en-es  THE BISHOP'S SECRET by FERGUS HUME - Chapter 25
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CHAPTER XXV - MR BALTIC, MISSIONARY.
About this time there appeared in Beorminster an elderly, weather-beaten man, with a persuasive tongue and the quick, alert eye of a fowl. He looked like a sailor, and as such was an object of curiosity to inland folk; but he called himself a missionary, saying that he had laboured these many years in the Lord's vineyard of the South Seas, and had returned to England for a sight of white faces and a smack of civilisation. This hybrid individual was named Ben Baltic, and had the hoarse voice of a mariner accustomed to out-roar storms, but his conversation was free from nautical oaths, and remarkably entertaining by reason of his adventurous life. He could not be said to be obtrusively religious, yet he gave everyone the impression of being a good and earnest worker, and one who practised what he preached, for he neither smoked nor gambled nor drank strong waters. Yet there was nothing Pharisaic about his speech or bearing.
In a pilot suit of rough blue cloth, with a red bandanna handkerchief and a wide-brimmed hat of Panama straw, Mr Baltic took up his residence at The Derby Winner, and, rolling about Beorminster in the true style of Jack ashore, speedily made friends with people high and low. The low he became acquainted with on his own account, as a word and a smile in his good-humoured way was sufficient to establish at least a temporary friendship; but he owed his familiarity with the 'high' to the good offices of Mr Cargrim. That gentleman returned from his holiday with much apparent satisfaction, and declared himself greatly benefited by the change. Shortly after his resumption of his duties, he received a visit from Baltic the missionary, who presented him with a letter of introduction from a prominent London vicar. From this epistle the chaplain learned that Baltic was a rough diamond with a gift of untutored eloquence, that he desired to rest for a week or two in Beorminster, and that any little attention shown to him would be grateful to the writer. It said much for Mr Cargrim's goodwill and charity that, on learning all this, he at once opened his arms and heart to the missionary-mariner. He declared his willingness to make Baltic's stay as pleasant as he could, but was shocked to learn that the new-comer had taken up his abode at The Derby Winner. His feelings extended even so far as remonstrance.
'For,' said Cargrim, shaking his head, 'I assure you, Mr Baltic, that the place is anything but respectable.
'And for such reason I stay there, sir. If you want to do good begin with the worst; that's my motto. The Christian heathen can't be worse than the Pagan heathen, I take it, Mr Cargrim.
'I don't know so much about that,' sighed Cargrim. 'Refined vice is always the most terrible. Witness the iniquities of Babylon and Rome.
'There ain't much refinement about that blackguard public,' answered the missionary, without the shadow of a smile, 'and if I can stop all the swearing and drinking and shuffling of the devil's picture-books which goes on there, I'll be busy at the Lord's work, I reckon.
From this position Baltic refused to budge, so in the end Cargrim left off trying to dissuade him, and the conversation became of a more confidential character. Evidently the man's qualities were not over-praised in the letter of introduction, for, on meeting him once or twice and knowing him better, Cargrim found occasion to present him to the bishop. Baltic's descriptions of his South Sea labours fascinated Dr Pendle by their colour and wildness, and he suggested that the missionary should deliver a discourse of the same quality to the public. A hall was hired; the lecture was advertised as being under the patronage of the bishop, and so many tickets were sold that the building was crowded with the best Beorminster society, led by Mrs Pansey. The missionary, after introducing himself as a plain and unlettered man, launched out into a wonderfully vigorous and picturesque description of those Islands of Paradise which bloom like gardens amid the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. He described the fecundity and luxuriance of Nature, drew word-portraits of the mild, brown-skinned Polynesians, wept over their enthralment by a debased system of idolatry, and painted the blessings which would befall them when converted to the gentle religion of Christ. Baltic had the gift of enchaining his hearers, and the audience hung upon his speech with breathless attention. The natural genius of the man poured forth in burning words and eloquent apostrophes. The subject was picturesque, the language was inspiriting, the man a born orator, and, when the audience dispersed, everyone, from the bishop downward, agreed that Beorminster was entertaining an untutored Demosthenes. Dr Pendle sighed as he thought of the many dull sermons he had been compelled to endure, and wondered why the majority of his educated clergy should fall so far behind the untaught, unconsecrated, rough-mannered missionary.
