Part 6 out of 10
We fear it must be recorded that she fairly stamped with anger.
Wounded in her tenderest part, indignant at the insult to her
father, ashamed of her own want of control, miserably perplexed by
her new surroundings, it was long before she could compose herself.
She paced up and down the richly furnished room, struggling hard to
conquer her anger. At length, by a happy impulse, she caught up
her prayer book, checked her longing to walk rapidly to and fro,
sat down on the Indian rug before the fire, and read the evening
psalm. It happened to be the thirty-seventh. Nothing could have
calmed her so effectually as its tender exhortation, its wonderful
sympathy with human nature. ""Fret not thyself, else shalt thou be
moved to do evil. Put thou thy trust in the Lord, and be doing
good. Put thy trust in Him, and He will bring it to pass.
She closed the book, and sat musing, her anger quite passed away.
All at once she recollected old Elspeth, the nurse. Her father had
charged her with many messages to the faithful old servant, and so
had her aunt. She felt ashamed to think that she had been several
hours in the house without delivering them. Rose's room was close
to hers. She went out, and knocked softly at the door.
"I just came to see whether Elspeth was here," she said, rather
dismayed to find the candles out, and the room only lighted up by
the red glow from the fire.
Rose who had had no temper to conquer, was already in bed."Still in
your dress!" she exclaimed. "I believe you've been at that
Browning again. But did no one come to help you? I sent Gemma."
"I didn't want help, thank you," said Erica. "I only wanted to see
Elspeth because I have a message for her."
"How conscientious you are!" said Rose, laughing. "I always make
a point of forgetting messages when I go from home. Well, you will
find Elspeth in the little room on the next half landing, the work
room. She was here not two minutes ago. Good night! Breakfast is
at nine, you know; and they'll bring you a cup of tea when they
A little shyly, Erica made her way to the work room where Elspeth
was tacking frilling into one of Rose's dresses. The old woman
started up with a quick exclamation when she appeared in the
"May I come in?" said Erica, with all the charm of manner which she
had inherited from her father. "'Tis very late, but I didn't like
to go to bed without seeing you."
"I hope missie has everything she wants?" asked Elspeth, anxiously.
"Yes, indeed!" said Erica. "All I want is to see you, and to give
you my father's love, to ask how you are. He and Aunt Jean have
often told me about you. You have not forgotten them?"
"Forgotten! No, indeed!" cried old Elspeth. "When I saw you at
'Takin' the book,' and saw you so like your poor father, I could
have cried. You are Mr. Luke's bairn, and no mistake, my bonny
lassie! Ah, I mind the day well when he came to my room the auld
nursery in the parsonage, where I had reared him and told me that
master had ordered him out of the house. I pray God I may never
again see a face look as his looked then!"
Tears started to her eyes at the recollection. Erica threw her
arms round her neck, and kissed her.
"You love him still. I see you love him!" she exclaimed, all her
feeling of isolation melting in the assurance of the old servant's
So, after all, Erica had a maid in attendance, for Elspeth insisted
on seeing her to bed, and, since they talked all the time about the
old Scotch days, she was well content to renounce her independence
for a little while.
But, whether because of the flickering fire light, or because of
the strangeness of the great brass bedstead, with its silken
hangings and many-colored Indian rezai, Erica slept very little
that night. Perhaps the long talk about her father's early days
had taken too great a hold of her. At any rate, she tossed about
very restlessly in her luxurious quarters, and when, for brief
intervals, she slept, it was only to dream of her father taking
leave of his Scottish home, and always he bore that flint-like
face, that look of strong endurance and repressed passion which
Elspeth had described, and which, in times of trouble and
injustice, Erica had learned to know so well.
CHAPTER XXV. Lady Caroline's Dinner
The blank of amaze of your haughty gaze,
The cold surprise of patrician eyes. Lewis Morris
But the paucity of Christians is astonishing, considering the
number of them. Leigh Hunt.
The irritation, or, at any rate, the novelty of the luxury in the
Fane-Smith's household wore off after Erica had spent a few days at
Greyshot. She became accustomed to the great rooms, and being
artistic by nature and the reverse by education, she began very
much to enjoy the pictures, the charming variety of foreign
treasures, and particularly all the lovely things of Indian
workmanship with which the drawing room was crowded. The long,
formal meals she learned to endure. The absurdly large retinue of
servants ceased to oppress her; she used to amuse herself by
speculating as to the political views of the men-servants! while
the luxury of a daily drive with her aunt she very much
But, though the mere externals were soon familiar enough, she found
that every day increased the difficulty she felt in becoming
accustomed to the atmosphere of this family. She had lived all her
life with people who were overwhelmed with work, and in a home
where recreation was only the rare concession to actual health.
Here recreation seemed to be the business of life, while work for
the public was merely tacked on as a sort of ornamental fringe.
Mr. Fane-Smith had, indeed, a few committee meetings to attend;
Mrs. Fane-Smith visited her district once a fortnight, and
distributed tracts, and kind words, and soup tickets, and blanket
tickets, besides the most lavish gifts from her own purse. Rose,
to please her mother, taught a class of little girls on Sunday
afternoon that is to say, she did NOT teach them, but she sat in a
chair and heard them say collects, and enforced orderly behavior
upon them, and read them a good little story book. But these were
merely rather tiresome duties which came in very often as provoking
interruptions to the great business of life, namely eating,
drinking, dining out, giving dinners, or attending the endless
succession of at-homes, dances, musical evenings, amateur
theatricals, by which Greyshot people tried to kill time.
As to taking any intelligent interest in the political world, no
one seemed to dream of such a thing, except Mr. Fane-Smith, who
read the paper at breakfast, and hurled anathemas at all the
statesmen whom Erica had learned to love and revere. It taxed her
patience to the utmost to sit through the daily diatribe against
Sir Michael Cunningham, her hero of heroes. But even the violent
opposition seemed preferable to the want of interest shown by the
others. Mrs. Fane-Smith had time to fritter away at least half an
hour after breakfast in the most desultory conversation, the most
fruitless discussions with Rose as to some detail of dress; but she
always made the excuse that she "had no time" to read the papers,
and amused Erica not a little by asking her husband if "anything
particular had been happening lately," when they were just starting
for a dinner party. Out of his little rechauffe of the week's news
she probably extracted enough information to enable her to display
that well-bred interest, that vague and superficial acquaintance
with the subject which will pass muster in society, and which
probably explains alike the very vapid talk and the wildly false
accusations which form the staple of ordinary conversation.
Rose was even more perplexing. She was not only ignorant, but she
boasted of her ignorance. Again and again Erica heard her
deprecate the introduction of any public question.
"Oh, don't begin to talk of that!" she would exclaim. "I know
nothing about it, and never mean to know anything."
Or there would be an imploring appeal.
"Why do you waste your time in talking politics when you have never
told me a word about so-and-so's wedding?"
She occasionally read the "Court Circular," and was rather fond of
one or two of the "society" papers from which she used to glean
choice little paragraphs of personal gossip.
Once one of these papers gave Erica an uncomfortable experience.
The elders of the party being out for the evening, Rose and Erica
had the drawing room to themselves, and Erica was really enjoying
the rare novelty of talking with a girl of her own age. Rose,
although the most arrant little flirt, was fond, too, of her girl
friends, and she really liked Erica, and enjoyed the fun of
initiating her into all the mysteries and delights of society.
"How did you get your name?" she asked, suddenly. "It is so pretty
and so uncommon."
"Oh," said Erica, without thinking, "I was called after my father's
friend, Eric Haeberlein."
"Eric Haeberlein?" exclaimed Rose. "Why, I was reading something
about him this afternoon. Here it is look!" And after searching
the columns of her favorite "society" paper, she pointed to the
"It is now known as a positive fact that the notorious Eric
Haeberlein was actually in London last week in connection with the
disgraceful Kellner business. ON DIT that he escaped detection
through the instrumentality of one of the fair sex, whose audacity
outweighed her modesty."
Erica could hardly have restrained her indignation had not two real
dangers drawn off her attention from her own wounded feelings. Her
father was there any hateful hint that he was mixed up with Herr
Kellner? She glanced anxiously down the page. No, at least that
falsehood had not been promulgated. She breathed more freely, but
there was danger still, for Rose was watching her, and feminine
curiosity is hard to baffle.
"Did you know about it?" she asked.
Erica did not reply for a moment, but read on, to gain time; then
she threw down the paper with an exclamation of disgust.
"How can you read such stuff?"
"Yes, but is that the Eric Haeberlein you were named after? Did he
really come to London and escape?"
"There is only one Eric Haeberlein in the world that I know of,"
said Erica. "But I think, Rose, I was wrong and foolish to mention
him. I can't tell you anything about him, and, even if I could,
there is my promise to Aunt Isabel. If I am not to talk to you
about my father, I certainly ought not to talk about his friends."
Rose acquiesced, and never suspected any mystery. She chatted on
happily for the rest of the evening, brought down a great
collection of old ball-cards, and with a sort of loving
recollection described each very minutely, just as some old nurses
have a way of doing with the funeral cards of their deceased
friends. This paved the way for a spontaneous confession that she
really preferred Mr. Torn, the curate of St. Matthew's, to Captain
Golightly, though people were so stupid, and would say she was in
love with him just because they flirted a little sometimes. Rose
had already imagined herself in love with at least a dozen people,
and was quite ready to discuss every one of her flirtations, but
she was disappointed to find that her cousin was either very
reserved on the subject, or else had nothing to say.
Erica sat listening with a sort of wonder, not unmixed with
disgust. Perhaps she might have shown her disapprobation had she
not been thankful to have the conversation diverted from the
dangerous topic; besides, the cruel words were still rankling in
her heart, and woven in with Rose's chatter she heard continually,
"whose audacity outweighed her modesty." For the first time she
fully understood why her father had so reluctantly consented to her
scheme; she began to feel the sting which lay beneath the words,
the veiled "hints," the implied evil, more wounding, more damaging
than an outspoke lie. Now that she understood the ways of society
better, she saw, too, that what had seemed to her an unquestionable
duty would be regarded as a grave breach of custom and etiquette.
