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Chapter 1

  • The cuckoo clock in Mrs. Roots's kitchen had just struck three. A wind roare_rom the north-east, and light thickened beneath a sky which made threat o_now. Peak was in a mood to enjoy the crackling fire; he settled himself wit_ book in his easy-chair, and thought with pleasure of two hours' reading, before the appearance of the homely teapot.
  • Christmas was just over—one cause of the feeling of relief and quietness whic_ossessed him. No one had invited him for Christmas Eve or the day tha_ollowed, and he did not regret it. The letter he had received from Marti_arricombe was assurance enough that those he desired to remember him stil_id so. He had thought of using this season for his long postponed visit t_wybridge, but reluctance prevailed. All popular holidays irritated an_epressed him; he loathed the spectacle of multitudes in Sunday garb. It wa_ll over, and the sense of that afforded him a brief content.
  • This book, which he had just brought from the circulating library, wa_ltogether to his taste. The author, Justin Walsh, he knew to be a brother o_rofessor Walsh, long ago the object of his rebellious admiration. Matter an_reatment rejoiced him. No intellectual delight, though he was capable of i_n many forms, so stirred his spirit as that afforded him by a vigorous moder_riter joyously assailing the old moralities. Justin Walsh was a modern of th_oderns; at once man of science and man of letters; defiant without a hint o_opular cynicism, scornful of English reticences yet never gross. '~Oui, repondit Pococurante, il est beau d'ecrire ce qu 'on pense; c'est le privileg_e l'homme~.' This stood by way of motto on the title-page, and Godwin fel_is nerves thrill in sympathetic response.
  • What a fine fellow he must be to have for a friend! Now a man like this surel_ad companionship enough and of the kind he wished? He wrote like one wh_ssociates freely with the educated classes both at home and abroad. Was h_arried? Where would he seek his wife? The fitting mate for him woul_oubtless be found among those women, cosmopolitan and emancipated, whos_cquaintance falls only to men in easy circumstances and of good socia_tanding, men who travel much, who are at home in all the great centres o_ivilisation.
  • As Peak meditated, the volume fell upon his knee. Had it not lain in his ow_ower to win a reputation like that which Justin Walsh was achieving? Hi_aper in The Critical Review, itself a decided success, might have bee_ollowed up by others of the same tenor. Instead of mouldering in a dul_athedral town, he might now be living and working in France or Germany. Hi_oney would have served one purpose as well as the other, and two or thre_ears of determined effort——
  • Mrs. Roots showed her face at the door.
  • 'A gentleman is asking for you, sir,—Mr. Chilvers.'
  • 'Mr. Chilvers? Please ask him to come up.'
  • He threw his book on to the table, and stood in expectancy. Someone ascende_he stairs with rapid stride and creaking boots. The door was flung open, an_ cordial but affected voice burst forth in greeting.
  • 'Ha, Mr. Peak! I hope you haven't altogether forgotten me? Delighted to se_ou again!'
  • Godwin gave his hand, and felt it strongly pressed, whilst Chilvers gazed int_is face with a smiling wistfulness which could only be answered with a gri_f discomfort. The Rev. Bruno had grown very tall, and seemed to be in perfec_ealth; but the effeminacy of his brilliant youth still declared itself in hi_ttitudes, gestures, and attire. He was dressed with marked avoidance of th_rofessional pattern. A hat of soft felt but not clerical, fashionable colla_nd tie, a sweeping ulster, and beneath it a frock-coat, which was doubtles_he pride of some West End tailor. His patent-leather boots were dandiacall_iminutive; his glove fitted like that of a lady who lives but to be bie_antee. The feathery hair, which at Whitelaw he was wont to pat and smooth, still had its golden shimmer, and on his face no growth was permitted.
  • 'I had heard of your arrival here, of course,' said Peak, trying to appea_ivil, though anything more than that was beyond his power. 'Will you si_own?'
  • 'This is the "breathing time o' the day" with you, I hope? I don't distur_our work?'
  • 'I was only reading this book of Walsh's. Do you know it?'
  • But for some such relief of his feelings, Godwin could not have sat still.
  • There was a pleasure in uttering Walsh's name. Moreover, it would serve as _est of Chilvers' disposition.
  • 'Walsh?' He took up the volume. 'Ha! Justin Walsh. I know him. A wonderfu_ook! Admirable dialectic! Delicious style!'
  • 'Not quite orthodox, I fancy,' replied Godwin, with a curling of the lips.
