Part 7 out of 10
"I think it is the stillness which is so wonderful!" she exclaimed.
It was spoken with the frankness of a child, with the spontaneous
confidence of the pure child-nature, which instinctively
recognizes all the lovable and trustable. The clear, golden eyes
looked right into his for a moment. A strange reverence awoke
within him. He had seen more beautiful eyes before, but none so
entirely wanting in that unreality of expression arising from a
wish to produce an effect, none so beautifully sincere.
"The country stillness, you mean?" he replied.
"Yes; it is rest in itself. I have never stayed in the country
"Is it possible!" he exclaimed.
He had often languidly discussed the comparative advantages of
Murren and Zermatt with girls who took a yearly tour abroad as
naturally as their dinner, but to talk to one who had spent her
whole life in towns, who could enjoy a country evening so
absolutely and unaffectedly, was a strange and delightful novelty.
"You are one of those who can really enjoy," he said. "You are not
blasee you are one of the happy mortals who keep the faculty of
enjoyment as strongly all through life as in childhood."
"Yes, I think I can enjoy," said Erica. "But I suppose we pay for
our extra faculty of enjoyment.
"You mean by being more sensitive to pain?"
"Yes, though that sounds rather like Dickens's Mrs. Gummidge, when
she thought she felt smoky chimneys more than other people."
"How I wish you could turn over your work to me, and go to
Switzerland tomorrow in my place! Only I should wish to be there,
too, for the sake of seeing you enjoy it."
"Do you go tomorrow?"
"Yes, with my father."
"Ah! How delightful! I confess I do envy you a little. I do
long to see snow mountains. Always living in London makes me--"
He interrupted her with a sort of exclamation of horror.
"Oh! Don't abuse London!" she said, laughing. "If one must live
all the year round in one place, I would rather be there than
anywhere. When I hear people abusing it, I always think they don't
know how to use their eyes. What can be more lovely, for instance,
than the view from Greenwich Park by the observatory? Don't you
know that beautiful clump of Scotch firs in the foreground, and
then the glimpse of the river through the trees? And then there is
that lovely part by Queen Elizabeth's oak. The view in Hyde Park,
too, over the Serpentine, how exquisite that is on a summer
afternoon, with the Westminster towers standing up in a golden
haze. Or Kensington Gardens in the autumn, when the leaves are
turning, and there is blue mist in the background against the dark
tree trunks. I think I love every inch of London!"
Leslie Cunningham would have listened to the praises of the Black
Country, if only for the sake of hearing her voice.
"Well, as far as England goes, you are in the right place for
scenery now; I know a few lovelier parts than this."
"What are those lights on the lower terrace?" asked Erica,
"Glow worms. Have you never seen them? Come and look at them
"Oh, I should like to!" she said, with the charming enthusiasm and
eagerness which delighted him so much.
To guide her down the steps in the dusky garden, to feel her hand
on his arm, to hear her fresh, naive remarks, and then to recall
what Donovan Farrant had just told him about her strange, sad
story, all seemed to draw him on irresistibly. He had had three or
four tolerably serious flirtations, but now he knew that he had
never before really loved.
Erica was delighted with the glow worms, and delighted with the
dewy fragrance of the garden, and delighted with the soft, balmy
stillness of the night. She was one of those who revel in Nature,
and all that she said was evidently the overflow of a rapturous
happiness, curiously contrasting with the ordinary set remarks of
admiration, or falsely sentimental outbursts too much in vogue.
But Leslie Cunningham found that the child-likeness was not only in
manner, but that Erica had no idea of flirting; she was bright, and
merry, and talkative, but she had no thought, no desire of
attracting his attention. She had actually and literally come out
into the garden to see the glow worms, not to monopolize the
much-run-after young M.P, and as soon as she had seen them she said
she felt cold, and suggested going back again.
He was disappointed, but the words were so perfectly sincere, so
free from suspicion of mere conventionality, that there was nothing
for it but to return. Half amused, half piqued, but wholly in
love, he speedily forgot himself in real anxiety.
"I hope you haven't taken cold," he said, with great solicitude.
"Oh, no," said Erica; "but I want to be careful for the
night-school work will be beginning soon, and I must go home fresh
Something in her words broke the spell of perfect happiness which
had hitherto held him. Was it the mention of her every-day life,
with its surroundings unknown to him? Or was it some faint
perception that in the world of duty to which she referred their
paths could not rightly converge? A cold chill crept over him.
"You were quite right," he said with an involuntary shiver. "It is
decidedly cold out here; the mist rises from the river, I expect,
or else your reference to the working-day world has recalled me
from fairy-land. You should not speak of work in such a place as
this it is incongruous."
"Ernst ist das leben," she replied quietly. "One can't forget that
even at such a time as this, and in such a place."
"How is it that some never forget that for a moment, while others
never remember it at all?" he said musingly.
"Some of us have no excuse for ever forgetting," she answered
"hardly a chance either."
And though the words were vague, they shadowed out to him much of
her life a life never free from sorrow, burdened with constant care
and anxiety, and ever confronted by some of the most perplexing
world problems. A longing to shield, and protect, and comfort her
rose in his heart, yet all the time he instinctively knew that hers
was the stronger nature.
It seemed that the seriousness of life was to be borne in upon them
specially that evening, for, returning to the drawing room, they
found Donovan released from his interview, and relating with some
indignation the pitiable story he had just heard. It only reached
Leslie Cunningham in fragments, however over crowding, children
sleeping six in a bed, two of them with scarlet fever, no fever
hospital, no accommodation for them, an inspector, medical officer,
the board how drearily dry all the details seemed to him. He could
do nothing but watch Erica's eager face with its ever-varying play
of expression. He hardly knew whether to be angry with Donovan
Farrant for alluding to matters which brought a look of sadness to
her eyes, or to thank him for the story which made her face light
up with indignation and look, if possible, more beautiful than
"Don't offer to put up a fever shanty on the lawn," said Gladys
when her husband paused.
"I wish we had an empty cottage where we could put them" said
Donovan; "but I am afraid all I can do is to bring pressure to bear
upon the authorities. We'll ride over together, Cunningham, and
Jack Trevethan, our manager, shall show you the tavern while I rout
out this medical officer."
They had had tea; there was no longer any excuse for delaying.
Leslie, with an outward smile and an inward sigh, turned to take
leave of Erica. She was bending over a basket in which was curled
up the invalid fox terrier. For a moment she left off stroking the
white and tan head, and held out her hand.
"Goodbye," she said frankly.
That was all. And yet it made Leslie's heart bound. Was he indeed
to go to Switzerland tomorrow? He MUST manage to get out of it
And all the way to Greyshot he listened to schemes for the work to
be done next session from the ardent sanitary reformer, though just
then the devastation of all England would scarcely have roused him
so long as he was assured of the safety of Luke Raeburn's daughter.
CHAPTER XXVIII. The Happiest of Weeks
He went in the strength of dependence
To tread where his Master trod,
To gather and knit together The Family of God.
With a conscience freed from burdens,
And a heart set free from care,
To minister to every one
Always and everywhere.
Author of Chronicles of the Schonberg Cotta Family
After this came a happy, uneventful week at the manor. Erica often
thought of the definition of happiness which Charles Osmond had
once given her "Perfect harmony with your surroundings." She had
never been so happy in her life. Waif, who was slowly recovering,
grew pathetically fond of his rescuer. The children were devoted
to her, and she to them. She learned to love Gladys very much, and
from her she learned a good deal which helped her to understand
Donovan's past life. Then, too, it was the first time in her life
that she had ever been in a house where there were little children,
and probably Ralph and Dolly did more for her than countless
sermons or whole libraries of theology could have done.
Above all, there was Donovan, and the friendship of such a man was
a thing which made life a sort of wordless thanksgiving. At times
even in those she loved best, even in her father or Charles Osmond,
she was conscious of something which jarred a little, but so
perfect was her sympathy with Donovan, so closely and strangely
were their lives and characters linked together, that never once
was the restfulness of perfect harmony broken Nature and
circumstances had, as it were turned them to each other. He could
understand, as no one else could understand, the reversal of
thought and feeling which she had passed through during the last
He could understand the perplexities of her present position,
suddenly confronted with the world of wealth and fashion and
conventional religion, and fresh from a circle where, whatever the
errors held and promulgated, the life was so desperately earnest,
often so nobly self-denying. He knew that Mr. Fane-Smith, good man
as he was, must have been about the severest of trials to a
new-born faith. He understood how Mr. Cuthbert's malice would tend
to reawaken the harsh class judgment against which, as a Christian,
Erica was bound to struggle. He could fully realize the irritated,
ruffled state she was in she was overdone, and wanted perfect rest
and quiet, perfect love and sympathy. He and his wife gave her all
these, took her not only to their house, but right into their home,
and how to do this no one knew so well as Donovan, perhaps because
he had once been in much the same position himself. It was his
most leisure month, the time he always devoted to home and wife and
children, so that Erica saw a great deal of him. He seemed to her
the ideal head of an ideal yet real home. It was one of those
homes and thank God there are such! where belief in the Unseen
reacts upon the life in the seen, making it so beautiful, so
lovable, that, when you go out once more into the ordinary world
you go with a widened heart, and the realization that the kingdom
of Heaven of which Christ spoke does indeed begin upon earth.
It is strange, in tracing the growth of spontaneous love, to notice
how independent it is of time. Love annihilates time with love, as
with God, time is not. Like the miracles, it brings into use the
aeonial measurement in which "one day is a thousand years, and a
thousand years is one day." A week, even a few hours, may give us
love and knowledge and mutual sympathy with one which the
intercourse of many years fails to give with another.