She began to question herself. Had she been right? It mattered
very little what the writer of a "society" paper said of her, if
she had done the really right thing. What had she done? To save
her father's friend from danger, to save her father from unmerited
suspicion, she had gone out late in the evening with a man
considerably over fifty, whom she had known from her babyhood. He
had, it is true, been in the disguise of a young man. She had
talked to him on the platform much as she would have talked to Tom,
and to save his almost certain detection, had sprung into the
carriage, thrown her arms round his neck, and kissed him. HAD
audacity outweighed her modesty? Why, all the time she had been
thanking God for having allowed her to undertake the difficult task
for her father on that particular evening. She had done it in the
sight of God, and should she now make herself miserable because the
world was wanting in that charity which "thinketh no evil?" No,
she had been right of that she was certain. Nevertheless, she
understood well enough that society would condemn her action, and
would with a smile condone Rose's most outrageous flirtation.
The first week in a new place always seems long, and Erica felt as
if she had been away from home for months by the time it was over.
Every one had been very kind to her so far, but except when she was
playing lawn-tennis she was somehow far from happy., Her happiest
moments were really those which she spent in her own room before
breakfast, writing; and the "Daily Review" owed some very lively
articles to the Greyshot visit. Beyond a sort of clan feeling for
her aunt, and a real liking for Rose who, in spite of her follies,
was good-humored and very lovable she had not yet found one point
of union with her new relations. Even possible topics of
conversation were hard to find. They cared nothing for politics,
they cared nothing for science, they were none of them book lovers,
and it was against their sense of etiquette to speak of anything
but the externals of religion. Worst of all, any allusion to home
matters, any mention of her father had to be avoided. Little was
left but the mere gossip of the neighborhood, which, except as a
social study, could not interest Erica.
Greyshot was an idle place; the church seemed asleep, a drowsy
indifference hung about the richer inhabitants, while the honest
workers not unnaturally banded themself together against the
sleepily respectable church-goers, and secularism and one or two
other "isms" made rapid advances. Then sleepy orthodoxy lifted its
drowsy head for a minute, noted the evil, and abused Mr. Raeburn
and his fellow workers, lamenting in many-syllable words the
depravity of the working classes and the rapid spread of
infidelity. But nothing came of the lament; it never seemed to
strike them that they must act as well as talk, that they must
renounce their useless, wasteful, un-Christian lives before they
had even a right to lift up their voices against secularism, which
certainly did in some measure meet the needs of the people. It
never seemed to strike them that THEY were the real promoters of
infidelity that they not only dishonored the name of Christ, but by
their inconsistent lives disgusted people with Christianity, and
then refused to have anything more to do with them. Luke Raeburn,
if he pulled down with the one hand, at any rate, tried hard to
build up with the other; but the people of Greyshot caused in a
great degree the ruin and down fall, and then exclaimed, "How
shocking!" and turned their backs, thinking to shift their blame on
to the secularist leaders.
As far as society goes, they succeeded in thus shifting the blame;
the world laid it all on Luke Raeburn, he was a most convenient
scapegoat, and so widely does conventional Christianity differ from
the religion founded by Christ it soon became among a certain set
almost equivalent to a religious act to promulgate bits of personal
scandal about him, flavored, of course, with wordy lamentations as
to the views he entertained. Thus, under the name of defenders of
religion, conventional Christians managed to appear very proper and
orthodox, and at the same time to dispose comfortably of all their
sense of responsibility. There was a meanness about their way of
doing it which might have made the very angels weep! Happily the
judgments of society are not the judgments of God.
One of the leaders of society was a certain Lady Caroline Kiteley;
she was a good-natured, hospitable creature, very anxious that
every one should enjoy life, and a great favorite with all the
young people, because she made much of them and gave delightful
dances. The elders, too, liked her, and were not oblivious to the
fact that she was the daughter of an earl, and the widow of a
distinguished general. Erica had seen her more than once during
her visit, and had been introduced to her by Mrs. Fane-Smith, as
Now it happened that Mr. And Mrs. Fane-Smith and Rose were to dine
with Lady Caroline the week after Erica's arrival. On the very day
of the dinner party, however, Rose was laid up with a bad cold, and
her mother was obliged to write and make her excuses. Late in the
afternoon there came in reply one of Lady Caroline's impulsive
"Dear Mrs. Fane-Smith, Scold that silly daughter of yours for
catching cold; give her my love, and tell her that I was counting
on her very much. Please bring your pretty niece instead. Yours
sincerely, Caroline Kiteley."
Mrs. Fane-Smith was glad and sorry at the same time, and very much
perplexed. Such a peremptory but open-hearted invitation could not
be declined, yet there were dangers in the acceptance. If Erica's
name should transpire, it might be very awkward, but she had not
broached the suggested change of name to her, and every day her
courage dwindled every day that resolute mouth frightened her more.
She was quite aware that Erica's steady, courageous honesty would
unsparingly condemn all her small weaknesses and little expedients.
Erica, when told of the invitation, was not particularly anxious to
go, for she and Rose had been planning a cozy evening at home over
a new novel upon which their tastes really agreed. However, Rose
assured her that Lady Caroline's parties were always delightful,
and hunted her off to dress at least an hour before there was any
necessity. Rose was a great authority on dress and, when her
cousin returned, began to study her attire critically.
She wore a very simply made dress of moss-green velveteen, high to
the throat, and relieved by a deep falling collar of old point.
Elspeth had brought her a spray of white banksia roses, but
otherwise she wore no ornament. Her style was very different from
her cousin's; but Rose could not help approving of it, its severity
"You look lovely!" she exclaimed. "Lady Caroline will quite lose
her heart to you! I think you should have that dress cut low in
front, though. It is a shame not to show such a pretty neck as you
"Oh, no!" said Erica, quickly; "father can't endure low dresses."
"One can't always dress to please one's father," said Rose. "For
the matter of that, I believe papa doesn't like them; but I always
wear them. You see it is more economical, one must dress much more
expensively if one goes in for high dresses. A little display of
neck and arms, and any old rag will look dressy and fashionable,
and though I don't care about economy, mamma does."
"You don't have an allowance, then?"
"No; papa declared I ought to dress on eighty pounds a year, but I
never could make both ends meet, and I got a tiresome long bill at
Langdon's, and that vexed him, so now I get what I like and mamma
Erica made no comment, but was not a little amazed. Presently Mrs.
Fane-Smith came in, and seemed well pleased with her niece's
"You have the old point!" she exclaimed.
"Aunt Jean gave it to me," said Erica. "She never would part with
it because it was grandmamma's at least, she did sell it once, when
father was ill years ago, and we were at our wit's end for money,
but she got it back again before the end of the year."
Mrs. Fane-Smith colored deeply, partly at the idea of her mother's
lace being taken to a pawnbroker's, partly to hear that her brother
and sister had ever been reduced to such straits. She made an
excuse to take Erica away to her room, and there questioned her
more than she had yet done about her home.
"I thought your father was so strong," she said. "Yet you speak as
if he had had several illnesses."
"He has," replied Erica. "Twice I can remember the time when they
thought him dying, besides after the riot last year. Yes, he is
strong, but, you see, he has such a hard life. It is bad enough
now, and I doubt if any one knows how fearfully he overworked
himself during the year in America. The other day I had to look
something up in his diary for him, and not till then did I find out
how terribly he must have taxed his strength. On an average he got
one night's rest in the week, on the others he slept as well as he
could in the long cars, which are wretchedly uncomfortable; the
sleeping cars being expensive, he wouldn't go in them."
Mrs. Fane-Smith sighed. Her brother was becoming more of a living
reality to her; she thought of him less as a type of wickedness.
The recollection, too, that she had been all her life enjoying the
money which he and her sister Jean had forfeited by their opinions,
made her grieve the more over the little details of poverty and
privation. Old Mr. Raeburn had left all his money to her,
bequeathing to his other daughter and his reprobate son the sum of
one shilling, with the hope that Heaven would bring them to a
better mind. It was some comfort to learn from Erica that at last
the terrible load of debt had been cleared off, and that they were
comparatively free from trouble just at present.
With these thoughts in her mind, Mrs. Fane-Smith found herself on
her way to Lady Caroline's; but her developing breadth of view was
destined to receive a severe shock. They were the last guests to
arrive, and at the very moment of their entrance Lady Caroline was
talking in her most vivacious way to Mr. Cuthbert, a young
clergyman, the vicar of one of the Greyshot churches.
"I am going to give you a treat, Mr. Cuthbert," she said
laughingly. "I know you are artistic, and so I intend you to take
down that charming niece of Mrs. Fane-Smith's. I assure you she is
like a Burne-Jones angel!"
Mr. Cuthbert smiled a quietly superior smile, and coolly surveyed
Erica as she came in. Dinner was announced almost immediately, and
it was not until Mrs. Fane-Smith had been taken down that Lady
Caroline brought Mr. Cuthbert to Erica's side to introduce
him."Why, your aunt has never told me your name," she said,
"My name is Erica Raeburn," said Erica, quite unconscious that this
was a revelation to every one, and that her aunt had purposely
spoken of her everywhere as "my niece."
Lady Caroline gave a scarcely perceptible start of surprise, and
there was a curious touch of doubt and constraint in her voice as
she pronounced the "Mr. Cuthbert Miss Raeburn." Undoubtedly that
name sounded rather strangely in her drawing room, and awoke
"Raeburn! Erica Raeburn!" thought Mr. Cuthbert to himself.
"Uncommon name in England. Connection, I wonder! Aunt hadn't
given her name! That looks odd. I'll see if she has a Scotch
"Are you staying in Greyshot?" he asked as they went down the broad
staircase, with its double border of flowering plants.
