Part 2 out of 10
atheism had not that cause been represented by a high-souled,
self-denying man whom they loved with all their hearts.
The dreary evening ended at length, Erica helped her mother to bed,
and then with slow steps climbed up to her little attic room. It
was cold and comfortless enough, bare of all luxuries, but even
here the walls were lined with books, and Erica's little iron
bedstead looked somewhat incongruous surrounded as it was with
dingy-looking volumes, dusky old legal books, works of reference,
books atheistical, theological, metaphysical, or scientific. On
one shelf, amid this strangely heterogeneous collection, she kept
her own particular treasures--Brian's Longfellow, one or two of
Dickens's books which Tom had given her, and the beloved old Grimm
and Hans Andersen, which had been the friends of her childhood and
which for "old sakes' sake" she had never had the heart to sell.
The only other trace of her in the strange little bedroom was in a
wonderful array of china animals on the mantlepiece. She was a
great animal lover, and, being a favorite with every one, she
received many votive offerings. Her shrine was an amusing one to
look at. A green china frog played a tuneless guitar; a pensive
monkey gazed with clasped hands and dreadfully human eyes into
futurity; there were sagacious looking elephants, placid
rhinoceroses, rampant hares, two pug dogs clasped in an irrevocable
embrace, an enormous lobster, a diminutive polar bear, and in the
center of all a most evil-looking jackdaw about half an inch high.
But tonight the childish side of Erica was in abeyance; the cares
of womanhood seemed gathering upon her. She put out her candle and
sat down in the dark, racking her brain for some plan by which to
relieve her father and mother. Their life was growing harder and
harder. It seemed to her that poverty in itself was bearable
enough, but that the ever-increasing load of debt was not bearable.
As long as she could remember, it had always been like a mill-stone
tied about their necks, and the ceaseless petty economies and
privations seemed of little avail; she felt very much as if she
were one of the Danaids, doomed forever to pour water into a vessel
with a hole in it.
Yet in one sense she was better off than many, for these debts were
not selfish debts--no one had ever known Raeburn to spend an
unnecessary sixpence on himself; all this load had been incurred in
the defense of what he considered the truth--by his unceasing
struggles for liberty. She was proud of the debts, proud to suffer
in what she regarded as the sacred cause; but in spite of that she
was almost in despair this evening, the future looked so hopelessly
Tom's words rang in her head--"The chieftain will try to do the
work of ten men!" What if he overworked himself as he had done
once a few years ago? What if he died in the attempt? She wished
Tom had not spoken so strongly. In the friendly darkness she did
not try to check the tears which would come into her eyes at the
thought. Something must be done! She must in some way help him!
And then, all at once, there flashed into her mind M. Noirol's
teasing suggestion that she should go to Paris. Here was a way in
which, free of all expense, she might finish her education, might
practically earn her living! In this way she might indeed help to
lighten the load, but it would be at the cost of absolute
self-sacrifice. She must leave home, and father and mother, and
Erica was not exactly selfish, but she was very young. The thought
of the voluntary sacrifice seemed quite unbearable, she could not
make up her mind to it.
"Why should I give up all this? Why should prejudice and bigotry
spoil my whole life?" she thought, beginning to pace up and down
the room with quick, agitated steps. "Why should we suffer because
that wretch has gone bankrupt? It is unfair, unjust, it can't be
She leaned her arms on the window sill and looked out into the
silent night. The stars were shining peacefully enough, looking
down on this world of strife and struggle; Erica grew a little
calmer as she looked; Nature, with its majesty of calmness, seemed
to quiet her troubled heart and "sweep gradual-gospels in."
From some recess of memory there came to her some half-enigmatical
words; they had been quoted by Charles Osmond in his speech, but
she did not remember where she had heard them, only they began to
ring in her ears now:
"There is no gain except by loss, There is no life except by death,
Nor glory but by bearing shame, Nor justice but by taking blame."
She did not altogether understand the verse, but there was a truth
in it which could hardly fail to come home to one who knew what
persecution meant. What if the very blame and injustice of the
present brought in the future reign of justice! She seemed to hear
her father's voice saying again, "We must bear up, child; injustice
won't triumph in the end."
"There is no gain except by loss!"
What if her loss of home and friends brought gain to the world!
That was a thought which brought a glow of happiness to her even in
the midst of her pain. There was, after all, much of the highest
Christianity about her, though she would have been very much vexed
if any one had told her so, because Christianity meant to her
narrow-mindedness instead of brotherly love. However it might be,
there was no denying that the child of the great teacher of atheism
had grasped the true meaning of life, had grasped it, and was
prepared to act on it too. She had always lived with those who
were ready to spend all in the promotion of the general good; and
all that was true, all that was noble in her creed, all that had
filled her with admiration in the lives of those she loved, came to
her aid now.
She went softly down the dark staircase to Raeburn's study; it was
late, and, anxious not to disturb the rest of the house, she opened
the door noiselessly and crept in. Her father was sitting at his
desk writing; he looked very stern, but there was a sort of
grandeur about his rugged face. He was absorbed in his work and
did not hear her, and for a minute she stood quite still watching
him, realizing with pain and yet with a happy pride how greatly she
loved him. Her heart beat fast at the thought of helping him,
lightening his load even a little.
"Father," she said, softly.
Raeburn was the sort of a man who could not be startled, but he
looked up quickly, apparently returning from some speculative
region with a slight effort. He was the most practical of men, and
yet for a minute he felt as if he were living in a dream, for Erica
stood beside him, pale and beautiful, with a sort of heroic light
about her whole face which transformed her from a merry child to a
high-souled woman. Instinctively he rose to speak to her.
"I will not disturb you for more than a minute, father," she said,
"it is only that I have thought of a way in which I think I could
help you if you would let me."
"Well, dear, what is it?" said Raeburn, still watching half
dreamily the exceeding beauty of the face before him. Yet an
undefined sense of dread chilled his heart. Was anything too hard
or high for her to propose? He listened without a word to her
account of M. Noirol's Parisian scheme, to her voluntary
suggestion that she should go into exile for two years. At the end
he merely put a brief question."Are you ready to bear two years of
"I am ready to help you," she said, with a little quiver in her
voice and a cloud of pain in her eyes.
Raeburn turned away from her and began to pace up and down the
little room, his eyes not altogether free from tears, for,
pachydermatous as he was accounted by his enemies, this man was
very tender over his child, he could hardly endure to see her pain.
Yet after all, though she had given him a sharp pang, she had
brought him happiness which any father might envy. He came back to
her, his stern face inexpressibly softened.
"And I am ready to be helped, my child; it shall be as you say."
There was something in his voice and in the gentle acceptance of
help from one so strong and self-reliant which touched Erica more
than any praise or demonstrative thanks could have done. They were
going to work together, he had promised that she should fight side
by side with him.
"Lawsuits may ruin us," said Raeburn, "but, after all, the evil has
a way of helping out the good." He put his arm round her and
kissed her. "You have taught me, little one, how powerless and
weak are these petty persecutions. They can only prick and sting
us! Nothing can really hurt us while we love the truth and love
That was the happiest moment Erica had ever known, already her loss
had brought a rapturous gain.
"I shall never go to sleep tonight," she said. "Let me help you
with your letters."
Raeburn demurred a little, but yielded to her entreaties, and for
the next two hours the father and daughter worked in silence. The
bitterness which had lurked in the earlier part of the pamphlet
that Raeburn had in hand was quite lacking in its close; the writer
had somehow been lifted into a higher, purer atmosphere, and if his
pen flew less rapidly over the paper, it at any rate wrote words
which would long outlive the mere overflow of an angry heart.
Coming back to the world of realities at last somewhere in the
small hours, he found his fire out, a goodly pile of letters ready
for his signature, and his little amanuensis fast asleep in her
chair. Reproaching himself for having allowed her to sit up, he
took her in his strong arms as though she had been a mere baby, and
carried her up to her room so gently that she never woke. The next
morning she found herself so swathed in plaids and rugs and
blankets that she could hardly move, and, in spite of a bad
headache, could not help beginning the day with a hearty laugh.
Raeburn was not a man who ever let the grass grow under his feet,
his decisions were made with thought, but with very rapid thought,
and his action was always prompt. His case excited a good deal of
attention; but long before the newspapers had ceased to wage war
either for or against him, long before the weekly journals had
ceased to teem with letters relating to the lawsuit, he had formed
his plans for the future. His home was to be completely broken up,
Erica was to go to Paris, his wife was to live with his sister,
Mrs. Craigie, and her son, Tom, who had agreed to keep on the
lodgings in Guilford Terrace, while for himself he had mapped out
such a programme of work as could only have been undertaken by a
man of "Titanic energy" and "Herculean strength," epithets which
even the hostile press invariably bestowed on him. How great the
sacrifice was to him few people knew. As we have said before, the
world regarded him as a target, and would hardly have believed that
he was in reality a man of the gentlest tastes, as fond of his home
as any man in England, a faithful friend and a devoted father, and
perhaps all the more dependent on the sympathies of his own circle
because of the bitter hostility he encountered from other quarters.
But he made his plans resolutely, and said very little about them
either one way or the other, sometimes even checking Erica when she
grumbled for him, or gave vent to her indignation with regard to
"We work for freedom, little one," he used to say; "and it is an
honor to suffer in the cause of liberty."
"But every one says you will kill yourself with overwork," said
Erica, "and especially when you are in America."
'"They don't know what stuff I'm made of," said Raeburn; "and, even
if it should use me up, what then? It's better to wear out than to
rust out, as a wise man once remarked."
"Yes," said Erica, rather faintly.
"But I've no intention of wearing out just yet," said Raeburn,
cheerfully. "You need not be afraid, little son Eric; and, if at
the end of those two years you do come back to find me gray and
wrinkled, what will that matter so long as we are free once more.
There's a good time coming; we'll have the coziest little home in
"With a garden for you to work in," said Erica, brightening up like
a child at the castle in the air. "And we'll keep lots of animals,
and never bother again about money all our lives."
