en-fr  THE BISHOP'S SECRET by FERGUS HUME - Chapter 25
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CHAPITRE XXV - MONSIEUR BALTIC, LE MISSIONNAIRE.
Vers la même époque apparut à Beorminster un homme âgé, buriné par les intempéries, possédant une langue persuasive et l'oeil vif et alerte d'une volaille. Il avait l'air d'un marin et en tant que tel aiguisait la curiosité des gens de l'intérieur ; mais il se qualifiait de missionnaire, disant qu'il avait oeuvré toutes ces nombreuses années dans les vignes du Seigneur des mers du Sud et était retourné en Angleterre pour voir des visages blancs et un semblant de civilisation. Cet individu métis s'appelait Ben Baltic, il avait la voix rauque d'un marin habitué aux rugissements des tempêtes, mais sa conversation était exempte de jurons nautiques et remarquablement distrayante en raison de sa vie aventureuse. Il ne pouvait pas être considéré comme un religieux envahissant, néanmoins il donnait l'impression, à tout le monde, d'être un travailleur bon et sérieux qui appliquait ce qu'il prêchait, car il ne fumait pas, ni ne jouait, ni ne buvait d'eaux alcoolisées. Cependant, il n'y avait rien de pharisaïque dans son discours ou son comportement.
Dans un costume de marin en drap bleu, avec un bandana rouge et un Panama en paille à large bord, M. Baltic s'installa au Derby Winner, et se baguenaudant dans Beorminster comme un vrai marin en goguette, il se fit rapidement des amis de tous bords. Les plus humbles, il s'y était familiarisé de son propre aveu, en un mot et un sourire, sa nature joviale était suffisante pour établir une amitié temporaire ; mais il devait sa familiarité, avec les "plus huppés" aux bons offices de M. Cargrim. Ce monsieur revenait de ses vacances, comblé d'une évidente satisfaction et se déclarait grandement bénéficiaire du changement. Peu de temps après la reprise de ses fonctions, il reçut la visite du missionnaire Baltic, qui lui présenta une lettre d'introduction provenant d'un grand vicaire londonien. De cet épître, l'aumônier apprit que Baltic était un diamant brut doté d'une éloquence innée, qu'il désirait se reposer une semaine ou deux à Beorminster et que la moindre petite attention qui lui serait accordée serait bénéfique à l'auteur. Ça parlait beaucoup à la bienveillance et la charité de M. Cargrim qui, apprenant tout cela, ouvrit ses bras et son cœur au missionnaire-marin. Il déclara sa volonté de rendre le séjour de Baltic aussi agréable que possible, mais fut choqué d'apprendre que le nouveau venu avait élu domicile au Derby Winner. Ses sentiments s'étendirent même jusqu'à la remontrance.
— Parce que, dit Cargrim en secouant la tête, je vous assure, monsieur Baltic, que l'endroit est tout sauf respectable.
— Et pour ce genre raison, je resterai là, monsieur. Si on veut faire le bien on doit commencer par le pire ; c'est ma devise. Je présume, M. Cargrim que le barbare chrétien ne peut pas être pire que le barbare païen.
— Je ne sais pas grand chose à ce sujet, soupira Cargrim. — Le vice raffiné est toujours le plus terrible. En attestent les iniquités de Babylone et de Rome.
— Il n'y a guère de raffinement dans cet établissement pour canailles, répondit le missionnaire sans l'ombre d'un sourire, et si je pouvais faire cesser tous les beuglements et jurons proférés dans ce tripot, j'estime que je participerais à l’œuvre divine.
