Part 3 out of 5
consequently amazed at her attitude. He took a step toward her.
"No--no," she cried angrily. "I will not have any more of you. I tell
you that I have had enough. I find now that what I mistook for love
was just the opposite. I believe that I hate you. No--no, Bertie, not
that, it cannot be that, only---- Oh, I know now that it is not hate
for you that I feel--it is hate for myself, hate for the creature who
is hateful enough to stand between you and the happiness which you
have earned by patience, by constancy, by self-control. Yes, I hate
the creature who is idiotic enough to put honor between us, to put
religion between us, to put her soul's salvation between us."
"Ella, Ella, why will you not trust me?" he said, when she had flung
herself into a chair. He was standing over her with his hands clasped
behind him. He was beginning to understand something of her nature; of
the nature of the woman to whom love has come as a thief in the night.
He was beginning to perceive that she had, in her ignorance, been
ready to entertain love without knowing what was entailed by
entertaining him. "If you would only trust me, all would be well."
She almost leaped from her chair.
"Would it?" she cried. "Would all be well? Would it be well with my
soul? Would it be well with both of us in the future? Would it be well
with my husband?"
"I know your husband," he said.
"And I know him, too," said she. "He cares for me no more than I care
for him, but he has never been otherwise than kind to me. I think of
him--I think of him. I know the name that men give to the man who
tries to make his friend's wife love him. It is not my husband who has
earned that name, Mr. Courtland."
He looked into her face, but he spoke no word. Even he--the lover--was
beginning to see, as in a glass, darkly, something of the conflict
that was going on in the heart of the woman before him. She had
uttered words against him, and they had stung him, and yet he had a
feeling that, if he had put his arms about her again, she would have
held him close to her as she had done before; she would have given him
kiss for kiss as she had done before. It is the decree of nature that
the lover shall think of himself only; but had he not told Phyllis
that his belief was that Nature and Satan were the same? He was
sometimes able to say, "/Retro me, Sathana/"--not always. He said it
now, but not boldly, not loudly--in a whisper. The best way of putting
Satan behind one is to run away from him. Resist the devil, and he
will flee from you. Yes, but, on the whole, it is safer to show him a
clean pair of heels than to enter on an argument with him, hoping that
he will be amenable to logic. Herbert Courtland said his, "/Retro
me/," in a whisper, half hoping, as the gentlewoman with the muffins
for sale hoped, that he would escape notice. For a few moments he
ceased to think of himself. He thought of that beautiful thing before
him--she was tall, and her rosy white flesh was as a peach that has
reached its one hour of ripeness--he thought of her and pitied her.
He had not the heart to put his arms about her, though he knew that to
do so would be to give him all the happiness for which he longed. What
was he that he should stand by and see that struggle tearing her heart
"My poor child!" said he, and then he repeated his words, "My poor
child! It would have been better if we had never come together. We are
going to part now."
She looked at him and laughed in his face.
He did not know what this meant. Had she been simply acting a part all
along? Had she been playing a comedy part all the while he was
thinking that a great tragedy was being enacted? Or was it possible
that she was mocking him? that her laugh was the laugh of the jailer
who hears a prisoner announce his intention of walking out of his
"Good-by," said he.
She fixed her eyes upon his face, then she laughed again.
He now knew what she meant by her laugh.
"Perhaps you may think that you have too firm a hold upon me to give
me a chance of parting from you," said he. "You may be right; but if
you tell me to go I shall try and obey you. But think what it means
before you tell me to leave you forever."
She did think what it meant. She looked at him, and she thought of his
passing away from her forever more. She wondered what her life would
be when he should have passed out of it. A blank? Oh, worse than a
blank, for she would have ever present with her the recollection of
how he had once stood before her as he was standing now--tall, with
his brown hands clenched, and a paleness underlying the tan of his
face. "The bravest man alive"--that was what Phyllis had called him,
and Phyllis had been right. He was a man who had fought his way
single-handed through such perils as made those who merely read about
them throb with anxiety.
This was the man of whom she knew that she would ever retain a memory
--this was the man whom she was ready to send back to the uttermost
ends of the earth.
And this was to be the reward of his devotion to her! What was she
that she could do this thing? What was she that she should refrain
from sacrificing herself for him? She had known women who had
sacrificed themselves to men--such men! Wretched things! Not like that
man of men who stood before her with such a look on his face as it had
worn, she knew, in the most desperate moments of his life, when the
next moment might bring death to him--death from an arrow--from a wild
beast--from a hurricane.
What could she do?
She did nothing.
She made no effort to save herself.
If he had put his arms about her and had carried her away from her
husband's house to the uttermost ends of the earth, she would not have
resisted. It was not in her power to resist.
And it was because he saw this he went away, leaving her standing with
that lovely Venetian mirror glittering in silver and ruby and emerald
just above her head.
"You have been right; I have been wrong," said he. "Don't try to
speak, Ella. Don't try to keep me. I know how you love me, and I know
that if I ask you to keep me you will keep me until you die. Forgive
me for my selfishness, my beloved. Good-by."
She felt him approach her and she felt the hands that he laid upon her
bare shoulders--one on each side of her neck. She closed her eyes as
he put his face down to hers and kissed her on the mouth--not with
rapturous, passionate lips, but still with warm and trembling lips.
She did not know where the kiss ended, she did not know when his hands
were taken off her shoulders. She kept her eyes closed and her mouth
sealed. She did not even give him a farewell kiss.
When she opened her eyes she found herself alone in the room.
And then there came to her ears the sound of the double whistle for a
hansom. She stood silently there listening to the driving up of the
vehicle--she even heard the sound of the closing of the apron and then
the tinkling of the horse's bells dwindling into the distance.
A sense of loneliness came to her that was overwhelming in its force.
"Fool! fool! fool!" she cried, through her set teeth. "What have I
done? Sent him away? Sent him away? My beloved!--my best beloved--my
man of men. Gone--gone! Oh, fool! fool!"
She threw herself on a sofa and stared at the Watteau group of
masquerading shepherds and shepherdesses on the great Sevres vase that
stood on a pedestal near her. The masks at the joining of the handles
were of grinning satyrs. They were leering at her, she thought. They
alone were aware of the good reason there was for satyrs to grin. A
woman had just sent away from her, forever, the bravest man in all the
world--those were Phyllis' words--a king of men--the one man who loved
her and whom she loved. She had pretended to him that she was subject
to the influences of religion, of honor, of duty! What hypocrisy! They
knew it, those leering creatures--they knew that she cared nothing for
religion, that she regarded honor and duty as words of no meaning when
such words as love and devotion were in the air.
She looked at the satyr masks, and had anyone been present in the
room, that one would have seen that her lovely face became gradually
distorted until the expression it wore was precisely the same as that
upon the masks--an expression that had its audible equivalent in the
laugh which broke from her.
She lay back on her broad cushions. One of the strands of her splendid
hair had become loose, and after coiling over half a yard of the
brocaded silk of a cushion, twisted its way down to the floor. She lay
back, pointing one finger at the face on the vase and laughing that
"We know--we know--we know!" she cried, and her voice was like that of
a drunken woman. "We know all--you and I--we know the hypocrisy--the
pretense of religion--of honor--duty--a husband! Ah, a husband! that
is the funniest of all--that husband! We know how little we care for
She continued laughing until her cushion slipped from under her head.
She half rose to straighten it, and at that instant she caught a
glimpse of her face in the center silvered panel of the Venetian
mirror. The cry of horror that broke from her at that instant seemed
part of her laugh. It would not have occurred to anyone who might have
heard it that it was otherwise than consistent with the incongruity,
so to speak, of the existing elements of the scene. The hideous leer
of the thing with horns, looking down at the exquisite picture of the
/fete champetre/--the distorted features of the woman's face in the
center of the ruby and emerald and sapphire of the Venetian mirror--
the cry of horror mixed with the laugh of the woman who mocked at
religion and honor and purity--all were consistently incongruous.
In another instant she was lying on the sofa with her face down to the
cushion, trying to forget all that she had seen in the mirror. She
wept her tears on the brocaded silk for half an hour, and then she
slipped from where she was lying till her knees were on the floor.
With a hand clutching each side of the cushion she got rid of her
passion in prayer.
"Oh, God! God! keep him away from me! keep him away from me!" was her
prayer; and it was possibly the best that she could have uttered.
"Keep him away from me! keep him away from me! Don't let my soul be
lost! Keep him away from me!"
When she struggled to her feet, at last, she stood in front of the
mirror once again.
She now saw a face purified of all passion by tears and prayer, where
she had seen the soulless face of a Pagan's orgy.
She went upstairs to her bed and went asleep, thanking God that she
had had the strength to send him away; that she had had strength
sufficient to stand where she had stood in the room, silent, while he
had put his arms on her bare shoulders and kissed her on the mouth,
She felt that she had every reason to thank God for that strength, for
she knew that it had been given to her at that moment; it had not
sprung from within her own heart; her heart had been crying out to
him, "Stay, stay, stay!" her heart took no account of honor or purity
or a husband.
Yes, she felt that the strength which had come to her at that moment
had been the especial gift of God, and she was thankful to God for it.
That consciousness of gratitude to God was her last sensation before
falling asleep; and, when morning came, her first sensation was that
of having a letter to write. Before she had breakfasted she had
written her letter and sent it to be posted.
This was the letter:
"MY ONE LOVE: I was a fool--oh, such a fool! How could I have done
it? How could I have sent you away in such coldness last night?
Believe me, it was not I who did it. How could I have done it? You
know that my love for you is limitless. You know that it is my
life. I tell you that my love for you laughs at such limits as are
laid down by religion and honor. Why should I protest? My love is
love, and there can be no love where there are any limits.
"Come to me on Thursday. I shall be at home after dinner, at nine,
and see if I am not now in my right mind. Come to me; come to me,
Bertie, my love."
WHAT AM I THAT I SHOULD DO THIS THING?
He sat with the letter before him after he had breakfasted, and
perhaps for a time, say a minute or so, he caught a glimpse of the
nature of the woman who had written those lines to him. If he had not
had some appreciation of her nature he would have spent an hour or two
--perhaps a day or two--trying to reconcile her attitude of the
previous night with the tone of her letter. He did not, however, waste
his time over such an endeavor. He knew that she loved him, and that
she did not love her husband. He knew that she had allowed him to kiss
her, and it had been a puzzle to him for some months why she had not
come to his arms forever--he meant her to be his own property forever.
