Part 9 out of 9
fancy seized her that Hester had really been in that carriage and had
turned back at their very door. So that again Richard, arriving weary and
heart-stricken, would be disappointed. Mary's bitterness grew.
But all that could be done was to listen to every sound without, in the
hope of catching something else than the roaring of the wind, and to give
the rein to speculation and dismay.
Catharine sat waiting, in her chair, the tears welling silently. It
touched her profoundly that Hester, in her sudden despair, should have
thought of coming to her; though apparently it was a project she had not
carried out. All her deep heart of compassion yearned over the lost,
unhappy one. Oh, to bring her comfort!--to point her to the only help and
hope in the arms of an all-pitying God. Catharine knew much more of
Meryon's history and antecedents--from Meynell--than did Mary. She was
convinced that the marriage, if there had been a marriage, had been a
bogus one, and that the disgrace was irreparable. But in her stern,
rich nature, now that the culprit had turned from her sin, there was not
a thought of condemnation; only a yearning pity, an infinite tenderness.
At last toward nine o'clock there were steps on the garden path. Mary
flew to the door. In the porch there stood the old shepherd from the
Bridge Farm. His hat, beard, and shoulders were heavy with snow, and his
face shone like a red wrinkled apple, in the light of the hall lamp.
"Beg your pardon, miss, but I've just coom from helpin' Tyson to get his
sheep in. Varra careless of him to ha' left it so long!--aw mine wor safe
i't' fold by fower o'clock. An' I thowt, miss, as I'd mak bold, afore
goin' back to t' farm, to coom an' ast yo, if t' yoong leddy got safe
hoam this afternoon? I wor a bit worritted, for I thowt I saw her on t'
Mardale Head path, juist afther I got hoam, from t' field abuve t' Bridge
Farm, an' it wor noan weather for a stranger, miss, yo unnerstan', to be
oot on t' fells, and it gettin' so black--"
"What young lady?" cried Mary. "Oh, come in, please."
And she drew him hurriedly into the sitting-room, where Catharine
had already sprung to her feet in terror. There they questioned him.
Yes--they had been expecting a lady. When had he seen her?--the young
lady he spoke of? What was she like? In what direction had she gone? He
answered their questions as clearly as he could, his own honest face
growing steadily longer and graver.
And all the time he carried, unconsciously, something heavy in his hand,
on the top of which the snow had settled. Presently Mary perceived it.
"Sit down, please!" she pushed a chair toward him. "You must be tired
out! And let me take that--"
She held out her hand. The old man looked down--recollecting.
"That's noan o' mine, miss. I--"
Catharine cried out--
"It's hers! It's Hester's!"
She took the bag from Mary, and shook the snow from it. It was a small
dressing-bag of green leather and on it appeared the initials--"H. F.-W."
They looked at each other speechless. The old man hastened to explain
that on opening the gate which led to the house from the lane his foot
had stumbled against something on the path. By the light of his lantern
he had seen it was a bag of some sort, had picked it up and brought it
"She _was_ in the carriage!" said Mary, under her breath, "and must have
just pushed this inside the gate before--"
Before she went to her death? Was that what would have to be added? For
there was horror in both their minds. The mountains at the head of Long
Whindale run up to no great height, but there are plenty of crags on them
with a sheer drop of anything from fifty to a hundred feet. Ten or twenty
feet would be quite enough to disable an exhausted girl. Five hours since
she was last seen!--and since the storm began; four hours, at least,
since thick darkness had descended on the valley.
"We must do something at once." Catharine addressed the old man in quick,
resolute tones. "We must get a party together."
But as she spoke there were further sounds outside--of trampling feet and
voices--vying with the storm. Mary ran into the hall. Two figures
appeared in the porch in the light of the lamp as she held it up, with a
third behind them, carrying luggage. In front stood Meynell, and an
apparently fainting woman, clinging to and supported by his arm.
"Help me with this lady, please!" said Meynell, peremptorily, not
recognizing who it was holding the light. "This last little climb has
been too much for her. Alice!--just a few steps more!"
And bending over his charge, he lifted the frail form over the threshold,
and saw, as he did so, that he was placing her in Mary's arms.
"She is absolutely worn out," he said, drawing quick breath, while all
his face relaxed in a sudden, irrepressible joy. "But she would come."
Then, in a lower voice--"Is Hester here?" Mary shook her head, and
something in her eyes warned him of fresh calamity. He stooped suddenly
to look at Alice, and perceived that she was quite unconscious. He and
Mary, between them, raised her and carried her into the sitting-room.
Then, while Mary ministered to her, Meynell grasped Catharine's
hand--with the brusque question--
"What has happened?"
Catharine beckoned to old David, the shepherd, and she, with David and
Meynell, went across, out of hearing, into the tiny dining-room of the
cottage. Meanwhile the horses and man who had brought the travellers from
Whinborough had to be put up for the night, for the man would not venture
the return journey.
Meynell had soon heard what there was to tell. He himself was gray with
fatigue and sleeplessness; but there was no time to think of that.
"What men can we get?" he asked of the shepherd.
Old David ruminated, and finally suggested the two sons of the farmer
across the lane, his own master, the young tenant of the Bridge Farm, and
the cowman from the same farm.
"And the Lord knaws I'd goa wi you myself, sir"--said the fine-featured
old man, a touch of trouble in his blue eyes--"for I feel soomhow as
though there were a bit o' my fault in it. But we've had a heavy job on
t' fells awready, an I should be noa good to you."
He went over to the neighbouring farm, to recruit some young men, and
presently returned with them, the driver, also, from Whinborough, a
stalwart Westmoreland lad, eager to help.
Meanwhile Meynell had snatched some food at Catharine's urgent entreaty,
and had stood a moment in the sitting-room, his hand in Mary's, looking
down upon the just reviving Alice.
"She's been a plucky woman," he said, with emotion; "but she's about at
the end of her tether." And in a few brief sentences he described the
agitated pursuit of the last fortnight; the rapid journeys, prompted now
by this clue, now by that; the alternate hopes and despairs; with no real
information of any kind, till Hester's telegram, sent originally to
Upcote and reforwarded, had reached Meynell in Paris, just as they had
returned thither for a fresh consultation with the police at
As the sound of men's feet in the kitchen broke in upon the hurried
narrative, and Meynell was leaving the room, Alice opened her eyes.
"Hester?" The pale lips just breathed the name.
"We've heard of her." Meynell stooped to the questioner. "It's a real
clue this time. She's not far away. But don't ask any more now. Let Mrs.
Elsmere take you to bed--and there'll be more news in the morning."
She made a feeble sign of assent.
A quarter of an hour later all was ready, and Mary stood again in the
porch, holding the lamp high for the departure of the rescuers. There
were five men with lanterns, ropes, and poles, laden, besides, with
blankets, and everything else that Catharine's practical sense could
suggest. Old David would go with the rest as far as the Bridge Farm.
The snow was still coming down in a stealthy and abundant fall, but the
wind showed some signs of abating.
"They'll find it easier goin', past t' bridge, than it would ha' been an
hour since," said old David to Mary, pitying the white anxiety of her
face. She thanked him with a smile, and then while he marched ahead, she
put down the lamp and leant her head a moment against Meynell's shoulder,
and he kissed her hair.
Down went the little procession to the main road. Through the lane the
lights wavered, and presently, standing at the kitchen window, Catharine
and Mary could watch them dancing up the dale, now visible, now
vanishing. It must be at least, and at best, two or three hours before
the party reappeared; it might be much more. They turned from useless
speculation to give all their thoughts to Alice Puttenham.
