The Irrational Knot
George Bernard Shaw
Part 4 out of 8
"I dont think you are quite right there, Sholto. No. Look at the steam
engine, the electric telegraph, the--the other inventions of the
century. How could we get on without them?"
"Quite as well as Athens got on without them. Our mechanical
contrivances seem to serve us; but they are really mastering us,
crowding and crushing the beauty out of our lives, and making commerce
the only god."
"I certainly admit that the coarser forms of Radicalism have made
alarming strides under the influence of our modern civilization. But the
convenience of steam conveyance is so remarkable that I doubt if we
could now dispense with it. Nor, as a consistent Liberal, a moderate
Liberal, do I care to advocate any retrogression, even in the direction
of ancient Greece."
Douglas was seized with a certain impatience of Mr. Lind, as of a
well-mannered man who had never learned anything, and had forgotten all
that he had been taught. He did not attempt to argue, but merely said,
coldly: "I can only say that I wish Fate had made me an Athenian instead
of an Englishman of the nineteenth century."
Mr. Lind smiled complacently: he knew Douglas, if not Athens, better,
but was in too tolerant a humor to say so. Little more passed between
the two until they reached Westbourne Terrace, where Marian and her
cousin were dressing for dinner. When Marian came down, her beauty so
affected Douglas that his voice was low and his manner troubled as he
greeted her. He took her in to dinner, and sat in silence beside her,
heedless alike of his host's commonplaces and Miss McQuinch's
Mr. Lind unceremoniously took a nap after his wine that evening, and
allowed his guest to go upstairs alone. Douglas hoped that Elinor would
be equally considerate, but, to his disappointment, he found her by
herself in the drawing-room. She hastened to explain.
"Marian is looking for some music. She will be back directly."
He sat down and took an album from the table, saying: "Have you many new
"Yes. But we never discard old faces for new ones. It is the old ones
that are really interesting."
"I have not seen this one of Mr. Lind before. It is capital. Ah! this of
you is an old friend."
"Yes. What do you think of the one of Constance on the opposite page?"
"She looks as if she were trying to be as lugubrious as possible. What
dress is that? Is it a uniform?"
"Yes. She joined a nursing guild. Didnt Mrs. Douglas tell you?"
"I believe so. I forgot. She went into a cottage hospital or something
of that kind, did she not?"
"She left it because one of the doctors offended her. He was rather
dreadful. He said that in two months she had contributed more to the
mortality among the patients than he had in two years, and told her
flatly that she had been trained for the drawing-room and ought to stay
there. She was glad enough to have an excuse for leaving; for she was
heartily sick of making a fool of herself."
"Indeed! Where is she now?"
"Back at Towers Cottage, moping, I suppose. That's Mr. Conolly the
inventor, there under Jasper."
"So I perceive. Clever head, rather! A plain, hard nature, with no
depths in it. Is that his wife, with the Swiss bonnet?"
"His wife! Why, that is a Swiss girl, the daughter of a guide at
Chamounix, who nursed Marian when she sprained her ankle. Mr. Conolly is
"I thought men of his stamp always married early."
"No. He is engaged, and engaged to a lady of very good position."
"He owes that to the diseased craving of modern women for notoriety of
any sort. What an admirable photograph of Marian! I never saw it before.
It is really most charming. When was it taken?"
"Last August, at Geneva. She does not like it--thinks it too
"Then perhaps she will give it to me."
"She will be only too glad, I daresay. You have caught her at a soft
"I cannot find that duet anywhere," said Marian, entering. "What! up
already, Sholto? Where is papa?"
"I left him asleep in the dining-room. I have just been asking Miss
McQuinch whether she thought you would give me a copy of this carte."
"That Geneva one. It is most annoying how people persist in admiring it.
It always looks to me as if it belonged to an assortment of popular
beauties at one shilling each. I dont think I have another. But you may
take that if you wish."
"Thank you," said Douglas, drawing it from the book.
"I think you have a copy of every photograph I have had taken in my
life," she said, sitting down near him, and taking the album. "I have
several of yours, too. You must get one taken soon for me; I have not
got you with your beard yet. I have a little album upstairs which Aunt
Dora gave me on my eighth birthday; and the first picture in it is you,
dressed in flannels, holding a bat, and looking very stern as captain of
your eleven at Eton. I used to stand in great awe of you then. Do you
remember telling me once that 'Zanoni' was a splendid book, and that I
ought to read it?"
"Pshaw! No. I must have been a young fool. But it seems that I had the
grace even then to desire your sympathy."
"I assure you I read it most reverently down in Wiltshire, where Nelly
kept a select library of fiction concealed underneath her mattress; and
I believed every word of it. Nelly and I agreed that you were exactly
like Zanoni; but she was hardly to blame; for she had never seen you."
"Things like that make deep impressions on children," said Elinor,
thoughtfully. "You were a Zanoni in my imagination for years before I
saw you. When we first met you treated me insufferably. If you had known
how my childish fancy had predisposed me to worship you, you might have
vouchsafed me some more consideration, and I might have gone on
believing you a demigod to the end of the chapter. I have hardly
forgiven you yet for disenchanting me."
"I am sorry," said Douglas sarcastically. "I must have been sadly
lacking in impressiveness. But on the other hand I recollect that you
did not disappoint me in the least. You fully bore out the expectations
I had been led to form of you."
"I have no doubt I did," said Elinor. "Yet I protest that my reputation
was as unjust as yours. However, I have outlived my sensitiveness to
this injustice, and have even contracted a bad habit of pretending to
act up to it occasionally before foolish people. Marian: are you sure
that duet is not on the sofa in my room?"
"Oh, the sofa! I looked only in the green case."
"I will go and hunt it out myself. Excuse me for a few minutes."
Douglas was glad to see her go. Yet he was confused when he was alone
with Marian. He strolled to the window, outside which the roof of the
porch had been converted into a summer retreat by a tent of pink-striped
canvass. "The tent is up already," he said. "I noticed it as we came
"Yes. Would you prefer to sit there? We can carry out this little
table, and put the lamp on it. There is just room for three chairs."
"We need not crowd ourselves with the table," he said. "There will be
light enough. We only want to talk."
"Very well," said Marian, rising. "Will you give me that woolen thing
that is on the sofa? It will do me for a shawl." He placed it on her
shoulders, and they went out.
"I will sit in this corner," said Marian. "You are too big for the
campstool. You had better bring a chair. I am fond of sitting here. When
the crimson shade is on the lamp, and papa asleep in its roseate glow,
the view is quite romantic: there is something ecstatically snug in
hiding here and watching it." Douglas smiled, and seated himself as she
suggested, near her, with his shoulder against the stone balustrade.
"Marian," said he, after a pause: "you remember what passed between us
at the Academy yesterday?"
"You mean our solemn league and covenant. Yes."
"Why did we not make that covenant before? Life is not so long, nor
happiness so common, that we can afford to trifle away two years of it.
I wish you had told me when I last came here of that old photograph of
mine in your album."
"But this is not a new covenant. It is only an old one mended. We were
always good friends until you quarrelled and ran away."
"That was not my fault, Marian."
"Then it must have been mine. However, it does not matter now."
"You are right. Prometheus is unbound now; and his despair is only a
memory sanctifying his present happiness. You know why I called on your
father this morning?"
"It was to see the electro-motor in the city, was it not?"
"Good Heavens, Marian!" he said, rising, "what spirit of woman or spirit
of mischief tempts you to coquet with me even now?"
"I really thought that was the reason--besides, of course, your desire
to make papa amends for not having been to see him sooner after your
"Marian!" he said, still remonstrantly.
She looked at him with sudden dread, and instinctively recognized the
expression in his face.
"You know as well as I," he continued, "that I went to seek his consent
to our solemn league and covenant, as you call it. If that covenant were
written on your heart as it is on mine, you would not inflict on me this
pretty petty torture. Your father has consented: he is delighted. Now
may I make a guess at that happy secret you told me of yesterday, and
promised I should know one day?"
"Stop! Wait," said Marian, very pale. "I must tell you that secret
"Hush. Do not be so moved. Remember that your confession is to be
whispered to me alone."
"Dont talk like that. It is all a mistake. My secret has nothing to do
with you." Douglas drew back a little way.
"I am engaged to be married."
"What do you mean?" he said sternly, advancing a step and looking down
menacingly at her with his hand on the back of his chair.
"I have said what I mean," replied Marian with dignity. But she rose
quickly as soon as she had spoken, and got past him into the
drawing-room. He followed her; and she turned and faced him in the
middle of the room, paler than before.
"You are engaged to _me_," he said.
"I am not," she replied.
"That is a lie!" he exclaimed, struggling in his rage to break through
the strong habit of self-control. "It is a damnable lie; but it is the
most cruel way of getting rid of me, and therefore the one most
congenial to your heartlessness."
"Sholto," said Marian, her cheeks beginning to redden: "you should not
speak to me like that."
"I say," he cried fiercely, "that it is a lie!"
"Whats the matter?" said Elinor, coming hastily into the room.
"Sholto has lost his temper," said Marian, firmly, her indignation
getting the better of her fear now that she was no longer alone with
"It is a lie," repeated Douglas, unable to shape a new sentence. Elinor
and Marian looked at one another in perplexity. Then Mr. Lind entered.
"Gently, pray," said he. "You can be heard all through the house.
Marian: what is the matter?"
She did not answer; but Douglas succeeded, after a few efforts, in
speaking intelligibly. "Your daughter," he said, "with the assistance of
her friend Mrs. Leith Fairfax, and a sufficient degree of direct
assurance on her own part, has achieved the triumph of bringing me to
her feet a second time, after I had unfortunately wounded her vanity by
breaking her chains for two years."
"That is utterly false," interrupted Marian, with excitement.
