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had more enjoyed his pipe during the days and nights to which, because he had had such pleasure in them, he now forbade himself to look back; but in common with other pleasant little sins which a man abjures (or should abjure) when, going forth from the wing of Alma Mater, he devotes himself to the service of the Church, the man of sacrifices threw his clay afar from him, and only inhaled the scent of the beloved weed afar off! This act of self-devotion was doubly felt to be such when the friendly fumes were pleasantly tickling the nostrils of other men; and on this occasion he looked so longingly on the pleasures of his friends, that Brandreth, maintaining that it is only "when ignorance is bliss, that it is folly to be wise," urged him to break through his resolution for once, and try the very best cigars that ever man indulged in.
"I should like to be convinced now, why a parson shouldn't smoke," he remarked, after expressing his surprise at the Rector's persistent refusal of his offer. “I really should like to know why it is more wicked to inhale one scent than another. You have been intoxicating yourself for the last ten minutes with the perfume of an exceptional moss-rose" (Herbert looked conscious, for the flowers had been transferred from Alice's hand to his), “and you consider us as sinning in some way or other, God knows how, because ideas of what constitutes sensual indulgence differ from
"It is not that, you quite mistake my meaning. What
may be a venial error in a layman, becomes a grave sin when committed by one of my profession. There is so much in example."
“Ah! now you are going from the point and butting
at me with the blunt end of a truism. Not” (he added, as he puffed out a volume of smoke with some degree of impatience) "not that I deny the justice of the one you have just uttered; but I like a man to reason from his own belief, and I hate everything that saves thought. As a general rule, ‘received maxims' have, I am convinced, often much to answer for
as much perhaps as half the lies that are uttered. One knows a lie's a lie.”
“Does one?" put in Philip, drily.
“Yes, one does; at least, I flatter myself that I do: but these stereotyped sayings being generally supposed to contain a portion of the concentrated essence of our grandfather's wisdom, posterity takes them upon trust, and, without questioning either their prudence or their common sense, acts upon them. But you have not yet explained to me your meaning when you asserted that an act which is nothing more than a bad habit in a layman, becomes a heinous sin when committed by a clergyman.”
Herbert hesitated; Brandreth was a close reasoner, and knowing it, he rather shrank from crossing bayonets with so stubborn an antagonist.
“I meant, my dear fellow, of course you know what I meant."
“I don't I want to know; but perhaps you had better postpone my enlightenment till your next Sunday's sermon. Thornleigh," he continued, addressing his host, this discussion must bore you, I am afraid; but one thing I will affirm, namely, that men often cavil at goodness when it appears in a form which it irks them to imitate; and they are more inclined to envy
the high reputation earned by a blameless life, than to endeavour to act up to the standard set before them.”
“What a depressing opinion you have formed of our common nature!” said Herbert. “But to leave general remarks and descend, if you will con-descend to my particular case, I must just ask you this one question. How could I, were I to be seen with cigar in my mouth, preach to my parishioners against a habit which, once formed, is almost the most difficult in the world to break through; a habit that leads them to the beershop, induces the love of drink, and often wastes more than the shilling a week so ill spared by a family whose united weekly earnings may not perhaps amount to more than a dozen of those humble coins?" "Well but here with
your poor parishioners, who I am not sure would not feel themselves drawn to you by seeing their weakness shared, surely there can be no harm in the indulgence? We cannot be called weak brothers, and can hardly offend in this matter more deeply than at present; if, indeed, it can be an offence to enjoy one of God's good gifts as thoroughly and gratefully as I am enjoying this most delicious of all Havannahs.”
“But were I to give in now and yield to the temptation," said Herbert, smiling good-humouredly, "who can answer for my not falling away altogether? Who can say that he will stop at the first pipe, any more than at the first step which leads to any other vice?"
“Ah, well! if you are so afraid of yourself, I have nothing more to say, but I do think it a cruel thing to deny a poor devil the indulgence of a habit which has been fostered in him from his infancy by our own shortcomings, and which it would require something a
good deal more powerful than either words or example to induce him to break through. The poor man works hard enough, God knows; why then deny him the only luxury which his limited means enable him to procure?"
“And so you would advocate a vicious indulgence as a means of making up to him for his other privations? You would encourage him to take poison, because the wholesome food of trial, and (may be sometimes) of a little useful privation, is not altogether to his taste?”
“Just the poor man must take such scanty comfort as is permitted him, be such comfort ever so pernicious. The fault, if fault there be, can hardly be laid to the charge of the man who by his almost fireless grate, and surrounded by his ill-fed children, uses, and perhaps abuses, the few gifts we leave him. The hungry, hopeless labourer will drink and smoke, and the worn wife will learn to follow his example; for the downward path is indeed an open way to all; and if there be danger for you, how much the more for those who entertain no exalted sense of their own responsibilities, and in whose temperament the animal necessarily triumphs over the intellectual.”
“There you are wrong again," said Herbert, “for the lives led by the lower orders, and the limited education they receive, tend greatly to diminish their craving after excitement. Their nerves are of a tougher fibre, and in their constitution there is far less of the sympathetic than is to be found amongst persons in our rank of life. Were I to indulge in the enjoyment which appears at this moment so agreeable to you, it would be at the risk of recalling scenes which I now consider vicious, and amusements which I feel it is safer to forget. But while to me the perfume of the
weed acting on the memory might be pernicious, to the poor man a white clay pipe
“A clay pipe is, and nothing more," laughed Brandreth. “It seems to me, however, that you are deserting your own line of country and taking to mine. If the labouring man be the mere clod you describe, the less danger is there of his taking the second step which alarms you so sorely; and the more willingly should you allow him the comparatively safe pleasure of his pipe of 'shag. The poor man,
“For Heaven's sake let the poor man alone,” cried Philip, "at least my poor men, I give them half-acrown a day; their rent is low, and if they are ill or in trouble by no fault of theirs” (“a curious exception that,” muttered Brandreth), “I am always ready to help them.
Besides there are all the things that Alice and Lady Thornleigh give them."
"Ah, that giving," said Brandreth sadly, "of all forms of charity, giving is the worst. What has lowered the character of what we may now almost with justice call the lower classes,' but the being given to? We complain of the low tone of feeling prevalent among
We complain of their ingratitude and their degradation, and lament, that in strong contrast to their forefathers, they no longer look upon the receiving of parochial relief in the light of a disgrace. But what is one of the principal causes of this marked deterioration? What but the absence of all self-respect, caused by their being necessarily in the receipt of alms? The feeling of honest independence once tampered with, the hand once held out for charity, and the caste is lost; then the unfortunate recipients, deprived of all hope of being cleansed from the stain