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It would have been well for Sir John Cunliff if from that sleep there had been no awakening; at least, such was his own conviction, when the first faint light of day met his opening eyes on the following morning.
It were useless to attempt even to indicate the sufferings of which such a man is capable, when every element of his nature is called into preternatural activity, his every faculty of perception into the most vivid life, but only to enhance the anguish over a blow struck at the most vital part.
He saw no one, locked and double-locked his door, and then tried to persuade himself that the worst had passed, and that it was time for him to live a little more rationally.
The relief he felt might be such as the unfortunate Montezuma may be supposed to have experienced during those moments when the fire beneath happened to burn a little less fiercely, as the miscreant tormentors ceased for a moment to feed the flames.
He knew it not as yet, but this was the day for him of that vital revolution which all men of powerful and comprehensive natures experience at some time or other of their lives; and which seems destined to enable them to go back to instincts, and first principles ; to cast off the slough of the world, as a serpent casts its skin; and then to recover, and to unite with the experiences and strength of manhood the ideal aspiration of youth, without which the world is indeed but a valley of the shadow of death, a place of desolation and of dry bones.
On the dreadful yesterday, which already seems divided from him by some inconceivably vast gulf, he felt only. Today he thinks, and though it seems but a change of suffering for suffering, it is progress.
Round and round the same set of thoughts go on perpetu. ally circling, like that horrible devil's dance he had seen on Criba Ban, and leaving him no rest for the sole of his intellectual foot. His love, from which he must turn as Lear turns from his peculiar danger, for that way madness lies;' his humiliation ; the cruel irony of fortune that he—a passionate
lover of the ideal-should destroy such an ideal as Hirell would have made a reality of, for him; his weakness in cry. ing as a child might cry that first will, then will not, then will again ; the exposure before Elias, Chamberlayne, Kezia, and that bloated Puritan, the Rev. Ephraim Jones, such are the component parts of the hideous glimpses he gets on one side of his mental horizon.
Sick and dizzy with the whirl and confusion, he turns to another, his early, hopeful life, so full of worth, of promise, of brightness, of faith, of earnest will, of everything that could foreshadow a life of manly vigour and usefulness, alike for himself and his fellow-men. Was all this utterly gone ? Had indulgence eaten out the very heart of his manhood, so that he could only drop into the world's stream, and go where that went ?
To stop thinking, while thinking led to nothing but chaos, he took up a newspaper that had come with some letters by the morning's post, none of which had he opened. Had he thought it possible that any conceivable thing he might see there would tempt him to feel the least interest, he would have flung it into the fire. It was a purely mechanical action, one his fingers had long been used to.
He saw his name, allowed his eye to run down the column, pausing here and there, with a new and fierce light rising in his glance as he did so, then dropped his clenched hand on the damp paper, and told himself aloud, in conscious irony of his assumed quiet, the substance of what he had seen.
'My cottages at — , the subject of a special local inquiry, unknown to me or my agent, a report sent to the Government_filth, overcrowding, nuisances, delicate suggestions of incest, hot-beds of fever, death placed at my door—and this, the editor, my Tory assailant during the election, knowing how Į have been violently opposed at every step in rebuilding --knowing what I am about to do for a thorough reformation, hastens to contrast with the sensation, so he calls it, everywhere excited by my maiden speech, which prepared everyone for some new social apostle; and here he is, the Radical M.P. and Baronet, Sir John Cunliff!
Of course, since this is here, it is also in every British. newspaper, regaling every hearth in the three kingdoms with the spectaclo of me, hung out as it were-a spectacle to gods and men—the arch-hypocrite of my age.'
He stopped. No fit of violence now offered even a temporary relief. Literally, the man's heart seemed broken. It might be a pitiful thing to say, but somehow he had a sort of sacred respect for his name, for his reputation. It was in its stainlessness as regards men, a kind of bond by which he held some security for the future. That was gone. He might build and reform as he pleased ; spend as he pleased ; toil as he pleased. Never again would there be any verdict for him, but that he had been simply driven by the outraged voice of public opinion no longer to violate public decency.
