Phyllis of Philistia
Frank Frankfort Moore
Part 1 out of 5
PHYLLIS OF PHILISTIA
By Frank Frankfort Moore
AN ASTRONOMER WITHOUT A TELESCOPE.
"After all," said Mr. Ayrton, "what is marriage?"
"Ah!" sighed Phyllis. She knew that her father had become possessed of
a phrase, and that he was anxious to flutter it before her to see how
it went. He was a connoisseur in the bric-a-brac of phrases.
"Marriage means all your eggs in one basket," said he.
"Ah!" sighed Phyllis once more. She wondered if her father really
thought that she would be comforted in her great grief by a phrase.
She did not want to know how marriage might be defined. She knew that
all definitions are indefinite. She knew that in the case of marriage
everything depends upon the definer and the occasion.
"So you see there is no immediate cause to grieve, my dear," resumed
She did not quite see that this was the logical conclusion of the
whole matter; but that was possibly because she was born a woman, and
felt that marriage is to a woman what a keel is to a ship.
"I think there is a very good cause to grieve when we find a man like
George Holland turning deliberately round from truth to falsehood,"
said Phyllis sternly.
"And what's worse, running a very good chance of losing his living,"
remarked the father. "Of course it will have to be proved that Moses
and Abraham and David and the rest of them were not what he says they
were; and it strikes me that all the bench of bishops, and a royal
commissioner or two thrown in, would have considerable difficulty in
doing that nowadays."
"What! You take his part, papa?" she cried, starting up. "You take his
part? You think I was wrong to tell him--what I did tell him?"
"I don't take his part, my dear," said Mr. Ayrton. "I think that he's
a bit of a fool to run his head into a hornet's nest because he has
come to the conclusion that Abraham's code of morality was a trifle
shaky, and that Samson was a shameless libertine. Great Heavens! has
the man got no notion of the perspective of history?"
"Perspective? History? It's the Bible, papa!"
Indignation was in Phyllis' eyes, but there was a reverential tone in
her voice. Her father looked at her--listened to her. In the pause he
"Good Heavens! What sort of a man is George Holland, who is ready to
relinquish the love and loveliness of that girl, simply because he
thinks poorly of the patriarchs?"
"He attacks the Bible, papa," resumed Phyllis gravely. "What horrible
things he said about Ruth!"
"Ah, yes, Ruth--the heroine of the harvest festival," said her father.
"Ah, he might have left us our Ruth. Besides, she was a woman. Heavens
above! is there no chivalry remaining among men?"
"Ah, if it was only chivalry! But--the Bible!"
"Quite so--the--yes, to be sure. But don't you think you may take the
Bible too seriously, Phyllis?"
"Oh, papa! too seriously?"
"Why not? That's George Holland's mistake, I fear. Why should he work
himself to a fury over the peccadillos of the patriarchs? The
principle of the statute of limitations should be applied to such
cases. If the world, and the colleges of theology, have dealt lightly
with Samson and David and Abraham and Jacob and the rest of them for
some thousands of years, why should George Holland rake up things
against them, and that, too, on very doubtful evidence? But I should
be the last person in the world to complain of the course which he has
seen fit to adopt, since it has left you with me a little longer, my
dearest child. I did not, of course, oppose your engagement, but I
have often asked myself what I should do without you? How should I
ever work up my facts, or, what is more important, my quotations, in
your absence, Phyllis? On some questions, my dear, you are a veritable
Blue-book--yes, an /edition de luxe/ of a Blue-book."
"And I meant to be so useful to him as well," said Phyllis, taking her
father's praises more demurely than she had taken his phrases. "I
meant to help him in his work."
"Ah, what a fool the man is! How could any man in his senses give up a
thing of flesh and blood like you, for the sake of proving or trying
to prove, that some people who lived five or six thousand years ago--
if they ever lived at all--would have rendered themselves liable to
imprisonment, without the option of a fine, if they lived in England
since the passing of certain laws--recent laws, too, we must
"Anyhow, you have done with him, my dear. A man who can't see that
crime is really a question of temperament, and sin invariably a
question of geography--well, we'll say no more about it. At what hour
did you say he was coming?"
"Four. I don't think I shall break down."
"Break down? Why on earth should you break down? You have a mind to
know, and you know your own mind. That's everything. But of course
you've had no experience of matters of this sort. He was your first
Phyllis' face became crimson. She retained sufficient presence of
mind, however, to make a little fuss with the window-blind before
letting it down. Her father stared at her for a moment, and there was
rather a long pause before he laughed.
"I said 'real lover,' my dear," he remarked. "The real lover is the
one who talks definitely about dates and the house agent's commission.
As a rule the real lover does not make love. True love is born, not
made. But you--Heavens above! perhaps I did an injustice to you--to
you and to the men. Maybe you're not such a tyro after all, Phyllis."
Phyllis gave a very pretty little laugh--such a laugh as would have
convinced any man but a father--perhaps, indeed, some fathers--that
she was not without experience. Suddenly she became grave. Her father
never loved her so dearly as when that little laugh was flying over
her face, leaving its living footprints at the corners of her eyes, at
the exquisite curve of her mouth. It relieved her from the suspicion
of priggishness to which, now and again, her grave moods and
appropriate words laid her open. She was not so proper, after all, her
father now felt; she was a girl with the experiences of a girl who has
tempted men and seen what came of it.
"It is a very serious thing, giving a man your promise and then----"
"Then finding that your duty to him--to him, mind--forces you to tell
him that you cannot carry out that promise," said her father. "Yes, it
is a very serious thing, but not so serious as carrying out that
promise would be if you had even the least little feeling that at the
end of three months he was not a better man than you suspected he was
at the beginning. There's a bright side to everything, even a
honeymoon; but the reason that a honeymoon is so frequently a failure
is because the man is bound to be found out by his wife inside the
month. It is better that you found out now, than later on, that you
could not possibly be happy with a man who spoke slightingly of the
patriarchs and their wives. Now I'll leave you, with confidence that
you will be able to explain matters to Mr. Holland."
"What! you won't be here?"
Dismay was in the girl's face as she spoke. She had clearly looked for
the moral support of her father's presence while she would be making
her explanation to the man whom she had, a few months before, promised
to marry, but whom she had found it necessary to dismiss by letter,
owing to her want of sympathy in some of his recent utterances.
"You won't be here?"
"No; I have unfortunately an engagement just at that hour, Phyllis,"
replied Mr. Ayrton. "But do you really think there is any need for me
to be here? Personally, I fancy that my presence would only tend to
complicate matters. Your own feeling, your own woman's instinct, will
enable you to explain--well, all that needs explanation. I have more
confidence in your capacity to explain since you gave that pretty
little laugh just now. Experience--ah, the experience of a girl such
as you are, suggests an astronomer without a telescope. Still, there
were astronomers before there were telescopes; and so I leave you, my
beloved child--ah, my own child once again! No cold hand of a lover is
now between us."
It was not until he was some distance down Piccadilly that it occurred
to him that he should have pictured the lover with a warm hand; and
that omission on his part caused him a greater amount of irritation
than anyone who was unaware of his skill in phrase-making could have
thought possible to arise from a lapse apparently so trifling.
It was not until he had reached the Acropolis and had referred, in the
hearing of the most eminently dull of the many distinguished members
of that club, to the possibility of a girl's experiences of man being
likened to an astronomer without a telescope, that he felt himself
The dull distinguished man had smiled.
HE KNEW THAT IT WAS A TROUBLESOME PROCESS, BECOMING A GOOD
CLERGYMAN, SO HE DETERMINED TO BECOME A GOOD PREACHER INSTEAD.
Phyllis sat alone in one of the drawing rooms, waiting until the hour
of four should arrive and bring into her presence the Rev. George
Holland, to plead his cause to her--to plead to be returned to her
favor. He had written to her to say that he would make such an
She had looked on him with favor for several months--with especial
favor for three months, for three months had just passed since she had
promised to marry him, believing that to be the wife of a clergyman
who, though still young, had two curates to do the rough work for him
--clerical charwomen, so to speak--would make her the happiest of
womankind. Mr. Holland was rector of St. Chad's, Battenberg Square,
and he was thought very highly of even by his own curates, who intoned
all the commonplace, everyday prayers in the liturgy for him, leaving
him to do all the high-class ones, and to repeat the Commandments. (A
rector cannot be expected to do journeyman's work, as it were; and it
is understood that a bishop will only be asked to intone three short
prayers, those from behind a barrier, too; an archbishop refuses to do
more than pronounce the benediction.)
The Rev. George Holland was a good-looking man of perhaps a year or
two over thirty. He did not come of a very good family--a fact which
probably accounted for his cleverness at Oxford and in the world. He
was a Fellow of his college, though he had not been appointed rector
of St. Chad's for this reason. The appointment, as is well known (in
the Church, at any rate), is the gift of the Earl of Earlscourt, and
it so happened that, when at college together, George Holland had
saved the young man who a year or two afterward became Earl of
Earlscourt from a very great misfortune. The facts of the case were
these: Tommy Trebovoir, as he was then, had made up his mind to marry
a lady whose piquant style of beauty made the tobacconist's shop where
she served the most popular in town. By the exercise of a great deal
of diplomacy and the expenditure of a little money, Mr. Holland
brought about a match between her and quite another man--a man who was
not even on a subsidiary path to a peerage, and whose only connection
with the university was due to his hiring out horses to those whom he
called the "young gents." Tommy was so indignant with his friend for
the part he had played in this transaction he ceased to speak to him,
and went the length of openly insulting him. Six years afterward, when
he had become Earl of Earlscourt, and had espoused the daughter of a
duke,--a lady who was greatly interested in the advance of temperance,
--he had presented George Holland with the living at St. Chad's.
People then said that Lord Earlscourt was a lesser fool than some of
his acts suggested. Others said that the Rev. George Holland had never
been a fool, though he had been a Fellow of his college.
They were right. George Holland knew that it was a troublesome process
becoming a good clergyman, so he determined to become a good preacher
instead. In the course of a year he had become probably the best-known
preacher (legitimate, not Dissenting) in London, and that, too,
without annoying the church-wardens of St. Chad's by drawing crowds of
undesirable listeners to crush their way into the proprietary
sittings, and to join in the singing and responses, and to do other
undesirable acts. No, he only drew to the church the friends of the
said holders, whose contributions to the offertory were exemplary.
