Chapter 4.

{358} WHILE Charles was learning in Carlton's rooms the interest which the world took in his position and acts, he was actually furnishing a topic of conversation to that portion of it who were Carlton's guests in the neighbouring Common-Room. Tea and coffee had made their appearance, the men had risen from the table and were crowding round the fire.

"Who is that Mr. Reding spoken of in the Gazette of last week?" said a prim little man sipping his tea with his spoon, and rising on his toes as he spoke.

"You need not go far for an answer," said his neighbour, and, turning to their host, added, "Carlton, who is Mr. Reding?"

"A very dear honest fellow," answered Carlton: "I wish we were all of us as good. He read with me one Long Vacation, is a good scholar, and ought to have gained his class. I have not heard of him for some time."

"He has other friends in the room," said another: "I think," turning to a young Fellow of Leicester, "you, Sheffield, were at one time intimate with Reding?"

"Yes," answered Sheffield; "and Vincent, of course, {359} knows him too; he's a capital fellow; I know him exceedingly well; what the Gazette says about him is shameful. I never met a man who cared less about success in the schools; it was quite his fault."

"That's about the truth," said another; "I met Mr. Malcolm yesterday at dinner, and it seems he knows the family. He said that his religious notions carried Reding away, and spoiled his reading."

The conversation was not general; it went on in detached groups, as the guests stood together. Nor was the subject a popular one; rather it was either a painful or a disgusting subject to the whole party, two or three curious and hard minds excepted, to whom opposition to Catholicism was meat and drink. Besides, in such chance collections of men, no one knew exactly his neighbour's opinion about it; and, as in this instance, there were often friends of the accused or calumniated present. And, moreover, there was a generous feeling, and a consciousness how much seceders from the Anglican Church were giving up, which kept down any disrespectful mention of them.

"Are you to do much in the schools this term?" said one to another.

"I don't know: we have two men going up, good scholars."

"Who has come into Stretton's place?"

"Jackson, of King's."

"Jackson? indeed; he's strong in science, I think."


"Our men know their books well, but I should not say that science is their line." {360}

"Leicester sends four."

"It will be a large class-list, from what I hear."

"Ah! Indeed! the Michaelmas paper is always a good one."

Meanwhile the conversation was in another quarter dwelling upon poor Charles.

"No, depend upon it, there's more in what the Gazette says than you think. Disappointment is generally at the bottom of these changes."

"Poor devils! they can't help it," said another, in a low voice, to his neighbour.

"A good riddance, anyhow," said the party addressed; "we shall have a little peace at last."

"Well," said the first of the two, drawing himself up and speaking in the air, "how any educated man should—" his voice was overpowered by the grave enunciation of a small man behind them, who had hitherto kept silence, and now spoke with positiveness.

He addressed himself, between the two heads which had just been talking in private, to the group beyond them. "It's all the effect of rationalism," he said; "the whole movement is rationalistic. At the end of three years all those persons who have now apostatised will be infidels."

No one responded; at length another of the party came up to Mr. Malcolm's acquaintance, and said, slowly, "I suppose you never heard it hinted that there is something wrong here in Mr. Reding," touching his forehead significantly; "I have been told it's in the family."

He was answered by a deep powerful voice, belonging {361} to a person who sat in the corner; it sounded like "the great bell of Bow," as if it ought to have closed the conversation. It said abruptly, "I respect him uncommonly; I have an extreme respect for him. He's an honest man; I wish others were as honest. If they were, then, as the Puseyites are becoming Catholics, so we should see old Brownside and his clique becoming Unitarians. But they mean to stick in."

Most persons present felt the truth of his remark, and a silence followed it for a while. It was broken by a clear cackling voice: "Did you ever hear," said he, nodding his head, or rather his whole person, as he spoke, "did you ever, Sheffield, happen to hear that this gentleman, your friend Mr. Reding, when he was quite a freshman, had a conversation with some attaché of the Popish Chapel in this place, at the very door of it, after the men were gone down?"

"Impossible, Fusby," said Carlton, and laughed.

"It's quite true," returned Fusby; "I had it from the Under-Marshal, who was passing at the moment. My eye has been on Mr. Reding for some years."

"So it seems," said Sheffield, "for that must have been at least, let me see, four or five years ago."

"Oh," continued Fusby, "there are two or three more yet to come; you will see."

"Why, Fusby," said Vincent, overhearing and coming up, "you are like the three old crones in the Bride of Lammermoor, who wished to have the straiking of the Master of Ravenswood."

Fusby nodded his person, but made no answer.

"Not all three at once, I hope," said Sheffield. {362}

"Oh, it's quite a concentration, a quintessence of Protestant feeling," answered Vincent; "I consider myself a good Protestant; but the pleasure you have in hunting these men is quite sensual, Fusby."

The Common-Room man here entered, and whispered to Carlton that a stranger was waiting for him in his rooms.

"When do your men come up?" said Sheffield to Vincent.

"Next Saturday," answered Vincent.

"They always come up late," said Sheffield.

"Yes, the House met last week."

"St. Michael's has met too," said Sheffield: "so have we."

"We have a reason for meeting late: many of our men come from the North and from Ireland."

"That's no reason, with railroads."

"I see they have begun our rail," said Vincent; "I thought the University had opposed it."

"The Pope in his own states has given in," said Sheffield, "so we may well do the same."

"Don't talk of the Pope," said Vincent, "I'm sick of the Pope."

"The Pope?" said Fusby, overhearing; "have you heard that his Holiness is coming to England?"

"Oh, oh," cried Vincent, "come, I can't stand this. I must go; good-night t'you, Carlton. Where's my gown?"

"I believe the Common-Room man has hung it up in the passage;—but you should stop and protect me from Fusby." {363}

Neither did Vincent turn to the rescue, nor did Fusby profit by the hint; so poor Carlton, with the knowledge that he was wanted in his rooms, had to stay a good half-hour tête-à-tête with the latter, while he prosed to him in extenso about Pope Sixtus XIV., the Jesuits, suspected men in the University, Mede on the Apostasy, the Catholic Relief Bill, Dr. Pusey's Tract on Baptism, Justification, and the appointment of the Taylor Professors.

At length, however, Carlton was released. He ran across the quadrangle and up his staircase; flung open his door, and made his way to his inner room. A person was just rising to meet him; impossible! but it was, though. "What? Reding!" he cried; "who would have thought! what a pleasure! we were just— …

What brings you here?" he added, in an altered tone. Then gravely, "Reding, where are you?"

"Not yet a Catholic," said Reding.

There was a silence; the answer conveyed a good deal: it was a relief, but it was an intimation. "Sit down, my dear Reding; will you have anything? have you dined? What a pleasure to see you, old fellow! Are we really to lose you?" They were soon in conversation on the great subject.

Chapter 3-5

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