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We Two
by Edna Lyall
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The manifestation of the speaker's generosity and universal brotherliness came like a light to Erica's darkness. It did not end her struggle, but it did end her despair. A faint, indefinable hope rose in her heart.

Mr. Farrant's maiden speech made a considerable stir; it met with some praise and much blame. Erica learned from one of the papers that he was Mr. Donovan Farrant, and at once felt convinced that he was the "Donovan" whom both Charles Osmond and Brian had mentioned to her. She seemed to know a good deal about him. Probably they had never told her his surname because they knew that some day he would be a public character. With instinctive delicacy she refrained from making any reference to his speech, or any inquiry as to his identity with the "Donovan" of whose inner life she had heard. Very soon after that, too, she went down to the sea side with her father, and when they came back to town the Osmonds had gone abroad, so it was not until the autumn that they again met.

Her stay at Codrington wonderfully refreshed her; it was the first time in her life that she had taken a thorough holiday, with change of scene and restful idleness to complete it. The time was outwardly uneventful enough, but her father grew strong in body and she grew strong in mind.

One absurd little incident she often laughed over afterward. It happened that in the "On-looker" there was a quotation from some unnamed medieval writer; she and her father had a discussion as to whom it could be, Raeburn maintaining that it was Thomas a Kempis. Wishing to verify it, Erica went to a bookseller's and asked for the "Imitation of Christ." A rather prim-looking dame presided behind the counter.

"We haven't that book, miss," she said, "it's quite out of fashion now."

"I agree with you," said Erica, greatly amused. "It must be quite out of fashion, for I scarcely know half a dozen people who practice it." However, a second shop appeared to think differently, for it had Thomas a Kempis in every conceivable size, shape, and binding. Erica bought a little sixpenny copy and went back to the beach, where she made her father laugh over her story.

They verified the quotation, and by and by Erica began to read the book. On the very first page she came to words which made her pause and relapse into a deep reverie.

"But he who would fully and feelingly understand the words of Christ, must study to make his whole life conformable to that of Christ."

The thought linked itself in her mind with some words of John Stuart Mill's which she had heard quoted till she was almost weary of them.

"Nor even now would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation for the rule of virtue from the abstract into the concrete, than to endeavor so to live that Christ would approve our life."

While she was still musing, a sound of piteous crying attracted her notice. Looking up she saw a tiny child wandering along the beach, trailing a wooden spade after her, and sobbing as if her heart would break. In a moment Erica was beside her coaxing and consoling, but at last, finding it impossible to draw forth an intelligible word from the sobs and tears, she took the little thing in her arms and carried her to her father. Raeburn was a great child lover, and had a habit of carrying goodies in his pocket, much to the satisfaction of all the children with whom he was brought in contact. He produced a bit of butterscotch, which restored the small maiden's serenity for a minute.

"She must have lost her way," he said, glancing from the lovely little tear-stained face to the thinly shod feet and ungloved hands of the little one. The butterscotch had won her heart. Presently she volunteered a remark.

"Dolly putted on her own hat. Dolly wanted to dig all alone. Dolly ran away."

"Where is your home?" asked Erica.

"Me don't know! Me don't know!" cried Dolly, bursting into tears again, and hiding her face on Raeburn's coat. "Father! Father, Dolly wants father."

"We will come and look for him," said Erica, "but you must stop crying, and you know your father will be sure to come and look for you."

At this the little one checked her tears, and looked up as if expecting to see him close by.

"He isn't there," she said, piteously.

"Come and let us look for him," said Erica.

Dolly jumped up, thrust her little hand into Erica's, and toiled up the steep beach. They had reached the road, and Erica paused for a moment, wondering which direction they had better take, when a voice behind her made her start.

"Why Dorothy little one we've been hunting for you everywhere!"

Dolly let go Erica's hand, and with a glad cry rushed into the arms of a tall, dark, rather foreign-looking man, who caught her up and held her closely.

He turned to Erica and thanked her very warmly for her help. Erica thought his face the noblest she had ever seen.



CHAPTER XIX. At The Museum

Methought I heard one calling: "Child," And I replied: 'My Lord!'" George Herbert

A favorite pastime with country children is to watch the gradual growth of the acorn into the oak tree. They will suspend the acorn in a glass of water and watch the slow progress during long months. First one tiny white thread is put forth, then another, until at length the glass is almost filled with a tangle of white fibers, a sturdy little stem raises itself up, and the baby tree, if it is to live, must be at once transplanted into good soil. The process may be botanically interesting, but there is something a little sickly about it, too there is a feeling that, after all, the acorn would have done better in its natural ground hidden away in darkness.

And, if we have this feeling with regard to vegetable growth, how much more with regard to spiritual growth! To attempt to set up the gradually awakening spirit in an apparatus where it might be the observed of all observers would be at once repulsive and presumptuous. Happily, it is impossible. We may trace influences and suggestions, just as we may note the rain or drought, the heat or cold that affect vegetable growth, but the actual birth is ever hidden.

To attempt even to shadow forth Erica's growth during the next year would be worse than presumptuous. As to her outward life it was not greatly changed, only intensified. October always began their busiest six months. There was the night school at which she was able to work again indefatigably. There were lectures to be attended. Above all there was an ever-increasing amount of work to be done for her father. In all the positive and constructive side of secularism, in all the efforts made by it to better humanity, she took an enthusiastic share. Naturally she did not see so much of Charles Osmond now that she was strong again. In the press of business, in the hard, every-day life there was little time for discussion. They met frequently, but never for one of their long tete-a-tetes. Perhaps Erica purposely avoided them. She was strangely different now from the little impetuous girl who had come to his study years ago, trembling with anger at the lady superintendent's insult. Insults had since then, alas, become so familiar to her, that she had acquired a sort of patient dignity of endurance, infinitely sad to watch in such a young girl.

One morning in early June, just a year after the memorable Hyde Park meeting, Charles Osmond happened to be returning from the death bed of one of his parishioners when, at the corner of Guilford Square, he met Erica. It might have been in part the contrast with the sad and painful scene he had just quitted, but he thought she had never before looked so beautiful. Her face seemed to have taken to itself the freshness and the glow of the summer morning.

"You are early abroad," he said, feeling older and grayer and more tired than ever as he paused to speak to her.

"I am off to the museum to read," she said, "I like to get there by nine, then you don't have to wait such an age for your books; I can't bear waiting."

"What are you at work upon now?"

"Oh, today for the last time I am going to hunt up particulars about Livingstone. Hazeldine was very anxious that a series of papers on his life should be written for our people. What a grand fellow he was!"

"I heard a characteristic anecdote of him the other day," said Charles Osmond. "He was walking beside one of the African lakes which he had discovered, when suddenly there dawned on him a new meaning to long familiar words: 'The blood of Christ,' he exclaimed. 'That must be Charity! The blood of Christ that must be Charity!' A beautiful thought, too seldom practically taught."

Erica looked grave.

"Characteristic, certainly, of his broad-heartedness, but I don't think that anecdote will do for the readers of the 'Idol-Breaker.'" Then, looking up at Charles Osmond, she added in a rather lower tone: "Do you know, I had no idea when I began what a difficult task I had got. I thought in such an active life as that there would be little difficulty in keeping the religious part away from the secular, but it is wonderful how Livingstone contrives to mix them up."

"You see, if Christianity be true, it must, as you say, 'mix up' with everything. There should be no rigid distinction between secular and religious," said Charles Osmond.

"If it is true," said Erica, suddenly, and with seeming irrelevance, "then sooner or later we must learn it to be so. Truth MUST win in the end. But it is worse to wait for perfect certainty than for books at the museum," she added, laughing. "It is five minutes to nine I shall be late."

Charles Osmond walked home thoughtfully; the meeting had somehow cheered him.

"Absolute conviction that truth must out that truth must make itself perceptible. I've not often come across a more beautiful faith than that. Yes, little Undine, right you are. 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' Here or there, here or there

'All things come round to him who will but wait.'

There's one for yourself, Charles Osmond. None of your hurrying and meddling now, old man; you've just got to leave it to your betters."

Soliloquizing after this fashion he reached home, and was not sorry to find his breakfast awaiting him, for he had been up the greater part of the night.

The great domed library of the British Museum had become very home-like to Erica, it was her ideal of comfort; she went there whenever she wanted quiet, for in the small and crowded lodgings she could never be secure from interruptions, and interruptions resulted in bad work. There was something, too, in the atmosphere of the museum which seemed to help her. She liked the perfect stillness, she liked the presence of all the books. Above all, too, she liked the consciousness of possession. There was no narrow exclusiveness about this place, no one could look askance at her here. The place belonged to the people, and therefore belonged to her; she heretic and atheist as she was had as much share in the ownership as the highest in the land. She had her own peculiar nook over by the encyclopedias, and, being always an early comer, seldom failed to secure her own particular chair and desk.

On this morning she took her place, as she had done hundreds of times before, and was soon hard at work. She was finishing her last paper on Livingstone when a book she had ordered was deposited on her desk by one of the noiseless attendants. She wanted it to verify one or two dates, and she half thought she would try to hunt up Charles Osmond's anecdote. In order to write her series of papers, she had been obliged to study the character of the great explorer pretty thoroughly. She had always been able to see the nobility even of those differing most widely from herself in point of creed, and the great beauty of Livingstone's character had impressed her very much. Today she happened to open on an entry in his journal which seemed particularly characteristic of the man. He was in great danger from the hostile tribes at the union of the Zambesi and Loangwa, and there was something about his spontaneous utterance which appealed very strongly to Erica.