  • 'Orthodox? Oh, of course not, of course not! But a rich vein of humanity.
  • Don't you find that?—Pray allow me to throw off my overcoat. Ha, thanks!—_ich vein of humanity. Walsh is by no means to be confused with th_ullifidians. A very broad-hearted, large-souled man; at bottom the truest o_hristians. Now and then he effervesces rather too exuberantly. Yes, I admi_t. In a review of his last book, which I was privileged to write for one o_ur papers, I ventured to urge upon him the necessity of ~restraint~; it seem_o me that in this new work he exhibits more self-control, an approach to th_erene fortitude which I trust he may attain. A man of the broades_rotherliness. A most valuable ally of renascent Christianity.'
  • Peak was hardly prepared for this strain. He knew that Chilvers prided himsel_n 'breadth', but as yet he had enjoyed no intercourse with the broades_chool of Anglicans, and was uncertain as to the limits of moder_atitudinarianism. The discovery of such fantastic liberality in a man whom h_ould not but dislike and contemn gave him no pleasure, but at least i_isposed him to amusement rather than antagonism. Chilvers' pronunciation an_hraseology were distinguished by such original affectation that it wa_mpossible not to find entertainment in listening to him. Though his voice wa_aturally thin and piping, he managed to speak in head notes which had a rin_f robust utterance. The sound of his words was intended to correspond wit_heir virile warmth of meaning. In the same way he had cultivated a habit o_he muscles which conveyed an impression that he was devoted to athleti_ports. His arms occasionally swung as if brandishing dumb-bells, his ches_ow and then spread itself to the uttermost, and his head was often throw_ack in an attitude suggesting self-defence.
  • 'So you are about to join us,' he exclaimed, with a look of touching interest, much like that of a ladies' doctor speaking delicately of favourable symptoms.
  • Then, as if consciously returning to the virile note, 'I think we shal_nderstand each other. I am always eager to study the opinions of those amon_s who have scientific minds. I hear of you on all hands; already you hav_trongly impressed some of the thinking people in Exeter.'
  • Peak crossed his legs and made no reply.
  • 'There is distinct need of an infusion of the scientific spirit into the wor_f the Church. The churchman hitherto has been, as a matter of course, of th_iterary stamp; hence much of our trouble during the last half-century. I_ehoves us to go in for science— physical, economic—science of every kind.
  • Only thus can we resist the morbific influences which inevitably beset a_stablished Church in times such as these. I say it boldly. Let us throw asid_ur Hebrew and our Greek, our commentators ancient and modern! Let us hav_one with polemics and with compromises! What we have to do is to construct _piritual edifice on the basis of scientific revelation. I use the wor_evelation advisedly. The results of science are the divine message to ou_ge; to neglect them, to fear them, is to remain under the old law whilst th_ew is demanding our adherence, to repeat the Jewish error of bygone time.
  • Less of St Paul, and more of Darwin! Less of Luther, and more of Herber_pencer!'
  • 'Shall I have the pleasure of hearing this doctrine at St Margaret's?' Pea_nquired.
  • 'In a form suitable to the intelligence of my parishioners, taken in the mass.
  • Were my hands perfectly free, I should begin by preaching a series of sermon_n The Origin of species. Sermons! An obnoxious word! One ought never to us_t. It signifies everything inept, inert.'
  • 'Is it your serious belief, then, that the mass of parishioners here o_lsewhere—are ready for this form of spiritual instruction?'
  • 'Most distinctly—given the true capacity in the teacher. Mark me; I don't sa_hat they are capable of receiving much absolute knowledge. What I desire i_hat their minds shall be relieved from a state of harassing conflict—put a_he right point of view. They are not to think that Jesus of Nazareth teache_aith and conduct incompatible with the doctrines of Evolutionism. They ar_ot to spend their lives in kicking against the pricks, and regard a_eritorious the punctures which result to them. The establishment in thei_inds of a few cardinal facts—that is the first step. Then let th_nterpretation follow—the solace, the encouragement, the hope for eternity!'
  • 'You imagine,' said Godwin, with a calm air, 'that the mind of the averag_hurch-goer is seriously disturbed on questions of faith?'
  • 'How can you ignore it, my dear Peak?—Permit me this familiarity; we are ol_ellow-collegians.—The average churchgoer is the average citizen of ou_nglish commonwealth,—a man necessarily aware of the great Radical movement, and all that it involves. Forgive me. There has been far too much blinking o_ctualities by zealous Christians whose faith is rooted in knowledge. We gai_othing by it; we lose immensely. Let us recognise that our churches ar_illed with sceptics, endeavouring to believe in spite of themselves.'
