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Robert Falconer by George MacDonald

Part 10 out of 13

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on and on. He had no inclination to go home. The solitariness of
the night, the uncanniness of the moon, prevents most people from
wandering far: Robert had learned long ago to love the night, and to
feel at home with every aspect of God's world. How this peace
contrasted with the nights in London streets! this grass with the
dark flow of the Thames! these hills and those clouds half melted
into moonlight with the lanes blazing with gas! He thought of the
child who, taken from London for the first time, sent home the
message: 'Tell mother that it's dark in the country at night.' Then
his thoughts turned again to Shargar's mother! Was it not possible,
being a wanderer far and wide, that she might be now in Rothieden?
Such people have a love for their old haunts, stronger than that of
orderly members of society for their old homes. He turned back, and
did not know where he was. But the lines of the hill-tops directed
him. He hastened to the town, and went straight through the
sleeping streets to the back wynd where he had found Shargar sitting
on the doorstep. Could he believe his eyes? A feeble light was
burning in the shed. Some other poverty-stricken bird of the night,
however, might be there, and not she who could perhaps guide him to
the goal of his earthly life. He drew near, and peeped in at the
broken window. A heap of something lay in a corner, watched only by
a long-snuffed candle.

The heap moved, and a voice called out querulously,

'Is that you, Shargar, ye shochlin deevil?'

Falconer's heart leaped. He hesitated no longer, but lifted the
latch and entered. He took up the candle, snuffed it as he best
could, and approached the woman. When the light fell on her face
she sat up, staring wildly with eyes that shunned and sought it.

'Wha are ye that winna lat me dee in peace and quaietness?'

'I'm Robert Falconer.'

'Come to speir efter yer ne'er-do-weel o' a father, I reckon,' she

'Yes,' he answered.

'Wha's that ahin' ye?'

'Naebody's ahin' me,' answered Robert.

'Dinna lee. Wha's that ahin' the door?'

'Naebody. I never tell lees.'

'Whaur's Shargar? What for doesna he come till 's mither?'

'He's hynd awa' ower the seas--a captain o' sodgers.'

'It's a lee. He's an ill-faured scoonrel no to come till 's mither
an' bid her gude-bye, an' her gaein' to hell.'

'Gin ye speir at Christ, he'll tak ye oot o' the verra mou' o' hell,

'Christ! wha's that? Ow, ay! It's him 'at they preach aboot i' the
kirks. Na, na. There's nae gude o' that. There's nae time to
repent noo. I doobt sic repentance as mine wadna gang for muckle
wi' the likes o' him.'

'The likes o' him 's no to be gotten. He cam to save the likes o'
you an' me.'

'The likes o' you an' me! said ye, laddie? There's no like atween
you and me. He'll hae naething to say to me, but gang to hell wi'
ye for a bitch.'

'He never said sic a word in 's life. He wad say, "Poor thing! she
was ill-used. Ye maunna sin ony mair. Come, and I'll help ye." He
wad say something like that. He'll save a body whan she wadna think

'An' I hae gien my bonnie bairn to the deevil wi' my ain han's!
She'll come to hell efter me to girn at me, an' set them on me wi'
their reid het taings, and curse me. Och hone! och hone!'

'Hearken to me,' said Falconer, with as much authority as he could
assume. But she rolled herself over again in the corner, and lay

'Tell me whaur she is,' said Falconer, 'and I'll tak her oot o'
their grup, whaever they be.'

She sat up again, and stared at him for a few moments without

'I left her wi' a wuman waur nor mysel',' she said at length. 'God
forgie me.'

'He will forgie ye, gin ye tell me whaur she is.'

'Do ye think he will? Eh, Maister Faukner! The wuman bides in a
coort off o' Clare Market. I dinna min' upo' the name o' 't, though
I cud gang till 't wi' my een steekit. Her name's Widow Walker--an
auld rowdie--damn her sowl!'

'Na, na, ye maunna say that gin ye want to be forgien yersel'. I'll
fin' her oot. An' I'm thinkin' it winna be lang or I hae a grup o'
her. I'm gaein' back to Lonnon in twa days or three.'

'Dinna gang till I'm deid. Bide an' haud the deevil aff o' me. He
has a grup o' my hert noo, rivin' at it wi' his lang nails--as lang
's birds' nebs.'

'I'll bide wi' ye till we see what can be dune for ye. What's the
maitter wi' ye? I'm a doctor noo.'

There was not a chair or box or stool on which to sit down. He
therefore kneeled beside her. He felt her pulse, questioned her,
and learned that she had long been suffering from an internal
complaint, which had within the last week grown rapidly worse. He
saw that there was no hope of her recovery, but while she lived he
gave himself to her service as to that of a living soul capable of
justice and love. The night was more than warm, but she had fits of
shivering. He wrapped his coat round her, and wiped from the poor
degraded face the damps of suffering. The woman-heart was alive
still, for she took the hand that ministered to her and kissed it
with a moan. When the morning came she fell asleep. He crept out
and went to his grandmother's, where he roused Betty, and asked her
to get him some peat and coals. Finding his grandmother awake, he
told her all, and taking the coals and the peat, carried them to the
hut, where he managed, with some difficulty, to light a fire on the
hearth; after which he sat on the doorstep till Betty appeared with
two men carrying a mattress and some bedding. The noise they made
awoke her.

'Dinna tak me,' she cried. 'I winna do 't again, an' I'm deein', I
tell ye I'm deein', and that'll clear a' scores--o' this side ony
gait,' she added.

They lifted her upon the mattress, and made her more comfortable
than perhaps she had ever been in her life. But it was only her
illness that made her capable of prizing such comfort. In health,
the heather on a hill-side was far more to her taste than bed and
blankets. She had a wild, roving, savage nature, and the wind was
dearer to her than house-walls. She had come of ancestors--and it
was a poor little atom of truth that a soul bred like this woman
could have been born capable of entertaining. But she too was
eternal--and surely not to be fixed for ever in a bewilderment of
sin and ignorance--a wild-eyed soul staring about in hell-fire for
want of something it could not understand and had never beheld--by
the changeless mandate of the God of love! She was in less pain
than during the night, and lay quietly gazing at the fire. Things
awful to another would no doubt cross her memory without any
accompanying sense of dismay; tender things would return without
moving her heart; but Falconer had a hold of her now. Nothing could
be done for her body except to render its death as easy as might be;
but something might be done for herself. He made no attempt to
produce this or that condition of mind in the poor creature. He
never made such attempts. 'How can I tell the next lesson a soul is
capable of learning?' he would say. 'The Spirit of God is the
teacher. My part is to tell the good news. Let that work as it
ought, as it can, as it will.' He knew that pain is with some the
only harbinger that can prepare the way for the entrance of
kindness: it is not understood till then. In the lulls of her pain
he told her about the man Christ Jesus--what he did for the poor
creatures who came to him--how kindly he spoke to them--how he cured
them. He told her how gentle he was with the sinning women, how he
forgave them and told them to do so no more. He left the story
without comment to work that faith which alone can redeem from
selfishness and bring into contact with all that is living and
productive of life, for to believe in him is to lay hold of eternal
life: he is the Life--therefore the life of men. She gave him but
little encouragement: he did not need it, for he believed in the
Life. But her outcries were no longer accompanied with that fierce
and dreadful language in which she sought relief at first. He said
to himself, 'What matter if I see no sign? I am doing my part. Who
can tell, when the soul is free from the distress of the body, when
sights and sounds have vanished from her, and she is silent in the
eternal, with the terrible past behind her, and clear to her
consciousness, how the words I have spoken to her may yet live and
grow in her; how the kindness God has given me to show her may help
her to believe in the root of all kindness, in the everlasting love
of her Father in heaven? That she can feel at all is as sure a sign
of life as the adoration of an ecstatic saint.'

He had no difficulty now in getting from her what information she
could give him about his father. It seemed to him of the greatest
import, though it amounted only to this, that when he was in London,
he used to lodge at the house of an old Scotchwoman of the name of
Macallister, who lived in Paradise Gardens, somewhere between
Bethnal Green and Spitalfields. Whether he had been in London
lately, she did not know; but if anybody could tell him where he
was, it would be Mrs. Macallister.

His heart filled with gratitude and hope and the surging desire for
the renewal of his London labours. But he could not leave the dying
woman till she was beyond the reach of his comfort: he was her
keeper now. And 'he that believeth shall not make haste.' Labour
without perturbation, readiness without hurry, no haste, and no
hesitation, was the divine law of his activity.

Shargar's mother breathed her last holding his hand. They were
alone. He kneeled by the bed, and prayed to God, saying,

'Father, this woman is in thy hands. Take thou care of her, as thou
hast taken care of her hitherto. Let the light go up in her soul,
that she may love and trust thee, O light, O gladness. I thank thee
that thou hast blessed me with this ministration. Now lead me to my
father. Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for
ever and ever. Amen.'