Raeburn smiled at her ides of felicity--no cares, and plenty of
dogs and cats! He did not anticipate any haven of rest at the end
of the two years for himself. He knew that his life must be a
series of conflicts to the very end. Still he hoped for relief
from the load of debt, and looked forward to the reestablishment of
Brian Osmond heard of the plans before long, but he scarcely saw
Erica; the Christmas holidays began, and he no longer met her each
afternoon in Gower Street, while the time drew nearer and nearer
for her departure for Paris. At length, on the very last day, it
chanced that they were once more thrown together.
Raeburn was a great lover of flowers, and he very often received
floral offerings from his followers. It so happened that some
beautiful hot-house flowers had been sent to him from a nursery
garden one day in January, and, unwilling to keep them all, he had
suggested that Erica should take some to the neighboring hospitals.
Now there were two hospitals in Guilford Square; Erica felt much
more interested in the children's hospital than in the one for
grown-up people; but, wishing to be impartial she arranged a
basketful for each, and well pleased to have anything to give,
hastened on her errand. Much to her delight, her first basket of
flowers was not only accepted very gratefully, but the lady
superintendent took her over the hospital, and let her distribute
the flowers among the children. She was very fond of children, and
was as happy as she could be passing up and down among the little
beds, while her bright manner attracted the little ones, and made
them unusually affectionate and responsive.
Happy at having been able to give them pleasure, and full of
tender, womanly thoughts, she crossed the square to another small
hospital; she was absorbed in pitiful, loving humanity, had
forgotten altogether that the world counted her as a heretic, and
wholly unprepared for what awaited her, she was shown into the
visitors' room and asked to give her name. Not only was Raeburn
too notorious a name to pass muster, but the head of the hospital
knew Erica by sight, and had often met her out of doors with her
father. She was a stiff, narrow-minded, uncompromising sort of
person, and, in her own words was "determined to have no fellowship
with the works of darkness." How she could consider bright-faced
Erica, with her loving thought for others and her free gift, a
"work of darkness," it is hard to understand. She was not at all
disposed, however, to be under any sort of obligation to an
atheist, and the result of it was that after a three minutes'
interview, Erica found herself once more in the square, with her
flowers still in her hand, "declined WITHOUT thanks."
No one ever quite knew what the superintendent had said to her, but
apparently the rebuff had been very hard to bear. Not content with
declining any fellowship with the poor little "work of darkness,"
she had gone on in accordance with the letter of the text to
reprove her; and Erica left the house with burning cheeks, and with
a tumult of angry feeling stirred up in her heart. She was far too
angry to know or care what she was doing; she walked down the quiet
square in the very opposite direction to "Persecution Alley," and
might have walked on for an indefinite time had not some one
"I was hoping to see you before you left," said a pleasant quiet
voice close by her. She looked up and saw Charles Osmond.
Thus suddenly brought to a standstill, she became aware that she
was trembling from head to foot. A little delicate, sensitive
thing, the unsparing censure and the rude reception she had just
met with had quite upset her.
Charles Osmond retained her hand in his strong clasp, and looked
questioningly into her bright, indignant eyes.
"What is the matter, my child?" he asked.
"I am only angry," said Erica, rather breathlessly; "hurt and angry
because one of your bigots has been rude to me."
"Come in and tell me all about it," said Charles Osmond; and there
was something so irresistible in his manner that Erica at once
allowed herself to be led into one of the tall, old-fashioned
houses, and taken into a comfortable and roomy study, the nicest
room she had ever been in. It was not luxurious; indeed the Turkey
carpet was shabby and the furniture well worn, but it was
home-like, and warm and cheerful, evidently a room which was dear
to its owner. Charles Osmond made her sit down in a capacious arm
chair close to the fire.
"Well, now, who was the bigot?" he said, in a voice that would have
won the confidence of a flint.
Erica told as much of the story as she could bring herself to
repeat, quite enough to show Charles Osmond the terrible harm which
may be wrought by tactless modern Christianity. He looked down
very sorrowfully at the eager, expressive face of the speaker; it
was at once very white and very pink, for the child was sorely
wounded as well as indignant. She was evidently, however, a little
vexed with herself for feeling the insult so keenly.
"It is very stupid of me," she said laughing a little; "it is time
I was used to it; but I never can help shaking in this silly way
when any one is rude to us. Tom laughs at me, and says I am made
on wire springs like a twelfth-cake butterfly! But it is rather
hard, isn't it, to be shut out from everything, even from giving?"
"I think it is both hard and wrong," said Charles Osmond. "But we
do not all shut you out."
"No," said Erica. "You have always been kind, you are not a bit
like a Christian. Would you"--she hesitated a little--"would
you take the flowers instead?"
It was said with a shy grace inexpressibly winning. Charles Osmond
was touched and gratified.
"They will be a great treat to us," he said. "My mother is very
fond of flowers. Will you come upstairs and see her? We shall
find afternoon tea going on, I expect."
So the rejected flowers found a resting place in the clergyman's
house; and Brian, coming in from his rounds, was greeted by a sight
which made his heart beat at double time. In the drawing room
beside his grandmother sat Erica, her little fur hat pushed back,
her gloves off, busily arranging Christmas roses and red camellias.
Her anger had died away, she was talking quite merrily. It seemed
to Brian more like a beautiful dream than a bit of every-day life,
to have her sitting there so naturally in his home; but the note of
pain was struck before long.
"I must go home," she said. "This is my last day, you know. I am
going to Paris tomorrow."
A sort of sadness seemed to fall on them at the words; only gentle
Mrs. Osmond said, cheerfully:
"You will come to see us again when you come back, will you not?"
And then, with the privilege of the aged, she drew down the young,
fresh face to hers and kissed it.
"You will let me see you home," said Brian. "It is getting dark."
Erica laughingly protested that she was well used to taking care of
herself, but it ended in Brian's triumphing. So together they
crossed the quiet square. Erica chattered away merrily enough, but
as they reached the narrow entrance to Guilford Terrace a shadow
stole over her face.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "this is the last time I shall come home for
two whole years."
"You go for so long," said Brian, stifling a sigh. "You won't
forget your English friends?"
"Do you mean that you count yourself our friend?" asked Erica,
"If you will let me."
"That is a funny word to use," she replied, laughing. "You see we
are treated as outlaws generally. I don't think any one ever said
'will you let' to me before. This is our house; thank you for
seeing me home." Then with a roguish look in her eyes, she added
demurely, but with a slight emphasis on the last word, "Good bye,
Brian turned away sadly enough; but he had not gone far when he
heard flying footsteps, and looking back saw Erica once more.
"Oh, I just came to know whether by any chance you want a kitten,"
she said; "I have a real beauty which I want to find a nice home
Of course Brian wanted a kitten at once; one would have imagined by
the eagerness of his manner that he was devoted to the whole feline
"Well, then, will you come in and see it?" said Erica. "He really
is a very nice kitten, and I shall go away much happier if I can
see him settled in life first."
She took him in, introduced him to her mother, and ran off in
search of the cat, returning in a few minutes with a very
"There he is," she said, putting the kitten on the table with an
air of pride. "I don't believe he has an equal in all London.
"What do you call him?" asked Brian.
"His name is St. Anthony," said Erica. "Oh, I hope, by the bye,
you won't object to that; it was no disrespect to St. Anthony at
all, but only that he always will go and preach to my gold fish.
We'll make him do it now to show you. Come along Tony, and give
them a sermon, there's a good little kit!"
She put him on a side table, and he at once rested his front paws
on a large glass bowl and peered down at the gold fish with great
"I believe he would have drowned himself sooner or later, like
Gray's cat, so I dare say it is a good thing for him to leave. You
will be kind to him, won't you?"
Brian promised that he should be well attended to, and, indeed
there was little doubt that St. Anthony would from that day forth
be lapped in luxury. He went away with his new master very
contentedly, Erica following them to the door with farewell
"And you'll be sure to butter his feet well or else he won't stay
with you. Good bye, dear Tony. Be a good little cat!"
Brian was pleased to have this token from his Undine, but at the
same time he could not help seeing that she cared much more about
parting with the kitten than about saying good bye to him. Well,
it was something to have that lucky St. Anthony, who had been
fondled and kissed. And after all it was Erica's very childishness
and simplicity which made her so dear to him.
As soon as they were out of sight, Erica, with the thought of the
separation beginning to weigh upon her, went back to her mother.
They knew that this was the last quiet time they would have
together for many long months. But last days are not good days for
talking. They spoke very little. Every now and then Mrs. Raeburn
would make some inquiry about the packing or the journey, or would
try to cheer the child by speaking of the house they would have at
the end of the two years. But Erica was not to be comforted; a
dull pain was gnawing at her heart, and the present was not to be
displaced by any visions of a golden future."If it were not for
leaving you alone, mother, I shouldn't mind so much," she said, in
a choked voice. "But it seems to me that you have the hardest part
"Aunt Jean will be here, and Tom," said Mrs. Raeburn.
"Aunt Jean is very kind," said Erica, doubtfully. "But she doesn't
know how to nurse people. Tom is the one hope, and he has promised
always to tell me the whole truth about you; so if you get worse,
I shall come home directly."
"You mustn't grudge me my share of the work," said Mrs. Raeburn.
"It would make me very miserable if I did hinder you or your
Erica sighed."You and father are so dreadfully public-spirited!
And yet, oh, mother! What does the whole world matter to me if I
think you are uncomfortable, and wretched, and alone?"
"You will learn to think differently, dear, by and by," said her
mother, kissing the eager, troubled face. "And, when you fancy me
lonely, you can picture me instead as proud and happy in thinking
of my brave little daughter who has gone into exile of her own
accord to help the cause of truth and liberty."