Baltic campait fermement sur ses positions, si bien qu'à la fin Cargrim stoppa ses tentatives de dissuasion, et la conversation prit un ton plus confidentiel. Cependant, les qualités de l'homme n'étaient pas surestimées dans la lettre d'introduction, car, en le rencontrant une ou deux fois et en le connaissant mieux, Cargrim trouva l'occasion de le présenter à l'évêque. Les descriptions de Baltic de ses œuvres dans la mer du Sud fascinèrent le révérend Pendle par leur couleur et leur côté sauvage, ainsi suggéra-t-il que le missionnaire assure un sermon de la même qualité à la communauté. On loua un salle ; la conférence fut annoncée comme étant sous le parrainage de l'évêque, et tant de billets furent vendus que le bâtiment était bondé de la meilleure société de Beorminster, conduite par Mme Pansey. Le missionnaire, après s'être présenté comme un homme simple et illettré, se lança dans une description merveilleusement animée et pittoresque de ces îles paradisiaques qui fleurissent comme des jardins au milieu des eaux bleues de l'océan Pacifique. Il décrivait la fécondité et la luxuriance de la nature, dessinait des portraits de polynésiens doux et à la peau brune, pleurait sur leur fascination pour un avilissant système d'idolâtrie, et peignait les bénédictions qui leur seraient accordées lorsqu'ils seraient convertis à la douce religion du Christ. Baltic avait le don de captiver ses auditeurs, et le public était suspendu à son discours, souffle coupé. Le génie naturel de l'homme se répandait en mots brûlants et en apostrophes éloquentes. Le thème était pittoresque, la langue suggestive, l'homme un orateur né, et, quand le public se dispersa, tout le monde, de l'évêque au plus humble, convint que Beorminster avait accordé l'hospitalité à un Démosthène à l'état brut. Le révérend Pendle soupirait en pensant aux nombreux sermons ternes qu'il avait dû endurer et se demandait pourquoi la majorité de son clergé instruit devait être relégué si loin derrière ce missionnaire sans éducation, sans consécration et sans manières.
À partir de cette conférence, Ben Baltic, en dépit de sa basse extraction et de ses manières frustes, devint le lion de Beorminster. Il était invité par Mme Pansey aux thés de l'après-midi ; il était demandé dans les garden-parties ; il donnait des conférences dans les paroisses environnantes et, dans l'ensemble, il faisait indéniablement sensation dans la sage ville épiscopale. Baltic observait beaucoup et disait peu ; ses yeux étaient vifs, sa langue discrète, et même hissé à la plus haute popularité, il ne perdait rien de sa pudeur ni de sa bonne humeur. Il continua à loger au Derby Winner, où son influence était salutaire, car les clients buvaient moins et juraient moins quand on savait qu'il était présent. Certes, une telle amélioration ne plaisait pas beaucoup à M. Mosk, et il protestait fréquemment qu'il lui était difficile que son commerce soit gâché par un missionnaire qui chantait des psaumes, mais une saine crainte de la menace de Cargrim d'informer Sir Harry l'empêcha de demander à Baltic de partir. De plus, l'homme était très aimé par Mme Mosk en raison de son esprit religieux, et approuvé par Bell pour l'ordre qu'il maintenait à l'hôtel. Par conséquent Mosk, étant en minorité, ne pouvait que se tenir à l'écart et se plaindre, ce qu'il faisait avec un parfait zèle anglais.
Ce fut pendant que Baltic agitait ainsi Beorminster que Sir Harry Brace revint. Gabriel, pour exécuter le vœu de son père, était parti pour Nauheim après une courte entrevue avec Bell au cours de laquelle il lui avait dit l'opposition de l'évêque à leur union. Bell était abattue, mais ne désespérait pas, pensant que l'évêque pourrait devenir plus clément envers Gabriel pendant son absence, alors elle le laissa partir à l'étranger avec la promesse qu'elle lui resterait fidèle jusqu'à son retour. Lorsque le vicaire rejoignit Mme Pendle et Lucy, Sir Harry, ayant dû, à son grand regret, renoncer à sa lune de miel pré-nuptiale, s'en retourna à Beorminster l'esprit chagrin. L'évêque ne lui dit rien de l’entichement de Gabriel pour Bell, pas plus qu'il ne lui expliqua que George s'était secrètement fiancé à Mab Arden, si bien que Harry était complètement dans l'ignorance des différents familiaux, et, mettant la morosité de l'évêque sur l'absence de sa famille, il lui rendit fréquemment visite pour lui remonter le moral. Mais le révérend connaissait des heures sombres, et, malgré le son de la harpe de ce David, sa mauvaise humeur ne se dissipait pas.