"Felt much turmoil of spirit in view of having all my plans for the welfare of this great region and teeming population knocked on the head by savages tomorrow. But I read that Jesus came and said: 'All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, and lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.' It is the word of a gentleman of the most sacred and strictest honor, and there's an end on't. I will not cross furtively by night as I intended... Nay, verily, I shall take observations for latitude and longitude tonight, though they may be the last."

The courage, the daring, the perseverance, the intense faith of the man shone out in these sentences. Was it indeed a delusion, such practical faith as that?

Blackness of darkness seemed to hem her in. She struggled through it once more by the one gleam of certainty which had come to her in the past year. Truth must be self-revealing. Sooner or later, if she were honest, if she did not shut her mind deliberately up with the assurance "You have thought out these matters fully and fairly; enough! Let us now rest content" and if she were indeed a true "Freethinker," she MUST know. And even as that conviction returned to her the words half quaint, half pathetic, came to her mind: "It is the word of a gentleman of the most sacred and strictest honor, and there's an end on't."

Yes, there would "be an end on't," if she could feel sure that he, too, was not deluded.

She turned over the pages of the book, and toward the end found a copy of the inscription on Livingstone's tomb. Her eye fell on the words: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice."

Somehow the mention of the lost sheep brought to her mind the little lost child on the beach at Codrington Dolly, who had "putted on" her own hat, who had wanted to be independent and to dig by herself. She had run away from home, and could not find the way back. What a steep climb they had had up the beach how the little thing's tiny feet had slipped and stumbled over the stones, and just when they were most perplexed, the father had found them.

Exactly how it all came to her Erica never knew, nor could she ever put into words the story of the next few moments. When "God's great sunrise" finds us out we have need of something higher than human speech there ARE no words for it. At the utmost she could only say that it was like coming out of the twilight, that it seemed as if she were immersed in a great wave of all pervading light.

All in a moment the Christ who had been to her merely a noble character of ancient history seemed to become to her the most real and living of all living realities. Even her own existence seemed to fade into a vague and misty shadow in comparison with the intensity of this new consciousness this conviction of His being which surrounded her which she knew, indeed, to be "way, and truth, and life. They shall hear My voice." In the silence of waiting, in the faithfulness of honest searching, Erica for the first time in her life heard it. Yes, she had been right truth was self-revealing. A few minutes ago those words had been to her an unfulfilled, a vain promise the speaker, broad-hearted and loving as he was, had doubtless been deluded. But now the voice spoke to her, called her by name, told her what she wanted.

"Dolly," became to her a parable of life. She had been like that little child; for years and years she had been toiling up over rough stones and slippery pebbles, but at last she had heard the voice. Was this the coming to the Father?

That which often appears sudden and unaccountable is, if we did but know it, a slow, beautiful evolution. It was now very nearly seven years since the autumn afternoon when the man "too nice to be a clergyman," and "not a bit like a Christian," had come to Erica's home, had shown her that at least one of them practiced the universal brotherliness which almost all preached. It was nearly seven years since words of absolute conviction, words of love and power, had first sounded forth from Christian lips in her father's lecture hall, and had awakened in her mind that miserably uncomfortable question "supposing Christianity should be true?"

All the most beautiful influences are quiet; only the destructive agencies, the stormy wind, the heavy rain and hail, are noisy. Love of the deepest sort is wordless, the sunshine steals down silently, the dew falls noiselessly, and the communion of spirit with spirit is calmer and quieter than anything else in the world quiet as the spontaneous turning of the sunflower to the sun when the heavy clouds have passed away, and the light and warmth reveal themselves. The subdued rustle of leaves, the hushed footsteps sounded as usual in the great library, but Erica was beyond the perception of either place or time.

Presently she was recalled by the arrival of another student, who took the chair next to hers a little deformed man, with a face which looked prematurely old, and sad, restless eyes. A few hours before she would have regarded him with a sort of shuddering compassion; now with the compassion there came to her the thought of compensation which even here and now might make the poor fellow happy. Was he not immortal? Might he not here and now learn what she had just learned, gain that unspeakable joy? And might not the knowledge go on growing and increasing forever? She took up her pen once more, verified the dates, rolled up her manuscript, and with one look at Livingstones's journal, returned it to the clerk and left the library.

It was like coming into a new world; even dingy Bloomsbury seemed beautiful. Her face was so bright, so like the face of a happy child, that more than one passer-by was startled by it, lifted for a moment from sordid cares into a purer atmosphere. She felt a longing to speak to some one who would understand her new happiness. She had reached Guilford Square, and looked doubtfully across to the Osmonds' house. They would understand. But no she must tell her father first. And then, with a fearful pang, she realized what her new conviction meant. It meant bringing the sword into her father's house; it meant grieving him with a life-long grief; it meant leaving the persecuted minority and going over to the triumphant majority; it meant unmitigated pain to all those she loved best.

Erica had had her full share of pain, but never had she known anything so agonizing as that moment's sharp revulsion. Mechanically she walked on until she reached home; nobody was in. She looked into the little sitting room but, only Friskarina sat purring on the rug. The table was strewn with the Saturday papers; the midday post had just come. She turned over the letters and found one for herself in her father's handwriting. It was the one thing needed to complete the realization of her pain. She snatched it up with a stifled sob, ran upstairs to her room, and threw herself down on the bed in silent agony.

A new joy had come to her which her father could not share; a joy which he would call a delusion, which he spent a great part of his life in combating. To tell him that she was convinced of the truth of Christianity why, it would almost break his heart.

And yet she must inflict this terrible pain. Her nature was far too noble to have dreamed for a single instant of temporizing, of keeping her thoughts to herself. A Raeburn was not likely to fail either in courage or in honesty; but with her courage and honesty, Erica had the violin-like sensitiveness of nature which Eric Haeberlein had noticed even in her childhood. She saw in the future all the pain she must bring to her father, intensified by her own sensitiveness. She knew so well what her feelings would have been but a short time ago, if any one she greatly loved had "fallen back" into Christianity. How could she tell him? How COULD she!

Yet it was a thing which must be done. Should she write to him? No, the letter might reach him when he was tired and worried yet, to speak would be more painful.

She got up and went to the window, and let the summer wind blow on her heated forehead. The world had seemed to her just before one glorious presence-chamber full of sunshine and rejoicing. But already the shadow of a life-long pain had fallen on her heart. A revealed Christ meant also a revealed cross, and a right heavy one.

It was only by degrees that she grew strong again, and Livingstone's text came back to her once more, "I am with you always."

By and by she opened her father's letter. It ran as follows:

"I have just remembered that Monday will be your birthday. Let us spend it together, little son Erica. A few days at Codrington would do us both good, and I have a tolerably leisure week. If you can come down on Saturday afternoon, so much the better. I will meet you there, if you will telegraph reply as soon as you get this. I have three lectures at Helmstone on Sunday, but you will probably prefer a quiet day by the sea. Bring me Westcott's new book, and you might put in the chisel and hammer. We will do a little geologizing for the professor, if we have time. Meeting here last night a great success. Your loving father, Luke Raeburn."

"He is only thinking how he can give me pleasure," sighed Erica. "And I have nothing to give him but pain."

She went at once, however, for the "Bradshaw," and looked out the afternoon trains to Codrington.



CHAPTER XX. Storm

And seems she mid deep silence to a strain To listen, which the soul alone can know, Saying: "Fear naught, for Jesus came on earth, Jesus of endless joys the wide, deep sea, To ease each heavy load of mortal birth. His waters ever clearest, sweetest be To him who in a lonely bark drifts forth On His great deeps of goodness trustfully." From Vittoria Colonna

Codrington was one of the very few sea-side places within fairly easy reach of London which had not been vulgarized into an ordinary watering place. It was a primitive little place with one good, old-established hotel, and a limited number of villas and lodging houses, which only served as a sort of ornamental fringe to the picturesque little fishing town.

The fact was that it was just midway between two large and deservedly popular resorts, and so it had been overlooked, and to the regret of the thrifty inhabitants and the satisfaction of the visitors who came there for quiet, its peaceful streets and its stony beach were never invaded by excursionists. No cockneys came down for the Sunday to eat shrimps; the shrimps were sent away by train to the more favored watering places, and the Codrington shop keepers shook their heads and gave up expecting to make a fortune in such a conservative little place. Erica said it reminded her of the dormouse in "Alice In Wonderland," tyrannized over by the hatter on one side and the March hare on the other, and eventually put head foremost into the teapot. Certainly Helmstone on the east and Westport on the west had managed to eclipse it altogether, and its peaceful sleepiness made the dormouse comparison by no means inapt.

It all looked wonderfully unchanged as she walked from the station that summer afternoon with her father. The square, gray tower of St. Oswald's Church, the little, winding, irregular streets, the very shop windows seemed quite unaltered, while at every turn familiar faces came into sight. The shrewd old sailor with the telescope, the prim old lady at the bookseller's, who had pronounced the "Imitation of Christ" to be quite out of fashion, the sturdy milkman, with white smock-frock, and bright pails fastened to a wooden yoke, and the coast-guardsman, who was always whistling "Tom Bowling."