He rose and went to his grandmother and told her all. She put her
arms round his neck, and kissed him, and said,

'God bless ye, my bonny lad. And he will bless ye. He will; he
will. Noo gang yer wa's, and do the wark he gies ye to do. Only
min', it's no you; it's him.'

The next morning, the sweet winds of his childhood wooing him to
remain yet a day among their fields, he sat on the top of the
Aberdeen coach, on his way back to the horrors of court and alley in
the terrible London.



When he arrived he made it his first business to find 'Widow
Walker.' She was evidently one of the worst of her class; and could
it have been accomplished without scandal, and without interfering
with the quietness upon which he believed that the true effect of
his labours in a large measure depended, he would not have scrupled
simply to carry off the child. With much difficulty, for the woman
was suspicious, he contrived to see her, and was at once reminded of
the child he had seen in the cart on the occasion of Shargar's
recognition of his mother. He fancied he saw in her some
resemblance to his friend Shargar. The affair ended in his paying
the woman a hundred and fifty pounds to give up the girl. Within
six months she had drunk herself to death. He took little Nancy
Kennedy home with him, and gave her in charge to his housekeeper.
She cried a good deal at first, and wanted to go back to Mother
Walker, but he had no great trouble with her after a time. She
began to take a share in the house-work, and at length to wait upon
him. Then Falconer began to see that he must cultivate relations
with other people in order to enlarge his means of helping the poor.
He nowise abandoned his conviction that whatever good he sought to
do or lent himself to aid must be effected entirely by individual
influence. He had little faith in societies, regarding them chiefly
as a wretched substitute, just better than nothing, for that help
which the neighbour is to give to his neighbour. Finding how the
unbelief of the best of the poor is occasioned by hopelessness in
privation, and the sufferings of those dear to them, he was
confident that only the personal communion of friendship could make
it possible for them to believe in God. Christians must be in the
world as He was in the world; and in proportion as the truth
radiated from them, the world would be able to believe in Him. Money
he saw to be worse than useless, except as a gracious outcome of
human feelings and brotherly love. He always insisted that the
Saviour healed only those on whom his humanity had laid hold; that
he demanded faith of them in order to make them regard him, that so
his personal being might enter into their hearts. Healing without
faith in its source would have done them harm instead of good--would
have been to them a windfall, not a Godsend; at best the gift of
magic, even sometimes the power of Satan casting out Satan. But he
must not therefore act as if he were the only one who could render
this individual aid, or as if men influencing the poor individually
could not aid each other in their individual labours. He soon
found, I say, that there were things he could not do without help,
and Nancy was his first perplexity. From this he was delivered in a
wonderful way.

One afternoon he was prowling about Spitalfields, where he had made
many acquaintances amongst the silk-weavers and their families.
Hearing a loud voice as he passed down a stair from the visit he
had been paying further up the house, he went into the room whence
the sound came, for he knew a little of the occupant. He was one De
Fleuri, or as the neighbours called him, Diffleery, in whose
countenance, after generations of want and debasement, the delicate
lines and noble cast of his ancient race were yet emergent. This
man had lost his wife and three children, his whole family except a
daughter now sick, by a slow-consuming hunger; and he did not
believe there was a God that ruled in the earth. But he supported
his unbelief by no other argument than a hopeless bitter glance at
his empty loom. At this moment he sat silent--a rock against which
the noisy waves of a combative Bible-reader were breaking in rude
foam. His silence and apparent impassiveness angered the irreverent
little worthy. To Falconer's humour he looked a vulgar bull-terrier
barking at a noble, sad-faced staghound. His foolish arguments
against infidelity, drawn from Paley's Natural Theology, and tracts
about the inspiration of the Bible, touched the sore-hearted
unbelief of the man no nearer than the clangour of negro kettles
affects the eclipse of the sun. Falconer stood watching his
opportunity. Nor was the eager disputant long in affording him one.
Socratic fashion, Falconer asked him a question, and was answered;
followed it with another, which, after a little hesitation, was
likewise answered; then asked a third, the ready answer to which
involved such a flagrant contradiction of the first, that the poor
sorrowful weaver burst into a laugh of delight at the discomfiture
of his tormentor. After some stammering, and a confused attempt to
recover the line of argument, the would-be partizan of Deity roared
out, 'The fool hath said in his heart there is no God;' and with
this triumphant discharge of his swivel, turned and ran down the
stairs precipitately.

Both laughed while the sound of his footsteps lasted. Then Falconer

'My. De Fleuri, I believe in God with all my heart, and soul, and
strength, and mind; though not in that poor creature's arguments. I
don't know that your unbelief is not better than his faith.'

'I am greatly obliged to you, Mr. Falconer. I haven't laughed so
for years. What right has he to come pestering me?'

'None whatever. But you must forgive him, because he is
well-meaning, and because his conceit has made a fool of him.
They're not all like him. But how is your daughter?'

'Very poorly, sir. She's going after the rest. A Spitalfields
weaver ought to be like the cats: they don't mind how many of their
kittens are drowned.'

'I beg your pardon. They don't like it. Only they forget it sooner
than we do.'

'Why do you say we, sir? You don't know anything of that sort.'

'The heart knows its own bitterness, De Fleuri--and finds it enough,
I dare say.'

The weaver was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, there was
a touch of tenderness in his respect.

'Will you go and see my poor Katey, sir?'

'Would she like to see me?'

'It does her good to see you. I never let that fellow go near her.
He may worry me as he pleases; but she shall die in peace. That is
all I can do for her.'

'Do you still persist in refusing help--for your daughter--I don't
mean for yourself?'

Not believing in God, De Fleuri would not be obliged to his fellow.
Falconer had never met with a similar instance.

'I do. I won't kill her, and I won't kill myself: I am not bound to
accept charity. It's all right. I only want to leave the whole
affair behind; and I sincerely hope there's nothing to come after.
If I were God, I should be ashamed of such a mess of a world.'

'Well, no doubt you would have made something more to your mind--and
better, too, if all you see were all there is to be seen. But I
didn't send that bore away to bore you myself. I'm going to see

'Very well, sir. I won't go up with you, for I won't interfere with
what you think proper to say to her.'

'That's rather like faith somewhere!' thought Falconer. 'Could that
man fail to believe in Jesus Christ if he only saw him--anything
like as he is?'

Katey lay in a room overhead; for though he lacked food, this man
contrived to pay for a separate room for his daughter, whom he
treated with far more respect than many gentlemen treat their wives.
Falconer found her lying on a wretched bed. Still it was a bed;
and many in the same house had no bed to lie on. He had just come
from a room overhead where lived a widow with four children. All of
them lay on a floor whence issued at night, by many holes, awful
rats. The children could not sleep for horror. They did not mind
the little ones, they said, but when the big ones came, they were
awake all night.

'Well, Katey, how are you?'

'No better, thank God.'

She spoke as her father had taught her. Her face was worn and thin,
but hardly death-like. Only extremes met in it--the hopelessness
had turned through quietude into comfort. Her hopelessness affected
him more than her father's. But there was nothing he could do for

There came a tap at the door.

'Come in,' said Falconer, involuntarily.

A lady in the dress of a Sister of Mercy entered with a large basket
on her arm. She started, and hesitated for a moment when she saw
him. He rose, thinking it better to go. She advanced to the
bedside. He turned at the door, and said,

'I won't say good-bye yet, Katey, for I'm going to have a chat with
your father, and if you will let me, I will look in again.'

As he turned he saw the lady kiss her on the forehead. At the sound
of his voice she started again, left the bedside and came towards
him. Whether he knew her by her face or her voice first, he could
not tell.

'Robert,' she said, holding out her hand.

It was Mary St. John. Their hands met, joined fast, and lingered, as
they gazed each in the other's face. It was nearly fourteen years
since they had parted. The freshness of youth was gone from her
cheek, and the signs of middle age were present on her forehead.
But she was statelier, nobler, and gentler than ever. Falconer
looked at her calmly, with only a still swelling at the heart, as if
they met on the threshold of heaven. All the selfishness of passion
was gone, and the old earlier adoration, elevated and glorified, had
returned. He was a boy once more in the presence of a woman-angel.
She did not shrink from his gaze, she did not withdraw her hand
from his clasp.

'I am so glad, Robert!' was all she said.

'So am I,' he answered quietly. 'We may meet sometimes then?'

'Yes. Perhaps we can help each other.'

'You can help me,' said Falconer. 'I have a girl I don't know what
to do with.'

'Send her to me. I will take care of her.'

'I will bring her. But I must come and see you first.'

'That will tell you where I live,' she said, giving him a card.

'Till to-morrow,' said Falconer.

