The Sentimental Celibate.
By the Husband of One Wife.
London: Faith Press, 1922.
Chapter 1. Shocks and Counter-Shocks
Chapter 2. The Society of the “Nil Desperandum”
Chapter 3. Sentiments and Realities
Chapter 4. Caught!
Chapter 5. S. Joan of Arc’s Battery
Chapter 6. The Consorority of the Hopefuls
Chapter 7. Cherchez la Femme
Chapter 8. The Eternal Feminine
Chapter 9. The Quintessence of Catholicism
Chapter 10. Black Treachery
Chapter 11. The True Affections of the Heart
Chapter 12. Explosions
Epilogue. After Long Years
CHAPTER I. SHOCKS AND COUNTER-SHOCKS.
“Oh, rubbish! You’re trying to have me on!”
“My dear chap, I’m telling you the absolute truth. Father William Montague was married last week at St. Paul’s, Seaton Square.”
“St. Paul’s—Seaton Square—William Montague—married!” gasped Arthur Pentreath, his voice husky, his face pale with emotion.
For a moment he remained silent. He was, in fact, speechless, with surprise and overwhelmed at the news. At last a faint smile flickered over his face as he asked gently, “Did he marry or was he married?”
His friend laughed aloud as he replied, “I really don’t know, but I don’t think that Montague is the sort of man to be forced. However, I will tell you something that will startle you still more. He married a widow!”
Arthur Pentreath shuddered violently. His white face flushed. Then he sank back on the garden seat.
“I thought,” he muttered as he buried his face in his hands, “I thought he was one of us!”
John Tremayne gave his young friend a look, half of pity, half of amusement. For a time he said nothing, but watched the smoke as it curled up from his pipe. The silence was broken by Pentreath.
“What will the Society say?” he asked. “Of course he will have to go! And he was President, too, and so dead against the marriage of the clergy!”
Tremayne gave his friend a puzzled look.
“Society! What Society?” he asked.
“Why, the Society of the Nil Desperandum.”
“The Society of the Nil Desperandum!” It was now Tremayne’s turn to show surprise; “I have never even heard of it.”
“Never heard of it!” said Pentreath in incredulous tones. “Why it’s the very last thing in Catholicism!”
“If it’s that,” rejoined Tremayne somewhat drily, “it must be a gross innovation.”
Pentreath looked pained and relapsed into silence while his companion seemed faintly annoyed.
For some little time they continued smoking without uttering a word. Indeed, their surroundings were conducive. It was a lovely summer afternoon and the heat was great. Pax Priory seemed sleep and the only sound that reached the ear was the hum of the bees and the buzzing of insects. The two friends were sitting outside the Parsonage, as the Chaplain’s house was called. From it the land sloped gently to the conventual buildings. The grounds had been planted by a master hand and choice trees of various kinds delighted the eye. Stretches of lawn were broken by patches of heather and tangles of broom and bramble. An avenue of tuya trees, the special admiration of the founder, led up to the main door of the Priory, while here and there masses of rambler roses added a wealth of brilliant colour. A girdle of tall timber enclosed the estate and shut out the prying eye of the vulgar and profane. On the north side a plantation of pine provided shady walks for the Sisters. Here, too, in one corner was a grass and moss-grown walk which deadened the tread of a passer-by. It led to the lych-gate, and this to the cemetery—the last resting-place of the Nuns. The Priory and its grounds had a beauty all their own, but what impressed every visitor was the atmosphere of peace and calm which filled the place. It was most impressive and most reposeful—the very antithesis of the outside world.
At the time of the events recorded in these pages, John Tremayne was Chaplain at the Priory. A west country man, he had gone up to Exeter College, Oxford, and had worked, after his ordination, for many years in a poor parish in West London. Now-a-days the East End is more fashionable and so no preferment was offered to him. However, he was not the man to grumble. His work and his reading kept him busy until it was borne in upon him that he could serve the Church better by his writings for which he had a manifestly decided bent. What seemed a chance acquaintanceship led to his being offered the chaplaincy of Pax Priory, and as this gave him the opportunity he desired, he found himself at the age of forty peacefully settled at the Parsonage. Apart from the loneliness, he was quite content.
On one occasion he conducted a Retreat for Clergy, and then it was that he met a young priest, Arthur Pentreath, a west country man like himself. In spite of their disparity in age, for Tremayne was some fifteen years older, a firm friendship had grown up between the two, and whenever Pentreath could get away from his work would bicycle down to Pax, where he was sure of a warm welcome.
However, when he joined the Society of the Nil Desperandum he kept it quite to himself. Something warned him not to mention it to Tremayne, and it was only the shock on hearing of Montague’s marriage that made him let the cat out of the bag.
After a long silence, Tremayne jerked out, “Nil Desperandum Society! Did you say Nil Desperandum Society?
“No,” rejoined his friend, “Not Nil Desperandum Society, but ‘The Society of the Nil Desperandum.’”
“Oh! I see. But what do they nil desperandum about?”
Pentreath flushed scarlet. “Well, I—I—I don’t quite know,” he replied. “But one thing is we mustn’t marry.”
Tremayne laughed. “Excellent!” he said, “of course impecunious parsons mustn’t marry. But what keeps you all from doing so? I suppose you take vows?”
“Oh, no!” answered Pentreath hastily, “we don’t do that.”
The Chaplain laughed uproariously while his friend looked quite uncomfortable. Seeing his confusion, Tremayne burst out, “Forgive me, dear boy, but the whole thing strikes me as rather a joke. You say you mustn’t marry, but you can if you like.”
“Oh, no! I didn’t say that.”
“Well, it comes to that anyway. The fact is you may be a member of the Society while you are single. If you marry, then ipso facto you drop out. Your Society seems to have no foundations but a sentiment, and sentiments are like ghosts, unsubstantial and evanescent.”
Pentreath tried to protest, but fortunately for him a maid announced tea, and both friends for a time forgot the Society of the Nil Desperandum in cakes, honey and home-made jam.
Before partying they went for a stroll in the pine wood and talked over plans for a holiday trip to the Italian Lakes. These were well known to Tremayne, Cadenabbia being his favourite resort. In spite of the summer heat he loved the quietness of the spot before the coming of the season and globe-trotting visitors.
Suddenly the Chaplain changed the conversation. “How many priests belong to the Society of the Nil Desperandum?” he asked impulsively?
“About fifty,” replied Pentreath.
“I suppose they are all quite young?”
His friend looked greatly surprised. “How on earth did you know that?” he asked.
“Well,” said Tremayne, “by the time you reach my age you know a few things, unless you go through the world with your eyes closed.”
After a pause, he added, “I take it that your Society is all heart and no head; it has enthusiasm without balance, pretentiousness without learning, sentiment without decision.”
“That’s very sweeping,” said Pentreath hastily.
“It may be,” he answered, “but I am convinced I am not far wrong.”
“I only wish you could be present at one of our meetings,” the younger man began. “I feel sure you would be of a different opinion. We invite strangers who are in sympathy with the movement or interested in it. We meet at 3 p.m. in the first week of every month except August and September. Do come next time. That will be on Friday.”
Tremayne thought for a moment. “Yes,” he answered slowly. “I think my engagements will allow of that.”
“Good,” said Pentreath, “and of course you will lunch with me.”
By this time they had reached the Parsonage gate. Pentreath was on the point of mounting his bicycle when Tremayne linked his arm with his friend’s.
“Come with me,” said he, “just for one moment.”
He led him a little way down the path and then turned to the left. A few steps brought them to a red granite cross.
“Read the inscription at the foot,” said Tremayne.
His friend read and seemed much moved.
“Yes,” said the Chaplain, “it is the memorial to the founder of this hallowed spot. He was not a sentimental celibate but the husband of one wife. ‘He being dead, yet speaketh.’ His ‘works do follow’ him.”
Pentreath pressed his friend’s hand and turned hastily away.
CHAPTER 2. THE SOCIETY OF THE “NIL DESPERANDUM.”
On the following Friday, Tremayne went up to town. He lunched with his friend and at 3 p.m. they reached the Vicarage of St. Joan of Arc’s, Orleans Street.
“We generally meet in Church,” said Pentreath, “but this afternoon some urgent repairs are being done to the roof and we are to assemble at the Vicarage.”
Tremayne felt a sense of relief. He hardly knew why. He was somewhat second-sighted and, as events proved, the discussions that followed were more suitable to a private residence than to a church with all its solemn associations. The Vicarage was a substantial building, while its general appearance suggested easy circumstances.
“Father Black,” said Pentreath, as he rang the bell, “is pretty well off. He’s a bit of a collector and his house is stuffed with curios.”
Further remark was cut short, for the door was opened by an immaculate butler to whom Pentreath was well known. The man led the way across a large hall to a palatial dining-room. As soon as Tremayne entered the house, he was struck by the sumptuousness of the interior. He felt as once that the Vicar of St. Joan of Arc’s was so very comfortably situated that his outlook on life would render his advice useless to ordinary mortals while his luxurious surroundings would promote a selfishness, possibly unconscious, but certainly intense.
These thoughts only flashed through his mind for a moment after Pentreath was introducing him to the Vicar.
“I am so much pleased to meet you,” said the latter in a gracious but somewhat distant way. “I have read your books with interest, and, I trust, with profit. I am glad to welcome you to our discussions.”
Before Tremayne could answer, Father Black had joined himself somewhat hastily to a tall cleric who had just come in. They moved aside into a window and began an animated conversation, leaving Tremayne an opportunity to take stock of his surroundings. There were some fifty priests present, but first of all he looked at the room. The round dining table had been pushed back into a corner, revealing a handsome carpet into which the feet seemed positively to sink. The furniture was of oak, magnificently carved, while the sideboard was a triumph of the wood-worker’s skill. A silver lamp hung from the centre of the richly moulded ceiling and smaller lights adorned the walls. The latter were of a golden hue and matched the carpet. The fierce sunlight was subdued by outside blinds and windows filled with golden glass. On the mantelpiece was a clock of singular beauty with a lovely chime. The timepiece was flanked by fine bronzes, copies of the antique. A few old Masters added just exactly that touch of colour which was wanting. The charm of the apartment struck Tremayne at once.
“The Society of the Nil Desperandum may or may not be the last thing in Catholicism,” he muttered to himself, “but this room is the very last thing in good taste.”
Then he thought of the homes, so called, of the West End poor and his face grew sad.
All the time an animated conversation was going on. The clerics had formed themselves into various groups and were talking for all they were worth.
Consternation sat upon most faces and anger upon not a few. So absorbing was the subject that no one seemed to notice Tremayne. His attention, however, was turned to Father Black and Father Cuthbert Mann, Bishop-Elect, whose name and approaching dignity Pentreath had whispered in his ear. He had no wish to hear what they were saying, but their loud voices reached everyone.
“Abominable! Appalling! Atrocious!” said the Vicar.
“Beastly! bestial! brutish!” chimed in Cuthbert Mann. Their voices then sank to a whisper while Tremayne could not help feeling that the alliterations were somewhat forced and artificial. This made him scan their faces closely. About Father Black he soon made up his mind. “He has,” he muttered to himself, “a B in his name and one in his bonnet!” The Bishop-Elect was obviously posing. He was certainly not bending to bear the weight of his approaching office, nor in the garden of his soul was he cultivating the flowers of humility. He was suffering simply from the exuberance of youth.
Of course this was Tremayne’s secret thought, but he felt sure that both Black and Mann were sincere as far as they could be and might mellow with age and experience if that experience were real and not won in artificial surroundings.
However, he felt somewhat sick at heart and turned to look at the rest of his clerical brethren. The first thing that struck him was that the extreme youth of the company meant very little experience of the realities of life. Then he examined individual faces as well as his surroundings permitted. Some showed a pallor suggestive of indifferent physique and of unsound judgment. Others looked weak and unstable. Others again indicated a confident assurance in inverse proportion to any real knowledge, while others were eloquent of perversity and “cussedness.”
He began to mutter to himself almost involuntarily, “Callow and immature enthusiasts—mistaking shadows for realities—sentimentalists and theorists—self-deceived idealists—devotees to religiosity—capable of calf love but of no many affection—neophytes in a lost cause.”
He pulled himself up with a start.
Then his eye fell on Pentreath. A smile replaced the weary look on his face as he noticed how different his friend seemed from the rest. Never before had he been so struck by the well-balanced head and broad brow, the bright blue truthful eyes and the look of innocence.
“Dear boy,” he thought, “what splendid work he will do if he doesn’t make an ass of himself!”
At that moment the butler entered and spoke to Father Black. “I have arranged,” said the latter, “that we shall have our discussion in the library. Let me show you the way.”
Without further remark he passed across the hall. The rest of the company followed, Tremayne and his friend bringing up the rear.