The sea was as calm as a mill pond; Raeburn suggested an hour or two on the water and Erica, who was fond of boating, gladly assented. She had made up her ind not to speak to her father that evening; he had a very hard day's work before him on the Sunday; they must have these few hours in peace. She did not in the least dread any subject coming up which might put her into difficulty, for, on the rare days when her father allowed himself any recreation, he entirely banished all controversial topics from his mind. He asked no single question relating to the work or to business of any kind, but gave himself up to the enjoyment of a much-needed rest and relaxation. He seemed in excellent spirits, and Erica herself would have been rapturously happy if she had not been haunted by the thought of the pain that awaited him. She knew that this was the last evening she and her father should ever spend together in the old perfect confidence; division the most painful of all divisions lay before them.

The next day she was left to herself. She would not go to the old gray-towered church, though as an atheist she had gone to one or two churches to look and listen, she felt that she could not honorably go as a worshiper till she had spoken to her father. So she wandered about on the shore, and in the restful quiet learned more and grew stronger, and conquered the dread of the morrow. She did not see her father again that day for he could not get back from Helmstone till a late train, and she had promised not to sit up for him.

The morning of her twenty-third birthday was bright and sunshiny; she had slept well, but awoke with the oppressive consciousness that a terrible hard duty lay before her. When she came down there was a serious look in her eyes which did not escape Raeburn's keen observation. He was down before her, and had been out already, for he had managed somehow to procure a lovely handful of red and white roses and mignonette.

"All good wishes for your birthday, and 'sweets to the sweet' as some one remarked on a more funereal occasion," he said, stooping to kiss her. "Dear little son Eric, it is very jolly to have you to myself for once. No disrespect to Aunt Jean and old Tom, but two is company." "What lovely flowers!" exclaimed Erica. "How good of you! Where did they come from?"

"I made love to old Nicolls, the florist, to let me gather these myself; he was very anxious to make a gorgeous arrangement done up in white paper with a lace edge, and thought me a fearful Goth for preferring this disorderly bunch."

They sat down to breakfast; afterward the morning papers came in, and Raeburn disappeared behind the "Daily Review," while the servant cleared the table. Erica stood by the open French window; she knew that in a few minutes she must speak, and how to get what she had to say into words she did not know. Her heart beat so fast that she felt almost choked. In a sort of dream of pain she watched the passers-by happy looking girls going down to bathe, children with spades and pails. Everything seemed so tranquil, so ordinary while before her lay a duty which must change her whole world.

"Not much news," said Raeburn, coming toward her as the servant left the room. "For dullness commend me to a Monday paper! Well, Eric, how are we to spend your twenty-third birthday? To think that I have actually a child of twenty-three! Why, I ought to feel an old patriarch, and, in spite of white hair and life-long badgering, I don't, you know. Come, what shall we do. Where would you like to go?"

"Father," said Erica, "I want first to have a talk with you. I—I have something to tell you."

There was no longer any mistaking that the seriousness meant some kind of trouble. Raeburn put his arm round her.

"Why, my little girl," he said, tenderly. "You are trembling all over. What is the matter?"

"The matter is that what I have to say will pain you, and it half kills me to do that. But there is no choice tell you I must. You would not wish me not to be true, not to be honest."

Utter perplexity filled Raeburn's mind. What phantom trouble was threatening him? Had she been commissioned to tell him of some untoward event? Some business calamity? Had she fallen in love with some one he could not permit her to marry? He looked questioningly at her, but her expression only perplexed him still more; she was trembling no longer, and her eyes were clear and bright, there was a strong look about her whole face.

"Father," she said, quietly, "I have learned to believe in Jesus Christ."

He wrenched away his arm; he started back from her as if she had stabbed him. For a minute he looked perfectly dazed.

At last, after a silence which seemed to each of them age-long, he spoke in the agitated voice of one who has just received a great blow.

"Do you know what you are saying, Erica? Do you know what such a confession as you have made will involve? Do you mean that you accept the whole of Christ's teaching?

"Yes," she replied, firmly, "I do."

"You intend to turn Christian?"

"Yes, to try to."

"How long have you and Mr. Osmond been concocting this?"

"I don't know what you mean," said Erica, terribly wounded by his tone.

"Did he send you down here to tell me?"

"Mr. Osmond knows nothing about it," said Erica. "How could I tell any one before you, father?"

Raeburn was touched by this. He took several turns up and down the room before speaking again, but the more he grasped the idea the deeper grew his grief and the hotter his anger. He was a man of iron will, however, and he kept both under. When at length he did speak, his voice was quiet and cold and repressed.

"Sit down," he said, motioning her to a chair. "This is not a subject that we can dismiss in five minutes' talk. I must hear your reasons. We will put aside all personal considerations. I will consider you just as an ordinary opponent."

His coldness chilled her to the heart. Was it always to be like this? How could she possibly endure it? How was she to answer his questions how was she to vindicate her faith when the mere tone of his voice seemed to paralyze her heart? He was indeed treating her with the cold formality of an opponent, but never for a single instant could she forget that he was her father the being she loved best in the whole world.

But Erica was brave and true; she knew that this was a crisis in their lives, and, thrusting down her own personal pain, she forced herself to give her whole heart and mind to the searching and perplexing questions with which her father intended to test the reality of her convictions. Had she been unaccustomed to his mode of attack he would have hopelessly silenced her, as far as argument goes in half an hour; but not only was Erica's faith perfectly real, but she had, as it were, herself traversed the whole of his objections and difficulties. Though far from imagining that she understood everything, she had yet so firmly grasped the innermost truth that all details as yet outside her vision were to her no longer hindrances and bugbears, but so many new possibilities other hopes of fresh manifestations of God.

She held her ground well, and every minute Raeburn realized more keenly that whatever hopes he had entertained of reconvincing her were futile. What made it all the more painful to him was that the thoroughness of the training he had given her now only told against him, and the argument which he carried on in a cold, metallic voice was really piercing his very heart, for it was like arguing against another self, the dearest part of himself gone over to the enemy's side.

At last he saw that argument was useless, and then, in his grief and despair, he did for a time lose his self-control. Erica had often felt sorry for the poor creatures who had to bear the brunt of her father's scathing sarcasm. But platform irony was a trifle to the torrent which bore down upon her today. When a strong man does lose his restraint upon himself, the result is terrific. Raeburn had never sufficiently cared for an adversary as to be moved beyond an anger which could be restricted and held within due bounds; he of course cared more for the success of his cause and his own dignity. But now his love drove him to despair; his intolerable grief at the thought of having an opponent in his own child burst all restraining bonds. Wounded to the quick, he who had never in his life spoken a harsh word to his child now poured forth such a storm of anger, and sarcasm, and bitter reproach, as might have made even an uninterested by-stander tremble.

Had Erica made any appeal, had she even begun to cry, his chivalry would have been touched; he would have recognized her weakness, and regained his self control. But she was not weak, she was strong she was his other self gone over to the opposite side; that was what almost maddened him. The torrent bore down upon her, and she spoke not a word, but just sat still and endured. Only, as the words grew more bitter and more wounding, her lips grew white, her hands were locked more tightly together. At last it ended.

"You have cheated yourself into this belief," said Raeburn, "you have given me the most bitter grief and disappointment of my whole life. Have you anything else you wish to say to me?"

"Nothing," replied Erica, not daring to venture more; for, if she had tried to speak, she knew she must have burst into tears.

But there was as much pain expressed in her voice as she spoke that one word as there had been in all her father's outburst. It appealed to him at once. He said no more, but stepped out of the French window, and began to pace to an fro under the veranda.

Erica did not stir; she was like one crushed. Sad and harassed as her life had been, it yet seemed to her that she had never known such indescribably bitter pain. The outside world looked bright and sunshiny; she could see the waves breaking on the shore, while beyond, sailing out into the wide expanse was a brown-sailed fishing boat. Every now and then her vision was interrupted by a tall, dark figure pacing to and fro; every now and then the sunlight glinted on snow-white hair, and then a fresh stab of pain awoke in her heart.

The brown-sailed fishing boat dwindled into a tiny dark spot on the horizon, the sea tossed and foamed and sparked in the sunshine. Erica turned away; she could not bear to look at it, for just now it seemed to her merely the type of the terrible separation which had arisen between herself and her father. She felt as if she were being borne away in the little fishing boat, while he was left on the land, and the distance between them slowly widened and widened.

All through that grievous conversation she had held in her hand a little bit of mignonette. She had held it unconsciously; it was withered and drooping, its sweetness seemed to her now sickly and hateful. She identified it with her pain, and years after the smell of mignonette was intolerable to her. She would have thrown it away, but remembered that her father had given it her. And then, with the recollection of her birthday gift, came the realization of all the long years of unbroken and perfect love, so rudely interrupted today. Was it always to be like this? Must they drift further and further apart?

Her heart was almost breaking; she had endured to the very uttermost, when at length comfort came. The sword had only come to bring the higher peace. No terrible sea of division could part those whom love could bind together. The peace of God stole once more into her heart.

"How loud soe'er the world may roar, We know love will be conqueror."

Meanwhile Raeburn paced to and fro in grievous pain The fact that his pain could scarcely perhaps have been comprehended by the generality of people did not make it less real or less hard to bear. A really honest atheist, who is convinced that Christianity is false and misleading, suffers as much at the sight of what he considers a mischievous belief as a Christian would suffer while watching a service in some heathen temple. Rather his pain would be greater, for his belief in the gradual progress of his creed is shadowy and dim compared with the Christian's conviction that the "Saviour of all men" exists.

Once, some years before, a very able man, one of his most devoted followers, had "fallen back" into Christianity. That had been a bitter disappointment; but that his own child whom he loved more than anything in the world, should have forsaken him and gone over to the enemy, was a grief well-nigh intolerable. It was a grief he had never for one moment contemplated.