He had been amazed to hear her allude, as she had done on the previous
night, to such abstractions as honor, religion, her husband. He could
not see what they had to do with the matter in hand. He could not see
why such considerations should be potent to exercise a restraining
influence on the intentions of a man and a woman who love each other.
Well, now it would appear that she had cast to the winds all such
considerations as she had enumerated, and was prepared to live under
the rule of love alone, and it was at his suggestion she was doing so.
For a moment or two he saw her as she was: a woman in the midst of a
seething ocean, throwing up her hands and finding an absolute relief
in going down--down--down into very hell. For a moment or two his
heart was full of pity for her. Who could be a spectator of a woman's
struggles for life in the midst of that turbulent sea of passion which
was overwhelming her, and refrain from feeling pity? That letter which
lay before him represented the agonizing cry of a drowning creature;
one whom the long struggle has made delirious; one who looks forward
to going down with the delight born of delirium.
He recollected a picture which he had once seen--the picture of a
drowning woman. He saw it now before him with hideous vividness, and
the face of the woman was the face of Ella Linton. The agony of that
last fight with an element that was overpowering, overwhelming in its
ruthless strength, was shown upon every feature, and his soul was
filled with pity.
He sprang to his feet and crushed the letter into his pocket. He felt
none of the exultation of the huntsman--only sadness at the fate of
the hunted thing that lay at his feet. Once before the same feeling
had come over him. It was when, after the long struggle up the river,
through the forests, swamps, jungle grass that cut the body of a man
as though it were sharp wire, he fired his shot and the meteor-bird
fell at his feet. After the first few panting breaths that came to him
he had stood leaning on his gun, looking down at that beautiful thing
which he had deprived of life.
"What am I that I should have done this thing?" he had asked himself
on that evening, while the blacks had yelled around him like devils.
"What am I that I should do this thing?" was his cry now, as the voice
of many demons sounded in his ears.
What was he that he should rejoice at receiving that letter from the
woman over whose head the waters were closing?
He ordered his horse and, mounting it, rode to where he could put it
to the gallop. So men try to leave behind them the sneering demons of
conscience and self-reproach. Some of them succeed in doing so, but
find the pair waiting for them on their own doorstep. Herbert
Courtland galloped his horse intermittently for an hour or two, and
then rode leisurely back to his rooms. He felt that he had got the
better of those two enemies of his who had been irritating him. He
heard their voices no longer. He had lost them (he fancied), because
there had come to him another voice that said:
"I love her--I love her."
And whensoever that voice comes to a man as it came to Herbert
Courtland it drowns all other voices. He would love her to the end of
his life. Their life together would be the real life for which men and
women have come into the world. He would go to her, and so far from
allowing her to sink beneath the waters down to hell, his arms would
be around her to bear her up until--well, is it not generally conceded
that love is heaven and heaven is love?
He seated himself at a desk and wrote to her an impassioned line. He
would go to her, he said. If death should come to him the next day he
would still thank God for having given him an hour of life.
That was what he said--all. It expressed pretty well what he felt he
should feel. That reference to God she would, of course, understand.
God was to him a Figure of Speech. He had said as much to Phyllis
Ayrton. But then he had said that he had regarded God to mean the
Power by which men were able (sometimes) successfully to combat the
influences of nature. But had he not just then made up his mind to
yield to that passion which God, as a Principle, has the greatest
difficulty in opposing? Why, then, should he expect that Ella would
understand precisely what he meant in saying that he would thank God
for his hour of life, his hour of love?
He would have had considerable difficulty in explaining this apparent
discrepancy between his scheme of philosophy and his life as a man,
had Phyllis asked him to do so; and Phyllis would certainly have asked
him to do so had she become acquainted with the contents of his letter
to her friend Ella; though Phyllis' father, having acquired some
knowledge of men as well as of phrases, would not have asked for any
explanation, knowing that a man's philosophy is, in its relation to a
man's life, a good deal less important than the fuse is to a bomb. He
would have known that a scheme of philosophy no more brings wisdom
into a man's life than a telescope brings the moon nearer to the
earth. He would have known that for a man to build up a doctrine of
philosophy around himself, hoping that the devil will keep on the
other side of the paling, is as ridiculous as it is to raise a
stockade of roses against a tiger.
Herbert Courtland, however, thought neither of philosophical
consistency nor of the advantages of having on one's side a sound
Principle. He thought of the stockade of roses, not to keep out the
beast but to keep love in. They would live together in the midst of
roses forever, and though each might possibly lose something by the
transaction, yet what they might lose was nothing compared to what
they should certainly win. Of that he was certain, and therefore he
posted his impassioned line with a light heart.
That was on Tuesday. He had still two days that he might employ
thinking over the enterprise to which he was committed; and he
certainly made the most of his time in this direction. Now and again,
as he thought of what was in store for him--for her--he felt as if he
were lifted off the earth, and at other times he felt that he was
crushed into the earth--crushed into it until he had become incapable
of any thought that was not of the earth, earthy. At such moments he
felt inclined to walk down to the docks and step aboard the first
vessel that was sailing eastward or westward or northward or
southward. Then it was that he found but the scantiest comfort in the
consideration of the loveliness of love. Glorifying life! No,
corrupting life until life is more putrid than death.
That was what love was--something to fly from. But still he did not
fly from the vision that came to him when he found himself alone after
spending the evenings in brilliant company--a vision of the lovely
woman who was waiting for him! What had she said? Her soul--her soul
would be lost forevermore?
Well, that showed that she was a woman, at any rate, and he loved her
all the better for her womanliness. He knew very well that if God is a
Figure of Speech with men, the losing of a soul is a figure of speech
with women. The expression means only that they have lost the chance
of drinking a number of cups of tea in drawing rooms whose doors are
now shut to them. That was what Ella meant, no doubt. If she were
openly to set at defiance certain of those laws by the aid of which
society was kept together with a moderate degree of consistency, she
would be treated as an outlaw.
After all, such a fate was not without its bright side. Some happiness
may remain to human beings in that world which is on the hither side
of London drawing rooms; and it would be his aim in life to see that
she had all the happiness that the world could give her.
Pah! He felt his sentiment becoming a trifle brackish. He loved her,
and she loved him. That was more than all the laws and the profits of
society to them. That was the beginning and the end of the whole
matter--the origin of the sin (people called it a sin) and the
exculpation of the sinners. There was nothing more to be said or
thought about the matter. Those who loved would understand. Those who
did not understand would condemn, and the existence of either class
was of no earthly importance to himself or to Ella.
When he awoke on the Thursday morning the feeling of exultation of
which he was conscious was not without a note of depression. So it had
been when the object of his explorations in New Guinea had been
attained, and he looked down at that exquisite thing--that dead
splendor at his feet.
He wondered if the attainment of every great object which a man may
have in life brings about a feeling of sadness that almost neutralizes
the exultation. As he picked up his letters he had a fear that among
them there might be one from Ella, telling him that she had come to
the conclusion that she had written too hastily those lines which he
had received on Tuesday--that, on consideration, she was unwilling to
lose her soul for love of him.
No such letter, however, was among his correspondence. (Could it be
possible that he was disappointed on account of this?) He received an
intimation from Berlin of the conferring of an order upon him in
recognition of his exploration of a territory in which Germany was so
greatly interested. He received an intimation from Vienna that a gold
medal had been voted to him by one of the learned societies in
recognition of his contributions to biological science. He received an
intimation from his publishers that they had just gone to press with
another thousand (the twelfth) of his book, and he received thirteen
cards of invitation to various functions to take place in from three
to six weeks' time, but no line did he receive from Ella.
She was his forever and ever, whether her soul would be lost or saved
He rather thought that it would be lost; but that did not matter. She
was his forever and ever.
HERBERT COURTLAND IS A MAN WHO HAS LIVED WITH HONOR.
It was a long day.
Toward evening he recollected that he had to leave cards upon his host
and hostess of the Monday previous, but it was past six o'clock when
he found himself at the top of the steps of Mr. Ayrton's house. Before
his ring had been responded to a victoria drove up with Phyllis, and
in a moment she was on the step beside him.
She looked radiant in the costume which she was wearing. He thought he
had never seen a lovelier girl--he was certain that he had never seen
a better-dressed girl. (Mr. Courtland was not clever enough to know
that it is only the beautiful girls who seem well dressed in the eyes
of men.) There was a certain frankness in her face that made it very
interesting--the frankness of a child who looks into the face of the
world and wonders at its reticence. He felt her soft gray eyes resting
upon his face, as she shook hands with him and begged him to go in and
have tea with her. He felt strangely uneasy under her eyes this
evening, and his self-possession failed him so far as to make it
impossible for him to excuse himself. It did not occur to him to say
that he could not drink tea with her on account of having an
appointment which he could not break through without the most
deplorable results. He felt himself led by her into one of her drawing
rooms, and sitting with his back to the window while her frank eyes
remained on his face, asking (so he thought) for the nearest approach
to their frankness in response, that a man who has lived in the world
of men dare offer to a maiden whose world is within herself.
"Oh, yes! I got the usual notification of the Order of the Bald
Eagle," said he, in reply to her inquiry. "I shall wear it next my
heart until I die. The newspapers announced the honor that had been
done to me the same morning."
"You cannot keep anything out of the papers," said Phyllis.
"Even if you want to--a condition which doesn't apply to my case,"
said he. "My publishers admitted to me last week that they wouldn't
rest easy if any newspaper appeared during the next month without my
name being in its columns in some place."
"I'm sure they were delighted at the development of the /Spiritual
Aneroid's/ attack upon you," said Phyllis.
"They told me I was a made man," said he.
She threw back her head--it was her way--and laughed. Her laughter--
all the grace of girlhood was in its ring; it was girlhood made
audible--was lightening her fair face as she looked at him.
"How funny!" she cried. "You fight your way through the New Guinea
forests; you are in daily peril of your life; you open up a new
country, and yet you are not a made man until you are attacked by a
"That is the standpoint of the people who sell books, so you may
depend upon its being the standpoint of the people who buy books,"
"I can quite believe it," said she. "Mr. Geraint, the novelist, took
me down to dinner at Mrs. Lemuel's last night, and he told me that the
only thing that will make people buy books is seeing the author's
portrait in some of the illustrated papers, or hearing from some of
the interviews which are published regarding him that he never could
take sugar in his coffee. The reviews of his books are read only by
his brother authors, and they never buy a book, Mr. Geraint says; but
the interviews are read by the genuine buyers."
