« PreviousContinue »
A RELIGIOUS REVIVAL—THE DAWN OF LOVE.
George Satemak came to the conclusion that the condition of this world was beyond remedy. He got more unsociable and ill-tempered every day. He could be reasoned with effectually sometimes, but in general he was a difficult being to convince. A person opposing him with earnestness or warmth roused his obstinacy and made him inaccessible; a timid disputant made him conclude that his position was not to be shaken. His uncle used to talk to him and advise him sometimes; but he, though he held very clear opinions and was certainly not timid, was a retiring man, to whose nature it was repugnant to press his views upon others. He had against him, too, the absurd idea, which reigned iu George's home, that he would be likely to favour grovelling maxims such as would by no means become a Bateman.
"My boy," George's uncle would say, "you are, I am sure, quite right about the perversity and injustice of the world. Your sense of these weaknesses proves that you look below the surface, and I am glad to see you so observing. But I wish you did not take the world's failings so much to heart."
"I cannot help taking them to heart," George would reply. "What inducement is there to do well and to act honestly if specious and designing people are always to be applauded and rewarded 1"
"I don't think they are always applauded and rewarded. You should remember, too, that it is you who judge them of being specious and designing, and your judgment may be wrong; if so, your objection is nothing. Your inducement to live honestly ought to be quite independent of the world and its rewards."
"Do you mean that when you see hypocritical, knavish people deceiving and misleading others for their own ends, you are to sit quiet and let them pursue their vile schemes?"
"That should depend on circumstances. You are at any rate, by your suspicions„armed against attempted injury to yourself; and if you have a friend who cares to listen to you, you may warn him. But I never saw any use in attacking everything and everybody that might seem not to be always quite fair and open."
"What is one to do?"
"What I always have done was to strictly examine myself and find out whether there might not be something in my own conduct quite as objectionable as what I saw in my neighbour. Wbat I found within I could put right myself. A man is always responsible for his own acts; it is only now and then that he is answerable for those of others."
"Well, I am not an impostor, whatever else I may be," George would say.
"I hope not, my boy; I look to see you an honourable and respected man; with experience I doubt not you will come to be more tolerant of people's faults, and find perhaps that your own good conduct is not thrown away in the end."
Frank Lemon, as has been said, went away. George and Ned remained at school three or four years longer, never friendly, indeed hardly on speaking terms. Eoberts was to be a year in Mr Briefs office, after which he was to go to London to be articled to an attorney. Bateman was to go into business in Gritvale. But a word or two must be said concerning George's prospects.
It has been already mentioned that George's father had been killed in the hunting-field. The unfortunate sportsman was the elder of two sons, of whom the younger remained alive and a bachelor during George's school days. They were the sons of a military officer who had died on the field of battle, and who, having invested money in his commissions, and otherwise incurred expense, in the hope that he would some day be reimbursed when holding the high appointments of his profession, was found to have died a much poorer man than was supposed. George's father inherited from him a Very small property, and choosing to live according to what his expectations had been instead of what his income really was, he managed during his short career to dissipate the greater part of it. It is probable that if his death had happened a year or two later he would have left his widow and orphan beggars; they were badly enough off as it was. The dead squire's expectations had given a tone to the ideas of the household. It was the fashion among them to talk as if they were people of note suffering deep and unmerited affliction. The old mad nabob was looked upon as if he had been some rich and mighty potentate; George was exhorted by his not over-wise mother never to forget his descent; and a commission in the army was, during his childhood, the destiny cut out for him, though how it was to be procured was never clearly explained. Once when the widow discovered this fancy to her brother-in-law (who, by the way, had taken a very prosaic view of things, and made a living by some unpretending business in Gritvale), he asked her if she knew whence the necessary funds were to come, for he grieved to say that he did not. Now it was to this uncle that the lady in her heart looked to provide suitably for George. He certainly was not rich; but he was said to be prudent and thriving, so probably he would be rich some day. He seemed to have no pride in himself; and the use of him, as the widow thought and hinted, would be to provide for George, who, she would take care, should have a proper pride. It was not at all pleasant, as George grew up, to hear his kind uncle speaking of the business as the only means by which he could help him.