"Yes," said Erica; "I came last week. What lovely country it is
"Country," with its thrilled "r," betrayed her nationality, though
her accent was of the slightest. Mr. Cuthbert chuckled to himself,
for he thought he had caught Mrs. Fane-Smith tripping, and he was
a man who derived an immense amount of pleasure from making other
people uncomfortable. As a child, he had been a tease; as a big
boy, he had been a bully; as a man, he had become a malicious
gossip monger. Tonight he thought he saw a chance of good sport,
and directly he had said grace, in the momentary pause which
usually follows, he turned to Erica with an abrupt, though
outwardly courteous question, carried off with a little laugh.
"I hope you are no relation to that despicable infidel who bears
your name, Miss Raeburn?"
Erica's color deepened; she almost annihilated him with a flash
from her bright indignant eyes.
"I am Luke Raeburn's daughter," she said, in her clearest voice,
and with a dignity which, for the time, spoiled Mr. Cuthbert's
Many people had heard the vicar's question during the pause, and
not a few listened curiously for the answer which, though quietly
spoken, reached many ears, for nothing gives so much penetrating
power to words as concentrated will and keen indignation. Before
long every one in the room knew that Mrs. Fane-Smith's pretty niece
was actually the daughter of "that evil and notorious Raeburn."
Mr. Cuthbert had certainly got his malicious wish; he had succeeded
in making Mrs. Fane-Smith miserable, in making his hostess
furious, in putting his little neighbor into the most uncomfortable
of positions. Of course he was not going to demean himself by
talking to "that atheist's daughter." He enjoyed the general
discomfiture to his heart's content, and then devoted himself to
the lady on his other side.
As for Erica her blood was up. Forced to sit still, forced even to
eat at a table where she was an unwelcome guest, her anger got the
mastery of her for the time. She was indignant at the insult to
her father, indignant, too, that her aunt had ever allowed her to
get into such a false position. The very constraint she was forced
to put upon herself made her wrath all the deeper. She was no
angel yet, though Mr. Burne-Jones might have taken her for a model.
She was a quick-tempered little piece of humanity; her passions
burned with Highland intensity, her sense of indignation was strong
and keen, and the atmosphere of her home, the hard struggle against
intolerable bigotry and malicious persecution had from her very
babyhood tended to increase this. She had inherited all her
father's passion for justice and much of his excessive pride, while
her delicate physical frame made her far more sensitive. Moreover,
though since that June morning in the museum she had gained a peace
and happiness of which in the old days she had never dreamed, yet
the entire change had in many ways increased the difficulties of
her life. Such a wrench, such an upheaval as it had involved,
could not but tell upon her immensely. And, besides, she had in
every way for the last three months been living at high pressure.
The grief, the disapproval, the contemptuous pity of her secularist
friends had taxed her strength to the utmost, but she had stood
firm, and had indeed been living on the heights.
Now the months of Charles Osmond's careful preparation were over,
her baptism was over, and a little weary and overdone with all that
she had lived through that summer, she had come down to Greyshot
expecting rest, and behold, fresh vexations had awaited her!
A nice Christian world! A nice type of a clergyman! she thought
to herself, as bitterly as in the old days, and with a touch of
sorrow added. The old lines from "Hiawatha," which had been so
often on her lips, now rang in her head:
"For his heart was hot within him, Like a living coal his heart
She longed to get up and go, but that would have put her aunt in a
yet more painful position, and might have annoyed Lady Caroline
even more than her presence. She would have given anything to have
fainted after the convenient fashion of the heroines of romance,
but never had she felt so completely strung up, so conscious of
intense vitality. There was nothing for it but endurance. And for
two mortal hours she had to sit and endure! Mr. Cuthbert never
spoke to her; her neighbor on the other side glanced at her
furtively from time to time, but preserved a stony silence; there
was an uncomfortable cloud on her hostess's brow; while her aunt,
whom she could see at some distance on the other side of the table,
looked very white and wretched.
It is wonderful how rude people can be, even in good society, and
the looks of "blank amaze," "cold surprise," and "cool curiosity"
which Erica received would hardly be credited. A greater purgatory
to a sensitive girl, whose pride was by no means conquered, can
hardly be conceived.
She choked down a little food, unable to reject everything, but her
throat almost refused to swallow it. The glare of the lights, the
oppressive atmosphere, the babel of tongues seemed to beat upon her
brain, and a sick longing for home almost overmastered her. Oh, to
get away from these so-called Christians, with their cruel
judgments, their luxuries, their gayeties these hard, rich bigots,
who yet belonged to the body she had just joined, with who, in the
eyes of her old friends, she should be identified! Oh, for the
dear old book-lined study at home! For one moment with her father!
One word from a being who loved and trusted her! Tears started to
her eyes, but the recollection that even home was no longer a place
of refuge checked them. There would be Aunt Jean's wearing
remonstrances and sarcastic remarks; there would be Mr. Masterman's
patronizing contempt, and Tom's studious avoidance of the matters
she had most at heart. Was it worse to be treated as a
well-meaning idiot, or as an outcast and semi-heretic? Never till
now had she so thoroughly realized her isolation, and she felt so
bruised and buffeted and weary that the realization at that
particular time was doubly trying.
Isolation is perhaps the greatest of all trials to a sensitive and
warm-hearted nature, and nothing but the truest and deepest love
for the whole race can possibly keep an isolated person from
growing bitter. Erica knew this, had known it ever since Brian had
brought her the message from her mother; "It is only love that can
keep from bitterness." All through these years she had been
struggling hard, and though there had been constant temptations,
though the harshness of the bigoted, the insults offered to her
father in the name of religion, the countless slights and slanders
had tried her to the utmost, she had still struggled upward, and in
spite of all had grown in love. But now, for the first time, she
found herself completely isolated. The injustice, the hardness of
it proved too much for her. She forgot that those who would be
peace-makers reconcilers, must be content to receive the treatment
which the Prince of Peace received; she forgot that these rich,
contemptuous people were her brothers and sisters, and that their
hard judgment did not and could not alter their relationship; she
forgot all in a burning indignation, in an angry revolt against the
injustice of the world.
She would study these people, she would note all their little
weaknesses and foibles. Mr. Bircham had given her carte blanche
for these three weeks; she would write him a deliciously sarcastic
article on modern society. The idea fixed her imagination, she
laughed to herself at the thought; for, however sad the fact, it is
nevertheless true that to ordinary mortals "revenge is sweet." Had
she given herself time to think out matters calmly, she would have
seen that boh Christianity and the rules of art were opposed to her
idea. It is true that Michael Angelo and other painters used to
revenge themselves on the cardinals or enemies they most hated by
painting them in the guise of devils, but both they and their art
suffered by such a concession to an animal passion. And Erica
fell grievously that evening. This is one of the evils of social
ostracism. It is unjust, unnatural, and selfish. To preserve what
it considers the dignity of society, it drives human beings into an
unnatural position; it fosters the very evils which it denounces.
And society is grossly unfair. A word, a breath, a false libel in
a newspaper is quite sufficient. It will never trouble itself to
inquire minutely into the truth, but will pronounce its hasty
judgment, and then ostracize.
Erica began to listen attentively to the conversation, and it must
be owned that it was not very edifying. Then she studied the faces
and manners of her companions, and, being almost in the middle of
the table, she had a pretty good view. Every creature she studied
maliciously, keenly, sarcastically, until she came to the end of
the table, and there a most beautiful face brought her back to
herself for a minute with a sort of shock. Where had she seen it
before? A strong, manly face of the Roman type, clean-shaven, save
for a very slight mustache, which did not conceal the firm yet
sensitive mouth; dark eyes, which even as she wondered met hers
fully for an instant, and gave her a strange feeling of protection.
She knew that at least one person in the room did not shudder at
the idea of sitting at table with Luke Raeburn's daughter.
Better thoughts returned to her, she grew a little ashamed of her
malice, and began to wonder who that ideal man could be.
Apparently he was one of the distinguished guests, for he had taken
down Lady Caroline herself. Erica was just too far off to hear
what he said, and in another moment she was suddenly recalled to
Mr. Cuthbert. He was talking to the old gentleman on her left
hand, who had been silently surveying her at intervals as though he
fancied she could not be quite human.
"Have you been following this Kellner trial?" asked Mr. Cuthbert.
"Disgraceful affair, isn't it?"
Then followed references to Eric Haeberlein, and veiled hints about
his London friends and associates more dangerous to the country
than say foreigners, "traitors, heady, high-minded," etc., etc.
Such evil-doers always managed to keep within the letter of the
law; but, for his part, he thought they deserved to be shut up,
more than most of those who get penal servitude for life.
Erica's wrath blazed up again. Of course the veiled hints were
intended to refer to her father, and the cruelty and insolence of
the speaker who knew that she understood his allusions scattered
all her better thoughts. It required a strong effort of will to
keep her anger and distress from becoming plainly visible. Her
unwillingness to give Mr. Cuthbert such a gratification could not
have strengthened her sufficiently, but love and loyalty to her
father and Eric Haeberlein had carried her through worse ordeals
She showed no trace of embarrassment, but moved a very little
further back in her chair, implying by a sort of quiet dignity of
manner, that she thought Mr. Cuthbert exceedingly ill-mannered to
talk across her.
Feeling that his malicious endeavor had entirely failed, and stung
by her dignified disapproval, Mr. Cuthbert struck out vindictively.
Breaking the silence he had maintained toward her, he suddenly
flashed round upon her with a question.
"I suppose you are intimately acquainted with Eric Haeberlein?"
He tried to make his tone casual and seemingly courteous, but
"What makes you suppose that?" asked Erica, in a cool, quiet voice.
Her perfect self-control, and her exceedingly embarrassing
counter-question, quite took him aback. At that very minute, too,
there was the pause, and the slight movement, and the glance from
Lady Caroline which reminded him that he was the only clergyman
present, and had to return thanks. He bent forward, and went
through the usual form of "For what we have received," though all
the time he was thinking of the "counter-check quarrelsome" he had
received from his next-door neighbor. When he raised his head
again he found her awaiting his answer, her clear, steady eyes
quietly fixed on his face with a look which was at once sad,
indignant, and questioning.