From the time of that lecture, Ben Baltic, for all his lowly birth and uncouth ways, became the lion of Beorminster. He was invited by Mrs Pansey to afternoon tea; he was in request at garden-parties; he gave lectures in surrounding parishes, and, on the whole, created an undeniable sensation in the sober cathedral city. Baltic observed much and said little; his eyes were alert, his tongue was discreet, and, even when borne on the highest tide of popularity, he lost none of his modesty and good-humour. He still continued to dwell at The Derby Winner, where his influence was salutary, for the customers there drank less and swore less when he was known to be present. Certainly, such reformation did not please Mr Mosk over-much, and he frequently grumbled that it was hard a man should have his trade spoilt by a psalm-singing missionary, but a wholesome fear of Cargrim's threat to inform Sir Harry checked him from asking Baltic to leave. Moreover, the man was greatly liked by Mrs Mosk on account of his religious spirit, and approved of by Bell from the order he kept in the hotel. Therefore Mosk, being in the minority, could only stand on one side and grumble, which he did with true English zeal.
It was while Baltic was thus exciting Beorminster that Sir Harry Brace came back. Gabriel, in pursuance of his father's wish, had gone over to Nauheim after a short interview with Bell, in which he had told her of his father's opposition to the match. Bell was cast down, but did not despair, as she thought that the bishop might soften towards Gabriel during his absence; so she sent him abroad with a promise that she would remain true to him until he returned. When the curate joined Mrs Pendle and Lucy, Sir Harry, with much regret, had to relinquish his pre-nuptial honeymoon, and returned to Beorminster in the lowest of spirits. The bishop did not tell him about Gabriel's infatuation for Bell, nor did he explain that George had engaged himself secretly to Mab Arden, so Harry was quite in the dark as regards the domestic dissensions, and, ascribing the bishop's gloom to the absence of his family, visited him frequently in order to cheer him up. But the dark hour was on Bishop Pendle, and notwithstanding the harping of this David, the evil spirit would not depart.
'What is the matter with the bishop?' asked Harry one evening of Cargrim. 'He is as glum as an owl.
'I do not know what ails him,' replied the chaplain, who, for reasons of his own, was resolved to hold his tongue, 'unless it is that he has been working too hard of late.
'It isn't that, Cargrim; all the years I have known him he has never been so down-in-the-mouth before. I fancy he has something on his mind.
'If you think so, Sir Harry, why not ask him?
Brace shook his head. 'That would never do!' he answered. 'The bishop doesn't like to be asked questions. I wish I could see him livelier; is there nothing you can suggest to cheer him up?
'Baltic might deliver another lecture on the South Seas!' said Cargrim, blandly. 'His lordship was pleased with the last one.
'Baltic!' repeated Sir Harry, giving a meditative twist to his black moustache, 'that missionary fellow. I was going to ask you something about him!
Cargrim looked surprised and slightly nervous. 'Beyond that he is a missionary, and is down here for his health's sake, I know nothing about him,' he said hastily.
'You introduced him to the bishop, didn't you?
'Yes. He brought a letter of introduction to me from the Vicar of St Ann's in Kensington, but his biography was not given me.
'He's been in the South Seas, hasn't he?
'I believe that his labours lay amongst the natives of the islands!
'Well, I know him!' said Brace, with a nod.
'You know him!' repeated the chaplain, anxiously.
'Yes. Met him five years ago in Samoa; he was more of a beach-comber than a missionary in those days. Ben Baltic he calls himself, doesn't he? I thought so! It's the same man.
'He is a very worthy person, Sir Harry!
'So you say. I suppose people improve when they get older, but he wasn't a saint when I knew him. He racketed about a good deal. Humph! perhaps he repented when I saved his life.
'Did you save his life?
'Well, yes. Baltic was raising Cain in some drunken row along with a set of Kanakas, and one of 'em got him under to slip a knife into him. I caught the nigger a clip on the jaw and sent him flying. There wasn't much fight in old Ben when I straightened him out after that. So he's turned devil-dodger. I must have a look at him in his new capacity.