'She's not like that Bible fellow,' said De Fleuri, as he entered
his room again. 'She don't walk into your house as if it was her

He was leaning against his idle loom, which, like a dead thing,
filled the place with the mournfulness of death. Falconer took a
broken chair, the only one, and sat down.

'I am going to take a liberty with you, Mr. De Fleuri,' he said.

'As you please, Mr. Falconer.'

'I want to tell you the only fault I have to you.'


'You don't do anything for the people in the house. Whether you
believe in God or not, you ought to do what you can for your

He held that to help a neighbour is the strongest antidote to
unbelief, and an open door out of the bad air of one's own troubles,
as well.

De Fleuri laughed bitterly, and rubbed his hand up and down his
empty pocket. It was a pitiable action. Falconer understood it.

'There are better things than money: sympathy, for instance. You
could talk to them a little.'

'I have no sympathy, sir.'

'You would find you had, if you would let it out.'

'I should only make them more miserable. If I believed as you do,
now, there might be some use.'

'There's that widow with her four children in the garret. The poor
little things are tormented by the rats: couldn't you nail bits of
wood over their holes?'

De Fleuri laughed again.

'Where am I to get the bits of wood, except I pull down some of
those laths. And they wouldn't keep them out a night.'

'Couldn't you ask some carpenter?'

'I won't ask a favour.'

'I shouldn't mind asking, now.'

'That's because you don't know the bitterness of needing.'

'Fortunately, however, there's no occasion for it. You have no
right to refuse for another what you wouldn't accept for yourself.
Of course I could send in a man to do it; but if you would do it,
that would do her heart good. And that's what most wants doing good
to--isn't it, now?'

'I believe you're right there, sir. If it wasn't for the misery of
it, I shouldn't mind the hunger.'

'I should like to tell you how I came to go poking my nose into
other people's affairs. Would you like to hear my story now?'

'If you please, sir.'

A little pallid curiosity seemed to rouse itself in the heart of the
hopeless man. So Falconer began at once to tell him how he had been
brought up, describing the country and their ways of life, not
excluding his adventures with Shargar, until he saw that the man was
thoroughly interested. Then all at once, pulling out his watch, he

'But it's time I had my tea, and I haven't half done yet. I am not
fond of being hungry, like you, Mr. De Fleuri.'

The poor fellow could only manage a very dubious smile.

'I'll tell you what,' said Falconer, as if the thought had only just
struck him--'come home with me, and I'll give you the rest of it at
my own place.'

'You must excuse me, sir.'

'Bless my soul, the man's as proud as Lucifer! He wont accept a
neighbour's invitation to a cup of tea--for fear it should put him
under obligations, I suppose.'

'It's very kind of you, sir, to put it in that way; but I don't
choose to be taken in. You know very well it's not as one equal
asks another you ask me. It's charity.'

'Do I not behave to you as an equal?'

'But you know that don't make us equals.'

'But isn't there something better than being equals? Supposing, as
you will have it, that we're not equals, can't we be friends?'

'I hope so, sir.'

'Do you think now, Mr. De Fleuri, if you weren't something more to
me than a mere equal, I would go telling you my own history? But I
forgot: I have told you hardly anything yet. I have to tell you how
much nearer I am to your level than you think. I had the design too
of getting you to help me in the main object of my life. Come,
don't be a fool. I want you.'

'I can't leave Katey,' said the weaver, hesitatingly.

'Miss St. John is there still. I will ask her to stop till you come

Without waiting for an answer, he ran up the stairs, and had
speedily arranged with Miss St. John. Then taking his consent for
granted, he hurried De Fleuri away with him, and knowing how unfit a
man of his trade was for walking, irrespective of feebleness from
want, he called the first cab, and took him home. Here, over their
tea, which he judged the safest meal for a stomach unaccustomed to
food, he told him about his grandmother, and about Dr. Anderson, and
how he came to give himself to the work he was at, partly for its
own sake, partly in the hope of finding his father. He told him his
only clue to finding him; and that he had called on Mrs. Macallister
twice every week for two years, but had heard nothing of him. De
Fleuri listened with what rose to great interest before the story
was finished. And one of its ends at least was gained: the weaver
was at home with him. The poor fellow felt that such close relation
to an outcast, did indeed bring Falconer nearer to his own level.

'Do you want it kept a secret, sir?' he asked.

'I don't want it made a matter of gossip. But I do not mind how
many respectable people like yourself know of it.'

He said this with a vague hope of assistance.

Before they parted, the unaccustomed tears had visited the eyes of
De Fleuri, and he had consented not only to repair Mrs. Chisholm's
garret-floor, but to take in hand the expenditure of a certain sum
weekly, as he should judge expedient, for the people who lived in
that and the neighbouring houses--in no case, however, except of
sickness, or actual want of bread from want of work. Thus did
Falconer appoint a sorrow-made infidel to be the almoner of his
christian charity, knowing well that the nature of the Son of Man
was in him, and that to get him to do as the Son of Man did, in ever
so small a degree, was the readiest means of bringing his higher
nature to the birth. Nor did he ever repent the choice he had made.

When he waited upon Miss St. John the next day, he found her in the
ordinary dress of a lady. She received him with perfect confidence
and kindness, but there was no reference made to the past. She told
him that she had belonged to a sisterhood, but had left it a few
days before, believing she could do better without its restrictions.

'It was an act of cowardice,' she said,--'wearing the dress
yesterday. I had got used to it, and did not feel safe without it;
but I shall not wear it any more.'

'I think you are right,' said Falconer. 'The nearer any friendly act
is associated with the individual heart, without intervention of
class or creed, the more the humanity, which is the divinity of it,
will appear.'

He then told her about Nancy.

'I will keep her about myself for a while,' said Miss St. John,
'till I see what can be done with her. I know a good many people
who without being prepared, or perhaps able to take any trouble, are
yet ready to do a kindness when it is put in their way.'

'I feel more and more that I ought to make some friends,' said
Falconer; 'for I find my means of help reach but a little way. What
had I better do? I suppose I could get some introductions.--I
hardly know how.'

'That will easily be managed. I will take that in hand. If you
will accept invitations, you will soon know a good many people--of
all sorts,' she added with a smile.

About this time Falconer, having often felt the pressure of his
ignorance of legal affairs, and reflected whether it would not add
to his efficiency to rescue himself from it, began such a course of
study as would fit him for the profession of the law. Gifted with
splendid health, and if with a slow strength of grasping, yet with a
great power of holding, he set himself to work, and regularly read
for the bar.



It was after this that my own acquaintance with Falconer commenced.
I had just come out of one of the theatres in the neighbourhood of
the Strand, unable to endure any longer the dreary combination of
false magnanimity and real meanness, imported from Paris in the
shape of a melodrama, for the delectation of the London public. I
had turned northwards, and was walking up one of the streets near
Covent Garden, when my attention was attracted to a woman who came
out of a gin-shop, carrying a baby. She went to the kennel, and
bent her head over, ill with the poisonous stuff she had been
drinking. And while the woman stood in this degrading posture, the
poor, white, wasted baby was looking over her shoulder with the
smile of a seraph, perfectly unconscious of the hell around her.

'Children will see things as God sees them,' murmured a voice beside

I turned and saw a tall man with whose form I had already become a
little familiar, although I knew nothing of him, standing almost at
my elbow, with his eyes fixed on the woman and the child, and a
strange smile of tenderness about his mouth, as if he were blessing
the little creature in his heart.

He too saw the wonder of the show, typical of so much in the world,
indeed of the world itself--the seemingly vile upholding and
ministering to the life of the pure, the gracious, the fearless.
Aware from his tone more than from his pronunciation that he was a
fellow-countryman, I ventured to speak to him, and in a

'It's a wonnerfu' sicht. It's the cake o' Ezekiel ower again.'

He looked at me sharply, thought a moment, and said,

'You were going my way when you stopped. I will walk with you, if
you will.'

'But what's to be done about it?' I said.

'About what?' he returned.

'About the child there,' I answered.

'Oh! she is its mother,' he replied, walking on.

'What difference does that make?' I said.

'All the difference in the world. If God has given her that child,
what right have you or I to interfere?'

'But I verily believe from the look of the child she gives it gin.'

'God saves the world by the new blood, the children. To take her
child from her, would be to do what you could to damn her.'

'It doesn't look much like salvation there.'

'You mustn't interfere with God's thousand years any more than his
one day.'

'Are you sure she is the mother?' I asked.

'Yes. I would not have left the child with her otherwise.'

'What would you have done with it? Got it into some orphan
asylum?--or the Foundling perhaps?'

'Never,' he answered. 'All those societies are wretched inventions
for escape from the right way. There ought not to be an orphan
asylum in the kingdom.'

'What! Would you put them all down then?'

'God forbid. But I would, if I could, make them all useless,'

'How could you do that?'

'I would merely enlighten the hearts of childless people as to their

'Which are?'

'To be fathers and mothers to the fatherless and motherless.'

