Tess of the d'Urbervilles eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 439 pages of information about Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

The shopkeeper looked into his order-book.

“Oh, it has been misdirected, sir,” he said.  “It was ordered by Mr Angel Clare, and should have been sent to him.”

Mr Clare winced as if he had been struck.  He went home pale and dejected, and called Angel into his study.

“Look into this book, my boy,” he said.  “What do you know about it?”

“I ordered it,” said Angel simply.

“What for?”

“To read.”

“How can you think of reading it?”

“How can I?  Why—­it is a system of philosophy.  There is no more moral, or even religious, work published.”

“Yes—­moral enough; I don’t deny that.  But religious!—­and for YOU, who intend to be a minister of the Gospel!”

“Since you have alluded to the matter, father,” said the son, with anxious thought upon his face, “I should like to say, once for all, that I should prefer not to take Orders.  I fear I could not conscientiously do so.  I love the Church as one loves a parent.  I shall always have the warmest affection for her.  There is no institution for whose history I have a deeper admiration; but I cannot honestly be ordained her minister, as my brothers are, while she refuses to liberate her mind from an untenable redemptive theolatry.”

It had never occurred to the straightforward and simple-minded Vicar that one of his own flesh and blood could come to this!  He was stultified, shocked, paralysed.  And if Angel were not going to enter the Church, what was the use of sending him to Cambridge?  The University as a step to anything but ordination seemed, to this man of fixed ideas, a preface without a volume.  He was a man not merely religious, but devout; a firm believer—­not as the phrase is now elusively construed by theological thimble-riggers in the Church and out of it, but in the old and ardent sense of the Evangelical school:  one who could

              Indeed opine
        That the Eternal and Divine
        Did, eighteen centuries ago
        In very truth...

Angel’s father tried argument, persuasion, entreaty.

“No, father; I cannot underwrite Article Four (leave alone the rest), taking it ‘in the literal and grammatical sense’ as required by the Declaration; and, therefore, I can’t be a parson in the present state of affairs,” said Angel.  “My whole instinct in matters of religion is towards reconstruction; to quote your favorite Epistle to the Hebrews, ’the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.’”

His father grieved so deeply that it made Angel quite ill to see him.

“What is the good of your mother and me economizing and stinting ourselves to give you a University education, if it is not to be used for the honour and glory of God?” his father repeated.

“Why, that it may be used for the honour and glory of man, father.”

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.