« PredošláPokračovať »
Mr. Beauchamp assented.
“I don't agree! I don't agree at all !” cried the Philosopher, growing vehement. " The element of unconsciousness is most essential. If you have a man, for instance, always asking himself, * Am I growing in intelligence, in character ?' and so forth, you get a self-conscious prig! Growth needs to be let alone. Suppose I go out into the garden and pull up my flowers to see how the roots are getting -what would become of them ?”
We could not help smiling at the energy with which he put this hypothetical case.
“Supposing,” said Mr. Waldegrave, “that we get the analogies a little more clearly in our minds first of all before we touch on the differences that exist between the various kinds of growth. First of all let us look at the conditions of growth which somebody mentioned just now, and see if they really have their counterpart in the spiritual world. Perhaps each of you would give us one.” He smilingly looked at my sisters and myself.
" Fresh air,” said Stella boldly.
« Souls dwindle and fade for lack of fresh air as truly as flowers,” said Mr. Beauchamp. dust of earth stifles them."
“Do you remember Arnold's lines ?
they were all trying to live in an exhausted receiver; and I longed to give them some fresh air !”
“ If one or two of them had only taken up some outside pursuit, they would have brought the fresh air with them on their return,” said Mrs. Beauchamp, “ the air of new ideas, which is as necessary to the growth of the whole inner life as oxygen is to the growth of the plant or the human frame.”
“Ah, yes," said Mrs. Arnold, “but their parents
* were very old-fashioned people in a country town, and did not even like too much district visiting or that sort of outside work, apart from anything more modern."
We were interested in this illustration, and were well into a debate on the “ Woman of the Future” when we were recalled with some asperity by our host.
Mr. Scrymgeour held very strong views on the “Woman Question,” and announced that he had not bargained for any revolutionary speeches, but wished to hear what could be said as to the next condition of growth. He appealed to me as to what this was, and I answered, rather at random : “ Sunshine.”
Ah, but is that true in the spiritual sense ?” said Aunt Hester earnestly.
“ Does not "sunshine' sometimes prove the worst of influences for the character ? for instance, what we are customed to call the sunshine of pro: perity ?”
“On the other hand,” said Mrs. Beauchamp, “I am quite sure the development of the young is benefited by plenty of sunshine. What does George Eliot say about it?”
“ We may as well find out,” said our host, disappearing in quest of " George Eliot's Sayings. And, returning with the book, he proceeded to read :
“Much of our early gladness vanishes utterly from our memory. ... doubtless that joy is wrought up into our nature, as the sunlight of long-past mornings is wrought up in the soft mellowness of the apricot.”
added Mrs. Beauchamp.
“ Most appropriate, both quotations,” said Mr. Beauchamp. "Well, the trifling sordid, earthly cares do tend to stifle the growth of the soul, and this is why I believe that added simplicity of life, by providing a clearer atmosphere in which to breathe, would help this inner growth of which we have been speaking."
" Then,” said Mr. Waldegrave, “the inner growth is checked, not only by the petty dust? we breathe, but by the atmosphere becoming vitiated. If plants or human beings breathe the same air over and over again, it becomes poisoned: if souls breathe over and over again a few insufficient ideas, they niust become stunted and unhealthy as truly as plants or children.”
We warmly assented.
“Do you not think," asked Mrs. Arnold, “ that one sees this sort of thing very often in a houseful of leisurely women? I remember one particular—where there was a inost charming family of girls. When they were children, all went so happily ; but when one and another left school and settled at home, somehow it was not so delightful as the mother had expected. There was discontent and dulness, I know, and in one case failing health. I came to the conclusion that
“ That has always struck me as a very apt simile," said Mrs. Beauchamp. “Think of the people who have not had enough sunshine in their youth-how much they are often like fruit in cold wet summer that has never been properly sweetened by the sun !”
“ But no fruit or plant could do with nothing but sunshine,” I ventured to remark, “6 and is it not the same with character ? Perhaps I ought to have said sunshine, rain, wind, snow,' and all the rest.”
We discussed this for a while longer. Aunt Hester seemed rather dubious in the face of Mr. Beauchamp's dogmatic assertion that happiness was good for everybody, and was only half convinced by the familiar verse some one quoted :
“God sendeth sun, He sendeth shower,
She seemed to entertain a conviction I have observed others hold, that the only actively beneficial force was affliction ; joy being neutral in its action when it was not harmful.
The last suggestion made, as a condition of growth, was that of congenial soil; and every one here had much to say as to environment and its effect on character. The influence of circumstances was enlarged upon by one and another, and instances were being quoted of the baleful e fects of uncongenial surroundings, when Mr. Scrym reour, who had been frowning very much, suddenly broke the silence.
