Part 9 out of 10
evidently in this matter being by no means case-hardened. A
similar instance, further removed from his immediate circle, might
have called forth a strong, angry denunciation; but he felt too
deeply anything affecting his own family or friends to be able in
the first keenness of his grief and anger to speak.
"My boy," he said at last, in a low, musical voice whose perfect
modulations taxed Tom's powers of endurance to the utmost, "I am
very sorry for this. I can't say more now; we will talk it over
tonight. Will you come to Westminster with us?"
And presently as they drove along the crowded streets, he said with
a bitter smile:
"There's one Biblical woe which by no possibility can ever befall
"What's that?" said Tom.
"'Woe unto you when all men speak well of you,'" said Raeburn.
A few minutes later, and the memorable trial of Raeburn v. Pogson
had at length begun. Raeburn's friends had done their best to
dissuade him from conducting his own case, but he always replied to
them with one of his Scotch proverbs "A man's a lion in his ain
cause." His opening speech was such an exceedingly powerful one
that all felt on the first day that he had been right though
inevitably it added not a little to the disagreeableness of the
As soon as the court had risen, Erica went home with her aunt and
Tom, thankful to feel that at least one day was well over; but her
father was closeted for some hours with his solicitor and did not
rejoin them till late that evening. He came in then, looking
fearfully tired, and scarcely spoke all through dinner; but
afterward, just as Tom was leaving the room, he called him back.
"I've been thinking things over," he said. "What was your salary
with Mr. Ashgrove?"
"One hundred pounds a year," replied Tom, wondering at what
possible hour the chieftain had found a spare moment to bestow upon
"Well, then, will you be my secretary for the same?"
For many years Tom had given all his spare time to helping Raeburn
with his correspondence, and for some time he had been the
practical, though unrecognized, sub-editor of the "Idol-Breaker,"
but all his work had been done out of pure devotion to the "cause."
Nothing could have pleased him more than to give his whole time to
the work while his great love and admiration for Raeburn eminently
qualified him for the service of a somewhat autocratic master.
Raeburn, with all his readiness to help those in any difficulty,
with all his geniality and thoroughness of character, was by no
means the easiest person to work with. For, in common with other
strong and self-reliant characters, he liked in all things to have
his own way, and being in truth a first-rate organizer, he had
scant patience with other people's schemes. Erica was very glad
that he had made the proposal to Tom for, though regretting that he
should give his life to the furtherance of work, much of which she
strongly disapproved, she could not but be relieved at anything
which would save her father in some degree from the immense strain
of work and anxiety, which were now altogether beyond the endurance
of a single man, and bid fair to overtax even Raeburn's giant
Both Charles Osmond and Brian appeared as voluntary witnesses on
behalf of the plaintiff, and naturally the first few days of the
trial were endurable enough. But on the Friday the defense began,
and it became evident that the most bitter spirit would pervade the
rest of the proceedings. Mr. Pogson had spared neither trouble nor
expense; he had brought witnesses from all the ends of the earth to
swear that, in some cases twenty years ago, they had heard the
plaintiff speak such and such words, or seen him do such and such
deeds. The array of witnesses appeared endless; there seemed no
reason why the trial ever should come to an end. It bid fair to be
a CAUSE CELEBRE, while inevitably Raeburn's notoriety made the
public take a great interest in the proceedings. It became the
topic of the day. Erica rarely went in any public conveyance
without hearing it discussed.
One day she heard the following cheering sentiment:
"Oh, of course you know the jury will never give a verdict for such
a fellow as Raeburn."
"I suppose they can't help being rather prejudiced against him
because of his views; but, upon my word, it seems a confounded
shame." "Oh, I don't see that," replied the first speaker. "If he
holds such views, he must expect to suffer for them."
Day after day passed and still the case dragged on. Erica became
so accustomed to spending the day in court that at last it seemed
to her that she had never done anything else all her life. Every
day she hoped that she might be called, longing to get the hateful
piece of work over. But days and weeks passed, and still Mr.
Cringer and his learned friends examined other witnesses, but kept
her in reserve. Mr. Bircham had been exceedingly kind to her, and
in the "Daily Review" office, where Erica was treated as a sort of
queen, great indignation had been caused by Mr. Pogson;'s malice.
"Our little lady" (her sobriquet there) received the hearty support
and sympathy of every man in the place from the editor himself to
the printer's devil. Every morning the office boy brought her in
court the allotted work for the day, which she wrote as well as she
could during the proceedings or at luncheon time, with the happy
consciousness that all her short comings would be set right by the
little Irish sub-editor who worshipped the ground she trod on and
was always ready with courteous and unofficious help.
There were many little pieces of kindness which served to heighten
that dreary summer for Mr. Pogson's ill-advised zeal had stimulated
all lovers of justice into a protest against a most glaring
instance of bigotry and unfair treatment. Many clergymen spoke out
bravely and denounced the defendant's intolerance; many
non-conformist ministers risked giving dire offense to their
congregations by saying a good word for the plaintiff. Each
protest did its modicum of good, but still the weary case dragged
on, and every day the bitterness on either side seemed to increase.
Mr. Pogson had, by fair means or foul, induced an enormous number
of witnesses to come forward and prove the truth of his statement,
and day after day there were the most wearisome references to old
diaries, to reports of meetings held in obscure places, perhaps
more than a dozen years ago, or to some hashed and mangled report
of a debate which, incredible though such meanness seems, had been
specially constructed by some unscrupulous opponent in such a way
as to alter the entire meaning of Raeburn's words--a process
which may very easily be effected by a judicious omission of
contexts. Raeburn was cheered and encouraged, however, in spite of
all the thousand cares and annoyances of that time by the rapidly
increasing number of his followers, and by many tokens of most
touching devotion from the people for whom, however mistakenly, he
had labored with unwearying patience and zeal. Erica saw only too
plainly that Mr. Pogson was, in truth, fighting against
Christianity, and every day brought fresh proofs of the injury done
to Christ's cause by this modern instance of injustice and
It was a terribly trying position, and any one a degree less brave
and sincere would probably have lost all faith; but the one visible
good effected by that miserable struggle was the strange influence
it exerted in developing her character. She was one of those who
seem to grow exactly in proportion to the trouble they have had to
bear. And so it came to pass that, while evil was wrought in many
quarters, in this one good resulted good not in the least
understood by Raeburn, or Aunt Jean, or Tom, who merely knew that
Erica was less hot and hasty than in former times, and found it
more of a relief than ever to come home to her loving sympathy.
"After all," they used to say, "the miserable delusion hasn't been
able to spoil her."
One day, just after the court had reassembled in the afternoon,
Erica was putting the finishing touches to a very sprightly
criticism on a certain political speech, when suddenly she heard
the name, for which she had waited so long, called in the clerk's
most sonorous tones "Erica Raeburn!"
She was conscious of a sudden white flash as every face in the
crowded court turned towards her, but more conscious of a strong
Presence which seemed to wrap her in a calm so perfect that the
disagreeable surroundings became a matter of very slight import.
Here were hostile eyes, indeed; but she was strong enough to face
all the powers of evil at once. A sort of murmur ran through the
court as she entered the witness box, but she did not heed it any
more than she would have heeded the murmur of the summer wind
without. She just stood there, strong in her truth and purity,
able, if need be, to set a whole world at defiance.
"Pogson's made a mistake in calling her," said a briefless
barrister to one of his companions in adversity; they both spent
their lives in hanging about the courts, thankful when they could
get a bit of "deviling."
"Right you are!" replied the other, putting up his eyeglass to look
at Erica, and letting it drop after a brief survey. "I'd bet
twenty to one that girl loses him his case. And I'm hanged if he
doesn't deserve to."
"Well, it is rather a brutal thing to make a man's own child give
evidence against him. Halloo! Just look at Raeburn! That man's
either a consummate actor, or else a living impersonation of
"No acting there," replied the other, putting up his eyeglass
again. "It's lucky dueling is a thing of the past or I expect
Pogson would have a bullet in his heart before the day was over.
I don't wonder he's furious, poor fellow! Now, then here's old
Cringer working himself up into his very worst temper!"
The whispered dialogue was interrupted for a few minutes but was
continued at intervals.
"By Jove, what a voice she's got! The jury will be flints if they
are not influenced by it. Ah, you great brute! I wouldn't have
asked her that question for a thousand pounds! How lovely she
looks when she blushes! He'll confuse her, though, as sure as
fate. No, not a bit of it! That was dignified, wasn't it? How
the words rang, 'Of course not!' I say, Jack, this will be as good
as a lesson in elocution for us!"
"Raeburn looks up at that for the first time. Well, poor devil!
However much baited, he can, at any rate, feel proud of his
Then came a long pause. For the fire of questions was so sharp
that the two would not break the thread by speaking. Once or twice
some particularly irritating question was ruled by the judge to be
inadmissible, upon which Mr. Cringer looked, in a hesitatingly
courteous manner, toward him, and obeyed orders with a smiling
deference; then, facing round upon Erica, with a little additional
venom, he visited his annoyance upon her by exerting all his
unrivaled skill in endeavoring to make her contradict herself.
"You'll make nothing of this one, Cringer," one of his friends had
said to him at the beginning of Erica's evidence. And he had
smiled confidently by way of reply. All the more was he now
determined not to be worsted by a young girl whom he ought to be
able to put out of countenance in ten minutes.
The result of this was that, in the words of the newspaper reports,
"the witness's evidence was not concluded when the court rose."
This was perhaps the greatest part of the trial to Erica. She had
hoped, not only for her own, but for her father's sake, that her
evidence might all be taken in one day, and Mr. Cringer, while
really harming his own cause by prolonging her evidence, inflicted
no slight punishment on the most troublesome witness he had ever
had to deal with.
The next morning it all came over again with increased
"Erica always was the plucky one," said Tom to his mother as they
watched her enter the witness box. "She always did the confessing
when we got into scrapes. I only hope that brute of a Cringer
won't put her out of countenance."