His popularity within a certain circle was great; but, as Lord
Earlscourt was heard to say, "He never played to the pit."
He was invited to speak to a resolution at a Mansion House meeting to
express indignation at the maintenance of the opium traffic in China.
He was also invited by the Countess of Earlscourt to appear on the
platform to meet the deputation of Chinese who represented the city
meeting held at Pekin in favor of local option in England; for the
great national voice of China had pronounced in favor of local option
Shortly afterward he met Phyllis Ayrton, and had asked her to marry
him, and she had consented.
And now Phyllis was awaiting his coming to her, in order that he might
learn from her own lips what he had already learned from the letter
which he had received from her the day before; namely, that she found
it necessary for her own peace of mind to break off her engagement
Phyllis Ayrton had felt for some months that it would be a great
privilege for any woman to become the wife of a clergyman. Like many
other girls who have a good deal of time for thought,--thought about
themselves, their surroundings, and the world in general,--she had
certain yearnings after a career. But she had lived all her life in
Philistia, and considered it to be very well adapted as a place of
abode for a proper-minded young woman; in fact, she could not imagine
any proper-minded young woman living under any other form of
government than that which found acceptance in Philistia. She had no
yearning to startle her neighbors. With a large number of young women,
the idea that startling one's neighbors is a career by itself seems to
prevail just at present; but Phyllis had no taste in this direction.
Writing a book and riding a bicycle were alike outside her
calculations of a scheme of life. Hospital nursing was nothing that
she would shrink from; at the same time, it did not attract her; she
felt that she could dress quite as becomingly as a hospital nurse in
She wondered, if it should come to the knowledge of the heads of the
government of Philistia that she had a yearning to become the wife of
a clergyman, would they regard her as worthy to be conducted across
the frontier, and doomed to perpetual expatriation. When she began to
think out this point, she could not but feel that if she were
deserving of punishment,--she looked on expulsion from Philistia as
the severest punishment that could be dealt out to her, for she was
extremely patriotic,--there were a good many other young women, and
women who were no longer young, who were equally culpable. She had
watched the faces of quite a number of the women who crowded St.
Chad's at every service, and she had long ago come to the conclusion
that the desire to become the wife of a clergyman was an aspiration
which was universally distributed among the unmarried women of the
She knew so much, but she was not clever enough to know that it was
her observance of this fact that confirmed her in her belief that it
would be a blessed privilege for such a woman as she to become the
wife of such a clergyman as George Holland. She was not wise enough to
be able to perceive that a woman marries a man not so much because she
things highly of marriage--although she does think highly of it; not
so much because she thinks highly of the man--though she may think
highly of him, but simply because she sees that other women want to
In three months she considered herself blessed among women. She was
the one chosen out of all the flock. She did not look around her in
church in pride of conquest; but she looked demurely down to her
sacred books, feeling that all the other women were gazing at her in
envy; and she felt that there was no pride in the thought that the
humility of her attitude--downcast eyes, with long lashes shading half
her cheeks, meekly folded hands--was the right one to adopt under the
And then she saw several of the young women who had been wearing sober
shades of dresses for some years,--though in their hearts (and she
knew it) they were passionately attached to colors,--appearing like
poppies once more, and looking very much the better for the change,
too; and she felt that it was truly sad for young women to--well, to
show their hands, so to speak. They might have waited for some weeks
before returning to the colors of the secular.
She did not know that they felt that they had wasted too much time in
sober shades already. The days are precious in a world in which no
really trustworthy hair dye may be bought for money.
And then there came to her a month of coldly inquisitive doubt. (This
was when people had ceased to congratulate her and to talk, the nice
ones, of the great cleverness of George Holland; the nasty ones, of
the great pity that so delightful a man did not come of a better
Why should she begin to ask herself if she really loved George
Holland; if the feeling she had for him should be called by the name
of love, or by some other name that did not mean just the same thing?
Of course she had thought a good deal--though her father did not know
it--of love. She had seen upon other people the effect of the
possession of this gift of love, how it had caused them to forget pain
and poverty, and shame, and infamy, and God, and death, and hell. Ah!
that was love--that was love! and she had hoped that one day such a
gift of love would be given to her; for it was surely the thing that
was best worth having in the world! Once or twice she had fancied that
it was at the point of being given to her. There had been certain
thrilling passages between herself and two men,--an interval of a year
between each,--and there had also been a kiss in an alcove designed by
her dearest friend, Ella Linton, for the undoing of mankind, a place
of softened lights and shadowy palms. It was her recollection of these
incidents that had caused her to fumble with the blind cord when her
father had been suggesting to her the disadvantages of inexperience in
matters of the heart. But the incidents had led to nothing, except,
perhaps, a week or two of remorse. But she could not help feeling,
when that month of curious doubt was upon her, that the little thrill
which she had felt when one man had put his arm around her for an
instant, when another man--he was very young--had put his lips upon
her mouth--it was a straightforward kiss--suggested a nearer approach
to love than she had yet been conscious of in the presence of George
Holland. (He had never done more than kiss her hand. Is it on record
that any man did more when dressed with the severity of the cleric?)
This was a terrible impression for a young woman to retain before her
engagement to a man has passed into its third month. Then she began to
wonder if all her previous ideas--all her previous aspirations--were
mistaken. She began to wonder if this was the reality of love--this
conviction that there was nothing in the whole world that she would
welcome with more enthusiasm than an announcement on the part of her
father that he was going on a voyage to Australia, and that he meant
to take her with him.
Well, then she threw herself upon her bed and wept for an hour one
evening, and for two hours (at intervals) another evening; and then
looked up the old published speeches made by a certain cabinet
minister in his irresponsible days, on a question which he had
recently introduced. Her father was bitterly opposed to the most
recent views of the minister, and was particularly anxious to confront
him with his own phrases of thirty years back. She spent four hours
copying out the words which were now meant by Mr. Ayrton to confound
THE BISHOP KNEW SOMETHING OF MAN, AND HE KNEW SOMETHING OF THE
CHURCH; HE EVEN KNEW SOMETHING OF THE BIBLE.
Her father when he came in commended her diligence. He read over those
damning extracts, punctuating them with chuckles; he would make an
example of that minister who had found it convenient to adopt a course
diametrically opposed to the principle involved in his early speeches.
He chuckled, reading the extracts while he paced the room, drawing
upon his stock of telling phrases, which were calculated to turn the
derision of the whole House of Commons upon his opponent.
Thus, being very well satisfied with himself, he was satisfied with
her, and kissed her, with a sigh.
"What a treasure you are to me, dearest one!" he said. There was a
pause before he added, in a contemplative tone:
"I suppose a clergyman has no need ever to hunt up the past
deliverances of another clergyman in order to confound him out of his
own mouth. Ah, no; I should fancy not."
Regret was in his voice. He seemed to suggest to her that he believed
her powers would be wasted as the wife of a man who, of course, being
a clergyman, could have no enemies.
"Dearest papa!" she cried, throwing herself into his arms, and sobbing
on his shirt front, "dearest papa, I will not leave you. I don't want
to be anyone's wife. I want to be your daughter--only to be your
He comforted her with kisses and soothing smoothings of the hair. No,
no, he said; he would not be selfish. He would remember that a father
was the trustee of his child's happiness.
"But I know I can only be happy with you, my father!" she cried; but
it was of no avail. He, being a father and not a mother, was unable to
perceive what was in the girl's heart. He considered it quite natural
that she should be a trifle hysterical in anticipating her new life--
that strange untraveled country! Ah, is there anything more pathetic,
he thought, than a girl's anticipations of wifehood? But he would do
his duty, and he fancied that he was doing his duty when he put aside
her earnest, almost passionate protestations, and told her how happy
she would be with the man who was lucky enough to have won the pure
treasure of her love.
What could she do? The terrible doubts of that month of doubting
broadened into certainties. She knew that she did not love George
Holland; but she had not the courage to face Philistia as the girl who
did not know her own mind. Philistia was very solid on such points as
the sacredness of an engagement between a man and a woman. It was a
contract practically as abiding as marriage, in the eyes of Philistia;
and, indeed, Phyllis herself had held this belief, and had never
hesitated to express it. So nothing was left to her but to marry
George Holland. After all, he was a brilliant and distinguished man,
and had not a score of other girls wanted to marry him? Oh, she would
marry him and give up her life to the splendid duties which devolve
upon the wife of a clergyman.
But just as she had made up her mind to face her fate, Mr. Holland's
fate induced him to publish the book at which he had been working for
some time. It came out just when the girl was becoming resigned to her
future by his side, and it attracted even more attention than the
author had hoped it would achieve.
The book was titled "Revised Versions," and it was strikingly modern
in design and in tone. It purported to deal with several personages
and numerous episodes of the Old Testament, not from the standpoint of
the comparative philologist; not from the standpoint of the
comparative mythologist, but from the standpoint of the modern man of
common sense and average power of discrimination; and the result was
that the breath of a good many people, especially clergymen, was taken
from them, and that the Rev. George Holland became the best-known
clergyman in England.
He dealt with the patriarchs in succession, and they fared very badly
at his hands. He showed that Abraham had not one good act recorded to
his credit, and contrasted his duplicity with the magnanimity of the
ruler of Egypt whom he visited. He dwelt upon the Hagar episode,
showing that the adulterer was also a murderer by intention, and so
forth; while no words could be too strong to apply to Sara, his wife.
