, the din and dirt of
factories, the millions of lives that were lived under almost servile
conditions; and so much of that sad labour was directed to wrong ends,
to aggrandisement, to personal luxury, to increasing the comfort of
oligarchies.  The simple life of the countryside seemed a better ideal,
and yet the lot of the rustic day-labourer was both dull and hard.  It
looked sweet enough on a day of high summer, such as this, when a man
need ask for nothing to better than to be taken and kept out of doors;
but the thought of the farm-hand rising in a cheerless wintry dawn,
putting on his foul and stiffened habiliments, setting out in a chilly
drizzle to uproot a turnip-field, row by row, with no one to talk to
and nothing to look forward to but an evening in a tiny
cottage-kitchen, full of noisy children--no one could say that this was
an ideal life, and he did not wonder that the young men flocked to the
towns, where there was at all events some stir, some amusement.  That
was the dark side of popular education, of easy communications, of
newspapers, that it made men discontented with quiet life, without
supplying them with intellectual resources.

Yet with all its disadvantages and discomforts, Hugh could not help
feeling that the life of the country was more wholesome and natural for
the majority of men, and he wished that the education given in country
districts could be directed more to awakening an interest in country
things, in trees and birds and flowers, and more, too, to increasing
the resources of boys and girls, so that they could find amusing
occupation for the long evenings of enforced leisure.  The present
system of education was directed, Hugh felt, more to training a
generation of clerks, than to implanting an aptitude for innocent
recreation and sensible amusement.  People talked a good deal about
tempting men back to the land, but did they not perceive that, to do
that, it was necessary to make the agricultural life more attractive?
It was a mistake that ran through the whole of modern education, that
the system was invented by intellectual theorists and not by practical
philosophers.  The only real aim ought to be to teach people how to
enjoy their work, by making them efficient, and to enjoy their leisure,
by arousing the imagination.

Hugh's musings led him on to wonder how it was possible to cultivate a
sense of happiness in people; that was the darkest problem of all.
Children had the secret of it; they could amuse themselves under the
most unpropitious circumstances, and invent games of most surpassing
interest out of the most grotesque materials.  Then came the age when
the sexual relations brought in a fierce and intenser joy; but the
romance of courtship and the early days of marriage once over, it
seemed that most people settled down on very dull lines, and made such
comfort as they could get the only object of their existence.  What was
it that thus tended to empty life of joy?  Was it the presence of
anxiety, the failure of vitality, the dull conditions of monotonous
labour undertaken for others' gain and not for oneself?  Looking back
at his own life, Hugh could not discern that his routine work had ever
deprived him of zest and interest.  It was rather indeed the other way.
The suspension of other interests that his life had involved, had sent
him back with renewed delight to the occupations and interests of
leisure; he had been, he thought, perhaps unusually fortunate in
receiving his liberty from mechanical work at a time when his interests
were active and his zest undimmed.  But how was one to guard the
quality of joy, how could it be stimulated and increased, if it began
in the course of nature to flag?  It was clear that life could not have
for every one, nor at all times for any one, that quality of eager and
active delight, that uplifting of the heart and mind alike, which
sometimes surprised one, when one felt an intensity of gladness and
gratitude at being simply oneself, and at standing just at that point
in life, surrounded and enriched by exactly the very things one most
loved and desired--the feeling that must have darted into Sinbad's mind
when he saw that the very sand of the valley in which he lay consisted
of precious gems.  Probably most people had some moments, oftenest
perhaps in youth, of this full-flushed, conscious happiness.  And then
again most people had considerable tracts of quiet contentment, times
when their work prospered and their recreations amused.  But how was
one to meet the hours when one was neither happy nor contented; when
the mind flapped wearily like a loosened sail in a calm, when there was
no savour in the banquet, when one went heavily?  It was of no use then
to summon joy to one's assistance, to call spirits from the vast deep,
if they did not obey one's call.  There ought, Hugh thought, to be a
reserve of sober piety and hopefulness on which one could draw in those
dark days.  There were no doubt many equable and phlegmatic people who,
as the old poet said,

  "Perfacile angustis tolerabant finibus aevom,"
  (In narrow bounds an easy life endured).

But for those whose perceptions were keen, who lived upon joy, from the
very constitution of their nature, how were such natures--and he knew
that he was of the number--to avoid sinking into the mire of the Slough
of Despond, how were they to rejoice in the valley of humiliation?
What was to be their well in the vale of misery?  How were the pools to
be filled with water?

The answer seemed to be that it could only be achieved by work, by
effort, by prayer.  If one had definite work in hand, it carried one
over these languid intervals.  How often had the idea of setting to
work in these listless moods seemed intolerable; yet how soon one
forgot oneself in the exercise of congenial labour!  Here came in the
worth of effort, that one could force oneself to the task, commit
oneself to the punctual discharge of an unwelcome duty.  And if even
that failed, then one could cast oneself into an inner region, in the
spirit of the Psalmist, when he said, "Open thy mouth wide and I will
fill it."  One could fling one's prayer into the dark void, as the
sailors from a sinking ship shoot a rocket with a rope attached to the
land, and then, as they haul it in, feel with joy the rope strain
tight, and know that it has found a hold.

Hugh felt that such experience as this, experience, that is, in the
vital force of prayer, might be called a subjective experience, and
could not be put to a scientific test.  But for all that, there was
nothing which of late years had so grown upon him as the consciousness
of the effectiveness of a certain kind of prayer.  This was not a
mechanical repetition of verbal forms, but a strong and secret
uplifting of the heart to the Father of all.  There were moments when
one seemed baffled and powerless, when one's own strength seemed
utterly unequal to the burden; prayer on such occasions did not
necessarily bring a perfect serenity and joy, though there were times
when it brought even that; but it brought sufficient strength; it made
the difficult, the dreaded thing possible.  Hugh had proved this a
hundred times over, and the marvel to him was that he did not use it
more; but the listless mind sometimes could not brace itself to the
effort; and then it seemed to Hugh that he was as one who lay
thirsting, with water in reach of his nerveless hand.  Still there were
few things of which he was so absolutely certain as he was of the
abounding strength of prayer; it seemed to reveal a dim form moving
behind the veil of things, which in the moment of entreaty seemed to
suspend its progress, to stop, to draw near, to smile.  Why the gifts
from that wise hand were often such difficult things, stones for bread,
serpents for fish, Hugh could not divine.  But he tended less and less
to ask for precise things, but to pray in the spirit of the old Dorian
prayer that what was good might be given him, even if he did not
perceive it to be good, and that what was evil might be withheld, even
if he desired it.

While he thus mused, walking swiftly, the day darkened about him,
drawing the colour out of field and tree.  The tides of the sky
thickened, and set to a deep enamelled green, and a star came out above
the tree-tops.  Now and then he passed through currents of cool air
that streamed out of the low wooded valleys, rich with the fragrance of
copse and dingle.  An owl fluted sweetly in a little holt, and was
answered by another far up the hill.  He heard in the breeze, now loud,
now low, the far-off motions of the wheels of some cart rumbling
blithely homewards.  All else was still.  At last he came out on the
top of the wolds; the road stretched before him, a pale ribbon among
dusky fields; and the lights of the distant village pierced through the
darker gloom of sheltering trees.  Hugh seemed that night to walk with
his unknown friend close beside him, answering his hopes, stilling his
vague discontents, with a pure and tender faithfulness that left him
nothing to desire, but that the sweet nearness might not fail him.  At
such a moment, dear and wonderful as the world was, he felt that it
held nothing so beautiful or so dear as that sweet companionship, and
that if he had been bidden, in that instant, strong and content as he
was, to enter the stream of death, a firm hand and a smiling face would
have lifted him, as the stream grew shallower about him, safe and
satisfied, up on the further side.



XXVIII

Democracy--Individualism--Corporateness--Materialism


Among the most interesting of the new friends that Hugh made at
Cambridge was a young Don who was understood to hold advanced
socialistic views.  What was more important from Hugh's point of view
was that he was a singularly frank, accessible, and lively person, full
of ideas and enthusiasms.  Hugh was at one time a good deal in his
company, and used to feel that the charm of conversation with him was,
not that they discussed things, or argued, or had common interests, but
that it was like setting a sluice open between two pools; their two
minds, like moving waters, seemed to draw near, to intermingle, to
linger in a subtle contact.  His friend, Sheldon by name, was a great
reader of books; but he read, Hugh thought, in the same way that he
himself read, not that he might master subjects, annex and explore
mental provinces, and classify the movement of thought, but rather that
he might lean out into a misty haunted prospect, where mysterious
groves concealed the windings of uncertain paths, and the turrets of
guarded strongholds peered over the woodland.  Hugh indeed guessed
dimly that his friend had a whole range of interests of which he knew
nothing, and this was confirmed by a conversation they had when they
had walked one day together into the deep country.  They took a road
that seemed upon the map to lead to a secluded village, and then to
lose itself among the fields, and soon came to the hamlet, a cluster of
old-fashioned houses that stood very prettily on a low scarped gravel
hill that pushed out into the fen.  They betook themselves to the
churchyard, where they found a little ancient conduit that gushed out
at the foot of the hill.  This they learned had once been a well much
visited by pilgrims for its supposed healing qualities.  It ran out of
an arched recess into a shallow pool, fringed with sedge, and filled
with white-flowered cresses and forget-me-not.  Below their feet lay a
great stretch of rich water-meadows, the wooded hills opposite looming
dimly through the haze.  Here they sat for a while, listening to the
pleasant trickle of the spring, and the conversation turned on the life
of villages, the lack of amusement, the dulness of field-labour, the
steady drift of the young men to the towns.  Hugh regretted this and
said that he wished the country clergy would try to counteract the
tendency; he spoke of village clubs and natural-history classes.
Sheldon laughed quietly at his remarks, and said, "My dear Neville, it
is quite refreshing to hear you talk.  It is not for nothing that you
bear the name of Neville; you are a mediaeval aristocrat at heart.
These opinions of yours are as interesting as fossils in a bed of old
blue clay.  Such things are to be found, I believe, imbedded in the
works of Ruskin and other patrons of the democracy.  Why, you are like
a man who sits in a comfortable first-class carriage in a great
express, complacently thinking that the money he has paid for his
ticket is the motive force of the train; you are trying to put out a
conflagration with a bottle of eau-de-Cologne.  The battle is lost, and
the world is transforming itself, while you talk so airily.  You and
other leisurely people are tolerated, just as a cottager lets the
houseleek grow on his tiles; but you are not part of the building, and
if there is a suspicion that you are making the roof damp, you will
have to be swept away.  The democracy that you want to form is making
itself, and sooner or later you will have to join in the procession."

Hugh laughed serenely at his companion's vehemence.  "Oh," he said, "I
am a mild sort of socialist myself; that is, I see that it is coming, I
believe in equality, and I don't question the rights of the democracy.
But I don't pretend to like it, though I bow to it; the democracy seems
to me to threaten nearly all the things that are to me most
beautiful--the woodland chase, the old house among its gardens, the
village church among its elms, the sedge-fringed pool, the wild
moorland--and all the pleasant varieties, too, of the human spirit, its
fantastic perversities, its fastidious reveries, its lonely dreams.
All these must go, of course; they are luxuries to which no individual
has any right; we must be drilled and organised; we must do our share
of the work, and take our culture in a municipal gallery, or through
cheap editions of the classics.  No doubt we shall get the 'joys in
widest commonalty spread' of which Wordsworth speaks; and the only
thing that I pray is that I may not be there to see it."

"You are a fine specimen of the individualist," said Sheldon, "and I
have no desire to convert you--indeed we speak different languages, and
I doubt if you could understand me; there is to be no such levelling as
you suppose, rather the other way indeed; we shall not be able to do
without individualism, only it will be pleasantly organised.  The
delightful thing to me is to observe that you are willing to let us
have a little of your culture at your own price, but we shall not want
it; we shall have our own culture, and it will be a much bigger and
finer thing than the puling reveries of hedonists; it will be like the
sea, not like the scattered moorland pools."

"Do you mean," said Hugh, "when you talk so magniloquently of the
culture of the future, that it will be different from the culture of
the present and of the past?"

"No, no," said Sheldon, "not different at all, only wider and more
free.  Do you not see that at present it is an elegant monopoly,
belonging to a few select persons, who have been refined and civilised
up to a certain point?  The difficulty is that we can't reach that
point all at once--why, it has taken you thirty or forty centuries to
reach it!--and at present we can't get further than the municipal
art-gallery, and lectures on the ethical outlook of Browning.  But that
is not what we are aiming at, and you are not to suppose that yours is
a different ideal of beauty and sensibility from ours.  What I object
to is that you and your friends are so select and so condescending.
You seem to have no idea of the movement of humanity, the
transformation of the race, the corporate rise of emotion."

"No," said Hugh, "I have no idea what you are speaking of, and I
confess it sounds to me very dull.  I have never been able to
generalise.  I find it easy enough to make friends with homely and
simple people, but I think I have no idea of the larger scheme.  I can
only see the little bit of the pattern that I can hold in my hand.
Every human being that I come to know appears to me strangely and
appallingly distinct and un-typical; of course one finds that many of
them adopt a common stock of conventional ideas, but when you get
beneath that surface, the character seems to me solitary and aloof.
When people use words like 'democracy' and 'humanity,' I feel that they
are merely painting themselves large, magnifying and dignifying their
own idiosyncrasies.  It does not uplift and exalt me to feel that I am
one of a class.  It depresses and discourages me.  I hug and cherish my
own differences, my own identity.  I don't want to suppress my own
idiosyncrasies at all; and what is more, I do not think that the race
makes progress that way.  All the people who have really set their mark
upon the world have been individualists.  Not to travel far for
instances, look at the teaching of our Saviour; there is not a hint of
patriotism, of the rights of society, of common effort, of the
corporateness of which you speak.  He spoke to the individual.  He
showed that if the individual could be simple, generous, kindly,
forgiving, the whole of society would rise into a region where
organisation would be no longer needed.  These results cannot be
brought about by legislation; the spirit must leap from heart to heart,
as the flower seeds itself in the pasture."

"Would you be surprised to hear," said Sheldon, smiling, "that I am in
accordance with most of your views?  Of course legislation is not the
end; it is only a way of dealing with refractory minorities.  The
highest individual freedom is what I aim at.  But the mistake you make
is in thinking that the individual effects anything; he is only the
link in the chain.  It is all a much larger tide, which is moving
resistlessly in the background.  It is this movement that I watch with
the deepest hope and concern.  I do not profess to direct or regulate
it, it is much too large a thing for that; I merely desire to remove as
far as I can the obstacles that hinder the incoming flood."

"Well," said Hugh, smiling, "as long as you do not threaten my
individual freedom, I do not very much care."

"Ah," said Sheldon, "now you are talking like the worst kind of
aristocrat, the early-Victorian Whig, the man who has a strong belief
in popular liberty, combined with an equally strong sense of personal
superiority."

"No, indeed!" said Hugh, "I bow most sincerely before the rights of
society.  I only claim that as long as I do not interfere with other
people, they will not interfere with me.  I recognise to the full the
duty of men to work, but when I have complied with that, I want to
approach the world in my own way.  I am aware that reason tells me I am
one of a vast class, and that I have certain limitations, but at the
same time instinct tells me that I am sternly and severely isolated.
No one and nothing can intrude into my mind and self; and I feel
inclined to answer you like Dionysus in the _Frogs of Aristophanes_,
who says to Hercules when he is being hectored, "Don't come pitching
your tent in my mind, you have a house of your own!"--_Secretum meum
mihi_, as St. Francis of Assisi said--identity is the one thing of
which I am absolutely sure.  One must go on perceiving, drawing in
impressions, feeling, doubting, suffering; one knows that souls like
one's own are moving in the mist; and if one can discern any ray of
light, any break in the clouds, one must shout one's loudest to one's
comrades; but you seem to me to want to silence my lonely experiences
by the vote of the majority, and the vote of the majority seems to me
essentially a dull and tiresome thing.  Of course this sounds to you
the direst egotism; but when one has labelled a thing egotistic, one
has not necessarily condemned it, because the essence of the world is
its egotism.  You would no doubt say that we are no more alone than the
leaves of a tree, that the sap which is in one leaf at one moment is
the next moment in another, and that we are more linked than we know.
I would give much to have that sense, but it is denied me, and
meanwhile the pressure of that corporate force of which you speak seems
to me merely to menace my own liberty, which is to me both sacred and
dear."

Sheldon smiled.  "Yes," he said, "we do indeed speak different
languages.  To me this sense of isolation of which you speak is merely
a melancholy phantom.  I rejoice to feel one of a great company, and I
exult when the sap of the great tree flows up into my own small veins;
but do not think that I disapprove of your position.  I only feel that
you are doing unconsciously the very thing that I desire you to do.
But at the same time I think that you are missing a great source of
strength, seeing a thing from the outside instead of feeling it from
the inside.  Yet I think that is the way in which artists help the
world, through the passionate realisation of themselves.  But you must
not think that you are carrying away your share of the spoil to your
lonely tent.  It belongs to all of us, even what you have yourself won."