The week at Oakdene was one which all her life long Erica looked
back to with the loving remembrance which can gild and beautify the
most sorrowful of lives. It is surely a mistake to think that the
memory of past delights makes present pain sharper. If not, why do
we all so universally strive to make the lives of children happy?
Is it not because we know that happiness in the present will give
a sort of reflected happiness even in the saddest future? Is it
not because we know how in life's bitterest moments, its most
barren and desolate paths, we feel a warmth about our heart, a
smile upon our lips, when we remember the old home days with their
eager childish interests and hopes, their vividly recollected
pleasures, their sheltered luxuriance of fatherly and motherly
love? For how many thousands did the poet speak when he wrote
"The thought of our past years in me doth breed
A benediction which outlives the cares and troubles of later life
which we may carry with us to our dying day, and find perfected
indeed in that Unseen, where
"All we have willed, or hoped, or dreamed of good shall exist,
Not its semblance, but itself."
There was only one bit of annoyance during the whole time; it was
on the Sunday, the day before Erica was to go back to Greyshot.
Gladys was not very well and stayed at home, but Donovan and Erica
went to church with the children, starting rather early that they
might enjoy the lovely autumn morning, and also that they might put
the weekly wreaths on two graves in the little church yard.
Donovan himself put the flowers upon the first, Ralph and Dolly
talking softly together about "little Auntie Dot," then running off
hand in hand to make the "captain's glave plitty," as Dolly
expressed it. Erica, following them, glanced at the plain white
headstone and read the name: "John Frewin, sometimes captain of the
Then they went together into the little country church, and all at
once a shadow fell on her heart; for, as they entered at the west
end, the clergy and the choristers entered the chancel, and she saw
that Mr. Cuthbert was to take the service. The rector was taking
his holiday, and had enlisted help from Greyshot.
Happily no man has it in his power to mar the Church of England
service, but by and by came the sermon. Now Mr. Cuthbert cordially
detested Donovan; he made no secret of it. He opposed and thwarted
him on every possible occasion, and it is to be feared that
personal malice had something to do with his choice of a subject
for that morning's sermon.
He had brought over to Oakdene a discourse on the eternity of
punishment. Perhaps he honestly believed that people could be
frightened to heaven, at any rate he preached a most ghastly
sermon, and, what was worse, preached it with vindictive energy.
The poor, mangled, much-distorted text about the tree lying as it
falls was brought to the fore once again, and, instead of bearing
reference to universal charity and almsgiving as it was intended to
do, was ruthlessly torn from its context and turned into a parable
about the state of the soul at death. The words "damned" and
"damnation," with all their falsely theologized significance, rang
through the little church and made people shudder, though all the
time the speaker knew well enough that there were no such words in
the New Testament. Had he been there himself to see he could not
have described his material hell more graphically. Presently,
leaning right over the pulpit, his eyes fixed on the manor pew just
beneath him, he asked in thundering tones "My brethren, have you
ever realized what the word LOST means?" Then came a long
catalogue of those who in Mr. Cuthbert's opinion would undoubtedly
be "lost," in which of course all Erica's friends and relatives
were unhesitatingly placed.
Now to hear what we sincerely believe to be error crammed down the
throats of a congregation is at all times a great trial; but, when
our nearest and dearest are remorselessly thrust down to the
nethermost hell, impatience is apt to turn to wrath. Erica thought
of her gentle, loving, unselfish mother, and though nothing could
alter her conviction that long ere now she had learned the truths
hidden from her in life, yet she could not listen to Mr. Cuthbert's
horrible words without indignant emotion. A movement from Donovan
recalled her. Little Dorothy was on his knees fast asleep; he
quietly reached out his hand, took up Erica's prayer book which was
nearest to him, and wrote a few words on the fly leaf, handling the
book to her. She read them. "Definition of LOST: not found yet."
Then the anger and grief and pain died away, and, though the
preacher still thundered overhead, God's truth stole into Erica's
heart once more by means of one of his earliest consecrated
preachers a little child. Once more Dolly and her father were to
her a parable; and presently, glancing away through the sunny south
window, her eye fell upon a small marble tablet just below it that
she had not before noticed, and this furnished her with thoughts
which outlasted the sermon.
At the top was a medallion, the profile of the same fine, soldierly
looking man whose portrait hung in Donovan's study, and which was
so wonderfully like both himself and little Ralph. Beneath was the
In loving Memory of RALPH FARRANT,
Who died at Porthkerran,
Cornwall, May 3, 18--, Aged 45
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh
down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness,
neither shadow of turning."
The date was sixteen years back, but the tablet was comparatively
new, and could not have been up more than six years at the outside.
Erica was able partly to understand why Donovan had chosen for it
that particular text, and nothing could more effectually have
counteracted Mr. Cuthbert's sermon than the thoughts which it awoke
Nevertheless, she did not quite get over the ruffled feeling, which
was now in a great measure physical, and it was with a sense of
relief that she found herself again in the open air, in the warmth,
and sunshine, and gladness of the September day. Donovan did not
say a word. They passed through the little church yard, and walked
slowly up the winding lane; the children, who had stopped to gather
a fine cluster of blackberries, were close behind them. In the
silence, every word of their talk could be distinctly heard.
"I don't like God!" exclaimed Ralph, abruptly.
"Oh, you naughty!" exclaimed Dolly, much shocked.
"No, it isn't naughty. I don't think He's good. Why, do you think
father would let us be shut up in a horrid place for always and
always? Course he wouldn't. I 'spects if we'd got to go, he'd
Donovan and Erica looked at each other. Donovan turned round, and
held out his hand, at which both children rushed.
"Ralph," he said, "if any one told you that I might some day leave
off loving you, leave off being your father what would you do?"
"I'd knock them down!" said Ralph, clinching his small fist.
Donovan laughed a little, but did not then attempt to prove the
questionable wisdom of such a proceeding.
"Why would you feel inclined to knock them down?" he asked.
"Because it would be a wicked lie!" cried Ralph. "Because I know
you never could, father."
"You are quite right. Of course I never could. You would never
believe any one who told you that I could, because you would know
it was impossible. But just now you believed what some one said
about God, though you wouldn't have believed it of me. Never
believe anything which contradicts 'Our Father.' It will be our
father punishing us now and hereafter, and you may be sure that He
will do the best possible for all His children. You are quite sure
that I should only punish you to do you good, and how much more
sure may you be that God, who loves you so much more, will do the
same, and will never give you up."
Ralph looked hard at his bunch of blackberries, and was silent.
Many thoughts were working in his childish brain. Presently he
"He did shout it out so loud and horrid! I s'pose he had forgotten
about 'Our Father.' But, you see, Dolly, it was all a mistake.
Come along, let's race down the drive."
Off they ran. Erica fancied that Donovan watched them rather
"I thought Ralph was listening in church," she said. "Fancy a
child of his age thinking it all out like that!"
"Children think much more than people imagine," said Donovan. "And
a child invariably carries out a doctrine to its logical
conclusion. "Tis wonderful the fine sense of justice which you
always find in them!"
"Ralph inherits that from you, I should think. How exactly like
you he is, especially when he is puzzling out some question in his
A strange shadow passed over Donovan's face. He was silent for a
"'Tis hard to be brave for one's own child," he said at last. "I
confess that the thought that Ralph may have to live through what
I have lived through is almost unendurable to me."
"How vexed you must have been that he heard today's sermon," said
"Not now," he replied. "He has heard and taken in the other side,
and has instinctively recognized the truth. If I had had some one
to say as much to me when I was his age, it might have saved me
twenty years of atheism."
"It is not only children who are repulsed by this," said Erica.
"Or learned men like James Mill. I know well enough that hundreds
of my father's followers were driven away from Christianity merely
by having this view constantly put before them. How were they to
know that half the words about it were mistranslations? How were
they to study when they were hard at work from week's end to week's
end? It seems to me downright wicked of scholars and learned men
to keep their light hidden away under a bushel, and then pretend
that they fear the 'people' are not ready for it."
"As though God's truth needed bolstering up with error!" exclaimed
Donovan. "As though to believe a hideous lie could ever be right
or helpful! There's a vast amount of Jesuitry among well-meaning
"And always will be, I should think," said Erica. "As long as
people will think of possible consequences, instead of the
absolutely true. But I could forgive them all if their idea of the
danger of telling the people were founded on real study of the
people. But is it? How many of the conservers of half truths, who
talk so loudly about the effect on the masses, have personally
known the men who go to make up the masses?"
"Yes, you are right," said Donovan. "As a rule I fancy the
educated classes know less about the working classes than they do
about the heathen, and I am afraid, care less about them. You have
an immense advantage there both as a writer and a worker, for I
suppose you really have been brought into contact with them."
"Yes," said Erica, "all my life. How I should like to confront Mr.
Cuthbert with a man like Hazeldine, or with dozens of others whom
I could name!"
"Why?" asked Donovan.
"Because no one could really know such men without learning where
the present systems want mending. If Hazeldine could be shut into
Mr. Cuthbert's study for a few hours, and induced to tell the story
of his life, I believe he would have the effect of the ancient
mariner on the wedding guest. Only, the worst of it is, I'm afraid
the very look of Mr. Cuthbert would quite shut him up."
"Tell me about him," said Donovan.