"Mr. Geraint knows his public, I'm sure."
"I fancy he does. He would be very amusing if he didn't aim so
persistently at going one better than someone else in his anecdotes.
People were talking at dinner about your having massacred the natives
with dynamite--you did, you know, Mr. Courtland."
"Oh, yes; I have admitted so much long ago. There was no help for it."
"Well, of course everyone was laughing when papa told how the massacre
came about, and this annoyed Mr. Geraint and induced him to tell a
story about a poor woman who fancied that melinite was a sort of food
for children that caused their portraits to appear in the
advertisements; so she bought a tin of it and gave it all to her
little boy at one meal. It so happened, however, that he became
restless during the night and fell out of his cradle. That happened a
year ago, Mr. Geraint said, and yet the street isn't quite ready for
"That little anecdote of Mr. Geraint makes me feel very meek. If at
any time I am tempted to think with pride upon my dynamite massacre, I
shall remember Mr. Geraint's story, and hang my head."
"We were all amused at Mr. Geraint's lively imagination, but much more
so when Mr. Topham, the under-secretary, shook his head gravely, and
said in his most dignified manner, that he thought the reported
occurrence--the melinite incident--quite improbable. He was going on
to explain that the composition of the explosive differed so
materially from that of the food that it would be almost impossible
for any mother to take the one for the other, when our hostess rose."
"Mr. Topham must have been disappointed. As a demonstrator of the
obvious he has probably no equal even among the under-secretaries. You
discussed him pretty freely in the drawing room afterward, I may
venture to suggest."
"No; we discussed you, Mr. Courtland."
"A most unprofitable topic. From what standpoint--dynamite massacres?"
"From the standpoint of heredity, of course. Can you imagine any topic
being discussed in a drawing room, nowadays, from any other
standpoint? There was a dear old lady present, Mrs. Haddon, and she
said she had been a friend of your mother's."
"So she was; I recollect her very well. I should like to go see her."
"She told us a great deal about your mother, and your sister--a sister
to whom you were greatly attached."
Phyllis' voice had become low and serious; every tone suggested
"I had such a sister," said he slowly. His eyes were not turned toward
her. They were fixed upon a little model of St. Catherine of Siena,--a
virgin among the clouds,--which was set in the panel of an old cabinet
beside him. "I had such a sister--Rosamund; she is dead."
"Mrs. Haddon told us so," said Phyllis. "She talked about your mother,
and your sister, and of the influence which they had had upon your
"They are both dead," said he.
"They did not live to see your triumph; that is what your tone
suggests," said she. "That is what Mrs. Haddon said--the tears were in
her eyes--last night, Mr. Courtland. I wish you could have heard her.
I wish you could have heard what she said when someone made a
commonplace remark as to how sad it was they were dead."
"What did she say, Miss Ayrton?"
"She said, 'No, no; please do not talk about death overtaking such as
they. The mother, who transmits her nature to the son, renews her life
in him; it is not he, but his mother, who lives.' And then she asked,
'Do you suppose that Herbert Courtland ever sets out on any of his
great enterprises without thinking of his mother and sister, without
feeling that he must do something worthy of them, something for their
sake? And you talk of them as if they were dead--as if they had passed
away forever from the concerns of earth!' That is what she said, Mr.
He had bent forward on his low seat, and was leaning his head on one
of his hands. He had his eyes fixed on the parquet of the floor. He
was motionless. He did not speak a word.
"Mrs. Haddon said something more," Phyllis continued, after a pause.
Her voice had fallen still another tone. " 'Yes,' she said, as if
musing, 'dead--dead! A man is as his mother has made him. He is with
her from the moment she loves his father. She is evermore thinking of
him; he is precious to her before the mystery of his birth is revealed
to her. He grows up by her side, and loves her because he knows that
she understands him. She does understand him, and she understands his
father better by understanding her son.' She said that, Mr. Courtland,
and I felt that she had spoken one of the greatest truths of this
mysterious life of ours. Then she said, 'Herbert Courtland is a man
who has lived with honor to himself, with honor to the memory of his
mother, and of his sister, whom he loved. He is a man, and he has not
merely attained distinction in the world; if he is without fear, he is
also without reproach; and ask him if he has not been strengthened in
his fight with whatever of base may have risen up within him, being a
man, from day to day, by the thought that his sister is one with him;
that his purity of heart and of act is the purity of his mother and
his sister, upon which no stain must ever come.' That was all she
said, Mr. Courtland."
There was a long pause after she had spoken. He sat there with his
head bent, his fingers interlaced. He had his eyes fixed upon the
floor. His cup of tea stood untasted beside him on a little Algerian
And she--as she looked at him her soft eyes became dim with tears. She
knew that the words which she had spoken, the words which she had
repeated as they were spoken by the lady whom she had met the previous
night, had awakened many memories within him. She too had her
memories. She knew that there was a certain gratefulness in the midst
of the bitterness of such memories.
That was all she knew.
And the tears continued to well up to her eyes until she was aware
that he had risen from his seat and was standing in front of her. She
drew her hand across her eyes. She saw a movement in his lips. They
were trembling, but no sound came from them. The hand that he
stretched out to her was trembling also. She put her own into it. He
held her hand tightly for a moment, then dropped it suddenly and
almost fled from the room, without uttering a word.
For a few moments she stood where he had left her, and then she went
to a sofa and seated herself upon it. The tears that had come to her
eyes before, now began to fall; she thought, girl that she was, that
she could understand what were the feelings of the man who had just
parted from her. She thought that he was overcome at the reflection
that the distinction which he had won in the world could not be shared
by those whom he loved, those who would have valued far more than he
did the honor that was being done to him.
The pity of it! Oh, the pity of it!
Ella had told her one day when they had talked together about Herbert
Courtland, that he had no relation alive, that he stood alone in the
world. The information had not meant much to her then; but when she
had heard Mrs. Haddon speak on the previous evening about his
attachment to his mother and his sister, she remembered what Ella has
said, and her heart was full of pity for him. She had made up her mind
to tell him all that Mrs. Haddon had said, for surely more sympathetic
words had never been spoken; and her opportunity had come sooner than
she expected. Their chat together had led naturally up to Mrs. Haddon,
and she had been able to repeat to him almost word for word all that
his mother's friend had said.
Her heart felt for him. Surely the sweetest reward that can come to a
man who has toiled and fought and conquered was denied to the man who
had just parted from her. He had toiled and conquered; but not for him
was the joy of seeing pride on the face of those who claimed him as
their kin. His father had been killed when he had charged with a
brigade through the lines of a stubborn enemy--everyone knew the
story. His mother and sister had died when he was beginning to make a
name for himself. He had gone forth from the loneliness of his home to
the loneliness of the tropical forest; and he had returned to the
loneliness of London.
She felt that she had done well to repeat to him the words of his
mother's friend. Those words had affected him deeply. They could not
but be a source of comfort to him when he was overwhelmed with the
thought of his loneliness. They would make him feel that his position
was understood by some people who were able to think of him apart from
the great work which he had accomplished.
Thus the maiden sat musing in the silent room after she had dried her
tears of pity for the man who an hour before had sauntered up to her
door thinking, not of the melancholy isolation of his position in the
world, but simply that two hours of the longest day of his life must
pass before he could kiss the lips of the woman who had given herself
up to him.
Her maid found her still seated on the sofa, and ventured to remind
her that time was fugitive, and that if mademoiselle still retained
her intention of going to Lady Earlscourt's dinner party,--Lady
Earlscourt was giving a dinner party apparently for the purpose of
celebrating her husband's departure for a cruise in Norwegian fjords
in his yacht,--it would be absolutely necessary for mademoiselle to
permit herself to be dressed without delay.
Phyllis sprang up with a little laugh that sounded like a large sigh,
and said if Fidele would have the kindness to switch on the lights in
the dressing room, she would not be kept waiting a moment.
The maid hurried upstairs, and mademoiselle repaired to an apartment
where she could remove, so far as was possible, the footmarks left by
those tears which she had shed when she had reflected upon the
loneliness to which Mr. Herbert Courtland was doomed for (probably)
the remainder of his life.
Mademoiselle had a dread of the acuteness of vision with which her
maid was endowed. She was not altogether sure that Fidele would be
capable of understanding the emotion that had forced those tears to
But that was just where she was wrong. Fidele was capable of
understanding that particular emotion a good deal better than
mademoiselle understood it.
THEY HAVE SOULS TO BE SAVED.
When Lord Earlscourt was at home the only two topics that were
debarred from the dinner table were religion and politics; but when
Lord Earlscourt was absent these were the only two topics admitted at
the dinner table. Lady Earlscourt had views, well-defined, clearly
outlined, on both religion and politics, and she greatly regretted
that there still remained some people in the world who held other
views on both subjects; it was very sad--for them; and she felt that
it was clearly her duty to endeavor by all the legitimate means in her
power--say, dinner parties for eight--to reduce the number of these
persons. It was rumored that in the country she had shown herself
ready to effect her excellent object by illegitimate means--say, jelly
and flannel petticoats--as well.
She wore distinctly evangelical boots, though, in the absence of her
husband, she had expressed her willingness to discuss the advantages
of the confessional. She had, however, declined, in the presence of
her husband, to entertain the dogma of infallibility: though she
admitted that the cardinals were showy; she would have liked one about
her house, say, as a footman. She thought there was a great deal in
Buddhism (she had read "The Light of Asia" nearly through), and she
believed that the Rev. George Holland had been badly treated by
Phyllis Ayrton. She admitted having been young once--only once; but no
one seemed to remember it against her, so she was obliged to talk
about it herself, which she did with the lightness of a serious woman
of thirty-two. When a man had assured her that she was still handsome,
she had shaken her head deprecatingly, and had ignored his existence
ever after. She had her doubts regarding the justice of eternal
punishment for temporary lapses in the West End, but she sympathized
with the missionary who said: "Thank God we have still got our hell in
the East End." She knew that all men are alike in the sight of Heaven,
but she thought that the licensing justices should be more particular.
She believed that there were some good men.
She had more than once talked seriously to Phyllis on the subject of
George Holland. Of course, George Holland had been indiscreet; the
views expressed in his book had shocked his best friends, but think
how famous that book had made him, in spite of the publication of Mr.