Hugh felt that Sheldon was probably speaking the truth.  He thought
long and earnestly over his words.  But the practical outcome of his
reflections was that he realised the uselessness of trying to embrace
an idea which one did not instinctively feel.  He knew that his real
life did not lie, at all events for the present, in movements and
organisations.  They were meaningless words to him.  His only
conception of relationships was the personal conception.  He desired
with all his heart the uplifting, the amelioration of human beings; he
could contribute best, he thought, to that, by speaking out whatever he
perceived and felt, to such a circle as was in sympathy with him.
Sheldon, no doubt, was doing exactly the same thing; there were
abundance of people in the world, who would agree neither with Sheldon
nor himself, amiable materialists, whose only instinct was to compass
their own prosperity and comfort, and who cared neither for humanity
nor for beauty, except in so far as they ministered to their own
convenience.  Hugh did not sympathise with such people, and indeed he
found it hard to conceive, if what philosophers and priests predicated
of the purpose of God was true, how such people came into being.  The
mistake, the generous mistake, that Sheldon made, was to think that
humanity was righting itself.  It was perhaps being righted, but ah,
how slowly!  The error was to believe that one's theories were the
right ones.  It was all far larger, vaster, more mysterious than that.
Hugh knew that the element in nature and the world to which he himself
responded most eagerly was the element of beauty.  The existence of
beauty, the appeal it made to the human spirit, seemed to him the most
hopeful thing in the world.  But he could not be sure that the
salvation of the world lay there.  Meantime, while he felt the appeal,
it was his duty to tell it out among the heathen, just as it was
Sheldon's duty to preach the corporateness of humanity; but Hugh
believed that the truth lay with neither, but that both these instincts
were but as hues of a prism, that went to the making up of the pure
white light.  They were rather disintegrations of some central truth,
component elements of it rather than the truth itself.  They were not
in the least inconsistent with each other, though they differed
exceedingly; and so he determined to follow his own path as faithfully
as he could, and not, in response to strident cries of justice and
truth, and still less in deference to taunts of selfishness and
epithets of shame, to lend a timorous hand to a work in the value of
which he indeed sincerely believed, but which he did not believe to be
his own work.  The tide was indeed rolling in, and the breakers
plunging on the beach; but so far as helping it on went, it seemed to
him to matter little whether you sat and watched it with awe and
amazement, with rapture and even with terror, or whether you ran to and
fro, as Sheldon seemed to him to be doing, busying himself in digging
little channels in the sand, that the roaring sea, with the wind at its
back, might foam a little higher thus upon the shore.



XXIX

Bees--A Patient Learner


The morning sun fell brightly on Hugh's breakfast-table; and a
honeycomb that stood there, its little cells stored with translucent
sweetness, fragrant with the pure breath of many flowers, sparkled with
a golden light.  Hugh fell to wondering over it.  One's food, as a
rule, transformed and dignified by art, and enclosed in vessels of
metal and porcelain, had little that was simple or ancient about its
associations; how the world indeed was ransacked for one's pleasure!
meats, herbs, spices, minerals--it was strange to think what a
complexity of materials was gathered for one's delight; but honey
seemed to take one back into an old and savage world.  Samson had
gathered it from the lion's bones, Jonathan had thrust his staff into
the comb, and put the bright oozings to his lips; humanity in its most
ancient and barbarous form had taken delight in this patiently
manufactured confection.  But a further thought came to him; the
philosopher spoke of a development in nature, a slow moving upward
through painfully gathered experience.  It was an attractive thought,
no doubt, and gave a clue to the bewildering differences of the world.
But after all how incredibly slow a progress it was!  The whole course
of history was minute enough, no doubt, in comparison with what had
been; but so far as the records of mankind existed, it was not possible
to trace that any great development had taken place.  The lines of
species that one saw to-day were just as distinct as they had been when
the records of man began.  They seemed to run, like separate threads
out of the tapestry, complete and entire from end to end, not mixing or
intermingling.  Fish, birds, quadrupeds--some had died out indeed, but
no creature mentioned in the earliest records showed the smallest sign
of approximating or drawing near to any other creature; no bird had
lost its wings or gained its hands; no quadruped had deserted instinct
for reason.  Bees were a case in point.  They were insects of a
marvellous wisdom.  They had a community, a government, almost laws.
They knew their own business, and followed it with intense enthusiasm.
Yet in all the centuries during which they had been robbed and
despoiled for the pleasure of man, they had learnt no prudence or
caution.  They had not even learned to rebel.  Generation after
generation, in fragrant cottage gardens, they made their delicious
store, laying it up for their offspring.  Year after year that store
had been rifled; yet for all their curious wisdom, their subtle
calculations, no suspicion ever seemed to have entered their heads of
what was going forward.  They did not even try to find a secret place
in the woods for their nest; they built obediently in the
straw-thatched hives, and the same spoliation continued.  A few days
before Hugh had visited a church in the neighbourhood, and had become
aware of a loud humming in the chancel.  He found that an immense swarm
of bees had been hatched out in the roof, and were dying in hundreds,
in their attempt to escape through the closed windows.  There were
plenty of apertures in the church through which they could have
escaped, if they had had any idea of exploration.  But they were
content to buzz feebly up and down the panes, till strength failed
them, and they dropped down on to the sill among the bodies of their
brothers.  An old man who was digging in the churchyard told Hugh that
the same thing had gone on in the church every summer for as long as he
could remember.

And yet one did not hesitate to accept the Darwinian theory, on the
word of scientific men, though the whole of visible and recorded
experience seemed to contradict it.  Even stranger than the amazing
complexity of the whole scheme, was the incredible patience with which
the matter was matured.  What was more wonderful yet, man, by his power
of observing the tendencies of nature, could make her laws to a certain
extent serve his own ends.  He could, for instance, by breeding
carefully from short-legged sheep, in itself a fortuitous and
unaccountable variation from the normal type, produce a species that
should be unable to leap fences which their long-legged ancestors could
surmount; he could thus save himself the trouble of erecting higher
fences.  This power in man, this faculty for rapid self-improvement,
differentiated him from all the beasts of the field; how had that
faculty arisen? it seemed a gap that no amount of development could
bridge.  If nature had all been perfect, if its rules had been
absolutely invariable, if existence were conditioned by regular laws,
it would be easy enough to believe in God.  And yet as it was, it
seemed so imperfect, and in some ways so unsatisfactory; so fortuitous
in certain respects, so wanting in prevision, so amazingly deliberate.
Such an infinity of care seemed lavished on the delicate structure of
the smallest insects and plants, such a prodigal fancy; and yet the
laws that governed them seemed so strangely incomplete, like a patient,
artistic, whimsical force, working on in spite of insuperable
difficulties.  It looked sometimes like a conflict of minds, instead of
one mind.

And then, too, the wonder which one felt seemed to lead nowhere.  It
did not even lead one to ascertain sure principles of conduct and life.
The utmost prudence, the most careful attempt to follow the guidance of
those natural laws, was liable to be rendered fruitless by what was
called an accident.  One's instinct to retain life, to grasp at
happiness, was so strong; and yet, again and again, one was taught that
it was all on sufferance, and that one must count on nothing.  One was
set, it seemed, in a vast labyrinth; one must go forward, whether one
would or no, among trackless paths, overhung by innumerable perils.
The only thing that seemed sure to Hugh was that the more one allowed
the awe, the bewilderment, to penetrate one's heart and mind, the more
that one indulged a fearful curiosity as to the end and purpose of it
all, the nearer one came, if not to learning the lesson, yet at least
towards reaching a state of preparedness that might fit one to receive
the further confidence of God.  Such tranquillity as one gained by
putting aside the problems which encompassed one, must be a hollow and
vain tranquillity.  One might indeed never learn the secret; it might
be the will of God simply to confront one with the desperate problem;
but a deep instinct in Hugh's heart told him that this could not be so;
and he determined that he, at all events, would go about the world as a
patient learner, grasping at any hint that was offered him, whether it
came by the waving of grasses on the waste, by the droop of
flower-laden boughs over a wall, from the strange horned insect that
crawled in the dust of the highway, or from the soft gaze of loving
eyes, flashing a message into the depths of his soul.

The pure faint lines of the wold that he saw from his window on the far
horizon, rising so peacefully above the level pasture-land, with the
hedgerow elms--what did they stand for?  The mind reeled at the
thought.  They were nothing but a gigantic cemetery.  Every inch of
that soft chalk had been made up by the life and death, through
millions of years, of tiny insects, swimming, dying, mouldering in the
depths of some shapeless sea.  Surely such a thought had a message for
his soul, not less real than the simpler and more direct message of
peace that the soft pale outlines, the gentle foldings of the hills,
seemed to lend his troubled spirit; in such a moment his faith rose
strong; he trod a shining track through the deeps of God.



XXX

Flowers--The Garden


The air that day was full of sunlight like fine gold, and put Hugh in
mind of _the city that was pure gold like unto clear glass!_--he had
often puzzled over that as a child; gold always seemed so opaque a
thing, a surface without depth; but, after all, it was true of the air
about him to-day--clear and transparent indeed, with a perfect clarity
and purity, and yet undoubtedly all tinged with lucent liquid gold.  He
sate long on a bench in the college garden, a little paradise for the
eye and mind; it had been skilfully laid out, and Hugh used to think
that he had never seen a place so enlarged by art, where so much ground
went to the acre!  All the outer edge of it was encircled by
trees--elms, planes, and limes; the borders, full of flowering shrubs,
were laid out in graceful curves, and in the centre was a great oval
bed of low-growing bushes, with the velvet turf all about it, sweeping
in sunlit vistas to left and right.  It gave somehow a sense of space
and extent, achieved Hugh could not guess how.  To-day all the edges of
the borders were full of flowers; and as he wandered among them he was
more than ever struck with a thought that had often come to him, the
mystery of flowers!  The extraordinary variety of leaf and colour, the
whimsical shapes, the astonishing invention displayed, and yet an
invention of an almost childish kind.  There was a clump of pink
blooms, such as a child might have amused itself with cutting out of
paper; here rose tall spires, with sharp-cut, serrated leaves at the
base; but the blue flowers on the stem were curiously lipped and
horned, more like strange insects than flowers.  And then the stainless
freshness and delicacy of the texture, that a touch would soil!  These
gracious things, uncurling themselves hour by hour, blooming, fading,
in obedience to the strange instinct of life, surprised him by a sudden
thrill.  Here was a bed of irises, with smooth blade-like stalks, snaky
roots, the flowers of incredible shapes, yet no two exactly alike, all
splashed and dappled with the richest colours; and then the mixture of
blended fragrance; the hot, honied smell of the candytuft, with
aromatic spicy scents of flowers that he could not name.  Here again
was the escholtzia, with its pointed horns, its bluish leaf, and the
delicate orange petals, yet with a scent, pure but acid, which almost
made one shudder.  There was some mind behind it all, Hugh felt, but
what a mind! how leisurely, how fanciful, how unfathomable!  For whose
pleasure were all these bright eccentric forms created?  Certainly not
for the pleasure of man, for Hugh thought of the acres and acres of
wheat now rising in serried ranks in the deep country, with the poppies
or the marigolds among them, all quietly unfolding their bells of
scarlet flame, their round, sunlike faces, where no eye could see them,
except the birds that flew over.  Could it be for God's own pleasure
that these flower shapes were made? they could not even see each other,
but rose in all their freshness, as by a subtle conspiracy, yet blind
to the world about them, conscious only of the sunlight and the rain,
with no imaginative knowledge, it would seem, or sympathy with their
brethren.  It always filled Hugh with a sort of pity to think of the
sightless life of trees and flowers, each rising in its place, in
plain, on hill, and yet each enclosed within itself, with no
consciousness of its own beauty, and still less conscious of the beauty
of its fellows.  And what was the life that animated them?  Where did
it come from?  Where did it pass to?  Had they any sense of joy, of
sorrow?  It was hard to believe that they had not.  It always
distressed Hugh to see flowers gathered or boughs broken; it seemed a
hateful tyranny to treat these delicate creatures so for an hour's
pleasure.  The sight of flowers picked and then thrown carelessly down
by the roadside, gave him a sense of helpless indignation.  The idyllic
picture of children wandering in spring, filling their hands with
flower-heads torn from bank and copse, appeared to Hugh as only
painful.  Man, from first to last, seemed to spread a ruthless
destruction around him.  Hugh's windows overlooked a stream-bend much
frequented by fishermen; and it was a misery to him to see the poor
dace, that had lived so cool and merry a life in the dark pools of the
stream, poising and darting among the river-weed, hauled up struggling
to the air, to be greeted with a shout of triumph, and passed about,
dying and tortured, among the hot hands, in the thin, choking air.  Was
that what God made them for?  What compensation awaited them for so
horrible and shameful an end?

Hugh felt with a sigh that the mystery was almost unendurable, that God
should make, hour by hour, these curious and exquisite things, such as
flowers and fishes, and thrust them, not into a world where they could
live out a peaceful and innocent life, but into the midst of dangers
and miseries.  Sometimes, beneath his windows, he could see a shoal of
little fish flick from the water in all directions at the rush of a
pike, one of them no doubt horribly engulphed in the monster's jaws.

Why was so hard a price to be paid for the delightful privilege of
life?  Was it indifference or carelessness, as a child might make a
toy, and weary of it?  It seemed like it, though Hugh could not bear to
think that it was so; and yet for thousands of centuries the same thing
had been going on all over the world, and no one seemed an inch nearer
to the mystery of it all.  How such thoughts seemed to shrivel into
nothing the voluble religious systems that professed to explain it all!
The misery of it was that, here and everywhere, God seemed to be
explaining it Himself every day and hour, and yet one missed the
connection which could make it all intelligible--the connection, that
is, between God, as man in his heart conceived of Him, and God as He
wrote Himself large in every field and wood.  On what hypothesis of
pure benevolence and perfect justice could all these restless lives, so
full of pain and suffering, and all alike ending in death and
disappearance, be explained?

Yet, stranger still, the mystery did not make him exactly unhappy.  The
fresh breeze blew through the trees, the flowers blazed and shone in
the steady sun, the intricate lawns lay shimmering among the
shrubberies, and Hugh seemed full of a baffling and baffled joy.  At
that moment, at all events, God wished him well, and spread for him the
exquisite pageant of life and colour and scent; the very sunshine stole
like some liquid essence along his veins, and filled him with
unreasoning happiness.  And yet he too was encompassed by a thousand
dangers; there were a hundred avenues of sense, of emotion, by which
some dark messenger might steal upon him.  Perhaps he lurked behind the
trees of that sweet paradise, biding his time to come forth.  But
to-day it seemed a species of treachery to feel that anything but
active love and perfect benevolence was behind these smiling flowers,
those tall trees rippling in the breeze, that lucent sky.  To-day at
least it seemed God's will that he should be filled with peaceful
content and gratitude.  He would drink the cup of sweetness to-day
without retrospect or misgiving.  Would the memory of that sweetness
stay his heart, and sustain his soul when the dark days came, when the
garden should be bare and dishevelled, and a strange dying smell should
hang about the walks; and when perhaps his own soul should be sorrowful
even unto death?



XXXI

A Man of Science--Prophets--A Tranquil Faith--Trustfulness


The perception of one of the great truths of personality came upon Hugh
in a summer day which he had spent, according to his growing
inclination, almost alone.  In the morning he had done some business,
some writing, and had read a little.  It was a week when Cambridge was
almost wholly given up to festivity, and the little river that flowed
beneath his house echoed all day long to the wash of boats, the stroke
of oars, and the cheerful talk of happy people.  The streets were full
of gaily-dressed persons hurrying to and fro.  This background of brisk
life pleased Hugh exceedingly, so long as he was not compelled to take
any part in it, so long as he could pursue his own reveries.  Part of
the joy was that he could peep at it from his secure retreat; it
inspirited him vaguely, setting, as it were, a cheerful descant to the
soft melody of his own thoughts.  In the afternoon he went out
leisurely into the country; it was pleasant to leave the humming town,
so full of active life and merry gossip, and to find that in the
country everything was going forward as though there were no pressure,
no bustle anywhere.  The solitary figures of men hoeing weeds in among
the growing wheat, and moving imperceptibly across the wide green
fields, pleased him.  He wound away through comfortable villages, among
elms and orchards, choosing the byways rather than the high-roads, and
plunging deeper and deeper into country which it seemed that no one
ever visited except on rustic business.  There was a gentle south wind
which rippled in the trees; the foliage had just begun to wear its late
burnished look, and the meadows were full of high-seeded grass, gilded
or silvered with buttercups and ox-eye daisies.

He stopped for a time to explore a little rustic church, that stood, in
a careless mouldering dignity, in the centre of a small village.  Here,
with his gentle fondness for little omens, he became aware that some
good thing was being prepared for him, for in the nave of the church,
under the eaves, he noted no less than three swarms of bees, that had
made their nest under the timbers of the roof, and were just awakening
into summer activity.  The drones were being cast out of the hives, and
in an angle formed by the buttress of the church, Hugh found a small
lead cistern of water, which was a curious sight; it was all full of
struggling bees fallen from the roof above, either solitary bees who
had darted into the surface, and could not extricate themselves, or
drones with a working bee grappled, intent on pinching the life out of
the poor bewildered creature, the day of whose reckoning had come.
Hugh spent a long time in pulling the creatures out and setting them in
the sun, till at last he was warned by slanting shadows that the
evening was approaching, and he set off upon his homeward way.

In a village near Cambridge he encountered a friend, a bluff man of
science, who was engaged in a singular investigation.  He kept a large
variety of fowls, and tried experiments in cross-breeding, noting
carefully in a register the plumage and physical characteristics of the
chickens.  He had hired for the purpose a pleasant house, with a few
paddocks attached, where he kept his poultry.  He invited Hugh to come
in, who in his leisurely mood gladly assented.  The great man took him
round his netted runs, and discoursed easily upon the principles that
he was elucidating.  He spoke with a mild enthusiasm; and it surprised
and pleased Hugh that a man of force and gravity should spend many
hours of every day in registering facts about the legs, the wattles,
and the feathers of chickens, and speak so gravely of the prospect of
infinite interest that opened before him.  He said that he had worked
thus for some years, and as yet felt himself only on the fringe of the
subject.  They walked about the big garden, where the evening sun lay
pleasantly on turf and borders of old-fashioned flowers; and with the
complacent delight with which a scientific man likes to show
experiments to persons who are engaged in childish pursuits such as
literature, the philosopher pointed out some other curiosities, as a
plant with a striped flower, whose stalk was covered with small red
protuberances, full of a volatile and aromatic oil, which, when a
lighted match was applied to them, sent off a little airy flame with a
dry and agreeable fragrance, as the tiny ignited cells threw out their
inflammable perfume.