"I say," said Douglas, in a deeper tone and with a more determined
manner, "that she set Mrs. Leith Fairfax on me with a tale of love and
regret for my absence. She herself with her own lips deliberately
invited me to seek your consent to our union. She caused you to write me
the invitation I received from you this morning. She told me that my
return realized a dream that had been haunting her for two years. She
begged me to forgive her the past, and to write her a sonnet, of which
she said she was at least more worthy than Clytemnestra, and of which I
say she is at best less worthy than Cressida." He took a paper from his
pocket as he spoke; and, with a theatrical gesture, tore it into
"This is very extraordinary," said Mr. Lind irresolutely. "Is it some
foolish quarrel, or what is the matter? Pray let us have no more
"You need fear none from me," said Douglas. "I do not propose to
continue my acquaintance with Miss Lind."
"Mr. Douglas has proposed to marry me; and I have refused him," said
Marian. "He has lost his temper and insulted me. I think you ought to
tell him to go away."
"Gently, Marian, gently. What am I to believe about this?"
"What I have told you," said Douglas, "I confirm _on my honor_, which
you can weigh against the pretences of a twice perjured woman."
"I have to speak plainly on my own behalf, Mr. Lind. I regret that you
were not in a position this morning to warn me of your daughter's
"If it is a secret, and you are a gentleman, you will hold your
tongue," interposed Elinor, sharply.
"Papa," said Marian: "I became engaged yesterday to Mr. Conolly. I told
Mr. Douglas this in order to save him from making me a proposal. That is
the reason he has forgotten himself. I had not intended to tell you so
suddenly; but this misunderstanding has forced me to."
"Engaged to Mr. Conolly!" cried Mr. Lind. "I begin to fear
that----Enga----" He took breath, and continued, to Marian: "I forbid
you to entertain any such engagement. Sholto: there is evidently nothing
to be gained by discussing this matter in hot blood. It is some girlish
"I apologize for having doubted the truth of the excuse," said Douglas;
"but I see that I have failed to gauge Miss Lind's peculiar taste. I beg
you to understand, Mr. Lind, that my pretensions are at an end. I do not
aspire to the position of Mr. Conolly's rival."
"You are already in the position of Mr. Conolly's unsuccessful rival;
and you fill it with a very bad grace," said Elinor.
"Pray be silent, Elinor," said Mr. Lind. "This matter does not concern
you. Marian: go to your room for the present. I shall speak to you
Marian flushed, and repressed a sob. "I wish I were under _his_
protection now," she said, looking reproachfully at Douglas as she
crossed the room.
"What can you expect from a father but hostility?" said Elinor,
bitterly. "You are a coward, like all your sex," she added, turning to
Douglas. Then she suddenly opened the door, and passed out through it
with Marian, whilst the housemaids fled upstairs, the footman shrank
into a corner of the landing, and the page hastily dragged the cook
down to the kitchen.
The two men, left together in the drawing-room, were for some moments
quite at a loss. Then Mr. Lind, after a preliminary cough or two, said:
"Sholto: I cannot describe to you how shocked I am by what I have just
heard. I am deeply disappointed in Marian. I trusted her implicitly; but
of course I now see that I have been wrong in allowing her so much
liberty. Evidently a great deal has been going on of which I had not any
Douglas said nothing. His resentment was unabated; but his rage,
naturally peevish and thin in quality, was subsiding, though it surged
back on him at intervals. But now that he no longer desired to speak
passionately, he would not trust himself to speak at all. Suddenly Mr.
Lind broke out with a fury that astonished him, preoccupied as he was.
"This--this fellow must have had opportunities of thrusting himself into
her society of which I knew nothing. I thought she barely knew him. And
if I had known, could I have suspected her of intriguing with an
ill-bred adventurer! Yes, I might: my experience ought to have warned me
that the taint was in her blood. Her mother did the same thing--left the
position I had given her to run away with a charlatan, disgracing me
without the shadow of an excuse or reason except her own innate love for
what was low. I thought Marian had escaped that. I was proud of
her--placed un--unbounded confidence in her."
"She has struck me a blow," said Douglas, "the infernal treachery----."
He checked himself, and after a moment resumed in his ordinary formal
manner. "I must leave you, Mr. Lind. I am quite unable at present to
discuss what has passed. Any conventional expressions of regret would
He bowed and left the room. Mr. Lind, taken aback, did not attempt to
detain him or even return his bow, but stood biting his lips with a
frown of discomfiture and menace. When he was alone, he paced the room
several times. Then he procured some writing materials and sat down
before them. He wrote nothing, but, after sitting for some time, he went
upstairs. Passing Marian's room he listened. The sharp voice and
restless movements of his niece were the only sounds he heard. They
seemed to frighten him; for he stole on quickly to his own room, and
went to bed. Even there he could hear a shrill note of conversation
occasionally from the opposite room, where Marian was sitting on a sofa,
trying to subdue the hysteria which had been gaining on her since her
escape from the balcony; whilst Elinor, seated on the corner of a drawer
which projected from the dressing-table, talked incessantly in her most
"Henceforth," she said, "Uncle Reginald is welcome to my heartiest
detestation. I have been waiting ever since I knew him for an excuse to
hate him; and now he has given me one. He has taken part--like a true
parent--against you with a self-intoxicated fool whom he ought to have
put out of the house. He has told me to mind my own business. I shall be
even with him for that some day. I am as vindictive as an elephant: I
hate people who are not vindictive: they are never grateful either, only
incapable of any enduring sentiment. And Douglas! Sholto Douglas! The
hero, the Newdigate poet, the handsome man! What a noble fellow he is
when a little disappointment rubs his varnish off! I am glad I called
him a coward to his face. I am thoroughly well satisfied with myself
altogether: at last I have come out of a scene without having forgotten
the right thing to say. You never see people in all their selfishness
until they pretend to love you. See what you owe to your loving suitor,
Sholto Douglas! See what you owe to your loving father, Reginald Lind!"
"I do not think that my father should have told me to leave the room,"
said Marian. "It was Sholto's place to have gone, not mine."
"Mr. Lind, who has so suddenly and deservedly descended from 'papa' to
'my father,' judiciously sided with the stronger and richer party."
"Nelly: I shall be as unhappy after this as even Sholto can desire. I
feel very angry with papa; and yet I have no right to be. I suppose it
is because I am in the wrong. I deceived him about the engagement."
"Bosh! You didnt tell him because you knew you couldnt trust him; and
now you see how right you were."
"Even so, Nelly, I must not forget all his past care of me."
"What care has he ever taken of you? He was very little better
acquainted with you than he was with me, when you came to keep house for
him and make yourself useful. Of course, he had to pay for your board
and lodging and education. The police would not have allowed him to
leave you to the parish. Besides, he was proud of having a nice, pretty
daughter to dispose of. You were quite welcome to be happy so long as
you did not do anything except what he approved of. But the moment you
claim your independence as a grown woman, the moment you attempt to
dispose of yourself instead of letting him dispose of you! Bah! _I_
might have been _my_ father's pet, if I had been a nonentity. As it was,
he spared no pains to make me miserable; and as I was only a helpless
little devil of a girl, he succeeded to his heart's content. Uncle
Reginald will try to do exactly the same to-morrow, he will come and
bully you, instead of apologizing as he ought. See if he doesnt!"
"If I had as much reason to complain of my childhood as you have,
perhaps I should not feel so shocked and disappointed by his turning on
me to-night. Surely, when he saw me attacked as I was, he ought to have
come to my assistance."
"Any stranger would have taken your part. The footman would, if you had
asked him. But then, James is not your father."
"It seems a very small thing to be bidden to leave the room. But I will
never expose myself to a repetition of it."
"Quite right. But what do you mean to do? for, after all, though
parental love is an imposition, parental authority is a fact."
"I will get married."
"Out of the frying pan into the fire! Certainly, if you are resolved to
marry, the present is as good as another time, and more convenient. But
there must be some legal formalities to go through. You cannot turn into
the first church you meet, and be married off-hand."
"Ned must find out all that. I am sadly disappointed and disilluded,
"Time will cure you as it does everybody; and you will be the better for
being wiser. By the bye, what did Sholto mean about Mrs. Fairfax?"
"I dont know."
"She has evidently been telling him a parcel of lies. Do you remember
her hints about him yesterday at lunch? I have not the least doubt that
she has told him you are frantically in love with him. She as good as
told you the same about him."
"Oh! she is not capable of doing such a thing."
"Isnt she? We shall see."
"I dont know what to think," said Marian, despondently. "I used to
believe that both you and Ned thought too little of other people; but it
seems now that the world is nothing but a morass of wickedness and
falsehood. And Sholto, too! Who would have believed that he could break
out in that coarse way? Do you remember the day that Fleming, the
coachman, lost his temper with Auntie down at the Cottage. Sholto was
exactly like that; not a bit more refined or dignified."
"Rather less so, because Fleming was in the right. Let us go to bed. We
can do nothing to-night, but fret, and wish for to-morrow. Better get to
sleep. Resentment does not keep me awake, I can vouch for that: I got
well broken in to it when I was a child. I heard Uncle Reginald going to
his room some time ago. I am getting sleepy, too, though I feel the
better for the excitement."
"Very well. To bed be it," said Marian. But she did not sleep at all as
well as Nelly.
Next morning Mr. Lind rose before his daughter was astir, and went to
his club, where he breakfasted. He then went to the offices in Queen
Victoria Street. Finding the board-room unoccupied, he sat down there,
and said to one of the clerks:
"Go and tell Mr. Conolly that I desire to speak to him, if he is
disengaged. And if anyone wants to come in, say that I am busy here. I
do not wish to be disturbed for half an hour or so."
"Yes, sir," said the clerk, departing. A minute later, he returned, and
said: "Mr. Conly is disengaged; and he says will you be so good as to
come to his room, sir."