Isaac did not call for elaborate notice. He could not be accused of
any actual crime, but if he was a man of strong personality, he was
singularly unfortunate in having failed to impart to his wife any of
that integrity which he may have practiced through life. Her methods
of dealing with him after they had lived together for a good many
years were criminal, considering the largeness of the issue at stake
as the result of his blessing. As for Jacob, not a single praiseworthy
act of his long life was available to his biographer. His career was
that of the most sordid of hucksters. Of eleven of his sons nothing
good is told, but Joseph was undoubtedly an able and exemplary man;
the only thing to his discredit being his utter callousness regarding
the fate of his father, after he had attained to a high position in
The chapter on the patriarchs was followed by one that dealt with the
incidents of the Exodus. The writer said that he feared that even the
most indulgent critic must allow that the whole scheme of Moses was a
shocking one; but he was probably the greatest man that ever lived on
the face of the earth, if he was the leader and organizer of a band of
depredators who for bloodthirst and rapacity had no parallel in
history. How could it be expected that a kingdom founded upon the
massacre of men and cemented by the blood of women and children should
survive? It had survived only as example to the world of the
impossibility of a permanent success being founded upon the atrocious
methods pursued by the worst of the robber states of the East. While
civilization had been spreading on all sides of them, the people of
Israel had remained the worst of barbarians, murdering the men who had
from time to time arisen to try and rescue them from the abysses of
criminality into which they had fallen,--abysses of criminality and
superstition,--until they had filled their cup of crime by the murder
of the One whom the world worships to-day.
Incidentally, of course, the character of Samson was dealt with.
Delilah was shown to be one of the most heroic of womankind, making
greater sacrifices through her splendid patriotism than Joan of Arc.
Ruth was also dealt with incidentally. She was the woman who expresses
her willingness to give up her God at the bidding of another woman,
and who had entered into a plot with that same woman to entrap a man
whom they looked to support them.
Then there was David. It was not the Bath-sheba episode, but the
Abishag, that the author treated at length--one of the most revolting
transactions in history, especially as there is some reason to believe
that the unfortunate girl was, when it was perpetrated, already
attached to one of the sons of the loathsome, senile sensualist.
Perhaps, on the whole, it was not surprising that after the
publication of this book the Rev. George Holland became the best-known
clergyman in England, or that the breath of bishops should be taken
from them. So soon as some of them recovered from the first brunt of
the shock, they met together and held up their hands, saying that they
awaited the taking of immediate action by the prelate within whose see
St. Chad's was situated. But that particular prelate was a man who had
never been known to err on the side of rapidity of action. Nearly a
week had passed before he made any move in the matter, and then the
move he made was in the direction of the Engadine. He crossed the
Channel with the book under his arm. He determined to read it at his
leisure. Being a clergyman, he could not, of course, be expected to
have examined, from any standpoint but that of the clergyman, the
characters of the persons dealt with in the book, and he was naturally
shocked at the freedom shown by the rector of St. Chad's in
criticising men whose names have been held in the highest esteem for
some thousands of years. He at once perceived that the rector of St.
Chad's had been very narrow-minded in his views regarding the conduct
of the men whom he had attacked. It occurred to him, as it had to Mr.
Ayrton, that the writer had drawn his picture without any regard for
perspective. That was very foolish on the part of a man who was a
Fellow of his college, the bishop thought; and besides, there was no
need for the book--its tendency was not to help the weaker brethren.
But to assume that the book would, as some newspaper articles said it
would, furnish the most powerful argument that had yet been brought
forward in favor of the Disestablishment of Church, was, he thought,
to assume a great deal too much. The Church that had survived Wesley,
Whitefield, Colenso, Darwin, and Renan would not succumb to George
Holland. The bishop recollected how the Church had bitterly opposed
all the teaching of the men of wisdom whose names came back to him;
and how it had ended by making their teaching its own. Would anyone
venture to assert that the progress of Christianity was dependent upon
what people thought of the acceptance by David of the therapeutic
course prescribed for him? Was the morality which the Church preached
likely to be jeopardized because Ruth was a tricky young woman?
The bishop knew something of man, and he knew something of the Church,
he even knew something of the Bible; and when he came to the chapter
in "Revised Versions" that dealt with the episode of Ruth and Boaz, he
flung the book into a corner of his bedroom, exclaiming, "Puppy!"
And then there came before his eyes a vision of a field of yellow
corn, ripe for the harvest. The golden sunlight gleamed upon the
golden grain through which the half-naked brown-skinned men walked
with their sickles. The half-naked brown-skinned women followed the
binders, gleaning the ears, and among the women was the one who had
said, "Entreat me not to leave thee." He had read that old pastoral
when he was a child at the knee of his mother. It was surely the
loveliest pastoral of the East, and its charm would be in no wise
impaired because a man who failed to appreciate the beauty of its
simplicity, had almost called Ruth by the worst name that can be
applied to a woman.
The bishop did not mind what George Holland called Abraham, or Isaac,
or Jacob, or Samson, but Ruth--to say that Ruth----
The bishop said "Puppy!" once again. (He had trained himself only to
think the adjectives which laymen find appropriate to use in such a
case as was under his consideration.)
But he made up his mind to take no action whatever against the Rev.
George Holland on account of the book. If the Rev. George Holland
fancied that he was to be persecuted into popularity, the Rev. George
Holland was greatly mistaken, and the bishop had a shrewd idea that
the rector of St. Chad's was greatly mistaken.
(It may be mentioned that he came to this determination when he had
read the book through, and found it was so cleverly written that it
included no heretical phrase in all its pages.)
But so soon as Phyllis Ayrton had read the first review of the book
that fell into her hands, she felt inexpressibly shocked. Great
Heavens! Was it possible that she was actually at that moment engaged
to marry the man who had written such a book--a book that held up
Delilah to admiration, and that abased Ruth? (It was singular how
everyone settled upon Ruth in this connection.)
She did not pause to analyze her feelings--to try and find out if she
was really so fond of Ruth as to make Ruth's insult her own; but
without a moment's delay, without a word of consultation with her
father, she sat down at her desk and wrote a letter to George Holland,
asking him to release her from her promise to marry him; and adding
that if he should decline to do so it would make no difference to her;
she would consider the engagement between them at an end all the same.
She felt, when that letter was posted, as if a great weight were
lifted from her mind--from her heart. Then a copy of "Revised
Versions" arrived for her from the author, and with the ink still wet
upon the pen with which she had written that letter to him, she caught
up the book and covered it with kisses.
Had he seen that action her lover would have been thoroughly
satisfied. A young woman must be very deeply in love with a man when
she kisses the cover of a book which he has just published. That is
what George Holland would have thought, having but a superficial
acquaintance with the motives that sway young women.
Later in the day he had replied to her letter, and had appointed four
o'clock on the following afternoon as the hour when he trusted she
would find it convenient to see him, in order to give him an
opportunity of making an explanation which he trusted would enable her
to see that "Revised Versions," so far from being the dreadful book
she seemed to imagine it to be, was in reality written with a high
She had not shrunk from an interview with him. She had sent him a line
to let him know that she would be at home at four o'clock; and now she
sat in her drawing room and observed, without emotion, that in five
minutes that hour would strike.
The clock struck, and before the last tone had died away, the footman
announced the Rev. George Holland.
SHE HAD NO RIGHT TO ACCUSE HIM OF READING THE BIBLE DAILY.
Phyllis shook hands with her visitor. He sought to retain her hand, as
he had been in the habit of doing, as he stood beside her with
something of a proprietary air. He relinquished her hand with a little
look of surprise--a sort of pained surprise. She was inexorable. She
would not even allow him to maintain his proprietary air.
"Do sit down, Mr. Holland," she said.
"What! 'Mr. Holland' already? Oh, Phyllis!"
He had a good voice, full of expression--something beyond mere musical
expression. People (they were mostly women) said that his voice had
soul in it, whatever they meant by that.
She made no reply. What reply could she make? She only waited for him
to sit down.
"Your letter came as a great shock to me, Phyllis," said he, when he
had seated himself, not too close to her. He did not wish her to fancy
that he was desirous of having a subtle influence of propinquity as an
ally. "A great shock to me."
"A shock?" said she. "A shock, after you had written that book?"
"I fancied you would understand it, Phyllis--you, at least. Of course
I expected to be misrepresented by the world--the critics--the clerics
--what you will--but you---- You had not read it when you wrote that
letter to me--that terrible letter. You could not have read it."
"I had only read one notice of it--that was enough."
"And you could write that letter to me solely as the evidence of one
wretched print? Oh, Phyllis!"
Pain was in his voice. It may have been in his face as well, but she
did not see it; his face was averted from her.
"Yes," she said quietly; "I wrote that letter, Mr. Holland. You see,
the paper gave large extracts from the book. I did not come to my
conclusion from what the newspaper article said, but from what you had
said in your book--from the quoted passages."
"They did not do me justice. I did not look for justice at their
hands. But you, Phyllis----"
"I have read your book now, Mr. Holland----"
"Ah, let me plead with you, Phyllis--not 'Mr. Holland,' I entreat of
"And my first thought on reading it was that I had not written to you
so strongly as I should have done."
"My dear Phyllis, do not say that, I beg of you. You cannot know how
you pain me."
"To be misunderstood by you--/you/."
She got upon her feet so quickly that it might almost be said she
"/You/ must have misunderstood /me/ greatly, Mr. Holland, if you
fancied that you could write such a book as you wrote and not get such
a letter from me. The Bible--Ruth--and you a clergyman--reading it
daily in the church---- Oh! I cannot tell you all that I thought--all
that I still think."
He did not correct the mistake she had made. She had no right to
accuse him of reading the Bible daily in his church. He was not in the
habit of doing that--it was his curates who did it. He watched her as
she stood at a window with her back turned to him. Her hands were
behind her. Her breath came audibly, for she had spoken excitedly.
Then he also rose and came beside her.
"I wrote that book, as I believed you would perceive when you had read
it, in order to remove from the minds of the people--those people who
have not given the matter a thought--the impression--I know it
prevails--that our faith--the truth of our religion--is dependent upon
the acceptance as good of such persons as our very religion itself
enables us to pronounce evil. My aim was to show that our faith is not
built upon such a foundation of impurity--of imperfection. The spirit
which prevails nowadays--the modern spirit--it is the result of the
development of science. This scientific spirit necessitates the
consideration of all the elements of our faith from the standpoint of
"If the Church is to appeal to all men, its method must be scientific.