'I have often wondered why more of them did not adopt children. Why
don't they?'

'For various reasons which a real love to child nature would blow to
the winds--all comprised in this, that such a child would not be
their own child. As if ever a child could be their own! That a
child is God's is of rather more consequence than whether it is born
of this or that couple. Their hearts would surely be glad when they
went into heaven to have the angels of the little ones that always
behold the face of their Father coming round them, though they were
not exactly their father and mother.'

'I don't know what the passage you refer to means.'

'Neither do I. But it must mean something, if He said it. Are you a

'No. I am only a poor teacher of mathematics and poetry, shown up
the back stairs into the nurseries of great houses.'

'A grand chance, if I may use the word.'

'I do try to wake a little enthusiasm in the sons and
daughters--without much success, I fear.'

'Will you come and see me?' he said.

'With much pleasure. But, as I have given you an answer, you owe me

'I do.'

'Have you adopted a child?'


'Then you have some of your own?'


'Then, excuse me, but why the warmth of your remarks on those who--'

'I think I shall be able to satisfy you on that point, if we draw to
each other. Meantime I must leave you. Could you come to-morrow

'With pleasure.'

We arranged the hour and parted. I saw him walk into a low
public-house, and went home.

At the time appointed, I rang the bell, and was led by an elderly
woman up the stair, and shown into a large room on the
first-floor--poorly furnished, and with many signs of
bachelor-carelessness. Mr. Falconer rose from an old hair-covered
sofa to meet me as I entered. I will first tell my reader something
of his personal appearance.

He was considerably above six feet in height, square-shouldered,
remarkably long in the arms, and his hands were uncommonly large and
powerful. His head was large, and covered with dark wavy hair,
lightly streaked with gray. His broad forehead projected over
deep-sunk eyes, that shone like black fire. His features,
especially his Roman nose, were large, and finely, though not
delicately, modelled. His nostrils were remarkably large and
flexile, with a tendency to slight motion: I found on further
acquaintance that when he was excited, they expanded in a wild
equine manner. The expression of his mouth was of tender power,
crossed with humour. He kept his lips a little compressed, which
gave a certain sternness to his countenance: but when this sternness
dissolved in a smile, it was something enchanting. He was plainly,
rather shabbily clothed. No one could have guessed at his
profession or social position. He came forward and received me
cordially. After a little indifferent talk, he asked me if I had
any other engagement for the evening.

'I never have any engagements,' I answered--'at least, of a social
kind. I am burd alane. I know next to nobody.'

'Then perhaps you would not mind going out with me for a stroll?'

'I shall be most happy,' I answered.

There was something about the man I found exceedingly attractive; I
had very few friends; and there was besides something odd, almost
romantic, in this beginning of an intercourse: I would see what
would come of it.

'Then we'll have some supper first,' said Mr. Falconer, and rang the

While we ate our chops--

'I dare say you think it strange,' my host said, 'that without the
least claim on your acquaintance, I should have asked you to come
and see me, Mr.--'

He stopped, smiling.

'My name is Gordon--Archie Gordon,' I said.

'Well, then, Mr. Gordon, I confess I have a design upon you. But
you will remember that you addressed me first.'

'You spoke first,' I said.

'Did I?'

'I did not say you spoke to me, but you spoke.--I should not have
ventured to make the remark I did make, if I had not heard your
voice first. What design have you on me?'

'That will appear in due course. Now take a glass of wine, and
we'll set out.'

We soon found ourselves in Holborn, and my companion led the way
towards the City. The evening was sultry and close.

'Nothing excites me move,' said Mr. Falconer, 'than a walk in the
twilight through a crowded street. Do you find it affect you so?'

'I cannot speak as strongly as you do,' I replied. 'But I perfectly
understand what you mean. Why is it, do you think?'

'Partly, I fancy, because it is like the primordial chaos, a
concentrated tumult of undetermined possibilities. The germs of
infinite adventure and result are floating around you like a
snow-storm. You do not know what may arise in a moment and colour
all your future. Out of this mass may suddenly start something
marvellous, or, it may be, something you have been looking for for

The same moment, a fierce flash of lightning, like a blue
sword-blade a thousand times shattered, quivered and palpitated
about us, leaving a thick darkness on the sense. I heard my
companion give a suppressed cry, and saw him run up against a heavy
drayman who was on the edge of the path, guiding his horses with his
long whip. He begged the man's pardon, put his hand to his head,
and murmured, 'I shall know him now.' I was afraid for a moment
that the lightning had struck him, but he assured me there was
nothing amiss. He looked a little excited and confused, however.

I should have forgotten the incident, had he not told me
afterwards--when I had come to know him intimately--that in the
moment of that lightning flash, he had had a strange experience: he
had seen the form of his father, as he had seen him that Sunday
afternoon, in the midst of the surrounding light. He was as certain
of the truth of the presentation as if a gradual revival of memory
had brought with it the clear conviction of its own accuracy. His
explanation of the phenomenon was, that, in some cases, all that
prevents a vivid conception from assuming objectivity, is the
self-assertion of external objects. The gradual approach of
darkness cannot surprise and isolate the phantasm; but the
suddenness of the lightning could and did, obliterating everything
without, and leaving that over which it had no power standing alone,
and therefore visible.

'But,' I ventured to ask, 'whence the minuteness of detail,
surpassing, you say, all that your memory could supply?'

'That I think was a quickening of the memory by the realism of the
presentation. Excited by the vision, it caught at its own past, as
it were, and suddenly recalled that which it had forgotten. In the
rapidity of all pure mental action, this at once took its part in
the apparent objectivity.'

To return to the narrative of my first evening in Falconer's

It was strange how insensible the street population was to the
grandeur of the storm. While the thunder was billowing and
bellowing over and around us--

'A hundred pins for one ha'penny,' bawled a man from the gutter,
with the importance of a Cagliostro.

'Evening Star! Telegrauwff!' roared an ear-splitting urchin in my
very face. I gave him a shove off the pavement.

'Ah! don't do that,' said Falconer. 'It only widens the crack
between him and his fellows--not much, but a little.'

'You are right,' I said. 'I won't do it again.'

The same moment we heard a tumult in a neighbouring street. A crowd
was execrating a policeman, who had taken a woman into custody, and
was treating her with unnecessary rudeness. Falconer looked on for
a few moments.

'Come, policeman!' he said at length, in a tone of expostulation.
'You're rather rough, are you not? She's a woman, you know.'

'Hold your blasted humbug,' answered the man, an exceptional
specimen of the force at that time at all events, and shook the
tattered wretch, as if he would shake her out of her rags.

Falconer gently parted the crowd, and stood beside the two.

'I will help you,' he said, 'to take her to the station, if you
like, but you must not treat her that way.'

'I don't want your help,' said the policeman; 'I know you, and all
the damned lot of you.'

'Then I shall be compelled to give you a lesson,' said Falconer.

The man's only answer was a shake that made the woman cry out.

'I shall get into trouble if you get off,' said Falconer to her.
'Will you promise me, on your word, to go with me to the station, if
I rid you of the fellow?'

'I will, I will,' said the woman.

'Then, look out,' said Falconer to the policeman; 'for I'm going to
give you that lesson.'

The officer let the woman go, took his baton, and made a blow at
Falconer. In another moment--I could hardly see how--he lay in the

'Now, my poor woman, come along,' said Falconer.

She obeyed, crying gently. Two other policemen came up.

'Do you want to give that woman in charge, Mr. Falconer?' asked one
of them.

'I give that man in charge,' cried his late antagonist, who had just
scrambled to his feet. 'Assaulting the police in discharge of their

'Very well,' said the other. 'But you're in the wrong box, and that
you'll find. You had better come along to the station, sir.'

'Keep that fellow from getting hold of the woman--you two, and we'll
go together,' said Falconer.

Bewildered with the rapid sequence of events, I was following in the
crowd. Falconer looked about till he saw me, and gave me a nod
which meant come along. Before we reached Bow Street. however, the
offending policeman, who had been walking a little behind in
conversation with one of the others, advanced to Falconer, touched
his hat, and said something, to which Falconer replied.

'Remember, I have my eye upon you,' was all I heard, however, as he
left the crowd and rejoined me. We turned and walked eastward

The storm kept on intermittently, but the streets were rather more
crowded than usual notwithstanding.

'Look at that man in the woollen jacket,' said Falconer. 'What a
beautiful outline of face! There must be something noble in that

'I did not see him,' I answered, 'I was taken up with a woman's
face, like that of a beautiful corpse. It's eyes were bright.
There was gin in its brain.'

The streets swarmed with human faces gleaming past. It was a night
of ghosts.

There stood a man who had lost one arm, earnestly pumping
bilge-music out of an accordion with the other, holding it to his
body with the stump. There was a woman, pale with hunger and gin,
three match-boxes in one extended hand, and the other holding a baby
to her breast. As we looked, the poor baby let go its hold, turned
its little head, and smiled a wan, shrivelled, old-fashioned smile
in our faces.

