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We Two
by Edna Lyall
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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 question.

"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 spirits.

"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 topics.

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 kindly.

"Women never like to see another woman admired," he replied with a sarcastic smile.

"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 Erica.

"Well, come along Tom," said Raeburn, taking up his hat. "We are very late."

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 you home."

"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 exit.

"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 silence.

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 Latitudinarian!"

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 frightened.

"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 emphasized.

"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 punishment!"

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 for her.

"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 wound.

"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 me."

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 hard!"

"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 way."

"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 correspondence."

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 unpunctuality.

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 o'clock.

"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 is evil.'"

"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 awaits him.

"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 luxurious.

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 to you?"

"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, dear?"

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 article ready?"

"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."

"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 appointed subject.

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 now!"

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 year!"

"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 came in.

"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.' Try some?"

"No, thank you," said Erica, recoiling a little from the very odoriferous contents of the pipkin. "I have had a letter from Rose this evening."

Tom started visibly.

"What, has Mr. Fane-Smith relented?" he asked.

"Rose had something special to tell me," said Erica, unfolding the letter.

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 intolerable thing.

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 was over.

"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 wrong."

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 increase?"

"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 for Erica.

"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 each other."

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 pamphlet."

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 self-restraint.

"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 men!

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?"

"Yes."

People listened breathlessly.

"Do you find the defendant guilty, or not?"

"Not guilty."

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 begun.



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 Raeburn is ill. I wish he'd die."

"Oh! Broken down at last, has he?" said the other. "Where is it? Oh, yes, I see. Ordered to take immediate and entire rest. Will be paralyzed in a week if he doesn't. Pleasant alternative that! Result of excessive overwork. Fancy calling this blasphemous teaching work! I could hang that man with my own hands!"

Erica had had a long and harassing day. She was returning from the city where she had gone to obtain leave of absence from Mr. Bircham; for her father was to go into the quietest country place that could be found, and she of course was to accompany him. At the "Daily Review" office she had met with the greatest kindness, and she might have gone home cheered and comforted had it not been her lot to overhear this conversation. Tom was with her. She saw him hastily transcribing the uncharitable remarks, and knew that the incident would figure in next week's "Idol-Breaker." It was only a traceable instance of the harm done by all such words.

"Will you change carriages?" asked Tom.

"Yes," she said; and as she rose to go she quietly handed her card to the lady, who, it is to be hoped, learned a lesson thereby.

But it would be unjust to show only the dark side of the picture. Great sympathy and kindness was shown them at that time by many earnest and orthodox Christians, and though Raeburn used to accept this sympathy with the remark: "You see, humanity overcomes the baleful influences of religion in the long run," yet he was always touched and pleased by the smallest signs of friendliness; while to Erica such considerateness was an inestimable help. The haste and confusion of those days, added to the anxiety, told severely on her strength; but there is this amount of good in a trying bit of "hurrying life," the rest, when it comes, is doubly restful.

It was about six o'clock on an August evening when Raeburn and Erica reached the little country town of Firdale. They were to take up their abode for the next six weeks at a village about three miles off, one of the few remaining places in England which maintained its primitive simplicity, its peaceful quiet having never been disturbed by shriek of whistle or snort of engine.

The journey from town had been short and easy, but Raeburn was terribly exhausted by it; he complained of such severe headache that they made up their minds to stay that night at Firdale, and were soon comfortably established in the most charming old inn, which in coaching days had been a place of note. Here they dined, and afterward Raeburn fell asleep on a big old-fashioned sofa, while Erica sat by the open window, able in spite of her anxiety to take a sort of restful interest in watching the traffic in the street below. Such a quiet, easy-going life these Firdale people seemed to lead. They moved in such a leisurely way; bustle and hurry seemed an unknown thing. And yet this was market day, as was evident by the country women with their baskets, and by occasional processions of sheep or cattle. One man went slowly by driving a huge pig; he was in sight for quite five minutes, dawdling along, and allowing the pig to have his own sweet will as far as speed was concerned, but occasionally giving him a gentle poke with a stick when he paused to burrow his nose in the mud. Small groups of men stood talking at the corner of the market place; a big family went by, evidently returning from a country walk; presently the lamps were lighted, and then immense excitement reigned in the little place for at the corner where the two main streets crossed each other at right angles a cheap-jack had set up his stall and, with flaring naptha lamps to show his goods, was selling by auction the most wonderful clocks at the very lowest prices in fact, the most superior glass, china, clothing, and furniture that the people of Firdale had ever had the privilege of seeing. Erica listened with no little amusement to his fervid appeals to the people not to lose this golden opportunity, and to the shy responses of the small crowd which had been attracted and which lingered on, tempted yet cautious, until the cheap-jack had worked himself up into a white heat of energetic oratory, and the selling became brisk and lively.