It is sad to think of all that the Church has lost in the past through
the want of wisdom of those who had its best interests at heart, and
believed they were doing it good service by opposing scientific
research. They fancied that the faith would not survive the light of
truth. They professed to believe that the faith was strong enough to
work miracles--to change the heart of man, and yet that it would be
jeopardized by the calculations of astronomers. The astronomers were
prohibited from calculating; the geologists were forbidden to unearth
the mysteries of their science, lest the discovery of the truth should
be detrimental to the faith. They believed that the truth was opposed
to the faith. Warning after warning the Church received that the two
were one; that man would only accept the truth, whether it came from
the lips of the churchman or from the investigations of science.
Grudgingly the Church became tolerant of the seekers after truth--men
who were not greatly concerned in the preservation of the mummy dust
of dogma. But how many thousand persons are there not, to-day, who
think that the Church is on one side, and the truth on the other? The
intolerant attitude of the Church, still maintained in these days,
when the spirit of science pervades every form of thought, has been
productive of probably the largest body that ever existed in the
country, of sensible men and women, who never enter a church door.
They want to know whatsoever things are true; they do not want to be
dredged with the mummy dust of dogma."
"But the Bible--the Bible!"
"It is necessary for me to tell you all that I feel on this subject;
all that I have felt for several years past--ever since I left the
divinity school behind me, and went into the world of thinking men and
women. It is necessary to tell these men and women in unmistakable
language that our faith aims at a perfect type of manhood--at the
perfection of truth. It is necessary to tell them that we do not
regard, except with abhorrence, such types of men as have for
centuries been held up to admiration simply because they have for
centuries been the objects of admiration, of imitation, of veneration,
on the part of the debased people who gave us the earlier books of the
Bible. The memory of Jacob became the dominant influence among the
Hebrew nation; hence the continuous curse that rested upon them, the
curse that rests upon the cheat, the defrauder of his own household,
his brother, his father, his uncle. It is necessary to say that the
world should know that our religion is founded upon truth, purity,
self-sacrifice--that it abhors the cheat and the sensualist. It is
necessary to proclaim to the world our abhorrence of the cult whose
highest development was the Pharisee. The aim of the religion of
Christ is to produce the perfect man, and to root out the Pharisee.
When the Church ceases to connive at falsehood and sensualism; when it
openly professes its abhorrence of the religion of the Hebrews; then,
and then only, will it become the power in the earth which the
exponent of Christianity should become. Humanity had been crying out
for the religion of humanity, that is, Christianity, for centuries,
but the Church tells it that true religion is an amalgamation of the
loveliness of Christianity and the barbarity of Judaism--an impossible
amalgamation, and one which millions of poor souls have perished in a
vain attempt to accomplish. Humanity wants Christ, and Christ only,
and that the Church has hitherto refused to give; hence the millions
of thinking men and women, believers in the religion of Christ, who
remain forever outside the walls of the Church; hence, also, that
terrible record of murder and massacre, perpetrated through long ages
with the sanction of the Church. Where, in the religion of Christ, can
one find the sanction for massacre? It is nowhere to be found except
in the Psalms of the senile sensualist--in the commands of Moses, the
leader of the marauders of the desert. Christ swept away the
barbarities of the teaching of Moses. He perceived how miserably it
had failed; how it had retarded all that was good in man, and
sanctioned all that was evil. He perceived how it had kept the nation
in a condition of barbarity; how it had made it the prey of the
civilized nations around it; how it had made the Hebrew nations the
contempt of civilization; and yet the Church that calls itself the
Church of Christ has not yet had the courage to offer humanity
anything but that impossible task--the amalgamation of the law that
came by Moses and the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ."
He spoke with all the fervor of the preacher, with pale face,
brilliant eyes, and clenched hands; but in a voice adapted to a
drawing room. Phyllis of Philistia could not but admit that, in the
phrase of Philistia he had spoken in perfect taste. He had not alluded
definitely to the boldness of Ruth or to the calorific course accepted
by the aged David. He had spoken in those general terms which are
adopted by the clergymen who never err against good taste as defined
by the matrons of Philistia.
She did not know whether she admired him or detested him. But she was
certain that she did not love him. He might be right in all that he
had said, but she had freed herself from him. He might be destined to
become one of the most prominent men of the last ten years of the
century, but she would never marry him.
She stood face to face with him when he had spoken.
There was a long silence.
A gleam, a very faint gleam of triumph came to his eyes.
"Good-bye," said she, flashing out her hand to him, and with her eyes
still fixed upon his face.
IN LOVE THERE ARE NO GOOD-BYES.
He was so startled that he took a step backward. She remained with her
Was that only the result of the eloquent expression of his views--that
outstretched hand which was offered to him for an instant only as a
symbol of its withdrawal from him forever?
"You cannot mean----"
"Good-by," said she.
"Have I not explained all that seemed to you to stand in need of
explanation?" he asked.
"The book--the book remains. I asked for no explanation," said she.
"But you are too good, too reasonable, to dismiss me in this fashion,
Phyllis. Why, even the bishop--/would sit upon a fence to see how the
book would be received by the public before taking action against the
author/," was what was in his mind, but he stopped short, and then
added a phrase that had no reference to the bishop. "Can you ever have
loved me?" was the phrase which he thought should appeal to her more
forcibly than any reference to the bishop's sense of what was
She took back her hand, and her eyes fell at the same moment that her
He felt that he had not been astray in his estimate of the
controversial value--in the eyes of a girl, of course--of the appeal
which he made to her. A girl understands nothing of the soundness of
an argument on a Biblical question (or any other), he thought; but she
understands an appeal made to her by a man whom she had loved, and
whom she therefore loves still, though something may have occurred to
make her think otherwise.
"Can you ever have loved me?" he said again, and his voice was now
There was a pause before she said:
"That is the question which I have been asking myself for some time--
ever since I read about that book. Oh, please, Mr. Holland, do not
stay any longer! Cannot you see that if, after you have made an
explanation that should satisfy any reasonable person, I still remain
in my original way of thinking, I am not the woman who should be your
"You would see with my eyes if you were my wife," he said, and he
believed that she would, so large an amount of confidence had he in
his own power to dominate a woman.
"Ah!" she said, "you have provided me with the strongest reason why I
should never become your wife, Mr. Holland."
"Do not say that, Phyllis!" he cried, in a low voice, almost a piteous
voice. "I must have you with me in this great work which I feel has
been given me to accomplish. I am prepared to make any sacrifice for
the cause which I have at heart--the cause to which I mean to devote
the rest of my life; but you--you--I must have you with me, Phyllis.
Don't give me an answer now. All I ask of you is to think over the
whole matter from the standpoint of one who loves the truth, and who
does not fear the result of those who are investigators. A few years
ago the geologists were regarded as the enemies of the faith. Later
the evolutionists were looked on with abhorrence. Had any clergyman
ventured to assent to that doctrine which we now know to be the
everlasting truth of the scheme of earthly life propounded by the
Creator, he would have been compelled to leave the Church. I do not
know what will happen to me, my Phyllis. No, no! do not say anything
to me now. All that I ask of you is to think--think--think."
"That is it--that is your modern scientific spirit!" she cried. "You,
and such as you, say 'think--think--think' to us--to poor women and
men who are asking for comfort, for protection against the evil of the
world. You say 'think--think--think,' when you should say pray--pray--
pray.' Where are you going to end? you have begun by taking from us
our Bible. What do you propose to give us in exchange for it? No--no,
don't answer me. I did not mean to enter into the question with you--
to enter into any question with you. I have no right to do so."
"You have every right, Phyllis. If I should cause offence to the least
of the little ones of the flock with which I have been intrusted, it
would be better that a millstone were hanged round my neck and that I
were cast into the sea. You have a right to ask and it is laid on me
"Then I decline to avail myself of the privilege; I will ask you
nothing, except to say good-by."
"I will not say it, Phyllis, and I will not hear you say it. Three
months ago you told me that you loved me."
"And I fancied that I did, but now----"
"Ah! you think that you have the power to cease loving at a moment's
notice? You will find out your mistake, my child. In love there are no
good-bys. I take your hand now, but not to say good-by; I feel that
you are still mine--that you will be mine more than ever when you
"Ah! You ask me to pray?"
"Pray--pray for me, child. I need the prayers of such as you, for I
feel that my hour of deepest trial is drawing nigh. Do you fancy that
I am the man to take back anything that I have written? Look at me,
Phyllis; I tell you here that I will stand by everything that I have
written. Whatever comes of it, the book remains. Even if I lose all
that I have worked for,--even if I lose you,--I will still say 'the
book remains.' I am ready to suffer for it. I say in all humility that
I believe God will give me grace to die for it."
She had given him her hand. He was still holding it when he spoke his
final sentence, looking, not into her face, but into a space beyond
it. His eyes more than suggested the eyes of a martyr waiting
undaunted for the lighting of the fagots. Suddenly he dropped her
hand. He looked for a moment into her face. He saw that the tears were
upon it. He turned and walked out of the room without a word.
No word came from her.
He knew that he had left her at exactly the right moment. She was
undoubtedly annoyed by the publication of the book; but that was
because she had read some reviews of it, and was, girl-like, under the
impression that the murmur of the reviewers was the mighty voice that
echoes round the world. He felt that she would think differently when
his real persecution began. He looked forward with great hope to the
result of his real persecution. She would never hold out against that.
If the bishop would only take action at once and attempt to deprive
him of his pastorate, there was nothing that he might not look for.
And then he reflected that on the following Sunday the church would be
crowded to the doors. She would see that. She would see the thousands
of the fashionable women--he hoped even for men--who would fill every
available seat, every available standing place in the church, and who
would all be anxious to hear his defense. That would show her that the
publication of this book had raised him far above the heads of the
ordinary clergyman who droned away, Sunday after Sunday, in half empty
churches to congregations that never became interested. Yes, for many
Sundays St. Chad's would be crowded to the doors. And then he trusted
that the bishop would take action against him, and in proportion to
the severity of his persecution on the one hand would be his
popularity on the other hand.
All this would, he felt, advance the cause which he had at heart; for
he was thoroughly sincere in his belief that the views which he
advocated in "Revised Versions" were calculated to place the Church on
a firmer basis, and to cause it to appeal to those persons who, having
been inculcated with the spirit of modern scientific inquiry, never
entered a church porch.