— Qu'a donc le révérend ? demanda un soir Harry à Cargrim. Il est morne comme un hibou.
— Je ne sais pas de quoi il souffre, répondit l’aumônier qui, pour des raisons qui lui étaient propres, avait décidé de tenir sa langue, à moins que ce ne soit parce qu'il a travaillé trop dur dernièrement.
— Il ne s'agit pas de cela, Cargrim ; depuis le temps que je le connais, il ne s'est jamais montré aussi abattu auparavant. Je suppose que quelque chose le préoccupe.
— Si c'est ce que vous pensez, Sir Harry, pourquoi ne pas lui demander ?
Brace secoua la tête. — Cela ne marchera jamais ! répondit-il. Le révérend n'aime pas qu'on le questionne. J'aimerai le voir plus animé ; n'y a-t-il rien que vous puissiez proposer pour le réconforter ?
— Baltic pourrait donner un nouvel exposé sur les mers du Sud ! dit mielleusement Cargrim. Son Excellence était ravie du dernier.
— Baltic ! répéta Sir Harry, roulant pensivement sa moustache noire, ce confrère missionnaire. J'allais vous demander de me parler de lui !
Cargrim avait l'air surpris et un peu nerveux. — À part qu'il est missionnaire, et il est ici pour raison de santé, je ne sais rien de lui, dit-il hâtivement.
— Vous l'avez présenté à l'évêque, n'est-ce pas ?
— Oui. Il m'a porté une lettre d'introduction du vicaire de Sainte Ann à Kensington, mais sa biographie ne m'a pas été donnée.
— Il a été dans les mers du Sud, non ?
— Je crois qu'il exécutait son travail parmi les natifs des îles !
— Eh bien, je le connais ! dit Brace, avec un signe de tête.
— Vous le connaissez ! répéta le révérend anxieusement.
— Oui. Je l'ai rencontré il y a cinq ans aux Samoa ; il était plus ramasseur d'épaves que missionnaire à cette époque. Il dit s'appeler Ben Baltic, n'est-ce pas ? — C'est bien ce que je pensais ! C'est le même homme.
— C'est une personne très respectable, Sir Harry !
— Si vous le dites. J'imagine que les gens s’améliorent en vieillissant, mais ce n'était pas un saint lorsque je l'ai connu. Il traficotait pas mal. Hmm ! peut-être qu'il s'est repenti quand je lui ai sauvé sa vie.
— Vous lui avez sauvé la vie ?
— Eh bien, oui. 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. Il n'y avait plus beaucoup de combativité chez le vieux Ben quand je l'ai redressé après cette rixe. Alors il est devenu prédicateur. Il me faut l'observer dans ses nouvelles fonctions.
— Quoi qu'il ait été, dit Cargrim, qui paraissait mal à l'aise pendant le récit de cette petite histoire, je suis sûr qu'il s'est repenti de ses erreurs passées et qu'il est maintenant tout à fait sincère dans ses convictions religieuses.
— J'en serai le seul juge, si cela ne vous dérange pas, dit lentement le baronnet avec un éclair dans ses yeux noirs, et, saluant Cargrim d'un signe de tête, il partit posément en laissant l'homme très mal à l'aise. Sir Harry le vit, et se demanda pourquoi la moindre anecdote concernant Baltic pouvait inquiéter l’aumônier. Il en reçut l'explication quelques jours plus tard par le missionnaire en personne.