Could anything be more improbable than that Erica, carefully trained as she had been, should relapse so strangely? Her whole life had been spent among atheists; there was not a single objection to Christianity which had not been placed before her. She had read much, thought much; she had worked indefatigably to aid the cause. Again and again she had braved personal insult and wounding injustice as an atheist. She had voluntarily gone into exile to help her father in his difficulties. Through the shameful injustice of a Christian, she had missed the last years of her mother's life, and had been absent from her death bed. She had borne on behalf of her father's cause a thousand irritating privations, a thousand harassing cares; she had been hard-working, and loyal, and devoted; and now all at once she had turned completely round and placed herself in the opposing ranks!

Raeburn had all his life been fighting against desperate odds, and in the conflict he had lost well-nigh everything. He had lost his home long ago, he had lost his father's good will, he had lost the whole of his inheritance; he had lost health, and strength, and reputation, and money; he had lost all the lesser comforts of life; and now he said to himself that he was to lose his dearest treasure of all, his child.

Bitter, hopeless, life-long division had arisen between them. For twenty-three years he had loved her as truly as ever father loved child, and this was his reward! A miserable sense of isolation arose in his heart. Erica had been so much to him how could he live without her? The muscles of his face quivered with emotion; he clinched his hands almost fiercely.

Then he tortured himself by letting his thoughts wander back to the past. That very day years ago, when he had first learned what fatherhood meant; the pride of watching his little girl as the years rolled on; the terrible anxiety of one long and dangerous illness she had passed through how well he remembered the time! They were very poor, could afford no expensive luxuries; he had shared the nursing with his wife. One night he remembered toiling away with his pen while the sick child was actually on his knee; he always fancied that the pamphlet he had then been at work on was more bitterly sarcastic than anything he had ever written. Then on once more into years of desperately hard work and disappointingly small results, imbittered by persecution, crippled by penalties and never-ending litigation; but always there had been the little child waiting for him at home, who by her baby-like freedom from care could make him smile when he was overwhelmed with anxiety. How could he ever have endured the bitter obloquy, the slanderous attacks, the countless indignities which had met him on all sides, if there had not been one little child who adored him, who followed him about like a shadow, who loved him and trusted him utterly?

Busy as his life had been, burdened as he had been for years with twice as much work as he could get through, the child had never been crowded out of his life. Even as a little thing of four years old, Erica had been quite content to sit on the floor in his study by the hour together, quietly amusing herself by cutting old newspapers into fantastic shapes, or by drawing impossible cats and dogs and horses on the margins. She had never disturbed him; she used to talk to herself in whispers.

"Are you happy, little one?" he used to ask from time to time, with a sort of passionate desire that he should enjoy her unconscious childhood, foreseeing care and trouble for her in the future.

"Yes, very happy," had been the invariable response; and generally Erica would avail herself of the interruption to ask his opinion about some square-headed cat, with eyes askew and an astonishing number of legs, which she had just drawn. Then would come what she called a "bear's hug," after which silence reigned again in the study, while Raeburn would go on writing some argumentative pamphlet, hard and clear as crystal, his heart warmed by the little child's love, the remains of a smile lingering about his lips at the recollection of the square-headed cat.

And the years passed on, and every year deepened and strengthened their love. And by slow degrees he had watched the development of her mind; had gloried in her quick perception, had learned to come to her for a second opinion every now and then; had felt proud of her common sense, her thoughtful judgments; had delighted in her enthusiastic, loving help. All this was ended now. Strange that, just as he hoped most from her, she should fail him! It was a repetition of his own early history exactly reversed. His thoughts went back to his father's study in the old Scottish parsonage. He remembered a long, fierce argument; he remembered a storm of abusive anger, and a furious dismissal from the house. The old pain came back to him vividly.

"And she loves me fifty thousand times more than I ever loved my father," he reflected. "And, though I was not abusive, I was hard on her. And, however mistaken, she was very brave, very honest. Oh, I was cruel to her harsh, and hateful! My little child! My poor little child! It shall not it cannot divide us. I am hers, and she is mine nothing can ever alter that."

He turned and went back into the room. Never had he looked grander than at that minute; this man who could hold thousands in breathless attention this man who was more passionately loved by his friends, more passionately hated by his enemies than almost any man in England! He was just the ideal father.

Erica had not stirred, she was leaning back in her chair, looking very still and white. He came close to her.

"Little son Eric!" he said, with a whole world of love in his tone.

She sprang up and wreathed her arms round his neck.

By and by, they began to talk in low tones, to map out and piece together as well as they could the future life, which was inevitably severed from the past by a deep gulf. They spoke of the work which they could still share, of the interests they should still have in common. It was very sad work for Erica infinitely sadder for Raeburn; but they were both of them brave and noble souls, and they loved each other, and so could get above the sadness. One thing they both agreed upon. They would never argue about their opinions. They would, as far as possible, avoid any allusion to the grave differences that lay between them.

Late in the afternoon, a little group of fishermen and idlers stood on the beach. They were looking out seaward with some "anxiety, for a sudden wind had arisen, and there was what they called 'an ugly sea.'"

"I tell you it was madness to let 'em go alone on such a day," said the old sailor with the telescope.

"And I tell you that the old gentleman pulls as good an oar as any of us," retorted another man, in a blue jersey and a sou'wester.

"Old gentleman, indeed!" broke in the coast guardsman. "Better say devil at once! Why, man alive! Your old gentleman is Luke Raeburn, the atheist."

"God forbid!" exclaimed the first speaker, lowering his telescope for a moment. "Why, he be mighty friendly to us fishermen."

"Where be they now, gaffer? D'ye see them?" asked a keen-looking lad of seventeen.

"Ay, there they be! There they be! God have mercy on 'em! They'll be swamped sure as fate!"

The coast guardsman, with provoked sang-froid and indifference, began to sing:

"For though his body's under hatches, His soul is gone alo-o-ft."

And then breaking off into a sort of recitative.

"Which is exactly the opposite quarter to what Luke Raeburn's soul will go, I guess."

"Blowed if I wouldn't pull an oar to save a mate, if I were so mighty sure he was going to the devil!" observed a weather-beaten seaman, with gold earrings and a good deal of tattooing on his brawny arms.

"Would you now!" said the coast guardsman, with a superior and sardonic smile. "Well, in my 'umble opinion, drowning's too good for him."

With which humane utterance, the coast guardsman walked off, singing of Tom who

"Never from his word departed, Whose heart was kind and soft."

"Well, I, for one, will lend a hand to help them. Now then, mates! Which of you is going to help to cheat the devil of his due?" said the man with the earrings.

Three men proffered their services, but the old seaman with the telescope checked them.

"Bide a bit, mates, bide a bit; I'm not sure you've a call to go." He wiped the glasses of his telescope with a red handkerchief, and then looked out seaward once more.

In the meantime, while their fate was being discussed on the shore, Raeburn and Erica were face to face with death. They were a long way from land before the wind had sprung up so strongly. Raeburn, who in his young days had been at once the pride and anxiety of the fishermen round his Scottish home, and noted for his readiness and daring, had now lost the freshness of his experience, and had grown forgetful of weather tokens. The danger was upon them before he had even thought of it. The strong wind blowing upon them, the delicious salt freshness, even the brisk motion, had been such a relief to them after the pain and excitement of the morning. But all at once they began to realize that their peril was great. Their little boat tossed so fearfully that Erica had to cling to the seat for safety; one moment they were down in the hollow of a deep green wave, the next they would be tossed up upon its crest as though their boat had been a mere cockle shell.

"I'm afraid we've made a mistake, Eric," said Raeburn. "I ought to have seen this storm coming up."

"What?" cried Erica, for the dashing of the waves made the end of the sentence inaudible.

He looked across the boat at her, and an almost paralyzing dread filled his heart. For himself he could be brave, for himself death had no terrors but for his child!

A horrible vision rose before him. He saw her lying stiff and cold, with glazed eyes and drenched hair. Was there to be a yet more terrible separation between them? Was death to snatch her from him? Ah, no that should never be! They would at least go down together.

The vision faded; he saw once more the fair, eager face, no longer pallid, but flushed with excitement, the brave eyes clear and bright, but somewhat anxious. The consciousness that everything depended on him helped him to rise above that overmastering horror. He was once more his strongest self.

The rudder had been left on the beach, and it was only possible to steer by the oars. He dismissed even the thought of Erica, and concentrated his whole being on the difficult task before him. So grand did he look in that tremendous endeavor that Erica almost forgot her anxiety; there was something so forceful in his whole aspect that she could not be afraid. Her heart beat quickly indeed, but the consciousness of danger was stimulating.

Yet the waves grew more and more furious, rolling, curling, dashing up in angry, white foam "raging horribly." At length came one which broke right over the little boat, blinding and drenching its occupants.

"Another like that will do for us," Said Raeburn, in a quiet voice.

The boat was half full of water. Erica began to bale out with her father's hat, and each knew from the other's face that their plight was hopeless.

Raeburn had faced death many times. He had faced it more than once on a sick bed, he had faced it surrounded by yelling and furious mobs, but he had never faced it side by side with his child. Again he looked at the angry gray-green waves, at the wreaths of curling white foam, again that awful vision rose before him, and, brave man as he was, he shuddered.

Life was sweet even though he was harassed, persecuted, libeled. Life was sweet even though his child had deserted his cause, even though she had "cheated herself into a belief." Life was infinitely worth living, mere existence an exquisite joy, blank nothingness a hideous alternative.