Hugh was pleasantly entertained by these sights, and went home in a
very blithe frame of mind; a little later he sat down to write in his
own cool study.  He was working at a task of writing which he had
undertaken, when a thought darted suddenly into his mind, suggested by
the image of the man of science who had beguiled an afternoon hour for
him.  It was a complicated thought at first, but it grew clearer.  He
perceived, as in a vision, humanity moving onwards to some unseen goal.
He took account, as from a great height, of all those who are in the
forefront of thought and intellectual movement.  He saw them working
soberly and patiently in their appointed lines.  He discerned that
though all these persons imagined that they had purposely taken up some
form of intellectual labour, and were pursuing it with a definite end
in view, they had really no choice in the matter, but were being led
along certain ways by as sure and faithful an instinct as the bees that
he had seen that day intent on their murderous business.  Each of these
savants, in whatever line his labours lay, felt that he was striding
forward on a quest proposed, as he imagined, by himself.  But Hugh saw,
with an inward certainty of vision, that the current which moved them
was one with which they could not interfere, and that it was but the
inner movement of some larger and wider mind which propelled them.  He
saw too that many of his friends, men of practical learning, who were
occupied, with a deep sense of importance and concern, in accumulating
a little treasure of facts and inferences, in science, in history, in
language, in philosophy, were but led by an inner instinct, an
implanted taste, along the paths they supposed themselves to be
choosing and laboriously pursuing.  They encouraged each other at
intervals by the bestowal of little honours and dignities; but at this
moment Hugh saw them as mere toilers; like the merchants who spend busy
and unattractive lives, sitting in noisy offices, acquiring money with
which to found a family, with the curious ambition that descendants of
their own, whom they could never see, should lead a pleasant life in
stately country-houses, intent upon shooting and games, on social
gatherings and petty business.  He saw clearly that the merchant and
the philosopher alike had no clear idea of what they desired to effect,
but merely followed a path prepared and indicated.  And then he saw
that the minds which were really in the forefront of all were the
poetical minds, the interpreters, the prophets, who saw, not in minute
detail, and in small definite sections, but with a wide and large view,
whither all this discovery, this investigation, was tending.  The
investigation, worthless and minute enough in itself, as it seemed to
be when examined at a single point, had at least this value, that some
principle, some inspiration for life could be extracted from it,
something which would permeate slowly the thought of the world, set
pulses beating, kindle generous visions, and teach men ultimately the
lesson that, once learnt, puts life into a different plane, the lesson
that God is behind and over and in all things, and that it is His
purpose and not our own that is growing and ripening.

This mighty truth came home to Hugh that quiet afternoon with a
luminous certitude, a vast increase of hopefulness such as he had
seldom experienced before.  But the thought in its infinite width
narrowed itself like a great stream that passes through a tiny sluice;
and Hugh saw what his own life was to be; that he must no longer form
plans and schemes, battle with uncongenial conditions, make foolish and
fretful efforts in directions in which he had no real strength or
force; but that his only vocation must lie in faithfully and simply
interpreting to himself and others this gigantic truth: the truth,
namely, that no one ought ever to indulge in gloomy doubts and
questionings about what his work in the world was to be, but that men
and women alike ought just to advance, quietly and joyfully, upon the
path so surely, so inevitably indicated to them.  The more, he saw,
that one listens to this inner voice, the more securely does the
prospect open; by labour, not by fretful performance of disagreeable
duty, but by eager obedience to the constraining impulse, is the march
of the world accomplished.  For some the path is quiet and joyful, for
some it is noisy and busy, for some it is dreary and painful; for some
it is even what we call selfish, cruel, and vile.  But we must advance
along it whether we will or no.  And it became clear to Hugh that the
more simply and clearly we feel this, the more will all the darker
elements of life drop away from the souls of men; for the darker
elements, the delays, the sorrows, the errors, are in vast measure the
shadows that come from our believing that it is we who cause and
originate, that our efforts and energies are valuable and useful.  They
are both, when God is behind them; but when we strive to make them our
own, then their pettiness and insignificance are revealed.

It must not be said that Hugh never fell from this deep apprehension of
the truth.  There were hours when he was haunted by the spectres of his
own unregenerate action, when he regretted mistakes, when he searched
for occupation; but he grew to see that even these sad hours only
brought out for him, with deeper and clearer significance, the
essential truth of the vision, which did indeed transform his life.
When he was ill, anxious, overwrought, he grew to feel that he was
being held quietly back for a season; and it led to a certain
deliberate disentangling of himself from the lesser human relations,
from a consciousness that his appointed work was not here, but that he
was set apart and consecrated for a particular work, the work of
apprehending and discerning, of interpreting and expressing, the vast
design of life; it represented itself to him in an image of children
wandering in fields and meadows, just observing the detail and the
petty connection of objects, the hedgerow, the stream appearing in
certain familiar places, by ford or bridge, the trees that loomed high
over the nearer orchard, and seemed part of it.  And then one of these
children, he thought, might, on a day of surprises, be taken up to the
belfry of the old church-tower in the village, and out upon the roof.
Then in a moment the plan, the design of all would be made clear, the
hidden connection revealed.  Those great towering elms, that rose in
soft masses above the orchard, were in reality nothing but the elms
that the child knew so well from the other side, that overhung his own
familiar garden.  There, among the willows, the stream passed from ford
to bridge, and on again, circling in loops and curves.  The village
would be a different place after that, not known by an empirical
experience, but apprehended as a construction, as a settled design,
where each field and garden had its appointed place.

And so Hugh, with a great effort of utter resignation, a resignation
which had something passionate and eager about it, cast himself into
the Father's hands, and prayed that he might no longer do anything but
discern and follow the path that was prepared for him.  Long and late
these thoughts haunted him; but when he went at last through the silent
house to his own room, it was with a sense that he was reposing in
perfect trustfulness upon the will of One who, whether He led him
forward or held him back, knew with a deep and loving tenderness the
thing that he, and he only, could do in the great complicated world.
That world was now hushed in sleep.  But the weir rushed and plunged in
the night outside; and over the dark trees that fringed the stream
there was a tender and patient light, that stole up from the rim of the
whirling globe, as it turned its weary sides, with punctual obedience,
to the burning light of the remote sun.



XXXII

Classical Education--Mental Discipline--Mental
Fertilisation--Poetry--The August Soul--The Secret of a Star--The Voice
of the Soul--Choice Studies--Alere Flammam


Hugh found that, as he grew older, he tended to read less, or rather
that he tended to recur more and more to the familiar books.  He had
always been a rapid reader, and had followed the line of pure pleasure,
rather than pursued any scheme of self-improvement.  He became aware,
particularly at Cambridge, that he was by no means a well-informed man,
and that his mind was very incompletely furnished.  He was disposed to
blame his education for this, to a certain extent; it had been almost
purely classical; he had been taught a little science, a little
mathematics, and a little French; but the only history he had done at
school had been ancient history, to illustrate the classical authors he
had been reading; and the result had been a want of mental balance; he
knew nothing of the modern world or the movement of European history;
the whole education had in fact been linguistic and literary; it had
sacrificed everything to accuracy, and to the consideration of niceties
of expression.  It might have been urged that this was in itself a
training in the art of verbal expression; but here it seemed to Hugh
that the whole of the training had confined itself to the momentary
effect, the ring of sentences, the adjustment of epithets, and that he
had received no sort of training in the art of structure.  He had never
been made to write essays or to arrange his materials.  He thought that
he ought to have been taught how to deal with a subject; but his
exercises had been almost wholly translations from ancient classical
languages.  He had been taught, in fact, how to manipulate texture, but
never how to frame a design.  The result upon his reading had been that
he had always been in search of phrases, of elegant turns of expression
and qualification, but he had never learnt how to apprehend the ideas
of an author.  He had not cared to do this for himself, and from the
examination point of view it had been simply a waste of time.  All that
he had ever tried to do had been so to familiarise himself with the
style, the idiosyncrasies of authors, that he might be able to
reproduce such superficial effects in his compositions, or to
disentangle a passage set for translation.  He had not arrived at any
real mastery of either Greek or Latin, and it seemed to him, reflecting
on this process long afterwards, that the system had encouraged in him
a naturally faulty and dilettante bent in literature.  In reading, for
instance, a dialogue of Plato, he had never cared to follow the
argument, but only to take pleasure in beautiful, isolated thoughts and
images; in reading a play of Sophocles, he had cared little about the
character-drawing or the development of the dramatic situation; he had
only striven to discover and recollect extracts of gnomic quality,
sonorous flights of rhetoric, illustrative similes.

The same tendency had affected all his own reading, which had lain
mostly in the direction of _belles-lettres_ and literary annals; and,
in the course of his official life, literature had been to him more a
beloved recreation than a matter of mental discipline.  The result had
been that he found himself, in the days of his emancipation, with a
strong perception of literary quality, and a wide knowledge of poetical
and imaginative literature; he had, too, a considerable acquaintance
with the lives of authors; and this was all.  He could read French with
facility, but with little appreciation of style.  Both German and
Italian were practically unknown to him.

Hugh made the acquaintance, which ripened into friendship, of a young
Fellow of a neighbouring college, whose education had been conducted on
entirely different lines.  This young man had been educated privately,
his health making it impossible for him to go to school.  He had read
only just enough classics to enable him to pass the requisite
examinations, and he had been trained chiefly in history and modern
languages.  He had taken high honours in history at Cambridge, and had
settled down as a historical lecturer.  As this friendship increased,
and as Hugh saw more and more of his friend's mind, he began to realise
his own deficiencies.  His friend had an extraordinary grasp of
political and social movements.  He was acquainted with the progress of
philosophy and with the development of ideas.  It was a brilliant,
active, well-equipped intellect, moving easily and with striking
lucidity in the regions of accurate knowledge.  Sometimes, in talking
to his friend, Hugh became painfully aware of the weakness of his own
slouching, pleasure-loving mind.  It seemed to him that, in the
intellectual region, he was like a dusty and ragged tramp, permeated on
sunshiny days with a sort of weak, unsystematic contentment, dawdling
by hedgerow-ends and fountain-heads, lying in a vacant muse in grassy
dingles, and sleeping by stealth in the fragrant shadow of hayricks;
while his friend seemed to him to be a brisk gentleman in a furred
coat, flashing along the roads in a motor-car, full of useful activity
and pleasant business.  His friend's idea of education was of a strict
and severe mental discipline; he did not over-estimate the value of
knowledge, but regarded facts and dates rather as a skilled workman
regards his bright and well-arranged tools.  What he did above all
things value was a keen, acute, clear, penetrating mind, which arrayed
almost unconsciously the elements of a problem, and hastened unerringly
to a conclusion.  The only point in which Hugh rated his own capacity
higher, was in a certain relish for literary effect.  His friend was a
great reader, but Hugh felt that he himself possessed a power of
enjoyment, an appreciation of colour and melody, a thrilled delight in
what was artistically excellent, of which his friend seemed to have
little inkling.

His friend could classify authors, and could give off-hand a brilliant
and well-sustained judgment on their place in literary development,
which fairly astonished Hugh.  But the difference seemed to be that his
friend had mastered books with a sort of gymnastic agility, and that
his mind had reached an astonishing degree of technical perfection
thereby; but Hugh felt that to himself books had been a species of
food, and that his heart and spirit had gained some intensity from
them, some secret nourishment, which his friend had to a certain extent
missed.

Hugh had been so stirred on several occasions by a sense of shame at
realising the impotence and bareness of his own mind, that he laid down
an ambitious scheme of self-improvement, and attacked history with a
zealous desire for his own mental reform.  But he soon discovered that
it was useless.  Such an effort might have been made earlier in life,
before habits had been formed of desultory enjoyment, but it was in
vain now.  He realised that accurate knowledge simply fell through his
mind like a shower of sand; a little of it lodged on inaccessible
ledges, but most of it was spilt in the void.  He saw that his only
hope was to strengthen and enlarge his existing preferences, and that
the best that he could hope to arrive at was to classify and
systematise such knowledge as he at present possessed.  It was too late
to take a new departure, or to aim at any completeness of view.  The
mental discipline that he required, and of which he felt an urgent
need, must be attained by a diligent sorting of his own mental stores,
haphazard and disjointed as they were.  And after all, he felt, there
was room in the world for many kinds of minds.  Mental discipline from
the academical point of view was a very important thing, perhaps the
thing that the ordinary type of public schoolboy was most in need of.
But there was another province too, the province of mental
appreciation, and it was in this field that Hugh felt himself competent
to labour.  It seemed to him that there were many young men at the
university, capable of intellectual pleasure, who had been starved by
the at once diffuse and dignified curriculum of classical education.
Hugh felt that he himself had been endowed with an excess of the
imaginative and artistic quality, and that, owing to natural instincts
and intellectual home-surroundings, he had struck out a path for
himself; books had been to Hugh from his earliest years channels of
communication with other minds.  He could not help doubting whether
they ever developed qualities or delights that did not naturally exist
in a rudimentary form in the mind which fell under their influences.
He could not, in looking back, trace the originating power of any book
on his own mind; the ideas of others had rather acted in fertilising
the germs which lay dormant in his own heart.  They had deepened the
channels of his own thoughts, they had revealed him to himself; but
there had always been, he thought, an unconscious power of selection at
work; so that uncongenial ideas, unresponsive thoughts, had merely
danced off the surface without affecting any lodgment.  He had gained
in taste and discrimination, but he could not trace any impulse from
literature which had set him exploring a totally unfamiliar region.
Sometimes he had resolutely submitted his mind to the leadership of a
new author; but he had always known in his heart that the pilgrimage
would be in vain.  He felt that he would have gained if he had known
this more decisively, and if he had spent his energies more faithfully
in pursuing what was essentially congenial to him.

There were certain authors, certain poets who, he had instinctively
felt from the outset, viewed life, nature, and art from the same
standpoint as himself.  His mistake had been in not defining that
standpoint more clearly, but in wandering vaguely about, seeking for a
guide, for way-posts, for beaten tracks.  What he ought to have done
was to have fixed his eyes upon the goal, and fared directly thither.

But this misdirected attempt, over which he wasted some precious
months, to enlarge the horizon of his mind, had one valuable effect.
It revealed to him at last what the object of his search was.  He
became aware that he was vowed to the pursuit of beauty, of a definite
and almost lyrical kind.  He saw that his mind was not made to take in,
with a broad and vigorous sweep, the movement of human endeavour; he
saw that he had no conception of wide social or political forces, of
the development of communities, of philosophical ideals.  These were
great and high things, and his studies gave him an increased sense of
their greatness and significance.  But Hugh saw that he could neither
be a historian nor a philosopher, but that his work must be of an
individualistic type.  He saw that the side of the world which appealed
to himself was the subtle and mysterious essence of beauty--the beauty
of nature, of art, of music, of comradeship, of relations with other
souls.  The generalisations of science had often a great poetical
suggestiveness; but he had no vestige of the scientific temper which is
content to deduce principles from patient and laborious investigation.
He saw that his own concern must be with the emotions and the hearts of
his fellows, rather than with their minds; that if he possessed any
qualities at all, they were of a poetical kind.  The mystery of the
world was profound and dark, though Hugh could see that science was
patiently evolving some order out of the chaos.  But the knowledge of
the intricate scheme was but a far-off vision, an august hope; and
meanwhile men had to meet life as they could, to evolve enough
hopefulness, enough inspiration from their complicated conditions to
enable them to live a full and vigorous life.

Poetry, to give a large name to the various interpretations of subtle
beauty, could offer in some measure that hope, that serenity; could
lend the dignity to life which scientific investigations tended to
sweep away.  Science seemed to reveal the absolute pettiness, the
minute insignificance of all created things, to show how inconsiderable
a space each separate individual occupied in the sum of forces; the
thought weighed heavily upon Hugh that he was only as the tiniest of
the drops of water in a vast cataract that had rushed for thousands of
years to the sea; it was a paralysing conception.  It was true that the
water-drop had a definite place; yet it was the outcome and the victim
of monstrous forces; it leapt from the mountain to the river, it ran
from the river to the sea; it was spun into cloud-wreaths; it fell on
the mountain-top again; it was perhaps congealed for centuries in some
glacier-bed; then it was free again to pursue its restless progress.
But to feel that one was like that, was an unutterably dreary and
fatiguing thought.  The weary soul perhaps was hurried thus from zone
to zone of life, never satisfied, never tranquil; with a deep instinct
for freedom and tranquillity, yet never tranquil or free.  Then, into
this hopeless and helpless prospect, came the august message of poetry,
revealing the transcendent dignity, the solitariness, the majesty of
the indomitable soul; bidding one remember that though one was a humble
atom in a vast scheme, yet one had the sharp dividing sense of
individuality; that each individual was to himself the measure of all
things, a fortress of personality; that one was not merely whirled
about in a mechanical order; but that each man was as God Himself, able
to weigh and survey the outside scheme of things, to approve and to
disapprove; and that the human will was a mysterious stronghold,
impregnable, secure, into which not even God Himself could intrude
unsummoned.  How small a thing to the eye of the scientist were the
human passions and designs, the promptings of instinct and nature; but
to the eye of the poet how sublime and august!  These tiny creatures
could be dominated by emotions--love, honour, patriotism,
liberty--which could enable them, frail and impotent as they were, to
rise majestically above the darkest and saddest limitations of
immortality.  They could be racked with pain, crushed, tormented,
silenced; but nothing could make them submit, nothing could force them
to believe that their pains were just.  Herein lay the exceeding
dignity of the human soul, that it could arraign its Creator before its
own judgment-seat, and could condemn Him there.  It could not, it
seemed, refuse to be called into being, but, once existent, it could
obey or not as it chose.  Its joys might be clouded, its hopes
shattered, but it need not acquiesce; and this power of rebellion, of
criticism, of questioning, seemed to Hugh one of the most astonishing
and solemn things in the world.  And thus to Hugh the history of the
individual, the aspirations and longings of mankind, seemed to contain
a significance, a sanctity that nothing could remove.

He did not believe that this rebellious questioning was justified, but
this did not lessen his astonishment at the fact that the human soul
could claim a right to decide, by its own intuitions, what was just and
what was unjust, and could accuse the Eternal Lord of Life of not
showing it enough of the problem for it to be able to acquiesce in the
design, as it desired to do.  Hugh believed that he was justified in
holding that as Love was the strongest power in the world, the Creator
and Inspirer of that love probably represented that quality in the
supremest degree, though this was an inference only, and not supported
by all the phenomena of things.  But it seemed to him the one clue
through the darkness; and this secret hope was perhaps the highest and
best thought that came to him from searching the records of humanity
and the conceptions of mortal minds.

