Part 3.

Chapter 1.

{338} BUT now we must look forward, not back. Once before we took leave to pass over nearly two years in the life of the subject of this narrative, and now a second and a dreary and longer interval shall be consigned to oblivion, and the reader shall be set down in the autumn of the year next but one after that in which Charles took his class and did not take his degree.

At this time our interest is confined to Boughton and the Rectory at Sutton. As to Melford, friend Bateman had accepted the incumbency of a church in a manufacturing town with a district of 10,000 souls, where he was full of plans for the introduction of the surplice and gilt candlesticks among his people, and where, it is to be hoped, he will learn wisdom. Willis also was gone, on a different errand: he had bid adieu to his mother and brother soon after Charles had gone into the schools, and now was Father Aloysius de Sancta Cruce in the Passionist Convent of Pennington.

One evening, at the end of September, in the year {339} aforesaid, Campbell had called at Boughton, and was walking in the garden with Miss Reding. "Really, Mary," he said to her, "I don't think it does any good to keep him. The best years of his life are going, and, humanly speaking, there is not any chance of his changing his mind, at least till he has made a trial of the Church of Rome. It is quite possible that experience may drive him back."

"It is a dreadful dilemma," she answered; "how can we even indirectly give him permission to take so fatal a step?"

"He is a dear, good fellow," he made reply; "he is a sterling fellow; all this long time that he has been with me he has made no difficulties; he has read thoroughly the books that I recommended, and more, and done whatever I told him. You know I have employed him in the parish; he has taught the Catechism to the children, and been almoner. Poor fellow, his health is suffering now; he sees there's no end of it, and hope deferred makes the heart sick."

"It is so dreadful to give any countenance to what is so very wrong," said Mary.

"Why, what is to be done?" answered Campbell; "and we need not countenance it; he can't be kept in leading-strings for ever, and there has been a kind of bargain. He wanted to make a move at the end of the first year—I didn't think it worth while to fidget you about it—but I quieted him. We compounded in this way: he removed his name from the college-boards,—there was not the slightest chance of his ever signing the Articles,—and he consented to wait another year. {340} Now the time's up, and more, and he is getting impatient. So it's not we who shall be giving him countenance; it will only be his leaving us."

"But it is so fearful," insisted Mary; "and my poor mother—I declare I think it will be her death."

"It will be a crushing blow, there's no doubt of that," said Campbell; "what does she know of it at present?"

"I hardly can tell you," answered she; "she has been informed of it, indeed, distinctly a year ago; but seeing Charles so often, and he in appearance just the same, I fear she does not realise it. She has never spoken to me on the subject. I fancy she thinks it a scruple; troublesome, certainly, but, of course, temporary."

"I must break it to her, Mary," said Campbell.

"Well, I think it must be done," she replied, heaving a sudden sigh; "and if so, it will be a real kindness in you to save me a task to which I am quite unequal. But have a talk with Charles first. When it comes to the point, he may have a greater difficulty than he thinks beforehand."

And so it was settled; and, full of care at the double commission with which he was charged, Campbell rode back to Sutton.

Poor Charles was sitting at an open window, looking out upon the prospect, when Campbell entered the room. It was a beautiful landscape, with bold hills in the distance, and a rushing river beneath him. Campbell came up to him without his perceiving it; and, putting his hand on his shoulder, asked his thoughts. {341}

Charles turned round, and smiled sadly. "I am like Moses seeing the land," he said; "my dear Campbell, when shall the end be?"

"That, my good Charles, of course does not rest with me," answered Campbell.

"Well," said he, "the year is long run out; may I go my way?"

"You can't expect that I, or any of us, should even indirectly countenance you in what, with all our love of you, we think a sin," said Campbell.

"That is as much as to say, 'Act for yourself,'" answered Charles; "well, I am willing."

Campbell did not at once reply; then he said, "I shall have to break it to your poor mother; Mary thinks it will be her death".

