Part 4 out of 10
what was wrong.
It would be tedious, however, to follow the course of Erica's life
for the next three years, for, though the time was that of her
chief mental growth, her days were of the quietest. Not till she
was two-and-twenty did she fully recover from the effects of her
sudden sorrow and the subsequent overwork. In the meantime, her
father's influence steadily deepened and spread throughout the
country, and troubles multiplied.
CHAPTER XVI. Hyde Park
Who spouts his message to the wilderness,
Lightens his soul and feels one burden less;
But to the people preach, and you will find
They'll pay you back with thanks ill to your mind.
Goethe. Translated by J.S.B.
Hyde Park is a truly national property, and it is amusing and
perhaps edifying to note the various uses to which it is often put.
In the morning it is the rendevous of nurses and children; in the
afternoon of a fashionable throng; on Sunday evenings it is the
resort of hard-working men and women, who have to content
themselves with getting a breath of fresh air once a week. But,
above all, the park is the meeting place of the people, the place
for mass meetings and monster demonstrations.
On a bright day in June, when the trees were still in their
freshest green, the crowd of wealth and fashion had beaten an
ignominious retreat before a great political demonstration to be
held that afternoon.
Every one knew that the meeting would be a very stormy one, for it
related to the most burning question of the day, a question which
was hourly growing more and more momentous, and which for the time
had divided England into two bitterly opposed factions.
These years which Erica had passed so quietly had been eventful
years for the country, years of strife and bloodshed, years of
reckless expenditure, years which deluded some and enraged others,
provoking most bitter animosity between the opposing parties. The
question was not a class question, and a certain number of the
working classes and a large number of the London roughs warmly
espoused the cause of that party which appealed to their love of
power and to a selfish patriotism. The Hyde Park meeting would
inevitably be a turbulent one. Those who wished to run no risk
remained at home; Rotten Row was deserted; the carriage road almost
empty; while from the gateways there poured in a never ending
stream of people some serious-looking, some eager and excited,
some with a dangerously vindictive look, some merely curious.
Every now and then the more motley and disorderly crowd was
reinforced by a club with its brass band and banners, and gradually
the mass of human beings grew from hundreds to a thousand, from one
thousand to many thousands, until, indeed, it became almost
impossible to form any idea of the actual numbers, so enormous was
"We shall have a bad time of it today," remarked Raeburn to Brian,
as they forced their way on. "If I'm not very much mistaken, too,
we are vastly outnumbered."
He looked round the huge assembly from his vantage ground of six
foot four, his cool intrepidity not one whit shaken by the
knowledge that, by what he was about to say, he should draw down on
his own head all the wrath of the roughest portion of the crowd.
"'Twill be against fearful odds!" said Tom, elbowing vigorously to
keep up with his companion.
"We fear nae foe!" said Raeburn, quoting his favorite motto. "And,
after all, it were no bad end to die protesting against wicked
rapacity, needless bloodshed."
His eye kindled as he thought of the protest he hoped to make; his
heart beat high as he looked round upon the throng so largely
composed of those hostile to himself. Was there not a demand for
his superabundant energy? A demand for the tremendous powers of
endurance, of influence, of devotion which were stored up within
him? As an athlete joys in trying a difficult feat, as an artist
joys in attempting a lofty subject, so Raeburn in his consciousness
of power, in his absolute conviction of truth, joyed in the
prospect of a most dangerous conflict.
Brian, watching him presently from a little distance, could not
wonder at the immense influence he had gained in the country. The
mere physique of the man was wonderfully impressive the strong,
rugged Scottish face, the latent power conveyed in his whole
bearing. He was no demagogue, he never flattered the people; he
preached indeed a somewhat severe creed, but, even in his sternest
mood, the hold he got over the people, the power he had of raising
the most degraded to a higher level was marvelous. It was not
likely, however, that his protest of today would lead to anything
but a free fight. If he could make himself effectually heard, he
cared very little for what followed. It was necessary that a
protest should be made, and he was the right man to make it;
therefore come ill or well, he would go through with it, and, if he
escaped with his life so much the better!
The meeting began. A moderate speaker was heard without
interruption, but the instant Raeburn stood up, a chorus of yells
arose. For several minutes he made no attempt to speak; but his
dignity seemed to grow in proportion with the indignities offered
him. He stood there towering above the crowd like a rock of
strength, scanning the thousands of faces with the steady gaze of
one who, in thinking of the progress of the race, had lost all
consciousness of his own personality. He had come there to protest
against injustice, to use his vast strength for others, to spend
and be spent for millions, to die if need be! Raeburn was made of
the stuff of which martyrs are made; standing there face to face
with an angry crowd, which might at any moment break loose and
trample him to death or tear him to pieces, his heart was
nevertheless all aglow with the righteousness of his cause, with
the burning desire to make an availing protest against an evil
which was desolating thousands of homes.
The majesty of his calmness began to influence the mob; the hisses
and groans died away into silence, such comparative silence, that
is, as was compatible with the greatness of the assembly. Then
Raeburn braced himself up; dignified before, he now seemed even
more erect and stately. The knowledge that for the moment he had
that huge crowd entirely under control was stimulating in the
highest degree. In a minute his stentorian voice was ringing out
fearlessly into the vast arena; thousands of hearts were vibrating
to his impassioned appeal. To each one it seemed as if he
individually were addressed.
"You who call yourselves Englishmen, I come to appeal to you today!
You, who call yourselves freemen, I come to tell you that you are
acting like slaves."
Then with rare tact, he alluded to the strongest points of the
British character, touching with consummate skill the vulnerable
parts of his audience. He took for granted that their aims were
pure, their standard lofty, and by the very supposition raised for
a time the most abject of his hearers, inspired them with his own
Presently, when he felt secure enough to venture it, when the crowd
was hanging on his words with breathless attention, he appealed no
longer directly to the people, but drew, in graphic language, the
picture of the desolations brought by war. The simplicity of his
phrases, his entire absence of showiness or bombast, made his
influence indescribably deep and powerful. A mere ranter, a frothy
mob orator, would have been silenced long before.
But this man had somehow got hold of the great assembly, had
conquered them by sheer force of will; in a battle of one will
against thousands the one had conquered, and would hold its own
till it had administered the hard home-thrust which would make the
thousands wince and retaliate.
Now, under the power of that "sledge-hammer Saxon," that
marvelously graphic picture of misery and bereavement, hard-headed,
and hitherto hard hearted men were crying like children. Then came
the rugged unvarnished statement shouted forth in the speaker's
"All this is being done in your name, men of England! Not only in
your name, but at your cost! You are responsible for this
bloodshed, this misery! How long is it to go on? How long are you
free men going to allow yourselves to be bloody executioners? How
long are you to be slavish followers of that grasping ambition
which veils its foulness under the fair name of patriotism?"
Loud murmurs began to arise at this, and the orator knew that the
ground swell betokened the coming storm. He proceeded with tenfold
energy, his words came down like hailstones, with a fiery
indignation he delivered his mighty philippic, in a torrent of
forceful words he launched out the most tremendous denunciation he
had ever uttered.
The string had been gradually worked up to its highest possible
tension; at length when the strain was the greatest it suddenly
snapped. Raeburn's will had held all those thousands in check; he
had kept his bitterest enemies hanging on his words; he had lashed
them into fury, and still kept his grip over them; he had worked
them up, gaining more and more power over them, till at length, as
he shouted forth the last words of a grand peroration, the
bitterness and truth of his accusations proved keener than his
He had foreseen that the spell would break, and he knew the instant
it was broken. A moment before, and he had been able to sway that
huge crowd as he pleased; now he was at their mercy. No will
power, no force of language, no strength of earnestness or truth
would avail him now. All that he had to trust to was his immense
physical strength, and what was that when measured against
He saw the dangerous surging movement in the sea of heads, and knew
only too well what it betokened. With a frightful yell of mingled
hatred and execration, the seething human mass bore down upon him!
His own followers and friends did what they could for him, but that
was very little. His case was desperate. Desperation, however,
inspires some people with an almost superhuman energy. Life was
sweet, and that day he fought for his life. The very shouting and
hooting of the mob, the roar of the angry multitude, which might
well have filled even a brave man with panic, stimulated him,
strengthened him to resist to the uttermost.
He fought like a lion, forcing his way through the furious crowd,
attacked in the most brutal way on every side, yet ever struggling
on if only by inches. Never once did his steadfastness waver,
never for a single instant did his spirit sink. His unfailing
presence of mind enabled him to get through what would have been
impossible to most men, his great height and strength stood him in
good stead, while the meanness and the injustice of the attack, the
immense odds against which he was fighting nerved him for the
It was more like a hideous nightmare than a piece of actual life,
those fierce tiger faces swarming around, that roar of vindictive
anger, that frightful crushing, that hail storm of savage blows!
But, whether life or nightmare, it must be gone through with. In
the thick of the fight a line of Goethe came to his mind, one of
his favorite mottoes; "Make good thy standing place and move the
And even then he half smiled to himself at the forlornness of the
hope that he should ever need a standing place again.
With renewed vigor he fought his way on, and with a sort of glow of
triumph and new-born hope had almost seen his way to a place of
comparative safety, when a fearful blow hopelessly maimed him.
With a vain struggle to save himself he fell to the earth a vision
of fierce faces, green leaves, and blue sky flashed before his
eyes, an inward vision of Erica, a moment's agony, and then the
surging crowd closed over him, and he knew no more.
CHAPTER XVII. At Death's Door
Sorrow and wrong are pangs of a new birth;
All we who suffer bleed for one another;
No life may live alone, but all in all;
We lie within the tomb of our dead selves,
Waiting till One command us to arise. Hon. Boden Noel.
Knowing that Erica would have a very anxious afternoon, Charles
Osmond gave up his brief midday rest, snatched a hasty lunch at a
third-rate restaurant, finished his parish visits sooner than
usual, and reached the little house in Guilford Terrace in time to
share the worst part of her waiting. He found her hard at work as
usual, her table strewn with papers and books of reference.
Raeburn had purposely left her some work to do for him which he
knew would fully occupy her; but the mere fact that she knew he had
done it on purpose to engross her mind with other matters entirely
prevented her from giving it her full attention. She had never
felt more thankful to see Charles Osmond than at that moment.