He need not have feared, though in truth Erica was tried to the
utmost. To begin with, it was one of the very hottest of the
dog-days, and the court was crowded to suffocation. This was what
the public considered the most interesting day of the trial for it
was the most personal one, and the English have as great a taste
for personalities as the Americans though it is not so constantly
gratified. Apparently Mr. Cringer, being a shrewd man, had managed
in the night watches to calculate Erica's one vulnerable point.
She was fatally clear-headed; most aggravatingly and palpably
truthful; most unfortunately fascinating; and, though naturally
quick-tempered, most annoyingly self-controlled. But she was
evidently delicate. If he could sufficiently harass and tire her,
he might make her say pretty much what he pleased.
This, at least, was the conclusion at which he had arrived. And if
it was indeed his duty to the defendant to exhaust both fair means
and foul in the endeavor to win him his case, then he certainly
fulfilled his duty. For six long hours, with only a brief interval
for luncheon, Erica was baited, badgered, tormented with questions
which in themselves were insults, assured that she had said what
she had not said, tempted to say what she did not mean, involved in
fruitless discussions about places and dates and, in fact, so
thoroughly tortured, that most girls would long before have
succumbed. She did not succumb, but she grew whiter and whiter
save when some vile insinuation brought a momentary wave of crimson
across her face.
Tom listened breathlessly to the examination which went on in a
constant crescendo of bitterness.
"The plaintiff was in the habit of doing this?"
"Your suspicion was naturally excited, then?"
"Not excited?" incredulously.
"Not in the least."
"You are an inmate of the plaintiff's house, I believe?"
"But this has not always been the case?"
"All my life with the exception of two years."
"Your reason for the two years' absence had a connection with the
plaintiff's mode of life, had it not?"
"Not in the sense you wish to imply. It had a connection with our
"Though an inmate of you father's house, you are often away from
"No, very rarely."
"Oblige me by giving a straightforward answer. What do you mean by
"This is mere equivocation; will you give me a straightforward
"I can't make it more so," said Erica, keeping her temper perfectly
and replying to the nagging interrogatories. "Do you mean once a
year, twice a year?" etc., etc., with a steady patience which
foiled Mr. Cringer effectually. He opened a fresh subject.
"Do you remember the 1st of September last year?"
"Do you remember what happened then?"
"Partridge shooting began."
There was much laughter at this reply; she made it partly because
even now the comic side of everything struck her, partly because
she wanted to gain time. What in the world was Mr. Cringer driving
"Did not something occur that night in Guilford Terrace which you
were anxious to conceal?"
For a moment Erica was dumfounded. It flashed upon her that he
knew of the Haeberlein adventure and meant to serve his purpose by
distorting it into something very different. Luckily she was
almost as rapid a thinker as her father; she saw that there was
before her a choice of two evils. She must either allow Mr.
Cringer to put an atrocious construction on her unqualified "yes"
or she must boldly avow Haeberlein's visit.
"With regard to my father there was nothing to conceal," she
"Will you swear that there was NOTHING to conceal?"
"With regard to my father there was nothing to conceal," she
"Don't bandy words with me. Will you repeat my formula 'Nothing to
"No, I will not repeat that."
"You admit that there WAS something to conceal?"
"If you call Eric Haeberlein 'something' yes."
There was a great sensation in the court at these words. But Mr.
Cringer was nonplused. The mysterious "something," out of which he
had intended to make such capital, was turned into a boldly avowed
reality a reality which would avail him nothing. Moreover, most
people would now see through his very unworthy maneuvers.
Furiously he hurled question upon question at Erica. He surpassed
himself in sheer bullying. By this time, too, she was very weary.
The long hours of standing, the insufferable atmosphere, the
incessant stabs at her father's character made the examination
almost intolerable. And the difficulty of answering the fire of
questions was great. She struggled on, however, until the time
came when Raeburn stood up to ask whether a certain question was
allowable. She looked at him then for the first time, saw how
terribly he was feeling her interminable examination, and for a
moment lost heart. The rows of people grew hazy and indistinct.
Mr. Cringer's face got all mixed up with his wig, she had to hold
tightly to the railing. How much longer could she endure?
"Yet you doubtless thought this probable?" continued her tormentor.
"Oh, no! On the contrary, quite the reverse," said Erica with a
momentary touch of humor.
"Are you acquainted with the popular saying: 'None are so blind as
those who will not see?'"
The tone was so insulting that indignation restored Erica to her
full strength; she was stung into giving a sharp retort.
"Yes," she said very quietly. "It has often occurred to me during
this action as strangely applicable to the defendant."
Mr. Cringer looked as if he could have eaten her. There was a
burst of applause which was speedily suppressed.
"Yet you do not, of course, mean to deny the whole allegation?"
"Are you aware that people will think you either a deluded innocent
or an infamous deceiver?"
"I am not here to consider what people may think of me, but to
speak the truth."
And as she spoke she involuntarily glanced toward those twelve
fellow-countrymen of hers upon whose verdict so much depended.
Probably even the oldest, even the coldest of the jurymen felt his
heart beat a little faster as those beautiful, sad honest eyes
scanned the jury box. As for the counsel for the defense, he
prudently accepted his defeat and, as Raeburn would not ask a
single question of his daughter in cross-examination, another
witness was called.
Long after, it was a favorite story among the young barristers of
how Mr. Cringer was checkmated by Raeburn's daughter.
The case dragged on its weary length till August. At last, when
two months of the public time had been consumed, when something
like 20,000 pounds had been spent, when most bitter resentment had
been stirred up among the secularists, Mr. Pogson's defense came to
an end. Raeburn's reply was short, but effective; and the jury
returned a verdict in his favor, fixing the damages, however, at
the very lowest sum, not because they doubted that Raeburn had been
most grossly libeled, but because the plaintiff had the misfortune
to be an atheist.
CHAPTER XXXVI. Rose's Adventure
If Christians would teach Infidels to be just to Christianity, they
should themselves be just to infidelity. John Stuart Mill
The green room was one of those rooms which show to most advantage
on a winter evening; attractive and comfortable at all times, it
nevertheless reached its highest degree of comfort when the dusky
green curtains were drawn, when the old wainscoted walls were
lighted up by the red glow from the fire, and the well-worn books
on the shelves were mellowed by the soft light into a uniform and
respectable brown. One November evening, when without was the
thickest of London fogs, Erica was sitting at her writing table
with Friskarina on her lap, and Tottie curled up at her feet,
preparing for one of her science classes, when she was interrupted
by the sound of a cab drawing up, speedily followed by a loud ring
at the bell.
"Surely Monsieur Noirol can't have come already!" she said to
herself, looking at her watch. It was just six o'clock, a whole
hour before dinner time. Steps were approaching the door, however,
and she was just inhospitably wishing her guest elsewhere, when to
her intense amazement the servant announced "Miss Fane-Smith."
She started forward with an exclamation of incredulity for it
seemed absurd to think of Rose actually coming to see her in her
father's house. But incredulity was no longer possible when Rose
herself entered, in ulster and traveling hat, with her saucy
laughing face, and her invariable content with herself and the
world in general.
"Why, Erica!" she cried, kissing her on both cheeks, "I don't
believe you're half properly glad to see me! Did you think it was
my wraith? I assure you it's my own self in the flesh, and very
cold flesh, too. What a delightful room! I'd no idea atheists'
homes were so much like other people's. You cold-hearted little
cousin, why don't you welcome me?"
"I am very glad to see you," said Erica, kissing her again. "But,
Rose, what did bring you here?"
"A fusty old cab, a four-wheeler, a growler, don't you call them?
But, if you knew why I have come to you in this unexpected way, you
would treat me like the heroine I am, and not stand there like an
incarnation of prudent hesitation. I've bee treated like the man
in the parable, I've fallen among thieves, and am left with my
raiment, certainly, but not a farthing besides in the world. And
now, of course, you'll enact the good Samaritan.."
"Come and get warm," said Erica, drawing a chair toward the fire,
but still feeling uncomfortable at the idea of Mr. Fane-Smith's
horror and dismay could he have seen his daughter's situation.
"How do you come to be in town, Rose, and where were you robbed?"
"Why, I was going to stay with the Alburys at Sandgale, and left
home about three, but at Paddington, when I went to get my ticket,
lo and behold my purse had disappeared, and I was left lamenting,
like Lord Ullin in the song."
"Have you any idea who took it?"
"Yes, I rather think it must have been a man on the Paddington
platform who walked with a limp. I remember his pushing up against
me very roughly, and I suppose that was when he took it. The
porters were all horrid about it, though, I could get no one to
help me, and I hadn't even the money to get my ticket. At last an
old lady, who had heard of my penniless condition, advised me to go
to any friends I might happen to have in London, and I bethought me
of my cousin Erica. You will befriend me, won't you? For it is
impossible to get to Sandgale tonight; there is no other train
"I wish I knew what was right," said Erica, looking much perplexed.
"You see, Rose, I'm afraid Mr. Fane-Smith would not like you to
"Oh, nonsense," said Rose, laughing. "He couldn't mind in such a
case as this. Why, I can't stay in the street all night. Besides,
he doesn't know anything about your home, how should he?"
This was true enough, but still Erica hesitated.
"Who was that white-haired patriarchal-looking man whom I met in
the hall?" asked Rose. "A sort of devotional quaker-kind of man."
Erica laughed aloud at this description.
"That's my father!" she said; and, before she had quite recovered
her gravity, Raeburn came into the room with some papers which he
"Father," said Erica, "this is Rose, and she has come to ask our
help because her purse has been stolen at Paddington, and she is
stranded in London with no money."
"It sounds dreadfully like begging," said Rose, looking up into the
brown eyes which seemed half kindly, half critical.
They smiled at this, and became at once only kind and hospitable.
"Not in the least," he said; "I am very glad you came to us."