“ I consider it one of the most disastrous signs of the present day that 'environment' is made such a powerful factor in men's lives. Circumstances ? Don't talk to me of circumstances ! A plant, it is true, must grow where nature puts it, and must depend for its fit development on the soil-but a man! he can make his own environment, after all. Look at Hugh Miller, the stonemason! Look at Sir Humphrey Davy, the apothecary's apprentice! Look at Michael Faraday the blacksmith! Most of all, look at Epictetus, the lame slave, whose teaching after nineteen centuries can stir the heart and elevate the character! Did they sit still and whine, * I'm in uncongenial soil, so I shan't grow?' Did they talk about square pegs in round holes, forsooth? Rubbish! nonsense! mawkish, feeble sentimentality!"
Our host had grown so much excited that we had to hasten to soothe him down, by admitting that there was a great deal of truth in this view of the matter. Mr. Beauchamp added that he really thought the habit of the age, to refer all character to heredity and environment, tended to emasculate the individual will, and to interfere with true growth. “ But,” he added, “I think that Mr. Scrymgeour's words rather go against his own assertion at the beginning of our debate, that growth must be an unconscious thing and independent of the will.” We all could not but see this, and acknowledge that, while it would be disastrous to be always examining and fumbling after growth of character, it was nevertheless incumbent on us to try and make such conditions for ourselves and those dependent on us, as would promote it. “In the
way as regards physical health,” said Mr. Arnold, “if we are always scrutinising and worrying about it, we run a fair chance of losing or impairing health : but that fact does not do away with the necessity of providing healthy conditions of life.”
“ There is one point we have not touched on," said Mrs. Beauchamp, "and that is, the law followed in growth-of individual fitness for each character. The ideal for each of us, into which we must grow, is God's thought for each of us—and it is not the same for any two natures.”
We dwelt on this for a few moments, and our conversation insensibly took a graver turn, on growth in what is specially termed the Christian life.
“ There is a view of the Christian life,” said Mr. Beauchamp," which is, I believe, perfectly erroneous, and beguiles too many into a fatal
content. It is the easy view that 'conversion' is everything; that things once set right and the soul placed, so to speak, in the heavenward way, all is satisfactory ; as the traveller who has taken his ticket and entered the train, is borne on without difficulty to his journey's end."
Aunt Hester looked rather distressed at this simile, and seemed about to demur.
“ Do not misunderstand me," continued the artist. “I mean to suggest two things only ; one, that the term Christian life is too readily taken to mean one set of emotions and convictions alone, without reference to anything beyond ; the other, that, to use olden and familiar terms, `justification is too often brought into undue prominence at the expense of sanctification.' The latter is a word dear to our Puritan fortfathers, and we need not be afraid to use it."
“Does not the one follow inevitably on the other ?” asked Aunt Hester, gently. “And is your thought compatible with the deepest significance of genuine conversion ?”
“We should follow the other, of course,” said Mr. Beauchamp, “but I do not think it is always so. Perhaps in the revulsion of feeling against extremes, we a little too much afraid in modern times of saintliness. That does not certainly result from sitting down and complacently feeling one is safe for heaven-while others are not."
“ Neither does it result from relying on the efficacy of one's own good works," said Aunt Hester gravely.
“Of course not. I think you are perhaps misunderstanding me a little," said Mr. Beauchamp courteously. “ The more saintly a character becomes, the more humble is the estimate of its own attainment. I need not quote sacred words to prove that. But, is it not a fact that one often hears people speak as though the religious life' only covered one set of emotions ? Now holiness is an affair of the whole nature : to perfect action it needs ever clearer perception, wiser judgment, deeper love, increased charity, faith, and hope. No view of the Christian life that does not include the whole nature, provides fitly for growth. And can this growth be attained by one mental act?”
“ Like Milton's Satan leaping over the wall into Paradise at one bound," I suggested, but I was frowned down.
“It cannot be so attained,” said Mr. Waldegrave, thoughtfully. “Yet all growth presupposes life. And as life is always the impenetrable mystery of the Divine-when the Divine life has been once breathed into the soul by God, who shall measure the method of its working ? "
“ Also it is only fair to say,” added Mrs. Beauchamp, " that there are cases in which the transformation wrought by (ne crisis in the soul's history is simply immeasurable."
“ Immeasurable as the difference between life and death," said Mr. Waldegrave. “Then do
you think it is possible to live without sin in the world ?” asked Aunt Hester.
“I think it is a great pity to dwell upon any questions at all of limit and time," said Mr
Beauchamp. • There is the Vision of the Perfect Christ before us ; here are we, with our lives to use in aspiring towards that ideal ; let us put all minor considerations aside, only let us see that we are aspiring to it with all our being."
