Part 8 out of 10
present position, understand well enough. The thought of it
touched her inexpressibly, seemed to her, as indeed it was, the
shadow of that Divine Love which had loved her eternally had waited
for her through long years had served her and shielded her, though
she never recognized its existence till at length, in one flash of
light, the revelation had come to her, and she had learned the
glory of Love, the murky gloom of those past misunderstandings.
Those were wonderful days that they spent together at Florence, the
sort of days that come but once in a life time; for the joy of dawn
is quite distinct from the bright noon day or the calm evening,
distinct, too, from that second and grander dawn which awaits us in
the Unseen when the night of life is over. Together they wandered
through the long corridors of the Uffizzi; together they returned
again and again to the Tribune, or traversed that interminable
passage across the river which leads to the Pitti Gallery, or
roamed about among the old squares and palaces which are haunted by
so many memories. And every day Brian meant to speak, but could
not because the peace, and restfulness, and glamour of the present
was so perfect, and perhaps because, unconsciously, he felt that
these were "halcyon days."
On Sunday he made up his mind that he certainly would speak before
the day was over. He went with Erica to see the old monastery of
San Marco before morning service at the English church. But,
though they were alone together, he could not bring himself to
speak there. They wandered from cell to cell, looking at those
wonderful frescoes of the Crucifixion in each of which Fra Angelico
seemed to gain some fresh thought, some new view of his
inexhaustible subject. And Brian, watching Erica, thought how that
old master would have delighted in the pure face and perfect
coloring, in the short auburn hair which was in itself a halo, but
could not somehow just then draw her thoughts away from the
frescoes. Together they stood in the little cells occupied once by
Savonarola; looked at the strange, stern face which Bastianini
chiseled so effectively; stood by the old wooden desk where
Savonarola had written and read, saying very little to one another,
but each conscious that the silence was one of perfect
understanding and sympathy. Then came the service in a hideous
church, which yet seemed beautiful to them, with indifferent
singing, which was somehow sweeter to them than the singing of a
trained choir elsewhere.
But, on returning to the hotel, Brian found that his chances for
that day were over for all the afternoon Erica had to receive a
constant succession of visitors who, as she said, turned her father
for the time being into the "British lion." In the evening, too,
when they walked in the Cascine, they were no longer alone.
Raeburn went with then, and as they paced along the broad avenue
with the Arno gleaming through the fresh green of the trees,
talking of the discussions of the past week, he inadvertently
touched the note of pain in an otherwise cloudless day.
"The work is practically over now," he said. "But I think I must
take a day or two to see a little of Florence. I must be at
Salsburg to meet Hasenbalg by Wednesday week. Can you be ready to
leave here on Wednesday, Eric?"
"Oh, yes, father," she said without hesitation or comment but with
something in her voice which told Brian that she, too, felt a pang
of regret at the thought that their days in that city of golden
dreams were so soon to be ended.
The Monday morning, however, proved so perfect a day that it
dispelled the shadow that had fallen on them. Raeburn wished to go
to Fiesole, and early in the morning Brian, having secured a
carriage and settled the terms with the crafty-looking Italian
driver, they set off together. The sunny streets looked sunnier
than ever; the Tornabuoni was as usual lively and bustling; the
flower market at the base of the Palazza Strozzi was gay with pinks
and carnations and early roses. They drove out of the city, passed
innumerable villas, out into the open country where the only blot
upon the fair landscape was a funeral train, the coffin borne by
those gruesome beings, the Brothers of the Misericordia, with their
black robes and black face cloths pierced only with holes for the
"Is it necessary to make death so repulsive?" said Raeburn. "Our
own black hearses are bad enough, but upon my word, I should be
sorry to be carried to my grave by such grim beings!"
He took off his hat, however, as they passed, and that not merely
out of deference to the custom of the country but because of the
deep reverence with which he invariably regarded the dead a
reverence which in his own country was marked by the involuntary
softening of his voice when he alluded to the death of others, the
token of a nature which, though strangely twisted, was in truth
Then began the long ascent, the road, as usual, being lined with
beggars who importunately followed the carriage; while, no sooner
had they reached the village itself than they were besieged by at
least a dozen women selling the straw baskets which are the
specialty of Fiesole.
"Ecco, signor! Ecco signorina! Vary sheep! Vary sheep!" resounded
on all sides, each vendor thrusting her wares forward so that
progress was impossible.
"What a plague this is!" said Raeburn. "They'll never leave you in
peace, Erica; they are too well used to the soft hearted signorina
"Well, then, I shall leave you to settle them," said Erica,
laughing, "and see if I can't sketch a little in the amphitheatre.
They can't torment us there because there is an entrance fee."
"All right, and I will try this bird's eye view of Florence," said
Raeburn, establishing himself upon the seat which stands on the
verge of the hill looking southward. He was very fond of making
pen-and-ink sketches, and by his determined, though perfectly
courteous manner, he at last succeeded in dismissing the basket
Erica and Brian, in the meantime, walked down the steep little path
which leads back to the village, on their way encountering a second
procession of Brothers bearing a coffin. In a few minutes they had
found their way to a quiet garden at the remote end of which, far
from the houses of Fiesole and sheltered on all sides by the green
Apennines, was an old Roman amphitheatre. Grass and flowers had
sprung up now on the arena where in olden times had been fearful
struggles between men and beasts. Wild roses and honeysuckle
drooped over the gray old building, and in between the great blocks
of stone which formed the tiers of seats for the spectators sprung
the yellow celandine and the white star of Bethlehem.
Erica sat down upon one of the stony seats and began to sketch the
outline of the hills and roughly to draw in the foreground the
further side of the amphitheatre and broken column which lay in the
"Would you mind fetching me some water?" she said to Brian.
There was a little trickling stream close by, half hidden by
bramble bushes. Brian filled her glass and watched her brush as
she washed in the sky.
"Is that too blue, do you think?" she asked, glancing up at him
with one of her bright looks.
"Nothing could be too deep for such a sky as this," he replied,
half absently. Then, with a sudden change of tone, "Erica, do you
remember the first day you spoke to me?"
"Under murky London skies very unlike these," she said, laughing a
little, but nervously. "You mean the day when our umbrellas
"You mustn't abuse the murky skies," said Brian, smiling. "If the
sun had been shining, the collision would never have occurred. Oh,
Erica! What a life time it seems since that day in Gower Street!
I little thought then that I should have to wait more than seven
years to tell you of my love, or that at last I should tell you in
a Roman amphitheatre under these blue skies. Erica, I think you
have known it of late. Have you, my darling? Have you known how
I loved you?"
"Yes," she said, looking down at her sketch book with glowing
"Oh! If you knew what a paradise of hope you opened to me that day
last December and how different life has been ever since! Those
were gray years, Erica, when I dared not even hope to gain your
love. But lately, darling, I have hoped. Was I wrong?"
"No," she said with a little quiver in her voice.
"You will love me?"
She looked up at him for a moment in silence, a glorious light in
her eyes, her whole face radiant with joy.
"I do love you," she said softly.
He drew nearer to her, held both her hands in his, waiting only for
the promise which would make her indeed his own.
"Will you be my wife, darling?"
But the words had scarcely passed his lips when a look of anguish
swept over Erica's face; she snatched away her hands.
"Oh! God help me!" she cried. "What have I done? I've been
living in a dream! It's impossible, Brian! Impossible!"
A gray look came over Brian's face.
"How impossible?" he asked in a choked voice.
"I can't leave home," she said, clasping her hands tightly
together. "I never can leave my father."
"I will wait," said Brian, recovering his voice. "I will wait any
time for you only give me hope."
"I can't," she sobbed. "I daren't!"
"But you have given it me!" he exclaimed. "You have said you loved
"I do! I do!" she cried passionately. "But, oh, Brian! Have pity
on me don't make me say it again I must not think of it I can never
be your wife."
Her words were broken with sobs which she could not restrain.
"My darling," he said growing calm and strong again at the sight
of her agitation, and once more possessing himself of her hand,
"you have had a great many troubles lately, and I can quite
understand that just now you could not leave your father. But I
will wait till less troubled times; then surely you will come to
"No," she said quickly as if not daring to pause, "It will always
be the same; there never will be quiet times for us. I can't leave
my father. It isn't as if he had other children I am the only one,
and must stay."
"Is this then to be the end of it all?" cried Brian. "My darling,
you can not be so cruel to me. It can not be the end there is no
end to love and we know that we love each other. Erica, give me
some future to look to some hope."
The terrible pain expressed in every line of his face wrung her
"Oh, wait," she exclaimed. "Give me one moment to think."
She buried her face in her hands, shutting out the sunny Italian
landscape, the very beauty of which seemed to weaken her powers of
endurance. Truly she had been living lately in a golden dream, and
the waking was anguish. Oh, if she had but realized before the
meaning of it all, then she would have hidden her love so that he
never would have guessed it. She would have been to him the Erica
of a year ago, just a friend and nothing more. But now she must
give him the worst of pain, perhaps ruin his whole life. If she
might but give him some promise. What was the right? How were
love and duty to be reconciled?
As she sat crouched up in her misery, fighting the hardest battle
of her life, the bell in the campanile of the village church began
to ring. It was twelve o'clock. All through the land, in
remembrance of the hour when the true meaning of love and sacrifice
was revealed to the human race, there swept now the music of church
bells, bidding the people to pause in their work and pray. Many a
peasant raised his thoughts for a moment from sordid cares or hard
labor, and realized that there was an unseen world. And here in
the Roman amphitheatre, where a conflict more painful than those
physical conflicts of old time was going on, a soul prayed in agony
for the wisdom to see the right and the strength to do it.
When at length Erica lifted her face she found that Brian was no
longer beside her, he was pacing to and fro in the arena; waiting
had grown unbearable to him. She went down to him, moving neither
quickly nor hurriedly, but at the steady "right onward" pace which
suited her whole aspect.
