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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:26:14
Typefacelarge in Small
I am sorry you gave me no news of Norris or Walsh; I never hear of them except from you. One effect of leading an uneventful life is that the past stands out clearly, unobscured by subsequent impressions. My compliments to your wife and Mr. Haggard.

Others have a more difficult experience. When the intellect awakes it begins to question, and often enough finds no satisfactory answer. It becomes aware that all these divine events happened a long while ago, also that the evidence for them is not of a nature that forces conviction per se, at any rate at first sight. For instance, no judge would send an accused person to gaol on the testimony which, for some purpose beyond our ken, has been considered sufficiently strong to enable mankind to accept a very wonderful story and to build thereon the hope or rather the certainties of redemption and eternal life beyond the chances and changes of this mortality. Some are thereby entirely discouraged and, rejecting what they conclude must be a fable, set themselves sadly to make the best of things as they are, awaiting the end with resignation, with terror, or with the callous indifference of despair, according to their individual temperaments. Others start out on wild searches of their own. They examine the remaining religions, they try spiritualism, they bring themselves, or so imagine, into some faint and uncertain touch with the dead, the Unseen and the Powers that dwell therein, only after all to return unsatisfied, unsettled, hungry — frightened also at times — and doubtful of the true source of their vision. For in all these far seas they can find no sure, anchored rock on which to stand and defy the storms of Fate. Those alien religions may suit and even be sufficient to the salvation of their born votaries, but to these philosophical inquirers they are not sufficient. Moreover, they find that Christianity embodies whatever is true and good in every one of them, rejecting only the false and evil. To take but one example, all, or very nearly all, of the beautiful rules and maxims of Buddha are to be found in the teaching of our Lord. but there is this difference between the faiths they preached. Whereas that of Buddha, as I understand it, is a religion of Death, holding up cessation of mundane lives and ultimate extinction as the great reward of virtue, Christianity is a religion of Life, of continued individual being, full, glorious, sinless and eternal, to be won by those who choose to accept the revelation of its Founder. Who then can hesitate between the two? Who wishes to be absorbed into the awful peace of Nothingness? Why, such, without its precedent preparation, was the refuge of the Roman who opened his veins when things went wrong or Caesar frowned!

(It almost looks as if Mr. Rider Haggard when he thought he was inventing was unconsciously receiving random and accidental brain-waves, a la Marconi, from Colonel Brome Giles. Was Colonel Brome Giles, we wonder, working at pedigree questions at the time when Mr. Rider Haggard was planning his novel? — Ed., Spectator.)

At length, leaving the launch, we came to a village of which the name escapes me, a straggling place whereof the central street was paved with rough cobbles. Here we slept in a house belonging to some lady who was a great personage in the village, and beautifully situated upon a cliff at the foot of which ran a sparkling river that reminded me of a salmon stream in Scotland. Here also Jebb and I very narrowly escaped being murdered. It came about thus:

My son Rider — he was by his own wish called Jock, to avoid confusion between us — was such a child as this. I can never remember his doing what he should not, save once when he teased his little sisters by refusing to allow them to come out of a place where he had prisoned them, and for his pains had the only scolding I ever gave him. Yet he was no milksop or mother’s darling.” He bore pain well, would ride any horse on which he could climb, and even while he was still in frocks I have known him attack with his little fists someone who made pretence to strike me. He was an imaginative child. One example will suffice. We left London on our holiday: it was the year in which I wrote Allan Quatermain.” When we drove from the station to the farm the full moon shone in the summer sky. Look, dad,” he said, pointing to it, there is God’s lamp!”

If so, that agreement was not kept, since on Sunday, the 27th of February, I heard the sound of distant guns, which most of the others attributed to thunder. So certain was I on the point that some of us rode to the camp to make inquiries. On our way through the town we learned that messages were pouring down the wires from Mount Prospect, and found the place full of rumours. At the camp, however, nothing was known; indeed, several officers to whom we spoke laughed at us. It would almost seem as though Colley had undertaken his fatal movement without advising his base.

We also had anxieties, for the machinery of our tub broke down. There for one whole night we rolled about off the coast of Mexico, sleeping, or rather sitting, on the coils of rope upon the deck and waiting for the promised norther” which now showed every sign of arrival. Fortunately, however, it did not develop until later, for, had it done so, our ship in its disabled condition would in all probability have gone to the bottom. By the following morning the engines were more or less patched up, and we crept into Vera Cruz with no baggage except the travel-stained garments in which we stood and the sack of fern roots whereof I have spoken, for such spare clothes as we possessed had been left behind.

I may add that about a year ago I paid a visit to Arthur Young’s home, Bradfield Combust, more commonly called Burnt Bradfield, near Bury St. Edmunds, which was then for sale. The house, of course, is rebuilt, but all the rest — park, ancient oaks, and little lake — remain much as they were in his day, a hundred years ago.


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