Chapter the first the dream chapter the second the wear and tear of episcopacy chapter the third insomnia



Download 1.42 Mb.
Page4/21
Date conversion03.05.2016
Size1.42 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   21

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.
(11)

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

...impudently.


It spoke of her once as "Norah," and once as "the Scrope

Flapper."


Its headline proclaimed: "Plucky Flappers Hold Up L. G."

CHAPTER THE THIRD - INSOMNIA


(1)

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

paper.
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

out.
"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

real?
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

God!"
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.
(2)

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

survival....


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

Gothic stone....


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

(so-called).


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

acutely.
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

schoolmaster:

"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

followed it.
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

excess.
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

his bed....


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.
(3)

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

about?
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

significance.


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

case wonderfully.


"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.


(4)

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

acquiescence.


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,

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   21


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page