"Brian," she said in a low voice, "do you remember telling me that
day that I must try to show them what the Father is? You must help
me now, not hinder. You will help me just because you do indeed
"You will give me no promise even for the most distant future?"
"I can't," she replied, faltering a little as she saw him turn
deadly white. "If there were any engagement between us, I should
have to tell my father of it; and that would only make our trouble
his and defeat my whole object. Oh, Brian, forgive me, and just
leave me. I can have given you nothing but pain all these years.
Don't let me spoil your whole life!"
His face caught something of the noble purpose which made hers
shine in spite of the sadness.
"Darling," he said quickly, "I can thank God for you though you are
never to be mine. God bless you, Erica."
There was a moment's pause; he still kept her hands in his.
"Tell your father I've gone for a walk over to those hills that I
shall not be home till evening." He felt her hands tremble, and
knew that he only tortured her by staying. "Will you kiss me once,
Erica?" he said.
She lifted a pale steadfast face and quivering lips to his, and
after that one long embrace they parted. When he turned away Erica
stood quite still for a minute in the arena listening to his
retreating footsteps. Her heart, which had throbbed painfully,
seemed now only to echo his steps, to beat more faintly as they
grew less audible. At last came silence, and then she crept up to
the place where she had left her sketch book and paint box.
The whole world seemed sliding away aching desolation overwhelmed
her. Brian's face with its passion and pain rose before her dry,
burning eyes. Then darkness came, blotting out the sunshine; the
little stream trickling into its stony basin seemed to grow into a
roaring cataract, the waters to rush into her ears with a horrid
gurgling; while the stones of the amphitheatre seemed to change
into blocks of ice and to freeze her as she lay.
A few minutes later she gasped her way painfully back to life. All
was very peaceful now; the water fell with its soft tinkling sound,
there was a low hum of insects; beside her stony pillow grew some
stars of Bethlehem, and in between their delicate white and green
she could see the arena and the tiers of seats opposite, and out
beyond the green encircling hills. Golden sunshine lighted up the
dark pines and spirelike cypresses; in the distance there was an
olive garden, its soft, gray-green foliage touched into silvery
The beauty of the scene, which in her struggle had seemed to weaken
and unnerve her, stole now into her heart and comforted her; and
all the time there rang in her ears the message that the bells had
brought her "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the
"Taking a siesta?" said a voice above her. She looked up and saw
"I've rather a headache," she replied.
"Enough to give you one, my child, to lie there in the sun without
an umbrella," he said, putting up his own to shelter her. "Such a
May noonday in Italy might give you a sunstroke. What was your
doctor thinking of to allow it?"
"Brian? Oh, he has gone over to those hills; we are not to wait
for him, he wanted a walk."
"Quite right," said Raeburn. "I don't think he ought to waste his
holiday in Italian cities, he wants fresh air and exercise after
his London life. Where's your handkerchief?"
He took it to the little stream, put aside the overhanging bushes,
dipped it in the water, and bringing it back laid it on her burning
"How you spoil me, PADRE MIO," she said with a little laugh that
was sadder than tears; and as she spoke she slipped down to a lower
step and rested her head on his knee, drawing down one of his
strong hands to shade her eyes. He talked of his sketch, of his
word-skirmish with the basket women, of the view from the
amphitheatre; but she did not much hear what he said, she was
looking at the hand that shaded her eyes. That strong hand which
had toiled for her when she was a helpless baby, the hand to which
she had clung when every out her support had been wrenched away by
death, the hand which she had held in hers when she thought he was
dying, and the children had sung of "Life's long day and death's
All at once she drew it down and pressed it to her lips with a
child's loving reverence. Then she sat up with a sudden return of
"There, now, let us go home," she exclaimed. "My head aches a
little still, but we won't let it spoil our last day but one in
Florence. Didn't we talk of San Miniato for this afternoon?"
It was something of a relief to find, on returning, an invitation
to dinner for that evening which Raeburn could not well refuse.
Erica kept up bravely through the afternoon, but when she was once
more alone her physical powers gave way. She was lying on her bed
sick and faint and weary, and with the peculiarly desolate feeling
which comes to most people when they are ill in a hotel with all
the unheeding bustle going on around them. Then came a knock at
"Entrate," she said quickly, welcoming any fresh voice which would
divert her mind from the weary longing for her mother. A sort of
wild hope sprung up within her that some woman friend would be sent
to her, that Gladys Farrant, or old Mrs. Osmond, or her secularist
friend Mrs. MacNaughton, whom she loved best of all, would suddenly
find themselves in Florence and come to her in her need.
There entered a tall, overworked waiter. He looked first at her,
then at the note in his hand, spelling out the direction with a
"Mess Rabi Rabi Rabi Rabi an?" he asked hesitatingly.
"Grazie," she replied, almost snatching it from him. The color
rushed to her cheeks as she saw the writing was Brian's, and the
instant the waiter had closed the door she tore open the envelope
with trembling hands.
It was a last appeal, written after he had returned from wandering
among the Apennines, worn out in body and shaken from the noble
fortitude of the morning. The strong passionate words woke an
answering thrill in Erica's heart. He asked her to think it all
over once more, he had gone away too hastily. If she could change
her mind, could see any possible hope for the future, would she
write to him? If he heard nothing from her, he would understand
what the silence meant. This was in brief the substance of the
letter, but the words had a passionate, unrestrained intensity
which showed they had been written by a man of strong nature
overwrought by suffering and excitement.
He was here, in the very hotel. Might she not write to him? Might
she not send him some sort of message write just a word of
indefinite hope which would comfort and relieve herself as well as
him? "If I do not hear from you, I shall understand what your
silence means." Ah! But would he understand? What had she said
this morning to him? Scarcely anything the merest broken bits of
sentences, the poorest, coldest confession of love.
Her writing case lay open on the table beside the bed with an
unfinished letter to Aunt Jean, begun before they had started for
Fiesole. She snatched up paper and pen, and trembling so much that
she could scarcely support herself she wrote two brief lines.
"Darling, I love you, and always must love you, first and best."
Then she lay back again exhausted, looking at the poor little weak
words which would not contain a thousandth part of the love in
heart. Yet, though the words were true, would they perhaps convey
a wrong meaning to him? Ought she to send them? On the other hand
would he indeed understand the silence the silence which seemed now
intolerable to her? She folded the note and directed it, the
tumult in her heart growing wilder as she did so. Once more there
raged the battle which she had fought in the amphitheatre that
morning, and she was not so strong now; she was weakened by
physical pain, and to endure was far harder. It seemed to her that
her whole life would be unbearable if she did not send him that
message. And to send it was so fatally easy; she had merely to
ring, and then in a few minutes the note would be in his hands.
It was a little narrow slip of a room; all her life long she could
vividly recall it. The single bed pushed close to the wall, the
writing table with its gay-patterned cloth, the hanging wardrobe
with glass doors, the walls trellised with roses, and on the
ceiling a painting of some white swans eternally swimming in an
ultra-marine lake. The window, unshuttered, but veiled by muslin
curtains, looked out upon the Arno; from her bed she could see the
lights on the further bank. On the wall close beside her was a
little round wooden projection. If it had been a rattlesnake she
could not have gazed at it more fixedly. Then she looked at the
printed card above, and the words written in French and English,
German, and Italian, seemed to fall mechanically on her brain,
though burning thoughts seethed there, too.
"Ring once for hot water, twice for the chamber maid, three times
for the waiter."
Merely to touch that ivory knob, and then by the lightest pressure
of the finger tips a whole world of love and happiness and rest
might open for her, and life would be changed forever.
Again and again she was on the point of yielding, but each time she
resisted, and each resistance made her stronger. At length, with
a fearful effort, she turned her face away and buried it in the
pillow, clinging with all her might to the ironwork of the bed.
For at least an hour the most frightful hour of her life she did
not dare to stir. At last when her hands were stiff and sore with
that rigid grasping, when it seemed as if her heart had been
wrenched out of her and had left nothing but an aching void, she
sat up and tore both Brian's note and her reply into a thousand
pieces; then, in a weary, lifeless way, made her preparations for
But sleep was impossible. The struggle was over forever, but the
pain was but just begun, and she was still a young girl with the
best part of her life stretching out before her. She did not toss
about restlessly, but lay very still, just enduring her misery,
while all the every-day sounds came to her from without laughter in
the next room from two talkative American girls, doors opening and
shutting, boots thrown down, electric bells rung, presently her
father's step and voice.
"Has Miss Raeburn been up long?"
"Sairtenlee, sair, yes," replied the English-speaking waiter. "The
signorina sleeps, doubtless."
Then came a pause, and in another minute her father's door was
closed and locked.
Noisy parties of men shouting out some chorus sung at one of the
theatres passed along the Lung' Arno, and twanging mandolins
wandered up and down in the moonlight. The sound of that harshest
and most jarring of all musical instruments was every after hateful
to her. She could not hear one played without a shudder.
Slowly and wearily the night wore on. Sometimes she stole to the
window, and looked out on the sleeping city, on the peaceful Arno
which was bathed in silvery moonlight, and on the old, irregular
houses, thinking what struggles and agonies this place had
witnessed in past times, and realizing what an infinitesimal bit of
the world's sufferings she was called to bear. Sometimes she
lighted a candle and read, sometimes prayed, but for the most part
just lay still, silently enduring, learning, though she did not
think it, the true meaning of pain.
Somewhat later than usual she joined her father the next morning in
the coffee room.
"Brian tells me he is off today," was Raeburn's greeting. "It
seems that he must see that patient at Genoa again, and he wants to
get a clear fortnight in Switzerland."
"Is it nor rather early for Switzerland?"
"I should have thought so, but he knows more about it than I do.
He has written to try to persuade your friend, Mr. Farrant, to join
him in the Whitsuntide recess."
"Oh, I am glad of that," said Erica, greatly relieved.
Directly after breakfast she went out with her father, going first
of all to French's bank, where Raeburn had to change a circular
"It is upstairs," he said as they reached the house. "Don't you
trouble to come up; you'll have stairs enough presently at the
"Very well," she replied, "I will wait for you here."