  • 'Your experience is much larger than mine,' remarked the listener, submissively.
  • 'Indeed I have widely studied the subject.'
  • Chilvers smiled with ineffable self-content, his head twisted like that of _agacious parrot.
  • 'Granting your average citizen,' said the other, 'what about the averag_itizeness? The female church-goers are not insignificant in number.'
  • 'Ha! There we reach the core of the matter! Woman! woman! Precisely there i_he most hopeful outlook. I trust you are strong for female emancipation?'
  • 'Oh, perfectly sound on that question!'
  • 'To be sure! Then it must be obvious to you that women are destined to pla_he leading part in our Christian renascence, precisely as they did in th_riginal spreading of the faith. What else is the meaning of the vast activit_n female education? Let them be taught, and forthwith they will rally to ou_road Church. A man may be content to remain a nullifidian; women cannot res_t that stage. They demand the spiritual significance of everything.—I griev_o tell you, Peak, that for three years I have been a widower. My wife die_ith shocking suddenness, leaving me her two little children. Ah, but leavin_e also the memory of a singularly pure and noble being. I may say, with al_umility, that I have studied the female mind in its noblest modern type. _now what can be expected of woman, in our day and in the future.'
  • 'Mrs. Chilvers was in full sympathy with your views?'
  • 'Three years ago I had not yet reached my present standpoint. In severa_irections I was still narrow. But her prime characteristic was the tendenc_o spiritual growth. She would have accompanied me step by step. In very man_espects I must regard myself as a man favoured by fortune,—I know it, and _rust I am grateful for it, —but that loss, my dear Peak, counterbalances muc_appiness. In moments of repose, when I look back on work joyously achieved, _ften murmur to myself, with a sudden sigh, ~Excepto quod non simul esses, caetera Iaetus~!'
  • He pronounced his Latin in the new-old way, with Continental vowels. Th_ffect of this on an Englishman's lips is always more or less pedantic, and i_is case it was intolerable.
  • 'And when,' he exclaimed, dismissing the melancholy thought, 'do you presen_ourself for ordination?'
  • It was his habit to pay slight attention to the words of anyone but himself, and Peak's careless answer merely led him to talk on wide subjects wit_enewal of energy. One might have suspected that he had made a list o_ncommon words wherewith to adorn his discourse, for certain of thes_requently recurred. 'Nullifidian', 'morbific', 'renascent', were among hi_avourites. Once or twice he spoke of 'psychogenesis', with an emphati_nunciation which seemed to invite respectful wonder. In using Latin word_hich have become fixed in the English language, he generally corrected th_ommon errors of quantity: 'minnus the spiritual fervour', 'acting as his ~loccum tennens~'. When he referred to Christian teachers with whom he wa_cquainted, they were seldom or never members of the Church of England.
  • Methodists, Romanists, Presbyterians appeared to stand high in his favour, an_eak readily discerned that this was a way ofdisplaying 'large-soule_olerance'. It was his foible to quote foreign languages, especially passage_hich came from heretical authors. Thus, he began to talk of Feuerbach for th_ole purpose of delivering a German sentence.
  • 'He has been of infinite value to me—quite infinite value. You remember hi_efinition of God? It is constantly in my mind. "~Gott ist eine Trane de_iebe, in tiefster Verborgenheit vergossen uber das menschliche EIend~."
  • Profoundly touching! I know nothing to approach it.'
  • Suddenly he inquired:
  • 'Do you see much of the Exeter clergy?'
  • 'I know only the Vicar of St. Ethelreda's, Mr. Lilywhite.'
  • 'Ha! Admirable fellow! Large-minded, broad of sympathies. Has distinctly th_cientific turn of thought.'
  • Peak smiled, knowing the truth. But he had hit upon a way of meeting the Rev.
  • Bruno which promised greatly to diminish the suffering inherent in th_ituation. He would use the large-souled man deliberately for his mirth.
  • Chilvers's self-absorption lent itself to persiflage, and by indulging in tha_ood Godwin tasted some compensation for the part he had to play.
  • 'And I believe you know the Warricombes very well?' pursued Chilvers.
  • 'Yes.'
  • 'Ha! I hope to see much of them. They are people after my own heart. Long ag_ had a slight acquaintance with them. I hear we shan't see them till th_ummer.'
  • 'I believe not.'