They were inspiriting words, and they brought a glow to Erica's
face; she choked down her own personal pain. No religious martyr
went through the time of trial more bravely than Luke Raeburn's
daughter lived through the next four and twenty hours. She never
forgot even the most trivial incident of that day, it seemed burned
in upon her brain. The dreary waking on the dark winter morning,
the hurried farewells to her aunt and Tom, the last long embrace
from her mother, the drive to the station, her father's recognition
on the platform, the rude staring and ruder comments to which they
were subjected, then the one supreme wrench of parting, the look of
pain in her father's face, the trembling of his voice, the last
long look as the train moved off, and the utter loneliness of all
that followed. Then came dimmer recollections, not less real, but
more confused; of a merry set of fellow passengers who were going
to enjoy themselves in the south of France; of a certain little
packet which her father had placed in her hand, and which proved to
be "Mill on Liberty;" of her eager perusal of the first two or
three chapters; of the many instances of the "tyranny of the
majority" which she had been able to produce, not without a certain
satisfaction. And afterward more vividly she could recall the last
look at England, the dreary arrival at Boulogne, the long weary
railway journey, and the friendly reception at Mme Lemercier's
school. No one could deny that her new life had been bravely
CHAPTER VI. Paris
But we wake in the young morning when the light is breaking forth;
And look out on its misty gleams, as if the moon were full; And the
Infinite around, seems but a larger kind of earth Ensphering this,
and measured by the self-same handy rule. Hilda among the Broken
Not unfrequently the most important years of a life, the years
which tell most on the character, are unmarked by any notable
events. A steady, orderly routine, a gradual progression,
perseverance in hard work, often do more to educate and form than
a varied and eventful life. Erica's two years of exile were as
monotonous and quiet as the life of the secularist's daughter could
possibly be. There came to her, of course, from the distance the
echoes of her father's strife; but she was far removed from it all,
and there was little to disturb her mind in the quiet Parisian
school. There is no need to dwell on her uneventful life, and a
very brief description of her surroundings will be sufficient to
show the sort of atmosphere in which she lived.
The school was a large one, and consisted principally of French
provincial girls, sent to Paris to finish their education. Some of
them Erica liked exceedingly; every one of them was to her a
curious and interesting study. She liked to hear them talk about
their home life, and, above all things, to hear their simple, naive
remarks about religion. Of course she was on her honor not to
enter into discussions with them, and they regarded all English as
heretics, and did not trouble themselves to distinguish between the
different grades. But there was nothing to prevent her from
observing and listening, and with some wonder she used to hear
discussions about the dresses for the "Premiere Communion," remarks
about the various services, or laments over the confession papers.
The girls went to confession once a month, and there was always a
day in which they had to prepare and write out their misdemeanors.
One day, a little, thin, delicate child from the south of France
came up to Erica with her confession in her hand.
"Dear, good Erica," she said, wearily, "have the kindness to read
this and to correct my mistakes."
Erica took the little thing on her knee, and began to read the
paper. It was curiously spelled. Before very long she came to the
sentence, "J'ai trop mange."
"Why, Ninette," exclaimed Erica, "you hardly eat enough to feed a
sparrow; it is nonsense to put that."
"Ah, but it was a fast day," signed Ninette. "And I felt hungry,
and did really eat more than I need have."
Erica felt half angry and contemptuous, half amused, and could only
hope that the priest would see the pale, thin face of the little
penitent, and realize the ludicrousness of the confession.
Another time all the girls had been to some special service; on
their return, she asked what it had been about.
"Oh," remarked a bright-faced girl, "it was about the seven joys--
or the seven sorrows--of Mary."
"Do you mean to say you don't know whether it was very solemn or
very joyful?" asked Erica, astonished and amused.
"I am really not sure," said the girl, with the most placid
On the whole, it was scarcely to be wondered at that Erica was not
favorably impressed with Roman Catholicism.
She was a great favorite with all the girls; but, though she was
very patient and persevering, she did not succeed in making any of
them fluent English speakers, and learned their language far better
than they learned hers. Her three special friends were not among
the pupils, but among the teachers. Dear old Mme. Lemercier, with
her good-humored black eyes, her kind, demonstrative ways, and her
delightful stories about the time of the war and the siege, was a
friend worth having. So was her husband, M. Lemercier the
journalist. He was a little dried-up man, with a fierce black
mustache; he was sarcastic and witty, and he would talk politics by
the hour together to any one who would listen to him, especially if
they would now and then ask a pertinent and intelligent question
which gave him scope for an oration.
Erica made a delightful listener, for she was always anxious to
learn and to understand, and before long she was quite AU FAIT, and
understood a great deal about that exceedingly complicated thing,
the French political system. M. Lemercier was a fiery, earnest
little man, with very strong convictions; he had been exiled as a
communist but had now returned, and was a very vigorous and
impassioned writer in one of the advanced Republican journals. He
and his wife became very fond of Erica, Mme. Lemercier loving her
for her brightness and readiness to help, and monsieur for her
beauty and her quickness of perception. It was surprising and
gratifying to meet with a girl who, without being a femme savante,
was yet capable of understanding the difference between the Extreme
Left and the Left Center, and who took a real interest in what was
passing in the world.
But Erica's greatest friend was a certain Fraulein Sonnenthal, the
German governess. She was a kind-eyed Hanoverian, homely and by no
means brilliantly clever, but there was something in her
unselfishness and in her unassuming humility that won Erica's
heart. She never would hear a word against the fraulein.
"Why do you care so much for Fraulein Sonnenthal?" she was often
asked. "She seems uninteresting and dull to us."
"I love her because she is so good," was Erica's invariable reply.
She and the fraulein shared a bedroom, and many were the arguments
they had together. The effect of being separated from her own
people was, very naturally, to make Erica a more devoted
secularist. She was exceedingly enthusiastic for what she
considered the truth and not unfrequently grieved and shocked the
Lutheran fraulein by the vehemence of her statements. Very often
they would argue far on into the night; they never quarreled,
however hot the dispute, but the fraulein often had a sore time of
it, for, naturally, Luke Raeburn's daughter was well up in all the
debatable points, and she had, moreover, a good deal of her
father's rapidity of thought and gift of speech. She was always
generous, however, and the fraulein had in some respects the
advantage of her, for they spoke in German.
One scene in that little bedroom Erica never forgot. They had gone
to bed one Easter-eve, and had somehow fallen into a long and
stormy argument about the resurrection and the doctrine of
immortality. Erica, perhaps because she was conscious of the
"weakness" she had confessed to Brian Osmond, argued very warmly on
the other side; the poor little fraulein was grieved beyond
measure, and defended her faith gallantly, though, as she feared,
very ineffectually. Her arguments seemed altogether extinguished
by Erica's remorseless logic; she was not nearly so clever, and her
very earnestness seemed to trip her up and make all her sentences
broken and incomplete. They discussed the subject till Erica was
hoarse, and at last from very weariness she fell asleep while the
Lutheran was giving her a long quotation from St. Paul.
She slept for two or three hours; when she woke, the room was
flooded with silvery moonlight, the wooden cross which hung over
the German's bed stood out black and distinct, but the bed was
empty. Erica looked round the room uneasily, and saw a sight which
she never forgot. The fraulein was kneeling beside the window, and
even the cold moonlight could not chill or hide the wonderful
brightness of her face. She was a plain, ordinary little woman,
but her face was absolutely transformed; there was something so
beautiful and yet so unusual in her expression that Erica could not
speak or move, but lay watching her almost breathlessly. The
spiritual world about which they had been speaking must be very
real indeed to Thekla Sonnenthal! Was it possible that this was
the work of delusion? While she mused, her friend rose, came
straight to her bedside, and bent over her with a look of such love
and tenderness that Erica, though not generally demonstrative,
could not resist throwing her arms round her neck.
"Dear Sunnyvale! You look just like your name!" she exclaimed,
"all brightness and humility! What have you been doing to grow so
like Murillo's Madonna?"
"I thought you were asleep," said the fraulein. "Good night,
Herzolattchen, or rather good morning, for the Easter day has
Perhaps Erica liked her all the better for saying nothing more
definite, but in the ordinary sense of the word she did not have a
good night, for long after Thekla Sonnenthal was asleep, and
dreaming of her German home, Luke Raeburn's daughter lay awake,
thinking of the faith which to some was such an intense reality.
Had there been anything excited or unreal about her companion's
manner, she would not have thought twice about it; but her
tranquillity and sweetness seemed to her very remarkable.
Moreover, Fraulein Sonnenthal was strangely devoid of imagination;
she was a matter-of-fact little person, not at all a likely subject
for visions and delusions. Erica was perplexed. Once more there
came to her that uncomfortable question: "Supposing Christianity
The moonlight paled and the Easter morn broke, and still she tossed
to and fro, haunted by doubts which would not let her sleep. But
by and by she returned to the one thing which was absolutely
certain, namely, that her German friend was lovable and to be
loved, whatever her creed.
And, since Erica's love was of the practical order, it prompted her
to get up early, dress noiselessly, and steal out of the room
without waking her companion; then, with all the church bells
ringing and the devout citizens hurrying to mass, she ran to the
nearest flower stall, spent one of her very few half-francs on the
loveliest white rose to be had, and carried it back as an Easter
offering to the fraulein.
It was fortunate in every way that Erica had the little German lady
for her friend, for she would often have fared badly without some
one to nurse and befriend her.
She was very delicate, and worked far too hard; for, besides all
her work in the school, she was preparing for an English
examination which she had set her heart on trying as soon as she
went home. Had it not been for Fraulein Sonnenthal, she would more
than once have thoroughly overworked herself; and indeed as it was,
the strain of that two years told severely on her strength.
But the time wore on rapidly, as very fully occupied time always
does, and Erica's list of days grew shorter and shorter, and the
letters from her mother were more and more full of plans for the
life they would lead when she came home. The two years would
actually end in January; Erica was, however, to stay in Paris till
the following Easter, partly to oblige Mme. Lemercier, partly
because by that time her father hoped to be in a great measure free
from his embarrassments, able once more to make a home for her.
CHAPTER VII. What the New Year Brought
A voice grows with the growing years;
Earth, hushing down her bitter cry,
Looks upward from her graves, and hears,
"The Resurrection and the Life am I."
O love Divine,--whose constant beam
Shines on the eyes that will not see,
And waits to bless us, while we dream
Thou leavest us because we turn from Thee!
