Chapter Thirty Two.

A Quiet Prospect.

“Patet omnibus veritas; nondum est prorsus occupata.”
                Seneca, Epistolae 33.

Julian’s third year at Camford was by no means the happiest period of his life there, because the sad absence of Kennedy and De Vayne made a gap in his circle of friends which could not easily be filled up; but this was the annus mirabilis of his university career. He gained prize after prize; he was always first class in the college examinations; he won the chancellor’s medals for Latin and English verse, and, indeed, almost divided with Owen the honours of the place. To crown all, he gained the Ireford University scholarship, which Owen had won the year before.

Of all the men of his year, he was the most honoured and respected; he wore the weight both of his honours and his learning “lightly like a flower,” and there was a graceful humility, joined with his self-dependence, which won every heart, and prevented that jealousy which sometimes accompanies success.

The most important event in his intellectual progress was the attention which he began to turn at this time to biblical and theological studies. He was thankful in later years that he had deferred such inquiries to a time when he was capacitated for them by a calm and sound judgment, and a solid basis of linguistic and historical knowledge. He had always looked forward to holy orders, and regarding the life of a clergyman as his appointed work, he considered that an honest, a critical, and an impartial study of the Bible was his first duty. In setting about it, he came to it as a little child; all he sought for was the simple truth, uncrushed by human traditions, unmingled with human dogmas, untrammelled by human interpretations, unadulterated by human systems. He found that he had a vast amount to unlearn, and saw clearly that if he fearlessly pursued his inquiries they would lead him so far from the belief of popular ignorance, as very probably to bar all worldly success in the sacred profession which he had chosen. But he knew that the profession was sacred, and, fearless by nature, he determined to seek for truth and truth only, honestly following the prayerful conclusions of his clearest and most deliberate judgment. Even in these early days the freedom and honesty of his research drew on him slight sibilations of those whose religion was shallow and sectarian; in after years they were destined to bring on him open and positive persecution.

Not that Julian was ever in the least degree obtrusive in stating his beliefs when they widely and materially differed from the expressed opinions of the majority; except, indeed, in the cases when such opinions appeared to him dishonest or dangerous. He was scrupulously careful not to wound the conscience of those who would have been unable to understand the ground of his arguments, even when they could not resist their logical statement; and in whom long custom was so inveterate that the weed of system could not be torn out of their hearts without endangering the flower of belief. With men like Hazlet—I mean the reformed and now sincere Hazlet—he either confined himself wholly to subjects on which differences were impossible, or, if questioned, stated his views with caution and consideration. It was only with the noisy and violent upholders of long-grounded error—error which they were too feeble to maintain except by mean invective or ignorant declamation—that Julian used the keen edge of his sarcasm, or the weighty sword of his moral indignation. He was not the man to bow down before the fool’s-cap of tyrannous and blatant ignorance. If he could have chosen one utterance from the holy Scriptures, which to him was more precious in its full meaning than another, it was that promise, rich with inexhaustible blessing, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Perhaps there is no greater want in this age than a full, fair, fearless religio clerici; the men who could write it, dare not; and the men who dare write it, cannot. They say the age is not ripe for it; and if they mean that it would cause violent offence to the potent rulers of fashionable religious dogmatism, they are right. But I wander from my theme, and meddle with the subjects which this is not the place to touch upon.

The close of Julian’s undergraduate life was as honourable as its promise had been. He obtained a brilliant first class, and was bracketed with Owen as the best classic of his year. Lillyston also distinguished himself, and all three determined to read for Fellowships, which, before a year was over, they had the honour to obtain.

Meanwhile a circumstance had happened which changed the course of Kennedy’s intentions. After his conversation with Violet, he had often thought of his plans for the future, and written to her about them. Reconciled to the plan, of returning to Camford after the year of his rustication, he was now trying to settle his future profession. His way seemed by no means clear; he had never thought of being a clergyman, and now, more than ever, deemed himself unfitted for such a life. The long tedious delay of the bar to a man without any special interest; the sickness of hope deferred during the prime years of life the weariness of a distasteful study, and the heavy trial of dusky chambers in a city to a man who loved the sea and the country with a passionate love, deterred him from choosing the law. He had no liking for the army, except in time of war; the life of the officers whom he knew was not altogether to his mind, and he was neither inclined to gaiety nor fond of an occupation which offered so many temptations to listlessness and indolence. There was no immediate necessity to decide finally, because in any case he meant to take his degree, and looked forward with some hope, after his year of unswerving diligence in the retirement of Orton, to honours in the Tripos and the pleasant aid of a Saint Werner’s Fellowship as the crown of his career. But on the whole, he began to think that he might be both useful and successful as a physician. He had a deep reverence for this earthly tabernacle of the immortal soul, and a hallowed and reverend curiosity about that “harp of a thousand strings,” which, if it be untuned by sickness, mars every other melody of life. Violet entered into all his views, and they determined to leave the matter thus until Kennedy should have donned his B A gown.