"I told you to ask him to come here," said Mr. Lind.
"Well, thats what he said, sir," said the clerk, speaking in official
Board School English. "Shloy gow to him and tell him again?"
"No, no: it does not matter," said Mr. Lind, and walked out through the
office. The clerk held the door open for him, and carefully closed it
when he had passed through.
"Ow, oy sy!" cried the clerk. "This is fawn, this is."
"Wots the row?" said another clerk.
"Woy, owld Lind sends me in to Conly to cam in to him into the
board-room. 'Aw right,' says Conly, 'awsk him to cam in eah to me.' You
should 'a seen the owld josser's feaches wnoy towld im. 'Oyd zoyred jou
to sy e was to cam in eah to me.' 'Shloy gow and tell him again?' I
says, as cool as ennything. 'Now,' says he, 'Oil gow myself.' Thets wot
Aw loike in Conly. He tikes tham fellers dahn wen they troy it on owver
Meanwhile, Mr. Lind went to Conolly's room; returned his greeting by a
dignified inclination of the head; and accepted, with a cold "Thank
you," the chair offered him. Conolly, who had received him cordially,
checked himself. There was a pause, during which Mr. Lind lost
countenance a little. Then Conolly sat down, and waited.
"Ahem!" said Mr. Lind. "I have to speak to you with--with reference
to--to a--a matter which has accidentally come to my knowledge. It would
be painful and unnecessary--quite unnecessary, to go into particulars."
Conolly remained politely attentive, but said nothing. Mr. Lind began to
feel very angry, but this helped him to the point.
"I merely wish--that is, I quite wish you to understand that any
intimacy that may have arisen between you and--and a member of my family
must--must, in short, be considered to be at an end. My daughter is--I
may tell you--engaged to Mr. Sholto Douglas, whom you know; and
"Mr. Lind," said Conolly, decisively: "your daughter is engaged to me."
Mr. Lind lost his temper, and rose, exclaiming, "I beg you will not
repeat that, either here or elsewhere."
"Pray be seated," said Conolly courteously.
"I have nothing more to say, sir."
Conolly rose, as though the interview were at an end, and seemed to wait
for his visitor to go.
"We understand one another, I presume," said Mr. Lind, dubiously.
"Not quite, I think," said Conolly, relenting. "I should suggest our
discussing the matter in full, now that we have a favorable
opportunity--if you will be so good."
Mr. Lind sat down, and said with condescension, "I am quite willing to
listen to you."
"Thank you," said Conolly. "Will you tell me what your objections are to
my engagement with your daughter?"
"I had hoped, sir, that your common sense and knowledge of the world
would have rendered an explanation superfluous."
"They havnt," said Conolly.
Mr. Lind rose to boiling point again. "Oh, Mr. Conolly, I assure you I
have no objection to explain myself: none whatever. I merely wished to
spare you as far as possible. Since you insist on my mentioning what I
think you must be perfectly well aware of, I can only say that from the
point of view of English society our positions are different; and
therefore an engagement between you and any member of my family is
unsuitable, and--in short--out of the question, however advantageous it
might be to you. That is all."
Mr. Lind considered he had had the better of that, and leaned back in
his chair more confidently. Conolly smiled and shook his head,
appreciative of the clearness with which Mr. Lind had put his case, but
utterly unmoved by it. He considered for a moment, and then said,
weighing his words carefully:
"Your daughter, with her natural refinement and delicate habits, is
certainly not fit to be married to a foul-mouthed fellow, ignorant,
dirty, besotted, and out of place in any company except at the bar in a
public house. That is probably your idea of a workman. But the fact of
her having consented to marry me is a proof that I do not answer to any
such description. As you have hinted, it will be an advantage to me in
some ways to have a lady for my wife; but I should have no difficulty in
purchasing that advantage, even with my present means, which I expect to
increase largely in the course of some years. Do you not underrate your
daughter's personal qualities when you assume that it was her position
that induced me to seek her hand?"
"I am quite aware of my daughter's personal advantages. They are
additional reasons against her contracting an imprudent marriage."
"Precisely. But in what respect would her marriage with me be imprudent?
I possess actual competence, and a prospect of wealth. I come of a long
lived and healthy family. My name is, beyond comparison, more widely
known than yours. [Mr. Lind recoiled]. I now find myself everywhere
treated with a certain degree of consideration, which an alliance with
your daughter will not diminish."
"In fact, you are conferring a great honor on my family by condescending
to marry into it?"
"I dont understand that way of looking at things, Mr. Lind; and so I
leave you to settle the question of honor as you please. But you must
not condemn me for putting my position in the best possible light in
order to reconcile you to an inevitable fact."
"What do you mean by an inevitable fact, sir?"
"My marriage, of course. I assure you that it will take place."
"But I shall not permit it to take place. Do you think to ignore me in
"Practically so. If you give your consent, I shall be glad for the sake
of Marian, who will be gratified by it. But if you withhold it, we must
dispense with it. By opposing us, you will simply--by making Marian's
home unbearable to her--precipitate the wedding." Conolly, under the
influence of having put the case neatly, here relaxed his manner so far
as to rest his elbows on the table and look pleasantly at his visitor.
"Do you know to whom you are speaking?" said Mr. Lind, driven by rage
and a growing fear of defeat into desperate self-assertion.
"I am speaking," said Conolly with a smile, "to my future
"I am a director of this company, of which you are the servant, as you
shall find to your cost if you persist in holding insulting language to
"If I found any director of this company allowing other than strictly
business considerations to influence him at the Board, I should insist
on his resigning."
Mr. Lind looked at him severely, then indignantly, then unsteadily,
without moving him in the least. At last he said, more humbly: "I hope
you will not abuse your position, Mr. Conolly. I do not know whether you
have sufficient influence over Marian to induce her to defy me; but
however that may be, I appeal to your better feelings. Put yourself in
my place. If you had an only daughter----"
"Excuse my interrupting you," said Conolly, gently; "but that will not
advance the argument unless you put yourself in mine. Besides, I am
pledged to Marian. If she asks me to break off the match, I shall
release her instantly."
"You will bind yourself to do that?"
"I cannot help myself. I have no more power to make her marry me than
you have to prevent her."
"I have the authority of a parent. And I must tell you, Mr. Conolly,
that it will be my duty to enlighten my poor child as to the effect a
union with you must have on her social position. You have made the most
of your celebrity and your prospects. She may be dazzled for the moment;
but her good sense will come to the rescue yet, I am convinced."
"I have certainly spared no pains to persuade her. Unless the habit of
her childhood can induce Marian to defer to your prejudice--you must
allow me to call it so: it is really nothing more--she will keep her
word to me."
Mr. Lind winced, recollecting how little his conduct toward Marian
during her childhood was calculated to accustom her to his influence.
"It seems to me, sir," he said, suddenly thinking of a new form of
reproach, "that, to use your own plain language, you are nothing more or
less than a Radical."
"Radicalism is not considered a reproach amongst workmen," said Conolly.
"I shall not fail to let her know the confidence with which you boast of
your power over her."
"I have simply tried to be candid with you. You know exactly how I
stand. If I have omitted anything, ask me, and I will tell you at once."
Mr. Kind rose. "I know quite as much as I care to know," he said. "I
distinctly object to and protest against all your proceedings, Mr.
Conolly. If my daughter marries you, she shall have neither my
countenance in society nor one solitary farthing of the fortune I had
destined for her. I recommend the latter point to your attention."
"I have considered it carefully, Mr. Lind; and I am satisfied with what
she possesses in her own right."
"Oh! You have ascertained _that_, have you?"
"I should hardly have proposed to marry her but for her entire
pecuniary independence of me."
"Indeed. And have you explained to her that you wish to marry her for
the sake of securing her income?"
"I have explained to her everything she ought to know, taking care, of
course, to have full credit for my frankness."
Mr. Lind, after regarding him with amazement for a moment, walked to the
"I am a gentleman," he said, pausing there for a moment, "and too
old-fashioned to discuss the obligations of good breeding with a
Radical. If I had believed you capable of the cynical impudence with
which you have just met my remonstrances, I should have spared myself
this meeting. Good-morning."
"Good-morning," said Conolly, gravely. When the door closed, he sprang
up and walked to and fro, chuckling, rubbing his hands, and occasionally
uttering a short laugh. When he had sufficiently relieved himself by
this exercise, he sat down at his desk, and wrote a note.
"The Conolly Electro-Motor Company of London, Limited. Queen
Victoria Street, E.C.
"This is to let your ever-radiant ladyship know that I am fresh
from an encounter with your father, who has retired in great wrath,
defeated, but of opinion that he deserved no better for arguing
with a Radical. I thought it better to put forth my strength at
once so as to save future trouble. I send this post haste in order
that you may be warned in case he should go straight home and scold
you. I hope he will not annoy you much.--E.C."
Having despatched the office boy to Westbourne Terrace with this letter,
Conolly went off to lunch. Mr. Lind went back to his club, and then to
Westbourne Terrace, where he was informed that the young ladies were
together in the drawing-room. Some minutes later, Marian, discussing
Conolly's letter with Elinor, was interrupted by a servant, who informed
her that her father desired to see her in his study.
"Now for it, Marian!" said Nelly, when the servant was gone. "Remember
that you have to meet the most unreasonable of adversaries, a parent
asserting his proprietary rights in his child. Dont be sentimental.
Leave that to him: he will be full of a father's anguish on discovering
that his cherished daughter has feelings and interests of her own.
Besides, Conolly has crushed him; and he will try to crush you in
"I wish I were not so nervous," said Marian. "I am not really afraid,
but for all that, my heart is beating very unpleasantly."
"I wish I were in your place," said Elinor. "I feel like a charger at
the sound of the trumpet."