Brace possédait une magnifique demeure de famille, entourée d'un parc boisé, à environ cinq miles de la ville. Elle subissait actuellement des modifications et des réparations, afin d'être une résidence plus adaptée à la future Lady Brace lorsqu'elle franchirait le seuil en tant qu'épouse. En conséquence, la majeure partie de la maison était en plein désordre, et livrée aux peintres, aux plâtriers, et ce genre de personnes dérangeantes. Harry, cependant, avait décidé de vivre dans des pièces privées pour pouvoir veiller à ce que tout soit exécuté en concordance avec les souhaits de Lucy, et l'aile qu'il habitait était en parfait état. Quoi qu'il en soit, Harry étant célibataire et extrêmement désordonné, son repaire, comme il l'appelait, était dans une situation de plaisant désordre qui, maintes fois, avait provoqué les réprimandes de Lucy. Elle était résolue à inculquer de meilleures habitudes à Harry lorsqu'elle aurait le droit matrimonial de le désapprouver, mais, comme elle le remarquait fréquemment, nettoyer cette écurie d'Augias contemporaine allait représenter le treizième des travaux d'Hercule.
Harry, pour sa part, avec une obstination toute masculine, affirmait toujours que la pièce était suffisamment propre, et qu'il détestait vivre dans un appartement immaculé. Il disait qu'il arrivait à mettre la main sur tout ce qu'il voulait, et que ce désordre apparent était en ordre parfait à ses yeux. Lucy renonça à argumenter sur ce terrain mais, en privé, elle prit la résolution qu'elle ferait une grande séance de nettoyage lorsque la lune de miel serait finie, comme Dinah dans la case de l'Oncle Tom. En attendant, Harry continua à régner au milieu de ses pénates, comme Marius au sein des ruines de Carthage.
Et, en définitive, le ­« repaire », même désordonné, était un appartement très agréable et richement décoré, qui mettait en évidence les goûts athlétiques d'Harry. Il y avait des gants de boxe, des épées pour l'escrime, des haltères, et d'autres accessoires de musculation ; des coupes en argent gagnées aux sports universitaires étaient alignées sur le rebord de la cheminée ; sur l'un des murs était accroché un choix d'armes primitives qu'Harry avait ramené d'Afrique et des mers du Sud ; sur un autre, un trophée de chasse constitué de cravaches, d'éperons, de bombes et de queues de renard était disposé ; et des cadres de chevaux connus et de jockeys célèbres étaient placés un peu partout. Le secrétaire, poussé tout contre l'une des fenêtres, était jonché de papiers, de lettres et de plans, et c'est devant celui-ci qu'Harry était assis un matin pour écrire une lettre à Lucy, lorsqu'un serviteur l'informa que M. Baltic se présentait à l'improviste. Harry donna des ordres pour qu'il fut admis sur-le-champ car il était curieux de revoir le pécheur devenu saint et anxieux de savoir quel vent en provenance des mers du Sud l'avait fait échouer dans la ville respectable et prosaïque de Beorminster.
Quand le visiteur entra avec sa forte carrure, le regard observateur et brillant, Harry lui fit un signe de tête amical, mais comme il en savait plus sur Baltic que quiconque à Beorminster, il ne lui tendit pas la main. Du haut de ses six pieds, il baissa les yeux sur la petite silhouette trapue du missionnaire et lui demandant de s'asseoir, il l'accueillit d'une façon assez cordiale, mais néanmoins réservée. Il n'était pas certain de l'authenticité de la reconversion de Baltic et s'il y trouvait une preuve d'hypocrisie, il était prêt, immédiatement, à se le mettre à dos. Monsieur Harry n'était pas particulièrement religieux, mais il était honnête et détestait de toute son âme, le manque de sincérité.
— Eh bien, Ben ! dit-il, regardant brusquement le visage rouge et solennel de son visiteur, — qui aurait pensé vous voir dans ces parages ?
— Nous ne savons jamais ce qui nous attend, Monsieur, répondit Baltic de sa voix rude et profonde. Je ne savais pas, en mon for intérieur, si je vous rencontrerais plutôt sous votre propre figuier ou si je recevrais une convocation de votre part.