She stood in the doorway looking out thoughtfully at the busy
Tornabuoni and its gay shops; but in a minute a step she knew
sounded on the staircase, and the color rushed to her cheeks.
"I have just said goodbye to your father," said Brian. "I am
leaving Florence this morning. You must forgive me for having
written last night. I ought not to have done it, and I understood
He spoke calmly, in the repressed voice of a man who holds "passion
in a leash." Erica was thankful to have the last sight of him thus
calm and strong and self-restrained. It was a nobler side of love
than that which had inspired his letter nobler because freer from
thought of self.
"I am so glad you will have Donovan," she said. "Goodbye."
He took her hand in his, pressed it, and turned away without a
CHAPTER XXXIII. "Right Onward"
Therefore my Hope arose
From out her swound and gazed upon Thy face.
And, meeting there that soft subduing look
Which Peter's spirit shook
Sunk downward in a rapture to embrace
Thy pierced hands and feet with kisses close,
And prayed Thee to assist her evermore
To "reach the things before." E. B. Browning
"I'm really thankful it is the last time I shall have to get this
abominable paper money," said Raeburn, coming down the stairs.
"Just count these twos and fives for me, dear; fifteen of each
there should be."
At that moment Brian had just passed the tall, white column
disappearing into the street which leads to the Borgo Ogni Santi.
Erica turned to begin her new chapter of life heavily handicapped
in the race for once more that deadly faintness crept over her, a
numbing, stifling pressure, as if Pain in physical form had seized
her heart in his cold clasp. But with all her strength she fought
against it, forcing herself to count the hateful little bits of
paper, and thankful that her father was too much taken up with the
arrangement of his purse to notice her.
"I am glad we happened to meet Brian," he remarked; "he goes by an
earlier train that I thought. Now, little son Eric, where shall we
go? We'll have a day of unmitigated pleasure and throw care to the
winds. I'll even forswear Vieusseux; there won't be much news
"Let us take the Pitti Palace first," said Erica, knowing that the
fresh air and the walk would be the only chance for her.
She walked very quickly with the feeling that, if she were still
for a single moment, she should fall down. And, luckily, Raeburn
thought her paleness accounted for by yesterday's headache and the
wakeful night, and never suspected the true state of the case. On
they went, past fascinating marble shops and jewelers' windows
filled with Florentine mosaics, across the Ponte Vecchio, down a
shady street, and into the rough-hewn, grim-looking palace. It was
to Erica like a dream of pain, the surroundings were so lovely, the
sunshine so perfect, and her own heart so sore.,
But within that old palace she found the true cure for sore hearts.
She remembered having looked with Brian at an "Ecce Home," by Carlo
Dolci and thought she would like to see it again. It was not a
picture her father would have cared for, and she left him looking
at Raphael's "Three Ages of Man," and went by herself into the
little room which is called the "Hall of Ulysses." The picture was
a small one and had what are considered the usual faults of the
painter, but it was the first "Ecce Homo" that Erica had ever cared
for; and, whatever the shortcomings of the execution, the ideal was
a most beautiful one. The traces of physical pain were not brought
into undue prominence, appearing not at all in the face, which was
full of unutterable calm and dignity. The deep, brown eyes had the
strange power which belongs to some pictures; they followed you all
over the room there was no escaping them. They were hauntingly sad
eyes, eyes in which there lurked grief unspeakable; not the grief
which attends bodily pain, but the grief which grieves for others
the grief which grieves for humanity, for its thousand ills and
ignorances, its doubts and denials, its sins and sufferings. There
was no bitterness in it, no restlessness, no questioning. It was
the grief of a noble strong man whose heart is torn by the thought
of the sin and misery of his brothers, but who knows that the
Father can, and will, turn the evil into the means of glorious
As Erica looked, the true meaning of pain seemed to flash upon her.
Dimly she had apprehended it in the days of her atheism, had clung
to the hope that the pain of the few brought the gain of the many;
but now the hope became certainty, the faith became open vision.
For was it not all here, written in clearest characters, in the
life of the Ideal Man? And is not what was true for him, true for
us too? We talk much about "Christ our example," and struggle
painfully along the uphill road of the "Imitation of Christ,"
meaning by that too often a vague endeavor to be "good," to be
patient, to be not entirely absorbed in the things which are seen.
But when pain comes, when the immense misery and evil in the world
are borne in upon us, we too often stumble, or fail utterly, just
because we do not understand our sonship; because we forget that
Christians must be sin-bearers like their Master, pain bearers
like their Master; because we will let ourselves be blinded by the
mystery of evil and the mystery of pain, instead of fixing our eyes
as Christ did, on the joy that those mysteries are sure to bring.
"Lo, I come to do Thy will." And what is the will of even a good
earthly father but the best possible for all his children?
Erica saw for the first time that no pain she had ever suffered had
been a wasted thing, nor had it merely taught her personally some
needful lesson; it had been rather her allotted service, her share
of pain-bearing, sin-bearing, Christ-following; her opportunity of
doing the "Will" not self-chosen, but given to her as one of the
best of gifts by the Father Himself.
"Oh, what a little fool I've been!" she thought to herself with the
strange pang of joy which comes when we make some discovery which
sweetens the whole of life, and which seems so self-evident that we
can but wonder and wonder at our dense stupidity in not seeing it
sooner. "I've been grudging Brian what God sees he most wants!
I've been groaning over the libels and injustices which seem to
bring so much pain and evil when, after all, they will be, in the
long run, the very things to show people the need of tolerance, and
to establish freedom of speech."
Even this pain of renunciation seemed to gain a new meaning for her
though she could not in the least fathom it; even the unspeakable
grief of feeling that her father was devoting much of his life to
the propagation of error, lost its bitterness though it retained
its depth. For with the true realization of Fatherhood and Sonship
impatience and bitterness die, and in their place rises the peace
which "passeth understanding."
"We will have a day of unmitigated pleasure," her father had said
to her, and the words had at the time been like a sharp stab. But,
after all, might not this pain, this unseen and dimly understood
work for humanity, be in very truth the truest pleasure? What
artist is there who would not gratefully receive from the Master an
order to attempt the loftiest of subjects? What poet is there
whose heart would not bound when he knew he was called to write on
the noblest of themes? All the struggles, all the weary days of
failure, all the misery of conscious incompleteness, all the agony
of soul these were but means to the end, and so inseparably bound
up with the end that they were no more evil, but good, their
darkness over flooded with the light of the work achieved.
Raeburn, coming into the room, saw what she was looking at, and
turned away. Little as he could understand her thoughts, he was
not the sort of man to wound unnecessarily one who differed from
him. His words in public were sharp and uncompromising; in debate
he did not much care how he hit as long as he hit hard. But, apart
from the excitement of such sword play, he was, when convinced that
his hearers were honest Christians, genuinely sorry to give them
Erica found him looking at a Sevres china vase in which he could
not by any possibility have been interested.
"I feel Mr. Ruskin's wrathful eye upon me," she said, laughing.
"Now after spending all that time before a Carlo Dolci, we must
really go to the Uffizzi and look at Botticelli's 'Fortitude."
Brian and I nearly quarreled over it the last time we were there."
So they wandered away together through the long galleries, Erica
pointing out her favorite pictures and hearing his opinion about
them. And indeed Raeburn was as good a companion as could be
wished for in a picture gallery. The intense development of the
critical faculty, which had really been the bane of his existence,
came here to his aid for he had a quick eye for all that was
beautiful both in art and nature, and wonderfully keen powers of
observation. The refreshment, too, of leaving for a moment his
life of excessive toil was great; Erica hoped that he really did
find the day, for once, "unmitigated pleasure."
They went to Santa Croce, they walked through the crowded market,
they had a merry dispute about ascending the campanile.
"Just this one you really must let me try," said Erica, "they say
it is very easy."
"To people without spines perhaps it may be," said Raeburn.
"But think of the view from the top," said Erica, "and it really
won't hurt me. Now, padre mio, I'm sure it's for the greatest
happiness of the greatest number that I should go up!"
"It's the old story," said Raeburn, smiling,
'Vain is the hope, by any force or skill, To stem the current of a
woman's will; For if she will, she will, you may depend on't, And
if she won't, she won't, and there's an end on't.'
However, since this is probably the last time in our lives that we
shall have the chance, perhaps, I'll not do the tyrannical father."
They had soon climbed the steep staircase and were quite rewarded
by the magnificent view from the top, a grand panorama of city and
river and green Apennines. Erica looked northward to Fiesole with
a fast-throbbing heart. Yet it seemed as if half a life time lay
between the passion-tossed yesterday and the sad yet peaceful
present. Nor was the feeling a mere delusion; she had indeed in
those brief hours lived years of the spirit life.
She did not stay long at that northern parapet; thoughts of her own
life or even of Brian's would not do just then. She had to think
of her father, to devote herself to him. And somehow, though her
heart was sad, yet her happiness was real as they tried together to
make out the various buildings; and her talk was unrestrained, and
even her laughter natural, not forced; for it is possible to those
who really love to throw themselves altogether into the life of
another, and to lay aside all thought of self.
Once or twice that day she half feared that her father must guess
all that had happened. He was so very careful of her, so
considerate; and for Raeburn to be more considerate meant a great
deal for in private he was always the most gentle man imaginable.
His opponents, who often regarded him as a sort of "fiend in human
shape," were strangely mistaken in their estimate of his character.
When treated with discourtesy or unfairness in public, it was true
that he hit back again, and hit hard; and, since even in the
nineteenth century we are so foolish as to use these weapons
against the expression of opinions we deem mischievous, Raeburn had
had a great deal of practice in this retaliation. He was a very
proud and a very sensitive man, not blessed with overmuch patience.