"When your whole heart and mind are in Hyde Park, how are you to
drag them back to what some vindictive old early Father said about
the eternity of punishment?" she exclaimed, with a smile, which
very thinly disguised her consuming anxiety.
They sat down near the open window, Erica taking possession of that
side which commanded the view of the entrance of the cul-de-sac.
Charles Osmond did not speak for a minute or two, but sat watching
her, trying to realize to himself what such anxiety as hers must
be. She was evidently determined to keep outwardly calm, not to
let her fears gain undue power over her; but she could not conceal
the nervous trembling which beset her at every sound of wheels in
the quiet square, nor did she know that in her brave eyes there
lurked the most visible manifestation possible of haggard, anxious
waiting. She sat with her watch in her hand, the little watch that
Eric Haeberlein had given her when she was almost a child, and
which, even in the days of their greatest poverty, her father had
never allowed her to part with. What strange hours it had often
measured for her. Age-long hours of grief, weary days of illness
and pain, times of eager expectation, times of sickening anxiety,
times of mental conflict, of baffling questions and perplexities.
How the hands seemed to creep on this afternoon, at times almost to
"Now, I suppose if you were in my case you would pray," said Erica,
raising her eyes to Charles Osmond. "It must be a relief, but yet,
when you come to analyze it, it is most illogical a fearful waste
of time. If there is a God who works by fixed laws, and who sees
the whole maze of every one's life before hand, then the particular
time and manner of my father's death must be already appointed, and
no prayer of mine that he may come safely through this afternoon's
danger can be of the least avail. Besides, if a God could be
turned round from His original purpose by human wills and much
speaking, I hardly think He would be worth believing in."
"You are taking the lowest view of prayer mere petition; but even
that, I think, is set on its right footing as soon as we grasp the
true conception of the ideal father. Do you mean to say that,
because your father's rules were unwavering and his day's work
marked out beforehand, he did not like you to come to him when you
were a little child, with all your wishes and longings and
requests, even though they were sometimes childish and often
impossible to gratify? Would he have been better pleased if you had
shut up everything in your own heart, and never of your own accord
told him anything about your babyish plans and wants?"
"Still, prayer seems to me a waste of time," said Erica.
"What! If it brings you a talk with your Father? If it is a
relief to you and a pleasure because a sign of trust and love to
Him? But in one way I entirely agree with you, unless it is
spontaneous it is not only useless but harmful. Imagine a child
forced to talk to its father. And this seems to me the truest
defense of prayer; to the 'natural man' it always will seem
foolishness, to the 'spiritual man' to one who has recognized the
All-Father it is the absolute necessity of life. And I think by
degrees one passes from eager petition for personal and physical
good things into the truer and more Christlike spirit of prayer.
'These are my fears, these are my wishes, but not my will but Thine
be done.' Shakespeare had got hold of a grand truth, it seems to
me, when he said:
"'So find we profit by losing of our prayers.'"
"And yet your ideal man distinctly said: 'Ask and ye shall
receive'" said Erica. "There are no limitations. For aught we
know, some pig-headed fanatic may be at this moment praying that
God in His mercy would rid the earth of that most dangerous man,
Luke Raeburn; while I might be of course I am not, but it is
conceivable that I might be praying for his safety. Both of us
might claim the same promise, 'Ask and ye shall receive.'"
"You forget one thing," said Charles Osmond. "You would both pray
to the Father, and His answer which you, by the way, might consider
no answer would be the answer of a father. Do you not think the
fanatic would certainly find profit in having his most unbrotherly
request disregarded? And the true loss or gain of prayer would
surely be in this: The fanatic would, by his un-Christlike request,
put himself further from God; you, by your spontaneous and natural
avowal of need and recognition of a Supreme loving will, would draw
nearer to God. Nor do we yet at all understand the extraordinary
influence exerted on others by any steady, earnest concentration of
thought; science is but just awakening to the fact that there is an
unknown power which we have hitherto never dreamed of. I have
great hope that in this direction, as in all others, science may
show us the hidden workings of our Father."
Erica forgot her anxiety for a moment; she was watching Charles
Osmond's face with mingled curiosity and perplexity. To speak to
one whose belief in the Unseen seemed stronger and more influential
than most people's belief in the seen, was always very strange to
her, and with her prophet she was almost always conscious of this
double life (SHE considered it double a real outer and an imaginary
inner.) His strong conviction; the every-day language which he
used in speaking of those truths which most people from a mistaken
notion of reverence, wrap up in a sort of ecclesiastical
phraseology; above all, the carrying out in his life of the idea of
universal brotherhood, with so many a mere form of words all served
to impress Erica very deeply. She knew him too well and loved him
too truly to pause often, as it were, to analyze his character.
Every now and then, however, some new phase was borne in upon her,
and some chance word, emphasizing the difference between them,
forced her from sheer honesty to own how much that was noble seemed
in him to be the outcome of faith in Christ.
They went a little more deeply into the prayer question. Then,
with the wonder growing on her more and more, Erica suddenly
exclaimed: "It is so wonderful to me that you can believe without
logical proof believe a thing which affects your whole life so
immensely, and yet be unable to demonstrate the very existence of
"Do you believe your father loves you?" asked Charles Osmond.
"My father! Why, of course."
"You can't logically prove that his love has any true existence."
"Why, yes!" exclaimed Erica. "Not a day passes without some word,
look, thought, which would prove it to any one. If there is one
thing that I am certain of in the whole world, it is that my father
loves me. Why, you who know him so well, you must know that! You
must have seen that."
"All his care of you may be mere self-interest," said Charles
Osmond. "Perhaps he puts on a sort of appearance of affection for
you just for the sake of what people would say not a very likely
thing for Mr. Raeburn to consider, I own. Still, you can't
demonstrate to me that his love is a reality."
"But I KNOW it is!" cried Erica, vehemently.
"Of course you know, my child; you know in your heart, and our
hearts can teach us what no power of intellect, no skill in logic
can every teach us. You can't logically prove the existence of
your father's love, and I can't logically prove the existence of
the all-Father; but in our hearts we both of us know. The deepest,
most sacred realities are generally those of heart-knowledge, and
quite out of the pale of logic."
Erica did not speak, but sat musing. After all, what COULD be
proved with absolute certainty? Why, nothing, except such bare
facts as that two and two make four. Was even mathematical proof
so absolutely certain? Were they not already beginning to talk of
a possible fourth dimension of space when even that might no longer
be capable of demonstration.
"Well, setting aside actual proof," she resumed, after a silence,
"how do you bring it down even to a probability that God is?"
"We must all of us start with a supposition," said Charles Osmond.
"There must on the one hand either be everlasting matter or
everlasting force, whether these be two real existences, or whether
matter be only force conditioned, or, on the other hand, you have
the alternative of the everlasting 'He.' You at present base your
belief on the first alternative. I base mine on the last, which,
I grant you, is at the outset the most difficult of the two. I
find, however, that nine times out of ten the most difficult theory
is the truest. Granting the everlasting 'He,' you must allow self-
consciousness, without which there could be no all powerful, all
knowledge-full, and all love-full. We will not quarrel about
names; call the Everlasting what you please. 'Father' seems to me
at once the highest and simplest name."
"But evil!" broke in Erica, triumphantly. "If He originates all,
he must originate evil as well as good."
"Certainly," said Charles Osmond, "He has expressly told us so. 'I
form the light and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil;
I, the Lord, do all these things.'"
"I recollect now, we spoke of this two or three years ago," said
Erica. "You said that the highest good was attained by passing
through struggles and temptations."
"Think of it in this way," said Charles Osmond. "The Father is
educating His children; what education was ever brought about
without pain? The wise human father does not so much shield his
child from small pains, but encourages him to get wisdom from them
for the future, tries to teach him endurance and courage. Pain is
necessary as an element in education, possibly there is no
evolution possible without it. The father may regret it, but, if
he is wise, knows that it must be. He suffers twice as much as the
child from the infliction of the pain. The All-Father, being at
once all-knowing and all-loving, can see the end of the education
while we only see it in process, and perhaps exclaim: 'What a
frightful state of things,' or like your favorite 'Stephen
Blackpool,' 'It's all a muddle.'"
"And the end you consider to be perfection, and eternal union with
God. How can you think immortality probable?"
"It is the necessary outcome of belief in such a God, such a Father
as we have spoken of. What! Could God have willed that His
children whom He really loves should, after a time, fade utterly
away? If so, He would be less loving than an average earthly
father. If He did indeed love them, and would fain have had them
ever with Him, but could not, then He would not be all-powerful."
"I see you a universalist, a great contrast to my Early Father
here, who gloats over the delightful prospect of watching from his
comfortable heaven the tortures of all unbelievers. But, tell me,
what do you think would be our position in your unseen world? I
suppose the mere realization of having given one's life in a
mistaken cause would be about the most terrible pain conceivable?"
"I think," said Charles Osmond, with one of his grave, quiet
smiles, "that death will indeed be your 'gate of life," that seeing
the light you will come to your true self, and exclaim, 'Who'd have
The every day language sounded quaint, it made Erica smile; but
Charles Osmond continued, with a brightness in his eyes which she
was far from understanding: "And you know there are to be those who
shall say: 'Lord when saw we Thee in distress and helped Thee?'
They had not recognized Him here, but He recognized them there?
They shared in the 'Come ye blessed of my Father.'"
"Well," said Erica, thoughtfully, "if any Christianity be true, it
must be your loving belief, not the blood-thirsty scheme of the
Calvinists. If THAT could by any possibility be true, I should
greatly prefer, like Kingsley's dear old 'Wulf,' to share hell with
my own people."
The words had scarcely left her lips when, with a startled cry, she
sprung to her feet and hurried to the door. The next moment
Charles Osmond saw Tom pass the window; he was unmistakably the
bearer of bad news.
His first panting words were reassuring "Brian says you are not to
be frightened;" but they were evidently the mere repetition of a
message. Tom himself was almost hopeless; his wrath and grief
become more apparent every minute as he gave an incoherent account
of the afternoon's work.
The brutes, the fiends, had half killed the chieftain, had set on
him like so many tigers. Brian and Hazeldine were bringing him
home had sent him on to prepare.
