Chapter XII. Church or World.
To draw His soldiers backward from the Cross
Woe and eternal loss.--LYRA INNOCENTIUM.
CANON BRODIE kept his word, and called on Mrs. Bryant; but she was in dread of what Mr. Cobbold might say to her, and only went on in an uncertain way about its being very hard, when she had done everything for her son--her only son--that he should want to go against all her wishes, on schemes of his own, to which she would never give her consent--taking away just the little income she had to depend on. This was stretching a point a good deal, for Mr. Cobbold's income much exceeded that which was derived from Edward's small inheritance, and this Edward well knew. And he felt the reproach unjust; but he would have perforce put off his scheme till he was of age, and could get possession of his own property.
The Canon indeed told him that he might hope [134/135] to be adopted as the pupil whose expenses were paid at St. Augustine's College by the diocese; but there was the feeling, right or wrong, of not being treated as an object of charity; and, besides, what was more to the purpose, it was a disadvantage that his churchmanship, though real, had been of such a wandering sort that he had never come into contact with any of the clergy; and the utmost any of them could say about him was that the vicar of the parish believed that Mrs. Bryant, of Freshet Road, had a son; and at St. Faith's the clergy supposed he was the young man who was generally a monthly communicant.
Aline's suggestion, however, turned out to have been very good. Edward wrote to Mr. Fraser at Langbridge, and the next day the rector made his appearance at Dobson's office, and asked for an interview with the head of the firm. There he was told, in answer to his inquiries, that there was no fault to find with young Bryant; he was a good, steady, punctual clerk, who had improved himself a good deal, and there was an idea of promoting him, and of sending him out to Singapore; but of late Cobbold, the head clerk, had [135/136] Edward spoke in the set way of one who had thought a good deal over the matter.
"And," said Mr. Fraser, a good deal impressed, "this has been your consistent desire ever since Archdeacon Smithson's sermon."
 "Not consistent, sir--off and on; but Mr. Goodrich lent me books, and it has grown more upon me since I have been here."
"Without external pressure?"
"I think not, till just lately; Canon Brodie's lectures have shown me more of the system and of the actual needs."
"I see; I think it may be said to be really a call. Have you any definite plan or wishes?"
"I should like, if possible, to be where Mr. Goodrich is; but otherwise I do not know. And I suppose, by what Canon Brodie says, that some training would be required?"
"Certainly. You ought to have a course at St. Augustine's at Canterbury. I should gather that you have the means for this. Terms forty-five pounds a year, exclusive of other expenses."
"Yes, sir; if my mother will let me have the amount. But, even after I am of age, it is partly in her power, and I think in that of Mr. Twistleden."
"You will not be eligible for St. Augustine's till you are twenty."
"That I shall be in the summer--July 3. And I should wish to begin at once, to lose no [137/138] time, and--"there he stopped, not expressing that his position at home might not be comfortable.
"Twistleden?--I think he came to Langbridge at the time of your grandfather's funeral?"
"Yes. He was my father's friend, a gentleman in the law, and was made trustee with my mother. I remember thinking him kind, and quite the gentleman at the time; and I had thought of writing to him, but I did not like to, till I knew what was to be done with my mother."
"I recollect having the same impression; and I should think there would be no difficulty with him personally, but one can never tell. The whole mission cause has been so much neglected in England, except by persons external to the Church, till within comparatively late years, that there is a good deal of prejudice in quarters one does not expect, as in the case of your mother."
"I do not think it is so much her own self," said Edward, "except the parting with me; but what Mr. Cobbold tells her."
"Well, I will see what can be done with her, and I must not keep you any longer."
No warning of Mr. Fraser's coming had been [138/139] given to Mrs. Bryant, and when his card had been sent up, and her best cap donned, she received him with: "Well, Mr. Fraser, this is a pleasure, I did not know you were in the place; I hope I may hear you preach, it would be so like the old days."