'Whatever he has been,' said Cargrim, who appeared uneasy during the recital of this little story, 'I am sure that he has repented of his past errors and is now quite sincere in his religious convictions.
'I'll judge of that for myself, if you don't mind,' drawled the baronet, with a twinkle in his dark eyes, and nodding to Cargrim, he strolled off, leaving that gentleman very uncomfortable. Sir Harry saw that he was so, and wondered why any story affecting Baltic should render the chaplain uneasy. He received an explanation some days later from the missionary himself.
Brace possessed a handsome family seat, embosomed in a leafy park, some five miles from the city. At present it was undergoing alterations and repairs, so that it might be a more perfect residence when the future Lady Brace crossed its threshold as a bride. Consequently the greater part of the house was in confusion, and given over to painters, plasterers, and such-like upsetting people. Harry, however, had decided to live in his own particular rooms, so that he might see that everything was carried out in accordance with Lucy's wish, and the wing he inhabited was in fairly good order. Still, Sir Harry being a bachelor, and extremely untidy, his den, as he called it, was in a state of pleasing muddle, which oftentimes drew forth rebukes from Lucy. She was resolved to train her Harry into better ways when she had the wifely right to correct him, but, as she frequently remarked, it would be the thirteenth labour of Hercules to cleanse this modern Augean stable.
Harry himself, with male obstinacy, always asserted that the room was tidy enough, and that he hated to live in a prim apartment. He said that he could lay his hand on anything he wanted, and that the seeming confusion was perfect order to him. Lucy gave up arguing on these grounds, but privately determined that when the honeymoon was over she would have a grand 'clarin up' time like Dinah in Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the meanwhile, Harry continued to dwell amongst his confused household gods, like Marius amid the ruins of Carthage.
And after all, the 'den,' if untidy, was a very pleasant apartment, decorated extensively with evidences of Harry's athletic tastes. There were boxing-gloves, fencing-foils, dumb-bells, and other aids to muscular exertion; silver cups won at college sports were ranged on the mantelpiece; on one wall hung a selection of savage weapons which Harry had brought from Africa and the South Seas; on the other, a hunting trophy of whip, spurs, cap and fox's brush was arranged; and pictures of celebrated horses and famous jockeys were placed here, there and everywhere. The writing-table, pushed up close to the window, was littered with papers, and letters and plans, and before this Harry was seated one morning writing a letter to Lucy, when the servant informed him that Mr Baltic was waiting without. Harry gave orders for his instant admittance, as he was curious to see again the sinner turned saint, and anxious to learn what tide from the far South Seas had stranded him in respectable, unromantic Beorminster.
When the visitor entered with his burly figure and bright, observant eyes, Harry gave him a friendly nod, but knowing more about Baltic than the rest of Beorminster, did not offer him his hand. From his height of six feet, he looked down on the thick-set little missionary, and telling him to be seated, made him welcome in a sufficiently genial fashion, nevertheless with a certain reserve. He was not quite certain if Baltic's conversion was genuine, and if he found proof of hypocrisy, was prepared to fall foul of him forthwith. Sir Harry was not particularly religious, but he was honest, and hated cant with all his soul.
'Well, Ben!' said he, looking sharply at his visitor's solemn red face, 'who would have thought of seeing you in these latitudes?
'We never know what is before us, sir,' replied Baltic, in his deep, rough voice. 'It was no more in my mind that I should meet you under your own fig-tree than it was that I should receive a call through you!
'Receive a call, man! What do you mean?' asked Harry, negligently. 'By the way, will you have a cigar?
'No thank you, sir. I don't smoke now.
'A whisky and soda, then?
'I have given up strong waters, sir.
'Here is repentance indeed!' observed the baronet, with some sarcasm. 'You have changed since the Samoan days, Baltic!
'Thanks be to Christ, sir, I have,' said the man, reverently, 'and my call was through you, sir. When you saved my life I resolved to lead a new one, and I sought out Mr Eva, the missionary, who gave me hope of being a better man. I listened to his preaching, Sir Harry, I read the Gospels, I wrestled with my sinful self, and after a long fight I was made strong. My doubts were set at rest, my sins were washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and since He took me into His holy keeping, I have striven to be worthy of His great love.