Another happy baby, you see, Mr. Gordon,' said Falconer. 'A child,
fresh from God, finds its heaven where no one else would. The devil
could drive woman out of Paradise; but the devil himself cannot
drive the Paradise out of a woman.'

'What can be done for them?' I said, and at the moment, my eye fell
upon a row of little children, from two to five years of age, seated
upon the curb-stone.

They were chattering fast, and apparently carrying on some game, as
happy as if they had been in the fields.

'Wouldn't you like to take all those little grubby things, and put
them in a great tub and wash them clean?' I said.

'They'd fight like spiders,' rejoined Falconer.

'They're not fighting now.'

'Then don't make them. It would be all useless. The probability is
that you would only change the forms of the various evils, and
possibly for worse. You would buy all that man's glue-lizards, and
that man's three-foot rules, and that man's dog-collars and chains,
at three times their value, that they might get more drink than
usual, and do nothing at all for their living to-morrow.--What a
happy London you would make if you were Sultan Haroun!' he added,
laughing. 'You would put an end to poverty altogether, would you

I did not reply at once.

'But I beg your pardon,' he resumed; 'I am very rude.'

'Not at all,' I returned. 'I was only thinking how to answer you.
They would be no worse after all than those who inherit property
and lead idle lives.'

'True; but they would be no better. Would you be content that your
quondam poor should be no better off than the rich? What would be
gained thereby? Is there no truth in the words "Blessed are the
poor"? A deeper truth than most Christians dare to see.--Did you
ever observe that there is not one word about the vices of the poor
in the Bible--from beginning to end?'

'But they have their vices.'

'Indubitably. I am only stating a fact. The Bible is full enough
of the vices of the rich. I make no comment.'

'But don't you care for their sufferings?'

'They are of secondary importance quite. But if you had been as
much amongst them as I, perhaps you would be of my opinion, that the
poor are not, cannot possibly feel so wretched as they seem to us.
They live in a climate, as it were, which is their own, by natural
law comply with it, and find it not altogether unfriendly. The
Laplander will prefer his wastes to the rich fields of England, not
merely from ignorance, but for the sake of certain blessings amongst
which he has been born and brought up. The blessedness of life
depends far more on its interest than upon its comfort. The need of
exertion and the doubt of success, renders life much more
interesting to the poor than it is to those who, unblessed with
anxiety for the bread that perisheth, waste their poor hearts about
rank and reputation.'

'I thought such anxiety was represented as an evil in the New

'Yes. But it is a still greater evil to lose it in any other way
than by faith in God. You would remove the anxiety by destroying its
cause: God would remove it by lifting them above it, by teaching
them to trust in him, and thus making them partakers of the divine
nature. Poverty is a blessing when it makes a man look up.'

'But you cannot say it does so always.'

'I cannot determine when, where, and how much; but I am sure it
does. And I am confident that to free those hearts from it by any
deed of yours would be to do them the greatest injury you could.
Probably their want of foresight would prove the natural remedy,
speedily reducing them to their former condition--not however
without serious loss.'

'But will not this theory prove at last an ansthetic rather than an
anodyne? I mean that, although you may adopt it at first for refuge
from the misery the sight of their condition occasions you, there is
surely a danger of its rendering you at last indifferent to it.'

'Am I indifferent? But you do not know me yet. Pardon my egotism.
There may be such danger. Every truth has its own danger or
shadow. Assuredly I would have no less labour spent upon them. But
there can be no true labour done, save in as far as we are
fellow-labourers with God. We must work with him, not against him.
Every one who works without believing that God is doing the best,
the absolute good for them, is, must be, more or less, thwarting
God. He would take the poor out of God's hands. For others, as for
ourselves, we must trust him. If we could thoroughly understand
anything, that would be enough to prove it undivine; and that which
is but one step beyond our understanding must be in some of its
relations as mysterious as if it were a hundred. But through all
this darkness about the poor, at least I can see wonderful veins and
fields of light, and with the help of this partial vision, I trust
for the rest. The only and the greatest thing man is capable of is
Trust in God.'

'What then is a man to do for the poor? How is he to work with
God?' I asked.

'He must be a man amongst them--a man breathing the air of a higher
life, and therefore in all natural ways fulfilling his endless human
relations to them. Whatever you do for them, let your own being,
that is you in relation to them, be the background, that so you may
be a link between them and God, or rather I should say, between them
and the knowledge of God.'

While Falconer spoke, his face grew grander and grander, till at
last it absolutely shone. I felt that I walked with a man whose
faith was his genius.

'Of one thing I am pretty sure,' he resumed, 'that the same recipe
Goethe gave for the enjoyment of life, applies equally to all work:
"Do the thing that lies next you." That is all our business.
Hurried results are worse than none. We must force nothing, but be
partakers of the divine patience. How long it took to make the
cradle! and we fret that the baby Humanity is not reading Euclid and
Plato, even that it is not understanding the Gospel of St. John! If
there is one thing evident in the world's history, it is that God
hasteneth not. All haste implies weakness. Time is as cheap as
space and matter. What they call the church militant is only at
drill yet, and a good many of the officers too not out of the
awkward squad. I am sure I, for a private, am not. In the drill a
man has to conquer himself, and move with the rest by individual
attention to his own duty: to what mighty battlefields the recruit
may yet be led, he does not know. Meantime he has nearly enough to
do with his goose-step, while there is plenty of single combat,
skirmish, and light cavalry work generally, to get him ready for
whatever is to follow. I beg your pardon: I am preaching.'

'Eloquently,' I answered.

Of some of the places into which Falconer led me that night I will
attempt no description--places blazing with lights and mirrors,
crowded with dancers, billowing with music, close and hot, and full
of the saddest of all sights, the uninteresting faces of commonplace

'There is a passion,' I said, as we came out of one of these
dreadful places, 'that lingers about the heart like the odour of
violets, like a glimmering twilight on the borders of moonrise; and
there is a passion that wraps itself in the vapours of patchouli and
coffins, and streams from the eyes like gaslight from a tavern. And
yet the line is ill to draw between them. It is very dreadful.
These are women.'

'They are in God's hands,' answered Falconer. 'He hasn't done with
them yet. Shall it take less time to make a woman than to make a
world? Is not the woman the greater? She may have her ages of
chaos, her centuries of crawling slime, yet rise a woman at last.'

'How much alike all those women were!'

'A family likeness, alas! which always strikes you first.'

'Some of them looked quite modest.'

'There are great differences. I do not know anything more touching
than to see how a woman will sometimes wrap around her the last
remnants of a soiled and ragged modesty. It has moved me almost to
tears to see such a one hanging her head in shame during the singing
of a detestable song. That poor thing's shame was precious in the
eyes of the Master, surely.'

'Could nothing be done for her?'

'I contrived to let her know where she would find a friend if she
wanted to be good: that is all you can do in such cases. If the
horrors of their life do not drive them out at such an open door,
you can do nothing else, I fear--for the time.'

'Where are you going now, may I ask?'

'Into the city--on business,' he added with a smile.

'There will be nobody there so late.'

'Nobody! One would think you were the beadle of a city church, Mr.

We came into a very narrow, dirty street. I do not know where it
is. A slatternly woman advanced from an open door, and said,

'Mr. Falconer.'

He looked at her for a moment.

'Why, Sarah, have you come to this already?' he said.

'Never mind me, sir. It's no more than you told me to expect. You
knowed him better than I did. Leastways I'm an honest woman.'

'Stick to that, Sarah; and be good-tempered.'

'I'll have a try anyhow, sir. But there's a poor cretur a dyin'
up-stairs; and I'm afeard it'll go hard with her, for she throwed a
Bible out o' window this very morning, sir.'

'Would she like to see me? I'm afraid not.'

'She's got Lilywhite, what's a sort of a reader, readin' that same
Bible to her now.'

'There can be no great harm in just looking in,' he said, turning to

'I shall be happy to follow you--anywhere,' I returned.

'She's awful ill, sir; cholerer or summat,' said Sarah, as she led
the way up the creaking stair.

We half entered the room softly. Two or three women sat by the
chimney, and another by a low bed, covered with a torn patchwork
counterpane, spelling out a chapter in the Bible. We paused for a
moment to hear what she was reading. Had the book been opened by
chance, or by design? It was the story of David and Bathsheba.
Moans came from the bed, but the candle in a bottle, by which the
woman was reading, was so placed that we could not see the sufferer.

We stood still and did not interrupt the reading.

'Ha! ha! ha!' laughed a coarse voice from the side of the chimney:
'the saint, you see, was no better than some of the rest of us!'

'I think he was a good deal worse just then,' said Falconer,
stepping forward.