The room was oblong in shape, richly carpeted, furnished with handsome bookcases and replete with every comfort that a reader could, or rather, perhaps shouldn’t desire. Some fifty chairs had been arranged in rows of five, facing a handsomely-carved oak seat—the place of the President.
The members of the Society were soon seated except the Vicar and the Bishop-Elect. For some time they were engaged in earnest conversation. In the interim, Tremayne ran his eye along the adjacent shelves, and to his great surprise notice at his first glance “Migne’s Patrologia,” “Mansi’s Concilia,” “The Acta Sanctorum,” sundry tomes of the Maurists and the “Analecta Bollandiana.” A conspicuous place was given to some of the folios of the latest edition of St. Thomas Aquinas, while post-Reformation Roman writers seemed much in evidence. The library appeared full of authors, dogmatic, moral, mystical and ascetic, and suggested a weight of learning hardly in harmony with the appearance of the owner.
Tremayne was greatly puzzled. He rose from his chair and examined some of the volumes a little more closely. Then he smiled a broad smile, an understanding smile, a comprehensive smile. The books were uncut!
“Camouflage,” he muttered, as he sank back into his chair.
By this time Father Black and Father Mann had finished their conversation. The latter sat down in the front row while the Vicar, with a pale, set face, stood up to address the Society of the Nil Desperandum.
CHAPTER III. SENTIMENTS AND REALITIES.
FATHER BLACK was attired in a silk cassock with shoulder cape and gathered sleeves. A broad and ample cincture broke the severe lines of his draperies while his lower extremities were set off by silver-buckled shoes. On his head he wore a biretta delicately poised. His dress was superb.
At first he seemed nervous and ill at ease. He looked at the ceiling and then at his shoes. His eyes then appeared to be searching for his biretta until he realised that, though he might speak through his hat, he could not see through his head. At last he pulled himself together and began to speak in a husky voice. “I am glad to welcome you to my humble abode, though, er–er—I could wish that we met under happier circumstances. Our revered President—no, I don’t mean that—the gentleman who once presided can preside no more, and I should like to propose that Father Cuthbert Mann, Bishop-Elect of Arabia Deserta, be invited to take the chair.”
Father Cuthbert Mann then stepped forward and graciously bowed to the company with quite an episcopal air. For a few moments he sat in the President’s chair. He took off his biretta, passed his hand across his brow, gently slapped his head and stroked his chin. This was clearly the way in which he collected his thoughts. Then he stood back up. His attire was as faultless as Father Black’s, but his greater height added to his dignity, a dignity befitting a Bishop-Elect. He showed no signs of nervousness. The members of the Society looked at him with awe. Not a muscle on their faces moved. The silence was intense, when by accident Tremayne dropped a pin. Then everybody gave a violent start while Father Mann sank back in his chair and showed his displeasure in a series of frowns. Tremayne nearly laughed aloud. However, Mann grew tired of his facial contortions and once more rose to his feet.
“Fathers,” he began, “we thank you for the great honour that you have conferred on us. However, our heart is very heavy. You are only too well aware that we meet under very distressing conditions. It might, perhaps, be thought discreet if one passed over recent events. What merits no resemblance should be buried in oblivion.”
The last phrase appealed to the company which expressed its approbation by a loud “Hear! Hear!”
The Bishop-Elect seemed not to notice the interruption but proceeded further to unburn his over-laden soul.
“Notwithstanding,” he went on, “at a time of crisis, plain speaking is a necessity, cost what it may. That we have reached such a time in the history of our Society is a fact so painfully obvious that it requires no words of mine to enlarge on the situation.”
The more delicate members of the company sighed; the more robust snorted defiance.
“For some years,” he went on, “Father William Montague”—the mere mention of the name caused a sensation, and for a moment Mann appeared at a loss to know the reason. Suddenly he recovered himself with a jerk. “I beg your pardon,” he said hastily. “I must profoundly beg your pardon; lapsus linguae due to great mental tension! You will understand! I should have said that for some years the Reverend William Montague has been President of our Society. He is false to his profession. He is a trifler and a traitor, a renegade and a reactionary. He has thrown the rule in the mud and trampled it under his feet.”
So loud were the groans that the Bishop-Elect was forced to stop. However, he used the time to brace himself to further effort and began once more in a voice of thunder, “The Reverend William Montague has married!!”
Loud cries of shame rose from all over the room. The din was dreadful. Some of the gentlemen present even whistled their indignation. The Bishop-Elect raised his voice to a scream, “Montague has married a widow!” The scene that follows baffles description. Dismay was written on every face. Mann sank back in his seat and mopped the perspiration from his brow with an embroidered silk handkerchief. The company was in the utmost confusion. Some members were standing, some were sitting on the floor, some were rocking their chairs to and fro.
Tremayne looked for Black. For a moment he missed him. At last he saw that he had fallen into the arms of the Bishop-Elect. For a few moments chaos reigned supreme. During the time, Tremayne took further stock of the books. What he noticed only confirmed his first opinion.
After a considerable interval order was restored, and Mann was just rising to speak when a voice was heard from the back of the room: “May I ask a question?”
Every head was turned in the direction of the speaker.
Tremayne was on his feet. “May I ask one or two questions?” he asked.
“Certainly, certain,” answered Mann graciously. “They may lead to a discussion.”
“Thank you, answered Tremayne. “Had Montague taken a vow of celibacy?”
“Oh no,” was the reply. “Why should he?”
“Because,” came the answer, “if he had taken no vow, he was under no obligation. He could change his mind. Seeing that our community allows us to marry if we will, the life vow is the only proof of sincerity.”
For a moment the company was horrified by the assertion, and Mann seemed at a loss what to say.
At last he blurted out, “Surely he can make up his mind without the burden of vows?”
Tremayne smiled as he asked drily, “Have you forgotten human nature?”
“No I haven’t,” answered the Bishop-Elect rather hotly, “but I don’t see what you are driving at. Besides, we have no objection to a priest’s being married before ordination.”
“There again,” said Tremayne, “you are doing great wrong.”
“Great wrong!” exclaimed Mann in indignant tones.
“Yes, great wrong,” he replied quietly. “You are making a fresh division in the Church!”
Mann really looked uncomfortable. “That’s not our fault,” he urged.
“It is your fault, and you know it’s your fault, and what is more, the line you are taking will lead to deplorable results.”
“What on earth do you mean?” broke in Black.
“Marriage for money,” he replied.
Black and Mann help up their hands in amazement and the rest of the Society gasped.
“Oh, please, explain,” said the Bishop-Elect somewhat tartly. “But won’t you come to the front? We shall hear you better and be duly instructed.” The last words were said in a very unpleasant tone.
Tremayne hesitated a moment and then walked forward. He felt the opportunity had come unsought and was one that might never recur.
The Society seemed struck by his appearance. His frame was well knit, his height medium, his face determined. At time a kindly smile broke over his features, indicative of a very loving heart that could forget itself in unselfish ministrations to others. He suggested intense sincerity and a hatred of shams. He looked like a man and he spoke like a man.
“Eastern priests,” he began, “I am well aware, must have married before ordination to the priesthood. Now without going into details, I would impress on you the fact that marriage has a social and an economic side and it is this that prevents the eastern rule from being carried out in the Anglican Communion. Of course rich men or men who marry money can carry out the eastern custom. These you admit to your altars and to your pulpits. Those who marry after Ordination, you treat as pariah dogs.”
There were sounds of dissent, but Tremayne was not to be stopped.
“You treat them as pariah dogs,” he said with emphasis, “and hence you persuade a younger generation to seek a rich partner before Ordination. It will be a question neither of vocation nor of affection, but one purely and simply of money. It’s revolting!”
“But,” interposed the Bishop-Elect with unction, “there’s no necessity to marry. Remember our Roman brethren.”
“No,” went on Tremayne, “there’s no need to marry, but what neo-Catholics or ultramarinists always forget is human nature.”
He paused for a moment to allow his hearers to enjoy their new title. The Bishop-Elect smiled complacently. Father Black looked down his nose to watch his cheeks relax. The rest purred with pleasure.
Pentreath alone looked anxious and apprehensive.
“As for our Roman brethren,” began Tremayne again, “they simply don’t come in. They live in an environment of celibacy from their birth; we from our earliest infancy breathe the atmosphere of the parson’s wedded life. Comparison is impossible! Besides, as well-read men,” and his eye fell on the uncut books, “you must be well aware that western celibacy has not been a complete success.”
Loud cries of dissent at once rose—“Sit down! heretic! degenerate! slanderer! Mormon!” “Withdraw that terrible libel,” shouted the Bishop-Elect in commanding tones. Father Black lost the power of speech and grew purple with indignation.
Tremayne remained calm and composed. He waited patiently for the noise to stop and then said firmly, “You must be well aware that western celibacy has not been a complete success.”
His quiet tone had a wonderful effect. No one now raised a voice in protest. Father Black swallowed his anger and seemed to be suffering from consequent indigestion. The Bishop-Elect assumed a detached and distant air which his restlessness belied only too well. The truth was that Tremayne had taken the measure of their ignorance and they knew the painful truth.
Suddenly a high tenor voice piped out, “What about Nicæa?”
Tremayne laughed. “It’s rather late in the day to be quoting Nicæa,” he replied, “when all communions, Anglican, Roman and Eastern have broken the Nicæan rule in some way or another.”
The effect was instantaneous. Even the Bishop-Elect’s stentorian tones were drowned in the storm of angry voices.
“Apostate! Hensonite! Rashdallite! Inge-ite! Modernist!” were among the epithets hurled at Tremayne’s head. However, he waited, for he knew full well that he was master of the situation. A kindly smile broke over his face as he said to himself, “What splendid enthusiasm in an unnatural cause!”
However, the din subsided as suddenly as it arose and every head was turn in the direction of a high-pitched, quavery voice. The owner was as faultlessly attired as Father Black and the Bishop-Elect. He was tall, think, and looked very fragile.
“My Lord Bishop-Elect,” he began and then stopped, as if at a loss. He then proceeded to take off his gold-rimmed pince-nez which he wiped with a large and expansive handkerchief of the finest lawn. This action seemed to give him the required inspiration and he made a fresh start, waving his pince-nez with quite an artistic effect. “My Lord Bishop-Elect and members of the Society of the Nil Desperandum, I venture to think that the Reverend Father, whose honoured name I have not the felicity of knowing, has not realised in the faintest degree that what makes the strongest appeal to us who adopt the celibate life is the tremendous discipline involved. We valiantly shoulder the burden of poverty, loneliness and discomfort and manfully toil through the wilderness of this world.”
The Society of the Nil Desperandum was greatly touched by these noble sentiments so feelingly expressed, and showed its approval by an encouraging cheer. The Bishop-Elect bowed effusive acknowledgement and Father Black positively beamed.
Then every eye was turned on Tremayne to see what reply he could possibly make to such a noble presentation of the Society’s case.
The members were shocked; nay, horrified, for Tremayne was shaking with laughter. However, he controlled himself with a strong effort.
“The discipline,” he began, “of poverty, loneliness and discomfort!”
Then his eye wandered round the sumptuous room with its magnificent uncut books. It looked in the direction of the gold-rimmed pince-nez and the large and expansive mouchoir of the finest lawn. It fell upon the well-groomed company and on the faultless vestures of Father Black and the Bishop-Elect with the embroidered silk handkerchief.
“The discipline of poverty, loneliness and discomfort,” he said again slowly and with emphasis.
The Society began to look a little ashamed. Father Black peered at his silver buckles and the Bishop-Elect stared at the ceiling.
“I know,” went on Tremayne quietly, “several priests who have married after Ordination. They tell me that there is no discipline comparable to that of the wedded life. Without that discipline, they say, married happiness is impossible. Such a life is a training in unselfishness, self-denial and effacement of self.”
Dead silence followed.
“Possibly, Father,” observed the Bishop-Elect, forcing himself to speak. “Possibly you are among those who married before Ordination.” The last two words were uttered with peculiar emphasis.
“No,” replied Tremayne quietly, “I am unmarried.”
The Society was greatly impressed. The Bishop-Elect looked annoyed. His shaft had not gone home. Father Black was greatly perturbed. However, the butler saved the situation. He walked noiselessly up the room and spoke to his master. The Vicar seemed relieved. In turn he whispered to Mann who also looked as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. In the meantime Tremayne had sunk into an empty chair.
“Our kind host,” said the Bishop-Elect, with a graceful bow in his direction, “tells me that tea awaits us. I therefore propose a vote of thanks to the speakers. The discussion has been more momentous than usual and will not soon be forgotten.”
Father Black seconded the proposal which was carried with qualified acclamation.
The proceedings then closed in the usual way.
While the company was moving towards the dining-room, Father Black turned to Tremayne. “Of course, Father, you will join us. It will be a real pleasure to have you.”
