It occurred to him that really there could be no time like the
present for discussing these "questionings" of hers, and then his
fatigue and shyness had the better of him again.
The papers got hold of Eleanor's share in the suffragette
disturbance. The White Blackbird said things about her.
It did not attack her. It did worse. It admired her
It spoke of her once as "Norah," and once as "the Scrope
Its headline proclaimed: "Plucky Flappers Hold Up L. G."
CHAPTER THE THIRD - INSOMNIA
THE night after his conversation with Eleanor was the first
night of the bishop's insomnia. It was the definite beginning of
a new phase in his life.
Doctors explain to us that the immediate cause of insomnia is
always some poisoned or depleted state of the body, and no doubt
the fatigues and hasty meals of the day had left the bishop in a
state of unprecedented chemical disorder, with his nerves
irritated by strange compounds and unsoothed by familiar
lubricants. But chemical disorders follow mental disturbances,
and the core and essence of his trouble was an intellectual
distress. For the first time in his life he was really in doubt,
about himself, about his way of living, about all his
persuasions. It was a general doubt. It was not a specific
suspicion upon this point or that. It was a feeling of detachment
and unreality at once extraordinarily vague and extraordinarily
oppressive. It was as if he discovered himself flimsy and
transparent in a world of minatory solidity and opacity. It was
as if he found himself made not of flesh and blood but of tissue
But this intellectual insecurity extended into his physical
sensations. It affected his feeling in his skin, as if it were
not absolutely his own skin.
And as he lay there, a weak phantom mentally and bodily, an
endless succession and recurrence of anxieties for which he could
find no reassurance besieged him.
Chief of this was his distress for Eleanor.
She was the central figure in this new sense of illusion in
familiar and trusted things. It was not only that the world of
his existence which had seemed to be the whole universe had
become diaphanous and betrayed vast and uncontrollable realities
beyond it, but his daughter had as it were suddenly opened a door
in this glassy sphere of insecurity that had been his abiding
refuge, a door upon the stormy rebel outer world, and she stood
there, young, ignorant, confident, adventurous, ready to step
"Could it be possible that she did not believe?"
He saw her very vividly as he had seen her in the dining-room,
slender and upright, half child, half woman, so fragile and so
fearless. And the door she opened thus carelessly gave upon a
stormy background like one of the stormy backgrounds that were
popular behind portrait Dianas in eighteenth century paintings.
Did she believe that all be had taught her, all the life he led
was--what was her phrase?--a kind of magic world, not really
He groaned and turned over and repeated the words:
"A kind of magic world--not really real!"
The wind blew through the door she opened, and scattered
everything in the room. And still she held the door open.
He was astonished at himself. He started up in swift
indignation. Had he not taught the child? Had he not brought her
up in an atmosphere of faith? What right had she to turn upon him
in this matter? It was--indeed it was--a sort of insolence, a
lack of reverence....
It was strange he had not perceived this at the time.
But indeed at the first mention of "questionings" he ought to
have thundered. He saw that quite clearly now. He ought to have
cried out and said, "On your knees, my Norah, and ask pardon of
Because after all faith is an emotional thing....
He began to think very rapidly and copiously of things he ought
to have said to Eleanor. And now the eloquence of reverie was
upon him. In a little time he was also addressing the tea-party
at Morrice Deans'. Upon them too he ought to have thundered. And
he knew now also all that he should have said to the recalcitrant
employer. Thunder also. Thunder is surely the privilege of the
higher clergy--under Jove.
But why hadn't he thundered?
He gesticulated in the darkness, thrust out a clutching hand.
There are situations that must be gripped--gripped firmly.
And without delay. In the middle ages there had been grip enough
in a purple glove.
From these belated seizures of the day's lost opportunities the
bishop passed to such a pessimistic estimate of the church as had
never entered his mind before.
It was as if he had fallen suddenly out of a spiritual balloon
into a world of bleak realism. He found himself asking
unprecedented and devastating questions, questions that implied
the most fundamental shiftings of opinion. Why was the church
such a failure? Why had it no grip upon either masters or men
amidst this vigorous life of modern industrialism, and why had it
no grip upon the questioning young? It was a tolerated thing, he
felt, just as sometimes he had felt that the Crown was a
tolerated thing. He too was a tolerated thing; a curious
This was not as things should be. He struggled to recover a
proper attitude. But he remained enormously dissatisfied....