Too exhausted to speak or think, she was passive in their hands. She was
soon in bed, in a deep sleep, and Mary, having induced her mother to lie
down in the sitting-room, and having made up fires throughout the
house, sent the servants to bed, and herself began her watch in Alice
Dreary and long, the night passed away. Once or twice through the waning
storm Mary heard the deep bell of the little church, tolling the hours;
once or twice she went hurriedly downstairs thinking there were steps
in the garden, only to meet her mother in the hall, on the same bootless
errand. At last, worn with thinking and praying, she fell fitfully
asleep, and woke to find moonlight shining through the white blind in
Alice Puttenham's room. She drew aside the blind and saw with a shock of
surprise that the storm was over; the valley lay pure white under a
waning moon just dipping to the western fells; the clouds were upfurling;
and only the last echoes of the gale were dying through the bare,
snow-laden trees that fringed the stream. It was four o'clock. Six hours,
since the rescue party had started. Alack!--they must have had far to
Suddenly--out of the dark bosom of the valley, lights emerged. Mary
sprang to her feet. Yes! it was they--it was Richard returning.
One look at the bed, where the delicate pinched face still lay high on
the pillows, drenched in a sleep which was almost a swoon, and Mary stole
out of the room.
There was time to complete their preparations and renew the fires. When
Catharine softly unlatched the front door, everything was ready--warm
blankets, hot milk, hot water bottles. But now they hardly dared
speak to each other; dread kept them dumb. Nearer and nearer came the
sound of feet and lowered voices. Soon they could hear the swing of the
gate leading into the garden. Four men entered, carrying something.
Meynell walked in front with the lantern.
As he saw the open door, he hurried forward. They read what he had to say
in his haggard look before he spoke.
"We found her a long way up the pass. She has had a bad fall--but she is
alive. That's all one can say. The exposure alone might have killed her.
She hasn't spoken--not a word. That good fellow"--he nodded toward the
Whinborough lad who had brought them from, the station--"will take one of
his horses and go for the doctor. We shall get him here in a couple of
Silently they brought her in, the stalwart, kindly men, they mounted the
cottage stairs, and on Mary' bed they laid her down.
O crushed and wounded youth! The face, drawn and fixed in pain, was
marble-cold and marble-white; the delicate mire-stained hands hung
helpless. Masses of drenched hair fell about the neck and bosom; and
there was a wound on the temple which had been bandaged, but was now
bleeding afresh. Catharine bent over her in an anguish, feeling for pulse
and heart. Meynell, whispering, pointed out that the right leg was broken
below the knee. He himself had put it in some rough splints, made out of
the poles the shepherds were carrying.
Both Catharine and Mary had ambulance training, and, helped by their two
maids, they did all they could. They cut away the soaked clothes. They
applied warmth in every possible form; they got down some spoonfuls of
warm milk and brandy, dreading always to hear the first sounds of
consciousness and pain.
They came at last--the low moans of one coming terribly back to life.
Meynell returned to the room, and knelt by her.
"Hester--dear child!--you are quite safe--we are all here--the doctor
will be coming directly."
His tone was tender as a woman's. His ghostly face, disfigured by
exhaustion, showed him absorbed in pity. Mary, standing near, longed to
kneel down by him, and weep; but there was an austere sense that not even
she must interrupt the moment of recognition.
At last it came. Hester opened her eyes--
"Uncle Richard?--Is that Uncle Richard?"
A long silence, broken by moaning, while Meynell knelt there, watching
her, sometimes whispering to her.
At last she said, "I couldn't face you all. I'm dying." She moved her
right hand restlessly. "Give me something for this pain--I--I can't stand
"Dear Hester--can you bear it a little longer? We will do all we can. We
have sent for the doctor. He has a motor. He will be here very soon."
"I don't want to live. I want to stop the pain. Uncle Richard!"
"Yes, dear Hester."
"I hate Philip--now."
"It's best not to talk of him, dear. You want all your strength."
"No--I must. There's not much time. I suppose--I've--I've made you very
"Yes--but now we have you again--our dear, dear Hester."
"You can't care. And I--can't say--I'm sorry. Don't you remember?"
His face quivered. He understood her reference to the long fits of
naughtiness of her childhood, when neither nurse, nor governess, nor
"Aunt Alice" could ever get out of her the stereotyped words "I'm sorry."
But he could not trust himself to speak. And it seemed as though she
understood his silence, for she feebly moved her uninjured hand toward
him; and he raised it to his lips.
"Did I fall--a long way? I don't recollect--anything."
"You had a bad fall, my poor child. Be brave!--the doctor will help you."
He longed to speak to her of her mother, to tell her the truth. It was
borne in upon him that he _must_ tell her--if she was to die; that in the
last strait, Alice's arms must be about her. But the doctor must decide.
Presently, she was a little easier. The warm stimulant dulled the
consciousness which came in gusts.
Once or twice, as she recognized the faces near her, there was a touch of
life, even of mockery. There was a moment when she smiled at Catharine--
"You're sweet. You won't say--'I told you so'!"
In one of the intervals when she seemed to have lapsed again into
unconsciousness Meynell reported something of the search. They had found
her a long distance from the path, at the foot of a steep and rocky
scree, some twenty or thirty feet high, down which she must have slipped
headlong. There she had lain for some eight hours in the storm before
they found her. She neither moved nor spoke when they discovered her, nor
had there been any sign of life, beyond the faint beating of the pulse,
on the journey down.
The pale dawn was breaking when the doctor arrived. His verdict was at
first not without hope. She _might_ live; if there were no internal
injuries of importance. The next few hours would show. He sent his motor
back to Whinborough Cottage Hospital for a couple of nurses, and
prepared, himself, to stay the greater part of the day. He had just gone
downstairs to speak to Meynell, and Catharine was sitting by the bed,
when Hester once more roused herself.
"How that man hurt me!--don't let him come in again."
Then, in a perfectly hard, clear voice, she added imperiously--"I want to
see my mother."
Catharine stooped toward her, in an agitation she found it difficult to
"Dear Hester!--we are sending a telegram as soon as the post-office is
open to Lady Fox-Wilton."
Hester moved her hand impatiently.
"She's not my mother, and I'm glad. Where is--_my mother_?" She laid a
strange, deep emphasis on the word, opening her eyes wide and
threateningly. Catharine understood at once that, in some undiscovered
way, she knew what they had all been striving to keep from her. It was no
time for questioning. Catharine rose quietly.
"She is here, Hester, I will go and tell her."
Leaving one of the maids in charge, Catharine ran down to the doctor, who
gave a reluctant consent, lest more harm should come of refusing the
interview than of granting it. And as Catharine ran up again to Mary's
room she had time to reflect, with self-reproach, on the strange
completeness with which she at any rate had forgotten that frail
ineffectual woman asleep in Mary's room from the moment of Hester's
arrival till now.
But Mary had not forgotten her. When Catharine opened the door, it was to
see a thin, phantom-like figure, standing fully dressed, and leaning on
Mary's arm. Catharine went up to her with tears, and kissed her, holding
her hands close.
"Hester asks for you--for her mother--her real mother. She knows."
"_She knows_?" Alice stood paralyzed a moment, gazing at Catharine. Then
the colour rushed back into her face. "I am coming--I am coming--at
once," she said impetuously. "I am quite strong. Don't help me, please.
And--let me go in alone. I won't do her harm. If you--and Mary--would
stand by the door--I would call in a moment--if--"
They agreed. She went with tottering steps across the landing. On the
threshold, Catharine paused; Mary remained a little behind. Alice went in
and shut the door.
The blinds in Hester's room were up, and the snow-covered fells rising
steeply above the house filled it with a wintry, reflected light; a
dreary light, that a large fire could not dispel. On the white bed
lay Hester, breathing quickly and shallowly; bright colour now in
each sunken cheek. The doctor himself had cut off a great part of her
hair--her glorious hair. The rest fell now in damp golden curls about her
slender neck, beneath the cap-like bandage which hid the forehead and
temples and gave her the look of a young nun. At first sight of her,
Alice knew that she was doomed. Do what she would, she could not restrain
the low cry which the sight tore from the depths of life.
Hester feebly beckoned. Alice came near, and took the right hand in hers,
while Hester smiled, her eyelids fluttering. "Mother!"--she said, so as
scarcely to be heard--and then again--"_Mother_!"
Alice sank down beside her with a sob, and without a word they gazed into
each other's eyes. Slowly Hester's filled with tears. But Alice's were
dry. In her face there was as much ecstasy as anguish. It was the first
look that Hester's _soul_ had ever given her. All the past was in it; and
that strange sense, on both sides, that there was no future.