This he said with genuine courtesy.
“You are very good,” he replied. “You must not mind if I stay for a short time only as I have to catch a train.”
Father Black smiled pleasantly and joined the Bishop-Elect, while Pentreath took charge of his friend. In the tea room Pentreath said quietly, “The tea is not so elaborate as usual because to-day is an “abstinence.”
Tremayne started. The table was laden with delicacies. True there was nothing of the nature of “meat” but from the caviare sandwiches to the cream buns there was something to satisfy the most fastidious taste. As he drank his cup of tea he noticed that the Society of the Nil Desperandum were doing ample justice to the good things provided. He felt almost stifled. He said a hasty good-bye to Father Black, whispered something in his friend’s ear and hurried away to the station.
As he walked along, he kept saying to himself, “The Society of the Nil Desperandum goes in for poverty, loneliness and discomfort!”
CHAPTER IV. CAUGHT!
TREMAYNE was sitting in his study at Pax. It was Monday morning and he was feeling rather fagged after his labours of the previous day. The early post had brought him no letters and he was congratulating himself on the fact. He was hoping for an undisturbed morning’s writing when a loud knock at the door announced a second delivery, and the maid brought him a note.
It was in Pentreath’s well-known handwriting.
For a long time the Chaplain refrained from opening the envelope but kept turning it over as if he feared some bad news. At last he summoned up courage and broke the seal. He read as follows:—
I am writing this in the greatest haste. Father Black has asked me to join them at St. Joan of Arc’s, Orleans Street, and I have accepted the offer.
Tremayne frowned. “It’s as I feared,” he muttered, “he has made an ass of himself.” Then he tore up the letter and went on with his work.
From the time of his Ordination, Pentreath had been at St. Martha’s, Saddington. The Church was famous for the zeal of its clergy, the devotion of its congregation and the beauty of its services. In trying to repair the desolations of many generations, the parish priest had incurred the displeasure of his Ordinary. However, he persevered in doing what he felt to be right (what else could he do?) though the strain was severe and the worry acute. Persecution, long drawn out, was his lot while priests with conviction without courage sought safety in inaction and silence.
At last flesh and blood reached the limit of endurance, and Father Eaden sank to an early grave amid the tears of his people.
For remembrance he left behind him his life, unwritten. His best memorial is the Tabernacle with the Burning Lamp. Pentreath was deeply affected by his death. As he said to Tremayne, “He was so gentle that he broke down the strongest opposition.”
The sad break-up followed, and the charity that beareth all things and endureth all things was again exemplified when the assistant clergy were told that their services would be no longer required.
On the afternoon when Tremayne left St. Joan of Arc’s Vicarage, the members of the Society of the Nil Desperandum remained behind for some time. After tea the inevitable cigarette was produced and some of the members provided a little music. Father Black at last sang Tosti’s “Good-bye,” and most people thought it was a sly hint that it was time to go. Of course the Vicar was far too well bred to dream of such behaviour. It was one of those strange coincidences so difficult of explanation. Pentreath was on the point of taking his leave when his host took him aside. “Do wait,” said he, “I want to see you on a matter of urgent importance. If you go into the library you will find cigarettes and an evening paper. I will be with you in a very short time.”
Pentreath did as he was asked, found a cosy chair and was soon comfortably settled.
After a short interval Black hurried in and sat down with a very mysterious look on his face.
“Of course,” he began, “I know what has happened at St. Martha’s. I am so sorry. Are you leaving at once?”
“Next Sunday is my last day there,” was the reply.
“I suppose your plans are made?”
“I have nothing settled, and I was thinking of having a long talk with Tremayne about the future.”
Black frowned at the mention of Tremayne’s name. For a moment he was silent as if in doubt how to proceed. At last he began, “Perhaps you are not aware that Father White has joined the Community of St. Peter. Do you know of anyone who would fill the vacancy at St. Joan of Arc’s?”
Pentreath shifted uneasily. St. Joan of Arc’s was his heart’s desire, but he hardly liked to suggest himself.
At last he stammered, “I—I—I really don’t know.”
Black looked at him narrowly. He seemed afraid to make up his mind. At length he jerked out, “Will you come?”
If Black had had any doubt, it was at once dispelled. Pentreath was obviously delighted.
“Ever since dear Father Eaden died,” he said, “I have wanted to come here. But what about the Bishop? Will he license me?”
“Oh, have no fear,” answered Black in a lofty way. “The Bishop knows all we do here. You may take it from me that there will be no difficulty whatsoever.”
The tone of superior knowledge and the smile of self-complacency reassured Pentreath and he began to feel that he was already one of the Assistant Priests at St. Joan of Arc’s.
“Of course,” said Black again, “we are very correct here. Our ceremonial is the very last thing. To use rather a vulgar expression, it is simply IT.”
Pentreath looked enchanted.
“I must ask you,” went on the Vicar, “to study it very carefully, for if anything were to go wrong, the congregation would faint and the M.C. would have a fit of apoplexy.”
Pentreath looked alarmed and Black seemed reassured.
“You may find it useful,” continued the latter, “to visit Northminster Cathedral and the Church of St. Philip Neri. Things there are carried on on a larger scale and it is easier to comprehend the scheme. But there can be no doubt that they have copied us. Many Roman priests are seen at St. Joan of Arc’s, obviously to learn how things ought to be done.”
“Really,” said Pentreath, “how very interesting. You must feel a good deal flattered.”
“No,” he answered, “hardly flattered but gratified.”
“Ah,” he ejaculated, “there’s one thing I have forgotten.”
He rose from his chair and went to a writing table. After turning over a number of papers he returned with what seemed a small pamphlet and gave it to Pentreath.
“This,” he said somewhat absently, “is the ‘Libretto,’ or ‘Book of the Words.’” He stopped abruptly, as if conscious of having made a mistake. Then he laughed nervously as he said, “Oh, please forgive me. For a moment I had forgotten, but last night I went to the theatre and the association of ideas led me astray. This is the book of our choir rules. It has been drawn up with the most scrupulous care and is correct in every detail, even to the use of the handkerchief and the posture of the body. May I ask you to keep it with jealous zeal? Copies are now scarce and are often asked for, especially by the authorities of Northminster Cathedral.”
Pentreath seemed greatly impressed. He took the precious document and appeared at a loss what to do. It was too large for his pocket and he hardly dared to fold it. The Vicar saw his embarrassment and fetched him a large and scented envelope.
“There is another point,” he began again, “on which I have not yet dwelt.”
Pentreath gathered at once that this was critically grave.
Black’s voice and look were studiedly serious.
“I must tell you that we have a Ladies’ Guild. It is an association of choice spirits. Admittance is jealously guarded; the scrutiny of motives is severe. The clergy of St. Joan of Arc’s are ex officio members, and none but chosen clerics may enter the Guild room or address the members. The ladies of the Guild are, I think, without exception,” (he paused to consider) “very beautiful.” He then looked at the ceiling as if to make sure that his statement was scrupulously correct. “Hence you will realise,” he went on, “the supreme necessity of great discretion. However, I need not enlarge on this, for I am fully persuaded that you are like myself a celibate by conviction.”
“I can’t help feeling,” said Pentreath somewhat apologetically, “that we ought to take life vows.”
“I do not see your point,” replied Black quickly. “Surely we have will and determination.”
Pentreath did not reply. A few more details followed about stipend and residence and the interview came to an end.
The following Sunday week saw Arthur Pentreath established as one of the Assistant Priests of St. Joan of Arc’s, Orleans Street.
CHAPTER V. S. JOAN OF ARC’S BATTERY.
A FEW days after Tremayne had received the letter that gave him so much concern, Pentreath bicycled down to Pax. He found his friend busy with proofs and surrounded with works of reference. However, he was greeted with the warmest of welcomes. His face grew bright and he was obviously greatly relieved.
“Many congratulations on your new post,” began Tremayne. “I should have written but I have been busy for the Anglo-Orthodox Society and you know what splendid work they do for the Church.”
“You’re very kind,” replied Pentreath. “I am indeed a lucky man.”
“Humph!” was all the answer.
For a moment he looked puzzled and then began, “Don’t you like St. Joan of Arc’s, Orleans Street?”
“Can’t say! Have never been inside!” Then dead silence.
Such abrupt answers were very uncommon with Tremayne.
Pentreath looked uncomfortable.
Suddenly the Chaplain blurted out, “What does your mother say about it?”
If a bomb had fallen, Pentreath could not have looked more shocked.
“The fact is,” he stammered out, “I have not told her.”
“You had better not,” he answered. “I know she has strong opinions. The last time I met her in town she expressed herself rather forcefully after a visit to St. Joan of Arc’s.”
Pentreath looked really alarmed, and well indeed he might be. Mrs. Pentreath lived in Devonshire. The only daughter of a man of property, she had been left early a widow. Her best point was her devotion to the memory of her husband whom she had never ceased to love with the tenderest affection. The mere thought of him would make the hard lines of the handsome face grow soft and fill her eyes with tears in spite of her iron will. She had married in his first curacy, and after three years of wedded happiness, the great grief came. From henceforth she devoted herself to good works and to the upbringing of her son. She had ample means and remained in the old home with all that reminded her of the husband she adored. However, she stood no nonsense from anybody. She hated shams and pretence. She spoke her mind and never minced her word. Locally, she was something of a terror. Yet in spite of all she was immensely respected.
No wonder, therefore, that Arthur Pentreath was alarmed.
To make matters worse, she was due to arrive in town about the time when he began his ministrations at St. Joan of Arc’s.
“What can I do?” he began. “I dare not tell her. Do advise me.”
“Do you really want my advice?” asked Tremayne.
“Indeed I do.”
“Very well; make a clean breast of it like a man.”
“Do you think I have made a mistake?”
“You’ve done worse! I thought you would make an ass of yourself, and you have.”
“I dare not withdraw now,” he urged.
“Humph!” was all that Tremayne answered. He never gave unsought advice.
Nothing was said for a time and then Tremayne looked at his watch.
“It’s nearly time for lunch,” he said as he got up. “Let’s go and wash. You know your room.”
At table the conversation turned on the news of the day, each man avoiding the topic that was most in his mind. After lunch they sat under the shade of a magnificent cedrus Atlantica.
“By the way,” began Tremayne, “I wonder what Black thought of my remarks at the meeting of the Society of the Nil Desperandum.”
“He hasn’t said a word to me,” answered Pentreath. Then, recollecting himself, he added, “Yes, just one thing comes back to my mind. He thought you were a bit of a crank.”
Tremayne fairly shook with laughter as he thought of the farcical pomposity of the proceedings and the “spikey” propensities of the members.
Then he turned to Pentreath. “Have you a list of the names?”
“Oh yes,” he replied, as he took out his letter case, “Here is one.”
The Chaplain read it carefully. “I should like,” he said, “to keep a record, and, as far as I can, follow the individual careers.”
“I don’t quite understand,” said his friend, looking mystified.
“Well,” was the answer, “if I must speak the naked truth, I want to see how many will keep the vows they refuse to take.”
“Keep the vows they refuse to take?” queried Pentreath. “What on earth do you mean?”
Tremayne laughed again. “How dull you are to-day!” he exclaimed, “so unlike your usual self. I fear the electrified atmosphere of St. Joan of Arc’s deadens the intellect! What I mean is that I am certain you are all deceiving yourselves. You are simply celibates in sentiment and not by conviction, and I suspect that many will marry before many years have passed.”
He left Pentreath protesting while he entered his study to make a record of the names.
After a little delay he returned, gave back the list and asked with a smile, “Do you know why St. Joan of Arc’s is like an electric battery?”
“No,” he answered somewhat startled.
“Because,” was the answer, “its chief function is to produce shocks!”
Pentreath laughed in spite of himself and Tremayne looked quite naughty.
After a moment the Chaplain asked, “Any more surprises? I suppose you have Guilds and Confraternities of a superior order?”
“Ah! that reminds me,” answered Pentreath, “of the Consorority of the Hopefuls.”
“The Consorority of the Hopefuls! What’s wrong with them?”
“There’s nothing wrong with them, I hope,” said Tremayne “There’s something very wrong with it!”
“Wrong with it?
“Yes! Wrong with it.”
“What on earth do you mean?”
“I mean there’s no such word as ‘consorority’!”
“Oh!” said Pentreath with obvious relief. “Father Black has a pretty wit at times!”
Then he added, “Why did he coin such a terrible word?”
“Well! why shouldn’t he?” said Pentreath championing his new chief. “The word ‘confraternity’ would hardly do because the Society really consists of ladies only!”
“Are there no men admitted?”
“Only the clergy.”
Tremayne smiled. “Now I understand,” he added. “The name is really a cryptic warning to the clergy to look upon the lady members as their sisters.”
