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The Vicar of Pimlico Justice Wilkinshais? s

Attentions The Fitting Obsequies

Katherine in the Temple The

New ' Marienbad- Elegy 1






The first of these imaginative pieces has been passed through
the ' Illustrated London News ' and the last through
the ' New Review,' while upon those that lie between
there rests the responsibility of having given dulness tt
Mr. Clement Shorter 1 * ' Sketch.'

F. W.

London : October, 1894.










THE dramatis personce not counting one or
two ' supers ' are an extremely young woman
with rich brown hair and a mouth of telling
curves, and a beneficed clergyman who makes
no claim not to be considered elderly, for he is
fifty-five, and to look at him, you would say
at once he was in the last stage of his vigour.
That stage may, of course, be a long one, but he
is certainly in it, with frame that is tallish and
still lithe of action, with clean-shaven face show-
ing lines of thought and of work, and with yet
abundant hair, iron-grey, tumbling about his
ears, picturesquely long towards his shoulders.
All that, and the frequent reverie, and the
occasional sadness, and then the responsive
smile of the kind people speak of as 'winning '
when he is neither absorbed in thought nor in
work, when he and his mind come to meet you


all that, and the eye that lifts and lightens,
make up an attractive personality, of which,
perhaps, the wisest have most of all felt the
charm. There is something in these things,
and in his pose, submissive and courteous, which
recalls at first sight Mr. Irving in ' The Vicar of
Wakefield,' but the Vicar of Pimlico, with his
more massive head, has flashes of energy,
revelations of strength, such as there is never
a trace of in Mr. Irving's Eighteenth-century
parson. And again, though the face of the
Vicar of Pimlico whose spirit shines through
him is, indeed, at bottom trustful, it is yet of
the full Nineteenth Century, alert and aware,
for all its goodness. For years upon years
Arthur Bradbury- Wells has had to hold his own,
in the interests of Church and of people.

Yes; in the parish of All Souls, Pimlico, it
has been a fight, undoubtedly. First, just over
against the great and almost unadorned but
finely proportioned church of his building (for he
was rich, and has given his goods without stint),
a dissenting sect, in favour with well-to-do
tradesmen, put up a showy chapel, which con-
sisted chiefly of freestone carving, of ornaments
out of place, and of a vestry for ' Happy
Evenings,' in competition with music-halls.


The Reverend A. Bradbury-Wells was, one
fears, too human to view that erection cordially.
Next, there was the stir in the parish made now
and again by Agnostics with a mission. To the
Rev. A. Bradbury- Wells they, when they came,
indicated rather the folly of the Present than
that which they thought to make evident the
folly of most of the Past. Les vrais hommes de
progres he was wont to consider, in the words
of a genius who was but tenderly sceptical les
vrais hommes de progres sont ceux qui out pour
point de depart le respect profond du passe.
Then a Board School was threatened in the
immediate neighbourhood, and, instead of learn-
ing to read and to write, to cook and to sew, and
to be reverent and womanly, and with pretty
manners, there was reason to fear that the girls
of the district would all play badly on the piano,
and would learn to draw indifferently, and would
never be poor men's wives. But that alarm was
premature people, at all events, married. Last
of all, in the high road, came, every Sunday,
hysterical, ill-fed women, vulgarising Christi-
anity as it seemed to the Vicar with all the
authority that in the natural course of things
belongs to a tambourine and a flag.

These were the mere outward circumstances


which had weighed a little on the Reverend A.
Bradbury- Wells; but, behind and beyond them,
were there no daily questionings, no inner
conflicts ? Serenely as he held himself in the
main, and with a measure of dutiful buoyancy,
this man, plunged in the stirring sea of modern
London/could correspond but in part to the priest
of Goldsmith's fancy, of Irving's refined dream.
So much for the Vicar. He passes into the
background while one stares hard, for a couple of
minutes, at the well-grown, slender young thing,
so full, at all events, of race and of breeding
Millicent Sergison distinguished, piquante,
warm -eyed, delicate -handed, flexible -mouthed,
with chestnut hair touched, as it were, with
sun or flame rebellious on a shapely head.
Her age, about twenty. Had she suffered
the misfortune of being arrayed by Pre-
Raphaelites, they might have dressed her in
purple Heaven knows what their pranks would
have led them to but she chose her own frocks,
and limited their hues, with needless closeness,
to a pure white, black (with no reflections, no
'surface,') and then a soft and low-toned brown,
in which, with her own colouring, finely warm,
Miss Sergison, from head to foot, gleamed
cordial, like an October woodland.