He had not been guilty of an empty boast when he had expressed to her
his readiness to die for the principles which he had enunciated with
considerable clearness in his book; but, at the same time, when he was
walking down Piccadilly he could not avoid the feeling that if he were
only subjected to a vigorous persecution--a high-class persecution, of
course, with the bishop at the head of it, he would be almost certain
to win back Phyllis. Her desertion of him was undoubtedly a blow to
him; but he thought that, after all, it was not unnatural that such as
girl as she should be somewhat frightened at the boldness of the book
which he had published. He had seen the day, not so very long ago,
when he would have been frightened at it himself. At any rate he felt
sure that Phyllis would be able to differentiate between the case of
the author of "Revised Versions" and the case of the mediocre
clergyman who defied his bishop on a question of--what was the
question?--something concerning the twirling of his thumbs from east
to west, instead of from west to east; yes, or an equally trivial
matter. He trusted that she was too discriminating a girl to bracket
him with that wretched, shallow-minded person who endeavored to pose
as a martyr, because he would not be permitted to do whatever he tried
to insist on doing. Mr. Holland thought it had something to say to the
twirling of his thumbs at a certain part of the service for the day,
but if anyone had said that his memory was at fault--that the
contumacious curate only wanted to make some gestures at the
psychological, or, perhaps, the spiritual, moment, he would not have
been surprised. He had always thought that curate a very silly person.
He thanked his God that he was not such a man, and he thought that he
might trust Phyllis to understand the difference between the position
which he assumed and the posturing of the silly curate.
His knowledge of her powers of discrimination was not at fault.
Phyllis never for a moment thought of him as posturing. She did him
more than justice. She regarded him as terribly in earnest; no man
unless one who was terribly in earnest could have written that book--a
book which she felt was bound to alienate from him all the people who
had previously honored him and delighted to listen to his preaching.
Someone had said in her hearing that the preaching of George Holland
was, compared to the preaching of the average clergyman, as the
electric light is to the gas--the gas of a street lamp. She had
flushed with pleasure,--that had been six months ago,--when it first
occurred to her that to be the wife of a distinguished clergyman, who
was also a scholar, was the highest vocation to which a woman could
aspire. She had told her father of this testimony to the ability of
the rector of St. Chad's--pride had been in her voice and eyes.
"The man who said that was a true critic," her father had remarked.
"Electric light? Quite so. In the absence of sunlight the electric
light does extremely well for the requirements of the average man and
woman. Your critic said nothing about volts?"
That was how her father became irritating to her occasionally--leading
up to some phrase which he had in his collection of bric-a-brac.
Yes, she felt that the sincerity of George Holland would alienate from
him all the people who had previously held him in high esteem.
Although she was a daughter of Philistia, it had never occurred to her
that there is such a thing as a /succes scandale/, and that the effect
of such an incident in connection with the rector of a fashionable
church rarely leads to his isolation.
She did George Holland more than justice, for she could not conceive
his looking forward to a crowded and interested attendance at his
church on the following Sunday and perhaps many successive Sundays.
She could not conceive his thinking what effect the noticing of such
an attendance would have upon her. To her, as to most girls, the
heroic man is all heroic. The picture of the Duke of Marlborough
taking a list of the linen to be sent to the wash while his troops
were getting into position for a great battle is one from which they
turn away. She could not think of George Holland's calculating upon
the effect of a crowded church, with newspaper reporters scattered
throughout the building, taking down every word that might fall from
his lips. She regarded him as a man who had been compelled, by the
insidious influence of what he called scientific thought, to write a
shocking book; but one that he certainly believed was destined to
effect a great reform in the world. Her eyes had filled with tears as
he stood before her with the gleam of martyrdom in his eyes, and for
an instant she felt a woman's impulse--that was a factor which George
Holland had taken into consideration before he had spoken--to give
both her hands to him and to promise to stand by his side in his hour
of trial. But she thought of Ruth and restrained herself. Before he
had reached the door she thought of him as the man from whom she had
managed to escape before it was too late.
She wondered if any of those young women of the church, who had gone
back to their butterfly garments on hearing that Mr. Holland had asked
her to marry him, would hunt out the sober garments which they had
discarded and wear them when they would hear that she was not going to
marry Mr. Holland.
She rather thought that they would get new dresses and hats of the
right degree of sobriety. Fashions change so quickly between February
And then there was the question of sleeves!
Anyhow they would, she felt, regard themselves as having another
chance. That was how they would put it.
Only for an instant did she become thoughtful. Then she sprang to her
feet from the sofa on which she had thrown herself when her tears were
threatening, and cried:
"Let them have him--let them all have him--all--all!"
That would have been absurd.
IF A GIRL REALLY LOVES A MAN SHE WILL MARRY HIM, EVEN THOUGH HE
SHOULD WRITE A BOOK.
Phyllis meant the half hour which would elapse before her tea was
brought to her to be a very grateful space. She meant to dwell upon
the achievement of her freedom, for the feeling that she was free was
very sweet to her. The fetters that had bound her had been flung away,
and she now only had a splendid sense of freedom. So sweet was this
sense that she made up her mind that in future it would never do for
her to run any such risk as that to which she had just subjected
herself. How could she ever have been such a fool as to promise to
marry George Holland? That was what she was asking herself as she lay
back on the pillows of the French sofa, and listened to the soft sound
of the carriage wheels of the callers at the other houses in the
What a singular wish that was of hers--to become the wife of a
clergyman! It seemed very singular to her just now. Just now she did
not want to become the wife of anyone, and she hoped that no one would
ask her. She did not want the worry of it. Ah, she would be very
careful in the future: she would take very good care that the fact of
other girls wanting to marry one particular man would not make her
anxious to have him all to herself.
Before her resolutions on this very important point had been fully
considered in all their bearings, her maid entered to ask if she was
at home. The butler had sent a footman to her to make that inquiry,
the fact being that her particular friend, Mrs. Linton, had called to
Phyllis jumped up, saying:
"Of course I am home to Mrs. Linton. She will have tea with me."
She went to a glass to see if the tears which had been in her eyes--
they had not fallen--had left any traces that the acuteness of Ella
Linton might detect. The result of her observation was satisfactory;
she would not even need to sit with her back to the light.
Then Mrs. Linton was announced, and flowed into the arms of her friend
"Of course I knew that you would be at home to me, my beloved, even
though you might be in the midst of one of those brilliant speeches
which you write out for your father to deliver in the House and cause
people to fancy that he is the wittiest man in place--so unlike that
dreadful teetotal man who grins through the horse collar and thinks
that people are imposed on. Now let me look at you, you lucky girl!
You are a lucky girl, you know."
"Yes," said Phyllis, "you have called on me. We shall have tea in a
minute. How good of you to come to me the first day you arrived in
town! How well you are looking, my Ella!"
"So glad you think so," said Ella. "I haven't aged much during the
eight months we have been apart. I have had a very good time on the
whole, and so had Stephen, though he was with me for close upon a
month, poor little man! But it is you, Phyllis, it is you who are the
girl of the hour. Heavens! you were farsighted! Who could have
imagined that he would become so famous all in a moment? I must
confess that when you wrote to me that letter telling me of your
engagement, and how happy you were, I was a little cross. I could not
clearly see you the wife of a parson, even so presentable a parson as
Mr. Holland. Oh, of course I wrote you the usual exuberant letter--
what would be the good of doing anything else? But now that he has
become famous--Oh, I want you to bring him with you to my first At
Home--Tuesday week. It's very short notice, I know, but you must come,
and bring him. You are both certain to be in great demand. Why do you
shake your head that way? You need not say that you are engaged for
"I will not say that I am engaged at all, in any sense," said Phyllis,
with a very shallow laugh, at laugh that sounded like a ripple among
pebbles; her usual laugh was like a ripple upon a silver sand.
"In any sense--for Tuesday week?"
Ella raised her eyebrows to the extent of the eighth of an inch. She
lowered them in a moment, however, for the tea was being brought in.
It required two able-bodied men (in plush) to carry in a dainty little
silver tray, with a little silver tea-pot of a pattern that
silversmiths, for reasons which have never been fully explained, call
"Queen Anne." One of the men, however, devoted himself to the care of
the hot cakes of various subtle types which were inclosed in silver
With the lowering of her eyebrows Mrs. Linton's voice lost its
"I have been fortunate enough to hit upon something distinctly new in
that way"--she indicated the muffin dishes. "A cake that may be eaten
hot without removing one's gloves."
"What a boon!" cried Phyllis. "You got it at Vienna, of course."
"Of course. You will learn all about it when you come."
The able-bodied men withdrew, and before the door was quite closed
behind them, Ella was gazing at her friend, her face alight with
"Now pray explain yourself," she whispered. "Not engaged in any sense
--those were your words. What do they mean?"
"Take them literally, my Ella," said Phyllis.
"Literally? But you wrote to me that you had engaged yourself to marry
"And now I tell you by word of mouth that I have disengaged myself."
"Good Heavens! You, I fancied, would be the last girl in the world to
promise to marry a man and then back out of it."
"That was what I myself fancied up till Monday last."
"But how can you have changed your mind? Isn't it very unfortunate--
just when the man has become famous?"
"How could it be otherwise, Ella, when the man wrote so horrible a
book as that?"
"Horrible? Is it horrible? I had no idea. I'm no judge of what is
horrible in theology, or metaphysics, or whatever it is. But I do
profess to know when a man has made a hit, whether in theology or
anything else; and I perceive quite clearly that your Mr. Holland--
well, not your Mr. Holland, has made a distinct hit. What sort of face
is that you're making at me? Oh, I see. It's the face of the orthodox
at the mention of something not quite orthodox. Pshut! don't be a
"I don't intend. Have I not told you that I'm not going to marry Mr.
"That is like one of the phrases which you give to your father, so
that the people might think him clever. Orthodox! Who cares nowadays
for what is dully orthodox? Who ever heard of a hero in orthodoxy
nowadays? The thing is impossible. There may be, of course, thousands
of orthodox heroes, but one never hears anything of them. The planets
Jupiter and Saturn and Mercury and Mars and the rest of them come and
go at their appointed seasons, and no one ever gives them a second
thought, poor old respectable things! but the moment a comet appears
in the sky everyone rushes out to gaze at it, and the newspapers deal
with it from day to day, and the illustrated papers give its portrait.