And then he began to ask her many practical questions about her
adventure, ending by promising to put the matter at once into the
hands of the police. They were just discussing the impossibility
of getting to Sandgale that evening when Tom came into the room.
"Where is mother?' he asked. "She has kept her cab at the door at
least ten minutes; I had to give the fellow an extra sixpence."
"That wasn't auntie's cab," said Erica, "she came home half an hour
ago; it was Rose's cab. I hope you didn't send away her boxes?"
"I beg your pardon," said Tom, looking much surprised and a little
amused. "The boxes are safe in the hall, but I'm afraid the cab is
gone beyond recall."
"You see it is evidently meant that I should quarter myself upon
you!" said Rose, laughing.
Upon which Raeburn, with a grave and slightly repressive courtesy,
said they should be very happy if she would stay with them.
"That will make my adventure perfect!" said Rose, her eyes dancing.
At which Raeburn smiled again, amused to think of the uneventful
life in which such a trifling incident could seem an "adventure."
"It seems very inhospitable," said Erica, "but don't you think,
Rose, you had better go back to Greyshot?"
"No, you tiresome piece of prudence, I don't," said Rose
perversely. "And what's more, I won't, as Uncle Luke has asked me
Erica felt very uncomfortable; she could have spoken decidedly had
she been alone with any of the three, but she could not, before
them all, say: "Mr. Fane-Smith thinks father an incarnation of
wickedness and would be horrified if he knew that you were here."
Tom had in the meantime walked to the window and drawn aside the
"The weather means to settle the question for you," he said. "You
really can't go off in such a fog as this; it would take you hours
to get to Paddington, if you ever did get there, which is
They looked out and saw that he had not exaggerated matters; the
fog had grown much worse since Rose's arrival, and it had been bad
enough then to make traveling by no means safe. Erica saw that
there was no help for it. Mr. Fane-Smith's anger must be incurred,
and Rose must stay with them. She went away to see that her room
was prepared, and coming back a little later found that in that
brief time Rose had managed to enthrall poor Tom who, not being
used to the genus, was very easily caught, his philosophy being by
no means proof against a fair-haired, bright-looking girl who in a
very few moments made him feel that she thought most highly of him
and cared as no one had ever cared before for his opinion. She had
not the smallest intention of doing harm, but admiration was what
she lived for, and to flirt with every man she met had become
almost as natural and necessary to her as to breathe.
Erica, out of loyalty to Mr. Fane-Smith and regard for Tom's future
happiness, felt bound to be hard-hearted and to separate them at
dinner. Tom used to sit at the bottom of the table as Raeburn did
not care for the trouble of carving; Erica was at the head with her
father in his usual place at her right hand. She put Rose in
between him and the professor who generally dined with them on
Saturday; upon the opposite side were Aunt Jean and M. Noirol. Now
Rose, who had been quite in her element as long as she had been
talking with Tom in the green room, felt decidedly out of her
element when she was safely ensconced between her white-haired
uncle and the shaggy-looking professor. If Erica had felt
bewildered when first introduced to the gossip and small "society"
talk of Greyshot, Rose felt doubly bewildered when for the first
time in her life she came into a thoroughly scientific atmosphere.
She realized that there were a few things which she had yet to
learn. She was not fond of learning so the discovery was the
reverse of pleasant; she felt ignorant and humbled, liking to be AU
FAIT at everything and to know things and do things just a little
better than other people. Having none of the humility of a true
learner, she only felt annoyed at her own ignorance, not raised and
bettered and stimulated by a glimpse of the infinite greatness of
Raeburn, seeing that she was not in the least interested in the
discussion of the future of electricity, left the professor to
continue it with Tom, and began to talk to her about the loss of
her purse, and to tell her of various losses which he had had. But
Rose had the mortifying consciousness that all the time he talked
he was listening to the conversation between Erica and M. Noirol.
As far as Rose could make out it was on French politics; but they
spoke so fast that her indifferent school French was of very little
service to her. By and by Raeburn was drawn into the discussion
and Rose was left to amuse herself as well as she could by
listening to a rapid flow of unintelligible French on one side, and
to equally unintelligible scientific talk on the other. By and by
this was merged into a discussion some recent book. They seemed to
get deeply interested in a dispute as to whether Spinoza was or was
not at any time in his life a Cartesian.
Rose really listened to this for want of something better to do,
and Raeburn, thinking that he had been neglecting her, and much
relieved at the thought that he had at length found some point of
mutual interest, asked her whether she had read the book in
"Oh, I have no time for reading," said Rose.
He looked a little amused at this statement. Rose continued:
"Who was Spinoza? I never heard any of his music."
"He was a philosopher, not a composer," said Raeburn, keeping his
countenance with difficulty.
"What dreadfully learned people you are!" said Rose with one of her
arch smiles. "But do tell me, how can a man be a Cartesian? I've
heard of Cartesian wells, but never--"
She broke off for this was quite too much for Raeburn's gravity; he
laughed, but so pleasantly that she laughed too.
"You are thinking of artesian wells, I fancy," he said in his
kindly voice; and he began to give her a brief outline of
Descartes' philosophy, which it is to be feared she did not at all
appreciate. She was not sorry when Erica appealed to him for some
disputed fact, in which they all seemed most extraordinarily
interested, for when the discussion had lasted some minutes, Tom
went off in the middle of dinner and fetched in two or three bulky
books of reference; these were eagerly seized upon, to the entire
disregard of the pudding which was allowed to get cold.
Presently the very informal meal was ended by some excellent coffee
in the place of the conventional dessert, after which came a
hurried dispersion as they were all going to some political meeting
at the East End. Cabs were unattainable and, having secured a
couple of link-boys, they set off, apparently in excellent
"Fancy turning out on such a night as this!" said Rose, putting her
arm within Erica's. "I am so glad you are not going for now we can
really have a cozy talk. I've ever so much to tell you."
Erica looked rather wistfully after the torches and the retreating
forms as they made their way down the steps; she was much
disappointed at being obliged to miss this particular meeting, but
luckily Rose was not in the least likely to find this out for she
could not imagine for a moment that any one really cared about
missing a political meeting, particularly when it would have
involved turning out on such a disagreeable night.
Erica had persuaded Rose to telegraph both to her friends at
Sandgale and to her mother to tell of her adventure and to say that
she would go on to Sandgale on the Monday. For, unfortunately, the
next day was Sunday, and Rose looked so aghast at the very idea of
traveling then that Erica could say nothing more though she
surmised rightly enough that Mr. Fane-Smith would have preferred
even Sunday traveling to a Sunday spent in Luke Raeburn's house.
There was evidently, however, no help for it. Rose was there, and
there she must stay; all that Erica could do was to keep her as
much as might be out of Tom's way, and to beg the others not to
discuss any subjects bearing on their anti-religious work; and
since there was not the smallest temptation to try to make Rose a
convert to secularism, they were all quite willing to avoid such
But, in spite of all her care, Erica failed most provokingly that
day. To begin with, Rose pleaded a headache and would not go with
her to the early service. Erica was disappointed; but when, on
coming home, she found Rose in the dining room comfortably chatting
over the fire to Tom, who was evidently in the seventh heaven of
happiness, she felt as if she could have shaken them both. By and
by she tried to give Tom a hint, which he did not take at all
"Women never like to see another woman admired," he replied with a
"But, Tom," she pleaded, "her father would be so dreadfully angry
if he saw the way you go on with her."
"Oh, shut up, do, about her father!" said Tom crossly. "You have
crammed him down our throats quite enough."
It was of no use to say more; but she went away feeling sore and
ruffled. She was just about to set off with Rose to Charles
Osmond's church when the door of the study was hastily opened.
"Have you seen the last 'Longstaff Mercury'?" said Raeburn in the
voice which meant that he was worried and much pressed for time.
"It was in here yesterday," said Erica.
"Then, Tom, you must have moved it," said Raeburn sharply. "It's
a most provoking thing; I specially wanted to quote from it."
"I've not touched it," said Tom. "It's those servants; they never
can leave the papers alone."
He was turning over the contents of a paper rack, evidently not in
the best of tempers. Rose sprang forward.
"Let me help," she said with one of her irresistible smiles.
Erica felt more provoked than she would have cared to own. It was
very clear that those two would never find anything.
"Look here, Erica," said Raeburn, "do see if it isn't upstairs.
Tom is a terrible hand at finding things."
So she searched in every nook and cranny of the house and at last
found the torn remains of the paper in the house maid's cupboard.
The rest of it had been used for lighting a fire.
Raeburn was a good deal annoyed.
"Surely, my dear, such things might be prevented," he said, not
crossly but in the sort of forbearing expostulatory tone which a
woman dislikes more than anything, specially if she happens to be
a careful housekeeper.
"I told you it was your servants!" said Tom triumphantly.
"They've orders again and again not to touch the newspapers," said
"Well, come along Tom," said Raeburn, taking up his hat. "We are
They drove off, and Erica and Rose made the best of their way to
church, to find the service begun, and seats unattainable. Rose
was very good-natured, however, about the standing. She began
faintly to perceive that Erica did not lead the easiest of lives;
also she saw, with a sort of wonder, what an influence she was in
the house and how, notwithstanding their difference in creed, she
was always ready to meet the others on every point where it was
possible to do so. Rose could not help thinking of a certain
friend of hers who, having become a ritualist, never lost an
opportunity of emphasizing the difference between her own views and
the views of her family; and of Kate Righton at Greyshot who had
adopted the most rigid evangelical views, and treated her good old
father and mother as "worldly" and "unconverted" people.
