« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
THE OPEN QUESTION
It is not always easy to trace the origin of an American family, even when the immediate progenitor did not begin life as a bootblack or a prospector, without so much as a 'grub stake.' The Ganos had been people of some education and some meansclergymen, merchants going to and from the West Indies, or home-keeping planters in the South—for the little space of a hundred years before the Civil War. Farther back than that, darkness.
Whether the name was of Huguenot, Flemish, Italian, or other origin, the Ganos themselves, like thousands of families of consequence in America, never pretended to know. Only one of the race ever evinced the least disposition to care.
In the family mind, to be born a Gano was of itself so shining an achievement as almost to constitute an unfair advantage over the rest of mankind. The name (which was rigidly accented on the final syllable) was held to confer a distinction peculiar and sufficient, difficult as it may be for the inhabitants of a larger world to realize on what the illusion lived. The Ganos had never been enormously rich; they had never done anything of national or even of municipal importance, unless founding a religious paper and endowing a theological seminary to spread a faith which they themselves speedily abandoned-unless these modest achievements inight be construed as taking some sort of interest in public concerns. They held themselves aloof from politics, and religiouslyminded their own affairs. The oddest thing, perhaps, about their naïve veneration for the house of Gano was that so many of their neighbours shared it. Generation after generation, it imposed itself upon the community they lived in. To be able to say of a
vexed question, 'Gano agrees with me,' was to turn the scale at once in the speaker's favour. A stranger would be told, Smith married a Gano, you see,' as though that single phrase established Smith's claims on your consideration.
The usual American fashion of that time of giving double or treble names was not followed in the christening of the daughters of Gano, so that after marriage each girl might retain her patronymic, writing it after her Christian name and before her husband's. The eldest son of every daughter was called Gano, and Gano was given to each succeeding child for a middle name. This had been going on for some time, and yet neither Maryland nor any more favoured spot was populous with Ganos. They had not been a prolific race, and but a single mésalliance was set down to their discredit. A Gano had once married a New England schoolmistress with a turn for preaching. This unpopular lady's offspring, John Gano—the only son of an only son-died eleven years before the Civil War, leaving a widow, two sons, and a daughter. These three survivors in the direct line of male descent, Ethan, John, and Valeria, were unmistakably delicate children. The neighbours had doubts if their mother would rear them.
The widow, one of the Calverts of Baltimore,' held to be a very retiring and religious person, soon discovered a force of character and an energy not too common amongst women of her class in the slave-holding South. She managed her husband's estate and the education of her children with ability and judgment, albeit arbitrarily enough, save in matters of religion.
Was it a breath wasted across the years of that old passion for religious liberty that had carried her ancestors over perilous seas —an echo of the Eve of St. Bartholomew, or of some Lollard wrong—that made so strangely tolerant this autocratic woman, turned Baptist in her strenuous youth, inclining now, through throes of spirit incommunicable, to the Episcopacy her dead husband had abandoned ?
The element of the grotesque in this battering in succession at the different doors of heaven is more apparent to those never storm-tossed souls that venture not from the haven, so content with being spiritually becalmed that striving after truth and faring far in pursuit of it seem childish and ignoble. Such people smile at Newman, and think themselves magnanimous if they accept his ' Apology.' Mrs. Gano had gone unflinchingly through those seasons of spiritual stress, common enough among the thoughtful of that time, and so difficult for some of us to-day even to imagine. In spite of her strong self-control and her great practical common-sense, her passionately religious nature had hurried her headlong through one doctrinal crisis after another. Her youth and early maturity had been one wide spiritual battlefield. Not that a moment of unbelief in revealed religion ever troubled her, but questions of the true interpretation, questions of dogma and of form, that might as well have been questions of life and death. And all the while, up and down the highway of her youth raged the ancient dragons, renamed Election and Reprobation.
Whether as a result of enlightenment, brought her by her own honest seeking, or a tradition in the blood, compelling her to give as well as to demand perfect liberty of conscience in the affairs of faith, this imperious mother let her tyrannously-tended young brood warder whither they would along the byways of religious experience. To look back a moment upon the infantine struggles of these young crusaders in the Holy War is to realize afresh how far the race has travelled since that day. These mere children, with their fear of hell and of damnation, their 'changes of heart, conversions, and pathetic joy at being saved,' had for their vividest remembrance of their father the abiding vision of his kneeling down with them in the great dim parlour at Ashlands, praying, with hands uplisted and with tears, that these ‘little ones' might not be lost for ever.
No one ever knew how much hold these religious ecstasies had taken upon Ethan. But John was violently wrought upon; and most impressed of all was the small but preternaturally precocious Valeria. At a time when she should have been romping in the open air, or reading fairy-tales in a corner, she was living through days of agonized doubt on the subject of her soul's salvation, and crying softly in the night to think of that outer darkness into which unbelievers were certain to be cast—a darkness lit only by lurid flames from the lake that burneth for ever and ever.'
Little John had gone through a varied, and on the whole triumphant, spiritual experience by the time he was ten. At that ripe age he was baptized by immersion on public confession of faith. His mother, having now maturer views on the subject, was not among the group at the riverside; but she made no effort to divert the boy's enthusiasm from a form of belief that for her was losing its significance. She would sit on the long white veranda in those first months of her widowhood, re-reading D'Aubigné and Bishop Spaulding's ' History of the Reformation, sandwiching Wesley with patristic writings, balancing Arian against Socinian, and drawing conclusions of her own, while her
eldest boy was writing hymns to Apollo instead of construing his Cæsar, and John, the centre of an admiring crowd down by the river, was being dipped instead of being sprinkled, which it presently appeared was the only true and orthodox way.
If some of the Ganos had of late been mightily earnest in their religious experiences, they had long been musical' in a pottering kind of way. They would have assured you more than half seriously that music was a 'pottering' pursuit—a pastime for boating parties on the Potomac, or rainy evenings at home, not for a moment to be regarded as a profession, except for longhaired foreigners. Mrs. John, or, as she now called herself,
Mrs. Sarah C. Gano,' accepted this point of view cheerfully enough, as she had not a note of music in her. Her children's passion for singing and playing came early under the head of noise,' and under the ban of her displeasure.
Therefore, when it was discovered that the eldest boy had done badly in his third year at Dr. Baylis's Academy for Young Gentlemen, and that Dr. Baylis accounted for his pet pupil's falling off by saying the boy played the piano, and even wrote music, when he should have been doing mathematics, great was the mother's disappointment in her son, and renewed objection to the Art Divine. Ethan came home for his holidays in disgrace. It was significant of the mastery Mrs. Gano had obtained over her not unspirited children, that, without being formally forbidden to play at home, Ethan never dared touch the piano the whole vacation through. It was this privation, he used to say later on, that drove him into the Church. He had got beyond the banjo and singing with the blacks down in the negro quarter. He longed for the coming of that day in the week when he might hear the sound of the organ, and even such a choir as they had at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Catawbaville, where, the Baptist phase having been painfully passed, the entire family now went to church twice every Sunday, rain or shine. Ethan made friends with the Rector, and whether out of gratitude for the Rev. Mr Searle's permission to practise in the church, or from the reflection that Holy Orders presented a means of combining a livelihood with an organ, the upshot was that Ethan presently became a student of Divinity.
At the beginning of his last year at the Theological School at Baltimore, he fell in love with a pretty Boston girl who had come South on a visit to a school friend. For the first time in his life flatly disobeying his mother's wishes, he married the little lady forthwith. Under conditions of great privation, they took up life in Baltimore till Ethan should be ordained. Eight months after