At last Alice murmured:
"How did you know?"
"Philip told me."
The girl stopped abruptly. It had been on her tongue to say--"It was that
made me go with him."
But she did not say it. And while Alice's mind, rushing miserably over
the past, was trying to piece together some image of what had happened,
Hester began to talk intermittently about the preceding weeks. Alice
tried to stop her; but to thwart her only produced a restless excitement,
and she had her way.
She spoke of Philip with horror, yet with a perfectly clear sense of her
"I needn't have gone--but I would go. There was a devil in me--that
wanted to know. Now I know--too much. I'm glad it's over. This life isn't
worth while--not for me."
So, from these lips of eighteen, came the voice of the world's old
Presently she asked peremptorily for Meynell, and he came to her.
"Uncle Richard, I want to be sure"--she spoke strongly and in her natural
voice--"am I Philip's wife--or--or not? We were married on January 25th,
at the Mairie of the 10th Arrondissement, by a man in a red scarf. We
signed registers and things. Then--when we quarrelled--Philip said--he
wasn't certain about that woman--in Scotland. You might be right. Tell me
the truth, please. Am I--his wife?"
And as the words dropped faintly, the anxiety in her beautiful
death-stricken eyes was strange and startling to see. Through all her
recklessness, her defiance of authority and custom, could be seen at last
the strength of inherited, implanted things; the instinct of a race, a
family, overleaping deviation.
Meynell bent over her steadily, and took her hand in both his own.
"Certainly, you are his wife. Have no anxiety at all about that. My
inquiries all broke down. There was no Scotch marriage."
Hester said nothing for a little; but the look of relief was clear. Alice
on the farther side of the bed dropped her face in her hands. Was it not
only forty-eight hours since, in Paris, Meynell had told her that he had
received conclusive evidence of the Scotch marriage, and that Hester was
merely Philip's victim, not his wife? Passionately her heart thanked him
for the falsehood. She saw clearly that Hester's mortal wounds were not
all bodily. She was dying partly of self-contempt, self-judgment.
Meynell's strong words--his "noble lie"--had lifted, as it were, a
fraction of the moral weight that was destroying her; had made a space--a
freedom, in which the spirit could move.
So much Alice saw; blind meanwhile to the tragic irony of this piteous
stress laid at such a moment, by one so lawless, on the social law!
Thenceforward the poor sufferer was touchingly gentle and amenable.
Morphia had been given her liberally, and the relief was great. When the
nurses came at midday, however, the pulse had already begun to fail. They
could do nothing; and though within call, they left her mainly to those
who loved her.
In the early afternoon she asked suddenly for the Communion, and Meynell
administered it. The three women who were watching her received it with
her. In Catharine's mind, as Meynell's hands brought her the sacred bread
and wine, all thought of religious difference between herself and him had
vanished, burnt away by sheer heat of feeling. There was no difference!
Words became mere transparencies, through which shone the ineffable.
When it was over, Hester opened her eyes--"Uncle Richard!" The voice was
only a whisper now. "You loved my father?"
"I loved him dearly--and you--and your mother--for his sake."
He stooped to kiss her cheek.
"I wonder what it'll be like"--she said, after a moment, with more
strength--"beyond? How strange that--I shall know before you! Uncle
At that the difficult tears blinded him, and he could not reply. But she
was beyond tears, concentrating all the last effort of the mind on the
sheer maintenance of life. Presently she added:
"I don't hate--even Philip now. I--I forget him. Mother!" And again she
clung to her mother's hand, feebly turning her face to be kissed.
Once she opened her eyes when Mary was beside her, and smiled brightly.
"I've been such a trouble, Mary--I've spoilt Uncle Richard's life. But
now you'll have him all the time--and he'll have you. You dear!--Kiss me.
You've got a golden mother. Take care of mine--won't you?--my poor
So the hours wore on. Science was clever and merciful and eased her pain.
Love encompassed her, and when the wintry light failed, her faintly
beating heart failed with it, and all was still....
"Richard!--Richard!--Come with me."
So, with low, tender words, Mary tried to lead him away, after that
trance of silence in which they had all been standing round the dead. He
yielded to her; he was ready to see the doctor and to submit to the
absolute rest enjoined. But already there was something in his aspect
which terrified Mary. Through the night that followed, as she lay awake,
a true instinct told her that the first great wrestle of her life and her
love was close upon her.
On the day following Hester's death an inquest was held in the
dining-room at Burwood. Meynell and old David, the shepherd, stood out
chief among the witnesses.
"This poor lady's name, I understand, sir," said the gray-haired Coroner,
addressing Meynell, when the first preliminaries were over, "was Miss
Hester Fox-Wilton; she was the daughter of the late Sir Ralph Fox-Wilton;
she was under age; and you and Lady Fox-Wilton--who is not here, I am
told, owing to illness--were her guardians?"
Meynell assented. He stood to the right of the Coroner, leaning heavily
on the chair before him. The doctor who had been called in to Hester sat
beside him, and wondered professionally whether the witness would get
"I understand also," the Coroner resumed, "that Miss Fox-Wilton had left
the family in Paris with whom you and Lady Fox-Wilton had placed her,
some three weeks ago, and that you have since been in search of her, in
company I believe with Miss Fox-Wilton's aunt, Miss Alice Puttenham. Miss
Puttenham, I hope, will appear?"
The doctor rose--
"I am strongly of opinion, sir, that, unless for most urgent reasons,
Miss Puttenham should not be called upon. She is in a very precarious
state, in consequence of grief and shock, and I should greatly fear the
results were she to make the effort."
"I shall be able, sir, I think, to give you sufficient information,
without its being necessary to call upon Miss Puttenham."
He went on to give an account, as guarded as he could make it, of
Hester's disappearance from the family with whom she was boarding, of the
anxiety of her relations, and the search that he and Miss Puttenham had
His conscience was often troubled. Vaguely, his mind was pronouncing
itself all the while--"It is time now the truth were known. It is better
it should be known." Hester's death had changed the whole situation. But
he could himself take no step whatever toward disclosure. And he knew
that it was doubtful whether he should or could have advised Alice to
The inquiry went on, the Coroner avoiding the subject of Hester's French
escapade as much as possible. After all there need be--there was--no
question of suicide; only some explanation had to be suggested of the
dressing-bag left within the garden gate, and of the girl's reckless
climb into the fells, against old David's advice, on such an afternoon.
Presently, in the midst of David's evidence, describing his meeting with
Hester by the bridge, the handle of the dining-room door turned. The door
opened a little way and then shut again. Another minute or two passed,
and then the door opened again timidly as though some one were hesitating
outside. The Coroner annoyed, beckoned to a constable standing behind the
witnesses. But before he could reach it, a lady had slowly pushed it
open, and entered the room.
It was Alice Puttenham.
The Coroner looked up, and the doctor rose in astonishment. Alice
advanced to the table, and stood at the farther end from the Coroner,
looking first at him and then at the jury. Her face--emaciated now beyond
all touch of beauty--and the childish overhanging lip quivered as she
tried to speak; but no words came.
"Miss Puttenham, I presume?" said the Coroner. "We were told, madam, that
you were not well enough to give evidence."
Meynell was at her side.
"What do you wish?" he said, in a low voice, as he took her hand.
"I wish to give evidence," she said aloud.
The doctor turned toward the Coroner.
"I think you will agree with me, sir, that as Miss Puttenham has made the
effort, she should give her evidence as soon as possible, and should give
A murmur of assent ran round the table. Over the weather-beaten
Westmoreland faces had passed a sudden wave of animation.
Alice took her seat, and the oath. Meynell sitting opposite to her
covered his face with his hands. He foresaw what she was about to do, and
his heart went out to her.
Everybody at the table bent forward to listen. The two shorthand writers
lifted eager faces.
"May I make a statement?" The thin voice trembled through the room.
The Coroner assured the speaker that the Court was willing and anxious to
hear anything she might have to say.
Alice fixed her eyes on the old man, as though she would thereby shut out
all his surroundings.
