THE AUTHOR OF THE SPANISH BROTHERS
SAYINGS AND LETTERS
BESIDES the Reading Circle, Miss Alcock had another monthly engagement. The Temperance Prayer Meeting was held in her drawing-room on the first Tuesday of each month. She was not herself an abstainer and felt, with good reason, that she was too old to change her habits: her tiny allowance of alcohol, strictly measured, was taken once, sometimes twice a day. But she was in full sympathy with Temperance work, and not only lent her room — she was always present, and led in prayer. We were quite a little band, but the prayers were real, and it is cheering to remember that both the Rector and the Secretary of the C.E.T.S. Branch noticed the advance in Temperance work after that little meeting was begun. We had some special answers to prayer for special cases, too, thank God.
Besides this, the large room below was always ready when needed for any parish function, and the forty or fifty chairs attended most of the concerts, sales and kindred functions at the Parish Room close by. Miss Alcock left directions that those chairs should go to the parish, when she needed them no more.
The "Meeting Room," as we called it, was also used for hospitality below stairs — and very nice it looked when decorated for the Christmas parties.
I think it was in 1909 that Miss Alcock spoke at one of the Women’s Protestant Union meetings in London. She was deeply interested in what she saw and heard and in meeting other workers in the cause so dear to her, but the effort was too great to be repeated.
She was also exceedingly interested in the collection of poems and verses illustrating Protestant history, made by her young friend Miss Dalton, called "Songs of Faith and Freedom." It is a fine collection, with good subjects for recitation. Miss Alcock herself brought out her last book in 1909. The publisher of Done and Dared in Old France (Partridge) asked for another, and she enjoyed enlarging one of her short stories into a shilling book, Robert Musgrave’s Adventure. As usual, she wrote in the mornings. She writes to Miss Dalton: —
February 8, 1909.
There is nothing like this "mapping out" for making the time pass quickly. So at least I think. It has always been my ideal to do the same things at the same time every day, and I try to arrange it so, as well as I can.
To the same.
We two, you and I, have heard, in a way most others perhaps do not hear, "The Kiss of Peace and Righteousness through all things that are done." We hear it in the voices that come to us from the Past, the joy of the martyrs in the midst of their suffering, the way God works out His own good ends through the mistakes, the errors, and the sins of men; and we see the traces of His loving-kindness through all. How these things have helped and comforted us!
We had our little Reading Union here yesterday. With six who came to it, our guests, and our two selves, we were ten, and I think we had an interesting time with Charles Kingsley. We talked of him "As a man and a Christian" and "as a Thinker and a Teacher," reserving for next day the two remaining parts of our subject, "as a Poet and a Novelist" and "as a Pastor and a Social Reformer." I think they enjoyed it, and some of them talked.
Scattered in my notebook are many sayings of Miss Alcock’s which may interest others. Here are four instances of her precision of expression.
F. S. said that sin contained its own punishment. D. said, "Sin contains the seed of its own punishment. When it is finished — it bringeth forth death."
A rather well-known writer used Peter’s Denial of Christ as an instance of Failure. "That was a fall, not a failure," said D. "Failure is not right or wrong — it is not doing what you want to do."
She was telling me of a young man they met, who at first seemed amiable and inane, but turned out very uppish. "Was he a prig?" I asked. "No. He hadn’t brains enough to be a prig. He was a snob. A prig is a person who has opinions and makes you a present of them, according to George Eliot. He had no opinions."
Here is a jotting from very early years. She was a tiny child when one day, after her father had given special orders that he was not to be interrupted, it was found that something must be had out of a cupboard in the study. The child, as the least disturbing element, was sent to get it. She stole in, but he looked up and said, "Did I not say I was not to be disturbed?" Very much distressed she answered, timidly, "Necessity compels me, Papa."
"What would you have?" quoth God. "Take it and pay for it" (quoted by Emerson). D. quoted it re the sacrifice that it would cost for any family resolutely to eschew the current extravagance, especially in dress.
"And if you don’t keep up to it, you find yourself left out," I said.
"It is better to be left out of a struggle than to drop out," said D. "If you withdraw from the struggle you make a position of your own, where you are as much respected as anywhere. If you go in for the struggle and fail, you go down."
D. said there was a great deal of thought in the sixties — new enterprises founded, new thoughts at work, Maurice and Kingsley flourished.
"Some of my friends were very much afraid of them," I said.
"And so were mine," said D. Her father had dreaded Kingsley, but after reading his Life (it was read aloud to him in the evenings), he said, "I admire him, I admire him intensely. I love him."
