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how to have done; while besides, in a separate collection, were the vices, the sins, the selfishnesses and ill-humors, with — in the other scale — the acts of personal duty, of love and kindness and charity, which had increased the happiness or lightened the sorrows of those connected with him. These last, I observed, had generally been forgotten by the owner, who saw them appear with surprise, and even repudiated them with protest. In the work, of course, both material and moral, there was every gradation both of kind and merit. But while nothing was absolutely worthless, everything, even the highest achievements of the greatest artist or the greatest saint, fell short of absolute perfection. Each of us saw our own performances, from our first ignorant beginnings to what we regarded as our greatest triumph; and it was easy to trace how much of our faults were due to natural deficiencies and the necessary failures of inexperience, and how much to self-will or vanity or idleness. Some taint of mean motives, too,-some desire of reward, desire of praise or honor or wealth, some foolish self-satisfaction, when satisfaction ought not to have been felt, — was to be seen infecting everything, even the very best which was presented for scrutiny.
So plain was this that one of us, an earnest, impressive-looking person, whose own work bore inspection better than that of most of us, exclaimed passionately that so far as he was concerned the examiners might spare their labor. From his earliest years he had known what he ought to do, and in no instance had he ever completely done it. He had struggled; he had conquered his grosser faults: but the farther he had gone, and the better he had been able to do, his knowledge had still grown faster than his power of acting upon it; and every additional day that he had lived, his shortcomings had become more miserably plain to him. Even if he could have reached perfection at last, he could not undo the past, and the faults of his youth would bear witness against him and call for his condemnation. Therefore, he said, he abhorred himself. He had no merit which could entitle him to look for favor. He had labored on to the end, but he had labored with a full knowledge that the best which he could offer would be unworthy of acceptance. He had been told, and he believed, that a high Spirit not subject to infirmity had done his work for him, and done it perfectly, and that if he abandoned all claim on his own account, he might be accepted for the sake of what another had done. This, he trusted, was true, and it was his sole dependence. In the so-called good actions with which he seemed to be credited, there was nothing that was really good; there was not one which was altogether what it ought to have been.
He was evidently sincere, and what he said was undoubtedly true— true of him and true of every one. Even in the vehemence of his self-abandonment a trace lingered of the taint which he was confessing, for he was a polemical divine; he had spent his life and gained a reputation in maintaining this particular doctrine. He believed it, but he had not forgotten that he had been himself its champion.
The examiner looked kindly at him, but answered:
“We do not expect impossibilities; and we do not blame you when you have not accomplished what is beyond your strength. Only those who are themselves perfect can do anything perfectly. Human beings are born ignorant and helpless. They bring into the world with them a disposition to seek what is pleasant to themselves, and what is pleasant is not always right. They learn to live as they learn everything else. At first they cannot do rightly at all. They improve under teaching and practice. The best only arrive at excellence. We do not find fault with the painter on account of his first bad copies, if they were as good as could be looked for at his age. Every craftsman acquires his art by degrees. He begins badly; he cannot help it; and it is the same with life. You learn to walk by falling down. You learn to live by going wrong and experiencing the consequences of it. We do not record against a man (the sins of his youth' if he has been honestly trying to improve himself. We do not require the same self-control in a child as in a man. We do not require the same attainments from all. Some are well taught, some are ill taught, some are not taught at all. Some have naturally good dispositions, some have naturally bad dispositions. Not one has had power (to fulfill the law,' as you call it, completely. Therefore it is no crime in him if he fails. We reckon as faults those only which arise from idleness, willfulness, selfishness, and deliberate preference of evil to good. Each is judged according to what he has received.”
I was amused to observe how pleased the archbishop looked while the examiner was speaking. He had himself been engaged in controversy with this gentleman on the share of “good works »
in justifying a man; and if the examiner had not taken his side in the discussion, he had at least demolished his adversary. The archbishop had been the more disinterested in the line which he had taken, as his own works,” though in several large folios, weighed extremely little; and indeed, had it not been for passages in his early life,- he had starved himself at college that he might not be a burden upon his widowed mother,- I do not know but that he might have been sent back into the world to serve as a parish clerk.