Nothing could be more unorthodox than your comet. Oh, Phyllis, my
child, don't talk nowadays of orthodoxy or the other--what do they
call it?--heterodoxy. Mr. Holland's name will be in everyone's mouth
for the next year at least, and if his bishop or a friendly church
warden prosecutes him, and the thing is worked up properly, he ought
to be before the public for the next five years."
"I'm not overstating the case, I assure you, my dear. A man was
telling me about one Colenso--he was, so far as I could gather, a
first-class man at algebra and heresy and things like that. He was
Bishop of Zanzibar or Uganda or some place, and he wrote a book about
Moses--showing that Moses couldn't have written something or other.
Well, he took a bit of prosecuting, five or six years, I believe, and
he didn't go nearly so far as Mr. Holland does in that book of his.
All this time people talked about little else but Colenso, and his
books made him a fortune. That was before our time, dear--when the
newspapers weren't worked as they are now. Block printing has made
more heroes than the longest campaign on record. Yes, Mr. Courtland
said so two days ago. I think I'll try some more of that lovely cake:
it's like warm ice, isn't it? Oh, you'll not be so foolish as to throw
over your Mr. Holland."
"It is already done," said Phyllis. "I'm so glad that you like the
cake. It is very subtle. What a delightful idea--warm ice!"
"Never mind the cake. I want to hear more of this matter of Mr.
Holland," said Ella. "Do you mean to tell me plainly that you threw
over Mr. Holland because he wrote a book that will bring him fame and
"I have thrown over Mr. Holland because he has written a book to make
people have contempt for the Bible," said Phyllis.
"Then all I can say is that you were never in love with the man,"
"You may say that if you please."
"I do say it. If a girl really loves a man, she will marry him even
though he should write a book against Darwin. If a girl really loves a
man she will stand by him all the closer when he is undergoing a
course of honorable persecution, with his portrait in every paper that
one picks up."
"I dare say that is true enough," assented Phyllis. "Perhaps I never
did really love Mr. Holland. Perhaps I only fancied I cared for him
because I saw that so many other girls--took to wearing chocolates and
grays and kept their sleeves down just when sleeves were highest."
"Of course it was only natural that you should wish to--well,
colloquially, to wipe the eyes of the other girls. How many girls, I
should like to know, begin to think of a man as a possible husband
until they perceive that the thoughts of other girls are turned in his
"At any rate, whatever I may have done long ago--"
"Three months ago."
"Three months ago. Whatever I may have done then, I know that I don't
love him now."
"Don't be too sure, my dear Phyllis. If there is one thing more than
another about which a woman should never be positive, it is whether or
not she loves a particular man. What mistakes they make! No, I'll
never believe that you turned him adrift simply because he wrote
something disparagingly about Solomon, or was it David? And I did so
want you and him for my next day; I meant it to be such a /coup/, to
have returned to town only a week and yet to have the most
outrageously unorthodox parson at my house. Ah, that would indeed have
been a /coup/! Never mind, I can at least have the beautiful girl who,
though devoted to the unorthodox parson, threw him over on account of
"Yes, you are certain of me--that is, if you think I should--if it
wouldn't seem a little----"
"What nonsense, Phyllis! Where have you been living for the past
twenty-three years that you should get such a funny notion into your
head? Do you think that girls nowadays absent themselves from felicity
awhile when they find it necessary to become--well, disengaged--yes,
or divorced, for that matter?"
"I really can't recollect any case of--"
"Of course you can't. They don't exist. The proper thing for a women
to do when she gets a divorce is to take a box at a theatre and give
the audience a chance of recognizing her from her portraits that have
already appeared in the illustrated papers. The block printing has
done that too. There's not a theatre manager in London who wouldn't
give his best box to a woman who has come straight from the divorce
court. The managers recognize the fact that she is in the same line as
themselves. But for you, my dear Phyllis--oh, you will never do him
the injustice to keep your throwing over of him a secret."
"Injustice? Oh, Ella!"
"I say injustice. Good gracious, child! cannot you see that if it
becomes known that the girl who had promised to marry him has broken
off her engagement to him simply because he has written that book, the
interest that attaches to him on account of his unorthodoxy will be
"I will not do him the injustice of fancying for a moment that he
would be gratified on this account. Whatever he may be, Ella, he is at
least sincere and single-minded in his aims."
"I have no doubt of it, my only joy. But however sincere a man may be
in his aims, he still cannot reasonably object to the distinction that
is thrust upon him when he has done something out of the common. The
men who make books know that that sort of thing pays. Someone told me
the other day--I believe it was Herbert Courtland--that it is the men
who write books embodying a great and noble aim who make the closest
bargains with their publishers. I heard of a great and good clergyman
the other day who wrote a Life of Christ, and then complained in the
papers of his publishers having only given him a miserable percentage
on the profits. That is how they talk nowadays; the profit resulting
from the Life of Christ is to be measured in pounds, shillings, and
"Mr. Holland is not a man of this stamp, Ella."
"I'm sure he is not. At the same time if he isn't prosecuted for
heterodoxy no one will be more disappointed than Mr. Holland, unless,
indeed, it be Mr. Holland's publisher. Who would begrudge the martyr
his halo, dear? Even the most sincere and single-minded martyr has an
eye on that halo. The halo of the up-to-date martyr is made up of
afternoon teas provided by fair women, and full-page portraits in the
"And all this leads to--what?"
"It leads to--let me see--oh, yes, it leads to your appearance at my
little gathering. Of course, you'll come. Believe me, you'll not feel
the least uncomfortable. You will be The Girl who Sacrificed her Love
for Conscience' Sake. That's a good enough qualification for
distinction on the part of any girl in these hard times. But I might
have known long ago that you would play this part. That sweetly
pathetic voice, with that firm mouth and those lovely soft gray eyes
that would seem to a casual observer to neutralize the firmness of the
mouth. Oh, yes, my Phyllis, you have undoubtedly /la physionomie du
"The /role/ of the girl who is on the side of the Bible."
"I am certainly on the side of the Bible."
"And so am I. So I will look for you to be by my side on Tuesday week,
and as often as you please in the meantime. By the way, you will
probably meet Herbert Courtland at our house. He is the New Guinea
man, you know."
"Of course I know. You talk of wanting heroes in orthodoxy at your
house, while you have Mr. Courtland, the New Guinea explorer, drinking
his tea at your elbow? Oh, go away!"
"I hope you will like him. We saw a good deal of him in Italy, and
will probably see a good deal of him here."
"I'm certain to like him: you like him."
"Ah, that's what you said to the young women who put off their colors
and took to sackcloth in the presence of Mr. Holland. Don't be too
sure that you will like any man because other women like him. Now, I
have, as usual, remained too long with you. I'm greatly impressed with
the situation of the moment. I don't say that I think you are wrong,
mind you. Girls should always be on the side of the Bible. At any rate
you have, I repeat, /la physionomie du role/, and you can't be far
astray if you act up to it. Good-bye, my dearest."
THE DEFENSE OF HOLLAND.
Ella Linton drove to a certain shop not far from Piccadilly,--the only
shop where the arranging of feathers is treated as a science
independent of the freaks of fashion,--and at the door she met a tall
man with the complexion of mahogany but with fair hair and mustache.
People nudged one another and whispered his name as they walked past
him before standing at the shop window, pretending to admire the
feathers, but in reality to glance furtively round at the man.
The name that they whispered to one another after the nudge was
He took off his hat--it was a tall silk one, but no one who knew
anything could avoid feeling that it should have been a solar toupee--
when Mrs. Linton stepped from her victoria.
"Oh, you here!" said she. "Who on earth would expect to see you here?"
"You," said he.
"You asked me a question. I answered it."
She laughed as they walked together to the door of the feather shop.
"It appears to me that you have a very good opinion of yourself and a
very bad one of me," she remarked, smiling up to his face.
"That's just where you make a mistake," said he.
"If I did not think well of you I should not have ordered Parkinson to
make you a fan of the tail of the meteor."
"Oh, Bertie, you have done that?"
"Why should I not do it?"
"But it is the only one in the world."
"Ah, that's just it. You are the only one in the world."
She laughed again, looking up to his face.
"Well, we'll have a look at it, anyway," said she.
They went into the shop to see the tail feathers of that wonderful
meteor-bird which Herbert Courtland had just brought back from New
Guinea with him--the most glorious thing that nature had produced and
a great explorer had risked his life to acquire, in order that Mrs.
Linton might have a unique feathered fan.
About the same time the Rev. George Holland met in the same
thoroughfare his friend and patron, the Earl of Earlscourt.
"By the Lord Harry, you've done for yourself now, my hearty!" cried
the earl. "What the blazes do you mean by attacking the Word of God in
"Tommy," said the Rev. George Holland, smiling a patronizing smile at
his patron, "Tommy, my friend, if you take my advice you'll not meddle
with what doesn't concern you. You're a peer; better leave the Word of
God to me. I'm not a peer, but a parson."
"I'll not leave it with you; it isn't safe," said the peer. "Anything
more damnably atheistical than that book of yours I never read."
"And you didn't read it, Thomas; you know you only read a screeching
review of it, and you didn't even read that through," said the parson.
"Who told you that?" asked the patron. "Well, at any rate I read what
you said about Ruth. It was quite scandalous! Ruth! Good Lord! what
character is safe nowadays? One of the loveliest of the women of the
Bible--my wife says so. She knows all about them. And the best
painters in the world have shown her standing among the field of oats.
By the Lord, sir, it's sheer blasphemy! and worse than that, it's
making people--good, religious people, mind, not the ruck--it's making
them ask why the blazes I gave you the living. It's a fact."
"I'm sorry for you, Tommy--very sorry. I'm also sorry for your good
religious people, and particularly sorry for the phraseology of their
earnest inquiries on what I am sure is a matter of life and death to
them--spiritually. That's my last word, Thomas."
"And you were doing so well at the Joss-house, too." Lord Earlscourt
was shaking his head sorrowfully, as he spoke. "We were all getting on
so comfortably. That was what people said to me--they said----"
"Pardon me, I'm a parson, therefore I'm not particular; but I can't
stand the way your good religious people express themselves."
