« VorigeDoorgaan »
“I wish to heaven I had,” said East,“ but I was a fool. It's too late talking of it now.”
“ Why too late? You want to be confirmed now, don't you?"
“ I think so," said East. « I've thought about it a good deal; only often I fancy I must be changing, because I see it's to do me good here, just what stopped me last time. And then I go back again."
“ I'll tell you now how 'twas with me,” said Tom, warmly. “ If it hadn't been for Arthur, I should have done just as you did. I hope I should. I honour you for it. But then he made it out just as if it was taking the weak side before all the world — going in once for all against everything that's strong and rich and proud and respectable, a little band of brothers against the whole world. And the Doctor seemed to say so too, only he said a great deal more."
6 Ah," groaned East, “ but there again, that's just another of my difficulties whenever I think about the matter. I don't want to be one of your saints, one of your elect, whatever the right phrase is. My sympathies are all the other way; with the many, the poor devils who run about the streets and don't go to church. Don't stare, Tom; mind I'm telling you all that's in my heart - as far as I know it but its all a muddle. You must be gentle with me if you want to land me. Now I've seen a great deal of this sort of religion, I was bred up in it, and I can't stand it. If nineteen-twentieths of the world are to be left to uncovenanted mercies, and that sort of thing, which means in plain English to go to hell,
and the other twentieth are to rejoice at it all, why -"
“Oh! but, Harry, they ain't, they don't,” broke in Tom, really shocked. “ Oh, how I wish Arthur hadn't gone! I'm such a fool about these things. But it's all you want too, East, it is indeed. It cuts both ways somehow, being confirmed and taking the Sacrament. It makes you feel on the side of all the good and all the bad too, of everybody in the world. Only there's some great dark strong power, which is crushing you and everybody else. That's what Christ conquered, and we've got to fight. What a fool I am! I can't explain. If Arthur were only here!”
6 I begin to get a glimmering of what you mean," said East.
“ I say now," said Tom eagerly,“ do you remember how we both hated Flashman?”
“ Of course I do,” said East; “I hate him still. What then?"
“ Well, when I came to take the Sacrament, I had a great struggle about that. I tried to put him out. of my head; and when I couldn't do that, I tried to think of him as evil, as something that the Lord who was loving me hated, and which I might hate too. But it wouldn't do. I broke down; I believe Christ himself broke me down; and when the Doctor gave me the bread and wine, and leant over me praying, I prayed for poor Flashman as if it had been you or Arthur.”
East buried his face in his hands on the table. Tom could feel the table tremble. At last he looked
up. “ Thank you again, Tom," said he ; " you don't know what you may have done for me to-night. I think I see now how the right sort of sympathy with poor devils is got at."
6 And you'll stop the Sacrament next time, won't you ? " said Tom.
6 Can I before I'm confirmed.?"
That very night, after prayers, East followed the Doctor and the old Verger bearing the candle, up stairs. Tom watched, and saw the Doctor turn round when he heard footsteps following him closer than usual, and say, “ Hah, East! Do you want to speak to me, my man?”.
“ If you please, sir ;” and the private door closed, and Tom went to his study in a state of great trouble of mind.
It was almost an hour before East came back; then he rushed in breathless.
“ Well, it's all right," he shouted, seizing Tom by the hand.I feel as if a ton weight were off my mind."
“ Hurra,” said Tom; “I knew it would be, but tell us all about it.”
“ Well, I just told him all about it. You can't think how kind and gentle he was, the great grim man, whom I've feared more than anybody on earth. When I stuck, he lifted me, just as if I'd been a little child. And he seemed to know all I'd felt, and to have gone through it all. And I burst out crying — more than I've done this five years, and he sat down
by me, and stroked my head; and I went blundering on, and told him all; much worse things than I've told you. And he wasn't shocked a bit, and didn't snub me, or tell me I was a fool, and it was all nothing but pride or wickedness, though I dare say it was. And he didn't tell me not to follow out my thoughts, and he didn't give me any cut-and-dried explanation. But when I'd done he just talked a bit, I can hardly remember what he said, yet; but it seemed to spread round me like healing, and strength, and light; and to bear me up, and plant me on a rock, where I could hold my footing and fight for myself. I don't know what to do, I feel so happy. And it's all owing to you, dear old boy!” and he seized Tom's hand again.
“ And you're to come to the Communion ?” said Tom. “Yes, and to be confirmed in the holidays."
Tom's delight was as great as his friend's. But he hadn't yet had out all his own talk, and was bent on improving the occasion : so he proceeded to propound Arthur's theory about not being sorry for his friends' deaths, which he had hitherto kept in the background, and by which he was much exercised; for he didn't feel it honest to take what pleased him and throw over the rest, and was trying vigorously to persuade himself that he should like all his best friends to die off-hand.
But East's powers of remaining serious were exhausted, and in five minutes he was saying the most ridiculous things he could think of, till Tom was almost getting angry again.
Despite of himself, however, he couldn't help laughing and giving it up, when East appealed to him with “ Well, Tom, you ain't going to punch my head I hope, because I insist upon being sorry when you go to earth ?”
And so their talk finished for that time, and they tried to learn first-lesson; with very poor success, as appeared next morning, when they were called up and narrowly escaped being floored, which ill-luck, however, did not sit heavily on either of their souls.