Baltic spoke so simply, and with such nobility, that Brace could not but believe that he was in earnest. There was no spurious affectation, no cant about the man; his words were grave, his manner was earnest, and his speech came from the fulness of his heart. If there had been a false note, a false look, Harry would have detected both, and great would have been his disgust and wrath. But the dignity of the speech, the simplicity of the description, impressed him with a belief that Baltic was speaking truly. The man was a rough sailor, and therefore not cunning enough to feign an emotion he did not feel, so, almost against his will, Brace was obliged to believe that he saw before him a Saul converted into a Paul. The change of Pagan Ben into Christian Baltic was little else than miraculous.
'And are you now a missionary?' said Brace, after a reflective pause.
'No, Sir Harry,' answered the man, calmly, and with dignity, 'I am a private inquiry agent!
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CHAPTER XXV - MR BALTIC, MISSIONARY.
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Yet there was nothing Pharisaic about his speech or bearing.
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His feelings extended even so far as remonstrance.
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'And for such reason I stay there, sir.
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If you want to do good begin with the worst; that's my motto.
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'I don't know so much about that,' sighed Cargrim.
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'Refined vice is always the most terrible.
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Witness the iniquities of Babylon and Rome.
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'What is the matter with the bishop?'
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asked Harry one evening of Cargrim.
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'He is as glum as an owl.
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I fancy he has something on his mind.
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'If you think so, Sir Harry, why not ask him?
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Brace shook his head.
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'That would never do!'
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he answered.
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'The bishop doesn't like to be asked questions.
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'Baltic might deliver another lecture on the South Seas!'
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said Cargrim, blandly.
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'His lordship was pleased with the last one.
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'Baltic!'
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I was going to ask you something about him!
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Cargrim looked surprised and slightly nervous.
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'You introduced him to the bishop, didn't you?
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'Yes.
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'He's been in the South Seas, hasn't he?
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'I believe that his labours lay amongst the natives of the islands!
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'Well, I know him!'
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said Brace, with a nod.
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'You know him!'
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repeated the chaplain, anxiously.
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'Yes.
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Ben Baltic he calls himself, doesn't he?
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I thought so!
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It's the same man.
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'He is a very worthy person, Sir Harry!
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'So you say.
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He racketed about a good deal.
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Humph!
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perhaps he repented when I saved his life.
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'Did you save his life?
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'Well, yes.
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I caught the nigger a clip on the jaw and sent him flying.
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So he's turned devil-dodger.
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I must have a look at him in his new capacity.
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He received an explanation some days later from the missionary himself.
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'Well, Ben!'
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'Receive a call, man!
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What do you mean?'
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asked Harry, negligently.
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'By the way, will you have a cigar?
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'No thank you, sir.
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I don't smoke now.
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'A whisky and soda, then?
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'I have given up strong waters, sir.
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'Here is repentance indeed!'
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observed the baronet, with some sarcasm.
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'You have changed since the Samoan days, Baltic!
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'And are you now a missionary?'
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said Brace, after a reflective pause.
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CHAPTER XXV - MR BALTIC, MISSIONARY.
About this time there appeared in Beorminster an elderly, weather-beaten man, with a persuasive tongue and the quick, alert eye of a fowl. He looked like a sailor, and as such was an object of curiosity to inland folk; but he called himself a missionary, saying that he had laboured these many years in the Lord's vineyard of the South Seas, and had returned to England for a sight of white faces and a smack of civilisation. This hybrid individual was named Ben Baltic, and had the hoarse voice of a mariner accustomed to out-roar storms, but his conversation was free from nautical oaths, and remarkably entertaining by reason of his adventurous life. He could not be said to be obtrusively religious, yet he gave everyone the impression of being a good and earnest worker, and one who practised what he preached, for he neither smoked nor gambled nor drank strong waters. Yet there was nothing Pharisaic about his speech or bearing.