"I am glad, for poor papa's sake, that you are not," said Marian, going
She knocked at the study door; and her father's voice, as he bade her
come in, impressed her more than ever before. He was seated behind the
writing-table, in front of which a chair was set for his daughter. She,
unaccustomed from her childhood to submit to any constraint but that
which the position of a guest, which she so often occupied, had trained
her to impose on herself, was rather roused than awed by this
magisterial arrangement. She sat down with less than her usual grace of
manner, and looked at him with her brows knitted. It was one of the rare
moments in which she reminded him of her mother. An angry impulse to bid
her not dare look so at him almost got the better of him. However, he
began prudently with a carefully premeditated speech.
"It is my duty, Marian," he said gravely, "to speak of the statement
you made last night. We need not allude to the painful scene which took
place then: better let that rest and be forgotten as soon as possible.
But the discovery of what you have been doing without my knowledge has
cost me a sleepless night and a great deal of anxiety. I wish to reason
with you now quite calmly and dispassionately; and I trust you will
remember that I am older and have far more experience of the world than
you, and that I am a better judge of your interests than you yourself
can possibly be. Ahem! I have been this morning to the City, where I saw
Mr. Conolly, and endeavored to make him understand the true nature of
his conduct toward me--and, I may add, toward you--in working his way
clandestinely into an intimacy with you. I shall not describe to you
what passed; but I may say that I have found him to be a person with
whom you could not hope for a day's happiness. Even apart from his
habits and tastes, which are those of a mere workman, his social (and, I
fear, his religious) views are such as no lady, no properly-minded woman
of any class, could sympathize with. You will be better able to judge of
his character when I tell you that he informed me of his having taken
care, before making any advances to you, to ascertain how much money you
had. He boasted in the coarsest terms of his complete influence over
you, evidently without a suspicion of the impression of venality and
indelicacy which his words were calculated to make on me. Besides,
Marian, I am sure you would not like to contract a marriage which would
give me the greatest pain; which would offend my family; and which would
have the effect of shutting you out from all good society."
"You are mistaken in him, papa."
"I beg you will allow me to finish, Marian. [He had to think for a
moment before he could substantiate this pretence of having something
more to say.] I have quite made up my mind, from personal observation of
Mr. Conolly, that even an ordinary acquaintance between you is out of
the question. I, in short, refuse to allow anything of the kind to
proceed; and I must ask you to respect my wishes in the matter. There is
another subject which I will take this opportunity of mentioning; but as
I have no desire to force your inclinations, I shall not press you for a
declaration of your feelings at present. Sholto Douglas----"
"I do not want to hear _anything_ about Sholto Douglas," said Marian,
"I expect you, Marian, to listen to what I have to say."
"On that subject I will not listen. I have felt very sore and angry ever
since you told me last night to leave the room when Sholto insulted me,
as if I were the aggressor."
"Angry! I am sorry to hear you say so to me."
"It is better to say so than to think so. There is no use in going on
with this conversation, papa. It will only lead to more bitterness
between us; and I had enough of that when I tasted it for the first time
last night. We shall never agree about Mr. Conolly. I have promised to
marry him; and therefore I am not free to withdraw, even if I wished
"A promise made by you without my sanction is not binding. And--listen
to me, if you please--I have obtained Mr. Conolly's express assurance
that if you wish to withdraw, he is perfectly willing that you should."
"Of course, he would not marry me if I did not wish it."
"But he is willing that you should withdraw. He leaves you quite free."
"Yes; and, as you told me, he is quite confident that I will keep faith
with him; and so I will. I have had a letter from him since you saw
"What!" said Mr. Lind, rising also.
"Dont let us quarrel, papa," said Marian, appealingly. "Why may I not
marry whom I please?"
"Who wants to prevent you, pray? I have most carefully abstained from
influencing you with regard to Sholto Douglas. But this is a totally
different question. It is my duty to save you from disgracing yourself."
"Where is the disgrace? Mr. Conolly is an eminent man. I am not poor,
and can afford to marry anyone I can respect. I can respect him. What
objection have you to him? I am sure he is far superior to Sholto."
"Mr. Douglas is a gentleman, Marian: Mr. Conolly is not; and it is out
of the question for you to ally yourself with a--a member of the
proletariat, however skilful he may be in his handicraft."
"What _is_ a gentleman, papa?"
"A gentleman, Marian, is one who is well born and well bred, and who has
that peculiar tone and culture which can only be acquired by intercourse
with the best society. I think you should know that as well as I. I hope
you do not put these questions from a desire to argue with me."
"I only wish to do what is right. Surely there is no harm in arguing
when one is not convinced."
"Humph! Well, I have said all that is necessary. I am sure that you will
not take any step calculated to inflict pain on me--at least an act of
selfishness on your part would be a new and shocking experience for me.
"That is a very unfair way of putting it, papa. You give me no good
reason for breaking my word, and making myself unhappy; and yet you
accuse me of selfishness in not being ready to do both."
"I think I have already given you my assurance, weighted as it is by my
age, my experience, my regard for your welfare, and, I hope, my
authority as a parent, that both your honor and happiness will be
secured by your obeying me, and forfeited by following your own
Marian, almost crushed by this, hesitated a moment, twisting her fingers
and looking pitiably at him. Then she thought of Conolly; rallied; and
said: "I can only say that I am sorry to disagree with you; but I am not
"Do you mean that you refuse to obey me?"
"I cannot obey you in this matter, papa. I--"
"That is enough," said Mr. Lind, gravely, beginning, to busy himself
with the writing materials. Marian for a moment seemed about to protest
against this dismissal. Then she checked herself and went out of the
room, closing the door quite quietly behind her, thereby unconsciously
terrifying her father, who had calculated on a slam.
"Well," said Elinor, when her cousin rejoined her in the drawing-room:
"have you been selfish and disobedient? Have you lacerated a father's
"He is thoroughly unfair," said Marian. "However, it all comes to this:
he is annoyed at my wanting to marry Ned: and I believe there will be no
more peace for me until I am in a house of my own. What shall we do in
the meantime? Where shall we go? I cannot stay here."
"Why not? Uncle Reginald will sulk; sit at dinner without speaking to
us; and keep out of our way as much as he can. But you can talk to me:
we neednt mind him. It is he who will be out in the cold, biting his
nose to vex his face. Such a state of things is new to you; but I have
survived weeks of it without a single sympathizer, and been none the
worse, except, perhaps, in temper. He will pretend to be inexorable at
first: then he will come down to wounded affection; and he will end by
"No, Nelly, I couldnt endure that sort of existence. If people cannot
remain friends they should separate at once. I will not sleep in this
"Hurrah!" cried Miss McQuinch. "That will be beginning the war with
spirit. If I were in your place, I would stay and fight it out at close
quarters. I would make myself so disagreeable that nobody can imagine
what life in this house would be. But your plan is the best--if you
really mean it."
"Certainly I mean it. Where shall we go, Nelly?"
"Hm! I am afraid none of the family would make us very comfortable under
the circumstances, except Marmaduke. It would be a splendid joke to go
to West Kensington; only it would tell as much against us and Ned as
against the Roman father. I have it! We will go to Mrs. Toplis's in St.
Mary's Terrace: my mother always stays there when she is in town. Mrs.
Toplis knows us: if she has a room to spare she will give it to us
without making any bother."
"Yes, that will do. Are you ready to come now?"
"If you can possibly wait five minutes I should like to put on my hat
and change my boots. We will have to come back and pack up when we have
settled about the room. We cannot go without clothes. I should like to
have a nightdress, at least. Have you any money?"
"I have the housekeeping money; but that, of course, I shall not take. I
have thirty pounds of my own."
"And I have my old stocking, which contains nearly seventeen. Say fifty
in round numbers. That will keep us going very comfortably for a month."
"Ridiculous! It will last longer than that. Oh!"
"We mustnt go, after all. I forgot _you_."
"What of me?"
"Where will you go when I am married? You cant live by yourself; and
papa may not welcome you back if you take my part against him."
"He would not, in any case; so it makes no difference to me. I can go
home if the worst comes to the worst. It does not matter: my present
luxurious existence must come to an end some time or another, whether we
go to Mrs. Toplis's or not."
"I am sure Ned will not object to your continuing with me, if I ask
"No, poor fellow! He wont object--at first; but he might not like it.
You have no right to inflict me on him. No: I stick to my resolution on
that point. Send for the carriage. It is time for us to be off; and Mrs.
Toplis will be more impressed if we come in state than if we trudge
"Hush," said Marian, who was standing near the window. "Here is George,
with a face full of importance."
"Uncle Reginald has written to him," said Elinor.
"Then the sooner we go, the better," said Marian.
"I do not care to have the whole argument over again with George."
As they passed through the hall on their way out they met the clergyman.
"Well, George," said Elinor, "how are the heathen getting on in
Belgravia? You look lively."
"Are you going out, Marian," he said, solemnly, disregarding his
"We are going to engage a couple of rooms for some errant members of the
family," said Elinor. "May we give you as a reference?"
"Certainly. I may want to speak to you before I go, Marian. When will
"I do not know. Probably we shall not be long. You will have plenty of
opportunities, in any case."
"Will you walk into the study, please, sir," said the parlormaid.
The Rev. George was closeted with his father for an hour. When he came
out, he left the house, and travelled by omnibus to Westbourne Grove,
whence he walked to a house in Uxbridge Road. Here he inquired for Mr.
Conolly, and, learning that he had just come in, sent up a card. He was
presently ushered into a comfortable room, with a pleasant view of the
garden. A meal of tea, wheatcakes, and fruit was ready on the table.
