Chapter 20.

{325} THE conversation flagged; Bateman was again busy with his memory; and he was getting impatient too; time was slipping away, and no blow struck; moreover, Willis was beginning to gape, and Charles seemed impatient to be released. "These Romanists put things so plausibly," he said to himself, "but very unfairly, most unfairly; one ought to be up to their dodges. I dare say, if the truth were known, Willis has had lessons; he looks so demure; I dare say he is keeping back a great deal, and playing upon my ignorance. Who knows? perhaps he's a concealed Jesuit." It was an awful thought, and suspended the course of his reflections some seconds. "I wonder what he does really think; it's so difficult to get at the bottom of them; they won't tell tales, and they are under obedience; one never knows when to believe them. I suspect he has been wofully disappointed with Romanism; he looks so thin; but of course he won't say so; it hurts a man's pride, and he likes to be consistent; he doesn't like to be laughed at, and so he makes the best of things. I wish I knew how to treat him; I was wrong in having Reding here; of course {326} Willis would not be confidential before a third person. He's like the fox that lost his tail, it was bad tact in me; I see it now; what a thing it is to have tact! it requires very delicate tact. There are so many things I wished to say, about Indulgences, about their so seldom communicating; I think I must ask him about the Mass." So, after fidgeting a good deal within, while he was ostensibly employed in making tea, he commenced his last assault.

"Well, we shall have you back again among us by next Christmas, Willis," he said; "I can't give you greater law; I am certain of it; it takes time, but slow and sure. What a joyful time it will be! I can't tell what keeps you; you are doing nothing; you are flung into a corner; you are wasting life. What keeps you?"

Willis looked odd; then he simply answered, "Grace".

Bateman was startled, but recovered himself; "Heaven forbid," he said, "that I should treat these things lightly, or interfere with you unduly. I know, my dear friend, what a serious fellow you are; but do tell me, just tell me, how can you justify the Mass, as it is performed abroad; how can it be called a 'reasonable service,' when all parties conspire to gabble it over as if it mattered not a jot who attended to it, or even understood it? Speak, man, speak," he added, gently shaking him by the shoulder.

"These are such difficult questions," answered Willis; "must I speak? Such difficult questions," he continued, rising into a more animated manner, and {327} kindling as he went on; "I mean, people view them so differently: it is so difficult to convey to one person the idea of another. The idea of worship is different in the Catholic Church from the idea of it in your Church; for, in truth, the religions are different. Don't deceive yourself, my dear Bateman," he said tenderly, "it is not that ours is your religion carried a little farther,—a little too far, as you would say. No, they differ in kind, not in degree; ours is one religion, yours another. And when the time comes, and come it will, for you, alien as you are now, to submit yourself to the gracious yoke of Christ, then, my dearest Bateman, it will be faith which will enable you to bear the ways and usages of Catholics, which else might perhaps startle you. Else, the habits of years, the associations in your mind of a certain outward behaviour with real inward acts of devotion, might embarrass you, when you had to conform yourself to other habits, and to create for yourself other associations. But this faith, of which I speak, the great gift of God, will enable you in that day to overcome yourself, and to submit, as your judgment, your will, your reason, your affections, so your tastes and likings, to the rule and usage of the Church. Ah, that faith should be necessary in such a matter, and that what is so natural and becoming under the circumstances, should have need of an explanation! I declare, to me," he said, and he clasped his hands on his knees, and looked forward as if soliloquising,—"to me nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses for ever and not be tired. It is not a mere form of words, {328} —it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but, if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal. He becomes present on the altar in flesh and blood, before whom angels bow and devils tremble. This is that awful event which is the scope, and is the interpretation, of every part of the solemnity. Words are necessary, but as means, not as ends; they are not mere addresses to the throne of grace, they are instruments of what is far higher, of consecration, of sacrifice. They hurry on as if impatient to fulfil their mission. Quickly they go, the whole is quick; for they are all parts of one integral action. Quickly they go; for they are awful words of sacrifice, they are a work too great to delay upon; as when it was said in the beginning: 'What thou doest, do quickly'. Quickly they pass; for the Lord Jesus goes with them, as He passed along the lake in the days of His flesh, quickly calling first one and then another. Quickly they pass; because as the lightning which shineth from one part of heaven unto the other, so is the coming of the Son of Man. Quickly they pass; for they are as the words of Moses, when the Lord came down in the cloud, calling on the Name of the Lord as He passed by, 'the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth'. And as Moses on the mountain, so we too 'make haste and bow our heads to the earth, and adore'. So we, all around, each in his place, look out for the great Advent, 'waiting for the moving of the water'. Each in his place, with his own heart, with his own wants, with his own thoughts, with his own intention, with his {329} own prayers, separate but concordant, watching what is going on, watching its progress, uniting in its consummation;—not painfully and hopelessly following a hard form of prayer from beginning to end, but, like a concert of musical instruments, each different, but concurring in a sweet harmony, we take our part with God's priest, supporting him, yet guided by him. There are little children there, and old men, and simple labourers, and students in seminaries, priests preparing for Mass, priests making their thanksgiving; there are innocent maidens, and there are penitent sinners; but out of these many minds rises one eucharistic hymn, and the great Action is the measure and scope of it. And oh, my dear Bateman," he added, turning to him, "you ask me whether this is not a formal, unreasonable service—it is wonderful!" he cried, rising up, "quite wonderful. When will these dear good people be enlightened? O Sapientia, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia, O Adonai, O Clavis David et Exspectatio gentium, veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster."