Mr. Fraser was rather amused, for he did not think the old days had been very happy ones to her, or that she had very much experience of his preaching, though hardly by her own fault; so he only complimented her, and very truly, on looking very well, as indeed she had a plump and prosperous air, very different from her worn and downtrodden appearance under old Bryant's tyranny; and "Might he congratulate her?" he said.
She smiled and colored a little. "Well, Mr. Fraser, it is not a hasty measure. He has been an inmate here going on for four years, and an excellent, superior gentleman, who has never given any trouble; and I was sure it was for my boy's good, or nothing should have made me consent. Shall you be here after five o'clock, Mr. Fraser? I should like you to see my son, and to introduce you to Mr. Cobbold."
 "Thank you; I shall have to be going home."
"Ah; I do wish you could see Edward. You spoke to him strong about his duty before, sir, and it would be well if you could persuade him it is his duty to drop all these ideas of his; enthusiastic fanatical, as Mr. Cobbold says, about throwing everything up and going out to heathen lands as a missionary."
"But, Mrs. Bryant, I don't know that it is his duty."
"Nay, now, sir, you backed me up that it was his duty to give up the farm and provide for me; and now, why should he leave me, and go off from all his best prospects just when he is old enough to profit by them?"
"Perhaps, Mrs. Bryant, you and I do not mean quite the same thing by profit."
"Well, sir, you are a clergyman; and--and--"(breaking off and beginning again), "I suppose you would say it was right there should be missionaries to the heathen, though there are those that think they would do as well, or better, if they were let alone; but, then, why must they take my son, my only one, all I have got, for them?"
 "I confess I thought your son's first duty was to you, and did not encourage his aspirations; but you cannot say that circumstances are the same now, or that you were intending to keep him at home."
She murmured again something about "For his good."
"For his earthly profit, you mean. You are willing to let him run the risks of climate and temptation, while you stand in the way and make yourself an obstacle to what, to his mind and to mine, is a call from God to work for his Heavenly Master--for his own eternal welfare, and that of others. I should feel it a frightful responsibility to endeavor to obstruct such a call."
She began to cry, and to say something about talking to Mr. Cobbold.
"It is not a matter in which Mr. Cobbold is concerned. He has no claim upon the young man, nor on what comes to him from his father."
"Except that I am trustee with Mr. Twistleden, and have to give consent if he wants it. I have always received the interest till now, and his salary has gone for his pocket-money and expenses."
 "You were giving it up, anyway, now. All that is asked of you is to relinquish this last two years' income--you will have no choice when he comes of age--to enable him, to prepare for the noble course that is before him. And, Mrs. Bryant, I think I may tell you, from my own experience, that it is a very perilous thing to balk such aspirations. I have known those who have resigned them never able to settle to anything again, and with spoiled lives."
Something struck Mrs. Bryant with the remembrance that she had never been uneasy about Edward, except when he had been threatened and disappointed out of his schemes as a boy; but she still had not given in, and moaned something about being sure that he would always be a good lad, if things were not put into his head, people fancying he would be a gentleman, and so forth.
"You know and I know that the impression, the call, as I may say, came long ago, quite unconnected with any such idea, from a sermon of Archdeacon Smithson's. What I call on you to promise--as one who has known you and your son for many years--is, that you will not allow yourself to be persuaded to withhold your [142/143] consent, nor the property to which he has a full right, from being used in the work to which he feels himself called."
"Well, Mr. Fraser, since you make such a point of it----"
"I have your promise, then?"
He shook hands with her, and told her he was going to call on his old friend, Mrs. Millar; and he did not choose to hear a murmur about the Millar girls putting fancies in her son's head about being a clergyman and a gentleman. She was sure that Aline was at the bottom of it. So she was sighing to herself, even when the door was shut on Mr. Fraser; but her thoughts were better than her words. "If her Eddy really had a call, it was not for her to hinder it."