Perhaps it was when she was in white that
Miss Sergison looked to the stranger most of all
unapproachable virginal, young, but desperately
superior. It was not her eyes that did it : they
were fearless, but gentle. It was not her slim
figure. It was not her nose, .which, pure in
outline, was not at all commanding so refined,
undoubtedly, that it, by itself, would have kept
her her girlish dignity ; but just enough
' tip-tilted ' too (thank Goodness !) to prevent her
from being austere. No : it was not the nose; it
was that remarkable mouth the curve of the
short upper lip. That gave her her haughtiness
assured you of the depth, almost the fastidious-
ness, of her refinement.

Youth will dare anything, for it ignores re-
pulse. Young Oxford in a white waistcoat,
after dinner, or taken unawares in the morning,
would no more blanch before Beauty the most
exalted than before Russian guns. The young
man patronises girlhood : it is middle-age that
considers, that doubts perhaps even a little
pathetically its power of interesting : it has,
perhaps, learnt humbleness.

But whoever it was, young or old, who ap-
proached Miss Sergison whoever it was that
braved that short upper lip there was no rebuff


for him, he found ; and if he understood her sex
at all, or appreciated it, he was generally happy.
From that moment forth, as long as he was with
her, he had a good time. She spoke so sincerely
she gave her real attention she heard you so
graciously that, unawares, a value slipped into
the things you were saying. The attitude of her
mind was sensible and friendly ; so, if you were
not foolish yourself, you felt you had gained an
acquaintance worth having. Something human,
direct and simple, thoroughly intelligent, was
opening to you a new bit of humanity, very
real and nice, quite worth the exploring.

The Reverend Arthur Bradbury- Wells had
passed within the range of that clear eye of Miss
Sergison's. He had braved that short upper lip,
and more had come of it than to most men.
The impression she made on him, with the slim
lines of her figure, her niceness, her radiant warm-
coloured youth with herself, in fine no work,
no diversion, no distance, no newer voices, no
latest years, would efface.

So those are the dramatis per sonce.

But no one pretends for a moment they have
any right to be together, though there is, of
course, just this to be said for the young woman, if
she showed an unusual taste: that here and there


a clear-sighted girl, a thoughtful thing, reflective
for all her prettiness nay, reflective because of
her prettiness (since most wide human experi-
ences are denied to the plain) such a girl does
take note of the different moods in which she is
approached, of the point of view from which she
is looked at, and then, perhaps but it is all ac-
cording to what she really wants she, in her
humble place, in valley or lowland, does not
quite heartily relish the gaze directed upon her
by Youth from its heights.

Arthur Bradbury- Wells, you see, was hardly
the average middle-aged man hardly the average
parish clergyman, with party leanings, High,
Broad, or Low. He was always a little detached ;
a very little different. Like an Archbishop of
York, he began by being a soldier. Discipline,
trained obedience, a respect for the Powers of
the Earth, a recognition of ranks, had long been
a part of him, and having learned to obey he had
learnt also to organise and command. He had
worked, for many years now, his large London
parish, at one end of which up towards Buck-
ingham Gate were some town houses of great
families, whilst at the other, towards Ebury
Bridge, there lived shabby lodging-house keepers
and foreign clerks, small heroines of burlesque,


midnight press-men on the sporting newspapers,
ballet-girls, and the dcclassc'es. He was a vigour-
ous, straightforward preacher, who yet, from his
tastes, could not keep fiction and poetry out of
his sermons. In Art he liked grace in the
symbolic and dignity in the religious : on his
walls were Puvis de Chavannes and Hippolyte
Flandrin. He was a student of music : so
devoted a lover of it that once, as a bait to a
first-rate organist to come to his church, he had
offered to give up his house to him vicarage
proper he never had any : the money that was
to have bought it had gone to his schools, and
he made himself comfortable in a stuccoed
terrace close to his church, and in a neighbour-
hood of exceedingly doubtful people. There,
just inside the door, his surplice, faultlessly
white, hung on the hat-stand. He was not an
ordinary man. Still, the world is the world ;
human nature but human nature. An intelli-
gent third person would have some difficulty in
believing that any impression which the Vicar
might make on Millicent Sergison could be half
as profound or as lasting as that she produced
upon him.

