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   Chapter 12 SOARING!—THENCE TO THINGS OF EARTH.

A Heart-Song of To-day By Annie Gregg Savigny Characters: 14898

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"By the way, Roland, cher garcon have your people yet returned to

Surrey?" enquired Vaura.

"The first detachment, consisting of the governor, with mother, now delight the flock with their presence; and the paters, pipe, flock and sermons again occupy his attention. The damsel Isabel is still at Paris, whither yours truly is journeying to carry the child home to our parents."

"I suppose Robert is still at Oxford?" said Lady Esmondet.

"No, at Rome; by the way, you and Vaura will see him; he is incumbent of St. Augustine's."

"How strange it will be to see my old playmate (sad, wound up in himself kind of boy he was) doing clergyman's duty," said Vaura.

"You should have heard," said Douglas, eagerly, "the pitched battles he and I fought at vacation over the vexed question of High and Low Church. I just went for him; and anyone overhearing would have thought me an itinerant pedlar of theology-in the vulgar tongue, street preacher-scorning all form as Papal; one would have thought me encased in Gladstonian armour of Disestablishment, to have heard my harangue. Poor Bob; in vain he expatiated on the glories of the ancient fathers; in vain he took all the saints out for an airing; in vain he talked of the ritual coming to us from the Jews of old; in vain he asserted that Ritualism had brought life and vigour into a slumbering church; in vain he talked of the old fox-hunting clergy; in vain he talked of what a glorious thing for our church to give in a little, and Rome to give in less; of how union would be strength, and of the brave front we would show to all Christendom; of all we could do in stamping out infidelity and rationalism; in fact, he was sanguine of taking in everybody; all dissenters were to join us en masse. Upon my word, Bob was eloquent; I assure you, he was so enthusiastic, that in my mind's eye I saw the whole human family- black, white, and copper-coloured, London belles and factory girls, swells and sweeps-all with one voice singing the most pronounced of High Church hymns, a cross in every hand, and all clothed, not by Worth or a London tailor, but in the garb of monk and nun. His earnestness so carried me away that I did not awake to myself and things of earth until I felt the pins sticking into my flesh under my monkish robe. I then thought it time to don the armour of the Low Churchman, and come to the rescue of the human family, engaged, clothed and ornamented as above. So, to slaughter the vision, I fell to by telling him he belonged to the Anglo-Catholics; was as one with the Greek Catholics, and any liberal Catholics in the Latin Church who did not accept extreme Roman Catholic views."

"And what answer did you receive from Father Douglas?" enquired

Bertram; "did he acknowledge the truth of your charge?"

"Yes, by Jove, he did; he acknowledged that the union of the Anglican with the Roman communion was the dearest wish of his heart; that he would strain every nerve in the struggle to bring about its fulfilment; that though, no doubt, infidelity was making rapid strides, still churchmen generally united in thinking that before long, and for the common good, petty differences would be sunk in the grand magnitude of the act of the union of the churches, when infidelity would be drowned in the waves of truth."

"And a grand, majestic scheme," said Vaura; "but we are too easy-going in our religious paces to carry it out; to be sure, we all go to church to-day; but why? Because, forsooth, it is respectable and fashionable. But, I believe that where the ceremonial is conducted in the most imposing manner-and the worship of the King of Kings could not be conducted with too much splendour-that there, we gay butterflies of to-day, are compelled to think of whose presence we are in, are awed into the thought of whose honour all this is done in. Yes, one there has other thoughts than one's neighbour's tout ensemble."

"There is something in what you and Robert say, Vaura," said her godmother; "but, to tell the truth, I bother myself very little as to our church differences. Disestablishment, by Hon. Gladstone, is a real unrest to me."

"Oh, I don't know; let it stand or fall by its own merit," said

Douglas.

"Yes, I go with Gladstone," cried Bertram; "that 'stand and deliver' tithe business has given the church a bad odour in the nostrils of dissenters."

"Still, I fear, should we sever Church and State," said Vaura, "that other old institutions will topple over. Events seem every day to be educating us up to preparing us for greater changes than disestablishment. 'Tis, indeed, 'a parting of the ways.' The Church Established seemed a strong wall or fortress supporting other (some would say) old fancies. I must confess in this, our very pleasant age of novelties, I like to know there is something old still in its niche of time."

"Yes, I see; I must now sing a requiem over the departing forms of

Miss Vernon and Father Douglas, as they pass into the arms of Pope

Pius at Rome," said Roland, jestingly.