Nor bounds, nor clime, nor creed Thou know'st,
Wide as our need Thy favors fall;
The white wings of the Holy Ghost
Stoop, seen or unseen, o'er the heads of all. Whittier
It was the eve of the new year, and great excitement prevailed in
the Lemerciers' house. Many of the girls whose homes were at a
distance had remained at school for the short winter holiday, and
on this particular afternoon a number of them were clustered round
the stove talking about the festivities of the morrow and the
presents they were likely to have.
Erica, who was now a tall and very pretty girl of eighteen, was
sitting on the hearth rug with Ninette on her lap; she was in very
high spirits, and kept the little group in perpetual laughter, so
much so indeed that Fraulein Sonnenthal had more than once been
obliged to interfere, and do her best to quiet them.
"How wild thou art, dear Erica?" she exclaimed. "What is it?"
"I am happy, that is all," said Erica. "You would be happy if the
year of freedom were just dawning for you. Three months more and
I shall be home."
She was like a child in her exultant happiness, far more
child-like, indeed, than the grave little Ninette whom she was
"Thou art not dignified enough for a teacher," said the fraulein,
"She is no teacher," cried the girls. "It is holiday time and she
need not talk that frightful English."
Erica made a laughing defense of her native tongue, and such a
babel ensued that the fraulein had to interfere again.
"Liebe Erica! Thou art beside thyself! What has come to thee?"
"Only joy, dear Thekla, at the thought of the beautiful new year
which is coming," cried Erica. "Father would say I was 'fey,' and
should pay for all this fun with a bad headache or some misfortune.
Come, give me the French 'David Copperfield,' and let me read you
how 'Barkis Veut Bien,' and 'Mrs. Gummidge a Pense de l'Ancien.'"
The reading was more exquisitely ludicrous to Erica herself than to
her hearers. Still the wit of Charles Dickens, even when
translated, called forth peals of laughter from the French girls,
too. It was the brightest, happiest little group imaginable;
perhaps it was scarcely wonderful that old Mme. Lemercier, when she
came to break it up, should find her eyes dim with tears.
"My dear Erica--" she said, and broke off abruptly.
Erica looked up with laughing eyes.
"Don't scold, dear madame," she said, coaxingly. "We have been
very noisy; but it is New year's eve, and we are so happy."
"Dear child, it is not that," said madame. "I want to speak to you
for a minute; come with me, cherie."
Still Erica noticed nothing; did not detect the tone of pity, did
not wonder at the terms of endearment which were generally reserved
for more private use. She followed madame into the hall, still
"The 'David Copperfield' is for monsieur's present tomorrow," she
said, laughingly. "I knew he was too lazy to read it in English,
so I got him a translation."
"My dear," said madame, taking her hand, "try to be quiet a moment.
I--I have something to tell you. My poor little one, monsieur
your father is arrived--"
"Father! Father here!" exclaimed Erica, in a transport of delight.
"Where is he, where? Oh, madame, why didn't you tell me sooner?"
Mme. Lemercier tried in vain to detain her, as with cheeks all
glowing with happiness and dancing eyes, she ran at full speed to
"Father!" she cried, throwing open the door and running to meet
him. Then suddenly she stood quite still as if petrified.
Beside the crackling wood fire, his arms on the chimney piece, his
face hidden, stood a gray-haired man. He raised himself as she
spoke. His news was in his face; it was written all too plainly
"Father!" gasped Erica in a voice which seemed altogether different
from the first exclamation, almost as if it belonged to a different
Raeburn took her in his arms.
"My child--my poor little Eric!" he said.
She did not speak a word, but clung to him as though to keep
herself from falling. In one instant it seemed as though her whole
world had been wrecked, her life shattered. She could not even
realize that her father was still left to her, except in so far as
the mere bodily support was concerned. He was strong; she clung to
him as in a hurricane she would have clung to a rock.
"Say it," she gasped, after a timeless silence, perhaps of minutes,
perhaps of hours, it might have been centuries for aught she knew.
"Say it in words."
She wanted to know everything, wanted to reduce this huge,
overwhelming sorrow to something intelligible. Surely in words it
would not be so awful--so limitless.
And he said it, speaking in a low, repressed voice, yet very
tenderly, as if she had been a little child. She made a great
effort to listen, but the sentences only came to her disjointedly
and as if from a great distance. It had been very sudden--a two
hours' illness, no very great suffering. He had been lecturing at
Birmingham--had been telegraphed for--had been too late.
Erica made a desperate effort to realize it all; at last she
brought down the measureless agony to actual words, repeating them
over and over to herself--"Mother is dead."
At length she had grasped the idea. Her heart seemed to die within
her, a strange blue shade passed over her face, her limbs
stiffened. She felt her father carry her to the window, was
perfectly conscious of everything, watched as in a dream, while he
wrenched open the clumsy fastening of the casement, heard the
voices in the street below, heard, too, in the distance the sound
of church bells, was vaguely conscious of relief as the cold air
blew upon her.
She was lying on a couch, and, if left to herself, might have lain
there for hours in that strange state of absolute prostration. But
she was not alone, and gradually she realized it. Very slowly the
re-beginning of life set in; the consciousness of her father's
presence awakened her, as it were, from her dream of unmitigated
pain. She sat up, put her arms round his neck, and kissed him,
then for a minute let her aching head rest on his shoulder.
Presently, in a low but steady voice, she said: "What would you
like me to do, father?"
"To come home with me now, if you are able," he said; "tomorrow
morning, though, if you would rather wait, dear."
But the idea of waiting seemed intolerable to her. The very sound
of the word was hateful. Had she not waited two weary years, and
this was the end of it all? Any action, any present doing, however
painful, but no more waiting. No terrible pause in which more
thoughts and, therefore, more pain might grow. Outside in the
passage they met Mme. Lemercier, and presently Erica found herself
surrounded by kind helpers, wondering to find them all so tearful
when her own eyes felt so hot and dry. They were very good to her,
but, separated from her father, her sorrow again completely
overwhelmed her; she could not then feel the slightest gratitude to
them or the slightest comfort from their sympathy. She lay
motionless on her little white bed, her eyes fixed on the wooden
cross on the opposite wall, or from time to time glancing at
Fraulein Sonnenthal, who, with little Ninette to help, was busily
packing her trunk. And all the while she said again and again the
words which summed up her sorrow: "Mother is dead! Mother is
After a time her eyes fell on her elaborately drawn paper of days.
Every evening since her first arrival she had gone through the
almost religious ceremony of marking off the day; it had often been
a great consolation to her. The paper was much worn; the weeks and
days yet to be marked were few in number. She looked at it now,
and if there can be a "more" to absolute grief, an additional pang
to unmitigated sorrow, it came to her at the sight of that visible
record of her long exile. She snatched down the paper and tore it
to pieces; then sunk back again, pale and breathless. Fraulein
Sonnenthal saw and understood. She came to her, and kissed her.
"Herzbluttchen," she said, almost in a whisper, and, after a
moment's pause: "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott."
Erica made an impatient gesture, and turned away her head.
"Why does she choose this time of all others to tell me so," she
thought to herself. "Now, when I can't argue or even think! A
sure tower! Could a delusion make one feel that anything is sure
but death at such a time as this! Everything is gone--or going.
Mother is dead!--mother is dead! Yet she meant to be kind, poor
Thekla, she didn't know it would hurt."
Mme. Lemercier came into the room with a cup of coffee and a
"You have a long journey before you, my little one," she said; "you
must take this before you start."
Yes, there was the journey; that was a comfort. There was
something to be done, something hard and tiring--surely it would
blunt her perceptions. She started up with a strange sort of
energy, put on her hat and cloak, swallowed the food with an
effort, helped to lock her trunk, moved rapidly about the room,
looking for any chance possession which might have been left out.
There was such terrible anguish in her tearless eyes that little
Ninette shrunk away from her in alarm. Mme. Lemercier, who in the
time of the siege had seen great suffering, had never seen anything
like this; even Thekla Sonnenthal realized that for the time she
was beyond the reach of human comfort.
Before long the farewells were over. Erica was once more alone
with her father, her cheeks wet with the tears of others, her own
eyes still hot and dry. They were to catch the four o'clock train;
the afternoon was dark, and already the streets and shops were
lighted; Paris, ever bright and gay, seemed tonight brighter and
gayer than ever. She watched the placid-looking passengers, the
idle loungers at the cafes; did they know what pain was? Did they
know that death was sure? Presently she found herself in a
second-class carriage, wedged in between her father and a heavy-
featured priest; who diligently read a little dogs-eared breviary.
Opposite was a meek, weasel-faced bourgeois, with a managing wife,
who ordered him about; then came a bushy-whiskered Englishman and
a newly married couple, while in the further corner, nearly hidden
from view by the burly priest, lurked a gentle-looking Sister of
Mercy, and a mischievous and fidgety school boy. She watched them
all as in a dream of pain. Presently the priest left off muttering
and began to snore, and sleep fell, too, upon the occupants of the
opposite seat. The little weasel-faced man looked most
uncomfortable, for the Englishman used him as a prop on one side
and the managing wife nearly overwhelmed him on the other; he slept
fitfully, and always with the air of a martyr, waking up every few
minutes and vainly trying to shake off his burdens, who invariably
made stifled exclamations and sunk back again.
"That would have been funny once," thought Erica to herself. "How
I should have laughed. Shall I always be like this all the rest of
my life, seeing what is ludicrous, yet with all the fun taken out
But her brain reeled at the thought of the "rest of life." The
blank of bereavement, terrible to all, was absolute and eternal to
her, and this was her first great sorrow. She had known pain, and
privation, and trouble and anxiety, but actual anguish never. Now
it had come to her suddenly, irrevocably, never to be either more
or less; perhaps to be fitted on as a garment as time wore on, and
to become a natural part of her life; but always to be the same, a
blank often felt, always present, till at length her end came and
she too passed away into the great Silence.