“Possibly,” said Pentreath, looking far from comfortable.
Tremayne seemed immensely tickled. Then he went on, “What a shocking place St. Joan of Arc’s is! The atmosphere is so highly charged that there must be more explosions!”
“More explosions!” ejaculated his friend. “What on earth do you mean?”
“Well, you’ve just had one!”
“Just had one!”
“Yes! Father William Montague and his bride!”
“Aren’t you making fun of the Sacrament of Marriage?”
“My dear friend,” said Tremayne with an intensity of tone that startled Pentreath, “that’s just what the Society of the Nil Desperandum is doing all the time.”
Pentreath became very thoughtful. An anxious look spread over his face and he seemed ill at ease.
Just then the Convent bell sounded and Tremayne had to hurry away.
“Have some tea before you go,” he called back after saying “good-bye.”
When Pentreath reached his own rooms he found a letter from his mother—“If possible, arrange to be at St. Joan of Arc’s, Orleans Street, on Sunday week, at 11.”
He was greatly shocked. Did she know all or was it mere coincidence, he asked himself. Tremayne’s question about the electric battery came back to him. He thought the situation over till he grew tired and then he fell asleep over the evening paper.
After Tremayne had finished at the Convent, he returned to the Parsonage to find a letter in the box. The handwriting was unknown to him. He examined it closely for a considerable time and then said aloud, “If I know anything about handwriting, this shows an uncanny mixture of goodness, pomposity and ignorance.” He thereupon broke the seal, looked at the signature and started. It was signed “Andrew Black!” He read the letter. It nearly knocked him down. It ran as follows:—
It would give us the greatest pleasure if you would be so very kind as to give an account of the Pax Priory to the Consorority of the Hopefuls on Wednesday week, at 8.30 p.m. I hope you will dine and sleep. We can have a petit dîner at 7.30.”
Tremayne read the letter through several times. He pinched himself hard to feel quite sure that he wasn’t dreaming. Then he sat down and smiled, as he said “Shocks, more shocks from St. Joan of Arc’s battery.”
CHAPTER VI. THE CONSORORITY OF THE HOPEFULS.
THE next morning Tremayne took up Father Black’s letter again. It was his custom never to answer important correspondence without due thought. To his surprise he found that he had not noticed enclosed a copy of the Rules of the Consorority of the Hopefuls. These he now read with the deepest interest.
They were divided into two kinds: devotional and practical. The first were unimpeachable, the second provoked a smile.
The members must observe due decorum and severe self-restraint in speech, dress and general demeanour. Social distinctions were not to count at the Chapter meetings.
Extravagance of every kind must be rigorously shunned. Poverty, loneliness and discomfort should be welcomed. The clergy should be regarded as guides and directors and not as friends and companions.
As Tremayne read this precious document, he thought of the Society of the Nil Desperandum and began to feel indignant.
Then he turned to the last page and fairly snorted with anger.
There were three orders, he read, Members, Associates and the Board of Guardians.
Members paid ten guineas on entrance and ten guineas per annum. Associates and the Board of Guardians paid nothing.
“Obviously,” said Tremayne somewhat bitterly, “social distinctions don’t count but monetary considerations do.”
His first thought was to write a polite refusal, but then he reflected that perhaps it might do the Consorority good to hear of really disciplined lives. Besides, he was anxious to know more of the Associates, and especially of the Board of Guardians. He wondered if the latter term could be another specimen of Father Black’s wit.
The intervening days passed rapidly, and at 7.30 p.m. on the Wednesday in question, Tremayne found himself dining with Black. Covers were laid for two in the dining-room with which the Chaplain had been so impressed on his first visit. The chamber was now artificially darkened and the silver lamp diffused a soft but sufficient light. The table was adorned with choice flowers, antique silver and rare glass, while these were enhanced by fine linen and exquisite lace. The menu was written on cards supported by chased silver holders.
Black seemed ill at ease. He ate sparingly but fastidiously and talked politely yet distantly. He seemed overpowered by his guest whose voice rang with sincerity. There was no nonsense about Tremayne. He saw at once that his host was nervous and absent-minded, but of course affected not to notice it. Black seemed concerned when his guest refused him the rare wines till Tremayne assured him that he took water by choice. The latter began to wonder too why the choice dishes should be summed up as petit dîner, until he remembered that the Society of the Nil Desperandum went in for poverty, loneliness and discomfort. The “loneliness” explained his being the only guest, while the “discomfort” was provided by his host’s obvious uneasiness.
After dinner, Black led the way to the library where coffee and green chartreuse were served. As Tremayne looked at the liqueur, he found it hard to restrain a smile. It so reminded him of his host, an odd mixture of juvenile greenness and monkish affectation.
The Guild House was close by, and as the Vicar and the Chaplain entered, they met Father Church, Father Chapel and Father Pentreath in the vestibule.
Introductions followed and the clergy moved away to a cloak room to deposit their cloaks. Tremayne was so struck with the attire of his companions that he failed to notice the Board of Guardians. It was only later in the evening that he was enlightened. At the moment he was contrasting his homely serge cassock and cape with the rustling black silk and silver-buckled shoes of the priests of St. Joan of Arc’s. Soon after, Black led the way into the Guild Room followed by Tremayne, while the three assistant brought up the rear.
The beauty of the apartment was somewhat hidden by a number of shaded lamps. However, a careful eye could discover that the colour scheme consisted of delicate shades of mauve and old rose. Arranged with bewitching artistry, choice water colours by English Masters were hung on the walls, while these were draped with silk damask from the deep frieze to the carpet. Luxurious lounges and exquisitely upholstered chairs provided comfort for the members. A faint perfume as of lilies of the valley pervaded the air.
The clergy glided noiselessly up the chamber, the deep velvet pile permitting no sound. Tremayne was conscious of fair faces, lovely gowns and suppressed excitement as the Guild rose to bow low to the guest of the evening and the ex-officio members. At the end of the room was a low platform, and to this the Vicar led the way. It was furnished with a half dozen oak chairs, elaborately carved, and in the front was a silver lectern.
A lamp, deftly hung, shed the light over the desk.
Father Black stepped into the limelight, or rather the diffused light, and with his colleagues bowed low to the Guild. The latter bowed low in return. The usual ritual was then observed and after further bows the ladies, the guest of the evening and the ex-officio members sat down, while Father Black remained standing. The rapt looks of the Guild and the quiet hush of expectation bore witness to the respect in which the Master was held.
“How charming he looks!” purred Lady Eta Lambda into the Honourable Violet Pytchley’s ear. “The silver stand, the black habit, the diffused light! What a harmony! Like one of Chopin’s nocturnes!”
“Oh! I say,” drawled her friend who had horsey proclivities, “that beats me! You’ve got the bit between your teeth!”
Further remark was stopped, for the Master began to speak. “Members, Associates and Board of Guardians.” Then someone giggled. It was the Honourable Violet. The absurdity of the last term never struck her so forcibly as now, and she came down heavily. For a moment Black seemed nonplussed. Then as if nothing had happened, he cleared his throat and finished his sentence, “of the Consorority of the Hopefuls, may I have the felicity of presenting Father John Tremayne, the distinguished author and Chaplain of the world-famed Priory of Pax?”
Tremayne at once rose and made quite an effective bow. The Consorority returned the bow with becoming grace. The Associates and the Board of Guardians did not seem to come in. Each one had her proper place even where social distinctions were not to count.
“What a handsome man! What exquisite manners!” whispered Lady Eta to Violet.
“He looks a bit of a sport,” she replied. “I’ll give you a straight tip. I’ll wager you he’s the straightest rider in the field.”
Lady Eta pretended not to understand, though she always “had a little on.”
By this time Tremayne had moved up to the lectern. Every voice was hushed and every eye was turned in his direction. No wonder! He was a splendid example of vigorous manhood. The sincerity of his manner and the strong musical voice kept the Guild under a spell while he told the story of heroic self-denial.
Ina few words he traced the history of the revival of the religious life. He described the beginnings of the Priory, dwelling on the saintly character of the founder, a married man. Here Father Black positively shivered. The shiver seemed catching. The three Assistant Priests shivered in unison! Then Tremaye sketched the early days—the stern self-denial—the real suffering—the life of devotion—the atmosphere of peace. He dwelt on the lives of many till he brought tears to the eyes of his listeners. The cruciform buildings, the lovely chapel and bell, the convalescent ward with its three and thirty beds, the Orphanage and the Guest House, all came under review. The rule, the daily Mass, the Offices, the story of development and growth, the grounds and the garden of sleep where the Nuns rest from their labours—nothing was forgotten.
“To enter the Priory gates,” he went on, “is to leave the world behind. The contrast is complete. Peace reigns supreme.”
With a bow he returned to his seat. A hum of deep appreciation arose. Even Black was moved. “My dear Father,” said he as he grasped Tremayne’s hand, “my heartfelt thanks. It’s the best thing I’ve ever heard. You must be tired!”
He then took Tremayne’s place at the lectern. In a few graceful words he pressed the gratitude of the Consorority to the lecturer. A round of applause followed as Black led his visitor to another room. Here refreshments were served. The place was a blaze of lights, silvevr and glass. The attendants were young women dressed in black satin. They had large silver brooches with monograms of A, and, of course, they wore no caps, for at the meetings of the Guild there were no social distinctions.
These were the Associates, Tremayne rightly conjectured. He was soon refreshed with a little iced coffee and was following Black into the Guild Room. At the door e was somewhat startled by being addressed by an unknown lady in what might be described as a jazz costume. Her face would have been handsome but for the hard lines, while her voice was somewhat raucous. It was Violet Pytchley.
“That was a topping squawk,” she began, and without giving him time to reply, she rattled on, “You’ve come through with flying colours. You looked a sport. So I thought I’d be in at the finish and have a chin-wag.”
Tremayne smiled as he said, “You are one of the members, I presume, one of the Hopefuls?”
“That’s right,” she replied. “I’m Violet Pytchley.” Then wagging her head in Black’s direction, she went on, “That Johnny jockied me into it; so I said, ‘Right-o! What’s the sub?’”
Tremayne laughed and so did Violet.
“He reared a bit,” she continued, “and gave me a paper. ‘Hall!’ I said, ‘Are these the official scratchings?’ ‘No,’ he snapped, ‘The Rules,’ and then he bolted, till Lady Eta Lambda and Co. pulled him up sharp and patted him quiet.”
“Lady Eta Lambda?” queried Tremayne.
“Yes, that’s Eta by the lectern—the Spirit of Night.”
“The Spirit of Night! What on earth do you mean?”
“That’s the name of her togs. She goes to my pal, Ethel Hardup. You don’t know Ethel? Oh! she’s no end of a sport! She married a fellah. He poured it down! So she told him to quit! She’s a costumière in Folkestone Street now. You ought to know Ethel. She dresses everybody. She’s top hole at names. Here’s one of her creations! Margaret Cotswold, you know?”
Tremayne looked in the direction indicated. A lady passed by in a frock of grey tulle which began too late and ended too soon.
“Ethel calls that ‘Brief Life,’” whispered Violet and Tremayne smiled in spite of himself.
Seeing his eye fall on her own attire, she exclaimed, “Ah! this is Ethel again! I went to her show! ‘My dear,’ I said, ‘I haven’t a rag to put on.’ ‘Cheerio!’ she chirped. ‘Here you are! A bargain! Kaleidoscope!’”
Thereupon Violet twirled around like a top. The jazz colours trod intricate measures and danced till they dazzled the eyes. Tremayne was forced to allow that the dress was well named and that Ethel must be a bit of a wit.
“Hush!” began Violet again, “here is the Spirit of the Night!”
Lady Eta Lambda approached in black georgette and diamonds. “I love your dear Nuns,” she began to Tremayne. “What a delightful life! Their habit is so picturesque!” Then she melted away like the clouds before dawn.
She had scarcely vanished from sight when Viscountess Quorn glided up. “Your sweet lecture!” she trilled. “How charming! How fascinating! How truly thrilling! Such a life is entrancing! If only we had something similar here!”
“Why not found a Béguinage?” suggested Tremayne.
But the vision of gracious smiles with gold chiffon and black crêpe-de-chine dissolved in the dim distances of the spacious apartment.
“One of Ethel’s,” whispered Violet. “She’s ‘Golden sunshine after storm.’”
Tremayne shook with laughter. He had hardly recovered when Violet whispered again.
“This is the Duchess of Oldford. She affects a melancholy sentimentality and writes languishing lyrics dedicated to the Master of the Guild and his friend, the Bishop-Elect. Do you know him? I can’t stick him at any price.” She spoke in tones of the deepest disgust.
The Duchess sailed by with a wan smile of distant regard. Her robe was of priceless lace over faded green silk draperies, and these were relieved by exquisite embroideries of pansies of various hues. “She’s Ethel’s,” whispered Violet. “She’s ‘Pansies for Remembrance!’ You’d never forget her if you read her poetry!”