In a pilot suit of rough blue cloth, with a red bandanna handkerchief and a wide-brimmed hat of Panama straw, Mr Baltic took up his residence at The Derby Winner, and, rolling about Beorminster in the true style of Jack ashore, speedily made friends with people high and low. The low he became acquainted with on his own account, as a word and a smile in his good-humoured way was sufficient to establish at least a temporary friendship; but he owed his familiarity with the 'high' to the good offices of Mr Cargrim. That gentleman returned from his holiday with much apparent satisfaction, and declared himself greatly benefited by the change. Shortly after his resumption of his duties, he received a visit from Baltic the missionary, who presented him with a letter of introduction from a prominent London vicar. From this epistle the chaplain learned that Baltic was a rough diamond with a gift of untutored eloquence, that he desired to rest for a week or two in Beorminster, and that any little attention shown to him would be grateful to the writer. It said much for Mr Cargrim's goodwill and charity that, on learning all this, he at once opened his arms and heart to the missionary-mariner. He declared his willingness to make Baltic's stay as pleasant as he could, but was shocked to learn that the new-comer had taken up his abode at The Derby Winner. His feelings extended even so far as remonstrance.
'For,' said Cargrim, shaking his head, 'I assure you, Mr Baltic, that the place is anything but respectable.
'And for such reason I stay there, sir. If you want to do good begin with the worst; that's my motto. The Christian heathen can't be worse than the Pagan heathen, I take it, Mr Cargrim.
'I don't know so much about that,' sighed Cargrim. 'Refined vice is always the most terrible. Witness the iniquities of Babylon and Rome.
'There ain't much refinement about that blackguard public,' answered the missionary, without the shadow of a smile, 'and if I can stop all the swearing and drinking and shuffling of the devil's picture-books which goes on there, I'll be busy at the Lord's work, I reckon.
From this position Baltic refused to budge, so in the end Cargrim left off trying to dissuade him, and the conversation became of a more confidential character. Evidently the man's qualities were not over-praised in the letter of introduction, for, on meeting him once or twice and knowing him better, Cargrim found occasion to present him to the bishop. Baltic's descriptions of his South Sea labours fascinated Dr Pendle by their colour and wildness, and he suggested that the missionary should deliver a discourse of the same quality to the public. A hall was hired; the lecture was advertised as being under the patronage of the bishop, and so many tickets were sold that the building was crowded with the best Beorminster society, led by Mrs Pansey. The missionary, after introducing himself as a plain and unlettered man, launched out into a wonderfully vigorous and picturesque description of those Islands of Paradise which bloom like gardens amid the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. He described the fecundity and luxuriance of Nature, drew word-portraits of the mild, brown-skinned Polynesians, wept over their enthralment by a debased system of idolatry, and painted the blessings which would befall them when converted to the gentle religion of Christ. Baltic had the gift of enchaining his hearers, and the audience hung upon his speech with breathless attention. The natural genius of the man poured forth in burning words and eloquent apostrophes. The subject was picturesque, the language was inspiriting, the man a born orator, and, when the audience dispersed, everyone, from the bishop downward, agreed that Beorminster was entertaining an untutored Demosthenes. Dr Pendle sighed as he thought of the many dull sermons he had been compelled to endure, and wondered why the majority of his educated clergy should fall so far behind the untaught, unconsecrated, rough-mannered missionary.
From the time of that lecture, Ben Baltic, for all his lowly birth and uncouth ways, became the lion of Beorminster. He was invited by Mrs Pansey to afternoon tea; he was in request at garden-parties; he gave lectures in surrounding parishes, and, on the whole, created an undeniable sensation in the sober cathedral city. Baltic observed much and said little; his eyes were alert, his tongue was discreet, and, even when borne on the highest tide of popularity, he lost none of his modesty and good-humour. He still continued to dwell at The Derby Winner, where his influence was salutary, for the customers there drank less and swore less when he was known to be present. Certainly, such reformation did not please Mr Mosk over-much, and he frequently grumbled that it was hard a man should have his trade spoilt by a psalm-singing missionary, but a wholesome fear of Cargrim's threat to inform Sir Harry checked him from asking Baltic to leave. Moreover, the man was greatly liked by Mrs Mosk on account of his religious spirit, and approved of by Bell from the order he kept in the hotel. Therefore Mosk, being in the minority, could only stand on one side and grumble, which he did with true English zeal.