"Bale out!" he cried, despair in his eyes, but a curve of resoluteness about his lips.

A few more strokes warily pulled, another huge wave sweeping along, rearing itself up, dashing down upon them. The boat reeled and staggered. To struggle longer was useless. Raeburn threw his oars inboard, caught hold of Erica, and held her fast. When they could see once more, they found the boat quite three parts full.

"Child!" he said, "child!" But nothing more would come. For once in his life words failed him; the orator was speechless. Was it a minute or an eternity that he waited there through that awful pause waited with his arm round Erica, feeling the beating of her heart, the heart which must soon cease beating forever, feeling her warm breath on his cheek alas! How few more breaths would she draw! How soon would the cold water grave close over all that he—

His thoughts were abruptly checked. That eternal minute of waiting was over. It was coming death was coming riding along with mocking scorn on the crest of a giant wave. Higher and higher rose the towering, sea-green wall, mockingly it rushed forward, remorselessly swooped down upon them! This time the boat was completely swamped.

"I will at least die fighting!" thought Raeburn, a despairing, defiant courage inspiring him with almost superhuman strength.

"Trust to me!" he cried. "Don't struggle!" And Erica who would naturally have fallen into that frantic and vain convulsion which seizes most people when they find themselves in peril of drowning, by a supreme effort of will made no struggle at all, but only clung to her father.

Raeburn was a very strong man, and an expert swimmer, but it was a fearful sea. They were dashed hither and thither, they were buffeted, and choked, and blinded, but never once did he lose his presence of mind. Every now and then he even shouted out a few words to Erica. How strange his voice sounded in that chaos, in that raging symphony of winds and waves.

"Tell me when you can't hold any longer," he cried.

"I can't leave go," returned Erica.

And even then, in that desperate minute, they both felt a momentary thrill of amusement. The fact was, that her effort of will had been so great when she had obeyed him, and clung with all her might to him, that now the muscles of her hands absolutely would not relax their hold.

It seemed endless! Over the cold green and white of the waves Raeburn seemed to see his whole life stretched out before him, in a series of vivid pictures. All the long struggles, all the desperate fights wreathed themselves out in visions round this supreme death struggle. And always there was the consciousness that he was toiling for Erica's life, struggling, agonizing, straining every fiber of his being to save her.

But what was this paralyzing cold creeping over his limbs? What this pressure at his heart? This dimness of his eyes? Oh! Was his strength failing him? Was the last hope, indeed, gone? Panting, he struggled on.

"I will do thirty more strokes!" he said to himself. And he did them.

"I will do ten more!"

And he forced himself to keep on.

"Ten more!"

He was gasping now. Erica's weight seemed to be dragging him down, down, into nothingness.

Six strokes painfully made! Seven! After all nothingness would mean rest. Eight! No pain to either, since they were together. Nine! He should live on in the hearts of his people. Ten! Agony of failure! He was beaten at last!

What followed they neither of them knew, only there was a shout, an agony of sinking, a vision of a dark form and a something solid which they grasped convulsively.

When Erica came to herself they were by no means out of danger, but there was something between them and the angry sea. She was lying down at the bottom of a boat in close proximity to some silvery-skinned fishes, and her father was holding her hand.

Wildly they tossed for what seemed to her a very long time; but at length fresh voices were heard, the keel grated on the shore, she felt herself lifted up and carried on to the beach. Then, with an effort, she stood up once more, trembling and exhausted, but conscious that mere existence was rapture.

Raeburn paused to reward and thank the men who had rescued them in his most genial manner, and Erica's happiness would have been complete had not the coast guardsman stepped up in an insolent and officious way, and observed:

"It is a pity, Mr. Luke Raeburn, that you don't bring yourself to offer thanks to God almighty!"

"Sir," replied Raeburn, "when I ask your opinion of my personal and private matters, it will be fitting that you should speak not before!"

The man looked annihilated, and turned away.

Raeburn grasped the rough hands of his helpers and well-wishers, gave his arm to Erica, and led her up the steep beach.

Later on in the evening they sat over the fire, and talked over their adventure. June though it was, they had both been thoroughly chilled.

"What did you think of when we were in the water?' asked Erica.

"I made a deep calculation," said Raeburn, smiling, "and found that the sale of the plant and of all my books would about clear off the last of the debts, and that I should die free. After that I thought of Cicero's case of the two wise men struggling in the sea with one plank to rescue them sufficient only for one. They were to decide which of their lives was most useful to the republic, and the least useful man was to drop down quietly into the deep. It struck me that you and I should hardly come to such a calculation. I think we would have gone down together, little one! What did you think of?"

But Erica's thoughts could not so easily be put into words.

"For one thing," she said, "I thought we should never be divided any more."

She sighed a little; for, after all, the death they had so narrowly escaped would have been so infinitely easier than the life which lay before her.

"Clearly we are inseparable!" said Raeburn. "In that sense, little son Eric, we can still say, 'We fear nae foe!'"

Perhaps the gentle words, and the sadness which he could not entirely banish from his tone, moved Erica almost more than his passionate utterances in the morning.

The day was no bad miniature of her whole life. Very sad, very happy, full of danger, conflict and strife, warmed by outside sympathy, wounded by outside insolence.



CHAPTER XXI. What it Involved

Stronger than steel Is the sword of the spirit; Swifter than arrows The life of the truth is; Greater than anger Is love, and subdueth. Longfellow

The two or three days at Codrington lengthened out into a week, for both Raeburn and Erica felt a good deal exhausted after the eventful Monday. Raeburn, anxious to spare her as much as possible, himself wrote to Mrs. Craigie, and told her of Erica's change of views.

"It is a great grief," he wrote, "and she will be a serious loss to our cause, but I am determined that we will not enact over again the course of action which drove both you and me from home. Odd! That she should just reverse our story! Anyhow, you and I, Jean, have been too much persecuted to turn into persecutors. The child is as much in earnest for her delusion as we for our truth. Argument and remonstrance will do no good, and you must understand, and make Tom understand, that I'll not have her bullied. Don't think that I am trying to make her mistaken way all easy for her. She won't find it easy. She will have a miserable time of it with our own set, and how many Christians, do you imagine, will hold out a hand to Luke Raeburn's daughter, even though her views have changed? Maybe half a dozen! Not more, I fancy, unless she renounced us with atheism, and that she never will do! She will be between two fires, and I believe between the two she will be worried to death in a year unless we can keep the peace at home. I don't blame Osmond for this, though at first I did suspect it was his doing; but this has been no cram-work. Erica has honestly faced the questions herself, and has honestly arrived at this mistaken conclusion. Osmond's kindness and generosity of course influenced her, but for the rest they have only had the free discussions of which from the first I approved. Years ago he said to me plainly, 'What if she should see reasons to change her mind?' I scouted the notion then, it seemed and still seems almost INCREDIBLE. He has, you see, acted quite honorably. It is Erica's own doing. I remember telling him that our name of freethinkers was a reality, and so it shall still be! She shall be free to think the untrue is true; she shall be free to confess herself a Christian before the whole world, though it deal me the hardest of blows."

This letter soon spread the news. Aunt Jean was too much vexed and not deeply grieved enough to keep silence. Vexation finds some relief in talking, deep grief as a rule prefers not to speak. Tom, in his odd way, felt the defection of his favorite cousin as much as anybody, except Raeburn himself. They had been play-fellows, they had always been like brother and sister together, and he was astounded to think that Erica, of all people in the world, should have deserted the cause. The letter had come by one of the evening posts. He went out and paced up and down the square in the soft midsummer twilight, trying to realize the facts of the case. Presently he heard rapid steps behind him; no one walked at that pace excepting Brian, and Tom was quite prepared to feel an arm link itself within his.

"Hallo, old fellow!" exclaimed Brian. "Moonlight meditations?"

"Where did you drop from?" said Tom, evasively.

"Broken leg, round the corner a public-house row. What brutes men are!" exclaimed the young doctor, hotly.

"Disappointing world altogether," said Tom with a sigh. "What do you think we have just heard about Erica?"

Brian's heart almost stopped beating; he hardly knew what he feared.

"How can I tell?" he answered, hoarsely. "No bad news, I hope?"

"She's gone and turned Christian," said Tom, in a tone of deep disgust.

Brian started.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed, under his breath.

"Confound it!" cried Tom. "I'd forgot you'd be triumphant. Good night," and he marched off in high dudgeon.

Brian did not even miss him. How could he at such a time? The weight of years had been lifted off his soul. A consuming happiness took possession of him; his whole being was a thanksgiving. By and by he went home, found his father in the study, and was about to speak, when Charles Osmond put an open letter into his hand. While Raeburn had written to his sister, Erica had written to her "prophet" a sad, happy, quaint letter exactly like herself. Its straightforward simplicity brought the tears to Brian's eyes.

"It will be a fearful life for her now!" he exclaimed. "She will never be able to endure it. Father, now at last I may surely speak to her."

He spoke very eagerly. Charles Osmond looked grave.

"My dear old fellow, of course you must do as you think best," he replied, after a minute's pause; "but I doubt if it is wise just now."

"Why, it is the very time of all others when she might be glad of me," said Brian.

"But can't you see," returned his father, "that Erica is the last girl in the world to marry a man because she was unhappy, or because she had got a difficult bit of life in front of her? Of course, if you really think she cares for you, it is different; but—"

"She does not care for me," said Brian quickly; "but in time I think she would. I think I could make her happy."