In the afternoon Tom had it all his own way. Raeburn was in his
study preparing for his evening lecture; Mrs. Craigie had a Bible
class at the East End, in which she showed up the difficulties and
contradictions of the Old and New Testaments; Erica had a Bible
class in Charles Osmond's parish, in which she tried to explain the
same difficulties. Rose was therefore alone in the green room and
quite ready to attract Tom and keep him spellbound for the
afternoon. It is possible, however, that no great harm would have
been done if the visit had come to a natural end the following day;
Rose would certainly have thought no more of Tom, and Tom might
very possibly have come to his senses when she was no longer there
to fascinate him. But on the Sunday evening when the toils of the
day were over, and they were all enjoying the restful home quiet
which did not come very often in their busy lives, Rose's visit was
brought to an abrupt close.
Looked at by an impartial spectator, the green room would surely
have seemed a model of family peace and even of Sunday restfulness.
Rose was sitting at the piano playing Mendelssohn's "Christmas
Pieces," and giving great pleasure to every one for art was in this
house somewhat overshadowed by science, and it did not very often
happen that they could listen to such playing as Rose's which was
for that reason a double pleasure. Tom was sitting near her
looking supremely peaceful. On one side of the fireplace Mrs.
Craigie and Mrs. MacNaughton were playing their weekly game of
chess. On the other side Raeburn had his usual Sunday evening
recreation, his microscope. Erica knelt beside him, her auburn
head close to his white one as they arranged their specimens or
consulted books of reference. The professor, who had looked in on
his way home from the lecture to borrow a review, was browsing
contentedly among the books on the table with the comfortable sense
that he might justifiably read in a desultory holiday fashion.
It was upon this peaceful and almost Sabbatical group that a
disturbing element entered in the shape of Mr. Fane-Smith. He
stood for an instant at the door, taking in the scene, or rather
taking that superficial view which the narrow-minded usually take.
He was shocked at the chessmen; shocked at that profane microscope,
and those week-day sections of plants; shocked at the music, though
he must have heard it played as a voluntary on many church organs,
and not only shocked, but furious, at finding his daughter in a
very nest of secularists.
Every one seemed a little taken aback when he entered. He took no
notice whatever of Raeburn, but went straight up to Rose.
"Go and put on your things at once," he said; "I have come to take
"Oh, papa," began Rose, "how you--"
"Not a word, Rose. Go and dress, and don't keep me waiting."
Erica, with a vain hope of making Mr. Fane-Smith behave at least
civilly, came forward and shook hands with him.
"I don't think you have met my father before," she said.
Raeburn had come a few steps forward; Mr. Fane-Smith inclined his
about a quarter of an inch; Raeburn bowed, then said to Erica:
"Perhaps Mr. Fane-Smith would prefer waiting in my study."
"Thanks, I will wait where I am," said Mr. Fane-Smith, pointedly,
ignoring the master of the house and addressing Erica. "Thank
you," as she offered him a chair, " I prefer to stand. Have the
goodness to see that Rose is quick."
"Thinks the chair's atheistical!" remarked Tom to himself.
Raeburn, looking a degree more stately than usual, stood on the
hearth rug with his back to the fire, not in the least forgiving
his enemy, but merely adopting for himself the most dignified role.
Mr. Fane-Smith a few paces off with his anger and ill-concealed
contempt did not show to advantage. Something in the relative
sizes of the two struck the professor as comically like Landseer's
"Dignity and Impudence." He would have smiled at the thought had
he not been very angry at the discourteous treatment his friend was
receiving. Mrs. MacNaughton sat with her queen in her hand as
though meditating her next move, but in reality absorbed in
watching the game played by the living chess-men before her. Tom
at last broke the uncomfortable silence by asking the professor
about some of Erica's specimens, and at length Rose came down, much
to every one's relief, followed by Erica, who had been helping her
to collect the things.
"Are you ready?" said her father. "Then come at once."
"Let me at least say goodbye, papa," said Rose, very angry at being
forced to make this undignified and, as she rightly felt, rude
"Come at once," said Mr. Fane-Smith in an inexorable voice. As he
left the room he turned and bowed stiffly.
"Go down and open the door for them, Tom," said Raeburn, who
throughout Mr. Fane-Smith's visit had maintained a stern, stately
Tom, nothing loth, obeyed. Erica was already half way downstairs
with the guests, but he caught them up and managed to say goodbye
to Rose, even to whisper a hope that they might meet again, to
which Rose replied with a charming blush and smile which, Tom
flattered himself, meant that she really cared for him. Had Rose
gone quietly away the next morning, he would not have been goaded
into any such folly. A cab was waiting; but, when Rose was once
inside it, her father recovered his power of speech and turned upon
Erica as they stood by the front door.
"I should have thought," he said in an angry voice, "that after our
anxiety to persuade you to leave your home, you might have known
that I should never allow Rose to enter this hell, to mix with
blaspheming atheists, to be contaminated by vile infidels!"
Erica's Highland hospitality and strong family loyalty were so
outraged by the words that to keep silent was impossible.
"You forget to whom you are speaking," she said quickly. "You
forget that this is my father's house!"
"I would give a good deal to be able to forget," said Mr.
Fane-Smith. "I have tried to deal kindly with you, tried to take
you from this accursed place, and you repay me by tempting Rose to
stay with you!"
Erica had recovered herself by this time. Tom, watching her, could
not but wonder at her self-restraint. She did not retaliate, did
not even attempt to justify her conduct; at such a moment words
would have been worse than useless. But Tom, while fully
appreciating the common sense of the non-resistance, was greatly
astonished. Was this his old playmate who had always had the most
deliciously aggravating retort ready? Was this hot-tempered Erica?
That Mr. Fane-Smith's words were hurting her very much he could
see; he guessed, too, that the consciousness that he, a secularist,
was looking on at this unfortunate display of Christian
intolerance, added a sting to her grief.
"It is useless to profess Christianity," stormed Mr. Fane-Smith,
"if you openly encourage infidelity by consorting with these
blasphemers. You are no Christian! A mere Socinian a
Erica's lips quivered a little at this; but she remembered that
Christ had been called harder names still by religious bigots of
His day, and she kept silence.
"But understand this," continued Mr. Fane-Smith, "that I approve
less than ever of your intimacy with Rose, and until you come to
see your folly in staying here, your worse than folly your
deliberate choice of home and refusal to put religious duty first
there had better be no more intercourse between us."
"Can you indeed think that religious duty ever requires a child to
break the fifth commandment?" said Erica with no anger but with a
certain sadness in her tone. "Can you really think that by leaving
my father I should be pleasing a perfectly loving God?"
"You lean entirely on your own judgment!" said Mr. Fane-Smith; "if
you were not too proud to be governed by authority, you would see
that precedent shows you to be entirely in the wrong. St. John
rushed from the building polluted by the heretic Cerinthus, a man
who, compared with your father, was almost orthodox!"
Erica smiled faintly.
"If that story is indeed true, I should think he remembered before
long a reproof his intolerance brought him once. 'Ye know not what
spirit ye are of." And really, if we are to fall back upon
tradition, I may quote the story of Abraham turning the unbeliever
out of his tent on a stormy night. 'I have suffered him these
hundred years,' was the Lord's reproof, 'though he dishonored Me,
and couldst thou not endure him for one night?' I am sorry to
distress you, but I must do what I know to be right.
"Don't talk to me of right," exclaimed Mr. Fane-Smith with a
shudder. "You are wilfully putting your blaspheming father before
Christ. But I see my words are wasted. Let me pass! The air of
this house is intolerable to me!"
He hurried away, his anger flaming up again when Tom followed him,
closing the door of the cab with punctilious politeness. Rose was
"Oh, papa," she said, trembling, "why are you so angry? You
haven't been scolding Erica about it? If there was any fault
anywhere, the fault was mine. What did you say to her, papa? What
have you been doing?"
Mr. Fane-Smith was in that stage of anger when it is pleasant to
repeat all one's hot words to a second audience and, moreover, he
wanted to impress Rose with the enormity of her visit. He repeated
all that he had said to Erica, interspersed with yet harder words
about her perverse self-reliance and disregard for authority.
Rose listened, but at the end she trembled no longer. She had in
her a bit of the true Raeburn nature with its love of justice and
its readiness to stand up for the oppressed.
"Papa," she said, all her spoiled-child manners and little
affectations giving place to the most perfect earnestness, "papa,
you must forgive me for contradicting you, but you are indeed very
much mistaken. I may have been silly to go there. Erica did try
all she could to persuade me to go back to Greyshot yesterday; but
I am glad I stayed even though you are so angry about it. If there
is a noble, brave girl on earth, it is Erica! You don't know what
she is to them all, and how they all love her. I will tell you
what this visit has done for me. It has made me ashamed of myself,
and I am going to try to be wiser, and less selfish."
It was something of an effort to Rose to say this, but she had been
very much struck with the sight of Erica's home life, and she
wanted to prove to her father how greatly he had misjudged her
cousin. Unfortunately, there are some people in this world who,
having once got an idea into their heads, will keep it in the teeth
of the very clearest evidence to the contrary.
In the meantime, Tom had rejoined Erica in the hall.
"How can such a brute have such a daughter?" he said. "Never mind,
Cugina, you were a little brick, and treated him much better than
he deserved. If that is a Christian, and this a Latitudinarian and
all the other heresies he threw at your head, all I can say is,
commend me to your sort, and may I never have the misfortune to
encounter another of his!"
Erica did not reply; she felt too sick at heart. She walked slowly
upstairs, trying to stifle the weary longing for Brian which,
though very often present, became a degree less bearable when her
isolated position between two fires, as it were had been specially
"That's a nice specimen of Christian charity!" said Aunt Jean as
they returned to the green room.
"And he set upon Erica at the door and hurled hard names at her as
fast as he could go," said Tom, proceeding to give a detailed
account of Mr. Fane-Smith's parting utterances.
Erica picked up Tottie and held him closely, turning, as all lovers
of animals do in times of trouble, to the comforting devotion of
those dumb friends who do not season their love with curiosity or
unasked advice, or that pity which is less sympathetic than
silence, and burdens us with the feeling that our sad "case" will
be gossiped over in the same pitying tones at afternoon teas and
morning calls. Tottie could not gossip, but he could talk to her
with his bright brown eyes, and do something to fill a great blank
in her life.