"It is nothing at second hand," said Erica. "He is a shoe maker,
as grand-looking a fellow as you ever saw, fond of reading, and
very thoughtful, and with more quiet common sense than almost any
I ever met. He had been brought up to believe in verbal
inspiration that had been thoroughly crammed down his throat; but
no one had attempted to touch upon the contradictions, the thousand
and one difficulties which of course he found directly he began to
study the Bible. So he puzzled and puzzled, and got more and more
dissatisfied, and never in church heard anything which explained
his difficulties. At last one day in his workshop a man lent him
a number of the 'Idol Breaker,' and in it was a paper by my father
on the Atonement. It came to him like a great light in his
darkness; he says he shall never forget the sudden conviction that
the man who wrote that article understood every one of his
difficulties, and would be able to clear them right away. The next
Sunday he went to hear my father lecture. I believe it would make
the veriest flint cry to hear his account of it, to see the look
of reverent love that comes over his face when he says, 'And there
I found Mr. Raeburn ready to answer all my difficulties, not
holding one at arm's length and talking big and patronizing for all
he was so clever, but just like a mate.' That man would die for my
father any day hundreds of them would."
"I can well believe it," said Donovan. Then, after a pause, he
added, "To induce Christians to take a fair, unprejudiced look at
true secularism and to induce secularists to take a fair,
unprejudiced view of true Christ-following, seems to me to be the
great need of today."
"If one could!" said Erica, with a long-drawn sigh.
"If any one can, you can," he replied.
She looked up at him quickly, awed by the earnestness of his tone.
Was she a young girl, conscious of so many faults and failings,
conscious of being at the very threshold herself to dare even to
attempt such a task? Yet was it a question of daring to attempt?
Was it not rather the bit of work mapped out for her, to undertake,
perhaps to fail in, but still bravely to attempt? He heart
throbbed with eager yearning, as the vision rose before her. What
was mere personal pain? What was injustice? What was
misunderstanding? Why, in such a cause she could endure anything.
"I would die to help on that!" she said in a low voice.
"Will you live for it?" asked Donovan, with his rare, beautiful
smile. "Live, and do something more than endure the Lady Carolines
and Mr. Cuthberts?"
Few things are more inspiriting that the realization that we are
called to some special work which will need our highest faculties,
our untiring exertions which will demand all that is good in us,
and will make growth in good imperative. With the peacefulness of
that country Sunday was interwoven a delicious perception that
hard, beautiful work lay beyond. Erica wandered about the shady
Mountshire woods with Gladys and the children, and in the cool
restfulness, in the stillness and beauty, got a firm hold on her
lofty ideal, and rose about the petty vexations and small frictions
which had been spoiling her life at Greyshot.
The manor grounds were always thrown open to the public on Sunday,
and a band in connection with one of the temperance societies
played on the lawn. Donovan had been much persecuted by the
Sabbatarians for sanctioning this; but, though sorry to offend any
one, he could not allow what he considered mistaken scruples to
interfere with such a boon to the public. Crowds of workingmen and
women came each week away from their densely packed homes into the
pure country; the place was for the time given up to them, and they
soon learned to love it, to look upon it as a property to which
they had a real and recognized share.
Squire Ward, who owned the neighboring estate, grumbled a good deal
at the intrusion of what he called the "rabble" into quiet Oakdene.
"That's the worst of such men as Farrant," he used to say. "They
begin by rushing to one extreme, and end by rushing to the other.
Such a want of steady conservative balance! He's a good man; but,
poor fellow, he'll never be like other people, never!"
Mrs. Ward was almost inclined to think that he had been less
obnoxious in the old times. As a professed atheist, he could be
shunned and ignored, but his uncomfortably practical Christianity
had a way of shaking up the sleepy neighborhood, and the
neighborhood did not at all like being shaken!
CHAPTER XXIX. Greyshot Again
To what purpose do you profess to believe in the unity of the human
race, which is the necessary consequence of the unity of God, if
you do not strive to verify it by destroying the arbitrary
divisions and enmities that still separate the different tribes of
humanity? Why do we talk of fraternity while we allow any of our
brethren to be trampled on, degraded or despised? The earth is our
workshop. We may not curse it, we are bound to sanctify it. . .
We must strive to make of humanity one single family. Mazzini
Erica's appearance at Lady Caroline's dinner party had caused a
sort of storm in a tea cup; the small world of Greyshot was in a
state of ferment, and poor Mrs. Fane-Smith suffered a good deal
from the consciousness that she and her family were the subject of
all the gossip of the place. Her little expedients had failed, and
she began to reflect ruefully that perfect sincerity, plain
honesty, would have been the best policy, after all. By the time
that a week had passed, however, censure and harsh comments began
to give place to curiosity, and the result of this was that on
Monday, which was Mrs. Fane-Smith's "at home" day, Greyshot found
it convenient to call in large numbers.
Erica, returning from Oakdene in the afternoon, found her work
awaiting her. Her heart beat rather quickly when, on entering the
drawing room she found it full of visitors; she half smiled to
herself to find such an opportunity of beginning Donovan's work.
And very bravely she set about it. Those who had come from
curiosity not unmixed with malice were won in spite of themselves;
even Mr. Cuthbert, who bore down upon her with the full intention
of making her uncomfortable, found himself checkmated as
effectually as at Lady Caroline's dinner table, though in a very
"I think I saw you in church yesterday morning!" he remarked, by
way of introducing a discordant subject.
"Yes," replied Erica, "I have been staying at Oakdene Manor, and
had a most delicious time."
"Sharing Mr. Farrant's philanthropic labors?" asked Mr. Cuthbert,
with his unpleasant smile.
"No; I have been thoroughly lazy, and September is their holiday
month, too. You would have been amused to see us the other evening
all hard at work making paper frogs like so many children."
"Paper frogs!" said Mr. Cuthbert, with an intonation that suggested
"Yes; have you ever seen them?" asked Erica. "I don't think many
people know how to make them. Feltrino taught me when I was a
little girl I'll show you, if you like."
"Did you ever meet Feltrino?" asked Lady Caroline.
She knew very little of the Italian patriot. In his life time he
had been despised and rejected, but he was now dead; his biography
a well-written one was in all the circulating libraries, and even
those who were far from agreeing with his political views, had
learned something of the nobility of his character. So there was
both surprise and envy in Lady Caroline's tone; she had a weakness
"I saw him once when I was seven years old," said Erica. "He knew
my father, and one day we were overtaken by a tremendous shower,
and happened to meet Feltrino, who made us come into his rooms and
wait till it was over. And while they talked Italian politics I
sat and watched him. He had the most wonderful eyes I ever saw,
and presently, looking up and seeing me, he laughed and took me on
his knee, saying that politics must not spoil my holiday, and that
he would show me how to make Japanese frogs. Once, when he was
imprisoned, and was hardly allowed to have any books, the making of
those frogs kept him from going mad, he said."
While she spoke she had been deftly folding a sheet of paper, and
several people were watching curiously. "Before very long, the
frog was completed, and the imitation proved so clever that there
was an unanimous chorus of approval and admiration. Every one
wanted to learn how to make them; the Feltrino frogs became the
topic of the afternoon, and Erica fairly conquered the malicious
tongues. She was superintending Lady Caroline's first attempt at
a frog, when a familiar name made her look up.
"Mr. Cunningham Mr. Leslie Cunningham."
"I thought you were in Switzerland!" she exclaimed, as he crossed
the room and shook hands with her.
"I never got further than Paris," he said, smiling. ""My brother
has gone instead, and I am going to follow your example and study
the beauties of English scenery."
Perhaps Greyshot opinion was more conciliated by the long talk with
Mr. Leslie Cunningham, M.P., than even by the Feltrino frogs. To
have Luke Raeburn's daughter suddenly thrust into the midst of
their select society at Lady Caroline's dinner was one thing they
had one and all shunned her. But when she proved to be, after all,
clever and fascinating, and original, when they knew that she had
sat on Feltrino's knee as a little child, above all, when they saw
that Leslie Cunningham was talking to her with mingled friendliness
and deference, they veered round. Politically, they hated Sir
Michael Cunningham, but in society they were pleased enough to meet
him, and in Greyshot, naturally enough, his son was a "lion."
Greyshot made much of him during his stay at Blachingbury, and he
found it very convenient just then to be made much of.
Hardly a day of that week passed in which he did not in some way
meet Erica. He met her in the park with her aunt; he sat next to
her at an evening concert; he went to the theater and watched her
all through "Hamlet," and came to the Fane-Smith's box between the
acts. Yet, desperately as he was in love, he could not delude
himself with the belief that she cared for him. She was always
bright, talkative, frank, even friendly, but that was all. Yet her
unlikeness to the monotonously same girls, whom he was in the habit
of meeting, fascinated him more and more each day. She was to go
back to town on the Monday; on Friday it so happened that she met
Leslie Cunningham at a great flower show, and with perfect
unconsciousness piqued him almost beyond endurance. Now at last he
hoped to make her understand his admiration. They discussed
"Hamlet," and he had just brought the conversation adroitly round
to the love scene in the third act, when Erica suddenly dashed his
hopes to the ground.
"Oh, how lovely!" she exclaimed, pausing before a beautiful exotic.
"Surely that must be an orchid?"
And the reluctant Leslie found the conversation drifting round to
botany, about which he knew little and cared less. Once more his
hopes were raised only to be frustrated. He was sitting besides
Mrs. Fane-Smith and Erica, and had managed to stem the tide of the
botany. The band was playing. Erica, half listening to the music
and half attending to his talk, looked dreamily peaceful; surely
now was the time! But all at once the clear eyes looked up with
their perfectly wide-awake interest, and she exclaimed:
"I do wish the Farrants would come! They certainly meant to be
here. I can't make it out."
Leslie patiently talked about the member for Greyshot; but, just
when he hoped he was quit of the subject, Erica gave an exclamation
of such unfeigned delight that a consuming envy took possession of
"Oh, there he is! And Ralph and Dolly, too!"
And in a moment the Oakdene party had joined them, and Leslie saw
that his chances for that day were over. Before long he had made
his escape, leaving the grounds not moodily, but with the light of
a new and eager determination in his eye.