"Yes, I think you could, but I fancy you will make shipwreck of your hopes if you speak to her now. Have patience."

"I am sick of patience!" cried Brian desperately. "Have I not been patient for nearly seven years? For what would you have me wait? Am I to wait till, between our injustice to secularists and their injustice to Christians, she is half badgered out of life? If she could but love me, if she would marry me now, I could save her from what must be a life of misery."

"If I could but get you to see it from what I am convinced is Erica's point of view!" exclaimed Charles Osmond. "Forget for a minute that you are her knight and champion, and try to see things as she sees them. Let us try to reverse things. Just imagine for a minute that you are the child of some leading man, the head and chief of a party or association we'll say that you are the child of an Archbishop of Canterbury. You are carefully educated, you become a zealous worker, you enter into all your father's interests, you are able to help him in a thousand ways. But, by slow degrees, we will say that you perceive a want in the system in which you have been educated, and, after many years of careful study and thought, you are obliged to reject your former beliefs and to accept that other system which shall most recommend itself to you. We will suppose for the sake of analogy that you become a secularist. Knowing that your change of views will be a terrible grief to your father the archbishop, it takes your whole strength to make your confession, and you not only feel your father's personal pain, but you feel that his pain will be increased by his public position. To make it worse, too, we must suppose that a number of people calling themselves atheists, and in the name of atheism, have at intervals for the last thirty years been annoying and insulting your father, that in withstanding their attacks he has often received bodily injury, and that the atheists have so often driven him into the law courts that he has been pretty nearly beggared. All his privations you have shared for instance, you went with him and lived for years in a poky little lodging, and denied yourself every single luxury. But now you have, in spite of all these persecutions carried on in the name of secularism, learned to see that the highest form of secularism is true. The archbishop feels this terribly. However, being a very loving father, he wisely refuses to indulge in perpetual controversy with his child. You agree still to live together, and each try with all your might to find all the possible points of union still left you. Probably, if you are such a child as I imagine, you love your father ten times more than you did before. Then just as you have made up your mind to try to be more to him, when all you care about in life is to comfort and help him, and when your heart is much occupied with your new opinions, a friend of yours a secularist comes to you, and says: 'A miserable life lies before you. The atheists will never thoroughly take up with you while you live with your father the archbishop, and of course it is wretched for you to be surrounded by those of another creed. Come with me. I love you I will make you happy, and save you from persecution."

In spite of himself Brian had smiled many times at this putting of an Archbishop of Canterbury into the position of Luke Raeburn. But the conclusion arrived at seemed to him to admit of only one answer, and left him very grave.

"You may be right," he said, very sadly. "But to stand still and watch her suffer—"

He broke off, unable to finish his sentence.

Charles Osmond took it up.

"To stand still and watch her suffer will be the terribly hard work of a brave man who takes a true, deep view. To rush in with offers of help would be the work of an impetuous man who took a very superficial view. If Erica were selfish, I would say go and appeal to her selfishness, and marry her at once; for selfishness will never do any good in Guilford Terrace. But she is one of the most devoted women I know. Your appeal would be rejected. I believe she will feel herself in the right place there, and, as long as that is the case, nothing will move her."

"Father," said Brian, rather desperately, "I would take your opinion before any other opinion in the world. You know her well far better than I do. Tell me honestly do you think she could ever love me?"

"You have given me a hard task," said Charles Osmond. "But you have asked for my honest opinion, and you must have it. As long as her father lives I don't believe Erica will ever love a man well enough to marry him. I remember, in my young days, a beautiful girl in our neighborhood, the belle of the whole county; and years went by, and she had countless offers, but she rejected them all. People used to remonstrate with her, and ask her how it was. 'Oh,' she used to reply, 'that is very easily explained.. I never see a man I think equal to my own brothers!' Now, whatever faults Raeburn has, we may be sure Erica sees far less plainly than we see, and nobody can deny that he is a grand fellow. When one bears in mind all that he has had against him, his nobility of character seems to me marvelous. He puts us to shame. And that is why he seems to me the wholesome though powerful medicine for this nineteenth century of ours, with its great professions and its un-Christlike lives."

"What is the use of patience what is the use of love," exclaimed Brian, "if I am never to serve her?"

"Never! Who said so?" said his father smiling. "Why, you have been serving her every blessed day since you first loved her. Is unspoken love worth nothing? Are prayers useless? Is it of no service to let your light shine? But I see how it is. As a doctor, you look upon pain as the one great enemy to be fought with, to be bound down, to be conquered. You want to shield Erica from pain, which she can't be shielded from, if she is to go on growing.

"'Knowledge by suffering entereth!'

No one would so willingly indorse the truth of that as she herself. And it will be so to the end of the chapter. You can't shut her up in a beautiful casket, and keep her from all pain. If you could she would no longer be the Erica you love. As for the rest, I may be wrong. She may have room for wifely love even now. I have only told you what I think. And whether she ever be your wife or not and from my heart I hope she may be your love will in no case be wasted. Pure love can't be wasted; it's an impossibility."

Brian sighed heavily, but made no answer. Presently he took up his hat and went out. He walked on and on without the faintest idea of time or place, occupied only with the terrible struggle which was going on in his heart, which seemed only endurable with the help of rapid and mechanical exercise. When at length he came to himself, he was miles away from home, right down at Shepherd's Bush, and he heard the church clocks striking twelve. Then he turned back, and walked home more quietly, his resolution made.

If he told Erica of his love, and she refused him now, he should not only add to her troubles, but he should inevitably put an end to the comfort of the close friendship which now existed between the two families. He would keep silence.

Erica and her father returned on the Saturday, and then began a most trying time. Tom seemed to shrink from her just as he had done at the time of her mother's death. He was shy and vexed, too, and kept as much out of her way as possible. Mrs. Craigie, on the contrary, could not leave her alone. In spite of her brother's words, she tried every possible argument and remonstrance in the hope of reconvincing her niece. With the best intentions, she was often grossly unfair, and Erica, with a naturally quick temper, and her Raeburn inheritance of fluency and satire, found her patience sorely tried. Raeburn was excessively busy, and they saw very little of him; perhaps he thought it expedient that Erica should fight her own battles, and fully realize the seriousness of the steps she had taken.

"Have you thought," urged Mrs. Craigie, as a last argument "have you thought what offense you will give to our whole party? What do you think they will slay when they learn that you of all people have deserted the cause?"

The tears started to Erica's eyes, for naturally she did feel this a great deal. But she answered bravely, and with a sort of ring in her voice, which made Tom look up from his newspaper.

"They will know that Luke Raeburn's daughter must be true to her convictions at whatever cost."

"Will you go on writing in the 'Idol'?" asked Tom, for the first time making an observation to her which was not altogether necessary.

"No," said Erica "how can I?"

Tom shrugged his shoulders, and made no further remark.

"Then how do you mean to live? How else can you support yourself?" asked Aunt Jean.

"I don't know," said Erica. "I must get some other work somewhere."

But her heart failed her, though she spoke firmly. She knew that to find work in London was no easy matter.

"Offer yourself to the 'Church Chronicle,'" said Mrs. Craigie sarcastically, "or, better still, to the 'Watch Dog.' They always make a good deal of capital out of a convert."

Erica colored and had to bite her lip hard to keep back the quick retort which occurred to her all too naturally.

By and by Mr. Masterman and another well-known secularist walked in. They both knew of Erica's defection. Mr. Masterman attacked her at once in a sort of bantering way.

"So Miss Raeburn, now I understand why some time ago you walked out in the middle of my lecture one evening."

And then followed a most irritating semi-serious remonstrance, in questionable taste. Erica writhed under it. A flippant canvassing of her most private and sacred thoughts was hard to bear, but she held her ground, and, being not without a touch of her father's dignity, Mr. Masterman presently beat a retreat, not feeling quite so well satisfied with himself as usual. His companion did not allude directly to her change of views, but treated her with a sort of pitying condescension, as if she had been a mild lunatic.

There was some sort of committee being held in the study that evening. The next person to arrive was Professor Gosse and almost immediately after came Mr. Harmston, a charming old man, whom Erica had known from her childhood. They came in and had some coffee before going into the study. Mrs. Craigie talked to Mr. Harmston. Erica, looking her loveliest waited on them. Tom watched them all philosophically from the hearth rug.

"I am sorry to hear you have deserted your colors," said the professor, looking more grave than she had ever seen him look before. Then, his voice softening a little as he looked at her, "I expect it all comes of that illness of yours. I believe religion is just an outgrowth of bad health mens sana in corpore sano, you know. Never mind, you must still come to my workshop, and I shall see if science won't reconvert you."

He moved away with his good-humored, shaggy-looking face, leaving Erica to old Mr. Harmston.

"I am much grieved to hear this of you, Erica," he said, lowering his voice, and bringing his gray head near to hers "as grieved as if you were my own child. You will be a sore loss to us all."

Erica felt this keenly, for she was very fond of the old man.

"Do you think it does not hurt me to grieve you all?" she said, piteously. "But one must be honest."

"Quite right, my dear," said the old man, "but that does not make our loss the less heavy. We had hoped great things of you, Erica. It is grievous to me that you should have fallen back to the miserable superstitions against which your father has fought so bravely."

"Come, Mr. Harmston," said the professor; "we are late, I fancy."

And before Erica could make any reply Mrs. Craigie and the two visitors had adjourned to the committee room, leaving her alone with Tom.