By and by the silvery moonlight began to flood the street, contrasting strangely with the orange glare of the lamps. Erica still leaned her head against the window frame, still looked out dreamily at the Firdale life, while the soft night wind lightly lifted the hair from her forehead and seemed to lull the pain at her heart.

It was only in accordance with the general peacefulness when by and by her father crossed the room, looking more like himself than he had done for some days.

"I am better, Eric," he said cheerfully "better already. It is just the consciousness that there is nothing that need be done. I feel as if I should sleep tonight." He looked out at the moonlit street. "What a perfect night it is!" He exclaimed. "What do you say, little one; shall we drive over to this rural retreat now? The good folks were told to have everything ready, and they can hardly lock up before ten."

She was so glad to see him take an interest in anything, and so greatly relieved by his recovery of strength and spirits, that she gladly fell in with the plan, and before long they set off in one of the wagonettes belonging to the Shrub Inn.

Firdale wound its long street of red-roofed houses along a sheltered valley in between fir-crowned heights; beyond the town lay rich, fertile-looking meadows, and a winding river bordered by pollard willows. Looking across these meadows, one could see the massive tower of the church, its white pinnacles standing out sharp and clear in the moonlight. As Raeburn and Erica crossed the bridge leading out of the town, the clock in the tower struck nine, and the old chimes began to play the tune which every three hours fell on the ears of the inhabitants of Firdale.

"'Life let us cherish,'" said Raeburn with a smile. "A good omen for us, little one."

And whether it was the mere fact that he looked so much more cheerful already, or whether the dear old tune, with its resolute good humor and determination to make the best of things, acted upon Erica's sensitive nature, it would be hard to say, but she somehow shook off all her cares and enjoyed the novelty of the moonlight drive like a child. Before long they were among the fir trees, driving along the sandy road, the sweet night laden with the delicious scent of pine needles, and to the overworked Londoners in itself the most delicious refreshment. All at once Raeburn ordered the driver to stop and, getting out, stooped down by the roadside.

"What is it?" asked Erica.

"Heather!" he exclaimed, tearing it up by handfuls and returning to the carriage laden. "There! Shut your eyes and bury your face in that, and you can almost fancy you're on a Scottish mountain. Brian deserves anything for sending us to the land of heather; it makes me feel like a boy again."

The three miles were all too short to please them, but at last they reached the little village of Milford and were set down at a compact-looking white house known as Under the Oak.

"That direction is charming," said Raeburn, laughing; "imagine your business letters sent from the 'Daily Review' office to 'Miss Raeburn, Under the Oak, Milford!' They'll think we're living in a tent. You'll be nicknamed Deborah!"

It was not until the next morning that they fully understood the appropriateness of the direction. The little white house had been built close to the grand old oak which was the pride of Milford. It was indeed a giant of its kind; there was something wonderfully fine about its vigorous spread of branches and its enormous girth. Close by was a peaceful-looking river, flowing between green banks fringed with willow and marestail and pink river-herb. The house itself had a nice little garden, gay with geraniums and gladiolus, and bounded by a hedge of sunflowers which would have gladdened the heart of an aesthete. All was pure, fresh, cleanly, and perfectly quiet.

From the windows nothing was to be seen except the village green with its flocks of geese and its tall sign post; the river describing a sort of horseshoe curve round it, and spanned by two picturesque bridges. In the distance was a small church and a little cluster of houses, the "village" being completed by a blacksmith's forge and a post office. To this latter place they had to pay a speedy visit for, much to Raeburn's amusement, Erica had forgotten to bring any ink.

"To think that a writer in the 'Daily Review' should forget such a necessary of life!" he said, smiling. "One would think you were your little 'Cartesian-well' cousin instead of a journalist!"

However, the post office was capable of supplying almost anything likely to be needed in the depths of the country; you could purchase there bread, cakes, groceries, hob-nailed boots, paper, ink, and most delectable toffee!

The relief of the country quiet was unlike anything which Erica had known before. There was, indeed, at first a good deal of anxiety about her father. His acquiescence in idleness, his perfect readiness to spend whole days without even opening a book, proved the seriousness of his condition. For the first week he was more completely prostrated than she had ever known him to be. He would spend whole days on the river, too tired even to speak, or would drag himself as far as the neighboring wood and stretch himself at full length under the trees while she sat by sketching or writing. Bur Brian was satisfied with his improvement when he came down on one of his periodical visits, and set Erica's mind at rest about him.

"You father has such a wonderful constitution," he said as they paced to and fro in the little garden. "I should not be surprised if, in a couple of months, he is as strong as ever; though most men would probably feel such an overstrain to the end of their days."