Erica had listened so far with a colorless face, and hands tightly
clasped, but the word "prepare" seemed to bring new life to her.
In an instant she was her strongest self.
"They will never try to take him up that steep narrow staircase.
Quick, Tom! Help me to move this couch into the study."
The little Irish servant was pressed into the service, too, and
sent upstairs to fetch and carry, and in a very few minutes the
preparations were complete, and Erica had at hand all the
appliances most likely to be needed. Just as all was done, and she
was beginning to feel that a minute's pause would be the "last
straw," Tom heard the sound of wheels in the square, and hurried
out. Erica stood in the doorway watching, and presently saw a
small crowd of helpers bearing a deathly looking burden. Whiteness
of death redness of blood. The ground seemed rocking beneath her
feet, when a strong hand took hers and drew her into the house.
"Don't be afraid," said a voice, which she knew to be Brian's
though a black mist would not let her see him. "He was conscious
a minute ago; this is only from the pain of moving. Which room?"
"The study," she replied, recovering herself. "Give me something
to do, Brian, quickly."
He saw that in doing lay her safety, and kept her fully employed,
so much so, indeed, that from sheer lack of time she was able to
stave off the faintness which had threatened to overpower her.
After a time her father came to himself, and Erica's face, which
had been the last in his mind in full consciousness, was the first
which now presented itself to his awakening gaze. He smiled.
"Well, Erica! So, after all, they haven't quite done for me. Nine
lives like a cat, as I always told you."
His voice was faint, but with all his wonted energy he raised
himself before they could remonstrate. He was far more injured,
however, than he knew; with a stifled groan he fell back once more
in a swoon, and it was many hours before they were able to restore
After that, fever set in, and a shadow as of death fell on the
house in Guilford Terrace. Doctors came and went; Brian almost
lived with his patient; friends Raeburn had hosts of them came with
help of every description. The gloomy little alley admitted every
day crowds of inquirers, who came to the door, read the bulletin,
glanced up at the windows, and went away looking graver than when
Erica lost count of time altogether. The past seemed blotted out;
the weight of the present was so great that she would not admit any
thought of the future, though conscious always of a blank dread
which she dared not pause to analyze, sufficient indeed for her day
was the evil thereof. She struggled on somehow with a sort of
despairing strength; only once or twice did she even recollect the
It happened that on the first Wednesday after the Hyde Park meeting
some one mentioned the day of the week in her hearing. She was in
the sick-room at the time, but at once remembered that her week's
work was untouched, that she had not written a line for the
"Idol-Breaker." Every idea seemed to have gone out of her head;
for a minute she felt that to save her life she could not write a
line. But still she conscientiously struggled to remember what
subject had been allotted her, and in the temporary stillness of
the first night-watch drew writing materials toward her, and leaned
her head on her hands until, almost by an effort of will, she at
length recalled the theme for her article.
Of course! It was to be that disgraceful disturbance in the church
at Z______. She remembered the whole affair now, it all rose up
before her graphically not a bad subject at all! Their party might
make a good deal by it. Her article must be bright, descriptive,
sarcastic. Yet how was she to write such an article when her heart
felt like lead? An involuntary "I can't " rose to her lips, and
she glanced at her father's motionless form, her eyes filling with
tears. Then one of his sayings came to her mind: "No such word as
'Can't' in the dictionary," and began to write rapidly almost
defiantly. No sooner had she begun than her very exhaustion, the
lateness of the hour, and the stress of circumstance came to her
aid she had never before written so brilliantly.
The humor of the scene struck her; little flashes of mirth at the
expense of both priest and people, delicate sarcasms, the more
searching from their very refinement, awoke in her brain and were
swiftly transcribed. In the middle of one of the most daring
sentences Raeburn stirred. Erica's pen was thrown down at once;
she was at his side absorbed once more in attending to his wants,
forgetful quite of religious controversy, of the"Idol-Breaker," of
anything in fact in the whole world but her father. Not till an
hour had passed was she free to finish her writing, but by the time
her aunt came to relieve guard at two o'clock the article was
finished and Erica stole noiselessly into the next room to put it
To her surprise she found that Tom had not gone to bed. He was
still toiling away at his desk with a towel round his head; she
could almost have smiled at the ludicrous mixture of grief and
sleepiness on his face, had not her own heart been so loaded with
care and sadness. The post brought in what Tom described as
"bushels" of letters every day, and he was working away at them now
with sleepy heroism.
"How tired you look," said Erica. "See! I have brought in this
for the 'Idol.'"
"You've been writing it now! That is good of you. I was afraid we
should have to make up with some wretched padding of Blank's."
He took the sheets from her and began to read. Laughter is often
only one remove from grief, and Tom, though he was sad-hearted
enough, could not keep his countenance through Erica's article.
First his shoulders began to shake, then he burst into such a
paroxysm of noiseless laughter that Erica, fearing that he could
not restrain himself, and would be heard in the sick-room, pulled
the towel from his forehead over his mouth; then, conquered herself
by the absurdity of his appearance, she was obliged to bury her own
face in her hands, laughing more and more whenever the
incongruousness of the laughter occurred to her. When they had
exhausted themselves the profound depression which had been the
real cause of the violent reaction returned with double force. Tom
sighed heavily and finished reading the article with the gravest of
faces. He was astonished that Erica could have written at such a
time an article positively scintillating with mirth.
"How did you manage anything so witty tonight of all nights?" he
"Don't you remember Hans Andersen's clown Punchinello," said Erica.
"He never laughed and joked so gayly as the night when his love
died and his own heart was broken."
There was a look in her eyes which made Tom reply, quickly: "Don't
write any more just now; the professor has promised us something
for next week. Don't write any more till till the chieftain is
After that she wished him good night rather hastily, crept upstairs
to her attic, and threw herself down on her bed. Why had he spoken
of the future? Why had his voice hesitated? No, she would not
think, she would not.
So the article appeared in that week's "Idol-Breaker, and thousands
and thousands of people laughed over it. It even excited
displeased comment from "the other side," and in many ways did a
great deal of what in Guilford Terrace was considered "good work."
For Erica herself, it was long before she had time to give it
another thought; it was to her only a desperately hard duty which
she had succeeded in doing. Nobody every guessed how much it had
The weary time dragged on, days and weeks passed by; Raeburn was
growing weaker, but clung to life with extraordinary tenacity. And
now very bitterly they felt the evils of this voluntarily embraced
poverty, for the summer heat was for a few days almost tropical,
and the tiny little rooms in the lodging-house were stifling.
Brian was very anxious to have the patient moved across to his
father's house; but, though Charles Osmond said all he could in
favor of the scheme, the other doctors would not consent, thinking
the risk of removal too great. And, besides, it would be useless,
they maintained the atheist was evidently dying. Brian, who was
the youngest, could not carry out his wishes in defiance of the
others, but he would not deny himself the hope of even yet saving
Erica's father. He devised punkahs, became almost nurse and doctor
in one, and utterly refused to lose heart. Erica herself was the
only other person who shared his hopefulness, or perhaps her
feeling could hardly be described by that word; she was not
hopeful, but she had so resolutely set herself to live in the
present that she had managed altogether to crowd out the future,
and with it the worst fear.
One day, however, it broke upon her suddenly. Some one had left a
newspaper in the sick-room; it was weeks since she had seen one,
and in a brief interval, while her father slept, or seemed to
sleep, she took it up half mechanically. How much it would have
interested her a little while ago, how meaningless it all seemed to
her now. "Latest Telegrams," "News from the Seat of War,"
"Parliamentary Intelligence" a speech by Sir Michael Cunningham,
one of her heroes, on a question in which she was interested. She
could not read it, all the life seemed gone out of it, today the
paper was nothing to her but a broad sheet with so many columns of
printed matter. But as she was putting it down their own name
caught her eye. All at once her benumbed faculties regained their
power, her heart began to beat wildly, for there, in clearest
print, in short, choppy, unequivocal sentences, was the hideous
fear which she had contrived so long to banish.
"Mr. Raeburn is dying. The bulletins have daily been growing less
and less hopeful. Yesterday doctor R______, who had been called
in, could only confirm the unfavorable opinion of the other
doctors. In all probability the days of the great apostle of
atheism are numbered. It rests with the Hyde Park rioters, and
those who by word and example have incited them, to bear the
responsibility of making a martyr of such a man as Mr. Luke
Raeburn. Emphatically disclaiming the slightest sympathy with Mr.
Raeburn's religious views, we yet--"
But Erica could read no more. Whatever modicum of charity the
writer ventured to put forth was lost upon her. The opening
sentence danced before her eyes in letters of fire. That morning
she met Brian in the passage and drew him into the sitting room.
He saw at once how it was with her.
"Look," she said, holding the newspaper toward him, "is that true?
Or is it only a sensation trap or written for party purposes?"
Her delicate lips were closed with their hardest expression, her
eyes only looked grave and questioning. She watched his face as he
read, lost her last hope, and with the look of such anguish as he
had never before seen, drew the paper from him, and caught his hand
in hers in wild entreaty.
"Oh, Brian, Brian! Is there no hope? Surely you can do something
for him. There MUST be hope, he is so strong, so full of life."
He struggled hard for voice and words to answer her, but the
imploring pressure of her hands on his had nearly unnerved him.
Already the grief that kills lurked in her eyes he knew that if her
father died she would not long survive him.
"Don't say what is untrue," she continued. " Don't let me drive you
into telling a lie but only tell me if there is indeed no hope no
"It may be," said Brian. "You must not expect, for those far wiser
than I say it can not be. But I hope yes, I still hope."
On that crumb of comfort she lived, but it was a weary day, and for
the first time she noticed that her father, who was free from
fever, followed her everywhere with his eyes. She knew
intuitively that he thought himself dying.
Toward evening she was sitting beside him, slowly drawing her
fingers through his thick masses of snow-white hair in the way he
liked best, when he looked suddenly right into her eyes with his
own strangely similar ones, deep, earnest eyes, full now of a sort
of dumb yearning.
"Little son Eric," he said, faintly, "you will go on with the work
I am leaving."