Speaking of the difference that Faith makes to the joy of life, D. said, "Yes, but it doesn’t do to tell them of the difference; it would be like offering them a bribe. That is what the Roman Catholics might do. It is a bribe."
I thought this rather carried her principle to an extreme, but she felt strongly against any idea of being good for what you can get. Ellen Thornycroft Fowler, in one of her stories, makes parents who are unbelieving learn faith by the death of a child; they could not live without belief in Heaven, then — which proved that justice and mercy demand a future state and man’s instincts crave it. But Deborah said, "Oh, that would never touch the real, thinking unbeliever. He would be too much afraid of believing what he liked."
When very small, she gave up the promised present of a doll that would open and shut its eyes, that the price might be given towards sending a little deaf and dumb friend to school. "And the kind curate gave me one! I felt somehow that it was wrong." Another saying of hers was, "Never put yourself at a child’s mercy by saying he shall not do this or that until he does something else. A resolute child may carry you much farther than you would wish to go."
To I. A. (staying at Oxford).
July 15, 1909.
. . . You know last Friday, the 10th, was the Quarter-centenary of Calvin’s birth, and Mr. Foster-Pegg gave us a whole sermon about him, from start to finish. I found it intensely interesting! By the way, have you seen the Ashmolean Museum? It contains one of the things in Oxford I should much like to see, "King Alfred’s Jewel." Do ask for it if you should be there, and salute it for me! If you come on it, inter alia, you will know it by the inscription, "Alfred had me made!"
To the same.
July 20, 1909.
. . . I know you will sympathize with me when you hear our dear Rector, Mr. Foster-Pegg, is going to leave us! He very kindly came on Saturday to tell me himself, but said he was going to announce it from the pulpit the next day. He has been appointed to the Living of Battersea, which is an important and influential post, and I hope that he will be very useful. But he will be missed here! And especially by me, to whom he was not only a valued pastor, but a truly kind and sympathizing friend.
To the same.
August 16, 1909.
. . . Why a publisher should object to religion in a tale for children is hard to understand . . . Perhaps the dislike to Protestantism is at the bottom of it. If so, what is it, for you, dear, but a little bit of the cross of Christ? That is the comfort I venture to take to myself, when it is brought home to me in any way that Protestantism has hindered the sale or the popularity of my books. It is only in a very little degree — too little almost, for us to venture to take the joy of it to our hearts, that we can suffer loss for His sake.
. . . I should much have liked to hear Archbishop Temple’s son, especially since he gave you "a real message, and the message of Christ."
I do not think the Female Suffragists speak or act as if that message had ever come to them!
I would willingly read the Bishop of London’s book if it came in my way. I know he is very fascinating, and I greatly admired his action with regard to the Licensing Bill, when he went against his own Party, and I am sure against his own tastes, predilections and prejudices, as well as his own friends and allies, to do what he believed was RIGHT. I can’t forget that to him. But on the other hand he throws his weight into the scale of Ritualism, that evil thing, that I believe is undermining all that is best and truest among us . . . I am very glad of those Gospels you saw in the R. C. Chapel. You know I make a special point of recognizing all the good in our enemies. Talking of that, did you notice in Madame de Crespigny’s book, the beautiful story of the young Jesuit, D’Estelos?
She does not tell the story, but it must be that of a Jesuit priest who was on board a ship that was wrecked and went to pieces, too far out at sea for any help to come. The passengers and crew clung to the pieces of the ship; and the priest swam from one to another — I think, with the Sacrament — if not, with prayers and blessings — till he sank, exhausted, and was seen no more. I remember the deep emotion with which she read me that story, and said, as she dried her tears, "I am so glad that I am so glad, when it was a Jesuit!"
It was a point of honour to her to have some good Roman Catholic in every Protestant book she wrote. In Crushed yet Conquering, the Chancellor Gerson, who signed the condemnation of John Huss, is a very noble and touching figure.
One incident that marked the year 1909 to Deborah was the visit of Miss Susan Kift, who actually had never crossed the Irish Channel before — always bound by ministry of some sort. "J. D." had come every year, and Dublin friends, and Waterford girls "that were" — but not Miss Kift till now. The effort was appreciated accordingly, and every entry in the diary shows how much that visit was enjoyed. The last is, "S. C. K. left. Most thankful for her visit; it has been so happy to us both — rested in the loving."
Each dear one had her own place, and met, as no one else did, one of the many sides of that large nature; but all met the need of loving.