Erica, returning from the flower show late in the afternoon, found
a note awaiting her, and opened it unconcernedly enough on her way
up to her room. But the first glance at it brought a glow of color
to her face and a nameless fear to her heart. She ran on quickly,
locked her door, and by the ruddy firelight read in a sort of dumb
dismay her first offer of marriage. This then was the meaning of
it all. This was the cause of his hurried return to England; this
had brought her the long talks which had been so pleasant, yes,
strangely, unaccountably pleasant. Yet, for all that, she knew
well enough that she had nothing to give in return for the love
revealed in every word of the letter. She liked him, liked to talk
to him, thought him clever and interesting, but that was all. His
wife! Oh, no! Impossible! That could never be! And then, as
usual, even in the midst of her strange sense of discomfort and
perplexity, there came a flash of humor which made her laugh
noiselessly in the dim light. "Tom would call me Mrs. Sly Bacon!"
But a second reading of the letter made her look grave. She was
very much puzzled to know how to answer it; how, in refusing, to
give him least pain. There was nothing else to hesitate about, of
her own mind she was quite sure. There was only an hour till post
time. She must write at once, and she must write in a way which
could not be mistaken. There was not a grain of coquetry about
Erica. After some thought she wrote the following lines:
"Dear Mr. Cunningham, Your letter surprised me very much and pained
me, too, because in replying I fear I must give you pain. I thank
you for the honor you have done me, but I can never be your wife.
Even if I could return your love, which I can not, it could never
be right. People are so prejudiced that the connection of our
names might greatly injure your public work, and, besides, you
could not live in the circle in which I live, and nothing could
ever make it right for me to leave my own people. I can not write
as I should like to I can not say what I would, or thank you as I
would but please understand me, and believe me yours very
sincerely, Erica Raeburn."
Strange enough the writing of that letter, the realization of the
impossibility of accepting Leslie Cunningham's offer, opened out to
Erica a new region, started her upon a new stage of her life
progress. In spite of her trouble at the thought of the pain she
must give, there was an indefinable sense that life and love meant
much more than she had hitherto dreamed of; and, though for the
next few days she was a little grave and silent, there rang in her
ears the refrain:
"Oh, life, oh, beyond,
Thou art strange, thou art sweet."
She was not sorry that her visit was drawing to a close, although
the last week had gone much more smoothly. Her vigorous nature
began to long to return to the working day world, and though she
could very honestly thank Mr. Fane-Smith for his kindness, she
turned her back on his house with unmixed satisfaction.
"And you cannot change your ind as to my suggestion?" he asked
sending off one parting arrow.
"I can not," said Erica, firmly, "he is my father."
"You must of course make your own choice," he said with a sigh.
"But you are sadly wrong, sadly wrong! In my opinion your father
"Forgive me for interrupting you," said Erica, "but by your own
showing you have no right to have any opinion whatever about my
father. Until you have either learned to know him personally,
heard him speak, or fairly and carefully studied his writings, you
have no grounds to form an opinion upon."
"But the current opinion is--"
"The current opinion is no more an opnion than yours! It is the
view of most bitter opponents. And, candidly, WOULD you accept the
current opinion held of any prominent statesman by his adversaries?
Why, the best men living are represented as fiends in human shape
by their enemies! And if this is so in political matters, how much
more in such a case as my father's!"
Mr. Fane-Smith, who was a well-meaning though narrow man, sighed
again; it was always very painful to him to listen to views which
did not coincide with his own.
"Well," he said at length, "there is, after all, the hope that you
may convert him."
"I hope you do not want me to turn into one of those hateful little
prigs, who go about lamenting over their unregenerate parents,"
said Erica, naughtily. Then, softening down, she added, "I think
I know what you mean perhaps I was wrong to speak like that, only
somehow, knowing what my father is, it does grate so to put it in
that way. But don't think I would not give my life for him to come
to the light here and now for I would! I would!"
She clasped her hands tightly together, and turned quickly away.
Mr. Fane-Smith was touched.
"Well, my dear," he said. "You may be right, after all, and I may
be wrong. All my anxiety is only for your ultimate good."
The train was on the point of starting, he gave her a warm hand
shake, and in spite of all that jarred in their respective natures,
Erica ended by liking him the best of her new relations.
CHAPTER XXX. Slander Leaves a Slur
For slander lives upon succession,
Forever housed, where it once
gets possession. Comedy of Errors.
Not out of malice, but mere zeal,
Because he was an infidel.
"Blessed old London, how delightful it is to come back to it!"
exclaimed Erica, as she and Tom drove home from Paddington on the
afternoon of her return from Greyshot. "Tell the man not to go
through the back streets, there's a good boy! Ah, he's doing it of
his own accord! Why, the park trees are much browner than the
"We have been prophesying all manner of evil about your coming
back," said Tom looking her over critically from head to foot. "I
believe mother thought you would never come that the good
Christians down at Greyshot having caught you would keep you, and
even the chieftain was the least bit in the world uneasy."
"Nonsense," said Erica, laughing, "he knows better."
"But they did want to keep you?"
"How did you get out of it?"
"Said, 'Much obliged to you, but I'd rather not.' Enacted Mrs.
Micawber, you know, 'I never will, no I never will leave Mr.
"Mr. Fane-Smith must have been a brute ever to have proposed such
"Oh, no! Not at all! Within certain limits he is a kind-hearted
man, only he is one of those who believe in that hateful saying,
'Men without the knowledge of God are cattle.' And, believing
that, would treat atheists as I should be sorry to treat
"And what is the world of Greyshot like?"
"It is very lukewarm about public questions, and very boiling hot
about its own private affairs," said Erica. "But I have learned
now how people in society can go on contentedly living their easy
lives in the midst of such ignorance and misery. They never
investigate, and when any painful instance is alluded to, they say,
"Oh! But it CAN'T be true!' The other day they were speaking of
Kingsley's pamphlet, 'Cheap clothes and nasty,' and one lady said
that was quite an evil of the past, that the difficulty nowadays
was to get things at reasonable prices. When I told her that women
only get twopence for doing all the machine work of an ulster, and
have to provide their machine, cotton, food, light, and fuel, she
exclaimed, 'Oh, that is incredible! It must be exaggerated! Such
things couldn't be now!' When Aunt Isabel heard that I had known
cases of men being refused admission to a hospital supported by
public subscriptions, on the ground of their atheism, she said it
was impossible. And as to physical ill treatment, or, in fact, any
injustice having ever been shown by Christian to atheist, she would
not hear of it. It was always 'My dear, the atmosphere in which
you have lived has distorted your vision,' or, 'You have been told,
my dear, that these things were so!' To tell her that they were
facts which could be verified was not the smallest good, for she
wouldn't so much as touch any publication connected with
"None are so blind as those who will not see," said Tom. "They
will go on in this way till some great national crisis, some crash
which they can't ignore, wakes them up from their comfortable
state. 'It can't be true,' is no doubt a capital narcotic."
"Father is at home, I suppose? How do you think he is?"
"Oh, very well, but fearfully busy. The 'Miracles' trial will
probably come on in November."
Erica sighed. There was a silence. She looked out rather sadly at
the familiar Oxford Street shops.
"You have not come back approving of the Blasphemy Laws, I hope?"
said Tom, misinterpreting her sigh.
Her eyes flashed.
"Of course not!" she said, emphatically.
"Mr. Osmond has, as usual, been getting into hot water for speaking
a word on the chieftain's behalf."
"Did he speak? I am glad of that," said Erica, brightening. "I
expect Mr. Pogson's conduct will stir up a good many liberal
Christians into showing their disapproval of bigotry and injustice.
Ah! Here is the dear old square! The statue looks ten degrees
moldier than when I left!"
In fact everything looked, as Erica expressed it, "moldier!"
"Persecution Alley," the lodging house, the very chairs and tables
seemed to obtrude their shabbiness upon her. Not that she cared in
the least; for, however shabby, it was home the home that she had
longed for again and again in the luxury and ease of Greyshot.
Raeburn looked up from a huge law book as she opened the door of
"Why, little son Eric!" he exclaimed. "You came so quietly that I
never heard you. Glad to have you home again, my child! The room
looks as if it needed you, doesn't it?"
Erica laughed for the study was indeed in a state of chaos. Books
were stacked up on the floor, on the mantel piece, on the chairs,
on the very steps of the book ladder. The writing table was a sea
of papers, periodicals, proofs, and manuscripts, upon which there
floated with much difficulty Raeburn's writing desk and the book he
was reading, some slight depression in the surrounding mass of
papers showing where his elbows had been.
"About equal to Teufelsdroch's room, isn't it?" he said, smiling.
"Everything united in a common element of dust.' But, really,
after the first terrible day of your absence, when I wasted at
least an hour in hunting for things which the tidy domestic had
carefully hidden, I could stand it no longer, and gave orders that
no one was to bring brush or duster or spirit of tidiness within
"We really must try to get you a larger room," said Erica, looking
round. "How little and poky everything looks."
"Has Greyshot made you discontented?"
"Only for you," she replied, laughing. "I was thinking of Mr.
Fane-Smith's great study; it seems such a pity that five foot
three, with few books and nothing to do, should have all that
space, and six foot four, with much work and many books, be cramped
up in this little room."
"What would you say to a move?"
"It will be such an expensive year, and there's that dreadful Mr.
Pogson always in the background."
"But if a house were given to us? Where's Tom? I've a letter here
which concerns you both. Do either of you remember anything about
an old Mr. Woodward who lived at 16 Guilford Square?"
"Why, yes! Don't you remember, Tom? The old gentleman whose
greenhouse we smashed."
"Rather!" said Tom. "I've the marks of the beastly thing now."