Charles dropped his head on the window-sill, upon his hands. "No," he said; "I trust that she, and all of us will be supported."

"So do I, fervently," answered Campbell; "it will be a most terrible blow to your sisters. My dear fellow, should you not take all this into account? Do seriously consider the actual misery you are causing for possible good."

"Do you think I have not considered it, Campbell? Is it nothing for one like me to be breaking all these dear ties, and to be losing the esteem and sympathy of so many persons I love? Oh, it has been a most piercing thought; but I have exhausted it, I have drunk it out. I have got familiar with the prospect now, and am fully reconciled. Yes, I give up home, I give up all who have ever known me, loved me, valued {342} me, wished me well; I know well I am making myself a by-word and an outcast."

"Oh, my dear Charles," answered Campbell, "beware of a very subtile temptation which may come on you here. I have meant to warn you of it before. The greatness of the sacrifice stimulates you; you do it because it is so much to do."

Charles smiled. "How little you know me!" he said; "if that were the case, should I have waited patiently two years and more? Why did I not rush forward as others have done? You will not deny that I have acted rationally, obediently. I have put the subject from me again and again, and it has returned."

"I'll say nothing harsh or unkind of you, Charles," said Campbell; "but it's a most unfortunate delusion. I wish I could make you take in the idea that there is the chance of its being a delusion."

"Ah, Campbell, how can you forget so?" answered Charles; "don't you know this is the very thing which has influenced me so much all along? I said, 'Perhaps I am in a dream. Oh, that I could pinch myself and awake!' You know what stress I laid on my change of feeling upon my dear father's death; what I thought to be convictions before, vanished then like a cloud. I have said to myself, 'Perhaps these will vanish too'. But no; 'the clouds return after the rain'; they come again and again, heavier than ever. It is a conviction rooted in me; it endures against the prospect of loss of mother and sisters. Here I sit wasting my days, when I might be useful in life. Why? Because this hinders me. Lately it has increased on me tenfold. You will {343} be shocked, but let me tell you in confidence—lately I have been quite afraid to ride, or to bathe, or to do anything out of the way, lest something should happen, and I might be taken away with a great duty unaccomplished. No, by this time I have proved that it is a real conviction. My belief in the Church of Rome is part of myself: I cannot act against it without acting against God."

"It is a most deplorable state of things certainly," said Campbell, who had begun to walk up and down the room; "that it is a delusion I am confident; perhaps you are to find it so, just when you have taken the step. You will solemnly bind yourself to a foreign creed, and, as the words part from your mouth, the mist will roll up from before your eyes, and the truth will show itself. How dreadful!"

"I have thought of that too," said Charles, "and it has influenced me a great deal. It has made me shrink back. But I now believe it to be like those hideous forms which in fairy tales beset good knights, when they would force their way into some enchanted palace. Recollect the words in Thalaba, 'The talisman is faith'. If I have good grounds for believing, to believe is a duty; God will take care of His own work. I shall not be deserted in my utmost need. Faith ever begins with a venture, and is rewarded with sight."

"Yes, my good Charles," answered Campbell; "but the question is, whether your grounds are good. What I mean is, that, since they are not good, they will not avail you in the trial. You will then, too late, find they are not good, but delusive." {344}

"Campbell," answered Charles, "I consider that all reason comes from God; our grounds must at best be imperfect; but if they appear to be sufficient after prayer, diligent search, obedience, waiting, and, in short, doing our part, they are His voice calling us on. He it is, in that case, who makes them seem convincing to us. I am in His hands. The only question is, what would He have me to do? I cannot risk the conviction which is upon me. This last week it has possessed me in a different way than ever before. It is now so strong, that to wait longer is to resist God. Whether I join the Catholic Church is now simply a question of days. I wish, dear Campbell, to leave you in peace and love. Therefore, consent; let me go."

