“I fancy,” said the rector, “they would withhold the name of brother from those they abuse.”
“No; not always.”
“They would from an unbeliever.”
“Yes. But let them then call him an enemy, and behave to him as such—that is, love him, or at least try to give him the fair play to which the most wicked of devils has the same right as the holiest of saints. It is the vile falsehood and miserable unreality of Christians, their faithlessness to their Master, their love of their own wretched sects, their worldliness and unchristianity, their talking and not doing, that has to answer, I suspect, for the greater part of our present atheism.”
“I have seen a good deal of Mr. Faber of late,” Juliet said, with a slight tremor in her voice, “and he seems to me incapable of falling into those vile conditions I used to hear attributed to atheists.”
“The atheism of some men,” said the curate, “is a nobler thing than the Christianity of some of the foremost of so-called and so-believed Christians, and I may not doubt they will fare better at the last.”
The rector looked a little blank at this, but said nothing. He had so often found, upon reflection, that what seemed extravagance in his curate was yet the spirit of Scripture, that he had learned to suspend judgment.
Miss Meredith’s face glowed with the pleasure of hearing justice rendered the man in whom she was so much interested, and she looked the more beautiful. She went soon after luncheon was over, leaving a favorable impression behind her. Some of the ladies said she was much too fond of the doctor; but the gentlemen admired her spirit in standing up for him. Some objected to her paleness; others said it was not paleness, but fairness, for her eyes and hair were as dark as the night; but all agreed, that whatever it was to be called, her complexion was peculiar—some for that very reason judging it the more admirable, and others the contrary. Some said she was too stately, and attributed her carriage to a pride to which, in her position, she had no right, they said. Others judged that she needed such a bearing the more for self-defense, especially if she had come down in the world. Her dress, it was generally allowed, was a little too severe—some thought, in its defiance of the fashion, assuming. No one disputed that she had been accustomed to good society, and none could say that she had made the slightest intrusive movement toward their circle. Still, why was it that nobody knew any thing about her?
The curate and his wife had a good deal of talk about Juliet as they drove home from Nestley. Much pleased with herself, they heard from their hostess what she had learned of her history, and were the more interested. They must find her a situation, they agreed, where she would feel at home; and in the meantime would let her understand that, if she took up her abode in Glaston, and were so inclined, the town was large enough to give a good hope of finding a few daily engagements.