It was while Baltic was thus exciting Beorminster that Sir Harry Brace came back. Gabriel, in pursuance of his father's wish, had gone over to Nauheim after a short interview with Bell, in which he had told her of his father's opposition to the match. Bell was cast down, but did not despair, as she thought that the bishop might soften towards Gabriel during his absence; so she sent him abroad with a promise that she would remain true to him until he returned. When the curate joined Mrs Pendle and Lucy, Sir Harry, with much regret, had to relinquish his pre-nuptial honeymoon, and returned to Beorminster in the lowest of spirits. The bishop did not tell him about Gabriel's infatuation for Bell, nor did he explain that George had engaged himself secretly to Mab Arden, so Harry was quite in the dark as regards the domestic dissensions, and, ascribing the bishop's gloom to the absence of his family, visited him frequently in order to cheer him up. But the dark hour was on Bishop Pendle, and notwithstanding the harping of this David, the evil spirit would not depart.
'What is the matter with the bishop?' asked Harry one evening of Cargrim. 'He is as glum as an owl.
'I do not know what ails him,' replied the chaplain, who, for reasons of his own, was resolved to hold his tongue, 'unless it is that he has been working too hard of late.
'It isn't that, Cargrim; all the years I have known him he has never been so down-in-the-mouth before. I fancy he has something on his mind.
'If you think so, Sir Harry, why not ask him?
Brace shook his head. 'That would never do!' he answered. 'The bishop doesn't like to be asked questions. I wish I could see him livelier; is there nothing you can suggest to cheer him up?
'Baltic might deliver another lecture on the South Seas!' said Cargrim, blandly. 'His lordship was pleased with the last one.
'Baltic!' repeated Sir Harry, giving a meditative twist to his black moustache, 'that missionary fellow. I was going to ask you something about him!
Cargrim looked surprised and slightly nervous. 'Beyond that he is a missionary, and is down here for his health's sake, I know nothing about him,' he said hastily.
'You introduced him to the bishop, didn't you?
'Yes. He brought a letter of introduction to me from the Vicar of St Ann's in Kensington, but his biography was not given me.
'He's been in the South Seas, hasn't he?
'I believe that his labours lay amongst the natives of the islands!
'Well, I know him!' said Brace, with a nod.
'You know him!' repeated the chaplain, anxiously.
'Yes. Met him five years ago in Samoa; he was more of a beach-comber than a missionary in those days. Ben Baltic he calls himself, doesn't he? I thought so! It's the same man.
'He is a very worthy person, Sir Harry!
'So you say. I suppose people improve when they get older, but he wasn't a saint when I knew him. He racketed about a good deal. Humph! perhaps he repented when I saved his life.
'Did you save his life?
'Well, yes. Baltic was raising Cain in some drunken row along with a set of Kanakas, and one of 'em got him under to slip a knife into him. I caught the nigger a clip on the jaw and sent him flying. There wasn't much fight in old Ben when I straightened him out after that. So he's turned devil-dodger. I must have a look at him in his new capacity.
'Whatever he has been,' said Cargrim, who appeared uneasy during the recital of this little story, 'I am sure that he has repented of his past errors and is now quite sincere in his religious convictions.
'I'll judge of that for myself, if you don't mind,' drawled the baronet, with a twinkle in his dark eyes, and nodding to Cargrim, he strolled off, leaving that gentleman very uncomfortable. Sir Harry saw that he was so, and wondered why any story affecting Baltic should render the chaplain uneasy. He received an explanation some days later from the missionary himself.
