The Altar Steps eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 477 pages of information about The Altar Steps.

“Then you deserve to be thrashed.”

“Look here, Uncle Henry,” Mark began; and while he was speaking he was aware that he was stronger than his uncle now and looking across at his aunt he perceived that she was just a ball of badly wound wool lying in a chair.  “Look here, Uncle Henry, it’s quite useless for you to try to stop my going to Meade Cantorum, because I’m going there whenever I’m asked and I’m going to be confirmed there, because you promised Mother you wouldn’t interfere with my religion.”

“Your religion!” broke in Mr. Lidderdale, scornful both of the pronoun and the substantive.

“It’s no use your losing your temper or arguing with me or doing anything except letting me go my own way, because that’s what I intend to do.”

Aunt Helen half rose in her chair upon an impulse to protect her brother against Mark’s violence.

“And you can’t cure me with Gregory Powder,” he said.  “Nor with Senna nor with Licorice nor even with Cascara.”

“Your behaviour, my boy, is revolting,” said Mr. Lidderdale.  “A young Mohawk would not talk to his guardians as you are talking to me.”

“Well, I don’t want you to think I’m going to obey you if you forbid me to go to Meade Cantorum,” said Mark.  “I’m sorry I was rude, Aunt Helen.  I oughtn’t to have spoken to you like that.  And I’m sorry, Uncle Henry, to seem ungrateful after what you’ve done for me.”  And then lest his uncle should think that he was surrendering he quickly added:  “But I’m going to Meade Cantorum on Saturday.”  And like most people who know their own minds Mark had his own way.



Mark did not suffer from “churchiness” during this period.  His interest in religion, although it resembled the familiar conversions of adolescence, was a real resurrection of emotions which had been stifled by these years at Haverton House following upon the paralyzing grief of his mother’s death.  Had he been in contact during that time with an influence like the Vicar of Meade Cantorum, he would probably have escaped those ashen years, but as Mr. Ogilvie pointed out to him, he would also never have received such evidence of God’s loving kindness as was shown to him upon that Whit-sunday morning.

“If in the future, my dear boy, you are ever tempted to doubt the wisdom of Almighty God, remember what was vouchsafed to you at a moment when you seemed to have no reason for any longer existing, so black was your world.  Remember how you caught sight of yourself in that pool and shrank away in horror from the vision.  I envy you, Mark.  I have never been granted such a revelation of myself.”

“You were never so ugly,” said Mark.

“My dear boy, we are all as ugly as the demons of Hell if we are allowed to see ourselves as we really are.  But God only grants that to a few brave spirits whom he consecrates to his service and whom he fortifies afterwards by proving to them that, no matter how great the horror of their self-recognition, the Holy Ghost is within them to comfort them.  I don’t suppose that many human beings are granted such an experience as yours.  I myself tremble at the thought of it, knowing that God considers me too weak a subject for such a test.”

Project Gutenberg
The Altar Steps from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.