Tom's account of the scene in the hall made every one angry.
"And yet," said Mrs. MacNaughton, "these Christians, who used to us
such language as this, own as their Master one who taught that a
mere angry word which wounded a neighbor should receive severe
Raeburn said nothing, only watched Erica keenly. She was leaning
against the mantel piece, her eyes very sad-looking, and about her
face that expression of earnest listening which is characteristic
of those who are beginning to learn the true meaning of humility
and "righteous judgment." She had pushed back the thick waves of
hair which usually overshadowed her forehead, and looked something
between a lion with a tangled mane and a saint with a halo.
"Never mind," said the professor, cheerfully, "it is to bigotry
like this that we shall owe our recovery of Erica. And seriously,
what can you think of a religion which can make a man behave like
this to one who had never injured him, who, on the contrary, had
befriended his child?"
"It is not Christ's religion which teaches him to do it," said
Erica, "it is the perversion of that religion."
"Then in all conscience the perversion is vastly more powerful and
extended than what you deem the reality."
"Unfortunately yes," said Erica, sighing. "At present it is."
"At present!" retorted the professor; "why, you have had more than
eighteen hundred years to improve it."
"You yourself taught me to have patience with the slow processes of
nature," said Erica, smiling a little. "If you allow unthinkable
ages for the perfecting of a layer of rocks, do you wonder that in
a few hundred years a church is still far from perfect?"
"I expect perfection in no human being," said the professor, taking
up a Bible from the table and turning over the pages with the air
of a man who knew its contents well; "when I see Christians in some
sort obeying this, I will believe that their system is the true
system; but not before." He guided his finger slowly beneath the
following lines: 'Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and
clamor, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice.'
There is the precept, you see, and a very good precept, to be found
in the secularist creed as well; but now let us look at the
practice. See how we secularists are treated! Why, we live as it
were in a foreign land, compelled to keep the law yet denied the
protection of the law! 'Outlaws of the constitution, outlaws of
the human race," as Burke was kind enough to call us. No! When I
see Christians no longer slandering our leaders, no longer coining
hateful lies about us out of their own evil imaginations, when I
see equal justice shown to all men of whatever creed, then, the
all-conquering love. Christianity has yet to prove itself the
religion of love; at present it is the religion of exclusion."
Mrs. MacNaughton, who was exceedingly fond of Erica, looked sorry
"You see, Erica," she said, "the professor judges by averages. No
one would deny that some of the greatest men in the world have
been, and are even in the present day, Christians; they have been
brought up in it, and can't free themselves from its trammels. You
have a few people like the Osmonds, a few really liberal men; but
you have only to see how they are treated by their confreres to
realize the illiberality of the religion as a whole."
"I think with you," said Erica, "that if the revelation of God's
love, and His purpose for all, be only to be learned from the lives
of Christians, it is a bad lookout for us. But God HAS given us
one perfect revelation of Himself, and the Perfect Son can make us
see plainly even when the imperfect sons are holding up to us a
distorted likeness of the Father."
She had spoken quietly, but with the tremulousness of strong
feeling, and, moreover, she was so sensitive that the weight of the
hostile atmosphere oppressed her, and made speaking a great
difficulty. When she had ended, she turned away from the
disapproving eyes to the only sympathetic eyes in the room the
dog's. They looked up into hers with that wistful endeavor to
understand the meaning of something beyond their grasp, which makes
the eyes of animals so pathetic.
There was a silence; her use of the adjective "perfect" had been
very trying to all her hearers, who strongly disapproved of the
whole sentence; but then she was so evidently sincere and so
thoroughly lovable that no one liked to give her pain.
Aunt Jean was the only person who thought there was much chance of
her ever returning to the ranks of secularism; she was the only one
who spoke now.
"Well, well," she said, pityingly, "you are but young; you will
think very differently ten years hence."
Erica kept back an angry retort with difficulty, and Raeburn, whose
keen sense of justice was offended, instantly came forward in her
defense, though her words had been like a fresh stab in the old
"That is no argument, Jean," he said quickly. "It is the very
unjust extinguisher which the elders use for the suppression of
individuality in the young."
As he spoke, he readjusted a slide in his microscope, making it
plain to all that he intended the subject to be dropped. He had a
wonderful way of impressing his individuality on others, and the
household settled down once more into the Sabbatical calm which had
been broken by a bigoted Sabbatarian.
Nothing more was heard of Rose, nor did Erica have an opportunity
of talking over the events of that Sunday with her father for some
days for he was exceedingly busy; the long weeks wasted during the
summer in the wearisome libel case having left upon his hands vast
arrears of provincial work. In some of the large iron foundries
you may see hundreds of different machines all kept in action by a
forty horse-power engine; and Raeburn was the great motive-power
which gave life to all the branches of Raeburnites which now
stretched throughout the length and breadth of the land. Without
him they would have relapsed, very probably, into that fearfully
widespread mass of indifference which is not touched by any form of
Christianity or religious revival, but which had responded to the
practical, secular teaching of the singularly powerful secularist
leader. He had a wonderful gift of stirring up the heretofore
indifferent, and making them take a really deep interest in
national questions. This was by far the happiest part of his life
because it was the healthy part of it. The sameness of his
anti-theological work, and the barrenness of mere down-pulling,
were distasteful enough to him; he was often heartily sick of it
all, and had he not thought it a positive duty to attack what he
deemed a very mischievous delusion, he would gladly have handed
over this part of his work to some one else, and devoted himself
entirely to national work.
He had been away from home for several days, lecturing in the north
of England. Erica was not expecting his return till the following
day, when one evening a telegram was brought in to her. It was
from her father to this effect:
"Expect me home by mail train about two A.M. Place too hot to hold
He had now to a great extent lived down the opposition which had
made lecturing in his younger days a matter of no small risk to
life and limb; but Erica knew that there were reasons which made
the people of Ashborough particularly angry with him just now.
Ashborough was one of those strange towns which can never be
depended upon. It was renowned for its riots, and was, in fact (to
use a slang word) a "rowdy" place. More than once in the old days
Raeburn had been roughly handled there, and Erica bore a special
grudge to it, for it was the scene of her earliest recollection one
of those dark pictures which, having been indelibly traced on the
heart of a child, influence the whole character and the future life
far more than some people think.
It was perhaps old memory which made her waiting so anxious that
evening. Moreover, she had at first no one to talk to, which made
it much worse. Aunt Jean had gone to bed with a bad toothache, and
must on no account be disturbed; and Tom had suddenly announced his
intention that morning of going down to Brighton on his bicycle,
and had set off, rather to Erica's dismay, since, in a letter to
Charles Osmond, Donovan happened to have mentioned that the
Fane-Smiths had taken a house there for six weeks. She hated
herself for being suspicious; but Tom had been so unlike himself
since Rose's visit, and it was such an unheard-of thing that he
should take a day's holiday during her father's absence, that it
was scarcely possible to avoid drawing the natural inference. She
was very unhappy about him, but did not of course feel justified in
saying a word to any one else about the matter. Charles Osmond
happened to look in for a few minutes later on, expecting to find
Raeburn at home, and then in her relief she did give him an account
of the unfortunate Sunday though avoiding all mention of Tom.
"It was just like you to come at the very time I was wanting some
one to talk to," she said, sitting down in her favorite nook on the
hearth rug with Friskie on her lap. "Not a word has been said of
that miserable Sunday since though I'm afraid a good deal has been
thought. After all, you know, there was a ludicrous side to it as
well. I shall never forget the look of them all when Rose and I
came down again: Mr. Fane-Smith standing there by the table, the
very incarnation of contemptuous anger, and father just here,
looking like a tired thunder cloud! But, though one laughs at one
aspect of it, one could cry one's eyes out over the thing as a
whole indeed, just now I find myself agreeing with Mr. Tulliver
that it's a 'puzzling world.'"
"The fact is," said Charles Osmond, "that you consent patiently
enough to share God's pain over those who don't believe in Him; but
you grumble sorely at finding a lack of charity in the world; yet
that pain is God's too."
"Yes," sighed Erica; "but somehow from Christians it seems so
"Quite true, child," he replied, half absently. "It is hard most
hard. But don't let it make you uncharitable, Erica. You are
sharing God;'s pain, but remember it is only His perfect love which
makes that pain bearable."
"I do find it hard to love bigots," said Erica, sighing. "They!
What do they know about the thousand difficulties which have driven
people into secularism? If they could but see that they and their
narrow theories and their false distortions of Christ's Gospel are
the real cause of it all, there would be some hope! But they
either can't see it or won't."
"My dear, we're all a lot of blind puppies together," said Charles
Osmond. "We tumble up against each other just for want of eyes.
We shall see when we get to the end of the nine days, you know."
"You see now," said Erica; "you never hurt us, and rub us the wrong
"Perhaps not," he replied, laughing. "But Mr. Roberts and some of
my other brethren would tell a different tale. By the bye, would
you care to help another befogged mortal who is in the region you
are safely out of? The evolution theory is the difficulty, and, if
you have time to enter into his trouble, I think you could help him
much better than I can. If I could see him, I might tackle him;
but I can't do it on paper. You could, I think; and, as the fellow
lives at the other side of the world, one can do nothing except by
Erica was delighted to undertake the task, and she was particularly
well fitted for it. Perhaps no one is really qualified for the
post of a clearer of doubts who has not himself faced and conquered
doubts of a similar nature.
So there was a new interest for her on that long, lonely evening,
and, as she waited for her father's return, she had time to think
out quietly the various points which she would first take up. By
and by she slept a little, and then, in the silence of the night,
crept down to the lower regions to add something to the tempting
little supper which she had ready in the green room. But time
crept on, and in the silence she could hear dozens of clocks
telling each hour, and the train had been long due, and still her
father did not come.