"Let you go!" answered Campbell; "certainly, were it the Catholic Church to which you are going, there would be no need to ask; but 'let you go,' how can you expect it from us when we do not think so? Think of our case, Charles, as well as your own; throw yourself into our state of feeling. For myself, I cannot deny, I never have concealed from you my convictions, that the Romish Church is antichristian. She has ten thousand gifts, she is in many respects superior to our own; but she has a something in her which spoils all. I have no confidence in her; and, that being the case, how can I 'let you go' to her? No: it's like a person saying, 'Let me go and hang myself'; 'let me go sleep in a fever-ward'; 'let me jump into that well'—how can I 'let you go'?"

"Ah," said Charles, "that's our dreadful difference; we can't get farther than that. I think the Church of {345} Rome the Prophet of God; you, the tool of the devil."

"I own," said Campbell, "I do think, that, if you take this step, you will find yourself in the hands of a Circe, who will change you, make a brute of you."

Charles slightly coloured.

"I won't go on," added Campbell; "I pain you; it's no good; perhaps I am making matters worse."

Neither spoke for some time. At length Charles got up, came up to Campbell, took his hand and kissed it. "You have been a kind disinterested friend to me for two years," he said; "you have given me a lodging under your roof; and now we are soon to be united by closer ties. God reward you; 'let me go, for the day breaketh'."

"It is hopeless!" cried Campbell; "let us part friends: I must break it to your mother."

In ten days after this conversation Charles was ready for his journey; his room put to rights; his portmanteau strapped; and a gig at the door which was to take him the first stage. He was to go round by Boughton; it had been arranged by Campbell and Mary that it would be best for him not to see his mother (to whom Campbell had broken the matter at once) till he took leave of her. It would be needless pain to both of them to attempt an interview sooner.

Charles leapt from the gig with a beating heart, and ran up to his mother's room. She was sitting by the fire at her work when he entered; she held out her hand coldly to him, and he sat down. Nothing was said for a little while; then, without leaving off her {346} occupation, she said, "Well, Charles, and so you are leaving us. Where and how do you propose to employ yourself when you have entered upon your new life!"

Charles answered that he had not yet turned his mind to the consideration of anything but the great step on which everything else depended.

There was another silence; then she said, "You won't find anywhere such friends as you have had at home, Charles". Presently she continued, "You have had everything in your favour, Charles; you have been blessed with talents, advantages of education, easy circumstances; many a deserving young man has to scramble on as he can".

Charles answered that he was deeply sensible how much he owed in temporal matters to Providence, and that it was only at His bidding that he was giving them up.

"We all looked up to you, Charles; perhaps we made too much of you; well, God be with you; you have taken your line."

Poor Charles said that no one could conceive what it cost him to give up what was so very dear to him, what was part of himself; there was nothing on earth which he prized like his home.

"Then why do you leave us?" she said quickly; "you must have your way; you do it, I suppose, because you like it."

"Oh really, my dear mother," cried he, "if you saw my heart! You know in Scripture how people were obliged in the Apostles' times to give up all for Christ."

"We are heathens, then!" she replied; "thank you, {347} Charles, I am obliged to you for this;" and she dashed away a tear from her eye.

Charles was almost beside himself; he did not know what to say; he stood up and leaned his elbow on the mantelpiece, supporting his head on his hand.

"Well, Charles," she continued, still going on with her work, "perhaps the day will come" ... her voice faltered; "your dear father" ... she put down her work.

"It is useless misery," said Charles; "why should I stay? good-bye for the present, my dearest mother. I leave you in good hands, not kinder, but better than mine; you lose me, you gain another. Farewell for the present; we will meet when you will, when you call; it will be a happy meeting."

He threw himself on his knees, and laid his cheek on her lap; she could no longer resist him; she hung over him and began to smooth down his hair as she had done when he was a child. At length scalding tears began to fall heavily upon his face and neck; he bore them for a while, then started up, kissed her cheek impetuously, and rushed out of the room. In a few seconds he had seen and had torn himself from his sisters, and was in his gig again by the side of his phlegmatic driver, dancing slowly up and down on his way to Collumpton.

Chapter 3-2

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