"You are inquiring, sir--into the death--of my daughter."
The Coroner made a sudden movement.
"Your daughter, madam? I understood that, this poor young lady was the
daughter of the late Sir Ralph and Lady Fox-Wilton?"
"She was their adopted daughter. Her father was Mr. Neville Flood, and
I--am her mother. Mr. Flood, of Sandford Abbey, died nearly twenty years
ago. He and I were never married. My sister and brother-in-law adopted
the child. She passed always as theirs, and when Sir Ralph died, he
appointed--Mr. Meynell--and my sister her guardians. Mr. Meynell
has always watched over her--and me. Mr. Flood was much attached to him.
He wrote to Mr. Meynell, asking him to help us--just before his death."
She paused a moment, steadying herself by the table.
There was not a sound, not a movement in the room. Only Meynell uncovered
his eyes and tried to meet hers, so as to give her encouragement.
"Last August the nurse who attended me--in my confinement--came
home to Upcote. She made a statement to a gentleman there--a false
statement--and then she died. I wished then to make the truth public--but
Mr. Meynell--as Hester's guardian--and for her sake, as well as mine--did
not wish it. She knew nothing--then; and he was afraid of its effect upon
her. I followed his advice, and took her abroad, in order to protect her
from a bad man who was pursuing her. We did all we could--but we were not
able to protect her. They were married without my knowing--and she went
away with him. Then he--this man--told her--or perhaps he had done it
before, I don't know--who she was. I can only guess how he knew; but he
is Mr. Flood's nephew. My poor child soon found out what kind of man he
was. She tried to escape from him. And because Mrs. Elsmere had been
always very kind to her, she came here. She knew how--"
The voice paused, and then with difficulty shaped its words again.
"She knew that we should grieve so terribly. She shrank from seeing us.
She thought we might be here--and that--partly--made her wander away
again--in despair--when she actually got here. But her death was a pure
accident--that I am sure of. At the last, she tried to get home--to me.
That was the only thing she was conscious of--before she fell. When she
was dying--she told me she knew--I was her mother. And now--that she is
The voice changed and broke--a sudden cry forced its way through--
"Now that she is dead--no one else shall claim her--but me. She's mine
now--my child--forever--only mine!"
She broke off incoherently, bowing her head upon her hands, her slight
shoulders shaken by her sobs.
The room was silent, save for a rather general clearing of throats.
Meynell signalled to the doctor. They both rose and went to her. Meynell
whispered to her.
The Coroner spoke, drawing his handkerchief hastily across his eyes.
"The Court is very grateful to you, Miss Puttenham, for this frank and
brave statement. We tender you our best thanks. There is no need for us
to detain you longer."
She rose, and Meynell led her from the room. Outside was a nurse to whom
he resigned her.
"My dear, dear friend!" Trembling, her eyes met the deep emotion in his.
"That was right--that will bring you help. Aye! you have her now--all,
all your own."
On the day of Hester's burying Long Whindale lay glittering white under a
fitful and frosty sunshine. The rocks and screes with their steep beds of
withered heather made dark scrawls and scratches on the white; the smoke
from the farmhouses rose bluish against the snowy wall of fell; and the
river, amid the silence of the muffled roads and paths, seemed the only
audible thing in the valley.
In the tiny churchyard the new-made grave had been filled in with frozen
earth, and on the sods lay flowers piled there by Rose Flaxman's kind and
busy hands. She and Hugh had arrived from the south that morning.
Another visitor had come from the south, also to lay flowers on that
wintry grave. Stephen Barron's dumb pain was bitter to see. The silence
of spiritual and physical exhaustion in which Meynell had been wrapped
since the morning of the inquest was first penetrated and broken up by
the sight of Stephen's anguish. And in the attempt to comfort the
younger, the elder man laid hold on some returning power for himself.
But he had been hardly hit; and the depth of the wound showed itself
strangely--in a kind of fear of love itself, a fear of Mary! Meynell's
attitude toward her during these days was almost one of shrinking. The
atmosphere between them was electrical; charged with things unspoken, and
a conflict that must be faced.
* * * * *
The day after Hester's funeral the newspapers were full of the sentence
delivered on the preceding day, in the Arches Court, on Meynell and his
co-defendants. A telegram from Darwen the evening before had conveyed
the news to Meynell himself.
The sentence of deprivation _ab officio et beneficio_ in the Church of
England, on the ground of heretical opinion and unauthorized services,
had been expressed by the Dean of Arches in a tone and phraseology of
considerable vehemence. According to him the proceedings of the
Modernists were "as contrary to morality as to law," and he marvelled how
"honest men" could consent to occupy the position of Meynell and his
Notice of appeal to the Privy Council was at once given by the Modernist
counsel, and a flame of discussion arose throughout England.
Meanwhile, on the morning following the publication of the judgment,
Meynell finished a letter, and took it into the dining-room, where Rose
and Mary were sitting. Rose, reading his face, disappeared, and he put
the letter into Mary's hands.
It was addressed to the Bishop of Dunchester. The great gathering in
Dunchester Cathedral, after several postponements to match the delays in
the Court of Arches, was to take place within a fortnight from this date,
and Meynell had been everywhere announced as the preacher of the sermon,
which was to be the battle-cry of the Movement, in the second period of
its history; the period of open revolt, of hot and ardent conflict.
The letter which Mary was invited to read was short. It simply asked that
the writer should be relieved from a task he felt he could not adequately
carry out. He desired to lay it down, not for his own sake, but for the
sake of the cause. "I am not the man, and this is not my job. This
conviction has been borne in upon me during the last few weeks with an
amazing clearness. I will only say that it seems to represent a
command--a prohibition--laid upon me, which I cannot ignore. There are of
course tragic happenings and circumstances connected with it, my dear
lord, on which I will not dwell. The effect of them at present on my mind
is that I wish to retire from a public and prominent part in our great
Movement; at any rate for a time. I shall carry through the Privy Council
appeal; but except for that intend to refuse all public appearance. When
the sentence is confirmed, as of course it will be, it will be best for
me to confine myself to thinking and writing in solitude and behind the
scenes. 'Those also serve who only stand and wait.' The quotation is
hackneyed, but it must serve. Through thought and self-proving, I believe
that in the end I shall help you best. I am not the fighter I thought
I was; the fighter that I ought to be to keep the position that has been
so generously given me. Forgive me for a while if I go into the
wilderness--a rather absurd phrase, however, as you will agree, when
I tell you that I am soon to marry a woman whom I love with my whole
heart. But it applies to my connection with the Modernist Movement, and
to my position as a leader. My old friends and colleagues--many of them
at least--will, I fear, blame the step I am taking. It will seem to them
a mere piece of flinching and cowardice. But each man's soul is in his
own keeping; and he alone can judge his own powers."
The letter then became a quiet discussion of the best man to be chosen in
the writer's stead, and passed on into a review of the general situation
created by the sentence of the Court of Arches.
But of these later pages of the letter Mary realized nothing. She sat
with it in her hands, after she had read the passage which has been
quoted, looking down, her mouth trembling.
Meynell watched her uneasily--then came to sit by her, and took her hand.
"Dearest!--you understand?" he said, entreatingly.
"It is--because of Hester?" She spoke with difficulty.
He assented, and then added--
"But that letter--shall only go with your permission."
She took courage. "Richard, you know so much better than I,
but--Richard!--did you ever neglect Hester?"
He tried to answer her question truly.
"Did you ever fail to love her, and try to help her?"
He drew a long breath.
"But there she lies!" He raised his head. Through the window, on a rocky
slope, half a mile away, could be seen the tiny church of Long Whindale,
and the little graveyard round it.
"It is very possible that I see the thing morbidly"--he turned to her
again with a note of humility, of sad appeal, that struck most poignantly
on the woman's heart--"but I cannot resist it. What use can I be to any
human being as guide, or prophet, or counsellor--if I was so little use
to her? Is there not a kind of hypocrisy--a dismal hypocrisy--in my
claim to teach--or inspire--great multitudes of people--when this one
child--who was given into my care--"
He wrung her hands in his, unable to finish his sentence.