Near the end of 1909, Martha left Frankfield to be married. It was a hard parting, but softened by the bridegroom’s coming to fetch her and set her on her way to her own home, where the wedding was to be. So there was a grand farewell party, and the two went away together. "I shall miss her," Miss Alcock wrote. "She was so connected with dear Mary." But she was satisfied that the young people would seek God’s blessing on their home — and receive it. With growing feebleness, Miss Alcock needed more attention, and in Martha’s place came a maid as ready to love, and older, with much experience of nursing and care of the weak, which made her more adapted than Martha could have been for the time that was coming. We still had Martha’s sister Kate as cook, and all that her skill and thought could do was done. It is sweet to know what love went into every morsel that the mistress ate, and every hand’s turn done for her about the house.
In January came another election with long processions marching past. One friend said she had scarcely ever read the papers so little — so tired of it all, I presume. Deborah said, "I have a morbid interest in them; it amounts to that. I read all their abuse of one another, and up and answer them — both sides."
In May she lost her much-valued and faithful friend, Dr. Waller. One of his daughters, her god-daughter, had gone before him. She writes to Miss Kift —
To Miss Kift.
May 21, 1909.
. . . The death of my old and valued friend, Dr. Waller, touched me more closely even than that of our good and honoured King. Dr. Waller was formerly Principal of the Highbury Theological College. He was English, but married an Irishwoman, a niece of Dr. Stubbs, F.T.C.D. She used to be staying with the Floods, and she and I struck up a friendship, which, when she married, extended, very warmly, to her husband — a devoted servant of God, a passionate lover and student of Holy Scripture, and a man of gifted and original mind. I have a quantity of his letters, on many subjects. He was most sympathetic about my books, which up to the last I never failed to send to him. His illness was tedious and trying, but the end was most peaceful. His wife, who was devoted to him, is quite calm, kept by a strength not her own.
Last week I was not quite so well, being threatened with the old trouble, but it passed off, and I am thankful, for last Wednesday, T. Strangman came to see me on her return from the Holy Land, staying just a day and night . . . and furthermore Lilly Hare (she was Lilly Freeman, and like T., one of my beloved Waterford "girls"), who lives in London now, arrived on Thursday 2 p.m. to spend the day. She did not go till 7 p.m., so from 5 o’clock one afternoon until 7 the next, it was all talk. I DID enjoy it though, and am heartily thankful to have had it.
I know indeed that we are none of us just "what we used to was," and I had reason to remember it on Thursday when I saw my "child" Lilly, with beautiful white hair! But we can say with Browning —
Grow old along with me,
The Best is yet to be.
And surely it is, for us who look to "grow in love and life for ever" in the Presence of our Lord.
June brought the Edinburgh Convention. To a friend who asked Miss Alcock what she thought of it — after commenting on the high value of great part of that Convention, she criticizes the suggestion of those of the High Church party who attended, that we should work with the Roman Catholics.
A suggestion which I think is as contrary to common sense as to sound theology. Think only of that one tenet of Rome, that out of the pale of her own Church there is no salvation. Therefore all Protestant Missionaries are leading all their converts straight to Hell fire! How could two physicians enter into partnership, one of whom believed the other systematically poisoned all his patients, and that they all of them died?
As to the propositions you quote (1) "Your Religion has the root of the matter in it" (this to the heathen). It is very doubtful, though it might be used, with qualification, to a Monotheist who believed in one God, a God of Righteousness. But (2) "You hunger for the Eternal" might be said truly, I think: because God put that hunger for Himself into the heart of man when He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
As someone said lately — an American author, I think, called Mary Rowlands: "Man turns his back upon all these (i.e. all created beings) and says to them — "I do not want you. I want God." This is the hall-mark of man, which distinguishes him from all the rest of creation. He wants God. It is like the gas in our lamps — it is not light, but it is the thing — the only thing — that is capable of receiving, retaining, and sustaining, or feeding, the light.
That is what I have, which my dog or my horse has not. The heathen has it, so he "wants God," and that want is, like all other vital wants, the promise and prophecy of its own fulfilment, and the preparation for it too. "No craving is given in vain."
B. sends her love to you, and says you are often in her thoughts. "She is one," she added, "who knows how to love."
About the paper on the Future, it is still only "in the miz." But that is because I want it to be part of a whole, which, if I can ever finish it, is to be called "The Silence and the Word"; and the motto is to be Pascal’s words. "The Eternal Silence of these Infinite Spaces terrifies me," — with, "His name shall be called ‘The Word of God.’ " Perhaps I told you something of this when you were here.
Miss Alcock fully admitted that numbers of Romanists practically do not hold that article of their creed; but regulations must be made according to the rule, not the exceptions. The creed of Rome is unchanged, both on this point, and on the dictum that anything is lawful if done for the interest of the Church.
A few more jottings from notebook and letters may close this chapter.
(Notebook) Lothair and The Spanish Brothers.
When Frances was here, Deborah told us how, when Lothair came out, just when Disraeli was at the height of his fame, and they were all reading it, her father had said, "I do not like it as well as The Spanish Brothers!" at which she laughed. I observed that The Spanish Brothers is still a living power in innumerable lives, while Lothair is hardly read or thought of now. "It was not translated into eight or nine languages," said Frances.
With look and tones that cannot be described, Deborah put her hand on hers and said, "The spider taketh hold with her hands and is in king’s palaces. I had a message to give that is not in Lothair."
And she spoke with intense feeling of the grandeur of her themes — belonging to the Kingdom.
Re-reading Alton Locke, she noted the confusion that Maurice and Kingsley make by mixing up the Church and the World. "If they had only noticed it, the words that they used themselves condemned them. The word ‘Ecclesia’ means ‘called out.’ The question is what is the Christian Church? ‘Ecclesia’ is used in various meanings, in Scripture, e.g., the assembly that gathered at Ephesus crying ‘Great is Diana of the Epeshians’ was called an ‘Ecclesia.’
Speaking of one she called her "able but wilful ‘child,’ " Deborah said, "She’s big and so she’s troublesome." And afterwards, "Commonplace people are made, and they stop: those who are not commonplace go on being made all their lives."
And to the end that was true of herself. She liked to see growth and enterprise. A letter to Miss Kift refers to a Hostel for Working Ladies in London, expected to be self-supporting on moderate terms, set going by one whose own position placed her beyond the need of earning.
I congratulate Miss B. on her achievement. I think it is a real credit to a girl to sketch out a career for herself in that way, when she might have been just amusing herself. I hope she will make it a great success.
Miss S. is evidently a "Girl of the Period." She takes the modern (?) girl’s view of life, — that it confers on her certain rights, which she claims and insists on. That, however, is only a kind of Girl of the Period. How very different was our late visitor, Ellie G. B. used to say, "She and her sisters are the very best kind of Girl of the Period, — up to every new idea or phase, yet full of thought for others, and thoroughly unselfish." Miss S. may make an admirable woman one of these days, if only her Centre is changed, and ceases to be herself. That is what she wants, as it seems to me — to learn the secret of Love, human, and above all, Divine. I hope she will learn it . . .
Puss is finely, and would purr his thanks for your kind inquiries only he is fast asleep. He generally spends his nights out, and sleeps nearly all day . . .
"Puss" was a member of the family who added much to the mistress’s pleasure in life — sometimes to her anxieties also: she loved animals intensely, and was painfully sensitive to any fear of a dumb creature’s suffering. Cats, however, can usually take care of themselves. A dog requires much more attention. Miss Alcock would never undertake the care of one; but she loved Miss Mortimer’s little dog, "Prince," and would put herself out of breath, hurrying to get him a biscuit when he came with anyone who brought a message. To this day, the dog will never pass her gate; he sits down on the step, and has to be carried away.
One of her favourite quotations was "the proper definition of an Irish bull."
"When you see a number of cows all lying down together in a field and one of them is standing up, that one is an Irish bull.
Another Irish saying often on her lips was:
The best way to prevent what has happened is to stop it before it begins. Solomon himself made a bull to the same effect — or his translators thought so (see Prov. xvii. 14).
One more saying of her own. We were speaking of the doctrine of Apostolical Succession through the lines of a human hierarchy, and both wondering how very good people, with brains, ever do adjust it in their minds that the grace of God can descend through such monsters of iniquity as great churchmen in the Church of Rome commonly were for ages, and not through such saints of God as Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Horatius Bonar, McCheyne, and a host of other holy and humble men of heart. Deborah said, "The stupendous illogicality of human nature comes in." She firmly believed in a spiritual Succession — God’s grace passed on from spirit to spirit down human lines — but only by the Spirit of God Himself working through human agency of voice and soul. I suggested that the touch of the hand might be a medium too; through the mystery of magnetic force. Deborah did not dispute that, but thought it would be more than dangerous — fatal, for Christians to rely on any magnetic power they possessed. God may use it as a medium, but man had better not be conscious of any power but His.
XXI. THE LAND OF BEULAH AND THE RIVER’S BRINK
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