Despair--the deprivation of all hope--is sometimes wild, but
oftener calm with a deathly calmness. Erica was absolutely still
--she scarcely moved or spoke during the long weary journey to
Calais. Twice only did she feel the slightest desire for any
outward vent. At the Amiens station the school boy in the corner,
who had been growing more restless and excited every hour, sprung
from the carriage to greet a small crowd of relations who were
waiting to welcome him. She saw him rush to his mother, heard a
confused affectionate babel of inquiries, congratulations,
laughter. Oh! To think of that happy light-heartedness and the
contrast between it and her grief. The laughter seemed positively
to cut her; she could have screamed from sheer pain. And, as if
cruel contrasts were fated to confront her, no sooner had her
father established her in the cabin on board the steamer, than two
bright looking English girls settled themselves close by, and began
chatting merrily about the new year, and the novel beginning it
would be on board a Channel steamer. Erica tried to stop her ears
that she might not hear the discussion of all the forthcoming
gayeties. "Lady Reedham's dance on Thursday, our own, you know,
next week," etc., etc. But she could not shut out the sound of
the merry voices, or that wounding laughter.
Presently an exclamation made her look and listen.
"Hark!" said one of her fellow passengers. "We shall start now; I
hear the clock striking twelve. A happy new year to you, Lily, and
all possible good fortune."
"Happy new year!" echoed from different corners of the cabin; the
little Sister of Mercy knelt down and told her beads, the rest of
the passengers talked, congratulated, laughed. Erica would have
given worlds to be able to cry, but she could not. The terrible
mockery of her surroundings was too great, however, to be borne;
her heart seemed like ice, her head like fire; with a sort of
feverish strength she rushed out of the cabin, stumbled up the
companion, and ran as if by instinct to that part of the deck where
a tall, solitary figure stood up darkly in the dim light.
"It's too cold for you, my child," said Raeburn, turning round at
"Oh, father, let me stay with you," sobbed Erica, "I can't bear it
Perhaps he was glad to have her near him for his own sake, perhaps
he recognized the truth to which she unconsciously testified that
human nature does at times cry out for something other than self,
stronger and higher.
He raised no more objections, they listened in silence till the
sound of the church bells died away in the distance, and then he
found a more sheltered seat and wrapped her up closely in his own
plaid, and together they began their new year. The first lull in
Erica's pain came in that midnight crossing; the heaving of the
boat, the angry dashing of the waves, the foam-laden wind, all
seemed to relieve her. Above all there was comfort in the strong
protecting arm round her. Yet she was too crushed and numb to be
able to wish for anything but that the end might come for her
there, that together they might sink down into the painless silence
Raeburn only spoke once throughout the passage; instinctively he
knew what was passing in Erica's mind. He spoke the only word of
comfort which he had to speak: a noble one, though just then very
"There is work to be done."
Then came the dreary landing in the middle of the dark winter's
night, and presently they were again in a railway carriage, but
this time alone. Raeburn made her lie down, and himself fell
asleep in the opposite corner; he had been traveling
uninterruptedly for twenty hours, had received a shock which had
tried him very greatly, now from sheer exhaustion he slept. But
Erica, to whom the grief was more new, could not sleep. Every
minute the pain of realization grew keener. Here she was in
England once more, this was the journey she had so often thought of
and planned. This was going home. Oh, the dreariness of the
reality when compared with those bright expectations. And yet it
was neither this thought nor the actual fact of her mother's death
which first brought the tears to her burning eyes.
Wearily shifting her position, she looked across to the other side
of the carriage, and saw, as if in a picture, her father. Raeburn
was a comparatively young man, very little over forty; but his
anxieties and the almost incredible amount of hard work of the past
two years had told upon him, and had turned his hair gray. There
was something in his stern set face, in the strong man's reserved
grief, in the pose of his grand-looking head, dignified, even in
exhaustion, that was strangely pathetic. Erica scarcely seemed to
realize that he was her father. It was more as if she were gazing
at some scene on the stage, or on a wonderfully graphic and
heart-stirring picture. The pathos and sadness of it took hold of
her; she burst into a passion of tears, turned her face from the
light, and cried as if no power on earth could ever stop her, her
long-drawn sobs allowed to go unchecked since the noise of the
train made them inaudible. She was so little given to tears, as a
rule, that now they positively frightened her, nor could she
understand how, with a real and terrible grief for which she could
not weep, the mere pathetic sight should have brought down her
tears like rain. But the outburst brought relief with it, for it
left her so exhausted that for a brief half hour she slept, and
awoke just before they reached London, with such a frightful
headache that the physical pain numbed the mental.
"How soon shall we be--" home she would have said, but the word
choked her. "How soon shall we get there?" she asked faintly. She
was so ill, so weary, that the mere thought of being still again--
even in the death-visited home--was a relief, and she was really
too much worn out to feel very acutely while they drove through the
At last, early in the cold, new year's morning, they were set down
in Guilford Square, at the grim entrance to Persecution Alley. She
looked round at the gray old houses with a shudder, then her father
drew her arm within his, and led her down the dreary little
cul-de-sac. There was the house, looking the same as ever, and
there was Aunt Jean coming forward to meet them, with a strange new
tenderness in her voice and look, and there was Tom in the
background, seeming half shy and afraid to meet her in her grief,
and there, above all, was the one great eternal void.
To watch beside the dying must be anguish, and yet surely not such
keen anguish as to have missed the last moments, the last
farewells, the last chance of serving. For those who have to come
back to the empty house, the home which never can be home again,
may God comfort them--no one else can.
Stillness, and food, and brief snatches of sleep somewhat restored
Erica. Late in the afternoon she was strong enough to go into her
mother's room, for that last look so inexpressibly painful to all,
so entirely void of hope or comfort to those who believe in no
hereafter. Not even the peacefulness of death was there to give
even a slight, a momentary relief to her pain; she scarcely even
recognized her mother. Was that, indeed, all that was left? That
pale, rigid, utterly changed face and form? Was that her mother?
Could that once have been her mother? Very often had she heard
this great change wrought by death referred to in discussions; she
knew well the arguments which were brought forward by the believers
in immortality, the counter arguments with which her father
invariably met them, and which had always seemed to her conclusive.
But somehow that which seemed satisfactory in the lecture hall did
not answer in the room of death. Her whole being seemed to flow
out into one longing question: Might there not be a Beyond--an
Unseen? Was this world indeed only
"A place to stand and love in for an hour, With darkness and the
death-hour rounding it?"
She had slept in the afternoon, but at night, when all was still,
she could not sleep. The question still lurked in her mind; her
sorrow and loneliness grew almost unbearable. She thought if she
could only make herself cry again perhaps she might sleep, and she
took down a book about Giordano Bruno, and read the account of his
martyrdom, an account which always moved her very much. But
tonight not even the description of the valiant unshrinking martyr
of Free-thought ascending the scaffold to meet his doom could in
the slightest degree affect her. She tried another book, this time
Dickens's "Tale of Two Cities." She had never read the last two
chapters without feeling a great desire to cry, but tonight she
read with perfect unconcern of Sydney Carton's wanderings through
Paris on the night before he gave himself up--read the last
marvelously written scene without the slightest emotion. It was
evidently no use to try anything else; she shut the book, put out
her candle, and once more lay down in the dark.
Then she began to think of the words which had so persistently
haunted Sydney Carton: "I am the Resurrection and the Life." She,
too, seemed to be wandering about the Parisian streets, hearing
these words over and over again. She knew that it was Jesus of
Nazareth who had said this. What an assertion it was for a man to
make! It was not even "I BRING the resurrection," or "I GIVE the
resurrection," but "I AM the Resurrection." And yet, according to
her father, his humility had been excessive, carried almost to a
fault. Was he the most inconsistent man that ever lived, or what
was he? At last she thought she would get up and see whether there
was any qualifying context, and when and where he had uttered this
Lighting her candle, she crept, a little shivering, white-robed
figure, round the book-lined room, scanning the titles on every
shelf, but bibles were too much in use in that house to be
relegated to the attics, she found only the least interesting and
least serviceable of her father's books. There was nothing for it
but to go down to the study; so wrapping herself up, for it was a
freezing winter's night, she went noiselessly downstairs, and soon
found every possible facility for Biblical research.
A little baffled and even disappointed to find the words in that
which she regarded as the least authentic of the gospels, she still
resolved to read the account; she read it, indeed, in two or three
translations, and compared each closely with the others, but in all
the words stood out in uncompromising greatness of assertion. This
man claimed to BE the resurrection, of as Wyclif had it, "the agen
risying and lyf."
And then poor Erica read on to the end of the story and was quite
thrown back upon herself by the account of the miracle which
followed. It was a beautiful story, she said to herself,
poetically written, graphically described, but as to believing it
to be true, she could as soon have accepted the "Midsummer Night's
Dream" as having actually taken place.
Shivering with cold she put the books back on their shelf, and
stole upstairs once more to bear her comfortless sorrow as best she
CHAPTER VIII. "Why Do You Believe It?"
Then the round of weary duties, cold and formal, came to meet her,
With the life within departed that had given them each a soul;
And her sick heart even slighted gentle words that came to greet her,
For grief spread its shadowy pinions like a blight upon the whole.
A. A. Proctor
The winter sunshine which glanced in a side-long, half-and-half way
into Persecution Alley, and struggled in at the closed blinds of
Erica's little attic, streamed unchecked into a far more cheerful
room in Guilford Square, and illumined a breakfast table, at which
was seated one occupant only, apparently making a late and rather
hasty meal. He was a man of about eight-and-twenty, and though he
was not absolutely good-looking, his face was one which people
turned to look at again, not so much because it was in any way
striking as far as features went, but because of an unusual
luminousness which pervaded it. The eyes, which were dark gray,
were peculiarly expressive, and their softness, which might to some
have seemed a trifle unmasculine, was counterbalanced by the
straight, dark, noticeable eyebrows, as well as by a thoroughly
manly bearing and a general impression of unfailing energy which
characterized the whole man. His hair, short beard, and mustache
were of a deep nut-brown. He was of medium height and very
On the whole it was as pleasant a face as you would often meet
with, and it was not to be wondered at that his old grandmother
looked up pretty frequently from her arm chair by the fire, and
watched him with that beautiful loving pride which in the aged
never seems exaggerated and very rarely misplaced.
