Chapter 8.

{53} SHEFFIELD and Charles may go their way, but we must follow White and Willis out of Bateman's lodgings. It was a Saint's day, and they had no lectures; they walked arm-in-arm along Broad Street, evidently very intimate, and Willis found his voice: "I can't bear that Freeborn," said he, "he's such a prig; and I like him the less because I am obliged to know him".

"You knew him in the country, I think?" said White.

"In consequence, he has several times had me to his spiritual tea-parties, and has introduced me to old Mr. Grimes, a good, kind-hearted old fogie, but an awful evangelical, and his wife worse. Grimes is the old original religious tea-man, and Freeborn imitates him. They get together as many men as they can, perhaps twenty freshmen, bachelors, and masters, who sit in a circle, with cups and saucers in their hands and hassocks at their knees. Some insufferable person of Capel Hall or St. Mark's, who hardly speaks English, under pretence of asking Mr. Grimes some divinity question, holds forth on original sin, or justification, or assurance, monopolizing the conversation. {54} Then tea-things go, and a portion of Scripture comes instead; and old Grimes expounds; very good it is, doubtless, though he is a layman. He's a good old soul; but no one in the room can stand it; even Mrs. Grimes nods over her knitting, and some of the dear brothers breathe very audibly. Mr. Grimes, however, hears nothing but himself. At length he stops; his hearers wake up, and the hassocks begin. Then we go; and Mr. Grimes and the St. Mark's man call it a profitable evening. I can't make out why any one goes twice; yet some men never miss."

"They all go on faith," said White; "faith in Mr. Grimes."

"Faith in old Grimes," said Willis; "an old half-pay lieutenant."

"Here's a church open," said White; "that's odd; let's go in."

They entered; an old woman was dusting the pews as if for service. "That will be all set right," said Willis; "we must have no women, but sacristans and servers."

"Then, you know, all these pews will go to the right about. Did you ever see a finer church for a function?"

"Where would you put the sacristy?" said Willis; "that closet is meant for the vestry, but would never be large enough."

"That depends on the number of altars the church admits," answered White; "each altar must have its own dresser and wardrobe in the sacristy."

"One," said Willis, counting, "where the pulpit stands, that'll be the high altar; one quite behind, that {55} may be Our Lady's; two, one on each side of the chancel—four already; to whom do you dedicate them?"

"The church is not wide enough for those side ones," objected White.

"Oh, but it is," said Willis; "I have seen, abroad, altars with only one step to them, and they need not be very broad. I think, too, this wall admits of an arch—look at the depth of the window; that would be a gain of room."

"No," persisted White; "the chancel is too narrow" and he began to measure the floor with his pocket-handkerchief. "What would you say is the depth of an altar from the wall?" he asked.

On looking up he saw some ladies in the church whom he and Willis knew—the pretty Miss Boltons—very Catholic girls, and really kind, charitable persons into the bargain. We cannot add that they were much wiser at that time than the two young gentlemen whom they now encountered; and if any fair reader thinks our account of them a reflection on Catholic-minded ladies generally, we beg distinctly to say that we by no means put them forth as a type of a class; that among such persons were to be found, as we know well, the gentlest spirits and the tenderest hearts; and that nothing short of severe fidelity to historical truth keeps us from adorning these two young persons in particular with that prudence and good sense with which so many such ladies were endowed. These two sisters had open hands, if they had not wise heads; and their object in entering the church (which was not the church of their own parish) {56} was to see the old woman, who was at once a subject and instrument of their bounty, and to say a word about her little grandchildren, in whom they were interested. As may be supposed, they did not know much of matters ecclesiastical, and they knew less of themselves; and the latter defect White could not supply, though he was doing, and had done, his best to remedy the former deficiency; and every meeting did a little.

The two parties left the church together, and the gentlemen saw the ladies home. "We were imagining, Miss Bolton," White said, walking at a respectful distance from her, "we were imagining St. James's a Catholic Church, and trying to arrange things as they ought to be."

"What was your first reform?" asked Miss Bolton.

"I fear," answered White, "it would fare hard with your protègèe, the old lady who dusts out the pews."

"Why, certainly," said Miss Bolton, "because there would be no pews to dust."

"But not only in office, but in person, or rather in character, she must make her exit from the church," said White.

"Impossible," said Miss Bolton; "are women, then, to remain Protestants?"

"Oh, no," answered White, "the good lady will reappear only in another character; she will be a widow?"

"And who will take her present place?"