And therefore Hugh felt that he was on the side of the individual; and
that he touched life in that relation.  Literature then must be for
him, in some form or other, an attempt to quicken the individual pulse,
to augment the individual sense of significance.  He must abstain from
what was probably a higher work; but he must not lose faith thereby.
He must set himself with all his might to preach a gospel of beauty to
minds which, like his own, were incapable of the larger mental sweep,
and could only hope to disentangle the essence of the moment, to refine
the personal sensation.  That was the noble task of high literature, of
art, of music, of the contemplation of nature, that it could give the
mind a sense of largeness, of dim and wistful hope, of ultimate
possibilities.  The star that hung in the silent heaven--it was true
that it was the creation of mighty forces, that it had a place, a
system, a centrifugal energy, a radiation of its own.  That was in a
sense the message of a star; but it had a further appeal, too, to the
imaginative mind, in that it hung a glowing point of ageless light,
infinitely remote, intolerably mysterious, a symbol of all the lustrous
energies of the aspiring soul.  And in one sense indeed the pure
imagination could invest such vast creatures of God with even a finer,
freer charm than scientific apprehension.  Science could indicate its
bulk, its motions, its distance, even analyse its very bones; but it
could do no more; while the spirit could glide, as in an aerial
chariot, through the darkness of the impalpable abyss, draw nearer and
nearer in thought to the vast luminary, see unscathed its prodigious
vents spouting flame and smoke, and hear the roar of its furnaces; or
softly alight upon fields of dark stones, and watch with awe the
imagined progress of forms intolerably huge, swollen as with the
bigness of nightmare.  Here was the strange contrast, that science was
all on fire to learn the truth; while the incomprehensible essence of
the soul, with its limitless visions, was capable of forming
conceptions which the truth should disappoint.  And here again came in
a strange temptation.  If life and identity were to be indefinitely
prolonged, then Hugh had no wish but to draw nearer to the truth,
however hard and even unpalatable it might be; but if, on the other
hand, this life were all, then it seemed that one might be even the
happier for comfortable and generous delusions.

Hugh, then, felt that if the old division of more highly developed
minds was the true one; if one was either Aristotelian or Platonist,
that is to say, if one's tendencies were either scientific or
idealistic, there was no doubt on which side of the fight he was
arrayed; not that he thought of the two tendencies as antagonistic; and
if indeed the scientific mind tended to contemn the idealistic mind, as
concerning itself with fancies rather than with facts, he felt that
there could not be a greater mistake than for the idealistic mind to
contemn the scientific.  Rather, he thought, the idealists should use
the scientific toilers as patient, humble, and serviceable people, much
as the Dorian conquerors of Sparta used the Helots, and encourage them
to perform the necessary and faithful work of investigation for which
the idealists were unfitted.  The mistake which men of scientific
temper made, Hugh thought, was to concern themselves only or mainly,
with material phenomena.  The idealistic and imaginative tendencies of
man were just as much realities, and no amount of materialism could
obliterate them.  What was best of all was to import if possible a
scientific temper into idealistic matters; not to draw hasty or
insecure generalisations, nor to neglect phenomena however humble.
Books then for Hugh were, in their largest aspect, indications and
manifestations of the idealistic nature of man.  The interest about
them was the perceiving of the different angles at which a thought
struck various minds, the infusion of personality into them by
individuals, the various interpretations which they put upon
perceptions, the insight into various kinds of beauty and hopefulness
which the writers displayed.

And thus Hugh turned more and more away from the critical apprehension
of imaginative literature, to the mystical apprehension of it.  A
critical apprehension of it was indeed necessary, for it initiated one
into the secrets of expression and of structure, in which the force of
personality was largely displayed, taking shape from the thought in
them, as clothes take shape from their wearers.  But deeper still lay
the mystical interpretation.  In the world of books he heard the voice
of the soul, sometimes lamenting in desolate places, sometimes singing
blithely to itself, as a shepherd sings upon a headland, in sight of
the blue sea; sometimes there came a thrill of rapture into the voice,
when the spirit was filled to the brim with the unclouded joys of the
opening world, the scent of flowers, the whispering of foliage in great
woods, the sweet harmonies of musical chords, the glance of beloved
eyes, or the accents of some desired voice; and then again all this
would fade and pale, and the soul would sit wearied out, lamenting its
vanished dreams and the delicate delights of the springtime, in some
wild valley overhung with dark mountains, under the dreadful and
inscrutable eye of God.  Life, how insupportable, how beautiful it
seemed!  Full of treasures and terrors alike, its joys and its woes
alike unutterable.  The strangest thing of all, that the mind of man
was capable of seeing that there was a secret, a mystery about it all;
could desire so passionately to know it and to be satisfied, and yet
forbidden even dimly to discern its essence.

What, after all, Hugh reflected, was the end of reading?  Not erudition
nor information, though many people seemed to think that this was a
meritorious object.  Professed historians must indeed endeavour to
accumulate facts, and to arrive if possible at a true estimate of
tendencies and motives; the time had not yet come, said the most
philosophical historians, for any deductions to be drawn as to the
development of the mind of the world, the slow increase of knowledge
and civilisation; and yet that was the only ultimate value of their
work, to attempt, namely, to arrive at the complex causes and
influences that determined the course of history and progress.  Hugh
felt instinctively that his mind, impatient, inaccurate, subtle rather
than profound, was ill adapted for such work as this.  He felt that it
was rather his work to arrive, if he could, at a semi-poetical,
semi-philosophical interpretation of life, and to express this as
frankly as he could.  And thus reading must be for him an attempt to
refine and quicken his insight into the human mind, working in the more
delicate regions of art.  He must study expression and personality; he
must keep his spirit sensitive to any hint of truth or beauty, any
generous and ardent intuition, any grace and seemliness of thought.  He
was fond of books of travel, as opening to him a larger perspective of
human life, and revealing to him the conclusions to which experience
and life had brought men of other nationalities and other creeds.
Biography was his most beloved study, because it opened out to him the
vast complexity of human motive; but he thought that its chief value
had been in revealing to him the extraordinary part that conventional
and adopted beliefs and motives played in the majority of lives.

His reading, then, began to have for him a deep and special
significance.  He was no philosopher; he found that the metaphysical
region, where one stumbled among the dim ultimate causes of things,
only gave him a sense of insecurity and despair; but he was in a sense
a psychologist; his experience of life had taught him to have an
inkling of the influences that affect character, and still more of the
stubborn power of character in resisting influences.  Poetry was to him
a region in which one became aware of strange and almost magical
forces, which came floating out of unknown and mysterious depths--it
was a world of half-heard echoes, momentary glimpses, mysterious
appeals.  In history and in biography one saw more of the interacting
forces of temperament; but in poetry, as the interpreter of nature, one
found oneself among cries and thrills which seemed to rise from the
inner heart of the world.  It was the same with religion; but here the
forces at work so often lost their delicacy and subtlety by being
compounded with grosser human influences, entangled with superstitions,
made to serve low and pitiful ends.  In poetry there was none of
this--it was the most disinterested thing in the world.  In the pure
medium of words, coloured by beauty and desire, all the remote, holy,
sweet secrets of the heart were blended into a rising strain; and it
was well to submit oneself, tranquilly and with an open heart, to the
calling of these sweet voices.

Hugh was aware that his view was not what would be called a practical
one; that he had no fibre of his being that responded to what were
called civic claims, political urgencies, social reforms, definite
organisations; he felt increasingly that these things were but the
cheerful efforts of well-meaning and hard-headed persons to deal with
the bewildering problems, the unsatisfactory débris of life.  Hugh felt
that the only possible hope of regeneration and upraising lay in the
individual; and that if the tone of individual feeling could be
purified and strengthened, these organisations would become mere
unmeaning words.  The things that they represented seemed to Hugh
unreal and even contemptible, the shadows cast on the mist by the evil
selfishnesses, the stupid appetites, the material hopes of men.  As
simplicity of life and thought became more and more dear to him, he
began to recognise that, though there was no doubt room in the world,
as it was, for these other busy and fertile ideas, yet that his own
work did not lie there.  Rather it lay in defining and classifying his
own life and experience; in searching for indubitable motives, and
noble possibilities that had almost the force of certainties; of
gathering up the secrets of existence, and speaking them as frankly, as
ardently, as melodiously as his powers would admit, if by any means he
might awaken other hearts to the truths which had for him so sweet and
constraining an influence.



XXXIII

Music--Church Music--Musicians--The Organ--False Asceticism


An art which had for Hugh an almost divine quality was the art of
music; an art dependent upon such frail natural causes, the vibration
of string and metal, yet upon the wings of which the soul could fly
abroad further than upon the wings of any other art.  There was a
little vignette of Bewick's, which he had loved as a child, where a
minute figure sits in a tiny horned and winged car, in mid air,
throwing out with a free gesture the reins attached to the bodies of a
flight of cranes; the only symbol of his destination a crescent moon,
shining in dark skies beyond him.  That picture had always seemed to
Hugh a parable of music, that it gave one power to fly upon the regions
of the upper air, to use the wings of the morning.

And yet, if one analysed it, what a totally inexplicable pleasure it
was.  Part of it, the orderly and rhythmical beat of metre, such as
comes from striking the fingers on the table, or tapping the foot upon
the floor; how deep lay the instinct to bring into strict sequence,
where it was possible, the mechanical movements of nature, the creaking
of the boughs of trees, the drip of water from a fountain-lip, the beat
of rolling wheels, the recurrent song of the thrush on the high tree;
and then there came in the finer sense of intricate vibration.  The
lower notes of great organ-pipes had little indeed but a harsh roar,
that throbbed in the leaded casements of the church; but climbing
upwards they took shape in the delicate noises, the sounds and sweet
airs of which Prospero's magic isle was full.  And yet the rapture of
it was inexpressible in words.  Sometimes those airy flights of notes
seemed to stimulate in some incomprehensible way the deepest emotions
of the human spirit; not indeed the intellectual and moral emotions,
but the primal and elemental desires and woes of the heart.

Hugh could hardly say in what region of the soul this all took place.
It seemed indeed the purest of all emotions, for the mind lost itself
in a delight which hardly even seemed to be sensuous at all, because,
in the case of other arts, one was conscious of pleasure, conscious of
perception, of mingling identity with the thing seen or perceived; but
in music one was rapt almost out of mortality, in a kind of bodiless
joy.

One of Hugh's causes of dissatisfaction with the education he had
received was that, though he had a considerable musical gift, he had
never been taught to play any musical instrument.  Partly indolence and
partly lack of opportunity had prevented him from attaining any measure
of skill by his own exertions, though he had once worked a little, very
fitfully, at the theory of music, and had obtained just enough
knowledge of the composition of chords to give him an intelligent
pleasure in disentangling the elements of simple progressions.  Another
trifling physical characteristic had prevented his hearing as much
music as he would have wished.  The presence of a crowd, the heat and
glare of concert-rooms, the uncomfortable proximity of unsympathetic or
possibly even loquacious persons, combined with a dislike of fixed
engagements outside of the pressure of official hours of work, had kept
him, very foolishly, from musical performances.  Thus almost the only
music with which he had a solid acquaintance was ecclesiastical music;
he had been accustomed as a boy to frequent the cathedral services in
the town where he was at school; and in London he constantly went on
Sundays to St. Paul's or Westminster.  It was no doubt the stately
_mise-en-scène_ of these splendid buildings that affected Hugh as much
even as the music itself, though the music was like the soul's voice
speaking gently from beautiful lips.  Hugh always, if he could,
approached St. Paul's by a narrow lane among tall houses, that came out
opposite the north transept.  At a certain place the grey dome became
visible, strangely foreshortened, like a bleak mountain-head, and then
there appeared, framed by the house-fronts, the sculptured figure of
the ancient lawgiver, with a gesture at once vehement and dignified,
that crowned the top of the pediment.  Then followed the hush of the
mighty church, the dumb falling of many foot-falls upon the floor, the
great space of the dome, in which the mist seemed to float, the liberal
curves, the firm proportions of arch and pillar; the fallen daylight
seemed to swim and filter down, stained with the tincture of dim hues;
the sounds of the busy city came faintly there, a rich murmur of life;
then the soft hum of the solemn bell was heard, in its vaulted cupola;
and then the organ awoke, climbing from the depth of the bourdon; the
movement of priestly figures, the sweet order of the scene, the sense
of high solemnity, made a shrine for the holy spirit of beauty to utter
its silvery voice.  In Westminster it was different; the richer
darkness, the soaring arches, the closer span, the incredible treasure
of association and memory made it a more mysterious place, but the
sound lacked the smothered remoteness that gave such a strange,
repressed economy to the music of St. Paul's.  At Westminster it was
more cheerful, more tangible, more material.  But the tranquillising,
the inspiring effect upon the spirit was the same.  Perhaps it was not
technical religion of which Hugh was in search.  But it was the
religion which was as high above doctrine and creed and theology as the
stars were above the clouds.  The high and holy spirit inhabiting
eternity seemed to emerge from the metaphysic, the science of religion,
from argument and strife and dogma, as the moon wades, clear and cold,
out of the rack of dusky vapours.  Such a voice, as that gentle,
tender, melancholy, and still joyful voice, that speaks in the 119th
Psalm, telling of misunderstanding and persecution, and yet dwelling in
a further region of peace, came speeding into the very labyrinth of
Hugh's troubled heart.  "I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;
O seek thy servant, for I do not forget Thy commandments."  It was not
inspiration, not a high-hearted energy, that music brought with it; it
was rather a reconciliation of all that hurt or jarred the soul, an
earnest of intended peace.

But, after all, this was not music pure and simple; it was music set in
a rich frame of both sensuous and spiritual emotions.  Hugh realised
that music had never played a large part in his life, but had been one
of many artistic emotions that had spoken to him in divers manners.
There was one fact about music which lessened its effect upon Hugh, and
that was the fact that it seemed to depend more than other arts upon
what one brought to it.  In certain moods, particularly melancholy
moods, when the spirit was fevered by dissatisfaction or sorrow, its
appeal was irresistible; it came flying out of the silence, like an
angel bearing a vial of fragrant blessings.  It came flooding in, like
the cool brine over scorched sands, smoothing, refreshing, purifying.
There seemed something direct, authentic, and divine about the message
of music in such moods; there seemed no interfusion of human
personality to distract, because the medium was more pure.

Sometimes, for weeks together at Cambridge, Hugh would go without
hearing any music at all, until an almost physical thirst would fall
upon him.  In such an arid mood, he would find himself tyrannously
affected by any chance fragment of music wafted past him; he would go
to some cheerful party, where, after the meal was over, a piano would
be opened, and a simple song sung or a short piece played.  This would
come like a draught of water to a weary traveller, bearing Hugh away
out of his surroundings, away from gossip and lively talk, into a
remote and sheltered place; it was like opening a casement from a
familiar and lighted room, and leaning out over a dim land, where the
sunset was slowly dying across the rim of the tired world.

Hugh always found it easy to make friends with musicians.  They
generally seemed to him to be almost a race apart; their art seemed to
withdraw them in a curious way from the world, and to absorb into
itself the intellectual vigour which was as a rule, with ordinary men,
distributed over a variety of interests.  He knew some musicians who
were men of wide cultivation, but they were very much the exception; as
a rule, they seemed to Hugh to be a simple and almost childlike
species, fond of laughter and elementary jests, with emotions rather
superficial than deep, and not regarding life from the ordinary
standpoint at all.  The reason lay, Hugh believed, in the nature of the
medium in which they worked; the writer and the artist were brought
into direct contact with humanity; it was their business to interpret
life, to investigate emotion; but the musician was engaged with an art
that was almost mathematical in its purity and isolation; he worked
under the strictest law, and though it required a severe and strong
intellectual grip, it was not a process which had any connection with
emotions or with life.  But Hugh always felt himself to be inside the
charmed circle, and though he knew but little of the art, musical talk
always had a deep interest for him, and he seemed to divine and
understand more than he could explain or express.

But still it was true that music had played no part in his intellectual
development; he had never approached it on that side; it had merely
ministered to him at intervals a species of emotional stimulus; it had
seemed to him to speak a language, dim and unintelligible, but the
purport of which he interpreted to be somehow high and solemn.  There
seemed indeed to be nothing in the world that spoke in such mysterious
terms of an august destiny awaiting the soul.  The origin, the very
elements of the joy of music were so absolutely inexplicable.  There
seemed to be no assignable cause for the fact that the mixture of
rhythmical progress and natural vibration should have such a singular
and magical power over the human soul, and affect it with such
indescribable emotion.

He had sometimes seen, half with amusement, half with a far deeper
interest, the physical effect which the music of some itinerant
piano-organ would produce upon street children; they seemed affected by
some curious intoxication; their gestures, their smiles, their
self-conscious glances, their dancing movements, so unnatural in a
sense, and yet so instinctive, made the process appear almost magical
in its effects.  Though it did not affect him so personally, it seemed
to have a similarly intoxicating effect on Hugh's own mind.  Even if
the particular piece that he was listening to had no appeal to his
spirit, even if it were only a series of lively cascades of tripping
notes, his thoughts, he found, took on an excited, an irrepressible
tinge.  But if on the other hand the time and the mood were favourable,
if the piece were solemn or mournful, or of a melting sweetness, it
seemed for a moment to bring a sense of true values into life, to make
him feel, by a silent inspiration, the rightness and the perfection of
the scheme of the world.

One evening a friend of Hugh's, who was organist of one of the
important college chapels, took him and a couple of friends into the
building.  It had been a breathlessly hot summer day, but the air
inside had a coolness and a peace which revived the languid frame.  It
was nearly dark, but the great windows smouldered with deep fiery
stains, and showed here and there a pale face, or the outline of a
mysterious form, or an intricacy of twined tabernacle-work.  Only a
taper or two were lit in the shadowy choir; and a light in the
organ-loft sent strange shadows, a waving hand or a gigantic arm,
across the roof, while the quiet movements of the player were heard
from time to time, the passage of his feet across the gallery, or the
rustling of the leaves of a book.  Hugh and his friends seated
themselves in the stalls; and then for an hour the great organ uttered
its voice--now a soft and delicate strain, a lonely flute or a languid
reed outlining itself upon the movement of the accompaniment; or at
intervals the symphony worked up to a triumphant outburst, the trumpets
crashing upon the air, and a sudden thunder outrolling; the great
pedals seeming to move, like men walking in darkness, treading warily
and firmly; until the whole ended with a soft slow movement of perfect
simplicity and tender sweetness, like the happy dying of a very old and
honourable person, who has drunk his fill of life and blessings, and
closes his eyes for very weariness and gladness, upon labour and praise
alike.