"You were out very late, were you not, Brian?" she observed,
letting her knitting needles rest for a minute, and scrutinizing
the rather weary-looking man.
"Till half-past five this morning," he replied, in a somewhat
There was a sad look in his eyes, too, which his grandmother partly
understood. She knitted another round of her sock and then said:
"Have you seen Tom Craigie yet?"
"Yes, last night I came across him," replied Brian. "He told me
she had come home. They traveled by night and got in early
"Poor little thing!" sighed old Mrs. Osmond. "What a home-coming
it must have been?"
"Grannie," said Brian, pushing back his chair and drawing nearer to
the fire "I want you to tell me what I ought to do. I have a
message to her from her mother, there was no one else to take it,
you know, except the landlady, and I suppose she did not like that.
I want to know when I might see her; one has no right to keep it
back, and yet how am I to know whether she is fit to bear it? I
can't write it down, it won't somehow go on to paper, yet I can
hardly ask to see her."
"We cannot tell that the message might not comfort her," said Mrs.
Osmond. Then, after a few minutes' thought she added: "I think,
Brian, if I were you, I would write her a little note, tell her why
you want to see her, and let her fix her own time. You will leave
it entirely in her own hands in that way."
He mused for a minute, seemed satisfied with the suggestion, and
moving across to the writing table, began his first letter to his
love. Apparently it was hard to write, for he wasted several
sheets and much time that he could ill afford. When it was at
length finished, it ran as follows:
"Dear Miss Raeburn,--I hardly like to ask to see you yet for fear
you should think me intrusive, but a message was entrusted to me on
Tuesday night which I dare not of myself keep back from you. Will
you see me? If you are able to, and will name the time which will
suit you best, I shall be very grateful. Forgive me for troubling
you, and believe me, Yours faithfully, Brian Osmond."
He sent it off a little doubtfully, by no means satisfied that he
had done a wise thing. But when he returned from his rounds later
in the day the reply set his fears at rest.
It was written lengthways across a sheet of paper; the small
delicate writing was full of character, but betrayed great physical
"It is good of you to think of us. Please come this afternoon if
you are able. Erica."
That very afternoon! Now that his wish was granted, now that he
was indeed to see her, Brian would have given worlds to have
postponed the meeting. He was well accustomed to visiting
sorrow-stricken people, but from meeting such sorrow as that in the
Raeburns' house he shrunk back feeling his insufficiency. Besides,
what words were delicate enough to convey all that had passed in
that death scene? How could he dare to attempt in speech all that
the dying mother would fain have had conveyed to her child? And
then his own love! Would not that be the greatest difficulty of
all? Feeling her grief as he did, could he yet modify his manner
to suit that of a mere outsider--almost a stranger? He was very
diffident; though longing to see Erica, he would yet have given
anything to be able to transfer his work to his father. This,
however, was of course impossible.
Strange though it might seem, he--the most unsuitable of all men
in his own eyes--was the man singled out to bear this message, to
go to the death-visited household. He went about his afternoon
work in a sort of steady, mechanical manner, the outward veil of
his inward agitation. About four o'clock he was free to go to
He was shown into the little sitting room; it was the room in which
Mrs. Raeburn had died, and the mere sight of the outer
surroundings, the well-worn furniture, the book-lined walls made
the whole scene vividly present to him. The room was empty, there
was a blazing fire but no other light, for the blinds were down,
and even the winter twilight shut out. Brian sat down and waited.
Presently the door opened, he looked up and saw Erica approaching
him. She was taller than she had been when he last saw her, and
now grief had given her a peculiar dignity which made her much more
like her father. Every shade of color had left her face, her eyes
wee full of a limitless pain, the eyelids were slightly reddened,
but apparently rather from sleeplessness than from tears, the whole
face was so altered that a mere casual acquaintance would hardly
have recognized it, except by the unchanged waves of short auburn
hair which still formed the setting as it were to a picture lovely
even now. Only one thing was unchanged, and that was the frank,
unconventional manner. Even in her grief she could not be quite
like other people.
"It is very good of you to let me see you," said Brian, "you are
sure you are doing right; it will not be too much for you today."
"There is no great difference in says, I think," said Erica,
sitting down on a low chair beside the fire. "I do not very much
believe in degrees in this kind of grief. I do not see why it
should be ever more or ever less. Perhaps I am wrong, it is all
new to me."
She spoke in a slow, steady, low-toned voice. There was an
absolute hopelessness about her whole aspect which was terrible to
see. A moment's pause followed, then, looking up at Brian, she
fancied that she read in his face, something of hesitation, of a
consciousness that he could ill express what he wished to say, and
her innate courtesy made her even now hasten to relieve him.
"Don't be afraid of speaking," she said, a softer light coming into
her eyes. "I don't know why people shrink from meeting trouble.
Even Tom is half afraid of me. I am not changed, I am still Erica;
can't you understand how much I want every one now?
"People differ so much," said Brian, a little huskily, "and then
when one feels strongly words do not come easily."
"Do you think I would not rather have your sympathy than an oration
from any one else! You who were here to the end! You who did
everything for--for her. My father has told me very little, he
was not able to, but he told me of you, how helpful you were, how
good, not like an outsider at all!"
Evidently she clung to the comforting recollection that at least
one trustable, sympathetic person had been with her mother at the
last. Brian could only say how little he had done, how much more
he would fain have done had it been possible.
"I think you do comfort me by talking," said Erica. "And now I
want you, if you don't mind, to tell me all from the very first.
I can't torture my father by asking him, and I couldn't hear it
from the landlady. But you were here, you can tell me all. Don't
be afraid of hurting me; can't you understand, if the past were the
only thing left to you, you would want to know every tiniest
He looked searchingly into her eyes, he thought she was right.
There were no degrees to pain like hers! Besides, it was quite
possible that the lesser details of her mother's death might bring
tears which would relieve her. Very quietly, very reverently, he
told her all that had passed--she already knew that her mother
had died from aneurism of the heart--he told her how in the
evening he had been summoned to her, and from the first had known
that it was hopeless, had been obliged to tell her that the time
for speech even was but short. He had ordered a telegram to be
sent to her father at Birmingham, but Mrs. Craigie and Tom were out
for the evening, and no one knew where they were to be found. He
and the landlady had been alone.
"She spoke constantly of you," he continued. "The very last words
she said were these, 'Tell Erica that only love can keep from
bitterness, that love is stronger than the world's unkindness.'
Then, after a minute's pause, she added, 'Be good to my little
girl, promise to be good to her.' After that, speech became
impossible, but I do not think she suffered. Once she motioned to
me to give her the frame off the mantlepiece with your photograph;
she looked at it and kept it near her--she died with it in her
Erica hid her face; that one trifling little incident was too much
for her, the tears rained down between her fingers. That it should
have come to that! No one whom she loved there at the last--but
she had looked at the photograph, had held it to the very end, the
voiceless, useless picture had been there, the real Erica had been
laughing and talking at Paris! Brian talked on slowly, soothingly.
Presently he paused; then Erica suddenly looked up, and dashing
away her tears, said, in a voice which was terrible in its mingled
pain and indignation.
"I might have been here! I might have been with her! It is the
fault of that wretched man who went bankrupt; the fault of the
bigots who will not treat us fairly--who ruin us!"
She sobbed with passionate pain, a vivid streak of crimson dyed her
cheek, contrasting strangely with the deathly whiteness of her
"Forgive me if I pain you," said Brian; "but have you forgotten the
message I gave you? 'It is only love that can keep from
"Love!" cried Erica; she could have screamed it, if she had not
been so physically exhausted. "Do you mean I am to love our
"It is only the love of all humanity that can keep from
bitterness," said Brian.
Erica began to think over his reply, and in thinking grew calm once
more. By and by she lifted up her face; it was pale again now, and
still, and perfectly hopeless.
"I suppose you think that only Christians can love all humanity,"
she said, a little coldly.
"I should call all true lovers of humanity Christians," replied
Brian, "whether they are consciously followers of Christ or not."
She thought a little; then with a curiously hard look in her face,
she suddenly flashed round upon him with a question, much as her
father was in the habit of doing when an adversary had made some
broad-hearted statement which had baffled him.
"Some of you give us a little more charity than others; but what do
you mean by Christianity? You ask us to believe what is
incredible. WHY do you believe in the resurrection: What reason
have you for thinking it true?"
She expected him to go into the evidence question, to quote the
number of Christ's appearances, to speak of the five hundred
witnesses of whom she was weary of hearing. Her mind was proof
against all this; what could be more probable than that a number of
devoted followers should be the victims of some optical delusion,
especially when their minds were disturbed by grief. Here was a
miracle supported on one side by the testimony of five hundred and
odd spectators all longing to see their late Master, and
contradicted on the other side by common sense and the experience
of the remainder of the human race during thousands of years! She
looked full at Brian, a hard yet almost exultant expression in her
eyes, which spoke more plainly than words her perfect conviction:
"You can't set your evidences against my counter-evidences! You
can't logically maintain that a few uneducated men are to have more
weight than all the united experience of mankind."
Never would she so gladly have believed in the doctrine of
immortality as now, yet with characteristic honesty and
resoluteness she set herself into an attitude of rigid defense,
lest through strong desire or mere bodily weariness she should
drift into the acceptance of what might be, what indeed she
considered to be error. But to her surprise, half to her
disappointment, Brian did not even mention the evidences. She had
braced herself up to withstand arguments drawn from the five
hundred brothers, but the preparation was useless.
"I believe in the resurrection," said Brian, "because I cannot
doubt Jesus Christ. He is the most perfectly lovable and trustable
being I know, or can conceive of knowing. He said He should rise
again, I believe that He did rise. He was perfectly truthful,
therefore He could not mislead; He KNEW, therefore He could not be
"We do not consider Him to be all that you assert," said Erica.
"Nor do His followers make one inclined to think that either He or
His teaching were so perfect as you try to make out. You are not
so hard-hearted as some of them--"
She broke off, seeing a look of pain on her companion's face. "Oh,
what am I saying!" she cried in a very different tone, "you who
have done so much--you who were always good to us--I did not
indeed mean to hurt you, it is your creed that I can't help hating,
not you. You are our friend, you said so long ago."
