There had arisen therefore betwixt the doctor and the curate a certain sort of intimacy, which had at length come to the rector’s ears. He had, no doubt, before this heard many complaints against the latter, but he had laughed them aside. No theologian himself, he had found the questions hitherto raised in respect of Wingfold’s teaching, altogether beyond the pale of his interest. He could not comprehend why people should not content themselves with being good Christians, minding their own affairs, going to church, and so feeling safe for the next world. What did opinion matter as long as they were good Christians? He did not exactly know what he believed himself, but he hoped he was none the less of a Christian for that! Was it not enough to hold fast whatever lay in the apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian creed, without splitting metaphysical hairs with your neighbor? But was it decent that his curate should be hand and glove with one who denied the existence of God? He did not for a moment doubt the faith of Wingfold; but a man must have some respect for appearances: appearances were facts as well as realities were facts. An honest man must not keep company with a thief, if he would escape the judgment of being of thievish kind. Something must be done; probably something said would be enough, and the rector was now on his way to say it.
The minister’s door.
Every body knew Mr. Faber, whether he rode Ruber or Niger—Rubber and Nigger, his groom called them—and many were the greetings that met him as he passed along Pine Street, for, despite the brand of his atheism, he was popular. The few ladies out shopping bowed graciously, for both his manners and person were pleasing, and his professional attentions were unexceptionable. When he dropped into a quick walk, to let Ruber cool a little ere he reached his stall, he was several times accosted and detained. The last who addressed him was Mr. Drew, the principal draper of the town. He had been standing for some time in his shop-door, but as Faber was about to turn the corner, he stepped out on the pavement, and the doctor checked his horse in the gutter.
“I wish you would look in upon Mr. Drake, sir,” he said. “I am quite uneasy about him. Indeed I am sure he must be in a bad way, though he won’t allow it. He’s not an easy man to do any thing for, but just you let me know what can be done for him—and we’ll contrive. A nod, you know, doctor, etc.”
“I don’t well see how I can,” returned Faber. “To call now without being sent for, when I never called before!—No, Mr. Drew, I don’t think I could.”
It was a lovely spring noon. The rain that had fallen heavily during the night lay in flashing pools that filled the street with suns. Here and there were little gardens before the houses, and the bushes in them were hung with bright drops, so bright that the rain seemed to have fallen from the sun himself, not from the clouds.