At last she became too anxious to read or think to any purpose; she
drew aside the curtain, and, in spite of the cold, curled herself
upon the window seat with her face pressed close to the glass.
Watching, in a literal sense, was impossible, for there was a dense
fog, if possible, worse than the fog of the preceding Saturday, but
she had the feeling that to be by the window made her in some
unaccountable way nearer to her father, and it certainly had the
effect of showing her that there was a very good reason for
The old square was as quiet as death. Once a policeman raised her
hopes for a minute by pacing slowly up the pavement, but he passed
on, and all was still once more except that every now and then the
furniture in the room creaked, making the eerie stillness all the
more noticeable. Erica began to shiver a little, more from
apprehension than from cold. She wished the telegram had come from
any other town in England, and tried in vain not to conjure up a
hundred horrible visions of possible catastrophes. At length she
heard steps in the distance, and straining her eyes to penetrate
the thick darkness of the murky night, was able to make out just
beneath the window a sort of yellow glare. She ran downstairs at
full speed to open the door, and there upon the step stood a
link-boy, the tawny light from his torch showing up to perfection
the magnificent proportions of the man in a shaggy brown Inverness,
who stood beside him, and bringing into strong relief the masses of
white hair and the rugged Scottish face which, spite of cold and
great weariness, bore its usual expression of philosophic calm.
"I thought you were never coming," said Erica. "Why, you must be
half frozen! What a night it is!"
"We've been more than an hour groping our way from the station,"
said Raeburn; "and cabs were unattainable." Then, turning to the
link-boy, "Come in, you are as cold and hungry as I am. Have you
got something hot, Eric?"
"Soup and coffee," said Erica. "Which would he like best?"
The boy gave his vote for soup, and, having seen him thoroughly
satisfied and well paid, they sent him home, and to his dying day
he was proud to tell the story of the foggy night when the people's
tribune had given him half of his own supper. The father and
daughter were soon comfortably installed beside the green room
fire, Raeburn making a hearty meal though it was past three
"I never dreamed of finding you up, little son Eric," he said when
the warmth and the food had revived him. "I only telegraphed for
fear you should lock up for the night and leave me to shiver
unknown on the doorstep."
"But what happened?" asked Erica. "Why couldn't you lecture?"
"Ashborough had worked itself up into one of its tumults, and the
fools of authorities thought it would excite a breach of the peace,
which was excited quite as much and probably more by my not
lecturing. But I'm not going to be beaten! I shall go down there
again in a few weeks."
"Was there any rioting?"
"Well, there was a roughish mob, who prevented my eating my dinner
in peace, and pursued me even into my bedroom; and some of the
Ashborough lambs were kind enough to overturn my cab as I was going
to the station. But, having escaped with nothing worse than a
shaking, I'll forgive them for that. The fact is they had burned
me in effigy on the 5th and had so much enjoyed the ceremony that,
when the original turned up, they really couldn't be civil to him,
it would have been so very tame. I'm told the effigy was such a
fearful-looking monster that it frightened the bairnies out of
their wits, specially as it was first carried all round the place
on a parish coffin!"
"What a hateful plan that effigy-burning is!" said Erica. "Were you
not really hurt at all when they upset your cab?"
"Perhaps a little bruised," said Raeburn, "and somewhat angry with
my charitable opponents. I didn't so much mind being overturned,
but I hate being balked. They shall have the lecture, however,
before long; I'm not going to be beaten. On the whole, they
couldn't have chosen a worse night for their little game. I
seriously thought we should never grope our way home through that
fog. It has quite taken me back to my young days when this sort of
thing met one on every hand; and there was no little daughter to
cheer me up then, and very often no supper either!"
"That was when you were living in Blank Street?"
"Yes, in a room about the size of a sentry box. It was bearable
all except the black beetles! I've never seen such beetles before
or since twice the size of the ordinary ones. I couldn't convince
the landlady that they even existed; she always maintained that
they never rose to the attics; but one night I armed myself with
Cruden's Concordance and, thanks to its weight and my good aim,
killed six at a time, and produced the corpses as evidence. I
shall never forget the good lady's face! 'You see, sir,' she said,
'they never come by day; they 'ates the light because their deeds
"Were the beetles banished after that?" asked Erica, laughing.
"No, they went on to the bitter end," said Raeburn with one of his
bright, humorous looks. "And I believe the landlady put it all down
to my atheistical views a just retribution for harboring such a
notorious fellow in her house! But there, my child, we mustn't sit
up any longer gossiping; run off to bed. I'll see that the lights
are all out."
CHAPTER XXXVII. Dreeing Out the Inch
Skepticism for that century we must consider as the decay of old
ways of believing, the preparation afar off for new, better, and
wider ways an inevitable thing. We will not blame men for it; we
will lament their hard fate. We will understand that destruction
of old forms is not destruction of everlasting substances; that
skepticism, as sorrowful and hateful as we see it, is not an end
but a beginning. Carlyle
One June evening, an elderly man with closely cropped iron-gray
hair, might have been seen in a certain railway carriage as the
Folkestone train reached its destination. The Cannon Street
platform was, as usual, the scene of bustle and confusion, most of
the passengers were met by friends or relatives, others formed a
complete party in themselves, and, with the exception of the
elderly man, there was scarcely a unit among them. The fact of his
loneliness would not, of course, have been specially remarkable had
it not been that he was evidently in the last stage of some painful
illness; he was also a foreigner and, not being accustomed to the
English luggage system, he had failed to secure a porter as the
train drew up and so, while the others were fighting their way to
the van, he, who needed assistance more than any of them, was left
to shift for himself. He moved with great difficulty, dragging
down from the carriage a worn black bag, and occasionally muttering
to himself, not as a peevish invalid would have done, but as if it
were a sort of solace to his loneliness.
"The hardest day I've had, this! If I had but my Herzblattchen
now, how quickly she would pilot me through this throng. Ah well!
Having managed to do the rest, I'll not be beaten by this last bit.
Potztausend! These English are all elbows!"
He frowned with pain as the self-seeking crowd pushed and jostled
him, but never once lost his temper, and at length, after long
waiting, his turn came and, having secured his portmanteau, he was
before long driving away in the direction of Bloomsbury. His
strength was fast ebbing away, and the merciless jolting of the cab
evidently tried him to the utmost, but he bore up with the strong
endurance of one who knows that at the end of the struggle relief
"If he is only at home," he muttered to himself, "all will be well.
He'll know where I ought to go; he'll do it all for me in the best
way. ACH! Gott in himmel! But I need some one!"
With an excruciating jerk the cab drew up before a somewhat
grim-looking house; Had he arrived at the himmel he had just been
speaking of, the traveler could not have given an exclamation of
greater relief. He crawled up the steps, overruled some question
on the part of the servant, and was shown into a brightly lighted
room. At one glance he had taken in the whole of that restful
picture so welcome to his sore need. It was a good sized room,
lined with books, which had evidently seen good service, many of
them had been bought with the price of foregone meals, almost all
of them embodied some act of denial. Above the mantel piece hung
a little oil painting of a river scene, the sole thing not strictly
of a useful order, for the rest of the contents of this study were
all admirably adapted for working purposes, but were the reverse of
Seated at the writing table was the master of the house, who had
impressed his character plainly enough on his surroundings. He
looked up with an expression of blank astonishment on hearing the
name of his visitor, then the astonishment changed to incredulity;
but, when the weary traveler actually entered the room, he started
up with an exclamation of delight which very speedily gave place to
dismay when he saw how ill his friend was.
"Why, Haeberlein!" he said, grasping his hand, "what has happened
"Nothing very remarkable," replied Haeberlein, smiling. "Only a
great wish to see you before I die." Then, seeing that Raeburn's
face changed fearfully at these words, "Yes, it has come to that,
my friend. I've a very short time left, and I wanted to see you;
can you tell me of rooms near here, and of a decent doctor?"
"Of a doctor, yes," said Raeburn, "of one who will save your life,
I hope; and for rooms there are none that I know of except in this
house, where you will of course stay."
"With the little Herzblattchen to nurse me?" said Haeberlein with
a sigh of weary content as he sank back in an arm chair. "That
would be a very perfect ending; but think what the world would say
of you if I, who have lent a hand to so much that you disapprove,
died in your house; inevitably you would be associated with my
views and my doings."
"May be!" said Raeburn. "But I hope I may say that I've never
refused to do what was right for fear of unpleasant consequences.
No, no, my friend, you must stay here. A hard life has taught me
that, for one in my position, it is mere waste of time to consider
what people will say; they will say and believe the worst that can
be said and believed about me; and thirty years of this sort of
thing has taught me to pay very little regard to appearances."
As he spoke he took up the end of a speaking tube which
communicated with the green room, Haeberlein watching his movements
with the placid, weary indifference of one who is perfectly
convinced that he is in the right hands. Presently the door opened
and Erica came in. Haeberlein saw now what he had half fancied at
Salzburg that, although loving diminutives would always come
naturally to the lips when speaking of Erica, she had in truth lost
the extreme youthfulness of manner which had always characterized
her. It had to a great extent been crushed out of her by the long
months of wearing anxiety, and though she was often as merry and
kittenish as ever her habitual manner was that of a strong, quick
temperament kept in check. The restraint showed in everything.
She was much more ready to hear and much less ready to criticize,
her humorous talk was freer from sarcasm, her whole bearing
characterized by a sort of quiet steadfastness which made her
curiously like her father. His philosophical calm had indeed been
gained in a very different way, but in each the calmness was the
direct result of exceptionally trying circumstances brought to bear
on a noble nature.
"Herr Haeberlein has come here to be nursed," said Raeburn when the
greetings were over. "Will you see that a room is got ready,
He went out into the hall to dismiss the cab, and Haeberlein seized
the opportunity to correct his words.