Now, for two or three days Erica had been enduring Tom's coldness and Mrs. Craigie's unceasing remonstrances; all the afternoon she had been having a long and painful discussion with her friend, Mrs. MacNaughton; this evening she had seen plainly enough what her position would be for the future among all her old acquaintances, and an aching sense of isolation filled her heart. She was just going to run upstairs and yield to her longing for darkness and quiet, when Tom called her back. She could not refuse to hear, for the coldness of her old playmate had made her very sad, but she turned back rather reluctantly, for her eyes were brimming with tears.

"Don't go," said Tom, quite in his natural voice. "Have you any coffee for me, or did the old fogies finish it?"

Erica went back to the table and poured him out a cup of coffee, but her hand trembled, and, before she could prevent it, down splashed a great tear into the saucer.

"Come!" said Tom, cheerfully. "Don't go and spoil my coffee with salt water! All very well for David, in a penitential psalm, to drink tears, but in the nineteenth century, you know—"

Erica began to laugh at this, a fatal proceeding, for afterward came a great sob, and the tears came down in good earnest. Philosophical Tom always professed great contempt for tears, and he knew that Erica must be very much moved indeed to cry in his presence, or, indeed, to cry at all; for, as he expressed it: "It was not in her line." But somehow, when for the first time he saw her cry, he did not feel contemptuous; instead, he began to call himself a "hard-hearted brute," and a narrow-minded fool, and to feel miserable and out of conceit with himself.

"I say, Erica, don't cry," he pleaded. "Don't, I say, I can't bear to see you. I've been a cold-blooded wretch I'm awfully sorry!"

"It's very cowardly of me," sobbed Erica. "But—but—" with a rush of tears, "you don't know how I love you all it's like being killed by inches."

"You're not cowardly," said Tom, warmly. "You've been brave and plucky; I only wish it were in a better cause. Look here, Erica, only stop crying, and promise me that you'll not take this so dreadfully to heart. I'll stand by you I will, indeed, even though I hate your cause. But it sha'n't come between us any longer, the hateful delusion has spoiled enough lives already. It sha'n't spoil ours."

"Oh, don't!" cried Erica, wounded anew by this.

"Well," said Tom, gulping down his longing to inveigh against Christianity, "it goes hard with me not to say a word against the religion that has brought us all our misery, but for your sake I'll try not when talking with you. Now let us begin again on the old footing."

"Not quite on the old footing either," said Erica, who had conquered her tears. "I love you a thousand times more, you dear old Tom."

And Tom, who was made of sterling stuff, did from that day forward stand by her through everything, and checked himself when harsh words about religious matters rose to his lips, and tried his best to smooth what could not fail to be a rough bit of walking.

The first meeting between Charles Osmond and Erica, after her return from Codrington, did not come about till the morning after her conversation with Tom. They had each called on the other, but had somehow managed to miss. When at length Erica was shown into the study, connected in her mind with so many warm discussions, she found it empty. She sat down in the great arm chair by the window, wondering if she were indeed the same Erica who had sat there years before, on the day when her "prophet" had foretold her illness. What changes had come about since then!

But her "Prophet" was unchanged, his brisk, "Well Erica!" was exactly what it had been when she had come to him in the days of her atheism. It had always been full of welcome and sympathy, and now the only difference was that a great happiness shone in his eyes as he came forward with his soft, steady tread and took her hand in both his.

They sat silent for awhile, then talked a little but reservedly, for both felt that the subject which filled their thoughts was at once too sacred and too personal to be altogether put into words. Then by and by they began to discuss the practical consequences of the change, and especially the great difficulty as to Erica's means of supporting herself.

"Could you not try teaching?" said Charles Osmond.

"The market is already overstocked."

"True, but I should think that your brains and certificates ought to secure you work in spite of that."

"I should like it in many ways," said Erica, "but, you see, except at the night school it is out of the question, and I could not live upon my grant even if every one of my class passed the examination. For any other sort of teaching who do you imagine would have the courage to employ any one bearing the name of Raeburn? Why, I can't give an order in a shop without being looked all over by the person who takes the address. No, governessing would be all very well if one might assume a nom de guerre, but that would not do, you see."

"You couldn't find work of that sort among your own set, I suppose?"

"Not now," said Erica. "You see, naturally enough, I am very much out of favor with them all."

"Falling between two stools," said Charles Osmond, half to himself. "But don't lose heart, Erica: 'A stone that is fit for the wall will not be left in the way;' there is work for you somewhere. By the way, I might see old Crutchley he knows all the literary folk, and might get you an introduction to some one, at any rate."

Just as Erica was leaving Brian came in from his rounds, and they met at the door. Had he known her trouble and perplexity as to work, no power on earth could have induced him to keep silence any longer; but he knew nothing. She looked a little pale, but that was natural enough, and in her eyes he could see a peace which he had never seen there before. Then deep unselfish happiness filled his heart again, and Erica recognized in his greeting a great deal more than an ordinary by-stander would have seen. She went away feeling bettered by that handclasp.

"That is a downright good man!" she thought to herself. "Perhaps by the time he's fifty-five, he'll be almost equal to his father."



CHAPTER XXII. An Editor

Socrates How singular is the thing called pleasure, and how curiously related to pain, which might be thought to be the opposite; for they never come to a man together, and yet he who pursues either of them is generally compelled to take the other. They are two, and yet they grow together out of one head or stem; and I can not help thinking that, if Aesop had noticed them, he would have made a fable about God trying to reconcile their strife, and when he could not, he fastened their heads together; and this is the reason why when one comes the other follows. Plato

That Erica should live any longer upon the money which her father chiefly made by the dissemination of views with which she disagreed was clearly impossible, at least impossible to one of her sincere and thorough nature. But to find work was very difficult, indeed. After an anxious waiting and searching, she was one day surprised by receiving through Charles Osmond's friend, Mr. Crutchley, an introduction to the editor of a well-known and widely read paper. Every one congratulated her, but she could not feel very hopeful, it seemed too good to prove true it was, in fact, so exactly the position which she would herself have chosen that it seemed unlikely it should ever really be hers. Still of course she hoped, and arrangements were made for an interview with Mr. Bircham, editor and part proprietor of the "Daily Review."

Accordingly, one hot summer morning Erica dressed herself carefully, tried to look old and serious, and set off with Tom to the city.

"I'll see you safe to the door of the lion's den," said Tom as they made their way along the crowded streets. "I only wish I could be under the table during the interview; I should like to see you doing the dignified journalist."

"I wouldn't have you for the world!" said Erica, laughing. Then, growing grave again, "Oh, Tom! How I wish it were over! It's worse than three hundred visits to a dentist rolled into one."

"Appalling prospect!" said Tom. "I can exactly picture what it will be. BIRCHAM! Such a forbidding name for an editor. He'll be a sort of editorial Mr. Squeers; he'll talk in a loud, blustering way, and you'll feel exactly like a journalistic Smike."

"No," said Erica, laughing. "He'll be a neat little dapper man, very smooth and bland, and he'll talk patronizingly and raise my hopes, and then, in a few days' time will send me a polite refusal."

"Tell him at once that you hero-worship Sir Michael Cunningham, the statesman of the age, the most renowned 'Sly Bacon!'"

"Tom, do be quiet!" said Erica. "I wish you had never thought of that horrid name."

"Horrid! I mean to make my fortune out of it. If you like, you can offer the pun on reasonable terms to Mr. Bircham."

"Why, this is Fleet Street! Doesn't it lead out of this?" said Erica, with an indescribable feeling in the back of her neck. "We must be quite near."

"Nearer than near," said Tom. "Now then, left wheel! Here we are, you see. It's a mercy that you turn pink with fright, not green like the sea-green Robespierre. Go in looking as pretty as that, and Mr. Squeers will graciously accept your services, unless he's sand-blind."

"What a tease you are. Do be quiet!" implored Erica. And then, in what seemed to her an alarmingly short time she was actually left by herself to beard the lion, and a clerk was assuring her that Mr. Bircham was in, and would she walk upstairs.

For reasons best known to himself, the editor of the "Daily Review" had his private room at the very top of the house. A sedate clerk led the way up a dingy staircase, and Erica toiled after him, wondering how much breath she should have left by the time she reached the end. On one of the landings she caught sight of a sandy cat and felt a little reassured at meeting such an every-day creature in this grim abode; she gave it a furtive stroke as she passed, and would have felt it a protection if she could have picked it up and taken it with her. That would have been undignified, however, and by the time she reached the editor's room only a very observant person could have discovered in her frank, self-possessed manner any trace of nervousness.

So different was Mr Bircham from their preconceived notions that she could almost have laughed at the contrast. He was very tall and pompous, he wore a lank brown wig which looked as if it might come off at any moment, he had little keen gray eyes which twinkled, and a broad mouth which shut very closely; whether it was grim or humorous she could not quite decide. He was sitting in a swivel chair, and the table strewn with letters, and the desk with its pigeon holes crammed with papers, looked so natural and so like her father's that she began to feel a reassuring sense of fellowship with this entire stranger. The inevitable paste-pot and scissors, the piles of newspapers, the books of reference, all looked homelike to her.

Mr. Bircham rose and bowed rather formally, motioned her to a seat, and swung round his own seat so that they faced one another. Then he scanned her from head to foot with the sort of appraising glance to which she was only too well accustomed a glance which said as plainly as words: "Oh! So you are that atheist's daughter are you?"