But about this period that public step was taken of throwing open to competition the Indian civil service appointments, which has been of such enormous advantage to the “middle-classes” of England by offering to them, as the reward of industry, the opportunity of a new and honourable profession, and which seems likely to be prolific of good results to the future of our Empire in the East. Directly Kennedy saw the announcement of the examination, he grasped with avidity the chance of a provision for life which it afforded, and easily obtained the assent both of his own and of Julian’s family to offer himself as a candidate. Of course they contemplated with sorrow the prospect of so long a separation as the plan involved, but they saw that he himself was strongly desirous to win their approval of his proposition, and of course his wishes were Violet’s too.

So Kennedy went in for the civil service examination, and acquitted himself so admirably that his name headed the list of successful competitors, and he was told that he must prepare himself to leave England in a year for the post to which they appointed him.

This happened about the time that Julian took his degree, and before the year was over Julian had been elected a Fellow, and the living of Elstan was offered to him. Being of small value—200 pounds a year—it had been rejected by all the Fellows of older standing, and had “come down” to Julian, who, to the surprise of his friends, left Camford and accepted it without hesitation.

“My dear fellow,” said Mr Admer, “how in the world can you be so insane as to bury yourself alive, at the age of twenty-two, in so obscure a place as the vicarage of Elstan?”

“Oh, Elstan is a charming place,” said Julian; “I visited it before accepting it, and found it to be one of those dear little English villages in the greenest fields of Wiltshire. The house is a very pretty one, and the parish is in perfect order. My predecessor was an excellent man: his population, of one thousand souls, were perhaps as well attended to as any in all England.”

“Yes, yes,” said Mr Admer, impatiently, “I know all that; but who will ever hear of you again if you go and become what Sydney Smith calls ‘a kind of holy vegetable’ in the cabbage-gardens of a Wiltshire hamlet?”

“Why, what would you have me do, Mr Admer?”

“Oh, I don’t know; stay up here, edit a Greek play, or one of the epistles; bestir yourself for some rising university member in a contested election; set yourself to get a bishopric or a deanery; you could easily do it if you tried. I’ll give you a receipt for it any day you like. Or go to some London church; with such sermons as you could preach you might have London at your heels in no time, and as you would superadd learning to effectiveness, your fortune would be made.”

Julian was sorry to hear him talk like this; it was the language of a disappointed and half-believing man.

“I don’t care for such aims,” he said. “A mere popular preacher I would not be, and as for preferment it doesn’t depend much on me, but for the most part on purely accidental causes. All I care for at present is to be useful and happy. Obscurity is no trial to me; neither success nor failure can make me different from what I am.”

“Well then, at least, write a book or something to keep yourself in men’s memory.”

“I don’t feel inclined. There are too many books in the world, and I have nothing particular to say. Besides, the annoyance and spite to which an author subjects himself are endless—to hear ignorant and often malicious criticisms, to see his views misrepresented, his motives calumniated, and his name aspersed. No, for the present, I prefer the peace and the dignity of silence.”

“What on earth will you find to do, then, if you have no ambition?”

“Nay, I don’t want you to think that I’m so virtuous or so phlegmatic as to have no ambition. I have a passionate ambition, whether known or unknown, so to live as to lead on the coming golden age, and prepare the next generation to be truer and wiser than ours. If it be my destiny never to be called to a wider sphere of work than Elstan, I shall be content to do it there.”

“And how will you occupy your time?” asked Mr Admer, who had long loved Julian too well even to smile at what were to himself mere unintelligible enthusiasms.

“Oh, no fear on that score. My profession will give me plenty of work; besides, what is the use of education, if it be not to render it impossible for a man to know the meaning of the word ennui? Put me alone in the waiting-room of some little wayside station to wait three hours for a train, and I should still be perfectly happy, even if there were no such thing as a book to be got for miles.”

“Well, well, if you must vanish to Elstan, do. At any rate, remember your old Camford friends, and let us hear of you sometimes? I suppose you’ll keep on your Fellowship at least for a year?”