"A sacristan," answered White: "a sacristan in a cotta. Do you like the short cotta or the long?" he continued, turning to the younger lady. {57}

"I?" answered Miss Charlotte; "I always forget, but I think you told us the Roman was the short one; I'm for the short cotta."

"You know, Charlotte," said Miss Bolton, "that there's a great reform going on in England in ecclesiastical vestments."

"I hate all reforms," answered Charlotte, "from the Reformation downwards. Besides, we have got some way in our cope; you have seen it, Mr. White? it's such a sweet pattern."

"Have you determined what to do with it?" asked Willis.

"Time enough to think of that," said Charlotte; "it'll take four years to finish."

"Four years!" cried White; "we shall be all real Catholics by then; England will be converted."

"It will be done just in time for the Bishop," said Charlotte.

"Oh, it's not good enough for him!" said Miss Bolton; "but it may do in church for the Asperges. How different all things will be!" continued she; "I don't quite like, though, the idea of a cardinal in Oxford. Must we be so very Roman? I don't see why we might not be quite Catholic without the Pope."

"Oh, you need not be afraid," said White sagely; "things don't go so apace. Cardinals are not so cheap."

"Cardinals have so much state and stiffness," said Miss Bolton: "I hear they never walk without two servants behind them; and they always leave the room directly dancing begins." {58}

"Well, I think Oxford must be just cut out for cardinals," said Miss Charlotte; "can anything be duller than the President's parties? I can fancy Dr. Bone a cardinal, as he walks round the parks."

"Oh, it's the genius of the Catholic Church," said White; "you will understand it better in time. No one is his own master; even the Pope cannot do as he will; he dines by himself, and speaks by precedents."

"Of course he does," said Charlotte, "for he is infallible."

"Nay, if he makes mistakes in the functions," continued White, "he is obliged to write them down and confess them, lest they should be drawn into precedents."

"And he is obliged, during a function, to obey the master of ceremonies, against his own judgment," said Willis.

"Didn't you say the Pope confessed, Mr. White?" asked Miss Bolton; "it has always puzzled me whether the Pope was obliged to confess like another man."

"Oh, certainly," answered White, "every one confesses."

"Well," said Charlotte, "I can't fancy Mr. Hurst of St. Peter's, who comes here to sing glees, confessing, or some of the grave heads of houses, who bow so stiffly."

"They will all have to confess," said White.

"All?" asked Miss Bolton; "you don't mean converts confess? I thought it was only old Catholics."

There was a little pause. {59}

"And what will the heads of houses be?" asked Miss Charlotte.

"Abbots or superiors," answered White; "they will bear crosses; and when they say Mass, there will be a lighted candle in addition."

"What a good portly abbot the Vice-Chancellor will make!" said Miss Bolton.

"Oh, no; he's too short for an abbot," said her sister; "but you have left out the Chancellor himself: you seem to have provided for every one else; what will become of him?"

"The Chancellor is my difficulty," said White, gravely.

"Make him a Knight-Templar," said Willis.

"The Duke's a queer hand," said White, still thoughtfully: "there's no knowing what he'll come to. A Knight-Templar—yes; Malta is now English property; he might revive the order."

The ladies both laughed.

"But you have not completed your plan, Mr. White," said Miss Bolton: "the heads of houses have got wives; how can they become monks?"

"Oh, the wives will go into convents," said White: "Willis and I have been making inquiries in the High Street, and they are most satisfactory. Some of the houses there were once university-halls and inns, and will easily turn back into convents: all that will be wanted is grating to the windows."

"Have you any notion what order they ought to join?" said Miss Charlotte.

"That depends on themselves," said White: "no {60} compulsion whatever must be put on them. They are the judges. But it would be useful to have two convents—one of an active order, and one contemplative: Ursuline for instance, and Carmelite of St. Theresa's reform."

Hitherto their conversation had been on the verge of jest and earnest; now it took a more pensive tone.

"The nuns of St. Theresa are very strict, I believe, Mr. White," said Miss Bolton.

"Yes," he made reply; "I have fears for the Mrs. Wardens and Mrs. Principals who at their age undertake it."

They had got home, and White politely rang the bell.

"Younger persons," said he tenderly, "are too delicate for such a sacrifice."

Louisa was silent; presently she said, "And what will you be, Mr. White?"

"I know not," he answered; "I have thought of the Cistercians; they never speak".

"Oh, the dear Cistercians!" she said; "St. Bernard wasn't it?—sweet, heavenly man, and so young! I have seen his picture: such eyes!"

White was a good-looking man. The nun and the monk looked at each other very respectfully, and bowed; the other pair went through a similar ceremony; then it was performed diagonally. The two ladies entered their home; the two gentlemen retired.