"They said, 'It's so d---- pleasant to get hold of a parson who can be
trusted in the pulpit--sermons with a good healthy moral tone, and so
forth. You might bring your youngest daughter to St. Chad's in the
certainty that she would hear nothing that would make her ask
uncomfortable questions when she got home.' It's a fact, they said
that; and now you go and spoil all. The bishop will have a word to say
to you some of these days, my lad. He ran away to the Continent, they
tell me, when your book was published, and it's perfectly well known
that he never runs away unless things look serious. When the bishop is
serious, those that can't swim had best take to the boats."
"I'll ask you for a seat in your yacht, Tommy. Meantime kindest
regards to her ladyship."
"Oh! by the way, it's not true, is it, that the girl has thrown you
over on account of the book?"
For an instant there came a little flush to the face of the Rev.
George Holland; then he shifted his umbrella from one hand to the
"If you mean Phyllis, all I can say in reply is that she is the best
and the truest girl alive at present. I've an engagement at a quarter-
"Well, good-by. It was my missus who said that the girl would throw
you over on account of that book."
"Honestly speaking, George, old man, I think you've made a mistake
this time. People don't mind much about Jacob and Jonah and Jeremiah
and the whole job lot of Sheenies; but they do mind about Ruth. Hang
it all man! she was a woman."
"Ah! so was Jezebel, and yet--ah! good-by. I'll be late for my
"See you on Sunday," said the earl, with a broadish smile.
And so he did.
So did the largest congregation that had ever assembled within the
venerable walls of St. Chad's. They heard him also, and so did the
dozen reporters of the morning papers who were present--some to
describe, with the subtle facetiousness of the newspaper reporter, the
amusing occurrences incidental to the church service of the day, and
others to take down his sermon to the extent of half a column to be
headed "The Rev. George Holland Defends Himself." One reporter,
however, earned an increase in his salary by making his headline, "The
Defense of Holland." It was supposed that casual readers would fancy
that the kingdom of Holland had been repelling an invader, and would
not find out their mistake until they had read half through the
George Holland had not been mistaken when he had assumed that his
appearance in the church and his sermon this day would attract a large
amount of attention. As a matter of fact the building was crowded with
notable persons: Cabinet ministers (2), judges of the superior courts
(4), company promoters (47), actors and actresses (3), music hall and
variety artists (22), Royal Academician (1). Literature was
represented by a lady who had written a high-church novel, and fashion
by the publisher who had produced it. Science appeared in the person
of a professional thought-reader (female). These were all strangers to
St. Chad's, though some of them could follow the service quite easily.
The habitues of the church included several peers, the members of a
foreign embassy, a few outside brokers, quite a number of retired
officers of both services, and some Members of Parliament and the
London County Council.
One of the chaplains of the bishop occupied a seat in the aisle;
according to the facetious newspaper he held a watching brief.
The rector was, of course, oblivious of his brilliant entourage. He
could not even tell if Phyllis or her father were present. (As a
matter of fact both were in their accustomed seats in their own pew.)
He, as usual, took but a small part in the ritual--as Lord Earlscourt
once remarked, George Holland wasn't such a fool as to keep a dog and
do the barking himself. (It has already been stated that he had a
couple of excellent curates.) But the sermon was preached by himself,
as indeed it usually was after the morning service.
It was the most brilliant of all his efforts. He took as his text the
words, "All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable," and
he had no difficulty in showing how vast was the profit to be derived
from a consideration of every portion of the sacred volume, it
appeared to him, than the account given of the early history of the
Hebrew race. That account appealed as an object lesson to all nations
on the face of the earth. It allowed every people to see the course
which the children of Israel had pursued at various periods of their
existence and to profit by such observation. The Hebrews were a
terrible example to all the world. If they were slaves when in the
land of Egypt, that was their own fault. Milton had magnificently
expressed the origin of slavery:
"He that hath light within his own clear breast
May walk i' the noontide and enjoy bright day,
But he that hides dark deeds and foul thoughts . . .
Himself is his own dungeon."
The bondage of Egypt was, he believed, self-imposed. There is no
account available, he said, of the enslavement of the Children of
Israel by the Egyptians, but a careful consideration of the history of
various peoples shows beyond the possibility of a mistake being made,
that only those become enslaved who are best fitted for enslavement. A
king arose that knew not Joseph--a king who could not believe that at
any time there was belonging to that race of strangers a man of
supreme intelligence. The Israelites bowed their heads to the yoke of
the superior race, the Egyptians, and took their rightful place as
slaves. After many days a man of extraordinary intelligence appeared
in the person of Moses. A patriot of patriots, he gave the race their
God--they seemed to have lived in a perfectly Godless condition in
Egypt; and their theology had to be constructed for them by their
leader, as well as their laws: the laws for the desert wanderers, and
a decalogue for all humanity. He was equal to any emergency, and he
had no scruples. He almost succeeded in making a great nation out of a
horde of superstitious robbers. Had he succeeded the record would have
thrown civilization back a thousand years. Happy it was for the world
that the triumph of crime was brief. The cement of bloodshed that kept
the kingdom of Israel together for a time soon dissolved. Captivity
followed captivity. For a thousand years no improvement whatever took
place in the condition of the people--they had no arts; they lived in
mud huts at a period when architecture reached a higher level than it
had ever attained to previously. When the patriot prophets arose,
endeavoring to reform them with words of fire--the sacred fire of
truth--they killed them. One chance remained to them. They were
offered a religion that would have purified them, in place of the
superstition that had demoralized them, and they cried with one voice,
as everyone who had known their history and their social
characteristics knew they would cry, "Not this Man, but Barabbas."
That was from the earliest period in the history of the race the
watchword of the Hebrews. Not the man, but the robber. All that is
good and noble and true in manhood--the mercy, the compassion, the
self-sacrifice that are comprised in true manhood--they cast beneath
their feet, they spat upon, they crucified; but all of the Barabbas in
man they embraced. Thus are they become a hissing in the earth, and
properly so; for those who hiss at the spirit which has always
animated Judaism show that they abhor a thing that is abhorrent. "All
Scripture is profitable," continued the preacher, "and practically all
that is referred to in the text is an indictment of Judaism. The more
earnestly we hold to this truth the greater will be the profit
accruing to us from a consideration of the Scripture. But what more
terrible indictment of the Hebrew systems could we have than that
which is afforded us in the record that the father of the race had
twelve sons? He had. But where are ten of them now? Swept out of
existence without leaving a single record of their destruction even to
their two surviving brethren." He concluded his sermon by stating that
he hoped it would be clearly understood that he recognized the fact
that in England those members of the Hebrew community who had adopted
the methods, the principles, the truths of Christianity even though
they still maintained their ancient form of worship in their
synagogues, were on a line with civilization. They searched their
scriptures and these scriptures had been profitable to them, inasmuch
as they had been taught by those scriptures how impossible it was for
that form of superstition known as Judaism to be the guide for any
people on the face of the earth.
I HOPE THAT YOU WILL NOT EVENTUALLY MARRY AN INFIDEL.
Some of the congregation were greatly disappointed. They had expected
a brilliant and startling attack upon some other Bible personages who
had hitherto been looked on with respect and admiration. But the
sermon had only attacked the Jewish system as a whole, and everyone
knows that there is nothing piquant in an attack, however eloquent it
may be, upon a religious system in the abstract. One might as well
find entertainment in an attack upon the Magnetic Pole or a
denunciation of the Precession of the Equinoxes. No one cared, they
said, anything more about the failure of the laws of Moses than one
did about such abstractions as the Earth's Axis, or the Great Glacial
Epoch. It was quite different when the characters of well-known
individuals were subjected to an assault. People could listen for
hours to an attack upon celebrated persons. If Mr. Holland's book had
only dealt with the characteristics of the religion of the Jews, it
would never have attracted attention, these critics said. It had
called for notice simply because of its trenchant remarks in regard to
some of those Bible celebrities who, it was generally understood, were
considered worthy of admiration.
Why could Mr. Holland not have followed up the course indicated in his
book by showing up some of the other persons in the Bible? it was
asked. There were quite a number of characters in the Bible who were
regarded as estimable. Why could he not then have followed up his
original scheme of "showing them up?"--that was the phrase of the
critics. There was Solomon, for instance. He was usually regarded as a
person of high intellectual gifts; but there was surely a good deal in
his career which was susceptible of piquant treatment. And then
someone said that Noah should have a chapter all to himself, also Lot;
and what about the spies who had entered Jericho? Could the
imagination not suggest the story which they had told to their wives
on their return to the camp, relative to the house in which they had
passed all their spare time? They supposed that Jericho was the Paris
of the high class Jews of those days.
Then the conversation of these critics drifted on to the Paris of
to-day, and the sermon and its lessons were forgotten as easily as is
an ordinary sermon. But all the same it was plain that the clergyman
had fallen short of what was expected of him upon this occasion. His
book had gone far, and it was felt that he should have gone one better
than his book, so to speak. Instead of that his sermon had been one to
which scarcely any exception could be taken.
But the bishop's chaplain, who had watched at intervals of praying,
came to the conclusion that the rector of St. Chad's was a good deal
cleverer than the majority of youngish clergymen who endeavor to
qualify for prosecution. It may be unorthodox to cross one's arms with
the regularity of clockwork on coming to certain words in the service,
and young clergymen had been prosecuted for less; but it was not
unorthodox to speak evil of the Jews--for did not the Church pray for
the Jews daily? and can anyone insult a man more than by praying for
him--unless, of course, he is a king, in which case it is understood
that no insult is intended?
The bishop's chaplain prepared a report of the sermon for his
lordship, pointing out its general harmony, broadly speaking, with the
tenets of the Church.
Mr. Ayrton also seemed to perceive a sort of cleverness in the sermon.
There was nothing in it that was calculated to shock even the most
susceptible hearer. Indeed, it seemed to Mr. Ayrton that there was a
good deal in it that was calculated to soothe the nerves of those who
had been shocked by the book. He said something to this effect to his
daughter as they walked homeward. He was rather anxious to find out
what chance George Holland had of being restored to his daughter's
But Phyllis was firm in her condemnation of the methods of Mr.