The only shadow of this beautiful hour was that in this rapt space of
tranquil reflection one seemed to have harmonised and explained life,
joy and disaster alike, to have wound up a clue, to have brought it all
to a peaceful and perfect climax of silence, like a tale that is told;
and then it was necessary to go out to the world again with all its
bitterness, its weariness, its dissatisfaction--till one almost
wondered whether it was wise or brave to have chased and captured this
strange phantom of imagined peace.

Yes, it was wise sometimes, Hugh felt sure! to have refused it would
have been like refusing to drink from a cool and bubbling wayside
spring, as one fared on a hot noon over the shimmering
mountain-side--refused, in a spirit of false austerity, for fear that
one would thirst again through the dreary leagues ahead.  As long as
one remembered that it was but an imagined peace, that one had not
attained it, it was yet well to remember that the peace was real, that
it existed somewhere, even though it was still shut within the heart of
God.  However slow the present progress, however long the road, it was
possible to look forward in hope, to know that one would move more
blithely and firmly when the time should come for the desired peace to
be given one more abundantly; it helped one, as one stumbled and
lingered, to look a little further on, and to say, "I will run the way
of Thy commandments, when Thou hast set my heart at liberty."



XXXIV

Pictorial Art--Hand and Soul--Turner--Raphael--Secrets of Art


Hugh's professional life had given him little opportunity for indulging
artistic tastes.  He had been very fond as a boy of sketching,
especially architectural subjects; it had trained his powers of
observation; but there had come a time when, as a young man, he had
deliberately laid his sketching aside.  The idea in his mind had been
that if one desired to excel in any form of artistic expression, one
must devote all one's artistic faculty to that.  He had been conscious
of a certain diffuseness of taste, a love of music and a love of
pictorial art being both strong factors in his mind; but he was also
dimly conscious that he matured slowly; that he had none of the facile
grasp of difficult things which characterised some of his more able
companions; his progress was always slow, and he arrived at mastery
through a long wrestling with inaccuracy and half knowledge; his
perception was quick, but his grasp feeble, while his capacity for
forgetting and losing his hold on things was great.  He therefore made
a deliberate choice in the matter, guided, he now felt, rather by a
kind of intuition than by any very definite principle, and determined
to restrict his artistic energies to a single form of art.  His father,
he remembered, had remonstrated with him, and had said that by giving
up sketching he was sacrificing a great resource of recreation and
amusement.  He had no answer at the time to the criticism, but it
seemed to him that he knew his own mind in the matter, and that as he
could not hope, he thought, to attain to any real excellence in
draughtsmanship, it had better be cut off altogether, and his energies,
such as they were--he knew that the spring was not a copious
one--confined to a more definite channel.

As life went on, and as time became more and more precious, as his
literary work more and more absorbed him, he drew away from the
artistic region; in his early years of manhood he had travelled a good
deal, and the seeing of pictures had always been part of the programme;
but his work became heavier, and the holidays had tended more and more
to be spent in some quiet English retreat, where he could satisfy his
delight in nature, and re-read some of the old beloved books.  A
certain physical indolence was also a factor, an indolence which made
wandering in a picture-gallery always rather a penance; but he
contrived at intervals to go and look at pictures in London in a
leisurely way, both old and new; and he had one or two friends who
possessed fine works of art, which could be enjoyed calmly and quietly.
He was aware that he was losing some catholicity of mind by this--but
he knew his limitations, and more and more became aware that his
constitutional energy was not very great, and needed to be husbanded.
He was quite aware that he was not what would be called a cultivated
person, that his knowledge both of art and music was feeble and
amateurish; but he saw, or thought he saw, that people of wide
cultivation often sacrificed in intensity what they gained in width;
and as he became gradually aware that the strongest faculty he
possessed was the literary faculty, he saw that he could not hope to
nourish it without a certain renunciation.  He had no taste for
becoming an expert or a connoisseur; he had not the slightest wish to
instruct other people, or to arrive at a technical and professional
knowledge of art.  He was content to leave it to be a rare luxury, a
thing which, when the opportunity and the mood harmonised, could open a
door for him into a beautiful world of dreams.  He was quite aware that
he often liked what would be called the wrong things; but what he was
on the look-out for in art was not technical perfection or finished
skill, but a certain indefinable poetical suggestion, which pictures
could give him, when they came before him in certain moods.  The mood,
indeed, mattered more than the picture; moreover it was one of the
strangest things about pictorial art, that the work of certain artists
seemed able to convey poetical suggestion, even when the poetical
quality seemed to be absent from their own souls.  He knew a certain
great artist well, who seemed to Hugh to be an essentially
materialistic man, fond of sport and society, of money, and the
pleasures that money could buy, who spoke of poetical emotion as
moonshine, and seemed frankly bored by any attempt at the mystical
apprehension of beautiful things, who could yet produce, by means of
his mastery of the craft, pictures full of the tenderest and loveliest
emotion and poetry.  Hugh tried hard to discern this quality in the
man's soul, tried to believe that it was there, and that it was
deliberately disguised by a pose of bluff unaffectedness.  But he came
to the conclusion that it was not there, and that the painter achieved
his results only by being able to represent with incredible fidelity
the things in nature that held the poetical quality.  On the other hand
he had a friend of real poetical genius, who was also an artist, but
who could only produce the stiffest and hardest works of art, that had
no quality about them except the quality of tiresome definiteness.
This was a great mystery to Hugh; but it ended eventually, after a
serious endeavour to appreciate what was approved by the general
verdict to be of supreme artistic value, in making him resolve that he
would just follow his own independent taste, and discern whatever
quality of beauty he could, in such art as made an appeal to him.  Thus
he was not even an eclectic; he was a mere amateur; he treated art just
as a possible vehicle of poetical suggestion, and allowed it to speak
to him when and where it could and would.

He had moreover a great suspicion of conventionality in taste.  A man
of accredited taste often seemed to him little more than a man who had
the faculty of admiring what it was the fashion to admire.  Hugh had
been for a short time under the influence of Ruskin, and had tried
sincerely to see the magnificence of Turner, and to loathe the
artificiality of Claude Lorraine.  But when he arrived at his more
independent attitude, he found that there was much to admire in Claude;
that exquisite golden atmosphere, suffusing a whole picture with an
evening glow, enriching the lavish foreground, and touching into
romantic beauty headland after headland, that ran out, covered with
delicate woodland, into the tranquil lake; those ruinous temples with a
quiet flight of birds about them; the mysterious figures of men
emerging from the woods on the edges of the water, bent serenely on
some simple business, had the magical charm; and then those faint
mountains closing the horizon, all rounded with the golden haze of
evening, seemed to hold, in their faintly indicated heights and folds,
a delicate peace, a calm repose, as though glad just to be, just to
wait in that reposeful hour for the quiet blessing of waning light, the
sober content so richly shed abroad.  It was not criticism, Hugh
thought, to say that it was all impossibly combined, falsely conceived.
It was not, perhaps, a transcript of any one place or one hour; but it
had an inner truth for all that; it had the spirit of evening with its
pleasant weariness, its gentle recollection, its waiting for repose; or
it had again the freshness of the morning, the vital hope that makes it
delightful to rise, to cast off sleep, to go abroad, making light of
the toil and heat that the day is to bring.

And then, in studying Turner, he learnt to see that, lying intermingled
with all the power and nobility of much of his work, there was a
displeasing extravagance, a violence, a faultiness of detail, an
exaggeration that often ruined his pictures.  Neither he nor Claude
were true to life; but there was an insolence sometimes about Turner's
variation from fact, which made him shudder.  How he seemed sometimes,
in his pictures of places familiar to Hugh--such, for instance, as the
drawing of Malham Cove--to miss, by his heady violence, all the real,
the essential charm of the place.  Nature was not what Turner depicted
it; and he did not even develop and heighten its beauty, but
substituted for the real charm an almost grotesque personal mannerism.
Turner's idea of nature seemed to Hugh often purely theatrical and
melodramatic, wanting in restraint, in repose.  The appeal of Turner
seemed to him to be constantly an appeal to childish and unperceptive
minds, that could not notice a thing unless it was forced upon them.
Some of the earlier pictures indeed, such as that of the frost-bound
lane, with the boy blowing on his fingers, and the horses nibbling at
the stiff grass, with the cold light of the winter's dawn coming slowly
up beyond the leafless hedge, seemed to him to be perfectly beautiful;
but the Turner of the later period, the Turner so wildly upheld by
Ruskin, seemed to Hugh to have lost sight of nature, in the pleasure of
constructing extravagant and fantastic schemes of colour.  The true art
seemed to Hugh not to be the art that trumpets beauty aloud, and that
drags a spectator roughly to admire; but the art that waits quietly for
the sincere nature-lover, and gives a soft hint to which the soul of
the spectator can add its own emotion.  To Hugh it was much a matter of
mood.  He would go to a gallery of ancient or modern art, and find that
there many pictures had no message or voice for him; and then some
inconspicuous picture would suddenly appeal to him with a mysterious
force--the pathetic glance of childish eyes, or an old face worn by
toil and transfigured by some inner light of hopefulness; or a woodland
scene, tree-trunks rising amid a copse; or the dark water of a
sea-cave, lapping, translucent and gem-like, round rock ledges; or a
reedy pool, with the chimneys of an old house rising among elms hard
by: in a moment the mood would come upon him, and he would feel that a
door had been opened for his spirit into a place of sweet imaginings,
of wistful peace, bringing to him a hope of something that might
assuredly be, some deep haven of God where the soul might float upon a
golden tide.  One day, for instance, two old line-engravings of Italian
pictures which he had inherited, and which hung in his little library,
gave him this sense; he had known them ever since he was a child, and
they had never spoken to him before.  Had they hung all these years
patiently waiting for that moment?  One was "The Betrothal of the
Virgin," by Raphael, where the old bearded priest in his tiara, with
his robes girt precisely about him, casts an inquiring look on the
pair, as Joseph, a worn, majestic figure, puts the ring on the Virgin's
finger.  Some of it was hard and formal enough; the flowers on Joseph's
rod might have been made of china; the slim figure of the disappointed
suitor, breaking his staff, had an unpleasing trimness; and the
companions of the Virgin were models of feeble serenity.  But the great
new octagonal temple in the background,--an empty place it seemed--for
the open doors gave a glimpse of shadowy ranges--the shallow steps, the
stone volutes, the low hills behind, with the towered villa--even the
beggars begging of the richly dressed persons on the new-laid
pavement--all these had a sudden appeal for him.

The other picture was the "Communion of Jerome," by Domenichino--a
stiff, conventional design enough.  The cherubs hanging in air might
have been made of wax or even metal--there was no aerial quality about
them--they cumbered the place!  But the wistful look of the old worn
saint, kneeling so faintly, so wearily, the pure lines of the shrine,
the waxlights, the stiff robes of the priest, the open arch showing an
odd, clustered, castellated house, rising on its steep rocks among dark
brushwood, with a glimmering pool below, and mysterious persons drawing
near--it all had a tyrannical effect on Hugh's mind.  Probably a
conventional critic would have spoken approvingly of the Raphael and
disdainfully enough of the Domenichino--but the point to Hugh was not
in the art revealed, but in the association, the remoteness, the
suggestiveness of the pictures.  The faults of each were patent to him;
but something in that moment shone through; one looked through a
half-open door, and saw some beautiful mystery being celebrated within,
something that one could not explain or analyse, but which was none the
less certainly there.

Thus art became to Hugh, like nature, an echoing world that lay all
about him, which could suddenly become all alive with constraining
desire and joy.  There was a scientific apprehension of both nature and
art possible, no doubt.  The very science that lay behind art had a
suggestiveness of its own; that again had its own times for appeal.
But Hugh felt that here again he must realise his limitations, and that
life, to be real, must be a constant resisting of diffuse wanderings in
knowledge and perception.  That his own medium was the medium of words,
and that his task was to discern their colour and weight, their
significance, whether alone or in combination; that he must be able to
upraise the jointed fabric of thought, like a framework of slim rods of
firm metal, not meant to be seen or even realised by the reader, but
which, when draped with the rich tapestry of words, would lend shape
and strong coherence to the whole.  All other art must simply minister
light and fragrance; it might be studied, indeed, but easily and
superficially; not that it would not be better, perhaps, if he could
have approached other arts with penetrating insight; but he felt that
for himself, with his limitations, his feebleness, his faltering grasp,
nothing must come between him and his literary preoccupation.  The
other arts might feed his soul indeed, but he could not serve them.  He
found that he took great delight, and was always at ease, in the
company of musicians and painters, because he could understand and
interpret their point of view, their attitude of mind; while on the
other hand he could approach them with the humility, the perceptive
humility, which the artist desires as an atmosphere; he did not know
enough about the technical points to controvert and differ, while he
knew enough to feel inspired by the tense feeling of secrets,
understood and practised, which were yet hidden from ordinary eyes.
Art, then, and music became for Hugh as a sweet and remote illustration
of his own consecration--and indeed there were moments when, wearied by
his own strenuous toil, ploughing sadly through the dreary sands of
labour, that must close at intervals round the feet of the serious
craftsman, the sight of a picture hanging perhaps in a room full of
cheerful company, or the sound of music--a few bars rippling from an
open window, or stealing in faint gusts from the buttressed window of a
church lighted for evensong--came to him like a sacred cup, carried in
the hovering hands of a ministering angel, revealing to him the
delicate hidden joy of beauty of which he had almost lost sight in his
painful hurrying to some appointed end.  _Hinc lucem et pocula sacra_,
said the old motto of Cambridge.  The light was clear enough, and led
him forward, as it led the pilgrim of old, shining across a very wide
field.  But the holy refreshment that was tendered him upon the way,
this was the blessed gift of those other arts which he dared not to
follow, but which he knew held within themselves secrets as dear as the
art which in his loneliness he pursued.



XXXV

Artistic Susceptibility--An Apologia--Temperament--Criticism of
Life--The Tangle


Hugh had found himself one evening in the Combination-room of his
college, in a little group of Dons who were discussing with great
subtlety and ardour the question of retaining Greek in the entrance
examinations of the university.  It seemed to Hugh that the arguments
employed must be identical with those that might formerly have been
used to justify the retention of Hebrew in the curriculum--the
advisability of making acquaintance at first hand with a noble
literature, the mental discipline to be obtained; "Greek has such a
noble grammar!" said one of these enthusiasts.  Hugh grew a little
nettled at the tone of the discussion.  The defenders of Greek seemed
to be so impervious to facts which told against them.  They erected
their theories, like umbrellas, over their heads, and experience
pattered harmlessly on the top.  Hugh advanced his own case as an
instance of the failure, of the melancholy results of a classical
curriculum.  It was deplorable, he said, that he should have realised,
as he did when he left the university, that his real education had then
to begin.  He had found himself totally ignorant of modern languages
and modern history, of science, and indeed of all the ideas with which
the modern world was teeming.  The chief defender of Greek told him
blithely that he was indulging the utilitarian heresy; that the object
of his education had been to harden and perfect his mind, so as to make
it an instrument capable of subtle appreciation and ardent
self-improvement.  When Hugh pleaded the case of immense numbers of
boys who, after they had been similarly perfected and hardened, had
been left, not only ignorant of what they had been supposed to be
acquiring, but without the slightest interest in or appreciation of
intellectual or artistic ideas at all, he was told that, bad as their
case was, it would have been still worse if they had not been subjected
to the refining process.  Hugh, contrary to his wont, indulged in a
somewhat vehement tirade against the neglect of the appreciative and
artistic faculties in the case of the victims of a classical education.
He maintained that the theory of mental discipline was a false one
altogether, and that boys ought to be prepared on the one hand for
practical life, and on the other initiated into mental culture.  He
compared the mental condition of a robust English boy, his sturdy
disbelief in intellectual things, with the case of a young Athenian,
who was, if we could trust Plato, naturally and spontaneously
interested in thoughts and ideas, sensitive to beautiful impressions,
delicate, subtle, intelligent, and not less bodily active.  He went on
to carry the war into the enemy's country, and to attack the theory of
mental discipline altogether, which he maintained was the same thing as
to train agricultural labourers in high-jumping and sprinting, or like
trying to put a razor-edge on a hoe.  What he said was neglected
altogether was the cultivation of artistic susceptibility.  In nature,
in art, in literature, he maintained, lay an immense possibility of
refined and simple pleasure, which was never cultivated at all.  The
mental discipline, he argued, which average boys received, was doubly
futile, because it neither equipped them for practical life, nor opened
to them any vista of intellectual or artistic pleasure.  What he
himself desired to do was, on the one hand, to equip boys for practical
life, and on the other to initiate them into the possibilities of
intellectual recreation.  The ordinary boy, he thought, was turned out
with a profound disbelief in intellectual things, and a no less
profound belief in games as the only source of rational pleasure.  His
own belief was that a great many English boys had the germs of simple
artistic pleasures dormant in their spirits, and that they might be
encouraged to believe in books, in art, in music, as sources of
tranquil enjoyment, instead of regarding them as slightly unwholesome
and affected tastes.  He was aware that his views were being regarded
as dangerously heterodox, and as tainted indeed with a kind of
aesthetic languor.  He felt that he was appearing to pose as the
champion, not only of an unpopular cause, but of an essentially
effeminate system.  His opponents were certainly not effeminate; but
they were masculine only in the sense in which the soldier is
masculine, in his sturdy contempt for the arts of peace; whereas to
Hugh the soldier was only an inevitable excrescence on the community, a
disagreeable necessity which would disappear in the light of a rational
and humane civilisation.