He tried to walk about his room, tried to eat, tried to read, raised and lowered the blinds again and again, found an old chair in a dark corner of his long apartment, and there sat for a long time staring at vacancy.
He saw a book on the sideboard, fetched it, found it was a Bible, opened the leaves and began; then, stung by something, hurled the book back towards its place. Seeing it fall to the ground, and lie there sprawling in an unseemly fashion, he took it up, went back to his chair, and tilted up the legs, keeping his knees together to make a place for the book.
With a sort of half-scorn, a quick, impatient hand, he turned over the leaves once more, restlessly and aimlessly, as if after all he were thinking of something else. By accident he thus left the book open opposite the first of Corinthians, and read aloud in that abstract kind of voice which indicates an effort to recall the thought from some more tempting theme:
* And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all rejoice with it.'.
This he read a second time, then remarked :
Why the whole spirit of true government is summed up in that!'
He began now to hunt for things that might be similarly noticeable, and lighted upon this, from the Romans : • We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.'
He made no remark, but pondered long before he again turned over the leaves, and read from Revelation :
"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowost not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked : I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see,
When he again read--still continuing to read aloud, as if disputing with the fear that he could not-his voice broke with emotion, which was instantly checked, and he read the next in silence :
And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from theo, and thou shalt find them no more at all.'
He could for some time read no more, but closed the Bible with a gentle touch, set it down, and paced his chamber silently for perhaps an hour. Then again he took the book up, saying in a low voice
"God help me! I don't understand all this! No mortal man could have spoken more directly to me, and so anatomized me.'
He was soon made to understand it when he lighted upon the text:
For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
To what end, O God,' he cried in irresistible passion, 'to what end, if Thou wilt not show me the path out of this my intolerable shame and anguish ?'
He could read no more, but went to bed, not to sleep, but to try once more to shut out the light that wounded alike body and soul.
Futile effort. He was soon poring over the Bible again, knowing well what he wanted to find, and which he had chosen not before to see. He found it, read it to himself many times over in silence, then once aloud, and once only :
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. *Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'
To the last days of the world's existence, men like Cunliff, however powerfully moved to the regeneration of life, to the sense of the necessity of something that can only be worthily described by the words, New Birth, will still differ in the mode of manifesting their experience, from the mode of those who have led simpler, less artificial lives, whose natures are less complex, though possibly even still more strong. Whatever of the nature of conversion Cunliff was now to know, it was not the conversion of Christian in Bunyan's immortal allegory. The pride of knowledge, of culture, of intellect, is exceedingly adverse to the straightforward, noble simplicity, and uncompromising earnestness which characterize truly religious men; and make them accept the new light and faith without a murmur, except as to their own profound unworthiness.
He had often before now amused himself by taking up one by one the cardinal points of religious belief-new birth, atonement, faith, confession, and so on, in order to show the natural elements in each, which all reasonable men would acknowledge. And thus he explained the doctrines away till they might be very perfect logically, but leading to no earthly benefit for any human being.
He saw now with surprise it was possible to reverse the process to a precisely opposite issue, and began to mount by the well-known familiar steps.
Our space, and the nature of our book, forbids further · development. But, to illustrate the action of Cunliff's mind, let it be briefly observed, that he found on recalling by the aid of his superb memory the lives of great men, it was almost always to be discovered that they had passed through that memorable phase, which Dante calls 'new life,' and which turned Cromwell from gambling and other dissolute courses, into one of the greatest of the world's men. Seeing that, Cunliff found to himself now the courage to treat at its exact value the ridicule, the knowingness of society, and to think only of his real need.
Two other texts there were which affected him strangely :
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.'
'For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ.'
The inconceivable beauty and grandeur of all these passages, which he placed before him carefully copied out-of these and many others—filled him with something that was not hope, nor pleasure, nor desire of life, but that was at least likely again to lead to such things when the awful period of transition should be gone through.
They suggested, also, powerfully to him the inner harmony between them and the life he had always vaguely yearned for in spirit; and so the harmony between the life of this world,