Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

every man may think of without a dread of the responsibility such truths lay upon the purblind race of men.

Hither and thither the lad's thoughts ranged out-to the indifferent, the averse, the unmoved crowds of men who after twenty centuries still run aloof and reject the lowliness of that Divine Friendship offered so long, so patiently, so silently.

His thoughts strayed, but always with the sense of the very thing that had sent them out along so many paths of regret and shame for the hardness of the world's neglect of it.

I cannot tell you how many hours Fernando spent alone, in the sweet summer afternoons, in that quiet place where he was sure of finding Our Lord. But he had gone very often, and each going was a pilgrimage, the greatest any of us can make.

Then on that last Sunday evening of his stay at St. Wolstan's he went to the church for Benediction; the first at which he had ever been present.

It was a simple function, with a very simple rural congregation of country folks, mostly labourers and farm-hands, very few gentry or "educated" people.

It was to him a new thing to kneel among

T

such a crowd and know that all in it believed that Christ was there upon the throne. Where could you get a church-full of English Protestant villagers with any such belief? Their forefathers had believed it, but of that belief they were themselves disinherited. Only among the educated, and among a few here and there of them, had Fernando ever found that belief.

Many of the Castle Talbot villagers, most, I think, were descendants of those who had kept the faith all along; kept it at the hazard of ruin and death. Priests who had said Mass for them out in the woods, or in some hidden loft of the castle over there across the lovely valley, had been dragged away to felons' prisons, to rack, and rope, and mutilation, and slow horror of death.

That this was so gave a strange glamour to a crowd otherwise so simple and so plain. Behind each rustic figure was a pedigree of steadfast faith and patience. And here, as nowhere else before, Fernando saw the tribute of Eucharistic Faith, not as a result of isolated refined thought, but as an heirloom of loyal fidelity on the humble and obscure.

For the right to believe in the Eucharistic change Fernando and those of his mind

were always striving-to vindicate it as a thing one might hold and yet be no outlander, borrowing contraband from over seas. These villagers had the right implied in their very name; it was their unwasted inheritance: they had not to assure each other that it was a lawful belief-every one of them knew that to disbelieve was unlawful.

How could Fernando not envy them? How could he help realising that what they had he might have too without robbing one of them ?

I think it was on that Sunday night that he first knew that soon he would be a Catholic, and that to be one he must become one. But I cannot be really sure that it was then; for that knowledge comes so gradually that when it has come at last one can hardly tell how long it has been there. And some may say Then it was the ritual that really drew him over the dividing barrier, the ceremonial of that first Catholic office at which he ever was present that made up his vacillating mind.

That at all events, I know is untrue. For the actual ritual did not then attract him. It was too new and strange, and his whole longing and yearning was ever to what

was familiar and endeared by long habit and use. The new forms and music, the new words he would have to learn to love, he could not instantly like them.

CHAPTER XXX

GOOD-BYE GRACECHURCH !

In some ways those last summer months at Gracechurch were like their predecessors, in some ways very unlike. The home occupations were all the same, but there was an inward sense of farewell that made everything seem different. As a younger boy Fernando had often thought how different a place the Gracechurch railway station had appeared whenever he went there during the holidays from what it looked when he was there waiting for the train which should take him away to school.

It was so now with everything the place, the people, the occupations were just as they had ever been; yet an atmosphere that was strange and different hung about them, and already began to throw them back into perspective. It was partly due to the simple fact that Fernando had come to the threshold of manhood; in all other holidays he had

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »