Chapter XI. The Choice.
By other sounds the world is won
Than that which wails from Macedon;
The roar of gain is round it roll'd
Or men unto themselves are sold,
And cannot list the alien cry,
"O hear and help us, lest we die!" HYMNS ANCIENT AND MODERN.
To prepare his mother! Edward was watching for a moment when boarders and servant should both be out of the way, when a surprise was sprung upon him in his turn.
Mr. Cobbold was already in the sitting room when he came down to dinner, and received him with: "So, young man, I have a good offer for you--a bit of promotion. You have stuck pretty steadily to work these three years, thanks to having me and the lady there to look after you; and improved yourself in the foreign lingoes, and I have spoken in your favor to Mr. Dobson, so that he proposes to you a berth in the office at Singapore, to write to these German and Dutch [121/122] fellows, getting all expenses allowed and a clear salary of one hundred pounds a year. Pretty offer for a lad of your age, I should say, and it will be your own fault, with your property, if you don't get into a partnership by-and-by, when you are of age."
"I am very much obliged; thank you, sir," said Edward, but with a sound of hesitation that made his mother begin hastily:
"I am sure it is most kind and generous of Mr. Cobbold."
Perhaps the oddness of calling that a generous act, which cost Mr. Cobbold nothing, helped Edward to speak up. "It is very kind in Mr. Cobbold; but I had thought of another arrangement."
"Another?" exclaimed Mr. Cobbold. "You've not been mean and ungrateful enough to take proposals from Arkitt and Redding without a word of notice?"
"Certainly not, Mr. Cobbold," said Edward; "I never heard nor dreamed of such a thing. I should do nothing without notice to our firm; but, as my mother knows, I have long thought of preparing for foreign mission work, and I have [122/123] spoken to Canon Brodie. He is coming to talk to my mother about it on Wednesday."
"And if she takes my advice she will send him about his business. I've no patience with those parsons, going about canting, and getting idle young men to get into their own beggarly business, making humbugs of the poor natives, and then coming home and begging round the country!"
Edward had heard something like this before; and his mother moaned out: "I'm sure you know that your poor dear grandfather was always against any such nonsense. And didn't you promise that--that you would always take care of me, like a good son?"
"But, mother, if you want me to go to Singer' pore you can't want me here?"
For Singapore had cut the ground from under Mrs. Bryant's feet; but she exclaimed: "I only--it was only for your own good."
"And this is for my good--my real good," emphatically declared Edward. "Mother" (as Miss Grant was heard coming downstairs), "don't let us say any more about it now. Let us talk it all over by-and-by."
 There was something about the young man that did impose silence on the party till dinner was over, though Miss Grant tried to keep up some sort of conversation; but the answers were so short that her attempts fell, and Mrs. Bryant scarcely ate anything, and was very near crying. When it was over, and Mr. Cobbold was to be left to smoke his pipe, he held out his hand as she passed him, and said: "Don't let him make a fool of you."
As Miss Grant ascended the stairs, having tact enough to ask no questions, Mrs. Bryant subsided into a chair and began to cry, while Edward stood before her, embarrassed and distressed. "Well, mamma," at last he said, "what is it? You seemed willing enough to part with me just now."
"Ah, that was for your good. You would be in the way of making your fortune."
"Is there no good but making a fortune?" exclaimed Edward.
And not knowing exactly how to answer this, she went on--"And that you should be so ungrateful, and undutiful too." But as she stopped for a sob, Edward broke out:
 "I don't owe any duty to old Cobbold."
"Hush! hush! But don't you know. Oh! I meant to have told you. He is going to be your--your----"
"I see," said Edward; "but he is not yet, and, if he were, I am not bound to obey him. Never mind, mother, I shall be just as much out of his way and yours, as if I went to Singapore, or wherever it is."
"Oh, Eddy, Eddy, don't say such things. It is not that I wish or I want--I can't bear the thought of parting with you--my own boy--except for your own advantage; but, you see" (now she was rehearsing what she had been conning over for several days, and never found courage to utter): "I have been a widow seventeen years, and no one knows what I went through with your poor grandfather all for your sake."
"Yes, yes; indeed you have always been the best of mothers to me------ Yes, indeed," he repeated, in another interval caused by her weeping.
"And now," she resumed, "when there is a good opening, and such a kind good gentleman, so worthy, and willing to act so handsomely by [125/126] you and by me. You can't believe but that I would consult your good, my boy, my only dear boy."
She held out her hands to him affectionately, and he bent over her and kissed her, saying, in a warm and kindly tone: "Yes, mother, I would not stand in the way of your happiness." Yet, even then, the wonder occurred to him how could any one expect to be made happy by Mr. Cobbold? But, then, he had been a housemate for three years, and might be known to have nothing objectionable about him.
She had a little more to say about Mr. Cobbold's being so much respected, and having a share in the house of business, and a comfortable income, and how they meant, when Miss Grant went away, as she was likely soon to do, to take no more boarders, but move into a smaller house and live at ease. It was evident that the grown-up son made no part in these schemes, though it ended with: "You know there will always be a bed and welcome for you, my own dear boy. And, oh! your mother's heart will be so glad to see you." Then, as he returned warmly the caress that followed, she went on, [126/127] recollecting herself: "And now, can't you just please me, and give up this enthusiastic fad as you did before, and take this post--ever so much to your advantage, you know?"