Courtland's "Quest of the Meteor-Bird." Was Phyllis not acting
unkindly, not to say indiscreetly, in throwing over a man who, it was
rumored, was about to start a new religion? She herself, Lady
Earlscourt admitted, had been very angry with George Holland for
writing something that the newspapers found it to their advantage to
abuse so heartily; and Lord Earlscourt, being a singularly sensitive
man, had been greatly worried by the comments which had been passed
upon his discrimination in intrusting to a clergyman who could bring
himself to write "Revised Versions" a cure of such important souls as
were to be found at St. Chad's. He had, in fact, been so harassed--he
was a singularly sensitive man--that he had found it absolutely
necessary to run across to Paris from time to time for a change of
scene. (This was perfectly true. Lord Earlscourt had gone more than
once to Paris for a change of scene, and had found it; Lady Earlscourt
was thirty-two, and wore evangelical boots.) But, of course, since
George Holland's enterprise had turned out so well socially, people
who entertained could not be hard on him. There was the new religion
to be counted upon. It was just as likely as not that he would
actually start a new religion, and you can't be hard upon a man who
starts a new religion. There was Buddha, for instance,--that was a
long time ago, to be sure; but still there he was, the most important
factor to be considered in attempting to solve the great question of
the reconcilement of the religions of the East,--Buddha, and Wesley,
and Edward Irving, and Confucius, and General Booth; if you took them
all seriously where would you be?
"Oh, no, my dear Phyllis!" continued Lady Earlscourt; "you must not
persist in your ill-treatment of Mr. Holland. If you do he may marry
Phyllis shook her head.
"I hope he will, indeed," said she. "He certainly will never marry
"Do not be obdurate," said Lady Earlscourt. "He may not really believe
in all that he put into that book."
"Then there is no excuse for his publishing it," said Phyllis
"But if he doesn't actually hold the views which he has formulated in
that book, you cannot consistently reject him on the plea that he is
not quite--well, not quite what you and I call orthodox."
This contention was too plain to be combated by the girl. She did not
for a moment see her way out of the amazing logic of the lady. Quite a
minute had passed before she said:
"If he propounds such views without having a firm conviction that they
are true, he has acted a contemptible part, Lady Earlscourt. I think
far too highly of him to entertain for a single moment the idea that
he is not sincere."
"But if you believe that he is sincere, why should you say that you
will not marry him?"
"I would not marry an atheist, however sincere he might be."
"An atheist! But Mr. Holland is not an atheist; on the contrary, he
actually believes that there are two Gods; one worshiped of the Jews
long ago, the other by us nowadays. An atheist! Oh, no!"
"I'm afraid that I can't explain to you, dear Lady Earlscourt."
Once more Phyllis shook her head with some degree of sadness. She felt
that it would indeed be impossible for her to explain to this lady of
logic that she believed the truth to be a horizon line, and that any
opinion which was a little above this line was as abhorrent as any
that was a little below it.
"If you are stubborn, God may marry you to a Dissenter yet," said Lady
Phyllis smiled and shook her head again.
"Oh, you needn't shake your head, my dear," resumed Lady Earlscourt.
"I've known of such judgments falling on girls before now--yes, when
the Dissenters were well off. But no Dissenter rides straight to
"More logic," she said, and shook hands with her friend.
"That girl has another man in her eye," said her friend sagaciously,
when Phyllis had left her opposite her own tea-table. "But I don't
despair; if we can only persuade our bishop to prosecute George
Holland, she may return to him all right."
She invariably referred to the bishop as if he were a member of the
Earlscourt household; but it was understood that the bishop had never
actually accepted the responsibilities incidental to such a position;
though he had his views on the subject of Lady Earlscourt's cook.
This interview had taken place a week before the dinner party for
which Phyllis was carefully dressed by her maid Fidele while Herbert
Courtland was walking away from the house. In spite of her logic, Lady
Earlscourt now and again stumbled across the truth. When it occurred
to her that Phyllis had another man in her eye,--the phrase was Lady
Earlscourt's and it served very well to express her meaning,--she had
made some careful inquiries on the subject of the girl's male
visitors, and she had, of course, found out that no other man occupied
that enviable position; no social oculist would be required to remove
the element which, in Lady Earlscourt's estimation, caused Phyllis'
vision to be distorted.
George Holland was at the dinner. Phyllis had been asked very quietly
by the hostess if she would mind being taken in by George Holland; if
she had the least feeling on the matter, Sir Lionel Greatorex would
not mind taking her instead of Mrs. Vernon-Brooke. But Phyllis had
said that of course she would be delighted to sit beside Mr. Holland.
Mr. Holland was one of her best friends.
"Is his case so hopeless as that?" said Lady Earlscourt, in a low
voice, and Phyllis smiled in response--the smile of the guest when the
hostess had made a point.
When Lady Earlscourt had indiscreetly, but confidentially, explained
to some of her guests the previous week that she meant her little
dinner party to be the means of reuniting Mr. Holland and Miss Ayrton,
one of them--he was a man--smiled and said, when she had gone away,
that she was a singularly unobservant woman, or she would have known
that the best way of bringing two people together is to keep them as
much apart as possible. There was wisdom in the paradox, he declared;
for everyone should know that it was only when a man and a woman were
far apart that they came to appreciate each other.
It seemed, indeed, that there was some truth in what that man said,
for Phyllis, before the ice pudding appeared, had come to the
conclusion that George Holland was a very uninteresting sort of man.
To be sure, he had not talked about himself,--he was not such a fool
as to do that: he had talked about her to the exclusion of almost
every other topic--he had been wise enough to do that,--but in spite
of all, he had not succeeded in arousing her interest. He had not
succeeded in making her think of the present when her thoughts had
been dwelling on the past--not the distant past, not the past of two
months ago, when they had been lovers, but the past of two hours ago,
when she had watched the effect of her words upon Herbert Courtland.
She chatted away to George Holland very pleasantly--as pleasantly as
usual--so pleasantly as to cause some of her fellow-guests to smile
and whisper significantly to one another, suggesting the impossibility
of two persons who got on so well together as Mr. Holland and Miss
Ayrton being separated by a barrier so paltry as an engagement broken
off by the young woman for conscience' sake.
But when the significant smiles of these persons were forced upon the
notice of their hostess, she did not smile; she was a lady with a
really remarkable lack of knowledge; but she knew better than to
accept the pleasant chat of George Holland and Phyllis Ayrton as an
indication that the /status quo ante bellum/--to make use of the
expressive phrase of diplomacy--had been re-established between them.
Only when George Holland ventured to express his admiration of Mr.
Ayrton's adroitness in dealing with the foolish question of the
gentleman from Wales did he succeed in interesting Miss Ayrton.
"What a very foolish letter those missionaries sent home regarding the
explorations of Mr. Courtland!" said he. "Did they hope to jeopardize
the popularity of Mr. Courtland by suggesting that he had massacred a
number of cannibals?"
"I suppose that was their object," said Phyllis.
"They must be singularly foolish persons, even for missionaries," said
the Rev. George Holland.
"Even for missionaries?" Phyllis repeated. "Oh, I forgot that you are
no believer in the advantages of missions to the people whom we call
heathen. But I have not been able to bring myself to agree with you
there. They have souls to be saved."
"That is quite likely," said he. "But the methods of the missionaries,
generally speaking, have not tended in that direction. Hence the
missionary as a comestible is more highly esteemed by the natives than
the missionary as a reformer. They rarely understand the natives
themselves, and they nearly always fail to make themselves
intelligible to the natives. It would appear that the two foolish
persons who wrote that letter about Mr. Courtland made but a poor
attempt at understanding even their own countrymen, if they fancied
that any rumor of a massacre of cannibals--nay, any proof of such a
massacre--would have an appreciable effect upon the popularity of the
man who brought home the meteor-bird."
"You don't think that the public generally would believe the story?"
"I think it extremely unlikely that they would believe it," he
replied. "But even if they believed every word of it they would not
cease to believe in Mr. Courtland's bravery. What is a hecatomb of
cannibals compared to the discovery of the meteor-bird,--that is, in
the eyes of the general public, or for that matter, the Nonconformist
public who turn up their eyes at the suggestion of a massacre of
natives of an island that is almost as unknown to them as Ireland
itself? The people of this country of ours respect bravery more than
any other virtue, and I'm not altogether sure that they are generally
astray in this matter. The Christian faith is founded upon bravery,
and the same faith has inspired countless acts of brave men and women.
Oh, no! Mr. Courtland will not suffer from the attacks of these
"I saw him this--a short time ago," said Phyllis, "and he told me that
his publishers were delighted at the result of the agitation which
that newspaper tried to get up against him: they said it was selling
"I saw you talking with Mr. Courtland after the first production of
'Cagliostro.' I envied you--and him," said Mr. Holland. "I wonder if
he was really placed in the unfortunate position of having to massacre
a horde of cannibals."
Phyllis laughed, and forthwith told him the truth as it had been
communicated to her regarding the dynamite outrage upon the
unsuspecting natives, and George Holland was greatly amused at the
story--much more highly amused, it would have occurred to some
persons, than a clergyman should be at such a recital. But then George
Holland was not as other clergymen. He was quite devoid of the
affectations of his cloth. He did not consider it necessary to put the
tips of his fingers together and show more of the white portion of the
pupil of his eye than a straight-forward gaze entailed, when people
talked of the overflowing of a river in China and the consequent
drowning of a quarter of a million of men--that is to say, Chinamen.
He was no more affected by such tidings than the Emperor of China. He
was infinitely more affected when he read of the cold-blooded massacre
by David, sometime King of Israel, in order to purchase for himself a
woman for whom he had conceived a liking. He knew that the majority of
clergymen considered it to be their duty to preach funeral service
over the drowned Chinamen, and to impress upon their hearers that
David was a man after God's own heart. He also knew that the majority
of clergymen preached annual sermons in aid of the missionaries who
did some yachting in the South Seas, and had brought into existence
the sin of nakedness among the natives, in order that they might be
the more easily swindled by those Christians who sold them shoddy for
calico, to purge them of their sin. George Holland could not see his
way to follow the example of his brethren in this respect. He did not
think that the Day of Judgment would witness the inauguration of any
great scheme of eternal punishment for the heathen in his blindness
who had been naked all his life without knowing it. He knew that the
heathen in his blindness had curiosity enough at his command to
inquire of the missionaries if the white beachcomber and his bottle of
square-face represented the product of centuries of Christianity, and
if they did not, why the missionaries did not evangelize the
beachcomber and his bottle off the face of the earth.