"Not over me, my dear boy; I am too comfortable where I am. I expect you, Mr. Bertram, are this moment wondering that a woman of to-day can interest herself in anything so old as the Church; but methinks even the butterfly (that we are named after) is in a quieter mood when the sun is behind a cloud, and he cannot see the beauteous flowers; we, too, have our dreamy quiet."

"Yes, yes; you, at all events, are not a soulless woman," said

Bertram, earnestly.

"There are many of us, Mr. Bertram," said Lady Esmondet, "who actually never think of anything old unless it be our old relations."

"And then, only, if they are on the top rung," laughed Douglas.

"You people are for once forgetting our old china," said Vaura, gaily; "our love's all blue."

"The governor told me to ask you, Bertram," said Douglas, "how you get on with Royalton at Saint Dydimus?"

"We don't get on at all; he has no more inclination for the church, than I have; I pity these younger sons just ran into some fat living as a dernier ressort."

"He is just the fellow," said Douglas "to hail as a godsend disestablishment, when he will be compelled to graze in more palatable pastures."

"Oh, when Church and State are severed, primogeniture will follow; then he will get a slice of the estate of the pater," said Vaura.

"And for the younger sons a more comfortable dinner than of herbs," said Bertram.

"Then you think the 'stalled ox' brings one more content in our age of comforts," said Lady Esmondet.

"Undoubtedly."

"And I am at one with you," continued Lady Esmondet, "for it means a full hand, a full purse, without which one might as well be extinct; for one could not pay Society's tolls; yes, the yellow sovereign is all powerful; one may do as one pleases if one fills Grundy's mouth with sugar-plums; she will then shut her eyes and see with ours, for have we not paid our tribute-money? Yes, gold is the passport to society; a chimney sweep, with pots of gold, would find a glad welcome where the beggared son of a belted earl would be driven forth. But, after all, 'tis an amusing age, and one must adapt oneself to one's time. I own there are some unpleasantnesses, as when one meets, as Mrs. Ross-Hatton did, a maid-servant from her mother's household; one would grow used to these mongrels in time, I suppose, as this is the age of progress."

"If no secret, where was the

field of action for mistress and maid, godmother mine?"

"No secret whatever, dear; they met at the Lord Elton's, Prospect Hall; you know they are considered exclusive, and, as usual, there were some of the best set there. At one of their dinners a Sir Richard and Lady Jones were invited; my friend did not see their entree, being seated in a deep recess with Lord Elton, admiring some rare gems in bric-a-brac. She was so intently engaged that, merely glancing upwards as her host stepped forward in welcoming them, to her amazement a coarse, underbred woman stepping towards her, offered her hand, saying: 'I am Lady Jones; I have met you somewhere before.' My friend, giving her a calm British stare, without noticing the hand, said haughtily: 'Yes, I have seen you as one of my mother's household; as under-cook, or something in that way.'"

"By Jove, what a send-off," laughed Douglas.

"I expect at the moment she devoutly wished she had never climbed to a higher rung; but for the denouement, godmother."

"Lady Jones beat a retreat immediately, Sir Richard following. Lord Elton, after a word of apology to my friend, told her he was aware they were nouveaux riches when invited; but that Jones, a newly-fledged M.P., had also much influence, and he wished to make use of him; so had persuaded Lady Elton to send them cards. 'It does not signify, my dear Lord Elton,' my friend replied; 'I have before now met the most outre people with comparative indifference; if the woman had been silent she would, with her vulgar pretensions, be with you now; too bad for you that I have been in the way, dear old friend; I have hopes I shall outgrow this class prejudice, though somewhat faint ones.'"

"'You will, dear Mrs. Ross-Hatton, should you keep pace with our age,'

Lord Elton replied.

"Your friend showed a good deal of courage," said Bertram, "to give so direct a cut. I forget who she was, I was abroad at the time of Ross-Hatton's marriage."

"She was a Sutherland; Fido Sutherland, a beauty and a belle, and proud as Lucifer," answered Lady Esmondet.

"And brave as a lion," said Vaura; "for 'tis the fashion to fall down, as the Israelites did in days of yore, and worship the golden calf."

"I fear we are not going to have a passage altogether free from storm," remarked Bertram; "see to the west, that black cloud rolling towards us."

"I think we shall have passed its line of travel ere it catches up to us," said Lady Esmondet.

"By the way, Bertram, did you hear that Capt. Liddo, of the Grenadiers, made this trip in six hours in a small canoe. What do you think of that?" asked Douglas.