But he held his opinions honestly and had suffered much for them;
he had a real love for humanity and an almost passionate desire to
better his generation. To such a man it was no light thing to be
deemed everything that is vile; like poor Shelley, he found it
exceedingly bitter to let "murderers and traitors take precedence
of him in public opinion." People in general took into account all
his harsh utterances (and some of them were very harsh), but they
rarely thought anything about the provocation received, the
excessively hard life that this man had lived, the gross personal
insults which he had had to put up with, the galling injustice he
had had to fight against. Upon this side of the question they just
turned their backs, pooh-poohed it, or, when it was forced upon
their notice, said (unanswerable argument!): "It wouldn't be so!"
When, as they were making the descent, Erica found the strong hand
stretched out for hers the moment the way grew dark, when she was
warned of the slightest difficulty by, "Take care, little one, a
narrow step," or, "'Tis rather broken here," she almost trembled to
think that, in spite of all her efforts, he might have learned how
matters really were. But by and by his serenity reassured her; had
he thought that she was in trouble his face would not have been so
And in truth Raeburn, spite of his keen observation, never thought
for a moment of the true state of the case. He was a very literal
unimaginative man, and having once learned to regard Brian as an
old family friend and as his doctor, he never dreamed of regarding
him in the light of his daughter's lover. Also, as is not
unfrequently the case when a man has only one child, he never could
take in the fact that she was quite grown up. Even when he read
her articles in the "Daily Review," or discussed the most weighty
topics with her, she was always "little son Eric," or his "little
one." And Erica's unquenchable high spirits served to keep up the
delusion. She would as often as not end a conversation on
Darwinism by a romp with Friskarina, or write a very thoughtful
article on "Scrutin de Liste," and then spring up from her desk and
play like any child with an India-rubber ball nominally kept for
She managed to tide over those days bravely and even cheerfully for
her father's sake. It was easier when they had left Florence with
its overbright and oversad memories. Peaceful old Verona was more
in accordance with her state of mind; and from thence they went to
Trento, and over the Brenner, passing Botzen and Brixen in their
lovely valley, gaining a brief glimpse of the spire-like Dolomito,
and gradually ascending the pass, leaving the river and its yellow
reeds, and passing through the rich pasture land where the fields
were bright with buttercups and daisies gold and silver of the
people's property as Raeburn called them. Then on once more
between crimson and purple porphyry mountains, nearer and nearer to
the snowy mountain peaks; and at last, as the day drew to an end,
they descended again, and saw down below them in the loveliest of
valleys a little town, its white houses suffused by a crimson
"Innsbruck, madame, Innsbruck!" said a fat old Tyrolean man who had
been showing them all the beauties of his beloved country
throughout the journey.
And, though nothing could ever again have for Erica the sweet
glamour of an Italian city, yet she was glad now to have seen the
last of that sunny land, and welcomed the homely little place with
its matter-of-fact houses and prosperous comfort. She felt somehow
that it would be easier to endure now that she was fairly out of
The day after their arrival at Innsbruck was Sunday. There was no
English service as yet for the season had not begun, but Erica went
to the little Lutheran church, and Raeburn, who had never been to
a Lutheran service, went with her for the sake of studying the
congregation, the preacher, and the doctrine. Also, perhaps,
because he did not want her to feel lonely in a foreign place.
All her life long Erica remembered that Sunday. The peaceful
little church with its high pews, where they sat to sing and stood
to pray, the homely German pastor with his plain yet forcible
sermon on "Das Gebet,": the restful feeling of unity which so
infinitely outweighed all the trifling differences, and the comfort
of the sweet old German chorales. The words of one of them
lingered always in her memory.
"Fuhlt Seel und Leib ein Wohl ergehen
So treib es mich zum Dank dafur;
Last du mich deine Werke sehen,
So sey mein Ruhmen stets von dir;
Und find ich in der Welt nicht Ruh,
So steig mein Schmen Hinmel zu."
After the service was ended, they wandered out into the public
gardens where birds were singing round the statue of Walter von der
Vogelveice, and a sparrow, to Erica's great delight, perched on his
very shoulder. Then they left the town altogether and roamed out
into the open country, crossing the river by a long and curiously
constructed plank bridge, and sauntering along the valley beneath
the snowy mountains, the river flowing smoothly onward, the birds
singing, and a paradise of flowers on every side. It was quite the
hottest day they had had, and they were not sorry to rest in the
first shady place they came to.
"This is the right way to take pleasure," said Raeburn, enjoying as
only an ardent lover of Nature can enjoy a mountain view. "Brief
snatches in between hard work. More than that is hardly admissible
in such times as ours." His words seemed to them prophetic later
on for their pleasure was destined to be even briefer than they had
anticipated. The hotel at which they were staying was being
painted, Erica had a room on the second floor, but Raeburn had been
put at the top of the house. They had just returned from a long
drive and were quietly sitting in Erica's room writing letters,
thinking every moment that the gong would sound for the six-o'clock
TABLE D'HOTE, when a sound of many voices outside made Raeburn look
up. He went to the window.
"Haloo! A fire engine!" he exclaimed.
Erica hastily joined him; a crowd was gathering beneath the window,
shouting, waving, gesticulating.
"Why, they are pointing up here!" cried Erica. "The fire must be
She rushed across the room and opened the door; the whole place was
in an uproar, people rushing to and fro, cries of "FEUER! FEUER!"
a waiter with scared face hurrying from room to room with the
announcement in broken English, "The hotel is on fire!" or,
sometimes in his haste and confusion, "The fire is on hotel!" For
a moment Erica's heart stood still; the very vagueness of the
terror, the uncertainty as to the extent of the danger or the
possibility of escape, was paralyzing. Then with the natural
instinct of a book lover she hastily picked up two or three volumes
from the table and begged her father to come. He made her put on
her hat and cloak, and shouldering her portmanteau, led the way
through the corridors and down the staircase, steadily forcing a
passage through the confused and terrified people, and never
pausing for an instant, not even asking the whereabouts of the
fire, till he had got Erica safely out into the little platz and
had set down her portmanteau under one of the trees.
They looked up then and saw that the whole of the roof and the
attics of the hotel were blazing. Raeburn's room was immediately
below and was in great danger. A sudden thought seemed to occur to
him, a look of dismay crossed his face, he felt hurriedly in his
"Where did I change my coat, Erica?" he asked.
"You went up to your room to change it just before the drive," she
"Then, by all that's unlucky, I've left in it those papers for
Hasenbalg! Wait here; I'll be back in a minute."
He hurried off, looking more anxious than Erica had ever seen him
look before. The papers which he had been asked to deliver to Herr
Hasenbalg in no way concerned him, but they had been intrusted to
his care and were, therefore, of course more to be considered than
the most valuable private property. Much hindered by the crowd and
by the fire engine itself which had been moved into the entrance
hall, he at length succeeded in fighting his way past an unceasing
procession of furniture which was being rescued from the flames,
and pushing his way up the stairs, had almost gained his room when
a pitiful cry reached his ears. It was impossible to a man of
Raeburn's nature not to turn aside; the political dispatches might
be very important, but a deserted child in a burning house
outweighed all other considerations. He threw open the door of the
room whence the cry had come; the scaffolding outside had caught
fire, and the flames were darting in at the window. Sitting up in
a little wooden cot was a child of two or three years old, his baby
face wild with fright.
"Poor bairn!" exclaimed Raeburn, taking him in his strong arms.
"Have they forgotten you?"
The child was German and did not understand a word, but it knew in
a moment that this man, so like a fairy-tale giant, was a rescuer.
"Guter Riese!" it sobbed, appealingly.
The "good giant" snatched a blanket from the cot, rolled it round
the shivering little bit of humanity, and carried him down into the
"Keep this bairnie till his belongings claim him," he said,
putting his charge into Erica's arms. And then he hurried back
again, once more ran the gantlet of the descending wardrobes and
bedsteads, and at last reached his room. It was bare of all
furniture; the lighter things his coat among them had been thrown
out of the window, the more solid things had been carried down
stairs. He stood there baffled and for once in his life
Half-choked with the smoke, he crossed the room and looked out of
the window, the hot breath of the flames from the scaffolding
scorching his face. But looking through that frame of fire, he saw
that a cordon had been drawn round the indiscriminate piles of
rescued property, that the military had been called out, and that
the most perfect order prevailed. There was still a chance that he
might recover the lost papers! Then, as there was no knowing that
the roof would not fall in and crush him, he made the best of his
way down again among the still flowing stream of furniture.
An immense crowd had gathered in the square outside; the awe-struck
murmurs and exclamations sounded like the roar of distant thunder,
and the shouts of "WASSER! WASSER!" alternated with the winding of
bugles as the soldiers moved now in one direction, now in another,
their bright uniforms and the shining helmets of the fire brigade
men flashing hither and thither among the dark mass of spectators.
Overhead the flames raged while the wind blew down bits of burning
tinder upon the crowd. Erica, wedged in among the friendly
Tyrolese people, watched anxiously for her father, not quite able
to believe his assurance that there was no danger. When at length
she saw the tall commanding figure emerge from the burning hotel,
the white head towering over the crowd, her heart gave a great
bound of relief. But she saw in a moment that he had been
"It must have been thrown out of the window," he said, elbowing his
way up to her. "The room was quite bare, carpet and all gone,
nothing to be found but these valuables," and with a smile, he held
up the last number of the "Idol-Breaker," and a tooth brush.
"They are taking great care of the things," said Erica. "Perhaps
we shall find it by and by."
"We must find it," said Raeburn, his lips forming into the curve of
resoluteness which they were wont to assume when any difficulty
arose to be grappled with. "What has become of the bairn?"
"A nurse came up and claimed it and was overwhelmingly grateful to
you for your rescue. She had put the child to bed early and had
gone for a walk in the gardens. Oh, look, how the fire is
"The scaffolding is terribly against saving it, and the wind is
high, too," said Raeburn, scanning the place all over with his keen
eyes. Then, as an idea seemed to strike him, he suddenly hurried
forward once more, and Erica saw him speaking to two fire brigade
men. In another minute the soldiers motioned the crowd further
back, Raeburn rejoined Erica, and, picking up her portmanteau, took
her across the road to the steps of a neighboring hotel. "I've
suggested that they should cut down the scaffolding," he said; "it
is the only chance of saving the place."