Phyllis, being well aware of George Holland's views, was not shocked
at the sound of his laughter at the true story of Mr. Courtland's
dynamite outrage at New Guinea; but all the same, she was glad that
she was not going to marry him.
He had not, however, been altogether uninteresting in her eyes while
sitting beside her, and that was something to record in his favor.
She drove home early, and running upstairs found herself face to face
with Ella Linton.
I HAVE HEARD THE PASSIONATE GALLOP OF THOSE FIERY-FOOTED STEEDS.
Ella was standing waiting for her outside the open door of a drawing
room. She was wearing a lovely evening dress with a corsage of white
lace covered with diamonds and sapphires. Her hair--it was of the
darkest brown and was very plentiful--was also glittering with gems
under the light that flowed through the open door. The same light
showed Phyllis how deathly white Ella's face and neck were--how
tumultuously her bosom was heaving. She had one hand pressed to her
side, and the other on the handle of the door when Phyllis met her;
and in that attitude, even though the expanse of white flesh, with its
gracious curves that forced out her bodice, had no roseate tint upon
it, she looked lovely--intoxicating to the eyes of men.
Phyllis was certainly surprised. The hour was scarcely eleven, but
Ella had given no notice of her intention to pay a visit to her friend
that night. When the girl raised her hands with a laugh of admiration,
of pleasure, Ella grasped her hands with both of her own and drew her
into the drawing room without a word. Then with a cry,--a laugh and a
cry mingled,--she literally flung herself into the girl's arms and
kissed her convulsively a dozen times, on the throat, on the neck, on
the shoulder whereon her head lay.
"My darling, my darling!" she cried,--and now and again her voice was
broken with a sob,--"my darling Phyllis! I have come to you--I want to
be with you--to be near you--to keep my arms about you, so tightly
that no one can pluck us asunder. Oh, you don't know what men are--
they would pluck us asunder if they could; but they can't now. With
you I am safe--that is why I have come to you, my Phyllis. I want to
be safe--indeed I do!"
She had now raised her head from Phyllis' shoulder, but was still
holding her tightly--a hand on each of her arms, and her face within
an inch of the girl's face.
Phyllis kissed her softly on each cheek.
"My poor dear!" she said, "what can have happened to you?"
"Nothing--nothing! I tell you that nothing has happened to me," cried
Ella, with a vehemence that almost amounted to fierceness in her
voice. "Would I be here with you now if anything had happened to me?
tell me that. I came to you--ah! women have no guardian angels, but
they have sisters who are equally good and pure, and you are my sister
--my sister--better than all the angels that ever sang a dirge over a
lost soul that they put forth no hand to save. You will not let me go,
darling Phyllis, you will not let me go even if I tell you that I want
to go. Don't believe me, Phyllis; I don't want to go--I don't want to
be lost, and if I leave you I am lost. You will keep me, dear, will
"Until the end of the world," said Phyllis. "Come, dearest Ella, tell
me what is the matter--why you have come to me in that lovely costume.
You look as if you were dressed for a bridal."
"A bridal--a bridal? What do you mean by that?" said Ella, with
curious eagerness--a suggestion of suspicion was in her tone. She had
loosed her hold upon the girl's arms.
Phyllis laughed. She put a hand round Ella's waist and led her to a
"Let us sit down and talk it all over. That is the lace you told me
you picked up at Munich. What a design--lilies!"
"The Virgin's flower--the Virgin's flower! I never thought of that,"
laughed Ella. "It is for you--not me, this lace. I shall tear it off
"You shall do nothing of the kind," cried Phyllis. "I have heaps of
lace--more than I shall ever wear. What a lovely idea that is of
yours,--I'm sure it is yours,--sewing the diamonds around the cup of
the lilies, like dewdrops. I always did like diamonds on lace. Some
people would have us believe that diamonds should only be worn with
blue velvet. How commonplace! Where have you been to-night?"
"Where have I been? I have been at home. Where should a good woman be
in the absence of her husband, but at home--his home and her home?"
Ella laughed loud and long with her head thrown back on the cushion of
the sofa, and the diamonds in her hair giving back flash for flash to
the electric candles above her head. "Yes; I was at home--I dined at
home, and, God knows why, I conceived a sudden desire to go to the
opera,--Melba is the /Juliet/,--and forgetting that you were engaged
to the Earlscourts--you told me last week that you were going, but I
stupidly forgot, I drove across here to ask you to be my companion.
Oh, yes, I have been here since--since nine, mind that! nine--nine--
ask the servants. When I heard that you were dining out I thought that
I was lost--one cannot drive about the streets all night, can one? Ah!
I thought that God was against me now, as he ever has been; and as for
my guardian angel--ah! our guardian angels are worse than the servants
of nowadays who have no sense of responsibility. Thompson, your
butler, is worth a whole heavenful of angels, for it was he who asked
me if I would come in and wait for your return--ask him, if you doubt
"Good Heavens, Ella, what do you say? Doubt your word--I doubt your
word? You wound me deeply."
"Forgive me, my Phyllis. I don't quite know what I said. Ah, let me
nestle here--here." She had put her head down to Phyllis' bare neck
and was looking up to her face as a child might have done. "There is
no danger here. Now pet me, and say that you forgive me for having
said whatever I did say."
Phyllis laughed and put her lips down among the myriad diamonds that
glowed amid the other's hair, like stars seen among the thick foliage
of a copper beech.
"I forgive you for whatever you said," she cried. "I, too, have
forgotten what it was; but you must never say so again. But had you
really no engagement for to-night that you took that fancy for going
"No engagement? Had I no engagement, do you ask me?" cried Ella. "Oh,
yes, yes! I had an engagement, but I broke it--I broke it--I broke it,
and that is why I am here. Whatever may come of it, I am here, and
here I mean to stay. I am safe here. At home I am in danger."
Phyllis wondered greatly what had come to her friend to make her talk
in this wild strain.
"Where were you engaged?" she inquired casually. She had come to the
conclusion that there was safety in the commonplace: she would not
travel out of the region of commonplaces with Ella in her present
"Where was I engaged? Surely I told you. Didn't I say something about
the opera--'Romeo and Juliet'?--that was to be the place, but I came
to you instead. Ah, what have we missed! Was there ever such a poem
written as 'Romeo and Juliet'? Was there ever such music as Gounod's?
I thought the first time that I went to the opera that it would spoil
Shakspere--how could it do otherwise? I asked. Could supreme
perfection be improved upon? Before the balcony scene had come to an
end I found that I had never before understood the glory of the poem.
Ah, if you could understand what love means, my Phyllis, you would
appreciate the poem and the music; the note of doom runs through it;
that--that is wherein its greatness lies--passion and doom--passion
and doom--that is my own life--the life of us women. We live in a
whirlwind of passion, and fancy that we can step out of the whirlwind
into a calm at any moment. We marry our husbands and we fancy that all
the tragedy of human passion is over so far as we are concerned. 'The
haven entered and the tempest passed.' Philip Marston's terrible poem,
--you have read it,--'A Christmas Vigil'? 'The haven entered,'--the
whirlwind of passion has been left far away, we fancy. Oh, we are
fools! It sweeps down upon us and then--doom--doom!"
"My poor dear, you are talking wildly."
"If you only understood--perhaps you will some day understand, and
then you will know what seems wild in my speech is but the incoherence
of a poor creature who has been beaten to the ground by the whirlwind,
and only saved from destruction by a miracle."
She had sprung from her place on the sofa and was pacing the room, her
diamonds quivering, luminous as a shower of meteors--that was the
fancy that flashed from her to Phyllis. Meteors--meteors--what a
splendid picture she made flashing from place to place! Meteors--ah,
surely there was the meteor-bird flashing across the drawing room!
"Come and sit down, my dear Ella," said Phyllis. "You are, as you
know, quite unintelligible to me."
"Unintelligible to you? I am unintelligible to myself," cried Ella.
"Why should I be tramping up and down your room when I might be at
this very moment----" She clutched Phyllis' arm. "I want to stay with
you all night," she whispered. "I want to sleep in your bed with you,
Phyllis. I want to feel your arms around me as I used to feel my
mother's long ago. Whatever I may say, you will not let me go,
"I will load you with chains," said Phyllis, patting her lovely hair--
it was no longer smooth. "Why should you want to go away from me?
Cannot we be happy together once again as we used to be long ago?"
"How long ago that was! And we read 'Romeo and Juliet' together, and
fancied that we had gone down to the very depths of its meaning. We
fancied that we had sounded the very depths of its passion and pathos.
We were only girls. Ah, Phyllis, I tell you--I, who know--I, who have
found it out,--I tell you that the tragedy is the tragedy of all
lovers who have ever lived in the world. I tell you that it is the
tragedy of love itself. 'Gallop apace, ye fiery-footed steeds!' That
is the poem that the heart of the lover sings all day--all day! I have
heard it--my heart has sung it. I have heard the passionate gallop of
those fiery-footed steeds. I have listened to them while my heart beat
in unison with their frantic career--all day counting the moments with
fiery face, and then--then--something that was not passion forced me
to fly from it for the salvation of my soul. I was a fool! Why am I
here, when I should be where he---- What is the hour? Why, it is
scarcely twelve o'clock! Did I say nine in my letter? What does it
matter? I wonder if on that wonderful night--Gounod translated its
glory into music--Juliet kept her lover waiting for three hours."
"What are you doing?" cried Phyllis, rising.
Ella had picked up her theatre wrap--it was a summer cloud brocaded
with golden threads of quivering sunlight, and had flung it around
She held out a hand to Phyllis. Phyllis grasped her round the waist.
"Where are you going?" she said.
She had whispered the words, and at their utterance Phyllis gave a cry
of horror and covered her face with her hands.
Had she seen a suggestion of the satyr in the expression of that
lovely face before her?
In the pause that followed the sound of footsteps upon the stairs
outside was heard; the sound of footsteps and of men's friendly
laughter. Some persons were in the act of ascending.
"My God!" whispered Ella. "He has followed me here!"
"Hush!" said Phyllis. "Papa is bringing someone to us."
They were both standing together in the middle of the room, both
having their eyes fixed on the door, when the door opened and Mr.
Ayrton appeared, having by his side a man with iron-gray hair and a
curiously pallid face.