We must follow the former upstairs. When they entered the drawing-room they found their mother sitting at the window in her bonnet and shawl, dipping {61} into a chance volume in that unsettled state which implies that a person is occupied, if it may be so called, in waiting, more than in anything else.

"My dear children," she said as they entered, "where have you been? the bells have stopped a good quarter of an hour: I fear we must give up going to church this morning."

"Impossible, dear mamma," answered Miss Bolton: "we went out punctually at half-past nine; we did not stop two minutes at your worsted-shop; and here we are back again."

"The only thing we did besides," said Charlotte, "was to look in at St. James's, as the door was open, to say a word or two to poor old Wiggins. Mr. White was there, and his friend Mr. Willis; and they saw us home."

"Oh, I understand," answered Mrs. Bolton; "that is the way when young gentlemen and ladies get together: but at any rate we are late for church."

"Oh, no," said Charlotte, "let us set out directly, we shall get in by the first lesson."

"My dear child, how can you propose such a thing?" said her mother: "I would not do so for any consideration; it is so very disgraceful. Better not go at all."

"Oh, dearest mamma," said the elder sister, "this certainly is a prejudice. Why always come in at one time? there is something so formal in people coming in all at once, and waiting for each other. It is surely more reasonable to come in when you can; so many things may hinder persons." {62}

"Well, my dear Louisa," said her mother, "I like the old way. It used always to be said to us, Be in your seats before 'When the wicked man,' and at latest before the 'Dearly Beloved'. That's the good old-fashioned way. And Mr. Jones and Mr. Pearson used always to sit at least five minutes in the desk to give us some law, and used to look round before beginning; and Mr. Jones used frequently to preach against late corners. I can't argue, but it seems to me reasonable that good Christians should hear the whole service. They might as well go out before it's over."

"Well, but, mamma," said Charlotte, "so it is abroad; they come in and go out when they please. It's so devotional."

"My dear girl," said Mrs. Bolton, "I am too old to understand all this; it's beyond me. I suppose Mr. White has been saying all this to you. He's a good young man, very amiable and attentive. I have nothing to say against him, except that he is young, and he'll change his view of things when he gets older."

"While we talk, time's going," said Louisa; "is it quite impossible we should still go to church?"

"My dear Louisa, I would not walk up the aisle for the world; positively I should sink into the earth: such a bad example! How can you dream of such a thing?"

"Then I suppose nothing's to be done," said Louisa, taking off her bonnet; "but really it is very sad to make worship so cold and formal a thing. Twice as {63} many people would go to church if they might be late."

"Well, my dear, all things are changed now: in my younger days Catholics were the formal people, and we were the devotional; now it's just the reverse."

"But isn't it so, dear mamma?" said Charlotte, "isn't it something much more beautiful, this continued concourse, flowing and ebbing, changing yet full, than a way of praying which is as wooden as the reading-desk?—it's so free and natural."

"Free and easy, I think," said her mother; "for shame, Charlotte! how can you speak against the beautiful Church Service; you pain me."

"I don't," answered Charlotte; "it's a mere puritanical custom, which is no more part of our Church than the pews are."

"Common Prayer is offered to all who can come," said Louisa; "church should be a privilege, not a mere duty."

"Well, my dear love, this is more than I can follow. There was young George Ashton—he always left before the sermon; and when taxed with it, he said he could not bear an heretical preacher; a boy of eighteen!"

"But, dearest mamma," said Charlotte, "what is to be done when a preacher is heretical? what else can be done?—it's so distressing to a Catholic mind."

"Catholic, Catholic!" cried Mrs. Bolton, rather vexed; "give me good old George the Third and the Protestant religion. Those were the times! Everything went on quietly then. We had no disputes or {64} divisions; no differences in families. But now it is all otherwise. My head is turned, I declare; I hear so many strange, out-of-the-way things."

The young ladies did not answer; one looked out of the window, the other prepared to leave the room.

"Well, it's a disappointment to us all," said their mother; "you first hindered me going, then I have hindered you. But I suspect, dear Louisa, mine is the greater disappointment of the two."

Louisa turned round from the window.

"I value the Prayer Book as you cannot do, my love," she continued; "for I have known what it is to one in deep affliction. May it be long, dearest girls, before you know it in a similar way; but if affliction comes on you, depend on it, all these new fancies and fashions will vanish from you like the wind, and the good old Prayer Book alone will stand you in any stead."

They were both touched.

"Come, my dears; I have spoken too seriously," she added. "Go and take your things off, and come and let us have some quiet work before luncheon-time."

Chapter 1-9

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