Bright tears stood in her eyes; but she persevered. She struck boldly for
the public, the impersonal note. She set against the tragic appeal of the
dead the equally tragic appeal of the living. She had in her mind the
memory of that London church, with the strained upturned faces, the
"hungry sheep"--girls among them, perhaps, in peril like Hester, men
assailed by the same vile impulses that had made a brute of Philip
Meryon. During the preceding months Mary's whole personality had
developed with great rapidity, after a somewhat taciturn and slowly
ripening youth. The need, enforced upon her by love itself, of asserting
herself even against the mother she adored; the shadow of Meynell's cloud
upon her, and her suffering under it, during the weeks of slander; and
now this rending tragedy at her doors--had tempered anew the naturally
high heart, and firm will. At this critical moment, she saved Meynell
from a fatal step by the capacity she showed of loving his cause, only
next to himself. And, indeed, Meynell was made wholesomely doubtful once
or twice whether it were not in truth his cause she loved in him. For
the sweet breakdowns of love which were always at her lips she banished
by a mighty effort, till she should have won or lost. Thus throughout she
showed herself her mother's daughter--with her father's thoughts.
It was long, however, before she succeeded in making any real impression
upon him. All she could obtain at first was delay, and that Catharine
should be informed.
As soon as that had been done, the position became once more curiously
complex. Here was a woman to whom the whole Modernist Movement was
anathema, driven finally into argument for the purpose of compelling
the Modernist leader, the contriver and general of Modernist victory, to
remain at his post!
For it was part of Catharine's robust character to look upon any pledge,
any accepted responsibility, as something not to be undone by any mere
feeling, however sharp, however legitimate. You had undertaken the
thing, and it must, at all costs, be carried through. That was the
dominant habit of her mind; and there were persons connected with her on
whom the rigidity of it had at times worked harshly.
On this occasion it was no doubt interfered with--(the Spirit of Comedy
would have found a certain high satisfaction in the dilemma)--by the fact
that Meynell's persistence in the course he had entered upon must be,
in her eyes, and _sub specie religionis_, a persistence in heresy and
unbelief. What decided it ultimately, however, was that she was not only
an orthodox believer, but a person of great common sense--and Mary's
Her natural argument was that after the tragic events which had occurred,
and the public reports of them which had appeared, Meynell's abrupt
withdrawal from public life would once more unsettle and confuse the
public mind. If there had been any change in his opinions--
"Oh! do not imagine"--she turned a suddenly glowing face upon him--"I
should be trying to dissuade you, if that were your reason. No!--it is
for personal and private reasons you shrink from the responsibility
of leadership. And that being so, what must the world say--the ignorant
world that loves to think evil?"
He looked at her a little reproachfully.
"Those are not arguments that come very naturally from you!"
"They are the right ones!--and I am not ashamed of them. My dear
friend--I am not thinking of you at all. I leave you out of count; I am
thinking of Alice--and--Mary!"
Catharine unconsciously straightened herself, a touch of something
resentful--nay, stern--in the gesture. Meynell stared in stupefaction.
"Alice!--_Mary_!" he said.
"Up to this last proposed action of yours, has not everything that has
happened gone to soften people's hearts? to make them repent doubly of
their scandal, and their false witness? Every one knows the truth
now--every one who cares; and every one understands. But now--after the
effort poor Alice has made--after all that she and you have suffered--you
insist on turning fresh doubt and suspicion on yourself, your motives,
your past history. Can't you see how people may gossip about it--how they
may interpret it? You have no right to do it, my dear Richard!--no right
whatever. Your 'good report' belongs not only to yourself--but--to Mary!"
Catharine's breath had quickened; her hand shook upon her knee. Meynell
rose from his seat, paced the room and came back to her.
"I have tried to explain to Mary"--he said, desperately--"that I should
feel myself a hypocrite and pretender in playing the part of a spiritual
leader--when this great--failure--lay upon my conscience."
At that Catharine's tension gave way. Perplexity returned upon her.
"Oh! if it meant--if it meant"--she looked at him with a sudden, sweet
timidity--"that you felt you had tried to do for Hester what only
grace--what only a living Redeemer--could do for her--"
She broke off. But at last, as Meynell, her junior by fifteen years--her
son almost--looked down into her face--her frail, aging, illumined
face--there was something in the passion of her faith which challenged
and roused his own; which for the moment, at any rate, and for the first
time since the crisis had arisen revived in him the "fighter" he had
tried to shed.
"The fault was not in the thing preached," he said, with a groan; "or so
it seems to me--but in the preacher. The preacher--was unequal to the
Catharine was silent. And after a little more pacing he said in a more
ordinary tone--and a humble one--
"Does Mary share this view of yours?"
At this Catharine was almost angry.
"As if I should say a word to her about it! Does she know--has she ever
known--what you and I knew?"
His eyes, full of trouble, propitiated her. He took her hand and kissed
"Bear with me, dear mother! I don't see my way, but Mary--is to me--my
life. At any rate, I won't do in a hurry what you disapprove."
Thus a little further delay was gained. The struggle lasted indeed
another couple of days, and the aspect of both Meynell and Mary showed
deep marks of it by the end. Throughout it Mary made little or no appeal
to the mere womanly arts. And perhaps it was the repression of them that
cost her most.
On the third day of discussion, while the letter still lay unposted in
Meynell's writing-case, he went wandering by himself up the valley. The
weather was soft again, and breathing spring. The streams ran free; the
buds were swelling on the sycamores; and except on the topmost crags the
snow had disappeared from the fells. Harsh and austere the valley was
still; the winter's grip would be slow to yield; but the turn of the year
That morning a rush of correspondence forwarded from Upcote had brought
matters to a crisis. On the days immediately following the publication of
the evidence given at the inquest on Hester the outside world had made no
sign. All England knew now why Richard Meynell had disappeared from the
Arches Trial, only to become again the prey of an enormous publicity, as
one of the witnesses to the finding and the perishing of his young ward.
And after Alice Puttenham's statement in the Coroner's Court, for a few
days the England interested in Richard Meynell simply held its breath
and let him be.
But he belonged to the public; and after just the brief respite that
decency and sympathy imposed, the public fell upon him. The Arches
verdict had been given; the appeal to the Privy Council had been lodged.
With every month of the struggle indeed, as the Modernist attack had
grown more determined, and its support more widespread, so the orthodox
defence had gathered force and vehemence. Yet through the length and
breadth of the country the Modernist petition to Parliament was now
kindling such a fire as no resistance could put out. Debate in the House
of Commons on the Modernist proposals for Church Reform would begin after
Easter. Already every member of the House was being bombarded from both
sides by his constituents. Such a heat of religious feeling, such a
passion of religious hope and fear, had not been seen in England for
And meanwhile Meynell, whose action had first released the great forces
now at work, who as a leader was now doubly revered, doubly honoured by
those who clamoured to be led by him, still felt himself utterly
unable to face the struggle. Heart and brain were the prey of a deadly
discouragement; the will could make no effort; his confidence in himself
was lamed and helpless. Not even the growing strength and intensity of
his love for Mary could set him, it seemed, spiritually, on his feet.
He left the old bridge on his left, and climbed the pass. And as he
walked, some words of Newman possessed him; breathed into his ear through
all the wind and water voices of the valley:
_Thou_ to wax fierce
In the cause of the Lord
To threat and to pierce
With the heavenly sword!
Anger and Zeal
And the Joy of the brave
Who bade _thee_ to feel--
Dejectedly, he made his way along the fatal path; he found the ruin where
Hester had sheltered; he gradually identified the route which the rescue
party had taken along the side of the fell; and the precipitous scree
where they had found her. The freshly disturbed earth and stones still
showed plainly where she had fallen, and where he and the shepherds had
stood, trampling the ground round her. He sat down beside the spot,
haunted by the grim memory of that helpless, bleeding form amid the snow.
Not yet nineteen!--disgraced--ruined--the young body broken in its prime.