At the sight of that man Ella's hands, that had been holding her wrap
close to her throat, feeling for its silver clasp, fell limp, and the
splendid mass of white brocade slipped to the floor and lay in folds
about her feet, revealing her lovely figure sparkling from the hem of
her dress to the top of her shapely head.
THAT TOILET SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN WASTED.
For several seconds the tableau remained unchanged: the two women
standing side by side, the two men motionless at the half-open door.
Ella was staring at the man who had entered with Mr. Ayrton. There was
some apprehension in her eyes.
The man had his eyes fixed upon her. But his face was wholly devoid of
Phyllis was the first to break the silence that made a frame, so to
speak, for the picture.
"How do you do, Mr. Linton?" she said, taking a step toward the door.
"I am very well, thank you, Miss Ayrton," the man replied, shaking
hands with her. "Rather a singular hour for a visit, is it not?"
"Oh, no! only Ella didn't tell me that you----"
She turned to Ella, and noticed that the expression of apprehension on
her face had increased. She was still gazing at her husband as one
shut up in a room with a snake might gaze at it, waiting for it to
"Ella didn't tell you that I was coming?" said he. "She had the best
of reasons for her reticence."
The sound came from Ella. There was a little scornful smile on her
"The best of reasons?" said Phyllis interrogatively.
"The very best; she had no idea that I was coming. I wonder if she is
glad to see me. She has not spoken a word to me yet."
"You have startled her by your sudden appearance," said Phyllis. "She
is not certain whether you are flesh and blood or a ghost."
Then Ella gave a laugh.
"Oh, yes!" she said. "He is my husband. Go on with what you have to
say, Stephen. I will not run away."
"Run away? What nonsense is this, my dear? Run away? Who said anything
about your running away?"
Her husband had advanced to her as he spoke. He put a hand caressingly
on one of her bare arms and the other at the back of her head. She
suffered him to press her head forward until he put his lips upon her
When he had released her, and had taken a step back from her,--he
seemed abut to address Phyllis,--a little cry forced itself from her.
She called his name twice,--the second time louder,--and threw herself
into his arms, burying her face on his shoulder, as she had buried it
on Phyllis' shoulder.
In a few moments, however, she looked up. Her husband was patting her
on the arm. She had acquired two new gems since she had bent her head.
They were shining in her eyes.
"Don't go away, Phyllis dear," she said. Phyllis and her father were
standing at the /portiere/ between the drawing rooms. Mr. Ayrton had a
hand at the embroidered edge in the act of raising it. "Don't go away.
I am all right now. I was quite dazed at Stephen's sudden appearance.
I thought that perhaps he had--had---- Ah, I scarcely know what I
thought. How did you come here--why did you come here?"
She had turned to her husband. In spite of her manifestation of
affection,--the result of a certain relief which she experienced at
that moment,--there was a note of something akin to indignation in her
"It is very simple, my dear," replied her husband. His curiously
sallow face had resumed its usual expressionless appearance. "Nothing
could be more simple. I got a telegram at Paris regarding the mine,
and I had to start at a moment's notice. I wrote out a telegram to
send to you, and that idiotic courier put it into the pocket of my
overcoat instead of sending it. I found it in my pocket when we had
come as far as Canterbury. I am not one of those foolish husbands who
keep these pleasant surprises for their wives--it is usually the
husband who receives the surprise in such cases."
"And the coachman told you that he had driven me here?" said Ella.
"Quite so," replied the husband. "But, you see, I had some little
hesitation in coming here at half-past ten o'clock to make inquiries
about my wife--you might have gone to some place else, you know, in
which case I should have looked a trifle foolish; so I though that, on
the whole, my best plan would be to drop in upon Mr. Ayrton at the
House of Commons and drive here with him when he was coming home for
the night. I took it for granted that even so earnest a legislator as
Mr. Ayrton allows himself his nights--after twelve, of course--at
home. I'm very sorry I startled you, Ella. It shall not occur again."
"What time did you reach home?" inquired Ella casually--so casually
that her husband, who had a very discriminating ear, gave a little
glance in her direction. She was disengaging a corner of her lace
trimming that had become entangled with a large sapphire in a pendant.
"I reached home at nine," he replied.
"At nine?" She spoke the words after him in a little gasp. Then she
said, walking across the room to a sofa, "I could not have left many
minutes before you arrived. I intended going to the opera."
"That toilet should not have been wasted," said he. "It is exquisite--
"It was an inspiration, your putting it on," said Phyllis. "I wonder
if she really had no subtle suggestion from her own heart that you
were on your way to her, Mr. Linton," she added, turning to the
"I dare say it was some inward prompting of that mysterious nature,
Miss Ayrton," he replied. "A woman's heart is barometric in its
nature, it is not? Its sensitiveness is so great that it moves
responsive to a suggestion of what is to come. Is a woman's heart
prophetic, I wonder?"
"It would be a rank heresy to doubt it, after the example we have had
to-night," said Mr. Ayrton. "Yes, a woman's heart is a barometer
suggesting what is coming to her, and her toilet is a thermometer
indicating the degree of expectancy."
"A charming phrase," said Mr. Linton; "a charming principle, only one
that demands some years of close study to be rendered practical. For
instance, look at my wife's toilet: it is bridal, and yet we have been
married three years."
"Quite so; and that toilet means that you are the luckiest fellow in
the world," said Mr. Ayrton.
"I admit the interpretation," said her husband. "I told the hansom to
wait for me. He is at the door now. You have had no opera to-night, my
"You would not expect me to go alone? Phyllis was dining at the
Earlscourts'," said the wife.
"You are the soul of discretion, my beloved," said the husband. "Is
your stock of phrases equal to a suggestion as to what instrument is
the soul of a woman, Ayrton?" he added. "Her heart is a barometer, her
toilet a thermometer, and her soul----"
"The soul of a woman is not an instrument, but a flower--a lily," said
"And my wife wears her soul upon her sleeve," said Mr. Linton,
touching the design on the lace that fell from her shoulders.
"But not for daws to peck at--that is the heart," laughed Mr. Ayrton.
"Talking of woman's soul, how is Lady Earlscourt?" he added, to his
"I was so sorry that I was at that stupid dinner," said Phyllis. "I
might have enjoyed the music of 'Romeo and Juliet.' But I had engaged
myself to Lady Earlscourt a fortnight ago."
"You did not see Lord Earlscourt, at any rate," said her father.
"No; he left us in the evening for Southampton," said Phyllis.
"And, curiously enough, I dined with him at the club," said her
father. "Yes, he came in with Herbert Courtland at half-past seven; he
had met Courtland and persuaded him to join him in his cruise to
Norway. They dined at my table, and by the time we had finished
Courtland's man had arrived with his bag. He had sent the man a
message from the club to pack. They left by the eight-forty train, and
I expect they are well under way by this time."
"That's quite too bad of Courtland," said Mr. Linton. "I wanted to
have a talk with him--a rather serious talk."
Ella had listened to Mr. Ayrton's account of that little dinner party
at the club with white cheeks--a moment before they had been red--and
with her lips tightly closed. Her hands were clenched until the tips
of the nails were biting into each of her palms, before he had come to
the end of his story--a story of one incident. But when her husband
had spoken her hands relaxed. The blaze that had come to her eyes for
a second went out without a flicker.
"A serious talk?" she murmured.
"A serious talk--about the mine," replied her husband.
"About the mine," she repeated, and a moment after burst into a laugh
that was almost startling in its insincerity. "It is so amusing, this
chapter of cross-purposes," she cried. "What a sight it has been! a
night of thrilling surprises to all of us! I miss Phyllis by half an
hour and my husband misses me by less than half an hour. He comes at
express speed from Paris to have a talk, a serious talk, with Mr.
Courtland about the mine, and while he is driving from Victoria, Mr.
Courtland is driving to the same station with Lord Earlscourt!"
"What a series of fatalities!" said Mr. Ayrton. "But what seemed to me
most amusing was the persuasiveness of Earlscourt. He has only to
speak half a dozen words to Courtland, and off he goes to Norway at a
moment's notice with probably the most uncongenial boat's load that
Courtland ever sailed with, and he must have done a good deal in that
way in New Guinea waters. Now, why should Courtland take such a turn?"
"Ah, why, indeed!" cried Mrs. Linton. "Yes, that is, as you say, the
most amusing part of the whole evening of cross-purposes. Why should
he run away just at this time--to-night--to-night?"
"What is there particular about to-night that Courtland's running away
should seem doubly erratic?" asked Mr. Linton, after a little pause.
He had his eyes fixed coldly upon his wife's face.
She turned to him and laughed quite merrily.
"What is there particular about to-night?" she repeated. "Why, have
you not arrived from Paris to-night to have that serious talk with him
about the mine? Doesn't it seem to you doubly provoking that he didn't
stay until to-morrow or that you didn't arrive yesterday? Why, why,
why did he run away to-night before nine?"
"Why before nine?" said her husband.
"Heavens! Was not that the hour when you arrived home? You said so
just now," she cried. Then she picked up her wrap. Phyllis had thrown
it over a chair when it had lain in a heap on the floor as Cleopatra's
wrap may have lain when she was carried into the presence of her
lover. "My dear Stephen, don't you think that as it is past nine, and
Mr. Courtland is probably some miles out at sea with his head reposing
on something hard,--there is nothing soft about a yacht,--we should
make a move in the direction of home? It seems pretty clear that you
will have no serious talk with him to-night. Alas! my Phyllis, our
dream of happiness is over. We are to be separated by the cruelty of
man, as usual. Good-night, my dear! Good-night, Mr. Ayrton! Pray
forgive us for keeping you out of bed so long; and receive my thanks
for restoring my long-lost husband to my arms. Didn't you say that the
hansom was waiting, Stephen?"
"I expect the man has been asleep for the last half-hour," said her
"I hope nothing has gone astray with the gold mine," said she. "Hasn't
someone made a calculation regarding the accumulation of a shilling
hansom fare at compound interest when the driver is kept waiting? It
is like the sum about the nails in the horse's shoe. We shall be
ruined if we remain here much longer."
"Ah, my dear," said Mr. Ayrton, when he had kissed her hand, and
straightened the sable collar of her wrap; "ah, my dear, a husband is
"Even when he stays away from his wife for three months at a time?"
"Not in spite of that, but on account of it," said Mr. Ayrton. "Have
you been married all these years without finding that out?"