A young Don, a friend of Hugh's, who had taken part in the discussion,
a few days after, in the course of a walk, attacked Hugh on the
subject.  Hugh was aware that he defended himself very indifferently at
the time; but some remarks of his friend, who was a brisk and practical
young man with a caustic wit, rankled in Hugh's mind.  His friend had
said that the danger of Hugh's scheme was that it tended to produce
people of the Maudle and Postlethwaite type, who made life into a mere
pursuit of artistic impressions and sensations.  "The fact is,
Neville," he said, "that you upheld Epicureanism pure and simple; or,
if you dislike the word because of its associations, you taught a mere
Neo-Cyrenaicism.  You may say that the kind of pleasure you defended is
a refined and intellectual sort of pleasure, but for all that it tends
to produce men who withdraw from practical life into a mild hedonism;
you would develop a coterie of amiable, secluded persons, fastidious
and delicate, indifferent citizens, individualistic and self-absorbed;
the training of character retires into the background; and the meal
that you press upon us is a meal of exquisite sauces, but without meat.
Fortunately," his friend added, "the necessity of earning a living
keeps most people from drifting into a life of this kind.  It is only
consistent with comfortable private means."

These phrases stuck in Hugh's memory with a painful insistence.  He
felt as if he had been rolled among thorns.  He determined to think the
matter carefully out.  Was he himself drifting into a species of
mystical hedonism?  It was very far from his purpose to do that.  He
determined that he would prepare a little apologia on the subject, to
send to his friend; and this was what he eventually despatched:--


"_Your conversation with me the other day gave me a good deal to think
about.  What you said practically amounted to a charge of hedonism.  Of
course much depends upon the way in which the word is applied, because
I suppose that the large majority of men are hedonists, in the sense
that they pursue as far as possible their own pleasure.  But the
particular kind of hedonism of which you spoke, Epicureanism, bears the
sense of a certain degree of malingering.  It implies that the person
who pursues the course which I indicated is for some reason or other
shirking his duty in the world.  It is against this that I wish to
defend myself; I would say in the first place that what I was
recommending was a very different sort of thing.  I was rather
attacking a certain sheepishness of character which seems to me to be
the danger of our present type of education.  The practical ideal held
up before boys at our public schools is that they should be virtuous
and industrious; and that after they have satisfied both these claims,
they should amuse themselves in what is held to be a manly way; that
they should fill their vacant hours with open-air exercise and talk
about games; a little light reading is not objected to; but it is
tacitly assumed that to be interested in ideas, in literature, art, and
music is rather a dilettante business.  I was reminded of a memorable
conversation I once had with a man of some note, a great landowner and
prominent politician.  He was talking confidentially to me about his
sons and their professions.  One of the boys manifested a really
remarkable artistic gift; he was a draughtsman of extraordinary skill,
and I said something about his taking up art seriously.  The great man
said that it would never do.  'I consider it almost a misfortune,' he
added, 'that the boy is so clever an artist, because it would be out of
the question for him, in his position, to take up what is, after all,
rather a disreputable profession.  I have talked to him seriously about
it, and I have said that there is no harm in his amusing himself in
that way; but he must have a serious occupation._'

"_That is a very fair instance of the way in which the pursuit of art
is regarded among our solid classes--as distinctly a trade for an
adventurer.  It will be a long time before we alter that.  But the
truth is that this kind of conventionalism is what makes us so stupid a
nation.  We have no sort of taste for simplicity in life.  A man who
lived in a cottage, occupied in quiet and intellectual pursuits, would
be held to be a failure, even if he lived in innocent happiness to the
age of eighty.  My own firm belief is that this is all wrong.  It opens
up all sorts of obscure and bewildering questions as to why we are sent
into the world at all; but my idea is that we are meant to be happy if
we can, and that a great many people miss happiness, because they have
not the courage to pursue it in their own way.  I cannot believe myself
that the complicated creature, so frail of frame, so limitless in
dreams and hopes, is the result of a vortex.  I cannot believe that we
can be created except by a power that in a certain degree resembles
ourselves.  If we have remote dreams of love and liberty, of justice
and truth, I believe that those ideas must exist in a sublime degree in
the mind of our Maker.  I believe, on the whole, though there are many
difficulties in the way of the theory, that life is meant for most of
us to be an educative process; that we are meant to quit the world
wiser, nobler, more patient than we entered it; why the whole business
is so intolerably slow, why we are so hampered by traditions and
instincts that retard the process, I cannot conceive; but my belief is
that we must as far as possible choose a course which leads us in the
direction of the thoughts that we conceive to be noble and true.  We
may make mistakes, we may wander sadly from the way, but I believe that
it is our duty, our best hope, to try and perceive what it is that God
is trying to teach us.  Now, our choice must be to a great extent a
matter of temperament.  Some men like work, activity, influence,
relations with others.  Well, if they sincerely believe that they are
meant to pursue these things, it is their duty to do so.  Others, like
myself, seem to be gifted with a sensitiveness of perception, an
appreciation of beauty in many forms.  I cannot believe that such an
organisation is given me fortuitously, and that I am merely meant to
suppress it.  Of course the same argument could be used sophistically
by a man with strong sensual passions and appetites, who could
similarly urge that he must be intended to gratify them.  But such
gratification leads both to personal disaster and to the increase of
unhappiness in the race.  Such instincts as I recognise in myself seem
to me to do neither.  I believe that poets, artists, and musicians, to
say nothing of religious teachers, have effected almost more for the
welfare of the race than statesmen, patriots, and philanthropists.  Of
course the necessary work of the world has got to be done; but my own
belief is that a good deal more than is necessary is done, because
people pursue luxury rather than simplicity.  I recognise to the full
the duty of work; but, to be quite honest, I think that a serious man
who will preach simplicity, disseminate ideas, suggest possibilities of
intellectual and artistic pleasure, can do a very real work.  Such a
man must be disinterested; he must not desire fame or influence; he
must be content if he can sow the seeds of beauty in a few minds._

"_Now the Maudle and Postlethwaite school are not concerned with
anything of the kind.  They merely desire to make a sort of brightly
polished mirror of their minds, capable of reflecting all sorts of
beautiful effects, and this is an essentially effeminate thing to do,
because it exalts the appreciation of sensation above all other aims;
that is the pursuit of artistic luxury, and it is, as you say, quite
inconsistent with good citizenship.  But I do not think that my own
theory is in the least inconsistent with good citizenship.  I have no
admiration for the citizenship the end of which is to make a
comfortable corner for oneself at the expense of others; I do not at
all believe that every man of ideals is bound to take a part in the
administration of the community.  We can easily have too many
administrators; and that ends in the dismal slough of municipal
politics.  After all, we must nowadays all be specialists, and a man
has as much right to specialise in beauty as he has to specialise in
Greek Grammar.  In fact a specialist in Greek Grammar has as his
ultimate view the clearer and nicer appreciation of the shades of Greek
expression, and is merely serving a high ideal of mental refinement.
It seems to me purely conventional to accept as valuable the work of a
commentator on Sophocles, because it is traditionally respectable, and
to say that a commentator on sunsets, as I once heard a poet described,
is an effeminate dilettante.  It is the motive that matters.
Personally, I think that a man who has drifted into writing a
commentary on Sophocles, because he happens to find that he can earn a
living that way, is no more worthy of admiration than a man who earns
his living by billiard-marking.  Neither are necessary to the world.
But the commentator and the billiard-marker are alike admirable, if
they are working out a theory, if they think that thus and thus they
can best help on the progress of the world._

"_My own desire is, so to speak, to be a commentator on life, in one
particular aspect.  I think the world would be all the better if there
were a finer appreciation of what is noble and beautiful, a deeper
discrimination of motives, a larger speculation as to the methods and
objects of our pilgrimage.  I think the coarseness of the intellectual
and spiritual palate that prevails widely nowadays is not only a
misfortune, I think it is of the nature of sin.  If people could live
more in the generous visions of poets, if they could be taught to see
beauty in trees and fields and buildings, I think they would be happier
and better.  Most people are obliged to spend the solid hours of the
day in necessary work.  The more sordid that work is, the more
advisable it is to cultivate a perception of the quality of things.
Every one has hours of recreation in every day; the more such hours are
filled with pleasant, simple, hopeful, beautiful thoughts, the better
for us all._

"_Of course I may be quite wrong; I may be meant to find out my
mistake; but I seem to discern in the teaching of Christ a desire to
make men see the true values of life, to appreciate what is beautiful
and tender in simple lives and homely relationships.  The teaching of
Christ seems to me to be uniquely and essentially poetical, and to
point to the fact that the up-lifting of the human heart in admiration,
hope, and love, is the cure for some, at least, of our manifold ills.
That is my own theory of life, and I do not see that it is effeminate,
or even unpractical; and it is a mere caricature of it to call it
Epicurean.  What does complicate life is the feeble acceptance of
conventional views, the doing of things, not because one hopes for
happiness out of them, not even because one likes them, but because one
sees other people doing them.  Even in the most sheltered existence,
like my own, there are plenty of things which provide a bracing tonic
against self-satisfaction.  There are the criticism and disapproval of
others, contempt, hostility; there are illness, and sorrow, and the
fear of death.  No one of a sensitive nature can hope to live an
untroubled life; but to court unhappiness for the sake of its tonic
qualities seems to me no more reasonable than to refuse an anaesthetic
on the ground that it is interfering with natural processes._

"_I don't know that I expect to convert you; but at least I am glad to
make my position clear.  I don't assume that I am in the right.  I only
know that I am trying to do what appears to me to be right, trying to
simplify the issues of life, to unravel the tangle in which so many
people seem to me to acquiesce helplessly and timidly._"



XXXVI

The Mill--The Stream's Pilgrimage


There were days, of course, when Hugh's reflections took an
irrepressibly optimistic turn.  Such was a bright day in the late
summer, when the sun shone with a temperate clearness, and big white
clouds, like fragments torn from some aerial pack of cotton-wool, moved
blithely in the sky.  Hugh rode--he was staying at his mother's
house--to a little village perched astride on a great ridge.  He
diverged from the road to visit the ancient church, built of massive
stone and roofed with big stone-tiles; up there, swept by strong winds,
splashed by fierce rains, it had grown to look like a crag rather than
a building.  By the side of it ran a little, steep, narrow lane, which
he had never explored; he rode cautiously down the stony track, among
thick hazel copses; occasionally, through a gap, he had a view of a
great valley, all wild with wood; once or twice he passed a timbered
farmhouse, with tall brick chimneys.  The country round about was much
invaded by new, pert houses, but there were none here; and Hugh
supposed that this road, which seemed the only track into the valley,
was of so forbidding a steepness that it had not occurred to any one to
settle there.  The road became more and more precipitous, and at the
very bottom, having descended nearly three hundred feet, Hugh found
himself in a very beautiful place.  He thought he had never seen
anything more sweetly, more characteristically English.  On one side
was a rough field, encircled by forest on all sides; here stood some
old wooden sheds and byres; and one or two green rides passed
glimmering into the thick copse, with a charming air of mystery, as
though they led to some sequestered woodland paradise.  To the right
was a mill, with a great pond thick with bulrushes and water-lilies,
full of water-birds, coots and moorhens, which swam about, uttering
plaintive cries.  The mill was of wood, the planks warped and
weather-stained, the tiled root covered with mosses; the mill-house
itself was a quaint brick building, with a pretty garden, full of
old-fashioned flowers, sloping down to the pool; a big flight of
pigeons circled round and round in the breeze, turning with a sudden
clatter of wings; behind the house were small sandstone bluffs, fringed
with feathery ashes, and the wood ran up steeply above into the sky.
It looked like an old steel-engraving, like a picture by Morland or
Constable.  The blue smoke went up from the chimneys in that sheltered
nook, rising straight into the air, lending a rich colour to the trees
behind.  Hugh thought it would be a beautiful place to live in, so
remote from the world, in that still valley, where the only sound was
the wind in the copses, the trickle of the mill-leat, and the slow
thunder of the dripping wheel within.  Yet he supposed that the simple
people who lived there were probably unconscious of its beauty, and
only aware that the roads which led to the spot were inconveniently
steep.  Still, it was hard to think that the charm of the place would
not pass insensibly into the hearts, perhaps even into the faces, of
the dwellers there.

He stood for a little to see the bright water leaping clear and fresh
from the sluice.  There was a delicious scent of cool river-plants
everywhere.  It was hard not to think that the stream, bickering out in
the sun from the still pool, had a sense of joy and delight.  It was
passing, passing; Hugh could trace in thought every mile of the way;
down the wooded valley it was bound, running over the brown gravel, by
shady wood-ends and pasture-sides; then it would pass out into the
plain, and run, a full and brimming stream, between high sandy banks,
half hidden by the thick, glossy-leaved alders.  Hugh knew the broad
water-meadows down below, with the low hills on either side, where big
water-plants grew in marshy places, and where the cattle moved slowly
about through the still hours.  Soon the stream would be running by the
great downs--it was a river now, bearing boats upon it--till it passed
by the wharves and beneath the bridges of the little town, and out into
the great sea-flat, meeting, with how strange a wonder, the
upward-creeping briny tide, with its sharp savours and its wholesome
smell; till it flowed at last by the docks, where the big steamers lay
unlading, blowing their loud sea-horns, past weed-fringed piers and
shingly beaches, until it was mingled with the moving deep, where the
waves ran higher on the blue sea-line, and the great buoy rolled and
dipped above the shoal.

And then, perhaps, it would be drawn up again in twisted wreaths of
mist, rising in vapour beneath the breathless sun, to float back,
perhaps, in clouds over the earth, and begin its little pilgrimage
again.

Was the same true, he wondered, of himself, of everything about him?
Was it all a never-ending, an unwearying pilgrimage?  Was death itself
but the merging of the atom in the element, and then, perhaps, the race
began again?  On such a day as this, of bright sun and eager air, it
seemed sweet to think that it was even so.  This soul-stuff, that one
called oneself, wafted out of the unknown, strangely entangled with the
bodily elements, would it perhaps mingle again with earthly conditions,
borne round and round in an endless progression?  Yet, if this was so,
why did one seem, not part of the world, but a thing so wholly distinct
and individual?  To-day, indeed, Hugh seemed to be akin to the earth,
and felt as though all that breathed or moved and lived had a
brotherly, a sisterly greeting for him.  As he moved slowly on up the
steep road, a child playing by the wayside, encouraged perhaps by a
loving brightness that rose from Hugh's heart into his face, nodded and
smiled to him shyly.  Hugh smiled back, and waved his hand.  That
childish smile came to him as a confirmation of his blithe mood; there
were others, then, bound on the same pilgrimage as himself, who wished
him well, and shared his happiness.  To pass thus smiling through the
world, heedless as far as might be of weariness and sorrow, taking the
simple joys that flowed so freely, if only one divested oneself of the
hard and dull ambitions that made life into a struggle and a
contest--that was, perhaps, the secret!  There would be days, no doubt,
of gloom and heaviness; days when life would run, like the stream which
he could hear murmuring below him, through dark coverts, dripping with
rain; days of frost, when nature was leafless and benumbed, and when
the rut was barred with icy spikes.  But one could live in hope and
faith, waiting for the summer days, when life ran swift and bright;
under a pale sunset sky, till the streaks of crimson light died into a
transparent green; and the stream ran joyfully, under the stars,
wondering what sweet unfamiliar place might stand revealed, when the
day climbed slowly in the east, and the dew globed itself upon the
fresh grass, in the invigorating sweetness, the cool fragrance of the
dawn.



XXXVII

A Garden Scene--The Wine of the Soul


One hot cloudless day of summer, Hugh took a train, and, descending at
a quiet wayside station, walked to a little place deep in the country,
to see the remains of an ancient house which he was told had a great
beauty.  He found the place with some difficulty.  The church, to which
he first directed his steps, was very ancient and almost ruinous.  It
was evidently far too big for the needs of the little hamlet, and it
was so poorly endowed that it was difficult to find any one who would
take the living.  A great avenue of chestnuts, with a grass-grown walk
beneath, led up to the porch.  He entered by a curious iron-bound door,
under a Norman arch of very quaint workmanship.  The church was of
different dates, and the very neglect which it suffered gave it an
extreme picturesqueness.  One of its fine features was a brick chapel,
built at the east end of one of the aisles, where an old baron lay in
state, in black armour, his eyes closed quietly, his pointed beard on
his breast, his hands folded, as though he lay praying to himself.  The
heavy marble pillars of the shrine were carved with a stiff ornament of
vine-leaves and grape-clusters, and the canopy rose pompously to the
roof, with its cognisances and devices.  There were many monuments in
the church, on which Hugh read the history of the ancient family, now
engulphed in a family more wealthy and ancient still; the latest of the
memorials was that of a lady, whose head, sculptured by Chantrey, with
its odd puffs of hair, had a discreet and smiling mien, as of one who
had known enough sorrow to purge prosperity of its grossness.  From the
churchyard there led a little path, which skirted a wide moat of dark
water, full of innumerable fish, basking in the warmth; in the centre
of the moat stood a dark grove of trees, with a thick undergrowth.
Suddenly, through an opening, Hugh saw the turrets of an ancient
gatehouse, built of mellow brick, rising into the sunlight, with an
astonishing sweetness and nobleness of air; below was a lawn, bordered
by yew-hedges, where a party of people, ladies in bright dresses and
leisurely men, were sitting talking with a look of smiling content.  It
was more like a scene in a romance than a thing in real life.  Hugh
stood unobserved beneath a tree, and looked long at the delightful
picture; and then presently wandered further by a grassy lane, with
high hedges full of wild roses and elder-blooms, where the air had a
hot, honied perfume.  He came in a moment to a great clear stream
running silently between banks full of meadow-sweet and loosestrife.
The turrets of the gatehouse looked pleasantly over the trees of the
little park that lay on the other side of the stream.  The air was
still but fresh.  The trees stood silent, with the metallic look of
high summer upon their stiff leaves, as though seen in a picture.  The
whole landscape seemed to have a consecration of quiet joy and peace
over it.  It seemed a place made for the walks of rustic lovers, on
summer evenings, under a low-hung moon.  The whole scene, the homely
bridge, the murmur of the water in the pool, the blossoming hedges, had
a sense of delicate romance about it.  It seemed to stand for so much
happiness, and to draw Hugh into the charmed circle.

