"Then it's the wrong house?" Bruno was saying.
"No, no! It's the right house," the Professor cheerfully replied: "but it's the wrong street. That's where we've made our mistake! Our best plan, now, will be to--"
It was over. The street was empty, Commonplace life was around me, and the 'eerie' feeling had fled.
HOW TO MAKE A PHLIZZ.
The week passed without any further communication with the 'Hall,' as Arthur was evidently fearful that we might 'wear out our welcome'; but when, on Sunday morning, we were setting out for church, I gladly agreed to his proposal to go round and enquire after the Earl, who was said to be unwell.
Eric, who was strolling in the garden, gave us a good report of the invalid, who was still in bed, with Lady Muriel in attendance.
"Are you coming with us to church?" I enquired.
"Thanks, no," he courteously replied. "It's not--exactly in my line, you know. It's an excellent institution--for the poor. When I'm with my own folk, I go, just to set them an example. But I'm not known here: so I think I'll excuse myself sitting out a sermon. Country-preachers are always so dull!"
Arthur was silent till we were out of hearing. Then he said to himself, almost inaudibly, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
"Yes," I assented: "no doubt that is the principle on which church-going rests."
"And when he does go," he continued (our thoughts ran so much together, that our conversation was often slightly elliptical), "I suppose he repeats the words 'I believe in the Communion of Saints'?"
But by this time we had reached the little church, into which a goodly stream of worshipers, consisting mainly of fishermen and their families, was flowing.
The service would have been pronounced by any modern aesthetic religionist--or religious aesthete, which is it?--to be crude and cold: to me, coming fresh from the ever-advancing developments of a London church under a soi-disant 'Catholic' Rector, it was unspeakably refreshing.
There was no theatrical procession of demure little choristers, trying their best not to simper under the admiring gaze of the congregation: the people's share in the service was taken by the people themselves, unaided, except that a few good voices, judiciously posted here and there among them, kept the singing from going too far astray.
There was no murdering of the noble music, contained in the Bible and the Liturgy, by its recital in a dead monotone, with no more expression than a mechanical talking-doll.
No, the prayers were prayed, the lessons were read, and best of all the sermon was talked; and I found myself repeating, as we left the church, the words of Jacob, when he 'awaked out of his sleep.' "'Surely the Lord is in this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'"
"Yes," said Arthur, apparently in answer to my thoughts, "those 'high' services are fast becoming pure Formalism. More and more the people are beginning to regard them as 'performances,' in which they only 'assist' in the French sense. And it is specially bad for the little boys. They'd be much less self-conscious as pantomime-fairies. With all that dressing-up, and stagy-entrances and exits, and being always en evidence, no wonder if they're eaten up with vanity, the blatant little coxcombs!"
When we passed the Hall on our return, we found the Earl and Lady Muriel sitting out in the garden. Eric had gone for a stroll.
We joined them, and the conversation soon turned on the sermon we had just heard, the subject of which was 'selfishness.'
"What a change has come over our pulpits," Arthur remarked, "since the time when Paley gave that utterly selfish definition of virtue, 'the doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for the sake of everlasting happiness'!"
Lady Muriel looked at him enquiringly, but she seemed to have learned by intuition, what years of experience had taught me, that the way to elicit Arthur's deepest thoughts was neither to assent nor dissent, but simply to listen.