His question had been an insulting one. He had meant it to prick
and sting, but it is one thing to be indirectly rude, and another
to give the "lie direct." Her quiet return question, her dignity,
made it impossible for him to insult her openly. He was at her
mercy. He colored a little, stammered something incoherent about
"thinking it possible."
"You are perfectly right," replied Erica, still speaking in her
quietly dignified voice. "I have known Herr Haeberlein since I was
a baby, so you will understand that it is quite impossible for me
to speak with you about him after hearing the opinions you
expressed just now."
For once in his life Mr. Cuthbert felt ashamed of himself. He did
not feel comfortable all through dessert, and gave a sigh of relief
when the ladies left the room.
As for Erica's other neighbor, he could not help reflecting that
Luke Raeburn's daughter had had the best of it in the encounter.
And he wondered a little that a man, whom he had known to do many
a kindly action, should so completely have forgotten the rules of
CHAPTER XXVI. A Friend
Then, my friend, we must not regard what the many say of us; but
what he, the one man who has understanding of just and unjust, will
say, and what the truth will say. And therefore you begin in error
when you suggest that we should regard the opinion of the many
about just and unjust, good and evil, honorable and dishonorable.
In the drawing room Erica found the ostracism even more complete
and more embarrassing. Lady Caroline who was evidently much
annoyed, took not the slightest notice of her, but was careful to
monopolize the one friendly looking person in the room, a young
married lady in pale-blue silk. The other ladies separated into
groups of two and threes, and ignored her existence. Lady
Caroline's little girl, a child of twelve, was well bred enough to
come toward her with some shy remark, but her mother called her to
the other side of the room quite sharply, and made some excuse to
keep her there, as if contact with Luke Raeburn's daughter would
have polluted her.
A weary half hour passed. Then the door opened, and the gentlemen
filed in. Erica, half angry, half tired, and wholly miserable, was
revolving in her brain some stinging sentences for her article when
the beautiful face again checked her. Her "Roman," as she called
him, had come in, and was looking round the room, apparently
searching for some one. At last their eyes met, and, with a look
which said as plainly as words: "Oh, there you are! It was you I
wanted," he came straight towards her.
"You must forgive me, Miss Raeburn, for dispensing with an
introduction," he said; "but I hardly think we shall need any
except the name of our mutual fried, Charles Osmond."
Erica's heart gave a bound. The familiar name, the consciousness
that her wretched loneliness was at an end, and above all, the
instantaneous perception of the speaker's nobility and breadth of
mind, scattered for the time all her resentful thoughts made her
again her best self.
"Then you must be Donovan!" she exclaimed, with the quaint and
winsome frankness which was one of her greatest charms. "I knew I
was sure you were not like other people."
He took her hand in his, and no longer wondered at Brian's seven
years' hopeless waiting. But Erica began to realize that her
exclamation had been appallingly unconventional, and the beautiful
color deepened in her cheeks.
"I beg your pardon," she said, remembering with horror that he was
not only a stranger but an M.P., "I I don't know what made me say
that, but they have always spoken of you by your Christian name,
and you have so long been 'Donovan' in my mind that somehow it
slipped out you didn't feel like a stranger."
"I am glad of that," he said, his dark and strangely powerful eyes
looking right into hers. Something in that look made her feel
positively akin to him. Like a stranger! Of course he had not
felt like one. Never could be like anything but a friend. "You
see," he continued, "we have known of each other for years, and we
know that we have one great bond of union which others have not.
Don't retract the 'Donovan' I like it. Let it be the outward sign
of the real and unusual likeness in the fight we have fought."
She still half hesitated. He was a man of five-and-thirty, and she
could not get over the feeling that her impulsive exclamation had
been presumptuous. He saw her uncertainty, and perhaps liked her
the better for it, though the delicious naturalness, the child-like
recognition of a real though scarcely known friend, had delighted
"We are a little more brother and sister than the rest of the
world," he said, with the chivalrous manner which seemed to belong
naturally to his peculiarly noble face. "And if I were to confess
that I had not always thought of you as 'Miss Raeburn'--"
He paused, and Erica laughed. It was absurd to stand on ceremony
with this kindred spirit.
"Have you seen the conservatory?" he asked. "Shall we come in
there? I want to hear all about the Osmonds."
The relief of speaking with one who knew and loved Charles Osmond,
and did not, for want of real knowledge, brand him with the names
of half a dozen heresies, was very great. It was not for some time
that Erica even glanced at the lovely surroundings, though she had
inherited Raeburn's great love of flowers. At last, however, an
exquisite white flower attracted her notice, and she broke off in
the middle of a sentence.
"Oh, how lovely! I never saw anything like that before. What is
"It is the EUCHARIS AMAZONICA," replied her companion "About the
most exquisite flower in the world, I should think the 'dove
flower,' as my little ones call it. Ir you look at it from a
distance the stamens really look like doves bending down to drink."
"It is perfect! How I wish my father could see it!"
"We have a fairly good one at Oakdene, though not equal to this.
We must persuade you and Mr. Raeburn to come and stay with us some
The tears came into Erica's eyes, so great was the contrast between
his friendliness and the chilling discourtesy she had met with from
others that evening.
"You are very good," she said. "If you only knew how hard it is to
be treated as if one were a sort of semi-criminal!"
"I do know," he said. "It was this very society which goaded me
into a sort of wild rebellion years ago. I deserved its bad
opinion in a measure, and you do not, but it was unfair enough to
make one pretty desperate."
"If they were actual saints one might endure it," cried Erica.
"But to have such a man as my father condemned just as hearsay by
people who are living lazy, wasteful lives is really too much. I
came to Greyshot expecting at least unity, at least, peace in a
Christian atmosphere, and THIS is what I get."
Donovan listened in silence, a great sadness in his eyes. There
was a pause; then Erica continued: "You think I speak hotly. I
cannot help it. I think I do not much mind what they do to me, but
it is the injustice of the thing that makes one wild, and worst of
all, the knowing that this is what drives people into atheism this
is what dishonors the name of Christ."
"You are right," he replied, with a sigh; "that IS the worst of it.
I have come to the conclusion that to be tolerant to the intolerant
is the most difficult thing in life."
"You must have plenty of practice in this dreadful place," said
He smiled a little.
"Why, to be seen talking to ME will make people say all sorts of
evil of you," she added. "I wish I had thought of that before."
"You wouldn't have spoken to me?" asked Donovan, laughing. "Then
I am very glad it didn't occur to you. But about that you may be
quite easy; nothing could make them think much worse of me than
they do already. I began life as the black sheep of the
neighborhood, and it is easier for the Ethiopian to change his skin
than for a man to live down the past in public opinion. I shall
be, at any rate, the dusky gray sheep of the place to the end of my
There was no bitterness, no shade of complaint in his tone; he
merely stated a fact. Erica was amazed; she knew that he was about
the only man who attempted to grapple with the evil and degradation
and poverty of Greyshot.
"You see," he continued, with a bright look which seemed to raise
Erica into purer atmosphere, "it is not the public estimation which
makes a man's character. There is one question, which I think we
ought never to ask ourselves, and that is 'What will people think
of me?' It should be instead: 'How can I serve?'"
"But if they take away your power, how can you serve?"
"They can't take it away; they may check and hinder for a time,
that is all. I believe one may serve always and everywhere."
"You don't mean that I can serve that roomful of enemies in there?"
"That is exactly what I do mean," he answered, smiling a little.
In the meantime, Lady Caroline was apologizing to Mr. Cuthbert.
"I don't know when I have been so vexed!" she exclaimed. "It is
really too bad of Mrs. Fane-Smith. I had no idea that the
Burne-Jones angel I promised you was the daughter of that
disgraceful man. What a horrible satire, is it not?"
"Pray, don't apologize," said Mr. Cuthbert. "It was really rather
amusing than otherwise, and I fancy the young lady will be in no
great hurry to force her way into society again."
He laughed a soft, malicious, chuckling laugh.
"I should hope not, indeed," said Lady Caroline, indignantly.
"Where has she disappeared to?"
"Need you ask?" said Mr. Cuthbert, smiling. "Our revered member
secured her at once, and has been talking to her in the
conservatory for at least half an hour, hatching radical plots, I
dare say, and vowing vengeance on all aristocrats."
"Really it is too shocking!" said Lady Caroline. "Mr. Farrant has
no sense of what is fitting; it is a trait which I have always
noticed in Radicals. He ought, at least to have some respect for
"Birds of a feather flock together," suggested Mr. Cuthbert, with
his malicious smile.
"Well, I don't often defend Mr. Farrant," said Lady Caroline. "But
he comes of a good old family, and, though a Radical, he is at
Lady Caroline knew absolutely nothing about Erica, but uttered the
last sentence, with its vague, far-reaching, and most damaging
hint, without even a pricking of conscience.
"You will try to rescue the M.P.?" asked Mr. Cuthbert.
"For the sake of his position, yes," said Lady Caroline, entering
"Oh! Mr. Farrant," she said, with her most gracious smile, "I came
to see whether you couldn't induce your wife to sing to us. Now,
is it true that she has given up her music? I assure you she and
I have been battling the point ever since you came up. Can't you
persuade her to give us just one song? I am really in despair for
"I am afraid my wife is quite out of voice," said Donovan. "Are
there no other musical people?"