These words brought others to Edward" What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
"I cannot give it up, mother," he said, "I spoke solemnly to God, and told Him I would."
"Did any one hear you, my son?" she asked, as if half frightened at the mention.
"Nobody. But that makes no difference; it is between God and my own soul. Mother, I do believe that our Saviour began calling me long ago, when I saw the magic lantern at Langbridge, to do what I can to help His kingdom to spread over the world; and I mean to do it, God helping me. Nothing held me back but my duty to you; and as it is plain that you require me no longer--it is getting plain before me. Goodnight; I am going to take a turn on the Parade."
It was better to be away without last words; and he took a walk up and down the Parade in the long spring twilight, trying to realize all that [127/128] had passed. His own venture was uttered, and, on the other hand, the announcement that had been looming in the distance, had been made, and the only parent he had known and whom he loved was practically casting him off. But his way was opened, though at the cost of what sacrifice was yet to be known. It was all in such doubt that he could not think, and he felt the need of sympathy.
Andrews, to whom he could talk, but who had to be argued over each time, was sure to be at the Reading Room, and though it was not his custom, Edward felt drawn irresistibly to 11, Undercliff Road. He pocketed his pipe, strode on, and rang at the door. After a little delay and bustle it was Mabel who opened it. "Oh, Eddy, Eddy, come in! What fun, Mamma and Frances are drinking tea at Mrs. Mailing's, and Susan is having her evening out. Aline and I have it all to ourselves."
She brought him in, to where the table was covered with exercise books and dictionaries, and Aline sprang up, evidently from elbows on the table, hands in her hair, and general hard work.
"Is anything the matter, Eddy?" she cried, [128/129] for there was something in his face that looked like a crisis.
"No. But I've done it," he said, passing his hand over his face as he took off his hat.
"Done it! spoken out? To the Canon? Oh! you are a brick! I am so glad." And Mabel began to dance round him.
"Don't, Mab," said her sister, "you are too big to make such a row; and, look at Edward; you see it is a very solemn thing."
Mabel was quieted by the words, and stood with clasped hands; looking at Edward's countenance, as he said, "Yes, I have given myself, and asked to be helped to see my way."
"Then you will really, really be a missionary, and teach the heathen, and spread the kingdom?" gasped Mabel.
"I hope so," was Edward's reply, seeing full agreement in Aline's eyes. "But," he went on, "here is my mother going to give herself to old Cobbold."
"Mamma and Frances have been full of that ever so long," said Aline. "Have you only just found it out?"
"I have suspected it for a long time, but could [129/130] not speak of it till she told me," said Edward. "But this evening she did. And they want to send me out to Singapore on business affairs."
"Then there can't be any difficulty about her parting with you?" said Aline.
"No; but Cobbold is dead against it, just like my poor old grandfather, calls me all sorts of fools, and may hinder her from consenting. I don't feel bound to obey him, but I could not bear not to have her consent and blessing. Besides, he might keep her from letting me have my own money before I come of age in two years' time."
"I think," said Aline, "it would not be a bad plan for you to write to Mr. Fraser. He could persuade her if any one can."
"Yes; he is a friend of Mr. Goodrich. Oh! Aline, this Canon Brodie knows Mr. Goodrich, and his church in Saskatchewan."
"Oh, among the Red Indians," exclaimed Aline, "in all the snow. Shall you go out there, Eddy, and wear snow-shoes, and christen the papooses?"
"That is what I should like; but I shall not know till I have been at St. Augustine's." "St. Augustine's--is it a place out there?"
 "Out there? Mab thinks out there is some place where any number of natives are to be found."
"Now, Aline, you know I am not such a goose."
"But you do know about St. Augustine, Mab," said Edward, "in your history of England."
"The man that the good Pope Gregory sent to England when he saw the Angle boys looking like angels."
"The same. Well --" he began.
"In Kent. Yes, I know, and that is why we have Archbishops of Canterbury."
"Well, there began from his time a great monastery at Canterbury which was called after him."
"Oh, yes," said Aline. "Remember, Mabel, they used to elect the Archbishops, and there were rows with them."
"I recollect; I suppose history does help. Well----"
"It was broken up at the Reformation, sold, and all ran to ruin. I believe there was a brewery there till about fifty or sixty years ago. A good rich man, Mr. Alexander Beresford Hope, [131/132] bought the remains for a college to prepare missionaries, and it has gone on and flourished ever since. Canon Brodie was telling me about it; and if a man wants to go out properly prepared, and taught, not only divinity scholarship, but the sort of things that a missionary ought to know, he will be sent out in connection with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel."
"And how long will it take?" asked Mabel.
"About three years, I believe; and though it has been made as cheap as possible, still one must have some means."
"Oh!" sighed Mabel. "I thought you would go at once, like people in books; only I suppose you must be ordained first. Yes, I should like you in Canada. Or I should best like you to go to China to save the poor babies that they bury alive. Or to the dear Coral Isles, where they make houses up in trees. Or to Africa, where they are all black, and have been slaves, with yokes like a Y round their necks. Or----"
"Oh, Mabel, Mabel, there's a great deal to come first, and no one knows what it will be at last."
"Only somehow it will be," said Aline. "It [132/133] will be the old hymn, 'Salvation, oh, salvation, the joyful sound proclaim."
The three young voices joined in the hymn; and then, a clock striking warned Edward that if he did not hurry home he might be late, and he was in. no frame for argument that night.