"He thinks I shall get better, but it is impossible, my
Herzblattchen; it is only a question of weeks now, possibly only of
days. Was I wrong to come to you?"
"Of course not," she said with the sort of tender deference with
which she always spoke to him. "Did you think father would let you
go anywhere else?"
"I didn't think about it,"said Haeberlein wearily; "but he
wouldn't, you see."
Raeburn returned while he was speaking, and Erica went away quickly
to see to the necessary preparations. Herr Haeberlein had come,
and she did not for a moment question the rightness of her father's
decision; but yet in her heart she was troubled about it, and she
could see that both her aunt and Tom were troubled too. The fact
was that for some time they had seen plainly enough that Raeburn's
health was failing, and they dreaded any additional anxiety for
him. A man can not be involved in continual and harassing
litigation and at the same time agitate perseveringly for reform,
edit a newspaper, write books, rush from Land's End to John
O'Groat's, deliver lectures, speak at mass meetings, teach science,
befriend every unjustly used person, and go through the enormous
amount of correspondence, personal supervision, and inevitable
interviewing which falls to the lot of every popular leader,
without sooner or later breaking down.
Haeberlein had come, however, and there was no help for it. They
all did their very utmost for him, and those last weeks of tender
nursing were perhaps the happiest of his life. Raeburn never
allowed any one to see how the lingering expectation, the dark
shadow of the coming sorrow, tried him. He lived his usual busy
life, snatching an hour whenever he could to help in the work of
nursing, and bringing into the sick room the strange influence of
his strength and serenity.
The time wore slowly on. Haeberlein, though growing perceptibly
weaker, still lingered, able now and then to enter into
conversation, but for the most part just lying in patient silence,
listening with a curious impartiality to whatever they chose to
read to him, or whatever they began to talk about. He had all his
life been a man of no particular creed, and he retained his curious
indifference to the end, though Erica found that he had a sort of
vague belief in a First Cause, and a shadowy expectation of a
personal existence after death. She found this out through Brian,
who had a way of getting at the minds of his patients.
One very hot afternoon she had been with him for several hours when
about five o'clock her father came into the room. Another
prosecution under the blasphemy Laws had just commenced. He had
spent the whole day in a stifling law court, and even to the dying
man his exhaustion was apparent.
"Things gone badly?" he asked.
"Much as I expected," said Raeburn, taking up a Marechal Niel rose
from the table and studying it abstractedly. "I've had a sentence
of Auerbach's in my head all day, 'The martyrdom of the modern
world consists of a long array of thousands of trifling
annoyances.' These things are in themselves insignificant, but
multiplication makes them a great power. You have been feeling
this heat, I'm afraid. I will relieve guard, Erica. Is your
"Not quite," she replied, pausing to arrange Haeberlein's pillows
while her father raised him.
"Thank you, little Herzblattchen," he said, stroking her cheek,
"Auf wiedersehen," she replied brightly and, gathering up some
papers, ran downstairs to finish her work for the "Daily Review."
A few minutes later Brian came in for his second visit.
"Any change?" he asked.
"None, I think," she answered, and went on with her writing with an
apprehensive glance every now and then at the clock. The office
boy was mercifully late however, and it must have been quite half
an hour after she had left Haeberlein's room that she heard his
unwelcome ring. Late as it was, she was obliged to keep him
waiting a few minutes for it was exceedingly difficult in those
days to get her work done. Not only was the time hard to obtain,
but the writing itself was a difficulty; her mind was occupied with
so many other things, and her strength was so overtasked that it
was often an effort almost intolerable to sit down and write on the
She was in the hall giving her manuscript to the boy when she saw
her father come downstairs; she followed him into the study, and
one look at his face told her what had happened. He was leaning
back in the chair in which but a few weeks before she had seen
Haeberlein himself; it came over her with a shudder that he looked
almost as ill now as his friend had looked. She sat down on the
arm of his chair, and slipped her hand into his, but did not dare
to break the silence. At last he looked up.
"I think you know it," he said. "It is all over, Erica."
"Was Brian there?" she asked.
"Happily, yes; but there was nothing to be done. The end was
strangely sudden and quite painless, just what one would have
wished for him. But oh, child! I can ill spare such a friend just
His voice failed, and great tears gathered in his eyes. He let his
head rest for a minute on Erica's shoulder, conscious of a sort of
relief in the clasp of arms which had so often, in weak babyhood,
clung to him for help, conscious of the only comfort there could be
for him as his child's kisses fell on his lips, and brow, and hair.
"I am overdone, child," he said at length as though to account for
breaking down, albeit, by the confession, which but a short time
before he would never have made, that his strength was failing.
All through the dreary days that followed, Erica was haunted by
those words. The work had to go on just as usual, and it seemed to
tell on her father fearfully. The very cay after Haeberlein's
death it was necessary for him to speak at a mass meeting in the
north of England, and he came back from it almost voiceless and so
ill that they were at their wits' end to know what to do with him.
The morrow did not mend matters for the jury disagreed in the
blasphemy trial, and the whole thing had to be gone through again.
A more trying combination of events could hardly have been
imagined, and Erica, as she stood in the crowded cemetery next day
at the funeral, thought infinitely less of the quixotic Haeberlein
whom she had, nevertheless, loved very sincerely than of her sorely
overtasked father. He was evidently in dread of breaking down, and
it was with the greatest difficulty that he got through his
oration. To all present the sight was a most painful one and,
although the musical voice was hoarse and strained, seeming,
indeed, to tear out each sentence by sheer force of will, the
orator had never carried his audience more completely with him.
Their tears were, however, more for the living than for the dead;
for the man who was struggling with all his might to restrain his
emotion, painfully spurring on his exhausted powers to fulfill the
duty in hand. More than once Erica thought he would have fainted,
and she was fully prepared for the small crowd of friends who
gathered round her afterward, begging her to persuade him to rest.
The worst of it was that she could see no prospect of rest for him,
though she knew how sorely he longed for it. He spoke of it as
they drove home.
"I've an almost intolerable longing for quiet," he said to her.
"Do you remember Mill's passage about the two main constituents of
a satisfied life excitement and tranquillity? How willingly would
I change places today with that Tyrolese fellow whom we saw last
"Oh! If we could but go to the Tyrol again!" exclaimed Erica; but
Raeburn shook his head.
"Out of the question just now, my child; but next week when this
blasphemy trial is over, I must try to get a few days' holiday that
is to say, if I don't find myself in prison."
She sighed the sigh of one who is burdened almost beyond endurance.
For recent events had proved to her, only too plainly, that her
confidence that no jury would be found to convict a man under the
old blasphemy laws was quite mistaken.
That evening, however, her thoughts were a little diverted from her
father. For the first time for many months she had a letter from
Rose. It was to announce her engagement to Captain Golightly.
Rose seemed very happy, but there was an undertone of regret about
the letter which was uncomfortably suggestive of her flirtation
with Tom. Also there were sentences which, to Erica, were
enigmatical, about "having been so foolish last summer," and
wishing that she "could live that Brighton time over again." All
she could do was to choose the time and place for telling Tom with
discrimination. No opportunity presented itself till late in the
evening when she went down as usual to say good night to him,
taking Rose's letter with her. Tom was in his "den," a small room
consecrated to the goddess of disorder books, papers, electric
batteries, crucibles, chemicals, new temperance beverages, and
fishing rods were gathered together in wild confusion. Tom himself
was stirring something in a pipkin over the gas stove when Erica
"An unfallible cure for the drunkard's craving after alcohol," he
said, looking up at her with a smile. "'A thing of my own
invention,' to quote the knight in 'Through the Looking Glass.'
"No, thank you," said Erica, recoiling a little from the very
odoriferous contents of the pipkin. "I have had a letter from Rose
Tom started visibly.
"What, has Mr. Fane-Smith relented?" he asked.
"Rose had something special to tell me," said Erica, unfolding the
But Tom just took it from her hands without ceremony, and began to
read it. A dark flush came over his face Erica saw that much, but
afterward would not look at him, feeling that it was hardly fair.
Presently he gave her the letter once more.
"Thank you," he said in a voice so cold and bitter that she could
hardly believe it to be his. "As you probably see, I have been a
fool. I shall know better how to trust a woman in the future."
"Oh, Tom," she cried. "Don't let it--"
He interrupted her.
"I don't wish to talk," he said. "Least of all to one who has
adopted the religion which Miss Fane-Smith has been brought up in
a religion which of necessity debases and degrades its votaries."
Her eyes filled with tears, but she new that Christianity would in
this case be better vindicated by silence than by words however
eloquent. She just kissed him and wished him good night. But as
she reached the door, his heart smote him.
"I don't say it has debased you," he said; "but that that is its
natural tendency. You are better than your creed."
"He meant that by way of consolation," thought Erica to herself as
she went slowly upstairs fighting with her tears.
But of course the consolation had been merely a sharper stab; for
to tell a Christian that he is better than his creed is the one
What had been the extent of the understanding with Rose, Erica
never learned, but she feared that it must have been equivalent to
a promise in Tom's eyes, and much more serious than mere flirtation
in Rose's, otherwise the regret in the letter was, from one of
Rose's way of thinking, inexplicable. From that time there was a
marked change in Tom; Erica was very unhappy about him, but there
was little to be done except, indeed, to share all his interests as
much as she could, and to try to make the home life pleasant. But
this was by no means easy. To begin with, Raeburn himself was more
difficult than ever to work with, and Tom, who was in a hard,
cynical mood, called him overbearing where, in former times, he
would merely have called him decided. The very best of men are
occasionally irritable when they are nearly worked to death; and
under the severe strain of those days, Raeburn's philosophic calm
more than once broke down, and the quick Highland temper, usually
kept in admirable restraint, made itself felt.