The whole of the woodwork was now on fire; to cut it down was a
somewhat dangerous task, but the men worked gallantly, and in a few
minutes the huge blazing frame, with its poles and cross poles,
ladders and platforms, swayed, quivered, then fell forward with a
crash into the garden beyond.
Raeburn had, as usual, attracted to himself the persons most worth
talking to in the crowd, a shrewd-looking inhabitant of Innsbruck,
spectacled and somewhat sallow, but with a face which was full of
intellect. He learned that, although no one could speak positively
as to the origin of the fire, it was more than probable that it had
been no mere accident. The very Sunday before, at exactly the same
hour, a large factory had been entirely destroyed by fire, and it
needed no very deep thinker to discover that a Sunday evening, when
every one would be out-of-doors keeping holiday, and the fire
brigade men scattered and hard to summon, was the very time for
incendiarism. They learned much from the shrewd citizen about the
general condition of the place, which seemed outwardly too peaceful
and prosperous for such wild and senseless outbreaks.
"If, as seems probable, this is the act of some crazy socialist, he
has unwittingly done harm to the cause of reform in general," said
Raeburn to Erica when the informant had passed on. "Those papers
for Hasenbalg were important ones, and, if laid hold of by
unfriendly hands, might do untold harm. Socialism is the most
foolish system on earth. Inevitably it turns to this sort of
violence when the uneducated have seized on its main idea.
"After all, I believe they will save the house," said Erica. "Just
look at those men on the top, how splendidly they are working!"
It was, in truth, a grand, though a very horrible sight to see the
dark forms toiling away, hewing down the burning rafters with an
absolute disregard to their personal safety. These were not
firemen, but volunteers chimney-sweeps, as one of the crowd
informed Raeburn and it was in the main owing to their exertions
that the fire was at length extinguished.
After the excitement was over, they went into the neighboring
hotel, where there was some difficulty in obtaining rooms, as all
the burned-out people had taken refuge there. However, the utmost
hospitality and friendliness prevailed, and even hungry Englishmen,
cheated of their dinner, were patient for once, while the overtaxed
waiters hurried to and fro, preparing for the second and quite
unexpected table d'hote. Everyone had something to tell either of
his escape or his losses. One lady had seen her night gown thrown
out of the window, and had managed adroitly to catch it; some one
else on rushing up to find his purse had been deluged by the fire
engine, and Raeburn's story of the little German boy excited great
interest. The visitors were inclined to make a hero of him. Once,
when he had left the room, Erica heard a discussion about him with
no little amusement.
"Who is the very tall, white-haired man?"
"The man who saved the child? I believe he must be the Bishop of
Steneborough; he is traveling in the Tyrol, I know, and I'm sure
that man is a somebody. So much dignity, and such power over
everybody! Didn't you see the way the captain of the fire brigade
deferred to him?"
"Well, now I think of it," replied the other, "he has an earnest,
devotional sort of face, perhaps you're right. I'll speak to him
when he comes back. Ah!" in a lower voice, "there he is! And
Confound it! He's got no gaiters! Goodbye to my visions of
life-long friendship and a comfortable living for Dick!"
In spite of his anxiety about the lost packet, Raeburn laughed
heartily over Erica's account of this conversation. He had
obtained leave to search the deserted hotel, and a little before
ten o'clock they made their way across the square, over planks and
charred rafters, broken glass, and pools of water, which were hard
to steer through in the darkness. The fire was now quite out, and
they were beginning to move the furniture in again, but the place
had been entirely dismantled, and looked eerie and forlorn. On the
staircase was a decapitated statue, and broken and crushed plants
were strewn about. Erica's room was quite bare of furniture, nor
could she find any of the things she wanted. The pen with which
she had been writing lay on the floor, and also a Japanese fan
soaked with water, but neither of these were very serviceable
articles to a person bereft of every toilet requisite.
"I shall have to lie down tonight like a dog, and get up in the
morning, and shake myself," she said, laughing.
And probably a good many people in Innsbruck were that evening in
Notwithstanding the discomforts, however, and the past excitement,
that was the first night in which Erica had really slept since the
day at Fiesole, the first night unbroken by dreams about Brian,
unhaunted by that blanched, rigid face, which had stamped its image
indelibly upon her brain in the amphitheatre. She awoke, too,
without that almost intolerable dread of the coming day which had
hitherto made early morning hateful to her. It was everything to
have an actual and practicable duty ready to hand, everything to
have a busy present which would crowd out past and future, if only
for a few hours. Also, the disaster had its comic side. Through
the thin partition she could hear distinctly the complaints of the
people in the next room.
"How ARE we to get on with no soap? Do go and see if James has
Then came steps in the passage, and a loud knock at the opposite
No answer. A furiously loud second knock.
"What's the matter? Another fire?"
"Have you any soap?"
"Any what?" sleepily.
Apparently James was not the happy possessor of that necessary of
life for the steps retreated, and the bell was violently rung.
"'What, no soap?'" exclaimed Erica, laughing; "'so he died, and she
very imprudently married the barber, etc.'"
The chamber maid came to answer the bell.
"Send some one to the nearest shop, please, and get me some soap."
"And a sponge," said another.
"And a brush and comb," said the first.
"Oh! And some hair pins," echoed the other. "Why, destruction!
She doesn't understand a word! What's the German for soap? Give me
"Well, then, show her the soap dish! Brush your hair with your
hands! This is something between Drum Crambo and Mulberry Bush!"
The whole day was not unlike a fatiguing game of hide-and-seek, and
had it not been for Raeburn's great anxiety, it would have been
exceedingly amusing. Everything was now inside the hotel again,
but of course in the wildest confusion. The personal property of
the visitors was placed, as it came to light, in the hall porter's
little room; but things were to be met with in all directions. At
ten o'clock, one of Raeburn's boots was found on the third story;
in the evening, its fellow turned up in the entrance hall.
Distracted tourists were to be seen in all directions, burrowing
under heaps of clothes, or vainly opening cupboards and drawers,
and the delight of finding even the most trifling possession was
great. For hours Raeburn and Erica searched for the lost papers in
vain. At length, in the evening, the coat was found; but, alas!
The pocket was empty.
"The envelope must have been taken out," said Erica. "Was it
"Unfortunately, yes," said Raeburn. "But, after all, there is
still a chance that it may have tumbled out as the coat fell. If
so, we may find it elsewhere. I've great faith in the honesty of
these Innsbruck people, notwithstanding the craze of some of them
that property is theft. That worthy man yesterday was right, I
expect. I hear that the proprietor had had a threatening letter
not long ago to this effect:
"'Sein thun unser Dreissig, Schuren thun wir fleissig. Dem Armen
that's nichts Dem Reichen schad's nichts.
That is tolerably unmistakable, I think. I'll have it in next
week's 'Idol,' with an article on the folly of socialism."
Judicious offers of reward failed to bring the papers to light, and
Raeburn was so much vexed about it, and so determined to search
every nook and cranny of the hotel, that it was hard to get him
away even for meals. Erica could not help feeling that it was hard
that the brief days of relaxation he had allowed himself should be
so entirely spoiled.
"Now, if I were a model daughter, I should dream where to find the
thing," she said, laughingly, as she wished him good night.
She did not dream at all, but she was up as soon as it was light,
searching once more with minute faithfulness in every part of the
hotel. At length she came to a room piled from floor to ceiling
with linen, blankets, and coverlets.
"Have all these been shaken?" she asked of the maid servant who had
been helping her.
"Well, not shaken, I think," owned the servant. "We were in a
hurry, you see; but they are all fresh folded."
"It might have slipped into one of them," said Erica. "Help me to
shake every one of these, and I will give you two gulden."
It was hard work, and somewhat hopeless work; but Erica set about
it with all the earnestness and thoroughness of her Raeburn nature,
and at length came her reward. At the very bottom of the huge pile
they came to a counterpane, and, as they opened it, out fell the
large, thick envelope directed to Herr Hasenbalg. With a cry of
joy, Erica snatched it up, pressed double the reward into the hands
of the delighted servant, and flew in search of her father. She
found him groping in a great heap of miscellaneous goods in the
"I've found my razors," he said, looking up, "and every
twopenny-halfpenny thing out of my traveling bag; but the papers,
of course, are nowhere."
"What's your definition of 'nowhere'?" asked Erica, laughingly
covering his eyes while she slipped the envelope into his hand.
His look of relief made her happier than she had been for days. He
stood up quickly, and turned the envelope over to see that it had
not been tampered with.
"This is my definition of a dear, good bairn," he said, putting his
hand on her head. "You have taken a hundred-weight off my heart,
Eric. Where did you find it?"
She described her search to him.
"Well, now, nothing will satisfy me but a mountain," said Raeburn.
"Are you too tired? We could have a good climb before dinner."
"Oh, let us!" she exclaimed. "I have had such a longing to get
nearer the snow."
Each felt that the holiday had now begun. They threw care to the
winds, and gave themselves up altogether to the enjoyment of the
loveliest walk they had ever taken. Crossing the Kreuzer bridge,
they made their way past little wooden chalets, through groves of
oak where the sunlight came flickering in between the leaves,
through pine woods whose long vistas were solemn as cathedral
aisles, until at last they gained the summit of the lower range of
hills, from which was a glorious view on every hand. Down below
lay the little town which would be forever memorable to them; while
above them rose the grand chain of snowy mountains which still
seemed as lofty and unapproachable as ever, though they themselves
were on high ground. Soft and velvety and green lay that great
upward sweep in the sunshine, shaded in some places by a dark patch
of pines, or gleaming with a heap of fallen snow. Here and there
some deep rugged cleft would be filled from top to bottom with the
gleaming whiteness, while above, crowning the steep and barren
height, the snow reigned supreme, unmelted as yet even by the hot
And Erica was, in spite of her sorrow, unfeignedly happy. She could
not be sad when her father was so thoroughly enjoying himself, when
for once he was altogether removed from the baleful influences of
hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. Here instead of sweeping
denunciations, which invariably drove him, as they drove even the
patient Job, to an assertion of his own righteousness there was
the silent yet most real teaching of Nature; and he must be a
small-souled man, indeed, who, in the presence of grand mountain
scenery, can not forget his own personality, realizing the infinite
beauty and the unspeakable greatness of nature. Erica's father was
unquestionably a large-souled man, in every sense of the word, a
great man; but the best man in the world is to a great extent
dependent on circumstance, and the circumstances of Raeburn's life
had been exceptionally hard. Only two things on earth acted as a
check upon the one great fault which marred an otherwise fine
character. Beauty of scenery made him for the time being as humble
as a child, and the devotion of his own followers sometimes made
him ask himself whether he were worthy of such love.