'Gracious! there's Mr. Falconer,' said another woman, rising, and
speaking in a flattering tone.

'Then,' remarked the former speaker, 'there's a chance for old Moll
and me yet. King David was a saint, wasn't he? Ha! ha!'

'Yes, and you might be one too, if you were as sorry for your faults
as he was for his.'

'Sorry, indeed! I'll be damned if I be sorry. What have I to be
sorry for? Where's the harm in turning an honest penny? I ha' took
no man's wife, nor murdered himself neither. There's yer saints!
He was a rum 'un. Ha! ha!'

Falconer approached her, bent down and whispered something no one
could hear but herself. She gave a smothered cry, and was silent.

'Give me the book,' he said, turning towards the bed. 'I'll read you
something better than that. I'll read about some one that never did
anything wrong.'

'I don't believe there never was no sich a man,' said the previous
reader, as she handed him the book, grudgingly.

'Not Jesus Christ himself?' said Falconer.

'Oh! I didn't know as you meant him.'

'Of course I meant him. There never was another.'

'I have heard tell--p'raps it was yourself, sir--as how he didn't
come down upon us over hard after all, bless him!'

Falconer sat down on the side of the bed, and read the story of
Simon the Pharisee and the woman that was a sinner. When he ceased,
the silence that followed was broken by a sob from somewhere in the
room. The sick woman stopped her moaning, and said,

'Turn down the leaf there, please, sir. Lilywhite will read it to
me when you're gone.'

The some one sobbed again. It was a young slender girl, with a face
disfigured by the small-pox, and, save for the tearful look it wore,
poor and expressionless. Falconer said something gentle to her.

'Will he ever come again?' she sobbed.

'Who?' asked Falconer.

'Him--Jesus Christ. I've heard tell, I think, that he was to come
again some day.'

'Why do you ask?'

'Because--' she said, with a fresh burst of tears, which rendered
the words that followed unintelligible. But she recovered herself
in a few moments, and, as if finishing her sentence, put her hand up
to her poor, thin, colourless hair, and said,

'My hair ain't long enough to wipe his feet.'

'Do you know what he would say to you, my girl?' Falconer asked.

'No. What would he say to me? He would speak to me, would he?'

'He would say: Thy sins are forgiven thee.'

'Would he, though? Would he?' she cried, starting up. 'Take me to
him--take me to him. Oh! I forgot. He's dead. But he will come
again, won't he? He was crucified four times, you know, and he must
ha' come four times for that. Would they crucify him again, sir?'

'No, they wouldn't crucify him now--in England at least. They would
only laugh at him, shake their heads at what he told them, as much
as to say it wasn't true, and sneer and mock at him in some of the

'Oh dear! I've been very wicked.'

'But you won't be so any more.'

'No, no, no. I won't, I won't, I won't.'

She talked hurriedly, almost wildly. The coarse old woman tapped
her forehead with her finger. Falconer took the girl's hand.

'What is your name?' he said.


'What more?'

'Nothing more.'

'Well, Nelly,' said Falconer.

'How kind of you to call me Nelly!' interrupted the poor girl. 'They
always calls me Nell, just.'

'Nelly,' repeated Falconer, 'I will send a lady here to-morrow to
take you away with her, if you like, and tell you how you must do to
find Jesus.--People always find him that want to find him.'

The elderly woman with the rough voice, who had not spoken since he
whispered to her, now interposed with a kind of cowed fierceness.

'Don't go putting humbug into my child's head now, Mr.
Falconer--'ticing her away from her home. Everybody knows my Nell's
been an idiot since ever she was born. Poor child!'

'I ain't your child,' cried the girl, passionately. 'I ain't
nobody's child.'

'You are God's child,' said Falconer, who stood looking on with his
eyes shining, but otherwise in a state of absolute composure.

'Am I? Am I? You won't forget to send for me, sir?'

'That I won't,' he answered.

She turned instantly towards the woman, and snapped her fingers in
her face.

'I don't care that for you,' she cried. 'You dare to touch me now,
and I'll bite you.'

'Come, come, Nelly, you mustn't be rude,' said Falconer.

'No, sir, I won't no more, leastways to nobody but she. It's she
makes me do all the wicked things, it is.'

She snapped her fingers in her face again, and then burst out

'She will leave you alone now, I think,' said Falconer. 'She knows
it will be quite as well for her not to cross me.'

This he said very significantly, as he turned to the door, where he
bade them a general good-night. When we reached the street, I was
too bewildered to offer any remark. Falconer was the first to

'It always comes back upon me, as if I had never known it before,
that women like some of those were of the first to understand our

'Some of them wouldn't have understood him any more than the
Pharisee, though.'

'I'm not so sure of that. Of course there are great differences.
There are good and bad amongst them as in every class. But one
thing is clear to me, that no indulgence of passion destroys the
spiritual nature so much as respectable selfishness.'

'I am afraid you will not get society to agree with you,' I said,

'I have no wish that society should agree with me; for if it did, it
would be sure to do so upon the worst of principles. It is better
that society should be cruel, than that it should call the horrible
thing a trifle: it would know nothing between.'

Through the city--though it was only when we crossed one of the main
thoroughfares that I knew where we were--we came into the region of
Bethnal Green. From house to house till it grew very late, Falconer
went, and I went with him. I will not linger on this part of our
wanderings. Where I saw only dreadful darkness, Falconer always
would see some glimmer of light. All the people into whose houses
we went knew him. They were all in the depths of poverty. Many of
them were respectable. With some of them he had long talks in
private, while I waited near. At length he said,

'I think we had better be going home, Mr. Gordon. You must be

'I am, rather,' I answered. 'But it doesn't matter, for I have
nothing to do to-morrow.'

'We shall get a cab, I dare say, before we go far.'

'Not for me. I am not so tired, but that I would rather walk,' I

'Very well,' he returned. 'Where do you live?'

I told him.

'I will take you the nearest way.'

'You know London marvellously.'

'Pretty well now,' he answered.

We were somewhere near Leather Lane about one o'clock. Suddenly we
came upon two tiny children standing on the pavement, one on each
side of the door of a public-house. They could not have been more
than two and three. They were sobbing a little--not much. The tiny
creatures stood there awfully awake in sleeping London, while even
their own playmates were far off in the fairyland of dreams.

'This is the kind of thing,' I said, 'that makes me doubt whether
there be a God in heaven.'

'That is only because he is down here,' answered Falconer, 'taking
such good care of us all that you can't see him. There is not a
gin-palace, or yet lower hell in London, in which a man or woman can
be out of God. The whole being love, there is nothing for you to set
it against and judge it by. So you are driven to fancies.'

The house was closed, but there was light above the door. We went
up to the children, and spoke to them, but all we could make out was
that mammie was in there. One of them could not speak at all.
Falconer knocked at the door. A good-natured-looking Irishwoman
opened it a little way and peeped out.

'Here are two children crying at your door, ma'am,' said Falconer.

'Och, the darlin's! they want their mother.'

'Do you know her, then?'

'True for you, and I do. She's a mighty dacent woman in her way
when the drink's out uv her, and very kind to the childher; but
oncet she smells the dhrop o' gin, her head's gone intirely. The
purty craytures have waked up, an' she not come home, and they've
run out to look after her.'

Falconer stood a moment as if thinking what would be best. The
shriek of a woman rang through the night.

'There she is!' said the Irishwoman. 'For God's sake don't let her
get a hould o' the darlints. She's ravin' mad. I seen her try to
kill them oncet.'

The shrieks came nearer and nearer, and after a few moments the
woman appeared in the moonlight, tossing her arms over her head, and
screaming with a despair for which she yet sought a defiant
expression. Her head was uncovered, and her hair flying in tangles;
her sleeves were torn, and her gaunt arms looked awful in the
moonlight. She stood in the middle of the street, crying again and
again, with shrill laughter between, 'Nobody cares for me, and I
care for nobody! Ha! ha! ha!'

'Mammie! mammie!' cried the elder of the children, and ran towards

The woman heard, and rushed like a fury towards the child. Falconer
too ran, and caught up the child. The woman gave a howl and rushed
towards the other. I caught up that one. With a last shriek, she
dashed her head against the wall of the public-house, dropped on the
pavement, and lay still.

Falconer set the child down, lifted the wasted form in his arms, and
carried it into the house. The face was blue as that of a strangled
corpse. She was dead.

'Was she a married woman?' Falconer asked.

'It's myself can't tell you sir,' the Irishwoman answered. 'I never
saw any boy with her.'

'Do you know where she lived?'

'No, sir. Somewhere not far off, though. The children will know.'

But they stood staring at their mother, and we could get nothing out
of them. They would not move from the corpse.

'I think we may appropriate this treasure-trove,' said Falconer,
turning at last to me; and as he spoke, he took the eldest in his
arms. Then, turning to the woman, he gave her a card, saying, 'If
any inquiry is made about them, there is my address.--Will you take
the other, Mr. Gordon?'