The church was no Levite to pass by on the other side away from
the struggles and wrongs of the social conflict. It had no right
when the children asked for the bread of life to offer them
He began to make interminable weak plans for fulfilling his
duty to his diocese and his daughter.
What could he do to revivify his clergy? He wished he had more
personal magnetism, he wished he had a darker and a larger
presence. He wished he had not been saddled with Whippham's
rather futile son as his chaplain. He wished he had a dean
instead of being his own dean. With an unsympathetic rector. He
wished he had it in him to make some resounding appeal. He might
of course preach a series of thumping addresses and sermons,
rather on the lines of "Fors Clavigera," to masters and men, in
the Cathedral. Only it was so difficult to get either masters or
men into the Cathedral.
Well, if the people will not come to the bishop the bishop must
go out to the people. Should he go outside the Cathedral--to
the place where the trains met?
Interweaving with such thoughts the problem of Eleanor rose
again into his consciousness.
Weren't there books she ought to read? Weren't there books she
ought to be made to read? And books--and friends--that ought
to be imperatively forbidden? Imperatively!
But how to define the forbidden?
He began to compose an address on Modern Literature
It became acrimonious.
Before dawn the birds began to sing.
His mind had seemed to be a little tranquillized, there had
been a distinct feeling of subsidence sleepwards, when first one
and then another little creature roused itself and the bishop to
greet the gathering daylight.
It became a little clamour, a misty sea of sound in which
individuality appeared and disappeared. For a time a distant
cuckoo was very perceptible, like a landmark looming up over a
fog, like the cuckoo in the Pastoral Symphony.
The bishop tried not to heed these sounds, but they were by
their very nature insistent sounds. He lay disregarding them
Presently he pulled the coverlet over his ears.
A little later he sat up in bed.
Again in a slight detail he marked his strange and novel
detachment from the world of his upbringing. His hallucination of
disillusionment had spread from himself and his church and his
faith to the whole animate creation. He knew that these were the
voices of "our feathered songsters," that this was "a joyous
chorus" greeting the day. He knew that a wakeful bishop ought to
bless these happy creatures, and join with them by reciting Ken's
morning hymn. He made an effort that was more than half habit, to
repeat and he repeated with a scowling face and the voice of a
"Awake my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run...."
He got no further. He stopped short, sat still, thinking what
utterly detestable things singing birds were. A. blackbird had
gripped his attention. Never had he heard such vain repetitions.
He struggled against the dark mood of criticism. "He prayeth best
who loveth best--"
No, he did not love the birds. It was useless to pretend.
Whatever one may say about other birds a cuckoo is a low
detestable cad of a bird.
Then the bishop began to be particularly tormented by a bird
that made a short, insistent, wheezing sound at regular intervals
of perhaps twenty seconds. If a bird could have whooping-cough,
that, he thought, was the sort of whoop it would have. But even
if it had whooping-cough he could not pity it. He hung in its
intervals waiting for the return of the wheeze.
And then that blackbird reasserted itself. It had a rich
boastful note; it seemed proud of its noisy reiteration of simple
self-assertion. For some obscure reason the phrase "oleographic
sounds" drifted into the bishop's thoughts. This bird produced
the peculiar and irrational impression that it had recently made
a considerable sum of money by shrewd industrialism. It was, he
thought grimly, a genuine Princhester blackbird.
This wickedly uncharitable reference to his diocese ran all
unchallenged through the bishop's mind. And others no less wicked
Once during his summer holidays in Florence he and Lady Ella
had subscribed to an association for the protection of
song-birds. He recalled this now with a mild wonder. It seemed to
him that perhaps after all it was as well to let fruit-growers
and Italians deal with singing-birds in their own way. Perhaps
after all they had a wisdom....
He passed his hands over his face. The world after all is not
made entirely for singing-birds; there is such a thing as
proportion. Singing-birds may become a luxury, an indulgence, an
Did the birds eat the fruit in Paradise?
Perhaps there they worked for some collective musical effect,
had some sort of conductor in the place of this--hullabaloo....
He decided to walk about the room for a time and then remake
The sunrise found the bishop with his head and shoulders out of
the window trying to see that blackbird. He just wanted to look
at it. He was persuaded it was a quite exceptional blackbird.
Again came that oppressive sense of the futility of the
contemporary church, but this time it came in the most grotesque
form. For hanging half out of the casement he was suddenly
reminded of St. Francis of Assisi, and how at his rebuke the
wheeling swallow stilled their cries.
But it was all so different then.
