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still a very common style of argument, and must be met. To meet it, the first thing to be said is to repeat our dictum, that Progress is not within the domain of argument, any more than time itself. Then we should show that Progress is beneficent as the best of God's laws, and in doing so it will appear that knowledge is the chief element of Progress, in spite of the example of a few clever criminals.
And perhaps it will be asked, why has the Christian religion been the greatest agent of Progress that the world has seen? But the answer would be, that religion is the greatest agent in Progress because it declares the moral responsibility of all, because it forces upon every one who comes within its influence, the sense of individuality in the most direct manner. Again, it might be asked, why are the steam engine and the electric telegraph spoken of as great aids to Progress? But it is no less evident that this is because their effects are so widely spread, because they are great educators and individualisers, by increasing wealth, by facilitating locomotion, by economising time and life. Civilisation, too, is often employed in the same sense as Progress, not because of the division of labour, which is one of its most evident results, not on account of its accumulated wealth, nor for its inventions and discoveries, but because it encourages human development, and confers a more complete individuality upon an increasing number of mankind. The spread of a moral sense among men, the better knowledge of their own capacities, the desire to exercise their best faculties with the least injury to their neighbours, this is Progress.
It is an inevitable result of such an elevation of great numbers, that. distinction should become more difficult of attainment, and this circumstance may be said to contain the substance of the opposition with which some men receive the idea of Progress. But it does not follow that just distinctions will be annihilated by Progress, indeed, their value will rather be enhanced by the increase of the constituency which honours them. Nor is a progressive society necessarily destined to a particular form of institution. In
In a country like our own, where Progress has so far advanced that the people generally manifest some interest in the affairs of the State, the influence which a Government can have in retarding Progress, is very insignificant. Liberal measures will of course promote its advance, but if its advance does not ensure such legislation, Progress is not stayed, but only passes to the front of the Executive. Clearly in the interest of order it is the duty of any Government to make their first care that this advance should be natural and easy, not excited by spasmodic legislation to unnatural rapidity, and on no account to suffer the Executive to fall in its rear. This is true Liberal policy, and also true Conservative policy, but then the difference between the two schools is, that the Liberal will generally be found acting upon this policy, and the Conservative will not.
Yet it is quite possible that both may be actuated by a mistaken estimate of Progress. The Liberal may, and sometimes does, encourage Progress from a combative dislike to institutions which seem to him oppressive, or from jealousy of a system which excludes him from some coveted power. And the Conservative is often found withstanding Progress, from a vain belief that he can keep things as they are, and that change must tend to worse.
There is, therefore, in respect to Progress, a natural and wholesome division of labour between the Liberal and Conservative politicians Progress is the law to which both are subject. They are powerless to stop it; yet the rate of its advance depends much upon which of the two holds the reins of Government. The true function of the first is to lead Progress—to prepare institutions for its advance—to prevent the disruption of society by facilitating its expansion; while upon the Conservative devolves the duty of preventing the Liberal politician from legislating too far in advance of the main body of the people.
In the course of Progress, society naturally becomes democratised and utilitarian. Not because its appreciation of the advantages and of the real worth of rank and of intrinsic beauty is overgrown, but simply from its more numerous composition and its recognition of utility as the first and most important element of value. Progress is not opposed to hereditary monarchy, nor to hereditary aristocracy, nor to any of the institutions of a society so liberal as that of England. Indeed it may be safely asserted that there is no other State of which the institutions are equally favourable to Progress. There is a utility in each one of the three Estates of this Realm which may justly excite the envy of a republican, and we should always remember that it is quite possible for an American to admire the institutions of this country and yet to be quite contented with those of the United States. Monarchy and aristocracy do not oppose Progress ; on the contrary, they secure our society against an unimproving equality, which is the bane of Progress. The greatest thinkers are agreed that the conditions necessary to human development are freedom and variety of situations, and that society can neither be most free nor most progressive wherein this variety does not exist. Surely, then, if we receive this truth, that Progress is the law of human society, that all movement tends to establish uniformity, and that uniformity is fatal to Progress, we may expect that all will welcome Progress as the best work of God and man.
TROUBLE AT THORNHILL.
MAKING DOUBLY SURE.
You remember that, when the Rector of Hartonly was called to his last interview with Miss Fenwick, he had but just returned from a very unsatisfactory journey to Thornhill, and that, moreover, his moral status had not been a bit elevated by the communication made by the worthy clerk:
The sun had literally gone down on his wrath, and his hopes and plans were considerably below zero when summoned across the churchyard.
He had been in a measure prepared for a change in his patroness, but nothing like that which had stricken the lonely old woman like a palsy, and broken in upon all those artificial barriers she had been so long and so carefully building up against the physical weakness she dreaded so bitterly. The clerk was right. The communication, what
, ever it may have been, had well nigh been the death of the lady. Mental excitement had since then done the rest; and while, with flushed face and shaking jaws, she was struggling for power to articulate the fatal reproaches, and give words to the torrent of questions, the devil had taken possession of the man, and consummated one more of those acts of cruelty and darkness, which, whether they verify the old adage, and come out in this life or not, are rife enough upon the face of the earth,
It is not always in the police court that the most tragical or determinedly cold-blooded deeds of this sort come to light.
