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ments of a Catholic bishop; within the porch is Our Lady's image with the Divine Infant in her arms.
In the Cathedral Fernando spent his happiest hours, ever dreaming of the old days when its choir was filled with priests, and sometimes imagining himself lost there in an eager crowd while the Holy Wars of the Cross were being preached.
Once he went almost straight from it to the little Catholic church at the other end of the town; as he saw it, it was perhaps sixty or seventy years old, and poor enough; with hardly any claim to beauty. The contrast was sad and poignant. St. Chad's Cathedral; and his own special church where his cell was, and where his Holy Well is; Our Lady's church, large and stately; St. Michael's topping the hill: all without Mass ; and only this meagre shelter for the Blessed Sacrament. Here were no lovely spires, here no sculptured lines of saints decking the narrow front; but here Fernando already knew was the Saints' Master, whose Perfection they mirrored piecemeal as the many little facets of gems give out but fragments of the one Light.
Nearly opposite the school itself was a
Hospital" of St. John, for a Master and thirteen poor men, that had once been a priory. It was a quaint and beautiful little place, with the old Pre-Reformation chapel still in use.
Certainly a Cathedral town in England is a bad place to drive out of the mind of a boy given to musings on England's Catholic days, the thoughts that were ever drawing, drawing him more and more irresistibly to Catholicity.
It was during his time at Lichfield, however, that Fernando, with other boys, was confirmed as an Anglican. The head master of the school gave the lads certain instructions, and they also were sent, as a class, and severally, to one of the curates of St. Mary's. He was much more High Church than the head master, though perhaps he would not be held very "High now. He set papers of questions on the Creed to the boys, and some of Fernando's answers were, he pointed out (not at all fiercely) more Roman than Anglican; he was good-natured enough to keep these strictures between himself and the boy, and Fernando received no scolding, and was duly presented for Confirmation.
His "First Communion" followed, and
many others, in which the boy firmly believed that he was receiving the Body of Christ himself. It was not till full five years later that the disconcerting doubt of Anglican Orders crept in to trouble him.
A PRIVATE PUPIL
To Lichfield Fernando had gone from one vicarage, where he had been a private pupil, and from Lichfield he went as a private pupil to another with his head master, who had been presented to the living. The house was comfortable enough, but the place was hideous; a huge, very populous, mining village in what is called, only too aptly, the Black Country; a bare, treeless, windy region with coal-pits everywhere. It was quite new, called into existence by the mines; and the long rows of raw red-brick cottages, all exactly alike, and without gardens, seemed to Fernando a nightmare of ugliness. The contrast between this horrible parody of a village and his beloved Gracechurch nearly choked him. At Gracechurch hardly two houses were alike, and all were old, mellowed, too, not by time alone, but by human use and sympathy; so each had its character, slowly acquired and reflective
of placid generations of habitations. There were streets with ancient names, as the Watergate, linking the little town with past times and customs; and the great church, dominating the place, had been there for hundreds of years before the Reformation. The people, too, had not been there themselves but belonged there in their forefathers from immemorable time; but they were of many different callings, and of many various grades, blended into the unit of an ordered society. At this other place in the Black Country it was all different; no one had been born there except the babies, and the people came from the four winds; they were all of one class and one calling, yet they made no community, and had no social bond. The number of inhabitants was very likely greater than that of Gracechurch, but the place had no character of a town except populousness; and one had, under indignant protest, to call it a village. The church was as new and stark as the cottages of the same hot-looking, flower-pot red brick; those, however, of the miners who came to church liked to sing, and sang well.
At Gracechurch it did not so much seem as if the quaint streets wanted to struggle