"Yes, father," she replied firmly, though her heart felt as if it
"A harmful delusion," he murmured, half to himself, "taking up our
best men! Swallowing up the money of the people. What's that
"It is the children in the hospital," she replied. "I'll shut the
window if they disturb you, father."
"No, " he said. "One can tolerate the delusion for them if it
makes their pain more bearable. Poor bairns! Poor bairns! Pain
is an odd mystery."
He drew down her hand and held it in his, seeming to listen to the
singing, which floated in clearly through the open window at right
angles with the back windows of the hospital. Neither of them knew
what the hymn was, but the refrain which came after every verse as
if even the tinies were joining in it was quite audible to Luke
Raeburn and his daughter,
"Through life's long day, and death's dark night, Oh, gentle Jesus,
be our light."
Erica's breath came in gasps. To be reminded then that life was
long and that death was dark!
She thought she had never prayed, she had never consciously prayed,
but her whole life for the past three years had been an unspoken
prayer. Never was there a more true desire entirely unexpressed
than the desire which now seemed to possess her whole being. The
darkness would soon hide forever the being she most loved. Oh, if
she could but honestly think that He who called Himself the Light
of the world was indeed still living, still ready to help!
But to allow her distress to gain the mastery over her would
certainly disturb and grieve her father. With a great effort she
stifled the sobs which would rise in her throat, and waited in
rigid stillness. When the last notes of the hymn had died away
into silence, she turned to look at her father. He had fallen
CHAPTER XVIII. Answered or Unanswered?
"Glory to God to God!" he saith,
"Knowledge by suffering entereth,
And life is perfected by death." E. B. Browning
"Mr. Raeburn is curiously like the celebrated dog of nursery lore,
who appertained to the ancient and far-famed Mother Hubbard. All
the doctors gave him up, all the secularists prepared mourning
garments, the printers were meditating black borders for the
'Idol-Breaker,' the relative merits of burial and cremation were
already in discussion, when the dog we beg pardon the leader of
atheism, came to life again.
"'She went to the joiners to buy him a coffin,
But when she came back the dog was laughing.'
"History," as a great man was fond of remarking, 'repeats itself.'"
Raeburn laughed heartily over the accounts of his recovery in the
comic papers. No one better appreciated the very clever
representation of himself as a huge bull-dog starting up into life
while Britannia in widow's weeds brought in a parish coffin. Erica
would hardly look at the thing; she had suffered too much to be
able to endure any jokes on the subject, and she felt hurt and
angry that what had given her such anguish should be turned into a
At length, after many weeks of weary anxiety, she was able to
breathe freely once more, for her father steadily regained his
strength. The devotion of her whole time and strength and thought
to another had done wonders for her, her character had strangely
deepened and mellowed. But no sooner was she free to begin her
ordinary life than new perplexities beset her on every side.
During her own long illness she had of course been debarred from
attending any lectures or meetings whatever. In the years
following, before she had quite regained her strength, she had
generally gone to hear her father, but had never become again a
regular attendant at the lecture hall. Now that she was quite
well, however, there was nothing to prevent her attending as many
lectures as she pleased, and naturally, her position as Luke
Raeburn's daughter made her presence desirable. So it came to pass
one Sunday evening in July that she happened to be present at a
lecture given by a Mr. Masterman.
He was a man whom they knew intimately. Erica liked him
sufficiently well in private life, and he had been remarkably kind
and helpful at the time of her father's illness. It was some
years, however, since she had heard him lecture, and this evening,
by the virulence of his attack on the character of Christ, he
revealed to her how much her ground had shifted since she had last
heard him. It was not that he was an opponent of existing
Christianity her father was that, she herself was that, and felt
bound to be as long as she considered it a lie but Mr. Masterman's
attack seemed to her grossly unfair, almost willfully inaccurate,
and, in addition, his sarcasm and pleasantries seemed to her
odiously vulgar. He was answered by a most miserable
representative of Christianity, who made a foolish, weak,
blustering speech, and tried to pay the atheist back in his own
coin. Erica felt wretched. She longed to get up and speak
herself, longing flatly to contradict the champion of her own
cause; then grew frightened at the strength of her feelings. Could
this be mere love of fair play and justice? Was her feeling merely
that of a barrister who would argue as well on one side as the
other? And yet her displeasure in itself proved little or nothing.
Would not Charles Osmond be displeased and indignant if he heard
her father unjustly spoken of? Yes, but then Luke Raeburn was a
living man, and Christ was she even sure that he had ever lived?
Well, yes, sure of that, but of how much more?
When the assembly broke up, her mind was in a miserable chaos of
It was one of those delicious summer evenings when even in East
London the skies are mellow and the air sweet and cool.
"Oh, Tom, let us walk home!" she exclaimed, longing for change of
scene and exercise.
"All right," he replied, "I'll take you a short cut, if you don't
mind a few back slums to begin with."
Now Erica was familiar enough with the sight of poverty and
squalor; she had not lived at the West End, where you may entirely
forget the existence of the poor. The knowledge of evil had come
to her of necessity much earlier than to most girls, and tonight,
as Tom took her through a succession of narrow streets and dirty
courts, misery, and vice, and hopeless degradation met her on every
side. Swarms of filthy little children wrangled and fought in the
gutters, drunken women shouted foul language at one another
everywhere was wickedness everywhere want. Her heart felt as if it
would break. What was to reach these poor, miserable fellow
creatures of hers? Who was to raise them out of their horrible
plight? The coarse distortion and the narrow contraction of
Christ's teaching which she had just heard, offered no remedy for
this evil. Nor could she think that secularism would reach these.
To understand secularism you meed a fair share of intellect what
intellect would these poor creatures have? Why, you might talk
forever of the "good of humanity," and "the duty of promoting the
general good," and they would not so much as grasp the idea of what
"good" was they would sink back to their animal-like state.
Instinctively her thoughts turned to the Radical Reformer who,
eighteen hundred years ago, had lived among people just as wicked,
just as wretched. How had He worked? What had He done? All
through His words and actions had sounded the one key-note, "Your
Father." Always He had led them to look up to a perfect Being who
loved them, who was present with them.
Was it possible that if Christians had indeed followed their Leader
and not obscured His teaching with hideous secretions of doctrine
which He had assuredly never taught was it possible that the
Christ-gospel in its original simplicity would indeed be the remedy
for all evil?
They were coming into broader thoroughfares now. A wailing child's
voice fell on her ear. A small crowd of disreputable idlers was
hanging round the closed doors of a public-house, waiting eagerly
for the opening which would take place at the close of
service-time. The wailing child's voice grew more and more
piteous. Erica saw that it came from a poor little half-clad
creature of three years old who was clinging to the skirts of a
miserable-looking woman with a shawl thrown over her head. Just as
she drew near, the woman, with a fearful oath, tried to shake
herself free of the child; then, with uplifted arms, was about to
deal it a heavy blow when Erica caught her hand as it descended,
and held it fast in both her hands.
"Don't hurt him," she said, "please don't hurt him."
She looked into the prematurely wrinkled face, into the half-dim
eyes, she held the hand fast with a pressure not of force but of
entreaty. Then they passed on, the by-standers shouting out the
derisive chorus of "Come to Jesus!" with which London roughs
delight in mocking any passenger whom they suspect of religious
tendencies. In all her sadness, Erica could not help smiling to
herself. That she, an atheist, Luke Raeburn's daughter, should be
hooted at as a follower of Jesus!
In the meantime the woman she had spoken to stood still staring
after her. If an angel had suddenly appeared to her, she could not
have been more startled. A human hand had given her coarse,
guilty, trembling hand such a living pressure as it had never
before received; a pure, loving face had looked at her; a voice,
which was trembling with earnestness and full of the pathos of
restrained tears, had pleaded with her for her own child. The
woman's dormant motherhood sprung into life. Yes, he was her own
child after all. She did not really want to hurt him, but a sort
of demon was inside her, the demon of drink and sometimes it made
her almost mad. She looked down now with love-cleared eyes at the
little crying child who still clung to her ragged skirt. She
stooped and picked him up, and wrapped a bit of her shawl round
him. Presently after a fearful struggle, she turned away from the
public-house and carried the child home to bed.
The jeering chorus was soon checked, for the shutters were taken
down, and the doors thrown wide, and light, and cheerfulness, and
shelter, and the drink they were all craving for, were temptingly
displayed to draw in the waiting idlers.
But the woman had gone home, and one rather surly looking man still
leaned against the wall looking up the street where Tom and Erica
"Blowed if that ain't a bit of pluck!" he said to himself, and
therewith fell into a reverie.
Tom talked of temperance work, about which he was very eager, all
the way to Guilford Terrace. Erica, on reaching home, went at once
to her father's room. She found him propped up with pillows in his
arm chair; he was still only well enough to attempt the lightest of
light literature, and was looking at some old volumes of "Punch"
which the Osmonds had sent across.
"You look tired, Eric!" he exclaimed. "Was there a good
"Very," she replied, but so much less brightly than usual that
Raeburn at once divined that something had annoyed her.
"Was Mr. Masterman dull?"
"Not dull," she replied, hesitatingly. Then, with more than her
usual vehemence, "Father, I can't endure him! I wish we didn't
have such men on our side! He is so flippant, so vulgar!"
"Of course he never was a model of refinement," said Raeburn, "but
he is effective very effective. It is impossible that you should
like his style; he is, compared with you, what a theatrical poster
is to a delicate tete-de-greuze. How did he specially offend you
"It was all hateful from the very beginning," said Erica. "And
sprinkled all through with doubtful jests, which of course pleased
the people. One despicable one about the Entry into Jerusalem,
which I believe he must have got from Strauss. I'm sure Strauss
"You see what displeases an educated mind, wins a rough, uncultured
one. We may not altogether like it, but we must put up with it.
We need our Moodys and Sankeys as well as the Christians."
"But, father, he seems to me so unfair."
Raeburn looked grave.
"My dear," he said, after a minute's thought, "you are not in the
least bound to go to hear Mr. Masterman again unless you like. But
remember this, Eric, we are only a struggling minority, and let me
quote to you one of our Scottish proverbs: 'Hawks shouldna pick out
hawks' een.' You are still a hawk, are you not?"
"Of course," she said, earnestly.
"Well, then be leal to your brother hawks."