"Not one. It is really most astonishing. I was counting on Miss
Fane-Smith, but she has disappointed me, and there is not another
creature who will play or sing a note. Greyshot is a terrible
"You do not belong to Greyshot, so perhaps you may be able to come
to the rescue," said Donovan to Erica. "Scotch people can, at any
rate, always play or sing their own national airs as no one else
Lady Caroline did not really in the least care whether there were
music or not, but she had expressed herself very strongly, and that
tiresome Mr. Farrant had taken her at her word, and was trying to
beat up recruits recruits that she did not want. He had now,
whether intentionally or not, put her in such a position that,
unless she were positively rude, she must ask Erica to play or
"Have you brought any music, Miss Raeburn?" she asked, turning to
Erica with a chilling look, as though she had just become aware of
"I have none to bring," said Erica. "I do not profess to sing; I
only sing our own Scotch airs."
"Exactly what I said!" exclaimed Donovan. "And Scotch singing of
Scotch airs is like nothing else in the world."
Whether he mesmerized them both, or whether his stronger will and
higher purpose prevailed, it would be hard to say. Certainly Erica
was quite as unwilling to sing as Lady Caroline was to favor her
with a request. Both had to yield, however, and Erica, whether she
would or not, had to serve her roomful of enemies and a great deal
of good it did her.
Out of the quiet conservatory they came into the heat and glare and
babel of voices; Lady Caroline feeling as if she had been caught in
her own trap, Erica wavering between resentful defiance and the
desire to substitute Donovan's "How can I serve?" for "What do they
She sat down to the piano, which was in a far-away corner, and soon
she had forgotten her audience altogether. Although she had had
little time or opportunity for a thorough musical education, she
had great taste, and was musical by nature; she sang her national
airs, as very few could have sung them, and so wild and pathetic
was the air she had chosen, "The Flowers of the Forest," that the
roar of conversation at once ceased. She knew nothing whatever
about the listeners; the air had taken her back to her father's
recovery at Codrington the year before. She was singing to him
The old gentleman who had sat on her right hand at dinner came up
now with his first remark.
"Thank you, that was a real treat, and a very rare treat. I wonder
whether you would sing an old favorite of mine 'Oh, why did ye
Erica at once complied, and there was such pathos in her low, clear
voice, that tears stood in the eyes of more than one listener. She
had never dared to sing that song at home since one evening some
weeks before, when her father had just walked out of the room,
unable to bear the mournful refrain "I never, never thought ye wad
leave me!" The song was closely associated with the story of that
summer, and she sang it to perfection.
Donovan Farrant came toward her again at the close.
"I want to introduce my wife to you," he said.
And Erica found that the young married lady in the pale-blue silk,
whom she had singled out as the one approachable lady in the room,
was Mrs. Farrant. She was very bright, and sunshiny, and
talkative. Erica liked her, and would have liked her still better
had not the last week shown her so much of the unreality and
insincerity of society that she half doubted whether any one she
met in Greyshot could be quite true. Mrs. Farrant's manner was
charming, but charming manners had often turned out to be
exceedingly artificial, and Erica, who was in rather a hard mood,
would not let herself be won over, but held her judgment in
suspension, responding brightly enough to her companion's talk, but
keeping the best part of herself in reserve.
At length the evening ended, and the guests gradually dispersed.
Mr. Cuthbert walked across the road to his vicarage, still
chuckling to himself as he thought of the general discomfiture
caused by his question. The musical old gentleman returned to his
home revolving a startling new idea; after all, might not the
Raeburns and such people be very much like the rest of the world?
Were they not probably as susceptible to pain and pleasure, to
comfort and discomfort, to rudeness and civility? He regretted
very much that he had not broken the miserably uncomfortable
silence at dinner.
Donovan Farrant and his wife were already far from Greyshot,
driving along the quiet country road to Oakdene Manor.
"A lovely girl," Mrs. Farrant was saying. "I should like to know
her better. Tonight I had the feeling somehow that she was
purposely keeping on the surface of things, one came every now and
then to a sort of wall, a kind of hard reserve."
"Who can wonder!" exclaimed Donovan. "I am afraid, Gladys, the old
proverb will have a very fair chance of being fulfilled. That
child has come out seeking wool, and as likely as not she'll go
"Society can be very cruel!" signed Gladys. "I did so long to get
to her after dinner; but Lady Caroline kept me, I do believe,
"Lady Caroline and Mr. Cuthbert will little dream of the harm they
have done," said Donovan. "I think I understand as I never
understood before the burning indignation of that rebuke to the
Pharisees 'Full well ye reject the commandment of god that ye may
keep your own traditions.'"
In the meantime there was dead silence in the Fane-Smiths'
carriage, an ominous silence. There was an unmistakable cloud on
Mr. Fane-Smith's face; he had been exceedingly annoyed at what had
taken place, and with native perversity, attributed it all to
Erica. His wife was miserable. She felt that her intended
kindness had proved a complete failure; she was afraid of her
husband's clouded brow, still more afraid of her niece's firmly
closed mouth, most afraid of all at the thought of Lady Caroline's
displeasure. Nervous and overwrought, anxious to conciliate all
parties, and afraid of making matters worse, she timidly went into
Erica's room, and after beating about the bush for a minute or two,
plunged rashly into the sore subject.
"I am so sorry, dear, about tonight," she said. I wish it could
have been prevented."
Erica, standing up straight and tall in her velveteen dress, with
a white shawl half thrown back from her shoulders, looked to her
aunt terribly dignified and uncompromising.
"I can't say that I thought them courteous," she replied.
"It was altogether unfortunate," said Mrs. Fane-Smith, hurriedly.
"I hoped your name would not transpire; I ought to have suggested
the change to you before, but--"
"What change?" asked Erica, her forehead contracting a little.
"We thought we hoped that perhaps, if you adopted our name, it
might prevent unpleasantness. Such things are done, you know, and
then, too, we might make some arrangement about your grandfather's
money, a part of which I feel is now yours by right. Even now the
change would show people the truth, would save many disagreeables."
During this speech Erica's face had been a study; an angry glow of
color rushed to her cheeks, her eyes flashed dangerously. She was
a young girl, but there was a good deal of the lion about her at
that minute, and her aunt trembled listening perforce to the
"What truth would it show?" she cried. "I don't believe there is
such a thing as truth among all these wretched shams! I will never
change my name to escape from prejudice and bigotry, or to win a
share in my grandfather's property! What! Give up my father's
name to gain the money which might have kept him from pain and ruin
and semi-starvation? Take the money that might have brought
comfort to my mother that might have kept me with her to the end.
I couldn't take it. I would rather die than touch one penny of it.
It is too late now. If you thought I would consent if that is the
reason you asked me here, I can go at once. I would not willingly
have brought shame upon you, but neither will I dishonor myself nor
insult my father by changing my name. Why, to do so would be to
proclaim that I judged him as those Pharisees did tonight. The
hypocrites! Which of them can show one grain of love for the race,
to set against my father's life of absolute devotion? They sit
over their champagne and slander atheists, and then have the face
to call themselves Christians."
"My dear!" said Mrs. Fane-Smith, nervously. "Our only wish is to
do what is best for you; but you are too tired and excited to
discuss this now. I will wish you good night."
"I never wish to discuss it again, thank you," said Erica,
submitting to a particularly warm embrace.
Mrs. Fane-Smith was right in one way. Erica was intensely excited.
When people have been riding rough-shod over one's heart, one is
apt to be excited, and Luke Raeburn's daughter had inherited that
burning sense of indignation which was so strongly marked a
characteristic in Raeburn himself. Violins can be more sweet and
delicate in tone than any other instrument, but they can also wail
with greater pathos, and produce a more fearful storm of passion.
Declining any assistance from Gemma, Erica locked her door, caught
up some sheets of foolscap, snatched up her pen, and began to write
rapidly. She knew well enough that she ought not to have written.
But when the heart is hot with indignation, when the brain produces
scathing sentences, when the subject seems to have taken possession
of the whole being, to deny its utterance is quite the hardest
thing in the world.
Erica struggled to resist, but at length yielded, and out rushed
sarcasms, denunciations, return blows innumerable! The relief was
great. However, her enjoyment was but short for by the time her
article was rolled up for the post, stamped and directed, her
physical powers gave way; such blank exhaustion ensuing that all
she could do was to drag herself across the room, throw herself,
half dressed, on the bed, draw the rezai over her, and yield to the
heavy, overpowering slumber of great weariness.
It seemed to her that she slept about five minutes, and was then
roused by a knocking at her door. She started up, and found that
it was morning. Then she recollected bolting her door, and sprung
out of bed to undo it, but was reminded at once that she had a
spine. She had quite recovered from the effects of her illness,
but over-fatigue always brought back the old pain, and warned her
that she must be more careful in the future. The house maid seemed
a little surprised not to find her up and dressed as usual, for
Erica generally got through an hour's writing before the nine
"Are you ill, miss?" she asked, glancing at the face which seemed
almost as colorless as the pillow.
"Only very tired, thank you," said Erica, glad enough today of the
cup of tea and the thin bread and butter which before had seemed to
her such an absurd luxury.
"Letters for the early post, miss, I suppose?" said the house maid,
taking up the fiery effusion.
"Please," replied Erica, not turning her head, and far too weary to
give a thought to her last night's work. All she could think of
just then was the usual waking reflection of a sufferer "How in the
world shall I get through the day?"
The recollection, however, of her parting conversation with her
aunt made her determined to be down to breakfast. Her absence
might be misconstrued. And though feeling ill-prepared for
remonstrance or argument, she was in her place when the gong
sounded for prayers, looking white and weary indeed, but with a
curve of resoluteness about her mouth. Nobody found out how tired
she was. Mr. Fane-Smith was as blind as a bat, and Mrs. Fane-Smith
was too low-spirited and too much absorbed with her own cares to
notice. The events of last night looked more and more
disagreeable, and she was burdened with thoughts of what people
would say; moreover, Rose's cold was much worse, and as her mother
was miserable if even her little finger ached, she was greatly
disturbed, and persuaded herself that her child was really in a
most dangerous state.