Conolly greeted his visitor cordially, and rang for another cup. The
Rev. George silently noted that his host dined in the middle of the day
and had tea in the evening. Afraid though as he was of Conolly, he felt
strengthened in his mission by these habits, quite out of the question
for Marian. The tea also screwed up his courage a little; but he talked
about the electro-motor in spite of himself until the cloth was removed,
when Conolly placed two easy chairs opposite one another at the window;
put a box of cigarets on a little table close at hand; and invited his
visitor to smoke. But as it was now clearly time to come to business,
the cigaret was declined solemnly. So Conolly, having settled himself in
an easy attitude, waited for the clergyman to begin. The Rev. George
seemed at a loss.
"Has your father spoken to you about an interview he had with me this
morning?" said Conolly, good-naturedly helping him out.
"Yes. That, in fact, is one of the causes of my visit."
"What does he say?"
"I believe he adheres to the opinion he expressed to you. But I fear he
may not have exhibited that self-control in speaking to you which I
fully admit you have as much right to expect as anyone else."
"It does not matter. I can quite understand his feeling."
"It does matter--pardon me. We should be sorry to appear wanting in
consideration for you."
"That is a trifle. Let us keep the question straight before us. We need
make no show of consideration for one another. I have shown none toward
"But I assure you our only desire is to arrange everything in a friendly
"No doubt. But when I am bent on doing a certain thing which you are
equally bent on preventing, no very friendly spirit is possible except
one of us surrender unconditionally."
"Hear me a moment, Mr. Conolly. I have no doubt I shall be able to
convince you that this romantic project of my sister's is out of the
question. Your ambition--if I may say so without offence--very naturally
leads you to think otherwise; but the prompting of self-interest is not
our safest guide in this life."
"It is the only guide I recognize. If you are going to argue the
question, and your arguments are to prevail, they must be addressed to
"I cannot think you quite mean that, Mr. Conolly."
"Well, waive the point for the present: I am open to conviction. You
know what my mind is. I have not changed it since I saw your father this
morning. You think I am wrong?"
"Not wrong. I do not say for a moment that you are wrong. I----"
"Mistaken. Ill-advised. Any term you like."
"I certainly believe that you are mistaken. Let me urge upon you first
the fact that you are causing a daughter to disobey her father. Now that
is an awful fact. May I--appealing to that righteousness in which I am
sure you are not naturally deficient--ask you whether you have reflected
on that fact?"
"It is not half so awful to me as the fact of a father forcing his
daughter's inclinations. However, awful is hardly the word for the
occasion. Let us come to business, Mr. Lind. I want to marry your sister
because I have fallen in love with her. You object. Have you any other
motive than aristocratic exclusiveness?"
"Indeed, you quite mistake. I have no such feeling. We are willing to
treat you with every possible consideration."
"Then why object?"
"Well, we are bound to look to her happiness. We cannot believe that it
would be furthered by an unsuitable match. I am now speaking to you
frankly as a man of the world."
"As a man of the world you know that she has a right to choose for
herself. You see, our points of view are different. On Sundays, for
instance, you preach to a highly privileged audience at your church in
Belgravia; whilst I lounge here over my breakfast, reading _Reynold's
Newspaper_. I have not many social prejudices. Although a workman, I
dont look on every gentleman as a bloodsucker who seizes on the fruits
of my labor only to pursue a career of vice. I will even admit that
there are gentlemen who deserve to be respected more than the workmen
who have neglected all their opportunities--slender as they are--of
cultivating themselves a little. You, on the other hand, know that an
honest man's the noblest work of God; that nature's gentlemen are the
only real gentlemen; that kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple
faith than Norman blood, and so forth. But when your approval of these
benevolent claptraps is brought to such a practical test as the marriage
of your sister to a workman, you see clearly enough that they do not
establish the suitability of personal intercourse between members of
different classes. That being so, let us put our respective philosophies
of society out of the question, and argue on the facts of this
particular case. What qualifications do you consider essential in a
"I am not bound to answer that; but, primarily, I should consider it
necessary to my sister's happiness that her husband should belong to the
same rank as she."
"You see you are changing your ground. I am not in the same rank--after
your sense--as she; but a moment ago you objected to the match solely
on the ground of unsuitability."
"Where is the difference?" said the clergyman, with some warmth. "I have
not changed my ground at all. It is the difference in rank that
constitutes the unsuitability.
"Let us see, then, how far you are right--how far suitability is a
question of rank. A gentleman may be, and frequently is, a drunkard, a
gambler, a libertine, or all three combined."
"Stay, Mr. Conolly! You show how little you understand the only true
"One moment, Mr. Lind. You are about to explain away the term gentleman
into man of honor, honest man, or some other quite different thing. Let
me put a case to you. I have a fellow at Queen Victoria Street working
for thirty shillings a week, who is the honestest man I know. He is as
steady as a rock; supports all his wife's family without complaining;
and denies himself beer to buy books for his son, because he himself has
experienced what it is to be without education. But he is not a
"Pardon me, sir. He is a true gentleman."
"Suppose he calls on you to-morrow, and sends up his name with a request
for an interview. You wont know his name; and the first question you
will put to your servant is 'What sort of person is he?' Suppose the
servant knows him, and, sharing your professed opinion of the meaning of
the word, replies 'He is a gentleman!' On the strength of that you will
order him to be shewn in; and the moment you see him you will feel angry
with your servant for deceiving you completely as to the sort of man you
were to expect by using the word gentleman in what you call its true
sense. Or reverse the case. Suppose the caller is your cousin, Mr.
Marmaduke Lind, and your high-principled servant by mistaking the name
or how not, causes you to ask the same question with respect to him. The
answer will be that Mr. Marmaduke--being a scamp--is not a gentleman.
You would be just as completely deceived as in the other case. No, Mr.
Lind, you might as well say that this workman of mine is a true lord or
a true prince as a true gentleman. A gentleman may be a rogue; and a
knifegrinder may be a philosopher and philanthropist. But they dont
change their ranks for all that."
The clergyman hesitated. Then he said timidly, "Even admitting this
peculiar view of yours, Mr. Conolly, does it not tell strongly against
yourself in the present instance?"
"No; and I will presently shew you why not. When we digressed as to the
meaning of the word gentleman, we were considering the matter of
suitability. I was saying that a gentleman might be a drunkard, or,
briefly, a scoundrel. A scoundrel would be a very unsuitable husband for
Marian--I perceive I annoy you by calling her by her name."
"N--no. Oh, no. It does not matter."
"Therefore gentility alone is no guarantee of suitability. The only
gentlemanliness she needs in a husband is ordinary good address,
presentable manners, sense enough to avoid ridiculous solecisms in
society, and so forth. Marian is satisfied with me on these points; and
her approval settles the question finally. As to rank, I am a skilled
workman, the first in my trade; and it is only by courtesy and
forbearance that I suffer any man to speak of my class as inferior. Take
us all, professions and trades together; and you will find by actual
measurement round the head and round the chest, and round our manners
and characters, if you like, that we are the only genuine aristocracy at
present in existence. Therefore I meet your objection to my rank with a
point-blank assertion of its superiority. Now let us have the other
objections, if there _are_ any others."
The clergyman received this challenge in silence. Then, after clearing
his throat uneasily twice, he said:
"I had hoped, Mr. Conolly, to have been able to persuade you on general
grounds to relinquish your design. But as you are evidently not within
reach of those considerations which I am accustomed to see universally
admitted, it becomes my painful duty to assure you that a circumstance,
on the secrecy of which you are relying, is known to me, and, through
me, to my father."
"What circumstance is that?"
"A circumstance connected with Mr. Marmaduke Lind, whom you mentioned
just now. You understand me, I presume?"
"Oh! you have found that out?"
"I have. It only remains for me to warn my sister that she is about to
contract a close relationship with one who is--I must say it--living in
sin with our cousin."
"What do you suppose will be the result of that?"
"I leave you to imagine," said the clergyman indignantly, rising.
"Stop a bit. You do not understand me yet, I see. You have said that my
views are peculiar. What if I have taken the peculiar view that I was
bound to tell Marian this before proposing to her, and have actually
"But surely--That is not very likely."
"The whole affair is not very likely. Our marriage is not likely; but
it is going to happen, nevertheless. She knows this circumstance
perfectly well. You told her yourself."
"The year before last, at Carbury Towers. It is worth your
consideration, too, that by mistrusting Marian at that time, and
refusing to give her my sister's address, you forced her to appeal to me
for help, and so advanced me from the position of consulting electrician
to that of friend in need. She knew nothing about my relationship to the
woman in a state of sin (as you call it), and actually deputed me to
warn your cousin of the risk he was running by his intimacy with her.
Whilst I was away running this queer errand for her, she found out that
the woman was my sister, and of course rushed to the conclusion that she
had inflicted the deepest pain on me. Her penitence was the beginning of
the sentimental side of our acquaintance. Had you recognized that she
was a woman with as good a right as you to know the truth concerning all
matters in this world which she has to make her way through, you would
have answered her question, and then I suppose I should have gone away
without having exchanged a word with her on any more personal matters
than induction coils and ohms of resistance; and in all probability you
would have been spared the necessity of having me for a brother-in-law."
"Well, sir," said the Rev. George dejectedly, "if what you say be true,
I cannot understand Marian, I can only grieve for her. I shall not argue
with you on the nature of the influence you have obtained over her. I
shall speak to her myself; since you will not hear me."
"That is hardly fair. I have heard you, and am willing to hear more, if
you have anything new to urge."
"You have certainly listened to my voice, Mr. Conolly. But I fear I have
used it to very little purpose."
"You will fail equally with Marian, believe me. Even I, whose ability to
exercise influence you admit, never obtained the least over my own
sister. She knew me too well on my worst side and not at all on my best.
If, as I presume, your father has tried in vain, what hope is there for
"Only my humble trust that a priest may be blessed in his appeal to duty
even where a father's appeal to natural affection has been disregarded."