A cloud of perplexed thought stole over Erica's face. Raeburn
noted it and did his best to divert her attention.
"Come," he said, "let us have a chapter of Mark Twain to enliven
But even Mark Twain was inadequate to check the thought-struggle
which had begun in Erica's brain. Desperate earnestness would not
be conquered even by the most delightful of all humorous fiction.
During the next few days this thought-struggle raged. So great was
Erica's fear of having biased either one way or the other that she
would not even hint at her perplexity either to her father or to
Charles Osmond. And now the actual thoroughness of her character
seemed a hindrance.
She had imagination, quick perception of the true and beautiful,
and an immense amount of steady common sense. At the same time she
was almost as keen and quite as slow of conviction as her father.
Honestly dreading to allow her poetic faculty due play, she kept
her imagination rigidly within the narrowest bounds. She was thus
honestly handicapped in the race; the honesty was, however, a
little mistaken and one-sided, for not the most vivid imagination
could be considered as a set-off to the great, the incalculable
counter-influence of her whole education and surroundings. How she
got through that black struggle was sometimes a mystery to her. At
last, one evening, when the load had grown intolerable, she shut
herself into her own room, and, forgetful of all her logical
arguments, spoke to the unknown God. Her hopelessness, her
desperation, drove her as a last resource to cry to the possibly
She stood by the open window of her little room, with her arms on
the window sill, looking out into the summer night, just as years
before she had stood when making up her mind to exile and
sacrifice. Then the wintery heavens had been blacker and the stars
brighter, now both sky and stars were dimmer because more light.
Over the roofs of the Guilford Square houses she could see Charles'
Wain and the Pole-star, but only faintly.
"God!" she cried, "I have no reason to think that Thou art except
that there is such fearful need of Thee. I can see no single proof
in the world that Thou art here. But if what Christ said was true,
then Thou must care that I should know Thee, for I must be Thy
child. Oh, God, if Thou art oh, Father, if Thou art help us to
know Thee! Show us what is true!"
She waited and waited, hoping for some sort of answer, some
thought, some conviction. But she found, as many have found before
her, that "the heavens were as brass."
"Of course it was no use!" she exclaimed, impatiently, yet with a
blankness of disappointment which in itself proved the reality of
Just then she heard Tom's voice at the foot of the stairs calling;;
it seemed like the seal to her impatient "of course." There was no
Unseen, no Eternal of course not! But there was a busy every-day
life to be lived.
"All right," she returned impatiently, to Tom's repeated calls;
"don't make such a noise or else you'll disturb father."
"He is wide awake," said Tom, "and talking to the professor. Just
look here, I couldn't help fetching you down did you ever see such
a speech in your life? A regular brick he must be!"
He held an evening paper in his hand. Erica remembered that the
debate was to be on a question affecting all free-thinkers. During
the discussion of this, some one had introduced a reference to the
Hyde Park meeting and to Mr. Raeburn, and had been careful not to
lose the opportunity of making a spiteful and misleading remark
about the apostle of atheism. Tom hurried her through this,
however, to the speech that followed it.
"Wait a minute," she said. "Who is Mr. Farrant? I never heard of
"Member for Greyshot, elected last spring, don't you remember? One
of the by-elections. Licked the Tories all to fits. This is his
maiden speech, and that makes it all the more plucky of him to take
up the cudgels in our defense. Here! Let me read it to you."
With the force of one who is fired with a new and hearty
admiration, he read the report. The speech was undoubtedly a fine
one; it was a grand protest against intolerance, a plea for
justice. The speaker had not hesitated for an instant to raise his
voice in behalf of a very unpopular cause, and his generous words,
even when read through the medium of an indifferent newspaper
report, awoke a strange thrill in Erica's heart. The utter
disregard of self, the nobility of the whole speech struck her
immensely. The man who had dared to stand up for the first time in
Parliament and speak thus, must be one in a thousand. Presently
came the most daring and disinterested touch of all.
"The honorable member for Rilchester made what I can not but regard
as a most misleading and unnecessary remark with reference to the
recent occurrence in Hyde Park, and to Mr. Raeburn. I listened to
it with pain, for, if there can be degrees in the absolute evil of
injustice and lack of charity, it seems to me that the highest
degree is reached in that uncharitableness which tries to blacken
the character of an opponent. Since the subject has been
introduced, the House will, I hope, bear with me if for the sake of
justice I for a moment allude to a personal matter. Some years ago
I myself was an atheist, and I can only say that, speaking now from
the directly opposite standpoint, I can still look back and thank
Mr. Raeburn most heartily for the good service he did me. He was
the first man who ever showed me, by words and example combined,
that life is only noble when lived for the race. The statement
made by the honorable member for Rilchester seems to me as
incorrect as it was uncalled for. Surely this assembly will best
prove its high character not by loud religious protestations, not
by supporting a narrow, Pharisaical measure, but by impartiality,
by perfect justice, by the manifestation in deed and word of that
broad-hearted charity, that universal brotherliness, which alone
deserves the name of Christianity."
The manifestation of the speaker's generosity and universal
brotherliness came like a light to Erica's darkness. It did not
end her struggle, but it did end her despair. A faint, indefinable
hope rose in her heart.
Mr. Farrant's maiden speech made a considerable stir; it met with
some praise and much blame. Erica learned from one of the papers
that he was Mr. Donovan Farrant, and at once felt convinced that he
was the "Donovan" whom both Charles Osmond and Brian had mentioned
to her. She seemed to know a good deal about him. Probably they
had never told her his surname because they knew that some day he
would be a public character. With instinctive delicacy she
refrained from making any reference to his speech, or any inquiry
as to his identity with the "Donovan" of whose inner life she had
heard. Very soon after that, too, she went down to the sea side
with her father, and when they came back to town the Osmonds had
gone abroad, so it was not until the autumn that they again met.
Her stay at Codrington wonderfully refreshed her; it was the first
time in her life that she had taken a thorough holiday, with change
of scene and restful idleness to complete it. The time was
outwardly uneventful enough, but her father grew strong in body and
she grew strong in mind.
One absurd little incident she often laughed over afterward. It
happened that in the "On-looker" there was a quotation from some
unnamed medieval writer; she and her father had a discussion as to
whom it could be, Raeburn maintaining that it was Thomas a Kempis.
Wishing to verify it, Erica went to a bookseller's and asked for
the "Imitation of Christ." A rather prim-looking dame presided
behind the counter.
"We haven't that book, miss," she said, "it's quite out of fashion
"I agree with you," said Erica, greatly amused. "It must be quite
out of fashion, for I scarcely know half a dozen people who
practice it." However, a second shop appeared to think
differently, for it had Thomas a Kempis in every conceivable size,
shape, and binding. Erica bought a little sixpenny copy and went
back to the beach, where she made her father laugh over her story.
They verified the quotation, and by and by Erica began to read the
book. On the very first page she came to words which made her
pause and relapse into a deep reverie.
"But he who would fully and feelingly understand the words of
Christ, must study to make his whole life conformable to that of
The thought linked itself in her mind with some words of John
Stuart Mill's which she had heard quoted till she was almost weary
"Nor even now would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to find a
better translation for the rule of virtue from the abstract into
the concrete, than to endeavor so to live that Christ would approve
While she was still musing, a sound of piteous crying attracted her
notice. Looking up she saw a tiny child wandering along the beach,
trailing a wooden spade after her, and sobbing as if her heart
would break. In a moment Erica was beside her coaxing and
consoling, but at last, finding it impossible to draw forth an
intelligible word from the sobs and tears, she took the little
thing in her arms and carried her to her father. Raeburn was a
great child lover, and had a habit of carrying goodies in his
pocket, much to the satisfaction of all the children with whom he
was brought in contact. He produced a bit of butterscotch, which
restored the small maiden's serenity for a minute.
"She must have lost her way," he said, glancing from the lovely
little tear-stained face to the thinly shod feet and ungloved hands
of the little one. The butterscotch had won her heart. Presently
she volunteered a remark.
"Dolly putted on her own hat. Dolly wanted to dig all alone.
Dolly ran away."
"Where is your home?" asked Erica.
"Me don't know! Me don't know!" cried Dolly, bursting into tears
again, and hiding her face on Raeburn's coat. "Father! Father,
Dolly wants father."
"We will come and look for him," said Erica, "but you must stop
crying, and you know your father will be sure to come and look for
At this the little one checked her tears, and looked up as if
expecting to see him close by.
"He isn't there," she said, piteously.
"Come and let us look for him," said Erica.
Dolly jumped up, thrust her little hand into Erica's, and toiled up
the steep beach. They had reached the road, and Erica paused for
a moment, wondering which direction they had better take, when a
voice behind her made her start.
"Why Dorothy little one we've been hunting for you everywhere!"
Dolly let go Erica's hand, and with a glad cry rushed into the arms
of a tall, dark, rather foreign-looking man, who caught her up and
held her closely.
He turned to Erica and thanked her very warmly for her help. Erica
thought his face the noblest she had ever seen.
CHAPTER XIX. At The Museum
Methought I heard one calling: "Child,"
And I replied: 'My Lord!'"
A favorite pastime with country children is to watch the gradual
growth of the acorn into the oak tree. They will suspend the acorn
in a glass of water and watch the slow progress during long months.
First one tiny white thread is put forth, then another, until at
length the glass is almost filled with a tangle of white fibers, a
sturdy little stem raises itself up, and the baby tree, if it is to
live, must be at once transplanted into good soil. The process may
be botanically interesting, but there is something a little sickly
about it, too there is a feeling that, after all, the acorn would
have done better in its natural ground hidden away in darkness.
And, if we have this feeling with regard to vegetable growth, how
much more with regard to spiritual growth! To attempt to set up
the gradually awakening spirit in an apparatus where it might be
the observed of all observers would be at once repulsive and
presumptuous. Happily, it is impossible. We may trace influences
and suggestions, just as we may note the rain or drought, the heat
or cold that affect vegetable growth, but the actual birth is ever
To attempt even to shadow forth Erica's growth during the next year
would be worse than presumptuous. As to her outward life it was
not greatly changed, only intensified. October always began their
busiest six months. There was the night school at which she was
able to work again indefatigably. There were lectures to be
attended. Above all there was an ever-increasing amount of work to
be done for her father. In all the positive and constructive side
of secularism, in all the efforts made by it to better humanity,
she took an enthusiastic share. Naturally she did not see so much
of Charles Osmond now that she was strong again. In the press of
business, in the hard, every-day life there was little time for
discussion. They met frequently, but never for one of their long
tete-a-tetes. Perhaps Erica purposely avoided them. She was
strangely different now from the little impetuous girl who had come
to his study years ago, trembling with anger at the lady
superintendent's insult. Insults had since then, alas, become so
familiar to her, that she had acquired a sort of patient dignity of
endurance, infinitely sad to watch in such a young girl.