The difficulty was somehow to believe that the place was in reality a
centre of real and ordinary life; it seemed almost impossibly beautiful
and delicious to Hugh, like a play enacted for his sole benefit, a
sweet tale told.  Those gracious persons in the garden seemed like
people in a scene out of Boccaccio, whose past and whose future are
alike veiled and unknown, and who just emerge, in the light of art, as
a sweet company seen for an instant, and yet somehow eternally there.
But the thought that they were persons like himself, with cares,
schemes, anxieties, appeared inconceivable; that was one of the curious
illusions of life, that the world through which one moved seemed to
group itself for one's delight into a pleasant vision, which had no
concern for oneself except to brighten and enhance the warm sunlit day
with an indescribable grace and beauty.  How hard to think that it was
all changing and shifting, even while one gazed! that the clear water,
lapsing through the sluice, was passing onwards, and could never again
be at that one sweet point of its seaward course; that the roses were
fading and dying beside him; that the pleasant group on the lawn must
soon break up, never perhaps to reassemble.  If one could but arrest
the quiet flow of things for a moment, suspend it for a period, however
brief!  That was after all the joy of art, that it caught such a moment
as that, while the smiling faces turned to each other, while the sun
lay warm on the brickwork, and made it immortal!

There came into Hugh's mind the thought that this deep thirst for peace
might somehow yet be satisfied.  How could he otherwise conceive of it,
how could he dream so clearly of it, if it were not actually there?  He
thought that there must be a region where the pulse of time should
cease to beat, where there should be no restless looking backwards and
forwards, but where the spirit should brood in an unending joy; but
now, the world thrust one forward, impatient, unsatisfied; even as he
gazed, the shadows had shifted and lengthened, and the thought of the
world, that called him back to care and anxiety, began to overshadow
him.  Was it a phantom that mocked him? or was it not rather a type, an
allegory of something unchanged and unchangeable, that waited for him
beyond?  And then, in that still afternoon, there came to him a sense
that occasionally visited him, and that seemed, when it came, the
truest and best thing in the world, the vision of an unseen Friend, to
Whom he was infinitely dear, closer to Him even than to himself, Who
surrounded and enveloped him with care and concern and love; Who
brought him tenderly into the fair green places of the earth, such as
he had visited to-day, whispered him the secret of it all, and only did
not reveal it in its fulness, because the time for him to know it was
not yet, and because the very delay arose from some depth of
unimaginable love.  In such a mood as this, Hugh felt that he could
wait in utter confidence; that he could drink in with glad eyes and
ears the beautiful and delicate things that were shown to him, the
rich, luxuriant foliage, the dim sun-warmed stream, the silent trees,
the old towers.  There seemed to him nothing that he could not bear,
nothing that he could not gladly do, when so tender a hand was leading
him.  He knew indeed that he would again be impatient, restless,
wilful; but for the moment it was as though he had tasted of some
mysterious sacrament; that the wine of some holy cup had been put to
his lips; that he knew that he was not alone, but in the very heart of
a wise and patient God.



XXXVIII

The Lakes--On the Fell--Peace


It was in the later weeks of a hot, still midsummer that Hugh escaped
from Cambridge to the Lakes.  He did not realise, until he found
himself driving in the cool of the evening beside Windermere, how
parched and dry his very mind had become in the long heats of the
sun-dried flats.  Sometimes the road wound down to the very edge of the
water, lapping deliciously among the stones; sometimes it skirted the
pleasaunces of a cool sheltered villa which lay embowered in trees,
blinking contentedly across the lake.  The sight of the great green
hills with their skirts clothed with wood, with trees straggling
upwards along the water-courses, the miniature crags escaping from
oak-coppices, the black heads of bleak mountains, filled him with an
exquisite and speechless delight.

It was sunset before he reached his destination, which was a large
house of rough stone, much festooned with creepers, which crowned a
little height at the base of the fells, in the centre of a wild wood.
The house was that of a very old man, hard on his ninetieth year, a
relative of Hugh's, and an old friend of his family.  There was a short
cut to the house among the woods, and Hugh left the carriage to go
round by the drive, while he himself walked up.  The path was a little
track among copses, roofed over by interlacing boughs, and giving an
abundance of pretty glimpses to right and left of the unvisited places
of the wood; old brown boulders covered with moss, with ash-suckers
shooting out among the stones, little streams rippling downwards, small
green lawns fringed with low trees.  The western valley was full of a
rich golden light, and the wooded ridges rose quietly one after
another, with the dark solemn forms of mountains on the horizon.  A few
dappled clouds, fringed with fire, floated high in the green sky.  It
all seemed to him to be screening some sacred and mysterious pageant,
which was, as it were, being celebrated out in the west, where the
orange sunset lay dying.  He thought of the lonely valleys among the
hills, slowly filling with twilight gloom, the high ridges from which
one could discern the sun sinking in glory over the far-spread flashing
sea with its misty rim.  The house loomed up suddenly over the
thickets, with a light or two burning in the windows which pierced the
thick wall.

Within, all was as it had been for many a year; it was a house in which
everything seemed to stand still, the day passing smoothly in a simple
and pleasant routine.  He received a very kindly and gentle welcome
from his host, and was pleased to find that the party was of the
quietest--an old friend or two, a widowed daughter of the house, one or
two youthful cousins.  Hugh slipped into his place in the household as
if he had never been absent; he established his books in a corner of
the dark library full of old volumes.  It was always a pleasure to him
to see his host, a courtly, silent old man, with snow-white hair and
beard, who sate smiling, eating so little that Hugh wondered how he
sustained life, reading for an hour or two, walking a little about the
garden, sitting long in contented meditation, never seeming to be weary
or melancholy.  Hugh remembered that, some years before, he had
wondered that any one could live so, neither looking backwards nor
forwards, with no designs or cares or purposes, simply taking each day
as it came with a perfect tranquillity, not overshadowed by the thought
of how few years of life were left him.  But now he seemed to
understand it better; it was just the soft close of a kindly and
innocent life, dying like a tree or a flower.  The old man liked to
have Hugh as the companion of his morning ramble, showed him many
curious plants and flowers, and spoke often of the reminiscences of his
departed youth with no shadow of desire or regret.  At first the
grateful coolness of the place revived Hugh; but the soft, moist
climate brought with it a fatigue of its own, an indolent dejection,
which made him averse to work and even to bodily activity.  He took,
however, one or two lonely walks among the mountains.  In his listless
mood, he was vexed and disquieted by the contrast between the utter
peace and beauty of the hills, which seemed to uplift themselves, half
in majesty and half in appeal, into the still sky, as though they had
struggled out of the world, and yet desired a further blessing,--the
contrast between their meek and rugged patience, and the noisy, dusty
crowd of shameless and indifferent tourists, that circulated among the
green valleys, like a poisonous fluid in the veins of the wholesome
mountains.  They brought a kind of blight upon the place; and yet they
were harmless, inquisitive people, tempted thither, most of them by
fashion, a few perhaps by a feeble love of beauty, and only desirous to
bring their own standard of comforts with them.  The world seemed out
of joint; the radical ugliness and baseness of man an insult to the
purity and sweetness of nature.

Hugh walked back, in a close and heavy afternoon, across the fell, with
these thoughts struggling together in his heart.  The valley was
breathlessly still, and the flies buzzed round him as he disturbed them
from the bracken.  The whole world looked so sweet and noble, that it
was impossible not to think that it was moulded and designed by a Will
of unutterable graciousness and beauty.  From the top, beside a little
crag full of clinging trees, that held on tenaciously to the crevices
and ledges, with so perfect an accommodation to their precarious
situation, Hugh surveyed the wide valleys, and saw the smoke ascend
from hamlets and houses, the lake as still as a mirror, while the
shadows lengthened on the hills, which seemed indeed to change their
very shapes by delicate gradations.  It looked perfectly peaceful and
serene.  Yet in how many houses were there unquiet and suffering
hearts, waiting in vain for respite or release!  The pain of the world
pressed heavily upon Hugh; it seemed that if he could have breathed out
his life there upon the hill-top among the fern, to mingle with the
incense of the evening, that would be best; and yet even while he
thought it, there seemed to contend with his sadness an immense desire
for joy, for life; how many beautiful things there were to see, to
hear, to feel, to say; to be loved, to be needed--how Hugh craved for
that!  While he sate, there alighted on his knee, with much
deliberation, a dry, varnished-looking, orange-banded fly, which might
have almost been turned out of a manufactory a moment before.  It sent
out a thin and musical buzzing, as it cleaned its brown, large-eyed
head industriously with its long legs.  It seemed to wish to sit with
Hugh; and again and again, after a short flight, it returned to the
same place.  What was the meaning of this tiny, definite life, with its
short space of sun and shade, made with so curious and elaborate an
art, so whimsically adorned and glorified?  Here again he was touched
close by the impenetrable mystery of things.  But presently the
cheerful and complacent creature flew off on some secret errand, and
Hugh was left alone again.

He descended swiftly into the valley; the road was full of dust.  The
vehicles, full of chattering, smoking, vacuous persons were speeding
home.  The hands of many were full of poor fading flowers, torn from
lawn and ledge to please a momentary whim.  Yet beside the road slid
the clear stream over its shingle, passing from brisk cascades into
dark and silent pools, fringed with rich water-plants, the trees bowing
over the water.  How swiftly one passed from disgust and ugliness into
unimagined peace!  It was all going forwards, all changing, all tending
to some unknown goal.

Hugh found his host sitting on the terrace, under a leafy sycamore, a
perfect picture of holy age and serenity.  He listened to the recital
of Hugh's little adventures with a smile, and said that he had often
walked over the fell in the old days, but did not suppose he would ever
see it again.  "I am just waiting for my release," he said, with a
little nod of his head; "every time that I sit here, I think it may
very likely be the last."  Hugh longed to ask him the secret of this
contented and passionless peace, but he knew there could be no answer;
it was the kindly gift of God.

The sunset died away among the blue hill-ranges, and a soft breeze
began to stir among the leaves of the sycamore overhead.  A nightjar
sent out its liquid, reiterated note from the heather, and a star
climbed above the edge of the dark hill.  Here was peace enough, if he
could but reach it and seize it.  Yet it softly eluded his grasp, and
seemed only to mock him as unattainable.  Should he ever grasp it?
There was no answer possible; yet a message seemed to come wistfully
and timidly, flying like a night-bird out of the wild woodland, as
though it would have settled near him; but it left him with the same
inextinguishable hunger of the heart, that seemed to be increased
rather than fed by the fragrant incense of the garden, the sight of the
cool, glimmering paths, the pale rock rising from the turf, the silent
pool.



XXXIX

A Friend--The Gate of Life


Hugh was staying in the country with his mother.  It was a bright
morning in the late summer, and he had just walked out on to the little
gravel-sweep before the house, which commanded a view of a pleasant
wooded valley with a stream running through; it was one of those fresh
days, with a light breeze rustling in the trees, when it seemed good to
be alive; rain had fallen in the night, and had washed the dust of a
long drought off the trees; some soft aerial pigment seemed mingled
with the air, lending a rich lustre to everything; the small woods on
the hillside opposite had a mellow colour, and the pastures between
were of radiant and transparent freshness; the little gusts whirled
over the woodland, turning the under sides of the leaves up, and
brightening the whole with a dash of lighter green.

Just at this moment a telegram was put into Hugh's hand, announcing the
sudden death of an elderly lady, who had been a good friend to him for
over twenty years.  Death seemed to be everywhere about him, and the
bright scene suddenly assumed an almost heartless aspect of mirth; but
he put the thought from him, and strove rather to feel that life and
death rejoiced together.

Later in the day he heard more particulars.  His friend was a wealthy
woman who had lived a very quiet life for many years in a pleasant
country-house.  She had often spoken to Hugh of her fear of a long and
tedious illness, wearing alike to both the sufferer and those in
attendance, when the mind may become fretful, fearful, and impatient in
the last scene, just when one most desires that the latest memories of
one's life may be cheerful, brave, and serene.  Her prayer had been
very tenderly answered; she had been ailing of late; but she had been
sitting talking in her drawing-room the day before, to a quiet family
group, when she had been seized with a sudden faintness, and had died
gently, in a few minutes, smiling palely, and probably not even knowing
that she was in any sort of danger.

Hugh spent the day mostly in solitude, and retraced in tender thought
the stages of their long friendship.  His friend had been a woman of
strong and marked individuality, who had loved life, and had made many
loyal friends.  She was intensely, almost morbidly, aware of the
suffering of the world, especially of animals; and Hugh remembered how
she had once told him that a shooting-party in the neighbouring
squire's woods had generally meant for her a sleepless night, at the
thought of wounded birds and beasts suffering and bleeding the long
hours through, couched in the fern, faint with pain, and wondering
patiently what hard thing had befallen them.  She had been a woman of
strong preferences and prejudices, marked likes and dislikes; intensely
critical of others, even of those she loved best.  Her talk was lively,
epigrammatic, and pungent; she was the daughter of a famous Whig house,
and had the strong aristocratical prejudices, coupled with a
theoretical belief in popular equality, so often found in old Whig
families.  But this superiority betrayed itself not in any obvious
arrogance or disdain, but in a high and distinguished personal
courtesy, that penetrated, as if by a subtle aroma, all that she said
or did.  Though careless of personal appearance, with no grace of
beauty, and wearing habitually the oldest clothes, she was yet
indisputably the first person in any society in which she found
herself.  She was intensely reserved about herself, her family, her
possessions, and her past; but Hugh had an inkling that there had been
some deep disappointment in the background, which had turned a
passionately affectionate nature into a fastidious and critical
temperament.  She had a wonderful contralto voice, and a real genius
for music; she could rarely be persuaded to touch an instrument; but
occasionally, with a small and familiar party, she would sing a few old
songs with a passion and a depth of melancholy feeling that produced an
almost physical thrill in her audience.  She was of an indolent
temperament, read little, never worked, had few philanthropic or social
instincts; she was always ready to talk, but was equally content to
spend long afternoons sitting alone before a fire, just shielding her
eyes from the blaze, meditating with an intentness that seemed as
though she were revolving over and over again some particular memory,
some old and sad problem for which she could find no solution.  Hugh
used to think that she blamed herself for something irreparable.

But her gift of humour, of incisive penetration, of serious enthusiasm,
made it always refreshing to be with her; and Hugh found himself
reflecting that though it had been in many ways so inarticulate and
inactive a life, it yet seemed, by virtue of a certain vivid quality, a
certain subdued fire, a life of imperishable worth.  She had been both
generous and severe in her judgments; but there had never been anything
tame, or mild, or weak about her.  She had always known her own mind;
she yielded freely to impulse without ever expressing regret or
repentance.  Small as her circle had been, Hugh yet felt that she had
somehow affected the world; and yet he could indicate nothing that she
had accomplished, except for the fact that she had been a kind of
bracing influence in the lives of all who had come near her.

Her last message to him had been an intensely sympathetic letter of
outspoken encouragement.  She had heard that a severe judgment had been
passed upon Hugh's writings by a common friend.  She knew that this had
been repeated to Hugh, and judged rightly that it had hurt and wounded
him.  Her letter was to the effect that the judgment was entirely
baseless, and that he was to pursue the line he had taken up without
any attempt to deviate from it.  It went to Hugh's heart that he had
made little effort of late, owing to circumstances and pressure of
work, to see her; but he knew that she was aware of his affection, and
he had never doubted hers.  He felt, too, that if there had been
anything to forgive, any shadow of dissatisfaction, it was forgiven in
that moment.  Her death seemed somehow to Hugh to be the strongest
proof he had ever received of the permanent identity of the soul; it
was impossible to think of her as not there; equally impossible was it
to think of her as wrapt in sleep, or even transformed to a heavenly
meekness; he could think of her, with perhaps an added brightness of
demeanour, at the knowledge of how easy a thing after all had been the
passage she had feared, with the dark eyes that he knew so well, like
wells of fire in the pale face, smiling almost disdainfully at the
thought that others should grieve for her; she was one whom it was
impossible ever to compassionate, and Hugh could not compassionate her
now.  She would have had no sort of tolerance for any melancholy or
brooding grief; she would desire to be tenderly remembered, but she
would have been utterly impatient of the thought that any grief for her
should weaken or darken the outlook of her friends upon the world.
Hugh resolved, with a great flood of strong love for his friend, that
he would grieve for her as she would have had him grieve, as though
they were but separated for a little.

She had left, he learnt, the most decisive direction that no one should
be summoned to her funeral: that was so like her brave, sensible
nature; she desired the grief for her to be wholesome and temperate
grief, with no lingering over the sad accidents of mortality.  Hugh
felt the strong bond of friendship, that had existed between them, grow
and blossom into a vigorous and enduring love.  She seemed close beside
him all that day, approving his efforts after a joyful tranquillity.
He could almost see her, if he sank for a moment into a tearful sorrow,
casting upward that impatient look he knew so well, if any instance of
human weakness were related in her presence.

And thus the death of his old friend seemed, as the day drew on, to
have brought a strange brightness into his life, by making the dark
less terrible, the unknown more familiar.  She was there, with the same
brave courtesy, the same wholesome scorn, the same humorous
decisiveness; and though the thought of the gap came like an ache into
his mind, again and again, he resolved that he would not yield to
ineffectual sadness; but that he would be worthy of the friendship
which she had given him, not easily, he remembered, but after long
testing and weighing his character; and that he would be faithful--he
prayed that he might be that--to so pure and generous a gift.