"Well, well," said Conolly, kindly, rising as his visitor disconsolately
prepared to go, "you can try. _I_ got on by dint of dogged faith in
"And I get on by lowly faith in my Master. I would I could imbue you
with the same feeling!"
Conolly shook his head; and they went downstairs in silence. "Hallo!"
said he, as he opened the door, "it is raining. Let me lend you a coat."
"Thank you, no. Not at all. Good-night," said the clergyman, quickly,
and hastened away through the rain from Conolly's civilities.
When he arrived at Westbourne Terrace, there was a cab waiting before
the house. The door was opened to him by Marian's maid, who was dressed
"Master is in the drawing-room, sir, with Miss McQuinch," she said,
meaning, evidently, "Look out for squalls."
He went upstairs, and found Elinor, with her hat on, standing by the
pianoforte, with battle in her nostrils. Mr. Lind, looking perplexed
and angry, was opposite to her.
"George," said Mr. Lind, "close the door. Do you know the latest news?"
"Marian has run away!"
"Yes," said Miss McQuinch. "She has fled to Mrs. Toplis's, at St. Mary's
Terrace, with--as Uncle Reginald was just saying--a most dangerous
"With _me_, in short."
"And you have counselled her to take this fatal step?"
"No. I advised her to stay. But she is not so well used to domestic
discomfort as I am; so she insisted on going. We have got very nice
rooms: you may come and see us, if you like."
"Is this a time to display your bitter and flippant humor?" said the
Rev. George, indignantly. "I think the spectacle of a wrecked home--"
"Stuff!" interrupted Elinor, impatiently. "What else can I say? Uncle
Reginald tells me I have corrupted Marian, and refuses to believe what I
tell him. And now you attack me, as if it were my fault that you have
driven her away. If you want to see her, she is within five minutes walk
of you. It is you who have wrecked her home, not she who has wrecked
"There is no use in speaking to Elinor, George," said Mr. Lind, with the
air of a man who had tried it. "You had better go to Marian, and tell
her what you mentioned this afternoon. What has been the result of your
"He maintains that she knows everything," said the Rev. George, with a
dispirited glance at Elinor. "I fear my visit has been worse than
"It is impossible that she should know. He lies," said Mr. Lind. "Go and
tell her the truth, George; and say that I desire her--I order her--to
come back at once. Say that I am waiting here for her."
"But, Uncle Reginald," began Elinor, in a softer tone than before,
whilst the clergyman stood in doubt--
"I think," continued Mr. Lind, "that I must request you, Elinor, to
occupy the rooms you have taken, until you return to your parents. I
regret that you have forced me to take this step; but I cannot continue
to offer you facilities for exercising your influence over my daughter.
I will charge myself with all your expenses until you go to Wiltshire."
Elinor looked at him as if she despaired of his reason. Then, seeing her
cousin slowly going to the door, she said:
"You dont really mean to go on such a fool's errand to Marian, George?"
"Elinor!" cried Mr. Lind.
"What else is it?" said Elinor. "You asserted all your authority
yourself this morning, and only made matters worse. Yet you expect her
to obey you at second hand. Besides, she is bound in honor not to desert
_me_ now; and I will tell her so, too, if I see any sign of her letting
herself be bullied."
"I fear Marian will not pay much heed to what I say to her," said the
"If you are coming," said Elinor, "you had better come in my cab.
Good-night, Uncle Reginald."
"Stay," said Mr. Lind, irresolutely. "Elinor, I--you--Will you exercise
your influence to induce Marian to return? I think you owe me at least
"I will if you will withdraw your opposition to her marriage and let her
do as she likes. But if you can give her no better reason for returning
than that she can be more conveniently persecuted here than at St.
Mary's Terrace, she will probably stay where she is, no matter how I may
"If she is resolved to quarrel with me, I cannot help it," said Mr.
"You know very well that she is the last person on earth to quarrel with
"She has been indulged in every way. This is the first time she has been
asked to sacrifice her own wishes."
"To sacrifice her whole life, you mean. It is the first time she has
ever hesitated to sacrifice her own comfort, and therefore the first
time you are conscious that any sacrifice is required. Let me tell her
that you will allow her to take her own course, Uncle Reginald. He is
well enough off; and they are fond of one another. A man of genius is
worth fifty men of rank."
"Tell her, if you please, Elinor, that she must choose between Mr.
Conolly and me. If she prefers him, well and good: I have done with her.
That is my last word."
"So now she has nobody to turn to in the world except him. That is
sensible. Come, cousin George! I am off."
"I do not think I should do any good by going," said the clergyman.
"Then stay where you are," said Elinor. "Good-night." And she abruptly
left the room.
"It was a dreadful mistake ever to have allowed that young fury to
enter the house," said Mr. Lind. "She must be mad. What did _he_ say?"
"He said a great deal in attempted self-justification. But I could make
no impression on him. We have no feelings in common with a man of his
type. No. He is evidently bent on raising himself by a good marriage."
"We cannot prevent it."
"Oh, surely we----"
"I tell you we _cannot_ prevent it," repeated Mr. Lind, turning angrily
upon his son. "How can we? What can we do? She will marry
this--this--this--this beggar. I wish to God I had never seen her
The clergyman stood by, cowed, and said nothing.
"You had better go to that woman of Marmaduke's," continued Mr. Lind,
"and try whether she can persuade her brother to commute his interest in
the company, and go back to America, or to the devil. I will take care
that he gets good terms, even if I have to make them up out of my own
pocket. If the worst comes, _she_ must be persuaded to leave Marmaduke.
Offer her money. Women of that sort drive a hard bargain; but they have
"But, sir, consider my profession. How can I go to drive a bargain with
a woman of evil reputation?"
"Well, I must go myself, I suppose."
"Oh, no. I will go. Only I thought I would mention it."
"A clergyman can go anywhere. You are privileged. Come to breakfast in
the morning: we can talk over matters then."
One morning the Rev. George Lind received a letter addressed in a
handwriting which he did not remember and never thenceforth forgot.
Within the envelope he found a dainty little bag made of blue satin,
secured by ribbons of the same material. This contained a note written
on scented paper, edged with gold, and decorated with a miniature
representation of a _pierrot_, sitting cross-legged, conning a book, on
the open pages of which appeared the letters L.V. The clergyman
recognized the monogram no more than the writing. But as it was
evidently from a lady, he felt a pleasant thrill of expectation as he
unfolded the paper.
"Laurel Grove West Kensington
"Dear Mr. George
"I have made poor little Lucy believe that Kew is the most heavenly
place on earth to spend a May morning so Bob has had to promise to
row her down there to-morrow (Thursday) after breakfast and I shall
be at home alone from eleven to one this is very short notice I
know but opportunities are scarce and another might not present
itself for a month.
"Believe me Dear Mr. George
The Rev. George became thoughtful, and absently put the note in a little
rack over the mantelpiece. Then, recollecting that a prying servant or
landlady might misinterpret it, he transferred it to his pocket. After
breakfast, having satisfied himself before the mirror that his dress was
faultless, and his expression saintly, he went out and travelled by rail
from Sloane Square to West Kensington, whence he walked to Laurel Grove.
An elderly maid opened the gate. It was a rule with the Rev. George not
to look at strange women; and this morning the asceticism which he
thought proper to his office was unusually prominent in his thoughts. He
did not look up once while the maid conducted him through the shrubbery
to the house; and he fully believed that he had not seen at the first
glance that she was remarkably plain, as Susanna took care that all her
servants should be. Passing by the drawing-room, where he had been on a
previous occasion, they went on to a smaller apartment at the back of
"What room is this?" he asked, uneasily.
"Missus's Purjin bodoor, sir," replied the main.
She opened the door; and the clergyman, entering, found himself in a
small room, luxuriously decorated in sham Persian, but containing
ornaments of all styles and periods, which had been purchased and
introduced just as they had caught Susanna's fancy. She was seated on a
ottoman, dressed in wide trousers, Turkish slippers, a voluminous sash,
a short Greek jacket, a long silk robe with sleeves, and a turban, all
of fine soft materials and rare colors. Her face was skilfully painted,
and her dark hair disposed so as not to overweight her small head. The
clergyman, foolishly resisting a natural impulse to admire her, felt
like St. Anthony struggling with the fascination of a disguised devil.
He responded to her smile of welcome by a stiff bow.
"Sit down," she said. "You mustnt mind this absurd dress: it belongs to
a new piece I am studying. I always study in character. It is the only
way to identify myself with my part, you see."
"It seems a very magnificent dress, certainly," said the clergyman,
"Thank you for the compliment----"
"No, no," said he, hastily. "I had no such intention."
"Of course not," said Susanna, with a laugh. "It was merely an
unpremeditated remark: all compliments are, of course. I know all about
that. But do you think it a proper costume?"
"In what sense, may I ask?"
"Is it a correct Eastern dress? I am supposed to be one of the wives of
the Caliph Somebody al Something. You have no idea how difficult it is
to get a reliable model for a dress before laying out a heap of money on
it. This was designed in Paris; but I should like to hear it
criticized--chronologically, or whatever you call it--by a scholar."
"I really do not know, Madam. I am not an Orientalist; and my studies
take a widely different direction from yours."
"Yes, of course," said Susanna, with a sigh. "But I assure you I often
wish for your advice, particularly as to my elocution, which is very
faulty. You are such a master of the art."
The clergyman bowed in acceptance of the compliment, and began to take
heart; for to receive flattery from ladies in exchange for severe
reproof was part of his daily experience.
"I have come here," he said, "to have a very serious conversation with
"All right, Doctor. Fire away."
This sudden whim of conferring on him a degree in divinity, and her
change of manner--implying that she had been laughing at him
before--irritated him. "I presume," he said, "that you are acquainted
with the movements of your brother."