Breakfast proved a very silent meal that morning, quite
oppressively silent; Erica felt like a child in disgrace. Every
now and then the grimness of it appealed to her sense of the
ludicrous, and she felt inclined to scream or do something
desperate just to see what would happen. At length the dreary
repast came to an end, and she had just taken up a newspaper, with
a sort of gasp of relief at the thought of escaping for a moment
into a larger world, when she was recalled to the narrow circle of
Greyshot by a word from Mr. Fane-Smith.
"I wish to have a talk with you, my dear; will you come to the
library at ten o'clock?"
An interview by appointment! That sounded formidable! When the
time came, Erica went rather apprehensively to the library,
fearing that she was in for an argument, and wishing that Mr.
Fane-Smith had chosen a day on which she felt a little more up to
He received her very kindly, and drew an easy chair up to the fire
for her, no doubt doing as he would be done by, for he was a chilly
Indian mortal. Erica had never been into the library before. It
was a delightful room, furnished with old carved oak and carpeted
with soft Indian rugs. Though dignified by the name of library, it
was not nearly so crowded with books as the little study at home;
all the volumes were beautifully bound in much-begilt calf or
morocco, but they had not the used, loved look of her father's
books. On the mantel piece there were some models of Indian idols
exquisitely carved in soft, greenish-gray soapstone, and behind
these, as if in protest, lurked the only unornamental thing in the
room, a very ordinary missionary box, covered with orange-colored
paper and impressively black negroes.
"I am sure, my dear," said Mr. Fane-Smith, "that after what
occurred last night you will see the desirability of thinking
seriously about your plans for the future. I have been intending
to speak to you, but waited until we had learned to know each other
a little. However, I regret now that I delayed. It is naturally
far from desirable that you should remain an inmate of your
father's house, and my wife and I should be very glad if you would
make your home with us. Of course when it was fully understood in
Greyshot that you had utterly renounced your father and your former
friends, such unpleasantness as you encountered last night would
not again occur; indeed, I fancy you would become exceedingly
popular. It would perhaps have been wiser if you would have taken
our name, but your aunt tells me you object to that."
"Yes," said Erica, who was writhing with anger, and relieved
herself by the slight sarcasm, "I do object to be Miss
"Well, that must be as you please," he resumed; "but I really think
if you will accept our offer it will be for your ultimate good."
He proceeded to enumerate all the benefits which would accrue to
her; then paused.
Erica was silent for a minute. When she spoke it was in the low
voice of one who is struggling to restrain passion.
"I am sure you mean this very kindly," she said. "I have tried to
listen to your offer patiently, though, of course, the moment you
began, I knew that I must entirely emphatically, decline it. I
will NEVER leave my father!"
The last words were spoken with a sort of half-restrained outburst,
as if the pent-up passion must find some outlet.
Mr. Fane-Smith was startled. He so seldom thought of Luke Raeburn
as a fellow-being at all that perhaps it had never occurred to him
that the love of parent to child, and child to parent, is quite
independent of creed.
"But, my dear," he said, "you have been baptized."
"You promised to renounce the devil and all his works."
"Then how can you hesitate to renounce everything connected with
your former life?"
"Do you mean to imply that my father is the devil or one of his
Mr. Fane-Smith was silent. Erica continued:
"God's Fatherhood does not depend on our knowledge of it, or
acceptance of it, it is a fact a truth! How then can any one dare
to say that such a man as my farther is a work of the devil? I
thought the sin of sins was to attribute to the devil what belongs
"You are in a very peculiar position," said Mr. Fane-Smith,
uneasily. "And I have no doubt it is difficult for you to see
things as they really are. But I, who can look at the matter
dispassionately, can see that your remaining in your old home would
be most dangerous, and not only that, but most painful! To live in
a house where you hear all that you most reverence evil spoken of;
why, the pain would be unspeakable!"
"I know that," said Erica, in a low voice, "I have found that I
admit that it is and always will be harder to bear than any one can
conceive who has not tried. But to shirk pain is not to follow
Christ. As to danger, if you will forgive my saying so, I should
find a luxurious life in a place like Greyshot infinitely more
"Then could you not take up nursing? Or go into some sisterhood?
Nothing extreme, you know, but just a working sisterhood."
Erica smiled, and shook her head.
"Why should I try to make another vocation when God has already
given me one?"
"But, my dear, consider the benefit to your own soul."
"A very secondary consideration!" exclaimed Erica, impetuously.
"I should have thought," continued Mr. Fane-Smith, "that under such
strange circumstances you would have seen how necessary it was to
forsake all. Think of St. Matthew, for instance; he rose up at
once, forsook all, and followed Him."
"Yes," said Erica. "And what was the very first thing he was
impelled to do by way of 'following?' Why, to make a great feast
and have in all his old friends, all the despised publicans."
"My dear Erica," said Mr. Fane-Smith, feeling his theological
arguments worsted, "we must discuss this matter on practical
grounds. In plain words, your father is a very bad man, and you
ought to have nothing more to do with him."
Erica's lips turned white with anger; but she answered, calmly:
"That is a very great accusation. How do you know it is true?"
"I know it well enough," said Mr. Fane-Smith. "Why, every one in
England knows it."
"If you accept mere hearsay evidence, you may believe anything of
any one. Have you ever read any of my father's books?"
"Or heard him lecture?"
"No, indeed; I would not hear him on any account."
"Have you ever spoken with any of his intimate friends?"
"Mr. Raeburn's acquaintances are not likely to mix with any one I
"Then," cried Erica, "how can you know anything whatever about him?
And how how DARE you say to me, his child, that he is a wicked
"It is a matter of common notoriety."
"No," said Erica, "there you are wrong. It is notorious that my
father teaches conscientiously teaches much that we regard as
error, but people who openly accuse him of evil living find to
their cost in the law courts that they have foully libeled him."
She flushed even now at the thought of some of the hateful and
wicked accusations of the past. Then, after a moment's pause, she
continued more warmly:
"It is you people in society who get hold of some misquoted story,
some ridiculous libel long ago crushed at the cost of the libeler
it is you who do untold mischief! Only last summer I remember
seeing in a paper the truest sentence that was ever written of my
father, and it was this, 'Probably no one man has ever had to
endure such gross personal insults, such widespread hostility, such
perpetual calumny.' Why are you to judge him? Even if you had a
special call to it, how could you justly judge him when you will
not hear him, or know him, or fairly study his writings, or
question his friends? How can you know anything whatever about
him? Why, if he judged you and your party as you judge him, you
would be furious!"
"My dear, you speak with so much warmth; if you would only discuss
things calmly!" said Mr. Fane-Smith. "Remember what George Herbert
says: 'Calmness is a great advantage.' You bring too much feeling
to the discussion."
"How can I help feeling when you are slandering my father?"
exclaimed Erica. "I have tried to be calm, but there are limits to
endurance! Would you like Rose to sit silently while my father
told her without any ground that you were a wicked man?"
When matters were reversed in this crude way, Mr. Fane-Smith winced
"The cases are different," he suggested.
"Do you think atheists don't love their children as much as
Christians?" cried Erica, half choked with indignant anger. A
vision of the past, of her dead mother, of her father's
never-failing tenderness brought a cloud of tears to her eyes. She
brushed them away. "The cases are different, as you say; but does
a man care less for his home, when outside it he is badgered and
insulted, or does he care infinitely more? Does a man care less
for his child because, to get her food, he has had to go short
himself, or does he care more? I think the man who has had to toil
with all his might for his family loves it better than the rich man
can. You say I speak with too much warmth, too much feeling. My
complaint is the other way I can't find words strong enough to give
you any idea of what my father has always been to me. To leave him
would be to wrong my conscience, and to forsake my duty; and to
distrust God. I will NEVER leave him!"
With that she got up and left the room, and Mr. Fane-Smith leaned
back in his chair with a sigh, his eyes fixed absently upon a
portrait of Napoleon above his mantel piece, his mind more
completely shaken out of its ordinary grooves than it had been for
years. He was a narrow-minded man, but he was honest. He saw
that he had judged Raeburn very unfairly. But perhaps what
occupied his thoughts the most was the question "Would Rose have
been able to say of him all that Erica had said of her father?" He
sighed many times, but after awhile slid back into the old habits
"Erica is a brave, noble, little thing," he said to himself, "but
far from orthodox far from orthodox! Socinian tendencies."
CHAPTER XXVII. At Oak Dene Manor
Ah! To how many faith has been
No evidence of things unseen,
But a dim shadow that recasts the creed of the Phantasiasts.
* * * *
For others a diviner creed
Is living in the life they lead.
The passing of their beautiful feet
Blesses the pavement of the street,
And all their looks and words repeat
Old Fuller's saying wise and sweet,
Not as a vulture, but a dove,
The Holy Ghost came from above.
Tales of a Wayside Inn. Longfellow
During the interview Erica had braced herself up to endure, but
when it was over her strength all at once evaporated. She dragged
herself upstairs somehow, and had just reached her room, when Mrs.
Fane-Smith met her. She was preoccupied with her own anxieties, or
Erica's exhaustion could not have escaped her notice.
"I am really quite unhappy about Rose!" she exclaimed. "We must
send for Doctor L_____. Her cough seems so much worse, I fear it
will turn to bronchitis. Are you learned in such things?"
"I helped to nurse Tom through a bad attack once," said Erica.
"Oh! Then come and see her," said Mrs. Fane-Smith.
Erica went without a word. She would not have liked Mrs.
Fane-Smith's fussing, but yet the sight of her care for Rose made
her feel more achingly conscious of the blank in her own life that
blank which nothing could ever fill. She wanted her own mother so
terribly, and just now Mrs. Fane-Smith had touched the old wound
Rose seemed remarkably cheerful, and not nearly so much invalided
as her mother thought.
"Mamma always thinks I am going to die if I'm at all out of sorts,"
she remarked, when Mrs. Fane-Smith had left the room to write to
the doctor. "I believe you want doctoring much more than I do.
What is the matter? You are as white as a sheet!"