Had he been able to do no better for Neville's child than that? The load
of responsibility crushed him; and he could not resign himself to such a
fate for such a human being. Before him, on the chill background of the
tells, he beheld, perpetually, the two Hesters: here, the radiant,
unmanageable child, clad in the magic of her teasing, provocative beauty;
there, the haggard and dying girl, violently wrenched from life.
Religious faith was paralyzed within him. How could he--a man so disowned
of God--prophesy to his brethren?....
Thus there descended upon him the darkest hour of his history. It was
simply a struggle for existence on the part of all those powers of the
soul that make for action, against the forces that make for death and
It lasted long; and it ended in the slow and difficult triumph, the final
ascendency of the "Yeas" of Life over the "Nays," which in truth his
character secured. He won the difficult fight not as a philosopher, but
as a Christian; impelled, chastened, brought into line again, by purely
Christian memories and Christian ideas. The thought of Christ healed
him--gradually gave him courage to bear an agony of self-criticism,
self-reproach, that was none the less overwhelming because his calmer
mind, looking on, knew it to be irrational. There was no prayer to
Christ, no "Christe eleison" on his rips. But there was a solemn kneeling
by the Cross; a solemn opening of the mind to the cleansing and
strengthening forces that flow from that life and death which are
Christendom's central possession; the symbol through which, now
understood in this way, now in that, the Eternal speaks to the Christian
So, amid "the cheerful silence of the fells," a good man, heavily, took
back his task. From this wreck of affection, this ruin of hope, he must
go forth to preach love and hope to other men; from the depths of his
grief and his defeat he must summon others to struggle and victory.
Then--not till then--naked and stripped as he was of all personal
complacency; smarting under the conviction of personal weakness and
defeat; tormented still, as he would ever be, by all the "might have
beens" of Hester's story, he was conscious of the "supersensual
moment," the inrush of Divine strength, which at some time or other
rewards the life of faith.
On his way back to Burwood through the gleams and shadows of the valley,
he turned aside to lay a handful of green moss on the new-made grave.
There was a figure beside it. It was Mary, who had been planting
snowdrops. He helped her, and then they descended to the main road
together. Looking at his face, she hardly dared, close as his hand clung
to hers, to break the silence.
It was dusk, and there was no one in sight. In the shelter of a group of
trees, he drew her to him.
"You have your way," he said, sadly.
She trembled a little, her delicate cheek close against his.
"Have I persecuted you?"
"You have taught me what the strength of my wife's will is going to be."
She winced visibly, and the tears came into her eyes.
"Dearest!--" he protested. "Must you not be strong? But for you--I should
have gone under."
The primitive instinct of the woman, in this hour of painful victory,
would have dearly liked to disavow her own power. The thought of ruling
her beloved was odious. Yet as they walked on hand in hand, the modern
in Mary prevailed, and she must needs accept the equal rights of a love
which is also life's supreme friendship.
A few more days Meynell spent in the quiet of the valley, recovering, as
best he could, and through a struggle constantly renewed, some normal
steadiness of mood and nerve; dealing with an immense correspondence;
and writing the Dunchester sermon; while Stephen Barron, who had already
resigned his own living, was looking after the Upcote Church and parish.
Meanwhile Alice Puttenham lay upstairs in one of the little white rooms
of Burwood, so ill that the doctors would not hear of her being moved.
Edith Fox-Wilton had proposed to come and nurse her, in spite of "this
shocking business which had disgraced us all." But Catharine at Alice's
entreaty had merely appealed to the indisputable fact that the tiny house
was already more than full. There was no danger, and they had a good
Once or twice it was, in these days, that again a few passing terrors ran
through Mary's mind, on the subject of her mother. The fragility which
had struck Meynell's unaccustomed eye when he first arrived in the valley
forced itself now at times, though only at times, on her reluctant sense.
There were nights when, without any definite reason, she could not sleep
for anxiety. And then again the shadow entirely passed away. Catharine
laughed at her; and when the moment came for Mary to follow Meynell to
the Dunchester meeting, it was impossible even for her anxious love to
persuade itself that there was good reason for her to stay away.
* * * * *
Before Meynell departed southward there was a long conversation between
him and Alice; and it was at her wish, to which he now finally yielded,
that he went straight to Markborough, to an interview with Bishop Craye.
In that interview the Bishop learnt at last the whole story of Hester's
birth and of her tragic death. The beauty of Meynell's relation to the
mother and child was plainly to be seen through a very reticent
narrative; and to the tale of those hours in Long Whindale no man of
heart like the little Bishop could have listened unmoved. At the end, the
two men clasped hands in silence; and the Bishop looked wistfully at the
priest that he and the diocese were so soon to lose.
For the rest, as before, they met as equals, curiously congenial to each
other, in spite of the battle in front. The Bishop's certainty of victory
was once more emphatically shown by the friendly ease with which he still
received his rebellious incumbent. Any agreeable outsider of whatever
creed--Renan or Loisy or Tyrrell--might have been thus welcomed at the
Palace. It was true that till the appeal was decided Meynell remained
formally Rector of Upcote Minor. The church and the parish were still in
his hands; and the Bishop pointedly made no reference to either. But a
very few weeks now would see Meynell's successor installed, and the
parish reduced to order.
Such at least was the Bishop's confidence, and in the position in which
he found himself--with seven Modernist evictions pending in his diocese,
and many more than seven recalcitrant parishes to deal with, he was not
the man to make needless friction.
In Meynell's view, indeed, the Bishop's confidence was excessive; and the
triumph of the orthodox majority in the Church, if indeed it were to
triumph, was neither so near, nor likely to be so complete, as the Bishop
believed. He had not yet been able to resume all the threads of
leadership, but he was clear that there had been no ebbing whatever of
the Modernist tide. On the contrary, it seemed to him that the function
at Dunchester might yet ring through England, and startle even such
an optimist as Bishop Craye.
The next few days he spent among his own people, and with the Flaxmans.
The old red sandstone church of Upcote Minor was closely packed on
Sunday; and the loyalty of the parish to their Rector, their answer
to the Arches judgment, was shown in the passion, the loving intelligence
with which every portion of the beautiful Modernist service was followed
by an audience of working men and women gathered both from Upcote
itself and from the villages round, who knew very well--and gloried in
the fact--that from their midst had started the flame now running through
the country. Many of them had been trained by Methodism, and were now
returning to the Church that Wesley had been so loath to leave. "The
Rector's changed summat," said men to each other, puzzled by that
aspect--that unconscious aspect--of spiritual dignity that falls like
a robe of honour, as life goes on, about the Knights of the Spirit. But
they knew, at least, from their newspapers, how and when that beautiful
girl who had grown up from a child in their midst had perished; they
remembered the winter months of calumny and persecution; and their rough,
kind hearts went out to the man who was so soon, against their will and
their protest, to be driven out from the church where for twenty years he
had preached to his people a Christ they could follow, and a God they
The week passed, and the Dunchester meeting was at hand. Meynell was to
spend the night before the great service with the old Bishop, against
whom--together with the whole of his Chapter--Privy Council action
was now pending. Mary was to be the guest of one of the Canons in the
Meynell arrived to find the beautiful old town in commotion. As a protest
against the Modernist demonstration, all the students from a famous
Theological College in a neighbouring diocese under a High Church bishop
had come over to attend a rival service in the second church of the town,
where the congregation was to be addressed "on this outrage to our Lord"
by one of the ablest and most saintly of the orthodox leaders--the Rev.
Cyril Fenton, of the Markborough diocese--soon, it was rumoured, to be
appointed to a Canonry of St. Paul's. The streets were full of rival
crowds, jostling each other. Three hundred Modernist clergy were staying
in or near the town; the old Cathedral city stared at them amazed; and
from all parts had come, besides, the lay followers of the new Movement
thronging to a day which represented for them the first fruits of a
harvest, whereof not they perhaps but their children would see the full
On the evening before the function Meynell went into the Cathedral with
Mary just as the lengthening March afternoon was beginning to wane. They
stepped through the western doors set open to the breeze and the sunshine
into a building all opal and ebony, faintly flooded with rose from the
sky without; a building of infinite height and majesty, where clustered
columns of black marble, incredibly light, upheld the richness of the
bossed roof, where every wall was broidered history, where every step was
on "the ruined sides of Kings," and the gathered fragments of ancient
glass, jewels themselves, let through a jewelled light upon the creamy
For the first time, since Hester's death, Meynell's sad face broke into
joy. The glorious church appeared to him as the visible attestation of
the Divine creative life in men, flowing on endlessly, from the Past,
through the Present, to the unknown Future.