"Of Ned?" said Susanna, frowning a little. "No. What should I know about
"He is, I believe, about to be married."
"No!" screamed Susanna, throwing herself back, and making her bangles
and ornaments clatter. "Get out, Doctor. You dont mean it."
"Certainly I mean it. It is not my profession to jest. I must also tell
you that his marriage will make it quite impossible for you to continue
here with my cousin."
"Why? Who is he going to marry?"
"Ahem! He has succeeded in engaging the affections of my sister."
"What! Your sister? Marian Lind?"
Susanna uttered a long whistle, and then, with a conviction and
simplicity which prevented even the Rev. George from being shocked,
said: "Well, I _am_ damned! I know more than one fool of a girl who will
be sick and sorry to hear it." She paused, and added carelessly: "I
suppose all your people are delighted?"
"I do not know why you should suppose so. We have had no hand in the
matter. My sister has followed her own inclinations."
"Indeed! Let me tell you, young man, that your sister might have gone
farther and fared worse."
"Doubtless. However, you will see now how impossible it is that you
should remain in your present--that you should continue here, in fact."
"What do you mean?"
"You cannot," said the clergyman, accustomed to be bold and stern with
female sinners, "when you are sister-in-law to Miss Lind, live as you
are now doing with her cousin."
"Because it would be a scandal. I will say nothing at present of the sin
of it: you will have to account for that before a greater than I."
"Just so, Doctor. You dont mind the sin; but when it comes to a
"I did not say so. I abhor the sin. I have prayed earnestly for your
awakening, and shall do so in spite of the unregenerate hardness of
"Hallo, Doctor! draw it mild, if you please. I am not one of your
parishioners, you know. Perhaps that is the reason your prayers for me
have not met with much attention. Let us stick to business: you may talk
shop as much as you please afterwards. What do you want me to do?"
"To sever your connexion with Marmaduke at once. Believe me, it will not
prove so hard a step as it may seem. You have but to ask for strength to
do it, and you will find yourself strong. It will profit you even more
than poor Marmaduke."
"Will it? I dont see it, Doctor. You think it will profit _you_: thats
plain enough. But it wont profit me; it wont profit Bob; and it wont by
any means profit the child."
"Not immediately, perhaps, in a worldly sense----"
"That is the sense I mean. Drop all that other stuff: I dont believe in
you parsons: you are about the worst lot going, as far as I can see.
Just tell me this, Doctor. Your sister is a very nice girl, I have no
doubt: she would hardly have snapped up Ned if she wasn't. But why is
she to have everything her own way?"
"I do not understand."
"Well, listen. Here is a young woman who has had every chance in life
that hick could give her: silk cradles, gold rattles, rank, wealth,
schooling, travelling, swell acquaintances, and anything else she chose
to ask for. Even when she is fool enough to want to get married, her
luck sticks to her, and she catches Ned, who is a man in a
thousand--though Lord forbid we should have many of his sort about! Yet
she's not satisfied. She wants _me_ to give up my establishment just to
keep her family in countenance."
"She knows nothing of my visit, I assure you."
"Even if she doesnt, it makes no odds as to the facts. She can go her
own way; and I will go mine. I shant want to visit her; and I dont
suppose she will visit me. So she need trouble herself no more than if
there was no such person as I in the world."
"But you will find that it will be greatly to your advantage to leave
this house. It is not our intention that you shall suffer in a pecuniary
point of view by doing so. My father is rich----"
"What is that to me? He doesnt want me to go and live with him, does
"You quite misunderstand me. No such idea ever entered----"
"There! go on. I only said that to get a rise out of you, Doctor. How do
you make out that I should gain by leaving this house?"
"My father is willing to make you some amends for the withdrawal of
such portion of Marmaduke's income as you may forfeit by ceasing your
connexion with him."
"You have come to buy me out, in fact: is that it? What a clever old man
your father must be! Knows the world thoroughly, eh?"
"I hope I have not offended you?"
"Bless you, Doctor! nobody could be offended with you. Suppose I agree
to oblige you (you have a very seductive High Church way about you) who
is to make Marmaduke amends for such portion of _my_ income as our
separation will deprive _him_ of? Eh? I see that that staggers you a
little. If you will just tot up the rent of this house since we have had
it; the price of the furniture; our expenses, including my carriage and
Marmaduke's horse and the boat; six hundred pounds of debt that he ran
up before he settled down with me; and other little things; and then
find out from his father how much money he has drawn within the last two
years, I think you will find it rather hard to make the two balance.
Your uncle is far too good a man to give Marmaduke money to spend on me;
but he was not too good to keep me playing in the provinces all through
last autumn just to make both ends meet, when I ought to have been
taking my holiday. I wish you would tell his mother, your blessed pious
Aunt Dora, to send Bob the set of diamonds his grandmother left him,
instead of sermons which he never reads."
"I thought Marmaduke had nearly a thousand a year, independently of his
"A thousand a year! What is that? And your uncle would stop even that,
if he could, to keep it out of my hands. You may tell him that if it
didnt come into my hands it would hardly last a week. Only for the
child, and the garden, and the sort of quiet life he leads here, he
would spend a thousand a month. And look at _my_ expenses! Look at my
dresses! I suppose you think that people wear cotton velvet and glazed
calico on the stage, as Mrs. Siddons did in the old days when they acted
by candlelight. Why, between dress and jewellery, I have about two
hundred pounds on my back at the present moment; and you neednt think
that any manager alive will find dresses to that tune. At the theatre
they think me overpaid at fifty pounds a week, although they might shut
up the house to-morrow if my name was taken out of the bills. Tell your
father that so far from my living on Bob, it is as much as I can do to
keep this place going by my work--not to mention the worry of it, which
always falls on the woman."
"I certainly had no idea of the case being as you describe," said the
clergyman, losing his former assurance. "But would it not then be better
for you to separate?"
"Certainly not. I want my house and home. So does he. If an income is
rather tight, halving it is a very good way to make it tighter. No: if I
left Bob, he would go to the devil; and very likely I should go to the
devil, too, and disgrace you in earnest."
"But, my dear madam, consider the disgrace at present!"
"What disgrace? When your sister becomes Mrs. Ned, what will be the
difference between her position and mine? Dont look aghast. What will be
"Surely you do not suppose that she will dispense with the sacrament of
marriage before casting in her lot with your brother!"
"I bet you my next week's salary that you dont get Ned to enter a
church. He will be tied up by a registrar. Of course, your sister will
have the law of him somehow: she cant help herself. She is not
independent; and so she must be guaranteed against his leaving her
without bread and butter. _I_ can support myself, and may shew Bob a
clean pair of heels to-morrow, if I choose. Even if she has money of her
own, she darent stick to her freedom for fear of society. _I_ snap my
fingers at society, and care as little about it as it cares about me;
and I have no doubt she would be glad to do the same if she had the
pluck. I confess I shouldnt like to make a regular legal bargain of
going to live with a man. I dont care to make love a matter of money; it
gives it a taste of the harem, or even worse. Poor Bob, meaning to be
honorable, offered to buy me in the regular way at St. George's, Hanover
Square, before we came to live here; but, of course, I refused, as any
decent woman in my circumstances would. Understand me now, Doctor: I
dont want to give myself any virtuous airs, or to boast of behaving
better than your sister. I know the world; and I know that she will
marry Ned just as much because she thinks it right as because she cant
help herself. But dont you try to make me swallow any gammon about my
disgracing you and so forth. I intend to stay as I am. I can respect
myself; and I dont care whether you or your family respect me or not. If
you dont approve of me, why! nobody asks you to associate with me. If
you want society, you have your own lot to mix with. If I want it, I can
fill this house to-morrow. Not with stupid fine ladies, but with really
clever people, who are not at all shy of me. Look at me at the present
moment! I am receiving a morning visit from the best born and most
popular parson in Belgravia. I wonder, Doctor, what your parishioners
would think if they could see you now."
"I must confess that I do not understand you at all. You seem to see
everything reversed--upside down. You--I--you bewilder me, Miss Conol--"
"Sh! Mademoiselle Lalage Virtue, if you please. Or you may call me
Susanna, if you like, since we are as good as related."
"I fear," said the clergyman, blushing, "that we have no common ground
on which to argue. I am sorry I have no power to influence you."
"Oh, dont say that. I really like you, Doctor, and would do more for you
than most people. If your father had had the cheek to come himself to
offer me money, and so forth, I would have put him out of the house
double quick; whereas I have listened to you like a lamb. Never mind
your hat yet. Have a bottle of champagne with me?"
"Thank you, no."
"Dont you drink at all?"
"You should. It would give a fillip to your sermons. Let me send you a
case of champagne. Promise to drink a bottle every Sunday in the vestry
before you come out to preach, and I will take a pew for the season in
your church. Thats good of me, isnt it?"
"I must go," said the Rev. George, rising, after hastily pretending to
look at his watch. "Will you excuse me?"
"Nonsense," she said, rising also, and slipping her hand through his arm
to detain him. "Wait and have some luncheon. Why, Doctor, I really think
youre afraid of me. _Do_ stay."
"Impossible. I have much business which I am bound----Pray, let me go,"
pleaded the clergyman, piteously, ineffectually struggling with Susanna,
who had now got his arm against her breast. "You must be mad!" he cried,
drops of sweat breaking out on his brow as he felt himself being pulled
helplessly toward the ottoman. She got her knee on it at last; and he
made a desperate effort to free himself.
"Oh, how rough you are!" she exclaimed in her softest voice, adroitly
tumbling into the seat as if he had thrown her down, and clinging to his
arms; so that it was as much as he could do to keep his feet as he
stooped over her, striving to get upright. At which supreme moment the
door was opened by Marmaduke, who halted on the threshold to survey the
two reproachfully for a moment. Then he said:
"George: I'm astonished at you. I have not much opinion of parsons as a
rule; but I really did think that _you_ were to be depended on."