I obeyed. The children cried no more. After traversing a few
streets, we found a cab, and drove to a house in Queen Square,

Falconer got out at the door of a large house, and rung the bell;
then got the children out, and dismissed the cab. There we stood in
the middle of the night, in a silent, empty square, each with a
child in his arms. In a few minutes we heard the bolts being
withdrawn. The door opened, and a tall graceful form wrapped in a
dressing-gown, appeared.

'I have brought you two babies, Miss St. John,' said Falconer. 'Can
you take them?'

'To be sure I can,' she answered, and turned to lead the way. 'Bring
them in.'

We followed her into a little back room. She put down her candle,
and went straight to the cupboard, whence she brought a sponge-cake,
from which she cut a large piece for each of the children.

'What a mercy they are, Robert,--those little gates in the face!
Red Lane leads direct to the heart,' she said, smiling, as if she
rejoiced in the idea of taming the little wild angelets. 'Don't you
stop. You are tired enough, I am sure. I will wake my maid, and
we'll get them washed and put to bed at once.'

She was closing the door, when Falconer turned.

'Oh! Miss St. John,' he said, 'I was forgetting. Could you go down
to No. 13 in Soap Lane--you know it, don't you?'

'Yes. Quite well.'

'Ask for a girl called Nell--a plain, pock-marked young girl--and
take her away with you.'

'When shall I go?'

'To-morrow morning. But I shall be in. Don't go till you see me.

We took our leave without more ado.

'What a lady-like woman to be the matron of an asylum!' I said.

Falconer gave a little laugh.

'That is no asylum. It is a private house.'

'And the lady?'

'Is a lady of private means,' he answered, 'who prefers Bloomsbury
to Belgravia, because it is easier to do noble work in it. Her
heaven is on the confines of hell.'

'What will she do with those children?'

'Kiss them and wash them and put them to bed.'

'And after that?'

'Give them bread and milk in the morning.'

'And after that?'

'Oh! there's time enough. We'll see. There's only one thing she
won't do.'

'What is that?'

'Turn them out again.'

A pause followed, I cogitating.

'Are you a society, then?' I asked at length.

'No. At least we don't use the word. And certainly no other society
would acknowledge us.'

'What are you, then?'

'Why should we be anything, so long as we do our work?'

'Don't you think there is some affectation in refusing a name?'

'Yes, if the name belongs to you? Not otherwise.'

'Do you lay claim to no epithet of any sort?'

'We are a church, if you like. There!'

'Who is your clergyman?'


'Where do you meet?'


'What are your rules, then?'

'We have none.'

'What makes you a church?'

'Divine Service.'

'What do you mean by that?'

'The sort of thing you have seen to-night.'

'What is your creed?'

'Christ Jesus.'

'But what do you believe about him?'

'What we can. We count any belief in him--the smallest--better than
any belief about him--the greatest--or about anything else besides.
But we exclude no one.'

'How do you manage without?'

'By admitting no one.'

'I cannot understand you.'

'Well, then: we are an undefined company of people, who have grown
into human relations with each other naturally, through one
attractive force--love for human beings, regarding them as human
beings only in virtue of the divine in them.'

'But you must have some rules,' I insisted.

'None whatever. They would cause us only trouble. We have nothing
to take us from our work. Those that are most in earnest, draw most
together; those that are on the outskirts have only to do nothing,
and they are free of us. But we do sometimes ask people to help
us--not with money.'

'But who are the we?'

'Why you, if you will do anything, and I and Miss St. John and
twenty others--and a great many more I don't know, for every one is
a centre to others. It is our work that binds us together.'

'Then when that stops you drop to pieces.'

'Yes, thank God. We shall then die. There will be no corporate
body--which means a bodied body, or an unsouled body, left behind to
simulate life, and corrupt, and work no end of disease. We go to
ashes at once, and leave no corpse for a ghoul to inhabit and make a
vampire of. When our spirit is dead, our body is vanished.'

'Then you won't last long.'

'Then we oughtn't to last long.'

'But the work of the world could not go on so.'

'We are not the life of the world. God is. And when we fail, he
can and will send out more and better labourers into his
harvest-field. It is a divine accident by which we are thus

'But surely the church must be otherwise constituted.'

'My dear sir, you forget: I said we were a church, not the church.'

'Do you belong to the Church of England?'

'Yes, some of us. Why should we not? In as much as she has
faithfully preserved the holy records and traditions, our
obligations to her are infinite. And to leave her would be to
quarrel, and start a thousand vermiculate questions, as Lord Bacon
calls them, for which life is too serious in my eyes. I have no
time for that.'

'Then you count the Church of England the Church?' 'Of England, yes;
of the universe, no: that is constituted just like ours, with the
living working Lord for the heart of it.'

'Will you take me for a member?'


'Will you not, if--?'

'You may make yourself one if you will. I will not speak a word to
gain you. I have shown you work. Do something, and you are of
Christ's Church.'

We were almost at the door of my lodging, and I was getting very
weary in body, and indeed in mind, though I hope not in heart.
Before we separated, I ventured to say,

'Will you tell me why you invited me to come and see you? Forgive
my presumption, but you seemed to seek acquaintance with me,
although you did make me address you first.'

He laughed gently, and answered in the words of the ancient

'The moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.'

Without another word, he shook hands with me, and left me. Weary as
I was, I stood in the street until I could hear his footsteps no



One day, as Falconer sat at a late breakfast, Shargar burst into his
room. Falconer had not even known that he was coming home, for he
had outstripped the letter he had sent. He had his arm in a sling,
which accounted for his leave.

'Shargar!' cried Falconer, starting up in delight.

'Major Shargar, if you please. Give me all my honours, Robert,'
said Moray, presenting his left hand.

'I congratulate you, my boy. Well, this is delightful! But you are

'Bullet--broken--that's all. It's nearly right again. I'll tell
you about it by and by. I am too full of something else to talk
about trifles of that sort. I want you to help me.'

He then rushed into the announcement that he had fallen desperately
in love with a lady who had come on board with her maid at Malta,
where she had been spending the winter. She was not very young,
about his own age, but very beautiful, and of enchanting address.
How she could have remained so long unmarried he could not think.
It could not be but that she had had many offers. She was an
heiress, too, but that Shargar felt to be a disadvantage for him.
All the progress he could yet boast of was that his attentions had
not been, so far as he could judge, disagreeable to her. Robert
thought even less of the latter fact than Shargar himself, for he
did not believe there were many women to whom Shargar's attentions
would be disagreeable: they must always be simple and manly. What
was more to the point, she had given him her address in London, and
he was going to call upon her the next day. She was on a visit to
Lady Janet Gordon, an elderly spinster, who lived in Park-street.

'Are you quite sure she's not an adventuress, Shargar?'

'It's o' no mainner o' use to tell ye what I'm sure or no sure o',
Robert, in sic a case. But I'll manage, somehoo, 'at ye sall see
her yersel', an' syne I'll speir back yer ain queston at ye.'

'Weel, hae ye tauld her a' aboot yersel'?'

'No!' answered Shargar, growing suddenly pale. 'I never thocht aboot
that. But I had no richt, for a' that passed, to intrude mysel'
upo' her to that extent.'

'Weel, I reckon ye're richt. Yer wounds an' yer medals ought to
weigh weel against a' that. There's this comfort in 't, that gin
she bena richt weel worthy o' ye, auld frien', she winna tak ye.'

Shargar did not seem to see the comfort of it. He was depressed for
the remainder of the day. In the morning he was in wild spirits
again. Just before he started, however, he said, with an expression
of tremulous anxiety,

'Oucht I to tell her a' at ance--already--aboot--aboot my mither?'

'I dinna say that. Maybe it wad be equally fair to her and to
yersel' to lat her ken ye a bit better afore ye do that.--We'll
think that ower.--Whan ye gang doon the stair, ye'll see a bit
brougham at the door waitin' for ye. Gie the coachman ony orders ye
like. He's your servant as lang 's ye're in London. Commit yer way
to the Lord, my boy.'

Though Shargar did not say much, he felt strengthened by Robert's
truth to meet his fate with something of composure. But it was not
to be decided that day. Therein lay some comfort.

He returned in high spirits still. He had been graciously received
both by Miss Hamilton and her hostess--a kind-hearted old lady, who
spoke Scotch with the pure tone of a gentlewoman, he said--a treat
not to be had once in a twelvemonth. She had asked him to go to
dinner in the evening, and to bring his friend with him. Robert,
however, begged him to make his excuse, as he had an engagement
in--a very different sort of place.

When Shargar returned, Robert had not come in. He was too excited
to go to bed, and waited for him. It was two o'clock before he came
home. Shargar told him there was to be a large party at Lady
Patterdale's the next evening but one, and Lady Janet had promised
to procure him an invitation.