Tremayne could hardly contain himself. Then, as if to pull himself together, he asked, “What is the Board of Guardians?”
Violet giggled as she replied, “Black thinks himself a bit of a wit. He’s responsible for the term. The Guild thought it ethereal. I said to him one night, ‘Old bean, that’s no end of a name,’ but he looked quite cross and ambled away in a huff.”
“Yes! yes! But what is the Board of Guardians?” he asked her again.
“What a hurry you’re in!” she exclaimed. “They are the poor old fillies who look after the cloaks. We give them black silk and brooches with B.G. in monogram. They have a rotten time. Anyway, it pleases them to believe they belong to the Guild. What donkeys they are!”
“I thought there were no social distinctions!” he urged.
Violet choked with laughter. “we’re all shams,” she went on. “We never mean what we say.”
She passed a moment and began again. “Look at that crowd!” Then half to herself, “Hope springs eternal in the breast! If only they were like Mary Sinclair!”
“Mary Sinclair!” said Tremayne. “Who is she? Is she here?” He was quite surprised at the interest he showed.
Violet Pytchley opened her eyes. “You don’t know Mary Sinclair! The loveliest woman in town! Why, even her mother comes in a bad second! I thought everyone knew Mary!”
“Is she a member of the Consorority?” he asked.
“A member of the Consorority!” she exclaimed in the utmost amazement. “A member of the Consorority! Of course not! She’s not made of that stuff! She lives near here and once in a blue moon goes to St. Joan of Arc’s.”
For a moment Tremayne said nothing. Why should the name of Mary Sinclair have such an attraction for him, he kept asking himself. He went on being puzzled till his eye fell on Pentreath.
Unlike the other ex-officio members who were centres of admiring groups, Pentreath was sitting near a lovely child of some nineteen or twenty years. They seemed utterly oblivious of all others in the room. Tremayne smiled as he watched their happy faces and heard their joyous laughter.
Violet Pytchley looked in the same direction. Then with a laugh she turned to Tremayne.
“Two to one, if that’s not a case! Little Angela Cardew has bewitched the Reverend Father. She’s a dear and not half pretty! She’s under Mary Sinclair’s wing and the two are inseparables! There’ll be ructions in the Nil Desperandum. Black will go off pop and the Bishop-Elect will take to his bed—severe indisposition—doctor’s order, you know! I hate the Nil Desperandum! Such sentimental twaddle!” She looked at her wrist watch and gave a start.
“Well! old bean!” she began again, “I must hop it. You’re a good sport! I only wish you could meet Mary Sinclair! You two’d get on like a house afire!” Suddenly the hard features softened into beautiful lines and a wave of emotion swept over her face. The change was as starting as it was unexpected.
“Dear Father,” she whispered, “say a prayer for me sometimes!”
Before he could answer she was gone. He had begun to suspect that her manner was assumed. She seemed like one who wanted to say something and dared not. He hardly realised that his transparent sincerity had come to her rescue.
Tremayne looked at his watch. He had refused the invitation to stay the night and had no time to lose. He said good-bye to Black and waved his hand to Pentreath.
“How nice he is!” said Angela looking in Tremayne’s direction.
“He’s my best friend,” said Pentreath.
“Some people are lucky!” she sighed.
“Don’t make me jealous!” he pleaded.
“Oh! you needn’t be!”
“Do you mean that?”
“Mean what!” said Angela. “Don’t be silly. You’re getting fervid! Let’s have an ice!”
While the two were being iced, Tremayne strode to the station. The remembrance of the Consorority made him indignant. Then he thought of Violet Pytchley and his lips framed a silent prayer. Pentreath’s happy face made him smile with pleasure. Then hegrew grave as he muttered to himself, “Dear boy, he may wreck his work and his life! We mustry try to save him from making a fatal mistake!”
Suddenly two ladies came from an open door to enter a car. Tremayne had to stop abruptly to let them pass. Features of delicate refinement crowned with white hair betokened the elder. Her companion was a queenly figure of matchless beauty and exquisite grace. By accident their eyes met. He started back and instinctively muttered “Mary Sinclair.” A flush of surprise rose on her face. Tremayne saw it and, feeling, ashamed, hurried on to the station.
CHAPTER VII. “CHERCHEZ LA FEMME.”
THE Sinclairs came from Devonshire. They were now in easy circumstances, but in earlier days they had felt the pinch of poverty. A son of the parsonage, William had gone up to Oxford with a scholarship. Here he had come under the influence of the “Movement” which sent him into the Ministry and left on him a lasting mark. After a few years in a London parish he was given a country cure, the stipend being just sufficient to keep body and soul together.
Here he soon endeared himself to his parishioners. There was opposition at first but his gentle insistence was irresistible, and the people rallied round him to a man. His “views” were not acceptable to the powers that be. Ineptitude, inefficiency and sloth met with great rewards while Sinclair toiled and spent himself in devoted labour under episcopal frowns. Some fifteen years passed and his lonely life seemed telling on him, when by chance the news leaked out that at Oxford he had formed an attachment for Elizabeth Campbell, a Regius Professor’s daughter. The case seemed hopeless from the first, for there was no money on either side.
However, they never despaired and for fifteen years they corresponded. When the news leaked out, the parishioners put their heads together and then started a free will offering to increase the stipend. Sinclair as more than touched. His marriage was now a possibility and within a short time it was realised.
From that moment he was a changed man. If he had been a faithful priest before, he now brought to bear upon his work a joy of heart which made him even more beloved.
Mrs. Sinclair shared her husband’s toils. Her lovely face and gracious ways made her welcome everywhere. Her life was one of devoted service to her religion, her husband and her little daughter.
Mary, the only child of the marriage, was the villagers’ delight. They watched her with increasing interest as she grew from youth to early womanhood. Tall and graceful, with dark hair and big blue eyes, she was indeed “goodly to look to.” A head well balanced, features clear cut but delicate, a chin firm and decided suggested sound common sense and a loathing of shams. In a word, she was exquisitely beautiful, while her utter lack of self-consciousness was an added charm.
As time rolled on the Sinclairs found themselves in less straitened circumstances, but the old days of loneliness and poverty had told upon the priest and at the comparatively early age of sixty he passed peacefully away amid the unfeigned sorry of his people and the unspeakable grief of his wife and child.
From that time the Sinclairs settled in London where they had many old friends. The lovely mother and the still lovelier daughter provoked no little interest, while their air of unaffected simplicity invited general respect. They settled in Northumberland Square, quite close to St. Joan of Arc’s, but only occasionally did they avail themselves of Father Black’s ministrations. The latter, being a celibate by conviction without vows, was not slow, of course, to notice such delightful arrivals—possible and certainly very desirable recruits to the Consorority of the Hopefuls. Once, while walking with the Bishop-Elect, he called his attention to the ladies in question.
Father Mann needed no such invitation. A celibate by conviction, without vows, and his friend, he regarded the opposite sex with a cold and distant aloofness; at least, he persuaded himself that he did. At the meeting of the Society of the Nil Desperandum, Tremayne noticed an artificial note.
As the Bishop-Elect passed he took in the fair face. When out of hearing he remarked in the tones of a connoisseur, “Even Lady Angela Cardew pales before such classic beauty and statuesque grace.”
But Black seemed quite angry. He looked upon Angela as his especial protégée, though of the real state of affairs he was utterly unconscious. The Bishop-Elect, on seeing his friend’s displeasure, at once showed “the discretion of the Ordinary.”
The Master of the Guild lost no time in getting an introduction, and strange to say, Father Mann followed his example. Of course they were both zealous of good works, that is, anxious to get recruits for the Consorority. This can be the only explanation of their strange importunity and frequent calls. To their urgent appeals Mrs. Sinclair and Mary turned a deaf ear.
“My daughter,” said the former, “does too much already, and my health is not what it was.”
Black seemed quietly indignant. He evidently took the refusal as a rebuff to his fussy self-importance. Up to now this had been the first refusal. The “choice spirits” were far more considerate, nay, importunate for entrance to the Consorority was anxiously sought and jealously guarded. As for the Bishop-Elect, even his air of superiority deserted his approaching dignity. He found Mary delightful. He explained his interest to himself by asserting that he was making a study of character.
“Most interesting!” he muttered to himself. “A very unusual woman!” Of course he was too callow to know that it is “the unusual woman” that does for most men. But such vulgar knowledge was below the notice of the Reverend Cuthbert Mann.
Not long after the meeting of the Society of the Nil Desperandum, Doctor Mann, now Bishop of Arabia Deserta, called at the Sinclair’s. He looked lovely! “Is Miss Sinclair in?” he asked.
“Yes, my lord,” replied the man as he led the way to the drawing-room.
There was no one there and the Bishop seemed to be deep in thought.
In a short time Miss Sinclair entered.
“I’m so sorry that my mother is indisposed,” she began; “she is far too unwell to come down.”
“I am grieved to think that she is laid by,” was the answer. “I trust she will soon be well again. However, it was you that I wanted to see.”
“More Consorority, I suppose,” Mary muttered to herself; then aloud, “Oh! indeed!”
“Yes,” he went on, and then stopped, as if greatly embarrassed.
Mary began to feel quite uncomfortable.
Then he made a fresh start. “The fact is, next week I sail for Arabia Deserta.”
“It hardly seems a cheerful spot,” she replied. Her answer nonplussed him and he stopped again.
“No,” he began once more, “that’s quite true. It does not seem cheerful but it is the call of duty. But it will be frightfully lonely!”
As a matter of fact, Dr. Mann was overwhelmed at the thought of the loneliness. He was now up against nature with no room for sentiment.
“I thought loneliness was what the Society welcomed!” she rejoined.
“Ah, yes,” he replied wearily; “but what loneliness? Have you no pity?”
“Mary looked surprised.
“Have you no pity?” he asked again with stress on the “you.”
“I am sorry,” she replied, feeling suspicious, “but I can hardly see what difference my pity would make.”
“No!” he urged. “It’s not your pity I want. It’s you.”
Mary flushed. “What on earth do you mean?”
“What I mean is this—will you come with me to Arabia Desert?”
“Oh, I was never meant for a missionary,” she replied, trying to fence.
“Oh, don’t you understand?” he asked, getting quite red.
“I am a good deal puzzled,” she answered as she tried to evade his question.
“You would be the leading lady,” he pleaded.
Mary laughed quite merrily. Dr. Mann saw he had made a faux pas. The fact was that he and his friend, the Master, frequented the theatre and sometimes became mixed in their terms. True, indeed, it was that the members of the Nil Desperandum allowed themselves many self-indulgences, creature comforts and relaxations, deceiving themselves into believing that they were living lives supremely ascetic.
“The leading lady!” Mary repeated. “In Arabia Deserta there would be no ladies to lead!”
The Bishop laughed somewhat feebly.
“I hardly meant that. Perhaps I should have said you would be a kind of Pope—Pope Joan, let us say.”
“Oh,” said Mary, “if that’s what you mean, I don’t wish to pontificate.”
Dr. Mann looked exasperated. At last with a tremendous effort he forced himself to say, “Miss Sinclair, will you marry me?”
An angry flush spread over her face as she thought of the Society of the Nil Desperandum and of the Consorority of the Hopefuls with all their shallow sentimentality.
“Never! Never!” she cried in tones of hot indignation. Then with great self-suppression, she said gently, “I thought you were a celibate by conviction if not by vows?”
For a moment he looked ashamed.
“Ah!” he went on again, “this would be an association of a higher order, a union of choice souls.”
Thereupon she fairly blazed.
“Marry you!” she cried. “Never! never! never!”
“Sweet Mary,” he pleaded, “only say yes!”
“How dare you call me Mary? You! The son of a priest! Your so-called celibacy is an insult to your own father and mine, and casts a slur on our mothers’ fair fame. I have learnt there are seven Sacraments! You say there are seven for the laity but only six for the clergy! What exquisite rubbish! No wonder marriage is soiled and defiled! You and your friends are partly responsible!” She paused for a moment to take breath and then went on again, “My father’s generation fought and died for the faith; you do neither. You reap the reward without sharing the labour. They faced persecutions; you run from your sentiments!” Then she turned away.
“May I ask one favour?” he said, his voice broken with emotion.
The lovely face softened as she bowed her assent.
“You will keep my secret?”
“Yes,” she replied simply as she put her hand to the bell.
He looked utterly crestfallen as he went down the stairs and out of the house. A few days after he resigned his membership of the Society of the Nil Desperandum on the plea that a Bishop ought not to be connected with private societies.
CHAPTER VIII. THE ETERNAL FEMININE.
