22 APRIL 1911, Page 24



THERE were two orders of bedesmen at St. Hospital-by- Merton, Merchester—the Blanchminster Brethren and the Beauchamp Brethren. To be admitted to the former order, also known as the Collegians of Christ's Poor, it was enough to have attained the age of sixty-five and to be so reduced in strength as to be incapable of work. But you could become a Collegian of Noble Poverty at sixty with the proviso that misfortune had reduced you from independence. The Collegians of Noble Poverty, alias the Beauchamp Brethren, were fewer in number, wore a more picturesque dress, and gave themselves airs in consequence, though their ante- cedents were neither distinguished nor romantic. They were decayed small tradesmen, ex-butlers,and so forth. Even Brother Copas, the flower of the flock, had only been an unsuccessful keeper of a small private school. But the story of his past, judging by his versatility and capacity in old age, might furnish forth materials for half a dozen romances. His appearance alone was impressive, with his Dantesque profile slightly run to seed, it is true, in the mouth and chin. Then his accomplishments and interests were endless. He was a fine classical scholar, excelling in such niceties as the Greek accents, and deeply versed in the literature of humanism. Old French and Anglo-Saxon had no terrors for him, and he was enough of an historian to sit in rigorous judgment alike on Freeman and Froude. He wrote an excellent English style, reminding us strongly of that of " Q ;" lie could string verses either in English or rhymed Latin, and he could chop logic with any one. Again, this remarkable old man was not only a scholar, he was an ardent politician. He has the Education Act of 1902 at his fingers' ends, and, as occasion offers, can reel off speeches on the iniquities of the High Anglicans or the folly of hereditary legislators, full of good points and racy metaphors. How he ever came to be a pen- sioner at St. Hospital is something of a mystery. There was nothing amiss with his character or he would never have been admitted to the College. As for his abilities there was really nothing he could not do, from catching a trout to writing a Pageant play. He might have been a publicist or a professor or a politician or a bishop, " instead of which " we find him contentedly resigned to the role of caustic onlooker in a superior almshouse. After all, when it is remembered that he was at once wayward, indolent, unambitious and injudiciously frank of speech, the secret of his unsuccess—when tested by the crude standards of worldly prosperity — is perhaps sufficiently revealed. But though the opportunities afforded to this Admirable Crichton rnanque are limited, " Q" contrives that he shall make the best possible use of them. When the aggressive Protestants amongst the Brethren organize a campaign against the alleged Romanizing tendencies of the Chaplain, Brother Copas—more to shield his particular friend Brother Bonaday than from any deep doctrinal conviction of his own— drafts the petition, draws the fire of the Anglicans on himself, and by his dialectical skill and his diplomacy succeeds in effecting a compromise. Again, when the forces of malicious scandal are mobilized against his friend and his little daughter Corona, it is Brother Copas who plays the detective, and unmasks the anonymous slanderer. Brother Copas'a devotion to Corona, a little American-born girl with a piercing tongue and a rich and expressive vocabulary, makes very pleasant reading. The account of the organising of the Pageant by Mr. Bamberger, the Unionist Member for Merchester, and his terrible brother Isidore, the impresario, betrays a certain anti- Semitic animus, but the edge of the satire is blunted by a reluctant admiration for the extraordinary energy of the impayable Isidore. And though there is more political bias in the book than we associate with " Q.'s " work as a rule, and a certain amount of gratuitous squalor in the slanging-match between the pensioners' wives, there is so much that is tender and wholesome and genuinely patriotic in the book that it would be unjust to dwell on what are, after all, negligible • Brother Copes. By " Q " (Arthur Quiller-Couch). Bristol : Arrowsmith. -London: Simpkin. Lea.] blemishes. We may close our review with a passage which is as good a defence of pageants as we have yet seen:— "Indeed, much of the Pageant was extremely silly. Yet, as it progressed, Brother Copas was not alone in feeling his heart lift with the total effect of it. Here, after all, thousands of people were met in a common pride of England and her history. Distort it as the performers might, and vain, inadequate, as might be the words they declaimed, an idea lay behind it all. These thousands of people were met for a purpose in itself ennobling because unselfish. As often happens on such occasions, the rite took possession of them, seizing on them, surprising them with a sudden glow about the heart, sudden tears in the eyes. This was history of a sort. Towards the close, when the elm shadows began to stretch across the green stage, even careless spectators began to catch this infection of nobility—this feeling that we are indeed greater than we know. In the last act all the characters— from early Briton to Georgian dame—trooped together into the arena. In groups marshalled at haphazard they chanted with full hearts the final hymn, and the audience unbidden joined in chorus :--

.0 God! our help in ages pest, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast And our eternal home !'

"'Where is the child ?' asked Brother Copas, glancing through the throng. He found her in the thick of the press, unable to see anything for the crowd about her, and led her off to a corner where, by the southern end of the Grand Stand, some twenty Brethren of St. Hospital stood shouting in company "-

'A thousand evenings in Thy sight Are like an evening gone,

Short as the watch that ends the night Before the rising sun.'

"'She can't see. Lift her higher !' sang out a voice—Brother Boyle's. By happy chance at the edge of the group stood tall good-natured Alderman Chope, who had impersonated Alfred the Great. The Brethren begged his shield from him and mounted Corona upon it, all holding it by its rim while they chanted"— . The busy tribes of flesh and blood, With all their hopes and fears, Are carried downward by the flood And lost in following years.

'Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away ;

They fly forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.

• 0 God! our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come ; Be Thou our guard while troubles last

And our perpetual home I' "Corona lifted her voice and sang with the old men ; while among the excited groups the swallows skimmed boldly over the meadow, as they had skimmed every summer's evening since English history began."

Much may be forgiven to a writer who, besides his other good gifts, restores the beautiful verse omitted from the orthodox version of Watts's great hymn, and there is very little to forgive in Brother Copas.