Miss Sergison was not one of his parishioners.
Parishioners bored him with their attentions,


and now and then he fled from them. He had
met her by chance at dinner, on the north side
of the Park. She had come that night to fill a
vacancy at the eleventh hour. He saw her
across the table, over the yellow-shaded candles,
the pine, the bananas, the marrons glaces, the
tulip-bed on the table-cloth; and then, some
twenty minutes after her skirts had followed into
the drawing-room the skirts of an actress en
vogue, Bradbury-Wells observing that there
was no youth but one he could be taking the
place of got introduced to her and talked
to her until he saw that Mr. Pater was
standing with bowed head and folded hands in
exquisite politeness it became their duty, as
courteous guests, to listen while gifted Youth,
rich in memories of Albert Chevalier, warbled
' It's the nasty way 'e sez it,' and ' 'E's only
jest so 'igh.'

There is one sentimental passage in the work
of an admirable poetess, which tells how a man
a would-be lover if he would understand a
woman and keep his hold on her, must take her
into regions ' pure from Courtship's flatteries '
take her to fields and to woods. But if instinct
and experience give the clue, a drawing-room in
Bryanston Square may just as well be the scene


of a man's first soundings. Bradbury-Wells was
always absolutely natural; so too was Miss
Sergison. These highly civilised yet very simple
beings formed a decided opinion of each other in
the forty minutes that passed between the arrival
of the men above stairs and that departure of
some busy person who was naturally ' going
on,' which the hour being what it was be-
came the signal for the rest to disperse them-

Though Millicent Sergison was not in the least
' independent,' and not particularly learned
though she dreamt of no social revolt, and had
always omitted to yearn that her sex should
achieve the crowning triumph of transforming
itself into second-rate, impotent Man Bradbury-
Wells discovered that she had one touch of very
modern feeling in her: she was not content to sit
in her father's drawing-room till someone else
should invite her to sit in his instead. Sooner,
perhaps, than a girl would have done a genera-
tion ago, she (who was the third of four sisters)
had chafed a little in a purposeless home. The
social qualities that she had, nobody seemed to
need the aid of. Actual ' accomplishments,' she
had few. She had no gifts but her womanliness.
So she aimed low for herself was she making,


perhaps, a mistake? in trying to be accepted
as a ' probationer ' at an hospital.

The Vicar of Pimlico had very definite notions
as to the unsuitableness of nurses's work for
girls bred gently. The well-born had, no doubt,
courage courage and self-control were as much
their virtues as chastity was the virtue of the
middle-classes and helpfulness the virtue of the
poor. But, in ordinary hospitals, apart from the
monotony, drudgery, strain of the work, there
was the hardening contact with the ugly and
loathsome; there was a familiar intercourse with
men over repellent affairs. ' Some women must
do these things,' said Mr. Bradbury- Wells
though he was in evening dress Miss Sergison
knew, of course, that she was talking to a clergy-
man: nay, knew more about him than that
'some ladies; one respects them; but the fewer
the better. A young girl should never be a
nurse to strangers, among strangers, except in
two cases.'

' What are they ? ' asked Millicent.

c In war, when a man risks his life, a girl may
risk her refinement. I could excuse anything
then. We shall have a war some day, and that
will be the time for your audacities. In some
respects I sha'n't be sorry for it. People will


forget their differences. When our folk under-
stand that the land is in danger, all England,
one may hope, will hurl itself on the enemy.
The Natural Man speaks,' he added apologeti-
cally, smiling. ' When I had a sword, my wards
would have been less militant. But in any war
I assume our cause would be a good one. I be-
lieve it would. The English race, as much as
Rome itself, was made to colonise and control.
Jingo again, am I not ? and a little out of the
fashion. I can't help it ! Well, you might be a
nurse, Miss Sergison, in any camp hospital I'd
forgive you for that or, to-day, if you will, in a
hospital for children.' He stopped a moment ;
added in explanation : ' There, girls, whos
tenderness, you may have discovered, is not
really so marked as it's supposed to be would
learn tenderness. I mean, the circumstances
would bring it out.'