Hired nurses are proverbially sound sleepers, and may easily be caused to sleep sounder still, if such be the interest of the self-appointed watcher. Death comes a little sooner, it may be-sooner, perhaps, than the doctor expected—but what then? The patient was in a hopeless state, and the death-warrant was given long before. So the last sad form is gone through ; the coffin goes to the vault or the churchyard, and the mourners return to read the will, which, enigmatical, unjust, and unreasonable as it may be, no one can gainsay or dispute now.
“Ah! if this or the other had been known," they may say ; “if such an one had dared speak; if life had been spared a few days longerlong enough to gather some distant members of the family, and let the truth be told; or if the fading intellect had received honest help, not interested prompting ; if—" but why suggest more? Do we not all know, and have we not all quailed before the inevitable "if,” which has
thrown its shadow upon our brightest hopes, and taken the gloss from the fairest pictures we have looked on? It is an old saying, and a sadly ludicrous one, too, that
“ If ifs' and 'ands' were pots and pans,
There would be no trade for tinkers." and there is sad and sorry truth in the doggerel. The “ifs” and “ands” of life soon mar the trade of the same.
We are often reminded that there is a skeleton in every house, and if we are wise enough to be content with the means given us of hiding it, we may be all very well ; there is little to be gained by lifting the hangings which cover the makeshifts of life. The skeleton is bearable so long as we keep the key of the cupboard to ourselves, and half the sting is lost behind the exertion of guarding it jealously from other eyes. The thought may bleach our hair, and take the colour and fire of youth out of life ; it may stand by our board, walk with us in the outer world, measure our words, and lie down by us in the silent night; but so long as it is in the cupboard-so long as the key is safely turned in the lock, it is bearable. Once expose it to the daylight-once open the door, and let the world see what a suffering martyr we have been, and, faugh! how loathsome the dry bones grow! there is no hiding them any longer.
I remember years ago being with a party of friends at an hotel in Arundale ; a very comfortable, and, for a country town, luxuriously furnished house it was. Amongst other items in the room we sat in were several curious and comfortable round seats, which I was admiring in rather envious mood, when one of the gentlemen lifted up the gay chintz covering, and disclosed a gigantic beer barrel, neatly sawn in half.
“Vanity of vanity, all is vanity." The poor round seats were just as symmetrical and ornamental as heretofore, but the beer barrel would crop up; and whenever I think of that town, I think, too, of the innkeeper's ingenious method of turning his empty casks to account.
When the rector saw the blue paper crushed up so fiercely in the shrivelled nerveless hand, he knew very well upon how slight a thread his fate hung, and you may be sure that when nature relaxed the muscles in death, he did not leave the precious paper to the chance care of domestics. Still supporting the body, he had picked up the will, and put it in his pocket, until such time as he could conveniently and safely transfer it to the drawer in which he knew private papers were kept; and this he accomplished while the servants carried their dead mistress to her bedroom ; and there the important document was found when the deceased lady's lawyer and relatives gathered round
There was much discontent, but no question of disputing the will ; that, the lawyer, as one of the residuary legatees, had sufficiently strong personal interest to guard against; and for equally personal reasons, he was strong in the rector's favour-who being a landowner, and supposed bachelor, was a very desirable member of society—therefore the will was proved; the rector went into appropriate mourning, slipping at the same time into a handsome income, and there being no further necessity for labour—which same inheritance of the fallen race was specially distasteful to Mr. Grey-he disposed of his living, and under plea of ill health, announced his intention of wintering abroad.
It was in London, where he remained to effect a heavy mortgage upon his newly acquired property, that in taking up the Morning Post his eyes were greeted by the paragraph we have seen inserted by Captain Guest, conveying to the world a knowledge of the accident and death at Mrs. West's house.
For once at least Mr. Grey's boasted presence of mind deserted him, regardless of the public coffee room in which he then sat, he swore a coarse and loud oath, crushing the paper in his angry grasp. Such an exhibition was scarcely in keeping with the white tie which encircled the swearer's throat, and so evidently thought three or four men who were scattered about the room, and whose attention was attracted by the outburst. Grey heard the low laugh uttered by one man, and this recalled him to a sense of the indecorum, to say the least of it, of which he had been guilty ; and although the laugh was not pointed enough to permit him to take it as an insult, and though the man stared as Englishmen can do, when they see something to surprise, interest, or amuse them, there was no excuse for the parson disgracing his cloth any more by picking quarrels. Besides, second thoughts convinced him that he had more to lose than gain by making a fraças. So with what calmness and equanimity he was master of, he marched out of the room, called for his bill, packed his portmanteau, and caused himself to be conveyed to the London-bridge station, where having booked his traps, he jumped into a hansom, and banging down the windows, bade the man drive to Cambridge Street.
Alighting at the entrance, he walked slowly down the flags, glancing from house to house and window to window, marvelling and pondering as to what sign would guide him to the house he wanted; he had forgotten that, death being there, the English method of showing respect to its presence, by closing out the sunlight, would render the house marked enough to the least observing eyes; and not even when, reaching somewhere about half way down the street, he saw the closelyblinded windows, did the truth strike him-not until a couple of errand lads stopped just before him, staring with wide open eyes and mouths ; then one, catching his breath as he spoke, said