“He can not have gone so far as to advocate the real presence: a rumor of that has reached me,” said the rector.
“There it is!” cried Mrs. Ramshorn. “If you had asked me, I should have said he insisted the holy eucharist meant neither more nor less than any other meal to which some said a grace. The man has not an atom of consistency in his nature. He will say and unsay as fast as one sentence can follow the other, and if you tax him with it, he will support both sides: at least, that is my experience with him. I speak as I find him.”
“What then would you have me do?” said the rector. “The straightforward way would doubtless be to go to him.”
“You would, I fear, gain nothing by that. He is so specious! The only safe way is to dismiss him without giving a reason. Otherwise, he will certainly prove you in the wrong. Don’t take my word. Get the opinion of your church-wardens. Every body knows he has made an atheist of poor Faber. It is sadder than I have words to say. He was such a gentlemanly fellow!”
The rector took his departure, and made a series of calls upon those he judged the most influential of the congregation. He did not think to ask for what they were influential, or why he should go to them rather than the people of the alms-house. What he heard embarrassed him not a little. His friends spoke highly of Wingfold, his enemies otherwise: the character of his friends his judge did not attempt to weigh with that of his enemies, neither did he attempt to discover why these were his enemies and those his friends. No more did he make the observation, that, while his enemies differed in the things they said against him, his friends agreed in those they said for him; the fact being, that those who did as he roused their conscience to see they ought, more or less understood the man and his aims; while those who would not submit to the authority he brought to bear upon them, and yet tried to measure and explain him after the standards of their own being and endeavors, failed ludicrously. The church-wardens told him that, ever since he came, the curate had done nothing but set the congregation by the ears; and that he could not fail to receive as a weighty charge. But they told him also that some of the principal dissenters declared him to be a fountain of life in the place—and that seemed to him to involve the worst accusation of all. For, without going so far as to hold, or even say without meaning it, that dissenters ought to be burned, Mr. Bevis regarded it as one of the first of merits, that a man should be a good churchman.