' I'm glad I sha'n't have to remember that I'm
doing anything you disapprove of so much. It's
a children's hospital I'm going to one that's at
Shadwell the "East London." I'd rather go
there. A probationer's not a medical student.
That what people call the " biggest men " don't
attend, can't make any difference to me'

A look of approval rested on the face of the


elder ly-middle-aged clergyman ; and his frank-
ness, his pleasure in her, the whole of his char-
acter, urged him to utter his real thought : ' I'm
simply delighted ! It will be nice for the
children. They are at home with youth; they're
curiously sensitive about prettiness. Fancy you
taking your line and your colour your hair,
and face, and all your pleasant ways down
into Shadwell ! I'm delighted ! Are there
many pretty girls there ? '

( Mr. Bradbury-Wells,' she answered with en-
thusiasm, ' those that I've seen are charming\ '

In the back drawing-room the hostess was
mentioning to one or two people that the Vicar
of Pimlico, though nothing of a courtier, was
somehow a persona grata : the influential when
they are wise and clever being no doubt wont
to approve of the independent. ' Perhaps,' said
she, ' he is almost next on the list for a Deanery.'
That embrowned lily, Millicent Sergison with
her warm - coloured hair crowning her flowing
white took further stock of him quietly. She
had seen people who were comedies, people
who were books, and people who, like Hamlet's
Osric, were mere water-flies. The Vicar was a
man and a fighter : individual as well as digni-
fied ; bold as well as benignant. Yes, she had made


up her mind about him, absolutely. In more
than ordinary ways those two had reached each
other; and with a celerity which it is conven-
tionally considered does not belong to our day.


IF poets are born, not made, so, certainly, are
lovers. The Vicar, whatever were his years, was
born to be the lover of Millicent Sergison; and
Millicent Sergison came into the world to give
her heart to the Vicar. When she was still
within his sight during those short hours of the
dinner-party he had liked, admired, warmed to
her. The moment she was out of it when, in-
deed, the Vicar, frugally minded to walk home
across the Park, was changing, in the little
cloak-room, his evening dress-shoes for the service-
able boots that tramped over London he knew
that ' liking,' ' admiration,' ' cordiality,' were
words which, taken altogether, expressed but a
part of his feeling. In the waste of the windy
Park, the thought of her haunted him. In the
streets, southwards, it haunted him. It was
with him when the lifting of the latch-key had
given entrance to his house, and there confronted
him his bed-room candlestick, his letters by the


nine o'clock post, his faultless surplice assumed
so often and so hurriedly hanging up in the hall.

Early as was his wont, he was in his school-
house next morning having an eye on the
teachers and, in each separate class-room, saying
to the scholars, ' Good-morning, children ! ' to
which, like a chorus in some mild comic opera,
mechanical yet well-mannered, automatic yet
nicely disposed, came the response unanimous
and regular, in childish treble, ' Good-morning,
Sir ! ' Then the thought of her haunted him
haunted him ' like a passion ' Wordsworth's
phrase. Nay, turn the phrase differently
haunted him like the passion she was.

But he had his own work : he would never see
her more, perhaps, unless he made his oppor-
tunity. Well then, it was his business to make
an opportunity. But his work again his own
difficult work. And a generation divided them !


ONE day and it was in the dress of a proba-
tioner; a probationer who, like a maid-servant,
has a 'Sunday out' the Vicar saw Miss Sergison
in church. It was towards the end of the sermon.
The Vicar avoided, for the most part, looking



at his congregation while he preached. So far
as the mere physical direction of his appeals was
concerned, they were addressed to the western
wall to a given yard or so of sober brick-work,
just below Mr. William Morris's rose-red window.
But now and again, in spite of his practice, a
face in the congregation asserted itself; and the
Vicar discerned Miss Sergison all quietude and
reverence at the end, very fortunately, of some
sentences of singular directness, inspired by a
recent ecclesiastical squabble. His heart was in
his words.