"Good-night!" said she.
HE HAD EXPLAINED TO PHYLLIS ONCE THAT HE THOUGHT OF GOD
ONLY AS A PRINCIPLE.
The sound of the hansom wheels died away before the father and
daughter exchanged a word. Mr. Ayrton was the first to speak.
"It seems to have been a night of mischance," said he.
"I am very glad that Mr. Linton has returned," said she.
"What? Now, why should you be glad of that very ordinary incident?"
"Why? Oh, papa, I am so fond of her!"
"She may be fond of him, after all."
Mr. Ayrton spoke musingly.
"Of course she is," said Phyllis, with a positiveness that was
designed to convince herself that she believed her own statement.
"And he may be fond of her--yes, at times," resumed Mr. Ayrton. "That
toilet of hers seems to have been the only happy element in the game
of cross-purposes which was played to-night."
"Ah," whispered the girl.
"Yes; it was in inspiration. She could not have expected her husband
to-night. What a dress! Even a husband would be compelled to admit its
fascination. And she said she meant to wear it at the opera to-night.
It was scarcely an opera toilet, was it?"
"Ella's taste is never at fault, papa."
"I suppose not. I wonder if he is capable of appreciating the--the--
let us say, the inspiration of that toilet. Is that, I wonder, the
sort of dress that a man likes his wife to wear when she welcomes him
home after an absence of some months? No matter it was exquisite in
every detail. Curious, her coming here and waiting after she had
learned that you were out, was it not; from nine o'clock--that fateful
"I think she must have felt--lonely," said Phyllis. "She seemed so
glad to see me--so relieved. She meant to stay with me all night, poor
thing! Oh, why should her husband stay away from her for months at a
time? It is quite disgraceful!"
"I think that we had better go to bed," said her father. "If we begin
to discuss abstract questions of temperament we may abandon all hope
of sleep tonight. We might as well try to fathom Herbert Courtland's
reasons for going to yacht with so uncongenial a party as Lord
Earlscourt's. Good-night, my dear!"
He kissed her and went upstairs. She did not follow him immediately.
She stood in the center of the room, and over her sweet face a puzzled
expression crept, as a single breath of wind passes over the smooth
surface of a lake on a day when no wind stirs a leaf.
She thought first of Herbert Courtland, which of itself was a curious
incident. How did it come that he had yielded so easily to the
invitation of Lord Earlscourt to accompany him on his cruise in the
yacht /Water Nymph/? (Lord Earlscourt's imagination in the direction
of the nomenclature of his boats as well as his horses was not
But this was just the question which her father had suggested as an
example of a subject of profitless discussion. She remembered this,
and asked herself if it was likely that she, having at her command
fewer data than her father bearing upon this case, should make a
better attempt than he made at its solution. Her father had seen
Herbert Courtland since he had agreed to go on the cruise, and was
therefore in the better position to arrive at a reasonable conclusion
in regard to the source of the impulse upon which Mr. Courtland had
acted; so much she thought certain. And yet her father had suggested
the profitless nature of such an investigation, and her father was
Only for a single moment did it occur to her that something she had
said to Herbert Courtland when he was sitting there, there in that
chair beside her, might have had its influence upon him--only for a
single moment, however; then she shook her head.
No, no! that supposition was too, too ridiculous to be entertained for
a moment. He had, to be sure, shown that he felt deeply the words
which she had quoted as they came from Mrs. Haddon; but what could
those words have to do with his sudden acceptance of Lord Earlscourt's
invitation to go to Norway?
She made up her mind that it was nothing to her what course Herbert
Courtland had pursued, consequently the endeavors to fathom his reason
for adopting such a course would be wholly profitless. But the
question of the singular moods suggested by the conduct and the words
of her friend Ella Linton stood on a very different basis. Ella was
her dearest friend, and nothing that she had said or done should be
dismissed as profitless.
What on earth had Ella meant by appearing in that wonderful costume
that night? It was not a toilet for the opera, even on a Melba night;
even on a "Romeo and Juliet" night, unless, indeed, the wearer meant
to appear on the stage as /Juliet/, was the thought which occurred to
the girl. Her fantastic thought--she thought it was a fantastic
thought--made her smile. Unless----
And then another thought came to her which, not being fantastic,
banished her smile.
She got to her feet--very slowly--and walked very slowly--across the
room. She seated herself on the sofa where Ella had sat, and she
remained motionless for some minutes. Then she made a motion with one
of her hands as if sweeping from before her eyes some flimsy
repulsiveness--the web of an unclean thing flashing in the air. In
another instant she had buried her face in the pillow that still bore
the impress of Ella's face.
"Oh, God--my God, forgive me--forgive me--forgive me!" was her silent,
passionate prayer as she lay there sobbing. "How could I ever have
such a thought, so terrible a thought. She is my friend--my sister--
and she put herself into her husband's arms and kissed him! Oh, God,
That was her prayer for the greater part of the night as she lay in
her white bed.
She felt that she had sinned grievously in thought against her friend,
when she recalled the way in which her friend had thrown herself into
the arms of her husband. That was the one action which the girl felt
should entitle Ella Linton to be the subject of no such horrid thought
as had been for a shocking instant forced upon her mind, when she
reflected upon the strange passion which had tingled through Ella's
repetition of the fiery words of /Juliet/.
She recalled every strange element in the incident of Ella's
appearance in the drawing room: the way in which Ella had kissed her
and clung to her as a child might have done on finding someone to
protect it; she recalled the wild words which Ella had uttered, and,
finally, the terrible expression which had appeared on her face as she
whispered that reckless answer to Phyllis' question, when she had
picked up her wrap and flung it around her just before the sound of
footsteps had come to their ears. All that she recalled in connection
with that extraordinary visit of Ella's was quite intelligible to her;
but the mystery of all was more than neutralized by her recollection
of the way Ella had thrown herself into her husband's arms. That
action should, she felt, be regarded as the one important factor, as
it were, in the solution of the problem of Ella's mood--Ella's series
of moods. Nothing else that she had done, nothing that she had said,
was worthy of being taken account of, alongside that dominant act of
the true wife.
The little whisper which suggested to her that there was a good deal
that was mysterious in the incident of her friend's visit she refused
to regard as rendering it less obligatory on her--Phyllis--to pray
that she might be forgiven that horrid suspicion which, for an
instant, had come to her; and so she fell asleep praying to God to
forgive her for her sin (in thought) against her friend.
And while Phyllis was praying her prayer, her friend, the True Wife,
was praying with her face down upon her pillow, and her bare arms
stretched out over the white lace of the bed:
"Forgive me, O God; forgive me! and keep him away from me--forever and
ever and ever. Amen."
And while both these prayers were being prayed, Herbert Courtland was
sitting on one of the deck stools of the yacht /Water Nymph/, looking
back at the many lights that gleamed in clusters along the southern
coast of England, now far astern; for a light breeze was sending the
boat along with a creaming, quivering wake. In the bows a youth was
making the night hideous through the agency of a banjo and a sham
negro melody. Amidships, Lord Earlscourt and two other men were
playing, by the light of a lantern slung from the backstay, a game
called poker; Lord Earlscourt, at every fresh deal, trying to make the
rest understand how greatly the worry of being held responsible, as
the patron of the living of St. Chad's, for the eccentricities of his
rector, had affected his nerves--a matter upon which his friends
assured him, with varied degrees of emphasis, they were in no way
Within a few feet of these congenial shipmates Herbert Courtland sat
looking across the shining ripples to the shining lights of the coast;
wondering how he came to be on the sea instead of on the shore. Was
this indeed the night over which his imagination had gloated for
months? Was it indeed possible that this was the very night following
the day--Thursday--for which he had engaged himself in accordance with
the letter that he still carried in his pocket?
How on earth did it come that he was sitting with his arm over the
bulwarks of a yacht instead of---- Oh, the thing was a miracle--a
miracle! He could think of it in no other light than that of a
Well, if it were a miracle, it had been the work of God, and God had
to be thanked for it. He had explained to Phyllis once that he thought
of God only as a Principle--as the Principle which worked in
opposition to the principle of nature. That was certainly the God
which had been evolved out of modern civilization. The pagan gods had
been just the opposite. They had been founded on natural principles.
The Hebrew tradition that God had made man in his own image was the
reverse of the scheme of the pagan man who had made God after his own
image; in the image of man created he God.
But holding the theory that he held--that God was the sometimes
successful opponent to the principles of nature (which he called the
Devil)--Herbert Courtland felt that this was the very God to whom his
thanks were due for the miracle that had been performed on his behalf.
"Thank God--thank God--thank God!" he murmured, looking out over the
rippling waters, steel gray in the soft shadow of the summer's night.
But then he held that "thank God" was but a figure of speech.
"Tinky-tink, tinky-tink, tinky-tinky-tinky-tinky-tinky-tinky-tink,"
went the youth with the banjo in the bows.
ITS MOUTHINGS OF THE PAST HAD BECOME ITS MUMBLINGS OF THE PRESENT.
It was very distressing--very disappointing! The bishop would neither
institute proceedings against the rector of St. Chad's nor state
plainly if it was his intention to proceed against that clergyman.
When some people suggested very delicately--the way ordinary people
would suggest anything to a bishop--that it was surely not in sympathy
with the organization of the Church for any clergyman to take
advantage of his position and his pulpit to cast sometimes ridicule,
sometimes abuse, upon certain "scriptural characters"--that was their
phrase--who had hitherto always been regarded as sacred, comparatively
sacred, the bishop had brought the tips of the fingers of one hand in
immediate, or almost immediate, contact with the tips of the fingers
of his other hand, and had shaken his head--mournfully, sadly. These
signs of acquiescence, trifling though they were, had encouraged the
deputation that once waited on his lordship--two military men (retired
on the age clause), an officer of engineers (on the active list), a
solicitor (retired), and a member of the London County Council (by
occupation an ironmonger), to express the direct opinion that the
scandal which had been created by the dissemination--the unrebuked
dissemination--of the doctrines held by the rector of St. Chad's was
affording the friends of Disestablishment an additional argument in
favor of their policy of spoliation. At this statement his lordship
had nodded his head three times with a gravity that deeply impressed
the spokesman of the deputation. He wondered if his lordship had ever
before heard that phrase about the furnishing of an additional
argument to the friends of Disestablishment. (As a matter of fact his
lordship had heard it before.)