From the distance came a sound of chanting. They walked slowly up the
nave, conscious of a strange tumult in the pulse, as though the great
building with its immemorial history were half lending itself to, half
resisting, the emotion that filled them. In the choir a practice was
going on. Some thirty young clergy were going through the responses and
canticles of the new service-book, with an elder man, also in clerical
dress, directing them. At the entrance of the southern choir aisle stood
the senior verger of the Cathedral in his black gown--open-mouthed and
motionless, listening to the strange sounds.
Meynell and Mary knelt for a moment of impassioned prayer, and then sat
down to listen. Through the fast darkening church, chanted by half the
choir, there stole those words of noblest poetry:
"_A new commandment_--_a new commandment--I give unto you_ ..." To be
answered by the voices on the other side--"_That ye love--ye love one
"_I have called you friends. Ye are my friends_"--
With the reply:
"_If ye do the things which I command you_."
And yet again:
"_The words that I speak unto you_:"--
"_They--they are spirit; and they are life_!"
A moment's silence, before all the voices, gathering into one harmony,
sent the last versicle ringing through the arches of the choir, and the
springing tracery of the feretory, and of the Lady Chapel beyond.
"_Lord to whom shall we go?--Thou--thou hast the words of eternal life_!"
"Only a few days or weeks," murmured Meynell, as they passed out into the
evening light, "and we two--and those men singing there--shall be
outcasts and wanderers, perhaps for a time, perhaps while we live.
But to-day--and to-morrow--we are still children in the house of our
fathers--sons, not slaves!--speaking the free speech of our own day in
these walls, as the men who built them did in theirs. That joy, at least,
no one shall take from us!"
At that "sad word Joy" Mary slipped her hand into his, and so they walked
silently through the Close, toward the Palace, pursued by the rise and
fall of the music from within.
The great service was over, with its bold adaptation of the religious
language of the past, the language which is wrought into the being of
Christendom, to the needs and the knowledge of the present. And now
Meynell had risen, and was speaking to that thronged nave, crowded
by men and women of many types and many distinctions, with that mingling
of passion and simplicity which underlies success in all the poetic
arts, and, first and foremost, the art of religious oratory. The
sermon was to be known in after years by the name of "The Two
Christianities"--and became one of the chief landmarks, or, rather,
rallying cries of the Modernist cause. Only some fragments of it can be
suggested here; one passage, above all, that Mary's brooding memory will
keep close and warm to her life's end:
"...Why are we here, my friends? For what purpose is this great
demonstration, this moving rite in, which we have joined this day?
One-sixth at least of this congregation stands here under a sentence of
ecclesiastical death. A few weeks perhaps, and this mighty church will
know its white-haired Bishop no more. Bishop and Chapter will have been
driven out; and we, the rank and file, whose only desire is to cling to
the Church in which we were baptized and bred, will find ourselves exiles
"What is our crime? This only--that God has spoken in our consciences,
and we have not been able to resist Him. Nor dare we desert our posts in
the National Church, till force drive us out. Why? Because there is
something infinitely greater at stake than any reproach that can be
hurled at us on the ground of broken pledges--pledges made too early,
given in ignorance and good faith, and broken now, solemnly, in the face
of God and this people--for a greater good. What does our personal
consistency--which, mind you, is a very different thing from personal
honesty!--matter? We are as sensitive as any man who attacks us on the
point of personal honour. But we are constrained of God; we bear in our
hands the cause of our brethren, the cause of half the nation; and we can
no other. Ask yourselves what we have to gain by it. Nay! With expulsion
and exile in sight--with years perhaps of the wilderness before us--we
stand here for the liberties of Christ's Church!--its liberties of growth
"My friends, what is the life either of intellect or spirit but the
response of man to the communication of God? Age by age, man's
consciousness cuts deeper into the vast mystery that surrounds us;
absorbs, transmutes, translates ever more of truth, into conceptions he
can use, and language he can understand.
"From this endless process arise science--and history--and philosophy.
But just as science, and history, and philosophy change with this
ever-living and growing advance, so religion--man's ideas of God and his
"Within the last hundred years man's knowledge of the physical world has
broadened beyond the utmost dreams of our fathers. But of far greater
importance to man is his knowledge of himself. There, too, the century
of which we are now the heirs has lifted the veil--for us first among
living men--from secrets hitherto unknown. HISTORY has come into being.
"What is history? Simply the power--depending upon a thousand laborious
processes--of constructing a magic lens within the mind which allows us
to look deep into the past, to see its life and colour and movement
again, as no generation but our own has yet been able to see it. We hold
our breath sometimes, as for a brief moment perhaps we catch its very
gesture, its very habit as it lived, the very tone of its voices. It has
been a new and marvellous gift of our God to us; and it has transformed
or is transforming Christianity.
"Like science, this new discipline of the human mind is divine and
authoritative. It lessens the distance between our human thought and the
thought of God, because, in the familiar phrase, it enables us to "think,
in some sort, His thoughts after Him." Like science it marches slowly on
its way; through many mistakes; through hypothesis and rectification;
through daring vision and laborious proof; to an ever-broadening
certainty. History has taken hold of the Christian tradition. History has
worked upon it with an amazing tenderness, and patience, and reverence.
And at the end of a hundred years what do we see?--that half of
Christendom, at least, which we in this church represent?
"We see a Christ stripped of Jewish legend, and Greek speculation, and
medieval scholasticism; moving simply and divinely among the ways of His
Jewish world, a man among men. We can watch, dimly indeed by comparison
with our living scrutiny of living men, but still more clearly than any
generation of Christendom since the disappearance of the first has been
able to watch, the rise of His thoughts, the nature of His environment,
the sequence of His acts, the original significance, the immediate
interpretation, the subsequent influence of His death. We know much more
of Jesus of Nazareth than the fathers of Nicaea knew; probably than St.
Paul knew; certainly than Irenaeus or Clement knew.
"But that is only half the truth; only half of what history has to tell.
On the one side we have to do with the recovered fact: on the other with
its working through two thousand years upon the world.
"_There,_ for the Modernist, lies revelation!--in the unfolding of the
Christian idea, through the successive stages of human thought and
imagination, it has traversed, down to the burst of revelation in the
present day. Yet we are only now at the beginning of an immense
development. The content of the Christian idea of love--love,
self-renouncing, self-fulfilling--is infinite, inexhaustible, like that
of beauty, or of truth. Why? At this moment, I am only concerned to give
you the Christian answer, which is the answer of a reasonable faith.
Because, like the streams springing forever from 'the pure founts of
Cephisus,' to nourish the swelling plains below, these governing ideas of
our life--tested by life, confirmed by life--have their source in the
very being of God, sharers in His Eternity, His Ever-Fruitfulness....
"But even so, you have not exhausted the wealth of Christianity; For to
the potency of the Christian idea is added the magic of an incomparable
embodiment in human life. The story of Jesus bears the idea which it
enshrines eternally through the world. It is to the idea as the vessel of
"... Do these conceptions make us love our Master less? Ask your
own hearts? There must be many in this crowded church that have
known sorrow--intolerable anguish and disappointment--gnawing
self-reproach--during the past year, or months, or weeks; many that have
watched sufferings which no philosophic optimism can explain, and
catastrophes that leave men dumb. Some among them will have been
driven back upon their faith--driven to the foot of the Cross. Through
all intellectual difference, has not the natural language of their
fathers been also their language? Is there anything in their changed
opinions which has cut them off from that sacrifice
"Renewed in every pulse,
That on the tedious Cross
Told the long hours of death, as, one by one,
The life-strings of that tender heart gave way?
