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said a word of greeting, bowed, and passed upstairs to the drawing-room.
Ah,” said he afterwards to his sister, she would not touch my hand. She saw the blood on it."
Poor young man! After fifty years I remember well his harmless, hopeless face ; and I have often thought since that, had he been a Catholic, he might, instead of his solitary brooding, have joined some Order of Penance, and there have found first peace and then happiness.
THE FIRST STEP
WHEN first we had gone to Llanberwyn we went, though I don't remember it, in a coach; the railway only came shortly before we left the place, and my first journey in a train was when we moved to Gracechurch. Of our life there anyone who cares to read may do so in the book I have called by that
We were there chiefly because our mother had been told of an excellent school for boys of the “better class,” kept by the Rev. J. Knight. But when we arrived he was just dead, and the church was hung in black in honour of him. One of his former pupils professed to continue the school, in the same school-house ; but there were no longer any boarders, and the day-boys were mostly only the sons of the small tradesmen of the little town; and the new master was quite young, had no great authority or mental endowments, and was hardly of a position to maintain the school with its former prestige. My brother went to it till he was old enough to go away to a very distant public school ; and how I also went and how I left it very shortly is told in Gracechurch, and need not be told again here. It was not for many years that Fernando himself went to school away from home, for in all that time he was delicate, and that is why he saw much more of the life of the little town than either of his brothers, who were only there in the holidays.
Even now, after leaving Llanberwyn behind, another thing must be said about the time there : it was in the “ dining-room” (which I have said we seldom dined in) of Mrs. Roberts' house that Fernando's mother first told him the story of the death of Christ. It is strange that he can remember well the day, and almost the words with which that Divine History first came into his life. He had been very naughty, baby-passionate, and had been sorry and forgiven. Then had come a pause of tired half-sleep in his mother's arms, by the window, in the nearly empty room. It was a day of hard cold light and bustling wind, with March dust driven by the gusts along the vacant street outside : for though it was not Sunday it was a Church day and the very day on which the Divine Tragedy has its arch-commemoration among Christians.
The child was not then, I think, four years old, but the Crucifix itself was familiar to his sight, for it had hung all his little life over his mother's bed : and already he knew whose Figure it was that was represented. But, though many crucifixes are realistic and full of agonized suggestion, the one he knew was not of that kind. The cross itself was elaborately ornamented and the Divine Figure suggested only peace, and sweetness, a superhuman dignity, and unearthly love. A child who knew nothing of spite or cruelty, to whom hatred was a word unheard of, and if heard would have brought no meaning, could easily be familiar with that cross and never guess it had been an instrument of torture and death.
It was, I am sure, reluctantly that his mother unfolded to her baby the fearful story of man's envy and malignant hate of God made man. Almost hurriedly, but with the haste that dares not linger, pryingly, on holy ground, she traced the sorrowful path to Calvary; and linked the human life of the Christmas Child with the Man of Nazareth and Golgotha. Her words were mostly those of the Scripture itself, brief and plain, dilating nothing, heightening nothing with colouring of her own.
But she told that tale of the world's supreme tragedy in such fashion that the child who heard could never forget, and never need again to be taught that its Protagonist was God Himself.
The windy afternoon waned to dusk, but before it ended the little listening child had already become fixed in the Love of all his life. Looking back, over half a century, it seems to me as plain and clear as death and life themselves that all the later steps that brought him actually within the Catholic Church were but inevitable details; that he had come to the threshold on that firstremembered Good Friday.
Well, Mrs. Burscough and her two boys, with their very few and meagre household goods, moved back into England, though only just over the border: and Fernando, who could remember nothing but Wales, felt that it was promotion. To live anywhere outside England was in some fashion exile, and to be in it again was coming home. And certainly