The following day the papers, which had caused them so much trouble
and anxiety, were safely delivered to Herr Hasenbalg at Salzburg;
and then came one more perfect holiday. In the months that
followed, Erica loved just to shut her eyes and forget a sad or
stormy present, to call up once more the remembrance of that time.
To the minutest details she always remembered it. The start in the
early morning, which had seemed cloudy and unpromising, the long,
beautiful drive to Berchtesgaden, and on beyond to the Konigsee.
The perfect and unbroken calm of that loveliest of lakes, so
jealously guarded by its chain of mountains that only in two places
is it possible to effect a landing. The dark pines and silvery
birches clothing the sides of the mountains; the gray limestone
cliffs rising step and sheer from the water, in which their slim,
green skiff glided swiftly on, the oars, which were more like long,
brown spades, pulled by a man and woman, who took it in turns to
sit and stand; the man with gay tie and waistband, Tyrolese hat and
waving feather; the woman wearing a similar hat over a gayly
embroidered head-dress, ample white sleeves, a square-cut bodice,
and blue plaid skirt.
Here and there a group of light-green larches just caught the
sunshine, or a little boat coming in the opposite direction would
suddenly glide round one of the bends in the lake, its oars
splashing a wide line of silvery brightness in the calm water, in
vivid contrast to the dark-blue prow. Then, as they rounded one of
the abrupt curves came a glorious view of snow mountains blue
shadows below, and above, in the sunshine, the most dazzling
whiteness, while close to the water from the sheer precipice of
gray rock, sprung here and there a hardy pine.
They landed beside a quaint little church with cupolas, and had an
exquisite walk through the woods just at the foot of the mountains
where the wealth of gentians and other Alpine flowers made
Raeburn's felicity complete.
Presently came the return to the little boat, and a quiet row back
to the landing place where their carriage awaited them. And then
followed the delightful drive home, past the river which tossed its
green waters here and there into snow-like wreaths of foam, over
quaint and shaky wooden bridges, between gray rocks and groves of
plane trees whose trunks were half veiled in golden-brown moss.
Then on beneath a hill catching faraway glimpses of a darkened and
mysterious sky through the forest of stems. Then past larger and
taller pine trees which, standing further apart, let in more sky,
and left space for the brown earth to be flecked with sunshine.
And here, in the most peaceful of all country regions, they met a
handsome-looking peasant in gay Tyrolean attire much adorned with
silver chains since it was Ascension day and a festival. He was
leading by the hand his little daughter.
"That is a peaceful lot," said Raeburn glancing at them. "Would we
like to change places with them, little son Eric?"
She laughed and shook her head and fell, nevertheless, into a
reverie, wondering what such a character as her father's would have
been under less hard circumstances, trying to picture a possible
life in that sheltered green valley. All was so perfectly
peaceful; the very river grew broader and calmer, cattle grazed by
the road side, women walked slowly along with their knitting in
their hands, the fruit trees were white with blossom. As they
reached the pretty village of Berchtesgaden the sun was setting,
the square comfortable-looking white houses with their broad, dark
eaves and balconies were bathed in a rosy glow, the two spires of
the little church stood out darkly against the evening sky; in the
platz women were filling their pitchers at a stone fountain made in
the shape of a rampant lion while others were kneeling before the
calvary at the entrance to the village, praying with the reverence
which is one of the characteristics of the Tyrolese. Towering
above all in the background rose the two Wartzmann peaks, standing
there white and majestic like guardian angels.
"What foolish being called seven the perfect number?" said
Raeburn, turning back from a last look at the twin mountains which
were now assuming their cloud caps. "Two is the perfect number, is
it not, little one?"
She smiled and slipped her hand into his.
Then came a wild, desolate part of the road, which passed through
a valley shut in on all sides by mountains, some of them snowy, all
wild and precipitous, and looking strangely desolate in the falling
light. Erica could not help contrasting it with the view from the
amphitheatre at Fiesole, of that wider amphitheatre of green hills
all glowing with light and love. But presently came more peaceful
glimpses; pretty little Schellenburg with its serpentine river
winding again and again through the village street, and the
happy-looking peasants chatting at their doors with here and there
a white-capped baby made much of by all.
At last in the cool of the evening they reached Salsburg once more.
But the pleasures of the day were not yet over for as they drew up
at the door of their hotel a well-known figure suddenly emerged
from the porch and hurried toward the carriage.
"Unexpected as a meteor," said a hearty voice in slightly foreign
accents. "Well, my good friend, well my guardian angel, how are
you both? We meet under more auspicious circumstances this time!"
It was Eric Haeberlein.
CHAPTER XXXIV. The Most Unkindest Cut of All
Those who persecuted them supposed of course that they were
defending Christianity, but Christianity can be defended in no such
way. It forbids all persecution all persecution for the sake of
religion. Force cannot possibly propagate the truth or produce the
faith, or promote the love in which the gospel consists. . . .
Persecution can never arise from zeal for the Gospel as truth from
zeal for the Gospel properly understood. If ever due to zeal in
any measure, and not to pride, selfishness, anger, ambition, and
other hateful lusts . . . It must be to a zeal which is in
alliance with error. . . . The men (atheists) therefore, who, by
their courage and endurance were specially instrumental in
convincing their countrymen that persecution for the avowal and
advocacy even of atheism is a folly and a crime, have really
rendered a service to the cause of Christian truth, and their names
will not be recorded without honor when the history of our century
is impartially written. Baird Lectures, 1877. R. Flint, D.D.,
Professor of Divinity, Edinburgh.
A few days later the brief holiday ended, and father and daughter
were both hard at work again in London. They had crossed from
Antwerp by night and had reached home about ten o'clock to find the
usual busy life awaiting them.
Tom and Aunt Jean, who had been very dull in their absence, were
delighted to have them back again; and though the air was thick
with coming troubles, yet it was nevertheless a real home coming,
while Erica, in spite of her hidden sorrow, had a very real
enjoyment in describing her first foreign tour. They were making
a late breakfast while she talked, Raeburn being more or less
absorbed in the "Daily Review."
"You see, such an early newspaper is a luxury now," said Erica.
"Not that he's been behaving well abroad. He promised me when we
started that he'd eschew newspapers altogether and give his brain
an entire rest; but there is a beguiling reading room at Florence,
and there was no keeping him away from it."
"What's that? What are you saying?" said Raeburn, absently.
"That very soon, father, you will be as absent-minded as King
Stars-and-Garters in the fairy tale, who one day, in a fit of
abstraction, buttered his newspaper and tried to read his toast."
Raeburn laughed and threw down the "Daily Review."
"Saucier than ever, isn't she, Tom? Well, we've come back to a few
disagreeables; but then we've come back, thank man! To roast beef
and Turkey towels, and after kickshaws and table napkins, one knows
how to appreciate such things."
"We could have done with your kickshaws here," said Tom. "If you
hadn't come back soon, Erica, I should have gone to the bad
altogether, for home life, with the cook to cater for one, is
intolerable. That creature has only two ideas in her head. We
rang the changes on rice and stewed rhubarb. The rhubarb in its
oldest stage came up four days running. We called it the widow;'s
curse! Then the servants would make a point of eating onions for
supper so that the house was insufferable. And at last we were
driven from pillar to post by a dreadful process called house
cleaning in which, undoubtedly, life is not worth living. In the
end, Mr. Osmond took pity on me and lent me Brian's study. Imagine
heretical writings emanating from that room!"
This led the conversation round to Brian's visit to Florence, and
Erica was not sorry to be interrupted by a note from Mr. Bircham,
requesting her to write an article on the Kilbeggan murder. She
found that the wheels of the household machinery would need a good
deal of attention before they would move as smoothly as she
generally contrived to make them. Things had somehow "got to
wrongs" in her absence. And when at length she thought everything
was in train and had got thoroughly into the spirit of a
descriptive article on the Irish tragedy, the cook of two ideas
interrupted her with what seemed, in contract, the most trivial
"If you please, miss," she said, coming into the green room, just
as the three villains in black masks were in the act of killing
their victim, "I thought you'd wish to know that we are wanting a
new set of kitchen cloths; and if you'll excuse me mentioning it,
miss, there's Jane, miss, using glass cloths as tea cloths, and
dusters as knife cloths."
Erica looked slightly distracted, but diverted her mind from the
state of Ireland to the state of the household linen, and, when
left alone once more, laughed to herself at the incongruity of the
It was nearly a fortnight before Brian returned from Switzerland.
Erica knew that he was in the well-known house on the opposite side
of the square, and through the trees in the garden, they could see
each the other's place of residence. It was a sort of
nineteenth-century version of the Rhine legend, in which the knight
of Rolandseek looked down upon Nomenwerth where his lady love was
immured in a convent.
She had rather dreaded the first meeting, but, when it came, she
felt nothing of what she had feared. She was in the habit of going
on Sunday morning to the eight o'clock service at the church in the
square. It was nearer than Charles Osmond's church, and the hour
interfered less with household arrangements. Just at the corner of
the square on the morning of Trinity Sunday, she met Brian. Her
heart beat quickly as she shook hands with him, but there was
something in his bearing which set her entirely at her ease after
just the first minute. He looked much older, and a certain
restlessness in look and manner had quite left him, giving place to
a peculiar calm not unlike his father's expression. It was the
expression which a man wears when he has lost the desire of his
heart, yet manfully struggles on, allowing no bitterness to steal
in, facing unflinchingly the grayness of a crippled life. Somehow,
joining in that thanksgiving service seemed to give them the true
key-note for their divided lives. As they came out into the porch,
he asked her a question.