"Always," said Brian; "never doubt that."
"Then you must forgive me for having wounded you," said Erica, her
whole face softening. "You must remember how hard it all is, and
that I am so very, very miserable."
He would have given his life to bring her comfort, but he was not
a very great believer in words, and besides, he thought she had
talked quite as long as she ought.
"I think," he said, "that, honestly acted out, the message
intrusted to me ought to comfort your misery."
"I can't act it out," she said.
"You will begin to try," was Brian's answer; and then, with a very
full heart, he said goodbye and left his Undine sitting by the
fire, with her head resting on her hands, and the words of her
mother's message echoing in her ears. "It is only love that can
keep from bitterness; love is stronger than the world's
Presently, not daring to dwell too much on that last scene which
Brian had described, she turned to his strange, unexpected reason
for his belief in the resurrection, and mused over the
characteristics of his ideal. Then she thought she would like to
see again what her ideal man had to say about his, and she got up
and searched for a small book in a limp red cover, labeled "Life of
Jesus of Nazareth--Luke Raeburn." It was more than two years
since she had seen it; she read it through once more. The style
was vigorous, the veiled sarcasms were not unpleasant to her, she
detected no unfairness in the mode of treatment, the book satisfied
her, the conclusion arrived at seemed to her inevitable--Brian
Osmond's ideal was not perfect.
With a sigh of utter weariness she shut the book and leaned back in
her chair with a still, white, hopeless face. Presently Friskarina
sprung up on her knee with a little sympathetic mew; she had been
too miserable as yet to notice even her favorite cat very much, now
a scarcely perceptible shade of relief came to her sadness, she
stroked the soft gray head. But scarcely had she spoken to her
favorite, when the cat suddenly turned away, sprung from her knee
and trotted out of the room. It seemed like actual desertion, and
Erica could ill bear it just then.
"What, you too, Friskie," she said to herself, "are even you glad
to keep away from me?"
She hid her face in her hands; desolate and miserable as she had
been before, she now felt more completely alone.
In a few minutes something warm touching her feet made her look up,
and with one bound Friskarina sprung into her lap, carrying in her
mouth a young kitten. She purred contentedly, looking first at her
child and then at her mistress, saying as plainly as if she had
"Will this comfort you?"
Erica stroked and kissed both cat and kitten, and for the first
time since her trouble a feeling of warmth came to her frozen
CHAPTER IX. Rose
A life of unalloyed content,
A life like that of land-locked seas.
J. R. Lowell
"Elspeth, you really must tell me, I'm dying of curiosity, and I
can see by your face you know all about it! How is it that
grandpapa's name is in the papers when he has been dead all these
years? I tell you I saw it, a little paragraph in today's paper,
headed, 'Mr. Luke Raeburn.' Is this another namesake who has
something to do with him?"
The speaker was a tall, bright-looking girl of eighteen, a
blue-eyed, flaxen-haired blond, with a saucy little mouth, about
which there now lurked an expression of undisguised curiosity.
Rose, for that was her name, was something of a coax, and all her
life long she had managed to get her own way; she was an only
child, and had been not a little spoiled; but in spite of many
faults she was lovable, and beneath her outer shell of vanity and
self-satisfaction there lay a sterling little heart.
Her companion, Elspeth, was a wrinkled old woman, whose smooth gray
hair was almost hidden by a huge mob-cap, which, in defiance of
modern custom, she wore tied under her chin. She had nursed Rose
and her mother before her and had now become more like a family
friend than a servant.
"Miss Rose," she replied, looking up from her work, "if you go on
chatter-magging away like this, there'll be no frock ready for you
tonight," and with a most uncommunicative air, the old woman turned
away, and gave a little impressive shake to the billowy mass of
white tarletan to which she was putting the finishing touches.
"The white lilies just at the side," said Rose, her attention
diverted for a moment. "Won't it be lovely! The prettiest dress
in the room, I'm sure." Then, her curiosity returning, "But,
Elspeth, I sha'nt enjoy the dance a bit unless you tell me what Mr.
Luke Raeburn has to do with us? Listen, and I'll tell you how I
found out. Papa brought the paper up to Mamma, and said, 'Did you
see this?' And then mamma read it, and the color came all over her
face, and she did not say a word, but went out of the room pretty
soon. And then I took up the paper, and looked at the page she had
been reading, and saw grandpapa's name."
"What was it about?" asked old Elspeth.
"That's just what I couldn't understand; it was all about
secularists. What are secularists? But it seems that this Luke
Raeburn, whoever he is, has lost his wife. While he was lecturing
at Birmingham on the soul, it is said, his wife died, and this
paragraph said it seemed like a judgment, which was rather cool, I
"Poor laddie!" signed old Elspeth.
"Elspeth," cried Rose, "do you know who the man is?"
"Miss Rose," said the old woman severely, "in my young days there
was a saying that you'd do well to lay to heart, 'Ask no questions,
and you'll be told no stories.'"
"It isn't your young days now, it's your old days, Elsie," said the
imperturbable Rose. "I will ask you questions as much as I please,
and you'll tell me what this mystery means, there's a dear old
nurse! Have I not a right to know about my own relations?"
"Oh, bairn, bairn! If it were anything you'd like to hear, but why
should you know what is all sad and gloomful? No, no, go to your
balls, and think of your fine dresses and gran' partners, though,
for the matter of that, it is but vanity of vanities--"
"Oh, if you're going to quote Ecclesiastes, I shall go!" said Rose,
pouting. "I wish that book wasn't in the Bible! I'm sure such an
old grumbler ought to have been in the Apocrypha."
Elspeth shook her head, and muttered something about judgment and
trouble. Rose began to be doubly curious.
"Trouble, sadness, a mystery--perhaps a tragedy! Rose had read
of such things in books; were there such things actually in the
family, and she had never known of them? A few hours ago and she
had been unable to think of anything but her first ball, her new
dress, her flowers; but she was seized now with the most intense
desire to fathom this mystery. That it bid fair to be a sad
mystery only made her more eager and curious. She was so young, so
ignorant, there was still a halo of romance about those unknown
things, trouble and sadness.
"Elspeth, you treat me like a child!" she exclaimed; "it's really
too bad of you."
"Maybe you're right, bairn," said the old nurse; "but it's no doing
of mine. But look here, Miss Rose, you be persuaded by me, go
straight to your mamma and ask her yourself. Maybe there is a
doubt whether you oughtn't to know, but there is no doubt that I
mustn't tell you."
Rose hesitated, but presently her curiosity overpowered her
Mrs. Fane-Smith, or, as she had been called in her maiden days,
Isabel Raeburn, was remarkably like her daughter in so far as
features and coloring were concerned, but she was exceedingly
unlike her in character, for whereas Rose was vain and
self-confident, and had a decided will of her own, her mother was
diffident and exaggeratedly humble. She was a kind-hearted and a
good woman, but she was in danger of harassing herself with the
question, "What will people say?"
She looked up apprehensively as her daughter came into the room.
Rose felt sure she had been crying, her curiosity was still further
stimulated, and with all the persuasiveness at her command, she
urged her mother to tell her the meaning of the mysterious
"I am sorry you have asked me," said Mrs. Fane-Smith, "but,
perhaps, since you are no longer a child, you had better know. It
is a sad story, however, Rose, and I should not have chosen to tell
it to you today of all days."
"But I want to hear, mamma," said Rose, decidedly. "Please begin.
Who is this Mr. Raeburn?"
"He is my brother," said Mrs. Fane-Smith, with a little quiver in
"Your brother! My uncle!" cried Rose, in amazement.
"Luke was the oldest of us," said Mrs. Fane-Smith, "then came Jean,
and I was the youngest of all, at least of those who lived."
"Then I have an aunt, too, an Aunt Jean?" exclaimed Rose.
"You shall hear the whole story," replied her mother. She thought
for a minute, then in rather a low voice she began: "Luke and Jean
were always the clever ones, Luke especially; your grandfather had
set his heart on his being a clergyman, and you can fancy the grief
it was to us when he threw up the whole idea, and declared that he
could never take Orders. He was only nineteen when he renounced
religion altogether; he and my father had a great dispute, and the
end of it was that Luke was sent away from home, and I never have
seen him since. He has become a very notorious infidel lecturer.
Jean was very much unsettled by his change of views, and I believe
her real reason for marrying old Mr. Craigie was that she had made
him promise to let her see Luke again. She married young and
settled down in London, and when, in a few years, her husband died,
she too, renounced Christianity."
To tell the truth, Rose was not deeply interested in the story, it
fell a little flat after her expectations of a tragedy. It had,
moreover, a sort of missionary flavor, and she had till the last
few months lived in India, and had grown heartily tired of the
details of mission work, in which both her father and mother had
been interested. Conversions, relapses, heathenism, belief and
unbelief were words which had sounded so often in her ears that now
they bored her; as they were the merest words to her it could
hardly be otherwise. But Rose's best point was her loyalty to her
own family, she had the "clan" feeling very strongly, and she could
not understand how her mother could have allowed such a complete
estrangement to grow up between her and her nearest relations.
"Mamma," she said, quickly, "I should have gone to see Uncle Luke
if I had been you."
"It is impossible, dear," replied Mrs. Fane-Smith. "Your father
would not allow it for one thing, and then only think what people
would say! This is partly my reason for telling you, Rose; I want
to put you upon your guard. We heard little or nothing of your
uncle when we were in India, but you will find it very different
here. He is one of the most notorious men in England; you must
never mention his name, never allude to him, do you understand me?"
"Is he then so wicked?"
"My dear, consider what his teaching is, that is sufficient; I
would not for the whole world allow our Greyshot friends to guess
that we are connected with him in any way. It might ruin all your
prospects in life."
"Mamma," said Rose, "I don't think Mr. Raeburn will injure my
prospects--of course you mean prospects of marrying. If a man
didn't care enough for me to take me whether I am the niece of the
worst man in England or not, do you think I would accept him?"