But whatever impression Erica made upon Mr. Bircham, not a muscle of his face altered, and he began to discuss business in a most formal and business-like way. Things did not seem very hopeful, and Erica began to doubt more and ore whether she had the smallest chance of acceptance. Something in the dry formal manner of the editor struck a chill to her heart. So much, so very much depended on this interview, and already the prospect seemed far from hopeful.

"I should like to see some of your work," observed Mr. Bircham. "How long have you been in the habit of writing in Mr. Raeburn's organ?"

"For the last five years," said Erica.

Mr. Bircham lifted his shaggy eyebrows at this, for Erica looked even younger than she really was. However, he made no comment, but took up the end of a speaking tube.

"Send up Jones with the file of 'Idol-Breakers' I ordered."

Erica's color rose. Presently the answer from the lower regions appeared in the shape of the sedate clerk carrying a great bundle of last year's 'Idol-Breakers.'

"Perhaps you will show me one or two of your average articles," said Mr. Bircham, and, while Erica searched through the bundle of papers, he took up one of the copies which she had put aside, and studied the outside page critically. "'The Idol-Breaker:' Advocate of Freethought and Secularism. Edited by Luke Raeburn."

"They are slaves who dare not be In the right with two or three."

Mr. Bircham put it down and began to watch her attentively. She was absorbed in her search, and was quite unconscious of his scrutiny. Even had she noticed him, she would not have understood what was passing in his mind. His little gray eyes grew bright; then he pushed back his wig impatiently; then he cleared his throat; finally he took snuff, sneezed violently, and walked to the window. When he returned he was even more dry and formal than before.

"These, I think, are fairly representative," said Erica. "I have marked them on the margin."

He took the three or four copies she handed to him, and began to look through one of the articles, muttering a sentence half aloud every now and then, and making little ejaculations which might have been either approval or disapproval.

Finally the interview ended. Mr. Bircham put down the papers with a sigh of utter weariness, Erica thought.

"Well, Miss Raeburn," he remarked, "I will look at one or two of your other articles, and will communicate with you in a few days' time."

Then he shook hands with her with frigid politeness, and in another minute she was slowly making her way down the dingy staircase. Partly from the reaction after her excitement, partly from mental worry and physical weariness, she felt by the time she was fairly out of the office as if she could hardly drag herself along. Her heart was like lead, blank loss of hope and weary anxiety as to the next effort to be made were weighing her down. She was naturally high-spirited, but when high-spirited people do get depressed, they go down to the very deepest depths; and her interview with Mr. Bircham, by its dry cheerlessness, by its lack of human interest, had chilled her all through. If he had even made a remark on the weather, she thought she could have liked him better; if he had expressed an opinion on any subject, even if she had disagreed with him, it would have been a relief; as it was, he seemed to her more like a hard steel pen dressed in broadcloth than a man.

As to his last remark, that could only mean one thing. He did not like to tell her to her face that she would not suit him, but, he would communicate with her in a few days, and say it comfortably on paper.

She had never felt quite so desolate and forlorn and helpless as she felt that day when she left the "Daily Review" office, and found herself in the noise and bustle of Fleet Street. The midday sun blazed down upon her in all its strength; the pavements seemed to scorch her feet; the weary succession of hurrying, pushing, jostling passengers seemed to add to her sense of isolation. Presently a girl stopped her, and asked the way to Basinghall Street. She knew it well enough, but felt too utterly stupid to direct her.

"You had better ask a policeman," she replied, wearily.

Then, recollecting that she had several commissions to do for her father, besides a great deal to do at the stores, she braced herself up, and tried to forget Mr. Bircham, and to devote her whole mind to the petty details of shopping.

The next evening she was in the study with her father when Tom brought in a bundle of letters. One of them was for Erica. She at once recognized Mr. Bircham's writing, and a new pang of disappointment shot through her, though she had really lost all hope on the previous day. This very speedy communication could only mean that his mind had been practically made up before. She began to think of her next chance, of the next quarter she must try, and slowly opened the unwelcome letter. But in a moment she had sprung to her feet in an ecstasy of happiness.

"Oh, father! Oh, Tom! He will have me!"

Raeburn looked up from his correspondence, and together they read Mr. Bircham's letter. It was quite as business-like as he himself had been at the interview.

"Dear Madame, Having fully considered the matter, we are prepared to offer you a place on our staff. The work required was explained to you yesterday. For this we offer a salary of 200 pounds per annum. Should you signify your acceptance of these terms, we will send you our usual form of agreement. I am yours faithfully, Jacob Bircham.

"To Miss Raeburn."

"Commend me to people who don't raise one's expectations!" said Erica, rapturously. "Three cheers for my dear, stiff old editor!"

So that anxiety was over, and Erica was most thankful to have such a load taken off her mind. The comfort of it helped her through a very trying summer.



CHAPTER XXIII. Erica to the Rescue

Isabel: I have spirit to do anything that appears not foul in the truth of my spirit.

Duke: Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful. Measure for Measure

It was the first of September. Watering places were crowded with visitors, destruction had begun among the partridges, and a certain portion of the hard-working community were taking their annual holiday.

Raeburn, whose holidays were few and far between, had been toiling away all through the summer months in town. This evening, as he sat in his stifling little study, he had fallen into a blank fit of depression. He could neither work nor read. Strong as his nature was, it was not always proof against this grim demon, which avenged itself on him for overtasking his brain, shortening his hours of sleep, and in other ways sacrificing himself to his work. Tonight, however, there was reason for his depression; for while he sat fighting his demon at home, Erica had gone to Charles Osmond's church it was the evening of her baptism.

Of course it was the necessary sequence of the confession she had made a few months before, and Raeburn had long known that it was inevitable; but none the less did he this evening suffer more acutely than he had yet suffered, realizing more fully his child's defection The private confession had startled, shocked, grieved him inexpressibly; but the public profession, with its sense of irrevocableness, filled his heart with a grief for which he could find no single ray of comfort.

Erica's brave endurance of all the trials and discomforts involved in her change of faith had impressed him not a little, and even when most hurt and annoyed by her new views, he had always tried to shield her; but it had been a hard summer, and the loss of the home unity had tried him sorely.

Moreover, the comparative quiet of the last year was now ended. A new foe had arisen in the person of a certain retired cheesemonger, who had sworn war to the knife against the apostle of atheism. Unfortunately, Mr. Pogson's war was not undertaken in a Christ-like spirit; his zeal was fast changing into personal animosity, and he had avowed the he would crush Raeburn, though it should cost him the whole of his fortune. This very day he had brought into action the mischievous and unfair blasphemy laws, and to everybody's amazement, had commenced a prosecution against Raeburn for a so-called "blasphemous libel" in one of his recent pamphlets. An attack on the liberty of the press was to Raeburn what the sound of the trumpet is to the war horse. Yet, now that the first excitement was over, he had somehow sunk into a fit of black depression. How was it? Was his strength failing? Was he growing old unfit for his work?

He was roused at length by a knock at his door. The servant entered with a number of letters. He turned them over mechanically until some handwriting which reminded him of his mother's made him pause. The letter bore the Greyshot postmark; it must be from his sister Isabel. He opened it with some eagerness; there had been no communication between them since the time of his wife's death, and though he had hoped that the correspondence once begun might have been continued, nothing more had come of it. The letter proved short, and not altogether palatable. It began with rejoicings over Erica's change of views, the report of which had reached Mrs. Fane-Smith. It went on to regret that he did not share in the change. Raeburn's lip curled as he read. Then came a request that Erica might be allowed to visit her relations, and the letter ended with a kindly-meant but mistaken offer.

"My husband and I both feel that there are many objections to Erica's remaining in her present home. We should be much pleased if she would live with us at any rate, until she has met with some situation which would provide her with a suitable and permanent residence."

The offer was not intended to be insulting, but undoubtedly, to such a father as Raeburn, it was a gross insult. His eyes flashed fire, and involuntarily he crushed the letter in his hand; then, a little ashamed of the passionate act, he forced himself deliberately to smooth it out again, and, folding it accurately, put it in his pocket. A note for Erica remained in the envelope; he placed it on the mantel piece, then fell back in his chair again and thought.

After all, might not the visit to Greyshot be a very good thing for her? Of course she would never dream of living with her aunt, would indeed be as angry at the proposal as he had been. But might not a visit of two or three weeks open her eyes to her new position, and prove to her that among Christians such people as the Osmonds were only in the minority! He knew enough of society to be able to estimate the position it would accord to Erica. He knew that her sensitiveness would be wounded again and again, that, that her honesty would be shocked, her belief in the so-called Christian world shaken. Might not all this be salutary? And yet he did not like the thought; he could not bear sending her out alone to fight her own battles, could not endure the consciousness that she was bearing his reproach. Oh, why had this miserable, desolating change ever occurred? At this very moment she was making public profession of a faith which could only place her in the most trying of positions; at this very moment she was pledging herself to a life of bondage and trouble; while he, standing aside, could see all the dangers and difficulties of her future, and could do absolutely nothing!

It reminded him of one of the most horrible moments of his life. Walking up Regent Street one afternoon, years ago, Erica, walking with Mrs. Craigie on the opposite side, had caught sight of him, and regardless of the fourfold chain of carriages, had rushed across to him with the fearless daring of a six-year-old child, to whom the danger of horses' hoofs was a mere nothing when compared with the desire to get a walk with her father. His heart beat quicker even now as he thought of the paralyzing dread of long ago, nor had Miss Erica ever been scolded for her loving rashness; in his relief he had been unable to do anything but clasp the little hand in his as though nothing should ever part them again.

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