  • 'Mr. Warricombe is a great geologist, I think?—Probably he frequents publi_orship as a mere tribute to social opinion?'
  • He asked the question in the airiest possible way, as if it mattered nothin_o him what the reply might be.
  • 'Mr. Warricombe is a man of sincere piety,' Godwin answered, with grav_ountenance.
  • 'That by no means necessitates church-going, my dear Peak,' rejoined th_ther, waving his hand.
  • 'You think not? I am still only a student, you must remember. My mind is i_uspense on not a few points.'
  • 'Of course! Of course! Pray let me give you the results of my own thought o_his subject.'
  • He proceeded to do so, at some length. When he had rounded his last period, h_nexpectedly started up, swung on his toes, spread his chest, drew a dee_reath, and with the sweetest of smiles announced that he must postpone th_elight of further conversation.
  • 'You must come and dine with me as soon as my house is in reasonable order. A_et, everything is ~sens dessus-dessous~. Delightful old city, Exeter!
  • Charming! Charming!'
  • And on the moment he was gone.
  • What were this man's real opinions? He had brains and literature; his pos_efore the world was not that of an ignorant charlatan. Vanity, no doubt, wa_is prime motive, but did it operate to make a cleric of a secret materialist, or to incite a display of excessive liberalism in one whose convictions wer_rthodox? Godwin could not answer to his satisfaction, but he preferred th_atter surmise.
  • One thing, however, became clear to him. All his conscientious scruples abou_ntering the Church were superfluous. Chilvers would have smiled pityingly a_nyone who disputed his right to live by the Establishment, and to stand up a_n authorised preacher of the national faith. And beyond a doubt he regulate_is degree of 'breadth' by standards familiar to him in professiona_ntercourse. To him it seemed all-sufficient to preach a gospel of mora_rogress, of intellectual growth, of universal fraternity. If this were th_endency of Anglicanism, then almost any man who desired to live a cleanl_ife, and to see others do the same, might without hesitation become _lergyman. The old formulae of subscription were so symbolised, s_olatilised, that they could not stand in the way of anyone but a combativ_ihilist. Peak was conscious of positive ideals by no means inconsistent wit_hristian teaching, and in his official capacity these alone would direct him.
  • He spent his evening pleasantly, often laughing as he recalled a phrase o_esture of the Rev. Bruno's.
  • In the night fell a sprinkling of snow, and when the sun rose it gleamed fro_ sky of pale, frosty blue. At ten o'clock Godwin set out for his usual walk, choosing the direction of the Old Tiverton Road. It was a fortnight since h_ad passed the Warricombes' house. At present he was disposed to indulge th_houghts which a sight of it would make active.
  • He had begun the ascent of the hill when the sound of an approaching vehicl_aused him to raise his eyes—they were generally fixed on the ground when h_alked alone. It was only a hired fly. But, as it passed him, he recognise_he face he had least expected to see,— Sidwell Warricombe sat in th_arriage, and unaccompanied. She noticed him—smiled—and bent forward. H_lutched at his hat, but it happened that the driver had turned to look a_im, and, instead of the salute he had intended, his hand waved to the man t_top. The gesture was scarcely voluntary; when he saw the carriage pull up, his heart sank; he felt guilty of monstrous impudence. But Sidwell's fac_ppeared at the window, and its expression was anything but resentful; sh_ffered her hand, too. Without preface of formal phrase he exclaimed:
  • 'How delightful to see you so unexpectedly! Are you all here?'
  • 'Only mother and I. We have come for a day or two.'
  • 'Will you allow me to call? If only for a few minutes'——
  • 'We shall be at home this afternoon.'
  • 'Thank you! Don't you enjoy the sunshine after London?'
  • 'Indeed I do!'
  • He stepped back and signed to the driver. Sidwell bent her head and was out o_ight.
  • But the carriage was visible for some distance, and even when he could n_onger see it he heard the horse's hoofs on the hard road. Long after the las_ound had died away his heart continued to beat painfully, and he breathed a_f recovering from a hard run.
  • How beautiful were these lanes and hills, even in mid-winter! Once more h_ang aloud in his joyous solitude. The hope he had nourished was no_nreasonable; his boldness justified itself. Yes, he was one of the men wh_ucceed, and the life before him would be richer for all the mistakes an_iseries through which he had passed. Thirty, forty, fifty—why, twenty year_ence he would be in the prime of manhood, with perhaps yet another twent_ears of mental and bodily vigour. One of the men who succeed!