"What was it? Let me hear the story," said Raeburn, leaning back
in his chair with a look of amusement flickering about his rather
"Why, father, it was years ago; you were on your first tour in
America, I must have been about twelve, and Tom fourteen. We had
only just settled in here, you know; and one unlucky Saturday we
were playing in the garden at 'King of the Castle.'"
"What's that?" asked Raeburn.
"Why, Tom was king, and I was the Republican Army; and Tom was
standing on the top of the wall trying to push me down. He had to
"'I'm the king of the castle! Get down, you dirty rascal!'
And somehow I don't know how it was instead of climbing up, I
pushed him backward by mistake, and he went down with an awful
crash into the next garden. We knew it was the garden belonging to
No. 16 quite a large one it is for the hospital hasn't any. And
when at last I managed to scramble on to the wall, there was Tom,
head downward, with his feet sticking up through the roof of a
greenhouse, and the rest of him all among the flower pots."
Raeburn laughed heartily.
"There was a brute of a cactus jammed against my face, too," said
Tom. "How I ever got out alive was a marvel!"
"Well, what happened?" asked Raeburn.
"Why, we went round to tell the No. 16 people. Tom waited outside,
because he was so frightfully cut about, and I went int, and saw an
old, old man a sort of Methusaleh who would ask my name, and
whether I had anything to do with you."
"What did you say to him?"
"I can't remember except that I asked him to let us pay for the
glass by installments, and tried to assure him that secularists
were not in the habit of smashing other people's property. He was
a very jolly old man, and of course he wouldn't let us pay for the
glass though he frightened me dreadfully by muttering that he
shouldn't wonder if the glass and the honesty combined cost him a
"Did you ever see him again?"
"Not to speak to, but we always nodded to each other when we passed
in the square. I've not seen him for ages. I thought he must be
"He is dead," said Raeburn; "and he has left you three hundred
pounds, and he has left me his furnished house, with the sole
proviso that I live in it."
"What a brick!" cried Tom and Erica, in a breath. "Now fancy, if
we hadn't played at 'King of the Castle' that day!"
"And if Erica had not been such a zealous little Republican?" said
"Why, father, the very greenhouse will belong to you; and such a
nice piece of garden! Oh, when can we go and see it, and choose a
nice room for your study?"
"I will see Mr. Woodward's executor tomorrow morning," said
Raeburn. "The sooner we move in the better for there are rocks
"The 'we' refers only to you and Erica," said Aunt Jean, who had
joined them. "Tom and I shall of course stay on here."
"Oh, no, auntie!" cried Erica in such genuine dismay that Aunt Jean
"I don't want you to feel at all bound to have us," she said. "Now
that the worst of the poverty is over, there is no necessity for
"And after you have shared all the discomforts with us, you think
we should go off in such a dog-in-the-mangerish way as that!"
cried Erica. "Besides, it really was chiefly owing to Tom, who was
the one to get hurt into the bargain. "If you won't come, I shall--" she
paused to think of a threat terrible enough "I shall think
again about living with the Fane-Smiths."
This led the conversation back to Greyshot, and they lingered so
long round the fire talking that Raeburn was for once unpunctual,
and kept an audience at least ten minutes waiting for him.
No. 16 Guilford Square proved to be much better inside than a
casual passer in the street would have imagined. Outside, it was
certainly a grim-looking house, but within it was roomy and
comfortable. The lower rooms were wainscoted in a sort of
yellowish-brown color, the upper wainscoted in olive-green. There
was no such thing as a wall paper in the whole house, and indeed it
was hard to imagine, when once inside it, that you were in
nineteenth-century London at all.
Raeburn, going over it with Erica the following evening, was a
little amused to think of himself domiciled in such an old-world
house. Mr. Woodward's housekeeper, who was still taking care of
the place, assured them that one of the leaden pipes outside bore
the date of the seventeenth century, though the two last figures
were so illegible that they might very possibly have stood for
Erica was delighted with it all, and went on private voyages of
discovery, while her father talked to the housekeeper, taking stock
of the furniture, imagining how she would rearrange the rooms, and
planning many purchases to be made with her three hundred pounds.
She was singing to herself for very lightness of heart when her
father called her from below. She rand down again, checking her
inclination to sing as she remembered the old housekeeper, who had
but recently lost her master.
"I've rather set my affections on this room," said Raeburn, leading
her into what had formerly been the dining room.
"The very place where I came in fear and trembling to make my
confession," said Erica, laughing. "This would make a capital
"Yes, the good woman has gone to fetch an inch tape; I want to
measure for the book shelves. How many of my books could I
comfortably house in here, do you think?"
"A good many. The room is high, you see; and those two long,
unbroken walls would take several hundred. Ah! Here is the
measuring tape. Now we can calculate."
They were hard at work measuring when the door bell rang, and Tom's
voice was heard in the passage, asking for Raeburn.
"This way, Tom!" called Erica. "Come and help us!"
But a laughing reference to the day of their childish disaster died
on her lips when she caught sight of him for she knew that
something was wrong. Accustomed all her life to live in the region
of storms, she had learned to a nicety the tokens of rough weather.
"Hazeldine wishes to speak to you," said Tom, turning to Raeburn.
"I brought him round here to save time."
"Oh! All right," said Raeburn, too much absorbed in planning the
arrangement of his treasures to notice the unusual graveness of
Tom's face. "Ask him in here. Good evening, Hazeldine. You are
the first to see us in our new quarters."
Hazeldine bore traces of having lived from his childhood a hard but
sedentary life. He was under-sized and narrow chested. But the
face was a very striking one, the forehead finely developed, the
features clearly cut, and the bright, dark eyes looking out on the
world with an almost defiant honesty, a clearness bordering on
Raeburn, entirely putting aside for the time his own affairs, and
giving to his visitor his whole and undivided attention, saw in an
instant that the man was in trouble.
"Out of work again?" he asked. "Anything gone wrong?"
"No sir," replied Hazeldine; "but I came round to ask if you'd seen
that circular letter. 'Twas sent me this morning by a mate of mine
who's lately gone to Longstaff, and he says that this Pogson is
sowing them broadcast among the hands right through all the
workshops in the place, and in all England, too, for aught he
knows. I wouldn't so much as touch the dirty thing, only I thought
maybe you hadn't heard of it."
Without a word, Raeburn held out his hand for the printed letter.
Erica, standing at a little distance, watched the faces of the
three men Tom, grave, yet somewhat flushed; Hazeldine, with a
scornful glitter in his dark eyes; her father? Last of all she
looked at him and looking, learned the full gravity of this new
trouble. For, as he read, Raeburn grew white, with the marble
whiteness which means that intense anger has interfered with the
action of the heart. As he hastily perused the lines, his eyes
seemed to flash fire; the hand which still held the measuring tape
was clinched so tightly that the knuckle looked like polished
Erica could not ask what was the matter, but she came close to him.
When he had finished reading, the first thing his eye fell upon was
her face turned up to his with a mute appeal which, in spite of the
anxiety in it, made her look almost like a child. He shrank back
as she held out her hand for the letter; it was so foul a libel
that it seemed intolerable to him that his own child should so much
as read a line of it.
"What is it?" she asked at length, speaking with difficulty.
"A filthy libel circulated by that liar Pogson! A string of lies
invented by his own evil brain! Why should I keep it from you? It
is impossible! The poisonous thing is sown broadcast through the
land. You are of age there read it, and see how vile a Christian
He was writhing under the insult, and was too furious to measure
his words. It was only when he saw Erica's brave lip quiver that
he felt with remorse that he had doubled her pain.
She had turned a little away from him, ostensibly to be nearer to
the gas, but in reality that he might not see the crimson color
which surged up into her face as she read. Mr. Pogson was as
unscrupulous as fanatics invariably are. With a view of warning
the public and inducing them to help him in crushing the false
doctrine he abhorred, he had tried to stimulate them by publishing
a sketch of Raeburn's personal character and life, drawn chiefly
from his imagination, or from distorted and misquoted anecdotes
which had for years been bandied about among his opponents, losing
nothing in the process. Hatred of the man Luke Raeburn was his own
great stimulus, and we are apt to judge others by ourselves. The
publication of this letter really seemed to him likely to do great
good, and the evil passions of hatred and bigotry had so inflamed
his mind, that it was perfectly easy for him to persuade himself
that the statements were true. Indeed, he only followed with the
multitude to do evil in this instance, for not one in a thousand
took the trouble to verify their facts, or even their quotations,
when speaking of, or quoting Raeburn. The libel, to put it
briefly, represented Raeburn as a man who had broken every one of
the ten commandments.
Erica read steadily on, though every pulse in her beat at double
time. It was long before she finished it, for a three-fold chorus
was going on in her brain Mr. Pogson's libelous charges; the talk
between her father and Hazeldine, which revealed all too plainly
the harm already done to the cause of Christianity by this one
unscrupulous man; and her own almost despairing cry to the Unseen:
"Oh, Father! How is he ever to learn to know Thee, when such
things as these are done in Thy name?"
That little sheet of paper had fallen among them like a
"I have passed over a great deal," Raeburn was saying when Erica
looked up once more. "But I shall not pass over this! Pogson
shall pay dearly for it! Many thanks, Hazeldine, for bringing me
word; I shall take steps about it at once."
He left the room quickly, and in another minute they heard the
street door close behind him.
"That means an action for libel," said Tom, knitting his brows.
"And goodness only knows what fearful work and worry for the
"But good to the cause in the long run," said Hazeldine. "And as
for Mr. Raeburn, he only rises the higher the more they try to
crush him. He's like the bird that rises out of its own ashes the
phenix, don't they call it?"
Erica smiled a little at the comparison, but sadly.
"Don't judge Christianity by this one bad specimen," she said, as
she shook hands with Hazeldine.