"He attacks the Jews as a race in order to ridicule the statement in
the Bible that they were God's chosen people, and they were, you know,
papa," she said.
"They took so much for granted themselves, at any rate," said her
father, with some show of acquiescence.
"But they were, and they are to be restored to their own land," said
"Are they, my dear? I should like to see the prospectus of that
"You are mocking, papa. They are to be restored; it says so in the
Bible quite clearly."
"I am not mocking, Phyllis. If gold is discovered in Palestine, the
Jews may go there in some numbers; but, take my word for it, they
won't go otherwise. They couldn't live in their own land, assuming
that it is their own, which is going pretty far. Palestine wouldn't
support all the Jews alive at present; it's a wretched country--I know
it well. Besides, they don't want to return to it, and furthermore, we
couldn't spare them."
"I believe in the Bible, and I have faith," said Phyllis firmly.
"That's right," said her father. "I hope you may always hold to both.
I think that those girls who expect to be regarded as advanced,
because they scoff at the Bible and at faith, are quite horrid. I also
hope that you will not eventually marry an infidel."
"That would be impossible," said Phyllis firmly.
"Would it?" said her father. "There is a stronger influence at work in
most of us, at times, than religion. I wonder if it will make a victim
of you, my child, though you did send George Holland about his
"I don't quite know what you mean," said Phyllis, with only the
slightest possible flush.
And she did not know what he meant until six months had passed; but
then she knew.
Seeing that she did not know what he meant, her father thanked Heaven
that Heaven had given him a daughter who was unlike other daughters.
He prayed that she might never become like other daughters. He thought
that it would be good for his daughter to remain without experience of
those overwhelming passions which make up the life of a woman and a
Phyllis went out a good deal during the week, and everywhere she found
herself looked at with interest; sometimes she found herself being
examined through a /pince-nez/ as if she were a curious specimen, and
a woman or two smiled derisively at her. She did not know what was
meant by their curiosity--their derision--until one day an old lady
named Mrs. Haddon went up to her and kissed her, saying:
"I made up my mind that I would kiss you, my dear, the first chance I
had. God bless you, my child! You have given your testimony as a woman
should, in these days of scoffing at the truth."
"Testimony?" said Phyllis, quite puzzled. Had not her father felt a
thrill of gratitude on reflecting that she had none of the qualities
of the prig about her? "Testimony?"
"You have testified to the truth, Miss Ayrton, and you shall have your
reward. You have shown that the truth is more to you than--than love--
the love of man--all that women hold sweet in life. You are right Miss
Ayrton; and all true women must love and respect you."
Phyllis turned a very brilliant color, and kept her eyes fixed on the
parquet pattern of the floor.
The dear old lady said a good deal more to her, all in praise of her
act of having given Mr. Holland his /conge/ on account of his having
written that shockingly unorthodox book.
By the end of the week Phyllis Ayrton was looked on as quite as much a
heroine for having given Mr. Holland his /conge/, as Mr. Holland was a
hero for having braved the bishop in writing the book. She wore her
laurels meekly, though she had been rather embarrassed when a ray of
intelligence appeared among the dark sayings of the dear old lady. She
could not help wondering how all the world had become possessed of the
knowledge that she had said good-by to her lover. She considered if it
were possible that Mr. Holland had spread abroad the account of her
ill-treatment of him--he would naturally allude to it as ill-
treatment. The quick judgment of Ella Linton had enabled her to
perceive how valuable to Mr. Holland was the incident of his rejection
by Phyllis. As a beginning of his persecution, its importance could
scarcely be overestimated. But it did not take Phyllis long to
reassure herself on this matter. It was, of course, Ella who had given
the incident publicity. She had done so for two reasons: first, in
order that her little afternoon At Home might have additional luster
attached to it by the presence of a young woman who had, in these days
of a marriage market overstocked with young women (and old women, for
that matter), thrown over an eligible man for conscience' sake; and
secondly, in order that her At Home might have additional luster
attached to it from the presence of the man who allowed himself to be
thrown over by a delightful girl rather than refrain from publishing
what he believed to be the truth.
Mrs. Linton achieved both the objects which, as a good hostess, she
had in view. Mr. Holland put in an appearance in one of Mrs. Linton's
big drawing rooms, and so did Phyllis Ayrton.
Everyone admitted that only a woman of the social capacity--some
people called it genius--of Mrs. Linton could accomplish such a feat
as the bringing into the same room two persons who had given
unmistakable evidence of possessing a conscience apiece--the woman who
had sacrificed the man for conscience' sake, and the man who had
sacrificed the woman under the same influence. It was a social
triumph, beyond doubt.
People talked in whispers of conscience, the advantages and the
disadvantages of its possession, and the consensus of opinion was of
its being quite appropriate in regard to a clergyman, and that it was
not altogether out of place on the part of a spinster, provided that
she had counteracting virtues; but, on the whole, it was perhaps wiser
to leave the conscience with the Nonconformists.
Phyllis did not see George Holland until she had got halfway up the
first of Mrs. Linton's rooms. She did not hear her friend Ella say to
someone, in a low voice of apprehension:
"For Heaven's sake, keep them apart! They are just the sort of people
to greet each other quite cordially; and if they do, no one here will
believe that their engagement is off. People here don't understand how
a delicate conscience works."
That was what Ella murmured to a man who had been invited in order
that he might make himself generally useful. She gave him his
instructions too late, however. Before she had quite completed her
greeting of Phyllis, Mr. Holland was beside them.
He had not forced himself forward with any measure of persistency; no
one seemed to notice any movement on his part until he had shaken
hands with Phyllis, and was chatting with her and Mrs. Linton quite
pleasantly--much too pleasantly for a man with a conscience, someone
said later in the afternoon; but that was someone who wanted to talk
to Phyllis himself.
People watched her when she suffered herself to be gradually withdrawn
from the center of the room to a seat that chanced to be vacant, just
behind the open door of the conservatory. Could it be possible, they
asked one another, that she had indeed given his dismissal to Mr.
Holland the previous week? Why, they were chatting together as
pleasantly as they had ever chatted. Had not the people who talked so
glibly of conscience and its mysterious operations spoken a little too
soon? Or had the quarrel been patched up? If so, which of the two had
got rid of the conscience that had brought about the original rupture?
These questions were answered at divers places by divers persons, all
the time that George Holland and Phyllis Ayrton remained side by side
at the entrance to the conservatory, at the further end of which a
vocal quartette party sang delightfully--delightfully; sufficiently
loud to enable all the guests who wanted to talk to do so without
inconvenience, and at the same time not so loud as to become
obtrusive. It is so seldom that a quartette party manage to hit this
happy medium, people said. They generally sing as if they fancy that
people come together to hear them, not remembering that the legitimate
object of music at an At Home is to act as an accompaniment to the
When Phyllis was leaving the house half an hour later, a man was just
entering the first drawing room--a man with a face burnt to the color
of an old mezzotint.
He looked at her for a moment as he passed her, for her face had
suddenly lighted up, as such a face as hers does upon occasions.
The man could scarcely fail to perceive that she knew his name was
But then he was accustomed to be recognized by women as well as men in
every part of Europe, since he had returned from New Guinea with the
tail feathers of the meteor-bird, which were now being made into a fan
for Mrs. Linton.
MY FATHER HAS HIS IDEAS ON WHAT'S CALLED REALISM.
The last rumble of applause had died away at the Parthenon Theater,
but the audience were leaving very slowly; they wished to linger as
long as possible within the atmosphere of the building; though, like
the atmosphere of many sacred places, that of the Parthenon was, just
at that time, a trifle unsavory. The first performance of the drama of
"Cagliostro" had just taken place, and, as the first nights at the
Parthenon are invariably regarded as the most exclusive functions of
the year, the stalls and boxes had been crowded. And the distinction
which in Mayfair and Belgravia attaches to those who have been in the
boxes and stalls on Parthenon first night is not greater than that
which, in Bloomsbury and Camden Town, accrues to those who have
occupied places--not necessarily seats--in the other parts of the
house. It is understood, too, that the good will of Bloomsbury and
Camden Town is much more valuable to a play than the best wishes of
Mayfair and Belgravia.
The gracious manager had made his customary speech of thanks,--for
everything produced at the Parthenon was a success,--and while the
general audience were moving away very reluctantly, some distinguished
men and women followed the guidance of a strong Irish brogue as a
flock follows a bell-wether, through a door that led to the stage.
Here the great actor and the ever-charming lady who divided with him
the affections of West as well as East, received their guests'
congratulations in such a way as made the guests feel that the success
was wholly due to their good will.
Mrs. Linton, who was a personage in society,--her husband had found a
gold mine (with the assistance of Herbert Courtland) and she had
herself written a book of travels which did not sell,--had brought
Phyllis with her party to the theater, and they had gone on the stage
with the other notabilities, at the conclusion of the performance.
George Holland, having become as great a celebrity as the best of them
during that previous fortnight, had naturally received a stall and an
invitation to the stage at the conclusion of the performance. He had
not been of Mrs. Linton's party, but he lay in wait for that party as
they emerged from their box.
Another man also lay in wait for them, and people--outsiders--nudged
one another in the theater as the passers down Piccadilly had nudged
one another, whispering his name, Herbert Courtland. Others--they were
not quite such outsiders--nudged one another when Mrs. Linton laid
down her new feather fan on the ledge of the box. It was possibly the
loveliest thing that existed in the world at that moment. No artist
had ever dreamed of so wonderful a scheme of color--such miracles of
color--combinations in every feather from the quill to the spider-web-
like fluffs at the tips, each of which shone not like gold but like
glass. It was well worth all the nudging that it called forth.
But when Mrs. Linton had picked it up from the ledge, beginning to
oscillate it in front of her fair face, the nudging ceased. People
looked at the thing with eyes wide with astonishment, but with lips
A more satisfactory evening she had never spent, Mrs. Linton felt; and
now the fan was hanging down among the brocaded flowers of her dress,
making them look tawdry as she left the box, and noticed how at least
two men were lying in wait for her party. There was, however, a
frankness in Herbert Courtland's strategy which George Holland's did
not possess. Mr. Courtland was looking directly at her; Mr. Holland
was pretending to be engrossed in conversation with a man in one of
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