Now, at least, there was no mistaking Willis. Bateman stared, and was almost frightened at a burst of enthusiasm which he had been far from expecting. "Why, Willis," he said, "it is not true, then, after all, what we heard, that you were somewhat dubious, shaky, in your adherence to Romanism? I'm sure I beg your pardon; I would not for the world have annoyed you, had I known the truth."

Willis's face still glowed, and he looked as youthful and radiant as he had been two years before. There was nothing ungentle in his impetuosity; a smile, {330} almost a laugh, was on his face, as if he was half ashamed of his own warmth; but this took nothing from its evident sincerity. He seized Bateman's two hands before the latter knew where he was, lifted him up out of his seat, and, raising his own mouth close to his ear, said, in a low voice, "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all who hear me this day, were both in little and in much such as I am, except these chains". Then, reminding him it had grown late, and bidding him good-night, he left the room with Charles.

Bateman remained a while with his back to the fire after the door had closed; presently he began to give expression to his thoughts. "Well," he said, "he's a brick, a regular brick; he has almost affected me myself. What a way those fellows have with them! I declare his touch has made my heart beat; how catching enthusiasm is! Any one but I might really have been unsettled. He is a real good fellow; what a pity we have not got him! he's just the sort of man we want. He'd make a splendid Anglican; he'd convert half the Dissenters in the country. Well, we shall have them in time; we must not be impatient. But the idea of his talking of converting me! 'in little and in much,' as he worded it! By-the-bye, what did he mean by 'except these chains'?" He sat ruminating on the difficulty; at first he was inclined to think that, after all, he might have some misgiving about his position; then he thought that perhaps he had a hair-shirt or a catenella on him; and lastly, he came to the conclusion that he had just meant nothing at all, and did but finish the quotation he had begun. {331}

After passing some little time in this state, he looked towards the tea-tray; poured himself out another cup of tea; ate a bit of toast; took the coals off the fire; blew out one of the candles, and taking up the other, left the parlour and wound like an omnibus up the steep twisting staircase to his bedroom.

Meanwhile Willis and Charles were proceeding to their respective homes. For a while they had to pursue the same path, which they did in silence. Charles had been moved far more than Bateman, or rather touched, by the enthusiasm of his Catholic friend, though, from a difficulty in finding language to express himself, and a fear of being carried off his legs, he had kept his feelings to himself. When they were about to part, Willis said to him, in a subdued tone, "You are soon going to Oxford, dearest Reding; oh, that you were one with us! You have it in you. I have thought of you at Mass many times. Our priest has said Mass for you. Oh, my dear friend, quench not God's grace; listen to His call; you have had what others have not. What you want is faith. I suspect you have quite proof enough; enough to be converted on. But faith is a gift; pray for that great gift, without which you cannot come to the Church; without which," and he paused, "you cannot walk aright when you are in the Church. And now farewell! alas, our path divides; all is easy to him that believeth. May God give you that gift of faith, as He has given me! Farewell again; who knows when I may see you next, and where? may it be in the courts of the true Jerusalem, the Queen of Saints, the Holy {332} Roman Church, the Mother of us all!" He drew Charles to him and kissed his cheek, and was gone before Charles had time to say a word.

Yet Charles could not have spoken had he had ever so much opportunity. He set off at a brisk pace, cutting down with his stick the twigs and brambles which the pale twilight discovered in his path. It seemed as if the kiss of his friend had conveyed into his own soul the enthusiasm which his words had betokened. He felt himself possessed, he knew not how, by a high superhuman power, which seemed able to push through mountains, and to walk the sea. With winter around him, he felt within like the springtide, when all is new and bright. He perceived that he had found, what indeed he had never sought, because he had never known what it was, but what he had ever wanted—a soul sympathetic with his own. He felt he was no longer alone in the world, though he was losing that true congenial mind the very moment he had found him. Was this, he asked himself, the communion of Saints? Alas! how could it be, when he was in one communion and Willis in another? "O mighty Mother!" burst from his lips; he quickened his pace almost to a trot, scaling the steep ascents and diving into the hollows which lay between him and Boughton. "O mighty Mother!" he still said, half unconsciously; "O mighty Mother! I come, O mighty Mother! I come; but I am far from home. Spare me a little; I come with what speed I may, but I am slow of foot, and not as others, O mighty Mother!"

By the time he had walked two miles in this excitement, {333} bodily and mental, he felt himself, as was not wonderful, considerably exhausted. He slackened his pace, and gradually came to himself, but still he went on, as if mechanically, "O mighty Mother!" Suddenly he cried, "Hallo! where did I get these words? Willis did not use them. Well, I must be on my guard against these wild ways. Any one can be an enthusiast; enthusiasm is not truth ... O mighty Mother! ... Alas, I know where my heart is! but I must go by reason ... O mighty Mother!"

Chapter 2-21

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