TREMAYNE had just come back from the Convent Mass. On the hall table he found three letters. These he put aside till after breakfast. He made it a practice never to read his correspondence until he had finished his morning meal.
The first note was a hurried line from Pentreath: “Expect me early. I want your advice.”
Then he looked at the second. There was something familiar about the writing but he could not fix on the writer. He opened it to find a letter from Mrs. Pentreath. It ran: “I am coming up to town on Saturday for a few days and shall be at South Hotel as usual. If you are passing, do come to see me. I am so anxious about my boy. What has come over him?”
Then he looked at the third.
“Hallo!” he began, “what’s up with the Warden?”
“Good!” he muttered as he read it. “This is providential! It will suit me admirably.”
The Warden wrote to say that as he must be at the Priory for four or five days, it would be a pity if the Chaplain didn’t take the time off.
Then Tremayne lit his pipe and sat on the garden seat. He was soon plunged in reflection and began to mutter his thoughts aloud—“That boy is true blue—he’s the real stuff—he won’t stop at half measures—he’ll take life vows—seriousness not realised—then he’s mot affection—he’s badly hit—that little with, Angela—immature vows will ruin his life—he’ll spoil his life’s work—soured and disappointed—possible desperation and broken vows—then undesirable marriage followed by bitter repentance—what misery!—It will never do!”
Then he stretched his strong limbs and cried aloud, “I will save him if I can.”
“Good morning, Father,” said a voice. The speaker must have heard the last remark.
Tremayne looked up with a start.
“My dear boy,” he said to Pentreath, “I was dep in thought. I had no idea you were so near. I didn’t hear you come.” Then he stopped suddenly as he noticed his friend’s pale face.
“Why! dear boy,” he exclaimed, “what’s the matter? Come, sit down and tell me.”
Pentreath sat down and buried his face in his hands. Then he tried to pull himself together.
“I can’t think,” he began, “what’s the matter with me.”
“Humph!” said Tremayne, “I know.”
Without seeming to notice the remark, Pentreath continued, “To-morrow I am taking a life-vow of celibacy.”
“Indeed! And who will administer the vow?”
“Doctor Mann?” Tremayne exclaimed. “What right has Doctor Mann to intrude in the London Diocese? He has no authority there. Now promise me,” he went on in determined tones, “promise me not to appear before him.”
“Oh! I cannot possibly. All our arrangements are made. Please don’t ask me.”
“If you don’t promise,” said Tremayne in tones that startled his friend, “I will take steps to make you.”
“Oh! it’s impossible! impossible!” he pleaded.
“Promise at once.” The voice was hard and commanding.
“Dear friend! it’s out of the question. It’s quite impossible. It is so indeed. I dare not go back.”
“Very well,” said Tremayne, “if you refuse, I will take the first train to London and go straight to the Diocesan. I will lay the case before him and then I will see Doctor Mann.”
“What good will that do?” he asked. Oh! please say no more about it.”
“I will say more about it. Doctor Mann will refuse to act. He may be a sentimentalist; he’s not a cad. Now promise or I go.”
“I dare not! I dare not!”
“Pentreath!” said Tremayne, “on my solemn word as a priest, if you don’t promise, nothing will stop me!”
The poor boy looked almost distraught.
“Promise!” said his friend, taking out his watch. Then with a start he cried, “I haven’t a moment to spare. There’s just time to catch the train! Will you promise or not?”
There was no answer.
Like a flash Tremayne was gone.
Pentreath sprang to his feet. The Chalain was out of sight. Then he shouted with all his might, and just as Tremayne was getting out of earshot, he heard faintly from the distance, “I promise, I promise.”
When he returned his lips were compressed, his face white and set. He put his hand on Pentreath’s shoulder and said only, “I am glad.” Then he entered the Parsonage and wrote to the Bishop of Arabia Deserta:—“Father Pentreath is unhappily prevented from keeping his appointment to-morrow. I felt it my duty to point out to him he irregularity of the contemplated proceedings. To spare him pain, I myself am venturing to write.”
Then he returned to Pentreath.
“What will the Bishop say?” asked the latter.
“I have written,” was the answer, and Pentreat thought it wise to say no more.
They sat in silence for some time. Tremayne’s face had relaxed and his kindly smile had come back.
“Arthur,” said he at length, “you haven’t told me all, but I think I know.”
Pentreath seemed strangely affected. He made a strong effort to control his feelings, but it was useless. He burst into tears. “You remember,” he sobbed, “the evening I was talking with Angela Cardew! We had often met before! And then, well, then I felt I must take the celibate vow!”
Tremayne said nothing but linked his arm in his friend’s and drew him gently into the pine wood past the memorial cross.
For some time they walked in silence, till the magic of the place worked its spell and Pentreath became himself again.
“I am so glad I came,” he began. “Now I have told you, I feel you will guide me right.”
Tremayne’s lips quivered. He was a man of broad sympathies and tender affection. He was deeply touched by his friend’s tone of trust.
“You want a holiday badly,” he began. “The strain of he break-up at St. Martha’s, Saddington, has been too severe. Only those who have had the experience know the exceeding bitterness of parting from the Church we love. But I have heard from Cadenabbia. The manager of the Belle Vue is keeping rooms for us and expects us on Tuesday week.”
“That’s good news,” was the answer.
“By the way,” said the Chaplain, “I am coming up to town to-morrow till Tuesday.”
“Oh! that’s splendid. Of course you will stay with me. Then you will see St. Joan of Arc’s for the first time. I’m preaching my first sermon there.”
Tremayne muttered to himself, “If I can manage it, it will be also your last!”
“My mother is coming, too,” Pentreath went on. “She doesn’t know I am there. Probably she won’t see me till I’m in the pulpit. What a shock she will have!”
He laughed as he spoke, but Tremayne could see that his friend was very sad at heart.
Pentreath left after lunch and the Chaplain began to consider the situation.
“That’s one point gained!” he muttered. A good start is half the race! Now for the next step! We must get him away from St. Joan of Arc’s and its precious Society of the Nil Desperandum cum Hopeful Consorority! How’s it to be done?”
Then he sat puzzling till he was called away by his duties.
CHAPTER IX. THE QUINTESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM.
ON the following Sunday, Tremayne found himself at St. Joan of Arc’s, Orleans Street. His curiosity was roused by recent events and he was deeply interested in all he saw.
The Church had no pretence to fine architecture, being merely a Gothic nave with an apse.
This apart, everything else was exceedingly magnifical. The great cross and candlesticks were genuine antiques, recently acquired by a rich collector of curios. In bygone days they had decked a Cardinal’s Chapel. The Tabernacle was a triumph of metal work, the curtain being exquisitely embroidered and richly jeweled. The Sanctuary lamps were of solid silver and of unusual design. Their origin was lost in obscurity but their value was priceless. Cast away and discarded, they had been picked up for a song by a traveller in Spain who had a fine eye for beauty and a trade-appreciation for objets de vertu. Generously offered, they were graciously accepted by the authorities of the Church.
The carpet, hand woven, of superfine silk was worth a fabulous sum—gift of—well! not the new poor! Someone said the new rich! But they worship at a different shrine! However, sometimes “conscience doth make cowards of us all!”
Glorious frontals, lovely embroideries and flashing jewels were the outward and visible sign of inward devotion. The vestments, just arrived from Rome, were unimpeachable, the amices of the right size, the girls of the due length. The ceremonial was faultless and precise; the ritual unerring from “the Asperges” to the “Ite; missa est.”
The Sacred Ministers were statuesque, yet gracious, the congregation of Sacred Rites being the inspired guide, councillor and friend. Their enunciation was slightly nasal in accordance with the Western Use.
The Master of Ceremonies, the acolytes and servers, moved with mathematical exactness, a silent testimony to the excellency of the choir rules. A gallery rightly held the singing men—their voices being indispensable but their bodies unwelcome.
The organist was a master, his long hair, drooping moustache and low collar suggesting the extreme delicacy of his artistic soul. His hands were long, white and tapering, his face rapt, his temper—well! Nervous!
The organ was assisted by a small orchestra of violins, a cello and a harp. The music, though nominally Plainsong, was insidiously operatic. At times the harp became delirious, the violins ecstatic, while the cello languished into love-lorn silences.
The incense was specially imported. The like was not to be had elsewhere in London. Nostrils so sensitive were offended at all but the rarest perfumes.
The Consorority of the Hopefuls had an inconspicuous place in the very first rows by the pulpit on the northern side, the sobriety of their apparel attesting the stern discipline of their rules.
However, a careful observer would have detected under subdued colourings the riches of materials and le dernier cri in modes. It was only Ethel Hardup again! She had “creations” for every occasion. For St. Joan of Arc’s she designed “The Spirit of Devotion,” “The Soul Detached,” “Wandering Thoughts,” “Maiden Meditation,” and many others. Ethel really had a pretty wit.
The congregation was well-born, well-dressed and moderately education. The ceremonial posture of the body was sedentary. Kneeling was so little required that it would not have marred the harmonious lines of any costume. Such was St. Joan of Arc’s, Orleans Street—a hot-house filled with rare orchids.
“This,” muttered Tremayne to himself, “this is the quintessence of Catholicism.”
For a moment his thoughts flew away to the Priory. He seemed to catch the sweet voices of the Nuns while snatches of Kyrie, Gloria and Credo fell on his ear.
St. Joan of Arc’s seemed to stifle him and for a time he longed to go out.
However, just then Pentreath appeared in the pulpit and then he sat motionless. There was certainly a feeling of expectation in the air when suddenly a loud gasp was heard. Father Black frowned. His colleagues frowned too. The Master of Ceremonies staggered. The Consorority shivered like one man or one woman. Tremayne nearly laughed. He turned in the direction of the sound. There sat Mrs. Pentreath bolt upright. For the first time it had dawn upon her that her own son was one of the clergy of St. Joan of Arc’s. It was too much for mere flesh and blood. She gasped, and that, out loud. It was deplorable, but possibly excusable under the circumstances; at least, she always thought so.
Pentreath seemed too much absorbed to notice the interruption, but proceeded to preach on “Sincerity.” His innocent look, his transparent honesty, his tone of conviction, had a startling effect.
For fear of losing a word, the Sacred Ministers actually leaned forward—a gross breach of the Rules of the Choir. The M.C., the acolytes, the servers, really listened. Such behaviour had never been known! The Consorority forgot itself. It turned its eyes as one man or one woman in the direction of the preacher, which in accordance with the rules was a sad lapse in modest decorum. Section six, number two, laid it down “that the eyes should be modestly downcast.”
Tremayne felt more convinced than ever of the need of saving his friend. He looked anxious and careworn till Pentreath joined him and asked how he liked St. Joan of Arc’s.
Tremayne laughed as he said, “I think you are too fond of Latin Translation. I wish you would try Greek Unseens.”
Pentreath, knowing his friend’s devotion to the Easterns, went off chocking to the vestry while the Chaplain left the Church. Outside was Mrs. Pentreath. She at once came forward with a warm smile of welcome. “Oh! Mr. Tremayne! I am indeed glad to see you! But do tell me how is it that Arthur is here. I knew he had left St. Martha’s, but of his movements he has kept me quite in the dark.”
In a few words he told her all. She listened intently. When he stopped, her eyes were full of tears. At last, with a voice broken with emotion, she began, “How can I ever thank you sufficiently? You will save my boy, I feel sure!”
“You may be certain,” he replied, “I shall do all I can. But it won’t be an easy business.”
“You are good!” she went on as she looked at the strong handsome face with the kindly blue eyes. “How unselfish you are! How thoughtful for others!”
Just then Pentreath joined them. In a moment his arms were round his mother’s neck. He had seen her anxious, tearful face and he was quick to see that she knew all.
“Come back and lunch with me,” she whispered. Then she turned to Tremayne, “You will come too! You must come too! How can I thank you?”
Tremayne felt happier, and at lunch he was the soul of the party. He simply overflowed with good spirits and kept his hostess and her son in fits of uncontrollable mirth.
Afterwards, in her private apartment, he told her of the plans for the Cadenabbia trip.
“Nothing could be better for Arthur,” she replied. “You are indeed a true friend. Would that I knew how to thank you!”
Shortly after, Pentreath had to hurry off to Church, and Tremayne rose to go.
“Mr. Tremayne, do stay,” she began. “You need not go yet.”
They sat for some time discussing St. Joan of Arc’s when a knock was heard and Mrs. And Miss Sinclair were announced.
Tremayne started. Miss Sinclair caught his eye and a faint flush came over her face.
It turned out that Mrs. Pentreath and Mrs. Sinclair were very old friends. Introductions followed, and while the old friends were deeply engrossed, Tremayne found himself talking with the beautiful Mary. It was as Violet Pytchley prophesied—“they got on like a house afire.”
They laughed merrily over the episode of the evening when they nearly collided.
