their money, the extrication of their affairs from any serious mess these things they generally entrust to others of whose capacity they know little save from general report. they act therefore on the strength of faith, not of knowledge. So the English nation entrusts the welfare of its fleet and naval defences to a First Lord of the Admiralty, who, not being a sailor, can know nothing about these matters except by acts of faith. There can be no doubt about faith and not reason being the ultima ratio.

Even Euclid, who has laid himself as little open to the charge of credulity as any writer who ever lived, cannot get beyond this. He has no demonstrable first premise. He requires postulates and axioms which transcend demonstration, and without which he can do nothing. His superstructure indeed is demonstration, but his ground is faith. Nor again can he get further than telling a man he is a fool if he persists in differing from him. He says `which is absurd,' and declines to discuss the matter further. Faith and authority, therefore, prove to be as necessary for him as for anyone else. `By faith in what, then,' asked Ernest of himself, `shall a just man endeavour to live at this present time?' He answered to himself, `At any rate not by faith in the supernatural element of the Christian religion.'

And how should he best persuade his fellow-countrymen to leave off believing in this supernatural element? Looking at the matter from a practical point of view he thought the Archbishop of Canterbury afforded the most promising key to the situation. It lay between him and the Pope. The Pope was perhaps best in theory, but in practice the Archbishop of Canterbury would do sufficiently well. If he could only manage to sprinkle a pinch of salt, as it were, on the Archbishop's tail, he might convert the whole Church of England to free-thought, by a coup de main. There must be an amount of cogency which even an Archbishop - an Archbishop whose perceptions had never been quickened by imprisonment for assault - would not be able to withstand. When brought face to face with the facts, as he, Ernest, could arrange them, his Grace would have no resource but to admit them; being an honourable man he would at once resign his Archbishopric, and Christianity would become extinct in England within a few months' time. This, at any rate, was how things ought to be. But all the time Ernest had no confidence in the Archbishop's not hopping off just as the pinch was about to fall on him, and this seemed so unfair that his blood boiled at the thought of it. If this was to be so, he must try if he could not fix him by the judicious use of bird-lime or a snare, or throw the salt on his tail from an ambuscade.

To do him justice it was not himself that he greatly cared about. He knew he had been humbugged, and he knew also that the greater part of the ills which had afflicted him were due, indirectly, in chief measure to the influence of Christian teaching; still, if the mischief had ended with himself, he should have thought little about it, but there was his sister, and his brother Joey, and the hundreds and thousands of young people throughout England whose lives were being blighted through the lies told them by people whose business it was to know better, but who scamped their work and shirked difficulties instead of facing them. It was this which made him think it worth while to be angry, and to consider whether he could not at least do something towards saving others from such years of waste and misery as he had had to pass himself. If there was no truth in the miraculous accounts of Christ's Death and Resurrection, the whole of the religion founded upon the historic truth of those events tumbled to the ground. `Why,' he exclaimed, with all the arrogance of youth, `they put a gipsy or fortune-teller into prison for getting money out of silly people who think they have supernatural power; why should they not put a clergyman in prison for pretending that he can absolve sins, or turn bread and wine into the flesh and blood of one who died two thousand years ago? What,' he asked himself, `could be more pure "hanky-panky" than that a bishop should lay his hands upon a young man and pretend to convey to him the spiritual power to work this miracle? It was all very well to talk about toleration; toleration, like everything else, had its limits; besides, if it was to include the bishop, let it include the fortune-teller too.' He would explain all this to the Archbishop of Canterbury by and by, but as he could not get hold of him just now, it occured to him that he might experimentalize advantageously upon the viler soul of the prison chaplain. It was only those who took the first and most obvious step in their power who ever did great things in the end; so one day, when Mr Hughes - for this was the chaplain's name - was talking with him, Ernest introduced the question of Christian evidences, and tried to raise a discussion upon them. Mr Hughes had been very kind to him, but he was more than twice my hero's age, and had long taken the measure of such objections as Ernest tried to put before him. I do not suppose he believed in the actual objective truth of the stories

  By PanEris using Melati.

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