We discussed this for a while longer, and found ourselves turning towards the picture of human life and of the soul's history drawn by Browning in the “ Ring and the Book,” in which he contends that the whole machinery of life is devised for the growth of the soul.
“is, not of the analogy, but of the difference between the natural and the spiritual. Man, unlike the plant, the animal, cannot grow to his full measure of being on earth, and this in itself supports the hope of immortality.
“For instance, the star-fish is perfect in its kind, as Browning says:
"He, whole in body and soul, outstrips
Man, found with either in default ...
“I reach into the dark, Feel what I cannot see, and still faith stands; I can believe this dread machinery Of sin and sorrow, would confound me else, Devised-all pain, at inost expenditure Of pain by Who devised pain,—to evolve By new machinery in counterpart The moral qualities of man—how else ?To make him love in turn and be beloved, Creative, and self-sacrificing too, And thus eventually God-like.”
“On the other hand, man, with his infinite capacities, needs eternity to develope them; and herein lies the truth of this saying : "The thought of Eternity makes the saints.
“When I called you in from the garden,” said the Philosopher good-humouredly, turning towards us, the younger members of the party, “ I did not mean to inflict so solemn a discussion on you as this has proved to be.”
We assured him, with truth, that we were glad we had heard it. For myself, as I afterwards roamed through glade and garden, I felt new meaning in the beauty of the world, and new symbolism in the mystery of growth. There is ineffable significance in these common sights of spring, and I could, in a new sense, echo the poet's words:
"Attempt is growth," and the effort of the soul towards God is the promise of ultimate attainment. If a plant in a dark cellar struggle never so feebly towards the light, its growth is ensured.
In this sense, the turning, first of all, towards God--the cɔnversion-does imply the ultimate result. But that result will not come without perseverance in the Christian life.
“What, to me, is the most significant thought we have expressed to-day,” said Mr. Waldegrave,
FOLD my hands in the gloamin',
My eyes are tired and dim, And I fancy the bairnies' voices
Are singing the vesper hymn They used to carol so sweetly
In the days that are long gone by,
The sorrowing wife and I.
For many a year since then ;
For over threescore and ten-
It wears to Saturday night,
In the dawn of the Sunday Light!
Ah, the day never wears to gloamin',
Nor gloamin' to darksome night,
Of which His face is the Light;
Sweet rest for the foot and hand; Where He'll give such peace to the spirit,
As no mortal can understand. Oh, wondrous love of the promise,
That pardon and welcome free
Are waiting for even me!
It wears to Saturday night,
In the dawn of the Sunday Light!
HELEN MARIOX BURXSIDE.
delayed bad news equally. Marie, if she endured
Thus the winter passed away, silently for all,
One day in early spring, Neeltje, the serving. maid, told Marie that there was a poor woman in the kitchen, who would not be satisfied without seeing the Juffrouw herself.
Marie, with Roskě to help her, was engaged in the important task of washing up the precious ware of Delft which they had used for their ten o'clock dinner. She did not want to be disturbed, nor was it anything unusual to be asked for by the poor and needy, so she said, “Give her some broth, and tell her I will come anon.”
“Please you, Mejuffrouw, Kätje set broth before her, but she will not eat—not a spoonful—till she has seen you, though she looks poor and hungry enough. I left Kätje talking to her, and indeed she seems to take to her mightily. 'Like to likeJack to Gill
-a penny a pair.' There be Paternoster Gills going, as well as Paternoster Jacks, and Heaven knows which are the better, or the worse.” Neeltje was a zealous Protestant, while her fellow-servant, Kätje, adhered to the old faith.
“I am ready now,” said Marie, handing over CHAPTER XXIII.—THE VISIT OF THE BÉGUINE. the last plate to Roskě, “but remember, Neeltje,
ill names do good to no one.” TEEKS and months slipped quietly away in Neeltje left the room, muttering another Dutch
the little Utrecht household ; but each, as proverb, “I have a mouth which I feed, and it
it passed, brought to Marie an increased must speak what I please," and Marie followed her anxiety, an aggravated suspense. How was it to the kitchen. that for more than a year she had had no word, An old woman, spare and shrivelled, with snowno message from Edward? Yet she knew well white hair, but eyes still dark and bright, rose as that she only bore the common burden of her sex. she entered, and made her a reverence.
She was In those days, the separation between town and clad in a well-worn cloak of coarse grey frieze, and town was greater than that between continent and a hood of the same material covered her head. continent is now. And if this was true even in Still, it was no mere compassion for her age and peace, what must it have been when a savage war her look of weariness which made Marie say to was desolating the land ?
her, in a tone almost of respect, “Sit down, good But few evils are quite unmixed ; if the absence mother, and tell me what it is you would have of posts and telegraphs delayed good news, they of me.”