For myself, there were questions which I was longing to ask, and I was trying to collect my courage to speak. I wanted chiefly to know what the examiner meant by “natural disposition.” Was it that a man might be born with a natural capacity for becoming a saint, as another man with a capacity to become a great artist or musician, and that each of us could only grow to the limits of his natural powers? And again, were idleness, willfulness, selfishness, etc., etc., natural dispositions ? for in that case
But at the moment the bell rang again, and my own name was called. There was no occasion to ask who I was. instance the identity of the person, his history, small or large, and all that he had said or done, was placed before the court so clearly that there was no need for extorting a confession. There stood the catalogue inexorably impartial, the bad actions in a schedule painfully large, the few good actions veined with personal motives which spoilt the best of them. In the way of work there was nothing to be shown but certain books and other writings, and these were spread out to be tested. A fluid was poured on the pages, the effect of which was to obliterate entirely every untrue proposition, and to make every partially true proposition grow faint in proportion to the false element which entered into it. Alas! chapter after chapter vanished away, leaving the paper clean, as if no compositor had ever labored in setting type for it. Pale and illegible became the fine-sounding paragraphs on which I had secretly prided myself. A few passages, however, survived here and there at long intervals. They were those on which I had labored least, and had almost forgotten; or those, as I observed in one or two instances, which had been selected for special reprobation in the weekly journals. Something stood to my credit, and the worst charge, of willfully and intentionally setting down what I did not believe to be true, was not alleged against me. Ignorance, prejudice, carelessness; sins of infirmity, - culpable indeed, but not culpable in the last degree; the water in the ink, the commonplaces, the ineffectual sentiments -- these, to my unspeakable comfort, I perceived were my heaviest crimes. Had I been accused of absolute worthlessness, I should have pleaded guilty in the state of humiliation to which I was reduced; but things were better than they might have been. I was flattering myself that when it came to the wages question, the balance would be in my favor: so many years of labor — such and such cheques received from my publisher. Here at least I held myself safe, and I was in good hope that I might scrape through.
The examiner was good-natured in his manner. A reviewer who had been listening for my condemnation was beginning to look disgusted, when suddenly one of the walls of the court became transparent, and there appeared an interminable vista of creatures — creatures of all kinds from land and water, reaching away into the extreme distance. They were those which in the course of my life I had devoured, either in part or whole, to sustain my unconscionable carcass. There they stood in lines with solemn and reproachful faces,-oxen and calves, sheep and lambs, deer, hares, rabbits, turkeys, ducks, chickens, pheasants, grouse, and partridges, down to the larks and sparrows and blackbirds which I had shot when a boy and made into puddings. Every one of them had come up to bear witness against their murderer; out of sea and river had come the trout and salmon, the soles and turbots, the ling and cod, the whiting and mackerel, the smelts and whitebait, the oysters, the crabs, the lobsters, the shrimps. They seemed literally to be in millions, and I had eaten them all. I talked of wages. These had been my wages. At this enormous cost had my existence been maintained. A stag spoke for the rest: «We all,” he said, “were sacrificed to keep this cormorant in being, and to enable him to produce the miserable bits of printed paper which are all that he has to show for himself. Our lives were dear to us. In meadow and wood, in air and water, we wandered harmless and innocent, enjoy. ing the pleasant sunlight, the light of heaven and the sparkling waves. We were not worth much; we have no pretensions to high qualities. If the person who stands here to answer for himself can affirm that his value in the universe was equivalent to the value of all of us who were sacrificed to feed him, we have no more to say. Let it be so pronounced. We shall look at our numbers, and we shall wonder at the judgment, though we shall withdraw our complaint. But for ourselves we say freely that we have long watched him,- him and his fellows, - and we have failed to see in what the superiority of the human creature lies. We know him only as the most cunning, the most destructive, and unhappily the longest lived of all carnivorous beasts. His delight is in killing. Even when his hunger is satisfied, he kills us for his mere amusement.
The oxen lowed approval, the sheep bleated, the birds screamed, the fishes flapped their tails. I, for myself, stood mute and selfcondemned. What answer but one was possible ? Had I been myself on the bench I could not have hesitated. The fatal sentence of condemnation was evidently about to be uttered, when the scene became indistinct, there was a confused noise, a change of condition, a sound of running feet and of many voices. I awoke. I was again in the railway carriage; the door was thrown open; porters entered to take our things. We stepped out upon the platform. We were at the terminus for which we had been originally destined. Carriages and cabs were waiting; tall powdered footmen flew to the assistance of the duke and duchess, The station-master was standing hat in hand, and obsequiously bowing; the minister's private secretary had come to meet his right honorable chief with the red dispatch box, knowing the impatience with which it was waited for. The duke shook hands with the archbishop before he drove away.
« Dine with us tomorrow ?” he said. “I have had a very singular dream. You shall be my Daniel and interpret it for me. The archbishop regretted infinitely that he must deny himself the honor; his presence was required at the Conference. «I too have dreamt,” he said; “but with your Grace and me the realities of this world are too serious to leave us leisure for the freaks of imagination.”