"You are an authority on quotations, I know; my father wants to
verify one for his sermon this morning. Can you help him? It is
'Revealed in love and sacrifice,
The Holiest passed before thine eyes,
One and the same, in threefold guise.'"
"It is Whittier, I know," said Erica, promptly; "and I think it is
in a poem called 'Trinitas.' Come home with me, and we will hunt
So they walked back together silently, and found the poem, and at
Raeburn's request Brian stayed to breakfast, and fell back
naturally into his old place with them all.
The following day Raeburn had to attend a meeting in the north of
England; he returned on the Tuesday afternoon, looking, Erica
fancied, tired and overdone.
"Railway journeys are not quite the rest they once were to me," he
confessed, throwing himself down in a chair by the open window
while she brought him some tea. "This is very beguiling, little
one; but see, I've all these letters to answer before five."
"Your train must have been very late."
"Yes, there was a block on the line, and we stopped for half an
hour in the middle of a bean field bliss that a Londoner can't
"Did you get out?"
"Oh, yes, and sat upon the fence and meditated to the great
delectation of my olfactory nerves."
Erica's laugh was checked by a knock at the door. The servant
announced that a gentleman wanted to see Miss Raeburn.
"Some message from Mr. Bircham, I expect," said Erica to her
father. "Ask him upstairs, please. I only hope he doesn't want me
to write another article at the eleventh hour. If it's the little
Irish sub-editor, you must be very polite to him, father, for he
has been kind to me."
But it was no message from the "Daily Review" office; a perfect
stranger was shown into the room.
He bowed slightly as he entered.
"Are you Miss Erica Raeburn?" he asked, coming toward her.
"I am," she replied. "What is your business with me?"
"I have to place this document in your hands."
He gave her a paper which she rapidly unfolded. To her dying day
she could always see that hateful bit of foolscap with its
alternate printing and writing. The words were to this effect:
Writ Subpoena Ad Test, at Sittings of High Court. IN THE HIGH COURT
OF JUSTICE, QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION. Between Luke Raeburn,
Plaintiff, and William Henry Pogson, Defendant VICTORIA, by the
Grace of God, of the United kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,
Queen, Defender of the Faith, To Erica Raeburn, greeting. We
command you to attend at the sittings of the Queen's Bench division
of our High Court of Justice to be holden at Westminster on
Tuesday, the Twentieth day of June, 18__, at the hour of half past
Ten in the forenoon, and so from day to day during the said
sittings, until the above cause is tried, to give evidence on
behalf of the Defendant. Witness, etc., etc.
Erica read the paper twice before she looked up; she had grown
white to the very lips. Raeburn, recognizing the form of a
subpoena, came hastily forward, and in the merest glance saw how
matters were. By no possibility could the most malicious of
opponents have selected a surer means of torturing him.
"Is this legal?" asked Erica, lifting to him eyes that flashed with
"Oh, it is legal," he replied bitterly "the pound of flesh was
legal. A wife need not appear against her husband, but a daughter
may be dragged into court and forced to give evidence against her
As he spoke, such anger flashed from his eyes that the clerk
shivered all down his backbone. He thought he would take his
departure as quickly as might be, and drawing a little nearer, put
down a coin upon the table beside Erica.
"This fee is to cover your expenses, madame," he said.
"What!" exclaimed Erica, her anger leaping up into a sudden flame,
"do you think I shall take money from that man?"
She had an insane desire to snatch up the sovereign and fling it at
the clerk's head, but restraining herself merely flicked it back
across the table to him, just touching it with the back of her hand
as though it had been polluted.
"You can take that back again," she said, a look of scorn sweeping
over her face. "Tell Mr. Pogson that, when he martyrs people he
need not say: 'The martyrdom will make you hungry here is luncheon
money,' or 'The torture will tire you here is your cab fare!'"
"But, madame, excuse me," said the clerk, looking much embarrassed.
"I must leave the money, I am bound to leave it."
"If you leave it, I shall just throw it into the fireplace before
your eyes," said Erica. "But if indeed it can't be sent back, then
give it to the first gutter child you meet do anything you like
with it! Hang it on your watch chain as a memento of the most
cruel case your firm every had to do with!"
Her color had come back again, her cheeks were glowing, in her
wrath she looked most beautiful; the clerk would have been less
than human if he had not felt sorry for her. There was a moment's
silence; he glanced from the daughter to the father, whose face was
still pale and rigid. A great pity surged up in the clerk's heart.
He was a father himself; involuntarily his thoughts turned to the
little home at Kilburn where Mary and Kitty would be waiting for
him that evening. What if they should ever be forced into a
witness box to confirm a libel on his personal character? A sort
of moisture came to his eyes at the bare idea. The counsel for the
defense, too, was that Cringer, Q. C., the greatest bully that ever
wore silk. Then he glanced once more at the silent, majestic
figure with the rigid face, who, though an atheist, was yet a man
and a father.
"Sir," he said, with the ring of real and deep feeling in his
voice, "sir, believe me, if I had known what bringing this subpoena
meant, I would sooner have lost my situation!"
Raeburn's face relaxed; he spoke a few courteous, dignified words,
accepting with a sort of unspoken gratitude the man's regret, and
in a few moments dismissing him. But even in these few moments the
clerk, though by no means an impressionable man, had felt the
spell, the strange power of fascination which Raeburn invariably
exercised upon those he talked with that inexplicable influence
which made cautious, hard-headed mechanics ready to die for him,
ready to risk anything in his cause.
The instant the man was gone, Raeburn sat down at Erica's writing
table and began to answer his letters. His correspondents got very
curt answers that day. Erica could tell by the sound of his pan
how sharp were the down strokes, how short the rapidly written
"Can I help you?" she asked, drawing nearer to him.
He hastily selected two or three letters not bearing on his
anti-religious work, gave her directions, then plunged his pen in
the ink once more, and went on writing at lightning speed. When at
length the most necessary ones were done, he pushed back his chair,
and getting up began to pace rapidly to and fro. Presently he
paused and leaned against the mantel piece, his face half shaded by
Erica stole up to him silently.
"Sometimes, Eric," he said abruptly, "I feel the need of the word
'DEVIL!' My vocabulary has nothing strong enough for that man."
She was too heartsick to speak; she drew closer to him with a mute
"Eric!" he said, holding her hands between his, and looking down at
her with an indescribably eager expression in his eyes, "Eric,
surely NOW you see that this persecuting religion, this religion
which has been persecuting innumerable people for hundreds of
years, is false, worthless, rotten to the core. Child! Child!
Surely you can't believe in a God whose followers try to promote
His glory by sheer brutality like this?"
It was the first time he had spoken to her on this subject since
their interview at Codrington. They had resolved never to touch
upon it again; but a sort of consciousness that some good must come
to him through this new bitterness, a hope that it must and would
reconvince his child, impelled Raeburn to break his resolution.
"I could sooner doubt that you are standing here, father, with your
arm round me," said Erica, "than I could doubt the presence of your
Father and mine the All-Father."
"Even though his followers are such lying scoundrels as that
Pogson? What do you make of that? What do you think of that?"
"I think," she replied quietly, "that my father is too just a man
to judge Christianity by the very worst specimen of a Christian to
be met with. Any one who does not judge secularism by its very
best representatives, dead or living, is unfair and what is unfair
in one case is unfair in another."
"Well, if I judged it by you, perhaps I might take a different view
of it," said Raeburn. "But then you had the advantage of some
years of secularism."
"Not by me!" cried Erica. "How can it seem anything but very
faulty when you judge it only by faulty people? Why not judge it
by the life and character of Christ?"
Raeburn turned away with a gesture of impatience.
"A myth! A poetic creation long ago distorted out of its true
proportions! There, child, I see we must stop. I only pain you
and torture myself by arguing the question."
"One more thing," said Erica, "before we go back to the old
silence. Father, if you would only write a life of Christ I mean,
a really complete life; the one you wrote years ago was scarcely
more than a pamphlet."
He smiled, knowing that she thought the deep study necessary for
such an undertaking would lead to a change in his views.
"My dear," he said, "perhaps I would; but just see how I am
overdone. I couldn't write an elaborate thing now. Besides, there
is the book on the Pentateuch not half finished though it was
promised months ago. Perhaps a year or two hence when Pogson gives
me time to draw a long breath, I'll attempt it; but I have an idea
that one or other of us will have to be 'kilt intirely' before that
happy time arrives. Perhaps we shall mutually do for each other,
and reenact the historical song." And, with laughter in his eyes,
"There once were two cats of Kilkenny, Each thought there was one
cat too many, So they quarreled and spit, and they scratched and
they bit, Till, excepting their nails and the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats, there weren't any."
Erica smiled faintly, but sighed the next minute.
"Well, there! It's too grave a matter to jest about," said
Raeburn. "Oh, bairn! If I could but save you from that brute's
malice, I should care very little for the rest."
"Since you only care about it for my sake, and I only for yours,
I think we may as well give up caring at all," said Erica, looking
up at him with a brave smile. "And, after all, Mr. Cringer, Q. C.
can only keep me in purgatory for a few hours at the outside.
Don't you think, too, that such a cruel thing will damage Mr.
Pogson in the eyes of the jury?"
"Unfortunately, dear, juries are seldom inclined to show any
delicate considerateness to an atheist," said Raeburn.
And Erica knew that he spoke truly enough.
No more was said just then. Raeburn began rapidly to run through
his remaining correspondence a truly miscellaneous collection.