"Is there anything in this new compelling knowledge that need--that
does--divide _us_--whose consciences dare not refuse it--from the
immortal triumph of that death? In our sharpest straits, are we not
comforted and cleansed and sustained by the same thoughts, the same
visions that have always sustained and comforted the Christian? No!--the
sons of tradition and dogma have no monopoly in the exaltation, the
living passion of the Cross! We, too, watching that steadfastness grow
steadfast; bowed before that innocent suffering, grow patient; drinking
in the wonder of that faith, amid utter defeat, learn to submit and go
forward. In us too, as we behold--Hope 'masters Agony!'--and we follow,
for a space at least, with our Master, into the heavenly house, and still
our sore hearts before our God."
* * * * *
Quietly and low, in tones that shook here and there, the words had fallen
upon the spell-bound church.
Mary covered her eyes. But they saw only the more intently the vision of
Hester maimed and dying; and the face of Meynell bending over her.
* * * * *
Then from this intimity, this sacredness of feeling, the speaker
passed gradually and finally into the challenge, the ringing yet
brotherly challenge, it was in truth his mission to deliver. The note of
battle--honourable, inevitable battle--pealed through the church, and
when it ceased the immense congregation rose, possessed by one heat of
emotion, and choir and multitude broke into the magnificent Modernist
hymn, "Christus Rex"--written by the Bishop of the See, and already
familiar throughout England.
The service was over. Out streamed the great congregation. The Close was
crowded to see them come. Lines of theological students were drawn up
there, fresh-faced boys in round collars and long black coats, who, as
the main body of the Modernist clergy approached, began defiantly to
chant the Creed. Meynell, with the old yet stately Bishop leaning on his
arm, passed them with a friendly, quiet look. He caught sight for a
moment of the tall form of Fenton, standing at their rear--the long face
ascetically white, and sternly fixed.
He left the Bishop at the gates of the Palace, and went back quickly for
Mary. Suddenly he ran into an advancing figure and found his hand grasped
The two men gazed at each other.
"You were not there?" said Meynell, wondering.
"I was." Dornal hesitated a moment, and then his blue eyes melted and
"And there was one man there--not a Modernist--who grieved, like a
Modernist, over the future!"
"Ah, the future!" said Meynell, throwing his head back. "That is not for
you or me--not for the bishops, nor for that body which we call the
Church--that is for _England_ to settle."
* * * * *
But another meeting remained.
At the parting with Dornal, Meynell turned a corner and saw in front of
him, walking alone, a portly gentleman, with a broad and substantial
back. A start ran through him. After a moment's hesitation, he began to
quicken his steps, and soon overtook the man in question.
Barron--for it was he--stopped in some astonishment, some confusion even,
which he endeavoured to hide. Meynell held out his hand--rather timidly;
and Barron just touched it.
"I have been attending the service at St. Mathias," he said, stiffly.
"I imagined so," said Meynell, walking on beside him, and quite
unconscious of the fact that a passing group of clergy opposite were
staring across the street in amazement at the juxtaposition of the two
men, both well known to them. "Did it satisfy you?"
"Certainly. Fenton surpassed himself."
"He has a great gift," said Meynell, heartily. They moved on in silence,
till at last Meynell said, with renewed hesitation--"Will you allow me to
inquire after Maurice? I hope your mind is more at ease about him."
"He is doing well--for the moment." Another pause--broken by Barron, who
said hurriedly in a different voice--"I got from him the whole story of
the letters. There was nothing deliberate in it. It was a sudden,
monkeyish impulse. He didn't mean as much harm by it as another man would
"No doubt," said Meynell, struck with pity, as he looked at the sunken
face of the speaker. "And anyway--bygones are bygones. I hope your
daughter is well?"
"Quite well, I thank you. We are just going abroad."
There was no more to be said. Meynell knew very well that the orthodox
party had no room in its ranks, at that moment, for Henry Barron; and it
was not hard to imagine what exclusion and ostracism must mean to
such a temper. But the generous compunctions in his own mind could find
no practical expression; and after a few more words they parted.
* * * * *
Next morning, while every newspaper in the country was eagerly discussing
the events at Dunchester, Catharine, in the solitude of Long Whindale,
and with a full two hours yet to wait for the carrier who brought the
papers from Whinborough, was pondering letters from Rose and Mary written
from Dunchester on the preceding afternoon. Her prayer-book lay beside
her. Before the post arrived she had been reading by herself the Psalms
and Lessons, according to the old-fashioned custom of her youth.
The sweetness of Mary's attempt to bring out everything in the Modernist
demonstration that might be bearable or even consoling to Catharine, and
to leave untold what must pain her, was not lost upon her mother.
Catharine sat considering it, in a reverie half sorrow, half tenderness,
her thin hands clasped upon the letter:
* * * * *
"Mother, beloved!--Richard and I talked of you all the way back to the
Palace; and though there were many people waiting to see him, he is
writing to you now; and so am I. Through it all, he feels so near to
you--and to my father; so truly your son, your most loving son....
"Dearest--I am troubled to hear from Alice this morning that yesterday
you were tired and even went to lie down. I know my too Spartan mother
doesn't do that without ten times as much reason as other people. Oh! do
take care of yourself, my precious one. To-morrow, I fly back to you with
all my news. And you will meet me with that love of yours which has
never failed me, as it never failed my father. It will take Richard and
me a life time to repay it. But we'll try! ... Dear love to my poor
Alice. I have written separately to her."
* * * * *
Rose's letter was in another vein.
* * * * *
"Dearest Catharine, it is all over--a splendid show, and Richard has come
out of it finely, though I must say he looks at times more like a ghost
than a man. From the Church point of view, dear, you were wise not to
come, for your feelings must have been sadly mixed, and you might have
been compelled to take Privy Council proceedings against yourself. I need
not say that Hugh and I felt an ungodly delight in it--in the crowd and
the excitement--in Richard's sermon--in the dear, long-nosed old Bishop
(rather like a camel, between you and me, but a very saintly one) and in
the throng of foolish youths from the Theological College who seemed to
think they settled everything by singing the Creed at us. (What a pity
you can't enjoy the latest description of the Athanasian Creed! It is by
a Quaker. He compares it to 'the guesses of a ten-year old child at the
contents of his father's library.' Hugh thinks it good--but I don't
expect you to.)"
* * * * *
Then followed a vivacious account of the day and its happenings.
"And now comes the real tug of war. In a few weeks the poor Modernists
will be all camping in tents, it seems, by the wayside. Very touching and
very exciting. But I am getting too sleepy to think about it. Dear
Cathie--I run on--but I love you. Please keep well. Good-bye."
* * * * *
Catharine laid the letter down, still smiling against her will over some
of its chatter, and unconsciously made happy by the affection that
breathed from its pages no less than from Mary's.
Yet certainly she was very tired. She became sharply conscious of her
physical weakness as she sat on by the fire, now thinking of her Mary,
and now listening for Alice's step upon the stairs. Alice had grown very
dear to Catharine, partly for her own sake, and partly because to be in
bitter need and helplessness was to be sure of Catharine's tenderness.
Very possibly they two, when Mary married, might make their home
together. And Catharine promised herself to bring calm at least and
loving help to one who had suffered so much.
The window was half open to the first mild day of March; beside it stood
a bowl of growing daffodils, and a pot of freesias that scented the room.
Outside a robin was singing, the murmur of the river came up through
the black buds of the ash-trees, and in the distance a sheep-dog could be
heard barking on the fells. So quiet it was--the spring sunshine--and so
sweet. Back into Catharine's mind there flowed the memory of her own
love-story in the valley; her hand trembled again in the hand of her
Then with a sudden onset her mortal hour came upon her. She tried to
move, to call, and could not. There was no time for any pain of parting.
For one remaining moment of consciousness there ran through the brain
the images, affections, adorations of her life. Swift, incredibly swift,
the vision of an opening glory--a heavenly throng!... Then the tired
eyelids fell, the head lay heavily on the cushion behind it, and in the
little room the song of the robin and the murmur of the stream flowed