"I am tired and rather worried, and my back is troublesome," said
"Then you'll just lie down on my sofa," said Rose, peremptorily.
"If you don't, I shall get out of bed and make you."
Erica did not require much compulsion for every inch of her seemed
to have a separate ache, and she was still all quivering and
tingling with the indignant anger stirred up by her interview with
Mr. Fane-Smith. She let Rose chatter away and tried hard to school
herself into calmness. By and by her efforts were rewarded; she
not only grew calm, but fell asleep, and slept like any baby till
the gong sounded for luncheon.
Luncheon proved a very silent meal; it was, if possible, more
trying that breakfast had been. Mrs. Fane-Smith had heard all
about the interview from her husband, and they were both perplexed
and disturbed. Erica felt uncertain of her footing with them, and
could only wait for them to make the first move. But the grim
silence tickled her fancy.
"Really," she thought to herself, "we might be so many horses
munching away at mangers, for all we have said to each other."
But in spite of it she did not feel inclined to make conversation.
Later on she went for a drive with her aunt; the air revived her,
and she began to feel more like herself again. They went out into
the country, but on the way home Mrs. Fane-Smith stopped at one of
the shops in High Street, leaving Erica in the carriage. She was
leaning back restfully, watching a beautiful chestnut horse which
was being held by a ragged boy at the door of the bank just
opposite, when her attention was suddenly aroused by an ominous
howling and barking. The chestnut horse began to kick, and the boy
had as much as he could to hold him. Starting forward, Erica saw
that a fox terrier had been set upon by another and larger dog, and
that the two were having a desperate fight. The fox terrier was
evidently fighting against fearful odds, for he was an old dog, and
not nearly so strong as his antagonist; the howls and barks grew
worse and worse; some of the passengers ran off in a fright, others
watched from a safe distance, but not one interfered.
Now Erica was a great lover of animals, and a passionate lover of
justice. Furious to see men and boys looking on without attempting
to stop the mischief, she sprang out of the carriage, and, rushing
up to the combatants, belabored the big dog with her parasol. It
had a strong stick, but she hit so vehemently that it splintered
all to bits, and still the dog would not leave its victim. Then,
in her desperation, she hit on the right remedy; with great
difficulty she managed to grasp him by the throat, and, using all
her force, so nearly suffocated him that he was obliged to loosen
his hold. At that moment, too, a strong man rushed forward and
dealt him such a blow that he bounded off with a yell of pain, and
ran howling down the street. Erica bent over the fox terrier then;
the big dog had mangled it frightfully, it was covered with blood,
and moaned piteously.
"Waif! My poor waif!" exclaimed a voice which she seemed to know.
"Has that brute killed you?"
She looked up and saw Donovan Farrant; he recognized her, but they
were both too much absorbed in the poor dog's condition to think of
any ordinary greeting.
"Where will you take him?" asked Erica.
Donovan stooped down to examine poor Waif's injuries.
"I fear there is little to be done," he said. "But we might take
him across to the chemist's opposite. Will you hold my whip for
She took it, and with infinite skill and tenderness Donovan lifted
the fox terrier, while Erica hurried on in front to tell the
chemist. They took Waif into a little back room, and did all they
could for him; but the chemist shrugged his shoulders.
"Better kill the poor brute at once, Mr. Farrant," he said,
Donovan looked up with a strange gleam in his eyes.
"Not for the world!" he exclaimed, with a touch of indignation in
And after that he only spoke to Erica, who, seeing that the chemist
had annoyed him undertook all the fetching and carrying, never once
shrinking though the sight was a horrible one. At length the
footman brought word that Mrs. Fane-Smith was waiting, and she was
obliged to go, reluctantly enough.
"You'll let me know how he gets on?" she said.
"Yes, indeed," he replied, not thanking her directly for her help,
but somehow sending her away with the consciousness that they had
passed the bounds of mere acquaintanceship, and were friends for
She found that her aunt had been waylaid by Mr. Cuthbert.
"If I were the owner of the dog, I should have up our honorable
member for assault. I believe Miss Raeburn broke her umbrella over
the poor thing."
Erica was just in time to hear this.
"Were you watching it?" she exclaimed. "And you did nothing to help
the fox terrier?"
"I do not feel bound to champion every fighting cur who is getting
the worst of it," said Mr. Cuthbert. "What has become of Mr.
Farrant's favorite? I suppose he is fussing over it instead of
studying the affairs of the nation."
"I am afraid the dog is dying," said Erica.
A curious change passed over Mr. Cuthbert's face; he looked a
little shocked, and turned away somewhat hastily.
"Come," thought Erica to herself, "I am glad to have discovered a
grain of good in you."
The next day was Sunday; it passed by very quietly. But on the
Monday, when Erica opened the "Daily Review," there was her
"Society" article staring her in the face. It was clever and
eminently readable, but it was bitterly sarcastic; she could not
endure it. It seemed to her that she had written what was
positively bad, calculated to mislead and to awaken bitterness, not
in the least likely to mend matters. The fact was she had written
it in a moment of passion and against her conscience, and she
regretted it now with far more compunction than she felt for
anything she had written in former times in the "Idol-Breaker."
Then, though indirectly and sometimes directly attacking
Christianity, she had written conscientiously, now for the first
time she felt that she had dishonored her pen. She went down into
the very deepest depths.
The midday post brought her a letter from her stiff old editor, who
understood her better, and thought more of her than she dreamed.
It informed her that another member of the staff had returned from
his holiday, and if she pleased she could be exempted from writing
for a fortnight. As usual Mr. Bircham "begged to remain hers
She hardly knew whether to regard this as a relief or as a
punishment. With a sigh she opened a second letter; it was from
Charles Osmond, in reply to a despairing note which she had sent
off just before her Saturday interview with Mr. Fane-Smith.
It was one of his short, characteristic letters.
"Dear Erica, 'It all comes in the day's work,' as the man said when
the lion ate him! You should have a letter, but I'm up to the eyes
in parish maters. All I can say is pray for that charity which
covers the multitude of sins, and then I think you'll find the
Greyshot folk become more bearable. So you have met Donovan at
last. I am right glad! Your father and I had a long walk together
yesterday; he seems very well. Yours ever, C. O."
This made her smile, and she opened a third letter which ran as
"My dear Miss Raeburn, I should have called on you last Saturday,
but was not well enough to come in to Greyshot. My husband told me
all about your help and your kindness to our Waif. I know you will
be glad to hear that he is going on well; he is much more to us all
than an ordinary favorite, some day you shall hear his story. I am
writing now to ask, sans ceremonie, if you will come and spend a
few days with us. It will be a great pleasure to us if you will
say yes. My husband will be in Greyshot on Monday afternoon, and
will call for your answer; please come if you can. Yours very
sincerely, Gladys Farrant."
Erica showed this letter to her aunt, and of course there was
nothing to prevent her going; indeed, Mrs. Fane-Smith was really
rather relieved, for she thought a few days' absence might make
things more comfortable for Erica, and, besides, Rose's illness
made the days dull for her.
It was about four o'clock when Donovan Farrant arrived. Erica felt
as though she were meeting an old friend when she went into the
drawing room, and found him standing on the hearth rug.
"You have had my wife's note?" he asked, taking her hand.
"Yes," she replied.
"And you will come?"
"If you will have me."
"That's right; we had set our hearts on it. You are looking very
tired. I hope Saturday did not upset you?"
"No," said Erica. "But there have been a good many worries, and I
have not yet learned the art of taking life quietly."
"You are overdone, you want a rest," said Donovan, whose keen and
practiced observation had at once noticed her delicate physique and
peculiar temperament. "You are a poet, you see, and as a wise man
once remarked: 'The poetic temperament is one of singular
irritability of nerve.'"
"I am no poet!"
"Not a writer of verses, but a poet in the sense of a maker, an
artist. As a reader of the 'Daily Review,' you must allow me to
judge. Brian once showed me one of your articles, and I always
recognize them now by the style."
"I don't deserve the name of artist one bit," said Erica, coloring.
"I would give all I have to destroy my article of today. You have
not seen that, or you would not have given me such a name.
"Yes, I have seen it; I read it this morning at breakfast, and made
up my mind that you wrote it on Friday evening, after Lady
Caroline's dinner. I can understand that you hate the thing now.
One gets a sharp lesson every now and then, and it lasts one a life
Erica signed.. He resumed.
"Well! Are you coming to Oakdene with me?"
"Did you mean now at once today?"
"If you will."
"Oh, I should so like to!" she cried. "But will Mrs. Farrant be
"She will be hoping for you, and that is better."
Erica was noted for the speed with which she could pack a
portmanteau, and it could not have been more than ten minutes
before she was ready. Mrs. Fane-Smith wished her goodbye with a
sort of affectionate relief; then Donovan helped her into the pony
carriage, and drove briskly off through the Greyshot streets.
"That is the place where I first heard your father," he said,
indicating with his whip the town Hall. "It must be sixteen years
ago; I was quite a young fellow."
"Sixteen years! Did you hear him so long ago as that?" said Erica,
thoughtfully. "Why, that must have been about the time of the
great Stockborough trial."
"It was; I remember reference being made to it, and how it stirred
me up to think of Mr. Raeburn's gallant defense of freedom, and all
that it was costing him. How well I remember, too, riding home
that night along this very road, with the thoughts of the good of
the race, the love of humanity, touched into life for the first
time. When a selfish cynic first catches a glimpse of an honest
man toiling for what he believes the good of humanity, it is a
wonderful moment for him! Mr. Raeburn was about the only man
living that I believed in. You can understand that I owe him an
immense debt of gratitude."
"That is what you referred to in the House last year!" said Erica.
"How curiously lives are linked together! Words spoken by my
father years ago set thoughts working in you you make a speech and
refer to them. I read a report of your speech in a time of chaotic
wretchedness, and it comes like an answer to a prayer!"
Another bond between us," said Donovan.