— Recevoir une convocation, monsieur ! Que voulez-vous dire ? demanda Harry, négligemment. — À propos, désirez-vous un cigare ?
— Non, merci, Monsieur. Je ne fume plus maintenant.
— Un whisky-soda, alors ?
— J'ai renoncé aux eaux alcoolisées, Monsieur.
— Là, c'est de la repentance en effet ! observa le baronnet, avec un brin de sarcasme. — Vous avez changé depuis l'époque Samoane, Baltic !
— Que le Christ soit beni, j'ai changé, dit l'homme respectueusement, et ma décision fut prise grâce à vous, Monsieur. Quand vous m'avez sauvé la vie, j'ai décidé d'en mener une autre, et j'ai cherché M. Eva, le missionnaire, qui m'a donné l'espoir d'être un homme meilleur. Je l'ai écouté prêcher, Monsieur Harry, j'ai lu les Saintes Écritures, j'ai combattu ma personnalité de pécheur, et après une longue lutte, je suis devenu bon. Mes doutes furent dissipés, mes péchés lavés dans le sang de l'Agneau, et depuis qu'Il m'a pris dans Sa protection, je me suis efforcé d'être digne de Son grand amour.
Baltic parlait si simplement et cependant avec une telle noblesse que Brace n'eut pas d'autre choix que de croire qu'il était sincère. Il n'y avait aucune fausse affectation, aucunes paroles hypocrites chez l'homme ; ses mots étaient graves, son attitude sincère et son discours venait du fonds du cœur. S'il s'y était trouvé une note déplacée, un regard feint, Harry aurait détecté l'un et l'autre et son aversion et son courroux auraient été grands. Mais la dignité de ses paroles, la simplicité de sa description lui donna l'impression que Baltic parlait franchement. L'homme était un marin rustre et, par conséquence, pas assez rusé pour feindre une émotion qu'il ne ressentait pas, Brace fut donc forcé de croire, presque malgré lui, qu'il avait sous les yeux un Saul convertit en Paul. La métamorphose de Ben le païen en Baltic le Chrétien n'était guère plus qu'un miracle.
— Et êtes-vous missionnaire à présent ? dit Brace, après un instant de réflexion.
Non, Monsieur Harry, répondit l'homme, sereinement et avec respect, je suis enquêteur privé !
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For more info, please see discussion tab.
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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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The Christian heathen can't be worse than the Pagan heathen, I take it, Mr Cargrim.
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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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The natural genius of the man poured forth in burning words and eloquent apostrophes.
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It was while Baltic was thus exciting Beorminster that Sir Harry Brace came back.
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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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I wish I could see him livelier; is there nothing you can suggest to cheer him up?
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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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I suppose people improve when they get older, but he wasn't a saint when I knew him.
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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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There wasn't much fight in old Ben when I straightened him out after that.
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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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'We never know what is before us, sir,' replied Baltic, in his deep, rough voice.
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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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The change of Pagan Ben into Christian Baltic was little else than miraculous.
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'And are you now a missionary?'
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said Brace, after a reflective pause.
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Gabrielle • 13906  commented on  unit 2  11 months, 1 week ago
francevw • 14015  commented  11 months, 1 week ago

For those who are interested in listening to the novel: https://librivox.org/the-bishops-secret-by-fergus-hume/

THE BISHOP'S SECRET by FERGUS HUME (1900)

This text will be uploaded on Translatihan, one chapter at a time, starting from chapter XVI, as the former chapters were translated on Duolingo before. Please follow each chapters’ link to the Translatihan text. Good translation.