"Marmaduke," said the clergyman, colouring furiously, and almost beside
himself with shame and anger: "you know perfectly well that I am
actuated in coming here by no motive unworthy of my profession. You
misunderstand what you have seen. I will not hear my calling made a jest
"Quite right, Doctor," said Susanna, giving him a gentle pat of
encouragement on the shoulder. "Defend the cloth, always. I was only
asking him to stay to lunch, Bob. Cant you persuade him?"
"Do, old fellow," said Marmaduke. "Come! you must: I havnt had a chat
with you for ever so long. I'm really awfully sorry I interrupted you.
What on earth did you make Susanna rig herself out like that for?"
"Hold your tongue, Bob. Mr. George has nothing to do with my being in
character. This is what came last night in the box: I could not resist
trying it on this morning. I am Zobeida, the light of the harem, if you
please. I must have your opinion of the rouge song, Doctor. Observe.
This is a powder puff: I suppose you never saw such a thing before. I am
making up my face for a visit of the Sultan; and I am apologizing to the
audience for using cosmetics. The original French is improper; so I will
give you the English version, by the celebrated Robinson, the cleverest
adapter of the day:
'Poor odalisques in captive thrall
Must never let their charms pall:
If they get the sack
They ne'er come back;
For the Bosphorus is the boss for all
In this harem, harem, harem, harem, harum scarum place.'
Intellectual, isnt it?"
Susanna, whilst singing, executed a fantastic slow dance, stopping at
certain points to clink a pair of little cymbals attached to her ankles,
and to look for a moment archly at the clergyman.
"No," he said, hurt and offended into a sincerity of manner which
compelled them to respect him for the first time, "I will not stay; and
I am very sorry I came." And he left the room, his cheeks tingling.
Marmaduke followed him to the gate. "Come and look us up soon again, old
fellow," he said.
"Marmaduke," said the clergyman: "you are travelling as fast as you can
along the road to Hell."
As he hurried away, Marmaduke leaned against the gate and made the
villas opposite echo his laughter.
"On my soul, it's a shame," said he, when he returned to the house.
"Poor old George!"
"He found no worse than he had made up his mind to find," said Susanna.
"What right has he to come into my house and take it for granted, to my
face, that I am a disgrace to his sister? One would think I was a common
woman from the streets."
"Pshaw! What does he know? He is only a molly-coddling parson, poor
fellow. He will give them a rare account of you when he goes back."
"Let him," said Susanna. "He can tell them how little I care for their
The Rev. George took the next train to the City, and went to the offices
of the Electro-Motor Company, where he found his father. They retired
together to the board-room, which was unoccupied just then.
"I have been to that woman," said the clergyman.
"Well, what does she say?"
"She is an entirely abandoned person. She glories in her shame. I have
never before met with such an example of complete and unconscious
depravity. Yet she is not unattractive. There is a wonderfully clever
refinement even in her coarseness which goes far to account for her
influence over Marmaduke."
"No doubt; but apart from her personal charms, about which I am not
curious, is she willing to assist us?"
"No. I could make no impression on her at all."
"Well, it cannot be helped. Did you say anything about Conolly's selling
his interest here and leaving the country?"
"No," said the clergyman, struck with a sense of remissness. "I forgot
that. The fact is, I hardly had the oppor----"
"Never mind. It is just as well that you did not: it might have made
"I do not think it is of the least use to pursue her with any further
overtures. Besides, I really could not undertake to conduct them."
"May I ask," said Mr. Lind, turning on him suddenly, "what objection you
have to Marian's wishes being consulted in this matter?"
The Rev. George recoiled, speechless.
"I certainly think," said Mr. Lind, more smoothly, "that Marian might
have trusted to my indulgence instead of hurrying away to a lodging and
writing the news in all directions. But I must say I have received some
very nice letters about it. Jasper is quite congratulatory. The _Court
Journal_ has a paragraph this week alluding to it with quite good taste.
Conolly is a very remarkable man; and, as the _Court Journal_ truly
enough remarks, he has won a high place in the republic of art and
science. As a Liberal, I cannot say that I disapprove of Marian's
choice; and I really think that it will be looked on in society as an
Mr. Lind's son eyed him dubiously for quite a long time. Then he said,
slowly, "Am I to understand that I may now speak of the marriage as a
"Why not, pray?"
"Of course, since you wish it, and it cannot be helped--" The clergyman
again looked at his father, still more dubiously. He saw in his eye that
there would be a quarrel if the interview lasted much longer. So he said
"I must go home now. I have to write my sermon for next Sunday."
"Very good. Do not let me detain you. Good-bye."
The Rev. George returned to his rooms quite dazed by the novelty of his
sensations. He had always respected his father beyond other men; and now
he knew that his father did not deserve his respect in the least. That
was one conviction uprooted. And Susanna had done something to him--he
did not exactly know what; but he felt altogether a different man from
the clergyman of the day before. He had come face to face with what he
called Vice for the first time, and found it not at all what he had
supposed it to be. He had believed that he knew it to be most
dangerously attractive to the physical, but utterly repugnant to the
moral sense; and such fascination he was prepared to resist to the
utmost. But he was attacked in just the opposite way, and thereby so
thrown off his guard that he did not know he was attacked at all; so
that he told himself vaingloriously that the shafts of the enemy had
fallen harmlessly from his breastplate of faith. For he was not in the
least charmed by Susanna's person. He had detected the paint on her
cheeks, and had noted with aversion a certain unhealthy bloat in her
face, and an alcoholic taint in her breath. He exulted in the
consciousness that he had been genuinely disgusted, not as a matter of
duty, but unaffectedly, as a matter of simple nature. What interested
him in her was her novel and bold moral attitude, her self-respect in
the midst of her sin, her striking arguments in favor of an apparently
indefensible course of life. Hers was no common case of loose living, he
felt: there was a soul to be saved there, if only Heaven would raise her
up a friend in some man absolutely proof against the vulgar fascination
of her prettiness. He began to imagine a certain greatness of character
about her, a capacity for heroic repentance as well as for heroic sin.
Before long he was amusing himself by thinking how it might have gone
with her if she had him for her counsellor instead of a gross and
thoughtless rake like Marmaduke.
It is not necessary to follow the wild goose chase which the Rev.
George's imagination ran from this starting-point to the moment when he
was suddenly awakened, by an unmistakable symptom, to the fact that he
was being outwitted and beglamoured, like the utter novice he was, by a
power which he believed to be the devil. He rushed to the little oratory
he had arranged with a screen in the corner of his sitting-room, and
prayed aloud, long and earnestly. But the hypnotizing process did not
tranquilize him as usual. It excited him, and led him finally to a
passionate appeal for pardon and intercession to a statuet of the Virgin
Mother, of whom he was a very devout adorer. He had always regarded
himself as her especial champion in the Church of England; and now he
had been faithless to her, and indelicate into the bargain. And yet, in
spite of his contrition, he felt that he was having a tremendous
spiritual experience, which he would not for worlds have missed. The
climax of it was the composition of his Sunday sermon, the labor of
which secured him a sound sleep that night. It was duly delivered on the
following Sunday morning in this form:
"Dearly beloved Brethren: In the twenty-third verse of the third chapter
of St. Mark's gospel, we find this question: '_How can Satan cast out
Satan_?' How can Satan cast out Satan? If you will read what follows,
you will perceive that that question was not answered. My brethren, it
is unanswerable: it never has been, and it never can be answered.
"In these latter days, when the power of Satan has become so vast, when
his empire and throne tower in our midst so that the faithful are cast
down by the exceeding great shadow thereof, and when temples innumerable
are open for his worship, it is no strange thing that many faint-hearted
ones should give half their hearts to Beelzebub, and should hope by the
prince of devils to cast out devils. Yes, this is what is taking place
daily around us. Oh, you, who seek to excuse this book to infidel
philosophers by shewing with how much facility a glib tongue may
reconcile it with their so-called science, I tell you that it is science
and not the Bible that shall need that apology in the great day of
wrath. And, therefore, I would have you, my brethren, earnestly
discountenance all endeavors to justify the Word of God by explaining it
in conformity with the imaginations of the men of science. How can Satan
cast out Satan? He cannot; but he can lead you into the sin of adding to
and of taking from the words of this book. He can add plagues unto you,
and take away your part out of the holy city.
"In this great London which we inhabit we are come upon evil day's. The
rage of the blasphemer, the laugh at the scoffer, the heartless
lip-service of the worldling, and the light dalliance of the daughters
of music, are offered every hour upon a thousand Baal-altars within this
very parish. I would ask some of you who spend your evenings in the
playhouses which multiply around us like weeds sown in the rank soil of
human frailty, what justification you make to yourselves when you are
alone in the watches of the night, and your conscience saith, '_What
went ye out for to see_?' You will then complain of the bitterness of
life, and prate of the refining influences of music; of the help to
spiritual-mindedness given by the exhibition on the public stage of
mockeries of God's world, wherein some pitiful temporal triumph of
simulated virtue in the last act is the apology for the vicious trifling
that has gone before. And in whom do you there see typified that virtue
which you should shield in your hearts from the contamination of the
theatre? Is it not in some woman whose private life is the scandalous
matter of your whispered conversations, and whose shameless face smirks
at you from the windows of those picture-shops which are a disgrace to
our national morality? Is it from such as she that you will learn to be
spiritual-minded? Does she appear before your carnal crowds repentant,
her forehead covered with ashes, her limbs covered with sackcloth? No!
Her brow is glowing with unquenchable fire to kindle the fuel that the
devil has hidden in your hearts. Her raiment is cloth of gold; and she
is not covered with it. Naked and unashamed, she smiles and weeps in
mockery of the virtue which you would persuade yourselves that she
Back to Full Books