Legal letters, political letters, business letters requests for his
autograph, for his help, for his advice a challenge from a
Presbyterian minister in the north of Scotland to meet him in
debate; the like from a Unitarian in Norfolk; a coffin and some
insulting verses in a match box, and lastly an abrasive letter from
a clergyman, holding him responsible for some articles by Mr.
Masterman, which he had nothing whatever to do with, and of which
he in fact disapproved.
"What would they think, Eric, if I insisted on holding the Bishop
of London responsible for every utterance of every Christian in the
diocese?" said Raeburn.
"They would think you were a fool," said Erica, cutting the coffin
into little bits as she spoke.
Raeburn smiled and penciled a word or two on the letter the pith of
a stinging reply.
CHAPTER XXXV. Raeburn v. Pogson
Oh, God of mountains, stars, and boundless spaces!
Oh, God of freedom and of joyous hearts!
When Thy face looketh forth from all men's faces
There will be room enough in crowded marts.
Brood Thou around me, and the noise is o'er;
Thy universe my closet with shut door.
Heart, heart, awake! The love that loveth all
Maketh a deeper calm than Horeb's cave.
God in thee, can His children's folly gall?
Love may be hurt, but shall not love be brave?
Thy holy silence sinks in dews of balm;
Thou art my solitude, my mountain calm. George MacDonald
When a particularly unpleasant event has long been hanging over
one's head, sure to come at some time, though the precise date is
unknown, people of a certain disposition find it quite possible to
live on pretty comfortably through the waiting time. But when at
length the date is fixed, when you know that that which you dread
will happen upon such and such a day, then the waiting begins all
at once to seem intolerable. The vague date had been awaited
calmly, but the certain date is awaited with a wearing anxiety
which tells fearfully on physical strength. When Erica knew that
the action for libel would begin in a fortnight's time, the
comparative calmness of the nine months which had passed since the
outset of the matter gave place to an agony of apprehension. Night
after night she had fearful dreams of being cross-examined by Mr.
Cringer, Q.C., who always forced her to say exactly what she did
not mean. Night after night coldly curious eyes stared down at her
from all parts of a crowded court; while her misery was completed
by being perfectly conscious of what she ought to have said
directly it was too late.
By day she was too wise to allow herself to dwell on the future;
she worked doubly hard, laid in a stock of particularly interesting
books, and threw herself as much as possible into the lives of
others. Happily, the Farrants were in town, and she was able to
see a great deal of them; while on the very day before the trial
came a substantial little bit of happiness.
She was sitting in the study doing some copying for her father when
a brougham stopped at the door. Erica, who never failed to
recognize a horse if she had once seen it before, who even had
favorites among the dozens of omnibus horses which she met daily in
Oxford Street, at once knew that either Donovan or Gladys had come
to see her.
She ran out into the hall to meet them, but had no sooner opened
the study door than the tiniest of dogs trotted into the room and
began sniffing cautiously at her father's clothes.
"Tottie has made a very unceremonious entrance," said a clear,
mellow voice in the passage. "May we come in, or are you too busy
"Oh, please come in. Father is home, and I do so want you to
meet," said Erica. "You have brought Dolly, too! That is
delightful. We are dreadfully in want of something young and happy
to cheer us up."
The two men shook hands with the momentary keen glance into each
other's eyes which those give who have heard much of one another
but have never been personally acquainted.
"As to Dolly," said Donovan, "she requires no introduction to Mr.
"No," said Erica, laughing, "she cried all over his coat two years
Dolly did not often wait for introductions unless she disliked
people. And no child could have found it in its heart to dislike
anything so big and kind and fatherly as Luke Raeburn.
"We blought a little dog for Elica," she said, in her silvery
And the next moment she was established on Raeburn's knee,
encouraged to thrust a little, dimpled hand into his pocket for
certain Edinburgh dainties.
"Dolly does not beat about the bush," said Donovan, smiling.
"Would you at all care to have this small animal? I knew you were
fond of dogs, and Gladys and I saw this little toy Esquimanx the
other day and fell in love with him. I find though that another
dog rather hurts Waif's feelings, so you will be doing a kindness
to him as well if you will accept 'Tottie.'"
"Oh, how delightful of you! It was kind of you to think of it,"
said Erica. "I have always so longed to have a dog of my own. And
this is such a little beauty! Is it not a very rare breed?"
"I believe it is, and I think he's a loving little beggar, too,"
replied Donovan. "He is making himself quite at home here, is he
And in truth the small dog seemed deeply interested in his new
residence. He was the tiniest of his kind, and was covered with
long black hair which stood straight up on end; his pointed nose,
bright brown eyes, and cunning little ears, set in the frame work
of bushy hair, gave him a most sagacious appearance. And just now
he was brimful of curiosity, pattering all over the room, poking
his nose into a great pile of "Idol-Breakers," sniffing at
theological and anti-theological books with perfect impartiality,
rubbing himself against Raeburn's foot in the most ingratiating
way, and finally springing up on Erica's lap with the oddest
mixture of defiance and devotion in his eyes which said as plainly
as if he had spoken: "People may say what they like about you, but
I'm your faithful dog from this day forward!"
Raeburn was obliged to go out almost directly as he had an
appointment in the city, but Erica knew that he had seen enough of
Donovan to realize what he was and was satisfied.
"I am so glad you have just met," she said when he had left the
room. "And, as to Dolly, she's been a real god-send. I haven't
seen my father smile before for a week."
"Strange, is it not, how almost always children instinctively take
to those whom the world treats as outcasts. I have a great belief
that God lets the pure and innocent make up in part by their love
for the uncharitableness of the rest of us."
"That's a nice thought," said Erica. "I have never had much to do
with children, except with this one." And as she spoke she lifted
Dolly on her lap beside Tottie.
"I have good reason to believe in both this kind and that," said
Donovan, touching the dusky head of the dog and the sunny hair of
the child. As he spoke there was a look in his eyes which made
Erica feel inclined almost to cry. She knew that he was thinking
of the past though there was no regret in his expression, only a
shade of additional gravity about his lips and an unusual light
about his brow and eyes. It was the face of a man who had known
both the evil and the good, and had now reached far into the
By and by they talked of Switzerland and of Brian, Donovan telling
her just what she wanted to know about him though he never let her
feel that he knew all about the day at Fiesole. And from that they
passed to the coming trial of which he spoke in exactly the most
helpful way, not trying to assure her, as some well-meaning people
had done, that there was really nothing to be grieved or anxious
about; but fully sympathizing with the pain while he somehow led
her on to the thought of the unseen good which would in the long
run result from it.
"I do believe that now, with all my heart." she said.
"I knew you did," he replied, smiling a little. "You have learned
it since you were at Greyshot last year. And once learned it is
"Yes," she said musingly. "But, oh! How slowly one learns in such
little bits. It's a great mistake to think that we grasp the whole
when the light first comes to us, and yet it feels then like the
"Because it was the whole you were then capable of," said Donovan.
"But, you see, you grow."
"Want to grow, at any rate," said Erica. "Grow conscious that
there is an Infinite to grow to."
Then, as in a few minutes he rose to go:
"Well, you have done me good, you and Dolly, and this blessed
little dog. Thank you very much for coming."
She went out with them to the door and stood on the steps with
Tottie in her arms, smiling a goodbye to little Dolly.
"That's the bravest woman I know," thought Donovan to himself, "and
the sweetest save one. Poor Brian! Though, after all, it's a
grand thing to love such as Erica even without hope."
And all the afternoon there rang in his ears the line
"A woman's soul, most soft, yet strong."
The next day troubles began in good earnest. They were all very
silent at breakfast. Raeburn looked anxious and preoccupied, and
Erica, not feeling sure that conversation would not worry him, did
not try to talk. Once Aunt Jean looked up for a moment from her
paper with a question.
"By the bye, what are you going to wear, Erica?"
"Sackcloth, I think," said Erica; "it would be appropriate."
Raeburn smiled a little at this.
"Something cool, I should advise," he said. "The place will be
like a furnace today."
He pushed back his chair as he spoke and went away to his study.
Tom had to hurry away, too, being due at his office by nine
o'clock; and Erica began to rack her brains to devise the nicest of
dinners for them that evening. She dressed in good time, and was
waiting for her father in the green room when just before ten
o'clock the front door opened, quick steps came up the stairs, and,
to her amazement, Tom entered.
"Back again!" she exclaimed. "Have you got a holiday?"
"I've got my conge'," he said in a hoarse voice, throwing himself
down in a chair by the window.
"Tom! What do you mean?" she cried, dismayed by the trouble in his
"Got the sack," he said shortly.
"What! Lost your situation? But how? Why?"
"I was called this morning into Mr. Ashgrove's private room; he
informed me that he had just learned with great annoyance that I
was the nephew of that (you can supply his string of abusive
adjectives) Luke Raeburn. Was it true? I told him I had that
honor. Was I, then, an atheist? Certainly. A Raeburnite?
Naturally. After which came a long jobation, at the end of which
I found myself the wrong side of the office door with orders never
to darken it again, and next month's salary in my hand. That's the
matter in brief, CUGINA."
His face settled into a sort of blank despair so unlike its usual
expression that Erica's wrath flamed up at the sight.
"It's a shame!" she cried "a wicked shame! Oh, Tom dear, I am so
sorry for you. I wish this had come upon me instead."
"I wouldn't care so much," said poor Tom huskily, "if he hadn't
chosen just this time for it; but it will worry the chieftain now."
Erica was on the verge of tears.
"Oh, what shall we do what can we do?" she cried almost in despair.
"I had not thought of that. Father will feel it dreadfully."
But to conceal the matter was now hopeless for, as she spoke,
Raeburn came into the room.
"What shall I feel dreadfully?" he said, smiling a little. "If any
man ought to be case-hardened, I ought to be."
But as he drew nearer and saw the faces of the two, his own face
grew stern and anxious.
"You at home, Tom! What's the matter?"
Tom briefly told his tale, trying to make as light of it as
possible, even trying to force a little humor into his account, but
with poor success. There was absolute silence in the green room
when he paused. Raeburn said not a word, but he grew very pale,
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