“I forgive you,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “No wonder you were absorbed. The Consorority is engulfing! But perhaps I ought not to say that to a member of the Nil Desperandum.”
“A member of the Nil Desperandum!” he exclaimed in horror. “I—a member of the Nil Desperandum!”
His tone made her laugh outright.
“I am just off to Cadenabbia,” he went on, “to save Arthur Pentreath from that precious Society.”
“Did you say ‘Cadenabbia,’ Mr. Tremayne?” broke in Mrs. Sinclair.
“Yes,” he answered. “It is a favourite haunt of mine.”
“What a singular coincidence!” she remarked. “My daughter and I are expected at the Belle Vue next week.”
“We, too, are expected at the Belle Vue,” he went on. “You must let me show you some of the less known beauty spots away from the beaten track.”
“That will be delightful,” replied Mrs. Sinclair. “I’m not much of a walker but Mary is great at long tramps.”
Then Tremayne rose to go. As he took his leave, he said quietly to Miss Sinclair, “I feel sure you can help me to save my friend from spoiling his life.”
For a moment only she looked surprised. Then a look of intelligence spread over her face. She smiled as she said, “Trust me. I will do all I can.”
CHAPTER X. BLACK TREACHERY.
FATHER BLACK sat in his sumptuous study. Before him lay piles of envelopes, big, small and medium. His correspondence was heavy. Besides crowds of invitations, he answered all the humdrum letters of ordinary parochial life. The weightiest burden of all was laid upon him by the Society of the Nil Desperandum and by the Consorority of the Hopefuls. The clergy he directed in various details—food—reading—deportment and dress. From the poise of the biretta to the tying of a shoe lace, nothing escaped his inquisitorial eye.
The Consorority consulted him on frocks, hats, cloaks and shoes. He wrote them prescriptions and Ethel Hardup made them up to his order. Violet Pytchley once said that he was deeply verse in face culture and similar arts, but that, of course, was mere slander and spite.
Father Black smiled at the pile on his desk. He took up a letter, read it, started and frowned.
“Hôtel Belle Vue,
I am sorry but I fear I shall be unable after all to remain at St. Joan of Arc’s. I must also resign my membership of the Society of the Nil Desperandum. Unforeseen circumstances have upset all my arrangements.”
It was signed Arthur Pentreath.
Then he took up another.
“2 Deepcover Square, W.,
I can’t hunt with your pack any more. I’ve come a cropper. That Priory Johnny brought me down heavily. Au revoir.
He read it again, said something polite and jumped from his chair. He put his hand to the bell. The man came at once.
“Car!” said Black without looking up.
The Rolls-Royce was soon at the door.
“Stanhope Gate,” he snapped. He arrived almost before he had started.
“Back in half an hour,” he cried as he walked quickly away. At first he seemed greatly perturbed. However, the morning was fresh and at last he grew calmer.
Suddenly he heard, “Morning, Padre!”
It was Violet Pytchley. She pulled up her horse and looked very knowing. However, before she could say a word more, he began in tones of surprise, “Violet! How could you?”
Lest the reader should think this form of address too familiar, he should know that the clergy of St. Joan of Arc’s addressed the Members of the Consorority by their Christian names, the Associates by their Christian and surnames, the Board of Guardians by their surnames only. This was regarded as a sign of detachment and a mark of aloofness.
The clergy were addressed as Father, Dear Father, My Father, and similar warrants.
“Violet! how dare you resign?” continued Black.
“Dead beat! Can’t stick it out,” she replied. Then she whispered, “Would you like a straight tip?”
“I really don’t know what you mean,” he answered.
“Lady Eta has scratched! Father’s Chapel’s disqualified!” She watched the effect of her words.
“What on earth do you mean?” he groaned, getting pale.
“Don’t you know? Well, Father Chapel ad Eta were married this morning at St. John’s, Stanhope Square, by special licence.”
Black trembled with emotion.
“It’s impossible!” he cried. “It’s a slander, a lie?”
“’Pon my word! Positive fact!” she replied. “I was there all the time and saw the whole show.”
He grasped the rail for support. Lady Eta Lambda was a shining light in the Consorority while Father Chapel was a celibate, of course without life vows.
“It’s impossible! Impossible!” he cried.
“Honour bright!” she rejoined. “He brought her right up to the post—the parson, I mean.”
“Treachery! Treachery!” he exclaimed.
“Yes! black,” she added with a twinkle.
He barely smiled at the joke. He was too hard hit, for Lady Lambda was one of his staunchest supporters, and Father Chapel had two months ago taken a vow for a month just to prove his sincerity.
Lady Eta was a fair widow of thirty. To her first husband she was devoted as long as he lived. However, when she buried the dead, she buried the past and joined the Hopefuls, that is, the Consorority of the Hopefuls, with the above natural results.
Just then Ethel Hardup and her “Reggie” passed by.
“Look,” said Violet, “there’s Ethel! She’s got her man back! He gave up the liquor. Followed Coué! Said every morning and night, ‘I am cured of drink and D.T.” He’s a rabid teetotaler now! Sees red at the sight of a Pub! She’s retired from business! Oh! Ethel is no end of a sport!”
Black nearly fainted.
“Hallo? What’s up now?” she cried. “Oh! I know,” she went on, as if she had suddenly remembered. “Rough back on the Consorority?—Costumière gone! No more Ethel creations? Never mind! I will design you ‘Gone to Earth,’ ‘The Last Meet,’ ‘Resigned from the Mastership!’”
Black was furious, his face like a thundercloud. He spun around like a top, rushed for his car and returned to his study.
Here fresh treachery awaited him. He found three letters. At first he seemed disinclined to break the seals. However, curiosity came to the rescue and he read the first.
“The Clergy House,
Without going into details, I find it desirable that I should sever my connection with St. Joan of Arc’s. As you know, I go for my holidays to-day and I feel sure you will make arrangements so that I need not return.
Black staggered, but recovered himself with an effort. He opened the second.
My own Father,
Oh! So happy! So happy! I’m just off with my hubbie to Scotland! My Charles send you his love. The Consorority! What a privilege to belong! What it has done for me, words fail to express.
“This is treachery blue-black!” groaned the Vicar.
It will be observed that he had a fine sense in shadings. However, he was almost exhausted. He put his hand to the bell. “Sherry and biscuits!” He felt better. His courage came back and he took up the third.
“Hôtel Belle Vue,
Dear Father Black,
I’m having a ripping time. It’s top-hole on the lake. The Sinclairs are here and Father Tremayne. Oh! he’s a dear! We all love him. Arthur is devoted (she deleted ‘to me’ with a terrible blot) to him, I mean. I may tell you some news soon. I am so sorry, but I am leaving the Consorority.
“She never told me she was going!” he gasped. “This is the blackest treachery of all! Arthur! Who is Arthur? What news? What does she mean? What Arthur? I only know one Arthur and that is Arthur Pentreath! She hardly knows him at all!”
He put his hand on the bell. “’Phone up Father Church.”
Father Church soon arrived out of breath. His face was white and long as a fiddle.
“My dear Vicar,” he cried, “the news is most awful! Poor Chapel! What a downfall!”
Black spaing to his help and held him from falling.
“Come, Father!” he begged, “be brave! All is not yet lost!” He poured out some sherry and Father Church revived.
“Listen,” said Black. “I must leave England at once. Urgent business that brooks no delay calls me to Cadenabbia. What about Sunday? You will be single-handed. All the members of the Society of the Nil Desperandum will be out of town. What are we to do? Go I must! Oh! I know, there’s Father Levelhead.”
“Oh, Vicar!” gasped Church, quite faint with the shock,” he married after, not before!” We can’t possibly have him!”
For a moment Black looked nonplussed. He cleared his throat; then hummed and hawed.
“After all,” he began, “he’s responsible; that’s his business! We must ask him! After all, he’s a priest!”
Of course a cynic would say that consistency and expediency are twin sisters in human transactions. As Violet Pytchley said to Tremayne, “What humbugs we are! We’re most of us shams!”
Just then the butler brought in a note.
“Duchess of Oldford,” muttered Black. “Pardon me Father,” and then half aloud, “I hear on the best of authority that Margaret Cotswold is betrothed to Father Pope, while Father Bishop is to wed Viscountess Quorn.”
Father Pope urged Nicæa at the meeting of the Nil Desperandum. Father Bishop went in for poverty, loneliness and discomfort with the gold-rimmed pince-nez and the large and expansive handkerchief of the finest lawn.
Like many others, these two did not know that pretentious celibacy can sometimes be defined in terms of inadequate means.
Margaret Cotswold and Viscountess Quorn were prominent members of the Consorority of the Hopefuls. Their prominence had never been more pronounced than at that particular time.
The reader has met them before as “Brief Life” and “Golden Sunshine after Storm.”
Father Black and his colleague were overwhelmed at the news. They staggered and reeled till they fell into each other’s arms, an ocular demonstration of the affectionate feelings ever existing between Vicar and Curate!
How little did they know that they were both on the brink of a precipice!
CHAPTER XI. THE TRUE AFFECTIONS OF THE HEART.
PENTREATH was enchanted with Como. He caught the first glimpse from the heights above and from that moment fell a prey to its charm.
The friends made many excursions, but often they sat in the hotel garden overlooking the lake with Bellagio across the blue waters. Here Tremayne would keep Pentreath in roars of laughter, for he had a fund of good stories, and was, moreover, an excellent wit. Sometimes they discussed future plans and sometimes books and favourite hobbies.
“I suppose you will never marry,” said Arthur one day.
“It’s not likely,” he replied. “After all, it’s a question of vocation.”
The answer seemed to strike Pentreath, and he remained buried in thought.
“I wish,” began Tremayne, “these Neo-Catholics would read the history of Western Celibacy. It’s a heartrending story—sentimental asceticism attempts to crush the finest affections, renewed prohibition only proving futility or hiding defeat. Natural laws have a way of taking revenge. Human nature suppressed tends to licence, wisely guided to virtue. Men like Black never look very far. Sentiments are too evanescent to have a past or a future. They live but a breath in the sequence of time. They are not almost before they are. The Society of the Nil Desperandum has never thought out its position. Most of the members are the sons of priests. On their own showing their fathers’ unions were uncanonical. They are, therefore, themselves illegal offspring and are consequently disbarred from exercising their ministry. But, of course, they don’t, or rather, they won’t go so far, only so far as will leave them unscathed. They scream if they are touched; others they torture with unctuous pleasure. There’s only one thing for you to do—leave St. Joan of Arc’s and the Society.”
Pentreath had been listening intently.
“What you say,” he began, “only bears out a growing conviction. For some little time I have not been satisfied. Far from it! I will write at once and resign.”
Then he went to the hotel.
“That’s much more hopeful,” muttered Tremayne.
While he was away, his friend left the garden and sat down in the lounge. Suddenly a motor drew up and from it came Mrs. Sinclair and her daughter and a young friend. He at once went forward to welcome their arrival, and warm greetings were exchanged. He was accompanying Mrs. Sinclair into the hotel when she turned and said, “Oh, let me introduce you to Mary’s friend, Lady Angela Cardew.”
It was the child he had noticed at the meeting of the Consorority. He was struck by the sweet girlish face with fair hair and brown eyes. She looked like a romp full of fun.
“I hope you will be charmed with Cadenabbia,” he began.
“Oh! its lovely!” she answered. “Mrs. Sinclair asked me to come. Wasn’t it good of her?”
Tremayne threw a quick look of gratitude in Miss Sinclair’s direction, while she smiled at his obvious pleasure.
At this moment Pentreath came from the drawing-room. When he saw Lady Angela he grew very pale and seemed at a loss. After a moment’s hesitation he recovered and greeted the Sinclairs. Then he turned to Angela but not a word could he say.
“Don’t you know me?” she asked. “Why so cold? Oh! I know! ’Twas the ice!” This she said with a twinkle.
“No,” said he quite seriously, “it wasn’t that!”
“Well you see,” she rattled on, “I’ve come out for a month at least. Say you’re horribly bored.”
“I’m so glad to see you again,” he replied, getting quite red.
“But you mustn’t be! It breaks the rules. Members of the Nil Desperandum choose loneliness and lots of other indigestibles,” she went on with her eyes full of fun.
“But I am no longer a member!”
“No longer a member!” she cried in unaffected surprise. “Oh, I know what I’ll do; I shall resign the Consorority. Oh! what fun! Father Black will get frightfully frothy! Good bye for the time. Will see you at dinner and please, oh! please sit out in the sun and get melted!”
Time began to fly. The little company of friends found much to do and to see. Visits to the Villa Carlotta and the Villa Serbelloni, trips by boat and by steamer, walks along the lake and on the hills filled up the time. Mrs. Sinclair was not capable of much exertion, and hence Tremaye saw much of Mary, while Arthur and Angela were like two merry children and quite unseparable.
