‘What do you mean?’ was the surly demand of the Rector.

‘I mean have you still faith in that Baal of a Lord Wellington?’

‘And what do you mean now?’

‘Do you still believe that this wooden-faced and pebble-hearted idol of England has power to send fire down from heaven to consume the French holocaust you want to offer up?’

‘I believe Wellington will flog Bonaparte’s marshals into the sea the day it pleases him to lift his arm.’

‘But, my dear sir, you can’t be serious in what you say. Bonaparte’s marshals are great men, who act under the guidance of an omnipotent master-spirit; your Wellington is the most humdrum of commonplace martinets, whose slow mechanical movements are further cramped by an ignorant home Government.’

‘Wellington is the soul of England. Wellington is the right champion of a good cause; the fit representative of a powerful, a resolute, a sensible, and an honest nation.’

‘Your good cause, as far as I understand it, is simply the restoration of that filthy, feeble Ferdinand to a throne which he disgraced; your fit representative of an honest people is a dull-witted drover, acting for a duller-witted farmer; and against these are arrayed victorious supremacy and invincible genius.’

‘Against legitimacy is arrayed usurpation; against modest, single-minded, righteous, and brave resistance to encroachment, is arrayed boastful, double-tongued, selfish, and treacherous ambition to possess. God defend the right!’

‘God often defends the powerful.’

‘What! I suppose the handful of Israelites standing dryshod on the Asiatic side of the Red Sea was more powerful than the host of the Egyptians drawn up on the African side? Were they more numerous? Were they better appointed? Were they more mighty, in a word—eh? Don’t speak, or you’ll tell a lie, Moore; you know you will. They were a poor overwrought band of bondsmen. Tyrants had oppressed them through four hundred years; a feeble mixture of women and children diluted their thin ranks; their masters, who roared to follow them through the divided flood, were a set of pampered Ethiops, about as strong and brutal as the lions of Libya. They were armed, horsed, and charioted; the poor Hebrew wanderers were afoot; few of them, it is likely, had better weapons than their shepherds’ crooks, or their masons’ building tools; their meek and mighty leader himself had only his rod. But bethink you, Robert Moore, right was with them; the God of battles was on their side. Crime and the lost archangel generalled the ranks of Pharaoh, and which triumphed? We know that well: “The Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore”; yea, “the depths covered them, they sank to the bottom as a stone.” The right hand of the Lord became glorious in power; the right hand of the Lord dashed in pieces the enemy!’

‘You are all right, only you forget the true parallel. France is Israel, and Napoleon is Moses. Europe, with her old, overgorged empires and rotten dynasties, is corrupt Egypt: gallant France is the Twelve Tribes, and her fresh and vigorous Usurper the Shepherd of Horeb.’

‘I scorn to answer you.’

Moore accordingly answered himself—at least, he subjoined to what he had just said an additional observation in a lower voice:

‘Oh! in Italy he was as great as any Moses. He was the right thing there—fit to head and organize measures for the regeneration of nations. It puzzles me to this day how the conqueror of Lodi should have condescended to become an emperor—a vulgar, a stupid humbug!—and still more how a people who had once called

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