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The History of Sir Richard Calmady: a Romance . Malet, Lucas, 1852–1931.
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page: 18

CHAPTER III

TOUCHING MATTERS CLERICAL AND CONTROVERSIAL

BROCKHURST had rarely appeared more blessed by spacious sunshine and stately cheerfulness than during the remaining weeks of that summer. A spirit of unclouded serenity possessed the place, both indoors and out. If rain fell, it was only at night. And this, as so much else, Julius March noted duly in his diary.

For that was the period of elaborate private chronicles, when persons of intelligence and position still took themselves, their doings, and their emotions, with most admired seriousness. Natural science, the great leveller, had hardly stepped in as yet. Therefore it was that already Julius’s diary ran into many stout, manuscript volumes, each in turn soberly but richly bound, with silver clasp and lock complete, so soon as its final page was written. Begun when he first went up to Oxford, some thirteen years earlier, it formed an intimate history of the influences of the Tractarian Movement upon a scholarly mind and delicately spiritual nature. At the commencement of his Oxford career he had come into close relations with some of the leaders of the movement. And the conception of an historic church, endowed with mystic powers,—conveyed through an unbroken line of priests from the age of the apostles—the orderly round of vigil, fast, and festival, the secret, introspective joys of penance and confession, the fascinations of the strictly religious life as set before him in eloquent public discourse or persuasive private conversation,—had combined to kindle an imagination very insufficiently satisfied by the lean spiritual meats offered it during an Evangelical childhood and youth. Julius yielded himself up to his instructors with passionate self‐abandon. He took orders, and remained on at Oxford—being a fellow of his college—working earnestly for the cause he had so at heart. Eventually he became a member of the select band of disciples that dwelt, uncomfortably, supported by visions of reactionary reform at once austere and beneficent, in the range of disused stable‐buildings at Littlemore.

Of the storm and stress of this religious war, its triumphs, its defeats, its many agitations, Julius’s diaries told with a deep, if chastened, enthusiasm. His was a singularly pure nature, unmoved by the primitive desires which usually inflame young page: 19 blood. Ideas heated him; while the lust of the eye and the pride of life left him almost scornfully cold. He strove earnestly, of course, to bring the flesh into subjection to the spirit; which was, calmly considered, a slight waste of time, since the said flesh showed the least possible inclination towards revolt. The earlier diaries contain pathetic exaggerations of the slightest indiscretion. Innocent and virtuous persons have ever been prone to such little manias of self‐accusation! Later, the flesh did assert itself, though in a hardly licentious manner. Oxford fogs and damp, along with plain living and high thinking, acting upon a constitution naturally far from robust, produced a commonplace but most disabling nemesis in the form of colds, coughs, and chronic asthma. Julius did not greatly care. He was in that exalted frame of mind in which martyrdom, even by phthisis or bronchial affections, is immeasurably preferable to no martyrdom at all. Perhaps fortunately his relations, and even his Oxford friends, took a quite other view of the matter, and insisted upon his using all legitimate means to prolong his life.

Julius left Oxford with intense regret. It was the Holy City of the Tractarian Movement; and at this moment the progress of that Movement was the one thing worth living for, if live indeed he must. He went forth bewailing his exile and enforced idleness, as a man bewails the loss of the love of his youth. For a time he travelled in Italy and in the south of France. On his return to England he went to stay with his friend and cousin, Sir Richard Calmady. Brockhurst House had always been extremely congenial to him. Its suites of handsome rooms, the inlaid, marble chimneypieces of which reach up to the frieze of the heavily‐moulded ceilings, its wide passages and stairways, their carved balusters and newel‐posts, the treasures of its library—now overflowing the capacity of the two rooms originally designed for them, and filling ranges of bookcases between the bay‐windows of the Long Gallery which runs the whole length of the first floor from east to west, the chapel in the southern wing, its richly furnished altar and the glories of its famous, stained‐glass windows—all these were very grateful to his taste. While the light, dry, upland air and near neighbourhood of the fir forest eased the physical discomforts from which, at times, he still suffered shrewdly.

He found the atmosphere of the place both soothing and steadying. And of precisely this he stood sorely in need just now. For it must be admitted that a change had come over the spirit of Julius March’s great, ecclesiastical dream. Absence from Oxford and foreign travel had tended at once to widen page: 20 and modify his thought. He had seen the Tractarian Movement from a distance, in due perspective. He had also seen Catholicism at close quarters. He had realised that the logical consequence of the teaching of the former could be nothing less than unqualified submission to the latter. On his return to England he learned that more than one of his Oxford friends was arriving, reluctantly, at the same conclusion. Then there arose within him the fiercest struggle his gentle nature had ever yet known. He was torn by the desire to go forward, risking all, with those whom he reverenced; yet was restrained by a sense of honour. For there was, in Julius, a strain of obstinate, almost fanatic, loyalty. To the Anglican Church he had pledged himself. Through her ministry he had received illumination. To the work of her awakening he had given all his young enthusiasm. How then could he desert her? Her rites might be maimed. The scandal of schism might tarnish her fair fame. Accusations of sloth and lukewarmness might not unjustly be preferred against her. All this he admitted. And it was very characteristic of the man that, just because he did admit it, he remained within her fold.