It was only after he had passed four similar nights, with
intervening days of lassitude and afternoon siestas, that the
bishop realized that he was in the grip of insomnia.
He did not go at once to a doctor, but he told his trouble to
every one he met and received much tentative advice. He had meant
to have his talk with Eleanor on the morning next after their
conversation in the dining-room, but his bodily and spiritual
anaemia prevented him.
The fifth night was the beginning of the Whitsuntide Ember
week, and he wore a red cassock and had a distracting and rather
interesting day welcoming his ordination candidates. They had a
good effect upon him; we spiritualize ourselves when we seek to
spiritualize others, and he went to bed in a happier frame of
mind than he had done since the day of the shock. He woke in the
night, but he woke much more himself than he had been since the
trouble began. He repeated that verse of Ken's:
"When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest."
Almost immediately after these there floated into his mind, as
if it were a message, the dear familiar words:
"He giveth his Beloved sleep."
These words irradiated and soothed him quite miraculously, the
clouds of doubt seemed to dissolve and vanish and leave him safe
and calm under a clear sky; he knew those words were a promise,
and very speedily he fell asleep and slept until he was called.
But the next day was a troubled one. Whippham had muddled his
timetable and crowded his afternoon; the strike of the transport
workers had begun, and the ugly noises they made at the tramway
depot, where they were booing some one, penetrated into the
palace. He had to snatch a meal between services, and the sense
of hurry invaded his afternoon lectures to the candidates. He
hated hurry in Ember week. His ideal was one of quiet serenity,
of grave things said slowly, of still, kneeling figures, of a
sort of dark cool spiritual germination. But what sort of dark
cool spiritual germination is possible with an ass like Whippham
In the fresh courage of the morning the bishop had arranged for
that talk with Eleanor he had already deferred too long, and this
had proved less satisfactory than he had intended it to be.
The bishop's experience with the ordination candidates was
following the usual course. Before they came there was something
bordering upon distaste for the coming invasion; then always
there was an effect of surprise at the youth and faith of the
neophytes and a real response of the spirit to the occasion.
Throughout the first twenty-four hours they were all simply
neophytes, without individuality to break up their uniformity of
self-devotion. Then afterwards they began to develop little
personal traits, and scarcely ever were these pleasing traits.
Always one or two of them would begin haunting the bishop, giving
way to an appetite for special words, special recognitions. He
knew the expression of that craving on their faces. He knew the
way-laying movements in room and passage that presently began.
This time in particular there was a freckled underbred young
man who handed in what was evidently a carefully prepared
memorandum upon what he called "my positions." Apparently he had
a muddle of doubts about the early fathers and the dates of the
earlier authentic copies of the gospels, things of no conceivable
The bishop glanced through this bale of papers--it had of
course no index and no synopsis, and some of the pages were not
numbered--handed it over to Whippham, and when he proved, as
usual, a broken reed, the bishop had the brilliant idea of
referring the young man to Canon Bliss (of Pringle), "who has a
special knowledge quite beyond my own in this field."
But he knew from the young man's eye even as he said this that
it was not going to put him off for more than a day or so.
The immediate result of glancing over these papers was,
however, to enhance in the bishop's mind a growing disposition to
minimize the importance of all dated and explicit evidences and
arguments for orthodox beliefs, and to resort to vague symbolic
and liberal interpretations, and it was in this state that he
came to his talk with Eleanor.
He did not give her much time to develop her objections. He met
her half way and stated them for her, and overwhelmed her with
sympathy and understanding. She had been "too literal." "Too
literal" was his keynote. He was a little astonished at the
liberality of his own views. He had been getting along now for
some years without looking into his own opinions too closely and
he was by no means prepared to discover how far he had come to
meet his daughter's scepticisms. But he did meet them. He met
them so thoroughly that he almost conveyed that hers was a
needlessly conservative and oldfashioned attitude.
Occasionally he felt he was being a little evasive, but she did
not seem to notice it. As she took his drift, her relief and
happiness were manifest. And he had never noticed before how
clear and pretty her eyes were; they were the most honest eyes he
had ever seen. She looked at him very steadily as he explained,
and lit up at his points. She brightened wonderfully as she
realized that after all they were not apart, they had not
differed; simply they had misunderstood....
And before he knew where he was, and in a mere parenthetical
declaration of liberality, he surprised himself by conceding her
demand for Newnham even before she had repeated it. It helped his
"Call in every exterior witness you can. The church will
welcome them.... No, I want you to go, my dear...."