It was not, however, for two or three days after Haeberlein's
funeral that he showed any other symptoms of illness. One evening
they were all present at a meeting at the East End at which Donovan
Farrant was also speaking. Raeburn's voice had somewhat recovered,
and he was speaking with great force and fluency when, all at once
in the middle of a sentence, he came to a dead pause. For half a
minute he stood motionless; before him were the densely packed rows
of listening faces, but what they had come there to hear he had not
the faintest notion. His mind was exactly like a sheet of white
paper; all recollection of the subject he had been speaking on was
entirely obliterated. Some men would have pleaded illness and
escaped, others would have blundered on. But Raeburn, who never
lost his presence of mind, just turned to the audience and said
quietly: "Will some one have the goodness to tell me what I was
saying? My memory has played me a trick."
"Taxation!" shouted the people.
A short-hand writer close to the platform repeated his last
sentence, and Raeburn at once took the cue and finished his speech
with perfect ease. Every one felt, however, that it was an
uncomfortable incident, and, though to the audience Raeburn chose
to make a joke of it, he knew well enough that it boded no good.
"You ought to take a rest," said Donovan to him when the meeting
"I own to needing it," said Raeburn. "Pogson's last bit of malice
will, I hope, be quashed in a few days and, after that, rest may be
possible. He is of opinion that 'there are mony ways of killing a
dog though ye dinna hang him,' and, upon my word, he's not far
He was besieged here by two or three people who wanted to ask his
advice, and Donovan turned to Erica.
"He has been feeling all this talk about Herr Haeberlein; people
say the most atrocious things about him just because he gave him
shelter at the last," she said. "Really sometimes the accusations
are so absurd that we ourselves can't help laughing at them. But
though I don't believe in being 'done to death by slanderous
tongues,' there is no doubt that the constant friction of these
small annoyances does tell on my father very perceptibly. After
all, you know the very worst form of torture is merely the
perpetual falling of a drop of water on the victim's head."
"I suppose since last summer this sort of thing has been on the
"Indeed it has," she replied. "It is worse, I think, than you have
any idea of. You read your daily paper and your weekly review, but
every malicious, irritating word put forth by every local paper in
England, Scotland, or Ireland comes to us, not to speak of all that
we get from private sources."
On their way home they did all in their power to persuade Raeburn
to take an immediate holiday, but he only shook his head.
"'Dree out the inch when ye have thol'd the span,'" he said,
leaning back wearily in the cab but taking care to give the
conversation an abrupt turn before relapsing into silence.
At supper, as ill luck would have it, Aunt Jean relieved her
fatigue and anxiety by entering upon one of her old remonstrances
with Erica. Raeburn was not sitting at the table; he was in an
easy chair at the other side of the room, and possibly she forgot
his presence. But he heard every word that passed, and at last
started up with angry impatience.
"For goodness' sake, Jean, leave the child alone!" he said. "Is it
not enough for me to be troubled with bitterness and dissension
outside without having my home turned into an arguing shop?"
"Erica should have thought of that before she deserted her own
party," said Aunt Jean; "before, to quote Strauss, she had recourse
to 'religious crutches.' It is she who has introduced the new
element into the house."
Erica's color rose, but she said nothing. Aunt Jean seemed rather
baffled by her silence. Tom watched the little scene with a sort
of philosophic interest. Raeburn, conscious of having spoken
sharply to his sister and fearing to lose his temper again, paced
the room silently. Finally he went off to his study, leaving them
to the unpleasant consciousness that he had been driven out of his
own dining room. But when he had gone, the quarrel was forgotten
altogether; they forgot differences of creed in a great mutual
anxiety. Raeburn's manner had been so unnatural, he had been so
unlike himself, that in their trouble about it they entirely passed
over the original cause of his anger. Aunt Jean was as much
relieved as any one when before long he opened his door and called
"I have lost my address book," he said;"have you seen it about?"
She began to search for it, fully aware that he had given her
something to do for him just out of loving consideration, and with
the hope that it would take the sting from her aunt's hard words.
When she brought him the book, he took her face between both his
hands, looked at her steadily for a minute, and then kissed her.
"All right, little son Eric," he said, with a sigh. "We understand
But she went upstairs feeling miserable about him, and an hour or
two later, when all the house was silent, her feeling of coming
trouble grew so much that at length she yielded to one of those
strange, blind impulses which come to some people and crept
noiselessly out on to the dark landing. At first all seemed to her
perfectly still and perfectly dark; but, looking down the narrow
well of the staircase, she could see far below her a streak of
light falling across the tiles in the passage. She knew that it
must come from beneath the door of the study, and it meant that her
father was still at work. He had owned to having a bad headache,
and had promised not to be late. It was perplexing. She stole
down the next flight of stairs and listened at Tom's door; then,
finding that he was still about, knocked softly. Tom, with his
feet on the mantel piece, was solacing himself with a pipe and a
novel; he started up, however, as she came in.
"What's the matter?" he asked, "is any one ill?"
"I don't know," said Erica, shivering a little. "I came to know
whether father had much to do tonight; did he tell you?"
"He was going to write to Jackson about a situation for the eldest
son of that fellow who died the other day, you know; the widow,
poor creature, is nearly worried out of her life; she was here this
afternoon. The chieftain promised to see about it at once; he
wouldn't let me write, and of course a letter from himself will be
more likely to help the boy."
"But it's after one o'clock," said Erica, shivering again; "he
can't have been all this time over it."
"Well, perhaps he is working at something else," said Tom. "He's
not been sleeping well lately, I know. Last night he got through
thirty-three letters, and the night before he wrote a long
Erica did not look satisfied.
"Lend me your stove for a minute," she said; "I shall make him a
cup of tea."
They talked a little about the curious failure of memory noticed
for the first time that evening. Tom was more like himself than he
had been for several days; he came downstairs with her to carry a
light, but she went alone into the study. He had not gone up the
first flight of stairs, however, when he heard a cry, then his own
name called twice in tones that made him thrill all over with a
nameless fear. He rushed down and pushed open the study door.
There stood Erica with blanched face; Raeburn sat in his customary
place at the writing table, but his head had fallen forward and,
though the face was partly hidden by the desk, they could see that
it was rigid and deathly pale.
"He has fainted," said Tom, not allowing the worse fear to
overmaster him. "Run quick, and get some water, Erica."
She obeyed mechanically. When she returned, Tom had managed to get
Raeburn on to the floor and had loosened his cravat; he had also
noticed that only one letter lay upon the desk, abruptly
terminating at "I am, yours sincerely." Whether the "Luke
Raeburn" would ever be added, seemed to Tom at that moment very
doubtful. Leaving Erica with her father, he rushed across the
square to summon Brian, returning in a very few minutes with the
comforting news that he was at home and would be with them
immediately. Erica gave a sigh of relief when the quick, firm
steps were heard on the pavement outside. Brian was so closely
associated with all the wearing times of illness and anxiety which
had come to them in the last six years that, in her trouble, she
almost forgot the day at Fiesole regarding him not as her lover,
but as the man who had once before saved her father's life. His
very presence inspired her with confidence, the quiet authority of
his manner, the calm, business-like way in which he directed
things. Her anxiety faded away in the consciousness that he knew
all about it, and would do everything as it should be done. Before
very long Raeburn showed signs of returning consciousness, sighed
uneasily; then, opening his eyes, regained his faculties as
suddenly as he had lost them.
"Halloo!" he exclaimed, starting up. "What's all this coil about?
What are you doing to me?"
They explained things to him.
"Oh! Fainted, did I!" he said musingly. "I have felt a little
faint once or twice lately. What day is it? What time is it?"
Tom mentioned the meeting of the previous evening, and Raeburn
seemed to recollect himself. He looked at his watch, then at the
letter on his desk. "Well, it's my way to do things thoroughly,"
he said with a smile; "I must have been off for a couple of hours.
I am very sorry to have disturbed your slumbers in this way."
As he spoke, he sat down composedly at his desk, picked up the pen
and signed his name to the letter. They stood and watched him
while he folded the sheet and directed the envelope; his writing
bore a little more markedly than usual the tokens of strong
"Perhaps you'll just drop that in the pillar on your way home," he
said to Brian. "I want Jackson to get it by the first post. If
you will look in later on, I should be glad to have a talk with
you. At present I'm too tired to be overhauled."
Then, as Brian left the room, he turned to Erica.
"I am sorry to have given you a fright, my child; but don't worry
about me, I am only a little overdone."
Again that fatal admission, which from Raeburn's lips was more
alarming than a long catalogue of dangerous symptoms from other
There followed a disturbed night and a long day in a crowded law
court, then one of the most terrible hours they had ever had to
endure while waiting for the verdict which would either consign
Raeburn to prison or leave him to peace and freedom. So horrible
was the suspense that to draw each breath was to Erica a painful
effort. Even Raeburn's composure was a little shaken as those
eternal minutes dragged on.
The foreman returned. The court seemed to throb with excitement.
Raeburn lifted a calm, stern face to hear his fate. He knew what
no one else in the court knew, that this was to him a matter of
life and death.
"Are you agreed, gentlemen?"
People listened breathlessly.
"Do you find the defendant guilty, or not?"
The reaction was so sharp as to be almost overpowering. But poor
Erica's joy was but short-lived. She looked at her father's face
and knew that, although one anxiety was ended, another was already
CHAPTER XXXVIII. Halcyon Days
There is a sweetness in autumnal days,
Which many a lip doth praise;
When the earth, tired a little, and grown mute
Of song, and having borne its fruit,
Rests for a little ere the winter come.
It is not sad to turn the face toward home,
Even though it show the journey nearly done;
It is not sad to mark the westering sun,
Even though we know the night doth come,
Silence there is, indeed, for song,
Twilight for noon,
But for the steadfast soul and strong
Life's autumn is as June. From the "Ode of Life"
"Anything in the papers this evening?" asked a young clergyman, who
was in one of the carriages of the Metropolitan Railway late in the
afternoon of an August day.
"Nothing of much interest," replied his wife, handing him the
newspaper she had been glancing through. "I see that wretched
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