Chapter 9.

{413} CHARLES threw himself on his chair, burying the Crucifix in his bosom, quite worn out with his long trial and the sudden exertion in which it had just now been issuing. When a noise was heard at his door, and knocks succeeded, he took no further notice than to plant his feet on the fender and bury his face in his hands. The summons at first was apparently from one person only, but his delay in answering it gave time for the arrival of another; and there was a brisk succession of alternate knocks from the two which Charles let take its course. At length one of the rival candidates for admission, bolder than the other, slowly opened the door; when the other, who had impetuously scrambled upstairs after his fall, rushed in before him, crying out, "One word for the New Jerusalem!" "In charity," said Reding, without changing his attitude, "in charity, leave me alone. You mean it well, but I don't want you, sir; I don't indeed. I've had Old Jerusalem here already, and Jewish Apostles, and Gentile Apostles, and free inquiry, and fancy religion, and Exeter Hall. What have I done? why can't I die out in peace? My dear {414} sir, do go! I can't see you; I'm worn out." And he rose up and advanced towards him. "Call again, dear sir, if you are bent on talking with me; but, excuse me, I really have had enough of it for one day. No fault of yours, my dear sir, that you have come the sixth or seventh." And he opened the door for him.

"A madman nearly threw me down as I was coming up," said the person addressed, in some agitation.

"Ten thousand pardons for his rudeness, my dear sir—ten thousand pardons, but allow me;" and he bowed him out of the room. He then turned round to the other stranger, who had stood by in silence: "And you too, sir ... is it possible!" His countenance changed to extreme surprise; it was Mr. Malcolm. Charles's thoughts flowed in a new current, and his tormentors were suddenly forgotten.

The history of Mr. Malcolm's calling was simple. He had always been a collector of old books, and had often taken advantage of the stores of Charles's landlord in adding to his library. Passing through London to the Eastern Counties Rail, he happened to call in; and, as his friend the bookseller was not behind his own reading-room in the diffusion of gossip, he learned that Mr. Reding, who was on the point of seceding from the Establishment, was at that moment above stairs. He waited with impatience through Dr. Kitchens's visit, and even then found himself, to his no small annoyance, in danger of being outstripped by the good Swedenborgian.

"How d'ye do, Charles?" he said, at length, with not a little stiffness in his manner, while Charles had {415} no less awkwardness in receiving him; "you have been holding a levee this morning; I thought I should never get to see you. Sit you down; let us both sit down, and let me at last have a word or two with you."

In spite of the diversified trial Charles had sustained from strangers that morning, there was no one perhaps whom he would have less desired to see than Mr. Malcolm. He could not help associating him with his father, yet, he felt no opening of heart towards him, nor respect for his judgment. His feeling was a mixture of prescriptive fear and friendliness, attachment from old associations, and desire of standing well with him, but neither confidence nor real love. He coloured up and felt guilty, yet without a clear understanding why.

"Well, Charles Reding," he said, "I think we know each other well enough for you to have given me a hint of what was going on as regards you."

Charles said he had written to him only the evening before.

"Ah, when there was not time to answer your letter," said Mr. Malcolm.

Charles said he wished to spare so kind a friend … he bungled, and could not finish his sentence.

"A friend, who, of course, could give no advice," said Mr. Malcolm, drily. Presently he said, "Were those people some of your new friends who were calling on you? they have kept me in the shop this three-quarters of an hour; and the fellow who has just come down nearly threw me over the baluster." {416}

"Oh no, sir, I know nothing of them; they were the most unwelcome of intruders."

"As some one else seems to be," said Mr. Malcolm. Charles was very much hurt; the more so, because he had nothing to say; he kept silence.

"Well, Charles," said Mr. Malcolm, not looking at him, "I have known you from this high; more, from a child in arms. A frank, open boy you were; I don't know what has spoiled you. These Jesuits, perhaps ... It was not so in your father's lifetime."

"My dear sir," said Charles, "it pierces me to the heart to hear you talk so. You have indeed always been most kind to me. If I have erred, it has been an error of judgment; and I am very sorry for it, and hope you will forgive it. I acted for the best; but I have been, as you must feel, in a most trying situation. My mother has known what I was contemplating this year past."

"Trying situation! fudge! What have you to do with situations? I could have told you a great deal about these Catholics; I know all about them. Error of judgment! don't tell me. I know how these things happen quite well. I have seen such things before; only I thought you a more sensible fellow. There was young Dalton of St. Cross; he goes abroad, and falls in with a smooth priest who persuades the silly fellow that the Catholic Church is the ancient and true Church of England, the only religion for a gentleman; he is introduced to a Count this, and a Marchioness that, and returns a Catholic. There was another; what was his name? I forget it, of a Berkshire family. He is smitten {417} with a pretty face; nothing will serve but he must marry her; but she's a Catholic and can't marry a heretic; so he, forsooth, gives up the favour of his uncle and his prospects in the county, for his fair Juliet. There was another—but it's useless going on. And, now I wonder what has taken you."

All this was the best justification for Charles's not having spoken to Mr. Malcolm on the subject. That gentleman had had his own experience of thirty or forty years, and, like some great philosophers, he made that personal experience of his the decisive test of the possible and the true. "I know them," he continued—"I know them; a set of hypocrites and sharpers. I could tell you such stories of what I fell in with abroad. Those priests are not to be trusted. Did you ever know a priest?"

"No," answered Charles.

"Did you ever see a Popish chapel?"

"No."

"Do you know anything of Catholic books, Catholic doctrine, Catholic morality? I warrant it, not much."

Charles looked very uncomfortable.

"Then what makes you go to them?"

Charles did not know what to say.

"Silly boy," he went on, "you have not a word to say for yourself; it's all idle fancy. You are going as a bird to the fowler."

Reding began to rouse himself; he felt he ought to say something; he felt that silence would tell against him. "Dear sir," he answered, "there's nothing but may be turned against one if a person is so minded. {418} Now, do think; had I known this or that priest, you would have said at once, 'Ah, he came over you'. If I had been familiar with Catholic chapels, 'I was allured by the singing or the incense'. What can I have done better than keep myself to myself, go by my best reason, consult the friends whom I happened to find around me, as I have done, and wait in patience till I was sure of my convictions?"

"Ah, that's the way with you youngsters," said Mr. Malcolm; "you all think you are so right; you do think so admirably that older heads are worth nothing to the like of you. Well," he went on, putting on his gloves, "I see I am not in the way to persuade you. Poor dear Charlie, I grieve for you; what would your poor father have said, had he lived to see it? Poor Reding, he has been spared this. But perhaps it would not have happened. I know what the upshot will be; you will come back—come back you will, to a dead certainty. We shall see you back, foolish boy, after you have had your gallop over your ploughed field. Well, well; better than running wild. You must have your hobby; it might have been a worse; you might have run through your money. But perhaps you'll be giving it away, as it is, to some artful priest. It's grievous, grievous; your education thrown away, your prospects ruined, your poor mother and sisters left to take care of themselves. And you don't say a word to me." And he began musing. "A troublesome world: good-bye, Charles; you are high and mighty now, and are in full sail: you may come to your father's friend some day in a different temper. Good-bye." {419}

There was no help for it; Charles's heart was full, but his head was wearied and confused, and his spirit sank; for all these reasons he had not a word to say, and seemed to Mr. Malcolm either stupid or close. He could but wring warmly Mr. Malcolm's reluctant hand, and accompany him down to the street-door.

Chapter 3-10

Top | Contents | Works | Home


Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.