One morning in early June, just a year after the memorable Hyde
Park meeting, Charles Osmond happened to be returning from the
death bed of one of his parishioners when, at the corner of
Guilford Square, he met Erica. It might have been in part the
contrast with the sad and painful scene he had just quitted, but he
thought she had never before looked so beautiful. Her face seemed
to have taken to itself the freshness and the glow of the summer
"You are early abroad," he said, feeling older and grayer and more
tired than ever as he paused to speak to her.
"I am off to the museum to read," she said, "I like to get there by
nine, then you don't have to wait such an age for your books; I
can't bear waiting."
"What are you at work upon now?"
"Oh, today for the last time I am going to hunt up particulars
about Livingstone. Hazeldine was very anxious that a series of
papers on his life should be written for our people. What a grand
fellow he was!"
"I heard a characteristic anecdote of him the other day," said
Charles Osmond. "He was walking beside one of the African lakes
which he had discovered, when suddenly there dawned on him a new
meaning to long familiar words: 'The blood of Christ,' he
exclaimed. 'That must be Charity! The blood of Christ that must
be Charity!' A beautiful thought, too seldom practically taught."
Erica looked grave.
"Characteristic, certainly, of his broad-heartedness, but I don't
think that anecdote will do for the readers of the 'Idol-Breaker.'"
Then, looking up at Charles Osmond, she added in a rather lower
tone: "Do you know, I had no idea when I began what a difficult
task I had got. I thought in such an active life as that there
would be little difficulty in keeping the religious part away from
the secular, but it is wonderful how Livingstone contrives to mix
"You see, if Christianity be true, it must, as you say, 'mix up'
with everything. There should be no rigid distinction between
secular and religious," said Charles Osmond.
"If it is true," said Erica, suddenly, and with seeming
irrelevance, "then sooner or later we must learn it to be so.
Truth MUST win in the end. But it is worse to wait for perfect
certainty than for books at the museum," she added, laughing. "It
is five minutes to nine I shall be late."
Charles Osmond walked home thoughtfully; the meeting had somehow
"Absolute conviction that truth must out that truth must make
itself perceptible. I've not often come across a more beautiful
faith than that. Yes, little Undine, right you are. 'Ye shall
know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' Here or there,
here or there
"'All things come round to him who will but wait.'
There's one for yourself, Charles Osmond. None of your hurrying
and meddling now, old man; you've just got to leave it to your
Soliloquizing after this fashion he reached home, and was not sorry
to find his breakfast awaiting him, for he had been up the greater
part of the night.
The great domed library of the British Museum had become very
home-like to Erica, it was her ideal of comfort; she went there
whenever she wanted quiet, for in the small and crowded lodgings
she could never be secure from interruptions, and interruptions
resulted in bad work. There was something, too, in the atmosphere
of the museum which seemed to help her. She liked the perfect
stillness, she liked the presence of all the books. Above all,
too, she liked the consciousness of possession. There was no
narrow exclusiveness about this place, no one could look askance at
her here. The place belonged to the people, and therefore belonged
to her; she heretic and atheist as she was had as much share in the
ownership as the highest in the land. She had her own peculiar
nook over by the encyclopedias, and, being always an early comer,
seldom failed to secure her own particular chair and desk.
On this morning she took her place, as she had done hundreds of
times before, and was soon hard at work. She was finishing her
last paper on Livingstone when a book she had ordered was deposited
on her desk by one of the noiseless attendants. She wanted it to
verify one or two dates, and she half thought she would try to hunt
up Charles Osmond's anecdote. In order to write her series of
papers, she had been obliged to study the character of the great
explorer pretty thoroughly. She had always been able to see the
nobility even of those differing most widely from herself in point
of creed, and the great beauty of Livingstone's character had
impressed her very much. Today she happened to open on an entry in
his journal which seemed particularly characteristic of the man.
He was in great danger from the hostile tribes at the union of the
Zambesi and Loangwa, and there was something about his spontaneous
utterance which appealed very strongly to Erica.
"Felt much turmoil of spirit in view of having all my plans for the
welfare of this great region and teeming population knocked on the
head by savages tomorrow. But I read that Jesus came and said:
'All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye
therefore and teach all nations, and lo! I am with you always, even
unto the end of the world.' It is the word of a gentleman of the
most sacred and strictest honor, and there's an end on't. I will
not cross furtively by night as I intended . . . Nay, verily, I
shall take observations for latitude and longitude tonight, though
they may be the last."
The courage, the daring, the perseverance, the intense faith of the
man shone out in these sentences. Was it indeed a delusion, such
practical faith as that?
Blackness of darkness seemed to hem her in. She struggled through
it once more by the one gleam of certainty which had come to her in
the past year. Truth must be self-revealing. Sooner or later, if
she were honest, if she did not shut her mind deliberately up with
the assurance "You have thought out these matters fully and fairly;
enough! Let us now rest content" and if she were indeed a true
"Freethinker," she MUST know. And even as that conviction returned
to her the words half quaint, half pathetic, came to her mind: "It
is the word of a gentleman of the most sacred and strictest honor,
and there's an end on't."
Yes, there would "be an end on't," if she could feel sure that he,
too, was not deluded.
She turned over the pages of the book, and toward the end found a
copy of the inscription on Livingstone's tomb. Her eye fell on the
words: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them
also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice."
Somehow the mention of the lost sheep brought to her mind the
little lost child on the beach at Codrington Dolly, who had "putted
on" her own hat, who had wanted to be independent and to dig by
herself. She had run away from home, and could not find the way
back. What a steep climb they had had up the beach how the little
thing's tiny feet had slipped and stumbled over the stones, and
just when they were most perplexed, the father had found them.
Exactly how it all came to her Erica never knew, nor could she ever
put into words the story of the next few moments. When "God's
great sunrise" finds us out we have need of something higher than
human speech there ARE no words for it. At the utmost she could
only say that it was like coming out of the twilight, that it
seemed as if she were immersed in a great wave of all pervading
All in a moment the Christ who had been to her merely a noble
character of ancient history seemed to become to her the most real
and living of all living realities. Even her own existence seemed
to fade into a vague and misty shadow in comparison with the
intensity of this new consciousness this conviction of His being
which surrounded her which she knew, indeed, to be "way, and truth,
and life." They shall hear My voice." In the silence of waiting,
in the faithfulness of honest searching, Erica for the first time
in her life heard it. Yes, she had been right truth was
self-revealing. A few minutes ago those words had been to her an
unfulfilled, a vain promise the speaker, broad-hearted and loving
as he was, had doubtless been deluded. But now the voice spoke to
her, called her by name, told her what she wanted.
"Dolly," became to her a parable of life. She had been like that
little child; for years and years she had been toiling up over
rough stones and slippery pebbles, but at last she had heard the
voice. Was this the coming to the Father?
That which often appears sudden and unaccountable is, if we did but
know it, a slow, beautiful evolution. It was now very nearly seven
years since the autumn afternoon when the man "too nice to be a
clergyman," and "not a bit like a Christian," had come to Erica's
home, had shown her that at least one of them practiced the
universal brotherliness which almost all preached. It was nearly
seven years since words of absolute conviction, words of love and
power, had first sounded forth from Christian lips in her father's
lecture hall, and had awakened in her mind that miserably
uncomfortable question "supposing Christianity should be true?"
All the most beautiful influences are quiet; only the destructive
agencies, the stormy wind, the heavy rain and hail, are noisy.
Love of the deepest sort is wordless, the sunshine steals down
silently, the dew falls noiselessly, and the communion of spirit
with spirit is calmer and quieter than anything else in the world
quiet as the spontaneous turning of the sunflower to the sun when
the heavy clouds have passed away, and the light and warmth reveal
themselves. The subdued rustle of leaves, the hushed footsteps
sounded as usual in the great library, but Erica was beyond the
perception of either place or time.
Presently she was recalled by the arrival of another student, who
took the chair next to hers a little deformed man, with a face
which looked prematurely old, and sad, restless eyes. A few hours
before she would have regarded him with a sort of shuddering
compassion; now with the compassion there came to her the thought
of compensation which even here and now might make the poor fellow
happy. Was he not immortal? Might he not here and now learn what
she had just learned, gain that unspeakable joy? And might not the
knowledge go on growing and increasing forever? She took up her
pen once more, verified the dates, rolled up her manuscript, and
with one look at Livingstones's journal, returned it to the clerk
and left the library.
It was like coming into a new world; even dingy Bloomsbury seemed
beautiful. Her face was so bright, so like the face of a happy
child, that more than one passer-by was startled by it, lifted for
a moment from sordid cares into a purer atmosphere. She felt a
longing to speak to some one who would understand her new
happiness. She had reached Guilford Square, and looked doubtfully
across to the Osmonds' house. They would understand. But no she
must tell her father first. And then, with a fearful pang, she
realized what her new conviction meant. It meant bringing the
sword into her father's house; it meant grieving him with a
life-long grief; it meant leaving the persecuted minority and going
over to the triumphant majority; it meant unmitigated pain to all
those she loved best.
Erica had had her full share of pain, but never had she known
anything so agonizing as that moment's sharp revulsion.
Mechanically she walked on until she reached home; nobody was in.
She looked into the little sitting room but, only Friskarina sat
purring on the rug. The table was strewn with the Saturday papers;
the midday post had just come. She turned over the letters and
found one for herself in her father's handwriting. It was the one
thing needed to complete the realization of her pain. She snatched
it up with a stifled sob, ran upstairs to her room, and threw
herself down on the bed in silent agony.