“By the way,” said Angela one night after dinner, “I must write and resign the Consorority. Come along and help me,” she cried to Pentreath as she entered the drawing-room, “Sit you there!” she began again, “while I write.” Then she scribbled and he read:
“Dear Father Black,
“I can’t afford to pay the Consorority sub. any longer. Am stony broke.”
“Oh!” said Pentreath, “you can’t possibly say that!”
“Right-o!” she replied, “I’ll try again.”
“Here you are,” she began again after a moment or two.
“Dear Father Black,
“I am tired of the Consorority. I wouldn’t mind joining the Society of the Nil Desperandum.”
“Oh!” said Pentreath, holding up his hands in horror, “that’s far worse! Let us try together.”
Then with much head shaking and laughter they composed the epistle which the reader has seen.
Arthur got rather pink when she would write his name “Arthur” and still pinker when she put “to me” by mistake. He thought, too, the last sentence rather ambiguous, but the, she would have her way.
“I’m so glad that’s settled,” she began. “Now we’ll have a society of our own.”
“A society of our own?” he asked.
“Yes! of two members!”
“Two members! What on earth do you mean?”
“I mean just what I say! Oh, how I wish you had not eaten that ice!”
“Two members!” he repeated, mystified.
“Oh, how silly some people are!”
“Oh! Angela!” he cried. “Now I know! You and I!”
A little time after they joined Tremayne and Miss Sinclair as they walked up and down under the planes.
“I say, Tremayne,” began Arthur, “Angela and I are—”
Before he could finish his friend broke in, “I know! I know! I can see for myself. I’m glad, very glad.”
He took them both by the hand while Mary stooped down and kissed the fair face of the child.
“Dear little friend,” she whispered, “I wish you all happiness. But do tell my mother. You will find her in the drawing-room.”
While the two hurried off with their news, Tremayne and Miss Sinclair strolled away towards the Villa Carlotta. She looked at his face. Never before had she seen him so happy.
“You’re glad for your friend?” she began.
“Glad! Why, it has saved him from misery. If he had taken the vow his life’s work would have been wrecked. Together, these two will be splendid. Glad! I’m more than glad!”
Then he turned to her. “I can never thank you for this.”
“Thank me?” she said with surprise. “I have done nothing. It’s all due to you.”
But he only shook his head. She could see he was deeply moved. Then he went on as if talking to himself, “They won’t have to wait! There’s no question of means! He’s the soul of sincerity and she’s just the same! What a glorious work they will do for the Church!” Then he turned a little aside and stopped by the wall of the lake. For a long time he looked across the star-lit waters.
“How lovely it is here!” he said. “I shall be sorry when the time comes to leave. However, I must soon return to the Priory. There’s much work awaiting me there.”
“You love the Priory?” she asked.
“Yes,” he replied quite simply, “I am wedded to it. My life there is very full.”
For a time nothing more was said.
Suddenly he began, “You, too, will be very happy at Pax!”
“I happy at Pax!” she exclaimed in tones of unfreigned surprise. “What do you mean?”
“Perhaps I ought not to have spoken so,” he replied, “but sometimes faint indications show the direction of the current.” Then he paused as if waiting for her to speak. However, she made no answer, while her look bade him say what was in his mind.
“You will be very happy at Pax,” he began again, “for I feel sure that the Religious Life is your heart’s desire.”
Mary seemed dumbfounded. She began to wonder what she could have said to put such an idea into his head. However, she could recall nothing. The Chaplain, she thought, must have a deeper insight into human nature than was given to most. She tried to speak but the words failed her. At last, with eyes full of tears, she looked at her friend and with a voice choking with emotion she managed to say, “You have guessed my secret wish. The Religious Life at Pax Priory is my great desire. So far, I have never told a soul.”
CHAPTER XII. EXPLOSIONS.
One morning Tremayne took Mary to the Villa Bonaventura. Mr. Ireland, the owner, was an old friend of his. He prided himself on his lovely garden, especially on his petunias, which made a magnificent show.
Pentreath set out for the little chapel of San Martino, but as the heat was great, Angela arranged to meet him on his return.
However, she found it very dull without him and so started rather earlier than she intended.
She had not gone very far when to her intense surprise she saw him sitting by the shore of the lake, gazing intently across the waters. A mischievous smile stole over her face and she walked on tiptoe in his direction. Every moment she thought he would hear her, but no! He seemed completely absorbed. At last, when she was only a few feet away she sprang forward and blindfolded him with her hands.
“Guess who it is,” she said gruffly.
Pentreath struggled violently, but she held on like grim death. He had not the faintest idea who it was. He called out angrily, “Let me go.” Still she held on. He tried French, Italian and Latin and last of all, in supreme desperation, he tried the deaf and dumb language.
So anxious was she to hold on that she failed to notice his voice. At last something unfamiliar in the tone struck her and she let go in haste. The figure turned round white with passion. Angela nearly fainted. It was not Arthur, but Black!
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” she cried. “I didn’t know it was you! Where on earth did you come from?”
Her dismay was so genuine that Black gulped down his indignation and forced himself calm.
“Good morning, Angela,” he said in frigid tones. “I was admiring the view when my meditations were thus rudely disturbed.”
“Oh, please, forgive me,” she pleaded. “I didn’t know it was you. I really didn’t!”
“In any case,” he replied, “your conduct, to say the least, was most reprehensible.”
Angela blushed and said nothing.
Then he began again. “You are doubtless surprised to see me here. I have come all the way to visit you!”
“How sweet of you!” she replied.
“The fact is,” he continued, “I have long taken great interest in your welfare, but I fear for your future. I think you need a protector and I know of one only whom I could trust.”
“I suppose you mean Arthur?” she interposed.
“Arthur! Who is Arthur! I know no Arthur! Whoever he may be, there is only one person who can protect you; in fact, who ought to protect you.”
“I don’t understand,” she said, looking puzzled.
“Angela, don’t be perverse! I, Andrew Black am that person.”
“But I don’t know what you mean,” she urged.
“I will make myself clear,” he replied, unabashed. “You must become my wife and thus put yourself under my care.”
“I thought,” she said, with some indignation, “that you were a celibate.”
“So I am—er—er—in theory, but conditions arise to which theories must bend.”
“Ah!” she said. “I think I understand now. You must be what Mr. Tremayne calls a sentimental celibate.”
“Angela, don’t be impertinent.”
“I am so sorry. I did not mean to be rude. But I am puzzled. Perhaps I should have said a hyphenated-celibate.”
Thereupon Father Black got really angry, for “hyphenated” might mean anything, even “sham.”
“Tremayne again, I suppose!” he muttered to himself, and then began again, “You are using words beyond your years. The full significance of such terms outdistances your understanding.”
“Oh! now I know,” she cried as she clapped her hands; “you are a super-man—celibate and not to be judged like ordinary folk.”
“Angela,” he said, “be serious.” She saw he was really in earnest. “Will you marry me?”
“No!” she replied. “I will not! I cannot!”
“Because I love only one.”
“Oh! say you mean me,” he pleaded in piteous tones.
“I mean Arthur Pentreath!”
Black nearly fell backwards. He looked utterly dumbfounded. Then without saying a word he turned on his heel, hurried back to the Hotel Belle Vue, paid his bill, and at once left for England.
Tremayne had prophesied explosions. Here was one indeed. Angela was quite overcome. When Tremayne and Mary Sinclair were returning from the Villa Bonaventura, they found her in tears by the lake. While Mary did her best to console her, Tremayne hurried off to find Arthur. He saw him some distance up the road. His loud call soon brought his friend to the spot, and the Angela startled them all.
“I have just seen Father Black!”
Tremayne returned to Pentreath. “There! didn’t I prophesy explosions?”
“Oh!” said Angela. “There were explosions indeed!”
Then she told them how she had blindfolded him by mistake while they shook with laughter.
“But I can’t tell you what he said,” she went on, “for he gobbled out French, English, Italian and Latin. I knew it was Latin because it’s like what he says at St. Joan of Arc’s.”
“What else did he say?” asked Pentreath.
“Oh! I mustn’t say,” she replied. “It wouldn’t be fair to say that he asked me to marry him.”
This she said with an innocent air, as if revealing no secret.
The others were too much startled at first even to smile.
“That’s a bomb!” said Mary at last.
“Or Cupid’s aerial darts,” suggested Tremayne, his face full of fun. “It’s the natural thing,” he added. “These sentimental celibates become the husbands of one wife and sometimes of one widow! I saw, Arthur, didn’t I tell you at Pax Priory there would be explosions?”
“Indeed you did,” was the answer, “but we have not heard the last of them yet!”
Some days after Mary received a characteristic letter from Violet Pytchley.
“2 Deepcover Square, W.,
Many thanks for the news. Angela was my choice of the two-year-olds, and so she’s carried off the Orleans Stakes. I fancied her man at the Consorority crowd. ‘Hallo!’ said I to myself, ‘he’s some stuff!’
I saw Ethel yesterday. You know, Ethel Hardup, my pal? ‘Ethel,’ I said, ‘Angela’s going to get spliced!’ ‘Cheerio,’ said Ethel, ‘What! to the Nil Desperandum parson chap?’ ‘Right-o, Ethel,’ I said. ‘You know all the last tips.’ ‘Violet,’ chirped Ethel, ‘I’ve chucked up the dress business concern, but I’ll design Angel a gown—‘Orleans Winner’—glossy like a thoroughbred’s coat with a touch of blue for good luck.’
Oh, Ethel is really some sport!
Father Black went for a canter abroad. He’s back; gone sick. They’ve called in the vet. They’ve had an awful bust up at St. Joan of Arc’s. Father Algernon Church weds Duchess of Oldford, or rather, ’tis t’other way on. He abjured matrimony; turned pale; put his head out of the straight. She wrote him lyrics; called him ‘Algie’ for short. He blushed like a rose and fell flop.
The Consorority’s gone scat! Lacks episcopal smiles; may be reconstructed within regulations. The Nil Desperandum is warned off the course. Proceedings ecclesiastical threatened.
Au revoir, dearest Mary.
John Tremayne shook with laughter as Mary read the letter aloud.
“More explosions!” he began. “Arthur was right!” Then he added in a tone of conviction, “Black is a good sort at heart. When he has given up sentiment, he will do useful work.”
AFTER LONG YEARS.
AFTER many years of devoted work in the parish of Joy, Arthur Pentreath found himself duly installed as Canon of Carchester.
For once enthusiasm was welcomed and merit rewarded. He found Carchester dormant; he made it efficient. He converted the Bishop, mesmerised the Dean, electrified the Canons Residentiary, magnetised the Canons Minor, and cast a spell over the various officials from the Dean’s Verger to the smallest singing boy.
Angela undertook the ladies of the Establishment. They fell a prey to her charm. It was a conquest indeed. Of course, it must be remembered that the Canon and his wife were above criticism—their birth unimpeachable—their breeding undoubted—their manners faultless—their fame unsullied—their good looks conspicuous—their wealth obvious and their intellectual capacity of the highest order.
The afore-mentioned ladies of the Establishment were speechless with amazement; they bowed to the inevitable and bent before fate.
The Cathedral was transformed. The atmosphere now suggested the sweet scent of incense and no longer the odour of furniture polish.
The Divine Office was sung as of yore, but daily, the High Mass as well.
After thirty years in Arabia Deserta, Dr. Mann retired, somewhat broken in health. With but short periods of rest he had done a singular work with untiring zeal and unflagging devotion. “A Bishop,” he said to a friend, “as I know now by experience, should always be single. His office is such that there must be no distractions. The claims on his time are so pressing, the need of prayer is so urgent, the problems to be solved so many, that he must forego the comforts of family ties and the attractions of social engagements. Unlike most men he stands, and must stand, alone. The loneliness and isolation form part of the episcopal burden.”
Father Black gave up sentiments for realties after his great disappointment. It was then that he discovered the depth of his self-deception. He never married. He joined the large number of those who have “loved and lost.” The highly electrified atmosphere of St. Joan of Arc’s was exchanged for the fresh air of common sense and emotionalism no longer found a place within its four walls.
John Tremayne marked the careers of members of disbanded Society of the Nil Desperandum. Some, he discovered, remained single; most found partners in the old Consorority of the Hopefuls.
Two changes took place at Pax Priory. The Chaplain added to his duties the office of Warden, while the new Reverend Mother, chosen by the unanimous vote of the Nuns, was “Sister Mary of the Love of God.” The reader will remember her better as Mary Sinclair.
What these two did for the Priory and its work can never be told. Its record will be written elsewhere. But in all they did for the good of the community and for the souls entrusted to their care they never ceased to find inspiration and encouragement in the remembrance of the saintly founder who was not a sentimental celibate but the husband of one wife.