“Insidious questioner!” said Julian; “no, I hope to be married very soon. You shall come down and see love in a cottage.”

“Aha, I see it all now,” said Mr Admer, with a sigh.

“Nay, you mustn’t sigh. I expect to be congratulated, not pitied,” said Julian, gaily. “A wife will sweeten all the cares and sorrows of life, and instead of withering away my prime in selfish isolation, and spending these still half-youthful years in loneliness, and without a real home, I shall feel myself complete in the materials of happiness. After all, ambition such as yours is a loveless bride.”

So Julian accepted Elstan, and Lillyston went with him to London to help him in selecting furniture for the vicarage which was so soon to receive a bride.

“Are you really going to venture on matrimony with only 200 pounds a year?” asked Lillyston.

“I have some more of my own, you know, Hugh; Mr Carden’s legacy, you remember; but even if I hadn’t, I would still marry even on a hundred a year if I wished and the lady consented.”

“And repent at leisure.”

“Not a bit of it. If I were a man to whom lavender-coloured kid gloves and unlimited eau-de-cologne were necessaries of life, it might be folly to think of it. But if a man be brave, and manly, and fearless of convention, let him marry by all means, and not make his life bitter and his love cold by long delay.”

“But how about his children?”

“Well, it may be fanaticism, but I believe that God never sends a soul into the world without providing ample means for its sustenance. Of course, such an assertion will set the tongues of our would-be philosophers waggling in scornful cachinnation; but, in spite of that, I do believe that if a man have faith, and a strong heart, and common sense, he may depend upon it his children will not starve. Some of the very happiest people I know are to be found among the large families of country clergymen. Besides, very often the children succeed in life, and improve their father’s position. I haven’t the shadow of a doubt that I am doing the right thing. I only wish, Hugh, that you would follow my example.”

“Perhaps I shall, some day,” said Lillyston.

“And meanwhile you will be my bridegroom’s man, will you not?”

“Joyfully—if it be only to see Miss Kennedy’s face again.”

“And do you know that Kennedy is to be married to Violet the same day?”

“Is he? happy fellow! As for me, I am going to resign my fellowship, and to make myself useful at Lillyston Court. When is the wedding to be?”

Both weddings, you mean, Hugh. On the tenth of next June at Orton-on-the-Sea—the loveliest spot in the world, I think.”

So in due time Julian packed up all his books and prizes, and bade farewell to his friends, and turned his back on Camford. It is as impossible to leave one’s college without emotion as it is to enter it, and the tears often started to Julian’s eyes as the train whirled him off to Elstan. He had cause, if any man ever had, to look back to Camford with regret and love. His course had been singularly successful, singularly happy. He had entered Saint Werner’s as a sizar, he left it as a Fellow, and not “With academic laurels unbestowed.”

He had grown in calmness, in strength, in wisdom; he had learnt many practical lessons of life; he had gained new friends, without losing the old. He had learnt to honour all men, and to be fearless for the truth. His mind had become a well-managed instrument, which he could apply to all purposes of discovery, research, and thought; he was wiser, better, braver, nearer the light. In a word, he had learnt the great purpose of life—sympathy and love to further man’s interest—faith and prayer to live ever for God’s glory. And not a few of these lessons he owed to his college, to its directing influence, its ennobling associations, its studies—all bent towards that which is permanent and eternal, not to the transitory and superficial. To the latest day of his life, the name of Saint Werner’s remained to Julian Home an incentive to all that is noble and manly in human effort. He felt the same duty with regard to it as the generous scion of an illustrious house feels towards the ancient name which he has inherited, and the noble lineage whence he has sprung.

The few months which were to elapse before his marriage, Julian spent in preparing the vicarage for his young betrothed, and he stored it with everything which could delight a simple yet refined and educated taste. There was an indefinable charm about it—the charm of home. You felt on entering it that its owner destined it as the place around which his fondest affections were to centre, and his work in life was to be done. Julian had not the restless mind which sighs for continual change; happy in himself and his own resources, and the honest endeavour to do good, the glory of the green fields, the changes of the varying year supplied him with a wealth of beauty which was sufficient for all his needs, and when—after some long day’s work amid the cottages, reading to the sick at their lonely bedsides, listening to the prattle of the children in the infant schools, talking to the labourers as they rested at their work—he refreshed himself by a gallop across the free fresh downs, or a quiet stroll under the rosy apple-blossoms of his orchard or garden, Julian might have said with more truth than most men can, that he was a happy and a contented man.

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