' I hope/ he had said, ' I am not anti-Christian
I fear, sometimes, I am almost anti-clerical.
My friends, I honestly doubt whether the celebra-
tion of Evening Communion, here this night, if
we chose to have it, would seem to God, in His
high heaven, a heinous offence; and, on the other
hand, if, next Sunday, I assumed before you all
the ' Eastward position,' I will not conceal from
you that I should not look forward to the stars
changing their courses as a result of that in-
cident. In our Master's record so far as I can
read it these things seem to be ignored. Did
He come into the world to settle these things
to be disturbed at all about them ? ' The voice
rang out. ' My friends, He came saying not any


word but this word, " Little children, love one

i The sermon ended, as some fashionable people
noticed who were on the qui vive for an effect
just a little tamely. The thread of the dis-
course seemed gone. A touch of anti-climax.
But nothing as the tolerant amongst them
pleasantly allowed nothing can be perfect, and
this, if not precisely thrilling, was at least good.

Ten minutes later after the hymn and
Benediction the Vicar, following his usual
ways, came down into the body of the church
in his frock-coat now and sat at the western
end, under the Morris window, where one heard
best of all the organist in his prolonged volun-
tary it was exquisite this time : after a fugue
of Bach's, the slow movement from a sonata
of Widor's.

To have departed from his usual plan because
he happened to have discerned the probationer's
presence, would, of course, have been absurd.
And now, willingly enough, Bradbury- Wells-
grey and tired, but still excited by his sermon
let her recognise that he saw her, and at the end
of the Recital, in a then empty church, went up
a curious mixture of cordiality and reproach
to speak to her. He shook her hand at the <!oor,


and said, as they passed out into the street to-

1 Why did you come to hear me preach ? '

' Really really ' stammered Miss Sergison,

with blanched cheeks. And she got no further
with her answer. But his power over her was
proved. ' It was a very good sermon,' she said,
after a minute's silence, bringing up her forces.
'At least, the kind of thing that I like that
moves me. Yes, indeed, Mr. Bradbury- Wells,
you hit it straight that time.'

'Did I? Well, I felt strongly. At bottom,
you know, beneficed, and even unbeneficed,
clergymen are remarkably like other people.
Like other people,' he continued, yet more
lightly, 'in entertaining something like a wish
to be allowed because you are alone to walk
towards home with you.'

' Home ! ' she exclaimed. ' But home is now
the hospital. Five or six miles away, we must
be from it ... You will put me into an om-

If there was to be any casual talk between the
Vicar, grey and dignified, and this slim young
nurse, now was surely the time for it. There
was no casual talk, however, but conversation
more serious and direct.


' I may seem to have put a very rude question
to you about coming to hear me, I mean. I
was at all events abrupt. I know I was. My
dear Miss Sergison Millicent, si sic (you know
as much Latin as that) ; Millicent, I may say it,
because thirty years divide us you profoundly
interest me.'

' Thank you. We do seem to have somehow
hit it off,' she answered. She breathed freely, so
delightful was it to have the privilege of frank-
ness and frankness with him in the evening

1 You see,' he went on, ' you represent to me,
in my far too numerous years, the charm of
youth freshness. " The morning's water-gold,"
Browning says.' That she liked that, and
relished it, and thanked him for it, her face told
him. ' And mere freshness,' he added, ' fresh-
ness in another, since freshness in one's self there
cannot be, is an immense boon, an immense
pick-me-up, to a soldier (I am still a soldier,
please) who fights has fought for all one
generation through sense of duty, more, I
hope, than even through love of struggle.
Thirty years, and perhaps to very little pur-
pose. Very tired, at all events; but permitted
neither by God nor man to drop out of the


ranks, this present noon-day march. So ! You

' You've done hard work, and will still do it,
Mr. Bradbury-Wells. Hundreds of people
before me must have been glad to be a little
help to you. Not that /could be ! '

'Help or obstacle that has often been the
question, considered theoretically,' said the Vicar.
' Now you can tolerate my speaking in perfect
plainness the bottom of my thought, if I know

'Yes,' she said.

'Well I hold a commission. Every true
man does. Clergyman as well as soldier, writer
as well as clergyman. Now, suppose for a
moment that it lies in my or this other man's
power to retain about him some sympathetic

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