"Good enough; though I'd rather make the run in the usual time in our present company. When did Liddo do it?"

"On last Derby day."

"So, so. How long a stay do you make at Paris, Lady Esmondet?"

"I have not decided."

"Ah, that is too bad; I enjoy anticipation, and should like to dwell on the thought of many pleasant hours with you and Miss Vernon."

"We shall be able to manage many hours together at all events, for we can patronize the same hotel," replied Lady Esmondet.

"It is that I know such pleasant arrangement to be impossible that I speak, some friends having taken a French flat for me."

"Ah, I do regret this is the case," said Lady Esmondet.

"At all events, Bertram, we can enter the gates together hand-in- hand, four-in-hand; so cheer up, old fellow," cried Douglas.

"Roland, mon cher," said Vaura, "you must bring Isabel from Madame

Rochefort's to our hotel, even for a few days, ere your return to

Surrey."

"Exactly my plan, fair demoiselle."

"That is" she continued, merrily, "if you promise to be submissive, and not become a monopolist; for when you, Isabel, and myself are together, I feel as if I had lost myself; I don't know to whom I belong; you want me, Isabel wants me, until I don't know where I am."

"Belong to me, Vaura dear," he said, earnestly, and only heard by her, "and all will be well;" aloud he said: "Submissive! yea, as a lamb; by the beard of the Prophet I swear it."

"It would not be such a long look to swear by your own; you have a very handsome one."

"Merci, dear Lady Esmondet; I shall take greater pride than ever in it, now it has developed a new use."

"Or, being a true believer, you might have used Aaron's," said Vaura; "only that then would the Prophet have no rest, even in the tomb."

"One requires rest there," said her godmother; "for the demon of unrest hath got us in this lower sphere."

"And it's quite right that it should be so, godmother mine; and in keeping with our ceaseless song of 'I'd be a butterfly.'"

"You are a clever actress, Miss Vernon," said Bertram; "but I am inclined to think there is a latent depth of character, a womanliness in you that our gay butterflies of fashion lack."

"You flatter me, Mr. Bertram."

"Not so, Miss Vernon; in our day there is much to make even a woman think; you are a thinking woman, still one has but to look at your eyes to know that in spite of your graver moods you have a keen zest for what is pleasant in-"

"In this 'Vale of Tears,'" put in Douglas.

Vaura's bright expressive eyes smiled, as looking upwards, she said, feelingly:

"Yes, even though 'much salt water here doth go to waste,' one must- some think, not I-support the weeping human who named our pleasant world a 'Vale of Tears.' No, 'tis better to let one's thoughts dwell on the song of the nightingale than the voice of the night-bat; We fear too much, and hope too little; 'tis best to dwell in the sunlight while we may."

"Yes, 'tis better to laugh than be crying," said Lady Esmondet; "and though one must go through life with one's eyes open, one need not follow the example of Matthew Arnold's 'Sick King in Bokhara,' and keep them only open to the saddening sights of sin, sorrow, and despair, that the world we know, somewhere, has so much of; one can only do what one can for those in distress; give one's mite, and give it with a kindly smile, in our world of so much to do."

"So many worlds so much to do, so little done such things to be," half sang Vaura; "but here we are at the French port, and so soon."

"One does not often find this a short trip," said Lady Esmondet; "but time has flown, all because of congenial companionship."

"Yes, he has gone too quickly for once," said Bertram; "everyone for his own pleasure; so, as I have a through ticket, I trust none of you wish to linger."

"By no means, with fair Paris our goal," cried Vaura.

"Why, surely, Bertram, you heard the solemn compact entered into on our arrival at Paris hand-in-hand, and the bearded oath I swore to be as amenable to the wishes of la belle Vernon as though I were a Jack on wires; and, I appeal to all, could I promise more?"

"Yes," laughed Vaura; "you could promise to be quiet for five minutes, and endeavour to bear a slight semblance to a stolid, deliberate, dignified, wrapt-up-in-himself Briton."

"Alas! and alas for a transformation scene," sighed Douglas.

"Vaura, dear," said Lady Esmondet, "I forgot to tell you I received a note from Felicite, saying they have not as yet left for Normandy, and that we shall find them at their house in the Avenue de l'Imperatrice."

"Ah! that will be pleasant; I love the de Hautervilles root and branch; and wondered a little at their meditating a trip, with the ball for Eau Clair on the tapis."

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