There was an angry ring in her voice as she spoke, her little saucy
mouth looked almost grand. After a moment's pause, she added, more
quietly, but with all the force of the true woman's heart which lay
hidden beneath her silliness and frivolity, "Besides, mamma, is it
"We are not bound to publish our family history to the world, Rose.
If any one asked me, of course I should tell the truth; if there
was any way of helping my brother or his child I would gladly serve
them, even though the world would look coldly on me for doing so;
but while they remain atheists how is it possible?"
"Then he has a child?"
"One only, I believe, a girl of about your own age."
"Oh, mamma, how I should like to know her!"
"My dear Rose, how can you speak of such a thing? You don't
realize that she is an atheist, has not even been baptized, poor
"But she is my cousin, and she is a girl just like me," said Rose.
"I should like to know her very much. I wonder whether she has
come out yet. I wonder how she enjoyed her first ball."
"My dear! They are not in society."
"How dull! What does she do all day, I wonder?"
"I cannot tell, I wish you would not talk about her, Rose; I should
not wish you even to think about her, except, indeed, to mention
her in your prayers."
"Oh, I'd much rather have her here to stay," said Rose, with a
little mischievous gleam in her eyes.
"Why mamma, if she were a black unbeliever you would be delighted
to have her; it is only because she is white that you won't have
anything to do with her. You would have been as pleased as
possible if I had made friends with any of the ladies in the
Mrs. Fane-Smith looked uncomfortable, and murmured that that was a
very different question. Rose, seeing her advantage, made haste to
follow it up.
"At any rate, mamma, you will write to Uncle Luke now that he is in
trouble, and you'll let me send a note to his daughter? Only
think, mamma, she has lost her mother so suddenly! Just think how
wretched she must be! Oh, mamma, dear, I can't think how she can
bear it!" and Rose threw her arms round her mother's neck. "I
should die too if you were to die! I'm sure I should."
Rose was very persuasive, Mrs. Fane-Smith's motherly heart was
touched; she sat down there and then, and for the first time since
the summer day when Luke Raeburn had been turned out of his
father's house, she wrote to her brother. Rose in the meantime had
taken a piece of paper from her mother's writing desk, and with a
fat volume of sermons by way of a desk was scribbling away as fast
as she could. This was her letter:
"My dear cousin,--I don't know your name, and have only just
heard anything about you, and the first thing I heard was that you
were in dreadful trouble. I only write to send you my love, and to
say how very sorry I am for you. We only came to England in the
autumn. I like it very much. I am going to my first ball tonight,
and expect to enjoy it immensely. My dress is to be white tarle--
Oh, dear! How horrid of me to be writing like this to you. Please
forgive me. I don't like to be so happy when you are unhappy; but,
you see, I have only just heard of you, so it is a little
difficult. With love, I remain, your affectionate cousin, Rose
That evening, while Erica, with eyes dim with grief and weariness,
was poring over the books in her father's study, Rose was being
initiated into all the delights of the ballroom. She was in her
glory. Everything was new to her; she enjoyed dancing, she knew
that she looked pretty, knew that her dress was charming, knew that
she was much admired, and of course she liked it all. But the
chaperons shook their heads; it was whispered that Miss Fane-Smith
was a terrible flirt, she had danced no less than seven dances with
Captain Golightly. If her mother erred by thinking too much of
what people said, perhaps Rose erred in exactly the opposite way;
at any rate, she managed to call down upon her silly but innocent
little head an immense amount of blame from the mothers and elderly
"A glorious moonlight night," said Captain Golightly. "What do you
say, Miss Fane-Smith? Shall we take a turn in the garden? Or are
you afraid of the cold?"
"Afraid! Oh, dear no," said Rose; "it's the very thing I should
enjoy. I suppose I must get my shawl, though; it is upstairs."
They were in the vestibule.
"Have my ulster," said Captain Golightly. "Here it is, just handy,
and it will keep you much warmer."
Rose laughed and blushed, and allowed herself to be put into her
partner's coat, rather to the detriment of her billowy tarletan.
After a while they came back again from the dim garden to the
brightly lighted vestibule, and as ill luck would have it, chanced
to encounter a stream of people going into the supper room. Every
one stared at the apparition of Miss Fane-Smith in Captain
Golightly's coat. With some difficulty she struggled out of it,
and with very hot cheeks sought shelter in the ballroom.
"How dreadfully they looked! Do you think it was wrong of me?" she
half whispered to her partner.
"Oh, dear, no! Sensible and plucky, and everything delightful!
You are much too charming to be bound down to silly
conventionalities. Come, let us have this dance. I'm sure you are
engaged to some one in the supper room who can't deserve such a
delightful partner. Let us have this TROIS TEMPS, and hurl
defiance at the Greyshot chaperons."
Rose laughed, and allowed herself to be borne off. She had been
excited before, now she was doubly excited, and Captain Golightly
had the most delicious step imaginable.
CHAPTER X. Hard at Work
Longing is God's fresh heavenward will
With our poor earthward striving;
We quench it that we may be still
Content with merely living;
But, would we learn that heart's full scope
Which we are hourly wronging,
Our lives must climb from hope to hope
And realize our longing. J. R. Lowell
Perhaps it was only natural that there should be that winter a good
deal of communication between the secularist's house in Guilford
Terrace and the clergyman's house in Guilford Square.
From the first Raeburn had taken a great fancy to Charles Osmond, and now
that Brian had become so closely connected with the memory of their
sudden bereavement, and had made himself almost one of them by his
silent, unobtrusive sympathy, and by his numberless acts of
delicate considerateness, a tie was necessarily formed which
promised to deepen into one of those close friendships that
sometimes exist between two entire families.
It was a bleak, chilly afternoon in March, when Charles Osmond,
returning from a long round of parish work, thought he would look
in for a few minutes at the Raeburns'; he had a proposal to make to
Erica, some fresh work which he thought might interest her. He
rang the bell at the now familiar door and was admitted; it carried
him back to the day when he had first called there and had been
shown into the fire-lit room, with the book-lined walls, and the
pretty little girl curled up on the rug, with her cat and her
toasting fork. Time had brought many changes since then. This
evening he was again shown into the study, but this time the gas
was lighted, and there was no little girl upon the hearth rug.
Erica was sitting at her desk hard at work. Her face lighted up at
the sight of her visitor.
"Every one is out except me," she said, more brightly than he had
heard her speak since her return. "Did you really come to see me.
How good of you."
"But you are busy?" said Charles Osmond, glancing at the papers on
the desk. "Press work?"
"Yes, my first article," said Erica, "it is just finished; but if
you'll excuse me for one minute, I ought to correct it; the office
boy will call for it directly."
"Don't hurry; I will wait and get warm in the meantime," said
Charles Osmond, establishing himself by the fire.
There was a silence broken only by the sound of Erica's pen as she
crossed out a word or a line. Charles Osmond watched her and
mused. This beautiful girl, whose development he could trace now
for more than two years back, what would she grow into? Already
she was writing in the "Idol Breaker." He regretted it. Yet it
was obviously the most natural employment for her. He looked at
her ever-changing face. She was absorbed in her work, her
expression varying with the sentences she read; now there was a
look of triumphant happiness as she came to something which made
her heart beat quickly; again, a shade of dissatisfaction at the
consciousness of her inability to express what was in her mind. He
could not help thinking that it was one of the noblest faces he had
ever seen, and now that the eyes were downcast it was not so
terribly sad; there was, moreover, for the first time since her
mother's death, a faint tinge of color in her cheeks. Before five
minutes could have passed, the bell rang again.
"That is my boy," she exclaimed, and hastily blotting her sheets,
she rolled them up, gave them to the servant, closed her desk, and
crossing the room, knelt down in front of the fire to warm her
hands, which were stiff and chilly.
"How rude I have been to you," she said, smiling a little; "I
always have been rude to you since the very first time we met."
"We were always frank with each other," said Charles Osmond; "I
remember you gave me your opinion as to bigots and Christians in
the most delightfully open way. So you have been writing your
"Yes," and she stretched herself as though she were rather tired
and cramped. "I have had a delicious afternoon. Yesterday I was
in despair about it, but today it just came--I wrote it straight
"And you are satisfied with it?"
"Satisfied? Oh, no! Is anybody ever satisfied? By the time it is
in print I shall want to alter every sixth line. Still, I dare say
it will say a little of what I want said?"
"Oh, you do want something said?"
"Of course!" she replied, a little indignantly. "If not, how could
"I quite agree with you," said Charles Osmond, "and you mean to
take this up as your vocation?"
"If I am thought worthy," said Erica, coloring a little.
"I see you have high ideas of the art," said Charles Osmond; "and
what is your reason for taking it up?"
"First of all, though it sounds rather illogical," said Erica, "I write
because I MUST; there is something in me which will have
its way. Then, too, it is part of our creed that every one should
do all in his power to help on the cause, and of course, if only
for my father's sake, it would be my greatest pleasure. Then, last
of all, I write because I must earn my living."
"Good reasons all," said Charles Osmond. "But I don't feel sure
that you won't regret having written when you look back several
"Oh! I dare say it will all seem crude and ridiculous then, but
one must make a beginning," said Erica.
"And are you sure you have thought out these great questions so
thoroughly and fairly that you are capable of teaching others about
"Ah! Now I see what you mean!" exclaimed Erica; "you think I
write in defense of atheism, or as an attacker of Christianity. I
do nothing of the kind; father would not allow me to, he would not
think me old enough. Oh! No, I am only to write the lighter
articles which are needed every now and then. Today I had a
delightful subject--'Heroes--what are they?'"
"Well, and what is your definition of a hero, I wonder; what are
the qualities you think absolutely necessary to make one?"
"I think I have only two absolutely necessary ones," said Erica;
"but my heroes must have these two, they must have brains and
"A tolerably sweeping definition," said Charles Osmond, laughing,
"almost equal to a friend of mine who wanted a wife, and said there
were only two things he would stipulate for--1,500 a year, and an
angel. But it brings us to another definition, you see. We shall
agree as to the brains, but how about goodness! What is your
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