"How do Christians judge us, Miss Erica?" he replied, sternly.
"Then be more just than you think they are as generous as you would
have them be."
"It's but a working-day world, miss, and I'm but a working-day man.
I can't set up to be generous to them who treat a man as though he
was the dirt in the street. And if you will excuse me mentioning
it, miss, I could wish that this shameful treatment would show to
you what a delusion it is you've taken up of late."
"Mr. Pogson can hurt me very much, but not so fatally as that,"
said Erica, as much to herself as to Hazeldine.
When he had gone she picked up the measure once more, and turned to
"Help me just to finish this, Tom," she said. "We must try to move
in as quickly as may be."
Tom silently took the other end of the tape, and they set to work
again; but all the enjoyment in the new house seemed quenched and
destroyed by that blast of calumny. They knew only too well that
this was but the beginning of troubles.
Raeburn, remembering his hasty speech, called Erica into the study
the moment he heard her return. He was still very pale, and with
a curiously rigid look about his face.
"I was right, you see, in my prophecy of rocks ahead," he
exclaimed, throwing down his pen. "You have come home to a rough
time, Erica, and to an overharassed father."
"The more harassed the father, the more reason that he should have
a child to help him," said Erica, sitting down on the arm of his
chair, and putting back the masses of white hair which hung over
"Oh, child!" he said, with a sigh, "if I can but keep a cool head
and a broad heart through the years of trouble before us!"
"Years!" exclaimed Erica, dismayed.
"This affair may drag on almost indefinitely, and a personal strife
is apt to be lowering."
"Yes," said Erica, musingly, "to be libeled does set one's back up
dreadfully, and to be much praised humbles one to the very dust."
"What will the Fane-Smiths say to this? Will they believe it of
"I can't tell," said Erica, hesitatingly.
"'He that's evil deemed is half hanged,'" said Raeburn bitterly.
"Never was there a truer saying than that."
"'Blaw the wind ne'er so fast, it will lown at the last'" quoted
Erica, smiling. "Equally true, PADRE MIO."
"Yes, dear," he said quietly, "but not in my life time. You see if
I let this pass, the lies will be circulated, and they'll say I
can't contradict them. If I bring an action against the fellow,
people will say I do it to flaunt my opinions in the face of the
public. As your hero Livingstone once remarked, 'Isn't it
interesting to get blamed for everything?' However, we must make
the best of it. How about the new house? When can we settle in?
I feel a longing for that study with its twenty-two feet o' length
"What are your engagements?" she asked, taking up a book from the
table. "Eleventh, Newcastle; 12th, Nottingham; 13th and 14th,
Plymouth. Let me see, that will bring you home on Monday, the
15th, and will leave us three clear days to get things straight;
that will do capitally."
"And you'll be sure to see that the books are carefully moved,"
said Raeburn. "I can't have the markers displaced."
Erica laughed. Her father had a habit of putting candle lighters
in his books to mark places for references, and the appearance of
the book shelves all bristling with them had long been a family
joke, more especially as, if a candle lighter happened to be wanted
for its proper purpose, there was never one to be found.
"I will pack them myself," she said.
CHAPTER XXXI. Brian as Avenger
A paleness took the poet's cheek;
"Must I drink here?" he seemed to seek
The lady's will with utterance meek.
"Ay, ay," she said, "it so must be,"
(And this time she spake cheerfully)
"Behooves thee know world's cruelty." E. B. Browning
The trial of Luke Raeburn, on the charge of having published a
blasphemous libel in a pamphlet entitled "Bible Miracles," came on
in the Court of Queen's Bench early in December. It excited a
great deal of interest. Some people hoped that the revival of an
almost obsolete law would really help to check the spread of
heterodox views, and praised Mr. Pogson for his energy and
religious zeal. These were chiefly well-meaning folks, not much
given to the study of precedents. Some people of a more liberal
turn read the pamphlet in question, and were surprised to see that
matter quite as heterodox might be found in many high-class reviews
which lay about on drawing room tables, the only difference being
that the articles in the reviews were written in somewhat ambiguous
language by fashionable agnostics, and that "Bible Miracles" was a
plain, blunt, sixpenny tract, avowedly written for the people by
the people's tribune.
This general interest and attention, once excited, gave rise to the
following results: to an indiscriminate and wholesale condemnation
of "that odious Raeburn who was always seeking notoriety;" to an
immense demand for "Bible Miracles," which in three months reached
its fiftieth thousand; and to a considerable crowd in Westminster
Hall on the first day of the trial, to watch the entrance and exit
of the celebrities.
Erica had been all day in the court. She had written her article
for the "Daily Review: in pencil during the break for luncheon;
but, as time wore on, the heated atmosphere of the place, which was
crammed to suffocation, became intolerable to her. She grew whiter
and whiter, began to hear the voices indistinctly, and to feel as
if her arms did not belong to her. It would never do to faint in
court, and vexed as she was to leave, she took the first
opportunity of speaking to her father.
"I think I must go," she whispered, "I can't stand this heat."
"Come now, then," said Raeburn, "and I can see you out. This
witness has nothing worth listening to. Take notes for me, Tom.
I'll be back directly."
They had only just passed the door leading into Westminster Hall,
however, when Tom sent a messenger hurrying after them. An
important witness had that minute been called, and Raeburn, who
was, as usual, conducting his own case, could not possibly miss the
"I can go alone," said Erica. "Don't stop."
But even in his haste, Raeburn, glancing at the crowd of curious
faces, was thoughtful for his child.
"No," he said, hurriedly. "Wait a moment, and I'll send some one
She would have been wiser if she had followed him back into the
court; but, having once escaped from the intolerable atmosphere,
she was not at all inclined to return to it. She waited where he
had left her, just within Westminster Hall, at the top of the steps
leading from the entrance to the court. The grandeur of the place,
its magnificent proportions, terminating in the great, upward sweep
of steps, and the mellow stained window, struck her more than ever
after coming from the crowded and inconvenient little court within.
The vaulted roof, with its quaintly carved angels, was for the most
part dim and shadowy, but here and there a ray of sunshine,
slanting in through the clerestory windows, changed the sombre
tones to a golden splendor. Erica, very susceptible to all high
influences, was more conscious of the ennobling influence of light,
and space, and beauty than of the curious eyes which were watching
her from below. But all at once her attention was drawn to a group
of men who stood near her, and her thoughts were suddenly brought
back to the hard, every-day world, from which for a brief moment
she had escaped. With a quick, apprehensive glance, she noted that
among them was a certain Sir Algernon Wyte, a man who never lost an
opportunity of insulting her father.
"Did you see the fellow?" said one of the group. "He came to the
door just now."
"And left his fair daughter to be a spectacle to men and angels?"
said Sir Algernon.
Then followed words so monstrous, so intolerable, that Erica,
accustomed as she was to discourtesies, broke down altogether. It
was so heartless, so cruelly false, and she was so perfectly
defenseless! A wave of burning color swept over her face. If she
could but have gone away have hidden herself from those cruel eyes.
But her knees trembled so fearfully that, had she tried to move,
she must have fallen. Sick and giddy, the flights of steps looked
to her like a precipice. She could only lean for support against
the gray-stone moldings of the door way, while tears, which for
once she could not restrain, rushed to her eyes. Oh! If Tom or
the professor, or some one would but come to her! Such moments as
those are not measured by earthly time; the misery seemed to her
agelong though it was in reality brief enough for Brian, coming
into Westminster Hall, had actually heard Sir Algernon's shameful
slander, and pushing his way through the crowd, was beside her
The sight of his face checked her tears. It positively frightened
her by its restrained yet intense passion.
"Miss Raeburn," he said, in a clear, distinct voice, plainly heard
by the group below, "this is not a fit place for you. Let me take
He spoke much more formally than was his wont, yet in his actions
he used a sort of authority, drawing her hand within his arm,
leading her rapidly through the crowd, which opened before them.
For that one bitter-sweet moment she belonged to him. He was her
sole, and therefore her rightful, protector. A minute more, and
they stood in Palace Yard. He hastily called a hansom.
In the pause she looked up at him, and would have spoken her
thanks, but something in his manner checked her. He had treated
her so exactly as if she belonged to him, that, to thank him seemed
almost as absurd as it would have done to thank her father. Then
a sudden fear made her say instead:
"Are you coming home?"
"I will come to see that you are safely back presently," he said,
in a voice unlike his own. "But I must see that man first."
"No, no," she said, beginning to tremble again. "Don't go back.
Please, please don't go!"
"I must," he said, putting her into the hansom. Then, speaking
very gently. "Don't be afraid; I will be with you almost
He closed the doors, gave the address to the driver, and turned
Erica was conscious of a vague relief as the fresh winter wind blew
upon her. She shut her eyes, that she might not see the
passers-by, only longing to get away right away, somewhere beyond
the reach of staring eyes and cruel tongues. One evening years
ago, she remembered coming out of St. James's Hall with Tom, and
having heard a woman in Regent Street insulted in precisely the
same language that had been used to her today. She remembered how
the shrill, passionate cry had rung down the street: "How dare you
insult me!" And remembered, too, how she had wondered whether
perfect innocence would have been able to give that retort. She
knew now that her surmise had been correct. The insult had struck
her dumb for the time. Even now, as the words returned to her with
a pain intolerable, her tears rained down. It seemed to her that
for once she could no more help crying than she could have helped
bleeding when cut.
Then once more her thoughts returned to Brian with a warmth of
gratitude which in itself relieved her. He was a man worth
knowing, a friend worth having. Yet how awful his face had looked
as he came toward her. Only once in her whole life had she seen
such a look on a man's face. She had seen it in her childhood on
her father's face, when he had first heard of a shameful libel
which affected those nearest and dearest to him. She had been far
too young to understand the meaning of it, but she well remembered
that silent, consuming wrath; she remembered running away by
herself with the sort of half-fearful delight of a child's new
discovery "Now I know how men look when they KILL!"