After that they were silent; they had left the high road and were
driving along winding country lanes, catching glimpses every now
and then of golden corn fields still unreaped, or of fields just
beginning to be dotted with sheaves, where the men were at work.
It was a late harvest that year, but a good one. Presently they
passed the tiny little village church which nestled under the brow
of the hill, and then came a steep ascent, which made Donovan
spring out of the pony chaise. Erica's words had awakened a long
train of thought, had carried him back to the far past, and had
brought him fresh proof of that wonderful unity of Nature which,
though often little dreamed of, binds man to man. He gave the
ponies a rest half way up the hill, and, stretching up into the
high hedge, gathered a beautiful spray of red-berried briony for
"Do you remember that grand thought which Shakespeare puts into the
mouth of Henry V."
"'There is some soul of goodness in things evil.'
'Tis wonderful to look back in life and trace it out."
He spoke rather abruptly, but Erica's thoughts had been following
much the same bent, and she understood him.
"Trust is easy on such a day as this and in such a place," she
said, looking down to the beautiful valley and up to the green,
Donovan smiled, and touched up the ponies.
It seemed to Erica that they had turned their backs on bigotry, and
annoyance, and care of every description, and were driving right
into a land of rest. Presently they turned in at some iron gates,
and drove down a long approach, bordered with fir trees. At the
end of this stood the manor, a solid, comfortable, well-built
country house, its rather plain exterior veiled with ivy and
creepers. Donovan led her into the hall, where stately old
high-backed chairs and a suit or two of old armor were intermixed
with modern appliances, fishing tackle, a lawn-tennis box, and a
sprinkling of toys, which indicated that there were children in the
This fact was speedily indicated in another way, for there came a
rush and a scamper overhead, and a boy of five or six years old ran
down the broad oak staircase.
"Oh, father! May I ride round to the stables on Speedwell?" he
cried, in a desperate hurry to attract his father's attention away
from the servant and the portmanteau; then, catching sight of
Erica, he checked himself, and held out his hand with a sort of shy
courtesy. He was exactly what Donovan must have been as a child,
as far as looks went.
"To the stables, Ralph?" replied his father, looking round. "Yes,
if you like. Put on your hat though. Where's your mother?"
"In the garden with Mr. Cunningham; he came a few minutes ago; and
he's got such a horse, father! A real beauty just like cocoa."
"A roan," said Donovan, laughing; then, as Ralph disappeared
through the open door, he turned to the servant.
"Is it Mr. Cunningham of Blachingbury?"
"No, sir; Mr. Leslie Cunningham."
Erica listened, not without interest, for she knew that Leslie
Cunningham was the recently elected member for East Mountshire, the
eldest son of Sir Michael Cunningham.
"We must come and find them," said Donovan; and together they went
out into the garden.
Here, on one of the broad, grassy terraces, under the shade of a
copper-beech, was afternoon tea on a wicker table. Gladys was
talking to Mr. Cunningham, but catching sight of her husband and
Erica at the other end of the terrace, she hurried forward to greet
"This is delightful!" she exclaimed. "I hoped that Donovan might
unceremoniously carry you off today, but hardly dared to expect it.
You are just in time for tea."
"Your arrival has caused quite a sensation in the nursery," said
Donovan to Leslie Cunningham. "My small boy is in raptures over
your horse 'just like cocoa!'"
Leslie gave rather an absent laugh. He was watching Erica, who was
still at a little distance talking to Gladys.
"May I be introduced to your guest?" he said.
"Certainly," said Donovan. "She is the daughter of Mr. Raeburn."
"Indeed! I have heard about her from old Bircham, the editor. He
can't say enough of her."
Apparently Leslie Cunningham could not look enough at her.
Donovan, thinking of Brian, was perhaps a little vexed at the
meeting. However, putting himself into his guest's position, he
felt that the admiration was but natural, and as to Brian if he
chose to lose his heart to such a lovely girl, he must expect to
have many rivals.
Erica's first thought, as she glanced at Leslie Cunningham, was one
of disappointment. He was not the least like his father. However,
by degrees she began to like him--for his own sake. He could not
have been more than five-and-twenty, and looked even younger; for
he was fair-complexioned and clean-shaven. His thick, flaxen
hair, and rather pallid face were decidedly wanting in color, but
were relieved by very dark gray eyes. His features were well cut
and regular, and the face was altogether a clever as well as an
Erica felt as if she had got into a very delicious new word. The
novelty of a meal AL FRESCO, the lovely view, the beautifully laid
out grounds were charming externals; and then there were the deeper
enjoyments the lovability of her host and hostess; the delightful
atmosphere of broad-hearted sympathy in which they seemed to live
and move, and, above all, the restfulness, the freedom of not
living in momentary expectation of being rubbed the wrong way by a
vexing conversation on religious, or political, or personal topics.
It was like a beautiful dream quite unlike any part of real, waking
existence that she had ever before known. The conversation was
bright and lively. They talked because they had something to say,
and wished to say it, and the artificial element so prevalent in
society talk was entirely absent.
Presently Ralph came out of the house, leading a fairy-like little
girl of four years old.
"Here come the children," said Gladys. "The hour before dinner is
their special time. You have not seen Dolly, have you?"
"Dolly!" The name awoke some recollection of the past in Erica,
and, as she kissed the little girl, she looked at her closely.
Yes, it was the same fascinating little baby face, with its soft,
pink cheeks and little pointed chin, its innocent, blue-gray eyes,
its tiny, sweet-tempered mouth. The sunny brown hair was longer
and Dolly was an inch or two taller, but she was undoubtedly the
"Now I know why I always felt that I knew your face!" exclaimed
Erica, turning to Donovan. "Was not Dolly lost at Codrington last
"On the beach," replied Donovan. "Yes! Why, could it have been
you who brought her back? Of course it was! Now it all comes back
to me. I had exactly the same feeling about knowing your face the
other evening at Lady Caroline's, but put it down to your likeness
to Mr. Raeburn. There is another bond between us."
They both laughed. Donovan took Dolly upon his knee.
"Do you remember, Dolly, when you were lost on the beach once?"
"Yes," said Dolly, promptly, "I clied."
"Who found you?"
"Farver," said Dolly.
"Who brought you to father?"
Dolly searched her memory.
"An old gentleman gave Dolly sweets!"
"My father," said Erica, smiling.
"And who helped you up the beach?" asked Gladys.
"A plitty lady did," said Dolly.
"Was it this lady, do you think?" said Donovan, indicating Erica.
Dolly trotted round with her dear little laughing face to make the
"I fink vis one is plittier," she announced. Whereupon every one
began to laugh.
"The most charming compliment I ever heard!" said Leslie
Cunningham. "Dolly ought to be patted on the back."
Erica smiled and colored; but as she looked again at Donovan and
little Dolly, her thoughts wandered away to that June day in the
museum when they had been the parable which shadowed forth to her
such a wonderful reality. Truly, there were links innumerable
between her and Donovan.
Leslie Cunningham seemed as if he intended to stay forever;
however, every one was quite content to sit out on the lawn talking
and watching the children at their play. It was one of those
still, soft September evenings when one is glad of any excuse to
keep out of doors.
At last the dressing bell rang, and Leslie took out his watch with
an air of surprise.
"The afternoon has flown!" he exclaimed. "I had no idea it was so
late. I wanted to ask you, by the bye, whether I could see the
coffee tavern at Greyshot. We are going to start one down at our
place, and I want to see one or two well-managed ones first.
Whereabouts is it? I think I'll ride on now, and have a look at
"Dine with us first," said Donovan, "and I'll ride over with you
between eight and nine, that is the best time for seeing it in full
So Leslie Cunningham stayed to dinner, and talked a great deal
about temperance work, but did not succeed in blinding his host,
who knew well enough that Erica had been the real cause of his
desire to go over to Greyshot.
Temperance, however, proved a fortunate subject, for it was, of
course, one in which she was deeply interested, all the more so now
that it formed one of the strongest bonds remaining between herself
and her father's followers. A large number of the Raeburnites were
either teetotalers or very strong temperance advocates, and Erica,
who was constantly out and about in the poorer parts of London, had
realized forcibly the terrible national evil, and was an
enthusiastic temperance worker.
Donovan, perhaps out of malice prepense, administered a good many
dry details about the management of coffee taverns, personal
supervision, Etzenberger's machines, the necessity of a good site
and attractive building, etc., etc. Erica only wished that Tom
could have been there, he would have been so thoroughly in his
element. By and by the conversation drifted away to other matters.
And as Leslie Cunningham was a good and very amusing talker, and
Gladys the perfection of a hostess, the dinner proved very lively,
an extraordinary contrast to the dreary, vapid table talk to which
Erica had lately been accustomed. After the ladies had left the
room, Donovan, rather to his amusement, found the talk veering
round to Luke Raeburn. Presently, Leslie Cunningham hazarded a
direct question about Erica in a would-be indifferent tone. In
reply, Donovan told him briefly and without comment what he knew of
her history, keeping on the surface of things and speaking always
with a sort of careful restraint. He was never very fond of
discussing people, and perhaps in this case the realization of the
thousand objections to any serious outcome of Leslie's sudden
admiration strengthened his reserve. However, fate was apparently
kinder though perhaps really more cruel than the host, for Donovan
was summoned into the library to interview an aggrieved
constituent, and Leslie finding his way to the drawing room, was
only too delighted to meet Gladys going upstairs to see her
The lamps were lighted in the drawing room, but the curtains were
not drawn, and beside the open window he saw a slim, white-robed
figure. Erica was looking out into the gathering darkness. He
crossed the room, and stood beside her, his heart beating quickly,
all the more because she did not move or take any notice of his
presence. It was unconventional, but perhaps because he was so
weary of the ordinary young ladies who invariably smiled and
fluttered the moment he approached them, and were so perfectly
ready to make much of him, this unconventionality attracted him.
He watched her for a minute in silence. She was very happy, and
was looking her loveliest. Presently she turned.
Back to Full Books