But his mind was stirred again to its depths by this
discussion. And in particular he was surprised and a little
puzzled by this Newnham concession and the necessity of making
his new attitude clear to Lady Ella....
It was with a sense of fatality that he found himself awake
again that night, like some one lying drowned and still and yet
perfectly conscious at the bottom of deep cold water.
He repeated, "He giveth his Beloved sleep," but all the
conviction had gone out of the words.
Neither the bishop's insomnia nor his incertitudes about
himself and his faith developed in a simple and orderly manner.
There were periods of sustained suffering and periods of
recovery; it was not for a year or so that he regarded these
troubles as more than acute incidental interruptions of his
general tranquillity or realized that he was passing into a new
phase of life and into a new quality of thought. He told every
one of the insomnia and no one of his doubts; these he betrayed
only by an increasing tendency towards vagueness, symbolism,
poetry and toleration. Eleanor seemed satisfied with his
exposition; she did not press for further enlightenment. She
continued all her outward conformities except that after a time
she ceased to communicate; and in September she went away to
Newnham. Her doubts had not visibly affected Clementina or her
other sisters, and the bishop made no further attempts to explore
the spiritual life of his family below the surface of its formal
As a matter of fact his own spiritual wrestlings were almost
exclusively nocturnal. During his spells of insomnia he led a
curiously double existence. In the daytime he was largely the
self he had always been, able, assured, ecclesiastical, except
that he was a little jaded and irritable or sleepy instead of
being quick and bright; he believed in God and the church and the
Royal Family and himself securely; in the wakeful night time he
experienced a different and novel self, a bare-minded self,
bleakly fearless at its best, shamelessly weak at its worst,
critical, sceptical, joyless, anxious. The anxiety was quite the
worst element of all. Something sat by his pillow asking grey
questions: "What are you doing? Where are you going? Is it really
well with the children? Is it really well with the church? Is it
really well with the country? Are you indeed doing anything at
all? Are you anything more than an actor wearing a costume in an
archaic play? The people turn their backs on you."
He would twist over on his pillow. He would whisper hymns and
prayers that had the quality of charms.
"He giveth his Beloved sleep"; that answered many times, and
many times it failed.
The labour troubles of 1912 eased off as the year wore on, and
the bitterness of the local press over the palace abated very
considerably. Indeed there was something like a watery gleam of
popularity when he brought down his consistent friend, the dear
old Princess Christiana of Hoch and Unter, black bonnet,
deafness, and all, to open a new wing of the children's hospital.
The Princhester conservative paper took the occasion to inform
the diocese that he was a fluent German scholar and consequently
a persona grata with the royal aunts, and that the Princess
Christiana was merely just one of a number of royalties now
practically at the beck and call of Princhester. It was not true,
but it was very effective locally, and seemed to justify a little
the hauteur of which Lady Ella was so unjustly suspected. Yet it
involved a possibility of disappointments in the future.
He went to Brighton-Pomfrey too upon the score of his general
health, and Brighton-Pomfrey revised his general regimen,
discouraged indiscreet fasting, and suggested a complete
abstinence from red wine except white port, if indeed that can be
called a red wine, and a moderate use of Egyptian cigarettes.
But 1913 was a strenuous year. The labour troubles revived, the
suffragette movement increased greatly in violence and
aggressiveness, and there sprang up no less than three
ecclesiastical scandals in the diocese. First, the Kensitites set
themselves firmly to make presentations and prosecutions against
Morrice Deans, who was reserving the sacrament, wearing, they
said, "Babylonish garments," going beyond all reason in the
matter of infant confession, and generally brightening up Mogham
Banks; next, a popular preacher in Wombash, published a book
under the exasperating title, "The Light Under the Altar," in
which he showed himself as something between an Arian and a
Pantheist, and treated the dogma of the Trinity with as little
respect as one would show to an intrusive cat; while thirdly, an
obscure but overworked missioner of a tin mission church in the
new working-class district at Pringle, being discovered in some
sort of polygamous relationship, had seen fit to publish in
pamphlet form a scandalous admission and defence, a pamphlet
entitled "Marriage True and False," taking the public needlessly
into his completest confidence and quoting the affairs of Abraham
and Hosea, reviving many points that are better forgotten about
Luther, and appealing also to such uncanonical authorities as
Milton, Plato, and John Humphrey Noyes. This abnormal concurrence
of indiscipline was extremely unlucky for the bishop. It plunged
him into strenuous controversy upon three fronts, so to speak,