All at once, in the light of that old recollection, the truth
dashed upon her. She smiled through her tears, a soft glow stole
over her face, a warmth found its way to her aching heart. For at
last the love of seven years had found its way to her.
She felt all in a glad tumult as that perception came to her. It
had, in truth, been an afternoon of revelations. She had never
until now in the least understood Brian's character, never in the
least appreciated him. And as to dreaming that his friendship had
been love from the very first, it had never occurred to her.
The revelation did not bring her unalloyed happiness for there came
a sharp pang as she recollected what he had gone back to do. What
if he should get into trouble on her behalf? What if he should be
hurt? Accustomed always to fear for her father actual physical
injury, her thoughts at once flew to the same danger for Brian.
But, however sick with anxiety, she was obliged, on reaching home,
to try and copy out her article, which must be in type and upon
thousands of breakfast tables by the next morning whether her heart
ached or not, whether her life were rough or smooth.
In the meantime, Brian, having watched her cab drive off, turned
back into Westminster Hall. He could see nothing but the one
vision which filled his brain the face of the girl he loved, a
lovely, pure face suffused with tears. He could hear nothing but
that intolerable slander which filled his heart with a burning,
raging indignation. Straight as an arrow and as if by instinct, he
made his way to the place where Sir Algernon and three or four
companions were pacing to and fro. He confronted them, bringing
their walk to an enforced pause.
"I am here to demand an apology for the words you spoke just now
about Miss Raeburn," he said, speaking in a voice which was none
the less impressive because it trembled slightly as with a wrath
restrained only by a great effort.
Sir Algernon, a florid, light-haired man of about thirty," coolly
stared at him for a moment.
"Who may you be, sir, who take up the cudgels so warmly in Miss
"A man who will not hear a defenseless girl insulted," said Brian,
his voice rising. "Apologize!"
"Defenseless girl!" repeated the other in a tone so insufferable
that Brian's passion leaped up like wild fire.
"You vile blackguard!" he cried, "what you said was an infernal
lie, and if you don't retract it this moment, I'll thrash you
within an inch of your life."
Sir Algernon laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
"'Pon my life!" he exclaimed, turning to one of his companions, "if
I'd know that Miss Raeburn--"
But the sentence was never ended for, with a look of fury, Brian
sprung at him, seized him by the collar of his coat, and holding
him like a vise with one hand, with the other brought down his cane
upon the slanderer's shoulders with such energy that the wretch
writhed beneath it.
The on-lookers, being gentlemen and fully aware that Sir Algernon
deserved all he was getting, stood by, not offering to interfere,
perhaps in their hearts rather sympathizing with the stranger whose
righteous indignation had about it a manliness that appealed to
them. Presently Sir Algernon ceased to kick, his struggles grew
fainter. Brian let his right arm pause then, and with his left
flung his foe into the corner as if he had been a mere chattel.
"There!" he exclaimed, "summons me for that when you please." And,
handing his card to one of Sir Algernon's companions, he strode out
of the hall.
By the time he reached Guilford Square he was almost himself again,
a little paler than usual but outwardly quite calm. He went at
once to No. 16. The Raeburns had now been settled in their new
quarters for some weeks, and the house was familiar enough to him;
he went up to the drawing room or, as it was usually called, the
green room. The gas was not lighted, but a little reading lamp
stood upon a table in one of the windows, and the fire light made
the paneled walls shine here and there though the corners and
recesses were all in dusky shadow. Erica had made this the most
home-like room in the house; it had the most beguiling easy chairs,
it had all Mr. Woodward's best pictures, it had fascinating little
tables, and a tempting set of books. There was something in the
sight of the familiar room which made Brian's wrath flame up once
more. Erica's guileless life seemed to rise before him the years
of patient study, the beautiful filial love, the pathetic endeavor
to restrain her child-like impatience of conventionalities lest
scandalmongers should have even a shadow of excuse for slandering
Luke Raeburn's daughter. The brutality of the insult struck him
more than ever. Erica, glancing up from her writing table, saw
that his face again bore that look of intolerable pain which had so
greatly startled her in Westminster Hall.
She had more than half dreaded his arrival, had been wondering how
they should meet after the strange revelation of the afternoon, had
been thinking of the most trite and commonplace remark with which
she might greet him. But when it actually came to the point, she
could not say a word, only looked up at him with eyes full of
"It is all right," he said, answering the mute question, a great
joy thrilling him as he saw that she had been anxious about him.
"You should not have been afraid."
"I couldn't help it," she said, coloring, "he is such a hateful
man! A man who might do anything. Tell me what happened."
"I gave him a thrashing which he'll not soon forget," said Brian.
"But don't let us speak of him any more."
"Perhaps he'll summons you!" said Erica.
"He won't dare to. He knows that he deserved it. What are you
writing? You ought to be resting."
"Only copying out my article. The boy will be here before long."
"I am your doctor," he said, feeling her pulse, and again assuming
his authoritative manner; "I shall order you to rest on your couch
at once. I will copy this for you. What is it on?"
"Cremation," said Erica, smiling a little. "A nice funereal
subject for a dreary day. Generally, if I'm in wild spirits, Mr.
Bircham sends me the very gloomiest subject to write on, and if I'm
particularly blue, he asks for a bright, lively article."
"Oh! He tells you what to write on?"
"Yes, did you think I had the luxury of choosing for myself? Every
day, about eleven o'clock a small boy brings me my fate on a slip
of paper. Let me dictate this to you. I'm sure you can't read
that penciled scribble."
"Yes, I can," said Brian. "You go and rest."
She obeyed him, thankful enough to have a moment's pause in which
to think out the questions that came crowding into her mind. She
hardly dared to think what Brian might be to her, for just now she
needed him so sorely as friend and adviser, that to admit that
other perception, which made her feel shy and constrained with him,
would have left her still in her isolation. After all, he was a
seven years' friend, no mere acquaintance, but an actual friend to
whom she was her unreserved and perfectly natural self.
"Brian," she said presently when he had finished her copying, "you
don't think I'm bound to tell my father about this afternoon, do
A burning, painful blush, the sort of blush that she never ought to
have known, never could have known but for that shameful slander,
spread over her face and neck as she spoke.
"Perhaps not," said Brian, "since the man has been properly
"I think I hope it need never get round to him in any other way,"
said Erica. "He would be so fearfully angry, and just now scarcely
a day passes without bringing him some fresh worry."
"When will the Pogson affair come on?"
"Oh! I don't know. Not just yet, I'm afraid. Things in the legal
world always move at the rate of a fly in a glue pot."
"What sort of man is Mr. Pogson?"
"He was in court today, a little, sleek, narrow-headed man with
cold, gray eyes. I have been trying to put myself in his place,
and realize the view he takes of things; but it is very, very hard.
You don't know what it is to live in this house and see the awful
harm his intolerance is bringing about."
"In what way did you specially mean?"
"Oh! In a thousand ways. It is bringing Christianity into
discredit, it is making them more bitter against it, and who can
wonder. It is bringing hundreds of men to atheism, it is
enormously increasing the demand for all my father's books, and
already even in these few months it has doubled the sale of the
'Idol-Breakers.' In old times that would have been my consolation.
Oh! It is heart-breaking to see how religious people injure their
own cause. Surely they might have learned by this time that
punishment for opinion is never right, that it brings only
bitterness, and misery, and more error! How is one to believe that
this is right that God means all this bigotry and injustice to go
on producing evil?"
"Surely it will teach the sharp lesson that all pain teaches," said
Brian. "We Christians have broken His order, have lost the true
idea of brotherly love, and from this arises pain and evil, which
at last, when it touches our own selfish natures, will rouse us,
wake us up sharply, drive us back of necessity to the true
Christ-following. Then persecution and injustice will die. But we
are so terribly asleep that the evil must grow desperate before we
become conscious of it. It seems to me that bigotry has at least
one mortal foe, though. You are always here; you must show them by
your life what the Father is THAT is being a Christian!"
"I know," said Erica, a look of almost passionate longing dawning
in her eyes. "Oh! What a thing it is to be crammed full of faults
that hinder one from serving! And all these worries do try one's
temper fearfully. If they had but a Donovan to live with them now!
But, as for me, I can't do much, except love them."
Brian loved her too truly to speak words of praise and commendation
at such a time.
"Is not the love the crux of the whole?" he said quietly.
"I suppose it is," said Erica, pushing back her hair from her
forehead in the way she always did when anything perplexed her.
"But just at present my life is a sort of fugue on Browning's line
'How very hard it is to be a Christian?'
Sometimes I can't help laughing to think that there was a time when
I thought the teaching of Christ unpractical! Do you mind ringing
the bell for me; the others will be in directly, and will be glad
of tea after that headachy place."
"Is there nothing else I can do for you?" asked Brian.
"Yes, one thing more help me to remember the levers of the second
order. It's my physiology class tonight, and I feel, as Tom would
express it, like a 'boiled owl.'"
"Let me take the class for you."
"Oh, no, thank you," she replied. "I wouldn't miss it for the
It was not till Brian had left that Erica, taking up the article on
cremation, was struck by some resemblance in the handwriting. She
must have seen Brian's writing before, but only this afternoon did
she make that fresh discovery. Crossing the room she took from one
of the book shelves a dark blue morocco volume, and compared the
writing on the fly leaf with her MS.
"From another admirer of 'Hiawatha.'" There could be no doubt that
Brian had written that. Had he cared for her so long? Had he
indeed loved her all these years? She was interrupted by the maid
bringing in the tea.