List of the characters:
1. Miss Daisy Norsham, Belgravian spinster
2. Mrs. Pansey, an archdeacon's widow
3. Mr. George Pendle, Bishop, Dr. Pendle
4. Mrs. Amy Pendle, the bishop's wife, formerly Mrs. Creagth (widow)
5. Mr. George Pendle, bishop's son, officer, in love with Mab Arden
6. Mr. Gabriel Pendle, bishop's son, curate, allegedly chasing Miss Mosk
7. Miss Lucy Pendle, bishop's daughter
8. Sir Harry Brace, engaged to Lucy Pendle
9. Miss Mab Arden, most beautiful girl in Beorminster
10. Miss Whichello, Mab Arden's aunt
11. Mr. Michael Cargrim, bishop's chaplain, also likes Mab Arden
12. Dr. Graham, doctor, atheist, sceptic
13. Mr. William Mosk, the owner of the The Derby Winner pub
14. Mrs Mosk, his wife
15. Miss Bell Mosk, their daughter
16. Mr. Alder, dean, Dr. Alder
17. Miss Tancred, keeps telling the story about her lost purse
18. John, bishop's servant
19. Mr. Jentham, the man with the scar, the bearer of the bad news

Synopsis:
Bishop Pendle is the Church of England bishop in a small fictitious English cathedral town. Several years into his work, he receives a visit from a disreputable-looking visitor. The bishop is much upset. What transpired between them that has so upset the good churchman? And then there is the murder. Fergus Hume was one of the most prolific and most popular of 19th century novelists. "Mr. Hume won a reputation second to none for plot of the stirring, ingenious, misleading, and finally surprising kind, and for working out his plot in vigorous and picturesque English. In "The Bishop's Secret," while there is no falling off in plot and style, there is a welcome and marvelous broadening out as to the cast of characters, representing an unusually wide range of typical men and women. These are not laboriously described by the author, but are made to reveal themselves in action and speech in a way that has, for the reader, all the charm of personal intercourse with living people…."

TABLE OF CONTENTS https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Bishop%27s_Secret
PREFACE.
CHAPTER I. 'Enter Mrs Pansey As Chorus'
CHAPTER II. The Bishop Is Wanted
CHAPTER III. The Unforeseen Happens
CHAPTER IV. The Curiosity Of Mr Cargrim
CHAPTER V. The Derby Winner
CHAPTER VI. The Man With The Scar
CHAPTER VII. An Interesting Conversation
CHAPTER VIII. On Saturday Night
CHAPTER IX. An Exciting Adventure
CHAPTER X. Morning Service In The Minster
CHAPTER XI. Miss Whichello's Luncheon-party
CHAPTER XII. Bell Mosk Pays A Visit
CHAPTER XIII. A Stormy Night
CHAPTER XIV. 'Rumour Full Of Tongues'
CHAPTER XV. The Gipsy Ring
CHAPTER XVI. The Zeal Of Inspector Tinkler
CHAPTER XVII. A Clerical Detective
CHAPTER XVIII. The Chaplain On The Warpath
CHAPTER XIX. The Bishop's Request
CHAPTER XX. Mother Jael
CHAPTER XXI. Mrs Pansey's Festival
CHAPTER XXII. Mr Mosk Is Indiscreet
CHAPTER XXIII. In The Library
CHAPTER XXIV. The Bishop Asserts Himself
CHAPTER XXV. Mr Baltic, Missionary
CHAPTER XXVI. The Amazement Of Sir Harry Brace
CHAPTER XXVII. What Mother Jael Knew
CHAPTER XXVIII. The Return Of Gabriel
CHAPTER XXIX. The Confession Of Bishop Pendle
CHAPTER XXX. Blackmail
CHAPTER XXXI. Mr Baltic On The Trail
CHAPTER XXXII. The Initials
CHAPTER XXXIII. Mr Baltic Explains Himself
CHAPTER XXXIV. The Wages Of Sin
CHAPTER XXXV. The Honour Of Gabriel
CHAPTER XXXVI. The Rebellion Of Mrs Pendle
CHAPTER XXXVII. Dea Ex Machinâ
CHAPTER XXXVIII. Exit Mr Cargrim
CHAPTER XXXIX. All's Well That Ends Well

by francevw 11 months, 1 week ago

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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!