A new joy had come to her which her father could not share; a joy
which he would call a delusion, which he spent a great part of his
life in combating. To tell him that she was convinced of the truth
of Christianity why, it would almost break his heart.
And yet she must inflict this terrible pain. Her nature was far
too noble to have dreamed for a single instant of temporizing, of
keeping her thoughts to herself. A Raeburn was not likely to fail
either in courage or in honesty; but with her courage and honesty,
Erica had the violin-like sensitiveness of nature which Eric
Haeberlein had noticed even in her childhood. She saw in the
future all the pain she must bring to her father, intensified by
her own sensitiveness. She knew so well what her feelings would
have been but a short time ago, if any one she greatly loved had
"fallen back" into Christianity. How could she tell him? How
Yet it was a thing which must be done. Should she write to him?
No, the letter might reach him when he was tired and worried yet,
to speak would be more painful.
She got up and went to the window, and let the summer wind blow on
her heated forehead. The world had seemed to her just before one
glorious presence-chamber full of sunshine and rejoicing. But
already the shadow of a life-long pain had fallen on her heart.
A revealed Christ meant also a revealed cross, and a right heavy
It was only by degrees that she grew strong again, and
Livingstone's text came back to her once more, "I am with you
By and by she opened her father's letter. It ran as follows:
"I have just remembered that Monday will be your birthday. Let us
spend it together, little son Erica. A few days at Codrington
would do us both good, and I have a tolerably leisure week. If you
can come down on Saturday afternoon, so much the better. I will
meet you there, if you will telegraph reply as soon as you get
this. I have three lectures at Helmstone on Sunday, but you will
probably prefer a quiet day by the sea. Bring me Westcott's new
book, and you might put in the chisel and hammer. We will do a
little geologizing for the professor, if we have time. Meeting
here last night a great success. Your loving father, Luke
"He is only thinking how he can give me pleasure," sighed Erica.
"And I have nothing to give him but pain."
She went at once, however, for the "Bradshaw," and looked out the
afternoon trains to Codrington.
CHAPTER XX. Storm
And seems she mid deep silence to a strain
To listen, which the soul alone can know,
Saying: "Fear naught, for Jesus came on earth,
Jesus of endless joys the wide, deep sea,
To ease each heavy load of mortal birth.
His waters ever clearest, sweetest be
To him who in a lonely bark drifts forth
On His great deeps of goodness trustfully. From Vittoria Colonna
Codrington was one of the very few sea-side places within fairly
easy reach of London which had not been vulgarized into an ordinary
watering place. It was a primitive little place with one good,
old-established hotel, and a limited number of villas and lodging
houses, which only served as a sort of ornamental fringe to the
picturesque little fishing town.
The fact was that it was just midway between two large and
deservedly popular resorts, and so it had been overlooked, and to
the regret of the thrifty inhabitants and the satisfaction of the
visitors who came there for quiet, its peaceful streets and its
stony beach were never invaded by excursionists. No cockneys came
down for the Sunday to eat shrimps; the shrimps were sent away by
train to the more favored watering places, and the Codrington shop
keepers shook their heads and gave up expecting to make a fortune
in such a conservative little place. Erica said it reminded her of
the dormouse in "Alice In Wonderland," tyrannized over by the
hatter on one side and the March hare on the other, and eventually
put head foremost into the teapot. Certainly Helmstone on the east
and Westport on the west had managed to eclipse it altogether, and
its peaceful sleepiness made the dormouse comparison by no means
It all looked wonderfully unchanged as she walked from the station
that summer afternoon with her father. The square, gray tower of
St. Oswald's Church, the little, winding, irregular streets, the
very shop windows seemed quite unaltered, while at every turn
familiar faces came into sight. The shrewd old sailor with the
telescope, the prim old lady at the bookseller's, who had
pronounced the "Imitation of Christ" to be quite out of fashion,
the sturdy milkman, with white smock-frock, and bright pails
fastened to a wooden yoke, and the coast-guardsman, who was always
whistling "Tom Bowling."
The sea was as calm as a mill pond; Raeburn suggested an hour or
two on the water and Erica, who was fond of boating, gladly
assented. She had made up her ind not to speak to her father that
evening; he had a very hard day's work before him on the Sunday;
they must have these few hours in peace. She did not in the least
dread any subject coming up which might put her into difficulty,
for, on the rare days when her father allowed himself any
recreation, he entirely banished all controversial topics from his
mind. He asked no single question relating to the work or to
business of any kind, but gave himself up to the enjoyment of a
much-needed rest and relaxation. He seemed in excellent spirits,
and Erica herself would have been rapturously happy if she had not
been haunted by the thought of the pain that awaited him. She knew
that this was the last evening she and her father should ever spend
together in the old perfect confidence; division the most painful
of all divisions lay before them.
The next day she was left to herself. She would not go to the old
gray-towered church, though as an atheist she had gone to one or
two churches to look and listen, she felt that she could not
honorably go as a worshiper till she had spoken to her father. So
she wandered about on the shore, and in the restful quiet learned
more and grew stronger, and conquered the dread of the morrow. She
did not see her father again that day for he could not get back
from Helmstone till a late train, and she had promised not to sit
up for him.
The morning of her twenty-third birthday was bright and sunshiny;
she had slept well, but awoke with the oppressive consciousness
that a terrible hard duty lay before her. When she came down there
was a serious look in her eyes which did not escape Raeburn's keen
observation. He was down before her, and had been out already, for
he had managed somehow to procure a lovely handful of red and white
roses and mignonette.
"All good wishes for your birthday, and 'sweets to the sweet' as
some one remarked on a more funereal occasion," he said, stooping
to kiss her. "Dear little son Eric, it is very jolly to have you
to myself for once. No disrespect to Aunt Jean and old Tom, but
two is company." "What lovely flowers!" exclaimed Erica.! "How
good of you! Where did they come from?"
"I made love to old Nicolls, the florist, to let me gather these
myself; he was very anxious to make a gorgeous arrangement done up
in white paper with a lace edge, and thought me a fearful Goth for
preferring this disorderly bunch."
They sat down to breakfast; afterward the morning papers came in,
and Raeburn disappeared behind the "Daily Review," while the
servant cleared the table. Erica stood by the open French window;
she knew that in a few minutes she must speak, and how to get what
she had to say into words she did not know. Her heart beat so fast
that she felt almost choked. In a sort of dream of pain she
watched the passers-by happy looking girls going down to bathe,
children with spades and pails. Everything seemed so tranquil, so
ordinary while before her lay a duty which must change her whole
"Not much news," said Raeburn, coming toward her as the servant
left the room. "For dullness commend me to a Monday paper! Well,
Eric, how are we to spend your twenty-third birthday? To think
that I have actually a child of twenty-three! Why, I ought to feel
an old patriarch, and, in spite of white hair and life-long
badgering, I don't, you know. Come, what shall we do. Where would
you like to go?"
"Father," said Erica, "I want first to have a talk with you. I--I
have something to tell you."
There was no longer any mistaking that the seriousness meant some
kind of trouble. Raeburn put his arm round her.
"Why, my little girl," he said, tenderly. "You are trembling all
over. What is the matter?"
"The matter is that what I have to say will pain you, and it half
kills me to do that. But there is no choice tell you I must. You
would not wish me not to be true, not to be honest."
Utter perplexity filled Raeburn's mind. What phantom trouble was
threatening him? Had she been commissioned to tell him of some
untoward event? Some business calamity? Had she fallen in love
with some one he could not permit her to marry? He looked
questioningly at her, but her expression only perplexed him still
more; she was trembling no longer, and her eyes were clear and
bright, there was a strong look about her whole face.
"Father," she said, quietly, "I have learned to believe in Jesus
He wrenched away his arm; he started back from her as if she had
stabbed him. For a minute he looked perfectly dazed.
At last, after a silence which seemed to each of them age-long, he
spoke in the agitated voice of one who has just received a great
"Do you know what you are saying, Erica? Do you know what such a
confession as you have made will involve? Do you mean that you
accept the whole of Christ's teaching?
"Yes," she replied, firmly, "I do."
"You intend to turn Christian?"
"Yes, to try to."
"How long have you and Mr. Osmond been concocting this?"
"I don't know what you mean," said Erica, terribly wounded by his
"Did he send you down here to tell me?"
"Mr. Osmond knows nothing about it," said Erica. "How could I tell
any one before you, father?"
Raeburn was touched by this. He took several turns up and down the
room before speaking again, but the more he grasped the idea the
deeper grew his grief and the hotter his anger. He was a man of
iron will, however, and he kept both under. When at length he did
speak, his voice was quiet and cold and repressed.
"Sit down," he said, motioning her to a chair. "This is not a
subject that we can dismiss in five minutes' talk. I must hear
your reasons. We will put aside all personal considerations. I
will consider you just as an ordinary opponent."
His coldness chilled her to the heart. Was it always to be like
this? How could she possibly endure it? How was she to answer his
questions how was she to vindicate her faith when the mere tone of
his voice seemed to paralyze her heart? He was indeed treating her
with the cold formality of an opponent, but never for a single
instant could she forget that he was her father the being she loved
best in the whole world.
But Erica was brave and true; she knew that this was a crisis in
their lives, and, thrusting down her own personal pain, she forced
herself to give her whole heart and mind to the searching and
perplexing questions with which her father intended to test the
reality of her convictions. Had she been unaccustomed to his mode
of attack he would have hopelessly silenced her, as far as argument
goes in half an hour; but not only was Erica's faith perfectly
real, but she had, as it were, herself traversed the whole of his
objections and difficulties. Though far from imagining that she
understood everything, she had yet so firmly grasped the innermost
truth that all details as yet outside her vision were to her no
longer hindrances and bugbears, but so many new possibilities other
hopes of fresh manifestations of God.
She held her ground well, and every minute Raeburn realized more
keenly that whatever hopes he had entertained of reconvincing her
were futile. What made it all the more painful to him was that the
thoroughness of the training he had given her now only told against
him, and the argument which he carried on in a cold, metallic voice
was really piercing his very heart, for it was like arguing against
another self, the dearest part of himself gone over to the enemy's
At last he saw that argument was useless, and then, in his grief
and despair, he did for a time lose his self-control. Erica had
often felt sorry for the poor creatures who had to bear the brunt
of her father's scathing sarcasm. But platform irony was a trifle
to the torrent which bore down upon her today. When a strong man
does lose his restraint upon himself, the result is terrific.