"Mr. Bircham's boy is here, miss, and if you please, can cook
speak to you a minute?"
Erica put down the Longfellow and rolled up "Cremation."
"I'm sure she's going to give warning!" she thought to herself.
"What a day to choose for it! That's what I call an anti-climax."
Her forebodings proved all too true. In a minute more in walked
the cook, with the sort of conscious dignity of bearing which means
"I am no longer in your service."
"If you please, miss, I wish to leave this day month."
"I shall be sorry to lose you," said Erica; "what are your reasons
"I've not been used, miss, to families as is in the law courts.
I've been used to the best West End private families."
"I don't see how it can affect you," said Erica, feeling, in spite
of her annoyance, much inclined to laugh.
"Indeed, miss, and it do. There's not a tradesman's boy but has
his joke or his word about Mr. Raeburn," said the cook in an
injured voice. "And last Sunday when I went to the minister to
show my lines, he said a member ought to be ashamed to take service
with a hatheist and that I was in an 'ouse of 'ell. Those was his
very words, miss, an 'ouse of 'ell, he said."
"Then it was exceedingly impertinent of him," said Erica, "for he
knew nothing whatever about it."
After that there was nothing for it but to accept the resignation,
and to begin once more the weary search for that rara avis, "a
good plain cook."
Her interview had only just ended when she heard the front door
open. She listened intently, but apparently it was only Tom; he
came upstairs singing a refrain with which just then she quite
Rhymes very well with jaw,
If you're fond of litigation,
And sweet procrastination,
Latin and botheration,
I advise you to go to law."
"Halloo!" he exclaimed. "So you did get home all right? I like
your way of acting Casabianca! The chieftain sent me tearing out
after you, and when I got there, you had vanished!"
"Brian came up just then," said Erica, "and I thought it better not
to wait. Oh, here comes father."
Raeburn entered as she spoke. No one who saw him would have
guessed that he was an overworked, overworried man, for his face
was a singularly peaceful one, serene with the serenity of a strong
nature convinced of its own integrity.
"Got some tea for us, Eric?" he asked, throwing himself back in a
chair beside the fire.
Some shade of trouble in her face, invisible to any eye but that of
a parent, made him watch her intently, while a new hope which made
his heart beat more quickly sprang up within him. Christians had
not shown up well that day; prosecuting and persecuting Christians
are the most repulsive beings on earth! Did she begin to feel a
flaw in the system she had professed belief in? Might she by this
injustice come to realize that she had unconsciously cheated
herself into a belief? If such things might win her back to him,
might bridge over that miserable gulf between them, then welcome
any trouble, any persecution, welcome even ruin itself.
But had he been able to see into Erica's heart, he would have
learned that the grief which had left its traces on her face was
the grief of knowing that such days as these strengthened and
confirmed him in his atheism. Erica was indeed ever confronted
with one of the most baffling of all baffling mysteries. How was
it that a man of such grand capacities, a man with so many noble
qualities, yet remained in the darkness? One day she put that
question sadly enough to Charles Osmond.
"Not darkness, child, none of your honest secularists who live up
to their creed are in darkness," he replied. "However mistakenly,
they do try to promote what they consider the general good. Were
you in such absolute blackness before last summer?"
"There was the love of Humanity," said Erica musingly.
"Yes, and what is that but a ray of the light of life promised to
all who, to any extent, follow Christ? It is only the absolutely
selfish who are in the black shadow. The honest atheist is in the
penumbra, and in his twilight sees a little bit of the true sun,
though he calls it Humanity instead of Christ."
"Oh, if the shadows would but go!" exclaimed Erica.
"Would!" he said, laughing gently. "Why, child, they will, they
"But now, I mean! 'Here down,' as Mazzini would have said."
"You were ever an impatient little mortal."
"How can one help being impatient for this," she said with a quick
"That is what I used to say myself seven years ago over you," he
said smiling. "But I learned that the Father knew best, and that
if we would work with Him we must wait with Him too. You musn't
waste your strength in impatience, child, you need every bit of it
for the life before you."
But patience did not come by nature to a Raeburn, and Erica did not
gain it in a day even by grace.
CHAPTER XXXII. Fiesole
And yet, because I love thee, I obtain
From that same love this vindicating grace,
To live on still in love, and yet in vain,
To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face. E. B. Browning.
Much has been said and written about the monotony of unalloyed
pleasure, and the necessity of shadows and dark places in life as
well as in pictured landscape. And certainly there can be but few
in this world of stern realities who would dispute the fact that
pleasure is doubled by its contrast with preceding pain. Perhaps
it was the vividness of this contrast that made Raeburn and Erica
enjoy, with a perfect rapture of enjoyment, a beautiful view and a
beautiful spring day in Italy. Behind them lay a very sombre past;
they had escaped for a brief moment from the atmosphere of strife,
from the world of controversy, from the scorching breath of
slander, from the baleful influences of persecution and injustice.
Before them lay the fairest of all the cities of Italy. They were
sitting in the Boboli gardens, and from wooded heights looked down
upon that loveliest of Italian valleys.
The silver Arno wound its way between the green encircling hills;
then between the old houses of Florence, its waters spanned now by
a light suspension bridge token of modern times now by old brown
arches strengthened and restored, now by the most venerable looking
of all the bridges, the Ponte Vecchio, with its double row of
little shops. Into the cloudless blue sky rose the pinnacles of
Santa Croce, the domes of San Spirito, of the Baptistery, of the
Cathedral; sharply defined in the clear atmosphere were the airy,
light Campanile of Giotto, the more slender brown tower of the
Palazzo Vecchio, the spire of Santa Maria Novella. Northward
beyond the city rose the heights of Fiesole, and to the east the
green hills dotted all over with white houses, swept away into the
Raeburn had been selected as the English delegate to attend a
certain political gathering held that year at Florence. He had at
first hesitated to accept the post for his work at home had
enormously increased; but the long months of wearing anxiety had so
told upon him that his friends had at length persuaded him to go,
fully aware that the only chance of inducing him to take any rest
was to get him out of the region of work.
The "Miracles" trial was at length over, but Mr. Pogson had not
obtained the desire of his heart, namely, the imprisonment and
fining of Luke Raeburn. The only results of the trial were the
extensive advertisement of the pamphlet in question, a great
increase of bitterness on each side, and a great waste of money.
Erica's sole consolation lay in the fact that a few of the more
liberal thinkers were beginning to see the evil and to agitate for
a repeal of the Blasphemy Laws. As for the action for libel, there
was no chance of its coming on before June, and in the meantime Mr.
Pogson's letter was obtaining a wider circulation, and perhaps, on
the whole, Luke Raeburn was just at that time the best-abused man
in all England.
There had been a long silence between the father and daughter who
understood each other far too well to need many words at such a
time; but at length a sudden ejaculation from Raeburn made Erica
turn her eye from Fiesole to the shady walk in the garden down
which he was looking.
"Does any Italian walk at such a pace?" he exclaimed. "That must
surely be Brian Osmond or his double in the shape of an English
"Oh, impossible!" said Erica, coloring a little and looking
intently at the pedestrian who was still at some little distance.
"But it is," said Raeburn "height, way of walking, everything! My
dear Eric, don't tell me I can't recognize the man who saved my
life. I should know him a mile off!"
"What can have brought him here?" said Erica, a certain joyous
tumult in her heart checked by the dread of evil tidings a dread
which was but natural to one who had lived her life.
"Come and meet him," said Raeburn. "Ha, Brian, I recognized you
ever so far off, and couldn't persuade this child of your
Brian, a little flushed with quick walking, looked into Erica's
face searchingly, and was satisfied with what he read there
satisfied with the soft glow of color that came to her cheeks, and
with the bright look of happiness that came into her eyes which, as
a rule, were grave, and when in repose even sad in expression.
"I owe this to a most considerate patient who thought fit to be
taken ill at Genoa and to telegraph for me," he said in
explanation; "and being in Italy, I thought I might as well take my
yearly outing now."
"Capital idea!" said Raeburn. "You are the very man we wanted.
What with the meetings and interviews, I don't get much peace even
here, and Erica is much in need of an escort sometimes. How did
you find us?"
"They told me at the hotel that I should probably find you here,
though, if I had known what a wilderness of a place it is I should
have been rather hopeless."
Erica left most of the talking to her father; just then she felt no
wish to put a single thought into words. She wanted only to enjoy
the blissful dream-like happiness which was so new, and rare, and
wonderful that it brought with it the feeling that any very
definite thought or word must bring it to an end. Perfect harmony
with your surroundings. Yes, that was indeed a very true
definition of happiness; and of late the surroundings had been so
grim and stormy. She seemed to tread upon air as they roamed about
the lovely walks. The long, green vistas were to her a veritable
paradise. Her father looked so happy, too, and had so entirely
shaken off his cares, and Brian, who was usually rather silent,
seemed today a perfect fountain of talk.
Since that December day in Westminster Hall a great change had come
over Erica. Not a soul besides Brian and herself knew anything
about the scene with Sir Algernon Wyte. Not a word had passed
between them since upon the subject; but perhaps because of the
silence, that day was all the more in the thoughts of each. The
revelation of Brian's love revealed also to Erica much in his
character which had hitherto perplexed her simply because she had
not seen it in the true light. There had always been about him a
wistfulness bordering on sadness which had sometimes almost angered
her. For so little do even intimate friends know each other, that
lives, which seem all peaceful and full of everything calculated to
bring happiness, are often the ones which are preyed upon by some
grievous trouble or anxiety unknown to any outsider. If he had
indeed loved her all those seven years he must have suffered
fearfully. What the suffering had been Erica could, from her
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