XL

A Funeral Pomp--The Daily Manna--The Lapsing Moment


In Hugh's temperament, sensitive and eager as it was, there was a
strong tendency to live in the future and in the past rather than in
the present.  In the past, he realised, he could live without dismay
and without languor, because the mind has so extraordinary a power of
sifting its memories, of throwing away and disregarding all that is
sordid, ugly, and base, and retaining only the finest gold.  But there
was a danger in dwelling too much upon the future, because the anxious
mind, fertile in imagination, was so apt to weave for itself pictures
of discouragement and failure, sad dilemmas, dreary dishonours,
calamities, shadows, woes.  How often had the thought of what might be
in store clouded the pure sunshine of some bright day of summer; how
often had the thought of isolation, of loss, of bereavement, hung like
a cloud between himself and his intercourse even with those whom he
most feared to lose!  He thought sometimes of that sad and yet bracing
sentiment, uttered by one whose life had been filled with every delight
that wealth, guided by cultivated taste, could purchase.  "My life,"
said this wearied man, "has been clouded by troubles, most of which
never happened."  But even apart from the sorrows which he knew might
or might not befall him, there was one darkest shadow, the shadow of
death, the cessation of beloved energies, of delightful prospects, of
the sweet interchange of friendship, of the bright and brave things of
life.  Could one, he asked himself, ever come to regard death as a
natural, a beautiful thing, a delicious resting from life, an appointed
goal?  It was the one thing certain and inevitable, the last terror,
the final silence, which it seemed nothing could break.

The thought came to him with a deep insistence on a day when a funeral
of a great personage, called away without a single warning, was
celebrated in the chapel of his own college.  There was a great
gathering of friends and residents.  The long procession, blackrobed
and bareheaded, with the chilly winter sun shining down on the court,
wound slowly through the college buildings, with many halts, and at
last entered the great chapel, the organ playing softly a melody of
pathetic grief, in which the sad revolt of human hearts that had loved
life, and the warm, kind world, made itself heard.  They passed to
their places, and then very slowly and heavily, the sad and helpless
burden, the coffin, veiled and palled, freighted with the rich scents
of the dying flowers that lay in stainless purity upon it, was borne to
its place.  The life of their brother had been a very useful, happy,
and innocent life, full of quiet energies, of simple activities, of
refined pleasures.  There seemed no need for its suspension.  The very
suddenness of the summons had been a beautiful and kindly thing,
attended by no fears and little suffering--but kindly, only upon the
supposition that it was necessary.  The holy service proceeded, the
voice of old human sorrow, of tender hope, of ardent faith, thrilling
through the mournful words.  It was well, no doubt, as acquiescence was
inevitable, to acquiesce as patiently, even as eagerly as possible.
But there were two alternatives; either the beloved life had gone out
utterly, as an expiring flame; if so, was it not well to know it, so
that one might frame one's life upon that sad knowledge? yet the heart
could not bear to think it; and then faith seemed to step in, dimly
smiling, finger on lip, and pointing upwards.  If that smile, that
pointing hand, meant anything, why could there not be sent some hint of
certainty, that the sweet, fragrant life that was over, so knit up with
love and friendship and regard, had a further, a serener future
awaiting it?  The question was, did such a scene as was then enacted
hold any real and vital message of hope for the soul; or was it a thing
to turn the back upon, to forget, to banish, as merely casting a shadow
upon the joyful energies of life?

It seemed to Hugh, when the sad rites were done, and he was left alone,
that there was but one solution possible; the thought shaped itself
dimly and wistfully out of the dark--that there was one element that
was out of place, one element over which the mind had a certain power,
that one must resolve to exorcise and cast out--the element of fear.
And yet fear, that unmanning, abominable thing, that struck the light
out of life, that made one incapable of energy and activity alike, was
that too not a dark gift from the Father's hand?  Had it a purifying, a
restoring influence?  It seemed to Hugh that it had none.  Yet why was
it made so terribly easy, so insupportably natural, if it had not its
place in the great economy of God?  Was not this the darkest of dark
dilemmas?  Slowly reflecting on it, Hugh seemed to see that fear had
one effect of good about it; it was one of those things, and alas they
were many, that seemed strewn about us, only that we might learn to
triumph over them.  For one who really believed in the absolutely
infinite and all-embracing Will of God, there was no room for fear at
all.  If the things of life were sent wisely, tenderly, and graciously,
not care, not suffering, not even death admitted of any questioning;
and yet fear seemed a deeper, more instinctive thing than reasoning
itself.  The very fear of non-existence, in the light of reason, seemed
a wholly unreal thing.  No shadow of it attached to the long dark years
of the world, which had passed before one's own conscious life began.
One could look back in the pages of history to the ancient pageant of
the world in which one had no part, and not feel oneself wronged or
misused in having had no share in those vivid things.  Why should we
regard a past in which we had had no conscious part with such a blithe
serenity, and yet look forward to that future, in which, for all we
knew, we could have no part either, with such an envious despair?  The
thought was unreasonable enough, but it was there.  But it was
possible, by thus boldly and tranquilly confronting the problem, to
diminish the pressure of the shadow.  A man could throw himself, could
he not, in utter confidence before the feet of God, claiming nothing,
demanding nothing but the sense of perfect acquiescence in His Will and
Deed?  The secret again was, not to forecast and forebode, but to live
in the day and for the day, practising labour, kindliness, gentleness,
peace.  That was a true image, the image of those old pilgrims who
gathered the manna for their daily use; little or much, it sufficed;
and no one might, through indolence or prudence, evade the daily labour
by laying up a store; the store vanished in corruption.  So it was with
all ambitious dreams, all attempts to lay a jealous hand on what might
be; it was that which poisoned life.  Those far-reaching plans, those
hopes of ease and glory, that wealth laid up for many years, they were
the very substance of decay.  Even fear itself must be accepted, when
it was wholesomely and inevitably there; but not amplified, added to,
dwelt upon.  How rarely was one in doubt about the next, the immediate
duty.  And one could surely win, by patient practice, by resolute
effort, the power of casting out of the moment the shadow of the uneasy
days ahead.  How simple, how brief those very uneasinesses turned out
to be!  Things were never as bad as one feared, ever easier than one
had hoped.  It was a false prudence, a foolish calculation, to think
that by picturing the terrors of a crisis one made it easier when it
came; just as one so sadly discounted joys by anticipation, and found
them hollow, disappointing husks when they lay open in the hand.

Hugh rose up from his thoughts and walked to the window.  The day was
dying, robed in a solemn pomp.  The fields were shrouded in mist, but
the cloud-rims in the west were touched with intense edges of gold;
Hugh thought of the little churchyard that lay beyond those trees,
where, under the raw mould heaped up so mutely, under the old wall,
beside the yew-tree, in the shadow of the chancel-gable, lay the
perishing vesture of the spirit of his friend, banished from light and
warmth to his last cold house.  How lonely, how desolate it seemed; and
the mourners too, sitting in the dreary rooms, with the agony of the
gap upon them, the empty chair, the silent voice, the folded papers,
the closed books!  How could God atone for all that, even though He
made all things new? it was not what was new, but what was old, for
which one craved; that long perspective of summer mornings, of pacings
to and fro, of happy work, of firelit evenings, of talk, of laughter,
the groups breaking up and reforming--how little one had guessed and
valued the joy, the content, the blessing of them at the time!  In the
midst of them, one was reaching forwards, restlessly and vainly, to the
future that was to be richer yet.  Then the future became the happy
present, and still one had leaned forward.  How idle it all was! even
while he waited and gazed, the light of evening was gone, the clouds
were lustreless and wan, the sunset, that band of golden light, was
flying softly, a girdle of beauty round the world; but the twilight and
the night had their beauty too, their peace, their refreshment, their
calm.



XLI

Following the Light--Sincerity


It must not be thought that because this little book attempts to trace
the more secret and solitary thoughts of Hugh, as his soul took shape
under the silent influences of pensive reflection, that the current of
his life was all passed in lonely speculation.  He had a definite place
in the world, and mixed with his fellow-men, with no avoidance of the
little cares of daily life.  He only tended, as solitude became more
dear to him, and as the thoughts that he loved best rose more swiftly
and vividly about him, to frame his life, as far as he could, upon
simple and unambitious lines.

In this he acted according to the dictates of a kind of intuition.  It
was useless, he felt, to analyse motives; it was impossible to discover
how much was disinterestedness, how much unworldliness, how much the
pursuit of truth, how much the avoidance of anxious responsibility, how
much pure indolence.  He was quite ready to believe that a certain
amount of the latter came in, though Hugh was not indolent in the
ordinary sense of the word.  He was incapable of pure idling; but he
was also incapable of carrying out prolonged and patient labour, unless
he was keenly interested in an object; and the fact that he found the
renunciation of ambitions so easy and simple a thing, was a sufficient
proof to him that his interest in mundane things was not very vital.
But Hugh above all things desired to have no illusions about himself;
and he was saved from personal vanity, not so much by humility of
nature, as from a deep sense of the utter dependence of all created
things on their Creator.  He did not look upon his own powers, his own
good qualities, as redounding in any way to his credit, but as the gift
of God.  He never fell into the error of imagining himself to have
achieved anything by his own ability or originality, but only as the
outcome of a desire implanted in him by God, Who had also furnished him
with the requisite perseverance to carry them out.  He could not lay
his finger on any single quality, and say that he had of his own effort
improved it.  And, in studying the lives and temperaments of others, he
did not think of their achievements as things which they had
accomplished; but rather as a sign of the fuller greatness of glory
which had been revealed to them.  Life thus became to him a following
of light; he desired to know his own limitations, not because of the
interest of them, but as indicating to him more clearly what he might
undertake.  It was a curious proof to him of the appropriateness of
each man's conditions and environment to his own particular nature,
when he reflected that no one whom he had ever known, however unhappy,
however faulty, would ever willingly have exchanged identities with any
one else.  People desired to be rid of definite afflictions, definite
faults; they desired and envied particular qualities, particular
advantages that others possessed, but he could not imagine that any one
in the world would exchange any one else's identity for his own; one
would like perhaps to be in another's place, and this was generally
accompanied by a feeling that one would be able to make a much better
thing of another's sources of happiness and enjoyment, than the person
whose prosperity or ability one envied seemed to make.  But he could
hardly conceive of any extremity of despair so great as to make a human
being willing to accept the lot of another in its entirety.  Even one's
own faults and limitations were dear to one; the whole
thing--character, circumstances, relations with others, position--made
up to each person the most interesting problem in the world; and this
immense consciousness of separateness, even of essential superiority,
was perhaps the strongest argument that Hugh knew in favour of the
preservation of a personal identity after death.

Hugh then found himself in this position; he was no longer young, but
he seemed to himself to have retained the best part of youth, its
openness to new impressions, its zest, its sense of the momentousness
of occasions, its hopefulness; he found himself with duties which he
felt himself capable of discharging; with a trained literary instinct
and a real power of expression; even it he had not hitherto produced
any memorable work, he felt that he was equipped for the task, if only
some great and congenial theme presented itself to his mind.  He found
himself with a small circle of friends, with a competence sufficient
for his simple needs; day by day there opened upon his mind ideas,
thoughts, and prospects of ever-increasing mystery and beauty; as to
his character and temperament, he found himself desiring to empty
himself of all extraneous elements, all conventional traditions, all
adopted ideas; his idea of life indeed was that it was an educative
process, and that the further that the soul could advance upon the path
of self-knowledge and sincerity, the more that it could cast away all
the things that were not of its essence, the better prepared one was to
be filled with the divine wisdom.  The deeper that he plunged into the
consideration of the mysterious conditions and laws which surrounded
him, the greater the mystery became; but instead of becoming more
hopeless, it seemed to him that the dawn appeared to brighten every
moment, as one came closer to the appreciation of one's own ignorance,
weakness, and humility.  Instead of drawing nearer to despair, he drew
every day nearer to a tender simplicity, a larger if more distant hope,
an intenser desire to be at one with the vast Will that had set him
where he was, and that denied him as yet a knowledge of the secret.  As
he ascended with slow steps into the dark mountain of life, the
kingdoms of the world became more remote, the noise of their shouting
more faint.  He thought, with no compassion, but with a wondering
tenderness, of the busy throng beneath; but he saw that, one by one,
spirits smitten with the divine hope, slipped from that noisy world,
and like himself, began to climb the solitary hills.  What lay on the
other side?  That he could not even guess; but he had a belief in the
richness, the largeness of the mind of God; and he saw as in a vision
the day breaking on a purer and sweeter world, full of great surprises,
mighty thoughts, pure joys; he knew not whether it was near or far, but
something in his heart told him that it was assuredly there!



XLII

Aconite--The Dropping Veil


How swiftly the summer melted into the autumn! the old lime-trees in
the college court were soon all gold--how bravely that gold seemed to
enrich the heart, on the still, clear, fresh mornings of St. Luke's
summer! that wise physician of souls has indeed had set aside for him
the most inspiriting, the most healing days of the year, days of tonic
coolness, of invigorating colour, of bracing sun; and then the winter
closes in, when light is short, and the sun is low and cold; when the
eye is grateful for the rich brown of naked fields, leafless woods, and
misty distances.  Yet there is a solemn charm about the darkening day,
when the sun sets over the wide plain rolled in smoky vapours, and
gilded banks of cloud; and then there is the long firelit evening to
follow, when books give up their secrets and talk is easiest.

The summer, for all its enervating heat, its piercing light, was the
time, so Hugh thought, for reflection.  In winter the mind is often
sunk in a sort of comfortable drowsiness, and hybernates within its
secure cell.  Hugh found the activities of work very absorbing in those
darker days: his thoughts took on a more placid, more contented tinge.
Early in the year he walked alone along the Backs at Cambridge.  He
passed the great romantic gateposts of St. John's, with the elms of the
high garden towering over them, his mind occupied with a hundred small
designs.  It was with a shock of inexpressible surprise, as he passed
by the clear stream that runs over its sandy shallows, and feeds the
garden moats, to see that in the Wilderness the ground was bright with
the round heads of the yellow aconite, the first flower to hear the
message of spring.  The appearance of that brave and hardy flower in
that particular place had a peculiar and moving association for Hugh.
More than twenty years before, in his undergraduate days, in a time of
deep perplexity of mind, he had walked that way on a bright Sunday
morning, his young heart burdened with sorrowful preoccupation.  How
hard those youthful griefs had been to bear! they were so unfamiliar,
they seemed so irreparably overwhelming; one had not learned to look
over them or through them; they darkened the present, they hung like a
black cloud over the future.  How fantastic, how exaggerated those woes
had been, and yet how unbearably real!  He had stood, he remembered, to
watch the mild sunlight strike in soft shafts among the trees.  The
hardy blossoms, cold and scentless, but so unmistakably alive, had
given him a deep message of hope, a thrill of expectation.  He had gone
back, he remembered, and in a glow of impassioned emotion had written a
little poem on the theme, in a locked notebook, to which he confided
his inmost thoughts.  He could recall some of the poor stanzas still,
so worthless in expression, yet with so fiery a heart.

The thought of the long intervening years came back to Hugh with a
sense of wonder and gratitude.  He had half expected then, he
remembered, that some great experience would perhaps come to him, and
lift him out of his shadowed thoughts, his vague regrets.  That great
experience had not befallen him, but how far more wisely and tenderly
he had been dealt with instead!  Experience had been lavished upon him;
he had gained interest, he had practised activity, and he had found
patience and hope by the way.  He knew no more than he knew then of the
great and dim design that lay behind the world, and now he hardly
desired to know.  He had been led, he had been guided, with a perfect
tenderness, a deliberate love.  The only lost hours, after all, had
been the hours which he had given to anxiety and doubt, to ambition and
desire.  When the moment had come, which he had heavily anticipated,
there had never been any question as to how he should act; and yet he
had not been a mere puppet moved by forces outside his control.  He
could not harmonise the sense of guidance with the sense of freedom,
and yet both had undoubtedly been there.  He had been dealt with both
frankly and tenderly; not saved from fruitful mistakes, not forbidden
to wander; and yet his mistakes had never been permitted to be
irreparable, his wanderings had taught him to desire the road rather
than to dread the desert.

A great sense of tranquillity and peace settled down upon his spirit.
He cast himself in an utter dependence upon the mighty will of the
Father; and in that calm of thought his little cares, and they were
many, faded like wreaths of steam cast abroad upon the air.  To be
sincere and loving and quiet, that was the ineffable secret; not to
scheme for fame, or influence, or even for usefulness; to receive as in
a channel the strength and sweetness of God.

A bird hidden in a dark yew-tree began softly to flute, in that still
afternoon, a little song that seemed like a prayer for bright days and
leafy trees and embowered greenness; a prayer that should be certainly
answered, and the fulfilment of which should be dearer for the delay.
Hugh knew in that moment that the life he had lived and would live was,
in its bareness and bleakness, its veiling cloud, its chilly airs, but
the preface to some vast and glorious springtime of the spirit, when
hill and valley should break together into sunlit bloom, when the trees
should be clothed with leaf, when birds should sing clear for joy, and
the soul should be utterly satisfied.  The old poet had said that the
saddest thing was to remember happy days in hours of sorrow; but to
remember the dreary days in a season of calm content, what joy could be
compared to that?  His heart was slowly filled, as a cup with wine,
with an unutterable hope; but he desired no longer that some great
thing should come to him, which should exalt him above his fellows and
make him envied and admired.  Rather should the humblest and the lowest
place suffice, some corner of life which he should deck, and tend, and
keep bright and sweet; a few hands to grasp, a few hearts to encourage;
and even so to do that with no set purpose, but by merely letting the
gentle joy of the soul overflow, like a spring of brimming waters, fed
from high hills of faith.

And so, like a figure that passes down a corridor and enters at an open
door, Hugh passes from our sight.  He mingles with his fellows, he goes
to and fro, he speaks and he is silent, he smiles and weeps; he may not
be distinguished from other men, and there lies his best happiness,
because he is waiting upon God.  His life may be long or short; he may
mix with the crowd or sit solitary.  If he differs at all from others,
it is in this, that he desires no costly thread of gold, no bright-hued
skein that he may weave his texture of life.  Upon that tapestry will
be depicted no knight in shining armour; no nymphs with floating
vestures, no paradise of flowers; rather dim hills and cloud-hung
valleys, and the darkness of haunted groves; with one figure of shadowy
hue in sober raiment, walking earnestly as one that has a note of the
way; he would desire nothing but what may uphold him; he would fear
nothing but what may stain him; he would shun the company of none who
need him; he would clasp the hand of any gentle-hearted pilgrim.  So
would he walk in quietness to the dim valley and the dark stream,
believing that the Father has a place and a work and a joy for the
smallest thing that His hands have made.



THE END



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