After that, the time at Milford was pure happiness. Erica learned to love every inch of that lovely neighborhood, from the hill of Rocksbury with its fir-clad heights, to Trencharn Lake nestled down among the surrounding heath hills. In after years she liked to recall all those peaceful days, days when time had ceased to exist at any rate, as an element of friction in life. There was no hurrying here, and the recollection of it afterward was a perpetual happiness. The quiet river where they had one day seen an otter, a marked event in their uneventful days; the farm with its red gables and its crowd of gobbling turkeys; the sweet-smelling fir groves with their sandy paths; and their own particular wood where beeches, oaks, and silvery birch trees were intermingled, with here and there a tall pine sometimes stately and erect, sometimes blown aslant by the wind.

Here the winding paths were bordered with golden moss, and sheltered by a tangled growth of bracken and bramble with now and then a little clump of heather or a patch of blue harebells. Every nook of that place grew familiar to them and had its special associations. There was the shady part under the beeches where they spent the hot days, and this was always associated with fragments of "Macbeth" and "Julius Caesar." There was the cozy nook on the fir hill where in cool September they had read volume after volume of Walter Scott, Raeburn not being allowed to have anything but light literature, and caring too little for "society" novels to listen to them even now. There was the prettiest part of all down below, the bit of sandy cliff riddled with nest holes by the sand martins; here they discovered a little spring, the natural basin scooped out in the rock, festooned with ivy and thickly coated with the pretty green liverwort. Never surely was water so cold and clear as that which flowed into the basin with its ground of white sand, and overflowed into a little trickling stream; while in the distance was heard the roar of the river as it fell into a small waterfall. There was the ford from which the place was named and which Erica associated with a long happy day when Brian had come down to see her father. She remembered how they had watched the carts and horses splashing though the clear water, going in muddy on one side and coming out clean on the other. She had just listened in silence to the talk between Brian and her father which happened to turn on Donovan Farrant.

They discussed the effect of early education and surroundings upon the generality of men, and Raeburn, while prophesying great things for Donovan's future and hoping that he might live to see his first Budget, rather surprised them both by what he said about his tolerable well-known early life. He was a man who found it very difficult to make allowances for temptations he had never felt, he was convinced that under Donovan's circumstances he should have acted very differently, and he made the common mistake of judging others by himself. His ruggedly honest nature and stern sense of justice could not get over those past failings. However, this opinion about the past did not interfere with his present liking of the man. He liked him much; and when, toward the end of their six weeks' stay at Milford, Donovan invited them to Oakdene, he was really pleased to accept the invitation. He hoped to be well enough to speak at an important political meeting at Ashborough about the middle of October, and as Ashborough was not far from Oakdene, Donovan wrote to propose a visit there en route.

At length the last evening came. Raeburn and Erica climbed Rocksbury for the last time, and in the cool of the evening walked slowly home.

"I have always dreaded old age," he said. "But I shall dread it no more. This has been a foretaste of the autumn of life, and it has been very peaceful. I don't see why the winter should not be the same if I have you with me, little one."

"You shall have me as long as I am alive," she said, giving his strong hand a little loving squeeze.

"Truth to tell," said Raeburn, "I thought a few weeks ago that it would be a case of 'Here lies Luke Raeburn, who died of litigation!' But, after all, to be able to work to the last is the happiest lot. Tis an enviable thing to die in harness."

They were walking up a hill, a sort of ravine with steep high banks on either side, and stately pines stretching their blue-green foliage up against the evening sky. A red glow of sunset made the dark stems look like fiery pillars, and presently as they reached the brow of the hill the great crimson globe was revealed to them. They both stood in perfect silence watching till it sunk below the horizon.

And a great peace filled Erica's heart though at one time her father's wish would have made her sad and apprehensive. In former times she had set her whole heart on his learning before death that he was teaching error. Now she had learned to add to "Thy will be done," the clause which it takes some of us a life time to say, "Not my will."



CHAPTER XXXIX. Ashborough

There's a brave fellow! There's a man of pluck! A man who is not afraid to say his say, Though a whole town's against him. Longfellow

A man's love is the measure of his fitness for good or bad company here or elsewhere. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The week at Oakdene proved in every way a success; Raeburn liked his host heartily, and the whole atmosphere of the house was a revelation to him. The last morning there had been a little clouded for news had reached them of a terrible colliery accident in the north of England. The calamity had a special gloom about it for it might very easily have been prevented, the owners having long known that the mine was unsafe.

"I must say it is a little hard to see how such a horrible sin as carelessness of the lives of human beings can ever bring about the greater good which we believe evil to do," said Erica, as she took her last walk in the wood with Donovan.

"'Tis hard to see at the time," he replied. "But I am convinced that it is so. The sin is never good, never right; but when men will sin, then the result of the sin, however frightful, brings about more good that the perseverance in sin with no catastrophe would have done. A longer-deferred good, of course, than the good which would have resulted by adhering from the first to the right, and so far inferior."

"Of course," said Erica, "I can see that a certain amount of immediate good may result from this disaster. It will make the owners of other mines more careful."

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