Raeburn had never sufficiently cared for an adversary as to be
moved beyond an anger which could be restricted and held within due
bounds; he of course cared more for the success of his cause and
his own dignity. But now his love drove him to despair; his
intolerable grief at the thought of having an opponent in his own
child burst all restraining bonds. Wounded to the quick, he who
had never in his life spoken a harsh word to his child now poured
forth such a storm of anger, and sarcasm, and bitter reproach, as
might have made even an uninterested by-stander tremble.
Had Erica made any appeal, had she even begun to cry, his chivalry
would have been touched; he would have recognized her weakness, and
regained his self control. But she was not weak, she was strong
she was his other self gone over to the opposite side; that was
what almost maddened him. The torrent bore down upon her, and she
spoke not a word, but just sat still and endured. Only, as the
words grew more bitter and more wounding, her lips grew white, her
hands were locked more tightly together. At last it ended.
"You have cheated yourself into this belief," said Raeburn, "you
have given me the most bitter grief and disappointment of my whole
life. Have you anything else you wish to say to me?"
"Nothing," replied Erica, not daring to venture more; for, if she
had tried to speak, she knew she must have burst into tears.
But there was as much pain expressed in her voice as she spoke that
one word as there had been in all her father's outburst. It
appealed to him at once. He said no more, but stepped out of the
French window, and began to pace to an fro under the veranda.
Erica did not stir; she was like one crushed. Sad and harassed as
her life had been, it yet seemed to her that she had never known
such indescribably bitter pain. The outside world looked bright
and sunshiny; she could see the waves breaking on the shore, while
beyond, sailing out into the wide expanse was a brown-sailed
fishing boat. Every now and then her vision was interrupted by a
tall, dark figure pacing to and fro; every now and then the
sunlight glinted on snow-white hair, and then a fresh stab of pain
awoke in her heart.
The brown-sailed fishing boat dwindled into a tiny dark spot on the
horizon, the sea tossed and foamed and sparked in the sunshine.
Erica turned away; she could not bear to look at it, for just now
it seemed to her merely the type of the terrible separation which
had arisen between herself and her father. She felt as if she were
being borne away in the little fishing boat, while he was left on
the land, and the distance between them slowly widened and widened.
All through that grievous conversation she had held in her hand a
little bit of mignonette. She had held it unconsciously; it was
withered and drooping, its sweetness seemed to her now sickly and
hateful. She identified it with her pain, and years after the
smell of mignonette was intolerable to her. She would have thrown
it away, but remembered that her father had given it her. And
then, with the recollection of her birthday gift, came the
realization of all the long years of unbroken and perfect love, so
rudely interrupted today. Was it always to be like this? Must
they drift further and further apart?
Her heart was almost breaking; she had endured to the very
uttermost, when at length comfort came. The sword had only come to
bring the higher peace. No terrible sea of division could part
those whom love could bind together. The peace of God stole once
more into her heart.
"How loud soe'er the world may roar,
We know love will be
Meanwhile Raeburn paced to and fro in grievous pain The fact that
his pain could scarcely perhaps have been comprehended by the
generality of people did not make it less real or less hard to
bear. A really honest atheist, who is convinced that Christianity
is false and misleading, suffers as much at the sight of what he
considers a mischievous belief as a Christian would suffer while
watching a service in some heathen temple. Rather his pain would
be greater, for his belief in the gradual progress of his creed is
shadowy and dim compared with the Christian's conviction that the
"Saviour of all men" exists.
Once, some years before, a very able man, one of his most devoted
followers, had "fallen back" into Christianity. That had been a
bitter disappointment; but that his own child whom he loved more
than anything in the world, should have forsaken him and gone over
to the enemy, was a grief well-nigh intolerable. It was a grief he
had never for one moment contemplated.
Could anything be more improbable than that Erica, carefully
trained as she had been, should relapse so strangely? Her whole
life had been spent among atheists; there was not a single
objection to Christianity which had not been placed before her.
She had read much, thought much; she had worked indefatigably to
aid the cause. Again and again she had braved personal insult and
wounding injustice as an atheist. She had voluntarily gone into
exile to help her father in his difficulties. Through the shameful
injustice of a Christian, she had missed the last years of her
mother's life, and had been absent from her death bed. She had
borne on behalf of her father's cause a thousand irritating
privations, a thousand harassing cares; she had been hard-working,
and loyal, and devoted; and now all at once she had turned
completely round and placed herself in the opposing ranks!
Raeburn had all his life been fighting against desperate odds, and
in the conflict he had lost well-nigh everything. He had lost his
home long ago, he had lost his father's good will, he had lost the
whole of his inheritance; he had lost health, and strength, and
reputation, and money; he had lost all the lesser comforts of life;
and now he said to himself that he was to lose his dearest treasure
of all, his child.
Bitter, hopeless, life-long division had arisen between them. For
twenty-three years he had loved her as truly as ever father loved
child, and this was his reward! A miserable sense of isolation
arose in his heart. Erica had been so much to him how could he
live without her? The muscles of his face quivered with emotion;
he clinched his hands almost fiercely.
Then he tortured himself by letting his thoughts wander back to the
past. That very day years ago, when he had first learned what
fatherhood meant; the pride of watching his little girl as the
years rolled on; the terrible anxiety of one long and dangerous
illness she had passed through how well he remembered the time!
They were very poor, could afford no expensive luxuries; he had
shared the nursing with his wife. One night he remembered toiling
away with his pen while the sick child was actually on his knee; he
always fancied that the pamphlet he had then been at work on was
more bitterly sarcastic than anything he had ever written. Then on
once more into years of desperately hard work and disappointingly
small results, imbittered by persecution, crippled by penalties and
never-ending litigation; but always there had been the little child
waiting for him at home, who by her baby-like freedom from care
could make him smile when he was overwhelmed with anxiety. How
could he ever have endured the bitter obloquy, the slanderous
attacks, the countless indignities which had met him on all sides,
if there had not been one little child who adored him, who followed
him about like a shadow, who loved him and trusted him utterly?
Busy as his life had been, burdened as he had been for years with
twice as much work as he could get through, the child had never
been crowded out of his life. Even as a little thing of four years
old, Erica had been quite content to sit on the floor in his study
by the hour together, quietly amusing herself by cutting old
newspapers into fantastic shapes, or by drawing impossible cats and
dogs and horses on the margins. She had never disturbed him; she
used to talk to herself in whispers.
"Are you happy, little one?" he used to ask from time to time, with
a sort of passionate desire that he should enjoy her unconscious
childhood, foreseeing care and trouble for her in the future.
"Yes, very happy," had been the invariable response; and generally
Erica would avail herself of the interruption to ask his opinion
about some square-headed cat, with eyes askew and an astonishing
number of legs, which she had just drawn. Then would come what she
called a "bear's hug," after which silence reigned again in the
study, while Raeburn would go on writing some argumentative
pamphlet, hard and clear as crystal, his heart warmed by the little
child's love, the remains of a smile lingering about his lips at
the recollection of the square-headed cat.
And the years passed on, and every year deepened and strengthened
their love. And by slow degrees he had watched the development of
her mind; had gloried in her quick perception, had learned to come
to her for a second opinion every now and then; had felt proud of
her common sense, her thoughtful judgments; had delighted in her
enthusiastic, loving help. All this was ended now. Strange that,
just as he hoped most from her, she should fail him! It was a
repetition of his own early history exactly reversed. His thoughts
went back to his father's study in the old Scottish parsonage. He
remembered a long, fierce argument; he remembered a storm of
abusive anger, and a furious dismissal from the house. The old
pain came back to him vividly.
"And she loves me fifty thousand times more than I ever loved my
father," he reflected. "And, though I was not abusive, I was hard
on her. And, however mistaken, she was very brave, very honest.
Oh, I was cruel to her harsh, and hateful! My little child! My
poor little child! It shall not it cannot divide us. I am hers,
and she is mine nothing can ever alter that."
He turned and went back into the room. Never had he looked grander
than at that minute; this man who could hold thousands in
breathless attention this man who was more passionately loved by
his friends, more passionately hated by his enemies than almost any
man in England! He was just the ideal father.
Erica had not stirred, she was leaning back in her chair, looking
very still and white. He came close to her.
"Little son Eric!" he said, with a whole world of love in his tone.
She sprang up and wreathed her arms round his neck.
By and by, they began to talk in low tones, to map out and piece
together as well as they could the future life, which was
inevitably severed from the past by a deep gulf. They spoke of the
work which they could still share, of the interests they should
still have in common. It was very sad work for Erica infinitely
sadder for Raeburn; but they were both of them brave and noble
souls, and they loved each other, and so could get above the
sadness. One thing they both agreed upon. They would never argue
about their opinions. They would, as far as possible, avoid any
allusion to the grave differences that lay between them.
Late in the afternoon, a little group of fishermen and idlers stood
on the beach. They were looking out seaward with some "anxiety,
for a sudden wind had arisen, and there was what they called 'an
"I tell you it was madness to let 'em go alone on such a day,"
said the old sailor with the telescope.
"And I tell you that the old gentleman pulls as good an oar as any
of us," retorted another man, in a blue jersey and a sou'wester.
"Old gentleman, indeed!" broke in the coast guardsman. "Better say
devil at once! Why, man alive! Your old gentleman is Luke Raeburn,
"God forbid!" exclaimed the first speaker, lowering his telescope
for a moment. "Why, he be mighty friendly to us fishermen."
"Where be they now, gaffer? D'ye see them?" asked a keen-looking
lad of seventeen.
"Ay, there they be! There they be! God have mercy on 'em!
They'll be swamped sure as fate!"
The coast guardsman, with provoked sang-froid and indifference,
began to sing:
"For though his body's under hatches, His soul is gone alo-o-ft."
And then breaking off into a sort of recitative.
"Which is exactly the opposite quarter to what Luke Raeburn's soul
will go, I guess."
"Blowed if I wouldn't pull an oar to save a mate, if I were so
mighty sure he was going to the devil!" observed a weather-beaten
seaman, with gold earrings and a good deal of tattooing on his
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