After an expression of the deputation's opinion that immediate steps
should be taken to make the rector of St. Chad's amenable to the laws
of the Church,
His lordship replied.
(It was his facility in making conciliatory replies that had brought
about his elevation in the Church):
He referred to (1) his deep appreciation of the sincerity of the
deputation; (2) his own sense of responsibility in regard to the
feelings of the weaker brethren; (3) his appreciation of the value of
the counsel of practical men in many affairs of the Church; (4) the
existing position of the Church in regard to the laity; (5) the
friendly relations that had always existed between himself personally
and the clergy of his extensive diocese; (6) his earnest and prayerful
desire that these relations might be strengthened; (7) the insecurity
of a house divided against itself; (8) the progress of socialism; (9)
the impossibility of socialism commending itself to Englishmen; (10)
the recent anarchist outrages; (11) the purity of the Court of her
Majesty the Queen; (12) the union of all Christian Churches; (13) the
impossibility of such union ever becoming permanent; (14) the value of
Holy Scripture in daily life; (15) his firm belief in the achievement
of England's greatness by means of the open Bible; (16) the note of
pessimism in modern life; (17) the necessity for the Church's
combating modern pessimism; (18) the Church's position as a purveyor
of healthy literature for the young; (19) his reluctance to take up
any more of their valuable time, and (20) his assurance that the
remarks of their spokesman would have his earnest and prayerful
The deputation then thanked his lordship and withdrew.
But still the bishop made no move in the matter, and the friends of
the Rev. George Holland felt grievously disappointed. They had counted
on the bishop's at least writing a letter of remonstrance to the
rector of St. Chad's, and upon the publication of the letter, with the
rector's reply in the newspapers; but now quite two months had passed
since the appearance of "Revised Versions," the bishop had returned
from the Engadine, and still there were no indications of his
intention to make the Rev. George Holland responsible to the right
tribunal--whatever that was--for his doctrines. They counted on his
martyrdom within six months; and, consequently, upon his election to a
position of distinction in the eyes of his fellow-country-men--or, at
least, of his country-women. But the bishop they found to be a poor
thing after all. They felt sure that what the people said about his
being quite humble in the presence of his wife was not without some
foundation; and they thought that, after all, there was a great deal
to be said in favor of the celibacy of priests compulsory in the
Church of Rome. If the bishops of the Church of England were not very
careful, they might be the means of such a going over to Rome as had
never previously been witnessed in England.
George Holland may have been disappointed, or he may have been pleased
at the inactivity of the bishop. He made no sign one way or the other.
Of course he was no more than human: he would have regarded a letter
of remonstrance from the bishop as a personal compliment; he had
certainly expected such a letter, for he had already put together the
heads of the reply he would make--and publish--to any official
remonstrance that might be offered to him. Still he made no sign. He
preached at least one sermon every Sunday morning, and whenever it was
known that he would preach, St. Chad's was crowded and the offertory
was all that could be desired. The bishop's chaplain no longer held a
watching brief in regard in regard to those sermons. He did not think
it worth while to do so much, George Holland's friends said, shaking
their heads and pursing out their lips. Oh, yes! there could be no
doubt that the bishop was a very weak sort of man.
But then suddenly there appeared in the new number of the /Zeit Geist
Review/ an article above the signature of George Holland, entitled
"The Enemy to Christianity," and in a moment it became pretty plain
that George Holland had not in his "Revised Versions," said the last
word that he had to say regarding the attitude of the Church of
England in respect of the non-church-goers of the day. When people
read the article they asked "Who is the Enemy to Christianity referred
to by the writer?" and they were forced to conclude that the answer
which was made to such an inquiry by the article itself was, "The
He pointed out the infatuation which possessed the heads of the Church
of England in expecting to appeal with success to the educated people
of the present day, while still declining to move with the course of
thought of the people. Already the braying of a trombone out of tune,
and the barbarous jingle of a tambourine, had absorbed some hundred
thousand of possible church-goers; and though, of course, it was
impossible for sensible men and women--the people whom the Church
should endeavor to grapple to its soul with hooks of steel--to look,
except with amused sadness, at the ludicrous methods and vulgar
ineptitude of the Salvation Army, still the Church was making no
effort to provide the sensible, thinking, educated people of England
with an equivalent as suitable to their requirements as the Salvation
Army was to the requirements of the foolish, the hysterical, the
unthinking people who played the tambourines and brayed on the
tuneless trombones. Thus it is that one man says to another nowadays,
when he has got nothing better to talk about, "Are you a man of
intelligence, or do you go to church?"
Men of intelligence do not go to church nowadays, Mr. Holland
announced in that article of his in the /Zeit Geist/; many women of
intelligence refrain from going, he added, though many beautifully
dressed women were still frequent attenders. There was no blinking the
fact that the crass stupidity of the Church had made church-going
unpopular--almost impossible--with intelligent men and women. The
Church insulted the intelligence by trying to reconcile the teachings
of Judaism with the teachings of Christianity, when the two were
absolutely irreconcilable. It was the crass stupidity of the Church
that had caused it--for its self-protection, it fancied--to bitterly
oppose every truth that was revealed to man. The Church had tortured
and burned at the stake the great men to whom God had revealed the
great facts of nature's workings--the motion of the earth and the
other planets. But these facts, being Divine Truth, became accepted by
the world in spite of the thumb-screws and the fagots--the arguments
of the Church against Divine Truth. The list of the Divine Truths
which the Church had bitterly opposed was a sickening document.
Geography, Geology, Biology--the progress of all had, even within
recent years, been bitterly opposed by the Church, and yet the self-
constituted arbiters between Truth and falsehood had been compelled to
eat their own words--to devour their own denunciations when they found
that the Truth was accepted by the intelligence of the people in spite
of the anathemas of the Church.
The intelligence of the Church was equal only to the duty of burning
witches. It burned them by the thousand, simply because ancient
Judaism had a profound belief in the witch and because a blood-thirsty
Jewish murderer-monarch had organized a witch hunt.
And yet with such a record against it--a record of the murder of
innocent men and women who endeavored to promulgate the Divine Truths
of nature--the Church still arrogated to itself the right to lay down
a rule of life for intelligent people--a rule of life founded upon
that impossible amalgamation of Judaism and Christianity. The science
of the Church was not equal to the task of amalgamating two such
Was it any wonder, then, that church-going had become practically
obsolete among intelligent men and women? the writer asked.
He then went on to refer to the nature of the existing services of the
Church of England. He dealt only casually with the mockery of the
response of the congregation to the reading out of the Fourth
Commandment by the priest, when no one in the Church paid the least
respect to the Seventh Day. This was additional proof of the absurdity
of the attempted amalgamation of Judaism and Christianity. But what he
dealt most fully with was the indiscriminate selection of what were
very properly termed the "Lessons" from the Hebrew Bible. It was, he
said, far from edifying to hear some chapters read out from the
lectern without comment; though fortunately the readers were as a rule
so imperfectly trained that the most objectionable passages had their
potentiality of mischief minimized. He concluded his indictment by a
reference to a sermon preached by the average clergyman of the Church
of England. This was, usually, he said, either a theological essay
founded upon an obsolete system of theology, or a series of platitudes
of morality delivered by an unpractical man. The first was an insult
to the intelligence of an average man; the second was an insult to the
intelligence of an average schoolgirl.
His summing up of the whole case against the Church was as logical as
it was trenchant. The Church had surely become, he said, like unto the
Giant Pagan in "The Pilgrim's Progress," who, when incapable of doing
mischief, sat mumbling at the mouth of his cave on the roadside. The
Church had become toothless, decrepit either for evil or for good. Its
mouthings of the past had become its mumblings of the present. The
cave at the mouth of which this toothless giant sat was very dark; and
intelligent people went by with a good-natured and tolerant laugh.
This article was published in the /Review/ on Tuesday. Phyllis read it
on the evening of that day. On Wednesday the newspapers were full of
this further development of the theories of the writer, and on
Thursday afternoon the writer paid a visit to Phyllis.
As he entered the drawing room he found himself face to face with
Herbert Courtland, who was in the act of leaving.
SHE WAS A WIFE, AND SHE HAD A LOVER WHO DISAPPOINTED HER.
The prayer of Ella Linton had not been answered. She had prayed, not
that her heart wherewith she loved Herbert Courtland might be changed
--that she knew would be difficult; not that her love for Herbert
Courtland might cease--that she believed to be impossible; but simply
that Herbert Courtland might be kept away from her--that she knew to
be the most sensible course her scheme of imploration could take.
She was well aware of the fact that God had given her strength to run
away from Herbert Courtland, and for that she was sincerely thankful;
she did not pause to analyze her feelings, to ask herself if her
thanks were due to her reflection upon the circumstance of her
husband's return, at the very hour when she had appointed to meet
Herbert Courtland; she only felt that God had been good to her in
giving her sufficient strength to run away from that appointment. Then
it was that she had prayed that he might be kept away from her. Surely
God would find it easy to do that, she thought. Surely she might
assume that God was on her side, and that he would not leave his work
But when she began to think of the thorough manner in which God does
his work she began to wish that she had not prayed quite so earnestly.
Supposing that God should think it fit to keep him away from her by
sending a blast from heaven to capsize that yacht in the deep sea,
what would she think of the fervency of her prayer then?
The terror of her reflection upon the possibility of this occurrence
flung her from her bed and sent her pacing, with bare feet and flying
lace, the floor of her bedroom in the first pearly light of dawn, just
as she had paced the floor of Phyllis' drawing room beneath the glow
of the electric lights.
She wished that she had not prayed quite so earnestly that he might be
kept apart from her. But one cannot pray hot and cold; she felt that
she had no right now to lay down any conditions to Heaven in the
matter of keeping Herbert Courtland away from her. She had prayed her
prayer; only, if he were drowned before she saw him again, she would
never say another prayer.
This feeling that she would be even with Heaven, so to speak, had the
effect of soothing her. She threw herself upon her bed once more and
was able to fall asleep; she had a considerable amount of confidence
in the discrimination of Heaven.
But before she had come down to the breakfast room where her husband
was reading a newspaper in the morning, she had thought a good deal
upon another matter that disquieted her in some degree. She had been
exuberant (she thought) at having had sufficient strength given to her
to run away from her lover; but then she had not dwelt upon the rather
important circumstance that all the running away had not been on her
side. What were the facts as revealed by the narrative of Mr. Ayrton?