Yet the decision was dislocating to all his thought, even as the struggle had been. It left him bruised. It cruelly shook his self‐confidence. For he was not one of those persons upon whom the shipwreck of long‐cherished hopes and purposes have a stimulating effect, filling them merely with a buoyant satisfaction at the opportunity afforded them of beginning all over again! Julius was oppressed by the sense of a great failure. The diaries of this period are but sorrowful reading. He believed he should go softly all his days; and, from a certain point of view, in this he was right.

And it was here that Sir Richard Calmady intervened. He had watched his cousin’s struggle, had accepted its reality, sympathising through friendship rather than through moral or intellectual agreement. For he was one of those fortunate mortals who, while possessing a strong sense of God, have but small necessity to define Him. Many of Julius’s keenest agonies appeared to him subjective, a matter of words and phrases. Yet he respected them, out of the sincere regard he bore the man who suffered them. He did more. He tried a practical remedy. Courteously, as one asking rather than conferring a favour, he invited Julius to remain at Brockhurst, on a fair stipend, as domestic chaplain and librarian.

“In the fulness of your generosity towards me you are creating a costly sinecure,” Julius had remonstrated.

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“Not in the least. I am selfishly trying to secure myself a most welcome companion, by asking you to undertake a very modest cure of souls and to catalogue my books, when you might be filling some important post and qualifying for a bishopric.”

Julius had shaken his head sadly enough. “The high places of the Church are not for me,” he said, “neither are her great adventures.”

Thus did Julius March, somewhat broken both in health and spirit, become a carpet‐priest. The trumpet blasts of controversy reached him as echoes merely, while his days passed in peaceful, if pensive, monotony. He read prayers morning and evening to the assembled household in the chapel; reduced the confusion of the library shelves, doing a fair amount of study, both secular and theological, during the process; rode with his cousin on fine afternoons to distant farms, by high‐banked lanes in the lowland, or across the open moors; visited the lodges, or the keepers’ and gardeners’ cottages within the limits of the park, on foot. Now and again he took a service, or preached a sermon, for good Mr. Caryll of Sandyfield, in whose amiable mind instinctive admiration of those, even distantly, related to persons of wealth and position jostled an equally instinctive terror of Mr. March’s “well‐known Romanising tendencies.” And in that there was, surely, a touch of the irony of fate! Lastly, Julius did his utmost to exercise an influence for good over the twenty and odd boys at the racing stables—an unpromising generation at best, the majority of whom, he feared, accepted his efforts for their moral and spiritual welfare with the same somewhat brutish philosophy with which they accepted Tom Chifney, the trainer’s rough‐and‐ready system of discipline, and the thousand and one vagaries of the fine‐limbed, queer‐tempered horses which were at once the glory and torment of their young lives.

Things had gone on thus for rather more than a year, when Richard Calmady married. Julius was perhaps inclined, beforehand, to underrate the importance of that event. He was singularly innocent, so far, of the whole question of woman. He had no sisters. At Oxford he had lived exclusively among men, while the Tractarian Movement had offered a sufficient outlet to all his emotion. The severe and exquisite verses of the “Lyra Apostolica” fitly expressed the passions of his heart. To the Church, at once his mother and his mistress, he had wholly given his first love. He had gone so far, indeed, in a rapture of devotion one Easter Day, during the celebration of page: 22 the Holy Eucharist, as to impose upon himself a vow of lifelong celibacy. This he did—let it be added—without either the sanction or knowledge of his spiritual advisers. The vow, therefore, remained unwitnessed and unratified, but he held it inviolable nevertheless. And it lay but lightly upon him, joyfully almost—rather as a ridding of himself of possible perturbations and obsessions, than as an act of most austere self‐renunciation. In his ignorance he merely went forward with an increased freedom of spirit. All of which is set down, not without underlying pathos, in the diary of that date.

And that freedom of spirit remained by him, notwithstanding his altered circumstances. It even served—indirectly, since none knew the fact of his self‐dedication save himself—as a basis of pleasant intercourse with the women of his own social standing whom he now met. It served him thus in respect of Lady Calmady, who accepted him as a member of her new household with charming kindliness, treating him with a gentle solicitude born of pity for his far from robust health and for the mental struggles which she understood him to have passed through.

Many persons, it must be owned, described Julius as remarkably ugly. But he did not strike Katherine thus. His heavy, black hair, beardless face and sallow skin—rendered dull and colourless, his features thickened, though not actually scarred, by small‐pox which he had had as a child,—his sensitive mouth, and the questioning expression of his short‐sighted, brown eyes, reminded her of a fifteenth‐century, Florentine portrait that had always challenged her attention when she passed it in the vestibule of a certain obscure, yet aristocratic, Parisian hotel, on the left bank—well understood—of the Seine.

The man of the portrait was narrow‐chested, clothed in black. So was Julius March. He had long‐fingered, finely shaped hands. So had Julius. He gave her the impression of a person endowed with a capacity of prolonged and silent self‐sacrifice. So did Julius. She wondered about his story. For Julius, at least—little as she or he then suspected it—the deepest places of the story still lay ahead.

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