Brace possessed a handsome family seat, embosomed in a leafy park, some five miles from the city. At present it was undergoing alterations and repairs, so that it might be a more perfect residence when the future Lady Brace crossed its threshold as a bride. Consequently the greater part of the house was in confusion, and given over to painters, plasterers, and such-like upsetting people. Harry, however, had decided to live in his own particular rooms, so that he might see that everything was carried out in accordance with Lucy's wish, and the wing he inhabited was in fairly good order. Still, Sir Harry being a bachelor, and extremely untidy, his den, as he called it, was in a state of pleasing muddle, which oftentimes drew forth rebukes from Lucy. She was resolved to train her Harry into better ways when she had the wifely right to correct him, but, as she frequently remarked, it would be the thirteenth labour of Hercules to cleanse this modern Augean stable.
Harry himself, with male obstinacy, always asserted that the room was tidy enough, and that he hated to live in a prim apartment. He said that he could lay his hand on anything he wanted, and that the seeming confusion was perfect order to him. Lucy gave up arguing on these grounds, but privately determined that when the honeymoon was over she would have a grand 'clarin up' time like Dinah in Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the meanwhile, Harry continued to dwell amongst his confused household gods, like Marius amid the ruins of Carthage.
And after all, the 'den,' if untidy, was a very pleasant apartment, decorated extensively with evidences of Harry's athletic tastes. There were boxing-gloves, fencing-foils, dumb-bells, and other aids to muscular exertion; silver cups won at college sports were ranged on the mantelpiece; on one wall hung a selection of savage weapons which Harry had brought from Africa and the South Seas; on the other, a hunting trophy of whip, spurs, cap and fox's brush was arranged; and pictures of celebrated horses and famous jockeys were placed here, there and everywhere. The writing-table, pushed up close to the window, was littered with papers, and letters and plans, and before this Harry was seated one morning writing a letter to Lucy, when the servant informed him that Mr Baltic was waiting without. Harry gave orders for his instant admittance, as he was curious to see again the sinner turned saint, and anxious to learn what tide from the far South Seas had stranded him in respectable, unromantic Beorminster.
When the visitor entered with his burly figure and bright, observant eyes, Harry gave him a friendly nod, but knowing more about Baltic than the rest of Beorminster, did not offer him his hand. From his height of six feet, he looked down on the thick-set little missionary, and telling him to be seated, made him welcome in a sufficiently genial fashion, nevertheless with a certain reserve. He was not quite certain if Baltic's conversion was genuine, and if he found proof of hypocrisy, was prepared to fall foul of him forthwith. Sir Harry was not particularly religious, but he was honest, and hated cant with all his soul.
'Well, Ben!' said he, looking sharply at his visitor's solemn red face, 'who would have thought of seeing you in these latitudes?
'We never know what is before us, sir,' replied Baltic, in his deep, rough voice. 'It was no more in my mind that I should meet you under your own fig-tree than it was that I should receive a call through you!
'Receive a call, man! What do you mean?' asked Harry, negligently. 'By the way, will you have a cigar?
'No thank you, sir. I don't smoke now.
'A whisky and soda, then?
'I have given up strong waters, sir.
'Here is repentance indeed!' observed the baronet, with some sarcasm. 'You have changed since the Samoan days, Baltic!
'Thanks be to Christ, sir, I have,' said the man, reverently, 'and my call was through you, sir. When you saved my life I resolved to lead a new one, and I sought out Mr Eva, the missionary, who gave me hope of being a better man. I listened to his preaching, Sir Harry, I read the Gospels, I wrestled with my sinful self, and after a long fight I was made strong. My doubts were set at rest, my sins were washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and since He took me into His holy keeping, I have striven to be worthy of His great love.
Baltic spoke so simply, and with such nobility, that Brace could not but believe that he was in earnest. There was no spurious affectation, no cant about the man; his words were grave, his manner was earnest, and his speech came from the fulness of his heart. If there had been a false note, a false look, Harry would have detected both, and great would have been his disgust and wrath. But the dignity of the speech, the simplicity of the description, impressed him with a belief that Baltic was speaking truly. The man was a rough sailor, and therefore not cunning enough to feign an emotion he did not feel, so, almost against his will, Brace was obliged to believe that he saw before him a Saul converted into a Paul. The change of Pagan Ben into Christian Baltic was little else than miraculous.
'And are you now a missionary?' said Brace, after a reflective pause.
'No, Sir Harry,' answered the man, calmly, and with dignity, 'I am a private inquiry agent!