“Good mother, say you ? 'Tis a kind word, and suits the young lip and the old ear passing well. Methinks you will not unsay it when you hear my errand. But let these go from us.” She glanced at the two maidens, who stood near with openmouthed curiosity.
Marie dismissed them promptly, not much to their satisfaction, and the old woman began at once :
“I speak to the Demoiselle Marie Perrenot, promised in marriage to Edward Wallingford ?”
The crimson that sprang to the cheek of Marie, the light in her eye, the quiver on her lip, were answer enough.
“Yes, child, I see-mine eye is not dim yet, though it has served me nearly threescore years and ten. You are longing for news of him ?”
“As the starving long for bread,” Marie said, drawing nearer.
“I come to you with bread. Sit down, child, for ere I speak I must ask somewhat. How much do you know already?"
“One letter - but one-since he left us,” gasped Marie. Oh, mother, is it good news or bad ?”
“Good news, else would I scarce have journeyed all the way from Amsterdam to tell it. Bad news travels fast enough, and needs no helping on. Yet not always, for I must needs begin my tale with a piece of bad news which seems not to have reached thee. Was it not told thee that thy lover was in Maestricht, on some errand from the Prince of Orange, when the town was taken again by the Spaniards last October
“No,” said Marie, growing white.
“ Dear child, fear nothing,” she said kindly. “It is true that his friends and comrades think him dead, and I wonder you have not heard as much, for when the town was taken there were many slain, and such as he was little likely to escape. But out of deadly peril he was saved, through the mercy of God and the kindness of a kinsman who was with the Spaniards.”
“A kinsman? An Englishman? How could an Englishman be with the Spaniards?" Marie asked, bewildered and incredulous. “No Englishman fights for Spain.”
“This Englishman was not fighting. He was a man of peace, seeking to soften the miseries of war. He took Edward Wallingford under his protection, and brought him with him to a place of safety. There he is now.”
" Where?” " That I
may not tell thee. Enough—he is safe and well.”
“ He is a prisoner then," Marie said eagerly. - The Prince must be told. He will ransom him, or find an exchange, as he did for M. de St. Aldegonde."
“To tell your Prince is to lose your breath,” the old woman answered with quiet decision. the Prince could only treat with the new governor, Don John, and where Edward is, Don John has no power, it is beyond his jurisdiction." "Ob mother-kind, good mother, if you would
but tell me the place
“ Have I not spoken? May not is cannot. But know that he is kindly entreated; well fed,
well lodged, with access to books, and exercise at his desire in the open air.”
“ But a prisoner ? ”
“ There is but one way of looking at it,” Marie said. “If he were free, he would come back to us.
“He will come back to you one day.” “But when? How soon?”
“ That I cannot tell. It depends upon circumstances.”
“But could not a good ransom open the doors of his prison? Mother, if gold could avail in aught-I am not rich, yet would I, and my
brother and our friends, engage to find enough--more than enough of it."
Marie's eyes sparkled with eager hope ; it occurred to her that this mysterious beggarwoman might be a secret agent sent to negotiate a ransom, else why had she come at all ?
But the old woman shook her head.
“Gold,” she answered, “can do nothing. Edward himself might do much ; he holds indeed his fate in his own hands; and I doubt not (mark me well!)—I doubt not that in the end he will come to terms, and accept his liberty upon reasonable conditions. But in the meantime, out of compassion for thy sorrow, I have been permitted to bring thee a message of hope.”
“ Did he perchance send me a word-a token ?”
“He had no opportunity. He was merely told thou wouldst be apprised of his safety, without the when or the how. But, as for a token that this thing is true - he has taught thee, perhaps, a little of his own tongue?”
“ A few words only. For example, the Paternoster in English, “ Our Father which art in H aren.”
“ Hallored be Thy name ; Thy Kingdom come,” the old woman continued reverently.
How, mother, you speak English ?” “I am English, my child. Edward Wallingford is
my kinsman also, therefore have I come hither to see you and to comfort you.”
Overcome with surprise and pleasure, Marie would fain have made the old English woman an honoured guest, have brought her to Adrian and Roskě, have set the best they had before her. But she would accept nothing at her hands, save one thing only, which she herself asked of her.
“ Kiss me once, Marie, Edward's bride," she said.
“Edward's bride, if God will,” said Marie rather sadly, as she very willingly gave the kiss.
“ He does will it, and it shall be," the old woman answered.
« But when that day comes, remember one thing, my child, wife and husband must be of the same faith.”
• No fear but we will," returned Marie, smiling. “ Edward's faith is dearer to him than life. So is mine."
“We shall see, child, we shall see. Now, whilst I eat this morsel of bread, do me the further courtesy to go and fetch thy brother, that I may exchange a word with him also."
“But, mother, you must come with me, and eat manchet bread and refresh thyself.”