The next morning Robert went to see Mary St. John, and asked if she
knew anything of Lady Patterdale, and whether she could get him an
invitation. Miss St. John did not know her, but she thought she
could manage it for him. He told her all about Shargar, for whose
sake he wished to see Miss Hamilton before consenting to be
introduced to her. Miss St. John set out at once, and Falconer
received a card the next day. When the evening came, he allowed
Shargar to set out alone in his brougham, and followed an hour later
in a hansom.

When he reached the house, the rooms were tolerably filled, and as
several parties had arrived just before him, he managed to enter
without being announced. After a little while he caught sight of
Shargar. He stood alone, almost in a corner, with a strange, rather
raised expression in his eyes. Falconer could not see the object to
which they were directed. Certainly, their look was not that of
love. He made his way up to him and laid his hand on his arm.
Shargar betrayed no little astonishment when he saw him.

'You here, Robert!' he said.

'Yes, I'm here. Have you seen her yet? Is she here?'

'Wha do ye think 's speakin' till her this verra minute? Look
there!' Shargar said in a low voice, suppressed yet more to hide
his excitement.

Following his directions, Robert saw, amidst a little group of
gentlemen surrounding a seated lady, of whose face he could not get
a peep, a handsome elderly man, who looked more fashionable than his
years justified, and whose countenance had an expression which he
felt repulsive. He thought he had seen him before, but Shargar gave
him no time to come to a conclusion of himself.

'It's my brither Sandy, as sure 's deith!' he said; 'and he's been
hingin' aboot her ever sin' she cam in. But I dinna think she likes
him a'thegither by the leuk o' her.'

'What for dinna ye gang up till her yersel', man? I wadna stan'
that gin 'twas me.'

'I'm feared 'at he ken me. He's terrible gleg. A' the Morays are
gleg, and yon marquis has an ee like a hawk.'

'What does 't maitter? Ye hae dune naething to be ashamed o' like

'Ay; but it's this. I wadna hae her hear the trowth aboot me frae
that boar's mou' o' his first. I wad hae her hear 't frae my ain,
an' syne she canna think I meant to tak her in.'

At this moment there was a movement in the group. Shargar,
receiving no reply, looked round at Robert. It was now Shargar's
turn to be surprised at his expression.

'Are ye seein' a vraith, Robert?' he said. 'What gars ye leuk like
that, man?'

'Oh!' answered Robert, recovering himself, 'I thought I saw some one
I knew. But I'm not sure. I'll tell you afterwards. We've been
talking too earnestly. People are beginning to look at us.'

So saying, he moved away towards the group of which the marquis
still formed one. As he drew near he saw a piano behind Miss
Hamilton. A sudden impulse seized him, and he yielded to it. He
made his way to the piano, and seating himself, began to play very
softly--so softly that the sounds could scarcely be heard beyond the
immediate neighbourhood of the instrument. There was no change on
the storm of talk that filled the room. But in a few minutes a face
white as a shroud was turned round upon him from the group in front,
like the moon dawning out of a cloud. He stopped at once, saying to
himself, 'I was right;' and rising, mingled again with the crowd. A
few minutes after, he saw Shargar leading Miss Hamilton out of the
room, and Lady Janet following. He did not intend to wait his
return, but got near the door, that he might slip out when he should
re-enter. But Shargar did not return. For, the moment she reached
the fresh air, Miss Hamilton was so much better that Lady Janet,
whose heart was as young towards young people as if she had never
had the unfortunate love affair tradition assigned her, asked him to
see them home, and he followed them into her carriage. Falconer
left a few minutes after, anxious for quiet that he might make up
his mind as to what he ought to do. Before he had walked home, he
had resolved on the next step. But not wishing to see Shargar yet,
and at the same time wanting to have a night's rest, he went home
only to change his clothes, and betook himself to a hotel in Covent

He was at Lady Janet's door by ten o'clock the next morning, and
sent in his card to Miss Hamilton. He was shown into the
drawing-room, where she came to him.

'May I presume on old acquaintance?' he asked, holding out his hand.

She looked in his face quietly, took his hand, pressed it warmly,
and said,

'No one has so good a right, Mr. Falconer. Do sit down.'

He placed a chair for her, and obeyed.

After a moment's silence on both sides:

'Are you aware, Miss--?' he said and hesitated.

'Miss Hamilton,' she said with a smile. 'I was Miss Lindsay when you
knew me so many years ago. I will explain presently.'

Then with an air of expectation she awaited the finish of his

'Are you aware, Miss Hamilton, that I am Major Moray's oldest

'I am quite aware of it, and delighted to know it. He told me so
last night.'

Somewhat dismayed at this answer, Falconer resumed,

'Did Major Moray likewise communicate with you concerning his own

'He did. He told me all.'

Falconer was again silent for some moments.

'Shall I be presuming too far if I venture to conclude that my
friend will not continue his visits?'

'On the contrary,' she answered, with the same delicate blush that
in old times used to overspread the lovely whiteness of her face, 'I
expect him within half-an-hour.'

'Then there is no time to be lost,' thought Falconer.

'Without presuming to express any opinion of my own,' he said
quietly, 'a social code far less severe than that which prevails in
England, would take for granted that an impassable barrier existed
between Major Moray and Miss Hamilton.'

'Do not suppose, Mr. Falconer, that I could not meet Major Moray's
honesty with equal openness on my side.'

Falconer, for the first time almost in his life, was incapable of
speech from bewilderment. But Miss Hamilton did not in the least
enjoy his perplexity, and made haste to rescue both him and herself.
With a blush that was now deep as any rose, she resumed,

'But I owe you equal frankness, Mr. Falconer. There is no barrier
between Major Moray and myself but the foolish--no,
wicked--indiscretion of an otherwise innocent and ignorant girl.
Listen, Mr. Falconer: under the necessity of the circumstances you
will not misjudge me if I compel myself to speak calmly. This, I
trust, will be my final penance. I thought Lord Rothie was going to
marry me. To do him justice, he never said so. Make what excuse
for my folly you can. I was lost in a mist of vain imaginations. I
had had no mother to teach me anything, Mr. Falconer, and my father
never suspected the necessity of teaching me anything. I was very
ill on the passage to Antwerp, and when I began to recover a little,
I found myself beginning to doubt both my own conduct and his
lordship's intentions. Possibly the fact that he was not quite so
kind to me in my illness as I had expected, and that I felt hurt in
consequence, aided the doubt. Then the thought of my father
returning and finding that I had left him, came and burned in my
heart like fire. But what was I to do? I had never been out of
Aberdeen before. I did not know even a word of French. I was
altogether in Lord Rothie's power. I thought I loved him, but it
was not much of love that sea-sickness could get the better of.
With a heart full of despair I went on shore. The captain slipped
a note into my hand. I put it in my pocket, but pulled it out with
my handkerchief in the street. Lord Rothie picked it up. I begged
him to give it me, but he read it, and then tore it in pieces. I
entered the hotel, as wretched as girl could well be. I began to
dislike him. But during dinner he was so kind and attentive that I
tried to persuade myself that my fears were fanciful. After dinner
he took me out. On the stairs we met a lady whose speech was
Scotch. Her maid called her Lady Janet. She looked kindly at me as
I passed. I thought she could read my face. I remembered
afterwards that Lord Rothie turned his head away when we met her.
We went into the cathedral. We were standing under that curious
dome, and I was looking up at its strange lights, when down came a
rain of bell-notes on the roof over my head. Before the first tune
was over, I seemed to expect the second, and then the third, without
thinking how I could know what was coming; but when they ended with
the ballad of the Witch Lady, and I lifted up my head and saw that I
was not by my father's fireside, but in Antwerp Cathedral with Lord
Rothie, despair filled me with a half-insane resolution. Happily
Lord Rothie was at some little distance talking to a priest about
one of Rubens's pictures. I slipped unseen behind the nearest
pillar, and then flew from the church. How I got to the hotel I do
not know, but I did reach it. 'Lady Janet,' was all I could say.
The waiter knew the name, and led me to her room. I threw myself
on my knees, and begged her to save me. She assured me no one
should touch me. I gasped 'Lord Rothie,' and fainted. When I came
to myself--but I need not tell you all the particulars. Lady Janet
did take care of me. Till last night I never saw Lord Rothie again.
I did not acknowledge him, but he persisted in talking to me,
behave as I would, and I saw well enough that he knew me.'

Falconer took her hand and kissed it.

'Thank God,' he said. 'That spire was indeed the haunt of angels as
I fancied while I played upon those bells.'

'I knew it was you--that is, I was sure of it when I came to think
about it; but at the time I took it for a direct message from
heaven, which nobody heard but myself.'

'It was such none the less that I was sent to deliver it,' said
Falconer. 'I little thought during my imprisonment because of it,

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